Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

In Homesteading, Expect the Unexpected

When homesteading, nothing goes according to plans especially on the Cockeyed Homestead. This past two weeks is a prime example.

We hadn't planned planting fruit trees until next year. I went to Lowe's and found three apple trees on clearance. In fact, they were the only apple trees in the store. I could get all three for the price of one regularly priced tree. How could I pass that bargain up?A quick call to Mel and it was unanimous. Don't worry, I didn't plan on passing up this deal. While I was picking them up, Mel started pick axing holes for them to be planted in. I also picked up some organic soil for the garden.

We were in a rush to plant the garden before the week worth of rain hit. I was planting like a mad woman. But the apple trees needed to be planted in the orchard too. It took better than a day to get them in the ground. I was working around doctor appointments in Atlanta and Gainesville too. I still didn't get it all planted before the rain started falling. So now I'm planting in between rain showers. I might mention I was canning and cooking too.

Several times a day, Mel and I fell exhausted into the porch swing with glasses of iced tea. We'd take a thirty minute break and get back at it. Then the rains started. Thank God! We can relax a bit. Or so we thought.

We heard a dripping sound inside. We were taking some nontech time out on the porch swing. I had broached the subject of a no tech day for us. To wean Mel off her tech, we take several hours each day as no tech time. We heard a crash in the living room and went to investigate. Part of the ceiling had fallen and rain was steadily dripping in. Wet insulation and broken ceiling panels lay in a heap on the carpet with more threatening to fall.

I had been saving my pennies for the driveway along the side of our property to be finished (another $1500  job). Originally, we'd only planned this drive-thru for access to the rabbit and chicken areas, but the additional building project of a new deck and ramps made for easier access into in house as well. We started parking out vehicles there as well. The winter's snow and rain and the additional traffic on this drive-thru sank the #4 gravel into the ground so we had a mucky mess. We needed a proper car park and drive here so I was saving the $1500 it would cost me. It is now all going to repair the roof and interior of the house. The drive will have to wait.

Of the 32 Roma tomato plants I transplanted into the garden,  so far only 14 have survived the bugs, the blast of heat followed by hard rains. But I expected this that's why I planted so many. Remember the old saying, Don't count your chickens before they hatch? I always try to when gardening. Those that survive to bear fruit will be the strongest and provide a better harvest. Natural selection and all that.

The same goes for our fruit trees. The peach trees have done their
Mel's 3 peach trees
fruit drop. Mel was close to tears to see all those little baby peaches on the ground, but there are plenty still left on the trees. Mother Nature knows best. Mel started these three peach trees from saved seeds four years ago. She made the mistake of planting them from their pots into one corner of the garden. She was intending to move them when some space was cleared. That didn't happen until last year. They are too big to moved. Or actually, it will take some heavy duty shovel work to moved these trees to the new orchard. Maybe this late winter, they'll be moved after they go dormant and before they awaken in the spring. We can start prepping the tier they'll go on this fall. Digging holes in the hard packed clay is tons of fun. Yes, I'm joking. But Mel will dig the holes for the expected large root balls. We'll load the holes with chicken and rabbit waste straw and poop, and let them do their thing until we can move the trees down there.

Wild strawberry patch
Last year, I planted  a whole 3x6 raised bed of strawberries. The young chickens ate every one of them. Or worse, they decided to dust and sunbathe in my strawberry patch destroying any plant they hadn't eaten. As a result this year, my whole garden and surrounding areas on the property is covered in wild strawberry patches. None of the berries being produced are bigger than a pencil eraser this year. Mel weed whacked a lot of these patches to the ground. We kept one large patch in the garden area and several others around the property because the rabbits and chickens love them.. None of the berries are very sweet when ripe although they do have an excellent strawberry flavor. The berries are only the size of a pencil eraser. I picked about a quart of these and dehydrated them for muffins later on. I'll give it a try anyhow. Meanwhile, this unexpected bonus will be fertilized with rabbit poo tea and left alone. We'll see if we get better berries next year. From the plants we kept, if I could dig them all up and space them properly would easily full 1/2 an acre and every day I'm finding more. I don't think I'll bother this year. If they come back in the spring next year I'll think about transplanting them in the orchard.

Why use a  shovel to dig the peach trees up instead of a back hoe? First of all, we don't have access to one. When Mel planted these little trees, yearlings where they sit now (see picture above), she put all three gallon pots together in the ground. She had not intended them to stay there very long. But over the three years to date, they have grown that way. We'll have to dig a massive area around all three and separate them. It will be a nightmare of a job that no machine can do without possibly destroying the trees. We want to avoid that if at all possible especially now that they are beginning to bear fruit. But I'm a realist.  The chances of getting tasty fruit from these saved seeds is iffy. Grown fruit seed isn't always as as tasty from a saved seed as the parent. most parent plant have been cultivated. But it could happen. We also may damage these trees ourselves. They may not survive the move. They may be shocked beyond survival once transplanted. I'm well prepared to buy new ones in the spring for the orchard.

I also realize this is more than a one woman job even if Mel thinks it is. I'll try to round up some able-bodied help for her. Time the roots are exposed to air and sunlight needs to be minimized. Air and sun directly on bare roots equal death. Similar to a stroke in the brain in humans. Each second exposure to unnatural substances equal cell death. A root system of a tree is like the human brain to humans. It coordinates everything about a plant living.

So you see in homesteading, as in life in general, you have to roll with the punches. Not much is set in stone. Our forefathers, pioneers, learned this truth while homesteading. Wild fires, unpredictable weather patterns, and just stuff in general that happens when you least expect it causes you to expect the unexpected. You can only prepare so much and you can't prepare for everything. You can hedge your bet in the garden by over planting like I did, but stuff happens. Another 100 days without rain, hail, torrential rains that last weeks, blistering heat and it could all crumble into oblivion. You can only do what you can do and pray. This is homesteading. It's not all bleak. The rewards when it all comes together right, even if it's cockeyed, is priceless.

Life isn't about the final destination. It's the journey that makes it worthwhile. I remember going on a real vacation with our two younger children. Their memories are not just about destination, but traveling to and from the destination also. It created a fully rounded experience of learning, fun, joy, and hardships along the way. Homesteading is about the journey. We learn. We laugh. We get angry. We love. But above all we expect the unexpected and live.

Y'all have a blessed day.

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