September 18, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: The Chunnel

For those of us not in Europe or the UK, using the word chunnel isn't confusing. The Chunnel in the UK and Europe connects the two places. It is the channel tunnel aka the Chunnel. This is a homesteading blog, so a chunnel is a chicken tunnel. I built one using 2x2s and some chicken wire. It is going to be attached to the second coop at some point. It was a very easy construction. I made a rectangle, then attached risers to a support beam at the top. Covered with chicken wire and made a makeshift door for now. I did make the support beam at the top stick out because I was going to move it all around the yard.

Hope that gives you some inspiration to try and make a chunnel yourself. I have a second design in the works but more on that later. Happy Homesteading!

Ceaberry's Monday Musings: Taking a breath

On a homestead there is a lot of work to do. That is an understatement, it is a 24/7 job. I tell Mr. Native Farmer that when he leaves work, he gets to leave work. The homesteading, stay at home mom, and small business owner me does not ever leave work. Granted when he gets home he becomes daddy and son of a family farmer so really... he never leaves work either. We had a Sunday planned that was supposed to be peaceful, taking our time and enjoying a day after some hard work from the day before.

We helped cousins start a bigger run and coop for their 6 beautiful chickens and we need to go back and finish the job sometime soon. Let's just note I put in 1500+ staples without getting a blister. I don't think that is a proud moment more like a show of how much stapling of chicken wire I have been doing lately. I was making sure the chicken wire was secure, they have a much bigger dog problem then we do and they had a bit of duck tragedy recently.

I let him sleep in, it was his weekend. We do that, we alternate weekends of sleeping in, normally it is just one day of that weekend but its good to know that the option presents itself. We also alternate nights (or mornings) when the kiddos arise before the chickens. It doesn't matter if you're sick, tired or just went to bed, if its your night then its your night (or weekend). Anyway, I get him up around 9 and I was just finishing up the dishes (which is why I got him up to watch the kids since I was busy for the next 30 minutes and they are a bit too spirited so early in the morning, I had been up since 5am). The phone rang, he was off to work to put in some cattle. Our plans for the day up in the air again! When he got home we went to go pick tomatoes, you know the ones we don't eat, from his boss' garden. I am so looking forward to all the tomato powder I am going to get from these lovelies to boost my stews and sauces this winter. It is really a different taste one must experience in life... even if you don't like raw tomatoes.

Having a homestead can have you hopping all day, every day. Then having kids keeps you on your toes during the wee hours of the morning. Let's throw in some kittens we have inside until they are fixed and weaned. Why don't we add in the family farm needing to be tended, along with my own business. Taking a breath is something that should happen more often then it does and it is well needed when it does happen.

My breath moments come when I do a bi-annual ritual of watching Dancing with the Stars with my Mother-in-Law and my Aunt-in-Law. We go to my AIL's house and watch the show, eat some sweets, drink some coffee, and chew the fat. It is 1-2 hours away from being... well... me. I get to be the person I was before kids, marriage and homesteading. I don't have friends my age near me. I had a select few friends in High School (Mr. Native Farmer was my best friend in those days), all of whom have moved away from our impoverished area to find better opportunities elsewhere. My college friends are even further flung afield and my Scotland friends are even farther spread then those. I tend to make friends with people who like to travel, even my friends from when I was younger in Texas have spread out to far reaches of this Earth. So no, I don't have anyone my age except my husband to really relate to, so these times with my in-laws (who are apparently awesome since I choose to spend time with them regularly) are my "adult-single-kidless-me" time.

So if you are wrapped up in homesteading and you find yourself doing the dishes at 4am or even 2pm and you find yourself sighing. STOP, take a breath. Your body is telling you, whispering to you stop. Many things about becoming all my titles is learning how to let it go, let it slide, and knowing you can't and won't get it all done today, maybe not even this week, but it will get done, or not. The world will keep changing. If I have an empty dirty laundry basket, inevitably about 5 minutes after enjoying that fact my kids will pee on the floor (potty training at its finest here) or I dunno... spit tea all over their room and their white shirts. So before going off the rails with the unfairness of that, take a breath and laugh a little. Take life a bit less seriously and everyone will be happier for it.

If you seem to not be able to bring yourself to that: Please feel free to download this photo and put it as your background.

Hours old kittens

Or 6 week old kittens

Now doesn't that make you smile?? Happy Crafting and Homesteading!!

September 15, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Chicken update 1 -- Silkies!

We got some new faces around the homestead in August. We bought locally 4 silkie chickens, 2 hens and 2 roosters. They are such characters and they have added to our flock nicely. Who doesn't love these fluff balls of the chicken world?

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Taking Vermicomposting to a new level

Mr. Native Farmer looked at me like I was crazy when I asked that he put the old bathtub down in the lower garden. He couldn't figure out what I was going to do with the tub. Multiple ideas sprouted to mind but alas, he couldn't even fathom what I actually did with it. 

It became a worm bin. Yup. Worm bin. I need to amp up the amount of worm castings to fill my raised beds next year. In came a larger worm bin. I have currently separated my worms but for the winter every one is going in there. I am surrounding it with hay bales and forgetting it for most of the wintertime. It may not look pretty yet but it will turn into a bench back with an arbor behind it (boy do I have lofty goals?). 

I put screen in the draining holes then a bit of gravel near the holes then back filled with creek rock/dirt mixture and added topsoil. Then I added my worms and some food for them. Put on a makeshift lid and let them get to work. It is working so far and I am happy to see my worms just munching away! It is set on two high cinder blocks (6 in total so three sets). It will be framed around and a nice top fitted with a bench in front of it and a cushion and an arbor behind it with our heirloom grape vines expertly intertwined with it. You're laughing aren't you? Its doable, I swear.

September 14, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Heading into Late Summer

So the garden has its last little legs to go and on September 1st, I put of my last set of radishes. Oh radishes the bane of my existence. What isn't the bane of my existence are my snapdragons. Funny my favorite color would make a second appearance (just wait until the next update!) and it made me happy to see the new flowers poking through.

A little later on in September my snapdragons blushed a bit more and the celosia just took on a growth spurt! My begonias also took on a new life!

Here are the radish seedlings, Champion radishes. I will talk about what happened later with these little hopefuls... it is a bit face palm at the moment.

Continuing into the second week of September my snapdragons hit a growth, or should I say, blooming spree. My gracious!! Now if only the tomatoes would actually ripen...

The garlic is looking great... for well garlic.

My Rose of Sharon is blooming nicely even after all the pruning! 

Well that is it for now, I have to get the other photos processed. I am sorry for the silence lately, the family caught a cold and you know men when they get sick... at least my husband, he gets so cranky that its like I have 3 children and he is the youngest. I will be back on a normal schedule soon!!

September 2, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Cotton Growing

You may have seen my previous updates showing my cotton plants. I bought seeds at MRC Seeds (not paid endorsement). I got some white cotton seeds and some green cotton seeds. I placed them in three pots to begin with and something happened and I transplanted all the healthy ones into 1 pot. I went from 20 seeds to 5 plants. Not a problem except I didn't remember which variety was where so I had no idea what plants had actually made it. I now have 3 healthy plants in one pot.

Here are my cotton plants, my uncle-in-law told me sometimes on how to grow the cotton. He used to grow some plants here and there on this very property. So I was encouraged to try it myself, global warming couldn't have affected here too much right?! 

After a LONG wait, flower squares showed up. I was so excited. I would peek in the bigger ones watching the little flower buds starting to form.

Then... on Monday August 28th, my wait was over! A flower! One beautiful, perfectly wonderful, YELLOW flower. Yellow?! Cotton flowers are white normally. But green cotton flowers are yellow!! I may have done a bit of a happy dance.

Then a second one appeared the next day! These are all on the same plant.

This is the first flower after 24 hours. Cotton flowers don't last long, 24-48 hours before the next gorgeous stage happens.

The next day, that beautiful yellow flower looked like this, yup pollination happened and now the flower turns pinks and closes to create the boll. 

Here is the second flower just pink in the edges and a third yellow flower! 

So now to wait for the other flowers to bloom before the frost hits and then the long wait for bolls. Cotton takes 180 days (thats 6 months) to be completely dry. I have 2 weeks before frost and I need to bring the plants indoors, something I haven't quite told Mr. Native Farmer yet...

A note on my reason for growing cotton. Although I know it is a touchy subject for some of my readers, I am growing cotton because I am a spinner. Yes, I am from Texas, and I am a proud southerner. I live in West Virginia (which was neutral in the Civil War), where growing cotton isn't illegal. West Virginia isn't known for its abundance of cotton farms. Now, that being said I have been up against racism from people who told me I should be ashamed of being 1. white and 2. a southerner because my family had enslaved their family. I would like to kindly note, my family (from both sides) wasn't even in the USA until the 1920s. My father's side came from Austria before WWII to escape persecution from Hitler, they were Catholics (Blechl means bell ringer in Austrian, meaning church bells), and they were under Hitler's target list just as much as Jewish people were targeted. Now my adoptive father's family history is Native American. My mom's side came from Mexico (legally I might add), actually she is only 2nd generation born in the USA. My family has never been on the side of pro-slavery, quite the opposite.

August 31, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: My mom's garden

I am truly jealous of my mom's garden. She has raised beds enclosed with some deer fencing (it is the same method we used for the chicken run with t-posts and wire and Zip-ties). She uses Shenandoah Screened Topsoil (not a paid endorsement), it is located in Winchester, WV (can't get much more local than that for the quality we receive). I think her true key is the topsoil, because even though it is labelled as that it is a rich mixture that she DOES NOT fertilize. You will see how amazing that fact really is when you scroll through the photos below. She orders an entire pallet of topsoil bags in the 40lb bag quantity. Then, they sit at least 6 months but most of the bottom of the pile is over a year old and it is black gold when you open the bag. That is probably her second successful secret, she basically composts the top soil and adds just that to her garden.

Now for some pictures! She does "rowish" gardening in her raised beds. They are semi-permanent beds. For her beans she puts up more T-posts with that nylon square netting.

This is her beans, you are correct in thinking there are weeds in the front. Now they have been removed and the bush beans are happier. Her pole beans have lovely purple flowers and she always gets an amazing yield.

This is another raised bed. She has peppers, squash, tomatoes and corn growing in one raised bed. The sea of green is just amazing to watch!

Now this is the last true secret of my mother's garden. Sunflowers... Yup, sunflowers. Now by accident my mom discovered their very nice side effect. She got some plants from Burpee (not paid endorsement), and there was a sunflower seedling in it. Burpee seems to have this occur quite a bit with their seedlings. These are intentionally planted ones. The bees, oh the bees!! She doesn't have to worry about pollination, ever. She also has humming bird feeders nearby and butterfly bushes. For some reason she doesn't have cabbage loop worms either (lucky her) but does get Japanese beetles because of the blueberry farm down the road.

Now to see just a few things she harvested recently.

I know... you secretly are jealous too. Those cabbages were "as is" from the garden. Notice no holes!

This was a different day, her broccoli in there are actually the side shoots that are supposed to be tiny... yeah right. You can't see them but she gets 6 or so banana peppers every few days!

Why am I jealous? She doesn't fuss with her garden after planting and it grows despite the lack of tending. I think her three accidental things have helped her garden grow so well!
  1. Get good topsoil. 
    • My mom orders it from a mom and pop business but you can find it at Lowes in some places.
    • There is topsoil at Wal-Mart but we have found it to be wildly inconsistent. We got bags from two separate cities (about 3 hours apart or around 100 miles), but the SAME topsoil was rich and black at one place and completely clay at the other place. I am not kidding we bought them within a week of each other and the only reason we bought them from two different places is because we liked the first stuff so much we had the truck in another city near us and decided to get more... which was clay... yucky. 
    • Read the labels, really. If you read what is in the bag it will help you decide what is best for your area and growing habits. You can get raised garden bed mix but we were lucky with a local producer.
  2. Let it compost
    • Buy some extra bags and let them sit, out in the rain and everything. My mom just piles hers up and forgets about it until she needs it. Little buggies (and composting worms) will get in there are really make it a treat. I suggest a tight stacking method and keep the area around free of tall grass, it may just bee too tempting to snakes otherwise.
    • You don't have to let it compost but why not? You are going to need to add to your raised beds eventually, having richer topsoil then when you started is always a good thing.
    • I put my bags my mom graciously gives me into my worm tub (upcoming post). I use that as a nice medium for the tub and I get back even better soil!!
  3. Bring in the pollinators 
    • My mom has found that sunflowers, butterfly bushes and hummingbird feeders are all she needs to bring in the good and keep out the bad. 
    • I have loads of flowers and multiple beneficial species. I also have deterrent species as well and it has served me pretty nicely. 
  4. Feed your garden
    • Feeding and fertilizing are two different things. My mom does not fertilize, she feeds. She puts eggshells and spent tea in her garden and that is it. 
    • I fertilize but I also amend my soil plus my worm bins and composting bins with tea, coffee, and eggshells. 
Happy Homesteading!