Summer on the Homestead

Summer on the homestead
Technically, this photo is from this spring :)
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“As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.”

Genesis 8:22

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So far, it's definitely been an unusual year on the homestead. My husband and I are still working on my mother's estate; I finally have just about everything out of her home, but there is still much to do, including cleaning, repairs, and putting the house up on the market. I feel pressured to get all that done as soon as possible, on top of all my usual homesteading and work duties, which has lead to a really exhausting spring and early summer. We are trying hard to get some fun times in with the kids, too, since last year most of our traditional summer fun things were canceled.

I did finally get the garden in...later than I'd prefer. But we are back to getting our veggies from the homestead, which is a very good thing. A lot of gardening duties had to slide. For example, my greenhouse glass never got washed and I'm only just now getting around to weeding my flower beds. When you live on the edge of the wilderness, spring weeding, weed whacking, and mowing are vital to beat back nature. We are almost caught up in that regard. I am also about ready to get our fall veggies in the ground, too. (I'm planting a fall garden in July? Yep! Learn why here.)

harvesting radishes
I am harvesting radishes, greens, turnips, squash, and more from the garden.

Homegrown broccoli
The broccoli is doing beautifully this year. I harvested the first of it in early July.

Our weather has been rather cool - so the garden seems a bit behind because of that, too. We've had a couple of quick hot spells, though, and after loosing some rabbits last year to a sudden change to hot temps, I've been wary of leaving the rabbits alone on those hot days. I recently made a video about keeping rabbits cool during hot weather; check it out to learn how I handle it.

Fiona just had another litter of kits this morning. She's such a good mama. And Bluebelle, who I introduced you to in spring, has turned into a really sweet, smart doe. In fact, I've never heard of a rabbit who can open his or her cage, but I've seen Bluebelle do it with my own eyes! She doesn't try to escape; she's just entertaining herself by working out the puzzle of unlatching the cage. So I gave  more things to play with...and decided that if she's that bored, it's time for her to have some babies!  However, the buck I purchased to breed with her, a blue New Zealand we named Clyde, suddenly developed a dewlap. (That's the double chin FEMALE rabbits get.) Yep, he turned out to be a she. (I now call her Clydine. Ha!)

My husband told his friend that my way of dealing with an extra rabbit was to buy more cages, and yes, that's what I ended up doing. Dang, cages are expensive right now! Not to mention hard to find. But every rabbit needs its own cage, and every doe needs two cages for her kits to grow in. Oh, and I needed another cage for the buck I was going to buy! My hubby just sighed and said, "Ok, honey." (Yes, you can also raise rabbits in colonies or tractors, but we have too many predators to make that work. Did I mention the bear that's been wandering around my garden in broad daylight??)

Rabbits mating
Fido and Bluebelle.
 

I did get another blue New Zealand buck last weekend: Huckle. (He's old enough that I trust both the breeder and myself got his gender right.) But he's still too young to breed...so I took Bluebelle over to Fido's cage. I confess, it felt kinda wrong. After all, Fido and Fiona are a love match - or so it seems to me. But while Fiona was in the cage below them building a nest, Fido and Bluebelle did the deed. I found it fascinating that there was no romance - no kissing and cuddling and talking, as Fido and Fiona always do. It was all business. (Rabbit relationships are totally fascinating and if you are a crazy rabbit lady like I am, I highly recommend you read The Private Life of the Rabbit by R.M. Lockly. If you click that link, you'll see it can be a pretty pricey out-of-print book. If you want to help support this site, you can go ahead and buy the book at that price - with my many thanks. Or you can do what I did, which was create an eBay search for the book and have eBay send emails whenever a listing matches those search terms. It took a bit, but eventually, I found a reasonably priced copy.)

Rabbit kits
Rabbit kits, born this morning. (And temporarily uncovered and in a box so I could examine them.)

 

We were also wanting to hatch some quail, but I needed to wait to do this until I knew I wouldn't be spending any nights over at my mom's house, which is hours away. Quail chicks need too much attention to leave them alone for days. So we hatched a batch of eggs this weekend, and another should hatch out next weekend. They are such tiny, bug-like little birds at this stage and the house cat finds endless entertainment watching them in the brooder. (By the way, this is my first time using proper quail waterers, and I have to say, it's a real game changer. As you may know, quail chicks drown easily and regularly chicken chick waterers aren't suitable for them. Previously, I filled chicken chick waterers with marbles, to prevent the quail chicks from drowning, but those got nasty really quickly, and getting every marble clean was a real pain. I highly recommend these quail waterers instead.)

coturnix quail chick
A day old quail chick.

Kitty tv.
  

After the loss of our lamb in May, we decided that a bird (like an eagle or owl) was the likely predator who stole her. Unfortunately, there's nothing we can do about that. We could try for a guardian dog, but it takes years to train one (well trained guardian dogs just do not go onto the market) and I really don't want to go through that hassle. So we're letting nature take its course. Our ram Shaun was in rut again by the end of June and we are hoping our ewe Shannon is already pregnant. Perhaps having a fall lamb will make a predatory attack less likely.

In other news, I am mentally preparing myself for canning season to kick into high gear. We've discovered four more apple trees (can you believe it???), but since we are still well stocked with applesauce, I will mostly be making apple cider/juice and canned apple halves. (An exception will be plum applesauce, if we have enough tart red plums this year.) I will also freeze some apple pie filling and dry some apple rings. If I'm feeling energetic, I may try turning our abundant yellow plums into fruit puree, and I'm hoping our young pear tree will produce enough fruit I can can some pears, too. I plan, as usual, to freeze most of our tomatoes as they come in, to can in the fall or winter, when I'm not so pressed to can other things. I may can some wild berries this year, too, but I need to resist making jam, since we eat very little of it.


American Flag Pies
Some American flag pies I made for Independence Day.

I haven't had a lot of time for sewing, but I did whip up this patriotic apron and the place mats shown in the pie photo, above.

 

Fortunately, last year when I saw that canning lids were becoming harder to find, I stocked up - and also purchased some Harvest Guard reusable lids. (At that time, I recommended you all do the same! Click here for my instructions on using Harvest Guard reusable lids.)  It is certainly frustrating that Ball claims they are stocking stores with lids, but there are none to be found in stores. (Some readers have reported they can find small amounts of lids in their stores; I have yet to see any in my area.) My best advice is to stock up on either Tattler or Harvest Guard reusable lids. They are doing their best to keep up with orders, but the sooner you purchase, the better! In the meantime, you might want to check out my video on other ideas if the canning lid shortage continues. Whatever you do, I don't recommend buying lids off Amazon, since they are still allowing fakes to be sold. They look like Ball lids but are actually cheap, thin China-made knock offs that don't give solid seals. Also consider Uline.com or Bernadin (the Canadian Ball brand) from MasonJarMerchant.com.

I also want to warn you about something else: From time to time, I receive requests to review products provided to me for free. Most of the time, I decline. But if a product looks like something I think readers might find useful, I accept - as long as the person or organization offering the item understands that I will offer my honest opinion on the product. But lately, I've been receiving offers of free canning lids. All I have to do is give them 5 stars for Amazon in return. This is crooked, folks! And explains why online "customer" reviews are no longer trustworthy. SUCH a bummer!

Whatever the case, this is not the year to stop preserving food. Grocery stores are reported to be stockpiling food as a hedge against the crazy inflation we are seeing. You should prepare for that, too. If you can't can, consider freezing, dehydrating, freeze drying, and root cellaring (even if you don't have a root cellar; learn more here).

One of our many dragonflies.


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