School starts tomorrow and with it a lot of thoughts about this past season and plans for the days ahead. School starting means fall is on its way and that leaves time for new projects.
It has been a while since I have done a homestead update, and a couple of weeks ago I decided that I need to try to make weekly updates as long as there was something for me to say each week. To that end I have decided to do a weekend homestead windup which will encompass all of my thoughts for the week as well as anything that is going on around our homestead. I will also toss out some links from time to time for recipes, blogs and other things that I have found interesting when appropriate. In short this post is my opportunity to ramble a bit about our family and our life as well as anything else interesting to report. Obviously this update is late this week; I will be trying to put these out on Saturday or Sunday of each week.
I have not done an update on our progress for months, for that I am sorry; to say that it has been an incredibly rough summer in many ways is an understatement and I just have not felt like putting that out for everyone to see. My husbands and my business went under in June, when our largest client terminated our services. Through no fault of our own, we went from a comfortable salary each month to next to nothing. We have struggled through the summer on almost no income something that would not have been possible if not for our gardens.
As with most everyone else find a job is difficult at best and those jobs out there do not often pay very well. So our dreams of prosperity turned into simple survival.
Don’t get me wrong we have a lot to be grateful for, we have food, which is something we would not have if we had not done everything we have done. But much of our plans came to an abrupt halt this spring when all of this happened and life has revolved around getting money into the house to pay our bills.
I am grateful for the chickens we raised, we now boast a freezer full of them, and we also have 4 turkeys that are growing rapidly and that we expect to have ready for holiday dinners this winter. Our meat freezer is so full we are not sure where we will put them just yet, but we will cross that bridge when we get there. We have talked about keeping two of them and raising our own turkeys but this is more just a thought than any real plan.
We pared down our chickens; we were getting way too many eggs, and despite all my efforts to sell them we just did not live in a good place for it. It was getting too hard to feed them all, just to give the eggs away. We now have 6 hens and a rooster, as well as our ducks. We have talked about putting some of those in the freezer as well but I am beginning to think my husband and daughter are just too attached to them to consider it.
The garden was a success this year, in as much as any garden could be with the heat that we had. I am still picking tomatoes, green peppers, beans and squash with a lot more to go. We are still eating potatoes and onions out of the garden, because of the heat they were small and did not produce as much as expected but we have been eating them steady since the end of July so I am not complaining. The corn was our biggest success, we have a beautiful crop of corn that we ate on for about 2 weeks then I put close to 30 quarts in the freezer for use this winter.
The only problem I face is that my produce freezer is also full and I am almost out of jars. That is not a bad problem to have, but I will have figure out what to do with the rest of the harvest that comes in. Some of it may end up in the dehydrator, or maybe by the time it gets here we will have eaten enough to find room for it.
We have been eating heavily from the garden all summer, salads, stir fries, and veggie plates have been our mainstay, and I am pretty sure all of us have been enjoying the gorgeous beefsteak tomatoes and peppers that we have grown ourselves. Grocery bills have been almost nonexistent, and consist of staples such as flour, sugar, dairy and anything else we are not currently producing for ourselves.
I have planted a fall crop, with a number of different vegetables, I am gambling on an Indian summer, and while I know that this might be a gamble I will lose, I also planted several vegetables that will withstand a cool fall as well. I have beans that were planted about 3 weeks ago, another crop of peas, zucchini and cukes that are already getting ready to set fruit and an assortment of greens, and root crops such as radishes and beets. I also picked up broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage plants in hopes of squeezing just a bit more food out of our garden this year.
I have been canning mostly tomatoes for the past couple of weeks and have finished off Spaghetti sauce and salsa and now I will be canning tomato sauce for most of the rest of the tomato season. Our tomato crop like so many others was not fantastic, so I will likely have to settle for those three things in our pantry this year.
I still have a lot of dehydrating I want to do, I plant to dehydrate my kale to put in soups and others dishes during the winter when greens are expensive and I have herbs I want to dry for the winter as well.
I am also dabbling a bit in seed saving this year, I am letting the rest of my pole beans go to seed and I plan to save some seeds from some of my tomatoes as well. I have a few other crops I will try as well, but I plan to keep this project as simple as possible with the idea that if it is successful for next year we will try a few more crops.
My husband has been busying himself when not working or trying to find better work, trying to get the garage roof on before winter. There is also a new porch in front, as the old one was rotten and not safe to walk on.
Plans for the future include trying to get our online business back up and running again, with a different focus this time, as well as not working for anyone else that can suddenly pull the rug out from under us. We still want to add some animals to our menagerie, a couple of goats for sure and we have talked a lot about raising pigs but talking is about as far as we got with it.
Next spring I want to expand gardens, I really enjoyed the fruit I got from our berries this year, but I want to have enough to freeze for winter use and I would like to have fruit trees and some blueberry plants as well.
All and all even with the all the problems this year has been a success and has surpassed the expectations I had, which I kept purposely small. We will get about 40%-50% of our food from our land this year, not bad considering it was our first year, I am looking forward to increasing that number significantly for next year.