This week on the Half-ass Homestead June 22-28, 2020

Grace has taken to driving the hens around… not sure if they like it as much as she does 🤣

The past two weeks have been busy one on the home front and with work for me. It’s weeks like these that I’m thankful to be doing this whole garden homesteading thing with the Norris family.

Work has ramped up between creating two online courses, preparing for our first virtual summit for educators, and meeting with customers to plan for next school year, I feel like I’ve been glued to my MacBook for two weeks straight. And, though Brian Sr. had a couple of days where he started to feel better, he quickly took a turn down hill with severe pressure and nausea. We’re hoping for more answers and relief next week given this new medicine he’s on. On top of that, I’ve discovered I’m now allergic to poison ivy (turns out it’s bound to happen when you spend three weekends with a weed eater killing that stuff). So much itching!

Last week I didn’t get out to the garden once but often looked out the window and would see Clint and Vinny watering the garden, hanging with the hens, or eating lettuce and spinach off the plant. Grace, Ella, and Brian Jr. often joined them. They even dropped off some radish on Father’s Day! So grateful for them!

The kids tried radish for the first time, Grace was the only one who liked it even a little. I really enjoy some fresh slices on my sandwich but look forward to a few suggestions from some of our Facebook friends, especially roasting them!

By the time I got out to the garden this Friday, it was in desperate need for some harvesting! It’s amazing how much of a different the grass mulch has made for our crops!

Tarin, who has been busy with work herself, joined Ella and I in the garden for some picking. We got quite a haul!

On Saturday, we harvested rhubarb and I picked up some straw to recover our walking paths. Grace took pictures:

It’s about time for a second planting of carrots and some other crops. I’ll have to do some research on what would be good to plant.

Sunday, I spent time in the house gardens, adding cobblestone to a some of the paths, and reconfiguring the front garden by removing a bush and widening the area around our front outdoor table. I plan to add stone or pea gravel to level the space out.

While I worked, Sr. relaxed inside, the girls played by the creek catching salamanders and Brian Jr. played ball in the yard and took breaks to play guitar for the hens. It may be a little crazy, but life on the homestead is good!

  • Weekend progress- Raised Beds!
  • Backyard Reno: Totally Functional – Help me decide how to finish it!
    Last week, fall finally showed its beautiful temps here in central Ohio and I decided to make the most of it. Thursday afternoon I spent a few hours unloading pea gravel between meetings (since it was cool and breezy enough to do so without breaking much of a sweat). On Friday two of my calls … Read More
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    Last time I shared with y’all I was fresh into redoing the backyard, so excited about the possibilities. It’s been a month and a half and until this weekend the project hadn’t gone any further. Luckily the stars aligned and I had the energy AND the time. I told Sr. that all I wanted for … Read More
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    Last summer, despite Sr.’s disapproval, I put a pool up. He was against the idea for two reasons 1. He’s not a fan of pools(unless there’s a slide going into the pool, he doesn’t see the point) and thinks they attract mosquitos. 🙄 2. He thought I’d ruin the grass. While it didn’t attack mosquitos, … Read More


by Grace, age 5

Peaches are the best thing in my life!

My garden’s 🍑s will be so sweet. when we eat then we will get the seeds and replant them so we can have more and more. We have a 🍑 tree 🌳 we planted it for my Opie, he died. I really wish we could have showed him, but we can’t. Mom say’s Opie would be proud.

Me nest tot he peach tree holding our first strawberry

I can’t wait to eat the the peaches from our tree. I want to make peach smoothies, peach pie, peach juice, eat them frozen and eat them fresh, maybe even in a salad! We also have strawberries and blueberries, which will be yummy with peaches. Peaches are good no matter how you eat them. But maybe not with onions and carrots 🤮

My Dad loves peach cobbler! I’m sure all my people love peaches too–Grandma, Papa, Opa, Gigi, Papa David, Aunt Rosey, Mr. Paul and Rachel….

Thats all about peaches.

Okay, bye!

Our First Strawberry!

by Grace, age 5

Yesterday I was in the big garden with my Mom and I found a strawberry! It was not attached to the plant anymore, I guess maybe Vinny picked it. I don’t know how it could have grown not on the plant.

Our first strawberry!

The strawberry was a little bit tiny and red. We took it inside and washed it off. Mom said it was a little too ripe and we shouldn’t eat it. I’m so excited for more strawberries to come! And for the peaches and blueberries to come too! The blueberry bushes have lots of flowers that are almost going to grow to blueberries. We don’t have peaches yet but Momma bought some at the store.

Me by our peach tree with my strawberry

When we get more strawberries we will wash them and eat them. We can make strawberry pie, strawberry cake… I had strawberry cake for my graduation. Did you know I graduated pre-school?! I’m going to Kindergarten next year! I’ll get to ride the bus with Ella and Brian. I’m so excited!

Okay, bye!

*This post was dictated with an app by Grace and edited for spelling and punctuation (and a little bit of clarity) by Mom.

This week on the Half-ass Homestead

May 17-24, 2020

Despite being stuck inside most the week, this week was an eventful one; full of hard work, celebrating the birthdays and mourning the loss of those we love. We celebrated Brian Sr’s birthday as well as one my best friend, Rachel’s birthday. We attended the funeral of my Opa virtually and spent time telling stories of his life.

Last Sunday was a busy day! Ella Rose helped me use some old lumber we found under the pine trees to build a raised bed for our new cut flower garden and then fill it with a combination of dirt from an old compost pile on our property and cheap topsoil from Tractor Supply. I also made a small bed around the mailbox for a little curb appeal and filled it with a few new plants and the tall marigold variety we started by seed a few weeks ago. It rained like a monsoon most of the week but weather cleared up for the weekend. Ella Rose and Grace helped sow seeds in the new cut flower garden more on that later.

We also made our first “cooking videos” as we made our rhubarb pie for us and a few friends. 🤣 Tune into tomorrow for the first.

After all the rain, the coop was starting to smell. The chickens are getting to big! Our coop “for 4-6 chickens” is getting a little tight. Jr. helped me clean the coop on Friday while the girls and a few neighborhood kids kept an eye on the chicks as they roamed the yard (maintaining a social distance of course).

This weekend we FINALLY added a gate to the garden, it’s the epitome of half-ass but it gets the job done for now.

We also planted the last of the new plants including two new strawberry plants, two blueberry bushes, eggplant and our special peach tree.

Grace’s take on Saturday’s planting.

Brian Sr. was also busy getting the lawn on the Camp Farm in tiptop shape and working on the “super Chevy”. Look at that pretty green lawn!

Looking ahead to next week we hope to build (or buy) more space for the chicken to run and get mulch in the growing rows.

A special tribute

Earlier this week we lost Opa, also known as Opie to my kids. (Opa is German for Grandfather.) He was 97 and always full of laughter, stories mischief and occasional a song.

Opa and the girls singing one of his favorites (2017)

A self-made man with experience with just about anything. He was a rancher, a gardener and friends with President Lyndon B. Johnson. He flew planes, played the fiddle, and other instruments, sold Massey-Furgeson tractors, and grew and sold peaches, by the truckload, to name a few. This is how I remember him most… that and him flipping the bird every time we asked him to smile for a picture.

Kramer Family Reunion 2017

Peaches are still my all time favorite. I remember he’d put me to work helping him sell his Fredericksburg peaches in the summer. All I had to do was stand by the road and eat peaches. They were so juicy, people would pull over and buy them. My Mom made me a special shirt with puffy paint that said “Opa’s Little Helper”. Opa always joked that I ate all his profits.

Coincidentally, last weekend when Tarin and I were doing the last of our garden shopping at the nursery we made a few impulse buys. A peach tree was one of them. I told her about my Opa and how proud he’d be. I had planned to talk with Opa yesterday about our new tree and get all his peach farming tips. Unfortunately that call was scheduled a day too late.

He’s going to be missed by all his children and grandchildren. Everyone drove up for his funeral today. Unfortunately, with Brian Sr.’s brain surgery early next week, we are quarantined and travel isn’t an option. It was devastating not being able to be in Texas with family for his memorial. Thankfully my cousin, Cassandra, FaceTimed us during the service.

Afterwards, we held a little memorial of our own and planted our peach tree in his memory.

It’s sweet and special new addition to our garden. In the next few days we’ll go down to the creek to find the right rock to paint and lay at the base of the tree.


Y’all! It’s almost time for this years’ first harvest of rhubarb!!!

In the back house garden I have two green rhubarb plants side-by-side that provide a steady harvest all from May to Fall. Rhubarb is one of my favorite crops to harvest from our gardens because it means I get to put my love into making something delicious for my family and those around us.

What is rhubarb?

Fun fact, while rhubarb is technically a veggie but it’s often categorized as a fruit because of how it is prepared and served. Looking a lot like celery and ranging from red to pale green, rhubarb has a tart, slightly sweet taste and therefore typically cooked with sugar and fruits, like strawberries, to make jams and baked treats.

Rhubarb is a perennial that requires a cold winter to grow, so it wasn’t too common Texas. I first had rhubarb in college when visiting my Great Aunt Bertha in Washington State. She lived on a country cul-de-sac where she and her neighbors shared a garden (sound familiar?). My Mom and I trekked out to the garden to pick a few stalks then spent the afternoon with her in the kitchen as she taught us her secrets to making rhubarb pie. I don’t remember much about what she said, but I certainly remember there was lots of wine, laughing, and taste testing. I also remember tasting the rhubarb before it was cooked and wondering why the hell Aunt Bert would put it in a pie. That night we ate pie for dessert, went back for seconds and made more pie the next day!

Fast forward about 15 years and I’m walking around the house gardens with Kay, the original owner of our then new home, as she gives me the low down on all the perennials she planted in her 40+ years living her. It was overwhelming trying to consume all the information and knowledge she was spewing out that spring day but as she pointed out what were weeds, what would bloom when, and what we could and couldn’t eat, I was elated to hear her point and the big-leafed green stalky plant and call it rhubarb. I hadn’t recognized it as it is the green variety and not the red rhubarb I had picked with Aunt Bert. Needless to say I was baking rhubarb pie that weekend.

What I’ve Learned About Growing and Harvesting Rhubarb

First off, I am no expert. I mean the first year of harvesting, I used garden shears to cut nearly ALL the stalks at the bottom, even the short little ones. Like a rhubarb buzz cut–rookie move. I was also just letting the plant do it’s thing and flower until Kay told me to stop it. So what can I share?

What Part of the Rhubarb to Eat

First of all, it’s important to know the leaves of rhubarb cannot be eaten, they are poisonous. You can compost them as they break down pretty quickly in the compost process. It’s the stalk of the leaves that you eat. I’ve read the flowering stalks are edible but I haven’t tried them.

Flowering or Bolting Rhubarb

When rhubarb produces flowering stems, this is called bolting (a term I’ve only known for a year or so). These flowers are pretty and don’t harm the plant or taste but do impact your harvest as the plant exhausts energy on the flowing stalks rather than producing more stalks. This means if you want a lot of harvest, your best bet is to remove the flowering stalks with a sharp knife at the base of the plant. Actually, even better is to remove them when they are seed pods, before they become a flowering stalk. I am still working on my confidence in recognizing these seed pods and just staying on top of these stalks.

Harvesting Rhubarb

You’ll want to harvest stalks when they are about 10 inches long. You can either use a sharp knife to cut the stalks at the base, or simply need to grab the stalk toward the base and pull with a twisting motion. Don’t harvest ALL of the stalks at once, like I almost did. This could kill the plant. If your rhubarb plant is new, you’ll need to wait 2 years before harvesting your first harvest to that the plant can become well established. You can keep harvesting those 10″ stalks through the summer and even into the fall but you’ll want to slow down your harvesting after mid July to let your plant store up energy for winter.

Cooking and Baking with Rhubarb

As mentioned before, rhubarb, because of its sour taste is often paired with sugar and fruits. That sweet and tart combination makes it perfect for summer! Honestly, I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to rhubarb. My go-tos are strawberry rhubarb pie and jam but I am looking at expanding my rhubarb recipe collection this year! In the 2 summers I’ve been baking with rhubarb I’d say the pies and jam have definitely become a fan favorite. I always make 2-4 pies at a time and at least 6 jars of jam so there is plenty to share with neighbors and friends. My kids refer to these pies and jams as ‘famous’ and Brian Jr. claims I could profit well at the farmers market. Not sure about that but I’m excited to share these recipes with you this summer.

Grace taking a picture of the rhubarb plants for a post. 🤣