Monday, April 30, 2012

Barn Hop #60

Welcome to the Monday Homestead Barn Hop where you're invited to link up your blog with your very best post of the week; something happening at your homestead or something of interest that will help benefit fellow homesteaders. Plus, each of the 3 Homestead Barn Hop hostess selects her favorite post of the week to highlight the following week. So be sure to visit all three blogs because the "Featured Homestead" could be YOURS!

As I was perusing all the wonderful posts on the 59th Homestead Barn Hop, I came across Julia's post about her new garden boxes at Throwback Road and I thought... what a GREAT garden! It's not only practical, but it's going to LOOK lovely, too! Then I re-read the title and realized she is doing this on her Colorado SUBURBAN homestead! Way to go, Julia!!







Here's what I liked about her garden that may help some of you when planning...

• She planned this well on paper before beginning, considering her needs
• She placed it well on her property, in a "nook", off to the side a bit, leaving her some family space still in tact
• The boxes are uniform and yet, laid out in a pattern so as to utilized the ENTIRE space and fill it out; it doesn't look like a box or two just stuck in the yard
• She considered her pathways as well. A combination of repurposed flagstone and pea gravel will keep her from trekking through mud or worrying about mowing in between rows.
• Most of the paths will allow her to get a wheel barrel or other type of cart down the rows.
• And of course, it's in full sun


Well planned and executed, Julia! I can't wait to see how it progresses over the summer. And I hope this encourages all you urbanites, soon to be "urban farmers"!

Join The Barn Hop!
and Amy @ Homestead Revival...

...invite you to link up and share your homesteading adventures!

1. Write a blog post about what's going on at your homestead or a post on something you're learning or an item of interest that will benefit the homesteading community. Be sure to add the red barn button and link back here so others can join in the fun.
2. Come back here and enter your information in the Linky. Please be sure to link to your actual post (click your title and then copy the URL above) and not your home page so those participating later in the week can find your post easily.

3. If you don't have a blog, leave a comment and tell us what's going on at your homestead!

Please Note: As hostesses of the Homestead Barn Hop, please understand that we reserve the right to remove any links that are not family friendly. While this may be subjective, we will err on the side of caution in order to keep our blogs appropriate for all readers. Thank you for your understanding!


Occasionally there is a problem posting due to glitches in the internet or the Linky Tools. If you have difficulties or see that your post is removed and it follows all "family friendly" guidelines above, please wait a little while and try re-posting. We're sorry for any inconvenience this may cause, be we do not have absolute control over the internet. Thank you for your patience and understanding!









Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Blessing

"The flowers have already appeared in the land;
The time has arrived for pruning the vines, 
And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land."
~ Song of Solomon 2:12




"As for man, his days are like grass; 
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes."
~ Psalm 103:15

"for you have been born again 
not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 
For, “All flesh is like grass, 
and all its glory like the flower of grass. 
The grass withers, and the flower falls off, 
but the Word of the LORD endures forever."
~ I Peter 1:23-25a

Dear friend, have you been born again? Today is the day of salvation! (2 Cor. 6:2)



Saturday, April 28, 2012

Preparedness Challenge #34

The last Saturday of every month is the monthly Preparedness Challenge and the give-away sponsored by USA Emergency Supply. I hope that you're prepping and putting something aside each month! Now is the time to prepare for those unexpected events.

Today, everything may seem fine... food is on the shelves in every grocery store across the country, electricity comes on the minute you flip the switch, and water gushes from the faucet at your request.

That's all well and good. But what is your plan in the event that the store doesn't have what you need, the electricity is down due to an event such as a tornado, or the water is contaminated due to a sewer plant leak (or something like it)? Now imagine that scenario effecting your area for miles and miles so that it's not feasible to drive over to the next town and enjoy a weekend "waiting it out" in a nice hotel.

What if.. a national disaster such as 9/11 happened in your neck of the woods. Not likely? Perhaps not, but stranger things have happened. How will you take care of your family? How will you help your neighbor? What will you "cook" for dinner that night? And the next?

Let's just consider one of life's most basic needs... WATER. In the event of an earthquake, water lines can easily be severed. That means, zero water coming into your home for an extended period of time. You've got the garden planted... great! But how are you going to water it? You have some water in the hot water heater, but that will go pretty fast if you're washing dishes, cleaning clothes, etc. Have you considered water usage priorities? Additional water sources? Water purification?

This is the rainy season on our homestead and I can't help but think how I'm missing a great opportunity by not having a water catchment system in place! (Which is one of the reasons I selected Chrissy's post of The New Me for the Featured Homestead recently). I'm reading about this when I can and considering my options, but at some point, if I don't actually DO IT, all that research won't bring water into the house.

The more research I do, the more I realize that just one source of water is not reliable enough. It's best to have several ways to obtain water in an emergency, and one of those ways is to have some stored, ready to use. But how much is enough?

Vicki Tate at USA Emergency Supply, wrote a post on Emergency Water Storage. If this topic is new for you (and even if it isn't!), I suggest you take a minute and read what she has to say and check it against what you're doing to prepare in terms of having water for your family. And to help you get started, USA Emergency Supply is offering a 5 gallon water barrel to the winner of this month's link up!

Unlike the clear plastic containers that you purchase bottled water in or that you repurpose for water storage, this plastic will not break down after a year or so. And they are DOT and UN approved for safe drinking. The large containers are nice, but the smaller 5 gallon size is excellent for those on the go:

• camping
• at the office (cause you might be there when a disaster strikes!)
• in the back of the car

To help you out even further, USA Emergency Supply is throwing in a Drum Pump which allows you to extract water without all that lifting.


How I Met The Challenge!

Here's what I did this month in each category (see category definitions near bottom of the post)...

• Food Storage: I added extra baking powder and baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and molasses. We found bananas on sale cheap and my daughter dehydrated a bunch (hope they last - hard to keep nibblers from sneaking a bite!). And I butchered a rooster for future use. He attacked us one time too many. Enough said.

• Emergency Preparedness: I purchased two heavy duty brown tarps for outdoor uses which can vary wildly! Just an FYI... if you are camping and might WANT to be found, blue is one of the most visible colors from the air. Having a blue tarp as a signal is an excellent idea. On the other hand, if you DON'T want to be found, go with green or brown. They make these reversible... wouldn't it be nice if they would put blue on one side and brown or green on the other. I kept finding silver on the opposite side. I also added some more agriculture grade 4 ml plastic for covering plants during inclement weather at a HUGE discount! A local hardware store was going out of business and I picked up a roll for about 70% off! (Thanks, Heidi, for the tip on that!).

• Sustainable Living: Once again, I find myself excelling in this category... finished the coop run, added a new portable chicken tractor for weeding (with two more to come!), put money down on a new milk goat, started all my warm weather seeds indoors, bought some raspberry plants, two blueberry shrubs, and another fig tree (couldn't resist!). Oh, and installed two hives of bees. And skills I've racked up this month... proficiency at mouse trapping in the garden!


Now it's your turn to join the Preparedness Challenge..

Join the Challenge & Enter The Give Away

To be entered in the drawing, leave a comment on something you did this week to be more prepared in terms of food storage, emergencies, or sustainable living (or all three areas!) OR link up your Preparedness Challenge blog post (you only need to comment or postnot both). Posts not related to at least one of the three areas of preparedness will not be counted toward the give-away. Please be sure to clearly state in your comment or post what you did this month to be more prepared (see my example above as one easy way to do this). Again, the three areas we are focusing on include: 


• food storage for life's unexpected events whether related to long term effects from a disaster or a job loss and everything in between

• emergencies for times of power outages, natural disasters, and such

• sustainable living in order to be more independent, both physically and financially, and to live as close to the land as possible given each individual's situation 

Please be respectful of our challenge and only add a post on one of these three preparedness topics ONLY in order to retain the integrity of the link up event. If your post is just a general homesteading post, please save it for the Monday Homestead Barn Hop.

NOTE: This challenge and give-away ends Friday, May 4, at 11:59 p.m. PST.

Be sure to take the Preparedness Challenge picture and add it to your blog so others know you're participating and hopefully they'll join up, too! THANK YOU!!








Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why Start Seeds Indoors?

It's always tempting to just walk in a nursery and purchase lovely looking plant starts that are already six inches tall! Why on earth would anyone mess with seeds?



Cost. One plant can cost you as much as $3-4 in some places! For that same price, you could purchase an entire packet of seeds.

1 tomato plant = $3
25+ tomato seeds (25+ potential plants) = $3

Hmmm.... SEEDS!

Even if you only use part of the package over a 3 year period, you'll still have saved a ton of money! And if they all fail but a handful? Again, you still have saved money. All you need is to have one successful plant and at the very least, you will have broken even!

There are some initial purchases you may want to make so that your seeds get off to a great start, but there are frugal ways to do this and you don't have to purchase them all at once (more on this later).

• Vermin. Another reason for starting seeds indoors? So you can have nice plants just like the nursery! And so vermin like mice don't eat your little seedlings and dig them up... I've caught 9 so far this spring! Birds will attempt to do the same, but you can cover the bed with bird netting and easily solve that problem. Mice are another problem altogether (see Know Your Enemy).


• Control. When you start seeds indoors, you have much more control over their environment and you can create an "ideal situation" for them to sprout. Of course, sometimes our idea of "ideal" can actually make them less strong, but knowing about these factors allows us to make adjustments. For example, seedlings outdoors are actually strengthened by occasional wind. It causes them to establish a more secure root system. We can mimic that by occasionally running a fan on them. Or placing them outside during a breeze when they are ready to be harded off (a period of transition to eventually remain outdoors permanently).

Unfortunately, not all plants can be started indoors and then transplanted. There are still some plants that must be directly seeded into the ground, such as carrots. As a root crop, their "roots" are very temperamental and they don't take kindly to being "rearranged" in the soil.



• Variety. When you go to the local nursery, you only get so many choices. But with seeds... the sky is the limit! Well, almost. It does give you the ability to select the perfect tomato for your microclimate. In my zone 7 garden, I need short season varieties for anything that is a warm weather crop. A tomato that takes 90+ days to mature won't fully ripen in time to harvest before the first frost because our summers are cooler. Even a variety that matures in 60 days will take longer to produce that ripe gem unless we have a sudden heat wave. Which leads me to...

• Timing. Purchasing plants puts you on the nursery's schedule. However, as you gain experience as a gardener, you can take advantage of all that knowledge you're gleaning and time your seedlings to your schedule and microclimate. For example, we typically get a couple of weeks of hot weather in August. To take advantage of that, I need my tomatoes to be loaded with green fruit in advance so the heat will cause them to turn and finish ripening.

Another timing example... my nursery is located 20 minutes from my house and the micro climate there is 2-3 weeks ahead of my own. I could purchase plants and hold on to them indoors until time to plant, but given the reasons above, I can time my plants to go in my garden when I'm ready on my property.

Finally, most nurseries don't offer vegetable plant starts for fall gardens, only spring. Many things can be staggered throughout the summer and grown into the fall, but unless you have available plants, seeds are the way to go!

Where To Buy Seeds

Each year I get at least 1-2 emails asking which seed company I recommend. And we're blessed that there are many great seed companies to choose from. How do I decide? A few factors I consider include (in order of priority):

• Actively seeks to campaign against GMO seeds
• Actively seeks to save heirloom variaties
• Actively promotes seed saving in general
• Selection (offers a wide variety including heirlooms)
• Catalog is easy to use and gives a good description
• Seed packets have good information printed on back
• Seed company is local (tends to have varieties good for my area)

Reliable Seed Companies

Here are a few that I know meet most of the top priority requirements, although they do not all meet some of the lesser preferences. Finding a local seed company is most difficult, but you could consider your region instead. Below, I've listed some of my favorites and what I like best about them. I've personally used all but Fedco, but friends who do use them are very pleased.

Baker Creek Heirlooms - strong supporters of non-GMO; great heirlooms
Seed Savers Exchange - strong supporters of saving heirloom seeds
Seeds of Change - seeds grown in organic conditions/non-GMO; seeds are in durable zip lock top packets
Territorial Seed Company - great varieties for winter crops
Fedco - strongly oppose GMOs; good winter variaties (catalog is B/W, not colorful)
• Botanical Interests - packets loaded with information inside and out; no GMOs

The best time to order seeds in in January, right after the seed catalogs come out. By April, a lot of choice varieties will be sold out. If you can't get what you want this year, call these companies now and ask to be placed on their free mailing list so that you'll be one of the first to get a catalog at the beginning of the year.

Typically, I order from about 3-4 companies each year to get the selection I want. This means a few extra dollars in shipping, but if you share an order with a friend, you can curb the costs on that as well.

Next, I want to talk about actually starting the seeds indoors and a few tips I've learned over the years. In the meantime, I'm sure others would love to hear why you like to start seeds indoors and your favorite seed company and why!

Be sure to see some of my other seed posts:

Organizing Seeds and Planting Records
Make Your Own Seed Reference Cards



Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Guest Post: "Mother, May I?"

If you've ever felt like the only word that came out of your mouth for 24 hours straight was the word "NO", then you're not alone! In fact, it's a common syndrome for many a mom (or dad). And I've been there, too. Come on over and join me at Raising Homemakers today as I tackle the "no" word and present a few options to help us expand our vocabulary!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Barn Hop #59

Welcome to the Monday Homestead Barn Hop where you're invited to link up your blog with your very best post of the week; something happening at your homestead or something of interest that will help benefit fellow homesteaders. Plus, each of the 3 Homestead Barn Hop hostess selects her favorite post of the week to highlight the following week. So be sure to visit all three blogs because the "Featured Homestead" could be YOURS!

Danielle of Mossy Trees Blog had an great post on how to make pasta noodles out of Stinging Nettle! Wow! What an excellent permaculture recipe! And yes, it definitely looks edible...




I love the unique way she's used a little regarded wild plant for something tasty and satisfying. And for those of you who are not familiar with nettles, they're very nutritious! Found, free, food, fabulous... I'd say that fits well into the "Preparedness" category.






Join The Barn Hop!
and Amy @ Homestead Revival...

...invite you to link up and share your homesteading adventures!

1. Write a blog post about what's going on at your homestead or a post on something you're learning or an item of interest that will benefit the homesteading community. Be sure to add the red barn button and link back here so others can join in the fun.
2. Come back here and enter your information in the Linky. Please be sure to link to your actual post (click your title and then copy the URL above) and not your home page so those participating later in the week can find your post easily.

3. If you don't have a blog, leave a comment and tell us what's going on at your homestead!

Please Note: As hostesses of the Homestead Barn Hop, please understand that we reserve the right to remove any links that are not family friendly. While this may be subjective, we will err on the side of caution in order to keep our blogs appropriate for all readers. Thank you for your understanding!


Occasionally there is a problem posting due to glitches in the internet or the Linky Tools. If you have difficulties or see that your post is removed and it follows all "family friendly" guidelines above, please wait a little while and try re-posting. We're sorry for any inconvenience this may cause, be we do not have absolute control over the internet. Thank you for your patience and understanding!







Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday Blessings

"Behold, God is exalted, and we do not know Him
The number of His years is unsearchable. 
“For He draws up the drops of water, 
They distill rain from the mist, 
Which the clouds pour down, 
They drip upon man abundantly.

Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds, 
The thundering of His pavilion?" 

~ Job 36:26-29





"I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples; 
I will sing praises to You among the nations. 
For Your lovingkindness is great to the heavens 
And Your truth to the clouds. 
Be exalted above the heavens, O God; 
Let Your glory be above all the earth."

~ Psalm 57:9-11





Friday, April 20, 2012

Busy As a Bee!

The bees have arrived and the homestead is buzzing with activity! And not just with the new pollinators...



Without a doubt, spring is my busiest time around here. I'm beginning to remember this so that I don't plan a lot and the girls get most of their homeschooling done before April. We're just finishing up on most subjects and it's a good thing! It's all hands on deck!


Bees: Two packages just arrived and have been sitting overnight so they calm down before installation in their new home. Yesterday I cleaned hive boxes and got them mostly ready, but will finish this morning. The company accidentally sent Italian queens, but because of my climate, I really needed Carniolans. They're overnighting the royal ladies and so I'll have to give the workers extra time to adjust to their new monarchs. Please pray this year's bees are a success. This is an expensive venture due to shipping costs and if this group of bees doesn't work, I'm going to have to switch to ferral bees and I'm really not sure I'm up to that!


Chickens: While the mature hens are down to 5 plus 2 roosters, I picked up 2 Plymouth Rocks and 2 Salmon Farvolles this past week. Twenty four more chicks arrive at the end of the month - 10 Blue Laced Red Wyndottes, 10 White Rocks (for meat), and 4 Rhode Island Reds.

We're still trying to get the bobcat. It has become a daily thing... we've almost got it timed to when he shows up, but the girls are all locked up in their brand new chicken run (which is suppose to be for the chicks, not the hens!).


Garden: Due to the mice (caught 3 so far), I'm having to replant peas, radishes, and lettuce. Some lettuce in another box is looking nice. I have broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, a few beets, and onions started indoors along with about 24 volunteer tomatoes that came up in the onion tray! I used some compost from my worm bin and apparently I must have composted a tomato because these things sprang up everywhere. I pulled them out when they got larger, using a fork and being oh, so careful, and replanted them in their own pots. And they're looking fabulous! I have NO IDEA what variety these will be! Unfortunately, I'm not sure it was real good for the onions. Some are doing okay, but it's spotty.

Today I need to start my warm weather crops indoors (my zone 7 plant out date is between May 15-June 1). I'm getting the season extenders down to a science, so I'm pleased with the progress there. Fencing is going in today as well for sectioning off the garden and goats, while creating a support for blackberries and such. Raspberries are also waiting to go in as well as some blueberries. We still need to make 2 more raised boxes, but the lumber company doesn't seem to have what we want and we keep waiting on them. Finally, my husband has some major plumbing issues to work on in the garden... we had a busted line this year because we didn't drain it in time and we learned a very expensive lesson!


Goats: Dance Hall is still milking nicely for a Nigerian. She is giving me 3 cups or more each morning and 2 - 2 1/2 each evening, although I've noticed whenever we get a cold snap or snow, her production goes down until it's warm again. She definitely does not like the cooler weather!

Fiona has been bred twice and it has been unsuccessful both times. I'm going to try one more time, but before I do, I need to research what I can do to change her diet in order to increase her chances. In the meantime, we've about decided to purchase another Nigerian. (Oh, my! This is goat thing is addicting!) We had hoped to stick with Kinders, but after lots of research and talking around, all the breeders are 4-8+ hours away from us and that just isn't working out for us.

I've spent hours researching goat business... everything from minerals to feed! It's definitely a bit more complicated than chickens. And bees are more complicated than goats. But it's all extremely interesting and very satisfying. The number of nights we've set down at the table and recounted where all our food came from (and thank the LORD), and to realize that most of it was from our own homestead and that it tasted fabulous... priceless!

Life is busy, but it's GOOD!


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