Friday, February 22, 2013

Seed order came today!

I was so excited to arrive home from the university today to see a little parcel in our mailbox--my seed order!  I absolutely can't wait to get planting, but as nature would have it we've had storm after storm recently.  It will be awhile, but there is a lot of planning to be done and even just holding the pretty little seed packets sends my heart soaring.

I can't really decide which ones to be the most excited about--it's a tie I think between Amish paste tomatoes, calendula, and buckwheat. 

How cute is the personalized message on the outside of the envelope?
There's no use being impatient, so I'll settle in for the remainder of February and March to draw veggie garden plot plans, put more effort into the community garden planning, and enjoy the second part of my practicum for school.  Spring will be here soon enough, and with it the poetry and beauty of new life unfurling all around us.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Homestead goal review: one year later

Last year when I started blogging, I started out following Jill Winger's "Your Custom Homestead" e-book.  I sort of fell off that little wagon about a week in, but I did enjoy setting objectives for my homestead life over a number of different time periods.  Well, with my one-year mark of developing a homestead here in Summerside approaching its anniversary, what exactly have I accomplished?  Here's what I outlined in that post:

"Within one year, I hope to:

  • Get (at least) the support, funding, and basic infrastructure in place for the Lefurgey Community Garden and Food Pantry (think of a snazzier name for it too!)
  • Submit my complete application and gain council approval for my permit to have laying hens
  • Build a comfy coop and roomy pen for laying hens
  • Acquire said laying hens
  • Grow an awesome bumper crop of tomatoes (and do well with my other veggies!)
  • Increase my stock of preserves, particularly jam
  • Learn to make soft cheese
  • Attend at least one meeting of the PEI Beekeepers' Association"

So how did I do?

Well, I did (with a lot of help) get the community garden up and running.  We got permission and in-kind support from the City of Summerside, who gave us the use of a portion of a local park, paid to have the initial bed sites tilled, lent us a truck and a few pairs of hands to shovel and haul horse manure to enrich the beds, and installed an exterior tap on a nearby building so that we could have access to water.  

Our plot, just after planting.
I also very excitedly found out that after a number of steps, I did gain permit approval from the city to get four laying hens in our backyard.  I didn't get them last year, due to a few unforeseen events that temporarily turned our world upside-down, but a very wonderful person built me a coop.  It's beautiful, and I'll post more detailed pictures of it soon, but here it is in the winter:

The lonely, cold coop awaiting some fluffy feathered ladies to bring a little life and spark to the old abode (pen still needs to be built).

I planted SO many tomatoes that I couldn't help but get lots of them for eating, but due to a sad battle with blossom end rot, I didn't harvest enough to preserve my own (I did buy 65 pounds of locally grown tomatoes to can).  We had a super hot, dry summer so even though there was ample calcium available in the form of crushed eggshells, the scorching sun and my intermittent watering meant that there wasn't enough water for the plants to take it up.  I'm sorry, darling tomatoes.  I'll do better this year!

Some of the tomatoes that made it through the plague...
I made TONNES of jam this year though.  Loads of raspberry, strawberry, peach, spiced peach, peach marmalade, and blueberry.  I also canned tomatoes.  I bought a pressure canner and am hoping to up the ante a little this year, and preserve broths for soup.  

Spiced peach, yum!  I'll maybe post the recipe this coming summer. 

And, as the year drew to a close, I made my first ever batch of homemade soft cheese, an Italian soft cheese called stracchino that I can't find to eat here.  It turned out pretty well, too!  But I need to work on my cheesemaking repertoire--hopefully when the academic year is over I'll have more time to work at this. I also started making homemade yogurt, does that count as an extra point?

Stracchino on homemade bread, with a pear in the background to make it look classy.
 I did not attend a PEI Beekeepers Association meeting.  Something to put on the books for this year perhaps!  But have eaten lots of local honey!

It's exciting to look through my goals, some of which sounded a bit lofty at the time, and know that I have actually attained a lot of them (and lots more than weren't on the list).  Every choice I make now in terms of food, particularly, but also homemaking in general, is coloured by the homesteading life I hope to obtain.  And I've become pretty content with my little house in the suburbs, although I definitely still dream of a country property.

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