Category: homestead


Garden Update Month 3- August 2020

I know it is September and I am blogging about August. I can blame it on COVID, right? That one will be an excuse around for a long time right? What happened… why didn’t you get this assignment in? … COVID. Did you finish your job training? … nope… COVID. Laundry not done? COVID. Dinner not prepped? COVID. … See where I’m going with this?

Our garden flourished this year. We expanded it to be larger and add more crops. Because it was right in our backyard And visible from our porch, it was given much more attention…. weeding, pruning. Month 3 was all about sunflowers and harvesting.

We (and by we, I mean my husband) harvest the sunflower seeds. When the flowers are heavy and drooping and a grey stripe is visible on the seeds, we (he) cut down the flower, wipe away the yellow fuzzies (technical term), and pluck out the seeds. The seeds are then soaked in salt water for a couple of hours. Then they are spread out on a baking sheet, seasoned with salt (we use seasoning salt), and then put in the oven at 200 overnight… or about 10 hours. Leave the oven door cracked. After the seeds cool down, you can store them in an air tight container. They make for a tasty snack!

I thought these were purple green beans. I misread the package. They were, in fact, cowpeas (black eyes peas).
We use castor bean plants to deter moles. They grow very tall and broad and are very poisonous if ingested. Be careful if you are gardening with small children.
Leaf Beetles had a feast in my green beans.

This may have been my favorite gardening season yet! So much zucchini bread, sautéed zucchini, pickles, salsa, corn on the cob, peas, beans!

And we got new chickens!!

I’m not ready for gardening season to be over. We are trying our hand at a fall garden this year. More about that in another post.

Do you garden? How was your year? What is your favorite thing to grow?


Two Month Garden Check In- July 2020

We moved our garden from the side yard to our backyard this year. It is bigger and has more plants than in previous years. Most mornings, I grab my coffee and sit on the back porch just taking it all in. The garden is a safe place in the midst of a chaotic world. Things make sense in the garden. I spend time most mornings weeding and pruning and harvesting the fruits of our labor. It is like a treasure hunt every day.

Right to Left: Corn, Pumpkins, Cucumber, Zucchini, Carrots, Tomatoes, Herbs, Beans, Peas, Peppers, Sunflowers. We have raspberries in the back behind the corn and strawberries in the bottom right corner.

When you have an outdoor garden, you have to be prepared to share with small critters. The squirrels have eaten all the apples from our apple tree. I find random half eaten strawberries throughout the garden, discarded by mischievous chipmunks. The birds and beetles leave their marks as well. I don’t want to hurt the animals, but we do use Neem oil and some solar powered vibrating flowers to try to keep them at bay. We also usually plant a perimeter of castor beans to keep the digging animals away. We tried using the castor bean plants that popped up/ volunteered from last year, but they didn’t grow as well. Next year we will use seeds.

The pollinators are hard at work every morning.
The cucumbers were slow to take off this year, but are finally flowering and producing like crazy.
We are waiting for the tomatoes to ripen. We have 10 plants and almost all of them are heavy with green tomatoes.
We fought with the birds for the first few weeks. They kept plucking out the baby corn plants so they could eat the seeds. We managed to save about 75% of what we planted. The silks are popping out and we are dreaming of corn on the cob.
We’ve never planted sugar snap peas before. I’m learning these are a snack we munch on while in the garden. Not many actually make it into the house! I catch my little sugar snap pea thieves from time to time.
Mammoth Sunflowers. Amazing that they came from a tiny seed.
I periodically cut back the pumpkin vines and toss them on the compost pile. I only say compost pile to make myself sound homestead-ish. It is really just the pile where I dump chicken and rabbit poop. These pumpkin vines seem to have taken root. I’m hoping to see something amazing come of it.

We’ve made zucchini bread and pesto and pickles. I’m able to begin preserving some of our garden bounty. I blanch and freeze green beans and peas. I shred zucchini and freeze it in 2 cup servings… perfect for zucchini bread!

Do you have a garden? Visit a farmer’s market regularly? What’s are you favorite things to grow or buy?

favorite thingsgardenhomestead

Favorite Things Summer 2020

I LOVE Summer in the mountains of Western North Carolina. It really doesn’t get super hot during the days and it cools down in the evenings. We have rivers and creeks all around where we can cool off and enjoy the woods. It is like living in a giant natural playground! I used to hate summer. It was my least favorite season. I don’t like being hot and uncomfortable, but since we moved to Western North Carolina nine years ago, my tune has changed and summer is my favorite. Let me share with you some of my favorite things that go along with my favorite season!

I have become a gardner in the last few years. We have learned our area, our soil, our family tastes. We have learned some tricks and tips. Like… how to manage powdery mildew on zucchini (well… still working on that), what plants need more water, how to build trellises, and more. Gardens are so, so magical!

Favorite Garden Things

I have used this garden velcro to secure rasperries to the fence and stake my zucchini and tomatoes.

This might be my favorite sprinkler ever. It is far reaching and the speed can be adjusted.

If you don’t have Sloggers, you are MISSING OUT! I go through A LOT of boots between gardening and chicken tending. These are by far the best I’ve ever had!

When we were cleaning our our yard and cutting back trees to make room for the garden, my younger girls immediately staked claim to some of the land and constructed a fairy garden. They used sticks and rocks they had found in the yard. They borrowed some twine to make a fence, and planted some grass and bean seeds. I helped boost the fairy garden a little with a fairy door, a bird bath, a fairy house… and of course… some fairies.

I have no idea where my husband found this super fun metal chicken…. I think a side of the road market on the way home from the zoo. I LOVE IT! I named her Lady Guinevere. She stands proudly by my horseshoe flower that I picked up at our town’s Garden Jubilee in May.

Favorite Books

Oh how I want to be an avid reader! I have high aspirations. I have so, so many books. I start them with good intentions… but quickly abandon them. I have at least five books that I have started this summer. I really do want to read them. I want to be one of those people who says things like “Have you read ___________?” or “I was just reading this interesting article.” or “Let me tell you about what I learned when I read ___________.” But alas… I also have ADD… thus the many, many books begun and not ended. Here are the books I have high hopes for this summer:

I love this book! It is not one I have to read cover to cover. I can use it as a resource in my quest to turn our yard that is just under an acre into a tiny homestead.

Here is another in the same series. I am excited to try some of the preservation techniques and great looking recipes with the produce from our garden.

I have so, so many friends who love to talk about the enneagram. If you don’t know what it is… well… you are in good company with me. The enneagram is a tool to help understand different personalities and how they work together. I cannot tell you how many times I have found myself in a conversation that involve something like this:

Oh… that’s a very 2 thing to do.

Well… of course that’s because he is a 4.

When 4s are unhealthy, they behave like this.

You’re such a 9.

If you have no idea what those numbers mean, it can be easy to get lost. I decided that enough of my friends like to talk about the enneagram that I should probably at least learn the basic lingo with the book, The Road Back To You.

A.W. Tozer is one of my favorite authors. I grabbed this devotional comprised of his various writings. The daily readings are short and filled with solid truths.

8 Great Smarts by Kathy Koch is an amazing resource. I actually read it last summer and am wanting to read it again this summer. It is a wonderful tool for helping you kow your children and how they learn and see the world.

Favorite Summer Time Things

My kids each got their own Wise Owl Brand Hammock for Christmas. A gift from their grandmother. My husband built them a hammock stand in the yard. We have a lot of trees on our property, but also a lot of poison ivy. Well… when the quarantine first started, we realized how much time was being spent in hammocks. My husband and I decided we wanted our own hammocks! He added to the hammock stand and made it possible for 9 hammocks to click in! Hammocking is one of my favorite things. We can just sit and talk or read or listen to music. I love it! I recommend getting a double hammock. The single ones are a little cramped unless you are a kid (in my opinion).

We are at the pool ALL THE TIME. I worry about all the chemicals in sunscreen. A couple of years ago, I found the Alba Botanica Brand. You can get the spray or the lotion.

Favorite Things Wish List

I would love to add a few things to our summer time. Like:

Spike Ball

Nice Chacos (you know so I’m not wearing my stinky hiking Chacos to church… if church ever opens again).

What About You???

What are your favorite things in summer. Do you have hobbies? What do you need for your hobby? If you could treat yourself, what would you get??? Comment below and let me know!

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One Month Garden Check In- June 2020

Everywhere we have lived since we got married, my husband and I have attempted some sort of garden. We have had flower gardens and vegetable gardens. We have tried various containers and planters when space was limited. We’ve gotten creative in our planting. We have not always been successful, but we have learned a TON along the way.

Our garden is one of my most favorite things. I look forward to it every year. For the last few years, we have planted on the side of our house. Each year we get a little more serious. For the last couple of years, my husband has dreamed out loud about turning our backyard into a corn field. Keep in mind, we live on just under an acre of land. This year… during a moment of quarantine stir craziness, he said… “I need a project.” We had some trees growing out of control in our backyard. I suggested he put his energy into cutting back the trees. As he did, we realized how much of our yard had been hiding under this mass of trees. As we began to reclaim the yard, we made the decision to move the garden to the back yard (the whole garden… not just a corn field). We almost doubled the size of what we have done in the past.

We spent time in April prepping the soil. We had various burn piles going to get rid of all the tree limbs from the tree project. We rented a tiller and my husband churned up the soil. He added lime and fertilizer. I drew a plan of what I hoped for with the garden, adding a few items we had not tried before. We planted the garden on Mother’s Day Weekend. If you live in Western North Carolina, they say not to do your planting until after Mother’s Day Weekend. I will heed that advice from now on! We thought the cold weather was over, but wouldn’t you know… there was a light frost for the couple of nights after we planted!!! Thankfully, nothing was ruined other than a few basil leaves. I think if we had waited even a few days, we would have given our garden a better start.

A wide shot angle of the garden. From left to right: Corn, Pumpkins, Carrots, Zucchini, Cucumber, Tomatoes, Spices, Bush Beans (green and purple), Sugar Smap Peas, Peppers, and Sunflowers. We have strawberries in the bottom right corner and Raspberries on the backside of the fence to the top left.

Either way… we are one month in and the magic of gardening is evident. I just love it! You start with soil and fertilizer. You put a tiny seed into the ground and within a few days, life shoots forth. I marvel at the amazing imagination of the Lord in how he created each seed so uniquely.

Fairy Garden put together by my 8 year old and 10 year old. You can get the bird bath HERE.
The fairy came with a fairy house set. You can find it HERE.
The fairy garden door can be found HERE.
I love Day Lillies. They are one of my favorite flowers. Here is the anticipation of the bloom that will burst forth in the coming days!
Corn. He didn’t plant an entire field, but definitely dedicated a large part of the garden to corn! We have been fighting with the birds to protect our baby corn plants. They like to pull out the plant and eat the seeds.
Zucchini. I haven’t had much luck with zucchini in the past. It is always taken over by powdery mildew. I am trying a new method of staking the zuchinni this year to get the leaves up off the ground and keep the plant more contained. If I get 2 zucchini out of these plants, it will be more success than I’ve had in the past!
I transplanted my strawberries from the front of my house to the garden in the backyard. They went into shock and I thought I had killed them all!! Thankfully, after about two weeks, they revived and started flowering!
Sugar Snap Peas. We have not planted these in the past! I am so excited!!
Carnival Carrots
Our pumpkin patch. We haven’t had pumpkins in a couple of years. The last time we did it, we only got one pumpkin!!! We planted sugar pumpkins. They are supposed to be good for pies and not vine out so much in the garden.
Bush beans. We planted green beans and purple beans this year. Beans are a great plant for feeling success in your garden! Bush beans are my favorite… no trellis required.
We have had rainy days around these parts!

Do you have a garden? What are your tried and true tips?

Do you have a favorite gardening book? I got this one from a friend last year and LOVE IT! I have dog- eared almost every page:

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