Friday, May 4, 2012

Around the homestead

Meet Mr. Squirrel. He is a happy li'l critter who lives in our backyard forest (well, the 25 acres that touch the back of our house, acres which we do not own). He and his friends often come to visit us, and I have taken to leaving out stale bread, veggies, fruit, and other items of interest to local wildlife. He and his friends seem to enjoy it, as you can see here. He's become a household name, with our 6 year old girl-twin begging daddy not to hunt him (though it's okay to hunt Mr. Squirrel's friends). I caught these images one afternoon last week when I had an end of bread that had been left out and gotten too stale.

Around the homestead, things are going fairly well. We have one raised bed in (a tire style) with beets, carrots, lettuce and spinach planted. There's room for more, as I'm using the square foot gardening method, but it's still a bit early around here for most items. The bed that will eventually hold the peas and beans is built and filled, but has to be raked out. It's my hope that Sunday will include at least a bit of warm sun so that I can finish it off and get the peas in the ground. The beans must wait for all danger of frost to be gone, but peas never seem to mind a bit of the cold.

The tire beds are cool. I have two tires so far, although I do hope I will get at least two more before the summer hits us. The string bisecting the tire is the beginning of the square foot layout for the garden. I put two nails in on opposite sides, cutting the tire (mostly) in half, and marked it with string. Then I measured out one foot to either side and put another nail in, and another string across, until I had a full grid all over the tire. It worked rather well. I don't think every space is exactly square, but it's close enough for government work, I suppose. I doubt the veggies will care much about an eighth of an inch here or there.

I do love the size of the tire beds. They are high enough that you don't really have to bend to weed or work in them. The sides are solid enough to sit on while you're picking around in it. The grid was incredibly easy to put on. It's all great quality soil, and the bottom third of the tire is filled with branches, twigs, bits of cut wood, and leaves. The leftover sawdust and wood chips from the winter's wood cutting is in there, too. Eventually, it'll all break down and the worms will compost it for us and make it into even more delicious black gold. I'm pleased with how it's turning out. I would do the entire garden in these if I could.

The tires themselves can be painted any color, though you should start with a good coat of primer first. The rubber doesn't actually leach anything nasty into the soil, I found out, so that made me happy. I only remove the top rim of the tire to make the garden; the bottom rim is still curled up underneath, a wonderful place where water can pool and continue to keep the rest of the garden moist during dry times. The center is open, though, which means the garden can't ever get overly soaked. All in all, it's a pretty good deal. I could see myself planting corn in these things, because when you square foot garden you do four seeds per square foot. That means my block of corn would be 64+ plants strong (64 plants in the center full squares, and some more in the side half squares). That's not a bad plot for a tiny homestead!

I am very pleased with the garden, despite it not coming together quite the way I expected. I need to get my strawberries in very soon, and hopefully some asparagus, too. Other than that, I believe I have seeds aplenty for the rest of the garden. They just need warm enough weather to allow me to plant them. I'm thrilled to pieces!

We also got a new toy, thanks to friends of ours. This grain mill, antique and ancient as it is, cleaned up beautifully and required only one bolt to make it work right. We've been grinding up our own corn and flour and making everything from biscuits and cornbread to tortillas. Yum! It's good exercise turning the wheel, too, I tell ya!