Sunday, November 7, 2010

Autumn Bounty

Autumn is in full swing. We've even had our first frost now.

Fall produce has been plentiful. The lettuce, turnips, kale, and swiss chard are looking particularly wonderful. We've had some lovely little fall eggplants in the last few weeks as well, and our peppers continue to yield amazing amounts. There have been a few handfuls of late tomatoes are well, but I imagine the frost last night likely finished them off.

I love the bright colored stems of chard. They fade a bit when cooked, but still make a nice splash of color in a dish.

There have been an abundance of greens on the menu lately. I'm looking forward to a winter with lots of dark green, leafy food on the table. With any luck, we will get a small hoop house set up and planted soon to give us greens through the coldest months, and maybe some early spring veggies. Until then, we have an entire field of turnips to enjoy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Repair Work

Ever wonder what a patch of land that's had its topsoil stripped and been used as a dumping site for junk and commercial waste looks like after it has had some time to heal?

This space was stripped of its top soil roughly two decades ago, then used as a junkyard until the late 90's. Since then it has been allowed to rest, being not quite abandoned, but far from actively used. The growth you see above has been allowed to grow freely for over a decade. It is still slightly less than barren. Patches where leaves and pinestraw have fallen or been washed into their current location have allowed some new growth, but even that is minimal. It is all hard clay mixed with sand and sun baked to a consistency reminiscent of bricks.

This is where we intend to grow our food.

Sometimes even I think I've lost it when I'm looking at this mess. It is going to take some serious effort to get anything growing here, much less producing enough to feed our family. Despite how daunting it looks, I do have a plan to fix this.

Step 1: The painful part we've been working on.. clearing off the junk and debris. We've been at this for months now. There is such an ample supply that we can load the truck for a run to the landfill in less than an hour, and that includes taking time to sort out anything that can be recycled, composted, or reused. I'm really hoping we can at least have the small stuff cleared off by the end of the month. I'm not optimistic, but hopeful.

Step 2: Cutting down the little pine trees that have popped up and turning them into mulch. We have a large pile for this already started (well, two actually, but someone else thought it would be a helpful thing to do to push the trash pile into the first one we made so we could burn it all.. I had to explain why I wasn't interested in burning it, especially things like tires, old batteries, random buckets of unknown substances, etc... we've not yet got those two piles separated again.). This clears the site and gives us some lovely mulch to start composting.

Step 3: Lay out mulch, shredded junk mail, old goat bedding, manure, kitchen scraps, etc. out into garden rows. Do this while house is being built so that is has time to turn into happy, fertile, usable soil. I'm not going to worry about the space between rows at this time.

Step 4: Attempt to grow food!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Goat Tractor

I am not the biggest fan of chickens, but I've been very interested in the concept of a chicken tractor (a portable pen in which the chickens can be moved around outside to forage, enjoy grass under their feet, and fertilize the soil while also being kept out of things they don't need to be into and safe from predators). It occurred to me that goats have, in many ways, the same basics needs as chickens in so far as needing a little shelter from the elements, space to move around, fresh water, things to nibble, and safety from predators. So why not make a "goat tractor"?

The result of this idea isn't exactly aesthetically pleasing, but it is effective. The "tractor" is basically a mid-sized premade dog pen that was leftover from the puppy era of a the family pet of my childhood, but with one side enclosed to create a little shelter, a tomato cage rigged up to hold hay on the side of the pen, and a raised feed and water set up made with a dirt filled bucket and feed bowls. Let me reiterate that this is -not pretty-, but it works. I have visions of one day building something that doesn't look like it could have come straight out of a "You Might Be A Redneck If.." book, but until the more pressing building projects are completed, this gets the job done.

Our little boy and not yet producing dairy girl are truly amazing at turning this:

Into this:

Yay goats!

The Fall Garden

I'm taking a little vacation from birth doula'ing that I had planned for November (all of my October clients delivered early, so vacation started early). I'm hoping to use it to catch up on sleep, make some solid progress on the house before the weather truly turns cold, get some craft and art projects finished up, and finish setting up the garden for the winter. So far, so good.

The garden is currently planted with a mostly leafy green variety of plants including kale, swiss chard, spinach, onions, broccoli, brussel sprouts, lettuce (buttercrunch and romaine), cabbage, mustard, beet, radish, and turnips for the fall. If we decide to (and find time to) set up a hoop house, there will be more for the winter as well. A bit later this autumn we will also be adding shittake mushrooms to our list of homegrown yummies.

There are still a few hangers on from the summer. The tomatoes are still yielding the odd tomato here and there, the peppers are still loaded down with produce, and the eggplant are suddenly bearing better than they have all year, even as everything around them puts out seed and withers away for the winter. After they decide to finish up, I'll mound up some mulch on their garden rows and let them rest until it's time for spring planting, but there is no rush. They can keep our kitchen busy as long as they like!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Cold Goats Aren't Happy Goats

Most of the effort around here lately has been directed towards making sure the goats have a warm, secure place to sleep on cold nights (that will also be a nice, shady escape from the heat next summer). We've swung full force back into work on the goat shed.

There was a brief side project related to entertaining Mellie so we could work. She received a ton of beach and sandbox toys for her birthday back in April, and my mother found my old covered sandbox from when I was Mellie's age. Those things have helped create a great setup where she can play within line of sight of the shed while we work.

She was ready to dive in before everything was finished, and was happy to play for hours, so we left her to it.

The structure went from skeleton to recognizable as a shed faster than expected with some much appreciated help from my father.

Almost ready for goat move in!


October is here! The evenings are chilly, the nights are cold (by local standards), but the days are the perfect temperature to work outside. The house is on temporary hold again while cold weather lodging for the goats is being arranged. We expect to have the goat shed winter-ready very soon, after which it will be back to the house. I've lightened my work schedule for a few months in order to focus on building. With a bit of luck, we'll at least have an enclosed structure to show for our efforts by the time my workload picks up again. I'm hopeful!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Week In Photos (9/22-9/29)

This last week was a bit on the crazy side. Ever have one of those days where you want to keep doing things while you're still awake, but you're really too tired to be effective? There have been a string of them in our household in the last week!

Staying busy is far from a bad thing though. We're experiencing some wonderful autumn weather; it's warm without being hot, and there's a nice cool breeze now and then. This is the perfect weather for working on outdoor projects that weren't as persistently pursued in the heat of the summer. The house site is a little cleaner, the fall garden has been planted just in time for some late September rains, and the new shed is all but complete!

Mellie seemed to enjoy the rain we received as much as the plant life did! Maybe a bit too much, in fact..

Between rainy days, we took a little time to sneak off to a beach party the Georgia Birth Network was holding.

We also got a bit of work done towards the financial end of the house project. I'm working on a series of baby and toddler dress patterns to sell on Etsy for a bit extra, direct to house fund income.

I hope everyone else has had a great week as well!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Drying Chiles

Last night we sat down at the dining room table after dinner with a big pile of red chiles and a mission: to get them bundled and ready to hang for drying.

The process is very simple. All you need to get peppers stitched into a nice little bundle is some thread, a needle, and a bit of patience. Simply push the needle through the lower part of the stem, threading each pepper on one at a time.

Make sure to tie a loop at the top so it can be hung in a cool, dry location until you're ready to use your peppers. Our chile pepper plants are quickly becoming covered in peppers again.  expect to do this a few more times before winter arrives, then to enjoy some spicy vegetable soup when it's cold outside!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Birthday Weekend

It feels a bit silly to write a weekend recap on a Tuesday night, but I think this past weekend warrants it. Sometimes it seems that babies have some secret communication, preference for a weather pattern, or maybe just like a particular lunar phase. Whatever the cause, this weekend brought the "I think I'm in labor" call from every doula client I had with a September due date. Calvin's birthday party was also this weekend, as was a Georgia Birth Network event I had previously committed to attending. It was a wonderful, but exhausting few days. Monday was spent relaxing with a friend for a much needed day off.

So now that I've mostly caught back up on sleep and spent some time with my little girl, I have lots of pictures to share!

My table at the Birth Ball was a bit sad looking next to others with larger displays. I guess I need to add some height to my presentation.

Mellie wore her new dress out to play (and promptly found a mud puddle).

I did some henna for a friend while Mellie played with her little ones during our day off. The design was based on a Tree of Life, with some alterations that were symbolic for the recipient (such as a bird for each of her children).

My mother was kind enough to provide us with some great food during the crazy weekend. Poached asparagus and black bean salad make a fantastic cold lunch.

Tomorrow it's back to work around home. With any luck, tomorrow we can get some peppers bundled and hung up to dry and some more clearing done on the lot for the house!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Mellie Loves Horses

Yesterday afternoon Mellie and I went to visit a friend for a play date. Said friend is an avid equestrian with two horses she jumps competitively. I wasn't sure what Mellie would think of the horses, but given her curiosity about the other animals she has encountered, I felt it was reasonable to expect a good reaction.

Good ended up being an understatement. She had a blast! She had fun playing with the other kids there, but she was absolutely giddy when we went out to see the horses. My often overly serious child was all grins and giggles when the horses were in sight.

She even had her first horseback ride (ride meaning she sat on the back of a very sweet, calm, stationary mare in the stables for a few minutes).

It was a great day out. I hope we get to go visit again soon!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sewing Day

My Etsy shop has been in desperate need of some new stock for quite a while now. Given that the extra income from Etsy is the only source of income from which the profits go directly into the house fund, this is something I need to work on. Summer is fading fast, so I've been tossing around a few baby and toddler clothing ideas that are at least a bit more suited to fall weather. I had an opportunity to sit down and test out a new pattern yesterday and I'm quite pleased with the results. With any luck I'll have my shop back to where it should be in no time.

The funny looking green thing behind the pins is a little plushie I tossed together to be stuffed with any fabric scraps. I call him "Lumpy" because it's appropriate. I worried that he might be a bit on the creepy side (he's always staring at you), but Mellie, surprisingly, really likes him.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Play Days

It's still a bit strange for me to see Mellie running around, climbing, swinging and sliding. I recognize that she's in no way still an infant, but sometimes it seems like I should still be pregnant, not chasing a toddler. Time flies. It also makes parenthood a bit surreal.

While it may seem like she was a newborn yesterday, she is overflowing with energy lately. Trips out give her an opportunity to explore a new place, and seem to help deter the harrowing adventure that is herding an under stimulated toddler. She's quite happy to run around in our yard, but sometimes mom needs a change of pace too.

During the summer we frequented the aquarium (which I might like a bit more than Mellie does), but as temperatures drop back into a reasonable range we've started heading to parks and playground again. One of our favorites has a play area specifically for toddlers. Cal's somewhat odd work schedule lets us take family trips there during the week when there is minimal crowd. I love the family time, and it seems Cal and Mellie agree.

Once the house is finished, I would love to build a play area and garden just for Mellie, but, until then, the playground is a nice getaway for all of us.