Sunday, June 27, 2010

Homesteading from the Ground Up

When my husband first bought this land...before we was five acres of wooded wild. :)   He had a driveway cut down through the trees, and had about a half to three-fourths of an acre cleared off to put a home.  Two creeks wind their way across the property.  A culvert was put in to enable the driveway to cross the first creek.

I'm telling you this to tell you that we did not buy a ready made farm.  There was no pasture, no barn, no orchard, no fencing, no outbuildings....nothing.  When we got married, we started with a single wide and that was it.

Four years after we got married, Darren built a shed.  A small one ...out of odds and ends.  A short time later, he had gone to get a part for a lawnmower, and came home with two chickens.  I'm not sure exactly when we planted our first tiny garden, but I figure it was around this time.  And thus....began the making of our little homesteading venture.

Thirteen years after our marriage, we have moved out of the single wide (we have remained on the same land)  and we've been blessed with four beautiful children.

We now have around twenty chickens, two rabbits, five goats....and three kittens.  We have planted six apple trees, one pear tree, four blueberry bushes, one blackberry bush (in addition to the numerous wild blackberry bushes that grow with no help from us), and  two grapevines. 

Two medium sized gardens have been planted...  these have involved a lot of work.  When the land was cleared, the little bit of topsoil that was there, was scrapped off.  Our soil is very rocky and very much red clay. ...not very conducive to gardening.  Over the years, we've tossed rocks ...added compost (from our compost bins) ...added manure.....added leaves....added fertilizer...and added a lot of sweat, tears, and muttered oaths.  On a "normal" piece of land with good soil, we would not have had to expend near this much energy just getting things to grow.

In the beginning, the little shed was in the backyard, adjacent to the chicken coop.  There was also a clothesline...which I love having, by the way.  Love the smell of fresh, line dried sheets and clothing. However, the shed was moved farther back into the woods, and the clothesline was taken down ... to make room for the barn that was just completed.  We have yet to put up another clothesline...  we are running out of cleared land...  :)

The shed that was once a shed, we are planning to turn into a shelter for the goats.  At the moment, they sleep under a truck bed camper cover....I know, I know...that is lacking in true "homesteading" fashion, but you gotta do what you gotta do.  That's the thing about starting a farm from the ground up...  there are so many things to be change your grow.... you move things around...  you decide there's a better way to do it...  you "wish" you would've put something in a different place but you just have to go with it sometimes.  It is a constant educational process and a constant progression of thought and decision.  And if we want more land cleared, it's a lot of work.  Seems like there's always so much work to do right now.  I imagine at some point in the future, when all the shelters have been made, and all the land cleared that we want cleared, and all the fencing put up that needs be... *then* it will shift over into maintenance and an occasional addition as we see fit or desire.  But until that point, I reckon it's just going to be work.

Currently, we are thinking about where we could conceivably put another garden spot....where the soil is good...  course you know the soil is better on the land that hasn't been cleared.... the land with all the trees...  yeah...we're going to chew on that one for a bit.......  :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's Bean Picking Time Again....

We had planned to pick our first harvest of green beans on Saturday.  We have two rows of bush beans, and two rows of 1/2 runners.  Every year when we plant, without fail, I say, "Let's plant some bush beans.  I really like to pick bush beans and they put on so well."  Every year.  And every year, after I've picked till the small of my back is screaming and my hamstrings are so tight they could play banjo in a bluegrass group, I say, "Let's do all 1/2 runners next year."....   Don't ask me why....I can't answer.  Perhaps I am a glutton for punishment??

Anyway, so Saturday morning, Darren had to work.  Hmmmm....funny how that worked out that way...  Okay, okay, I'm just kidding...  I know he *really* had to.  :)   So, I waited till about 10 am to start picking...because I am not a morning person...I like to piddle around in the morning... drink some cappuccino with creamer.... play on the computer... but once I get started, I'm good to go, make no mistake. 

Having had my cappuccino, I made my way outside, energized, and ready to pick.  I decided to start with the bush those while I was fresh and save the 1/2 runners for when I knew my back would be hurting.  As I began picking beans on the first row (which are 50 some feet long), I was in high spirits.  Isaac was "helping" me.  The questions flew out of his mouth like the bees buzzing by my head..... "Mom, what are you doing?"  "Mom, where is a bean?"  "Mom, where's my bucket?"  "Mom, what can I do?"  and from the opposite end of the row, "Mom!  I can't get to you!"  "Mom!  Will you get me?"  Finally, he got lost somewhere on the other side of the 1/2 runners tangled up in an okra plant that was enveloped in a pumpkin vine....  he decided to just stand still, cry, and wait to be rescued from the clutches of the garden plants. After this, he decided to go in the house and I got down to business.  If you've never picked beans before, especially the bush variety, you cannot totally appreciate the way the small of my back was starting to scream and burn in protest by the end of the row...seriously.  The plants were practically lying on the ground, so in order to pick them, you are pretty much standing on your head.   It was starting to really heat up outside too... not that I mind sirree...  as a matter of fact, I purposely waited a bit to start because I figured if you have to work in the garden and sweat anyway, shouldn't you get that added benefit of a tan??  :)

I was in such high spirits in the beginning of that first row...  I was answering Isaac's questions, laughing...  you know...just enjoying life in general and my time in the garden.  After about 75 ft... (meaning I was in the middle of the second row for those of you who struggle with math as I do...), my good mood evaporated with the rising sun...   Trouble was, my hamstrings were all knotty....and my back was hurting...  :D ....  so, Jacob comes outside asking for lunch... HELLO?!?!?!  Can't anyone see that mom is out in the garden working??  LOL.....   I managed to finish the second row of bush beans ...  I may have sat down and picked a time or two.... maybe....I'm not admitting anything for certain.  I say "picked"....let me fill you in on a little something about Tenderette bush beans, okay??  Those dang beans hold on to the plant for dear life.  I am not kidding.  Other beans the 1/2 just gently pluck and it comes off in your hand.  Not the Tenderettes.  You grasp, you pluck...and then you pull...and then sometimes the plant comes up ...Well, maybe I did that one or two times on purpose...Oops!  Guess I won't be able to pick any more beans from *that* plant....  :D

Anyway, I picked about 12 gallons of beans from those first two rows and decided to come in and fix the kids lunch.  Here's a picture of the first 12 gallons:

 Darren came home and we went outside and proceeded to pick beans from the two remaining rows of green beans...the Mountaineer 1/2 runners... which are soooo much easier to pick.  :)  We got a total of 8 gallons from those...which you can see here:

Wow!  Guess what we spent the rest of the weekend doing?  You guessed it!  We sat around and drank sweet tea and watched movies.....Yeah, okay...really, we snapped, strung, and canned 49 quarts of green beans.  28 of those were regular and 21 were dilly beans.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Laughter **

I love the way kids laugh with abandon...seriously love it!!  I hope she always finds this much joy in life...  <3

Mini "Darthin" Vader

My little 2 year old Isaac in the cape I made for Jacob....he is pretending to be Darth Vader...only he stomps around and says in a ferocious voice, "Dar-thin' Vader, Dar-thin' Vader"....  :D

Food From the Compost Pile

Ok...I might as well go ahead and admit something to you....  I probably never would have made it as a die hard mountain woman. makes me cringe to say that.  I could if I really wanted to.  I mean, you can do anything you put your mind to, right??  Providing you really have the desire ...  course maybe talent plays into that as well.  But if you don't have talent, you could always learn skill...  For crying out loud...let me get back to the post at hand...  (which reminds me of something funny I read recently:  "I suffer from ADOS, which is, Attention Deficit Ohhhhh! Shiny!!  - chuckle...  ahem.... back on topic)  Anyway, the reason I said I probably would have never made it as a die hard mountain woman is because I have these notions about food.  If it looks even slightly weird, off color, close to expiring, off flavor, nearing overly ripe, etc...I cannot eat it. Take for instance, bananas.  When they start getting slightly brown and soft, I can no longer stomach them.  My husband declares that this is when they are in their prime...and most flavorful...well, that's fine, honey, you go ahead and eat them.
Or say lunchmeat....I really don't like to smell meat anyway... so, if it's even questionable, I make my husband sniff it.  Sometimes I'm convinced it smells strange even when it isn't nearing the "best by" date.  I've thrown food out before just because there is a question as to its being prudent to consume.  Okay...that embarrasses me a think that I've made ya'll think I waste food.  Usually, if I must throw something out, I do it while my husband is at I don't have to answer any questions about it.  :)  And usually, I don't throw it in the compost pile...I wrap it up in numerous Wal-Mart bags so he won't notice what it is when he takes off the trash.  LOL...  you salsa jars that have dried salsa around the top and it just looks old...  and who knows if that stuff in there is going bad???
So, back to the topic....we have a compost pile.  We put all the vegetable cuttings, tea grounds, animal wastes, etc in there and then use it on the garden.  Well, there were some potatoes in there.  If I was a die hard mountain woman, I probably would have used them, okay???  So, just shoot me now for wasting food when there are people all over the world who would give their eye teeth for some flimsy, wrinkled old potatoes.  At any rate, I was going to the compost bin one day, to throw away what I am sure was legitimate scraps :D when I noticed some potatoes the compost bin!  I immediately began stewing over this....I mean, I had *always* wanted to grow potatoes.  We did grow sweet potatoes one year ..but they aren't hiding underground like white potatoes.  I remembered from my youth, my dad digging potatoes.  Seemed like I remembered it being like a treasure hunt!!  And Ohhhhh!  Shiny!!!  do I love treasure hunts...  :D
Now I knew somewhere in the back of my mind, that you are supposed to cut off the eyes, and just plant those; but, I figured hey....there are three big growing potatoes that look to be thriving....why not just shovel the entire thing up...leave the compost stuck to the bottom...and transplant it in the garden???  And then stand back and see what it does??  So, I proceeded to take three plants and snug them in the lower part of the garden so they'd be in no one's way.  I wasn't sure they'd live, but I was so excited to give it a try.

This is a picture of the just transplanted potatoes...from compost pile to garden...

I kept watching the new little plants...encouraging them on and they continued to grow....
I was definitely impressed with their progress...  After we noticed that these plants were actually growing, we went back to the compost pile and found a few more potatoes that were growing...  we ended up planting 12 more plants...and just so you know...all of those weren't whole potatoes, ok??  I didn't throw out an entire bag...  Anyway....  LOL....

I walked out to the garden one day and noticed, to my immense pleasure, that my sweet little potato plant had flowers!!!!!  I had heard that when the flowers die, you can go looking for some potatoes...I've never in my life wanted a flower to wilt so bad....  :D
Finally, the day came....okay, so not all the flowers had died, but I was impatient!!!  I couldn't wait to dig up my first potato....  I got my camera ready...of course :)  and headed off to the garden.  I began digging...gently moving the dirt aside, and wonder of still my beating heart...I saw my very own home grown potato..... 

How cool is that????  Look at them just growing right there underground!!!  It amazes me....  :)

So, it wasn't baked potato size....I'm not sure it would even qualify as tater tot size...but I was proud of the four potatoes we harvested.  I sliced off a *thin* slice of each one and we all reveled in the fascination of our treasure.  :)  Here's a pic of our first potatoes:

 LOL!!!  Aren't they adorable???

Ok...a week or so later, I went back out and tried again...this time with more luck!!  I actually had enough to make a pot full of boiled potatoes for our supper!!!

Look at those babies!!!  We're getting serious now!  :)
So, if you think about it...there's a moral to this story.  In the beginning, it might have *appeared* that I was being wasteful, but look how many potatoes we will be able to harvest eventually from 15 plants!!!  I actually did us a favor throwing out those old wrinkled potatoes....LOL  :D

Good Intentions

Have you ever been faced with the idea that maybe some of your best intentions turned out to be your greatest failures??  It's a nasty notion, to be sure.  You begin whatever it is're've got the world in your pocket....  there is only sunshine.  You are under the assumption that (whatever it is) is getting the best you have to offer.  And then.... you happen to glance up from your busyness for a second and to your utter dismay, it has all gone awry.  Have you ever had that happen to you??!?!  How can good intentions result in failure??  And how can it be prevented??  Is the answer more concentrated focus on the task at hand?  Actually, I don't have the answers....I'm going to have to mull it over some more....... 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Some moments in life make my breath catch seeing the gentle curve in the back of my baby's neck...watching the breeze play in his wispy curls.....  the angelic roundness of his little cheek....the soft flutter of his lashes ...  this brings me such a deep joy and truly makes my heart swell with happiness...
Ever wish you could just sit outside in the rain and let it wash your cares away??  Yeah too.
Ah....the fragrance of a peony.....

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Love everything going on in this picture....

And Then There Was One...

In keeping with our desire to homestead, we planted six apple trees in our front yard two years ago.  They are semi-dwarf varieties and take a couple of years to begin bearing any fruit.  As spring filled the landscape with green leaves and explosions of color, I found myself completely enamored by the delicate, fragrant apple blossoms.  There's just something so sentimental and nostalgic about those blossoms in the front yard.  It somehow makes me feel as though I am Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables....

Imagine my excitement when I eagerly searched the apple trees and noted that there were four apples growing right outside my front door.  Ah!!  The joy!!  So there were only four apples total from six trees..everything must have a beginning, no?

My camera was already in hand and I began to snap pictures to document our first home grown apples.  The first picture I took was the twosome I found.....

Aren't they lovely??  I reached up to gently move the leaf aside and get a closer picture and {gasp!} ....this was the result......

Horror of horrors!!  I had merely touched the apple; yet, it was enough to make it leave its lofty perch upon the limb and plop to the ground beneath!  What had I done?!?!?!

And then.....   Well, and then there was one.   Grow strong and delicious, dear heart!!  :D

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Stranger at My Door

We left Friday to go get groceries and clean out the local library  :)   ....  about 5 mins. up the road, I had to return home for something.  I ran in the back door and in a minute or so, I heard Sarah scream at the front door (which was locked).  My heart skipped a beat...I ran for the door...swung it open ...and {{gasped}}!!!!  There was a stranger at my door...a male.  He didn't look happy to see me and I'm sure the look was mirrored on my face.  He had teeth that made it impossible for me to focus on anything else...they were long and slightly bucked.  He had backed up when I swung wide the door...  we stared into each other's was a gaze of fascination...a cautious, curious fascination.  I ran to get my camera.... and then hurried outside to see if Sarah was okay...she was still shaking from her encounter with him.  I walked over ....looked....and yes, he was still there...though by all appearances not comfortable.  He remained frozen as I snapped one picture...and then another from my position on the bottom step.  I didn't trust him enough to go any farther.  I decided to go inside and get a picture of him from the door.  I wanted a close-up...a portrait, if you will.  I ran back in and thankfully, he hadn't left.  I snapped one more picture...but he had already turned his back to me.  I knew the visit was coming to an end.  I can't say I was sad...I didn't really know him...but, there was a certain part of me that wished I could have known him better.  He slipped off down the steps, looking over his shoulder as if to assure himself that we would not come with him....Malachi caught a picture of him as he made his way past the garden and out of our lives.  Will we meet again?  I can't answer that....

I have decided to post a picture of him here...I can only hope it doesn't violate his right to privacy...  

And one more....

You may not know this, but there is a song about him, as well....  you may listen to it here:  (HT to my husband for reminding me of this song....)

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things...

I've wanted to do a post like this for a long time and I've just never got around to it....  It's after midnight and everyone but me is in the gentle sea of slumber, so why not now??   It's nothing profound, nothing earth shattering...just a few of the things in life that make me, without further ado...a few of my favorite things:

thunderstorms...especially at night
the smell of a coming spring rain
the late afternoon glow of a golden summer sun
the crispness of a fall day
the babbling and singing of a small creek
fragrance of wisteria, hyacinth, honeysuckles, and peonies
the simple beauty in a daisy
the softness of a mimosa flower
the way the tops of the trees blow in the wind
feeling the sun kissing my face, the wind touching my hair

the smell of a new baby
the smell of my own any age
tender little kisses and hugs
tiny fingers holding mine
the curves in the backs of my children's necks
little dimpled hands
hearing "mommy"
isaac playing in my hair, saying "i *love* you mommy"

hearing my kids talking and laughing with one another
seeing one of them go to the other and ask, "are you okay?"
watching the light come on when they learn something new
hearing them say "you know what i just read in this book?"
watching my kids interact with their daddy
the times when i catch my kids smiling a smile that makes my heart skip a beat

new pens, paper, and stickers
shopping at craft stores
reading ...especially historical fiction
the movie "City of Angels"
The AD Chronicles by Bodie and Brock Theone
clever and witty comments
talking to older people about how life used to be

blue and yellow
sparkly body gel, glittery lip gloss, and shimmery body lotion
simple silver jewelry
jeans and girly tops
flip flops
little boys in overalls
little girls in red gingham
smiley faces, hearts, and flowers
the smell of a bleached, white, line dried t-shirt on my husband
Ralph perfume by Ralph Lauren

milking a goat
feeding chickens
getting the first garden ripe tomato...and each subsequent one
opening a jar of veggies in the winter that you canned in the summer
watching my children grow their own gardens
my husband on a tractor
a pitchfork :)

A Bit of Beauty Captured for All Time...

Saw this sweet little beauty perched on the honeysuckles that are tangled around the trees near our driveway...made my heart flutter....  <3

Stripes on the Wall

Just one example of what happens when you press masking tape to a wall in order to get "clean" stripes...  my bit of advice??  ~ ALWAYS use painter's tape :)  That way you won't wear your teeth thin blessing out the wall....  :D

I love the way the colors all came together, tho....  and I'm digging the stripes!!!  This picture is only showing one bed, obviously... we later put the bunk beds together...   :)

Friday, June 11, 2010


I have finished painting... finally.  One stained dining room table, six distressed dining room chairs, four distressed counter stools, one distressed prep center, one distressed buffet, two cubbies, two bathrooms, three bedrooms, four rooms with textured walls and new paint...and VOILA!'s all finished.  Well, not quite "VOILA!"  ...that makes it sound so  And believe me, it was anything but.

There were some bumps along the way....
take for instance staining the table....  if you've read my previous posts, you know the pain and agony of that venture....

the chairs and counter stools were completed without much ado...well, actually, there was the one chair I painted first and then decided the color was too bright, so I tried sanding the paint off and stripping it off and .....  well, ok...there was some "ado" there....

Sarah's bedroom was painted in one Saturday and I'm pleased with the outcome...

the bathroom came together nicely...more on that later tho..

next, I put texture on the living room/dining room/kitchen...I've told you about that as well.  I'm happy with the way those walls look...especially late in the day when the golden evening sun shines through the blinds and highlights the texture, making the walls come alive and become reminiscent of the french country farmhouse walls that I love....

the master bedroom and bath had their trials...  and yes, I posted about that too...

the prep center was next....I went about distressing it totally differently than the dining room chairs....I had read that you could paint the piece, sand the edges, and then gel stain the sanded parts to make it look opposed to painting one color, painting another color over that, and then sanding the top color down to show the color underneath - which is what I did with the chairs.  I was diggin' the way the prep center looked.... then I put sealer on it and it made it look slightly darker than I intended...don't know what happened there...but, still, I liked it.  Notice that like is past tense.  Well, I just painted the buffet ...only I didn't distress it quite so much...didn't add as much gel stain to the edges and shook the gel stain more and even stirred it... :)  Thing I like the second piece better than the first, so I kinda want to redo the first piece.  My husband has threatened to throw it out the door.  Ok...maybe I'll wait on that...but you know it's just sitting there...looking at me...irking me because I want it to look different.  Maybe I'll just get over it.

when I painted the boys' room, I had in mind what I wanted.  I had seen it online...stripes on the walls.  If you knew how well I draw a straight line on paper, this decision would trouble you....deeply.  But, nonetheless, I decided to go for it.  :D  Their bedspreads are light grey and dark grey with yellow-orange, white, and dark blue rings.  Soooo...I decided to paint their two cubbies that Darren built, dark grey, paint the walls light grey, and put a yellow-orange stripe, and a dark blue stripe around the walls.  Painting the walls went well...I was excited to start on the stripes.  I enlisted the help of my out the measuring tape and chalk line and went to work.  This was my first time "playing" with a chalk line...I could really get in to that  LOL....  anyway, I marked up however many inches and penciled it off and then put masking tape on it.  Then, I measured up another inch and a half and put tape on again.  I painted the first stripe and decided to see how it looked before painting the rest of the walls.  When I lifted up the tape, I was dismayed to see that the paint had seeped under the tape and caused the edges to look feathered.  Determined to not let that happen again, I went around the wall and pressed down on the masking tape with a ruler so it would not allow any paint seepage.  I measured up another inch and put one more piece of masking tape and again, pressed it tightly to the wall.  After painting a couple of coats of yellow orange paint and blue paint for the stripes, I was sooo excited to rip the tape off and see how it looked.  When I started pulling the tape up, I was amazed!!  Oh, how crisp the lines were!!!  And straight!!!  I was sooo proud.  And I pulled some more...reveling in my work.  About that time, I pulled and OH DEAR HEAVENS!!!!  A big ole piece of grey paint came up with the tape!!!!  NOOOOOOOO!!!!  The stripes were perfect, but the tape was so lovingly hugging the wall, that it obstinately refused to let go!! The tape was pulling up paint...and not just grey paint, but every layer of paint that had been on the wall....all the way down to the chalky stuff...whatever that is.  I was crestfallen.  I touched it up with grey paint, but the areas in question were dips in the wall.   The only happy moment was when I realized that by the time the bunk beds, cubbies, and bookshelf were put back in the bedroom...and one strategically placed paper stuffed lightening bug, there were no noticeable errors. Still..... I know they are there...  but the boys love their stripes and yeah...I like the stripes too.... I'll post a pic later...

this week, I started on the den.  It had been a deep blue...and I loved it.  But, it needed some texture.  :)  Soo....I spent a couple of days texturing the walls...and then picked out my paint.  The very cool thing about the color of paint is that when you walk from the kitchen into the den, the color change seems seamless.  The kitchen is that really light, faint yellowish color and the den is a light "cappuccino with creamer" color :)  When standing in the den, you can tell it's brown...when standing in the kitchen, you can tell it's faint yellow...but when walking from one to the other, the color change is barely noticeable.  I don't know if you can get a visual on that, but it's very cool.  :)  Anyway, when I started painting, I was using a 1 1/2" first, I only was going to paint a small portion of a wall just to see how the color would look.  A bit later, I realize I've painted the entire corner.  Good thing I liked the color, huh??  :D  Well, since the 1 1/2" brush was already "dirty", I just decided to keep painting with it.  I painted two walls with that brush ....  I don't know...maybe I was sentimental thinking it was my last room...maybe the fumes were getting to me...but I never did switch over to a roller....I did eventually go to a 3" brush.  There was a bittersweetness to the whole affair...  no more feeling the sweet, smooth handle of the brush gliding around the trim - causing my shoulder and back muscles to scream in agony at the constant stretching...  no more sniffing the familiar fumes of addictive latex more the splattering of texture and color from my head to my more hopping up and down on a stool - pulling my hamstrings so tight you could pluck 'em like a banjo string....  yes, there is some emotion attached to the painting of your last room....I have played taps for my favorite brushes....  I have lain them to rest.  But you know, I was thinking.....I sure wish I would painted the bathroom a lighter color......    ;)