My, oh my, has it been a while. I swear it is for good reason. For the last 19 weeks I have been growing a human. Within the first few weeks exhaustion hit and all motivation went out the window. What little energy I had went to working my regular 45+ hours a week and the rest to any little help I could be at the property with barn building, house building preparations, chicken and bee tending, garden growing, and entertaining any people that stopped through town to visit this amazing region we call home. I had also just started the adventure of making soap in hopes to create a new business venture. My ultimate goal was to get enough made for Christmas season. Unfortunately, the last batch I made, and Almond Poppy Seed soap, which everyone tells me smells amazing, makes me want to gag even thinking about it. Not the best way to run a business. Luckily the energy is slowly coming back and the nose, while still in supersonic working condition, isn’t quite as repelled by a lot of smells (although as I write this I keep getting whiffs of some perfumey scent from down the hall that is making my nose burn and stomach churn slightly).
But enough with the complaining! There has been a lot of things happening at Stout Grove since July. The biggest, and most recent development (besides getting pregnant) is that we finally have started to build our house! Hopefully by the end of the winter we will no longer have to call Stout Grove “The Property” but instead can call it “Home”. With the exception of the looming mortgage in our future, this has been such a huge relief to have it finally under way. It is amazing how quickly a small crew of experienced people can build walls and get a structure built!
We have lost our queen bee, which is not to say a bad thing necessarily. We had been debating if it would be best to get rid of her and buy a new queen bee since she was not doing a very good job making the rest of the hive work hard and get enough food stores for the winter. There are 2 main schools of thought on this matter: One of, pinch her head off and get rid of her! The other being that the bees know what is best for them. If the queen isn’t performing they will eventually realize and get rid of her themselves and “grow” a new queen. Out of lack of knowing which was the best route, and sheer forgetfulness, the bees took care of the situation for us. What exactly happened is still a mystery to us however. It sort of appears that the old queen died and then the worker bees built an Emergency Queen Cell to quickly replace her (More information about this in a later post – I don’t want to get too rambly right now).
The vegetable garden has slowly dwindled down, although we still have some carrots and potatoes in the ground waiting to be picked. Since this is the first year the garden has been in this location and the soil has not been amended at all, and since we don’t currently live there and are busy as heck, we started this season knowing that the garden probably wouldn’t perform optimally. In some aspects we were wrong, but it others, we were dead on. After a heavy rain storm in mid-July all of our tomatoes got what appeared to be late blight. Within 3 days they were deader than dead, all the fruit rotting off the vine and pretty much unsalvageable. From everyone else that we talked to in the area, this was a common occurrence. Our beans also got bean beetles, a creature I never knew existed until they were covering our plants with their unique pointy larva. The corn we planted never got very tall. When we finally checked some of the ears to see how they were doing on their miniature stalks, we noticed that the kernels were way too large to be tasty. Apparently all the energy that wasn’t going into stalk growth was going into ear growth and we never realized it until it was too late. Yet another lesson learned. On a positive note, our okra went wild. I had never grown okra before and had no idea that their production and growth was so high. There is a lot of frozen okra in our freezer for the winter. Our potatoes did pretty well too. We definitely don’t have enough for the whole winter but for the next few months we will be enjoying good, homegrown taters with our meals. The squash also went crazy. I don’t know how many spaghetti squash we have. More than enough, that is for sure. The pumpkins didn’t produce a ton, but we will have enough for a good number of tasty desserts, that is for sure. Overall we are pretty pleased with the garden this year. We wish that we could have devoted a little more time to it and not ignored it as much as we did, but there is next year. It will be hard to ignore when it is steps from our front door.
Another exciting thing to happen over the last few months is that our chicks are now chickens and laying eggs. The months of feeding them with no return on investment is done. Now we are swimming in eggs and giving them to anyone who wants them. Out of the original 17 chicks we got, 1 died in the first week, we gave 4 to a friend, 1 ended up being a rooster, and the other day another unexpectedly passed away. So all in all, there are 10 laying hens producing eggs of all different sizes, shapes and colors. We will no longer have to buy eggs from the store and are one step closer to self-sufficiency.
So for now, the garden has slowed down, the bees are hunkering down for the winter and the chickens are laying eggs like crazy. Winter has finally made an appearance this last week with a fresh cover of snow and daylight savings time has turned our day-lit work days a little shorter. Life is good. I can’t really say that it has slowed down to a standstill, but there is definitely more time spent relaxing on the couch at night when it is too dark and cold to be working outside, and I am not complaining about that. However, the addition of electricity and a wood burning stove to the barn has been a tremendous help in getting last minute projects done when we can. In the meantime, I will let my husband pick up my slack while I keep busy growing a child and helping here and there where I can. . . . and I promise to not be such a stranger again.