Homestead Diary Week Ending April 22nd

Monday the kids and I took the Alchemist to work and then drove out to work on a friend’s homestead. He and I turned a rotting pile of hay into essentially a massive strawbale garden. We nested soil in multiple spots and we’ll plant a couple different winter squash varieties and let them crawl all over the hay and into the grass around it.

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After that there was enough time for me to help him with some fencing before we had to drive back into the city and pick the Alchemist up. My kids had a blast playing with his kids and checking out his various animals. We’re going to tag-team garden and it’s a possibility that next season I will have a sizeable plot on his property that I could use for farmer’s market production. This year we’ll both be learning the site and figuring out the best way to work together when I can only drive out once a week or so.

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Wednesday my load of free tree trimming chips came so I spent most of the day working on getting those spread. Almost all of the bare dirt in the garden is now covered except for a few beds where I won’t spread chips until the plants sprout and grow a bit taller.

New Farm Supply ran a special bundle of 24 plants, 8 each of honeyberry, elderberry, and gooseberry. Each species is a mix of cultivars they’ve specifically selected for the Upper Midwest. All three species were things I was looking to plant in 2017 but the pricing was tempting enough that I sprang on the offer. So I spent some of Thursday after homeschooling prepping a good section of where the new plants will go, finishing it on Friday after school. I used a sod lifter to strip the grass off, forked up the existing soil, added a layer of compost, and then covered with chips.

Friday morning I was doing schoolwork with the kids when someone knocked on the door. It was someone from the sanitation department who said neighbors had complained all the way to the alderman’s office about me having wood chips dumped in the street. I said “really?” and he shrugged, “yeah, but I can see you don’t have any other place to have them dumped, and I told the alderman’s office that.” He was very nice about it and just asked when I could have them out of the street – I said by Saturday for sure – so he could schedule having the street sweeper come through.

I’ll let the pictures below tell the rest of the story.

Peas sprouting. Germination looks decent so far.

Peas sprouting. Germination looks decent so far.

Our second year cherry tree. Flowers should open any day now.

Our second year cherry tree. Flowers should open any day now.

Wood chips!

Wood chips!

More wood chips!

More wood chips!

Used some old stepping stones that I saved to make a little access path so we always step on the bed on the same spot. I'll be putting more rhubarb and elderberry in this spot.

Used some old stepping stones that I saved to make a little access path so we always step on the bed on the same spot. I’ll be putting more rhubarb and elderberry in this spot.

Very happy rhubarb. Excited to see how these do.

Very happy rhubarb. Excited to see how these do.

Growth on the walking onions I was given.

Growth on the walking onions I was given.

Raspberries breaking bud. Should get two crops this year.

Raspberries breaking bud. Should get two crops this year.

Created this hedgerow running along the property line. Most of the new bushes will be planted in here.

Created this hedgerow running along the property line. Most of the new bushes will be planted in here.

Up-potted all of my Cosmonaut Volkov tomatoes. Turns out a fork is a handy tool to getting seedlings out of a plug tray when they're not root-bound yet.

Up-potted all of my Cosmonaut Volkov tomatoes. Turns out a fork is a handy tool to getting seedlings out of a plug tray when they’re not root-bound yet.

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9 Comments on “Homestead Diary Week Ending April 22nd”

  1. Jay says:

    Chief, this is awesome. Seems like the neighbors keep giving you a hard time. If you get right side up on your house do you anticipate moving out to somewhere with more property to garden?

    • David says:

      That’s definitely the plan. Since I haven’t done it yet, I’m not sure how I’ll like doing farmer’s markets and whatnot but between our garden here and the plot I’m developing with my homesteading buddy I might be doing a small farmer’s market by next year. This year I’ll be attending various ones and taking notes all year.

      I enjoy it and if I can start earning income again in a way that’s compatible with homeschooling that frees up the Alchemist to either downshift or accelerate our savings.

  2. I must admit I feel it’s all a bit ugly. I can understand your neighbors. You live very close to them, and I can understand how they see your garden as an eyesore. If you were to live somewhere out in the country, it would probably be a different thing. Well, good luck!

    • David says:

      That’s a subjective judgment. I don’t know how many people are grumbling because they don’t express it to my face, but I’ve received numerous compliments on the garden already this year.

      Also, I’m a firm believe in the non-aggression principle. I’m not harming anyone by doing this, I’m actually healing the land. They, however, could be said to be harming me by trying to control what I do on my own property.

      We do want to get out in the country to have a bigger land base but while I’m here I hope I encourage more urban gardeners. A ton of people have come up to me and didn’t even realize you could do what I’m doing.

      • Jim Anderson says:

        The thing is, you live in a residential neighborhood, not on a farm. I also can see the concern the neighbors have. It doesn’t really look like you have taken that into consideration. You can do gardens and natural landscaping while still maintaining a “clean” yard. It looks like you decided to maximize your usage without regard to how it looks. Right or wrong you can’t do whatever you want on your property when you live in a residential neighborhood.

      • David says:

        Thanks for commenting Jim but we’re going to have a difference of opinion here. In my mind, I keep things pretty orderly.

    • Ann says:

      This is definitely an aesthetic. You may not like it, bit the craving for grass and flowers all in a row, is definitely taste, and not better or worse. For people to go to the alderman over an aesthetic, is extreme. One could argue that they are healing the earth, whereas lawn grass is merely a vehicle for herbicides and energy waste in the form of gas lawn mowers. In this case, I think they are doing great by creating food, building the soil, and not wasting gas mowing. That is my aesthetic. Should we be complaining to the political powers about all the people who waste gasoline and pesticides on their lawns? I say, maybe.

  3. Mindful Riot says:

    Your neighbors may be kind of crummy but you’ve had amazing luck with city officials being super understanding! I’m always so surprised by that.

  4. Jay says:

    I like it. I don’t subscribe to the theory that residential neighbors get to decide how your property is used, as long as it doesnt violate city code. For example, in our neighborhood people have defined grass types supported by chemicals and mine is just natural, which is just technically weeds. But it also supports natural clover, wildflowers, and honeybees. Our lawn cant be viewed by the neighbors, but even if it did I’m not sure I would want a heavily chemically treated bermuda lawn.


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