Hello, friends! Thank you for taking a peek at our homestead. In today’s post, I’m sharing how our family is cultivating cozy as we continue to grow through the dead of winter in the mountains of Montana! I’ve even got a Black Friday code to share with you for up to 45% off the new collection of Birdies Raised Beds to jump start that spring shopping list!
But first, as per usual, here’s a little ramble . . .
USA . . . or USB?
“Plug-ins” encompass an awful lot these days. I recall those Lip-Smackers and Sketchers years when my grade-school friends and I would sing that 90’s jingle “plug it in, plug it in” at the top of our lungs, basking under the glow of a Glade air freshener. What a sensation ‒an instant, artificial garden plugged into the wall! What more could you ask for? Of course, that was only the beginning.
It seems to me that ever since mom (collectively speaking) started popping those sweet-smelling refill packets into the cart, we’ve been careening down the aisles of absurdity to see how many things we can possibly stamp “plug-in” onto the face of. “Plug-ins” now even claim a whole class of software (which, as a blogger, I really ought to know more about), not to mention those one-pronged doohickeys for our computers that suddenly come attached to every single thing we buy. A quick Google search prior to this intro led me down a horribly plugged-in rabbit trail. I came away with a big smack of irony, along with a groundbreaking collection of USB plug-ins I wish I could undiscover. Among them were the following:
- USB Coffee Warmers (so we never have to walk away from the comfort and security of our laptops in order to heat up our cozy beverages)
- USB Butt Coolers (because sitting so long in front of our social identities can really get us hot and bothered, especially since our coffee is now perpetually piping)
- USB Pregnancy Tests (because why throw a stick away after you pee on it?)
We’ve become so conditioned to plugging in every last detail of our lives. The mere act of taking a break from all this electric-pronged insertion now has its very own buzz word: “unplugged.” It’s a sort of Star-Bellied-Sneetches badge that renders us instantly “dope” (the new word for cool, apparently) to be swimming this opposite direction for an entire . . . gulp . . . week. Gone are the days when “plug it in, plug it in” was such a modern, trendy tune to croon. Boy, does that sentence make me feel old. Now, we (again, collectively) brag to our friends and other strangers about how much we “unplug” on our social media profiles while making painful Sophy’s-Choice-Decisions, such as would we rather upload another fifty photos, keep our chai latte warm, or cool our parked fanny? It’s a tough road. Based on these values, perhaps it’s time to trade in our country’s name USA for USB.
Ok, ok. I’m coming down from the cliffs of insanity now. In my defense, I don’t have a USB butt cooler to help me chill out! No matter. Let me assure you, dear reader, a lot of the above is merely the tongue and cheek of a hibernating mountain fool (me). And of course, all I am doing here anyway is opening my critically-charged babble up for more critique by writing about all of this from, well, my laptop. I’ll spare you from having to hear how “unplugged” I am, you know, the rest of the time.
The good news is that all of this zapping I’ve been doing does have *somewhat* of a purpose for today’s post. It begins with the assertion that perhaps it might be time for some de-polarization amid a culture where everything seems to adhere to this extreme of “plug in” and “unplug.” There’s a kind of either-or war going on everywhere I look. That is, when I’m brave enough to venture down the mountain. I see before me a tangled mess of USB cords on the counter, so to speak. There are so many devices, but we only have just the one port. This makes me think of Eva Gabor in that old tv show “Green Acres” having to “pull out the two to plug in the four.” (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, treat yourself to this iconic moment in classic television here.)
And I’m finding even the popular approach to gardening these days to be whistling a pretty similar tune. The average green thumb jams her trowel into the supply line of a very limited energy store come the first day of spring, only to wrench it out again the minute those first leaves start to fall. Well, after they’ve been bagged and removed from the premises that is. Think about it: what do most gardeners do when Mother’s Day weekend rolls around? Head for the party store of course, also known as their local garden center. Their cart is then filled with instant spring on tap ‒ready to go compost, fertilizer, flowers, veg‒ a veritable pop-up garden. “Plug it in, plug it in!”
Now, I’m not hating on the insta-gardener or their garden. To be fair, I’ve grown a few pop-ups myself. And for many, whether limited by age, health, or a taxed time budget, the convenience of a plug-and-play-garden may be a necessity, if they are blessed enough to have one at all. But gardening this way cannot be called “sustainable agriculture.” Those of us who desire to grow in sustainability must take steps toward cutting off our power lines to those local gardening and supply centers. This may help us preen our principles, but I think a better call to sustainability is what it offers us in terms of good, old satisfaction.
Please know, I’m nowhere near being a self-sufficiency guru. And for the record, my husband and I have yet to fully “unplug” from our own local gardening center. Every sustainability study leads us to a hundred more concepts to explore, each of which leads to a hundred after that! It is as delightful as it is daunting.
More than anything, we’re learning that patience is the much-needed fruit of the spirit for pursuing self-sustainability; continually trading in the fast and furious for the slow and steady.
By transitioning the power plant, so to speak, little by little onto our own turf, we can expect fewer surges but fewer outages as well. In the end, sustainability is simply do-it and source-it yourself bit by bit, either in the name of principle, pleasure, or both. Regardless, such a thing requires we remain calm and connected, conserving energy and using it wisely all year long.
HIBERNATION HOMESTEADING ~10 Ways to Cultivate in Winter~
Stay in with us for some months of calm and cozy cultivating! I can’t tell you we’ll have all the hook-ups, but “we’ll leave the light on for you!”
#1. Put another log on the fire.
Wait, this is homesteading? It sure is. The uses for clean wood ash (no chemically treated wood, coal, etc.) abound on the homestead. Even though I burn the fire all day every day in winter, I can’t make enough of the stuff! And I don’t even add ours to the compost heap as we tend toward already alkaline soil. An internet search will offer you a whole laundry list of ways to use wood ash in a garden or on the homestead, but here are my personal favorites:
- Chicken dust bath amendment (mixed with dirt or added on top, supposed to aid in mite and tick management) They love it!
- Chicken coop deodorizer (in moderation)
- Weed control for the driveway or places where plants are not desired (ie, not poured in planting areas) *I’ll let you know if this works come spring*
#2. Read and grow!
Gardening literature is far too overwhelming for me to tackle during the growing season. It’s something like trying to hear your swim instructor while you’re gulping for breath and trying to keep your head above the water. All I can handle during the busy warm months is fiction, the lighter the better. But cozying up on the couch to read about composting, companion planting, and other horticulture boons while the garden is safely under two feet of snow gives me ample time to process before having to actually dig in.
Check out a few of our favorite horticulture reads here: What Mom & Pop Read in 2022📚
#3. Get vermicomposting! You won’t regret it.
Call me crazy, but I LOVE vermicomposting. In fact, worm farming is one of my favorite activities on the homestead. If it sounds intimidating to you, I assure you it’s not! Vermicomposting is actually very easy and not at all gross. Best of all, having worms 😆 is such an efficient way to deal with kitchen waste without having to tromp through the snow to the compost heap! That’s right, we keep our three worm bins in a dark closet in our basement! Does it smell? Yes. It smells heavenly.
#4. Keep makin’ that list and checking it thrice!
Spring can really have a way of sneaking up behind you and whacking you over the head. About the first of March my hubby and I start feeling that crunch of what-do-we-need. There is so much to take stock of, from seeds to trellises. It can be more than a little overwhelming. That is, if you wait until those swallows start to dart in the skies. What I’m learning to do is make my lists months in advance when I’m in want of more good reasons to wrap up in a wool blanket on the couch. Twist my arm.
Here’s some spring things to take inventory of:
- seed starting supplies (trays, pots, seed starting mix, grow lights, heating pads, labels, etc.)
- garden tools (shovels, spades, trowels, rakes, weeding sticks, twine, sheers, wheelbarrow, watering can, etc.)
- watering necessities (hoses, nozzles, timers, drip lines, etc.)
- garden amendments (coconut coir, perlite, fertilizers, grit, biochar, mycorrhizal fungi, etc.)
#5. Make this Black Friday a GREEN one.
Here are all the details and codes you need to get a great deal on all kinds of gardening goods from Epic Gardening including the fabulous NEW Birdies Bed collection! These raised beds are truly the framework of our garden. You can read all about our experience with them here: 12 Reasons We LOVE Our Raised Birdies Beds🐦
#6. Grow on!
If you’re looking for something crazy fun you can grow INSIDE all winter long, you may want to consider gourmet mushrooms. We highly recommend giving a “shroom-room” (don’t worry, it’s just a tent) a go, especially if you have kids. This has been a fabulous family project, and we’ve got to say, mushrooms really are magic after all! But . . . in a different way.
Check out our tutorial and recommendations here: 🍄March of the mushROOM🍄
Want some greens to go with those shrooms? We’re also big fans of what we affectionately call our Lettuce R2D2 or as it is more formally known, the Lettuce Grow.
#7. Order your seeds.
Ahhh. Doesn’t that picture just make you happy? Some women have their boxes of jewelry or chocolates. I have my boxes of seeds.
Our favorite seed company as of yet: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds also known as “Rare Seeds”
#8. Make your spring planting and projects calendar!
It’s easy to dream spring. We have these flowery visions of grandeur while we’re safely tucked away in hibernation mode, but then . . . reality sets in with the spring thaw. Setting our dreams to paper can be a very useful and grounding practice. First, make a planting list and get it all squared away into a calendar. Yes, actually make a dating schedule for you and your seedlings! Then, list all the projects you’d ideally like to tackle this year. Plug them in one at a time into your calendar in order of priority. Then “weed” as needed.
Don’t you just love planning sessions, no dirt under the fingernails required?
#9. Go for Green Screen.
As goes for my summer reading, I don’t allow myself to watch gardening shows during the growing season. It’s just too much to see green ALL THE TIME. However, this winter I am finding tremendous educational and therapeutic value in immersing myself in a virtual spring. Five mornings a week I have a double date with the treadmill and Gardener’s World. You can guess who gets more of my attention. Each morning I come away with something new in my gardening basket as well as with a refreshed motivation to keep dreaming spring. Oh, and a bit of exercise under the belt, I guess.
#10. Indulge in another cup of tea or coffee.
Are you starting to see me for the lazy girl gardener that I am? But honestly, there’s a lot of good for your soil in that cozy cup of yours. If you’re sipping bagged tea, I highly recommend switching to loose leaf. Firstly, it’s just so much tastier. But also, the spent leaves are about the perfect ingredient for compost and those bags kind of muddle the whole thing up. Similarly, if you drink ground coffee instead of from pods or some other sort of packaging, the used grounds are simply splendid to add to that bucket. Of course, our used tea and coffee never makes it to the compost pile because they are the staple diet for our worms! We also save all our tea and coffee dregs to add to the watering can for an instant liquid fertilizer for our herbs and houseplants.
Love, Candace Arden