This always happens in the fall – I am so busy enjoying living the homestead life that I don’t take time to blog about it. I guess it is a good problem to have! We have really been enjoying soaking in fall homestead life lately. It is plenty full of things to do – harvesting, hunting, butchering, canning, freezing, and other winter prep…all done in the most perfect type of weather…but we really enjoy them all so while it is physically exhausting it is emotionally uplifting. Autumn is by FAR my favorite season, and getting to enjoy it on our little homestead is just the best.
Another Root Cellar Veggie Rack
Grandpa and the kids built the second root cellar veggie rack. We made some changes now that we have seen the veggies in the first rack. We realized we could make the drawers a lot shallower and still fit the tomatoes in it, and then use the first one with deeper drawers for the big onions and squash etc. With the drawers being more shallow they were able to get 14 drawers instead of 10 in about the same height, which makes it an even more efficient use of space.
The first rack (on the right) boasts 50 square feet of storage space, whereas the second one (left) has 70 square feet of storage space with the same footprint. Both will be useful, because the deeper drawers can hold the bigger items.
We also added some 3×5 card holders to the front of each drawer so we can label what is in each. This helps with my seed saving plans.
We had made these drawers with the plans for them to hold mostly tomatoes and onions, plus some squash. We realized they are also convenient for doing the finishing drying of the shelling beans. They dry mostly on the vine, but some are brought in that still need some extra drying so we have been putting them in the drawers for that.
The kids also noticed that the one with deeper drawers can hold pint jars, so when they are not in use over the late winter, spring, and summer, we can store the empty canning jars in them. Then canning season will start before we need to put the veggies in them, so it will be perfect timing.
Overall I am so so happy with these drawers, they are proving very useful for the homestead.
We are continuing to be in full blown canning season, and there is no end in sight yet. We are hoping to put up more this year than ever before, which is exciting.
The tomatoes are quickly ripening in their drawers (you can see how empty the drawers are, they all started out full), so every few days we go down and load up all the ripe ones to do a canner load (or two…or three!).
We are canning whole tomatoes for use in soups and stews and we are canning marinara sauce which we use on our weekly homemade pizzas when we do Friday night family night with pizza and a movie.
The red in these pics are Mountain Roma, and the yellow are Russian Yellow. Both excellent varieties for our cold climate and short season.
We are also starting to can peaches and apples. Those are not grown on our homestead (though the apples will be very soon!), so we wait and buy them when their price is good at the discount store.
The garden has gone from overflowing jungle…
The frosts have been moving the harvest along quickly this year. I have some pepper plants left in a tent, a few cabbage, the brussel sprouts, some carrots, and some shelling beans still out there. But the large majority of everything is gone now.
We are really excited at our first successful pepper harvest! Earlier in the year I had mentioned they didn’t seem to be doing well and one of you commented that you always feel like they have a slow start and then they grow like crazy and that maybe that would happen to us too. Well, that is exactly what happened! A few of the plants had shadier garden spots and didn’t really produce at all. But the ones that got good sun produced beautifully.
Since this is our first time actually getting them to grow, we are trying out a few different ways of dealing with them. Some were harvested and are indoors now, but some were left on the plant under a tent to see if we can get them more ripe before frost completely kills them. We have tried peppers before but they never worked in our cold, short season climate. I bought these from a specifically high-altitude cold-climate seed company called Seeds Trust, and they sure did work well!
We harvested the onions this week. They set in the sun to cure and then went into the veggie rack.
Hunting seasons have begun and we were desperately in need of meat so it couldn’t have come soon enough. We ran out of red meat at the end of July. Last year we didn’t have as successful of a hunting season as normal so we didn’t quite get enough meat for the full year. So we have been going without red meat and mostly eating chicken, pork, and beans lately. We were all very excited when 2 of our cow elk tags were filled last week! That will fill up the freezers plenty enough to last us while we continue to fill the other tags through the fall and early winter. We usually like to wait until the weather is colder to hunt, for several reasons. But since we were out of meat we wanted to hurry up and get some at the beginning of the season this year.
The chickens are all doing well. With the spring chicks now laying pullets we have an abundance of eggs even though the older hens are molting. Man, chickens look awful when they molt – don’t they? It is a pretty sad sight. We removed the rooster from the flock during the molt so the girls could grow back their feathers without him tearing them out with his “affections.”
We had our final hatch of the year. I am always surprised at the low hatch rate of birds at high-altitude that haven’t been hatched at high-altitude. We learned this years ago, and if you are interested you can read about it in the chicken breeding program category, but I had gotten so used to the good hatch rates of our flock of high-altitude birds that I had forgotten how bad it is with the birds that didn’t hatch up here.
All that to say that only 3 of the ten eggs hatched and survived (2 more hatched but the chicks died right away). This year most of the eggs in our hatches have been laid by the low-altitude chicks we purchased in 2017. Very few were laid by our high-altitude breeding stock. I don’t know the exact science behind it, although I know some of the science behind it, but it is a fact: Hens that themselves hatched at high-altitude lay eggs that hatch better at high-altitude. And hens that hatched at low-altitude, when brought up to high-altitude, lay eggs that don’t hatch well at high-altitude. I am looking forward to getting back to a flock full of 2nd+ generation high-altitude hatchers. Then our hatch rates will be much much better.
I continue to work away on Christmas presents, which means I wont have much to show you all because they are surprises. But I am still trying to be sure to knit 15 more scrap afghan squares each month in order to finish the afghan this winter. So I got 15 more done, and I am starting to figure out the layout and hook them on to the afghan.
I am more than half done!
Wood Stove Remodel
We are continuing to work on the wood stove remodel I discussed last time. We are hoping to get the stove area fully tiled and the stove hooked up and usable by the end of the week. It is getting chillier and chillier at night and we have already begun using the living room wood stove to warm the house each morning. Once we complete that part, all that will be left is getting the tongue and groove wall done and putting up the mantle log, and that can all be done later this fall because it is necessary for us to be able to use it as a heat source.
We also got another exciting addition for our dining room this week. Completely unexpected, a family we know with more kids than us needs to upgrade to a larger table to meet their ever-growing family’s needs. So they gave us their beautiful log-style dining table with chairs and benches! Grandpa is refinishing the top for us so it will look good as new. Between the new beautiful antique wood cookstove and a new (used) log dining table, our dining room is getting quite the makeover!