A Sunday Morning Frost

Our tiny corner of SW Michigan began foggy and cool this morning with a pretty silvery-white coating of frost on all of the remaining plants. Now the day is brightening up and the sun is out and the sky is blue. It’s a beautiful early winter day on the homestead.Gen and sassy winter sky

Yesterday’s walk under a glorious SW Michigan winter sky!

Gene has gone outside to finish wrapping the netting around our first-year fruit trees to keep the deer and rabbits from nibbling on them when food becomes scarce. Although we have finished with our leaf pickup work this season, more leaves have blown back in from the surrounding woods. Gene will be using our faithful sucker/blower equipment to suck more leaves out of the pea gravel landscaped beds around our ranch-style home.

Gene wrapping wire USE

Netting is going up around our new fruit trees today to keep the critters out.

We are having a very mild winter thus far having had only one snowfall. This is fairly unusual for a Michigan winter but is giving us extra time to complete our outdoor chores, plant more spring bulbs and so on.

 

Todd Farm grat sky and road

Country roads take me home…

Yesterday’s weather was a stunner; beautiful, sunny and warm for just a 40 degree early winter day. I sat outside with my face to the sun with the chickens for almost two hours. The girls were happy to be out and about free ranging. They are giving me 7 eggs a day out of 8 chickens now. YEA!!

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Free ranging Elsa in our woodlot. Isn’t she a beauty!

Even Snowball, my Cochin-Bantam that I adopted as a chick and who came to me with a wry neck and serious nutritional deficiencies from eating nothing but cracked corn has just started laying again after her fall molt. She still turns around in circles during times of stress, but she is doing well in spite of that not so good start in life. She is a sweet, happy chickens that stands up to the bigger RIR every time they get in what she considers her territory. It’s kind of funny because the Rhodies are twice as big as Snowball and yet they just fade away. It’s like they are saying, “Oh it’s a gnat, move away.”

Snowball puzzled look

Snowball is a feisty little Cochin Bantam ball of energy.

I am moving in slow mode this week as I am battling another bacterial skin infection.This is running right behind a 5-week episode of bronchitis and 9 month of on-going plantar fasciitis pain. I am afraid that my body is just run down.

I am feeling frustrated too because I believe I am doing everything right;  I focus on eating whole organic foods and make almost all of our meals from scratch. I get plenty of sleep and rest, do my yoga stretches and practice good household and personal hygiene. With a mostly indoor dog living with us, we clean weekly and I vacuum nearly every day. While I would not try it, I have been told that you could almost eat off of the floors of my home.

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The Rhodies like to free-range in the compost bin.

Gene and I had planned to go out to dinner yesterday to celebrate our 19th anniversary but I just did not feel up to it. I could not see spending the money and then not enjoying the meal.

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Last years anniversary celebration dinner out.

I have also started over again with a new physician, a female DO this time ,in the hopes that THIS ONE might be a good fit for me. I need a physician that is more holistic than Western medicine, listens, believes me and understands that I do not want antibiotics every three months and is willing to work with me.

Road moslty right hand side

One of the beautiful back roads of Allegan County, MI.

My skin issue is a hereditary condition; many others in my family also have it. We get frequent boils and cysts and that turn into nasty, hot and painful infections. This week I was told to stop eating wheat, sugar and dairy so this has thrown me for a loop as I will not eat packaged, processed foods with chemicals in them or soy and substitute foods often have these ingredients in them.

I spent a large portion the day on-line researching yogurt, breads and so on that I will be able to eat. We live in a very rural area and do not have a lot of healthy food choices here so it takes planning ahead and a lot of kitchen time.

VERT road and trees

I find peace in the beauty of my rural home.

I am trying to focus on my many blessing today….not the negatives. I go back to see the doctor tomorrow and will stop at one of my favorite large health food stores on my way home.

Things I am grateful for this week:

  • I am grateful that this health food store is well stocked and available to me.
  • I am grateful I have a vehicle that will get me to this appointment and back.
  • I am grateful that I have the choice to start over with a new physician.
  • I am grateful to have insurance and Medicare that will help with these new bills.

Remembering today to find joy in the simple things of my home centered life.

Small House homesteader, Donna

A SW Michigan Indian Summer Day

Today we are having what we always call an Indian Summer. I am not sure if this is politically correct to call this by this name now but this what we always called these late fall days in my childhood.

HORZ playhouse under blue sky and evergreesn USE THIS ONE

Indian summer is a period of unseasonable warm, dry weather that sometimes occur in autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. Today is sunny and clear and with above normal temperatures. This usually happens late in the season after we have had a killing frost.

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For us this means a glorious 70 degree in November; sunny and warm! I could have gone to town today with Gene and gone to yoga and run errands but I simply needed to be outside on a day like today. No meetings, no obligations just time to soak up that sunshine and get well! Like taking a kind of mental health day!

Poolshack bue sku USE THIS ONE

I hung a load of clothes outside on the line and then I worked outside half of the day, planting, cutting back the Autumn Sedum Joy, supervising the Rhodies at their free range activities. I even I tried raking leaves but this bronchitis has made me weak as a kitten and it was time to quit. I give up.

Playhouse in setting best USE

So instead I took photographs of the homestead on this beautiful day. Who would think we would be having a 70 degrees plus day on November 2? November is when the cold and snow arrives in my neck of the woods. A day this warm makes me tempted to go to the beach.

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I love how this land looks like a very different place this time of year. The meadow is cut down, the leaves are off the oaks baring their beautiful trunks and the evergreens take their turn at standing out in the landscape.

Meadow boarder woodpile USE

The animals love this weather too; Sassy is out on a blanket chewing on a bone. The chickens are free ranging and happy as can be.

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I’m going to enjoy it while I can because it’s probably just the calm before the storm. So look out Michigan…. the Farmers Almanac says its going to be a colder and snowier winter than usual for us!

Sassy eating bone USE

Small House homesteader, Donna

 

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.

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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

 

 

Living and Sleeping Under the Sheltering Oaks

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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.

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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.

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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

Once a Mom Always a Mom!

I woke up early today at 5 a.m. My adult son Chris was coming for a short visit on his way back to the Chicago airport and I wanted to get breakfast started for him.

I started the turkey sausage simmering while I prepared the whole wheat pancake batter. While I know that many folks today are now eating gluten free, we made the decision to continue to eat wheat. We were trained by the CHIPS program (Coronary Heath Improvement Program out of Loma Linda Heath Center in Loma Linda, California). And until there becomes a specific reason for us to eliminate wheat from our diet, we will continue as I believe we need the fiber and the nutrition in our diet. I just make sure we are eating the highest quality wheat we can buy and that is the Bob’s Red Mill brand. This wheat is organic and certified GMO free.

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After trying many pancake recipes over the years, I think these are the best whole wheat pancakes I have ever eaten. This recipe uses Apple Cider Vinegar (with the mother) and I believe that makes all the difference in the overall taste. I use almond milk because Gene is lactose intolerant. I think this recipe is simply delicious, hearty and healthy enough to stick to the ribs, one of our highest requirements for fuel for the day’s work.

Peppers use

Sweet bell peppers what a riot of color!

Our afternoon was spent bringing tender house plants into the house, chopping up and freezing a large bowl of colorful sweet peppers I purchased from our local farm market @3 for $1.00. In the winter months peppers here sell for $2.99  each for green and $3.99 for colored peppers. Every year I freeze many of them and by mid-winter I always run out. I love having them chopped and ready to grab from the freezer to add to soups, omelettes, casseroles and stews.

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I finished up the preparations for the potato and ham soup and popped that into the crock pot for our lunch. We ate the soup with my favorite herbal flatbread. This tasty flatbread recipe can be found here: https://smallhousebigskyhomestead.wordpress.com/2015/09/24/cooking-by-the…at-of-my-pants/

Soup flatbrad peaches wine glass

The hard floors got a good sweeping this morning as well.

This time I year I often work in the house in the cool of the morning and then work outside int e garden and the yard during the sunny and warmer part of the day.

Whole Wheat Pancakes (that actually taste good) Yield: Serves 2-3 Ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp. vinegar* (white wine or apple cider)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
  • Butter for greasing the griddle
  • Directions:
  1. Combine the milk and vinegar and let the mixture curdle while you mix together the other ingredients.
  2. In a big bowl, whisk to combine the whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, melted butter, and the curdled milk, until it looks fairly homogenous and smooth. Whisk this wet mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir the two together until just barely mixed. You want any visible loose flour to be stirred in, but there should still be plenty of lumps. If you stir out the lumps, the pancakes will likely be tough.
  4. Preheat a nonstick griddle to 375 degrees F and grease the surface with butter. Add small scoops of pancake batter and use the cookie scooper to gently smooth the scoop into a flatter circle. Cook for a few minutes, until you start to see little bubbles forming on the surface. Flip the pancakes with a turner and cook for a few minutes on the other side, until you peek underneath and see that the bottom is golden brown. Serve with butter and real maple syrup. Enjoy!

Notes*You can substitute lemon juice for the vinegar, or you can sub buttermilk for the milk + vinegar if that’s what you have. Recipe adapted from Who Wants

Small House homesteader, Donna

Hello Fall!

I admit I am thrilled that it is just 7 days until fall officially begins. I have loved the summer growing season but I am ready for the sweet relief of cooler weather and the beauty of the changing autumn foliage.

Mums white flowers BEST USE

An Autumn vignette at our porch.

Daylight rose with an inch of rain – always a bonus to a gardener. I started my morning with physical therapy for my heel. Last week was a huge struggle for me physically but this today I was more successful at my PT appointment today, thank goodness. While in town I took my Subaru to the car wash for a $1.50 scrub.

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Mums and flag are an easy way to decorate for the season.

On my way home I stopped at Stephenson’s one of my favorite seasonal markets and treated myself to some pumpkins, mums and four, 3-year old blueberry bushes. I’ve been wanting to buy a few blueberries bushes for several years but just never got around to it. Today was the day. I planted two shrubs, one the center of each of the new fruit tree triangle bed.

Blueberry wet circle USE

The new blueberry bush is in the center of the dark water ring.

I’ve been thinking about doing a bit of decorating for the season. I changed out the flag, moved over a vintage wheelbarrow and filled it with mums. It was fun to play around with them and a lovely boost to my moral to have a pretty spot in the garden again.

Blueberry close USE

This is a three-year-old blueberry bush now planted in our garden bed.

My husband cooked us lunch today and it was hot and ready when I returned home from town. It was delicious!

Tomatoe cup in overl abowl

Baked Tomato Cups

Ingredients

  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon butter or oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 Jones Dairy Farm All Natural Golden Brown Breakfast Sausage links or patties, sliced
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Slice tops and stems off tomatoes. Use knife to cut around inside of tomatoes and loosen ribs and seeds. Scoop out with spoon and discard.

Heat butter or oil in skillet over medium-low heat until melted. In medium bowl, whisk together eggs and cream until well combined. Season to taste.

Pour egg mixture into skillet and let sit 30 seconds without stirring. Then use spatula or wooden spoon to stir, lifting and folding from bottom. Continue until eggs are cooked through. Add sliced sausage to pan and stir. Add half of shredded cheese, stir to combine.

Fill each tomato with mixture and top each with remaining shredded cheese. Bake 10-20 minutes, until tomatoes are tender and cheese is melted and bubbly. Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve.

Recipe credit by Carolyn, All Day I Dream About Food

Small House homesteader, Donna

 

 

September Project List Begun-Countdown to Winter

My head cold is a little better today. I definitely feel that the fresh Elderberry tincture made by Burdock and Rose that I bought last weekend has truly made all the difference in the quick healing time for me. If you want to know more details about the fresh herbal wares and the books of herbalist Lisa Rose, please visit her blog and site burdockandrose.com.

Ladder oaganol going on USE

Fall is a very busy “shut down” time on our homestead. All of the garden perennial get cut back and composted, the vegetable garden gets cleaned out and put to bed for the 2015 season. I also store our various outdoor decorations, vignettes and furniture. Our hoses are drained and stored in the pool shack, our water containment totes are emptied and dismantled and the pump house is winterized and so on; you get the picture. And this does not take the chickens many needs into consideration!!

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So I have to be very organized and through the years I have developed a month to month system I keep in the computer, print it off and then tick off chores as they get accomplished. I began working on my September project list today.

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I started my morning by turning on the sprinklers. It’s been very dry for the past two months on the homestead, so I am focusing on deep watering the shrubs, evergreen and fruit trees that all need to be moist when the winter snow begins to fall. Then I began cutting back the Brown Eyed Susan’s and throwing those seed plants in our roadside ditch. This way the seeds are available for the birds to eat and have a chance to germinate more flowers for next summer’s color and privacy. I’m not thrilled to have a wide ditch in front of our homestead but after serious groundwater flooding, it is a necessary evil.

Gene FS and beans USE

I also washed our bed quilt, blanket and pillows today and hung them out on the clothesline. Usually I try to air out or wash our pillows during the intense heat of the summer but that chore just got away from this season. But it is supposed to be in the 80’s this week so the sunshine and air should bake away the dust mites and air them out at the same time. The water-bed sheets received a 3 hour, hot water “sanitation” wash today as well. Sleeping with our Labrador Retriever is a sweet thing to do but I am just anal enough to need to sanitize our entire bedding from time to time.

Sheets and pillow all USE

I also picked the garden grape tomatoes and green beans and used some of those beans for our dinner today and we froze the rest of them.

Beans in strainer USE

Gene’s chores included hanging up the extension ladder on the side of the pole barn, hooked up the shop light in both chicken coops,  our freshly picked green beans, grilled the chicken for our main meal today and took Sassy for a good long swim.

This afternoon Gene and I started to inventory and boxing up all the decorative accents I had previously used as vintage decorations on our three season porch. Out goes the chicken egg baskets, the scales, the grain scoop, the crocks and much more as I have decided that not only do I want a cleaner and more tailored look on our porch I’m just plain tired of dusting, cleaning and maintenance.

Gene inventory stuff USE

We plan to have an auction sale next summer so these items will go in that sale. We agreed to use this auction money for a special trip for our 25th anniversary that occurs in 6 years. No decisions have been made at where we are going but I am hoping for something very special, like perhaps a cruise. Being divorced and starting over from the bottom up at age 50 and 55, we have never had the opportunity for a really nice (non-camping) vacation.

VERT pile on floor use

It was a small chores/bits and pieces kind of day today but I absolutely love ticking things off of my To Do list and today I did that a lot.

Small House Homesteader, Donna

 

Three Season Porch Floor Repairs at Long Last

My beautiful picture

A colorful fall vignette outside our three seasons porch.

Good things come to those that wait!

Some of my followers know just how much we love our three season porch. When the weather cools and the humidity wanes, sitting on our porch in the cool of the autumn with a book and our binoculars is the highlight of our day. We eat nearly every meal there when the weather is pleasant.

Others longtime followers know about our high ground water flooding and possibly even our three season’s porch roof failure and the toll both took on the condition of our favorite porch’s river rock flooring.

I am a Scorpio, the water sign and yet it seems I have bad karma when it comes to water. The Element associated with Scorpio is Water. As opposed to the ‘roiling seas’ seen in other Water Signs, a better motto for a Scorpio would be ‘still waters run deep.’

To make the long story short our porch needed its river rock flooring repaired and resealed as the shine and the stones protective shield was long gone. The company who poured it is out of business but luckily, I found a flooring firm, Central Tile and Terrazzo that could handle the cleaning, repair work and re-sealing.

Steve closer USE

Patient and understanding Steve did a great job on our floor this week!

We had been trying to get this work done since early May but unseasonable cold weather, late season rains and then a workers strike postponed our plans more than once. I had just given up on it for this year and this weeks 80 plus degree temperatures meant there is one last chance for our floor after all.

Side of porch close USE

The side view of our porch, the one seen by family and friends.

I received a phone message yesterday that the workers could fit us in the day after tomorrow! YIKES! We had thought we would have a weeks’ notice to get some help to empty the porch out. No so. This meant I had to find help over night! I made some calls and the man I wanted was going out-of-town but he recommended his son-in-law. We set a start time for 9 a.m. the following morning since the day was promised to be in the 90’s. Problem solved.

Or so I thought.

I got up at 3 a.m. to start to make a plan as to how we would manage such a big project on short notice. The questions included; how to get everything moved quickly, where everything could be stored and how I could efficiently handle the management of this project while cooking, cleaning, going to PT while resting my feet.

My beautiful picture

Pumpkin, mums and vintage accessories make up the patina of this autumn scene of our porch.

First we needed to lay down plywood to protect our landscaping. The porch needed to be emptied and the furniture stored safely, our cars parked over at the studio space so the workers could have a place to park and work , the horizontal curtain panels had to be sealed up in a large trash can and taped shut and I had to figure out a way to get the two large and heavy boxes of stones stored in the polebarn to the porch and so on. By 6 a.m. we were up and moving furniture and accessories. We thought our help was coming at 9 a.m. to beat the heat. We were paying cash, but the son-in-law was a “no show.” So disappoint, especially because I was working on a painful heel when I “should” have been resting it.

Riverrock stones full frame USE

A close up of our real rock flooring material.

Our being “stood up” has happened before and is so frustrating for us. It’s almost impossible to find responsible help in our rural community and I’m not sure why. There is little or no work here and there are so many people out of work that the pool of workers to draw from is large. But the problem seems to be that few actually want to work and that they lack the skills to get to a job on time, or the skills to know how to do the work to a satisfactory level or just do not bother to show up and certainly don’t call us.

Whole porch floor USE

A view of the entire porch floor while empty and sealed.

So Gene and I carried everything out together. And I am supposed to be resting my foot. Hah, what a joke that is. My friends say, “go read a good book, or get off your feet let the work go it will still be there tomorrow” and so on. They don’t understand projects must go on, maintenance must get done and the lawn, flowers, vegetable garden continues to grow and winter is coming. And Gene is 70 and getting fragile too and this place simply takes the both of us working very hard, every day, to keep it up.

For me, this is the most difficult thing about homesteading…knowing that chores and seasonal project need to get done in a timely manner. And yet living with an aging body that can no longer do the work I once could.  Some homesteaders and farmer have children eager to take over for them but when you don’t… the how to keep the homestead or farm dilemma begins…

The floor is now sealed and is drying. In this high humidity it may take some time to fully dry. The last time we had this floor sealed it took over 18 days to dry and it was still sticky… I am hoping to not repeat that scenario.

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An inside view of our eating place with our vintage accents and various collections.

It’s a good thing we did not have plans for guests to visit over the Labor Day weekend!

Small House Homesteader, Donna