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.