Daffodils Equals The Spirit of Spring

 Bulbs close up in hold USE Planting fall bulbs symbolizes hope for another spring.

Today I planted 100 Trumpet Daffodil bulbs, a classic all yellow large Daffodil. I have another 100 to plant and will do that soon. I scooped out soil to make two large circles on the inside of the fruit tree triangle and nestled the bulbs in among the comfrey leaves. Both the comfrey and the daffodils grab nitrogen from the air and makes it available to the fruit tree roots in a symbiotic and perfect relationship.

Gene opening bag up USE

Gene helping me open up the mesh bags.

Planting bulb in the fall of the year is such a symbol of hope for me. Hope that these bulbs will live thru our snowy Michigan weather to come alive when the spring sun and rain again heat up the soil. Daffodils are a renewal of the spirit of spring for me.

If you are an avid gardener you know that daffodils must be planted in the fall or early winter to bloom in spring because they require a long period of cool temperatures to spark the biochemical process that causes them to flower. In fall, it’s important to get them into the ground before the ground freezes. They need time to develop strong roots.

Deer resistant and so easy to grow, these bulbs do really well here in our sandy, well draining and often dry soil. Because we planted our fruit tees just this spring and heavily amended the soil at that time well horse manure compost, straw and bark ships, the digging was easy.

Bulbs matt trwoelUSE

Digging the hole in the fruit tree bed for the bulbs.

We are supposed to get an inch of rain tonight, so watering them in will be done by Mother Nature this time.

I consider these bulbs a good investment because they bring me such joy spring after spring.

There is an interesting history and lore that surrounds the daffodil. Daffodils were brought to Britain by the Romans who thought that the sap from daffodils had healing powers. Actually the sap contains crystals that can irritate the skin.

Bag and label close USE

Giant bulbs yield large flowers.

Greek mythology gives us the term narcissus. There was a young Greek named Narcissus. A nymph called Echo was in love with him, but Narcissus broke off the relationship. Heartbroken she hid in a cave and died. Later Narcissus, who was very handsome and quite taken with himself, saw his face in a pool, and as he leaned over to see better, fell in and drowned and became the flower.

Small House homesteader, Donna

 

 

Please Don’t Burn Your Leaves, Recycle Them!

Today’s post is about a serious SAFETY WARNING. I know lots of people burn leaves to get rid of them and it’s an age-old practice. Please use extreme care though.

We experienced a near miss when we unknowingly left a small coal in a pile of sticks after burning an unwanted branch with bugs on it. When we got home from our walk in the woods on a beautiful fall day we found the firefighters saving our meadow and our pole barn.

Like many farmers and homesteaders we have a LOT stored in our barn. We would have lost vehicles, a fishing boat and motors, my kayak, Gene’s hunting gear, our lawn tractor and leaf pick up unit and much more. It was scary and could have been a very costly mistake. We have never repeated that mistake again.

INSTEAD you can opt to use your leaves to make mulch and to make great garden soil. Spread them on your garden beds, on woodland paths or in your chicken coop or even blow them into the edge of your land to keep the weeds down and more.

Poetsen One 4 Ways to Repurpose leaves jpegs

Four Easy Ways to Repurpose Your Leaves:

We have 47 White Oak trees here on the homestead and we treasure and recycle every leaf these trees give us.

  1. The dry oak leaves are put in the chicken coop as a kind of ground cover and mulch and to keep the mud to a minimum.
  2. We haul 10″-12″ inches of leaves onto our wood trail because the leaves help to keep the green briar from taking over the paths.
  3. We use them create a barrier in the meadow between the native plants and the grassy weeds. this help to keep the grasses from coming up in the flower garden area.
  4. I drop leaves on the paths between the rows in the vegetable garden. This gives me a path to walk on and help to keep the weeds low.

We even bring home our son’s Maple leaves from his city home to save him a recycling take away fee. We compost them and turn them into great soil for the beds. I put those Maple leaves directly into the garden on our raised beds and by spring they have almost broken down into glorious garden soil.

VERT house andtree unusual USE

It’s natures recycling program at its best!

Small House homesteader, Donna

Sprouting Barley Seeds in my Laundry Room

Gene and I are still fighting the nasty flu bug that had been going around our area so our homesteading efforts this week are minimal. I made a big pot of homemade chicken and vegetable soup today and I am hoping that this natural medicine can help us to feel a bit better and soon. On to today’s post.

It is sprouting greens season again.

Rhoide prancing USE

Sprouts are simply whole grains or seeds that are grown with water before being fed to the chickens. Sprouting grains is an easy way to provide chickens with fresh, nutritious greens any time of year with very little effort.

Chickens need a mix of protein with an adequate source of energy vitamins and minerals as well as water. These requirements are met by feeding them while grains in addition to the protein source. Sprouting grains is one way to stretch a feed budget for the average backyard flock as a supplement to their diet but not as their primary feed source.

In addition, I am always looking for ways to give my more chicken live greens, especially in the winter months. Sometimes I sprout mung beans in a quart jar in my kitchen and in warm sunny weather I plant barley seeds right in the soil of their chicken run. This makes greens available to them anytime they are outside pecking and scratching.

Thinking ahead to winter, when it will be too cold to grow the barley seeds out-of-doors, I am experimenting with sprouting barley seeds in a plastic dish washing tub in my laundry room right now.

Barley green and frame USE

I like to have live green sprouts available for my chickens.

Sprouting can be done on your kitchen counter or in your laundry room. No special lights are needed just a room temperature around 45 degrees F and 69 degrees F.

Rhodie run and barey frame USE

This winter I am using an old black metal shelving unit that has been used in both of my homes and more recently in my art gallery. I set this stand up in my laundry/mechanical room near the sink for rinsing near the natural sunlight shines in from a south-facing window. Our laundry/mechanical room is the warmest room in our home due to winter use of our clothes dryer, our hot water boiler heating unit and the south-facing sunshine…so it’s the perfect place in our home for sprouting.

I bought my barley seeds from the Amish feed store in our area. I requested untreated seeds and they were able to order them from an Amish farmer in Indiana. This is the closest I can get to organic whole grain seeds. Barley is a cover crop that is high in nutrients when sprouted because the nutrition then become more bioavailable.  My chickens love seeds of all types and sprouted barley seeds are no exception.

There are several ways to make sprouts but this is the one I use.

  1. Put the grains in a bucket and let them soak for 12 hours.
  2. Pour off extra water and smooth the grain out to a thin and even layer.
  3. Put trays on my food shelving rack.
  4. I rinse and water my trays of barley seeds twice a day. I do not reuse the water.
  5. I grow these sprouts for around 5-8 days and when they are sprouted, I grab two handfuls and toss them into the chicken run.

I make my barley sprouts in a newly bought plastic paper holder I purchased  from the Dollar Store and an old retired white dish pan that became available when I bought my new metal dish pan this summer from Lehman’s, www.lehmans.com/ I always love to repurpose things when I can and not add to the landfill problem.

I love Lehman’s because all the wares they sell are solid made and they have been providing non-electric alternatives since 1955. They offer homestead needs from oil lamps, wood stoves, off grid necessities to kitchen ware that will last a lifetime and still be passed on. I recently splurged and bought a solid blue graniteware washing tub, an Amish made tack cloth clothes pin holder for my clothesline and a study, metal dust pan. None of these items will ever have to be replaced, not in my lifetime or in the lifetime of my children either..

Sprouts can be fed to the chickens at any time but the nutrition benefits max out at around day six.

There is a lot if information on sprouting on the internet if you need more details, of free to contact me and I’ll help you any way I can.

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

 

Under the Weather and Saving Runner Bean Seeds

Overnight it tuned a cool 40 degrees and I woke up with a lousy head cold and sore throat. Oh no! I decided to cancel my in-town physical therapy appointment for today and stay home to try to heal. Sorry my foot!

Fennel in pan USEFennel seeds in a drying pan.

I went right to the fridge to take a huge shot of elderberry syrup made with Elderberry and other wonderful healing herbs that I bought at the Great Lakes Herb Faire I attended in early September. More about the Faire here: https://smallhousebigskyhomestead.wordpress.com/2015/09/15/back-home-from…kes-herb-faire/

Pans on wahser and dryer USE

My washer and dryer helps to dry the beans inside the pods.

This magical elixir was made by herbalist Lisa Rose of Burdock and Rose Herbals and quite honestly, it worked really well for me. Four days of the elderberry treatment the last time I had a cold and I was soon back to health. I am crossing my fingers that it works as well this time too.

Foraging Book cover

Lisa M. Rose book on foraging in the Midwest.

I decided this day would be a light work day as well as a nurturing one for me. I bundled up in warm long underwear and a sweatshirt and turned on the Eden Pure heater to take the chill off the house. This Eden Pure heater is such a blessing in the cold weather. Not only does this heater take the chill off the house, because it is portable I can move it close to me and it warms me right up.  And best of all, it can be moved from room to room as needed.

Runner beans on towel on floor

More seed pods than workspace so the floor became a temporary holding space.

I worked on the computer for a while and then I began to work on what I call “Sit Down” projects that have been waiting for a rainy day. I have pans of dried herbs and bean pods in my kitchen, laundry and dining room that need my attention. They need to be separated, fully dried out and stored until next spring’s planting season.

VERT pods on boiler USE

We have hot water boiler heat and this hot water boiler unit dries herbs quickly.

The harvested Scarlett Runner Beans seeds needed to be separated from their pods and to finished drying in the warm laundry room air. I prefer to leave them to dry on the vine but a cold snap and an early frost changed those plans.

Fennel in pan with legs

Sitting on the floor and separating the fennel seeds from the flowers.

After I finished the beans, I worked on the fennel seeds separating the seeds from the flower heads. I love to have my own fresh fennel seeds for cooking and this past spring I replaced my fennel plant as the old one died. The old one lasted some 7 years and was real good producer for me. I knew I had to be careful not to buy the kind that you dig and cook the roof for fennel soup but rather the perennial kind that goes to seed and comes back year after year. Next came the oregano.

While I separated seeds from pods I watched the 2012 documentary, In Organic We Trust, made by filmmaker Kip Pastor. Because I have studied the subject of organic food intimately, there was not a lot of new information for me, but it did serve to cement my earlier resolve to continue to seek out and eat, organic and locally grown foods.

Runner beans on towel on floor

I am storing my seeds and beans in glass jars with lids to keep the bugs out and my harvest as fresh as possible. The oregano will be used for cooking and for the chickens.

Even though I was not happy about feeling sick today I was happy to get this work done and the laundry room cleaned up and tidy once again. I am grateful I have the washer and dryer top as well as the boiler unit to dry things on but I’m even happier to get the room cleaned up and vacuumed up once again. I do admit, I like a neat and tidy looking house! (I suspect it’s the German ancestry in me!)

Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day!

Small House homesteader, Donna

Living and Sleeping Under the Sheltering Oaks

Back of house big bed shows USE

The view of the Small House from the back side of our property.

I can’t help but share more of the exquisite fall color we are experiencing here on the homestead. It is simply outstanding this year. The White Oak leaves are now turning brown and dropping. The Maple tree leaves have already turned their bright yellow/orange. The Sassafras leaves are heading towards yellow and the native Dogwood leaves are now a brilliant red. Our local Burning Bushes have sprung into a dazzling pink and the St. John’s Wort’s shrubs are a lovely mix of yellow/green heading towards orange.

Green pink yellow shrubs in front interesting

A small landscaped bed in the front of the Small House focus’ on fall color!

Our property is now surrounded by the most beautiful color-making-autumn and in my opinion, one of the prettiest times of year here on the Small House Homestead. I just can’t spend enough time out-of-doors now. The cleaning, the cooking and organizing just does not matter enough right now. Time enough for that work later on when the snow is blowing.

Front of house USE

I am standing on the road to capture the front of our Ranch-style home.

The past few weeks have been rainy with gray sky period so that meant no blue sky, no sunshine and there no great fall shots! For a while there I had to settle for a vignettes of pumpkins, Halloween flag and the last of the summer flowers.

Wood under trees USE

A woodpile stacked up against the wood lot of oaks and pines to the east of our home. This area features a large cut-back meadow where I had hoped to someday have miniature goats!

Woodpile USE

This stack of logs is a current favorite of the chickens to free range in the early evening.

But this week the blue sky is back and I am soaking up the sunshine and photographing with a vengeance!

Barn coop rounded snte bed USE FIRST

Our pole barn side garden curves back to the chicken coop and run area.

Winter is coming in quickly now and we are due for a heavy frost. This means we are powering our way through the rest of the garden clean up chores; putting away anything that might freeze and cleaning out the dead and the dying.

HORZ Rhodies run very close up USE

The Rhodies coop inside their protected run soaks up the afternoon sun.

The cement chickens were stored in the barn, the metal benches safely stored away as well. We quickly planted 12 burning bush starts today hoping to take advantage of the coming rainfall to nestle them in for the long winter ahead. These starts pop up here and there from our other burning bushes and in the spring I dig them up and pot them up for the summer.

Front west bed colors

I have allowed the overgrown shrubs to stay in order to help buffer our home from the Class AA roadway traffic. Luckily we have the proper large-scale 5-acre property and big open sky that allows this.

I am trying to create a visual barrier and some more fall color by planting them on the dirt side road where Consumer’s Energy cut down our 23, 75-year-old pines because, they said, they were growing too close to their power lines. You may have read this before but quite frankly I am still mad that an owner before us signed an easement that allows them to come 350 feet on our property and no amount of explanation, questioning or even begging would deter them from cutting down our wind block of tree. Lesson learned… NEVER ever sign an easement with a corporation. And when buying property make sure you find out if any easements have ever been signed before you close.

Front of house and left shrubery USE

I hope you are not tired of me saying this…our Small House Under a Big Sky!

Please enjoy the autumn wherever you live.

Small House Homesteader, Donna

Whole Lot of Chicken Coop Prep Going on

This week we are in full swing of getting the chicken coop, run and our eight birds ready for the coming winter.

Two Rhoides on start cute

Jumping up on the straw bales is a fun activity for the chickens.

We raked out the old oak leaf litter in the enclosed run and added a 3” layer of freshly fallen, dry leaves. We added them in the open run area as well as in the enclosed run area. These leaves plus adding bark chips as needed will help to prevent a lot of mud from accumulating in the run when the fall rains begin and the eventual winter snow melt.

Tarp

We are in the process of tarping our two chicken coops and covered run.

We put down areas of “sand piles” where the girls can scratch, peck and eat the sand as needed.

Straw buffer close

Bales of hay provide a wind and snow barrier around our coops.

As I clean out the old vines and vegetable from the garden, I tossed any interesting food items into the chicken run; sunflower heads, small tomatoes, green bean vines and basil stems. Our chickens pick, scratch and eat most everything I throw in there and they are happy to have these snacks as well as the constant stimulation.

Single Rhodies on straw bale USE

It’s so much fun to jump up on the hay and scratch and peck!

Large plastic tarps have been placed over the coop and run roof to prevent even the smallest of water leaks from coming inside. The plastic storms on the outside of the coop are going up ever so slowly, beginning with the west-facing side where the strongest winds blow inland off of Lake Michigan. Soon the pink Styrofoam insulation panels will be positioned in the top of both coop roofs to help hold in a bit more heat this winter.

Rhodie run and barey frame USE

The wooden frame protects the newly planted barley seeds until they begin to grow.

We have picked up the two loads of hay bales from a local farm. These are stacked on the outside of the run as another layer of wind protection. They also help to create buffer zone to provide an area where the snow is blocked and a narrow area for me and the chickens to walk around. This narrow pathway allows me to be able to get into both side of the coop for cleaning, filling of waters and more chicken chores. Our truck holds eight bales at once so we typically make several trips to a local hay farm for the hay we need. And we run Sassy in the Todd Farm State Game area on those same trips.

Gene starw at pole barn USE

Bales of hay being thrown over the fence and into the run. Watch out girls!

We set up the heated dog bowl getting them plugged in as well as the drop lights we use in the coop for the long winter days when chickens are stuck inside the coop for hours at a time. This year the coop lights and heated water bowls got new and safer electrical cord that are lit at the end. This way I can tell at a glance if they are on and working properly. The summer-use rubber watering pans have been washed out, dried and stored for the winter.

Barley green and frame USE

Freshly sprouted barley seeds provide live greens and stimulation for the girls.

Today I also refreshed the bedding in the laying boxes, using more of our dry oak leaves. Although it’s a lot of work to remove the many leaves from our 47 White Oak trees we have growing on our five acres, I am happy this week that we have so many leaves available for the chickens needs.

Goldy side view on star use

Freckles is recovering from weeks of brooding and is now molting…this is her in her better days.

We will also bag up as many leaves as we can for use later on during the winter months ahead. Not only are these leaves free, when mixed in with the girl’s organic poop they will eventually compost down into our fertile homemade composted soil for our garden. Nothing is wasted in the Small House permaculture garden!

Normally I replace the sand litter in the coops in the fall but since that has already been done twice since April, I will not do that this fall. Each morning we carefully clean out the night poop and leave the doors open on both side of the coop to air it out. That plus the fact the girls have been free ranging and pooping outside all spring summer and fall, so I think we are good to go. I have begun to add small amounts of leaves to the sand litter to acclimate the girls to our winter litter method of what we chicken keepers call, “deep litter.”

I’ve also added firewood ash to the various sand piles for chicken dusting and we replaced a cracked playpen roost with a new roost bar and rolled in a log for a step up to the bar.

HORZ stump roost bar USE

Belly up to the bar, girls!

I know we do spoil our girls but I also believe that contented Small House chickens lay tasty and healthy eggs!

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

The Small House in its Autumn Glory-Photo Diary

I apologize for being so out of touch lately. Fall is such a busy time of year for us at The Small House that the outdoor work just takes over our lives. Hopefully I can make up for fewer blog posts of late with some interesting and lively photographs sharing the beauty of our homestead in the autumn.

We’ve had a hard frost already here in SW Michigan. Hard enough that it froze my remaining potted annuals and tender hydrangeas but once again the weather has turned warm. In these parts we call these warm days, our Indian Summer. I am enjoying the warm sunshine as are our animals who love to lay in the warm dirt and dust or nap.

Small House under bog tree USE

Our small house under the big SW Michigan sky. 

The surrounding woods are taking on new shades of reds, yellow and amber thanks to the cooler nights. There is a vivid beauty about the countryside now that stirs my soul.

HORZ turn around coop in rear USE

This bed, with its ornamental grasses and mum’s really shines in the Autumn.

As those of you who homestead know; this time of is year we call “The Crunch Time” or “The Fall Rush.” I imagine that you are working as hard as we are to gather the last of the vegetable harvest, to close down the gardens and get the animals and their pens ready for winter. These seasonal chores plus my plantar fasciitis, physical therapy and various doctor’s appointments have kept me on the run.

While I honestly prefer a more home-center, slower-paced way of life, I know I must take care of my health right now and that means many appointments in town and twice-weekly working out.

Mums foreground trellis grasses USE VERT

The billowing and blowing grasses are among my favorite native perennials.

The fruits of our labor can be enjoyed in our perennial gardens right now. Native perennial plant, stones hauled home from farmers fields and roadside ditches, mingle with my carefully chosen plantings and projects all lovingly built and maintained, that shine during the Michigan fall. I enjoy every season here but if I had to choose my favorite, I think it would be autumn.

Fencegate raspberries USE

The fenced-in black raspberry patch is one of our chicken’s favorite runs.

Here is a peek at the Small House Homestead this week in all of our lovely fall glory.

Bird grden shrub and birdfeeder USE

Shrubs and feeders provide food and shelter for our beloved songbirds.

Fence and pool shack USE

Our non-working in-the-ground pool resides nestles up against the forest edge.

Gene cart Rhodies on straw USE

Bales of hay will block the winter winds to the chicken run and coop areas. Then next spring these bales will be broken down for mulch in the garden.

Pole barn under sky USEThe chicken condo complex is nestled under our majestic White Oak trees.

Meadow nice USE

The pool shack, meadow grasses and the wood lot in late October.  

North west side of house with hydragneas geen

Our 1950’s era ranch-style home. Yes, that is an old-fashioned TV antenna not a UFO!

Pool shack fall USE

The pool shack storage shed with our home in the distance.

Fence and pool shack USE

The pool complex, storage shack and garden.

I hope you enjoyed you enjoyed a taste of fall on our homestead.

Small House homesteader, Donna