Sunday, May 17, 2009

Independence Day Challenge 2009: Week 3

I've decided that "microfarm" is too big to describe what we have here. As such, I've dubbed our quarter acre homestead a nanofarm.

And it is a very diverse piece of land. We have such an array of different things growing here, some we planted, some that volunteered. Every time I turn the soil, I'm both pleased and astounded by the amazing richness of it.

This morning, before the girls' dance show, we were all outside in the drizzle working around our nanofarm.

We discovered that most of the baby bunnies have opened their eyes (very exciting). So, Deus Ex Machina cleaned out the cage (while I held the mama, because she kept attacking him) and checked the nest to be sure we had all live ones. There are seven - all alive and all fat, roly-poly little bunnies.

After all of the animals were tended to, I did some planting ;).

Plant something:

I did a little better this week with this one. Last week, I was gifted Jerusalem artichoke (or sunchoke), and they were all planted this week - next to the house on the opposite side of the chimney from the iris/lily bed. The flowers on both sides should provide a visual balance to my house. As much as I don't really care what my neighbors think about how my house looks, the truth is that *I* care how it looks, and when I see the pictures of similarly-sized suburban/urban homesteads, I know I have a lot of work to do to improve the aesthetics of mine. So, pretty irises and lilies on one side of the chimney and pretty sunchokes on the other side, should improve the curb appeal ... a little.

This morning I planted more lettuce (I'm staggering the plantings so that we have mature lettuce over a longer period of time, but, hopefully, not so much at one time that it goes to waste), more beets (in between the seedlings that are just coming up - again, staggering the planting to extend the season), and cabbage (now I have to figure out how to keep the dog out of my cabbage bed).

Harvest something:

Eggs. Every day it's about four eggs. One of our hens will probably join the broilers when they go to *see* "Ken", and we'll be getting two new pullets, probably in July.

I also harvested a little bit of lettuce (it's still not quite ready to harvest) and some herbs for a salad. It was a very small salad.

Preserve something:

I didn't do anything in this category. I should be gathering and drying dandelion greens, but I keep putting it off until tomorrow.

Sheesh, for as far north as I live, I sure do suffer a lot from Scarlet O'Haraitis.

Reduce Waste:

We've been using water from our rain barrels exclusively for the animals, which reduces our water consumption. In fact, with as much rain as we've been having, I've contemplated filling 5 gallon buckets with water from the rain barrels to bring inside for flushing the toilets.

I had a massive failure in this category this week, too, though. I cleaned out our refrigerator and found way too many "science experiments" growing in there. A couple were really gross. For a long time, I was doing really well with incorporating leftovers into meals, or being sure that leftovers went to the chickens and not to "science." After dumping several containers this weekend, I realize it's time to start stepping up my efforts. The one that bothered me the most was the chicken bones that should have been broth, and what bothers me is that I could have boiled the bones into broth and put them in the freezer, but ... well, see above - Scarlet O'Haraitis :).

Build Community Food Systems:

Nothing new in this category this week. I'm anxiously awaiting the opening of the Farmer's Market this month ;).

Eat the Food:

With the exception of the SNAFU above, we do eat the food, for the most part. We still enjoy Chinese (or other) take-out once a week, but compared to three years ago, our eating out is significantly reduced.

In 2006, I started a spreadsheet, where I logged what we spent on food. I wanted to prove that we could "survive" on $600 per month for food (including eating out), which is the food stamp allotment for a family the size of mine. At the time, we spent more than $600 per month on just eating out - mostly fastfood. It was a real eye opener, and it was then that our eating habits REALLY started to change.

I've revived my spreadsheet, and it will be interesting to see how this year, with buying in bulk, cooking mostly at home, growing more of our food, preserving more food, and "eating the food" compares to prior years.

At very least, I hope I can feel better about how much we're not eating out ;).

Preparation and Storage:

I don't have anything new to add this week in this category.

We made it through another (long) winter, but next winter is already on our minds, and we've been "harvesting" wood wherever we can find it from the piles on the sides of the road from downed trees that were damaged from ice and/or snow this past winter. There's a lot to chose from, and we're hoping to glean enough wood to get us through the winter without having to buy any.

It already feels a little like the season is getting away from us. I have so many things I need/want to do (build a tomato trellis, get the new bed built for my edible flowers, build my three-sisters bed), but it's just not happening. There are so many things going on, and our weekends - the only "real" time we have during the week to work on our homestead - always seem filled with other stuff.

I'm hoping to get my hands on 18 cinderblocks this week so that I can build my 4'x8' three sisters garden and get it ready for planting on Memorial Day weekend (the traditional planting time here in Maine).

I'm hoping I'll find the time this week to build the new bed with the trellis system.

I'm hoping we can clean up some of the debris in our yard so that it's "purtier."

I'm hoping ....

For now, though, I'm wicked behind in work. I'll be babysitting my granddaughter, probably, every day next week. We're picking up our next batch of broilers on Friday, and we have to find some time to build an outside pen for the ducks, as they're still a little small to be safe in the chicken coop with a couple of our more aggressive hens.

It's going to be a very busy week, as usual. I'm looking forward to getting caught up with work so that I can get those overdue library books back ... although they tell me they very much appreciate that I pay my fines, ... er, make "donations" ;).


  1. I've been going out every Saturday and sowing a couple rows of radish, lettuce, etc. Its nice having a steady stream of salads coming in.
    I loved your comment about "science". With outdoor chores picking up, its a struggle to keep up with the fridge!

  2. really? $600 a month is the food stamp allowance? How many of you are there? Granted this was 10+ years ago, but mom used to do it for $500/month for 8 of us. We made a game of it--we'd go grocery shopping and round up the price of each item to the nearest $ and then keep a running tally. So when we checked out, we'd know approximately how much it would be--but then we'd take bets on what the actual amount ala Price is Right. Whoever got the closest won. It was fun. Or maybe we're easily amused.

  3. Good update. I understand about feeling like the season is getting away from you. I felt that way a few weeks ago. A big push for a few weeks and now I feel mostly caught up.

  4. RE: your food stamp allotment... did you read the Sustainable Food Budget Challenge for the month of April at ? I participated in the challenge (to eat sustainably on the food stamp allotment budget for a month) and was really happy with how my family did! It was encouraging to see how much all the prep, storage and buying in bulk did pay off for us!

  5. Sue: I'm looking forward to the "steady stream" of lettuce, but it's not quite there, yet ;). Of course, everything is coming up, and it's very exciting in the garden, which is, as you pointed out, why it's tough to be worrying about the fridge ;).

    Bezzie: Yeah, I guess $600 per month for a family of five is what's allotted. At least from one source I found ;). Of course I've seen other figures, both lower and higher for my family size. Given how addicted we were to eating out, making the transition has been quite a challenge. We like to guess how much the tally will be at the cash register, too. I think we're just easily amused, though ;).

    Thanks, Christy. I hope to get caught up soon. I just finished assembling the raised bed that will be my "three sisters" garden, and I hope to get that planted this week ... at least the corn ;).

    Anisachell - welcome to Home is! I didn't see the challenge at, but it sounds like it was a lot of fun. We have mixed results with our food budgeting, but, like you, we've discovered that buying in bulk, prep and storage are really doing wonders for both our diet AND our pocketbook. In fact, since we started eating more at home and eating "closer" to home, both Deus Ex Machina and I have even lost a few pounds ;).