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? 

August 6, 2023

On Finding a Balance Between Work and Play

So much of my homesteading life revolves around the things I do: planting, gardening, critter care, milking, mulching, compost making, harvesting, preserving, cheesemaking, pasture improvement, fence repair, lifestyle documentation, and of course (my least favorite) housework. Then there is the long project list Dan and I are working on: swale digging, hugelkultur making, and building projects such as repairing and upgrading our 100-year-old home and our greenhouse. My days are very busy but at their end, I feel like I've been productive. I have no complaints; I love my life.

With finishing one more room to create my sewing room, however, I've rediscovered a dilemma I haven't felt in quite awhile. Currently, I'm still going through all the boxes of equipment and supplies that I'd stuffed into storage. They are getting unpacked now, and I'm trying to find permanent homes for everything. I feel good that I can finally do this, and it feels constructive to unpack boxes, sort, clean, and organize their contents. But now I find myself conflicted. Where am I going to find the time to reconnect with the activities I love? I have so much fun when I'm engaged in sewing, or spinning, or weaving, that it doesn't feel like work. And then I start to feel guilty because I have too much to do! How can I waste time having so much fun! 

 In his One-Straw Revolution, Masanobu Fukuoka says, 

"If natural farming were practiced, a farmer would also have plenty of time for leisure and social activities within the village community. I think this is the most direct path toward making this country a happy, pleasant land."

I contemplate this as I look around our homestead and add another item to our perpetual to-do list. 'I'm not there yet,' I tell myself. But then I have to ask, when, if ever, will I get there? I'm gradually coming to the conclusion that at some point, I'm just going to have to do it. But how do I do it without feeling guilty for neglecting "needful" things? I'm realizing that I have to address several things. One is how I define words, the other is how I spend my time.

Of words, I have to ask, how am I defining "successful" homesteading? And how am I defining "work" and "play"? Why do I think that play is fun and work isn't? Or that if something's fun, then it's a waste of time? It's odd that I should think that way, really, because I do enjoy working outdoors. I enjoy working in the garden, with the goats, and making and preserving lovely things to eat. I don't even mind cleaning out the barn because I know that each thing I do serves multiple purposes toward land stewardship. Equally incongruent in my thinking is the fact that my textile and fiber pursuits always produce something functional: clothing, socks, sweaters, hand towels, scarves, blankets, etc. I think part of my problem is that because I can source these things so cheaply (often the thrift store) that it's time indulgent to make them myself.

This train of thought led to analyzing how I spend my time, especially in summer, our busiest season. In summer, my mornings are for the garden, before it gets too hot. When I come in, I take a break because I'm hot and sticky myself. Then I make lunch and it's on to afternoon activities: canning, dehydrating, and cheese making. Yet, I have wait times with these activities. I need to stick around, but when the timer is on, I have a free bit of time. 

And that led to looking at how I spend that free time. Usually, I sit down at the computer. In analyzing my computer time I can identify much of it as constructive, but much of it is spent engaged in distractions. I say I feel guilty for doing something I really enjoy, yet how much time do I just piddle away? Isn't that time I could spend engaged in other ways?

I also spend a large chunk of my time writing. It's a time consuming task for me. Publishing all those books was a lot of work. Actually, so is blogging, because it takes me time to communicate clearly. On the one hand, my homestead blog is valuable as a journal. Dan and I refer to it often for things I've documented. But somehow, when my blog and my books became somewhat popular, I put an obligation on myself to produce X amount of content in X amount of time. Now, after fourteen years of homestead blogging, our lives follow a comfortable seasonal routine, which means I'm often repeating myself when it comes to blogging topics.

Another thing I'm realizing is that I'm not very good at "picking my battles." My example is our ongoing problem with bermuda grass in the garden and horse nettle in the pastures. Every summer I work hard to try and defeat the stuff, but every year it wins anyway. Perhaps I'm struggling with things that aren't in my power to change. And then I have to acknowledge that my argument for feeling productive is undermined because losing battles isn't productive, it's discouraging. 

Conclusion? I need a plan of action. There may be more but to start, I've hit on a couple of things that I think will help.

Routine. Working with livestock, I've learned that routine is my best friend. They are so much more cooperative when they know what to expect, and I like not having to figure out when I'm going to do something. Routine sets the framework for my day. The next step was looking at how I was using the rest of my time. 

  • 5:00 am (at the latest) - rise
  • 5:30 - breakfast
  • Sunrise - morning critter chores
  • Then back to the house to strain the milk and do house chores
  • 7 - 7:30 - in the garden until the sun hits it and it gets too hot
  • 9:30 or so - "free" time until I start lunch
  • 11:00 - lunch
  • 12:00 - lunch dishes (I usually do this while Dan checks water buckets, but sometimes it's vice versa)
  • 12:15 - afternoon projects: indoors or in the shade: preserving, cheese making, winnowing, etc.
  • Late afternoon (if afternoon projects are finished) - free time
  • 3:30 - pick greens and herbs for the goats
  • 4:00 - afternoon critter chores
  • 4:30 - start on dinner
  • 5:00 pm - dinner and a movie
  • 7:00 pm at the latest - dinner dishes and kitchen clean-up
  • 7:15 - free time
  • Going on dark - evening critter check and chores
  • free until bedtime
I have to say that after I went through this thought process and I analyzed my schedule like this, I discovered that the time was already there. It's just a matter of developing new habits on how I use it.

Blogging. Blog when I have something to document, not according to a schedule. I'm not sure that I'll blog any less, but it will be freeing. I may even end up blogging more, because I've republished my fiber journal and am finding all kinds of things to blog about, now that I'm getting back into the textile arts groove.

Anybody still with me? I know I'm not the only one who struggles with finding balance in their lives. I think I'm fortunate that I can pretty much set my own schedule, but I suspect the process is similar for other schedules. So much of it is about habit. I'm finding that in rethinking my habits, I'm starting to find the balance I've been longing for. 

August 1, 2023

Homestead Summer in Photographs

I can't believe it's August! Seems like Juneteenth was only the other day. 

Detail from my Christmas gift from my daughter-in-law

Here's our summer so far in photographs.

Summer squash blossom with pollinators

Fresh goat milk mozzarella

Hopniss vines on the hoop house

Rose of Sharon

Kudzu vines to dry for goat hay

Ricotta cheese from the mozarella whey

Cover crop for soil biomass

Mosul in his anti-mating apron (so he could stay with the girls longer)

more dill pickles

the last of this summer's blueberries

sweet potato flower

Jenny B and her 3-month-old poults

Sewing room progress: homes for weaving yarns and books

Greenhouse progress: trim for the first door

Newest additions: second batch of late July ducklings (five, total)

How's everyone else's summer coming along?