Homestead Tour in Photos

While I’ve been mostly absent from the blog-o-sphere lately, lots of things have been happening around here.

Here’s a photo tour of what we’ve been up to lately.

In the Grow Zone:

Ready to be potted up.


It didn’t take long for them to outgrow the growzone. They’re now sunning themselves by the window.


In the Greenhouse:

The tomatoes outgrew the window so they were transfered to the greenhouse.
Where they were followed by more and more growing plants.
The best luck we’ve had with strawberries and pineberries is to pot them first, let them grow a bit, then move them to their permanent home. It’s more work, but at least they live.


In the Garden:

The only surviving pineberry from last year. The original plant is right at the bottom of the photo. This is the little berry that could!
Fourteen yards of mulch! Thank you Chad for moving ALL of it!
This picture should be called “Correcting a Wrong”. We skipped the cardboard under the mulch last year and it had me wishing I could put “less weeds” on my Christmas List.
In this photo, I see all the things we still need to do. It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s reality.
The Spring 2017 Balcony Shot.
Garlic growing and looking pretty great. Hopefully it likes rain!
Garden bed expansion project. We ran out of cardboard so the bed is still sitting like this. It’s been a week. Maybe I should make a bet with myself to see how long it will stay like this…
Transplanting some strawberries to a better location. That means we didn’t really plan ahead when we planted them in the first place.
The crazy blackberry patch.
Check out these Aspara-guys!! Is the plural form of asparagus just asparagus? We should change that.
Daisy is posing between our new peach trees. She’s still out there waiting for them to produce  juicy, ripe fruit.
They’re not in the garden, but they want to be. I think they’re trying to be statues so I don’t see them.


In the Garage:

Prep work for the new babies. We build very fancy digs for our chicks, as you can tell.
Daisy knew exactly what was going on and kept hopping around waiting to see the chicks. Fun Fact: they hadn’t arrived yet.
Here they are! Six baby fluffy butts.
Meeting for the first time. Is Daisy thinking, “They’ve brought home something even cuter than me!” or “Little nugget, you’d taste delicious with some honey mustard.”?
Did she just lick her lips?

That sums it up for the last bits of April and the beginning of May. I didn’t capture rain photos, because, let’s face it, we all know what that looks like by now!

Stay dry!


Happy (belated) Easter

The kids are back to school after a great 4-day Easter weekend. I love long weekends with the kids. They always go by too fast. We had 20+ degrees both Saturday and Sunday and I’m not gonna complain about that – I had forgotten what a nice warm breeze felt like. I spent hours and hours and hours outside pulling weeds and edging and transplanting and potting up. Oh, I did spend time with the kids too!

Here’s a small photo recap of the weekend. I didn’t take many pictures because I was mostly covered in dirt and I didn’t want to damage Maude (my camera – yes, she has a name. She’s very special to me!) or my phone (who will remain nameless).

In the Grow Zone:

Herbs growing like crazy have now been potted up.
Yes, I’m organizing my grow zone by colour. I love it!! Tomatoes are red, herbs and flowers are blue. Yay for multi-coloured solo cups! 
I watered them and they all shot up and started touching the lights. I moved about 15 yesterday. I woke up this morning and had to move 10 more. Crazy kids!  
Not everything is growing well. Here is a tray that just didn’t have great germination. I’ll direct seed the ones that didn’t work and cross my fingers that they’ll grow. 

In the Greenhouse:

I transplanted this lettuce into larger pots last weekend and left it in the greenhouse to see what would happen. It’s growing! Yay for cold tolerant crops! 
I planted ‘Winter Greens’ in the greenhouse last spring and let it go to seed. This is what happened. Yay for volunteers!

In the Great Outdoors:

One of our 6 fruit trees. They’re all beginning to look like this. Yay for new growth! 
Hanging out with the teenager and the dog. Yay for warm weather! 

That pretty much wraps it up for the weekend. We’re heading into a busy couple of weeks here, volunteering at the school even more than we usually do. Chad and I are both hanging outside with groups of kids this week. He’s teaching baseball skills to 8-10 year olds and I’m geocaching with 12-14 year olds. It has nothing to do with homesteading, but it does include getting kids outside and that’s something we’re both pretty passionate about. For three seasons anyway. Chad likes winter, but I struggle with that season so we tend to stay inside quite a bit. I’m going to put it out there into the interwebs that I’m going to try harder to like winter. I promise I’ll try. But first I’m going to enjoy spring, summer and autumn.

I hope you do too.

Ah, Spring…

I always think autumn is my favourite season. Until April rolls around. Then I remember why I love spring best of all. The grass is so green, the trees are full of buds, plants are popping out of the ground. Even when the weather isn’t so warm, I want to open all the windows just to hear the birds singing again. And when I do, Chad follows along behind me closing them all back up again. I opened a window just now because he’s not here.

Once again, the seeds I planted last month have exceeded my very low expectations. I’m not sure why I doubt a seedling’s ability to grow. It happens all the time. And yet I’m still shocked when it happens here. There are plenty of seeds that have done absolutely nothing and I will have to replant a few things, but overall, the growth has been amazing.

All of this growth means that our grow zone is bursting at the seams right now. I spent most of Saturday potting up tomatoes, which really crowded the shelves.

‘Before’ all the potting up. Lots of space on the left side. 
‘After’ and all filled up. Seats are limited at this venue. 

I apologize for these pictures. I know they’re terrible.

Potting up took way longer than I thought it was going to take, but it felt so good to have my hands in the dirt again. The radio was on, the girls came outside to enjoy the weather, and Chad was working on stuff in the greenhouse and the shop.

My corner of the shop. 
These tomatoes looked so good. I can totally picture them on my burger. 
I love solo cups. They make such great pots. Plus, I can throw them in the dishwasher and use them again next year. 
You  can see the ones on the left were really sad to leave their baby room. They definitely all went through a period of shock but quickly bounced back. 


The herbs are also growing like crazy and I think I’ll be potting them up this week.










Even the peppers are growing. I hesitate to talk about them too much because I don’t want to jinx them. Maybe they’ll pose for some pictures later this week.

And now, even though the sun is still fighting through the clouds, I’m going to go hang out a load of laundry. Yay for spring!






The Grow Zone Project (How-to and costs)

Any homesteader will tell you that the number of projects is never ending. That’s probably the best part for me. I love building things, researching them, and coming up with new ideas on how to put them together. Our Grow Zone Project was no exception. Here is a quick peak at the final product.


Last year the Blackwell Gardener (Christina) asked me to put together a set of shelves to grow our seedlings on. I know a bit about wiring so I put a set of two four-foot tube lights on four separate shelves. We had some of these kicking around so I re-purposed those for the grow zone. The results were not great. I had cords running all over the place and we had to remember to plug the lights in every morning and unplug them every night. Two lights was not enough to encourage good growth and the standard bulbs I used were not the right ones to encourage leaf and stem growth (more on that later). This year I decided to do things differently.

Christina needed more room this year to start more seedlings for ourselves and some extras in case anyone wanted to buy some. We started by purchasing a second shelf unit from Canadian Tire ($130 on sale). The next step was to move from two bulbs per shelf to four. We needed to buy additional light fixtures and thought we would check out the Habitat Restore here in Sarnia. Luckily they had some for $20 for each shelf ($20 x 4 shelves = $80). To hold the fixtures in place I drilled holes through the fixtures and ran zip ties onto the underside of each shelf (pictured below). This proved to be a lot easier than wire! I then started running wire into each of the fixtures. When I did this I wanted to make sure it was as safe as possible so, everything is grounded, I used proper fittings to secure the wire, and I used 14-2 wire ($30).

For the first shelf unit, I ran all the wires down one of the corner posts and into a junction box at the bottom.  Then while talking with a very kind employee at Home Depot, we came up with the idea of putting each shelf on it’s own switch ($26 – shown below). That would serve as my junction box and allow us to turn each shelf light on and off as needed (save on power where we could). We also plugged both shelf units into our Christmas lights timer to help with having to plug and unplug every day.

Lastly I picked up the bulbs. Since each shelf needed four bulbs, we needed 16 bulbs per shelf unit at $6 a piece ($6 x 16 bulbs = $96). While standing in the aisle at Home Depot (I was that annoying guy on his phone) I researched the best bulb and found out that the best bulbs are Daylight (5000 wavelength) or Natural Light (6500).

Some things to consider:

  1. We are currently using T12 bulbs which are the least efficient. When these bulbs are worn our we may replace them with LED.
  2. This shelf unit is NOT water resistant. We know we have to be careful, but it may be a good idea to put a layer of plastic on top of each of the light fixtures.
  3. Currently the lights are stationary. We are seeing how that goes and may make them adjustable. For now it seems to be working well. The plants are stretching toward the light a bit, but there seems to be enough power with 4 bulbs per shelf.

That was it! Two lighted shelf units for a grand total of $362 each. That’s not bad compared to a 3 shelf unit from Veseys for $800 plus shipping. The added bonus of getting to build something was icing on the cake!


Beautiful Surprises (04/03) 

I forgot on Friday! So here’s one for a Monday instead. 

Finding a volunteer plant of any kind. Well, except maybe stinging nettle. Because, ouch. 

In my case, it was a volunteer rhubarb. In the greenhouse. 


Blackwell Bog

They say “April showers bring May flowers”, right? Let’s hope so. If we get even the bare minimum of rain the forecasters are calling for this week, we could be in for about 60mm by Friday. Yikes.

Several times a year, our backyard becomes a small lake. March and June seem to be popular months for this to occur.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane to the times the backyard has become a waterlogged bog and I’ve taken pictures of it, shall we? After going through all of my photos, I feel like I must have missed a bunch of rainy photo ops. In my head, it’s happened more times that the photos suggest.

June 23, 2015
June 23, 2015 – Esme’s posture pretty much sums up my feelings that day.

I thought for sure the garden was doomed. I’m pretty sure it rained again within about 5 days of this rain, but I was too devastated to take a picture.

July 6, 2015

Everything dried up and we only lost a few beans and some peppers (they hate me anyway). All that rain made for some super delicious lettuce that summer.

And this is where there might be a gap in the photos.

March 24, 2016 @ 3:30pm
March 24, 2016 @ 7:15pm

This rain bummed us out a bit because we had been on a gardening roll and this brought it to a halt in a hurry.

March 26, 2016

The rain was nicely drying up, but there were still puddles for Esme to jump around in. And then, two days later…

March 28, 2016

The farmer’s field beside us (not pictured here) was so wet for months after this rain, they couldn’t plant anything there.

June 16, 2016
June 16, 2016

Again! What’s with the major rain right after I plant all the things??! Ignore the neighbours’ property in the background (that’s what I do, anyway).

January 12, 2017

A nice winter rain. And then if froze overnight and looked very pretty the next day.

January 13, 2017

And then, because Mother Nature was confused this winter, it rained instead of snowed again (!!) five days later.

January 17, 2017

We never did get a snow day this year. The kids actually started praying for a ‘flood’ day because that seemed more likely.

March 31, 2017

Last Friday’s rain wasn’t as bad as it has been, but now it’s Sunday and the ground is still squishy. We’ll see what the coming week brings, but it doesn’t look like I’ll be getting to the winter clean-up anytime soon.

I usually love rainy days, but right now, I really want to work outside. This could be a long, long week for me. Good thing I’m still painting!


Signs of Spring 

Daisy and I were out walking around the backyard today, looking for signs of Spring. We didn’t see any asparagus, which makes me wonder and worry that it didn’t survive (we’ll plant again if it didn’t). We didn’t see any flowers growing in the backyard. Still too early, we think. There are a few in the front yard though. We also didn’t see any perennial herbs springing up yet. 

We did see some new strawberries far from their original location (I’m always shocked at how far they travel). 

And our Magnolia and Peony trees both have lots of beautiful buds.  

But, the most exciting thing we found? 

Garlic!!! We planted it last fall. I say “we” because Daisy helped. And by helped, I mean she kept bringing me her ball and barking until I threw it. 

But the garlic has popped through the straw mulch and looks great! 

And then we played ball again. Because that face is irresistible. 


I’m Still Painting, and the Plants are Still Growing….

I’ve saved the worst of the painting for last (that would be the stairs), but when I’m not painting, I’m watering and watching the baby plants grow, grow, grow. IMG_0595












I may or may not be spending a little bit too much time taking photos of all the seed babies. Whatever, everyone still has food to eat and clothes to wear. Don’t judge me.





















Spring Break

Spring break has come and gone again. The weather kept us inside watching Harry Potter and playing Zelda, but no one complained about how we spent our time. 

When I wasn’t hanging out with the family, I was busy doing all the regular, boring stuff like washing dishes and doing laundry. 

I did manage to complete a small project though. Our oldest daughter requested a wall for quotes, so this is the solution I came up with: 

Chalkboard wall on the oddly shaped part of the hallway.

The problem with completing a small project like this is that it awakens in me a desire to paint more things. Like the entire hallway. Upstairs and downstairs. And that means all the trim also. And the spindles. And the railing. And the front door. And that’s what I’ve been doing this week. 
Taken just after the first coat was completed. See the difference?
It makes exactly zero sense to start painting projects now. I’ve had all winter to do this stuff, but now that it’s officially spring, not only do I have a plethora of outdoor chores to do, I add “paint all the rooms” to my list. 

But while I’m busy painting, the seeds we planted last week are busy growing. It’s so fun watching all these little babies grow! 

The weather forecast doesn’t look good this coming weekend, so I’m hoping to complete the painting before the weather entices me outdoors. And maybe by then, some of these plant babies will be ready for a move outside as well. 


Beautiful Surprises (03/17)

The first seedlings of  the year.

Little baby mustards.
Teeny weeny thyme on the left and centre and tiny chamomile on the right.