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.

 

Orchards and Patience

The saying is true ” The best time to plant an apple tree is five years ago.  The second best time is now.”  Growing up with several fruit trees ,  we knew we wanted to have several on our homestead.

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The thoughts on layout of the homestead is something that has changed several times.  It will also probably change several times in the next few years even,  but where to put the fruit trees was pretty obvious.  The hillside going up from the road to the top of the property  does not look like much of a slope,  but pushing a wheelbarrow up it full of compost ( why did we put the compost pile at the BOTTOM of the hill?? ) and you can certainly feel it.  The sun rises from the “bottom” of the hill  and travels up it during the day creating a micro climate perfect for young trees.

We laid out where the trees would go keeping them minimum 25 ft apart.  Staking out where the first tree would go then folding a 50ft rope around it to measure out  to 25 ft.   Then with two stakes with two 50ft ropes in half can put the next stake where the two ropes meet.  This allowed us to put stakes in while always remaining 25 ft away from any other tree.

Year one we planted apple,  pear,  peach,  plum trees.  Two of each going up the hill. Planted them in October and it did not rain that year again until December that year.   The next two months were spent carrying what seemed like infinite 5 gallon buckets of water to the young trees.  The following Spring showed that all the hard work had paid off and all the trees made it.  We also planted thornless blackberry bushes the first year,  we will cover that more in a future post.

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They are hard to see,  but the trees are there.

List of planted trees

  1. Apple—   Granny Smith                     5. Peach— Belle of Georgia
  2. Apple—   Honey Crisp                        6. Peach— Belle of Georgia
  3. Plum—    Methley  Plum                     7. Pear—  Kieffer
  4. Plum—    Ozark Premier                    8. Pear— Orient

Year two orchard wise was not as big an expansion as year one.  We had run out of open area to plant the trees and a large portion of the “orchard time”  was spent clearing new ground for a few more trees.   October year two we planted only one more apple tree, (we did plant more berry bushes though) an Arkansas Black. It is a later in the year apple which we like the taste of, kind of like wine. We are hoping it will store and cook well .

  1. Apple — Arkansas Black

Year three for the orchard we did a little better  planting three trees.  Two apple and one more plum tree.    One of the apples was to replace the granny smith tree planted from the first year.

  1. Apple—  Granny Smith  (to replace the one that died)
  2. Apple— Gala
  3. Plum—Damson
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Can see a few of them in this photo .

The original granny smith apple tree had been doing great, we thought,  which might have been the problem .  It produced in year 3 about a dozen little apples.  Then the weather shifted and summer hit hard and we probably should have picked off the young fruit.  The combination, we believe, stressed the tree too much and it died. A better course of action would have been to remove the apples so the tree could have focused more on root growth.  So far we have only lost that one out of eleven ,  but even that one could have probably been avoided.   It was a good wake up call on keeping a better watch on the young orchard. We were too excited by the idea and possibility of having apples so soon and it probably cost us that tree.  Patience is really needed here.  There is no rushing a tree growing.

The plans for the orchard going forward is to monitor but not baby the growing trees,  and at their young age, if any show problems to replace it.  At this point in time there is not really anymore room to squeeze in more trees. This could change after the house is built and we know where water lines and septic will be located.  We are discussing adding some figs and pawpaw trees maybe, but we have to see where we have that they could thrive.

As we clean out the woods more and define what will remain woods and what will be pasture we do want to line that with nut trees.  There are no nut trees on the property at this point and that is something we want to correct. We are also looking to add some trees that will change their leaf color and drop leaves in the fall. We get the benefit of the leaves changing and then the benefit of new material to add to the compost. We got a couple of small oak trees around Earth Day last year and hopefully they will take off.

First year garden

It was August when the property was bought,  followed by a large drought in the area all the way till the next year.  No garden that first half year so the following spring we were super excited to get it going.

For the first year we started several seeds to hopefully make it into small plants to hopefully plant in the garden.   We started several types of tomatoes, peppers, and some cantaloupes.  Out of those only the Cantaloupes produced anything for us (and boy did they).

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We ended up having to buy  tomato plants and pepper plants, but there were several for sale around here.  Since we bought ours kinda “late”  we actually got a great deal on them as most plant places were getting ready to change into firework places  as is their usual rotation every year.

The garden itself was designed to be part raised bed part hugelkultur bed.  Knowing the ground was clay dirt it just seemed easier to build something to hold “good” dirt. If you have read the other posts on the site  you know that in our section of woods there was an impressive pile of trash.   Part of that mountain of garbage was fencing that had been pushed down with a bulldozer.  It was a painstaking and slow process but we were able to get enough old cedar fence posts to build the bed.

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(sneak peek of the barn in the background with the walls off and new roof)

The layout went ok,  just carrying up fence posts,  stacking them with wood stakes cut from the woods and driven into the ground.  Cutting a few to fit when need be.  Then the middles filled with sticks/brush/rotten wood gathered from fence rows and previous cleanings of the property .

As for the dirt, my mother and step-father have a spring feed creek that runs down the edge of their property.  This mini creek was great but would flood their yard every year during rainy months.  While it was dry he would dig it out deeper to prevent the flooding, which meant he had dirt.   It was great soil with silt-like qualities from the wet weather creek bed.  Several truckloads of that and we had our garden filled.

The first year garden had several successes and several failures also .

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Failures include– All the seedlings we started died ,  aside from cantaloupes.  The cantaloupes took off –  we probably had about 50 or more.  The problem is they all were ripe at the same time.  We ate as many as we could,  gave away just as many.  Even with all the giving away after a 2 day rain storm the remaining cantaloupe just rotted on the vine.    We grew enough okra for a small army, and much of it went to waste.  That area in our raised bed could have been better used growing something else.  Lettuce was planted late and didn’t grow.  Corn was planted a little late,  and not deep enough or in a good location.  Storms knocked it down so many times we lost count and it stopped trying to stand back up.   Planted the fall garden way too early the first time (on what ended up being the hottest day of the entire year) and wasted several packets of seeds.  We had enough to replant some when it was the right time and did manage a few turnips,  beets,  lettuce and carrots.

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Cucumbers came in numbers we were unprepared for and seemed rushed to make them into pickles.  We probably made 60 jars in one day which seemed like lot for first time trying pickling and canning, too.

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We tried to grow potatoes in tires (remember, we have 250 of the things).   Red potatoes didn’t produce,  but sweet potatoes did alright .

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All in all, the garden produced more than we could have asked for.  The tomatoes were delicious and made amazing sandwiches that summer and delicious soups that winter.  The pickles were so much work that one day,  but delicious all year long. Thinking about the fried squash makes my mouth water even now.  Going to cans and freezer for veggies instead of grocery store shelves every time felt like a win.

Most importantly, we were reminded how wonderful it is to have a garden. The amazing feeling of waking up,  walking outside and picking some spinach , onion, peppers to go with breakfast.   Getting home from work and for dinner having whatever was perfectly ripe that day.  The smell of the freshly turned dirt,  the pride and excitement when sprouts started poking up.  The satisfaction of looking at freshly weeded rows.

If there is only one thing that anyone ever takes away from this blog I hope it is to plant something.  There is a peacefulness and joy we have felt ourselves and have seen in others that came from gardening; we’d have to suggest it.  It really is something special.

 

It was a great first year and we will always love our little raised beds.  That being said it turned out to not be enough space for our ambitious goals .  In an upcoming post we will discuss the 2nd year garden which was two areas each 25ft by 50ft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reclaiming a Barn

The barn has been a long process. The first year was basically clearing around it to even be able to start working on it. The area around the barn and down in the woods was piled with trash. We will share a few photos further in this post but even they can’t show the amount of trash there was. We think there were 20 truckloads of basic house trash that just had to be burnt, 4 truckloads of stuff that had to end up at the dump, and 3 truckloads of random metal items that were able to cashed in at the scrap yard. We plan on going over the woods themselves in detail in a future post.

The right side of the barn was piled with different kinds of trash plus briars. One example was a 55 gallon plastic drum which contained seashells, 10 lbs of various nails, 2 car batteries, scraps of hose pipe, and torn tarps. This drum had no lid and had been outside for who knows how long so it was also full of water. Making a sort of trash bouillabaisse.

Right side barn brush

The left side of the barn had a few things like the right side, but the bigger issue was the down tree on the phone lines. Several attempts were made to get the phone company to come out, but eventually we had to take care of it ourselves. With that gone, we could get the left side cleaned out.

Phone tree

The back side of the barn was more like the right, lots of trash and even more briars and small trees. Moving further away from the barn it became less and less trash but thicker and thicker in underbrush. This was all cleaned out and burned as well which left a nice square. The start of our barn lot!

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Since we do not have livestock yet the past 2 years we have planted behind the barn with limited success. As in, 4 total pumpkins in 2 years.

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Happy Little Pumpkin

The ground seems good,   but due to the woods and the property line of trees, it gets little sun.   This will be good shade in the summer for the animals though so not cutting anything down.

 

The barn after it was cleaned up around it turned out to be very sturdy still. And colorful…

Old barn as a whole

The plan is to have 3 lots behind the barn. Setting them up with fencing (undecided on exactly what style yet) with the 3 lots be able to rotate some small livestock through those. The lots not being used at the time we can sow with fodder for when they come back to that specific lot.

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The red squares in the photo above are the future barn lots mentioned.

Now that we could actually walk around the barn it was time to get to work on it! That was a slower process and is actually still going on.   We will share more of that later.

More more tires

The first problem was removing the 250 used car tires that were being stored in the barn…….

 

 

Planning a Future Homestead.

Just a short post with a photo of the property.  First photo is untouched to give an idea of what it looks like.    Second photo shows some things we are planning to set up,  and a few things we’ve already got done.

From the photo  the Orchard , Greenhouse,  Garden plots ,  and Grape trellises are already set up.   The House, Herb beds, Future garden spot and rotational barn lots are under future projects.  

    Let us know what you think, in the comments.  Is there anything you’d like to know more about? Thank you for stopping by!