Despite my intentions and attempts, we’re a bit behind in getting anything shared on here. We’ve been quite busy, but other issues prevented me from posting. Lots has happened since I last wrote. Animals have been born and died, others brought to the farm, gardens planted, the barn is being disassembled, we helped friends and family, and friends and family have helped us. The list of activity is quite lengthy.
I guess the first thing I want to address is the economy… Gas prices are at record highs, here and across the country. Right now, they’re creeping towards $5/gal. for the lowest grade fuel. Our grocery bills keep climbing, and I’m incredibly grateful that I DIDN’T do lots of cooking over the winter, because I have food in the pantry enough that we can get away with buying the bare minimum. It’s over $100 for a tank of gas, so that means we’re trying to limit the amount of driving around we’re doing, not that we did a lot before anyway.
Needless to say, this situation is causing a large majority of the people we know to grow their own food or grow more of it. We’re constantly hearing people talk about their concern about the situation now. And honestly, it’s causing us to think about things differently, too. I think I mentioned that we’re talking about getting a milking cow, and possibly some pigs for breeding next year. I’m in the process of reading Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs cover to cover so we can make some decisions, and later this summer, I’m going to talk with a fellow area homesteader that has a small dairy herd.
We were greatly relieved to get pigs, mostly just because we had decided to raise pigs for some of our family and friends, and if we weren’t able to get them, it’d affect their plans for the year. I had ordered turkeys, but we found out that we weren’t going to be able to get those, and so we ordered broilers instead to make sure we had a secure food source. However, both of those come at a cost, as we do still buy feed, and feed prices have increased significantly since last year. That means we had to look into other food options for the animals. We ended up planting 3 additional plots of food, just with animal feed in mind.
On top of that, I also ended up planting way more than I originally thought I would. I did stick with the plan to plant less variety, but I still haven’t gotten around to reading the seed saving book (I have a little time to finish that), and I realized that we’re still quite a way from growing enough food for the year, plus with concerns about the financial end of things, we just decided to plant as much as we could. I still have some carrot, lettuce, spinach, and pea seeds, so I may do another planting a little later this growing season for a fall crop, depending on how I’m feeling.
I think what it comes down to is that I feel a bit like I did last year during planting season… it never quite felt done. Every time I thought “That’s enough,” I got the urge to plant more. Surprisingly little went to waste or didn’t grow, and I’m incredibly grateful that I followed through with that urge. We’ll give away what we don’t have time to deal with or we’ll feed it to the animals, so nothing will go to waste. This year, my concern is with butchering. We’re more than capable, but there’ll be a new, nursing baby on my hands, and I won’t be able to do day-long butchering in the same way.
Since we’re on the topic of baby… I’ve now got less that 2.5 months to go! Thank goodness, because I’m beginning to feel the discomforts of the third trimester. Things were pretty good for awhile there, but recently I’ve been having more indigestion and nighttime congestion. With the heavy work load, I have to take lots of breaks and I need at least one day a week to just rest, otherwise I get swollen feet and sometimes hands. My bloodwork looked good at my last appointment, and I’m not having issues, it’s just a matter of summer heat, drinking enough water, and getting enough rest. I’m doing my best to take advantage of rainy days, and I’m skipping the long walks if I know I have a lot of physical work to do in the garden or I just need a break to rest.
Baby is incredibly active, and I think I may have mentioned that an ultrasound a couple of weeks ago verified that we are, indeed, having our second girl! The kids are getting incredibly impatient, especially Paul and Elijah. Adeline is eager, too, but Paul and Elijah rub and kiss my belly all day and talk to their baby sister. She gets more “hugs” than I do! But I’m managing the work load pretty well for now, and once we get past this initial phase of weeding the gardens, I’ll be able to back off on the physical work load a little bit. Some days I work so long and hard that I don’t feel her move until I lay down for the night, and then she seems to want to prove she can be just as active as I can be.
Driving the tractor or the lawn mower around is getting more uncomfortable as my belly wants to sway from side to side, and bumps are uncomfortable on the bladder. But I’m so glad we bought the seeder and have the right tools for weeding, because my back would NOT be able to handle the work without those tools.
The other day I picked up a few more boxes of canning jars, and I intend to do that a few more times between now and harvest. We have lots of jars, but so much of our food is still canned at the moment, and I don’t want to run short. Plus the kids always break a few throughout the year that need replacing.
Sometime soon, I need to get some supplies for keeping carrots for the winter. I did some in sand which worked fine, but I think I will do a combination of dirt and sand, and I want to keep them in big bins rather than in buckets. I planted what seems like excessive amounts of carrots, but as my friend and I were discussing the other day, you always go through more food than you realize, especially with teenage boys in the house!
I should really look for some old crocks that are in good condition so I can play around with different types of storage this winter. I was just listening to something with Scott yesterday where they were talking about potential issues with electricity throughout the summer, coupled with increased prices, and I just don’t want to be relying on freezers. But that means certain things need to be canned or stored differently.
We just finished reading Farmer Boy again, and there was so much good information in there, and lately, some of the people from my parents or grandparents generation have been sharing odd little pieces of information about how they used to store food. I’m tucking as much of that knowledge away as I can so that I can utilize it if need be. I suppose I should be writing it all down. And I’m thinking a lot about what we might need to do to keep our basement more root cellar-esque for best results.
Adam just attempted making cheese recently. It was a flop for a few reasons, partly my own fault, but we’re hoping to give it a try again soon. It probably wasn’t wise to try that project when I was in the throws of planting. But he’s interested in building a small cheese cellar, and he’s also been asking to build a tiny smoke house. We’ll see how things go, but I’d love to encourage him in both of these things as they are projects I’ve thought a lot about over the years anyhow.
As a side-note to anyone who may be wondering what all my concern is about putting up food and whatnot, I should probably just remind the reader that we have 6 going on 7 kids, something that we are able to afford in part because of the fact that we grow so much of our own food. But we also live in the country which means we use more fuel than our friends living in or closer to town. Scott drives about 30 min. to work every day on top of that! Fuel prices alone are enough to significantly impact our budget, but as my great-aunt asked me about when I ran into the grocery store, yes, I do have to be especially careful with my grocery shopping right now with the prices going up. Bills continuing to rise in price cause us a little more pain than for a lot of people with smaller households.
Despite the current state of things, things are going well. I’m happy to have a large garden keeping me busy (aka distracted from the pregnancy), things are coming up and going well so far. We’ve had our ups and downs, but that’s like any year on the farm. The strawberry plants I got from my good friend and neighbor are starting to look pretty happy after transplanting, the tomato plants and other plants she gave me are all adjusting well. I was able to help her with some planting and work at her place and give her a few plants, too.
The 5 younger kids all planted gardens this year, while Adam just stuck with some strawberries. That’s okay, because he often loses interest partway through the season, so I’d rather have him find other projects. The other kids are excited about the corn, peas, beans, watermelon, and pumpkins that are cropping up in their gardens. My mom planted, and some of our friends planted a garden here as well.
We made signs for all the garden beds. The main garden is labelled with numbers while the barn gardens/community gardens are all labeled with signs with people’s names. That’ll help keep things organized, and it will be easier to direct the kids where they need to go for weeding, watering, or harvesting.
People have been stopping by with food scraps for the pigs, and I will probably have more to feed the pigs in the coming months. They seem pretty happy so far in the pen we put up this year. We’re trying to work out a few kinks with feeding them and trying to figure out how much is the right amount of feed to give them in a day. They were bigger than what we originally planned to get, and that means they need more feed off the bat, plus there are 8 of them.
The ducks we bought ran into an issue of maintenance on the part of the kids, and sadly, we lost 3 of them. But the other 3 are in a mobile coop on pasture and seem to be doing well. Once they get a little bigger, we’ll probably let them free-range during the day. Adeline and Aaron’s rabbits had babies, but I don’t think Brownie made for the best mother, and sadly, all the babies died. We’re going to try and do some more learning ASAP so we can figure out just what to do if that happens again. I felt terrible for the kids as they were heartbroken, but it’s one of those things that as sad as it is, it’s still a good learning experience for everyone. Both life and death are a reality, especially on a farm. And yesterday two chicks hatched out, but one didn’t make it. I’m honestly not sure what happened, but the second baby seemed to be doing okay. I don’t think any more hatched out, but we’ll have to keep an eye open as the hen is still being broody.
The chickens were recently fenced in and they have the run of last year’s pig pen. They were getting into my gardens a little too much, and pooping on all the equipment in the granary. Some of them are still sneaking out, but it’s been a lot better over the past week!
Okay, let’s see… I tilled the area where I’ll be planting winter wheat in the fall to start breaking things down so we can have a cleaner harvest of wheat next year. I’ll till again right before planting and we’ll see what happens! The wheat I planted awhile ago is up and seems to be doing well. I definitely planted a little late, but we’ll just have to see how things go. It was a practice run, and any experience is better than none as it provides an opportunity to learn from mistakes.
The fruit trees Scott planted last month seem happy, and the rootstock that we potted looks to be doing well at the moment. The big fruit trees all have a decent fruit set this year, and even the wild berry and cherry plants look happy. The strawberry and raspberry plants I planted last year are setting fruit nicely and seem to be happy. I need to weed their beds, probably this week.
I think I mentioned building a bridge in the Secret Garden. It’s not done yet as I had to shift my focus. And I have a stack of rocks waiting to be used to cover the tires I’m using as planters in that garden. Everything is looking good, though! I planted some kiwi plants last year and they finally seem to be happy. The one is really putting on a lot of growth, while the other looked to be dead at first, but is now showing signs that it’ll shoot up soon. We planted a couple of grape plants, but one looks to be dead. The other got bumped a few times and looked rough, but is putting out new growth, and I think will survive.
Scott has been busy working on taking down the barn bit by bit. A friend is helping us to build the new building with the stuff we take off, and our neighbor let us borrow his boom truck to take boards of the hard to reach parts of the old barn. It’s beginning to look pretty bare, and the goal is to have the whole thing pulled down by the end of the summer, and have the new building finished. So far, the progress has been good!
We’ve got a big pile of wood to split for the coming winter, but we’re also bartering wood from one of the people who we are raising a pig for, and someone else gifted us about 2 or 3 cords of wood. That’s a huge relief, because we were feeling quite behind. Scott was hoping to be a lot further along with wood for the winter, and this will make a big difference.
We’ve been giving a lot of thought to future plans for the homestead, since as I mentioned, we’re thinking about adding breeding stock pigs and a milk cow to the farm. It’s hard to say for sure, but I think things are going to look a lot different around here by next spring.
On a related note, I’m really glad we got rid of the internet. It has provided the occasional minor inconvenience to not have it. I would be fine just not having email at all, but because that’s how the world operates. There are times when I would like to look something up or order something online, but I quickly get over it. The most frustrating thing has perhaps been not being able to work on the blog. I was really hoping to get something published regularly so I wouldn’t forget about all the things that go on around here, but that just hasn’t been in the cards.
I know it’s providing a bit of inconvenience to others, but really… isn’t that just what the internet is? A convenience? We live in a world of such immediate convenience that we almost don’t know how to handle something that isn’t. Everything is instant, and we have forgotten what it is to have to wait and work for things in our lives. It’s been much better for us all around to have to be patient, and what I’ve found is that I don’t feel like we’re missing out on anything. Maybe I can say that because I can still go places and use the internet, but I’d be happy to ditch it all completely if we weren’t to a point of being forced to do certain things online!
On a completely UNRELATED note, I made a blanket for the baby! I’m not sure it’s quite what I pictured, but I’m good with it and the kids all liked it a lot. I think that’s about all I have to share for right now. Hoping I can get back on here just a little more often to keep track of things this summer, but if you don’t hear from me, just know we’re probably busing building things, taking care of animals, or weeding the garden! The kids also did a fun art project this past week, and there were some cute results. Adeline made one for the baby, not pictured. I’m not going to publish the baby’s name on here yet, but we do have one picked out!
Love and Blessings~ Danielle