Simply Resourceful

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

The Benefits of Using a Broadfork

Just when I thought we were finished purchasing garden supplies, Jon discovers the broadfork.  I was skeptical at first on whether we really needed this tool.  There's a lot of conflicting information about how to aerate and loosen the soil using a rototiller so I was unsure if using a broadfork was a good choice.  Come to find out, the broadfork is very useful for soil like ours which contains a lot of clay and leaves water collecting in pools on top of the soil creating "rivers" where the terrain is sloped.

Two years ago when we moved here, a neighbor plowed the field that had laid fallow for at least two decades.  After the initial deep plowing using a tractor, Jon has been using a rototiller to break up the clay and incorporate manure and compost.  The broadfork is the next best thing to tilling and aerating the soil because the tines are 12 inches long and can break up the soil deeper than the rototiller can.  We purchased the broadfork from Meadow Creature for $225.00.  Their broadforks are made with steel in the USA.

An area of green manure planted the previous fall.

An area where the green manure has been tilled under using the broad fork followed by the rototiller.  

The pictures below show how to use the broadfork.  

Contrary to what you may think, the broadfork isn't hard on the back.  I've had several instances in my life where I saw the chiropractor on a monthly basis due to back pain, but using the broadfork doesn't bother me at all. 

Even our 5.5 year old uses the broadfork and springs at the opportunity to use it!

This is what the row looks like after using the broadfork.

A Spring Freeze and Our New Honeybees Leave

Last week my blog post was celebrating the arrival of spring and wishes for a good summer harvest.  Well, it seems my excitement was a bit premature after we had a hard freeze (low temperature reached 22 °F) on April 15th. In the last week, one of the package bees left the hive without warning, almost all of the tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouse were killed by the hard freeze, and two fruit trees aren't showing any life at all.  It was a rough winter and the start of spring isn't looking any easier.  This is the reality of things here which reminds me how frustrating homesteading can be.  For us, these few inconveniences set us back only a little bit of money and a few weeks of extra growing, but for those who make their livelihood selling produce, this is a travesty.  Growing food completely reliant on the weather patterns without the modern technologies of hydroponic growing, temperature-controlled greenhouses, and irrigation sensors, is a challenge.  When I hear shoppers complain about the price of food and how cheap food used to be "back in the day," I am reminded how much time and energy it takes to germinate peppers and tomatoes and how one hard freeze can wipe them out.  But onward we persist with growing our own food, starting with replanting all of those containers in the greenhouse.  The peppers and tomatoes will eventually get planted in the garden and we still have many living fruit trees, and two honeybee hives.  Homesteading isn't always rainbows and butterflies, but we still have many things to be thankful for and lessons to learn---starting with taking plants inside no matter how much of an "inconvenience" it seems at the time!

Many strawberry blossoms were effected by the frost.  The blossom on the left can yield fruit, but the one on the right is dead.

A picture of what a hard freeze does to rhubarb.  

Life After a Long Winter

This blog has a lot of how-to and informative posts, but sometimes I need to step back from routine and highlight all of the great things that are going on at the homestead.  Sometimes I can get discouraged when following other blogs and seeing all the pristine photos with weedless gardens and blemish-free produce, but I remind myself that we keep things real here at the Wolfe house.  This is the beginning of our 3rd year at this house and we are excited to see many of our efforts spring to life with the warm weather slowly creeping in. I think many of us can agree that spring was slow to arrive, but each day this week I am thrilled to see bits and pieces of the property wake up to warm weather.  I look at the soil and see so much potential with the green manure putting nutrients back into the soil and flower buds swelling on the fruit trees!  So here's a virtual toast to a bountiful harvest this summer!

This week, 3 colonies of Italian honeybees arrived from Kelley Bees.  This season I am taking on an apprentice beekeeper who paid for one colony of bees in exchange for hands-on education and a share of the honey crop.  Having an apprentice will keep my mind sharp on the inner-workings of the hive and give me reason to go into the hives more often.

Our girls are tuckered out with all the scratching!  After months of cold weather, they are eager to get out of their coops every morning and scratch under the leaves for all those tasty grubs coming up to the surface.  After a few hours, 2 of the chickens decided to take a sun bath on the front steps to give their legs a rest.     

This picture was taken a month ago.  Many of the seedlings are already transplanted in the garden.  Some days the greenhouse gets so hot (110 degrees) we have to prop the door open. 

At the end of February I started sprouting potatoes but the weather was really wet and cold the week we wanted to plant them.  The potatoes were quickly starting to shrivel up so Jon put them in the rain barrel planter on the porch under a layer of moist dirt and composted chicken manure.   

After 2 weeks, the potatoes were hydrated and growing roots so they were transplanted into the garden. 

The mushroom logs started sprouting this week!

All of the fruit trees have blossoms and many have already opened.  We hope no more frosts!

A snapshot showing half of the garden.  The green strips show the green manure growing back after dying in the winter. 

Here's the other half of the garden with the green manure tilled under and ready for planting. 

The cold frame was a success this spring... lettuce and spinach coming up! Varieties: hotshot mustard mix, arugula, gulley's favorite, lettuce mixture, and giant winter spinach

The brassica plants (cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli) have been transplanted.  This year we plan to use remay to keep the cabbage moths away.  We'll be posting about that sometime in the near future.  Cabbage is shown in the above picture. 

In the fall Jon planted music and great northern white garlic at the end of each row.  We keep reading how garlic keeps the "bad" bugs away so instead of planting a patch of garlic, we are growing 2 bulbs at the end of each row to hopefully maximize the benefits of garlic since our garden is so large.  It's hard to see the garlic in the picture above since the green manure is growing in areas but they are on the far left side. 

The asparagus are poking their heads through the soil.  This year we can finally harvest the spears!

Homemade Pasta Noodle Rack in 5 minutes

This winter we have been making a lot of homemade egg noodles and often times make triple or even quadruple batches for future meals.  Finding a place to dry the noodles can sometimes be a challenge so Jon got frustrated one night, ran out to the garage and made a noodle rack in about 5 minutes!  It is 28 inches tall with 11 dowels sticking out the sides.  I like to put a flour sack towel around the base of the noodle rack to keep noodles from sliding off the counter if they fall.  

Here is a closer look at the base to show how he stabilized it using a 45 degree cut on the miter saw and then just screwing those to a  2 x 4. He also toenailed the main support in using screws on all four sides. Easy peasy and economical as our lil munchkin would say.

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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