Thursday, December 10, 2009

winter

Well I haven't posted in a while - I'm still struggling with pain in my hands. I've started physical therapy, so hopefully soon all will be well with my hands. Knitting by the New Year? Perhaps!

Not much has been going on here at the homestead. I've been struggling with the lack of fresh local produce. I know it's off season and that this is Maine and that I wasn't able to preserve as much as I'd like because of the whole carpal tunnel thing, but I just need to keep reminding myself that it's a process of growth and change and that developing a desire is really the first step. (Whew that was a helluva long run on sentence ;}) We still buy all of our meat at our local farmers market that sells their own and local natural range fed beef, lamb, pork and chicken. Hoping to splurge on some lamb this winter.

I did find a CSA that has a winter produce operation at http://www.wolfpinefarm.com/winter/ a sample share for winter: 2lbs of apples, 1 pkg of dried basil, 2 lbs. of beets, 1 pint blueberries, 4 lbs of cabbage, 5 lbs. of carrots, 2 lbs of celery root, 1/2 dozen eggs, 1 lb oats, 3 lbs onion, 3 lbs of rutabaga, 5 lbs of winter squash. We looked into getting a share but just feel uncomfortable with the amount of money for the deposit right now. We also have a hard time getting into the mind set that the amount of money per month is equal or less than what we already spend at the store - we're just giving it to someone else - maybe it's the unknown part of not really knowing what we're getting - when I go to the farmers market in the summer I pick out just what I get. Of course part of it is also the time of year we are in - there is extra money going out for gifts - I'm making as much as I can, but limitations are what they are. I don't know, I think I'm rambling.

I'm making little/ no progress on my goals for this time of year spiritually. I finally have admitted to myself that there is a bit of depression going on with me - I've been loathe to admit it because I feel a little guilty feeling depressed after finally realizing the dream of our new house. Well, it is what it is. Depression is something I've struggled with for 30 years off and on - at least I can tell this isn't a major episode, just a bit underlying. Of course there are also contributing factors (not to beat a dead horse, but the whole hands thing, sigh). Now that I've admitted it - I can work through it. Sigh.

On the cheecken front - EGGS!!! We are getting an average of 1 per day with no artificial light - I'm pretty psyched! Of course only 1 or 2 of the girls are using the nest boxes, the others like the corners of the coop. We have snow here - first snowfall was a few inches and now we have almost a foot - the cheeckens hate it. We open the door of the coop everyday, but they just won't come out. Silly cheeckens - my parent's Australorps (sp?) always came out in the snow - I have to admit I'm a little disgusted with my wimpy cheeckens. Our poultry fencing (actually it's deer netting) seems to be working, we do need to add a bit more though; of course if they stay in the coop all winter it can wait til spring.

The sun is coming - Winter Solstice in 10 days! Welcome sun!




Friday, November 13, 2009

wandering cheeckens, Samhain & other misc stuff

Well, it's been a difficult adjustment back to third shift at L.L.Bean. My hands are not doing very well, so I have an appointment for re-evaluation with my surgeon. I'm starting to doubt if I will ever knit again.

Some exciting news here at our little homestead is that we've had our first community ritual in our new sacred space. My wonderful and talented husband with some help from my father and our friend Bob, cleared the space. Then my honey dug out a large stump and dug our firepit. We still have a lot to do. Our future goals are to level the space some more and build a stone wall around the perimeter. I'd really like to cap the wall, so that it can used for seating as well. We also want to plant trees in the different directions. I'm hoping that it will be a very special and powerful place for our own sacred work as well as for the benefit of our community.

Our ritual began with a blessing and consecration of the space - many commented that this was the most powerful part of the ritual. Next we did a ritual of renewal and new growth, preparation for the dark time of the year from Samhain to the Winter Solstice.

The newest news from the homestead is that our beautiful Ralph the Rhode Island Red Rooster is finally crowing. Unfortunately, he crows at very odd times. Last night he was crowing in the middle of the night. He also crows when I drive in at the end of my shift - I thinks it's the headlights and also the sound. He crows when he hears the back door open, he seems to be reminding us that he doesn't like being "cooped" up (yes that was on purpose :}).

The whole flock has also been wandering further than we are comfortable with. The boy found them in the neighbors' yard this afternoon. We're going to invest in some lightweight bird/poultry netting to block off that side of the yard. It is not meant for predators only to give them a visual barrier. We're hoping that will be enough and will just keep them closer to the coop. The coop is on that side of the yard, so I think they will have plenty of room in the rest of the yard, so they won't wander into any other yards.

I'm already missing local produce. We have lots of frozen corn and now some local potatoes to store. Of course we still buy our meat from a local farm that has a year round stand. I don't think we really have any place nearby that has off season produce, so we may have to move outside our comfort zone. I feel a little wasteful using gas to drive an hour to buy produce - it feels almost counter productive. Supporting a local farm is very important though. I'm thinking that cold frames are a definite in our future - I'd love a green house to grow vegis all year round, but I'm not sure where on the property I'd keep it. It would also be necessary to heat it for a least part of the year and a decision would have to be made about that. I've done lots of research and know I have a number of heating possibilities; one of my favorites is barrels filled with water painted black set in the sun to absorb heat that then will be radiated into the green house over night.

I suppose that's all for today. I don't want to over do it with my hands, so I'll sign off for now. Blessings for this wonderful introspective time of year. The Sun is coming!

Friday, October 9, 2009

AUTUMN!

Yes this is my favorite time of year and once again I'm trying very hard to enjoy it in spite of the lack of ability due to the healing of my hands - at least they are healing right? Both surgeries are done and I go back to work next week. I wish I could say I'm looking forward to it, and in some ways I am, but to be honest I'm a little afraid of how much pain there may be in the beginning as I continue to heal. At least I'll have a "real" paycheck again.

Not much is happening here on the homestead. The cheeckens are free ranging most of the time and of course that means lots of poop in the yard - our lawn will be lovely next summer. They have also taken to hanging out on my deck, we have 2 acres and they prefer the deck - I've given them a number of stern talking to's, but they really like it there. We scrape and hose off poop a lot. The only time they don't go out is in the pouring rain - more because no one wants to go out in it to let them out. The boy tends to go chase them in to the coop when it starts raining - I keep explaining that a little rain won't hurt them, but he really is quite protective.

We did have a bit of a scare about a week ago in regards to the cheeckens. My lovely hubby and I were snuggled up on the couch watching tv when we heard this horrible screeching outside - it sounded like a very large bird or a 100 lb screaming baby. Brave hubby went out to check it out with a couple of little novelty flashlights (note we need batteries) and saw a dark shape in the woods off to the side of our front yard that seemed to made up of two parts and struggling together. He didn't get very close - they sounded dangerous and his "flashlights" weren't very bright. We did some research and found a recording of a Fisher and that's what it seems to be. Check out this link http://fishercatscreech.com/fisher-cat-sound-and-audio/ - I have to admit ours was much louder as it was really right next to the house. We found some other links that were even more similar, so were pretty sure that's what is was. Fishers (or fisher cats) are a significant predator in our area, so I also had hubby double check the coop - cheeckens were happily snuggling on their roost with no signs of break in attempts. The next morning we checked out the area and there was nothing out of the ordinary.

I really wanted to get some garlic in this fall, but I've had a hard time tracking some down unless I want to mail order and to be honest the list of Autumn chores is long enough that I don't feel comfortable asking the hubby to do anymore than he already is.

We did plant some spring bulbs - 105; 80 crocus, 20 snowdrops, and 25 dutch iris. I have always planned on having most if not all our plantings be about food or medicine, but pretty Spring flowers coming up amidst the last bits of snow, fills me with hope and joy and feeds my spirit if not my body. Since I'll be able to paint again next Spring they will also be a great inspiration for my artistic side - I'm really happy. And garlic can happen next year!

Well, Fall chores are underway. The herb garden has been put to bed with lots of straw mulch and leaf mold from the woods. (we have lots of yummy smelling herbs drying from our hall ceiling - it seems to be the perfect place for drying herbs - we also dried some in the oven and froze some) We are attempting to overwinter as much as possible - my hubby is all about plants that come back over and over - he doesn't like spending money on a plant that dies and doesn't come back. He has also done a lot of the work for me, so he's not real thrilled at the thought of having to plant again next Spring. The strawberry patch is also bedded done with straw mulch - I think the cheeckens have destroyed a least one plant - oh, well. The vegi garden is well on it's way - I'm leaving the celery in as long as possible because it hasn't really grown enough to harvest and it's the one vegi the boy is most excited about.

Next is the prep for the sacred space. We're holding our first large ritual at our home for Samhain, so we're a bit under the gun. Unfortunately, it's been difficult with soccer being on one of the hubby's days off (both games take up the whole afternoon) and I've had a difficult time because the hands make many outings challenging by myself. We've also had rain on almost every day off he's had for the last month and a half or so. We're starting to feel a little concerned. It'll all work out, even if we can't use the sacred space for the ritual - we have a big yard and a nice steel fire pit.

I think that's all that's happening here. More later as things happen and change and progress, as they always do.

I feel blessed. Do you?


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ongoing healing

Well, surgery number 1 is done and I'm beginning to use my right hand more and more each day. Which is good, because surgery number 2 is this Friday. Typing is still a bit painful - I definitely pay for it in the later hours. The amount of post surgery pain was actually more than I expected - I truly believe many surgeons down play the amount of pain after the surgery is over. It's nice to finally be able to do a bit with my hand - the pain is evident, but it's completely different than the carpal tunnel pain. I was originally planning on going back to work between my surgeries, but I was afraid that I would have more pain and a longer recovery. Hubby and I talked about it and I decided just to concentrate on healing. The big surprise is that I qualify for disability pay, so the financial crunch is not nearly as bad as we expected - it's not all I would usually make, but every little bit helps.

We also went on our annual camping trip to memorialize our little Arlo Edward - I can't believe it's already been 3 years since we lost him (though I do admit I often feel his little spirit hovering about). While on the trip it occurred to me that I really should have scheduled the surgery for after our trip - we schedule that trip on Arlo's birth/death day, so that couldn't be changed. I really just did not have as much fun as I usually do - because my hands were a hinderance.

Cheeckens are well, they've taken to trying to hang out on the deck - no one appreciates bird poo on the deck, so I'm encouraging them to find other places to hang. They've also started eating my mums, so off they go - 2 acres other than the deck, should be enough room - you'd think ;)

Homeschooling for the boy is in full force - he's doing pretty well. Soccer season has also started and this may be our last year - this town seems a bit more competitive than we are comfortable with. I just want my kids to have fun and get some exercise, not be berated by other kids because they aren't "good enough". Other activities may be in our future.

Well, this was meant to just be an update, so I should really stop typing now and rest the hand - hope to be knitting again by my birthday.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

hopeful for healing to begin

Well, my surgeries are scheduled. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I may even be able to knit again by my birthday. I am very much looking forward to some pain free time. Trying to remain positive and look forward.

Next summer should be very different. I'm planning on starting a lot of my seeds myself. My wonderful husband has agreed to help me set up space in the basement to start all our seedlings and my father in law has send some florescent lighting instruments and tubes to contribute (he send them as shop lights, but I'm taking them for seedling starting).

Updates will be few as I enter this newest stage in my life. Recovery shouldn't be too long and hopefully I'll be able to post more often afterwards.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

challenges and accomplishments

Well the last few weeks have been about challenges. I have been diagnosed with pretty serious carpal tunnel and have an appointment with a surgeon in a few days - I have been in a lot of pain and losing quite a bit of strength in my hands. I've been saving my "hand time" for work and prepping for the homeschool year for the boy. What is absolutely wonderful is the way the kids have responded - they just can't wait to help "Mommie, I'll do all your hand work today!" Yesterday was shopping day - they helped carry the groceries from the supermarket, the bags of vegis from the farmers market (have I mentioned how much I love our farmers' market?), and the meat from the farm stand. Then they helped put it all away - no complaints. They are also very understanding about "cheecken checks". My lovely cheeckens are free ranging when we are home now, so every once and a while when I go out to check on them and they've disappeared into the underbrush or around the other side of the house - the kids do a cheecken check.

This hand situation has made a lot of my plans go up in smoke. I'd expected to do some canning and preserving this year, but I couldn't even cut up the cukes I bought last week to make pickles. Darling hubby to the rescue. He's not a big fan of canning, but he is a big fan of pickles, so he made our pickles for us. I was so excited. He's really on board with sustainability and preserving surplus for the winter, but it was always expected that those things would be my "job". It's nice to know that our family can really rally together when things get tough.

It looks as though we will not have any tomatoes, we've managed to harvest a few sun golds, but our romas all have blight. Bummer, but considering I've just not had the hand strength to really take care of the garden, I suppose it's to be expected. Our herb garden is all that is thriving out there. I think the lessons here are to water more, but not too much and really watch things much more closely.

Another challenge faced at the moment is that the girl has to go in for some testing later in the week. She'll have to be sedated, so there is a bit of anxiety involved. I'm sure all will be well, but the anticipation is killer. Not sure if the hubby will be able to come along, so facing this one along will be tough - a good friend has offered to come with, so at least I'll have a support system.

Loss of income has been difficult. I've had to cut back on work to help my hands out, so paychecks are a bit smaller and hubby is feeling more pressure and afraid to take time off for the medical stuff. Not sure how we'll manage if I need surgery, but I'm sure we will.

Challenges are about growth and we are definitely growing as individuals and as family and I'm really proud of us. Challenge is also about lessons and I've learned a few important ones. Slow down! I do not have to accomplish a complete life change in a few short months. Take time to appreciate what I have - I have an incredible pair of kids and they inspire me to want more ;) Living with less is what I want, so why am I so concerned about income - the money will be enough - we will make it enough. The most important lesson and one I'm constantly having to relearn is The Universe Will Always Provide. The Divine in all it's names and faces is looking out for us, so I really have nothing to worry about.

Of course even with challenges, some accomplishments continued and with things unfolding as they are, the smallest accomplishments are reason for celebration on our humble homestead. As I noted earlier, pickles were accomplished and boy are they yummy. We are still doing most of our food purchasing with local farmers as well - I feel really good about this one. I've also managed to plan out the boys homeschooling schedule through November, I'm also close to finishing the lesson plan for his first book of the year - Eragon.

Now I don't tell you all this for sympathy but just by way of sharing and explanation regarding sporadic posting. Posting will continue to be sporadic, but I will try to get on every couple of weeks. This post took a couple of days, so I could rest hands. I truly love posting to my blog, so once healing is underway it should be a bit more consistent.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

dinner

Well it's hot here in Poland, Maine, too hot to cook anything. I was looking through the fridge at the farmer's market offerings from our trip there earlier this week and decided I may have to go to the farm stand in Gray to add to what was there. Suddenly I was inspired to go out and check the garden - the tomatoes needed some further staking and while I was out there I notice the bounty of our garden has begun. I actually managed to harvest a bunch of beans from my bush bean plants (I've decided to plant a whole bed of them next year) and some spent lettuce mix. I tied up the tomatoes - lots of lovely green tomatoes on the vines - and then checked out the herb garden. Lots of stuff to add from there. So.... tonight's dinner will be a big fat salad, spinach (from the farm stand), onions (also from the farm stand), cukes (from the farm stand), beans (from our garden - WOO HOO) and lots of tasty herbs (also from our garden) to round out flavor. I'll make a light balsamic maple vinaigrette and the kids will have store bought ranch dressing (gotta use it up - once it's gone only home made baby!) Our salad was grown locally.

I have to admit there is quite a sense of accomplishment in this little salad - we are obviously a long way from being self sufficient, but at least we can contribute to our own food sources. I'm really looking forward to the day when dinner is a herb, cheese, omelet, and fresh vegis from our own land. That will be a happy day and today it seems possible.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

cheecken tv

Okay I have to admit it - I love watching my cheeckens outside in their little pen. The conflicts to establish pecking order have begun and boy it's fun to watch, of course it hasn't gotten particularly violent yet. It seems that Ralph the Rhode Island Red Rooster is definitely getting himself some testosterone. He has begun that rooster strut and the confrontational stand up with fluffed neck feathers. The girls are quite patient with him, though some will not take his attitude - they fluff right back, though they are usually the ones to back down or run away, unless Ralph gets bored with the whole thing....One of the barred rock hens just totally put Ralph in his place - she basically chased him into the coop.

They come and go in and out of the coop all day if the door is open to their yard. I really want to begin free ranging them, but I'm afraid they may get hit by a car - our road is rather busy and the cars move at 40 mph or faster (usually faster) - I'm also worried they may wander into the neighbor's yards - we have 2 acres, but the lot is narrow and neighbors on both sides. The yard on either side in between houses is heavily wooded and I'm hoping they won't go through. I know ultimately I have to just let go and take the risk, but I love my cheeckens and they are still young yet.

We found a family farm about an hour north of here that processes poultry through Thanksgiving and even have chicks and poults (baby turkeys). I've been wanting to get some more chicks for the freezer, but mail order is so expensive and many places have minimums of 25. I want 6-10, but the places that will sent that few charge more for shipping then for chicks. Driving an hour may be well worth it to have no antibiotic, naturally fed, free range chicken.

The rest of our "homestead" is really languishing a bit - I have carpal tunnel and am having a hard time doing many of things I enjoy including this blog and my gardening. The kids have been helping out as has my hubby, but it just isn't the same. I did with the help of hubby make some jars of rosemary olive oil to give as gifts this holiday season, so that was fun - using up the surplus is nice. At least something will have surplus.

Monday, July 20, 2009

summer moves on

Summer finally feels as if it's here. The sun has been shining and my herb garden is happy. The boy and I planted a small rosemary seedling to fill in spot in the knot part of our knot garden, also filled in the chives section, and the oregano. Pruned the rosemary and am now trying to decide how to preserve it. I finally decided on some St. John's Wort for the center, so planted that as well. So far the broccoli is growing well, the celery is holding it's own as is the peppers and carrots. My bush beans and cuke plants have some flowers, as does the tomato plants which really seem to be growing. The Japanese Beetles are out - picked some off the basil and think they may be munching the peppers - will keep an eye out. My salad mix bolted well before it was even big enough to pick and the reseeded seems as though we won't get anything there. The spinach barely did anything at all.

The cheeckens are happily living in their lovely new coop - we constructed them a little pen for the yard yesterday, so they've had some time to scratch in the grass and the dirt. Scared the heck out of me today - I use the deep litter method for the coop, so went in to "fluff" the shavings and add more if needed, so they all went outside. Watched them for a while (I love my cheeckens and really enjoy just sitting and watching them), but then had to get some gardening done. (Garden is in the front yard, coop is in the back) Went back to check on them - NO CHEECKENS! Last night I had to chase them inside, so I wasn't sure if they could get in by themselves. They can - I was in a panic looking for them and realized they all went in. Very exciting! While I am sitting here typing this, they all came back out again! I know it's silly to get so excited about cheeckens moving in and out of their coop, but my life is pretty simple :) and I have to admit - I like it that way.

I am also really excited that my hubby finally put up my clothes line today. One of the things I was most looking forward to when we purchased our own house was having a clothes line. Unfortunately, so many other things really ended up being a priority, that we just never got around to getting it hung up. I've been feeling exceptionally wasteful every time I ran the dryer on a sunny day. This will no longer be the case! Yay for an afternoon home, working on that list of those little projects that just don't seem to get done.

As I said earlier in this post, I pruned a bunch of rosemary - my darling hubby is planning on building me a solar dryer at some point, but all the focus has been on cheecken coops lately, so that just hasn't happened yet. I'll do some cooking with rosemary over the next couple of days, but there is more than I can use before it goes bad; now I have to decide whether to dry or freeze. Finding a place to store drying rosemary on screening for a few days/weeks could be challenging - basement is a bit damp, so this may take some creativity. I'll probably end up freezing it, but am not sure how successful it will be - I'll post with my results. I have to admit - it's really exciting having to figure this one out. I've got my first surplus of something from my own garden. I really had doubts about enough of anything ripening so that I'd need to preserve it. Yeah! This could end up being a homestead after all.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cheekens

Anyone who follows my posts on Facebook will be aware that we finally moved our cheekens into their coop yesterday. It's interesting, I was really looking forward to getting them out of the living room, but now it's eerily quiet in there. I only checked on them twice after dark - great restraint if you ask me. And I only sat on a chair in the coop with them for about 30 minutes just after the move. Of course, now I have an empty brooder box and can't wait to refill it ;). These first cheekens are all layers; well actually they are dual breeds but we'll use them for laying. We began with 6, but lost one to what appeared to be Coccidiasis. We treated the rest and everyone is happy and healthy thus far. Now we have 2 Barred Rock hens, 2 Rhode Island Red hens, and a Rhode Island Red rooster (his name is Ralph the Rhode Island Red Rooster) - I've always been partial to roosters and their crow, so he was really for me and I'm hoping he'll help create come chicks if one of the hens is broody. We live rurally on 2 acres, so there aren't any rules against roosters and if it bothers the neighbors then I'll bribe them with fresh eggs. Cheekens are addictive. I can't wait to get more.

This week is also soccer camp week, so the girl and the boy have soccer every morning at 9 AM. I do not get home from work most nights until between 4 Am and 5:30 AM, so all in all it should be an interesting week.

I haven't been doing much work in the garden, the slugs have claimed the cucumber plants and I think they are winning. I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel a couple of years ago and the symptoms have gotten serious enough that my usual activities are greatly hampered - that includes gardening; holding tools is becoming difficult, as is typing. Hopeful this will all be dealt with soon, so I can get on with drawing, painting, knitting, spinning, needlework and maybe hopefully some more planting. I will be tying up the next phase of growth in the tomato plants today or tomorrow, they are thriving in spite of all the rain. My deck boxes aren't really doing very well, I'm thinking of pulling most everything out and starting again. - we'll see how my hands are this weekend.



Tuesday, July 7, 2009

is it a homestead

Well, we are just starting out and I'm not sure if we can really call where we live a homestead at least yet. But it's a goal.

About me: wonderful husband, 2 kiddos - the boy, who's 11 and the girl, who is 6. They're both homeschooled - which is a wonderful choice for us. We started out unschooling and then started using an online curriculum/school, but I'm really considering going back to unschooling. When we began the homeschooling journey I was a stay at home mom, then I started to work third shift, so thought a curriculum would make it easier, now I'm not so sure. We'll take the summer to make a decision if we want to continue with the curriculum or not.

We live in a small ranch style home in the lakes region of Maine on a little over 2 acres that we closed on January 30, 2009. Our first house purchase! We lived for over 6 years in a tiny apartment in a city, so were very excited to get to the country and start on our homesteading dreams.

So far we have started a fence for the front yard (our gardening space), planted the lilac hedge I've always wanted, planted 3 blueberry bushes, a small strawberry patch, a birdbath flower patch, a small vegi garden, a herb knot garden (the boy's science project for the year), flower boxes on our deck, and built most of the chicken coop.

We currently have 5 chickens living in a large brooder box in the living room because the rain has held up our coop build. Made great progress this weekend and hopefully Ralph and the girls will be in their coop by Sunday. I love my cheekens! This could be an easy obsession for me. I can't wait to get more! One of my favorite sites is backyardchicken.com - I go there almost every day.

We have lots of goals, but need to remember that time is on our side - we won't get it all done in 1 summer and we shouldn't try. It is all about the journey! I don't know about being self-sufficient, but I do want to grow and eat my own food and live closer to the land. I want my kids to play outside and build fairy houses and forts and explore and learn to respect and care for nature and our animals - I want them to understand how the earth provides for us. I think they are learning and maybe even enjoying it at least a little.