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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