Homestead

Absence

It has been way too long and I mostly just wanted to post so I didn’t get out of practice.😂.

Wifey is down at the cancer center in St. Louis getting her stem cell transplant. If ever someone questions what is one of the cornerstones of life, my emphatic answer is friends and family.

The past 14 months have turned our lives inside out. That isn’t to say there haven’t been moments of normalcy, but we have leaned heavily on our tribe. Wifey has been gone for about a week and a half now and will likely be down there another two weeks. When she does come home, it will still be a gradual recovery from the transplant.

The other night our daughter had the county basketball tournament. She texted on the team’s busride back that she needed a ride home (school is about 15 min away). Panic hits me. One boy is asleep, the other is almost asleep and the prospect of loading and unloading them was not pleasant. Five minutes later, a family member was on their way to get her. Of course it wouldn’t be the end of the world to load the boys and get her, but knowing we have so many who are so eager and willing to help in any way makes this whole damned thing a little easier.

I just wanted to post something so the site didn’t go completely dead and to remind myself of the importance of being a good friend and family member when someone else’s time of need comes.

Hopefully when she gets back at the end of the month we can stop worrying about cancer and start worrying about getting our garden ready for spring.

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Homestead

Randoms

So it’s obviously been a while. Our update on the home front is as follows:. Wifey is still battling cancer. She is on immunotherapy as two kinds of chemo haven’t worked. She has treatments once a month and after the treatment at the end of this month, they’ll doing a scan to see if she can do a stem cell transplant. So we are still in a holding pattern there. The kids are good. Lexi is doing good in volleyball and school. She just had her homecoming dance (no date) and was a beautiful young lady. She is a pretty special woman. The boys are playing together quite a bit more these days, but their personalities sure come out more and more. Man are they gonna have some good fights/wrestling matches one of these years.

We had a moderately successful year in the garden. As usual, some stuff did good and some didn’t. We didn’t have much free time to take care of the garden this year so it’s kinda been a year I like because if you have to over tend something, I question whether it’s the best use of your time. By that, I mean when wifey raked up and disposed of all the mulch I put down last fall, it allowed the weeds in and moisture out. We have discussed the error and hope to have a more successful year next year with the leaf and grass mulch being kept on the garden spots.

Our blueberries are all but gone. A few plants may sprout next year, but I’ve given up that ghost for now. We did get some honeyberries though and we hope to expand them next year. The grapes are doing fine it seems so we will keep our fingers crossed there. I managed to pick a fair amount of elderberries though they are just in the freezer for now. Still no pears or apples, but I did notice a nice 8 foot volunteer peach tree bear our compost area. We planted a couple of goji plants this year and they seem to be taking off and have already produced a fair number of berries this year. While I’m not a huge fan right now, we haven’t really discovered how to use them or peak picking cycles. Anyway, producing fruit always makes me happy.

Miscellaneous stuff:. A co-worker came to me recently discussing her need for a new automobile. She has a large vehicle that is getting up there in miles and is starting to have multiple problems. She insisted she wants a newer vehicle and can handle larger payments if she can get her insurance down some. I suggested a cash car for two years to build up some money to put towards a nicer one if she wanted down the road. She laughed it off and said “no way, I want a nice car”. I get that it’s fun to drive a new(er) car, but I kind think it’s like the can’t see the forest for the trees analogy. A car, to me, is a tool. I use it to drive back and forth to work and head down to the river sometimes. My 95 bronco is rusted all over, but has an engine that is strong and I had the front end fixed because it was starting to go. All told, I have about $4,000 in it. I can sell it today for $2,000-$3,000. I’ve had it for two years. So let’s say I sell it tomorrow. I will have lost a Max of $2,000 on it. Thats the equivalent of $167/month. As I have no plans on doing anything with it, each month I continue to have it, I will be reducing that amount. A car does not hold value (I’m talking about daily drivers, not collector vehicles). So yes, I’d love to have a new(er) car too (though I long for a crank window manual lock model), but it’s just like you’re burning that much money a month to drive to work and the grocery store. This is probably the thing that I’ve noticed most about this crazy lifestyle of ours. You rethink things. When you step back and look at what is most efficient use of your limited resources , a big monthly payment for a mobile chair with butt-warmers comes way down my list of priorities. Ok, rant over.

Politics. Ugh. If your reaction to politicans and major news outlets isn’t that, then let me know what you’re growing in your garden. I think most people are generally decent people who want to live their lives in peace. Contrary to what is being shoved down our throats, I don’t think most people enjoy being divided into us versus them camps. Whether you’re for this party or that, or this issue that everyone is talking about, it all seems to be about encouraging division amongst people. I don’t play into that stuff. I rarely watch the news these days and I never enter arguments on social media (I’m getting closer to actually just getting rid of it all) because people are being programmed that if someone disagrees with your opinion, then they are x, y or z. I just am tired of it and think the end result will not be positive for us as a nation. Rant over.

Homestead

Father’s Day

Father’s day didn’t start off great. We are in a heat advisory until tomorrow evening. As such, I was antsy this morning to get my outdoor work done (weeding the garden and weedeating the property). Well, Benji and I are the early birds and most everyone else normally sleeps in until 7:30 or 8.

By 7 am, I was desperately wanting to get outside and get started. Benji was being a bit needy and wanted me to sit with him and watch his favorite YouTube show. I did for a while, but finally I told him I was going outside and I put a show on. He started whimpering/crying because he wanted to watch something else. I got upset and turned the TV off. I turned it back on for him, got him situated and went out to get to work.

By the time I took my first break, I was feeling like a pretty crappy dad. He just wanted to spend some time with me and he wasn’t going to understand that I’d be with him when I was done. Needless to say, I made a point to come in and get him for my break. I told him I had a special surprise.

He was very enthusiastic to get his shoes on. We went to the blueberry bush and picked the first blueberry of the year. Then we went to the raspberries and had a few of those. Then we went to some of our wild black raspberries and picked a few handfuls (he offered me one and praised himself for sharing). Then we got on the golf cart and found a few more and some mulberries. By the time we were done with our berry hunt, mom and Brody were up. So I got them all situated inside and went out again.

When I had finished my weedeating, I remembered shandi had mentioned the garden needing weeded. So I asked her if she wanted some help. We went out and weeded a while

I get cranky when I’m hot. And it was definitely hot. So when we were done and the boys wanted to jump on the trampoline, I just couldn’t muster much enthusiasm. Sis took them and I decided I was gonna need a cold shower. It’s amazing how much better I felt after that.

I had some lunch, got lots of hugs and “dad, look at this!”, and “dad, watch this”. Well, the boys are both asleep now. I’m feeling both upset at my failures and positive that I eventually got things worked out and gave the kids their attention.

I’m so blessed. These kids love me in spite of my shortcomings. I’m still not gonna step foot outside until this evening though…I don’t care how much they beg and plead…it’s just too danged hot!

Homestead

When did June become July?

When I was 19, I worked for a tree company. One day, a co-worker’s saw went into my chest and removed half of my left lung. Ever since then, I have a very hard time working in stiffeling heat. Anymore, it seems like we go from winter to summer without many of those gorgeous 60 and 70 degree days I love.

We have had a moderately wet spring/early summer, but we aren’t getting a ton of rain. Just enough to not really be a drought, but enough for the plants and I to notice.

I went a checked our well Saturday and we are fortunately around 27′ of water. Normal is around 30′, so we are down, but still ok for a while.

We got several inches of rain yesterday and last night so hopefully we will be good for a while now.

Gardens are doing well. Surprisingly, some things we thought were goners (carrots, some herbs, etc) seemed to be sleeping as they are starting to grow pretty well. Carrots are a big disappointment, but this was our first year so I don’t mind the poor production.

We have managed to get a few strawberries off the plants we put in the ground this year. I’m pleasantly surprised at how well they are doing given the lack of care I provide our plantings. Don’t get me wrong, I do the best I can when planting (location, adding mulch when appropriate and watering), but after that, our plants are on their own. Either the soil, growing conditions and selected variety of plant do well, or it’s back to the drawing board.

As I mentioned previously, wifey has been battling hogkins lymphoma since November. Her first round of chemo didn’t do the trick so we are trying to decide how to battle it from here. She has been juicing and eating raw, organic veggies-only since chemo ended. It isn’t cheap, but I’m quite thankful for the garden we have as she is already using plenty of our leafy greens, beets and herbs. I’m so thankful we have the garden as it will ensure she’s getting the best possible veggies when each plant comes into season.

As I mentioned, we have gotten a few strawberries (and picked a ton from the orchard) and have been nibbling on some mullberries, but we are getting close to mother nature’s fruit frenzy as the wild black raspberries are close, as are the cultivated raspberries and blackberries we have.

I see wild elderberry flowers all over our stomping grounds and our planted varieties are doing great themselves so we should have plenty of elderberry syrup for fall/winter.

Our pear and apple trees are still growing fairly well, but they just appear to be growing up and probably won’t see any fruit for another year or two. The paw Paw’s are doing well enough, but as I planted them as an understory/partially shaded tree, they are taking their sweet time to grow. We’ve really come to fall in love with paw Paw’s so I’m trying (unsuccessfully) to be patient.

This weekend I got our woodland trails cut back so wifey and kids can get out and enjoy them on hot days. It’s always a bit cooler in the woods and I try to keep the trails 4-5′ wide so nobody wanders into poison ivy or makes it easy on the ticks and skeeters. I saw several mushroom varieties while cutting, but aren’t positive on ID’s, so we won’t risk it (I may research one of the varieties I found, but probably won’t remember until they’re gone).

My never ending battle with duckweed on the pond showed promise after I treated it last weekend. Then the rains came and greened it back up again. Ugh. I so despise the duckweed.

We have a couple different potato patches that seem to be doing pretty well. I just done want a repeat of our potato box I built last year that saw great green shoots, but nothing in the box. I took a hands off approach this year and hope to see some better results.

I suppose that’s a good update for now. Another hot week expected with weekend temps in the mid-90’s. I’ll do some work in the mornings, but I pretty much don’t work outside when the afternoons are that hot…unless it’s essential then I just take my time and hydrate like crazy.

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Spring again

This is always an exciting time of year. The seedlings are going into the ground, leaves are starting to pop open, the first fruit trees are flowering and the biting insects aren’t out yet. Other than fall, this has to be the best time of the year. 

We have most of our garden in and the first mowing of the year got done this weekend. I have to repair the water line to our outdoor spigots as it burst this weekend. Never a fun prospect to do plumbing work, but it’s part of the deal of home-ownership I reckon. 

Benji and I both had our first ticks of the season, though I wonder if they weren’t brought in by the dog.  She has the soresto collar that seems to work…maybe I should order some for the rest of us. 

We’ve found a few morel mushrooms, but just enough to go with our dinner last night. The boys liked them pretty well, but Benji was sad we didn’t get to fish more this weekend. 

The pond has some algae, but the duckweed seems to be clumping on top of the algae and dying out. I’m hopeful that by leaving the algae, the duckweed will be starved out. It’s all trial and error at this point, but it completely took over the pond last year so I’m clinging to anything now. 

Wifey’s chemo didn’t work. We are likely going to MD Anderson in Houston, TX in a couple weeks to see what they say. It’s pretty frightening to think about, but we are trying to stay positive and just roll with whatever happens. 

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April snow showers bring May food


The snow that came down today was a beautiful sight. It also provided me the perfect opportunity to replace the seals and gaskets on the pond aerator that I have been dreading. 

Our pump was a refurbished unit I found on eBay two and a half years ago and the whole set up cost us about a third or half of what one costs on a commercial pond website. But last fall, it wasn’t working very well so when the weather cooled off, I went ahead and began looking into the problem. Eventually I determined the problem was in the pump itself so I purchased a gasket repair kit. It cost about $30 (for about $2 worth of rubber and metal). 

I found a few YouTube instructional videos which showed it was about a 10-15 minute job. Four hours laters, I finished the job. Ha ha. In reality, the father-in-law had to help me loosen many of the screws that had been loc-tite’d in place and once that was done, the job wasn’t too bad at all. 

On the food production front, I’m happy to report all of our honeyberry plants are showing new sprouts. Hopefully in a few weeks we will be trying our first honeyberries!  

I think we also figured out the atrium growing problem too. As a back story, we have been trying to grow spinach and greens in the atrium this winter. They would shoot up just fine, but then they would start to whither and then die off. Well, we are pretty sure that it’s because the night time temps would drop pretty low in the room. 

Wifey has started a ton of bell peppers, tomatoes, watermelon, herbs and who knows what else.   She started beets, carrots and onions as direct sews into one of our raised beds (and our fall garlic plantings are coming along quite nicely as well). 

Mom and dad are arriving on Wednesday for their relocation move to the area from Florida. Hopefully the weather will allow me to do some more garden preparations as I’m needing to build a rasied bed for the strawberries we ordered. We also want to expand our main terraced garden as well. So there’s still much to do, but getting the aerator fixed and ready for installation is a big relief and now we can get down to the business of growing a bunch of our food. 

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Early Spring update

Just a short update. Mom and dad have decided to sell their place in Florida and move close to us. They told us a couple weeks ago, flew up last weekend to look at houses and have already sold their place and purchased a house here about 20 minutes away in a small town. 

It’s happened so fast I’m kind of in shock, but it’s awfully exciting. When we decided to move to this area it was because we wanted to kids to grow up near family. Never did I imagine that would include both sets of grandparents. How lucky are our kids?  I’m still in blissful shock about it all. 

I’m backtracking slightly on the prospect of raising hogs this year. As I said before, wifey is undergoing chemo and will wrap that up in April. Then we have to see about radiation. We have a long ways to go in our fruit and veggie production until we are producing all our needs there and I don’t know how much or how quickly wifey will be able to spend sufficient time in the garden this year. 

We started our seeds this weekend…well, she started our seeds, but I can see how happy it makes her to get them started so I just need to think it over some more to see if I’ll have time to do hogs on top of my increased work load in the fruit and veggie part of our homestead. 

On top of that, my father-in-law said the orchard owner said the peach variety on my in-laws land (that used to be owner by the orchard owner) may be the only peaches they produce this year. My in-laws allow the orchard owner to take peaches when he wants some since the orchard folks still maintain the trees for my in-laws. Last year, the other peaches the orchard folks own produced bountifully so we got as many of my in-laws peaches as we wanted. This year, it looks like that might not be the case. It makes me that much more eager to plant a few peach pits this year and start growing some of our own. 

As I’ve mentioned before, we had a pretty good drought last summer and fall. Fortunately we’ve had a few good rains this spring so the river and ground water are both up again. But with respect to our plantings, I wanted plants that could survive on their own so I didn’t really do much watering last year. I am antsy to see how many of our plants survived, but I did notice buds on one of the honey berry plants this weekend so that was a huge relief. 

I have high hopes for our honeyberries, and I even ordered a few more this year without ever having tasted a honeyberry!  If those little first year plants could survive that drought, then they’re keepers in my book. We also ordered some strawberries, a few grape Vines, goji plants and I’ll get some more hazelnuts at some point.

I have been clearing different parts of our woods over the winter. We have a ton of invasive honeysuckle and Chinese something-or-others that are a shrubby undergrowth. I have been cutting them down by hand and I know it won’t kill the plants, but I’ve managed to clear most of the plants from most of our property. There are still pockets of them and I’m sure some smaller ones were over-looking, but I know we will have a healthier woods as a result of my work. 

This weekend, I finally got around to cutting a big Willow tree that had cracked and partially fell into the pond. I left a few branches that hang high over the water, but they are in no danger of falling in. While I was over there, I’ve been clearing out more undergrowth so we have more shoreline to fish and we can otherwise access more of our property.   I still have plenty of black locust trees to cut down (if you don’t have them near you, be thankful). It’s alot of piddly work, but I feel like each time I cut some of this stuff down, I’m returning our property to it’s more natural status.

Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but it seems that we have more wildlife now. I see more birds, pheasants, turkey and deer on our property than I have in the past. And even though we let our dog and kids our often, rabbits and squirrels seem to be everywhere. 

That’s it for now I suppose. Just felt like I needed to write and update. Spring is almost here and what a glorious season it is.