Spring Homestead Update

Hello Friends! It’s been a good long while since I’ve posted an article. We have been SO incredibly busy on our little homestead and this new homeschooling, work from home routine, and the general weirdness happening now, has taken some getting used to. So I thought I’d take some time and let you all in on what’s been going on over her the past month or so! 

We've been busy planning and planting...

We spent a good bit of the early spring planning and getting ready for our garden this year.  Below are just a few of the fruits and vegetables we’ve got in the ground and growing right now. 

5 Different Kinds of Peppers
4 Different Kinds of Tomatoes
Red Skinned Potatoes
2 Different Kinds of Beans
Sugar Snap Peas
Grandpa's Raspberries

We also have garlic, cucumbers, musk melon, and butternut squash in too! We will continue to post updates on the progress of our garden throughout the season. Earlier this spring, we put together an article and video on starting seeds. Click the photo or video link below to check them out!

We built a greenhouse!

And its working awesome! It stays about 20-30 degrees (Fahrenheit) warmer than the outside temp during the day and the veggies are SO happy about that!

Justin altered some plans he found online and put together a 10′ x 10′ beautiful greenhouse for our family. We are so excited to have this bad boy to help us extend our growing season this year and to have a place to start seeds next spring that isn’t our living room window on TV trays! 

We've moved our chickens, lost some, gained some and are attempting to incubate some eggs!

To make room for the new greenhouse and take advantage of the extremely fertile soil where the old chicken coop used to be (thanks girls!), we disassembled our old hen house and chicken run and relocated it to the other side of our yard. We reused the hen house portion and created a much larger fenced in area for our egg layers to safely roam during the day. Once disassembled, we converted the old run that was attached to the hen house into a mobile chicken tractor that we can pull around the yard when we want to move them on to some fresh grass or need to separate them from one another for any reason. 


This past fall we lost one of our original hens, Ethel, to a roaming dog when she was out free-ranging so we decided to build this enclosure to give a little more security to our flock. We lost another two of our adult hens this spring, Gillie and Sunny both to illness/old age. 


We now have two adult hens, Goldie and Quincy and four pullets who should begin to lay later this summer. Their names are Wormy (named by our three year old), Coco, Charlotte and Diana. I’d still like a few more layers. The two old hens have drastically slowed down their egg production and I’m hoping to get some more color in our egg box… 

Clockwise from top: Charlotte, Diana, Coco, and Wormy

Thus… I traded a friend (thanks Britney!) some homemade sourdough starter and some tomato plants for some fertile chicken eggs in mostly blues and greens! #barteringlikeits1875

We’ve been attempting to incubate these in a makeshift cardboard box incubator under a heat lamp. I’m not confident that they’ll hatch, but we should know in a few days! It takes a total of 21 days from the beginning of the incubation period to hatch and as of today we’re on day 19! Time will tell! If they don’t hatch, I’ll be off to Family Farm and Home to pick up a few more (don’t tell my hubby!)… 

We're raising meat birds!

This spring, we’ve decided to raise some chickens to provide meat for our family. We already fish and hunt, and this seemed like the next logical step for us to give us a little more food security during these strange times. Raising chickens for meat is something we’ve talked about doing for a while. For us, this is another step forward in better understanding where our food really comes from and what it takes to get it to the table. 

We personally feel that if we are going to continue to choose to eat meat, we ought to be able to process it ourselves. To appreciate it, and give it the best life it can have before it becomes nourishment for our bodies and that we have the responsibility to teach our children to respect and care for the animals that will eventually become food for our family.  

And so, we will be raising our first batch of 35 Cornish Cross chicks from now through the middle of July. We are in the process of building them an 8′ x 8′ chicken tractor so that once they feather-out and are able to regulate their temperatures, they will have free access to forage on pasture in our yard. We’ll move them each day to a new patch of fresh grass and they will have access to the bugs below, and will in turn, naturally fertilize our lawn and fill our freezer.

Our hives are thriving!

This is our third year of beekeeping and the first year that we’ve actually had a hive survive through the cold Michigan winter! 

In the fall we insulated our two hives with bubble foil to help them retain the heat inside. We also chose not to take any honey off the hives before the cold weather hit so that they’d have enough reserves, and a better chance of making it through. It didn’t look pretty, but it worked! We’re pleased to say that both hives are doing so well this spring, that we’ve actually had to split them into five so that they wouldn’t swarm on us! Frames of brood (baby bees) and honey were placed into three new smaller hives called ‘nucs’ in hopes that they would each create a new queen for each of these new colonies. Once each of the nucs of bees create a new queen we’ll move them into larger boxes. Stay tuned for an upcoming video on our YouTube Channel!

Homeschool is still a thing...

We’ve been keeping up with our homeschool lessons over here and have added some online curriculum from time4learning in addition to the materials our daughter’s school has been providing. We have been trying to do some structured learning time at least four days a week but have loosened up a good bit on the daily schedule for sure. We’ve moved our school room upstairs and away from Justin’s home office in the basement to give everybody a better opportunity to focus and that seems to be working nicely for us.

In addition to the online and written lessons, we are also incorporating lots of time outside in nature learning about gardening and the natural world as well as doing some child-led interest lessons on YouTube. Some of their favorite topics have been: musical instruments, weather, animals, and U.S. geography. We like the Homeschool Pop channel on YouTube a lot. It has lots of short, age appropriate lessons for our little ones with lots of variation. 

Adventures in backyard camping, hiking, and foraging...

We’ve been spending a lot of time outside this spring! We live pretty close to a State Park where we like to hike and fish. We also have some great neighbors who allow us to forage for mushrooms and asparagus on their property and some other neighbors who seem like great neighbors until their peacocks start screaming at 3 AM when we’re trying to camp in our backyard…

Morel mushrooms and gigantic fresh asparagus.
Our neighbors have peacocks. Note to self: Next time bring earplugs.
We're lucky to live pretty close to a beautiful State Park!

Baking, canning, and eating our feelings...

I know I’m not alone here… Over the last month we’ve been experimenting with homemade sourdough starter.  We’ve also made cinnamon dandelion jelly from the dandelions in our front yard and have baked more bread, cookies and homemade pizzas than I care to admit. 

The sourdough starter recipe I used is from the Wild Yeast Blog and some of the best recipes I’ve come across are from the Little Spoon Farm. The dandelion jelly is from Homestead-Acres (with the addition of about a table spoon of cinnamon) and the cookies and banana bread are mine. 😉 

I suppose that’s about it! And after writing it all down it sure seems like plenty! Now that things are settling into a bit more of a rhythm and summer is just around the corner, I’ll try to get back to posting a bit more regularly! Thanks for stopping by! Stay well and don’t forget to follow along with us on our social media accounts below! Happy spring! 

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