Homestead Update: The last half of 2019

The summer started out strong- and then ended way too quickly…

(I feel like I start out every end of the year blog, saying that sentence, and then apologizing for not updating in several months… but this has been a hell of a season. Some good, some setbacks… nothing too bad, just all part of the homestead life.)

My parents have officially moved a large camper out to the back yard. They came up most weekends and hang out with the kids, help out with the animals and gardens. It’s been a lot of fun, although the initial set up was a little labor intensive. But now they are glamping- queen sized bed, electricity, running water and all. They got a hell of a deal too.

We spent a whole day weeding the strawberries, which we lost a good portion of to those weeds. It’s an avoidable loss to which is what sucks the most, but we were so busy last summer.. and again this summer…. the new plan is to salvage what we can and put them into boxes uphill a bit, because oh yeah, they flooded several times this year. They were already in a low spot but the beavers, those industrious little devils, have done an excellent job of flooding the larger pond next to our two smaller ones. This creates a flood zone RIGHT where we put all 300 plants. Yup. Moving on.

MrGillis is up to over two dozen Cedar boxes. We planted a lot this last June and even into July and are pretty proud of how it’s coming together now, for next gardening season. I have herbs in some and we tried our hand at a bunch of different things with varying levels of success.

We harvested lots of zucchini, jalapeños, chocolate peppers… our tomatoes, potatoes and pumpkins slowly ripened until an early September chill did them all in…

We put in 4 asparagus bed with 25 roots each and they did fabulous.

We let the chicks in with the rest of the flock- it was a very easy transition… except for the proof of Phyllis being a Philbert and having to find a new home. He was such a handsome little guy that it took no time at all to find him a new flock. I was secretly hoping no one would answer, but a very nice lady came a picked him up in June.

The alpacas were shorn– everything was fairly routine, except Maddie’s tummy bulge has grown. Under Jay’s advice we got a vets opinion. And it’s not great- she either has a tumor or a hernia. At 12 years old, not breeding, just kinda letting her live out her life, he recommended against surgery as the anesthesia/recovery could be to much for her. So if she seems like it’s starting to hinder her life, it’s time to think about euthanasia. Kind of a ugh moment, but I keep a close eye on her and I believe she is doing well enough to let her live.

We also celebrated our 13th anniversary and also my 34th birthday in June. Not with much, just a meal out, but quite frankly, at this stage in our lives, we agreed that not having to cook or clean up is about the nicest anniversary gift we could give each other. I also was gifted my very own drill. (This is not sarcasm, I am genuinely happy with owning my own drill- it’s lightweight, a bit smaller then. MrGillis’ and he doesn’t take off with it. I’m a homesteader, remember?)

The second order of baby chicks arrived dead- we will not be ordering our future laying flock chicks in the mail. We are going to use the local stores to replenish that flock, but most likely continue to order meat birds thru the mail until we figure out a different situation.

We started selling yarn, baby plants and other hand crafted goodies at the Danforth Farmers Market every Friday. We’ve had a lot of fun with the other vendors and we made sales (almost) every week, which has been very nice for the check book and the dream.

We also sold at the Machias Blueberry festival in August, the Machias Fiber Festival in September, the Bangor Mall Festival and the Augusta Civic Center Fair (both of which were in November).

I spent lots of time collecting wild yarrow, chamomile, red clover, raspberry leaves, ox eye daisies and much more. I even identified patches of St. John’s wort! I put in the time making tinctures and tea mixes for this winter and we are fairly well stocked. I spent a lot of time reading about different goodies I could forage… I’m feeling pretty good about my skill set although I haven’t been brave enough to try it out on the many varieties of mushrooms we have growing native in our yard.

Our meat chicks arrived mid July and they arrived 100% alive and well. They hung out in our giant shed brooder for the first 2 weeks of their lives and then we put them out to pasture. We did some things differently this year, but That’s a different blog.

We have already sent the pigs to freezer camp. We’ve done some stuff differently there as well and are happy with the results – but that’s another blog as well.

The bees swarmed in August, and I didn’t catch them. It was really disappointing to lose our first swarm, but the hives are going into winter strong and full of honey. To be honest, my natural, low interference approach worked- but I don’t know if I’m cut out to be a beekeeper. They scare the living daylights out of me. I hate to admit that, but it is the unfortunate truth. We will see how they fare thru the winter and then make decisions.

We have determined that it is not fiscally feasible to repair the roof of our shed this year. Me staying home the last year to raise Issac and Izzy has put a damper on those types of projects. Here’s hoping our tax return is large enough to cover the cost of new tin and materials this spring… we’ve estimated it to be to the tune of $1300 for us to do it ourselves.

And because we can’t do the roof, it doesn’t make any sense to put any more work into the inside of the building. So that is stalled again. Not a great feeling. But it allows us all winter to be, well kinda lazy. We still have to take care of what we got obviously, but a break from the all time consuming shed project? Yes please and thank you. Step back. Refocus and recover. Come back even better.

In September, we went on a mini vacay to a destination wedding up further north to help my best friend (& second sister) from high school celebrate her nuptials. It was beautiful, lots of fun, a bit wow&holycow, and I am so happy that she chose me to be part of her party. It did wreak havoc on my no new clothes pledge – I will admit that dress cost 3 times as much as the total amount I spent on clothing for myself this year. But I looked good.

Also in September, Izzy started pre-K! She is doing phenomenal. It amazes me how often we’ll be in town and we’ll hear cries of “hey izzy!” From students of all ages. She always waves back, turns to us and says with a grin, “that’s my friend!”

In October, we celebrated our sons 1st birthday with a pizza party for family. He’s almost 16 months now, walking(practically running), climbing and being a general toddler now instead of a baby. I can’t stand how fast it went, but I’m still loving every minute of it. Well, besides the tired time headbutts- but we’re working on that.

In November we did another festival at the Bangor mall and it was Awesome! Like for hundreds of crafters. Then we did another in Augusta that was not so great. So all in all, we made some feed money, and learned some lessons, which I may or may not expand upon in a deferent blog.

The holidays were all about family- and food. And now we find ourselves well into the year already accomplishing so much and planning all kinds more.

Which will have to be another blog as this one has become so long it’s almost unreadable.

But until next time – have a wicked good day!


Published by gillisgardensllc

This is the official website for Gillis Gardens, LLC. Gillis Gardens is a farm, run by myself and my wonderful husband. We believe in biodiversity, organic growing methods and doing things ourselves. I knit, crochet, make jewelry and sew. MrGillis builds, doing everything from our plumbing to our mechanical to our renovations. We are both active members of our little community. We both take care of the plants and animals. He weeds, I harvest. He spreads manure, I plant. We raise multiple breeds of chickens for eggs and meat. We have a herd of Alpacas that we shear every year for their beautiful fiber, which we then have milled into ultra luxurious yarn. We make our own maple syrup, preserves and pickles. We raise bees for honey and herbs for medicine. We also raise pigs for meat and fun. We are the parents of two young children, and consider that our most important job. Follow our adventures here and also on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

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