State of the Homestead: July

Time for another State of the Homestead report. We’re in the dog days of summer where everything struggles to keep from wilting–including me!

The weather has been weird. Our winter was so mild I could’ve started the garden in February if I wanted. We’ve also had more rain than usual–a blessing in this part of Texas. In short, it’s been a good year despite a few storms that downed trees and two hellish hail storms that smashed my corn patch to the ground.

Let‘s see how we did.

Garden: The tomatoes were the real winners. This year we took a 4 x 8 foot bed and lined it with three metal posts on either side. From there we ran string across and tied the baby tomato plants as they grew. And they grew! After a while we got tired of tying them up, but it was fine since none of the fruit touched the ground.

I got stingy with garden space and forced three rows of tomatoes, but truth be told, they would’ve been easier to pick had I only done two rows.

Sunflowers, potatoes, and okra are doing great. The squash was hit or miss. They came up like gangbusters at first, but soon the squash bugs showed up and that was the end of that. I was careful this time to separate the squashes far between so the bugs only seem to have attacked a couple of beds.

Squash bugs are like biblical plagues. And they’ve got me cornered. The only thing that kills them also kills bees, so all I can do is pick them off by hand.

My corn–just before it was flattened.

The hail storms flattened my corn twice. Worse, a lot of the corn didn’t pollinate. That’s usually due to not enough wind to blow the tassels, but who knows if that was the case this time. It wasn’t a total loss though. The downed stalks went to the goats who relished them. The corn that did make it? Delish!

My peppers were swallowed by the squash vines and left stunted. They might still revive once I remove the squash plants. Right now peppers are so cheap it won’t bother me. I overwinter a few pepper plants every year anyway. I’m still picking a few peppers from last year’s plants

    

Remarkably, some really OLD seed I had for soybeans came up. I’m growing them only as seed for next year. It’s hard to find soybeans in small quantities. The feed stores like to sell them in 50 pound bags.

One of my new finds this year was Egyptian Walking Onions. I’m excited to see how they pan out. They produce their bulbs on top rather than underground. And they’re perennial! I’ll let you know if they start walking. 😉

Once the planting is done I really have to make myself do a soil test on those beds. Although I got a lot of foliage, I think there should’ve been more fruit. We have a loyal following of bees so I’m wondering if it’s not due to an imbalance in nutrients.

Trees: Unbelievably enough, my apple tree has fruit on it this year. It’s feast or famine for that poor tree. It’s in an non-irrigated area so it has to rely solely on rain. This year rain has been abundant.

My various citrus trees are all doing great too. Still no pomegranates or plums. Darn!

Pears: I had a bonus this year. One of my friends had way too many pears and she let me pick all I wanted. I probably picked up a couple hundred pounds of pears.

Most are still green, but as they ripen, I’ve been cutting them up in chunks and using it as a supplement for the chickens and pig.

Australorp chick, 3 weeks old

Chickens: For my niece’s visit, I planned on a small hatching of chicks. Come winter, we’ll either have replacements for the hens or roosters for the pot. (I didn’t tell my little niece about the fate of the roosters.) I only hatched very few, so it’s not a burden on us.

Goats: Oh, Ray Charles! That goat got a reprieve again. Greg reminded me that we need five goats to stay legal with the property tax people. Ray Charles makes six. Originally I was going to sell both Pan and Ray Charles, but if I sell both I’m short one goat.

Ray Charles. He looks like he’s on steroids!

We’ve discussed again about keeping separate quarters for the Nubians and Boers. Once everyone is pregnant there’s no problem with keeping them together. It’s feeding time that gets tricky.

Ray Charles will knock down anyone or anything to get to that feed bucket. Alone, he’s patient. He knows he’s the only one getting that feed, but in a group, he will gore anything that gets in his way.

We’ll try separating them by breed and see how they do through next year. Next year there will be more than enough kids on the ground to keep us legal even if we sell both Pan and Ray Charles.

Patch, (Pan’s baby) is doing absolutely great. She has to be the prettiest kid we’ve ever produced. She’s a sweetie too. I think she picked up the Nubians’ gentler temperament. I’m afraid she thinks her name is Baby though. When I call her to get fed separately from the others, I yell out, ‘Here, Baby!’, and now she thinks that’s her name!

    

Tilly, the pig: Ah, the pig from hell! That is the most destructive animal we’ve ever owned, and we’ve had pigs before. It surprises me that she’s so bent on de-molecularizing everything she sees. She’s getting big though. My neighbors keep asking me when the luau starts. She’s big enough to put in the freezer now, but we’d like to wait for slightly cooler weather since we’ll be doing the butchering ourselves.

The nice thing is that I’m feeding her a lot of the garden. Any peelings, tomato pieces, extra eggs, veggies or fruit go to her. She even relishes the weeds. She’s been quite useful in that regard. She is one pig I will not be sorry to see go. She creates drama wherever she goes.

I must admit she’s put weight on fast. She’s a nice looking pig, albeit muddy in the photo above. Tilly does love her mud baths.

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16 Comments

  1. Love all the photos! Your goats are adorable. I’m having similar trends with my veggie garden…great year for tomatoes and lots of squash bugs (as usual). It’s still too early for fruit tree harvests where I am, but we had a massive branch fall from our white peach tree (because I hadn’t thinned it yet and a storm hit). I ended up making both pickles and jam with all the green peaches. The other thing I did this year in the veggie garden that seems to be working in terms of making things like melons sweeter is that I sprinkled epsom salt throughout (several times so far). Apparently the magnesium helps. I also grow comfrey and make a tea out of it for fertilizer. It’s the first year I’ve tried those two tricks and they’ve worked!

    • Rula: Those squash bugs drive me crazy. If only something would eat them.
      re: peach pickles
      I’d never heard of peach pickles. I’m tempted to find out how they taste.

      re: epsom salt
      I tried the epsom salt once this year. I’m on the fence about using it though without doing a soil analysis. Epsom salts are magnesium. It does work wonders if your soil is low in magnesium but could cause ill effects if there’s too much of it.

      re: comfrey
      Every year I say I’m going to make comfrey fertilizer and I never do. Oy! I do feed it to the chickens and goats though. They only like it after it’s wilted for a day first though.

  2. Angela Brown

    Looks like things are going well at the homestead. It is nice to know the extra rains this year have been beneficial.

    Butchering Tilly yourselves will be cost-saving. She seems sizable and should produce a hefty amount of meat.

    • Betty: I purposely don’t post graphic pictures or posts because some people are pretty squeamish. If I were only talking to homesteading folks it wouldn’t be an issue, but I have to consider the larger audience too.

      I have been thinking of setting up a side forum strictly about the whole story of homesteading, but that would be way in the future.

  3. Jenny Schwartz

    I love your homestead posts, Maria. And this one made me laugh – walking onions!

    How wonderful for your niece to experience the chicks. You might make a farmer of her 🙂

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