Thursday, January 8, 2015

KICKING OFF 2015: PART I

In the spirit of this New Year and my resolution I thought it only fitting to give my family and myself credit where credit was due. Yes, we still have a few unfinished projects and others we never got to. But we still achieved a great deal in 2014. Here's a sneak peak at a couple of highlights from our year here at The High Desert Homestead. 


Let me just begin by saying how lucky we are to live where we do. In early November 2013 we stumbled upon this 5 acre slice of heaven in Tumalo, Ore.(we used to be sad that we don't own, but after a year here we are glad we don't, more on that later...) and have had great opportunities in this wide open space. Ill give you a tour!!! Shown is a view of our property from the gate. The first building you see is the barn and the house is tucked all the way in the back. 3.5 acres is all pasture space that has since been fenced. Back left corner before the tree line you'll find my attempt at a garden.


We spent a great deal of time tilling and preparing a piece of land for our garden..... Long story short the garden ended up a 1/4 that size by July as it was too much for my family and I (mostly myself as the gardening is something I mostly tend to) to maintain.Both Spencer I and worked full time jobs all summer.... I so wish I had a photo of how bad the weeds became but I was so ashamed I never would have photographed it... But it was a lesson learned and I will never be embarrassed about learning something new! Here's a view of how the garden began... 
As you can see it looked really great to begin with.... Wanna know what else looked really good in there??? My horses eating all the weeds after I put up a fence around the salvageable veggies and let them have a free for all, like I said before I couldn't keep up with the weeds at all. It was terrible......

Ever seen the movie Jumamji??? When the vines take over his house and it became unrecognizable?

Yeah that was my garden last year...

This was some of the most fertile ground on our whole property last summer, literally it was a breeze getting things to grow, getting other things not to grow was the problem. I can't wait to try a new gardening techniques.Let's just say this past season put Mama's gardening skills to the test. Don't get me wrong the season wasn't a total bust as I did bring in quite a good harvest. The garden looks much much different from this now.... updated photos to come this spring!



One vegetable that grew fantastically was ONIONS! And let me tell ya this woman loves onions. I wasn't able to let them fully mature so they were on the small side. Conveniently our irrigation mainline had to be run right through what I had proclaimed as my onion patch! Thus I harvested half the patch early in the season. My root vegetable of choice, radishes, always has large real estate in my gardens and grows so well in our desert climate. I have had a few years to play with watering to get them to that sweet spicy stage. Love love love!




One of my goals this year is to hone in on squash and cucumber gardening. I haven't figured it out for whatever reason and I always end up with puny veggies or the plants freeze before they have had time to fully mature to harvest. Which was the case in this pretty plant that I was so proud of! I believe I also had a minor rabbit problem :(




Aside from my love for eating onions, the ease and experience of radishes, one other veggie takes the cake this year. BEANS!!! Green Beans to be exact. I harvested pound after pound of green beans this summer and fall. They had the highest yield in my garden along side mt scarlet runner beans. Just wait until you see how I grew them!

I built my own bean tee pee.... well I really built if for Ireland and she loved it!



I was lucky enough to build this tee pee for free using saplings and limbs that I have previously removed from some of our aspen trees. 

There are about 2 dozen giant aspens surrounding our house and garage...
I simply cleaned them up with a hand saw to remove any pokeys (yes that's a word in our house)



 I dug a few holes for the poles. As you'll see I didn't use anything to reinforce these poles. You never want to permanently place and structure for your beans as it needs to be moved annually to avoid the spread of disease and a ruined crop!!! So, I want to be able to pull the whole structure down this spring and reset it at an opposite corner of the garden and continue to rotate corners in that fashion.






AND ta da!!! Looks a little shabby still but it worked fantastic. I put each pole 6-8 inches into the ground and its more than sturdy enough to hold the weight of the plants that will be climbing up it. I wound string around the lower half of the structure in order to provide more surfaces for holding and grabbing by the plants. Below you'll see how it turned out! 


It was great to see such success out of this project even though it was started late in the season. After such a disastrous start to our gardening season I was relieved to finally see some fruits.... Or shall I say vegetables from our labor. Another "fruit" we have had the pleasure of beginning to enjoy this year has been our duck eggs and free range chicken eggs.


Sadly, the luxury of our duck eggs was short lived. Another learning experience I have had to learn is that things aren't always going to go as I hopped on this homestead journey. I don't claim to be an expert at anything, I'm basically novice at all things I do. I look to you readers and my loved one's for guidance, but one subject that I know all too well is loss. Life on the homestead as anywhere comes with death, they go hand in hand. We lost 3 of our laying ducks to hawks this summer. One lesson I have learned is that unlike chickens, ducks do not always come home to roost. <<<< See duck eggs!!!!!!! <<<<  Side note: (If ya'll haven't raised ducks for eggs or used them for cooking you are missing out! I love duck eggs they changed my life in regards to baked goods, and never have pancakes tasted better or been fluffier. We can just say that Q and duck eggs together forever.)
My birds are all let to free range the daylight hours 90% of days weather permitting. What I love so much about my chickens is that I know going out to the coop after dark that all the girls will already be roosted up cozied in for the night.....I should only have to close the door... And where are the ducks you may ask?? Splashing away in their kiddy pool making all sorts of racket. Now I don't know if anyone else has had this problem but if there isn't shelter 2 feet from any water they're playing.... 

My ducks are sitting if you know what I mean.......

 Maybe this is just my ducks or the fact that they are domesticated that they lack the instinct to find cover, namely the one that was erected specifically for them..... So naturally after losing my 3 girls I adapted and make sure to usher them inside endearingly every night after the chickens have logically made their ascent to the roost. Naturally I am left with my 1 duck and 2 drakes. I'll purchase a few more with our next order or laying chicks this spring. 
The biggest accomplishment was Oinkers! He came to us at a perfect time and screaming deal from friend just down the road. We couldn't have been happier for it. We slaughtered him this fall and came home with more pork than we knew what to do with. Ha! Yeah right we knew exactly what to do with it! I had BLTs for days and cooked smoked ham with eggs in the morning far more mornings than I could have dreamed of! Raising our own pork has always been something we wanted and we finally did it! 

Now we have two more little oinkers out in the barn (more about them later... 

All in all 2014 was a great year and there will be so much more to come!!! This mama will have a full plate planning a wedding and getting ready for a new baby! I can't wait.... Did I tell you the baby is a girl??? Crazy news and little Miss Ireland will have a baby sister all her own come May.....

May.... A month that will be full of baby prepping, baby chicks and ducks, seedling sprouting, Rodeo kick-off prep, butchering pigs, brainstorming about dairy goats, breeding rabbits, butchering rabbits, watching my Irish princess chase the chickens and I could go on
 yada, yada, yada....

What a busy and fun filled spring it will be!

Phew that felt good! Giving ourselves credit for our accomplished tasks is a requirement here on the homestead. And well folks I think I did a pretty good job, I left some out (not to mention the rabbits, we will dive way into that later!) but no need to give it all away at once. Being the jumper of the gun that I am I already want to start planting, I love to watch plants sprout and grow and I can never wait until spring is here!!!

Melt SNOW Melt!

Perusing seed savers as I type
Quincy