A Sneak Peek

Well, here we are, back from cake land, and once again firmly rooted in the reality of building a homestead.  Unfortunately, we have been rained out of our big moving day, which was supposed to be today. We will wait at the cozy town house until things dry up enough to move heavy furniture across wet ground.  While I’ve been sharing endless photos of cakes and decadent icing, we’ve actually been hard at work creating a rustic camping situation that will be comfortable enough to live with for three or four more months, or until we finish the house.

So here is a little sneak peek of our soon-to-be home!


The garden is really coming along.  I still have peppers, basil, and some okra and onions to plant, but the main push to build a sheet mulch garden is over, and now I’m enjoying planting, sowing, and watering. OutdoorKitchen1







Brian has been shaping and building a beautiful outdoor kitchen, creating level spaces with urbanite and earth moving, and using some lovely black walnut wood that we had milled up in Oregon to create counters and cook tops.OutdoorKitchen2


This photo is a week or two old, and shelving and running water has since been added, but you can see the sink, counter space to the left, and the cookspace to the right.  The lower level will be the “pantry.”NewSofa

Moving slightly east to the living room!  That orange sofa was a total college move-out day score!  Free on the side of the road for the taking.  At first I gave Brian a “what are you, crazy?” sort of look, but I have to admit that it is comfortable and so useful for chilling out under the blue roof of the future house.


The Sun Oven at work!  We will have a two burner Coleman white gas stove, a rocket stove, and this Sun Oven to cook with.  I hope for lots of sunny days, as the Sun Oven is SO cool.


Tent, sweet Tent.  Our neighbors lent us this enormous tent in which to sleep and play.  The kids have loved spending time in there with their dolls and trucks; it’s relatively tick-free, cool, and spacious.


And maybe the most important element of our camping situation: Water.  With this rain, we now have five 50 gallon barrels of water full to the tip top (and overflowing).  The barrels we purchased from Pepsi for $10 each.  They smell like Mountain Dew.  To filter, we will be using a Berkey Water Filter.

I look forward to sharing more in-depth information about each of these elements as we move to the land and get more intimate with these systems.  I know it will be a huge adjustment, but I’m really growing more and more excited to finally live on our land.


Planting down memory lane

A few days before we left our Oregon homestead, my good friend and neighbor helped me pack my garden. Yes, I know it’s crazy, but it felt hugely important to bring to our Missouri home some small percentage of the hundreds of plants that I had come to know and love over years.  So we spent several hours choosing, pruning, labeling, digging, and packing flowering perennials, herbs, bulbs, and fruit bushes into black garbage bags nestled inside of enormous cardboard boxes.  Into the moving truck, and across the country my plants traveled, and when they arrived in Missouri, I hastily heeled them into a makeshift bed of topsoil, covered them with leaves, draped chicken wire over the entire thing, and hoped for the best.

In March I checked on the bed to see if there were any signs of life, and sure enough, the Columbines were putting out lush green growth. I felt an urgency to put the plants in the ground, to get them established before they put all their energy into upward growth. On a gusty day, Brian and I worked quickly to dig up sod, shake off the topsoil, loosen the hard clay below, and add horse manure.  It was hard work, and thankfully our good friends who were visiting were willing to chip in and help.  There were moments that I lifted out a “plant” and saw nothing more than a dead stick with a bright pink label.  But I put it all in the ground, thinking that you never know when a plant will surprise you!

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been eagerly watching the bed for new signs of growth, and every time I see a tiny leaf push through the soil, it is a joyous gift.  Yesterday, I was on my hands and knees, gasping with excitement over the fact that my favorite mint – which I dug up from the Echo Hollow creek-side, and interestingly, had been first planted by my Missouri neighbor Sarah – was indeed alive!  It struck me that these plants are so important to me because they represent so much more than beauty and culinary delight; they are like a scrapbook of my past, holding the memories of important friendships, events, and places.

For instance, the four years that I worked at a wholesale plant nursery, way back in 2000-2004.  So many discarded, overgrown plants came home with me those years. Into the garden they went, and as I added more and more plants to my stash, Brian obligingly dug and sculpted more garden space. Those were tumultuous years of our relationship, yet there was something about the garden work that we did together that assured us that, like the plants, we would grow together. Some of the plants from that nursery, a perennial primrose for instance, are still alive and now at home with me in Missouri.


Or flowers from the garden on the land that I was married.  I worked in that garden for a summer, talking with my friend, the owner as we weeded together.  I remember one day I was confiding with her about my relationship with Brian – I wasn’t quite sure where it was all going.  She assured me that we were meant to be together, and when we were ready to be married, it would be on her land.  Her Cut-Leaf Rudbeckia came home with me one day that summer, and is now growing more happily than I’ve ever seen it.

Or the way that my Oregon garden acted as a backdrop for our lives.  We’d step out the door and check on new growth, or steep some sun tea, or warm ourselves, or play with goats in that garden.  Some people have a stately tree under which they snap their family portraits; I had that garden.

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Some of that warmth, that connection, those memories that I associate with plants and gardens is here with me, in our new home.  And so my plants and I continue our journey together, sending down new roots, and experiencing new growth.


* This post was shared at Natural Living Monday, Homestead Barn Hop,The Backyard Farming Connection, The HomeAcre Hop, and Homestead Bloggers Network.

Manda Ruth

Hello! It’s been a mighty long time since I’ve written here.  We’ve had a visitor, lots of rain, and oodles of homestead work.  I’ve been diligently working in the garden, planting the last of the veggies into the ground.  Thanks to our winter and spring efforts, the sweet reward of harvest begins: Asparagus, peas, lettuce, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, new potatoes, carrots, beets, and today, our first ripe strawberries!  It feels so good to be able to once again craft our menu around what is ready to eat from the garden.

Noticing that sweet Everett was growing bigger and bigger, and that my sweater-in-progress was not, I decided to make a strong push to the finish.  Thank goodness I did, because this 24 month sized sweater fits my 18 month boy just perfectly.

It’s the Manda Ruth cardigan, minus the hood, and you can find my Ravelry notes here.

Can you believe those cheeks?  I just want to eat them up, they are so chubbilicious!

What are you creating today?

* Yarn Along-ing today with the fine folks at Small Things.  Check it out here.



It’s been a slow-as-molasses kind of week.  Rain and snotty-nosed kids have kept us close to home, mostly indoors.  Lots of amazing food has been made, such as asparagus risotto, green smoothies, baby beets and fresh chevre, and creme brulée.  I’ve puttered around in the greenhouse, pruning and tying up tomatoes, pulling weeds, and encouraging my peppers to grow (they are not listening), the kids have been chomping on snap peas, and best of all, the beautiful spring flowers have been putting on an amazing show:

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

May day

Ella and Snow Angel had been building quite the special relationship.  Even though the chicks had grown large enough to be moved into the main chicken run, she still insisted on daily visits to “her chicks” to hold them, coddle them, and feed them.  And Snow Angel seemed particularly open to her affection, letting Ella hold her and coo at her to her heart’s content.

Sadly, last night a raccoon got into the chicken run before we had closed the coop door, and Snow Angel and Tiny didn’t make it.  Brian found the carcasses when he went up to close the door.  My heart was so heavy – how was Ella going to take it?  When we gently broached the topic this morning, she did need a few moments under the covers by herself to process.  But after a minute or two, she popped up and asked, “Can we get some more baby chicks?”  Peck got an extra bunch of loving today, and I think she will become the new recipient of Ella’s unending love.  Just another reminder that children live in the moment, and that our expectation of their feelings is usually quite different than their reality.

On the baby goat front, we have been slowly introducing them to the rest of the herd, making sure that they don’t get hurt by the older does.  They are just so irresistible and soft and sproingy and sweet.  So capricious, if you will.  And just the perfect size for a goat photo shoot!

There has also been bed prepping and brassica planting, and mulching mulching mulching, and most exciting of all – tomato planting!  Yes – the first (15) tomatoes have gone in the ground, in the greenhouse!  I’m so eager to get the rest going. This year I have gone a bit overboard with 75 or so plants, but when I’m eating canned salsa next February, it will all be worth it!

It’s spring, my friends.  It is spring.

The garden dance

The garden is positively bursting with new life and vibrant color these days.  In one of my favorite beds, the steady bronze foliage of a perennial grass contrasts with the vivid newness of a hellebore in full bloom.  And tucked here and there, variegated columbines and heuchera tentatively send out new growth.

Around the corner, these lovage sprouts start small and red.  By mid-summer, they will tower over me with light green foliage and huge umbrella-like seed heads.

And of course, this is the time of year when the weeds grow faster than the vegetables, and we try to keep up.  Yesterday we tackled this overwintered garlic bed…

As we were weeding, I was thinking about the dance we do as active homesteaders and parents of two young children.  It’s the dance of “what do we have to get done, and how can we do it with two kids?”  It goes something like this:  Need to transplant some brassicas in the greenhouse?  Plop the kids in the sandbox!  Have a few beds outside that need weeding?  Hand Everett a trowel, give Ella a container to catch some pillbugs, and get weeding!  Need to feed the chickens?  One kid on the backpack, another with a bowl of chicken scraps. What about milking the goats?  Bring along the jog stroller and let Everett thrown hay on the ground!

The garden dance.  It looks something like this:






Catching up

Back from our Southern California vacation! We had such luck with sunny perfect weather, good friends, amazing food, fun family adventures, and lots of beach time.

Vacations are truly blissful, but the catch-up afterwards can be a tricky thing!  I had to postpone seed starting until after my return, and now I’m playing major catch up.  Yesterday and today I managed to get tomatoes, peppers, and many varieties of brassicas for spring planting on my heat mat.  I did manage to get some peas and greens sowed in the greenhouse before I left, but something has been nibbling all of the tender shoots.  The two major culprits would be slugs or pillbugs, and I’m guessing pillbugss from the lack of slimy slug trail.  They are so hard to combat!  If anyone has any good pillbug damage prevention tricks, I’m all ears!

So, it seems that gardening season has begun!  Also on our plate has been makin’ bacon!  For several years we raised our own organic pork, but were unable to tackle such a big project this past summer.  Luckily, there is an abundance of amazing local meat in our area, and we split a hog with some friends.  Guided by some awesome resources (Charcuterie is one of our favorites), we home cure our own bacon and ham hocks.  And really, they are divine.

Tonight I might finally finish unpacking and then I look forward to settling back into our family’s rhythm.

Sunday night seed shopping

(Last year’s sunflower forest)

January can be a really tough month here in Oregon. It’s dark, cold, and rains nearly every day.  Thank goodness for a cozy home, a woodstove, my knitting, and seed catalogs.  Tonight I pored over my (huge) box of seeds (I keep them in my dark, cool pantry, in an underbed storage container), determined what I’d be needing for 2012, and then oogled two of my favorite seed catalogs:  High Mowing Seeds and Territorial Seed Company.

I just placed my High Mowing order, and here’s what I got:

  • Bull’s Blood Beets
  • Three types of carrots: Napoli, Scarlet Nantes, and Danvers 126
  • Palco Spinach
  • Cherokee Purple and Indigo Rose tomatoes (can’t wait to try Indigo Rose!)
  • and Caribe and Santo Cilantro

With our 20′ x 50′ greenhouse, gardening season is really right around the corner. In fact, I should probably get out there tomorrow and plant some greens and peas!