2019 Spring garden

Finally got time to get the 2019 Spring garden in the ground. So much work but such a fun work. Putting stuff in the ground, giving each plant a little “grow babies” whisper and daydreaming about how delicious the rewards will be in a few months.

The entire weekend was spent on tilling, laying out the rows, and planting. We realized we needed to do something for weed suppression this year. In previous years we just weeded, constantly. This year we are trying a woven plastic garden cloth. It should keep the weeds way down while still allowing water through but not getting too hot. Once those 3 and 4 foot widths were secured, we could start adding in the plants. Most of the rows were plants that we had already started in our greenhouse, with a few being seeds that didn’t need a head start. By the end of the weekend we had planted three 25ft by 50ft gardens and a smaller herb bed area.

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The favorite part of the day for me I think was the last tilling that morning. It was right at daylight, and going slow over the rows so the tiller could do its job. It was an excited anticipation like when I was a kid before a birthday or before a favorite dinner. This giddy feeling with each pass of the tractor picturing what would be growing in each row. Then I thought about my grandfather, and how when I was a kid I would watch him till up rows in his garden on an old red tractor. I wonder if he was as excited in those moments as I was now.

Then my mind drifted to the previous owners of the property. We found a “produce for sale” sign when cleaning up some of the trash. That probably means they had a little stand at one point. So we know they farmed some, not sure exactly where or how. Maybe the exact same rows I was moving down someone else had done just that 50 years before me. What about 100 years before me? I had the luxury of doing it on a small tractor, but at one point though, it could have been someone behind a plow and a team of mules. Not growing as a fun hobby but for a legit reason of food. I miss a row or don’t plow an area as deep as would be needed and we get a little less vegetables. The man and his mules make the same mistake and his family could go hungry. It meant so much more to him. Where my morning was full of excitement his likely had a healthy does of fear and worry as well. It is another quick reminder of how blessed our lives are in so many aspects. Gardening as a hobby has to be much more fun than gardening to prevent starvation.

Back to the plants!

We already had rabbits strike. In three days they had already eaten an entire row of Broccoli/cauliflower, Cabbage, and at least three rows worth of lettuce. They even bit off a pepper plant and left it just laying on the ground. We are working on plans on how to deal with them. Anything from rabbit repellent spray to companion plants that rabbits don’t like to much stronger methods. The garden is between the house and the road which strikes out some options. We’d love your comments if you’ve got any suggestions on what has worked for you in the past.

Plants we are most excited about – tomatoes, obviously. What they sell in most stores as tomatoes should be illegal compared to how a REAL tomato tastes . Along with that, we have yellow squash and acorn squash are high on our list as favorites. Melons didn’t work out for us last year so fingers crossed for this year. Corn also, especially the Glass Gem corn but also the Peaches and Cream. Oh, and potatoes. And 3 different colors of carrots.

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Maybe we are just excited about everything?

The smell of dirt, the sun coming up catching the dew on the surrounding plant life. Birds waking up and starting their songs for the day, sometimes flying down to check out what the tractor had overturned. Just spending time outside planting things.  There are far much worse ways to spend a weekend, and not many better ways. As always we urge everyone to plant things. It is so rewarding.

Inside the New Greenhouse!

In the last post, we went through the building of the Greenhouse, really focusing on the outside. After that was done it, was time to get started on the inside. As most projects, the outside went a tad over budget, so a large goal for the inside was to not spend any money on the setup.

The first thing we wanted was something more than a dirt floor. We knew of a brick yard that had a policy of putting bricks in the dumpster. They had no problem with people taking the bricks for free, but you had to dumpster dive for them essentially.

We were lucky that every time we went there was pretty much only bricks in the dumpster and no actual trash. It was dirty work but we ended up with around 600 bricks for just a little sweat and gas in the truck.

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Putting the brick down during the rain storms. Rain came in from under the walls. Problem has been fixed now.

After the brick path was laid down we started to put tables up on the sides. These were built out of scrap wood we had from the original construction. The tops were old fence boards and scrap pieces of plywood. Turned out great!

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Under the tables are just dirt. We might do something different with eventually but for this first year it won’t hurt anything.

At the back, we built a little table out of the scraps and we did buy a sink insert from a re-use store for pretty cheap. There wont be water hook up but can use the sink to wash some mud off vegetables so we don’t gunk up the sink in the kitchen as much.

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Above the sink we hung a back of an old refrigerator with peg hooks to hang some tools ( of course we always put the tools back where they go……..) We had some light blue spray paint so painted the coils to give it a little color.

The table had to stop on the one side due to the door swinging open. Behind it we put more brick on the floor. A taller tool rack for things we need usually right outside or around the greenhouse. Then a little cabinet we actually got for $2.00 at a little sale.

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We found some glass cabinet doors at the re-use store for cheap and decided to put in some grow out boxes on the side of the greenhouse.

We love our little greenhouse and are in it every single day doing something. We do need to work on some insulation and heat retention before this winter but for now it’s all about getting plants going so they can get in the ground.

The start of our plants

Some photos from the middle. Some stuff had been up potted, some new stuff planted. Even 10 or so trees from the Arbor day foundation.

Below is where they are now! Hopefully can get put in the actual garden within the next week. We could already cut a few salads from the lettuce.

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Starting our small greenhouse

Having years one and two gardens past us , we started to dream bigger. We wanted a place to start seeds earlier and a little bit more substantial than our hot box we used our second year.

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Small but effective.

We also wanted a potting shed, and a place to start some young trees, and nut bushes that could use a safe environment for the first couple years. With all of these things in mind, we decided to build a small greenhouse. There is a future plan on building a larger greenhouse/sunroom on the future house. We needed something a bit sooner though.

We spent some time figuring out where would get good light but not block anything in the future. It made good sense to put the greenhouse by the gardens, too. With our site in mind, we got going!.

First thing we did was set the posts. It is not the first thing we should have done. The ground seemed level to the eye. However we quickly realized it was no where close. It took some time and lots of shovel work to get it level for the walls and floor. It would have been much easier without the posts already in the way.

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Chief inspector Bandit the dog was there every step of the way making sure everything passed inspection. We will be posting more about this awesome pup in a future post.

Once the posts and brick were laid, the frame went up pretty quick.

 

The only thing on this part we should have done differently was to slope the roof more. It drops six inches but would have been better to do it ten or twelve. We have not had any issues yet, and we don’t usually have any snow accumulation here so will have to wait and see. We have had one of the rainiest starts of the year on record, and it has not leaked a drop yet. Fingers crossed, it continues to hold.

For the lower section we used metal just like we did on the barn.  The reasons being it helps prevent rot from rain splash back, also it matches the barn kinda.

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Below you can see between each rafter we have venting. So 4 holes on each side to help the green house cool down when needed.   On a sunny day even if its only in the 60s  the greenhouse can hit 120 pretty quickly.

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Vents out from the top.  Vents laying on the ground. 

After the outside was up, all the rain that came showed us we needed to work on the drainage around our little building.

We dug a simple ditch around the side that was causing the issue. From a previous post we mentioned there was a little decorative pond on the place when we bought it. Around that were loads of pea gravel and large rocks for a wall. We filled the ditch with buckets of the gravel, then laid the stone on top. Fixed the issue so far, and looks great to us!

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Inspector Bandit on the job.
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Front
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Left side

We are so happy with our first little greenhouse. It is already being put to good use. So many seeds started and even ten small trees. The pictures below do not even show all of them.

 

In a future post we will go through what we did on the inside and show you guys what it looks like . Got any questions? We would love to hear from you all in the comments!

Second year garden

If you havent checked our first year garden post, check that out here –> First Year Garden

The second year garden was bigger ambitions than the first.   The first year we kinda learned some things we wanted to grow and we wanted more.     We had two 25ft x 50ft main gardens.  Then we also had 3-4 spots that were 5ft x 5ft we kinda threw extra things in we didn’t know where else to put.

Looks great in the pictures, right?   Very few times was it weeded that well throughout the year. We enjoy weeding the garden and it does help ,  but it is more for the “look” of it more than anything. We feel better if the garden is prettier.  Does not mean it makes the seeds grow any better.

We did start some seeds for 2018 year garden.   Even built a little hot box thing for them.  This was before the little greenhouse we just finished this year.   We started several types of tomatoes and peppers.   Also some cantaloupe, watermelon, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli.

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Tomatoes

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The tomatoes did ok ,  we ended up planting 9 that we had started but also bought 5 additional from the plant booths around here.   Ours were way smaller than the ones we bought,  but within the month they had grown past what the bought ones were doing.   Obviously the store bought ones work,  but to us it seems they are stunted at the size you buy them at and it takes a while for them to get going. We had a type of yellow plum tomato that was a free gift.  It was delicious but 2 plants produced more than all of our families could eat.   At the height of the season we were getting over a 5 gallon bucket of tomatoes a day total.  We ate our fill,  froze so many gallon bags full for winter soups,  and gave away just as many to family and friends.

Peppers

All but one of our pepper plants died.   Ended up buying several so we still had an amazing pepper crop but it was a little disappointing our plants didn’t take off.   The one that survived was a jalapeno plant that did fantastic.  The one plant produced enough jalapeno for us,  we just didn’t have any to share.  We mostly ate the peppers raw,  we did grill a few.  One thing that we liked to do is cut up some banana peppers into rings and pickle in apple cider vinegar because they are great on hotdogs.  Some of the hotter peppers we just put in a jar of vinegar to soak. This is a favorite to add into soups or beans or anything that needs a little kick. Pulled pork is very good like this.

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The rest of the seeds we started died.  All of them.   For different reasons ,  but mainly due to poor soil quality and poor area selection.    The watermelons behind the barn never developed.   The cantaloupes did ,  but half way through something ate a hole in every single one.    The broccoli and cauliflower was plated a little late probably,  but in horrible soil and even re-planted  and re-planted again after that.   Ended up with zero Cauliflower and maybe 8 very small broccoli heads.

Potatoes came up and looked fantastic ,   above ground.   Once it came time to dig them up we were getting maybe two potatoes for every three plants.   And the ones we did get were hard as rocks.  They tasted good,  just took twice as long to cook.   The purple ones were fun though.

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Planted 200 onion bulbs.  Ended up with ZERO.  We planted them behind the barn as well and think something dug them up.   200 of them .  All gone. Hope that was a good meal for something.

Beets- The year before we had planted a few beets and had lots of success,  but that was in the good soil raised beds.   In the new garden areas none of them grew.  Planted several rows of a couple different varieties but again ended up with none.

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Lettuce and Carrots all had to be replanted and were hit and miss.  We did get some but not half of what we should have.

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Corn did better than the year before,  but still not great.    It was delicious though and hopefully this year we can end up with three times as much.

The worst failure was spinach.  Planted so much spinach in different areas,  different times, different ways.  Zero spinach

The failures are part of the adventure and we try our best to take them with stride.  This year we have the greenhouse and are going to try to get the plants going more in there and plant actual plants instead of just seed this year for everything.  Hopefully we can improve the area of the plants while we continue to work on the entire gardens soil quality.

Amazing to think that the thing that matters most is the soil,  getting that right and everything else really takes care of itself.

The garden was not all failures  there were several successes.

Tomatoes and peppers as mentioned did great .  Cucumbers,  squash,  and zucchini did good.   Beans and peas did pretty good. Okra did great. Acorn squash did very well.  Loved the acorn squash ,  planting twice as much this year.  When fall came we did manage to get a few heads of cabbage,  and enough turnips to feed an army.  We eat the greens and then the “meat” of the turnip.

This year garden hopefully outdoes last year.  Improving on what we did well , and fixing what we did wrong.  We have already started the seeds in our greenhouse. Learning that we need more insulation in our greenhouse…..  but the seeds are growing and we are anxious to get the garden beds ready.   Will be posting more about that in upcoming blogs.

 

What’s in a name?

We want to start by saying thank you to everyone who has read anything on our blog so far! Blogging is a new world for us and it is so rewarding and exciting to get the views/ comments/ likes from everyone. We’re enjoying sharing what we have learned so far and hope that we can inspire or motivate someone to do something too.  Plant just one thing – you don’t have to wait until you have acres or until you can retire.  Plant one tomato or one sunflower; it doesn’t matter.  Just do something! It will be so rewarding.

A few years back life did a big reset. After the dust settled on that it was clear a plan had to be made. The idea and the want of homesteading and a more simple life style was in the background but it started coming forward. This idea is expounded on in our first blog post if you want to check that out.

Having always kept various journals and date books it seemed only natural to do the same with the homesteading idea. A green journal that had been a gift was picked to be the one to start the daydreaming.

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Pages and pages of drawings and writings . Things from TV Shows, original ideas , hopes and dreams were all written down in the simple green journal. Bank accounts, types of loans, dates with a realtor and appointment times. Anything that had to do with finding a place and what to do with that place was written down in the journal. It became a treasure in itself and a constant companion.

There was a 6 month period of doing nothing but working towards a goal. No weekends off, no vacation, no thought other than getting a place started. Pennies pinched, clutter sold off , constantly thinking of how to get closer to the goal. One singular obsession and the journal becoming a manifestation of that obsession.

After buying the property it just felt like it needed a name. There were not even any other names considered really. It was obviously Green Journal Homestead.

It is a fun memory , a fitting name, and a reminder that anything is possible even when it seems like it is not.

That first Green Journal was filled up a few years ago but recently another journal gift had been given to celebrate the start of this blog.

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The journal might be new but it is like finding an old friend. The pages are already filling up just like the last one. Ideas flowing on paper just like before. We are very excited for the new adventures to come. We hope that all of you come along with us!

Reclaiming a barn part two

From the first post about the barn you can see that it was a job in itself just clearing around the barn to even begin to work on it.

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Once we got it cleared where we could get into it, the first thing we did was get out all the old tires. There were over 250 used car tires in the barn. We don’t know why, we don’t know where they came from, but they were our problem now. The second project was to get the tin off the sides. Half of it went to the scrap yard and the other half has gone to different projects. The frame of the barn was actually pretty good. Just an old pole barn that has probably been there forever. You can tell the cedar logs were cut by hand, probably from the land itself or somewhere close by. There was an addition put on at some point that is probably only 10 years old or so.

Old barn as a whole
The barn of many colors

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With the tin off the sides we started on the roof. There were no leaks in the old tin roof, and the structure was sound, so we just put a new roof on top of the old. Green, of course.

For the sides and inside walls, we went through several layout ideas as well as several options on what materials to actually use. We didn’t like the look of tin even though it would be the longest lasting. We also never liked the look of the sheets of siding that look like boards, even though that would have probably been the cheaper option. We also weren’t sure how long that would last, since it was the lower cost option. We decided to go with a board and batten style with 6 inch boards for the 1st layer. Putting the boards on this year and after they have some time to season the plan is to go back and put the batten on later. Probably doing 4 inch or so boards for that.

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Front
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Left side. This whole wall had to be rebuilt
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Back

We are leaving the addition part without walls, Just a half wall in the back. It will be used as a place to park equipment or anything we need to work on with a roof over us. If our needs change we can always close it in at a later date.

The metal wrapping around the bottom is for rain splash back. It helps the wood walls to not stay soaked from the ground and rain and hopefully last much longer. We also like the way it looks. The outside is fully done and the inside walls are done. Had to move a few poles on the inside to put exactly where we wanted them. Mainly where we needed the doors to go. The only things left are to build the five doors, and then the trim work around all the corners and edges.

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Inside . One full walled stall . One half wall stall

Other projects such as the green house needed finished so it has been a little while since we have worked on the barn. Hopefully we can get back at it this fall.

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We still have some cleaning up to do on this side……

Eventually on this side of the barn closest to the road we want to build a chicken/ rabbit run. A protected place to grow our meat chickens and rabbits.

Behind the barn will be the barn lots with pigs helping clear the brambles and helping fill the freezer after.

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View of the barn from the front porch.

It is very rewarding to see the barn every morning on our way out. So happy with how it turned out!

Even though the barn is not completely done, we already have inhabitants.

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The first non pet animals on the homestead -rabbits! We will be talking more about them in future posts.

Downed tree opportunity

In our part of the world it has been nothing but rain and storms for over a month.  The nice days without rain could probably be counted on one hand.  The storms over the weekend finally decided to knock down a tree over the driveway.

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It would be easy to be annoyed by something like this.  Super easy to let it ruin your day. We have been there ourselves.  Sunday was going to be one of the precious nice days that have been so few and far between.  The idea of starting seeds in our new greenhouse dancing in our heads the night before like visions of sugar-plum fairies.   To wake up to something like this would be beyond easy to be angry about it and let it ruin an entire day .

If we take a second  and look at it though, it was actually a blessing, in more than one way.  There were obvious benefits.   One being we had been planning on cutting down this tree anyway when we built the house.  Nature just sped it up a bit.  Secondly it forced us to sharpen axes, chainsaw, clippers.  Things that had been on the to do list for a while but never got around to it. With spring fast approaching no better time to get this done.   So already good things happening because of this tree and we have not even gotten into the actual wood itself.  Every part of it had its uses.

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The tree was budding so the tips and blossoms can go to the rabbits.  They love them as treats  and peel the tender bark from the stick like beavers.

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The straight limbs will be terrific terraces for the garden.  Can you imagine snow peas , cucumbers, acorn squash  and more covering these things?  We can even cut into lengths for stakes to mark future garden rows.  Things we would have gone into the woods to get soon anyway, easily were provided in our driveway.

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The trunk and larger branches provided these thick logs which we plan on using to grow mushrooms.   Granted the type of wood is not the greatest for this,  but we had wanted more mushroom logs and they were provided.  Again in the middle of the driveway.

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The medium pieces were piled and will fuel a few weenie roasts this summer.  Or maybe some lake side fires while fishing.  Could even use the wood in the fire used to melt the beeswax we will use on the mushroom logs.

All the scraps and sawdust went into future garden beds and compost piles.  As they break down, they will feed the soil and create pockets.  Which is extra good in our clay soil.

Even if we had no use for the wood from the tree (hard to imagine anyone would feel like this though) it took a little over an hour to cut up process.   We still had plenty of time to start our seeds and a few other projects done.  How easy it would have been to let this one hour job ruin our whole day?  How many times have we let something this simple, spoil something?  We did not let it ruin our day this time and hopefully we will remember not to let little inconveniences like this spoil our day in the future.  If we approached things with a positive attitude, often little inconveniences are actually blessings.