Category Archives: Preparedness

Next Year

Next year in the garden
Everything will grow
All the plants I’ve started
Every seed I sow

The carrots will be plenty
The tomatoes will not blight
The borage won’t take over
The dill won’t win the fight

I’ll fight off every thistle
I’ll pick off every pest
No cabbage will be ravaged
The beans will be the best

Next year on the homestead
I’ll regroup and I’ll seek
To learn from all these lessons
To fertilize each week

But this year I’m so thankful
For everything that’s grown
From lettuce, herbs and berries
To sweet smiles from my own


An Unplanned Adventure

The boys and I belong to a Forest School Co-op. We meet weekly at a park, forest preserve or nature center to play, explore and experience the great outdoors.

It is pretty amazing what the kids come up with no adult interference. They just play and let their imaginations lead them to new and exciting discoveries.


We met at a local park with trails that led to a beach. The kids had a blast building volcanoes, splashing through the water and finding shells to take home.

We were the last to leave the beach and we took what I thought to be a shortcut back to the van.


Turns out, I was wrong.

I kept thinking the trail we were on would lead us to the parking lot at some point.

Stubbornly, I did not want to backtrack. I just knew the parking lot was around the next turn.

“Just a bit further boys and we’ll be back to the van.”

The boys were wet and full of sand from their playtime on the beach. I was tired and starting to get irritated.

Then Joe saw a turtle.


“Look at that turtle Mom!”

Jake saw little minnows.

“Look, fishies!”

I saw the unplanned adventure we were on and my irritation melted away.

We were lost in the woods. Granted, we were on a trail and could hear civilization through the trees, but we didn’t know where to go to get to our van.

I pulled out a compass Joe had packed in his backpack, handed it to him and told him how it works. With a little help, he figured out which way we were facing.


We’d parked in a restaurant’s lot so I pulled up the map on my phone. We were a 20 minute walk from our van.

“Which way do we need to go Joe?”

“That way,” he said pointing to the flag on the map.


So we headed “that way” munching on apples and looking for birds, frogs, turtles and deer.


We came upon a wooden walkway where we saw huge dragonflies chasing each other and flittering from reed to reed.

Tiny fish were swimming in the water, a few small turtles were sunning themselves on logs and a big snake was slithering through the tall weeds.


It was one of the best adventures we’ve had because it was not planned. I could have let the irritation fester and negatively impact our walk.

But Joe saw a turtle and Jake saw a fish and, just like that, they pulled me out of my bad mood and into an amazing and unplanned adventure.

Adventurous boys
Taking me on their journey
Turning gray skies blue

The Squash Arch

Today, I finally made my squash arch.

That’s right. made it.

All by myself…mostly.


I found the design on Pinterest. It looked easy and we had all the materials in the garage already.

I used 4 garden fence posts, an insane number of wire ties, a 10′ section of wire fencing–the same kind we used on the new chicken run–wire cutters and a pair of needle nose pliers for bending.

First, I set the 4 fence posts in a 3’x3′ square.


Then, with a little help from my two adorable helpers, I cut a 10′ piece of wire fencing. The boys, of course, assumed I was making a home for them and were a little peeved when I told them what I was actually doing.


Next, I draped the wire over the fence posts and attached it to the hooks along each post. This is where the needle nose pliers first came into play as I had to force some sections of wire into the hooks.

The boys were still trying to convince me to make them a home.


I reinforced the fencing to the posts using wire ties and noticed that the fencing was a little too long for the 3×3 grid.

So, naturally, I decided to trim up the edges a bit and make them even with the fence posts.

Only, in my pride and excitement at having made this rather crooked arch all by myself, I didn’t pay attention to what I was doing.

I ended up snipping the fencing right off the fence posts.

I was able to fix my mistake with a few adjustments, several scratches and a very cheerful disposition…as you can imagine.

I stood back and surveyed my work.


The arch was crooked, the posts uneven and the wire ties plentiful…yet I was smiling because I made it.

All by myself (sort of).


Gradually Growing…Suddenly Surprising

We spent a week in the Smokies on our first family vacation. I was a little nervous about being gone that long.

Would all my little plant babies be ok for that long?

Would our newly planted trees shrivel and die?

Would Pecky Greenleg and the rest of our new chickens miss me?

When we left, the vineyard was just starting to get wild.

The grasses in the pasture and the swales were just starting to get tall.

The fedge and kitchen garden were just starting to boom and bloom.

One week.

That’s how long we were gone.

Now the vineyard is…wild.


Hops gone wild


Close-up of the grapes

Now grasses in the pasture and swales are…tall.




Jerusalem Artichokes

Now the fedge and kitchen garden are…booming.


Borage and tomato row


Burgundy Amaranth in the herb spiral


Borage and tomatoes


Cabbage and broccoli patch


Brussels sprouts

We weren’t there to witness this burst of growth. And, even if we’d been there, we wouldn’t have noticed such a big change right away.

Growth is gradual. So slow that you barely notice it…until the day you do.

That’s the day you realize that the garden you’ve tended so diligently and with such care has grown into something beautiful…and you almost missed it.

You plant the seeds
You pull the weeds
You watch and tend with care

Until one day
You see that they
Have grown without you there



I admit it. I was starting to get worried about the trees.

We planted more than 70 trees by the time it was all said and done and only the cherry trees were showing signs of life.


The rest looked like dead branches sticking up out of the ground.

Nothing from the persimmons.

No green buds from the apples.

Nada from the Paw Paws.

I wondered…did we do something wrong?

Did we dig the holes too deep?

Did we not spread the roots out enough?

I thought of that long Saturday when we planted so many trees and had so much hope for success.

I thought of all that research that went into the methods for planting each variety of tree.

I thought of the fun we had digging the holes, planting the trees and watering them in. The excitement of imagining what our pasture would look like in 2 years, 5 years, 30 years…the same excitement we felt when we put the swales in.

I thought about all these things…and I let the anxiety and worry go.

I realized that, while we put a lot of work into this project, we also learned quite a bit. None of that time and effort was wasted.

I remembered that we willingly took a risk in planting these trees, knowing that they may not, probably would not, all make it.

And suddenly, even though I still felt sad and disappointed, I realized that we did get something out of the experience…we got the experience.

And today, while the boys played, I took a walk around and found that the cherry trees weren’t the only survivors. Almost all the other varieties had started to leaf.

I just had to let the worry and anxiety go to see them.




An oak we found hidden between two fruit trees.




Paw Paw

I worried and I wondered
I gnashed my teeth and cried
All that work and effort
All those things we tried

Then I took a stroll
I wandered through the grass
I saw the bright green leaves
The trees had grown at last!


Prickly, pokey thistles
Charlie creeps and chokes
Ragweed causes sneezing
Greenbrier twines and pokes

Yes, some weeds are a problem
They enter and invade
But some of them are helpers
Supporting is their trade

There’s weeds that hold in water
And some make tasty food
Like dandelion wine
And greens served fresh or stewed

Most of them have taproots
Far deeper than it seems
The root pulls up the water
From fresh and hidden streams

Soil that’s rich and crumbly
All dandelions love
Attracting bees, controlling pests
The ones we’re so sick of

They hold on to the topsoil
It will not blow away
They mine for all the minerals
To help them grow and stay

Don’t be so quick to pull them
Don’t be so swift to harm
They may just be a helper
Your garden’s lucky charm


The thistle. I yank it out by the root and burn it whenever I see it.


Lambs Quarters – Good in salads. It also makes a great ground cover and keeps the moisture in.


This is what creeping myrtle did to my rose bush. It’s a crazy vine and it is hard to see as it twines mercilessly around the plant.


Evil vine.


I’m not sure what this is, but it is in the mustard family and it is here and there in the swales. I love it.


Gratuitous dandelion photo.


On top, the soil looks like a dry, cracked and dusty gray stone.

But underneath...roots tangle, worms slither and grubs battle. Underneath a whole world erupts, struggles and thrives.

Underneath. Back stage. Behind the curtain.

It’s where the work starts and where the foundation must be built strong.


When we planted trees a few weeks ago, they all looked like a brown sticks jutting out of the ground.

We planted them in good, well-drained soil.

We mulched and we watered and we mulched some more.

Then we left them.

For days and days, nothing happened…above ground that is.

But now leaves are budding.

Underneath, the roots were making friends and allies and were hard at work getting those leaves to bud.


The roots are fully engaged and strong.

There will be small skirmishes with Japanese beetles and aphids or deer or some other pesky nuisance, but the roots are primed for the tree to succeed.

There is no turning back now.


A good foundation
A place that it all begins
The root of it all


Three years ago, we planted an apple tree and two mulberries on the Northwest side of our homestead.

We planted saplings. Leafless, scrawnyy saplings.


Two-variety apple – 2013


Illinois everbearing mulberry – 2013


Dwarf mulberry – 2013

We had plans to turn that area into an orchard, but with only three trees it was dubbed “the fruit tree area”.

Not very clever.

Now, just a few short years later, the scraggly saplings have grown strong with aspirations to become full-grown trees.


Two-variety apple – 2015


Illinois everbearing mulberry 2016


Weeping Mulberry – 2015

We watered them for the first season. We fertilized them a bit. But then, aside from caging them to give them a chance against the deer, we let them fend for themselves.

They’ve been through a lot these past 3 years.

They’ve bravely withstood being deer snacks and quickly rebounded from vicious Japanese beetles assaults.

I like to think that the phrase “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” can be applied to these three little tree-lings.

Last Saturday, we added more apple trees and a few cherry trees. Our “fruit tree area” has graduated to an orchard.

An orchard deserving its own sketch-up.


An orchard full of 2′ saplings and three leafy tree wannabes, but still…an orchard.

Just wait a few years.

It will be lovely.

Mulberries and cherries
Apple trees…all kinds
An orchard green and merry
A lovely haven…mine


We mulched the rest of the trees yesterday and then I took a stroll to see what new plants had popped up.

No wind. No clouds. No chill in the air.


The creeping phlox is…creeping. We have one surviving plant and it gets slightly bigger every year.


The strawberries are flowering.


The roses are starting to fill out.


The kiwi vines have green buds.


The chocolate mint is quickly and quietly spreading under a layer of dead mint leaves. Mmmm…tea.


The comfrey is coming back. We are going to try and split it this year and plant it around our new trees as a mulch-maker.


Just knowing that the grass is getting greener…

Just knowing that beautiful yellow dandelions dot the yard…

Just knowing that the trees are flowering…

Just knowing fills me with delight and anticipation for fresh air, fresh produce and a fresh start to the season.

Spring has come to stay
Summer will soon be here too
Let the garden grow


Fill ‘er Up!

The medicinal herb spiral is built and filled.

All materials used for the construction were free.

Cardboard and newspaper for weed control, landscaping bricks from our neighbor and good, black, worm filled soil from our pasture.

The labor was free too.



The seeds that we will be planting were the only cost, and that was minimal…less than $15 for all.

  • Cilantro (saved from last year’s crop)
  • Sage
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Lemongrass
  • Lavender
  • Chives
  • Lemon balm
  • Bee balm
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Chamomile

We’ll also throw nasturtium and marigolds in for pest control and maybe some lettuce for filler.


Our neighbor has more bricks for us, so we’ll build this up a little bit more before we start planting. If possible, I’d like the top to be flush with the stump.

I’d also like to plant some sort of ground cover over the whole thing to help with unwanted weeds, but for this year, we will mulch with straw.

We’ll top the whole thing off with a planter or some sort of garden statue on the top of the stump.

Let the growing begin!

Herbs in the spiral
Tempting butterflies and bees
A fragrant garden