Eggplant Alley

Planted about 100 square feet of eggplant seeds today, with plans to plant another 15 square feet or so at a later point. Think we will call this collection of beds “Eggplant Alley”.
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Stormy Night

The storms were so bad last night that we would have bailed out if we had somewhere to bail out to – it was rough for a little bit. I think we all made it.
We had at least two rounds of intense thunderstorms last night with high winds, lots of lightning, and intense hail.
The constant lightning almost kept the homestead lit up like someone just turned on a big light. The thunder was just a constant roar. At one point I heard a tree or limb crack. I’m afraid to look at the windshield of the truck.
The last round arrived at 5:00 am. It was so bad that I got out of bed and into my clothes in case we had to move quickly.
With the sun just coming up and the thunderstorm gone, I’m anxious yet hesitant to survey the damage to the homestead, especially the garden. I’m sure the hail shredded everything that was up. It won’t be pretty. At least we didn’t have the whole garden completed.
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My Totally Awsome Chicken Coop

Here’s a great idea for a chicken coop. I hope ours turns out this well!

Living Green

I absolutely love the chicken coop hubby built for me.  It is efficient and safe, does not waste bedding, has ample air flow while being warm in the winter, and is a breeze to clean. Growing up it was my job to clean my parent’s chicken coop–which was just a converted rabbit hutch–so I had many years to learn exactly what I hated about it.  Once I knew I wanted my own chickens, I spent several months thinking about what I wanted in my coop.  I drew out the plans, and my ever-handy hubby broke out the tools.

Coop1Temperature is a big concern in my area–we routinely get 3-4 weeks in summer where it gets above 105F.  Our winters are mild, only occasionally dropping to freezing, so since staying cool is a lot more important that staying warm, I chose a part of our yard which is always in the…

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Water and Population Upgrades

With the help of our neighbor, we made an upgrade to the homestead’s water system recently.

Our non-drinking water comes from a creek.   It is stored in a 250 gallon container.   Previously, the container was located beside our cabin.  That wasn’t the best location for it.  It was lower than the cabin floor which meant going outside to get the water and then physically carrying it into the cabin.

The upgrade relocated the container some 100 feet up the hill behind the cabin.  The slope of the land raised the container higher than the roof of the cabin, giving us a more than acceptable amount of water pressure.

The upgrade was made easier because of our neighbor.  With his tractor, he was able to do in minutes what would have taken us hours to do by hand.

While pumping water from the creek, we met the newest members of our community.  They are living full time on some property across the creek starting today.  They are planning to homestead, but I’m sure that their idea of homesteading will be much different than ours. 

However our homesteading philosophies differ, we do have one thing in common:  like us, they will be living off grid, though I’m not sure that it is by choice.  I’m also not sure how long they will stay.  It takes a certain kind of person to live off grid.  The heat of summer is soon to arrive, and it will test anyone’s resolve to live off grid.  Who knows, they may have more resolve than we do and outlast us.

We have mixed feelings about the additions to our community.  Last week, we met another couple that is a new addition.  They are staying near the entrance to our community, as a guest of the person who owns a cabin and some land up there.   The owner doesn’t live there.  In fact, we have never met him.

All of the roads through here are private; the county will be the first to tell you that.  All of the land around here is private.  However, people around here tend to think that these are public roads, and that the creek and waterfall is public as well.  Just like the couple we met last week.  They came blundering down the road on foot.  That should have been quiet enough, but they were talking loudly.  Helo, our self-appointed early warning system, alerted to their approach.  His barking riled up Boomer, our goofball wannabe guard dog who sometimes scares himself to the point of immobilization.  However, he felt secure enough to join in with Helo.  Since they were both inside, their barking woke up Jen, who sleeps during the day because she works nights.

They made three trips by our cabin.  The next time they come through like that, I will initiate a friendly conversation ending with “please don’t come through here again”.

On one hand, new neighbors cause us some anxiety.  We like the peace and quiet that our little piece of the valley offers.  Any trip our new neighbors make in or out of their place will bring them up or down the road which runs through the middle of our property and close to our cabin.  With the new neighbors come kids, a dog, a four wheeler, and an SUV – all of which will undoubtedly play some part of interrupting the silence we have learned to enjoy.

On the other hand, new neighbors could be a good thing.  New people bring in different experiences and different skills.  The possibility of new friendships is also welcomed.  It gets kind of boring up here sometimes, and it would be nice to have others to visit with.

So, is our community’s population increase an upgrade or a downgrade?  Time will tell.  Maybe a Homestead home warming party will get us started off on the right foot.

Blackberry Dreams

The blackberries are blooming, and as promised, Jen and I uncapped the last bottle of last year’s blackberry wine.

When we bought the homestead, I saw all of the blackberries and thought “wine”.  I did some research and found some complicated recipes.  It took lots of research to find a simple recipe that seemed like it would produce drinkable wine.

By the time we got back to the homestead, the summer drought had decimated the blackberries.  We had to work hard to pick the 2 gallons of blackberries that the recipe called for.  But we found them.  We mixed up the blackberries, some sugar, and some water into a 5 gallon bucket.  We put a lid and an airlock on the bucket and we were done with everything but the waiting.

The waiting took 6-8 weeks.  I forget how long it actually took.  We just waited for the airlock to stop bubbling.

We drank most of the wine as soon as it was ready.  I saved one 1.75 liter bottle, with the intention of saving it until the blackberries bloomed again.

The bottle made it through the winter on the homestead, and it was with great anticipation that I opened it and gave it a smell.  At least it didn’t smell like vinegar.  I took a sip of it and decided that it was drinkable.  It was quite good, actually.  It turned out rather dry.  I found it interesting.  I guess Jen was hoping for sweet, because she didn’t find it interesting.

It was a big bottle, so we had plenty to enjoy.  It lasted a couple of nights.  Actually, there are still a couple of glasses worth left in the bottle.

Jen found it a little more interesting the second time around.  We drank it over ice.  Not my favorite way to drink wine, but Jen liked it.  She found out that my wine has some kick.  A little goes a long way.

With all of the blackberries blooming now, I’m already dreaming of wine.  Not just drinking the wine, but of making it.  It’s a simple, natural process, but there is an art to making it drinkable.

I hope that this year’s wine inspires more dreams.

Anyone wanting the recipe can email me for the link of the recipe I used.  I also have video and pictures of us making the wine which I can share.  It was an incredibly simple recipe which made about 4 gallons of wine for under $20, including the bucket and airlock.