Behind the Scenes: June 2019 – A quick recap of some of the homestead happenings that occurred this month, including: a new garden watering system, a wildlife pond, preserving the early summer harvest, and dealing with overwhelm.
June was one heck of a month! We made some great progress, like finally installing proper watering system in our garden! June also brought some challenges and changes. Here’s all the details on everything that happened last month and why we are going to start simplifying and changing the way we homestead!
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Last month, I talked about the new garden area (nicknamed the “Magic Garden”) that we’ve been developing to be part herb garden and part perennial food forrest. We’ve also challenged ourselves to use primarily repurposed materials for the garden (you can read more about that here)!
The Magic Garden got a super-cool new addition in June: a wildlife pond! Here in the high desert, water is at a premium! A small natural pond provides a habitat and water source for all sorts of animals, amphibians, birds and insects. The pond is already buzzing with thirsty bees and dragon flies! I’ve also seen wildlife start to show up… as long as you consider our cats and the pesky squirrel “wildlife”! It also provides a spot to grow some wetland medicinal plants, like skullcap and calamus, which I wouldn’t be able to grow otherwise!
But the best part is that it only took one day for me to create the pond, even working alone! The rocks and flagstone were all collected for free from Craigslist over the past few years. I did use a heavy-duty pond liner that we had bought over 5 years ago. It honestly was a pretty easy DIY project! I will work on getting a blog post up soon with step-by-step instructions!
New Watering System for Garden:
Watering the garden has been the bane of my existence for the last 2 summers! It takes about 2 hours to water the entire thing by hand and it needs to be done every other day during the heat of the summer. That’s a freaking lot of time spent watering a garden!!!
Oh sure, I tried every type of soaker hose over the years. Sadly, they just don’t hold up well. The soft fabric coated ones (like this one) are definitely my favorite. Unfortunately, mine only last a season or two before they blew out and become pretty useless. Last year, I tried a new style (like this one). The problem with these is that they are really hard to place (even with garden stakes) because you are supposed to keep the side with the pink line facing down towards the ground. If it starts to turn at all, it sprays water all over your plants. Last year was the first time I ever had powdery mildew and it was definitely caused from the hoses spraying all over.
I wasn’t about to deal with soaker hoses but I also didn’t want to spend endless hours holding a hose again this year! It was time to implement something more appropriate, more durable and more permanent. And, after many trial versions, I finally developed a watering system that worked using black polyhose!
I spent most of June installing the new system into all 9 of our giant raised garden beds. And I am in love with it! It works extremely well! Plus, I’ve gotten so many hours back in my day that I used to spend watering. In fact, I’m watering the garden right now as I’m writing this! It seriously makes me giddy with excitement!
I’m working on a full blog post right now all about how I set up the new watering system and how you can do the same for your garden beds! So stay tuned for all the deets!
Harvesting and Preserving:
The summer temps began to hit in June and the garden is loving it! A lot of the plants have almost doubled in size just in June! June harvests are some of my favorites because the quintessential summertime foods (like squash, tomatoes and melons) aren’t in season yet. So end up with harvests from some oddball and unique plants like peas, kohlrabi, radishes, beets, herbs, greens and even weeds!
Here’s a quick look at a couple of the June harvests that we preserved:
- Garden Greens Pesto:
In early summer, I gather up a bunch of greens and edible weeds from the garden to make pesto! These weeds and greens pack a major nutritional punch! This year’s batch of pesto made 10 half-pint jars and included garlic scapes, arugula, kale, lemon balm, purslane and calendula petals! I pack the pesto into half-pint Mason jars and store it in the freezer. There’s nothing like pulling out one of those jars and having a healthy serving of greens in the middle of winter!
- Beet Relish:
As a kid, I was told that beets taste like dirt. Because of that, I’ve never eaten or grown beets! But I figured “what the heck” and planted a row of them this year. Turns out, they don’t taste like dirt. They taste fricken delicious! And this is exactly why I love gardening! You get to try all sorts of new foods that you never would try otherwise! While I really think I could have eaten all the beets by myself, we wanted to preserve some for winter. We found a recipe for Beet Relish in the Ball Blue Book – which, if you don’t already have this book, GET IT! The relish turned out delish! It’s a sweet relish that’s perfect fro dressing up Asian dishes or topping pork or lamb!
- Herbs & Tinctures:
Most herbs are in their prime in June before the full heat of summer sets in. For herbs that are used for their leaves (like mint, lemon balm, etc.), the ideal time to harvest is just before they bloom when the essential oils are at their peak. I harvest and hang dry big bundles of mint, anise hyssop, lemon balm and other “leafy herbs” every year in June. I also harvest flowers like chamomile, calendula and yarrow! An, new this year, I made a lemon balm/lavender tincture and a California Poppy tincture!
- Mint Jelly:
This is probably our favorite jelly ever! It tastes like sunshine in your mouth. Yup. I know what sunshine tastes like and it tastes like this jelly! Plus, it’s a great way to use all that mint! Here’s the recipe from Pomona’s if you want to try it out. Ours actually didn’t set well this year (Lindy did the measuring so that probably had something to do with it! ?). So here’s a tip for jellies that don’t set: instead of re-processing it, just call it syrup and you’re good to go! #lazyhomesteader
Let’s get real:
It sounds like we had a super awesome and productive June, right?
That’s the funny thing with the internet. In this Instagram world, it’s easy to paint a picture that doesn’t always represent what’s truly happening. I have always tried to accurately portray what we really experience on this crazy journey, which is why I’m going to share this with you, even though it’s not something I would normally talk about…
Yeah, we accomplished some important stuff in June. But in reality, June was actually a really hard month. I’ve never struggled to homestead before. It’s been the one constant in my life for the last 5 years. It’s been the thing that’s driven me and motivated me. It’s been my “purpose” and I’ve always felt like it was going to lead us somewhere.
June was different, though. We had to make a couple of tough decisions which I’m sure largely contributed to feeling so overwhelmed.
We had to put down two of our senior dogs. And if you know us, then you know our history and passion for rescuing high needs and last chance dogs. Needless to say, they are more than just pets to us. I won’t get into all the details, but it made June a very emotional and very hard month.
The only thing that stays the same is everything changes:
We also decided that we need to change the way we homestead a bit. For those of you that don’t know, Lindy has some significant health problems and suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. We’ve been very lucky to be able to do all the things we’ve done and those are experiences we wouldn’t change for anything!
But health constantly changes. And now we realize that it’s time to start simplifying things so that we can continue to preserve her health which will allow us to continue to live this lifestyle. After all, the whole reason we wanted to live this way was to have a healthier lifestyle. If it’s actually making things worse, then it’s time to make some serious changes.
We are beginning by selling our herd of goats. It’s bittersweet, but maintaining just the garden and chickens will keep us plenty busy. It will give us extra time and also extra space in case we want to use the pasture for growing space in the future. Plus, it will reduce some of the more physical chores like bucking hay, maintaining fences/pastures and wrestling crazy runaway goats!
Homesteading + Overwhelm:
There may also be some more changes heading our way, but we will save that for another day! Maybe I was just emotionally exhausted in June, but I have never been so overwhelmed by the homestead before! Even doing the daily chores was enough to almost bring me to tears, which isn’t like me AT ALL!
I don’t have any secrets to overcoming the terrible feeling of being completely overwhelmed. But I am working on trying to find a better balance. I’m trying to focus on seeing the flowers and not just the weeds. And I’m trying to learn how to not work ourselves to death and actually enjoy and relax a bit more. Things have been getting better and my spark and enthusiasm for this craziness is definitely returning!
So, to the tired homesteader: let me tell you that it’s okay to be tired. It’s okay to be overwhelmed. And you aren’t alone. And, please, don’t compare yourself to the Instagram version of homesteading because everyone is dealing with something. There’s no one way to be a homesteader, so please don’t feel like you need to live up to anyone’s standards but your own! Make the changes that you need to make in order to live a life you love! We’re all in this together after all! ?