Homestead Update: Waiting on Eggs and Planting for Fall!

Being a person who enjoys patterns and aesthetically organized places, watching our garden turn into a jungle within the past couple of weeks has been really difficult to just let go. It's kind of killing me right now! I've taken my shears out several times, ready to cut back stalks and vines, only to realize that if I go too far, I might end up killing the plants that I worked so hard to grow. So while there was a lot of tearing out (like a lot) this past week, there was also the realization that I might as well just let the pumpkin and squash vines go, that the potatoes are supposed to turn brown and die off before I can harvest them, and it's just going to look like a mess for now. 

This upcoming week, the second week of August, will be my planting week for our autumn vegetables. Eek! I can feel the pressure. I have cauliflower, broccoli, broccoli rabe, and sunflowers currently started in trays in the greenhouse. Much to my surprise, they're surviving really well. I assumed that being in the greenhouse, which is in general 10 degrees warmer than outside, would be a definite plant killer for new seedlings. I am not sure if they were successful because it's mostly partial sunlight inside, at least on the back wall. It's not like all of the plants inside are full sun all of the time, as the sun gets covered by trees and our buildings at different points throughout the day. I also have been keeping the door open, and our ventilation open, all summer so it's not as hot in there as it could be. It should be exciting to see if everything works out! I planted parsnip seeds almost two weeks ago, and they did not start at all. Oops! Good thing I kept more to plant now. I guess it was too hot for them.  

It will be 8 weeks next week until our first predicted frost date in eastern Iowa. That's the time to start planting arugula, lettuces, turnips, spinach, radishes, and other greens. I'll probably plant my carrots, too, so the radish trick works again. Did I mention that we finished harvesting our summer carrots?! It was awesome pulling them all up and finding that they were large and shaped correctly! I posted this on Instagram a little while ago and found that there were quite a few opinions on how funky shaped carrots were better and more fun to find... didn't mean to offend! Oops! Either way, whichever shaped carrot you prefer to find, I was really proud that my radish trick worked. Essentially, you plant carrot seeds and radish seeds together. The radishes grow and are harvest much faster than the carrots, and they end up making room in the soil so that your carrots can grow in thicker soil. We don't have sandy soil, which is ideal for carrots. This worked really well; all of our carrots were nice and long!

We also have been harvesting some new things like CUCUMBERS! Eek! I was sure that our cucumbers were not going to produce. I had been searching through the vines for weeks, hoping to see something, and when our leaves started to show signs of cucumber beetle and squash bug damage, I was sure that they were a lost cause. While I debated on ripping them out, I decided to peruse through the vines that had been growing up the fence. Low and behold, there were three HUGE cucumbers growing. One had grown half way through the fence, which was weird and kind of miraculous. The others were way too big to enjoy, but I was still excited! Now, we have several smaller cucumbers growing and have picked a few others that were the correct size and eaten them. So yummy! I read a little bit up on cucumber growth, and I guess they grow better when on a raised vine because the bugs don't mess with them as much? It seemed to be working for ours!

We've also been harvesting loads of eggplants and received our first heirloom tomato! We have two types of tomatoes planted this year: brandywine and black krim. The black krims are much, much larger, but have yet to turn red. The brandywines are smaller than the size of our palms, but were the first to turn red. We have been getting about three tomatoes a day since the beginning of the week, and it's been such a treat! I can't wait to start making them into things like pasta and pizza sauce to save for the winter. For now, we've been snacking on them in the afternoon sun and putting them on sandwiches. I am sure the black krims will be much better for canning purposes! Our cherry tomatoes have also been producing for about a month now, and we have been collecting and eating them like crazy. They work really well made into a quick pasta sauce that I will be sharing here next week! 

What have you been harvesting? Our zucchinis are starting to look a little sad, and we lost a few to squash bug attacks. Oh well; I'm kind of ready for them to be done anyway. As much as I would love to keep harvesting zucchinis for storage, we have about ten full freezer bags of zoodles and grated zucchini. I think we're covered for winter! I would also really love the space in the garden the zucchinis are taking up... any opinions on tearing out zucchini sometime before September? Or should I just leave them be? Maybe I'll use their space to plant garlic for spring!

Other than our daily harvests, I have been struggling to figure out where to plant our new autumn crops. Truthfully, I don't have much space, or at least some of space is being occupied by plants that will be harvested but not in my timeline. I have to keep reminding myself that everything will be accomplished in time, that I don't get to decide as much as I would like to when things are ready to harvest and to be planted. I'm waiting to pull up onions and saddened that our cabbages failed and never produced. Pulling those out made some room for new plantings.

I posted on our Instagram that we were still waiting for our hens to lay, and we received so many comments from you guys! Wow! Thank you so much for all of your advice and opinions. I actually always have such anxiety reading those comments because there's always someone who disagrees or does things differently than how I think they should be done. It's definitely hard when you're a new chicken owner who really doesn't know much other than what she's read from professionals! I think I get anxious because I feel the urge to make sure everyone is content. But either way, I get through it and realize that even though I might not do everything by the book or in a way that other chicken owners would, our chickens are really healthy and have never shown any health related issues. I kind of look at their health system like I would a child; they have healthy, consistent poos. They eat and drink well. They have normal behaviors and no bugs. There's not much else that I can do or want! Whether eggs come or not, I am happy, but would still like to see an egg appear! I suppose we'll just patiently wait until that day comes.

For right now, I am switching them over to layer feed as they've all reached maturity. I was happy to see that I don't have to waste my grower feed and can mix it in with the layer feed! Phew! I was hoping I wasn't going to have a convince a chicken friend to take it off of my hands. I am still feeding them little extra things for their diet like mealworms (a handful here and there to get them back in the run at night) and garden scraps. It's been a nice routine to have, weeding out the garden and trimming things up. Then giving the chickens the things that they can eat safely and putting the rest onto the compost pile. Perhaps I'll even use some of the compost we've already made for the autumn garden! 

I'm starting to watch our home continually fill with fresh vegetables. This is making me collect little household items out of necessity, baskets and utility scissors, mason jars and beeswax wrap. The other day Jill and I stopped in a local antique shop, and I felt that small sense of longing in my gut to start purchasing the things I really loved and wanted for my own home. But I always have to hold myself back; as much as I am grateful for the home that I have, it is still with my parents. I must be patient and only collect the things that I need, that we all need as a family. Do you ever have that sense of longing in your gut? It continually reminds me to find the beauty and gratitude in the things that I do have and have been able to collect along the way. Especially in this age of consumerism, it's hard to get lost and realize what you truly do love. Either way, I am enjoying the little things, like bags and pretty calendars and candlestick holders that are surrounding me today. It makes me feel like I'm living in my own little dream world, far from home, and home all the same. Isn't that special? 

xoxo Kayla