A Candle Burnt on both Ends… and Grafting

I haven’t posted with much frequency lately.  That is mostly because I have been burning the candle at both ends so to speak.  As you all know, spring is a busy time most everywhere, and the Homestead is no exception.  I still need to get more pasture fenced in, get a lean-to for the animals built, and plant the garden.  Not to mention a million other smaller chores.

With all that said, I still have root stock and scion wood in the fridge and I am afraid it is no longer viable.  To test that theory I have made a few trees.  I grafted one tree a few days ago, and then ten more Sunday night, late.  We will see if they survive.  I am hoping that the root stock is still viable and that I can at the very least plant that in a nursery area and get new scion wood later this year.  Time will tell.


The first tree


The next ten


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Sunday Funday

One of the chores that needs to get finished sooner rather than later is to get more pasture fenced.  With all the new lambs born, and a calf expected soon, we need more grass.  My goal here is to be able to be as sustainable as possible with regards to animals and plants.  Up to this point my arrangement with the neighbor whom I split our hay field with has provided enough hay for the sheep and now cow, but that won’t continue to be the case as I need more pasture and thus will have less hay field.  Less hay field means that there isn’t as much to share, if the neighbor even wants to cut as it might not be worth their effort.  If that is the case then being able to hay myself might become a necessity.

In the meantime we need more pasture for this summer and fall.  So on Sunday, after HSB#1 helped hang the fence onto the posts that we stretched out last year.  For May 15th, it was ridiculously cold.  We were actually snowed on at several points, and the wind was just ripping across the field.  All of that made all the work that much more interesting.  After we got the fence hung, we then pulled out the T posts that I had used to support tomatoes, peppers, and beans last year and we got to work on putting up posts for the new pasture area.  Armed with my 100′ tape we started spacing posts.  HSB#1 was instrumental in helping get the chore done before church in the evening, the other kids helped, but he stuck with me all day.  It’s really fun to see the young man he is growing into.  We marked the corner post locations, which I will use wood posts for, and spaced out all the T posts using the tape.  After they were all in position, I went back and pounded all the posts so they are set and ready for fence.  We had enough posts on hand for the amount of pasture I want to fence in right now, but I’ll need to buy some more for odd jobs around the Homestead.

I still need to borrow my brother in law’s post hole digger so I can set the corner posts and supports, which I might also have enough of on hand.  I also need to buy one more roll of field fence.  Once the fence is up, we will need to run electric wire and then we can let the animals start eating on fresh pasture.  I hope to have this done within the next few weeks, but it has been crazy busy so we will see.

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When it Pours it Rains

I know that’s not the correct wording, but we had an English teacher in high school who loved to change the order of words from well known phrases to make us think. 

Anyways… Remember how I said I was behind on chores and trying to get the house back in order after being gone on vacation?  Well Sunday night I was loading the dishwasher, trying to get ahead of the dirty dishes. There I was, minding my own business just risnsinh dishes and loading them into the dishwasher when I noticed my foot was wet. Now a little wet isn’t a big deal, water gets dropped when transferring dishes from the sink to the washer, but this was a lot of water. From the cabinet under the sink. 

So I investigated. Come to find out the metal retaining ring that holds the garbage disposal onto the sink had broken and water, and all the food that had been intended to go down the disposal was now under the sink all over the cleaning supplies stored under there. So instead of helping get the kids put to bed, I spent an hour cleaning. Then I placing fans to dry out the area. I then got online and checked prices at Home Depot and Menards for garbage disposals and ordered one. 

Monday morning was spent retrieving and installing the disposal, which thankfully was very straightforward. 

In the end I learned another plumbing skill and we have a new and quieter garbage disposal. But I’d have rather not had to replace it.  

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Back from Vacation!

So… as you know I don’t talk about vacations before they happen.  Just something I do.  But, we’re back and I have lots to share about it.  But I’m in the weeds regarding chores around here so it will take me a bit to get to it.  In the mean time, here’e what will be coming up… Minnesota, Detroit Tigers, Basilica, Cathedral, Upper Peninsula, more lambs, no calf, loving the new van, and much much more.  Stay tuned.

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Garden and Lamb Updates

On Sunday I was able to carve out some time both before and after church to work on getting my asparagus and strawberry plants in the ground. I have never grown asparagus before so this should be interesting. I know that we will probably only get a few stalks this year, but it will still be fun.


In that row are my asparagus starts

I am also adding another 25 strawberry plants to the berry patch. The berries I planted are day neutral so we should get nice big berries this summer and then can let a couple runners overwinter for next year. I believe I planted June bearing strawberries last year so if I don’t mess it up, we should have lots of strawberries this year, which would be an awesome problem to have.  I am going to have to mulch the whole patch to keep the grass and weeds down.


My new row of strawberries.

This morning as my wife left for work, she texted me to let me know there was a new lamb in the field.  My brother in law’s older ewe had another single.  This is her third lambing season and she has had singles each time.  She had a big spotted boy.

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We ran into this problem last year, the lambs can sneak through the smallest cracks in the fence and one small ram lamb even could make it through the squares in the fence itself last year. The twin lambs have become quite adventurous and are a lot of fun to watch.  It’s almost like they go looking for trouble.  They had discovered that there was just enough room between the gate and post that separates the sheep pasture from the garden area.  It wasn’t like they were really getting into trouble, they just kept on going in and out.  My dad had placed a small planting pot there, which they promptly knocked out of the way.  I put a heavier one there and they haven’t been able to get out since.


My high tech escape prevention device

This past weekend I went and got a round bale feeder from Tractor Supply.  I wanted a way to make it so I didn’t have to feed them daily, but would slow them down from wasting all the hay.  I am sure that feeding them by hand daily is the best way to make sure they don’t waste as much hay, but it is also more time intensive.  This should solve that problem until there is more grass fenced in.


I will leave you with this picture of a peach blossom that I thought was extremely easy on the eyes.



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Exciting, Lamby, but Long Day

This morning as we were getting ready to leave for our Co-Op HSB1 went outside to let the chickens out and feed the sheep and cow.  He came running back inside exclaiming that there were lambs.  One of our second time mom ewes, Rose, had twins.  She had a white spotted ram lamb, and a black ewe lamb with a white triangle on her forehead.  As you might expect, they are very cute.


The first two of this years lambs, born to Rose

When we got home from Co-Op, there was another lamb waiting for us.  This was another ewe lamb born to one of our first time mothers, Tempest.


Tempest and baby

While I was away in the evening getting some things from Tractor Supply, I got a frantic call from my wife saying that one of the sheep was head butting one of the lambs.  Turns out, Tempest, runs true to her name.  She has been very hot and cold with her lamb.  HSB2 and I went into the pasture and I caught Tempest while he caught the lamb.  We then rubbed the lamb all over Tempest trying to make sure her scent was covering her.  I also milked a little bit into her mouth to make sure she knew where to look.  I am hoping that by the morning everything has calmed itself.  If not, I will remove the lamb and we will have to bottle feed her, something I’d rather not do if possible.

Of course since the lambs have started dropping, so have the rain drops.  This evening it started pouring.  Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to sleep because I’d be worried about the animals crowding into the run-in with the cow and one of the babies getting stepped on, I went out by the cover of darkness and whipped up a shelter.  I used some T posts, a couple cattle panels, a tarp, and some zip ties.  It won’t win any awards for beauty, but it should give them more dry place to lay down and spread out.  At least the sky provided a beautiful view by the time I went inside after midnight.  It had mostly cleared up, in preparation for another round of storms.


It isn’t pretty, but it should help keep them dry


I will post more pictures as they are available.  Until next time…

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Seed Starting, or the Lack Thereof

Last year I did pretty well with regards to starting seeds.  We had lots to get in the ground, and there was an urgency to do so, because we had lots of people to supply with produce.  This year, without lots of people to supply with produce, the urgency hasn’t been there.  Other projects, like the picnic table and benches, have taken priority.  As such, I am planning on buying started tomato, peppers, and basil from a local farm that works with a community garden project near here.  They are all organic and they offer some great varieties so I am not losing out on anything there.  Will it be more expensive?  Absolutely.  But I will get high quality plants, that were started when they needed to be, and I won’t be starting from behind.  I’ll take that as a win, and see if I can regroup next year.  I may try to start some plants that don’t need to be started as early, but no promises.

Last year’s garden actually started in the winter of 2014 with several families joining with us to help us start and grow our garden.  This year it will be just us and one other family.  This is due to family constraints and our location.  We just aren’t located close to any of the families that helped out last year and with young growing families making a 30+ minute drive one way is not something easily figured into a schedule on a regular basis.  I still expect them to be out a time or two(you guys better come out and visit), but not for regular maintenance type stuff.  As such, this year’s garden will be significantly smaller, which makes buying started plants more affordable.

Yesterday morning I was able to take the kids outside for a bit and get some work done.  I started the 5 raspberry plants I bought from the fruit tree guy.  I also got the hardy kiwis in the ground.  I am looking forward to these as they are supposed to be wonderful to eat and are grown very similar to grapes.  Since they need to be trellised like grapes, although a much stronger structure, they were planted in the vineyard.  I also have some asparagus and strawberry plants to start.  I have never grown asparagus, and since I know it takes awhile to get a crop I figure I might as well start now.  I was told I should be able to get a small crop next year, and then have them coming out my ears the following season.  And I fully believe you can never have enough berries of any kind to eat, especially with kids.








Concolor Fir

And until next time, here are some pictures of the very beginning of spring popping out on the Homestead.




Pear Blossom


Pear Tree


Bush Cherry




Plum Tree

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New Life

The new life that occurred today was of the plant kind. We are still waiting for new animal life here on the homestead.   But let me begin at the beginning of the day, which was actually last night, remember the post about our ram freaking me out?  When I finally got in bed, I remember thinking, “If I can just sleep until 8.”

No dice.  At 7 o’clock I was awoken to a scratching coming from my daughters’ bedroom ceiling.  Our 4 year old had woken me up in the middle of the night to help her get back to sleep and I sometimes end up falling asleep in their room.  At first I thought the scratching was our 6 year old scratching the wall in her sleep.  It wasn’t.  So I bounced, or dragged, myself out of bed, threw on my boots and headed out to investigate.  As soon as I opened the door I saw a bird leaving the soffit near the girls room.  Apparently a windstorm a bit back had blown a piece of the soffit down and a pair of birds thought it would be a good nesting site.  I grabbed a ladder and observed for a bit.  After I was convinced that the birds were not in the house, I replaced the soffit.  Hurray!

By this time HSB2 had woken up and wanted to play catch.  So at 7:30 Sunday morning we played catch, shortly thereafter HSG1 joined us.  Then the baby was awake and wanted to play outside.  So we decided to take a short walk down our street.

After the walk was over all three kids wanted to help finish assembling the last bench I needed to make.  I can’t remember if I mentioned it last night, but I am very happy with the way the benches turned out, and how they match up with the picnic table.

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Next it was on to planting.  When we visited Greenfield Village last week we got 5 butterfly bushes and 4 Concolor firs, as the Forest Service was giving them away.  So I got the fruit trees I picked up last week and the Concolors soaking in some water to prepare them for planting.  While I was preparing, my wife and the two girls planted the butterfly bushes in the back of our house where we have our wildflower patch.  HSB2 and I then replaced some dead trees with the new Concolors.


For free trees, they were pretty nice size and quality


The one thing I wanted to make sure I got done today was getting the apple and pear trees in the ground.  I changed plans from where I had originally thought I was going to plant them to a spot behind my nut trees and nearer so I can take care of them better.  I only have cages for five of them currently, so three are unprotected.  It shouldn’t be a problem now, but I will plan to fence/cage them before fall.  In case I hadn’t mentioned the varieties of fruit, I got two apples each of Liberty, Gingergold, and Wolf River, and then two Kalle Pears.  Some day in the not too distant future, I should be buried with fruit.  At which point one of my friends this weekend told me we will be making fruit liquor, Apple and Pear Brandy sound mighty fine to me.


Eight new fruit trees in the ground

At some point in the afternoon we got out the golf cart and the lawn tractor.  HSB2 wanted to cut grass and the chickens seemed glad that he did.  We finished the day with a family trip to Dairy Queen.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous, we were able to spend copious amounts to time together as a family, and we were productive.  I would say it was very close to a perfect day.


The chickens seemed to appreciate the newly cut grass

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Things that go bump in the Night

I’ll start with the bumps first.  Tonight while I was coming back inside after working out in the barn, I heard what sounded like someone pounding wooden posts just out in the field.  As it was around midnight, this took me by surprise.  I quickly grabbed two flashlights and headed out.  With flashlights blazing, I’m not sure what I expected, but the beams from my weapons of choice only found deer as targets.  And then, there he was.  It was Abraham Lincoln, our Shetland ram.  He was ramming one of the fence posts.  With my blood pressure falling to it’s normal level, I headed back inside.

The project that I was working on in the barn was two benches to go along with a picnic table.  They will go on the end of the table to add more seating.  HSB #2 helped me put the first one together, and after the boys went in and went to bed, I cut the pieces for the second one.  I adapted the design from several different benches I had seen on Pinterest and it should be quite strong.

Earlier in the day we were able to join some good friends for a first communion at Sweetest Heart of Mary Church in Detroit.  The church has a very interesting history and is absolutely beautiful.  If you find yourself in Detroit with some time to burn, it is worth the time to spend.

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Phantom Chick

There was no chick to be found by the light of day.  I have a theory.  The hens have decided that the hay is a great place to lay eggs(we need to remedy this).  An egg got crushed in the hay, and a mouse found it.  The sound and possible motion that the kids saw was the mouse.

Now we wait for a calf and lambs…

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