Reflecting on 9 Months of Homesteading

As we head into the 9th month of living in our home on Gabriola I want to reflect on the projects we have taken on, and think about what was a success and what failed utterly (thankfully not much).

Projects Undertaken:
1. Painting the entire house interior top to bottom – Success! Goodbye butter yellow, rust red and creamcicle orange! Hello grey errrywhere…
2. Painting the entire house exterior top to bottom – Big success! It looks so much better!
3. Replacing exterior light fixtures, brown swirly toilet, dated ceiling fan, etcetc – Success but remains unfinished. It’s the little things that make such a big difference, and updating these fixtures made things a lot easier to look at. I scoffed a bit when I saw there was a ceiling fan in the living room, but once the hot weather hit we had it on every day. Next on the list are new light fixtures in the halls and over the dining table.
4. Updating the guest bedroom – Success! I love the headboard we put in here, though we’ve only used it once… for our island friends who were too drunk to drive home hahaha.
5. Purple bedroom – this purple looked good at the time but it didn’t stick around for long… I’ll post the new bedroom as soon as I can get decent photos. Hint: it’s DARK.
6. Deer proof garden plot: SUCCESS. Everything in here has done so well, it’s the only area of the yard that hasn’t been pillaged at one point.
7. Cedar planters made with pallets – Ongoing. We have stalled out a bit on this area of the yard in favour of working in other areas, but we have managed to get it close to the top and recently acquired a pile of reclaimed deck boards to finish more of the walkways. Most of the plants in this are have thrived.
8. BUNNIES – SUCCESS! I am absolutely in love with the 3 angora bunnies I adopted this year, and with the hutch we custom built for them. Once it gets cooler I’ll be all ready to start learning to spin their fibre, as I have already collected a number of bags of fluff.
9. Chickens and chicken coop! – Success. We started with Bubble and Squeak, then added Patty, Selma, Mulder, Scully, Flip, Pickles, and Butters, then finally Britney. The chickens are all healthy and happy, though we are still sad about the loss of Patty.
10. New chicken coop – ongoing. This is a fun project, and we have big plans for turning it into another fenced garden area as well.
11. New pantry – SUCCESS I want to live in this room.

Garden Successes and Failures:

Rhubarb – Success. We have a bunch stored in the freezer for pie filling.
Raspberries – Big success, we ate them fresh, dehydrated some, and froze a bunch.
Kale – Success. We will have kale for ages, the bunnies and chickens love it, and so do I. Soon we will try out making our own kale chips.
Tomatoes – Big success. Both with the lemon boy starts I bought, and with the plants we grew from seed.
Calendula – Big success. We dehydrated several jars of flower heads before letting the rest go to seed for next year.
Fennel – Success. We didn’t end up harvesting the fennel for anything, but I look forward to collecting and storing the seeds.
Cilantro – 50/50. It bolted right away so we didn’t get much in the way of leaves, though we got hundreds and hundreds of seeds. I threw a whole mass of them into the cilantro planter and they are currently growing back.
Nasturtiums – 50/50. It took us a while to get the placement of these babies right. The chickens pecked them almost to death so we moved them into the enclosure, but then they didn’t like the soil, so we moved them to a planter with better dirt and now they are thriving. The flowers are so peppery!
Broccoli – Fail. We gave up on these pretty fast after letting them flower when we should have been cutting them back. Will try again next year.
Cauliflower – Double fail! We planted a patch that was doing well until some silly deer came by and munched a load of it off. Then the mice got to them, and in trying to deter rodents we sprayed too much tea tree oil around them and they died. We tried a second batch and they essentially suffered the same fate. Next time they must be in an enclosed area, I suppose.
Cabbage – Moderate success. We only had 3/6 actually produce a cabbage, but J used them to make a cabbage soup.
Peas – Fail. We had a few peas off our plants but not enough to actually do anything with them. Our attempt to grow a second batch failed when they got pecked by the chickens.
Mint – Success! We dehydrated a ton for peppermint tea.
Lemon Balm – Success! Same as the mint!
Edamame – Fail. These babies didn’t grow very big at all, likely because they were not getting enough sunlight.
Chick peas – Fail – they were doing great until a deer ate them all haha
Comfrey – Success!
Cat nip – Success!
Oregano – Success! We harvested the existing oregano from the lower garden and have like a 10 year supply of the stuff.
Rosemary – Success!
Lavender – Success!
Strawberries – Success!
Amaranth – 50/50. The ones isolated on the deck are doing great, but all the others we planted have been eaten by deer. Jerks!
Artichoke – Success! The Jerusalem plant is doing really well, and the 3 cardoons we have are all growing happily.
Leeks – Fail. We tried to grow them from seed but they didn’t get bigger than blades of grass, and the bunch of starters we bought also didn’t do anything. Likely due to not enough sunlight.
Zucchini and Squash – Success! This was a surprise success, because for AGES they did nothing. Just sat there small and barely hanging on, but then all of a sudden a few weeks ago they exploded and we will have a bunch of big zucchinis and some squashes. Neat.
Sorghum – Probably a fail. These were easy to sprout, but have not really performed since we put them in the ground. The neat thing is the deer don’t like them. Maybe that makes it a success haha
Quinoa – 50/50. Again, easy to sprout, but these plants didn’t do much for a long time. Once they started growing that pesky deer came and ate the heads off all of them. We have a second batch going within the enclosure that looks much happier though I’m not sure what they will produce.
Walla walla onions – Mild success. We got a bundle of onions, but they were all pretty small. Again, not enough sunlight. We did pickle the ones we got, though.
Blackberries – An accidental success. These things are everywhere though we didn’t plant any. We’ve made jam and included them in our wine which should be interesting.
Plums – MAJOR SUCCESS. We didn’t even have to do anything, we just had plums coming out our ears for days. We made spiced plum jam, plum chutney, plum wine, plum puree, canned whole plums, and dehydrated plum snacks.
Apples – Almost a success – the two trees are growing their apples as we speak. There will be lots, and they are almost ripe… hello apple sauce and pie filling!
Blueberries – Fail. Only one plant produced (the other has done nothing) and Squeak ate all the berries off it haha.
Mullein – Success in the works. The seedlings grew like mad and have been planted in the lower garden to get big. The chickens have pecked them a fair bit, but soon they will be in their own area and the mullein will come back.

There may be more that I’m forgetting about… it was an ambitious year, garden wise. Lots of finding our footing, lots of experimenting, and some harvest. Not enough to live off of, but it was a strong start to what will hopefully be an ongoing project!

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