March 30, 2024

Garden Notes: March 2023

March is peach blossom month


    • 1st: 2.44"
    • 6th: 1.65"
    • 8th: 0.2"
    • 9th: 1.48"
    • 15th: 0.37"
    • 22nd: 0.73"
    • 23rd: 0.15"
    • 26th: 0.77"
    • Total: 7.79 inches
    • range of nighttime lows: 27 to 55°F (-3 to 13°C)
    • range of daytime highs: 40 to 79°F (4.4 to 26°C)
    Weather Notes
    • We've had beautiful spring days with enough frosty mornings to not get too eager on spring planting.
    Garden Notes
    • Weeds are thriving!
    • Most of my time in the garden has been spent scraping grass and weeds from the aisles, and remulching them.
    • I discovered some volunteer potatoes in last year's potato bed. Frost has killed the tops back, but they're making another valiant appearance. 
    • Planting activity this month has mostly been spot-seeding the goats' paddocks. 
    • collards (direct sow)
    • Swiss chard (seed tray)
    • slicing tomatoes (seed tray)
    • sweet potato squash (pots)
    • kale seedlings
    • rugosa roses
    • daffodils
    • grape hyacinth


    • lettuce
    • broccoli
    • kale
    • chickweed
    • turnips
    • carrots
    • asparagus

    Keyhole garden with multiplier onions, garlic, and lettuce.

    We're getting occasional asparagus, very tasty and very welcome.

    Dan planted a bed of carrots and turnips last fall, and this is all the carrots he got.

    carrot and dried cranberry salad

    snow peas, lettuce, and violets

    strawberries blooming

    In a couple of weeks I can start outdoor planting in earnest. I'm looking forward to that. Anybody else?

    Sneak Peek

    March 25, 2024


    River and Ursa

    Anticipated dates are the first couple of days in April. In the meantime . . . 

    Waiting © March 2024 by Leigh at 

    March 20, 2024

    Product Review: Marchpower Rechargeable Fan

    One of the items on my grid-down wish list has been a house fan. Even though we quit using air conditioning years ago, we rely heavily on fans to keep the house tolerable. But what to do if the power is out for an extended length of time? This is why I was extremely pleased to be asked to review the Marchpower 10-inch rechargeable, portable, folding fan.

    First impressions

    When I unboxed the components, I was pleased with their weight and sturdiness. 

    Fan, fold-able stand, remote control, USB
    charging cord, carabiner, and owners manual.

    The fan itself has a carrying strap.

    Used with the carabiner, the fan can be hung overhead. Nice! And being battery powered, there are no cords!

    The tripod stand is metal and heavy. I like that. 

    The height is adjustable, so from floor to the top of the fan can be anywhere between 27.6 to 46.5 inches. Two safety precautions I would recommend are 1) make sure the folding legs are locked before putting the fan on top. And 2) that the tripod is set up on a level surface! Those are pretty much common sense, but worth noting. Without the stand, the fan can sit nicely on a table top or shelf, so there are a lot of choices here. 

    Also included is a remote control, but I like that the fan itself has control buttons. I feel that gives me more options for operation, especially if the remote's battery needs changing. 

    I very much appreciate a real, paper owner's manual, because sit isn't always convenient to go online to read a PDF. 

    Battery energy consumption is 1 to 12 watts when running, depending on the speed. 

    Charging the fan battery

    Battery charging is via a USB port (with included cord). So it can be charged off of a computer or USB wall socket. In my case, I can recharge it from the solar charge controller or inverter on our back porch, if I choose.

    Charging time is between 3.5 and 5.5 hours. I don't know how much of a charge the fan arrived with, but I plugged it in to charge, which took about 

    Bonus feature: the fan can be used while charging.

    Using the fan

    First time, the fan needs to be turned on with it's power button. After that, the remote can be used. The remote is said to operate up to 33 feet (10 meters), even through walls!

    It has four speeds, and of course, operating time depends on the speed used. These are advertised to be:
    • 28-30 hours on lowest speed (breeze wind)
    • 10-12 hours on second speed (soft wind)
    • 6-7 hours on third speed (brisk wind)
    • 3-4 hours on high speed (strong wind)

    Here's a shot of the control buttons on the fan itself:

    From left: oscillate button, on/off button, timer button.

    It oscillates! Tilt and oscillation are up to 60 degrees.

    Pressing the power button first turns the fan on. Repeat pressing to take it through the speed choices and then turn it off.

    Timer. Another handy feature. Offered settings: 
    • 0.5 hour
    • 1.5 hours
    • 4 hours
    • 8 hours

    Testing the fan

    I did not test operating time on all speeds, but I did check out the speeds. To give you all a visual, I used a piece of surveyor's tape on a stick for photos at the various speeds.


    Speed 1 (lowest)

    Speed 2

    Speed 3

    Speed 4 (highest)

    As you can see, it promises to do a good job. And it's quiet! Another plus.


    Absolutely recommended for homesteaders, campers, picnickers, preppers, and anyone who sometimes wants a fan when they're outdoors. Its portability makes it perfect for a variety of uses: any indoor activities, outside kitchens and dining areas, sitting on the porch, camping, and for anytime the power goes out, or you're in an off-grid situation in hot weather. 

    Special Offer!

    For my blog readers, I have a special 10% off discount offer. 

    Discount code: Z68HGJZ6   

    The code expires Sept. 1, 2024, just in time for early Christmas shopping!

    March 11, 2024

    Book Review & Giveaway: Natural Small Batch Cheesemaking

    Natural Small Batch Cheesemaking by Kate Downham

    I am so pleased to tell you about this book! It's the small batch homesteader's dream. Not only does it tell you everything you ever wanted to know about cheesemaking (and then some), it's geared toward the homesteader who doesn't have large quantities of milk to work with. So many cheesemaking books call for two to five gallons of milk per batch of cheese. These same books use purchased commercial cultures. With Kate's book, I can make a large variety of cheeses with smaller amounts of milk and with natural, homemade cheese cultures. 

    In her introduction, Kate calls her philosophy "a peasant approach to cheesemaking." This is homestead cheesemaking in its most natural form, focusing on seasonal conditions, smallhold farms and homesteads, and the busy homesteading lifestyle. This is the essence of everyday food producing; hearty wholesome foods produced and crafted on the land. I can't think of a better connection with nature than this.

    One of the things I love about this book is that Kate manages to gear it toward both beginning and experienced cheesemakers. The first several chapters cover the concepts and fundamentals of making cheese. Don't miss these! Even if you've been making cheese for years and years, these chapters are loaded with many, many tidbits plus practical wisdom. I've been making cheese for the past decade, but I learned more useful information from Kate's book than I have anywhere else. 

    The largest section of the book contains the cheese recipes. Some of these are regulars on our table, chèvre, for example. What I didn't realize, is that there are so many kinds of chèvre: cream cheese style, crottin, air-dried, aged with herbs or spices, ladled curd, leaf wrapped, or preserved in oil. Then it's on to a wonderful variety of other cheesemaking techniques: brined, washed curd, Alpine, bloomy white rind, blue, cheddar, even a Parmesan-style grating cheese. Also a couple of cheeses made from whey and other dairy products to make such as kefir, yoghurt, cultured butter, ghee, custard, and ice cream. 

    The recipes are very well written; easy to understand and easy to follow. Once you're comfortable with the recipe, there are "quick-glance method for experienced cheesemakers" in the chapter margins. Very handy! The appendices include an extensive troubleshooting section and how to adapt ingredients to larger quantities of milk. 

    I can honestly say this book is a "must have" for every homesteader who loves and wants to make cheese. AND! Between now and Friday, everyone can get a chance to win one of four copies being given away on There are a few simple rules, which you can read about here:

    Natural Small Batch Cheesemaking Giveaway at

    Can't wait? You can order a copy from either
    © March 2024 by Leigh at

    March 5, 2024

    "These Things Happen"

    One of our favorite television shows is the original 1978 series of All Creatures Great and Small. A minor theme of the story that we especially appreciate, is the worldview and attitudes of the Yorkshire Dales people themselves; the smallhold farmers who were the clients of veterinarians James Herriot and Siegfried Farnon. Their individual personalities were as varied as anywhere else, of course, but it was the way they faced life and especially hardship that is notable. Typically hospitable and generous, when difficult circumstances came, they would take it in stride. "These things happen," they would say. And they would press on.

    This has caused me to pay attention to my own reactions when something bad happens, because typical human reactions stand in a huge contrast when things go wrong: anger, frustration, complaining, and blaming are the norm. As "normal" as these may seem, I find it hard to admire someone who explodes when something unfortunate happens. I don't want to be that kind of person.

    Of unfortunate circumstances, I would say there are two types. Some are the direct result of our actions, i.e. cause and effect at work. As Dr. Phil says, "When you choose the behavior, you choose the consequences." I see being able to admit mistakes and errors in judgement as a sign of maturity, something that is increasingly rare these days. 

    Sometimes, there is no logical cause for what happens. Once upon a time, these were referred to as "acts of God," and pretty much covered most natural disasters. Another term to describe this is "bad luck." I have to add that dealing with livestock the way Dan and I do, I know from experience that bad things can happen even when we're doing our best. In our early days of homesteading, the tendency was to blame and berate ourselves, trying to figure out what we did wrong. We became discouraged. All of this, of course, is an emotional reaction, which never helps solve things.

    I think there's been an unfortunate trend over the years which focuses on the importance of our feelings. We're told "follow your heart." I don't know about you, but I have found feelings to be exceedingly fickle. And very easy to manipulate. All of which means they are not a reliable indicator of reality. Feelings are an important part of our human experience, but I think they serve us better if they are under the reign of self-control. 

    Hopefully, I'm never too old to learn. And that includes learning to accept circumstances and outcomes that I wish weren't, learning to accept things that are beyond my control, even learning useful lessons from the situation. Some people might consider this fatalistic and see "giving up" as defeat, but constantly fighting against the universe gets wearisome. Nobody like to be defeated, but I'm coming to understand that defeat is often only an emotional perception. Set that aside, and grace comes with acceptance. There's more strength in coming to terms with reality than in constantly trying to fight it. 

    I suppose what I'm trying to realize here, is that we humans always have a choice. It may not be the ability to determine the outcomes, but I always have a choice in how I react. James Herriot portrayed the farming folk of Yorkshire as amazingly resilient because they somehow understood these things. It's a quality I admire and want to make my own.