Spring on the Homestead

A wildflower bouquet.
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I hardly know where to begin. Spring is always a busy time on any homestead, but I think it's been an especially crazy spring for everyone, no? On the personal side of things, my hubby got very sick with a virus that tested negative for COVID, but his doc had him self-quarantine, anyway, since the test is only 70-80% accurate; I'm dealing with some health issues that are leading to an implanted heart monitor; and the kids are plugging away at school. (Given all that's going on, I'm even more thankful than ever that we homeschool.)

Kinda blegh on the personal side of things, to be sure. But let's focus on homesteady-things, shall we?

One of our new Australorp chicks.

In the past, we've hatched our own chicks using a broody hen. (To learn how, click here.) BUT we wanted to change two things about our flock this year. I wanted to go back to pure Australorps, getting rid of our barnyard mix hens. (Why? 'Cause Australorps are gentle and compliant; learn more about why I love them here.) This means we'll be getting rid of all our current hens - and our beloved rooster, Joe. He's gorgeous and he's a really good guy (nice to us, wonderful to his hens), but he is not an Australorp. We plan to give him to a neighbor.

To get started with a fresh flock, we needed chicks. But chicks were near impossible to buy this spring, due to people deciding that this year was a good year to be a bit more self-reliant. Our local feed store only allowed each FAMILY (not person) to buy 4 chicks. That's not enough for us...and who knew if they would have any Australorps? Thankfully, we were able to place a small order at Hoover's Hatchery. We'd never bought mail order chicks before, but the process was smooth and the chicks are vigorous and healthy! We grabbed 10 females and 4 males. We will pare down to one rooster, once they start maturing and showing their personality. We want to make sure whatever rooster we keep is kind to the hens - and to the humans!
Chicks hatching in the incubator.

For the chicks' brooder, we're doing another new thing: Instead of using a heat lamp, we're using a "brooder hen," which is basically a warming plate that the chicks can stand or sit under. We chose this upgrade to lower the risk of fire, but we're discovering it makes for seemingly happier chicks, too! We find the chicks sleep more, since there isn't a light shining on them all the time - plus, it just seems a bit more natural.

This spring, we also got ourselves an incubator. I never thought we'd do that, but my husband likes the idea of selling rarer breeds of chickens someday...plus, we are preparing to add quail to our homestead. Quail are generally very bad at hatching their own eggs, so an incubator seemed like a must. For practice, my husband incubated some of our barnyard mix eggs. All the fertile eggs except one hatched. That's an excellent hatch rate! We gave those chicks to one of my hubby's friends, and he's delighted with them.

A few of the incubator-hatched chicks we gave away.


I've already mentioned that the free rabbits my husband brought home after being told they were Flemish Giants turned out to be mixed breed meat rabbits. If you follow this blog on Facebook or Instagram, you also know the female, Fiona, had a litter. Unfortunately, all but one of her kits died. The one who lived, though, has thrived, and he's a ridiculously cute, fat thing. We've weaned him and soon we're planning to trade him for some fertile quail eggs, which we will hatch.

We call our lone kit "Baby."

Our culvert pipe planters.

I worked SO hard on the garden this spring! This was supposed to be the year I got a "real" garden in place, but due to unforeseen events, that just didn't happen. So I made due with what I had. Again, I planted lots of veggies in with the asparagus, plus I planted in several old bathtubs, in lots of pots and buckets...and my husband cut up an old culvert pipe for me to plant in, too.

Things are growing slowly because our weather is unseasonably cool. Still, I've had lots of radishes, some artichokes, a kohlrabi that I overwintered, and some kale. I normally grow just a handful of potatoes because I feel they aren't that healthy, but this year seemed a good one to grow everything possible. So instead of just letting the potatoes do their thing without any help from me, this year I'm hilling them. And they just keep getting taller! I think some of the potato plants are up to my hip now. And yesterday - finally! - I saw a tiny broccoli head.

Every time I harvest radishes, I plant more. I use them as a low carb potato substitute.

Yummy artichokes!

I think this is the most beautiful kohlrabi I've ever grown!

Cats. Good thing they are excellent mousers! :D

A baby broccoli head.

A little experiment you might be interested in: I got a great carrot crop in 2019, but when I harvested, there were quite a few itty bitty carrot tops that obviously hadn't matured. I let them stay in the ground to see what would happen. Last month, it became clear that they were mostly growing tops and that they were trying to go to seed...so I pulled them all up. I did get a big bowl-full of carrots, so I think it was worth the extra time in the garden.a worthwhile venture.
My carrot experiment paid off.

The fruit trees are iffy this year. I think it won't be a great year for plums, but the young pear tree looks loaded. It's too soon to say what the apples are up to.

Sage in bloom.

Other Stuff

Shaun and Shannon, our Soay sheep, are doing great. I only wish they multiplied as quickly as the rabbits!
Our Soay sheep.

Spring foraging is nearly over; I harvested quite a bit of elderflower, pineapple weed, and broad leaf plantain for medicine.
Plantain and pineapple weed.

Dehydrating thyme and oregano.

I recently read two books I think you might be interested in. One is a fantastic historical (set during WWII and just after) by one of my favorite modern authors, Lynn Austin. It's called If I Were You...and if Amazon let me give it more than 5 stars, I would.
A must-read if you love WWII-era fiction!

Another book worth picking up is The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables by Angi Schneider. I have quite a few preserving books, but mostly I use The Ball Book of Home Preserving and The Ball Blue Book a lot and the others rarely or never. But Angi's book is different. First, it covers dehydrating, freezing, and fermenting, as well as canning. Second, the recipes are mostly refreshingly DIFFERENT. (Yet the canning recipes all follow the USDA's safety guidelines.) I will definitely be trying the dried asparagus crisps, beet and horseradish sauce, canned Asian-style broccoli stems, and canned spicy cauliflower with turmeric!
A reference worth owning.

Finally, I want to thank those of you who follow me on YouTube. There are over a thousand subscribers on the Proverbs 31 Woman channel now...which isn't much in YouTube-land - but it's incredibly encouraging to me! If you're not already subscribed, I hope you'll consider it!

A few spring flowers.


  1. This year was supposed to be the year I really expanded the garden too, but God had other plans! Now we have to move it and plant a mid-season garden. Flexibility is something we really learn through gardening!