Monday, August 4, 2014

It's August? Already?

It seems it's been a few weeks! I was on a good roll of weekly or more postings but as I expected, I ran into a lack of motivation and brain power to keep up my pace. At this point the days are going so fast I am having a hard time remembering what day it is, it all runs together in my world! Thank goodness for calendars. In order not to bore you I will just post some pictures and give a summary of the madness that is my life.

Eighth month belly

I am 33 weeks and now see my midwives every 2 weeks and just had a prenatal last Wednesday. Baby is head down now but is favoring being posterior at the moment so I am trying to remember to lay on my left side to encourage him to lay on my left side too. Being posterior means that he is facing forward and has his back pressed against mine. While this is not a problem for us right now, in labor it can create quite a lot of unpleasant things like back labor (think of having a bowling ball being pressed with unnatural force against your tail bone from the inside, it hurts like nothing else), a slower labor and much more effort in pushing. Posterior isn't dangerous or really "bad" but it is nothing us mom's who forgo pain medication want to experience! So I am praying and working on getting him to cooperate. Other than that I am measuring right on track, no major things to complain about and am generally functioning a lot better than I expected for this far along. Only about 4-7 weeks to go! I will be doing a post on how I am preparing for my second home birth and what my hopes are for Labor Day (not the holiday, the one where I give birth silly).

This one Rutgers is loaded! The other is catching up.

The garden I have kind of slowed down with. Everything is growing but I badly needed to do some maintenance including a good dose of watering for the indoor plants. All the potted plants outside are getting regular water with the plethora of rain storms and showers we have had but I have neglected the indoor plants a little in the past couple weeks. Everything needs a fresh dose of liquid fertilizer and inside needs a good soaking. I am harvesting a few beautiful ripe Glacier tomatoes now as well as Northeaster pole beans, all my carrots were pulled this last week (I chose to harvest them at what I call the finger size), Swiss chard is still cranking out 1-2 full cuttings a week and the leaf beet really needs a good harvest. Cucumbers are thriving and should be giving us fruits to pick by mid to late this month. My onions are going to be a bitter disappointment this year I am afraid, my fault as they have not had enough full sun to bulb properly. Some have made tiny bulbs about the size of a large marble but most are still strait and no thicker than a fat pensils.


San Diego Pastes

The chicks are 8 weeks old now and are growing like crazy. Most of them have successfully feathered out completely but there are a few that are struggling with this and look a little like awkward teens. I lost two of my Buff Rocks to a mystery ailment that involved a swollen or blocked up sack in their necks, fluffed feathers and sleepiness. They died within 3 days of first symptoms. I have no idea if this was a contagious illness or it was merely a coincidence but they died within a week of each other. None others so far have seemed to come down with what ever it is. One of my Partridge Cochins was damaged either during sorting or shipping from the hatchery and has a malformed leg. Because of this she was being picked on badly as well as my little rare breed Silver Polish who both ended up with open wounds. I separated them from the rest of the flock and since then with more attention to entertainment, I have not had anymore bad pecking problems. I will keep 'Gimpy' and 'Weirdo' in their own space until most of the roosters have gone to the butcher. I will send them by breed not only to make it more manageable money wise (30 birds would cost about $90 all at once) but also so I can keep track of what breeds preformed the best in meat production. The Light Brahmas will likely be the first batch as they are the largest and most in numbers (which I won't do until after I have recovered fully from birth). I will be extremely thankful when we have a freezer full of organic homegrown meat again!

The barn is kind of a mad house

And, last but not least, the house. We have been approved for a construction loan! Thank you and praise to Jesus! While we have a bit of a process to complete until closing, we will be closing hopefully sometime in September and getting back on the fast track. Obviously this means we will not be in our house before the baby comes but we should have the ok to move in before Thanksgiving or sooner depending on... well it's construction so everything! I do see why people who have the means hire crews to build their house! Building it yourself takes about four times as long. But, at the end of this we get to live in a house where we are reminded of the achievement everyday and for what most people pay for a tiny fixer-upper. The best part is we have designed it to be exactly what we want and to be low cost in utilities, a blessing beyond words here in Maine.

I plan on finishing up some more projects in my room and then I will do that home birth prep post!

Til next time.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Building a House While Pregnant: This Mama's Experience

Disclosure: I'm going to get real and be a little vulnerable here for a minute, so be nice if you comment.

After googling this subject and coming up with squat I figured maybe that's because most people aren't crazy enough to do it. And, had I seen how long this was going to be taking, I would have done it differently too. Blame my hormones, my husband's encouragement, God's command, the excitement of having a new little one... blame ME. Yes, I am saying that this is not what I pictured. Does that mean I am not thrilled to be having this little boy? Not at all! I couldn't be more happy, but it does mean I don't always feel like I can express that happiness. As soon as I found out I was pregnant I didn't even want to tell anyone because I just didn't want to hear it. Quite honestly I had foolishly thought it would have taken awhile longer to get pregnant and my due date wouldn't have been an issue to our timeline. Not the case and moving on! So, now I am seven month pregnant and staring down my due month like a deer in the headlights. Let me tell you, I have never felt so much stress, pressure and out of control in my life. I could rattle off a laundry list of things that stress me out (read haunt me) daily regardless, but this takes the cake.

First off, I birth my babies at home. At HOME. My home is not done. I currently have no place to give birth. Make this my number one stress.

I have a ton of crap I have moved about a half a dozen times in the last six years and a lot of it I don't even know where it is or that it even exists until I open mystery box number 27. I am not usually a terribly disheveled person, I like to be fairly organized but after you pack and re-pack and re-pack and re-pack you start to just not even bother to unpack any thing but the necessaries. They are just things but not having your things just makes you feel like you don't belong where you are. And, really we don't belong here. My parent's home stopped being mine the day I got married and I have felt an underlying level of guilt and failure since the day we moved back here. Now that our basement is finished enough, I have begun to wade through all our belongings in the basement of my parents house and will soon do the same with the ones in our horse trailer. This I hate. I will love having it be finished, but it is a lot of work and requires me to make a mess in order to accomplish it. I started with the easy and kind of fun stuff: baby things. I am almost done with prepping the baby's needs so soon I will move on to everything else and possibly I will have enough to do a yard sale.

Montana Man and I see very little of each other. This makes me sad. He works all week and then is at the house all weekend. I see him in snippets but it's not the same as being able to spend a whole day together as a family. I am so proud of the work he is doing and his provision for us. This is hard though. Both of us are stressed and exhausted at the end of each day and our marriage is kind of just an after thought right now. We are parenting fine together, but I miss closeness and love. We talk about financing, carpentry, how much time we have left, how much work he will have this week, what's next on the list of to dos. As an emotional and hormonal pregnant lady, this is second in line for stress. I'm trying not to let this bother me so much so that I don't put any more pressure on MM, but lately I have been struggling with it and I'm starting to get depressed.

I am starting to have a hard time keeping up with normal everyday life. I'm bigger, I'm tired and my two little energizer bunnies are running me ragged physically and emotionally. My mom helped me so much yesterday and I am so grateful for her! But, I hate needing help! I just feel guilty that I can't do it all and worry that I am being a burden to those that are helping me. To be honest, yesterday was half physically exhausted and half depressed. Ugh, so frustrating! My children are my life pretty much and to feel like I am failing at that just reinforces my guilt.

One thing that surprises me is that I do not have any fear about mothering three children once I have the baby. Praise be to God, I do not stress about that! In fact, I feel quite peaceful about it. Check one for the positive list!

I'm not writing this post to have anyone pity me and I hope no one will judge me harshly! I am writing this because I am so sick of people just covering up what life really is like! Everyone's got something! I will not feel these things once we are moved in and once the baby is here, but that doesn't mean that the next two months won't be hard. I wish I could read something like this so I guess I wrote this for those that are in the same situation(ish) so they can relate. So, if you are the prayerful type... pray. Pray for someone to finance us so we can stay on track, for Montana Man to stay well and have enough work to keep the bills paid, for the baby to not come early, and for my sinful, worrisome, insecure heart to cling to Jesus.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Pitiful Peas!

Well I knew it was going to be a small harvest, that's just sad! Hahahahaha! Oh, but I did enjoy watching those tendrils grow, one of them right over my head. Tonight I picked them clean, ripped them up and gave them to the chickens for a treat. Once I shell what I picked we should have just enough for a few forkfuls each.

Now with the peas done I can plant the cucumbers where they were so that they can use the chicken wire to climb and I won't need to make a new trellis. I will do a much more detailed report next week, this week has just been too busy and hot!

Til next week!

This post was shared at Green Thumb Thursday Bloghop.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Looking Ahead: Calculating How Much to Grow to Feed Our Family

Starting seeds for herbs, fall cabbage and brussels sprouts.

I have a confession. I hate math but I love to calculate and budget things. Weird, I know, but I never said I wasn't a strange one! When Montana Man is away I like to keep myself busy in the evenings and lately I have been wrapping my head around how we can affordably, both with money and space, grow the majority of our food. If you were to look at our grocery receipts you would see I spend 80-90% of our food budget on produce (organic mostly), dairy products and animal protein most weeks. If I am re-stocking our gluten free pantry than this skews the ratio a bit... but you get my point. I can easily spend $20-$40 a week just on produce (or $1,040-$2,080 a year!). This year as I have seen positive fruits from my garden it has motivated me to solve the puzzle that is fitting all the plants we need into an affordable space within means I can actually achieve. I have now seen that properly managed intensive planting (more plants in less space) actually works and it has really encouraged me! So, I started my project with a list (of course) of all the veggies and legumes we eat regularly that I felt are practical for us to grow ourselves.

Our family eats in a year (approximately):

Tomatoes: 200 pounds
Onions: 108 pounds
Carrots: 48 pounds
Potatoes: 300 pounds
Green Beans: 30 pounds
Dry Beans: 20 pounds
Beets: 50 pounds -
Broccoli: 50 pounds
Brussels Sprouts: 10 pounds
Cabbage: 30 pounds
Butternut Squash: 50 pounds
Spaghetti Squash: 100 pounds
Pumpkin: 20 pounds
Zucchini: 20 pounds
Summer Squash: 10 pounds
Peas: 10 pounds
Peppers, Bell: 50 pounds
Peppers, Hot: 25 pounds
Parsnips: 20 pounds
Spinach: 50 pounds
Swiss Chard: 50 pounds
Kale: 25 pounds
Garlic: 50 bulbs
Cucumbers: 50 pounds

Chicken: 80 pounds +
Red Meat (beef, venison, moose, bison): 60 pounds
Pork: 50 pounds
Fish and Seafood: 50 pounds -/+
Eggs: 50 dozen+ (we already have a laying flock)

Milk: 100 gallons +
Cheese: 80 pounds
Yogurt: 20 quarts +
Other dairy: 20 pounds +

Apples: 50 pounds +
Berries: 50 pounds -/+
Stone Fruit: 25 -/+
Rhubarb: 15 pounds -/+
Bananas: 100 pounds -/+
Grapes: 20 pounds +
Melons: 50 pounds +

I am not going to list our grains simply because it is superfluous to this project, we will never have enough land or money to grow our own grains efficiently. And, honestly, we tend not to eat a grain based diet so I don't mind continuing to buy this category from the store or perhaps someday from a local mill or even online. If we were too look at this from a "survival" perspective, potatoes would be a fine replacement starch in our diet and cornmeal would once again be a staple as it was centuries ago. We would likely be healthier for it!

Each family is different and your list would likely look much different than mine. These amounts are also based on our current family size of two adults and two children who are eating real food. Once baby #3 starts eating solids as a main diet the amounts will likely increase slightly.

After printing graph paper to test fit and playing with companion and succession planting theories I concluded that with the available area with full sun around our house we can grow most of the vegetables we need in five 12' x 4' and two 3' x 20' raised beds. The two 20' beds will be along the southwest facing wall of the house and the other beds will be on the northeast side of the house beyond the house's shadow. I believe each spot gets at least six hours of sun but I will track it more carefully this summer to make sure. So, with these seven beds plus what I currently have that gives me 405 square feet. I'm sure many of more seasoned gardeners think that sounds completely ridiculous and way too small. If it is, then I guess I will find out and need to add on! But, here is how I broke it down:

12' x 4'

Bed 1:
48 potato plants (1 square foot per plant)

Bed 2:
3 zucchini
2 summer squash
4 pumpkins
4 butternut squash
4 spaghetti squash
(all have at least 24" square and vines are run over the sides, bush varieties in the middle)

Bed 3:
16 broccoli (18" square per plant)
96 pole beans (trellised, one row on each side, 3" spacing)
8 brussel sprouts (1 square foot per plant)

Bed 4:
16 broccoli (18" square per plant)
48 cucumbers (trellised, one row on each side, 6" spacing)
16 cabbage (18" square per plant)

Bed 5:
144 peas (trellised, one row on each side, 2" spacing)
108 onions (4" plant spacing, 6" row spacing)
360 carrots (2" plant spacing, 4" row spacing)- spring
48 beets (3" plant spacing, 1 row)- fall
144 spinach (3" plant spacing, 4" row spacing)- fall

20' x 3'

Bed 1:
13 tomatoes (18" x 24" per plant)
160 bush beans, for dry beans (3" plant spacing, 6" row spacing)

Bed 2:
13 tomatoes (18" x 24" per plant)
180 onions (4" plant spacing, 6" row spacing)

Four 3' x 2' beds:
swiss chard
any experimental greens

7' x 3' bed:
spring spinach
miscellaneous fall/winter crops

Topsy Turvy planter(s):
all peppers
(I have 1 and would like to get 3 more)

I used a few online charts to give me rough ideas of crop yields and such (just Google 'vegetable yield per plant') and paired that with how much we eat of what and how frequent. Not rocket science but quite a mental chore especially for my pregnant brain! Of course all this calculating and planning is well and good, but the true test of whether I am right or not will come a year after we harvest. We will either have enough or not. I did list other food categories above but I am going to keep this post to just vegetables so it doesn't become a book! In the next few years we would like to add raising a pig every spring, a milk cow and raise her bull calves for meat but keep or sell heifers and hopefully our new chickens will be hatching chicks every year for our freezer and to replace old hens. This year we will are raising 32 roosters for meat and that will give us about 160 pounds of dressed meat which should see us through a year at least plus all the chicken stock I could ever need!

I've just started a few more seeds today for fall savoy cabbage and brussels sprouts as well as herbs that I had kinda forgotten about. I don't grow many herbs right now simply because I don't have a ton of room. At the house I will be making a dedicated perennial herb garden as well as grow more annual culinary herbs probably in pots. I do use a lot of herbs in my cooking so it would be nice to grow a surplus and dry them since most are fairly expensive now. I would also like to perhaps plant some garlic in the fall but this may depend on whether I have my raised beds in or if I want to sacrifice most of my large raised bed in the greenhouse... decisions, decisions!

Alright! That's enough for today, til next time!

This post was shared at Green Thumb Thursday Bloghop.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

June House Progress

This weekend we poured the basement floor! Finally, and we could not have asked for a better day to do it. It was warm but dry with the humidity only around 40% which is uncommon for Maine in June. God was being gracious! With only my dad and Montana Man working the concrete my dad had ordered it with a higher moisture content so it would set slower and give them more time to manipulate it so it was level. With all that extra moisture we were prepared for it to take forever to cure but with the stiff breeze, the gaping hole in the side of the house and the low humidity it was hard enough to walk on by afternoon. By now, a day later, it is hard enough to start unloading and moving some of our belongings that have been in storage for years into the basement! Normally I wouldn't be this excited but I have a lot of things to sort through and organize before we move into the upstairs and I just don't think I will be up to it in September or for months afterward. You don't realize how much stuff you have until you have moved it around a half dozen times. We have a large horse trailer, about 100 square feet in my parents crawl space in their basement and what we are currently using upstairs. That's a lot to go through and weed out! Especially my books... I have a lot of books. Anyway, lets get back to this floor shall we?

You might notice the silver shiny stuff on the floor that the concrete was going over. That is 1" polystyrene (foam board) insulation with a reflective coating. While the reflective coating really wasn't necessary, that type of foam board was what was available and the most affordable. We chose to insulate the slab because with the walls being completely insulated with the ICF forms it only made sense to complete the thermal barrier so the basement will not be effected by the ground temperature or moisture. This means heating the basement and keeping it dry without a dehumidifier will be much easier. In fact, it provides such a great envelope that heating the house above it with a pellet stove will be entirely enough even in the coldest weather. Even if a house is only on a slab foundation I would still encourage using a foam insulation under it to beak the thermal barrier to avoid cracking and cold floors. It's worth the extra money!

After the floor was poured we had some extra concrete which we had already paid for so Montana Man threw a form together in front of the porch for a pad which our steps will base from. We had not planned on this but it is a nice perk! Of course we had to put the kids hand prints, our hand prints and the year in the pad. I only have pictures of the kids doing theirs!

I'm glad we got to put our prints somewhere we will see them often. My brother and I did ours in the wall of the addition when we were little but it got covered by an exterior wall so we will probably never see them again! Montana Man kind of balked at putting his in but as he had never done it in his life I felt this was important, another piece of his childhood that he could make up for. I only wish there was a way for the baby to be able to add his! Perhaps I will just plant his placenta with a tree instead, hahahaha! He should be born in this house so I guess that's pretty profound *winkwink*.

I will have to do a part two to this post and add more pictures of other things before the month is out. There is a good chance we will have all the windows and part of the siding on by the end of next weekend, they are to be delivered Monday morning! It may be slower than some but progress is progress and I am still hopeful for a September move in date.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Garden Record Keeping and Why it is Important

Glacier tomatoes bloomed on June 16th!

If you are like most gardeners with a few years under your belt, every winter after the holidays you probably curl up on the couch with your seed catalog or laptop and start making a list for the upcoming growing season. While this is fun and can take hours, this really is serious business if you are growing for any reason other than pure fun. As a young homesteader I look at these first five to ten years as my learning curve, a time to single out varieties that can become tried and true residents in my garden every year. While I do have a fairly good memory, I also am pretty busy and have small children who take up 95% of my brain power daily. I want to remember details about what I am growing, not just whether I liked it and if it produced well. This is why I have started working on a garden record spread sheet. If I can rope my hubby into helping me I would gladly make it available as a print out in the few weeks!

Northeaster pole beans starting to climb.

Now, what is worth recording and what is being a little too detailed? Well, I believe in two different methods of record keeping: a journal and actual record sheets. The journal is where I tend to bring in more detail such as rain fall or watering frequency, growth patterns, when I fertilized, what kind of fertilizer I used, if I needed to replant any seeds, what I liked the taste of, etc. With a record sheet I record things like the planting date, did I start indoors or direct seed, first harvest date, average weight of harvest, last harvest date, etc. Many gardeners only use a journal (truthfully, I have been using this blog as my "garden journal" for two years now!), but I feel a record sheet makes things a bit more black and white for planning the next years seed nominees. For someone with limited garden space, forgetting which variety out preformed the other could cost me, literally! I would feel really silly if I ordered a vegetable that took up too much space and produced either small quantities or poor quality food. This doesn't mean I won't try new varieties once I find my basic stock for reliable yearly produce, but I will be able to more freely try these new varieties knowing we have back up if it's a disappointment.

Pea pods starting to plump.

In this generation of hybrid seeds, I can see why we are forced to keep records! There are so many out there and all claim to be terrific. Heirlooms are what I gravitate towards for many reasons but the most is that you have to know that it was good enough that someone painstakingly saved the seeds from their own plants. Think about this! At the end of the season gardeners weren't filling out charts to remember what they wanted to order next year, they already knew exactly what they were planting next year because they saved the seeds. Poetic, I think!

Go figure my wire potting tables just happened to be the perfect height for pole beans stood up on their ends! I love multi-taskers.

This year I ended up with more hybrids than I usually choose, mostly because I didn't choose them! I bought in a co-op with friends and while I enjoy the expectant nature of trying something new, I will be choosing all heirlooms next year so that I may start saving seeds. I will likely still order some seeds every year but I do think seed saving is an art worth sustaining for many reasons.

I am so impressed by how well the peppers are doing in this planter.

Another thing I will be keeping track of is what and how much I can grow in what sized raised bed. I had mentioned wanting to try the Back to Eden gardening method, but I am really in love with raised beds right now! The BTE method is not what I would call space saving and I have to say I love my tall raised bed we added this year, much easier on my back and needs far less water than my shallower beds. My intention is to make all the raised beds about 20"-24" tall. Likely we will make them 12' x 4' (48 square feet) and install 4-8 of them this fall depending on our funds and time. I would like to make a matching deep bed for the greenhouse to grow our cold weather crops in during early spring and late fall. Right now I am just amazed by how much just a 2' x 3' bed has been producing! So, I think it worth while to keep track of how much each bed size and depth produced and also with what spacing.

After about a week of settling in the perpetual spinach has taken off!

After learning a little more each year and investing in some quality materials I am thrilled with how well things are growing this year. I have learned that eight Swiss chard plants are enough for one weekly cutting but 12-16 would provide us with at least two and possibly some to freeze. Peas are easy to grow but you need a lot of plants to get a good crop! And, Russian kale has a stronger flavor than curly kale but with more tender stems. All these things will be going on the books!

Another few weeks and the greenhouse will be in jungle status!

One of our greens harvest from last week. They are giving us 1-2 cuttings a week and I am no longer buying greens from the store!

Start those records while the season is still young! Til next time.

This post was share on Green Thumb Thursday Bloghop.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Start of Our Sustainable Laying and Meat Flock

Light Brahma chick.

On Sunday I got a text notification that my chicks were on their way. Surprised, I immediately checked their shipping status knowing that they must have been sent out the day before. Normally chicks are shipped Monday and arrive to you on a Tuesday morning. The status said they were in Maine a few towns away. Of course it was Sunday and the USPS doesn't deliver on Sunday, it was hot and I was kind of panicking my poor chicks were suffocating and starving in a tiny little box! With nothing else to do, I just waited. Monday morning just before opening our town post office called to let me know my birds were there and very ready to be picked up! I could hear them peeping in the background so I knew most of them were in good condition. Montana man was heading up town anyway so he said he would get them for me. While he was gone I set up the brooder, in an old truck tool box no less, the only thing we had that was large enough for 40+ chicks without building something!

Again, I had bought an organic chick starter mash with which we had great success with our meat chicks. Typical chick starter from a feed store is medicated and many will try to tell you that without the antibiotics your chicks will most likely die. I had 100% success with organic feed and I thought our chicks were quite robust and lively. If you are raising chicks for meat or eggs and want the finished product to be 'organic' you really do need to start them on organic feed from day one.

When the chicks arrived home we both quickly but gently put them in their brooder an kept an eye for any that were in distress. All were alive thankfully, and soon the peeping sound in the brooder was making my ears ring! I usually teach them to drink as I take each one from the shipping box, but I forgot to tell that to MM and so I ended up teaching about half and the other half seemed to just learn from them. Everyone found the food in a hurry! I thought to look at the box sticker after I noticed our free rare chick (a bantam this time I believe). We were given a free extra Light Brahma male and extra Barred Rock male. So, 43 chicks total, 32 for the freezer in November!

You might notice their water is orange, no we do not have a rust problem! Because of the heat and prolonged time with shipping we got electrolytes for their water to give them a boost. My friend at American Family Now has a post on how they raise chicks and why they choose not to use any water additives. I do agree with her that chicks have survived thousands of years without, yet I find no harm in giving them an initial boost especially after less than ideal shipping period. I would not give additives to chicks hatched and cared for by an actual hen because their stress would likely be much less.

Feathered legs on one of the Light Brahmas, one of the reasons they are so cold hearty.

I don't have a light pictured over them in these pictures but I did put one in before I secured them for the night. Our last red heat bulb broke, knowing it wasn't going to be real cold I just replaced it with a regular 120 watt bulb. I might have gone to get another heat bulb but there are so many of them that a mass huddle seems to do the trick and the light is really more of a light 'blanketing' effect for them. Everyone was eating and drinking well this morning and I think this will be a hearty group!

We do have a barn cat and while he has not ever tried to get at our chicks before, we do take precautions against incidents. My brother's dog is a definite problem and because we do not have the brooder in the stall which has a door, we are keeping the garage door at the front of the barn closed all the time right now.

An old screen door makes a good cover for this hodge podge brooder!

I look forward to watching this colorful bunch grow! I may give away some of our Golden Comets in the fall to someone wanting to start their own small laying flock to keep the laying flock at a reasonable amount for the next year. It may also be advantageous to get rid of my two worst feather pickers who terrorize the rest including my rooster. While I am sure it will get better once they are in a much larger run and coop, it would still be a quick fix if it was still a problem after.

There are several blogs and articles out there on natural chicken keeping (may I just say some love their chickens a little too much!), and I do not feel the need to give a ton detail on mine! I will share our experience with raising heritage breeds for meat and our success or lack there of with having hen hatched chicks in the coming year. Like gardening, chickens take some learning and I am certainly still learning!

Til next time.

Mid Year Goals Readjustments

Occasionally I like to go back a few months in my archives and see what I was thinking about at the time. I reread my goals for 2014 and realized so many of my goals have either been taken off the list or evolved in some way. Much of this had to do with expecting our third child at the end the growing season, house progress and a reality check. But, like I said in that January post, they were likely going to do that! I have found myself taking things a little slower and trying not to look too far into the future. Obvious goals I now have are revolving around preparing for our new arrival and I have been posting about them recently. Instead of give a definitive list of goals that are likely to change again, I'm going to kind of give you are more realistic look at what my life will be like the rest of the year. I don't often give much detail about my life because this is a public blog, but as I have been working through some things I realize that some of you might be encouraged or could at least relate in a way to me.

Tomatoes, May 25th and June 9th.

First of all, my husband is a cell tower technician working for a company that subcontracts all over New England. Most weeks he is gone a full five days about 2-6 hours away and is home on the weekend. Because of this I am what you would call a 'married single parent'. Until recently I had not really made peace with this situation and instead just did what I had to to deal with it. I wasn't bitter and wasn't outwardly dissatisfied (much) but internally I needed to face and deal with the fact that my family's dynamic is different than most of my friends who have husbands that are home every night or even work from home. Sure, they might get a 'taste' when hubby goes out of town on a trip occasionally, but there is something very different about it being a constant weekly thing. Thankfully I have a very supportive and loving extended family who helps as much as they are able and I am so thankful for them (Mom, you keep me sane most weeks!). Until our house is done we will have been living with my parents for two years and obviously that takes some pressure off as far as being able to run to the store without loading kids into the car every time or have even a half hour to cook dinner while my mom takes the kids outside to play. When we move into our house they will still be very close by, yet there will be a new degree of separation. I will be responsible for my physical house (including a solar power system, propane, snow, yard care, small repairs, etc.) as well as need to be 100% on for the safety of my children, self and animals. My parents are close but they are also very busy! The help they give I consider a blessing not a given and I don't ever want them to feel obligated to help me because I am a single mom 75% of the time. I truly want them to be able to enjoy their grandchildren, not be another parent. So, now that you have a picture of this dynamic, lets dive into what I have as realistic 'goals' now through next winter.

Montana Man making us breakfast this weekend, Puzzle Boy got a kick out of him wearing his Buzz wings!

It's now June so that means summer is here! I hate heat but I do like summer for the things it brings like gardening, beach days and picnics, green grass for kids to run around without having to put on a thousand layers... I will admit the perks *winkwink* But, oh man! I do hate the heat and humidity and getting a real taste of it yesterday made me realize I am in for a sweaty and swollen summer personally. However, I am determined to not let it get me and to give my kids the best summer I can.

Over the summer my priorities are gardening and canning, schooling Puzzel Boy, raising the new chicks, preparing for baby, finishing a house and making a few memories with our kiddos. Ok, writing that out it seems like a lot! Hahaha! Things will be taken in stride though and likely we will spend the worst heat days hiding in my parents a/c bedroom or in a kiddie pool. On cooler days I will plan to work on my lists and anything that needs to be canned will be done in the early morning before it gets too hot. I'll be honest, on days where I can or am working on bigger projects, the kids will likely have a movie or two but I will try to reserve those times for a rainy day or even get a sitter so I can really buckle down. Canning is a big thing to me and I see it as a worthy investment of my time to be able to feed my family during times of less or more healthfully. Pretty soon we will be trying to eat the majority of our food from our own effort, so this is an essential practice to really focus on.
I have touched on homeschooling through the summer and what our plans are there, so I won't rehash that!
Our new baby chicks have arrived! I will be doing a separate post on that later, they are so stinkin' cute!
Preparing for the baby... I have just done a post on that as well.
As for the house, Montana Man is taking some of his vacation time this week to make some progress. Yesterday, with the help of my cousin and her boyfriend, he finished the roof and took down the staging as well as built a shelter for the generator we affectionately call the 'genny house'. I'm not exactly sure what else he has planned for this week but we should be pouring the basement floor and finishing the electrical, maybe ordering plumbing. Next week the windows and siding will be delivered and that will be the following weekends project! 'Brick by brick' we are getting there! I am trying really hard not to stress over its completion given I have about 11-16 weeks left in my pregnancy. I am trusting God will provide!
Taking the time to make memories? Likely the only thing we will do as a whole family (meaning with MM), is spend 4th of July together somewhere up the coast. We took a ride up to an old Civil War fort last year and had a really great day. This year we haven't decided what we are doing yet but it likely will be similar. Me as the mama would like to take the kids to the beach either a lake or the ocean, visit friends and just play with them. Bubbles, picnics in the yard, lazy days and maybe a trip to the mall on a really hot day to just walk in the cool a/c and visit the merry-go-round. Simple things but things I know I remember doing as a kid with fondness.

After little man arrives I will be taking a 4-6 week break from normal life. I am setting myself up to not need to go anywhere other than the doctor's office or to quickly pick up groceries. I will have easy meals, a stocked house and anyone who would like to offer help will be gladly accepted and given a specific task (folding my laundry anyone?). After 6 weeks is up or when I feel ready if earlier, I will be back in action which will include babysitting my friends son a couple days a week while she is in nursing school. Right now I have him one or two mornings or afternoons a week so he is very used to us and our rules/environment so hopefully this will be an easy transition! I enjoy him being with us and so do the kids so I look forward to having him.
Around October/November, Montana Man will start going down to Georgia for 4 weeks at a time and then will be home for two weeks. During the winter in New England the work in often interrupted by storms and lack of jobs sites so a crew from the company he works for will be heading south, and he's on it. Financially, this will be a good thing. As a family, this will be really hard. The older kids will miss him as will their Mama! But, for the baby... it makes me sad that he will be gone so much of his first few months. He'll come home and he will have grown and changed so much! I worry about how well he will bond with his daddy. Emotionally it will be a very trying winter.
Sometime in November we will have the male chickens butchered at our local butcher shop. We decided that while we could do it ourselves, it was just too many to do without at least a plucker and a helping crew and we are willing to spend the money to have it done quickly and professionally. Believe me, it will be enough work just vacuum sealing all the meat!
November also starts hunting season and the men will be spending most weekends in the woods. If I get my hunter safety done, I as well will be hunting near our house when my mom can watch the kids. I much prefer wild deer to beef (as long as it isn't super gamey!) and would gladly have a freezer filled with venison and homegrown chicken for the year.
The holidays will be busy especially since Puzzle Boy's birthday is in December as well. This year we are going to start a new tradition of spending Christmas Day at our own home which I think will be wonderful.

Buds on the Glacier tomatoes.

I'm sure over the next six months I will be posting on a lot of these things, but I figured I would kind of give a general idea. And, maybe because I feel dumb for being so far from what I had outlined in January, I felt I needed to update to keep everything on the same page. Life is life, things don't always go as we'd like! And, sometimes we are blessed in very different ways than how we wanted or expected. Part of being successful homesteader is knowing how to work with what you have and making do without what you don't. Ideals are nice to think about but they shouldn't be your focus. I love building our life more each year and knowing we will someday be in a really awesome place of self sufficiency.

Rainbow Chard, May 25th and June 9th, beautiful colors!

Til next time, come back for a post on our new chicks!

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Friday, June 6, 2014

My 'Get Ready For Baby' List and 25 Week Update

Mini Me at 6 weeks

I am now 25 weeks and the third trimester is coming up fast! I am natural 'prepper' and I love me a good list. This is my third baby so after the first two I have learned what is and isn't worth sweating, spending money or spending time on. I was given a ton of baby clothes, toys, entertainment apparatuses and the like from very generous friends and family last time and in no time I felt like we were drowning the living room in baby things! While I did use most of everything I have decided what I found most helpful and will be using again. Along with this I have learned what I really needed in the first weeks and months. I still have many things to do and my goal is to have things ready to just unpack into the house as soon as it is done so there will be no last minute scrambling. I have divided these responsibilities into the next two months.


Must dos:

-complete sewing newborn cloth diapers and inserts

-dig out the rest of the cloth diaper stash and check over

-sort newborn-six month clothing and make a list of needed items

-finish a few more freezer meal items (90% done!)

-sew crib sheets

Would like to dos:

- make or buy a new cover for the rock n' play (it is currently pink!)

-start knitting socks and a couple winter hats (he will be 3 months by December)


Must dos:

-go through home birth supplies, order and collect new

-transition Mini Me into a toddler bed (we might wait until we move into the house)

-wash all clothes and diapers new or stored alike

-pack all diapers and clothes in easy to access totes

-go shopping for new nursing tanks and other needed clothing

-big shopping trip at the bulk store, make a master grocery order for local store (for online ordering)

-stock milk bags, nursing pads, clean pump and make sure it's working well

-wash and install infant car seat

-make a list of numbers and information for D-day (midwife, doulas, pediatrician, rescue, my parents, Montana Man), so anyone can call if I am out of it

Would like to dos:

-finish knitting projects

-go on an overnight 'babymoon' (this depends on house and finances)

-can as much garden produce as is ready

-make and freeze some extra breakfast items

-get some goodies for birth attendants (toothbrushes, snacks, drinks)

-pregnancy photo shoot

Looking at this list it looks like a lot but many of these items are things that I would do at the same time or in an hour or two. Totally do able! And, nesting is a very important part of getting ready for a baby emotionally. Quite honestly babies do not give a hoot whether or not you remembered to stock up on toilet paper or how many onsies are neatly folded in the drawer. They would happily live cuddled up with you naked for weeks! Most of this is for me and those around me so that we have the freedom to enjoy the new baby without worry (nothing is more stressful than running out of that toilet paper!).

My list of baby gear I will be using the first year is:

infant car seat
Boppy nursing pillow
swaddling blankets, receiving blankets, knit blankets
20-30 newborn/small diapers, 15-20 medium diapers, 15-20 large diapers
25 cloth wipes
baby bath insert for kitchen sink
2-3 baby bath towels
assorted 0-12 month clothing
co-sleeper for our bed (for first 2 months or so)
changing table, mat, canvas bins for clothes
Ergo baby carrier and sling carrier
activity mat (yes, my pink one, he won't care!)
age appropriate toys
breast pump, storage bags, etc
bottles (I have about 5 small and 5 large)
Soothie pacifiers (not a huge fan of pacifiers but when your boobs hurt they are a life saver for a baby who wants to suck non stop!)
diaper bag (I am getting a new one, yay!)
exersaucer (love!)
sippy cups, toddler utensils and dishes
bibs (nursing bibs and toddler bibs)
rock n play (great safe place for baby to nap or watch family that is portable)
audio baby monitor (no video, lame I know!)
2-3 crib sheets and changing pad covers

If I didn't already have a lot of these things I would be perfectly fine with less! In fact, this is less than what I used with Mini. I don't need my bassinet, wipe warmer, bumbo, and a few other things. I didn't use them much and I'm sure I will pare down even more after this baby! Yes, some of this is still for my own convenience (like the swing and nursing pillow) but I like them and that's why I use them! Having a baby isn't about having every new gadget or seeing how minimal you can get by with. It's not a contest! But, that being said, I do think that too many gadgets start to take away from the more natural side of parenting. Babies need to be held, fed, played with, taken outdoors, shown things... if you are constantly just focusing on the stuff for the baby you might over look the simplicity of the baby itself. There were many days where all I did was hold, nurse and change Mini... and she was happy! A day like that only takes diapers, wipes, maybe a onesie and me, the whole day. I also like my house to not look like BabiesRus exploded in it, just saying. Somethings I listed will not be used all at the same time either, outgrown things or those waiting to be used get stored downstairs. So, new parents, keep it simple and just love on your baby.

An update on me now at 25 weeks... I have gained about 20 pounds, am back to focusing on my diet more (I'll admit, I was slacking!) and am in general good health. I still have pretty strong Braxton Hicks contractions all through the day but they don't seem to be doing any harm other than to my sanity sometimes! My back is holding up well and I have been surprised by my lack of heartburn this time. My energy seems pretty good most days although this may be my altered point of view on fatigue since I can't remember what it was like before kids. Little man is measuring perfect and moves all the time now, like a little kickboxer in there! I'd like to know where he learned to kick the back of my belly button... that hurts! But, I think the best thing is that I have a nice tight round belly this time. I was over weight when I got pregnant with Mini Me and I gained quite a bit with her. Because of that my belly never had that really cute roundness and it was always kinda flabby even at full term. I weigh now what I did at about 12 weeks last time! If I stay on the track I am I will likely total at about 30-35 pounds gained. Better than nearly 50! I can't say what a relief that is to me looking forward to my postpartum time because I know that at least 25 pounds of it will be gone within two weeks. I realize moms don't like to think about weight during or after pregnancy, but for me I know it will make me a better, happier mom to be in control of it and feel confident. 10 pounds to lose is much easier to grasp than 30. I did lose all my pregnancy weight (plus another 10 pounds) before this pregnancy and it made all the difference.

As I get closer I will share what our birth plan is and what is in our birth supplies, etc. After visiting a friend in the hospital today who just had her baby, and getting lost 3 times, I realized just how much I appreciate the freedom to birth at home! She had a wonderful experience and many moms do in hospitals, but it just isn't me. I'm a homebody. I like the idea of being able to walk our beautiful quiet road or in the field, sleep in my bed, eat my food, have everyone come to me! It just feels natural and unhindered. There is also something to be said from the point of view as a doula. When you go to a mother's home you are being welcomed into their sacred space and there because they allowed you. It has an energy you don't get on, what I would consider a hospital, neutral ground. Everything is warmer, electric and gives you the energy to serve that mama in any way you can. I could spout out statistics of safety and make my point that way but really at this point for me it's about the spiritual experience of welcoming our new life. Both Montana Man and I treasure this.

Another garden update and the arrival of the chicks will be next! Til next time.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend

Despite the patriotic meaning of Memorial Day, here in Maine this weekend marks the beginning of summer. Memorial Day weekend is planting time. We can safely say there will be no more frosts and most days get into the 70's or above by now. Tomatoes start shooting up like rockets, the cool weather crops are at their height and it's time to plant squash and cucumber seeds. That is exactly what I have done this weekend.


In my last post I had mentioned not gardening this weekend because Montana Man was home. I seemed to have forgotten he had a house and truck to work on! So, not wanting to waste the reasonably good weather I decide to scoot across the street to the farm store and grab some potting mix to get going. I looked online first to see how much this was going to run me (that's a Maine term... things don't cost you, they 'run yah') and I determined that the price of potting soil is dumb. Instead I got two 23# bags of organic compost and one 30# bag of organic garden soil as well as some organic slow release fertilizer. Back home I filled my wheel barrow about 2/3 full of our sand infused well rotted horse manure and proceeded to mix in batches about 4 parts sandy manure, 2 parts compost and 1 part garden soil. I mixed this all by hand and trowel... which took forever. My poor belly and arm muscles got a workout!

With my new soil all ready to be put to use, I first potted up some flowers I had gotten for my mom's birthday. Then I organized what needed to be potted up right now and what could wait and selected my sizes. Tomatoes were first in the five gallon pots. I filled each about 2/3 full of soil and then added two tablespoons of fertilizer and worked it in. I then took the tomato starts out of their little pots after striping off most of the lower leaves and placed the plant in the center. I then just filled in soil around it until only the top leaves were above the soil. All of the buried stem will sprout new roots and thus will have a much stronger root system.

Four bell pepper plants, two Jalapeno and one cayenne pepper plants all got planted in my hot pepper Topsy Turvy I got for a deal on Amazon. I will enjoy seeing how they grow upside down hanging from the framing in the greenhouse. It also elates me to have more raised bed and pot space to play with!

After mixing another batch of soil, more five gallon pots got filled (same as for tomatoes: 2/3 full, work in fertilizer, fill to top with more soil) and I planted two types of pumpkins, Delicata squash and Butternut squash. In two gallon pots I planted zucchini (1 tablespoon of fertilizer for this size).

Unsure of where I want my cucumbers to be quite yet, I planted seeds in the small 4" pots. Hopefully once they are a couple weeks old I will know where to put them!

I seem to have run low on soil again... time to call it a day!


My morning started in what is called the "grey hour". That mystical hour before the sun peeks up over the horizon but is hovering just high enough below it to light the world into a eerie grayness. I have always loved the grey hour. Normally I sleep right through it, after all I am no early bird. But, my precious little two year old finally decided at 4:45 am she was hungry after refusing to eat supper last night. I knew there would be no hope of her falling back asleep. Rather than being upset about the few more hours of sleep I was forfeiting, I just listened for a moment before getting up to get her. It was so... noisy! The Cardinal was singing his good morning song in a chorus with the other birds, my rooster roused and crowed a few times, the horses feet scuffling by his water. After I got little girl settled quietly in the living room and started my coffee, I was reminded that the world starts its day hours before I do. Nature's day dwellers awaken with the sun's rising and happily goes to rest at dusk. It has a lovely balance to it. In summer there is much to do and less sleep is prudent to make the most of the season. In winter there is nothing but to stay warm and fed and more sleep is welcomed to conserve energy and pass the days quicker. With having chickens, it's hard not to observe when they go to roost and when the rooster calls his girls to wake, no one tells them what to do! They don't fret over how many hours they get or the latest research, to them it is simple and not thought of. Not likely to happen, but it makes me wonder if rising and resting with the sun as generations before us did, would solve our tricky body clock issues. Just a thought.

After I put Mini down for a much needed early nap, I resumed my planting from the day before. I mixed another wheel barrow full of soil ( I had run for more compost and garden soil earlier) and proceeded in filling the rest of the pots I needed. I had four rainbow chard in small 4" pots that got replanted into one five gallon and then I started digging up the kale out of my deep raised bed. I put four in their own two gallon pots and the rest in two larger pots (5 in each). The chard and kale in individual pots are going to a friend.

The kale is sulking a little from being dug up.

Next I moved my prep table outside putting the newly planted cucumber seeds on it. I then worked some of the fertilizer into the now empty part of the deep raised bed and planted my two Rutgers tomato plants in opposite ends. Sixty of my Copra onions were planted in front of and between the Rutgers. So now the deep bed has two tomatoes, sixty onions and about 100 Yaya carrots. The remaining twelve onions went in between the rainbow chard in one of the smaller raised beds. I could have gotten all the onions into the large bed but I am hoping they will mature into large bulbs so I didn't want to crowd them.

I planted two five gallon pots with Kentucky Wonder pole beans and one five gallon with Northeaster pole beans, planting four seeds around temporary poles. I need to scavenge some tall saplings to make a four pole teepee in each pot once they sprout. And, finally I worked some compost into one of the empty raised beds to get it ready for the perpetual spinach that will be ready to plant in there in a few more days.

So except for a few more seedling transplants I am done with planting! Now it will be a summer of tending and watching everything grow.

Ok, I may have some plant pot organizing to do too...

I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend! I'm going to go nurse my sciatic nerves that are on fire now.

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