Mar 282011
 

The first things in the ground were the strawberries. Since they came as a plant, we went ahead and put them in the ground Friday evening after we brought them home.

Seeds we wanted to do in the morning, which left out Saturday (4H meet for Nick) and Sunday (Church), so we geared up to go as the start of a new week…

The larger seeds I set to soak before everyone was even out of bed, and we all had a fun time putting most of our garden in the ground.

We planted:

  • Watermelon
  • Summer Squash
  • Cucumbers
  • Onion
  • Potato
  • Garlic
  • Shallot
  • Horseradish
  • Nasturtiums
  • Tomato
  • Butternut Squash
  • Bush Bean (half)
  • Pepper
  • Lettuce (half)
  • Carrot (one quarter)
  • Marigolds

The Bush Beans, Lettuce, and Carrots we are staggering, so that the harvest will be spread out.

We also had not yet received our Corn and Cowpeas, which just arrived.

I have two squares marked out for Spinach, but in getting down to the details for each plant I realized that it was too late to plant spinach, a cool-weather crop, for a late-spring or early-summer harvest. We’ll have to hold off, and plant what would normally be the second wave of spinach – planted after the worst of the summer heat, and harvested later in the fall.

Maybe there’s something I can do with those squares in the meantime – perhaps I’ll look up the beets and radishes from the seed assortment, which I had not planned to grow.

Mar 252011
 

Using the Square Foot Gardening method, we’ve decided to go with two squares, plus a third square with just sweet corn.

Nick has made me up a lovely Visio garden layout diagram, so that we can think things through now, and keep track of what we did for future planning.

Here’s what I’m thinking so far:

What do you think?

I’m waiting on the corn and cowpeas I ordered from Monticello (yeah, we’re going to grow the plants from which Thomas Jefferson ate – how fun is that?), but other than that we have everything listed here ready to go…

Mar 142011
 

Sounds serious, eh?

I’ve never “gardened”.

Houseplants, yes. Water the lawn and mow it, yes.

“Garden”, no.

But if we’re going to make Contentment (see our explanation page, and posts about it) a reality, it’s going to take quite a bit of farm know-how.

So I figure I better work on knowing how, now.

I’m starting with the most-recommended book in my informal survey of gardening friends:

I have to make a few decisions such as -

  • Where to put the garden in the yard
  • How big to make it (in this case, how many “squares” to create)
  • Dig into the ground only, or build raised beds on top?
  • How best to make a fertile plot of of this horrible, sandy soil (what needs to be added)

All before we even get to the fun questions, such as choosing which crops to grow!

I sent for the Free Catalog from Gardens Alive, which includes a $25 coupon (not a sponsored endorsement, just sharing a deal!). Using it, I got their 10 pack of seeds, since they meet my primary requirement of being open-pollinated / heirloom varieties. I may not be saving any seeds this year, but I know that that is part of our future.

I want to eat the food the way God designed it, and I want it to reproduce itself self-sufficiently – also the way God designed it.

Their 10-pack includes:

  • Blue Lake 274 Bush Bean
  • Detroit Dark Red Beet
  • Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce
  • Cal Wonder Pepper
  • Cherry Belle Radish
  • Danvers 126 Carrot
  • Bloomsdale Spinach
  • Early Summer Crookneck Squash
  • Brandywine Red Tomato
  • Sweet Burpless Cucumber Hybrid

We will probably not grow the beet or the radish, but will use the other eight as our first experiments with each of those vegetables.

Important things we’re considering adding include Corn, Blackeyed Peas, Pole Beans, Winter Squash, Brussels Sprouts, Garlic, Onion, and some friendly and edible plants like Nasturtium and Marigold.

Some things I’m anxious to grow we won’t start until we move up to the land, since they’re not annuals: Asparagus, Blueberries, etc.

And how do Strawberries grow in Mississippi? In Florida they’re an annual crop, since there’s no winter to speak of to create the dormancy period which would signal them to produce again… So, here, can I keep them going?

I plan to grow a few little trees in containers – like Clementines. Not sure whether I should start those now, or would the trip still traumatize them too much?

Yes, I’m totally overwhelmed. Likely I will end up throwing myself on the mercy of the garden department staff at Lowes….

Feb 192011
 

I have been looking into different means of lowering our energy costs. The two biggest expenses seem to be heating and cooling. The three places that this is applicable are 1) heating the clothes dryer, 2) heating the house, and 3) cooling the house.

The first thing to do is to make sure the house is adequately insulated and sealed for holding in the heat and cool that we produce. There are several places to get information on this, so I will go on to other things to help.

1) Heating the clothes dryer.

This is a huge drain on our electricity. Using electricity to produce heat is the most inefficient way to use electricity. I actually documented my power use and found that running the dryer uses 5 times the electricity used on an average day. We solved this problem by installing a gas dryer. Burning natural gas to produce heat is much more efficient and less expensive than using electricity.

Another option here is to hang some clothes out to dry naturally. We have an indoor rack that we can hang a few things on and we have an outdoor line (like mom used to have). Hanging things out to dry is good for the bulky things we have.

2) Heating and cooling the geothermal way.

This is a good discussion topic for later. For now just imagine heating and cooling with the same temperature air from an underground duct system. Just like caves stay a constant temperature because of their massive earth insulation, we can have a buried duct system that bring constant warmer than the ambient air temperature in during the winter and cooler than the ambient air temperature during the summer. This is really simplified and these systems are usually supplemented with other methods.

3) Heating the house.

This is the same huge drain on electricity. So, of course, we use gas. This cuts the electric bill by about $200 per month during the cold months and only adds about $35 per month to the gas bill.

4) Cooling the house.

This is my biggest concern right now. Everyone who lives in a region of the world where it is hot for 3 to 6 months out of the year (I know, some are longer) knows how expensive it is to run a central AC unit or window units. This isn’t as easy as just “switch to gas”. Gas units are expensive up front. But if you can afford it and will keep the house for many years then go for it. Heat exchanger units with natural gas are a great alternative. I am going a different, kind of extremist method. I’m going to build an ice cooling system.

In its simplest form we could just put an ice block in front of a fan and turn on the fan. But the ice would melt and get all over the floor. OK, let’s put it in a tray to catch the water. We can even reuse the water if we retain it in a collection system. This would still put a lot of moisture in the air and in some parts of the world that’s the last thing we want. Let’s go a step further and put the water in containers (like a 2 liter soda bottle) and freeze it. Now when the ice melts it is inside the container and we can just freeze it again. We might even incorporate fins on the containers that would conduct the cool over a larger surface area. If you put water in bottles and freeze it, remember to leave a little space at the top of the bottle for expansion of the freezing water and leave the cap off while freezing so the bottle doesn’t burst.

OK, that’s one method.

What if we used the ice a little differently? What if we had an insulated container lined with hose and in the container we had ice and in the hose we circulated liquid that was transported to a cooling coil on a fan?

Take a container (maybe a large Styrofoam cooler) and line the inside with a hose that can circulate liquid. If the hose is a material that conducts (like copper pipe) it will work better, but PVC or garden hose will work. Fill the container with ice and circulate the liquid in the hose using a small pump. Connect the ends of the hose to a cooling coil in a central ducted system or a stand-alone fan. You will need the ice to actually come in contact with the hose for best conduction. This makes the reusable bottle method not as good, but we could drain out the water and refreeze it into ice cubes for reuse. For a little more efficiency we could get rid of all the extra space in the middle of the container. We could actually fill that with smaller containers (like a few 2 litre bottles).

We still need fans to circulate the air, but like the heating, we can save about $200 on the electric bill per month by not using the big central AC unit and the fan will add about $35 back into the bill. The more efficient the fan is, the better.

Taking it to another level …

What I propose to do at my home place is a bit more extensive. I plan to start with a 4 foot by 4 foot pit in the ground. The bottom of the pit will be tapered down in a cone mostly to give a little more surface area. Line the pit with a heavy plastic to capture the water from the melting ice that can be reused or repurposed. I was thinking about putting a small hose and pump down to the bottom of the pit to pull out the water as it accumulates. Next is to line the pit with hose starting about two feet below the top edge. This is much like the Styrofoam cooler method, only this uses the ground for the insulation. This also allows me to have a much larger holding container. The last step is to fill the pit with ice and seal it up. As in the Styrofoam cooler method, I will pump liquid through the hose to a cooling coil used to cool the air and a fan to circulate the air. I will need to get on a regular schedule of draining out the melt-off every day to freeze back into ice for the next day. Usually this type of water cooling system is piped into each room in the house where you can connect a coil and fan setup in any or all of the rooms.

If you live in an area where you can collect ice all winter and store it in a barn or shed, you wouldn’t have to make or buy as much ice during the summer. And if you built this as a large container above ground you could insulate it and ice it for cooling in the summer and build a fire under it for heating the water in the winter.

…There’s much more to come as I investigate this topic further…

Dec 202010
 

My good friends at Franklin Springs Family Media have done it again! Yep, the folks who bring you the wonderful Homestead Blessings series has something new.

This DVD is about hunting. Sort of.

It does have a lot of talk about hunting in it, and a lot of information – but much of it is only sort of “overheard” in the context of the time we spend with the people involved.

The real story of this DVD is, as the title suggests, about families. Hunting is a means to accomplish any number of important parenting tasks that we might be interested in:

  • Spending quality time with our children
  • (And even more specifically, quality Father/Daughter or Father/Son focused, individual time)
  • Working together as a team
  • Setting and accomplishing goals
  • Appreciating the majesty of God’s creation
  • Potentially providing food for our family
  • Allowing children to develop competence, and appropriate self-esteem
  • Practicing waiting, and patience
  • Following rules and established standards of practice

…and others…

We enjoyed watching this DVD together as a family.

Wolf grew up hunting, and we look forward to the time in a couple of years when we can move back to a place where he can share that heritage with our children.

Here’s a preview of the film:

The Family Heritage of Hunting-Trailer from Franklin Springs on Vimeo.

I would heartily recommend this DVD to anyone who hunts, anyone interested in hunting, anyone who enjoys camping and outdoor activities already, and anyone who might even consider it as an avenue for family development.

BUY IT!

Order it directly from Franklin Springs. As of this posting date, they are offering it at a special promotional price!

WIN IT!

One lucky As For My House reader will win their own copy of the Family Heritage of Hunting DVD!

Make sure to leave your email address with each comment. (Used only to contact the winner. If your email is entered in the form it will be saved for me but not displayed).

1. Leave a comment here and share a favorite hunting story of your own, or what sparked your interest about this DVD.

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Once you have completed #1, you can earn additional entries by doing any or all of the following.

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6. Enter any of the other giveaways posted here, or over at Life on the Road, and comment back here telling me which one.

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In additon to these, there are MANY more ways to earn extra entries. You know, all the usual stuff like sharing on Facebook, Tweeting, and so on? Just click over to our Giveaway Policy page for all the details!

This giveaway ends 1/3/2011 at 11:59pm (Central), or more likely some time the following morning when I log in again.

The winner will be chosen using random.org and announced on the blog, as well as contacted by email. Winner must respond within 48 hours, or a new winner will be selected. Your DVD will ship directly from Franklin Springs.

I received this DVD free from Franklin Springs; I was not compensated in any other way for this review. This review has not been approved or edited by anyone.
I was “disclosing” before it was cool. See my Review Policy for the full scoop.

***

Comments are now closed. Look for the winner to be announced soon in a separate post!

Aug 282010
 

There are a number of different trees growing up on the Holley property.

Wolf plans to thin out a bunch of the pines near the house area, since they are the favored habitat of ticks and other nasty critters.

There are also plenty of hardwoods around, so things will still be plentifully forested.

But I also want to plant some food trees.

We’re planning to buy the biggest ones we can manage (financially and logistically), since we hope to not have to wait ten years for a mature, fruit-bearing tree. And we are hoping to start planting now, so that they have these couple of years before we move up there.

So, what would the ideal small homestead “tree farm” contain?

Here’s what we’ve been thinking:

  • Apples. Good for eating straight, applesauce, cider, etc., etc.
  • Sugar Maple. Syrup and sugar – the old-fashioned way.
  • Pecan. Nuts are a good food. Pecan is not necessarily our very favorite, but I know it grows well in the climate there.

I also want to plant a couple of non-fruit-bearing pear trees, which has the most beautiful, sudden bursting into flower in the springtime, and allowed me to fall in love with Mississippi.

So, how many of each kind of tree? Just one, because how much can we eat? Two, for pollination, and you can sell surpluses? Three, because you want two and that way there’s a spare?

And what other food trees should we consider?

Aug 232010
 

Now begins the quest for a simpler life.

My wife and I have been wanting a simpler lifestyle more and more over the past few years. We are both used to the big cities of California.

She has come to long for a simpler life for us and our children. I was born and reared in northeast Mississippi and hunted and fished and heard stories of farming and having animals.

We felt that if we could ever buy a decent-sized plot of land with running water it would be a dream come true.

I grew up spending lots of free time at “the farm”. My uncle had purchased upwards of 80 acres of land outside of town. After he died in the Air Force the land went to my grandfather, and when he passed away my dad got the land and eventually built a house there.

My father passed away on August 16th, 2010 and my brother asked if I had any desire to move onto the land when our step-mother moved away. She will stay for a while, but eventually retire to the town further north where her family lives.

I thought about the 80-plus acres with a creek running through it.

I think our dreams have just begun to come to fruition.

Our plans are to have an essentially self-sufficient life on a small homeplace. We have planned out little bits and pieces of it over the years; we have lovingly come to call this place “Contentment” after Paul’s description in the Bible.

I plan to document and pass on the things that work and the things that don’t.

The journey will begin now for me and my wife Tiffany (in our 40′s), oldest son Nick at 16, Jewel at 5, and R.T. at 2 years of age.

The following months or years will be planning and preparing the land.

On some undetermined date in the future we will move to the homeplace and start our new life … one step at a time.

So, here we go … on the road to Contentment.

 Posted by at 8:17 am