Consecration Acres

"If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy."

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“So they were, VERY ill…”

Only we’ve not been drinking treacle, so it doesn’t seem quite so fair.

Elijah has had the worst of it as he had whatever he had until Thursday when he caught whatever I have.  I am still down, Jordan and Grace have had runny noses off and on, Joseph is a cipher and Bethel and Isaiah have not succumbed.  I am taking herbs religiously to avoid complications.  The lack of sleep thing definitely takes a toll on one’s resilience.  It’s hard to know where to draw the line–when to sleep and when to get up and push on.  Adulthood….

A week of illness means a week of getting next to nothing done.  We got seeds ordered and bare root stuff ordered and scythes ordered.  We also got a new table and chairs that are built rather like tanks (I think I’m about ready to stop spending money now!), but no seeds started or beds built.  Time is so relentless and unaccommodating.  I am trying not to get discouraged.

Here’s hoping and praying for a healthier and more productive week upcoming and that it is raining next time I write!  It’s in the forecast…

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Talking myself out of things and rain needed

We have been struck with illness the last couple of days. Mine is acting like a flu (fever, body aches, swollen glands) while Elijah’s is acting more like a severe cold (congestion, cough). I am praying that it stops with us, but bracing myself for a rough week.

In the groggy places between naps I am supposed to be getting the bare root berries ordered. We are pushing it again. (I hope some day we will be organized enough not to do this anymore….) I have talked myself out of trying to plant 100 or so more strawberry plants in addition to 400 feet of cane berries and grapes. Besides the planting, more strawberries would require more raised beds. Since we’re planning to put in at least 1000 (it may be a lot more than that…I was really foggy-brained last night when we ran the numbers) square feet of raised beds for the vegetable garden this year, I imagine this particular activity is not going to be at the top of anyone’s want-to-do list in the near future. Next year will be fine. I’m even considering skipping putting in blueberries and “blueberries” (serviceberries, honeyberries and other substitutes that might do better here) this year. That one is harder to talk myself out of.

As I look out of my back windows onto a yard taken over by poultry, I am also talking myself out of getting more hens when we order our meat flock. I am having to resist the siren song of Golden Laced Wyandottes (oooh, pretty feathers) and Black Copper Marans (oooh, pretty eggs) and Olive Eggers (more pretty eggs). Let this be a warning to all—buying chickens can become an addiction.

We have been looking into buying an old treadle sewing machine for a while. I like the fact that they were built before planned obsolescence became a thing and that the treadle can provide power to a sewing machine or to other machines with a bit of rigging. I have a couple I am looking at and came across this site with a series of step-by-step questions to help identify Singer models. Nifty. This one’s also pretty good, as this was exactly what I was trying to do.  And then this was good in helping me to decide which ones were worth pursuing.  Although, honestly, probably any of these models, in good condition, would be many times better than the one I’ve got now—and I like my machine, I could just do without all the plastic parts.

In my craigslist searches I’ve had to talk myself out of a pretty awesome 10-treadle loom that popped up under “treadle”. The seven hours of drive time significantly hacked into its appeal. Not to mention the untold hours of learning to use it, acquire or make fiber to weave, etc. Maybe if we had super-long, non-gardening winters here. Not now, not now, not now…

Our neighbor with full-size construction equipment came out and did an initial rough-level of the area where we are going to put in the beds. He confirmed that that area was nearly dirt-less and that we’d made a good choice not trying to rehabilitate the (lack of) soil into garden plots. My husband’s initial estimates put concrete block beds slightly less expensive than wood. Fine, but I wish that blocks were also slightly less heavy. I need to find someone that will deliver them by the pallet.

After a satisfyingly soggy December, our January has been entirely rainless. We keep having little flickers of 10%-chance-of-rain off five days in the future that evaporates before we get there. Bad for us and bad for everyone else as California is the source of much of the country’s food. Join us in prayer.

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Washboards, Winter Canning and Central Leaders

When my grandmother passed away two years ago, my uncle remarked that one of Grandma and Grandpa’s first household purchases was a washboard. It’s taken us sixteen years, but we’ve finally caught up with them. Last week we made the purchase and this week, Joseph (who, lately, needs duct tape around the waist and legs of his diapers) gave me ample opportunity to try out the sink-sized one. My verdict is that it is a nifty tool. For some reason, I expected it to have a rougher surface. The ridges are nice and smooth, but it definitely does the trick. Things cleaned up really quickly without any soaking at all. The only thing is that the wood frames (we bought the Maid-Rite and the Dubl Handi from the Columbus Washboard Company) are bare wood and need a some sanding and sealing. I am pleased with them and want them to last!

California seasons still continue to perplex my inner clock. Supposedly, this is winter, but we have been getting produce for good prices and I have been canning it up. We made pickles (not as many as I had wanted to do, but nearly a box of quarts), last week we took advantage of our farm stand’s January apple sale and did two more boxes of applesauce, and this week we’ll try pickling some carrots. I have to say, canning in January is much nicer than in July and August. The cooler house keeps the food fresher longer before canning (buying me time and flexibility) and the heat put out by the canner is a welcome addition to our atmosphere.

Elijah and Isaiah finished up the chickens the week before last. Fabulous boys. We had a package delivered while they were at it and after the delivery man got my signature, he asked if those boys out there were plucking chickens. When I confirmed this, he grinned and told me that he saw the big pot of boiling water and it brought back memories of his childhood. “Some things never change…” he said. True. We ended up with a bunch more hens than we ordered. I’m not too sad as the hens cost 3x as much as the roos and our freezers are full. Unfortunately, so is the hen house…18 hens may be overkill, even with an additional roost…

I am continually grateful for the opportunity I have to learn-as-I-go with all of this and not to have my family’s health and well-being dependent on my success. Even without that pressure, making decisions about things is difficult. Unless we change our minds again, the plan is to do a bunch of Mittleider raised beds in the area next to the orchard that’s too rocky to plant, to plant some citrus trees in the ground (we had been advised only to plant citrus in raised planters and to shift the berry-planting to a different area (to accommodate more garden beds) and set up 8 50’ rows rather than 4 100’ rows. I’m still working to finalize that berry order. I’ve got to hurry!

And speaking of earth-shaking decisions, I pruned the apple and pear trees yesterday afternoon. I became a little more bold and decisive as I went, but it was really hard to select a central leader where there was not a clear choice and to decide between a vigorous branch in not-the-right-place and a little shoot in a much-better-place. The pressure was terrible. We’ve got some branch spacers that need to go in and a little weeding and re-mulching. I’d also like to replace the plastic nursery tags with something more durable and I’ve got to adapt the feeding/spraying schedule for our neck of the woods. And, of course, I’ve still got a whole slew of open centers ahead of me. At yesterday’s rate, I’ve got at least another four hours of work ahead of me.

And, since our wet December ended, we’ve had nothing. Prayers needed.

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Christmas Past and Opening Jars

So Christmas came and went. It always seems to come on in a rush and leave an abundance of mess and chaos in its wake. I would like to figure out how to make it less so, but perhaps that is just the reality of Christmas with kids. We also had an excellent reminder of why we do not usually eat sugar at our house. Jordan broke out in a horrible rash and Grace went wandering around the house murmuring “where is the candy?” for a good portion of the day we got rid of it. Bleagh. We are all ready for a diet of leafy greens.

In the midst of it all, I did spend time reflecting on the life and ministry of my Savior. I think I learned a bit about Him from reading of His temptations. He was tempted to turn stones into bread and refused to do so. For me, this would not be a temptation as I cannot turn stones into bread when I am hungry. Christ could have, but He chose not to, so that He could thoroughly and completely understand me and help me in my weak, limited, mortal life. I think that is a little bit of what it means when it says that He suffered more than mortal man could bear. He could have stopped all His suffering, struck down His enemies and saved and protected all those He loved, but He didn’t. At the point where all the rest of us would have done whatever we could, He chose not to, and chose instead to live with my pains, sorrows and limitations. What an amazing thing.

Now to shift from the sublime to the mundane…

We had our first hard freeze the week of Christmas. Insanely late, but better than last year. It has finally induced most of the fruit trees to drop their leaves and given me hope that we will be able to prune them. I say most, as there is one little apple tree out there still pretending that it is summer. I’m not sure if it’s the Fuji or the Pink Lady. Tenacious little thing.

I looked out the window on Christmas Eve morning and saw Ella waving her tail about crazily. This is called “flagging” and is a pretty good sign of a doe in heat! We rushed her over to our neighbor’s house and my husband was able to bring her home again after about ½ hour. Soooo, I need to update my calendar and put Ella down for kidding May 23-ish. And it is evident that I will need to be the one doing goat heat watch next Fall. The threat of no milk next year does not seem to be adequate incentive to be thorough and consistent for my farm boys. That’s four heat cycles missed!

My husband went and bought a trailer yesterday. Hurrah!! We can move goats about at will!

We still have ten more chickens to go, but we are going to have a warm, dry week, so this is it. And now we just need to decide whether we are going to do this again this upcoming year…

We broke into a jar of the doubly brined pickle-crisp-less dills. Yuck. They will be chicken food. Cucumbers are on sale this week for .18/lb so we will make more the right way.

We have decided, however, that the star anise cran-apple butter is really good. My husband, who is typically a pear butter devotee, has succumbed to its wiles.

The homemade marzipan was fantastic. I remember dividing up a single, pricey, imported loaf into small slices between our family members when I was a child. It was great to be able to eat as much as we wanted.

And, finally, I have begun putting together our seed order. I hope to have that in by the end of the week so we can start our eggplants, leeks and peppers by the 15th. This place just doesn’t allow for much let-up!