Thursday, May 31, 2012

Garden Work & Gravestones

We've been getting in a lot of gardening/yard work the past few days! We were totally oblivious to the weather and that we were working during the hottest week of the spring! But luckily, we have an official swimming hole around the corner from our house (lucky us!) and we took advantage of that on the 90ยบ F day this week. A big part of the work involved tilling the garden. We were able to borrow a rototiller and my wonderful hubby tilled up the garden. 

I started digging up a needless flagstone path that ran from the house to the shed and made an interesting discovery! The flagstones were not flagstones at all, but gravestones, most of them with initials! (No, there is no one buried on our property, and no, the stones were not stolen from some pour souls' grave sites.) I think this is pretty sweet! We found out from our neighbor that the previous home owner brought them home. Apparently, they were only temporary markers and the cemetery didn't need them anymore. He repurposed them for a walking path, and I am re-repurposing them to pave paths around my garden! Now I have the initials facing up for all to admire the workmanship and there are a few gems in the group like one labeled "Father" and another labeled "Fred".

How we love Fred! :-)
I put Fred in a place of honor under a tree by our driveway.  He was broken in half and I couldn't use him as a flagstone as the lettering was at the top. What better way to admire him than under our tree?

      I transplanted my red onions to my newly tilled and composted garden, and planted some Mr. Stripey and roma tomato plants, sweet pepper plants, zucchini, cucumber, watermelon, basil, cilantro, and dill. I went to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and got some hard to find Victoria Rhubarb root crowns (I have to get them in ASAP so I can have some rhubarb in a couple years), some Winter Luxury Pie pumpkin seeds, and some Pennsylvania Buttery Popcorn seeds! I'm still on the hunt for asparagus plants to get in this year. Then, a few days ago while getting my compost, we bought a Bartlett pear tree (we nicknamed him "Bartlett" for obvious reasons), he even has 3 baby pears growing!

              Ever since I tried red currants for the first time at the Logan, UT farmers market I have wanted to plant red currant bushes whenever we finally bought a house. Well, we've got the house and the property, I just needed to find some red currant plants! Well, an online search was quite frustrating. Most suppliers were British companies, because, after all it's a British plant. I did finally find one US supplier, but the availability was questionable. I went to our new town's farmer's market for the first time yesterday and you'll never guess! Out of the lonely 6 stalls, one was a man selling hard to find plants. He had some black currant bushes and I asked if he had any red. He had one, but was saving it for a lady. He told me if she didn't show up or if she didn't want it, he'd call me. So, I left and a few hours later he called and it was MINE! Woohoo! I love it when things just fall into place like that, you know? God must have known how badly I wanted that little red currant bush. We've nicknamed him "Spiffy Biffington" - a proper British name from P.G. Wodehouse, (Jeeves & Wooster, anyone?) and I'm going to get one of the many rocks around the property and paint a Union Jack on it to sit next to him. He'll be in his own little piece of England on our property. :-)
Baby red currants! Too bad that's all we'll get this year.

It's a little sad that we're naming our plants, but it's only because we don't have any animals yet! haha!
Another really sad thing - I was taking the weed eater to the weeds on the back edge of the garden. I had just finished when I saw movement. It was a big toad! Then, he slowly hopped again and I saw he was bleeding! I must have nicked him with the weed eater. The poor thing did his best to hop away. I'm not sure why he didn't try and get away before, but I must have just taken out his shelter, which for a toad was a good one. Lots of bugs made it their habitat too. *sigh* It just makes me so sad. I noticed another frog hop away when I was mowing the lawn a couple weeks ago and he had a close call too. Maybe I'll just have to start announcing to the frogs that I'm coming. I want them to stay around. We have way too many bugs! I need as many bug predators as I can get. Next up, I'm hoping to put up some bat houses and get some chickens to help out the frogs, although the chickens might like to eat the frogs too...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Living on Less

My daughter kneading some bread dough with me standing by to help.

I've always been fascinated with simple living and enjoying simple pleasures. But modern entertainments are very addicting and very hard to break away from, especially when everyone you know has the latest technology and expect you to know what they're talking about. (We've resisted the new smart phones and like using our prepaid cell phones, but for some reason the smart phones don't seem to be going away!) The hardest thing for us to get rid of is Netflix.

I ran across this interesting article that talks about living simply and a couple's story about how they drastically reduced their cost of living. It gets a little soap-boxy toward the end, but I think there are some interesting principles he discusses in there.

"How We Went from $42,000 to $6,500 and Lived to Tell About It!" 

Now that we finally own our little piece of land, we have so many better things to do than to be entertained by technology! Yesterday is a good example. We did a ton of yard work. We even got my garden tilled. Yay!

Other things I got done: I dug up a random round flower bed in the yard, cut out some sod from where I wanted our garden, and laid sod over the patch. We moved big rocks (and broke the wheel barrow - oops!), dug up daffodil bulbs, marked off a flower garden, and transplanted tulip bulbs. I set my 5-year-old son to digging up a line of bricks at the end of the gravel driveway by the house and he really got into it. He was so cute to watch - digging up a single brick, exclaiming how cool it was, and running over to the flower patch at the other end of the yard to lay the brick in the trench I'd dug to mark the bed off. Back and forth, back and forth he would go so busy, busy, busy. He loved it! After awhile he and his little sister were looking red-faced from being in the sun, so I sent them inside to cool off with some lemonade and to watch some "Busytown Mysteries". (alas, that blasted Netflix!) After awhile my son started crying, and begged me to let him go outside to dig up more bricks. Unfortunately, he had finished his job, but I was so happy that he liked the work. I think children need to work, just like adults do. It's so satisfying and rewarding and it can be so fun!

I need to think more about how we can realistically simplify our lives even more, because I know we have room for improvement and there's so many things that I'd like to do, but succumbing to entertainment has wasted a lot of my time. I need to take that time back!

On a side note, I found this site that had a neat list of homesteading magazines.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

One of THEM

Today I walked into a Tractor Supply Co. store for the first time with my kids. I had this strange giddy feeling looking at boots, chicken feed, and rabbit cages. I had never really had an excuse to go to a store like this except for painful wishful dreaming about the all elusive "some day". But now I'm one of THEM - those people that shop at farm stores because I need that kind of stuff. On the way out a lady walking in came up, squeezed my arm and blessed me for having two red-headed children. haha! I love small towns.

On the way home we stopped at a local farm that sells produce and I found out they raise their own pasture Angus beef. Sweet! Driving home on the back roads brought me such sweet happiness. I'm finally living in the country! That drive home is mine and we get to look at beautiful farm land and my kids get to see the other way to live - with fresh air, a pleathora of trees and fields, gardens and chickens.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Moving to the Homestead

I wonder who's going to be plowing this steep driveway? Hmmm! 

I apologize for my semi-long absence. We just had a crazy couple of weeks with moving to our "new" 1900s farmhouse. It has already been quite the adventure and we've already learned a few important things about being a homeowner and about self-reliance.

1. Just because you have a well, doesn't mean you're totally set for water.

In the 5 days since moving in, we've already had a couple frustrating experiences with our water shutting off unexpectedly. It turns out that we had run the well dry. In Maryland?!? It rains a lot here, right? Well, it turns out we live on a ridge that doesn't get as much water as other places. The person my husband talked to said that she has two wells dug at her house, and her mother has three! Our house only has one for four people. I'm beginning to understand why we don't have an outdoor spigot and why the previous owners put gutters on the smokehouse to collect rainwater in a rain barrel. I'm going to have to take a leaf out of his book.

See, living in suburbia, I did think about our water consumption, but the water was always there in never-ending supply (unless there was a water main break). Here in rural-ville we are totally dependent on the water table and are subject to regulating our own water useage - until we dig another well, that is. Even though Maryland does get a lot of rain, we are going to need to be more cautious and prudent with our water use. That really means only one load of laundry a day! (I made the mistake of doing two loads of laundry, taking a shower, and then my husband tried to take a shower. The water shut off in the middle. Oops!)

2. No one is going to pay me to mow my own lawn.

Well, I never seriously thought that, but right in the middle of mowing the half of our .82 acres that isn't wooded, I thought, "Man, I should get paid for doing this. Oh wait. This is MY grass. No one's going to pay me to mow it!" hahaha!

3. There are more bugs in the country.

Huh. Go figure! Right now I really loathe earwigs (ew!), stink bugs, carpenter bees, and sugar ants. Hey, bugs, I live here now, not you!

I am totally stoked to have my own house where we can build and do everything I've always dreamed of doing. I even heard a neighbor's rooster crowing off in the woods, so I know I'm not alone. I'm really hoping to get some chickens soon. Where do you get some chickens around here, anyway? I even have my spots picked out for some raised beds. My poor itchy spring planting fever is going crazy! At least we've been able to pick some of our potted strawberries and lettuce.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Notebooking - A fun way to reinforce learning

So, coming up this fall, my son and I officially start homeschooling. There are various reasons why we decided to homeschool, one of which is that we can go on field trips any time we want as many times as we want! I love field tripping! I am a little nervous about starting school, but I am also very excited.

Over the past year I have been gathering some great resources to help me as a homeschooling mom. One of them is the idea of notebooking. A friend of mine directed me to (who are having a free give-away right now, by the way!) I had no idea what notebooking was, and you don't even have to homeschool to use this cool resource! Notebooking is a way of reinforcing something your child has learned by having them create a page or pages recording their thoughts about a place they've been, things they've learned, or people they've studied by writing, drawing, pasting pictures, etc. about their experience. It's a method that works for all ages, and as time passes, they are creating a journal of their own memorable experiences - from their own unique perspective.

I'm really excited for us to get started!
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