We’ve been busy around making things sort of officially official – branding ourselves, as they say (shudder). Remember, this is a bare-bones operation, no fancy stuff here. Logo, new address for this blog (now rockbottomhomestead.farm), stamps, bags and a bread delivery next week! We’ve upgraded supplies for breadbaking and are considering sourdough pizza dough and flatbreads for options. Homemade Pasta plus a variety of bready bits like hamburger buns, biscuits, and Duende is very excited to offer cupcakes! Ha – somehow we’ve stumbled into being a bakery though that is just a ‘new’ affair to add to our repertoire.
Very soon it will be tree pruning time (the peaches, pears, and plums all need to be ‘topped’), the old apples shaped – cutting off the dead wood. The grapes and hydrangea cut way back. High on Josh’s list is cutting scions this year for grafting. And then – it’s maple sugaring time! We’re amping up our game this year. Last year we tapped about 20-25 taps, and this year we’ll likely be able to do 50-75. We made enough for us to last about 6 months (we did give and sell a few pints) – it sounds crazy to go through that much syrup but we use it for coffee, in baking and cooking. It gets used as our primary source of sweetener. When we don’t have that we use local raw honey (we really love Tom’s Honey – you can find them at the Portland Farmer’s Market). We are considering bees of our own but not quite yet. They would be great for better apple pollination so it’s another step we’re almost ready for.
In between pruning and sugaring – it’s seedling time! Again, last year, Josh made some great shelving with adjustable lights and heat pads so that we can make our seedlings happy and strong. I’ve yet to successfully get strong enough onions from seed (they end up working as companion babies in the garden but never really get to be actual onions, I end up throwing all their little starts into my pickles by the end of summer). We keep renovating all the rooms, however, and so I am running out of spare rooms to put the seedling shelves (the porch would be great but is really only 2 season, Winter not being one of them, and we’re not plastic encasing people). I think this year we will try and house them in the unfinished laundry room. I thought when we moved out here I’d be a beet and squash farmer. I could see myself out there nerding out on hand-pollinating my squash blossoms. The first year we put our garden way up on the hill where it was hard to water (dragging a giant apple cart full of buckets of water was not the best) and though everyone told me it wouldn’t happen – I got weird mutated hybrid cucumbers (a cross between pickling and round lemon) that tasted fine but were not pretty to look at (I should have practiced my hand-pollination on those). My beets never came up, and my squash had the worst case of cucurbit and squash bug infestation EVER! All the books and the blogs and the stories tell you NOT to spend $400 on seeds when you first start homesteading but I will officially say – I don’t regret it. I made A LOT of mistakes and I learned a lot. Sad to say my romantic dreams had to change – but I still love the success of my potatoes and corn, herbs, tomatoes and garlic, green beans and dry beans, and finally carrots (that last one took forever for success). I still have terrible luck getting peas in on time (always coincides with school travel and I miss my window), and the cabbage moth decimates my cruciferous and brassica every year. My other nightshades – peppers and eggplant perform ok but not as great as I’d like and I swear I just can’t grow spinach. I am a little too successful at radishes but it’s mostly because I use them as companion planting and let them go to seed (the early pods are great to pickle but then the radish itself isn’t really edible, I had a 3lb one last year- all woody and split and ginormous), but the bees really love the blossoms (I’ll go off more on companion planting as we get closer – it’s a preoccupation of mine). All this talk of seedlings, I might have to go add to my FedCo and Baker Creek order…
Duende is excited to be growing a batch of catnip for both her and the cat (I wonder if that will make him more amenable to her dressing him up in handmade clothes – she will tell you all about her Cat Clothing Design business, if you like!).
I think there is just enough time in this Winter to crochet a new batch of dishcloths, a new french press cozy, potholders, handwarmers, and finish another rug.
Happy Wishful Spring Thinking!