Spring Light

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Slow Going

We took time to go slow last weekend.  To stop and remember that it doesn't all have to happen overnight.  Mike and Jake planted 10 tiny (free!) spruce trees along the north side of the garden.  I sat by the fire to knit, all weekend long, and no one managed to get dressed until it was time to come home.  A good weekend, indeed.

(Joining in with Ginny)

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The Crabapple Experiment

While picking dandelions yesterday, Mike noticed that we had a yard full of crabapple seedings.  He ran in and grabbed a handful of my aluminum knitting needles and proceeded to mark each and every seedling he could find.  Now, for those of you who are freaking out because my husband used my knitting needles as garden markers, relax.  This good man knows how much I loathe straight metal knitting needles.  He also knows that the only reason I haven't terminated my relationship with said knitting needles is because they were gifted to me by my grandmother, who now has alzheimer's and can't remember how to knit.  I think he's a genius actually, and finally found a way to put those futile sticks to good use.  Come to think of it, with a little washi tape, they would make adorable garden markers!  

Back to the experiment at hand...  He dug up a dozen of the little seedlings, made a root ball for each one and I planted them in peat pots.  I've got cuttings growing in little bottles all over the house, so I thought it would be fun to experiment with this method, too.  As of this morning, they're all still alive!  If we can keep them going for the next few days, we're going to dig up some of the larger seedlings growing under the flowering Crabapple trees in the parkway across the street.  With a little luck, we'll have free Crabapple trees for the homestead!
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Homesteading:  A weekly account of our journey to becoming off grid homesteaders.  Our path will be long as we are only paying in cash and our funds are very limited.  Mike and I have no idea what we're doing so we'll be learning as we go.  I know we'll make mistakes and that's ok.  It's all part of the process.  

We would love to read about your homesteading experiences, so if you'd like to share your favorite resources, tips, funny stories, recipes, books, website or even just a photo from the week, please leave a link in the comments.

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This last weekend was our first camping trip of the season on our land.  It feels so good to be back sleeping under the stars.  It's also nice to be back to working on some homesteading projects!

Mike's step dad made us a little stool for our bird sanctuary out of a tree that fell on their homestead.  I'd like to make a few more of these, to put around the campfire!

Luke has been asking if we could make a nature book, so we're taking pictures of things he wants to identify.  We think the second photo is an Allegheny Serviceberry.  They grow all along the hill and along the edge of the woods.  Right now, the trees are covered in clouds of white flowers, but soon will have sweet, juicy berries. We hope, anyway!  In the fall, the leaves will turn a brilliant shade of orange and red that glow like fire, in the evening sun.

Last week, we mowed an area where are going to build the house.  This week, we staked out the perimeter of our tiny house and mowed the area where we'll put the giant garden next year!  We decided to till the garden for the first year and then work the soil as no till from then on.  We just don't have money in the budget for a truck load of compost, and by then we should have a good amount of our own humanure compost.

I also had to share the most exciting part of our weekend... snakes!  And lots of them.  Jake said the garter snakes were the most angry and feisty he's ever picked up, hissing and biting.  Garter snakes are usually mellow and very tame.  He also found a Fox Snake out on the road.  It's the largest fox snake we've ever seen in the wild.  Jake measured it against is 6ft tall body, and this snake was a good 5 feet long.  It stunk really bad, so he only held it long enough for me to take a few pictures and then let it go back into the ditch.

For this next weekend, we're looking forward to building our harvest table!

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The Dandelion

Dandelions are beginning to bloom!  While the lawn care trucks circle the streets of our town, I'm rebelling against them with dandelion salad, dandelion jelly, dandelion greens, dandelion wool dyes.  The neighbors like to stick their nose up in the air at our lawn eu natural, but I say.... Bring It On!
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Knitting and Fishing

I took my knitting to the river so I could watch my men folk (they laugh every time I say that) catch us trout for dinner.  It's always a pleasure to go during the week after the tourists have gone home; just the sounds of nature and the company of each other.  It was a perfectly overcast day for knitting a sweater outside.  The breeze off the spring fed river was cold, but the grass was soft and vibrant green.  I snuggled up under a wool blanket and was happy just to be outside again.  It even rained a little, but we didn't mind.  

A group of small yellow birds were out and about, too.  Cole had mentioned just the other day that he'd like to see a goldfinch in person and then wouldn't you know, a half dozen descend upon the river.  He was so excited, he yelled, "GOLDFINCH!"  They were the funniest little things; bouncing around the grass like one of those tiny plastic wind up chicks!  Then they would take off, doing acrobatic stunts over the water to scoop up insects.  Besides Cole's hilarious impression of a tourist fishermen, the birds were pure entertainment for the day!

We stayed well into the evening, until everyone was so cold, we couldn't stand it any longer.  It was a good day with fresh fish, fresh air and half a sweater finished!  

p.s.  The trout, cooked by Jake, were delicious, in case you were wondering. 

p.p.s  I'm joining in with Ginny for Yarn Along

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As the true spring has finally made it's appearance, our thoughts have turned to gardening!  Since the Seed Savers catalog arrived in February, we've been planning and dreaming of our future homestead garden.  Just how much do we need to grow to feed a family of five for a year?  With three growing boys... a lot!  Of course, the first item on Luke's list was strawberries.  Lots and lots of strawberries!

While our large homestead garden will have to remain a dream for one more season, we are having just as much fun planning our small, backyard garden here at home.  Fresh spinach and herbs, squash, tomatoes, and snap peas... all our favorites and oh so easy to grow!

Just after the snow melted last week, Luke brought out the starter soil, pots and seeds.  He planted Black Beauty Squash, Golden Zucchini, and Cilantro, remembering just what to do from the years before!  Some of the other plants we'll have to pick up at the farmers market, since we didn't get an early enough start this year.

We also made some garden markers for each of the pots, instead of the ugly pieces of paper that we usually use.  I wrote on some with a sharpie marker and some I wood burned.  I love them, because they're cute and I'll be able to use them year after year!  If you'd like a set, I've added them to the shop here.

What are you planting in the garden this year?

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The afternoon air on the river was sweet, with the fresh scent of spring.  If you listened close enough, you could almost hear the leaves stretching under the warm sun.  We found lots of treasures including a clutch of turkey eggs, a handful of feathers, a walking stick, just Luke's size, and Jake caught some rainbow trout for dinner, too.  It feels so good after a long, long winter.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

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We Took To The Woods

We needed a change of scenery.  We took to the woods and returned home happy.

(Joining in with Ginny)

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Felted Birdhouse

Last spring we watched a bluebird make a nest in the rotted out fence post on our land.  She laid four powder blue eggs and we waited for them to hatch.  Two weeks later we checked again, and found the fluffy nestlings all alive and well!  By the next visit, all the babies had fledged and the female had flattened the nest.

Luke and I thought it would be fun to make houses for more birds to come in and nest, so we came up with a few prototypes, until we found one we liked.  

For the base, I used an upcycled sweater, and designed it to be the shape of the fence post.  For the removable roof tops, I hand dyed pieces of a thrifted wool blanket and added some decorative stitches. Some of the houses even have natural wooden beads.  The hole size will accommodate birds such as wren, titmouse, chickadees, nuthatch, and bluebirds.  My favorite part of these felted birdhouses... the materials are biodegradable!!  When the wool wears out, the birds can use every bit for nest building.

I think they would be really sweet tucked into a fairy garden, too!

You can find them in the shop here.

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Dowsing for Water

With the ground beginning to thaw out, drilling a well has been another topic at the top of our homestead to do list.  The big question, though, is how do we know where to drill it?  We've read about several highly scientific methods (a.k.a. it will cost us a fortune) and one not so scientific method known as water dowsing.  Dowsing sounded like such fun (and it's free), so we gave it a try!  Mike met an older man who had downsed for his well, and told us that, basically, this is how it works:  First, you take two lengths of wire.  Hammer the wire straight and bend the end at a 45 degree angle to make a handle.  With your elbows tucked into your body, hold the rods loosely in your hands so they can move freely.  Begin walking and when you find water, the rods will begin to cross on their own.  Mark the spot with a stick, and that's where you drill the well.  It's quite a spectacle to watch this in action, as they will cross and uncross by themselves as you walk across a water source.  It feels like a weak magnetic pull.  Supposedly, it doesn't work for everyone, and this seems to be true.  It worked for all of us, except Mike.  We found water near some of the larger trees, which was to be expected and over many areas around the land.  We also found water in the bird bath!  I read today, that using a fresh willow branch is the most accurate tool to use, so we're going to try different instruments and see if we get different results.  

How accurate is this method?  I have no idea, we'll have to wait and see.  For now, we're having fun experimenting.

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Fire Wood

Another storm moved through this week dropping about nine inches of wet, heavy snow.  In the wee hours of the morning, our 100 year old maple tree gave way under the weight, crashing to the ground.  Most of the tree landed in the neighbors back yard and fortunately, the only damage done was to our chain link fence and clothes line.

It seemed like a good excuse to purchase a chain saw and cross another tool off our homesteading wish list.  We were able to clear out the neighbors yard and we'll work at cutting everything up over the next week.  It makes me just sick to see the tree in such bad shape.  Several more branches are visibly cracked and are sure to break if we get any kind of wind, so I we're going to have take the entire tree removed.  On a positive note, we will be able to accomplish another homesteading goal of having a year's worth of firewood chopped and dry before we make the move north next spring.

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