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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a lesson in *not* planning… and other stories

Farm lesson #1: learn your land before you make too many plans. ♡ I totally mapped out everything I wanted to do here before we even arrived in September. It’s pretty funny really (in a cute and naive sort of way). 

This area was going to be part of the orchard but we’ve discovered it has a very high water table at this time of the year. So… yeah, not a good orchard spot. Thankfully I only “planned” on putting 6 of 28 trees there. Eventually we will be doing some berms (Sepp Holzer style raised beds) and small river rock trenches to directing the water to a pond, but we’re not there yet. 

Pretty much since the first week we moved here I planned to plant a garden in memory of the woman who previously owned this property before passing away in 2016. She had tons of garden book some things bookmarked, mostly bulbs, flowers and herbs. I wanted to put those under the mimosa trees and around this gorgeous garden area in the courtyard. I planned to plant a ton of bulbs, all from her books. I went over there today to get started on the tulips and someone already had the idea of planting a million bulbs there. ♡ 

Clearly it was her. I can’t tell what a lot of it is but I’m pretty sure there are irises and daylilies. There may be daffodils and tulips as well but it’s a hard to tell at this juncture. Now I’ll be planting the tulips around my art studio/healing space instead.

Remember these “ask and you shall receive” theme we have going on here where everything we say we want just “mysteriously appears”? Well I was saying the other day, before these bulbs started sprouting, that I wish I had more bulbs than just my tulips to plant as I’ve never lived anywhere long enough to really want to do bulbs. Today I happened upon several gallon sized pots of abandoned bulbs full of last year’s decaying leaves and dozens of new shoots. I’ll be cleaning them up and separating them out to plant this week too. I have no clue what they are but they’ll undoubtedly be gorgeous around the courtyard and in my secret garden.

The same thing happened with my desire to have hellebores. Correct me if I’m wrong but these are hellebores, right? There are three patches in the courtyard. I think they were one of my grandma’s favorite flowers (along with calla lillies) so I’ve always wanted to have some in my garden. She had the most stunning flower gardens in the world and will be a huge inspiration to me as I work in the pretty flower gardens around the cabins over the years.

The whole rotten front of the first cabin is almost fully replaced (remember, siding isn’t happening until spring). Paul is freaking amazing! During the time it took me to plant four trees, he did all of this. Once this is complete, which should be today or tomorrow, we can start completion of the living room and kitchen. All they need is electrical work, drywall and insulation, texture and paint, and then kitchen counters, cabinets and sink and such. Oh and the floors. 

Okay, so I blinked, and he was done. Like I said, he’s freaking amazing. We’ll be painting it to keep it safe and sound until siding happens.

Clearly we’ve stopped having a strict cabin completion schedule and are totally comfortable with things happening when they happen. With views like this, how can you blame us? Living in such a magical place, your outlook on life totally shifts. Originally it was rush, rush, hurry, hurry, get the cabin done. Now it’s hey, we’re never leaving here so it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Plus we have plenty to do in the gardens and orchard.

Usually it takes a couple/few days to do a post and I have now planted even more trees. Above is one of our two peaches.

This is a liberty apple that overlooks the chicken yard. Good eventual snacks and shade for the girls.

And this is one of the nectarines. It probably takes me infinitely longer than your average human to plant trees due to my need to add rocks and unearth bits of the surrounding moss so it pokes through. 

When we first moved here our sweet neighbor lady commented about all of the faery energy on our property and all the gnome energy on theirs. She was totally right but my first thought was “phew, she’s awesome and surely won’t think I’m crazy as she gets to know us!” I love them both so much (as I mention frequently).

It really is a fairyland indeed.

erection of the greenhouse (and more planting)

What a hugely productive weekend! We finally got the greenhouse frame started.

Here all are of the pieces, organized and ready to go. Spot picked, and everything measured out. This area gets morning, afternoon and evening sun so it’s the perfect spot.

Let the erection begin. Hoops built and staked into the ground. This baby isn’t going anywhere! 

Side and top supports added. We’ll do the cross bars tomorrow, probably, but the cover doesn’t arrive until the 31st so we’ll have a few days at least before it’s fully done. And then we’ll still have doors to do but I’m not thinking about those until I have to.

Today was so sunny and warm it was work in t-shirt weather for me and shirtless working for the husb. Absolutely divine! It’s seriously like May in January here.

Several more trees got planted, as did the last of the rosemary. 

And then our amazing neighbor brough over even more trees because he had an overabundance. I freaking love him and his sweet and beautiful wife!! These are four Osage Orange trees (which will go along the driveway at our main entrance), a Bosc Pear, a Winecrisp Apple which I’m over the moon excited about, an Akane (one of the best early season apples in the US), a Winter Banana (another apple variety, very hardy and sweet), and a Puget Gold Apricot! I see many gluten-free pies and cobblers, preserves, and gallons of hard cider in our future. And quite possibly a side-of-the-road fruit stand for Finn to make some cash from.

Oh, and this Yuzu Ichandrin. It’s a citrus tree, prized in Japan for flavoring, juice and preserves. This variety bears abundant, easy-to-peel, 3″ diameter fruit with tasty, lemon-lime flavor. Yuzu is reportedly hardy to 0°F so grows quite well here we’re told. Even the leaves are tasty, fyi. The thorns on it are crazy beautiful! (I love thorny trees.) 

Osage Orange trees are also quite thorny and resemresemble hawthorn seedlings in their youth. Apparently they lose their thorns, but I love them anyway. I’m planting these alternated with black hawthorn trees for a beautiful hedge along the front entrance, as mentioned (the husb thinks they’re too big, but I still want to put at least two there). Osage Orange is dioecious, forming male and female flowers on separate trees, which I didn’t know, but what I do know is that the wood is amazing! It’s strong and flexible and perfect for making bows (which is a one of Paul’s passions), and is a phenomenally gorgeous natural dye (one of my passions). The seeds are edible and taste like sunflower seeds (but don’t eat the fruit — it’s apparently quite gross).

Most of my day was of this view… digging, digging, digging…. It was great!

I love the balance we already have going on here with fruit and berries ready for harvest during each season of the year.

We also received the gift of three tea bush seeds! This type is Camellia Sinensis and produces oolong, black, green and white teas. They’ll be started in pots this week and available for delectable sipping in two to three years. Come on over for a cuppa!