The First Twelve Months:Month Two ~ Putting Down Roots

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This post is Part 2 in a series about the first year on our homestead.  Part 1 can be read here.

Our garden, the barn, and our home

Our garden, the barn, and our home

Month 2 was an eventful month to say the least.  Among other things we celebrated our first Christmas and the first (but insignificant) snowfall!

Additionally we:

*Have begun to become a part of and support the local community.  We attended the local Christmas parade, got our tires changed at the little shop on mainstreet, and I chose to get my hair cut at the local salon rather than travel back to the big city.  This was great fun, the proprietor and her mother (who is her partner) having lived here a very long time.  I was told who was related to whom, and where I could get some goats when we decided we were ready.

*Applied for and received our farm tax number; wearing cute matchy matchy barn jackets (that was unplanned).

*Applied for and qualified for agricultural exemption of our land.  This will lower our property taxes.

* Hosted a “scout” visit from a potential client who would like to sell our locally grown produce.  Upon seeing the layout of our beds we were then told that if we could grow it, they would buy it.

*Purchased enough (or what we thought would be enough) seed to start with a small variety of cool season vegetables: mostly lettuces and spinach for our new client.  While this isn’t a huge client, it is a significant switch from growing for just the two of us.  How much seed does one need?  We aren’t conventional growers, and since it is just the two of us working the place, we prefer intensive gardening techniques and are trying very hard to implement some principles of natural permaculture.  As crazy as it sounds, we just sat down with a pencil, paper, and calculator; figured out the space of our beds, how we planned to space our crops, figured in a continual harvest, added it all together, and then doubled it for good  measure.  Will it be too much?  Will it be enough?  Can we even pull this off????

We’ll see….

*Planted spinach seeds “early” in order for them to overwinter.  This is an experiment and will be a learning experience to say the least.  We have enough seed and enough additional space of this experiment goes awry.

Planting spinach seeds

Planting spinach seeds

And speaking of learning experiences:

* After a hard frost  one morning we discovered we had lost nearly everything in our fall garden.  Everything.   Even the cold loving kale was gone.   This was after each crop had been covered with heavy plastic.  I nearly cried.  Husbie however was very positive.  “Now we know…” he kept saying.

Major additions to our homestead included:

*A grain mill.  This may not sound like a major addition, but we saw it as just one more step to being self reliant.  I like to bake with spelt flour and we discovered it was less expensive to buy the spelt and mill it ourselves.  It also saves us a trip to the now-far-away natural foods store where we originally purchased our flour.

Major adjustments:

* Rural internet access.  Our move included a switch from cable to satellite and the transition has been rocky.  We’re on and off, the satellite and wordpress have a very fickle relationship making the blog tricky to manage, not to mention that the satellite connection is more expensive.  I learned this the hard way when I sat down one afternoon to fold the laundry in front of Netflix streaming Toddlers and Tiaras (a guilty pleasure; I confess. I’m so ashamed.).  We learned the next day I had nearly consumed  our entire bandwidth for the month.  Oops. So movies are no longer streaming.  If we want to watch something we wait for Netflix to arrive in the mail, or we watch old favorites from our personal library that we’re now working to expand.  We’re also beginning to consider spending our free evenings playing games (we love Rummikub and Canasta) or reading as an alternative to watching movies/tv.

And once again…

*Distance.  This time between us and a local grocery store.  While our little town does have a Dollar General, DG does not really carry groceries unless one eats frozen dinners and Wonder bread.  We don’t.  So every trip to the store 15 miles away is spent with the mindset of “What am I going to need for the next ten days?”  I’ve yet to go and not forget something major.  We’ve learned to stretch our menu, eat what we have, or make it from scratch.  I see this as a good thing, but I’m ready for our spring garden.

Next month we hope to:

*Put a fence around the perimeter of our garden

*Start our transplants for the cool season veg that are not sown directly into the soil

*Start building the chicken coop for our chicks due to arrive in the spring

 

Find this post and others like it linked to: Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Farmgirl Friday, Homestead Barn Hop, The Backyard Farming Connection Hop

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The First Twelve Months:Month Two ~ Putting Down Roots — 38 Comments

  1. I thoroughly enjoying reading about your adventure, and looking forward to hearing how your “vegetable math” works out. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you Meredith. I sure hope it works :? We basically just took the square foot gardening method and multiplied it out.

    • I hope things come together for you quickly Karie. The day we closed on our land was one of the happiest. :D

    • Isn’t that cool? WordPress offered it for the holidays but I only just saw the setting a few days ago. Enjoy it fast, it will be over after the 4th. :(

  2. I completely understand many of the points you’ve made here as we’re dealing with similar issues but in blistering heat as opposed to snow. Things are cooler where we are due to higher altitude (around 500m ASL here) but I’m profoundly grateful as the city is predicted to hit 41 today – only 39 here. :) I’m also getting my head around colder nights (this is currently a blessing but we did have the fire on last week when it got down to 6C overnight and we got a frost then too. My tomatoes are NOT happy. Our gardening battles are more along the lines of “why won’t this grow” which some neighbourly advice may well have sorted.

    We too are looking into our net connection and hoping to be able to retain the same provider and hence same email address but we are much more limited. We are in town so we don’t have the 15 mile drive, more like 1-2, but the supermarket here is MUCH smaller. It doesn’t have the variety I’m used to from the big smoke and I’m having to adjust my thinking. It’s also not open like the city stores – 24/7 so I can’t just nick out once the kids are in bed to do the shopping. And being on a small prepaid wireless connection is challenging. It’s dropping in and out thanks to a dodgy USB port on my laptop and I blew the limit watching a YouTube clip the other day. Whoops. Streaming is not even remotely possible. We’ve also made the decision not to connect the tv up so it’s currently stashed in a corner until we decide what to do with it. The kids watch some shows we’ve purchased on the iPad instead although we’re all heartily sick of Thomas and his adventures. It’s definitely an adjustment from city to country hey.
    I love reading your blog as I feel like someone else is going through the same things as me even if you’re half a world and a hemisphere away.

    • The frustrating thing for me has been to try and edit a blog post. Our connection will frequently time out, I will have to log back in, and then the edits are lost. This happens repeatedly in one session. What used to take about 10 min. now takes about 30-40. I’m thinking I may have to learn more html so that I can write in a word doc and then cut and paste.

      Our grocery store in the next town over (also small) is nice but it just doesn’t have the variety that I was used to. Not as many organic/natural choices that I had before and since we don’t have our garden yet, I’m not sure what to do about all that. I really miss a specific variety of organic canned refried beans (Amy’s – I don’t know if you all have that in Australia). I’m going to have to learn to make my own from scratch. It’s all good. We’re learning. :)

      • No, Amy’s is not a brand I’m familiar with. That’s not to say we don’t have it but I don’t know of it at least. Making your own though is the best fun out I reckon! I’ve got grand plans of making baked beans for my kids (I can’t stand them) but so far my cooking has been met with steadfast refusal to eat them. Ah well.
        Having the same issues with our internet but that’s due to the dodgy USB port that drops the connection if the laptop is moved or even leaned too heavily upon sometimes.
        As for learning, that’s the best bit isn’t it? :D

        • I managed to make some that tasted pretty close to the “real thing” in a can. :P Next step is to freeze them up so that they are just as convenient.

          • I’ve got an as yet unused (for canning at least) canner and I plan to can the beans. My freezer is t big enough and my deep freeze is full of organic lamb.
            Do you have a recipe you can share?

          • We have lamb in our freezer too! I’ve never canned beans but I am getting ready to try using this post as a guide. For refried beans I soak overnight and then cook the dry ones in a stockpot with garlic, onions, and jalepeno chilis. Then I put them through my food processor, reheat in a little bacon fat (the kind without all the crud obviously) and just season to taste with cumin, chili, or chipotles, whatever. Hope that is helpful!

  3. I’m new to your blog but look forward to reading about your “journey.” I had to share the paragraph about getting a grain mill with my husband because we’ve been discussing which one we want to get. I would love to know which one you purchased and what you think about it, pros/cons.

    Three years ago we bought a home on 3 1/2 acres and have been learning how to become more self sufficient. We keep about 60 chickens but I think our biggest challenge has been keeping a garden. We live at a higher elevation with cooler temps and not as long of a growing season which in our inexperience has made things a little tricky.

    Best Wishes in the New Year!

    • Hi Wendy! It is so nice to meet you. I can empathize with your gardening challenges. For us it has been the heat and the wind but I’m hopeful we’ll be able to harvest something this summer. We purchased the L’Equip Nutrimill from Paula’s Bread. So far I have been very happy with it. It is quiet (for a mill), easy to clean, and prodces a large amount of flour in one batch. We can use it for milling beans and corn as well as wheat berries. I was hoping to use it for oatmeal, but that is not recommended. Since I can do a relatively decent job of that in my food processor I was willing to let that go. The only drawback that I can think of would be that it is electric. We had thought about purchasing one of the hand operated mills but the really good ones were $$$. The less expensive ones seemed like they would be difficult to use and I was afraid that if it required a lot of effort, we wouldn’t use it. We do have a solar powered generator as backup in case of a power outage and I usually mill extra to have on hand should we ever need it. I hope that is helpful. Best wishes on your garden and I hope you have a bountiful harvest in 2013. :)

  4. Just started reading your blog! We bought a farm just over a year ago and were so not country folks. I wouldn’t trade it for the world now. You’re going through exactly the same things we did – hold on because before you know it, it’ll get easier. I’m still learning a lot about the garden (high winds, drought, what survives when…) but the best thing we did was put a chicken moat in. Look them up – you’ll love it. It certainly kept the bugs out of the garden all summer. Thanks for sharing your journey and I look forward to more. I’m off to search the rest of your site.

    • I am so glad to hear that it gets easier! Your words were really what I needed to hear yesterday. Will definitely look into the chicken mote, although I think I have seen what you are talking about. We’re scheduled to receive some chicks this spring. Thank you for reading Janet, it is so nice to meet you!

  5. My brother in law bought 65 acres and it took him five years to get his at exempt it sounds like you got it in one day

  6. So fun to get an update on your precious new place! I live in a small city and still have to drive 9 miles either way to Walmart and Sam’s, so we have some of the same challenges! I have my menu set for the month and a list of every item I use on a spreadsheet. I inventory my pantry each month and mark what I need so I don’t buy more or less than I need. I only go grocery shopping once a month (with weekly stops for milk on our way to church on Wednesdays–saves an extra trip). Thanks for sharing your adventure! Happy New Year!

    • Teresa this is a really great idea. I used to just plan from week to week but I’m going to have to switch to monthly shopping. I think in the long run it will also save us some $. One always spends more the more trips you make. I may have to borrow your idea of a spreadsheet to inventory the pantry.

  7. Thank you for your story. Will keep reading. We are planning to retire in June and move back to Colorado. I am sketching plans for the retirement cabin, chicken coop, green house and garden shed. Hope to have a full sized square foot garden as soon as possible. I too love to bake and can so will be watching for garden and kitchen tips. Good luck and keep your blog coming.

    • Linda thank you so much and best wishes for your new homestead in Colorado! Planning our home was one of the funnest parts of getting started.

  8. You will get used to the grocery store problem. We can get milk and a few things “in town” which is 15 miles away. We live 25 miles from a small super Walmart where I usually buy groceries. We are an hour from anything that resembles a city. I hope you built a large pantry or a basement in your new house for food storage! I’m working on plans for a root cellar to be able to store some vegetables and home-canned food.

    • Thank you Becky, I currently have an old armoire that I’m using for a pantry but future plans do include a storm cellar that can also be used for storage. I’m very interested in using a root cellar.

  9. I totally understand the internet issues we got lucky when we upgraded with our internet company and we get free internet from midnight to 5am if you are not locked into a contract you can check to see if wildblue excede is available and maybe you can download your guilty pleasure off of you tube to the computer? Hope this helps keep up the good work!

    • Thank you Melissa! We do have wildblue actually. I will have to see if we can start downloading in the off hours. Downton Abbey started this week and I would really like to watch it off of the Masterpiece Theater website.

  10. I really enjoy your insights. We’re in the process of selling our house in the suburbs and moving across the country to begin our life of homesteading. I’m looking forward to following your experience…maybe it will help us to prepare for ours.

  11. Enjoying reading your blog. We live 30 minutes from the nearest walmart/grocery store. You will get better at stocking up. I try to keep a shelf unit full of basics such as powdered milk, cornmeal, canned goods and such. Also, you have to remember to keep extra cleaning supplies, personal items and lots of toilet paper. It’s worth it though. Internet is an adjustment but after two years, I don’t really notice it any more!

    • One of my long term goals is to have several storage units in our garage. We just moved this last October though and we still have quite a mess to clean up and go through. We downsized some so we’re still trying to decide what we’re going to do with the stuff that won’t fit in the house. I think once we get the hang of it we’ll be better off in the long run. Fewer trips to the store = less money spent.

  12. You might look into Amazon prime or even their subscribe and save program. You can get almost anything except perishable food items through them. It saves me a lot of trips to the store. I have Prime, which delivers most items to my door in 2 days or less. VERY convenient when shopping is difficult!

    • Ya know we did end up going for the one month free trial of Prime and so far I have really liked it. We have a PO Box so we can’t always get the 2 day shipping because of that, but we still get free shipping. I noticed that I can buy a case of organic diced tomatoes with free shipping for significantly less than I can buy them at the store. I think it will really work for us.

  13. I feel your frustration with satellite internet. I just recently switched to a jet pack. You need to have a good cell signal for it to work. Ours in Verizon but I am sure the other major carriers have something similair. It is much faster than satellite, but still no streaming tv or movie due to data limits. I have only had it for a few weeks, but so far it is way better and much cheaper than our satellite was.

  14. Jenny,
    Congrats on writing for Wardeh, I just love GNOWFGLINS! I am reading your month-by-month and wanted to know what brand of grain mill you bought and how you like it? I am using “The Kitchen Mill” by Blendtec, but I’m not happy. I have been buying Organic Grains and LOTS of other bulk stuff from Azure Standard if you need a source.
    Just Me,
    Melanie

    • Hi Melanie! Thank you so much! I’m really excited about the opportunity. We have a L’Equip Nutrimill that I purchased from a friend who sells them here. So far we have been really, really happy with it and we use it very often. At this point we have been using spelt for our bread. We like the flavor and texture of it a lot. I wrote a small post about our mill that included our bread recipe here. I will look into Azure standard. Thanks. :) It was so nice to meet you. Thanks for dropping by.