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.

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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.

mowing and moving

We (which really means the husb) got the mower fixed!

Here you can see him delivering a massive bag of peat moss for the near future blueberry patch.

Of course he needed to test it out and mowed some meandering Zen paths through the lower field and around the trees. I’m a tad too short to shoot them properly but they’re awesome. 

He had so much fun! We’ll enjoy the Zen pathways for a bit longer and get the rest mowed next week.

The west wall is finally pretty much done for the season. All sheathing is up, topped with a moisture barrier and painted OSB. All eaves and everything else are now blocked with construction cloth. No more unwanted creatures will be getting into this place.

We  ran out of our pretty “pepita” paint so grabbed whatever cheap mis-tinted exterior hue they had and it was this. I wish, in a weird way, that we didn’t have to cover this in plastic until the new siding goes up in spring. It’s pretty lovely. 

The “need to plant these” collection of goodies is growing! All were gifts, except 9 of the blueberries which we got from our wonderful neighbor for wholesale price since he’d purchased too many. Ten blueberries of five highbush varieties (I think I said four last time), a dozen heather plants, a well established rosemary, and two autumn olives (a red and a golden).

This is what the “autumn olives”, or silverberries look like at the end of summer/beginning of fall. They aren’t actually olives.

Tomorrow the roof goes on! Or Saturday. I regularly lose track of days. Our goal is to also have the wood stove installed next week and burned in before we start insulation and everything else. Then, a fully functional bathroom with a shower and hot water! Woohoo! That’ll definitely happen before thanksgiving but the goal is the next week and a half. 

I somehow managed to forget about the kitchen — there so there’s much to do on that front. Like… everything. A whole wall that hasn’t been removed or replaced yet, gross counters that need to be removed and replaced and a couple more cupboards to purge. A new faucet. Then lots and lots of paint. We were going to replace the cabinets entirely but with all the extra other things that were unforeseen and things taking so long, that’s not happening. Lots of bleach, new paint, new hardware, call it good. We have leftover white paint from the trim at the old house so that’s what they’ll be for now. The insides and the built-in shelf with be the old ball jar blue color. The counters will be butcherblock. 

My personal goal is everything except the kitchen done by thanksgiving and the kitchen done by winter solstice. ♡

a few edibles and medincinals

We’re still getting to know the land and discovering more of her wonders but we’ve learned that there is a lot more already growing here than we realized. 

We had a hawthorn tree at our old house and I was so sad to leave it. I planted it just over ten years ago and it was easily ten feet tall. It was a different type as this, with black berries (black hawthorn or douglas hawthorn) instead of red like we have here (common hawthorn, thorn apple or may tree). The berries are good (though you don’t want to eat too many) and are amazing for the heart. They’ve been used to treat heart disease for centuries. We found some berries from our black Hawthorne on the hood of our car the other day so we are going to have an abundance of both. We probably already have at least two dozen hawthorn trees here.

We also discovered what I thought were four wooly lamb’s ear plants but it’s actually thirty-eight!! They aren’t big, but they’re lovely. Lamb’s ear has been used to treat wounds both because it absorbs blood and because it has antibiotic and antifungal properties. Awesome! We don’t need to buy bandaids anymore. 

We have an abundance of blackberries. Three or four different cultivars at least. Fat juicy sweet berries, compact tart berries, etc. Yum! I’m going to make an abundance of blackberry jam and preserve next year! And cobbler. And omgosh, blackberry syrup!! We have about a half dozen maple trees or so (we’re going to walk the land and catalog all of the plants and trees… seriously).

As previously mentioned we have an abundantly productive gravenstein apple. A fresh apple a day. Pie. Dried apples. Cider!

I discovered a second apple tree on Monday (which ended up being a no cabin work day*)! I’m not sure what kind yet, other than red… It’s buried behind a serious thicket of scotchbroom, dead queen ann’s lace and miscellaneous vines. We’re unburying her. Apple butter. Applesauce. More (hard) cider!

I already mentioned the two bartlett pear trees. We’ve only ever had asian pears so this is a real treat (though by the time we got here there were only two pears left). I’m not a fan of canned food, but I’m going can my arse off anyway so we have a nice winter stock every year and goodies to share with the neighbors. 

This lemon balm needs love. And to be moved because it’s in the middle of a garden walkway that needs to be mowed. Oops. I love it tea though and will revive it, plus plant a few more here and there.

We also have plantain (but no comfrey!?), horsetail, a possible black currant (I’ll get back to you on that), wild carrot, obviously, four hundred billion acorns (which I’ve never tried yet), and…. I’ll just do another similar post part two soon to fill you in on the rest. We can gloss over poison oak, ivy and sumac, and stinging nettle. Actually, I love stinging nettle.

Does anyone know what this is? Our realtor said it was lobelia but it’s not.

*to clarify, a “no cabin work day” does not mean a no work day. We started our new compost area which we’ll finish building soon, cleared a heaping pile of scotch broom away from the “new” apple, installed a new mailbox which included drilling all new holes and procuring new hatdware because it was for a post not a bar, visited with three neighbors, made too many phone calls for boring business stuff, did dishes, cooking… it seems like I’m mostly cooking and playing.