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

Small House Weekly Homestead Photo Diary


Not that I am complaining….but summer weather came upon us suddenly this week on our homestead in SW Michigan. One night it is freezing and the next day it is sunny and hot. In fact, it was sunny and hot all week-long and no rain. The daffodils are bursting out everywhere and their bright yellow color everywhere makes me happy. Even the daffodils that I had thought were drowned in the 2009-2012 high ground water flooding have returned with many new blooms and are spreading.

Firepit in meadow ith Rhodies very close GOOD

The Rhodies love to scratch and peck in the wood ash from the recently burned down fire pit.

While this is a mood boosting strategy we do need rain here and a lot of it. Not only do the plants and trees need life-giving water to get a really good start, we need to fill our water containment totes for the long, dry summer ahead. The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting hotter than usual and less rain that usual in our part of the state. In a 1950’s style home without a/c and a not-currently-working swimming pool, this is not good news. Sigh.

April daffodils to circle USE

The daffodils are bursting out in the crab apple tree circle garden right now. 

We hope to get the swimming pool up and running again soon but a large chunk of cash is needed to do that and not in the budget right now. The pool needs to be drained, scraped, acid washed, re-painted and the mechanical’s up and running again. It’s going to a big and expensive project.

Daffodils in triangle under fruit tree USE

Circles of daffodils in the fruit tree triangle. 

Gene worked on removing the deer netting from around the hydrangea shrubs and turned the pool pump turned on and got out the hoses. He also worked on repairing the ruts in the meadow this week. The rusts came as a result of the roadside trimmer driving their large, heavy truck to dump the mulch. The ruts were filled with a mix of sandy soil from the woods, well-composed horse manure from a friend’s farm and topped with good composted soil from the compost pile. In the fall, I’ll plant grass seeds. Grass seeds do not germinate well here in the spring time unless we have a very wet year to keep them going. Grass seed simply does better here if I spread it in the fall and let the snow melt germinate it the following spring.

Cart, Rhodies Gene digging w shovel USE

Gene digging composted soil with his Rhodie helpers fishing for worms.

Daffodils in bloom in bird bed USE

Our bird feeding bed is edged in daffodils and a bloom.

I spent most of my week dispersing straw and then bark chips. I made some good progress but have a l-o-n-g way to go yet.

Rhodies close puzzld cute

This Rhode Island Red chicken is certainly strutting her stuff in the leaves.Gen holing Crystal who is lfying downCrystal wants to get away after wiping down her messy butt from a bit too many kitchen scraps.

Burning bush and daffodils barn

Bloom where you are planted my friends!

Small House Homesteader, Donna

Two New Blue Bird Houses Go Up on The Homestead



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGrandpa and granddaughter checking on the blue bird babies.

We have a nice small blue bird trail on our homestead. We have had three blue bird boxes set up on our 5-acres for the past decade and they have all been productive depending on the time of the year and the sunshine on the box itself.


Blue bird house in meadow entire plus pipe
The standard Audubon required blue bird box on a steel post.

Each season we have a pair of blue birds that mate and raise their young on our rural SW Michigan property. Most years these mated blue birds have at least two broods and most years they lay five eggs and one or two baby birds make it to maturity.

Bluebird house very close USE

The hole must be a certain size and the side must open as well.

For many decades blue birds were threatened in our state but efforts of bird lovers from all of the US have helped to save them and to actually create a revival of blue birds as a species.

9420917-pair-of-eastern-bluebird-sialia-sialis-on-a-log-with-moss[1]

If you are interested in knowing more about the placement of bluebird houses you can find more detailed information here. http://www.dccl.org/information/houses/birdhouses.htmA female and male blue bird pair.

 There is nothing like spotting that flash of bright sky blue as the male bird streaks across the meadow and flies up to the canopy of our White Oak trees. These joyful and family orientated birds bring us a great deal of pleasure; from the very first high in the tree call the male makes i the spring to the flying out of the babies twenty-one days after the momma bird began to set on her eggs. Every step in the process is a joy to observe.

Newest bluebird house inmeadow USE

One of the two new blue bird houses resides in the east side meadow. 

We follow the Michigan Audubon Societies requirements to setting them up; how far from the woods, how tall and exactly how they are attached to the sturdy metal pipe to protect them from raccoons getting the eggs and this data has proven to be a great success. Additional detail can be located on their website here: www.michiganaudubon.org/

Digging hole for bluebird house

Gene using a pole hole digger to make the hole for the newest post.

This week we added two more boxes to our five-acre property making a total of five boxes on our homestead.

I realize of course that a bluebird pair here will not let another pair of blue bird nest on the same property but these other boxes will be available for chickadees, swallows and other songbirds to nest here.

Digger clise up

 A close-up of the digger.

And more birds means fewer insects and bugs and more bird life to share with our grand daughter.

Let’s hear it for the blue birds!

Small House Homesteader, Donna

 

Spring Snowstorm on the Homestead

Yesterday the US experienced a strong mix of heavy rain, wet snow and tornadoes through the north-east. Time magazine said in a weather issue that came out last year that this is the ‘new normal’; meaning intense hard rain storms, tornadoes, snow storms and more.

Pararamic studio curved tree USE

The heavy snow has doubled over the river birch tree.

In SW Michigan we received about 8 -10″ inches of heavy, wet snow. It is beautiful to look at be sure however it is really physically hard to remove on an aging body like ours. On our homestead the chore of snow removal falls totally on us and this is with using a snow blower and hand shovels.

Playhouse thick snow USE

The playhouse looks adorable under the overnight snowfall.

We do get asked sometimes, why don’t you just hire someone? Once when our snow blower was broken and we received 12″-15″ of wet snow dumped overnight we paid a local guy to come and plow our two driveways. Unfortunately he knew he has us over a barrel and charged us $90.00. I almost flipped out as Gene was making a little over $7.00 an hour at Menard’s at that time and that represented a weeks worth of income for us. Our retirees budget can’t sustain that on a regular basis so we must handle the snow removal ourselves.

Coop roof and tarp under snow USE

Snow on the roof of the covered run. I am thankful for having a covered run for the long winter months.

The hard plastic roofing panels on the covered coop run hold the snow and the three side tarps keep out snow but allow for good ventilation.

Chicken complex USE

The heavy snow pulled down our netting so repairs will be needed.

I was really getting used to the unexpected patch of spring-like weather we have had here these past two weeks. I must admit I am disappointed that winter weather has returned.

109th roadway under snow

The main road in front of our home is deserted.

We hustled and took advantage of the warmer weather to get some maintenance chores done. Gene washed, vacuumed and waxed my Subaru as well as vacuumed out his truck. We drove to the car wash and washed his truck and sandy undercarriage, as well as the dirty winter boot tray and dog kennel after the sick chicken was in it.

Snoopy close USE

The snoopy yardstick says 6″ of snow on the hot tub cover.

Diaganol hottub USE                           Our snow-covered hot tub and deer fencing.

I also picked up load after load of sticks and twigs from the yard and spent hours outside with the chickens giving them a chance to free range as much as possible during the lull in the snowfall. I personally would have loved more time without snow but that was not meant to be.

Pool fence and woods USE

Thick snow has covered the chain link fencing surrounding our pool.

Snow is now a mixed blessing here. Yes, it is very beautiful to look at and we do need the water in the water table but…this thick wet snow coating every surface means a lot of hard physical work head for us.

VERT coop under big oak USE

Todays path to the chicken coop to do our morning chores.

This lifestyle IS our priority…but it is also one of the most difficult realities of homesteading and aging bodies…

VERT oak and house front USE

The giant White Oak at the front of our property is like a sentinel showing the way.

Small house homesteader Donna

Small Houses’ Tiny Role in Preserving the Savanna Forest

We spent as much time outside as possible during our recent February thaw. The sunshine felt wonderful on my skin and the warm weather made a partial clean-up of the yard possible.

Oak tree close with chickens USE

Our small parcel of the Oak Savannas forest with compost bins in the distance.

When you live under the shelter of forty-seven White Oak trees you end up with a lot of sticks blown down in the yard that need to be picked up come spring. One record spring I collected twelve garden carts full of sticks and twigs!

Rhoide close comb backlit USE

One of our Rhodies enjoying her time in the forest edge.

So I am always happy to have the opportunity to get outside during the winter months and do a bit of pre-spring yard clean up.

Snowball close

Snowball the Bantam Cochin like all chickens loves to scratch in the leaves.

Have I recently  mentioned that our land was once part of the Oak Savanna Forest?

This italics piece below was written by the author of the Lillie House Blog. Lillie House is an urban permaculture garden in Kalamazoo, Michigan. You can see the post about the history of the savannah in its entirety at Lillie House : How We Save the Savannas

And most magnificent of all the ecosystems in the new Americas was the savannas. These large parcels of land were once common across the region where the Eastern Woodland receded into western prairie.Chickens in wood compost in background

Our chickens free ranging along the path into the forest.

Just as we call the prairies “grasslands,” these savannas were “flowerlands,” glorious with a great bounty of broadleaf plants that provide medicine, food and forage. These special ecosystems are the preferred environment of many species, the only place where some can thrive. No doubt it was also home to undiscovered, lost soil communities that we had not yet begun to understand when we brought with us a vast, yet tiny army of invisible conquistadors to colonize the kingdom under foot. 

Oak Savvanah with flowers underneath
 Photo credit: Lillie House Blog Spot.
Within ten years of “settlement” by Europeans, these ecosystems were transformed. The open woodlands filled in to thick forest, prairies and savannas turned to cane thickets and old field, and eventually forest. This once open, park-like continent transformed to just another dense European thicket, and the North American miracle was never to be seen again.

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One of the remaining stands of native lupines in the State Game Area.

One large 50,000 acre parcel the Allegan State game Area was preserved by officials for its recreational use for campers, snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, horse trail riders and hunters and due to the prevalent native lupines that grow there. These beautiful lupines are the host plant for the protected Karner blue butterflies.

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Spring in the forest with native Lupines providing the color.

The chickens had a blast being out of their run. They walked, scratch and pecked for hours every day.  We feel most comfortable supervising the chickens when they free range outside of their fenced in runs.

Rhodie head up studio in rear USE

The forest edge creates a lovely back-drop to our property as well as wind break.

I have tried to preserve the trees on our land and to plant native plantings as well as the many native Lupines as I could plant. I have maintained and played steward on this property as best that I can in the fifteen years we have lived here. We have work hard to preserve and protect this unique ecosystem and add to it as we can.

The weather report indicated that a big storm is headed our way later this week and predicting 5″ to 8″ of fresh snow. So I have been picking up as many sticks as I could and letting the chicken out for several hours a day. Apparently this lovely thaw is about to end!

Oh and the bluebird are coming back…we saw two males looking for their breeding territories earlier this week! I’ll keep you posted!

Small House homesteader, Donna

62 Degrees Sunny and Windy – Photo Diary

  Wow, what a great day on the homestead.

Chickens outside comples and bkue sky USE

Blue sky and white fluffy clouds overlooking the chicken complex.

Gene Rhodies Forge 2-19-16

Gene by the blacksmith forge while the Rhodies scratch in the bark chips.

We enjoyed a lovely sunny and warm day for our mid-winter February thaw. The morning was full of chores; washing clothes, cleaning the stove, making bone broth and more.

Elsaside viewgreat USE

Elsa taking a dust bath.

In spite of the recorded 50+ mile an hour winds our afternoon was spent outside enjoying the chickens.

Elsa dust flying USE

Dirt flies when a chicken takes a dust bath.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring so gotta make hay today!

4 Rhodies in covered run USE

Doors open and the sun shines in the covered run.

HORZ chicken on path USE

Chickens follow the snow blown path around the homestead.

Small House Homesteader, Donna

 

A Week in Photos Small House Homestead

We had a bit of the January thaw this week. Our weather rose to around 40’s degrees and the sun shone brightly for a few days. We were happy to be able to get our snowbound chickens out of the chicken run for a stroll and a munch on patches of grass that popped up as the snow melted.

Hey lady where are my worms

Crystal says, ‘Hey lady where is the food?’

Our winter has been relatively mild this year with small amounts of snow interspersed with a warmish week in-between. This week the animals certainly enjoyed enjoy our old-fashioned January thaw.

Sunrise hprzontal most pink

A beautiful winter sunrise one day this week on the Small House homestead.

And, I enjoyed a rare opportunity to photographs very pretty sunrise on Saturday morning. I am usually up and at em’ early as our retriever Sassy gets up very early to go outside to the bathroom. My day often begins with the sound of her nails clicking on our linoleum floor and her head pressing down on my arm as her signal, ‘Okay mom its time!’

Sassy 11-18-14

Miss Sassy the snow dog.

Everyday the sun rises but most days I am preoccupied with animals needs or cooking breakfast to actually walk out and concentrate on taking a good a photograph. But luck was with me that day.

Sunrise tree in half interesting for textGreeting The Dawn.

Elsa the fluffy butt

Do these feathers make my butt look big?

After the animals are fed and our breakfast eaten we do our yoga stretches. On this day Sassy was determined to get into the act.

Sassy doing yoga stretches

Sassy and Gene do their yoga stretches.

Circling the fire

The Rhodies circle the wagons.

Crystal bithbat head up USE

Crystal scratching for sunflower seeds under the bird bath

Sassy run three

Sassy gets a good walk everyday.

The chicken monitor

The chicken monitor.

I hope your week was a good one too.

Small House homesteader, Donna