State of the Homestead: March 2017

This is a year of transition. We’re simplifying and streamlining.

We should’ve had a few more weeks of ‘winter’, but it looks like that one day in January was it. We’ve started turning over my raised beds and fixing or adding drip irrigation. For the last two weeks, I’ve been running like a mad woman putting out one fire after another.

Last week, I had no less than a dozen urgent emails and phone calls to handle. It ranged from getting promised refunds to untangling the mess I did with this web site.

Speaking of web sites…what do you think of the new layout? At first I was going to play it safe and run the same average layout that most bloggers seem to use, but you know what, I was up for a challenge. I wanted something fresh but still easy to navigate.

Navigation was the most important thing to me. I sampled and played with well over thirty themes. Every time I thought I found the perfect one it had some odd quirk I couldn’t resolve. Finally, I narrowed it down to three. This layout won because it was easy to plug and play. I envy people who understand code so easily.

Onto the homestead.

Garden: The deer ate my strawberries down to the root ball. Some came back but most disappeared. I’m ready to put a bounty on those antlers. Greg has me convinced we need to put up a fence around the garden. It makes me angry I need to put my vegetables in jail. Even my neighbor is fencing his garden. The deer commando raids have gotten out of hand.

I blame the lack of predators. Neighbors are quick to shoot coyotes which have always kept the deer in check. It’s all about balance.

I started a few kale plants and will plant seed for snow peas and chard. I’ve never had much luck with lettuce, but I’m starting early and hope to have something edible before our crematory summers set in.

The potato seeds were put in just before Valentine’s Day so we should be able to harvest in May. The grape vines were moved to a very sunny area. Unfortunately, it’s right in the middle of a trail the deer use. I’m sure I’ll have to put a cage around those plants too.

Chickens: It’s the year of efficiency! I sold thirty adult hens, put nine roosters in the freezer, and kept back fourteen hens. They’re laying like crazy already. I was only planning to keep an even dozen, but what I thought would be roosters turned out to be hens after all, so they got a reprieve.

Rabbits: We said goodbye to our rabbits this year. Greg said it was getting harder for him to kill the bunnies and I can understand that. Food is food, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Of all the animals, they’re the easiest to harvest, but if he doesn’t want to dispatch them anymore, I won’t argue. We have enough in the freezer to last the year.

I sold the girls almost immediately, but my poor little buck was left behind. He’s a sweet little guy. I’d rather not put him in the freezer but I need to find someone who wants him as a pet before I run out of rabbit food.

Goats: Perhaps the biggest change this year will be the goats. After looking for nearly a year, I finally found a good Nubian buck. I introduced you to Captain Jack last week. He’s still a baby and a very sweet little guy. We’ll have to wait a few months before he can breed with the girls.

I think I want to find one more doe (unrelated to everyone else) and breed them later in the year. The biggest heartbreak for me will be to sell Pan and Ray Charles (the Boer goats) this summer.

Ray Charles is HUGE and handsome, but he’s a handful. Pan has been a good mother and milker. She’s due to have babies at the end of the month. I think once her babies are weaned I’ll sell the lot. If she has girl, I might keep her to breed back to Captain Jack. We still need meat for the freezer and I’m hoping she can become a dual purpose goat.

The only difference is that these babies will be dehorned so they don’t hurt the Nubians.

It’s going to be hard to let the Boers go. Pan and Ray were born here. And even mean, old me can get attached to goats. But I know my limitations. Boers are bigger than the Nubians, and those horns can be dangerous just by accident.ย  Whoever gets them will be getting a great starter herd.

Worms: Yes, worms! For years, I’ve been saying I wanted to try vermiculture. I had plans to use a couple of tubs and try to build one myself. Last Christmas, my bestie, Mel, surprised me with a fancy worm composter.

You could’ve knocked me down with a feather. I never expected such a cool gift.

We finally got our worms, but the first few days were a disaster. They escaped in droves! I didn’t know what we had done wrong. We followed the instructions to the letter. Finally, I read somewhere that this is actually a common occurrence when they’re first introduced into a strange environment. They kept escaping and I kept putting them back. It was as if they all wanted to commit mass suicide.

I lost a handful, those that escaped unnoticed and ended up shriveling up without the aid of the nice moist bed I had made for them. I’m proud to say that the mass suicides have dwindled down to zero. They finally settled down, but for a while I thought I was a failure as a worm farmer. The worm composter is in my house and just as I was promised, there is no smell. I am a happy camper.

So what’s happening in your part of the world? Is it warm, cold? Who’s gardening this year?

What do you think of my new theme? If you refresh the page, you’ll see various pictures of the homestead under my masthead on the left. Please let me know if your browser makes the page look weird. You don’t hear of that happening very much anymore, but I’d like to be sure.






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All original content copyrighted by Maria Zannini 2016 - 2018.


  1. Stacy McKitrick

    It’s so…WHITE! Not that that’s a problem. However, not fond of reading stuff on the right. My keyboard is on the left because I have a full number pad on the right, so I feel like I’m looking off to the side on my screen. My problem, not yours!

    • Stacy: I’m a firm believer in white space for readability. I’m sure as time goes on there’ll be more colorful items on the sidebar.

      re: left vs right
      I started with the reading pane on the left like I had it last time, but I wasn’t keen on my masthead being on the right. I might change it around later on. For now I’m trying this on for size.


  2. Jenny Schwartz

    I like the new look! On my laptop it is clear and fresh.

    You’re so busy. I’m sitting here hugging my coffee mug and thinking in horror of an alternate reality in which I had to start the day by feeding the animals, checking on the plants, cursing the deer… Too busy!

    *hugs coffee mug & wakes up slowly*

  3. The new theme works great for me, and works fine on my ancient AOL browser. I prefer plain and minimal sites (your pics really pop on this one.)

    This year I am going to plant some flowers and possibly a little rose garden outside the porch. My guy and I are also debating building an outside deck out of pavers (wood rots here at warp speed.) My friend Nikki sent me some black-eyed susan seeds I want to scatter around where the lawn mower won’t chop them up.

    • Lynn: I’m glad the site is behaving on your browser. Thanks for letting me know how you like the layout too.

      re: roses
      I wish we lived closer. A friend gave me a little plant. For the life of me I can’t remember what she called the flower, but it looks like an old rose that vines. It’s a small white rose-looking flower that smells heavenly. It’s growing like a weed and just now starting to flower. I think you’d like it.

      re: pavers
      Oh, I hear that! We lived in SE Texas which has a similar climate to Florida. Rains all the time! Pavers are the only way to go, unless you want to do stone. I like the uniformity of pavers, or maybe do stone as the main floor with pavers as the border.

      I hope you’ll post pictures when it’s done.

  4. I get that about Greg and the bunnies ๐Ÿ™‚ When I was growing up we were on a budget so my mom would occasionally buy rabbit meat. Just couldn’t handle eating it (me). She was kind to make sure I had a chicken breast or some other type of protein to eat. I do like your new site! Its hot here (10-20 degrees higher than average). High 80’s to low 90’s. I was hoping for a bit more time without running the air conditioner ๐Ÿ™‚


  5. Phew, It read like the ‘State of the Union.’ You are so voraciously busy! Can you be voraciously busy? Termites on steroids perhaps. Ref your site layout, I like it very much Ref Deer and predators, there’s talk over here of reintroducing the wild Lynx. Venison is now cheaper than chicken. Did you kill your chickens when Greg was in S. E Texas? Rabbits or chickens, not a task for the squeamish unless very hungry. And I loved Susan’s comment: “I understand how your husband felt. Even though we know theyโ€™re not pets, sometimes itโ€™s difficult to think of them as food.” If I was Greg, I’d want the ambiguity clarified.

    Lovely day, here. I’m rambling. I’ll leave you to your worms, Maria

    • Mike: It’s not even proper spring yet. I imagine I’ll get busier before I get parole.

      re: predators
      If my neighbors would quit shooting coyotes we might get the deer population under control. People are so obsessed with saving Bambi they don’t realize how much damage deer can do.

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