welcome to our little slice of paradise

We bought the most stunningly amazing acerage with five old logging cabins and the most gorgeous land we ever could have imagined. Follow us on our journey of cabin rehab and turning an organic hay farm into a sustainable oasis of fruit, veggies, berries, nuts, and culinary and medicinal herbs.

 

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the farmer, the grave digger, and plans of sustainability

We learned *a lot* about our land and different climate this past first summer. I didn’t realize garden zone 9 and garden zone 8b were as different as they are. When we first moved here we made a One-Year Plan… which was pretty lofty and, in retrospect, extremely comical. Now we have a Five-Year Plan based upon realistic goals and desired outcomes.

We never wanted to be “just a farm” but a homestead. Finally, we are well on our way to that level of self-sufficientcy. In the first year, we have completely stopped buying garlic, berries, a lot of fruit, jam, fruit butter, syrup, eggs, chicken meat, peas and most herbs (my cilantro didn’t grow so we bought some once). These are all things we now produce ourselves on our land and every little bit helps. We’ve hugely cut down on buying summer and winter squash, greens, onions, apples and other fruit, pumpkin and sunflower seeds which we consume *a lot* of, potatoes, beans. Plus I make our own crackers, cookies and baked goods, much of our bread and “snacks” like gluten free apple cinnamon corn bread:

There are a few things we’ll never produce ourselves but this means tiny, infrequent shopping trips (some we could grow, we just don’t really want to… at least not yet):

Things have shifted a bit though. We were both going to be farmers once we got here. But oddly, that was never the original plan but only developed once we were here. I was just going to be the farmer and Paul was going to do whatever he wanted to do (music, bow making and woodworking, car stuff…). But as universe would have it, we’re back to the original plan of me being the sole lady farmer and him doing something else. In this case, that something else is a grave digger. We needed money for the aforementioned coffee, chocolate and dish soap so he stepped up. And I’ve got the animal tending, homestead garden and farm growing, meal planning and cooking, etc. When I need help with heavy lifting, he’s on it, and all the remodeling and rebuilding is his too (though I help with taping and mudding, do the painting and design things like the kitchen). We’re an awesome team.

As far as crop selling, we’re starting small and sticking to selling herloom garlic and herbs, heirloom tomatoes and excess fruit to start, plus having a small seasonal farm stand with excess veggies, fruit, berries, herbs, garlic, eggs and such. We have a prospective buyer for our fresh culinary herbs and garlic already too, which kicks much ass, as well as a small handful of weekly egg customers in the works. (Soon we’ll have enough egg customers to coverall all chicken and duck feeding, bedding and supplimental costs with enough left over to go on a hot date each month. Heck yeah!)

Within the next five years, the plan is to never have to buy any of these things again:

Yup, that means we’re getting goats. And sheep, and meat rabbits. Plus I’ll raise 3 to 5 turkeys a year to put on the table. We’ll eat our “extra” chickens (boys and mean girls) and do a batch or two of meat birds per year. But this is all over time. This year probably will only include meat and extra chickens, and two goats. Five more ducks come in February (hatching on my birthday — imagine all the impending Pisces goodness around here!!) It’ll be a year-and-a-half before we have goat milk because “we” (which in this case actually means I) want babies. Two Nigerian Dwarf doelings to be precise. They are the best for milk, butter and cheese. Not all goat’s milk is good for drinking. These girls will taste more like cow milk than anything else. No thank you on super gamey goat milk. Been there, done that. Though really a mama already in milk and tw babies would be ideal.

Maybe in 2020 we’ll add a couple of sheep (the fella above was Gabe from our friend’s farm down the street — we loved and ate him) and some meat rabbits, then in 2021, honey bees and a miniature cow (see how I snuck that one in?). Pacing ourselves is good. Lamb is good too.

It’s amazing how much things have changed in only one year (plus 4 months) on the farm. Our love for this place and gratitude overflow more and more with every passing day. I’m so glad we spent the bulk of the first year focussing on our orchard because we won’t have as long to wait for apples, pears, plums, peaches, nectarines, cherries, persimmons, apricot, yuzu citrus, almonds, and walnuts. We also planted 18 blueberries, 3 blackberries (not as if we didn’t have enough already), 8 red raspberries and a golden raspberry. This year we’ll be adding a couple of figs, elderberries, mulberries and if we’re super lucky, a couple of Meyer’s lemons. Next year: cranberries and currants gallore!

Another part of our dream/vision is making this into a small off-grid farm community. Building a tiny house for another family or couple to live in, adding a loft dwelling above the future workshop for one of our manfriends to make his own. Sharing of the work and bounty and weekend feasts. We have that with our neighbors already, our next door family, and are thrilled to be able to expand that love one of these years.

We’ll also be potentially offering retreats and workshops for natural building (cob, earth bag, etc.), permaculture and vermiculture, homesteading, chicken and duck and goat keeping, bow making and archery, art, music and shamanic retreats, wild edible and foraging classes, etc. It would be fantastic if that could fund our solar. Let me rephrase: It *will* be fantastic when we’ve earned enough to fund our solar endeavors. How long could it possibly take to save up $30k? 😘

our first chicks hatched on the farm

Who knew that a five month old hen would go broody? I certainly didn’t… but it happened, and whilst our two roosters were too young to facilitate their roosterly duties. So what’s a farm girl gonna do? Buy fertile hatching eggs, of course!

That was about 10 weeks ago. She’d been broody for a week and I caved because she didn’t look like she was going anywhere. These were from MyPetChicken.com and were from the Chickens for Elitists selection. I ended up getting a Chocolate Orpington, a Blue/Black/Splash Ameraucana, a Lavender Ameraucana and a Swedish Flower Hen.

Mama Ginger sat like such a champ in the little broody house we made her that she didn’t get up. At all. It got scary. She refused to eat or drink unless I hand fed her egg and peas… so of course I did. She pooped right where she sat. It wasn’t lovely.

But three weeks later she got up, ate, pooped a softball, and dustbathed in the sun. I thought “yikes, the babies are supposed to hatch tomorrow, should I take them inside?” I though she was finally done. That’s when I’d noticed that the Swedish Flower egg was pipped and chirping. A baby! Mama was smart and knew what was up, returning a short time later. Phew. I moved her and the eggs to the big brooder with a door, just to be safe.

Little Flora (Swedish Flower Hen) was the first to hatch. I begged and pleaded and hoped for only girls for three weeks. Phew again. She’s a girl.

Lumin (Lavender Ameraucana) was the second to hatch. I went back and forth with her a few times but I’m now positive she’s a girl too. Heck yeah, blue eggs!

The other two eggs didn’t make it. They were probably boys… I feel bad that maybe I killed them with wishes.

Lumin has some pretty magical looking blue eyes.

And Flora has a funky cute head plume and fancy green eyes like her human mum (me).

These girls were fully integrated with the rest of the flock by 5 weeks and it was the easiest chick integration ever. It would have been sooner but Lumin cut her comb a piece of wire fencing and was bleeding so I didn’t want them running around a bunch of carnivorous bitches with bloody wounds… so we waited an extra couple of weeks for her to heal, though two days would have sufficed. (The other reason is that I fell victim to other people’s opinions. Like don’t integrate them until 6 weeks. You would be evil if you integrated them before they were full grown. You know, stuff like that. But then two of my Farmland friends both said they’re already integrated. They’ve been looking at each other for weeks. That makes sense.) The girls immediately took to muddy dust bathing and jumping over the big chickens for treats… like literally jumping on their backs, running up their bodies and pouncing off their heads in front of them to snatch a yummy chunk of hardboiled egg.

In spring I hope to hatch several more, plus add some more Lavender or Blue Ameraucanas and a couple of Cream Legbars. But I really want more now. My basket needs more blue in it! (Pardon the muddy feet prints on the eggs — it’s been raining like crazy and rain means crazy mud. And I don’t wash my eggs until consumption, if at all.)

If anyone has an old incubator laying around that you want to let me borrow for 3 weeks, I have some fertile Welsummer roo x Cochin, x Golden Cuckoo Marans, x mint egg laying Easter Egger, and x pinkish lavender laying Australorp eggs I think would be fun to hatch out, plus a mystery double yolker (Barred Rock, I think — dunno, just want to attempt twins). Those would make a little half feather footed fluff baby, one with super dark and hyper speckled deep chocolate eggs, dark green speckled and maybe mint green speckled? Those would all be awesome. I could force Finn to participate and we can get all science experiment up in here. I keep threatening to try to hatch one in my pocket or bra but my fellas are appalled at the idea.

They’ve obviously never been mothers.

oops, it’s autumn (i mean winter)

Well… it appears that we haven’t done a blog post in roughly five months. Which then suddenly morphed to eight months after starting this. That’s unfortunate as many amazing things transpired in late spring and all through summer, then autumn. And some seriously unamazing as well.

Here’s the nutshell version of things, as we couldn’t possibly share it all, but first, happy autumn!… and happy winter!

Our first batch of 12 chickens are all grown up and laying. This is Raven, our champion layer of mostly massive double yolk eggs (this photo was taken before the run was enlarged to include the chicken compost she’s on).

I know we started with a lot more than that but one died, as you recall, 10 went to the neighbors per a prearranged deal, and I have since sold 5 troublemakers. It was either sell or soup and even though I bought all of the proper knives and accoutrements, I opted for the sell option this time around. Next year soup. Lots and lots of soup.

Our second batch of chickens (7 girls) are about to start laying too, probably right around the time of the ducks within the next three or four weeks. Update: a few of our second girls are now laying. Not a duck egg in sight.

Two of them are Olive Eggers, one is an Easter Egger that I got as a surprise bonus and to our Golden Cuckoo Marans so we have the beginnings of a rainbow egg basket. Just need some blues, darker greens and more chocolatey chocolate. That’ll happen by Spring for sure.

Our third batch of chicks (10 girls and 2 boys) may not start laying until Spring either, unless they want to be winter layers. I think I have two but I’m not positive yet. In retrospect, July born babies aren’t the best idea. They end up being freeloaders a lot longer than spring or late fall babies.

And then we hatched our own chicks, but that’s a different story. We have 33 chickens now. ♡

Ducks are disgusting little beasts as babies, I’m warning you. You need to change their brooder every single day and it’s… yuck. If I were a nicer human, I would have changed it twice a day. I’m not that nice.

Ducks as teens and young ladies (as in outside ducks) are freaking awesome! They will make you laugh and smile and totally crack up several times a day, every day. They are the best farm entertainment I could possibly think of (outside of goats, which will hopefully also happen in Spring). And the most impatient (try to change their pool water without them getting in until you’re done — not going to happen). Three more ducks are getting added to the farm in February.

The garden was kind of a sad story this year. It started awesome in spring, then turned lame with the start of summer.

Thankfully it got mostly awesome again after that.

We had previously decided that all we were going to grow year one was stuff for us to eat on our homestead and get to the market garden growing and farm sales next summer.

Anyone who knows me knows that I can grow the crap out of anything except (bell peppers from seeds — we frequently quarrel) but most of our garden just refused to grow. And what did grow, the deer mostly ate. Except squash. The whole no fence thing? Dumb idea, at least until things are established. We’re buying some fences within the next few weeks to protect our autumn garden.

(Yeah, that actually already happened — we now have about a 3000sf fenced garden area.)

After a couple months of little to nothing going as planned in the garden, we tested our water PH. Things had been growing amazingly when watered by the rain but when we switched to well water via hose, they stopped growing. That was the problem! 8.4 ph, I think it was. Or 8.6? Now that we have that sorted out, everything is growing miraculously well again… just in time for autumn. Except our rainbow fingerling carrots that got off to a poor start.

Fruit has been a totally different story. Plums, pears, blackberries and apples have been so abundant. We even had early blueberries and cherries.

Canning has been awesome this year! My favorite so far was a maple bourbon plum butter. Oh and blackberry pear jam. We also canned spiced apples, chai spiced plum butter, cinnamon anise pears, plain blackberry jam and we’re about to do some pickled apples this week. (That was months ago.) I’ll keep you posted on that one. (Next year I’ll do a post on pickled apples.) I’ll probably also do some apple and pear sauce. (Didn’t happen.)

Cabin one still isn’t done but we literally didn’t touch it until about a week or two ago because we’ve been too busy with animals, orchard planting and other plantings… and everything else. I think the last time we worked in it was November? Maybe December? But the floors are now all done, all of the electrical is done, drywall and insulation is about to start going up in the living room and kitchen and everything will soon be textured and painted like that.

Holy crap, and we have a bathroom sink! With hot water to wash your hands! I can’t find the pic right now but I’ll share soon.

Paul ended up having to get a job, we discovered that he miscounted and we’re 9 pieces short on drywall so the cabin is once again in hold.

a chicken hiccup and a veggie harvest

Oh how I love our new baby chicks!!! We received them last Monday and have gotten behind I’m sharing due to working 12 to 16 hour days. We had a little hiccup though. Or heartbreak. Or… a fuster cluck.

One of the chicks arrive injured and sickly. I named her Penguin because she looked and hobbled like a penguin. We bonded hard and fast because she was too weak to eat and I was hand feeding her. By day two, she was doing MUCH better and could actually walk for the first time, and feed herself a bit, though I continued to hand feed her egg yolk and chick starter to keep her strong.

Every hour or two, when I went in, she would perk up, hop into my hand and snuggle in for a nap. She always nuzzled my hand. It was so precious! I was head over heels for her, my soul chicken. The one that would never go to freezer camp or end up in the soup pot. By day four, she stopped eating or drinking entirely, but every half hour or so I would try anyway. Sadly, she died in my hands. I’ll spare you the gory details but although rough, I’m so glad it was quick.

I dug her a little grave in our pet cemetery (in the faerie garden), planted arnica and yarrow over her and marked her spot with pretty rocks, daisies and fir cones. It was sad.

But the good news is that we still have 27 other fluffy little feather balls to adore. None of them are my soul chickens like Penguin was but I adore them times a million. Six are actually for our wonderful neighbors. I’m just fostering them for a few weeks. 

There is nothing cuter than their egg yolk feeding frenzies!

They’re a crazy blur of darting and hopping feathers most of the time, but every once in awhile one will slow down enough to get a not totally fuzzy shot.

In other good news, those few days of nearly 80º days kicked things into high gear. We have lots of big beans, zucchini, yellow squash, herbs, corn, peas, raddishes, etc.

We even nibbled our first baby radish today. It was a bit small because they were planted late, but we really felt like it was a perfect day for a sacrificial radish.

planting and growing 

Everything is growing like crazy now in this crazy beautiful April weather of alternating (heavy) rains with 65-78 degree sunny days, at least for here. The peas and raddishes, kale, lettuce and chard, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and herbs are having a race to see who can get the biggest and tallest fastest, and so far the peas are winning. (I actually started this post almost two weeks ago and it originally said radishes, but the peas are kicking their butt now).

Our curvy personal garden (see last post) is pretty much fully planted plus a new bed, and the rest of the land is getting worked and planted with food guilds and companion plants that will one day create our food forest oasis. To clarify, we’re 100% done with our personal homestead gardens — everything is either planted in the ground or started in the greenhouse. We wanted to make sure we got that done straight away so we could focus on our farm next, and an actual much needed income.  

The fall garlic is monstrously huge and we recently planted a spring crop, but it’s not doing as hot so I’ve decided to stick solely with fall garlic planting. That being said, I reserve the right to change my mind, of course (I’m not the most patient person so could be speaking too soon). See the bottom leaves with a bits of yellow? We pull those off and sautee the green parts and compost the yellow. Yum! The bed behind it is all early cabbage, greens, nasturtium, marigolds, purple broccoli, onions, a rainbow of carrots and soon-to-be-planted cucumbers, dill and basil. (It’s probably 20′ long.)

Knowing full well that beans “should not” be planted in our zone until mid May, I decided to test fate and plant a few beans early. Like five weeks early. And here you go, beans! (Heirloom/organic blue lake bush beans to be precise.) That part wasn’t a lack of patience but rather an “I have a gut feeling our last frost this year is actually early April and not May 1st”. Rebel farmer? Yeah, probably. Gut truster? Always.

Lots of sprouting babies. I feel like a proud mother of millions right now. Trees, veggie, herb and berry starts, and our impending chicks. More on the baby girls next week though. (Or sooner since I’ve failed to publish this and they have arrived.)

We received some awesome seed potatoes from our friends and because we have lots of gophers and moles and such, we decided to do them above ground in big pots this year. This is a crap photo but they’re actually peeking out to say hello.

The greenhouse is blissfully thriving. Cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, a variety of peppers (a lavender bell pepper was the first to sprout!), various types of basil, oregano, sage, marjoram, thyme, asparagus, etc… all happy and growing. There’s a bit of a wasp situation in the greenhouse too, but let’s just not even talk about that right now.

One of our first permaculture guilds will have this lovely crimson autum olive in the center. It’s a great nitrogen fixer and the guys love the berries (they kind of make my tongue itch). Autumn Olives, or silverberries can be extremely invasive in some areas but not Oregon. We have an amber one too.

The Apple trees are now blooming. I love mother nature! First the apricots, pears and plums, then the peaches, almond and nectarines, then the cherries, and now the apples. Well, all but the honeycrisp… those are more of a late season apple. 

I could seriously take photos of apple blossoms all day. 

I planted a nasturtium under each of our apple trees and made an interesting observation yesterday — three are growing so far, and only under the three honeycrisps. I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation but I don’t know it… I just noticed things.

The whole east side of the gardens are planted with various lavender types and rosemary as deer hate them. So far, no deer in the gardens but I don’t want to speak too soon or curse or jinx us. My dream is fence free gardens, and although 99.7% of people seem us crazy, I’m hopeful it will work.

The strawberries are blooming too. We only have four this year (for personal consumption) but next year we’ll have at least 100.

planting a homestead, growing a farm

I couldn’t possibly tell you how many things we’ve started in the gardens and greenhouse, but it’s a lot. We’re starting with a more “homestead approach” and planting all we know we’ll eat, and adding to that to branch out into full fledged farm over the next year or couple. I guess currently we could be considered tomato, pea and garlic farmers as that’s what we have enough of started to sell, so far. And orchardist offerings, of course. 

The first meandering bed is growing, nicely lined with fallen logs and limbs, and more gifted from the creek. The paths will eventually be lined with wood chips (oh how we dream of owning a wood chipper!!) and access is easy on each side. In the wider spots I’ve put stepping stones for ease of harvesting so I don’t have to step in the soil or squish things. I say “I” only because there will be no lack of ease for my tall fellas — little ladies tend to have short arms, and I’m not even 5’2″. It may not be the best utilization of garden space but I love it!! Next year we’ll add another heap of organic compost and another log to raise them up a bit more, holding them together with an earthen mixture such as is used in cob or strawbale construction. This is 75% planted already with lettuce, a few varieties of kale, peas, raddishes, carrots, onions and spring garlic, plus borage, dill (next to a blank spot for future cucumbers), marigolds and soon, nasturtiums, etc. It’s still funny to me how tall these look in person and how shallow in photos, but you’ll see… it’ll be great!

Lots of things are sprouting and growing… peas, kale, chamomile, onions, thyme, tarragon, basil and tomatoes. I only just planted cucumbers and dill so those will be soon, and the rest to follow. Hopefully our eight dozen peppers sprout soon — I have big plans for those babies. I’ll take photos when I don’t have to use a magnifying glass to do so. In the meantime, here’s one of our massive pears in bloom. We’ll have a good 872 pounds of Bartlett. We trimmed all the dead junk out of both (And the old apples) and are all so very happy. 

Things outside of the food gardens are blossoming like crazy too. We had one visible bud on this tree a couple of days ago and now it’s covered in big pink blossoms. It’s a Camellia Japonica and it sure is pretty! I dont think the flowers fall off immediately like our other Camellia. It’s funny… I keep talking about making a space inspired by The Secret Garden but it’s starting to become that all on its own. I can’t wait to have the cabin done so we can rebuild the main house into a woodsy faerie house. It’s already in the perfect setting for it. ♡

Part of our inspiration comes from this Jacob Witzling pacific northwest tiny house… or really his building style in general. He’s amazing!! We don’t really have the funds to do the whole house in such stunning wood, but we’ll be thrilled to at least have the front and garage look similar upon approach. I don’t care if the rest is ten different kinds of recycled siding painted a lovely hue of “wood”.

I spent the evening at the creek last night as the sun was starting to set and it lit the trees ablaze with brilliant light. It’s a wonder we get anything done around here with so much stunning beauty to get lost in at all times.

On the way back up to the house, what did I spy but a Fairy Slipper Orchid! And then I noticed they’re actually everywhere along the path. These are and have always been one of my very favorite flowers, along with trilliums. We apparent have those too, but I haven’t yet happened upon any. Regardless, I’m buying and planting some one of these days.

The orchard is almost officially complete. We received a few more trees and have only two apples and a persimmon to plant this week, then the orchard is done… until we get two fig trees and four meyer lemons. The above photo is of a Sweetheart Cherry. Isn’t she beautiful! 

I’ve been juggling between planting several varieties of lavender and rosemary around the periphery of the garden, sowing seeds in the garden and planting a kazillion things in the greenhouse while the husb has been working on the cabin. I’m refraining from posting pictures so we can do a full unveiling but the kitchen has been 100% gutted (drywall, insulation, cabinets, sink and all), sill plate replaced, some structural bits replaced, and new concrete floors ground and ready to seal once the living room floor is done. He rocks!

More lovely blossoms of the week. I am over the moon with all of the spring beauty. It’s like christmas every day, waking up and rushing outside to see what’s new. I found out that a large portion of our muster bulbs are Lucifer flowers. They’re gorgeous. Devilishly beautiful? I have no idea why they’re called that. We also have an abundance of uncommon daffodils, hyacinth, regular irises and bearded iris. Or so we shall see.

Another project underway is the chicken house rebuild. This is a screenshot of the Eco Paint colors I narrowed it down to because my girls need a pretty house. The interior and trim will be egg blue and the exterior will either be wood nymph or glass bottle. Really, I’d like to incorporate all colors (and more) but this zero voc, no chip, eco and pet friendly paint is not cheap ($73/gallon!). So I may just have to get Lowe’s zero voc exterior paint and color match (~$30/gallon). We are 100% ready for the girls’ arrival in three weeks except for their house and I couldn’t be more excited. Well, and except for their massive outdoor area too, though they’ll be free range ladies much of the time. And they’ll be inside babies so we have plenty of time.

We also got a load of 8′ peeler cores (and helped our neighbors pick up three more loads). I want to use them as fence posts for the massive chicken run because that would be much lovlier than ugly metal t-posts. Yes, I know they will need to be replaced and aren’t the most efficient option, but… in this particular case I don’t care. 

We’ve done and experienced a lot more than that this past week but that’s all I can think of off the top of my head. I’m chicken distracted (that’s a real affliction). Our little rainbow flock is starting out with three each of the following: Black Australorp, Golden Laced Wyandotte, Partridge Cochin, Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, Buff Orpington and Delaware. I’ll still need to get (3 each) Amaricauna, Cream Legbar and Oliver Eggers but that’s a secret (husb “authorized” me to get 12 to start). I got the 1 and the 2 confused — it’s called chicken math. Oh, and a couple of roos. ♡ Shhh.

the birds and the bees, butterflies, flowers and trees

Springtime brings so much beauty (and so much awesome work). Most of our farm is eventually going to be curling pathways and wandering patches of this and that, but having prepped a nice 3000sf rectangle already, that’s where we’ve decided to start, logically. I really have an aversion to rows and precision so we’ve decided to let mother nature dictate the shapes of our initial beds and growing spaces.

For this area, we’re doing seudo raised beds, lined with fallen and creek-gifted logs for this first part (they’re much deeper than they appear, and have since been built up even more).

We broadforked and grass-removed a nice 40-something foot blueberry bed and got those beauties planted where they will grow with a few varieties of thyme and comfrey (they’re great companion plants as all prefer acidic soil). By the end, near the plum tree, I decided that cardboard occultation was a better option than more broakforking for the comfrey patch. The comfrey (and an am a potential accidental borage or three that I dropped seeds of) will surely be happy there.

The blueberries are thrilled to be in the ground! If you’re planting blueberries, don’t forget to add a bunch of organic peat moss. We have two each of five blueberry varieties so someday we’ll invite you over for gluten free blueberry pancakes, frozen blueberries on home made ice cream and handfuls of fresh berries, straight from the vine. It’ll be at leadt a couple of years, but we’re thrilled. We have a nice balance of early and late season varieties too which doubles the reward.

A kazillion things have been started in the greenhouse (this is about half of it): tomatoes, peppers, heaps of culinary and medicinal herbs and…

…all of these from an amazing gift of a tea garden we received! Those are going in my secret healing garden (though I don’t know how “secret” it will end up being but since I was a little girl, I dreamed of having a Secret Garden like in the book so to amuse myself, that’s what I’m calling it).

Finn and Paul both managed to get stung within a couple of days of each other. Paul by a wasp we presume, and Finn by a hitchhiking bumblebee in his show. Thank goodness neither are allergic! I was always worried about Finn because I am (though wasn’t as a kiddo — I was a bee pin cushion). I found Finn’s bee the next day trapped in cabin two where it stung him and wanted to step in it for a spot second but instead made him a little cozy warm house because it was a cold night and he was nearly comatose. He survived the night but does the next day. I should have made him some nectar. 

A couple of days later, I found this butterfly in the field, missing a wing. I cried and then decided to try to save it. I made it a butterfly sanctuary, watched two videos on how to replace a butterfly wing (before I leaned that they can grow back), found my wing collection to utilize and got nectar making supplies ready. As I went to go get her (or him?) to put in her rock, water and plant filled sanctuary, a bird swooped down, snatched her up and flew away. I kind of had to laugh at that point. Guess I need to back off in the meddling of mother nature. 

In happier news, literally almost everything is budding and blooming. Pears, plums, peaches, almonds, apples, etc. It’s a pretty stunning sight.

There’s lots more to share (including some cabin progress!) but I’ve got to get back to planting so I can make dinner at a reasonable hour. In the meantime, here’s a pretty picture to reflect on. This was taken the day before the days of torrential rain we had last week that raised the creek level once again.

all of the sun made me forget about the snow

It just occurred to me after my last post that I never posted about the stunning winter wonderland we just lived in.

I wanted to share a few of these stunning shots especially for our family and friends who don’t get to experience the beauty of snow and frost. It was like living in a faerytale for a whole day.

Even with all the snow, we had a few hours of delicious blue sky. 

Our baby trees looked so pretty, and all survived just fine, of course. 

This was our apricot the day of the snow.

And here she was blooming the very next day.

Hopefully next year it’ll snow for a couple of days when we can cozy up inside next to the woodstove after playing in the cold, while sipping spicy chai and reading a good book. This year it was chilly, but so very beautiful.  

busy in the sun

Since the snow has melted and things have started to warm up, we’ve become quite the busy bees. Yesterday we finally got the greenhouse UV cover on our little hoop house (it’s not really that “little” — it’s 10×24′, which should be more than plenty for now).

The whole family pitched in and we got it done yesterday. We also have enough cover for a whole second greenhouse next year which is also exciting. We love not having to buy more supplies for our projects. 

It’ll be all tight and smooth on the ends once we get the doors built and attached. We have a few too many ideas on what we’ll be doing for doors but no solid plan yet. We’ll get that figured out in the next day or two and get everything complete within the next week or so. Excited!! We even dig trenches along the sides which we’ll line and fill with gravel so the rain runoff doesn’t flood stuff.

I also discovered yesterday that we have a flowering quince! The day before we discovered a hydrangea. Every time I decided what I want to buy from the seasonal nursery down the street that we haven’t been to yet, I find that particular plant growing here already or we’re gifted it out of the blue. Apples, plums, raspberries, bamboo, bluberries, dogwood, hellebore, daffodils, apricot, japanese maple, irises, hydrangea, quince… I really want to support local businesses but I’m running out of ideas on what to go there for. I’m sure I’ll be inspired the minute I get there though.

I discovered this yesterday too, growing and blooming off the back porch of my art and healing space. There’s so much beauty around here!

And a lot of work. ♡ Shovel compost, haul it, unshovel it, spread it. Repeat. Until the wheel in the cart breaks. Oops! We got way better fat wheels though and Paul fixed it all up tough and sturdy. (And then the mower drive belt broke, but we’ll have that fixed by this weekend.)

The last of the flame weeding got done too (and blackberry bramble burning in unison). See what happens when the sun comes out? We bust ass.

With the alternating crazy rains and lovely warm sun, things are growing like crazy. The garlic is huge.

The plums, nectarines, peaches, cherries, pears, almond and apricot are all budding and blooming. 

Even our super old lichen covered pear trees are going crazy with buds. This place is going to look so magical when all of these trees really start blooming, holy cow!

And really it already is magical. I try to go on a long walk every day, or at least a shorter one on days we’re super busy. The sun filtering through the trees and illuminating the ferns and moss is one of my favorite sights (especially when the gnomes and faeries come out to play).

I love shadows because shadows mean sun, of course. After weeks of gray, it’s so rejuvenating and welcome.

Another amazing discovery was this stunning crystal I received from the nature spirits on my birthday. I was on a long walk and was told that my gift was on the path I was traversing. A voice said “turn around, you passed it,” so I retraced my steps. When I was told to stop and look down, there it was! It was a beautiful day that started with thick heavy snow that immediately melted, and was replaced with sunshine and that soft fluffy rain that tickles your cheeks and makes you smile.

It was on the path diagonal from this stunning spot in the creek. The waterfall are re-emerging too. Spring is in the air!

This was our cloudiest day all week, and clear blue skies the past two days (but I was too busy to get good shots). The rains return tomorrow but I don’t mind because we’re cruising into down to get chick supplies. 
We’re going to have babies next month!! 

(Photo credit: mypetchicken.com) They’re going to live inside for awhile but we need to get our butts in gear and re-roof the coop, replace the missing walls, put up fencing and build laying boxes. They’ll be our free range farm and forest girls and I couldn’t be more excited! We just need to get a few blue and/or green egg layers and our little rainbow flock of layers will be complete. Next year, or maybe the year after, we’ll build a separate area for meat birds, but one step at a time.

We have lots more to share (like the progress on the cabin kitchen) but I have to make breakfast and get back outside while it’s still nice.

flame weeding, dirt digging and healthy snacks

Last Saturday we got a torch and propane tank to flame weed the tarped garden area that needs a bit of extra love (probably should have done that in autumn). Carbon holds four times its volume in water so is a great addition to the garden, fyi. We will never use chemicals of any sort anywhere in our gardens or homes and since our very fertile organic hay farm came with some pesky weeds, this feels like the best option to us, especially being on a timeline (if our savings account was bigger, we’d probably just continue the occultation process another half year and we’d be good but that’s not really an option).

After a few rounds of holy fire, the garden area actually now looks like a garden area which is pretty exciting. This is just phase one (of many).

It still totally cracks me up how tiny that “little” 3000sf patch looks amid the rest of the yard, which is really no small garden area in the grand scheme of things. 

On Tuesday, our organic compost arrived. It was steaming in the morning frost (the night before got down to 21 degrees).

It was cold enough to kiss our windows with frosty little smooches. It’ll be that cold and colder this week. Yikes!

Call me batshitcrazy if you must, but a square garden is boring. So, the first square (which is actually a rectangle) is the beginning of the leaf shape our garden will eventually be. The above photo was actually originally designed for a smaller greens garden so ignore the labels, and the longer flowing shape. Ours will be more like a popular or cottonwood leaf. I’ll doodle it up for you shortly.

We started marking out the center path and some of the side paths with meandering stakes and twigs already. Probably hard to see in the photo, but you get the idea.

Broad forking is butt kicking work for a little lass like me. My arms (and back and shoulders and neck and legs) are feeling it. It’s awesome — I’m starting to develop back muscles. You can come on over and try it if you’re longing for back muscles too.

Dirt and sunshine: the stuff that dreams are made of. That’s been our week.

We’ve also been spending time harvesting some of our bamboo to make trellises and such once dried. I do love that we have so much bamboo growing here! We use a lot of it in the gardens.

All this work is hungry making. We are big healthy smackers. Healthy snacks are stupid expensive… like the flax crackers I used to buy. At $6 a tiny bag that could be eaten in two days, plus my pumpkin and sunflower seed additions, plus my daily chocolate intake… yeah, stupid expensive. So I make our own crackers and snacks now. Above, flax, pumpkin seed and sunflower seed crackers with lots of savory and mildly spicy herbs and spices.

These were an experiment that turned out to be pure bliss. Golden flax, sunflower seeds, five spice, cinnamon and dried cranberries. Ohmygoshyum! It’s like a desert cracker.

I don’t measure stuff so would be despised if I started a food blog but here’s the gist… measure one cup of brown, golden (or both) of flax seeds. Put it in a big bowl. Add a cuppa water. Add salt and whatever herbs and spices you want (garlic, basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, cumin, cayenne, five spice, cloves, whatever). Once you think you’ve added enough, add some more (flax really needs a lot of seasoning). Let sit 20-30 minutes. It’ll be like a slick dough or thick glob (usage of the word “glob” is further proof that I should never start a food blog). Toss in a handful of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, raisins, dried apple bits, etc. if desired. Mix again. Add a bit more salt. Spread on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Toss in a preheated 200 degree oven, bake for an hour and a half. Flip (you may want to put a second piece of parchment on top and fold the two edges together to assist in such large flippage). Bake another hour and a half. Beep. Pull them out, let them cool, break ’em up and eat. Yum. If you like precision and fine lines, score them before baking. I like random shapes and sizes just fine, personally. 

I’m five spice obsessed right now after having accidentally grabbed that instead of the cinnamon for my ginger hibiscus cranberry tea a couple of weeks ago. That’s the happy accident that inspired my five spice and cranberry flax crackers. This week I’m making gluten free cheese crackers for the guys (they taste like clean and wholesome goldfish crackers), granola and chewy granola bars. And maybe some kale chips, dark chocolate and shredded coconut chunks, and cinnamon spice roasted pumpkin seeds. That’ll be plenty for a month of healthy mid-day and late-night snacking, and it’s all cheap to make yourself. Bam. Our $300/mo snack bill reduced to $30 at most.

Oh! Look what beautiful and sweet creation I awoke to on Valentine’s Day. I love my sweet and thoughtful man!! He said “flowers die, rocks are forever.” Truth. I’ve been working on moving this to my meditation garden. 

Back to the garden… it’ll be closer in shape to this stout little leaf. Closer paths, probably so there’s ever tromping through the actual beds but you get the idea — this is just a rough sketch for the purpose of visual explanation. It’ll be flowing, organic and beautiful, and will allow room for my mandala garden in the south side of it.

We won’t be starting the mandala one for a year or two, and haven’t decided if it will be all picking flower a mix of flowers, herbs, veggies and berries, but it will be colorful and stunningly beautiful.