Spring Has Sprung?

I am not convinced spring is here.

IMG_8592I am, however, convinced spring is here.

IMG_8726Now if the outside could start to match the inside, things would be a bit better. I am pleased to say this morning made me start to believe that mud season (the season in Maine between winter and spring) may be making it’s unfashionably-late arrival. I woke up to rain, wet snow, and mud.

This can mean one thing—there is hope for a spring garden. Perhaps, however, just not as early as I anticipated.

So, I suppose I hesitantly say, “happy first day of spring!”

xo,
Heather

Snowplow, Meet Mailbox

Sometimes when you live in Maine, things happen to your mailbox. Snow happens to your mailbox. Rust happens to your mailbox. A snowplow happens to your mailbox. When your mailbox was already mediocre to start with, after 6 winters it can end up looking rough, as an understatement. A few of the storms this year added a little blush to the prom queen we had hanging up, by way of a snowplow. She’s a beauty (*dripping with sarcasm*).

DSC_8253-01Anyone who lives in a cold snowy climate on a normal road knows it’s inevitable a plow is at some point during the season going to either plow snow all up against your mailbox and/or smash into it. This is why our mailbox hangs off a post versus is stationary on the top of one. From the get go our mailbox wasn’t the bell of the ball, and time didn’t do any favors. Last fall Andy and I decided we needed to replace it. We had debated on doing a completely different post system until the front quite literally was ripped off, leaving frequent damp or wet mail behind.

DSC_8256-01Aside from needing a box that was functional, we really wanted a much bigger one. We get packages a lot and this tiny thing just wasn’t holding up.

DSC_8268-01One snowy day recently we finally got around to replacing this decrepit piece of work. Here’s Andy demonstrating how flimsy the metal had become.

DSC_8269-01 DSC_8271-01 DSC_8272-01 Given the snowy conditions and frozen ground we knew we had to stick with our current post. Our new post design we originally planned on was going to include a similar hanging system, so switching the mailbox over in the future (if we decide to not refinish our current post) won’t be a big deal if we ever do go that route. For this route though we decided to stick with what worked before and utilize the old chain. (It might seem like a system that didn’t work, but it actually is the best system for our situation.)

First, we went to our used bolt/fastner collection in the garage and picked out two pieces along with a nuts for the top and locking nuts for the inside which fit the bill. Once we figured out where we wanted the two pieces of hardware and marked them off with a sharpie, Andy drilled holes. The hardware we chose each had two insertion points, so we put one piece of hardware evenly on the top front and top back.

DSC_8271A quick test fit and we were good to go.

DSC_8265 (2)-01We knew drilling the holes and putting everything together would still mean water could leak down, so the next part was putting a clear epoxy on, putting in the hardware, and making sure the epoxy was around it solidly. I should note the mistake below: I put the back hardware on and got it almost all the way screwed down before I realized I hadn’t slipped the chain onto the hardware. Thankfully the epoxy has a set time so I was able to unscrew everything and then slip the chain back on.

DSC_8268 (2)-01After that, it was just a matter of tightening everything down.

DSC_8279 DSC_8278 DSC_8282We let everything set up for just a few minutes, and then took it back outside to install.

DSC_8283Once outside we decided to shorten the chain a little bit before putting it back on. We secured the chain on the same way it had been before: with zip ties. They work, we had them, decision made.

DSC_8288 DSC_8289Voila! The new mailbox pre-numbers.

DSC_8294Zip ties or not. Old post or not. I’d consider this a needed and good update.

DSC_8253-01Yikes.

xo,

Heather

Winter Plantings

Today has been a day indeed for starting the 2014 growing season, in so many ways.

First, I found out on Monday I’ve been accepted into graduate school. So if I’m not already sporadic enough on this little shindig this new adventure will do one of two things – make blog posts more frequent due to time management needs, or make it less frequent due to time management needs. It’s a crap shoot at this point. I won’t be starting class until May though so we have a few month more of shenanigans.

Second, I started our vegetable growing season Monday evening. A few weeks ago Andy and I were given a large bag of pearl onions. While cooking dinner Monday, I found a few sprouted onions in the bag. I took a look to my right and noticed my 60lb bag of seed starting soil from Johnny Seeds which came in a few days ago. I then remembered a planter I had in the house.

DSC_8387-01I had read about replanting sprouted onions and I came up with three answers:

  1. They’re junk. Throw them away.
  2. They won’t grow other onions, they’ll only grow stalks which are edible and then turn to seed. 
  3. They’ll grow another onion.

So in other words, I had no answer. What does no clear answer mean? It means a hypothesis and an experiment! I love plant experiments. Especially ones that aren’t really all that scientific when it comes to my garden.

First, one of the two onions was rotting on the outer layers. I’d seen this before so I knew I could peel it off. As I peeled away and away and away I decided to get down right to the shoots. I was careful to keep the root intact as I peeled. As I got down I realized the one onion had two shoots and if I was really careful I could separate them. For the second onion I decided to leave the bulb intact, and see if it changed anything.

DSC_8378-02After separating the onions I found my planter and knew the holes in the bottom were way too large and would cause too much soil loss. To counter this, but allow water to drain easily, I cut and placed a single layer of cheesecloth on the bottom.

DSC_8370-02Then I filled up the planter with potting mix, and watered it down until it was just damp and could hold together but didn’t release water when I squeezed it gently. No soupy soil. The picture below is hard to see the clumps because I sort of broke them back up, but they are there.

DSC_8387-01Finally, I simply dug a little hole for each onion and put it in, making sure there was enough aeration around the roots, and that the soil came up to the green part.

DSC_8391-01Now it’s time to see how they grow. I’m not sure if I’m going to try and let the double shoot that I split turn into onions, or if I’ll just use them as green onions which totally invalidates my own experiment of seeing if they’ll turn into onions or flower only. Then again, green onions are so darn tasty it would probably be worth it.

xo,
Heather

 

Equipment Love: Mahindra 2415

A (long, long) while back Andy mentioned I should write about the equipment we own. I told him he should write about the equipment we own, in my never ending quest to have Andy write a blog post which I’m rather certain he never will. That said, writing about the equipment we own is a pretty good idea. He’s right that without some of our equipment we wouldn’t either have certain things done, or it would be a lot harder.

No single piece of equipment we own is bigger than our Mahindra 2415, both in size and how crucial it is to having our little homestead. Unlike my relationship with Troy, I’m on good terms with our tractor who I lovingly call Mah. When Winnie was a puppy she was even featured in Living The Country Life magazine while sitting on her (yes the tractor is a she, says me). I grabbed this photo with my point and shoot, and when I saw there was a call for cute animals I sent it in.

561701_487242111305592_29761995_nWe like to tell Winnie she needs to earn a living and she definitely pulled through, at least once. To this day our dogs like jogging along the tractor in their older age, and still enjoy a lap ride now and again.

To really write about Mahindra I had to ask Andy for his input. Buying this tractor was primarily his gig though I was definitely on board. He had wanted one for a very long time; as in childhood. I more or less saw it as a means to an end, and ended up loving it after we had her a while. When we bought this property we knew we needed a tractor in order to fix up the land and build our house. Then it turned into both a tractor for around our homestead, but also for agricultural use up at the farm. All in all, it’s been well worth the money.

This was one of the very first photos we ever took of our Mahindra, long before the barn and garage were even started and clearly well into my phase of color blocking photos on my point and shoot.

6.8.2008 005Over the years we’ve really loved this girl, though there have been a few times we’ve debated on upgrading to a larger model. We always decide to stick with the 2415 though. It really is the perfect size, both for us, and the farm. While the farmer owns lots of larger models, little red can fit under the barn to muck it out. If we got a bigger tractor we wouldn’t be able to get under the barn, and mucking it out is pretty important.

DSC_4931-01We have a few implements for the tractor that we’ve accumulated over the years including forks for the front end, and for the back a bush hog, a finish mower, a box blade. Andy has even altered the Mahindra to attach to a plow which can be controlled by the hydraulics. Heck, she’s even skidded logs before by a chain.

DSC_4927-01Andy would be the first to tell you my favorite attachment is our 1710 backhoe. I can’t explain why, but I just really enjoy using it. I think it’s the same reason I loved digging holes in the dirt as a kid—there’s something inherently fun about getting dirty and even more so when the thing you’re digging with has an engine.

6.8.2008 027The next implement I’m pushing for is a hydraulic logging winch. My goal is to get a sawmill within the next couple years, and the winch would come in handy, but that’s another post for another day. All in all, Mah definitely earns her keep around here and she’ll be around for a long time to come, I imagine.

6.8.2008 029Do you guys have any pieces of equipment, large or small, that are staples at your place?

xo,
Heather

Summer 2013 Happenings

Hey friends! As some of you might experience in your own lives, summer is the busiest time of year. Here in Maine summer might literally go until the end of September, but as far as I’m concerned autumn begins on September 1st. Some people might shush me for saying that, but it really becomes autumn weather and I LOVE the autumn. The other night you could feel the change in the air starting and Andy and I were both thrilled.

Given it’s the end of August and the almost end of summer I thought I would catch up a few loose ends like the farm, the garden, the house and a couple other little birdies we had going on around here.

The Farm

The farm has been well this summer without much to write home about until this last weekend. At church on Sunday the farmers wife announced that there had been a calf born at the farm that morning. Needless to say I was slightly distracted throughout church to go meet the new little dude. So here’s the part where you ask why there isn’t a photo of him. Little dude is elusive. I’ve seen him, but there were other duties to attend to so I didn’t have my camera on me. I even tried to go up and get a photo of him just for this post (literally, I stopped writing the post and drove up to the farm with camera in hand). No dice. The herd had just retreated to a far back field out of site. For reals.

I will get a photo of him and I will share it once Mr. Disappearing Act decides to show his face at a time I also have a camera on me.

The Garden & Harvest Preservation

I am SO PROUD of the garden this year. I don’t mean proud of us. I mean I am literally (using that word in it’s actual definition) proud of the plants for making it through the crazy ass weather we’ve had, being choked by weeds, and infested by insects and fighting disease. I honestly didn’t think we would be seeing a single zucchini, squash or cucumber this year. I had to replant almost all of the cucumbers, I fought squash bugs like crazy, and we experienced blossom drop.

DSC_6718-01Well done garden, well done. You rebounded nicely. The above harvest was only one of the harvests this year. The cucumbers definitely were on the bigger side for this harvest so I seeded them (along with that giant zuc above) and diced them up for diced bread and butter pickled. We also have some sliced pickles too from an earlier batch. Speaking of pickles, this summer has been awesome for preservation. (To learn more about different methods of food preservation check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation).

DriedPotatoesWe sliced, blanched, dehydrated and vacuum sealed potatoes.

PicklesandMuffinsWe made sliced bread and butter pickles as well in a British style, a garlic style and regular.We also made a batch of hearty blueberries from the year/coconut/hemp heart/chia seed/vegan muffins and then cooled and vacuum sealed them for the freezer. These are so good to grab, heat for a minute in the microwave and then head out with. They are super filling and are a perfect pick me up.

JamWe picked a ton of wild blackberries and then made jam.

CanningFailWe had our first canning fail ever. I’m happy to say it was a perfectly broken jar and not a fail because of botulism or something. I’ll take a broken jar over bacteria any day of the week.

PicklesWe also had even more successes and will continue to can throughout the rest of the summer. These are the tiny diced cucumbers and zuc’s I mentioned above. For now it’s mainly all pickles at the house for now, but we might be able to blanch and freeze some spinach and maybe some vegan butternut squash soup later on.

IMG_6567Finally, we had great success with garlic this year. Even though we grow hardneck garlic we learned how to braid it to dry it properly. The big bulbs in the front are all seed stock which we will plant this fall. We’ll eat all the deliciousness in the back. I’ll write more on this whole process in another post, as I documented it for you guys!

The House

Holla! As you guys know from this post we’ve moved into our bedroom. This topic really deserves it’s own post though. I’ll be heading into the mountains soon so I’m hoping to bang out a post then for you guys all about it. There isn’t a ton to discuss at this point, but what there is to share it still exciting! It’s hard to believe we’re winding down on the interior of the addition, and yet there is so much to do. Oh, and we’re going to renovate the entire original house so there’s definitely plenty more to go.

20130818-203201.jpg

Other Little Birdies

For real birdies! This was such a highlight of my summer. I would look out the window to the porch just about every day and watch them in the rafters until they finally took flight (which I missed). I almost hope they nest there every year so I can watch them! Absolutely adorable.

DSC_6281-01 DSC_6286-01 DSC_6290-01 DSC_6298-01 DSC_6332-01 DSC_6354-01 DSC_6361-01So there’s a quick wrap up of our summer and we’re not slowing down anytime soon heading into fall as we prep for winter. We still have so much to go between working full time, harvesting, construction, and the rest of the shebang. We also are going to be part of a cool project that I’ll post about as soon as I get permission. Actually there are two cool projects. Do I have your interest yet? I can’t wait to share.

xo,

Heather