Homestead Update: The First Egg, Canning, and Finding Time to Breathe

First off, I want to say that this week's post and probably the posts for the next week or so are going to look funny because I've been having to take photos with my phone for the majority of, well, everything. I think photography within the blog world can be a funny thing, and I include Instagram with this because that space has kind of turned into a mini blog world as well. I get a lot of photography questions, mostly which filters I use and what kind of camera I have. Well, I have a Canon Rebel T5i, but I had to send it in for a repair last week. Something happened with the hardware (my SD card holder has a shifted plate, aka I can't get SD cards in or out), and even though Iowa is great for so many things, we kind of live in the middle of no where and apparently the next best camera repair center was in Connecticut. So with all of that stress, I've moved over to my iPhone (which is a 7 plus, if you're curious), and that's where we are today. 

Secondly, OUR FIRST EGG(s) ARRIVED. Can you believe it?! I was so looking forward to this day, which happened to be last Sunday. Jill and I were sitting at the table, red in the face and sweating as we waited for peaches to finish processing in a hot water bath. We had been canning since 8 AM, and it was around one in the afternoon when we heard the loudest commotion coming from the chicken coop. We had music on, so we weren't sure if we were hearing correctly and quickly turned it down to listen from the kitchen window. 

"Either someone is getting attacked, or they've laid an egg!" we both said and ran for the door, doing a half walk-run to the coop. Half of the girls, Muriel, Frankie, and Thelma, were outside in the run, seemingly avoiding the commotion inside. When we walked in the doors, the other three were near the roosts. We crept up to the wire and peered into the nesting boxes. A couple of weeks ago, I put some fake wooden eggs in with the boxes, six to be exact (that's how many came in the package). In two of the lower boxes were two extra eggs, perfectly warm, pale pink, and tiny as can be. It was amazing! And the best part? At around 1 PM on the following days, there were even more eggs!

So now we have laying hens. It's official. It's been such a journey, and I love documenting it here. It's actually been really fun seeing what other people say, because even when I feel like no one reads our blog, I see that it's affecting the excitement of others around us. After sharing that our hens laid, we had friends and family stop over to see. It was like someone had given birth! Such a fresh and new idea, something that we all live around but don't necessarily get to see close up. This little backyard homestead is changing our lives completely for the better. It was the other day as Tad and I were driving home from the feed store that he said, "We go home? To our farm?" that made me laugh a little and smile; not exactly, buddy, but close enough.

As for which hens laid the eggs? Well, that's yet to be determined. I am 100% sure that Arlene is one of them, because I sat with her for a little under an hour on Monday as she pecked around the boxes, ate some food, squawked and carried on, and finally sat her fluffy butt down in the bottom center nest. I didn't actually witness an egg drop, but she's been extremely loud for about two weeks now, and very docile in comparison to her usual demeanor. I suspect Olive, our Buff who I share a mutual hatred with, is the other hen who's laying. Her comb became super red, she's constantly squatting, and she, too, will not shut her mouth for one second. 

Other than our egg-citement (get it?), I've spent the better part of two weeks canning. I have canned almost every single day, and I had kind of specifically reserved Mondays for canning so that I wouldn't exhaust myself, but I may have started a slight addiction. Oh my goodness - it is so fun! Especially when I am canning everything from my own garden! You see that basket of tomatoes? I've gone through about eight of those already, and we're just getting started! I've only been canning with our Black Krim tomatoes; I also planted Brandywines, but I ended up tearing them out over the weekend. They're an heirloom variety, which I picked because I thought they were interesting. Come to find out that they don't turn red, which is normal, but I every time I went out to check on them, if I found some ripe ones, they had soft spots or split open. From what I've read, this is due to an overwatering problem, which was not affecting any other part of my garden... so I just decided that they were too needy. Out you go! And they didn't taste that great either. We saved the green ones and are sunning them in the greenhouse, but if they don't make it, I don't really care. They were crowding the bell peppers anyway! The Black Krims and cherry variety have been supplying us plenty; I am really pleased with them! They taste amazing and are perfect for canning in my opinion. Next year, I am definitely planting Romas!

So far, I've canned diced tomatoes, pasta sauce, and salsa with our tomatoes. I've also made some dill pickles with our cucumbers (I also tore these out over the weekend due to bacterial wilt... yikes!). And we bought a bushel of peaches from the Amish bulk food store and canned those as well! On to more tomatoes for me... What have you been canning? I've seen a heck of a lot of questions and tips and friendly hellos on Instagram lately. Canning is just bringing us all together! For those of you wondering, I am currently following pretty much solely Food In Jars recipes; she has a blog and three books, whichI bought. She does a great job of making the entire process easy and less scary. I love a book that kind of dumbs everything down and gives you simple steps, which is what I hope to do when I eventually write my own books. Who needs complicated steps and lingo anyway, right? Anyway, if you're looking for a great "beginner's canning guide" then definitely pick up her books! I was able to make everything work!!

Other than my few plants that I've taken out, our garden is still doing really well. The bacterial wilt with the cucumber plants is from cucumber beetles; they spread the bacteria with causes the leaves to wilt and eventually turn brown and crumple up. You'll also notice some sticky sap coming out of the vines. They were already infected, but I was holding out on them to make it a little longer. I am not sure how that will affect the soil next year... I'll have to read up more on that. Our autumn crops are poking heartily out of the soil, but getting munched on a bit by bugs and things. I don't want to purchase row covers right now because of extra cost, so I have been spraying them with a garlic solution. It seems to be working, though I lost all of my broccoli, Raab, and cauliflower. I'll have to replant, though I might just plant more radishes and carrots instead. Our parsnips still have not come up, this is my second planting of them, and I am going to have to put that one down as a bad seed packet. 

Our days are becoming shorter and shorter as we move into late summer and the feelings of early autumn approached. We've had a couple cool weeks, and have been so thankful for them. We harvested seven early pie pumpkins and a handful of mini pumpkins. That was fun! They have to cure for a few weeks before we can crack them open (trust me - I opened one right after picking and found a completely green inside Oops!). Tad has been becoming a bit more interested in being out in the garden with me. He's a little bit of a stinker, only wanting to pick what I ask him not to. At this point in our lives, he goes to two days of "daycare" a week (I put quotes because it's actually just going over to our friend's house for a playdate with a few other little kiddos), and it's been nice to have some guilt-free work days, and he gets some time to interact with other kids his age. That's probably the hardest part for me about being a young mom; not a lot of people my age to hang around with who also have kids, which means a lot of only-child play for Tad, which is fine. That's how I grew up! But now that he has his days to play, and I get to work, I am spending more of days with him trying to just be a mom. I kind of hate saying that because I'm a mom everyday, but I've been giving myself specific days to just clean up the house, play, and explore outside without answering emails or writing or stitching. 

It's been refreshing, honestly. I feel like I get some time to remember why I love these things, why I share them, and why it all matters. I highly recommend spending a day or two a week away from work, if you can, or maybe just even from your phone and doing the most mundane of things. I always walk away with a fresh set of thoughts to share. Love this little life we lead over here! And love sharing it with you and hearing your words of kindness. Love to you on this Friday!

xoxo Kayla