Homesteading for the Average Jane

An average mom, trying her hand at suburban homesteading!


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The Crazy, Crazy Summer!

This summer has really been insane! We took in two more foster kids so now we have 7 kids and 2 adults in one house! We have had tons of fun this summer, it has been one of most active in years! We spent many days at our local “river” beach at one of our county parks.
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We always managed to find this nice shady spot where we could keep an eye on kids and relax at the same time.

We also were blessed to spend a day at our local amusement park! I had such a great time with my kids!
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We were blessed to spend time at our community pool after one of our awesome neighbors bought us a family membership! When I wasn’t making a wedding cake (the first I have made in several years), I was reading and studying for my theology class on BiBle Doctrine!
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We even found time to squeeze in some mission work with the organization Feed My Starving Children where we helped pack nutritious meals for starving children around the world.
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Even with all this we still managed to grow a pretty successful garden! Did I get to can a bunch of food or fully stock my freezer, no but for my first year with straw bales I think we did great. All summer I had loads of yellow squash, zucchini, lettuce, bell peppers, and watermelon! Most of all I had tomatoes! My 6 plants grew to well over 7 ft tall and were healthier than I could have ever expected! I have made sauce, roasted tomatoes, chopped them up for salads, and even just sat around and munched on them whole! Starting tomatoes from seed was harder than I expected and out of the 25 I planted I only had 6 plants to survive and 5 of those were a variety called Matt’s Wild Cherry. From what I have read they are self seeding so I have been throwing the split tomatoes places where I wouldn’t mind having some volunteers next year!
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On my next post I will talk about the clean up of my summer garden, my transition into a fall garden, composting, and the installation of my first rain barrel!

I hope your summer was as fun and productive as mine! I will leave you with a picture of my largest watermelon of the season, she was decorated my son, Tott and was named Lady WaWa by my girls, and she tasted delicious!
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Straw Bale Garden Update

Well it has been a while since my last post, it has been quite crazy around my little suburban homestead. I am so pleased with how well my garden is going. Here is how they looked just weeks after planting.

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Here things are still small but I can see progress! I did go ahead and cage my tomatoes because every year I seem to wait to long and struggle to get them over my plants! At this point my everything is growing great, but with all gardens there are some hiccups along the way.

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This was the best my cabbages looked. My broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts grew huge but did not produce any heads, then they got attacked by some kind a bug that I just couldn’t get ahead of. I suspect that the crazy hot summer we are having has really affected this crop, but not to fear…I will try again this fall! Last week I pulled them all and planted some more tomatoes and some bell peppers.

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My squash and zucchini are doing amazing and I have collected over 25 pounds!  I also finally succeeded at growing spaghetti squash and even though I only got 2 I will plant more next time!

My tomatoes are to the top of their cages and covered with blooms and small green tomatoes. And I have several cantaloupes and even some watermelon!

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My next step is to start my seeds for the fall growing season and start a second round of squash! Start some okra and begin planning for a winter crop!

I hope you enjoy my little update!


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Winter sown seeds going into garden today!

Wow, what a difference a few weeks make! On April 1st, I transferred my winter sown seeds from their milk jug green houses to large pots. Here is how they looked today before I planted them in my straw bales.

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As you can see my lettuce is doing great, we regularly go out to clip lettuce for salads and here you can see my son munching on some greens as we hang out!

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Not pictured are my yellow squash and my lone spaghetti squash. I had given up on these winter seeds producing but out of the blue I went out and they were farther along than my indoor sown seeds and ready to plant!

We shall see how they all produce!


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Planting my Straw Bale Garden!

Well today was the day! I planted a great deal of my garden. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and one lone spaghetti squash!
This is how my straw bales looked before planting!
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The bales have been out all winter, soaking up the rain and decomposing! Now they are ready to plant. As you can see they are dark brown inside and nice and wet, of course we had a big storm here last night so everything is wet! To plant I just used my garden trowel to separate the straw creating a place for the transplant.
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Once the plant is in place, I put some more soil around each plant and pushed the straw back together. When I finished I gave them all a good drink.
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Here they are all planted!
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Next week I will start my okra and carrot seeds!


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Indoor Seed Starting!

Well I finally got around to sowing my indoor seeds! It has been a crazy few weeks and transplanting into the garden is just around the corner so I had to get my seeds going.

My first step was to soak my seeds. By doing this, the husks of the seeds are softened making for easier germination. I used several small bowls that I had around the house and to keep them organized I just used a dry erase marker to label each bowl.

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I then prepared my seed trays. I used an organic seed starting medium. It has no soil so it won’t contaminate my seedlings. I did add a small amount of water to moisten up the seed starter. And then added it to my trays.

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You will notice that I left one spot open. This is so I can use this opening to water my seedlings later. This hole will allow me to put water into the tray, watering the seedlings from below.

I made small holes with the end of a paint brush and planted each seed to it’s required depth.  Since my garden isn’t huge I have started multiple types of veggies in each tray. I labeled each tray and put them in a sunny window. Of course this pic was taken at dusk, so not much sun shine going on.

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I started these on April 3rd and today, April 7th this is what I saw!

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I have seedlings! So far I have cucumbers, crockneck squash, and zucchini sprouting! I am so excited! I have decided to put a heating pad under my peppers because they need to be close to 80 degrees to germinate. Once my seedlings get started I will be moving them outside during the day and bringing them back in at night until I am sure we are past the threat of frost!


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No fools, this April First! Winter sowing transplants!

Well it is April 1st and is a beautiful day here in Tennessee. My winter sown seeds are doing great and are getting really crowded in the jugs so I decided to transplant them into pots. Some will stay in pots but many will be transplanted into straw bales by the end of the month.

 

I decided to start with my bibb lettuce which is growing at an amazing rate! My lettuce will stay in containers throughout the Summer so that I can move them to cooler spots when the sun is at it’s hottest.

I started with some long window box planters and added some large pine nuggets in the bottom, this really helps with drainage because the soil doesn’t get packed down in the holes.

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Next, I fill them nearly to the top with soil. I use a planting soil that is organic and consists of horse manure, mushroom compost, leaves, and soil. It is mixed locally so I trust it and I am helping a local business with my purchase.

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Next I dumped the jug, you can see how well the roots are established! I separated them carefully and planted them in clumps, with any luck they will spread out and fill the pots, providing us with lots of nice salads throughout the summer.

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Next, I worked on my head lettuce, It should be ready to transplant later as it gets bigger.

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I finished up with my cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts which will all be transplanted into the straw bales.

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Last but not least, Lbug gave them a good drink of water with my make shift watering can. It is just a milk jug with some holes punched in the top. It makes giving a good slow drink to the plants a breeze without having so much flow that the soil is washed from the roots, plus it is free!

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I still have crookneck squash, zucchini, and spaghetti squash are just starting to sprout, hopefully they will be ready to transplant in a few more weeks.

I hope you have enjoyed my posts on winter planting. I have certainly enjoyed using this easy method and I will definitely expand on this technique next Winter.


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Mid-March winter sowing!

Well my plants are really taking off. I have had to cover my ‘mini-greenhouses” on and off for the last month but I wanted to show you what my winter sown seeds are doing now.

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As you can see, I have lots of beautiful and healthy starts. What you see in these pictures are bibb lettuce, head lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. For now I am uncovering them and during the day and then closing the lids at night. So far I have not had to water these jugs one time! I can’t wait to get these transplanted.

Oh, and I had a little taste of the bibb lettuce…it was delicious.