Monday, March 24, 2014

Trouble with the Dogs

What happens when you purchase a hunting dog to help you be a better hunter, but you decide to become a homesteader instead? Sometimes your hunting dog hunts the animals you are trying to raise.

I've talked a little about how Molly, our Weimaraner of 4+ years, ate our ducks and chickens. It isn't getting better and we've tried everything we can think of.

Now, with Hunter's allergies and ear issues, and with Molly's determination to eat our farm birds, we have come to the burdensome decision to find them a new home. They are good dogs, high energy and highly intelligent. They just deserve a better home.

They are going to a foster home tomorrow. It's a bittersweet time for us here on the homestead.

Our First Outdoor Picnic of 2014!

We have been having some absolutely beautiful weather this last week. Temperatures in the middle of the day have been in the mid- to high 60's (that's Farenheit) and the sun has been out every day since Tuesday or Wednesday... I have been LOVING it!

Yesterday, we felt that we just had to grill and eat outside. It was still a bit chilly and it was too early for the watermelon that would have completed the awesomeness, but it was still just amazing to enjoy the sun!

I thought I'd share some photos and a Fun Burger Recipe!

Chris' Hot-gers (the name has not quite been figured out yet)


1 lb Ground Beef
1 egg
1/4 C. Cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp. Salt

1 pkg Hot Dogs

1 pkg Hot Dog Buns

Ketchup, mustard, relish, mayo or any other sauce that you're feeling:)


Combine ground beef, eggs, cheese and salt in a large bowl. Form into long, skinny, flat, hot dog bun shaped patties. Grill burgers and hot dogs until done. Put one burger patty AND one hot dog in a bun and dress with your favorite sauces. Feel free to add more cheese on top of the burgers, and or slice the hot dogs to make them easier to eat. Enjoy!

This is how Chris enjoyed the picnic yesterday... I think I may have to try it next time!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Straw Spinning Tips: Conditioning your Bales

The first "issue" I have had with my straw bale garden is not an issue with the garden itself. It's with my water situation.

This is what the tops of my bales looked like. The blood meal had clumped up and acted like a water barrier. That kept the inside of my bales nice and dry... bummer major!

When you get started with a straw bale garden the first step is to condition the bales. You add a high nitrogen fertilizer to the bales about every other day and water it every day, for 10 days. Then you let it rest for a couple of days before you add a well balanced fertilizer (something with phosphorus and potassium, as well as nitrogen) and then you can start planting in your bale some time around day 12. Your bales are supposed to start cooking with in a few days. By that I mean, your bales should be visibly hotter than the air around. I think they are supposed to get up to about 140*F... I'll have to check on that number to be sure. At, or around day 12, your bales should be cooling off, but still warm enough to help seeds start up to two weeks earlier than normal gardens.

Here we are, nearly two weeks after I got my bales and my bales haven't even started "cooking." I have applied the necessary nitrogen, but the last two times I watered, I noticed that it wasn't soaking in to the bales. It was sitting on top and running off the sides. Watching the blood meal run down the sides was like watching someone light money on fire! I paid good money for that, and it was being wasted on the ground around the bales! I had to figure something out.

Yesterday I went out to the bales to water them again. This time I thought that I would help it along by roughing up the blood meal, and forcing it into the bales with my hands. I discovered a few things.

Dry and clean... Bummer major again!

First of all, the water from my watering can is not at a high enough pressure to penetrate the bales and force the fertilizer into the bales. The inside of the bales were dry and as clean as they were when I brought them home.

Second, the bales we got were really compacted. That is a good thing, but difficult when you don't have good water pressure. Like I said, they were dry inside! No wonder my bales weren't cooking.

Third, my hands are not strong enough to force ANYTHING into ANYTHING!

Fourth, 5 gallons of water per bale, for 16 bales is not enough water. The bales

After these discoveries, I decided to take my cultivator (that claw-like garden tool thingy) and break up the tops of the bales. Those bales were so tough to break up that I bruised my hands! (*pout*) I spent a good two hours on 16 bales, breaking up the top-most layers of straw. While I was doing that, I was thinking about how water works, and I decided to make a little trough down the center of the bales. It will hold in the fertilizer and the water so I'm not pouring money on the ground! Just be careful not to break any strings. They are there to help keep your "container" together and if you break them, the bale will fall apart.

You can kind of see the trough in the center. 
Another discovery I made was that bales purchased in the fall, and have been wet all winter, are much easier to work with. We have one bale from our mulch garden bed that was just sitting next to the garden, the strings were still intact, so we decided to use it. It was almost easier to cultivate than my wet spring soil! I'm not sure if it will have the same temperature reaction that the new bales will have, but I'll do my best to find out more info/record my temperatures so that I can share more discoveries later.

I'm restarting my count on the bales with yesterday as Day 1, since my bales weren't even wet inside! What a bummer! It'll be good to keep a better record anyways. So, here we go again!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Planting in Guilds and a new CHILDREN'S BOOK!

Chris and I have been talking for some time about writing a series of children's books that promotes sustainable living. I know, I know... We are a little crazy! But today I finished the first draft of a children's book that does just that! AND it's awesome.

The main character for our series is Hortense the Honey Bee and the stories are about her adventures as a forager. (Before you go all "what-kind-of-a-name-is-Hortense" on me, let me explain... Hortense comes from the latin word meaning Garden... plus I like old fashioned names:-))

The first book is called "Hortense the Honey Bee and the Giant Tomato Tree," and while I am NOT going to publish it here on the blog I do want to say that I love personification! AND I love how I was able to creatively tie in concepts like companion and guild planting and beneficial insects into it, without sounding too "Hippy," as my dad calls it. If you are interested in hearing more, leave me a comment below or visit my art blog!
I sketched this out while I was writing the book... I know the "tomato tree" looks more like an apple tree., BUT it's supposed to be a tomato tree, so use your imagination! 

Just in case you were wondering what I mean by companion/guild planting, I'll explain. Companion and guild planting is where you put a group of different plants together to help support each other. For example, Onions and Tomatoes grow really well together. Beans, Corn and Squash are also a great little guild. My favorite (simply because I love Cherries) is a Cherry Tree Guild. I'll be posting on that later!

Let me explain further. You plant beans with corn and squash because the beans fix nitrogen, and corn is a heavy nitrogen eater and the squash acts as a ground cover that keeps weeds out, and it enjoys the nitrogen as well. Plus the corn stalks are a built-in trellis for your beans! They all work together to make a crop that is bigger, and healthier than it would have been if they were planted on their own.

If you have a plant that is susceptible to a fungus, plant it with one that has antifungal properties. If your plants are famous for attracting the wrong sort of insect, plant it with one that either repels the delinquent insect, or that attracts a predator for the delinquent. You get the idea.

All things work together in nature. You just have to help them out sometimes.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Spring Has Arrived!

I think it's official. Spring is here. I know that because many of my plants and trees have decided that it's time to start leafing out and putting out buds and flowers! I love the spring!

Here are some photos of the arrival of spring here at Haven Homestead! If you wanna see more, check out our website!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A fun quote about eternity...

Heard this on a podcast with Geoff Lawton.
Made me think about how long it's taking to develop the property.
I need to remember that anything worth doing will take some time.

Spinning Straw Into Gold: The First Steps

As with any good project, the first steps should include learning everything that you can about the project, make a plan, and get started.

So far we have learned a bunch, but not everything yet (We are working on it though:)), we have a rough idea (but not a plan), and we got started this weekend.

It was an awesome day. We left in the morning with Chris driving Rowdy (our one-ton truck) and me and the kids in Syd (our Subaru Outback) to fetch some straw.

We came back with 15 bales of straw, a plastic green house, and two sleeping babies.

The kids got to ride in Rowdy and they had a ton of fun. While they were sleeping, Chris and I unloaded the straw. In the rain. 

And finally, we placed the bales. We also started conditioning the bales per Joel Karsten's instructions.
Next up: Continued conditioning, posts and wires, and then we plant our seeds!

In other news, we got our first sprouts in the little A-frame cold frame we made! I think they are raddishes... big surprise!

The Pump House Project

Earlier this year we decided that the first structure that we would build on the property would be our pump house. We have so many things to do to make this homestead a productive place. We have plans for a better chicken coop, a better rabbit hutch, and a better dog run. We have plans for an awesome garden and food forest. We have plans for the main house, the bunkhouse cabins, and more. Sometimes it feels a little overwhelming when we talk about all of the things that we have planned and the limitations that we have to deal with, but after all of our many discussions, we settled on the Pump House as the first permanent structure for the homestead.

It will contain:
  • The pump and water Treatment equipment
  • A small water heater
  • A washer and dryer
  • A small shower
  • A utility sink and counter (for folding and stuff)
I'm so excited for it that I can hardly contain myself. I just wish we had the money at once instead of having to buy things a little at a time. 

We started building right before that polar vortex hit us. We laid out the blocks just to see what it would be like. It's going to be about 8'x12' and in the picture below, it's only 8'x8'. We were just checking to see how big it would be and we had started to level the ground.

Leveling the ground with a shovel turned out to be a lot of work so we bought a tractor. His name is Trusty ('cause he's a tractor and he's rusty... Get it?!) and he came with a back blade and a 3-point platform and a disc. It can handle a bucket but we don't have one yet:)

That back blade helped us to level the ground in about 5 minutes! It was awesome. He's already pulling his weight around here and we are so excited.

Two Saturdays ago, we got the floor framed up.

And we were able to put the floor down and raise two walls on Saturday last! Right now we have an awesome tarp/plywood/2'x4' improvised roof to keep it all dry, and we are hoping to get some more done soon. I'll keep updating as it goes!

To Vet or Not to Vet?

As a homesteader you always try to do things yourself. You save money by doing this, and you also become more self reliant. So what happens if you have an animal that is sick or hurt? Do you take him to the vet? or do you try to resolve the issues on your own? How hard should you try for your animals? How much effort and money should you spend on your animals?
Hunter has his Cone of Shame on and is drowsing on the way home from the vet.

Those are hard questions to ask, and I do not ask them lightly. This week has been a struggle with me and our animals. On Thursday I came home from buying dog food and went to feed the dogs, only to find Hunter covered in blood. Last night as I was feeding and checking on the bunnies, I noticed that Flo wasn't doing very well.

At first I thought Hunter had been attacked. There was a lot of blood. I called Chris and asked what I should do and we decided to take him to the vet. Turns out he's just a big goofy dog that gets his ears caught on things. Almost $100 later, I felt like we could have taken care of him better ourselves.

Chris and I went online to try to figure out what was wrong with Flo, but everything we read said they would have to do expensive diagnostic tests to figure out what was wrong. She was covered in urine and here stools were too soft. She hadn't eaten or had anything to drink. We couldn't see spending thousands of dollars on a vet visit, so we did our best to take care of her here. She didn't make it through the night and I wonder if we should have done something differently.

I think that it definitely comes down to why you are considering a visit to the veterinarian, but I am sure this is one question that I will never quite know the answer to.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Sun Study Catch Up!

Hello Folks!

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to post these. I finally got the camera, the intervals, and the editing software figured out. Here is the sun in my garden from February 14th to February 28th. At least it's a good sampling of the sun during that time! The videos are about 6 or 7 seconds long, and I think that I will be trying to post a whole month overview instead of daily videos... Let me know what you think!

As far as how the sun affects me personally, I would like to share some facts that I learned about Vitamin D. 

Vitamin D is produced by the body in sunlight.
Vitamin D is not really a vitamin, it's a hormone!
Vitamin D is found in three different forms in the body; D1, D2, and D3.
According to WebMD, 40% - 70% of Americans suffer from a Vitamin D deficiency.

I want to know more. Like what exactly are the symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency? How much should you be getting? How do you get enough Vitamin D? 

I'm sure the answers wont be too hard to find, but I'll have to do the research later. I have dishes to do!