A Few Hard-Won Victories

We have had many successes and a few frustrations these past few weeks here at the Homestead.

Burning Daylight

Frustration #1: It’s been something like 13 weeks and my kids STILL haven’t received their tax refund. This is delaying the start of our home-building adventure, and we are quickly running out of time to be at least partially under a roof by winter.  We are watching the cost of our construction rise weekly due to the increases in raw materials prices.

Still, the lesson in patience hasn’t been all negative. During the wait, Mike was inspired to redesign our house. His changes will save us 25% on our concrete costs, which was the largest part of our budget. We have also been tackling some long-delayed outdoor projects, and have been doing some awesome work making the greenhouse cooler for the brutal summer months to come. My goal is to actually get some tomatoes this year instead of the 15-foot, barren, green monstrosities I produced last summer.

Frustration #2: Mike has had a few issues with our tractor recently, and has had to spend a lot of time tinkering with it. Of course, every day spent fixing the tractor is another day of not being able to do the work we need to do. Yesterday, he spent a long time working on the broken ignition switch, and was quite frustrated. But he brainstormed a workaround last night, and hopefully we will be up and running in short order. We’ve got some rain in the forecast, though, so an operational tractor may be a moot point for the next several days.

Frustration #3: I’m not sure if we will be able to get much of an outside garden put in this summer, and I am really disappointed. Mike had plowed a lovely patch up on the hill. Justin brought out the new tiller so I could start planting my veggies over the weekend. He got 3 feet and the wheel fell off!! An easy enough fix, but even after Mike plowed, Justin couldn’t till the ground due to the rocks and huge clumps of glorious Missouri clay. Mike is going to try running the plow over the ground again, but apparently what we really need is a disk harrow (See Frustration #1: The tax refund).

Never a Lack of Projects

But even with all the bumps in the road, I manage to fill my time here with a ton of productive work. This past weekend, I was able to almost complete the final transition from winter to summer greenhouse. Back in March, I foolishly thought it would just take a couple of weekends. Been working on it for a couple months now! I have a few of my winter plants (mostly lettuce) currently going to seed still in their beds. I have brown bags filled with seed pods from radishes, kale, yellow winter choy, tat soi, and spinach. Most of them have dried out and I will be harvesting the seeds for next year soon.

I weeded and prepared all the beds for more summer plantings. I have a fair number of green peppers and sweet banana peppers going, 8 tomatoes starting to set some fruit, and a few vines that seem really happy.

I still have some room, and will probably fill in with some purchased starts (This feels like defeat-I really wanted ALL my food to be started here with my seeds. But it is what it is). 

An Interesting Experiment

We have a couple of empty beds in the greenhouse. Obtaining suitable garden soil in bulk where we live is a prohibitively expensive venture. So I tried something. Last fall, as I was pulling out my summer veggies to prepare for winter, I took ALL the vegetation and started piling it into one of the empty garden boxes. Entire tomato vines. I should have chopped everything up, but that sounded like way too much work. I added plant material to the point where the box was overflowing. Over the winter, I would occasionally turn and water it, and also add any trimmings I pulled out of the other boxes. Old pots full of used potting soil, etc. It is slowly breaking down and making some lovely soil now, with a healthy little ecosystem of worms and pill bugs. I would say I have another year of this before I will be able to start planting, but it will be one box filled for free.

Libby’s Fairy Tea Garden

I repurposed our old culinary herb garden right outside of the kitchen, and planted some new herbs so my granddaughter can blend her own teas. We have chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, chocolate mint, spearmint, and peppermint growing. She has improved it by turning it into a magical little fairy garden, with shiny trinkets, gnomes, fairies, and even a tiny swimming pool! She is currently drying a huge crop of chamomile flowers and will soon have a lovely tea collection for us all to enjoy!

My little 11-year-old Mini-Me!

Next Steps

We were able to get the shade cloth up this year BEFORE the tomatoes were damaged. I have a really nice big fan, and we are relocating it soon so that it actually brings cooler air IN, rather than just blow around hot air, as it is doing now. We will also be adding some screening to the sides of the greenhouse soon, and then hopefully we will have a true four-season greenhouse.

Pics: The shade cloth doing its thing, me in my happy place, snapdragons blooming, horseradish that won’t stop, an accidental chamomile patch, my new Mason bee house, a recently-discovered peach tree, and blackberries starting, baybee!!!!

Count It All Joy

After a frantic season of forward motion, big improvements, and inspired planning, we seem to be in a bit of a holding pattern right now. Even though we are a bit frustrated with the delays, we are still amazed at how much we are accomplishing. I am absolutely in love with my Homesteading life and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

I could do without the ticks, though. Pestilence level: Biblical/apocalyptic. And squash bugs. Miserable, miserable little creatures.

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