An Almost Lazy Sunday

I have not been feeling like myself of late. I am feeling just plain exhausted most of the time. I have had various doctors’ appointment, blood work and as of now, nothing major has turned up. I do have the plantar fasciitis and am in a lot of pain from that and apparently that has worn me down. I’ve gotten my new custom shoe inserts and I start my physical therapy on that foot next week so hopefully things will get better and I will be more mobile again.

Maybe I just need a long vacation at an expensive spa with daily massages and mud baths…ya right!

Today was a lazy Sunday for us on the homestead. After morning chores, I planted a hops vine that I had potted up in the early spring. I made a small bed behind the blacksmith forge to replace the plants that died in the big flooding a few years back. I also transplanted a clump of epimedium (they like dry shade) and three or four clumps of hosta’s to fill in. It doesn’t look like much right now but in a few years it should be full and pretty.

Forge hops planting USE

Gene and I also took a drive down the lakeshore to run Sassy at Wau-kee-nau, bought some more locally grown Red Haven peaches and stopped in at my favorite garden center Hunt Tree Nursery. I needed a trellis and wanted a well-made fan-shaped cedar trellis and I knew I could find one there. This trellis will have a hops vine planted on it on the east side of the pole barn. This is a shady area so the vine will not get those pretty, white hops flowers but it will be leafy green and break up all of the wood fence.

Gene made spacers this afternoon and put the trellis up for me. I will be planting that vine in a week or two when it gets a bit cooler and then putting a transplanted St. John’s Wort’s shrub in front of it a well. This too replaces a shrub that died in the same flooding. Anything that was planted on low ground died and the plants that were planted a bit higher or in raised beds, made it…

Forge hops bed base USE

Then I treated Gene to homemade brownies using our own fresh eggs of course. These super-rich brownies with walnuts are his favorite sweet treat and I only make them once or twice a year now since we are trying to eat as healthy as possible. He tells a story that he fell in love with me over my brownies some 20 years ago, the ones I made from the package of unsweetened chocolate. When they say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach that is definitely true for Gene.

Fan trellis inbetween USE

Have a wonderful week!

Small House Big Sky 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

The Privilege of an Afternoon at the Dentist

VERT mailbox bed house in rear interesting

The current street view of the Small House Homestead in its summer glory.

My days are beginning to blur….paint the coop, weed and spread bark chips, water fruit trees, cook a meal, and take care of the chickens. This is one of those day that I shake my head and when I remember that….is my l-i-f-e-and I chose it.

Pnik daylilies close Lupine greens show corner

Day lilies add beauty to the brick planter. If you don’t like it, hide it is my motto!

I am feeling a sense of urgency now that it is mid-July to get things done and projects wrapped up. Visitors are coming soon, I’ve offered to help a friend pack up her house and load the U-Haul for a long drive to the Northwest, the RIR chickens need to get into their new coop ASAP. I am sick of putting down bark chips and just want to that job to be done. And some days, like today, I feel like I am just spinning my wheels and going nowhere fast.

Yesterday we took the day off to drive to our dentist in a distant city. While the day was almost a loss work-wise, the older I get the more I am grateful for another good dental checkup and cleaning. I’ve had gum disease and gum surgery so any checkup where I get a gold star, is a good one.

We don’t have dental insurance but even so I know that being able to have access to a highly competent dentist is truly a privilege, because all too many people in my own community and in many other countries do not have access to dental care at all.  I know that I am indeed privileged.

I’ve been thinking a lot of privilege lately. Even though I left home at age 17 without any parental support or insurance coverage and have experienced hard times my life has been better than many. Divorced at age 45 and starting over again without any support or alimony I made it through creativity, hard work, German stubbornness and perseverance.  I took in renters, cleaned houses and did what had to be done.

VERT close trelli front garden and sidewalk

The entrance to our front door.

The fact that I am white, that I live in a safe, dry home that is paid for, have a car to drive, that I have been able to retire, enjoy affordable health insurance, dependable electricity, food to eat and clean water to drink…. all help me to remember every single day I am indeed a privileged person.

Living in a poor, agricultural county I could easily have a landfill or a fracking sit in my backyard…

fracking sign in whisket barrle close

I have a no more fracking sign in my front garden. I am totally opposed.

I did cook a healthy by scratch meal when we got home from the dentist so I accomplished something good yesterday. I made a baked sausage in fresh pepper meal that was delicious and picked enough greens from our garden to make a tossed salad. I don’t really have a recipe per see, I just make it up depending on experience and what I have on hand.

West side of house front fracking sign

 The July garden at the Homestead.

Stuffed peppers USE

Baked Stuffed Red, Orange and Yellow Peppers

1 lb. of Meijer’s mild sausage

3/4 of a medium onion, chopped

3/4 cup spinach, chopped

2 organic eggs

½ to ¾ cup of Italian bread crumbs

Garlic to taste

Ground black pepper to taste

Chopped oregano to taste

I also like to add cooked brown and wild rice to my meat mixture but I got a very late start today so skipped the rice.

Mix the sausage, onions, add the bread crumbs, and stir in the eggs. Mix well.

Cut off the top of the peppers and use a spoon to dig out the inside of the peppers (save the seeds and pulp for the chickens!)

Fill the peppers with the meat mix

Bake at 350 for 40 to 50 minutes until the peppers are cooked thru and browned on top.

I hope you had a productive day and a great dinner as well.

Small House homesteader, Donna

Small House Homesteads Week in Photo’s

It was a very physical week for us last week on the homestead. There was lots of gardening, building, animal care taking, herb gathering and drying and cooking going on. Quite frankly this is a typical week at the Small House Homestead.

The days were hot, humid and rainy but the nights were still cool, thank goodness!

Babies stump dish of food

The RIR pullets  were integrated into the existing flock.

Pool shack with wagon of herbs in frontI gathered various herbs from the meadow to dry.

Freckles and Sweet pea in the nesting boxThree of the hens went broody…again. Here Freckles and Goldy in a nest box.

Buttercups under tree bedButtercups bloomed in the bed under a White Oak tree.

Album holder flower pot for 2015Flowers were planted in the vintage record stand.

Baptise studio-meadow USEBaptisia bloomed in the meadow.

Strawberries on pound cakeI baked hubby a lemon pound cake for Fathers Day with strawberries on top.

Studio bed after repaired

I weeded and replenished pea gravel in the art studio walkway and bed.

I hope your week was a great one!

Small House Homesteader, Donna

Gardening with Heritage and Open Pollination Seeds

For the first time I planted all heritage type, open pollination seeds in our homesteads vegetable garden. What a “quick start” these seeds have given us. After not having rain for over two weeks we had 4” of rain last night and another inch ½ this morning. The garden is pretty well watered at last here at the Small House homestead!

Long view house in back USE FIRST

I ordered seeds this season from Mary’s Heirloom Seeds and Seed Treasures. This year I made it a priority to find and buying both heritage seeds and those that are open-pollination seeds. Our food growing plan is pretty simple – to plant what will grow here in our soil and in our short growing season!

What exactly is open pollinated? Mary from Mary’s Heirloom Seeds describes open-pollination as “As seeds that are simply pollinated by insects, birds, wind or other natural mechanism. The way nature intended. The seeds of open pollinated plants will produce new generations of those same plants.”

Pumpkin Seeds 6-14-15

Our vegetables are looking especially good already  – much to my surprise. Our seeds have only been in the ground two weeks they germinated very quickly and they are growing like weeds. Be it the temperature, the soil or the lack of water, our plants often get a slow start here but not this year. This winter I bought all open pollination, heritage seeds and boy have they taken off?

Shallow raise bed with beans up 6-14-15

It too soon to tell about the quality or amount of the fruits and the vegetables we will ultimately harvest from our garden this season but if the fast response of seed growth is any indication, my hopes are running pretty high right now. I’ve only picked off one beetle thus far too…

Runner beans up the trellis 6-14-15

This is the winning combination for our Zone 5b garden; simple shallow raised beds filled with well composted horse manure soil and planted with open pollinated Heritage seeds topped with bark chips mulch al la the Back to Eden Gardening method.  

Pot

Small House homesteader and gardener, Donna

 

Fresh Picked Organic Strawberries on Lemon Pound Cake

Rows of berreis flowers in rightYesterday we picked 48 lbs. of organic strawberries. Then we came home and I made 5 batches of freezer jam while Gene cord, sliced and packaged up the rest of the strawberries for the freezer. It was a long and tiring but oh so satisfying day.

Daisy's foreground bearn rear arshareonedjpe g shUSE

I estimate that we have enough strawberries for eating and spreading on toast for more than a year and likely longer. Gene requested a homemade lemon pound cake with strawberries on top for Father’s Day and he definitely will be getting one from me! (Recipe below.) I’ll use our organic eggs and the farm’s strawberries…a marriage made in heaven.

Barn close sharpened jpeg use

A weathered old barn, quilt patterns and a John Deer tractor. How picturesque is that?

I feel that we are very blessed to have this wonderful organic fruit orchard, Pleasant Hill Farms located just 10 miles from us in Fennville, MI. They converted their operations to organic about 10 years ago and have been building a client base ever since.

HORZ John on left tent sharoende jpg USE

Their berries are U-Pick only. Consult their Facebook page for days and times to pick.

As always I feel very fortunate to live in the plentiful fruit belt of Michigan and have Pleasant Hill Farms so close by us.

Sign close up shraoenedj jpeg USE

A quilter, Joan uses favorite quilt patterns as designs throughout the farmstead.

Owned by Joan and John Donaldson, Pleasant Hill Farm is a small operation run by the Donaldson’s with the help of an occasional apprentice or two. They grow U-pick strawberries, blueberries and peaches, make maple syrup to sell cut wood and generally farm their land with the highest of ethics and care. I truly believe that food and it relationship to health is important to us all.

Yellow bowl red berries sharpened jpeg USE

Nothing like the rich red color of a fresh picked strawberry. Sweet!

They also sometimes farm with oxen which I find most fascinating. Their farm is pristine, well-managed and prolific. I am writing about them today because I respect their farming practices and hope that others will read about farmers and growers who are organic and realize that perhaps they to can make that formula work for them.

Cose daisy's nice sharpendjpe USE

A close up of the farm’s field of oxeye daisy’s.

Berries forground Barn in rear

Sitting in the strawberry field.

It was a long and tiring but oh so satisfying day.

Row of Oxeye Daisy's USE

Johns enjoying planting a entire field in oxeye daisy’s making a beautiful scene out of a field.

I estimate that we have enough strawberries for eating and spreading on toast for more than a year and maybe longer.Gene requested a homemade pound cake with strawberries on tip for Father’s Day and he definitely will be getting one from me!

I feel that we are very blessed to have this wonderful organic fruit orchard, Pleasant Hill Farms just 10 miles from us in Fennville, MI. They converted to organic farm practices in 1977 and have been building a client base ever since.

Berries close

Our day’s pick.

As always I feel very blessed to live in the fruit belt of Michigan and have Pleasant Hill Farms so close by us.

They are a small operation run by Joan and John Donaldson with the help of an occasional apprentice or two. The grow U-pick strawberries, blueberries and peaches, make maple syrup to sell cut wood and generally farm their land with the highest of ethics and care.

They also sometimes farm with oxen which I find most fascinating. Their farm is pristine, well managed and prolific.  I am writing about them today because I respect their practices and hope that other will read about farmers and growers who are organic and realize that perhaps they can be organic too.

I snuck away from our picking duties yesterday to take these photographs. It was a pleasure to enjoy their beautiful farm for a couple of house on a nice June morning.

Pleasant Hill Farm Collage 4 jpeg no text

Contact Joan and John Donaldson at Pleasant Hill Farm, 269-561-2850. www. Pleasanthillsblueberryfarm.com

Lemon Pound cake

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar, plus 1/3 cup
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, plus 1/3 cup

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 6-cup loaf pan and line it with parchment or waxed paper. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream the butter. Add 1 cup of the sugar and mix. With the mixer running at low speed, add the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla.

Working in alternating batches, and mixing after each addition, add the dry ingredients and 1/4 cup of the lemon juice to the butter mixture. Mix until just smooth.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake until raised in the center and a tester inserted into the center comes out dry and almost clean (a few crumbs are OK), 65 to 75 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and the remaining 1/3 cup lemon juice until the sugar is dissolved.

When the cake is done, let cool in the pan 15 minutes (it will still be warm). Run a knife around the sides of the pan. Set a wire rack on a sheet pan with sides (to catch the glaze) and turn the cake out onto the rack. Peel off the waxed paper.

Using a turkey baster or pastry brush, spread glaze all over the top and sides of the cake and let soak in. Repeat until the entire glaze is used up, including any glaze that has dripped through onto the sheet pan. Let cool at room temperature or, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator (Well wrapped, the cake will last up to a week). Serve at room temperature, in thin slices.

Recipe courtesy of Gale Gand.

Small House homesteader, 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