Friday, July 30, 2010

How and Where We Have to Earn an Income

Let me first say, being the creative sort, money doesn't come easy.  If at all.  Thankfully my Miracle Worker has a well-spring of skills that so many others can only dream they had, myself included.  My less practical mind suits me better to keeping the books, keeping the home, raising the children, gardening, and attending to the many varied jobs I must fulfill that keeps us tied together.  None of this would be if it were not for MW.  His job I envy at times, it gets him off the ranch, out of the house and on the road to any destination that needs anything from a generator repair, to a solar installation.  As for his point of view, he would much rather spend all of his waking hours working on the homestead and tending to its multiple jobs awaiting attention.  This is our ideal scenario, which is to work closely as a family earning a living off the land we are so blessed to live and work on.

Today is a typical example of what MW must do to keep us afloat.  He got up at 4:30 this morning and is on the road making a 600 mile round trip to a location in California to work on a generator for about one hour.  Of course he is compensated for travel time, fuel, and the labor for that one hour.  His work has taken him to New Mexico, Utah, California, and all over Arizona.  We are thankful for the ability to earn something, but sincerely hope that the homestead will begin to make the lion's share, if not all, of our monetary needs.  Being a family which works together and lives sustainably off the land is our ultimate dream, and it's starting to come true, one step at a time!

One of the significant steps we have taken this year has been to clear the land for the garlic crops.  It may only be about 7,000 square feet, but it's a great way to get our feet wet in raising garlic.  We have our eyes on other locations on the property to increase the size to about one acre for the second year, if not the first year.

The goats are a special resource we hope to make use of starting next spring.  With their milk we hope to make fudge, kefir, cheese, yogurt, butter, etc.  Selling fudge ought to be yet another source of income.  Cheeses may be in the future if we decide to get all of the state requirements fulfilled.  Even the eggs from the hens will become another source of income.


This area we cleared the goats and llamas out of is about 3,000 square feet.  I've never had a garden that big before, so I don't know how much we'll get out of it.  I can safely say we'll be able to freeze and preserve a great deal of produce from it, saving a fortune on the grocery bill.  However, I'm hoping we can still sell some to supplement the garlic crop.

I think crops like cabbage, fresh and dried herbs, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, winter squash, pumpkins...

...and maybe even beans, such as Black Eyed Peas,

and freshly cut flowers like zinnias and sunflowers ought to add diversity to the garlic.

Meanwhile, I must get creative about rounding up some extra cash.  You see, the new school year is nearly upon us, and I need to buy the books and materials I'll need.  In addition, I've got a very special project I would like to participate in.  It's called the "Sketchbook Project: 2011 Tour," offered by the Art House Co-Op in Brooklyn New York.  Here's their link if you're interested in checking it out.  Like they say on their site, it's like a concert tour, only with sketchbooks.  I have not had a great deal of time on my hands which allows me to paint on any regular basis.  However, I think I do have it in me to go ahead and enjoy the relaxed feeling of simply sketching.  This opportunity just gives me a fun reason (not that I really need one) to sketch away.

Before I rolled the coins, this jug was about one quarter full.  As you can see in the pic above with the rolled coins, I still have more to roll.  We'll be able to purchase all the school supplies and still  have quite a bit left over to cover the cost of joining the Art House Tour.  A wonderful thing considering this has been about six years of accumulated coinage!

Knowing I'll be able to do a sketchbook for the Tour, I felt the need to do a sketch to reassure myself that I can still draw.  During a one hour storm, I sat down and sketched this pen and ink.  Ok, I think I can do this!  I can't hardly wait to get started!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Decorate? Me?

I would love to spruce up my home's decor.  Decorate like I mean it.  Living in a distant rural land, raising and homeschooling boys, and gearing up the homestead for greater production next year, has made decorating my living space a low priority.  Unfortunately.  The upside is that I no longer am doing any of this inside a fifth-wheel!  And, my garden has helped give me a way of enjoying my indoors today.

I was outside in the garden last night harvesting herbs.  I brought them up and placed the bounty on the only useful surface, the dinning room table.  That's where everything lands.  As dinner approached, I was forced to relocate the herbs.  So, I hastily placed them on my grandmother's old kitchen table and went about my business.  After dinner was served and cleaned up, I looked over and realized that with a little tiny bit of arranging, I had a work of art before my very eyes!

Voila!  An old-time country table filled with life's most basic pleasures, herbs!  Notice the potatoe bag I left under the table, to make sure I don't loose touch with reality!

With the house filled with strong, fresh scents of the earth, I cut wire and hung the herbs to dry behind the wood stove.

Not only is there visual beauty, but our home is filled with the mixed aromas of sage, rosemary and lavender!  Oh the satisfaction!  Suddenly my home is beautiful!  Despite some unfinished areas.

As I begin to look around I find renewed happiness in the little vignettes I've already created here and there.  Like the simple little incense burner I love so much.  The basket weaving is by a young novice Navajo weaver.  And my husband's cowboy hat, another touch of reality, 'wherever it lands.'

And what really makes this house a home is being able to enjoy and display my own artwork.

These are my favorite pen and inks.  Southwestern scenes depicting the mystery and beauty of nature at its best.  No real rhyme or reason to the display, just that I love the watercolors too!

This is my six-year-in-waiting kitchen.  A long time coming, but worth the wait.  It's not finished yet, but it's coming together.  It's quite an upgrade from cooking on a camp stove or in the fifth-wheel!  One of our neighbors is a skilled wood worker.  He made the cabinet for the sink we found laying in the desert dirt.  The owner was happy to let us take it.

Our friend made the beautiful cabinet and put the perfect hardware on...

...which matches the style of the sink and the faucet handles we were given!  Not to mention the stove itself.  It all came together.

We found the stove on Craig's List.  MW went down to Mesa to pick it up.  Once we got it home, we tested the stove, pressure washed it, and scrubbed it down with degreaser.  Almost as good as new!  Well, actually it has a lot of 'character,' with all its chips and dings in the porcelain!  But isn't that what makes it so much more interesting?  So not only do I cook dinner, I now do it in style!

As if the day wasn't already perfect, here comes a storm!  You won't hear me complaining!

I live in a real-live painting!

Here comes a wall of clouds!

I am blessed.  And the future still holds so much more promise!  Yes, a blessed life indeed.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Instead of Flowers, Rip Up Some Dirt for Me!

Oh yeah!  Sounds great!  We women love our flowers.  My Miracle Worker doesn't quite understand why I plant flowers, when to his mind all the garden space should be filled with food crops.  I tell him the practicality of flowers is crop protection.  I really want to say, "Because they're pretty, and I want to," but that doesn't register in his logical, practical mind.  So I explain how flowers earn their keep in the garden.  My ranch-neighbor friend reminded my hubby that flowers are a cheap hobby.  Her husband also doesn't understand why she allows flowers to take up space, "Plant something we can eat!" he says.  "YEAH! Exactly!" chimes in my dearly beloved.  Well, my friend had a point, "I go into my garden, tend it, take in the beauty for a few minutes and come back refreshed."  Yep.  I agree.  And I remind him of what she told him; they're a cheap hobby which makes me happy.  What more could you ask for?


So the point I'm trying to make is, after "The Debate" over the worth of a flower, my MW started tearing up the soil in the new garden space.  As a result, I felt more happy than I imagined I could over freshly turned soil!

The smell of fresh, damp, manure-filled soil tickled my nostrils and I could not imagine being more delighted with my place in life.  You gardeners out there know just what I mean!

Boulders being dug up...


...and relocated outside the new garden space...
All is right in the world.

Back-breaking work done in no time at all.  I'd classify that as a miracle...

Thank you Miracle Worker!  The joy that this has brought me prompted me to tell my MW, "Don't bother buying me flowers, just tear up some soil!"  His ears pricked up and said, "Really!"  "Yes, really," I said, "So I can plant my own flowers!"  "And all I have to do is come down here and pick some flowers for you instead of buying them!" he said.  "No, because I'll wonder why you picked THESE, when you should have picked THOSE over there!"  Reminded how he can't figure out the female mind, he went back to digging up dirt and rocks...  Poor MW!

Because my garden is so small and I'm learning so much, I call it my test garden.  Next year I'll have a better idea of how much space each plant takes.  I'll know how many plants I would like based on their yields this year.

The cabbage takes up more space and yields less than, say, tomatoes do.  To protect cabbages, I've surrounded them with mint (to deter moths), petunias (beetle and aphid repellent), lavender (repels crickets, grasshoppers, moths, mice and rabbits), and marigolds (deter cabbage worms).

I now know I would like more Bell Pepper plants next year!  One or two plants just don't yield enough.  Bell Peppers stop producing if it gets over 90 degrees.  They need an eastern exposure so that they'll be protected from the harsh afternoon sun.  Bring on the Sunflowers!  They grow tall enough to shade the peppers!  Or use corn.  These, and the leaves of the pepper plant itself, help shade the fruit from sunburn.  The sunflower, being a dreaded flower, has other worthy benefits, such as food for birds which also stay in the garden to eat insects.  They keep the soil shaded and cool for melons and squashes.  They are also said to sweeten cucumbers.  Another interesting use for sunflowers is to let beans climb on them for support!

Garlic, above, is a powerful protector.  It's good for people and plants alike.  It repels aphids and beetles.  Nothing really 'bugs' garlic.  The marigolds are just as potent and beneficial.  Just because they're flowers doesn't mean they aren't workhorses.  They are known to fight diseases among plants, repel grasshoppers and crickets, while attracting useful insects.  These marigolds, above, volunteered from last years flowers!  Weeds don't stand a chance when they are thick like this!

Enough of my defense of flowers in the garden!  You get the picture!  As the garden space is prepared for next year, I dream of the many flowers I'll be tucking in with the food crops.  MW's digging was as good, if not better than receiving a bouquet of flowers!  But if he wants to pick flowers for me from the garden, I'll absolutely love it...really!

One last picture of the mystery plant...

...not such a mystery anymore! 

Ashlee guessed, or rather knew, well before I even had a clue what it was! 

Now that I know it's a pumpkin, I know where the seed came from.  It was a sugar pie type of pumpkin I got from the store.  They are less watery and sweeter, making it perfect for pies.  I'm letting three pumpkins grow on the plant that is now trailing along the ground.  That way each boy will have his own pumpkin in the Fall!

This fun mystery has turned into a joyful anticipation for Autumn.  I've read they are easy to grow (understatement!).  We'll be making room in the garden next year for a few more vines!

Thank you for your guesses!  You made it that much more fun!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Garden After the Storm

The storm created a beautiful sunset last night.  Then it remained cloudy as it continued to sprinkle here and there.  In the morning, we woke up to an overcast sky.  It got down to 65 degrees during the night and the morning was cool and crisp.  I didn't have to water the garden yesterday, so I went down to see how it was doing this morning. 

I found busy bees visiting a new zinnia blossom.

The cabbages seem to have grown over night!  I love the textures of the cabbage leaves and how they make water droplets look.

This is the first blossom of the cosmos!

I absolutely love zinnias!

Yep, love 'em.  Notice the bees in three of the six pictured.  With flowers in the garden, you don't have to worry about pollination!

These are the black eyed peas.  I read they don't need a trellis or support.  I'm suspicious of that advice now!

Yes, another zinnia shot, I can't help myself!

If you want to grow bell peppers, I have four words for you, fish emulsion, and, magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts).  They will thank you by growing strong and bearing beautiful peppers.  Last year my peppers did very poorly, never growing or producing peppers.  Probably because I didn't know about this trick until I read up on their needs.  Try it, you'll be rewarded for the extra effort!

Beautiful veins on the beet leaves.

An assassin bug in strike position.

And then walks away!  I guess he didn't like his picture taken.

Look at all those happy bees!

This picture makes me want to paint!  Amazing design and symmetry.  Not to mention color and motion!

Now for the third installment of the mystery plant.....

This was taken the next day.  Surprising how it grows so fast isn't it?  By now the light is beginning to dimly dawn...  I admit at first I was entertaining the hopes that it would be a watermelon, but not exactly convinced of that.  Any more guesses?  Want to revise any earlier ones?
Have fun because the next installment is probably a dead giveaway!