Making Hay While the Sun Shines

You know the old saying…”Got to make hay while the sun is shining.” Today that what we did. No, we did not actually make hay, it’s November. But we are in a three or four-day warm up period and we are hustling to get the last of the seasonal work done while the sun is shining. Knowing Michigan like I do, I am figuring that this is the last warm up of the 2015 season.

Scarecrow under oak no leaves USE FIRST

The White Oak trees have lost their leaves and quite early this year.

I stripped the bed and washed the sheets and mattress pad and put the pillows out in the sunshine to air out. Having been sick with bronchitis I feel an extra strong to air out those pillows. The same with the dog’s bed. I can’t prove that sunshine helps to sterilize our bedding but it sure makes me feel better knowing they were out there baking in the warm sunshine for the day.

Rhodies and foge good USE

Two Rhodies free ranges in the leaves behind the blacksmith forge.

I have also been planning on emptying, sterilizing and thoroughly washing out the chickens feeders before the long winter ahead. So today I finally got to that chore too. I did one hanging metal feeder today and I will do another one tomorrow. Hopefully Thursday will be warm and sunny as well and I can washout the third one and that chore will be accomplished.

Chrystal on Rhodies roost bar

Crystal rests on the roost in our warm Indian Summer we are experiencing.

Gene is spending his day draining and putting the hoses away and tackling our big leaf pick up chores. Last week he raked enough leaves to fill up the our three chicken runs with dry oak leaves as well as five large Menard’s leaf bag with leaves to use as coop bedding this winter.

Wire bin from woods studio in distance USE

The compost bin for heavier and thicker materials like ornamental grasses.

Today he is sucking more oak leaves out of the stone landscape bed around our Ranch-style home. The next two days will be saved for blowing and leaf pickup with the lawn tractor. The oaks have pretty much dropped all of their leaves and we are under the gun to get the picked up and distributed on the wood path, along the landscaping beds, in the meadow and so on. He says we did not have nearly as many leaves as we have most summers. By the end of this week  that it is supposed to turn cold and to rain heavily. We are praying we can get these final chores done by then. Wish us luck!!

Amerigas truck delivery 11-15

Even the Amerigas LP company is working to beat the clock of s-n-o-w!

This is the first year the oak branches have been empty of leaves by November 2 – that is VERY early for us here in SW Michigan.

trees forground building in rear

The owl box is up and ready for the schreechers.

Small House homesteader, Donna

Rainy Weekend and Spring Garden Photographs

It’s been a rainy weekend here on the homestead. But that’s okay with me as I know that our newly planted fruit trees, transplanted perennials and vegetable garden seeds all need this life-giving water to thrive. We had 3.1″ of rain in the last two days which will also helps our two water containment totes to fill back up as well.

Lupines stones nice USE

Native lupines in my white pine bed at the Small House pole barn driveway.

What do you do on a rainy weekend? We clean house!

Pines lupines fnce bed USE

This pine bed filled with lupines and catmint greets our friends and family.

Since taking photographs of cleaning house will be boring I will share spring garden photographs I have taken during the last couple of weeks.

Sunflower flag in pines USE

A colorful sunflower flag helps to brighten a gray sky week here.

This time of year we spend almost every waking minute working out-of-doors or with our animals so the house, unfortunately, often gets left behind. And recently with so much of my time and energy going towards the replacement of the porch roof and the insurance claim for the same room, cleaning time has been a precious commodity of late.

Pool shack May 2015 USE

The hostas are up at the pool shack – the ornamental grasses are starting to.

So I talk advantage of these days to do a thorough cleaning. And boy does this house need it right now!

OFFSET Daylilys oak bed USE

Scented day lilies and epimedium under a White Oak tree.

Today Gene will clean the bathrooms and kitchen and vacuum and mop the floors. I’ll feed the animals, change out the chicks litter and vacuum the bedroom carpets and our many area rugs and the fine tuning details he is likely to forget.  We will both also take the recycling to the compost station today and run the dog. Then I’ll be cooking up a storm.

VERT yellow iris forge trees USE

Light yellow iris’ in a bed under another White Oak tree.

Together we will get this job done, as partners as we always do everything. I am thankful for having Gene as my partner.

Japanese iris in our meadow.Japanese iris USE

Japanese iris in our meadow.

Karens lavender Japenes iris USE

This lavender iris is a pass-along plant from a gardening friend.

It always feels SO good to me to be in a very clean house.

Small House Homesteader, Donna

Inspired by our Homesteads Majestic White Oak Trees

Great oaks from little acorns grow…

One of the tops reason we bought our 5-acre property was due to the many beautiful White Oak trees we found here. They add so much beauty and wonderful cooling shade to our property. At first count we found 47 White Oak trees on our property, plus the black oaks, cherries, sassafras, dogwoods and other trees living here.

Pool house woods Sassy best

Sassy stands in the snowy pathway Gene blows the paths to allow us to walk or snowshoe in our woods during the snowy months.

Surely no tree captures our imagination more than an oak. Often living for hundreds of years, oaks support a diversity of life above and below the ground, a rhizosphere community, where a symbiotic relationship exists between diverse species. Native oaks rely on soil microbes and bacteria that produce growth regulators for the tips of new roots, while the new roots create a sort of sugary mucus to feed the bacteria.

Pool and polebarnbigblue sky

The pool shack with chain link fencing sits in front of the pole barn with its blacksmith forge extension.

Oak trees support at least 534 moth and butterfly caterpillars, the most of any native tree. Acorns feed countless creatures and shoot out a tap-root practically the instant they hit the ground. Properly sited, an oak won’t grow stereotypically slowly, but will grow several feet annually and last for generations.

While the acorns of most oaks are edible, many contain a good deal of tannins which render the acorns very bitter to the taste.

You can do as the Native Americans did and leach the tannins out by repeated soaking in fresh water, dumping the water, and re-soaking the acorns. But it is much easier and faster to plant or harvest more edible acorns.

Generally, the white oak family has the sweetest acorns, requiring very little (if any) leaching. These oaks include the white oak, burr oak, chestnut leaf oak, and turkey oak. There are also many selected seedling trees and hybrids developed for human consumption, so if you want to plant some oaks to harvest the acorns for food, you have many different trees available.

Oaks are all beautiful trees to have around and most are hardy from Zones 3-9, depending on the variety. The acorns develop all summer and fall to the ground without a husk when ripe, making picking and shelling very easy. Acorn shells are pliable and thin.

As with all nuts, it’s a good idea to dry the nuts for a week or so in a single layer in a protected environment, so they don’t mold in storage.

Pool house fence blue sky nice

This is the view of the woods that I see looking out of our dining room window.

There are some beautiful myths about the oak tree that I love.

In Baltic mythology, the oak is the sacred tree of Latvian Pērkons, Lithuanian Perkūnas and Prussian Perkūns. Pērkons is the god of Thunder and one of the most important deities in the Baltic pantheon.

In Celtic mythology, it is the tree of doors, believed to be a gateway between worlds, or a place where portals could be erected.

In Norse mythology, the oak was sacred to the thunder god, Thor. Some scholars speculate that this is because the oak, as the largest tree in northern Europe, was the one most often struck by lightning. Thor’s Oak was a sacred tree of the Germanic Chatti tribe. Its destruction marked the Christianisation of the heathen tribes by Saint Boniface.

In Classical mythology, the oak was a symbol of Zeus and his sacred tree. An example is the oracle of Dodona, which in prehistory consisted solely of a holy oak.

In the Bible, the oak tree at Shechem is the site where Jacob buries the foreign gods of his people (Gen. 35:4) . In addition, Joshua erects a stone under an oak tree as the first covenant of the Lord (Josh. 24.25-7). In Isaiah 61, the prophet refers to the Israelites as “Oaks of Righteousness”.

In Slavonic mythology, the oak was the most important tree of the god Perun.

The acorn, the seed of the oak tree, is the universal symbol of patience, endurance and well-earned bounty. In folk art, carved acorns are commonly used to decorate furniture and other objects.

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This is the cedar sign I had handmade and carved for Gene one year for Christmas.

The acorn is the image I picked for our logo when we first moved here and opened The Whit Oak Studio & Gallery and the White Oak Blacksmith Forge. I am working on our acorn logo this winter and hope to incorporate it into my blog soon. Stay tuned!

Small House Homesteader, Donna

 

 

70 Degrees Outside/I’m Busy Collecting Acorns for the Chickens

We are having a bit of a warm up on our homestead weather this week; sunshine and 70 plus temperature days. So I’ve been out collecting acorns for the chickens as we are enjoying a banner year in acorns here in SW Michigan.
east Oak house planter shows air con
Our Small House home is nestled among the majestic White Oak trees, front view
You may recall we have 47 White Oak trees on our 5-acre property and many, many more trees in the 5-acre woods behind us.  They start falling here in early September and continue on throughout October. They fall with a loud ping onto the roof of our metal pole barn and three-seasons roof and even Sassy jumps when a falling acorn has a direct hit with a loud clang.
From back show porch-garden tree canopy NICE
The rear view of our home sitting among the Oaks. From these oaks we took our property and business names; White Oak Studio & Gallery, White Oak Blacksmith Forge and White Oak Acres. 

 

Because they are so prolific this season, I’ve been researching using acorns as chicken feed supplement and have discovered some amazing facts:

  • Acorn nutmeats are very high in fat
  • Acorns have 1700 calories per pound
  • Chickens love them

So, I’ve been collecting our White Oak acorns by the masses and putting them aside to crush and feed to the chickens this winter. I don’t intend to make crushed acorns their entire meal but rather will supplement their corn and grains with them as a treat and winter calorie boost.

Acorns in bowl

A sampling of our nutritious native acorns

 

I started by researching and as a result of what I  have read, I set them out on pans to dry for a couple of weeks. I picked carefully through them to make sure there were no worms involved and will store them in plastic buckets with a secure lid. I want ot be very careful that  the mice and other critters do not find their way into my stash. I had saved a few Epsom Salt buckets not knowing at that time how I would be using them. But now I know!

Turn around bed by sky

An early spring view before the White Oak trees have leafed out. Our White Oaks play a huge role in our life here

 

Acorns are apparently high in calories and that is just what my chicken’s need in Michigan’s cold winter months.

The kind of acorns I am collecting this year are falling hard onto our pole barn metal roof which is apparently knocking the little caps off of them. So when I pluck them out of the grass I am picking just the acorn with its shell. This makes my preparation job a bit simpler.

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The carved wooden sign I had made for the side of Gene’s White Oak Blacksmith Forge

 

When it comes time to feed them to the girls, I’ll use an old hammer and crush them down to the nutmeats, and toss them into the coop or onto the ground. Over the course of the year I also hope to supplement their commercial feed with sunflowers, gleaned corn, kitchen scraps, dried and crushed egg shells, our crabapples and homegrown green fodder. Next season, I’ll be growing Amaranth, comfrey and wormwood too.

My goal is to give my girls excellent nutrition, with healthy treats and rely less on purchased Industrial foods whenever I can.

And isn’t the goal of  sustainability to grow or collect as much of your food as you can! Happy eating!

Donna, Small House Homestead