The Homestead Weekly

The Homestead Weekly, 24 May 2020

After several weeks that felt like we were speeding right into summer, this week was a cold, drizzly one where we had not just one or two, but THREE frost warnings. We got lucky in that everything seems to have survived the chilly nights, and I just reveled in the chance to make soup again and in the desire to turn on my oven, which meant that we ate particularly well this week.

This was also the week of getting haircuts, as both Matt and I were in desperate need and as we now were able to, with salons recently having opened up again around here. (Note: I naively thought that a few at least had been open this whole time, but I was apparently wrong on that point.)

My hairstylist said that her husband and father (both farmers) have always made her wait each year to plant until after Memorial Day (no matter how much she may want to plant earlier), and this week, I’ll admit, had us kind of on pins and needles as we wondered if we were about to lose much of what we’ve planted thus far. (We did take a tarp and cover the bed with our tomato plants in it, at any rate, but that was the only one). We woke up a couple mornings to a sort of frost on the mountaintops right outside our window, but none of our plants had blackened or shriveled or showed any other signs of having been frozen, so I think we’re in the clear.

As for the rest of the week, we’ve been trying to tackle some to-do list items while our children did their darnedest to make sure we kept losing our focus, which you’ll read about in more detail below.

Note: There are affiliate links to products mentioned below, which means I may get a small commission on any purchases made through those links, at no extra cost to you.

In the Kitchen

Spring and fall are my favorite times of year, for many reasons–the colors! the foliage! the traditions and holidays! But perhaps the biggest reason is the mild temperatures and drizzly days that drive me right into the kitchen, eagerly turning on the oven and pulling out onions or baking supplies before I even quite know what I’m in there to do with them.

Once it gets past a certain temperature outside (around 80 degrees or so), I avoid turning on the oven as much as possible, but with us having turned off our heater for the season, there were many mornings we woke up to a chilly house in the low 60’s this rainy week, so making pumpkin chocolate muffins or whipping up a batch of cookies (both gluten-free AND not gluten-free, so I can eat the dough at will and not have to share) seemed the most natural thing in the world.

There are plenty of things I don’t love about this current period of history we’re going through, but one thing I AM digging is that we’ve been spending weekends largely at home, with zero plans to speak of. It’s made for leisurely breakfasts (or at least, the kinds of breakfasts where we feed the kids something simple quickly and then make something special that will take a bit longer) and lunches that consist of more than just quesadillas or peanut butter sandwiches. It’s meant naps in the afternoon and family time throughout the whole day. And because we’re spending our weekend days doing things equal parts productive and relaxing, we’re not so tired by 9:00 p.m. that we can’t put on a movie for just Matt and me.

Both last week and this week we did a sheet pan bake involving salmon, green beans, and potatoes (russet last week, sweet potato this week), and we’re big fans around here! Even the kids have taken better than expected to the salmon, which was a nice bonus. Basically you peel and cube your potatoes (or do matchsticks, if you’re wanting “fries”), drizzle them with olive oil and salt, spread them over one side of the sheet pan in a single layer and pop them in a preheated 400 degree oven. Then after about 15 minutes, you put some green beans on there with them (and do some olive oil and salt on those,too) and put some frozen salmon fillets on the side. We melt two tablespoons of butter, mix it with about a teaspoon of dried dill and a couple light shakes of garlic salt, and brush that over the tops of the salmon. Then you cook the (now full) sheet pan for about 26 minutes, or until the salmon is cooked through and flakes easily with a fork. (If your salmon is thawed, only put it in for about 16-18 minutes). And that’s it! Delicious, easy, and super good for you (though you shouldn’t hold that against it).

On the Menu Last Week: Instant Pot Sweet Potato Curry + Rice (the recipe itself was pretty bland, but after I added quite a lot more seasonings to it, it was decent), Beef + Bean Taco Soup (from The Food Nanny Rescues Dinner), Salmon/Sweet Potato/Green Bean Sheet Pan Bake, Garlicky Chicken + Rice Soup (from America’s Test Kitchen’s Baby + Toddler Cookbook), Slow Cooked Pot Roast, Carrots, and Mashed Potatoes

In the Yard

One thing I didn’t learn until we had a yard and garden of our own was that often after transplanting something, or after planting certain bulbs/tubers/shrubs for the first time (like peonies), you have to wait multiple years before getting any blooms.

Three years ago when we first moved to this house, we transplanted a whole bunch of daylilies from my mom’s garden and a whole bunch of mini purple irises from my sister’s. The daylilies bloomed the same year they were transplanted, but the irises didn’t, so we just figured we had missed the window for that year. But then they didn’t come up the next. Or the next. And we kinda just figured we were going to only get greenery from them year after year without ever getting flowers. But then this week I saw it—the first purple bud of a bloom! This is the fourth summer they’ve been in our yard, and it’s the first time we’ve actually been able to see what they look like. It was such a fun surprise.

the mini iris that was 4 springs in the making

A similar thing happened with our peonies—we’ve gotten zero blooms thus far from all of the plants we’ve transplanted and the one we planted from a tuber, but this year, I really think we’re finally going to get a few! We have some definite buds on a couple of the bushes, and we CANNOT WAIT to see what color they’re going to be. These are the things we geek out about, folks.

Now that Memorial Day weekend is past, which is considered the point at which we’re past all danger of frost, we’re planning on direct seeding a few more flowers for my cutting garden this coming week. Sure, we still have no idea whether or not we’ll still be here in this house three or four months from now to see them all in full bloom, but we figured that we might as well gain as much experience as we can, even if the end result gets cut short this year. Matt’s coworkers, who have already listed their house and which is now under contract with a buyer, gave us two of the tomato plants they had grown from seed, which pushes our total tomato plant count up to 8 (though it really is 7, since one of our tomato plants didn’t seem to survive a particularly chilly night a few weeks ago). Seeing how much success they were able to have growing tomatoes from seed (which we didn’t dare try) has made us want to try growing EVERYTHING from seed next year, just to save on our garden costs and just to see if we can.


So many fun experiments up ahead!

Blooming This Week: the last of the tulips (our yellow ones turn a coral/red tone at the end of their life span, pictured above), the yellow columbine, *almost* the mini irises and the one bearded iris that has a bloom on it (from all that we transplanted last year), the lilacs in the front yard (which bloom later than the ones in the back), our Jupiter’s beard transplants, and some of our other flowering bushes that I’m not sure of the names. Oh, and the chives, which I don’t really know if you’re supposed to “let” flower, but we’re still taking cuttings from it to season things, so I figured we might as well enjoy the fun purple blooms, too.

Exploring the new digs

In the Coop

Our big news with our flock was that we finally moved our pullets (not-quite-grown-up chicks, basically, for those of you who don’t speak chicken) into the outside coop/run with the older hens. We had done pretty extensive research on this process with very conflicting advice, so we decided to pick and choose what seemed the most sensible and just dive in. More than anything, we planned to sit out and watch them for a few hours just to make sure everything went okay, as we’d heard that sometimes established chickens don’t take well to newcomers and had consequently been a bit horrified to read some particularly brutal stories from seasoned farmers about some of what they had seen happen in the process.

We made a big family night out of it and brought out our lawn chairs and put them facing the chicken enclosure (almost as if we were watching a movie screen), and the kids gazed on open-mouthed as we wrangled the pullets into a plastic bin so that we could transport them from the garage to the coop, and then we set the bin down in the midst of The Patch and waited to see what would happen. The pullets seemed completely nonplussed at first and more than a little timid, and it didn’t help that Chipmunk (pictured below) seems to be our alpha hen and started flapping her wings and puffing her chest out and pecking at a couple of the smaller ones who got too close once they had flapped awkwardly (or been rudely pushed by us) out of the bin and into their new world.

There were a few tense moments but nothing that required intervention, and by the time we transported the chicks into the roost to stay the night, all seemed to be well enough. The little buggers still try to bed down for the night outside on top of the little hill of plants rather than filing up into the coop on their own like the older hens every night, but hopefully they’ll get the gist eventually.

For our own notes, we transported the chicks when they were about 11-1/2 weeks old, and we had six new pullets being introduced into an existing flock of four established layers. We put out pullet feed in addition to the layer feed, but now all the flock seems to just prefer the pullet feed, so we’ll see what happens from this point on. Egg production doesn’t seem to have been affected yet, so we’re assuming the laying hens are getting enough calcium and other nutrients from their constant foraging.

Watching the rain

In the Playroom

I’ll admit that my one-on-one “dates” or “focused time” with each of the kids wasn’t anything super planned or “special” this week. I made sure to do focused read-aloud time from Raven’s longer chapter book nearly every day though, and since the two boys were in Struggleville this week thanks to teething (Mathias) and constipation (Hyrum), they basically just got lots and LOTS of quiet snuggle time with Mom for their one-on-ones.

Some weeks are just like that.

We did do a special lesson on Sunday about Memorial Day and the importance of remembering those who have gone on before us, which involved a Pioneer Bingo game my mom made for us a few Christmases ago and a trip to one of the local cemeteries, where we located Matt’s grandpa’s and great-grandparents’ headstones. Before we went to the cemetery, I read the life sketch his great-grandma had written, and we made the somewhat startling assumption/connection that since his great-grandmother said in her life sketch that at the time she was living in the town by ours, there were only about 25 families in the valley, we realized that she almost certainly knew my great-great grandma (who lived in the next town over), or at least her parents would have–they almost certainly would have been in the same ward (aka, church congregation). I would have to do a little more research to verify that, but it was kind of a fun thing to think about.

The kids loved it all, and Raven especially has been asking ever since when we get to play Bingo again, and now she’s also all gung-ho about visiting cemeteries. I didn’t catch the family history/genealogy bug until I was in my mid-twenties, but maybe she’ll catch it early. I can always hope.

Before, and uh, Currently

In the Home

I was planning on having more than a “Before” picture to show you, but alas! I didn’t quite get that far, ha ha. This is a picture of the dresser in our bedroom, and it’s already had a tendency to be a bit of a catchall for clutter, but it’s gotten especially bad since we had Hyrum in December, just because he sleeps in our room, so it makes sense for us to have his clothes and such in with us, too.

My big plan this week was to clear out enough from my side of the closet so that we could put all three of his bins up there, which would then clear the way (literally) for me to see what else was on the dresser that needed to be relocated, tossed, etc. I made some decent headway on my closet project, but just as I was about to tackle the last box, I got interrupted by children waking up from naps and a baby that needed to be fed, so now our master bedroom has MORE stuff on the floor from before, as I need to finish clearing out the closet in order to put everything back again.

So it goes with house projects around here—I start with high ambitions and the best of intentions and with a great talent for overestimating what I can get done during a naptime, and I end up with half-finished projects that we trip over for weeks until I find the time, energy, and mental space to devote to it again. Ah, well. Maybe for next week’s Homestead Weekly, I’ll actually have a finished project for you. Now wouldn’t that be something?

Matt was able to successfully complete his big To-Do List Item this week though and put together the Ridgid wet/dry vac we got for Christmas, which he then used to vacuum out the garage. Between that and the fact that I finally scheduled someone to come service our garage door this week (which was sometimes stopping in the middle and being terribly loud every time you opened it), I feel like we got an entirely new garage this week. Big win!

In the Soul

My mind continues to be consumed much of the time with the uncertainty of our situation at the moment–will we be in a new house in four months? If so, do we rent? Buy? Build? Will we decide for Matt to go in a different direction and take a new job? If so, do we pursue a job closer to family, or do we stay where we are?

There are so many different directions we can go, and they really all hold appeal for us (if they didn’t, this decision would be a lot easier!). Just when I think things are starting to fall into place for one option to rise above all the others, another, equally as tempting option comes up, and we start back at the beginning.

There’s a possibility that some of the paperwork at Matt’s current company could be finalized this week, so there is also the possibility that we might be given an actual ballpark timeline as early as this week, as well. Fingers crossed, as a timeline would definitely make some things a lot easier in the planning process!

When my mind wasn’t involved in debating the various merits of our different options, I was neck-deep in trying to keep my patience from waning as this week involved a lot (and I mean a LOT) of screaming and crying from the children. Because the baby was so uncomfortable for much of the week, he also didn’t sleep well at night, which meant that most days started sometime in the 5 or 6 o’clock hour after having been woken up many times in the middle of the night as well, and so this week had me relaxing my rules a lot on how many movies my kids could watch (it used to be that they’d watch one or two a month and basically have no other screen time, but that’s been relaxed quite a bit the past little while). I’m not letting myself feel too much guilt over it, but I do want to be mindful not to make it too much of a habit. (Note: One thing I’ve discovered that’s really helped with limiting our kids’ screen time naturally is the placement of our t.v. We only have one television, and it’s in our basement. This means, simply by sheer convenience (or lack thereof), that we don’t watch too much t.v. around here since we spend the bulk of our time upstairs together.)

This week I also realized that I’ve regained back most of the 5-6 pounds I’d lost when Matt and I were in a weight loss competition with each other before our Hawaii trip (which was cancelled), and I know that I definitely need to start taking better care of myself again. So, this next week I’ve finally got a chiropractor appointment scheduled so that I can start exercising again, and I also have solid plans to not buy so much chocolate (aka, nothing other than chocolate chips) at my next big grocery haul next week. These are baby steps, but baby steps are usually what get me to slowly lose the rest of the weight from a pregnancy.

That’s the hope, anyway.

Here’s to a good week ahead, and hopefully one that involves a bit more sleep and a bit less crying over here!

I hope that you enjoyed your holiday weekend, and that you have a wonderful week ahead too!

2 Comments on “The Homestead Weekly, 24 May 2020

    1. Thank you! And you could be—you just have to keep practicing at it regularly and not getting discouraged if you have a few failures or mistakes along the way 🙂

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