Oh, hi. Yes, we’re still here. Here’s what’s been happening on the homestead!
Planting and More Planting
Putting things into the earth and watching them grow has been our whole life for the past two months.
And weeding.. Oh the weeding!
After having our old barn buried and the ground smoothed and leveled, we found ourselves with a lot of open land that was ripe for planting- so we added a second garden. I was waiting at the ready all spring because I didn’t know if it would be done or not in time for putting veggies in, but it turned out it was!
Our new garden, “Garden #2” as we call it, is where we have put in more crops that we’ll store for winter. It is 60×40 feet and we put in plenty of sweet potatoes and regular potatoes… though not “regular” potatoes because they are interesting and exciting varieties… but you understand. I planted more cucumbers than ever before with the hopes of putting up lots of pickles. Plus a handful of melon plants, winter squash, tomatillos for making green salsa and enchilada sauce, onions, corn for popping and flour, and tons of jalapeños to make Karl’s favorite sweet pickled jalapeño relish.
There is one unknown, which is that I have no idea how the soil will perform there and I didn’t have much time to amend it how I’d like. Things are growing and it appears to be alright so far, but I’m not counting my chickens just yet… trying to think of it as a test year to see how things grow and not get my hopes up too much. Of course, nothing in gardening is ever guaranteed!
This is our fourth spring on the homestead, and each year we’ve expanded the amount of space we’ve reclaimed from the wild- it was pretty grown over when we first moved here, and we’ve been doing a slow and steady reshaping of our property how we’d like it. Our goal is to eventually grow and raise as much of our own food as possible, so we’ll keep adding garden space as we can manage it.
I’m actually feeling really good about the garden this year… we dabbled in a no-till method the past couples years, but didn’t fully commit to it and the weeds got completely out of hand, embarrassing really. So far this year we’ve kept up with the weeding and done some light tilling, and it feels so nice to not feel constantly two steps behind the weeds!
Grass and Shrooms
A big time-stealer we’ve been dealing with is the 1.5 acres of grass and “bee lawn” we seeded and have been trying to keep alive. We picked the worst possible week to plant grass this spring, as we were counting on some help from Mother Nature, but she wasn’t giving any. There were many days that Karl was spending 3-4 hours almost every night watering a massive amount of land. Thankfully we’ve been getting regular rain lately and have had some time off from grass duty. And I’m thrilled to report that the grass and flower seeds we planted are actually growing!
What’s a “bee lawn” you ask? A mix of grass species with specific qualities that make them co-exist nicely with low growing flowers that can withstand an occasional mowing, and are high quality forage for both the honey bees and native bees we have here. So, a big shaggy lawn with lots of flowers in it!
And we “planted” some more mushrooms. We’re trying Wine Caps again this year- we tried to grow them last year but believe we got some dead spawn so they never took. I hope to share all the details of these super-easy-to-plant mushrooms once we can prove we can grow them, ha! The picture above is the finished bed, which contains stinky fermented straw with layers of sawdust mixed with mushrooms spores. Fingers crossed for Wine Caps this summer!
The month of May saw chicken egg production pick up, a steady trickle of Shiitake mushrooms, and lots of fresh flowers for every table in the house. In June we ate our first radishes, honey berries (in Wild Berry & Honey Mojitos!), garlic scapes, green garlic, fresh herbs and greens, and finally strawberries.
We planted a few different varieties of strawberries this spring, including these here: Mara de Bois, a french variety that we both agreed are the best strawberries we’ve ever had. I ate one and felt like I was eating a strawberry for the first time in my life and all the previous ones were just sad imposters!
Fruit- Is This Really Happening?
We planted fruit trees the first year we were here- it was something we knew would take time to establish, and we wanted to get them started as soon as we could. Major time investment and lesson in patience these fruit trees have been!
It turned out that last fall we had to move a lot of the apple, plum, and cherry trees we planted, which we figured would set them back a couple years. Getting fruit wasn’t even on our radar.
So imagine our surprise when we discovered that we had an apple tree with a good crop of apples, a few trees completely loaded with plums, and some trees with pears and cherries. Floored! An unexpected and lovely surprise! Wait, we actually have fruit on our trees?! Is this really happening?!
It also kind of blind-sided us and we didn’t get to use any of the organic and holistic orcharding practices we wanted to. Which is actually fine, because we will get a better idea of what pests and diseases we will be dealing with, but it also means that we may or may not get to actually harvest any of this fruit. Time will tell! And next year we’ll be prepared!
Thanks for being here with us and following along on our homestead journey!
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