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Barn yard, Gardening, Homelife, Uncategorized

Not a quitter

Life is busy for most of us.  Especially those with small children.  We run from this thing to that, to work, and back home again.  And for my family, we thought it would be a smart idea to add in extra stuff like a massive garden, livestock, acres to maintain, a poultry assortment, a home that needs some minor renovation, and starting a small business or two from the ground up.

Life is busy to say the least.  And stressful.  And sometimes it all creeps up on me and I have to let off some steam and the poor soul who bares most of that brunt is my husband.  He is a saint.  There have been some occasions where other people have seen me at my worst and those are just not my proudest moments.  Lets just say my mom and my mother in law are both wonderful woman who must love me A LOT.

So in these moments of compounding stress, in letting the chaos get the best of me I keep hearing myself and others say things like “you take on too much”  “you shouldn’t do so much” “simplify”  “do you really need to raise your own turkey?”

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Barn yard, Gardening, Goats, Homelife, Layers, Pigs, Uncategorized

With a heavy heart…

My dear ones. There is seriously nothing I can think to say to accurately express all of the feelings going on inside my brain. But alas, I will try to give you some sort of picture of whats going on. I owe you so much more than that but that is all I have to give. I hope you’ve got some time on your hands. Because this is going to get long winded.

Let’s start from the beginning…

Dustin and I moved to Springfield in 2011 because we had dreams for our future which included family, land, and self sufficiency. Our house and jobs in St Charles were quite the opposite of that so we took a leap of faith and moved everything to Springfield so that I could start working in the family business.

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Barn yard, Gardening, Goats, Homelife, Uncategorized

The Goats are Growing on me.

I don’t want to jinx myself or anything buuuttt… I think we may be starting to get a handle just a little bit on this whole goat thing. That is at least until sometime in February when we embark on a new experience of birthing babies on the farm. I mean, I’ve birthed a baby here before. But the animals have not. Unless you count kittens. Which we did nothing for. So no, they don’t count. But I digress.

I think we are getting the hang of it because our fence in the goat field has been re-inforced time and time again and I dare say we found all the holes! At least until the goats get super bored and create a hole just for the heck of it.

We are also debating moving them to a different field this winter.  So I’m sure we will have to start the whole process over again.

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Gardening, Homelife, Uncategorized

Finding purpose.

If you’re a mama you’re probably sitting in the same boat as me.  Take care of everyone else first.  And then at the end of the day IF there are a few minutes left I will worry about myself.  Except the day is long and hard and those few minutes never seem to come.

I am still working on it but I am really trying to make more of an effort to work on me.  And I’m not talking about my physical appearance.  (Although that could, ehem, definitely use a little help).  But I’m talking about my mental and spiritual health here people.  Because if you don’t have that, it’s kind of hard to be that awesome mom you’re trying so hard to be.  Take some time to focus on yourself.  Your kids will thank you for it.

So lately for me, that has looked like more time in deep thought and prayer thinking about my passions, my hobbies, my purpose.  And really making an effort to prioritize those things.

When we got back from vacation it took me a few days to recuperate before I had the energy to get out in the garden.  But the moment I dug my hand in the soil, it felt right.  It felt like the place I needed to be.  My sister’s tease me saying things like I cut the grass with a pair of scissors.  And while all of my gardening endeavors may seem over the top to them, it is just what comes natural to me.  My sister is the most talented potter I’ve ever met.  So I wouldn’t tell her to go buy a mug at the store to save her some time.  Because to her, making her own mug just comes naturally.  Its what’s in her blood.

And I am learning to embrace and hone in on my natural instincts and what I feel to be my purpose.  And to sum that purpose up in a nutshell…

I’m suppose to grow my own food and babies.

Never has anything been more clear to me than the purpose of being a mom.  I’m sure some of you can relate.  I want to pour myself into motherhood in every aspect of my life.  I want to raise up herds of children and maybe someday they will remember something I taught them or something they observed along the way.  I want to grow the food that I put into my babies bellies and know they are getting the best nutrition available.

Right now I’ve got peach chutney simmering on the stove, canning jars are strewn about the kitchen, we have a serious fly issue going on, and every pot is on the kitchen or living room floor because the cabinets make a great playroom.  So you could say keeping a tidy house is not my calling.  Nor is it to have a well curated one.  I’d rather be digging in the dirt or reading a book to my babe.  And I know that.  And I will focus on that.  And I will be glad.  And I will become older and wiser because of it.  Because THAT is my purpose.  THAT is my calling.  And I love it.

What’s yours? Embrace it! Focus on it! Hold on for dear life and never let it go!

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Barn yard, Gardening, Goats, Homelife, Layers

In the Garden:: July

Well I thought I would give ya a little garden update so you could see what’s going on this time of year here at the Stewart Settlement.

Stewart_Settlement_In_July-27Dustin worked so hard to build us a second chicken coop.  And then we had another break in so we are down to eight chickens.  We put them all in the same, more secure coop so hopefully we won’t have any more mishaps.  Still trying to decide if it’s worth the head and heart ache to get some more chickies.

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Stewart_Settlement_In_July-10We’ve got zinnias out the wazoo right now.  If ya need some fresh flowers you know who to call.  There has been sooooo many bees buzzing around these guys.  I’m so glad we planted them all.  Helping the garden AND my mental health!  You can pretty much count on some fresh flowers in my house at all times right now. It’s glorious.

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Dustin really has been building away.  He and Blake have fixing stuff here and there.  The goat playground that was here when we moved in was built by a hobbit.  One of the legs was a stump.  So we er, they, moved it over to the goat pen and fixed a few things to make it functional.  Dustin said he is embarrassed to be associated with building that thing.  Ha, it is definitely on the less impressive side.  I wouldn’t let my child play on it that’s for sure.  But he did a great job using what we had and not wasting a bunch of time on it.  I call that farm efficiency.

Stewart_Settlement_In_July-3Stewart_Settlement_In_July-29Stewart_Settlement_In_July-2Unless you live under a rock, you are probably in or have heard of the midwest monsoon that has affected this area for a month now.  We don’t have a well.  Just a water catchment system so we have set up a few extra water tanks around the garden so that we can take advantage of as much of the rain as possible.  Yesterday we had another big storm.  ALL of our tanks were already full.  And watching all of the rain pour out of our gutter was a bittersweet moment.  Thankful for the full water tanks.  Soooo depressing to see how much MORE water we could have had if we knew where to put it.  Gotta work on that.  Just putting it on the end of a mile long to do list. NBD.

Along with colossal amounts of rain comes colossal amounts of weeding.  A never ending saga.  As soon as I feel up to speed with the weeding its time to start all over again.  The straw has helped though.

And now I will leave you with some farm critters.

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Gardening, Homelife, Uncategorized

What to do with 105 trees

I know what you’re thinking… “105 trees? Is she crazy?”

And the answer to both questions is yes.

The Missouri Department of Conservation sells native trees in the spring for pennies! Pennies I tell you! And when you could by a group of ten trees for one price, or twenty-five trees for a mere two dollars more… why wouldn’t you?!?

stewart_settlement_105_trees-2Well this thought ran through my brain multiple times as I scrolled the available trees on their website.  And when I finally looked at my shopping cart of 105 trees for less than $80 I clicked submit immediately.  Remember me saying I have a problem with go big or go home? Or all or nothing? Ya,  I think that would apply here.

So fastforward to May and we had 105 trees show up on our doorstep which are kind of a permanent thing.  I mean, you plant them in the ground.  In one place.  And commit to that place for decades!

stewart_settlement_105_trees-9So the trees sat around for a while because I just wasn’t ready to commit to these trees yet.  Maybe I have commitment issues.  But they had sat there too long and I had no clarity as to where they should grow for 50 years.  But I didn’t want them to die and I wanted the space back from my front porch! So Dustin, me, and our friend Blake came up with a little idea.

 

We heeled them in.

stewart_settlement_105_trees-4I have read about this process being done if you can’t plant them for a few weeks but we did it a little more intensely because we are hoping to leave them there for a year or so.  A whole year!  Its basically a very thick layer of loose compost and then a very thick layer of mulch.  Wind a soaker hose around the whole little plot and you got yourself some easy breezy maintenance.

Will it work? I’m going to be completely honest with you… I have no idea.  I don’t really know very much about trees.  Its all new for me.

But if it does work it will be genius I tell you! The tender little trees are all together, close to the house so watering and caring for them will be a breeze! I know myself too well to know that if they were scattered around all 10 acres they would be forgotten and neglected and probably die.

So I’ll give you an update in about, oh, a year. So I guess I just roped you into reading my blog posts for at least that long. Ha, sucker.

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Gardening, Homelife, Uncategorized

Cherry Time

Dustin and I try to eat seasonal the best we can.  Along with that we try to provide and source as much food as we can ourselves.  (Last year I killed a deer! Sorry PETA.)

We don’t have any cherry trees at our house… Yet.  But my uncle does and he wasn’t in town this year during their fruiting season so he offered them to my parents.  Well even though I couldn’t go with them to pick them, I called dibs on whatever they didn’t want.  I’m a mooch, what can I say.

stewart_settlement_Cherry_Time-6So we had freshly picked local cherries.  It sounds like a dream but to be honest… It wasn’t. Here’s the deal.  Just because we had them available to us does not mean they are delicious.  No they weren’t the bing cherries you get ini the store.  These guys are small and tart.

stewart_settlement_Cherry_Time-1But on top of that, this year they were pretty much flavorless. You win some, you lose some.  But I didn’t want to let them go to waste and since they had only been picked for about 24 hours and no one was eating them and half of them had already went bad. I decided to put them up.  I spent a large part of an afternoon pitting tiny little cherries and freezing them for smoothies.  I think the tartness of them will be good mixed in a smoothie.


If I do this again next year I will probably have to get a pitter utensil.  That was time consuming! Sheesh! And at the end of it all I wound up with only one very full quart size bag.  Womp womp woooomp. But alas, there are now local farm-to-table…er.. farm-to-freezer cherries AND strawberries in this house.

And Miss Dottie Bea loves her smoothies.  Its such a good feeling to know where all the fruit goodness comes from before I give it to her.  Someday soon I’ll even make her pick it herself.

I’m a slave driver.  A mooch and a slave driver.  But that’s okay by me.

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Gardening, Homelife, Uncategorized

Strawberries for days

Well its the time of year when strawberry production winds down and some maintenance takes place.  We have a few first year berry plants but they won’t really produce until the second year.  Oh and they wouldn’t have done anything anyway because the goats munched them off earlier this spring.  Oh how could I have forgotten that?!?

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But they came back! Those goats were no match for their strawberry resilience.  So this time next year I will be revelling in my spoils from the berry harvest.  Until then I will tend to my little patch.  Some of the plants have already sent out a few runners! Those are basically little baby plants attached to the main plant by a thin vine until they take root themselves.

Besides weeding, another thing on the strawberry to do list is plant more! In the future this will mean digging up those runners and planting them elsewhere for more space.  But since my guys are so young I have begged my aunt to give me some of hers.  Now that they are done producing she thinned out the runners to give her plants more room and those runners have taken up residency in my garden to grow and blossom for next year.

stewart_settlement_Strawberries_For_Days-18Since we couldn’t grow them ourselves this year we took a trip to Miller’s Berry Farm in Marshfield for a fun little morning to pick our own. Forty pounds later Dustin and I had enough for me, my mom, and my sister to make some jam. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  There was also plenty to freeze for smoothies, dehydrate, make a dessert, and snack like crazy for a few days.

Dottie has ate a TON! If I give her a strawberry she won’t eat anything else on her pate.  And she is not a picky eater.  That girl knows the good stuff.

Miller’s was such a fun little trip.  I hope to make memories with my kids for years to come picking berries. Even if they hate it at the time.  They will thank me later.

stewart_settlement_Strawberries_For_Days-27Are you ready for the super secret Strawberry jam recipe?

Its the one in the sure-jel carton.  I know what you are thinking, that sounds super detailed and hard to duplicate.  I’m sure that was a big let down for you.  But hey, if it ain’t broke…

Actually the only tip is that for strawberry jam it is WAY better to do the freezer jam.  First of all it is way easier and second of all cold chunky jam on a nice warm piece of sourdough is… ugh, I die. Thanks granny for showing me the way.  She’s the one that started my love affair with strawberry freezer jam.  It may have something to do with the fact that she makes homemade potato rolls that take two days to make and they are magic!

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I don’t have a lot of freezer space though so I froze a few jars and put the rest in jars and did a hot water bath to seal them.  Once I open them up I will freeze them though.

stewart_settlement_Strawberries_For_Days-17I wanted to be a little adventurous and put a few dashes of cinnamon in half the batch and in the other half a little fresh basil.  It seemed like the right idea.  But when you make jam at 10 pm things slip your mind so I forgot all about it. I may add some to a jar before I put it in the freezer. If I do I’ll let you know how it turns out.

stewart_settlement_Strawberries_For_Days-31Hope you liked reading about strawberries.  I gotta go stuff my face with a nice warm piece of toast and jam now.  Catch ya later.

Gardening, Uncategorized

Just Keep Swimming

I tend to have a problem with the whole “go big or go home” mentality…

stewart_settlement_goats_farm_plants_-14This mind set has bit me in the butt this year in the form of the Stewart garden. We created a beautiful raised bed area that I daydream of turning into an herb/flower/perennial garden.  And then we plowed up a small plot for summer veggies.

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Well, since we started from scratch, a lot, and I mean A LOT of time has went into plotting out beds, tilling up virgin soil, weeding said soil, tilling it again, adding compost and nutrients, creating paths, sourcing free material to outline garden beds, rig up some sort of water system, and most importantly… KEEP THE ANIMALS OUT!!!

Phew, I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

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All that to lead up to the last 24 hours in the Stewart House. Drum roll please…  After a hard days work yesterday Dustin and I came home to a garden in ruins.  Because of an innocent, tiny little detail from the morning, Janet the baby goat ransacked the garden.  Beautiful big red potatoes strung about with just a big enough nibble to render the potato compost.  Lush and tender pea plants cascading up the wooden trellis, demolished.  Thick and deep red beet leaves completely smushed.  The cabbage, kale, and broccoli that I nursed back to health after her first escapade… obliterated.

Ugly language was used, a few garden tools were thrown, and I felt a wide range of emotions making me feel like a teenage girl again.  An hour or so later, an apology to my husband, and a distraction with friends slowly started to heal the wound and I moved on.

stewart_settlement_Farm_Life_May_2015-7AND THEN…

This morning I was ready to go out in the garden and face yesterdays annihilation.  But before I even had my first sip of coffee Dustin informed me that there were four dead chickens in the yard.  Upon further inspection, we were in fact missing 20.   Yes you read that right, TWENTY chickens that I have cared for from a day old, stinking up my house half of that time.  Dustin saw a fox in the back field so the live traps have been set.  This fox better relocate, or say his prayers.  I thought I was an animal lover.  I guess I still am.  One fox, or the rest of my chickens.  It makes sense.

What was really salt in the wound about the birds is that we were literally making a game plan to enclose the chickens last night.  Free range is good in theory, but incidents such as this are exactly why I think they are better off with a nice, large, and secure yard to roam. So after last nights planning it was settled and that was priority #1 on the honey do list. Just a little too late.

I had some errands to run so I left the baby with her father, and ran out the door.  I had a good cry in the car.  While crying in said car I dramatically considered throwing in the towel.  Thinking “we aren’t cut out for this. I can’t handle this much heart break.  I can’t physically work that hard for nothing!”

stewart_settlement_Farm_Life_May_2015-4So after cooling down and putting things into perspective, I returned home.  A little ashamed of the way I reacted.  And I got to work.  Repairing what was broken.  Mending what I could.

I’ve decided I’m not going to let that get me down! I keep thinking back to Dori in finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming”.

Even though our garden, egg, and chicken bounty will be a bit late and probably very puny this year, its experience right? And it still makes me so so excited looking at the foundations we are building for this life, this soil, this family, this farm, this future, and this home we are creating.

Farming isn’t for the faint hearted.  I just have to keep telling myself to keep swimming.

….Baby steps.

 

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