For it being one of the colder months… we really accomplished quite a bit on the homestead! On the blog I made vegetable stock powder, shared my no-cut way to cook a whole squash, recapped the best books for homesteaders, and wrote about weird chicken behavior during the molt.
Hornet Nests and Honey Bees
Karl was walking through our woods when he spotted something high up in the trees- a Bald-faced hornet’s nest! Of course he had to have it… so we lugged the extension ladder and cart full of tools across the hay field and into the woods. The nest was about 25-feet up in the air- I couldn’t watch him climb all the way up there. We didn’t see any activity around the nest, but Karl wore his bee-garb just in case. With hornets and with ladders, it’s better safe than sorry.
He cut the branch holding the nest and carefully climbed down the ladder with it. Insects are amazing! This nest is made of hundred of sheets of thin paper covering their comb. Not sure what we’re going to do with it yet. Hoping to find a place to display it in the house, or maybe we’ll even sell or trade it!
And speaking of bees… we officially tucked the honey bees in for the winter. We have two hives, and we have a good feeling about both of them. One is a hive that overwintered last year and produced a lot of honey for us this year- very strong. The second hive is a 3+ year old colony we removed from the neighbor’s house. They are aggressive and tough- the kind of hive you hate to work with, but usually the mean ones are great survivors and honey producers. Plus, they didn’t have hardly any mites. Good luck during the cold months ahead, little ladies!
Tree Movers and Shakers
The start of cold weather means dormant season = homestead landscaping changes. We took the opportunity to rearrange our yard and woods a little more to continue shaping our homestead into exactly what we want. Karl spent a few days moving three 10+ year old Mulberry Trees. We moved a large, old maple tree this spring with success, so we thought we could do it again with these trees. The two larger mulberries (planted randomly, courtesy of the birds) were too close to our septic mound, so they had to go anyways. Guess we’ll find out this coming spring if they are going to make it! Tree moving is hard work. And the chickens know exactly what a shovel means! Worms!!
But that’s not all! Two years ago my dad stumbled upon some Butternuts. I wanted to plant them and see if they would grow, so I put them in the deep freezer all winter and planted them this past spring. I watched for months- nothing. Then I forgot about them, figuring they were duds or the squirrels found them. When all the weeds died back in the patch that I had plated them in- there they were! Hiding in the weeds all summer! Six little twigs coming out of the ground, all in a row, just as I planted them! I’m certain that I squealed in delight.
We carefully transplanted them to their permanent homes- and they were small enough that we could easily get the whole root system, so no worries about them surviving. And now I have a Butternut grove!
The Apple and Kale Grand Finale
We finished up the last of the harvest this month, mostly apples and kale. There is a semi-abandoned orchard in our town, and we got the go ahead to pick all the apples we wanted. We didn’t really need more apples, but there was no way on God’s green earth that I could turn down free produce. Literally, no way, I don’t have it in me. So we picked four more bushels of beautiful deep red apples! If we had our cider press built, I would have picked quadruple that. They made the most gorgeous glowing peach-colored apple juice. I also made some into thick dehydrated apple rings.
Kale can last all winter in the garden- we even dig it out of the snow and eat it! However, if there are too many freeze and thaw cycles, I find that it gets a little skunky. So, I picked a humongous box full of kale and spent hours freezing it, using this method. I put it in just about any soup that I make, and love having it sautéed with butter and garlic or “creamed” with a kind-of homemade Alfredo sauce.
I am involved with some rare-seed trading groups, and am participating in a couple seed swaps this month. This means that I spent time collecting and saving heirloom seeds from plants I grew and sent them in to the swap organizer, and in return I will get a couple dozen varieties back. I did both tomatoes and beans… and I can’t wait to see what I get (it’s a mystery!!). There are a lot of super-rare heirloom growers in these groups, so I have high hopes!
Thanksgiving at The Farm
Every Thanksgiving we spend the day at Karl’s grandparents’ farm- an original 100+ year old homestead. Grandma makes a big meal, we play board games at the table near the wood-burning stove, and there is always a project for the boys to help Grandpa with. And by boys I mean all the boys plus me. :) This year he needed help removing a huge saw blade from the front of his tractor. Then we helped feed the cattle, said hello to the barn cats, and I wandered off to take some pictures. There are so many great photo opportunities on the farm: something old, nostalgic, or neat at every single turn.
We love taking trips out to the farm to visit Grandpa and Grandma- they were (and still are) original homesteaders. I wrote more about their background here. Their stories and memories are like gold, and we cherish every minute we spend there with them!
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