Monday, September 12, 2011


Well the preparation for hurricane Irene helped a little, but was not enough for the flood we had last week.

I left work at 2-o-clock on Wednesday because roads were starting to close because of high water. I got home to about a foot of water in our basement. In the five years I’ve lived at our house, the floor has only gotten wet a few times, and has never had any standing water.

We don’t have a sump pump, so I used a 5-gallon bucket and started to bail. After five hours of bailing, my good neighbor brought over his sump pump and we pumped the basement out.

My wife woke up at 2am, and checked the basement, it had around a foot of water in it again. I decided there was no use in trying to bail, it was still pouring outside, and my back was killing me, so we waited until 7.

When I made it outside my neighbor was already there to lend me his pump, we took turns all day an hour at my house an hour at his. Finally the water stopped coming in, just in time too, the last pumping of his basement and the pump stopped working.

On Friday I tried to get the chest freezer dried out as best as possible, had a box fan blowing on the motor & even used a hair dryer but when I plugged it back in it sparked & smoked.

So we made a trip to home depot. We got a new freezer that's now in our kitchen until I make a cinder block platform in the basement to raise it up. The rest of the day was spent watching flood coverage on the news.

Saturday I built a fire in the woodstove turned on the fans and me and my son spent the day taking everything in the basement that came in contact with the water outside, we scrubbed the floors, walls and everything touching the floors with Clorox, then cleaned everything outside and put it back into the basement.

Our corn & bean crop was in 10 inches or so of flood water so we're not going to get to eat any of it. Our raised beds did ok, although the kale & carrots are starting to die in one bed, most likely from too much water.

In two days we got over 8 inches of rain, I emptied our 4inch rain gauge twice. Overall we got lucky again, there were neighbors close by that had basements full of water and some towns not far from us that lost whole houses, bridges and roadways.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What we did during Irene

We prepared for the rain we were supposed to get Friday by cleaning up the basement. We got everything up off the floor in case any water came in.

We picked all the ripe tomatoes from the garden and dug up the potatoes.
Also made a trip to the homebrew store and got ingredients for a "Dunkel" beer.

Saturday the rain started, and rained all day into Sunday. We made zucchini bread in the morning, and spent the afternoon making tomatoe sauce. We made 10 quarts again and got it all canned.
Sunday morning we checked the basement and it was dry. Outside some tree branches came down and some of our corn was blown over. The worst damage to the garden was the tomatillo plant, it snapped off at the base of the plant. It rained about 5 inches and if the basement wouldn't have been clean I'm sure some water would have come in. The rest of the day Sunday was spent brewing & wine making.
We picked dandelions this spring and froze them to use later. We had enough frozen to make a gallon of wine. We also had 2 gallons of grape juice that we used to make 2 gallons of grape wine.

For supper we used the spent grains from the beer to make bread sticks, cheesy bread sticks and the pizza crust. Everything turned out awesome, and there were no leftovers.
Cant wait to use some more of the spent grains this week.

Hope everyone is safe after the hurricane. We were supposed to have some flooding & high winds. Overall it wasn't too bad for us. We made out better than alot of people did.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What a vacation

Took a week off of work to do some backyard camping and hiking.
Our first night was great, the second two days of vacation were spent watching it rain. On the third day, I put up a tarp, and we made a giant pot of tomato sauce and canned it outside. We got ten quarts, and enough for a big pot of spagetti. It turned out really good.

After another day of rain we took a little hike. The next day was going to be the big day of vacation, with a trip to DC to check out the monuments and Smithsonian. We made it about 1-1/2 miles before we were in a car wreck. A guy ran through a red light and right into us. Luckily no one was hurt other than some bruises.
This ruined the whole day, and the next day was spent trying to get a rental truck. After finally getting our rental truck, we tore down camp, spent the night inside, and left early the next morning for a family reunion. It was a good time and we got to go on a hike at Trough Creek State Park.
view from one of the many ledges on the Ledges Trail.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Good Work

Wow, remodeling is hot and dirty work...but the reward at the end keeps us going. Sort of makes me think of gardening. All the planning and tending a garden requires. We battle weeds, pests, and weather...definitely some dirty, sweaty, sometimes back-breaking work. Funny thing to enjoy so much. The reward isn't just the harvest though, it's so much more.

For me, it's the magic contained in each tiny seed. The hope that it grows strong, and the excitement of seeing it reach it's full potential despite everything it's up against. There's a sense of pride too, knowing that we do our best to help them along.

Putting seeds, or our own plants, into the earth is good work. It satisfies something deep inside. Pulling the weeds on a muggy summer day, then stopping to look at the garden afterwards always brings a smile.

Garden work is almost like a moving meditation for me. My mind slows down,and for just a little while...I'm free.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rabbit/homestead update

The eight kits are doing well. We've taken out the nest box. It's really amazing how fast they grow. The temperature has been perfect the past week, in the low 80's during the day and high 50's at night. It makes it nice not having to keep taking frozen bottles out for them.
Here they are at a month old:

We made some tomato stakes out of some old lumber my dad gave us, and got the tomato plants staked up finally. Our garden so far is mostly bug free. I pick any bean beetles off of the bean plants in the morning and at night, so far four has been the most I've picked at one time.

We got the woodpile area of the yard cleaned up, and ready to start cutting and storing wood, until we get enough to have a splitting party.

Last year we cut wood, and got some from a tree trimming company, and stacked it until we had enough wood for the winter. We had some friends come with their log splitter and spent all day splitting, and the night drinking homebrew.

Last years wood pile:

We finally got the corn planted in the garden our neighbor is letting us use. It should be ready to pick in the middle of September. Planted more greenbeans, black beans and cow peas there also.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Living room remodel

Finally getting around to painting our living room. I decided that if I was going to paint, then I'm going to do it the right way, and fix everything I don't like in the room. The ceiling had old 1'x1' tiles that I absolutely hated. The plan is to tear those out, put up drywall and possibly trim it out to make a coffered type ceiling.

Since the only light in the living/dining room is from a switched receptacle we decided that adding a ceiling fan with a light in the middle of the living room and a light or two in the dining room area while the ceiling is opened up is a must.

Two of the walls are plaster and have so many holes from wall anchors and cracks in them that I decided tearing those out and putting up new drywall will be faster and easier than trying to patch them.

Our front door and especially the storm door are in horrible shape. So my Dad and I are installing a new door and storm door this weekend. Then I'll get started on hanging the drywall, hopefully with some help from my neighbor.

Once the drywall is hung and the painting done, I'll be renting a floor sander and refinishing the hardwood floor. The plan is to have all this work done by August 1st so with work, gardens, yard work, and rabbits this is going to be a busy couple of weeks.

Bread class

Last Saturday we took a bread making class at our local homebrew store. We've taken wine making, beer brewing & cheese making classes. The hands on experience has really helped us.

In the breadmaking class we learned how to use the spent grains from home beer brewing to make breads, pizza crusts, bread sticks and cinnamon rolls.

The women teaching the class made samples for everyone to try, and the pizza crust and bread sticks were amazing.

Cant wait for the next batch of beer we brew so we can try out some of her recipes.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rabbit Update - 11 days old

The kits are eleven days old today. They should be opening their eyes anytime now.

Out of the nine born we still have eight. A couple days ago when I went out to the shed, there was one on the floor that the momma must have kicked out. It was a runt and not in very good shape, so I got rid of it.

The temperature is back up in the 90's for the next couple of days, so we'll be watching them carefully. We have the jugs of water frozen and ready.

This is our first litter that has made it this far, we only had one other litter and they didn't make it. If it keeps going good I think this fall we'll be adding another doe or two.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What We've Got Growing 2011



Beans - Black, Cowpeas, Green, Pinto, Yellow Wax,
Brussel Sprouts
Carrots - 2 kinds
Corn - 2 sweet varieties
Lettuce - Buttercrunch, Red Sails, Romaine
Mesclun Greens
Peas - 2 kinds
Peppers - Bell, Carribean Red Hot, Cayenne, Chocolate Habanero, Hot Pepper Mix, Jalepeno, Lemon Habanero, Red Mushroom,
Potatoes - Desiree, Nicola, Purple Majesty, Yukon Gold
Squash - Butternut, Spaghetti, Zuchinni
Tomatoes - Amish Paste, Al'Kuffa, Beefsteak, Black Krim Cherry, Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Delicious, Golden Jubilee, Mortgage Lifter, Mr. Stripey, Roma, San Marzano, Sub-Arctic



I don't think I missed anything.
We may add more later as space opens up.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Camping, Hiking, Rabbits & Garden Update

We pitched the tent in the backyard Friday afternoon, after a morning of cleaning up tree branches that came down in a thunderstorm Thursday night. Then it was off to the sons baseball game. As soon as we arrived at the field it started getting dark out, and before the game could be started it started thundering, yet another game postponed due to rain. As soon as we got back home it got nice out so we built a fire, had a little cookout, and then another thunderstorm rolled in. We decided to spend the night inside. Saturday was better. We picked up our 1/4 of beef from the butcher shop, got some free wood on the way home, and got to sleep outside. We cooked our breakfast on the grill Sunday morning.

And then went on a fantastic hike on the Mason Dixon trail. It was our first time on this section of the trail, and it was my favorite so far.

Our doe had her second litter this past Saturday. We were camping out in the back yard and got to hear her having them in the shed. At first I thought it was a cat making the noise, then I remembered that it was day 31 and that's when she had her litter last time. This was her second and last chance. Her first litter she had eaten two out of four, and the other two had died. This time she had nine and so far, knock on wood, they're all alive.

Saturday & Sunday were warm, but now we're in a heat wave. Monday was 94, today and tomorrow will be in the 90's, then it cools off finally on Thursday.

It's been hard keeping the cages cool. We had soda bottles that we filled with water and put in the cages. One right next to the nest box, one for the doe to lay against, and one in the bucks cage. They only last about 3 hours before they need to be replaced with frozen ones. We have the side & garage door propped open during the day, but around three o'clock the sun is on the side, so we have to close the side door until five. The fan is on high and the water bowels are constantly filled.

The gardens are doing good. We've been eating lettuce, broccoli, and some collard greens, but I'm really looking forward to the tomatoes. Have some more pepper plants to put in this week, and need to plant some more spaghetti squash seeds since none came up.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Grape trellis & homestead update

Got to work on the grape trellis after a break in the rain.
Bought two 4x4x8 posts, a bag of quickcrete and a roll of chain link fence tension wire from Lowe's. Then it was time to dig. I dug the first hole and didn't hit a single rock.

My thought was, this will never happen again. Digging the second hole I only hit one small rock. These were by far the two easiest post holes I have ever dug.

I remember when I was 16 working on a ranch in Montana for the summer you couldnt even take one scoop with a shovel before hitting solid rock.

Anyway the holes got dug and then I mixed the bag of cement (with water from the new rain barrel) and got the posts set.
Day 2 of the project didn't go as smooth. I got the holes filled in the rest of the way with the dirt and got the first wire attached using wire staples and then the rain started again. Hopefully this Friday I will get the rest of the wire up.

The gardens are doing very good. Me and my son put up two trellises for the peas to grow up.

We made a trip to a small greenhouse to buy some brussel sprouts,cabbage, dill, basil, chocolate mint & marigolds.

We also built a small shelter for out tomato plants that we started inside (way too early) to harden off. This seems to be working good, protecting it from the sun which hasn't been out much, but when it has been it's been really hot.

The garden behind the shed I "tilled" with a shovel. This is the first year not using a rototiller, our soil is starting to get really nice with the compost, wood ash, leaves, straw & rabbit manure we've been adding over the past couple years.

Peas and cucumbers got planted along the fence. Spaghetti squash, butternut squash & brussel sprouts are planted in the rest of the garden.

Over at the neighbors we got four 4' rows of yellow & green beans planted and still have space for a couple plants.

Plans for the rest of the week:
Finish the grape trellis
Plant tomatoes (if ready Sunday)
Add some raspberry plants to the berry patch

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Picking violets to make jelly

I'm not yet sure how the jelly will taste, but gathering up our two tightly packed cups of violets was fun work. I realized I hadn't taken time to see them until yesterday.

My baby girl started out in her Over the Shoulder Baby Holder, but she's more of a hands on little one and quickly got tired of being carried. She sat within arms reach and picked grass while I picked more violets. I had my two cups and was ready to head inside, until I remembered to pack them tightly. Little M was getting restless, but I only had one cup after pressing them down.

We went in anyway, and steeped one cup of flowers with one cup of water. They needed to sit for twenty-four hours before being strained,so I figured I'd just combine the first strained batch with the next when it's soaking time ends.

My son got home from school before I got around to gathering the rest of our flowers. He eagerly joined in.

All the violets we needed.

I boiled my water and poured it into my jar of flowers... then, we wait.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Violet Jelly and Dandelion Wine

The blog that got me so excited to give violet jelly a try...

I'm on my way out to gather my flowers, but I just had to share first. I wonder if anyone else is out picking some.

My baby girl and I will also be gathering lots of dandelions for wine, which DH and I have wanted to make for years. I'll post some pics soon. Gotta get picking :-)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

We had bunnies

Thursday morning was exciting, Our doe had her first litter of kits Wednesday night. She made her nest outside of the nest box, but she did have them in the box.

There were three that I could see moving and one that was dead. I took the dead one out and moved some of her fur into the box. When I checked on them Thursday night there was another dead one, and the doe had started to eat another one of the kits. I took the dead one out and finished off the injured one. Now we were down to one left, and I knew it was probably going to end up like the rest. Unfortunately I was right, she had eaten it sometime Thursday night. She has one more chance or it's rabbit stew for her. Going to breed her again after Easter.

Friday was a productive day, got the pine trees trimmed to allow more sunlight onto the raspberry patch & garden.

Times like this I wish I had a little chainsaw, my Husky is too big for me to use up in the tree.

We had an extra trash can that we didn't need, so we decided to make another rain barrel. I got the new rain barrel made and hooked up,and after the rain Friday night it's already full.

Since there were no kits to worry about disturbing, we decided to go ahead and move the rabbit cages over to their new location. Now when their cages need to be cleaned I just have to open the side door, no more carrying the trays through the shed. It will also give them a breeze in the summertime if we open the door they're in front of now, and the window across from them.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I'm a dirty hippy half-assed housewife!

I'm the less productive half of our little backyard homestead, there's always something "I MEANT TO" do. Gardening is one of my passions, and fortunately as you can see, my husband is pretty into it too... or the tomato and pepper plants we've posted in our photos would probably be shriveled up dead by now. I easily get caught up in the excitement, the dreams of our perfect garden plots. I buy seeds like a mad woman,

seed catalogs filled with colorful plants help me get through the winter. I can't wait to start! Remembering to turn on the grow lights and water the plants over the long haul is where I have some trouble. Any plant that lives long enough to make it outside (thanks dirty hippy hubby), will do well. I actually LIKE pulling weeds, digging in the dirt, and everything else associated with gardening.

I enjoy cooking, which I'll admit I did very little of before getting married, and doing as much from scratch as possible now. The less processed the better in my humble opinion, with the exception of a delicious sandwich cookie dipped in milk that I'd never give up. It's taken me some time to really have fun with food and preparing it. Following recipes perfectly, and measuring everything down to the grain, is what I thought being a good cook was all about. I stressed myself out over the whole process, and usually wasn't thrilled with the results. It took a patient man who just tosses things in, and somehow turns out delicious meals, to make me realize I just needed to relax a little.

I love homemade bread fresh out of the oven, the smell of it baking is incredible. Does my bread look like the pics from a magazine? No way, but it beats store-bought mass-produced bread any day, even if it isn't perfect!

It makes me happy when my husband and son walk in the door to wonderful smells from the oven or stovetop. When the house is clean"ish" and the laundry at least made it into the washer, it's a productive day for me. Of course, I have a very demanding baby girl at home, so it's often a challenge...and where the half-assed side of me comes into the picture. I'd rather be a half-assed housewife, and a kickass mama in my little girl's eyes.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This week on the homestead

Finally had a break in the rain long enough to get some lettuce transplants, some more kale, peas, onion sets, cauliflower, and carrots planted.

Our greenhouse has been working great, we've had nights below freezing but the stuff is growing strong.

We got the rain barrel hooked back up today also, just in time for a thunderstorm. It should be about full with today's rain. I have plans of making another one out of a trash can to catch the runoff. Last year the one barrel was enough for the small garden behind the shed but since we have raised beds this year I think that we're going to need more water.

The tomato plants are growing, growing to fast in fact. We already put them in bigger pots, and might have to again one more time before its time to transplant them into the garden.

Talking to our neighbor the other day, he told us that he's not going to be planting very much this year, so if we wanted to use the left over space to go ahead. He said he's getting too old to use it all. So we are going to plant some tomatos, green beans and potatoes in his garden. We told him he can pick whatever he wants to eat and he seems happy with that, and the fact that his garden he's worked on so many years will still be used.

The rabbits are doing good. We should be having some kits today hopefully. After they get bigger we are going to move them from where they currently are in the shed over to the front of the side shed door, this will allow us to keep the side door open in the summer to help keep it cooler and makes it closer to the compost pile and bins for cleaning out the trays.

This door will eventually open up to the rabbit cages.

Projects that we have planned for this week:
Clean out the front flower bed
Turn front yard into a flower bed and mulch
Build new rain barrel
Plant the hops
Build a trellis for the grapes

Monday, March 28, 2011

Starting seeds indoors

Last year we had plans of a huge garden at our community garden plots. We started our seeds indoors two months before the last frost date. We started out ok, the seeds germinated and they took off right away. Then they just stopped growing. Thought that maybe they would do better being outside in the sun during the warm days, so we started setting them outside to harden off. They were doing ok, but still not growing. Then after one very hot day we lost the majority of our plants. So we ended up searching for a green house to buy our plants. The area we live in seems to be going away from the 6-pack style plants and more into single plants. Thats fine if your planting a small garden or are rich, but we wanted a big garden so we had to search all over the county before we found a small greenhouse that still sells plants in 6-packs. They were nice plants and grew good and priced far better than lowes or the other big box stores.

This year things have started off much better. We chose a better soil to start the seeds in, we're using bigger pots and a grow light. So far they are doing way better than last year. Infact its time to move some of the tomato plants into bigger pots. Soon we will be starting some squash and more tomatos and jalapenos. 

Filling up the pots.

Hot & bell peppers are doing good. We made the labels out of an old window blind. These work really good.

Hoping the warm days come back soon so we can move some of these guys outside to the "greenhouse".

Bottling day

Today was gluten free beer bottling day. If you like beer but have celiacs then you need a gluten free beer. Here is the gluten free recipe I used.

7lbs of white sorghum syrup
1oz cascade hops (beginning of boil)
1/2oz cascade hops 15 min before end of boil
1/2oz cascade hops at end of boil
1 packet of dry ale yeast or liquid ale yeast

Mix syrup and about 1 gallon of water in brew pot and bring to a boil. Add 1oz of cascade hops. Boil 45 minutes. Then add 1/2oz cascade hops and boil for 10 more minutes. Then add 1/2oz of cascade hops and boil for 5 more minutes. Put in primary fermentor and add remaing water to get to 5 gallon mark. Cool as quickly as possible to 75degrees and pitch the yeast. Fill airlock and wait until the fermentation stops (at least 1 week) I usually wait 2 weeks and rack to secondary for clearing. I like leaving it in the secondary for about 3 weeks sometimes longer.

We tried an easier way to clean/sanitize the bottles this time using the dishwasher on the sanitize option. Then as usual we rinsed all the bottles with a no rinse sanitizer.

This seemed to work really well. The rinse aid was empty so we figured we would give it a try.

Anytime I brew or bottle, its always nice to have a drink of the last batch. This is a hard cider that we made and bottled in beer bottles. It turned out really good and very strong.

Here's 54 cleaned/sanitized bottles ready to be filled. You can buy bottles from a homebrew store but what fun is that? I opted for buying a couple cases of beer with popoff caps, (the twist off ones you can't reuse) and drinking those until I had a nice collection of bottles.

After mixing up the priming sugar, to give the beer carbonation. Its time to siphon the beer into the bottling bucket.

Now to fill the bottles.

Now onto the capping, this is my favorite part.

All capped, in 2-3 weeks it will be carbonated and ready to enjoy. I can't wait until the 3 week carbonation period is up so I can taste the finished beer. The sample I had today is promising to be a good brew.

My next batch (cherry stout) is ready and going into a cornelius keg so the carbonation period will only be 2-3 days. Hopefully this will be a project for this week. Also going to brew a batch of honey lager this week.