Ok...it has been a VERY LONG TIME since I last posted. As I said in my previous post, we have had a lot of things going on. So, time for an update (warning - not everything is homestead-y in nature):
At the start of the New Year, my daughter's long engagement ended and she moved back home. There was an adjustment period for everyone and now things are much better. As a result of all the stress during that time, she had some health problems that required doctors, hospitals, and tests. For now things are quiet and we hope they will remain that way as long as she takes care of herself.
Winter was not as bad as the previous year, but, since we didn't have any "killing freezes", the result is a PLETHORA of bugs now. Everything was able to over-winter so there is an abundance of every kind of bug imaginable! The chickens seemed to weather the cold well - I was nervous as this was their first winter. We still averaged about 2 eggs a day (from 4 chickens) throughout the winter months. We decided not to use supplemental light in the coop as Mother Nature has a reason for the slower egg production in the winter to give their little bodies a chance to rejuvenate. Now, we are back up to about 3 eggs a day, with the occasional one egg instead. There have only been two instances of "overnight laying" where the egg was on the floor of the coop in the morning when I went down to let them out for the day. They were both fully formed, just very thin-shelled and no color on the shell. So those got thrown out into the woods. Emmy Lou appeared to have a broken beak about a month ago - not sure how she did it. But we figured one of two things would happen - a) she would be unable to eat and would have to go to freezer camp, or b) it would heal and all would be fine. It took about 4 days, but she was able to eat and had no other changes in her behavior and has now made a full recovery. Keep in mind please - the chickens are livestock, not pets. There was no question that we would not be taking her to the vet. There would not have been anything they could do anyway - it's not like you can splint a broken beak. But as I said, all is fine now.
At the beginning of April, we had to put one of our cats down. Princess was 19 years old and was not doing well. When we took her in to be put down, the vet said her kidneys had already failed and that we were making the right decision. We knew in our hearts that it was, as she had started suffering, but it is still never easy. So now she is with Tessa and hopefully the two are having a grand ole time!
My daughter graduated with her associate's degree in May and we had a party for her and a few of her close friends here at the house. My husband made an octagonal picnic table for the party and it will be handy in the days to come. We removed the spa that we only used once from the back patio and put the table there instead. It looks fabulous!
My husband has re-engineered the log splitter and is currently rebuilding it. The I-beam he used the first time was not as thick, so when a tough log was being split, the end would twist and pop like it was going to break, causing me serious heart palpitations each time it happened! The new I-beam is about twice as thick and will solve that problem. And my husband is having a ball with the all welding he has to do to put everything back on it - engine, pump, hydraulic oil tank, etc.
The garden is growing in leaps and bounds this year. We have already harvested our first green beans and one yellow squash. We have "tomato trees" - they are almost six feet tall! There are tomatoes already on them - some are already the size of baseballs! I had tried carrots again, and was disappointed in their size after two months in the ground. I don't think I will do them anymore. Our potato plants are HUGE! I have to figure out another way to grow them instead of in the raised beds. You can't pile dirt high enough when the plant is two feet tall. I had planted some tomatoes from seed and they are doing well. Then we also planted some starts from the local nursery and they really took off. We also planted 3 kinds of pepper plants and they seem to be doing well. I planted green beans, yellow squash and lettuce from seed, and onion and garlic sets - all are coming up grandly. We have 3 beds - in one, I put the "used" bedding from the chicken coop and let it sit for two months. Seems to be working well. Another, I used the leaf litter from the chicken run as a mulch and it has really kept the weeds down except along the edges where grass is just starting to come through. The last bed, my husband put black cow and 10-10-10 and that is where we have the "tomato trees". All three methods seem to work - I guess we will know which is best when the vegetables come in.
This spring we bought a camper - 1992 Jayco 25 ft. We only had to make some minor repairs to it and have already taken two camping trips with it. So much nicer than tents and tarps! It has a/c and heat, gas stove and oven, microwave, stereo and a bathroom with a very small shower, but at least we do not have the use the "community" showers at the campgrounds. The first trip was to Bassett, VA - Philpott Lake in April. The last trip was to Wilkesboro, NC - Fort Hamby on Kerr Scott Reservoir in May. So much easier to load up and go!
So, we have been busy...lots going on...and I think I have finally found my desire to write again. I hope you all made it through the winter and spring so far without any major headaches or heartaches. Thank you for being patient with me!