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).

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…

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!

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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!!

Frost Kills

Welp. It happened. Our first frost. Never really did understand the implications of that. I mean I have watched some movies where farmers all start freaking out when it comes to early frosts…but now, I get to experience it. Wow, crazy! It really does make a big difference.

I got the “Frost Warning” on my phone weather app last week (I don’t remember the day).  Knowing that it can be a big deal I started thinking about what I needed to do. My only thought was to bring in my Meyer Lemon tree…and boy am I happy I did that. I also thought about my wheat and prayed that it had had enough time to grow roots that could sustain a frost. Wheat is a winter crop, but I had read it needs at least 2-3 weeks before a frost to set firm. I thought I was totally covered being that the normal first frost date for our area is like the second week of November. Bah, guess you can’t trust the old almanac after all. Not much I could do though as I had nothing to cover my wheat with. I just prayed.

Well, early next morning I scurried out to check on my wheat and it was totally fine. Praise ya Lord! Then I turned and looked at my garden and remembered my basil plant. Oh sadness. And my peppers…oh sadness. They aren’t kidding are they? Frost Kills. You know that lovely big bowl of basil I picked the other day? Well, I am so glad I did that because I lost it all! I could have cut more of it off, but again I thought I had a little more time! Oh well, I did get that last big bowl of it. It so sad to see something so beautiful one day and literally overnight die. Wow, I had no idea. My peppers were doing AWESOME and I was getting great yields from them. But alas, they did not survive. I was able to pick off the peppers that we on the plant and some of the larger ones are ok, most of the small ones shrived up and turned brown and squishy. Frost Kills.

Dead Basil
Hard to Tell…but a shrived up cherry tomato plant.

So, there is my saga. My lesson learned. Had I been more prepared, I may have been able to cover these crops with some insulating material to protect them for  few more weeks. But I didn’t think about it nor did I have anything I could use. Plastic wrap?? Nevertheless, I am more than thankful for the bounty of basil this season, the peppers, the few tomatoes, and all the other things that were a learning experience.

Green Pepper Harvest

And…my lettuce is doing fine as it likes the chilly. Weird how some plants love it, others just keel over and die. Why is that?

I am thankful for harvest time and all that it brings. Here’s a couple of my favorite.

Pumpkin Picking!
Hay Rides with Stud Man.

So. Moral of my story is: Don’t joke the frosts. They are serious killers. (I am sure they killed some bad bugs too…so look on the bright side right?). Till next year my sweet basil. Good bye.

Wheat Week 1 and a Few Garden Goodies

Since I know you all think I am mostly crazy, I thought I would share my journey of growing wheat with you. I know…just what you care to read first thing in the morning. Haha.

Oh well.

We were gone for this past weekend and I was anxious to get home to check on my wheat to see how it was doing. We got home and and it was pitch black night, so I had to wait until the morning. Mornings haven’t been as glorious around here since the whole “it’s still dark outside when I have to wake up” time of year is here. I personally hate that. We should all awake when the sun comes up. Also, the fog has been so heavy lately, I haven’t seen a sunrise in a few weeks. Sigh. At least that was one of the beautiful things to look forward to in waking up before God created us to. (That’s my two cents at least!). There is still coffee…unless like this week, we ran out. It’s been a rough couple of days. Do you hear me? No coffee, no sunrises. Cold feet. Headaches. Cranky kids.

We were suppose to be talking about wheat. Oh yah. So, yesterday as soon as the sun did finally find it’s place high in the sky making our backyard less freaky (because who likes to walk out in the dark fog? Nah me) I went out and checked on the wheat. Oh goody goody gum drops its growing! The blades of wheat were wet with little droplets of dew and the air smelled of country freshness. Alright, I’ll admit I wrote that last line just to make sure you were still following…and to make sure you were fully convinced of my nuttiness. Either way, it’s looking great! I am happy! There are a few bare patches that I might go back and re-seed but overall, I think we’re looking good. I need to get a bale of hay and cover this wheat to help protect it from the coming winter. Anyone want to bring me a bale of hay? I am imagining strapping that onto the top of my granny car. Hilarious. Like the time I picked up compost in Rubbermaid containers and put them in my trunk. Classic.

Anyways, here’s your photos for the day.

Wheat Week 1
Wheat Week 1

And now for a few garden goodies…

Garlic Shoot
Garlic Shoot!
Lettuce Almost Ready for Harvesting!
Big bowl of basil for dehydrating! Still coming!

Stay tuned!!

Planting the Wheat and Garlic

I kinda laughed out loud just typing that title. When Alex and I first got married 6 years ago (in 4 days), I never had in my mind to make bread. Let alone grow wheat. I was probably in that mindset of some thinking “I didn’t even know you COULD grow wheat.” Our lives have changed a lot. Our priorities, dreams and goals are way different than they were when we got married. I am not sure I would even be friends with my “old self.” We are just too different. Hahah. I am sure a lot of us feel that way.

But alas, we have embraced the country life. The slowed down, not too many commitments kind of life. As we have mentioned many times on this blog, one of our goals in moving to the country (and buying 5 acres) was moving towards self-sufficiency. No, we may not ever reach full self-sufficiency because of some challenges that we face. Nevertheless, in the ways that I can reach it, bodiggidy I am going to try. One of those slightly crazy ideas is growing our own wheat and cereal grains (like rye, oats, barley, etc). In order to ever be able to do it large scale we will need a significant amount of tools and or machinery. Girl aint cutting down an acre of wheat with some garden snips. However, as it has been with everything else…before I dream big, I need to act practically. Baby steps and experiments this year, remember?

So. As it is, Alex went out with his shovel and rake and hand tilled me a plot of land about 12×18 ft for our “experiment” wheat growing. I ordered 5lbs of Hard Red Winter Wheat (as all I currently had in the kitchen was Spring Wheat). Thankfully, it had been raining for 4 days prior to our digging, so it was much easier than trying to do it on a dry week. Our soil is in pretty sad condition. We did not want to plant the wheat in our garden bed because it wouldn’t be ready for harvest until next July sometime. I didn’t want to take up space in my Spring bed with an experimental crop. After Alex tilled, I hand broadcasted about 2 1/2 lbs of the wheat. I really have no idea how much I should have used I just eye-balled it. I raked the seeds in a 1/2in to an inch deep. And it kept raining…so no watering for me! Yay! This was last Saturday. I went and checked on the wheat today, and I am happy to say that IT SPROUTED! Which means it germinated and is GROWING. Can I get a hallelujah!? I was half expecting to look out the window and see millions of birds feasting on all my seeds, but I haven’t seen that YET! So lets hope they don’t get a clue…or I might loose my precious wheat.

Wheat Plot
Wheat Seeds Sprouting!

Apparently…now, I am not a gardener…yet. But wheat will grow 30-50 times its original quantity. So like, if I planted one pound, I could get up to 50lbs back! Well, I planted just over 2 lbs and I will be thrilled to DEATH if I get 50lbs. Ok, I hope I don’t die, but I might cry. Happy sobs. And in case you are wondering…winter wheat is planted a few weeks before the first frost is expected. It gets a head start on growing, then you cover it for the winter and it sits dormant through the winter. Then, when the first warmth of spring comes it pops back awake and keeps on growing. As said above, harvest time is usually mid June-July.

When we bought the house, all the fields around us were planted with wheat. It was so awesome to watch it grow and mature. Granted, I don’t think I would actually eat the wheat they plant across the street from our house…it is a beautiful thing to watch grow. Near harvest time it gets very dried out and sways in the breeze. Hard to describe the sound, but dry wheat blowing in the breeze is a lovely, lovely sound. I’d say its as beautiful as hearing ocean waves. Sometimes it even sounds like that.

I’ll keep you posted on the wheat plot journey. And then, hopefully next Summer you can come over for some freshly baked bread. Ha. So let’s review. 6 years ago Erica bought white bread. 4 years ago, Erica started buying wheat bread. 3 years ago Erica started making bread occasionally. 2 years ago Erica really got nuts and started grinding her own grain from whole wheat berries and making bread. 1 year ago Erica started dreaming of growing wheat to grind to bake bread. Present day, Erica planted wheat to grow to cut, thresh, winnow, dry, grind, knead, bake and finally EAT a HOMEGROWN loaf of bread. Told ya, I’ve lost it!

In other breadish news…I finally sent off for a new sourdough starter. Praying I keep this one alive. I have missed Emily Elizabeth so much. My first love. I hope it will do better during the cooler months and when the dang fruit fly population has died off. Then, next summer I will try to do the refrigerator thing. More on that next summer, ok? For now…Say a little prayer for meee.

And in other news…Lea and I just got done planting a few rows of garlic. Dude, had I known growing stuff like garlic was so easy…well, at least the ACT of planting is easy…growing, we will have to see. You just literally take a head of garlic and break it into individual cloves and then plant those cloves. Each clove will yield a head of garlic. Shhweeet. Now, I learned a lesson that most garlic you get from the store is treated with an anti-sprouting agent, so basically they won’t grow a green leaf out of your garlic container. Not sure exactly why that would be bad, but…it is. So, now I know and I won’t be buying garlic from the store unless its organic (cuz they can’t spray organic ones). I was able to find some organic garlic and I put a clove in a little wet towel for a few days to make sure it sprouted and sure enough it did! Yay. So Lea and I dug two trenches and planted about 36 cloves of garlic. Then we covered it with a couple inches of good composted woodchips and soil . Those babies will sprout (hopefully!) and grow a few inches before the frosts come, then like the wheat, they will just hang out until Spring until they start growing again for a late summer harvest. I’m excited and have high hopes for these babies. I mean, I spent a total of $2 on 4 heads of organic garlic and a whopping $5 on wheat seeds. So my investments are small right now. We planted the garlic in what will be the apple orchard because garlic and onions planted near fruit trees are EXCELLENT pest deterrents. Guess the bugs don’t like Italian food. Ok, not funny…I know.

Garlic Clove
Garlic Clove
Lea planting garlic!
Lea planting garlic!

Welp, ill wrap it up here. Lea wants my help folding a pile of laundry. She loves folding laundry. What a kid…oh and El just woke from a nap. So, quiet mommy time=OVER.

See you soon!

Fall Garden and Spring Planning

Alex and I have done some back-breaking, brow-sweating work these past couple of weekends trying to get the spring garden bed in place. We choose to create a new garden bed in a place more conveniently located behind the house. We got two loads of beautiful, black, compost which we laid on top of newspaper. We then covered the compost with our lovely woodchips, about 6 inches deep. We plan to get some manure and sprinkle that on top and let the bed rest until spring. Many have questioned our “No-Till” gardening method, and while I am very new to it all, I genuinely feel like this is how we are going to heal this land. There are some great articles online that talk about this no-till philosophy and permaculture.  Anyways, not to bore you. Someday, when I am more skilled I will post a more informative post on that!

In the meantime, we built an 18 x 30 ft garden bed, which ends up about 540 square feet. This is more than double what we did this year! So, I am excited about that. Obviously, in comparison to the land, this is still a very small bed but it took over 10 hours of work just to get that. Any bigger and we’re going to need some serious equipment. Not to mention all this while pregnant! I am pretty sure this baby is coming out with a pitchfork in hand! Lol!

photo 3 (22)Here’s the progress..as you can see the difference between compost and woodchips.

photo 5 (5)Elyse is checking out the new garden! Kids love this!

photo 2 (30)Good rich earth. Man, I love the smell of it! So excited for next spring!

In my current garden, I harvested all of the sweet potatoes last week. I am not sure exactly how many I got, but my guess is around 30-40 pounds. Not entirely sure. I’d say it was worth the 6 dollars I spent on the plant slips!

My tomato plants are still producing, but most of the tomatoes are only turning slightly orangish- not getting to red. If I put them on the counter they turn redder over the week. So, overall guess the tomatoes weren’t a total flop. I’ve got some lettuce planted and it is growing very nicely. I also have some collards, but they don’t seem to be taking off as much. Hmm. They’re not dead yet though! Let’s see what else. Oh! I have a couple of snap pea plants that are doing well. I am sad that I literally only have like 4 plants of those growing, but oh well. This weather has been very confusing for plants lately.

photo 4 (9)So overall, with this last years garden, I am not thrilled with the results but I am not entirely disappointed. I got some great harvests of some things, like my sweet potatoes and squash. The pest issue was pretty significant and I need to come up with some better ways to help with that. I plan to be much more intentional with companion planting and using herbs and flowers in the garden next year. Hopefully, that will help some.

So what’s next for the MonroePost homestead? I am not sure exactly what’s in the lineup next but here’s a few projects we’re eyeing and trying to budget for!

  • Power to Alex’s garage
  • Finish garage organization
  • Build chicken/duck coop
  • Build a more sophisticated compost pile
  • Start a vermicompost system
  • Prepare old garden bed area to become the small orchard in the spring

We will keep you posted!

6 Month Check Point

I’ve been so busy these past few weeks trying to make the most of this fall weather that I have neglected the blog a bit lately. There is so much to write about but I can’t ever pick what I actually want to sit down and type out. So my posts end up being a conglomerate of my brain spilled out over this lovely white screen. Thanks for loving me through my inability to choose a specific topic. 😉

We have officially been country dwellers for 6 months now. It’s good, but I think we are definitely past the honeymoon period and have settled into a contended “this is how it is”  life. Life is just harder now. It’s a good thing and I would not go back, but some days I feel the weight a little heavier than others. I have been more challenged in my beliefs, mindset, and physical body than I have ever been before. The lessons I am learning are so valuable to me, but as I have written about before…sometimes I just wish something was easy. Lately I have been wrestling with the idea of how to be content with where we are when I now have the potential to be and have so much more. Let me explain. God blessed us immensely with this 5 acres. We had not a clue how to do anything with it, yet we knew the potential that was now within reach. Whereas before, I really couldn’t have the potential for more than a  few tomato plants. Now, I have the potential to grow 5 acres of whatever crop I wanted! There’s so much potential in that. My brain gets dreamy and starts thinking about CSA’s or an organic apple orchard, or any number of things that could help us be sustainable yet profitable. It’s within reach…yet so far out of my reach. So I start with a tiny garden of a few tomatoes, a few squash, a row of sweet potatoes, etc…But then I look at how much more I have that I haven’t used yet!  So then I feel like I need more! More garden! More trees! More knowledge! Nevertheless, it all costs money. Money has to be spent intentionally these days. It has to stretch a lot further than it ever has before. So, all that to say that there are days where I am disappointed I don’t really know how to garden or raise chickens or prune trees. More often than not however, on those days I look at pictures of when we first moved in and I am seriously amazed with how far we have come in a short period of time. I guess I kinda expected things to just be easier or simpler. Yet, I am not giving up. I am in for the challenge and I am learning. Growth was never not a painful experience.

So as I have said before, this year is the year of trial and error. Learning, failing, learning more. It’s a big experiment. We will always be trialing through new things. It does give me a renewed sense of hope and of pursuit because at least I know I am trying. I am doing something…no longer just wishing and dreaming. Like our Pastor re-iterated last Sunday. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” We have been taking a lot of single steps. My prayer is that each year my steps will double. Next year the garden will give double, I will plant double the amount of flowers and trees, I will preserve double the amount of this year. My joy will double, my heart will double. (My family will not however…just one baby in there alright folks!) This is thrilling. Because then the next year, I will pray to double the previous year. Wow, won’t take long to grow. 

Yawn. Well that was kinda heavy. My eyes are starting to fall. I’ll wrap up here with a few of my latest steps in my journey.

-Got 1/2 of the new garden in place. Picked up a yard of compost last weekend and put that down before the woodchips. Working on getting some manure to spread on top and let it sit for the season. We are planning to get another load of compost this weekend and do the same. The garden will be a bit bigger than my initial one we had this summer. We are going to use the “old” garden to start our fruit tree orchard in the spring. The new garden location is much more conveniently placed for access from house as well as future irrigation plans.

-I canned some applesauce and apple butter. Not a lot-about 25lbs of apples worth, but I wanted to practice canning more and get the hang of that. So, I’m happy about that! It’s just the beginning of apple season so I am really hoping to be able to get some more apples and can more…because there is no greater joy for me than seeing a shelf of home canned goods. Holy smokes. They are not kidding, those homesteaders. We get a feeevverrr. 

-Windows have been open for a few weeks now, I seriously cannot get enough enjoyment out of the cool breeze that passes through the house. I am looking forward to the reprieve on this month’s energy bill. Can I get a hallelujah? Seriously. It could be this weather most of the year long and I would be a happy camper. Yep. A few hot days for beach please, and then this nice beautifulness.

-Finally, I just want to say Thank You to my Jesus, because every.single.day. I am awestruck in the beauty of creation. I am so mourning that I have not noticed these things ever before so profoundly. The sunrises, sunsets, stars, wildlife, etc. Something will literally stop me in my tracks every day and make me go “wow.” The sunrises literally make my heart race…they are so beautiful, I just wish I could call everyone I know and say, “come down here, quickly, you HAVE to see this.” No photo will ever do, but I really hope I am blessed someday with an incredible camera to capture even a sliver of this beauty. Holy cow.  Haha. So what I am really saying, is everyone needs to come pitch a tent here and experience this. Whoa yeah, you’ll be changed.

Good night ya’ll. 😉

-Erica