Mid-July Homestead Update

Heirloom Tomatoes
Mid-July Homestead Progress Update

We’ve finally arrived at the mid-July point of the summer, which means that the garden is growing like crazy. But before I get to the vegetables, let’s talk about some of the other aspects of the homestead.

The goats are doing terrifically. The two babies, which are not really babies anymore, are two and three months old. They’ve out-grown the little eight by eight enclosure I’d made for them from strapping and chicken wire. I brought the electric fence out from the barn and set it up. I also made a little shelter for them, to protect them from the sun and rain. They are ever so happy. The two mothers are milking just fine, and we are getting about two gallons of milk total from both animals, per day. We had a little problem with an udder or teat of Elsie’s, where the slightest trace of pink was showing up. We stopped commingling her milk, separating the two udders during milking. It seems to have cleared up now, and in a few more weeks we should be able to use that milk again. Emma is the star milker, perfectly shaped teats and udders, just so easy to milk. A pure joy. Quite a contrast from late March when she first freshened, when neither she nor I knew what we were doing. There is nothing quite like a nice calm morning or evening, maybe add some rain dancing off the metal barn roof, and being one on one with each goat. I can’t wait till this fall and winter. Milking the goats should be more interesting.

We had trees taken down back in May, and I hope to start cleaning them up making firewood, now that the gardens are almost under control. I am going to build a hardwire fence for the goats this fall, and this prep work is a good start. You ought to be able to hear my chainsaw tomorrow morning if you are nearby.

The chickens are doing very well. We’re getting about eight eggs a day on average from the eleven birds. We sell the overstock at the road, and they do not last long. We just changed both the chickens’ and the goats’ grain to an organic brand.

Of the two apple trees that we had custom grafted, one died but the other is doing very well. The two pear trees that we got in May at the Fedco tree sale are taking hold nicely. We recently put some wire mesh protection around them to fend off any deer that might get the wrong idea.

The garden is doing astoundingly well! This is the first year that we can actually save onions. They are a nice size. We are growing Cortland which we started last fall from seed and over-wintered, a yellow Stuttgart type of yellow onion set, and a red onion set. All are growing exceptionally well, and we may even have extra. Since onions are a biennial, some of ours sent up seed scapes. We’ve chosen one onion to let the seed flower grow and we plan to save the seeds for planting this fall.

Leeks are impressive this year. We had grown our own seedlings, but I managed to kill most of them. I am not really sure how, except maybe I moved them too soon to the greenhouse. Luckily
we found organic seedlings at the Fedco tree sale. Danielle was quick enough to save a few of ours, and I transplanted them to the garden. We really love leek and potato soup.

Speaking of potatoes, I took a few new potatoes early, as a treat. They were really good-tasting. We are growing Elba and Peter Wilcox. Last year’s potatoes lasted us till mid-April of this year, and I am hoping this year’s crop takes us straight through till the new potatoes are harvested next year. Exhausting to think about.

We are just now running out of last year’s carrots. This is a major break-through for us. I will be writing about the philosophy of growing a “Hard Times Garden”, or “Victory Garden” this fall. The idea is to grow some basic vegetables that you can store and eat through the winter.

Garlic is coming out of the ground as we speak, and is hanging in the carport to cure. The new garlic gets planted in October.

Tomatoes are right on schedule and look promising. We still have canned tomato sauce in the pantry from last year, so that program is working great for us. Danielle saved tomato seed last fall, and so all of our plum-type tomatoes, Black Plum from Russia, are extra special. We are also growing field tomatoes of a slicing type, organic Cherokee Purple, and three plants I had gotten at the Farm and Homestead Days event, called Rainbow.

Lettuce is very successful! This year we are harvesting using a method called ‘Cut-and Come Again’, where you essentially use scissors to cut the leaves, leaving the roots in place to keep growing. Kind of like mowing your lawn. We have some spring lettuce still producing in the greenhouse that we have given a haircut to at least six times.

I’m becoming a little long-winded here, so let me just mention a few more vegetables for now. Four types of peppers that Danielle started from seed, plus cucumbers, okra, eggplant, celeriac, and celery, all inhabit the larger greenhouse. The smaller greenhouse is solid tomatoes. Peas have done well, over along the fence in the Victory Garden. We are growing broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts for the first time this year. Two types of cabbage, a red and a green. Zucchini, of course. And don’t forget Swiss chard, kale and collards. And beets!

Whew, I’ve got to get out there and get to work before it gets too hot. Till next week,…

Stephanie Reiser

About Stephanie Reiser

After many years in retail sales, writing, and part-time editing for a small newspaper in New York, I began studying organic gardening and farming, and animal husbandry. I began to read a lot about homesteading, off-grid living, consumerism, materialism, economics, and economic history.