Trees, Shrubs, and Bears.. Oh my!

A county tree order form and gummy bear molds…  How could they possibly relate to each other?  Hang with me for a minute..  (if you already figured it out, I think we would get along grand!)

It is that time of the year again, time to start planning out what plants we will be putting in the ground this Spring.  April is only a little over two months away… and this was us last April 12th:

That is right, we were planting trees!    Hard to image right now, looking outside and seeing snow covering the ground.

Spring came pretty early last year.  This year, we will be ready for the thaw, whether it comes in early April or late May.

When planning out our gardens, yard landscaping, and tree planting, I like there to be multiple purposes behind each choice of plant whenever possible.  Some choices and their resulting benefits are obvious, like apple trees are planted for their flowers, fruit, and firewood, blueberries as a natural hedge and obviously, their berries,…  Others, may not be so obvious, at least to the average suburbanite eye. For instance, this year we have some landscaping to do in our yard.  Naturally, we want it to look pleasant, but we also want it to be edible, both for ourselves, our animals, and the area wildlife (not to mention our honeybees).  We have ordered elderberry, juneberry, and several other varieties of plants that fit into our plans of transforming our yard into a food forest. Before choosing a plant, I first do a quick search online to see if we can eat it or if it has known medicinal uses.

There was nothing worse than being a kid and being told not to eat any berries or fruits growing around the yard or house.  That will not be the case on our homestead!  While most of what we plant can be eaten raw, we will take the time to educate our children on what can only be eaten after processing, like acorns and elderberries.

For trees, we will be adding a few more apple trees to our existing small orchard.  Who doesn’t like a good apple tree?  Last year we planted plenty of white oak, plum, cherry, and sugar maples.  This year, in addition to the apple trees, we are adding some pines and willows to provides some quick shelter and privacy.  We also purchased some walnuts for a great free source of protein in the distant future.

So here is where that county tree/shrub form comes into the story.  Contact your county soil and water district office before ordering your trees.  You may find you can save some significant money purchasing them through the county than you would through a nursery or big box store.  Most trees cost less than $1, purchased in bundles of 25.  If you are a homesteader or are into preparedness, why not pick out some edible variates when filling out the form.

So with the potential for so much fruit available, I latched onto an idea that was brought up by some fellow homesteaders on steemit.

Besides the common juices, wines, jellies, and such, how about making some gummy candies?  I love chewy candies but avoid purchasing them as I know they have no nutritional value.  So, how cool would it be to combine the homesteading activity of growing berries with the kitchen activity of making healthy gummies from fruit juices, collected right here at home.  So this year, I purchased some gummy bear molds as a family Christmas gift.

The possibilities are endless, from teas to strawberries, nothing will be safe from being transformed into cute little bears.

We will be sure to update you on any good recipes that come from our own, picked-fresh-from-the-homestead berries!

Have any good (edible) plant suggestions?  Have you stumbled across any good gummy recipes?  Let me know!

Happy tree, seed, and shrub planning!

-Jeremy

Continue Reading

We are still alive, I think..

Where did summer go?  The leaves are falling and the lows will be flirting with the 30’s tonight.  Yikes!

Harvest and canning season is well underway.  Today we started another year of homeschooling.  This last weekend we tackled some projects, including attic subflooring, sprayfoaming prep, and the beginning of our home motion sensor installation.  Here is a teaser of the next blog post… (Salvaging the attic flooring for restoration before winter sets in and installing sub-flooring)

Continue Reading

The Harvest is On, and so is the Roof!

With the days getting shorter and lows are already in the 40’s.   I’m left thinking, where did summer go?  I know I am not alone.  This summer has been busy, both at home and at work.

Here’s a quick recap of the goings on here at our little farm.

A few weeks ago, our kitchen counters looked like this:

Now substitute the zucchinis above with canning jars, tomatoes, and apples.  That gives you a pretty good idea of what it looks like now!  Harvest season is here!

Last weekend we processed some of our ducks and one of our troublesome roosters.  We now have less drakes than hens and the hens no doubt would tell us thank you if they could talk.  We are currently at 9 hens and 2 drakes, versus 9 hens and 11 drakes…

This weekend involved a little less gore and a lot more cores.  Apples!

We have one mature tree that produced very well this year (and lots of little ones that will start producing in a couple of years).  With our family of six, we were able to completely pick it clean.   All of the scraps and bad apples were sent straightaway to the goats and chickens.   We turned the harvested apples into apple sauce using our food mill and the rest went through the peeler to be frozen for pies, crisps, and apfelpfannkuchen.  The weather this August has been amazing, so we did most of our apple processing outside on our stainless table.  Besides the occasional bee, this was a nice way to keep the stickiness outside of the house.

You can’t make apfelpfannkuchen without eggs.  Our last batch of chicks for the summer have begun to hatch this weekend.  It was a small late summer test batch.

Do you smell something?  We do.  That would be Bilbo our buck.  Last year he was a bit too young to share with us the joys of owning a male goat in the late summer.  This year he isn’t holding back.  Stinky?  Check.  Acting strange?  Check.  “Happy to see us”?  ..ahem..  Check.  The rut has begun.

Speaking of Bilbo.  Last week, our little buck was not feeling too well.  He must have ate something that didn’t sit well with his gut and he came down with bloat.  Bloat can be deadly in goats, so we immediately began treating him after we noticed his large stomach and loss of energy.  First came the oil syringe, some red cell, and then we followed up with a shot of Vitamin B.  After treating with oil and red cell for two days, he came though and is back to his normal self, sans the aforementioned effects of a buck entering rut.

We can’t forget about the house roofing project we have underway.  I cleared some branches that were hanging over our house so I could work on the roof with a little bit of headroom.  Stephen treated the goats to the freshly cut foliage.

With harvest season upon us, we did still manage to wrap up the house roof.  Fascia and soffit still in progress…

-Jeremy

 

Continue Reading

Comfrey, Plantain, and Stinging Nettle

So, over that last few months, I have discovered three plants that have amazing medicinal and health benefits.  Two of the plant types were naturally growing on our property without the need for us to plant them.  The other we grew from seed and is thriving in our garden.

As I am an engineer and not a doctor, I won’t go into too much detail here, but will share several links that do.  I encourage you to dig into these plants a bit, I think you will be surprised!  As these are free, pick at your own convenience plants, don’t expect much official research on them by any major medical and pharma group.  As they are freely and commonly available, there is little money to be made on them.  No money, no incentive for research.

Comfrey – This plant is known to stimulate cell growth and repair, among other things, when used topically.  We grew this from seed as we are located in USDA Zone 3B.  Our zone gets a bit cold for it to grow natively (I think it will do well as a perennial in zones 4-8).  I will attempt to cover it with straw and see if we can get it to over-winter.  Worst case, I have more seed in the freezer and will grow it as an annual.

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comfrey

Uses: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/comfrey-leaves-zmaz74zhol

Plantain – This is a plant that I remember seeing every summer since I was a child.  It was easy to spot on most gravel driveways or along a sidewalk.  Never did I know it was a plant that actually had usefulness!  I always thought of it as a weed.  Turns out, it is actually quite useful!  It is edible and can be added to your salad!  It is also know to provide natural bug/bee sting relief.

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plantago_major

Uses: http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/foraging-plantain-for-wild-food-zbcz1507

UPDATE 2017.08.21:  I received my first bee sting while checking bee hives the other weekend.  First thing I did after getting my suit off was to rub the sting with a plantain leaf.  Any sign of the bee sting was gone after about 15-20 minutes!

Stinging Nettle – I will admit, this one caught me by surprise!  Stinging nettle?!  Good for you?  Actually, yes!  Besides being used in oil infusions and salves, it can also be brewed as a tea or added to a smoothie.  Don’t have stinging nettle plants, you can actually buy stinging nettle seeds on Amazon!  Who would have thought??

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urtica_dioica

Uses: https://draxe.com/stinging-nettle/

Last week, Shelly made up a comfrey and plantain oil infusion.  I use it on my knees as I am an avid cyclist and want to encourage cell growth and prevent knee injuries.  I have heard amazing stories about how it has helped people out.  It can’t hurt.  Now that we have bees wax, we were also able to make up the salve version.

Stinging nettle?? God’s creation never ceases to amaze!

-Jeremy

Continue Reading

Roofing Progress, Gardens, and Automatic Barn Water

Roofing progress has been slowly progressing forward.  Slowly.  Due to various summer activities (county fair, work, CCP recertification, family events, and other commitments) and weather, the roof is still a work in progress.  The good news?  What little I have completed, has stood the test of the elements. We have been hit by several thunderstorms over the past few weeks.  No leaks in the new roofing!

The dormer roofing and chimney roofing took a while to figure out as this is my first non-barn roof that I have installed.  So far it is looking about how we had planned.  For reference, my partially completed 3D model in Sketchup (thanks to my cousin Brad for the software suggestion!).

Looks like another storm’s a brewin..

While my nerves were on edge as our roof was undergoing moisture testing, the ducks were thoroughly enjoying themselves as parts of our yard became over-saturated..

The rain and the hot sunny summer days have started to bring our gardens to life!  Flowers that we started indoors from seed are just starting to bloom.  The hard work and planning of spring is just starting to pay off!

This flower bed did not exist a mere 2 months ago!

Nor did this one!

Not only are the flowers in bloom, but the garden harvest has switched from strawberries, to everything else…  Over the last week or two, I would guess that nearly 80% of the food we have consumed has originated from our property.  Venison, pork, rabbit, potatoes, beans, zucchini, beets, carrots, strawberries, raspberries, peppers, herbs, and even a few early apples!

Another quick sneak peak at the latest house progress.

This side of the house has reminded me a lot of the barn.  The roof sagged about 2-3 inches in the middle.  This required a bit of work to remove and will result in a hopefully mostly squared up looking roof.

It has been a while since I have posted an update on here, so, I am going to cover all the bases!

We have laid down the rest of the cardboard we had stored up for the garden as part of our permiculture sheet-mulching technique.  As the rabbits produce more “fertilizer”, we will lay it over the cardboard, along with waste straw from the barn hayloft.  This method seems to so far be fairly effective at keeping the weeds at bay, while at the same time helping the ground retain moisture and receive nutrients.

Had enough yet?  There’s more…

I finally had some time this weekend to install the automatic water valves for the yak, goats, and cows.  At least through the summer months, this will save us lots of time as it eliminates the chore of filling up their waters!

Water aside, it sort of feels like spring again around the farm, in July.  We not only have a new litter of fluffy kittens, but also…

baby bunnies..

I think that about brings you up to date with the happenings on our little farm.

I’ll end the the same way I end every evening here.  This is our naughty hen that refuses to roost with the rest of the chickens.  Instead, she chooses to roost on the rabbit cages.  Maybe she thinks she is a bunny?  Maybe she dislikes our two juvenile roosters that are the cause of chaos before all the hens go in to roost every evening?  Either way, for the last few weeks, every night, I have to sneak up on her, grab her, and toss her back into the coop. Every night!  Without fail!  I hope someday she will learn!

-Jeremy

Continue Reading

Converting a [Free] IBC into a Goat Feeder and Dealing with a Chicken Thief

You can do a quick search online for hay feeders and you will get a plethora of ideas and options.  Some are quick and easy to put together with various items you can find laying around or after a quick trip to the lumberyard.  Others are available for purchase and can get rather expensive, some options even ranging in the $1000-5000 range.

I had a few quick project specs that the system had to follow.  The feeder has to hold several square bales (aka idiot cubes).  We bale with our neighbors and neither of us are currently afforded the luxury of a larger tractor that can move round bales, nor the baler itself.  Square bales are easy enough to handle and work fine for the scale we are farming at.

(Good neighbors are priceless)

The feeder needs to protect the bales from rain and snow.  The feeder also needs to hold the bales in a way that would prevent too much waste.  It also needed to be cheap (or in this case, free).

One solution that kept coming up in my search results was the use of an IBC as a feeder.  Great!  Last summer, a bear trapping friend of mine had an IBC that he was given in which was previously used to hold molasses.  He had used up the remaining molasses and I gladly took the IBC, knowing that at some point, it would come in handy.  I originally thought I would use it in a hydroponics or aquaponics system, but until I figure out how to economically keep a system like that from freezing in the winter, that will have to wait.

I grabbed a drill and drilled out a hole on both of the “longer” sides of the IBC.  I then took my reciprocating saw and cut out both sides, using the hole I drilled as the starting point for the saw blade.  Once cutting was done, we pulled the IBC, now a hay feeder, into the pasture and loaded it up with bales.  As you can see, the goats instantly loved the new feeder!

So, over the last two weeks, we have had several chickens go missing (in particular, two stubborn hens that did not want to roost in the coop at night).  Much to my surprise, when stepping out to do evening chores, I was greeted by one of the probable suspects, sitting right there on our patio!  He (or she) turned tail and prepared to dispatch the dreaded spray.  I turned tail and ran into the house, quickly closing the door and running for my .22  Once I had the .22 in my hands, I ran for the door and quickly took a shot at the skunk.  Hitting it in the chest, it returned the favor by using the last of it’s strength to crawl under our deck and die (someday that deck will be converted to a patio!!).  Nice!  With no way to get it out, let alone seeing it in the dark, and with heavy rain on the way, I had no choice but to leave it there until the following day.  Even with the rain coming down hard, the smell wafted into our bedroom all night long.  Oh joy!

When we pulled it out from under the deck, take a guess at what else came out with it.  Chicken feathers!

Onto bigger animals.  Our yak has settled in nicely.

We were a little worried after she seemed to be taking the initial adjustment pretty hard.  Yavanna (the yak) and Blacky (our steer) seem to have become friendly.  Daisy (our Holstein heifer) and Yavanna on the other hand, well, let’s just say, my fence is getting stress tested!  I need to get some additional electric put in, but until then, I am hoping the head butting between her and Daisy subsides (which it seems to be).  It was definitely a good idea to slowly introduce her to the cows, with a physical barrier separating them.  Our fall beef may have gone through some unwanted tenderizing.

 

So what else has been going on at our farm?  Strawberries!  Lots of them! About 1-2 heaping flats a day.  Happy strawberry picking season!

-Jeremy

Continue Reading

Life Goes On

My paths lately have been full of constant reminders of how fragile life is and how fickle man’s plans are.  Just the other week, I was greeted by an overturned semi on the same on-ramp of the fatal rollover a couple of months ago.  Last week I drove by several farms hit by either a tornado or strong winds from storms.  Barns collapsed onto two brand new harvesters.  Metal strewn across large fields.  On my way to work today, I passed by a head on collision involving two cars on the highway.  It was a mess and both cars were no doubt a total loss, but everyone looked fine, so I passed by the scene.  Emergency responders were on their way.

I guess those scenes make me appreciate those meaningful moments as a family, like last night, bedtime stories around a bonfire, birds singing, playful children, and a bright rainbow overhead.  Those moments, I will admit, are too few and far between at our house.  They are also fleeting and hard to hang on to.  Do you know what I mean?  Life shows up in one form or another to squash those cherished moments.  Examples are abundant, children’s’ teeth in need of brushing, rushing to complete several “time-critical” projects, like planting grass after a septic install to ensure it will get a good start while we are still in our “rainy” season, or ordering the children to pickup a mess after they had been, once or twice, kindly asked to pick up.

I guess those moments add to the overall story of our lives, but I would hands down take that bonfire with the family over picking up the house or mowing the lawn.

This weekend we all got out and weeded the garden and picked strawberries on Saturday, before another dose of rain hit.  I think we have officially found and reclaimed much of our garden!  The goats enjoyed every bit of it as we tossed the weeds over the fence for them to munch on.

A quick tip.  If you are freezing strawberries, pre-freeze them (at least until the outside of the berry hardens) on cookie sheets before putting them in freezer bags.  It will make using them in the future much easier, trust me!

Once the rain hit, I worked hard at nearly completing our central vacuum installation, nearly…  Now I have to frame a wall to attach the central vacuum unit to.  I also need to complete the vacuum lines up to the attic.  Okay, I have a ways to go!  This project led to another project which then led to another… I ended up working on some ductwork, installing speaker wire in our family room, and lots of other miscellaneous odds and ends.

Once nice weather hit again Sunday afternoon, we headed back outdoors.  What better way to spend an hour on Fathers day than at the butcher table, right?  Ok, without a question, there are more exciting or relaxing things to do, but, the farm doesn’t wait for the farmer.  My two youngest boys were eager to be at my side as I processed three rabbits for a total of 12lb of meat.  They manned the hose and spigot to supply me with all my water needs.  They also had to do the obligatory “little boy” things, like looking at and touching the rabbit teeth, whiskers, and claws.  Although I think they are still too young to fully understand, I tried to explain to them that we treat dead animals with respect, as they died for our sustenance so that we can live.  It’s crazy really, a beautiful picture of Christ, right here on the butcher table.  Anyways, I am sure they will get to hear my spiel again next time, and next time, and eventually they will understand.  Unfortunately, this is a concept that is lost or taken for granted by most in our modern society while eating that chicken, pork, or beef for lunch or dinner.  At one time, that animal had to meet a similar fate, although I am fairly certain it did not receive the same level of respect any of my animals receive.

(Frozen rabbit and strawberries)

Getting even messier, we got a new septic put in last week…

As you can imagine, it gave our boys hours of entertainment.  On the soapbox for a moment.. For those that think there is no difference between the sexes, our girl had no interest at all in what was going on outside the window in our yard, ZERO.  Skid steer, front end loader, dump trucks, septic pump truck…  ZERO interest!  The boys however were glued to the windows.  We didn’t train them that way.  Same environment.  Same toys.  Same computer access.  With our house in its current state, even the same bedroom!

Needless to say, as nice of a job as the contractor did at putting the yard back together again after the new septic underwent inspection, it was still a mess.  We picked rock, raked the rough patches, and put some grass seed in the ground.  Once we get the hay off of the field, I am hoping the regular rains continue so I don’t have to run the sprinkler.  What are the chances of that?  Around here, rain seems like a guarantee whenever we are in the middle of a roofing project or cutting and baling hay.  Kind of like how the dry spell we were having a few weeks ago suddenly ended the moment our neighbor cut our field!  According to my forecast predictions, we are in for torrential rains the week of July 4th (the week I start work on our roof and cut in our dormers) 😛

-Jeremy

Continue Reading

Weeds and Strawberries

It is starting to feel like June!  As I am writing this, I can hear the thunder from a storm brewing to the south of us. June is a month known for its storms.  It has been almost seven years ago since an EF4 tornado struck nearby Wadena.  That is part of life in the American plains, thankfully tornadoes are a bit more scarce around here than they are further south.

Besides storms, June also brings on the weeds..

And more weeds….

Believe it or not, there is a garden in there…. Somewhere…

Shelly has started dealing with the pesky weeds over the last few days.  No better time to pull weeds than when the ground is soft after a few recent storms and the sun is hidden behind the clouds.

Onto one of the best parts of June, sweet, bright-red strawberries!  They are starting to ripen up nicely.  We picked our first few last weekend and it looks like our kitchen is in for a strawberry avalanche over the next week or two.

Our 120 strawberry plants seem to have turned into 1200 strawberry plants (and 5 thistle plants) over the last year.  Not that we are complaining!  On the contrary, this is probably what every homesteader hopes for when they buy their first few strawberry plants.  Once August or September rolls around, we will thin them out and expand the patch a bit more (we will also have plants available for sale if you would like to purchase a few this fall).

There is something about eating chemical free, homegrown strawberries that hands-down beats out any strawberries a store has to offer.  Did you know that strawberries have now become the most pesticide ridden produce available on the market.  Not ours!

Wait, that’s not a chicken!

We found this little critter hanging out with the chickens while we tended to the evening chores.  It looks to be a baby pigeon that hasn’t yet learned to fly.  I did a little barn cleaning this weekend and may have taken out its parents.  We took pity on it and put it in with our two baby guineas.  Maybe Stephen can train it as a messenger bird 😛

While Shelly was weeding this evening, I starting plumbing for our central vacuum system.  One port complete.  And this is why I have been holding out on drywall.

-Jeremy

Continue Reading

Bee Swarm Trap and Finally Some House Progress

After a few weeks of taking care of business outdoors, we are starting to again refocus our efforts on the house.  But before heading indoors, a few remaining items needed to be taken care of outside.

First up, bee traps..

After assembly, I placed an old clean sock soaked with lemongrass oil in the top bucket to act as an attractant.    The idea is that wild bees or bees that have decided to swarm will be attracted to the inside of the dry bucket at the top, with the help of the lemongrass oil, and set up home in there, rather than in the barn or some other inconvenient location.  Once bees are spotted living in the bucket, it can be lowered and the bees can be transferred to my conventional hive boxes (Langstroth Hives).

We also got our weekend barn cleaning done.  Part of that involved moving barn waste, straw, and cardboard to our garden, our first attempt at a no-till/dig, weed-free garden.  This method is also know as sheet mulching.  Almost one row complete.  The idea here is that the cardboard will act as a weed barrier and the manure will decompose and feed nutrients into the soil, feeding life in the soil and in turn creating happy and healthy plants.

Well, we have turned into “those people”…  Those people that have a nice garage but don’t park their cars in it (my bike would be the exception).  Instead, the interior of our garage currently looks like this:

It is mostly filled with stacks of flooring that we are in the process of refinishing.   It is a combination of the hayloft flooring we pulled out of our neighbors barn and flooring we were able to salvage from our house.

We are getting closer to getting our vehicles back in there, maybe next week?

The wood above still looks a little rough.  Once I get it installed, I will follow up with another two rounds of sanding and poly.

I think I found the key to getting these boards processed quickly!  I broke down and bought a wood planer at the suggestion of one of my brothers.  Putting aside the problem of the blades constantly “gumming” up with grime and old finish, this has turned out to be a much more efficient way to strip down old flooring, versus running them through the band sander.   The flooring is still a work in progress, sorted into three piles:

  1. Boards that have received their first coat of polyurethane.
  2. Boards that have been run through the planer and are ready for poly.
  3. Unprocessed boards.

Thankfully, the unprocessed boards pile has shrunk significantly!

So, what to do with the piles of wood shavings produced from the wood planer?  They raked up fairly easily and I placed them around our apple trees over the wood chips.

I had set out with a goal of getting the metal ceiling tile up in our mudroom/laundry room over the weekend.  Success!  No more popcorn ceiling to welcome us as we step into our home!

The ceiling now matches our walls 😛

Up next, appropriately sized windows for our living room and bedroom.  And.. what do we have going on here?!

-Jeremy

 

Continue Reading

6 Early Spring Homesteader Activities (and some 1st year lessons learned)

Spring has no shortage of tasks for the homesteader.  Here are six homesteader activities we have been up to lately.  This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it hits on our big ones.

Barn Cleaning

Yeah, this ranked as my least favorite task this Spring and my most favorite to see completed!  It was a bit easier than last year, but still an effort.  Last year, we had to clear out the manure and straw with a wheelbarrow.   This year we had a lawn tractor and trailer to assist us.  This made life much easier, but still no cakewalk.

Ah, those floors almost sparkle!  By the end of Saturday, we had everything but the duck coop clean.  Boy was I sore and tired come Sunday!!  That was a full-body workout for sure.  What a relief, now we can focus on the fun stuff!

1st year lesson learned:  Make the indoor goat pen smaller next winter!  We gave our goats way too much space (and grass bales) in the barn this winter which equated to over a foot of manure, straw, and uneaten grass on the floor to haul out for composting.  Not fun!

Gophers

Once the snow melted, our field looked like an inverted mine-field.  Instead of craters, it was littered with bumps.  Soft tripping hazards placed conveniently, everywhere!   Grr, those nasty little hill-billy buck-toothed rats are going to destroy our alfalfa.  What if they find the vineyard?  They all have to die!!  Okay, a bit over-dramatic, but you get the idea, the gophers have invaded!

Gophers are considered a nuisance animal in the state of Minnesota (and probably many other states).  They dig tunnels, kick out dirt into large above ground piles, and eat the roots off of your cherished vegetation.  They cause so much damage, that most townships in the area pay $2-4 per gopher.

Thankfully, armed with a shovel, some flag markers, death-clutch gopher traps, and metal rods, we can take them on and save our plants from destruction!

After some mentoring and encouragement from myself and a friend last summer, Stephen has officially removed this chore off of my to-do list.  Last week, he caught his first gopher, with no help from me!  He dug the hole, set the trap, and staked it out.  He even cuts the feet off (you need to provide the feet as proof of catch to the township to collect payment) and puts them in a jar in the freezer.  Sweet!

1st year lesson learned: We found this was a great way to teach Stephen about investments and renting.  Since I bought the traps, we split the earnings 50/50 (rent).  He has discovered that if he invests some if his earnings into purchasing new traps of his own, he will collect 100% of the earnings from his own traps.  It was an easy way to show him that the money he makes can be used to make more money, a simple wealth building concept.

Fencing

En garde!  Time to defend the garden, pines, shrubs, and saplings from the mischievous goats.

Spring is a great time to put in new paddocks while the bugs are tolerable and the grass is not overgrown.  We increased our garden space and extended the fence around the newly broken ground to keep out our ducks, chickens, and the wild rabbits.

In addition to the garden fence, we are also in the processes of adding a new goat paddock so we can start rotational grazing with our goats.  Rotational grazing will allow the vegetation in the unused paddock to recover and should also curb parasite problems.

1st year lesson learned: Wait for the frost to fully give out, it makes driving posts in the ground immensely easier!

Garden Preparation (and even some planting!)

The plants are doing well under our grow lights.  The strawberry plants are greening up and the chive is ready for harvest.

We have been adding compost to the garden and are now ready to start some early planting.  Note that many plants can be planted before the last frost, some examples include kale, broccoli, cabbage, turnips, beets, carrots, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, radish, and spinach.

Lesson learned: We always wait until the last frost and plant everything at once.  This year we will be staggering our planting, starting with cold weather crops over the next few days, and the rest after the last frost.

Tree Planting

Now is an excellent time to plant trees.  The sooner, the better.  The rule of thumb I have always went by was to get them in the ground before Mother’s day.  However, the best time is once the soil is workable. If you wait too long, prepare to put out much more work into nurturing and watering them.

We put two more apple trees in last weekend and planted 150 pines and deciduous trees on Wednesday.  Last weekend we marked out the trees we planted last year and added a thick 3-4 inches of cold compost (rabbit and goat manure + straw) around each tree to build up soil nutrients, maintain soil moisture, and help the trees access sunlight.

Lesson learned: Mark out the smaller trees and shrubs with flag markers until they get a little more visible to prevent them from getting mowed over, stepped on, or baled up.

Prepare the Hives

This is a new one for us, but I am extremely excited about it.  It is time to assemble and prepare the new bee hives for the bees we pick up in early May.

We put in our bee order with Mann Lake this week.  Two packages of bees, each with a queen, for two new hives!  I was hoping to build some more bee hives and honey supers, but I opted to order what I need right now as there is no way I will have time to put anything together from scratch before May 🙁

I also plan to setup a few bee traps in the woods.  Who knows, I might just get some free native bees and then in turn, add another hive to our homestead.  It only takes a little investment and minimal time, so, why not?

Now that you know what we are up to, how about you?  Do you have any fun (or not so much fun) Spring projects going on?  We’d love you heard from you!

-Jeremy

Continue Reading