Homestead Update: April 2020

What a month!  After years of wanting to go all out, we finally started taking the steps to create a homestead where we live.  Hopefully someday we will have an acre or 10, but for now we are content to make our homestead where we reside.

This month we really went full force. I don’t expect the pace we’ve been going at to slow down any in May. We have so much work to do inside and out all while trying to earn some extra income from this blog and odd jobs my husband has been picking up.  

Blogging isn’t easy. There are a lot of steps to take and a lot of time involved. Luckily, I’m most productive early in the morning and later in the evening, so I have the bulk of the day to work on our homestead dreams.  I’m still trying to work out a good schedule to get everything done and will share it as soon as I find something that works. 

Meanwhile, here is what we did in April:

Planned Garden

I sat down with a few books and some graph paper and began designing our garden.  It’s nothing fancy, and the raised beds are different sizes and don’t match, but it is 100% functional.  What I came up with most likely won’t entirely happen this year, but it is the goal.  If we don’t get the rest of the beds made and filled, we will still plant everything we have planned and pick up adding more beds next year.  

I did a lot of research on companion planting and how many plants can be planted per square.  I researched approximately how many plants of each type we would need to plant to accommodate our preserving goals, and then mapped everything out on graph paper.  After that, I took some time to research the best planting dates for our region and made a planting schedule.

Thank goodness a lot of the crops that can be planted early are in the beds that we already have!

Started Seeds indoors

By the time I went to order seeds, they were all sold out or not shipping at all due to the new demand for seeds that seems to have been caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Our local garden center even said they have had almost double the business this year.  Because of this, we were only able to find a few heirloom varieties of seeds locally.  As soon as we can, I will be ordering all heirloom seeds for next years garden.  

Part of homesteading is being self-sufficient. To be self-sufficient, we don’t want to rely on the availability of plants or seeds to grow our own food.  Heirloom seeds can be saved year after year so that you only need to purchase seeds one time.

We purchased trays and seed starting soil and I dug out a grow bulb and light that I had bought probably a decade ago – the bulb still worked!  Again, due to COVID-19, the stores were all sold out of the cheap lamps.  So we are making due moving the light around and taking plants outside on nice warm days to get their sun.  

We have some leggy plants, but we are rectifying the situation and saving the ones we can.  We started our seeds quite late for what we should have done, but we are okay with a late harvest.

Planted beets

In the last few days of the month, I direct sowed 115 beet seeds. They just started coming up yesterday and are so neat to watch.  We got Detroit Dark Red, so when they sprout they are a bright magenta. This week, we will plant our other cold tolerant crops.

Spreadsheet of crops

Another thing I did was make a spreadsheet of everything we are planting.  It includes the type of seeds, where we bought them, whether they are heirloom and/or organic, starting dates, planting dates, and how much we will get from our harvest. This way when we plant next year, we will know exactly what did well, what we need to move, and how much more or less we need to plant to achieve our preservation needs.

Added 3 garden beds

We added extra beds this year to accommodate our goals. The plans I drew up call for 9 added beds total, and we will end up with 6 of those this year. We are still working on the part of the yard where the other 3 beds and the chicken coop will reside, but we did find some space for the plants that are supposed to go in those 3 beds.

Purchased chicks

We got 6 chicks from Bomgaars in mid April and they were suspected to be approximately 6 days old at the time. I’m fairly certain our 2 Prairie Bluebells are slightly younger than the others though as they are feathering out slower and are a bit smaller.  I wanted a variety, so we ended up picking out 2 Prairie Bluebell Eggers, 1 Rhode Island Red, 1 Americana, 1 Sapphire Gem, and 1 Golden Laced Wyandotte.

And yes, we named them all: Rona, Goldie, Henrietta, Looper, Fluffy, & Scratch.

Built chicken coop

Originally we were going to use a small part of our divided garage to house the chickens and then let them free-range our yard. The problem here is that chickens can destroy a backyard pretty fast. I didn’t want them rummaging through my garden eating all my plants and destroying the grass.  

Plus we have a Lab and a German Shephard and neither of those breeds fair well with chickens. I have no doubt that I could train our fur babies to protect them and not eat them, but I don’t trust them enough seeing how they chase after rabbits and squirrels.

So we decided to build a chicken coop.  It took about 4 days and I made some changes to the plans to accommodate 6 chickens. It’s not quite finished yet, but it’s complete enough that they are living happily outside instead of in our children’s bedroom. 

Canned Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate

When life gives you lemons… make lemonade.

Our neighbor ended up with a ton of lemons and gave us more than we could use. I might use one or two lemons per year and we ended up with probably over 100 or more.

I scrambled to figure out what to do with all of the lemons after the third day of the boys making homemade lemonade.  We had so many that I couldn’t’ fit them all in the fridge. So I grabbed a handy recipe from Ball Canning and bought some sugar. Now we have 6 pints of concentrate that the boys can whip up whenever they want.  

With the rest of the lemons, we juiced them and froze the juice. The juice will store well in the freezer and the boys will have all the lemonade they can make from it. I also must add that our 12 year old makes the best lemonade we’ve ever tasted and he did it all from scratch.

That wraps up our main projects for April. There is so much more, but I’d rather not bore you with mundane yardwork and odd jobs. Hopefully in a couple weeks I can get back to stripping the cedar strip canoe that I am building for my husband to take fishing!

What did you do in April to get ready for planting season? Leave a comment.

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