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How Does Our Homestead Grow?

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

Our welcoming committee!

I’ve been “gone” a long time, and when the children kept asking about another post, I knew it was time to get back at it. I’ve been getting in hot water with some of the rest of you too!  How Does Our Homestead Grow?   This unplanned “silence” happened as we spent time digging into sustainable agriculture and a few other new “loves.” I can’t write blogposts WITH the children, so it has fallen farther down the priority list. But they like seeing our journey documented and will hopefully enjoy looking back on it after they are grown.  And yes, I know you have been waiting for this update a loooong time!

Our off-grid homestead has continued to grow and develop, especially with Silver Oak taking seriously the challenge to spend more time working at home and less in town doing landscaping away from the family. A true homesteader makes his living off the land. Since this homestead is still in the making, the transition is a little tough financially. But it is good to see progress and learn to live with less expenses. The more sustainable we become the fewer expenses we have and the more we can work toward being productive here.
How Does Our Homestead Grow?

Our "house" in the background

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

Stepping back for a bigger perspective

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

The chicken coop and milking barn to the left of the red shed

How exciting to see the herb garden planted last spring brighten with new and maturing growth. In central Florida we supposedly don’t experience four seasons, but living closer to the land we see definite differences in plant and animal life never noticed before. This winter we enjoyed herbal teas of mints and stevia from cuttings dried during last summer’s vibrant growing season. Now lemon grass and mints have sprung back to life and stevia seedlings fill in between mature flowering ones. Lavender is flowering beautifully, waiting to be used in salves and other applications. Oregano is doing great, but we miss opal basil and thyme lost in heavy rains last September.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

Part of the herb garden in front of the house. Notice the volunteer tomato bed on the left where there once were papaya trees.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

More herbs: oregano, aloe, lavender...

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

New red malabar spinach growing in old shoes next to blackberries

Sustained freezes this last winter killed some tropicals, but our moringa and most other perennial vegetables were protected with fire barrels, frost covers and candles. We couldn’t save most of the volunteer papaya trees that shot up in late summer. Some were 12 feet tall with lots of fruit, but it was no use. After a losing battle the gardens looked like a plant graveyard. This summer we will start more in the greenhouse where they will be protected next winter.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

Barrel fires protected Farmer Boy's bananas and other plants...

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

The orchard looked like this countless times...

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

But these poor papaya trees were some that didn't make it.

There are at least 10 pineapples growing on the plants we started from pineapple tops in the summer of 2012. Now they are large and thriving, and we hardly did anything but stick them in the ground and water them occasionally.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

Less than two years ago they started as tops stuck into the ground.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

Pineapples a-growin'

The 12 varieties of clumping bamboo planted early last fall are thriving in spite of being decimated by escaping goats a few times. And 18 of the 22 olive trees planted last fall are thriving. Some were lost by digging armadillos which we have yet to outsmart (oh dear, I just learned we’ve lost a few more that were uprooted by armadillos and died with the high temps and no rain).

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

Farmer Boy waters a young olive tree with Cheyenne, our new puppy

We have new slips of last year’s Okinawa sweet potatoes growing, and hope to do a better job this year of harvesting at the appropriate time. Last year was our first with sweet potatoes and we didn’t harvest till they were HUGE and ugly! The biggest one was just under 10 pounds! It contributed to three meals for our family of eight, and although it was difficult to clean and cut up because of its size, it tasted very good.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

The giant sweet potato

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

Beautiful purple pattern when cut open

Last spring’s sugarcane planting was harvested early this year, and we had a wonderful time grinding it the old fashioned way with our neighbor who has been raising sugarcane for years. It was an educational experience and we made new friends as we helped harvest his larger plots of cane by hand just before a big freeze. Now we’ve expanded our sugarcane plot by more than double with cuttings from last year’s crop.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

Most of our small sugarcane harvest

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

Pushing the canes into the mill...the juice runs out at the left

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

Honey Bun helps skim off the top of the cooking cane syrup

We put down several more huge loads of mulch from our tree trimming friend as weed barrier, moisture retainer, and soil feeder, expanding our perennial and annual growing areas. Often we put down cardboard first. The difference between mulched and non-mulched areas is quite obvious.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

Notice the areas previously mulched vs. those that weren't

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

We place cardboard over the weeds, and wet it...

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

...then cover it with several inches of mulch

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

It will take a while before weeds appear here!

There are some “weeds” we welcome however, such as clover, Spanish needle, sow thistle, young polk plants, violets, wood sorrel, and Florida dandelion. They become excellent nutrient dense fodder for Evenstar’s rabbits and the chickens, so we pull or trim weeds and greens as feed is needed.

Other welcome “weeds” are volunteers from our composted barnyard scrapings and seeds fallen from last year’s perennials or annuals, such as cranberry hibiscus, Malabar spinach, roselle, sunflowers, marigolds, squash, and tomatoes. We transplant them or, if they pop up in an appropriate spot, we thin them and nurture them as though they were planned. We’ve harvested a surprising amount of food from such volunteers with very little effort.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

Mystery volunteer squash...is it butternut?

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

The first of many beautiful and tasty tomatoes from this year's volunteers

A beautiful new addition to the gardens are bamboo trellises constructed by Silver Oak and his father last fall when his parents visited. The bamboo used was cut from landscaping customers’ yards and part of a load we hauled away from someone on Craigslist wanting to get rid of it. These sturdy trellises add so much character. I am waiting to see how this year’s Cucuzzi edible gourds grow on the biggest one.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

Silver Oak with his father building the bamboo tunnel in the raised row garden area

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

Tunnel completed...waiting for spring to support vines.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

It adds beauty to the garden.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

Here it supports Cucuzzi edible gourd, madiera vine, and butternut squash.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

Cucuzzi will probably soon take over the entire tunnel

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

The unusually high heat and lack of rain the past few weeks are taking its toll

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

Another bamboo trellis covers part of the camper on the front of our "house"

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

Another view of that trellis which will soon be overgrown with jasmine and passion vine

With lots of little peaches on our young peach trees, we’re enjoying our first homegrown peaches. They are incredibly tasty!  A citrus tree planted in the fall of 2012 died so we replaced it with persimmon. We’ve also added Florida apples, a neem tree, starfruit, and sea grape. We side-dress them with decomposed manures from the barnyard, never using store-bought fertilizers.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

The flavor of these peaches doesn't even compare with those store-bought picked green and shipped from afar!

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

The first oranges from our citrus trees!

 

How Does Our Homestead Grow?
Gulf Fritillaries in the yard

 

An encouraging sign of homestead growth is the increase in birds, butterflies, and other creatures attracted. We now have cardinals, mockingbirds, ground doves, ringneck doves, finches, towhees, red-wing blackbirds, hummingbirds, wrens, woodpeckers, quail, and other birds. Hawks visit, but our watchful dogs are instantly alert when they appear. Butterflies often seen fluttering around include monarchs, zebra longwings, gulf fritillaries, sulfurs, swallowtails, and viceroys. These beneficial birds and insects, along with honeybees and ladybugs, frogs and lizards, help with pollination and insect control. Less noticeable are the abundant earthworms living in our once pure sugar sand, speaking of great changes in soil matter.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

A butterfly in front of the house newly emerged from its chrysalis

Next week I’ll update you about our attempts to raise chicks sustainably, new members of our homestead, our bio-shelter (greenhouse), the off-grid power supply and windmill pump, and new skills we’ve learned.

Blessings,

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

PS. Click here to see the list of “beyond organic” foods available through Full Circle Farm, and sign up for email notices of when and where in FL they will be delivered regularly.

Linked w/Natural Living Mama, Chicken Chick, Barn Hop, Growing Home, Backyard Farming Connection, Down Home Blog Hop, Frugally Sustainable, Homemaking, Wildcrafting Wednesday, HomeAcre Hop, Old Fashioned Friday, Little House in the Suburbs, From the Farm Blog Fest, Farmgirl Friday, and Heritage Homesteading.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?

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18 Responses to “How Does Our Homestead Grow?”

  1. Barbara Dougherty says:

    So glad you are back! Can’t wait to read more. :)
    That tomato looks so yummy…

  2. Charlotte Moore says:

    WOW!!! You all have accomplished lots. Good to hear from you all.

  3. Cari says:

    Wow!!!! So glad you back :) can’t wait to read more about your sugarcane harvesting and processing.

  4. ivylover says:

    WAS EXCITED TO SEE YOU POSTING AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If I would blog I’d have a lot to blog about… but no time to blog so I feel blessed to hear from you :) We also have added a guinea, hen, rooster and 6 chicks – the black and white ones. At the present we usually get an egg a day and got the chicks “said to be hens” one is looking very rooster-ish. so time will tell.
    Can’t wait to hear/see more!!!

    • Rose Petal says:

      I’ll bet the kiddos like having those birds around. We’re thinking of trying guineas again…we’ll see. Glad to hear from you!!

  5. Noel says:

    I’m so glad you’re back! When i saw your reply on Sunday, I started squeeing and Max thought I was crazy for a minute :)
    The update is awesome- it’s amazing to see how much work you guys have put in and how much the homestead has grown. It looks AMAZING. I hope you realize that I’m shamelessly cribbing ideas from your awesome family for when we build ours!

    • Rose Petal says:

      You sound like an adventuresome person! :) Thanks for your encouraging comments about the update, and about our family. The Lord has blessed me far beyond what I deserve. He is a gracious and merciful God!

  6. Noel says:

    Oh! And would you please write sometime about how the kids feel about sharing space so closely? It’s one of the things I’ve been curious about… how do you and Silver Oak as adults handled the lack of privacy? How do the kids, especially the teenagers, handle it? I’d have trouble with it, so i’d love to see how you guys work with it.

    • Rose Petal says:

      Our kiddos really enjoy it, prefer it, because that is what they are used to. Our 19 yo was gone from home recently and called one night badly missing everyone because she had to sleep in a big bedroom alone at her grandparents’ house. So funny! I would have thought she would be relieved to get the chance! I think it’s really great for family relationships and closeness. It’s our goal for our children to be each other’s best friends, and it is possible. Everyone does have their own personal space which is respected by all, and there are specific times and places everyone dresses and has quiet time, etc. Since our house is tiny we are outside much more of the time than if it were bigger, and there is plenty of space out there. :)

      Silver Oak and I have a separate bedroom with a regular door, so we have privacy when we need it. And we try to have a date one night every week. Hope this answers some questions, but I really might just have to write a more detailed post about it sometime.

  7. Gentle Joy says:

    I LOVE seeing your homestead!!!! Thank you for sharing this……….. we have our “homestead wannabe” here in the city and our hearts yearn to spread out more… in the country – someday, maybe…… What a challenge you face… and what a blessing… may you have a great year with your family in this journey. :)

    • Rose Petal says:

      I think urban homesteading is so cool! No space gets wasted like tends to happen out in the country. But I do agree there are great advantages to living out in the country. I pray that the Lord will fulfill that desire in His time and way.

  8. Kathy says:

    So nice to have you back! I wondered how you fared the long winter. Love your posts and missed them! :)

  9. Jenny says:

    Enjoyed reading your update. I have found cardboard and mulch to be a great way to control weeds too. I look forward to reading about your chicks. We just got our second batch two weeks ago. Thanks for sharing at the HomeAcre Hop!