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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Snow on my suburban homestead!

Well yesterday we got our first snow of 2014. Last year we got none and to be honest it isn’t something that happens very often here since we live on the boarder of TN and GA, and in a valley. When we do get snow it is a disaster! We don’t have lots of salt trucks or snow plows so our hilly roads and neighborhoods become impassable very quickly. So today I am home with the kids.  The view this morning was beautiful!

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Our little yard had about 2 inches of snow. The view down the street was a pretty one and my husbands little car is covered! He has already taken out our 4-wheel drive suv to go to our local fire hall where he volunteers and is a medical first responder. So I ventured out early this morning to get some pictures, do a few chores, and enjoy the snow before the kids got up.  The first thing I did was check on my winter-sown seeds….they are looking good, getting their first freeze and watering when the snow thaws.

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Then it was time to take care of some local wildlife! I put out some dry cat food for the local strays since I am trying to build some trust to capture them and have them fixed in our local feral cat program.  Then I noticed that both my bird feeders were empty. So I filled them up.

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Just now I saw a beautiful cardinal at my front feeder but I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo! I really feel like keeping wild birds fed and happy is important because they help with pest control, provide hours of entertainment for my cats, and are beautiful of course!

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My straw bales are also doing well! As you can see, they are just hanging out…slowly decomposing! Very soon I will be getting my stakes set and my trellis ran over each roll but right now with temps in the single digits I think it can wait a little longer!  Later today I am going to makes some chicken soup and get my indoor seeds started! So expect another post soon!

 


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Homemade Laundry Detergent

Over the years I have tried several homemade cleaning and household products. Some have been huge successes and some not so much! So I don’t like to post about them until I have tested them adequately and know they are cost effective. About 8 months ago I got this recipe from my sister and I have been using it since then! Last week I found that I was scrapping the bottom of the bucket and had to make some more!

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These are the ingredients that I use and the price of each…I bought them at my local Wal-Mart…the only place that sales them all.

1 Box-20 Mule Borax   $3.97

1 Box- Arm and Hammer Baking Soda $2.24

1 Box- Arm and Hammer Washing Soda $3.24

1 Tub- Sun Oxi-Clean Powders $5.47

1 Purex Crystals  $3.97

3 Bars-Fels-naptha Laundry Bars $0.97 each

I always begin by dumping my dry ingredients into my handy 5 gallon bucket. Then I grate up my 3 bars of soap. Now my sister has an old food processor that she used and it made the soap really fine but I found that l like hand grating my soup with a cheese grater. It leaves bigger pieces which seems to make a little more suds in the wash. Plus you work up a good sweat grating all that soap! Then it is just a matter of blending it together. I just use may hands, reaching down to the bottom of the bucket and bringing the contents to the top until it is well mixed. I always save my scoop from the oxi-clean to measure my detergent. I use one scoop per load and yes, I even use cold water. I just toss in the detergent when I start my water and give it a minute to dissolve. I have never had any clumps or residue on my clothes.

This is what it looks like all finished!

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In total I spent…$21.80. The last batch lasted me 8 months and that is with a family of 7! I don’t know the cost per load but I know that is a lot of savings! So give it a try. It cleans great, smells great, and is very cost effective!


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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!