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.

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It’s natures recycling program at its best!

Small House homesteader, 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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The pool complex, storage shack and garden.

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

Small House homesteader, Donna

A Cup Half Full and a Belief in Miracles

Gene and I had “The Talk” yesterday. Fall is a time of intensive labor on our homestead; what we call “The Fall Rush.” So much has to be done in a short amount of time, the stress builds and tempers flare. We are working hard to beat the first flakes of snow and the big freeze that is soon to arrive on our SW Michigan property.

Vegetable Garden July 25.15

Our vegetable garden at its peak this past July.

While we do struggle with the massive amounts of work to keep up our homestead and gardens here, I shared with Gene how blessed and fortunate I believe we are.

We are in fact truly privileged. We have health insurance coverage, we have a warm, comfortable and safe home, we own two, paid off vehicles and while none of these belongings are new or fancy, I have made the choice to look at our life like a glass half full and feel the bounty not the scarcity.

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The meadow edge is the perfect habitat for butterfly’s, dragonflies and birds.

I remember vividly when 18 years ago we met at ages 45 and 50, both divorced and he was in massive debt. We had nothing between us except my small, 75-year-old Fairview city home. With only our mid-life energy, a dream and a drive to rebuild our lives together we set a goal to retire here and to build a more sustainable life together.

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One of our four rescued Cochin Bantams.

With the tools of a strict budget, books, the Internet and nothing but the hard work from our own four hands we now own a productive 5-acres, a nicely fixed up older home, food gardens, chickens and a debt-free retirement. Neither of us had high paying jobs, divorce support or an inheritance – just a solid plan, a belief in the abundance of the Universe and our trust that miracles can happen and one did.

Apples egg chives todays harvest

Today’s homestead gatherings’ apples, chives and a Rhode Island Red egg!

I am grateful for every sunrise, every tomato and apple and every day of good health. We are not just counting our years…we are making our years count.

4 275 gallon totes

Our water collection and storage system irrigates our property.

Here a piece written by Permaculture expert, Ben Faulk…it says what I would like to articulate today but cannot.

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The chicken coop, run (in progress) and water trough from the vegetable garden.

“Perhaps it’s good when something you expect doesn’t happen because it enables you to appreciate all the other things you might have missed. And as long as we’re sufficiently fed, what’s life about anyway? Certainly, for me anyway, NOT simply more physical yields. This makes me think of Fukuoka’s dictum that “the ultimate goal of farming is not the cultivation of crops but the perfection of human beings.” I don’t like the word “perfect” but with each passing year I find myself agreeing with him more about a lot of things. In permaculture we say “Obtain a Yield.” Hmmm. Sounds a bit colonial for permaculture. And “A” yield? Singular? Color, shade, aroma, beauty, companionship, pollen, soil, nesting habitat, oxygen. All these things and many more have already been yields of these trees and they’re just getting started. At some point a tree’s yield in fruit or nut or wood becomes a bonus, not it’s core value. We need to eat, to be sure. But yields are subtle and myriad. “Get a Yield?” Sure. But perhaps we should say instead “Don’t forget to notice all the yields.”

Our Small House homestead yields are more than just tasty organic food and eggs, our yields also include a safe, warm home, a healthy organic environment of plentiful oxygen provided by majestic White Oak trees, their leaves and the blessings of flowers, sunshine, clean air and human happiness.

Small House homesteader, Donna