Busy, Busy, Busy!

It was a busy week on the homestead.

We are pretty sure that our property sits on some kind of underground spring, and that, in combination with all the rainfall from the last few months, has left our basement very wet. The water seems to be coming straight in through the cinder block walls. Not good, and not something we can afford to fix right now. Of course there is also the nasty mildew that comes from al lthe water

Now isnt' that just lovely?

Now isnt’ that just lovely?

Most everything we had down there was in some stage of wetness; from slightly damp to soaked through. A few weeks ago, in total frustration, I just started pulling everything out of the basement, except for the washer, dryer and freezer, which are all set up on blocks. It wasn’t all that difficult, because we actually have a basement-garage. The original driveway came from the street up to the garage door which opens to the basement. The main house is upstairs. I simply opened the garage door and started putting everything out in the driveway. Once it was all out, I used a squeegee to push the water into the drains or out the door. Then I hooked up a small fan to circulate the air. A dehumidifier has been added to the list of things we need to get when we have a little more money.

Ok, now that it’s all out, what do I do with it? I can’t just put it back in and I don’t have anything to put it up on to keep it out of whatever new water might come in. While I was pondering this, the rain came back; so we covered what we could with tarps and let it sit.

In the meanwhile, Ed thought we should clean out the other garage; the one that sits behind the house.

It is still stacked with things that were dropped there when we moved in almost a year ago. Since he wanted to move a lot of that to the lean-to attached to the barn, the lean-to would need to be cleaned first.

It had the same problem. When we moved (especially after I got hurt), things were brought in and dropped. Additionally, there were things left from the previous owner(s). I was thinking, “Ok, we can clean this out, move stuff from the garage in here, and then bring the stuff from the basement too.

Because of the weather and other obligations, we took two days cleaning out the lean-to. Then we moved some stuff from the garage. At some point, we decided to use the stalls in the barn as a temporary holding place for scrap and all my recyclables. We are still working on cleaning the garage, and moving things from the basement driveway.

piles  of stuff

piles of stuff

Ed checking his scrap

Ed checking his scrap

Oh, to make matters even more challenging, the doors on the back yard garage do not work. After some discussion, we decided to see if we could use parts from both doors, to make one work. We had some success. It’s not great, but the door will open and close.

We did find a few interesting “what is it?” type things. Ed’s going to ask some of his farmer friends if he knows what they are. We also found to old cuckoo clock weights  Ed says “You want these, don’t you?” Well, of course!

What is it?

What is it?

what is it 2?

what is it 2?

cast iron clock weights

cast iron clock weights

In the meanwhile, we knew my oldest son was coming in from South Dakota for a few days, and I needed to make a place for him to sleep. Additionally, we had friends coming out from where we used to live for an evening of food, fellowship and music. You know what happens when you have guests coming? Well, I know what happens, when I have guests coming. I go into high gear housecleaning. Then there was the cooking.

Did I mention that my son brought his puppy? Kat loved it, but the cats were less than impressed, and Meeko wanted to come play with his new friend. That meant Ed spent three days trying to keep Meeko from climbing the fence, but I”ll let him tell you about that.

Kat and Loki

Kat and Loki

In the middle of all the excitement, Ed had a job interview and started a new job at a truck stop about 30 miles from home. It’s less money, but less travel time and less stress too. I can deal with that.

Our friends came out, and the evening went beautifully. We had a nice visit with my son, but by Sunday afternoon, I was ready to sleep for a week!

Now, its time to regroup and get back to the business(?) of homesteading.

Connie

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Life Gets In The Way

When I was twenty-two it was my dream to homestead. I looked into free land and the where and how’s of that. I looked into equipment and all the falderal that would be necessary. As a former farm kid, sporadically raised on a side hill farm in Appalachia, I had some idea of what it would take to make a successful operation. Pretty much everything we did not have.

Anyway, this was my dream, and I would have done it too, but life got in the way.

Life being the outcome of all the decisions I had made to that time; the obligations I had made to people and organizations that I could not escape from, and, oh yes, a healthy dose of cowardice. It is kind of hard to admit, being a tough old Infantry Soldier, that I am afraid of anything, but let me assure of this: attempting to fulfill your dreams can be the scariest thing in the world. It begs the question; what does it mean about me if I fail?

About ten years later, I had another one of those epiphany moments when I realized I still had the ability to love and the ability to dream dreams about riding up the Outlaw Trail, and then walking down the Appalachian Trail; of starting a band and of getting the girl. It was all going to be great.

Anyway, that was my dream and I would have done it too, but life got in the way.

Life being, again, the outcome of all the decisions I had made to date; and real obligations I would have to meet, if I wanted to continue looking at myself in the mirror when I shaved; and, oh yes, a really healthy dose of cowardice. Fear of failure, agreement with that voice in my head that said I could not do it, and fear of harming innocence to which I owed so much.

So I stayed with the life I had chosen. The life of the defender, the protector, and the one who occupied that line between good and evil, a life in which you spent too much time looking into the eye of evil. “When you look into the abyss, be sure the abyss isn’t looking into you; and when you set out to fight monsters, be sure you do not become a monster.” Nietzsche said something to that effect. I may be the only living Christian who quotes both Nietzsche and Twain.

Yes, I am the short one.

Yes, I am the short one.

At the age of forty-eight I was fairly successful at my chosen profession, having completed one career already and working on a second. Then I followed another family tradition and became a drunk. I will not bore you with the details, but I pretty much blew off a decade trying to drink Plank Road Brewery and George Dickle Distillery dry. I failed.

That ended over six years ago. Here I am, forty-two years after the original dream, living that dream. No, I did not do it right, nor do I have all the equipment, and heaven forbid that I actually have a long drawn out plan. With the help of “the girl”, yes that would be the girl from over thirty years ago. It took some time, but I finally won that one, we are building a home on five acres and a dream.

It would have been easier had I done it when I was twenty-two. The joints worked better and the body was more resilient, if nothing else. I have lost a lot but I have gained some important things too. One good thing I have lost is the fear of failure. I have already seen what is the worst that could happen; everything from there on out is easy. One good thing I have won is the girl. That was worth the whole tangled mess.

I love you Connie Hall.

On re-reading this I realized I had not gotten to “the point” I think the story should have made it evident but in case it did not here it is. There are only two real things worth following in this life the first is the will of God Almighty and the second is your dream. If you aren’t doing that now is the time to start.

Ed

Gooseberries, Mulberries, and Cherries; Oh my! Or The Walk Around the Pasture

The rain stopped for a day or two, and the weather turned off hot! The good thing was that it gave us the opportunity to walk the pasture, look for wild edibles/medicinals and take pictures. The majority of our five acres is pasture. Since all we have, at present, is a push mower, the “hay” is already waist high. Any trip out there requires long pants and heavy shoes. Long pants to dissuade the chiggers and ticks lurking in the hay, and heavy shoes to traverse the swamp underneath.

Ed up to his waist in

Ed up to his waist in “hay”

The fence rows have been neglected long enough that large trees conceal the right hand fence, as well as the center fence between the back pastures. Between the trees, honey suckle, wild rose and wild grape vine grow; both separately and together. I was kind of hoping to find some wild black berries, but no such luck.

The right fence row

The right fence row

honeysuckle

honeysuckle

grape vine

grape vine

wild rose

wild rose

We usually start our “walkabout” between the barn and the dog pen, and walk up the right side of the right hand pasture. That is where I start counting mulberry trees. I never have got a good count, because something else will distract me and I will lose count. The closest I can figure is about 15, from little saplings to the monster just off the barn. If I can beat the birds and the rain, I plan on doing a LOT of mulberry harvesting. The birds are already dropping evidence that they have head start.

There are also several trees with large amounts of green berries. The biggest one looks to be about forty feet high. I thought it might be choke cherry, but my friends on the Missouri Wild Edibles facebook page think its pin or service cherry. I’ll do some more research and let you know what I find out.

mulberry

mulberry

the mysterious cherry

the mysterious cherry

In the back right corner is a gooseberry bush. Like a dragon protecting a treasure, poison ivy vines protect the bush from all but the most brave, or non allergic (like Ed). The berries are ripening, but the birds like them too, so it may be a matter of who braves the poison ivy first and best. I think the birds may win this round, but I have plans for propagating that plant a little closer to the house this fall.

Found several of these trees too. I was kind of hoping they were elderberry, but they appear to be a type of dogwood. They are pretty though

Ed, the gooseberry bush  and poison ivy

Ed, the gooseberry bush and poison ivy

mysterious dogwood

mysterious dogwood

We walk along the back fence and down the center. From this side you can see the mad over growth of honeysuckle (in the picture above), and grapevine, and the odd purple sweet rocket.

sweet rocket

sweet rocket

We make the turn at the barn to go up the other side of the fence. This is where the real fun is for me. More and more mulberries, and whatever cherries those are, wild roses and the other side of the honeysuckle covered tree. The over growth makes a canopy that I would have lived in as a child. Ed feels the same. It would make a perfect hide out. Between a rather large stand of wild rose and the hideout, is where we buried Marshmellow a few weeks ago. Ed will want to tell you about that when he’s ready.

From inside, you can see the massive trunk of the, as yet to be identified, tree. You can see where Ed cut off some of the branches last fall. Under the canopy, is another gooseberry bush, but this one doesn’t get much sun, so it isn’t doing as well.

Outside the hideout looking in.

Outside the hideout looking in.

Inside the hideout, looking out

Inside the hideout, looking out

The big tree trunk

The big tree trunk

the hideout gooseberry

the hideout gooseberry

Heading along the back fence and toward the left hand side of the left pasture, I started seeing these fuzzy plants, culminating with the large one on the other side of the fence. We went out to the road to get a better look. It is called Mullein and it does all kinds of stuff. It probably deserves it’s own post, so I’ll save it for another time.

mullein in the pasture

mullein in the pasture

the monster mullein

the monster mullein

The fence row behind the barn is more of the same mulberry, cherry, and other, yet to be identified, trees.

Did I mention, that about half way through the walk, Meeko joined us. He’s done it so many times now, that we just started letting him out to go with us. It saves time and aggravation. He stays right with us, so we don’t have to worry about catching him. Libby, however, is another matter entirely. If she gets to go, it’s on a leash.

Meeko on the back side of the hideout

Meeko on the back side of the hideout

Out in the dog’s area, amidst the poison hemlock are Indian strawberries. They also grow around the barn and a few other places on the property. They are stunning! They look like bright red gumdrops on a bed of dark green ground cover. They don’t taste like gumdrops, however…they don’t taste bad, they don’t taste good. They taste like…nothing. From what I understand, the leaves serve medicinal purposes, but the berries are all bang and no buck. They do make a pretty ground cover. Saw this thing out there too. Most of my wild edible friends think it’s either wild rhubarb or burdock. Of course, you already know about all the poison hemlock.

Indian strawberry

Indian strawberry

wild rhubarb

wild rhubarb or budock

Of course, in the pastures themselves red clover is prevalent, as is wild mustard, plantain, thistle and wild parsnip. Each one has its own use and, in the case of the parsnip, precaution.

purple clover

red clover

wild mustard

wild mustard

plantain

plantain and white clover

thistle

thistle

wild parsnip

wild parsnip

I told Ed that we could probably corner the market on plantain, if there was one, but its kind of like dandelion; everyone just sees it as a weed. That’s too bad. Don’t be surprised if you see a plantain post too. As a matter of fact, I may do an entire series on “weeds”.

Connie

Rain Day

The wife and I were out looking at our budding (at least supposed to be budding) garden. I believe the tomatoes were doing the backstroke, while the corn and beans were engaged in a stirring game of Water Polo. Did I mention it has been raining a lot around here?

The prognosticators are saying we have the potential for a year as bad as the Flood of ’93. I was not here for the real flood of ’93. If the looks of the little creek is any sign I will not be here for this one. I will probably be considerably downstream, if it gets that bad.

Where was I? Oh yes, we were looking at the garden being slowly drowned; I turned to her and said, “Maybe we should have planted rice.”

I do know that the Good Lord has promised not to end the world by means of a flood again. However, He made no such promise concerning the state of Missouri did He? I am instructed by the Bible to be thankful in all things so I do thank the Lord for showing me where the low spots on our new homestead are exactly.

So being rained on in great splashing bushel baskets full of water leaves one with a lot of time on his hands. Hard to put up a fence when every time you try to sink a fence post you hit water. Anyway, I do not swim very well with a roll of fence wire on my shoulder.

So you decide to do all those inside things you have been putting off. The first thing you need to do is make a list. Brainstorm and put down every possible thing you can do from remodel the den to take a nap; then you need to prioritize said list by numbering the items you have and identifying the top ten; finally you need to put the list where it can be seen but will not be misplaced. Of course, you misplace the list.

That’s all right, I am a writer you know, I have started two novels, a couple of cowboy poems, a gospel song, a nonfiction semi-autobiographical piece, a couple of blog entries and a grocery list for the health food store.

Let me just start on something, “It was a dark and stormy night….”….. Did you know that Microsoft has some games on your computer? Two in particular are Hearts and Spider Solitaire., these are alternately referred to as Mental Crack and Intellectual Heroine.

Four hours later, I realize that I am hungry and go to find the wife to discuss the whos, whats and whens of lunch. She is busy playing Spider Solitaire and yes, it is still raining outside

Proving that any fool can make a grilled cheese sandwich and soup, I fix lunch. After grace, when we thank the Lord for our food and the day we are wasting, I ponder my missing list. Still have no idea where it went, but suddenly I do remember an important chore.

“Feel like a nap?” I ask my Love.

She smiles like the angel I often suspect she is, “I was just about to ask you the same thing.” She says.

Another rain day well spent.

More Updates

The last time I posted, Katherine and I were getting ready to start a botany unit. We were also experimenting with recycling bath soap. The botany unit went fairly well, I think. We grew a sweet potato plant, and started some cabbage seeds in the house. We did a lot of potato experiments with the “Potato Chip Science” kit. We extracted strawberry DNA. We also became familiar with Thomas Elpel’s Botany in a Day for plant family identification. .

New roots coming from the sweet potato.

New roots coming form the sweet potato.

About a month later, the newly potted sweet potato plant

About a month later, the newly potted sweet potato plant

The soap, on the other hand, was a different story. What a slimy, gooey mess! When we finally did get it poured into containers, it set up hard. So much for making shower gel.

Icky!

Icky!

As Ed told you, we have started on the garden, and I have started working on the front yard. I got some strawberry plants from the local greenhouse, and am working on what I hope to be my strawberry patch just off the front porch. On the opposite side of the steps that go down to the original driveway, I started an herb garden. I planted lemon balm from seed, and then planted rosemary, sage, oregano and mint plants. In other parts of the front yard, I have planted sunflowers and cucumbers and vinca vine (for ground cover). I have pots full of herb and annual flower seeds, and am just waiting to see what will come up. Once they actually start doing something, I’ll post pictures.

The plants that we started in Kat’s terrarium quickly outgrew it, and are now in a basket in the front yard. The other herb plants that I bought in February have been put in larger pots. The oregano has taken off, but the rosemary and thyme not so much. Just for fun, I put some marigolds in an old toy dump truck and an old watering can.

Coleus from the terrarium

Coleus from the terrarium

Go Oregano go!

Go Oregano go!

Planting outside the box

Planting outside the box

Just like other parts of the country, we have had more than our fair share of rain, but it looks like we will get some dryer weather this week. Remember when we told you about the well we discovered in the pasture? This is a picture I took last week. Yeah, I think we’re good for rain right now. We need to get our rain barrel system set up so we can take advantage of the blessing when we get them.

Overflowing well

Overflowing well

In my next post, I will tell you about our walks in the pasture, and all the cool things we found growing out there.

Have a great week!
Connie