Won’t be long until the ole wood stove is needed again!
Well it has been a long hard 2015, thus far…hasn’t it? Well maybe to some, but definitely it seems that way to us at Dogwood Hollow Homestead. I guess if you live on the grid, in society, with a steady job, a nice house with a perfectly balanced atmosphere and a huge pantry of food to boot…..it may not seem so different. BUT, none the less…it has been a hard year, so far, for us off grid, living in the forest, with barely any income (its how we like it…although slightly more comfortably padded, usually) and noticeable less food stocks than usual as well as a bad year for the garden and even for animal raising.
What do I mean? Well lets recap some shall we. It has been a very different year for those of us that have lived like we do for 5 years or more. This was our fifth year homesteading off the grid and each year we grow an all organic/non GMO garden, raise chickens for eggs and emergency meat, raise rabbits for a steady meat, hunt small wild game for occasional meat, grow and forage for herbs to be used in beverages, cooking and medicines, and forage for wild foods. This year, and recently, we even added raising pigs to that list so we will be able to put up pork for the winter now.
Peas did well…but who cans up peas? Would take fields of these to can stores
We have also recently added rising ducks for eggs and emergency meat. We used to raise ducks, so we have decided to go back to that. Duck eggs are higher in protein and more tolerable for allergy prone people that chicken eggs. We now have a drake (male) that is a rare Welsh Harlequin, two hens (female) that are black Indian Runners. In the beginning one hen was laying a few eggs a week. It has been almost 2 months since we have gotten any duck eggs. We have more chickens than we started with in 2015, again…they were laying good. However, despite 1 chicken that lays almost daily, it has been almost 2 months since the chickens have laid.
We have resorted to eating those chickens, most are either 2 years old, or close to that age anyhow. They should be laying steady like, even at that age, but they do tend to slow down some once they reach year two. Even with a high protein diet, as all our chickens and ducks are on from spring through fall, still no eggs. Upon butchering one hen recently, I discovered there were not even any eggs in the body. This is very strange. The new pig we have named Wilbur and he is young, around 5 months I guess. He is a potbelly market mix so he can and will be used to breed with a female as soon as we get a few. We plan on putting up about 2 market pigs a year, for winter use, about October, starting 2016.
This is Wilbur, the new pig
We will be raising, butchering, smoking/salting ourselves and storing the pork in the “soon to be built” smoke house through winter. The remainder of the pigs will be used for barter and trade and sells at the local animal swap meet or auction house, the side income will come in handy, I am sure. One pig can deliver up to 10 piglets with each pregnancy. They won’t get too big to handle and will be just right for our small family, we hope.
Usually we can put up quite a bit of produce from the garden, canning our hearts away. Problem was this year…rain. TO MUCH, so we have hardly anything to show for it in jars or dehydrated, for that matter. We have managed to gathering a large amount of mushrooms, mostly puffballs and chanterelles because they LOVE the rain. But the garden suffered, some of you may have read all about it. Just to let you know, we ended up with plenty to eat…just not much to store. We had a good go of tomatoes, squash and Zucchini last year, this year none of those did well. This year we ended up with a good crop of cucumbers and turnips for sure, beets did better this year too.
Large cherry tomatoes and pickling cuc’s did well
So we have the fall garden growing now, 4 kinds of beans, which of those 2 are doing well. Cherokee Okra, which I am convinced you just can not do bad with. I believe okra will grow anywhere! But still….not enough to store up. So we have hardly no garden canned for winter, no chicken eggs in last month and half, except 1 every few days, no duck eggs last month and half. Everything has been early this year, and I mean everything. If the chickens laying end came early than that is not only strange but very early. Even with all our experience, we just do not have an answer.
Okra plants, though, 8 foot tall, at the minimum and we get a hand full of okra every few days. Cuc’s have stopped and herbs have sprouted back up, so we are capitalizing on that. Wild herbs, such as goldenrod is in full bloom but I feel it will not last long because this is the norm for 2015, so we will be gathering this very soon. Mushrooms would have been good to put up, dried, for winter, but we just have had such a hard time keeping our food stocks up these days (so expensive isn’t it) that we have been eating as much as we have been finding.
Persimmon seed, once again, tells us to prepare for a cold snowy winter
So here we are, fall. September brings us cooler temps (soon we hope) and winter preparation at the homestead is underway. Guess we can not complain for a lack of wood to burn for winter, well since there is about 35 acres of wood around us! So trees have been failed to season, been close to a month now. 20 on the ground, so I will harvest those to see where it puts us for a winter stock of wood. Don’t ever want to have to cut the majority of your wood in the snow. Those of you who have done some off grid time through Missouri winters should know we need about 4-5 cords of wood in stock to be sure we have the bulk before deep winter.
Operating as an Eco-village, or intentional community has its own ups and downs. 2015 was the year we decided to reform our little off grid community and was successful early on. Some of you may have read about the new community members and seen their neat tiny home cabin that they had custom built by the Amish and delivered. This was shared on our Facebook page, instead of blogged about. But here is a photo.
Well this has also had it’s unexpected change. So now the place this little cabin sat is, once again, vacant and remaining is just the three of us again. We can see change, life is not permanent and neither are the things that make up life so just as we have done for years, we roll with the punches and make the best of what we have, what else can you do? Never give up!