I am far from an experienced market gardener, in fact I am still very much learning.
In early February I started sweet potatoes for slip not knowing how well it was going to turn out. I googled all the "How To" videos I could find and tried to educate myself but everyone was using heating pads and neon lighting. I guess that works for most but I am trying to get off grid and am trying to learn how to do things without hydro of any sort. So I got my mason jars and filled them with water and cut my skewers into equal sized pieces, took about an hour inspecting each potato to figure out which was the top and poked the skewers in and placed them into my jars. Set them on the top shelf of my plant stand in front of our window and hoped for the best.
I had tried growing slips a few years back but somehow ended up with rotten potatoes and not a single slip, so as you can understand I wasn't to hopeful that this time would be any different. Then mid February I started to notice that my potatoes where growing roots, nice clean white roots...Oh, I was so excited I posted pictures instantly to my instagram page. I did it, all by myself with no help from heat pads or lighting! Mother Nature was finally on my side, the beautiful sun rays where enough to provide both light and heat. So of course me being super excited decided to grow even more, so another batch where started on March 1 and then I started 10 more today (which is the 12th). I figure I can never have to many slips as this family loves sweet potatoes!
Now, not like I don't have enough to learn I have to educate myself on how to cure sweet potatoes....I am hoping all goes well and I can pull off a huge crop to last me till Spring 2018.
I'll keep you updated on my progress!
They say the winter weather brings depression to people, I would have to disagree with that. I love the winter weather...the snow,the dark gloomy days, the bitter cold that makes you want to cuddle up in front of the woodstove with a warm cup of coffee or tea and a good book. For me Winter is my slow down time, a time to focus more on harder subjects with the children and a time to dream about what plants I want to grow and a time to focus on family time which as most of us know can seem crazy to achieve during planting and harvesting seasons. Winter is the only time I really get to put my feet up, although this year has been a little harder to do so as I have been back and forth to doctors with gallbladder attacks and just when they where able to book a surgery date I found out I was pregnant, then we ended up taking my husbands grandson into our care through a kin program and the stress of everything got the best of me and two days before I was four months pregnant I miscarried, I know these things happen for a reason but it's a hard thing to see a healthy baby's heartbeat and then a week and a half later loose it all. But I'm a strong girl with a farm to run a family to raise and very little time to hurt.
With everything that has happened this winter, I made up my mind to put all my time into planning and expanding our garden. Feeding our children is a chore on it's own, I swear these children never get full. But I am lucky because they want apples and oranges and homemade bread and soup not candy or other junk foods. Trying to plan how much food I need to grow in order to feed a family of twelve is a lot of guess work, between canning and storing for the winter there also has to be every day eating during the summer months to take into consideration. My head hurts at points when I try to figure out how much of everything needs to be planted and then to double it in order to be able to produce enough for market. I am thankful we raise pigs though because any of our scrap vegetables never go to waste.
So far this February, I have started my own sweet potatoes for slips and have started some leeks and many different varieties of peppers. I tried some celery and plan on trying until I succeeded. In the next few days I have a bunch of onion seeds to plant, I have never started onions by seed before so this is one trial I am hoping goes well as onions are a big staple in our home. And herbs oh how I love herb but never have I ever managed to grow everything I require and so this year I have all the seed and the determination to grow it all so not to buy it.
Self-sufficiency is hard but exciting at the same time, it's like being a kid all over again and having a "Hey! I did that all by myself" moment. You just want to jump up and down with joy and show others that it is possible to do it and succeed. For me this year is all about succeeding and I refuse to let anything stop me, I have vegetables to plant, a garden to weed, children to raise and a home and farm to tend to and this year a little bit of me time will be worked in there somewhere or I'll never get to write this blog.
It's February and March is only around the corner, so happily a planting I will go because it's a thrilling thought that a bounty of food can be produced by one little seed.
Until next time ~Jenn
So here I sit coffee in hand looking out the homestead window to a natural skating rink that Mother Nature has pleasantly provided us. You have to hand it to her though it's pretty amazing to watch the ice layer on top of the snow glisten as the sun peaks out from the clouds, it fills the soul with warmth and a rather carefree feeling! If only moments like this could last forever but as everything else in life, moments like this come and go so we just have to appreciate them as they come.
This Winter has been an unpredictable one so far as we have dealt with snow, ice, rain and the above seasonal temperatures and yet while others are wishing for warmer weather I have to admit I don't mind it at all! No matter the weather this is my favourite time of year, I feel like a child at Christmas as I search through seed catalogs, plan our garden and get our paperwork for the year in order. Sure we have had a rough go at things but this year we have the stability we have lacked in the past and I'm ready to take on the year.
I could tell you everything I want to plant but my list goes on and on. I have picked staple foods for my market garden and family favourites to grow and preserve for ourselves, not to mention the hubby and I have decided to take this year for all it's worth and plant a field of corn and try a few other grains this year just to figure out what works best for us. Trying to become totally self-sufficient is a hard one but if we play our cards right by the time I hit my 37th Birthday, I am hoping to be there!
I have to say it's a challenge to learn this whole farming lifestyle when you really have no one to teach you, but luckily I love to read so I am educating myself and my family as much as I can, but the hands on experience is what really helps the most. You can read and read but until you encounter the situation in real life you really haven't learned all there is to know.
We have decided to do what works for us and our family which seems to keep growing 😂. With our nine children and now currently our grandson our house is full of hungry tummies like all the time so we raise our animals just to feed ourselves and our fruits and vegetables will be for ourselves and our farm. It may sound easy but when you consider the amount of food I need to preserve for our current family of twelve, I am glad we have 92 acres to play on. Our family requires four to five bushels of pickling cucumbers to do us from fall 2017-fall 2018 so I have to figure that into my gardening plan so to have enough for us and our market.
Well here we are only a few days away from the beginning of a New Year and while everyone else is talking about resolutions, my hubby and I are sitting around at night circling items in our seed catalogues and planing out what we are going to grow and what part of the 92 acres we are going to use to do so. Not to mention I am currently going crazy trying to find time to read some of my newer homesteading books between helping the kids with their studies, organizing the house and all that everyday stuff that we always do!
With the increase in food, fuel and hydro this New Year things around the homestead are going to get quite tight, I am currently wishing this house was heated by wood like our last one was as propane could get costly and our winter is supposed to be chilly at times. And let's just hope the fuel prices don't skyrocket this year or we will be doing a lot more gardening by hand.
When we started our journey into a more self-sufficient life we never intended for it to be quite this hard but we are surviving and have accomplished quite a bit, and being that we don't know what the years to come will hold makes me more confident that we made the right choices. Sure we can't slaughter our own bigger animals yet but if it came down to it and we had to for food we would do it. We can preserve our own foods and now have to learn how to grow and harvest our own oats and wheat for flour. I have to put my sewing skills to work also in order to make heavier quilts for the children as the store bought ones are so cheap now a days. And if only I could make shoes...oh how I would be such a happy woman as these children go through both shoes and boots like no tomorrow and it always happens after we've made a visit to town. But no matter how tight and hard things become we have a roof over our head, a pantry full of food and extra water just encase needed.
Becoming totally self-sufficient is going to be the hardest thing to do and we have three years in which to accomplish it, while we learn and expand our market garden each year and hunt further North for our Forever Home! Yep I said it "Forever", a place to call home where our children can continue to grow our grandchildren can come and where we will live a hard but relaxing life without the worries of the big city life. Where we can sit and watch the stars at night and the sunrise over the hayfields in the mornings. Sure we won't be spoiled like we are now with all these lovely electronic devices but we will still have our necessities and have each other.
So I welcome you to follow us into 2017 where we will learn and fail many times but will never stop trying. Our blog has been quiet this past year but I am going to make it up to all my followers by writing something every night or every other night to keep you up to date on our journey. I hope everyone continues to stop by our blog and may everyone Have a Happy New Year.
Its an on going rate increase in Ontario that is causing the lower income families to scrape by on pennies or should I say dimes now! We live in a free country so we are told but really how free are we? The prices of gas, food and hydro are always on the rise, not to mention first time home buyers are now finding it even more difficult to get a mortgage to start their lives and families. If you are in the medium to low income family category living pay check to pay check, these increases are making it almost impossible to survive and I am sure Ontario's poverty rate is increasing. When you are forced to pay an extremely ridiculous priced Hydro bill in order to have lighting and possibly heat in your home and have to give up purchases of healthy foods in order to do so it doesn't really feel that free now does it.
I have heard so many stories of people and how they have no way to pay their hydro bills and how some have been forced to live without either because they have had to shut it off or the hydro company has disconnected their services. Sure they say they will not increase rates or shut off hydro thru November till April but what happens when April comes and how will January's delivery free rate impact these unpaid bills?
My family would be considered low income and I am sure that if I didn't have good money management skills I would be right on or below that poverty line with no home and no hydro. Fortunately we had decided four years ago to become more self-sufficient and learn live off the land, and I am super glad we did because I am dealing with $500 hydro bills a month and we don't run much more hydro then my parents who only pay $140 roughly. In all honesty I think the "Smart meters" really are not that SMART! Sure we have eleven people in our house but we keep lights off unless needed only use one tv and one computer and a phone, we are pretty low maintenance if I do say so, but we still feel that stress. The only reason we can survive is because we have taught ourselves how to can preserves, raise our own meat and grow our own vegetables, without these skills I am sure I'd be sitting in the dark with no hydro and no Internet to even write this.
I try to teach my children every day the importance of being self-sufficient and although life may seem more convenient when you can go to the store and buy items and just turn on something with a flick of a switch, working for and growing your own food and clothing not only makes you respect it more but also gives you a feeling of independence.
With all the increasing rates for staples what kind of world will our children grow up in? Well I know mine will grow up without being hungry and be able to supply themselves with their own sources of heat and hydro and this makes me feel overjoyed.
Well it took us a lot of impatient nights and frustrating days but we found a farm to suit our needs. Sure it's not as close as we wanted it to be but it's perfect!
The bedrooms are huge and the kids have so much room to run it finally feels like home! Sure it will take us a bit to settle in but that is to be expected. Now with four barns I can do cattle, pigs, sheep and horses without worrying about cross contamination. Chickens and ducks are free ranging and I pick up my dewlap tolouse goslings this weekend!
There are a few things that need to be fixed here but just standard new home things!
Starting in July our blog will get more attention as life on the homestead continues!
It takes me forever to get organized these days, ever since I had our littlest homesteader my body just hasn't felt right and with Spring here or attempting to be here my work load is piling up.
I have been busily planting, charting and trying to make sure I have everything I need in order to start the rest of my plants in the next week. Not to mention packing, yes you read that right packing! Currently we are walking on a tightrope as I like to put it, we really don't know if we are coming or going. We have one last person to see about a house in the next two weeks and if that doesn't work out we will be searching over the summer in order to move at the end of season. I have to say I really love this area as the people are so kind and helpful but we have to find a home suitable for our large family. So to make it easier on me I am packing everything we won't need over the summer months.
So while everything is up in the air and Mother Nature has no clue what she is doing my house is turning into a greenhouse in order to ensure all my plants survive! I am finding myself getting so frustrated as one day it's beautiful and the next we are getting snow. I understand I can't start planting till the end of May early June but I am eager to get outdoors and play in the dirt, instead of playing with dirt in my living area.
So so far this season I have green, orange and mixed bell peppers started, jalapeño and cayenne peppers planted, my eggplant is finally starting to pop up, my tomatoes are growing and my Brussels sprouts are starting to poke out of the dirt! Now my only issue is lighting, I have had to purchase a few lights to hang so my seedlings don't stretch so tall for sunlight. Heat isn't a problem as the wood stove is always burning keeping them nice and warm.
As the month quickly passes by i am trying to make sure I have all my seeds started but at the same time make sure they are not going to mature faster then I anticipate. Last years late frost makes me very unsure of timing for this years crops and the weather we have been getting makes me even more unsure. I keep joking with my hubby that we are going to need to build a giant greenhouse and grow in it all summer long if this weather keeps up.
There is only so much stress a person can take on before tears begin to flow and frustration takes over. When setting out to follow our dream of becoming self sufficient I never thought it would be so hard. I have learned the hard way that renting was the worst thing to do and that four years ago when I had the chance I should have purchased a home just to have that equity and then maybe I wouldn't be sitting here today frustrated with the fact that I have no way to purchase a farm without a co-signer because even though I have a great income it's government funded and private lenders don't like that. So even though I am trying to become self sufficient and start a small market garden to begin our goals, right at this current moment I am frustrated enough that I want to just sell all our belongings and give up.
I mean sure, I know I am not going to give up because if I was going to I would have done it back in 2014 when I was renting and then was told they where selling and we had to move so we left all our crops and lost out on four thousand dollars worth of plants. It is amazing how we traveled two and a half hours and spent $10,000 just to end up in another rental disaster though. I was really sure this was the right place to rent in the beginning and then not even six months in right after we got our ground worked for a garden we were told they had an offer on the property and although they declined if they got a better offer they would sell! Talk about frustrating, I didn't know whether to put our crops in the ground or forget it all. Mind you we put our crops in and then got hit by frost and lost thousands of tomato plants and corn..maybe it was a sign that I should have quit, but no I planted more plants and spent time out in the garden but the weeds were just to much to keep up with and the deer....oh those beautiful deer..what a pain in the butt! All my brussel sprouts and kohl-rahbi disappeared not to mention my squash, although I do have to give credit to that lovely ground hog family also as they helped eat my squash patch..I saw them!
So now sitting here in a house that in all honesty if it was mine would be torn to the ground, I try to hold everything together planting seedlings, figuring out the best place for my garden and saving every cent I can while hoping for a miracle. I know that I only have one more month to find something or we will have to just rough it out for the season in order not to fail again. I had hoped to get a few cows this year but obviously that's going to have to wait another year as I really don't want to put the money into fencing. I still hope every second that something will work out but whether it does or not we still are going to wake up every morning feed animals, plant seeds, make bread and dream. I have to say though, if you have a chance to own a property even if it's smaller then you wish for snatch it up...start small and own because renting is never permanent and can become extremely costly.
Becoming self sufficient is not as easy as it seems, sure books and online blogs can make it seem simple but it takes a lot of work, can be super stressful at times and although you feel your going at it alone there is always another self sufficient family out there somewhere sharing their mistakes and learning experiences.
Thanks for listening...back to planting and planning I go!
Between February and March I like to pollute my small little homestead with starter plants. We heat with wood so our back room in the homestead we rent is always the hottest room in the house and the plants seem to grow like weeds. Since I started gardening a few years back I have learned that pepper plants need the extra time to grow and after last years success I have started even more plants this year so I do not have to run out and purchase a bunch. I would rather start 400 seeds then purchase 24 plants from a green house.
Now when it comes to onions we love to plant thousands so after doing a lot of research I have decided to plant them from seed this year as it is a lot cheaper in the long run, although I my need a bigger green house built when the weather gets nicer as my house fills up fast. So next week once this cold snap passes through I will begin my onion seeds and leeks.
I learned last year that I started my leeks to late last year and when I transplanted them I ended up loosing more then 3/4 of my crop because my weeds grew faster then my leeks did. This year I plan on planting my leeks in raised boxes in hopes to get a better yield.