Learning about the land we live in is one of the great adventures of our life on the farm and each year the advent of Spring sparks anew this adventure. We do learn a few things over the Winter months, but these topics usually involve finding new ways to enjoy our small home away from the wet and cold. It is when the temperature begins to rise that a sense of renewal begins and the cold, gray trees once more clothe themselves with beautiful green leaves and showy flowers.
It was one such tree that caught our attention this past week. We hadn’t noticed it before, but off on the edges of our far pasture we saw the beautiful white dome of a flowering tree. Neither of us know a lot about trees to be able to look at any given specimen and know what it is right away. What could be said about this little tree was that it is shares beautiful tufts of tiny, white, very fragrant blooms.
We studied the different aspects of the tree and then set to work on trying to figure out what kind of tree it is. I stress once more that we are certainly not arborists and could be mistaken, but it is our opinion that this little gem is a Mexican Plumb (Prunus Mexicana).
Here are two sites we used to see if we could figure this out:
If you agree or disagree with our conclusion, please add a comment below to join in the conversation.
Here in Central Texas, Springtime began to peek out from behind the gray clouds of winter, but we found it necessary to travel to a land where Winter still holds its strong grip. My Aunt passed away last week and her memorial service was scheduled for the following Sunday. I had missed the funeral for her husband, my Uncle several years earlier and I wanted to do everything possible to ensure I could be there this time. I can assure you though that uprooting my wife, a six year old, and an infant from their regular schedules with little warning is most certainly a challenge. Add to that the complexity of finding a sitter for the farm and quickly showing them the daily routine and I slowly began to wonder if this trip was going to be possible.
With a very busy full-time job, there really was no way for me to organize and administrate the sudden changes that would need to take place. Thankfully, God has blessed me with an incredible wife! She not only found and quickly trained a farm sitter, she packed everything all of us would need for the trip, including enough food so we would not have to eat out and bust the budget.
We set out for middle America Friday afternoon and only a few hours later realized we weren’t in Texas weather any more. By the time we had stopped for the night there was snow and ice on the ground and when we woke up the next morning, the rear doors to our SUV were frozen shut. It was an unearthly 15 degrees! The further we drove that Saturday, the worse the roads became. We were heading directly for a winter storm!
This Texan driver had no interest in learning how to drive in a snowstorm with family in tow, so I kept track of the weather system and road conditions on my phone and kept veering northward to keep from heading too far East, into the storm. It took a little over 100 extra miles and a few hours to get around the winter weather, but we kept the car on solid ground. When we arrived at our destination though, the snow on the ground was deeper than I had seen in many, many years. I wasn’t all that excited about it, but our six year old was more than ready to jump into the drifts. There was a hill behind our hotel that would have been good for sledding, had we a sled with us. He tried to take a run at the hill on the top of our cooler, but it just wasn’t big enough. No matter, he played in it with a huge smile on his face. Then…the snow began to fall.
By the time we woke up the next morning, several inches had fallen. Our SUV was covered in snow, as were the roads and everything around us. We were to meet together with family that night for dinner, but I was rather discouraged at the thought of driving. You see, in Texas, when it snows or there is any amount of ice, EVERYTHING shuts down. We simply do not have the equipment, manpower or ability to clear enough of the road hazards to make travel possible. Where we were though, it is a mightily different story. Plows were out in force clearing the roads and laying down salt to melt the snow. It was actually quite a site to see. It was as if nearly everyone in that town who owned a pickup truck had it equipped with a plow and were clearing main roads, side roads and even parking lots.
The snow continued falling throughout the night and well into evening the next day, the day of the memorial service for my Aunt. There were drifts almost as tall as our son, but the roads were travel worthy. We all made it safely to the service and celebrated the life of a woman who meant so much to all of us.
Afterwards, we were invited to a cousin’s house that evening to go sledding on real sleds. Our original plan was to start heading home right after the service, but even the Herculean effort of the local road crews found it difficult to get ahead of the falling snow. We cancelled our travel plans for the night and headed for some fun in the snow. It was a fun time for all the kids, including this big kid writing this. I had not been sledding since I was a kid myself and couldn’t resist the chance to take a few runs down the snowy slope. We wrapped up the sledding as darkness overtook us and retreated inside for warmth and big cups of hot chocolate. We then said our goodbyes and carefully ventured back to our hotel for the night.
In the very early hour of the next morning, before the sun even stretched its arms to welcome the new day, we loaded up and headed for home. There was a LOT of snow on the sides of the interstate, but the roads were clear. It was a mere 9 degrees, but somehow these locals tackled the task and we made our way Southward again. We made it safely home slightly after our regular bedtimes and were thankful for the safe journey to winter and back again.
Momma Wynonna and our latest cold front brought to us lamb number 4, named Axel, for 2019. Provided there are no surprises from the young ewes we presume are not pregnant, this brings our 2019 lambing season to a close.
To recap, we welcomed 3 boys and 1 girl lamb this year. A little skewed from regular, but they’re all happy and healthy.
When it comes to equal rights, neither man nor woman gets a day off on the homestead. A wife on the homestead is to be valued beyond measure as, I can attest, all things would come to a screeching halt without my wonderful wife keeping everything moving forward in the right direction. If ever there was a person on this earth deserving of giving gifts to, it is the homestead wife!
There are far more wonderful gifts a man can give to his wife, but I asked mine to provide me with what she thought would be good gifts for the woman on the homestead. Here below are those ten items (but feel free to buy your wife much more than these things):
When it comes to the homestead, shoes are for use inside the house or on paved surfaces only! Everywhere else requires muck boots. There is no end to the muck, grime, mud and other nasty things around a homestead and the last place those things should be found is in the house. A good pair of muck boots are easy to slip on and off and can take the abuse of hours spent working hard outdoors.
I’m not familiar with where you live, but where we are, the Texas sun can be a formidable foe. There aren’t many times you can go outside and NOT realize you aren’t wearing your hat. This piece of gear is an absolute essential item where we live and I’m pretty sure it is where you live as well. A good hat not only keeps the heat somewhat tamed, but it can also help keep her beautiful hair out of her face when she’s taking care of those outdoor chores.
Working outdoors can take its toll on a persons knees, but a simple cushion pad is an easy fix. Chores are hard enough without adding pain and discomfort. What may seem like such a little thing as a kneeling pad can enhance the enjoyment of working outside.
Digging in the flower or vegetable garden is one of the greatest joys of homestead life. Protecting one’s hands is something every homesteader should believe in. Working with our hands is a daily activity so making sure that those fingers are ready for tomorrow is part of today’s responsibilities.
Moving things around the homestead is a rather routine activity and because of this, moving things around also consumes valuable time that could be spent on other things. Having a garden cart can really help save time by allowing you to move multiple items in one trip. It also makes it much easier to move those heavier items that can cause aches and pains unsuitable for daily life on the homestead.
In case you haven’t noticed, anything that can save time is a treasured item on the homestead. Preparing meals is another of those daily chores that can really consume one’s time. Yes, sometimes it can be very enjoyable, even therapeutic, to slice, dice and chop by hand, but other times you just want to get the job done. A food processor is indeed a valuable time-saver.
Preserving the harvest and being able to enjoy it throughout the winter months is a mainstay of homestead life. Sure, it’s possible to use typical kitchen utensils when canning, but why not give your wife the comfort and security of using specially designed tools for a somewhat dangerous task. You know you have a screwdriver for every conceivable job, give your wife the tools she needs too.
If you are prone to being afflicted by poison ivy or poison oak and have never heard of Tecnu, stop what you are doing right now and order some of this miracle nectar of healing proportions! There are so so many poision ivy remedies out there, both herbal and medicinal, but none have been as effective on the dreaded rash as Tecnu has been for us. Nothing stops progress like a case of poison ivy, and so far we have found nothing else that puts a stop to it faster than Tecnu!
Using a dehydrator is another wonderful method of preserving your hard won garden produce. There are some things that simply don’t can well, or at all, but preserve wonderfully with a dehydrator. These dried foods also make for great snacks when you’re outside working (and they store in your pockets better than a can of peaches!).
You may wonder why the simple handkerchief made it onto a list like this, but I can tell you that this seemingly simple piece of cloth may just be one of the most indispensable items on the homestead. They aren’t just for blowing one’s nose, although that is helpful. The handkerchief can substituted for a hat, it can filter dust, dry the tears of a crying child, wipe off a sweating brow, and can even be handy in emergency first-aid.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through what we believe to be important and helpful gifts for the homestead wife. I’d love to hear your feedback as well as learn if there is something different that you would put on your wish list.
There are many changes people face when transitioning to the homestead lifestyle. One of these changes is a shift in social interaction, especially for those moving form a more urban setting to a new rural life. For some people this is one of those changes that has been dreamed of for a long time. For others the change in social dynamics can be a bit of a challenge to overcome.
Some of these changes are more easily adaptable depending on each person’s personality, but none of them are insurmountable for those determined to make rural living their new lifestyle. whether you feel the change will or will not be a challenge, it is still best to know more about the changes headed your way before jumping in head first.
For those, like us, who moved from the city to our little piece of country heaven, one of the first things you will notice is the silence. Cities are noisy places full of cars, trucks, people, sirens, lawn mowers, air conditioners, you name it. On a calm, quiet night in the country, there are times when it seems you are all alone, and for some that may not be far from the truth. This was not something of a challenge for us as the silence was one of the motivating factors for our lifestyle change. We grew used to it pretty quickly. To tell the truth, it wasn’t long before we realized it wasn’t actually silent after all. During the day there are birds singing their beautiful songs, squirrels jumping from tree to tree, the light rustling of the leaves in the soft breeze, hummingbirds whirring overhead, and an occasional neighbor popping off a few rounds from their weapon of choice. When the sun fades the night shift takes over. Armadillos, skunks, raccoons and possums begin their nightly rustling in the brush. The leaves still rustle in the breeze, but the darkness ads a bit of mystery to their sound. Of course there are the coyotes howling their nightly tunes which at times can be somewhat charming, while other times it can seem slightly alarming, but after a while these noises will become the normal background for daily life.
The population density in cities and other urban areas is far greater than that of rural areas. Your new homestead may be miles from the next family or you may be able to see other homes from your porch. The interesting dynamic though is that chances are high that you’ll get to know these neighbors far better than the dozens or more that lived within shouting distance of your urban home. Most people who live in the country either prefer the outdoors to being cooped up inside. At times there are also many chores outside that require regular attention. In the city most back yards are surrounded on all sides by privacy fences and while neighbors may be heard at times, they are rarely seen. In the country don’t be surprised if, while working or playing outside, that a friendly neighbor may stop by just to say hello or even offer to help with whatever you may be doing.
It is wise to get to know these neighbors as you may soon discover that unlike the city, good help can be harder to find. There is a wealth of knowledge about rural living that surround you. While you may find it necessary to learn how to do many new things on your own, don’t hesitate to ask questions from people who have been at this lifestyle far longer. In the city it may seem rude to ask to borrow someone else’s tools, but in the country it can often mean the difference between getting a job done or a day spent driving to the city for the tools you need. Certainly some people won’t be interested in lending their valuable items (tools), but others are very willing to help, especially if you have the ability to help them out in return at a later time. It won’t take very long to identify those interested in helping you to succeed, but only if you have the ability to ask for help.
You are Your Own Public Works
If you have notion of building a house in the country and sipping lemonade on the front porch as a full-time lifestyle, you may want to invest in a small tract of land rather than a larger one. When your driveway washes out or a fence falls over, chances are there isn’t anyone to call for help. You may be blessed with helpful neighbors, but it is important not to burden them too often with your needs as they too are likely to have plenty of their own work to do. Yes, in the country you pretty much are on your own, that is unless you have deep pockets to pay for such services. “To each their own,” as they say, but I don’t really see that as living the homesteading experience. There is a sense of pride and fulfillment in learning to do new things and accomplishing them with little to no assistance.
Adapting to Your Environment
In urban cities, entertainment and diversions are plentiful. In the country you have to learn to appreciate even the smallest things. Find pleasure in the natural world around you, after all, that’s likely one of the reasons for starting a homesteading journey. It may take some time, but if you give nature a chance, you’ll learn to love it and begin to wonder how you ever lived without it. You may find one day that you are talking to animals and plants, but that’s OK (we all do it).
New homesteaders will soon discover that things to move at a slower pace in the country. Urban life is easily tackled with plans, schedules, and routines, but in the “real world” of rural living, things have a way of getting in the way of our busy scheduled lives. The natural world we admire can throw a very fast curve ball at times and it is better to accept these things as they come than to fit them in around a detailed life plan. It is certainly a great idea to have plans, dreams and ideas, but knowing when to hit the pause button to take care of immediate concerns is a very important trait to develop. Nature is not the only source of frustration either. Remember those neighbors that are important to meet and get to know? Yes, sometimes even these important members of your new community can be a source of patience-building. You may have found the perfect piece of ground to build a new life, but you truly never know your neighbors until you’ve been there a while. Learn to embrace people’s differences and find ways to make the unpleasant things fall to the wayside. You may even be knee deep in some big project and one of those friendly neighbors may stop by at just the “wrong” time to chat. It’s alright to move the conversation along so you can get back to work, but don’t be hasty and lose the friendly hand of a good neighbor. Heck, they may even jump in and help you out – it happens more than you may know.
Freedom to Fail
In line with developing patience, it is important to develop a mindset that failure is always an option. It should never be the goal, but taking on this lifestyle, especially if it is new to you, can present obstacles you never imagined were possible. Take failures as a learning experience and find ways to improve on whatever didn’t work the last time. Sometimes failure feels just like it sounds, but honestly, there can be a joy in learning what does and does not work in particular situations. Give yourself room to grow and homesteading will eventually be everything you dreamed that it could be.
I could feel the anticipation rising, so decided it was time to reveal our solution to the barn floor issues we have been experiencing. We have run through so many ideas over the past couple of years trying to solve this, but we settled on building a wooden deck inside the barn.
It seems so strange now, but in all our discussions about the barn, I don’t recall us ever contemplating a wooden floor. Even in all our research it was not an idea we had come across. That was until someone suggested it as it is how they solved their problems. Then, all of a sudden, our internet searches were met with plenty of ideas and tips for wooden barn floors. I don’t always like it when there are “plenty of ideas” because it makes researching the “right” solution to our individual problem harder to choose. I do realize however that many options make multiple solutions for varying situations more tenable.
Anyway, we talked about the options, then sketched out our idea and determined how much material we were going to need for our project. Because time is not a luxury we experience often, we took advantage of convenience and ordered the material online. The following Friday night I zipped over to the big box store where our lumber was already waiting for me. Thankfully, a couple of helpful employees even aided me in loading it all into our trailer.
It sure seemed like an awful lot of weight for our little 5×8 pull behind and I even had had pieces 16 feet long lashed to the top rail. Yeah, I should have taken a picture, but I was hungry and eager to get home. I took it easy driving all that lumber home and made it to within about 100 feet of our driveway. As usual I drove slow down our obstacle curse some call a road, but I hit one of the vehicle swallowing “potholes” a little too fast nearly lost the whole load. The trailer jumped off the hitch, landed on what passes for pavement in the country and made quite a racket. It didn’t take long to get it back where it belonged though and I had it safely on our farm, ready for Saturday morning.
We started by running those 16 foot long pressure-treated 2x4s down the long side of the pen. We installed them a few inches above the dirt floor so there will be some measure of airflow underneath. Once those were securely in place, we cut two 2x4s about 4 feet long, and propped them up so they were parallel and level with the runners. On these 2x4s we installed the 2×4 decking. Once all the decking was installed we removed the blocks propping them up so that the decking is what held the weight whole pallet. We did it this way because we know we will need to get access to the dirt floor occasionally to clean it. Lift up a pallet, and there’s the old dirt floor.
It only took one night to realize that I hadn’t put enough space between the deck boards. The next morning the poop was everywhere, including being stuck to the sheep. I had to go back and take out every single screw and reattach the boards with enough space between them to allow the “garden gold” to fall to the ground below. It’s been a couple of weeks now since finishing this project and so far it appears to be just what we’ve needed all this time.
Six days of the week, breakfast is something of a hurried affair, but we make every attempt to slow things down on Saturday mornings. It is a special time when we can spend some time working together to make this tasty treat and then share them as a family at the table. Buttermilk Pecan Pancakes have become our family favorite!
Working on the homestead is most often less of a chore and more of a blessing. To know that every ounce of work you put into YOUR place is yours to keep. Add to that the chance to be outdoors enjoying your little piece of heaven and there is little better enjoyment in life.
When it comes to giving a gift to the man of the homestead, it may seem difficult to know just what he wants or needs. I can tell you from experience that there is plenty of need for new or replacement tools and you shouldn’t worry much about getting him something he already has. When it comes to tools and equipment, nothing lasts forever on the homestead and a backup always, and I mean always, comes in handy.
I could list far more than 10 items on a man’s homestead wish list, but if I truly had to narrow it down to 10 things, these would (and are) on that list.
Working on a homestead often involves maintenance in locations too far from your home or other sources of electricity. In many cases I actually prefer powerless hand tools, but there are times when cordless power tools can be very helpful. Repetitve jobs and time constraints make the cordless power tool a handy item to have in your toolbox. I don’t own this particular set, but I do own the corded version of the Black+Decker Matrix and really enjoy the versatility of a variety of attachments.
Unless your homestead is a sod hut on the vast prairie, a chainsaw is a must have piece of equipment. Brand loyalty is a major factor in choosing your next chainsaw purchase, but beware that when it comes to chainsaws, you really do get what you pay for. I bought a relatively inexpensive brand when we first purchased our land and that chainsaw now sits gathering dust in “forever storage.”
There is no counting how many times I’ve run across something that needs fixed or mended while working on something else, only to discover that the tool I really need is back at the house. Carrying a heavy toolbox around the homestead is not a reality I experience, but a well stocked tool belt can reduce time spent going back and forth to the house for a screwdriver or hammer.
It doesn’t take long to realize that muck boots are an absolute essential piece of homestead gear. The very first time your regualar boots get stuck in the mud or you, um, track that mud into the house, and you’ll recognize the need. Muck boots typically slip on and off with ease anyway, so they are extremely convenient when you have to run outside for a second, or if you have a day’s work ahead of you.
Homesteading is a dirty business. I can’t think of a single chore that doesn’t somehow mar my clothes with a spot of mud here or a stain of something there. Not to mention working in the woods surrounded by poision ivy. The difference between overalls and coveralls is pretty much a personal preference, but if I am going out to do something that I know for sure is going to be a dirty job, I prefer coveralls.
Okay, here is a choice that can cause hours of discussion, especially here in Texas. Every Texas homesteader knows something about barbecue and a piece of land without some sort of grill or smoker is wasted space.
A homesteader without a good strong knife is like a zebra without stripes. Pocket knives are a good tool to carry, but I have found them to be too small or awkward for some of the jobs I need a knife for. There are any number of quality fixed blade knives out there today, but I really love my Morakniv Craftline. It’s bigger than my pocket knives, but smaller than a machete and is a very strong and versatile tool.
The stars may be bright deep in the heart of Texas, but they typically are not bright enough to work by. They are certainly not bright enough to find a stray animal or to tell if that noise in the bushes is an armadillo or a skunk. Flashlights are handy, but I have found that when I am outside after the sun goes down, I usually need both hands free. Modern headlamps are bright and last much longer than any nighttime job I have needed them for.
I have no idea where you live, but on our homestead we never go outside in the summer without a good hat on our head. The sun can do a lot of damage in a short amount of time and your scalp is one of the last places you want to experience a sever sunburn. Sure the cowboy hat is king in Texas, but I have found my cowboy hats to be in the way or get knocked off easily when I’m working in the woods. I have found that I very much prefer a vented bucket hat when I’m out on our homestead.
Gloves are everywhere and every homesteader has a pile of them somewhere. But chances are that one of this pair is missing, one of that pair has a dozen holes, and that pair, well, what is that smell? Leather gloves are great during the winter, but during the summer when it’s 100 degrees outside, I don’t know about you, but I need a glove that can breathe AND handle whatever I throw at it. Having more pairs of gloves than you think a person needs is never a bad idea.
So here’s my list. Would you have a different list? I’d love to know what is on your Top 10 gift list for men on the homestead!
a Lutheran homeschooling blog
Putting in a little
Yorkshirelass, home at last.
Just another WordPress.com weblog
Peace, quiet, and beauty in the middle of Texas
Textile arts and crafts. Spinning. Weaving. Felting. Sustainability
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!
the place where fibre becomes yarn.