That’s right, you heard it. Homestead.
I’m officially calling it a homestead now. Before it was just a couple of acres in the country that we RENT. I’ve spent the 20ish months that we have lived here day dreaming about starting a homestead. Everyone who knows me knows that that is what I really aspire to do with my life, but practicality and money play a big role in preventing me from doing so.
So. . . when we moved in here, the first two things that I asked my landlord were:
1.) Can I have chickens?
2.) Can I plant a garden?
To both of which she answered a heart-wrenching “No.” Something to do with not wanting to tear up the yard. Which I find perplexing since we are out in the country with quite a bit of land. Dream crushed. I gave up, mostly, but was still happy with living out of town in an absolutely beautiful area. We have LOTS of wildlife, a water source, great views, and rarely anyone around unless we invite them. Plus I’m close enough to town, that driving in for work isn’t that big of a deal.
Then last summer, while taking care of my friends’ four-year-old daughter, we grew some tomatoes from seed on the porch. This ended up pretty well being a bust. We didn’t put enough much effort into them to be honest, and once we got them in containers outdoors, it was basically out of sight out of mind. I also did things like began to make my own household cleaners, bake as much from scratch as I could, et cetera. Little things that I grew up doing and just continued to do so.
Fast forward to this summer. My front porch is East facing and has huge windows to the East and the North. In the spring and summer this is a great place for my indoor plants to get really healthy and strong because they get tons of sunlight and it’s nice and warm. In the winter time not so much simply because it gets very cold on the porch. Also we stack our firewood out there.
This year, on May 24th, I got a wild hair up my ass to plant a little herb garden using these oui yogurt jars (because reusing trash is a good thing to do and well, I wanted herbs) at 1 in the morning. So I did. Immediately this reignited my weird, obsessive need to grow things. I really do love plants and I will try to grow almost anything.
So my porch jungle turned into this (granted I take cuttings from people’s plants whenever they will let me, prefer them as gifts, get seeds for different things and just plant plant plant. . . I also take plants from people who can’t seem to get them to thrive.):
Then, this weekend my sister came to visit from a town about a hundred miles away, and as always asked us down here in tiny town USA if we needed anything from the big city. “Why yes. Yes I do. I need some feeder fish!” This is my middle of the night on a Friday brain here “that way I can use the fish emulsion in my plants and make monster plants! Mwuahahaha!” My sister, darling that she is, got me six feeder goldfish from the pet store and headed down. But wait. I don’t have anyway to keep them or anywhere to buy supplies. So I did what any good thirty-something would do in 2018 and I googled that shit. I googled that shit hard. So what I ended up doing when she first brought them down was put them in a glass gallon jar and tried to feed them lettuce.
But these dummies don’t know lettuce is food because they were raised to be food, not pond fish. So luckily, I found some goldfish flake at the local grocery shopping store. AND THEN! I ended up getting a clear storage tote and filling that baby up with water and plant cuttings so that they had enough room (which technically still isn’t enough, I’m not quite sure what the long term solution is). I read a lot about what plants can go with fish and philodendron are supposed to be a no-no because they are toxic, but I say phooey, my beta I had for many years (in his tiny vase prison that I will never keep a fish in again) lived just fine with the pothos that I had in there with him. (RIP Ralph Macchio) It’s good for the fish and it’s good for the plant. I’m sticking to my guns on that one.
Then. While pruning my plants and picking cherry tomatoes, I discovered that my aphid infestation had come back. About a month ago, I noticed that my pepper plants I had growing on the porch were just infested with those little bastards. So I absolutely soaked them with a thick solution of Dawn dish soap and water that I put in a spray bottle. This penetrates the eggs and kills them before they hatch. Any soft bodied insect it will do the same to and any hard bodied insect it will suffocate because they breathe through their exoskeleton. You can also sprinkle turmeric in the dirt because they don’t like it, or co-plant them with onions because they don’t like that either. Or even bury cut onions in the soil next to the plants. Where there are aphids there are ants because aphids excrete a honeydew substance (that smothers the plants) which ants love so much they will protect the aphids. Ants and aphids = humans and livestock. CREEPSY!
Problem solved right? Yeah until yesterday! I was furious and feeling defeated. They were all over my peppers, had spread to my tomatoes in the next pot that were just about to bloom AND my hanging tomatoes. Following the advise of my mother, in absolute frustration and with the help of my sister moments before she was leaving to go home, I moved the infested plants outside and now I’m praying for ladybugs or green lacewings to come to my rescue.
This was particularly discouraging to me because because my tomatoes grew to about 1 inch of puniness and never grew more any more until about 3 weeks ago. This was my fault, I didn’t pull the stragglers out of each one and let the one plant get stronger, and I left them in their starter cups (old yogurt cups that my dad drilled holes in the bottom of for drainage) for far too long. I had refused to give up. So I moved my wash tub planters in the house, Pulled out the little spindly seedlings leaving one big one in each cup, and them planted them in the wash tub. I then gave them a generous dose of my homemade plant fertilizer and let them explode. I merely propped up the heavy plants with grilling skewers and some ingenuity and they were just fine until those little bastards moved in on me.
Lesson learned here? Next summer when I insist on having an indoor garden again – because I will – because I don’t like to conform to standards and might decide I want to start a pumpkin plant in August. . . – I will be either collecting or ordering lady bugs to live on my porch as well.
My homemade plant fertilizer recipe:
In a clean milk jug add:
1.5 T Epsom Salt
1.5t baking soda
fill with water and shake it like hell. About once a month or so water your plants with it. It’s wonderful. (Use caution with vegetables, because too much fertilizer can burn their roots and kill them!)
Also yesterday our mountains caught fire. It’s devastated about 6000 acres the last I knew. I’m not sure what the number is now. We got a bit concerned last night because of how well we could see the flames from our driveway.
ANNND since I was on a roll. . . Today was one of the rare Monday’s I was able to take off of work so I did two things (soon to be three after this post is finished).
First off – I sucked it up and started my compost pile.
I didn’t have much faith in my ability to do this because of past failure [laziness], but for a couple of weeks now I’ve been saving everything savable in a tub on the counter and it was full to the brim this morning after I dumped my coffee grounds in. Also I cleaned out the fridge so there was about another tub worth of veggie scraps to go.
I’d been procrastinating because I wasn’t sure if I had to put it in a bin or not and Pinterest didn’t want to help me figure that out. Jerk. (Just kidding, I love you. . .) Also I wasn’t sure where it should be located, but it was time to just do it. So – I consulted my mom and a very good friend of mine (and my sister’s boyfriend, but forget her, he was my friend first HA HA HAAA) and they talked me through what I should do and gave me really good tips on what to put in.
I marched outside and surveyed my land and found the perfect spot. Which I immediately second guessed, then later on decided that I need it to be in my first choice spot so tomorrow it has to be moved. . . HA women. . . Anyway, when I was coming back around to my front door I saw it in all of it’s glory. An old, beat up, piece of crap storage tote that I used to use for kindling just getting destroyed by the sun. Huzzah! That beauty was still sturdy enough to hold my rotten food waste! So I put it in location number two (oops) and dumped my ash bucket from my wood-stove in. In that ash bucket was also decomposing bark from when I cleaned out the woodpile in April. Because I’m lazy okay. Anyway this stuff was nearly dirt anyway and a little wood ash is okay. Then I paraded out my veggie scraps and dumped them in. Then I hauled out a bunch of half empty beer cans from a shindig I missed because I was working on Saturday and dumped that in. And then last but certainly not least, I brushed my beautiful shedding husky and put all of her hair that I could catch in the tub. I gave it a good stir and then remembered I was going to put the worms we had left in the garage fridge from that last fishing trip in there! I think that little baby is going to do just fine. I learned this (although I probably wouldn’t have done it anyway) don’t put meat in there because it decomposes differently and will brew bacteria.
Dear God what if I get raccoons in there? Those little bastards are all over out here. Allegedly you can spread Epsom salt around the bin because they don’t like the smell. I’ll give it a try, I will.
Second – I started a batch of vinegar.
Here’s what I did. I spent a few hours (as I tend to do when I’m trying to learn about something) bouncing back and forth between Pinterest and Google and finding out if I had the correct supplies to even start such a venture. Apples (or any fruit scrap)? Check. Sugar? Check. Water? Check. A glass jar? hahaha Check. A breathable cloth such as cheese cloth? Check. A rubber band? Check.
It’s that simple folks.
I’m not a good apple eater. I really want to be, but I find them quite gross. Yet I still try. So normally if I have apples around they are from the tree in the front yard, but for some reason it didn’t produce this year. My assumption is that even though it blossomed, there were not enough pollinators this year. We had a very cool and bleak start to our summer. That’s what I would have preferred to use, but as luck would have it I had done a juice cleanse a couple of weeks ago and had several apples left over. 15 small Granny Smith to be exact. Perfect. Sugar and water are always in supply in this house (I would hope you always have water, too). As for the jar, I had just soaked the jar I originally used to house the fish in bleach water over night and it had run it through the dishwasher. I don’t have cheese cloth, but what I do have are these mesh bags I got from a health food store that are supposed to keep your produce longer. They don’t. So they are just living a simple life neatly folded in the drawer with my flour sack towels. For a rubber band I chose one of those elastic headbands that I used to wear when I was a dance major and have zero need for now because they pinch my head and they don’t stay.
Alright. I was in business.
So basically what you do is add 1T of sugar per large apple. I had 15 small apples and don’t follow recipes well so I dumped in what I guessed was about 7T of sugar. Might be less, certainly isn’t more. I mixed the sugar with a cup of HOT tap water (It’s well water here, so if you’re using city tap or treated water, let it sit out over night or it will kill off the bacteria that you want to grow – another thing I learned is that this may not work for me because I clean with bleach and there might not be enough bacteria. . . I considered running my sponge around inside the glass, but no – I’ll spray the sponge with bleach instead). Then I just sliced the apples horizontally because the first grader in me likes to see the little stars inside (and of course promptly extracted the seeds from one apple in order to plant them later!). Then I filled the jar with the apple slices and topped it off with more tap water. I covered it with the cloth and head band and had something that resembled a country-style Ben Haramed. Now I will keep it in a dark cabinet, give it a stir about once a day, and in 2-3 weeks I should have vinegar!
We shall see.
Hope you liked this wordy post! I had fun!