Progress! Backyard Reno

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.

Before/early progress- July 2022

Luckily the stars aligned and I had the energy AND the time. I told Sr. that all I wanted for my birthday was the materials to bring my vision to life (and his truck to haul it all 🤣).

We’re in the middle of football and softball season so Saturdays are just about the only day we have free so this past Saturday we got to work. Brian and Ella even HELPED!

Two loads of topsoil later and we’ve got a pretty good, level base for the pea gravel. The two railroad ties from the existing garden bed, of which we removed 4-5 feet in July ended up being great borders for the two sides. These are only temporary –Sr. thinks the ties are yellow jacket magnets and wants to get rid of all of them down the road. I used rock from a pathway I removed in the front gardens to round out the corner between the two ties. This matches the layered rock corners found elsewhere around the house gardens.

We also decided to move the azalea, opening up the space even more–another 3-4 feet. This was my brother Josh’s brilliant idea! We moved it to the little outside corner of the space and added some rocks. The larger space now has me thinking we could open the stairs up more on the corner to further connect the space!

Next up, I’ll dig a trench to fix a standing water issue at the patio and divert it downhill, add landscape fabric, and then pea gravel and done! I’m hoping I can get to it all by this weekend. 🤞🏻🤞🏻





This Week on the Half-Ass Homestead: February 12-19, 2022

This week has been a stressful one on the Camp Farm.

Everything has been so frozen here, our poor hens seem to have made the menu of some predators. Sunday we discovered something tried to get into the chicken run by ripping up the chicken wire from the bottom of the run door frame. It was easily fixed with some more zip ties but it has put us on high alert. Thursday something made it INTO the chicken run and tried to get into the coop. Luckily, they were unsuccessful and all hens are accounted for. We suspect raccoons.

Tuesday we found out that, while my due date is 4 weeks out, my body and this baby are preparing for a very possible early arrival. I’m in early labor, which can last days to weeks. Since Tuesday I’ve been been trying to balance an attitude of “GET ALL THE SHIT DONE!!!!” to “take it easy, rest while you can”. Not sure who it’s more stressful for, me or those who have to live with me 🥴

Either way, we’ve been making some MAJOR progress on the nursery and it’s almost ready for its reveal!

If you follow our page on Facebook, you probably saw the paintings I created for the nursery. As I was painting, the kids asked if they could creat something for the nursery too (OF COURSE!)

Ella and Grace drew inspiration for Eric Carle and Jr. looked to the internet for a mentor image. We’re only missing some original art from Sr. now 🤣. Check them out!

Finally, despite all we have going on, and soon to come, my mind keeps drifting to spring and planting the flower and vegetable gardens. Pretty sure I won’t be able to do much this year but I’m itching to plan. What are your super-simple, go-to plants?!



This Week on the Half-Ass Homestead: March 7-13, 2021

This week was a busy on for me at work but in the back of my mind I all could think about was how I needed to get seeds started. I spent evenings in my newest book, In Bloom: Growing, Harvesting, and Arranging Homegrown Flowers All Year Round, and to say I’m inspired is an understatement. The pictures are beautiful and have me dreaming or a cottage style cut flower patch.

Last week I put in my request with 811 and got news that the entire side yard is clear! Unfortunately they didn’t inspect the back yard as I asked so I had to put in another request. I think this was due to the comment I made on the request that made is sound like I just wanted the back left side of the yard. Despite not having the rest of the back surveyed yet, I’ve officially decided where I’m putting the garden!

As I shared before, some of the pain points of the current location are that it’s too far from the how, and a water source. After some thought, I’ve determined the side yard is the best place for the garden – it’s close to the house, and the water hose, so I’ll be more likely to get out there and watering will be easier. And even better, it’ll be right in my line of sight while I work and paint from the sunroom! I watched the sunlight on the plot throughout the day to ensure it receives plenty of sun.

So this morning I got right to planning. First with the vegetables using my handy-dandy Clyde’s Garden Planner to map out what, how and when I can plant. I found it easier for me to visualize everything by making a chart with each month and a list of what would need to be planted indoors, outdoors, and harvested.

I did this same thing with my flowers and added the tasks to one of my new 5 year planners. Both planners have places to log information about planting and harvesting but I like the open layout of the of the Royal Horticultural Society record book.

After I laid out the scope and sequence of planting and harvesting times, I took a break to get the the girls shoes for Roseanne and Cameron’s wedding next week . On the way home we stopped by Lowes… I mean, shut up and take my money, Lowes! I not only picked up the landscape fabric I went in for, but I also came home with tulips (because the girls had to have their own tulips ), gladiolus (because they remind me of my Mom), peonies (my favorite), dahlias, and some evergreen trees to add a screening around the fire pit area.

When we got home, I went out to see what I had to work with in regards to dimensions for the side garden. Because we need to maintain a passage large enough for us to drive a truck in the back–for when we have mulch and gravel– I’ve got a maximum width of 12 feet but have a lot to work with regarding length. Rather than doing the traditional raised rows of 18 inches, I’m opting for 3 ft wide rows for more surface area to plant in – like a hybrid raised bed/raised row.

As I was showing the girls, they requested a sitting space for their “Girls Club”. The Girls Club was just started this week between the girls and Ava. When they meet they “take notes on nature” and have even requested a guided tour of the emerging plants in the house gardens. ❤️ They also plan to have art on Wednesdays, picnics on Thursdays, and show-and-tell on Fridays. With this adorable request in mind, I’m thinking I’ll opt for 40 or 50 ft and have sketched out a few plans.

Tomorrow I’ll spend the day planting seeds, marking off the side garden with landscape fabric, and maybe even moving soil.



This week on the Half-Ass Homestead: February 28-March 6, 2021

Things are continuing to warm up on the Camp Farm. I cannot wait to get out to refresh the gardens!

I’ve spent evenings reading more about mini-farming and continuing to contemplate raised beds vs raised row. I finally opened up the book that started it all: Raised Row Gardening: Incredible Organic Produce with No Tilling and Minimal Weeding I’m still deciding but there were some really great reminders here – like the costs of raised beds and the effort in amending a raised bed vs raised row. Until I have to new spot picked out, I can delay my decision. And speaking of placement! I put in my request with 811 to have them come mark the utilities.

It’s still a little cool to clean up the gardens but it’s nearly prime time to start seeds! I ordered another germination kit so I’ve got two 72 cell trays. I had a few seeds for the flower garden from Floret Farms but Grace and I went a little crazy at Lowe’s Saturday 😬

I mean she kept tossing seed packets in the cart and I was too tired to sift through them much. I figured I’d return what we don’t decide to use.

Also, I’ve added two new books to my ever growing library of homesteading. I can’t wait to crack them open tonight!

In other news, Grace and Ella have adopted a stink bug as a pet… his name is Larry and apparently he likes oatmeal.



This week on the Half-Ass Homestead: February 21-27, 2021

It feels like the 2021 garden planning is officially underway! Well almost.

As the snow has begun to melt and we’re seeing the grass for the first time in weeks, I’m anxious to get an actual layout of the 2021 gardens mapped out so I can make a list of plants and supplies. I’m constantly thinking about it. However, there are a few things getting in my way.

We’ve decided to move the big garden, which is currently situated on the property line between the Camp Farm and the Norris Homestead. We’d like to build a legitimate fence around the garden and this is the only way I can convince Sr. to let me do so – he hasn’t been interested in investing so much into a fence not completely on our property should the Norris’ ever move. Not that the Norris’ are planing to move but they had discussed it a few years ago so Tarin and I discussed relocating the garden this year. Both families will still share the garden.

Having the garden on our property will not only allow me to get a proper fence but it will make it easier – I hope– for us to get in there and maintain it. The garden’s current placement is too far for us to easily reach with a hose which meant either several trips with a watering can or lengths and lengths of hose coiled up in the backyard. We can also consider redesigning the garden; something that’s been spinning in my mind as I read a new book on mini-farming which touts raised beds over row gardening for many valid reasons. Though the book doesn’t present an argument against raised row gardening which is different from traditional row gardening, it has me thinking differently about spacing and such.

Moving the garden, however, grants some challenges. First that’s a LOT of soil to move and we’ll want tot make sure to plant grass seed ASAP before the weeds roll in on the vacant turf. Also, WHERE will I put it? I know there are a few places I don’t want to put it given where and how the kids play in the backyard currently. I’m thinking side yard because the grass is patchier here given it get so much sun. The side yard is also closest to the Norris property which is important since it’s still a shared space. However, I wonder is this is too sunny, especially for crops that need less sun. Also, if I ever get my dream greenhouse/she-shed, I imagined placing it its also closer to the fire pit on the other side of the backyard. Placement also depends on what’s UNDER the space. Since we’ll have to place the fence posts, or raised bed corner posts if we go that route, below the frost line, I need to call 811 to get the entire backyard’s underground utilities marked –I’ve been waiting for the snow to melt to do so.

Once I figure out where the garden is going, I’ll have to land on how I want to redesign the garden: raised row or raised bed… any opinions??? This mini-farming book has me intrigued and I’m only in the “overview” chapter. Once good thing I’ve learned is that we really should be journaling EVERYTHING if we want to be serious about our gardens. With not one but TWO five-year journals I should be set up for success.

I’ll continue to share some of the interesting things I’m learning from this book as I go. This next week my goal is to schedule 811, begin a list of plants (in my journals!)and determine which and when I’ll start any from seed – since I now know how to start seeds! I also plan to get Jr. outside with me and start some grounds clean up for the house gardens… his not-so-favorite thing to do with me (see his January post “I Hate Gardening“. 🤣)



This week on the Half-Ass Homestead: February 14-21, 2021

As we wind down from the Galentine’s Party last weekend (more on that from Ella and Grace soon), and we start to warm up from the winterpocalypse that froze much of our country, I can’t help but itch for springtime.

I mean, the struggle is real, y’all. Back in Texas, pre-2020’s anyway, spring starts NOW. My Mom already has most of her garden and plants in the ground with sprouts and buds everywhere. Yet here in the Midwest, it’ll be May before we are out of the freeze window. Again, I love it here and all the beautiful snow, but I think the socially distanced winter has kept me feeling cooped up a little too long this year. Or maybe this is a result of having garden success and wanting to bring my gardens out of hibernation. Either way, I’m looking forward to breaking soil, opening ALL the doors in the sunroom, and watching all the green sprout from the thawed ground.

This week I took the Cut Flower Garden Winter Mini Course from Floret Farms which I found out about after I ordered some seeds late one evening a few weeks ago. I bought Floret Farms’ beautiful Cut Flower Garden book last year after the girls shared how much they’d like to have a flower garden. For Christmas this last year, Grace asked for her very own flower garden… again, spring cannot get here fast enough! And this year I plan to be more prepared than ever.

We got a late start on the cut flower garden last year and planted nearly of the big garden with seeds sown directly into the ground. After I picked up the nifty Clyde’s Garden Planner tool, I realized there’s a lot I can start planting indoors as early as March!

As I took the Floret Farms mini course, I started filling up my Amazon cart and making garden plans. And for some reason Amazon felt it’d be cool to send it all in individual packages over several days (enter stare down from Sr. every time he had to grab a package form the frozen porch 😬🤣🤷🏻‍♀️)

Here’s what I ordered (not all pictured):

Non-Necessities :

  • Gardner’s Tool Belt – Erin, founder of Floret Farms, has a cool tool belt like this. This one is a fraction of the cost and I may look more like a member of the Village People with this on than she does, but I will FEEL legit and that’s what matters, right? 🤣.
  • 5 Year Gardner ‘s Log Book – Two things… 1) Purchasing a 5 year journal should show REAL commitment y’all! 2) This was MUCH smaller than I thought it would be but I like the seasonal checklists and todos.
  • 5 Year Gardener’s Record Book – Um. I just realized I bought two 5 year books… I guess this one is more of a record book than the other
  • Mini-Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre – I mean, why not?!

Now that I’m armed with more knowledge about staring seeds indoors, have the right tools, and more gardner’s journals than one person needs at one time I’m ready to get a jump start on spring!

And if that’s not enough, I also got the privilege of sitting down to coffee with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law Mary’s soon to be mother-in-law to begin planning a late May backyard engagement party! Have I told y’all how much I LOVE to host things?



Houston, we have a problem!

So, we’ve spent the last few days in a battle with groundhogs. Sunday morning we noticed something had gotten into our garden and ate the tops off the carrots, leaves off most of the green beans, and a good chunk of our lettuce, spinach, and kale crops.

Later that evening during dinner, Vinny told Clinton and Tarin he noticed something through the window in the garden. Sure enough it was a groundhog! Clint chased it out the garden and discovered it CHEWED a hole in our fencing (cheap-ass chicken wire!).

Clint ran to the store to get reinforcements and I debated if I wanted to pull out my riffle for some target practice.

When Clint got back, I showed him an old trap I found from the previous owners and we loaded it up with all the groundhog’s favorite things then set it outside the garden by the hole it made. Inside the garden we situated the owl.

Then we waited.

The next morning it didn’t appear that the groundhog returned. The trap was untouched and the garden appeared to have no further damage.

The waiting game continued… until Sr. took Jack outside:

This. Was. War.

Sr. added celery to the trap and reset it inside the garden covered with hay. A few hours later Jr. came screaming inside with news that we caught the villain!

As we all gathered outside, the kids were the first to fall prey to the evil groundhog’s cute exterior.

Clint offered to remove the animal to a local park but Tarin’s dad was unsure this was legal and offered a more permanent solution.

Sr. was put in charge of “handling it” after the kids all went inside, which turned out to be much more difficult. Apparently our garden vegetables made it temporarily invincible and it knew it as it but the end of the barrel and tried to eat it way through the side of the trap.

Ultimately it was done and our crops were safe…

Or so we thought….



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!


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