Making Hay While the Sun Shines

You know the old saying…”Got to make hay while the sun is shining.” Today that what we did. No, we did not actually make hay, it’s November. But we are in a three or four-day warm up period and we are hustling to get the last of the seasonal work done while the sun is shining. Knowing Michigan like I do, I am figuring that this is the last warm up of the 2015 season.

Scarecrow under oak no leaves USE FIRST

The White Oak trees have lost their leaves and quite early this year.

I stripped the bed and washed the sheets and mattress pad and put the pillows out in the sunshine to air out. Having been sick with bronchitis I feel an extra strong to air out those pillows. The same with the dog’s bed. I can’t prove that sunshine helps to sterilize our bedding but it sure makes me feel better knowing they were out there baking in the warm sunshine for the day.

Rhodies and foge good USE

Two Rhodies free ranges in the leaves behind the blacksmith forge.

I have also been planning on emptying, sterilizing and thoroughly washing out the chickens feeders before the long winter ahead. So today I finally got to that chore too. I did one hanging metal feeder today and I will do another one tomorrow. Hopefully Thursday will be warm and sunny as well and I can washout the third one and that chore will be accomplished.

Chrystal on Rhodies roost bar

Crystal rests on the roost in our warm Indian Summer we are experiencing.

Gene is spending his day draining and putting the hoses away and tackling our big leaf pick up chores. Last week he raked enough leaves to fill up the our three chicken runs with dry oak leaves as well as five large Menard’s leaf bag with leaves to use as coop bedding this winter.

Wire bin from woods studio in distance USE

The compost bin for heavier and thicker materials like ornamental grasses.

Today he is sucking more oak leaves out of the stone landscape bed around our Ranch-style home. The next two days will be saved for blowing and leaf pickup with the lawn tractor. The oaks have pretty much dropped all of their leaves and we are under the gun to get the picked up and distributed on the wood path, along the landscaping beds, in the meadow and so on. He says we did not have nearly as many leaves as we have most summers. By the end of this week  that it is supposed to turn cold and to rain heavily. We are praying we can get these final chores done by then. Wish us luck!!

Amerigas truck delivery 11-15

Even the Amerigas LP company is working to beat the clock of s-n-o-w!

This is the first year the oak branches have been empty of leaves by November 2 – that is VERY early for us here in SW Michigan.

trees forground building in rear

The owl box is up and ready for the schreechers.

Small House homesteader, Donna

Shifting Values into Actions

Curved sidewalk - trellis -trees USE

The view from our porch along the sidewalk I designed to the driveway.

A lot of what we do here on The Small House Homestead is about living the beliefs and values that we hold dear; Love of family, home, land, building and maintaining this small ecosystem for the birds, butterflies and other creatures, preserving the environment where we can and humane treatment of all people and animals. It is a purpose driven life.

Cast butterfly bath USE

A shallow bird bath used to provide water for butterflies and dragonflies.

In a very quiet way we live a near sustainable lifestyle as our small way of  campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy.

Catmint across sidewalk USE

  Catmint softens the cement walkway.

Many of the day-to-day choices we make are about protecting ourselves, our environment and conserving our limited natural resources.

Chicken Fencing Area

An early view of what is now our vegetable garden and coop area.

On our 5-acres we have focused these past fifteen years on creating and protecting habitat, implementing organic gardening practices, building soil, capturing and reusing rainwater, recycling or repurposing what we can and buying less to keep them out of the waste stream. Each of these practices translates to using less energy to build them, less gasoline to transport them and less landfill land used for garbage when their useful life is done.

Butterfy weed no chainlink USE

Butterfly weeds are for the butterflies!

We choose non-toxic cleaning products, buy goods wholesale that come with no or less packaging and make green building choices when we can. We are not truly sustainable but we grow some of our food and keep chickens for eggs. What we cannot grow we buy locally and from socially responsible growers because we want to support them in their mutual practices.

Walking the plant!

Sweet and curious chickens are fun to watch.

We can’t change the world but we can change our world.

Totes abot 100 gallone

Our water containment system gathers water off the pole barn.

I’m sure that I won’t be the first to point out to you that money comes seriously into play in green building materials and green vehicles and on a limited income we haven’t always been able to make as many green choices as we wish we could. We know that while we strive for socially responsible actions and low impact living and we just do the best we can.

Catmint-trellis-garden gate USE

Welcome to our homestead!

Nontoxic paints are doable; a “green” linoleum floor throughout our home was possible and low-flow shower heads are in. We capture the rain water off of our pole barn roof and use it to water our shrubs and flowers. Vintage furniture has been refinished and painted with nontoxic paints, real river rock stone cover out hallway and three season porch. We use a lot of repurposed wood and gifted corrugated roofing materials in our various chicken coop projects.

Coop and run gate slightly open

Our mostly repurposed chicken coop.

Almost all of our landscaping shrubs was dug up hauled over in my garden cart and replanted on our property; no fossil fuels for shipping involved. Field stones and mulch were hauled in our truck from roadside and farmer field as we traveled to and from town, no middleman needed.

Gretas hostas and bird bath

Bird baths for the birds!

We made a conscious decision to keep many of the original materials in our home when we purchased it in 2000. We still use the living room drapes, the family room blinds and our bedroom shades. Yes, I would have loved to replace them but they still do their job and I would not put them in the landfill, so they remain. Old appliances were sold to a young family just starting out, old but serviceable carpet was taken by a man who keeps snakes and uses it for their bedding.

House and barn under the Oak Trees USE

 The 150-year-old White Oak Trees that shelter and cool our home.

Every spring we gather and use the rich horse manure from a friends  nearby farms and bring home the rich maple leaves from my sons yard to use as mulch in our garden. He saves a transfer fee and the leaves do not end up clogging a landfill. I have committed to using just one tank of gas per month…you get the picture.

Herb garden studio in distance USE

Our herb bed in the foreground and art studio in the background.

This is what a sustainable lifestyle looks like. I can’t live off grid but I do the best I can. That all anyone can do.

Additional Resources:

Great Green Projects

Green Home Improvement; 65 Projects That Will Cut Utility Bills, Protect Your Health & Help the Environment a book by Daniel. D. Chiras

US Green Building Council

Happy Day to Thee USE

A happy day to thee!

Small House Homesteader, Donna