The Cantaloupe Treasure

Hello!! I am still here! I have neglected this blog for a while now! Time is tight right now. I know many of us are all too familiar with tight budgets. Sometimes, it just doesn’t seem like there is enough to go around. Or we sit around scratching our heads trying to figure out how to make it work. That’s how life has been the past couple of months for us. Since the beginning of summer we have been slammed busy with coffee business work, yard work, broken tractors, waist high weeds…you name it! Some days it feels like there is barely time to breath. Our time is literally budgeted to the max!

The other day, Alex and I were sweating our brains out weeding the garden, which is currently growing cantaloupes and winter squash. Our tractor had a broken part, which took forrrevver to fix, and the weeds got totally out of control. After spending HOURS weeding, cursing crabgrass, and nearly fainting with heat exhaustion we got the garden bed under control. All for some cantaloupes. Sweet, sweet cantaloupes. About midway through I had this crazy thought to myself of “why the heck am I doing this?! This is so much WORK. All this for some cantaloupes?!” Then I yelled some more at the crabgrass. Devil plant. Then I had the realization that this “work” is actually just life. You see, this is the life we have chosen. It’s not to say that this life is for everyone. When I made the realization that this work was really just life, it made doing it not as meaningless. It was more than just weeding a bed of cantaloupes.

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Some things that I treasure as a result of our hard work life:

  • Our children see things grow from seed to fruit. Lea planted the cantaloupe seeds, and is so proud of the end result. I love that she gets excitement eating things that “came from OUR garden”. Daggone crabgrass weeding is worth it for the kids.
  • Life is sweeter. Hard work makes the sweetest things even sweeter. One of my favorite and most enjoyable things to do at the end of a really tough day is to get in the shower and scrub the layers of dirt off of my feet. I know…kinda weird. Most days I do work in my flip flops…so my feet are downright scary. I love using my super scrubby coconut fiber loofa to turn black dirt caked feet into normal feet again. It feels so good.
  • I am learning survival skills. I mean, come on…girlfriend needs to know how to grow stuff in the case the world comes to an end. You might thank me someday.
  • Our views are a thing of beauty. 5 acres is a lot of land to care for. Most of the time I’m pretty sure we’re crazy. But then the sunsets, the storms, the lightening bugs in the wheat fields…The country life views are so breathtaking and worth the backbreaking it takes to maintain.
  • We work together. I don’t often leave Alex home to do the yard work while I take the kids places on the weekend. We work together as a family. Kids get involved, Alex and I trade off. Sometimes we all fight, sometimes we complain together, sometimes we laugh, sometimes at the end of the day we go eat Mexican food and drink margaritas. On days when we do have something planned, we try to get our work done earlier in the week so we don’t have to be apart. It’s just how we roll. Often we have family here too, to help with the kids.
  • Kids eat more vegetables when they pick it fresh. I have noticed that my kids will eat green things out of the garden when they wouldn’t otherwise touch it on their plates. Even Elly & Cai, who won’t touch green things with a 10 foot pole, eat cukes and snap peas from the garden. It’s their thing. They just love to go and forage for a cuke. Cai even eats the green tomatoes. Weeding the garden so that they can do this safely (read: make sure theres no places for snakes to live) is a high priority for me. Remind me to plant more cucumber plants next year since the kids eat them all…barely any make it in the house!

So while the rind of life is tough, the inside is sweet and worth every drop of sweat poured. Someday I will write more on the blog about less challenging times, but this is where we are right now.

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Happy Earth Day!

I love that the homestead is buzzing with new life! I love to see the new blossoms on the trees, seedling plants springing up out of the black dirt, and dandelions by the millions scattered across the yard. I was so excited to find that the strawberry plants I planted last year came back this year! We were weeding the garden a few weeks ago and noticed that the dead pile of brown strawberry plants had sprung back to life! They are proliferating big time and already have little berries on them! Man…that brings joy. This truly is the best time of the year.

We have been working super hard on getting some trees transplanted. We have about 50 sunset maple trees in a small “holding garden.” They are getting big enough to transplant through the property. Planting trees is really hard work. Like REALLY hard. I am not even kidding.

We are also super excited that we got 6 new fruit trees to add to the orchard- 3 apricot and 3 plum. They have already started new growth and have leaves! Ah! Such a miracle to watch. Literally. CAN.NOT.WAIT. for the day our fruit trees start producing.

Anyways. Just wanted to share a homestead update and a fun video we made today of what a breezy day in the country looks like!! Enjoy. (Ps-Sorry the video is so small…I was just playing around with a new app and couldn’t make it bigger).

Snow Day Pretzels

Well…we are snowed in today…rather iced in. A big storm hit last night and dropped some snow followed by freezing rain. Our backyard is literally a big sheet of ice. In other words- we ain’t going no where.

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Cold days call for cozy food and hot coffee. Am I right or what? We had these soft fluffy pretzels at a friends house the other day and erhmehgersh were they good. Thanks Sarah for your delicious confections! So today, I decided we would make them again…it was a toss up between these or cinnamon rolls. Since of course we could dip these in cinnamon sugar topping…it was kinda the same thing right? Except that these pretzels are a cinch to make. Regardless, you should make some on your snow day…errr, ice day. They may not be the healthiest thing on the planet…but good for a nice treat. After eating them, you can do some house work…like scrub your kitchen floors. (Well…at least that is what I did…)

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Snow Day Pretzels

Slightly adapted from Food Network

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup organic milk
  • 2 1/4 tsp yeast
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut sugar, or brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Kerrygold salted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2-2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup baking soda (for later)
  • 3 cups hot water (for later)
  • Melted butter (4 Tbsp)
  • Pretzel salt, Cinnamon sugar and/or other various toppings or dipping sauces.

Directions:

  1. Warm your milk in a pan to 110 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, this is just hot enough that it doesn’t burn your finger. Any hotter and you’ll kill the yeast…so don’t do that. After your milk is warmed, add yeast to the milk and let it sit for a few minutes while you prep the other ingredients.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  3. Add the sugar and butter to the milk/yeast mixture and stir. Now dump this into a stand mixer. Add one cup of flour and begin stirring. If you don’t have a mixer, you can just add the flour to a bowl with milk and mix with a spoon.
  4. Add the salt and another cup of flour and continue kneading either in the mixer or by hand. Continue adding flour until the dough is no longer sticky. You may need to add more than the 2 cups. Knead for 5-6 mins in the mixer or 10 minutes by hand (come on…you can do it!)
  5. Let the dough rest and rise for 1 hour.
  6. Near the end of the rise, mix the baking soda with the hot water in a dish.
  7. After rising, divide the dough into 12 parts. This will make 12 smallish pretzels. If you want huge pretzels (aka “mall size”) then divide into 6 parts. Roll the dough into long logs and shape as desired. Feel free to use your play dough snake making skills for this 😉
  8. Dip the pretzel shapes into the bowl of hot baking soda water and lay on a greased baking pan or parchment paper lined pan.
  9. If you want salted pretzels, sprinkle the salt on now.
  10. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.
  11. After removing pretzels from oven, proceed to dip pretzels in melted butter and then cinnamon sugar mixture if desired. You could also make a cheese dip…or chocolate dip…or mustard dip…or just eat them plain!
  12. Serve with a cup of hot MonroePost Coffee …unless you are serving to kids, in which case hot cocoa might make a nice pair.

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Even buddy liked them! (Well…that’s not a surprise)…

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2015 Homestead Life Goals

2014 was a crazy busy year. We had babies (ok, just one but it feels like 5…), renovated structures, opened businesses, & ate way too many zucchinis. Come the end of the year we were tired. December was a rough month with water problems (2 pipe bursts) and mouse issues out the wazoo. Yeah…those little dickens are so determined. They chewed through our pest block foam spray from last year. Just so they could laugh at us while they ate all our tasty crumbs…Sorry, not to gross you out. The house has been officially sanitized. It was like spring cleaning in the dead of winter. Fun!

Annnyways. 2015 is going to be different. It is going to be full of so much opportunity. So here’s a few things on the checklist.

Homestead Goals

  • Expand garden and spread out the woodchips that were delivered last year
  • Make a better garden plan
  • Plant 3 new fruit trees & 3 new fruit bushes
  • Transplant all trees that have been in the “spare” garden for a year
  • Prune apple trees
  • Build duck coop and enclosure
  • Gutters on the house (not accomplished in 2014)
  • Build insulated house for the well pump (not accomplished in 2014)
  • Landscape front of house near porch
  • Paint one room of the house (living room or our bedroom)

Personal Goals

  • Last year I had pledged to buy better meat. I was pretty successful in that endeavor, I am happy with where we are in our eating habits right now. However, I would still really like to make it a priority to grow the bulk of our vegetables and can/preserve them for winter.
  • Finish the two courses I am enrolled in at Vintage Remedies. Enroll in two additional classes by the end of the year.
  • Finish the book Aromatherapy for Health Professionals 
  • Finish the book The World Atlas of Coffee
  • Do more educating on this blog

Coffee Business Goals

  • Integrate more missions-minded aspects into the site
  • Integrate an artists shop on the site
  • Partner with local businesses
  • Attend a local vendor event
  • Set up coffee shop at community events, such as concerts
  • Plan business expansion, including larger roaster

We are intentionally trying to keep all of our projects reasonable this year…and not trying to do any major renovating, building or projects that take more than a couple of weekends to complete. The past two summers have been crazy and we would like to actually enjoy a few days of summer without back breaking, sweat-to-death kinda work. I am sure you are all nodding your head in approval. Who is ready for a 2nd annual Camden County’s Largest Slip-and-Slide party!? Don’t ask me why I am already dreaming about summer…maybe its because we had the “first snow” of the season. I call it “snow” because of course all schools were closed and my kids had to get dressed in head to to winter gear to go play in the snow dust. Alas, I am not a cold weathered gal. Except that I have an excuse to drink more coffee. In fact, I think I’ll go brew another pot now…

What’s on your agenda for 2015? Comment and let me know!

Summer Projects Wrap & a Winter Plan

I run my life on lot’s of to-do lists and goal scheduling. It feels so incredible to write down a list and then check things off. Ahh sweet checkmarks. So for my own peace of mind and satisfaction I present to you my summer project check list…and that which was checked off.

  1. Put in vehicle gate to back yard (for mulch/sand/wood) deliveries. 
  2. Build kids a playset and sandbox. 
  3. Build the kids the “Ultimate Slip and Slide”.
  4. Put gutters on the house
  5. Can LOTS of tomatoes
  6. Begin renovations to garage for coffee roasting business.

Wow, that was a crazy summer that actually merged into fall…hence why I don’t have any fall plans. I’m tired.

Winter plans. Well…I’d like to say I’m going to cozy up and never venture outside. There are a few things on the list.

  • Christmas Vacation!! It’s been over 5 years since we have ventured to Michigan to visit the rest of our family. We are looking forward to taking the kids to the “real snow”.
  • Insulate well pump. (Froze last year=not fun)
  • Organize House
  • Spread mulch for next years garden
  • Research apple tree pruning
  • Roast lots of coffee

That sounds do-able. Doncha think?

Alright ya’lls. Sorry for this terribly boring post. It was kinda a brain-dump kind of night. I promise more exciting things soon. In the meantime…Go buy some coffee.

 

The Garden Wrap-up: 10 Commandments for Novice Gardeners

Well, like all good things…the summer garden is coming to an end…at least the first round of it! The bugs have invaded!!
It has definitely been an encouraging season…I have never had so many squash, cucumbers, and beans coming out of my ears!! It’s been so wonderful to have extra to share! We even have a freezer full of squash for when I get the wintertime blues and need some summer sunshine. Ya know? I did learn a few things…let me share with you my lessons learned.

10 Commandments of Gardening with Erica (aka-The Novice)

  1. Thou shalt cage your tomatoes before they are bushes.
  2. Thou shalt secure said tomato cages in order to prevent them from blowing over in the freak summer storms.
  3. Thou shalt not plant thy zucchini plants so close together that you can’t reach the zucchini.
  4. Thou shalt not plant pokey cucumbers again. The smooth skinned ones are much nicer to your poor fingers.
  5. Thou shalt uproot and burn your diseased tomato plants very early on so as not to infect other plants.
  6. Thou shalt trellis your beans…Even if they are “bush” beans. Unless you fancy digging in bushes to discover said beans.
  7. Thou shalt also trellis your cucumbers so as to avoid the crazy vine maze they create. Unless you just really like vine mazes and watching your kids continually trip over rampant cucumber vines.
  8. Thou shalt let nature do its thing and not too concerned when your compost pile starts sprouting strange plants of unknown origin.
  9. Thou shalt adopt and accept the motto “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again…and again…and again.”
  10. Thou shalt let go of the notion of perfection. Weeds are friends right?
  11. (I know it’s more than 10…one more for good measure). Never let your garden go a day without picking produce, lest you find baseball bat sized zucchini. Tomato baseball anyone?

Who doesn’t love summer bounty? We have been totally blessed by it this year…there is so much JOY in going to your backyard to pick things for dinner. The kids especially love it. Everyday the girls would go out and pick a small cucumber from the garden and some strawberries and then go swing on their new play set. Incredible.

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We still have more coming! The winter squash is coming along nicely! Hopefully we will get some pumpkins out of that!! I had watermelons planted, but unfortunately they didn’t do too well. Boo. See # 9 above. The sweet potatoes will be harvested in the fall! I am super excited about that! I hope they do as well as they did last year since we planted 10 times more than we planted last year! That’s a lot of potatoes yo.

Ok, I’m off to roast up some coffee for Coffee With a Mission at church this week!

The Great Wheat Harvest: The Final Chapter

Epic. I tell ya. Epic.

Failure that is.

Is there any chance you missed my tale of wheat growing? Here’s the posts in their sequential order. Whoa big word.

1. Planting the Wheat

2. Wheat Week 1

3. The Waiting Game

4. Cutting the Wheat

And now for 5. “The Great Wheat Harvest”

“Great” here being more sarcastic than reality. Yes folks its true…I really, um…how do I put this? Hmmm…Kinda stink at growing wheat apparently? Or maybe it’s the fact that I did everything by hand. Quite literally. I cut the dang wheat with hedge trimmers ok? You can laugh at me, it’s ok. Shake your head if you must.

Let me walk you through what I did to harvest these lovely little grains of happy goodness.

Step 1: Take children’s bed sheet and spread it on the ground.

Step 2: Cut a bundle of wheat off of the rope that it has been hanging on in the garage drying for the last few weeks.

Step 3: Take wheat bundle to sheet and start banging it on the sheet as hard as possible.

Step 4: Try not to feel self conscious while doing this while you are standing on a hot pink bed sheet in polka dot rain boots and the neighbors are out.

Step 5: Realize your wheat banging is not producing much results. Opt to watch a YouTube video on how to do this “threshing” correctly.

Step 6: Set the wheat on the sheet and start hitting it with a stick…until your husband invents a much more highly dangerous tool called a “flail”. Yes, it’s really as dangerous as it sounds. Hide yo kids.

Step 7: Realize nothing is really working here and start empathizing with the Egyptians and how hard they must have had to work for a loaf of bread. Sheesh. (Ps- I am not trying to insult anyone, this is clearly only a joke…don’t hate).

Step 8: Notice that you do in fact have a few wheat berries that have fallen off the stalk. Do a happy dance. Continue “flailing” until all wheat bundles are done.

Step 9:  Retrieve floor fan from children’s room. Plug into outlet in side the house and then drag the fan as far as it will go outside. Turn on full speed.

Step 10: Once again, try not to think about how ridiculous you must look with a FAN on your back porch. (Did I mention we’re still in polka dot boots?)

Step 11: Attempt to “Winnow” the wheat. Basically you need to separate the wheat berries from all the chaff. So you basically toss the wheat in the air (in front of the fan) and let the fan blow the chaff away and the wheat berries drop. (You have laid the bed sheet down on the porch as well here).

Step 12: This is so not working.

Step 13: Hand pick out little pieces of the wheat stalk and these strange little stringy things that will give you a sort of wheat splinter. I have a few in my hand right now.

Step 14: Admire what is finally left as the end product. Wheat berries. Ahhh…Perfect for making that beloved bread….if only there was enough…

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You see, when I planted this wheat last year I scattered about 2.5lbs of wheat over an area. Welp. Here’s the kicker. I only harvested 14.5 OUNCES. Bahahahah. That definitely went as planned. Not. Apparently, wheat is suppose to yield 30-50 TIMES its original harvest. Meaning, if you plant 1 pound of wheat, you should theoretically get 30-50 pounds in return. Hey man, I would have been happy to break even here. Go ahead. Laugh again. Just remember I am not one who gives up easily.

At least it is the most prettiest wheat thine eyes e’re did see!! I’ll let you all have one bite of the loaf it makes. Or the bun it makes.

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I might just have to leave this one to the pro’s. Cuz apparently I lack old fashioned skills.

Hey, at least the kids had a blast watching it grow. What a valuable lesson right? Can I at least get the “Mommy Tried Her Best” award?

Thank you for reading this final chapter. The story has been…entertaining.

How to Break a Sweat: Summer Projects

Hey its me! Well, of course it is me…don’t know who else it would be. I suppose it could be my husband but he is a rare site on the blog. I told him the other day that we would probably get more readers if he posted on the blog. You know, because people like to read about manly things. Lol. Or at least some would appreciate his less than wordy and side-tracked posts like mine. You still love me though right?

Thought I’d catch you up to speed on how the Spring projects wrapped up and where we are headed for this summer! Lot’s of exciting things you certainly don’t want to miss now do you?

Looking back at my Spring projects list, I have managed to accomplish most of them. As you are aware, I did birth a child. Lol. Farm Buddy is almost 3 months old now. I got the garden in! We have been enjoying lots of stuff from it already! We upgraded the coffee roaster to be able to serve more folks some good coffee. We’re pursing the business aspect of the coffee roasting right now…more on that later. I did not manage to get my cold frames done, suppose that will be a fall project! Alex is almost done with the electricity to the garage but we are waiting for an inspection. We also ran a water line to the garden and put in fruit trees and lots of other trees! All in all, this spring was busy and successful!

So what’s the summer look like you ask? So glad you asked. Weekly mowing of our weeds, as you see, we don’t actually really have any grass. So saying that we have to mow the lawn is a bit of a fallacy. Nevertheless, that is an unending chore. So is pulling weeds from the garden.  Aside from that here’s a few things on the agenda.

  1. Put in vehicle gate to back yard (for mulch/sand/wood) deliveries. This task is complete.
  2. Build kids a playset and sandbox. This project is set to begin this weekend and finishing up the following weekend.
  3. Build the kids the “Ultimate Slip and Slide”. This project is set to be completed on July 12th. Right in time for Elyse’s birthday. Oh yah.
  4. Put gutters on the house (this might go on the fall list)
  5. Can LOTS of tomatoes (this is slight wishful thinking as I have bad luck growing tomato plants).
  6. Begin renovations to garage for coffee roasting business. This is pending a few things.

So yah. Totally do-able. So you want to know more about this coffee roasting business thing? Well the short of it is, we are trying to figure out if it is a possibility for us to start a “real” business out of the home. We have to meet certain requirements and are in the process of talking with inspectors. Its going to be a grueling processes, but we are excited for the possibility. And if not now, maybe in the future. But no worries, we can still hook friends and family up with some delish coffee. No worries on that 🙂

So you wanna check out what’s been goin on in the garden eh?

Baby Red Potatoes
Heirloom Beets!
Harvested Wheat (Awaiting threshing!)
Harvested Wheat (Awaiting threshing!)
Can you guess which of my plants bolted and made these pretty flowers?

Sadly, I have had two of my squash plants die. They just up and died. No explanation. Well, I am sure there is an explanation but I haven’t been able to discover it yet. I have quite a few more going strong and I planted some new ones just in case, ya know, in case we run out of squash. I have already frozen some!

That’s about it, I reckon. Anything you want to hear about?

Hope you have some awesome summer plans! Break a sweat.

Summer Garden 2014 Part 1

Ohhh this is such an exciting time of year. Zucchini, basil, and tomatoes galore! One can never have enough basil, mozzarella and tomato salad. Can I get an amen?!

I am happy (more like thrilled) to announce that my garden is doing WELL this year! I am so excited. I don’t go comparing my garden with others, so it might not be as fantastic as it could be but I’m satisfied nonetheless.

Shall we have a tour of sorts?

For starters, I thought that I would update that indeed, I CAN grow radishes. Just takes a few tries. In case you missed my radish growing saga, you can check that out here. Much better the second time around.

Radish

 

Next up we have some lovely yellow squash coming along nicely. In fact in probably a day or two I will be overrun with squash as there is a good 10-12 squash all growing the same size at the moment. I am not complaining 🙂 Funny thing about this squash is that I planted zucchini seeds and they are coming up as yellow squash. Someone must have packed those wrong! Lol. Oh well. I do have a couple of zuc plants as well.

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Next we have mega lettuce. Aka Christmas tree lettuce. AKA needs to be eaten soon lettuce. This is technically a spring crop, hence why it is bolting and the size of a small Christmas tree. Nevertheless, this lovely red lettuce tastes good with my new radishes in a salad! (Lea is there for size comparison by the way).

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Next we have my first real “crop” as I actually planted more than 5 of it. Most of the other plants in the garden I have only planted a few plants, even though in reality I could plant a whole field of lettuce if I really wanted to. You’re welcome to come down and do so yourself if you are so inclined. Lol. So…this crop here is sweet potatoes. 100 lovely plants. Last year we planted 20 plants, so we have majorly upped that! Sweet potatoes grew so well in the woodchips last year and they lasted forever (ya, until like yesterday when I finally ate the last one…) So, we’re hoping to get a good store of these for this winter and maybe even try canning some? Anyone know of ways to preserve sweet potatoes?

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Those are the mains of the garden right now, although I do have some tomatoes, cukes, strawberries, kale, and beans planted as well. As soon as my spring crops clear out (still eatin the spinach and kale!) I’ll put in some more summer time goodness. Oh! I almost forgot we also planted a bunch of watermelons, honeydew and cantaloupes as well! It would be so sweet if we actually got any of those to eat!

Oh and I almost forgot! We harvested the wheat! If you missed my wheat growing story, check out the planting here , it’s growing herewaiting

WHEAT

I can say we have made some progress since last year as far as garden knowledge goes, however I still have a long way to go. Ever so slowly we keep going…I am truly thankful for anything that comes out of my backyard. It always tastes better when you know you have planted a seed, watered, and watched it grow (unless you are talking about mustard greens in which case…well…those are probably better left un-grown, lol.)

So to sum up, here are a few things I have learned about gardening this past year. (Yes I realize they are very rudimentary knowledge…).

  1. Water direct planted seeds daily. Last year this was such a chore since we didn’t have a water line to the garden and walking 200 ft with watering cans is impractical and hard! Thankfully, Alex was able to get me a water line much closer to the garden and so now we can water much more easily with a sprinkler.
  2. Fertilize! We are using fish emulsion. Seems to be working really well, especially to get plants going.
  3. Plant what grows and skip things that have trouble. I replanted cukes this year even though last year they were devastated by the cucumber beetle. That’s pretty much the only pest I had, except the tomato hornworm. The beetles were impossible to get rid of organically and there were a million of them. So, if my cukes get wiped out again this year I will probably just skip planting them. I would rather buy them from someone without those pests and grows without pesticides than resort to using chemicals. If anyone else has ideas on how to get rid of them let me know! The hornworms are easy enough to pick and smoosh and they never made enough damage. Lea and I had fun last year scouting them out. They are pretty creepy looking though!
  4. Plant companion plants. I have tried to do this a bit this year, although I still have a ways to go…not sure i see the “benefits” yet…but maybe its the lack of problems that is the real answer! I have nasturtiums growing all over the garden, I am looking forward to seeing some of those edible flowers soon!

That’s it for now! Check back soon for Part 2 (Probably the mid-season harvest pics!)

Erica

 

Planting Trees

When we first drove by the piece of land that we now own, the one thing that majorly stood out to us was the amazing horizon that you could see in all directions. Literally, unhindered countryside. You could see the full sunrise and the full sunset over the acres of corn. It is beautiful and is what led us to really want this land. It was a clean slate of sorts, a big ol honking piece of property that contained a whole bunch of nothing on it. Well, actually it was covered in corn husks when we bought it. I am still finding corn cobs in the dirt. Lol. You see, we bought the property right after they harvested the corn, but right before they tilled for the next crop. It was a tad bit of a mess. Still is really.

All that to say, that after you live here for a while you quickly start to realize that you do, in fact, miss having some trees in your yard. For shade primarily. Full sun for tomatoes? No problem. I don’t even think my property qualifies as “full sun” but more “NO shade”. Literally. Anyways, I digress as usually with my nonsense. Alex actually told me the other day that he doesn’t really read my posts because I blab on too much. To which he just read that and disagreed. Sigh. Note to self, never sit next to husband while typing a blog post.

Ok, I’ll cut to the chase. WE NEED TREES! There I said my point. So we bought some trees. Here’s what we have growing so far.

  • Crepe myrtles along the side fence line and lining the driveway
  • Two Japanese cherry trees in the front near the porch (SO excited about these, they are my favorite)
  • Two pecan trees and two walnut trees
  • Sugar maples lining the other fence line
  • A couple of forsythia bushes on the front fence

We also bought our first fruit trees!

The thought of homegrown fruit is beyond exciting, although I am fully aware that it is going to take a while to get there and I am expecting to experience some failure along the way as we are attempting to grow them as organically as possible. Time to research is hard to come by these days (I wonder why?) but I have gathered some information and tucked it in the back of my brain. Here’s a few tips on growing apples, which is what we chose to start with.

  • Buy rootstock that is known for its disease resistance. A great reference for learning about rootstocks and choosing apple varieties that are bred for disease resistance check out OrangePippin.com
  • Natural fertilizers include compost tea and fish emulsion. While I have not tried making compost tea yet (its in the near future ya’ll) I have tried fish emulsion on my garden and it is working incredibly. If you were to buy some right now, I would recommend this liquid soil rescue. I am planning to get some very soon.
  • Natural insecticide and soil nourishment is 100% neem oil. This stuff looks good…I am also planning to try it on my lemon tree to get rid of some scale bugs. Little buggers.
  • Heavy mulching will help retain soil moisture as well as provide a very beneficial environment for goo soil bacterial and fungi to grow. Happy days since we already have a big ol pile of wood chips still hanging out.
  • Dwarf or semi-dwarf trees are much better suited to the home orchard as they stay a manageable size.
  • Be sure to buy at least two trees that will pollinate with each other. Apple trees are not self-fertile meaning they need another buddy to pollinate them. However, there are special “match made in heaven” varieties that really get along well together. Check the orange pippin site or the starkbros.com site for good pollinator buddies.

We got a “package deal” on 3 apple trees from starkbros.com. Here’s the varieties we got:

We also ordered three blueberry bushes from starkbros.com as well. We have not learned a whole lot about blueberries yet, but we do know they need acidic soil (we amended with peat moss), heavy mulching and protection from hungry birds once fruiting.

We’re still a few years out before we start seeing the real “fruit” of our labors. In the meantime, I will continue munching away on some books and resources to help understand better how to do all this. We pretty much started everything from scratch without a lick of sense in us. Haha. Ok maybe a lick. But just one. But surely not enough to know what to do with 5 acres. We’re just focusing on the “back yard” right now, which is about an acre if you include the side yard.

Anyyyywayys. Well, hopefully that wasn’t tooooo boring. I hope it was inspiring. Go. Buy. Plant! Try your hand at an apple tree or a blueberry bush! It’s easy! (Ok…maybe, maybe not).

If it gives you any hope…when we bought the apple trees they came in a box and looked like a bunch of twigs. Literally. One stick with some roots. No leaves, no branches. After only a few days the leaves started popping out and now, only about 3 weeks later this is what they look like. See? Told you it was easy! I have not even watered them one time (except for when we planted them).

Apple Tree

It’s so happy to see things growing. My heart is smiling. [Insert “awwww” cue]

Alright, I’ll let ya’ll go on yo business now. G’day to ya.

Erica