Herb Spiral is Done!

Last Saturday was “yard work day” =)

Kent went to get our bricks and soil, etc. Then we all worked together to unload quickly so that he could return the truck without having to pay extra for going over the hour rental.

IMG_2468 IMG_2469 IMG_2474After we unloaded everything off the truck and I had about half of the herb spiral built, my neighbor walked over and told me that the county is making him widen the road before he gets his plans approved to build his house. Which means that my herb spiral will soon be part of the road instead of part of my yard. So, I took it apart and rebuilt it closer to the house. I’m soooo glad he told me before I added the soil and planted everything!

 

 

IMG_2475The lowest spot at the end of the spiral is where we will add the frog pond. I still have to get a bucket and dig the hole. IMG_2473Here is the Montmorency Cherry tree we planted last year after Eleanor was born. Kent bought it for me as a “push gift.” =) Under the tree, we planted comfrey and something else that I can’t remember. They are supposed to be good for the roots of the tree, i.e. feeding with plants rather than using chemicals.

 

 

 

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Grateful for poison ivy, pruning in John 15, & yard update

Remember how I mentioned the back corner of our yard that I am hoping will be the home of a hammock before long? I’ve been clearing it out for a few days now and truth be told, I’ve been really enjoying it. Being outside, breathing fresh air, working with my body, thinking my thoughts without interruption (maybe this is the main thing?), etc. Really good times, I tell you! Well, the main task in that area is clearing out brush and millions of vines. I didn’t actually see any poison ivy, but the evidence is all over my arms.

So, our family theme has been eucharisteo for a few years now. And I finally started my own official gratitude journal earlier this year. I have been grateful for Everett’s stroke and resulting brain damage, grateful for struggles as a mother (everything from lack of contentment to dealing with whining kids and obnoxious toys), and lots of everyday things like baby smiles and snuggles, seeing a bird preening outside our front door, the privilege of working together with God to grow plants . . . Well, now, I have a new challenge – Poison Ivy. Of course, it is not easy to be grateful for the pus-filled blisters that hurt because the skin is stretched so tight, the really really really itchy redness, and the fact that the rash keeps spreading every day (for the last four days) so I have no idea how bad it will be before it eventually stops. But, it hit me this morning, that this can be my version of fasting. You see, I have been pregnant or nursing for pretty much that last seven years, so fasting from food just wasn’t a good idea for health reasons. And, while I have been grateful for both the pregnancies and also the nursing babes, I have been a little sad to not be able to fast. So now, this outbreak of poison ivy can be like fasting. Instead of hunger signaling me to pray, I have the pain of the rash. So, every time I feel discomfort, either pain or itching, it will be a reminder to pray and thank the Lord for the reminder =) And thank the Lord for loving me so much that He would die a miserable death and suffer separation from His Father just so that I could be saved from my miserable sin and abide in Him.

This morning, as I was reading John 15, my happy place for the past few weeks as I meditate on Spiritual fruit and abiding, I was struck by verse 2. I understand a branch getting cut out if you bear no fruit, but I didn’t really understand why you would get cut out (pruned) if you do bear fruit. Then I saw how later in the chapter the terms “more fruit” and “much fruit” are used. So, I saw how fruit, more fruit, and much fruit are levels of fruit productivity. So, the Father will prune us (the branch) even when we are abiding in the vine (Jesus) and bearing fruit (of the Spirit see Galatians 5:22-23) so that we will then be able to produce more fruit and eventually much fruit.

I won’t show you any pictures of the back yard in case there is any possibility of the poison ivy jumping through your screen. That would be too mean. This is of the East side of our front yard, with the driveway on the right. The hose is marking the herb spiral. I had to modify it a bit because of the way our yard slopes down to the west (our whole lot is on a pretty steep slope).

P1060531And these containers will be for the many annual veggies I will plant either this week or after the last frost date (I am going with May 7th): tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, peas, beets, and a whole slew of herbs and flowers.

 

 

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And the bean teepee and squash (around the outside) are going by the mailbox on the West side of the driveway.

 

Spring yard updates

We have now lived in this rental house for a little more than one year. Since we were very close to having baby #3 when we moved, we just didn’t do much with the yard last year. However, this winter, I started reading some great permaculture books and we have some grand plans for this tiny 1/8th of an acre urban homestead of ours!

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The two huge trees (to the right) in the back are tulip trees and they are seriously huge! As soon as they leaf out, this whole yard will be shaded for most of the day. I am having the tree company come out one more time to trim the trees to let in just a bit more sun. Try to imagine that triangular portion with all the vines removed and some lush moss growing and a lovely hammock hanging between those trees . . .

Back yard

With the OK from our landlord, we had a tree company come out to remove the fallen logs from the wilderness area in the back yard. It still needs a lot more work, but we are going to clear it out completely and plant some Irish Moss (stepable, but doesn’t need to be mowed) and various perennial wildflowers around the edges and hang a hammock!

Front yard

In our South-facing front yard, we are building an herb spiral out of stacked stone (pics and lots of info HERE) as well as a bean teepee and a LOT of self-watering containers for annual veggies. Since this is the front yard, it needs to be pretty. I’ll keep you posted so you can be the judge.

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Our herb spiral will have lots of yummy herbs: perennial rosemary, common Thyme, oregano, Italian parsley, hardy white bunching onions, common chives, garlic chives, basil, lavendar, sage, cilantro, mammoth dill, and a frog pond at the bottom with watercress. Then I will interplant with salad greens in any available space (Swiss chard, spinach, lettuce gourmet blend, mesclun mix, and arugula). Then on the ground on the South side, I will plant beets, chamomile, cucumber, beans, and lemon cucumber.

The bean teepee is just 6-10 poles at least six feet tall gathered at the top with pole beans planted around the base. I think this will be fun since there are so many kids in our neighborhood – like a playhouse.

Our self-watering containers (I have 14 so far – and they are BIG – some as much as 21″ in diameter) will grow: five varieties of tomatoes (dwarf/patio size), sugar peas, snap peas, cucumbers (two varieties – hoping to make LOTS of lactofermented pickles!!!), snap bush beans, and more mesclun mix.

And, we will try to grow one watermelon plant (Adele’s choice at the seed store) in our alley along the East side of our house (gets some South-facing sun too).

I’m also hoping to add a bird bath in the front and back yards. Apparently, if you have a source of water available, birds won’t peck your tomatoes. Here’s hoping!

This picture below is of my greenhouse – just kidding, it’s just a window, but it’ll do. Most of my seeds are direct sow, but we did start a few tomatoes, thyme, and even some watermelon in addition to a bunch of wildflowers – just for fun. We’ll almost certainly grow our peppers and tomatoes from seedlings bought at the local nursery, but we are homeschoolers, so I thought this would be worth the effort to just see what happens. And, through the gloriously-large window, you can see the multitude of containers just waiting to supply us with bountiful harvest this year!

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Current Permaculture Dreams

I have several posts on this blog containing various stages of dreams for our future home. I thought I would go through to create a page with my updated dreams. We are currently in a rental home that we REAAAAAAAALLY love living in, but I want to have all my “next house” dreams in one place.

First of all, I’ll say that this house will probably be in New Hampshire because I want as little government interference as possible.

Second, I’ll say that if our permaculture homestead dreams do come true and we do purchase land, then the priority will be planting (and preparing the soil) before building the house.

Thirdly, I’d like to remind anyone who may be reading this that these are just things that I like, I don’t at all think that I need any of these things, because this world is not my home. But if you are going to live in a house, you might as well make it nice, right?

Outside/Permaculture Dreams

I have in the past thought I wanted raised beds, but now I am thinking of more permaculture layouts like keyhole garden design and food forest. Also, I plan to incorporate cover cropping and companion planting. Some books I am loving are Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist and Gaia’s Garden.

So a Food Forest would be trees, bushes, vines, root crops, herbs, etc. all mixed in so that they work together for pest management, etc. It models a forest but you use edible perennial plants. I also want to bury lots of wood for woody beds or hugelkulture (a great post on Hugelkultur Beds). I also want to incorporate plants that are good for cutting (i.e. that last in a vase). My favorites (that I know about so far) are: lilac, peony, and hydrangea (tips here).

I don’t know if roses are too fussy for me, but these are soooo lovely!

Hopefully I can train the clematis to do this!

I want to be sure to capture all rain water into rain barrels to use for irrigation (Instructions here).

What could be prettier than a rustic herringbone brick path?

Is it even possible to have a working farm AND to have it be BEAUTIFUL????

   

animals

We already have worms (in a flow-through worm bin in a 55-gallon plastic drum in the garage – plans for something similar here) which eat all of our household food waste instead of going into compost which has always attracted rats in my experience. I love this thing! My only adjustment if I were doing it over again would be to make it bigger – we produce a lot of food scraps!

And, I think we finally have bees again! Our lovely Perone hive seems to have attracted a prime swarm all on its own. I will update when I know for sure, but there is a lot of activity at the entrances for a few days now. I will give them some time to get settled then start looking through the windows and sharing pictures again. =) I am so happy to (maybe) have bees again!!!

chickens – Step-by-step instructions for butchering chickens here.

Oh, wow! Climbing roses on the chicken coop. I want this!!!!

Here is an article on helping keep the chickens healthy using herbs and charcoal from the wood stove.

And if we could possibly move to a place with a bit more land, then I would LOVE to add a few pigs in the woods and Dexter cattle (article here) eating grass (pasture) – in a permaculture, Joel Salatin-style farm with no inputs and no waste outputs. 

Of course, we will have an earth oven. The one Kent built here is on sawhorses because this is a rental, but he is already making plans for what he would do differently on a more permanent earth oven – or, as we call it, the wood-fired pizza oven.

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We might need a pizza oven indoors too! I am REALLY excited about rocket stoves and rocket mass heaters!!!!!

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Normally I don’t love the look of interior cobb (typically lots of curves and improvisational shapes), but I really like this image. I especially like the idea of a warm spot to sit near the fire in the kitchen

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root cellar

of course, no proper homestead is complete without a root cellar – to store potatoes, pumpkins and other squash, carrots, garlic, onion, and lots of lactoferments

Did you know you can store onions for 8 months in pantyhose? Tie a knot between onions and you can then clip the knot as you need an onion.

Inside/Decorating Dreams

First and foremost, I’d like to be really smart about building – by that I mean that I want EVERYTHING to be really intentional. So, passive solar – facing the house with lots of windows to the South would probably be the first priority. Also, I want a smallish house (really inspired by Susan Susanka’s Not So Big House series) that takes advantage of every inch of space with built-ins and window seats, etc.

I also really want an open floorplan – by that I mean a kitchen that is open to the living room/great room, with a nearby laundry, pantry, e-space (desk w/ charging station). Regarding laundry, I’d like this to be closed off since I usually have a pile of dirty laundry waiting at all times. But, I don’t fold in the laundry room, so it doesn’t need to be big. A major benefit of a small house is that everything is close to everything else. I love efficiency. And less to clean! Another major benefit of a small house is that you get more light – because the windows on multiple sides of thehouse can reach each room. Our current home has a pretty open floorplan (there is a wall but it has a huge cutout between the kitchen and living room as well as two wide and tall doorways) as well as LOTS of windows and natural light and I just love it every bit as much as I thought I would.

I really really really want a window seat – or five! I love that they can be used as a cozy couch away from the busy part of the house (a reading nook) AND they can be a guest bed when needed.

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This particular image (above) is just so amazing. I see it in my dreams and I hope I can put something like it in our home someday.

I like the idea of just one large “family bathroom” with a long sink so that multiple people can brush teeth at once. I like the idea of having only one bathroom to keep clean =) I really want our whole house to be completely off grid (for both power and water). I’d like to have a Lovable Loo (kind of like a composting toilet, but more like humanure) and use rainwater for incoming sink water and then managing the water as greywater in the garden.

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Hot water for our enormously deep tub (I want my shoulders and knees to be able to be in the water at the same time) and showers (as well as hot water for the kitchen & laundry) will be supplied by solar hot water panels on the roof and also the wood burning stove in the winter.

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I so love pocket French doors!

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Kitchen

Last but not least, I have a lot of thoughts about my dream kitchen.

1 – A Balance between Hardworking, Rustic Farmhouse and Elegance/Beauty

It’s a real struggle for me to envision a kitchen that will work hard and be fun and convenient to actually use, but that won’t overwhelm me with so much visual clutter that I don’t even want to be in there. I’ve been really inspired by Darlene, who also loves “Farmhouse Elegance.”

Well, this is my dream kitchen. She’s just about perfect in every way. Gorgeous and hard-working at the same time. Ahhhhhhh. But, maybe too cluttered back there and too bog.

I REALLY love the combination of countertops in this kitchen too. I love raw butcher block combined with marble. I like marble that doesn’t look brand new. I hope it’s kind of scratched up, actually.

Here she is from another angle. Her stove and hood are amazing. I LOVE that inset spice shelf. And even with all the stainless steel in the side-by-side full refrigerator and full freezer, the massive amounts of wood keep it from feeling sterile. LOVE her in every way.

A closer look at that inset spice shelf. I love the detail on the little metal bars to keep the bottles in. Mine might need to be deeper to account for the massive amounts of spices I go through when I cook.

a closer look at the stove area

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2 – A Large, Dramatic, Gorgeous European Range

Not sure if it’s possible, but I really want a European oven like Aga or LaCornue. Soooo pretty! And I really like having multiple ovens and the use of warming zones.

so pretty – and large capacity!

ahhh, Aga!

3 – A Large, Dramatic, Gorgeous European Hood

To balance the large, dramatic, gorgeous European stove under it, of course.

Again, it might not be possible, but that’s what I love in pictures of other kitchens.

I don’t know if it would make me feel claustrophobic, but I like the side walls on this hood and I like the decorative shelf, too (but I worry it could be a greasy dust magnet – probably not worth it).

Amazing copper? hood. And I LOOOOOVE that island! And those lanterns! But I don’t want a sink in the island. Just one sink in my kitchen, please, and I need a backsplash because water splashes when I wash dishes.

Another amazing hood. I like this whole kitchen, actually. Wait a minute! Does this kitchen actually have a La Cornue with two ovens AND TWO wall ovens? Where do we draw the line, people?

Well, this one’s a triple threat. It has the airy feeling, and the amazing range and hood!

4 -Amazing natural light and a feeling of openness

5 – Shallow Shelves for Food Storage

It will be beautiful because it will be all glass jars, but I still don’t want visual clutter.

Maybe a wall-sized sliding door is the answer – you can leave it open when you are cooking and the open door is not in the way, but then you can close it when you are done and don’t want to see the food out.

now that’s a pretty pantry. Perhaps this is a hallway, which keeps it near, but not so visible to the rest of the living space? I think this one is absolutely perfect.

6 – Open to the rest of the living space / nearby cozy lounge area

7 – Low tech (Permaculture/Passive Solar/etc.) at least for back up

This fireplace is perfect! I love the whole kitchen!

And a few more miscellaneous features I’d like to add:

Stove Nook

I want my olive oil, coconut oil, salts, and a few other things very close to the stove (yet mostly hidden) and I like this little nook that encloses the stovetop with the hood.

Brass Hardware

love unlaquered brass for the faucet and other hardware in the room

I like materials that are beautiful even when not pristine, like marble and brass.

brass hardware. and I love those shelves

A Place for Everything, and Everything in its Place (breadbox, trash, compost, recycling, and a Baking Center)

I’d like to have a designated area for storing small amounts of onions (10 max) and garlic and potatoes conveniently in the kitchen – with lots and lots of them in the root cellar downstairs.

I definitely want a dedicated baking center, where my grain mill and mixer can be on the counter at all times. But, I don’t want to look at them all the time.

Antique cup drying rack

Since we use a lot of canning jars, and drinking cups, I’d like to be able to wash them quickly at the sink and dry them on something pretty.

Fridge and freezer compartments

I just don’t like the look of a huge refrigerator. And, I’d like to be able to customize the settings for raw milk versus produce, etc.

Toe-kick drawers (taking advantage of every inch of storage)

I really love the plans in the Shelter Collection created at the assortment blog HERE. Small and really thoughtfully-designed.

None of the pics in this post are my own. The links to the originals are all on my pinterest page.

Quilt back almost done!

I finally cut out the last piece. Now I just need to sew it all down (zig zag over raw edges – I like the free form look on applique for kids quilts).

I need to hussle if I’m going to finish by her birthday (April 27)!!!

I can’t wait to see this one finished. It’s my first quilt with so much linen.