Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
The Happy Homesteader Blog
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When you farm or homestead you realize how important the weather is. It often feels like Mother Nature is working against you and you can't figure out what her master plan is. I don't know how many times I've asked where the balance is! It's either too much sun and heat with very little rain or floods or periods of extreme cold, leaving me wondering why we are the only species that has learned to adapt our surroundings to deal with Mother Nature's mood swings. At least we have adapted our houses, but our outdoor environment, which may as well be considered your home when you are a homesteader is completely dependent on the weather! My heart breaks when I see a little lamb shiver in the snow or when I see the cows hanging their heads and turning their backs to the driving rain. I guess I read my human emotions into them, but in reality they can handle it. The little lamb knows to hunker down beside their mom or a fallen log, curl their head around to protect their delicate nose or ears, and just ride it out. The cows seek the shelter of the woods or high ground to get their feet out of the mud and when the rain stops, they just shake the wet off. You put me in either of those situations and I will break. Heck, I almost break inside my house where I have a roof to keep me dry and heat to keep me warm!
In the homestead way though, I have become so connected to the outdoors that the weather has a major effect on me. I used to spend so much time doing indoor activities (working in an office, watching TV, etc.) that I barely even noticed if it was raining. Now, I relish in the spring days of sunny 70 degrees, so long spells of rain in the winter take their toll. I long for the outside! I want to get in the garden, I want to pull weeds, I want to prune trees. But, I don't want to pull on my muck boots that squish when I walk because the puddles have seeped in through the cracks in the bottom. I don't want to trudge through the mud with frozen fingers to feed the chickens. I don't want to see my pastures with gushing streams where they don't belong and I don't want my newly planted carrot seeds to wash away in the garden! What is Mother Nature thinking?
Well, I guess she's thinking that this is the time of year to slow down and rest. She is filling the water table in order to ensure reserves this summer. And she is helping the seeds that will become this spring's lush grass to germinate. I should be thankful, but it still leaves the question of how I can spend my days when we have a long stretch of cold rain like we did just a couple of weeks ago. The thing about a homestead is that there is always something to do, and most things you can never find time to get to, so the rainy days are good times to cross them off the list. Here are a few projects that kept me busy:
Pantry: Ugh. I spend so much of the year putting food by that once it's on the shelf then it's considered done so that I can move on to canning the next item. I spent a few hours organizing the pantry by checking the seals on every jar of home canned food. This year I started using Tattler's reusuable lids which I like, but there was a bit of a learning curve when I started with them and I found a couple of jars that had lost their seal. I didn't chance it and threw them out. I also decided that we needed some encouragement to use up some of the items that were getting old so I made a shelf dedicated to this. After trying to think about some creative use like a mystery supper where I could put them all together into one dish I decided that blackberries, crushed tomatoes, and dill pickles might not taste good together. So any jar that was getting on a year old I put on the shelf and decided that if it was in front of us, then maybe we'd prioritize it. I love the Farm Dreams photo to the left from Grammy Dot. Please upload photos of your pantry to help us all get ideas of how to organize!
Prepping: Like the pantry, our storage of preparedness items can get rather sketchy throughout the year. As I buy 5 rolls of gauze when I find it on sale or an extra roll of aluminum foil, I do keep it organized together so that I can find it when I need it, but my haphazard purchases can be lacking. I spent some time taking inventory of what we have so that I could figure out what we need. I also used this time to dust and clean around to make sure items stay in good, clean, usable order. Laying some old towels and blankets on top of the items on your shelf is a good way to not only keep the light off things, but also the dust. On cleaning day, just roll up all the cloths, take them outside and give them a shake, then cover your stored goods up again. I made a list of items to get so that I can buy a little at a time. I decided to keep a notebook with our storage area that holds the inventory. I'm going to try to cross things out as I use them and move items to the "buy" list before we run out. Good intentions...we'll see how well I do!
Seeds: I had already taken inventory of the seeds we have when I did my garden planning for the year. I'm proud to say that my plan is much more organized this year! I took a calendar and highlighted the best days for planting above or below ground crops, pruning, weeding, and harvesting from the Almanac. Then, I actually wrote down on those specific days what seeds to plant in the garden, what seeds to start indoors, and what plants to transplant out all according to the moon phases for the entire year. Now I just have to look at the calendar for the week to tell me what my gardening chores are. During the rainy spell I started some onion seeds indoors. This year I have my act together! Without any windows that receive direct sunlight, I've always had a difficult time starting seeds. They would germinate great inside, but within a couple of weeks they would get pale green and leggy (tall, thin, and spindly looking). Last year we made a simple unheated greenhouse (basically a frame covered in plastic) and I got my transplants started out there. With it being unheated, I had to put the flats of seeds inside another plastic covered house so it was a greenhouse within a greenhouse. Eventually the seeds sprouted and grew, but it didn't really give me a jump on the season since the cold nights still effected them and so the seeds took a long time to germinate. This year, I have a simple shelf with two hanging shop lights inside the house. The two shop lights and four bulbs cost less than $40! Now I can put the newly planted flats under the lights inside the warmth of the house to get them germinated. After a couple of weeks of growing under the lights, then I can slowly move them out to the unheated greenhouse for a couple of more weeks before going into the garden. So onion seeds are started and this week my calendar tells me to get the cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, and cauliflower going. I'm glad I started looking around at how to label plants on the cheap because this has always been a problem for me. I love the solution I found from Susanne Talbert's tip for cheap plant labels.
Knitting: With the rainy days I spent some time knitting. This winter I wanted to teach myself how to knit. I have learned how to cast on, do a few different stitches, and bind off. I've learned the hard way about the importance of holding your yarn at the same tightness through a project or else you'll end up with uneven stitches. I've also learned about matching different weight yarn with the proper sized needles or else you'll get some funny patterns. After learning these lessons on a wide scarf, I decided that no one in their right mind would wear something like that unless a five year old you love made it for you, so I had to come up with something else. I cut the project short, folded it in half and stitched it up on the sides so that it looks like a skinny pillow case. Then I took some scrap fabric and made an herb pillow that fits snuggly inside. I filled the fabric pillow 3/4 of the way with dry rice and dried lavender. I added a few drops of lavender essential oil to the dried rice and shook it all around. I can put this pillow in the microwave for a couple of minutes to get the rice warm and the scent activated. Then I can put the fabric pillow inside the knitted pillow case so that the once dreamed of scarf now acts as a soft insulator to the herb pillow. Lay your head on this during a rainy and you will drift off into a deep hibernation!
Now that so many of my daily activities involve being outdoors, I am much more connected to the weather. I check the forecasts almost every day and plan my schedule around rain, wind, and temperature. It would be impossible for a rain storm to pass by without me noticing now and there's no chance of a sunny day to pass without me spending it outside on my farm!
~ Daisy, The Happy Homesteader
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