Homestead Projects In the Springtime

Wood raised beds

Wood beds on side of house.

Homestead projects for the springtime are being worked on and some, even finished. I transplanted my seedlings into the garden the past couple of weeks. We have been having a tough time around our homestead these last couple of months. I was so excited that I could finally plant my garden, but there have been other things raining on my parade, so to speak. For one thing our electric lawn mower broke and it appears it needs replacing. I think my husband wore it out. He mows a lot of lawn here and most people use these for a small area. I keep telling him I can add more raised beds…………the more the better!

Tomato Plants in containers

Tomato Plants in containers.

Another homestead project is how I can grow tomatoes this year to produce. We need them! I planted my tomatoes in containers last year, but didn’t use deep enough containers. They need to be really deep. As deep as you can get. I am using the ones you see here. If I had access to 50 gallon drums, I’d use them. These will do, I hope. Ever since we started getting the Late Blight, I have not grown any tomatoes except for cherry ones. I used to grow two or three rows of tomatoes in the wood beds along the side of the house. I remember having bushels of them. We even brought in the last of them in the fall, before a hard frost was coming, and packed them in two big bushel baskets covered up with newspapers. I always had jars of home canned tomatoes and sauce. Now I haven’t had my own home grown tomato in a few years. What happened? Is this a result of GMO spores in the air? Seems fishy to me.

Bush Beans

Bush Beans

My hubby worked hard last fall taking down two trees that shaded this area of our backyard. Now the raised beds he rebuilt back there look awesome. I love it and hopefully, our garden will take off soon. It is really nice to have more room to plant in. The raised beds weren’t producing as well due to the trees’ roots in the beds, and the shading, of course. We still have shade back there, but not over the bed. I have moved the bush beans to this area to give the other beds a rest from beans this year. It is not good to plant the same plants over and over in the same area or raised bed.

Transplants

Ready to plant in the garden!

How is your garden doing this year? Hopefully, everyone can get a garden in. Not only is the food in the stores expensive, but now it is all GMO  and not safe to live on. Kind of scary times we live in. My list of homestead projects never gets shorter though, the more I do, the more I think of do. What about you? How are your homestead projects coming along? 

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Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole


Good Health Starts In Homes and Gardens

Beans

Garden 2013

Good health starts in homes and gardens. “How? What does it have to do with modern homesteading you ask?” Becoming a “modern homesteader” is a goal many people seem to have now. It is not that hard to get started in a self-sufficient lifestyle. Do not wait until you move to a house in the country or wherever it is that you think you have to be to start. If you have the desire, you can do it anytime, regardless of where you live. My grandmother was pretty self-sufficient living in the city. She worked a job at Endicott-Johnson shoe factory in the tanning room, while raising her children. My grandfather was not a man she could count on, and she had to support her family on her own. She always had a garden and chickens, and traded produce and eggs at work for money or other things she needed. She came home from work and canned many jars of food from her garden. Of course, she didn’t think of herself as a “homesteader” but just a mother putting food on her table, and keeping a roof over her family’s head. At that time, many people sent their children to an orphanage because they could not feed or care for them. My grandmother’s family tried to convince her to do that, but she refused. 

Squash in compost pile

Squash Plant

In our economy right now, being self-sufficient is the only way you can survive. It is the only way to instill good health in your family. But it is not only the economy that is causing a breakdown of our world, but all the other things added to it. Things like health care and prescription medicines that put your health in jeopardy in the first place. Don’t agree? Just read the side effects in your prescription packages. Does your doctor order blood tests to keep any eye on your liver? That is just one of the side effects of modern medicine. Sure, it may mask your symptoms, but why not find the cause and cure that? They don’t do that, as it is not going to keep you coming back if you are cured. Search for alternative healing methods. There are many natural methods that have cured many people of diseases. Allopathic professionals are needed, but not for everything, and they shouldn’t be your only source of health care. 

 

Wild Plants - Burdock, Day Lillies & Ferns

Wild Plants – Burdock, Day Lilies, Black Berries, Apples & Ferns


The next rung on the good health ladder is a big one……….our food! Whatever you do, be sure to start a garden this year. Buy local food that is not grown or fed from GMO seeds, and that has not had chemical pesticides or fertilizers applied to the plants or soil. Very important! Cook from scratch and do not purchase any processed foods, if you can help it. Do not trust the big brand corporations or especially the government to tell you something is safe. They don’t care! The sooner you start believing that, then the sooner you can start working on your own health and living the good life. I include wild foods that grow abundantly on our homestead all season. We have dandelion greens in our salads every day, right up till they get hit by the frost in late fall. 

Green Beans Cut Up

Green Beans I Grew!


My best advice is to take control of your life now and good health will follow. Learn to garden, can and preserve your food. Learn to cook from scratch and use as little of processed foods as possible. Buy organic as much as possible. Research and experiment with natural health practitioners or methods. Keep learning. Do the best you can to eliminate chemicals, GMO Foods and Seeds. Use humane methods for raising livestock, if you eat meat.  Learn to make your own household products for cleaning and personal care. Taking care of yourself in these times is the most important step you can make for your own health, as well as your family’s. Do it now!

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Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole


Late Blight Is A Hurdle To Overcome

Dew on Tomato Leaves

Beautiful Tomatoes!


 For the last several years, I have been unable to grow tomatoes due to the Late Blight. If you have never had it affect your garden, you are lucky. It is a  highly contagious fungal disease, that can kill your plants within ten days.  My tomatoes were always the main vegetable growing in our garden. I canned a huge amount every year. We ate fried green tomatoes, tomatoes in our salads, soups and casseroles, as well, as in sauces, salsa and ketchup.  It has been heartbreaking. As any homesteader knows, tomatoes are essential to your food supply. Many meals are centered around the tomato.

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Started my tomato bed.


I planted some of them in various beds on a completely different side of the garden. I wanted to get them away from my usual spot, thinking the late blight would not hit them here. It did not help. Nothing has helped me since 2009, the first year our garden got it. Now my father got it that same year. He did not do like I did, and take the dead plants to the landfill in a plastic bag. He just threw them in his brush pile. Which is exactly what Cornell University said not to do. That was the one and only time his garden had the blight. 

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I was so happy with these plants!

From August 18th, these plants were beautiful, to September 9th, within 21 days, they were brown, black, dried up and dead.  Some had many nicely formed tomatoes. The cherry tomatoes were covered with fruit. I think there were hundreds of them on just a couple plants. They looked so pretty and I was so proud of them. Because of being hit by the late blight. In 2010, I even went as far as spraying with Serenade, which is supposed to be a natural spray to use for late blight. I used it once, but it was probably too late since the signs of it were already apparent. I won’t use it again since it had all kinds of warning labels all over it.  .

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Tomato Plants

According to Cornell University:

“Late Blight is a disease that mainly affects potatoes and tomatoes, though it can affect others as well. It was mainly responsible for the Irish potato famine in the 1850’s. Entire fields of potatoes rotted, as well as potatoes in storage. Thousands of people starved or immigrated.

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Looking Good!

Late Blight is caused by a pathogen, oomycete, that survives from season to another on infected potatoes. It is known for producing millions of spores from infected plants under wet conditions. It can be introduced into a garden through infected potatoes or volunteer plants that were infected, from culled potatoes that were not destroyed, compost piles or from infected plants that were bought and brought into the area. Spores can travel through the air, land on the plants and infect more. They can also be washed through the soil to infect more potatoes and cause rot in the ground or in storage.”

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Late Blight!

Because so many spores are produced by this oomycete pathogen, it is important that anyone whose plants get the Late Blight to properly identify it and control it. Then the spores do not travel to other local gardens and infect them.One way of preventing it is to only grow certified seed potatoes. And do not buy or take tomato transplants from other areas. I am not certain of how to control it yet.  I have tried. I will keep trying because I need the tomatoes in my garden. We grow heirlooms and save the seeds, so it is important to overcome this hurdle now. 

Late Blight

Late Blight

I have heard that copper needs to be added to our soil and that should overcome it. I had planned on trying that, but I read this on eHow:  “Fixed copper acts as a protectant fungicide. It is approved with restrictions for use in organic gardening. Copper products carry labels ranging from the low-risk “Caution” to the serious-risk “Danger.” Although a natural fungicide and an essential nutrient for plants and animals, excessive levels of copper can produce toxic effects, so use equal care with copper-based fungicides as you use when handling synthetic chemicals. Copper fungicides can build up in the soil over time, threatening the health of soil microorganisms. Bees and fish are also sensitive to copper products.” So back to the drawing board!

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Ruined!

I will be planting our tomatoes in five gallon buckets instead of the actual garden. I will keep them out front and I am thinking of buying soil to grow them in. If the spores are in my soil, they are most likely in my compost pile too. Last year I planted a few plants in some containers. They died due to the containers not being deep enough for them. Tomatoes have deep roots and need space. I always started them inside. Then I laid them down in a trench in the garden, with just the top leaves peeking out toward the sun. They rooted in real good that way. I can’t do that in a container though. So I will have to figure out how to grow them without getting the dreaded late blight. 

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Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole


Raised Beds Put To Bed For Winter

Plowing Up Raised Beds

Plowing Up Raised Beds

Raised beds need to be put to bed for the winter. I know it sounds strange to say that about a garden. But it is true. Every fall after your harvest, you need to take out all the dead plants, add more compost, and plow the ground up. Then cover it up with mulch for the winter. My husband worked on plowing it up with our wheel hoe. I wrote about our wheel hoe on this post, The Wheel Hoe.

Using a wheel Hoe

Using a wheel Hoe

The raised rock beds are easy to make if you have a supply of rock. In the fall, if any need to be fixed or more rock added, that is the time to do it. People tend to sit on them during the summer and it causes them to break or fall over. The animals get into them too. Chasing a mole and digging into the raised bed can cause some damage too.

Mulching with leaves

Mulching with leaves

We use leaves from our trees for our mulch. You can use whatever you want. Straw is a good choice. Since we live in the forest, leaves are plentiful, as you can see. Makes for an easy mulch that we don’t have to scrimp on. I love the way the leaves smell in the fall! 

Round Bed

All Done!

That bed is all done until spring! Soon it will be covered with snow.

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole


Gardening Is My Favorite Thing To Do

Rock Raised Bed

Bed I built!


Gardening is my favorite thing to do! Even though winter always seems so long and so hard, I can always see the end coming and get in a hurry to start the garden seeds. My father always warned me not to start them too soon. He said the plants would become “leggy” waiting for the ground to warm up for planting. Then those plants might not do so well. Except for the tomatoes. He told me to lay them down in the hole and cover them all the way to the top leaves. Just leave that little bit peeking out. And that is the way I have always planted them. We always had awesome plants with lots of tomatoes on them. That is until we started getting the “late blight” every year, since 2010. I think 2009 was our last year for growing a good crop of tomatoes. I hate it! 

Trees in raised bed.

Two more trees to come down!

I found this advice online (I can’t remember where because I was all over looking for an answer.): 

“Tomato blight cannot be cured, and that’s why it is advisable to simply dispose of infected plants, but there are aggressive prevention methods that help gardeners avoid blight completely. Liberally spray tomato plants with copper-based or sulphur-based fungicide to prevent blight. A spray of baking soda and water (50:50 ratio) works as a household fungicide to prevent blight and kill fungi spores.”

Raised Bed Of Rock

Raised bed made larger


In view of all the attention being given to being prepared, I am working very hard on having a bigger and better garden next year. That is why it is so important to me to be able to grow tomatoes again. Besides we like having our own supply of them. It all begins with the plans I have been making now. My husband has remodeled our raised beds and has been making them bigger and easier to work in. They will get more sun and for longer periods of time. I have been buying mostly organic, heirloom seeds. I have been tempted to buy hybrid seeds that the “late blight” will not take out. Not sure about that yet. Have you been planning your next garden yet? Did you have trouble with one particular plant that you wanted to grow but couldn’t? Frustrating, isn’t it?

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole


Raised Rock Beds Revamped For Next Garden Season

Homestead Fall Picture

Peaceful Forest Fall Day

Our raised rock beds in our garden needed to be revamped for next year’s garden. They were not producing like they should. Mainly because they had big trees growing in them and the roots interfered with the area for the garden plants’ roots. So now those trees are firewood! I wrote about them in a previous post, Raised Bed Transformation Is Taking Place.

Building Rock Paths

Building Rock Paths

This morning I saw my husband out there working and it looked like such a wonderful day, I thought I’d join him. He has been removing sod and putting flat rocks in place alongside the raised bed for a rock pathway. Underneath it he put landscape fabric 
that is supposed to keep the weeds from growing under it. We’ll see about that. It was good to be outside and listening to the birds and smelling the fall leaves. I love that smell! Don’t you?

Lemon Balm

Nutmeg’s Garden

I decided to weed, or rather cut back or prune, the lemon balm growing in this raised bed. This bed used to have other plants growing in it, but the lemon balm has overtaken everything. This year I was not good about cutting it back. Usually I dry some of it and add it fresh to our salads. I have been so busy, I didn’t have enough time. That is no excuse really. I should have made the time. Today I did. 

Raised Rock Beds

Working Together In Garden

Most of our rock has come from our horses’ paddock or in areas that my husband has had to dig. He dug out the area for our battery room and he carried that rock back here for the raised beds. I love these beds and I am excited to think about how much more we will be able to grow in them next year. The trees shaded them quite a bit and that hindered what could grow in them. Now it is open back there, yet we still have shade.

Rock Paths

Building Rock Pathways

Raised rock beds are such an improvement over plain wood beds. I have them too, but they have to replaced at times. We will not use treated wood in our garden due to the fact that we don’t think it is safe. So eventually, I believe the wood beds will be replaced with the rock ones. They keep your plants warm at night, after soaking in the sun all day. 

Raised Rock Beds

Looking Better!

Soon this winter will be over and I will be transplanting new little seedlings in these beds. I can’t wait! As soon as I get my garden put to bed for winter, I plan my next garden. The raised rock beds should allow us to get some plants in there early in the spring. Especially with the trees gone. What about you? Are you planning for your next garden too? What kind of changes will you be making?

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole


Raised Bed Transformation Is Taking Place

The Snake Bed

The Snake Bed

A raised bed transformation is taking place. We have decided to get serious, more so than ever before, on our gardening efforts. Food is the number one area where you cut back when you are working with a budget. This year, I have seen our food expenses go up due to the rise in prices in items we purchase from the store or elsewhere. Our raised rock beds in the backyard were not producing enough food. They were hard for my husband to mow around. It was wasted space. Too chopped up.

Raised Rock Beds

Beds are too chopped up.

 You can see in my photo that there were trees standing in the beds. The roots of the trees made it hard to work in the soil. I’d plant something and it wouldn’t grow very well. The only thing I could grow that did well was some squash plants. Then the vines would go all over the lawn and the grass would get tall. It looked messy and for all the room the squash plants took up, I only got a few squash from each vine. So out they go next year!

Raised Rock Bed

Opened up to let the sun in!

My husband took down one of the trees and opened the area up. It looked so nice. We don’t really need those big trees back there. Then he changed the shape of the raised bed. Made it wider and made the area between the raised beds larger. Then he can get the lawn mower or my garden cart through the area. Before we had to go around. He had a struggle with the lawn mower. And someday, he may switch to a rider and would need that extra room.

Rock Beds

Transformation taking place!

It improved the garden area so much, that he has now taken down the other tree in the other raised bed. Then he is taking all the nooks and crannies out of the shape of the various raised beds. Some will be merged with the others. That will increase the productivity of the rock raised beds. They are wonderful for growing, I just wasn’t using them smartly. Now I will.

Firewood From Tree

Firewood From Tree

Taking out two large trees has also given us more firewood. That is always helpful. I am happy to see the hearth stacked with firewood now, especially as it has gotten pretty cold here in upstate NY. Though our big stove isn’t being used  yet, it will be soon. This actually has helped us in two ways, giving us more wood and next year, more food. I like that!

Rock Beds

Sitting Area

 The new design of these beds will give us a few areas for sitting in the garden. I like the idea of having a few places to sit spread around. So you can be walking and just sit without having to carry a chair out with you. In a spot or two, I will place a small table. Makes it a perfect place to enjoy a drink or a snack. 

Rock Bed

New Design

 

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole


Gardening Time Relieves Stress

Peaceful Forest Homestead

The Backyard at Peaceful Forest Homestead

Time spent in the garden is valuable,. Not only for the food you will put on your table, but for relieving stress. Gardening time is important for me. It is a time when I can think about things and observe nature. The biggest stress I have out there is my cats digging in my raised beds. Every day it is rewarding to find which plants have progressed from the day before. It is amazing how fast they grow!

Pepper Plant

Pepper plants growing in cinder blocks.

If you have something on your mind and need to think about it, this is the perfect time. Working in the garden with your spouse or child is a perfect time to have discussions about important matters. I find it less stressful if I need to talk to someone about something if we are out in the garden. Whether they are helping me, or we are sitting out there having a glass of ice tea or our morning coffee. Something about the atmosphere of the garden causes you and others to relax and stay calm.

Salad Bowl

Salad!

Seeing my plants grow gives me a satisfied feeling. I know that when I go to the grocery store food is very expensive now. Not to mention that I don’t know where it was grown and what it was grown from. What is on it and who handled it? My plants are grown from organic seeds and have had nothing bad on them. I do not use any sprays or pesticides of any type on them. We don’t even use a rototiller or tractor, that would spread gasoline fumes on the ground they are planted in. I like knowing that.

Summer Squash

Summer Squash

Set up an area in your garden with a couple of chairs and a table or bench. Then enjoy your morning coffee or tea out there. My husband and I have been doing that most mornings now. If we get up early enough, the birds are singing up a storm! My favorite sound in the world! We sit out there in the early morning hours and plan our day. A nice start to the day. Try it!

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole


Starting Seeds Is On My Mind

Seeds

What seeds to plant?

Starting seeds! Does that sound like a good idea? Today, I am looking through all my seeds. Deciding which plants I need to start come April first. That is the day I start my seeds. If you start them too early, they get “leggy” or don’t do well. Just looking through my supply excites me. I need something to help me lick this slump I am in right now. Starting seeds is a start of a new season. It helps to have something to focus on that I can look forward to.

Seed Starter Pots

Seed Starter Pots

I save these plastic packs that I have bought plants in over the years. These are great for starting your seeds in. My father used Styrofoam cups. He would poke holes in the bottom for drainage. I use them too if I run out of  my plastic pots. You can start seeds in just about anything that will hold a few seeds and provide proper drainage. You do not want to drown your seeds.

Seed Starter

Seed Starter

 The one thing I buy for my garden is the commercial seed starter. It is just easier that way. To make my own I’d have to heat it in the oven. That gets rid of anything that is in the soil that would compromise the seeds. So this just easier for me. Research it online. You may want to put the extra effort in to make your own seed starter.

Seedlings 2012

Seedlings 2012

When you think about it, you get a lot from a tiny seed. It is really worth your time to start some seeds this year for a garden. If you have never had a garden or gave it up, this is the year to rekindle that relationship with the dirt. The dirt that provides your family with food that is rich in vitamins and minerals. I don’t mean to overlook the actual time you spend out there working in the garden. I value that time spent in the fresh air and sunshine. My favorite part though, is when the robins are hopping alongside me in the garden. I get to know them the best I can. I am looking forward to their return more than ever this year, which should be very soon!

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole


Raised Beds Can Be Built Cheaply, Quickly and Easily

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Nutmeg’s Garden


I have written about my raised beds many time on my blogs. They make gardening so much easier. My raised beds are made of a variety of materials. Whatever I find. Nothing fancy. In a previous post I wrote last year, Gardening In Containers And Raised Beds, I gave you an idea of how I have done it. Actually, its fun! I love to find a new container or material for my garden. To me, it is a treasure!

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Made of cinder block and rock.

Using various materials you find around your home or that others may give to you for free, makes the cost of raised beds relatively cheap. I read today a few threads on my favorite homesteading forum and saw members who don’t use them, try to discourage others from doing so. Saying they are too expensive to build or they take too much time to put together. That is rubbish! Those guys must be really lazy to say that. My husband put our wood ones together fairly easy. The rock ones we built together. They were fun putting them together. Some people like to have everything easy and no work at all. 

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Raised Bed Made Of Rocks


The first rock bed I built was from rocks I picked up in the horses’ paddock. I’d be out there with them in the morning and started piling them up. Pretty soon I realized I had enough to build something with. What should I build? Well, gardening is what I do! So it made sense. I loved the way it looked.  But I wish I hadn’t made it quite so big, as it was hard to harvest what ends up in the center. I thought about putting a solar light or fountain in the center, and may do that in the future. It is my favorite bed, since it is closer to the house than any of the others.

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Cement Block Planter


There are many types of containers and materials you can use to put up for a raised bed. The thing I like about cinder blocks and rock is that they stay warm, long after the sun has gone down. So the plants in those beds have that extra heat. The wood beds eventually have to be rebuilt, because we won’t use treated wood in our garden. If you’d like to see some examples, go to my Pinterest Homestead Garden board, where I have re-pinned quite a few of ones I like. These are mostly not mine, but others I have seen and liked.

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Raised Beds Around Trees.

When my husband dug out a room for the batteries for our solar system, he carried the rocks he uncovered out back, and built another raised bed. It was a BIG one! I liked it. He had to include two trees into the design. New York is full of rock. If you are digging for any reason, you will run into a lot of rock. And not just little field stones. But you can find other materials to use if you do not have rock. Just look at things with an open mind!

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Plenty of room in these beds!

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole