Well, Now There’s Plenty of Time For Homesteading Things

It turns out I was a little slow to get the Seed Giveaway up, as everyone was suddenly focused on preparations for four weeks of lockdown with only two days’ warning. I will hold on to the seeds for now and either re-do the giveaway at the end of this or throw the seeds over the fence to neighbours if they need them.

While a lot of people were staking out the supermarket, I was avoiding it like the plague (nope, choose a different cliché…). Instead, I staked out my territory by creating this:

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It was good to create something that says who we are.

There is still plenty to do here, from harvesting to preserving, managing the garden to managing the household and there are projects, still so many projects that can be done. But I’ve been taking things slow this week as The Little Fulla recovers from his cough and I recover from a psychological rollercoaster. In the midst of uncertainty, there are so many things that I’m thankful for. If you look, there are little sparks of joy everywhere:

  • My chicken feed supplier holding onto one bag of food for me as things turned nuts, even though he was running low on food for his own birds while awaiting the next shipment. Shout out to Hamilton Heritage Hens.
  • Selling a few hens or pullets to friends who are starting out with chickens, just in time. They will gain some food security and have something exciting to do for their kids.
  • Having a few whole chickens stored in the freezer because I got so many boys in the December hatch. Hooray for roosters for once!
  • Actually having male chickens, because I could have been left without a rooster and thus a means of getting fertile eggs in this time. We have two 16-week-old cockerels, plus potential males in the chicks that have hatched.
  • The walnuts starting to fall from the tree.
  • Every single berry or fruit we can pick from our garden, even the bug-bitten ones.
  • The amazing rain God has brought us over the past week, which was not in the long-range forecast! Oh, how precious it is.
  • The little seedlings popping up in the garden from seeds that I sowed – carrots, beetroot and parsnips, from plants that I left to go to seed in the Veggie Garden – lettuces, and from seeds that self-sowed when I threw plants with seedheads into the chicken pen months ago – beets or beetroot. There’s a little forest of microgreens in the Cedar Pen right now!

And then, the little blue quarantine chick was born. Morpheus successfully hatched the one egg she was given from Batch #3 after the bungled Paris sitting situation. I am so proud of her. She is feisty as a mumma hen, requiring glove protection, but she is doing so well with her little baby. I got her moved into The Henley Hut with it, and in the semi-dark of the closed coop I also quickly transferred the other blue chick, the sole hatchling from 1 1/2 weeks earlier (Batch #2), to her to see if she would accept it. It had been successfully integrated into the brooder with the oldest chicks (Batch #1) before that. Morpheus took to it like it was her own. After much cheeping, the older chick realised it had a warm mummy it could now snuggle under. This is perfect because it means the new hatchling won’t have to be raised alone. It has a friend.

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Morpheus and her little blue babies. She’s done everything well so far.
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Morpheus and the babies got a short stint outside for the first time while the neighbours’ sheep supervised.

The older four chicks are in the Big Cage in the garage with the heat plate. They are three weeks old now and full of beans.

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Before I transferred this blue chick to Morpheus it was the wee one with the older black chicks.

I’m currently thinking about what to grow and where next season, and it’s highly likely that the giant pumpkins, as fun as they are, will get ousted so we can use the space in the Front Plot to grow more edibles. I grew 10 not-very-giant pumpkins instead of several rather-more-giant ones thanks to my lack of culling. I always end up paying more attention to the edibles. The Great Pumpkin Carnival would have been today. It’s a pity that I won’t get to compete for prizes for my pumpkins this year, but that’s ok. I’m thankful for all the pumpkins and squashes that we have to eat.

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Since The Husband seems to have such need of masses of tomatoes I am planning a tomato trial of sorts for next season with a bunch of different varieties to see which ones grow the best and work the best for us. That means there will definitely need to be tomatoes in the Front Plot. And tomato supports to think about.

This season I grew two squash varieties: Chuck’s Winter (an heirloom) and a regular-type butternut grown from seeds saved from ‘Chieftain’ (an F1 variety). Not being exact replicas of their parents, the Chieftain offspring gave us plants that basically produced one of two shapes of squash, one slender and elongated and one shorter and bell-shaped. I was hoping to narrow it down to one of these squashes (Cucurbita moshata) to grow next season, but I want to grow them both again. The Chuck’s Winter is very tasty, with a sweet flavour and soft texture, including soft skin when cooked, and it cooks much faster, which is very handy for dinnertime. The fruit are much larger and the plants also take up a lot more space. The ‘Sons of Chieftain’ plants produce more fruit but they are smaller, which is beneficial for smaller cooking portions. The plants take up less space, which is helpful for a raised bed site. Their flavour is also good, being a thicker flesh with a harder skin but they take longer to cook. We liked the flavour of both. I have yet to do a baking test with their purée. Since I want to grow both again I will need to have one variety in the Front Plot if I want to save seeds from them. One thing’s for sure, I am going to have to do some serious spreadsheet work to plan everything out.

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Butternuts that grew from the offspring of ‘Chieftain’ ones.
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The outdoor table is still mostly covered in pumpkins and squashes. The ones with ribbing to the front centre and left are Chuck’s Winter, but they are two of the smaller ones. The regular-type butternuts are behind them.

Before things turned nuts I was already sowing seeds and potting up seedlings for the cold season. I sowed rather a lot of brassicas because I figured I could put some in the Front Plot to grow through winter while there’s nothing else in there. Haha you can see where this is going to go. No doubt, some of them will still be lingering in spring when I need to plant other things, but hey. Time will tell. The broccoli and cauliflower didn’t do super well over summer because the white butterfly caterpillars were a menace and with the lack of water as well, they just got a bit stressed and slow. That’s why I sowed quite a few for autumn; if I can grow most of them in the cool season I can chop and freeze some to eat at other times of the year. Now I’m thankful that I did sow a bunch of them. And I’m thankful that we dug up the front lawn last year. Now is a great time to dig up the front lawn if you’ve got seeds or plants you can grow! Also, now is a great time to let some of your vegetables go to seed in the garden. It does take a while for some things to develop and mature into seeds, but it’s worth it. I’ve been shaking around lettuce and carrot seedheads like there’s no tomorrow. Because I can.

The seedlings I’ve got growing at the moment are: lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, green cabbage, red cabbage, kale and tatsoi. The windowsill in the Craft Room is full and there are some seedlings hardening off outside.

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Alright pumpkins, time to clear some space for the seedlings.

A little while ago I planted four new blackcurrant plants in the garden. They were growing in one of the blueberry beds from prunings I’d cut off my other plants and stuck in there. They were getting too big. I dug up some lawn (ha, yes, I’m good at that) along the west wall of the house beside our heat pump units. I don’t know how well the plants will grow beside these units but I figured I might as well try, because I had propagated them for free after all. They are the only thing, aside from veggies, that I dared to plant in the summer drought, and only because I know how tough they are and they get a fair bit of shade there as well. I pruned them back a lot and they are putting out new growth now. I’ve cardboarded and mulched the ground so they’re all good. Now I’m thinking about propagating more blueberry plants from cuttings. I don’t have a specifically acidic potting medium to grow them in right now so I might have to try out a few things.

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Why not shove more blackcurrant bushes into the garden if you can?

I also planted a shade tree in our lawn by the Herb Garden. It is a purple akeake (Dodonaea viscosa ‘Purpurea’), which I already have a few of around here. It’s a native that can handle the winds that can come through the backyard and will give us some shade in summer, some privacy and something taller to break up the backyard scene. I haven’t planted the toilet paper plant yet, but that will be next, when I figure out how to protect it from the neighbours’ ravenous beast.

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“There’s a tree!” exclaimed The Husband as he looked out the back door. Yes, that was my garden therapy one evening.

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