My, it has been a while since I’ve been in this lovely space! Given how chaotic things have been, can you blame me?
I hope all who still come to read my posts are here, and are enjoying their lives to the fullest that they currently can.
The homestead has been a a low buzz of activity during the winter. Clothes being mended, household tasks being tended, and projects imagined. Our initial idea of building a brand new coop for our flock has been kibosh-ed due to the house having a leaky roof, so that will get first priority. Instead of new digs, the chickens will get a new run – their’s is roughly a decade old and starting to show it’s age – and the coop interior will get a healthy dose of whitewash.
This spring will see a return of two things to the homestead that have been missing the past couple years: seedlings and chicks. We’ll be creating a (hopefully) successful seedling set up in the basement so that we can go back to being a bit more self-sufficient in that arena. After getting a larger wood stove for the house, we lost our regular set-up that we had been loosing as the space was no longer available in the living room. (Not to mention having a cat who likes to munch tomato seedlings…..not helpful.)
The chicks, as much as we’d rather buy local, have been purchased via a hatchery and will be here on May 23rd. I’m very excited as this allows us to add new blood to our crew. Why did we go hatchery instead of local? Unfortunately the breeds we were looking for are not established here in Maine. Trust me, if I had the space and time, I would certainly create a established flock of Andalusians and Anconas to hatch and sell. (While I only have experience with Andalusians, Anconas seem to be cut of the same cloth.) Along with those two breeds, we will also be getting a couple new Ameraucanas and some Welsummers.
The part of ordering chicks that feels the most out of sorts to me right now is that we just – yesterday, actually – lost one of our matriarchs to old age. Snowbird was an almost 10 year old Ameraucana that we purchased from a hatchery via the local hardware store during our second year of chicken keeping. She was a lovely bird and we will miss her greatly. Her sister, Beardie, is of the same age and still with us. Rest easy, Snowbird.
It’s been quiet here on the blog, yet life has been anything but.
Family illness, the loss of our beloved feline son, and the financial chaos of vehicular problems has been sucking all our energy. Very little time has remained for thinking about the spring and the sudden onset of energy that will be needed to get another season rolling on the homestead. the “winter quiet” of hibernating and enjoying warm food and the comfort of friends – despite the aforementioned chaos – is coming to an end. Soon seedlings will dress the window sills and the countdown to peeping chicks will begin.
The end of the 2018 growing season is upon us here in Maine. The gardens are slowly growing empty. I removed the rest of the tomatoes at the beginning of September. The potatoes have been pulled, the cucumbers have slowed to a crawl, and the peppers and beans are beginning the dwindle down. Next will be the rush of buttoning up the gardens for winter, mulching down the beds to keep the more delicate perennials happy, planting garlic, and canning the last fruits of the season, predominately apples.
This time of year always reminds me of an old pocket watch, the type you have to wind in order for it to keep time. As the kinetic energy slowly slips from the movements, the hands slow down and time begins to feel like its moving at the pace of molasses. It’s a slow, steady, and sometimes boring pace, dragging you through the happiest moments until even they start to become dull due to simply overstaying their welcome. Inevitably, you wind the clock back up because things have gotten too slow, only to be shocked as suddenly the opposite emerges. Time feels like it’s flying by, faster than it ever has! The winds are blowing crisper than before, the leaves are piling up by the minute on the ground, frosts come in consecutive nights and then don’t leave at all, and the next thing we all know, the first blizzard is pounding at the door, demanding to share in the comfort of our home.
Yes, this is the slow time. The time to indulge and try to remember that in mere days, if we’re lucky, we’ll be back to the break-neck speed so many of us homesteaders have learned to love.
Perhaps our biggest goal this year is replacing both gardens. What fence there is started as pulpwood loss cut in half and two inch poultry netting stapled to that. As we ended up with increasingly daring chickens and determined deer, the height of the fence increased in a very hodge-podged manner. Wooded fence posts, branches, yarn, and scraps of extra poultry netting were added in an attempt to keep out critters. Wood cribbing was placed along one side to keep out the groundhog.
The hodge-podge fence has worked for six seasons, but as we stare down the barrel of become a two-income homestead, we’re looking at projects that will save us time and make life easier. A more properly done fence, with removable gates, means a substantially smaller amount of time spent doing spring repairs. It also means a garden set up so that the kids can actually coffee in and help.
For materials, well, we lucked out. One of Hubster’s co-workers isgiving us a dream of a deal on cedar posts, including delivery. We’ll be going with welded wire fencing. I’ll be making removable 3′ wide panel gates – wide enough to get a wheelbarrow through comfortably.
To prep for the fencing, the first step is obviously to remove the old. The process started last night and I removed all of the larger garden. We kept as many pulpwood pieces up that would remain standing so that we have hole markers. I’m planning on tackling the smaller garden today.
I’ve been canning for seven years now and have yet to take a stab at jelly. Today was the first go round. Supposedly us impossible to tell if the jelly has fully set until it his the 24 hour mark. I’m a bit nerved up by the what-ifs. Needless to say, I think I might pick up Dionne extra pectin in the AM, just in case.