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?

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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

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

Two New Blue Bird Houses Go Up on The Homestead



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGrandpa and granddaughter checking on the blue bird babies.

We have a nice small blue bird trail on our homestead. We have had three blue bird boxes set up on our 5-acres for the past decade and they have all been productive depending on the time of the year and the sunshine on the box itself.


Blue bird house in meadow entire plus pipe
The standard Audubon required blue bird box on a steel post.

Each season we have a pair of blue birds that mate and raise their young on our rural SW Michigan property. Most years these mated blue birds have at least two broods and most years they lay five eggs and one or two baby birds make it to maturity.

Bluebird house very close USE

The hole must be a certain size and the side must open as well.

For many decades blue birds were threatened in our state but efforts of bird lovers from all of the US have helped to save them and to actually create a revival of blue birds as a species.

9420917-pair-of-eastern-bluebird-sialia-sialis-on-a-log-with-moss[1]

If you are interested in knowing more about the placement of bluebird houses you can find more detailed information here. http://www.dccl.org/information/houses/birdhouses.htmA female and male blue bird pair.

 There is nothing like spotting that flash of bright sky blue as the male bird streaks across the meadow and flies up to the canopy of our White Oak trees. These joyful and family orientated birds bring us a great deal of pleasure; from the very first high in the tree call the male makes i the spring to the flying out of the babies twenty-one days after the momma bird began to set on her eggs. Every step in the process is a joy to observe.

Newest bluebird house inmeadow USE

One of the two new blue bird houses resides in the east side meadow. 

We follow the Michigan Audubon Societies requirements to setting them up; how far from the woods, how tall and exactly how they are attached to the sturdy metal pipe to protect them from raccoons getting the eggs and this data has proven to be a great success. Additional detail can be located on their website here: www.michiganaudubon.org/

Digging hole for bluebird house

Gene using a pole hole digger to make the hole for the newest post.

This week we added two more boxes to our five-acre property making a total of five boxes on our homestead.

I realize of course that a bluebird pair here will not let another pair of blue bird nest on the same property but these other boxes will be available for chickadees, swallows and other songbirds to nest here.

Digger clise up

 A close-up of the digger.

And more birds means fewer insects and bugs and more bird life to share with our grand daughter.

Let’s hear it for the blue birds!

Small House Homesteader, Donna

 

Dispersing of the Straw Bale Wind Block

This week I have been busy distributing the chickens straw bale wind block.

Chickens shack, hoops and garen USE

The straw bale wind block that collapsed after the winter snow.

Each fall we set up stacks of square-baled straw around our chicken coop and run with the goal of blocking some of the big winds we get here on the homestead. We live not far from Lake Michigan and we definitely get the results of a lot of lake related winds that we feel on our homestead.

Come spring I use these bales as mulch and distribute the wet straw around many plants and trees in the garden and the landscaped beds including our five-year-old baby pine trees.

Pine and staw in foreground-cart in rear

Baby White Pines replaced those that were cut down.

As organic material straw will eventually rot and turn into soil, amending the existing soil as they rot. The clumps of straw also hold in moisture from the spring rains which will benefit whatever growing things they are spread around.

Straw in the cart

Our garden cart full of straw on its way to be distributed.

This year we were also lucky to be able to be the recipients of three (or possibly four) truckloads of organic materials cut back from our community’s roadside program. These are wood chips, pine needles and other brown and green organic materials.

2016 pine pile USE

The big pile of organic mulch that needs hauling and spreading. 

The stars all alligned this spring. I simple stopped and talked to the guys who were cutting and offered our property as the free place to dump them and requested that they be dumped in our meadow. Because they usually have to pay to dump these materials and often we have to pay to buy them; so this was a win for us both.

It is certainly a blessing to have these organic materials to work with in our garden, yard and landscaping. Both the straw and the green cuttings will save us money, time and vehicle wear and tear. And having the mulch on site will benefit all the growing things from plants to shrubbery that we have work so hard to plant and maintain.

Nothing is wasted here on the homestead!

Small House Homesteader, Donna

 

How Homesteaders Vacation

We took a rare 10 days trip off the homestead this spring. It’s been three years since we took a trip like this together but we in March we drove to North Carolina to see our granddaughter’s who live there. We took advantage of their Spring Break week to spend some quality time with them.

On giant rock arms reised in air

Our NC granddaughters, Kearnan and Chase.

I believe that most homesteaders either don’t take a vacation of they take what is known as a “stay-cation” -staying on their land but perhaps taking some time off and inviting friends and family over to visit.

Marshall house Air B & b

The home of the airbnb we stayed in while in Marshall, NC.

Then we took a short 2 ½ day “vacation” to Ashville, NC for a few days get-away to sightsee and relax in the beautiful mountains there.  We enjoyed our first experience staying in an Airbnb and toured the Biltmore Mansion and gardens which made me think of the lavish life-style of Downtown Abbey.

Biltmore mostly sky USE THIS ONE

The stunning Bitmore Mansion, Ashville, NC.

One of the questions I get asked is how to ever leave the homestead when you’re the responsible one for animals and everything else?  I do get it…it is really hard to leave!

Marshall Bluegrass concert USE

Marshall, NC is on the Bluegrass Music Trail which meant free bluegrass music every evening.

Luckily our yoga teacher who happens to have three dogs shared the name of her dog setters with us.  I have found that we can get an animal setter if we are willing to pay the high fees and to plan a year in advance.

Erin and Chase doing Easter eggs

Easter egg dyeing fun.

It never easy to leave, but we have learned to plan for March or very early April before our main spring work had begun or the garden needs to be planted. Mid-September is a bit of a lull time for us as well, after the main garden harvest and freezing time of year but before the big leaf pick up of November.

Some homesteaders have responsible teenagers who wan maintain the homestead and animals for a week or two. Or, you might already have a trained intern to draw upon or a nearby farmer or neighbors with whom to trade-off chores when you have to be away. or you can try the Pet Setters Association who list bonded and insured setters at http://www.petsit.com

In our case we hire someone because none of the other options are available for us. We spend this money because it is very important to have a relationship with our grand daughters. This time we saved for almost three years to have the cash available for this trip.

We plan head for a training session of about two hours a week or so before we plan to leave town. We write out a very details “To Do” list, listing everything that needs to be done and detail instructions on how it is normally accomplished.

We also leave the name and phone numbers of a close neighbor who is willing to step in if necessary. We leave business cards of emergency workers including ones for the plumber, electrician and the furnace man in case of a mechanical failure as well as our vets name and number in case of an animal emergency.

We also clean the house, ready our setters bed and bedroom and stock the refrigerator. We double and triple check that we have plenty of animal feed on hand for the time we pan to be away.

It’s a lot of prep work on our account as well as advance planning, but its the only way we can feel comfortable that our animals will be well fed and safe in our absence. After all we feel it is our responsibility to make sure our animals are well taken care of when we are gone. Then off we go!

Small House Homesteader, Donna

Auto Immune Protocal Breakfast is Nutrient Dense

I have been on my new path to wellness for 5 1/2 months now. A part of this path is following the Auto Immune Protocol.

Pork bacon and greens in pan USE

This weekend Gene and I drove into South Haven to the Winter Market yesterday. This is a small market during the cold winter months but a few vendors grow greens in greenhouses all winter long.

I bought fresh grown rainbow kale, two bags of spinach, two bunches of carrots and kale. My plan I to eat all of that between now and Thursday.

VERT rainbow chard

Another part of my plan is to cook and eat greens at all three meals each day. This is what the protocol recommends. This is nutrient dense real foods at their best!

This morning I sautéed onions, carrots, the Swiss chard and added coconut oil and two thick slabs of the local bacon we bought a few weeks back.  It’s a new mind-set for me to eat vegetables and meat for breakfast but this is what the protocol recommends. Ample healthy fats and protein keeps us full and feeling satisfied longer. Healthy fat is also necessary for our brains to work at their optimal levels.

Thick bacon close

It was delicious and I feel fully satisfied after eating this. And a lovely side effect is that I’ve lost a whole pants size too. Yahoo!

This functional medicine process is SO impressive. They have a way to get questions answered and to take care of serious health issues. After a lifetime of screwing  around with conventional medicine and not getting any answers, this is like a welcome breath of fresh air.

 

Small House homesteader, Donna