Monday, June 15, 2009

Mixed emotions on the homestead

I'm sure true homesteaders might take exception to my use of the word homestead to describe our efforts here on our rental property, but it's all part of our effort to work toward becoming more self-sufficient and resourceful. So to us, it's our homestead.

This afternoon, I had a terrific time in the garden. I'll interrupt myself to acknowledge that that might sound crazy. If you had told me even last summer that those words would be typed by my fingers, I would've thought you were lacking in the marbles department. But I feel like I've discovered something wonderful. The whole process of planning, planting, weeding, tending... I love it. Some parts of the process are obviously more fun than others. But it is such a rewarding journey.

I spent some time clearing weeds around our tomato plants, staking ones that needed additional support (incidentally, in the future, the plan is to stake from the beginning and forget the cages), and trimming some of the lower branches that were sucking energy from growing tomatoes.

The corn patch is doing well, and the Blessings have it almost all weeded. I don't believe I explained my acute arthritis flare up last week... Basically, we had hoped that the corn would outpace the weeds in the corn patch. Well, the weeds were about to take the lead, so last Monday I attacked them with a vengeance... and discovered that really tall weeds take a lot of work to pull. My hands swelled up and hurt like crazy for a couple days. So finishing the corn patch weeding is now the task of younger and sprier hands.

Miscellaneous other garden updates - Our summer squash and zucchini are looking fantastic! There are actually several itty bitty squash and zucchini growing now, and it's exciting to see them. I've been working the last couple of days moving around our cardboard mulch (love that!), since the places where I placed the cardboard originally are utterly weed free now. Very cool. Still lots of places where I didn't have enough cardboard or where cardboard wouldn't fit well, but I'm definitely pleased with the results.

I have a long list of things I need to do in the garden, but as I sat staking and caring for tomatoes, listing to my man running the weed-eater around the yard, I was filled with joy and excitement over the learning that we're doing and the progress that we're making.

And then Josiah called from the chicken coop, "Mom, there are only four chicks in the pen, and one of them is limping!"

I finished the tomato plant I was working on, and called to Jonathan on my way to the chicken coop. We arrived to find that Josiah was unfortunately correct. We had gone from 7 chicks to 4.

After checking on the remaining chicks, we set about trying to figure out what had gotten the chicks, or, more importantly, how it had gotten them. The pen where the chicks have been living is attached to the chicken coop, and seemed pretty secure. Jonathan checked all along the base and found a spot where a board was pulled away and a predator could have entered. The strange thing was that there were no feathers... but Jonathan got busy clearing out around the pen and strengthening that weak area. It looks so much better now!

As he used the weed-eater on the back side of the pen (I think he figured he didn't want to leave any hiding spots for a predator), Jonathan discovered some feathers. Apparently, something had climbed the side of the pen and gotten in a small opening in the chicken wire that covers the top. Not as secure as we had thought... at least not for chickens not yet full grown.

When all was said and done (at least for tonight), we decided to put the four remaining chicks in the duck pen. One has an injured leg, and one has lost an eye. They are just too small to be accepted by the full-grown chickens, which makes it difficult to put them in the coop at night for safety. The ducks weren't thrilled, but I think we found a workable arrangement, with a spot for the chicks to roost out of the ducks' way. Hopefully they'll adjust well, and since the ducks spend most of the day up at the pond, they will all get some space.

So, I suppose it was a good reality check for us, and a reminder that we still have loads to learn. A disappointing reality check, but it's kind of like the poem that urges us to be thankful for laundry, because we have clothes to wear; to be thankful for dirty toilets, because we have indoor plumbing; etc. I'm deeply thankful that we have the opportunity to do many new things this year - plant and tend a garden, have chickens, have ducks, take care of a 10 acre piece of property, etc. We have much to be thankful for, and I'm eager to continue the learning experience.


Eryn said...

sounds so awesome! someday...
i believe racoons like to eat little chicks and coyotes too, but i doubt you have those. my parents keep buying them for the property and they keep disappearing.

TAB said...

What a lot of work but so rewarding. Good work guys!