Our off-grid pool
Wow, it was a busy two weeks. I did not post an update last week due to being exhausted from all of our planting and work. This week, I am making sure to write about our progress in growing as much food as we realistically can as well as talk about the daily ups and downs of our life here on the farm.
Last week we had some soaking rains which helped tremendously again. We planted several sections of pink eye cowpeas, black oilseed sunflowers, squash, and more sweet potatoes. CM helped me mound two 30-foot sections of potatoes which are looking quite nice. We are entering our third year growing the gardens, fruit trees, and shrubs and this year we are in awe of everything coming together and really shaping up. Our fruit trees are growing so much already that we cannot believe they were little sticks just a year ago. Even the neglected hedges of elderberries are sending shoots over 5 feet high already!
Young box turtle soaking in the driveway
We are seeing that we should prioritize berry bushes and cane fruits as they are exceptionally productive in our acidic poor soil and continue to miss late frosts.
In the garden, the trellises are all planted with long beans, pole beans, cucumbers, hyacinth beans, bitter melon, Mexican gherkins, and tomatoes. Beneath these vines are rows and rows of sweet and hot peppers, melons, soybeans, salsify, burdock, and bush beans. Out in the orchard plantings, we have sweet potatoes coming along nicely with several varieties of watermelons, melons, and winter squash. All our painted mountain corn failed to germinate (4 packets of them ☹) so I replanted them with pink eye cowpeas which just popped up yesterday. Soybeans were decimated by our resident wild rabbits so I will have to replant and fence them off.
I was still pretty overwhelmed with the idea and implementation of trying to grow as much food as we could to offset grocery bills so I had another talk with CM about it and that helped calm me down. We decided to prioritize nutrient-dense foods and invest our money in developing ways to scale up our ability to grow more in this oftentimes challenging climate. I will be writing an article about that soon so that is all I will say for now.
There was a birdhouse that had the front door down, I went over to fix it and found 5 brand new tree swallow babies in the nest! Their eyes are still closed. So cute!
Next to the well, CM brought over our two water troughs and filled them up to serve as our soaking tubs. When the temps are near 100 for days at a time these troughs lift our spirits. Once we use them for a few days we use the water to take a bath and then the water is used in the garden so nothing is wasted.
Salsify plants that overwintered from last year are maturing their seeds now so we are able to mass-produce salsify once I collect the seed heads. This is a great way to grow enough and save a lot of money as it is impossible to find affordable seeds of the quality and quantity needed to feed ourselves.
The chicks turned 6 weeks old last week so we moved them into the big pen with the 3 nicer adults. They were so excited to have a huge pen to run around in. I was even able to put together another section using scrap wire in the adjacent food forest row so they can go out there now and eat the cover crop coming up there. We installed a 10x20’ 90% shade cloth next to the coop so they have additional shade while the berry bushes grow up in the pen. All last week we had temps near 100 so the added shade was helpful. We are making sure to have some daily hands-on time with the 3 roosters so hopefully, they are nicer to us and we do not have to eat them. Time will tell. The ducks are living their best life playing in their ponds and muddying up any water container they can get their bills into. They are beautiful and entertaining but man do I prefer chickens on this property.
CM has been working so hard on the truck and learning about how to put new tires on the rims, the spark plugs, and more. He is finishing the chicken coop trim today as I type this. I do not know how a homestead could be run like this without his help. Yesterday we collected some strawberries from the garden and he used the rocket stove to make jam! It turned out really well and was delicious. His adaptive off grid culinary skills really make life easier. Using the solar oven has saved so much energy we highly recommend them for anyone.
We had a birthday to celebrate this week and took a fun trip to visit Edible Landscaping in Afton Virginia. It was a bit of a drive but it was a lot of fun to walk through the greenhouses and gardens surrounded by beautiful edible plants. We ended up buying a Girardi mulberry, trader mulberry, regent serviceberry, seedless che, and an American grape. We actually already have most of the fruit trees they sell so we stayed within budget! The mulberries will be planted near the chicken runs so they will be fed when the fruits drop.
The grounds of Edible Landscaping
Thoughts through the week:
What happens when someone who you really admired and looked up to turns out to be a slimy salesman? How do you feel when someone tells you to grow a garden due to imminent food shortages but doesn’t grow one themselves? How do you feel when the person rambles on about being transparent, authentic, and moral when what they do does not reflect any of these virtues? Why are people so wrapped up in crypto-currencies, stocks, and the status quo when none of those things truly matter? When I look at our living capital and appropriate technology on the land, I ask these questions. If the stock market tanks, none of the plants, animals, streams, or structures give a damn. They keep being their amazing selves and couldn’t care less about the stupidity of those rigged institutions. The lesson I am learning here is to be authentic in my own life. To walk the talk and live by my morals and ethics.
Watching the space station pass over
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