Be Scrappy, Get Hay, Save the Pumpkins!

I’m learning that living a frugal life on the homestead has a lot to do with being scrappy.  Maybe that’s not a term you’re familiar with, but when I describe someone as scrappy that means they are resourceful and determined….you know, the kind of person who defines “where there is a will, there is a way”.  We’ve had our fair share of being scrappy around here.  I’m willing to do the hard work (vs. spending money) to receive a positive outcome.  One example of this is our horse manure source. She needs the horse barn cleaned out and the manure to go away, we’re willing to shovel it and haul it away.  It then gets spread across our garden to help the soil fertility.  Win-Win!

Another recent example of this is when we randomly inquired about hay bales that were being used for an event. A friend connected us with the event coordinator who was using the haybales whom we learned was more than happy to have us haul 75 hay bales away. Otherwise, she would have had to find something to do with them. With the help of friends who have a large trailer, we met, loaded, hauled and unloaded 75 bales of hay.  They took what they needed and we kept the rest. No cost, some labor, working together as a team – now that’s scrappy! The real benefit goes to our animals. Between feed, bedding and creating winter shelter, these bales are a real aid to our homesteading.  The event coordinator got rid of 75 unwanted hay bales effortlessly.  Another Win-Win!

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Free Hay?  Yes!

Another way we’ll be scrappy in this Halloween season is by putting a message out to people in the local area letting them know we’ll collect their pumpkins, hay bales, and/or corn they had out as decorations for autumn and Halloween.  Did you know that in the U.S. alone, over 1 BILLION pounds of pumpkins go to the landfill? Imagine how many people (or in our case – happy pigs) that could be feed, or how much nutrient rich compost that could make? So, local friends who have pumpkins (carved, getting wrinkly, or uncarved are all welcome), message me and we’ll come pick them up and put them to use!  Or, you can stop by and personally feed them to our pigs, it’s fun to watch!

Ideas for your uncarved pumpkins after Halloween can be found here.  If you can feed your pumpkins to the wildlife without creating nuisance animals for your neighborhood, that’s an idea too.  Have a friend with a compost pile? Share your pumpkin with them! If you have a friend with pigs, well of course give them the pumpkins.  🙂

Homesteading and non-homesteading followers alike – have any tips on how you are scrappy?  This could be tips for the homestead, meals, household, etc. Let us know! Drop us a comment here at the blog, or find our Facebook post with this blog and post your ideas there.  We love hearing from you!

Peace, Love & Nature,

-L

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

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