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Homestead Update

So much has been happening, I don’t even know where to start …

Let’s start with, I do have a queen bee. Yea! I opened up the hive on Sunday afternoon and found capped brood. This means that eggs have been laid, and covered up. Unfortunately, with the heat, a piece of comb about 2X2, containing capped brood, melted off and fell to the bottom of the hive. When I talked to my bee-mentor, she said that if it’s a small piece, leave it, and the bees will recycle it. Lesson learned — don’t go in the hive in 90 degree weather, things are too fragile. On the bright side, the hive is buzzing along nicely, with plenty of honey and new babies coming soon.

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Berm my daughter made to try and keep the rain away

Berm my daughter made to try and keep the rain away

Next up … 2 new chicks and 1 new duckling. This is good and bad. For the chicks, Maribel was one several eggs and only one hatched. The second chick I found under where the turkey had been sitting, but apparently she up and abandoned it. I gave the chick to Maribel, and she has accepted it as her own – good mama. We had 2 ducklings sitting on large clutches of eggs, but only 1 live duckling. Our Peking, got scared off the nest and got up, the few viable eggs (with pips) dried up and the ducklings didn’t make it 😦 Our second duck, the Lavender Peking lost 4 chicks in the 5″ of rain a few weekends ago. Luckily, one had hatched before the majority of the rain came in. The others sadly drowned. It looks like we may need to incubate if we are wanting ducklings this year.

On to a happier note, the garden is coming along great. I am harvesting tomatoes, zucchini, butternut squash, okra, jalapenos, green beans, and tomatillos daily.

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I made this caprese salad with cherokee purple, wyche yellow, and emerald evergreen – plus basil from the garden.

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I’ve also starting this year’s canning, tomatoes, salsa, sweet pickles, and dill pickles.

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Due to the new induction cooktop, I had to get a new canner. Considering my other one was just a not-quite-big-enough-pot, this was not a huge sacrifice. Canning was so much easier with the large canner, and water that boils in no time.

We also just redid our kitchen, new counter tops, brick backsplash, farm sink and the afore-mentioned induction cooktop.

Before …

Double sink, difficult to clean large pots

Double sink, difficult to clean large pots

Split-Level island and centered cooktop took away all of my prep area

Split-Level island and centered cooktop took away all of my prep area

Crappy tile, which made rolling out dough a pain

Crappy tile, which made rolling out dough a pain

After …

New Farm Sink

New Farm Sink

New Island with so much prep area

New Island with so much prep area

Updated computer area

Updated computer area

We also have 4 new lambs. My daughter got her 2 FFA lambs, 1 medium wool and 1 southdown. We decided to replace our Dorpers with Southdowns. The Dorpers just weren’t very friendly and considering we will need to take them to see a Ram once a year, we didn’t want catching them to be a monumental chore. Plus, it is fun to have lambs come up to you and eat out of your hand, rather than take off in the other direction. The one negative is that we will have to sheer the Downs, but I know people who can turn wool into yarn. This weekend is sheering day, I’ll have to update on how it goes.

Think that should about do it for today …

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Today ended up much chillier than I anticipated, and with the drizzle, I wasn’t feeling too motivated to garden.

I took pictures instead (and attended a hands-on a bee class – post to come later)

My MIL worked tirelessly last weekend and this Saturday helping me clean up around the yard. Last weekend was the vegetable garden.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Onions, Carrots, Lettuce, Melons, Squash, Peppers

Onions, Carrots, Lettuce, Melons, Squash, Peppers

Newly planted pepper bed

Newly planted pepper bed

First Squash - pass-along from Ms. Black, my daughter's FFA teacher

First Squash – pass-along from Ms. Black, my daughter’s FFA teacher

First Tomato

First Tomato

Beans and corn planted yesterday

Beans and corn planted yesterday

Yesterday was the back yard, weeding, raking, and general cleanup.

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Finally got my garden gates back from the powder coater, just in time for my climbing rose to take off.

Finally got my garden gates back from the powder coater, just in time for my climbing rose to take off.

Grape Hyacinth

Grape Hyacinth

California Poppy - I miss these from Phoenix, and finally have my own

California Poppy – I miss these from Phoenix, and finally have my own

Next I took a tour outside the fence, trying to capture wildflowers

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Our lambs grazing in the background

Our lambs grazing in the background

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My garden helpers — These guys follow me around everywhere. The guineas are usually in 3s, but today she was off wandering.

Carl

Carl

Guinea Hen

Guinea Hen

Checking on some of the poultry …

Our 3 peafowl, we don't know the sex yet, no full tails until 2 years of age

Our 3 peafowl, we don’t know the sex yet, no full tails until 2 years of age

Gobbling with me ... a favorite pasttime

Gobbling with me … a favorite pasttime

Waiting for scratch?

Waiting for scratch?

And on to the orchard

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First peach!

First peach!

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Move to WordPress

I

I have just moved to WordPress, so my blogging will be a little sloppy for a while as I figure things out. Please bare with me as get things up and running again.

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>End of Sabbatical

>

Well, today is my last day. I’ve had 4 amazing weeks off. I was eligible as of August last year but purposefully waited until we moved into our new house to take it. I’ve accomplished so much in the garden and it’s been so much fun. I’ve also taken some time to enjoy the view and the wildlife. The above picture is the neighbors front yard in the middle of the day.

I started my time off with 8 cubic yards of soil. I had Hill Country Garden Soil delivered at 8:30 am on my first day. My mother-in-law was in town, who I’ve mentioned several times before. We moved 6 into my raised beds the first day and then topped them off the second day.


On the second and third days we cleaned out all of the front beds, removing oversized red yucca plants (big pain), cutting out dead shrubs and trees, and removing weeds and (what seemed like) millions of wild onions. We then took a trip to The Natural Gardener and purchased
Fireworks Fountain Grass
Blackfoot Daisies
Pink and White Salvia Greggi (plant – not flower is deer resistant)
After mom left I picked up 2 cubic yards of mulch and then mulched the front beds and all of my raised garden beds. I also used the remaining cubic yard of soil to make a mounded raised bed for cucs and melon.
We added some great solar lights as well, which we found at Costco.
My biggest obstacle was waiting for the deer fencing. I ordered it online without realizing that is was their busy season. It took me two weeks for the fencing to arrive. I was quite busy in the meantime, but it meant my veggies didn’t get into the ground until March 29th. I was moving them in and out daily though, so I don’t think they took too much of a hit.
While waiting for the deer fencing, I put up the rabbit fence. My garden area is cross fenced, so I was able to staple the fencing on. I haven’t dug down at all (nearly impossible), but I did bend the fencing out to help discourage them from burrowing under.

The one thing I didn’t do myself was to install the posts. I climbed on a ladder with a sledgehammer and hanged for about 5 minutes before calling my husband and telling him we were hiring someone. I was not concerned with the cost. This was a great decision. It allowed me to spend more time in the garden, rather than spending at least a week digging holes. The guys were out here with a jackhammer for at least half of them.
The fencing arrived the day after the posts went up and I installed it myself. Luckily it wasn’t too heavy and it only took me about 4 hours.
The next morning I was finally able to put in the plants. It was a really emotional day for me as I had been without my garden for almost a year. It’s amazing how quickly you can go from never having gardened to being unable to live without it. It really is how I keep my sanity.

I also transplanted my fig tree, “Fig Stick” to a nice spot on the hill. One of the problems with planting on a hill in the hill country is limestone. I didn’t think it was possible to get that many giant chunks of rock from one tiny hole. I have a lot more appreciation for every tree on the property now.

The other problem with planting on a nice open hill is deer. On my information sheet it shows that deer do not like Fig Trees, so I didn’t protect it. Big mistake! Turns out that all 8 in the group had to try it before agreeing that they didn’t like it. I’ve since put some makeshift fencing around it, and it seems to be recovering nicely.
Fig Stick shown through the old hitching post.
I also finished up my husband’s pepper garden. He loves super-spicy peppers and picked out several at “It’s About Thyme” – a great little nursery in far South Austin. I planted them in pots, so he can bring them inside during the winter. We built a small stand for them to keep the dogs out as well.

I’ve also wanted a succulent garden for a while, but have never gotten around to building one. I was inspired by the brain coral near the pool and decided to make an “underwater” succulent pot. I have three other pots with strawberries that I plan to fill as well, once they’ve run their course.



A few other things that were accomplished during my time off…
New gutters with rain water collection. Each barrel is 200 gallons.

1 for the front

2 for the back (vegetable garden)
Pool has gone from green to a beautiful sparkling blue. I look forward to dipping in the pool after a hard days work.

Horseshoe Pit and Basketball Hoop installed to add to the ways to enjoy being in the outdoors.

I also managed to get us completely unpacked, except for the usual garage stuff. Good thing I’m headed back to work tomorrow. I am exhausted 🙂

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>Coming Back Soon

>It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a year since I’ve posted. It has been quite a year.

I have come to love my garden so much that I decided it was time to expand. Where do you expand when your vegetables have taken up the entire front yard and you have a shaded postage stamp of a back yard? … You move.

We put our house up in May and it didn’t sell as hoped. I had a very productive spring/summer with tons of veggies. I really got into canning – pickles, salsas, jam, tomatoes etc. All the while trying to show the house and stressing that we weren’t getting any offers. Finally in September (as the spring garden had mostly died off), I decided to remove my garden. It could be that not everyone wants a giant vegetable garden in the front yard. Seeing as we live in Austin, I’m a bit surprised, but it had to go. What took 2 years to build took only a few hours to take down. In it’s place is plain old bermuda grass and a few flower beds. That was a very sad weekend, but I just tried to look at the bigger picture.

We finally got an offer on our house in January and as luck would have it, a beautiful 2 acre property popped up just when we needed it. We have our inspection this weekend and hopefully move in the end of the month, just in time for spring planting.

I’m so excited to get back to my vegetables and back to posting. I haven’t been following any blogs, as I’ve been pretty depressed about the whole thing. I can’t wait to get reading again and see what everyone has been up to.

Now if we can just get rid of this pesky winter!

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>Garden Projects Here I Come

>Starting today at noon I am off work until the 30th. My plans are to garden the entire time, except for Turkey Day when I’ll be busy cooking and watching football. I’ve borrowed my friends pickup truck for the next 3 days for hauling all kinds of goodies. Here are the projects I have planned.

1. Make pvc/rebar freeze-protector hoops for the veggies
2. Clear out the grass between the raised beds and place new weed blocker down that I received from Gardener’s Supply in the mail last week
3. Dig out more grass and make glass mulch/flagstone pathways. I picked up the glass mulch from Eco-Depot yesterday. With the rain washing off the sand last night the pile of mulch is looking really cool in the driveway.
4. Increase the size of the melon bed.
5. Pick up limestone from the cemetery and border the melon bed
6. Pick up mulch from Natural Gardener and mulch all beds
7. Make wine bottle borders for beds in the back yard. The drinking-er collecting of wine bottles is already done.
8. Add two bird baths in backyard.
9. Improve borders around citrus trees
10. Finish drip system for other two 4X10 beds
11. Put in edging by the road to keep the water/mulch in the new beds
12. Sand/paint new potting bench
13. Plant new plants from San Antonio road trip, and any others I happen to purchase in the next week.
14. If I have time … make new patio where grill is currently sitting

My mother-in-law will be out starting next Wednesday to help me out, which will be awesome. Other than that, it’s just me. I’ve got some lofty goals, but I’m excited to get to work. I’ll post pictures as I can.

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I had a very busy garden weekend. I started out Saturday morning by digging out a beds for the Lithonia seeds and moon flowers I got at the blogging get-together (thanks Diane from Sharing Nature’s Garden). It seems like such a huge area when you are digging, but once you’re done it’s very underwhelming.

I also dug out grass and planted a bed in the back yard. I was at The Natural Gardener friday afternoon (snuck out of work for a few minutes) looking for another tomato cage. I got the tomato cage, but also grabbed two shrimp plants and a tangerine abuliton. The shrimp plants are called “fruit cocktail” and are a yellowish-green and red. They were too cool to resist.

“Fruit Cocktail” Shrimp Plant

Tangerine Abutilon

Between garden chores, I decided to map the sun. I know my back yard is shaded, but didn’t really know how much. Turns out at about 1:30 in the afternoon there is no shade to be found, the entire yard is in complete sun. I had no idea. I plan on doing this again around the summer solstice.

My weekend finished off with a trip to Costco, where I found a new garden cart. I’ve been wanting one for a while and this one was just perfect. It carries 1200 lbs, converts to a flat bed cart and has a dumping feature. It also comes with a thick plastic insert, so you can carry loose dirt. My husband had to work last night, so I put it together myself 🙂

I spent way too much time this weekend admiring my handiwork. The vegetable garden is really taking off, and it makes me so proud, I just can’t help but stare.

Okra and Swiss Chard

Scale of Squash Leaves

Yellow Squash and Zucchini

Sun Gold Tomatoes

Roma Tomatoes

First Green Beans

Green Bean Blossom. I just love the delicate pink flower.

Swallowtail Caterpillar. We affectionately refer to them as “bird poo” caterpillars. I caught this one mid chomp.

First okra. I took this picture for scale of the okra versus a giant zucchini that I picked a day too late.

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