This Month On The Homestead: Harvest Time, Berry Time, And Toilet-Fixin’ Time
If you’re just tuning in, this is a recurring series in which I document each month of our lives out here on our 66-acre Vermont homestead. After leaving urban Cambridge, MA in May 2016 to chart this wholly different life, we’re experiencing a constant learning curve of exploration (and plenty of stupid novice moments). Check out last month’s installment here and enjoy the best and worst moments of our first year on the homestead here.
A true experience of summer, the month of July produced the suns and the rains that allowed our vegetable garden to flourish. Although we’re having a rather cool, wet summer, enough sunlight filtered through to remind us that this is in fact summertime. Our woods are filled with a palette of green. No longer are the browns and yellows of springtime present and we don’t yet have the riotous, cliche colors of fall. The occasional flower breaks up this leafy monochrome, but for the most part it’s simply, and beautifully, all green.
The 4th Of July
Our little town puts on a spectacular (in my opinion) 4th of July celebration every year at the town center. Sadly this year, torrential rains forced the cancellation of the parade, the watermelon races, the softball tournament, and quite a few other festivities.
Instead, we all crowded into the town center basement and enjoyed a chicken dinner put on by the volunteer fire department. Although mostly a wash, we still had a delightful time hanging out with our neighbors and were reminded–yet again–of how much we love our tiny, tight-knit community.
July is also host to our town’s free summer day camp for kids and Babywoods and I read stories to some of the campers one afternoon. This was not tremendously successful on my part as Babywoods lost interest in the big kid book after a few chapters, but we made it through with minimal shrieking. In just a few more years, Babywoods will be a camper herself!
In The Garden
July was a fabulous month for our little (actually not so little) crop of veggies. Mr. Tikhvinskoe–our gardener in chief–spends copious time tending and coaxing our little plants into production. Out of the malevolent grip of frost this month, we were into the danger zone of pests both large and small.
To dissuade the resident deer population from feasting on our luscious veg, Mr. FW installed a very simple, very cheap fence: a single strand of fishing line tied up between homemade posts encircling the garden. The idea is that a deer advancing towards the garden in an offensive position will brush up against the fishing line and, unable to see the clear wire, will become spooked and abandon all thoughts of veggie thiefdom. Sounds overly simplistic, but I gotta say, so far it’s working.
We’ve seen a few deer in our yard (which Mr. FW chases after like a wild man, waving his arms and shouting “run deer!”), but nary a nibble on our crop. Smaller pests–of the insect variety–are proving a much more insidious threat at present. Japanese beetles and snails must be manually removed and Mr. FW applies organic Neem oil at regular intervals, which seems to help.
As our garden grows, various trellises are needed to prop up/assist various plants and Mr. FW industriously built trellis systems for our pole beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes. All appear to be thriving on these homemade apparatuses and climbing ever higher on their wee twine ropes.
Harvest Time! For Some Stuff
We began to reap a few fruits of our (really Mr. FW’s… ) gardening labors this month. Both the kale and the chard were ready to go and we ate a spicy Asian-inspired stir fry of kale, chard, onions, garlic, and spices every night for several weeks.
The strange thing about gardening is that once something’s ripe, it’s REALLY ripe and needs to be eaten immediately. It’s an all or nothing proposition with stuff like kale and chard that doesn’t freeze or preserve well, so we just dove in and ate it as we harvested. I wish we could mete out these amazing fresh veggies over a longer period of time, but leafy greens just don’t keep well (or at least, not in ways that we like to eat).
A few precocious pole beans ripened this month and we gobbled those up in our stir-fry as well. Except for Babywoods, who prefers to just pull the beans right off the stalk and eat them al fresco while sitting in the dirt they grew in. She’s original like that.
A few of our herbs were also ready to consume and they too got thrown into the stir fry cauldron: dill, cilantro, rosemary, and thyme. Yum. Everything else–cucumbers, more beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, apples, and hot peppers–should be coming up in August or September, so stay tuned! Many of these later crops can be preserved, so we’re looking forward to storing away some veg for the winter.
Berry Berry Good
July is black raspberry time! As you may recall, Mr. FW laboriously built a trellis system for our black raspberry plants in the spring in an effort to make harvesting the berries easier and to keep the plants in alignment. Unfortunately, he made the trellises with rope twine as opposed to wire twine and some of them broke under the weight of the berry vines.
This is one of those instances where we knew we were supposed to use wire, but we had rope on hand and so we hoped it might work. Well, it didn’t. Regardless of this novice failure, the berries still thrived and we harvested a-plenty this month.
Last year, I froze gallon after gallon of berries for us to enjoy through the deep winter. This year, I managed to freeze exactly one solitary gallon of berries on account of my wee berry munching assistant, Babywoods, who would stand at my heels while I harvested intoning, ”baayyyys peeeeaaasssss” after every berry I picked.
I estimate she ate about one berry for every three I managed to harvest. Suffice it to say this child LOVES berries and will go to great lengths to consume them–she even learned to gingerly pick them herself and avoid the thorns with her tiny, berry-obsessed paws. Luckily, our next crop of berries–blackberries–should come ripe in August and we have a metric ton of those, so hopefully more can go in the freezer for wintertime delight.
Berry etymology: we have both black and red raspberries on our property, as well as blackberries, and all three of these berries are distinct. They each have a unique taste, color, and appearance. The black raspberries are the least common of the three, but I think they’re the tastiest. Black raspberries are hollow–much like their red brethren–and have a more tart, less sweet flavor. They also stain clothing and skin like nobody’s business. If you ever get hand-me-down baby clothes from me, you’ll know what all those deep purple stains are on the fronts of Babywoods’ shirts… and pants… and socks.
A Visit From The 1500s!
The highlight of our July was a visit from our good friends Mr. and Mrs. 1500 and their two lovely daughters, Kids 1500 (they don’t actually call them that, but I do). We met the 1500s on the internet, of all places, and became fast friends while attending the same personal finance conferences over the years. This was their first (we hope of many!) visit to the homestead and it was a delight to talk in person as opposed to over endless email chains.
Mr. FW and Mr. 1500 took the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the legendary Hill Farmstead brewery and brought back tasty beer treats for all to enjoy. Another of our personal finance friends JL Collins, and his fabulous wife, joined us for a potluck dinner and we all talked about money to our heart’s content.
Since the 1500s share our frugal DIY ethos–and are expert home improvement gurus (they make what Mr. FW and I do look like child’s play)–we quickly put them to work helping us replace and repair our toilets. The guys replaced our master bathroom toilet–a cantankerous old beast that gulped gallons of water–with a new, efficient, low flow toilet to reduce our water use. Plus, they fixed our guest room toilet, which had acquired a small leak. Our downstairs toilet didn’t require their ministrations, but we’ll see if we can’t break it before their next visit, just to round out the trifecta of toilet treatments.
Kids 1500 and Babywoods played happily in our pond and creeks, climbing on rocks and splashing in our icy spring water. Babywoods has become quite the water baby and adores her version of “swimming” almost as much as eating black raspberries. They also picked those berry bushes clean and proposed the fabulous idea of berry pancakes for dinner one night–with locally made maple syrup, of course.
Sharing our homestead with friends is such a rewarding aspect of living here and we’re grateful we have the time and the space to do so. It’s a joy to share our land with others who similarly appreciate the beauty and wonder of the woods.
Want More Fotos?!
While I only document homestead life once a month here on the blog, I post photos to Instagram and updates to Facebook with much greater regularity–sometimes daily! Join me there if you want more of our frugal woods.
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Onward to August frugal comrades!
How was July on your own personal homestead?
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