State of the Homestead: May 2016

Ray CharlesTime again for another update on the State of the Homestead. The weather continues to be pleasantly weird. Last year we had an exceptionally mild winter. This year we’ve had consistent rain. Not that I’m complaining. Most of the rains were brief showers, though we did have a couple of gully washers that flooded roads leading into town. Despite the rains, I’ve got the garden planted and some of it is ready to be harvested.

We’ve been picking asparagus for nearly two months. The experts say we need to stop picking now and let it go to seed to replenish the crowns. I’ve got plenty in the freezer so I don’t mind.

future limes
Future Limes

The Garden: The tomatoes are in full fruit. We’re picking the cherry tomatoes now. I found a real winner with a yellow cherry tomato called SunSugar. It is absolutely delicious! Very sweet. We’ve been eating them as soon as they ripen. They’ve yet to make it to the salad bowl.

The green beans are also ready to pick. It was a small package of plain old Contender green beans and each one sprouted. I tasted one off the vine. It was pretty good. Better than the French Filet beans I planted last year.

Squash, eggplant, and cucumbers all have blossoms. I hope to see fruit soon. I’m a little disappointed in the cucumber. I’m trying a new seed for Armenian cucumbers. The plants don’t seem to vine much but they do have lots of flowers so maybe they’re just shorter than I expected.

The sunflowers and my token beds of corn are shooting up. So is my edamame. It’s old seed that was buried in the back of the fridge for two years so I’m surprised it’s still viable, but I had nothing to lose for trying. If I get pods, I’ll be saving seeds from these plants.

My peppers and okra are doing well, but I think they’re waiting for more sunshine and less rain. They should start producing more by summer.

Spinach, kale, and Swiss chard look good. The ones in the full sun seem more robust. That’s good intel for next year.

Rabbits: The plan is proceeding to replace Frodo, the mixed breed rabbit with one of his soFrodo, looking for a new homens. I’m keeping one of the daughters too. I’ll keep breeding for a larger sized rabbit until I breed his smaller size trait out. I still hope to find a home for him. I won’t rehome him until his son is old enough to take his place.

Goats: I thought I was getting rid of these guys but we’ve discovered they have a better use. A very nice lady at the tax assessor’s office helped us fill out AG exemption papers. I had kept enough receipts, photos, and sales information to prove we used the land for agricultural use. We now call the goats our Tax Breaks. We still want smaller goats. I hope to find some Nigerian dwarf goats this year to replace these bigger guys.

And…

Greg has been considering sheep. The tax assessor has sheep and she gave us a lot of good information. They seem less trouble than goats (and less aggressive), so there’s a chance we might add a few sheep to keep the grass mowed. I’m kind of steering toward Barbados blackbelly sheep. The Barbados variety don’t have horns. The American blackbelly do. The Barbados also don’t produce wool which I prefer since I don’t want to add sheering to my list of chores.

My research suggests that what I feed my lambs will give the meat a milder taste, so I’ll be interested to see if that’s true. If we decide to raise them, I want to sell the lambs as a cash crop, and keep the adults as lawnmowers. I’m not seeing too many Barbados blackbellies in the area, so it might be a good way to diversify from what’s already out there.

Here’s a link to show you how they look.

Chickens: The evil duo who liked to eat their eggs are back to being good and leaving their eggs alone. I’ve changed their diet a little so that might have something to do with it. Also with spring in full force, they get more greens too. I’m wondering if it’s a deficiency that made those two cannibals.

The dogs: I wasn’t expecting to add animals to the homestead since it impacts our ability to travel, but we can still do day trips. Aside from the surveillance cameras outside, we also keep two cameras inside to watch the dogs while we’re out.

We’ve discovered they’re amazingly lazy while we’re gone. Nana (the border collie who wants to rule the world) does the most patrolling. She lets big brother, Iko know when there’s real trouble. You do not want to see a paranoid rottweiler coming at you. That is just too much dog.

Nana is clever though. She can hear when the camera is moving. We operate it through our cell phones. If we pan the room her head snaps to the sound of the camera. We bought a second camera that allows us to talk to the dogs. Yes, we talk to our dogs.

The camera says it’s reallyย  a baby monitor. The dogs are my babies so I guess I’m using it right. It’s got two-way communication and night vision. It gives me peace of mind to see that everything is all right. The neighbor is just down the road if we need someone to investigate further.

The future: I finally bought the trays and seed I needed to start a fodder system for the animals. I’ll probably only do a test run during the warmer months and do the big trial for the winter months when there are less fresh greens available to feed the animals. I found the perfect shelving system at a garage sale. The trays I bought new because I wanted to make sure there would be no cross contamination from previous plants. You’d be surprised how many diseases your plants can pick up while they’re being shipped or stored.

Tip: If you reuse your plastic trays or pots, be sure to spritz them with bleach before you reuse them.

The other plan for later this year are mealworms (for the chickens). Mealworms are an excellent source of protein. I was going to do red wigglers but the place where I want to house them is not quite ready yet. Mealworms on the other hand require minimal housing. I’ll post pictures on the next homestead update.

We’ve been busy despite the weather. We’ve had some serious appliance malfunctions too that will be costly. How costly we’ll discover today. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. If you read my Sunday post, you know I’ve been malfunctioning too, but I really think I’m getting better. No more spinning rooms.

How is it in your neck of the woods? What’s new?

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All original content copyrighted by Maria Zannini 2017.

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16 Comments

    • Mike: It’s been a lot easier since Greg’s been home. I don’t feel like it’s all on me. Still, spring is always the busiest time of the year for me. It was a shame I came down with that inner ear problem.

  1. Angela Brown

    Sounds like things are going well on the homestead. I’m glad you found an additional use for the goats. I recall there was this set of offices with a large acre of open land beside it. The owners fenced in the land and kept 2 horses there and were able to claim an ag subsidy. I wasn’t sure how that worked but it worked for them.

    • Angela: I discovered that each county has different requirements. What was acceptable in our old county in SE Texas won’t fly here or vice versa.

      Last year we talked to a tax assessor and he pretty much told us we were ineligible. This year, we asked again and this assessor went the extra mile to help us fill out the forms. It turns out we were eligible all along. She was a godsend to two people on a fixed income.

    • Susan: We had an extraordinary growing season 2015-2016. I’ve overwintered plants from last year that are still producing this year.

      The only thing I have to do is to make sure I take advantage of the dry days when they happen.

  2. How interesting with the tax breaks for goats; who would have thought ๐Ÿ™‚ I follow a blog with a lady who loves asparagus and lives in Canada. She would be so envious of your asparagus and how early you’ve been eating it (she buys hers local through someone that grows it up there).

    Looking good at your homestead!

    betty

  3. Betty: We always thought we had to have more land or more animals, but it really depends on where you live. Definitely something to think about if you have a little acreage.

    re: asparagus
    It’s one of the first veggies to harvest in the spring. This is our first full year we could pick our crop. I hope I have enough to last us a year, otherwise we’ll go without. Once you’ve tasted homegrown, the grocery store variety pales in comparison.

  4. Darke Conteur

    I love hearing about your homestead. One of our neighbours at our place has sheep. They’re a funny lot. Move like a flock of birds, which is good when you’re trying to herd them back inside the fence. ๐Ÿ˜›

    They’re calling for a warmer than normal summer here so I’m hoping that our garden this year will be a lot better. Last time I gardened, everything was tall and green because of the amount of rain, but hardly any fruit until later in the season and then it all came at once. I’m trying containers this year because the ground at my mother’s isn’t very good.

    • Darke: Consider putting in a small compost bin near the garden. It took a couple of years to turn rubbish into dirt, but now my soil is so good I can thrust my hand in without breaking any fingers. ๐Ÿ™‚

      re: sheep
      I’m liking the idea of sheep more and more. I’m not a big fan of lamb but if what they say is true about how you feed it, it might change my mind.

  5. We grill our lamb chops with just a bit of Everglades seasoning sprinkled on them, and they come out pretty fabulous. I think it helps eliminate some of the greasiness, too.

    My daughter adopted three baby Dumbo rats last week. She’s been keeping rats as pets for about two years now and they are smart, affectionate and fun. I’d say the only downside is their short life span. The babies are five weeks old and adorable. Here’s a pic of one of them: http://i259.photobucket.com/albums/hh289/LynnViehl/2016%20pbw/IMG_1030_zpsvfptlpgl.jpg

  6. Lynn: The lamb I’ve had doesn’t seem to taste greasy to me but it is a heavy meal. My mom loves lamb so I always have to have some every time she visits.

    re: rats
    I had to look up how long they live. That is a short life span! Poor things. They’re cute, but rodents aren’t for me. I already have canine ‘rats’ and still trying to domesticate them. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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