Homestead Heaps to Hugelkultur

When we purchased our “raw” land, there were no buildings, no home, nothing but trees and grasses. After the purchase we received a letter from the former owner who used the land for camping with family.  She explained that when they owned the land there had been an old Finnish homestead (very typical in this area), including one remaining building, the home. It was in such poor condition that they tore it down for safety reasons. We now know exactly where that home was, the stone foundation remains (and we intend to leave it), along with some of the wood from the floor. We love to think about the history of this homestead and it became obvious to us that it is here because there is an established orchard, rock wall and posts with barbed wire, a patch of rhubarb, two old wells (now filled in for safety) and various other clues that I could go on and on about.

The snow is melted and the grasses have just started growing, as this is our first spring here, we are begining to notice stuff that is around that has been here long before us.  One specific area near our yurt has several heaps of old rotting wood.  In the summer, the wood piles are hiding from sight in tall grasses and heirloom roses (also a sign of an old homestead). But now that I can see the old piles of rotting wood, I feel the need for clean up. But, what to do with it? Well, we have the perfect solution: build a hugelkultur!  A what?!

Midwest Permaculture defines that “Hugelkultur is an old German concept/word meaning “hill-culture”. Wood is buried under topsoil (either in a hole or right on the ground) and as it breaks down, it holds lots of moisture and provides sustained nutrients for plant growth.” If you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of hugelkultur, read on what Permaculture Magazine has to say about it.

A quick snapshot of what we did:

1.) Uncover all the rotting wood, various spots within and next to the orchard.

2.) Move the wood to our two spots we determined would be good for hugelkultur. The wood ranged from 10 foot hand sawn 8×8 inch logs to decayed crumbled pieces. Moving it all by hand was a tiring but felt so productive.

3.) Once completed, we moved dirt (with a tractor thankfully) from a pile we had excavated from the yurt site prior to the yurt build and dumped it on top of the hugelkultur.

4.) We completed 2 hugelkulturs.  1 is approximately 5 feet high and 20 feet long.  The other is smaller, at approximately 3 feet high and 10 feet long.

A dream of mine is to create a food forest amongst the current original homestead orchard.  The hugelkultur are integrated into that space and will be home to plants that provide food.

5.) The last step was to plant some trees and bushes to get our food forest started. We planted 5 Hazelnut bushes, 3 Highbush Cranberry, bushes and 2 Patriot Blueberry bushes.

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Build in process. Large wood at the bottom, piling branches and twig sized wood on top, and a final layer of small chips, grasses, mulch. Last layer is dirt, not shown here.
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Tim atop the hugelkultur! Working to even it out to get it ready to plant.

Another benefit to the hugelkultur is that as our nut and berry bushes grow, it will create a visual barrier from the road toward the yurt.  We very rarely have any traffic, however, I still love to guarantee my privacy.

We strive to practice permaculture methods here at White Sky Woods Homestead, so building the hugelkultur, which a method promoted by permaculture guru Sepp Holzer, seemed a natural fit.   If we didn’t have the materials, perhaps this wouldn’t have made a lot of sense, but the hugelkultur allowed us to clean up the homestead and unload a huge pile of dirt we’ve had sitting around.  Plus, it got us moving on the food forest dream I have.  Hopefully more on this in a future blog.

While we uncovered wood, we also uncovered other things…..glass bottles, tin cans, beer bottles, Michigan Licsence plate from 1954, intact door with porclein handle….and more!  Check out this Facebook post and weigh in on our findings!

The next week is fully focused in the garden, my happy place!

Peace, Love and Nature,

-L

Oh, be sure not to miss a thing that goes on at our homestead!  Follow us here, or here!

 

 

 

 

Meet the Livestock at our Homestead!

It hasn’t been yet a year since our move and our homestead has been growing and has more growth on the way.  Coming into this, we had very little (ok, none whatsoever) experience with livestock. First we just had our chickens. You can meet the flock here. Right off the bat we saw how each of them was different in personality. Flora (our 8 year old), quickly corrected me to say they do not have personalities, they have CHICKENalities. Clever girl. The rooster from that original flock fell ill and didn’t survive, it was our first homestead fatality. The hens however have been laying faithfully, survived the long winter, and took kindly to our replacement Rooster – Alabaster.

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Alabaster – The Rooster

Last fall we also brought home 2 pigs. The pigs have given us many exciting, humorous and frustrating times.  Just click here for Nat’s explaination of his recent escape.  In months where there is no snow cover, our pigs are pastured, eating a natural diet and tilling up our soil for future crop planting. In winter, we cleaned up the pen daily and kept them happy with fresh bedding. Our first agenda with these pigs is to breed them and sell the piglets as feeder pigs. All signs show that our female, Frannie, is pregnant and due in mid-June. Time will tell what our long range plan for keeping pigs will be, but they have been very enjoyable to have around! They are living happy lives, I mean, c’mon….just see here:

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Pig Snuggles. Frannie (Pink), Nat (Brown).

Our newest edition was an ask from Flora. She even paid for 2 of her own! DUCKS! Yes, they have duckinalities… 😉 The kids are adoring on them. The goal is to keep the females from each breed and 1 male from each breed. Perhaps in the future we can allow them to raise some young to have more ducks for eggs and/or meat. Any extra males will make a meal that we will be so very thankful for. The ducklings are currently 1 week old. We have 2 Cayuga’s (black ducks) and 6 Swedish Blue (Yellow ducks). They live inside until it’s warm enough and they develop their feathers.  Then they will go out and till up our garden for us. Major AWWWWW-factor here:

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In May and June our livestock population should grow.  First, chickens. We will be working on having one of our chickens “go broody” and sit on eggs from our flock.  If we can grow our own flock, it’s a sustainable way of providing more food (eggs) for our family.  If all goes smoothly, we should have chicks in late May.  In mid-June if our calculation for Frannie’s due date is correct, we should have piglets!  As someone who is new at all this, I’m hoping for a successful delivery for her, and a small litter.  Time will tell!

The animals have really made the homestead complete. While there were some cold, winter snowy days that I dreaded animal chores, I am so happy they were out there giving me reason to get out, get fresh air, and get moving. The little extra effort is well worth the reward.

What should be next?  Comment on what type of livestock we should consider for our homestead and why!

Puzzled by Minimalism, Creative Solutions!

So, I had this image of sitting around getting snowed in for our first winter here. Afterall, even locals laughed at the idea of us living out here in winter. Our UPS delivery woman politely asked last November, “are you actually staying here all winter?”  With all the warnings of a “Yooper” winter, you can see why we thought our winter would be relaxed….no where to go, nothing to do. Afterall, our area gets an average of 250+ inches of snow annually. Yet, it’s now March and I don’t recall this whole sitting around thing happening.  What actually happened is that Tim picked up more hours on the job, I started and finished my certification as a Medical First Responder, and our kids kept busy with friends, activities, and lots of playtime in the snow. We’ve also done a lot of snowshoeing and exploring around our property, which looks so different in winter.

 

Maybe, in my wildest dreams, I was hoping winter would be an excuse to be lazy…but, it hasn’t exactly panned out. I won’t complain, because I do like keeping busy, within reason. Well, part of my lazy winter dream was to have a puzzle to work on at any whim. I like puzzles – they are relaxing, you can still have conversation while you do it, and you can come and go from it as you please. Plus, I think it’s good for the mind to be able to focus on details. Winter is the perfect time to do a puzzle when you might be stuck inside due to bad weather (although we’ve found that bad weather doesn’t stop us).

But, we have a slight problem with this puzzle idea. We are 4 people living in a yurt, and we don’t have a ton of “free space” to just set up a puzzle and have it sitting around all the time. We can’t build it on our kitchen table, because that’s where we eat. Getting a second table isn’t an option because we don’t have space, plus we try not to have anything here that isn’t really a necessity, attempting to live more minimally. So, time for some creative problem solving, gosh I love that (I’m not being sarcastic here). How can we build a puzzle without taking up current needed areas, and without getting something new or taking up more space?

Easy, time to retrofit our kitchen table into a puzzle table and kitchen table! This was my idea, and Tim made my concept come true. Our kitchen table is nothing special, so taking it apart was low risk.

First, the table top was removed.  I’ll be honest, parents with young children…if you haven’t looked UNDER your table lately, I recommend against it unless you think you really need to know.  I scrubbed off some things that, oh boy, I have no idea what they were.

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Removed table top.

 

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Table without top. Ready to put in secondary puzzle table top.

Then, Tim built a table within the table that would be the space for our puzzle. It’s 4 sided, so bonus that no puzzle pieces should fall off while being worked on!

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Table top built under original table top.

Lastly, the table top was fitted with properly placed dowels so that when put back ontop, it would not slide off. And just like that, it was time to work on the puzzle! When done, just put the table top back on! Unless you knew, there is no telling there is a puzzle “in” the table”. The table is not huge, so for 1-2 adults, the top is easily removed and leaned up against the wall.

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Time to put the first puzzle together!

I was giddy with joy to see my idea of a puzzle table come to fruition. <–Geek.

Looking forward to spending downtime at this table as a family.  This puzzle is too complex for our 3-year old, but our 8-year old is already having a good time with it!

Viva la puzzle table!

Peace, Love and Nature,

-L

Oh, be sure not to miss a thing that goes on at our homestead!  Follow us here, or here!

 

 

 

Projects Reminiscent of Summertime

Today’s is Groundhog Day! The kids and I watched the famous “Punxsutawney Phil” make his prediction. He predicted 6 more weeks of winter! Man, the crowd there in Pennsylvania was disappointed. From our research though, historically he’s only been 20% accurate, so don’t place any bets on his prediction – ha!

Readers to our blog live in various places, so I’m sure there are many differing ideas about what winter has been like and if it would be nice if it continued. I realize this is only our first winter here on the Keweenaw Peninsula (47th parallel north), but we’ve been loving it. It’s nice to live in a place where winter isn’t just cold with a little bit of snow here and there, but a place where it’s mild (okay, cold sometimes too), but has enough snow to truly enjoy the beauty of a white and sparkly snowy winter. The best of our winter has been snowshoeing around our own property, and finding various routes to Lake Superior on snowshoe. Winter has been very busy for us otherwise and we haven’t spent nearly the time we have wanted to snowshoeing.

Our recent homestead projects included a few things that have me thinking about summertime.

1.) We’re still enjoying squash after squash that were harvested from the garden this past Autumn. They are so sweet and delightful and I’ve been preparing them in many different ways. The squash we grew this summer were spaghetti squash and buttercup squash. We are planning on more variety in the upcoming summer. One of my favorite recipes to make is 3 Sisters Soup.

2.) I made a big batch of strawberry jam from a strawberry stock-up this summer that I had froze for just this purpose.

The jam tastes like the summer sun! Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit in saying that, but it’s GOOD!

3.) I pickled carrots. There was a good deal on carrots at the grocery store and I was in the mood for something a little different so I made a few jars of refrigerator carrots. I did an experiment using my simple refrigerator pickle recipe; I tried apple cider vinegar for one batch and regular white vinegar for another. The family favorite was the white vinegar.

4.) Last summer one of our first homesteading project was to pick and dry loads of wild raspberry leaf and wild strawberry leaf. It was great forward thinking on my part, if I might say so. 🙂 We’ve been enjoying tea brewed with the dried leaves. The best combination seems to be raspberry leaf, strawberry leaf, a few dried flowers from St. John’s Wort, and some ground-up dried elderberries.

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A taste of summer comes with tea brewed from our own wild harvested leaves.

5.) Another recent project we’ve been working on is our family Nature Journal. It’s part of our homeschooling and we try for at least one entry a week. Today Flora made an entry inspired by Groundhog Day.  It went as follows:

3 things I’ll do if Winter stays:

  1. Build a snowman.
  2. Watch the Chickadees.
  3. Watch the Deer.

3 things I’ll do if Spring comes early:

  1. Watch the Deer fawns.
  2. Watch the baby birds hatch.
  3. Pick flowers!

What’s your list include?

Peace, Love, and Nature,

-L

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Journey Toward Minimalism – Part 1

Good morning from our yurt on the beautiful and snowy Keweenaw Peninsula. I’m having a peaceful moment right now – sitting at the kitchen table, writing this blog next to the woodstove with it’s crackling fire. All of my family is sleeping, except our dog who follows me everywhere, what a loyal boy he is. This moment of peace is a real oddity in our home, so I must breathe in every moment of it.

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Finding my peace involves this warm, crackling fire.

This morning I woke up to a few text messages on my phone that arrived after I fell asleep. Tim and I took a 3 mile off-road snowshoe blazing our own trail, so it was early bedtime for me! The messages were from a friend and she was asking: “When did you begin your minimalist journey?” and “Or, have your always been a minimalist?”

From new friends on the Keweenaw that have visited us at our yurt, this idea of minimalism have been a common comment. Several have stated how we are living as minimalists, and even saying that seeing our home has encouraged them to realize that they have too much stuff and has motivated them to start going through their own homes and downsizing.

This pleases my heart, but it also strikes me, because although we do have a lot less stuff in our home than the average person, I still feel like we have a lot of stuff! Although I realize, compared to the average home, we do not. Here are some of the ways we got to where we are at now.

Phase 1:

Were we always minimalists? NO! I truly laugh out loud at this, thinking of the absurd amount of useless stuff we had. Our journey toward minimalism started when we conjured up this dream to live here at White Sky Woods in a unconventional home – a yurt. We realized we needed to stop spending money so that we could save the money to make these dreams come true. Our goal was to come debt free. We also were on a mission to learn more self-sustaining skills, like making food from scratch, including items like yogurt. These actions saved quite a bit of money and were suitable to a more frugal lifestyle. Saving every we dollar possibly could, eliminating bills, but still giving ourselves some leeway for life enjoyment – like traveling (I can’t live without this). This encompassed around 7 years.  The behavioral changes didn’t take place overnight, but slowly over that time. Small choices over time made a big impact. Two rules of thumb that we used:

  • Don’t buy it unless you NEED it.  No new stuff unless it was absolutely necessary.
  • If you do NEED it, try Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, thrift stores or consignment shops first. This is not only often a more frugal choice, but it’s better for the environment too because it creates less demand for new product which uses a lot of resources to be made, shipped, etc.

Phase 2:

As our dreams to move here became more of a reality, the pending home sale and move really got us in gear. At this point, we started to dowsize. We looked at everything and asked, is this a WANT or a NEED? Pretty much all that was a WANT was donated or sold. The stuff that we felt was a NEED remained until it was time to pack.

I want to say, this is not always an easy step. I am not very attached to things, but we have two children, and helping them downsize was a step-by-step process of getting them involved and helping them understand the value of WHY we are doing this. Our youngest was 2 at the time and fairly clueless to the changes, but our oldest was 7 and some things were a little harder for her.

Another tricky thing is downsizing personal possesions that you acquire through life, like papers your wrote in school, yearbooks, awards, etc. Tim and I both downsized into 1 bin. During this process we created a lot of waste – but I don’t think that anyone really would have been interested in buying my 1996 Hartford Union High School Yearbook.  Ha! Some of it had to be tossed because it didn’t have a place in our future. For the record I did keep the Yearbook from my gradutating year, which my children enjoy looking at!

Some items we had were left from family members who have passed or items that were novelties/memories from vacations taken. These were also hard to make decisions about. Some of it was repurposed, Grandma’s teecup collection for instance. Some will become bird feeders, and other will be put into use in our daily life. The remainder that we did not feel compelled to keep were donated and some other person will fall in love with their beauty.

Phase 3:

Once again upon our move, we asked the same question as we packed everything – is this a want or a need? We also focused the question even more:

  • Does this item serve me in my lifestyle?

An easy example of this is that I had a career before we moved, and now homesteading and homeschooling is my career.  These take very different wardrobes. All of my business professional clothes, shoes, and accessories were donated.

We also asked another question regarding the bigger items:

  • Do we have room for this?

We sold quite a bit of furniture pieces because we would not have room. I do not do well with visual clutter, so my goal with our new home was to have only what we needed and to be certain that the stuff we had was useful. An example of this is that we have 2 large trunks. We also had 2 end tables in our living room. The end tables hold very little stuff, the trunks hold a lot. So, we got rid of the end tables and kept the trunks. The trunks now serve as a furniture piece and a storage piece! Winning.

At this rate, I don’t feel like a true minimalist, but I realize that compared to the average family of 4, we are. This coming summer we will be taking another look at everything in the house and garage and once again going through the process. If we haven’t used it in a year of living here, there is a good chance we don’t need it. I’m wildly looking forward to this honestly!

If the idea of minimalism interests you, here are some of the resources we’ve used in support of our journey.

Stay tuned for a follow-up blog to this which will address our challenges with minimalism and a roster of things we’ve done to get creative with living in a small space.

Don’t miss a beat of our journey, subscribe to the blog and join us on social media:  Facebook, Instagram.

Wishing you Peace, Love and Nature,

-L

3 Ways to Warm Yourself in Winter

The sun is shining, but darn….it’s COLD! 1 degree Farenheit, but feels like -11 with the windchill. Thank goodness for the routine of heading outside in the morning and evening to care for our animals, otherwise I’m not sure I would have any reason to leave the house on days this cold. For the first few minutes of pig and chicken chores, I actually like the cold air. It’s a definite wake-me-up! But, when my fingers and toes start to tingle, then the enjoyment fades. So far, our 2 pigs and 7 chickens seem to be hanging in there. Our hens are still laying eggs! Now that’s a superpower.

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Happy, snowy pigs.

Over the past 2 months we’ve had our share of snow (about 2 1/2 feet of snow on the ground here, but other local areas have experienced MUCH more). We’ve also had our share of fluctuating temperatures, ranging from 39 degrees to -20 degrees Farenheit. During our first winter here in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we’re quickly learning some important ways to stay warm.

1.) Wear the right clothes for the weather!

I’m doing my best to embrace the Norwegian Quote: “There is no bad weather, just bad clothing.” I’ve quickly learned that what counts is wearing layers. At any given time, including inside, I have 3 layers on my top and 2 on my bottom. It seems obvious maybe, but this really makes a difference – albeit a pain in the butt for getting dressed, getting undressed, and doing laundry!  Warm socks and a decent underlayer are necessities. For outdoor chores I’ve also decided that looking scary in my balaclava is a must for warmth. It freaks out the kids, but my face stays oh so warm!

2.) Being “lazy” is okay!

I used to think that watching movies or lingering around the house for too long was being lazy. But, this slow down is exactly what winter here is all about. It also has allowed us to have more time to start new habits doing things that always were pushed aside before because we didn’t have time.

Our homeschool Nature Journal for instance. The kids are having a fun time with it, but I think I am equally or more engaged with it! Sometimes we are inspired from trips outside, but on very cold days we observe from our windows – taking time to enjoy the chickadees, or the deer and turkey that have now become very comfortable with yurt life as well.

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3.) Nothing warms you up more than good friends.

On New Years Day we hosted our first annual “Dessert at the Yurt”. I prepared several sweet treats that were themed by our homestead (made with goods from our own garden) or inspired by the Keweenaw area. For instance, “Not Your Garden Variety Zucchini Bread”, a Chocolate Zucchini Bread and “Snow on Top Basalt”, Oreo Trifle. The food was good, but the company was even better. Since our move in June, we’ve had the pleasure of meeting so many good people here on the Keweenaw and growing friendships with them.

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First Annual “Dessert at the Yurt”

Worried about space in our yurt, we managed to comfortably fit 17 adults and 8 kids! During and reflecting afterwards, our hearts were so warm. We have so much gratitude and love for our new community and friends. We have not experienced such an amazing community before. So many brilliant minds and beautiful souls surrounded us at this gathering. How is it possible to not feel warmed (hypothetically, of course) when surrounded by that?

One friend described the yurt as “wrapping it’s warm arms around you.”  Yes!

Wishing you winter warmth.

Peace, Love and Nature,

-L

 

Don’t be a Stranger.

There’s a double meaning in the blog title, Don’t be a Stranger.  First, and probably most obvious to you, the reader, is that we’ve been a stranger to you! If you subscribe to the blog, you haven’t heard from us lately (well, in over 3 months to be exact). But the same isn’t true about our social media, so follow us there if you haven’t already – Facebook, Instagram. Yes, just over 3 months have gone by since my fingers hit the keyboard to bring homestead blog updates to you. Why? Well, the homestead. There have been so many new updates including:

  • Winterizing….and more winterizing.
  • We have new animal residents – pigs!
  • Chicken egg laying drama.
  • Amazing total solar eclipse road trip vacation.
  • We have a new human resident.
  • Socializing.
  • Gardening.
  • The Harvest. 
  • Putting food by.
  • Homeschooling.
  • Continuing education to become a Certified First Responder.
  • ….and on, and on, and on.

I have plenty to blog about! Maybe a bit more time will be available now that the weather is changing and there is less to manage outside.

So, onto the second meaning in the blog title, Don’t be a Stranger.  In June, 2017, we moved from our home of 12 years to our new “neighborhood”, 250 miles away. Although we’ve owned our homestead property for 8 years, the only time we spent here was pretty much at work and we met very few people. Referring to our new homestead location as a “neighborhood” is perhaps a bit of a stretch of what most people imagine a neighborhood to be. Our closest full-time neighbor is 1 mile down the road. And we are at a dead end off of a dead end road, so we do not exactly have any thru traffic going by. It’s what many people would describe as isolating, but we see as quiet, peaceful, and perfect.

Since June, we’ve met many full-time and seasonal neighbors. Not only have we met these neighbors, but developed work shares (more on this in future post), bartered goods and services, been given help, knowledge and goods expecting nothing in return, and most feel good….grew new friendships – the, “it’s Friday, c’mon over for dinner and a movie” kind of friendships.

Maybe this sounds like your community, but it doesn’t precisely describe where we came from. Our last community was very friendly, but the interconnectedness (is that a real word?) never seemed to exist. My theory? Here on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan when your closest neighbor is 1 mile away and there are only a handful of neighbors beyond them, we truly will be better off knowing each other because there may be times we need each other. The closest grocery store, gas station, car repair, or health clinic is 25 minutes away…on a clear weather day. We feel like we’re part of a “we’ve got your back” sort of community.

While we love our homestead being at the dead end of a dead end road, we also still need human interaction (yes, as an introvert I am admitting that even I need human interaction). And while many of us out here are here for the peace, quiet, and tranquility, we still need each other’s company as well.  How lucky we have been to fall into the company of  wonderful people who provide great conversation and natural companionship.

When we purchased our land, and then later made the transition to full-time living on our homestead, we didn’t really put much thought into what “community” would look like here. Fortunately for us, it was just what we needed.

Wishing you Love, Peace, and Nature

-Lisa

5 Reasons the Bread Tastes Great!

As we envisioned our homesteading life, we spent a lot of years practicing for it.  Living frugally, growing our own food, making yogurt, and attempting to do other “from scratch” things like bread making.  But, let’s just say with full time jobs, kids, buildings your own home, and additional responsibilities, the pre-homesteading attempt of bread making from scratch was a fail. Not only was it impossible to find the time to make bread, the attempts we did make were met with a loaf of bread that was … not ideal.

Now that we have been at the homestead for a month, I figured it was time to attempt this bread making thing.  Quality bread from the store isn’t cheap and we are doing everything we can to cut costs and eat whole foods. My goal, create a nice looking edible whole wheat sandwich bread that can replace store bought bread. My belief and past experiences tell me this is easier said than done.

I had this bread making idea on a whim so I started by checking to see if I had all the ingredients – I did! But next, would the dry active yeast I’ve had in the freezer for 5 years still be alive and well enough to make bread?  Sure enough, I mixed the yeast with the warm water and sugar and in 10 minutes I had an amazing foam from the yeast, just like I should. Feeling successful from the start was just what I needed to have the confidence to continue on. Bread making, especially after my past fails, is a daunting process!

About 6 hours later, I pulled two amazing smelling loafs out of the oven. But, would they be edible? Would it be anything like sandwich bread?  I barely had the patience to wait to find out, but I managed to set them aside to cool and wait for the morning.

To my amazement, the bread turned out GREAT!

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It looked dense but it made a hollow sound when I tapped the bottom. This sound is supposed to be a good sign.
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The “Bread Pal” we purchased several years ago allowed me to cut consistently sized slices, perfect for sandwiches.
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This whole wheat bread looks good and tastes great!

Goal accomplished! Next goal, to repeat this bread recipe successfully and in larger quantities.  I only made 2 loaves this time in effort to save waste if it ended up not going well.

Here are my 5 reasons the bread tastes great:

1.) I followed the recipe from this popular bread making book: Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book: A Guide to Whole-Grain Breadmaking by Laurel Robertson.  (Side note: super excited to try many more recipes from this book once I master the basics).

2.) It’s wholesome!  Have you every looked at the ingredients in store bought bread? This recipe only has 6 ingredients and you can pronounce them all – bonus!

3.) It cost next to nothing! I had all the ingredients on hand. In the future I will do a cost analysis, but on my first rough estimate I believe each loaf was less than $1 in ingredients.

4.) It tastes great because I made it! That sounds awfully conceited, but it’s not intended to be. There is a confidence and pride that came along with these loaves than will support my future loaf making.

5.) The bread tastes great because my family said so! Even Woodland, our 3 year old, loved it AND ate the crust (something he never does on store bought bread).

I made French Toast for lunch yesterday with the bread and it was delightful. Both loaves are almost gone in 3 days, which is the greatest compliment. Looking forward to many more loaves and experimentation beyond this loaf of basic whole wheat bread!

 

 

 

 

Welcome Home! Meet the Flock.

On Friday, 6/23, our first livestock on the homestead arrived! We knew from the start of our plans we would keep chickens for eggs. We have more plans for future livestock, but hens for eggs seemed like a reasonable first since we eat a lot of eggs and they would pay back any investment we put into them very quickly.

Rather than starting with chicks and having to wait for them to mature to lay eggs, we decided to get adult hens. A friend of ours has a lot of free range egg layers, so we bought 6 hens and 1 rooster from her. They made a 4 hour drive from Green Bay, Wisconsin to the Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan. They have been settling nicely since and have provided us with over 2 dozen eggs in the last week and a half since they arrived. Based on this number of eggs, and the way our hens look, we believe only some of them may be laying. 2 hens in particular seem younger and may not be layers yet (just a wild guess on this, based on hen size and their plumage). We also believe our rooster may be younger since he hasn’t developed his distinctive tail feathers yet, and we have not heard him crow.

Being that it’s pretty wild up here, we wanted to assure our chickens would be safe.  For that reason, their coop is located within a fenced garden area. The fenced garden area they are currently in is not growing any thing (expect grass and weeds). Their current roam space is about 50 feet by 35 feet. Besides our chickens being for eggs, we also have them at work – prepping our garden (digging and scratching the ground) and fertilizing it (poop). This way we can rotate the garden and rotate the chickens and they will help us cleaning up the old garden and prepping the new garden space. This is part of the permaculture way we intend to mirror in our homesteading efforts.

Because the chickens will be moving around the property, we wanted to give them a home that would be easily portable but that they could be locked up in at night for extra security. Based on lots of research, Tim built a mobile coop (a “Chickshaw”).

Total project cost = $40. The Chickshaw is based on the concept and design plan from chicken and permaculture expert Justin Rhodes of Abundant Permaculture.

Tim built it over a few hours in 2 days. The chickens arrived a day later. We were pleasantly surprised that every night they go in on their own and then we just go and lock it up. Each morning we let the chickens out, check for eggs, and feed them some kitchen scraps. We check again for eggs in the afternoon.

We are quickly learning that each have their own personalities (or chickenalities, as Flora says!). Also, that chickens can be very hard to get good pictures of 🙂  Meet the flock!

Zeus
Zeus – Our rooster. Leader of the flock.
Tan2e
Tan2e.  Woodland named this hen! We interpreted the spelling based on his pronunciation.
Pixel
Pixel. Our sassy hen who escapes the yard! She willfully comes back in when we bring her kitchen scraps.  Hope she breaks this dangerous habit.
Onyx
Onyx. Our mostly black chicken.
Bonnet
Bonnet. Named for her red head. Our most timid hen.
Bronze
Bronze. Named for her brown chest.
Daisy
Daisy.  Flora named this one!

We have been enjoying the chickens! The eggs are amazing, they have beautiful orange yolks. The chickens have been entertaining and are warming up to our human interaction. 2 are eating from our hands.

What’s next for livestock on the homestead? We don’t want to undertake too much at once; we want to give each project (or animal) the attention they deserve. Right now we are focused on the garden and the chickens.  Perhaps meat chickens will come next.

Wild Raspberry Leaf Tea, a Homesteading First

Since the move a week ago, we haven’t had much on our minds except unpacking and getting a good night of rest for more work the next day.

I hit a bit of a dead end (mentally) with unpacking and decided to get out to take my first shot at wild gathering – picking wild raspberry leaves and drying them for tea. We drink a lot of tea. In our vision of homesteading here, we’ve had on our minds that we could provide a fair amount of our own tea and other food through wild gathering. A goal of ours is to be self-sustaining in as many avenues as possible.  We look to our land as a provider, considering the idea that we have a food forest right here. For tea, we have wild raspberry leaf, wild blueberry leaf, mint, clover, and Labrador tea right on our property.

One thing that drew us to White Sky Woods was that it seems to have been an old homestead.  There was an apple orchard, so we wouldn’t have to start our own trees. Reportedly growing wild were lots of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries (we visited and purchased in winter, so we had to believe the seller on this). We felt this property came with several ways that would immediately be providing food for us.  All of those fruits turned out to be true, in greater abundance than we could have imagined!

So, this week the kids and I set out to gather wild raspberry leaves to dehydrate for use as tea.

Children picking raspberry leaves.

From my reading, it is best to gather the leaves prior to blossoming or fruiting. We have many immature plants that currently do neither – growing wildly all over. So that’s what we picked from.

Picking Raspberry Leaves

Once we filled up a gallon pail with leaves, we came back inside to dehydrate them. Here they are fresh. They shrink significantly upon drying.

Raspberry Leaves

My new range has a special low temperature dehydrate feature. How handy! We laid out the leaves on some baking sheets and put them in at 175 degrees F. In approximately 20 minutes they were completely dry. When I opened the oven an amazing aroma filled the house. I had to put another batch in, but I also decided to brew some fresh leaves to try. The fresh raspberry leaf tea passed the test – I’d mark it as “delicious” on my flavor scale. 🙂

Raspberry Leaf Tea

For drying that we’d done in the past, we have used a more typical round dehydrator for fruits, leaves, and vegetables. It would sometimes take a day or more. I suspect this new range is WAY more efficient. I look forward to testing some other items!

When all was said and done I had a half gallon Ball jar filled with dried wild raspberry leaves. I was so excited about it that I did some more quick research to see about wild strawberry leaves since I saw many of those on our raspberry leaf hunt. Sure enough, they can be used for tea also. So out we went and collected a gallon pail of wild strawberry leaves to dry. The taste testing and drying results with the strawberry leaves was good too!

Dried Raspberry Leaves

Such fun to be officially doing homestead things on the homestead we’ve been planning an building for over 8 years. I especially love that our beautiful property provided this with no pre-planning from us! The leaves will provide antioxidants and other health benefits for our family. Plus, hopefully eliminate our cost to buy tea!