Just giving evidence that we cut down the huge tree in our backyard. The stump is under the snow, the pile of mulch is the mountain of twigs we shredded up, the wood stacked against the back fence is a whole lot of firewood for future years.
For years my mother told me she had an inkle loom made by someone long ago in our family. As the only person in the family likely to ever use it she's been meaning to give it to me and it just arrived this weekend. I looked on the internet and figured out how it worked and this is how my first weaving attempt looks. I was pretty happy with it for a first go. I'm using my handspun wool/silk blend. I actually finished an entire belt in one go (it was a long afternoon).
Wow, I skipped blogging the entire month of November! Things continue to roll along here at the homestead. We had that huge tree in the back taken down, and stacked all the wood and shredded up the twigs. Because of the threat of the Emerald Ash Borer the local municipality no longer hands out wood mulch for free. And the tree people we used didn't own their own shredder. So we rented one. I'd have to say, don't bother. It cost money to rent the chipper/shredder, it took ALL DAY to shred up a tree's worth of twigs and the mulch isn't that good. It's "sticky." Lots of big sticks. On the plus side the mulch pile takes up far less room than the twig pile did, but it just wasn't worth the amount of time/effort/expense we put into obtaining that small pile of low quality mulch. What we do have, as result of taking down the tree, it a whole lot more sunshine in the back yard and a very large stack of fire wood. I had a gardening friend come over and we decided where the different plantings are going to go.
I love this cake! It tastes as good as it looks. It is made of orange flavored buttercream and dark chocolate ganache. YUMMMY! Inside are lots of black (ie chocolate) and orange layers of cake/filling.
I'm getting a lot of spinning/knitting/sewing done. I need to post some pictures. Not much gardening this time of year, but I'm looking forward to next year. I thoroughly enjoy doing this and that, but sometimes I feel guilty that I don't have a job-job. I have spent so many years being a mom and having complete independence to set my own schedule that I am really chaffing at the idea of a job where I am told what to do all the time. Of course the extra money would be nice, but I'm not at all sure I'm ready to trade my independence for cash. Obviously this independence comes at the price of my husband's independence. I'm a bit befuddled on the whole subject. At this point in time I'm going to keep moving forward on the simple living and if a job pops up that seems to fit in, fine, if not, then I'll keep moving forward with what I'm doing. If I had things totally my way I'd be living in a LOT smaller house with a LOT fewer amenities. This is the trade off with having a family to keep happy. Their opinions matter, too.
Just an update on how the gardening stuff is going. We put in a second compost pile/future garden bed. The white tulle over the top is just fly prevention. It's getting cooler so that probably isn't really needed anymore. The wood pile is from the dead tree in the front yard that we had removed. The gorgeous tree in the backyard will be removed. It is a beautiful tree and I'm going to remove it because it shades every hope I have of a garden. That gorgeous tree is going to be turned into a massive wood pile. I'm also going to chip/shred the twigs into garden mulch-compost starter. Lots of plans.
I'm all excited about trying a CSA -community supported agriculture- for the next growing season. Our garden is just in the beginning stages and while I hope to have it up and running next year there is no way it'll be fully functional. The twin cities are so advanced in sustainability issues! CSA is, basically, hiring a farmer to grow your food for you. If the eggplant crop fails you don't get any eggplants, but maybe you'll get a double amount of beans. It is paying someone else to do your vegetable farming for you. I want to eat the way I believe. I don't get to do that at the grocery store. I'm not ready to be a total vegetarian but after having raised chickens I really want the animals I eat to have a good life and a quick death. The CSA I'm choosing also has some meat available. I don't need much meat, but I do like to use some, it really adds a lot of flavor to food (meat as a condiment).
After getting out of the soap business I finally tweeked a recipe for liquid soap that turned out perfect. I'm very happy with it. It is in the closet "settling out" for a week before we use it, but it looks fabulous, like honey. Liquid soap was the one thing that I really struggled to make in my business, and now, that I'm out of the business, I finally figured out the perfect recipe.
Shortly after we moved here we were informed that attending the state fair is not optional, you have to go. So we went. It was strange, but fun. I can't possibly do it justice but I will describe the three pictures I posted. Food on a stick. The state food. They will put anything on a stick. They deep fat fry it and people q up to eat. Animals giving birth, in public, in front of large audiences. VERY popular exhibit. The babies sure are cute, but the poor mommas that have to go through that sort of trauma in front of that many curious bystanders. Grass horses. It sounds like a rock band, doesn't it? I just thought they looked pretty. I'm not even sure why they were there.
Libby has entered the homestead. She's my brother's cat and, thanks to allergies, needed a new home. We have really missed our kitty friends and offered to adopt her. She has been wonderful. She came ready to love us and we were ready to love her. I am a cat person.
I'm looking over the yard and trying to decide what to plant, where to plant, how to plant. I feel like I have been presented an embarrassment of riches with all the space I have, and I don't want to mess it up. The soil isn't very good, but I was planning on doing raised beds, so that isn't a major concern. What is a concern to me is that I've heard reports of killer compost. The big chemical companies have bred herbicide seeds that have entered the composting system and as a result the compost is toxic to plants (other than the specific plant it was bred for). Here where I live there is fairly easy access to free compost, similar to what I had in St. Louis, but now I'm freaked out over the killer compost and I'm not sure I can use the free compost. I just don't see how I can produce, in my backyard, the amount of compost that I normally use in a year's time. ARRRGGGGGG.
My son, Chris, just finished his basic training to become an airman. Basic training is meant to be extremely difficult and naturally it was tough on him, but he did a wonderful job and we are very much enjoying being with him for a few days before he goes on to his technical training. He earned many honors during training and it was fun to have it be publicly announced how well he did. In addition, it was a special joy to hear him talk in church this morning about the importance of families. Families are eternal and we are here on earth to form loving families. I love my kids and my husband so much. I'm so happy to be sealed eternally with them.
I applied to be a master gardener here in Minnesota. We'll see if they want me. I'd really like to do this. It is a volunteer, community service job. Not a paying job, but a service opportunity. I'd get to be trained by the University of Minnesota gardening experts and then I would be a community liaison and occasional teacher. I like the idea of promoting gardening, especially food gardening.
We had a dead maple tree in the front yard. It is now cut down. Watching workmen cut down a large tree is one of the most entertaining activities we ever pay anyone to do on our property. And thanks to all that entertainment we have a beautiful pile of wood in the backyard (and we were able to share wood with our neighbors). It feels really good to have fuel available. Now we need to have a chimney guy come and make sure the fireplace/chimney is in good working order. I'm looking forward to having some fireplace meals this winter. I've never had a house where we could do that sort of thing. I realize that a cookstove makes a lot more sense as far as truly being able to heat the house, but we don't have a cookstove and we do have a fireplace.
Yesterday, after church, one of the brothers in the ward said to me, "You know how people told you it didn't get that hot in Minneapolis?" I nodded and finished his sentence, "They LIED."
The air-conditioning man is here attempting to fix our problem. Living simply has its limits. It is near 100 degrees and near 100% humidity. Pretty miserable. I could handle living through this (I'd stay in the basement all day and night) but the kids are really complaining.
LATER: I now have a new favorite human being-- the air-conditioning repair man! It's fixed.
This is the quilt I made for my daughter out of her high school t-shirts. We were both happy with how it turned out. I will always look at it and think of the Cosby show. We went through a couple of seasons of Cosby show reruns on the computer as we put the quilt together.
OK, so I'm just taking baby steps, but this is the start of my garden. I've got one plot, which will have composting stuff dug into the dirt until I can make it into a decent compost pile, next year this will be my first garden bed. In the plastic tub are my "Joseph Smith Memorial Tomatoes." When we were coming back from vacation we stopped by Palmyra, New York to visit the Sacred Grove and see a few sites from church history (sighhhhh, I wish I could've spent longer). At the Joseph Smith farm house they have a working garden and they were giving away some of the extra tomato plants. I took three of them and we'll see how they do!
These are my pictures from yesterday. I'm officially labeling these as the "before" pictures. My goal is to develop this entire yard into an urban farm. I'm slowly making decisions and mapping out where things will be. First on the list is to get rid of that beautiful maple in the backyard. It's gorgeous, but I'll never have a garden with that huge tree shading everything. I've already talked with tree removal people. We're going to have so much firewood!
I want this blog to be a discussion of the ins and outs of an urban homestead. I feel like we were doing pretty good down at the old place, until the moving process started. Now it is time to start all fresh. I've learned a lot from doing this all before and this time I'm going to do things a bit differently (but mainly the same). This year is going to be a rebuilding year. I think it'll be interesting to document the changes. First off is to get "before" photos and then start moving forward on the the homestead. This is a great place to have an urban homestead. I even found a STORE that sells things especially to people like me! I'll be able to buy my city chickens as soon as I'm feeling ready (which won't be until next year, but, hey! I found a place to buy small quantities of chicks).
Well, most of the house is unpacked. All this STUFF. Who in their right minds needs all this stuff? Yet, while we were living with all our stuff packed up, I was constantly looking for this and that. Now I can find scissors, forms, books, etc. We found the muffin pan and the scented oils and my yarns. I can find stuff,now.
We're here! I have so much work to do. Frankie-Jeff is getting used to the backyard. She hid in the bunny-house the entire first day, but now she's investigating the yard. I'm looking forward to turning this place into an urban homestead, but I've got a ton of work before that even begins. First we need to unpack! So far the living room looks like a living room. The kitchen is pretty much useable (I even ran a dishwasher for the first time in my life). The bedroom are set up. Nothing is on the walls and the garage is full of unopened boxes, but it already feels a bit like a home. When Randall was here by himself it always felt like an empty box.
We're down to the last few days before we move up to MN. This week means packing up and loading up the moving van. I wish we had this house sold before we actually did the moving, but that hasn't happened yet. The Lord has spoken peace to me concerning the matter and I'm really not worried, I have no doubt we are supposed to move and everything will work out in the Lord's due time. Can I still want to have the hassle of selling the house over with?
Frankie got another haircut. I harvested the back half of her fur. I should've taken a before picture! The bad is full of her fiber, just waiting for me to spin it up. It is so luxurious. She doesn't really like to get her fur cut, but its been so hot that I'm actually doing her a favor.
The grass is all green and Frankie-Jeff the girl rabbit cannot eat it all, even though she tries. I can't remember the grass in the backyard ever being this green. I guess all that intensive fertilizing by the chickens has done wonders for the richness of the soil!
We've got the house ready to list. It feels like the count down is on.
The apple trees are so beautiful. I've never gotten over the wonder of apples. I never tire of the dark pink buds unfolding into white petals. The warm spring sunshine encouraging the bees to flit like electrons around the tree. I feel like this is a play I never get tired of watching. After the stunningly beautiful overture, then the villains, the aphids invade, like they always do, threatening to destroy the trees by eating all the young leaves, then enters our heroes, the lady bugs who wipe out the aphids by eating everyone. This allows the tiny apples to grow, but they always have one difficulty after another. Yet at the end of every season I have delicious apples to eat. Some years bushels and bushels, some years just a bag or two. But the play goes on every year. And every year I enjoy it. This year I'll only be able to stay for the first couple of acts. I'm going to miss the finale.
This is sad in several ways. The apple trees are at their most beautiful, they are blossoming and gorgeous. We won't be here for the fruit they will produce. The other picture is of the backyard sans garden. It there is a little garlic growing in the back of the bunny coop, but other than that nothing. We tore out all the squares and spread grass seed over the old garden squares. With all that compost they ought to grow a lot of grass!
I know, I know, the blog needs more pictures. Words are easier for me than pictures. In order to do pictures I have to get the kids to help me take/download/post the pictures and lately I'm just not up to the hassle. I've tried to figure it out for myself and it just doesn't stick in my mind. If the least small thing changes I can't figure out how to do the new stuff and they seem to change their sites all the time. I used to be able to use my I-POD and ever since they changed the website I can't make heads or tails of it. The kids make fun of me for not being able to figure these things out, then don't exactly act helpful in teaching me how to use the new site. I claim that I DO figure out the rules, but as soon as I figure out the rules they change the rules. In so many ways I hate technology (I say as I type on my laptop to put an entry into my blog).
Anyways.... The house is getting emptied into the storage shed. The rooms here are starting to echo. I've got a Uhaul truck reserved for early June. I had an inspector come out and he told us what we need to do to be able to sell the house for someone to live in it (as opposed to "as is"). It isn't that bad. A whole bunch of little things and some railing on the back porch. That's about it. We've already done most of it.
The apple trees are blooming. Apple blossoms are my favorite flower. We had an apple tree in our backyard when we were kids and it was practically a member of the family. Us kids lived in that tree and ate from it (at ALL stages of greeness) and played around it constantly. I love apples, on lots of different levels.
The backyard has grass growing. It's green. Frankie-Jeff-the-girl-rabbit is eating the grass with enthusiasm but can't eat it all. I miss the chickens, they did a much more thorough job of destroying the grass (I miss the chickens but not the carpet of chicken poop).
We're closing on a house here in Minnesota on Friday. I can't believe the amount of paperwork it takes to hand someone a big wad of money. As soon as I get a few pictures I'll post them. I'm already scheming about my garden. Hodgson's Homestead is moving north!
Sorry, another post with no pictures. But you don't want a picture of this one. I've been making homemade sausage. It's idiot easy and is delicious. I love finding one more thing I can do myself and not buy from a store. These sausage don't have extra chemicals in them because I'm in charge! Here's the basic recipe-- buy pork butt when it is on a fabulous sale (memorial day or labor day) and freeze it half way (or freeze it and let it thaw half way). Now for the hard part, you have to have a meat grinder. If you have one the rest is easy. Grind the meat/fat up, adding spices (lots of variations here, it could just be salt and pepper OR you can get way fancier, there are tons of recipes on the web) then divide it into one pound plops. You can either use it immediately or re-freeze for future use. You could also stuff it into casings, but I've had trouble locating decent casings, so I've just been making it into bulk sausage. I can't wait until someone bags a deer and I can say, I'll make it into deer sausage for you! I remember as a kid begging my father to turn the entire deer into sausage. For some reason he didn't think that was as good an idea as I thought it was.
The chickens have left the homestead. I sure have loved having them. A friend of a friend has a farm and was very happy to have them. He lost his hens to a fox (he killed the fox). The girls will get a very large area to free-range in. I sure will miss them.
Things feel like they are moving along, as far as moving goes. We put a bid in on a house, but so did someone else, and their bid was picked, so I'll be back househunting this week. Our MUCH beloved cat Pippin has been missing for the past few weeks. We're still hopeful she'll return, but it's been three weeks. A co-worker of a friend is coming tomorrow to pick up the chickens. I love my chickens, but moving them to a new state seemed to be asking too much. They are going to a farm with lots of space to free-range. They'll be happy. Once the chickens are gone and it thaws up we can work on straightening up the back yard. My next door neighbor wants all the concrete blocks. As far as getting this house ready for sale we (mostly Chris) have been working very hard. The inside walls are all painted and the kitchen floor tile has been replaced. Those were the two main jobs that really needed to happen. I've been dejunking room by room and handing off the really good stuff to friends. I'm also donating quite a bit to the thrift store and (of course)throwing a lot away. It just feels like things are moving along a quick pace.
I have to add a few comments here. This is an enormous apartment complex and this was NOT in the part Randall lives in. He's fine, and they had enough empty units to actually house the displaced people. AT THE SAME TIME, I really want him out of there. The fire started about the same time he came home from work. At first he thought it was just a minor little thing, but the flames kept growing and more and more firetrucks kept coming. It was a major fire. No lives lost, but a very scary fire all the same.
I think we've found a place to live in Minnesota. These decisions are best made when young and stupid. It's much harder to decide when you actually have a load of opinions. When we moved into this house (the one we're currently living in) I wanted to get out of an apartment so bad I would've said yes to anything. In spite of it being a fairly random pick, we did ok with this house. I've managed to turn it into a little farm and we raised all seven of our kids in here. They didn't have much room, but they all love each other and are good friends with each other. In fact Sunday, other then church, is spent hanging out with each other, either in person or via skype. So now, without really meaning to, I'm going to end up with a larger house when I don't have as many kids living in it! That isn't really what I was aiming for, but this house has so many more pluses then minuses that it just feels like the right thing to do. I'm sure we'll make it all work out ok, once again.
I did something major today-- I went through my sewing stash and gave away almost everything I haven't used in a year. I kept one bin's worth, but I started with more then 6 bins of fabric. I am stepping out with faith and giving stuff away to people who (I hope) will need it. I'm keeping the pipeline flowing. The giving pipeline. People have been so kind to me over the years, giving me this and that when I really needed it, I'm doing the same for others. Hopefully the blessing will return when I need it. I am not a hoarder. I am convinced that being willing to throw things away is a recessive gene. I LOVE throwing things away. It is so freeing. I hate having a house full of stuff. Over all the years I only regret one thing I tossed (a book on French handsewing). That's pretty good odds-- Dumpsters worth of stuff I've tossed and I only regret one book. Today I also listed a few things on Ebay that were so specialized that I didn't think anyone at the local Thrift store would know what they were. Next thing to tackle is the cake decorating stash. Lots of hard decisions there! Maybe we can move up north with a small Uhaul instead of a big one : )
I'm going house hunting this week up in Minnesota. I really want to have a new place for Hodgson's Homestead. Simple living is so important to me. It is just killing me to have to go back into debt. But I'm excited to be able to choose my new urban homestead. I was pretty stupid when I picked this house twenty years ago. I've got a longer list this time then I did that time. This time I want a fairly basic house with a big garden-able yard. I want to live close to church and Randall's work, so we don't need to waste time and money on gas. AND I want a garage. I can't believe I didn't realize how important a place to store bicycles is. The last thing the lady we bought our current house said to me (twenty years ago) was "I'm so excited. I'm buying a condominium with a garage!" That should've given me a clue.
Just to make it official-- the total garden produce for 2010 was 761 lbs.
I wish I could set a goal to increase that for next year, but 2011 is so uncertain, because we're moving. I just hope I'll have a garden all set up and ready to go for 2012! As soon as we have our new place I'll be planning the fruit trees and fruit bushes. Those take years to get going, so I want to plant them asap.
Looking over the past year it was good in many, many ways. I feel like I got too involved with the soap business to do the garden full credit but I did get a good amount of food off of our little piece of land. The apple trees produced well. The strawberries produced enough to put some in the freezer. While it was technically on our land we did harvest wild blackberries from Sunfish and they were amazing! We got lots of beans, tomatoes, peppers, and onions from the garden. I love my garden and I love the feeling of self sufficiency it gives me. I'm hoping (SOOO MUCH) that I'll be able to find a little house with a nice spot of land that will be garden friendly.