We have been busy this week trying to get the weeds and brush on our land under control. We pasture our goats on the hillside to keep the brush down, and they do a good job, but it takes time for them to clear an area. So this week we rented a brush hog (a big spinning bade that is pulled behind a tractor) and Brian trimmed up blackberries and cottonwoods for two days on the hillside to prepare for our expanding orchard this fall and because we plan on increasing our growing area in our lower field and eventually want to dig an irrigation pond. . He also broke it twice (a good reason to rent a several thousand dollar machine instead of buying one). We usually do this work with hand clippers, the weed eater or goats, but we are pretty pressed for time so we chose this quicker option.
I have gotten a good start on the fall/winter garden this past week. I planted cabbage, collards, brussels sprouts and winter onions. The real trick is keeping the seeds moist enough to germinate in this hot weather (yesterday was over 90 degrees at our place). But I am seeing some seedlings coming up so they should be fine. I love Eliot Coleman's book Four Season Harvest for information on how to plant a winter garden and how to make simple greenhouses and cold frames.
For the market we have more potatoes, garlic, squash, zucchini, onions, kale, chard, beets, turnips, cabbage, cucumbers, etc. The lemon cukes should be ready in a week or two, which are always a favorite in our home. We like to chop up cucumbers and make a salad with a yogurt, dill, olive oil and garlic dressing. Yum! We will also have another batch of lavender soap for the market next week.
Right now we have lots of chores to work on every day. In the morning I feed and water all the animals, let the chicken on of their coop, milk two goats, lead the goats to pasture, water the garden, and the usual household chores. Then I try to make earthen plaster and plaster the house for a few hours. Then I try to weed and hoe the garden, lay mulch, harvest food, flowers and herbs, pot up seedlings, and general garden maintenance. Of course somewhere in there the kids need meals, clean clothes, stories read, etc.
The kids have been a great help with the house and land chores. Our ten year old daughter has been helping with the dishes and hanging laundry, and she can fix simple meals like pancakes. This has been a huge help on days when I am super busy in the garden. She is also a great berry picker and she is great at prepping food for preserving. Our 7 year old son is a great one for running quick errands around the farm. He is always good about running to get a tool or gathering eggs. He helps me herd the goats and is a great duck catcher. He also has a real tool kit (thanks to his Grandma Sue) that he uses to fix things around the house. He is really handy with a screw driver. He is also great at helping with some of the dirtier farm jobs like hauling wood or shoveling manure, and he uses his own small shovel to pitch in and help. Both kids are responsible for keeping their rooms clean and helping entertain their 3 year old brother. Our littlest doesn't do many chores but he does help pick up toys and he likes gathering eggs, although he sometimes drops them! I think it is good for the kids to feel like they are important members of our family team and they play a vital role in keeping our house and farm running. Of course we also want them to have lots of free time for play and take them on family outings to the river or homeschool park days, and we even went to the movies this week!
Brian stays really busy every day working on our land and garden and spends the evenings working on the house. But he always seems to find time to help the kids with something. This weekend he will be building a chicken tractor to help with the weed situation. Hopefully we can post photos of it when it is finished!