Dorothy was so right…”there’s no place like home”

We had a wonderful time with our family, out west. There is just nothing like holding your child’s newborn.  New Mommies are amazing, and the love affair between a new Mom and her infant is such a beautiful thing to be near. Spending time with their family and being part of this first week with their new son made for a very special week.

All that said, the farm was missed, and was such a welcome site after a week away.

Every single day is beautiful here, but each in its own way. The farm is so woven into my fiber that a week away leaves a small hole within me that can’t be mended till I’m wrapped in it when I return home.  Our first day back, each twig, leaf and pine needle was robed in glass, a beautiful gift for our viewing. This walk was was a cold one but felt alive and crisp, even with the constant cool misty rain that was falling.

Today  I will be getting my set up ready for starting seeds. I am excited to finally tackle this. I’ve always relied on my neighbor who often sells garden starts that he raises in his greenhouse. They are hardy and beautiful plants that give me such a reliable start for my garden. I generally trade him meat for these plants, but I’m trying to do things in a little bit more sustainable way each year, so I’ve decided I have to get over my fear that my starts won’t be hardy enough and the garden will suffer. Looking forward to learning from this and adding a new fold in our farmigami, if you will.

When I read lists of how to live in a sustainable way, I know we are getting there but there is always more to learn! Here is some of what we have achieved…

  • Grow and preserve vegetables and fruits
  • increase our fruits, by experimenting on a small scale (elderberry, blueberry, blackberry, grapes, red currant, plum, goji)
  • Raising Shiitake mushrooms
  • successful Winter tunnel for growing greens
  • Raising chicken for eggs (and meat)
  • Raise livestock for us and our farm biz (grass fed Highland cattle, Heritage breed, pastured pork, Heritage breed chickens)
  • Wildcrafting food from the farm
  • Trade/barter for what we don’t have
  • Cultivate new skills (can, ferment, dehydrate)
  • Making herbal meds (in the learning process)
  • selling our meat cuts, veggies and eggs, through our farm business (working on getting the word out to increase sales)

What we are working on or towards…

  • Saving seed for starting plants (hope to start at the end of this growing season)
  • starting an herbal medicine garden
  • Raise our own chicks (this one is a bit farther out, since we have never kept roosters past butchering day, here)
  • Learning to use our newly built smoker (hubby and SIL smoked some delicious cheese in it for a test run)
  • Hunt deer, rabbit, turkey – will be our first time hunting. We will start slowly with Spring Turkey hunt if we are able to get a tag for this hunt – they are hard to get.
  • Starting a very small “Farm Basket” type CSA, for a handful of local families, to help support the farm (grass fed beef, pastured pork, eggs, mushrooms, garden food, and herbs)
  • Work towards providing our own power (someday, unfortunately this one way is way farther out).

It is good for me to look at these lists this way, so I know where we have come from and what we are going towards. As the title, of this blog says, we are “incrementally stepping towards homesteading”.

Sometimes it takes extra hands and heart

February came in like a very muddy Lamb. Our driveway is squishy and sloppy, the chicken eggs are muddy, and the cattle are excited by the warm temperatures but are wondering where the beautiful Spring green grass is that usually accompanies these warm temps. I don’t know where Winter went, it is mid February and I am not ready to give it up! Still hoping for more cool temps and even snow. It is just too soon for Spring yet. The buds on the fruit trees are going to get all confused and I don’t want it affecting our harvests, this Summer and Fall! Despite the fact that it is currently 60 degrees at home right now, while we are out of town meeting our new grandson, and that it will be in the 30s and 40s all this current week, when we return, this was the scene just two weeks ago… 

All this crazy weather that we are having doesn’t change the fact that Spring planning is top of the list these days. There are Shiitake logs to inoculate, seeds to pick out and start indoors, picking out chickens and figuring out where to find more garden space to accommodate us even better this year than last. I reviewed some of last years notes and am focusing on more quantities of what we need/want for the year of food, rather than on the unusual or trial items. I would like to grow enough potatoes, carrots, onions and squashes. I have to read up on how to keep my kale, collards, brussels sprouts, cabbage and broccoli safe, since I had a bad bout with bugs last year and lost a lot of these veggies. Last year apart from the veggies mentioned, we had a great garden, with loads of beans, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, onions, basil, thyme, cilantro, parsley, potatoes and more. We had so many cucumbers that we still have fermented dill pickles in the fridge from last Summer!

While I am thinking about this, I am also looking back to last year. At this time last year it was a difficult time with Mom so ill. My family was wonderful. While I was frequently out of town, for a week at a time, over the course of most of last year, they picked up the pieces. They tapped the trees when I was out of town in February and March and foraged for Pheasant Back Mushrooms, and Morels in late Spring. As Summer came they made sure not one sour cherry went to waste and while the green beans went crazy in late June, my daughter was freezing them as fast as she could. Sometimes it takes more hands to get things done, and I felt the love deeply as I saw how they honored the homestead and my hopes and pulled together to get things done. Last year was a long year. It was difficult, and it was life changing. It cultivated new depths to relationships as we all worked though it together with Mom. This is the first year that I can’t tell Mom about my Spring plans, Summer harvests, and Fall pig butchering, she loved listening to all of it. Sigh. She is so missed.

In other news, I attended the Garden Show recently and learned some details about Straw bale gardening. We will experiment with this. It seems that if you follow the prescribed method you can’t really go wrong. Well that’s what they said anyhow. I am not ready to invest my whole garden in the method, but think I will start with the Dragon Tongue bush beans. I don’t like putting bush beans in the garden because they use up so much space. This is why all other beans I do are pole beans, but we do love the dragon tongues. Pole beans require much less squatting while picking too! Oh and on an amusing note, I will grow mostly yellow beans, I decided the green are too hard to find and the yellow ones stand out so nicely in the green foliage. Hmmm, less squatting…easier to find…seems like someone is accommodating the garden to their age, lol!

I hear often from people, who find out that we do not buy much at the store… “don’t you get bored of the same food all the time?” We have freezers full of pork, and beef, all the eggs we can eat, some senior hens that will be stew birds soon, and a large variety of garden produce, cider and juice and neighbors that are always willing to barter. As I put this dinner on the table I thought, nope, we never get bored

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This pizza was called “roll with the punches pizza”…

I prepped all these great foods from the freezer for pizza, and hydrated the mushrooms (the mushroom broth from hydrating them went into beef soup the next day). I was well prepared to make these pizzas.

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The dough was perfect and so I got started. Suddenly, i realized that each time I looked at the oven it kept saying 100 degrees. It took me a minute but I finally got it that the oven just wasn’t working. I was just way too prepared for these pizzas and I was not going to give up! I decided that I would try cooking the pizza dough in my cast iron pan on the stove top and then put on the toppings and slide it under the broiler because although I couldn’t bake , it still worked to broil.

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The pizzas turned out so well that I might just do it again this way!

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The next snowy morning this was breakfast. No there is no boredom here, and it is for a couple of reasons. One reason is because we have so much food here, and because there is such satisfaction in the fact that it, for the most part, is all our food…food that we gathered, grew, raised, prepared, froze, dried, or preserved in other ways. It is an amazing feeling.