The homestead blog is up

I mentioned in my last blog post here that I was starting a separate homestead blog. There’s not much content there but you can peruse the first post here:

https://fatrobinfarmstead.wordpress.com/2016/08/26/animals/

Let me know if you have any issues with the site design, ability to follow, etc. I won’t cross-post much (if anything) between these two pages so consider this just a little nudge to encourage you to follow over there if you want to continue following our homesteading adventures.


Pulling back and moving forward

I don’t talk about it very much, but long-time readers and many who know me in person know that I struggle with depression. While I don’t have a clinical diagnosis, in a lot of ways I suspect I’m actually bi-polar. Thankfully for my homesteading, often the manic periods line up with the times I need to be the most active getting projects done. Unfortunately, the last couple weeks have been really rough on the depression end of things.

Depression is hard to explain for those who don’t struggle with it themselves, and people experience it differently. One change it’s clear I have to make is pulling back on how much I share about personal finances. I’ve learned and benefited a lot from a popular frugality and early retirement-focused forum but sharing details on there contributes to a lot of self-hate when I feel like I’m spending too much or making inefficient decisions. In reality, we’re choosing our values, and no one is living this life but ourselves.

Sharing financial details, even when no one makes critical comments, makes me implicitly feel the need to justify every expense. We’ve spent a lot of money lately getting our rabbit-chicken enclosure up, I ordered a second chest freezer, and many other things that help support our chosen lifestyle. Which in turn leads to a self-hate criticism feedback loop that is, for obvious reasons, not healthy. So I’m closing the book on that part of my life, at least for the time being.

A second change I’m contemplating is separating out the homestead posts into a new blog and keeping this one for personal reflections. As I build a little business, I think it makes sense to segregate things a little. I’ll for sure post here when that is up and running if I do end up going that route. I’ll probably also create a Facebook page for quick little posts, like interesting harvests, etc.

I’ve been busy, affected by the depression, and my carpal tunnel has been severely acting up – all of which leads to me writing much less than usual. I thank those who do read and comment. Sharing parts of my life has helped me work things through, and maybe my lunatic gardening has inspired a few of you. The garden right now is a little sad looking but I’m already compiling ideas for how to make it better next year.


Homestead Update Mid/Late July 2016

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A long overdue update. There won’t be many pictures, I’ve been very busy and just haven’t had time to keep this space updated and still get my needed mental health downtime.

The big news is that the chicks have arrived. We started with 6, one died when the heat lamp fell off its clamp and broke her neck (my fault), and the 5 survivors are chirping away next to me as I write this. They’re over two weeks old at this point and I hope to get them outside in the next couple days. Spring chicks would need to stay protected for longer but it is so warm here that I want to get them acclimated as young as possible. I just need to finish building the enclosure for them. The hard part is done (setting the posts) and I have the fencing materials in the garage, just need to install. I’m doing 6 foot tall 2×4″ welded wire fencing, with an eventual roof of the same material (needed for night protection if we do colony rabbits and possibly for chicken protection/escape containment), and an extra 2 foot tall piece of 1/2″ hardware cloth to keep the chicks from getting out while they’re small and again for rabbit containment if we do colony in the future.

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I’m hoping the city will be reasonable and let us temporarily have 5 (over the limit of 4) until they’re a little older and the one who leaves will integrate into a friend’s flock better. After all, my 5 very young pullets are currently the equivalent  of maybe 2 adult hens. But we’ll see how that goes, since I was just served yet another code complaint about our compost bin. Another modification (sigh) and it should be okay. If I didn’t believe in composting so strongly I would have given up a long time ago, which is probably what the neighbors who keep complaining want.

More annoying is that I’m being mandated to clean my rabbit cages of poop daily. It’s an annoying amount of extra work but I’m trying to see the silver lining and perhaps that will take care of the fly population that’s built up with my current once a week cleaning. I don’t know how people are spotting “problems” with my rabbits without trespassing.

My property is so unconventional it’s just a lightning rod for busy-bodies who don’t understand the non-aggression principle. I had to talk on the phone with the code compliance manager and my alderman about the current code complaint. Both erroneously thought the white structure was another compost bin, not our chicken coop, then had an audible pause when I told them we were getting chickens and, yes, have the permit. They’re bracing themselves for more complaints but in actuality have been quite reasonable to deal with, all things considered.

The alderman let me know that I may lose the ability to grow veggies in the sidewalk strips next year. It’s completely legal the way the law is currently phrased, but said he doubted it was the law’s original intent to allow veggies instead of ornamental plantings. He told me the people complaining about other things are mainly mad about these perfectly legal plantings, so they’re nitpicking other things. I don’t get this separation of ornamentals from edibles in American culture but he said he would let me know if it was changed for next season. If it does change, I will request being grandfathered in because, while I love flower, and will put flowers and herbs in those beds if that’s all I can, I probably would not have spent the money and time to add the compost and raised beds.

IMAG0849We’re starting to get tomatoes (losing some to BER this year but not as bad as last year) and jalapenos. We’ve got more beans than we can eat and am mostly giving away the excess, though have sold a little. I bought a pressure canner and canned one batch but my variety doesn’t stand up very well to canning. We’ve got WAY more zucchini than we can eat and have given away a lot. I’m even pulling plants. I was hoping I’d be more successful selling them since it’s a unique variety. We’re also getting a lot of cucumbers, enough to feed my, Alpha’s, and Beta’s (new this year!) voracious appetite for them. Marketmore is a dependable and very tasty variety. Garden carrots don’t save a lot of money but they’re superior to any summer carrots I’ve bought at the farmer’s market in the past.

 

I’m dealing with two major pest issues. At my home garden, our sowbug population is out of control and they’re decimating our green beans. (Thankfully the bean planting at our microfarm is quite successful.) I’m pulling the mulch off of beds and using beer traps to try and get them under control. I’m really starting to question whether mulch is a good solution for my climate.

At the microfarm, a combination of squash bugs and yellow striped cucumber beetles have killed something like 75% of the winter squash I planted. The pest population size is bewilderingly high considering there’s been no garden on this property for 2 years and it’s surrounded by small grain, corn, and hayfields for at least half a mile. I tried handpicking the bugs (and eggs in the case of the easy-to-spot squash bug eggs) but it’s too time-consuming. I bought all the winter squash we could eat last year for something like $70, tops.

I think that covers everything. I need to get off the computer, eat breakfast, and get outside to work before the heat gets too intense. This summer we’ve already run the AC triple what we did all last year. Southerners would no doubt laugh at what we call intense heat here, but 90+F days with very high dew points aren’t enjoyable, no matter what you’re acclimatized to.


June 2016 Spending Review

June 2016 spending

  • House Bills: Nothing much to note here. This includes our quarterly water bill.
  • Food Related: Includes $180 worth of strawberries and $170 worth of East Coast-only alcohol we brought back from vacation.
  • Kids: Main expense here was another installment of violin lessons for Beta. All of the kids spent some of their personal money.
  • Debt: Regular payments.
  • Homestead: Dominated by spending on setting up for chickens, more rabbit supplies, and a tiny bit of garden spending.
  • Cars: Mostly normal spending, but also ~$75 of R-134a to charge both cars for the summer.
  • Quality of Life: Travel spending for the trip. More charges will fall into next month. The Alchemist’s parents are very generous in paying for nearly all of the travel expenses when we visit. Our cost is mainly gas and tolls there and back.
  • Health and Wellness: Nothing to note.
  • HSA: Nothing to note.

Homestead Diary July 1, 2016

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We got back from a week on the East Coast visiting the Alchemist’s family late Wednesday night. The trip was busy, with a visit to the beach and boardwalk of Wildwood, NJ. Everyone but Alpha spent a little time sick during the trip but we’re home now and getting back into our normal groove. The Alchemist is still off through the 4th of July, which is a nice treat.

The garden really surprised us during that week. Over that time hundreds of Shasta daisies and Rudbeckia came into bloom. Zucchini and tomato plants seemingly doubled in size. A “bush” winter squash variety decided to send out 8 foot vines, practically into the street. Our raspberries and cherries have come in. The cherry harvest is small, but since it’s our first from this tree, it’s quite enjoyable. They are tart but have such a nice flavor they are just fine for fresh eating. The raspberries were delicious last year. This year they are producing many quite large berries, nearly the size of commercial blackberries.

The carrots are slowly sizing up and I’ve gotten to taste my first few, and they’re quite nice for summer carrots. Snap beans are on the cusp of sizeable harvest. The few I’ve sampled raw have been tasty. Zucchini is likewise poised to inundate us.

I have not yet been out to the microfarm (I’ll get there tomorrow) but here are some more pictures from our home garden.

The ripe ones are already in our stomachs. These are LARGE.

The ripe ones are already in our stomachs. These are LARGE.

Green bean and zucchini beds coming into production.

Green bean and zucchini beds coming into production.

Calendula.

Calendula.

Sunflowers jumping up in size. They won't get huge planted so densely. Initial flowers are forming on some.

Sunflowers jumping up in size. They won’t get huge planted so densely. Initial flowers are forming on some.

Some of the 40+ comfrey I transplanted today.

Some of the 40+ comfrey I transplanted today.

The "bush" winter squash variety being decidedly un-bushy.

The “bush” winter squash variety being decidedly un-bushy.

Enormous zucchini plants.

Enormous zucchini plants.

Another gooseberry producing fruits I'd missed until one of the kids noticed them.

Another gooseberry producing fruits I’d missed until one of the kids noticed them.

This Amish Paste is 5 feet tall already.

This Amish Paste is 5 feet tall already.

Like the raspberries pictured earlier, the ripe cherries are already in our stomachs ;)

Like the raspberries pictured earlier, the ripe cherries are already in our stomachs😉


Net Worth – Q2 2016

Assets

  • Home (Estimated Market Value): $70,000
  • 401(k): $61,122
  • tIRA: $17,532
  • Non-Earmarked Cash: $1,350
  • HSA (invested portion): $946
  • Total: 150,950
  • Assets towards FI: $80,950
    • Approximate passive income this would generate annually: $3,238

Liabilities

  • Home Mortgage: $100,701 @6.5% –> PMI makes it effectively ~7.1%
  • Student Loan (Alchemist A): $1,197 @0.1%
  • Student Loan (Alchemist B): $22,061 @3.9%
  • Medical Debt @0%: $0 –>retired since last update
  • Total: $123,959

Net Worth: $26,991

Net Worth Last Quarter: $24,258

Net Worth 1 Year Ago: $17,213

Net Worth At the Start (End 2013): -$33,948


Homestead Diary for Mid/Late June 2016

I’ve been remiss in posting. Last week I felt like there wasn’t a whole lot to update, now this week has exploded with activity. We joined a homeschooling group, which has been fun so far. I have worked several hard, very sweaty days over the past two weeks on the new garden – or should I maybe call it our micro-farm? I’m very pleased with how things are growing out there (pictures below) and am already considering how I will use the new space next season.

The kids and I picked 77 pounds of strawberries on Friday and we’ve eaten or processed almost 70 of them already. I’ve frozen 5 gallons of whole berries, made 7 half-pints of strawberry rhubarb jam, 4 pints of my ‘strawberry sauce’, have run one whole Excalibur dehydrator load and have another humming along behind me as I write this.

A view of the fenced garden area. I'm pleased with how everything is growing inside, while some of the squash I was hoping to trellis on the outside has been killed by my friend's free-range birds.

A view of the fenced garden area. I’m pleased with how everything is growing inside, while some of the squash I was hoping to trellis on the outside has been killed by my friend’s free-range birds.

Delicata squash.

Delicata squash.

Zucchini getting ready to flower soon. This is the only large plant there right now, but many others are sprouting.

Zucchini getting ready to flower soon. This is the only large plant there right now, but many others are sprouting.

A nice looking cluster of peas that's just coming into bloom.

A nice looking cluster of peas that’s just coming into bloom.

Broccoli getting very close to harvest. Two of the heads will get picked in a day or so.

Broccoli getting very close to harvest. Two of the heads will get picked in a day or so.

First bloom on the patch of Provider bush green bean I planted there. Provider has not liked the dirt I brought in to fill my raised beds, but it is growing very well out there.

First bloom on the patch of Provider bush green bean I planted there. Provider has not liked the dirt I brought in to fill my raised beds, but it is growing very well out there.

Another view of the Provider planting.

Another view of the Provider planting.

The tomatoes I transplanted looked so sad initially but are really coming around. Only one or two have not made it.

The tomatoes I transplanted looked so sad initially but are really coming around. Only one or two have not made it.

A far away view of the giant haybale pumpkin patch, with the lane I keep mowed through the tall grass.

A far away view of the giant haybale pumpkin patch, with the lane I keep mowed through the tall grass.

One of the better looking Sweet Meat plants.

One of the better looking Sweet Meat plants.

Waltham Butternut progress.

Waltham Butternut progress.

The new garden area, freshly mowed down except for a final 8 feet or so to the right of the camera.

The new garden area, freshly mowed down except for a final 8 feet or so to the right of the camera.

Progress on the beds so far. Mowing the tall grass took much longer than I expected with the equipment I have.

Progress on the beds so far. Mowing the tall grass took much longer than I expected with the equipment I have.

Waltham seedlings growing amidst a buckwheat cover crop.

Waltham seedlings growing amidst a buckwheat cover crop.

I thought it was time for a new far-away shot of the garden at my house.

I thought it was time for a new far-away shot of the garden at my house.

Broccoli bed that has been almost all harvested. I'm leaving the leaves for now and slowly harvesting them to feed the rabbits. We got some volunteer tomatoes I'm allowing to grow.

Broccoli bed that has been almost all harvested. I’m leaving the leaves for now and slowly harvesting them to feed the rabbits. We got some volunteer tomatoes I’m allowing to grow.

Raspberry patch. The summer crop of berries will be ripe any day now.

Raspberry patch. The summer crop of berries will be ripe any day now.

A view of the berry hedgerow I planted earlier this year. The honeyberries have not put on any growth but the elderberries are starting to grow a little.

A view of the berry hedgerow I planted earlier this year. The honeyberries have not put on any growth but the elderberries are starting to grow a little.

A bed of broccoli that didn't survive, now replanted into green beans.

A bed of broccoli that didn’t survive, now replanted into green beans.

A view of the fenced garden area.

A view of the fenced garden area.

First blooms on the Royal Burgundy bush beans.

First blooms on the Royal Burgundy bush beans.

Some of our snap peas. These will be ready in a day or two.

Some of our snap peas. These will be ready in a day or two.

A happy hydrangea. Our other perennial flowers (mainly Shasta daisies and Rudbeckia) will be blooming within the next week.

A happy hydrangea. Our other perennial flowers (mainly Shasta daisies and Rudbeckia) will be blooming within the next week.

Strawberries that haven't been molested by the wildlife yet.

Strawberries that haven’t been molested by the wildlife yet.

One of the carrot beds. Growth has been very uneven but we should get carrots eventually.

One of the carrot beds. Growth has been very uneven but we should get carrots eventually.

A view down the side of the garden.

A view down the side of the garden.

Our comfrey root cuttings. I need to get these transplanted into their final locations soon.

Our comfrey root cuttings. I need to get these transplanted into their final locations soon.

Normally our zucchini sends up male blossoms for a week before any females show up, but this one has a female flower already forming.

Normally our zucchini sends up male blossoms for a week before any females show up, but this one has a female flower already forming (the fatter stem that resembles a mini zucchini on the blossom at the center of the picture; male flowers form on thin stems)

One of the tomato and pepper beds.

One of the tomato and pepper beds.

Early green tomato. This is a Ramapo.

Early green tomato. This is a Ramapo.

I think these are flower buds forming on an elderberry. A few have flower buds forming.

I think these are flower buds forming on an elderberry. A few have flower buds forming.

Our older cherry tree did not put on much growth last year but is really blowing up this year. Looking forward to tasting the cherries on it next month if the wildlife lets us!

Our older cherry tree did not put on much growth last year but is really blowing up this year. Looking forward to tasting the cherries on it next month if the wildlife lets us!

Hope you enjoyed the pictures!


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