At the Harvest Festival

And just like that, fall is here.

The change was instantaneous. One moment the kids were running around barefoot, the temperatures in the high 90’s, and in desperation for some coldness, we made a special trip to the store to buy ice for lemonade. We swam in the pond at least twice daily to cool off, and slept under a thin sheet.

Then the weather shifted.  The light changed.  Rain came. And suddenly that special crispness of fall was in the air. Sweaters were taken out of the bottom of our Rubbermaid containers.  Extra blankets pulled out of a drawer. And the kids started saying, “I’m cold!”.

We had two glorious days of beautiful fall sun (and will have more to come!), and on one of those days, we walked across an open pasture to our neighbor’s fifth annual Harvest Festival.  Brian was a participant, demonstrating blacksmith techniques at his coal forge.  Our neighbor Julia sat in the fiber circle and hand-carded some wool in preparation for spinning. There was cider pressing, bread and goat cheese tasting, a hayride, a layout of hand tools, basket weaving demonstrations, and much more. I wandered around with Everett asleep on my back while Ella joined a pack of children in the sorghum patch, munching on the sweet goodness of fallen canes. When he awoke, Everett tried his hand at using a draw knife, under the guidance of our patient neighbor, Mike.

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And at the end of a lovely day enjoying this bounty of craft and skill, I wandered back home, feeling grateful that on our little country lane, I am surrounded by people who care about beauty, food grown by hand, education, and connection with community.  I walked briskly, getting just warm enough to jump in the pond for a bath, thinking that perhaps my days of bathing outdoors are numbered.

 

 

Out the Front Door

Snapshots and snippets of the beautiful, crazy world right out our front door.
If you’d like to share some of your own photos or a blog post,
please leave a link in the comments!

Chickens

Chickens free range the property.  One of our year-old White Rocks, Broody, hatched a chick last week – our first farm-raised animal!  A few of the spring chicks are laying, giving us 2-3 eggs per day.  It’s so nice to once again eat our own eggs!

Lemonade-Stand

Ella’s first lemonade stand.  As she is very eager to have a horse, I suggested she start finding ways to earn money to care for said horse. Ella’s stand was “pay what you wish”, and she made over $6 towards her horse fund!  Her lemonade, enjoyed here by our neighbors Julia and Beth, was made with lemons from Grandma and Grandpa in Arizona, honey brought from our homestead in Oregon, and lots of ice (perfect for yesterday’s extreme heat!).  TentTrailerGoodbye

Before we left for California, we packed up the tent trailer and moved into a nice spacious 7 person tent.  The tent trailer was such a wonderful place to live for a few months, and we were so grateful for the loan.  The tent has been very breezy and cozy.

 

My Top 5 Heirloom Melons (of 2013)

This winter, when I received seed catalogs in the mail, I immediately turned to the Melon pages.  After years of struggling to grow melons in conditions that simply were not suitable – partial sun, cool nights – I was determined to grow a few delicious heirloom melons in my tiny garden.

Baker Creed Heirloom Seeds, based in Missouri, has the most incredible selection of melons I have ever seen.  It was incredibly difficult to select only a few, and I ended up with a dozen or so varieties.  Sadly, some of my starts didn’t transplant well, but I was still left with an assortment of eight varieties, of which we are still harvesting several!  Here are my favorites:

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Banana Melon – Looks like a banana, tastes (faintly) like a banana.  A sweet, unique melon that I really enjoyed.  Fun to share with friends because it’s such an interesting shape and color!

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Prescott Fond Blanc – When this melon began taking shape in my garden, I thought I had misplanted a winter squash. Its bumpy, warty appearance and squat shape are very un-melon, but the flavor is rich and sweet.  The photo above does not do this melon justice, as I picked it a bit too early.

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Ananas – A white fleshed melon that is SO sweet and juicy. This melon was Brian’s favorite.

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Piel de Sapo – (In Everett’s arms) We enjoyed this variety in Oregon, purchasing it from the local natural food store.  It is a late ripening melon – today we harvested the first of the four fruits on our vine.

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Charentais – A French melon.  Small, extremely fragrant, and sweet.  We cut one of these open this morning and ate it before breakfast, with no leftovers.

Did you grow melons this year?  I’d love to hear of your favorite varieties. I’m making a wish list for 2014!

Shared with From the Farm Blog Hop and Homestead Bloggers Network.

How I Avoid Homestead Burnout

We are back from vacation, and it was so, so wonderful.  Honestly, some of the most perfect days – a mixture of gorgeous weather, good friends, family, amazing food, beautiful beach days, ocean life (dolphins, seals, a blue whale!!!), our kids trying new things like boogie boarding and snorkeling – all in the magical place where my husband and I met and fell in love.

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As we got ready for our trip, my personal stress level was very high. Packing for vacation is always challenging, but this time I felt particularly harried about getting the homestead ready for us to leave it in the hands of a (very capable) housesitter.  My garden was getting decimated by cabbage worms, rabbits, and drought; our “water catchment” system has not been refilled by rain in weeks, making us resort to filling up barrels at friends’ houses; Brian was hand-toting hundreds of gallons of water from the pond so we could keep plants and trees alive; and to top it off, it was 90+ degrees.  Add in rehearsals, work deadlines, two young children, and you can see how it might feel a little overwhelming.

But, thankfully, as soon as we boarded the train, my worries about our homestead evaporated, as they always do when I go away.  On our 40 hour train ride, we read books (The Man Who Quit Money and New Dawn on Rocky Ridge), listened to Sparkle Stories, watched the scenery, ate, and just recharged.  When we were on Catalina, I left my phone in our room and just played.  (It’s why I have hardly any photos!).  And when we were hanging out with my awesome sister-in-law Lynne, we just basked in her incredible hosting.

Recently, while lurking on a popular homesteading Facebook page, I read a heated discussion about balancing travel and homesteading.  There were MANY of the opinion that when you have a homestead, you should be content to stay home; that travel and homesteading simply do not mix. Of course there were some good arguments – experienced homestead sitters are hard to find and can be expensive to hire, your homestead is likely more lovely than your travel destination – but there was also a hint of judgement in some of the comments as well, suggesting that those that like to travel are just not cut out for the homesteading life.

I completely disagree with this sentiment. As much as I love my homestead with all my heart, the way I avoid homestead burnout is by leaving.  I have to get away to recharge, to be able to come back with fresh eyes and say, “Look at all we have accomplished here.” Having not done any travel all summer, it was hard to gain this perspective, and I was getting a bit mired in self-criticism for not having a bigger, better garden, or canning more, etc.

Coming back home can be a bit rocky. There are many moments where I wish to be beachfront, sipping a cocktail and eating scallops at my favorite seafood restaurant.  But a few days into our homecoming, now that I’m finally unpacked, I can envision a cold frame for fall greens, and think about planting garlic, and plot where our new sheet mulched garden should be.  I am recharged and ready to approach the next few months with renewed vision.

 

 

Super Simple Felt Balls

Today I’m bringing back one of my favorite how-to posts: making felt balls.  For those with young children, this is a perfect craft.  You can do it outdoors, the mess involves only soap and water, and kids are mesmerized by the tactile sensation of rolling fuzzy wool in soapy water. I hope you enjoy it!

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Felt balls are awesome!  They are great for throwing practice (soft – nothing gets broken!) or for open ended play. (They’re round bales of hay! No wait, they’re freshly baked rolls!)  And they are the kind of craft that is great to make outdoors on a warm sunny day.

So here’s how to do it:

1. Get yourself a nice wad of carded, clean wool.

2. Loosely form the wool into a ball.  It will shrink down, so make a bigger ball than you’d like of your finished product.

3.  Fill a bowl with the hottest soapy water that you can stand to put your hand into and roll that wool into a soapy round messy ball!

See that ball forming!  Keep rolling!

4. Now, get another bowl of very cold water.  Squeeze out the hot water and soap and immerse your ball into the cold.  Keep forming it into a ball as you go.  Alternating between the hot and cold will make your wool ball shrink and tighten.

Look!  Easy enough for an 18 month to try!

5.  Keep alternating back and forth between your hot and cold until your ball is tightly bound together.  Let dry in the sun or inside for a few days until it is completely dry.  Sometimes I like to affix loose parts of the ball with a felting needle.

Voila!

Now go throw that ball around!

Peach Peel Jelly

I am happy to welcome Heather, of The Homesteading Hippy.  Heather has such a great selection of blog posts about urban farming, canning, raising livestock, recipes.  She is also the author of two (!!) eBooks – The Urban Chicken, which I reviewed earlier this year, and a new (free) eBook called Cooking From Scratch.

Today, she shares with us her recipe for Peach Peel Jelly. Welcome, Heather!

With the “waste not, want not” mentality that I like to have and with peaches in full season, this recipe for peach peel jelly is one you’ll want to keep nearby!  First, start by getting some ripe, delicious peaches and rinsing them off.

As you are canning your peaches, and removing the skins and other parts you don’t want to can (brown spots or soft spots) save them into a large pot.  When you are done with the peaches, fill the pot with the scraps with water to cover.  Bring to a boil for 30 minutes, and then let sit covered, overnight.

The next day, strain the peachy water through a cheesecloth or jelly bag.  Don’t squeeze!  This could make your jelly cloudy.

This is what will come out…gorgeous color, right???

Take 3 cups of your peachy water and add 1 box of pectin.  Bring to a rolling boil, then add 3 cups of sugar.  Bring back to a boil and set the timer for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Spoon the foam off the top, and ladle the hot syrup into hot pint jars.  Water bath for 20 minutes, remove and let cool.  Store up to a year.

Enjoy that peachy goodness!!

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Heather of The Homesteading Hippy is living the rural life, in an urban setting.  She and her family live in a small town in Northern Indiana where they garden, keep assorted poultry and rabbits.  Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,and  Google+.

Guest Post: Raising Capable Children

Today’s guest post is by Angi Schneider, of Schneiderpeeps.com. I have reviewed her eBook The Gardening Notebook here on Homestead Honey, and enjoy reading her posts about gardening, recipes, crafting, and more.  Today she shares her perspective on a topic that is near and dear to my own heart – involving children in the work of the homestead.  Welcome, Angi!

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One of the things I love about visiting Homestead Honey is seeing how involved the children are in the homesteading process. As a mom of older children it’s really exciting to see young parents allowing and encouraging their children to be by their side as they go about their work. 

My own children are 19,17,15, 13, 11….and 4. Over the years we’ve tried really hard to include our children in our work. It isn’t always easy. In fact, when they are really young it’s so much easier to just do the work ourselves. However, we’ve found that as our children grow so does their ability to help.

Their abilities don’t just help us, they also help them. My boys are regularly called on by men in our church to work for them. In fact, one man hired the 17 and 15 year old to cut down a tree. When a friend found out that they were using a chainsaw and neither my husband or the man was there, she asked, “Is that even legal?” I don’t know, but they’ll be fine as they’ve cut down lots of trees with their dad. They’ve been taught how to properly handle a chainsaw. 

 

 

Another benefit of having children help you in your work is that they feel capable. We live in a culture that tends to be treat children as if they will always be children. Then we’re surprised when they’re adults and act like children. Children who are encouraged to work alongside their parents learn how to make decisions. They learn how to figure out what to do when something goes wrong.

 

But it’s not just in the area of work that these things happen, it’s also in the area of crafting. As I type this my 4 year old is working on a woven hot pad. It’s hard work for a 4 year old. She still needs help making sure she goes over, then under. She wants to make something useful and is proud every time we use one of her hot pads. 
Young children delight in working next to their parents.  And if you wait until your children are old enough to really be helpful to include them they probably won’t want to be included. 
I want to encourage you that if you aren’t used to having your children work or craft beside you that you gently begin to encourage it.  I think you’ll both be glad you did.

Angi Schneider is a minister’s wife and homeschool mom to 6 amazing children.  She writes about their adventures at SchneiderPeeps and is the author of The Gardening Notebook.