Posts Tagged ‘homesteading’

Finished!

We finally got the garden boxes finished. We dug the 6′ x 6′ holes, stapled gopher wire to the bottom of the boxes, and filled them back in with a combination of amended soil: 50% of our own soil (which tends toward clay soil), 25% green  manure, and 25% bumper crop compost. It was a lot of work, but now our garden plot is ready for the coming day when we can plant our seeds.  Now all of our boxes look like the box on the left side of the picture below:

The only real work left, other than actually planting the seeds (some of which we have started indoors already), is to lay down some gravel on the path and to paint the fence. Oh, I forgot: Sugar definitely helped too:

Unfortunately we probably won’t get much more work done this week. I’m starting my Spring Quarter tomorrow, so I’ll be commuting 2 hours each way to get to my classes. Then, on Wednesday, our 70 degree weather is supposed to turn around and change to snow. Yikes.

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Knee Day

A couple of years ago St. Patrick’s Day ceased to be a day for green beer and pinching–at least in our family.  March 17, 2008 changed the course of events in our calendar, overwriting St. Patty for the evermore infamous “Knee Day.”

This was the day of my second ACL reconstruction. The final ACL reconstruction, my orthopedic surgeon emphasized. A day that would ensure that I wouldn’t have the recurring pain of bone-on-bone (I have no cartilage or meniscus in that knee, either) or the uncertainty of whether or not my knee would hold together during a fall. The knee reconstruction was also a reconstruction of my future.

Today I’m thinking a lot about my life just two years ago, on Knee Day. Our lives were so different. I hadn’t even started seminary yet; in fact, it was my recovery after the reconstruction that brought me back to theology and study. We didn’t have any intention of moving out of Los Angeles, and backyard chickens were for quirky people who baked their own bread and probably their own granola, too.  Tehachapi? Where was that? And I guarantee that a dog wasn’t anywhere near my husband’s radar.

Today, exactly two years later, I’ve changed the course of my career (or, rather, my vocation) and Rob has changed to a new job that we hope we’ll some day be able to work him out of. We own not only our own home, but the acre and a half that surrounds it. There isn’t the sound of planes or traffic in the morning; rather, there is the silence of a still sunrise…just before a chorus of birds sings its hymn to welcome the day.  I know how to demolish and reconstruct a bathroom. I know how to plant a garden. I’ve had to clean dirt out from under my nails more times that I can count. We’ve expanded our family to include our sweet dog Sugar, and on April 16th we’ll welcome a hive of bees. We’ve planted a cherry tree, an apple tree, an almond tree, asparagus, blueberries, boysenberries, and grapes (syrah, merlot, zinfandel, and chardonnay).  We have lavender seedlings started, and the seeds for our garden are simply waiting until the threat of frost passes soon. We have cows that frequent the hill behind our house. Neighbors always smile and wave when they drive by. We don’t have cable anymore. In fact, we haven’t even unpacked our television.

Life is very different.

The past week or so has been filled with grief, but today I want to focus on the joy. The gratitude of what we do have, rather than the pain of what we lost. I honor that pain, but I need to feel normal again. I need to remember that pain isn’t the sum of this story. It’s only a chapter. And it’s certainly not the final chapter.

Thank you, Knee Day, for reminding me that my life is continually undergoing reconstruction. The recovery can often be painful, but the fruit of the experience is sweet.

Homemade

The past two and a half weeks can be summed up in just one word: sick. First me, for the better part of it, and now my husband and even my dog. But I think we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, so hopefully I’ll be able to post more regularly than I have in the last couple weeks or so.

As I was looking in the fridge this morning, it occurred to me just how different our lives are from just a year ago. Now in our fridge (or pantry), you will find an abundance of homemade things that have just wound their way into our regular daily lives. Today I found: homemade bread, homemade strawberry jam (which we made last August from our CSA strawberries), homemade tomato sauce, homemade soup made from homemade stock (actually, right now we have three kinds of soup: potato leek, creamy chicken, and chicken vegetable), homemade frosting left over from a cake we made, homemade ice cream, and homemade ranch dressing. Sometimes we have homemade butter and homemade cheese, but not today. Soon I’ll add some non-edible items: homemade soap, candles, and maybe even laundry detergent if I can get it right.

Knowing that we appreciate where these things come from–and the effort it takes to get them from farm to table–makes me proud.  We are realizing that things don’t just “appear” in our household. We are honoring the work, the soil, and the bounty. I think that sense of consciousness is important, and I think it’s necessary to try to expand it every day.

By the way, speaking of homemade–our garden fence is almost done. It certainly looks homemade, but it’s ours. We put one gate on earlier this week, and just have to finish the second gate and we’ll be done. I also dug the first 6′ x 6′ box. Digging 36 square feet even a foot into the ground is a laborious task! I sure burned off my lunch that day.

Blessings everyone!

Seeds

Photo provided by freefoto.com

As my body continued to heal from this doozie of a cold, I spent some time yesterday ordering our seeds from an heirloom seed company.  It was exciting. I never thought that, at 29 years old, I’d get such a thrill from ordering seeds on a rainy weekend afternoon.

About a month ago, Robert and I spent a cold winter evening planning our garden and making our seed lists, so I had all of the information at my fingertips. All I needed to do was actually order them–and, strangely enough, this small act made our homesteading seem all the more real.  It was like when I ordered the bees. Planning was one thing, but clicking “Order” suddenly made sure that it was going to happen. Or, at least, we’d make a good attempt. Regardless, it became an inevitable part of the story.

Some of the things we ordered will simply come as seed packets: eggplant, cucumber, lettuce, carrots, kale, spinach, green beans, leeks, onions, butternut squash, pumpkins, arugula, and various edible herbs. We’ll also get seeds for the flowers and herbs that will surround our garden and help to lure the bees: lavender, bee balm, borage, hyssop, chinese aster, star of the veld, zulu prince daisies, and ox-eye sunflowers. And then there will be the large sunflowers that will help to create a windbreak: velvet queen sunflower, evening sunflower, and a mix of others.  All these will arrive in small packages and hopefully fill our small space with beautiful colors and healthy meals.

We also ordered garlic, potatoes, and tomatoes, which will arrive at various times of year. The potatoes will arrive in mid-April, and will come in 2 1/2 pound bags. We’ll have to plant those in an entire separate area, because potatoes don’t play well with other vegetables. They wreak havoc on the soil and attract all sorts of bugs (which is why conventionally grown potatoes can harbor some of the most toxic pesticides around).  They’ll take a certain amount of attentiveness and care from year to year, so we plan on rotating them in various spots on the property. However, they won’t get to hang out with the rest of their culinary friends in the garden. Besides the potatoes, we’ll be getting tomato transplants in mid-May. May 15th is the last day for potential frost in the area, so we can’t get them any earlier than that. Tehachapi is known for its short growing season, but hopefully next year we’ll have the greenhouse up and running and won’t have to worry about that as much. The tomatoes are especially exciting because we’ll be getting some of our favorite varieties–Cherokee Purple and Green Zebra. We’ll also be getting a variety called “Amish Paste,” which will be good for canning and cooking. Finally, we’ll be getting garlic bulbs in early September. We’ll plant them when the rest of the garden is beginning to wind down, when the pumpkins and winter squashes are demanding our attention, and when the ground begins to get cold again. I plan to plant a lot of garlic over the years–we’re big fans in this Italian household.

These seeds bring us one step closer to our dream of living off of the land. We also looked through hatchery websites last night and picked out some heritage chicken breeds that might make it into the running for our tiny flock.  But more on that later. We still have a lot of work to do before we can order those chicks. We just need to take it one wonderful step at a time.

Small Tastes and Good Fences

Our weekend was filled with various guests–friends and family, young and old alike. We were blessed to open our home to people from all corners of our lives. I felt a deep sense of gratitude for this place…it was as we had always hoped, even when it was simply a dream of ours: a place of sanctuary, of peace, of warmth and love. It certainly isn’t of our own doing that we have this place (God has been the mapmaker of this plan), but we are going to do the best we can to do it justice.

We’ve had a nice dose of warm weather over the past few weeks.  As a result, we’re getting the first taste of Spring here in Tehachapi.

It’s like the little trumpets are heralding an end to the cold–soon enough, soon enough. I can’t wait for the land to errupt in what everyone has assured me is a dizzying array of flowers, the best of which is a ring of lilacs within our driveway circle.  Our oak trees will become full, and green grass will poke its head through the (temporarily) soft earth. We’ll find out if our fruit trees and grape vines have survived the years previous to us taking stewardship; unfortunately, we’ve been told, they didn’t get enough water or pruning or pest protection. But I have hope.

Finally, we’ve made a lot of progress on our little garden plot. The trenches were dug all the way around, and gopher wire was put about a foot down. Once we filled in the earth around the gopher wire, we began to construct our fence. We’re almost done; all we need to do is construct a gate for each remaining side and finish it off.

Hope everyone has a beautiful, gratitude-filled week.

PS…I’d like to share an inspiring blog that I found earlier this morning. Before Fall of 2008, it was a simply a woman’s joyful musings on motherhood and her life in general. But following a plane crash in which she and her husband barely survived, it has become an inspirational testament of her courage. She embraces every day with a courage that I could only hope to have, and gives me pause when I consider the “stresses” of my daily life.  I encourage you to check it out: http://nieniedialogues.blogspot.com

Progress and rainy days

It’s a rainy day here at the homestead. We’ve had a wonderful week–during the day I’ve been working on the house and the land, and in the evenings we’ve been spending a lot of time with new friends.

For a surprise, I cleaned out the garage for Rob and laid out his tools so he can put them in order. Our garage had exploded into a mess of wood bits, sawdust, grout, paint, half-filled water buckets, and trash from our week of bathroom construction, and I knew that the mess was weighing on him. So I took a sunny afternon and cleared the trash (5 construction trash bags full!) up to the barn, swept, and put things in order.  After all…he works so hard to make this dream happen. I want to make his time here at home as calm and enjoyable as possible, because I truly appreciate that sacrifice. He’s quite a man, my husband.

I’ve also got almost 3 sides of our “gopher fort” dug, chicken-wired, and filled. I had to call off the digging today because the rains have settled in for a couple of days. But once they’ve passed through and softened up the earth even more, I’ll be back at it.

Speaking of our garden, our fencing arrived this week. Which means after the underground gate is in, we’ll be digging post-holes and setting up our cedar fencing. I’m excited about that. We also spent a lot of time looking through an organic heritage seed catalog and picking out our seeds. I’ll be ordering them in the next few days, although they’ll arrive throughout the year (some seeds and some seedlings) depending on what type of veggie it is.

Another exciting event of the week: the former owner of this house was watching his friends’ chickens while they were on vacation, and pulled me along for the ride. I got to meet 8 pretty laying hens, and we plucked four eggs from the roost. He let us keep them, and we were eating honest-to-goodness farm fresh eggs the next morning. I can’t wait until we have our own, but we have a lot of work to do on the coop and the fencing before we get there.

Our beehive equipment also arrived! We’ll be spending some time this raining weekend assembling it all. All the books I’ve been reading say that it’s a good idea to get everything assembled and ready a few months ahead of time–that way, when the bees arrive, all you have to worry about it getting them settled in. Since our bees are set to arrive April 16th, I think we’re right on schedule.

Our evenings were spent at the houses of our new friends. It’s been quite a blessing to have only been in town 8 weeks and already have people with whom we enjoy spending our time.  I’m also beginning to appreciate the gift of knowing people that are different–different beliefs, different lifestyles, different values, different hobbies. Many of my friends from college and grad school were people who were strikingly similar in our core belief systems and interests. I’m not sure if that was just dumb luck or if being involved so closely with LMU Campus Ministry shaped it, but there is was. This was a blessing to me at the time, because it helped me to become more comfortable with my newfound place in the church, in my faith journey, and in my own self-confidence as an increasingly independent woman. But now I find myself appreciating that I can share my life (and faith and values) with people who don’t necessarily share them in the same way. I can appreciate where they come from and why they see the world a certain way. Being in seminary really  began that part of my journey, and living in Tehachapi is continuing it.

Finally, the big news on the homestead: we’re hoping to trade in one of our cars this weekend for a truck (well, kind of a truck). We’ve been looking at different trucks and have our eye on a Ford Expedition that is in our price range. It has the power and (hopefully) the room of a truck, so it can haul a small animal trailer or have a few hay bales stuck in the back. At the same time, it has plenty of room for what we hope to be an expanding family. So we’ll see how it all turns out. If we like the test drive and like what they offer us for the car, we’ll have a dependable four-wheel drive for our next snowstorm.

Gopher-Proofing

Digging our gopher trenches will be pretty time-consuming and will burn plenty of calories! A few hours of my Saturday afternoon consisted of getting 1/4 of our “gopher barricade” installed. Here’s me digging one of four  24′ long trenches to line the perimeter of our garden:

After the trench was dug to a 12″ depth, we put in the metal hardware cloth, buried it, and compacted the earth. Here’s the end result:

Only three more sides to go!!!