Category Archives: Garden

SmartSteader

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So that big announcement? We launched our app this past Saturday at a homesteading conference in Virginia! It was an amazing experience and so far so good…we have over 400 people playing with our app! It’s a bit surreal and what’s even more surreal is that since I volunteered to tackle a lot of the business side of things (Neil obviously is the developing genius who is swamped with all the new features we want to add in), I get to re-learn accounting and economics stuff. And yes I do actually love that and am having fun! Our partners (the amazing people behind Reformation Acres ) are heading up social media and marketing (hallelujah) and it’s been so cool to watch it slowly spread. I’m working on refining our investor presentation and business plan so that hopefully in the next few weeks we can start talking with possible investors. When we get funding we can do everything bigger and faster. It’s pretty unique to be able to start a business like this and know that since we funded it ourselves we have no pressure or debt or anything, and we can make this work regardless of if we can get outside funding. It would just be really helpful. The website is www.smartsteader.com if you want to see the promotional video that we put together, featuring the only actors I had at my disposal…the kids and cows and chickens and one handsome farmer man. We are so excited!

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[This is Arty. The face of SmartSteader]

I also promised a farm update. Whew! What a season. Here’s a smattering of my favorite pictures then I’ll give you some numbers at the end. Enjoy!

Still can’t really get over the fact that stuff actually grows here…so naturally I completely over-planted. Again.

Before the numbers though some fun things:

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I grew peanuts and then made peanut butter! Someday when I have lots of time, I won’t eat any other kind, it’s that good. In the mean time, it’s nice to know that it’s possible and waiting for me.

We put in an orchard and our Asian pear tree just put out blossoms…in the middle of October! (pic is up above)

We have at least 1 female turkey and turkey eggs are tasty…just like chicken eggs only bigger.

I started making soap again with Mei’s milk and lard from our pigs. It’s awesome and I forgot how much I missed making soap.

Some garden/farm stats as of right this minute:

We produced:

  • 2,143 lbs of milk (252 gallons) this year
  • 1,608 eggs (134 dozen) this year
  • 440 lbs of pork loveliness
  • 292 lbs cucumbers
  • 282 lbs tomatoes (didn’t get to at least 50 more lbs…those went to chickens)
  • 70.75 lbs Summer Squash
  • 40.5 lbs misc. peppers

We have 11 blueberry bushes, 15 fruit trees, 2 elderberry bushes, 4 turkeys, 3 rabbits, 2 cows, 30-ish chickens, 2 cats, 2 gerbils, and 1 green anole.

Now I just need a partridge to put in my pear tree.

 

 

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Filed under Food stuffs, Garden, Holidays, Homestead, life the universe and everything

Harvesting

Because the garden currently looks like this:

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And my cow had icicles on her fur and ears:

And because I devoured The Intelligent Gardner and Teaming With Microbes in 6 days. And because I can’t stop thinking and scheming about this year’s garden and my massive garden expansion plan. I realized it would be a good idea to take this downtime (between hog butcherings, chick acquisition, indoor seed starting, etc.) to finally get out a recap of our first gardening experience on our new homestead. [As a quick meandering tangent (oxymoronic, no?)…I’ve decided that the moniker “homestead” is indeed the most fitting for what we are building. Farm is too big and we aren’t (currently) selling anything, Garden doesn’t cover what a large part animals play in this thing. Farmstead would be an option but I prefer homestead and all that it implies. We have settled on an actual name too! That will be reveled later, but for now? Glad we got that sorted.]

Rather than drone on and on about the minutiae that doesn’t really interest anyone but me (even my husband is kindly polite when I get going on all things garden), I’m just going to show you some of my favorite pictures from the season. While there was a bit of a learning curve (Fungal disease from too much moisture was not something that happened in the desert. Ever.), growing stuff here is amazing. It gave me a glimpse into a world where I really could produce superior food for my family and make a substantial dent in our food bill. My previous successes were limited to “Hey, something grew! And it almost looks normal!”  No more, friends. We can garden for reals now.

Quick note: Morning Glories are weeds here. We had to work hard to grow some for Naomi in Vegas and even then only got a few. Best. Move. Ever.

The spider’s name is Quatro.

We probably got 20 lbs of pecans from our pecan tree that we didn’t even know we had until a few months ago. And there are still about 5 pounds on the ground because holidays commandeered my pecan harvesting time. I think only homemade bacon from my own pig has rivaled the joy and pride from serving pecan pie made from my own pecans on Thanksgiving Day.

I love canning. Do you love canning? If no, Can I can for you? Because I love it. I have an entire attic space that is now an attic pantry full to bursting with everything from bread and butter pickles to wild black berry jam to chicken pot pie filling. Happiness radiates, nay…exudes, out of there from under the door. Seriously, it looks like puffs of yellow glitter.

Final counts:

  • 44.5 lbs summer squash
  • 22 cantaloupes (averaging 4 lbs each)
  • 58 lbs sweet potatoes
  • 112.5 lbs cucumbers
  • 105 cups wild blackberries from our woods
  • 157 lbs. tomatoes
  • 6 lbs. peppers
  • 25 ears of corn
  • 6 watermelons
  • 5 big pumpkins
  •  9 lbs. green beans
  • a few small cabbages and cauliflowers
  • a ridiculous amount of arugula
  • 2 large acorn squashes
  • handful of small random squashes

 

 

 

 

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summer

People tried to prepare me for the southern summer kicking my trash. They said, “No No! Humdity is different! It’s worse!” I call shenanigans. Yes, it’s humid. Yes, I’ve discovered that while some women glisten, I sweat big, ugly farmer drops of sweat straight down the tip of my nose. However, I’m still waiting for the inevitable trash kicking people said was coming my way. I’m pretty sure my garden growing out of control makes up for any extra sweat I’m exuding this summer.

I find myself more and more looking forward to December. Not as a respite from heat, but as a respite from busy-ness. Don’t get me wrong, I love what life is dishing out right now. 2+ hours of outside work a day, plus homeschool, and birthdays, a big church project and and and. It’s a pace that actually really suits me. But it also makes taking a month off of all of it, something I’m wistfully looking forward too. In December, the garden will be asleep for the winter. Canning should be done, pigs processed, Mei bred but not in milk yet, and chickens settled into a routine. It will be a time to rest. And for now, in the midst of the crazy it is a happy thing to look forward to.

IMG_1093Speaking of chickens…look who’s laying eggs a month and a half earlier than expected! Huzzah the Fowl! Oh and I have a fun story for you about our delightfuly precious poultry. So we have been working their tractors slowly back to Mei’s yard where we decided they will take up residence. A new coop is being prepared (More on that later! It is a tale of trees and chain saws) and after going back and forth we think it will be better for them. After our success with Mei and electric fencing we researched and were told that a few lower strands of hot wire (electrified wire) would keep chickens in a yard. Awesome we said. Perfect we said. And the extra strands were installed and lit up. The day came and we moved the heavy tractors into the yard and cut off a panel of chicken wire to let them out. They were thrilled! And Mei was beside herself with curiosity and new creatures to investigate. Then the first brave bird approached the fence. We giggled a little because no matter how mature and compassionate you are, the thought a chicken being lightly zapped is kind of funny. Um NO! They didn’t even notice the wire on their bellies! Neil tested it to make sure it was still hot (it definitely was) and turns out our chickens are just immune. It’s darkish by this point so we hope they will just go inside their tractor coops and go to sleep and we’d deal with them in the morning. Nope. They followed us up the path. We gave up and went in the house to check on kids. Neil went back out and 20 min later I found myself in a hummid North Carolina forest, drowning in bugs, chasing chickens. Some of them fell asleep where they stood so we just had to track them down in the brush and put them back on the roosts. Oh. My. Gosh. Well we manged to get all but one (thank you cell phone flashlights!) and get them secure at least for the night (we also had to move the tractors back out of the yard because Mei kept messing with the makeshift cardboard panels. Dumb cow). So the current state of our chickens is that they are secured but in Mei’s yard. We will be letting them go free tomorrow night and we will see what happens. Theoretically they should stay close to their food, water, and nest boxes, but we shall see. In the mean time, Eggs!

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Our first 4th of July was a low key affair but it was perfect. I canned, we grilled, there were sparkles.

Expert corn shucker and grill master in training.

Pretty sure if they were casting “Expecto Petronum” this is exactly what they would both look like, respectively.

If you have to move across the country and are the type to miss your family, the best thing to do is just talk them into moving with you. It worked for us! Grandparents are moved in, my mom is settled in New York, and my dad will be here as soon as he retires (can. not. wait.) But before mom headed north she took the greatest family pictures…here are just a few:

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Have I mentioned how much I love living here? here’s a list of what to expect (hopefully soon) here on comfyposy: 10th birthday party, pig/chicken shelter from our own trees, harvest summary and fall garden plans, and 3rd birthday party, and possibly blueberries and fig trees!

 

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Spirit Animals

It’s a thing now to declare a person or an animal or an object even to be your spirit animal if it has qualities your either have or would like to have. I’ve decided that between my cow, my pigs, my garden and the honeybees I’m hoping to get someday I’d have the perfect spirit animal. Can I declare my burgeoning farm to be my spirit animal? Is that even allowed?

Meushi. It means female cow in Japanese. We call her Mei (pronounced “May”) and I love her. I liked goats a lot, they were fun and educational to the max, but my dairy cow is a whole ‘nother thing entirely. And she is mine…I share her with the kids, but she kind of doesn’t like the husband guy. Crazy strong milking hands are in my future I think.

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Cows. We’ve never done that before. The internet never disappoints, however, and we are over two weeks in and she is doing great. We have a routine, banana peels are her drug of choice, and come August or September she will be ready for a date with a great little angus bull. That means this time next year(ish) we will have a baby calf running around and hopefully we will be drowning in milk. That baby will go into the freezer about 18 months later. Dude, farming is a long term proposition.

Like I said, she lets me share her with the kids and on occasion she will tolerate Neil. Mei is so docile and sweet; the girls get all up in her business and she just swishes her tail.

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This lady is “chill” incarnate and I want to be more like that. Not to say that she doesn’t like to (quite literally) kick up her heels and go dashing around her yard (she hates the wheel barrow and demonstrates it by running madly around). But nothing says serene like a big dairy cow picking at stuff here and there and mostly just being.

Next to more immediate freezer fodder…sorry. I know some take issue with that and don’t get how I can simultaneously adore my new piglets and be poring over pork recipes and butchering options. I don’t know how either but it’s happening my friends, in my head, as we speak.

Rewind a few years to the purchase of our brand spanking new van. We promised each other, the husband and me, nay…we vowed that this expensive shiny vehicle would never be used for farm stuff. At all. Ever. Yeah, we were adorable.

Since the truck couldn’t make the move with us, our van has hauled muddy t-posts, ply wood, all kinds of feed, and now livestock. Yeah, we were adorable.

Fun facts about feeder pigs:

  • You buy them between 6-12 weeks old for about $30-60 and 20-60 lbs.
  • over the next 5 months or so depending on breed and living conditions, they will get up to a market weight of 250 lbs.
  • From that 250 lbs about 140-170 will make it back to you in consumable awesomeness.
  • They can eat everything from grass clippings to chickens (they are the ultimate omnivore) but won’t in fact eat themselves to death as some think.
  • They are clean (kind of) and given the chance will not be as disgusting as most people think (although they do love them some water splashing and mud).

We always knew we wanted to try raising pigs. There was the perfect porcine playground built here before we moved. However, we always figured we’d wait until later. But then we went to a local farm stand and a lady was there selling her homegrown pork. It was obscenely expensive and we said, “Forget that noise, we’ll do it ourselves!” and so we did and we are. As per family vote, they are named “Pig1” and “Pig2” (think Thing1 and Thing2 from The Cat in the Hat) I wanted to name the boy “York” and the girl “Shire” because their breed is Yorkshire, but I was voted down. Mostly I call them “Pig”. They are so much fun! I love their grunty pig noises and you need to go write down on your list of things to experience at some point — have pig snout pushed in the palm of my hand. Trust me.

The best thing about pigs is that they are veritable machines for taking what life gives them and efficiently processing it into something far better. Lessons for me all over the place with that.

IMG_0566Did you know tomorrow is Mother’s Day? My husband does! He is rocking it this year. He took the kids to run errands in town this morning and I had 2 whole hours to just work outside! Without screams for my immediate assistance or the dreaded quiet of a toddler thrashing a bedroom! I mucked out Mei’s pasture and started on building the soil in the future blackberry patch with the goodness I procured. I got more bricks for the garden paths from the abandoned building behind our property. And don’t even let me start on what I got done in the garden! It was a beautiful thing, and I’m grateful for him. Rumor has it he’s even taking over meals tomorrow and there is a large something wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper on the counter that I think is for me…Oh and those beauties? wild flowers that he and the kids picked for me. Winning. My husband is winning Mother’s Day.

I’m actually going to do a separate post on the Mom’s I’m grateful for in a few days, because they don’t need to share with pigs and cows. It might be late, but I sure do love those great women.

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Rear Tine Tiller

You know those license plate frames or bumper stickers that say, “My other car is a…” (Nimbus 2000 for Harry Potter fans, fishing boat for anglers, etc)? I need one that says, “My other vehicle is a rear tine tiller.”

Usually I ruminate about blog posts for a while and in the whirlwind of my current life there has been no end of material to write about. A very clever post about projects starting (complete with pictures of all the projects) was almost done, just waiting for an early kid bedtime for me to type it up. That is until a guy from our church loaned us a tiller and we got to work on what will be my 1300 square foot garden and a berry patch almost that big.

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Doesn’t look like much, but I’m in love. It may sound weird, but I love vacuuming. It is far and away my favorite household chore, and tilling with this bad boy is even better. We had so much fun trying to not die and cut up the dirt at the same time (the husband guy did manage to figure out how to move forward with the wheels actually on the ground and that was much easier) and my little man is very put out that he isn’t big enough to work this thing.

We have made good progress and I can’t even tell you how excited I am that this is happening. All of it, the whole farm thing is real and it’s happening. The other day I was reflecting and I got choked up because it feels so good to be here doing all the things that we are doing.

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And Converse are totally legit foot wear for operating heavy duty blades inches from your feet. At least I didn’t wear flip flops like some sexy men I know…ahem.

Other things that were going to be in the project post that got hijacked by a tiller:

We got 30 chicks (down to 28 because two didn’t make it) and they are breeds we’ve never owned. Some of them will be absolutely beautiful. Whatever, chickens can totally be beautiful. Discussing the merits of various coop designs is how me and my hubby spend our evenings. We’re exciting like that.

So. Rural south. If you wanted to have a yard sale and you put your stuff in your front yard it would be an epic fail because very few people would drive by your place and buy said stuff. People here are smart and figured all that out. What they do is set up shop on some cleared land at the major cross roads between towns. Today me and the kids were on the way to the post office (By to the way, I’m a huge fan of small towns but especially small town post offices!) and a guy had two porch swings set out. The swing that was supposed to be on our porch when we moved in was not, so I have been looking for one. Online was quite a bit pricier than what this guy was asking plus impulse buying it today saved me shipping time! Supporting local craftsmen for the win! Just needed to paint it white…

My men have been busy. Neil is going to be building all sorts of stuff (shed, chicken coop, greenhouse) but he’s the most excited about his new work desk made out of iron pipe and a cut down door. Picture of the finished product to follow. And little man bought himself a corn snake. Originally it was named “Slinky” but then his dad told him that if you say “Keeslin” over and over again you end up saying “slinky” (try it!) and so he changed the snakes name to “Keeslin,” or how ever we are spelling it.

These two have been hanging out on the porch on the couch that is destined for a thrift store (we just need a way to get it there) and helping me stomp leaves for my future compost pile. Turns out, perfecting the art of rotting trash and mixing poop for my garden is another favorite pastime of mine. I’m classy, what can I say.

My oldest little girl has been busy loving on her popcorn trees. These trees in our front yard make me giddy, and they’ve only just started into spring.

I love it here.

 

 

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dude.

Hi. My name is Lindsey and I’m a bibliophile. I have a book problem. [scattered applause]. It’s been 3 days since I last bought a book and about 27 minutes since I last read one. [more applause]. It’s nice to be here in such good company.

Dude. You know your love of books has crossed the line into “problem” when you realize you have 8 weeks to pack your whole life to move across the country and one of those weeks is dedicated solely to packing kids books. Not all books, not really even most books. Just non-essential children’s books. Wait, what? Yeah we are moving from Las Vegas to North Carolina…to a house we’ve never seen in person, in a town we’ve never been too, in a state we’ve been too twice for a total time of less than two weeks. Yay the internet! But I’ll back up.

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In about 2 hours these papers will make us the legal and lawful owners of this place:

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(Yes, that is a swing on the porch.)

What the picture doesn’t show you is the 4.6 acres of beautiful North Carolina that will eventually become our new Angry Dwarf farm. It also doesn’t show how perfect for our family the actual house is or the tree back down a lush path that will host our first tree house (with swing) or that the soil ph is amazing for growing blueberries or the brush in the back that will entice fireflies to come play every summer or the plot for Naomi’s butterfly garden. Not to mention the woods that will house our pigs and the back lot with room for bat boxes, apple trees, and blackberry brambles. And bee hives! Did I mention the bee hives!?

So yes, I figured with the New Year and the new house my husband and I gave each other for Christmas (and the lovely messy adventure it will bring),  it was time to get back blogging. I’ve missed it.

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P.s. When it occurred to me how much I hate assimilating new stuff after Christmas, I got the brilliant idea to give our kids a trip instead. The picture is terrible and I promise our kids actually are excited…In T – 9 days and counting…we are going to Disneyland! [Squee!]

 

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New Favorite

Pretty much since I realized I could have opinions and favorites, Fall was my favorite season. Crisp air but a hoodie is enough, the green light on all things pumpkin and spiced, and not to mention the ushering in of the holiday trifecta of awesome! I love Fall…but this year Spring may have made a successful bid for favorite status. Let me show you why.

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Ever since I’ve wanted to be good at gardening, I’ve been killing plants. Green thumb, right. I wish. However, this year has already surpassed my expectations, which was easy given how low they were… Anyways, I’m feeding my rabbits out of the garden (and the weeds that grow everywhere…it’s so great to have green with out trying). Strawberries are happening and the nectarine tree is blooming beautifully. Stuff is growing in the aquaponics system (not crazy fast like it will when the system has matured, but it’s not dead so I’ll take it!) and my only real epic failure this year was the self watering tire garden. It’s ok. We learned a lot about silicone vs. caulk if you don’t want your stuff to leak. And that plants need to be watered, a lot. I have this chronic fear of over-watering and so they burned up instead. Sigh. I got new sets and am happy to report they are still alive…yay! Hopefully the seeds I planted will come up some time soon. Anyways, things I’ve killed are at a minimum, baby Kinder goaties are the cutest creatures ever (post on that coming soon), and the weather is gorgeous. Truly, Spring is fighting a good fight to take over the title of best season ever.

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