Early Spring on the Small House Homestead

I think early spring has finally arrived in the Oak Savannah forest of SW Michigan. We still have small piles of snow in places because the woods holds in the cold and snow long past the warmer land in the city but we have more ground showing than snow now. Our days are warming up into the 50’s and the daffodils and day lilies are peeking their heads through the soil.

Bench and woods USE first

A bench in the woods offers a bit of solitude behind our homestead.

March came in and went out like a lion in my part of the country this year! How about yours? The clocks tick on, the seasons change and another Michigan spring begins.

Studio - low raised gardens USE

Raised beds and a path next to the native flower meadow lead to my art studio.

Today Sassy and I took a walk through our property and through the neighbor’s 20 acre wood behind us. We are blessed to be able to walk in those woods and in return we try to give back by picking up sticks that fall on the pathway and put our massive amounts of oak leaves on the trails to keep down some of the briars and to keep the paths walkable.

Pole barn entrance garden uSE

The flower bed sidewalk side entrance to our ranch-style bungalow home.

The birds in the tree top are singing all day now. And Mr. Blue, after two weeks of constant “advertising,” has found his mate. I saw two flashes of blue yesterday as they flew by and lit on the pool shack, one of their favorite perches. We have three bluebird houses out for them and inevitably they choose the one behind the pool shack in the meadow for their early, first nesting. The meadow flowers have not yet grown tall and apparently that nest box is in the full sun, which they like for cold spring rains and sudden cold snaps.

garden-coop-barn USE

Shallow raised beds in the vegetable garden alongside our metal pole barn.

The woods are almost quiet now; no hunters, no snowmobiles and no hikers. Just the migrating birds on their way to their nesting grounds looking for a territory. We hear the Sandhill Cranes whooping as they fly over us way above the tree tops and sometimes in the marshes around us. After fourteen years of prowling these woods around us we know the special places the Sandhill Cranes like to feed, veg and nest and some days we scout them to quietly observe their behavior.

HOR Barn USE

Our pole barn sits under the white pines and oaks next to the wooded portion of our land.

It’s almost time for us to start our waterfowl and woodcock watching too. We like to drive into the woods at dusk to some special marshes we have found in the Allegan Forest. We like to watch and listen to the waterfowl come in for the night. We hear Geese, Sandhill Cranes, Wood Ducks, blue and green wing Teal and more, whistling, chortling and clucking.

HOR porch bed with studio USE

The garden bed alongside and behind out three seasons porch is not yet awake for the 2015 season.

Gene’s years of waterfowl hunting has taught him to identify hundreds of birds by sight and sound and he in turn has taught me. We are now teaching our almost six-year-old granddaughter Brenna about the birds we find here. Gene has given her part of his collection of bird calls for Owls, Ducks and Geese and I gave her a bird identification book and she is learning to love the birds as much as we do. When she visits she helps us put feed into the feeders and we identify them from our dining room window. The birds are finding her way into her coloring and birthday cards, much to our delight. We have found that birding is a lifelong hobby that brings such pleasure over the years no matter the physical capabilities of a person or not.

Diaganol pool shack-fence USE

The pool shack garden is also asleep and waiting for the sunshine.

It was almost anticlimactic after weeks of work on fencing and gates but today I turned the chickens out into the raspberry pasture this morning. I was happy to be able to walk away and not worry (well mostly not worry) about them. They are busy scratching and pecking in the leaves finding worms. I’ll be keeping my eyes on them through our windows but they no longer have to have constant physical supervision freeing me up for other chores and activities. Yea!

Bluebird house USE

The bluebird house sits in the meadow awaiting the first bluebird family.

Screendoor USE

The painted screen door on the back of the pool shack.

Small House Homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

Our Weekend in Photography

Eggs in blue bowl USE

Brown Cochin eggs from our four chickens.

On Saturday Gene worked on the raspberry bed fence project and put up a second gate.

Stapling the fencing USE

Gene stapling the chicken fencing to the bottom of the post.

I experimented with photographing some of our brown Cochin eggs in an antique bowl. I used a piece of fabric I bought at the thrift store when I thought might make a nice seat cover. I feel like I am a bit rusty with my “product photography” and it felt good to practice it again.

Two  Gates

Double fencing on the south end of garden allows for two entry points; one in the vegetable garden and one in the raspberry patch. 

Then our adult daughter Lisa arrived from North Carolina in the afternoon. She is a special education teacher and works in the high school near Charlotte, NC. It is her spring break so she took advantage of that time off of work to come back home to Michigan. We spent our day watching the chickens scratch and peck and chatting and catching up.

On Sunday we did our usual every two weeks trip to the recycle station and then ran Sassy at the SW Michigan’s land Conservancy’s Wau-kee-nau north. We keep a small recycle bin set up in our pole barn and take our recyclable papers, cans, glass to the townships recycle station about every two to three weeks.

Sassy overlooking lake

Sassy overlooks gray and ice filled Lake Michigan.

Lake Michigan is still partially frozen and dark gray in color. We did see a large flock of Goldeneye ducks in the water  – these birds are very hardy and on their migration south for breeding. This is always a thrill for my husband the waterfowl hunter.

Three Birches USE

The three sisters, birch trees in a meadow.

It’s still pretty cold here in SW Michigan, some nights have been 10 some 30 degrees and day around 40 degrees. During the day we let the chickens out to free range in the almost completed raspberry bed. We are still supervising them as one end remains to be completed.

Benches

A wooden bench for resting overlooking the Lake Michigan.

I’ve also been working on and off on stick picking up and lawn raking. I’ve already raked up much of the pine cones from our pine trees. I am just getting a tiny head start on our massive spring clean-up work on the days the weather cooperates.

I’ve been reading a fun new book this week, Chickens in the Garden. I am really enjoying this book not only for its chicken information and its amazing photographs. I know how hard it is to get high quality photographs of moving objects.

Chickens 3 panel no text jpeg

Small House Homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna