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what a joy

It is a bit sad to write this post.  I am writing from our new house in Austin, TX.  Yes, we moved to Austin.

It is very different than life at the old farmhouse.  We are glad to be here, but do miss the beauty and peacefulness of our place in Asheville.  I have to say, Western North Caroline is one of the most beautiful places we have ever lived.  It was a blessing to live there.  Also a blessing to have experienced life in an old farmhouse.  We learned a lot, grew a lot and enjoyed the beauty around us.  Here are a few memories…

It was a labor of love. In the end we turned a run down house into a lovely dwelling place.

Saying goodbye to our chickens.😦 Thanks Pete and Kassie for taking them.

Already missing our turkey friends

Bye bye snow…

Having fun

What a gift it was to live in the old farmhouse.  Whether it was cutting down trees, planting veggies, playing with neighbor kids, catching animals, heating the house with wood, walking on creaky floors, watching thousands of lightening bugs, pruning trees, harvesting garlic, or roasting marshmallows, it was all a true joy.

mechanics 101

So, I was mowing the lawn tonight and the transmission went out…. Nothing is ever easy…..  of the past six times I’ve cut my lawn, my lawnmower has broken three times.  That’s 50% of the time!  It is starting to get frustrating.  However, it is not without something to learn.  I’ve now learned how to change a blade belt, change a drive shaft belt, fix a broken clutch, and mend a bent blade guard.  But now it’s the transmission, do I try to fix it, or do I give up on this piece of junk mower.  Fixing it means time, which I am not abounding in, but it also means learning.  I am sure I would learn a lot in fixing a transmission, I imagine it would help me better understand the mechanics of a car, as well as other mechanical devices.  But what if something else breaks.  Is it worth continuing to dump money into this mower?   To give up on the mower means more money.  Plus it means buying a used mower (new ones are too expensive), which could have its problems too.  Humm, what to do….

After a long period of a busy schedule and a broken key board (I spilt water on it) , we are back for a new blog post! 

We’ve had a good summer at the old farmhouse so far, though it has not been quite a plentiful as last year.  This year our grapes, apples, and peach did not produce.  We had an early spring and a late frost which took a major toll on our fruiting trees and vines.  It wiped out our grapes :(  and left us with a few apple.  Seeing that we were not going to get much of an apple harvest I decided not to spray our trees with any insecticides.  I was curious to see what would happen.  Now I know why people spray insecticides.  The few apples we had have been ravaged by ants, worms and birds who are eating the ants and worms.  Next season I believe I will take a different approach.   We have however had a good harvest of raspberries and are beginning a plentiful harvest of blackberries.  We’ve also enjoyed a wide variety of vegetables.   I planted more vegetables than we could handle.  I am experimenting with how much I can grow.  I also like sharing it with friends and neighbors.  It is rewarding knowing your labor is going to bring delight and goodness to another person. 

What else is going on?   I’ve learned a couple of lessons about chickens.  One, when it is hot out they need extra water.  If they don’t have plenty of water they stop producing eggs.  For a couple of weeks we were eggless…. we actually had to buy some at the store!  Unfortunately the neighbors who watched our chickens while we were on vacation didn’t get their promised eggs, but they did get cucumbers, and plenty of them.  When we returned from our vacation the garden was bursting with goodies.  Below are some pics.  The other thing I learned is that black snakes like chicken eggs.  We actually had a four foot black snake eat five eggs!  He was so full he couldn’t move.

What other fun thing have been going on….?  Oh, we painted the outside of our house.  Lindy tackled most of that job, way to go Lindy.  We harvested 50 bulbs of garlic.  I set aside 40 of them (200 cloves) for fall planting.  I am hoping to get up to a thousand by next year.  Last weekend we harvested half of our hops.  This weekend with a couple of friends we will make a fresh home-brew with them.  One challenge this year has been with squash vine bores and squash beetles.  My tardiness on spraying has resulted in losing some plants.  Kind of a bummer.  I was hoping for a bumper squash crop.

What else…?   Right now it is really hot here.  Lindy, Amelie and I have all been stung by wasps.  Lastly, we’ve had fun catching box turtles as well as another ground-hog.  Such is life at the old farmhouse….

The return from vacation harvest

 

Catching Turtles

 

Harvesting Hops

 

Drying Garlic

 
 
 
So far it has been a good spring at the old farmhouse.  We are working hard to get the garden ready for a harvest.  Not only are we working on the garden, we are also painting the outside of the house.   We are slowly chipping away at it.  I mean that literally….  there’s been a lot of preparation work done, lots of scraping, chipping, and power washing.   I am sure the neighbors will be happy when it is finished.  

There is always something to do around here.  It’s a lot of work, but we do enjoy it.  It is also nice to follow the rhythms of nature.  Spring is planting, summer growing, fall harvesting, winter resting.   It is a good rhythm, though winter isn’t all resting.  Late winter involves pruning.  Sounds simple enough, but it takes time.   I’d say we put in about 15 hours of pruning.  That includes the apple trees, peach trees, grape vines, raspberry bushes, and blackberry bushes.  It will pay off in the long run though.  Good pruning results in good production.   Sounds like something Jesus talked about a time or two.

Now however it’s time for planting.   In fact last night we planted beans and corn.  I do enjoy it, especially having the kids involved.  It is fun to see their eyes light up as the things we plant begin to sprout and grow.   

Below are some pics of our activities at the homestead. 

One of our frequent visitors. Turkey dinner anyone...

Spring Eggs! All our hens are now laying. They still need to learn to lay in the nesting box though!

The hops trellis. Hoping to do a fresh hops brew.

The potatoes are coming up...

Garlic galore. Mumm, I can already taste it.

Fun with the cousins.

 

A varmint I am NOT going to trap.🙂

 

getting eggs

We got our first egg from our chickens on Sunday!   We were all excited.  Can’t wait to eat it.  We are waiting until we get a few more before we cook it. 

On a different note, we’ve been busy getting the garden ready.  So far I’ve planted peas, onions, carrots, beets, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, spinach, and chard.  So far everything is taking shape.  We will post some pictures soon.

The more we experience, practice, and learn about small-scale homesteading and urban farming, the more I (Todd) not only love it, but want to experiment with new things.  The possibilities seem to be endless.  There’s rain water harvesting, vermiculture (raising worms), small livestock (quail, rabbits, bees, pigeons, etc.), beer making, wine making, food preservation, food dehydration, solar energy, cheese making, and more.

So many things so little time.  Two things I am considering venturing into and one I’ve started are raising rabbits, raising worms, and making beer.  I’ve started the beer making process by planting hop rhizomes.  One of our neighbor’s grows hops and offered to give us some of their pruned rhizomes.   I decided to give it a try by planting ten rhizomes.  Next I have to build a trellis system, seeing they can grow over twenty feet tale in one season!

We are also exploring the idea of raising rabbits.  I’ve started attending a seminar about raising rabbits and also read Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits, which is an alluring read.    A pair of breeding rabbits can produce a lot of meat.   A female rabbit can be breed four times a year, with a litter of 6-10.  Depending on the breed you can get 2-3 pounds of meat off of each rabbit.  Let’s say you average 8 rabbits per litter who average 2 pounds of meat each.  That’s 64 pounds of meat from one female rabbit per year.  That’s a lot of meat.  Plus the low-cost of feed in comparison to the return makes raising rabbits seem like an ideal source of meat.

The other interest I have is in raising worms.  Worms can be used to compost food and… rabbit manure.   Composted food and rabbit manure is an excellent nutrient rich soil builder.  My thought is to build a giant worm container underneath the rabbit hutches.  This way the rabbit droppings get composted by the worms and then go directly into the garden.  Sounds like a win win to me.  A good book on worm composting is Worms eat my Garbage.  Another alluring read.

So down the rabbit hole we go.  There’s always more to learn and do at this old farmhouse.

planting

Spring is just around the corner and we are starting to get the gardening itch.  So far we’ve seeded on flat with broccoli, red lettuce, green lettuce, chard, cabbage, basil, and chives.  I (Todd) was planning on planting red and yellow onions, Mammoth Melting Snap Peas, spinach, and Davers carrots last weekend, but it was snowing plus I was stuck in bed with a strained back.  Bummer…   Our kale made it through the winter so I won’t be planting any more of it.  I can’t wait to get my hands dirty. 

This season we are planting mostly  heirloom varieties.  My plan is to let some of the plants go to seed and use the harvested seeds for next years planting.  Here are a few of the heirloom varieties we will be planting:

Chocolate Stripes Tomato, Black Cherry Tomato, San Marzano Tomato, Royal Chico Tomato, Pandora Striped Rose Eggplant, Orange Bell Pepper, Sweet Chocolate Pepper, Golden Zucchini Squash, White Bush Scallop, Greek Sweet Red Squash, Sweet Dumpling Squash, Delicate Squash, Burgess Buttercup Winter Squash, Blue Lake Bush Beans, Thompson Prolific Corn, and Di Ciccio brocoli

I can already taste them!  Can’t wait.

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