Returning my attention to the clay…

I’m busting at the seams this morning with excitement and hope and plans. Let me tell you why. Yesterday at our local Tractor Supply I pawed through the $5 book bin, as I often do. I came across “the joy of hobby farming” by Michael and Audrey Levatino. Hobby farming, sustainable living and homesteading books are something that I have somewhat of a collection of. (And the old timer say we young folks don’t collect anything!)

I posted this on facebook this morning (I tried to embed my post, but it appears that that’s not supported

just so you know I’m not making up fluff for a very neglected blog. 😉

So here’s the thing. Business took off for me this spring. I’m still working full time as well, and will be for some time, but it’s taken off just enough that my back yard looks pretty awful:


General view of the garden which kinda blends in with the grass, and the perennial bed (left) that’s all green, no flowers.


cucumbers planted in a hanging pot that’s now set on the ground. Also, can never give it enough water. A few tiny cukes on it.


Left to right, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, and grass, lots and lots of grass.

A tumbling tomato plant that has tumbled itself into death, no amount of water would keep this thing alive.

A tumbling tomato plant that has tumbled itself into death, no amount of water would keep this thing alive.

We waffled about whether or not to plant the garden at all this year. Our house has been on the market for a year and it’ only shown twice, but with my luck, we’d plant a garden and get it to June 30th, and get a contract, leaving all of the vegies for the new owners. Well apparently my luck has turned. No offers, no contracts, we have some veggies.

I’ve harvested green beans twice now and ate them immediately….along with some tiny broccoli florets. A few of the cabbage plants are heading up nicely, and we’ve had a steady supply of small bell peppers. My daughter says they are great in her salad, I thought they tasted watery and plain. The red cabbage looks like hell, and we have miscellaneous corn, squash and tomatoes popping up from last year.

So I snuggled up this morning with the new book, and was instantly just FIRED UP. Here’s the thing. I have always wanted to buy an old farm. In fact, I used to have one, but life gets in the way and a divorce separated me from my dream. Here I am, clawing my way back to it.

The land we have purchased is 3.25 acres of hills, woods, and clay. No pasture (but we could create some) and LOTS of water. This book just made me nostalgic for my old farm, and how that’s really what I’d prefer to be doing (old barns and outbuildings, and plenty of flat grassy area all ready to use) but it is what it is, and I will have to work with the 3.25 acres for now. I feel fortunate that we were able to purchase it and if the house never sells, we can still use the land for growing/raising food, it’s literally 5 minutes from our house.

I started out with great intentions here on this blog, outling types of plants etc., but I failed, miserably, flopped on my farmer face, but you know what? That’s ok. Life happens, people change, plans fly out the window, you regroup, refocus, and step out again.

I’m back. I hope you’re still with me.


Hope carried in rays of sun…

I’m writing early this week because I am hopeful and motivated.  The sun is shining, after 3+ feet of snowfall in the month of February, we were beginning to wonder if we’d EVER see spring.  I’m not so naive as to think that spring is right around the corner, I haven’t yet packed away the hats and mittens….but I am hopeful that brighter warmer things are coming!

I’ve been up for about 4 hours. In that time, I tended to the dogs and the cat, made a batch of pancakes and a cup of coffee, but the rest of the time I have spent on my garden and preserving plan and homesteading blogs.  Because I am a nerd, I have put that plan into an Excel spreadsheet, don’t judge me too harshly.  It appears that I’m going to need a truckload of tomatoes. No joke.  Spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, tomato paste, tomato soup, and just plain canned tomatoes?  I’m wondering if I should just can all of the tomatoes as they are and construct the other things (minus the salsa) as I need them…..Lest I overwhelm myself and do NOTHING.

So before I get on with my day (I’m going on a paranormal investigation tonight!) I want to record my Homesteading Wishlist of both things to get and things to do.


  • Pressure canner
  • Dehydrator
  • New freezer
  • more canning jars and lids


  • get our chickens settled on our new land with a better enclosure system underneath the actual chicken house (new land is heavy with fox!)
  • look into rabbits for fiber and design appropriate housing
  • look into ducks for meat and design appropriate housing
  • start pricing purchases of local, organic, no hocus pocus meats
  • research making our own flour for our own baked goods
  • add twenty more hours to each day to do my own baking, canning, freezing and critter tending.

Beans, beans and more beans!

Before I launch into this weeks missive on my planting/preserving plan, I have to tell you…we have had SO much snow this winter in Southern Vermont, it’s completely overwhelming.  I have not seen snowfall of this magnitude in many many years.  Last week’s snowstorm brought us 20″ of snow.  We are back to the days of not being able to see what’s coming down the street because the snowbanks are too high!  On the bright side, out of our 10 hens, we are now getting 6 eggs per day, and every day, there are two eggs that are either blue or green. So excited about that!


Green Beans

Harvest time: July-August (In Vermont)

How to prepare: Feed through a “frenching” machine, steam, or my favorite, ROAST!!!  Toss with olive oil and plenty of salt and roast at 400 until brown and sizzling! So delish.   Another nice preparation is to steam them, and then finish the drained green beans in a hot pan with melted butter and garlic..toss them until lightly golden brown.

Preservation plan:
Blanche and freeze
Pickle with garlic and dill
Least desirable plan: chop and freeze for soups/stews

Green beans are pretty basic, pretty simple. They are either bush beans or pole beans….you either eat them fresh or let them mature and pop out the “seeds” to use later as dried beans, you can either replant them, or cook them.  I prefer to eat them fresh, young and tender.  I’m not crazy about frozen green beans in the supermarket, but I do like home frozen green beans.

Leave me a comment with your favorite green bean recipe!!

Patty pan squash

This week I know, I know, i missed several weeks, I feel so guilty I wanted to talk about scalloped or patty pan squash.  It is one of our favorites, and we plant it every year.  As a family of 4, we have a hard time eating all of the produce from two plants, so seed wisely unless you have critters to feed the extras to, or friends and family to share with.


Scalloped Squash or Patty Pan Squash


Harvest time: July-August (In Vermont)

How to prepare: Stuff with meatloaf mixture, slice thinly and fry (with our without breading), slice in half and roast in oven


Preservation plan:
Freeze batches of stuffed squash halves in batches of 6-8
Pickle with tomatoes
Least desirable plan: chop and freeze for soups/stews


Scalloped squash or patty pan squash is a variety of summer squash.  Like it’s cousins it’s best eaten when it’s not yet fully grown.  You will find them in white, green, yellow, and a very pale pearly green.

Leave me a comment with your favorite patty pan recipe!!


Garden space secured, and the new preservation plan.

As I sit down today to write my weekly (Ok, my intention is weekly) post, I am thrilled to say that I have secured a garden spot for next year. I have so much on my plate right now, but I do want to spend some time to plan what will be on our plates for the following year.

Last years growing/preservation plan flopped horribly.  Onward and upward in 2014!!  I’ll be back in the weeks to come with some veggie profiles of things I’d like to preserve.

It’ll look something like this:



Harvest time: Mid September (In Vermont)

Preservation plan: x quarts of unsweetened applesauce

Basic information about the apples used, and the properties of the apples once they are canned or frozen or whatever.

Hopefully it will help those of you who want to get started but have a little trepidation about that first step. 

While I have preservation on my mind, I want to share this product with you. I first saw it in a seed catalog (1 of 5 that have arrived in the mail since January 1st) It’s a water bath, steam canner combo.  This one is a good example, I’ve seen some that look different, and some with different price tags.  There are two issues here, one is space and the other is my complete and total fear of a pressure canner. We’re talking terrified. Somehow this pot looks less daunting… less scary, and maybe something I can manage.

What do you think? Have you used one? Do  you have a garden and preservation plan that you can share? Please leave your comments below.

Let it snow, let it snow….oh gosh please stop the snow!!!

When you live in New England, you expect a certain amount of crappy winter weather. So far this year we have had two storms resulting in very slick roads, but very little accumulation. Mother nature has made up for her shortcomings however. Last night we were gifted with about 18″ of white fluffy snow. It’s actually still snowing.Image

It’s pretty, it’s fluffy, it’s cold. My smallest dog likes to bury her head in it and burrow like a pig with the appropriate snorting noises to accompany her work. The chickens are not impressed…..they will considerably shrink their wandering territory to exclude the snowy portions of their yard. So funny, our last flock didn’t mind one bit.


The one thing that i do worry about with this much snow, is the roof. Not just my roof actually, roofs all around me. It’s a light “dry” snow (It’s been bitterly cold lately) but if it starts to warm up, if we get some rain, then some homes will be in danger of roof caves ins, ice dams, and leaks.

Our new property is probably really pretty this morning, in fact I can’t wait to see it and take some photos. Unfortunately, this means Mr. Gray will have to use snowshoes to hike up into the woods to cut down his firewood for next winter. There’s little chance of either of our vehicles making it up that hill from this day forward.
Thank goodness we are taking the family to Florida in one week for Christmas, it will be a little easier to come back and endure the rest of winter. I’ve heard we are in for a LOT of snow.

Lunge forward? OR fall back on your butt?



For those of you who are new to this blog, we purchased 3.25 acres of wooded land this past summer.  It was partially developed, there is an existing driveway and landscaping as well as some poor drainage.  It’s a steep hilly lot, but it’s build-able, and so we began.  Step number one was to play in the dirt.  Turns out that playing in the dirt was not only expensive, but a deterrent to the big excavating that has to happen to make ready for the house next year, plus we are the proud owners of an ice skating rink on the top of the hill.  (One step backwards… one in our family ice skates either)

The second step was to build a garage.  In the event that we sold our current house before the new modular can be set, we’d have a place to store our belongings.  This proved to be a much more time consuming, difficult task than I think Mr. Gray anyone imagined.  The concrete cost a small fortune, in fact, we chose to just do the footings because pouring the whole floor seemed cost prohibitive.  Looking back, it might have been cheaper to have it poured after all but hindsight is 20/20 right? Ahem.  So the garage is built, but our original plan (storage) is blown because we have a dirt floor.  Not much is going to survive storage on a dirt floor without mildew/moisture becoming a problem.  (Two steps backwards)


These two helpd with the roofing because Mr. Gray has a serious fear of heights.  Enter the next issue, which is that we had two different colored shingles…so Mr. Gray got creative.  It works.  If all goes well, it’ll be replaced with standing seam in a few years anyway.


The final problem (third step back, in which we fall on our butts)  is that now this garage, is (according to the excavator) is in the way.  It left us little room to manuever the heavy equipment needed to complete excavation, landscaping, boulder moving, basement digging etc.  *sigh*  It is what it is at this point, but it’s put a significant dent in our housing cost.  As I said, it’s a steep, complicated wet piece of property, it needs to be done right, who wants a basement full of water? I’ve been there, done that, no thank you.

So…..until next time!