5 mth update – work done on the homestead!!!

Hey there! Thanks for checking out our blog! This post today is lengthy and full of pictures, my favorite type of blog post! This is our 5 month update on what we have gotten done in our first 5 mths living on this small farm, working to turn it into a one day self-sufficient homestead. I know I had lofty goals and plans when we first moved in but I’ve always been an over-achiever. And honestly, as I have seen how slow many projects end up being when it’s just 1-2 people doing things manually, the old school way, I have come to accept NOW that progress IS very much gradual and I constantly remind myself to celebrate the small accomplishments, rather than ponder on the giant to do list!


We currently have a few projects “in progress” but for the sake of this post and the celebration of completion, I’m sharing projects that are done and/or just things we’ve dolled up that I’m proud of!


Let’s start at the beginning…of the property!


The Gate!






I just cleaned up some weeds, put up a welcome sign, put up a scare crow and corn stalks for our fall decor, put a metal H on the gate (not pictured) and hung my gun warning sign! =)






The mail box needed some lovin’…real bad! I would love to get a new one, something cute and shabby chic or possibly even make one. But for now, I had to save this one’s appearance with some simple black spray paint and new numbers.


The Driveway! Ahhhh, the elusive driveway!


This project I worked on for probably 5 weeks, on and off, as I had time and the weather permitted. I shared about this big project in 3 posts last month and you can see the first post here and in each post at the end it has the link to the next one in the series. This project was near and dear to my heart…and…curb appeal!




Finally giving this little farm a proper “entrance”. Someday, there will be trees lining the driveway, #dreams *sigh*…



Me, in my element, working on that driveway! I am happiest with a tool in hand and being in the outdoors!


The Front Fascade

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This poor little girl was overgrown with half dead bamboo, 1/3 of the trees around the house dead, no real driveway and this hideous dead leaning over tree you can see just there on the left that was in front of the fence line of bamboo. Every time I came home the first 2 mths I’d curse under my breath with just how pitiful the place looked. Which was fuel…for all these projects.


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Now, I just have 1 dead tree on the right side left to remove that is sadly not salvageable at this point and this whole front appearance will be better. The driveway outline (which is phase 1 of the big overall driveway project) is done, a lot was cleaned up, that tree was removed in the front. In the coming months a friend and his tractor are going to help me remove all that bamboo so that you can see the front of the house and the large deck.


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This was a frontal shot of the shop with the two mesquite trees in front of it just prior to our move-in. Before the move-in we did a bunch of yard work cleaning up all those random weeds just so that we could move in.



The goal is for there to be a hammock between those mesquite trees in the future. But so far what we’ve done is create a walk way around that area and the parking area by putting down river rock. We then moved an old rail road tie from the “back 40” to use as an official “parking spot”. The mesquite trees have been trimmed up a little bit but for the most part they are doing great.



yard before move in - 2

This is the parking area, just to the left of the house. There are 4 cottonwood trees there as well as 5 pomegranate trees on the other side of the fence over on that right side. This is what they all looked like when we moved in. They were definitely extra pitiful and needed pruning, shaping and much love!



I have trimmed all 4 trees and the 5 pomegranate trees and cleaned up the ground area. We put river rock down here to create a walk way and hopefully that will be a lovely flower bed next spring. After much love I have concluded 2 of those 4 cottonwood trees are beyond saving, they are losing bark all over and have major cracks. So 2 of the trees will be removed this winter. The pomegranate trees, are doing just wonderful!



This is a good shot of the parking area from further back. I moved another rail road tie over to make 2 “parking spots” in front of the mesquite trees.


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This was the side yard that greeted you as soon as you got out of the car when we first moved in. I hated it…


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We cleaned up the weeds in this area right away upon moving in. Later, when we took all the trellis off of the deck I got the idea to put those up along the broken fence line just to create some separation there. It doesn’t look like a pro but it at least creates a fence for the dogs not running through there all day.

Then just about a week ago I decided to dig these trenches. Behind the AC unit is the out drain for the washer. Since we are on a septic here, the previous owner had put the out drain to just drain into this side yard. I noticed a few weeks ago that it was flooding the area and going under the house, which is no good.

So I dug a pit off of that and then a trench that runs off of that with outer channels. I did this because since we moved in I wanted this area to be a rose garden. So these channels will provide ample gray water (proven reusable on non-edible plants) every 2 days when I do laundry, to water the future roses! Each load of laundry drains twice, the first run fills up all of these channels to about half full. Then about 10 minutes later when it drains again it fills them all perfectly to the top without overflowing any of them! (Once almost done I had to add another channel just because it was overflowing a bit at the end. Now it is perfect!) It will keep the area saturated. Once the flowers go in you probably won’t even be able to see the channels. And I plan on putting some tiny river rock in the bottom of the channels just to make them look cuter, in case you can see them after flower growth.



Here is a good before and after shot of the side yard project! Yay for future roses! And this spot in the east facing side yard has the best view of sunrises so I’ll have to put a little table set or bench out there for enjoying those! Things to come!


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Front west side yard…a mess!


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After we put in some sweat equity just cleaning it up. This has turned out to be both of our dogs’ favorite spot to chase each other around and run circles because the dirt is so loose here almost like sand. They love it!



The deck before…I didn’t like how closed in it was. It was obstructing all of our pretty desert, mountain and sunset views!


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This is what it looks like now! We took all the trellis’ down, hung the flag and just did some general cleaning.



Me, enjoying said deck! =D


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The back side of the house. There used to be a deck here that’s why there is a gap from the house to a concrete pad. I think I’ll add a deck back one day or at least pave that whole area so it doesn’t look so odd.



This took about 3 hours of weed eating and raking to get it all cleaned up. Then I just put some chairs out under the mesquite tree.


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This is the corner area off of the back door, that door comes out from the kitchen/laundry room.



I cleaned up this area and just setup that corner as a temporary place for trash when we bring it out before we burn it. I just sat up a piece of trellis to keep the dogs out of it and it works for the most part. This winter we need to build a trash bin so that it is animal proof, as they have “broken into” this setup twice now, haha!


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A view of the back portion of the backyard. These beams are left over either from an old pergola or an old porch, we’re not sure. Those weeds were ample and relentless. It took me probably 7 or 8 different days throughout the summer in short bursts of 2-3 hours each time working on it to get all these weeds gone and burnt because it was so hot this summer.



We just took down some of the pieces of wood on that structure that were falling off or could risk a head injury, haha! And then that is where we decided to put up the pool this summer!



In our first 5 mths living on the farm I conquered my first plumbing job! It took a lot of research online and I had to go buy tools or supplies 3 different times because I kept getting the wrong size. This is my sink in the master bathroom and we lived in the house a month before I was able to use my bathroom sink!!! That was a happy experience!



After getting the project done and having a mess under there I decided after cleaning it up why not paint it, haha! So I taped up some paper and I painted the bottom silver for a girly twist and then the back and side white just to cover up that old wall paper.



This picture is to commemorate the first tree I ever removed! This tree was obviously dead and was the reason I was so stoked to buy a chainsaw back in July, 2 months after moving into the house. I hated that tree! I mean, who wouldn’t!?!?! It was a wonderful experience and made me feel powerful and accomplished! I took on many trees after this one but she was the first!



Remnants of the tree trimming on those 4 cottonwood trees by the parking area.



Who doesn’t take selfies while they work? Lol!



We lost our first small, frail tree to a Monsoon storm…



Which urged me to remove another dead ugly tree. A large part of the trunk is still there because it shoots off into like 4 and I got tired that day, haha! I will remove the rest of it and maybe I can find something useful to do with it.



After much research I learned how to tell for sure if a tree is dead…


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Or if it still has some fight in it so that you can save it! This is one of my cottonwood trees which I trimmed and fertilized as soon as we moved in. Then the green new growth came and now I just have some more trimming to do once I learned a crack in a branch means it is a goner and needs to go. Hopefully in a couple of years you won’t even be able to tell it looked like this at one time.



I have seen positive signs of improvement on most of our trees but this one in the backyard, which I now know is another Cottonwood tree, is taking a little longer. I haven’t babied it as much as I have the ones in the front just because we aren’t in the backyard much after summer but she’s still trying and I’m so glad! (I am currently working on a project with this tree to dig a swale around it and a trench to water it with gray water from the dishwasher. I’ll post more about that when it is done.)



The pomegranate trees before and now! Just gave them a good trimming and now water them regularly. After this “after” picture I dug a swale around the base of those pomegranate trees so now when I water them twice a week I fill up the swale and it allows it to slowly soak in over 10-15 mins rather than wasting water in run off.



We did a lot of busy work, like cleaning up burn piles and stuff!



I setup an official burn pile area to burn out trash and tree debris. Before we were just doing it on the ground and I just wanted to get a spot a little further away from the house and make a permanent place in the wide open. I just used some blocks I had on the property so the project was free and so when I have time I’ll buy some more and do them another layer higher.



We started home schooling!!!!! After much thought and then a TON of research, I finally started home schooling Riley using the Charlotte Mason Method. You can read all about why I decided to home school as a single parent here! And I went into depth on why we chose the Charlotte Mason Method in this post! So far, we are just a few weeks into it and we both love it! I went over both of our thoughts on home schooling after the first few days in this quick post!



I made homemade Febreeze for the first time and it turned out wonderfully! I make it new every month now and it has been fantastic AND free!!! I went over how I made this Febreeze-diy and the two items below in this post.



I also made a homemade sugar face and body scrub and a sugar shave cream! Fun times! Just taking small steps to become more self sufficient and having to buy less.



I gave blood for the first time in my life! I’m not sure why I never did before, but it made me feel useful!



A local friend/farmer donated some lemongrass to us and we had our first experience potting a plant to keep it alive through winter so we can plant it in the ground in the spring. This plant will help naturally repel mosquitoes and we can also use it in cooking if we want! We did this as part of our Gardening “work” for our Charlotte Mason home schooling method and I shared a post about the lemongrass experience here.



I got a few of my first power tools ever!!! <3


Let’s go INSIDE!!!


This was the dining room when we moved in.



This is our dining room now. (One chair is missing because I started working on a painting project with it. I’m going to paint the chairs teal and then the table and the buffet white!)



The living room before.



The living room now! (I am working on plans to get a smaller couch and some chairs because this sectional isn’t even all put together now because it doesn’t all fit. This was great at one point in our lives but now it is just too big for us and the sage green color doesn’t go with the new white/gray/blues scheme I want to do in the main living areas.)



I got my first chainsaw AND had to fix the chain for the first time! It took some time reading the manual and looking up videos on YouTube but I finally figured it out myself! I was very proud of that!



I took Riley to his first concert ever! Rascal Flatts!!



I love these guys! They are my life! <3



Not farm animals, unfortunately….


We had a road runner come visit the front porch a few days in a row. I was later told it is a good sign to have these around because they’ll kill a snake in a heart beat. That’s awesome! And…there are lots of videos on YouTube that show they can, haha!



Saw my second snake on the property and this one was a big one (about 4 ft long) and it was being “chased” by a desert squirrel, lol!!!! It was the oddest thing I’d ever seen!

If you want to check out the video I uploaded to Facebook of this odd snake situation you can find it shared publicly on my profile here!



We have lots of cottontail rabbits on our land!



I found this neon green beetle on the front gate one day. I’d never seen one so bright, colorful and glittery before! Lol! I’m still not sure if that’s normal or someone painted him, ha!



In late summer we have our Monsoon season which is our wet time of the year where we get lots of rain, big storms, strong winds, etc. And during that time these Sonoran Toads come out after a rain and they are poisonous to dogs and small children. I came home in the evening MANY times and they were chilling on my side walk from the parking area to the front door. They were HUGE…bigger than my fist, I swear! Ugh!



We got a new stove!



We had several of our first monsoon storms on the property. Flooding isn’t major here ON the property, thank goodness! But we do gets lots of water here in the desert when these storms dump it out in 30 mins! It really doesn’t take too long for the dry land to soak it right up! This photo is our vacant 4 acres on the west side, where there will hopefully one day be cows!!!!! #dreamdreamdream



First storms mean storm damage. Not only did we lose a few weak trees but we also had a part of our back fence in our backyard fall down. =(



We realized with the installation of our new handy, dandy outdoor electronic wireless thermometers that what the weather stations say the temp is is actually WRONG! This gauge IS in the shade, I swear. So in mid August, in the shade, it was 123 degrees. I didn’t get much work done outside between mid July to mid September because of this. I tried but I quickly learned my limits! We now know we will work from now (fall/winter) until NEXT summer to try to get as much outdoor stuff done as possible before the next major heat wave because we won’t be able to do much out there after that. So the goal is to make sure that the animals we get this winter and early spring will be cool enough and have ample water and shade before the summer hits. Same goes for the future garden.



We learned 2 more things!!! 1- you shouldn’t put any grease down your drain (period) but especially when you have a septic tank. So not only do I put leftover grease in a jar to dispose of but I also put vinegar and water down the drain once a month to keep our plumbing lines cleared and “healthier” and I also put vinegar down the dishwasher once a month to keep it running well and not have any build up. And then the second thing I learned is that people with chickens keep the egg shells and crush those and use those to feed to the chickens again in their food and the calcium in it help them. So since my neighbor gives me free chicken eggs, I save all the egg shells for her and take her a bag of those any time I go to get more eggs! What a wonderful thing that is!



Riley is learning to climb trees, lol, like a real country boy! Too bad most of our trees here are too small!



I colored my hair back to my natural color (dark brown) for the first time in 5 years! I am happy with it! Maybe the blonde and red highlights can just signify my 20’s as I’m now 30 and I’m loving this solid dark brown enough that I think I will just stay “all natural”! =)


Well…without going over every single little thing, I think that is the most I can share with you for now! I can’t wait to update you come February or March with our successes, trials and learning experiences we figure out this upcoming winter! How fun will that be!




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08-02-15 Rain and the end of Monsoon!

We did not get much done around the farm from early July to early August because it was just too hot!!! When we first moved in I knew I’d need accurate outdoor temps and I have always thought the temps on the media outlets are WRONG. So I bought a good indoor/outdoor system with an outdoor thermometer and an indoor 7 inch digital wireless monitor! It measures indoor and outdoor temps as well as humidity. The temps throughout July and even in August got up to 126 degrees at times!!!! So even when I would try to get up at 6am it would already be in the high 90s! Add to that that June to August is our Monsoon (rainy season) in Arizona and the humidity was suffocating on top of the already super high temps!

On our “First Summer” on the farm I definitely learned a lot, from experience and also talking to my modern homesteading neighbor. It reminds me of the show Alaska; The Last Frontier how they rush around all Spring, Summer and Fall to get all of their chores and hunting done because in the winter it is so terrible they stay indoors as much as possible and just “survive”. Well that’s how the Arizona summers are! And it isn’t the hottest June and July as I had always kind of thought or assumed, without putting much thought into it really. Rather, it is hottest July and August, with August being the worst by far! Lesson learned! I actually went ahead and put a note in my Google calendar for NEXT year to make sure all major outdoor projects are done or nearing completion by June, so that I don’t plan to put too much effort into outdoor chores during the hottest time of the year. Thankfully here we have wonderful weather almost the entire rest of the year. So I will be using that to my advantage all the way up until next summer!

So as the days ticked by I had to focus on indoor projects but thankfully I was pretty busy with work and so I didn’t have a ton of time on my hands as it was. But come the first week of August we had had a big storm and it caused some damage.

Our property is primarily flat and mostly level so when it pours it just pools in some areas around the property and causes some MINOR flooding. This picture above is the corner of the front yard, that yellow is the dying bamboo along a broken fence. Just beyond that is the driveway.

This is looking off of our front porch to the west 2 acres of ours that is totally vacant, natural desert. It looks like much more rain out there than it really was.

After a good storm we had this small dead tree fall. Thankfully it fell away from the house and just “rested” on this fence, didn’t cause any damage.

This is a tree in our backyard that as far as I can tell has never had a water source going to it. I’m not sure if it’s a native desert tree or a planted evergreen tree. Because it hasn’t had leaves I can’t tell what kind it is. I’ve been watering most all of our trees weekly by hand just to try to spur them in the right direction. This guy started getting a few green leaves on it by the end of Summer!

You see the green leaves!!!

Being as the goal is 100% homesteading and being self sufficient that will eventually mean eating all natural and only eating what we can produce or reproduce here on the farm. The idea may sound far fetched but it really is what I want to do. So I decided to splurge on getting myself a great cutting board as I planned to be doing a lot more cooking than I normally do!

Not only is this cutting board awesome but it’s also beautiful and I love having it on my counter at all times! Makes me feel somewhat like a…dare I say…grown up!!!

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06-26-15 First dust storm & first handyman project!

Within about 3 weeks of moving in I finally went and bought new flags for the property! I bought 1 for the front gate of the property to “stake my claim” and proudly display my patriotic love…for all my neighbors to know! At my house, flags are up year round, not just holidays. This one is temporarily attached to this fence until I install a 20-30 ft tall pole that I plan to cement into the ground near there at the front edge of the property.

The view coming from the house up the driveway to the gate, flag happily flying in the wind! Love it!!!

Here is where I installed the other flag on the front of the house! =)

It wasn’t long before we had our first haboob in the new house. A haboob is an Arizona dust storm. And every one I’ve ever experienced I lived up in a city and let me tell you, they are very different. Out here, they are starting and picking up speed, gathering all the loose dust and there ins’t much in the way of houses and buildings to get in their way, slow them down or break them up. So they are fierce out here! Not only that but I have strong cross winds east to west on this property and that is even evident in the ways the mature trees have grown, angled to the west. So this storm came and slammed right into us. We were safely inside but I was fascinated by how different it was to be in the country. I quickly realized that if your windows and doors aren’t new or need some work, it is seriously like the DUST BOWL and you WILL get dust in your house. Plus, both of our flags flew off the poles and ended up in the yards.

The haboob as it was coming in.

Still in the distance. With each dust storm we are learning to go out and take the flags down, make sure all windows are closed tight, make sure there are no clothes on the line, make sure there aren’t any light weight items (watering can) sitting on the front porch or else it will take off across the yard. We have also learned to not put boxes or trash items into the burn pile until we are going to actually burn them because I made the mistake once of piling up 30 of our old boxes into the trash pile to burn the next day, a storm hit and ALL 30 of those boxes were spread throughout our property! The next morning I got to go gather those up alone after taking Riley to school and burned them immediately. Lesson learned!!!

We have also learned with the age of this house that if any electronic items are plugged in and not in a surge protector, unplug it in a storm. Also, no bathing or showering in a storm as we have a metal roof. I also learned that it is near pointless to have cute light weight plastic chairs setup in the backyard in a seating arrangement because when a dust storm hits 1-3 times a week June to September in southern Arizona…those chairs WILL be relocated. So I can either replace them every time or just take the damn chairs and put them in the shop until we actually have company!!! Which is what I did! As some people might say that these situations and things we have gone through for our first few storms must suck, I totally DISAGREE! We are loving learning and learning together! With each new thing I learn as a single, 30 year old woman, I am eager to share that with my 11 year old son and he is just as happy to learn about something because he likes to be helpful. And he has accepted that we are on this journey of living in the country, doing for ourselves, fixing things, learning new ways to do things, being useful. And for the most part, he loves all of that and has had very little complaints! Well, he did complain the first 3 weeks we lived here without internet or cable! Lol! Because we just used the data on our phones and my WiFi hot spot to do stuff on my laptop which was strictly prohibited to work stuff. So he bored with no TV but we had a lot of family time playing board games, working around the house and watching DVDs. Then our appt came around finally and they setup our satellite internet and now we have basic cable. I opted to not do what we always did in the past which was to have the largest package and a DVR to record ALL those shows we loved so much. We wanted a simpler life…one that doesn’t involve a lot of time on the couch. So we have basic cable and I made sure it included the Disney channels for Riley and HGTV and Food Network for me! =D

I took on my first plumbing project! When we first moved in the master bathroom sink drain was messed up. It took me 2 trips to the store to end up with all the right materials I needed, watched several videos and had to buy 2 new tools I didn’t have. But alas, I got that baby on! And it took some muscle and plenty of curse words in my frustrations but honestly…I almost cried when it was done because I did it! I mean think about it…I’m this cute, 30 year old woman who has lived in the city the last 15 years and although I have a desire to do a lot and fix a lot…being able to fix stuff like plumbing issues had yet to happen in my life until THAT day! And I couldn’t have been more proud!

After having fixed the new drain and stopper and spending so much time below that nasty sink I just knew I had to clean up that area while it was on my mind. So I taped off the pipe and the drawers and painted the back and left side with white spray paint. Then I used a glittery metallic paint I had and painted the bottom just for fun! With the painting done, the paper removed and everything all dry I put my organizers in there! So proud of myself for that one!

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