April 28, 2023

Garden Notes: April 2023


  • 1st: 0.375"
  • 7th: 0.25" 
  • 8th: 1.55"
  • 14th: 0.5" 
  • 16th: 0.2"
  • 22nd: 0.7"
  • 26th:  0.75"
  • 27th: 2.55"
  • 28th: 0.65"
  • 30th: 0.255"
  • Total: 7.75 inches

  • range of nighttime lows: 36 to 66°F (2 to 19°C)
  • range of daytime highs: 47 to 84°F (8 to 29°C)

Weather Notes
  • We've had lovely temperatures for much of the month, but the wind has been brisk and cold.

  • buckwheat
  • corn (Trucker's Favorite)
  • sunflowers (Mammoth Russian)
  • tomato transplants (Black Krim and Celebrity)
  • Swiss chard (variety of seeds)
  • black turtle beans
  • amaranth (Golden Giant, or is it Giant Golden? I can never remember.)
  • cowpeas (Ozark Razorback)
  • cucumbers (landrace)
  • and

seed potatoes

The sprouted potatoes are from the pantry. The others I bought at my locally owned grocery store. They were only 39¢ per pound, so I was pleased to find them. When I checked out, the gal told me they were sent to them by mistake. Food delivery errors aren't returned, so they offered them for sale at an unusually good price. When I planted them, I augmented the soil with bone meal and azomite minerals, so I'm hoping they'll do well. 



Edible pod peas. Can you see the first pod
in the lower right-hand corner of the photo?


Sunchokes (Jersusalem artichokes)

Sweet potato slips

I don't have good windows for plants and plant starts, so I decided to try our bathroom window for starting some sweet potato slips. They seem happy there. I have three varieties: Vardamans, Georgia Jets, and a purple variety I got two years ago from Misfits. It's the purple that's produced all those sprouts. The Vardaman is finally putting out a few roots (no sprouts yet) and the Georgia Jet has done nothing. These produced well, although with lots of odd, lumpy shapes. They haven't stored well, however, so no great loss if they don't sprout.


handfuls of asparagus for snacks and salads

strawberries for our granola

fall planted lettuce

I planted a lot of lettuce last fall, but most of it didn't survive our cold winter. This one did though, and together with wild greens, offers us delicious salads. 

spring planted radishes

volunteer lambs quarter

First harvests of lambs quarter are for steamed or sauteed greens. I've got plenty volunteering, however, and hope to can quite a few pints. It's our favorite winter green.

As you can see, our gardening season is off to a good start! May promises to be just as busy, and hopefully, we'll have a good harvest season.

Your turn. How does your garden fare?

April 24, 2023

Homestead Haying

Last week, the weather forecast promised perfect weather for haying. Good quality hay needs to be cut while the grasses are long, luscious, and green, but before it goes to seed. The exception is when we grow wheat or oats for hay. Then we let it form grain heads and cut it in the milk stage, before the seed can mature. This gives the benefit of both grain and hay from the same plant. 

After cutting, it needs enough time to dry thoroughly before being stored. Rain increases the risk of mold, so the forecast of a week of dry sunny weather meant this seasonal chore went to the top of the to-do list. Dan started Monday morning by scything it. 

Dan planted a deer forage mix last autumn. The forage
mixes are economical and grow things goats like too.

Even on sunny days, our challenge to drying hay is our heavy dew every morning. It often takes until noon before everything dries out. Dan turns it twice a day. In the morning he rakes it into windrows to let the ground dry off between the rows. Later, he turns the grass and spreads it out again until the next day. Happily, the weather cooperated by holding true to the forecast.

Monday through Friday were perfect: sunny, 70sF (low 20sC), and low humidity. Rain was in the forecast for early Saturday, so after Friday evening chores, we gathered in our hay crop.

First, it's raked again into windrows and then raked into piles for picking up.

A wood hay rake really helps. Metal rake tines get caught on the stubble.

Dan raked and I packed it down into the box.

The box makes it easy to transport and . . .

easy to get into the hay loft.

We used to use tarps for this, but the box works much better.

Dan pushed and I pulled.

Tightly stuffed into the box, it took us three loads.

If I'm satisfied that it's thoroughly dry, I'll leave it in the bale-like shape the box makes. In this case, the thick oat stems weren't quite dry enough for my satisfaction, so I spread it out and will monitor it and turn it, to make sure it's dry enough and not producing heat.  

Feeding homegrown hay to our goats gives a wonderful sense of satisfaction. So far, we haven't been able to produce enough for a full year, but every little bit helps. We may get a second cutting, but we'll have to wait and see. Annuals like grains tend not to re-grow well after they're cut. 

For the goats, our homegrown hay is a favorite. It's the first thing they go for when it's in the hay feeder. Plus, every bit of waste, both as dropped hay and digested as manure, goes back to nurture the soil. (Details on how we do this are in How To One-Straw Revolutionize Your Pasture). It's one more step toward self-sustainability.

April 20, 2023

Greenhouse Roof Progress

In my last greenhouse progress blog post, we were dealing with a setback because one of the roof windows was accidentally broken. Attempts to find a replacement were unsuccessful, but it was a double-paned window and only one of the pieces of glass shattered. I finally asked Dan if he could  use the remaining sheet of glass anyway? Here's what he did.

The remaining glass with frame and adhesives removed

With new trim

Happily, it worked quite well.

Installed. View from below.

It's the window in the middle.

Unfortunately, we had a hard rain before the sealants could cure, and much of it washed away. So, that has to be done again, plus trim between the windows needs to be added. It's a slow go at the moment because we're working on planting, but at least some progress has been made

April 17, 2023

Invisible Mending

Mending is one of those historical skills that has made a come-back. While it was primarily utilitarian at one time, it's taken on new life and prestige as an art and craft in it's own right. Because of that, it's worth defining some terms:

  • Plain mending - utilitarian patching, darning, and repair
  • Visible mending - decorative, such as boro, sashiko, embroidery, fancy patchwork
  • Invisible mending - re-weaving or re-knitting cloth to look like the original fabric

Because mending is a desirable self-sufficiency skill, I've blogged about some of my plain mending (such as mending socks) and some of my visible mending (such as my barn jacket). Recently, I decided to try my hand at invisible mending. 

To learn on, I chose my favorite denim work skirt. I discovered the beginnings of a small hole when I hung it out to dry on the clothesline. 

The repair required finding threads that matched the colors of the fabric. Even though the blue threads are a dark blue close up, I chose a medium blue thread because it blended better with the overall impression of color.

I caught it early enough that I only had to re-weave the blue threads. 

I'm not patient enough to do fine, close work, ordinarily. But this was small enough that it didn't take long, although one of those crafter's magnifying lenses would have been helpful. A blunter needle would have been helpful, as well. The sharps needle kept catching the white threads.

I also want to note that I didn't try to replicate the twill weave; I just did the best I could at picking up threads to weave through. The goal is so that the hole isn't noticeable at a couple of feet away. Do you think I succeeded?

A fancier weave or multiple colors would certainly make it more challenging. Assuming one is up to that challenge!

All in all, I think this is a useful technique to learn. The end result of plain mending chore or play clothes probably has low expectations for most of us. But learning how to properly mend career, dress, or town clothes is both a budget and a landfill saver. What's not to like about that?

April 13, 2023

April Is National Poetry Month

I don't tend to think poetically, so a couple of years ago I challenged myself to write a haiku a day. I confess I didn't finish out my goal of a year's worth, but it came to mind the other day when I saw that April is National Poetry Month. It's all homestead inspired, so why not make a contribution?

I reckon I would call this small collection "Winter."

Dawn brightens blue
contrails cross beneath the moon 
sun peeks in the east

Head tall, watching all
feather sheen in black and green
strut, strut, pause - Rooster!

Clear sky, bright white sun,
Brisk wind biting my nose and cheeks
Winter is still here

Streaks of dappled grey
reach across the sky. No sun.
Will it rain today?

Crisp brown crunch beneath
soft grey paws. Pause. Green eyes fixed,
tail whips. Wrens beware!

Drip speckled cat coat
Wet paw prints on hardwood floor
It's raining again

Drip, drip, drip, drip, drip
Misty tree conversations
blue jays punctuate

Scolding chickadee ignored -
Cat on a mission.

Small puddle reflects
grey calm behind fleeting clouds.
Small splash, sparrow bath!

Misty shades of sky
No brightness to mark the sun
Rain smiles from the clouds

Towhees scratch and hop
hunting leaf-hidden morsels
Squirrels watch and scold

Spoon poised, sudden dark,
Silence loudly fills the house -
the power is out.

Crisp sharp air pierces
my breath. Dark stillness broken,
coyotes calling

Spring, yet not spring. Birds
twitter and chirp, winter lurks
behind the north wind.

A neighbor's rooster 
crows and breaks the gray silence
Dawn sun arises

Smiling slice of moon,
crescent in the arch of blue,
Clear! No rain today!

Puffs of frosty breath
Ice caps on barnyard buckets
Robins heading north

Bright yellow on drab,
Winter's first promise of spring
- daffodils!

Pale yellow sun breaks
winter sky of frosty blue
Songbird symphony

Neglected haiku
The day went by so quickly
Promise forgotten

Puddle splash, rain rings,
Step carefully or wet feet!
Birds chirp, they don't care

Empty pasture waits
Goats stand at the gate and stare
Winter grass is scarce

Dog prints in the mud
Feathers scattered on the ground
Muscovy duck dead

Frost on the rooftops
Sun rises over pale blue
A warm day promise

High pitched screech aloft
like you hear in the movies
but this hawk is real

Twittering chatter
Community atop the tree
SWOOP! Silence in flight

Dull muddy sunrise
rain-gray clouds overshadowed
brilliant red breaks through

Fog dampens the sun
We look, we call, we wait. Where's
Meowy? Gone??? - Found!

Wind whips bare branches
Thunder announces a storm
Instant pelting rain

Hair blown in my eyes
clouds racing across the sky
cold weather returns

Snow flakes on whiskers
Paw prints on the snowy steps
Meow! Let me in!

Red cardinals, white snow,
green and yellow daffodils.
Colors of winter

Four little noses
Eight hoofs, four tails, mama's milk
Newborn baby goats

Frilly lettuce leaves
scalloped leaves of collard greens
winter's survivors

Dots of daffodils
bright yellow on winter drab
Robins everywhere

Breezes kiss my cheek
Cobbled clouds across the sky
Trail of northbound birds

Bouncing hops and jumping
Racing across the paddock
Baby goats at play

Damp drizzly morning 
becomes rainy afternoon
Indoor work today

Robin speckled fields
The hunt for earthworms is on
Flight! Northbound again

Ice speckled raindrops
become lost in the snowflakes.
Goats stay in the barn.

Chattering treetops
Branches alive with starlings
What do they discuss?

Crows call an alert!
All eyes search the skies. A hawk?
Far above, he's there

Anyone else?

April 9, 2023

Another Experiment in Threshing Wheat

Wheat harvest is in June, and we try to get it threshed and winnowed as quickly as possible. It's much easier to store as grain than in a bulky, non-threshed form (easier to protect from moths, too). In the past, both Dan and I worked on this together, but last year, I had an abundance of tomatoes, figs, and pears, so that I didn't have time to spare for the wheat. The other day, I got out the last of the wheat heads and thought about how to thresh it.

Some of our unthreshed wheat from last summer.

 Of growing wheat, I'd have to say that the growing is the easiest part. Scything isn't too bad, or last year, we had a small enough patch that we could just cut off the heads with a hand sickle. The hardest part is the threshing, which is separating the grains from the seed heads. Winnowing is just tedious.

To thresh, we've tried stomping, pounding, flailing, and rubbing. Dan even tried converting a little yard chipper into a thresher (pictures and explanation here.) Even so, every year we're still looking for an easier way to do it. 

And that's where my experiment came in. 

I filled a couple of pillowcases about a third full with wheat heads, added half-a-dozen golf balls, knotted the pillowcases closed, and tied them off with string for good measure. Then I put the bags into the clothes dryer.

I turned the heat off and set the dryer to the longest timer setting, which was 70 minutes. Then I let the bags of wheat bounce around in the dryer until the timer went off. Here's what it looked like when I dumped it out.

It worked!

I think this is the most thorough separation of wheat from the chaff we've ever had. And it required very little effort on our part! This method is a keeper! Now, I'm wondering how it would work for oats and buckwheat.

There are two caveats that I want to mention. The first is the type of fabric the pillowcase is made of. For my first load, I used one cotton pillowcase and the other polyester. When I dumped out the threshed wheat, the polyester pillowcase had chaff and wheat beards stuck all over it. It was a mess. The contents in the cotton pillowcase, however, dumped out cleanly and nothing stuck to the cloth. For my second load, I used only cotton pillowcases.

The second noteworthy point is that tying off the bags is a must. In the second batch, we tried leaving one bag knotted but not tied with string. Bouncing around in the dryer for over an hour managed to work the knot loose and much of the contents spilled out into the dryer drum. 

Next, I have to finish winnowing. No shortcuts for that, unfortunately. I'll just have to find the time to work it into my increasingly busy spring schedule.

April 5, 2023

First Turkey Egg

In Around the Homestead post, I mentioned that our turkeys hadn't started laying yet. Today, only a couple of days later, I'm excited to announce. . . 

Our very first turkey egg.

Our turkey hens are ten months old, so it's about time!

From the left: duck egg, chicken egg, and turkey egg.

The next day, we got our second. We have three turkey hens, so I'm assuming they'll all be laying soon. After we get a few more, we'll give them a try.

That's it for today. Such a small thing to be news I want to share. As I give this draft a last minute check as a preview, I stop at the word I chose to describe this event - exciting. I wonder how many people would see this word as an actual description? Or see it as simply filler for the sentence. I wonder, in a world now filled with non-stop controversial events, how many people see something as ordinary as a bird laying a first egg as exciting? Maybe it would be exciting if it was the world's first cloned egg. Certainly, there are few like myself, who aren't obsessed with a fascination for technology and its hoped for potential to change the evolution of our planet. I wonder, why that doesn't interest me? Why is my way of listening to the news more interesting to me than theirs? Then I shrug and decide I don't mind being left behind. 

Turkeys are seasonal layers and this is the season for nesting. So, of course we're wondering if any of our hens will go broody. Time will tell.

First Turkey Egg © April 2023 by Leigh

April 1, 2023

Around the Homestead

April, from my cross-stitch calendar Christmas present. :)

April is a significant month on the homestead. Our last projected frost date is mid-month, so we can start planting the summer garden. It's the month when the trees wake up from their winter sleep and put out new leaves. Warmer days and nights also mean that April is the month of our last fire in the woodstove. If we're lucky, mild days will continue and it won't get too hot, too soon!

With shifting priorities, my winter projects are mostly set aside. My clean and purge project went fairly well, and I made a lot of progress. I still want to organize my boxes of fabrics and sewing supplies; they've needed to all be in one place for several years now.


Of the goats, Caroline's udder is much better. The congestion is mostly resolved, although that side still doesn't produce as much milk as the unaffected side. I still offer bottles to her little girls, even though they eat grass, grain, and hay now too.

Caroline's girls have names now. The black is Jessamine, the brown is Charlotte.

Usually it's Charlotte, the brown doeling, who wants it. They each have their own side when they nurse, and she's the one who ended up with the side that was congested, so she's getting less milk than her sister. Goat mamas typically let their kids nurse anywhere from between four to six months. 

All three bucklings are sold and will be heading to new homes soon. They turned out really well. 

Mosul and his mom, River.


Originally Buster Brown, but 'Jupiter' for his registration papers.

The little bucks need to go first because they get, well, bucky by the time they are two months old. I like to give them at least 10 weeks of mom's milk, and then off they go. It's so much more peaceful to wean them by sending them to new homes, than having to separate them from their mothers. I still have to make some decisions about the little does, but I have more time for them.


Chickens and ducks are laying well, but we have yet to get egg one from the turkeys. The other day, Dan found this tiny duck egg.

Crepe myrtle

Does anyone remember the crepe myrtle Dan dug up and dragged down to the woods? It was blocking sun on the greenhouse and needed to be removed.

Picture from Greenhouse Progress: A Side Project, Actually
There are more pictures at the link, for anyone who is curious.

We didn't know if it would survive, but guess what.

I don't think the log sections will tolerate kids jumping on them, so
I may encircle this with more clump grass to hopefully secure them.

The leaves around the base of the trunk are crepe myrtle sprouts. The leaves growing out the top are honeysuckle vines that were embedded in the the soil. 

Crepe myrtle and honeysuckle growing

Considering most of the feeder roots were chopped off when it was dug up, this is a surprise. If it can establish it's root system downwards, it will probably do well. Time will tell.


Firewood for next winter curing

Ongoing Fence Maintenance

Willow inspects Dan's new fence bracing. The
old wood corner post had pretty much rotted away.


I want to mention that Permies' Master Gardener Program is finally finished and available. It may seem a little pricey, but it's 35 hours worth of Helen Atthowe's extensive better-than-organic video instruction, including veganic pest and disease management, and soil microscopy. If you've ever wanted to do a program like this and have anything left in your gardening budget, this is an excellent investment!