Monday, December 13, 2021

Expanding Asparagus Bed


New Asparagus Bed
So we have been planning to expand our asparagus bed by thinning out our old bed.  However, we did not want to cut our production next year.  So following the example in a Youtube video (the one I finally decided I liked since it suggested only digging up a few large clumps so not to interrupt your asparagus harvest the next year), I only dug up the very largest clump (after 11 years, it had most of the crowns I needed), and a few volunteer clumps that grew past the end of the bed.

The new bed has already been prepared by my husband, so it was easy digging.  As for the old crowns, the video I watched suggested washing the dirt off to more easily separate the crowns which worked well.  It also showed cutting some hard to separate crowns apart with the shovel. (which I only had to do for two of them.)

Can't wait for our expanded asparagus harvest!

Old Established Bed

Friday, December 10, 2021

Building a Shed When You are Busy

 We started building a shed for my daughter and her husband for Christmas on a weekend.  The first day, we built the trusses and the doors from the comfort of our farm.

On Monday (day 2), we went to her place and built the foundation.  

On Tuesday (3rd day), we took over the trusses in our horse trailer, built the walls and put on the trusses with a temporary brace on top and for the walls.

On Wednesday (4th day), we weren't feeling very well, so we put up the roof sheathing and called it a day with no rain in the forecast.

On Thursday (5th day), we decided to put on the siding to make the roof more stable before we added the weight of the roof shingles.

On the 6th work day, we put up the upper trim so we could put on the drip edge and some tar paper.  I think this was the day we watched our adorable grandchildren more than we worked. . .lol

On the 7th work day, we put up the tar paper, drip edge and doors.

On the 8th work day, I started painting primer and my husband started the roofing shingles.

On the 9th work day, we finished the roofing shingles, primer and final coat.


Here is the final shed.  9 working days (about 5 hours each day), and about $1600  (December 2021 Lowes lumber prices) including rock millings for foundation and driveway or about $1400 without the rock millings.  8 x 12 shed customized to match roof line of the house and the color matched to the siding of the house.  Life is good!

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Getting Ready for Winter

With frost any day now, we have been striving to get ready for winter.  We have cut and split wood, and cut some more.  

We have ordered our new boots, as the air conditioned ones won't be very comfortable in the cold.  We have harvested as much as we can, and shared with neighbors when we had our fill.  

We have planted pansies and dianthus to give us some cheerful color in the winter months.  Our small fall garden is in place with beets, broccoli, turnips, carrots, garlic and lettuce.  Our pantry and freezers are full to the best of our ability.  The hay is ordered for our cows this winter.

We have also weeded and mulched all of our fruit and nut trees as well as the blackberries and grape vines.

Life is good!

Grape Vine

Winding Down Harvest Season

Bonus Pumpkins from Pig Pasture
Cayenne Peppers Strung for Drying
 Today, on Halloween Day, the season is winding down.  Are we ready?  We are in the throes of the last of the harvests while watching daily for the threat of frost.   We are trying to make sure we have squeezed out all we can and have done our best not to waste anything.  In recent days, I prepared and sliced three more gallons of bell peppers for the freezer.  My husband pickled 8 quarts of jalapenos.  I finished a batch of cheese.  My husband strung cayenne peppers. We still have some peppers to pick, some cilantro to harvest and dry, basil to harvest and dry, black eyed peas that we have given every opportunity to dry on the vine, the last of the figs to pick and dehydrate, and pumpkins that we have picked and stored in the basement until things quiet down.  I have included some bonus pumpkins that were apparently planted by the pigs.  We love to find these sweet bonus treasures.

Pickled Jalapenos

Wednesday, October 13, 2021


 The world is so full of alternate uses for other products.  I do it with food all the time (like the time I made pancakes out of leftover pear crisp).  I do it with clothing from the thrift store (like the time I made throw pillows from the comfy bathrobe I found for $1).  I do it with other people's throw away appliances, like the front load washer we bought for $10 that became a window and a firepit.

Having a fun gardening shed and a firepit over which we can cook without having to buy outside resources (like charcoal) is amazing!

Life is good!

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Figs, Glorious Figs!!

 I love figs!  We have several varieties.  Brown Turkey,  Brunswick, Black Mission, and a new one we got from my husband's dad that has the biggest figs I have ever seen, and named it Grandaddy Fig.

The Brown Turkey is our biggest producer here in North Carolina and has a good flavor.

The Brunswick stands out because of it's long finger like leaves.  It is a more golden color as it ripens.  Unless I am doing something wrong, it is not my favorite in taste.

The Black Mission Fig is my favorite just for eating.  It has the sweetest taste when allowed to fully ripen.  Love it!

The Grandaddy Fig is new this year.  We dug it up from under it's mother tree.  From the mother, we know the figs are huge.  It looks like a huge Brown Turkey fig when it is ripe, but has a slightly watered down taste from the Brown Turkey Fig.  Still good though.

When the figs are coming in slowly, I make fig preserves.  This recipe is one I developed myself, as I prefer to not use anything that I don't know what is in it (including pectin).  Wash figs, remove stems and any spots and half or quarter them, depending on size.  Measure the quantity and put into a kettle that would hold at least twice as much volume as the figs, as they will foam up at the end of cooking.  Add as much sugar as you had figs and a teaspoon of lemon juice for every cup of figs (remember 3 teaspoons = one Tablespoon).  Bring to a boil on low heat stirring the sugar and lemon juice into the figs.  Simmer until it reaches jellying temperature at 220.  Pour into clean small jars leaving about a half inch to the top, clean tops and put on lids and rims.  You can process them at this point or not.  (I just leave them and check to see if they sealed as they were cooling down.)

Another recipe I recently made was that I halved the figs in a pie plate, drizzled with about 1/4 cup honey mixed with about a teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.  Then I added a layer of ricotta cheese I just made and put in the oven for about 10 minutes.  I served this as our protein this meal with some baked sweet potatoes.

Additionally, we like to put quartered figs in our dehydrator.  These are great in winter salads, or just to munch on.

This homestead life sure includes great food!

Sunday, September 5, 2021

There's Gold in Them Thar Hills!!! (and Sweat!)

Talk about treasure in your own backyard, today we dug for sweet potatoes and were blessed with 6 bushels!  Since it was late, we closed them into the barn for overnight.  Tomorrow we will be getting them out, cleaning them, sorting them, and probably canning the ones that are damaged.  We dug some by hand, then used the potato digger on the tractor when we found out the pitch fork was causing just as much damage.  Picking them all up by hand can make one tired and cranky at the end of a day.  Tomorrow we will take the sweet potato vines to the cows, as they love them.

After picking them up, we let our dogs do the gleaning. . .They seem to love raw sweet potatoes.  

This morning we visited The Point Church in Holly Springs.  What a wonderful service and music that spoke to our souls.  Thanks goes out to our good friend Gary, and prayers for Gwen's brother and Gwen for safe travels.  God is good.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Homestead Kitchen Chaos

When you have inclement weather outside, you try to finish as many of your indoor projects as possible and often end up with kitchen chaos.  For example, it rained yesterday and is wet today, so here is what my kitchen looks like:

At one end of my kitchen I added a shelf to the bay window.  We have blueberry and grapevine plants being rooted, lettuce seedlings growing, tomatoes waiting for space in the dehydrator (as soon as we get out the first batch.)

We were out of coffee beans so I had to roast a new batch.

Bread is on the last rising.  Roasted dandelion roots were taken out of the oven and allowed to cool while helping the bread rise.

Milking equipment has been washed from this morning's milking.
Soap has been cut from the making of it yesterday.  Life is Good!

Friday, August 27, 2021

Cow Troubles

 My cow started limping so I call a hoof trimmer, Allison Sturgill, to come and trim her hooves so we could get a good look at them.  I also worried that the barn floor was too wet, so we locked the cows out of the barn.  Allison came and brought her contraption to snug up my cow to be able to do the trimming.  She did a great job and educated me about my cow.  I had no idea my cow came with a switch!!.  Then I found out it was a tail.  lol.  Which she told me needed to be trimmed, which I did.  I would highly recommend Allison.  Her contact information is here if you live within an hour of Chapel Hill, NC.

Here is a picture of me and my cow that I took so Allison could get an idea of her size:

We ended up liming the barn and adding mulch (thanks honey!!) since we had a free pile of mulch sitting around.  My cow is no longer limping.  Yay!  Thanks for the recommendation Becky!!

Harvesting in dribs and drabs

 Sometimes you just get a little bit of something at a time, so you do the best you can at preserving it.  This week has been one of those.

So I harvested the top half of my basil plants and made pesto for the freezer.  

My husband harvested a pumpkin which I turned into two pumpkin pies (one got eaten and one went into the freezer) and some pumpkin butter for the freezer.  Old small peanut butter jars work fantastic for this.  I also picked some crowder peas that my husband shelled so I could blanch them and put them in the freezer.  We only got 4 bags of 2 cups each this picking.

We always have our eye on the next vegetable, so my husband amended and tilled the soil so we could plant some carrots, beets, turnips and a little spinach, and left a row for some broccoli seedlings later.

My husband also worked on the new asparagus bed coming soon by adding some chicken gold, ashes and compost to the new bed.  Life is good!

Monday, August 16, 2021

Summer Harvest Continues

 So much going on in the summer.  We are harvesting and preserving everything in site.  While we had a late frost that hurt most of our fruit, we have gotten some.  We just harvested all of the Asian pears from our three young trees, peeled and sliced them with our apple peeler/corer/slicer, cut it down the middle and dehydrated them.  Our whole harvest amounted to two gallons of dried Asian pears.  With the peelings and the cores, we are attempting "Pear scrap vinegar" by adding 2 gallons of water and 2 cups of sugar, putting cheesecloth on the top of the pickle jar we are using with a rubber band.  Then in 2 weeks we will rake, then after another 2 weeks it should be done.  Given that some white vinegar is now being made with petroleum and I am allergic, that is what we will have to do.  All you will find on the label is that they are making it with alcohol (which is being made with petroleum, but they don't put that on the label either.)  If it wasn't for corn and petroleum, you might not be able to find food at the grocery store it seems.  A great time to be a homesteader. . .

Other harvests this year:  Lots of tomatoes canned in spaghetti sauce, tomatoes with green chilies and dehydrated tomatoes.  Tried a new catsup recipe of my own using the spaghetti sauce, vinegar, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and it tastes fantastic.  Okra is being picked, sliced and frozen.  Harvesting fennel seeds, hops, pumpkins (canned), canteloupes, watermelon, anise hyssop (dehydrated for tea), elderberry, blueberries, cucumbers.

Don't forget to harvest your seeds for next year using mature seeds!

In addition to the mushroom forest, we are trying wine cap mushrooms in the mulch under our elderberries and raspberries.  In concern for our high temperatures and no rain, we have watered it to give it a good start.  More mycelium is in the refrigerator waiting for finding a source of mulch (hoping for free or cheap).

There are so many new things to try.  For example, we spent $1.95 on some ginger root at the grocery store, broke it into six pieces and put it into two pots.  One of them is already growing!  

We  are continuing to harvest downed timber to put seasoned wood in the woodshed as we get it split.  Thanks Pam!!

Life is good!

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Mushroom Forest


So we invited over some friends who helped us make mushroom logs with mycelium of Lions Mane mushrooms.  Thanks Sam & Zack!!  I can't wait for the mushroom flush!

The next kind of mushroom mycelium is the Almond Agaricus that we layered into composted cow manure in a big tub.  The reason for this is that this variety is temperature sensitive.  So if the weather report says it is going below 35 degrees, we will have to move it in, probably to our basement, as I would like for this to last for years.

We already have blue oyster mycelium in the horse trough and white oyster mycelium on the ground.  As we put them all near each other, I will be able to check on them all at the same time.  

On another note, this weekend we were walking some property with our friends Gwen and Gary.  We were delighted to find some white oyster mushrooms growing on a log.  We found another round fungus of some sort that we did not recognize, but it looked interesting.  Life is sooo good!

Tuesday, August 3, 2021


 This year we had our first elderberry harvest!  For this first harvest, the amount that was all ripe at the same time amounted to 1/3 cup of elderberries.  Still, I was able to make some elderberry syrup using 1 cup of water and elderberries simmered in a pot for 25 minutes, then remove from heat, cool slightly and add 1/3 cup of honey. 

I also harvested and dried some comfrey and plantain to make some salve, as I was running out.  We love this for healing and I also use it on my cows teats occasionally.

My husband and I looked for and found a wild medicinal on our farm called self heal.  

While we were looking we found one of our sassafras trees to be bearing fruit:

Life is good!

More Harvest and Time Out

 New and old ways to preserve.  I learned a new technique to preserve our cucumbers from a friend (Thanks Pam!)  Lacto fermentation is the art of pickling with salt.  I put up a gallon and a quart of cucumbers.  I basically salted them with non-iodized salt, put them in a jar, filled it with water and added a weight to the top to hold them below the water.  In this case it was sandwich bags with glass marbles in them.  

My husband keeps bringing in the tomatoes so we are preserving them by making tomatoes with green chilies, spaghetti sauce, dried tomatoes and catsup.  

We took some time out (a whole day and a half) to visit some friends in the mountains and we enjoyed our time with the Kalmus family.  Karin took me to some local shops and I was able to buy some buckwheat honey and goat cheese.  They also sent some of their blueberry plants home with us and an incubator that is so old, my retired husband did his masters research with it. . .Dr. K was my husband's adviser in college.  Such memories!  We also brought home some blueberry plants from their blueberry bush that puts on berries as late as September.