Planting Tomatoes

Living life on the edge, some hope, and lots of work

In my eagerness and optimism, I started my tomato seeds entirely too early. Currently they are long, leggy and ready to bust out of their Solo cups.

I have been checking our weather forecasts frequently. Trying to navigate our final frost. There is rain heading our way and I want to plant before it hits.

Feeling optimistic (and having a plan to cover my tomatoes on chilly nights) I decided to get some plants in the ground today.

If only it were as simple as digging a whole. There is much more involved with this previously tilled garden and clay soil.

Preparing the Soil

I loosened the clay with a pitchfork, pulling weeds along the way. Then I raked in kelp meal, rock phosphate, and pelleted chicken manure. This will add minerals and nutrients to the soil.

I added an aspirin and some Epsom salts to each tomato hole. You can read more about the benefits of these HERE and HERE.

The soil is depleted so I am doing all I can to give my plants and strong start.

It felt good to work in the ground and get started with this growing season.

Showing Promise

My oldest son was helping me in the garden and asked where I planted my 25lbs of potatoes. I walked him over to the spot and discovered potato plants popping up.

It worked! They are growing. Now I will need to add more aged straw with horse manure later this week to cover these sprouts. I will also need to keep the weeds at bay, so they don’t overtake my potato plants. But these green leaves have given me some hope.

More Work to Do

And then I turn around and see all the weeds that will need to be addressed before the rest of the garden gets put in.

Ugh.

I could use a tiller, but I am aiming for the least disturbance of the soil that I can manage. Whenever I have pulled weeds, I have found tons of worms and I would hate to lose them to some aggressive tilling.

A garden is hope and promise and lots of hard work. It is worth it.

Processing Our First Chickens

When death is a part of homestead life.

We have a goal of raising as much of our food as possible. Being responsible for that food from start to finish. That means providing our animals with the healthiest life possible, and the most respectful death we can give them.

We have purchased dozens of chicks to raise for meat and eggs. I acquired all the tools necessary for butchering in anticipation of that day.

The day came sooner than expected with a sickly hen that was not getting better. Today was the day. We decided to use this hen as a practice and added an extra rooster to the process.

Our original plan for the day was to take down some old fencing, but this sickly chicken became the priority, and all resources were directed towards the effort.

Mr. J unboxed and assembled the chicken plucker. Our middle son nailed the kill cone to the tree and set up our workspace. I cleaned containers, heated water for scalding, and provided ice water for rinsing. I also collected the chickens.

I must say, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I had mentally prepared myself for this day. And it certainly helped that I started roasting whole chickens several years ago. There was a time when I was squeamish around a chicken carcass from the store. Not anymore.

We will make use of every part of those chickens. Nothing will go to waste. The sickly chicken (probably injured, not diseased) ended up in the compost pile We did not want to risk making any other animal sick. The rooster was butchered. The dogs will get the carcass, feet, and organs. The pigs will be offered the intestines and other bits. The water we used to rinse and clean was poured on the plants in the hoop house. The feathers have been tossed in the pig pen. If the pigs don’t eat them, they will end up in the compost.

We need to work on technique. But this is a start. You have to start somewhere.

If you want to grow your own food, you need to do the work. From start to finish. Life to death.

We Have Been Busy on the Homestead

and I hope you are busy too.

Our mornings start with a sprint as we take care of the animals and end with a whimper as we make our way upstairs to sleep. With the arrival of spring there is so much to be done. The days are longer, the weather is more enjoyable, and the time to plant looms.

Establishing the garden

The challenge of a new garden is real. I have to learn the seasons of this new home. I have to prepare my beds – weeding and planning for little seedlings and tiny seeds. Where should each main crop go and what companion plants should I plant nearby. Putting up a fence to keep the livestock and dogs out. Creating something from nothing. I am overwhelmed with the barren aspect of this space but look forward to creating a place of abundance.

All this takes time

When I began to garden years ago, I learned quickly that most plants need at least two months before you can harvest any food. That is assuming your crop survives storms, drought, bugs, and other creatures that want to partake of your hard work. This is not an easy feat and any harvest at all should be celebrated.

This is important because if you think you may want to grow your own food in the future you need to start NOW. You need to practice. You need to fail. You need to learn what works. What you love to eat now and what you can preserve for the future.

I feel compelled to grow as much food as possible. For our table, for our health, and to bless others.

I feel compelled to suggest that you grow as much food as you can this summer. Maybe it is a tomato plant in a pot on your patio. Some green beans against the side of your house. Or filling those raised beds you haven’t found time for in previous years.

Grow something. Practice. Fail. Learn. And celebrate your harvest. Bless others with your abundance.

Keep busy.

The Good News is the Floor Got Clean

When the Outside Water Came In.

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.

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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.

Potatoes and Onions

Decisions. Decisions.

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.”

What!??!

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.

Onions Galore!

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.

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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.

Dandelions and Duck Eggs

Stuff to get excited about.

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.

If you would like to make your own dandelion oil, you can find more information on the Mommypotamus page: How To Make Dandelion Oil (And 5 Ways To Use It) (mommypotamus.com)

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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.

Exciting!

I got down and reached under. One. Two. Wait, I feel more. Three. Four. Dig a little more…5, 6, 7!

What?!!

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.

Extending My Gardening Season

using three different tunnels.

With a goal of growing as much food as possible for my family, I am looking for ways to extend my growing season. This was easy in southern California where you can grow year-around. It is more challenging in Tennessee, but not impossible.

Gardening is a grand experiment with successes and failures. I find that I am always learning and every year I will set a new goal or try something new. With so much space at our new homestead, I am a little overwhelmed, but still plowing forward with gusto. If I had a goal, it would be to “do all the things.” Not sure if I will get to “all the things” but I will share what I do get done.

I mentioned in a previous post that I started my seeds earlier than recommended. I did this knowing I would be planting them under cover in the garden protecting them from frosts. I will most likely lose a few plants; I may lose all of them. It is in failing that we learn.

Mr. J has completed my hoop house enough for me to start working inside. There are some minor details left, but the inside is now mine. Poor guy. I kept pestering him because my broccoli seedings were busting at the seams and I was itching to get them in soil. The minute he gave me the go ahead I got started.

I leveled the soil, applied a layer of cardboard, and poured out bags of raised bed mix from my local hardware store. The cardboard attracts worms and suppresses weeds. Ideally, I would have used my own homemade compost to fill this space, but realistically that wasn’t happening. Going forward, I will endeavor to add a new layer of my compost on top of this soil each season. I am practicing a no-dig method that will feed and develop the soil. The soil will in turn feed my plants. I like following Charles Dowding in Great Britain for encouragement with this method. You can find his website HERE and his YouTube channel HERE.

I have another section of my garden where I am using a makeshift cover and two low tunnels to see what works.

My earliest attempt to extend the season is a very low budget experiment. Using wooden stakes, I propped up three U-shaped metal frames (they were the legs of a bleacher bench in a previous life). I covered this with a plastic mattress protector from our recent move. I then surrounded it with hay bales for insulation and to support for a large piece of glass for further protection. I planted kale and cilantro seed starts here at the end of December. They have not grown much, but they are still alive. I am counting this as a win! This little covered space has survived several snows and temperatures in the teens. I expect these plants to take off once spring really hits.

This set up is very budget friendly. I purchased one bag of composted cow manure for the soil ($5) and four bales of straw ($6 each) that will be used as mulch later on in the season. Everything else was repurposed. It is also very easy to just walk by and lift up the plastic or tuck it back down as the weather changes.

At the end of last year, when the weather prevented me for actually working in the garden, I was looking for more options for low tunnels. Researching online, my brain was about to explode with the options, and I had analysis paralysis. Then I came across this “Easy Tunnel” while looking through the Harris Seeds catalogue. It seemed like an affordable way to give this method a try. This tunnel has plastic sleeves sewn onto the hoops and opens and closes in an accordion style. The wires poke through my leaves and cardboard easily enough and the length is just right for growing a crop and managing the tunnel.

I like the length and affordability of this option. There is no assembly required. It has also withstood some serious winds without blowing away. However, this tunnel needs to be completely removed and set aside for watering and temperature regulation. This is not a deal breaker, but it is an additional step to consider. I planted these broccoli starts a few days after the ones in my hoop house. It will be interesting to see the difference in their growth as the days go by. I purchased this low tunnel from Harris Seeds HERE.

I have a new garden to establish and enough space to make my brain hurt. Tackling smaller spaces as I ease into spring is making this process easier. Planning and planting a 10ft by 20ft hoop house is much easier than contemplating my entire garden all at once. One project at a time, one day at a time, and we will see how much I can produce.

In the picture above you can see what the garden looks like after a week of rain. We have clay soil and a high water table. I hope that covering the soil instead of tilling will improve the soil and reduce this puddling. The picture on the right shows how much my broccoli starts have grown in the last week (compared to the earlier picture.) They are loving the hoop house.

What are you working on right now? Are you trying to extend your season? I encourage you to try something new and grow more.

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To design the hoop house Mr. J referenced this video:

Blessed and Beautiful Homestead cattle panel hoop house HERE.

And then life happened…

A blog post on why I didn’t write a blog post.

When I began this blog, I made a commitment to writing posts twice a week posting on Mondays and Thursdays. This seemed reasonable and doable. Enough consistency on my end, but not an overwhelming burden to create content.

And then life happened.

Life happens a lot on the farm. In this case it was Sunday. I had a plan for a post to write Sunday and to be published Monday.

While Sunday should be a day of rest and reflection – an ideal time for me to write – this Sunday had me bustling to prepare soil in my newly (almost) finished hoop house.

My broccoli seedlings were bursting at the seams, another storm front was heading our way, and life was telling me I needed to get them planted now.

I happily worked in the hoop house, taking pictures along the way, knowing I could relax Sunday evening and write my post about the work I was doing in the garden.

And then life happened.

You see our cows escaped again a month ago. It was soul crushing. We got Helen back the first weekend, but Panda was proving to be a challenge. “Roguish” was what one experienced farmer called her. The type of cow you send to the butcher. We are not quite there yet; we want to work with Panda more first. Besides it was largely our fault the cows escaped again. While the fencing was complete, the gates were not up, and the girls were able to run right through the openings.

Little Panda hanging out with our neighbor’s Angus cows.

After about a week Panda showed up at our neighbor’s field. We were able to get her fenced in their pasture with their herd of cows. That’s a start. Getting her out was the problem. The ground around the feed lot where the cows get loaded into their trailer was muddy and nearly impossible to walk in. Especially if you are a heavy cow.

Every evening for two weeks, Mr. J visited Panda at our neighbor’s field. He would bring a bucket of feed and get her to come to him. He went the same time every night to build trust and develop a routine. During this time, we were waiting for the ground to dry enough for Panda to navigate her way through the feed lot to the barn.

With another storm heading our way, this past weekend was our last chance for a while. Panda would anticipate Mr. J’s arrival with the feed bucket and for the last few days would wait close to the feed lot anticipating his arrival.

Mr. J headed out the door around 5pm Sunday evening as I began making dinner. I still had plenty of time to write my post that evening.

And then life happened.

Mr. J calls, “I got her in the feed lot with the gate closed. Can you come help me get her in the barn?”

I drop what I am doing and dash out the door. Arriving at the field, a mile down the road, I find an agitated Panda, not happy with being closed in. At points she looks like she is going to break her way through the fencing. My presence is not making Panda feel better. O.K. Let’s rethink this.

“How ‘bout I go get a bale of hay. We can put it in the barn and see if that will lure her in.” I suggest.

I dash home, get the hay, and a jacket for Mr. J, because he will be playing a waiting game, it is dark, and the temperature is starting to dip.

After dropping these off, I have to head into town to get our son from his job. Driving back, we get a text from Mr. J.

“I got her in the barn.”

Good. Weeks of worry, fret, patience, and coaxing is paying off.

We head to the field and find Mr. J connecting our neighbor’s trailer to his truck. In the dark. I head home to get flashlights to help with the wrangling.

Then I get a call. “We got her in the trailer.” Magic! They no longer need me and I can get started on dinner.

It is 8pm. There will be no writing from me tonight. Dinner is on the table by 9pm. We pour some Prosecco to toast the return of Panda. Bone tired we climb upstairs and are soon fast asleep.

That’s o.k. I can write my post tomorrow.

And then life happened.

Monday, anticipating the storm’s arrival later that day we move from chore to chore trying to get everything done. More broccoli gets planted, the Jerusalem artichokes get a spot in the yard, all in anticipation of the rain. At 2pm I remember that I had promised a visit to an elderly couple from our church. My afternoon is spent finding their hilltop home and having a good chat. I head home at 5pm to make dinner and help get animals tucked in for the night. By 8:30, we have finished our prayers and find ourselves too tired to move. I can write my post tomorrow.

Tomorrow will be stormy, the perfect day for writing.

Tomorrow is today.

And life happens.

The wind, torrential rain, and thunderstorms make for a restless sleep. We wake to a power outage and a baby lamb demanding her morning bottle. Baaaaaa! Morning starts quickly on the farm.

Animals get fed, generator gets set up, water is boiled for coffee in the French press, and we finally sit down for a cup at 8:30am. I chat with Mr. J and contemplate what I can get done today.

At 9am I get a call that the tractor we purchased will be delivered in an hour. The power comes back on, and I quickly throw together breakfast before the tractor comes.

The truck and trailer arrive. I direct the driver to our driveway loop where he can turn his rig around and unload the tractor at the barn. Navigating the loop, his truck starts to slide, downhill, in the mud. The torrential rain from last night takes its toll.

An easy, straightforward delivery ends up taking all morning. I try my hand at pulling the delivery truck out of the mud with Mr. J’s truck. No luck. The driver must call in reinforcements. Lamb wants to be fed again. Then Hope and I watch as another truck with a crane arrives to tackle the problem.

11:30am. My morning is gone.

This is life. It happens. And it is Good.

An Abundance of Everything but Time

When asked what we plan to do with our homestead I reply, “Provide as much food as possible for my family and have more to share with others.” All this while stewarding and maximizing the resources on our land. My hope is that by working with nature we can create abundance.

We have been here less than four months. It is winter. There is not a lot of abundance going on right now.

I have to be patient. That is hard.

Yet, I am graced with innumerable blessings and God has seen fit to keep our days filled with a steady stream of work. And that is Good.

My projects this week have been driven by the generosity and abundance of others and a storm front heading our way promising an abundance of rain. I want that rain to work for me, so I have work to do ahead of its arrival. I need to get cardboard and woodchips on the ground surrounding some new plantings. As much as I can do with the time that I have. The woodchips will soak up the rain and retain the moisture for the plants. The cardboard which helps to suppress the grass will also soak up the rain and create a moist environment that attracts worms. Worms love cardboard.

Laying down cardboard and woodchips is easy enough. Unless you have a storm front moving in. A storm front aided by strong winds. Think Dorothy and The Wizard of Oz type winds. The type that picks up your house in Kansas and drops it off in Oz. Well, maybe not that bad, but you get the picture.

And did you get the part about the cardboard? Yeah. That’s a good time. Chasing cardboard boxes blown aways by gusts of wind helps me get my steps in for the day.

But I need to get as much done as possible before the rain. And so out I go with the help of my guys to get this work done.

In my last post I mentioned gathering blueberry canes from Ivan Lee. Those plain looking sticks kept me busy for a few days as I prepared a bed for them. I found a sunny location, planted the canes, then covered the grass with cardboard and woodchips. Woodchipper for the win! In time I will add some companion plants – perhaps strawberries and thyme. It will take a few years to receive a harvest from these guys, but you must start somewhere.

Another friend had some abundance from her garden to share as well. Yesterday, I collected oregano, wild garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, and raspberry canes from her. These goodies were dug up right before I arrived at her home and need to be planted in my garden before their roots dry out. That means now.

Add to this timeline, the arrival of some bareroot fruit trees that I had ordered last November. Since they are bareroot trees they need to get in the ground immediately.

The timing for all of this is perfect, but there is some urgency and never enough hours in a day.

With these fruit trees, raspberry bushes, and wild garlic I will begin to establish a small permaculture orchard. In this type of an orchard, you use diversity to create symbiosis. The orchard is not just trees, but also berries and herbs. Around the trees you add plants that attract pollinators or confuse pests. Plants that are edible, culinary, or medicinal. Or plants, like comfrey, that will help to mulch the orchard along with being used in my herbal salves.

The pictures give an idea of the process. Ultimately, in this orchard, I will have two rows that extend over 45 feet long each with fruit trees and plants. There will be a grass walkway between the path large enough to mow. This area has peach and nectarine trees. I have more space, so I can add on more trees as I get them.

Stefan Sobkowiak has some great videos about his permaculture orchard in Canada. You can purchase or rent his feature length movie HERE. He also has many videos on his YouTube channel HERE.

So far this week I have planted 8 blueberry canes, over 12 raspberry canes, 5 fruit trees, lots of wild garlic, and oregano. I purchased the fruit trees; the rest was a gift of abundance. In a few years I hope to be the friend that can gift new homesteaders with our abundance.

Homestead Happenings – February 2022

Our life in pictures.

Arrival of the woodchipper –

We have a lot of trees on our property. Consequently, we have a lot of limbs and trees to clear. An investment in a good woodchipper was an obvious choice. Especially, since I use woodchips as a mulch in my gardening.

After much research Mr. J made his decision and purchased the machine online in early December. We were given an expected delivery time of December 22nd. It arrived, after many phone calls, at the beginning of February. And as they say in Tennessee: “It’s a big ‘un.”

I got to try the beast out this weekend as I tackled a dead pine tree near the front of our drive. It easily chipped branches up to 4 inches thick. This machine is no joke. I look forward to many piles of woodchips in my future.

The Hoop House –

There is a never-ending list of things to do around the homestead. Then I come up with more projects. Like a hoop house to extend my growing season. Fortunately, Mr. J loves me and has the patience of Job. He has tackled this project over the past month, and it is taking shape.

When complete, it will provide a 10-foot by 20-foot space for growing vegetables earlier in the spring and longer in the fall. I can’t wait to get in there and see what I can do.

Hog Netting for the win –

The girls made thorough work of tilling my garden space and we needed to move them out to other areas of the property. I invested in electric hog netting from Premier 1 to make this job easier. The starter kit includes a battery and solar charger.

The netting gives the pigs a zap to their nose if they push against it. This keeps them contained. It allows greater flexibility when setting up an area for them to forage. Finally, one person can carry and set up the nets easily and fairly quickly. This is much easier to work with than the hog panels I had been using. Well worth the investment.

Jane joins the family –

Since bringing Magnus home in November, we have known that we would need to add another livestock guardian dog. Having two LGD’s allow the dogs to work in tandem against any predator. It also lets them take turns getting rest.

We needed to get the right dog for our situation. Fortunately, we found her. Jane is a two-year-old Great Pyrenees/Anatolian mix. She is a great fit for Fiat Farm because she knows her job and can teach Magnus, who is still a puppy, the ropes. She is also the more dominant and keeps Magnus in line. Jane wants to please her people and protect her charges. We could not ask for more.