This is a pretty common scene at the homestead
We got some heavy, wet snow last night and with the leaves still on the trees, it’s caused quite a mess. We lost three of our five apple trees that are producing, including hundreds of apples that hadn’t ripened yet, and about 30 other smaller trees plus a bunch of branches. Didn’t lost power, and no real damage to anything.
The ducks, though, are unfazed.
Hi all, I know it’s been a while, and I am really sorry about that.
So, to catch you all up, I’ve gotten married, moved onto a great homestead and am working as the outdoors writer for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. I promise to do a better job going forward of detailing our homesteading experience.
Anyway, to help soothe over any hard feelings about my lack of effort on Middle of the Trail, here’s a picture of our new ducklings, Forbin and Ophelia.
I was recently interviewed by the Buffalo News for an article on the challenges that two escaped killers face in the woods of the Adirondacks. The article gives great insight into their mental states, and helps explain why they have been able to be elusive for so long. You can read the full article here:
Welp, I finally got one of those fancy phones with a camera and the ability to connect to the internet. So if you’re interested in seeing lots of pictures of chickens and hiking trails, follow me on Instagram at @JALEVINE6
Oh, and if you follow me, I will follow you back!
When you already have a garden, one of the best ways to benefit from it long-term is to save and store the seeds that your garden produces. Instead of buying seeds every year to plant, why not just save a few from each plant and use them again next year?
Of course, some plant seeds stay and store better than others. Also, letting certain plants get to the point where they are producing seeds can mean that they are not all that useful for consumption. But you can always plant an extra one or two and allow them to go to seed. Most plants produce more than enough seeds for you to have a viable garden the following year.
Aquatic plants and large-seeded plants (such as oak, avocado, etc) are very hard to store. Larger seeds tend to need a fair amount of moisture to remain viable, and the amount of moisture required will lead to fungal growth and rot in a short period of time. If you have oaks around, harvest the acorns and make nut butter right away. Let the squirrels bury the seeds for you, and you’ll have some new trees in a few years.
These seeds, unfortunately, really need to be planted right away in order for them to germinate. However, there are a wide variety of seeds that you can save all winter long, and maybe even for more than just a single winter.
Small seeded plants, like most garden vegetables, are relatively easy to save. These seeds are what’s called desiccant-tolerant. This means that they are able to survive and remain viable even when dried out.
Peas, carrots, beans, and herb seeds are all very hardy seeds that can handle being dried and stored for long periods of time before they lose their viability. However, you do have to be careful how you handle, dry, and store the seeds. You can’t just grab the seeds off of the plant, throw them in a baggie and then plant them next spring. Well, you could, but there are ways to improve the chance that those seeds produce healthy plants for your garden.
Seeds, like any other organic matter, are subject to rot if not handled properly. The reason an individual plant produces so many more seeds than is necessary is due to evolution. This adaption takes into account that a large portion of any seeds produced will either be eaten, rot, or not survive until adulthood.
By properly drying and storing those same seeds, however, you can greatly increase the amount of usable seeds you have. One individual plant will produce more seeds than you could possible use before the seeds are no longer any good.
The first and most important step in preserving seeds is drying them. In nature, most seeds spend the winter months frozen in the ground, where the ice crystals actually make the ground very dry. The seeds should be spread out in a shady, cool, dry place. Also, don’t make a pile of seeds, spread them out thinly on paper towels or something similar.
Properly dried seeds will show basically no flexibility. Beans and peas will be rock hard, and larger seeds will not bend. Obviously, larger seeds need more time to dry than smaller seeds.
If you live in an area with high humidity, then you will probably want to use a desiccant. Those little packages of silica gel that you get for free with a new pair of shoes are there for a reason: They make it so that your new shoes are not all moldy. They do the same thing for seeds, though you probably want to buy some silica gel instead of using the packages from your shoes.
Once the seeds are dry, place them in an air-tight container like a glass jar or baggie. Store them slightly below freezing, and they should be good for a very long time. Just try to think what a seed goes through before it germinates, and you can have an idea of what needs to be done to save them.
Saving and storing seeds is a long-running activity for those of us who garden and want to be self-sufficient. By properly drying and storing seeds from your garden, you can almost guarantee that you will never have to buy seeds again.
Hot showers. Man, I could literally write an entire column about how much I love hot showers. It is such a pleasure to take a shower each morning. I used to get up and throw wood in the stove and then stand there and let the heat wash over me for a while before I got my day going, but now I can let the heat of a hot shower actually wash over me. It’s one of the main reasons I get out of bed every day. Well, that and work and animals to take care of and my soon-to-be wife and stepson. But really, the shower is the best part of my morning.
It’s nice to be back after the summer hiatus. Audrey didn’t want to move into my cabin, and I can’t say I blame her. And her apartment was only a little larger than my cabin, and just as drafty. So we looked for a house to rent starting in the spring, and found one rather quickly. The rental housing market up here is cut-throat, and we were lucky to get into a house that we could afford with floors that weren’t too uneven and decent windows and insulation. Three weeks after we moved in the house was sold, and we were on the hunt again.
It took us most of the summer to find another house to rent. We found one and have now settled in. Well, physically anyway. I am still in awe of the wonders of modern living. Light switches and hot water and indoor pooping are all wonderful things. Unfortunately, the light switches are in odd places so I’m still sporting the headlamp every single day.
And despite the changes, Pico is still lying on the couch next to me and Midget is crowing in the yard. We’re working on a new coop for the flock, which has grown and changed some. We have four new girls, but Blondie was causing trouble, so I took her to a friend’s. We lost one hen a few months ago to a fox in the yard, but other than that the girls are doing good. We get far more eggs than we can eat, and two of the new hens haven’t even started laying yet. We’re going to be giving away a lot of eggs.
As I get used to modern amenities and family life, I still think about the cabin a lot. It was harder to move out of that place than any other house I’ve lived in. Hell, most of my apartments I couldn’t wait to get out of. But that cabin was more than just a house, it was home. It was a part of my everyday life. And that’s the biggest difference I’ve found. I don’t care about my house now so much. But the loss of the cabin has been replaced by my new family, and it’s definitely been a worth-while trade.
Rainy and in the forties. This is the worst type of weather I face all year. I know, the snow is just gone, and I had to have my chickens live in a tent in my kitchen for a few nights, but hiking in and saving the chickens from the bitter cold were easy decisions. This weather presents a much tougher decision: whether to burn the precious little dry wood I have left.
Even with a few weeks off from the cabin this winter, my wood supply is quite low now. The wood I found over the winter isn’t quite dry enough to burn, and it’s a tough call to use up wood when it’s still above freezing. If the temperature doesn’t dip too low, I’ll bundle up with a sleeping bag and run the little propane heater for a little while in the morning before it warms up outside. But this cold damp calls for a fire.
I’ve got the glass doors wide open, and the fire is crackling away behind the grate that keeps the sparks in. I didn’t realize how much of a difference the new stove really made until just the other day. I had a fire going with the grate in place, and when I came back in I noticed a smell I hadn’t smelled in some time. The cabin smelled like wood smoke, and it was actually pleasant. That smell had been ruined for me by the old woodstove, which used to belch smoke inside with such regularity that I was sometimes called the Walking Woodstove.
I like being able to hear the pop and crackle and have an unobstructed view of the flames. Sure, it’s not all that efficient to use the grate, but honestly, I don’t want it too hot in here. The trouble with the temps in the forties is that it’s too cold not to have a fire, but too warm if I do have a fire. And there’s the rub.
It’s just another one of life’s seasonal transitions out here. I have to make calculated decisions on heating and the wood supply. But I also have to be comfortable. It can be a grueling choice to make. There have been, however, several choices I’ve made recently that were considerably easier.
The first was to order more chickens. Amy and I split an order, and I picked them up from the post office yesterday. The little chicks were peeping like crazy in the seat next to me on the way from the post office. With the weather being so damp and cold, the chicks will be staying at Amy’s for a couple of weeks. Plus, I don’t want Midget to get too rough with the new girls. They have to be big enough to put him in his place, even if judging by the behavior of Whitey, Brownie, and Blondie he is quite the charmer.
I’m excited to expand the group with a few new girls. A silver laced wyandotte and three Auraucanas are going to be joining the flock in a couple of weeks, just when the weather gets nice. In addition to these four new girls, I took a fertilized egg from each of my current girls to Amy’s. She has a hen that’s very broody right now, and I thought it would be fun to see if she’ll hatch some of Midget’s offspring. This hen was just sitting in an empty nesting box when I got there. She’s so intent on sitting on eggs that she wouldn’t get up when I pushed her. I had to lift her butt and put the eggs down underneath her. She made a quiet noise and settled back in, so we’ll see how it goes.
And finally, as much as doubling my chicken flock may impact my life, this final decision will no doubt have a bigger impact. I’m sorry to say, but I will in all likelihood not be living in this cabin at the end of the year. I asked my girlfriend to marry me, and for some strange, unknown, and possibly unknowable reason, she said yes. And fortunately or unfortunately, my little cabin is no place for us to start our lives together.
I give her a lot of credit for putting up with my living situation for so long. For almost two years she has never once complained about the toilet paper being in the oven, or having to hike in, or being covered in dog fur when she leaves. I guess I owe it to her for us to find a place that has indoor plumbing, electricity, TV, internet, a refrigerator, and an oven. I can go either way on the electricity or TV, but my bride-to-be deserves nothing but the best. And in my opinion, indoor plumbing is the best. Jeez, I’ve been out here too long.