Well, we’re at the end of the year, and I thought it would be a good time to look back and see how things have been on the blog.
I’m actually going to do two “top 10” lists. The first will be the most popular posts of all. None of them, however, were posts written within this past year! Some of them were on last year’s list, too. So I will do a second list for posts written in 2021.
Here we are, starting with the all-time, top 10 posts for 2021. All links will open in a new tab, so you don’t lose your place. 🙂
If this were a top 20 list, there would be a lot more posts related to crab apples on there! A lot of people were looking for things do with them, which makes me happy. We had no crab apples this year, so it’s good to know that so many others had plenty, and were looking for ways to preserve the bounty. 🙂
Now we have our list of 10 most popular posts that were actually written in 2021 – and they certainly are on a different theme!
1. Our 2021 Garden: our Morado mystery And it’s still a mystery, as the Montana Morado got renamed Mountain morado. This fall, I found and ordered kulli corn seeds, and they finally made it through customs, so I should get them early in the new year.
There we have it! This year’s most popular blog posts of all, and the most popular blog posts written this year.
It seems lots of people have food and gardening on the mind!
I am most appreciative that so many people are finding these posts useful. Thank you for checking them out! I hope we will have many more useful posts for people to enjoy in the future.
As the year winds down, it’s time to review the goals we’d set, see what worked, what didn’t and what we want to accomplish next year.
Among the goals we had:
Starting a cordwood shed to use as an outdoor bathroom, with a composting toilet, to replace the outhouse over a pit.
Well, that didn’t happen. Which is turned out to not necessarily be a bad thing.
The location we want to build it is in that open space behind the compost ring. One of the things I did this past summer was go through the spruce grove and mark most of the dead spruce trees I found. I marked almost 2 dozen, and there were several others I didn’t bother marking, or couldn’t get at. These were trees that were intended to be used for the cordwood walls, however priorities have changed. They will now be used to build high raised garden beds. Right now, the space we want to build in is going to be needed to drag logs out of the spruce grove. Thanks to my mother, we now have a wood chipper that we can use to break down the branches, so we’re not adding to all the branch piles, and will have plenty of wood chips for mulch.
Until we can build the outdoor bathroom, we do still need something to use the next time we have plumbing problems, so the inside of the old outhouse was fixed up and made pretty (the photo here is from before it was finished). A goal for 2022 is to remove the old, moss covered shingles, extend the roof to create an overhang above the door, re-shingle it (or use some of the left over bits of metal roofing we still have in the barn), and do any repairs on the outside before giving it all a final paint job.
We did find that a groundhog had got into the pit and dug a den under the floorboards somewhere. Sadly, if we get an average amount of snow, this will likely result in a drowned groundhog. Our first two springs here, we found that snow melt would form a large puddle in front of the outhouse, and I could see in the hole under the door, which is now fixed, that the pit filled completely with water. There is nothing we can do about this. Hopefully, the groundhog will wake up early enough and leave the den before this is an issue.
Another of our goals is to have the branch piles chipped. While we now have this awesome new wood chipper, which can chip branches up to 3 inches thick, it is very slow going. The branches have to be trimmed of any sticky-outy bits, and be straight, or it won’t go through. For the sake of efficiency, it will be better to hire the tree guys and their massive chipper. When we got their estimate, they figured it would take 6 hours to chip all our wood piles. For our budget, I’m hoping that we can have them come out for three hours in the spring, to get at least the big pile in the outer yard done, and maybe the little ones in the maple grove. Then we can see about hiring them again, maybe in the fall, to do the remaining big piles. With the new wood chipper, we should at least not be adding more to the branch piles, as we clear dead trees out of the spruce grove!
Another goal that we once again failed to meet, was hiring someone to haul the junk pile away to the landfill. This irritates me, because that pile is getting so large, and we are getting to a point where we need to start cleaning up on that side of the chain link fence. If our budget allows, I’m hoping to at least have smaller loads removed, as we can afford it. The name I have for a guy that hauls junk uses a pick up truck, so if we can get him to come by a few times throughout the year, even that would be a help.
Our gardening goals were mostly met, as far as drought conditions allowed. We used poplars we’d cleared out of parts of the spruce grove to build trellises, and those will be used for another year. We planted in areas far from the house, partly to prepare the soil for permanent plantings. The corn and sunflowers were potentially there to provide privacy screens, too, but the drought and poor soil conditions prevented that. Having to use 300 feet of garden hose to water things, and still just barely being able to reach some corners, during a drought and heat waves, was something we could have done without! Add in damage from deer and groundhogs, and it’s a miracle we had as much produce as we did.
For 2022, our garden plans will continue, and this year we will start with the permanent plantings. We are pouring over websites and looking over what bushes we will be planting in those far flung areas. In one section, we will be closing off a gap in the hedge along the north fence line that the deer go through. My mother had been planting lilacs along this fence, but we are looking to plant berry producing shrubs and bushes, instead. We will also be planting them along the east side, both to help keep deer out and to create a privacy screen. We still need to make sure we can access the east fence line, and there has to be a lane kept open, over where the telephone wires are buried, so we will use other methods to close that off to the deer. We’ll have a better idea of what we can buy in January, when many of the nurseries will have their new inventory available. We might be going with sea buckthorn, if the other varieties we were looking at don’t come back into stock.
Other things we intend to order for 2022 are raspberry canes and, if all goes well, Korean Pine. These require shade for their first 5 years, so they will be planted just north of the spruce grove. If budget allows, we’d like to get new Saskatoon bushes, too.
We will have to take out more of the crab apple trees, to remove diseased trees. There are two trees that produce the best apples. If I can protect those, I will be happy. However, we will also be getting other types of fruit trees including, hopefully, a hardier variety of mulberry tree to replace the one that we bought last year, that got killed off by that one cold night that also killed off all the flowers that would have given us fruit and berries this past year. I’m not sure how many we will be able to squeeze out of our budget this year, but the more fruit trees we get, the better, as they can take many years before producing fruit. Berry bushes are also high on our list, as they will start producing much faster.
This past year, we expanded our garden plots significantly, but with our long term goal of growing as much of our own food as possible, we will need to continue to expand and prepare new ground. Now that we have a working chain saw, we’ll be able to clear dead trees out of the spruce grove and clean that up faster. Many of these dead trees appear to have no rot in them yet, and we plan to turn many stumps into benches and tables. We will also need to clear out the fallen rotten trees, and other fire hazards. Once things are cleared out, we will be planting more spruces in the spruce grove, as well as fruit and berry trees that require more protection from the elements. We’re also looking at getting some Rugosa roses, though they will likely be used more as a deer barrier!
Where the trellises are now will eventually be converted to our food forest, except for the lane that needs to be kept open over the buried phone line, but we will use them where they are for one more year. We ordered quite a lot of seeds already, from Vesey’s (including replacement seeds) and Baker Creek again, plus two orders from Heritage Harvest, which is a new company for us this year. The only seeds we’ve ordered that are still en route are the kulli corn. The only other seeds I still plan to buy are peas, but I will pick those up from a local store when they come available, rather than ordering them in. We will also be making use of seeds from our inventory left over from last year. Which means we will need to build more trellises, once we decide where, because we’ll have quite a few vining plants, and there’s only so much we can plant along the chain link fence. 😉
Along with the saplings, canes and root stock we plan to order, we will be ordering potatoes and sunchokes. This time, we will not try to grow potatoes in bags, but will use the Ruth Stout method again, as part of preparing new areas for either more garden plots, or permanent plantings, the following year.
At this point, we have three low raised bed boxes built, and one high raised bed. Next year, we will continue to use the current beds in the main garden area. The goal is to cut the dead spruce trees to size so that, after things are harvested in the fall, the remaining beds will be converted to high raised beds before next winter. With how much watering we had to do during the drought, filling the beds hügelkultur style will be an important part in moisture retention. Even under normal conditions, high raised beds are notorious for drying out too quickly, but with how we fill them, coupled with the judicious use of mulch, we should be able to prevent that from being a problem.
We will also be making new beds for corn and the many types of squash we have for this coming year, but those will be in areas that will eventually have trees planted in them. Ultimately, we will be building accessible high raised beds in the outer yard to the south of the house, where they will get more sunlight. Eventually, we intend to build a greenhouse or polytunnel out that way, too. It’s not something we’ll be able to start building in 2022, but we should be able to start preparing where they will eventually go. The renter plans to build new fences next year (maintaining the fences was part of the deal they’d originally made with my late father), since their electric fence has been not working as well as intended. I hope to talk to them again about putting a new fence line across the old hay yard, which will be much shorter (therefore, cheaper) than rebuilding the existing fence, but also takes away an area of pasture. We would need a gate in there, though, so that we can eventually haul away those old vehicles to the scrap yard. As that would not be something they’d normally include, I’d be offering to pay for the gate portion. If they are willing to do the new, shorter fence line through the old hay yard, we will be able to get rid of some old, messed up fences and a shed that looks ready to collapse pretty soon. Then we can start building new garden beds out that way. This is also the general area where we want to build the outdoor kitchen, as well as planting a wind break. None of which are worth starting, while there is a chance the renter’s cows can get through. There are also old, collapsing fences around the inner yard we want to take out completely, rather than repair or replace, but again, it can’t be done until the outer yard is fenced in. Long term, though, we won’t have an inner and outer yard anymore, but just one really big yard.
Which means that, on top of continuing our work in the inner yard and garden, we need to get more work done on cleaning up the outer yard. There’s a limit to what we can do, without heavy equipment, but we can at least get a start on it. That was something we should have worked on this past year, but accomplished very little. Hopefully, this coming year will not have the drought and heat waves that made heavy manual labour a very bad idea!
With what we’ve learned from the past year, we know that this year, we will need to focus on protecting our plants from deer, groundhogs and racoons. We will also be focusing on permanent plantings that are drought tolerant and can handle poor soil conditions, even with the amendments we’re working on. We are also looking into planting forage trees and fodder well away from the house and gardens, to give wildlife less reason to invade our yards, looking for food.
As we build our raised garden beds, we will also be ensuring they will all be the same size at the top, so that any covers we build can be interchangeable. The low raised beds are boards and are 3′ x 9′. The high raised bed is 4′ x 9′, and we plan to build them all that size. With the thickness of the logs, the actual growing space inside is closer to 3′ x 8′. So if we build covers to fit the low raised beds, they should also fit the high raised beds.
While most of our goals are going to be expanding or continuing previous goals, a new goal I want to add is to have chickens. For our egg needs, we would only need about half a dozen birds. The problem is, we don’t have anything to keep them in. I am wanting chickens to be part of our soil reclamation progress, which means being able to move their coop and enclosure regularly. Buying a new chicken tractor is well beyond our budget, but we don’t have the materials to build one, either, and with the cost of building materials right now, it’s as out of reach as buying a new one. Of the many, many videos I’ve looked at for making quick, easy and inexpensive coops and shelters for chickens, none of them are suitable for our climate. Oh, they could be temporary structures for the summer, and I do plan to build versions of them that will fit over our raised garden beds, but none of them would keep chickens alive during our winters.
That is something I need to work on. I’d love to get able to get chicks this spring, but if we can’t shelter them once they’re big enough to leave a brooder, there’s no point.
So there we have it. We did accomplish some of our goals for 2021, but many of our goals are multi-year things, so it’s more progress than accomplishment.
Now we’ll see how much we manage to get done next year!
Today we come to the close of what has got to be the most bizarre year we’ve had in my 5 decades! I think many of us will be very glad to see the hind end of 2020, even though there’s no sign that 2021 is going to be much different.
[edited for formatting problems. WTH, WordPress??]
Thankfully, one of the side benefits of 1) living in the boonies and 2) living on my husband’s disability income, is that not a whole lot of the crazy affected our everyday life. We were already living on a tight budget, and disability payments are not affected. We were already doing things like stocking up in bulk purchases once a month, so that changed only because suddenly, everyone else was stocking up, too! My “job” is taking care of this place, and only one of my daughters had to stop working outside the home because of the crazy. The other was already working from home, so as long as we’ve got internet, she’s good to go. We got to focus on taking care of the property and each other, moving forward as much as possible on our long term goals, and basically be hermits. Which is kinda how we like it! The only real negative thing affecting us is my husband not getting the medical care he needs, but honestly, I don’t know how much of that can be blamed on the virus response. We’ve been here for 3 years now, and he still hasn’t been able to get the same level of care he had access to when we lived in the city. 😦
For me, one of the things I’ve tried to do is keep up with daily posts here on the blog, even if it’s just posting a photo. I’ve learned long ago that if I don’t get at least some writing in every day, it’s not very good for my mental health, but I also hope that the things talked about here will be enjoyed by, and useful to, others.
Though I am making no efforts at all to promote the blog, somehow, people are still finding it and following along. I don’t know how you all are finding us, but I really appreciate you stopping by and giving it a read, liking and commenting. Thank you so much!
In celebration of the end of the year, here are the top 10 most popular blog posts written in 2020. I skipped over any that were written in previous years, just because I want to focus on 2020. All links should open in new tabs, so you won’t lose your place here. 🙂
So here they are, starting with number 10.
Comparisons. As this was our first year gardening, it comes as no surprise that we are starting with a gardening post! This one is from early August.
This year, I did something new, with a series of “Recommended” posts. These ended up getting their own permanent page, with a tab at the top menu. Number 9 is one of these posts. Recommended: Justin Rhodes. There is a massive number of videos on their YouTube channel! If you have any interest in self-sufficient living, do check them out!
This year, I finally started to do some more creative things with all the trees we’ve been cutting down, other than sticking them in huge piles for future chipping, or burning them.
The Wonkiest comes in at Number 8, showing off my first ever carving of a fork… and it truly is the wonkiest!! 😀
Every now and then, a post becomes popular, and I have no idea why! Like this one, at number 6: Let’s give this a try. It’s just a mix of all sorts of things, but apparently, people found it interesting!
Another Recommended post on the list. Number 4 is Recommended: Kris Harbour Natural Building. This YouTube channel is filled with years of videos, following along as Kris Harbour builds off grid in Wales. Well worth checking out!
And now we reach our number 1, most popular post of 2020.
This one blew away all the other posts, with almost triple (!!) the hits that number 2 got! In fact, it still gets hits almost every day. It’s another from the Recommended series of posts. Recommended: XiaoXi’s Culinary Idyll It’s another YouTube channel, and there are some really awesome videos to check out. Yet, I have no idea what makes this post stand out more than any other, that it should get so many more hits!
If you have discovered this blog through this post, I’d love to hear what brought you here! Please feel free to let me know in the comments. 🙂
Well, there you have it! The top 10 must popular blog posts written in 2020.
I look forward to joining you again in the New Year! May 2021 be a year filled with many blessings, growth, healing and above all, normalcy!
God knows, we could all use some plain, boring old “normal” right now!
Well, here we are, at the end of 2020. This is our 3rd full year, and 4th winter, of living on the farm.
We set up goals to accomplish the task of getting this place cleaned up and fixed up. Of course, goals are always flexible, since life has a way of blowing right through any plans we might make! So it’s good to take a look and see where we stand.
Of course, the first priority was getting the house itself settled. While we did get most of my parents’ belongings stored away, with some of it staying to be used, there are still things that need to get done. They are not a priority, though, so they can wait. I don’t think anyone wants to go into the attic over the old kitchen to clean that up, for example! Some day, we will have to, but it will wait.
After getting a good look (or so we thought!) of what needed to be done outside, we set yearly goals. The first two years were to be focused on cleaning up the inner yard, then moving on to the outer yard in the third year, before finally moving beyond the outer yard, where we could start looking at clearing out the vehicle graveyard and large junk piles.
In the first year, focus was on clearing out the maple grove and the south and west yards, while year two was supposed to focus on clearing out the spruce grove and east yard. The old garden area in the north was basically in limbo until we decided on what we wanted to do for gardening. The big accomplishment there was getting a new push mower that allowed us to actually mow the overgrown old garden that had been badly plowed some time before we moved out here.
Year one went to plan, but year two had other plans for us, as my husband ended up in the hospital for 3 weeks, followed by trips to the city for medical care, and other such things. The weather also did not cooperate, with drought conditions and heat making heavy physical labour outdoors potentially dangerous. So that whole area got pushed back another year, except for one thing. I managed to clear out the old wood pile, uncovering the only good and soft soil in the entire inner yard! We also set aside an area where my mother’s garden used to be for future gardening, covering it with mulch, then using the giant black tarps reclaimed from the old wood pile to cover most to the area over the winter.
Between those two accomplishments, we ended up planting an actual garden this past summer. This was not something we expected to be able to do for some time, but really, if we waited until conditions were just right, nothing would ever get done, so we went for it. In that respect, this past year had us ahead of the game a bit.
Another plan we had for this past year got pretty much zero progress. We wanted to build a cordwood shed to use as an outdoor bathroom. Having what we thought was the septic tank backing up into the basement, and having to use a honey pot until that got cleared up, showed us that we don’t just need a second bathroom. We need a bathroom that does not rely on our septic system. The old outhouse we’ve got here has a growing hole to the pit developing under the door, and we don’t consider it safe to use. We want to move away from having a pit and use a composting toilet, instead. Sure, it means having to empty the contents regularly, but in the long term, it means the shed could someday be used as something else, just by removing the toilet box.
At the very least, I hoped to get an area dug out so we could create a level “foundation” to build on top of, that would allow for drainage while also holding the weight of cordwood and mortar walls.
This past year, we had a wet spring followed by some pretty extreme heat (well… for our area), and the only thing we managed to accomplish to that goal was clear away the last of the little trees that had sprung up by the old wood pile. I think not getting any progress on that is my one real disappointment for the year’s plans gone awry.
At the same time, even with the setbacks of the previous years, there were things that needed to get done in the outer yard. Thanks to my brother, gaping holes in the roof of one the sheds were patched with pieces of metal roofing left over from when the barn and garage were done, years ago. Windows were replaced or fixed. Some trees cleared away from other roofs. These were things that were part of the original plans, so in that respect, they were being done on schedule. The other things that need to be done in the outer yard will be slowly accomplished over the space of years, but some things were just more urgent than others.
The summer heat made working in the spruce grove severely limited. Plus, while we were glad to have an actual garden this past year, tending them did take time away from the goal of clearing out that grove. It is a fire hazard, which increases with every tree that comes down in a storm, or any branches that fall. Plus, we want to take down the dead trees and plant more spruces in the spruce grove!
So that area has been pushed back for yet another year.
Which brings me to our updated plans and goals.
For 2021, we’ll be focusing even more on gardening, having picked up a ridiculous number of seeds, with more things to arrive in the spring, when they can be planted right away. This is going to rather force us to get the spruce grove cleared up faster! Areas of the spruce grove are being taken over by poplars, and these will be perfect to use to build trellises and arbors for the garden. We even plan to build a gate/arbor combination to set up next to the main gate, so people can come in without climbing the locked gate. The taller poplars would probably be useful in building temporary, deer proof fencing to protect our garden, too.
There’s at least one large dead spruce I want to take down. Not starting on the cordwood shed may actually be a plus, since I would be cutting it to (hopefully!) fall in that direction, where there are no other trees for it to fall on top of. With the old chainsaw we have breaking at one of the switches needed to start it, the very first time I tried to use it, we will need to invest in a new one to get the spruce grove cleaned up. There’s only so much that’s reasonable to do with a buck saw! Plus, we have a mulberry tree coming in the spring. It’s a zone 4 tree, so we want to ensure it is growing in a protected area that also gives full sun, and that’s going to be in the spruce grove.
With having varieties of corn and sunflowers that need to be kept away from each other to avoid cross pollination, we’ll be working in areas of the old garden that are well away from the house. All of that will be temporary as, in the long term, we are looking to plant nut trees in there, and move most of the gardening into the outer yard, south of the house. So any gardening we do around there in the upcoming year will mean breaking up the hard, rocky soil and amending it, which will make it better for any future nut trees we plant out there.
One of the goals we had for this past year was to hire the tree company to come out with their massive chipper, and get rid of the piles of wood we’ve got all over. We couldn’t do it this year, but it still needs to be done. It may be worthwhile for us to just buy a chipper instead, though the cost of one that can handle what we’d be putting it through would be considerably more than the cost of hiring this company to come out for 6 hours. From the estimate I got at the time, he figured 6 hours would be enough time for them to do all the piles, too. Hiring someone would be more efficient to get these big piles done. We can invest in a chipper of our own, later on. We will always have branches to clean up and get rid of, so it would be worth it.
So the past year has been an odd mix of goals delayed, while others were accomplished faster than expected. One thing that has been delayed for way too long is getting the junk pile hauled to the dump. This is something we will be hiring people to do, so it basically comes down to whether or not it’s in the budget at any given time. So far, it hasn’t been! It would be fantastic to get rid of that unsightly mess, though.
Aside from time and weather dependent things that will need to get done, like all things garden related, our goals and plans for 2021 have become a lot more loosey-goosey. Timelines have become much more vague, and we’re still at a loss on how to accomplish some vital goals, like replacing the roof.
Still, we’ve managed to accomplish enough in the past year, that we can spend more time building things up, rather than taking things down, in the next year.
Which is as good for the psyche as for anything else!
A great big Happy New Year to all our wonderful visitors and followers! May 2020 be a year of peace and good health to you and your loved ones.
Out of all the millions of blogs out there, you chose to pop over and visit our little corner of the world, and I just wanted to say how much I appreciate it.
Last year, I did a list of this blog’s top 10 most visited posts. I was all set to do it again, only to find it couldn’t quite work out as I intended. It turns out there are too many “tied” posts. A 2 or 3 way tie is one thing, but a 13 way tie? 😀 I also noticed that the top visited posts are almost all from last year. I was going to try skipping those and just do posts that were written in 2019, only to find myself back in that tied-a-dozen-times problem.
So here is the list of the top 5 most visited blog posts in the past year.
Five: New Range Hood – part 1 Thanks to my daughter, we finally replaced the original range hood, which was installed in the early to mid 1970’s. Part 2 is when we finally got the new one wired and working!
Four: Sourdough Cornmeal Pancakes These are still my favorite pancakes. Recipe to make yogurt cheese, as a sour cream substitute, included!
Two: Making Chokecherry Vinegar Here is the recipe for the vinegar used in the Chokecherry Vinegar Drink. This year’s chokecherries were frozen, and we plan to use them in mead making. Depending on how many chokecherries we get next year, I hope to make this vinegar again, just so we can make that drink!