In an effort to document our journey through homesteading better and more tangibly, I’ve decided to do a “Homestead Month in Review.” I’ll write monthly articles encompassing all the things we accomplished on the homestead. I’ll also be documenting recipes I tried, knitting and crochet projects I finished/ started, and things I learned. I hope this is a good resource for you as well, and gives you some inspiration and encouragement in your own homesteading journey!
What We Accomplished
We accomplished four big things this past month.
First, we tapped our Silver Maple Tree for sap in order to make maple syrup. This year we executed the processing more successfully, but we still had a low yield overall. This is because we ran out of time to process the full amount we harvested and put the rest in the garage thinking it would stay (the internet said so!). After six days we returned to process the rest and it had gone bad. It was all milky, slimy, and smelled musty. While that was a bit of a bummer, we don’t depend on that tree for syrup (it’s just a novelty since we only have one tree), we still felt good about the experience since we learned how to tell when sap goes bad, and how long it will keep.
Second, we bred one of our Silver Fox Rabbits, Flora! This was such an exciting accomplishment, and we are waiting with bated breath for their arrival. We’ve taken bets on how many kits we think Flora will have: Mike thinks 8, and I think 11. I’ll put an update on this post once she has them! Overall the breeding process went remarkably smooth. We had been talking about doing it for a while, but this one particular day the weather was nice, we didn’t have too much to do, so I said let’s do it before we talk ourselves out of it! We put our buck Buddy in the exercise enclosure and then Flora. I’m not kidding, the whole thing took maybe five minutes. I’d heard of some people having trouble with the buck not being interested or the doe not being very nice, but I think Buddy and Flora were a match made in heaven because they hit it off right away. In our preparations for her kindling (giving birth), we have learned a few new things that will impact our next breeding. I’ll share those in the “Things We Learned” section.
Third, we finally cleaned out the garden. We had gotten most of the plants out in the fall, but with me being 8 months pregnant at the time, we just lost steam. So there were still a lot of tomato vines hanging around as well as stakes, plastic sheeting and just general messiness that needed tidied up. Now all the stakes and tomato cages are piled neatly where we can get to them when transplanting, all the frost fabric is folded and put away, and the plastic sheeting is thrown out (we’ve decided that 6mm plastic sheeting is just going to have to be a yearly expense for us, because folding it and storing it nicely after you’ve used it is nearly impossible, and we have no motivation to struggle with it).
Lastly, we got some seeds started! We bought a cheap plastic greenhouse to help our seed starting operation since we ran out of room last year. Since we have that I felt brave starting some things a little earlier. I started four types of peas in egg cartons which I will transplant out around mid-March. Then during the last week of the month I got brassicas sown (brussel sprouts, several different types of cabbage, and cauliflower), as well as beets, turnips, celery, onions, and some lettuces. I hope to use the green house to my advantage to get these things outside sooner rather than later, and enjoy some early spring harvests!
Normally my husband handles all the meat. Grilling, roasting, etc… he does it. But he’s been working more lately and we have a lot of bigger cuts of meat in our freezer. So, I did a rump roast for the first time, and it was AMAZING. If you’re a fan of roast beef, you’ve got to give this recipe a try!
Also, Lent started, which means Mardi Gras happened! I celebrated Mardi Gras by making some homemade Jambalaya, and whipped up a simple Shrimp Fried Rice for our vegetarian meals on Ash Wednesday and Friday. For the fried rice, I used avocado oil instead of vegetable oil, and grated fresh ginger since we didn’t have any ground. It was delicious! I liked both the recipes, and will definitely be adding them to our lineup!
The Downtown Cardigan
I finally finished my Downtown Cardigan! I found the pattern by Stephanie from All About Ami last summer when I was pregnant with Evie, and I made it my goal to finish the sweater by the time she was born. Well, I was about three to four weeks late, but that’s not too bad in my opinion! I used some alpaca yarn (I lost the label so I don’t remember the dyer!) I got at a local yarn shop in Lakeside, Ohio when I was on vacation, and I love it! It’s super light but super super warm. My only complaint is that it sheds a lot which I didn’t think about when I bought it. But, now that I know how it behaves, I will have a much better idea of how to work with it next time!
This knit cowl worked up so quickly, and it’s going to be my next pattern coming out in March! I had left over alpaca from the cardigan, but I wanted something sturdier, so I paired it with some Red Heart acrylic yarn, and the result was wonderful! It’s super warm and lightweight, but doesn’t shed and has more structure. Plus, in terms of designing, it gave me the mindless knitting I was looking for during that time. I could honestly just make a bunch of these knit cowls over and over because I loved seeing how the marling turned out as I went, and the repetitive nature of the pattern was very soothing.
Now I’m onto a new design for a dear friend. I can’t say too much, but I started swatching some different stitch patterns and I’m very excited to see how things turn out! I at least have a picture of the swatch so you can see what color I’m using. That picture also shows the tasty hot fudge sundae I made to enjoy while working on it 🙂
Things We Learned
Last but not least, we learned some things this month! Our goal is to always be learning, so I hope I never run out of things to say in this area.
I found out about a planting technique called Multisowing. Charles Dowding, a gardener over on YouTube uses it to get higher yields in smaller spaces of his garden. It also works hand in hand with no dig gardening, which is one of our goals. It also can help the plants withstand pests better when they are young, since they are bigger as a clump, rather than one little seedling. So this year I am planting my beets, turnips, and some of my greens this way to see if I can grow them successfully. Here’s hoping!
Breed Rabbits Two (or more) at a Time
If you’ve made it this far you know this is not what we did. We chose to breed one of our rabbits rather than both, because we don’t want to be inundated with potentially 15-20 rabbits when we have no experience raising them from babies yet. However, after we bred Flora we watched a video from Teal Stone Homestead and she recommends breeding multiple rabbits at a time so you have fosters if the mother rejects her babies or something happens. I’m keeping my fingers crossed we won’t have a situation like that and things will go smoothly, but at least we know now for the future!
Thanks for Making it All the Way to the End!
This was a lot of info, but it will be a great reference for our family in the future, and hopefully give you some inspiration as well! Comment down below with what you accomplished/ learned this month!