Wednesday, March 22, 2017


I've been flirting with depression for months now. It's hard to admit to myself, and there are any number of factors. The addition of our second child, loath though any mother is to admit to it, the stress of being kicked out of our home of four years during what should have been a much happier time for our family, the long dreary PNW winter that always brings with it SAD... however I think the biggest problem, one that I have repeatedly tried to logic away, is the loss of our homestead.

Last year was the most difficult year I've ever had emotionally. We found out in early February that we were expecting our second child, and although we had planned to have him we were a tad shocked at just how..fecund we turned out to be. At the time the homestead was in full swing, and although I didn't have any drastic plans for expansion at the time I had been intending to have a full year of breeding, babies, milking, planting and harvesting. I had hoped to get a good garden planted, to do more canning and food preservation, to butcher another goat and several geese, to learn and hone our skills. Everything got off to a good start, in April we were hashing out garden beds and were blessed with 5 baby goats to the homestead. I had ducks and chickens sitting on nests, our goose hatched out a large clutch and we started planting the garden amidst the hundreds of volunteer calendula and nasturtium seedlings that erupted.

By the time I reached my second trimester around mid May I started to realize that things just couldn't quite go on the way I planned. The heat combined with my growing pregnancy (and exhaustion) meant that I just couldn't function at the level I was accustomed to. As with my first pregnancy this served as a source of great frustration to me, compounded by the fact that my very active two-and-a-half-year-old could run circles around me and was quite miffed about being stuck inside with me on the warm days. Despite drinking as much as I could stand being outside in the heat sapped my energy and left me dizzy and uncomfortable. I slowly resigned myself to having a less productive year in terms of homesteading, especially with regards to the garden which I just could not keep up with. I focused my energy instead on planning and keeping on top of the livestock goals.

And then in July the shoe dropped...

Our landlord sent us a notice to inform us that we needed to vacate the premises in two months' time.

 We went into crisis mode, my husband I knew that our chances of finding a new place to rent that was both within our tight budget (with me being not only a stay at home mom for our first child, but more than half-way to expecting our second,) as well as open to allowing renters to bring an entire menagerie with them was vanishingly small. We started triage. I think that very first weekend after finding out we butchered our entire stock of rabbits, and I managed to sell all of our geese a short time later. Within the first month I sold most of our chickens, all but the core breeding stock of my duck flock, our baby goats, we whittled and whittled all while desperately searching for someplace we could go.

Nothing came up, anything we could afford ourselves we could barely even find places that would let us bring our two cats. Anything big enough for our extended family wouldn't allow outside animals or didn't suit our combined needs. By the beginning of August I was getting desperate. I didn't want to let our goats go, or my breeding stock, but I also didn't want to scramble to find them a new home at the last minute, and so in early August I made the decision to list them for sale in the hopes that we could find the right home for them. It didn't take as long as I feared, and we did find them the best home we could have hoped. It happened so fast that I was blindsided by it. They left our homestead only a few days after I listed them, I didn't even get the chance to use up the last of the chevre starters I had in the freezer.

And I cried. I cried and cried, for weeks whenever I thought about them I cried. I still cry when I think of sending them away.

Now all I have are our oldest chickens, I don't think they'll even lay eggs this year, but they are tame and sweet and hand-raised. I have four young hen ducks for eggs. The rest of my breeding stock is scattered across the state. The flock that I spent four years carefully building is gone, the last few birds awaiting pickup next month to be taken down to Oregon.

During those chaotic months when we didn't know what was going to happen the garden was completely ignored, we managed to salvage some of the dried bean crop, but at the time there was no point to caring for a harvest that we wouldn't be able to bring in, and no time to spare for it. As the animals bled away to strangers my husband worked the arduous process of tearing down everything we had built up. The rabbitry, the shelters and barn, the pasture, everything was undone. We dug up the plants we wanted to salvage, the blueberries we had just planted, hops vines, raspberry canes, rhubarb crowns.

We managed to negotiate a longer stay, until Ferbruary of this year. I was so stressed out in those two panicked months that I stopped gaining weight until part-way through my third trimester. Our landlord finally relented to letting us stay until after my baby was born, although he harassed us relentlessly soon after my son was born.

Losing the homestead hit me hard, harder than I thought although I guess all those tears should have clued me in. Without it I feel worthless, like a horse not pulling it's weight in tandem. I feel like a part of me has been ripped out and lost. I didn't realize just how much of my self-worth was wrapped up in being a contributor. In feeling like I was doing something meaningful by putting food on our table, keeping a living larder of resources fed and cared for. Giving my son the chance to see life's cycles of birth and death and the ability to play with the animals and eat carrots fresh from the ground. I agonize that our second son won't have those same early experiences and it kills me. Without the grounding force of all those natural cycles to keep track of and be apart of I feel cut off, adrift and useless.

Despite the hopeful box of seeds packed up and sitting on my shelf I can't root myself anywhere, the instability of our current situation makes it futile to try and dig in. My homestead resides in a box of seeds, a collection of pots and buckets with perennial plants, and a handful of birds, most past prime production age. Despite there being a lot of potential I am finding it difficult to be hopeful in the face of such daunting insecurity.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

It's 2 AM again...

...and I don't know why I'm still awake. I shouldn't be. I've been sick for a week now, just a cold, but it's made me miserable. Weather hasn't been helping, it was nice today but most of the past 10 days have been raining hard. The yard is flooded, the garden is a soggy mess, the pasture has more puddles than dry space and the mud is horrendous. Thanks for that ducks...

I was (before being inspired to type) busily working on another knitting project, a hat for a friend that is visiting next week. It's a lovely soft alpaca blend, so nice to work with, and the pattern is chock-full of tricksy little cables so it's going a little slow. I have six days to finish it and another hat for his wife since they didn't get any knit goods for Christmas this year. After finishing my MKAL Four Seasons shawl last week I declared that I was done knitting cables for the forseeable future and that I would take a week off knitting to celebrate my shawl success (it turned out lovely.) Apparently I can't see the future very well since I was starting a new project days later with all these cables.

Spring is coming unbelievably fast. February is already half gone and I have seeds in the mail. Baby goats are due in just two months and my goose is already starting a clutch of eggs. The indian plum along the roadways is already blooming, as are some of the willows and the hazlenut bushes. Red alders are getting that rosy glow that happens just before they leaf out and birds are starting their spring serenades all around.

Random ramble over, back to knitting until I'm tired enough to fall asleep (aka making too many mistakes to keep cabling.)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Goals for 2016

I feel like 2016 is off to a good start so far...and cue a two-week hiatus in thinking about this blog...sigh.

lack of inspiration to write aside, I still feel like 2016 is off to a reasonably good start. I feel motivated and excited for the year ahead, which is a nice change.

I began this year with a few small challenges that are keeping life interesting through this bleak part of the year, and of course garden planning is getting underway for the coming season.

One of the challenges is a reading challenge that a friend posted on facebook, a bunch of folks got involved and now we have a whole group page to keep us inspired to read our challenge list. The list has 12 categories that you pick a book for; things like 'a book recommended by a local bookseller, a book that intimidates you, a book published this year' and so forth. I have one book checked off my list (book read in a day) and am a little more than halfway through my intimidating book. I not only can't wait to read the rest of my stack, but I'm finding it oddly inspiring to have the whole list picked out ahead of time and waiting for me. I always have a huge to-read list/pile/shelf to get through, but sometimes the variety and amount of books that I have to read gets overwhelming, and I lose steam because I just can't decide which one to pick up next. Granted there is a lot of non-fiction to read which is hard to do quickly, but the point still stands. Having the list already made I find I'm more excited to finish one and move to the next, but I guess I've always liked having a list to check off. Considering that there are only 12 books on the list I've already made a second list of stretch-goal books to also read.

The other challenge I've been working on is a mystery knit-along (MKAL) from one of my favorite knitwear designers Alana Dakos. She designs pieces inspired by nature with traveling cables, lace and botanical elements that I have really enjoyed. I have made several of her projects and stumbled upon the MKAL by chance while trolling ravelry one night. I was excited to find that I already had the amount of yarn required in my stash, so I signed up for the project and have been working on it all month. It's turning into a lovely project that has been challenging and fun. The clues were released in four parts, the final clue only being available yesterday, and so far I'm mostly on track. I didn't quite finish clue #3 before clue #4 was out, but now I have started on clue #4 and if I can keep momentum and finish the shawl by the 10th I will be eligible to enter the drawing for participants.

Otherwise I have fairly limited goals for this year overall. I went back to look at some of the goals I made last year and it's rather sad how few of them I was able to accomplish. I think the only one I really completed was my reading goal, a paltry 39 books. So some of those goals I hope to carry over into this year. I'd very much like to get more organized with record-keeping for the homestead and I think I finally figured out a way to do so without making too much work for myself. I also hope to spend more time sewing this year instead of just knitting, and to get caught up on some of the carryover projects from the last three years that I still need to make. Last year's beetle incident really put a huge dent in my motivation for that whole idea, and while I still find the occasional larvae or even more rarely adult beetle I feel better knowing that my yarn and out-of-season wool goods are stored better, as well as my feathers and other things that I would like to not be eaten.

We are slowly building on our homesteading skills and tools, but of course there is so much more to learn.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Booklist 2016

A new list for the new year, we'll see if I can make any real progress this year.
  1. Fast Food Nation
  2. Wild Foresting
  3. The Origin of Species
  4. The Empty Ocean
  5. Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability
  6. The Tree*
  7. Ecoforestry
  8. Ecocities
  9. Conserving Forest Biodiversity
  10. The Future of Nature
  11. Totem Salmon
  12. Your Inner Fish
  13. The Weather Makers
  14. The Fatal Harvest Reader
  15. Earth User's Guide to Permaculture
  16. Pacific Salmon and Trout
  17. The Post Carbon Reader
  18. The David Suzuki Reader
  19. Guns, Germs and Steel
  20. The Ecological Rift
  21. Permaculture: A Designer's Manual*
  22. Roots Demystified*
  23. Hot, Flat and Crowded*
  24. Edible Forest Gardens: Vision and Theory*
  25. Edible Forest Gardens: Design and Practice*
  26. Ornithology*
  27. Limits to Growth*
  28. Safe Food 
  29. Peak Everything
  30. Slaughterhouse
  31. Our Choice
  32. Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares
  33. Four-Season Harvest
  34. The Greatest Show on Earth
  35. The Long Thaw
  36. The Wolf's Tooth
  37. Seed to Seed
  38. Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Vol 1 
  39. Keeping Honey Bees
  40. Climate Cover-Up
  41. Walden and Other Writings
  42. Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Vol 2
  43. Life in the Soil
  44. The CAFO Reader
  45. Small-scale Grain Raising
  46. Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades
  47. Atlas of Pacific Salmon
  48. The Skeptical Environmentalist 
  49. Systems Thinking, a primer
  50. Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties
  51. What Evolution Is
  52. The God Delusion
  53. The World According to Monsanto
  54. The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy
  55. The Balance of Nature 
  56. Radical Simplicity 
  57. The Transition Handbook
  58. Where the Wild Things Were
  59. Bringing Nature Home
  60. The Song of the Dodo
  61. Bioshelter Market Garden
  62. Rewilding North America
  63. Rewilding the World
  64. Suburban Nation
  65. A-Z Guide to Flowers
  66. Beef Cattle: keeping a small-scale herd
  67. Evolution: the triumph of an idea
  68. Attracting Native Pollinators
  69. The Ancestor's Tale
  70. Bees, Wasps, and Ants
  71. Noah's Garden
  72. Eaarth
  73. The Raw Milk Revolution 
  74. Rocket Mass Heaters 
  75. The Sustainability Revolution
  76. Get Up, Stand Up
  77. Create an Oasis with Greywater
  78. Northwest Green Home Primer
  79. Serious Straw Bale 
  80. The Hand-Sculpted House
  81. Creating a Life Together
  82. Roundwood Timber Framing 
  83. The New Strawbale House
  84. The Nature Principle 
  85. The World is Blue 
  86. Recovering a Lost River*
  87. Dog Days, Raven Nights*
  88. Inside of a Dog
  89. Wild Law
  90. Cottonwood and the River of Time
  91. Eagle Dreams*
  92. The Pine Island Paradox
  93. Perennial Vegetables
  94. The Good Life
  95. Condors in Canyon Country
  96. Landscaping with Fruit
  97. The Rodale Book of Composting
  98. The Sheep Book
  99. You Grow Girl
  100. Urban Homesteading
  101. Vertical Gardening
  102. Garden Insects of North America
  103. Build Your Own Earth Oven
  104. The Edible Front Yard
  105. The Encyclopedia of Country Living
  106. Bird Coloration 
  107. Living with Pigs
  108. Natural Grace
  109. Unquenchable 
  110. The Flower Farmer
  111. The Good Rain
  112. Wild Logging
  113. Draft Horses and Mules
  114. The Quarter-Acre Farm
  115. Sharing the Harvest
  116. Gathering
  117. Guide to Raising Horses
  118. Oxen
  119. In the Company of Crows and Ravens
  120. A Natural History of Sex
  121. Handbook of Northwest Gardening*
  122.  Ecomind
  123. Dry Storeroom #1
  124. Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior 1
  125. Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior 2
  126. Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior 3
  127. Mortgage Free
  128. Salmon in the Trees
  129. The Transition Companion
  130. Making Your Small Farm Profitable
  131. You Can Farm
  132. The Winter Harvest Handbook
  133. Organic Gardening
  134. The Vegetarian Myth
  135. Self-Sufficiency  
  136. Reclaiming Our Food
  137. Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes*
  138. Folklore of Birds*
  139. Food Rebels, Guerrilla Gardeners, and Smart-Cookin' Mamas
  140. Consulting the Genius of the Place
  141. Homegrown Herbs
  142. The Holistic Orchard
  143. Managing Your Woods
  144. Shardik
  145. Chicken
  146. Livestock Guardians 
  147. This Organic Life
  148. Food Inc 
  149. Livestock Protection Dogs 
  150. New Organic Grower 
  151. The Urban Farm Handbook 
  152. Training Workhorses, Training Teamsters 
  153. Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning
  154. Workhorse Handbook 
  155. Good Bug Bad Bug
  156. The Big Year
  157. Slow Food Nation
  158. Medicinal Herbs
  159. Crow Planet
  160. Wendell Berry New Collected Poems
  161. What Are People For
  162. Year-Round Vegetable Gardener
  163. Old Growth in a New World
  164. Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage
  165. Forest Gardening
  166. Backyard Cow
  167. Aquaponic Gardening 
  168. Guide to Raising Pigs
  169. Rambunctious Garden
  170. Sewing Basics 
  171. Permaculture Handbook
  172. Mend it Better
  173. Llamas and Alpacas 
  174. Sewn by Hand
  175. Essential Guide to Calving
  176. Horse Lover's Encyclopedia
  177. Sheepish
  178. When Technology Fails
  179. Guide to Raising Beef Cattle
  180. Water Storage 
  181. Guide to Raising Meat Goats 
  182. Backyard Homestead Guide to Farm Animals 
  183. Building with Cob
  184. Winter Gardening in the Maritime Northwest 
  185. The Intelligent Gardener 
  186. Rebuilding the Foodshed (ARC)
  187. Farms with a Future*
  188. How to Build Your Own Greenhouse 
  189. Vegetable Gardener's Guide to Permaculture
  190. The Herbal Home Remedy Book
  191. Cob Builders Handbook
  192. Circular Knitting Workshop
  193. Grass-Fed Cattle
  194. Guide to Hatching and Brooding your own Chicks 
  195. The Thinking Beekeeper
  196. Insects of the Pacific Northwest 
  197. The Soul of Soil
  198. Following the Water 
  199. Flowers and Herbs of Early America 
  200. Homeowner's Energy Handbook 
  201. Life Rules
  202. Tiny Homes
  203. New Horse-Powered Farm
  204. The Organic Seed Grower
  205. Natural Living
  206. Cool Season Gardener
  207. Homeward Bound
  208. Cows Save the Planet
  209. Gaining Ground
  210. The Backyard Sheep
  211. Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Food Rights
  212. The 5 Stages of Collapse
  213. Elwha: A River Reborn
  214. The Resilient Farm and Homestead
  215. The Whole Goat Handbook
  216. Backyard Berry Book
  217. Underminers
  218. 96 Horse Breeds of North America
  219. Householder's Guide to the Universe
  220. Mobile Poultry Slaughterhouse
  221.  Fields of Farmers
  222. Gene Everlasting (ARC)
  223. Wolves in the Land of Salmon
  224. At the Kitchen Table
  225. Field Guide to Fleece
  226. Electric Fencing
  227. What's Wrong with my Fruit Garden
  228. Nourishing Traditions*
  229. Home is where the School Is*
  230. Knit Stitch*
  231. Teaming with Nutrients
  232. Earth Repair
  233. Wild Fermentation
  234. Grass, Soil, Hope (ARC)
  235. Earth User's Guide to Teaching Permaculture
  236. Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden
  237. Think Like A Commoner
  238. Backyard Homestead book of Building Projects
  239. How to Grow More Vegetables
  240. Needles and Artifice
  241. Introduction to Heritage Breeds
  242. Making Hay
  243. Solar Food Dryer
  244. Herbal Remedy Gardens
  245. A Modern Look at Straw Bale Construction
  246. Drink the Harvest
  247. The Market Gardener 
  248. Herbs for Stress and Anxiety 
  249. Farming with Native Beneficial Insects  
  250. Botany in a Day
  251. Beekeeping: A Practical Guide
  252. The Tao of Vegetable Gardening 
  253. Honeybee Democracy
  254. The Small-Scale Dairy
  255. The Nourishing Homestead 
  256. Sacred Earth Celebrations
  257. Integrated Forest Gardening
  258. Natural Goat Care
  259. Weekend Homesteader
  260. Micro Eco-Farming
  261. Organic Farmer's Business Handbook
  262. The New Livestock Farmer
  263. Resilient Agriculture
  264. The Water-Wise Home
  265. Herbs for Common Ailments
  266. The Magician's Land
  267. The Woodland Homestead
  268. Fool's Assassin
  269. The Soapmaker's Companion
  270. The Natural Building Companion
  271. Full Moon Feast
  272. Cooking Close to Home
  273. The Knowledgeable Knitter*
  274. H is for Hawk*
  275. The Black Jewels Trilogy*
  276. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms*
  277. Permaculture for the Rest of Us*
  278. Backyard Homestead book of Kitchen Know-How*
  279. The Permaculture City*
  280. Sourdough*
  281. Horse-Powered Farming for the 21st Century*
  282. Reptiles of the Northwest
  283. Amphibians of Washington and Oregon
  284. Orchard Mason Bee
  285. The Dutch Oven Cookbook
  286. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Quiz Book
  287. Beowolf
  288. The Country of Ice Cream Star
  289. Knit the Sky

Books recently read

I didn't get a lot of reading done in the last few months of 2015 since I went a little overboard on the holiday knitting and spent basically three months doing nothing but. But I did finish up a few things, so here's the last of the books that I read in 2015.

The Seed Underground - by Janisse Ray: This book didn't turn out to be exactly what I was expecting. Considering all the controversy around seed patenting and the grassroots push for more open-pollinated, locally-adapted seeds I was expecting a book that was more antagonistic toward the Big Ag players that control so much of the global seed supply right now. Instead I was drawn into a lovely, poetic book that rhapsodized the stories of seeds and the history they represent. Ray relates the stories and seeds that drew her in to the magical world of gardening and seed-saving, the tragedies of lost varieties and her desperate, personal struggle to find seeds that she had lost. Her words inspire you to seek out heirlooms and treasure them. This book should be required reading for anyone who gardens, anyone who eats.

The Palace Job - by Patrick Weekes: A fun, fast-paced fantasy Ocean's 11, with the most hilarious cast of characters that I've ever encountered. You never know whether the plan is working or has gone horribly wrong.

Life Everlasting - by Bernd Heinrich: In classic Heinrich style this brilliant exploration of natural history takes you on a easy-to-follow but science-filled journey into what happens in nature when things die. He examines a variety of ecosystems ranging from temperate forests here in North America to the savannas of Africa and even the deep oceans, zeroing in on key players in the recycling of nutrients to tell the story of life after death.

Cast On, Bind Off - by Leslie Ann Bestor: A super-helpful resource for any knitter, this little spiral-bound book covers 33 different ways to cast on and 21 ways to bind off your projects. Broken down by the characteristics of each (basic, stretchy, decorative, etc...) and with handy quick-reference charts on the inside of the front and back cover this guide is easy to use. Each cast-on or bind off is described and specific types of projects are recommended before it's broken down step by step with reference photographs. I've found this book helpful when a project calls for a specific cast-on that I'm unfamiliar with, or to identify a type of cast-off that wasn't named specifically by I liked and wanted to keep in mind for future projects. I still sometimes need to reference a YouTube videos for help with the more complicated techniques, but you can't beat this book for being able to flip through and see the possibilities.

Reading now:  Sacred Earth Celebrations - by Glennie Kindred

On the readar: I'm doing something a little different this year, and in addition to my quantity goal of reading 40 books this year, I'm also participating in a 2016 reading challenge that provides a bunch of categories for you to pick a book in. So those books are at the top of my current reading list.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Books recently read

The Water Knife - by Paolo Bacigalupi: This is a surreal book about a near-future dystopia where the southwest region has come to crisis over lack of water. The Colorado river is the only lifeline left in a time when groundwater leaves wells dry and aquifers are pumped empty. Dust-bowl style exoduses have led to states closing their borders to water refugees, setting the stage for lawlessness. Ruthless business interests try to control and secure their future by acquiring senior rights to the ever-dwindling river, by any means necessary. Caught up in the tale are a cast of desperate characters that are trying to escape a doomed way of life in any way they can. With an all-too-realistic mentality this cautionary tale will suck you into a vortex of back-stabbing action as an old, old water right is discovered near Phoenix.

Insects and Gardens - by Eric Grissell: This book has some really interesting information in it, but to get to it you must first wade through the author's condescending attitude towards anyone who is not an entomologist. While I believe he was trying to come off as funny and entertaining the end result was the feeling that the author had mild contempt for his audience and was a pretentious jerk. I'm sure that's (probably) not what he was going for and imagine that the book could have benefited from a better editor. This feeling was particularly borne out with the repeated assumption that gardeners (laypersons) were both squeamish and unobservant, insects and other bugs having been heretofore only a deadly nemesis to be banished from the perennial border at all costs. I quickly grew tired of this attitude.

On the upside the book is chock full of gorgeous macro-photography giving you a beautiful look at some of the smaller residents of our gardens, and the later sections of the book delve into a well-rounded look at the importance of insects within a garden ecology and how to maximize the benefactors while inhibiting the destructive members of the group. Grissell also addresses some of the more common fears associated with insects and where they have been exaggerated. There is good information here, especially if you've never given much thought to insects before, it's just a matter of wading through what I felt were pretentious comments and attitudes.

Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant - by Veronica Roth: I had mixed feeling about this trilogy. The first book I felt had a strong plot, interestingly flawed characters, and came to a compelling if slightly forced ending. The second book was more disorganized, I felt like the characters were making choices that didn't make sense and the reveal at the end just felt constructed. By the third book I didn't really want to read any more, kept putting it off, and finally pushed myself through the disjointed plot just to finish the trilogy. I can't quite put my finger on what I didn't like, but things just stopped flowing around half-way through the second book. I probably would have been more invested in the third book if the POV change hadn't happened, I would start a chapter and keep having to remind myself which point of view I was in. As a game of thrones fan this isn't usually a problem for me, but having the change come out of left field in the last book just threw me for a loop. While the dystopia Roth created (and the implications of such) has a reflection both in the past and future something about how it was revealed and handled just didn't jive.

Sepp Holzer's Permaculture - by Sepp Holzer: Sepp Holzer is a visionary man who has been practicing 'permaculture' for more than 40 years on 100 acres of land at 5000 feet of elevation in Austria. Since his youth he's been learning from the land, experimenting and developing systems that are self-maintaining and high yield. He does all of this on land that most people would consider good only for summer grazing of sheep or cattle.

I liked this book for a number of reasons, one of the most important being it's readability. There are a lot of permaculture books that have been published in the last ten years, and many of those fall into a logical, although slightly tiresome, pattern of organization. More technical and textbook-style in appearance these books define permaculture, and then proceed to walk you through the steps of design, implementation, and maintenance of a permaculture landscape. Holzer does it differently. He can only be said to loosely practices mollison-style permaculture since he's been farming on his mountainside for longer than the term permaculture has been around. Instead of talking you through it, Holzer SHOWS it to you. If those other books are like sitting in a classroom, this book is like going on a walk through Holzer's gardens and hillfarms. He takes you out, gives you the major points, tells you a few stories, and leaves you to come to your own conclusions.

That's not to say that he doesn't include some step-by-step directions where they make sense, but the overall message is 'be observant, pay attention, be humble.' An excellent read with excellent ideas and inspirations.

Butchering: Poultry, Rabbit, Lamb, Goat and Pork - by Adam Danforth: This is hands-down the BEST single resource for home-butchering that I have come across. With detailed breakdowns of the process and techniques for both slaughtering and butchering poultry, rabbits, goats/sheep and pigs. Opening chapters discuss tools, general procedure, safety and technique while later chapters detail particular animal types with step-by-step color photos. Each animal type is covered in two back-to-back chapters, one covering the slaughtering process including a flowchart of dirty/clean tasks, and the other covering butchering from the primals to individual cuts of meat. Wrapping up this phenomenal resource is a chapter on storage and food safety.

Whether you are a complete novice starting at square one, looking for tips, or brushing up this book (and it's very reasonable price tag for the content,) will be a gem. I reach for it before every butchering day just to refresh my mind, and have loved it. I learned new techniques for animals that I was already comfortable butchering as well as gained confidence to deal with larger animals. My husband and I used this book as our guide to butcher a goat this year and everything went amazingly smooth, a huge improvement over the first goat we had to cull from our herd. Danforth manages to describe not only the location and order of events but also particular motions to make certain operations easier (pulling the esophagus from a goat is like leveraging a fishing pole.) I just cannot articulate how helpful this book has been to us, particularly for the amazing photography. Most other butchering books I've come across either have line drawings or photos that primarily deal with the butchering and not so much the slaughtering and particularly eviscerating which is where you really want the most guidance.

Bottom line? If you are raising and butchering your own meat, get this book!

Herbs for Children's Health - by Rosemary Gladstar: A newer book in Storey's Basics series, this book is exactly what the title states, a guide to herbs for kids. Gladstar opens with an eye-opening and helpful comment on the safety of herbal remedies, revealing that overdoses with herbal remedies are so infrequent that the American Association of Poison Control Centers don't even have a special category for them, compared to 2500 legally prescribed medication deaths per year. She then covers some of the basic tenets of treatment, start with the smallest effective dose, how to deal with possibly allergies, and that you use both 'modern' medicine and herbal remedies in tandem. The rest of the book is broken into two main sections, the first being a catalog of the best herbs for children; which part you use and how; benefits of. The second section looks at common childhood ailments; colds, flu, skin problems, earache and the like while following up with suggestions for herbal treatments. The last section revolves around how to make herbal remedies and dosage information.

This is a topic that I've been learning about for years and is one thing that I have had the most trouble implementing in my life, but having books like this make herbal remedies much more accessible. Although I don't always follow through with the advice here, this is one of the first books I reach for when my son has any issues.

Armada - by Ernest Cline: This second novel by Cline holds up well to the high standard he set with Ready Player One for a fast-paced, action-packed romp through video game and science fiction geekdom. Set in our time this book tosses gamer geeks together with alien invasions to create an amazing book. I can't get into too many details without spoiling everything so if you're a sci-fi fan or a gamer geek get your hands on a copy and read it now!

Get Your Pitchfork On! - by Kristy Athens: The entire goal of this book is to expose some of the nitty-gritty realities of rural living to those who come from urban or suburban lifestyles and think they want to move to 'the country.' It's the opposite of homesteading porn, instead of glossy pictures of the good life there are concise sections dealing with the bare-bones facts of rural life; property maintenance, winter prep and small town politics. While I applaud the effort to remove the blinders that many people have with regards to rural living, the overall effect is rather depressing. The entire section on animals was particularly irksome, the author apparently kept chickens and found them moderately interesting but seemed to have a vendetta against roosters with an entire page devoted to negative commentary. She doesn't appear to have had direct contact with any of the other livestock varieties discussed, mentioning anecdotes here and there along with the worst of the personality types. The entire food section was a snore-fest for me (I ended up skipping large parts of it,) not even livened by the tongue-in-cheek snark that is present in some other sections. The final section on rural community leaves you with the distinct suggestion that no matter how hard you try or how long you stay you'll never be accepted in a small town.  If this is your first look at what a rural life might entail you may soon find yourself running the other way.

Reading now: The Palace Job - by Patrick Weekes, The Seed Underground - by Janisse Ray, and Life Everlasting - by Bernd Heinrich.

On the readar: The Nourishing Homestead - by Ben Hewitt, The Magician's Land - by Lev Grossman, and The Tree - by Colin Tudge.

Friday, October 23, 2015


I came across this picture on my phone and couldn't help but smile. The endearing hope of a new farm birth is one of the reasons we keep doing what we're doing. We sold the last of the goatlings just this week, so now our little herd is back down to it's core, twin does and and a cranky ewe. We've been in the process of culling down the head count for a month now, butchering rabbits and a goat, selling some, and others that need to be butchered. I'm not sure where the past months have gotten to, this year is flying by so fast that I almost don't feel like I'm living it. Like instead I'm watching someones life. Yet at the same time individual days can move so painstakingly slowly. Autumn is here, and the theme of death with it.

An unfinished thought...

 I discovered this unfinished post that has been languishing since probably august, I no longer remember what else I had planned to say, but the rest still holds.

Summer is a frantic, frenetic time on our fledgling homestead. With the garden in full swing, produce to preserve and farm babies running every which way it's always a crazy time, but the addition of a moderate drought in our area adds even more tension.

This is the hardest time of year for me.

This is the time I find myself wondering what on earth we're DOING the most.

I generally have high expectations of myself, I always have. When you combine that with a homestead (where the work never ends) you apparently have a recipe for disaster. I want to do it all, get it all done, and be on top of my ball ALL the time. Which is of course impossible on a homestead. That doesn't keep me from running myself ragged trying. Of course I am also a mother, something that still catches me off guard sometimes, and currently a mother to a very active and inquisitive 18-month-old. Which means that anything I am trying to accomplish happens about 3 times slower than without a toddler.

This translates into guilt, lots of it.

Guilt that I forgot to call a friend back, guilt that I still didn't get around to that thing in the barnyard, guilt that I let a whole row of lettuce go to seed without using any because I was too busy to plan any meals to include it, guilt that I can't go visit my friends or family more often, guilt that I never take my child to the playground or arrange playdates....

Most of the year my rational self can recognize most of this guilt for what it is, worrying too much, and I can let it go. Summer is a different beast, with so much to do, and so much of it on a timeline I will find myself going from morning to night without stopping, falling exhausted into bed, and still feeling like I didn't DO enough that day. Just like making hay while the sun shines, you have to make pickles when you have cukes, make jam when you have fruit, and in between you have to weed, water, milk, and muck. So summers end up feeling like this mad dash where there isn't any time to catch my breath or make any plans.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Garden update: July 2015

Yesterday was a great day for working in the garden, in the low 70's and cloudy with a light breeze it was a perfect day to finally get caught up on some weeding and path clearing that needed to be addressed out there, and I snapped a few updated pictures in between buckets of weeds.

As you can see just about everything is doing extremely well, corn, sunflowers and tomatoes have all breached head high, many of the paths are all but impassable, in particular where buckwheat is falling out of the oat bed, and calendula are collapsing out of the beds everywhere, along with the nasturtiums and borage that volunteered all over the place. I LOVE garden volunteers, especially flowers, and yet there is the recurring theme in my garden that volunteer plants get rowdy and out of hand, consuming walkways and elbowing intentionally planted things out of the way.

There are supposed to be five other tomato plants in that mass of calendula there, which I will have to unbury and stake next week. The calendula also desperately needs to be deadheaded, and I need to collect some flowers to dry. Last year I tried to save a bunch against some future projects...but apparently didn't get them dry enough because I opened the jar later to use some and found a moldy/fermented mass of yuck.

The oats are looking like a bit of a failed experiment at this point, while they started out promising and are just about out of the 'milk' stage the sparrows discovered them about a week ago and I don't think there's much least not enough to be worth trying to thresh. So lesson learned there I suppose, Grains grown on a micro scale are extremely susceptible to pests...I'll probably cut down the whole stand in the next few days and let the goats have a treat, then rework the bed and plant some crops for fall.

The cattle beans are putting out beans like crazy, I'm tentatively hopeful that with the dry dry weather I'll have less problems with the beans molding this summer. I really need to do some more research and see if I'm just planting them too close together or if bush beans are just prone to flopping over as they mature. Every year I've grown these it seems like all is going well until they start to flower, and then the weight of all the beans invariably results in the whole plant getting pulled over.

At the far right of the above picture you can see my pitiful runner beans, I pulled some poor planning planting them on the north edge of the garden where apparently they are competing poorly with the encroaching tree roots from the asinine poplars that were planted there. You can also see the growth difference between the nasturtiums there at the base of the trellis compared to the much healthier growth just 6 feet away at the base of the bean teepees. 

From the other end of our garden beds you can see the very happy little watermelon vines, we have several budding watermelons the biggest of which is fist-sized currently. Next in the bed is a patch of carrots, which despite some spotty germination and loss to slugs is starting to fill out. The brassicas fill the end of the bed, which I am particularly proud of because I grew them all from seed instead of purchasing starts. Several of the broccoli heads are ready to be harvested already!

There are a few struggling flowers in the foreground, including a small bed of chamomile on the extreme right side of the front bed. I need to actually get out and harvest some of the flowers to dry as well. The peas are in full stride, and we can't eat all we're picking, beets and chard are ready to harvest, the leeks are doing very well and putting on lots of growth. Some of the dill is starting to take off but I still feel like the plants overall are struggling, while the cucumbers have been off to a very slow start, with the one surviving plant from my very first planting beginning to flower and set fruit, but the majority of the plants (3rd planting) are still getting established and haven't yet started to vine. It's a little irritating because with only plant producing (all pickling cukes) I can't gather enough to make any preserves yet, but I'm sure the other vines will catch up and I will get to make more pickles eventually.

The pole beans have finally taken off and are rapidly reaching the tops of their teepees, green beans in the near future! Our little patty-pan squash plants are HUGE, and have been pumping out male flowers for a few days, female flowers are on the way and I'm excited for all the cute little squash that we'll get (seriously these plants are taller than my waist!)

Most of the greens are bolted by now, the arugula, mustards, spinach and lettuces are all in various stages of fruiting. Some I will leave to their own devices and save seed from for this fall and next year. Others I will cut or trim soon so that I can get ready for a hopefully bountiful fall crop of delicious salad.

That's all for now, still learning lots from my garden and learning about new varieties. What have you planted this year, what's growing, what have you learned?