The Spring Rush 2016

This is the time of year we call “The Spring Rush.” What this means is we have a LOT of outdoor getting ready for the gardening season work going on around the homestead and we are super busy as a result.

This week I have been cleaning up my flower beds; removing leaves, weeding and putting down bark chips. I put organic fertilizer on the flowering shrubs that are planted in the pea gravel around our home. I prefer to use homemade compost in the fall on the plants in the dirt beds, but have the best luck with organic fertilizer in the stones beds in the spring. Putting big buckets of dirt on top of the tidy pea gravel mulch would be counter-productive in my opinion.

Gene removed the pink foam insulation in the roofs of both of the chicken coops and got out our five birdbaths. We also put out the tropical plant in a pot that hides the ugly air conditioner on the front of our home that we store in our laundry room crawl space over the winter.

I sprayed the pink bench and the vintage record stand that will eventually hold flowers for a la flea market look for flowers this summer.

I also bought a flat of basil “starts” this week for lots of tasty fresh cooking and air drying. Each sunny day  bring them out into the sun to grow some more and at night put them into the pole barn in case of a light frost.

Last year I planted 12 starts and had delicious fresh and dried basil until February. This year I bought 15 starts in the hope I can dry even more. I have the best luck with my basil plants planted in pots using well composted horse manure so I will use this system again this year as well.

There is a lot of washing and line drying happening around here right now as well, after all it is spring!

Small House homesteader, Donna

P.S. Please note that I have apparently used up my space limit for photographs on my blog. I am not sure what I plan to do. To increase my space requires a commitment of $24.95 per month and I am not sure I am willing to do that. So posts may be without photographs for a bit.

Progress on the Hashimotos’ Health Front

I’ve been a bit quiet on my health progress of late. There has been a LOT going on around our homestead this spring. Anyone who homesteads understand about “the spring rush” time of year when the land and animals require a lot more seasonal work. On top of that, we took a 10 day trip to North Carolina to see our five and seven-year old granddaughters. While it as definitely fun, it put us a bit behind in our work schedule.

The Root Cause

I’ve also been waiting for my latest lab reports to come back to report on the current state of my health. Just a quick aside if you are new to this bog; I’ve been fighting Hasimotos’ Thyroiditis, adrenal fatigue, throat nodules, high anxiety and  chronic physical fatigue. After twenty-some years of not feeling well and worsening exhaustion, I was finally diagnosed last November. My healing journey began then.

Living Well with Hypothroid

And the stark truth I have discovered is that it takes a lot of time and energy to learn about and heal from an auto immune disease.

Auto Immune Recovery System

Due to some very insistence internal itching, I recently asked for a series of blood tests to rule out the fungus known as Candida. I also took a blood test for food sensitivities that same day as that was recommended by my functional medicine physician.The Auto Immune SolutionAs I typically do, I researched both options heavily and then makeup my mind. I admit I was reluctant to take the food sensitivity test because I read of so many pros and cons and posts that it does not work; it is not dependable and so on. But in the end I decided to trust my doctor and at least rule this potential option out and get a better handle on what foods I am sensitive to.


As a child I had allergies and took the famous back scratch test when I was about age 12 to determine what foods I was having difficulties with. The test showed that I had food allergies to wheat and corn as well as environmental issues with grass, ragweed and dust. For four long years I took weekly allergy shots, in both arms at once.

Grain Brain

As an adult, I pretty much “assumed” I had outgrown these allergies and because my symptoms were so mild I had honestly had forgotten about this issues. Fast forward to 1995 when Gene and I took the Loma Linda Medical Center based, CHIPS program through Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo, MI where we lived at that time. This program was designed for those who had heart disease and or diabetes and we’re out of options. With heart disease and high cholesterol being a real issue in my family history, I thought adopting this diet was a positive preventative action for my heart and my life-long health.

As My Body Attacks Itself

This program introduced me to eating soy, drinking soy milk and eating high levels of whole wheat flour for its fiber. For the next 20 years I focused our meals not on meat but rather on soy and whole wheat flour grains found in breads, rolls, pastas and pancakes. Apparently this Western Medicine prescribed protocol ultimately harmed me and was a huge factor that contributed to my current chronic immune system disease.


It helped me to also connect the dots to here I was allergic to grass and wheat and I was eating the seeds of the whole wheat plant.  Given the fact that these altered grains that have been genetically manipulated, soaked in toxic chemicals and more makes these seeds and grains very hard to digest…Oh my poor GI tract.

Brainmaker Book Front

I learned that rice, corn, wheat, dairy and sugar are causing me inflammation and I simply did not know this. My gluten sensitivity is apparently a gene pattern and my system is looking at gluten as an enemy not as a friend and the outcome was inflammation. And all this inflammation has seriously stressed my immune system.

Living Well with Chronic Fatigue

If this topic speaks to you, I recommend that you read the book: Grainflammation  (grains equal inflammation) by Dr. Peter Osborne and this will be explained in further detail.

Womens Auto Immune Diseases

Thankfully from my tests I found out that I do not have Candita. And I found that while I have a few food sensitivities it is not the old ones I thought it might be. I am sensitive to; seaweed, eggs, black pepper and spices. Imagine my shock of finding out that after all this work to raise chickens for their organic eggs, I have food sensitivities to eggs!

Living Well with Autoimmune Diseases

I have completed 5 months on the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) and I am starting to feel a bit better. I cannot say I am totally well but feeling better is huge step forward for me.  I will still avoid grains, gluten, dairy and many others for now and until my symptoms are gone and at some point I make the decision to re-introduce these basic foods.

Healing Kitchen

If you want to know more about AIP, consider looking here:


The Autoimmune Protocol is a diet that helps heal the immune system and gut mucosa. It is applicable to any inflammatory disease. These foods on this protocol are anti-inflammatory and help the body to heal.


Autoimmune Protocol:






As always, thank for following!

Small House homesteader, Donna

New Catmint Boarder Garden at the Small House Homestead

nepeta_near field stones
Although this plant is called Walker Low, it really isn’t low growing but it is a stunning plant.

After several years of trying to divide and transplant Walker Low catmint (Nepeta-faasseni) with very mixed results I finally gave up trying to save money and I bought 20 plants for a planned border in my turn-around bed that I have been trying to create. I used the egg sale money I have saved from the past years.

Catmint in the ground USE

My catmint perennials are coming up nicely after the long winter. 

Catmint, if you are not familiar with it is an easy-to-grow perennial that tolerates average to dry, moist soil. Their cheery lavender blooms look good when most other perennials are done for the season. They like half sun half shade and are hardy in zones 3-8.

Most catmints prefer full sun and well-drained, not overly fertile soil, although plants in hot summer areas do well with some afternoon shade. Related to catnip but much showier its gray-green foliage remains attractive throughout the growing season as well. Established plants are quite drought tolerant.

This morning we drove to my favorite nursery, Huntree Nursery in Glenn who had them ready for me. Huntree is a family owned seasonal nursery and a favorite place for many in our area to buy trees, evergreen and shrubs. In the fifteen years we have lived here I have purchased a LOT of plants from Huntree.

Hunt tree USE

 Spring has sprung at my favorite nursery, Huntree Nursery, Glen, MI. 
In 1971 Jan and David Landry came to work at the nursery after graduating from Michigan State University. Nine years later they purchased the business. And the rest as they say, is history.
Catmint and border
Today’s purchase of catmints will be the base of my new border.

Catmint Walker’s Low is famous for its wonderful fragrance, is deer resistant, attracts hummingbirds and butterflies’ and is bee friendly. Not really a low grower, ‘Walker’s Low’ will grow 24-30 inches tall and had no serious insect or disease problems. It is used in rock gardens, border fronts, herb gardens or naturalized plantings.

Catmint Walker’s Low is famous for its wonderful fragrance that butterflies, bees and cats love. Beautiful, lush, purple flower spikes start to appear in early summer and continue for up to 3 months. It’s a great perennial to add to your garden.

Catmint is a perfect plant for our homestead because it can tolerate our sandy soil and our on- again, off-again periods of drought. I love that it flowers throughout nearly the whole summer and into the fall season. Not only is it beautiful with it naturally rounded mounding shape and blue-green leaves, it the ideal herb to give to the chickens to eat too.

I picked them up in the morning and then I spent the day digging and planting.  They will grow for a few years into a splashy border and then I will have more plants to divide and transplant throughout my gardens.

Here are a few copyright free images if using catmint in the garden border. Isn’t this the most stunning plant when used in mass?



b2808386088424e736b43783697d3dc6 catmint boarder 2

After mine fill in and grow I’ll be sharing an “after” photographs of our garden border at a later date.

Small House homesteader, Donna




Spring on the Small House Homestead – Photo Diary

Good morning! Spring is truly busting out all over on the Small House Homestead this month.

HOR quince and bench studio USE

A favorite flowering quince bush bursts into bloom at my studio building. 

Forsythia and studio USE

All of my forsythia shrubs were transplanted or propagated from tiny shrub starts.

Phlox and stones USE

Creeping phlox offers a splash of pale lavender and spreads.

Spring and its intense flowering beauty is what we in Michigan live for!

Burning bush and daffodils barn

Daffodils and a burning bush in front of the pole barn.

Violets and logs in garden USE

Wild spreading violets in the vegetable garden. They will be transplanted when it rains. 

Our homesteads many flowers, shrubs, fruit trees and bushes are really starting to come alive!

Pink pear blossoms

Planted in 2015 , this peach tree replaced a tree that died from our high ground water flooding.

Phlox and chartreause shribe behind porch USE

The low growing flowers and shrubs behind the three-season porch.

Our 5-acre homestead garden is a bloom with the fruits of fifteen years of my labor.

Silver Lace Vine , trelllis, fence

The newly planted (2015) silver lace vine on the trellis is putting out leaves.

Violets under digwood in bird bed

Masses of wild purple violets bloom in the bird feeding bed under the dogwood tree.

Freckles with persnality and Snowball USE

Freckles and Snowball out and about enjoying the sunshine.

Playhouse with climber

The playhouse in the spring; day lilies are growing again and the climbers are too.

Sidewalk and chalk fun

Chalk drawings on the sidewalk speaks the language of spring.

I hope you enjoy a view of this week on the homestead and that you bloom where you are planted!

Small House homesteader, Donna

Moss on the Roof – Testing Wet and Forget Shingle Cleaner

The truth is that we are at an age now where we have to hire out some of the maintenance projects around the homestead. This is hard to do financially but I do not feel that we can risk Gene falling off of the roof and breaking a bone. Especially not during our busiest “spring rush” time of year! If Gene were to get injured everything from his heavy lifting to lawn mowing would end right now. Just not worth it.

This is one of the on-going challenges of senior homesteading. And to complicate things, Gene is suffering from either a pulled muscle or a hernia so he is not at his peak right now we well. His going up on the roof did seem like a smart decision currently.

Studio back with some leaves showing ladder

The studio building has moss on the roof.

We have discussed that if one of us breaks a bone or is for some reason is seriously incap
icitated or needs surgery; we could be in huge trouble here. We have no family nearby that can pitch in to help and hiring a local handyman or helper for day-to-day work is next to impossible here. Staying able, fit and capable of keeping the homestead up is serious business when you are a senior homesteader.

This week we hired a contractor to help us with two roof related projects. The first project was spraying the roof moss on the studio building. I noticed last fall that this roof was green with moss and I got busy researching and talking to contractors about what to do about it. The word was, “Take care of it now or it will affect the life span of your roof.” So that project was added to our maintenance list.

Our goal is to kill off the roof moss and to stop it from re-growing and ruining our roof.  I looked at several options; one option contained bleach, the second Wet & Forget was the least toxic and caustic and The Stainhandler product is caustic. I can see using this on an old pole barn for example but not on my 10-year-old, well maintained studio building with beautiful landscaping surrounding it.

The contractor who built the studio building said bleach works best but we are 100% totally organic here and I know that bleach is toxic so this option was out for me. The sodium  hydroxide in the Stainhandler Roof and Deck Cleaner product was stated to be caustic and that meant tarping or covering the entire building in plastic sheeting to prevent any potential corrosion issues with vinyl siding, eves and gutters, cement porch floor, etc. That just sounded like a lot of time, work and money to me. htttp://

So we decided to try Wet & Forget first and are crossing our fingers that it works for us.

Wet and Forget is a concentrated product that is designed to attack mold, mildew and remove stains from the roof.  It is non caustic, non acidic and contains no bleach. This does mean you have to repeat using it from time to time, but that is a trade-off I am willing to make.  Wet & Forget  is an easy to use, one-step product that does not require, scrubbing, rinsing or power washing. You dilute it according to the directions, spray it on your roof with a garden sprayer and you are done. I read the reviews and most of them were positive.

VERT Frank spray roof

Frank the contractor spraying the Wet & Forget on the roof.

From the Manufacturer:
Wet and Forget has a unique combination of biodegradable selective surfactants for moss, mold and mildew stain removal on any exterior surface. When diluted with water and applied, it immediately penetrates the unsightly stain. Each time it rains, this safe, cleansing combination reactivates to gently lift the moss, mold and mildew stain without damaging the surface. Wet and Forget is an EPA approved one step process that requires no scrubbing or rinsing. It is non-acidic, non-caustic and contains no bleach. Be patient, Wet and Forget’s gentle cleaning action takes time depending on how heavy the stain is and results are visible over time. Remember good things take time, and Wet and Forget continues to clean for up to a year. No special equipment is required. Just apply Wet and Forget with a pump-up garden sprayer. After the first application simply reapply Wet and Forget at the first sign of moss, mold and mildew stains returning. Wet and Forget can be used on any outdoor surface. Some examples of these surfaces are: asphalt (black top), Astroturf, aluminum siding, awnings, brick pavers, composite decking, concrete, driveways, docks, fiberglass boats, fiberglass shingles, fiberglass hulls/topsides, green houses, gutters, inflatable dinghies, limestone, marble, marinas, natural stone, outdoor furniture, outdoor planters, paint surfaces, patios, patio furniture, plastic houses, recreational vehicles, retaining walls, sails, sandstone, shade sails, sidewalks, stucco, tennis courts, teak decks, textured finishes, tiles, tombstones, umbrellas (outdoor), vinyl siding and wood.

Our contractor said he used 6 gallons of this product for our roof putting three coats of it on the roof. He kept waiting to see a change but it did not so he put on another coat! Now we wait and pray that it does not rain for a few days!

Project 02 was to attempt to seal the leaks in our homes eves and gutter system. We have about a dozen leaks that required buckets under them and constant watching and emptying of the 5-gallon buckets. We put a new roof on our home in the fall of 2016 so this roof is sound and this leaking issue is not dangerous, but more annoying than anything. Every homeowner has an ongoing issue around their homestead and ours has been water…and after trying to get this leaking resolved for over four years, I wanted this fixed and fixed now.

Roof some moss showing USE

Streaks are a tell-tale sign that moss is on the way.

The locals here tell me that eve and gutters is the leading cause of ice damns here in snow county. Roofing experts tell me it is because these houses do not have enough ventilation or insulation (or both) in their attics. We have had serious issues with ice dam here for years, so we have added them both; insulation in the attic, ventilation around the perimeter of the house and when we had the roof replaced in the fall of 2014 we added a long roof vent system. All of these changes have improved the ice dam and huge dripping ice cycles we have long experienced here.

Although it is not common practice to put eves and gutter on houses here in our area we needed to keep the water off of the limestone siding of our home and from around our foundation. When we moved here there was a lot of moss growing right on the stone siding and I could see that water was running right down the siding and splashing up onto the stones and onto the foundation of our home. That was not a good thing.

We stated by scrubbing that moss off of the siding, adding seamless eves and gutters and I designed the landscaping around our home so the water would flow away from the foundation and off and down the lawn. But the water flow problem off of our roof has been a fifteen year issue and specifically ice dam on the roof and leaking eves remained and are now an issue I hope we have conquered at last. The next big rain storm will tell.

Next I am going to investigate stain protector zinc strips to help keep the black streaks and moss growth at bay as well.

Small House homesteader, Donna

Small House Weekly Homestead Photo Diary

Not that I am complaining….but summer weather came upon us suddenly this week on our homestead in SW Michigan. One night it is freezing and the next day it is sunny and hot. In fact, it was sunny and hot all week-long and no rain. The daffodils are bursting out everywhere and their bright yellow color everywhere makes me happy. Even the daffodils that I had thought were drowned in the 2009-2012 high ground water flooding have returned with many new blooms and are spreading.

Firepit in meadow ith Rhodies very close GOOD

The Rhodies love to scratch and peck in the wood ash from the recently burned down fire pit.

While this is a mood boosting strategy we do need rain here and a lot of it. Not only do the plants and trees need life-giving water to get a really good start, we need to fill our water containment totes for the long, dry summer ahead. The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting hotter than usual and less rain that usual in our part of the state. In a 1950’s style home without a/c and a not-currently-working swimming pool, this is not good news. Sigh.

April daffodils to circle USE

The daffodils are bursting out in the crab apple tree circle garden right now. 

We hope to get the swimming pool up and running again soon but a large chunk of cash is needed to do that and not in the budget right now. The pool needs to be drained, scraped, acid washed, re-painted and the mechanical’s up and running again. It’s going to a big and expensive project.

Daffodils in triangle under fruit tree USE

Circles of daffodils in the fruit tree triangle. 

Gene worked on removing the deer netting from around the hydrangea shrubs and turned the pool pump turned on and got out the hoses. He also worked on repairing the ruts in the meadow this week. The rusts came as a result of the roadside trimmer driving their large, heavy truck to dump the mulch. The ruts were filled with a mix of sandy soil from the woods, well-composed horse manure from a friend’s farm and topped with good composted soil from the compost pile. In the fall, I’ll plant grass seeds. Grass seeds do not germinate well here in the spring time unless we have a very wet year to keep them going. Grass seed simply does better here if I spread it in the fall and let the snow melt germinate it the following spring.

Cart, Rhodies Gene digging w shovel USE

Gene digging composted soil with his Rhodie helpers fishing for worms.

Daffodils in bloom in bird bed USE

Our bird feeding bed is edged in daffodils and a bloom.

I spent most of my week dispersing straw and then bark chips. I made some good progress but have a l-o-n-g way to go yet.

Rhodies close puzzld cute

This Rhode Island Red chicken is certainly strutting her stuff in the leaves.Gen holing Crystal who is lfying downCrystal wants to get away after wiping down her messy butt from a bit too many kitchen scraps.

Burning bush and daffodils barn

Bloom where you are planted my friends!

Small House Homesteader, Donna

The Chicken Garden Project – Phase One – Getting Started

Like many gardener’s we have a new garden project going almost every year. This is how I manage to accomplish new garden projects with my current homestead work load. My working formula is that I work on this project an hour or two each morning and then I accomplish a little bit everyday!

Cement blocks withgreenhouse hoops and garden USE

Soil, straw and bark chips make up the base of my boarder garden. 

This year’s project is what I am calling the chicken garden. I plan to add some color and form on the North-end entry gate to our chicken coop and runs.  I also want to add some pizzazz and visual interest. I plan to only plant easy-care perennials so I don’t have more than the basic seasonal work to maintain them. These perennials have proven themselves to be low water and easy-care plant here already.

Two step stones in bark chips chicken garden

Just a simple stone and chip pathway lead to the chicken run.

In this case, I am going to transplant some of my standard “nothing will kill them” hardy plants from other parts of our property. I’ll be using the tried and true plants that I know can stand up to whatever weather Mother Nature Give’s us;  from drought to flooding. These are the perennials that have proven their merit over and over during the past 15 years we have lived and gardened here on our SW Michigan homestead.Rhodies close puzzld cute

The eventual recipient of the chicken garden.

Small House Homesteads Top Ten Hardy and Easy-Care Perennials:

  1. Day lilies
  2. Iris
  3. Catmint
  4. Black eyed Susan’s
  5. Brown eyed Susan’s
  6. Shasta Daisy’s
  7. Butterfly Bush
  8. Comfrey
  9. Sedum (spreading and low growing)
  10. Autumn Sedum Joy


The herb comfrey in full bloom.

My overall goal is to brighten the place up a bit when we walk out to the coop a half-dozen times a day. I also want to play down the ugly, gray cement blocks that hold down the greenhouse hoops. The blocks are super practical and make the low-cost side of this design work just fine, but I would like to pretty them up a bit.

Metal stake in cement block

I hope to soften down the hard lines of these gray cement blocks with green plants.

I started by amending the soil with good composted dirt from our compost bins and then added spent straw and topped with bark chips from the recent roadside clean up crew. Then I added six flat stepping-stones to a simple bark chip pathway that I put down to deal with the spring mud. The step-tones were once used in another garden location at once point. These stones resided for a few years in the bed behind our three-season porch but the shrubs there grew big enough to fill that open space and I was not longer using those step stones to get into and out of that bed.

Boarder at coop before just chips USE

Bark chips help to keep the weeds down as well as the moisture in the soil.

Before I could plant any flowers on our homestead I have learned I must seriously amend the soil and kill the grass that was growing there. Because our soil is super lean, sandy oak savanna soil that is also devoid of most necessary nutrients, so my garden prep process typically takes me a year or two to amend the soil before planting.  This small garden border is no different.

2016 pine pile USE

This great mound of bark chips will soon disappear.

My formula is quite simple; I add soil from the compost bins mixed with old soil from within the fire pit. Then I added some bark chips and mulch left for us by the local tree trimmers.  This tree trimming mulch includes pine needles and other greenery that will also help to amend our soil and add nitrogen to make a nutrition base for the flowers I plan to add in a year or two.

Chickens shack, hoops and garen USE

Another view of the “back forty.”The chicken run, the pool shack and of course, our girls!

While the amendments were doing their thing, I consulted a great book called Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard. By Jessi Bloom. This book is full of practical and beautiful solution for any gardener who wants to invite a flock into their backyard. It’s a great resource and give good tips and used many lovely color photographs for ideas and interest.

Chicken Garden foront cover book

If you are considering landscaping in or around your coop or run here are a few relevant posts you might also enjoy.


Small House Homesteader, Donna