Simple Gardening for Busy People

On the homestead in my dreams I have a huge garden with tons fruit trees, vegetable beds, herbs and flowers but lets face it…I ain’t got time for that.

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We work full time (plus a little more) and just don’t have the time to devote to a big garden.  I’ve had to cut corners and figure out how to grow the things we need the easiest way possible.

At first, only grow what you actually need.  Yes flowers are pretty but (mostly) you don’t eat them.  I narrowed down our list to the fruits and vegetables that I knew we would use and use often. I started with tomatoes, peppers, and a few herbs.  Once you’ve gotten the hang of growing those and it becomes easy for you then, go ahead and add to the list.  After 4 years of gardening my list right now looks like this:

Corn, peas, zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, pumpkins, plus blackberry bushes and potted herbs.

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Don’t be afraid to get creative with how you grow them.  As I said before, I want to grow things in the easiest way possible. We figured out that potatoes can be grown in 5 gallon buckets.  This cuts way down on the amount of time you spend hilling them (just chuck a little extra dirt in the bucket every few days) and it makes harvesting a breeze.  I also grow all my herbs in big flower pots, that way I can move them around and even bring them inside and use them through out the year.

Most of my vegetables are grown in raised beds which are easier to “put to bed” at the end of the season and to get prepped at the beginning.  A simple pile of compost and wood chips (thank you chickens and wood splitter) spread over the top of them gets them ready for winter and then come spring I just use a shovel to mix them up a little bit and I’m ready to go.

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The other way we save time is to keep the tools that we use close to the garden.  Valuable time is saved when I don’t have to walk all over the place trying to find a shovel or a watering can.  I keep the shovel and a bucket along side the garden and the watering can right next to the hose.  It may not sound like a big deal but every little thing that can make it easier is worth it to me.

If you want to start gardening but want to take it slow, try a small container garden.  Strawberries, cherry tomatoes and herbs of all kinds grow really well in large pots.  You can keep them right on a balcony or front steps and be able to water them and harvest as you walk in the door at night.

Do you garden? I’d love to hear your tips and suggestions!

Our View This Winter

I love snow.  I love snow so much that there is a snowflake permanently printed on my body (No, I’m not telling you where)…that is some serious snow love.  But friends I have a confession to make, I am officially over snow.

My View This Winter

This winter has been a long and snowy one that’s for sure.  We’re up to 3.5ish feet out there with snow banks and drifts a good bit higher.  I can’t remember when we’ve had this much snow and there is still more coming!  I went ahead and ordered my seeds this past weekend but I’m not convinced I’ll ever be putting them in ground.  See that rectangular bump? Yeah, that was my garden and somewhere under there is an entire bed of garlic.

view this winter

Now, I don’t want to be nothing but complaints.  I am actually quite amazed at the snow we’ve gotten and how beautiful it makes our whole property look.  There is a little girl here who is beyond excited about it and is always asking to go “stomp stomp” in the snow.

winter view

How has winter been in your neck of the woods? Leave a comment and share, I’d love to hear all about it.

Preserving the Harvest

preserving the harvest

It’s the time of year when our minds turn to thoughts of spring and we start dreaming of seed orders and garden plans…oh who am I kidding? We’re in the middle of straight up blizzard and there are 21 inches of snow on top of my car.  The only reason I’m thinking about spring gardening is because I just finished the last jar of this past years tomatoes and I wanted to know how long it would be before I got home grown tomatoes to put on my plate…far too long was the answer.

I preserve produce in a few different ways, mostly canning and freezing with a little dehydrating thrown in.  Things like potatoes and garlic go in baskets in my pantry so they are easy to grab when I am cooking.

The grand total (minus the dehydrating, which wasn’t much, and the taters and garlic)

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Canning

9 1/2 quarts of apple sauce

12 pints of pickles

4 4oz jars of pepper jelly

7 4oz jars of strawberry jalapeno jelly

6 pints of mixed berry jam

5 quarts of tomato puree

Freezing

2 gallons of blueberries

1 gallon of sliced peaches

1 gallon of sliced strawberries

5 quarts of shredded zucchini

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We have already started making some changes for next years garden because though it seems like a lot when typed out, it really wasn’t enough.  My goal is to grow and home preserve as much as possible so that means at least tripling the amount tomatoes that go in the garden since I use them so often.  I am also planning on adding a few new plants including storage onions and kale.  I have grown herbs in the past but for some reason didn’t last year so they are coming back as well.

There is something about planning for spring in the middle of a snowstorm that makes your plans grow much larger than you had originally intended isn’t there?

Homestead Goals for 2015


We aren’t big new years resolution people.  We’d rather set some small attainable goals to work towards over the course of the year.  Think of it as our yearly to-do list, man I love crossing things off a to-do list.

Our overall goal for life here on the homestead is to be as self-sufficient and sustainable as possible.  In order to get closer to that goal in 2015 we’ve planned out the following “to-do list”.  

Expand the garden…again
The garden did get expanded last year but there is still room for more.  There are two trees that are preventing the garden from getting as much sun as we’d like so, they are coming down! I’m also toying with the idea of replacing the flowers in front of the house with herbs (roman chamomile, echinacea, and calendula most likely).   


Harvest the four older chickens
It’s the circle of life my friends, the 4 older hens are getting old and aren’t laying as consistently as they once were.  They have served us well over the years and it’s time for them to serve us one last time.   This will be a new and important skill for us to learn and I’m grateful to have friends to help. 

 
Add to the flock
We just added 4 younger hens to our flock and are planning on adding some more come spring.  8 or 9 total is an ideal number for us, providing us with enough eggs plus extra to sell.  


Get approval to sell home canned goods
I love to can especially jams, jellies, and pickles.  We have done a good bit of research on the state laws allowing us to sell these items and the biggest hurdle to jump is getting our kitchen inspected by the department of health.  Once they approve our kitchen then we can begin to sell at local markets and fairs.  This would be a huge step for us and I’m really excited about the possibility.  

Grow my Squigglybugs / Cloth by Kailyn business
I am loving my work as a consultant and educator for Squigglybugs.  Teaching families about cloth diapers, babywearing, and natural baby care has been such a great opportunity for me.  It has been slow to grow and I know that I need to spend some more time and energy focused on making my business great! *Check out my store HERE

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We’re always been the kind of people to DREAM BIG but we are realistic enough to know that it takes time and that we are better off taking things one little step at a time.  What little steps are you taking toward your goals this year? 

 

How To Start Homesteading

Modern homesteads come in all different shapes and sizes from 100 acres off the grid to an abandoned city lot, from pastured pigs and a dairy cow to planter boxes on a fire escape.  The main thing that ties all these homesteaders together is the desire to do things for themselves and to live a more natural life. 


For us, our desire to homestead sprang from an interest in living a healthy life and a need to cut costs and save money.  We found that starting small and doing a lot of research was the easiest way to get going and even now that we are a few years in we are still adding new projects and researching new topics. 


Each week I link my blog posts up with the Homestead Barn Hop.  This is a weekly list of homestead themed posts.  It’s a great place to look for new ideas, get some advice, and meet some pretty awesome homesteaders.  I’ve learned so much from reading blogs, it’s a great way to see how real people are giving homesteading a try. 


We started with some simple goals and from there made a list of potential projects.  We started by canning “pick your own” apples and slowly added tomato sauce, salsa, a variety of jams, and pickles.  Our garden started out as a few pots of herbs and continues to grow each year.  I found that once I got the hang of one thing it was time to take it a step farther. 



Of course, you could always buy a few acres off the grid and just jump right in…

If you have any questions about homesteading ask away in the comments! I’d love to help you get started on this crazy and rewarding adventure. 

Garden Planning Part 1

Maybe it was the never ending winter, maybe was the fact that we were out of the veggies I put up by December but either way this years garden has grown considerably from last years.  I’m dreaming big folks, cause thats what I do…so big in fact that I had to break this up over two posts, stay tuned for part two later on in the week.

The garlic I planted this fall isn’t looking so hot.  I’m not giving up on it just yet but I’m also not holding my breath for it.  I’m pretty sure the 2 feet of snow it got buried under for months didn’t help very much, not to mention the flood that the 2 feet of melting snow caused.  I wish I could figure out the secret to garlic growing because thats one thing I’d love to be stocked up on when winter rolls around.  

Up until now, we’ve kept our garden to 2 raised beds and a couple of large pots but not anymore.  We’re putting in a few rows along side the beds.  These rows are going to more than double the space we usually have and I plan on filling every inch.


My biggest experiment this summer is potatoes.  I’m trying the “trash can” potato method and I’m really excited about it.  I’ve done a lot of research and it sounds like an easy and inexpensive way to grow potatoes.  Expect a blog post about it later on once I see how it goes.

My other big experiment is fruit.  I’ve been wanting to orchard it up for awhile now (and yes, I know that isn’t a real phrase) so this year we are turning one of the raised beds into a strawberry patch.  Well, hopefully but those little guys are not starting as easily as I expected and are still very very tiny.  Hopefully now that we are getting more sun, they’ll grow a bit.  The other fruit that we are adding is blackberries.  Our local conservation district sponsors a tree and shrub sale every year and this year they are selling blackberries.  They are a hardy, thornless, variety called Chester and come with good recommendations.  These will definitely be the most permanent addition we’ve made and I’m looking forward to blackberries year after year…as long as we can keep the chickens away from them. 

Are you planting a garden this year?  What are your plans? 

Linking up with: Homemade MondaysModest MomHomestead Barn Hop