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Homesteading Today – September 29, 2016

Homesteading Today – September 29, 2016

Homesteading Today – September 29

There are a million things to do in this house – scrub the toilet, lug ripped out wallboard from the bedroom to trash bins outside, vacuum and wash floors, back screws out of 2 x 4’s – and little of it will get done. I’ll deal with the screws and wallboard, the rest will wait. It’s too nice outside to be indoors. I thought I’d bring you with me through homesteading today.

The Poultry Shuffle

The perfect music for The Poultry Shuffle was already playing when I went out this morning. A young white throated sparrow that hasn’t migrated yet tested his not-quite-perfect ability to sing. They’re one of the first birds that make my head snap in their direction in the spring and it’s nice to hear them before they leave in the fall.

The meat birds, 25 Cornish Rock Cross, need more room than their 4′ x 8′ tractor allows them. I took the smaller mesh electro-fence from the turkeys, ducks and Silkie chickens and shuffled it over to the meat birds’ area. I won’t have to move them once or twice a day now. The 160 foot long roll of fencing gives them plenty of room to eat grass, weed seeds and insects for a few days. They haven’t yet discovered the freshly tilled soil in the garden but when they do the soil will fly as they learn how easy it is to dust bathe there rather than on grass.

Silkies and Runner ducks slip through the large mess of the second fence so I have to keep an eye on them. Ava and Zoey spend most of the day outside to help deter predators. There are three raccoons hanging around but not until it starts to get dark.

(Update since I started writing: A Cooper’s hawk killed one of the meat birds while Ava was herding a wayward duck back to the pen. Bastard.)
Cornish cross, meat chicken, hawk attack

Autumn Decorating

Not one bit of autumn decorating has been done this fall. I cut the cornstalks, bundled them, and tied them to posts on the porch. Frost is weeks late this year, we haven’t had one yet. The hydrangea are a gorgeous mauve. I hope it doesn’t fade as they dry. Homesteading today is a mix of death and beauty, typical for this lifestyle.

hydrangea, homesteading today

warty gourds, homesteading today

I cut the Warty gourds, Wee Be Little pumpkins and Butternut winter squash, and cleaned up the vines. The last of the tomatoes minus a Juliet plant that’s still doing well added up to a half bushel, and those vines were cleaned up. They’re dying on the garden, waiting to be rototilled into the soil. The bushel of gourds were grown in a 30″ circle in the high tunnel. Easy peasy and worth doing again next year. The winter squash didn’t fare as well but I’ll give it another try in a tunnel next year with a few changes.

The still unidentified hot peppers and Bell peppers haven’t been pulled yet. Maybe Friday, or maybe I’ll put a low tunnel over them for a while. I want more peppers but I’m over gardening for the year. I’m ready to settle in to write, missing writing terribly, and want to be done with just about everything.

Where the Wild Things Are

The beavers are still around out back. The water is low but they’re checking the muddy dam and patting it down on a regular basis. I’m learning to love the land we own. It’s a long process that I’ll talk about later.
beaver lodge, homesteading today
beaver tracks, homesteading todayDon’t forget the young bull moose that’s pics I shared yesterday.

It feels like we’ll have frost overnight so I cut the lemon balm, sage, two varieties of basil, and oregano, and put them in the dehydrator. There’s mint still to cut but it’s frost hardy, fortunate since the dehydrator is full. Sage, thyme, basil and oregano are still growing in the high tunnel, at least until we take the poly off and cold gets to them.

To Do Lists

My list for the day was unrealistically long even if I hadn’t been dealing with the hawk. I’ll work on it again tomorrow. Such is the life. Homesteading today carries into tomorrow, into the next day, and continues on because the to list changes but never ends. I wouldn’t trade it for the lifestyle we left behind in 1989.

Gardening at Sunrise

Gardening at Sunrise

Gardening at Sunrise

Tree tops swayed in a breeze before sunrise this morning. I watched them while still curled up beside Steve, reluctant to leave my cozy spot but eager to go to the garden. It’s August in Maine – hazy, hot and humid. Today’s forecast calls for 85°, the dew point around 60°, and the humidity at 80% and rising. Ugh. We’ve had a welcome break from the humidity that sparked a yearning for autumn, but it moved back in under the cover of darkness. Gardening at sunrise in the summer is soothing. Later in the day, when the plants have dried and the sun is high, picking beans and other work is, well, work.

Herbs in the old but newly designed herb garden by the back porch needed a good weeding. The soil needs a lot of help but overall it’s doing okay. Crabgrass, Creeping Charlie and plantain are the worst offenders. Everything but the Charlie goes into a bucket to be composted and fed back to the soil. Right now there’s more empty space than plant and the weeds are taking advantage. There’s a bit more to do but coffee was my butterfly this morning. “Oh look! A…butter…cup of coffee is ready.” The aroma of fresh brewed coffee met me at the corner of the porch and drew me in.

Later this morning

After coffee and breakfast I’ll get chores done. Later, when I’m not gardening at sunrise, I’ll at least be in the shade for part of the day. There are beans, cucumbers, zucchini and oregano to pick in the high tunnel this morning. And then I’ll find my heavy duty gloves and tackle the perennial flower garden in front of the house. I’m taking the wheelbarrow to fill with weeds. Yes, it’s that bad. Embarrassingly bad. I’ll have it under control by the time I’m done, hopefully before the sun makes its way to the front of the house. While I’m weeding I’ll be thinking about what new plants I want for that garden. I added a rhododendron this year but nothing more. Vegetables? Mastered that garden and the high tunnel decades ago. Flowers? Not so much. I’m taking time to think it through and have what I think I want. And if I screw it all up and it’s not beautiful? I have a spade and can move it all around, but I’d rather not.

What’s going on in your garden? Any words of wisdom you can share about perennial garden planning? I have an acre to develop over time.
Sage, gardening at sunrise
catmint, gardening at sunrise
lavender, clay pot, terra cotta pot, gardening at sunrise
gardening at sunrise, bumble bee, sunflower



Lemon Balm Sugar Cookies

Lemon Balm Sugar Cookies

Lemon Balm Sugar Cookies

Until this spring my love of sugar cookies was satisfied only in Christmas. I love a good cookie or two with a cup of tea or coffee, even in summer when it’s hot. The lemon balm is growing like crazy in the kitchen herb garden, so fast that I can’t keep up with it some days. It’s hanging in paper bags to dry and tucked into wild flower arrangements. I love the aroma of lemon balm and the flavor of lemon as much as I love sugar cookies so why not Lemon Balm Sugar Cookies!

I love the aroma of lemon balm, the flavor of lemon, and sugar cookies so why not Lemon Balm Sugar Cookies!Click To Tweet

Lemon Balm Sugar Cookies

Lemon Balm Sugar Cookies Recipe

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
4 cups flour
1/3 cup pulverized lemon balm
2 Tbl lemon juice
2 Tbl lemon extract
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350°.

I use the Magic Bullet to pulverize the lemon balm leaves because I don’t have a mortar and pestle. Add the lemon juice to the leaves to keep the leaves moving. Let set together while you make the dough.

Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the eggs. Add the lemon extract and salt and mix a few seconds. Add one cup of flour and mix, and add the baking soda. Add the rest of the flour, one cup at a time. The dough is supposed to be stiff.

If you’re going to roll out the dough you can form it into a rough log. If you’ll slice it into cookies you should form it into a smooth log, round or oval. Wrap the dough in waxed paper and chill for an hour.

For sliced cookies, make 1/4″ slices, and for cookie cutters, roll the dough 1/4″ thick. I rolled the dough and used a cookie cutter. You can also cut them with a pizza cutter to make squares or rectangles, and by doing this you lose no dough to odd shapes. It’s a time saver. I cut mine with a round cutter and not wanting to roll the dough again, put the odd shaped dough on the cookie sheet and called it good. They taste good no matter their shape.

Bake 8 – 12 minutes depending on thickness