Weekly Homesteading Update

Still searching for a format and style for this site, I am starting a new series of posts beginning with this one, reviewing the week and the latest in our going homestead effort.

We just enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. We gathered with my parents, my aunt, cousins, my brother, their dogs, their cats, and an insane amount of good food. I lost count of the number of dishes. We certainly had all of the traditional ones covered – turkey (three of them), the best stuffing ever (my mom’s), corn, green beans, and so on. It was nice to have a large family gathering. We don’t do that often enough. Hopefully this next year we’ll have more such gatherings.

So, where is the ‘going homestead’ update in that? Well, it is a small start, but it’s a start nonetheless. We had a wonderful mix of different green beans in that meal. All of the beans came from my garden. They were rich with flavors that canned and store-bought beans can’t even pretend to possess. The mix included: Blue Lake Pole Beans, Contender Bush Beans, Purple Pod Pole Beans, Good Mother Stallard Beans, Calypso Beans, and Cherokee Trail Beans. The latter bean was especially poignant, as it was the variety of bean carried by the Cherokee on their forced marched Westward so long ago. This is bitter sweet, considering we were celebrating Thanksgiving, a holiday largely associated with the story of how the early pilgrims and a native American people (albeit not the Cherokee) forged a friendship by sharing food, company, and a spirit of thankfulness for this life.

In addition to the beans, we had a nice salad. About an hour before our meal, I went out to the garden for the lettuce. I walked down the row and selected clippings from each of six different lettuces for the salad. All of the lettuce is doing quite well, in spite of the freeze we had last week. Two of the varieties I chose specifically for their cold weather hardiness. There were deep greens, light greens, and royal to burgandy purples. I took maybe one tenth of what was there, leaving enough on each plant to keep them healthy. They’ll replace what I clipped.

For a separate bowl, I clipped two different varieties of Swiss chard. If I was the only person eating the salad, I would have thrown them in with the lettuces. However, my wife discovered a few weeks back that she is not as fond of Swiss chard. It has a stronger flavor, almost spicy in the case of the Five Color Silverbeet Swiss Chard; the spice is probably because I let it grow so large before clipping (much the same as beets). The rest of the meal was home cooked, but with store bought ingredients. Still, it all was very tasty and satisfying.

In spite of our collective best efforts, we could not eat all of the food prepared for that meal. This, however, is a blessing. After taking a day off from food (we were very full), we drove back over to my parents and collected enough leftovers to last us a week at home. I think turkey and stuffing might be better the second time around. That’s one less trip to the grocery store, which, in light of the massive crowds of Christmas shoppers, is truly a blessing.

As to Christmas, Leah and I have begun our preparations. We bought each of our kids a nice gift online, having found the items in the mailed version of the Back to Basics catalogue. We now are working diligently (she more than I, so far) to craft some wonderful heirloom quality gifts for our kids, as well as for our extended family. We decided to make more gifts this year to save money, but also because we enjoy making them. Certainly a good deal of thought goes into a gift when it is handmade by the giver; isn’t it the thought that counts? For my boys, I am making toy robots of wood and spare metal parts. The contrast of wood and brass color is striking. I am going for a look of whimsy. I’ll post pictures once they are complete. I have some other creations planned for the kids too. I made a deal with my wife. We agreed to buy one main gift for each child, then to make some. If for some reason, our efforts to make gifts fail, we will buy a couple other items. So, Christmas is perhaps materially smaller, but emotionally larger this year. This is a welcome change, and one, I think, much more in line with the occasion.

As another baby step down the path of homesteading this last week, the owner of the local Dunn Bros. coffee store and I have made an arrangement whereby I provided them with a lidded bucket in which they will deposit their daily used coffee grounds. I am to come by regularly (which I already do) to retrieve the grounds, so that I can add them to my compost for my gardens. This certainly ups the volume to my compost, a change that will be much needed come Spring planting.

I’ve a long way to go before I have my little house on the prairie. I am researching more, learning, planning. I received the annual seed catalogue from Seed Savers Exchange. So, I can begin selecting next year’s crops.  Much to do, but none of seems like work when it is so enjoyable.

Advertisements

Garden Beginnings

We worked in the yard this evening, my wife, kids, and I. Finally got all of the leaves up. Cleaned up the overflow from the roughly made compost pile I started a little while back. Trying to whip it into shape. Moved some things around to make room for new plantings over the next couple of weeks. Started clearing the beds. Added soil to the second four foot square-square foot garden plot-elevated with a decent soil mix to start out my first year gardening at home (since I was a kid). I haven’t found coarse vermiculite locally and didn’t get around to ordering it off the web. So, I started with an 80% compost 20% manure mix (all organic); I couldn’t use much of the yard’s existing soil, since my neighborhood was built by throwing an extremely thin layer of cheap topsoil over a rocky mess. I may have the garden soil too ‘burning’, but it seems to be ok so far. We planted seven plants (squares) a week ago, all with heirloom non-gmo organic seeds. All but two are sprouting now. I am hopeful. We’ll plant more tomorrow.