September 19, 2023

Work on the Greenhouse Resumes

Not that we haven't been talking about it, but it took the alignment of several factors to get back to working on the greenhouse. The main reason was problem solving, second was the heat, and lastly, Dan's knee. Of the heat, it seems logical to work early in the morning while it's still cool out. Except that because of our humidity, our mornings are incredibly dew drenched until about lunchtime. Dan wanted the roof completely dry before attempting anything. 

The problem solving involved the upper section of the roof.

This section of the greenhouse roof is made from repurposed doors and windows.

He carefully researched adhesives and sealers, all of which claimed to be super effective and excellent. Which they weren't, so that there were micro-leaks when it rained. The trouble was, it was impossible to tell where they were coming from. No dripping when it rained, just tell-tale wet spots on the dirt floor inside the greenhouse. I said, 'it's just a greenhouse,' but that didn't satisfy Dan. So after a lot of thought and research, he decided to cover them.

He's never been real keen on those clear corrugated roofing panels, although we used them to good effect for the milking room skylight. And now, they're flimsier than ever, so that was another hesitation. In the end, it seemed the most cost effective idea.

The day after he got them installed, it rained.

View of the rain from inside the greenhouse, looking up.

The floor remained completely dry! So that was a relief. And, I don't think it looks all that bad.

Early morning shot of the greenhouse roof covered with dew.

Next is covering the gable ends. Then it's on to wall trim and paint. And then we can get on to the interior. 

September 12, 2023

Rethinking Turkeys

Earlier this month, Dan's knee injury brought all of his projects to a halt. Of course, that initially led to frustration and eventually a discussion. We've periodically taken time to evaluate our original goals and analyze our progress. From the beginning, we wanted to work toward a simplified maintenance lifestyle. By that I mean we wanted to get our infrastructure built before our "retirement" years. We knew that as we got older, we wouldn't want to be tackling large building projects or taking on energy intensive ventures. So we've worked to get to a comfortable status quo.  

I think the greenhouse is probably the last of those big things. Not that we don't have tons of ideas. The ideas never stop! But eventually, we knew we'd have to reach a point where we could say, we can be content with what we've got. Things like injury or illness have a way of really bringing that point home. As badly as Dan felt that I had to do all the chores, it was manageable. I was exceedingly glad when he was out and around again, but everything got done and no one was worse for the wear.

Which brings me to the turkeys. Of themselves, they are an excellent addition to the homestead. They are easy to care for and have fantastic entertainment value. And of course there are the eggs and meat, of which we don't get a lot, but it's the reason we got them. 

However. It's impossible to evaluate any one element on the homestead as an entity unto itself. That's part of the equation, but in fact, each element fits into the homestead system. So the question is, how does it impact everything else? In the case of the turkeys, not as we hoped. 

Part of the problem is that every species of bird we've brought here wants to be in the chicken yard and the chicken coop. First the Muscovys, then the turkeys, each was given their very own area and accommodations, but they all managed to eventually make their way into the chicken yard and invade the coop (much to the indignation of the chickens). Now, if everybody could just be one big happy family, that would be great! But (for us, at least) it hasn't worked that way and we have constant squabbling going on over the coop, over the roosts, over the nest boxes, over the feeders, over the waterers, etc., etc.

The addition of Tom really changed our poultry dynamic. Poults came along, of course, but also a new challenge to chicken territory. Three times, Tom has gotten into fights with our two roosters (which fortunately Dan was able to break up). So, Tom is not allowed into the chicken yard. 

Then Jenny B (mother of our two poults) decided to take a stand. She made her way into the chicken yard and coop once her poults were big enough to fly. Since then, she's been dominating the chickens and frequently challenging Schooster, the chicken yard rooster. She's taken over the top roosting bar in the coop, so that none of the other chickens will use the roost. 

Most recently, we found our friendliest hen dead. Her head and eyes were pecked in, so we suspect Tom killed her. The sad part is that she lived in the chicken tractor with our second rooster because all the other hens were so mean to her. Dan let her out to enjoy a little freedom that day and then we find her dead. And with that we had to ask, are the turkeys worth it?

I think the tendency is to evaluate that from an economic point of view, i.e. comparing feed costs to egg and meat production. That's definitely part of it, but there are other considerations as well. That can include time and maintenance, but especially, how well anything fits into our homestead system. Some critters (or other things) fit in better than others. 

We haven't reached a decision about all of this yet, but I suspect that the conclusion we'll come to is that the turkeys would be better off some place else.

Rethinking Turkeys © Sept. 2023 by Leigh at 

September 1, 2023


September from my Christmas calendar by my daughter-in-law

Is autumn a word or a feeling? It's heralded by a date on the calendar, but how often does the weather pay attention to that?

I tend to think of September as our first month of autumn. It means the garden slows down and my busy job of preserving slows down too. Usually, it means cooler temperatures and an end to the intense summer heat. But this year has felt different because we had such lovely nighttime lows most of the summer. The closest we came to a "normal" Southern summer was the last couple of days of August. Then came rain and a cool front, and it seems that autumn is officially commencing. No color in the trees yet, but cool nights, shorter days, and the changing angle of the sunlight certainly hint of the seasonal change.

Besides needing a light jacket in the morning, there are other tell-tale signs.

The squirrels are feasting on green pecans (and bombing us with their leftovers).

The first muscadines are ripening.

This is the month when we look to start preparing for winter and writing our seasonal project list. At the moment, there isn't much on that project list. Dan hurt his knee last month, so the greenhouse has been on hold, although I'm going to try some plants in it anyway. It's the last big project we have for the homestead, so he's having a hard time being patient.

I've got the fall garden to finish planting, which, maybe now that I can ease back on picking and preserving, I can get the last of the seeds in the ground before it's too late! My indoor fall project will be to continue sorting and organizing our remaining spare room. Even after moving out most of my fiber and textile supplies, I'm still finding a stray box here and there. Then I need to get a handle on the office, which shares the other end of the room with my studio/sewing room. I have boxes of office related supplies and books that need to be unpacked.

Speaking of my studio, since my On Finding a Balance Between Work and Play post, I've settled into a new routine. Mornings have been in the garden, and afternoons have been for preservation. After dinner, I have time for weaving. So, basically, less time on the computer, except for documenting and discussing my fiber and weaving projects on my fiber blog.

Twill gamp dishtowel (1st of 3).

And occasional updates here. all told, it definitely feels like I have more balance in my life now.

I know everyone out there is ready for autumn! Anybody else winding down their garden and getting fall weather yet?

Autumn? © September 2023 by Leigh at 

August 25, 2023

Garden Notes: August 2023


  • 2nd: 0.02" 
  • 3rd: 2.72"
  • 7th: 0.35"
  • 9th: 0.2"
  • 10th: 1.07"
  • 11th: 0.04"
  • 12th: 0.44"
  • 24th: 0.28"
  • 27th: 0.23"
  • 28th: 0.43"
  • 29th: 0.45:
  • 30th: 0.14"
  • Total: 6.37 inches

  • range of nighttime lows: 62 to 75°F (17 to 24°C)
  • range of daytime highs: 76 to 95°F (25 to 35°C)

Weather Notes

The weather service keeps trying to forecast us into scorching temperatures, but Mother Nature simply isn't cooperating. Of course, we live amongst trees and vegetation, so our temps will be considerably lower than in towns and cities, where concrete, asphalt, and blacktop absorb and retain heat. Even so, we still have humidity to deal with, so it feels hot as usual! What is unusual, is our continued overnight lows in the 60s. I don't ever recall nights like these; our summer lows are usually in the mid-70s. Getting down into the 60s really helps cool the house down and keep it more comfortable during the day.

  • kale
  • turnips
  • carrots
  • parsnips
  • collard greens
  • lettuce

Picking and Preserving

August is my busiest month. I spend the morning picking and the afternoon preserving.

Harvest bucket in early August

Harvest bucket in late August

It's the month for figs and pears, so these keep me busy.

We seem to have had an extra long run for the figs, which usually only last a week or two. They kept producing for more than three weeks this year. 

Fresh figs with kefir and granola

When the harvest is in full flush, I can pints of figs. When it trickles down to smaller numbers, I quarter and dehydrate them. Sadly, another of our fig trees is dying. That's the third one in as many years.

Amazingly, we have very little bird damage to our figs this year. I suspect it's because they're feasting on elderberries instead.

While I'm not getting a lot of elderberries, I did get enough to make another half-gallon of elderberry infused vinegar. 

We eat pears fresh and the rest go to make pear sauce. 

Dan's not keen on canned pear pieces, but we both like pear sauce, which I think is easier to do than chunks anyway. Most of the sauce is canned, but I'm going to dehydrate some too.

Fresh pear pie

I guess because of the rain and cooler temperatures, my cucumbers continue to look good.

These are my landrace cucumbers, second year. As it gets hotter they slow down a bit, but I've replenished our dill pickle supply and we continue to eat them in salads almost daily. 

Peppers are doing well.

As is the okra.

I had volunteer cherry tomatoes come up in the okra bed. They sort of lean on the okra plants, making them easier to pick. Both seem to be getting enough sun and are producing well.

Okra and tomato plants growing together.

I try not to plant too much okra, because one year I had so much I still had okra in the freezer when the new harvest came in. Frozen okra oven-fries nicely and makes a tasty vegetable, but we'd eaten so much of it over winter that the first fresh harvest wasn't as appealing as it usually is. I love the anticipation of those first seasonal tastes. 

Even so, I'm freezing some of the extra.

Ready for the freezer. I'll add more as I have extra.

The nice thing about okra, is that it can be frozen without blanching. I may try to can some with cherry tomatoes as an experiment too.

Speaking of cherry tomatoes, we have those in abundance. I only have half-a-dozen slicing tomato plants, but the cherry toms absolutely thrive. I've already shown you some of the pizza sauce I made, and I've been popping extras in the freezer for next year's batch. Also, I've started a couple of jars cherry tomatoes preserved in olive oil. I found the recipe in Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning and I tried a couple of pints last year, and we really liked it. 

This year I'm going to preserve a couple of quarts. The recipe calls for cherry tomatoes, small onions, and fresh herbs (I used rosemary, thyme, and oregano). Everything is sprinkled with salt and a couple tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice, then covered with extra virgin olive oil. I vacuum seal the jar as well. 

These make a wonderful condiment or salad topper, complete with tomato and herb flavored oil and vinegar salad dressing right out of the jar!

My watermelons have been incredibly slow to do anything.

Baby watermelon

I hope we get some before first frost!

And here's a treat.


I always thought asparagus was a spring thing, but I've been regularly cutting small handfuls this month. They make a great snack, addition to salad, or scrambled eggs. 

Speaking of salads, I usually show you one.

This is my version of taco salad, with chips instead of a taco bowl. Avocado makes it special, as does the sauce, which is ricotta cheese mixed with salsa. We've been eating these once a week.


Earlier this month I had a problem with something eating the leaves off my sweet potato plants. Dan put out his live animal trap and trail camera one night, and caught this!

Raccoon in live animal trap.

That's pretty much it for my August garden. How about yours?

August 18, 2023

Sewing Room! Done At Last!

This is a crossover post with my fiber blog. Double posting? In a way, but with a difference. Here, it wraps up a project and another step toward building our homestead and fulfilling our dream. There, it signifies a beginning, a coming to terms with my dilemma (On Finding a Balance Between Work and Play). If you're interested in close-ups of shelf and drawer contents, and what's on the wall, you'll find more photos at my fiber blog

The room (originally called the sun room) measures 20 feet by 9.5 feet. For years, it's been used for catch-all and storage, as we've upgraded and remodeled our old house. Part of it is my computer room / office. But I haven't needed much room for that, so the rest of the room has become my sewing room / studio. It's a little under 100 square feet, so it's small, but I think I've managed to find places for almost everything.

My little tour starts at the entrance to the room.

Cotton weaving yarns on the left-hand bookshelf, books on the right.

The two shelving units face outward toward the office and form walls to help define my area. On the other side of the yarn shelves, is my worktable. It's multi-functional, for planning projects, cutting fabric, or sewing.

The table was a $40 thrift store find.

It's also where I can put my table loom for weaving. 

The drawers under the table hold more yarn,
 sewing, and weaving stuff. (Click here to see)

I absolutely love the workshop light over the table. It gives me lots of light in the late evenings, which is when I do most of my weaving or sewing. 

At the end of the table I found room for my button box.

Button box, current weaving yarns,
and the covers of my first two books.
My comfy thrift store sewing and reading chair, treadle sewing machine, and spinning
wheel. The basket contains my boro & sashiko inspired barn jacket (pictures here).

I have very little available wall space, so finding spots for some things has been a challenge. Like my warping board.

The warping board is a tool for measuring warp for the loom. By hanging it from the ceiling, it's out of the way but handy. When I want to use it, I set it on over-the-door hooks on the closet door.

Measuring warp for the table loom.

The closet is used for storage

More yarns, spinning fibers. ironing
board, iron, and fabric cutting board. 

The remaining wall space is lined with shelving units, a filing cabinet, and a tall stack of storage totes.

Equipment and sewing thread are on the shelves on the left.
The filing cabinet has folders of handouts & sewing patterns.

The old analog TV cabinet works well for storage, don't you think?

Top: boxed yarns & fibers, yarn swift & mending tote.
Storage drawers: spinning, weaving, & crafting equipment
Basket drawers: Knitting, crochet, and sewing items
Stack of totes on right: spinning fibers & handspun yarns

I already had the plastic drawers and was happy they fit perfectly. The baskets for drawers were from Dollar General. It's like they were made for the VCR cubbies. One holds my knitting and crochet tools, the other sewing notions. 

Fabrics are stored in the bottom of the cabinet. 

There are still things I haven't managed to find room for: my large floor loom, my tri-loom, half-a-dozen boxes of spinning fibers, and a trunk filled with my handwoven samples and fabrics. But, I've got it jam-packed with more than I thought I could, and for this photo shoot, it's neat and tidy! We all know that won't last long, but at least I have documentation that I did it once. 😜

More pics available at my fiber blog, just click here.

August 12, 2023

Pizza Sauce: New Recipe!

Why pizza sauce? Why not tomato sauce, or pasta sauce, or marinara? I suppose because pizza is the main thing I use it for! Spaghetti sometimes, or ravoli, or lasagna. Well, sometimes with gnocchi and meatballs, but mostly on pizza. And this year, I'm using my new recipe. 

You may recall that last year, after I purchased my power blender, I discovered fresh tomato sauce. Until then, I didn't know that a blender could pulverize the skins and seeds which would automatically thicken the sauce. My previous method called for a day of running the tomatoes through my Roma juicer and then three days or so cooking it down in my slow cooker. Then finally, the next day I could can it. So that was roughly five days worth of tomato processing and sauce making and preserving. With this method, I can get the whole thing done in an afternoon! What a savings of time! And of electricity for cooking it down. 

What I wasn't sure about, was how well my new method would work with frozen tomatoes. I tend to toss extra tomatoes into the freezer, and after I get several full gallon bags of them, I pull them out, defrost them, drain them (saving the water), and make sauce. 

Tomato tip: Frozen tomatoes peel super easy as they defrost,
meaning you don't need gallons of boiling and ice water!

Freezing, though, tends to toughen the skins, and I wondered if that would be a problem for the texture of the sauce. I really didn't feel like spending all day with my manual juicer though, so I decided to experiment. 

Result? No problem! All that was left was to season, heat and can it!

Liquefied thawed tomatoes.

For the sauce seasoning, I tried another experiment. I simply added chopped onion and fresh herbs to the last batch of tomatoes going into the blender. 

Raw onion and fresh oregano and rosemary.
I also added salt, 1/2 teaspoon to each pint jar.

Then it's heating the sauce to a boil and water bath canning as usual.

What's really noteworthy, is how the blender sauce looks compared to the cooked down method. 

On the left is a jar of last year's pizza sauce, made by cooking it
down for several days. On the right is the fresh blender pizza sauce.

I had some left over that didn't quite fill the last jar, so that night we tried it on gnocchi and meatballs. No picture, but I can assure it it was delicious. The rest went onto Friday night's pizza. I did get a photo of that!

I love that our homemade pizzas have at least some homegrown
ingredients. On this one, it's the sauce, mozzarella, and the pepper.

This method is definitely a keeper! Faster, easier, and so much tastier. The only thing I will do differently in the future, is to make sure the little stems are removed from the cherry tomatoes before I pop them into the freezer. Slicing tomatoes should be cored before freezing. Those two things will make sauce making even faster. 

I also wanted to mention the bonus by-product, i.e. the drained water from the frozen tomatoes. It's not juice, but it's quite tomato-ey in flavor, so I don't waste it. Part of it went as liquid for canning black turtle beans. The rest I canned on it's own and labeled it "tomato broth."

Canned tomato broth

I use it for soup or to make tomato gravy or Spanish rice. 

What's everyone else doing with their tomatoes?