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

The Power of Native Plants – Photo Diary

Pineallple Welcome sign USE        Welcome to our flower garden!

It’s been a very dry summer at the Small House Homestead; our lawn is parched browns and yet today our homestead is being blessed by a life-giving rain. Our thirsty garden and property is soaking up this lovely rain water while our water containment totes are gathering additional water for our autumn transplanting. Thank you Rain Gods!

Pool shack back and burning bish USE FIRST

Grasses, hosta’s and a non-native burning bush behind the pool shack.

SW Michigan is often droughty in late summer and it is for this very reason that I plan mostly native plants. One of the best thing about native plants and grasses is that once established they don’t need much additional water to bloom and continue to look pretty all season long.

VERT Green birdhouse and climber USE

Black Eyed Susan’s add a splash of color and seeds in the bird bed.

I have been watering our newly planted fruit trees every other day using a trickle hose to keep the roots wet but our grass has pretty much gone brown and dormant. It’s pretty ugly now but I know that this is temporary and our lawn will green up nice again when the autumn rain arrives.

Black eyed susans in front of playhouse USE

 Black eyed Susan’s in front of the meadow playhouse.

The blooming flowers pretty much make up for the unpleasant brown grass as the meadow and the blooms of the native plants are absolutely outstanding right now. It’s hard to imaging the grass being so ugly and the garden flowers being so beautiful but that’s the power of natives!

Pool fencing long shot with black Eye Susans

Ornamental grasses and native obscure the required metal chain link fence around the pool.

meadow edge from pool corner USE

Native plants, ornamental grasses and burn out lawn at the meadow.

North Tree line and Black eyed Susans

Some color peeks out at the hardwood forest tree line.

I leave some of our native flowers and ornamental grasses standing in the garden leaving the seeds for the song bird to  eat. And others, like our many brown eyed Susan’s, I let them stand until they have gone to seed. Then once the seed heads are dried and the seeds ready to fall out I cut off the seeds heads and stems and toss them into our ditch and other sunny areas where I want more plants to grow. Our brown eyed Susan’s are just the perfect native plant for easy seed spreading this way.

HORZ crabapple tree bed early a.m.A bed under the crabapple tree is filled with hosta’s, day lilies and Brown Eyed Susan’s.

I hope you enjoy this August Photo Diary of native plants and I hope that you too can bloom where you are planted!

Small House homesteader, Donna

Bark Chips, Field Stones and Lupines, Oh My!

Yesterday we had a family graduation in town. Our “adopted” nephew Mathew graduated from his Christian high school and we were celebrating.

Group house in rer USE

Native lupines shine at the Small House Homestead

While we were in the area, I picked up my two special ordered flats of native Lupines from Hidden  Savannah Nursery. One of my favorite nurseries, this place specialized in native plants. My favorite kind!

The ideal would have been to come right home and plant like a banshee because rain was predicted for the following day but I was just too tired. I’d been up working in the garden and with the chicken since 5 a.m. and then on the road by noon. But I was up and planting by first light today and planted about half of my new plants in the ground before the rain began.

Lupine really close USE

A close up show the pea like quality of our native lupines.

You may recall my earlier posting “In Love with Lupines” when I explained how I started planting native lupines n our property in 2009 after testing 40 plants that I bought from the same nursery through the Allegan County Extension plant sale.

Lupines in Saburu trunk USE

Lupine and tomatoes fill the truck of my Subaru this weekend.

Showy, elongated clusters of pea like flowers that tops the 1 to 2 ft. stems, this native perennial features blue, pea-like flowers in an upright, elongated terminal cluster on an erect stem. The blooming period is from late spring to early summer and last for about a month.

Foreground in focus rear blurred USE

Lovely lupines are definitely the star of the native plantings in our cottage -style garden.

Lupines grow best in sandy soil, in the full sun where the tall grasses and shrubs are minimal.  It is best to plant them while dormant in the spring or the fall.  I plant them with the buds 1” deep below the soils surface and space about 1 foot apart. I also like to plant in grouping of three for interest when in bloom.

trowel perfect USE

I recently extended the original bed filled with three White Pines, stones and lupines.

This plant was once thought to deplete the mineral content from the soil but actually the plant enhances the soil fertility by fixing atmospheric nitrogen into a useful form by and fixing it into the soil. They bloom blue or purple from April through July, depending on your geographic area and USDA zone.

Their growing conditions are sun, part sun, dry to moist sandy soil with an acidic pH of 6.8to 7.2. Very good drainage is needed but the plants are adaptable once established. It is considered a water-wise plant so planting Lupines offer beauty with water conservation efforts as well.

 

bed and pole barn USE

This is the view that greets our guests and family as they pull into our pole barn driveway.

This plant attacks butterflies and hummingbirds and is the larval host for the Karen Blue butterfly that is a protected species. This plant is also of special value to native bees. And bumble bees.

This is propagated from dry treated seeds in the spring. Does not transplant well due to its long, tap-root. The lupine is tricky to propagate as the seeds must be scarified, inoculated and then needs moist stratification for 10 days. Soil should be inoculated before sowing the seeds.

Lupines in flat looking down USE

I buy my lupines in cells from a native plant propagator.

This is a plant has very few if any pest problems associated with it.

I live on the edge of a sandy oak savannah forest parcel called The Allegan Forest and I happen to have the right soil conditions for this plant. Because of stabilized sand dunes and power line clearance in sandy area this is becoming a rare and uncommon plant in many places. Lupines and leaves in the landscapeField stones, bark chips and lupines…oh my!

I have a dream of a front yard overflowing with gorgeous masses of purple lupines. Each year I add a flat or two to my garden and many seeds blow, re-seed and pop up throughout our property much to my delight.

4 panels lupines jpeg 2015 BEST joeg

Everybody loves lupines!

Small House homesteader and gardener, Donna

Small House Vegetable Garden is Now In the Ground!

With the exception of the organic tomato plants I am picking up this Saturday afternoon, I finished planting the seeds in the vegetable garden today. This is a relief. I still have some Sunflower and Cleome seeds I want to plant but it’s always “food first” at the Small House homestead.

It’s June 5th already and I feel like I am behind the 8-ball. Luckily today was cool and cloudy and around 60 degrees and I was up and out working in the garden by 6 a.m.  After yesterday’s 80+ degree heat I wanted to get a very early start on my outdoor chores.  I’m fine with getting up and out early but not so fine planting in the heat of a hot afternoon.

Watering vegetable garden USE

Watering in the seeds in the hope they will germinate quickly.

Then the morning turned out to be fairly cool, a pleasant surprise. I had the sprinkler going all day as well watering the newly planted apple trees, the vegetable seeds and the arborvitae we planted last fall.

I also took advantage of this nice cool day and baked an organic Amish chicken, organic sweet potatoes and steamed fresh green beans.

Amish chicken

 

Sweep potaoes

We like to eat our main meal at noon.

Gene was feeling under the weather today but he was able to add a “T” and a short hose as a second watering option on our pool shack pump. The red hose is set up for our garden watering and with the shorter green hose I can turn the dial and get water for the animals without un-hooking the red hose. This will even allow me to be able to fill the animal water buckets while a sprinkler is running. It’s a small thing but will just make morning chores, and thereby, my life so much easier.

T on the pool pimp USE

We water our garden and the animals from the pool shack well.

I also finished weeding and spreading bark chips under the old apple tree that was here when we bought this place.You may recall that all but two of the old apple trees died in the flood. This is why we are replanting a few fruit trees each year.

Weeds are gone

Weeding and adding new bark chips as mulch has been a big chore this week.

After our late lunch was over and the dishes done I spent an hour of this blog. Then it was past 4 p.m. so I made myself a cup of ginger tea and grabbed a good book and sat on the three season’s porch to enjoy what was left of the afternoon.

For me this is one of the benefits of rising early (5 a.m.) my 8-9 hour workday is done by 4 p.m.!

Small House homesteader, Donna

Potato Planting Day at the Homestead

Today I planted our organic potatoes seeds.

Potatoes in ground USE

Organic seed potatoes going into the ground.

I had ordered a sampler set of seed potatoes from Wood Prairie Farm www.woodprairie.com this past February to test what variety does best in our soil and conditions. Then I’ll know exactly what to order next season.

This years garden layout USE

This seasons garden layout plan.

I have been sprouting them in the dark warm closet in our laundry room the past two weeks and they have finally sprouted. You can order toll-free at 1-800-829-9765. They also have a help line at (207) 429-9765.

Sas USEsy the garden helper

Sassy the garden helper.

Wood Prairie farms is a family owned farm in Maine that grows and sells USDA certified organic potatoes and cover crops and other roots crops as well. Everything they sell is organic and GMO free. I wrote about them last winter on my blog and that detailed piece can be seen here https://smallhousebigskyhomestead.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1497&action=edit

While I was planting our potatoes Gene was putting up the stakes and strings that will be our trellis for our climbing beans and peas this season. He also sucked up leaves and put them down as mulch around our shallow raised bed to hold the weeds down.

Gene putting up string for trellis USE

Up goes the stakes and string that will hold the climbing beans.

I decided to try the “Experimenters Special” sampler box that holds four different kinds of potatoes; All Blue, Elba, Dark Red Norland and Yukon Gem to test to see what does the best here in our soil and our USDA Zone 5b growing conditions.

10 Tips for The Organic Potato Patch

  1. Faithfully rotate garden crops. Never plant potatoes after another nightshade like tomatoes.
  2. Treat your garden to generous amounts of organic matter; cover crops , leaves, straw.
  3. Potatoes love fertility; barnyard manure is wonderful when composted or fully aged.
  4. Promote plant health with regular sprays of liquid seaweed and liquid fish.
  5. Plant the best certified seed available.
  6. Warm seed for a day or two or greensprout prior to planting.
  7. Cut seed tubers into blocky pieces containing at least two eyes.
  8. Plant shallow for fast emergence;1” deep in the north and 4” deep in the south.
  9. Hill soil around plants, 2-3 times beginning when they are 4 to 6” inches high.
  10. Keep well watered
  11. Handpick and control insects.
  12. Harvest anytime you desire after tubers reach marble size.

Last seasons beets and carrots USEWhile digging I found some lovely beets and carrots from last years garden. They made a tasty side dish for lunch today.

More photographs to come when the leaves and stems come out of the ground!

Small House Homesteader, Donna

Saturday Projects on the Homestead

This morning Gene and I cleaned the house and then headed outdoors to work.Rolling up with coop in rear USE

Rolling up the plastic tarp that we use to solarize the weeds in the garden bed.

And while we were cleaning I washed the various parts of Sassy’s dog bed. Normally I dismantle and wash this bed at lese once a month but it’s a lot harder in the winter so I have been behind.

Dog bed parts

This is Sassy’s dog bed parts dismantled minus the solid base cushion that is already in the dryer.

By the time spring arrives the dog bed is shall we say rather aromatic! It’s a very cushy and comfortable Orvis dog bed that has been through two dogs thus far and has a lifetime guarantee. But it’s a big, big chore to wash it since it has so many large parts and requires five wash loads one right after another even in our commercial size washing machine.

Black tarp drying on fence

The tarp dries on the fence before storing.

And thank goodness for the blessing of our commercial size front loading washing machine. Before I owned this washing machine, I used to have to drive 20 miles into town every month for a laundromat size washer and spent $10.00 in quarters to wash this, plus dryer costs. Once when I was crunching the numbers over “should I get the regular size or the commercial size washer” I realized I paid for the extra difference/cost in size in just one year’s laundromat costs. In ten years of use the difference paid for the entire washing machine. That was a no brainer!

Close up of galvanized waterer

 We put the galvanizes waterer in the garden for chicken thirst.

 Because Sassy is a canine athlete; a hunting retriever that runs every day in the woods and marshes AND sleeps in our bed, she gets a shower once every two weeks at a minimum. And I wash her bed out once a month at home and hang the parts out to dry on the clothesline. She is a sweet, sweet companion and I love her but I really don’t’ like dog stink in my home!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our granddaughter playing in Sassy’s dog bed a few years ago.

It is always satisfying for me to hang clothes out on the clothesline as I know I am saving on electricity and sending fewer negative carbons into the Earth’s atmosphere while harnessing the power of the sun and the wind.

We also look at the chickens sand pile in the hope the sand was dry enough to change out the coops litter but it was too wet for my liking. It likely needs another month or so of spring winds to dry that big pile out, I guess.  So instead we removed the large piece of black plastic we had on the garden bed solarizing the weeds that came as a result of the big flood of 2009-2012. We removed and dried the plastic and then directed the chicken into the area so they could scratch up the remaining grass and weeds and turn the soil. They will be working on this spot the net month or so until I can actually plant that area.

And we staked out the large triangle bed that will eventually hold our newly grafted apple and pear trees that will be planting later on this spring. These trees will replace those we lost in the big flooding several years ago.

East side triangle

This will be the large triangle bed where we plant the apple and pear trees.

I also picked some leaves out of the stone landscaping beds near our house. With 47 White Oak trees this is just the beginning of a very long project that I will be working on all spring and perhaps into the summer months.

Another fun day on the homestead for sure!

Small House Homesteader, Donna

I Discovered a New to Me Seed Potato Catalog

Have you seen the new Wood Prairie Farm catalog, the Maine potato catalog for 2015?

A photo illustration from this attractive well done seed catalog.

I’ve never heard of this catalog before and when it arrived in Saturday’s mail I was thrilled. It has nothing but USDA Organic and best of all NO Monsanto seed items or split gene products.

It’s published by a family owned farm business from Bridgewater, Maine. They maintain the highest of products standards which means growing and selling ONLY certified organic and they make a point of making it clear that no Monsanto seeds are involved.

It’s petite catalog, just 5 ½” X 8 ½” in size but it is full of the most lovely illustrations, quotes and options for gardeners and cooks. In fact, this little gem of a catalog reminds me of the Old Farmer’s Almanac –  there’s definitely an old Maine theme going on here for sure.

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Wonderful potatoes and seed potatoes of many colors and varieties.   

I ordered a sampler of organic potatoes so I can test four different varieties (purple, red, yellow and brown) in our soil to see which has the most flavor and which grows best here lean sandy soil and our USDA Zone 5b garden. Then the next season I will order our favorites.

In addition to seed potatoes for gardeners this company also sells a nice selection of related products;

* Grains for Bakers and Cooks

* Organic Cover Crop Seeds

* Organic Vegetable Seeds for Gardeners

* Gourmet Potatoes for Cooks

* Specialized Fresh Organic Vegetables

* Gifts from Maine

I am not receiving anything for this commercial. I just like what I see and want to support it. If you would like to know more, go to their website at www.woodprairie.com or phone 1-800-829-9765.

Small House Homestead gardener, Donna