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.

This post was shared on Green Thumb Thursday Bloghop.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My! How the Garden Grows

I hesitated to update so soon but I was looking at the pictures from two weeks ago and I couldn't believe how fast everything is growing! This always amazes me every year, the humbling miracle of growth, none of it really my doing but the Lord's. Just look at this beauty!

Onions nearly doubled in size!

Yellow stemmed chard.

Perpetual spinach sprouted, soon to be thinned.

Spinach two days after it's first harvest.

Just look at that beautiful pile!

Feather like rows of carrots have sprouted from my seed tapes... success!

Gorgeous red and white Russian kale. I feel bad I'm going to dig it out and stick it in pots!

Peas climbing away.

Glory to God! What a blessing to have such clean beautiful food to eat and feed my family. We ate the first pick of spinach in a smoothie, I couldn't bare to cook it! So fresh. I wish I had got a picture of my kids faces after they guzzled it down, don't they love those smoothies! And, yes, they know the spinach is in there. Next week I will be planing all my squash, cucumber and bean seeds and planting the tomatoes and peppers in their final containers. I had planned to do it this weekend but I would rather do it when my hubby isn't home since I only get him a couple days a week.

Puzzle Boy is on a road trip with my parents to Florida right now, what an awesome experience for him! But, I will admit, the house has been eerily quiet after they left this morning and it makes me just a little sad! However, I am truly enjoying the one-on-one time with my little daughter. I have never had more than two days alone with her and I will now have six whole days to give her my attention. After you have more than one child alone time with each is so hard to come by and I really think it's important that they get it when you can. So we will be having a girly day on Friday at the mall with a friend and just goofing off. Because Mini goes to bed earlier than her brother I am also looking forward to treating Montana Man to an at-home date night in the empty house.

I hope all your gardens are growing! Til next time.

This post was shared on the Green Thumb Thursday Bloghop.

Monday, May 19, 2014

2014 Chicks Are Ordered!

I realize we are quite late in getting our chicks ordered, but life is as it is and I finally got it done! Because of my procrastination they will not be arriving until the week of June 9th but that will give me more than enough time to prepare them a large brooder and such as well as affordably stock up on chick starter and disinfect all the equipment I need. This is the second time I have ordered chicks instead of just buying what's available from the feed store. Many are fine with that but I tend to want exactly what I want! I was looking for certain traits as this is the start of my "all purpose" flock. The goal is to raise a flock that will not only provide eggs but meat as well as hatch their own eggs and raise the chicks with little help from me. I selected an assortment of 10 females (new layers and hopefully mommies) and 30 males (for this years freezer stash). Ok, I might have also gotten a couple feather footed ones for fun... they look like they have pants on! Hahahahahahaha! Ahem... let's see what I got:

Light Brahmas

I chose this breed for their size, cold tolerance, temperament and broodiness. They are a very old Asian breed and stood out as a good homestead addition. I ordered 15 males and 3 females.

Barred Rocks

It seems like most people who live in New England with chickens have had a few Barred Rock. Bred to be an ideal New England bird I know they can stand up to our winters, steadily provide eggs through the winter and are noted for being heavy roasters. The roasting part is all I got them for. I ordered 8 males.

Buff Rocks

These guys are very similar to Buff Orpingtons and that is why I got them. Buff Orpingtons were out of stock! You might recall our current rooster is a Buff Orpington and I love him. Like all rocks they are heavy set and good roasters, good winter layers and will set well on eggs late spring. I ordered 7 males and 2 females.

Partridge Rocks

I had not originally considered this breed but after a little reading I was convinced it would be a good fit for us. This breed is not only pretty but is considered one of the best setters/brooders as well as a nice heavy meat bird. I ordered 3 females.

Partridge Cochins

Also not one I had planned on but recently I thought I was being a little boring in the chicken department. These are the feather footed ones! I did carefully go through the feather footed varieties and pick one that would be functional as well. These are praised for being great brooders as well as produce large brown eggs well. I ordered 2 females.

There you have it. I can't wait for the little babies to get here!

Til next time.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Why I Chose to Be a Stay at Home Mom

A century ago this title would be superfluous to the fact that most mothers stayed at home with their children even after they were school aged or grown. Unless for financial necessity (read desperation), this fact was not discussed or carefully planned, it simply was. How much has changed! And, how much I wish it hadn't. Now, us moms who choose to stay at home feel we need to defend our decisions and are looked down upon by our peers and even our own husbands for this "humble" way of life. Despite numerous studies that support children being raised by their own parents, still it is not valued as it should be. So, why do we women of the home continue to voluntarily subject ourselves to this ridicule, disrespect, loneliness and some of the longest and hardest days we will ever live? Because, it's right.

My husband and I have recently fought over this issue in a way. Really the fight was over respect and appreciation for each other but really it boiled down to my being a SAHM in the bottom of the pot. Though we both agree it wouldn't be economical for me to return to the work force nor would it be best for our lifestyle or children, there is still something about me staying home that rubs him the wrong way. I won't lie, some days are really hard and I complain a lot but, I wouldn't ever want to be anywhere else. Just like I listen to him gripe about his bad work days, that's all I really want... some understanding.

Personally I chose to be a stay at home mom because that's what I had always dreamed of doing! I have loved babies and kids since I was little and I gladly slipped into the wife/mom role. What I didn't know was how it wasn't as simple as I had thought. Surely all those moms I had eves dropped on talking about how hard and isolating it was were just milking it and had poor attitudes. This was going to be awesome! And, it is... but in a completely different way than I had perceived. Being with your kids 24/7 is great because you bond deeply, get to experience all those firsts and triumphs, have little snuggle sessions, be silly and you can really do "whatever" you want. Just last night I sat on the lawn for a half hour and blew bubbles for my daughter to chase after and I got to watch her delight as she laughed and ran. But with the sweet always comes the bitter. My son is now six and he is testing his limits and new sassy attitudes on me. Daily I get screamed at, disrespected and disobeyed. Daily I correct, calm, discipline and train this sassy little man, sometimes all day. I am not a perfect mother. I yell, I say things I apologize for and I often go to bed feeling like a monster. But, I get up and try again better the next day with softer words, more hugs and more patience. My kids may not realize how much they appreciate mommy being here all the time especially when I am correcting or training them to behave and obey but, like myself, they will when they are grown because they will (if I am successful!) respect authority, have self control, understand responsibility and generally function as adults. Raising the next generation should not be taken lightly, it is the biggest responsibility anyone could ever have! My husband this week got in his fortune cookie "the strength of a nation depends on the integrity of the home". How true! A nation is made up of people so how can we be strong if we are rebellious, needy, lazy, disrespectful, irresponsible, impulsive? I don't know about you, but I didn't have a child as a gambling chip, I'd rather increase my odds of them growing up right than chance it on someone else's instruction (or lack there of).

So, now I have established why I feel this decision is important. Now, what about this is so much of a job? Sure I have to talk, that's not so hard (tongue in cheek). I'll tell you, it really isn't a 'job'. A job is something you do periodically on a daily or weekly basis and receive compensation for. Being a full time mom is just that... all the time. I don't get vacation time (unless I beg), sick days, weekends, nights, lunch breaks, bonuses, paychecks or holidays. I do get overtime though! Hahaha... but, seriously. If you have ever worked a job you know, once you clock out, turn your phone off or shut the computer down, you are free. I am not complaining, just stating a fact. I take help that I get either from my husband, mom and dad, or friends as a gift not a given. This is mine and I own it. Some days I rock it other days I crash and burn, either way it's mine to own. Bless my son's heart, he does appreciate me and shows it sometimes. He had the stomach flu a month ago and every time he threw up he said "I'm sorry I am sick. You need sleep!". I did, but we manage through the night and next day, eventually catching some sleep. Little things like that fuel me up though when I realize I am doing the right thing and my children will remember these moments with fondness, maybe someday repeating my acts with their own child. Simple though it may seem, the little things matter. And, little things is what I do all day long.

I am a stay at home mom, but I wish I was seen as so much more. I am a woman, a wife, a daughter, a friend, a sister, gardener, equestrian, seamstress, knitter, teacher, nurse, counselor, accountant, event planner, cook, shopper, cleaning lady, manager, vet, daughter of the Savior, scholar of life, book worm... need I go on? Since when did we take this term 'stay at home mom' and make it overshadow who we are beyond it? Why have we been devalued especially by other women?! Why do I need to justify why I didn't load the dishwasher, start supper at exactly 4:30 or why my two year old is still in her pajamas after noon? Why do I feel I need to point out how much I accomplished some days? Because, I feel like I need to justify being me. In my life, I feel disrespected, judged and alone a good part of the time. I stress about this fact constantly and my brain is always trying to find a new way to rectify this situation whether that means saying nothing and doing everything or trying to speak up and ask for help or kinder words. By no means do I want or expect any glory for what I do, but as a human I long for acceptance and respect, to know I am valued for what I do. What I do alone when know one is looking.

In the words of Lorelei Gilmore... "I am a kayak, hear me roar". She said that after her mother pointed out that she always relied on herself and could "paddle" through life just fine on her own. It's lonely in the kayak, but it is functional and you gain strength from it. I love my children and cherish them so much! Raising them will be my greatest accomplishment and when they are grown I hope they remember me for it. For now I will gladly continue to be their world and teach them about the real one, hold their hands to keep them safe, make macaroni and cheese for the 400th time, be screamed at if only to have an opportunity to teach them to control their tongues and kiss tears of broken hearts. To give them love and my life even when no one asked me to. This whole post will be read by only a few and probably be picked apart furiously by most. Most of what I do won't be seen or commended by my family and friends, but God will. He praises us mothers for our work even if we can't audibly hear it. But, to know it makes all the difference.

Monday, May 12, 2014

May House Pictures and Progress Report

Montana Man, my dad and my brother have been hard at work and we have interior walls as well as a nearly complete roof (just a few loose ends on that) and we are ready to order our windows and siding! With it inching closer to summer and me now past the half way point in my pregnancy we are feeling the pressure to move as fast as we can!

Views from the front door of the kitchen/dining and living room.

Our very large bathroom (our only one I might add!).

Laundry and linen closet.

A really bad picture of the master bedroom (not real sure what makes it 'master', pretty basic).

Kids' bedrooms, mirror images of each other.

Where the stairs to the basement will be located between the kitchen and bathroom walls.

People always ask the same question about the house... when will we be moving in? Well, through God's good grace I would like to be moved in and halfway settled before the first of September. I am not "due" until the 17th but with Mini Me coming a full ten days early last time I would like to not cut it so close I have no energy to birth the poor thing. With luck, (and I will later insert my foot in my mouth for saying this) I might go to my due date this time which would give me time to unpack fully, organize and feel really ready for little man. But, we have a long laundry list of things to do before we can get our occupancy permit:

pour basement floor
install door
deck the porch
finish electrical
install kitchen cabinets, counters and appliances
tile bathroom (floor, shower, tub surround)
install bathroom fixtures
install boiler/hot water system and baseboards
install pine tongue and groove boards on the cathedral ceiling
prime and paint
flooring (wood, carpet, tile)
install solar power system
septic and leech bed
drill well and run lines and install pump

Most of that is to make it liveable. Yes, we could live with bare sheetrock and sub flooring for a while, but after talking it through we realize with small children that what seem like easy "later" projects would be a big pain. So, we will take the few extra days to prime, paint and install flooring to save us a hassle later. The windows and doors might not get trimmed out right away and the porch will be in a state of "good enough" for a year or so, but it will be comfortable and functional! Thankfully we decided to go with a small house to start with and a lot of these projects can be accomplished in a weekend or by me in the evenings (like tiling or painting, refinishing the cabinets or tub). Building your own house is hard work and I am so thankful for a husband that is willing to do this and has the skills! I would like to glean some more carpentry skills and build the chicken coop although being five months pregnant I might need some help with the lifting *winkwink*. Yes, I am still technically supposed to take it "easy", but I seem to be stable enough to test my limits just a little. I am still lugging water, tending the garden beds and animals as well as wrangling my writhing ball of energy that is my daughter with little ill effects, a day or two of carpentry shouldn't hurt! In fact, I have been so active lately that despite my new larger appetite I am gaining weight pretty slowly. Not in a bad way! This baby is growing fine and is one strong kicking little dude, ask my bladder.

So, there you are. More updates to come as we progress!

Til next time.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

How to Re-pot Onion Seedlings and Why You Should

As with all things I learn by doing. I have never had the patience to successfully grow onions from seed and always subjected to the higher prices of onion sets. Then I learned that onion sets do not produce good sized bulbs that are best for storage. I had shied away from growing from seed because of the delicate little leaves that easily got tangled into a daunting mass. This year I hitched up my big girl pants and gave seeds another go.

I bought my seeds in co-op with friends and the one that ordered them picked out Copra for the variety. I did my homework on this new-to-me variety and like pretty much everyone I started my onion seeds in a flat (or in my case a big foil lasagna pan). I got a little bit late of a start but everything germinated well and soon I had a pan full of little green hairs. I started to get a little anxiety when I saw how tangled everything was getting with in a week or so. Then I stuck them in the greenhouse and kind of ignored them except for watering. First they started to look dead and I thought they were goners. But, I kept watering and once gave them a little miracle grow. Last week suddenly I noticed that there were strong tall shoots growing and my hope was restored! Thursday night I decided it was time to put them in their own little cells to give them room to grow to planting size.

First I got all my supplies together: seed starting soil, cell trays, tools, extra trays and the seedlings of course. I started by carefully using a fork to get as far under the roots as possible and loosen the tiny plants so I could pull them apart by the tops. Don't try to handle them by the base or roots or you could damage them. If some of the leaves break, don't worry if it's just the tops, you will be doing this on purpose in a bit.

Once teased apart I sorted them by size into a tray. The ones that were barely sprouted I just tossed and didn't bother. By the end of the night I ended up tossing the medium sized ones too for lack of a place to put them.

I wasn't able to get pictures while I was putting them in the cells, my hands were covered in dirt! But, it was simple. Just sprinkle about a 1/4 inch of soil in each cell and them holding the roots kind of suspended in the cell, use a spoon to fill it in with soil around the roots. You don't want to bury the base of the plant very far, maybe an 1/8 inch. After you get them in the cell all snug snip the tops so they stand about 3-4 inches tall. This will encourage the bulb part of the plant to grow and keep the tops from being to heavy and flopping. Water very well and let drain completely so the soil is moist all the way through but not sopping. I then returned the new cell trays to the greenhouse.

So, why bother to do all of this? Normally in Maine you start onions in early February to make sure you get sizable bulbs by late summer. They would then be about the size of a pencil when you plant them in the garden. To give them proper nutrition and space to grow they really need their own cell or to be re planted in a flat spaced apart. The benefit to cells is when you go to plant in the garden you don't have to disturb the roots as much and therefore they won't have as much shock. So, transplant those babies!

And in closing here are some more farm pictures!

This post was shared on Green Thumb Thursday.