We went back to Eden!

A year or two ago (we have four kids so time is a little fuzzy at times), Paul and I watched a documentary Back To Eden. It is about Paul Gautsci and his method of vegetable gardening. He uses wood chips everywhere as mulch and is known to be the man who doesn’t water his garden, in Sequim Washington.  That’s pretty significant, as Sequim is known to be the driest part of western Washington State!

From June to October, it’s possible to get a tour of his farm and ask him questions. As part of Paul’s birthday present, he and I went to Sequim. Some babysitting fell through at the last moment, so the boys came with us. The trip was fun but kids weren’t allowed on the farm/homestead, so we had to take turns while the boys played in the van.

Paul got to listen to fruit tree pruning and some gardening and I was there for the vegetable gardening and some chicken talk. Overall, the trip was a success and we had fun learning from someone we admired.

Here are some pics of his amazing garden. Everything is so lush and beautiful.  We visited the farm in July 2017 and I am just writing this up.  Better late than never! Looking at these pictures now when its gloomy and rainy really makes me nostalgic for spring. This week, I will start testing the seeds we preserved. In February, we will dust off the grow lights and get the soil blockers out and begin the growing season.

There are so many strawberries in his garden, that he and his family can not possibly eat all of them…his chickens get a good portion of them–no wonder they looked so happy!
It was 92 degrees outside and the lettuces were out in full sun…NOT bolting. I was in awe!
Paul doesn’t supplement his chickens with chicken feed, he grows Holland greens for them. They are super hardy and grow well into the winter.
This picture was taken late July in 92 degrees heat–this is asparagus. Usually this is known to be an early late spring-early summer vegetable. Ever since we implemented Paul’s mulch theory in our garden, we too get asparagus late into June and even in August.
Holland greens for the chickens
Rows of luscious lettuce and kale–this is also chicken feed when its past its prime. I would love to be a chicken on Paul Gautci’s homestead.
Paul’s wife is a local midwife and uses a lot of herbs from the garden in her practice.
A little shed with mason bee housing.
He made a comment, that he gets so many apples (no way he can consume all) that he actually asks God for a smaller bounty–everyone who was there, all agreed, we wished we were in his apple bounty shoes.
Full picture of the fig tree is below, but all the branches looked like this–covered in fruit!
All the extra produce, garden clippings and food scraps get fed to the chickens and in return, they produce amazing rich compost-soil for the garden. They definitely have a happy healthy symbiotic relationship.
Paul prunes all of his trees in this unusual way. He says after the first couple of years of training, they are extremely easy to keep in this manner. He demonstrated maintenance pruning, by rubbing off a new bud that was going to send of a shoot, using only his fingers. Harvesting is even easier, because all the fruit is about waist level.

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May 2018 Be a Good Year!

Wow, 2017 flew by very fast–we must of had lots of fun!! I think we did!! We accomplished most of what was on our 2017 to do list.

We got our greenhouse up and running!

Paul got the greenhouse done just in time to transfer our starts and give them the daylight they so desperately needed! We grew cucumbers and peppers; both produced an outstanding crop. Our tomatoes did not do so hot in the greenhouse but we made mistakes. We planted four tomato plants where one should have gone, into the corner with the least sun. The plants were light and space deprived. We learned a lot about greenhouse growing as a result and gathered a lot of cucumbers and peppers. Enough to pickle four quart jars worth of pickles all while enjoying cucumbers daily. All four of our kids could survive on cucumbers if we let them. We had so many peppers that we dehydrated and bartered with them.

Our corn suffered as well–we planted it on the hill and later found out that corn does not like hills.  Who knew? We sure did not.  Live, plant and learn.

Our strawberry patch went bananas this year! We were eating strawberries until October.

So did our asparagus. We had fresh asparagus into August, a first for us!

This year, we tried two new vegetables: ground cherries and strawberry spinach.  We loved both and plan to grow them again this year. Ground cherries grow and look like tiny yellow tomatillos and taste like a very sweet cherry tomato crossed with cherries–super yummy fresh and makes a heck of a chutney.  Strawberry spinach was very plentiful in both greens and the berries–and do they indeed taste sort of like strawberries

Ground cherries are the little tomatillo looking things

We attribute all of our garden success to woodchip mulch and lots of bunny/chicken poop.

Grow all of our own starts

With the help of our new grow lights and green house, we solely used starts we grew from seed.  We bought seeds from Seed Savers Exchange and grew enough starts to sell (and make up the cost for the seeds) at our spring open house plant sale, and gift to our family.  It was a very powerful and liberating experience to be able to produce food for our family from seed.

Seed Preservation

The tomato seeds I saved last year not only sprouted, but thrived and produced fruit in 2017! From every fruit or vegetable possible that we grew, or received from our CSA, I preserved the seeds.  I will do a test run and sprout all the seeds in January and see how they do.  If we get good yields, we will only use our seeds for the garden.  If the seeds fail, we have enough to plant our garden from last year’s purchased seeds.

War on buttercups

Well, we sort of won.  We weeded the patch, covered it with wood chips and planted winter squash there.  For the most part, the spot stayed buttercup free, however, if you look at it now, its getting back into its old buttercup ways.  We hope to place a few chickens to rototill the land for us and then repeat the wood chip squash cycle.  I have a feeling that patch of land will forever be a pain and we just have to accept it.

Ducks and pond

You guys, we did it! Paul put in a pond we have had sitting on our property for several years (four kids is for real!)  Its so cool.  Now we have to fence it off and build a shelter for the ducks.  I am hopeful for late Spring ducklings.

Stock the freezer with broilers

We did not get meat birds for the freezer.  We went back and forth on this one.  We don’t really have a good set up for them.  What we did in past years was too time consuming and not the best for the chickens.  We are working on making a mobile tractor to grow batches of meat birds but that will be a project for fall 2018 or sometime in 2019. What we did do was start growing meat rabbits.  Momma does all the work and we get the equivalent amount of  healthy and delicious meat.  We also bought a pig from our friendly farmer Gavin and his Dinner Time Farm.  We bought a heritage, Tamworth pig (aka the “Bacon Breed”) and I am not exaggerating when I say it is hard to distinguish the steaks from red meat.  Contrary to popular belief, pork is not the other white meat.  White does not equal healthy.

Art of making ham, bacon and sausage

We have been playing with making rabbit sausage and hope to continue to expand our skills in 2018.  This is still very much on our to accomplish list.

Medicinal Plants

Our herb garden this year was very productive.  We are still learning and planting as we go.

Open house on the homestead

We had one–and it was great! Loved meeting new people and mingling with old friends. We sold some starts to recoup the cost of seeds.  We plan having another open house and seed sale this year.  This year, the plant sale will be donation based–we want as many people as possible to grow their own food.  Something I never truly understood about our country is spending so much money on keeping the lawn weed free and green instead of planting an edible garden.  You can’t eat grass! The flavor and nutrition value of homegrown produce is not comparable to the supermarket.

What we hope for 2018

Paul hopes to have more time to do woodworking. He has skillful hands and seems to truly be in his element when he is building our homestead.  Learning to tan rabbit hides is also on his to do list, as well as mine.  Fishing has always been a passion for Paul.  He enjoys the sport and adding healthy protein to our family–we both hope for more opportunity for him to fish.  He is currently learning on how to better his knife sharpening skills–essential knowledge when you deal with livestock and gardening.  I am always so grateful to have him as my rock and a provider.

As for me, I hope to continue to homeschool and homestead to the fullest.  We will add two more kiddos to homeschooling this year and it will be interesting to go from one to three.  I hope that I can handle the challenge.  So far, home schooling has been difficult but very rewarding.

Homesteading has become my dream, my life.  I don’t regret learning microbiology or working in oncology research for 12.5 years–I learned lots from both experiences but obviously, they were not paths created for me.  I feel alive and happy digging in my garden and tending to my critters.

Knowing that I can rely on my skills to nourish my family is very gratifying.  I want to add to my new homesteading resume.  I want to learn to sew and better my knitting.  I plan to expand my little card business this upcoming year.  I would like to blog more and expand my soap making into salves and lotions and tinctures and so much more.

There are always so many wants…over the years, I have learned that not all is possible, to accept and learn from failures and always try again.  Happy New Year!  2018 will be the year of the dog–it should be kind and loyal!

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Oh snap…we made rabbit sausage!

We did it! We made sausage.  Sure, it was in October but hey, with four kids, two plus months to sit down and write up a blog is not bad, right?

During our last barter fair of the season, we were fortunate enough to barter some jam and super spicy peppers for two rabbits (freezer packed). Since these were not our rabbits and they were of unknown age, we decided to use them for sausage making.

We got a sausage making nozzle attachment for our Kitchen Aid mixer and a package of casing. We used pork fat from a pig we bought earlier that year. We were all set and super excited. The whole process was cool and a little bit gross (washing the casing, specifically). It took us about an hour to make the links and a few hours to smoke them.

Here is our recipe:

3.5lbs of rabbit meat, ground twice)

1.5lbs of pork fat (25%by weight)

2.4oz of salt (~5%)

Pepper, garlic powder, paprika and dried basil were all added by a dash and a pinch.

We plan to make more sausages soon, we will do a better job of measuring the ingredients.

Grind all the meat and fat twice ( it’s easier to grind up meat if it’s a little bit frozen) and mix with herbs and spices. Wash the casings according to the package directions (soak and rinse three times) thread the casing onto the nozzle attachment and start stuffing. It sounds a bit easier than it was—and the process was incredibly easy but using the nozzle attachment was a bit harder than we thought. Sausage got stuck and would not go down the grinder and the casings were not filling uniformly. After a little elbow grease, determination and practice, we got the hang of it! We made one large sausage and then twisted them into desired size links.

Both products were purchased on Amazon.
Paul had to de-bone the rabbits.
Second time grind.
One long sausage with loose casing for twisting.

We had a lot of fun learning a new skill! We will be making more rabbit sausages for sure and experimenting with other meats like pork, pheasant, and quail.  I am excited and curious to see if having a younger rabbit (ours) will make the difference in the flavor.

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What An Eggcellent Thursday!!

During this time of the year, we usually have plethora of eggs! Paul rides his bike to work now days and it’s hard to make him a fresh breakfast every day–its difficult for him to transport.  So, I make a bunch of breakfast burritos and freeze them.

I blogged about this in the past so I won’t go into detail.

An abundance of eggs–breakfast burrito anyone?

This batch is just egg and cheese in a little bit of salsa. In the past I have used bacon and sausage for a meat component–a good way to use up left overs.  Since the kids have started eating bacon…there aren’t any left overs 🙁

Easy fun cost-effective and healthy!

Every time I use aluminum foil for Paul’s work meals, I like to leave him little love notes.  He takes such wonderful care of us well–I use it as an extra time to tell him I (and the kids) love him.

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Labor and Delivery on the Homestead

BABIES! There are babies everywhere!  June 13th was a good day to be born.  It was our son’s birthday, chicks hatched and baby bunnies were born.

Honey welcomed her liter of 6 beautiful kits (one all white, three black (just like papa) and 2 mixed white/black (like Honey).  Debbie or her sister (I am starting to doubt that this is Deb​​bie after all) hatched 4 babies (two black chicks with white spot and two orange Araucana looking chicks).   So lately, we feel as if we are in L&D taking care of newborns, doing round belly checks and making sure everyone is fed and happy.

Honey’s due date was June 13 (31 day gestation) and so was the broody hen’s (21 days)–the fist egg hatched on day 19, so maybe it was fertilized earlier–or it was a preemie?!  Either way, everyone is doing very well–growing, eating and pooping.

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‘Tis’ the season–food preservation season!!

It’s that time of the year again. Time to start jammin! Strawberries are in, raspberries and cherries are to follow. We are getting very excited about the next few months of productive labor to preserve food for the rest of the year.

Every year I think I have enough and every year, by March we tend to deplete our resources 🙂 so this year, we will up the canned spaghetti sauce and canned tomatoes, canned corn, canned and pickled green beans, pickles, veggie chow and dehydrate a boat load of fruit.  We are also going to freeze a lot more berries as the kids have discovered their true love for smoothies.

I am excited for the work to start! Gathering a few berries from the garden is so gratifying!  Watching the kids gobble up berries, asparagus, peas and kale from the garden is hands down the best feeling ever.   So much work has been put into the garden with hopes of providing as much of our own food as possible.

Last weekend, we went to U Pick strawberries at our CSA farm in Rochester.  We picked enough strawberries to enjoy fresh, freeze, make a fruit salad, jam and syrup.  This is the beginning of my most favorite part of the year.

Strawberries and sugar! All you need to make amazing jam and syrup.
Look at these beauties…fresh and organically grown!
Ready to go into the water bath
sterilizing the jars before pouring the jam
Our harvest is not very impressive…but he berries are the sweetest!

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May showers bring June flowers??

It seems like this spring has been exceptionally wet!  The last few days have been nice and sunny. Perhaps too hot for humans and rabbits but the tomatoes and the rest of the  garden is enjoying the heat.  We took a gamble and put our starts into the ground about three weeks too early this year.  The hope is with all this sun, they will finally start to grow.  The cool thing about our tomatoes this year, even though they are super pathetic looking, they are not as spindly as usual.  Hopefully what they lack in height they make up in girth 🙂

We are already on the second seeding of radishes, lettuces and spinach.  Boy does the salad taste better when it is straight from the garden!! My mouth waters simply from typing these words…

Here are some pics to summarize our last month here on the homestead!  Lots happening.  Bunnies are growing, chickens are broody, garden is fresh and green!

Baby bunnies are five weeks old as of yesterday and will be ready to re-home in a few weeks–they are super cute!  Let us know if you are interested in a cute bunny!  We can provide the whole set up–local peeps only!

Honey (meat bunny) is bred and if all goes well–she should kindle on the 14th of June!

Debbie our ever broody hen is sitting on eggs…so far 4 chicken and 3 quail eggs.  We will be getting her a few more eggs to sit on today.  We don’t know if the eggs are fertile so we hope that we can hatch at least a few.  As for quail–we are experimenting.  Chicks should hatch on between June 2nd and 4th.

The plants in the green house are looking WAY better than outside!

Our eggplants NEVER looked this good in 7 years we have been trying to grow them.
Big bush thing is strawberry spinach–its absolutely delicious. We enjoy it in salad and smoothies. The plant next to it is a ground cherry, it has flowers…hopefully we will try the fruit this year.
Second planting of radishes. It took them 3 days to germinate vs. a week in March–yay for heat!
Cucumbers are finally growing!

The perennial garden looks great!

Maximizing space, plating garlic and onions with strawberries

Beans! and some potted stuff
Our two sister garden…corn and squash and the ugly unwanted relatives…weeds!! The plan is to pull as many weeds as we can and cover with woodchips

Our Hoppy News!


We got babies–9 bunny babies! Just like our human babies, bunny babies were a surprise. Just like our babies we have no clue what we are doing. This is often the theme of our life, blessings and surprises. We must be an awesome team because we can tackle anything together. We have a strong and knowledgeable support system of family and friends that help and guide us through our journeys.  Huge–no, enormous thank you to Edelweiss Ranch and Rabbitry’s Gryph!!!  She has been my bunny doula and my book of knowledge.  I know she wakes up with the sun and goes down late. Such is the life of a farmer, one that I covet.  Though extremely busy, she answered my questions very quickly at any time of day–thank you!!

Back to the bunnies! We have four adult rabbits: Buster and Honey (New Zealand and Rex mixes) and Oreo and Fluttershy (Mini Lops).

Honey and Buster are meat rabbits and we got them from a barter site from a gal who had to travel a lot to help her elderly parents. They have bread once before and had a successful litter.  They are around 2 years old. We thought that Honey was expecting a month ago as she started to build a very intricate nest. She and Buster boy usually run around the yard together and although we did not see it, we thought he finally caught up with her. We isolated her in our maternity ward. Bunnies have a 31 day gestation. Nest building can start anywhere from two weeks before kindling to day of.   Honey had what is known as pseudo-pregnancy.  Apparently, this is common if the doe and buck reside close to each other.  Honey wants to breed and we will let her soon.  She is not getting any younger and that biological clock is ticking for her.

Back to babies, I promise!  About a month ago, my sister and I were enjoying tea and chatting away, kids were playing and Paul was in the back yard, cleaning the bunny cages.  Buster and Honey were out and about.  Oreo and Fluttershy were out in their little play-yard (this is a typical set up for us). I glanced over and saw that Oreo was out of the play-yard and Buster, taking an opportunity to “meet” her.  The encounter was very brief and we did not think much of it.

About two weeks ago, on Sunday, while Oreo was running around the yard, we noticed she was gathering straw, tearing fur and running back and forth in a corner. Upon investigation, we found she had dug a burrow and was building a nest.  The bells went out in my mind and I was reminded of her interaction with Buster.   Paul and I decided to separate her from Fluttershy.  Paul was hesitant at first, thinking it was another false pregnancy (thinking of Honey). Boy am I glad that I insisted!

On Tuesday, I was making my rounds, tired after a full day of childcare. I peeked into Oreo’s cage and saw the fur move–I was pretty convinced that my mind has been officially lost.  I looked at Oreo and saw that her feet were a bit bloody–I then asked Paul if he was seeing what I was seeing!  Sure enough, my eyes and mind did not fail me, there were indeed babies!  Babies!!! Paul moved Oreo into her maternity suite and we made her a “make-do oh crap, we have babies nesting box” out of a deep baking dish.  It was already midnight and we were pooped!

Morning feeding and check went well, everyone was still moving, warm and super cute with round bellies. Mom did a good job.  Later that day, I found a kit all alone and very cold to the touch, not breathing.  The nest box was flipped over and the rest of the babies were under it.  The lonely baby was lifeless but still very soft (no rigor has set) I am not sure why, but I put him on my chest, rubbed on him and tried to warm him up.  At some point, while still very cold, I saw his mouth open.  I figured it was a muscle spasm, but also got a glimmer of hope.  The bunny started to breath and move and in about a half an hour, I placed him back into the nest with his brothers and sisters and a rock so no tipping over happened again.

The next day, despite being ill, I sent Paul to get a metal bunny nesting box to eliminate any worry for the safety of the kits.  We checked on them every two hours  for the first two days. Now we routinely do a morning and evening belly evaluations–checking for roundness.  As long as their bellies are big and round, we know they are being fed.  Today, the kits are one week old.  They have grown quite a bit and already have fur.

1day old
5 days old (less pink, getting hair)
2 day old runt of the litter-he maybe small, but his belly is always full and he is growing, he must be eating!

Oreo has been a great mama so far. We are excited to see the babies grow and learn how to hop.  Follow our daily bunny updates on our Facebook page: Homestead in the Suburbs 

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My attempt at a Kulich–Happy Easter Everyone!

Happy Easter 2017!!

I am officially over my fear of baking with yeast, so I thought that this year, it would be good to try baking the traditional Kulich, Russian Easter bread.  I was hoping to use my mom’s recipe (her mom’s and grandma’s recipes, so very special to my heart).  I would love to learn the recipe and pass it on to my children, keeping this tradition alive for at least one more generation).

Of course, nothing went as I planned.  My challenges all began, when  I fell asleep with  the kids (four kids is no joke, I am tired)  and did not get the yeast starter going overnight.

Upon waking up, I realized that I did not complete this simple task. I briefly panicked and then  did what anyone would have done–googled a recipe for Kulich.  I found one that seemed easy enough and it was from a Ukrainian blogger (yay for authenticity).  Here is the recipe:  http://natashaskitchen.com/2013/03/23/paska-easter-bread-recipe-kulich/

It was an all day process but I was prepared for that.  The outcome was not as I hoped.  My kuliches did not come out of the molds well and the taste was good but not as good as my mamas–but I could be biased.

I had a lot of dough (I should have halved the recipe) so I made cinnamon rolls and craisin rolls as well.  Those looked pretty good.

I was able to salvage some of the kulich by cutting the bottoms off–I guess live and learn and then do what your mama tells you!!

We also dyed some eggs, chicken and quail. This craft, I feel very proficient in, the torch was passed on to me, at 16.

We did the traditional Russian onion peel eggs and the food coloring kind.

I have blogged about the process of dyeing eggs in a previous post, check out it out, super easy and very pretty.  Here is a link: Happy Easter 

The girls and I had a blast, the boys were spreading cow manure on the garden beds.

Thanks for reading and Happy Easter!!


Drum Roll Please!!

It’s done! It’s done!! Our greenhouse is up and semi-functional!! It is not perfect, but it was within our reach and we will customize it to make it fit our needs.  We are so proud of ourselves!!!  It took us longer than we hoped but we did it!!!

Now we put in some shelving and make some beds and the full production is on!!

My handsome hubby working hard
Almost there
In use.
Still some work to be done…but we are getting there

Next on the to do list: rain barrel and aquaponic tub set up–stay tuned!!

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