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Monday, June 22, 2015

State of the Homestead

It's been a busy couple of months despite nearly dying of blood poisoning and having a retired husband underfoot. Don't ask me which was harder. LOL!

We've had more rain at one time than I had ever seen in north Texas. This was great for the garden but a little hard for outdoor projects on the homestead. 

We're into full blown summer now so we have to pace ourselves. No outside work after 10am. After then the sun beats you senseless.

Garden: Beautiful harvests! Beans, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, and kale. The only disappointment this year was my lettuce. Overnight, tiny lettuce loopers devoured my entire bed of lettuce. It's too hot now to replant so I might try again later in the year.

My fruit trees continue to disappoint. I do great with small fruits like strawberries and blackberries, but tree fruit success continues to evade me. I honestly don't know what I'm doing wrong. The trees look great. Beautiful and bushy, but no fruit. (Yes, I have pollinators.)

I intend to persevere and try again in 2016.  

 My herbs did well this year too, but once again, the cilantro bolted as soon as it warmed up. I'm going to try growing it indoors to see if I can get it to produce during the summer. We eat too much of it to have it in such limited supply.

The most successful (and delicious) crop this year were the red potatoes. Man, they are good! You almost don't need butter. 

The snow peas were also delicious. Even though I planted a lot, it wasn't near enough to freeze. Must plant again in the fall.

I got a lot of French beans, but honestly, I didn't care for them. I guess I expected a more delicate flavor. I might try a different variety next time.

Chickens: A failed experiment with the Australorps. I have a broody hen so I decided to give her a chance to sit on a few eggs. 

Alas, she had the best intentions, but poor technique. She accidentally destroyed four of her eggs. Four we removed by mistake. (Greg didn't know I had marked them.) The last two look like duds. 

In this picture, she cracked one of the eggs. What was sad is that the little guy would've been born in two days.

I love the Australorps. They're excellent layers and calm birds. The Marans lay prettier dark brown eggs, but the Australorps are more dependable. 

Goats: We're serious about downsizing this year. If we want to travel, we'll have to get down to just a couple of goats. Last week we sold our "No-Name" buck. 

He is a beauty. Originally, we were going to keep him and put Ray Charles in the freezer, but almost overnight, Ray Charles came into his own. He isn't as big as his cousin, but he's sweet and easy to handle having had so much attention as a baby. He'll still go in the freezer later on, but for now he's received a reprieve. 

The goat we sold went to a man who wanted new blood for his herd. 

Is it strange for me to say that I hated to part with "No-Name"? I hope he likes his new home and I hope they're good to him. 

Greg reminds me that the man paid top dollar for him so I shouldn't worry so much. 

Still, I don't want my goats to go to bad homes. I want their new owners to treat them well and give them regular worming and hoof trimming.

Life goes on at the homestead. The past few weeks have been especially hard on Greg since he's had to do so much of the work himself while I was injured. I've regained some use of my hand, but I bandage it if I have to do any outside work because it's still tender and easy to re-injure.

Photoshop magic. He could lift it, but he wouldn't be smiling.
I did buy him an anvil though. He's been asking for one for years and one finally came up that we could afford. Those things are tremendously expensive! 

There's a class in blacksmithing in the big city. Maybe I can get him enrolled in that once he stops driving to Casa South.

Is anyone gardening this year? What were your winners and losers? Anything you'd like to recommend?

Have you ever sold something with misgivings? Or am I being too sentimental?


Mike Keyton said...

Greg and that anvil. How long did you have him holding the damn thing while you got the perfect picture ��

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: Aw, come on, Mike. I love my husband! That's Photoshop.

I know he can lift it because he had to carry it in by himself (I had the bum hand), so I Photoshopped them together to keep him smiling.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Speaking as someone who can barely keep plastic plants alive, your gardens and produce sound so amazing and have me craving a big fresh salad. Yum!

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

I can relate to the 'underfoot' issue. My wife, a teacher...home all summer...slows down my writing considerably.

Maria Zannini said...

Madeline: The excess rain helped a lot. It grew fast and it grew far. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Re: My wife, a teacher...home all summer...slows down my writing...

Better she slow you down than not have her at all. It's an excellent trade. :)

betty said...

I think it is an adjustment when a hubby retires, LOL, for both of you :) Hubby didn't retire but for four years he had a change of schedule where he was home more during the day. Took an adjustment indeed!

I think you were wise to sell your goat and I could see you worrying about it going to a good home. I think we are nurturers so we want to make sure everything and everyone is being taken care of.

Sounds like it has been a relatively productive spring going into summer. It is good that you are trying different veggies to grow and experiments with chickens and seeing what works and what doesn't work. An adventure indeed!


Lynn Viehl said...

My guy is home this week on vacation. Usually he's really good about not hovering or annoying me, but he does regularly get into big projects that require the power or water to be temporarily turned off, so I have to keep an eye on him. I'm sending him off to go fishing when I get close to my next deadline. :)

I did pretty well with all my container herbs this spring, and the French lavender and Italian oregano were my two best growers. I've already harvested everything so I decided to grow a second batch of lavender, which has just sprouted, and some more rosemary, of which I can never have enough for cooking. The little bit of basil I grew tasted weird -- way too minty -- so I mulched that. I did invest in some ornamental hanging sweet potato vines for the front porch and they are in waterfall mode.

I'm not a fruit tree expert, but are you fertilizing a lot? Sometimes that made some of our citrus trees put out more leaves than flowers.

Sarah Ahiers said...

I mean, I get sentimental about things (I cried when we had to sell my sis's pickup "Trucky") so I totally get getting sentimental about an actual animal.

Garden is going okay for us. We've had a ton of rain and sun, but things just aren't as big as we'd expect this time of year, even though some are blooming.

So, I don't know. We'd like to move next year, which would mean starting completely over with a new garden, which sounds exciting and fun

Maria Zannini said...

Betty: One of my plans was to experiment more now that I had more time. I'd love to start a small exchange group between friends and trade seeds and starts so we can each try new things.

Maria Zannini said...

Lynn: Interesting about the basil. I've had really strong smelling basil but not minty basil. I would've chucked it too.

Rosemary grows like a weed here. I'm planning on starting new pots from a big bush since we'd like to move it to different spots on the property.

Re: trees
I wondered about fertilizer too. I missed my fertilizing period in the fall but maybe I should look into more specific fertilizers. It almost sounds as if the trees are getting too much nitrogen.

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: Are you staying in-state?

I hate to admit this because people think I'm crazy, but I like to move to new places and start over. I like the feeling of discovery and getting things to fit in new places.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I didn't plant much this year. Tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. We have so many deer, it's difficult to protect crops. I plant them really close to the house and still lose some. We've had so much rain that everything is really growing, especially the weeds.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I'm doing herbs this year because there really is nothing like cooking with fresh herbs instead of dried ones. I've got basil, rosemary and mint (in a container!).

I'm just amazed at your farm you've got going!

Rebekah Loper said...

I am glad you're recovering well!

Gardening is rough this year. I think I said it on my blog the other day (or just in person to a lot of people? I can't remember!) - I know how to deal with drought. I don't know how to deal with too much rain. It's a whole new ballgame, and there's all kinds of problems that spring up with too much water. Like fungus issues.

My tomatoes are blighted (except for the Cherokee Purples, and I've heard enough from various gardeners locally that Cherokee Purples make delicious sauce tomatoes, too, that I might just switch over to them for everything next year, though we'll still grow yellow cherry tomatoes because delicious snacking!), but they clear up every time we have a dry spell.

My onions are doing well, but I think that's because I inadvertently planted them in the highest spot of the garden, so that haven't sat in water and rotted. I pulled one up yesterday to see how they were bulbing up, and things seem to be going well!

I ordered garlic for planting the other day, too. It won't be shipped until September, but YAY homegrown garlic next summer! I use so much garlic I really don't have an excuse to not plant it.

We had a lovely peach tree. It was doing well, had set TONS of fruit, and then we had 15" of rain.

And the peach tree drowned.

We have a new peach tree, Stark Bros. was having their end of season fruit tree sale right as ours died, so yay cheap replacement!

I haven't gotten anything planted besides tomatoes and onions, though. I had planned to do corn and squash, too, but I don't know if I'm too late on some of those now. I need to look up dates and do math.

I want to get some carrots planted, too, because the soil is nice and damp for them this year. I would love to get some sweet potatoes planted, too. We'll see.

As much as I want a self-sustaining flock, the first time one of my hens goes broody is going to be terrifying. I've read a decent share of horror stories of bad technique/bad mothering (and even some hens that just straight up kill their chicks as they hatch), but I know the only way we'll learn which hens make good moms (eventually) is to let them set. The most I can do is have a back-up incubator just in case they get abandoned.

Lucky Greg with is anvil! Brandon's been wanting to do some blacksmithing, and right now his current complaint is that the garden is currently where he would have put a workshop. I keep pointing out that I can just keep growing stuff there until we ACTUALLY have money for a workshop. I don't know if we have anyone who teaches blacksmithing around here, though, and that's the other hold-up. Youtube tutorials can only take you so far.

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: The cucumbers, squash, and eggplant I planted late, but they seem to be fruiting now.

Our main garden is bordered by irises. I'm told deer don't like iris. I don't know if it's true but although I've seen many deer tracks, none have been by the garden. I'm sure the scent of the dogs keep them off the beaten trail too.

Maria Zannini said...

Jennifer: I agree about fresh herbs. No matter what you cook, it tastes fresher and more robust.

PS Glad you've got the mint in a pot. I have a couple of mints. My biggest fear is that they'll jump their pots and grow wild. LOL!

Maria Zannini said...

Rebekah: We were lucky in that this year the main garden was all on raised beds. No drowning. Though I think too much rain might've contributed to losing all the buds on my fruit trees.

Like you, we aren't used to that much water. It's been great for our water bill though. Other than seeds, I hardly spent any money on the garden this year.

I planted some sweet potato slips but something started eating them (probably grasshoppers). I've since put netting on them and the leaves are coming back.

Re: anvil
He's been wanting one forever. I'm sure you know how expensive they are. We happened upon an estate sale and everything was half off. I dragged Greg from the other end of the property so he could see it before anyone else found it. He was a happy camper.

Re: workshop
That's it, exactly. Use the land while you can and when the money comes up then you can move it for his shop. Greg waited quite a while before he sited his shop to make sure it was in a good spot. Although I would've rather had it closer to the house so we could've kept the back for pasture, he really chose the best spot.

Re: chickens
I so wish we lived closer to each other. I have an incubator and hatcher you could use any time. As a matter of fact I have two incubators. I really need to sell one. It's big and in the way. We used to incubate rhea and emu eggs in them.

Diane Carlisle said...

Your garden is beautiful and your animals adorable. :)

I wish I could grow asparagus. It's my favorite and they are getting super expensive! My sister grows all of her vegetables. I bet she is saving a small fortune. lol

Maria Zannini said...

Diane: I should've taken a picture of the asparagus bed. After years of putting it off I finally built a dedicated bed to them. Now my job is to keep it weed-free.

Anonymous said...

You got some good looking food there! I will stew in envious delight for you. I'm not trying to grow anything this year - we're doing the lawn conversion, which is due to start in July. I will probably relocate my raised bed and hope something will grow in it next year.

Maria Zannini said...

Marlene: Lawn conversion? Very cool!

I wanted desperately to do that with my suburban home but was too chicken, afraid I'd have trouble selling the house later.

But this is our last house, so I do as I please now. When we sell this one it'll be because I'm either dead or too decrepit to care.

Jenny Schwartz said...

I love these state of the homestead posts -- and I'll admit, some of my joy is (this is an awful confession) that I'm not the one working so hard. Kudos to you and Greg, Maria :)

Anonymous said...

what do you mean by freeze them? The goats are going to be food?

I'm glad that you are better.


Maria Zannini said...

Jenny: Although some things are still a lot of work, in some ways it's getting easier. Like the raised beds and laying out more weed barrier. It's little things like that that makes the work go faster.

Maria Zannini said...

Dru: Yup. At least one (male) goat a year is for the table. The others will be sold to others as breeding stock or sires.

The hand is better, but I think it might be several more weeks of recuperation. It was pretty bad.

Angela Brown said...

It's been a rough time of late at the homestead. It's understandable that you'd be sentimental about selling No Name, but I also understand your need to make sure you sent them to a place that will care for them as much as you do. Can't help it.

Gardening-wise, seems you have more winners than losers so YAY for all victories :-)

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: I think the best part of this year's garden is that we only hand-watered once. My water bill has never been so low. :)

I take my blessings where I find them.

Anne Gallagher said...

I'm jealous of your garden. I used to plant a huge garden, but living here just isn't conducive. I need to build boxes. Yup.

Sorry to hear about No-Name. But look at it this way, he's a randy buck and he'll be in heaven with all those new girls.

Hope your hand is feeling better. Love the pic of Greg.

Maria Zannini said...

Re: No Name
I hadn't thought of that. He probably thought he'd gone to heaven when he saw his new harem. He's going to make a great sire. He's gorgeous and extremely healthy.

Re: Greg
:o) He's a ham, but I love taking his picture.