Growth When You Least Expect It.

I started and didn’t finish this blog post 100+ times, seriously, no exaggeration. First, a few years ago, it started in my mind. I had been inspired by some observations that I had many in nature of triumph, persistence, and healing. The idea I had in my mind grew. And then life went on and the idea stopped growing, in fact, I barely even noticed it. Later, the idea came back to me, I worked through it in my mind an awful lot, especially while I worked in the garden. In my mind I wrote and rewrote my thoughts. Eventually, I started writing them down, but then the idea grew so big it wasn’t manageable with my writing skill set (or, I just couldn’t get it there, it was daunting), so I just took a step back. But, it nagged and nagged in my mind, I needed to find another way to nurture the idea but I didn’t know how. Then yesterday, while observing my lovely plants growing in our high tunnel, I found my inspiration, my focus – my thoughts came full circle and I understood the lesson I’ve been wanting to share.

I find my busy mind slowing and looking inward much more than it used to when I was younger. This happens a lot when I’m gardening because gardening has a mind clearning effect on me. I just get in a zone (ohhh, it’s such a sweet and savory place). With a major life change in completing the move to White Sky Woods (it was 5 years ago!) and bringing a dream to fruition, it encouraged a lot of personal growth. The change fueled it, and also, a new lifestyle encouraged it through time availability (although I’ve had some up’s and down in this department), lack of outside pressure, new pace, new self-care habits and nutritious food and healthy movement. I have learned that personal growth cannot be forced – that we grow more or less in each season of our lives, much like nature. I found that at times in my past, I really tried to force growth. Sometimes I felt I needed some specific growth and then I was fraught with challenge. When I was feeling challenged, stuck, and confused that awful, ugly, stinky voice in my head would start talking. It said stupid things, and sometimes it was so persuasive I listened, what?! (The brains neuropathways can be so powerful! These super highways can transport negative thinking based on our lifetime of experiences and thoughts, but the great news is we can make new ones, create new routes that transport positive thoughts, and that’s where change and postive growth takes place! I digress within this extra long parentheses.) When I listened to that bully voice, it halted any growth and I intentionally stop listening in order to recalibrate. It could be best described by “getting in the way of myself.” I’ve had a lot of growth, but sometimes I still get in my own damn way. Albeit frustrating, I know now to give myself some grace and compassion when this happens, even when it feels unnatural.

Back to the garden, this year it feels like it is growing very slowly. Each year is different, so you’d think I’d be able to manage my thinking, worries, etc. by now right? But, it’s still a thing for me, and it comes out of my dedication to homesteading, healthy food for us and the community, so much more, and probably a unwelcome dose of perfectionism. I could get lost in this worry about the speed of my garden growing. I could look ahead, project, or panic plant (yeah, sometimes I do this…if I don’t see growth I just keep seeding more and more, it’s a little…..much, but also sometimes useful like when you grasshopper population decimates you entire spring crop – yea, that happened last year, ugh). Or, I could take a deep breath, have confidence in my skills of planting a garden, be sure to listen to my intuition and then respond, or check again in a few days. Growth cannot be forced.

To remind me of this – there is this bit of magic currently happening in the high tunnel. Each year we amend the planting beds by turning compost into the soil. It does a great job adding nutrition the plants will need during their life. About a month ago, I noticed a few sunflower plants growing among my veggies. Well, I legitamtely am incapable of pulling sunflowers like you would with weeds. I just can’t. Plus, these sunflower seeds were growing from two year old compost, meaning they managed to survive a long term decomposition and heat cycle. So, even though growing sunflowers in the high tunnel is unconventional, I wanted them to stay. And they grew. And grew. And grew!

Tall sunflowers, reaching for the sky….errr…..ceiling.

One is growing nearly in our path which is deeply compacted soil from getting walked on. The conditions for it are not right. Today I saw that the first blossom is about to happen. And just like that, all the thoughts I’d been having about that original blog post came to me, which I immediately understood had to be part of the process of learning the lesson I was getting after, for my OWN growth. Growing plants don’t question. They don’t analyze. Growing plants don’t force. They don’t wonder if the conditions are right, or they are growing directly where they want to be or think they should be. Growing plants have the ability to overcome the odds, and they slow down or give space for others when they can’t grow and when the conditions are right, they grow again.

It’s. Freaking. Magical!

And, I have found my own life mimics exactly what the sunflowers showed me. When I’m ready for growth, it happens. It happens unplanned and unexpectedly. Sometimes it happens after a challenge, or when I least expect it. The process isn’t always beautiful, but the end product is! And, I had absolutely everything I needed within me (plus a little bit a “fertilizer” from self-care behaviors, and a great network of love and support). And then much like that sunflower has, the seeds for the next growth are there, but they are unrealized until the time is right again. I can trust that it is all there.

Do you give yourself room to grow?
Do you honor growth you didn’t call-in or expect?
Can you find the beauty in your growth AND non-growth phases, and see the beauty in who you authentically are?
I bet the people who love you see it. ❤

Plus….who doesn’t love a sunflower? They stand out in the garden with a happy, soul shining look. Why not let your soul shine too?

Getting ready to shine! And it doesn’t need to be perfect – note dead insect. 😉

Wishing you peace, love and nature,

-L

P.S. HAPPY SUMMER SOLSTICE!

Travel Bug Infects Homesteading Family

When we started our homesteading life, flexibility was a huge perk we were looking forward to. However, the last few years we had less flexibility since our mission was starting our homestead up from scratch. Our infrastructure and systems are in place now (for the most part) and we knew it was time to do the next thing in the master plan, travel more! While we can’t travel in spring, summer or fall due to our commitments of growing our own food on the homestead, we knew it was time to start utilizing the flexibility we have in winter to travel. I love traveling, seeing new things, experiencing new cultures and expanding my mind through experiences. As a homeschooling family, I also saw the opportunity for the kids to learn on the road, through experiences, rather than at the kitchen table in a book. Several months ago I start planning a winter trip, the timing worked well, having it take place just before we start our seeds indoor (always planning ahead!). A few winters ago Woodland said he wanted to see the desert, so that was our destination! It was quite the road trip! Some things I tallied from our travels:

16 days
2 adults, 2 kids, 1 dog
84 word search puzzles
7 audiobooks
5,000 miles driven, approximately
7 meals out
41 meals packed/prepared (this is no easy feat while traveling with family!)
1 epic hot air balloon ride
10 states
8 National Park properties
4 lizards, 10+ new to us birds
3 AirBNB’s
4 overnights in hotels
0 sightings of Michigan License Plates (c’mon MI, represent!)
Countless new things learned and opportunities had!

We learned so much along the way, and we even learned about homesteading – gathering knowledge about indigenous farming through the last thousands of years in the desert and ranch life from the 1800’s.

Here are some photo highlights from our travels:

On our travels we saw expansive open spaces, tall and seemingly never-ending mountains, and captured knowledge about millions of years of history. While daily life can feel big and overwhelming, through our observations I recognized how small we are in the entire scope of things. It makes daily challenges seem much more manageable, as we are just a speck in the expanse and history of time.

Yet, while we were out and about, so many things remind me of home. Yup, even in the desert! Common plant families – like mallow, hiking over sandstone and basalt rocks – such as those of the Keweenaw, copper mining – albeit a very different style than the Keweenaw region; so much of what we experienced ended with “hey, that’s similar to at home!”. While it was great to be out and about, expanding our minds and having new experiences, arriving home was a welcome part of our trip. Our homestead is where we feel the strongest sense of belonging. Man is it good to have a place to belong.

P.S. There was a lot more snow when we got home! We are so grateful for our neighbors who took care of our animals and homestead while we were adventuring. We have an amazing community who looks after each other.

Wishing you peace, love and time in nature,

-L

5 foot tall girl on snow pile.

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

A Notion About Seeds

Happy Spring! We’ve been over here in the Northwoods riding the wave of Mother Nature’s moods. The last two days were 60 degrees F and sunny in the Keweenaw and as I’m writing this it’s 34 degrees F and snowing enough to accumulate. This time of year really reminds me of how adaptable and flexible we need to be. We can learn this lesson from nature. The migrating birds are either here or moving through, the trees are just starting to leaf out, the daffodils are just about to open and then…..SNOW. Yet, in most cases they just keep right along or making slight adaptations to manage through it. I’m doing a similar thing today. I had outside plans, but this weather and my plans didn’t mix. I made a few changes and now I’m on the couch with a cozy blanket and cup of tea. That’s flexibility, right? 😉

One of my outdoor plans today was to pull the overwintered parsnips and carrots out of the garden. It is such a treat enjoy fresh in April what was planted in summer last year. Fresh is so very appreciated this time of year – from that harvested from last year’s planted, along with fresh greens from seeds recently sown in the High Tunnel.

Fresh Kale picked from the high tunnel!

As a gardener and reader, I come across different sayings and quotes that have the tune of gardening, but carry deeper meaning, as interpreted by the reader. Here’s one of those quotes by a wise unknown.

“The day you plant the seed, is not the day you eat the fruit.”

Unknown.

We’ve recently been planting a lot of seeds, along with harvesting the fruit (or roots in the case of carrots and parsnip), so I get this quote. It’s literal. But, it really gets me thinking about it metaphorically as well. This summer we’ll be celebrating our 4th year as permanent, full-time residents of White Sky Woods, but we started planting the “seeds” long before making this major move to homesteading and yurt life. Maybe the “seeds” were little ideas of what our homestead could be like, or maybe a “seed” was a purchase that allowed us to achieve something more, like fencing the garden so our real seeds could safely grow.

Sometimes we plant “seeds” in the form of positive ideas that we don’t even know will grow. Maybe the “seed” is an idea that you’re passionate about and you do everything to grow the “seed” by learning, practicing, dreaming, and doing. All these efforts help the “seed” grow, but depending on what is meant to be, it may or may not be productive enough to ever pick the “fruit”.

Maybe you plant a “seed” as just a passing thought and it magically grows on its own without much input and then suddenly there is “fruit” and you feel grateful. These “fruits” are surprising and sometimes even go unnoticed because the “seed” was such a passing thought.

Maybe in another case the “seed” you plant is an idea that is critical, damaging, or negative. We can grow these seeds too, and these kinds typically have “fruit” that is more akin to thorns. For some of us, these are the easiest “seeds” to grow, but I’d say that for all of us, the least welcome “fruit.”

Everyday as a family we take time at dinner to say what we are grateful for. It’s such a positive practice. Sometimes we have small things, and sometimes big ones. But, it’s great practice to make note of what “seeds” we are planting and what “fruits” have grown.

What “seeds” are you planting? What “fruit” will they or have they grown? I’d love to hear!

Steering in New Directions

Just as the weather and seasons change and can be unpredictable, so sometimes are things here on the homestead. In the past 3.5 years, we’ve seen a lot of changes! As newbie homesteaders since 2017, we’ve been enjoying and exploring various opportunities that homesteading offers. For instance, in year one we bought 2 pigs, bred them, and then raised and sold their young in year two. In that time we learned to castrate piglets and raise them on rotational grazing on pasture. We learned how to butcher a young pig, inseminate a sow (although unsuccessful) and then butchered a 615# sow on our own. We could never had predicted any of that journey, but we did give it all of our heart and soul. There were ups and downs and I don’t regret any of it. We learned what we think we would or wouldn’t do again and we’re open-minded to the idea that overtime, that could change.

Two years ago we decided to explore another opportunity, working with young calves to train them to oxen to have working draft animals here. We brought home Nels and Wiit and raised them from calves. We trained them for work. They learned commands like come up, woah, gi, and haw. They went on daily walks, they grazed the pastures all summer long. They learned to pull, and boy did the kids love getting sled rides down the road.

Early Winter 2019, Tim takes Wiit and Nels on a training walk – pulling our kids and a friend in the sled!

In year two we had a few road blocks to training. Both Tim and I had injuries which made handling large animals challenging. Also, renovating the cabin and managing a growing garden and high tunnel were full time jobs on top of our regular work. Unfortunately this combination of circumstances impacted the amount of work we were able to do with Nels and Wiit. They still had their daily walks to pasture and received plenty of love.

2020 was a tiring year for us. As we came into the new year I spent a lot of time thinking about priorities and simplifying life. Tim had been doing the same. One evening we found ourselves reflecting on our past year and the year ahead, ideas that had been in our minds were vocalized and after taking a week’s time to think about the discussion and options, a hard decision was made. It was time to make some changes to downsize our responsibilities and costs. It was time to take a new direction, away from our original ideas. This includes several changes, with the biggest being choosing not to proceed with training Nels and Wiit for draft and no longer keeping them. When we spoke with some friends about this, they expressed interest in buying for beef. With hearing this, we knew that this hard decision was just made clear. We’d choose good food over the attempt to sell trained young steer in a region where this type of activity is rare. While our vision of draft for Nels and Wiit didn’t come to complete fruition, it was an incredibly enriching two years of time for us and friends who spent time with them, and as it goes for the cows they had a great life. They were cared for holistically and loved and they will provide healthy, tasty food for four local families who will enjoy meat raised within just five miles of their homes.

With a trailer rented from a friend, we loaded up the cows. We were so nervous they wouldn’t load, but their training really came in handy. With some simple guidance, they went into the trailer with no trouble. They made the trip to the processing facility (we didn’t want to take on this scale of project ourselves) and were easily loaded off. The homestead is already very quiet without their presence, since they always greeted anyone with mooing. As with all our animals, the decision to end a life is never easy. Also with all our animals that end as a meal, we have extreme gratitude for the opportunity to connect with them and have them enrich our lives during their time here and for the nourishment they provide for us after.

Well fed, but begging for food, early winter 2020.

The homestead feels different now, but we are moving along with thanks in our hearts. We continue to evaluate what’s right for us and where to put our focus. We will always be learning and doing, adapting and changing. Sometimes this leads to tears and sometimes to joy and we’ll live it to the fullest. Life is good.

It’s seed starting time so the smell of dirt is in the air! Also, we’re wrapping up all the rehab and remodeling work on the vacation rental cabin and getting ready to list it for booking! Stay in touch on Instagram and Facebook for a sneak peek of it all!

Wishing you abundant peace, love and nature,

-L

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

July Digest 2020

07/06/20
Jacobsville, MI
White Sky Woods Homestead

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.

Bountiful wild foraging, several healthy litters of rabbits, progress on our homestead vacation rental and good feedback and sales from our first year farm stand have been some of the best highlights of the start of the summer season.  

Farm stand among the ferns and lupines.

The farm stand has been a rewarding new project. Every Saturday we sell 3 varieties of fresh baked bread and seasonally available produce fresh from our garden. We serve a very low population, seasonal, rural community, so bringing small amounts of fresh produce to sell each Saturday is our goal. Recently it’s been all about greens, but soon we’ll start having more variety such as snap peas, green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes and more. We also sell jellies and jams made from hand-foraged wild edibles along with herbal teas, also sourced from hand-foraged wild edibles, all harvested in our own property.  We do everything on a small and personally sustainable scale.

Aphids, grasshoppers and maybe other pests in the garden, some struggles with root crops (maybe thanks to the aforementioned pests), a broken down chainsaw, lack of time and extreme heat have been some of the challenges of the summer season.

We are thankful to say in the past 3 years of gardens we haven’t had much problem with pests, but year 4 of the garden is giving us new challenges. The great news is that we have much more growing space with the new high tunnel so if we lose some crops while trying to naturally manage the pests, our harvest will hopefully still be on track. However, some of the harvest will be missing almost completely: our beets, rutabaga, and parsnip.  We’ve done several replantings and the best we can come up with is that the plants are being gobbled up by the grasshoppers or another pest immediately after emerging.  If anyone has had this problem in the past, we would be so thankful to hear from you on what the pest was and what natural solutions were implemented. 

If you haven’t already, how about following us on Facebook & Instagram?

Cheers! 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