A little slow to bloom...

Blooming where planted… maybe it's my age, but it's been a little tough finding my groove - at times it's just pathetic.

I didn't have a clue as to what to expect with humidity and got the shock of a lifetime (not really, but close)...when I discovered my saddle - that was being stored in the garage... covered with a horrifying YUK! 
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Oh, and that wasn't the end of it, lol. 
I sprayed it down liberally with Lysol and set it outside to get sanitized by the sun. (Oh yeah, we don't GET any sun... just a little dappled sun).  

Why did I even bring it with us? (It's too heavy for me to use, even if I got another horse. 
This is the only time I used it - Cherihuka was only green broke, and went unridden for years when I got him... and I'm not that big a fool...)

Anyway, I just covered the saddle with the saddle pad -  you know, to protect it from any rain when I left to AZ for 2 weeks. I would deal with it when I got back.
But the trip was extended, so I was gone a month... and maybe I have pictures of what I found, but I don't think so - but you can believe it was even MORE APPALLING. 
I gag to think about it. 
And I've been scrubbing and rubbing it down since then.

LOL, you’d think we were in a foreign country… well, I guess it does sorta feel like we’re in a strange land sometimes; I really need to find what the specialty food of the realm is, lol.
(Being a bean aficionado of sorts, I have a loooooong way to go to get over the lack of beans in the burritos.)

Happy News: I’ve discovered the local (state) specialty food, and Surprise! it’s made with potatoes! LOL (we knew it would be, right?)

Introducing…“Minnesota Hot Dish”  
(I’ve been informed that ‘hot dish’ includes any casserole & even this recipe is variable - use whatever veggie(s) you have on hand) but this is ‘THE specialty of the land’ – it’s even carries the name of the state.
Oh, and is it tasty!


Once upon a long time ago, this was my ‘song for the days’… maybe you know it. “Change the World”– by Eric Clapton. 

Songs build memories to an experience or a moment in time. They bring back what remains of something real.
Music speaks internally in ways we don’t yet understand. It has been shown that people suffering from Alzheimer’s who cannot remember anything else, will remember the music and songs from their past, and be able to play them on instruments they once played, or sing them without skipping a phrase or a beat!

That particular song saw me through the long haul while my husband either took classes until after 10 each night or worked, finishing a degree in computer systems, and then a few more years as he worked his way up the rungs of a tedious ladder…
It was a song of solidarity and hope as our dreams were coming true (if slowly).

He pushed through with a vision of moving to Colorado – his dream from the age of 17. We got there after 10 years, so I know his dedication to seeing a vision through.
Add another 10 years in a small town with 14 established competitors, where we used up our retirement funds to live on while building up a much-respected business.  We are not quitters; we don’t listen to ‘you can’t’.  Our little home-based service business has won awards for popularity the last 3 years; our clients are so loyal they STILL call us first – even though we are not the cheapest, and they know we are no longer in the state!

Fast-forward to today…the middle parts of this story are all exposed on this blog…
We find our way is slightly askew here in rural Minnesota – but then that was the case when we arrived in rural Colorado. Here we are starting over with the remnants of 20 years of work, our loyal clientele, and not much of anything else but RESOLVE.

But if times get harder still, I am happy planted here (or anywhere) with hubby. Wherever we end up, we have decided we will find our way, a niche that fits just right, where we can produce something of value to the community, while surviving the cost of carrying the  business.

Those in the bucket of the part-time income bracket, must ALL fine-tune and pare down. The one thing most of us can do in some measure, is to provide more of the foods we eat. Along with utilities and everything else, food is an ever-increasing cost, but it’s one we can mitigate and expand over time (“over time” is a key aspect because experience matters).

The earth here is rich, almost black. It is rich with a dense worm population and microbes, and the things that give nutrients to crops. The grass grows over 4’ high without watering it. But we landed in a little house surrounded by such giant oak and maple trees- there is too little sun to take advantage of the dirt. (I attempted a pitiful trial run garden – sad, sad, sad.) Disappointment dogged my summer days!

This is one of the broccoli (I planted 24) and after 3 months, they NEVER GOT BIGGER. Weeds surround them here :


But meantime, hubby got busy learning how to build vertical towers and to use Dutch bucket hydroponics in the basement.  Dutch buckets w/ tomato, jalapeno, and broccoli - with lettuce starts in the orange bucket:  


Maybe we don’t need farm country to grow things after all. What we can grow is limited, but it’s the experience that matters. 
n order to ‘bloom where planted’, hubby continues to refine and hone his hydroponic skill-sets and set-ups; patience is something it requires. Lettuces are newly seeded and will happily grow in the basement under high-efficiency LED lights. Every stage of a plant needs different intensity of light and those with blooms need different colored lights PLUS a specific intensity. It’s all experimentation - trial and error… and takes a lot to figure out what works best for each plant type, and to most efficiently implement the entire system.

For instance, even with hand pollination, tomatoes & jalapenos took too much light & heat to produce the actual fruits, so those plants were pulled.
Basil and broccoli needed different nutrients added to the water than lettuce, so those were scrapped too. The Ph of the water must be just right too, and this varies as the nutrients are used up each week. Lots of this and that + keeping track of what you did… I don’t know how he remembers without actual record-keeping, lol. 
  
Everything is an experiment initially – you have to test to see which varieties of everything work best in your zone and your soil type, and then always weather is unpredictable. Additionally you have to be very organized to develop a month-by-month schedule and tweak it to manage projects and to improve the systems. 

Start, get experience learning what works, then expand by trying something else...

So I will hang on to farm dreams… working dreams, in case some part of that works out. 

Design is at the heart of it –for a resilient system, that works for our needs. Like anyone we just take on this challenge in some small way…and push through the trials until it's stable, then expand on that.

My first trial run was simply planting the root-end of store-bought green onions in a plastic tray on a sunny window sill. Yes, in January they looked like chives… but a little flavor goes a long way… and I cut a full harvest once a month for 12 months! 

I showed this on my blog years ago... Blog Post here... 
That was in zone 5b with 2 feet of snow outside. 

We’re in zone 4 here -with less sunny days overall, and no south-facing windows, but I’ll try again with a tray full of green onion roots, this time planted under LED lights… just for fun, and share the results of that.

Some topics of interest this week:  
  1. hedgerows (for wind breaks, the beauty of flowering non-fence borders, and edible landscape)
  2. composting & livestock manure mgmt.
  3. crop rotation, seed saving
  4. seasonal menu planning & things made from scratch
  5. DIY water features/ponds (the only affordable kind)
  6. weed & pest mgmt.
  7. permaculture blueprints & layout maps of 1 to 5 acre farms
  8. detailed growing info on: Viking potato, hardneck garlic, sweet potato, radish, violet artichoke, hulless oats and barley (mainly for livestock)
  9. exploring winter projects. A long, deep, winter can be restive if one has projects and lots of baking to do!
  10. analyzed ideas – some things I scratched off the list of possibilities: growing gourds, raising  sheep, raising quail, peacocks or pheasant. (Still considering guineas, ducks and geese – and chickens for SURE.)
  11. herbs grown in a typical 1800's kitchen garden (medicinal and culinary)
  12. preparing for an ice storm /blizzard event 
The point is, I want to know ahead of time what we’re going to do and what I want, to know budgeting and timelines and all the goal-setting &; priorities that go along with the plan.

I have to really decide what I really want and temper that with what I can really handle or financially work out. Tall orders to be sure.
Just chickens? (for joy, eggs, meat – for food security) Ducks or geese? (for eggs, meat, income) Rabbits? (for meat and fur hides, garden fertilizer) What about a pony? (for grandkids, for pulling logs or a wagon, for plowing), and design a garden adequate to feed them (so no reliance on feed store), and exactly how much room and what kind of shelter I can provide. And what, if any, way they might provide some form of income or at least pull their weight…
…so I can make a preliminary farm map of a working prairie farmstead-

---a “Working Prairie Farmstead Plan for 2 acres”. 
Because that is adequate for sustaining what I think we need - and what we can handle (over time as it’s developed). 

Maybe I will find out in the end it’s all been a dream, but I need something to get up for right now...
  
Things I want to implement: sunflowers and naturalized bulb flowers, flowering vines going up the clothesline and mailbox pole,  and put up the most inviting playhouse ever… learn to manage a full greenhouse, garden beds, fruit trees, berries, chickens, duck pond, poultry pasture w/ rotation schematics for gardening …  other people have done it, and are doing it, and many of them share what they’ve learned along the way. The pieces aren’t mysterious, it’s organizing all the little parts and managing them to work into one seamless system that's hard. What to prioritize... how to finance it... so much to learn!

One of the lessons, perhaps the biggest lesson, I will learn from living in Minnesota, is how to embrace winter. To learn it’s value to my life, not just 'endure it', not to dread or fear it. Or to gain 20 lbs. indulging in HOT DISHES while evading it indoors!

Of course after this past July and the biggest lesson yet in what “dripping with humidity” really means, I expect NOTHING COULD BE WORSE! 

What have been the hardest lessons/discoveries for you recently?