Hobbitry Homestead: Past and Present | Fall 2016 |

Probably around this time last year, I intended to write a post giving a little tour of our very humble homestead. I probably should have, because last autumn we had just reached our peak (in only the two years we’ve lived here) and since then things have reached a standstill. Regardless of our slow progress, please humor me as I relate our current state of affairs! 😉

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humble beginnings (circa May 2015)

When we first found this home, we automatically fell in love with the property. We live on 3/4 of an acre, but it feels a little larger than that because our property is narrow and long. When we moved here, instead of maybe painting or undergoing minor renovations to the inside of the house, we instantly began to work on the outside. First by laying the bed for our first vegetable garden, purchasing our first chickens, building our first chicken run, and planting our first fruit trees.

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sowing seeds

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building the chicken run

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the day we moved the first flock of chicks outside

Within the past year and a half, the homestead has been through quite a lot. Some of our blunders include…Losing our first flock of chickens to a mean decapitating raccoon. I still remember the shock when my husband told me that morning. (They were the most beautiful breed with have had so far too!) We have gone through four roosters. Two were lost to the raccoon, two were lost to us because they were too aggressive. Two meat birds escaped by accident and never came back. And then of course, there are your typical gardening blunders that everyone runs into if they have a vegetable garden (squash vine borers, frost, wild rabbits eating young plants, crops shooting to seed too early, etc). With each set back though, we have been able to learn much more. Over here we truly do learn as we go.

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Jean Lafitte, our 3rd rooster, still a little teenager here

Writing about all these gardening specifics makes me sad…why…well ever since I became pregnant and started to [temporarily] work part time last Fall, the garden has fallen by the wayside. You see, our homestead would not be alive were it not for the stamina, enthusiasm, and resourcefulness of my husband. If he wants something done, he gets it done. He mainly oversees the animals, and I [used to] oversee the garden. We work together, and we just get excited about different things. However, with the pregnancy and the part-time job, I slowed down – which was necessary and good. I focused more on lesson planning and soaking up my time with my toddler, soon to be big sister.Unfortunately [and not a surprise] the garden gradually went dead soon after Rainer was born. But thankfully, our rabbits [again, my husband’s work] have been flourishing.

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One of the last harvests, this past May

 

At the height of our garden days, we had healthy blueberry bushes, producing lemon trees, and an annual vegetable garden of all sorts of greens, herbs, and veggies that would make its way to the dinner table. Since then, we have had to get rid of the blueberry bushes, my lemon trees have been struggling, and our vegetable garden is no more. On the plus side, the guava tree that we thought was killed by frost has grown back and is just as healthy as it was last year. Our fig trees are beginning to produce, our apple tree is strong, and our front porch herb garden is growing wonderfully. Our feijoa bushes might be struggling a little bit though.

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Guava tree guild in its infancy

The animal side of things is still looking good! We have 6 hens at the moment, and they are probably over a year at this point. In the Spring, we plan on getting some chicks to eventually replace them. Last winter Ross started our first meat bird operation, which we might do again once we have a better set up to raise chicks.

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Last Spring

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newly built chicken tractor last fall

This past spring we introduced rabbits to the homestead, which so far has been more economical and efficient than raising our own meat birds. When we first began, both Ross and I were a little hesitant. Rabbits are much cuter than chickens, but in the end, it’s really not all that bad. It is much more fulfilling knowing exactly how the meat on your plate was raised and treated throughout its life and knowing that you had a hand in it.

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Scruffy the Rabbit, one of the Papas

Now that I am finally at a comfortable rhythm with these two kids, I am really eager to get back at work in the garden. I plan on preparing a new bed, this time closer to the backdoor for easy, quick access. There is also a lot to be done with the existing fruit trees, but I’m working on one step at a time. There are many more goals and dreams to move forward, but for now, it is a blessing to take a step back and see far we have come. Most especially, I love that we have our two littles who can enjoy the yard.

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This used to be our main garden. We are now clearing the area completely.

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Ross built that gate from scrap wood, using his own design. There are muscadine vines on each side.

For those of you that do garden, what are your favorite things about gardening? What is your strong suit?

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Seven Quick Takes, Vol. 2

It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these, but I hope to be writing them more often!

These past several days have been fast-paced, slow-paced, exciting, nerve-wracking, joyful, and tiring. First we’ll get the serious out of the way. 😉

ONE

Last week and the last week prior my mother was very sick. During Holy Week, she has pleurisy which is an inflammation of the lungs. Then following the week after Easter Sunday, she ended up in the ER where they ran a whole host of tests on her. Nothing came back positive, but they sent her home with an antibiotic and a narcotic. After that ER visit, she began to feel worse and worse (I heard this all long distance, we live a thousand miles apart) and she had extremely painful migraines along with head and back pain. She could barely sit up in bed and eat. She saw a doctor that weekend, but he was not very helpful. We were all so worried because it seemed that nobody could determine what was wrong. Then, almost a week after the first ER visit, they took her to the ER a second time. It turns out that she had a spinal headache which is a rare complication of the spinal tap she received during her first ER visit. She received a blood patch, and hours later she said she felt like a new person. I read later that spinal headaches can been some of the most debilitating and excruciating headaches you can experience (the fluid in your brain and spine is all off). THAT being said, if you have a spinal tap or even an epidural and end up with a terrible headache and back pain, you probably have a spinal headache!

TWO

As I briefly mentioned in my last post, Ross pulled up the carpet in our living room and hallway. He filled in the nail holes in the concrete, sanded it, mopped it, and then applied a few coats of Benjamin Moore’s Distant Grey. It’s an odd name for the color, as it’s really very white. We love it so far, but the work is not completely done. The walls desperately need to be painted, as they look so goofy with the white floors. Luckily, the Christmas gift card we kept for paint should cover most of the rest of that. As for now, we were going to give the floor several days to “age” and then Ross will be applying a protective wax coating. Though we have our area rug for the living room, we have yet to find a super long runner and still need to install shoe moulding at the baseboards.

 

after the first coat

THREE

We had friends in town from DC for a job interview and to visit with us for a few days. While Ross was working on the floor and we waiting for the paint to dry, the three of us had been staying in the temporary home where his family have been for the past 3 weeks since the flood. (Our renovation was unnecessary, their’s is necessary). Therefore, our guests were all over the place during their short visit. On their last full day here, we were finally able to come to our place and sleep here due to the paint being dry enough. Regardless of our vagabond status, we all still had a very nice time together. 🙂

 

Lu and Chiara

FOUR

The bunnies are getting bigger and bigger and cuter and cuter. We’re trying not to get too attached to them. 😉 They are still in the indoor cage with their mother, and Ross will be building their rabbit tractor for them to move to pasture this weekend. (We do a lot of things last minute or spontaneously around here). They are still nursing, but they are now enthusiastically eating greens and pellets.

FIVE

The broilers (cornish cross) are getting bigger and bigger. They’ve been out on pasture for a couple weeks or so now. They are such strange chickens! It took a while for them to learn how to forage, and it is insane (and sad) how quickly they grow. I can’t get over how goofy and fat they look. We weren’t planning on using this particular breed, but you work with what you have!

SIX

Since the Spring has coincided with my third trimester, I really haven’t put as much time and care towards our garden. Ross has put forth most of the efforts. Though things are all over the place, we are gradually adding more and more. What I love this time around is the overlap we have from the Fall/Winter garden into the Spring garden, which we didn’t have last year. We’ve had an abundance of kale, and we harvested our first batch of carrots for our dinner last night. This weekend I’ll be adding more vegetables of the squash variety (summer squash, cantaloupe). Last year, I had a full on battle with squash vine borers (UGH). This year however, we’ve introduced a lot of new soil and manure that wasn’t formerly on our property, so I believe that will help to confuse them when they come back.

SEVEN

This is more of Ross’ update, not mine. 🙂 While his parents were out of town this weekend they found this beauty. My husband is blacksmith, who has never owned an actual anvil. (Apparently, they are very hard and expensive to come by.) They gifted it to him as a birthday gift, and he was over the moon.

 

handsome, happy man

Well, they wasn’t particularly “quick” but there you go! Until next time!

A Springtime Weekend in Louisiana

It is February 22, and I believe it’s safe to determine that it is springtime in Louisiana. As a Virginia native, I admit that I oftentimes miss the snow and chill. Since however, I have now spent three winters in the deep South, I confess that I truly appreciate the seasons here (though I sorely miss having real autumns). First of all, winter only lasts about two months here, and in the case of this winter – it’s probably been less than two months! Planting time for the Spring begins in February, and the birds and squirrels came back out a few weeks ago. In most of the country, chickens either cease laying or their laying decreases dramatically. Yet, by January all of our young hens who had not yet begun laying because of age, were all laying! Of course there are positives and negatives. Summertime here is brutal. Comparable to how people in the North avoid being outside in the winter due to weather, we stay inside during the summer for the same reason. Nevertheless, I have a newfound appreciation for Spring because of Louisiana.

Over here at Hobbitry Homestead, we had a quiet weekend as a family – the first one in a while. Saturday was glorious. The three of us slept in (as late as can be expected for a family with a 17 month old and hungry backyard animals). We enjoyed breakfast together then spent almost the entire day outside with a nap break for the tot and a show break for the parents. Lu is finally now walking, and she had an absolute blast outside of the chicken run walking back and forth talking to the chickens and trying to feed them weeds and grass. She literally played for hours by herself. We of course had a close eye on her, but she was very insistent on wanting to explore on her own. Every now and then she would shout “hey!” but other than that she loved the independence.


Ross built a somewhat permanent paddock shift system – one that he had been wanting to build for a year now. He amazes me with how quickly and methodically he uses his resources to build whatever structures we’ve needed on the homestead. He never draws up plans, and he merely pieces everything together himself (the chicken coop, the rabbit hutch, the gate to the run, the fencing system, etc). Plus, most of those structures were built 90% out of scrap materials.

I began to sow the seeds for the spring garden, which we had previously weeded and cleaned up the weekend before. We still have some broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, and garlic growing from the Fall planting, and I just sowed pole and bush beans, peas, beets, radishes, and more kale. As we get further along into March we’ll add summer squash, more peas and beans, tomatoes, more herbs, okra, swiss chard, runner beans, and whatever else we decide to add. Our seed inventory is still pretty large from last year, and thankfully we probably do not have to order any seed this season – other than whatever forage crop we will sow for the animals. I like to do a mix of direct seeding, growing our own transplants, and buying a few special seedlings from the farmer’s market.

Yesterday, we had one of the best Sundays in a while. We went to our usual Mass time. Lu napped afterward while we had our typical brunch at home, complete with much needed catch up conversation from the week. And upon Lúthien’s waking, we made a family outing to the park by the river. We stopped by the playground, gave her a swing, walked by the riverside, and sat in the grass picking clover. It is such a joy to have a walking child, especially one who takes such beautiful delight in it (plus, this has been a long time coming – 17 months!!). Sunday finished out with a drive around downtown, and our traditional dinner with Ross’ parents.

Thank you Lord for Sundays. Ross may have to start working on Sundays again, but we’re grateful for our weekends for the time being.

daddy-daughter gardening date last weekend

 

 

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