Monday, February 26, 2007

Idea: Box Tops as Lettuce Flats

I'm looking for cheap, free, and biodegradable. I want to sow some flats of lettuce and things like arugula and cress. Not sure how those do here, and not sure the raccoons wont destroy them.

But I thought of box tops. Surely I can find plenty of those somewhere! They might be just perfect...and free! If they decompose, they can go with the other broken down boxes I use as a weed barrier in the mint patch (all the garden I have right now).

Just an idea, but I think it would be an easy one to test!

I'll keep ya posted...we'll see if it works. So far, no raised beds, and I'm shorter on time since starting this Get-Out-Of-Debt-Faster job.


An Idea: Using quart-sized freezer bags to start seeds

Remember the gutsy tomato plant that had survived all of December and January? It bit the dust last week during our ONLY freeze of the year so far. The Roma tomatoes, all 7 of them, were just about the perfect size and only needed to blush up in order to pick. All in a night, POOF, the plant was reduced to a limp scraggle of wilted brown.

Being in Florida, I guess I have the longer season as a benefit, but the vagaries of the occasional frost as a detractor. Not having any fancy gardening setup, or ANY gardening setup besides the mints and dianthus and the potato plants over on the next lot, I'm all for finding the easiest possible solutions. My first project is going to be to try growing some things from seed, and I'm needing a little extra cushion of daytime heat and moisture to help things along.

I bought a box of 50 quart-capacity freezer bags at Wal-Mart the other day for less than $3.00. They're the ziplock sort. As I was using them in the kitchen this week, it occurred to me that they might be ideal for starting seeds. I'm not a pro at this, so I emphasize the word "MIGHT." :) If I were to fill some of them halfway with a good potting mix and some worm castings, plop a couple seeds into each one, and line them up in rows in a plastic flat or cardboard box-top, the plastic might just do the trick for warming them a bit if I started them outside in a sheltered place after the last chance of frost. Of course I'd leave the tops unzipped, but they naturally stay nearly shut, which I think might enhance the warmth and humidity long enough for those guys to shoot up big enough to transplant. I'm not sure, but it's worth experimenting.

If my guess is right and this is a viable way to start seeds, the bags are also reuseable! Not a bad investment of 3 bucks!

That's just another idea! I'll test it out on some seeds I already have, if I can keep the raccoons from destroying anything I set outside.

The work part of getting out of debt

I now have a parttime job, 30 or so hours a week. I'm really grateful to God, because I did pray for this, and it allows some late afternoon flexibility.

After my first three days pressing drapes in a very hot back room in clouds of steam, and doing a lot of lifting, I'm "plumb tuckered out!" I came home today so exhausted, mainly from the heat of the workplace and of the drive (my car doesnt have AC and it's an hour commute each direction). I immediately showered and went to bed! LOL so much for that "late afternoon flexibility!" ;-) My muscles are getting a workout, though, which is terrific.

SO, I am trying to see this as one step closer to the goal of homesteading, which means these things:

1. More $$ to pay bills
2. Still have a little time for further interviews for better jobs
3. Still have some time once I get some garden projects kicked off (money permitting) for planting and weeding
4. I'm getting into better shape! Maybe all that sweatroom work is melting off some pounds?
5. I don't have to dress up to go to work. I LOVE dressing up for an occasion, but I HATE dressing up to go to work. I LOVE being able to throw in jeans and sneakers and hop in the car each's SO much better than wearing heels and hose!
6. I'm eating less. I have a big breakfast and then a late afternoon meal. So far I've been too tired to have anything to eat later than that except maybe a bite of yogurt or such.

OK...that's the report...and now back to bed for me! I can't wait to see the progress we make paying OFF the debt! J is working overtime for the same goal, and we do get a tax return this year. We're going to knock those bad boy bills OUT :)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Zoned Agricultural (or Calling All Chicken Inspectors)

When you're new to all this, the baby steps are many.

I know homesteading and self-sufficiency are more mindset than locale, and there are many folks out there proving that fact. They are an inspiration to me, and I've been immersing myself in the blogs, websites, and articles of those who are already walking the walk, or trying it and making their way. What a rich resource the internet is for linking up with this vast array of individuals and families! I'll be listing some of my favorite finds here as they happen.

It's been a busy week or so. Since one of our first steps is to get out of debt, I have since gone to work. It's a job with hours that will allow for a bit of afternoon interview time if I have the possibility of a better-paying job...there is one I'm holding out for, which has a lengthy application and testing process. Hopefully, the part-time job will provide the flexibility so that I can be both dependable and available for further opportunity. We live in an area where there's not a glut of better paying jobs unless one has a medical or corporate skill, and (again) my lack of degree (grrr!) has not served me well. Hopefully, I'll be soon breaking into this new field, one that would available anywhere in the country, most likely. I'm praying! 'Nuff said :)

Our current home and the lot we own next to it are not zoned agricultural. When I called to see what animals we could have, I was told in no uncertain terms that we can have NO poultry, farm, or exotic animal on these properties. When I asked about one single chicken as a pet, the lady conferred with her supervisor, who exclaimed on the other end of the phone "Ewwww! NO, no neighbors want someone with nasty CHICKENS next door in their backyard." She was adamant. This served to somewhat deflate me, especially after having built chicken coop castles in the air in my dreams after reading books about backyard chicken-keeping, and scouring the web for all mentions of such. There are a lot of creative and devoted suburban chicken-keepers out there with wonderful websites and information for beginners like me.

I kept the conversation open with the Regulations Lady. After the "Ewww" woman went away, the Regulations lady told me that OFFICIALLY I could not keep chickens. She said UNOFFICIALLY, whatever was concealed behind a fence and made no noise would likely not be reported to an INSPECTOR. If any neighbor complained about a smell or noise, all complaints would be handled by The Inspector.

I asked what the penalty for irking The Chicken Inspector would be...theoretically :) She said that if live "theoretical chickens" are discovered by The Chicken Inspector, we would receive a violation notice and have 10 days to clear it up...meaning getting rid of them. I talked to this nice lady for quite some time. She searched and searched for a loophole. In her patient search, she pulled out the county map and examined all the zoning boundaries. She told me OUR STREET was the dividing line between residential and agricultural properties in this area. OUR SIDE of the street is the residential side, and the other side is the agriculture side. Anyone on that side can have ANYTHING related to agriculture they want.

When I told her I can HEAR roosters crowing when I step out my door, she looked harder for some loophole. The best she could suggest, though, was a really good fence and a really preoccupied inspector. There went my hope of some nice fat hens cleaning up my garden weeds and kitchen scraps and giving me some beautiful brown eggs...for now.

This was a few months back. I've not given up hope of having some chickens. But we have included in the basic homestead plan the need to have a property zoned Agricultural, not only for regulation compliance but also for tax implications. A property here with house is taxed about $3,000/yr whereas a 20 acre property zoned Agricultural with a few head of cattle is taxed about $60, or so I was recently told.

We're also facing winter issues. I don't particularly want a location that I have to leave every winter (what a pain that would be), and my husband needs a warm winter location for his health. That drastically limits us as to cheap land, at least around here in this state. You get a lot more bang for your buck in places like Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, etc., but sunshine states have fewer large properties at affordable prices. I'd much prefer to get a larger acreage in one of those states, and I'm indifferent as to the niceness of the house...I much prefer more land and fence for animals. My husband, being a builder in past years, wants to build our home, since he values doing it right and not having constant upkeep. I'm wondering if we're going to have to choose a our own house on less acreage, or more property with less ideal house. I know how he'd vote...

We're not sure how we're going to "get there" with this one, but since we have a good deal to do in the meantime, we're concentrating on getting out of debt. However, there are so many things we can continue discovering in the meantime, and our lifestyle can change in many ways (and has begun to) because our thinking is changing.

Some changes we need to make during the learning process are:

1. Learn how to negotiate two people's ideas into one Best Plan
2. We both need to lose weight in order to be healthier
3. We need to get out of debt
4. We need to see our daughter through college the next few years
5. I need a car in order to work, in order for us to pay off our debts
6. We need a vacation, at some point! :)

We're slowly working on pulling together some essentials that seem to not have much to do with homesteading, but really do.

One is to simplify and to Clean Out. I'm into Less. My husband's into Storing Up. We need to mesh these two bents into a streamlined effort to lighten our load while still having what we need stored for real use when it's needed.

Another is our Will, as in Last Will and Testament. We're getting this one hammered out, too, after having put it off for too long. We're also writing out our individual wishes were anything catastrophic to happen to one of us. So much has happened to us in the past few years, and to our friends, we simply don't take a single day for granted any more.

We're also honing our efforts and time. After many years of being The Woman Who Could Not Say No To Any Worthy Cause, I now have learned. At the expense of others who no longer understand why I won't continue to spread myself thin and wear myself out with every sort of good thing, I am now protective of my time...OUR time. I realize I have very little time with my daughter before she heads out into this big world. The time I have with my husband is precious, and our work schedules make it even moreso. The time I CHOOSE for certain other activities, I guard jealously. That doesnt mean I'm unavailable by phone, etc., but it means that my priorities are more in order. I finally realized I can't please everyone, about the same time I also realized I don't much care what others think about my choices. LOL!!! Arent I the hard-hearted old battleaxe? NAH... I'm much more relaxed, actually.

I'm very stubborn about having time to look out the window, take a walk, spend time with my loved ones without constant interruption. Life's too short to not live deliberately rather than haphazardly. As fast as it's passing, I've deliberately slowed certain parts of my life down. This even has to do with people. The friends who werent there for me in the reallyyyy trying times a couple years ago no longer get first billing. There is no bitterness on my part, but in a sense, I'm cleaning house there, too. Just like we're trying to stay away from foods that are empty, processed imitation nutrition, I've slowly and stubbornly isolated myself from those acquaintances who fall into the same category.

No, I'm not a snob...(chuckling!) I'm just opting out of the things less real, and choosing those things that are very very fulfilling instead. I havent been sorry, yet :)

OK, this got off on a tangent. Enough for now!

Friday, February 16, 2007

A Cheap Assembly-Required Bird Feeder, Multiple Uses!

This is easier than it looks! Follow the instructions closely for best results.


Materials Needed:

1 inexperienced bird enthusiast who desires to purchase a cheap bird feeder to hang from the branch of a sapling or metal flower-pot hanger pole.

1 small fully-assembled bird feeder purchased on sale in Wal-Mart's gardening section

1 large bag of mixed wild bird seed, any kind, as long as it includes black oil sunflower seeds

1 hammer or sturdy shoe heel

Gorilla Glue (optional)

1 or more raccoons, preferably a mother with babies

1 old set of very loud wind chimes, your choice (optional)


Step One:
To make your own assembly-required bird feeder, gather the first 3 materials, and proceed to hang the fully-assembled newly-purchased birdfeeder you got on sale at Wal-Mart from a sapling situated to best advantage where you can see it from your favorite view...such as your kitchen table, a living room window, or back patio.

Step Two:
Fill the new hanging bird feeder with the seed. Fill it full. You're expecting lots of birds, such as the cardinals you've seen around in the backyard the past few days. You've even gotten them used to dining in that particular area by scattering seed on the ground the past couple weeks. They'll surely appreciate the deluxe accomodations you've so generously provided further from predators.

Step Three:
Exult in the timid fly-bys of the birds who do, indeed, warm to your feeder during Recon missions. Applaud the first ones to merrily arrive on the scene and glut themselves with glee, and forgive the starlings who try to bully their way in. You smile. The crows and starlings can pick up the scattered seeds from the ground, but the feeder you bought is designed only for smaller birds, and just swings there unmolested by the bigger birds. Congratulate Self for the wise use of $5, and feel a glorious oneness with God's creation. Watch the activity pick up just before sundown. Remark to family or friends on how nice the new bird feeder is. Anticipate sleeping soundly at night knowing your little feathered friends have nicely full stomachs and will appear again the next day.

Step Four:
Notice "that cute raccoon" is quite an actor who loves cavorting in the spotlight of the motion-detector light right above your bedroom window at whatever point in the night you are in your REM cycle and need complete darkness. Graciously forgive the interruptions and embrace the moment -- it is one to cherish, at least after you're more fully-awake later. Mutter your thanks that humans are not nocturnal animals, and turn over in bed to ignore the recurrent strobe-effect of the glaring motion detector light. The raccoon can have his fun tonight, bless his little furry head.

Step Five:
Awaken a bit sleepier than usual, and sit with cup of hot tea at kitchen table to enjoy the view of a waking world. Open the blinds. Look toward the bird feeder.

Step Six:
Notice the absence of bird feeder. Wonder what that little crumpled heap is at the base of the sapling where it once hung.

Step Seven:
Put on garden shoes while still wearing bedclothes, and hope nobody else is out exploring this morning, due to your disheveled bed-head. Tromp to the tree, and notice the pieces of your new birdfeeder lying scattered on the ground, a few tell-tale millet and milo seeds sprinkled nearby. Notice that your formerly-assembled bird feeder is now reduced to a neat collection of bottom piece, two plastic sliding side panels, and two grooved wooden side panels. The removeable top is still attached to one piece by virtue of the wire it slides up and down in order to (formerly) fill with seed. You notice that there are tiny nails sticking from a couple of pieces. You look at the simple deconstruction and think "I could build THAT!" You wonder what in the world could have done this to your bird feeder since it was too far off the ground for most animals to get to, and no bird could have been THAT heavy. And birds don't feed at night, right?

Step Eight:
Try to fit the feeder back together by pressing the pieces just the right way BACK over the nails. Admire the neat fit. Refill with seed and hang from branch. Decide to solve the dilemma by nightfall. Allow the birds to return to their feast.

Step Nine:
At nightfall, decide to see if it happens again, or was just an anomoly. Ignore nagging feeling that this course of action disproves the notion that humans are smarter than the lower life forms.

NOTE: If all you desire is an easy-assembly kit, just REPEAT STEPS FOUR THROUGH EIGHT daily. (Do not continue to the additional steps.) You will eventually have to use the hammer or shoe heel to re-drive the pieces into the nail stubs in time, as the pieces do tend to list violently to one side after repeated use. At this point, you can be assured that each day, you TOO can wake up to a do-it-youself pile of ready-made birdfeeder pieces...your very own kit! Amaze and delight the neighbors! Awe children! Site-ready and assembly minimal!! Rehabilitate racoons to their fullest potential, and STILL be a songbird's favorite!Repeat Steps Four through Eight (above). For the adventurous, or if your birdfeeder won't endure many more dis-assemblies, proceed to the next Step.

Step Ten:
Move bird feeder to different unclimb-able metal flowerpot-hanger pole (the kind that looks like it's just one long piece of rebar curved into two decorative inverted shepherd's hook ends above, about five or six feet tall). Glue feeder pieces together using gorilla glue. (You will no longer have the fun of re-assembly, but deal with the disappointment.) Hang feeder from one side, and a very large windchime from the other. Come to an understanding with the racoon that he can come to the feeder at any time of day or night, but he cannot any longer deconstruct your birdfeeder. Marvel at the furry friend when he boldly marches up to the feeder and grabs the metal bar in his hand and begins wildly swaying it back and forth (you do have the windchime there, clangs loudly to alert you to peer out the blinds and watch the spectacle). Grudgingly admire the tenacity of any creature that is willing to shake a very loud and clanging food source till it rains seeds upon its head. Ah, but the feeder is intact! Askew, but intact. Sure, you have to fill it more often than most feeders, but this provides for both bird and mammal alike. Wonder to yourself if this particular racoon is a boy and, like some boys, will tire with his new toy in a few nights' time and move on to more exciting sites in the neighborhood. Revise that surmise, and decide "he" is really a "she," after being startled nearly out of your skin at the next night's sight of your friend and four baby racoons congregated on your back porch, rummaging through the garden-bound brown paper grocery bags stacked in the wheelbarrow there. (see brown grocery bag post) You know the creatures can see YOU through the window, staring at them there in the illumination of the glaring porch light. They look nonplussed and unafraid. You think one of them actually waves.

Of course, if you were REALLY wanting to just HAVE a cheap birdfeeder WITHOUT the FUN of rebuilding or listening to a raucous wind-chime version of Carol of the Bells, just hang it, fill it....

.... and get a dog :)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Crimson Clover as a Groundcover and Green Manure

We have very poor and hard soil. I ordered a big bulk bag of crimson clover in the fall of last year for the purpose of sowing any bare patches in our yard (mostly backyard) and on the vacant lot in certain areas as an experiment.

I don't have any seed distributing tools, so I just hand-sowed it in a lot of places that tend to wash out or remain bare. J had done some digging here and there, and after covering those areas back over with dirt, they were bare, too. So I sowed.

First, I sowed too thickly. Some of the ground was softer (where he had dug) and the rest was very solid and hard. I was determined to simply sow, to see which would grow and which would not. My hopes were that at least we'd have a nice green to fill in the bald patches, and at the best, I'd be adding some nutrients back into the bad soil. I had modest hopes that the hardpan might nurture just enough of the clover to reclaim some of it slowly to better tilth (is that the correct term for soil texture?) and fertility.

The seeds sown on the hardpan sat there...for at least a couple of weeks. Then when it rained, the rain washed the seeds into concentrated clusters wherever there was a crack or tuft of greenery, leaving the bare patches still bare but growing overpopulations of seeds in concentrated clusters. Call it Midget Clover...too tightly packed per square inch and not growing well because of being crowded. In the yard areas, however, because the bare patches were hemmed in by regular lawn grass, there was no run-off when it rained, and these areas sprouted very lovely drifts of green clover mounds. None have bloomed, but so far all have survived the initial growth and a couple of lawn-mowings. It also turned the backyard less into a sod farm and more into a soft meadow-type look, which I much prefer. My daughter remarked at one point how beautiful the clover was with its visual softening effect when mixed into the lawn that way. We also sowed it in places J had filled and raised, to help avoid erosion.

Now the clover green has faded a bit, and we'll see what happens as it matures. My hope was that it would produce the crimson blossoms. I'm always wanting to see honey bees, and I'm not sure if this is their favorite type of clover, but it is MY favorite color of clover bloom. Here's hoping we might see some.

Would I plant this again? I'd scratch the surface of the hardpan areas, or it's just a waste of seed. I'm not sure clover is going to be the answer to large areas in the same way buckwheat or alfalfa would be, as far as getting far down and bringing up nutrients as a green manure. But I will consider it as a row cover between rows, and in erosion areas. Let's see how it weathers the very hot summers here. If it thrives, it's a Yes. If it doesnt, well let's see.

This is just an update. More later as the seasons progress :)

Oh! Thou Gorgeous Tomato

I have yet to find odes to the tomato in your better-known classic world literature, but perhaps that was just an oversight by those who had never seen the selection of GORGEOUS heirloom offerings out there. Thanks to the internet, they are as close as a keyboard and nicely grouped to warm the winter-weary with visions of harvests-to-come.

My urge to find one or two packets of heirloom tomato seeds online, (imagining three or four hearty, prolific specimens laden with fruit), turned instead into an embarrasing spectacle of glorious seed-greed. My formerly-humble wish list is on steroids. Thank you, :) Were I to plant even one or two seedlings sprouted from each of the choices I put on my list (it's a longggg list), I'd have multiple long rows of tomato hedges so over-abundant that I'd be filling wheelbarrows of produce and schlepping it around to the neighbors. They'd be so replete with tomatoes that they'd see me coming, give a secret signal, and roll down their window shades and pretend they weren't home. Heh heh... ah well, one man's (or woman's) tomato pergatory is another man's heaven! (oh to be the neighbors!)

Well, I'll probably order one or two. (LIAR! screams my conscience...;-)) It's an affliction. Maybe others have it, too. The urge to stockpile THE most wonderful, unique seeds that promise adventure and mysteries to come. I've never grown heirloom seeds. Anything I've gotten has been either a hand-me-down starter or something from the local Home Depot. I have two solitary Roma tomato plants trussed up to stakes and soldiering on in a big pot in the backyard. I've been told one can grown tomatoes here in Florida clear through the winter, so that one pot is my experiment. So far, one of the vines has six fat green tomatoes going strong, and the other vine is full of blooms, so we'll see. But whatever the outcome of those, there is The Great Tomato Unknown that has yet to be explored. The tomatoes I've been seeing out there, the heirloom sort, come in all shapes and sizes and colorations and tastes.

I know...these have probably been around forever! But for one who grew up on red beefsteak tomatoes and was never exposed to anything else much except for the grocery store cherry tomatoes or Sweet Santas, this is a big discovery! Since I want to learn how to can, it sends visions of sauces, pastes, relishes, pickles, soups, etc dancing through my head. I want my daughter and husband to taste the differences between the sweet ones and the pungent ones, and to know the difference between low-acid and high-acid, and the nuance between "hearty, smoky flavor" and "mild hint of melon." Imagine what we've been missing out on! Were the average person to regularly be exposed to this feast of flavors, no child would refuse their vegetables again. They'd start boycotting Happy Meals.

So, in my bid to save the world's palate One Tomato At A Time, here is the INDISPENSABLE (ha! ;-)) list of seeds I presently am trying not to covet:

(Names and descriptions are as shown from the site. If not all of them are heirloom seeds, don't tell me... let me enjoy my little illusion a bit longer)

The Heirloom Tomato Seed List 2007
(comments as shown on the above-mentioned website)

Black Prince
Originally from Siberia, this is one of the most popular and favored black tomatoes. Originally introduced from Irkutsk, Russia and is regarded as a "true Siberian tomato" that does very well in cooler climates. Until only recently this was considered a rare variety in the United States. However, its popularity has grown so much in Russia that there is now a company in Volograd that is producing an extract of the Black Prince called "Black Prince Tomato Oil." The Black Prince tomato is said to have considerable health benefits beyond the presence of lycopene. These deep garnet round, 2-inch (2-3 oz.) tomatoes are full of juice and incredibly rich fruity flavors. This is a tomato that chefs I deliver to rave about for its rich flavors. The small fruits contain deep rich colors on the inside. Perfect for patio gardens. Perfect for eating fresh, and in cooking in tomato sauce or other culinary wonders. (My note: To see the picture of this one is to love's glowing like a round dark purple plum with a blush of ruby red...beautiful!)

Cherokee Chocolate
Craig LeHoullier stabilized this rogue heirloom originating from the popular old heirloom from Tennessee, Cherokee Purple. This 4-inch beefsteak variety has developed a great following among celebrity chefs because of its exceptionally rich tomato flavors and wonderful chocolate mahogany color. (My note: who can resist exceptionally rich flavor and chocolate mahogany?? It sounds like the library paneling in a grand old house)

Aunt Ginny's Purple
A productive beefsteak of German origin that yields 1-pound, deep-pink tomatoes that are smooth with little cracking and contain juicy flavors that some people claim are equal to the Brandywine. From Rick Burkhart, (Indianapolis,IN) whose family has raised it for 25 years. (My note: the 1 pound part interested me, as did the picture...and the curiosity about what exactly constitutes "juicy flavors")

Homestead 24
Great for hotter growing regions in the South since this variety sets fruit under even in hot weather. Big, leafy vines produce huge amounts of smooth, red, round fruits with good taste. Resistance to catfacing. (My note: key here was the mention of hot growing region, big vines and overall abundant crop of good hearty tomatoes)

From tomato collector Charlotte Mullens of West Virginia. Large flattish yellow and orange flesh with some red marbling. A bi-colored beefsteak with great flavor and unusually strong flavors for a bi-colored (My note: I've never tasted any tomato that wasn't red. The colors of this one fascinated me, and the mention of unusually strong flavors...I don't prefer a mild tomato, or at least I don't think I do. At the present it reminds me too much of the flavorless hothouse tomatoes that are bland bland bland, but maybe I'm unenlightened as yet)

Charlie's Green
Large, 1-pound, green beefsteak with yellow hues when ripe. Every bit as splendid in taste as Aunt Ruby's German Green and found it to be slightly more prolific in production of fruit. (My note: Again, the 1 pound fruit. Also the yellow...I want a variety of color. "Splendid" taste and prolific production hooked me.)

Wolford's Wonder
Seeds from this variety came from a Big Tomato contest winner grown by Max Wolford. Produces large, firm, heart-shaped, 4 x 5-inch fruits that have thick, pink-red skins, but few seeds. Exceptionally juicy and very tasty. I can sum it up with, WOW!!! (My note: There were soo many tomatoes to choose from, I nearly passed this one over. But this one was pink-skinned, and the words "exceptionally juicy and tasty" caught my eye. And who can resist a "WOW!!!"?)

Homer Fike's Yellow Oxheart
Seeds set to me by Karen Teets of West Virginia who told me, " this variety was grown by Mr. Homer Fike for as long as his 78-year old daughter can remember. Beyond that, no one is alive to remember." The abundant amount of distinctively beautiful, yellow-gold, heart-shaped, fruit up to 1 lb. has been one of the greatest tomato pleasures for me. Truly a wonderful gift to place in the hands of a loved one or friend. Guaranteed to get a "WOW!" in response. Meaty flesh, few seeds and delicious fruit-sweet flavors. (My note: I'd have bought this one if for no other reason than it was named after Homer Fike. I'd buy a Homer Fike anything with a name like that. Any tomato named Homer Fike is going to get eaten at my house. The fact that it's described as distinctively beautiful and yellow-gold and a tomato pleasure was just icing on the cake. I'll be getting this one even if I don't get some of the others. Yes, I'm a sucker for a West Virginny name ;-))

Dr. Wyche's Yellow
Named after Dr. Wyche who supposedly lived in the mountains and fertilized his garden with manure from a nearby zoo. Undoubtedly one of the best tasting yellow tomatoes to be found. A beefsteak heirloom that produces slightly flattened, smooth, blemish-free, golden-yellow fruit with a meaty interior and few seeds. It's rich flavor and larger size sets this variety apart from other yellow heirlooms. (My note: Nice description, though "Dr. Wyche" was not bestowed as unique a name as "Homer Fike." But clearly this tomato has its virtues, and is a yellow.)

Lemony (aka Limmony)
From Craig Lehoullier who got seeds from Aaron Whealy. Limmony is one of the first Russian varieties popularized in the US. An abundant Russian heirloom. Produces 1-16 oz., 4-5", light-yellow beefsteak. Unlike most yellows this one is loaded with lots of luscious, big sweet tangy flavors. It's been one of my favorite yellows to grow for market. (My note: Yellow, and big sweet tangy hooked me. And the name reminds me of the children's book writer of the Series of Unfortunate Events series, which is a hoot! I know, I'm warped)

Costoluto Genovese
Italian, heat-loving, heirloom tomato that has been enjoyed for many generations along the Mediterranean. Large, deep-red fruits have a singularly fluted profile, are deeply ridged, and heavily lobed. Meaty, full-flavored, slightly tart, and delicious. Because of its scalloped edges, perfect for use in an arrangement of different colored sliced tomatoes. Makes a rich and pungent pasta sauce. (My note: Kudos for heat-loving, deeply-ridged, and heavily lobed. And the description of flavor. Beauty for the eye and robustness for the palate...yeah!)

Mortgage Lifter, Radiator Charlie’s
Developed by M.C. Byles in the 1930’s, this tomato remains very much in demand in the Mid-Atlantic states. Mr. Byles, affectionately known as "Radiator Charlie" earned his nickname from the radiator repair business he opened at the foot of a steep hill on which trucks would often overheat. Radiator Charlie, who had no formal education or plant breeding experience, created this legendary tomato by cross-breeding four of the largest tomatoes he was able to find and developed a stable variety after six years of pollination and selection. He then sold his tomato plants for one dollar each (in the 1940’s) and paid off the six thousand dollar mortgage on his house in six years. It is said that each spring, gardeners drove as far as 200 miles to buy Charlie’s seedling tomatoes. The large, slightly flattened, pink-red fruits that range from 1 pound to more than 3 pounds, are meaty, very flavorful and have few seeds. (My note: This is the other one that I'll be for sure getting, along with the Homer Fike one, even if I don't get anything else. The description and history won me over! With 1-3 lb fruits that folks would drive to get seedlings of, how could I possibly pass this up? I'd have to sell a lot of that to lift MY mortgage, though!)

O.K., it was hard narrowing the selection down to even THIS list. But I have no regrets. If it's the simpler things, like the serendipity of discovering the true range of diversity in something so basic as a tomato, think of what worlds await in so many other areas of the garden...or barnyard...or woodlot...or backyard?

If I order any of these, which I plan to, I'll keep notes here on their progress. And hopefully some pictures, down the line!

More later...:) Happy seed cataloguing!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Those Stinky Kitchen Scraps

I remember it grandma kept a plastic gallon-sized recycled ice cream tub (the round kind with the plastic top) nearby in her kitchen for collecting leftovers and scraps for her compost pile. I was unaware what happened to the contents once they left the kitchen, since I was not a big enthusiast of garden labor in the roasting Mississippi summers and preferred tromping around through the woods "exploring." I'm thankful for the luxury of that time she gave us to do just that...which is probably one reason all things have come full circle and now I'm the one wanting to put in the garden.

That was one stinky ice cream tub, though...whew!!! In went peels and discarded veggie tips and leftover morning oatmeal and onion skins. It wasn't emptied until it was full. Closed and sealed, you got only a whiff of the rotting contents, but opening it to add more and WHOA NELLY...disgusting! Ah, memories!!

We've tried various containers for our kitchen scraps. If this is any commentary on modern consumption, our scraps overflow anything we use to collect them. I tried the ice cream tub thing. It just fills too quickly, and we don't have a compost pile yet, since we've been burying the scraps in the meantime. J is just too afraid of luring snakes to an open compost pile, and we have little or no green material here to add to it, and no time to go deliberately hunt any down. We're not mowing a lot right now in the winter, though the grass is still just grows slower right now. But we need the clippings to be thrown back by the lawnmower into the lawn to keep it from burning later in the intense heat.

Oh for a place that does not require a lawn or "curb appeal"! I'll ALWAYS want curb appeal, but NOT the suburban sort. I think lawns are a silly invention, and certainly NOT a requirement for beautification. But American society has its conventions, unfortunately, however idiotic some of them have become. I'm all for disking is all under and putting in gardens right up to the roadside, or maybe a mass of flowers like cosmos, with mown paths. I suppose folks think they need time, and they want little upkeep, which is the tradeoff in our commuter lifestyle.

That's why we want to move further out...away. But I digress.

We got a nifty magazine in the mail today that features organic products and gardening items. They had the neatest kitchen pail with a charcoal filter top, and it looks fairly good sized, like a tall medium-sized kitchen garbage can. It claims to be Stink Free. It looks big enough to handle all the red onion peels we'd want to throw its way. But the better news was the selection of vermicomposting kits this magazine offered. Yes, I'm certainly a babe-in-the-hay beginner! I had no idea you could plop that kitchen waste into one of those worm houses, let them do their thing (I'm sure it comes with instructions and is a little lengthier process), and voila! Wormy composted goodness!!

(Laughing!! Oh the things we begin to cherish...)

I want one!!

That's on the wish list. For now I'll be trying to seal the top of the plastic tub before the reek of yesterday's leftovers hits me in a Wave of Stink...


Garden - Idea for Raised Beds

I was sitting here recently pondering construction materials for making square foot gardens or raised beds.

So many materials are just not cost-effective. Others are either difficult to find chemically untreated or will be a welcome sign for termites. Others are quite heavy and wouldnt be easily moveable if I decided to change the garden design at any point.

I need something with good moisture retention, but also adequate drainage. I need something that won't rot. I need a size that can be easily accessed and assembled. I need a low skill level of construction because I don't want another lengthy project at this time. I need it to not be an eyesore. And I just don't like the idea of using recycled tires, no matter how enthusiastic the following is out there. I grew up in Mississippi where more often than not a weed-filled tractor tire in the front yard WAS the adornment. I'm no snob, but it's just not my taste, and I do worry about the chemicals in that rubber. I'm not sure there's any grounds to my worry, but as someone very sensitive to fumes and such, the memory of tires left to bake in the sun and their resultant baked-rubber smell just doesnt equate with the lettuces, herbs, and root veggies I hope to tuck away in a raised bed. Probably just my own preference. It's the same preference that has so far kept me from experimenting with black plastic weed barriers, though I may someday change my mind if needing to cover a very large area.

Back to the subject. As I was sitting and thinking and thinking on this that night, I had a Eureka moment. Here in our office is the detritus from the other parts of the house...all collecting in not-so-organized drifts on any available surface until a later organizing inspiration hits. J has taken to coralling the stacks into a little more order by periodically purchasing those nearly-indestructible cube-like egg crates...the stackable squarish lid-less kinds with the "holes" in them.

The idea that came to me was in conjunction to my free supply of brown paper grocery bags and my need for a better soil than the hardpan that's on our property, which would take a fortune at this point to amend to prime productivity all at's going to have to be a gradual process. Well, what about the veggies and good things I want to grow in the meantime...affordably? The milk crates popped into my mind.

If I were to dig out the lawn sod a bit larger than the dimensions of my intended raised bed and then arrange milk crates side by side to form whatever shape I needed (such as 3 deep by 6 long), I could line the bottoms and outer edges with thick layers of brown paper grocery bags and then fill the interior spaces with quality soil mix and any amendments I'd want. The small spaces (an inch or two) between the the crates could be filled as well. This would essentially be a raised bed made of cubes pushed together into whatever shape is best, interior perimeter sealed off by a biodegradable barrier to keep in moisture, and soil filled into all the compartments up to nearly the top as a solid mass, which would help mass plants for shade and also would be nice dividers for different varieties of plantings. (Theoretically)

Would it be attractive, though, or an eyesore? I tried to picture it in my mind's eye. The outer edges were my main concern. The cubes are about 10 inches tall and are hard plastic, but not rubber. For plants needing even more depth, they could be stacked double to the same bed dimensions, lined and filled, since the holes in the cubes would allow for root penetration downwards. The question is about the beauty.

I could plant bushing flower plants around the exterior, which would correspond to my plan to always plant flowers among other plants for the friendly pollinator bugs that eat other insect predators. They'd have to be pretty thick and vigorous plants to really hide the plastic cube edge, though, and then there's the weeding. Whatever's "outside the box" would be more upkeep. Still, it's a thought.

I also thought of bales of hay, after seeing them in an organic gardening magazine arranged around seedlings in a square and supporting a prostrate window panel for a very nice makeshift coldframe. (It looked very handsome even though it was so easy to assemble...SO much easier to take down and put up when needed...just store the window panel till the next time around). J is not keen on the hay idea since he thinks that would be a perfect hiding place for snakes, which we have so many of here.

The other idea is to mound soil up the sides, which would not give exactly a crisp edge, but would act as additional insulation and moisture insurance.

Another idea that got me excited was thinking that after the cube-beds are fully assembled and filled, I could take a sharp blade and where the cube holes are, pierce through the brown paper barrier layer just enough to insert strawberry plants or other plants that would gladly grow out the sides, while still utilizing the top surface for other plants. I've seen hanging baskets done this way, and the effect is beautiful! I could tuck numerous types of herbs, like thyme, or flowers that way, too. Not sure I'd be doing that for beautification purposes, since it might look like one big mess, but it would be great for getting more use from it overall, and incorporating even more diversity in the plantings!

I haven't tried any of these ideas yet...but intend to!! I'll start small, with two. It's only cost-effective if done gradually, since the cubes run two or three dollars at the dollar store. I'll probably start with lettuces, since this is our ONLY cool time of year in Florida, and for the reason that I've never grown lettuce and this sounds like an easy way to start. To use just a couple of cubes for lettuce, I probably won't even bother to dig out the sod underneath, but will just put down a barrier of several thicknesses of brown paper bags, plop a cube on top, line it with more brown paper bags, fill it with good soil, and sow the seeds. It should be possible to move it to a shadier area as the weather changes, if necessary, since experimenting with it on a small scale.

I don't think this idea would really work on a large scale very economically unless someone had an abundant source of free milk crates (and no, those ones stacked behind the supermarket are NOT free for the taking :)). But we'll see if it's a good idea on a smaller scale. I'll try to document the process, and maybe I can convince R to take pictures I can post here. We certainly have NO idea what we're doing, but I'm trying to start with some ideas based on my conjecture of what might work best for the plants and my budget.

Let's see what happens!!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Brown Paper Grocery Bag Weed Barrier

Last fall, I started collecting kitchen vegetable and leftover scraps for a compost pile. The compost pile hasn't happened yet, but I wanted to utilize the kitchen waste to improve our very poor soil.

I also started collecting plain brown paper grocery bags at the supermarket each time I shopped.

We have not had the $$ or the time to devote to a united effort on a lot of the outdoor projects due to unemployment/job search priorities and other daily concerns. There is the matter of the vacant lot next door, which is part of our property. It was scraped of all its topsoil and leveled with fill dirt, which is some of the most unforgiving hardpan to try to cultivate when attempting to put in a garden of any sort.

J and I have not united our vision for that, since there are so many other priorities still pending first. But I did take a small section during the wet season, and began digging a 2' deep trench in which to pile layers of vegetable waste and newspaper. After filling the trench with those layers I piled on more newspaper, watered the whole thing down with the garden hose, and then piled the dirt back on top of the whole thing. The result was a raised row in which I stuck a couple of pepper plants, some mints and balms, some marigolds and some dianthus as an experiment.

I layered the contents of a few bags of potting soil over that, and then layered sections of brown paper grocery bags over all of it, around all the plants. And I watered it all in again. We had excess cardboard boxes stacking up after unpacking some of our things, so I layered that on top, too. And again, I watered it all in. I lay wooden stakes on top of the paper at regular intervals to be used until the barrier weathered and wouldnt blow away if a good wind came along.

Digging the trenches was backbreaking work. I'm out of shape, and it was not easy. I also wasn't sure about how quickly the kitchen waste buried underneath would begin to decompose, and I didn't want it dug up by our frequent racoon visitors.

It's now been about 3 1/2 months since I put in those short trenches with the cardboard and paper weed barrier. There's not been much cold weather to speak of in these parts, but there has been intermittent rain. The lemon balm has become a really big clump already, without the benefit of any watering or fertilizing from us. The orange mint is more low-growing and prostrate, but has vigorously begun creeping to all sides. The bee balm is holding its own, but is not experiencing the same burst of growth as the other two. It's so far a bit low-growing, too.

I planted the marigolds and dianthus in between the mints and the peppers in hopes that any pollinators such as bees and small wasps would be tempted to frequent the other plants as well. I'm also curious to see if they attract healthy predatory insects that keep the pepper plants, etc, free of pests. Just after installing about four peppers of different sorts, the jalapeno promptly gave up the ghost, and one of the bell peppers just withered and lingered half-dead. The other pepper plant produced warped strange-shaped peppers, just one or two, but we ate them just the same and they tasted good. The plant that bore small green chili type peppers just cranked out the peppers, though the plant itself looked a bit puny. It never got big, but I got several pickings of peppers off the plant before it bit the dust in December. I used the peppers in vinegar, and they taste jalapeno-ish...a wonderful vinegar for sprinkling on sandwiches and taco meat!

The marigolds attracted butterflies for the longest time. It's odd to see butterflies in December, but this is Florida, after all. I even see a few butterflies now in February, though not so many because it's been colder. There is also a very small flitting sort of bird that really enjoyed jumping around among the plants, likely for insects since I've never seen these birds at the feeders we have. They are smaller than a sparrow and greyish brown except for a faded cream breast and underside. They congregate in the Brazilian pepper shrubs that grow wild across the ditch, and they flit all over the place when not hiding in the brush. They seem to be quite active near the areas of standing or draining water.

When I went out yesterday to pull some weeds that had crept in among the surviving "trench plants," I just used the three pronged long-handled tool to loosen the roots of the weeds, and then just pulled them easily from there. I nudged back the paper layer to reveal a fairly weed-free soil underneath...evidence that the barrier, though not aesthetically wonderful, DOES work if layered thickly enough. It is easy to move aside and then back again. I weeded one trench and then layered two or three fresh layers of paper grocery bags. It's my continuing experiment. I also am experimenting with a particular section that has wild grass that I never dug up, weeds included. I just slapped several layers over that section the same as all the rest and watered it down. The rain today helped with that. I'm going to check it periodically to see if it's effectively smothering the existing weeds that I DIDN'T pull. I'll compare the two, and see if it's worth the trouble of smothering them first, or pulling first.

I'm not sure about repeating this trench construction using newspaper, since surely the ink contains a lot of chemicals. I'm not at all bothered by the thought of continuing to use the brown paper grocery bags. I'm not sure about brown boxes, either. I'll have to do some more research on that, but they sure were effective weed barriers.

If anyone's wondering, in the perfect world, I would have disguised the paper barrier with pine needles, straw, or a thin layer of mulch. But I didn't have any, and we don't have a budget for their purchase just now. Plus, it's in an out-of-the-way corner and I wanted to see how it would all weather. I predicted they'd all mellow to a similar color and a single layer. I was mostly right. They quickly weathered to a light grey and are mostly a single layer now, after all the rain of the past months, but I did have to leave some stakes as weights to keep the wind from lifting pieces of it off even now. If I had straw or mulch, that wouldnt be the case.

The nice part, though, is seeing the healthy clumps of the surviving plants thriving. The eye is drawn there as the paper barrier slowly decomposes to someday become part of the surrounding soil.

I'll be making the raised hills more level...they were a bit exaggerated and it's not necessary. I'm trying to not leave many gaps or holes or uneven places underneath in hopes that snakes will not set up residence. But I'm taking the precaution of not weeding with bare hands, as well as watching where I step. I know there are good snakes out there, but I just don't care to meet ANY snake under any condition. Call me primal, it's that Eve thing :)

Ah well, we'll keep watching the grocery bag experiment. It's fun to see the doubletake at the checkout counter when they ask "Paper, or Plastic?" and I actually reply "Paper!" Some of the baggers haven't ever bagged groceries in paper. Ah well, my plants send their thanks. We'll see in a few months if it's worth it. So far it has been if for no other reason than the ease of weeding.

Designing and building a Little House

My husband, J, wants us to ideally build our own home rather than try to renovate an existing structure. With his background in homebuilding, he knows how to build a really great house. He would like it to be nearly indestructible, safe, well-designed as far as efficient placement of plumbing and structural thingies, and powered with alternative power sources. He likes comfort and practicality...and $$ efficiency. He has great ideas, and it always amazes me that God put us together...we have so much fun discussing and planning, even when we butt heads over the details sometimes :)

My goal is for us to build very economically and to build to suit us rather than for resale. Our cottage is going to have to be aesthetically pleasing, even if it's very simplified. I don't see any purpose in custom building any structure if it's an eyesore. I've never been a big enthusiast of industrial-looking buildings, or ultra-modern minimalism. Given the creative blank slate from which to start the ideas process, my taste is running anywhere from log cabin to understated prairie clapboard to shake-shingle New England to traditional Irish cottage or gatehouse to vine-covered rough-cut shiplap to stacked stone storybook Tudor.

Using my husband's preference as a guide, we'll be steering clear of two major things: Wood as a building material, and a steep-pitched roof.

1. No frame house or use of wood as primary building material.
J is from Florida and prefers a hot or warm climate. His health does much better in that environment, so we'll never choose to relocate to a really cold-weather climate. Were we to thrive in very cold weather, we'd likely put wood at the forefront as a building choice, since we both love its insulating and rugged qualities, especially in log homes. The craftsmanship can be SO lovely in a wood house!! But we are both from hot-weather climes, and in these parts wood spells upkeep and damage from insects and mold. In short, humidity rots it, peels the paint, and welcomes termites with a big neon sign. He is used to masonry and stucco construction, which makes for a very solid home, though every type construction has its concerns. But this is firmly set in our negotiations...if we have any choice in it, we'll choose a masonry or other non-wood construction. We both love stone or stucco, especially if nicely finished.

2. No steep-pitched roofs.
J prefers a 4/12 pitch rather than 6/12 or steeper for the simple reason that he himself will likely be making any repairs necessary in the future, and it's a safety precaution. Yes, that did cramp my personal preference for the steep and unusual rooflines that are so charming in storybook style houses, especially since I like houses that look like they're historically rooted rather than just a modern contractor's cookie cutter style. I was not convinced we could build something "pretty" with this pitch roof, but after having driven around the outlying areas, I do think we can pull it off. We are having to forgo my preference for tucking a half-storey with dormers under a steeper roofline, though. Since we're aiming for a house that serves us best rather our serving it, J gets his say-so in this area. I'm not the roofing repairwoman ;-)

Regarding the roofing material itself, we've eliminated concrete barrel-tile as an option. It's beautiful, and that's what we have right now. But for ease of replacement, repair, and walking around on the roof, we'll opt for either metal, steel (slate-look), or standard shingles. We're leaning toward's a traditional country material consistent with what's been used rurally for a long time, and installed correctly, can be charming.

There's a big difference in construction and design depending upon whether or not a person plans to build for later resale or not. Right now, with our limited finances and since we're not in our twenties or thirties any longer, we're hoping to build a small cottage customized to our needs, with expansion possibilities if necessary later. We've been researching the latest "smaller is better" movement, and there are some beautiful and innovative small houses entering the scene. We won't be building what's recently been coined a "tiny house," i.e. the smart and teensy structures with one room and a loft, but that concept was at the heart of our design when we began trying to find a floor plan that would best suit our needs and our pocketbook when the time comes to finally stake our claim on a homestead. There are SO many fascinating websites devoted to the trend (and wisdom) of building on a smaller scale! All it takes is a Google search for "small houses," "tiny houses," "cottage plans," and "storybook cottages." I've gotten happily lost googling those searches many times!

More details about the Little House in another post...soon :)

The humble beginnings

We moved here last fall. We're currently in a house, and own the lot next door. The real estate market here took a nosedive, and has not recovered yet, so we're having to stay put until it would be wiser to sell and relocate. We also have a daughter who is launching into the college scene nearby, and for some important reasons we need to remain in this location for the next couple of years at least.

Our plan after that point is to find acreage somewhere that is low-tax and where we can start a small family ranch or farm (not sure how those terms are defined yet). Since we are in Florida, we want to remain in a fairly warm-weather state when we relocate. I personally would like for us to purchase a property at that time with as many acres as we can get for the money...preferably ones that have never been used for commercial farming (due to the poisons), and ideally including both woods and pasture. Florida is very expensive these days, and we will likely have to find another state in which to find affordable acreage.

In the meantime, and as we can manage while trying to rebuild our jobs and our lives (getting back on our feet after a time of reversal), we will learn and experiment, and take steps to get closer to our goal. We're convinced this IS the first part of homesteading! Making the necessary changes in mindset and lifestyle RIGHT NOW is crucial to the process. Our education can begin NOW. This blog will be a chronicle of our goofs and successes, and the fun we're having with each step! I'll try to separate blog entries roughly into topics. We've tried several things and are on our way in some areas. In the next few entries, I'll detail the baby steps we're taking right now, and of course ramble on about the dreams rattling around in our brains for the days ahead!

Homesteading Babes-in-the-hay

We're definately babes-in-the-hay...

No, not blonde bombshells on a photoshoot, but rather two fully grown adults who don't know radishes from rutabagas or an oak from an elm, but who want to homestead and do any number of the following out of the city limits, debt-free, and as self-sufficiently as possible:

1. Have a bountiful organic garden that supplies most, if not all, of our meal and pantry needs
2. Utilize the benefits of permaculture in planning and operation of the homestead
3. Enjoy life. Listen to the wind and water and animal sounds. Listen to each other more.
4. Participate in enjoying God's creation through both work and recreation.
5. Keep animals that are beneficial to the homestead and for pleasure
6. Establish a mineral-rich soil as the basis of excellent plant and animal care
7. Barter for some of our needs rather than always deal in currency
8. Provide free access to quality herbs, minerals, and water for family and animals
9. Small and efficient house and storage structures that are aesthetically charming and blend well with the natural surroundings
10. Have a place for family and friends to visit and stay
11. Have a smart and friendly family dog
12. Have barn cats
13. Have pastured or free-range chickens and poultry
14. Do as much of our own slaughtering as possible, conforming as closely to kosher slaughter as possible
15. Can and preserve our harvests.
16. Grow unaltered heirloom varieties of plants and flowers
17. Renew waste areas of land with native grasses, plants, herbs, and flowers
18. Include a proliferation of honeybee-friendly plants, flowers, and trees
19. Utilize solar power, wind power, and try to be powered off the grid
20. Learn skills that complement a self-sufficient lifestyle...learn to can, spin, crochet, garden, grind, manage, and repair.
21. Have a wood lot and heat in winter with wood
22. Be less dependent upon modern "necessities" and content with a more independent lifestyle
23. Keep on learning...always...innovate using solid good sense rather than fads
24. Keeping God at the center of every part of it all...this is the first and the last rule to live by!

I'm going to chronicle our process. So far, we've identified wanting the same goals. Due to the fact we're beginning at this age, there are some choices we simply won't make at this stage. We won't take big risks, go into debt, or opt for methods that are so labor-intensive that we'd risk a serious injury. We're short on manpower in strength and numbers, but we have a LOT despite that. So if we can do this, anyone can!!

Our first step is to

We're DOING that :) It's taking time. This is THE first step in our beginning our homestead. In the meantime, we can be learning, planning, and gathering expertise from others who are already living a self-sufficient or homesteading life.

There are many changes that can be made now, such as a change of mental orientation. The lifestyle we envision is one that is healthful and optimal for our NEEDS, not our WANTS. We've narrowed our wants down to a shorter list, though we are going to include them in the overall goals. We're not chasing after a monastic or ascetic lifestyle. But we are attempting to rid ourselves in stages of "the system"...the trappings of the so-called successful lifestyle that bind and gag. We want fewer gadgets and toys, less dependency on convenience services/products/foods, and a more proactive role in creating and sustaining a healthful environment.

We want to back away from processed foods and substances, entertainment industry's constant bombardment, and a societal culture of advancing moral decay. We want to be less reliant on money as a source of "security" and rather have security of mind that comes from a lifestyle of simplicity.

We may not embrace the same changes other homesteaders do. We'd love to have more children. We're not sure we can. We'd love to get back into top physical condition. We're not sure we can. We'd love to make everything from scratch. We're not sure that's going to happen. We ARE going to learn and make a LOT of mistakes, and hopefully have a lot of laughter in the process. We ARE going to be the richer for simplifying and concentrating on what God has us here for. We ARE going to be concentrating on our family's needs rather than on a career track or "achievements." We're going to learn to say NO more, even if some people don't understand. We're going to stay home more, deliberately, and explore FROM there rather than be ships passing in the night. We're going to give each person a special space and the tasks and tools to enable them to experiment at what they're best at doing and enjoy most. And we'll do the not-so-fun things together, too, only on OUR time schedule rather than a corporate office's.

We won't have to send memos, and if our lunch break goes past an hour, yippeee!! We'll have more muscles aches than carpal tunnel, more sunburns than typos, and more hours in the barn and kitchen than a daily commute.

We're starting now...small. Where God will take us, who knows?? Let's see what's ahead! This is a chronicle of the steps along the way. Two old farts living the dream...or at least trying to get closer to it!

And here we gooooooooo...................!!!!! :)