Posts tagged ‘homesteading’

May 8, 2012

a series of truly random thoughts and confessions

1. in the past ten days i have learned all i ever wanted to know about trailer hitches, trailers, and the like.  we now own one, purchased for the purpose of hauling a lawn tractor back and forth to our farmette-to-be that now has grass growing knee-high.  post about said lawn tractor complete with a photo forthcoming.

2. if the weather holds, we should break ground on our farmette by the end of this month.  for this reason i have started packing up the scary upstairs: the place that started out as a cool sitting room we never used so it now houses anything we don’t know what to do with but do not want to pitch.  anything from mason jars to a tapestry wall hanging.  in order not to overwhelm myself, i pack two boxes a day.  well, i am supposed to.  i started this project a month ago and i have a total of…..thrrreee…boxes packed.  post about said boxes complete with a photo forthcoming.

3. i am now the proud owner of a kindle named emily.  i have gone from watching drivel on netflix to reading, a much more wholesome past time.  i even gave christian amish romance fiction a try…..and promptly gave it up.  it reads about as well as it sounds.   i have discovered the blogs/websites/fb pages that offer free kindle books by the virtual boatload.  i anxiously await their posts on a daily basis and have been known to download something stupid, something i know i will never read, simply for the thrill of getting something for free and watching its title magically appear on emily’s home page.   post about said kindle named emily complete with a photo forthcoming.

4. last weekend my husband and i taught ourselves to play canasta.  i won every hand.  i won playing with my deck of pink playing cards.  it was a blast.  i…don’t really plan to publish a post about canasta with photos.  sorry.

5. yesterday i went shopping for a spare tire for our new trailer.  i ended up at a ranch supply store and discovered a series of 3′ high metal troughs containing…………baby chicks!!! and baby turkeys, and baby geese, and baby ducks, and baby something elses i don’t at the moment recall.  i guess i should flaunt my limited knowledge of poultry and say that these were pullets being offered for sale (did i get that right?) but i’m still confused as to what it means when the sign says that they are “sexed”.  still need to read the how-to book but we need to read it pretty durn quick because i want me some chickens.  post about said chickens complete with numerous photos when we get them.

6. speaking of living things: our pond has turtles.  i discovered one in the grass last week when i was mowing, and in order to avoid a terrible accident, i picked him up and moved him to the edge of the pond to see what he would do.  he happily dove right on in.  we need a log, or a rock of some sort so the turtles can sun themselves and all be named appropriately.  would publish a post about said turtle complete with photo if only i could find him again…

random illustration for random post:

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April 26, 2012

portable property

even though we are tentatively planning on moving late this summer, i couldn’t bear the thought of a summer without tomatoes, which, if all goes as planned, would be  coming on just as we’re getting ready to leave.

i’ve heard through the grapevine that this could potentially be the summer for tomatoes.  the last two years in a row the weather here has been so hot, and the spider mites so bad, that few tomatoes were to be had. but this year, this year, could be… The Year.  and i don’t want to miss out.  i decided to plant them all in plastic buckets, so that, come time to move, we can bring them along.

i purchased a series of plastic five gallon buckets at lowe’s and husby drilled holes in the bottom  to allow for drainage.

           

i then loaded them up with soil, dug a little hole and added some egg shells for a calcium boost.  this was a little trick i learned  that helps eliminate blossom end rot.  it really does work.

           

i put in the plants,  labeled them….

           

set the cage around the plant, and placed them in the back of the yard where they should receive the needed 6-8 hours of sun a day.

in addition to one ancho pepper plant, i have two roma tomatoes, and four cherokee purples.  we decided to add some grape tomatoes, and i wanted to give something new and funky (for us at least) a try: a cream sausage tomato.

the buckets, along with all the other things i have in pots in preparation for the move, really make the yard look junkie, but, they are happily growing and i’m keeping my fingers crossed for homemade spaghetti sauce (the romas), and roasted tomato pie (the cherokee purples) prepared in our new kitchen late this summer.

April 23, 2012

with tuppence, for paper, and string…

…you can have your own set of wings

with your feet on the ground you’re a bird in flight…

with your fist holding tight…

to the string of your kite.

let’s go fly a kite

up to the highest height

let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring

up to the atmosphere, up where the air is clear,

oh let’s go fly a kite!

(can we go home already?)

February 24, 2012

land shopping part 1

i don’t remember the first time the idea of a farm hit.  one of the first that comes to mind was when we moved to our first home on a quarter of an acre.  we had such a big yard.  i could have chickens just like martha stewart.  we could have a huge garden.  i could put up our own food.  i could have a clothes line.  we’d live off the land.  how. cool.  but then, the home owners association was formed barring everything from chickens to clothes lines.  we also learned that we didn’t (at that time) really have the tools or skill to garden or landscape a yard of that size.  even if we had,  a septic  had been installed in such a way that the prime area for a large garden really couldn’t be used as such.   we also longed for the charm and character of an older home.

when we moved to our older home, i became a master gardener and refined my gardening skills.  my husband began to get involved with me, and in a few seasons we grew enough to supplement our grocery bill.  our tiny yard was slowly being taken over by our growing garden.  we also became more interested in our food, and loved the concept of a small, self-sustaining operation where the table was supplied with meat, milk, cheese, etc.  provided by livestock lovingly fed and cared for.

we would sit out on the back porch in the evenings and speculate.

what if?

maybe someday we’d have what i liked to call a charlotte’s web farm.  i’ve since learned it is called a hobby farm: a white clapboard house with a red gambrel roof barn housing chickens, goats, sheep, geese, ducks, a pig, and a cow.  add the token barn cat, and a sheep dog – picture perfect.

it was last fall that we decided it was time to  move and we began to wonder:  how realistic was “the place in the country”?  after some research, and scratching out some figures on paper, we were delighted to discover it was within reach.  our first step then  was to decide – how big?

we were so naive.

remembering how overwhelmed i felt when i tried to mow our quarter acre lot i decided that anything over three acres would be way too big.  i had also begun to read up on homesteading and noted that much could be done in a reasonably small area.  however we also wanted a place that felt secluded.  we didn’t really want any neighbors too close by.

we were invited by our realtor to come out and visit a five acre lot to get a feel for size.  we both imagined driving way out into the country, turning off onto a dirt road, and standing in the middle of a wheat field: the wind whipping through our hair, nary a soul to be seen for miles around.  we were shocked to find ourselves instead  in a neighborhood, houses on either side and across the street, the five acres just a very large lot in a nice development.  five may have been much larger than a quarter, but it wasn’t quite large enough to give the secluded feeling we were looking for.  7-10 acres was more like it.

now that we knew what size,  we needed to settle on a location.  since my husband travels frequently with his job, we didn’t want to be any further than half an hour from the airport.  it was suggested we take a look at a small agricultural community about twenty miles east of where we live.  one beautiful fall afternoon we went for a sunday drive and we loved what we saw.

it was small.

it  was quiet.

it was very unassuming.

we had seen an online listing for ten acres and a pond and set out to look for it.  after driving around for nearly two hours we never found it but we did decide that we liked the community and the location.  the gently rolling,  grassy stretches of sparsely populated  land were exactly what we had in mind.

however, in discussing all this with our realtor, it was suggested we look instead at another place about 20 miles north.  this particular area didn’t have the flat, grassy stretches .  it was more rocky and woodsy, but it was beautiful in its own way.   it had a larger town with a wal-mart super center, restaurants, a library, and park with a beautifully flat jogging trail.  in spite of how we felt about the small town we looked at first, we decided we should be practical and settle instead somewhere a bit closer to some amenities.  the fact that it was situated close to a lovely lake was a perk.

one afternoon, i found what i thought would be The Spot.

February 16, 2012

farmette? or homestead?

last friday we became first time land owners.  we now own ten acres in a very small farming community with a population of less than 1,800.  we’ve spent the past several months dreaming, scheming, scratching out figures, drawing up floor plans, researching,  land shopping, then land shopping again (we had one false start), and finally closing out on a place we absolutely love.

the desire we’ve had for some time was to have a place where we could have a large garden, a few fruit trees, and some small livestock; a place that would basically become self-sustaining.  i use the word “self-sustaining” loosely because to some self-sustaining means that one crafts one’s bricks from the dirt in one’s yard – then uses said bricks to build one’s house.  that isn’t at all what i mean.  i mean self-sustaining in the sense that one simply grows and produces the majority of one’s own food but still unashamedly uses the grocery store from time to time  for staples.

last year when asked about our plans for an acreage i described it as “ a sort of homestead” .  i said “sort of” because our scenario doesn’t really fit that of the typical homestead: about 2-5 acres with a garden and some small livestock.  at the same time i couldn’t really say we were planning a  farm because your average farm consists of several hundred acres and a series of out buildings.  i later picked up the term “farmette”.  not only did it describe our situation to a “t” , but  i loved the sound of the word.  wiki describes a farmette as “a small residential farm run by an owner who earns income from a source other than the farm. “  farmettes typically are no more than fifty acres,  and contain a garden and some small livestock.

our farmette will feature ten acres and a pond, a small simple “starter home”, a single outbuilding to serve as a shop and garage, a honkin’ big garden,  and some small livestock.  for the sake of not getting too overwhelmed, we’ve divided our plan into three phases.  phase one: the actual purchase of the land already being completed.

the second part of our plan is to now build  our home. we’re starting out small and temporary (most likely).   i see this as the modern day equivalent to the sod houses and log cabins of our pioneer ancestors.   i’ve found that in starting out on the land  it is common to use a travel trailer, a mobile home, or in some cases even a yurt as a temporary residence while the permanent home is being built.  but my husband and i are not good at roughing it.  we hate camping.  we must have heat.  we must have running water.  so we’ve decided instead to build a small barn,  influenced by the traditional red barns seen in a children’s story book; and fit it out as a cottage.  it will be very, very simple but i still plan to give it some style.  my decor has evolved over the years, starting out very colefax and fowler, to  williamsburg colonial, now to modernish vintage country chic (is there such a thing?).  my hope is that when we open the front door to our  new home for the first time our reaction will be “this is gorgeous! let’s just stay here!” instead of “omg.  what on earth have we done!?”  once we have the home built we’ll put our current little house on the market, and move.  we’ll do a lot of landscaping (i’m thinking native perennials) and put in a kitchen garden similar in size to what we have now.  then we’ll purchase three chickens.

phase three will be to establish a very large garden, large enough to provide the majority of our produce with enough left over to freeze and can.  we have also toyed with the idea of growing enough to someday enter the farmer’s market arena as a small business.  the garden phase  will also include some apple trees and blackberry bushes.  then, we’ll  purchase a few more chickens.

if i’ve learned anything since we’ve started acting on our  plan, it is that things never go according to the plan.  so i’m trying to keep it all loose and just go with the flow.  should however, things actually go as planned, they may look a little something like this:

~ increase the chicken flock to provide adequate eggs and meat

~ add some ducks and turkeys to the mix; maybe geese if they will be nice

~look into the possibility of taking on small ruminants (dairy goats and sheep)

~ train the sheep to graze picturesquely on the front lawn.  ::sigh:: ok maybe not.

~mmmmmaaybe…raise a pig or two so we can have bacon with the eggs

~plant millions of daffodils on the slope below the pond

~toy with the idea of a dairy cow

~contemplate bee keeping

~dig out the pond a little deeper and see what it would take to stock it

and finally:

~build a new-to-look-old-white clapboard farmhouse depending on how much we like our barn cottage and whether or not we decide we need or even want anything more than that.

i know we’ll be crazy busy.  i know it will be a lot of work.  i know it will be a tremendous challenge, but it is a challenge we welcome and we can’t wait to get started.

as for timing?  i really don’t know.  we plan to start as soon as we can but i’m sure we’ll encounter some snags and delays along the way.   again, i plan to just try and go with the flow and in the words of tim gunn “make it work” regardless of what happens.

February 13, 2012

new experiences

this morning i am preparing to call someone about hay.

this is a new experience for me.  i have never discussed hay with anyone in all my life.

until we closed on our property last friday, i didn’t even know it grew hay. it does however, and while we were passing the paperwork back and forth to sign, the seller’s broker presented a small slip of paper containing only a first name, and phone number, and told me  that this fella lived about five miles south of us  (or was it north?).

he is the hay man, apparently, and has been cutting the  hay on our acreage for some time now. the seller and her broker assumed i knew all about hay, how it was mowed, when it was mowed,  how cutters of hay deal in their services and product.  i just nodded dumbly.  “yes, of course, the hay.  we were wondering about that…”

so this morning i am going to give him a call.  i was informed that this call needed to be made soon because at some point something will need to be done with the hay, some sort of spraying schedule or something like that, which has this organic gardener somewhat alarmed; but for the present, i’m letting it go.  i’ve more important things to worry about, such as the orientation of the window above my kitchen sink.

marco and i went out yesterday to evaluate the lay of the land and try to decide how things should be situated.  i spent a good deal of time standing where i hope the sink will go, looking at the view, and deciding if this is exactly where i want to gaze while scrubbing pans.

while surveying the barbed wire fence, i grabbed a switch of something wondering if perhaps this was the hay.   i decided to use it while shopping for paint chips and thought how it would be lovely to tell folks, “yes i had the dining room paint tinted to match the color of our hay”,  as if i was born and bred on hay making.

for all i know it may just be some sort of weed.  i hope the hay man is kind and patient enough to give me the education i am going to need.

February 10, 2012

the start of a new chapter

marco’s and my new year’s gift to each other; a bit belated due to one false start but arriving just in time for valentine’s day:

as of 11:00 am this morning, she’s ours.

all ours.

all ten acres and the pond.

>cue theme from little house on the prairie<

we’re gonna homestead folks (although i prefer to say we’re going to build a “farmette”).

come this summer or thereabouts, should all go well and  go as planned, a small farm town in ok. will increase its population from 1,788 to 1,790.

surprised?  so are we.

thought we were settled into our little house never, ever to move again? so did we.

struggling to see us as bona fide country folk? ummm….think a little harder..we do have a garden and i’ve been yakking on and on about chickens and such for the past several years.

there is a story behind it all and one that will eventually be told;  a method to my madness as well as a vision for this beautiful spot we plan to call home,  but for now let me just say…

we’re absolutely ecstatic.