State of the Homestead: May 2018

State of the Homestead

I have this theory. I think many human beings live only long enough to see dreams completed and then they give up. If that’s true there’s a chance I might live forever.

Six months ago I might’ve said that the homestead was nearly completed to my satisfaction, and now it could be three years before I can say that again. I did something drastic—after conferring with my better half—to tear out the front yard landscaping and reimagine it.

I’ve always been inspired by those master gardeners who create these blankets of color and shape in their gardens. I am nowhere near that clever, but books and Google searches will help with my inadequacies.

I’m not a flower gardener, but I am a practical one. What better way to lure bees and hummingbirds than with a profusion of scents and flowers? Unfortunately, I’m very much a neophyte when it comes to flower gardening. My soil is on the alkaline side. I get bright sun in the front, and really hot weather six months out of the year.

Big box nurseries sell what’s profitable for them which isn’t always the best choice for our specific soils and climate. This is why I think it’ll be three years before I see a difference. Some plants will either have to be grown by seed or brought in by mail order.

This all started because my red tip photinias had come down with a fungal blight. I noticed it three years ago but I hoped some TLC could cure it. I didn’t know then that the solution most master gardeners recommend is to burn the plant entirely. You can’t even compost it because it could infect other plants.

My gorgeous 20 year old photinias had to be destroyed. It was a tough job but we got it done. Now I have to bring the soil back to life before I plant their replacements. Everything takes time.

Spring is critical for getting shrubs and trees in the ground. Once the temps heat up, I’ll have to wait again until fall or maybe even next spring. So I’m hopping from one project to the next with layovers when it rains or I collapse from exhaustion.

For the month of May, I’ve joined other like-minded bloggers for the Self Reliance Challenge where we share some of the things we do to live a more sustainable lifestyle. I hope you’ll go and visit them.

Here is a list of some of the bloggers joining us.

AnnMarie – 15 Acre Homestead

Nancy – Nancy On The Homefront

Kathi – Oak Hill Homestead

Robin – A Life in the Wild

Candy – Candy’s Farm House Pantry

Farmgal – Just another Day on the Farm

Ashley – Practical Self Reliance

ShawnaLee – Homegrown Self Reliance

Frank – My Green Terra

Lisa Lynn, our Host – The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

For those of you new to my blog, I live in north Texas with a Renaissance man for a husband, one sweet rottweiler, and a border collie who wants to rule the world. Greg’s workshop is completely off the grid. We garden with raised beds in an area roughly 20 x 50 which supplies us with nearly every herb, fruit, and vegetable we eat with the exception of nuts and avocados.

We raise chickens, goats, and now quail. Last year we raised one hog for the freezer. We’re sprightly for being in our sixties which we attribute to pure orneriness and a weird sense of humor. How else could we do the things we do?

This is what’s happening on the homestead this month.

The vegetable garden: Mother Nature toyed with us months after our temps should’ve been stable. For that reason, my garden is a month later than normal. Cool weather plants like greens, brassicas and peas were fine, but my tomatoes and peppers struggled with the fluctuating temps. To be on the safe side, I kept back a few seedlings indoors in case my first crop cratered.

So far, so good, but it’ll be interesting to see if the babied plants produce more than the ones that had to survive the cooler temps.

I finally started my loofa seeds because they really do need long, hot weather, but there’s not much to see yet. I feel confident starting my squash and cucumber seeds too.

I’m trying a new cucumber, commonly called a Persian cucumber. If you see small, narrow cucumbers at the store, they should be the Persians. They’re quite sweet and crispy. I’m hoping they’ll grow well here.


Another new seed I’m trying is the Sun Gold tomato. It’s supposed to be extra sweet. We’ll see and I’ll report back.

I am growing edibles and flowers together this year. I haven’t seen too much bunny infiltration but something did decapitate one of my young geraniums.

Surprise, surprise. I finally got plums on my tree! Loyal readers know I’ve had terrible luck getting fruit from my trees, so I’m hopeful this year.

My blackberries and blueberries are full of flowers so I expect a bountiful harvest. My poor strawberries after being brutally murdered by deer last year are making a small comeback. This year, to offset my losses, I’ve decided to plant strawberries in a couple different locations to see what deters deer the most.


The goats: My baby goats are leaving me. It makes me so sad. They were a pleasure to raise. The girls found a new home even before they were completely weaned. I’ve got two boys left and they are gorgeous. I’ll probably put an ad for them on Craigslist this week.

I’m still keeping Velvet, the Boer I thought was a cross. I completely forgot that Boers came in solid red. They’re so rare around me it never occurred to me that I could get a red. Velvet was sweet from the moment she was born, but her little sister turned out even sweeter. She was snapped up by a neighbor. She bought two girls, a Boer

and a Nubian. After visiting with them several times, I feel certain they’ve gone to an excellent home. That’s always a relief for me.

I know they’re farm animals, but you still want them to go to a good home.

The chickens: We lost six chickens to a predator until we could find where it was getting in. We are left with five hens and one rooster. We weren’t planning on incubating eggs this year but I think I might just in case we lose any more chickens before the year is out.

The quail: I was hoping for geese but came home with Coturnix quail. I had five females and one male, but that same predator snatched one of the females. That poor little thing. It breaks my heart she came to such a gruesome end.

I don’t know yet if quail are right for us, but we’ll try them this year and see.

Da dogs and us: I felt bad about this. The other day the door bell rang. I’m at one end of the house and Greg is at the other. Usually I let him get the door, because he’s closer–but nope–no Greg. I make the long trip from my studio, yelling at dogs that go berserk every time they hear a door bell.

They’re not mean, but they’re too excitable around people who could potentially be cookie dealers, so I usually put them up before I open the door. I don’t want them jumping on people who don’t know them. I no sooner put one away when the other one escapes. I did this several times–and still no Greg. Finally, I put them up and answer the door. That’s when Greg shows up. Figures!

It turns out to be a lady who was lost. She was looking for a street near us. It’s a private road and doesn’t have a normal street sign so it’s not surprising she missed it. I apologized several times for all the yelling–meanwhile the dogs are still barking.

Oy vey. Anyway, she mentions that her husband was taking her here to see a house that’s for sale. I didn’t even know there was any property down that road for sale. We welcomed her to the neighborhood–and invited her to come see us if they decide to buy the property. Just call us the Welcome Wagon. 🙂

We’ve been exceptionally lucky with neighbors at our current digs. They’ve turned out to be such nice people. It makes for such a happy neighborhood when you have friends in it.

Our properties are far apart and rather hidden by lots of trees so we don’t see each other often. Maybe that’s what makes the best neighbors. The nice thing is that we know we will help each other no matter the hour. That’s what friends do.

Do you like your neighbors? Do you have yappy dogs?

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  1. I loved that story about Greg, the dogs and the little old lady. I could see it clearly in my mind’s eye. The self sufficiency fills me with admiration and back-ache just thinking of it. When armageddon comes you’ll be sitting pretty – and a nice floral arrangement at the front 🙂

  2. Jenny Schwartz

    Your goats are adorable. I’m really curious to hear how your loofas go. You sound so busy, whereas here, everything should be winding down into winter. Although, given it’s still unseasonably warm, the doves are cooing outside my window as if it’s spring 🙂

    • Jenny: My seeds are a little old, so I over planted. If they don’t sprout I might have to buy fresh seed. Loofas take about 100 days of really warm weather and LOTS of water.

      The warm weather I’ve got, but rain is a little iffy.

  3. Angela Brown

    You have such wonderful adventures are your homestead, though it’s just another day in Maria’s world for you.

    Good luck with your new landscaping project. It will turn out fantastic for sure.

    I only have the one yappy girl, and when someone comes a-knocking, it is Molly’s world and yoiuareyou fully welcome until barks and sniffs you on repeat. Then it’s play time lol!!

    • Angela: Adventure is the right word. LOL!

      I get so impatient to get things done, but plants only move at a certain speed so I’m tied to their schedule.

      re: Molly
      At least Molly can’t knocked you down. My two buffaloes are an accident waiting to happen. As obedient as they are I have never been able to soften their enthusiasm for guests at the door. All their common sense goes out the window.

  4. Being in the suburbs, our neighbors are a little closer together but we’ve been lucky as well. Except maybe for the family that moved in over the winter. Now that everyone’s spending more time outside, it appears their two dogs take exception to anyone being in a yard adjacent (or even visible) to theirs and feel the need to announce it…constantly. I’m not overly-bothered by barking dogs but this could get old.
    I envy you your productive veggie gardens. The last few years, mine have been very disappointing. (It’s the old black thumb. If you can plant it, I can kill it.)
    For the record, Sophie never barks…when she’s awake. But she’s quite vocal when she’s dreaming.

    • Linda:
      re: But she’s quite vocal when she’s dreaming.
      That’s so cute. Mine always ‘run’ when they’re sleeping.

      We had a rottie once who was very protective of our elderly neighbors. They used to babysit her when she was a puppy and we were at work. Once she grew up she’d sneak over there every so often and sit with them. It was very sweet. She was especially protective of the older lady who was fragile and tiny. She was probably the safest person on the planet. That dog would never let her come to harm.

  5. Great State of the Homestead report. I look forward to hearing how those tomatoes do. I need to make a better effort to meet our neighbors. We live in such a traditional type neighborhood with neighbors to the right and left of us, across the street, etc., but everyone tends to stay to themselves.


    • Betty: Hubby is the social one, but I found the easiest way to break the ice with neighbors and new friends is to bring them a dozen eggs, or something out of the garden. It’s the act of sharing I think that opens doors and conversation.

      re: tomatoes
      For a couple of years I kept hearing people rave about the Sun Gold so I finally caved and bought some seeds. I will definitely report back.

  6. Crystal Collier

    I think that’s amazing–living in an independent, sustainable way. However, being married to a programmer, that’s a far reality for me. Jobs come with proximity to large cities.

    • Crystal: I guess it depends on the commute. I live an hour away from a good friend whose husband is a software architect. All he needs is an airport since they’re always sending him all over the world.

      He loves visiting our homestead. You can see the stress melt away when he visits.

      For us, even though we’ve lived in big cities, our whole goal was to get away from the congestion and long lines.

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