The Challenge of Predation

This was a rough week on the homestead. In just 7 days time we lost 3 duck hens and our rabbit – they were all killed by a predator. A few months ago we lost 5 chickens in one night. In summer, we were raising 6 chicks in a secure pen, only to go check on them and find them either missing or beheaded. To a large homestead or farm operation this might seems like nothing. But 3 ducks was almost half of our duck hen flock, 5 chickens was half of our chickens, 6 chicks was our succession of youth for the following year and our rabbit was more like a pet (he was our buck when we were raising meat rabbits, but we stopped meat rabbits and kept him because he was so sweet). Raising all kinds of animals is a long-term commitment, with poultry it takes time for them to be productive layers so unless you replace them with adults, you can’t just make up your egg production instantly. When they are gone, so is a period of time of egg production. Replacing them with adults is an option, but it comes with its own risks like disease or lack of acceptance from the tenured flock.

A common question we have living on a homestead that is fairly remote (no surrounding “farms” or neighbors) is – do you have problems with predators? Yes, we do. Then, what predators do you have? Coyote, fox? Well, we have almost every predator you could imagine in the Northwoods, but the one that actually causes us 95% of our problems – the short-tailed weasel. In winter its coat turns white and is referred to as an ermine. Some also call it a stoat. I have some other choice names for it, ha! It’s really cute, and really deadly. What a weasel usually preys on is mice, voles, shrews, frogs, eggs (we’ve also had problems with it robbing our eggs – we’ve found huge stashes outside the poultry pen), bugs and other small critters. Also apparently any type of poultry, no matter the size. The worst part of this little predator is that they just kill, enjoy some blood, and then leave the entire carcass. It seems like such a waste. The additional 5% of our predation problem comes from the sky (hawks, owls).

Goodbye Sweet Tracker. Loved by all, he was the biggest and best bunny.

When dealing with predators that can climb anything and sneak though any little space, it takes a lot of effort. It is one of the most frustrating aspects of homesteading for me, because I feel like we are always a few steps behind this murderous little beast. A year or so ago we’ve fenced in all our poultry to limit predation (they were free range). Then after the ermine went on a serial killing spree of 5 chickens in one night, Tim reinforced the chicken coup (which thankfully we haven’t had any chicken loss since). Now with the ducks being killed, Tim spent a bunch of time this week creating for them an “ermine proof” nighttime pen. Thankfully he’s been able to build this using supplies we had on hand – he’s so inventive and handy. Part of this new pen is that they (our ducks and geese) need to create a new habit of going in the pen at night so we can close them in until morning. The first night we had to encourage them in. The second night and every night after so far they have gone in on their own! Their intelligent behavior made me feel like a proud mother, ha!

I hope these new efforts slow down or stop the predation we have been experiencing. Seeing half your flock that you’ve raised, fed, and cared for die in an instant is a serious let-down. In reflection, a few ideas float in my mind.

1.) I still LOVE nature. We are part of nature (not separate of it) and that means we are often at the mercy of it. I can’t control the weather, but I can be prepared for it. As such, I can’t control the ermines natural behavior, but I can be prepared for it (better shelter, etc.)

2.) Homesteading is not glamorous. If you follow homesteaders on social media and are enamored with their lifestyle, then they probably are only showing you the “romantic” side of homesteading. There are so many amazing things about homesteading lifestyle, but like anything in life, there are plenty of bummer things too.

3.) I choose to enjoy the flow of my life, and not just the outcome. No, I don’t enjoy the dead ducks, but I do love life and this is a part of life. There will never be perfection along the way. There will be ups and downs. And, when it’s not going well, I’m learning.

Moving into a new week, we hope that the new duck/goose shelter that Tim built will be keeping them safe. Also, we are left thinking about how to make up for the loss of our 3 duck hens. On the upside, garden planning has been started and some new seeds have arrived in the mail! There is always something going on here at the homestead, good or bad, I accept it and keep moving right along.

Peace,

-L

It’s Winter and the Beet Goes On.

Today I happily welcome Winter Solstice. I love love love this day. The darkest day of the year – where here in the Keweenaw there are 9 hours and 45 minutes of daylight between the official sunrise and sunset times. Why so happy on such a dark day? Because it’s only going to get lighter from here folks (well, at least till summer solstice)! Yes, we have a lot of winter months left here in the north, but with all this darkness and snow it’s a great time to unwind and reflect, relax and renew. As a family who lives in tune with the earth and seasonality, we have annual Winter solstice traditions. I also like to take time for myself around solstice to look at the dark and the light in the past year, and project into the future my hopes for the upcoming year.

As a Winter solstice tradition, our family plans a book exchange between the 4 of us (what better to do in winter than read?!); we also go on a winter hike. A weather system is moving in with more snow today, so the hike should be filled with snowy wonder! This year I’m adding in a new tradition – HARVEST! It was our first year doing a winter planting in our high tunnel and now it’s time to harvest the beets and carrots. On a cold winter day, what a joy it will be to wash off the soil from our fresh vegetables and prepare them as a family. We’ll roast the carrots and beets with potatoes and herbs we harvested in autumn and enjoy a hearty dinner.

This picture is from a few winter’s ago, but it’s one of my favorite.

There is plenty to reflect upon this year. This past summer we celebrated our 4th anniversary here – it’s really important to us to celebrate the major life change we made, where we went from a typical town-dwelling working family to a yurt living, homesteading family in the Northwoods. Every year we celebrate making this soul-filling change in our lives.

2021 was our first full year with the high tunnel for growing produce. This means we started planting earlier than ever before with seeds going into the ground on March 7th, almost 3 months before much of the outdoor garden. And, in early August a small winter crop was planted. It takes a lot more effort to manage all the garden space for longer periods of time, but the rewards are immeasurable!

Also in 2021 we opened our AirBNB farmstay and had the most amazing response. It was a great way to generate more income for our family business, but more importantly enrich our lives (and hopefully the lives of our guests too). We met so many amazing people, and for those that took the 30-minute farm tour – we we able to share our story and experiences with them and connect them to how food (plants and animals) is grown in sustainable ways.

Our farmstand went on into its second summer and we expanded the types of produce for sale along with having more produce early in the season. The farmstand has connected us to our own community members, and beyond! Plus, my heart is full knowing our farmstand guests are eating nutrient dense, uber-local, organic produce and homemade foods in their own homes.

A challenge of 2021, as usual, is time. I am still learning the balance of work and play (usually losing play to work), and coming to terms with the fact that for homesteaders, summer is more work and less play and it’s okay, as long as I keep tabs on a suitable balance within that.

Another challenge of 2021 was that at the start of summer I started experiencing some discomfort in my leg, ankle and foot. Because I tend to downplay my own need for care, I ignored doing something about it. It became the source of chronic and debilitating pain over the course of the summer and I finally got myself into the doctor who ruled out any major problems and sent me to physical therapy (PT). My mobility has been coming back over the last few months of PT and I have high hopes this lesson sticks: ‘Care for yourself, damnit Lisa!’ I’ve been slowly learning this lesson over the years, but this may have been the most concrete evidence for it yet. And, I’m learning more about why I do this, which is also part of the solution.

Just like any 24-hour day, there are periods of light and dark in our lives. Both are always guaranteed. The question is, what will you make of it? Do you choose dark or light?

Happy Winter Solstice, Friends! May your upcoming days be filled with more light than dark and may you have many things to be grateful for. Thank you for joining us on our journey!

Stop and Smell the Roses

At the end of last year I set a mantra: live a slow, simple, and intentional life – unabashedly. I knew this wouldn’t be an immediate switch from what was happening (busy, overworked, disconnected) but I’m a believer that if you set an intention, the more you focus on it being true, it will happen. I knew that living this mantra wouldn’t just be an easy thing. I see clearly the type of person I am when it comes to keeping busy, and I knew that it would even take work to unlearn allowing my busyness to provide self-worth. It’s the journey, not the destination, right? Well, even though I had removed certain things from my responsibilities (outside of the home things) this summer proved to give more reasons to stay busy, like the following two:

-the AirBNB cabin is/was solidly booked all summer! This was the most amazing and abundant thing that happened all year, far surpassing our expectations! It did create more busyness, but it has been soul feeding. You wouldn’t even believe the level of awesome so many of our guests are!

-we expanded the garden in variety and size. The goal with this is to offer more variety and quantity to our loyal farm stand customers, along with the fun of trying new things, broadening our food preserving for winter, and getting more varied healthy foods in-season. It’s going well, and like always I’m taking notes in what to try different for next year. It’s really always an experiment of sorts 🙂

So yeah, there will always be a “next thing” (disclaimer: especially when you have kids). Commitments (fun ones yes!, but still something add to a schedule), things to do, things to go to, people to see. These all bring so much joy, but sometimes they bring rushing too. Sometimes they bring longing for quiet time at home. Will I ever be the type to just uncommit or be “lazy”, or have no purpose…. Nope. It’s just not possible, that’s not me. But I am finding ways to bring slow, simple, and intentional into my daily life. I have found that it’s small things, every day, that ground me. For instance, everyday I start with making coffee, enjoying a cup and then at least 10 minutes of meditation. I do nothing else before this, especially no phone checking. That way I come to myself, first thing each day, with a clear mind. It sets my tone for the day.

Another thing I have found helpful is to break up my work. It wasn’t an idea that came to me on my own, my body pretty well forced it upon me. I have been having a hard time with an ankle injury, and doing hours of work on it just worsens the damage, so much that by the end of the day I was immobile and in lots of pain. So, I break my work up now into shorter chunks of time. It’s amazing how different it feels when it comes to achievement. Instead of coming out of the garden exhausted and cranky from hours in the heat and sun, I come out thinking “I harvested all that in 45 minutes?!” I hope to keep this new habit going even after my ankle is healed.

Oh, and in between those short bursts of work? I rest. Sometimes I sit down. I. Actually. Sit! Sometimes I even lay in my hammock, in fact that’s what doing right now, while I’m writing this.

You know what else I do? I talk to myself. Yup. I think so many of us need to hear some form of this about ourselves: You are enough. And hearing something like this from ourselves, the most important person to hear it from: “I am enough. There is nothing I need to do to prove myself, but just be me.” In fact, none of us have to prove anything at all, it’s just that faulty programming inside us that says so.

I am part of an amazing community. A small local community. A broader food community. A community of friends and family. I see so many wonderful people around me wearing out over self-imposed circumstances (even if sometimes it’s unclear and we want to place blame on others for this, like a boss for example). I don’t think we need to do this, friends. Let’s be good to ourselves and take just a little bit of time each day to do something that brings a smile to our face, slows our heart rate or raises gratitude awareness. Here’s a few things we’ve done on the homestead:

Stopped and smelled the roses.
Enjoyed a bowl of ice cream on a hot day. (It’s been way too hot this summer).
Spent time in a hammock, even if it’s just 10 minutes!

We even hosted an afternoon herbal tea party by the roses which was a real delight.

I sincerely hope you find something that brings you joy or presses that reset button daily.

Wishing you peace, love and nature,

-L

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

In Summer of 2020, we had our 3 year anniversary of full-time residence and homesteading at White Sky Woods! We usually have a celebration, inviting friends, sharing food around the bonfire, but we didn’t do that this year – you know, pandemic. It’s hard to believe it’s been 3 years already … It’s hard to believe it’s only been 3 years! As with most things in life, the longer you do something, the more likely you recognize trends. Things become more predictable year to year. The homestead also brings some predictability of sentiments, such as the one that titles the blog.

Early snow, mid-October 2020

As a homesteader, the majority of the heavy work we do takes place April – October. Everything revolves around the outdoor work and the garden: planting, growing, harvesting, putting up the food. It takes a lot of care and effort to manage a garden that supplies our food for a year for us plus a touch more for what we grow for the farm stand. I love the work! I love being active and connecting with the land. Doing all the work means bringing my family and community healthy food. That’s one reason we made the life transition from rat race to homesteading.

By the time August rolls around, I’m starting to feel generally overwhelmed. This past summer there was a lot of work done to build more of the foundation for our business, and the workload was worth it, but intense. By August, it feels like everything is a rush, balancing work and play becomes nearly impossible, it can be tiring and overwhelming. This is when I start to daydream about a slower pace: reading books, spending casual time with friends, focusing on work I’ve been putting off, getting back to things I enjoy that summer doesn’t afford time for, and traveling beyond the homestead. In its absence, all these things grow fonder in my mind.

Then comes October, and the panic really sets in. Will everything be prepped for winter, before the snow hits? Do we have enough food? How about firewood? This year I had in my mind that our major outdoor work would be wrapped up by November 1st, and I’d gracefully slide right into our calmer winter months. Something a little different happened. We started getting snow in mid-October and in my mind I surrendered to the fact not everything was getting done as planned. Then by early November it turned back to summer (it was 70 degrees this week – crazy!). These little flukes require flexibility. Nothing on the homestead is graceful.

Last minute harvesting before the snow comes. Rutabaga!

Once winter sets in, the pace changes. There are still chores, homeschooling, community volunteering, employment and other regular responsibilities but the light of the days are short and the dark nights are long. We spend as much time enjoying the daylight as possible – snowshoeing, kids playing outside, and training time with our two young steer. There is more time to focus inward as well as spending extra time catching up on reading, handiwork, personal education, and generally time to do whatever ever sparks our interest. It’s really nice compared to the summer’s demands. It’s the break I yearn for during the end of summer when I’m overwhelmed and just plain tired.

By January we are ordering seeds. In February we shift to thinking more about summer projects and garden planning. By March we’re starting seeds inside (although all of this will probably look different in 2021 since we have the high tunnel to grow in, yay!). Suddenly, we feel an absence of summer and our heart grows fonder for those sunny days in the garden and we are eager for winter to be over so we can get to work outside.

Is it the human way to yearn for something we have absence of? I think most homesteaders who love what they do would agree, the work is great, but the rest is necessary. And once we’ve had the rest, we get antsy and ready to get back to the work. In this lifestyle, absence truly does make the heart grow fonder and is part of the work/rest cycle.

I recently attended the Women, Food, and Agriculture Network 2020 Virtual Conference and it was invigorating. Being held in November, it was reassuring to have conversations with other women who are experiencing end of season burnout. I took several sessions about how to support my well-being (something I generally suck at). Engaging in the conference was a form of self-care. I decided the best way for me to focus on the Virtual Conference was to do a little get-away to a place where I wouldn’t be distracted by my normal responsibilities. I’m grateful my family supported me in this. The conference was a great way to help me shift from end-of-season to off-season.

I know that in a few months I’ll be eager to have back the hard-working summer months, but until then I look forward to focusing on what is here, now, and creating new habits to help prevent burnout next summer.

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Foraging on the Homestead

I love all the seasons of the Keweenaw, but when it comes to foraging, oh my how summer does provide! Recently we had a filming here about Keweenaw foraging – for the show “Discovering” on 906 Outdoors. (We had a winter filming too, maybe you’d like to check it out!) After the filming (I’ll share the link on social when it’s ready!), I was reflecting on how I became a forager. I couldn’t quite put a finger on any specific experience or moment. More so that foraging sorta slowly sneaked its way into my life. It probably started with our move here to White Sky Woods. While the garden and fruit trees were just getting established, we foraged wild berries from all over our property. I probably didn’t call it foraging though, just picking. At the time, I had known through focusing on a natural foods diet, that some plants in nature were medicinal, such as raspberry leaf. I remember this being one of the first things foraged once we moved here, and it was so exciting that I blogged about it!

As we were out picking fruit, I started to see new plants I didn’t know. So, being the naturally curious person I am, I started out learning the identifications of many of the plants on our land – from trees to grasses and all the things between (I met a lot of amazing animal life along the way too). As I became more familiar with the plants we share our home with and developed the ability to identify them in various growing stages, I started to learn more about the properties of the plants and how they could benefit us and what we could do to provide for them. I fumbled a lot in the beginning, having problems with identification retention, but the more I was out with the land, the more it came to me quickly. On hikes out on the woods, I soon found myself looking at all the plants and naming them in my mind as I passed by them. I still do this today, like saying hi to people you know on a busy street.

Hello St. John’s Wort. Your sunny beautiful flower will be a source of mental wellness come the long, Keweenaw winter nights.

Still, after many years identifying plants on our land (going back over a decade now), there are some that stump me every spring when they come up and I have to refresh my memory. But, there are the “old standards” that have become a part of our foraging practice that I easily identify, harvest, and use for various purposes. The kids do too!

We do some foraging and harvesting for medicinal purposes, but for the most part, our focus is finding wild edibles and foraging that benefit our general wellness. Our favorites are the berries, but there is SO much more than that. This past winter we didn’t buy packaged tea because we had foraged enough from the land to provide our own healthy teas. Also, I created a few blends to sell at our farm stand.

When I’m out spending time with the land now, I think about how the land provides. I thank it. I think about what I can do to provide for it in return for its abundance. It’s a relationship of balance and respect and reciprocity. Just like one you would have with a partner or friend.

That is what the land is to me. While the food we forage is healthy for our bodies, the relationship with the land feeds my soul. We feed our body with food, and we can feed our soul with nature (vitamin N).

I thought about sourcing a whole bunch of beautiful pictures of nature for this post, but honestly, writing about the land has it calling to me. Now, it’s time for me to head up in the trees and forage Juneberries while watching my fingers get stained with the juices and listening and observing nature around me.

Peace, Love and Nature,

-L

May/June Digest 2020

Originally written for and published by MSU Extension – Michigan Small Farm Newsletter. The monthly digest intends to give a quick snapshot of what’s going on around here on the homestead. Since many of our subscribers do not get that publication, I post the article here too.

06/16/20
Jacobsville, MI
White Sky Woods Homestead

So much has been going on around here it’s hard to keep track of what’s been done, we just keep our eyes forward on the calendar and projects and spend most of the time doing the work and less time thinking about what there is to do. It’s been non-stop (and we hope that we feel some relief soon). But, in the past month we did have a major project that we are so excited to have completed – our high tunnel!  

Over a year and a half ago we started the application process for the NRCS high tunnel initiative grant. The high tunnel arrived by delivery on Saturday, 5/23 and about 1 ½ weeks later the project was complete. We managed to put most of the tunnel together with 1-2 people and then were so thankful to receive support from friends with a tractor to raise the bows to attach to the posts and again to install the cover for the roof. The high tunnel growing space is 30’x48’.

Once the high tunnel was built Tim created the planting rows, hooked up the drip tape watering system and I got to planting. Everything was planted in the garden by the time I started the high tunnel planting, it’ll be interesting to compare staggered plantings, ripening times, etc.

We’ll use the tunnel to extend our season on the front and back ends, as a place to plant sensitive plants (we just had an overnight frost on 6/13), increase our growing space, and allow us to produce more for ourselves and our community (produce for sale at our farm stand). The plants I’m most excited about in the high tunnel that we’ve struggled with outside are: eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and tomatillos. While many of these grow in the outdoor garden, there were extra challenges we’ve met along the way, including in some cases never getting to the point of mature fruits/vegetables.

Now that the garden and high tunnel are planted, watering and keeping up with the weeding needs our attention until the produce starts coming. Until then, we’ll redirect to finishing up our major project, the cabin for vacation rental.  This project has been going on for over a year and we are very eager to have the construction done, the cabin furnished, and to begin welcoming guests to stay on the homestead as a place to rest, get back to nature, or see what homesteading is like.

Be well,

-L

April 2020 Digest

Originally written for and published by MSU Extension – Michigan Small Farm Newsletter. The monthly digest intends to give a quick snapshot of what’s going on around here on the homestead. Since many of our subscribers do not get that publication, I post the article here too.

05/02/20
Jacobsville, MI
White Sky Woods Homestead

It’s amazing what difference a month can make! The snow is gone. Green life is coming up from the ground, now we are just waiting for the trees to leaf out and really make it seem like spring here on the Keweenaw.

This week the focus will be hardening off and then planting some of our cole crops: broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage. Some snap peas and shelling peas have already been sown and another batch will be sown in another week. Carrots, parsnips and rutabaga seeds will find themselves in the ground in the upcoming days too. The garlic planted last fall and all our perennial plants are coming up nicely.

An exciting garden moment this spring was the harvest of our overwintered carrots and parsnips. Oh what a treat! Not only to go out there in the empty garden and pull out food, but the sweetness of the carrots and parsnips was out of this world!  It was our first year experimenting with overwintering these two crops in the ground and we will with certainty be doing it again and with a larger amount.

Carrots and parsnips after overwintering in the garden.

What we refer to as our north garden is almost completely cleaned up from the November snow storm. The fence is back in position, finally keeping the deer out!  All the downed branches have been cut and chipped and the last step is to remove the logs which will be used for firewood. It has several more plantings now too – 3 varieties of elderberry, 25 hazelnut, and 5 goji berries. Plus we’ve moved about 20 thornless blackberries plants from an unmaintained garden to the north garden along with some grapes. 

We are anxiously anticipating the coming of our high tunnel. It will be delivered in mid-May and then we’ll be spending the next few weeks assembling it. Along with this big project, we’re also working hard to finish up the work on the cabin in hopes to have it open this summer as a farm stay, AirBNB. Also in May and early June the remaining veggies will be planted in the garden and high tunnel. We’ve ramped up planting a bit in hopes to bring produce to our farm stand this year. It’s our first year with the farm stand! We are currently selling jams/jellies, fresh baked bread once a week, and soon wild-foraged herbal teas with the addition of fresh produce in the summer. In mid-May, we will also be expecting baby goats. Needless to say, May and early June are crunch time! We’re feeling the pressure as so many small farmers are, but the future is bright!

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Jacobsville Farm Stand (Guest Blog)

Note from Lisa: The following post is from a guest blogger, our 10-year old daughter, Flora.

Hi everyone! We have recently been working on building a farm stand! It is exciting to us because now we will offer our yummy homestead products to our local community. We will be sharing the farm stand with our neighbors Beth and Gene who own Circle Back Farm, they sell organic maple syrup. They have had a small maple syrup stand but this new one will be replacing it and will include produce and farm goods that our family grows and makes.

Here is how we built the farmstand:

First, my Dad and I did research on the internet to see what other farm stands looked like. We decided on what ours should look like and my Dad drafted a model on a computer program. I helped by taking notes on all the pieces and their measurements so we would be ready to build. Once we started building, we measured the lengths that our wood would have to be cut at and we cut the pieces of wood to their proper lengths. Next, we put the whole thing together with screws. The wood we used is milled by my Dad and is from local trees.

We had to do some problem solving on figuring out how our money slot was going to work. We also had to do some extra problem solving on how the roof was going to work and what it would be made of. Once we figured out we were going to make it out of metal, we had to cut the metal to the correct lengths. Then we had to stand on a ladder and screw the metal onto the roof frame. 

My favorite part of building the farm stand was the problem solving that was involved in building the farm stand. The reason I like the problem solving so much is because it really makes me think, come up with a new plan, and then test my new plan.

The farm stand will have jams and jellies, fresh produce, home baked bread, and hand foraged herbal tea from White Sky Woods. It will also have my favorite maple syrup from Circle Back Farm. There might be other new things during the season too!

The farm stand is be located on the side of the road near the mailbox at 40726 Red Rock Rd., Jacobsville. We hope you will come and check it out! 

This is me at the farm stand!

Note from Lisa: I’ll be posting product updates on Facebook and Instagram during the season. The early season will have our Forager’s Delight Fruit Spread for sale and 1 or more varieties of fresh baked rustic bread delivered by 10 a.m every Saturday (starting May 2nd). We also have duck eggs and rabbit available for sale, if interested in those, please contact me directly!

Real People, not Actors. 2 Videos to Watch this Weekend.

As we move into the second month of social distancing, we’re still keeping busy here. In a snapshot: we had a decent snowfall, I’ve been perfecting my rustic bread making skills (see below), also Tim took a break from the cabin and he and Flora built a produce stand (Flora is working on an upcoming blog post to tell you more about the produce stand!).

This kid loves bread!

We haven’t been bored, but I hear rumblings that others out there are. Might I humbly suggest some White Sky Woods entertainment? In the last two years we’ve met so many talented people, including a few that wanted to record and share our homestead journey. I see both of these videos as such a gift to us. Here are two videos you may enjoy watching:

The first program comes from 180 From Average. This video gives a tour of our homestead during our second summer of homesteading and shows a bit about yurt life.

This next one is from Kristin Ojaniemi, freelance videographer and producer at TV 6’s Discovering. It highlights a bit of what winter is like on the homestead, filmed mid-winter 2020. Take a snowshoe tour, forage, and meet the animals on the homestead tour!

Hope our friends, family, and followers are well, safe, and healthy!

Wishing you peace, love and time in nature,

-L

March 2020 Digest

Originally written for and published by MSU Extension – Michigan Small Farm Newsletter. The monthly digest intends to give a quick snapshot of what’s going on around here on the homestead. Since many of our subscribers do not get that publication, I post the article here too.

04/05/20
Jacobsville, MI
White Sky Woods Homestead

While there are still spots with several inches of snow on the ground, it is retreating and the signs of spring are showing. The most obvious signs we’ve seen outside are that our chipmunks have come out of hibernation and a whole variety of new bird species are arriving!  I absolutely love the change of the seasons. Another obvious sign here is mud! The indoor sign of spring is seed starting! Currently growing includes: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and herbs. 

A big change is coming to our garden this year, in May we’ll start building our high tunnel. We received a grant through the NRCS Eqip High Tunnel program that provides the financial assistance to do this project. It will be a game changer in extending our season and allowing us to grow more food. Another project underway is building a produce stand that will be located at a neighbors. They currently have a small stand where they sell their maple syrup. The new stand will be a collaboration where we both sell our product. Primarily we’ll sell fresh produce as available, eggs, jams, jellies, and herbal tea blends.

Even with Coronavirus making a big impact on our local community and especially Keweenaw tourism, we’re still moving along working almost daily on the cabin renovations with hopes that the June completion date and opening as an AirBNB and homestead experience will not be delayed due to the virus. We’ve had several inquiries about staying this summer, so I’m feeling good we will have some rentals if the health of our nation improves and restrictions are lifted.

We’ve started the clean-up of trees that fell into the garden and crushed a long portion of the north garden’s fence during last November’s winter storm. As we clean up the trees that already fell, we’re recognizing that more will need to come down around the garden to avoid a repeat. The fence needs some major repairs, but it’ll just get patched together at this time – to stop the deer from getting into the garden. The garden affected is part of our new property addition and it includes perennials like asparagus, grapes and cultivated blueberry bushes and we have plans to plant elderberry in there, so protecting this space from the deer is essential. 

Tim, taking a break. This photo is taken from inside the north garden. What remains of the fence can be seen through the middle of the photo. Clean up is in progress, but there is a lot to do!

The heavy work season is here and I’m reminded of the exhaustion that exists at the end of the day (and sometimes even the beginning!). However, I’m also reminded that we’re working for ourselves and a perk of being your own boss is that we make the rules and that it’s ok to take a break from the work (although sometimes challenging when you have young kids, even your break isn’t a break!). 

We hope all of our extended small farmer community are well and weathering this storm, a different kind of storm than we are familiar with.