Trying to grow mushrooms!

We saw a local park offering a class on mushroom logs and the idea really took hold. We figured it ought to be easy enough and we really like eating them. Mushrooms would be a good addition to the homestead.

The class was good, gave us some good information and then we got our own logs to inoculate with mushroom spore. We learned that hard woods are the best. You drill a hole in and pack the sawdust mushroom spore mixture in it and seal with wax. Then let it sit and grow!

The class gave us shiitake mushrooms for our demo log and we got some oyster mushrooms to try at home.

We ended up using some Bradford Pear logs from a tree that came down in a storm. This isn’t a hard wood tree but the timing was too good to ignore it.

Holes drilled for spore capsules
All filled
Sealed with wax
Stacked on pallets to get air circulation

Unfortunately, we didn’t get mushrooms from any of these logs. We’re not sure if it’s the wrong wood that was used, the wrong wax or maybe even too much wax.

Our demo logs finally did make mushrooms but they were not shiitake. They maybe got too hot or too dried out. I think we’ll try it again eventually but we’ll need to try and really set up an ideal location. Maybe we can try one of the box kits before trying logs again.

Let us know if you’ve had any success growing your own mushrooms, in the comments below. We’d love to hear about what worked or didn’t work for you.

Favorite Dishes from the Garden: Squash

One of the fun things our first few years of growing our own food taught us was how to get creative with meal time.

When you’re looking at your 12th consecutive day of having yellow squash for dinner, you want to spice things up – literally and figuratively!

We’ve got the fried squash down perfectly. In fact, it’s usually requested by the June birthday girl since its the best thing.

Sadly though, we can’t live off fried squash so we started looking at other flavors we liked and tried them with squash.

One of the earliest attempts was squash pickles.

They were a start but not really a meal.

One of us got to craving pizza but this mound of produce kept staring at us. We then had the idea of taking some of the bigger squash and turning them into pizza boats!

This was a great way to use up the larger squash that weren’t as tender as the smaller ones but are still just as delicious. We also cooked these on the grill since it’s just too hot to run the oven in the house.

We took 2 good sized squash and cleaned and prepped them. They were washed, cut in half and the insides scooped out for either the compost pile or chickens.

They were seasoned with salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder, as well as since Italian seasoning, since we’re making pizzas, after all. We drizzled with olive oil and set cut side down on the pre-lit grill over medium heat for about 6 to 7 minutes. Try to avoid any burning at this step. It’s not a yummy taste.

After that, flip the squash over so the skin can cook and so that the pizza toppings can get started. We used some ready made pizza sauce but of course homemade will be just as good. Spoon 2 to 3 spoonfuls then start layering in toppings. Pre-cooked Italian sausage or ground beef , pepperoni slices, basically any protein that you like on a pizza goes great here. Then some veggies. We love mushrooms so those were a given. Peppers, onions, spinach would all be great too. Top with any kind of mild, easy melting cheese like provolone or mozzarella and a little more Italian seasoning. Return to the grill and finish off for about another 4 to 5 minutes or until the squash is fork tender and the toppings are melted and bubbling slightly.

Cool for a couple minutes and then dig in!

We also a squash hamburger bun and even squash “mac and cheese”.

We used our own frozen squash, cut into slices and then halved. They went right into a pot to cook in their own juices from frozen. A little salt and pepper to season.

After the squash had cooked through, we lightly drained it and added a can of cheese soup. Just a splash of milk was used to thin the soup. Not much was needed since there was so much liquid from the squash. From there, we seasoned to taste and were ready to dig in!

The squash mac was in pretty heavy rotation because it is so easy and tastes good too.

Do you have any squash recipes we need to try? Any other twists on a favorite that we missed? Share in the comments and let us know!

2019 wrap up

Little late with the wrap up post on 2019, which is about perfect because 2019 seemed to be the year of being a little late.

Just as with any place there was several successes and failures on the Homestead.

Greenhouse was finished and worked great for the head start on spring planting.

We also got to experiment with putting down black ground cover, which we liked and will be getting more for the future gardens.

Wild rabbits did eat at least 50% of what we planted, but the greenhouse worked.

We started breeding rabbits on the homestead, took it slowly but did successfully raise and process three litters.

Our first group of chicks had zero losses. We bought 3 different breeds and supposedly no roosters. Ended up with entirely different breeds and six roosters. So surprise for us we also got to do our first rooster harvest in 2019.

Bought 6 more chickens to replace the rooster fiasco this time they were all hens, but again not the breed we thought we were purchasing. They lay eggs though, so we are calling it a win.

Also, we started getting eggs!!

We were able to finish the barn and immediately started planning an expansion …. Might get to that this year.

Planted a few more trees and bushes, but to be completely honest we did not take care of the ones we already have. The blackberries were taken over by weeds, the blueberries were all eaten by something. Even had a plum tree that was real dead before we noticed. Strawberries grew, but they did not have much flavor, so they were mostly ignored for the rest of the year.

Berries and orchard have to be more of a priority this year.

Fall garden was non existent. We started some seeds, but it stayed into the high 90s all the way into October, then rained for what seemed like a month. We probably could have still planted, but just got disgusted by it and took the fall off garden wise. We did a small raised area for cabbage and another for carrots.

Land clearing we did not do much. Really just maintaining what we had already cleared. Bandit, the farm dog, uses the brush line as his boundary. We really dont want to get rid of that boundary without the fencing to keep him in. Money was not in the budget in 2019 for what we needed, so nothing additional got cleared.

House building we did a lot more planning, over planning, and then planning it to death. 2020 something tangible has to happen with the house. The trailer is slowly falling apart and still not worth putting any money into fixing.

We will do a future post on plans for 2020 as of now the top 5 are (we know this will probably change several times.)

  1. Start on a house – actually for real get started
  2. Raise more rabbits/ chickens for the freezer.
  3. Add to / take care of orchard.
  4. Barn expansion.
  5. Start nut trees

Hopefully in 2020 we can get more accomplished, which I think that is the goal every year. Still loving the adventure!

What’s something else we could work on for 2020? Let us know what you think! Drop us a comment!

Rabbits on the homestead.

We had always kinda had in mind that chickens would be the first animals on the homestead. We had rabbits in the back of our minds but still thought chickens first.

As time and work went on, the ease of rabbits kept popping in our heads. Rabbits would be a way to get some animals and a renewable source of meat on the place, where as we still did not have the area cleared for the chickens . Also we did not have the money for the netting we wanted to use for our flock. We had already done lots of work on the barn and had a place for rabbit cages.
A deal presented itself and we very quickly built some rabbit cages and our new residents moved in.

We started with three red siblings, New Zealand Red’s, which turned out to be two girls and one boy, and also one older black rabbit female who was a proven breeder. The original idea was to breed the Red buck and black doe to start our group, but the black rabbit never took to our new place. She was scared all the time and never adjusted to us. You could just tell even after a few months she was miserable. On the other hand the three red bunnies were not the friendliest but were getting along well enough.

So the plan shifted from keeping the Red buck and black doe , to keeping the two red does to be part of our breeding trio.

That meant we needed another buck. When a very good deal on one popped up we snatched him up quick.

He is half Flemish Giant Half Silver Fox, has a great temperament, likes treats, tolerates being handled and has already sired a litter of bunnies at our place. He is a keeper!

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We only bred one of the girls for the first round, wanting to make sure that we could handle having a litter at our place. Getting our feet wet without going overboard which is not always our go-to move! Not that we expected trouble but one litter is easier to deal with than two if something were to come up.

The one red girl we bred proved to be an excellent choice so far. She is taking care of her seven babies as well as any rabbit ever has. So now we have a few weeks to get another cage ready. Debating between a rabbit tractor type cage or another closet wire cage they are currently in. Either way we, will need one for the last few weeks of growing them out.

Barn cats

The first winter on the property was one of the most frustrating times spent there. The place is surrounded by fields .  Although we love the privacy when those are cut back at the start of winter, the mice decide to move to our place.   We could hear them in the walls ,  see their evidence on the counters,  it was just horrible.

With not many fast options, that first year we put out poison.  Poison has its place,  but we prefer not to use it if there are other options.

Meet the other options!

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Callie and Ursa! Callie is named after her coloring, Callie the Calico.  Ursa is named after the bear constellation Ursa Major, because she looks like a “great she-bear”.  They are cousins or half sisters, we’re not sure which.  3 mama cats had litters at the same time and they all were raised together.

Two new additions  are already keeping the porch cleared of flies and crickets that stray too close.  When they are bigger we have no doubt they will wreak havoc on any pests trying to steal our food.

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They get along great with Bandit even if he does step on them often.

 

We are also hoping their presence deters the baby rabbits that love to eat on our garden.  They are very welcomed additions and have been hours of entertainment watching them play.

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We’ve made sure to get them fixed, as well.  We don’t want them to wander off when they go into heat and we don’t want any strays to come up and be a problem, either.  It is for sure the right thing to do.

 

 

Chicks and Chicken brooder

We have been wanting chickens since day one of the homestead. Actually we wanted chickens years before the homestead.

Being on our third year in we decided to go ahead and get some.

4 barred rock (turns out we did not get these as expected maybe just got 8 Rhode Island reds)

4 Rhode Island red

4 Golden Comets

So not going into the chicken industry yet, but it is always exciting to get new animals on the homestead.

We started them out in a giant Rubbermaid tote which worked great for the first few weeks!

We did some research on a bigger area for them and found this brooder idea from Lumnah acres. Chick Brooder

It was easy to build and has worked fantastic for the past few weeks. I made mine a good bit taller than their plans, mostly due to Bandit, our dog, and we had the materials.

The things I like most about this set up is when taken apart can be stored easily , and it can be used for various animals for a little holding pen when need be. I’m thinking I might make another one for our rabbits at some point.

The chickens are healthy and happy. They started out in the house but were eventually moved to the porch. They are now in the simple coop we built and in the area we want them to prep for next years garden. Have not let them out yet, letting them get used to where home is. Hopefully we get to release them soon.

Will be posting more about the coop later. Any questions? Comments? We would love to hear from you!

2019 garden updates

Just a quick post on the 2019 garden so far.

The garden woven fabric is working wonderfully so far.  If it holds up through the year and comes up in good condition we will be getting more for sure. See our previous post about it here: 2019 Spring garden .

Rabbits destroyed the rows of lettuce,  spinach, cabbage, broccoli , cauliflower.   They ate what they wanted and are leaving the rest along for now.   We are at war with them at the moment but they are still winning I think.

The plants have gotten to the point that they are outpacing the weeds which saves us some time.  Between the weeds that come up still, the black fabric ,  and the hay bedding from our rabbits that we added to the rows, the soil is keeping its moisture.  It has been very much needed in the hot dry weeks we have had recently.

 

We have already been eating squash,  zucchini , radish, garlic (planted last year) , spinach, peppers.

Our herbs are also rocking and we were able to use them and the garlic with the last of our frozen tomatoes to make an amazing batch of sauce.

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So many great things going on.   Very exciting time of the year.

Speaking of the war on the rabbits – we have recruited some help.  They are small now but once they get some size on them… varmints beware! We’ll share more about Callie the Calico and Ursa the Little Bear, in a future post.

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Blackberries, Strawberries and Blueberries. Oh my

Just a quick post about our berry production on our little homestead.

The first year we planted strawberries and a thornless blackberry.   The second year we added more strawberries,  blackberries ,  and then blueberries. Third year we added more blackberries and blueberries.

We are adding more as we can afford to and also when we can get an area cleared for them.

 

The strawberries were a mix of Alpine,  Ozark,  and probably some others we are forgetting. We tried a white strawberry too, called Pineberry.20190515_181305.jpg

They are planted in a old building foundation with a concrete wall that has fallen down.  It was a defined area that we always try planting things in.   Strawberries are about the only thing that we have found to work there.   We say work but even though we are currently getting lots of strawberries,  we are not getting lots of flavor.   They have all been so bland this year!  Our theories on this are that we have had record level of rains this year effecting the taste  or they do not get enough sunlight.  Or both. There are a few trees surrounding them we are considering cutting down.

Any suggestions from you guys are welcome in the comments!

 

The blackberries are a thorn less variety we like, named Apache . The property is covered in “wild” blackberry plants,  but they do not produce as much due to their thickness and the wild animals get most of them before they are what we consider ripe.

We are planting them on the edge of our young orchard and keep adding as we take back the woods.   They will have plenty of room to expand in the future.   The plants do well for us despite a few bites taken out by deer and rabbits from time to time.    Last year we even got enough to make a cobbler.  I would be fine if we got enough this year to make 20 cobblers.  We might be planting more,  or we might give it a few years to see how far they expand on their own.

Blueberries  we have planted several varieties so far,  mainly because where we buy them from seems to change what they  have every year.   They are all doing a great job despite the light deer grazing,   we have not gotten a significant amount off them yet,  but maybe this year!

 

 

We also have some grapes we have started that we will go over in a future post.  Thinking about maybe doing raspberries.  We are in zone 7b so researching what we could realistically grow here.

What berries are you growing?   What are some of your favorites?  Are we forgetting any that we should get started?   Let us know in the comments !!!

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!

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!