Looking Back and Forward to the New Year Ahead
by Anne-Marie Miller (Dash)
I don’t know about you, but on my homestead the looming projects and improvements can seem a bit overwhelming!
Take for instance my fence; part of it is trying it’s hardest to emulate the yoga position of downward dog, while the other part is straining to accomplish the lotus position. The two sections seem to be at complete odds with one another, and sadly the funds are not there to get everyone moving in the same direction!
Then there is the blueberry bed which we created last Spring, with the full intention of BLUEBERRY BUSHES to be installed. Hence the name blueberry bed! It seems however that in my part of the country, Dallas Texas, we have alkaline soil and blueberries need acidic soil. An acidic soil mix costs a bit more than we have at the moment. So, sadly the blueberry bed waits, vacant for, well, blueberries!
Then there is the orchard, which is at the moment, filled to bursting with, not apples, pears or peaches, but ELM TREES! Do you have any idea how much it costs to remove a good size elm tree? It is safe to say that it is more than we have at the moment!
You get the idea, sometimes it seems to be two steps forward and 14 steps back!
This is why I think it is sooo important for every homesteader to record their accomplishments for the year! This way we can see that we have done a great deal, sometimes against great odds. I don’t think I am alone in the need to know that I am making progress towards my goal of self-sufficiency.
So, with that in mind, here is what we accomplished this year at Bloom Where You’re Planted.
I would love to hear what all of you accomplished. If you don’t share it with me here, please write it down for yourself. Give yourself a HUGE pat on the back, don’t knock yourself facedown in the mud now, but raise a toast to yourself and how far you’ve come this year!
We started out the year with an intense colony of bees that were a wee bit too intense for us. Can you say AFRICANIZED! After an unsuccessful attempt at requeening; Thanks to my bee keeping friends this hive was removed from behind the community garden, where it had attacked us, the lawn mower man and the pastor’s wife! It was safely moved out to the country where it could be re-queened and turned into a honey making rock star! Thank you to my friends for jumping into my nightmare and helping me!
The warm weather of Spring brought a silent killer to the homestead; the parasite coccidiosis. We suffered staggering losses in our rabbit colony. We pulled together and became stronger, closer, smarter, braver and more resilient as we fought this enemy. For more info about what I consider to be the #1 enemy of the Urban Homesteader see my article: HERE
Bloom Where You’re Planted took you tube by storm
meaning we started making videos of our adventures! We overcame a lack of both equipment and confidence, and just dove in head first. We discovered the “Princess” (She has 4 brothers!)had cinematography talents like we had never imagined. We also went through video editing pains as we learned how to record our journey. See our you tube channel Bloom Where You’re Planted, HERE.
We started out Spring with 12 new baby chicks, one of which turned out to be a rooster! We built a grow out pen for these chicks that fit through our gate! We used them to weed unwanted Spring growth and then put down mulch. Way to go using chickens to work on an urban homestead! We tried out the no crow rooster collar; see our video review HERE.
We learned how to cut the cost of raising our flock by fermenting grains and pasture raising our chickens in our neighbor’s backyard! We continued to raise insects for our egg laying divas. All this translated into soo many eggs for us, which we made into delicious dishes for our family! Kale and Spinach just kept producing! We still have a bit left in the freezer!
Back to bees; we caught a wild swarm in our trap. If you want to see how to build a swarm trap, see HERE.
My friend Henry and I successfully settled these girls in a Langstroth hive. Super proud of us for working together to settle these girls, which was a first for both of us!
Speaking of firsts, I got a package of bees in the mail! My sweet brother-in-law helped me perchase my first package, which I installed into my amazing top bar hive, custom made by my brother Bo, who is a very talented carpenter! It was amazing, and I feel so blessed to have loving family supporting me! See us install our first package of bees in my new top bar hive HERE.
We had a bumper crop of tomatoes! Yum, they were so good. My favorite varieties were; Super Fantastic, Juliet cherry roma and sweet 100!
We struggled with my nemesis, the Squash vine borer, to harvest some wonderful zucchini and yellow squash. We harvested red and yellow onions which we enjoyed all year. As the Summer set in, we planted Egyptian Spinach, sweet potatoes, okra and melons. Ohh, the sweet taste of Summer!
Right before family vacation, like the day before, I found my bee hive had no queen! A quick transfer of fresh bee eggs from the Langstroth hive was necessary. So instead of picking out the best outfits and swimsuit for vacation I was picking out the best bee frame to take out of my Langstroth hive and place in my top bar hive. We hoped they would use the 3-day old eggs to make a new queen. It was a success! Victory!
We went “framping”- farm/camping for the first time. We were saved from severe weather by changing our plans at the last-minute and camping at a friend’s farm! This is where we learned that Nigerian dwarf goats are LOUD! Like super loud, at 6:00 in the morning! No goats for us, yet. Maybe sheep? How loud are sheep?
We caught another group of bees in our swarm trap! It was an amazing experience! We put them in a Langstroth box as we made plans to build a permanent home for them in a top bar. See the whole adventure HERE.
We learned an important bee keeping lesson as the first check on our new hive uncovered an invasion of small hive beetles. My bee keeping mentors saved the day again by recommending moving the hive into a nuc(small 5 frame box) and putting in a beetle blaster trap. This combination of corrections worked great! The hive was humming along at the end of Fall, looking great going into Winter. Thanks guys! See the invasion of the hive beetle and how we saved the hive HERE.
We went into the Summer with lots of cool fresh water stored, thanks to a good friend of mine installing gutters. The gutters poured life giving water into our rain barrels! It felt fantastic to make the most of this precious resource during the dry time. We did a step by step video of how to make and set up a rain barrel. It was easy, watch HERE.
For the first time we planted fresh little tomato plants around the 4th of July and were rewarded with a bumper crop of Fall tomatoes. The variety that did the best for us was called 4th of July. That’s easy to remember! See our front yard garden in full swing with the best P.R. department (flower border) so far. Those flowers help us look good to the neighborhood and the pollinators! Watch HERE.
We provided a little shade from the intense August sun with a cattle panel and shade cloth. We were rewarded for our efforts with a bumper crop of bell peppers! We made stuffed bell peppers, froze some and roasted some to jar up with oil and garlic, Yum!
In August, Houston was flooded, and we had our own flood of emotions as our “Wild One” was in a serious car accident. Miraculously, everyone walked away unhurt. I discovered a hidden advantage to homesteading as the needs of my animals pulled me out of my “emotional funk.” Maybe it isn’t all about the bottom line. Maybe there is more to homesteading then that. Come with us as we visit a friend’s farm and discover how healing a homestead can be HERE.
We continued to eat and feed our animals Egyptian Spinach up until Fall. We harvested sweet potatoes and ate lots of okra gumbo!
We Got a Homestead Dog
She is a work in progress as we began training her from day one to be around chickens and rabbits. We are all learning to stay the course and be consistent. We love her, and she is helping us with our fitness goals because we must walk her to diminish her abundant energy!
Did I mention it was the “year of the bell pepper”? We stuffed them, sautéed them, put them on pizza, sandwiches and ate them fresh with humus dip.
We tuned into Greg’s seed saving school and continued to learn a skill that is foreign to us; harvesting our own seeds. One lesson that we learned is; to test out the gathered seeds right away. Don’t wait till you are late with your Fall planting to find out you have a low/or no germination rate! Watch HERE.
We planted garlic because you can NEVER have enough garlic! With these cloves we continued the Salo family story. This garlic came with the Salo family from Salo, Italy to America to be planted, enjoyed and passed down through the generations. What an honor to be gifted these beautiful bulbs!
We fought rats and roaches on the homestead, finding the best ways to defeat both. Perhaps due to the rats and a warm Fall we fought the insidious enemy, coccidiosis again. Sadly, our rooster succumbed to this parasite. We said goodbye to our rooster Bo watch HERE.
We started our rabbit breeding program as the cool weather set in and welcomed new life on the homestead. Nothing so sweet as baby rabbits!
We ended the year by using all our wonderful animal fertilizer to get the front yard garden ready for Winter planting. See how we get our veggies to grow like crazy HERE.
As I write this we have beets, carrots, lettuce, spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, swiss chard, collards, garlic and herbs growing in the Winter garden. See how to grow fresh organic veggies all Winter HERE.
If you can believe it, when I sat down to write this article I was discouraged. There is always so much to be done with very little funds and time to do it with! However, as you can see, a ton of great things happened here at Bloom Where You’re Planted this last year; things worth celebrating. I bet on your homestead a ton of great things happened too. Take time to sit down with everyone involved on your homestead and make a list of all you accomplished and celebrate the fun you had doing it! You might find, as I did, that you have a lot to be proud of.
Anne-Marie or Dash (for the hyphen in her name) is an urban farmer in Dallas, Texas. She raises chickens and rabbits on less than ¼ of an acre. Plus, she has turned her front yard into a large stand-out-in-the neighborhood vegetable garden. In addition to the farming she does on her homestead, she helped create a community garden literally from grassy field to thriving garden. What stands out about her little urban homestead is her determined out of the box approach to overcoming obstacles. You can follow her adventures on her little urban homestead by visiting her blog, BloomWhereYourPlanted.com.