Hard Frost Arrived on the Homestead

Last night the temperatures dropped down to 27 degrees in SW Michigan. Brrrrrr. I went out this morning to put the freshly washed clothes on the line to dry and my fingers about froze. Jack Frost made a visit here last night!

Smll House Under blue sky

No, it did not snow here last night but this is what the homestead looks like in the wintertime.

It’s a good thing we have been hustling in the garden for the past few weeks. The last of the vegetable and seeds have been harvested as a well as the final tomatoes, and herbs. The birdbaths have been emptied and the heater is in the birdbath that remains out all winter for the songbirds.

The house plants summering on the porch are inside now and positioned in their winter spot in front of the south facing windows for winter sunlight. The hoses are emptied, drained and stored in the pool shack for the winter months.

The light bulb was turned on in the chicken coop last night to keep those chickie babies warm.

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Off comes the full length screen at the front door.

Off came the front door screen and on went the storms.

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On goes the glass storm doors.

There is a whole lot of chopping, blanching and preserving work in planned the kitchen today!

Island filled with produce USE

My kitchen island on the day of our last harvest for the 2014 season.

Happy Small House Homesteader, Donna

 

 

 

70 Degrees Outside/I’m Busy Collecting Acorns for the Chickens

We are having a bit of a warm up on our homestead weather this week; sunshine and 70 plus temperature days. So I’ve been out collecting acorns for the chickens as we are enjoying a banner year in acorns here in SW Michigan.
east Oak house planter shows air con
Our Small House home is nestled among the majestic White Oak trees, front view
You may recall we have 47 White Oak trees on our 5-acre property and many, many more trees in the 5-acre woods behind us.  They start falling here in early September and continue on throughout October. They fall with a loud ping onto the roof of our metal pole barn and three-seasons roof and even Sassy jumps when a falling acorn has a direct hit with a loud clang.
From back show porch-garden tree canopy NICE
The rear view of our home sitting among the Oaks. From these oaks we took our property and business names; White Oak Studio & Gallery, White Oak Blacksmith Forge and White Oak Acres. 

 

Because they are so prolific this season, I’ve been researching using acorns as chicken feed supplement and have discovered some amazing facts:

  • Acorn nutmeats are very high in fat
  • Acorns have 1700 calories per pound
  • Chickens love them

So, I’ve been collecting our White Oak acorns by the masses and putting them aside to crush and feed to the chickens this winter. I don’t intend to make crushed acorns their entire meal but rather will supplement their corn and grains with them as a treat and winter calorie boost.

Acorns in bowl

A sampling of our nutritious native acorns

 

I started by researching and as a result of what I  have read, I set them out on pans to dry for a couple of weeks. I picked carefully through them to make sure there were no worms involved and will store them in plastic buckets with a secure lid. I want ot be very careful that  the mice and other critters do not find their way into my stash. I had saved a few Epsom Salt buckets not knowing at that time how I would be using them. But now I know!

Turn around bed by sky

An early spring view before the White Oak trees have leafed out. Our White Oaks play a huge role in our life here

 

Acorns are apparently high in calories and that is just what my chicken’s need in Michigan’s cold winter months.

The kind of acorns I am collecting this year are falling hard onto our pole barn metal roof which is apparently knocking the little caps off of them. So when I pluck them out of the grass I am picking just the acorn with its shell. This makes my preparation job a bit simpler.

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The carved wooden sign I had made for the side of Gene’s White Oak Blacksmith Forge

 

When it comes time to feed them to the girls, I’ll use an old hammer and crush them down to the nutmeats, and toss them into the coop or onto the ground. Over the course of the year I also hope to supplement their commercial feed with sunflowers, gleaned corn, kitchen scraps, dried and crushed egg shells, our crabapples and homegrown green fodder. Next season, I’ll be growing Amaranth, comfrey and wormwood too.

My goal is to give my girls excellent nutrition, with healthy treats and rely less on purchased Industrial foods whenever I can.

And isn’t the goal of  sustainability to grow or collect as much of your food as you can! Happy eating!

Donna, Small House Homestead

The Heart of this Homestead

At the heart of this homestead is our vegetable garden.

Two beds cloase pool house in rear USE

I built shallow raised beds using logs from the woods and our woodpile. I filled our beds with well composted horse manure and then topped off with bark chips as mulch and weed prevention.

The vegetable garden is where I spend the bulk of my summer months. I am either building a new raised bed, weeding, hauling and dumping composted horse manure, stirring our own homemade compost, planting, harvesting or eating the organic vegetables I grow.

Bins from back open ended

Gene first built our six sectioned compost bin system using free wood pallets and green metal “T” posts.

I am working toward growing and producing as much of our own food as possible. When we first started, I asked myself many of these same questions. Today I would like to share some of the reasons that we’ve chosen to make the commitment to grown our own food, even though, at age 64, it is not always easy at times.

Wire bins entire

Later we needed additional composting space so we added this large wire fenced-in compost bin for larger chunks of organic material. this is where we toss ornamental grasses, thick stemmed plants etc.

Awareness of food quality, pesticides and additives is growing among the general public. When you grow your own food, you have complete control of what the animals are fed, what goes into the soil, and what is sprayed on your crops.

Tomatoes in bowl USE

Today’s harvest of organic tomatoes.

When you grow your own vegetables there is no more guessing or wondering what side effects pesticides or food additives will have on you and your family.

Diaganal tomatoes

This year I am testing growing tomatoes in grow bags in just horse manure compost soil.

I believe it’s more affordable to grow my own than to purchase all my organic produce. Its quite good exercise. I also like to show my granddaughter where her food comes from.

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the early days of our bare root strawberries in our raised cedar bed mulched with bark chips.

There is also a great deal of satisfaction in growing one’s own healthy food. And the taste of fresh picked vegetables…oh la la – nothing else compares!

Beans and cukes USE

Today’s harvest of snap bean and cukes.

Living and gardening in SW Michigan can be ‘iffy’ proposition. With our lean Oak Savannah sandy soil heavy amending of our soil is a given. We use almost anything organic we can get our hands on; grass clippings, kitchen scraps, weeds, leaves, manure, bark chips, straw and more. With compost and mulch our garden is a source of much of our summer food. I make raw salads and use these vegetables that I turn into casseroles, sauces, stews, soups, Quiche and much more.

My garden staples include; spinach, chard, kale, snow peas, snap beans, tomatoes and squashes. What I cannot grow I purchase from the farmers market or local farmers.

I like being reliant on my garden for my food. I like walking out to the garden each day and deciding what to have for dinner based on what is fresh and ready to be picked.

Yes, it’s a lot of hard physical labor work but I believe that the garden is worth it. I also believe in voting with my pocketbook and I believe in supporting our local farms. Supporting organic farming is support for small business and job creation in my own community.

Donna at the Small House Homestead

 

Putting Food By

This time of year is very busy on our homestead. Like folks on homesteads everywhere we are getting ready for winter.

In our case this means, freezing and dehydrating food grown or bought. Because we do not have a basement we simply don’t have a lot of room for canned goods. I can put a few jars in our kitchen pantry cupboard but cannot make canning the focus of my food saving system. Although we have an ample sized 2,000 sq. ft. home, our heated storage area is a bit tight.

Canned good on windowsill

A few of the fruits of my labor this summer; kale, green peppers and peaches.

Initially I dabbled with air dehydrating of herbs and oven dehydrating of apple slices both of which work but take  more drying time and space.

Then late this summer (after many years of saving for and dreaming about a highly efficient dehydrator) I purchased a 9 rack Excalibur dehydrator and am in the process of learning about it. My first project was to dry sliced green peppers and much to my surprise I found that I could get 15 large green peppers in one quart jar after they were dehydrated. Now that’s a great space saver! Peaches were next up and then some giant curly kale leaves. Soon I will try dehydrating sliced apples and pears.

With the exception of strawberries, black raspberries, and a scraggly old apple tree, we don’t grow our own fruit yet so I am dependent on either buying or gleaning them, the method that I prefer. Luckily we are blessed to live in what is called the fruit belt and wonderful fresh fruit is prevalent here. I am so grateful to live in this lake moderated area with many orchards to choose from. We can easily find and purchase apples, peaches, apricots pears, plums and more.

I am currently researching heritage trees for our own orchard and hope to get this orchard going as soon as possible. We want to have our own apples, peaches, pears, paw paws and fig trees.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Drying basil on cookie sheets takes approximately two weeks and no fossil fuels.

One of my favorite books on fruit trees is The Beautiful Edible Garden, by Leslie Bennett and Stefani Bittner with Studio Choo. ISBN: 978-1-60774-233-3.

I plan on visiting a great heritage fruit tree nursery is Southmeadow Fruit Gardens, Baroda, MI. e-mail: smfruit@a

Southmeadow Fruit Gardens Choice and Unusual Fruit Tree Varieties for the Connoisseur and Home Gardener.
Southmeadow Fruit Gardens was established to make available choice and superior varieties of fruit trees and plants for the connoisseur and home gardener. After searching for sourcewood and testing for authenticity, these varieties are propagated at our nursery in Southwestern Michigan. They are available to the public through this online catalog.
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Thanks you for reading and/or following.

Small House Homestead Donna