Ducklings and lambs and horses, oh my!


Summer is flying by so quickly.    The nights are already cooling down a ton but the days are still hot.   The raspberries are almost done producing and the grapes are next in line.     Here’s how the garden is doing:


Mid-May’s Notes From the Homestead

My muscles hurt.  How I’ve not dropped 20 lbs just going from winter’s laziness to full spring work is frustrating and surprising.


A few weeks back we saw an ad offering for folks to come dig up free plants.  We went in their small window of time, right in the midst of a massive wind storm.  Lucky for us the wind was blowing right towards their garden with a freshly plowed potato field behind it.  I was literally eating dirt…it was caked in our ears, our hair, my cleavage… lol.  It was worth all the free currant and gooseberry plants we got though!   So grateful for generous gardeners willing to share their bounty.   All won’t {haven’t} make/made it… they were placed in the pasture garden willy-nilly.  The pasture garden/orchard is where the strawberries are, and weeds 5 ft high.  We hope to eventually reclaim the area into a wild food forest type place, but it will be years in the making.  Oh, and did I mention there’s no water out there?  We take a wagon load of 5 gallon buckets and water by hand.  It takes about an hour. lol.   I can’t wait to see it develop into my vision.


Speaking of the pasture orchard garden, I think we officially lost 2 peach and 2 cherry trees.   Other than the cow, we believe the rest are due to voles.  There are vole holes all over the root areas, to the point where some roots where fully exposed.   SO sad and such a waste of money. And it just pushes back fruit production years farther.   On the bright side, the cherry we transplanted last month is in bloom, along with one of the plums we purchased our first year here.  The pear trees are leafed out, as is the remaining nursery-bought cherry.


Another vision of mine is getting a little clearer…yesterday was Mother’s Day and Jerad and the younger boys built my rose arbor/garden entrance.   My David Austin roses, ordered last winter, serendipitously arrived last week so timing was ideal. I still need to paint it, and there will eventually be a picket fence around the whole garden.  Again with that long term plan stuff.  If only money and time were’t an issue!   I am so, so grateful for how hard Jerad works all week only to come home to a million homestead projects that need done.


Jerad came and woke me up way too early on Mother’s Day.  Really?  On Mother’s Day?!   But he said I needed to get up because -birds.  And so of course I jumped up happily.   There were nuthatches mating and fluttering into a bird house Jerad had put on the tree right off the back porch and they were the source of the bird sound I’ve been trying to identify for a while.   We have also found a robin’s nest in the grape vines, but I wasn’t willing to scare mama off the nest any more in order to get a picture.  With the amount of robins around here, I know there are more unspied as of yet.   Swallows are also everywhere and we’ve seen them dive into a birdhouse or two.  I love swallows.  We has 2 Sand Hill Cranes land in the pond right near us a few weeks back, and tonight they were in the neighbor’s pasture doing their mating dance. The photos are at a distance, so they are hard to spot.


The willow trees had their week of bees two weeks ago.   When I say a week of bees, I mean it.   The trees are so incredibly loud with buzzing that they sound alive.  I love just standing under one.  Once all the dandelions open the willows must no longer be first choice, for the volume drops.

The crabapple trees are in blossom and the old peach has a few blooms open.




The peony shoots are all up and the daffodils are slowly fading.   We transplanted a few more lilacs.   Hollyhock seeds planted our first summer are finally sending up leaves, so hopefully blooms will   happen this year!  Hollyhocks are one of my favorites and they grow like weeds around here.   It’s shocking this property was void of them when we moved in.


My peas are coming up, along with lettuces, spinach and kale.   The garlic is about a foot tall. IMG_0017.JPG


My chives are close to blossoming and last year’s cilantro and dill reseeded everywhere! If I’d known it’ do as well as that I wouldn’t have wasted space growing more from seed.IMG_0018.JPG


My green beans are planted, I’ve transplanted out some cabbages,  and beets were seeded.   I will transplant out some broccoli tomorrow.  We aren’t *supposed* to have any more freezes, but there was one late last week so I am going slowly.  I take out all the plants everyday to start the hardening off process.   It’s quite the chore. lol.   Next year I need to NOT start the cukes and squashes as early.  I counted FIFTY-TWO blossomed cucumbers starting.



I lost count at the broccoli starts somewhere upwards of 60. I think I must have had every single seed I started germinate this year.   I certainly won’t fit them all in the garden beds.

The air smells of cotton wood sticky blooms, which I love and most of the family hates.  A good reminder to make my cottonwood salves, along with some dandelion and stinging nettle salves or tinctures.



In other news, all the homeschool curriculum for next year has arrived.  It’s always so fun to get those boxes.


And my oldest 2 kids went to prom.  My son to his girlfriend’s public school one, and my daughter to the homeschool one.  My son had  fun when he didn’t expect to, and my daughter danced to every single song and had a complete blast.  They are growing up so fast I don’t want to blink!IMG_9937



I hope your May has been as beautiful as mine.

Notes from the Homestead-late April


The full moon over the Tetons Thursday night as we transplanted lilacs. I wish the mountains stood out more in the photo, in person it was glorious.

It’s still constant work time here. We got a lot done in the last couple weeks, but there’s plenty more to do.   We dug up some massive plum trees from someone’s yard who wanted them gone, along with a mature cherry a couple weekends back.   It was pretty funny strapping 20+ ft trees to the top of the Yukon.   So far they look like they are surviving their move to the pasture garden, but if not, it only cost us some sweat and a handful of hours.

Jerad got nearly all the rest of the garden beds built this last weekend.  It’s neat to see my lay out coming to life.   We also planted 2 gooseberry bushes in the pasture garden, one of which looks a little worse for the wear.  Most of the bushes and trees are starting to barely bud, but no leafing or blossoms quite yet, with the exception of the black currant which has leaves out.   No signs of strawberry blossoms yet.  The pond is still filled only half way, despite the rivers being full and raging.   It generally reaches full by June 1st.   Speaking of the pond…Conner took this shot after a long evening of work.   It’s unfiltered and unedited.  So pretty…trees reflected in the pond.


We transplanted lilacs along the road, as I mentioned.  They seem to be thriving.   It will eventually make for a nice hedge for some privacy and as a barrier against the poison insecticide that gets sprayed all summer.  The birds chorus all day long now, which is my favorite.   The weather has been back and forth between overcast and rain and sunny and blue skies.   I got my first sunburn working outside last weekend…Jerad and Trev got one, too.   Not sure it’s super noticeable, but I was on fire and looked like Rudolf.  {this was after a full day of work and sweat ;)}



Sunday was our day of rest,as it was Easter.  We went to church, had our own family egg hunt, and then dinner with friends.  It was nice to relax and fellowship.


The first painted turtle made its appearance this week.  Unfortunately it was only noticed after I ran over it…it was a baby. I expect to see loads more in the next few weeks.


Daffodils are finally blooming and I bought some pansies for some color.  I also purchased two hydrangeas.  I killed the one I planted last year, so we’re trying again. They’re one of my favorite flowers but only one variety I’ve found will grow here. Instead of the front of the house {east facing and sunny}, I placed them at either side of the school room door along the west side of the house where it gets more shade.

I planted the onion sets, and direct sowed chard, lettuce, kale, peas, carrots, and spinach.   I was thrilled to notice yesterday that our cilantro and spinach reseeded itself and is growing in the beds. The garlic is coming along nicely and is about 6 inches high.

Dandelions are now popping up all over the yard, but there aren’t many in flower yet.


The laying hens and ducks were moved to our chicken tractors, so Hallelujah, no more poop on the porch.   Our flock dwindled down and so we added 6 new chicks last weekend.   The baby goats are fun and annoying, and Meadow is being a pretty good mama.  We opened the pasture back up and they are happy to be frolicking once again {and I’m happy to not be paying for hay  to feed them}.  As far as other animals, we decided to focus on the gardens this year, so we are putting off meat chickens, sheep, and whatever else off until next year.




This weekend will be a busy one, as we have good friends moving here from southern Oregon and getting into town Fri/Sat.  We’ll help them unload and all that.   We also have a ballroom recital Saturday that two of the kids are in, and we have plants we’re digging up at someone’s house to add to the pasture garden.  Hopefully the last garden beds will be finished and we’ll fill them with dirt.   April is going by way too quickly, but we’re loving the season!



Early April Happenings on the Homestead

The window is full of green sprouting plants and I have many more to start.    It’s gloriously overwhelming.


This time of year feels like we’re going 100 miles an hour trying to get everything ready for summer.   We have chicken tractors to modify, baby chicks to buy and raise, garden beds to be built, strawberry runners to separate, planning for new perennials to be done and the areas prepped, a fence to be built, lots and lots of bed clean up, a lawn that needs reseeded, a new water system to be figured out, plants that need planting, a pasture garden that needs redone completely, gates put back up, etc, etc, etc…

But I so enjoy this busy season.   The pond is filling and wild ducks land every day, including one today that was a solid red black…not something I’ve seen before. The blackbirds have returned and they are out in the cattails mating or nest building, I’m not sure which.  They sound like saws! We have heard killdeer, but still no sightings.   I saw a Kingfisher near the pond last weekend ready to dive for nourishment.



Today was the first day in over a week that started clear and warmish, so I declared it a ‘only math’ day.   It’s very, very rare these days when we take a ‘fun’ day, but today was it.  I love the freedom homeschooling gives. We started the day with the two younger boys and I walking the property, hot coffee in my hand and robins in every tree. We evaluated which aspens made it through alive {2} {they were dug up from our ‘wild place’ in a hidden corner and we lined them down the street, but with all our water issues last year a lot died} and which snow balls still show signs of life {1}.  We noticed a few carrots that were left to overwinter in the garden beds!  They will be left to seed out, as carrots are biennials that seed the second year.   Then we walked the pasture garden/ orchard, which is mostly just weeds, but my head is full of what could be.    I am constantly grateful that we have this place.  It fills me up.


I then started even more seeds, because it was too nice to go inside and regardless of the couple hundred starts I have, I needed more. 😉   My youngest turned 11 last week and got a new bike, so to the skate and bike parks we went.  No broken bones= a good day.   I got to chat on the phone with a dear friend for a couple hours {Hi, Laurie} and came home to lug wood chips over a small area of a front flower bed.   I planted some hollyhock and peony roots…hoping they survive as it is now SNOWING!!!  Oh, the joys of a zone 4.


There is only a single blossom out yet, and surprisingly it’s a single English daisy that was tucked under some straw.   Not even a daffodil or tulip or hyacinth yet, but a straggly English  daisy of all things!  The leaves of tulips, daffodils, and the grape hyacinths are up, as are the first green signs of columbine, shasta daisies, yarrow, feverfew, and the thyme and mint are green and happy.   The first swell of life is on most of the fruit trees and ornamentals, the willows are getting new yellow growth {to the great temptation of the goats on the other side of the fence}, and the chives are already about 5 inches tall.   The Swiss chard from last year’s garden is setting out new leaves, so we’ll harvest those once and then replace them with new plants.   The grass is greening up and the calves across the road and behind us are frolicking about.  I am so grateful I get to witness those melancholy looking faces from our windows.   God forbid I ever get a calf…it may end up snuggling me on the couch.



So despite the snow now spitting its icy breath, I won’t complain.   Spring is here, with winter desperately trying to push it back.   I know it won’t win and my heart and dreams are all about spring {quite literally- I’m dreaming every night of planting and garden designs, with one particularly hilarious one in which the Saved By The Bell cast was helping me.  That’s what I get for rewatching the series with my daughter- Ha! }  I will be content looking through my David Austin Roses catalog that came today {and is magazine quality} and my Chiltern Seed one…my British loving soul loves the British flowers.   My David Austin roses should be shipped in May {I have wanted a certain kind for 10 years or so and finally ordered back in Jan}, and maybe by then it will stop snowing.



Notes From the Homestead~ late March

I want to say ‘Notes from {insert farm name}’, but if you can believe it, after almost 3 years we still don’t have a name.   My husband hates the names I love.   It brings me back to the days of arguing about baby names.   I still mourn the name Tucker and don’t like one of our children’s middle names.  Ha!    So anyway… suggestions are still welcome, but obviously we’re super picky.


This weekend we were supposed to get snow, but it blessedly stayed away and we got some outdoor stuff accomplished.    Saturday I pruned the fruit trees.  Probably poorly, since I can’t handle cutting branches that have potential.  IMG_9369.JPG


Last week I started so many seeds. I still have lots more to start, but my living room already looks like this:

Jerad put the bird houses he made around the property, including one he threw together last night.  This one is because I said I wanted to watch them make a nest from the kitchen window.   I didn’t even know he had made it until he scared the heck out of me showing up in the window {2nd story}.  IMG_9415.JPG

I also managed to get the raspberries all pruned.   I can’t wait for fresh ones! IMG_9414.JPG

Jerad still needs to prune the grapes.  That one is his job.  And after searching for wood chips for years, I finally stalked- eh…found, a tree guy who delivered a half load.  Now if only I could get tons more! IMG_9379.JPG


Sad news, we lost a peach tree to the neighbor’s cows.   The bark is gone.  *tears*.   Another thing on the to buy list.

Happy news, robins and black-capped chickadees are everywhere twittering, and we’ve heard, but not yet seen, killdeer. IMG_9411 (2).JPG


Happy Spring!

Notes From The Homestead: Whispers of Spring

The wind is literally howling outside right now, and we still have snow covered ground, but spring is beckoning in little ways that have me living in anticipation.   Last week I shot straight up out of bed at around 4 am because I heard geese honking.   Not much has me jumping out of bed at that ungodly hour, but I jolted out of bed and  looked out the window.  Sure enough, it was too dark to actually see anything, but I drifted back off to sleep with a huge grin on my face.   I’ve since seen them everyday trumpeting along in their V formations. Geese making their way  back north is a heralding of spring’s arrival.  Suddenly birds are chirping in the morning dawn and robins have returned just this week.   I jumped up and down in the kitchen at the sight of one on the bare, snow covered grape vines.   Robins  are back!  Hallelujah!  Jerad has made me about 6 bird houses to put up around the property. He gets me.  I’m not sure how people live without being thrilled at such things.  There is so much joy in these small whispers of life. IMG_9341

And while I’m so incredibly far behind on all my spring cleaning plans {because- books},   I did manage to repaint my kitchen.  Too bad it looks awful, as what appeared a light gray in the store looks more like a baby blue lavender on my walls.  I will be repainting with a different, hopefully better, color next week.   But it forced me to get all my vintage china off the walls and scrub them.  I need to get all this cleaning done before the siren call to be outside occurs!



Another thing I’m running a bit behind on is seed starting.  That will happen this weekend, now that my seeds came today!!!  Oh, these days of lofty plans and perfect, English country-side gardens consuming much of my daydreams.   Come July reality will hit me with weeds and water issues and goat escapees that devour all my hard work.  But for this moment, I am all optimistic {delusional?} that this will be the perfect garden year.  I also have ordered some David Austin roses that I have coveted for years, but those won’t be shipped until we can plant {Late May/June}.


I hope whatever your weather, that you are busy dreaming of all your spring plans.





Notes From The Homestead

I need to start with the last thing first if I may, and I may because I’m in charge here.   WE HAVE BABY GOATS!!!!!    I am so smitten with the twin bucklings, and mama is apparently a champ because we had no clue she had even kidded.   We had a chaotic morning, with my oldest calling from a half hour away having locked himself outside his car.  Since the drive was necessary anyways, we scrambled to make it to a church service earlier than we typically go to and so I told my daughter, currently the one in charge of morning feedings, to wait until we got home at lunch to feed them {don’t worry,we feed late anyways, they are used to it}.   When we got home at lunch time she started screaming from the barn { the 3-sided ghetto-like structure that our animals are housed in shall hereby be referred to on this blog as a barn.  It bears no resemblance to actual barns, with actual character or stability.   It does contain hay and animals though, and so if you want to picture a lovely red, vintage barn here, please do so.  Just know if you visit the barn looks more like a back alley drug dealing shed. } Anyways,   she screamed for me and -BABIES!!!  At some point, I am guessing this morning, Meadow kidded and had 2 beautiful, healthy looking little bucklings.  We are over the moon, as these are the first babies born to the homestead aside from the aforementioned gazillion rabbits {the creepy white kind, not the cute kind} and kittens.  I am NOT an animal lover in the traditional sense, but give me baby farm animals and I turn into a sap who considers smuggling the babies inside to cuddle.





So other than baby goats, this week has brought more winter weather.  LOTS of winter weather.    It really  hasn’t stopped snowing for long, and just as it clears and sidewalks and mailbox areas get shoveled, along comes another snow.   It is beautiful, and the kids enjoy spending the weekends on the snow mobile that they earn the gas for by all that shoveling.   It’s fun to watch them enjoy themselves, but I am constantly yelling, “Slow down!”  and “Don’t hit my trees!”  I am guessing moms invented the phrase slow down.

IMG_9248 (2)IMG_9247 (2)IMG_9245 (2)

This morning I awoke {for the second or third time} to the sound of a magpie.   That’s pretty typical here, and they don’t make the loveliest of bird sounds.  But when I went to start the car for church this morning, I was delighted to hear a much more pleasant bird sound.   Not quite the song bird melody that harkens spring, but a softer sound than that of the magpie’s screech.     It makes me eager for green.   To me, March should usher in with flowers budding.   In my head I am garden planning and seed starting, but the reality is still a world of white and will be for a while.   So I will be over here craving spring, but baby farm animals sure help. IMG_9243

P.S. those are adirondak chairs up to their arm rests in snow.

Time Flies

Where have the last  early 3 years gone?  I can scarcely believe it’s been so long since we stumbled our way to Idaho and then this homestead.   I apologize to my 2 followers for not keeping up this space, lol.   I spend my writing time over at which has been a great outlet for my spiritual ramblings and I have my good friend Kris to thank for her kicks in the pants to write over there.  I’m a flake without prodding.  I’d be honored of you clicked over and hung out a bit.   It’s a collaboration blog with the focus of encouraging women in Christ in their roles, a great passion of mine.


What I can’t really do in that space is share my homesteading and homeschooling journey.   And that’s something I so want to keep better record of, which brings me back to this space.   I know better than to promise much, as I under deliver.   So I won’t make lofty promises.   What I will do is say that this space is going to be more journal style mainly about engaging on the homestead and what our homeschool looks like sprinkled in here and there.


So to get you all caught up!  Since the last post, years ago, we have bought and sold and bought and sold more goats.   We currently have 4, and plan on using them as a meat source.  We raised two monster pigs, which we butchered ourselves, snout to tail.   Also?  Pigs scare me.  We raised 60 or so meat chickens in chicken tractors, which we butchered with friends who went in on them with us {they paid for feed, we took care of them and made the tractor}.   We raised and butchered 5 turkeys and  about a gazillion rabbits.   We added to our orchard.  The house already  boasted 5 apple trees, a peach and an apricot.   We have added 3 cherry, 2 plum, 2 pear, and 2 peach trees.   We have also planted a couple elderberry and a couple current bushes and 2 bush cherries.   I have some herbs established, have added some flowers, and have had 2 summers of slightly pathetic vegetable gardens.  I felt like we haven’t done much, but just writing this reminds me what we’ve accomplished. Honestly, homesteads are constantly changing and evolving. You never reach ‘done’, and so it’s easy to get discouraged or feel like you aren’t doing enough.   So, go us.   I think keeping this blog will in part remind me to not get overwhelmed.  To see the progress bit by bit and enjoy the process.


Charlotte Mason, British educator icon of the 19th century, encouraged  keeping a “Calendar of Firsts”.   It’s been on my to-do but never-done list forever.   And so this blog will also act as our calendar of firsts.  Marking the seasons, the beauty of the days, as we live them.  I want to remember when the first robin is spotted, or when we get our week of turtles everywhere, and be able to notice when the rhythm tells me the next thing is coming.


I’d love you to come alongside and be part of the journey as a witness to our beautiful, crazy life.   Your encouragement is so soul-lifting.


So tomorrow I will begin.  Well, tonight I began, but whatever.   Tomorrow starts my ‘Notes from the Homestead’ posts.   Stay tuned.


Blessings, Mandy

Boiled Chicken {and other lessons in life}

I have to laugh when people assume I’ve always known how to cook. Or that I really enjoy it. I’m not sure it’s appropriate to snicker when a well meaning mama says , “I wish I enjoyed cooking like you!”… or even better when I say something about making something from scratch and a friend rolls their eyes jokingly and says ” Of course you do!”

Oh dear friends, if you only knew.

You see, as much as I love my mother and my Didit { that’s my Grandma. When I was little my mom was jealous of my affection for my grandma, and being the feisty chicks they are, my mother thought it funny that every time I got hurt or something, she would say ‘Grandma made you do it, Grandma did it’ . Alas, Didit stuck and that’s been the only name she’s gone by for me since childhood. Anyhoo…as I was saying…}

As much as I love them, they weren’t exactly cook-from-scratch types. My beloved childhood memory of my Didit’s cooking involves those little red boxes of Lipton’s little noodle soup served straight from the microwave in clear brown mugs. My mom’s specialties were ham hock and beans and deep fried burritos. Apart from that I grew up on white bread, frozen pizza and the like.

So when I got married to my hunk of a hubby at the tender-but-not-always-smart age of 19, I was determined we were going to eat ‘healthier’.  I was working at a health club and figured it couldn’t be that hard to cook healthily.

Bring on the boiled chicken.

You all, my husband is a saint. If we were Catholic I’d write to the Pope to make it all official -like.  I proudly served up every night of the week, a frozen chicken breast that had been boiled in water. You know how they get all gelatinousy and the fat bubbles? ewww. That’s what I served him. But wait…it gets better.

Some kind soul had gifted us a spice assortment for our wedding. So after I removed the boiled frozen chicken breast from the pot, I would pick up a random herb, from which I didn’t know the difference between coriander or rosemary or anise, and I’d generously season those bad boys with dry spices or herbs. That’s it. Wa-la.

Serve that baby up with some ultra healthy rice a roni { gag} and a can of corn and I was the goddess of domesticity.

You can all pause right here to laugh heartily or cry for my dear husband as you imagine sinking your teeth into a previously frozen boiled chicken breast, sans even butter, generously doused with dried basil chunks.

Sweet baby Jesus.

I finally added enchiladas {made with…you guessed it! Boiled shredded chicken} and the hubs started asking for them every single night. I thought I must have been one amazing enchilada chef. Then it slowly dawned on me that maybe the enchiladas actually had some flavor. It was simply a respite from the daily bland meals I put before him. From that year on, I ever so slowly learned. I added recipes to my repitoire. I learned what words like roux  and chiffonade and dredge meant. I departed from the recipes and made them my own. I experimented, I burned, I had one particular creation that my husband said only someone smoking pot might consider. But overall I grew as a cook. It didn’t happen quickly or without flops. I still don’t claim to be a phenomenal cook, but these days the husband just might. I have my shining moments.

Now let me tell you secret.

I still don’t love to cook. I have my days when I am anxious to experiment or make some great feast. But do I love cooking? No, I don’t.

What I do love is honoring the man I love who works his tail off for our family. I love him satisfied from something I created with my own two hands. I like to nourish the bodies of these 4 kiddos my Saviour entrusted to my care. I also love to eat good food *eh hm*

All that said to remind you, we are all on a journey. I have soooooo much still to learn. I still despise baking cakes and making pie crust from scratch.  I am not doing all the things, let alone doing them all well.  I am honored when people ask for recipes or home remedies { I still love herbs, but now I actually know what they are. And I figured out my hubby hates basil. Oops.} Yes, I homeschool and can point you to cool history books etc, but I stink at science experiments and if I’m reading good book I will make it a light day.  We’re embarking on this homesteading thing with pretty much zero knowledge but big dreams. My point is this…we all start somewhere. We all have gifts. Don’t compare yours to mine or anyone’s!  Just figure out what area you want to grow in and start! Baby steps.

Step 1: No more boiled chicken.