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!
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.
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.
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.
Probably something we should have done sooner, but we finally got some grape trellises set up and some planted our second year in.
There are some muscadines on the property already , and we have been eating them and making jelly from them, but we wanted more grapes. So fingers crossed ,in a few years we will have loads of them!
For the trellises we used old cedar posts that we had on the property already. For what to run between them we looked at the standard wire options, but with more thought we decided to go with t-posts. Easy to get, last forever, and are actually cheaper than most of the wire/ wire hardware needed to support grapes. So with some T posts and electrical conduit clasps we had some trellises. Only hard part was digging the holes but even that was not to bad. We managed to plant these right on top of a snake nest too. Luckily, it was October when we first started the digging and it was only eggs that we found.
We have planted four vines so far. Two white and two red. The two white are called Niagara and the two red are Mars.
None of them have died yet, so that is a start! We even have a small handful of grapes on the older Mars variety we planted. It feels very promising!
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.
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.
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.
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 !!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!