Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

The Garden Has Turned Into a Jungle!

This is our first year of really bringing in the harvest from our own garden.  In years past we grew enough to sustain our family with fresh vegetables throughout the summer with a little excess to can and give to friends.  This year however with a different growing climate and a lot more space, we are really bringing in the harvest with plenty of leftovers for friends.  Jon is thrilled to finally grow melons and bring a 5 gallon bucket full of produce to me in the kitchen!  So far I have canned 54 pints and 11 quarts of pickles, in addition to 2 gallons of refrigerator pickles!  After all that we are still picking more cucumbers and Jon continues to bring grocery sacks full of them to work.  We are so cucumbered-out that I do not remorse over the dozen or so that we find that have already yellowed.  The chickens have had their full and barely touch any that we leave in their presence.  Needless to say, only one cucumber plant will be grown next year...

Here is a snapshot overlooking most of the garden. Squash, cucumbers, and melons are along the fence on the right side with carrots and broccoli front and center with beans, okra, tomatoes, and corn behind.

Our first homegrown cantaloupe!  We didn't know when to pick it because the shell didn't look finished yet; but the bees and insects thought it was ready because they would sit on the melon and suck out its juices!  We figured if they are sucking out the juices, then it must be ready to pick!  It sure was tasty!

Do you see the corn tassels in the back?  Well, the pumpkins have taken over and are practically suffocating the corn.  We didn't realize how many vines a pumpkin plant produced and how long they stretched.  

Here are three baby watermelons almost ready to pick.
In Portland they would only reach the size of our fist by fall.

Who ever heard of pumpkins ripe in July?  Well, here are 2 of our almost ready to pick sweet pumpkins.  I hope some of the pumpkins don't ripen until fall because I would like to use them for decorating!  I see a lot of pumpkin bread, pies, and jam...  In Portland our pumpkins turned orange in late November. 

Here is our long line of squash.  With 6 acorn squash plants I counted 16 squash (so far...).

As we know, vine plants don't have boundaries.  The butternuts felt a bit claustrophobic and decided to go into the field.  Here is one big butternut just starting to change colors!

Here is a butternut squash plant climbing the fence.  If you look close you can see a small butternut.  We hope it doesn't tear the fence down when it gets big!

And because Jon is silly, he left supper on the counter for me one evening...tomatoes and okra!

Queen Bee Has Tight Boundaries

So...after introducing the 2nd nuc of bees in early June, I have performed 2 hive inspections to make sure this queen is healthy and laying eggs.  Both inspections confirmed that she is indeed alive and laying, but the problem is, she is only laying on the original 4 frames that came from the nuc!  There are empty frames of drawn comb next to her, but she refuses to lay eggs in them!

At first glance when opening the hive, one would assume that all is well because the bee population is in fact really large and they are filling out frames with comb, etc.  When digging a little deeper, you will notice drawn frames with no eggs and larvae but 4 frames packed to the edges with capped brood, pollen, and nectar.  It's almost like the queen works really hard and then takes a vacation until the cells are empty.  This discovery after 2 months is a bit unnerving for a beekeeper.  I did notice 2 uncapped queen cells which could indicate a replacement queen, but I have been told that most hives keep a queen cell around as a warning to the queen...

I don't know if there is anything a beekeeper can do to encourage expansion.  I thought I could switch frames around but I have always been told that this a no-no.  Thoughts anyone?

Sorry, no pictures for this post.

Homemade Lincoln Log House

Recently my parents passed down the Lincoln Logs that date back to my Dad's childhood.  I think there are 3 different sets but they are all compatible with each other.  Unfortunately all of the trusses were broken on the ends and there were only 4 roof slats, so I traced the broken trusses onto some scrap plywood and made more roof slats.  With a more complete set, Paul plays with the Lincoln Logs more!

After a few weeks mulling over storage ideas, I came up with a giant Lincoln Log House to store all the pieces in!

The bottom logs are glued and nailed together, and of course there is a solid bottom so the toys don't fall out.  The trusses, roof slats, and chimney are all removable.  They could be glued together and come off as one unit or even have a hinge.  Paul's favorite part of building is putting on the roof so we left it detachable.  The logs were made from 2x4's that Jon put through the router table to round off the corners.  The notches were also made with the router.  

Overall, the project was fun and Paul loves having a big log house!  I enjoy having a separate place for the Lincoln Logs besides a plastic bag or mixed with all the other toys in the toy box. 

One Week Without Electricity

Hello Readers!  You may have noticed that I have missed my weekly posting; and for good reason...we had no electricity!  A derecho storm blew through much of the Appalachian area on June 29th and left hundreds of thousands without electricity and some without water.  Thankfully we still had water.  I describe in detail how we coped during this power outage.  Many of the things mentioned below we do on a normal and semi-normal basis to be resourceful with our electricity usage.

This had to be the most stressful part of losing electricity.  In general we keep our refrigerator and freezer moderately full and only open it on an as-needed basis.  We don't just have a hankering for a snack and stand with the refrigerator door open for minutes while deciding what to eat.  When the power went out, we only opened the refrigerator 4 times in 2 days.  By day 3, the milk was just starting to cool off.  By the end of day 2, all of the leftovers were gone in the refrigerator so we began eating items in the freezer.  At the end of day 2, all of the meat was still frozen solid.  The homemade ice cream had turned to liquid but was still very cold and actually hurt my teeth when I drank it. Halfway through day 3, a friend of ours had received electricity, so we packed up the remaining items in the freezer and refrigerator (including condiments) and kept them at her house.  With a small cooler and reusable ice packs, we brought items home to eat for the rest of the week.  I think the meat would have lasted until day 5.  The only items I ended up tossing in the woods because I was unsure if they were safe to eat was a half jar of spaghetti sauce, an open container of soy milk, and a half jar of mayonaise.

Keeping the House Cool:
We seldom use air conditioning; in fact, we have only used it 3 days all summer, and that was Memorial Day weekend when we had friends visiting to replace the barn roof.  While the temps have been in the 90's outside this past week, our downstairs never went above 80 and the upstairs above 85.  What did we do?  At night we opened all of the upstairs windows and a few downstairs that are safe to leave open in case of a prowler.  At 6am when I woke up, I opened up all the downstairs windows if it was cooler outside than it was inside; and by 7, all of the windows were closed.  A blanket was draped over one of the south-facing upstairs windows to keep the sunlight out and another window had its curtains closed.  Just like the refrigerator, we only open the outside door unless we need to and we consolidate our trips outside.  The basement was probably another 5-10 degrees cooler but we didn't spend much time down there because that would require flashlights and batteries.  By 10 am we were usually done with all of our outside chores and would sit in the cool house for the rest of the day.

Hot Water:
This probably was easily solved...use a garden hose.  We have 3, lead-free garden hoses strung across our yard to water the garden; and when filled with water all day long, the water is literally scalding by noon on a clear day.  We used the sun's energy to heat the water and enjoyed a gentle breeze while watching the bees pollinate the clover in the yard.  We used my homemade castile soap and had a fun time spraying each other with the hose.  The hostas behind us also appreciated the drink.  This is something even town residents could do...just wear a bathing suit!  For washing dishes we heated a pot of water over the fire when we cooked our food.

Cooking Food:
This was a no-brainer since we go camping.  We have a small fire pit in the backyard so we cooked all of our meals with fallen dead branches that fell in the storm.  To reheat leftovers the first 2 days, we used our solar food dehydrator.  As far as having enough food, our pantry is more than stocked.  

Overall, going without electricity for a week wasn't that bad for us.  If we were like some people without electricity and water, then I'm sure this post would be a bit different.  The thought of not having water made me realize that when our well is fixed, we should make sure that it can manually be pumped in case of a power outage.

Throughout the week we heard generators running at the neighbor's houses and couldn't help but wonder how efficient they were, what they were mainly used for (refrigerator vs. hot water vs. computer, etc.), and how much it cost, not to mention the environmental footprint they make.  Jon and I don't have any intentions on getting a generator because we managed just fine without one.  If it were winter, our fireplace would provide heat; not to mention we kept our house at 34 degrees while living in Laramie, WY for a year when we were poor college kids.  I think a little bit of sacrifice is good  for everybody.  Plus, who wants to wait in line at the gas stations who had electricity...some of those gas station lines were literally a mile long with traffic controllers; and they limited usage to $20.00 per stop!

At the end of the 3rd day, the water heater no longer gave us warm water.  We took this opportunity to empty the water out of the water heater to get all of the sediment out.  It is recommended that a house does this once each year.  From the picture below you can see all of the sandy-looking stuff that came out.

In one week, the garden exploded with ripe produce: beans, cucumbers, zucchinis, and beats.  Just when I had all of the canning supplies packed in boxes and ready to take to my friend's house to process, we received electricity!  I was relieved to do this at home; but it did get me thinking more about expanding our food drying and cellar options.  Now that we have a basement and land to construct a cellar, I would like to look into this more.

On a side note, one thing that did happen during this week was 3 bottles of Perry (sparkling pear cider) blew off their corks!!  We think they are still carbonating which we expected would happen since we had to bottle them early because of the unexpected move across country.  It was a bit of a mess down in the basement...imagine cleaning up the mess on the floor using a flashlight.

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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