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!


  • Lately on the Homestead: Backyard Reno
    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
  • Nursery Reveal!
    It’s been nearly three months since we’ve brought Bladen home and I’m excited to finally share my new favorite room in our home! The nursery took me much longer to put together than nurseries in the past, in part due to lack of energy and in part due to putting together some special touches, like … Read More
  • Meet the newest member of the Camp family
    Nearly three months ago we anxiously awaited the arrival of March. Not only would we be welcoming the newest member of our family to the world, but I’d also have 6 weeks of maternity leave and the plans I had to do with my time were endless! One of which was to get back on … Read More
  • On the homestead today
    It’s cool and cloudy here so I’m in the gardens getting dirty—planting new plants and taming old ones.4 years ago there were just 3 poppies on this plant, look how many this year! It’s my favorite plant and blooms around Memorial Day each year.
  • Quick update..finally!
    Check out this video update on what’s been happening and the huge garden renovation this year!

Peaches

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!


The Big Garden, Year One: Big Plans

Early last spring, while watching the kids play in our back yards, Tarin and I began chatting about gardening. I was loving reaping the benefits of well established gardens around the house–thanks to Kay the original owner of our home and her 45 years of love in the garden. Most of the house gardens are floral, with the exception of the one side herb garden and the two rhubarb plants in the back. While I had made great use of the rhubarb, mint, lemon balm and chives, there was more I wanted to grow. Tarin and I talked about wanting a garden with more produce.

Soon after our chat I found out about a class being offered at a local nursery by Jim and Mary Competti on their raised row gardening technique, which promises a well producing garden with minimal work– and not a lot of tilling, weeding, hoeing, and spraying. (Hallelujah!) I registered but by the time Tarin got around to it, there were no more seats. The plan was I’d go, take copious notes, and we’d start our garden shortly after. I didn’t make it to the class but did find the Jim and Mary’s Old World Farms blog with details on their technique and even complete garden plans!

Big Plans

After a morning of coffee and researching in the blog while sitting on Clint and Tarin’s back deck, we were inspired by this Old World Garden Plan featuring a 45 x 60 foot garden. Tarin and I marked off a spot where our yards meet of the same measurements. When we asked what Clint thought about our initial layout, he gently suggested we might scale it back a little, “because you know, it’s your first year. You may not like gardening.” 🤣

Once we had the spot laid out, I made a detailed, scaled plan using excel, and we made a list of materials. We may have opted for a smaller plot but our garden is not exactly small. With a 30 x 45 perimeter, 20 ten foot growing rows and space for raised boxes for herbs, onions and potatoes it’s plenty big to produce crops for our two families.

It may have been tedious, but this plan made to scale has served us well, from determining the amount of materials we needed for growing rows and fencing to how many plants each row can fit and where we would place them.

Our Garden Plan 2019

This year, I simply copied last year’s plan, rotated where our crops would go in the growing rows and made modifications to the crops we wanted.

But just because we had a plan, doesn’t mean we knew what we were doing. After all, we weren’t looking to invest a lot of time or money into this new garden–we were really banking on the promises of the hassle-free gardening technique of raised row gardening . Also, neither one of use had a great track record with keeping plants alive. In Texas everything I planted burned up in the summer heat or died from neglect when life got busy. We definitely half-assed this first year int he garden. In an upcoming post I’ll share how we made this plan a reality and tell you about our soil mishap.



Strawberry- Rhubarb Pie

Last week the girls and I baked our first strawberry-rhubarb pies of the season. If you’ve been reading the blog from the start you know how much I love this pie. I’ve been perfecting my recipe since we moved here and I first discovered we had rhubarb growing in the house-gardens. This of course was the start of our “cooking show” videos. We shared the first video with you earlier this week on how to make my favorite pie crust. Before we jump to the video let me tell you how to make this pie… and why I make it the way I do.

The first time I made this pie, it came out all watery and soupy, a little too tart and not very pretty. I played around with strawberry to rhubarb ratios which made it a little sweeter and prettier–I have green rhubarb so it looks like strawberry-celery pie; more strawberries adds more color. However, I still had a messy, soup of a pie. The additional strawberries actually made this problem worse. I mean, call me crazy, but I think you should be able to use your pie spatula and not a spoon to serve your pie. My search continued.

Many recipes that addressed the soupy issue called for plain gelatin, something I’ve never carried min my pantry. Finally, last year I came across this recipe which called for corn starch (something I always have in my pantry) to battle the watery juices from the strawberries. This recipe also had two big differences to the previous recipes I tried–half the sugar is brown sugar and the use of orange juice.

The brown sugar adds a richer sweetness, due to the molasses, and actually retains moisture so it helps make a more dense pie filling. I actually prefer dark brown sugar over the light brown sugar the original recipe calls for and use the dark in my pies. I also add a little more vanilla for some more depth.

I also LOVE the citrus notes the orange juice adds to the pie. The orange pairs so nicely with the strawberries. I like it so much I incorporate more OJ in my own recipe. I’m also pretty picky when it comes to orange juice, I like Simply Orange’s High Pulp. It makes a difference, I promise!

Cory’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

Ingredients

  • 2 homemade pie crusts
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • sugar, coarse or granulated
  • 3 cups cut strawberries
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups chopped rhubarb (chopped in 1/2 inch or smaller pieces)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch (use up to 1 Tbs more if needed)
  • 2 Tbs orange juice
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • A pinch of salt

Tools and Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Spoon for stirring
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Knife
  • Pie dish
  • Basting or pastry brush
  • Cookie/baking sheet
  • Cooling rack

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Prepare filling. In a large bowl, mix together strawberries, rhubarb, sugars, salt, orange juice, and corn starch.
  3. Prepare pie dish. While the filling settles, roll out your crusts. (If you don’t have your crust made yet, no worries, the longer that filling mixture sits they more those flavors blend.) Place bottom crust in the dish.
  1. Fill the pie. Give your filling mixture one more stir (add more corn starch if it’s really juicy, however, you’ll have some juice that you’ll leave in the bowl). Add a few pieces of butter on top o the filling.
  2. Close the pie. Cover the filling with your top pie crust. Get creative with this! You can use cookie cutters to add a design, do a classic lattice, or fun edging. Take your beaten egg and brush it on the crust. Sprinkle with sugar.
  3. Bake. Place the pie on the cookie sheet and bake the pie for 20 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 350, keeping the pie in the oven, and continue to bake for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Cool. Allow the pie to cool for 2-3 hours – place on a cooling rack to help it cool faster.
  5. Enjoy! Our favorite ways to eat the pie warm with vanilla ice cream or cold for breakfast but there’s really no wrong way to do it!

Now for the video. I feel like I should add some context first. This video features several high-speed clips as the girls were kind of over the whole baking and recording thing after a one-hour intermission between the pie crust video and pie filling video to make more crust (I forgot we were making more than one pie so had to whip up a double batch of crust before moving to the filling). Therefore, the filling video took WAY longer than it should have (even with kids) but includes some silly song and dance action for your entertainment.