Air Plants!

I got my Christmas present early from my husband, he was worried that the gift may not live if it had to wait another week or so.  He got me an air plant jellyfish kit!

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One of my air plant jellyfish.

Air plants are also called Tillandsia.  They don’t need any soil – in nature they grow on rocks and trees, and grab moisture from the air. There are many different kinds. I’m not sure what kind these are.  They came in a kit of three – three air plants, some sea urchin skeletons (for the jellyfish “caps” ) and some hemp twine to hang them. Oh, and some air plant food.  If you want to get one, you can get it at makerskit.com

Here are my jellyfish, hanging with my other windowsill plants and hanging things at my kitchen window:

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My whimsical windowsill.

I used to have several different types of air plants, but they died when we moved up the U.P. (they froze during our journey).  I’m happy to have some of them again, they’re really cool.

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Pre-snow November

I’m a little late with this post.  This November has been a little strange, with warmer temps than normal… that is, until a few days ago.  I took some pictures last week, before we got snow, when we were in the 50s temperature wise.  The snow started a couple days ago. We only have about an inch on the ground right now. We’ve had some flurries here and there, and now our temperatures are in the 20s.  Brrr…  Here are some pictures of our pre-snow November.

what is that
I was out on our porch, and saw what I thought was a white rose on our already-done, pink rosebush…
clematis
On closer inspection, I realized it’s a white clematis. We have purple clematis growing here, but not nearly this tall – this is up about 8 to 9 feet in the rosebush. And it’s bloomed in November.
artichokes still alive
I haven’t pulled the plants out of the garden yet, and noticed my artichoke plants still looked alive after hard frosts and one day with a dusting of snow. (I have not seen them since we got our current snow).
brussels
My Brussels sprouts. Update on these – since this picture, we dropped into the 20s. These plants were dead as of yesterday, and the sprouts never got bigger than about dime sized. The plants were completely frozen. I gave them to the chickens, they seemed to like them even though they were frozen.
no leaves
Our yard – all the trees have lost their leaves.
no leaves chicken coop
The chicken coop with the leafless forest behind it.
chickens
The chickens enjoying the sunshine on one of our last nice warmish days.
chickens 2
The chickens in the sun
chickens 3
Another pic of the chickens.

I’ll get some new pics soon to show you what our snow looks like.  I’ll also update on the baby bunnies – they have grown a lot in 2 weeks.

Early October on the farm

Fall is definitely here.  We’ve had lower temps – 50s and 60s.  We got a touch of frost – I saw some on the grass one morning.  But I think my house is in a bit of a microclimate – in our town there was a hard frost at the end of September, where you had to scrape frost off your windows.  We didn’t get that here – I’m only about 12 miles outside of town, but the way our property is situated we sometimes are spared from the frost.  I was worried things would die, so when we got the hard-frost warnings,  I harvested everything in the gardens that was anywhere near being ready.  I didn’t worry about things that can deal with frost, like Kale.  And then nothing happened, my plants that were left out there are all still doing fine.    Here’s a photo tour of how things are looking lately.

Here's what my garden looks like - a tangled mess with not much left for picking.
Here’s what my garden looks like – a tangled mess with not much left for picking.

I’m debating on whether to pick everything out, and cover it all with compost now, or wait and do that all in the spring.  Either way, the soil will have a layer of plants between it and the snow; I’ve read that is better for any mycelium networks (which are very helpful for your plants) – if you leave bare soil any beneficial mycelium that may be there can die, and you are depleting your soil.  That is why people plant cover crops – I don’t really want to do that because we really don’t have time.  Last year, we got snow at the beginning of November. I don’t think a cover crop would have time to sprout and grow.  So I may just use my already-there crops as “cover crops”; then in spring, I’ll pile on compost, and till it all in.  (I’ll still have to pull big stems out, like the old corn and sunflowers).

Our trees are very colorful – they had just started changing last week and then suddenly everything’s orange, red, and yellow (with a touch of green).

Here are some of the trees in our yard.
Here are some of the trees in our yard.
Another picture of those trees.
Another picture of those trees.
Here are the maple trees that we get sap from in the spring.
Here are the maple trees that we get sap from in the spring.

Most of my plants in the garden are on their way out for the winter.  Most of my sunflowers are spent, and have seeds that the chickadees have been enjoying.  I found this one that is a late bloomer.  It’s really tall but it fell over so it’s laying on the ground:

My maybe-last sunflower for the year.
My maybe-last sunflower for the year.

My marigolds are still going strong. They are so pretty, I love the orange color of these:

My marigolds.
My marigolds.

Our apple trees are doing well.  The biggest problem is that most of the good looking apples are way up on the tree.  I’m planning on picking a bunch more this weekend.  I picked a few several weeks ago and made apple butter.  I’m planning on making some more (since it’s delicious) and also drying some apples for snacks.

One of the apple trees.
One of the apple trees.
A closer view of those yummy apples.
A closer view of those yummy apples.

One thing I planted this year, just to try, was Amaranth.  I found out you can cook the seeds up kind of like rice.  I would like to try it but they are not ready yet.  The “flowers” are supposed to drop their seeds – you can test it by running the flowers in your hands, and if the seeds drop into your hand they are ready to pick. Mine are not there yet.  But they look like they are on their way:

Here's one of my Amaranth, it is a good 8-9 feet tall.
Here’s one of my Amaranth, it is a good 8-9 feet tall.
Here is the same plant, I leaned it over so I could get a detail of the flower.
Here is the same plant, I leaned it over so I could get a detail of the flower.

I got my hens some “chicken aprons” – they can wear them and it’s supposed to protect their backs from the roosters’ shenanigans.  I had the roosters separated but it’s getting colder, and I was worried that if the roosters are separate, they can’t actually do their job of protecting the hens.  So they are all together now.  Most of my barer backed ladies are now wearing these aprons:

Here is one of my australorp hens wearing her apron.  It doesn't help here wing "elbows", as you can see here, but her back is protected.
Here is one of my australorp hens wearing her apron. It doesn’t help her wing “elbows”, as you can see here, but her back is protected.

I also thought the aprons would help keep the hens a little warmer this winter.  Some of my hens still have completely bare backs, and I was worried about winter because with no feathers there, they would be too exposed to the cold.  They work pretty well, I do have a few hens that these seem a bit too big for. I ordered some standard size aprons from someone on Amazon.  They do have some smaller ones, I may have to get some of those.  Mine are all “standard” breeds but some are on the smallish side.  I have a barred rock hen that these didn’t fit – it’s like the middle bit of the apron is too wide to fit between her shoulders, so she just kept getting tangled up in it.  I only tried it on her for an hour or two, and then I had to take it off.

My escape artist chicken decided to pose today for me, I got some really nice pictures of her:

Here she is.
Here she is.
Here's another picture.
Here’s another picture.

She doesn’t have a name except “Escape artist” because if anyone gets out, it is usually her.  And she gets out almost every other day.  She must fly out, but then she can’t fly back in for some reason so I have to catch her and put her back in the run.  She sleeps in the rafters of the coop now, and she’s actually gotten one of her friends (my Cornish hen) to sleep up there with her.

Thanks for checking out my Fall farm pics.  I do like fall, but it always leads to winter, which I’m not really looking forward to.

What’s happening in our yard – June photo tour

Lupines - we have these growing near our mailbox, and they are growing across the street as well. When I was a kid, there were some at only one tiny spot in the area I live in. Now they are in ditches along the road all over the place.
Lupines – we have these growing near our mailbox, and they are growing across the street as well. When I was a kid, there were some at only one tiny spot in the area I live in. Now they are in ditches along the road all over the place.
Here's a new flower - I don't remember these from last year.  I don't know what it is but it's pretty.
Here’s a new flower – I don’t remember these from last year. I don’t know what it is but it’s pretty.
A purple flower. It reminds me of a balloon flower (maybe that is what this is.)
A purple flower. It reminds me of a balloon flower (maybe that is what this is.)
Our pink peonies. My parents planted these years ago and they are still going strong.
Our pink peonies. My parents planted these years ago and they are still going strong.
These barrels are on our porch. Last year I tried to grow beets and carrots here, and nasturtiums. The Nasturtiums did ok, but my son found out they were edible and kept eating them. I planted a bunch of different flowers in them this year, along with some herbs.
These barrels are on our porch. Last year I tried to grow beets and carrots here, and nasturtiums. The Nasturtiums did ok, but my son found out they were edible and kept eating them. I planted a bunch of different flowers in them this year, along with some herbs.
Here are some more barrels, just off our porch. My mom planted lilies in them, and they've slowly stopped producing. We got one nice lily last year. I divided them and put them in only one barrel (the right one here) and the left barrel has other flowers.  Echinacea and black eyed susan and others.
Here are some more barrels, just off our porch. My mom planted lilies in them, and they’ve slowly stopped producing. We got one nice lily last year. I divided them and put the big bulbs in only one barrel (the right one here) – there is also a yarrow growing in it;  the left barrel has other flowers: Echinacea and black eyed susan and others.
Here is some lemon balm growing in one of the barrels on the porch. It smells so good.
Here is some lemon balm growing in one of the barrels on the porch. It smells so good.
Here is our back yard. The leaves have filled out on the trees.
Here is our back yard. The leaves have filled out on the trees.
Our side yard with the rose bush. The roses are blooming now.  At the nearest post, I have a wisteria planted. It's about 5 inches tall, and doing well.
Our side yard with the rose bush. The roses are blooming now. At the nearest post, I have a wisteria planted. It’s about 5 inches tall, and doing well. It’s inside the little round cage you can see at the base of the post. I don’t know if deer eat wisteria, and don’t want to chance it.
Some pretty flowers along our house. Wild Daisies and some kind of yellow flower - not sure if that was planted or if it's wild.
Some pretty flowers along our house. Wild Daisies and some kind of yellow flower – not sure if that was planted or if it’s wild. The white/green variegated leaf plants are “snow on the mountain” – they have taken over a lot of the flower beds and we are trying to eradicate it.  It’s even growing at the edge of the woods now in spots.
Here is my son's tiny garden.  He wanted his own space, so I gave him some seedlings to plant.
Here is my son’s tiny garden. He wanted his own space, so I gave him some seedlings to plant. He’s got tomatoes, brussel sprouts, and flowers. And Mint.  He’s excited about the mint because he can eat it right from the garden.
Here are my chickens in their muddy nasty run. I'm going to have to fix that, possibly sooner than I was planning. It's driving me bananas.
Here are my chickens in their muddy nasty run. I’m going to have to fix that, possibly sooner than I was planning. It’s driving me bananas.
Hello! Here is one of my Brahma chicks.
Hello! Here is one of my Brahma chicks.
This is my tiny rooster. As he is growing, his comb is getting wonkier. The back portion is attached to his head off-center, which adds even more to the floppiness of it.  He's been really mean to the other chicks lately.  Maybe they make fun of his goofy comb.
This is my tiny rooster. As he is growing, his comb is getting wonkier. The back portion is attached to his head off-center, which adds even more to the floppiness of it. He’s been really mean to the other chicks lately. Maybe they make fun of his goofy comb.
Here is my white brahma, which I actually think is a "Splash Brahma" - I love his/her coloring.
Here is my white brahma, which I actually think is a “Splash Brahma” – I love his/her coloring.
Here's one of the blue spruce I planted this spring. It's about 5 inches tall. It's going to take a really, really, really long time to get as big as I want it - I have it in the front yard as a screen to give us privacy.  It's not doing its job very well. Someday...
Here’s one of the blue spruce I planted this spring. It’s about 5 inches tall. It’s going to take a really, really, really long time to get as big as I want it – I have it in the front yard as a screen to give us privacy. It’s not doing its job very well. Someday…
Here is one of my elderberry trees. I have two (you need two to get fruit so they can cross pollinate).  I have put this near my blue spruce so that I actually get the screen I want in a more timely fashion.
Here is one of my elderberry trees. I have two (you need two to get fruit so they can cross pollinate). I have put this near my blue spruce so that I actually get the screen I want in a more timely fashion. These are fast-growing.
Here are some of the remaining forget-me-nots.  We had tons of these earlier in the year, as splashes of blue all around the woods and the edges of the yard. When I was a child, these only were growing at a camp two houses behind our house. (We have two camps behind us, it was at the back one.)  I moved back and discovered they grow all over our yard now. I love them.
Here are some of the remaining forget-me-nots. We had tons of these earlier in the year, as splashes of blue all around the woods and the edges of the yard. When I was a child, these only were growing at a camp two houses behind our house.  I moved back and discovered they grow all over our yard now.
Here is a giant mullein plant growing in our supposed-to-be asparagus patch.  Mullein is a great medicinal plant so I'm letting it stay. This thing is about 3 feet tall right now. The big leaves are 1 ft long.
Here is a giant mullein plant growing in our supposed-to-be asparagus patch. Mullein is a great medicinal plant so I’m letting it stay. This thing is about 3 feet tall right now. The big leaves are 1 ft long.

I hope you enjoyed my photo tour. I like my yard, and watching the changes it goes through during the warm months.

A hot day in May

It got to 89 degrees on Thursday here – I wandered around the yard taking pictures.  Here’s a nice photo tour of our yard – Spring is in full swing.  It was 89, and next week they are saying we are supposed to get some snow showers – I think (hope!) it will just be mixed with rain and not actually stick to the ground.  We’ll see; it’s the U.P. after all.  Sigh…

Our yard is greening up nicely.
Our yard is greening up nicely. We need to get the mower out soon.
Daffodils in the woods.
Daffodils in the woods.
More daffodils in the woods behind our house.
More daffodils in the woods behind our house.
This is the mystery plant from my Leeks post last week - they are now getting yellow flowers.  I still don't know what these are - if you know, please leave me a comment.
This is the mystery plant from my Leeks post last week – they are now getting yellow flowers. I still don’t know what these are – if you know, please leave me a comment.
Another one of the mystery flowers - they grow in the woods.
Another one of the mystery flowers – they grow in the woods.
Our willow tree in the front yard.  The trees are all getting buds now.
Our willow tree in the front yard. The trees are all getting buds now.
My garlic is doing well - I planted this last fall.  This is my first time growing garlic.
My garlic is doing well – I planted this last fall. This is my first time growing garlic.
This is supposed to be an asparagus patch.  My mom kept it as one for a long time, but it stopped producing. It's surrounded by narcissus, which are not blooming yet, and need to be divided.  So far my asparagus that I started last year has not appeared again, although we have a rhubarb (on the right) and a large mullein growing here (on the left).
This is supposed to be an asparagus patch. My mom kept it as one for a long time, but it stopped producing. I replanted it last year.  It’s surrounded by narcissus, which are not blooming yet, and need to be divided. So far my asparagus has not appeared again, although we have a rhubarb (on the right) and a large mullein growing here (on the left).

Wizard (the Purrface).

Our house/farm kitty, Wizard
Our house/farm kitty, Wizard

We got a cat last fall, because we have mice and I needed a way to get rid of them – traps had not worked and I didn’t want to use poisons.  I found our cat’s picture on a website for a local shelter, and they said he was good with dogs, other cats, and kids.  He is great with my son, but he hates other cats (I found out at the vet’s office) and he is deathly afraid of my dogs.  We named him Wizard, and he lives in the upstairs of our house.  He stays up there because the dogs are downstairs.   My son Daniel added “the Purrface” to his name – Wizard the Purrface.

Wizzie coming to get petted.
Wizzie coming to get petted.

The shelter said he was found in the woods near someone’s camp. They kept him with them while they were there and then dropped him at the shelter when they left to go home.  They told the shelter he was great at catching mice at their camp.  Since I’ve had him, he’s been an excellent mouser, and we no longer have mice upstairs.  He sometimes leaves us little “gifts” on the floor as proof of his hunting skills.  It turns out one of my dogs can catch mice downstairs, so that helps the downstairs mouse situation.

I’ve kept him inside since we got him, because at first I was afraid he may run away, and since he’s afraid of the dogs I didn’t think he’d come back inside.  He is a big lovey-dovey though, and he loves us a lot (or at least loves us petting him),  so I figured he would come back to us if I let him outside.  He has his claws and his rabies shots, so he is relatively safe outside unless he runs near the road.  This weekend it was beautiful out, with sunshine and temps in the 70s, so we brought him outside – I had to carry him past the dogs, him clinging onto me for dear life, till we got out the door.  Then he immediately wanted down.

He did really well outside, wandering around checking out the woods near our house.  My son followed along to see what he was doing.  Daniel was afraid he’d try to run away, but I told him that if Wizard wanted to run, he’d would have run immediately.  He kept coming back to get petted and then wandering away again.  I let him outside for about an hour on Saturday, and then a few hours on Sunday while we were out doing yard work.  Our yard is pretty mucky from the snow melting, so there were big chunks of the yard he avoided, but I think it will be nice this summer for him to come out while we’re outside.  If he can ever get over his fear of the dogs, so he would come in on his own past them, I would just let him be “inside/outside,” but for now he is just going to come out while we’re doing work outside.

Birds at the feeder! (And we got snow – meh.)

It’s been nice and spring-like, and most of our snow melted.  But then it started snowing last night – we’ve gotten a couple inches so far, and they are predicting 3-9″ by tomorrow night.  Hopefully our warmer temps will mean it won’t stick around long.   I suppose, it is only late March, and this is the U.P.   The birds at our front porch feeder have not been stopped by the snow, they are very active today.  I got some cool shots out our front window.  I wish the colors of some of these would show up in my pics – I think it’s mostly chickadees and finches (I think), but there are a couple of red birds that I found out are common redpolls.  This is their southern winter range, in the summer they go up near the arctic.

Here are some of the cool pictures I got today:

Birds at the feeder
Birds at the feeder
Birds at the feeder - 2
Birds at the feeder – 2
Birds at the feeder - 3
Birds at the feeder – 3
Birds at the feeder - 4
Birds at the feeder – 4
Birds at the feeder - 5
Birds at the feeder – 5

We get daily visits by squirrels and chipmunks too, but they were not here while I was taking pictures.  They like to scavenge on the ground for the sunflower seeds that the birds drop. We actually had some deer visit the porch one day in the winter, they were eating sunflower seeds as well.

The basics (about me)

Welcome to my new blog.  I live with my husband and son in a house that I inherited from my parents.  My mom is still with us, but she likes warmer weather and now lives in California with my sister.  We live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which at this time of year is very cold and snowy.  We have an acre and a half of land, and are trying to make it into a tiny homestead.

When I was a kid, my parents had chickens and goats and rabbits here, so I know having livestock here is workable.  My family’s goal is to eventually be food self-sufficient.  I don’t know that we’ll get to 100%, since things like lemons won’t grow here,  but we want to get as close to that as we can.

We moved in last January, during one of the worst winters in years, and at that point we couldn’t do a lot outside – we couldn’t even get into the yard because of all the snow.  My parents hadn’t had animals in years, except for dogs, so we wanted to add some chickens first. In early May, once the snow had mostly melted, we started work on converting an old sauna into a new chicken house.  I got baby chicks in June, and by the time they were big enough to live outside, their house was ready for them.  We currently have 11 chickens: 9 hens and 2 roosters.  When I got them I figured that the meanest rooster (if one was mean) would be destined for our dinner table, but the two I have get along really well.

Last year I also had a nice garden, not as big as I wanted but it was a start.  I ended up freezing a lot of zucchini and tomatoes for this winter, and we are still eating those.

We have really grand plans for the property, but some things won’t happen right away.  For this year, 2015, I want to expand the garden space, add some chickens, and some rabbits for meat.

My hope is that this blog will help me to share what’s going on in my world, and maybe help others on the same journey.