Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fall Garden

Well, we haven't had any frosts yet, although there have been some chillier nights in the past week that have started dipping down into the upper 30's. That means that some plants are still holding on in the garden, but I've yanked a lot of stuff out that was past its prime or not really going to produce anything more of substance this fall, to make way for the start of the big manure push of 2013. Hah!

That being said, here is the garden tour of late September!
The chickens have been enjoying all the garden scraps and plants lately, and check out the new rooster at the very right of this picture. He's still rather shy and reclusive, and the ladies aren't tolerating his young adultness very well, but he'll grow up and we'll see how he does next spring! Chicks maybe? Yes please :)

This is the last remnant of the sunflower row beside the chicken coop, the rest have been happily devoured by the chickens over the last couple weeks. We've started clipping ones from down in the fields and feeding them to the chickens too, as they love those sunflower seeds so much!

The pigs were very happy with all of the corn discards, and are sizing up fairly well. We aren't as happy with these mixed breeds as the Berkshire of last year, in terms of food interest, rooting around, and weight gain, but I'm holding my final opinion until we see what the cost/weight is at butcher time.

Little M is rather looking forward to carving this volunteer huge pumpkin!

Yup, this supposed to be two rows of strawberries... needs weeding much?

My happy place.

The lower garden. Tomatoes, zucchini, and marigolds remaining. Potatoes, lettuce, garlic, and onions all pulled up and the areas well chicken manured.

Green beans and kale remaining, unproductive squash, corn, and cucumbers all pulled up. Piles of pig manure waiting to be turned in.

I love these large orange marigolds! Grow them every year.

Pitiful tomato plants, but producing enough to keep our daily needs for tomatoes satisfied. Next year there will be better fertilizer and more plants!

Well, that's the fall garden! I hope your fall garden is winding slowly down to winter too :)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Guest post over on R-Dub Outdoors!

Thought you might all want to check out a guest post I wrote for the mister's blog, about grouse hunting these past 6 years.

Grouse Hunting Through My Wife's Eyes 

Rory and I met online back in 2008. Our first date was at a Starbucks, where I proceeded to shock him by ordering hot chocolate on a 100 degree day. I'm not sure if that is what prompted him to follow up and ask for a second date (a hike up nearby 'mountain' looking for Shorthorned Lizards), and then a third (another hike on another very hot day), but whatever the reason, a bit over a month later I found myself out hunting for basically the first time of my life.

Read the rest after the link

Friday, September 20, 2013

The upsides of night shifts

Its been a long couple weeks here, and actually its been a long couple of months here, with the mister on night shift plus fall hunting starting up. In actual fact he's nearing the end of a 6 month stretch on night shift, where he's left at either 5 or 7 in the evening, to return shortly before 5 of 7 in the morning. I've only noticed it being especially hard since he went back to work at the end of June after Baby E was born, and more-so since hunting started at the beginning of September; before Baby E came, when it was just me and Little M, it was more do-able. Needless to say I'm looking forward to next month when he starts on day shift (during the week, with both weekend days off with us no less!). I've actually been writing a post about how I feel about this whole night shift process, which I may share next week sometime if I can manage to get it a bit more coherent :)

In the meantime, I needed a pick me up, and decided to write a post about the things I love about this schedule, with him leaving at 7 every evening, getting home just before 7 in the morning, and working mid week through the weekend. So, here goes, what I've been loving...

  • evenings with just me and the girls that are incredibly low key. I mean, he leaves at 7, and we can just start getting Little M ready for bed if we want, including a long bath, bedtime snack, bedtime story, brushing teeth, going potty, bedtime songs, getting tucked in, the whole bit.
  • evenings with just me and the girls that are more active. When it was still light until easily 8, we would go for walks down the road shortly after the mister left for work. That was fun.
  • now that it's dark about when he leaves, lighting a candle on the table and having the flickering light and nice smell in the main room. Even better - having my twinkle star lights in the kitchen window turned on as well.
  • having the whole bed to myself (and Baby E) almost every night. Ah, stretching out space how I am going to miss you once all three of us are in the bed every night come day shift next month!
  • friday afternoon walks with Baby E along the block and a half of back alleys between my work and Little M's 'new daycare' where she goes once a week right now, and the subsequent errands around town that the three of us girls do to productively waste more time between daycare pickup and the mister's wake up time of 5 o'clock.
  • having one or two mornings a week of breakfasts as a family when we wake up about when he gets home and he stays up a bit to hang out with us.
  • dashing down to the garden for a brief mama interlude for a few minutes some time between 5 and 7 on the nights where he actually wakes up at 5, supper doesn't take too long for me to make, Baby E isn't too fussy, and it isn't too smoking hot outside at that time of the day.
  • the couple of days where he has had some hunting or fishing stuff going on right after work so hasn't gotten home and to bed until mid day or later on his last shift for the week, when that we can be as loud and productive as we want all morning.
  • needing only 3 days a week of daycare for Little M, as he is (somewhat) awake and able to be with her during the day the other 2 days a week.
  • having supper with him, where he is at least present at the table if not always particularly interested in eating a full meal, every night of the week.
  • having limited daily dog chores myself as most mornings and basically every evening he is in charge of feeding them and letting them out.
Ok, well that's all I can think of right now, but this will serve as a great reminder for myself come January when he starts back on night shift, of what positives to focus on to help me start the next 6 months off right :) I think it is helpful to focus on the positives, because then it's them that I remember. Clearly our lives are full of both good things and bad things, but thinking about the past positives makes me a happier person than remembering the past negatives!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

On future goals and things to learn

I started this post near the end of last month, before the craziness of September hit, and then never had time to come back to it and publish it. However, looking back at what I drafted up, I'm finding it amazing to see what progress I've already made towards these future goals I almost shared! I inserted my progress in bold italics...

I'm slowly surfacing from new-baby-itis, and I'm realizing that since back in January I didn't really set goals for the year other than having a healthy baby, I'm starting to feel a bit aimless. Now let me assure you that my number one goal this year is still to have a healthy baby - that doesn't stop just because she's out in the world. Oh no, I'm still breastfeeding her like crazy, and we won't be starting to introduce solids until she's good and ready (whenever she decides that is). So really, for the rest of the next year plus, I'll still be primarily focused on keeping myself well watered, de-stressed, and eating as healthy as I can manage in order to keep her as topped up on breastmilk as I can.

But I'm starting to feel a bit restless, which generally means I need to define my future a bit more clearly for myself. Some things I'm thinking of putting on my learning goals list in the near future include:

  • making our own vanilla (I happen to know a great recipe book with this in it is hidden somewhere in the house for my upcoming birthday!)
  • making soap
  • looking into essential oils, maybe buying a first one or two - peppermint? lavender? (I'm hoping next month to get an intro pack of 3 doterra oils - peppermint lavender and lemon) 
  • making and freezing/canning? our own chicken stock
  • sourdough. I wanna bake bread with it - thus my own starter is needed... need to learn more!
  • ferments? not sure about this one, still don't know enough to feel comfortable
  • brewing my own beer now that I'm not pregnant!
  • decide on a chicken breed or 2 to stick with from the seven we have currently... and decide whether to add to the flock this coming year or try to hatch our own - need a rooster first for that though! (We brought home a free americauna cross rooster last week, he's young still, and apparently pretty shy, but we'll see how that goes over the winter and then perhaps settle on Speckled Sussex if he doesn't work out) 
  • getting back on the cloth diaper bandwagon I've not yet got started on with baby #2 - every time I put her in them she has a crazy blowout poop. totally coincidence, but not making my life easier! (I determined that the problem is our old ones have shot elastics, and the inserts needed to be replaced, something about using them solid for almost 3 years with Little M! I've started to order replacements, 5 should be coming in the mail later this week, and I'll slowly build my stash back up!)
Other future plans I need to think more about in my free time (usually when I'm walking the baby getting her to sleep, or nursing her at night)

  • setting some (easy) rowing goals
  • doing a better job recording our garden harvests for planning for next year - for example 22.5 & 6.5 lbs of potatoes needs to be written down somewhere or I'll forget come next spring let alone next fall! (I've started developing a spreadsheet that I'll print and put in my home notebook once it's finished, with columns for seeds sown, amount eaten & preserved, etc)
  • figuring out a plan for next spring's most likely outside big chore - in-ground irrigation and some grass seed, plus figuring out the ideal fence location on the east side of the inner yard.
Well, there you have it, some plans and dreams for the future year. Hopefully this will give me some guidance on lonely evenings and quiet days for what to research and think about! Nothing like setting goals to get me motivated :)

Monday, September 9, 2013

What excitement looks like in our life

On Saturday in the late afternoon, after a busy day spent over in the next valley going to some bigger town stores and the county fair, we were greeting grandpa who had just arrived for the weekend to do some hunting and meet Baby E for the first time (he was off on his boat for the summer and only just got back home recently). I looked over and heard him talking to someone, but Little M was right beside me, and papa was still in the house sleeping. It was one of the newish neighbors a ways down our little side valley, actually a cousin of a really good friend of mine, who we had only barely met in passing once or twice, although we know the rest of her local family very well.

She was saying she thought she saw a fire. We walked back a little bit and sure enough, there was smoke coming off the hillside just up from the house. Now my husband and I had been smelling little wafts of smoke on and off for 2 days, since a big storm rolled through after dark one night, but we figured we were either just imagining things, or it was from some distant fire. Nope, it was just smoldering slowly, and hadn't really picked up yet.

After calling it in to dispatch, I ran up and took some photos, which of course didn't turn out as I wasn't checking my settings closely enough and didn't glance at what the shots were turning out like until I got further away from the fire. I did get some neat ones from down on the road, and sometime later this week we'll hike up as a family and show Little M what it looked like and get some pictures of the tree that had been hit by lightning to start the fire, and the burn scar around it.

So after taking my pictures, I quickly hiked back down, as I had left grandpa in charge of the baby and Little M, so I wanted to get back down to them. When I got down there, grandpa asked if I had seen papa (he's visible in the white t-shirt in some of these pics!), as he had hiked up with a shovel and was starting to get the fire under control before the firefighters arrived on scene. I had totally missed him the way I came back down the ridge, but there he was, making sure the fire didn't spread. After a quick call in to the neighbors up valley on that side of the road, I just sat and watched my husband through the zoom lens of the camera, and kept an eye on Little M as the fire trucks started to arrive.

The mister came back down soon after the firefighters got up to the fire, and said he had gotten it out by the time they got there, but there was still hot spots to deal with so the local guys stayed up there for an hour or two taking care of those and cleaning up, then the DNR crews arrived to finish up and stayed until almost dark. It was pretty exciting, and the pictures were really neat, especially what with the double rainbow that was visible over the fire to us down on the road. The whole experience made me really grateful for neighbors & firefighters! Oh, and grandpa's who watch the kiddo's while the parents run around dealing with slight emergencies!

And that's what excitement looks like in our quiet, slow, rural life! :)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


I've been a little less than thrilled with the amount of produce coming from the gardens this year. Let me restate that. Given the input of time from me and the plants generated, I'm a little disappointed with what we've been getting out of the gardens. Not just compared with past years, or others' gardens, but with things like the amount of potato weight out from potato weight in, the pitiful vine growth on the squash & cucumbers initially in the old garden compared with those in the new one. These 2 big flags, and any number of little ones, have pretty much told me that I need to add more fertilizer to the old garden this year than I have been in past years.

I've added a couple of wheelbarrows-full of chicken manure each fall, but this fall I'm going to aim to do a bit more. I've already dumped 2 wheelbarrows-full of chicken manure in the old garden this past weekend, from cleaning out the coop. With the digging of the last of the potatoes I had enough room for a huge pile, so I finally got that chore checked off my list. But to add more than just those 2 loads means either bringing down some dirt from the chicken's outside run, using some pig manure, or bringing some manure in from off the property.

The chicken's outside run has only been in this location since the spring when we moved the coop & created the new side garden. I'm really not sure how much good stuff that dirt contains, since it was pretty barren before it became their outside run. And even if it were great, there are so many little rocks in that soil that I would really hate to add it to the old garden, which is fairly free of hoe-breaking pebbles! The dirt from the chicken's old run, which had been used for almost 2 full years, was great for the new garden this spring though, so I am going to plan on using the new dirt in the gardens next fall perhaps, once it has had more time to accumulate the good stuff.

There are 2 pig manure options right now. The old spot got somewhat dug up by my husband and moved to the new garden this spring, but there is still a lot of dirt there that should be pretty good. However it is a barren weed-filled wasteland right now, not having had any water or attention since the spring when he removed about half of the top layer of pig poo & dirt. 

The other pig option is the inner pen of the current pig area, which has a fair amount of poo given the two pigs this year, but its pretty fresh, and it might be rocky. Also, that is future garden space, hopefully for next year as long as we get our fencing acts together, so I would hate to be doing a 'rob peter to pay paul' with that, especially since the main poo and mucked up area is going to be in this coming spring's garden expansion.

The third option, bringing some manure in from off the property, is really not appealing, as I like to move towards self-sustainability - not away, and generating our own compost/manure is something that we really should be able to do. So this leaves me with the pig manure in the old spot perhaps slightly topped up with the new area if needed.

 In the future, I hope to be working on our own compost bins and compost piles in addition to the manure generated from mucking out the animals' pens, however the grass/manure-dirt pile you see in the background of the above shot was just started this past couple months, so no useable compost yet. Also, I think I need to have the piles in a spot that gets at least a bit of sprinkler-water, as it is so dry here that I think it impedes the compost breakdown. Definitely something to put on my winter goals list - learning more about compost building! We generate a fair amount of green matter due to the extensive fields my husband has been working on for game animals and future pasture animals, so having a great compost heap should be completely feasible for us.

 Well, there you have it, the state of our poo :) I hope you are all enjoying the start of the Fall. Upcoming we've got entirely too many hunting trips, family visits, and harvesting tasks to reasonably fit into the month ahead. However, I'm sure we'll manage to make it through, although I'm sure blog posting will fall a bit by the wayside, as it does every September! Happy harvesting to you, and if you are a hunter, happy hunting!
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