It was a summer of untamed disparity.
Pests and predators.
Abundance and scarcity.
Heatwaves and hailstorms.
Reverence and contempt.
Sweat and kick-back Adirondacks.
Big skies and smoke screens.
Thanksgiving and war.
Every day on our mountain homestead has been something like receiving a surprise package from Great Aunt Mabel. Not on your life can you possibly guess day to day what’s in store and you’re never quite sure if you want to rip it open or just set it on fire and walk away. Nestled inside could be the ugliest mess of a thing you’ve ever seen, or an exquisite, priceless heirloom that will take your breath away. And sorry, no amount of shaking it will tell. You approach the arrival of every package with an equal portion of desire and dread, invariably missing your guess as to the enigma lurking within. Oddly enough, the contents are most often a mixed bag of trash, trouble, and treasure, all womped up together in a tangled mess of questionable-looking tissue paper and garish cellophane shred.
After months of endless “surprise packages” faithfully deposited on our front mat, I feel at once enchanted and exhausted with this property. Never has a place delighted and drained me more than this, our little clearing in the big woods. My hubby and I have poured everything we have into this place in our first nine months as homesteaders. We are proud of our efforts, intimated by our list of future projects, and awestruck by the daily wonders we are so blessed (and sometimes cursed) to witness. Most evenings we seem almost non-responsive —numb from so much beauty and hard labor. We marvel together at how much we . . . can’t. How much we can’t complete, solve, absorb, or fathom. It’s as if we’ve been made fully raw through our now daily witnessing of and wrestling with a rugged mountain habitat, and then trying to grow stuff on it too 😆 .
Somehow the days have marched on, our bodies have survived (even thrived), and we find ourselves already at the end of our third season on this burgeoning bit of land. My thoughts and emotions are all over the place —much like our mountain weather— as I reflect on our first growing season on the homestead.
Half of me is mourning the conclusion of summer, and the other is ready to dive open-armed into fall; into a cozy, indulgent respite of baked goods, wool socks, and mugs of mulled cider.
I have one hand on the garden gate, fingers locked on the latch, eyes lingering over the fading colors, suspended in a sad farewell, and the other hand reaching toward the house; a haven of hibernation.
So before I step away and forget . . .
Before I find myself swallowed up in a swirl of cinnamon, soot, and first snow . . .
Come and take one last walk with me through the garden —through our first summer storm on the homestead.
EVERYTHING WE DID OUR FIRST SUMMER ON THE HOMESTEAD:
Transplanted our seedlings into our twelve Birdies Raised Beds . . .
If you want to learn more about these awesome Birdies Raised Beds, message me or leave a comment below! I can even give you a 5% discount code! 😀
Built green bean teepees . . .
We made the teepees out of saplings that needed to be thinned from our forest. Start to finish, this project only took us a few hours, although my job was basically just standing there holding poles in place 😆 !
Assembled a Backyard Discovery Skyfort in the heart of the garden . . .
An excerpt from my homestead journal, dated August 14th, 2022:
Today was a momentous day on the homestead. We finished the Skyfort. A play structure may seem to many like it has nothing to do with homesteading, but for us it has everything to do with it. Our kids aren’t just one of the reasons we decided to build a homestead together, they are the main reason. So, one of the things I’ve set my focus on in designing the layout of our little farm and garden is always taking the kids into consideration and looking at everything from their perspective. To that end, we measured out a large square in the center of the garden a few months ago and designed everything around that empty space. We assembled the Birdies Beds in an open-to-the-front frame around so our kids could swing over a forest of corn, monkey-bar beside a jungle of tomatoes, and slide toward a meadow of bees and butterflies. We put our kids at the heart of our homestead because that’s exactly what they are. Tonight, Papa and I watered and weeded as usual. Our work is made better by the soundtrack of nature —birds and chattering squirrels in the surrounding forest, breeze whispering in the corn, the buzz of bees pollinating our produce. But tonight, new sounds of nature joined the background beats of our little family farm. The heart of the garden echoed with laughter and squeals of delight. Growing kids and food in one go —that’s what holistic homesteading means to us.
Built trellis tunnels . . .
These trellis tunnels we made from extra heavyweight wire precut to size, bent into submission, and then wedged between our already assembled and filled Birdies Beds. I think these trellises made perhaps the biggest impact in our garden this first year. Not only are they just beautiful when covered in vining produce, but they provide fantastic support and space for tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash to really go wild! Oh, and they are simply magical for a kid-friendly garden.
Built a garden fence . . .
Compared to the spring’s fencing project, this little garden fence was a breeze. It took my hubby and our teenage nephew, “the Fireball,” just two days to complete.
Installed a drip system (hallelujah!) . . .
It’s hard to put a price on gaining back two hours of your life every evening from the ball and chain of a watering drill. But in this case, it cost us just under $500 to put all our raised beds, troughs, and fruit trees on drip. It’s like pure freedom on tap.
Warred on wasps . . .
Read more about our HORNET HELL here.
Weathered a colossal hailstorm (you know, just your ordinary August) . . .
I truly thought that the hail had decimated the garden. But miraculously, almost everything bounced back within a few days.
Watered, weeded, watched, and wondered . . .
Wildlife spotted the first summer on our homestead (in order of size, not significance): lady beetles, bees, wasps, grasshoppers, butterflies, frogs, toads, mice, grass snake, chipmunks, squirrels, robins, woodpeckers, flickers, hawks, owls, golden eagles, bald eagles, turkeys, deer, black bear, and elk.
Hauled and harvested . . .
In our first growing season, we harvested: cherries, raspberries, lettuces, herbs, cucumbers, tomatoes, tomatillos, apples, green beans, broccoli, peppers, onions, eggplants, corn, celery, and potatoes.
. . . and celebrated the progress of our first summer on the homestead!
Short are these glorious days of harvest, my friends. Tend faithfully, watch willfully, reap richly, and breathe deeply.
Thanks so much for touring our homestead today! If you enjoyed this post, please share with another hopeful homesteader! 🙂
Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~