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Homesteading Uncategorized

Growing your own food in winter temperatures

So it isn’t technically winter here in Nevada, but the weather would have you fooled.  With fresh snow on the ground, temperatures hovering around 11 it sure feels like winter.

Running a homestead is a yearly operation.  Things may slow down in the cooler weather, but animals still need to be fed, ice needs to broken, and projects need to be completed.

I do not necessarily spend my days outside, but I am busy inside the home cooking, cleaning and tending to our greenhouse.

This is the beginning of our second year with our greenhouse, through a lot of failures, and successes I’m happy to share that we are eating fresh, truly organic food from our own labor.

The greenhouse has been one of our greatest assets to our sustainable lifestyle.  I wish I could say today we are eating 100% from our homestead, but it wouldn’t be truthful and after all I’m hoping to share our experience to encourage others to live more sustainably.  It’s a process and definitely not one that can be done overnight.

Before the cold weather set in we removed the existing cover to our greenhouse and replaced it with a new cover to prevent as much wear and tear over the winter as possible.  We lined the interior of the greenhouse with bubble wrap making sure to cover any cracks and crevices that may let cool air creep in.  The bubble wrap helps to retain the heat on these below freezing days.  We are fortunate enough to have heat in our greenhouse.  With a small budget we dug in PVC pipe underground and ran an extension cord from our back patio to the greenhouse as a temporary way to have heat out there until we have the ability to have an electrician run electricity out there.  It’s a simple, cost effective way to obtain heat without having to worry about an extension cord lying around the farm.  Once the sun comes out there is no need to run the heater, we use it to keep the night temperatures above freezing inside.  If you have no way of getting heat into your greenhouse I will be sharing soon another method to help create warmth.

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We purchased two clear plastic covers from Home Depot and they work just perfectly.  We keep an extra on hand just in case Nevada winds rip through our hard work.  For only $25.67 they have worked perfectly for our greenhouse project.  You can purchase the clear cover in the paint section at your local Home Depot or order them here.  Home Depot does not pay me to advertise, like I’ve said trial and error has helped us to find what works and what does not.  We’ve blown through a lot of plastic covers complements of Nevada winds, and have found this to be the most successful.

We call it the steeple, we’ve found that this shape works the best for our weather conditions.  The snow and rain easily runs off.  The wind is able to roll right over the greenhouse whereas our rounded, Oregon trail shape had a bit harder time.  Rain would pool in little gaps creating sagging.  This has by far been our most successful greenhouse.  We stapled the bubble wrap around the wooden base of the greenhouse adding additional warmth to our plants.

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I had started seeds around September in the greenhouse and have been anxiously awaiting the fruits of my labor.  This week we enjoyed fresh Red Russian Kale, and Cabbage. IMG_9450

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The Brussel Sprouts are loving this cooler weather and are quickly growing.  Our citrus fruits are a bit chilly, but aren’t complaining.

I just added cauliflower, broccoli, and more green lettuce seedlings.  I am constantly starting new trays of seedlings, I’ve noticed a simple way to help keep plants warm in the winter weather is to plant them close together. Some would argue that this doesn’t give the plant much room to grow, I’ve found that I’ve had no issues and the plants thrive tightly planted together.

Recently I was talking to someone that said growing your own food in our winter climate was impossible.  I wish more people would discuss and share ideas because growing your own food in winter temperatures is definitely possible.  A greenhouse makes year round growing a breeze.  You do need to practice patience, seedlings take longer to start in the greenhouse, so I usually start them in a window in my home before hardening them off in the greenhouse.  There are many work arounds to providing yourself an endless supply of food in the winter months.  It just takes creativity, patience, and maybe a chat with an old farmer.  I found my most useful information comes from chatting with an old timer, it seems that they have the answers to the lost art of sustainability.

Do you have a greenhouse on your homestead?

What are your successes and failures with growing your own food during these frigid winter months?

I absolutely love the smell of a greenhouse, its warm, earthy scent is what brings me alive on these cold days.  The only place you can find something green growing in the high desert of Nevada during the winter.  A greenhouse is a must have on a homestead it’s one of my greatest treasures around here.

Happy Monday!

Danielle

Categories
Homesteading

Balmoral squash – a prolific producer for your homestead garden

“Growing your own food, is like printing your own money.” -Ron Finley

I wouldn’t even know how to calculate how much money we have saved from having our own garden.  We’ve had an endless supply of vegetables this year and I’ve been awful about keeping track of what exactly we’ve harvested.  Not to mention the unique varieties that are either impossible to find at a grocery store, or cost a small fortune.

A lot of people say they aren’t squash people, but it’s one of the easiest vegetables to grow and stores so well. Making it a definite to grow on our homestead.  I try to include multiple plants of many different varieties.  It’s sort of a trial and error, see how things grow around here.

Squash doesn’t necessarily bring excitement to most readers. But if you are working towards a more sustainable style of living. I’d strongly encourage you to give growing Balmoral Squash a go.

Some people mistake them for a patty pan squash and they do look quite similar and in fact are a hybrid of the patty pan.  They have a unique taste specific to Balmoral squash.  Think brussel sprout meets squash with fruits growing close to the stem.  A compacted summer squash with white scalloped fruit throughout the season.  It has a open habit with large leaves making this perfect for directly sowing into the ground or in a container.  Thriving in most soil types, it is a prolific producer.  We are able to harvest 2 to 3 new squashes each day from one plant.

I stumbled upon this little gem at our local nursery and decided to give it a go.  It has undergone some stress, with high winds, a bout of powdered mildew, but continues to provide us with a generous amount of food.

Truly simple to grow even in our harsh landscape.  You can see the powdered mildew continuing to attack my plant, a wash with Listerine is said to destroy it, I’ll have to give it a go once these winds die down.

Our favorite way to enjoy Balmoral Squash is on a veggie pizza, a crisp, delicious flavor unique to it’s name.

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I love being able to try out new varieties of unique vegetables and fruit and adding them to our little farm.  It gives the kids an opportunity to try new foods without breaking the bank.  The things we love, we harvest the seeds and save them for next years garden.

I’ll be sad to see these squash go when our summer garden shuts down for the year, but I’ve harvested as many seeds as possible so that I can add a Balmoral Squash patch to the garden.

Have you tried Balmoral Squash? Let me know your favorite way to eat it!

Happy Monday.

Danielle

 

 

Categories
parenting

Toad and the crossroad – finding meaning in nature

Do you ever feel like an animal or symbol pops into your life for a reason?

The toad happens to surprise me at any given moment in my life on our farm. Is she my spirit animal because she has an RBF like no other?

It can’t just be that, right?

But seriously, whenever a bout of depression kicks in or I feel at a crossroad in my life this camouflage character hops right into my path. Out of nowhere.

The toad. Most people probably pass by these small symbols without a thought other than “there lies a toad”. I however am what my husband likes to call a “dreamer” I believe there’s a meaning or reason for most things. Even when it doesn’t make sense to some.

I find love notes from God in nature whenever I need them most.

When this bumpy amphibian startled me in my garden yesterday. I knew there had to be a meaning behind this visit. Toads don’t really free roam in these parts of Nevada often it’s a rarity to come across one.

I spent the day researching and processing as I usually do when stumbling upon something of interest.

A quick google search describes the toad as a symbol of regeneration and adaptability. Representing the harmony of nature. Could it be that our goal at creating a perfect eco system on our homestead is coming to fruition? Possibly.

Toads represent someone at a crossroad in their life, a place of transition. Imagine Crossroads by Bone Thugs playing in the background of my mind as I tried to grasp what exactly this visit meant for me. I’m a 90’s kid through and through.

I’m definitely at a crossroad at this phase in my life. Both my kids are now in school and I’ve felt a bit empty. I’ve been a full time mom for almost 7 years. I’ve been finding myself feeling a bit nostalgic, a bit lost as to what’s next for me. My days of raising babies are gone. Some of my favorite moments in my life seemed to pass by quicker than I imagined.

Maybe this adaptable amphibian is reminding me that I too am at a crossroad in my life. Maybe it’s time to let bad habits go, confront pain head on and try a new path in life.

Do you find yourself seeking meaning from snippets of nature?

Happy Sunday!

Danielle

Categories
Homesteading Uncategorized

Pumpkin scarring…Hello Fall

Summer is quickly leaving, and fall is knocking at our door here in Nevada.

Fall happens to be my favorite time of the year, and not in the cliche, lame meme about pumpkin spice kind of way.

I love fall for so many reasons, it’s cool, crisp, early evening darkness brings a calm to my restless soul.

My pumpkins are coming alive.  I’m sad to see our summer crop nearing its end but I’m excited to see what the Fall garden brings to life.

Have you ever tried scarring your pumpkins while they grow? It’s exciting for the kids as these terribly etched faces grow and come alive. These are our first pumpkins to make their grand debut. My Halloween obsessed children could hardly contain their excitement hauling this year’s first successful pumpkins inside.

Scarring your pumpkin is a simple endeavor. Simply use a sharp knife to etch in the design of your choosing. I like to do this when the pumpkins are about 3 inches.

You wouldn’t know it but I’ve had a hell of a time keeping the squash bugs away from my pumpkins. The tiniest pumpkin on the right was overtaken with squash bugs probably the reason it came out so tiny.

I mistakenly harvested squash and pumpkin seeds in the same bag last year so my pumpkin patch is a mix of yellow squash and pumpkins.

It’s beginning to feel like fall regardless of these homesteading mishaps.

Have you tried scarring your pumpkins?

Happy almost Fall!

Danielle

 

Categories
Homesteading Uncategorized

Today on the farm

Each day on my farm there’s new surprises for my enjoyment and often times to my displeasure.

With the good comes the bad.  Aside from having to rip out an entire row of snap peas due to powdered mold.  I’d say it was a successful morning.  Full of beauty and simplicity.

Recently I’ve taken a newfound interest in my personality trait.   If you’ve ever taken the Myers Brigg test you know that it can be eye opening, and encouraging to relate to something.

I’ve always felt like a bit of an outsider.  Enjoying meaningful conversations to surface chats.  I prefer to be alone a lot of the time.  I prefer animal companionship to most adult relationships.  I’m a old soul…like real old.  I feel most alive when I’m creating.  I prefer to spend my time outdoors with soil on my knees and fresh dirt between my fingers.  Adding to my garden masterpiece.  And I love to learn even when it’s through failure.

With both my kids now in school I’ve been feeling a bit lost, a bit out of sorts.  Not quite knowing what to do in their absence, yet loving the freedom.  It’s a contradiction in itself.

I’ve spent countless hours starting seeds in the greenhouse, and throughout the yard.  Some plants grow without a struggle, some I feel like I cannot  figure out.  Trial and error is all part of the process.

In October of 2010 I married my high school sweetheart, carrying a beautiful bouquet filled with delphiniums.  I absolutely adore this flower and have planted a few varieties throughout the flower farm.  I’ve never had success with a delphinium seed due to pesky chickens until this week when I stumbled upon an accidental  seed grown into a beautiful delphinium.

A few months back our sweet mama cat Lucille Ball gave birth to 4 sweet little kittens.  Due to our local predators we lost our mama kitty and were left with four orphaned kittens.  It really has been a cute experience, and great for the kids.

At the end of the week one will go to his new home leaving me with three sweet kittens to help keep the mice out of my chicken coop.  I don’t believe my husband is sold on have three additional farm cats around here, but here we are, on The Motley Farm where random plants, and animals grow.

This year I’ve made it my goal to find out what exactly does well here for a cut flower arrangement.  I’ve fallen in love with the look of sunflowers without their petals creating an edginess in a floral arrangement.  Sharing my arrangements is also a priority, gifting a bouquet of flowers is always cheerful.

Have you ever tried removing the petals of a sunflower to see the beauty underneath?

I also recently added a blue Hubbard squash to our garden. After I learned that it can store for quite a bit of time AND the best way to open it was by throwing it on the ground. I realized this was a necessity. Can’t wait to see what this little gem grows into!

Have you heard of Belles of Ireland. Also a favorite of mine in a cut flower arrangement. I love the simplicity of green. The unique arrangement of bell like flowers gracing any bouquet with its beauty. So excited to be seeing these coming up from seed.

And my last guest of honor to grace this mornings post is my most loyal bulldog Odin.

Den dad of 4 orphaned kittens, companion, plant stomper, and the sweetest face to patrol this farm.

I love spending my mornings on the farm.

Happy Wednesday

Danielle