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).

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!

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.

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

Time Again to Wait

I have so many exciting things to share with you, I could barely decide what I should start with! Maybe I’ll just give you the full-fanny here and wear your poor eyes out reading. Nah, it’s not that bad! It mostly all has to do with our Spring projects which are coming along quite nicely.

Firstly, I’ve GOT to tell you about the wheat! Oh, I am so uber (or is it oober?) excited about this! I don’t really even know how to describe my feelings entirely. Yes, I have feelings in respect to my wheat. I know, I am crazy. Mostly it is excitement. But there is another layer…a deeper layer. Excitement only scratches the surface. There is this awe that abounds in my heart when I see something that I planted from a tiny seed turn into something so beautiful. While it might be a bit of a far stretch, its kind of like watching a child grow. We oohh and ahh over their firsts. First crawl, first step, first smile. You get me, right? Well for me, watching a plant grow is like that. From the first sprout, to the first flower, to the first fruits. It is incredible. It is also as equally disappointed when it doesn’t work out. When you plant a seed and it doesn’t grow. Think about that. Deep man, deep. However, it appears so far that my wheat is doing ok. Seems to be growing happily, unbothered. The commercial fields around us also have wheat growing and while its definitely cool to watch, it’s nothing like watching your own. Well just the other day we were driving down our road and I commented to Alex that I wish my wheat was growing the little wheat heads like the wheat around us. He replied that MINE WAS! I hadn’t been out to look at it in a few days. Of course as soon as we got home, I rushed out to see it. Sure enough. Man, my heart was so full of joy. My little patch of wheat babies. I’ve also got some sort of pea plant growing in the wheat as well…not sure how it got there but its pretty! Now to wait…until the middle of Summer when harvest time will be here.

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We also got a small spring garden in. Unfortunately, either the weather has been bad or my soil is bojangled because stuff hasn’t exactly grown excepttoo much. Not much has actually died, its just not growing. Except the radishes. Apparently I can grow radishes. Not that they are entirely my favorite food…there is a lovely sweetness to a freshly picked radish. Not like the store-bought. I’ll continue to wait for the fruits of my labors. Here’s a lovely squash plant starting!

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In addition to the garden, Alex was able to run a PVC water line closer to the garden. Having a garden over 200ft away from the nearest hose spigot was proving to be a problem. So he dug a trench and ran a PVC line from the well pump out to the middle of the yard and put a hose connection on it. So now we can run another hose from the middle of the yard, and much closer to the garden. Oh, what a blessing this is! The trench for this was an extension of the trench he dug to get electricity to his garage. This was a huge undertaking, but we are nearly done with that project as well! The girls thoroughly enjoyed the small river we had in the backyard for a few days as the rain filled up the 20in deep trench! It will be so great to have electricity in the garage for a number of reasons! I’m excited for the wood working projects that will come out of the garage, esp in the winter months when homestead work is slower! We can finally have a space heater so we can work out there!

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On a final homestead related note…we finally were able to order some trees. We got crepe myrtles, Japanese cherries, red maples, pecan, walnut and a couple of forsythia bushes. We actually just finished planting all of those last night! Phew. 20 trees total! I really did help, I promise…I didn’t just take all the pictures. We also ordered some fruit trees! We got three apple trees and three blueberry bushes. We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of those yet still. I am so thrilled that we are making some progress on our homestead dreams! Nevertheless, trees take a while to grow! The waiting game for apples, blueberries or nuts will be a long one! We will be sure to keep you updated on how those lovely little trees are coming along!

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In the meantime of all of this, we are happily enjoying our newest addition. In fact, even just last night when we were planting the trees I had the baby strapped to my front in a carrier and we were digging holes together. He is really a great baby and we are so blessed by that! The girls have finally adjusted (I think) and are very smitten by him.

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That’s it for now! If I could ever miraculously figure out how to get more than 5 minutes on the computer at any given time I would update more often. Alas, I suppose its the stage of life we are in eh? I am forced to choose between and shower or posting this update. At least I showered last night…

Spring Project List

No baby boy yet. Guess he’s just bulking up. Daddy doesn’t want no scrawny boy. //Kidding…//No it’s prob all this good food I’m feeding him. I wouldn’t want to leave somewhere that was feeding me such good food and making someone else gain weight. Who are we kidding here?

Anyways. Spring projects. Here’s my list.

1. Birth this child. While I love being pregnant and all the benefits (that do outweigh that difficulties) these last few weeks have been really hard. From a medical standpoint I am being treated as a sick patient, while not really exhibiting any signs of said “sickness.” So that has been challenging for me as it has meant a lot of invasive medical procedures that I would otherwise not sign up for. And while it would not have been my chosen path, I am thankful for all the support that my husband, family, friends and of course Jesus, have given me. Ya’ll are specials. 🙂

Me at 38.5 weeks!

2. Get power to Alex’s garage. This project has been on the back burner for a few months as we have been navigating through all this bojangled medical stuff. Nevertheless, we knew if we didn’t start soon it would get left on the back burner…and we know how those projects go don’t we? Like the time I left some vegetables lightly steaming on the back burner only to forget about them and return later to vegetable soup. Brilliant! Anyways. We picked up some materials for the project and Alex got working on it this past weekend. That boy is so dang smart. It amazes me all the various talents he has. My head is swimming between all the discussion of voltz, amps, circuits, sub panels, conduit, wires, overhead lights, GFCI outlets, fried chicken, direct bury, shop lighting, etc, etc, etc. (Ok, the fried chicken part was just to get your attention in case you fell asleep). Anyways, girl aint got a clue about this stuff and boy somehow figures these things out. He’s brilliant.

The man at work in his man-cave garage.
And of course no project is complete without the sweet tea!

3. Get garden in! Aye, this project is again intimidating me as I feel unprepared and uneducated as to what, when, where how you are suppose to actually grow a good garden. I tried my best to research and plan, yet I still come up with the same questions. I just really need to be able to plant seeds in the garden and have them grow. Is that too much to ask?! But alas, I shall persevere and keep trying again and again and again until something works! I did plant a few seeds this week, before this round of stupid-wont-go-away winter weather. We’ll see if anything survives.

Lemon Tree enjoying one of the spring days we had so far!

4. Build cold frames for seedlings. I REALLY need this as I have terrible luck growing seedlings in the house. I know all of my problems (inadequate lighting, leggy plants, not hardening off appropriately). My hopes is that the cold frames would really help these problems!! Luckily, I have some old windows from my dad’s garage so we just need to get some lumber and make some simple frames. Hopefully, this can get done before I need to get in some summer seeds for sprouting (which is probably like tomorrow…)

5. Get more worms for my vermicomposting bin. Did you miss my post about my new worm friends? They seem to be happy but I obviously have a lot more kitchen scraps than I have worms, so I need to get some more. Can’t overfeed the little dudes.

6. Secret project soon to be revealed. Stay tuned…you don’t want to miss this one 🙂

So that’s my plan for spring. Do-able. Affordable. We can do it!! I do kinda get this sinking feeling with the weather though that somehow we might just skip spring all together and go from this cold, wet winter to a blasted hot summer. I’ve been complaining far too much about the weather lately though. My apologies, I know we all feel the same way. I’ll stop talking about it. I just want more days in the sun so I can get my freckle tan on…don’t you think my feet are far too white?

You got any projects planned for the spring? Do share!!

Warm Weather Wishes and Worm Update

Sooo ready for Spring!! Are you??

We had a bit of a warm streak last week and everything perked up. But, now were back into the 20’s again. I’m excited about what this Spring is going to bring, but I am a tad bit nervous as this is the part of the year where “the petal hits the metal” again. Mowing acres of grass weeds, building projects, gardening, composting, NEW BABY! Haha…Yeah we have a lot on our plates this year! But I am still trying to remind myself that we are still LEARNING. Even though I desperately wish I could just instantly have all the knowledge I need to be able to do these things, I shall, like everyone else, continue to learn as I go.

I have however gotten started on one of my projects! Vermicomposting! It was on my goals for this year. For those who are not sure what this vermicomposting thing is…here’s the lowdown. I am basically creating an indoor composting system (you can do it outdoors, but its more challenging to get started). Instead of using time as my composting method, I am using worms! Alright, I know I just lost some of you…skip past the creepy crawlies if you must. For the rest of you…You basically make a little habitat for the woms to live in and you feed them your kitchen scraps. In return for your delicious leftovers, the worms will leave you with rich, nutrient dense worm poop compost for you to use as your heart desires in your gardens, flower beds, etc. It’s really probably the simplest thing to set up and doesn’t take a ton of time for a good amount of worms to create this compost. In addition, because the environment that these worms thrive in is moist, there will be a good bit of liquid that accumulates over time and this my friends, is known as (at least it is to me), the Holy Grail of plant feed- “Compost Tea.” Aka worm pee. Well, I am not really sure if worms pee, but theoretically, if dirt is worm poop, then the liquid is pee. See how sound my philosophy is??

There are lots more highly educated people who can probably explain this all better to you. I just thought I would give you the “Erica-fied” version of my understanding. Because that’s more fun to read. Ya know?

So, you might be wondering why I have any desire to have a colony of worms living in Rubbermaid containers in my laundry room, eh? Well. I had terrible luck this year with a traditional outdoor composting system. It was basically a pile of yard clippings, left over hay, and kitchen scraps. However, lots of nasty little creatures also enjoyed my pile. I had two major problems with my system. One, it took a long time for anything to break down and turn into soil before something came and “took over”. Herein lies my second problem, I had lots of…let’s just called them bugs so you don’t loose your lunch…take over. They made lots of babies in the soil that have been hibernating over the winter. So, if I were to use this soil in my garden, I would most likely be putting these BAD bug babies right into places where I am going to plant. We’re talking like tomato hornworm babies, cabbage lopers, cucumber beetles, etc. I ain’t like those in my garden. Now, to solve this problem, I COULD use my dreamy ducks or chickens to come nibble through the soil to eat all of these bug babies. That would be very handy. But alas, ducks are yet to get here. Boy they would have a feast though. Seriously, I’ve never seen so many creepies before. Ick!

Moving on…

So this concept of worm composting is attractive because it’s a little less prone to unwanted critters. Sure there are some other things that can get in there, but for the most part it’s a controlled environment. So, I am going to give it a whirl. Not to mention Lea is already smitten with the worms. She loves worms. Country kid.

So, here’s a couple of my worm set up pics. This is a highly unsophisticated system that cost me about $15 (including worms) total. There’s many other ways to do it…I just had these Rubbermaid’s already and used some shredded paper and Voila!

Photo Feb 27, 11 04 30 AM

Photo Feb 27, 11 04 44 AM

Photo Feb 26, 9 14 39 PM

If you want the details on how I constructed my bin, these are the instructions I used…

http://www.vermicompost.net/rubbermaid-worm-bin-plans/

I am also proud to say that I did it all myself. Not that I don’t love my husband helping, but there’s something that makes you feel powerful when you bust out a drill and chop saw. Ok…I’m alone again.

On a final note, I found my worms at a local bait shop. They are a tad different than I expected but after some research, I did reassure myself that they are the correct ones that I needed. So, I am happy about that! And I am sure I looked like a crazy person with my two kids, 9 month pregnant self, asking to buy a bunch of packages of red worms. Oh well.

Well, that’s that for now. I haven’t fed the little buddies yet, as I just got them nestled into their new home last night. Apparently I am supposed to wait a few days so they get themselves all nice and cozy before feeding them. I’ll let you know how it goes. 😉

In other news…

Here’s the latest look at my wheat growing! It made it through the winter and being covered in a foot of snow! I definitely need to try to plant “rows” next time instead of just scattering it, but it’s looking the same as the commercial wheat growing across the field. So, at least I am not totally off base! Here’s hoping it keeps going!

Photo Feb 27, 10 53 15 AM

Photo Feb 27, 10 53 22 AM

Alright, I’ll keep ya posted. Next time maybe our little farm boy will have arrived! Counting down the days now!!

Progress and Regress

Does it ever feel to anyone else that you take one step forward, only to be greeted with something that takes you a few steps backwards? Well, that’s life isn’t it?

It’s been a challenging few weeks around the MonroePost homestead.

After returning home from a funeral trip to Indiana we were greeted with a frozen well. The lessons you have to learn the hard way sometimes. After being without water for a day and a half, we finally got the water going again. We quickly insulated our wellhead and pipes to the well and went on our merry way. Until the following day when it happened again. Oops. Get out the hairdryer again and thaw the well. Whoops, we melted off all the insulation…re-insulate. Sigh. We’re good until the following weekend when we get a crazy snowapocalypse with 10in of show. We left the faucets running and everything, but apparently it wasn’t enough because we woke up yet again with no water. We had filled a bathtub with water “just in case” but we quickly learned that our bathtubs leaked and we didn’t have much left by the morning. Sigh again. Alex got a heat lamp and put that by the well. After about 8 hours of running the hair dryer and heat lamp on and off, miraculously we got water back. Thank the Lord! The moral of the story? Well, we are highly untrained country folk and have some serious learning to do. In the meantime, we keep the heat lamp on when temps drop below freezing and turn on multiple faucets. We are looking for a long term solution such as an insulated enclosure around the well, but we’re waiting for some warmer temps to do such project.

Want to see our snow!?!

Alas. We didn’t get power to Alex’s garage yet as that set us back a good bit with time and money!

On Baby Boy Monroe front, we determined that the only way possible to fit three car seats in my lovely Buick was to buy three new seats. After a week of researching, debating and measuring…we THINK we finally found the right seats. They are not here yet, but we are desperately praying they fit and work as we want. Cuz that was a crud ton of money dropped on them babies. My health is not fantastic, and while I won’t go into details about it all…we would love prayers for peace and wisdom as we navigate these last few weeks before lil man arrives!

So, to be honest with you, this has been a tough few months. Emotionally and financially. I am feeling a bit discouraged by it all since it means pushing off some of my “projects” for the year. Power to the garage and getting the ducks set up may take more time than we initially wanted. I am also not sure how I am going to manage to get a spring garden in as I have to be careful about how much stress I put on myself right now. So, that’s all feeling a little heavy on the plate right now.

On a happy note! I finished reading my first book on my “list”. Finished Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks! So now I am armed with knowledge, we have our coop and run plans pretty much set…now we just need a lumber fairy to drop some lumber off at our house. Haha!! 

We also were blessed to be able to trade Alex’s parents for a bigger freezer and free up some space in my utility room (we put the big freezer in the spare bedroom). So I can FINALLY get my worm composting bin set up-cuz it needed to go in the old freezer space! Hooray! I have my bins all ready, I am just on the lookout for some wigglies. I’ll do a post someday about my worm composting adventures.

So those are the exciting progresses, and I know that we will get through these tough times…as the Lord does always provide right when we need it. Thanks for letting me share my heart tonight. Sometimes it feels good just to get this stuff down on paper…err, screens. Or something like that.

Oh and hey by the way…we will be taking coffee orders soon, so if you got yourself the idea that you want some, let us know!!