Recently, Paul and I had the pleasure of speaking at our local SubUrban Farm and Garden Expo. We met so many wonderful people and had so much fun talking to our neighbors about our journey of homesteading. If I can do this (and make cheese) for a living, I think I would be the happiest person in the universe. My talk was about what homesteading is and what you can do in the suburbs (homestead in the suburbs…get it) and Paul’s talk was about seed starting and garden planning. Both talks went very well and we had lots of people stopping by our booths to continue asking questions or just saying hi!
There were many booths set up including our very good friends from Hidden Farm. There was also a local bakery, local bee keepers and lots of King County booths. One of the county booths was about noxious weeds and how to rid/coexist with them. I asked them, if I had all of the above on their display in my garden, did I win anything? They gave me a nervous smile and their pamphlet, everyone chuckled. I am sure they felt my pain–stinking buttercups!
Paul and I met a local beekeeper and confirmed our passion and desire to learn the art of beekeeping and honey production. For the longest time, we believed (based on a class Paul took, given by a professor at the University of Washington) that we were not allowed to keep bees. Now, we are not sure and need to learn the laws better. In the meantime, Shelby, the amazing beekeeper has offered us to learn from her and help her co-manage her hive(s).
Beekeeping is an art. There is a lot to learn and can it can be an expensive hobby. We feel very fortunate to be under Shelby’s wing, helping us learn a new skill. She allowed me to scrape the wax off her existing honeycomb and collect honey into a mesh cloth/jar set up, for us to take home. I am not sure if its because I collected it, but I haven’t tasted better honey. Needless to say, we are beyond excited and hopeful about adding a beehive to our homestead.
For the last two years, we have organized an open house gathering for our friends, family and neighbors. It has proven to be a ton of fun! We’ve gotten to know our neighbors, mingle with friends, make new friends, talk chickens and gardening. Last year we had our plant sale and were able to recoup the cost of our purchased seeds. This April we plan to have our 3rd annual open house!
We are very excited, and have started our first batch of seeds earlier than ever this year, and it has been a resounding success! Most of the plants are thriving. For the first time, we will use many of our own seeds. That means we won’t have a lot of expenses to account for, so the sale will be donation based (pay what you can/want). The goal is to make sure everyone has fun and leaves with veggie starts.
We would prefer to take orders ahead of time, so I can plan better and offer more variety or desired plants. Last year, we ended up with a lot of spicy peppers, way more than we could put to use. Of the seeds we can offer, many were preserved by me. Most of the rest will be from Seed Savers Exchange, and maybe a couple of other, small seed houses, with unique offerings. The following is a list of what is currently available:
Tomato Costoluto Genovese
Japanese Trifele Black
Beam’s Yellow Pear
Rentonian (a Homestead in the Suburbs exclusive!(HitS))
Joe’s Long Cayenne
Feher Ozon Paprika
Sweet Yellow Pepper
Ancho Pepper ours
Red Sweet Bell
Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherries
Black beauty zucchini
Patty Pan squash
Loft House Landrace Moschata (from Oregon)
Delicata – (HitS)
Australian Butter -(SSE)
Red Kuri -(SSE and HitS)
–Onion (from seeds)–
Smooth German Kale
Swiss Chard (Five Color)
Backland Bly Orach
If you see something you like, send me a FB message. You can also personally message me or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is only for local peeps as you will have to come and get your starts.
If there is something you like but don’t want to come mingle with us or the day we choose (TBA) won’t work for you…let me know and I can set something aside for you 🙂 About to go outside and do some planting! My favorite time of the year!!
January is a a great time to start contemplating plans and new projects for the approaching growing season. Even here in the temperate Pacific Northwest, January tends to be cold, dark and mostly wet. These conditions makes it easy to forget that the first of the seedlings will need to be ready to transplant in less then two months.
These dark months are a great time to make plans and think up knew projects for the rapidly approaching growing season. For the last two years, we have really tried to practice this advice, and it has really paid off. Last year we were able to produce all of our own starts from seed, and even sell a good number of the extras to our neighbors, which turned out to be a ton of fun!
All that being said, this January has been incredibly mild here in western Washington state. The average last frost date at the Homestead is March 13th, and in years past that has been fairly accurate. February is typically the coldest month, and we occasionally get frost and even snow in early March. However, our crocuses started to poke through the mulch beginning the third weekend of January (last weekend, as of this writing). With that in mind, we have officially started our 2018 gardening season!
We begin this year with a germination experiment. I planted five of each of the seeds I saved from last season, filling up two 1020 trays. I am curious to see if any of them sprout. The results of this little experiment will further dictate what seeds we will need to buy for the growing season. I am very hopeful, if these seeds germinate, we can have our open house/start sale without investing too many additional resources.
We finally fired up the incubator, a Hovabator and egg turner that we bartered for last year, and collected some quail eggs. We assumed they are fertile since our quail rooster is cohabited with the hens. We read that eggs can be kept at 60 degrees F for up to 7 days for collection. We did just that and on day 7 placed all of our eggs into the incubator. As per usual, we did a bunch of research on perfect incubating conditions and were rather underwhelmed. For some reason, all information on humidity in the incubator is very vague. We found that the temperature for the incubator should be set to 100-102 degrees F. Humidity conditions were the hardest to find. I even purchased Storey’s Guide to Raising Quail and other Game birds and they too, said nothing in regard humidity. Some sources suggested 25-35%, others said dry incubation and others just said it was not important. So we chose to go with the popular answer of dry incubating. After a few days of fiddling with the thermostat, our Hovabator stabilized at about 101 F along with 16% humidity. We are excited to see what is to come on February 1 and 2.
More exciting news–the chickens are starting to lay! We have been getting humongous eggs. The biggest egg in the picture below was a double yolker–our first! Its good to see the nesting boxes being used again.
We transitioned our fall chicks with the main flock. The transition went well and now everyone is a happy family.
Introducing new chickens to the flock meant that some of our five year old, none productive egg layers had to move on. They moved on to the freezer farm. It was my first time helping Paul. I plucked my first chicken and it was pretty easy. It made me appreciate my meals a lot more. During the harvesting, we take the opportunity to inspect the birds and we are happy to report that birds are mite free and their organs look very healthy. Our birds are healthy and that makes us happy!
February is just around the corner and we are looking forward to what it has to offer. Thanks for reading. You can find daily updates for our homestead on our Facebook page
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.
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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
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.
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.
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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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.
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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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.
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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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 Debbie 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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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.
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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!