No politics or unpleasant ponderings this post, I promise!
Just some homesteady happy snaps and a well wishing for a wonderful weekend. 🙂
Drum roll, please, for this next rare shot . . . A Skittles sighting!
Mystifying mushrooms! These are quite common, honies (armillaria tabescens) claimed to be good by a good many foragers, but we haven’t tried them yet, because my mushrooming buddy and her husband got wretchedly ill on them once. Oops, I promised no unpleasantries. 😉
I suppose these next snaps might be unpleasant to some, sorry! I do get that, I felt that at first too, but I was gradually desensitized as I realized how much economic sense it makes, what an amazing skill it is, and especially how magically delicious it is.
Our favorite foraging expert who we forayed with nearby this past spring has a great new website all about medicinals. Here’s a short podcast about it, and reminding me that now is the time I should be collecting some goldenrod before winter! Medicine Man Plant Co
We’ve been at this about a decade now, learning by trial and error. Because of a major health crisis in the family, I’ve been introspecting even more than usual these days. That’s why I haven’t been posting much lately.
I thought it high time to deeply consider what our own health futures might hold, Hubby and I, while we are not under the immediate duress of old age and poor health. Health is one of the main reasons why we committed to this homesteading lifestyle. Other reasons are political, esthetic, quality of life and, for me at least, a sense of urgency to hold on to something precious for future generations—nature—before it slips completely from our lives.
Watching the impact of the Scamdemic not only on the economy, but also on our ‘health care’ system has demonstrated unequivocally that, despite the challenges and hardships, we’ve made the right choice.
Our ‘health care’ system, which is actually a disease promoting system, is beyond hope, in my estimation. (This one’s surely gone viral by now, but in case you haven’t seen it yet, it’s brilliant!) The DEVOLUTION of covid vaccine efficacy
I truly believe the only way out of the mess this country has become is by reclaiming our natural rights back from the government.
However, that first means reclaiming our natural responsibilities—those ‘unpleasant’ aspects of life we’ve come to outsource to the government (and their corporate partners in crime) in the first place, which has made it ridiculously powerful, as all governments (and their co-conspirators) are wont to be.
We are trying to accomplish that by first demonstrating to ourselves, and then hopefully to others, that such a thing is possible, and also desirable.
But what if, due to our increasing age, we had to choose? Limited strength, mobility issues, cognitive decline, all are serious potential threats to our continued lifestyle here.
Considering this I’ve made a few lists, ranking our current activities against future realities based on: Required inputs, health impact, pleasure principle, and bang for the buck.
It isn’t pleasant. I don’t want to give up any of it, ever! Bees, chickens, pigs, sheep, goats, veggie garden, fruit orchard . . . . But, here goes.
Kombucha, no caveats, it stands alone. If you can make tea you can make kombucha. It’s healthy, it’s fun, it’s delicious. Hubby no longer drinks beer or soda thanks to this amazing beverage, better for health and finances for us, and far better for the environment too, with almost no waste.
Sourdough bread, and already we have caveats. I know loads of folks think they are gluten intolerant; I used to think I was too. Grains properly prepared are nothing like most store-bought breads, for health and taste. Around these parts you can’t even find good bread. In other locales you may be able to find it, but I’d guess the prices are scary. Making your own sourdough bread is time consuming, but it’s not difficult. Same goes for sourdough cookies, brownies, pizza crusts, etc. And, let’s face it, gluten-free products are not tasty, so there’s some extra incentive.
Raised garden beds, and more caveats. Starting to garden at an advanced age is probably not going to be too successful. Of all we do here it claims the prize of Most: most expensive, most labor intensive, most greatest learning curve, most unreliable results. Still, I love it! So, continuing to garden with some foresight and adjustments is perfectly doable. I insist!
That short list makes me sad. It’s the bare bones and I hope such sacrifices will never be required of us—no more chickens, goats, big dogs, great big garden?!
I don’t even want to consider it, but there it is.
There are also many projects still on my list to successfully accomplish, which are in trial and error mode now. Like making all our own body care and household cleaning products and herbal medicines. Hubby has future hopes of making furniture, if his current to-do list will ever allow it. No time for poor health here!
So, another short list is in order. The three things, in addition to those above, that I hope and pray we never get too old for: 1. Bees — not even for the honey necessarily 2. Chickens — they are easy enough to manage, but they attract predators 3. Goats — mostly for the cheese making, but they’re pretty good company too
And the three things we would most likely not be able to continue into old age: 1. Slaughtering — tough work, no doubt about it 2. Orchard — even established ones are a lot of work 3. Pigs — high maintenance, yes, but so delicious
We have no intention of ever rejoining urban life. And as far as intentions go, avoiding nursing homes and hospitals is right at the top of that list as well.
I’d love to read any comments on how you’ll be avoiding the hospitals and nursing homes too! And, are you sick of ‘civilization’ yet?!
No rest for the weary around here! Our goal of year-round garden harvesting has been met and is every bit as rewarding, and exhausting, as I expected.
Living, working and eating according to the season is remarkably satisfying. In the last couple of years especially I’ve spent much less time learning from books and much more on direct observing and experimenting.
I’m thinking our next goal should be to throw the calendar and the clock out with the garbage. Show those Amish what a real Luddite looks like! HA! 🙂
This time of year the spiders tell me it’s a good thing I’ve got the cool season crops out already. Many of them were started indoors, then transferred outside under shade cloth which will remain until the heat breaks, fingers crossed we don’t get an early frost.
I’ve just started harvesting the sweet potatoes, the luffa and peppers are going crazy, the radishes, volunteer cherry tomatoes and lettuces are finally happy again and I’m most excited for the mirliton squash (chayote) that is finally getting its first flowers. This will (hopefully) be our first success with mirlitons following multiple failed attempts. I love this squash, but it thrives in southern Louisiana mostly, because it needs a very long warm season, even longer than we get here. I started these indoors in February, along with the turmeric, also a first for us this year.
As soon as it cools down I’ll also be harvesting honey, lots of herbs for drying and pesto, along with foraged leaves and roots for teas— sassafras, beauty berry, sumac—and once we finally get some rain, it’ll be time for mushrooms.
Hubby will be filling the freezer with lamb and pork and freshening our flock for spring lambs and a few to add to our growing herd of milking goats.
Hibiscus in May, hibiscus today . … still not blooming because I got a late start.
The honey bees love the Thai basil and the native bees especially love the salvia and the sweet potato and luffa flowers. We’ve decided next year to plant an entire row of luffa in the orchard just for the bees and pigs.
Hope you can enjoy a moment of piglet playtime! Surely there will be time for a wee rest in late winter?
You worship at the twin alters of Ignorance and Superfluous
I read a story decades ago when I was in the Peace Corps that was a well-known parable, but was new to me. I repeat it now hoping it will land for the first time on someone new to its moral and ring true in their heart for as long as it has in mine.
A rich man went to vacation on a beautiful island and sat in his beach chair under a sun umbrella reading a novel and looking out over the beautiful sea. He felt marvelous and relaxed and drank in the scenery with great satisfaction. He loved the experience so much he went back again the following year for his vacation, and again the year after that.
This third year, feeling again very happy and even magnanimous, he noticed the fisherman on the beach that he had seen during each of his vacations. He liked watching the man, who was very agile with his line and very patient for the five fish he caught each day. His bucket held the fish perfectly and he spent every morning on the beach until he filled his bucket and then he left.
One morning the vacationing man decided to strike up a conversation with the fisherman and they shared some pleasant small talk, so the next few days they stood together on the beach while the fisherman caught his five fish.
The vacationing man said, “I see you here every day and you always catch five fish and then leave.”
“Yes, that’s true. I have a wife and three children and my wife cooks up the fish for us each day when I return home.”
“But why do you always catch five fish every day?”
“Because that’s what we eat and that’s all I can carry home in this pail.”
“Well, if you caught more fish, you could sell them, and then you’d have enough to buy a bigger pail and even a wagon, so you could bring home more fish.”
“Oh yes, a wagon would be nice. With a wagon I could bring home many more fish, and sell some at the market.”
“That’s right. And then you could save some, so you could buy a boat, and then you could really get a lot of fish!”
“For sure that’s true, I could get a lot more fish with a boat,” he agreed.
“No doubt. And with all that money, you could afford to go on a vacation.”
“Oh, a vacation! I’ve never been on a vacation before, that sounds fun.”
“So, what do you think you’d like to do on your vacation?”
“I think I’d like very much to go fishing on the beach.”
Sanity still reigns on the wee homestead and I thought maybe a few of y’all might need a decent dose of it during these crazy dog days of summer amidst continued global chicanery.
The garden looks more like a jungle, but there is a method to the madness. Mostly it’s called ‘too hot to bother’. Still, it looks better than it ever has this time of year (which is saying very little) so I’m proud of a few things worth sharing.
The pigs are eating well off the luffa, which does so well here it actually out-competes the grasses. I wish we liked to eat it too, but I do use the sponges. It’s widely consumed in some cultures, so I might keep trying recipes to see if anything can improve its very bland taste. Plus, the bees love it, so it’s definitely a keeper.
We’re pretty limited on the veggie harvest this time of year, which means eating okra almost daily. I’m really not a big fan and it’s not even a fun one to harvest. It’s prickly and the fire ants scout every inch of it waiting to fall into your gloves or onto your thighs as you cut the spears. Its only redeeming qualities, if you ask me, are that it thrives in the heat and the flowers are pretty.
It’s our first harvest of scuppernong grapes and I’ll soon be making some wine and jelly. I’m kind of sick of canning, after all the pickles and having tried several new canning recipes this year, but I must find the grit somewhere and get back to it. For my latest experiments we’ll soon be tasting pickled watermelon rind, melon butter, and some exotically flavored cucumbers. That’s in addition to all our usual staples of pickles and salsas and sauces.
I’ve also made poke wine! It tastes pretty weird, but is supposed to be an excellent medicinal, so I thought it would be good to have on hand this winter. Despite popular hype, poke berries are not poisonous. Well, not exactly anyway. The seeds inside the berry are poisonous if chewed. You must extract the juice or swallow the berries whole.
Our pear harvest was quite small this year, but those will be processed soon too, into cider and preserves. My favorite, figs, have been doing better after a couple years of total failure. Too bad we eat them too fast to preserve them!
I’ve settled into a nice routine with milking our goat Summer and am extremely pleased with the cheeses I’ve been making. It took some getting used to, fitting it all into a workable new plan, after making mostly large-batch cheeses for several years. I’m using only traditional methods now too, so no more expensive cheese cultures to purchase.
Organizing seeds and preparing the fall plantings are also in high gear. It’s a real challenge in 90+ degree temps to be considering the cool season crops. I’ve got some started indoors under lights and my direct sow method amounts to throwing a variety of seeds in the ground every week, waterIng liberally, and keeping fingers crossed. Usually, eventually, some seedlings get brave and make an appearance and if we’re lucky, will produce something before the first frost.
Handy Hubby’s still rockin’ the new utility room and it’s already looking fabulous! It’s been a 100% DIY project for him and he never fails to impress. Once done I’ll give him a proper staging and big kudos post.
The friend who traded us for Summer, our first milking goat, patiently tried to coach me, not nearly as concerned as I was.
“Are you massaging her udder with a warm wash cloth before you milk her?”
Yes I am!
“Are you feeding her her favorite treat before and after milking?”
Though I did try on the first day to transition her from her animal cracker addiction to fresh cucumbers straight from the garden, thinking of her long term health.
Summer would have none of it.
After 3 days of barely being able to coax a cup from her I thought for sure I’d created some awful affliction, maybe worse than mastitis, yet to be listed in any book, from my sheer incompetence, or maybe that she just didn’t like me, at all.
Her udder was full to the point of bursting, but I was failing miserably at filling my pail. At that point if my friend had advised me to bring scented candles, perhaps some champagne too, to our milking sessions I’d have asked, “Which scent does she prefer?”
But as chance would have it, on the 4th day we had visitors. Friends of this friend wanted one of our young boars for future breeding. These were true farm folk, born and raised. I wasted no time whining about my failure as a blossoming milkmaid.
I played coy for the necessary split second before taking them up on their offer to take a peak at her.
When they saw her udder they had concerns. The dreaded ‘mastitis’ term crossed their lips and I felt even more deflated.
“Oh, no, how do I fix that?” I lamented.
Summer hopped right up on the milk stand for her animal crackers. At least we got that part down. They both examined her udder more closely and concurred it wasn’t particularly hot, so probably not mastitis, followed by my great sigh of relief.
The large man, with a deep country drawl, stepped behind her then and proceeded to pound at her swollen bag with an upward motion and milk burst out both her teets.
“Ain’t nothin’ wrong with this goat!” he confirmed. Then he gave a couple of tugs and strong, steady milk streams came pouring forth.
“How did you do that?” Was my relieved exclamation.
He proceeded to show me how it was all my bad, I was not being nearly rough enough.
“You gotta get way up in there hard and pull that milk down. Give her some good shots with your fist, like this. As long as your not bruising her or using a 2 x 4, she’s fine.”
Summer was completely calm and unfazed by this approach. Apparently I was tickling her more than milking her. We’re already up to a quart with my refined method.
I envy the rednecks and all their learnin’. So little seems to phase them, whereas I still get squeamish around blood and death and dis-ease after a decade of the most typical farm foibles.
Perhaps reading my mind and wishing to make me feel better, the large man shared a story as we stood at the gate before their departure.
“Now, I apologize in advance,” he began, “we just met, but let me tell you . . .”
And he proceeded to tell the story, flush with explicatives, about his recent long haul (he’s a truck driver in addition to a farmer, few make it these days as ‘just’ farmers) when his Bigrig broke down.
“Well I had to get one of them Ubers to take me into town and I ain’t ever been so scared in my life!” He’s a veteran, served overseas in the Middle East, grew up on a farm, been a truck driver for decades, but that Uber driver had him clinging with both hands for dear life, begging to Jesus and swearing to never get in a car with one of them crazy drivers for anything money can buy.
I inquired if he’d gone online to give the driver a poor rating.
“A poor rating?” he questioned. “They don’t go that low!”
He’s probably too nice of a guy to give that driver an ear-full while he had the chance. But I bet I would’ve!
I tried to find an appropriate fun song about goats to finish this post, but the best one was about a Billy.
Big days on the wee homestead! The cucumbers are coming in by the bushel full, the lambs are dropping like rabbits, the mushrooms are growing like mad and the bees sound exceptionally pleased. I can’t keep up!
Luckily, Handy Hubby is here now every day, thanks to his ‘early retirement’ (that is his layoff six months ago) thanks to The Great Scamdemic. With his steady efforts and attention our place is shaping up beautifully and my stress levels have been reduced by half, even as chaos still reigns. For these are not the only new milking mamas, I’m now officially a milkmaid in training myself!
Learning to milk in humid and buggy 95 degrees F is every bit as pleasant as it sounds. 😏
Handy Hubby crafted me a nice milk stand from plans posted by Fias Co Farms, a very good resource for goat newbies.
The chanterelles will surely give up very soon in this heat, so I forced myself to brave the mosquitoes and ticks once more to gather one last big basket full. I came across a new variety while hunting that’s not in any of my books, so I contacted Texas Foraging expert Mark ‘Merriwether’ Vorderbruggen, who identified it and directed me to this excellent site:
Since our temps went from April-like to August-like overnight, I got stuck in a bit of a bind with the bees. Because I’m trying to work between 3 different hive types (very stupid, do not entertain this folly I would advise) I’m trying to get them to move of their own accord. It is working, but it is quite a slow process. I will eventually have 3 colonies from this one very full nuc without too much destruction or fuss, or at least that’s my plan.
To end I offer a true garden success. I’ve been experimenting a lot with companion planting, sometimes with advice from permaculture books, but sometimes just by my own observations. This year I planted sunflowers very early, before it was warm enough for the cucumbers and melons. My thought was to attract the bees to the garden like a lure down to the still small cucumbers. It’s worked like a charm and the trellises are bursting with activity.
I’m also trying some new tricks with the tomatoes, letting the cherry types go wild, but highly managing the large varieties and interspersing them with various herbs, lots of comfrey, turmeric and ginger. The results are not yet in on those efforts, but I’ll keep y’all posted.
We had a Foraging Walk that was well worth the two years waiting. The first postponement was after a tornado leveled their property during one of their tribal ceremonies, the Caddo Mounds in Weeping Mary, which I wrote about here and here.
The second time was during the initial stages of the Plandemic, when I cancelled due to mask mandates.
On this fun foray, 3rd time was a charm, no storms, no masks and a very educational afternoon. Top 3 things I learned:
1. Medicinal weeds should never be dehydrated in a machine, something about chemistry. Two ubiquitous weeds I thought had no other redeeming qualities besides bee food: Goldenrod and Carolina geranium, are in fact beneficial medicinals.
2. There’s a compound in red cedar that inhibits the breakdown of alcohol for 18 hours. So, a common practice is to soak some branch tips in strong spirits for a month. The final product becomes kind of like Absinthe in that it’s potent enough to cause hallucinations, which can lead to great art, says me, or, a cheap date, says Hubby.
3. Foraging in areas where there was once iron mining operations, quite common around here apparently, unbeknownst to me, should be avoided due to potential mercury contamination.
A super exciting swarm event is next on the Fun list!
I’ve been wanting to populate a couple of re-furbished TopBar hives, but the dimensions are not the same as those Hubby’s crafted, so splits would prove very challenging.
I was hoping for swarms, and got one off the ‘bearding’ hive I recently wrote about (pictured above). They stationed themselves about 75 feet away in a young cedar tree and I got lucky to find them there immediately, while I was nearby harvesting mulberries. This is our first plentiful mulberry crop and I’m not sure what to make with them. Any suggestions?
I did recently learn from the Deep Green Permaculture site that it’s possible to get a 2nd crop of mulberries by cutting the branches back after the 1st harvest.
As far as the swarm goes, my first attempt was dismal, in the ‘Don’t do this!’ category of the pathetic novice, which I should know better by now, which I post so y’all can laugh at me, as I well deserve.
I don’t know what I was thinking! I wasn’t even good at holding a tray like that as a cocktail waitress. Spontaneous blasphemy makes this quick clip RATED R—For Mature Audiences Acting Immaturely Only. (Bet you didn’t know in a past life I was a sailor!)
The 2nd attempt was successful, thanks to Hubby, who sawed the branch off into my waiting hands so I could gently walked them over to their new hive. They seem to be adjusting nicely! These thoughtful bees saved me lots of messy work.
The Ninja* colony has attracted a gorgeous bird, which I’m pretty sure after consulting my field guide, is a Summer Tanager. Though I don’t approve of his hunting live bees, he does also forage dead bees under the hive, so he gets a pass.
*Ninja colony, so named due to their constant battling yet relatively calm nature. I believe this is at least partly due to their position right next to the house, where they get constant traffic, but seem unperturbed by it, unlike the more remote colonies at the far end of the orchard, who are just plain abusive.
Easter as a time of rebirth is far older than our Christian framework and in honor of this truth I’d like to share a relevant personal story.
I have never been a religious person and do not come from a particularly religious family. I’d label my religious influence in the ‘minimal’ category—I did go to Sunday school for a short time as a child, it was a Christian Science church that my grandparents attended for some of my young life. I remember my first experience of understanding that “JewIsh” was something different than “Christian” not until I was in high school. It made hardly an impact beyond a basic curiosity for me. What I learned then was that “the Jews” in our suburban Midwest milieu went to the high school in the rich suburbs, not ours in the middle-rent area of the burbs.
Then I went abroad and met a Jewish girl from this very high school, because all the high schools in our area shared the same overseas programs. We became friends for that short period and I consoled her when she burst into sobs upon visiting a Holocaust museum. I was moved by her pain and sorrow expressed for the suffering of a people she never knew, but still called her own. I had never experienced such a feeling before myself and the others in our group seemed annoyed or off-put by her overt signs of grief that were perhaps exaggerated, I don’t know, it’s possible, after all we were teenage girls, that does happen.
I had deep interests in language and culture from a young age that was not shared by others in my family. But my mom was open to my sense of adventure and supported my vagabond spirit as much as she could.
Traveling was the greatest rush of my life up until that time and I became quite obsessed with it. I expected my raison d’etre was to become a travel writer, which from the vantage point of today is almost humorous, considering I gave up traveling many years ago, as protest against Homeland Security measures of bodily harassment.
But for two decades I was ALL over the place. I still miss it. I still hope someday travel becomes what it once was to me, before the tyranny began in earnest and I chose to make a such a sacrifice in response.
By the time I’d visited Prague I’d seen many of the great cities of Europe. I loved Paris and Munich in particular; did not care for Berlin or Bern; would’ve moved to Amsterdam in a heartbeat.
I felt already as a seasoned traveler when the overnight train deposited me in Prague in the summer of 1990 at age 22. I knew enough to hang out on the railroad platform with my backpack until some suitable locals passed by offering a room for rent. Hotels were for aristocrats, not backpackers, and cheap lodging was not easy to come by, even in that still relatively cheap city.
I installed myself in the offered closet called a room. I got by on butchered German from my high school days and met only two other travelers who spoke English. It was the most foreign of cities I’d visited thus far, because the Soviet influence was still palpable everywhere, the Velvet Revolution had taken place the year before.
It really did feel like stepping back in time, everything felt old, and to me, drab. Gray and drab, bordering on depressing. The people seemed spent. The buildings looked dilapidated. The cars were rusty jalopies. The cafes were hardly the vibrant displays of conviviality as in Paris. But there was something else far more provocative to me than all which seemed missing having come from ‘the west’.
The first night I ventured out in tourist mode across the Charles Bridge I was stopped speechless in my steps. It was spring, but it was cold and drizzling and I was lured to an outdoor puppet show on the banks of the Vltava. I laughed because the children watching were laughing. I stayed for a while to watch them watching.
I didn’t think of my brief friendship with the Jewish girl, even in this most Jewish of cities. I’d read my guidebooks, I knew the city was seeped in old world culture and was beyond impressed with its architecture, a subject that had fascinated me already for a decade.
I integrate her now in this story for what happened next. I offered the backstory here in order to highlight that what happened next was completely outside of my influences and upbringing and any frame of reference beyond that one incident of that Jewish girl at the Holocaust museum.
When I gazed out over the Vltava from the Charles Bridge that night, quite alone in the cold and drizzle, an unknown and unforgettable emotion rolled over me. Like her, who that day could only express her emotion in tears, I could only express mine in awe. I felt as if my jaw had dropped and I stood cemented in place like one of the many towering statues.
I knew this place before, that’s all I felt. It was as if time and space had vanished and the people and the language and the events of that place, completely unknown to me, were instantly my own. It was the briefest of moments, come and gone as quickly as a dream, but more evocative than any lived experience. The past had invaded and embodied me, some sort of deep nostalgia had resurfaced, and the only word I could ever come up to try to describe it was Love, as lame as that is. Love, as in somehow, Magic.
That’s always made me curious. How could a foreign city evoke such an intense and inexplicable and ephemeral yet still fully embodied emotion?
I had no idea the answer then and still don’t have one. But something of what I experienced in that brief moment is as close as I am to a lived understanding of God.
Since the door of travel for me was closed by the tyrants, the window that opened is arm-chair traveling from the comfort of my hammock and it feels like a blessing.
That is thanks to technology (irony to the Luddite, right?) and to kindred spirits who show me that indeed, there is an old world magic that might have been built seeking rebirth through our eyes, and maybe that’s what I felt then, and maybe that’s what the Jewish girl felt, and maybe that’s happening right now to someone else at this very moment.
Thanks to Jon Levi for his fascinating work in re-imagining our history and re-igniting my nostalgia.