Monday, March 2, 2009

February's end

Last week was a productive one for the homestead. With our big out-of-the-house commitments (Laura Ingalls Wilder Celebration Day for homeschoolers, and basic and advanced gardening workshops) finished, a bit of down time and relaxation in there, we're back on thinking of what needs to be done in this place, and doing it.

This week we got up two grow lights in our kitchen, and Kaleigh and I planted two seed trays. There's the usual overabundance of tomatoes. I am not good about keeping the heirloom varieties separated, so I have started 18 plants of my own seeds I saved last year, with maybe 4-5 types of beautiful and delicious tomatoes. I also started 18 seeds from tomato seeds I saved a couple of years ago, from my friends Gus and Andy, who had 60 kinds of heirloom varieties, the tomatoes of which they sold at the farmers market. I can't wait to see what happens!

Additionally, we started broccoli, hardy kiwi, black currants, sweet peppers, cabbage, ramps, currant tomatoes (small and very sweet), rhubarb, red currants, passionflower, "wild" strawberries, and cilantro. I hope to set out the cold season plants as soon as they are big enough, and have the warm season plants beautiful and healthy when the ground warms up.

Don has crafted a plan of paths to convert our big south side lawn (our garden) into a less straight-line garden. In other words, the 4' wide beds are no more, and anything that is not path will be planted in an integrated vegetable, fruit, herb, and tree garden. It's going to be beautiful, and productive! We have some dead wood still to get off the site, and plenty of weeds (mulch!) to hack away. The soil under the rotting logs (which collected leaves over the winter) is beautiful. Don made a good start in getting the whole place cleared off.

Yesterday, we chopped up 8 heads of cabbage, 10 carrots and onions, and three bulbs of garlic, making about 3 gallons of lacto-fermenting kraut. We shall have plenty to share in the coming weeks! I really like kraut now, and heartily eat big bowls of it. I think it's kept me from getting sick much this winter.

Don has kept up with splitting and stacking wood. Kaleigh and I spent a nice warm day outside last week hanging clothes on the line, planting greens and a small amount of peas, picking up garbage, and weeding out her strawberry bed and strewing it with straw. Greening things in the yard are: garlic tops, strawberry leaves, dame's rocket (pretty flower, not edible), and dead nettle (ground cover, not edible as far as I know). I pruned the peach trees, but the pruner was so dull, I was afraid I was doing more harm than good, so I stopped (couldn't find the file to sharpen). The fruit trees have little red buds on them. Spring is here! (Yes, I know it's 20 degrees out.)

Kaleigh showed her rock collection at the Illinois State Museum's Junior Collectors' Day. She had a great time talking about rocks, and one patron went home and returned with two rocks for Kaleigh. They are unique to Monterey Bay, and are formed from the action of water within the bay. They are nice. Today, Kaleigh is at a holiday gymnastics clinic downtown, doing gymnastics, relay races, obstacle courses, and hopefully having a good time with kids. For those of you who know Kaleigh, you know this is a marked change in her independence. She is now her own fearless person! Hooray!

Don's parents graciously purchased a very nice wringer and a rapid washer to accompany our wash basins. With a little bit of hardware and some nice temperatures, our new washer will be put to the test.

We traded wine for a deer roast with some friends, and had some most delicious roast. I cooked it up with some apple cider wine, potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic. We ate it with homemade bread, sauerkraut, and pickles, with a dessert of Southern Illinois peaches I canned last fall. The meal felt appropriate--this is what we are supposed to be eating in winter in this place. And it was delicious!

I'm sure there's about 200 other things we did on the homestead this week that have not been mentioned (lots of wood heat activities, morning house-cleaning chores, dishes and cooking), but we're having a good time, even with our sore backs. We have a lot of plans for this spring, and are hopeful we'll have interested persons visiting helping us to enact our vision for this place.


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