humble homesteading: our garden prep

Over the years, I’ve attempted gardening on several occasions.  I’ve grown things in tiny peat pots, bought from the nursery, and direct-sowed.  Varied success has resulted.  This is our third spring here at the farm.  I think we’ve finally figured out what works for us and what works in our area.

First we till and make ditches.  Luckily, our neighbors are gracious enough to loan us their machine.  We then flood each ditch and fill in low points.  I also like this done because planting is easier when it’s wet.  It’s also better to plant in moist soil.

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Now for planning.  I like to sketch up the plan so I know what and where I’ll plant.

Planting time comes next.  After each row is planted I flood the ditch again.  Notice we plant in the ditch- not the hill.  This give the plant a great soaking.  The soil stays moist for 3-5 days (depending on the weather), and it catches all the rain during monsoon season.  We stomp the hills down to make a sturdy walking path.

We have a few garden boxes set up.  I’m making one of them the permanent strawberry patch.  Onions are in one, and the other will have pole beans soon.

We spent two eight-hour days in the garden this weekend.  I’m so glad it’s almost fully planted.

I filled the rows with seeds.  Every child had some part in the prep and planting.  Little ones love dropping seeds into the holes.  Nobody likes pulling weeds.  Me either!  IMG_1567IMG_1587IMG_1589IMG_1594

We have found through trial and error that I can’t grow peppers or tomatoes from seed too well.  I’m working on it.  For this year we decided to buy plants from the nursery.  I buy bulbs for onions and garlic.  Everything else is seed sown directly into the ground.  I’m worried about the carrots coming up.  I had no success last year.  Any tips for carrots?

Here’s our list of what’s in the ground right now:

pickling cucumbers, corn, tomatoes (variety), peppers (sweet and hot variety), bush beans, watermelon, cantaloupe, carrots, romaine lettuce, blue dwarf kale, zucchini, spaghetti squash, onions (red and yellow), garlic, asparagus, herbs (variety), pie pumpkins, and eggplant.

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By the end of next week I hope to add:

potatoes, blueberry bushes, raspberries, black berries, pomegranates, strawberries, pole beans.

What are you growing?  How do you adjust for your climate?

 

 

 

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humble homesteading: soapmaking

IMG_1296 IMG_1298I’m no expert when it comes to soapmaking.  I made four batches a year and a half ago.  Only two turned out well.  That gave us 30 bars of soap.  I noticed a couple of weeks ago that we only had 5 bars left.  So, this week brought on my annual soapmaking frenzy.

If you want to learn all I know about soapmaking, check out Soap Queen TV and Bramble Berry for supplies.

Four things I’ve learned are non-negotiable with making cold-process soap.

One- You must have a scale.  Must.  Measuring volume is way off.  This is why I had 50% success last time.

Two- Patience.  Lots of it.  It took me an hour to stir each batch.  Best done while listening to Pandora.

Three- Thermometers and Lye Calculators are your friend.  Exact temp are imperative. So are Lye amounts. This can make or break it.

Four- Keep the kids away.  Naptime, bedtime are great times to make soap.  It can be dangerous.  If you’re hollering at kids the whole time, the fun is lost for you.

I am so pleased with the success of these 3 batches I made this week.  One didn’t turn out.  That compelled me to finally get a scale.  This is the third scale I’ve bought in four years.  I’m hiding it from children’s reach this time.

All was not lost though.  I grated it up.  I’ll be using it for laundry soap.

Have you ever made soap?  What are your favorite resources and recipes?  I used the “Lots of Lather” recipe from Bramble Berry.

humble homesteading: catching up

IMG_1244 IMG_1249 IMG_1238 IMG_1234 IMG_1232 IMG_1226 IMG_1225 IMG_1219We’ve all been scurrying around lately.  Though we’ve enjoyed winter weather in the 70s, the last load of firewood needed cutting and stacking.  Certainly, the sound of a chainsaw will forever remind me of my cousin.  That builds up emotions.  I found myself in the perfect place for emotional outlet.  Pulling weeds.  Still.

The toddlers “helped” with this.  Half of the onions are planted, along with a bit of garlic.  Most of a second garden bed has been freed of the entangled, cursed grasses.  My hands are blistered, but by golly, we shall have onions and garlic.

We enjoyed some gluten-free pumpkin spice muffins.  Pumpkin from the garden taste better, do they not?  I have four more gallons to use before the next planting begins.  Perhaps we don’t need ten plants this year.

Our ladies (goats) are swelling.  There is just nothing more pleasing to me than assisting in the births.  It’s so precious.  It’s also a gooey mess, but in a wonderful way.  We are all excited to have milk again.  Last year’s season was cut short.  This year we plan on expanding to cheeses and such.

The farm is rearing and ready.  I can’t believe it’s still Winter though.  Will it ever get cold here?  This knitting mama gets robbed of wearing woolins far too much.

How’s your Winter?