Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Got Drought?

Every year, I begin a garden with visions of bushels of tomatoes, beans, corn, and squash making their way into my kitchen mid-summer.  Enough to can or freeze, and enough to share with friends.  Though this ideal never materializes exactly as I'd like, there's always excess of one crop where another crop fails. 

However, it's been almost three weeks (maybe more?) since we've had a long, soaking rain.  Our area has had some rain, but it seems to skip over our part of the county, sort of like the parting of the Red Sea...only not so much fun.  Weather follows patterns, and in the past we've avoided tornadic activity that would have otherwise sent us into the crawl space.  So that's the silver lining in this non-existent cloud. 

We love foraging for blackberries, but as hardy as they are, they've also been affected by the drought.

When you pair lack of rain with 100+ degree temps, leaky water barrels, and a 25+-year-old well (it's not one of those modern jobs that hit the fiery core of the earth), you begin to pick and choose what you save, and what you let go.

This pear tree is starting to drop its leaves.  Saving our fruit trees, most of which we planted in the spring of 2011, is a priority.

The strawberries look like they want to curl up and die.

The cucumbers produced, but everything was kind of white and bloated at one end.  I made pickles anyway.

Ah, corn.  Corn is my white whale.  And weeds.  Seriously, if there's going to be a drought, couldn't some of these weeds die??
So does this drought mean I give up gardening?  Of course not, but here are my thoughts on how I can be better prepared for another drought:

1. More diligence in storing water (i.e., check for leaks the first time it rains in the spring)
2. Create a less labor-intensive watering system.
3. Forge relationships with other gardeners so we can trade our excess.
4. Find reliable, local sources for food through farm stores and farmer's markets.  Buying by the bushel and setting aside some time to can or freeze produce will still save time and money this winter.

And in the meantime, I'll hope for a more forgiving summer next year.

How does your garden grow?

I'm coming out of summer hibernation and linking up with Rural Thursdays again!  Click here to visit the hosts, Two Bears Farm and A Rural Journal, as well as other fantastic blogs.

Rural Thursday Blog Hop

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Perspective, A Couple Weeks Later

I mentioned in my last post that life had become rather overwhelming.  For a couple weeks, I ran things alone here while Byron was chaperoning a student trip to Europe.  I went to Europe in graduate school and we both felt like this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him, and he spent much of his time taking photos and videos to share with us. 

Amid sickness (and we rarely get sick, so go figure), 100+ degree weather, the loss of three chickens, a violent storm that left many people without power for days, and a nasty computer virus, friends and family came to our rescue while Byron was away.  You know who you are, and we are so grateful to you.

During Byron's time away, I've been whittling away at my many responsibilities.  Homesteading has a romantic ring to it, but the reality of it can be a slap of mud to the face - literally and figuratively.  I'm happy we're raising much of our own food - don't get me wrong - but one homeschooling mom and a dad who works outside the home for much of the year can only handle so much.

Here's where I'd like to do some whittling:

1. Number of chicken flocks: Right now, we have four flocks.  We have our Cornish Cross we're raising for meat, and their time on earth is nearing an end.  However, we also have three old Barred Rocks and three guineas who wander around, almost thirty six-week-old Barred Rocks, and 18 one-year-old Rhode Island Reds (two died recently).  This makes for quite the little dance to do during morning chores and during the day to check on water.  We're hoping we can combine the young hens with the one-year-olds, and we may either eat or give away the old hens and guineas in the fall.

2. Water: Right now, I haul water in buckets placed in a wagon to the various animals throughout the day.  We'd like to dig a pond and figure out a pump system, but since we move our animals, I'm not sure if this would be any more efficient than what we already do.  The benefit right now is that I have no need for Jillian Michaels workouts.

3. Goats: We recently were given four Nigerian Dwarf goats, and while they are very sweet, they DO escape and they ARE extra work.  Case in point: we were rather late for some church responsibilities today because when we woke up, we found them wandering around the front yard.  And to be honest, I don't see myself becoming a master cheese maker one day; I see myself pursuing photography or another art form.  Byron wants to make a permanent, fenced-off area for them.  And while I don't mind having a couple goats, I'm not sure we need four.

4. Meals: I make all our meals from scratch, and while that is something I would never give up since you can't beat the nutritional value, I have decided to rotate the same. seven. meals. every. week.  I'm sure this sounds terribly boring, but to be honest, I don't enjoy cooking very much (though I do like to bake) and my family is rather picky.  So with seasonal variations, I shall venture forth into the overly chartered waters of pasta night, burger night, roasted chicken night, and so forth.

How do you simplify your life while trying to homestead?