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

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

Garden Planning

I got my first couple of loads of woodchips last week delivered to the property. I found the most excellent resource. There is a man with a tree biz about 6 miles down the road from us! He brought me two loads of chips and basically just charged me for the loading and delivery. I was doubly excited when he told me he had some composted chips. I was hoping to have had some raw chips delivered around January sometime to give them time to breakdown before the spring. However, as it was, the delays on the house have been brutal. But happy for us, he said he had some chips that had been composting for about 6-8 months. AKA- they are ready to be planted in.

For those not familiar with the woodchip method from the Back To Eden Film (which you can view FREE online), it is basically putting a layer of thick woodchips over your existing soil as a covering and planting directly into those. This method is also known to some as “permaculture.” There are some really cool videos on YouTube that show a man who started a project called “Greening the Desert” which is basically using permaculture method gardening to grow stuff that would otherwise never grow.  Anyways. Our neighbor was kind enough to emphasize how bad the soil was, although I am not convinced it is that bad as I saw earthworms when I was out there digging around. I typically use those as an indication of good or decent soil. Either way, using the woodchips should help irregardless of how bad the soil is. (It also can’t be THAT bad because we passed the perk test just fine…)

So here’s what I am thinking.

I think I will start with a garden about 10 x 40 feet. If the amount of woodchips that the guy delivered is correct (about 10 yards) then this should cover this area about 6 inches deep. I am not sure we are going to get this done in time for any spring crops, but I can certainly get my summer garden in on time. I am not really sure what I am going to try to grow first season but I know I am definitely going to do the basics.

  • Tomatoes
  • Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Melons
  • Lettuce

I would also love to plant some flowers because I am yearning for some beautiful arrangements on my kitchen table. Maybe sunflowers or some straw flowers. Ahhh yes.

I am looking forward to getting my hands into some soil.

Here’s the piles!!

 

Packing! Almost There!

The day is so close! We got word (shh, don’t tell yet!) that we might be closing by the end of this month! Woot! We are still in the midst of trying to figure out the water filtrating thing, but apparently that doesn’t have to be in place for the final inspection or closing. So that is nice. The only thing we are really waiting on is the power to be connected…they are waiting for a dry couple of days to handle that. So we are close!
I also got a call yesterday from the man who had the woodchips. He is going to deliver two loads of composted woodchips to the property this week. I am beyond excited about that. Who would have thought I would be ecstatic about woodchips! Ha! I was doing a happy dance.
We should know in the next few days what the power connecting plan is! In the meantime…packing.

 

Woodchips!

Sooo excited today as I was able to locate some WOODCHIPS! After watching the Back to Eden Film  (if you are a gardener or want to garden WATCH this). It so changed my life! Anyways, the method involved a thick layer of wood chips to plant crops in. I fully expected these woodchips to be hard to come by, but after a phone call to a tree company down the street from our new place, the man offered me 3 truckloads! All he would charge me was a delivery fee. Super stoked. As of right now the property is pretty much mud after all the wet weather we have been experiencing so delivery is going to have to wait a few days. After talking to the guy he even said that he had some composted woodchips on his property that he would be willing to give me. I am so happy to have found this connection. I feel like it is a total confirmation from God- that He is just looking out for me and leading me- ALWAYS providing what we need. Why do I ever doubt?

On another note, I talked to the builder today and they said that the house was moved to the foundation and in place. They were just having trouble getting to the house due to the mud. They were bringing in more sand and gravel to be able to get vehicle access! I haven’t driven out there yet to see what it looks like!

Things are getting closer and closer! I just pray for some good weather in the next couple of weeks so that they can finish the house!! My heart is overwhelmed and overjoyed by how much the Lord has provided for us. We are truly blessed. 

-Erica