Time to get back into the swing of things…

It’s been a while since I have sat down to write here. The winter months are always the slowest. Spring is coming now and we are starting to see the snowbanks retreat. I am convinced that it will take until June, but they are moving in the right direction now. It is time to begin writing again.

Last years garden did not do so well. Some of the problem comes from the timing being off. We had a bit of wildlife mischief, and we have lots of beds that are still establishing. We also tried some new things, searching for ways to maximize our lack of horizontal space.

upside down tomatoes seemed to work well. We took quite a few nice tomatoes from these. The amount of work needed to maintain them was prohibitive though. If we try this again there will be some method of irrigation involved. I think ti would not be too hard to tie in the gutters and capitalize on the rain water.

We also tried to use the overhang on the back deck to try out some vine plants. Squash, and cucumbers specifically. This experiment flopped, but it is one that we will be revisiting this year. there is too much space there to allow it to be idle.

troubled plants in a window box

A faltering attempt at a railing garden

 This is the first attempt to fill the open unused area around our deck. the plants did not grow as we had hoped. they grew well but when the weight came in the stocks kinked at the base. The solution I think is more support, or plants with heartier stocks. The other thought I had was that the amount of dirt in the pot was not sufficient to support the plants growth.

Mulched garden bed

A new bed mulched

In addition to experimentation  we also added and updated beds. They should be ready to plant this spring. What cant be seen in the photo on the right are the blueberry bushes that did amazingly well for first year plants. We were able to have blueberries the first year. In the background of the photo in the center is yet another experiment. a pea tee-pee for the kids. That one kicked off late and never left the ground.

a mulched garden bed

Coating of mulch on the hillside bed

This weeks project will be to start up some seedlings, and get the ball rolling.

until next time

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Saving Our Seeds

Today’s entry is a project that has been in the back of my mind for some time now. Up until this point I had no good way to properly store my extra seeds. Up until this point I had really paid it no mind. But alas seeds have a life span, and luckily for us it can be extended with some very simple steps.

Today I built my own seed vault. With six foot carbon titanium walls, dug into the side of the mountain…… no not really. It is as simple as a small plastic storage box in the back of my fridge. Yes, it was that simple.

plastic box holding seeds

simple low budged seed vault

From what I have been reading, and what I know of seeds. The process for extending their viability depends on reducing the temperature, and humidity. It’s really not as simple as I just made it, but the wonderful thing is the steps outlined in my very simple answer will work just fine.

What I did to complete this project was to first sort apples with apples, so to speak. I then placed all of the like seeds into plastic zipper bags. After removing most of the air from the bag I labeled them with the type, and year they were bought. The majority were from this year anyway. The multiple baggies were then placed into the plastic box, and the box placed into the fridge.

tomato seeds in a plastic bag

storing the seeds in plastic bags “locks” the humidity

I must admit that this method will not ensure that my grandkids have the same seeds from the days of their grand pappy, it will extend the life of the seed at least a couple of years.

The same can be done without sacrificing fridge space if you have a cool dark room somewhere else on the homestead. For me the fridge just fit. I think the next step to this fun project will be to find or create a seed exchange, and see what kind of fun can be had.

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Maxpedition pocket organizer review

Back in August of last year I began reviewing the Maxpedition pocket organizer. Over the last several months I have been using this item and here is what I think.

When I first got this pouch I missed the spirit of intended use. I was a bit swayed by the reviews on YouTube. The vast majority of reviews had the pouch stuffed to the seams with all manner of things, kind of a mechanicitis in your pocket if you will. With that type of use the pouches were not being used as an augmentation to an EDC. The pouches were largely stuffed in bags or glove boxes of vehicles and taken out when needed. While it is true that the Maxpedition will excel at this use, it is not the use that I had in mind.

My purpose for testing this bit of gear was to find a device that would allow me to expand my EDC kit without massive weight gain. Initial attempts tended to follow the load outs on the internet, and as a consequence I needed both hands to raise one leg. As a result the pouch spent a while in a glove box, and a while in a backpack. I have finally come back around to using it every day.

I am not going to review the pouches functions, zippers, cloth quality, or any physical aspect of its construction. There are plenty of other sources that have done a fantastic job of that. In this review I want to offer some thoughts on loading it up. Some bits that I have taken away from carrying the pouch through my daily routine.

The first question to address when setting the kit up was, what do I want this bag to do? I have found that starting with a goal for use or a scenario where the bag would be employed seemed to ward off a bit of the pack ratting. Since I travel a fair bit to get to work and back any vehicle that I use is set up so that I can get home. The logical use for me was to employ this bag so that I could get back to the vehicle. Your use will be different I am sure, but I will use my method as an example. I started by sitting down and thinking about all the places I go in a day that are away from my vehicle. I looked for anything that might pose an obstacle to my return. I then took a look at what would be needed to defeat said obstacles. The first list was exceedingly long with a great many things that would not fit, or would require a backpack to haul.

I then went through the list and refined, narrowing it down first to anything that would fit. The next step was to weigh what was left off from what was in. There were a great many items that were swapped, or scrapped and brought back many times. I then took a look at the weight of the bag. Since I intended to use it in a cargo pocket, I could not have it smashing my knee all day like a hammer. More refining followed. The next step was to go back to the list of items that were not included to see if I could use the items in the bag to create, or attain some of the items that were not included.

By doing this I was funneled into looking at all of the uses for each item that was included, and how those items would interact with my surroundings through my daily movements. I ended up with a kit that is light enough to carry but strong enough to deliver me to where it is designed to deliver me to.

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The season is underway

We’re heading through June now, and activities on the homestead are moving along. The regular beds are all planted and coming up. This year has been great for building the fungus net in the beds. The mushrooms are everywhere. The few experiments that I have done this year are all in good shape. The planters on the deck rails are indeed a good idea the cucumbers are behaving exactly as I had hoped, and growing down over the edge. The only concern that I have at the moment is that there will not be enough soil in the store bought planters to sustain a full grown plant. In order to offset soil burn out I had to keep the population of the boxes down to two plants per, allowing me six plants total to try with. To hedge in case it doesn’t work I have also planted traditional cucumbers as well.

This is my first year trying upside down tomatoes, and I must admit I am pretty much sold. Using this method has been a huge space saver, and so far the growth of the upside down group is surpassing the traditional plants. I am confident the trend on these will reverse when the traditional plants reach down to the fungal net in the wood core bed.

This year I also took a leap into celery, I had not realized they would be such water hogs. When I transplanted the celery in for the season most of the plants browned pretty fast. Now the celery gets water each day, and most of the plants are responding well, though they will never be grocery store sized.

The first loss of the year however goes to the brand new dill plant. The poor plant was almost two feet tall when a deer came along and ate every bit of it. I am now left with six inch stalks where dill should be. I am hopeful the damage will mend enough to at least self-drop seeds for next year.

We are adding some new beds as well, the construction is moving slowly, but so far has cost zero. When completed the beds will offer more growing space and forever relieve me from having to mow the side hill. A small complication to these beds has been my over enthusiasm to get the blueberries planted. In my haste I planted them in the middle of the construction area before I started. If anyone has experience moving these I welcome your advice.

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Spring has… Well, it’s working on it

Spring is slowly starting to show here on the homestead. It’s arrival heralds a great many projects in need of attention. All of our snow is gone now, and we have been seeing temperatures in the sixties. As soon as the nights come out above freezing the plants will be going in. This year we will be delving into calorie crops a bit more with the addition of potatoes and onions to the gardens. Another addition that will be going in are blueberry bushes. I’m also planning some interesting things with hanging crops, and tomatoes. Stay tuned for those.

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Unexpected homes, and our creativity as homesteaders

Every now and then I am struck with the fear that there are no unique ideas left. Sometimes the thought of setting my homestead apart from others presents itself as an impossible feat. I know I am not alone in this despondent feeling. It is usually in these low moments, when the goals seem so far away that an idea will never present itself. Ideas serve as the catalyst to re ignite my passion, and remind me of an important truth. All the resources I convince myself that I need are not nearly as valuable as the resources I already possess. And then like a thunderbolt, the dark cloud of “I can’t” is broken, and my imagination is rekindled.

in the middle of just such a funk, I found a video on TED talks. The idea presented snapped me back into focus. The talk is given by Iwan Baan, and it is called ingenious homes in unexpected places. Aside from the cursory thought of “I’m glad I live where I do” I was able to see past the initial impression and look deeper into what I was seeing. What the talk presented was an ingenuity that is sometimes lacking in this country. Incredibly simple solutions that bring people into alignment with their income stream, and fosters a sense of family vales that has been lost in the U.S.

In Argentina, a community built inside the unfinished hulk of a high rise office building, a cow pasture in the middle of an apartment building in Egypt. There was beauty, pride, and sense of worth amidst a trash heap. All of the conditions that would cause the average American to shutter and instantly long for their soft familiar life. The common theme I saw in all of these places is that every situation provided the elements needed to sustain life. Every collection of humanity pulled together the creative people that recognized, and filled niches that were once the needs of the community.

Every accomplishment achieved was done without first world amenities. Each milestone was made using the supplies that could be scavenged, or that were on hand. It was in this moment of watching Coptic Christians in Egypt scrape out a living by collecting recycling from the city, and building a life in conditions that most of the world would consider a landfill, that thunderbolt hit. The perplexing problems that led to my funk are now mole hills once more. The easing of the down turned mood is not from any sense of guilt or feeling bad. The change stems from a flash of inspiration. A thought that if these accomplishments can be done with that little, how much more can I do with the recourses that are at my command?

link to Iwan Baan TED talk

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Heading toward Christmas on the homestead

We are now less than a week from Christmas here on the homestead. All of the worries of the day take a break for a few days this time of year. The house is set, and the hearths are warm. Outside the world is wrapped in a thick white blanket. Our days have shortened and the earth sleeps again. It is this precious lull between harvest and planning for the year ahead that gives us pause to reflect. Thoughts of family, and friends that bless and enrich our lives everyday. We think of where we would be without them and pause, to give thanks. It is because of The Lord who gave his only begotten son that we give thanks.

All those years ago in an occupied land a baby was born in a manger because there was no room at the inn. All those years ago he was born, to die for us. All those years ago when self reliance, and self sufficiency had teeth. A time where if you were not both of these; well you were dead. There was no option to hit the store if a particular crop did not come in, or if a predator made off with your chickens. Your car was an ass, and your truck; a cart. It was into this world a child was born.

The son of a carpenter, and a virgin. He was showered in that manger with gifts and worship by all those that had the wisdom to see what had happened to this world. Those that saw the gift that was given to us. The babe grew to man, and fulfilled his destiny. It is because of this birth that we celebrate the season. It is because of this birth we rejoice, and raise our voices in glad song.

In our time we forget ourselves. We are awash in a sea of material things pedaled to us with the goal of creating wealth. The longer we are upon the sea the harder it is to see the lighthouse that is the ultimate gift ever given to man, our Christ. It is this very time of year that holds the greatest need to refocus, find the lighthouse that is Christ, and begin the long row back.

My purpose with this post is not to bludgeon anyone with an anti consumerist club, nor is it to alienate any faith besides my own. We all shop. We all exchange gifts. We are all free to worship what we want to worship. My purpose is simply to speak to fellow believers in Christ, and encourage them to keep rowing, and keep pulling closer to him. I also want to wish all of my readers a joyous and safe time through to the new year.

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