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 sowing…seeds get first snow!

So it is January 28th, 2014 and we were hit with a little snow storm! It was fast and furious! And I know many of you would scoff at 2 inches of snow but for lower, middle Tennessee it is a big deal. Anyway, after days of freezing temps we finally got some snow and my winter sown seeds are the benefactors.

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As you can see there is some snow inside the jugs and around the tops, as the temperature increases over the next few days (it is supposed to be in the 50’s by Saturday) the process of freezing and thawing will continue!

 


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Seeds for Winter-Sowing Going out TODAY!

So I showed everyone to how I made my containers for winter-sowing. With the help of my daughter, LBug, I got all my hardy seeds sown. Since it is 14 degrees outside we decided to work at the kitchen table.  HINT: I keep a crib sheet that I use to cover my table for messy projects like painting and potting, then I can just toss it in the wash!

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We put about 3 to 4 inches of organic potting soil in each bucket, the soil was already pre-moistened, but not too wet, since it set out in the rain! Make sure that the soil is loose and not packed down so that the roots can form. With this process it is not necessary to nick or soak seeds. The freezing and thawing they will go through over the next few months soften the seeds and prepare them for germination.

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We did space seeds that need spacing and others we spread across the top and covered with about a 1/4 inch of soil. This go we are starting the following seeds:

  1. Broccoli
  2. Cauliflower
  3. Brussels Sprouts
  4. Cabbage
  5. Spaghetti Squash
  6. Bibb Lettuce
  7. Head lettuce
  8. Crookneck Squash
  9. Zucchini
  10. Parsley

I plan to start some tender plants in March and April the same way but it is just too cold right now. I am also starting some of these plants indoors. Since I am new to starting plants from seeds I want to have several options! When the seeds are sown all you need to do now is put on a piece of duct tape to keep the tops closed and remove all the lids.

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Next find a good spot in your yard. I chose my patio because it gets good afternoon sun and some shade and is protected from the wind. I put them all up on a table so that they are protected from neighborhood dogs and such. Make sure they are accessible to the rain and snow!

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* It was not snowing the day I put them out! This is a few days later…

As you can see I placed them in the back yard on my patio table. I can keep and eye on them out the kitchen window and they get the sun and weather exposure they need.


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How to prepare Containers for Winter-Sowing

I have very limited space for seed starting, so this year I have decided to experiment with winter-sowing. I first learned about it from Pinterest and winter-sowing.org. Right now I have around 20 containers and I am starting a variety of seeds (hardy to zone 7b ). Here are my containers!

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I cut each jug around the middle until I got to the handle, this becomes the hinge. Then I used a permanent marker to label each jug with it’s contents. On the day I actually plant I will add the date. I also write the plant and date on the bottom of each in case the tops get sun faded.

Next I had to put some drainage holes in the bottom. I realized rather quickly that punching holes in the bottom would take forever and I would probably lose a finger doing it with a craft knife! So back to winter-sow.org I went and it suggested using a soldering iron or heated screw driver. I chose the soldering iron. My husband does some wiring work so we happen to have one. It made the job a breeze!

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It only took a few moments for each milk jug. Tomorrow I will fill with potting soil and seeds! Stay tuned!


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Straw Bale Gardening the Beginning!

Well here is the start! Today my mom and I loaded, hauled, and unloaded 42 bales of straw to my back yard. We went ahead and laid them out in rows the way I plan for them to stay. I have 4 rows of 10 bales and I have 6 extra bales. The 4 rows will be my main garden and the extras will be placed in another part of the yard for my melons and pumpkin plants. I want them to have plenty of room to spread out.  My next step will be to add my support stakes so that the bales stay close together and of course don’t roll down the hill. Over the next few months I will be treating the bales with urine and water to begin the composting process and have them ready for spring planting. I will post more pics of the process as it comes along!


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So I’m just an average Jane!

Well I’m just an average Jane, well Fran actually. I have a passion for homesteading…the only problem…I have never done it! I did grow up on a small farm and I have some experience with organic gardening, but to do this homesteading thing, I’m just an average mother and wife making a go of it. Throughout this year, I will be starting my own seeds (some in the spring…the traditional way) and some with a new winter seed sowing technique that I have learned about. I will be attempting to turn my back yard slope of death into a thriving straw bale garden and trying to raise chickens and possibly rabbits. Over the winter I will be building a lean-to potting shed, a green house area, compost bin, and rain barrels. I may be biting off more than I chew with a busy household of 5 kids but I am going to do my best. Tomorrow I am hauling home 40 straw bales! So I will have pics coming soon! Join me as I share my successes and my failures, it will be a lot of hard work but also a lot of fun!