Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fresh ground cornmeal...

Having a flour mill offers lots of opportunities outside of just grinding wheat flour. Tonight I'm grinding corn and wheat to make Avocado Pound Cake! If you haven't discovered this recipe, you MUsT try it! Dee-lish! Just go to Joy the Baker's blog & give it a try...you won't be dissapointed!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Our Wee Horse

While we were back home for Thanksgiving, we got to see the wee horse. She is pregnant & due in April! Brownie had to be moved to a family pasture because of the severe drought here & a lack of good grass for our special lil mama. Hoping she can return to Willow Run before the birth.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Carrots in a Bottle

A few day ago I posted about our experiment with planting carrots in empty pop bottles. The theory is that you will be able to watch some of them grow. Here's what our little carrots look like today! We are up to 3 bottles and I plan to add more as we get empties.


A juicing before and after! The chickens get the trimmings and the pulp.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A juicing plan...

I have a wonderful juicer, but I realized that I haven't been juicing regularly lately...okay, I haven't juiced AT ALL in the past 6 months!! There, you made me face the dark, ugly truth!

So, I have a new plan. I will juice enough to fill a quart jar every morning and drink the whole jar each day.

Day 1 - this juice contains one mango, three apples, two celery stalks, two large carrots, and one pear. I also send the pulp through twice to be sure to squeeze out all the moisture.

Potpourri for Free!

Made a beautiful fruit salad for church potluck yesterday! As I was peeling & coring fruits I threw all those bits into a sauce pan to simmer with a cinnamon stick. Humidifies a dry winter house and makes it smell heavenly! Try it next time you have some apple cores and orange peels!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bountiful Baskets

My friends, do yourself a favor and check out BountifulBaskets.com! This was our basket for this week with an added fruit package. All this was $25...no kidding!! Our local delivery comes every other week, and I plan our meals and snacks around the contents of our baskets to be sure I use every teeny bit of yumminess.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A little something...

The girls planted carrots in these pop bottles so we can watch them growing beneath the soil. I think I'm just as giddy to check our experiment each morning as they are!


As we problem solve our way through this past summer's challenges, one thing we know for sure is that our garden is too large to hand water in excessive heat & drought conditions. We've decided to design an irrigation system to make the task of watering more efficient.

As Homestead Man works through a plan involving PVC pipe and sprinkler heads, built in an above ground grid, the 9-year-old is coming up with her own underground system. The drawing below shows recycled bottles with holes punctured to allow water to slowly leak out. The bottles are connected with pipe so they can be filled in one above ground inlet. Pretty clever, huh?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fall is for Baking!

Anyone else have an irresistible urge to bake this time of year? I always pop overripe bananas in the freezer in their skin then thaw them and squeeze out the banana (toothpaste style) when I am ready to bake this banana bread. I added 1/4 cup of wheat germ in the batter and sprinkled a bit on top to boost the nutritional value. Add in pecans grown on a family tree, and you've got a treat you don't have to feel quite so badly about!

News from the Coop!

We have exciting news! After a long run of bad chicken luck and a short break from birds, we went to a local farm and picked out two brand new healthy, happy hens for the hen house! I can honestly say that we have learned how valuable these ladies are to the homestead over the past few months of eggless existence. We bought local eggs, but it wasn't the same.

There's something quite wonderful about walking out to gather eggs, greeting the hens and stroking their lovely feathers, and cracking open a fresh egg with a rich orange yolk, laid just hours before. We know our hens are happy, that they can munch on grasshoppers and green grass all day long, they spend their mornings scratching through a pile of hay nibbling the grains. Hearing them coo to each other while they peck along the dirt is so calming. We've just missed having them around so much!

Meet Beetle, our lovely Black Australorp, named for her iridescent feathers and Feathered Friend, our Columbian Wyandotte, named by the 7-year-old. Beetle seemed happy with her new diggs...she laid a gigantic brown egg just one hour after arriving here at the OAH.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lessons Learned

My dear friend over at Watsourced has been making some amazing lists on her blog this past week. She inspired me to give it a try, so here goes.

Through this summer of drought and unbelievable heat, we learned many things here at the OAH:

We do not have a realistic plan for watering an acre of garden, orchard, and ornamental plants when rain is non-existent.

The rain barrel is only good if it rains at least once a month. With the slope of our roof, even a small rain will fill the barrel. Considering the addition of at least one more rain barrel.

Bunnies and chickens do not handle the heat well. We need a backup plan to keep them cool. I've heard some people suggest freezing excess squash and zucchini and putting these in as a sort of herbivore popsicle...faced with another extreme summer, we'll certainly give this a try.

Cats are a necessity around a homestead. Tex has kept our yard free of mice and rats (yes, you read that right) and he's made sure we are aware of all his hard work by leaving their remains RIGHT beside the front door. In fact, he's such a great mouser, he sometimes goes across the street to neighbors' homes to hunt there as well. Gotta love him!

Ornamental grasses are TOUGH! We planted some purple fountain grass and it is beautiful despite all that this summer has thrown at it.

While an in-ground pool is not in keeping with our steps to a more sustainable lifestyle, it is a great moralle boost during an almost unbearable summer.

With all my country girl-ness, I still cannot handle snakes. I cannot choose to respect a "good" snake...they ALL give me an instinctual reaction of fear that is overwhelming.

We need to dig out the ponds out at Willow Run. They need to be deeper to maintain water levels and keep fish alive through a drought, but this costs thousands of dollars, so that will have to wait a bit.

I am a quitter. I feel like I gave up on the garden too early and that I might have been able to save some of it if I'd just given more effort. This disappointments me more than words can say.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Desert?

In the interest of "keepin' it real," I'm going to share something with you that I'm ashamed of. Are you ready? Prepare yourselves...

Now, before you cut my blog from your reading list, please let me explain. Our area is officially 12" below the normal rainfall for the year...combine that with a record number of days over 100 degrees, WAY over 100 in fact, we're regularly seeing temps like 108 and 111 degrees...and you get the veggie garden pictured above. :( I have no doubts in my mind that some of you could have done a much better job of saving this garden, but Homestead Man and I had to make some tough decisions regarding the time and water available and what we wanted to save on our acre.

When watering restrictions began in our area, we used the water stored in the rain barrel for a time, but of course that dried up as well. We have fruit trees, blackberries, and perennials planted here on our acre that have taken years to establish. We decided that those needed to take priority over the veggie garden when watering. In addition, we have the dogs, cats, bunnies, chickens, horses and cattle that needed us. I've been taking out ice water to the bunnies and chickens every day and trying to train them to get in their ice water bowls to cool down. Even with this, we lost all three laying hens to the heat and have had to begin our flock again with two baby chicks.

The situation out at Willow Run (our land that is apart from our home acre) is even worse. The ponds have all but dried up and it looks like we'll loose all the fish that were stocked there years ago. When it finally rains we'll have to restock everything. For now we're hauling water out to the horses and cows, but we've decided to pay the cost of running water lines out there with the Coop for a dependable source of water for the livestock.

It has occurred to me that if we were in the prairie days, we would not have survived this summer. That's a pretty sobering thought. I hope and pray that this is the most severe summer we will ever see, but we have learned some valuable lessons that I will be sharing in the next few weeks. We do have some ornamental plants that have fared pretty well and we know that we need to concentrate more on mulching the veggie beds. We're already planning a fall garden with the hopes that the weather will even out a bit soon.

I can't bear to leave you with the image above, so let me share a little bright spot from our acre.

The Rose Moss is loving the heat and drought!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Taaa Daaa!!!

Remember how I was telling you about our backyard makeover and I showed you this terrible picture of our backyard?

Well, you are not going to even believe what it looks like now! Check it out!

All the brickwork (which is amazing) was done with recycled bricks from downtown Oklahoma City. I love so much that they have history and that we saved them from the landfill. Check out the one in the firepit with writing on the edge...so cool!
I love the waterfall we were able to add and the jump rock (kid approved!). Going to the Home and Garden Show really paid off because we were able to do all this for the same price of a concrete pool with no extras. The pool is salt water which keeps it much more wildlife friendly.

We've had lots of birds stopping by for a drink from the waterfall. I'll try to catch some pictures of them soon. We had an Egret perched up there this morning and it looked so cool! He flew off just as I grabbed the camera.

I'm so thankful that we found Loch Ness Pools because we got so much more than a pool...we got an amazing new living space that we will be enjoying almost year round! I can't wait to try out the fire pit and have a late night pool party with s'mores and the pool lights glowing! I can't even believe this is my backyard! If you're thinking about adding a pool, I'd certainly recommend Lowell. If you call up Loch Ness Pools, be sure to let him know that One Acre Homestead sent you!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Garden Helpers

Besides my two sweet girlies and occasionaly Homestead Man, I have some other garden helpers I employ. Bunnies are fantastic for lightening fast composting! We give veggie peelings, roots, grass clippings, carrot tops, etc. to our bunnies and voila...by the end of the day (it seems!) there is a pile of fantastic fertilizer just waiting to be added to the garden! Here's our newest worker...we call him Stormy:

Also, if you recall, last summer I purchased two Praying Mantis egg cases online and we hatched them near our garden. It was so much fun to see all those tiny Mantis babies crawling around our garden and they eat all kinds of pesky pests, doncha know!? Anywho...I'd decided that we would order them each summer and had already searched a few websites looking for a good deal. Then, one day when we were planting peas in the garden I looked up on the pea trellises and saw THIS:

Yep, one of our mantis mamas decided that our humble garden would be a fantastic place for her babies to begin their lives! We are so excited and so flattered! We can't wait to welcome a new batch of mantis babies into our garden this summer!

Of course, our two chickens are some of the greatest garden helpers...but they deserve a post all their own! Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Good News and Bad News...

Well...which do you want first? The good news or the bad? Yeah, I always go for the good first, too! Well, the fruit trees are blooming like crazy here on the OAH. Check out these pictures:

The little plum tree that we planted last year is in full bloom.

Here's a shot of the pear tree where you can see all the swollen little blooms. Do these remind anyone else of pregnancy? Maybe my mind just romances those months with my girls growing in my tummy, but I always equate the excitement and joy of pregnancy with this stage of my trees...when those buds are all swollen and ready to release their flowers and new leaves at any time.

Here are the blooms on the pear tree...I think they'll be opening fully tomorrow or Saturday.

The peach trees' blooms are so pretty when they open. Here they are preparing for their debut.

The apricot tree will be blooming soon as well.

The bad news? Oh, yeah...I was enjoying the good news so much I almost forgot! Well...our last frost date is generally April 15. If we get another hard frost with the fruit trees blooming that will mean no fruit this year. I'm really trying to remember Matthew 6:34 right now!

"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Matthew 6:34 (The Message)

Do you think we'll have another hard frost...or worse one of those freak spring snows? Our first fruit trees will be three years old this summer, so we'll soon have a variety of home grown fruits, but it may not be this year. Time will tell.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It's HERE!!

Lowell from Loch Ness Pools came by today to bring us the drawing he created of our new backyard! Check it out! We can't wait to see it all come to life!

We've asked for some outdoor cooking options to be applied to the fire pit...really excited about that area. Lowell mentioned providing them with any special objects we would like worked into the design of the fire pit, so I need to go out to the flower beds and dig out all our special vacation rocks we always bring home after a trip. What a perfect way to use them and revisit all those great memories!

We'll be talking trees, shrubs, and ornamental grasses soon, and I'll be sure to share all the details with you.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ground cover with benefits...

When we moved into this house, I made the decision that I concentrate my gardening efforts on plants that produce food for our family. We've learned a lot along the way & had our most productive season ever last year. One idea that has surprised me was the thought that I could plant strawberries as ground cover. Why not? They have nice broad leaves that shade the soil, they spread quickly, and they are beautiful even in the winter in our zone. Check out the bright red leaves they wear during their off season:

These were planted two years ago and I continue to take starts of them to fill other beds around our property. Here's an area that's just getting started:

This is in our front yard, just off the sidewalk that leads to our front door. Other areas of this bed are so thick with strawberries that I harvested 3 gallon bags full of berries this year! I'm so pleased with the results, I've ordered 50 more strawberry plants for a brand new bed we built this winter. Try it...I bet you'll be sold on the idea, too!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Talk about having your work cut out for you!!

We recently met with Lowell Brauser, the owner of Loch Ness Pools in Oklahoma City. He's one of the people we spoke with at the OKC Home and Garden Show and we were really impressed with what he had to say about backyards and pools. He expressed his desire to be sure a pool is really integrated into a backyard...I believe he said something like "making it look like it had been there forever." You guys know what he's talking about, right? Some pools look like they were stuck in the middle of the yard with a few feet of decking around them. Well, those were not installed by Loch Ness...Lowell is a guy who knows his trees, plants, and landscaping!

Anywho...back to our story...Lowell came out to our home and checked out the yard where we want to install a pool. This is what he saw:

I know...disturbing, isn't it?

All those pretty pictures we post come from what we eloquently call "the back-back yard." It's just beyond that little picket fence. That's where we've invested our time building beds, planting blackberries and fruit trees, and creating a veggie garden. I've never showed you this part of the yard, but it is high time we are honest with each other, isn't it? Let's hear it for keepin' it real!

The section of yard you see in the pictures has always been home to our male dog. He is a stud dog with typical stud dog issues...he likes to mark his territory, dig holes, and chew trees...but we love him so we keep him around. ;-) He'll soon be moving to a newly fenced area just off our "pool yard!" Oh, and the broken trampoline? Well, there's a funny story about that which involves a sound "I told you so!" to sweet Homestead Man...maybe I'll tell you that story someday. Not sure if we'll replace it, but it is most certainly a goner.

Lowell showed us some amazing pictures and laid out all the options his company offers in landscaping and pool installation. During our consultation we laid out a plan that just amazes me...with a retaining wall, dyed and stamped concrete, a beautiful pool, and a waterfall! I'll keep you up to date with the process as we move forward, and I know we'll all be amazed by Loch Ness Pool's work. If they can transform this yard, they can make any yard beautiful, right?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Oklahoma City Home and Garden Show

This weekend our little quartet loaded up and headed to the city...Oklahoma City, that is! We are hoping to add a large water feature to our garden this year in the form of a swimming pool with a small waterfall and desperately needed to gather ideas and information from area pool companies. As usual, the H&G show is full of more garden inspiration than anyone could possibly implement in one year, so my head has been spinning ever since...but let me give you a few highlights. I'm going to save the pool info for another day (or days), but here are a few other sights to share!

Looking around at all the featured plants, it occurred to me that I LOVE weeping trees...of all shapes and sizes! The problem is that I don't have even ONE weeping anything on this acre or out at our land! We'll have to remedy that this year. Any suggestions on weeping trees that perform really well here in Oklahoma?

Secondly, I'd love to add some shade structure in our big backyard. We have a very small back porch, but really no other shade at all. I really liked this little structure. I'm thinking something like this would suit me much better than a fancy schmancy gazebo. I believe they put an acid wash on the tin to make it look like that. Perfect!

I always love fountains, but really prefer things that look a bit more natural. This fountain was so beautiful! Don't know if we'll ever add anything like this to our yard, but if we were going to put in a fountain, this is my model!

We also caught up with some old friends who've opened their own plant farm! Years ago we were in a wonderful Bible Study group with Steve and Ruth Owens when they purchased some land and had plans to open their own greenhouses...well, guess what...they did just that! Bustani Plant Farm is up in Stillwater and has some unique garden specimens...check them out sometime this spring!

I also spied the Oklahoma Gardening booth, but didn't take a picture. :( I almost walked up and introduced myself as "One Acre Homestead," but I'm pretty sure whomever was working the booth would have thought I was a crazy woman. LOL! Anywho, the booth was rockin', so hopefully we'll have a lot more traffic and subscriptions in the coming months!

One thing I didn't realize (but should have) is that they have GREAT deals on trees and shrubs at the show...next year we'll be taking the truck, that's for sure!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Winter Gardening

Isn't it funny how temperature is somewhat relative? Today our high was 51 degrees and oddly, it felt wonderful outside! Homestead Man and I headed out in hoodies and layered long sleeve shirts, but before we were done we had both shed all but the last shirt and shoved the sleeves up past our elbows. Now, in the summertime, I'd step out to a 51 degree evening and say, "Brrrr...I'd better run back inside and grab a sweatshirt!"

Anyway, back to the gardening bit. I originally was heading straight for the coop to let the hens out then to beeline right back into the warm house, but along the way I noticed that I could still feel my hands...in fact, the sun felt pretty amazing. I thought I'd hook the garden hose up and water the trees real quickly. Then I remembered that I'd meant to slowly but surely begin shoveling the straw from the hen house around my fruit trees to give them a boost for spring. After cleaning out half of the coop, I thought of the pile of rock we'd rescued from a demolition site in our hometown so I popped my head in the back door & "invited" Homestead Man to come out and help me move the boulders to the backyard to create a new flowerbed around the backside of the kiddos' sandbox. While we were shuffling rocks about, my youngest joined us outside and pulled up some of last summers' dried up sunflowers and added them to the burn pile and the hens were busy at work stirring compost and cleaning up the last of the tomatoes that had fallen. Whew! Before I knew it, one thing had led to another and we'd accomplished quite a bit of winter gardening!

Just goes to show what can happen when you take advantage of one nice January day, doesn't it?

I love to visit the backyard in the winter and imagine what it will look like this year. When we moved into this house, the "yard" was just clay...no grass...no trees, absolutely nothing. Each year the trees grow, the bushes thicken, and we add more garden beds. It's so much fun to see the plants mature and to hope that this will be the year of the bumper crop of blackberries, or that the blueberries will make it past June this time. Every year we learn and adjust as the yard turns into our own little Eden. Here's a pic of our veggie garden last May:

I can't wait to see what it will look like this summer! I know every little bit that we get done on these nice winter days will help make this growing season that much better! So, tell me...what kind of winter gardening have you been doing? I'd love to hear tips about how to make the best of our off-season!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Is it Spring Yet?!?

I see you there...sketching out garden plans for spring, gazing longingly through seed catalogs, carefully recording planting dates. I know I am not alone! My dear neighbor sent a message saying that Atwoods had their seed potatoes in, which sent me into a gardening frenzy.

No, it can't be time to put in potatoes, what about other early spring crops! Maybe I should be out there wrestling with the jungle of dead tomato vines RIGHT NOW!! (Okay, I know I'm not the only one with ginormous dead okra stalks standing tall next to trellises of gnarled tomato vines...am I? Fess up, people!)

Then, I went to Wal-Mart and saw this:

I know...it's enough to send you right over the edge, right?

I'm not good at doing this winter thing. I prefer the promise of a new garden and the smell of freshly turned dirt, the summer harvest and canning season, the late summer tomatoes and okra. Christmas keeps me occupied for a bit, but then I'm ready to jump right back into the garden.

Well, the good news is that spring will be here before we know it. The seed catalogs are pouring in and there's plenty of sketching paper nearby. The dates you see above are from my iGarden app on the iPhone, but I've yet to check these against the lunar recommendations for planting. Anywho...they do give me hope that planting time is closer than it seems and I suppose that's all I need to make it through the next cold week!