As ever, click on the pictures to see them clearly.
You might think that because I haven't written in a long time that I'm not doing anything. Granted, I'm not always working on things related to homesteading- I do spend time looking for work (still) and researching various topics. But homesteading-wise, I've been busy, and things are starting to look better. I even got a start on re-landscaping the front yard, which is in pretty sorry shape. I did get most of the ground covered in wood chips, but not enough- I smothered the grass alright, but they weren't thick enough to prevent dandelions from popping up all over the place, so I need to remedy that. Plus, we had foundation plants that hadn't been clipped in so long they were half-way up the windows. When you keep getting offers in the mail for a cash buy out of your home, you know it's time to do something. I'll post more on that later when I actually have something to show for it.
But I do have something to show for the work we've been getting done in the backyard.
This is box number one of four that I'll build here in the area just off the deck. Last year's gardening efforts in this are were soooo pathetic that I had to really think about why that could be, and then I remembered that 1) the deck used to go out halfway into this area (it was a truly ridiculously large deck- I could have had a cotillion out there) and it's all rock underneath it, and 2) the best garden I've had so far was the first one that I planted in large planter boxes I made out of those leftover plastic decking pieces that I had when I tore down half the deck. I was going to build a new compost area over the almond trees (those are coming out) and build new veg boxes next to the deck, but it occurred to me that since I swore after the last load of imported soil which was so full of construction debris that I'd never import soil again, I would save a lot of time and effort if I just composted in situ. So I'll keep throwing compostables in on top of this box and when it finally looks like soil, I'll build the next box and do it all over again. And once I have four boxes full of compost, I'll finally get around to building a compost area. This way I'll space out the cost of the boxes and compost bins as well. In the rest of the area for this year at least, I'm going to try (try being the operative word here) to grow an Appalachian three sisters. My friend Amanda got me started down the leather britches beans path and I decided to go all out with the right variety of beans. And if I was going to go that far, I may as well get Appalachian corn and Appalachian squash while I was at it. So I'm planting Cherokee White Flour corn, Neal's Paymaster corn, Cherokee Greasy beans, NT Half-Runner beans, and North Georgia Candy Roaster squash. A word about the 'greasy' beans: they're only called that because they don't have the fuzzy hairs on the pods like other green beans. They are smooth and shiny, hence they look greasy. Leather britches beans are harvested green and strung up together and dried while green, and from everything I've read about them, they are supposed to taste like meat when you cook them up later. Drying them while green does something for the flavor. As that ground is pretty poor, I am really hoping that the beans are enough to fertilize the corn, but I may have to supplement. Not sure how I'm going to do that, so more on that later as I figure things out.
This January our nephew came and dug out six apple trees that I was giving him for his five acre homestead. I would have given him the Bramleys as well, but they were just too big to move. All eight apple trees went into the ground at the same time, but my friend Jennifer Montero over at Milkweed & Thistle, who is a horticulturist by training, told me that Bramleys are triploid, where most apples are diploid, which means that they have three sets of chromosomes, as opposed to the usual two. It also means that they are incredibly vigorous growers. It also turns out that they tend to blossom and grow fruit at the ends of their branches, and are not really suited well to espaliering. So I'll let the top grow the way it wants to and leave the lower horizontal branches where they are because they'll make a natural ladder for getting up into the tree. But I'm digressing from the picture here. What I wanted to relate is that I was going to build new veg boxes here as well but I couldn't get the damn uprights out, so I changed plans- I decide to try raspberries again. I planted six Heritage raspberry plants and transplanted three thornless boysenberries, which are pretty wonderful, by the way. So what you see here are the new boxes for keeping in the hardwood chip mulch, for which I signed up this morning on chipdrop.in. I still have to wire up the uprights (this is a great reuse of the whole area) but I have some time yet as they raspberries are still pretty small. One even still looks like a stick. But when they are all grown up, they should look like the below.
We're trying spuds again, this time in a combination of old feed bags (they got one seed spud each) and old soil bags, which got two seed spuds each. They are going gang busters- I can't believe they need hilling up again so soon. I don't know if we're going to save any money on them or not, but this way they'll be really nice potatoes, and we'll use the soil again after first carefully screening it for tiny potatoes. You've read it here before on this blog: potatoes are the gift that keeps on giving!
This weekend we got the trellises up. We had to go get more EMT (like 170 feet more) because we only had eight pieces from last year and you need five minimum per trellis the way I wanted to configure them, and I needed five trellises, so that was another expense. But trust me, they can be reused over and over again, and we already have a rack in the garage for winter storage. I'll plant my tomatoes, yard-long beans (which I'll process for frozen green beans) and cucumbers up these trellises.
This morning I got my tomatoes into the ground. When we get the plants strung up, I'll post more on that so you can see how it all works.
This is just a pretty view of the yard from next to the hen house, AKA Hens Deep.
And there are the girls, who are firing on all cylinders. Which is kind of amazing really, considering that one of them is three years old and two of them are four years old. But they are all laying mostly every day, and I think that is a combination of giving them the winter off, and keeping them happy in a sunshiny pasture. They sure seem happy, anyway!
*Sorry about the photo quality- they are fine coming off my phone and when you click on them. Don't know what Blogger's issue is.