This area of Tennesse is known for its waterfalls. I had no idea I would have one in my home.
Let me back up a bit. Two weeks ago, I had a prompting to start tackling some of the bigger projects on the homestead. This means calling in contractors and shelling out substantial amounts of money. Mr. J is handy, but he is not replacing the roof handy. Time to bring in the big guns.
Our home has a metal roof that looks a bit like a patchwork quilt. I don’t know much about metal roofs, but I’m pretty sure that is not a good sign. The roofer confirmed it. He also found an area of the roof that had several inches of standing water and no slope to drain it. He promised to fix this issue when the roof is replaced…two weeks from now.
We weren’t too concerned, because while the house has several leaks there were none in that area…until early Saturday when we were hit with 6 inches of snow and below freezing temperatures.
The dam broke loose. Our son woke to water dripping on his bed at 6:30am and our day began.
Handy Mr. J overcame bitter cold and fear as he climbed the ladder again and again to try to scoop water off the roof with a squeegee on a long pole. On the inside, I was adjusting buckets and sopping water with towels.
Our outlook improved as the drips appeared to stop, but that was really just the water turning to ice as the temperatures dipped into the low teens.
This morning’s bright sun turned that around and we looked into our son’s room to find this…
Honestly, after a while, you take inside waterfalls in stride. It makes you take a good look at the dust bunnies on the floor and provides plenty of water to wipe them up with.
When outside water comes in, use it as an opportunity to clean the floor.
And did I mention we have guests arriving this afternoon? And before heading to church this morning Mr. J found a leak in our hot water heater?
Taking it in stride my friends. God allows these challenges to both humble and strengthen us.
The seed potatoes arrived at my feed store a few weeks ago. Oh. I hadn’t considered potatoes. But here they are stacked on a pallet in burlap bags. Tempting me.
I ask how much they are. “Fifty pounds for twenty dollars.”
That’s a deal. But fifty pounds. Ugh there is no way I can get that whole bag planted this year.
“They are Yukon gold.” Oh! Those are the ones we use all the time.
The cashier could see my inner dialogue and suggested “We can give you twenty-five pounds for ten dollars.”
Well, that is certainly more manageable and who can pass up a deal like that. So, I walked out the door with twenty-five pounds of potatoes in my arms.
This was my weekend to get them in the ground. This past week we had a false spring with temperatures in the seventies, but another rainstorm is coming so I felt the push to get these in the ground.
I had a spot selected. I researched growing potatoes and decided on a method. I did a modified no-dig style. We have clay soil. I decided to lay a row of cardboard and woodchips to separate my two 30-foot rows. I then weeded and gently forked either side of the wood chips to loosen the soil a bit. I spaced the potatoes about one foot apart in the row. Next, I dug a shallow divot to nestle each potato into. Finally, I covered the potatoes with aged horse manure from the barn.
I did not “chit” the potatoes – cut them into smaller pieces. I really had more potatoes than I had space, so I just kept them whole. As the potatoes grow, I will continue to cover them with straw that has been used as animal bedding. With luck we will have home grown spuds in our future.
I love growing my own onions. I purchase onion starts from Dixondale Farms and until now have been limited to purchasing the short-day varieties. These are onions that are grown over the winter months in mild climates.
But now we are in the northern part of Tennessee. We are geographically suited for the intermediate-day onions. But we are very close to the zones for short-day and long-day varieties. The long day varieties store the longest and the short-day varieties are ready soonest. So, I decided to experiment. I got some of each variety. In fact, I got a bunch of yellow, white, and red onions for each of the varieties. Dixondale promotes that a bunch will contain at least 50 onion starts. I find that they usually contain closer to 70.
When I did a final count, I planted close to 1000 onions over the past three days. I have the aching back to prove it.
The spot I chose for the onions measures approximately 5 feet by 60 feet. Several months ago we laid down cardboard, leaves and some horse manure. I topped this with 25 bags of composted cow manure, so I had soil to plant the onions into. I plant my onions approximately 4 inches apart. I use my fist to measure this distance. I scattered straw over the top to retain moisture and help protect these little guys from frost.
As I walked up to the post office today, I spotted a dandelion that had grown up out of a tiny crack in the cement. There was no soil to be seen, but this flower reached for the sun and spread itself out over the barren concrete. It bloomed and provided seeds for future dandelions. I encourage you to be the dandelion where you are. Reach for the Son, thrive where you are, and bear fruit.
I suppose most people think of dandelions as weeds. I happen to know that they are one of God’s gifts. I am always excited to see them after a good rain and some sunshine. Then I know it is time to forage the flowers to make dandelion oil.
Dandelion is one of the first plants that introduced me to the healing properties of the plants around us. My first exposure to practical herbalism.
These simple flowers are known to reduce inflammation among other things. When the flowers are covered in oil and warmed the oil becomes infused with this anti-inflammatory property.
Several years ago, when I first read online about making dandelion oil, I thought “I can do that.” I kept my eyes peeled as I drove my boys to and from soccer practices. I found a bonanza at one of their soccer fields. I was thrilled to learn that this was also a “no pesticide” park. I happily filled my grocery bag with dandelions during my son’s practice while the other parents looked at me out of the corner of their eyes and surely thought I was nuts.
I took the flowers home and let them air dry overnight. The next morning, I put them in a glass jar, covered them with olive oil, and placed the jar in a sunny window. This step allows the sun to warm the oil and the warm oil pulls out the goodness of the flower. After a few weeks the oil is ready to be used. It can be used as is or turned into a salve. I use dandelion oil and a few other ingredients to make a salve I call Lion Balm. We use it on sore muscles, bruises, aches and pains.
I make this salve every year.
This week I found dandelions in my yard. Yay! I am so excited. But I am not going to pick these first flowers. Instead, I will let them go to seed in the hopes of multiplying my dandelion plants in the future.
Yep, I am that crazy person that cultivates dandelions.
I encourage you to look around for dandelions in your yard or neighborhood. Maybe, do some foraging and make your own dandelion oil. It is an easy first step towards learning more about the herbal gifts God has blessed us with.
About two months ago, I purchased a flock of chickens from a family that was downsizing in preparation for a move. This flock of birds came with two ducks. I was told their names are Minnie and Daisy. I asked if the ducks laid eggs. The owner replied, “Once and it was really good.” Hmmmm.
Well, it looks like I got a pair of pet ducks. Ideally, all our animals on the farm have a role to play, I am not really interested in feeding a bunch of freeloaders. We will have to see what happens.
Our relationship was off to a cool start. The ducks did not trust me and would studiously keep at least 6 feet away from me at all times.
That was until they figured out that the food comes from me. And it is pretty good food. Then their attitude changed from one of mistrust to joyful declaration of my approach. If they hear me walking towards the chicken run they announce “QUACK, quack, quack, quack, quack” as they waddle their way towards me.
O.K. So that’s really cute and endearing. But they still aren’t laying eggs.
As I would feed and water the birds, I would tell them they needed to pick up their slack. For a while I had nine birds and was only getting two eggs a day. (Of course, three are roosters, but that’s another story.) Feeding all those birds makes those two eggs quite expensive.
The ducks have taken up residency under the chicken coop. Plenty of space. Keeps them warm and dry. A pretty good place for a duck.
Once in a while I look under the coop for eggs. Chickens don’t always lay in their nests and perhaps one or two were laying under the coop. I also still held out hope for the ducks.
Then I found them! I looked under the coop and saw two eggs.
I got down and reached under. One. Two. Wait, I feel more. Three. Four. Dig a little more…5, 6, 7!
They had been laying. But the nest was so deep that I didn’t see it until these last two on top were visible.
A total of six duck eggs and one chicken egg (the green one). I feel bad for giving Daisy and Minnie a hard time. I have no idea how long have they been down there. Are they still good? There is an easy way to tell: the float test.
Put your eggs in a large bowl filled with water. If they float, they are too old. If they stay on the bottom, they are perfectly fine. As you can see, mine are on the bottom (no floaters) so we are safe. I gave them a good wash and put them in the fridge.
I normally store my eggs unwashed on the counter. This is how eggs are stored throughout most of the world. There is this magic that a chicken does as she lays her egg. She surrounds it with a protective coat called a “bloom.” The bloom prevents bacteria from penetrating and helps preserve it. Washing the egg removes this coating. So washed eggs go in the refrigerator.
Farm life is marked by the simple excitement of dandelions and duck eggs. I’ll take it.