Don’t worry, we’re still alive and well! I think it is safe to say that this is yet another year we will never forget! The last two weeks were a big improvement on previous weeks, but it’s been quite a ride. Excited one day, anxious the next, sad one day, stressed another… There’s been good, there’s been bad, and yes it’s been kinda ugly at time. I’ve tried writing over and over in the last few weeks, but nothing that comes out seems appropriate. It seems like everything either seems to happy or too sad or too- something– to allow me to finish it. So here’s an update for the month of June.
Yeah, June has been quite a month so far, and May was most definitely “something else.” But two weeks ago it seemed as if we finally turned over a new leaf and I felt refreshed and truly encouraged for the first time since the beginning of May. It’s been a challenging period of time for us, but I just cannot get over how much we’ve learned and how much good came from all of the unpleasantness. I mentioned in May that we were kind of surprised how on-track we were with our homesteading plans for the year, and even though we had some pretty big setbacks, they kind of weren’t setbacks… they were more like expeditious detours. For all of the good, for all of the things we learned from the last two months, it was admittedly very stressful. And overwhelming.
Wednesday, June 13th, our new chicks finally arrived, and I was so happy I nearly cried. Chickens are a vital component of some of the things we want to be doing around our homestead in the long-run, and the ones we got back in April were supposed to be a functioning part of our plan by this point in time. It wasn’t the end of the world to lose them, but it was a setback to say the least, and definitely sad. The new birds brought such a sense of relief with their arrival. We also purchased for turkey chicks and four ducks, but we three of the turkeys. (I forgot how delicate they are and made the mistake of putting them in the same brooder with the ducks.) We’ve lost a few chicks as well, but mostly the Cornish Cross (the meat birds). Losses are always sad, but they are also to be expected to some extent. If the weather stays as warm as it has been in the last week or so, we’ll be able to move the chicks outside early (though still not for at least a week). And oh my word, those ducklings! Chicks are adorable, the turkey chicks are adorable, but there’s just something about a duckling!!!
For right now, the baby birds are in metal brooders out in the garage. Thanks to my aunt and uncle, we didn’t have to buy a bunch of feeders and waterers and heat lamps (though we did pick up one small waterer and one feeder). When they get big, we won’t need more supplies!
I also started to feel a major sense of relief last Friday and Saturday when I was able to do a great deal of planting in our garden and get us MUCH closer to being finished with everything! This Friday, I was able to get all of the pumpkins and squash planted, and even though it’s late, we decided to stick in some more corn and sunflowers anyway and hope for the best. There’s a decent amount of weeding to do in the main garden, but my garden is definitely thriving compared to any garden we planted in past years! I have always planted late, and even though I did this year as well, it looks like all of that planning and preparing I did in the time since February has really paid off. I’m so grateful for all that I have learned!
Scott had been talking to a more experienced beekeeper about splitting hives sometime shortly after we got our bees, and a couple of weeks ago, he decided to try splitting our hives. He picked up two new hive bases and swapped two empty frames for two full frames in both sets of hives. Last he checked, he saw that there were opened queen cells in each hive and that all 4 of the hives appear to be doing well. Now we just need to be sure that we learn more about winterizing our hives and about taking any late-season precautions to make sure our hives stay alive through the winter.
Scott’s apple tree grafting and other apple experiments seem to be going okay. Several of the grafts appear to have taken well, and the other ones we still need to wait and see on. The thing we probably failed with the most seriously with our grafts from last year, and possibly even this year is to make sure that they had enough water. We had a 21 day spell of no rain up until last week, which is really unusual for us for this time of year. June and October tend to be rainy months so it was strange to have no rain for so long. The plus side to this mini drought was that the grass stopped growing so ridiculously fast and I was able to focus more on the garden and less at keeping the grass under control.
Clean up from the fire has been incredibly slow. Everything has been incredibly slow. I’d love for nothing more than to give a huge effort for a few weeks to get all kinds of big work done around here, but one of the lessons that I’ve learned in the last month or so is the importance of pacing myself. We’ll get there. There’s such a huge mess from the fire, though, and all of the rain we got immediately after the fire caused the grass to go crazy which, in turn, sort of buried the mess of the fire, making it a bit more difficult to deal with (a reason I was somewhat relieved by the mini dry spell). But the garden work that I did last weekend also included some fire clean-up. I needed another layer of organic matter for the garden (more mulch), and the hay was all over the yard, so I just sifted through the debris and carted loads of hay into the garden in freshly weeded areas. The added mulch also helped the plants to really start thriving.
As of right now, the former chicken coop looks just as sad and dismal as it did when we last worked on it in May. I don’t really expect to have us be anywhere near being ready to work on dealing with fixing up the remainder of the building until after Independence Day, but I’m starting to get antsy to work on it. I’m hoping to start pulling more rubbish out from the garden shed side of the building and really getting that cleaned up again sometime in the near future. As for the giant mess from the roof and hay, I’ve been chipping away at it a bit here and there. In the days following the fire, I made several large piles of hay, some wood piles and some metal piles. We’ve taken some of the wood back to the fire pit to burn when we have time (good excuse for a bonfire!) and the metal is sitting in an ever-growing, tangled mess. My brother took one hay pile to his house to use on their garden for mulch, and I used two of the smaller ones to mulch our garden. There’s another big pile that is difficult to get to right now, but when I do, that will make a nice dent in the debris. Every mangled piece of metal roofing makes the mess look so much worse than it actually is because the hay covers it and makes it look larger than it really is. The hardest part is getting all of the chunks of wood out of the hay… not that I’m worried about getting it all, but there are nails in some of it, and it does have to be cautiously sifted through since the hay is a walking surface in the garden, but it’s coming along. I was able to pull about 5 large pieces of roofing out of the pile last Friday, and the pile shrank pretty fast, though there is still a ton to go through.
At one point that Friday, I was walking around through the debris, just examining what we still need to deal with when I noticed a pile of charcoal and ash on the concrete slab. I decided to fill up the wheelbarrow and spread it on the new garden bed I had been slowly working to prepare. A light sprinkling of ash and charcoal should make a good fertilizer for the patch of potatoes and watermelon, and a thick layer of hay should do the trick for mulching.
With all of the garden prep that the chickens were doing and the knee problems I was having, I started to notice a drop in their egg production, and suddenly, we had none. Thankfully, my knee improved a lot, allowing me to make sure that they had enough feed to get them through the day, but still have them scratching and foraging. With a bump in their feed allotment and adding in some crushed oyster shells, they’ve finally started to lay again. I had the kids helping out with chores while I was unable to do the bulk of the work, but they still need quite a bit of guidance to make sure that things get done properly.
Well, the pumpkin patch has me feeling nervous! We pulled the tarp back, and everything looked pretty dead. The plan was to use a weed burner to clear all of the dirt, transplant the pumpkin seedlings, and sprinkle on some clover seed for a living mulch. But the weed burner started to have some issues, and then it rained a LOT in just a few days, too much to allow us to finish burning everything, and too much to really work out in the rain. Finally, I decided to just put down the clover seed anyway. It’s a race against nature to get that ground covered… it can either be covered with something I want to grow there, or it can be covered by something nature wants to put there. Hopefully between that and having the transplants in the ground, we’ll be able to keep weeds at bay, and the plants we planted will have enough of a head start!
My lavender plants don’t look like they are going to make it except for a few. I was patiently waiting for them to get bigger, but my knee problems were keeping me from going up and down stairs more than absolutely necessary, and they started to dry out 🙁 It’s a little sad for sure, BUT the good news is that I learned a lot about growing lavender and that I think I could be successful with it next year, plus I’ll have extra time to prepare the swath of land I wanted to plant them in.
On a few rainy days earlier this month I took the time to do some work on getting the “laboratory” set up. The Laboratory is a room in the upstairs of our house that has a furnace in it so it really shouldn’t be used as a bedroom, but it’s a decent-sized room and still good for something, so we have been intending to use it as sort of a lab. Scott has a degree involving computers, and he loves electronics, plus we have a mad scientist on our hands who needs a safe place to work on science projects without working in my work spaces, so this was an appropriate use of the space for us. It was Scott’s Father’s Day gift this year, to get it to a point where it might actually be usable. We still need to actually organize everything and put up some shelving around the room, but now there are drawers that can be used and all of the stuff that shouldn’t have been in our house for one reason or another or just in that room has been moved out, and there’s more continuous work space. Maybe I’ll share some pictures when it’s truly done and we’ve had a chance to organize it all.
I’m feeling hopeful for our fruit trees this year. So far the fruit looks great. True, there won’t be as much of an apple harvest as we were hoping for, but unless we get a hail storm or have some other issue pop up, it will be a bigger harvest than last year! I’ll take anything and everything… I just want there to be fruit this year! Even the trees that were burnt in the fire are beginning to recover on their damaged portions. The cherry trees are netted, and the fruit is looking good thus far, the apples are starting to get fairly big, the peaches have really started to swell, and the plums, while still growing are just starting to change color. The mulberries are slowly shifting from green to pink, and soon enough, they’ll be red and purple. The raspberries will be ready before we know it, and though our strawberry patches are small, they produced a decent harvest this year. Another year or two, and I think we’ll be looking at a really good harvest. If anybody has some ever-bearing strawberry plants they need to get rid of, let me know! And I know it’s not a fruit harvest, but I’m so thrilled to be able to make little bouquets to bring into the house 🙂
This weekend was Miss Lady’s 4th Annual Tea Party. I can’t believe it was the 4th one!!! We invited a few people more than last year, and nearly everybody was able to make it! On Monday, my mother-in-law took the boys to her house for the day and Miss Lady and I were able to get the food needed for the party and start working on some of the preparations. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and everybody had a wonderful time!
We were recently able to get some really neat pictures of our property that I’d love to share with you when the time is right. They really put things into perspective to me and helped me to see what kind of progress we’ve been making around here! It makes me really excited for all that is to come! And also, if my last post seemed a little… down, it might have been, I’m not sure. Things were rough, and it was a struggle, but we’re getting there. I really cannot tell you what all of the kind words and prayers and various forms of help have meant to me, meant to us. Not everybody understands what it is that we are trying to do, but everybody was able to understand that the fire was most definitely devastating for us. Thank you for being kind and encouraging, even when you don’t “get” what we are trying to accomplish around here!
There was one conversation I had with somebody important to me that brought a lot of clarity to me awhile after the fire. This person said that they were very impressed by our ability to take the lemons life has given us and make it into lemonade. They said that our positive attitude has been inspiring, and that they know we will go far, reach our goals, and accomplish our dreams, because we were able to take an awful situation and not only not give up, but make the best of it. Their words meant a lot to me, because there were days after the fire where things were just insanely hard, and keeping a positive attitude felt next to impossible. When you choose to live “outside of the norm” of the society you live in, it can be really hard some days to trust that you really are doing the right thing. This person’s words were a reminder to me that we are on the right track!
Well, I think that gets us about caught up! As I said before, we’re doing fine, it’s just been busy. I had more important things to focus on than writing for the blog, and so my energy went into those things. I hope I’ll be able to keep it less than a month until the next time I post, but we’ve still got a busy couple of weeks ahead of us, though not so intense now that the garden is planted.
How was your June? Are you having a good summer?
P.S. Oh, and you may have noticed, I decided to change the “theme” or template for the blog. The picture I had of the coop at the top of the page was just kind of an unfriendly reminder, at least for the time being. I may end up playing around with the look of the site, so don’t be too alarmed if it keeps changing. Then again, it might not. And I thought you might like this picture of my little side-kick!