The Spring Rush 2016

This is the time of year we call “The Spring Rush.” What this means is we have a LOT of outdoor getting ready for the gardening season work going on around the homestead and we are super busy as a result.

This week I have been cleaning up my flower beds; removing leaves, weeding and putting down bark chips. I put organic fertilizer on the flowering shrubs that are planted in the pea gravel around our home. I prefer to use homemade compost in the fall on the plants in the dirt beds, but have the best luck with organic fertilizer in the stones beds in the spring. Putting big buckets of dirt on top of the tidy pea gravel mulch would be counter-productive in my opinion.

Gene removed the pink foam insulation in the roofs of both of the chicken coops and got out our five birdbaths. We also put out the tropical plant in a pot that hides the ugly air conditioner on the front of our home that we store in our laundry room crawl space over the winter.

I sprayed the pink bench and the vintage record stand that will eventually hold flowers for a la flea market look for flowers this summer.

I also bought a flat of basil “starts” this week for lots of tasty fresh cooking and air drying. Each sunny day  bring them out into the sun to grow some more and at night put them into the pole barn in case of a light frost.

Last year I planted 12 starts and had delicious fresh and dried basil until February. This year I bought 15 starts in the hope I can dry even more. I have the best luck with my basil plants planted in pots using well composted horse manure so I will use this system again this year as well.

There is a lot of washing and line drying happening around here right now as well, after all it is spring!

Small House homesteader, Donna

P.S. Please note that I have apparently used up my space limit for photographs on my blog. I am not sure what I plan to do. To increase my space requires a commitment of $24.95 per month and I am not sure I am willing to do that. So posts may be without photographs for a bit.

New Catmint Boarder Garden at the Small House Homestead

nepeta_near field stones
Although this plant is called Walker Low, it really isn’t low growing but it is a stunning plant.

After several years of trying to divide and transplant Walker Low catmint (Nepeta-faasseni) with very mixed results I finally gave up trying to save money and I bought 20 plants for a planned border in my turn-around bed that I have been trying to create. I used the egg sale money I have saved from the past years.

Catmint in the ground USE

My catmint perennials are coming up nicely after the long winter. 

Catmint, if you are not familiar with it is an easy-to-grow perennial that tolerates average to dry, moist soil. Their cheery lavender blooms look good when most other perennials are done for the season. They like half sun half shade and are hardy in zones 3-8.

Most catmints prefer full sun and well-drained, not overly fertile soil, although plants in hot summer areas do well with some afternoon shade. Related to catnip but much showier its gray-green foliage remains attractive throughout the growing season as well. Established plants are quite drought tolerant.

This morning we drove to my favorite nursery, Huntree Nursery in Glenn who had them ready for me. Huntree is a family owned seasonal nursery and a favorite place for many in our area to buy trees, evergreen and shrubs. In the fifteen years we have lived here I have purchased a LOT of plants from Huntree.

Hunt tree USE

 Spring has sprung at my favorite nursery, Huntree Nursery, Glen, MI. 
In 1971 Jan and David Landry came to work at the nursery after graduating from Michigan State University. Nine years later they purchased the business. And the rest as they say, is history.
Catmint and border
Today’s purchase of catmints will be the base of my new border.

Catmint Walker’s Low is famous for its wonderful fragrance, is deer resistant, attracts hummingbirds and butterflies’ and is bee friendly. Not really a low grower, ‘Walker’s Low’ will grow 24-30 inches tall and had no serious insect or disease problems. It is used in rock gardens, border fronts, herb gardens or naturalized plantings.

Catmint Walker’s Low is famous for its wonderful fragrance that butterflies, bees and cats love. Beautiful, lush, purple flower spikes start to appear in early summer and continue for up to 3 months. It’s a great perennial to add to your garden.

Catmint is a perfect plant for our homestead because it can tolerate our sandy soil and our on- again, off-again periods of drought. I love that it flowers throughout nearly the whole summer and into the fall season. Not only is it beautiful with it naturally rounded mounding shape and blue-green leaves, it the ideal herb to give to the chickens to eat too.

I picked them up in the morning and then I spent the day digging and planting.  They will grow for a few years into a splashy border and then I will have more plants to divide and transplant throughout my gardens.

Here are a few copyright free images if using catmint in the garden border. Isn’t this the most stunning plant when used in mass?

hadspen-house-somerset-gravel-path-with-catmint-borders-nepeta-x-faasenii-B29WRK

 

b2808386088424e736b43783697d3dc6 catmint boarder 2

After mine fill in and grow I’ll be sharing an “after” photographs of our garden border at a later date.

Small House homesteader, Donna

 

 

 

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

 

Keeping our Chickens IN the Chicken Run

Keeping chickens where you want them can sometimes be a challenge. Chickens like to be out and about free ranging and they like to fly. And they REALLY love worms.

Metal stake in cement block

A close up of the cement block filled with dirt that hold the hoop in.

In spite of the four feet high fence, our chickens have a habit of flying out of the chicken run. Yes, we could clip their wings so they could not fly but if they ever seriously needed to escape a predator (or our labrador Retriever Sassy) they would be minced meat. So I don’t clip their wings.

Gene tieing crisscorss use

Gene working on the connection point of the two hoops.

Chickens are smarter than you might think too. Ours have learned that if they fly up on top of the bale of straw they can fly up, out and over the tall fencing designed to keep them in their run. They have also learned that the worms are in the vegetable garden under the bark chips. Destination worms!

New hoops to keep chickens out

The overview of our chicken condo complex.

That leaves them flying out of the run and into the vegetable garden where they scratch up the back chips of the low raised beds. This is not a good thing for me because it meant a lot more work rebuilding and spreading more bark chips and leaves!

New hoops close

Greenhouse hoops new held in place in cement blocks.

Our assignment was to find a way to keep them from flying out and to do it without spending any significant money. This was going to be quite a challenge.

New hoops close  The chickens also like to fly up to the tarp top and fly over from there.

It’s not fancy or perfect, but we came up with the idea of using the last two leftover stainless steel greenhouse hoops and poles along with the left over bird netting and tie wraps. The only out-of-pocket costs to us were $4.00 for four cement clocks to hold the hoops.

Problem solved. Now to determine if it works…

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

Small House Homesteads Week in Photo’s-Photo Diary

Balmy warm weather, sunshine and spending time outdoors was the best thing about our week on the homestead.Curious chicken USE                     Look at the shiny hackles on this Heritage Rhode Island Red.

The temperature got up to the 60’s for a few days and we spotted the first Phoebe, Rufus Sided Towee and Robin of the season.

HORZ shrub and cart USE

The weather warmed up enough I could remove the protective burlap from the yewsSister Rhdoes in leaves cute USE  Sisters, sisters / There were never such devoted sisters /

VERT close target and chicks

A Rhodie is drawf-ed by the oak logs target for hatcket practice.

Totes barn chickensThe chickens are interested in our water totes containment center.

Sister Rhdoes in leaves cute USE

Hey baby…what’s happening?
Burlap frying on fenceDrying the burlap on the vegetable garden fencing.

Chickens in front of the run USE

Our chickens enjoying the sunshine in the open run near the enclosed Rhodies run.

Pecking at my pants

Newest bluebird house inmeadow USE

We put up two more bluebird boxes this week.

Small House homesteader, Donna