Monday, April 25, 2011

Garden/Farm Update

As of today Garlic, red shallots,  and yellow onions have been put in the ground. Three tomato plants(creole, sweet 100's I think, and a pink variety that escapes me right now). A few egg gourds just for fun. Sweet Peas and a few bush beans. Yellow squash and zucchini two of each I think. A couple of asparagus plants.

The blueberry bushes seem to be doing really well right now and even though they are really small this year, several are bending under the weight of the berries they are holding so I look forward to future years. I also have five new bushes that need to be planted soon, hopefully this week, but the question is where.

Sadly, the strawberries that I planted a few weeks back do not appear to have taken, so it looks like we will have to try again another time...maybe seeding would be better. It was very disappointing I figured they would take off rather well considering there were already a type growing in that area.

Right now there aren't many flowers actively blooming, except a few purple iris, a couple of roses, and one of my favorite my wild gladiola. It is a beautiful spike of bright fuschia/purple blooms that bob and sway with the wind.

Our weaknesses: The soil really needs amending. I will be sending in soil sample tests soon, but recently we did a home test kit just to see quickly what we were looking at and it was also a great project/science lesson for the kids to see. It turns out that one part of our yard is very acidic, very low in nitrogen and potassium and moderately low in basically it needs quite a bit of work. We also really need to get more sun into our yard. Although we don't want to clear cut and cause issues, there are very few places in our property that has the daylight hours we need for garden plants.

The chicken run/coop progress has basically just stopped, just way too many things going on and being taken into too many directions. We are still just where we were at the last post...the posts have been put in. All the chickens are still okay where they are; our big girls are happily laying and egg a day(3 total), and the chicks although restless and I am sure ready to be outside will have to hang in there for another couple of weeks.

I am interested in getting several of the top on my list right now is jewel weed. Mostly because I will be using it in a future soap and spray in next year's soap season. It is good for relieving poison ivy. So I look forward to testing it...especially right now because I have poison ivy...ugh. Licorice, Bay Laural, Artichoke(saw the plant this weekend and love it), a few woodland ferns and other types of shade greenery that could be used for decoration, marsh mallow, and a few others are also on my mind.

The weather is getting really bad so I will post this now and fill in with pictures later...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter!

I thought I would share with of my favorite trees. I have loved this tree even as a small child, because it was my climbing tree. The tree where I found refuge, where I would go to think, where I would go to wonder, where I would go to pass the time on any given day, alone, or with my pal Cotton(my dog)...and yes, I would actually carry the poor dog up in the tree with me. Before my teenage years, my tree died and had to be cut down it was heartbreaking. Later in life I found this legend and it has always made me smile. My favorite tree as a symbol and reminder of Christ. It is interesting to me that the tree that I found solace in as a child is a symbol of Christ and as I grow older I am learning to find comfort in Him. What a beautiful reminder living in our woods and on our world.

The Legend is a really beautiful sentiment true or not. The version I read many years ago is not the same as this, but it does tell the story. So I share it with you today in honor of what our Lord did for us. 

               Happy Easter!             

The Legend of the Dogwood

Many years ago, a dogwood tree grew on a hill outside Jerusalem. In those days, the dogwood tree was as tall
and mighty as an oak, and this tree was the tallest of all the dogwoods, and extremely proud of its strength. 

"Something wonderful is going to happen to me," it said to anyone who would listen. "I'll probably become the mast that holds the big sail on a grand ship, or the main timber supporting a great house." 

Unfortunately, the huge old dogwood was cut down to become the cross to which Jesus was nailed. The tree was horrified. All its dreams of glory were smashed, and it groaned in agony as two boards
from its trunk were nailed together. 

Jesus took pity on the tree, even as he carried it to Calvary. "You will never be put to such use again," He told it. "From this day on, your shape will change, even as will the world. You will become
slender and sway easily with the breeze. And instead of acorns, you will bear flowers in the shape of a cross... with
two long and two short petals. In the center of the outer edge of each petal,
there will be nail prints... brown with rust and red with bloodstains to show the world how you have suffered." 

"Last of all, the center of your flowers will be marked as though with a crown of thorns to remind people forevermore, that you and I spent our last moments together." And so it was. And so it is. 

~ Author Unknown ~

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Soap Process

The other night I finally got to make two new batches of soap. I really hate it when I get behind because instead of being able to experiment and create new batches I am having to make batches that I run low on...which I am not at all complaining about because it means that it is selling, and that is wonderful! I just want to make new stuff for the 2011 season and haven't been able to yet....okay enough whine.

I wanted to show off a couple of pictures of a stage that I don't often get to witness but think is very, very cool! It is called the gel stage, because as the soap heats starting from the center of the block it turns into this jelly like substance and it spreads all the way to the edges of the block and then begins to cool down from the edges back to the middle. It is very fascinating to me to see. Not all soap makers let their soap go through this stage for various reason, and there are some soaps that you definitely do not want to do this like some milk soaps, or soaps with essential oils that are more volatile because the heat will either alter, or make the essential oils evaporate from the batch and in some cases disfigure or completely ruin the batch of soap. This particular batch is a new batch of Rosemary Lemongrass, it seems to have gelled nicely. When I get the chance to cut it into bars we will see the actual results...but right now is looks pretty good.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Garden/Farm Update

With rising prices lately I am even more determined to make this Homesteading adventure work for us. It seems like every time we make another trip to the grocery store the inflation that is not possibly happening, is happening. Even the children are starting to see the rising prices. My eleven year old is noticing the gas, and some of the grocery know the important things like Pop Tarts. We don't buy them, but his comment was, "now we will never get Pop Tarts when they have gone up to THAT price". So it is amazing to me that even our children can "see" what the some can not seem to. It seems to me that many are being lead around with blinders on and music blaring so that they can not see or here what is being pulled from under them. Okay, enough

We have lettuce in the ground, a few of the blueberry bushes have a few berries this year probably just enough for the boys to pick at while playing outside. The okra, green peas, green bean seeds have been started and have really taken off in the last couple of days, a couple of squash and zucchini plants, and new strawberry plants started so that we can hopefully have something more than fairy berries like last year. Recently we also got a bag of seed potatoes, onions, asparagus, shallots, and garlic that I would like to try this year. My guess is the asparagus will be an ongoing project because it takes time to get anything out of it. Soon we will start some warmer weather seedlings like peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, basil and such...I just can't wait for some fresh pesto.  Next week I will put the two tomato plants that my mom brought in the ground. I did a quick soil test on the area that we would like to garden on and it looks like it will need some help and nutrients over the next few years. I really wish that I had followed through and done that last summer so that we could have been adding stuff over the fall.

The chickens are now one month old and growing really fast...faster than we are getting the run and the coop expansion done. With all the busyness that is going on here lately I have a feeling it will be a race to see who or the chickens. Our older three chickens have really been enjoying the weather, so much so that they are being naughty and escaping out of their enclosed run to explore the yard for tastier things...I can't blame them I enjoy them being out in the yard to explore. The other day one of them even killed a snake. It was a garden snake and not a threat, but I didn't know they would do that.

Until next week or so...

Friday, April 8, 2011

It's Alive!

 A new project revisited. Before we had Evelyn, we were making and drinking quite a bit of Kombucha. In all of the chaos of adjusting to the new baby it was forgotten about and died. Recently I was given a new one to start all over with.  It is one of those acquired tastes...well a lot of people will tell you that it is a like it or leave it thing, but there are many others that will try it and not like it but have to try it again just in case, before long you realize that you really like it. If any of you don't know what the heck this science experiment in a jar is, it is a symbiotic bacterial(scoby) growth very similar to a vinegar mother which feeds on wine to make true vinegar, not the stuff made as a byproduct of the petroleum industry. It feeds on sweet tea...yes, you heard me right all you sweet tea drinking southerners out there. I can just hear it now...OH THE HORROR! You feed that thing sweet tea! Well yes, because it turns it into a really yummy fizzy beverage that keeps me from wanting soda, and other drinks and it is good for you. It adds beneficials to your system helps boost your immune system, adds B-vitamins, and apparently lots and lots of other healing properties according to the internet and other people who enjoy drinking it. 

It feeds on the sugar and reduces the caffeine and what you are left with is a fermented drink that is very similar in many ways to apple cider. So fermented, you mean it is an alcoholic beverage? Yes, there is alcohol, but it is a fraction of a percentage so it doesn't affect you. You can brew black, green or a combination of teas. It is best to brew pure tea without flavors because the chemicals from flavors could alter the symbiotic relationship and could hurt or kill the organism. Recently I had Kombucha made with green tea and really liked it, before I only used the black tea. One of my favorite things to do after the batch is ready is to add ingredients for flavor. A few frozen fruit(peaches, blueberries, strawberries, and black berries are really good) pieces, grated ginger, lemon, orange, lime peels, etc...but I only add it after I remove the scoby. 

It takes about a week for one batch to be ready and if you are wondering why it is called a mother, well eventually you will feel overrun with these scobies and you will not know exactly what to do with them. That's when you start your friends and family off with new 'pets' of their own...only if they want one and will use one of course.

At this point I am making ours in one one gallon jar it's best to use glass. Soon I will be putting my other jar to use since it is just sitting around. 

So in case you would like to try your own, you can get them on the internet, or wait a few weeks and I will be happy to give you one of your very own.

How to Directions:
Place Scoby disc in a clean jar I used to use quart jars they worked really well. The disc will usually come with starter liquid it is very important don't throw it out add it into the jar too.

Brew some tea what ever type you would like, but just remember flavors are not a good idea(even Earl Grey) just plain tea(black or green) is best. While the tea is hot add some white sugar. Don't worry about any special sugars or good honey, it needs just plain old sugar to eat and when it is done most of the sugar is used up so it doesn't matter anyway. Besides honey has properties that may harm the disc.

When the tea is cooled either let it sit on the stove until cool or add ice or cold water to make the amount equal the whole amount you will be using. Pour your tea into the jar, cover with a towel or paper towel and secure with a rubber band. That's it now all you have to do is wait. 

It will probably need to work for 7-10 days especially the first one you start. Once you start making it regularly, you can start testing earlier the temperature of your house will also affect how soon it is ready the warmer it is the faster it works. I like to test it after about 6 days to see how sweet it is. If you like it at that point pour it into a container or bottles to put into the fridge and start another batch or add some flavoring additives and let it sit out on the counter for a few more days and then put it in the fridge. 

The disc gets put back into the original jar and used again. The reason it is called a mother, is because a new layer will form at the top of the jar, or attached to the original over time they grow thicker and form more layers and you can store the extras in a jar in some of the kombucha in the fridge, and share them. The only maintenance they require is to periodically pour some of the old liquid off and add some fresh kombucha so that it doesn't get too vinegary which will happen if it is left too long. This isn't a problem either because if it goes to far and becomes vinegary you can use it to cook with and in salad dressings like you would use vinegar.

So there you have it, an introduction to Kombucha as I understand it so far....


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Taking things for granted

Sometimes life just starts going into auto pilot. You follow along day to day never really catching up, never really realizing that your days have turned into weeks and your weeks are turning into months and life is passing you by at a very steady speed. You find yourself thinking there will be time to start that project next week, or finish that chore tomorrow. It is easy to get caught up in a cycle of unfinished forgotten chores and projects that just follow you around while you are basically sleeping through your life. Then something comes along that wakes you up. It makes you realize that if things don't change you will turn around and suddenly the wasted time and energy are all gone and there are no more chances to finish, catch up or start something new. I think I got my wake up call and I am praying that I answer it before life passes me by.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Garden/Farm Update

What a wonderful time of the year, and it is beautiful outside. The sky is the bluest hue and there are very few clouds to be seen. There is a wonderful breeze and the temperature is a wonderful 68 degrees. I don't believe anyone could ask for a better day. As soon as this is posted I will make my way back outside to continue planting what my mom brought on her recent trip up. We will have squash and zucchini plants put in the ground, a few chive plants, a few herbs, a couple of tomato plants, small lettuce plants, several different flower and decorative plants.

Other things happening on the Mini-Farm Front:

The plum tree has lots of small fruit, but didn't produce any last year, so I don't have much hope for it this year. I'm not really sure if the tree is too old or if there is something I can do to keep the fruit from dropping off like last year.

Our blueberry bushes planted in the fall are beginning to show new life and some are already starting to bloom and grow a few berries.

The new strawberry plants that were planted a couple of weeks ago have started to show leaves.

If I have the time today, we will also try to plant some green beans seeds in the ground, maybe a couple of other things, and start a few seed trays.

The chickens(big) are now happily laying an egg each per day. The chicks are growing very fast and were finally moved from their little box inside the house to a large refrigerator box on the porch. They are very happy to be in a new space where they have more room to run and play. Today the boys and I gave them some limbs from the yard to 'roost' on and they have been happily playing and jumping around.

So far on the new run we only have the posts placed in the ground. I will probably try to dig a trench for the buried hard wire cloth to be put in and then we will put in the larger fencing. At the end of the month we are hoping to move the coop to the new run and begin adding on additional space for the new chicks.

Time to go plant. :)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Crossing Over

This week Nathan received his arrow of light and crossed over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. It is amazing how quickly time has gone. In the last five years we have watch him grow from an imaginative, adventurous little boy, into a fine young man. It has not always been easy or fun and there were lots of bumps along the way, but most things worth attaining in life will be met with challenges and obstacles to overcome. It is hard to imagine that in the next five years we will be watching our oldest son go from the imaginative, creative little boy that we know grow into a man. It is really wonderful to see the qualities and talents that God has given to him begin to emerge and show us a glimpse of the person he can become.

Nathan is creative, artistic, intelligent, kind, and friendly; he never meets a stranger. He is also strong willed, obstinate, overly confident and sometimes very hard to convince that he should be doing things differently. Often, as parents we want to focus on and foster all the good qualities and work really hard on removing the 'bad' traits. We have to remember that even some of the characteristics that we may not like now will serve him well and make him a stronger adult. These traits will be what makes them leaders. Sometimes as a parent we forget to foster those qualities also and remember that they have a purpose in their life; that it is important to guide and not push(something I need to work on).

My hope and prayer moving forward is that we can work together to focus on helping him to become the man he is destined to become. Here is to the future of a bright, wonderful young man and the next leg of his journey. Our oldest son, Nathan. We love you.