About this blog

workboatIt’s September. I’ve been thinking about starting this blog for a while, partly because there is just so much beauty in this life to put words to, but also because several people have asked me to write a book, start a blog, and teach them something- about things I do here on the farm. These are things that seem normal to me; gardening, beekeeping, canning, crabbing, pickling, using plants for medicine, making bread, butchering a deer, roasting a haunch, making hard cider, weaving a basket. These things feel very satisfying to me, particularly now, when I look at the rows of Mason jars on our shelves, the garlic braids and strings of dried chilies, the many jars of jams and jellies. I have a carboy full of hard cider I need to prime and bottle tonight.  People want that. (Yes, the cider too.) I guess the keyword is homesteading.

Homesteading. I chew this word over. It sounds like Little House on the Prairie. What does it mean? Here is the Wikipedia link for homesteading. Self-sufficiency lifestyle, subsistence agriculture, foodstuff preservation, back to the land? Yes, that’s us.

I think in these times people feel a longing for reconnection to what is normal; to be connected to the seasons, to put your hands in healthy earth, to feed the people you love by God’s grace and the labor of your arms. The jars of food you put up taste better, not just because they are more nutrient dense with the compost they grew in, but because of the work you did, the memories of beautiful days hoeing weeds; the time spent. So many people don’t know how to do this work any more. Steve Moaney, a man who worked for my grandmother for 50 years, taught me. I’d like to pass on his gift.

The idea is to write this blog, seeing the year as a book, with a chapter for each month. Your comments, questions, and feedback will help me to form each chapter. In this month, I will be posting about the fall and winter garden, what is working, and what isn’t. I will talk about what I am still harvesting and preserving from the summer garden, and how to do that. I am also gathering chestnuts and apples, and processing those, so I will explain what I’m doing. All these skills which are considered old-time are really pretty simple!red okra pickles (3)

As winter comes on I will be writing about wintertime work in our relatively mild Eastern Shore climate. We cut a lot of wood for the wood stoves- in the house and in the greenhouse. We have his and hers chainsaws. So it’s good to know how to use and maintain a chainsaw, regardless of your gender. I will probably be talking about what’s to eat in the greenhouse as well as the winter salads that survive in our climate. But also there is inside work; repairing, planning, organizing. It’s a good time to talk about tools, which are essential to my happiness. My Rogue hand hoe is so good and so nicely balanced I think it could work up a seedbed without me if I overslept. And it’s a good time to talk about old-time baking.  German Christmas baking…I thank the Lord my mother kept all those old recipes and is teaching me how to make them, one by one. And the quiet days when I let myself read; books I can share with you, discuss, philosophize… January we are probably going to Ecuador, so you can come along! They have a 365 day gardening season. And coffee! Months vary, of course, but generally by the end of the year you would have a sort of idea of how we do things here, and that might help you to become more self sufficient.

So you see what I am trying to do.  As I write the things that come up during the year, you can tell me what you think. It will be sort of in between a letter to a friend and a seminar. A sort of very rough rough draft for a book. Your comments and questions will help me to understand what people want to know, and also it will help me to look at things that I haven’t thought of, and put words to things I haven’t worked out yet. Do you think it will work?


2 thoughts on “About this blog

  1. How about having bees? We have two hives in our garden since last June. We haven’t had honey yet, but I do hope to get them through winter and get honey from May onwards!! It is so important for your garden!! We have a film in the cinemas right now, which is called “More than honey”. Very interesting: http://www.morethanhoney-derfilm.at/
    Love, Caroline

    • We have been keeping bees for about 5 years now, and that is definitely something I need to post about. Winter is very dicey, like you said, especially because if the winter is warmer, things can go very wrong. On a warm day in January the bees might become more active and expand their “bee ball” in which they hibernate. They are supposed to stay in a tight ball all winter, slowly rotating in and out, keeping the queen at the center, and gradually migrating up through the honey combs. That’s why you rotate the hives in spring. (I’m saying this for the benefit of people who don’t have bees yet- I know you know all this) But if they start spreading out and eating honey a few inches away, then when it gets cold again and they recontract, they can starve to death- inches from their food. Under 40 F they can’t move. I keep a bag of sugar, punctured with a pin in many places, directly on top of the bars. Right now they are still down in the honey and that syrup only gets eaten by flying bees on warmer days. What worries me though is that I did see some varroa mites in the fall. I powdered some sugar in the vitamix and dusted them, which makes mites fall off, and since I have a screened bottom board, they can’t get back up. Nonetheless this is a method which works best repeated regularly, which isn’t possible in winter, as the bees would get too cold. So I too am hoping the girls make it through the winter. We had great honey year before last, but last year I lost 2 out of 3 hives, probably due to systemic pesticides used on the corn. I just have one very large hive now, and am planning to divide it if they survive.

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