Let’s take a walkabout my zone 1 garden in the future food forest! *YouTube video*

On the day everything was wet here a few days ago and I did the tour of the future food forest I decided to tour what I call Zone 1. I am only about 1/3 of the way through the book Gaia’s Gardens about home scale permaculture BUT I am learning so much. I had never thought to include my front yard in the design, doh! I had thought I’d have grass and a rose garden and just pretty flowers and that’s it. Talk about feeling like a ditz!

 

So, I have dubbed this my zone 1 garden in the front yard and back yard that all already is fenced in on it’s own on the 8 acres overall and the front yard already has a lot of mature trees for shade to create that “canopy” affect that you really want in a mature food forest, or really that you NEED!

 

So now I’ve got plans in my head, I’ve drawn them out and I’ve talked about them on our Facebook page a lot so today in this video on YouTube I do a walkabout showing you this area in “real time video” and where I plan to put things! There are so many details I do not have planned out but rather just have the frame work figured out thus far!

 

If you have any ideas or suggestions I’d love to hear them!

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

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We have identified some of our trees!!!

I put this video on YouTube and shared it all over Facebook on local gardening groups asking for help in identifying a few trees in my front yard!

 

And success!!!!!!!!!

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I’d like to introduce to you my 3 trees in the front yard! They are Chinese Pistache Trees! This is what they will look like in a year or two when they’re more mature and healthy AND they get passed the straggly young phase!

 

 

Chinese Pistache Tree

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Love!!!!!!!! IF love was a tree I think it’d look something like this beauty!!!

 

Then on the west side of the front yard are two LIVE OAK trees!!!

 

This is what they look like young, like mine are.

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And then one day when it gets a little older it’ll look like this!

 

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I just love learning about these trees that are here so that I know how and when to prune them, how to properly care for them so that they can come back to life and be wonderful blessings on our homestead!! You will see these guys in future videos on the YouTube channel for sure!

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

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Check out my WET future food forest!

We had a good 2 inches of rain here a little less than a week ago and when I went out to let the dogs out after the rain had stopped I decided to tour my future food forest and see where all it was holding water. Boy did I learn a lot! You can check out the video on YouTube here!!!

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

 

If you like what you see here make sure you subscribe to the blog and the YouTube channel to stay up to date on our #startuphomestead adventures!!!

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Our chicken coop situation, project & video on YouTube!

When we moved to this property we knew we’d have animals in the future. We also knew there was an existing chicken coop attached to the shop and a detached tack shed but otherwise no other animal “structures” on the property. The coop hadn’t been used in years and the run was pretty demolished by who knows what.

 

So since I’ve spent the first 5-6 mths on this property cleaning up around the 8 acres, fixing up the house and doing minor repairs inside I decided it was time to start on animal projects. I’d love to get my chickens and pigs before we come out of winter just because I want to have them here and give them time to adapt to their new home before we go into summer, as I presume that will be the hardest time of year for them here in southern Arizona.

 

So last week I decided to go ahead and start doing something about this chicken cook situation. Below I’ll show you photos of what it looked like before and also some photos of the work we did on it last week PLUS a video tour I posted on YouTube! The link to that is near the bottom of this post!

 

HERE ARE PICTURES OF WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE WHEN WE MOVED IN AND UP UNTIL JUST RECENTLY.

 

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This is the outside storage area, like a “carport” off the coop.

 

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Inside the coop

 

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Inside the coop

 

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Inside the coop. It has a little shelf over there in the corner and there is power in here to YAY, I can add a light on an automatic timer switch if I need to give them either more light in the winter or put a heat lamp in there. In the summer I’ll have a fan on each size of the breeze way circulating air in there to try to keep them cooler.

 

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Behind the coop, the old run. With a big desert bush in the middle.

 

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I’m not sure what is up with that half way behind the storage area but it looks rough!

 

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That bush.

 

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THEN I GOT TO WORK ON CLEANING UP THE OUTSIDE STORAGE AREA AND FIXING THE COOP DOOR.

 

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Outside storage area as of about 2 weeks ago.

 

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Over the last few months as I have been removing or trimming trees I have been saving certain limbs that I thought would be useful in the coop. I read an article about having some limbs attached to the inside of the coop and that the birds like to “chill” or “play” on them, lol! So that is what some of these are for!

 

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I cleared out all the stuff I had in there and just raked out the whole area. It was just all nasty. I moved these little storage shelves I had in the shop out there as temporary storage. Then once I did that I got to thinking about how that opening faces the south and how this little area gets good sun exposure but not direct all day long. So I got to thinking this might be a good area for a temporary green house type experiment. Or maybe when I start seedlings inside I can bring them to this spot to transition to outdoors before I plant them outside. More research to be done on that though later!

 

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Then the door wouldn’t open more than 1 foot…

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So I started raking all the dirt out of the way blocking the door and quickly realized it wasn’t just that but 1 of the hinges on the door was broken.

 

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I got the hinge repaired, added some support nails and got the dirt all cleared so now she opens 75% of the way and closes perfectly since it’s all level now! Yay!

 

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I put some pots here because I’m just trying to envision really what it’s going to be like. I know there are a few herbs that are really good for chickens and since I’m also studying Permaculture at the same time I have decided there is at least 1 fruit tree that I’m going plant right beside the run so they can eat the fruit when it drops (plums) and then also I’m going to plant blueberry bushes along their fence line for them to eat as well and I can harvest the other side they can’t get to. But to start I’m going to plant some herbs in pots near the door so that those can start growing and I will use those to cut some off and give to them as treats as I walk by all the time.

 

THEN WE GOT TO WORK ON CLEANING UP THE FUTURE RUN A LITTLE BIT.

 

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What you see here is the coop in the middle, a covered storage area on the left, to the left of that is the wood fence to my backyard, on the far right is the outdoor storage area beside the coop that I showed you above and to the right of that is the gate that leads to my house and where I park. I had to tackle removing this big bush since it takes up (what I presume) is all of the OLD run. The new run will be much larger.

 

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Before I started this project I put out a reqeust on Facebook on local farming/homesteading pages asking for advice on how to remove this bush/tree and if anybody knew what kind it was. Since this is the desert and that thing was surviving all by itself just fine without being watered or cared for I knew it had to have deep roots. Which would make it harder to remove.

 

Luckily, within a few minutes I had some very helpful people sharing great info with me! Turns out it is a Greasewood bush also known as a Desertbroom bush. These guys not only are natives to the Sonoran Desert and DO have super deep roots BUT they are also very beneficial! They need no maintenance technically and their leaves have medicinal purposes. So upon researching the type further and confirming it is in fact a Greasewood bush I found that the leaves when crushed and used in numerous ways are anti bacterial, anti viral, relieve muscle aches, help upset stomachs, you name it! I’m all about having “useful” plants on the property so I was very glad to learn all about this guy here on the farm and how really there is no reason for me to get rid of him. The birds will like some shade and might also want to play in some of the lower limbs so I decided to keep it.

 

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Since it has a bunch of smaller limbs I didn’t think my chainsaw would work, I thought I’d have a lot of kickback. So I did first try my jig saw and a hand saw and neither went very well. So I went and got my chainsaw and Riley helped hold the smaller limbs down while I cut so that they weren’t popping back.

 

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We got the majority of the bigger ones along the bottom cut out and pulled away.

 

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Then got to work on the smaller ones around the bottom with the pruning sheers.

 

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So we got a lot cut out but the run was still a mess and the sun was setting.

 

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This is what this guy looks like close to the ground. Lots of big and lil limbs just going all over the place. I’ll have to make sure to prune this every few mths so it doesn’t get all wild again but that’s totally fine by me.

 

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Finally got the whole area raked out of debris, trash, horse poo, etc.

 

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She’s all cleaned up! The biggest thing left to do for the run is build all new fence around it, put in a gate/door, predator proof the bottom with hardware cloth, put netting over the top and add some features inside the run that I want to do like you’ll see below in my Pinterest inspiration photos. So yeah, still a lot to do but cleaning this up motivated me to keep at the project finally!

 

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MY FAVORITE BEFORE AND AFTER WITH THIS PROJECT SO FAR!

 

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I’m still amazed at how it actually looks like a tree from a distance even though it’s just a bush. It is so tall it has to be at least 3-5 years old. And something that has survived that long on it’s own I just couldn’t dare remove.

 

Here is the video on YouTube I just published today talking about this chicken coop project, doing a tour of the inside, introducing my puppies to you all (lol!) and a photo collage at the end of all these photos I just shared on here!

 

JUST SO THAT YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHERE I WANT TO GO WITH THIS COOP HERE ARE SOME IDEAS I’VE FOUND ON PINTEREST THAT I’VE SAVED AS MY INSPIRATION PHOTOS!

 

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I want a run built like this but with netting over the top!

 

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I like the idea of having a super cute door like this on the run as a “gate” just because it’s so cute! And I may have an extra door or two I could use for this it is just a matter of making it work. But I do love the pop of color as well!

 

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I’m going to plant some things in the run in boxes like this for the chickens to eat as they grow UP because I just think it’s such an awesome idea! So this will go outside in the run!

 

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I’ve also read that chickens like to “play” on stumps and I have plenty of logs big enough for this so I’ll jam a few in the ground in the run for them to play on.

 

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Not only am I in love with the “fresh eggs” sign and just have to have one but I also love that they have all these potted plants and flowers right outside the chicken coop. I probably won’t do any non edible flowers unless I’m trying to bring bees to the area (there’s an idea….) but I will definitely do herbs and cumfrey right outside the door and also along their fence line.

 

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I love this PVC automatic chicken feeder idea!

 

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I want the chicken coop to be on solar for the minimal things that will be running out there and not really because it needs to be because there is already power to the coop but just as a step to gradually move all structures on the property to solar and all NEW structures will be only on solar.

 

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This is one of the ideas I saw where they use tree limbs in the coop for the chickens. In fact, I hope my coop looks a lot like this one because I’m going to paint it white in there and I also have to do the ceiling and I have enough limbs to do a setup just like this one for my chickens.

 

Well, thank you again for stopping by and checking it out! I hope you enjoyed the post and the video! If you have any suggestions on what I’m working on or what type of dual purpose bird to raise here in the Sonoran Desert that can handle the heat, I’m open to suggestions!

 

Please subscribe to stay up to date on what we’re doing here on our start up homestead! =D

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

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Homestead Video Tour at Little Farm Big Dreams 6 mths in!

Hey everybody! I put together a quick post strictly to share with you my first video tour of our start up homestead in southern Arizona! I wanted to show everybody what it is now as I’ve become utterly fascinated with homesteaders on YouTube sharing not only their farms and many helpful tips but their LIVES with the world. And maybe one day I’ll have so much going on here that I can do a video or two a week but for now I thought I’d start by sharing with you what I’m working with.

 

We have lived here about 6 mths now and in that time it was a huge transition period; getting used to living in the country, doing some repairs to the house that had sat empty for awhile, working on cleaning up and clearing 2 of the 8 acres (which is what the house and all out buildings set on, the rest are raw, as you’ll see in the video) and getting started home schooling.

 

I shared a post here about our big 5 mth update with a ton of before and after photos of what it was like when we moved in and things we’ve done!

 

If you’re interested in our endeavors in home schooling I shared a post about that here with a ton of information about why I chose to home school as a single Mom who is self employed!

 

So, about a week ago on a super windy day (I know, I’m sorry, lol!) I decided to do a quick video tour of the property. This is my first time working with videos and tying them together through YouTube and learning some basic editing tricks. I still have much to learn but I’m excited to one day incorporate more videos into this blog for an over-all experience for those following along for education OR entertainment!

 

Here is the link to our YouTube video, our first homestead tour!

Please give it a like and hey, maybe you’ll even feel like subscribing to keep an eye out for any future videos and/or to make me feel special! Lol! 

 

As always, thanks for stopping by our little piece of heaven here online! =D

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

 

#startuphomestead #singlemomhomesteading #southernarizona #sonorandesert #8acreproperty #littlefarmbigdreams

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Our First Hugelkultur bed

So upon getting this land and quickly diving into research about farming, gardening, farm animals, homesteading, etc I stumbled upon Permaculture. Shortly after that someone on a Facebook homesteading (nationwide) group mentioned a Hugelkultur bed. So then, of course, I had to research Hugelkultur and I was just blown away!!!

 

Hugelkulture is where you dig a small ditch or trench (depending on what size you want) down into your soil and then place old tree logs  down in it. They can be any size, any length, any thickness as long as they fit into the area you dug out. So you can dig an area to fit whatever logs you have and what you’re working with on your land! Which is fantastic! Then you layer on top of that dirt, twigs, more dirt, water each layer and then finally cover with dirt so you have a mound and top that with mulch! The REASON you do this is because (it is totally genius I’m not sure why everybody isn’t doing this with their extra wood laying around their property…if they don’t have or use a wood stove) as the wood begins to rot and decompose under there it is putting nutrients (GOOD nutrients) into all the soil around it. The dampness from you putting water on that layer when you first built it in combination with the dirt and leaves added to it to retain that moisture, aid in that break down process. Also, when you do water that mound in the future, those logs help the entire mound to HOLD ONTO every bit of water you put onto it, as does the mulch. So you’re keeping more water right there where you need it to do what you need it to do without irrigation. And since the bigger logs could take years to break down, you have a setup that takes you maybe an hour tops and it is a self-fertilizing gardening mound for YEARS! Brilliant!

 

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So I knew I’d incorporate this on the homestead somewhere but I didn’t know where. The big site I plan to do the food forest on is going to need a lot of prep work before I can plant anything or even put in hugel beds to sit and break down for me as I’m not sure where I’ll want them yet. So one day raking up some leaves in my small front yard area (fenced in in front of the front deck) I decided I could totally do it in one of these raised beds that goes around the front deck. It is a large deck so there are 3 pretty good sized raised beds.

 

So I got to looking around for supplies because I knew I had wood logs, twigs, mulch, top soil, etc and so I just wanted to make sure I had what I needed. Then I remembered another video I had seen where they talk about using dead, dry leaves as part of the layering and I had those as a few of our trees just started (or finished) shedding the very few pitiful leaves they had, lol! So I got to work!

 

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This is the bed I started out with. Pardon the extension cord running out to Christmas lights, haha! There were some nice little weeds that started growing in there with some recent rains we had. Also the overhang of the porch waters this area pretty abundantly when it rains (until I add a water harvesting system in the future, of course!). So I pulled a lot of these by hand and dug out some of the peskier ones with a shovel. I didn’t worry about getting them all.

 

So I had my trench area dug out.

 

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Then I grabbed cottonwood tree logs I had cut up and set aside for outdoor bonfires but hey…this is way more important than that! =D Put those guys in there. As soon as they were in I watered the area down so those logs would be wet.

 

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Then I covered that with a little bit of dried leaves and debris from the yard, not a ton.

 

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Then I covered that with some of the dirt I had dug out.

 

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Then I covered that with cottonwood twigs and kindling.

 

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Then I covered that with some potting soil because I had some handy and I didn’t think it could hurt. Then I sprayed this down again with water.

 

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I put more top soil on this and then spent some more time digging out additional weeds on each side. And then watered it down again.

 

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Then once I felt the twigs were mostly covered and the ground around it was all good and I had covered it in water then I added my final layer which is mulch. This was the last bag of this stuff I had so I can’t do the other beds until I buy some more supplies, which will hopefully be here soon.

 

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I just finished by cleaning up that concrete area to the left, which is what is just off of my deck with a pergola above. And she was done!!!

 

THE PLAN is for these to sit and develop and let the wood start breaking down. I won’t plant anything in these until spring and I need to do a little more research about what I want to plant right up by the house. I know a Wisteria vine is going up on the pergola but that is a few feet further to the left here that you can’t see and doesn’t have anything to do with this one bed. I’m thinking I’ll do a mix of herbs, maybe a flower or two (something like citronella which will repel the mosquitoes come spring and summer) and then some lettuce type crops that you can frequently harvest from since these are so close to the house.

 

I will water this weekly just to give it a little soaking and help aid in the process as we do not get regular rainfall here. And I’ll probably take weekly pictures just to kind of keep a record and keep an eye on it and how it does.

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

 

If you have any suggestions on what I should plant here in Zone 9 in southern Arizona that would be great to have right off the front deck, also an area all visitors see and walk passed as they walk up to my front door, I’m open to suggestions. Please comment below with ideas and don’t forget to subscribe to the page so you can get a quick email any time I share a new post about our homestead setup adventures! Thanks so much for checking us out!

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What we have done so far to move towards self-sufficiency…

As I write posts and find myself sharing on Facebook homesteading and self sufficiency groups I have people asking me how I wish to be 100% self sufficient and how that isn’t really possible these days. I guess I should explain what I mean by being 100% self sufficient and we can start from there.

 

To me this is what being 100% self sufficient looks like:

All your meat comes from your own animals

All your produce, fruit, berries, herbs and medicinal herbs come from your own gardens

Using solar panels, wind turbines and a well to be “off the grid” of society and also remove those bills

Using rain water, swales, trenches and gray water to be useful on your property for watering to cut down on use from the well

All your food intake comes from somewhere on your farm or possibly bartering with nearby locals doing the same with resources you don’t have yet

Being 100% debt free, maybe aside from a mortgage

Making your own clothes and bedding

Having the skills to hunt for meat, not for sport

Having the skills to survive in the wilderness for a week with just a backpack if you had to

Having the skills and equipment to protect your home and land

Having a way to make your own ammo

Having a general understanding of how electricity, plumbing and building structures all work

Having a GOOD understanding of how to care for your livestock animals for their health and your safety

Using medicinal herbs or homemade essential oils for all medical treatments

Having enough general knowledge AND equipment for most first aid or medical safety skills to not need a hospital other than a life threatening emergency

Making all your cleaning agents and personal hygiene items yourself so that you know there aren’t toxins or heavy metals in them

Using all glass dishware to avoid the hysteria of possible toxins

Knowing how to do laundry the pioneer way for when it is necessary

Knowing how to play at least 1 instrument…(hey, we all need amusement, right?)

Having all the basic tools you need to do any task for the home or on the farm, even if it’s harder work or more physical labor, as long as it gets the job done

Knowing how to take care of any issue in your home yourself without having to call someone for help or hiring something out

 

Now THAT is a long list but I think I about covered it. Now in the ways that we cannot be TOTALLY self sufficient unless I didn’t have to work and we rarely ever left the house…I’d still need to buy gas for the car to go places and general maintenance and upkeep on the car. But I have to say, to be frank, if I never left the house again and we survived financially and healthfully I think I’d be okay with that. Of course, I’d still want to go see family and friends and we’d have to use our transportation to go barter for items. But I do hope to one day have a road side farm stand where I can sell our excess produce in season and also sell my homemade hygiene items for the health conscious people and maybe even sell some quilts. But those things I can do from home. I would still have to have our satellite internet so maybe that is what people say when they say I can’t be all self sufficient. But I will say, I want to do what I want to do for a couple of reasons.

 

The reasons I want to be AS self sufficient as possible are because:

It makes me feel good, strong and capable!

It makes me feel like I’m teaching my son invaluable lessons he can’t learn elsewhere or wouldn’t learn in society

It is very affordable to live if you’re producing all your own stuff

You have less bills when you don’t need all the “extra stuff” like cable, multiple computers, video gaming consoles, etc.

It reminds me of an old way of life that has always intrigued me.

Maybe I was born in the wrong era…

I want to not have to have a day job of any kind and still be able to have our homestead because the few “bills” we have to pay for I can supplement with the items we sell from the homestead.

 

 

So now that I’ve said that I want to share what we’ve been doing and the things I’ve been working to begin our SLOW but steady MIGRATION to one day NEAR self sufficiency homesteading!

 

What we have been working on the last 6 months:

Stopped buying ALL frozen food EXCEPT Riley’s damn chicken nuggets =/ *grunt, roan* (will explain later in another post)

Started stocking up on all “pantry essentials” that thrifty single Mom’s usually don’t keep.

Making homemade cleaning products

Homemade facial products

Not using paper towels or napkins, instead dish towels.

We hang dry all of our laundry

We recycle items

Burn trash instead of using trash service

Redirecting gray water to be useful in gardens

Homemade spider killing spray

Homemade bug repellent

Homemade anti itch spray

Homemade febreeze

Monthly preventative septic treatment instead of hiring a pro once a year

Fixing small plumbing issues ourselves

Bartering with neighbor for fresh chicken eggs

Selling unused items to have additional funds to go back into the homestead

Homeschooling instead of relying on the public system

Find a reuse for everything we possibly can. Thinking twice or 3 times before putting something in the burn pile.

Making homemade dog food

Buying all of our grocery items in bulk at Sam’s club

Prepping homemade meals and freezing them so they’re just as easy as store bought frozen meals

Doing a TON of research on how to make and cook as many homemade things as possible, with the least amount of preservative type items in it.

Stocking up on Mason jars and glass bottles to use and reuse.

Working on getting rid of most of our plastic storage containers due to the potential toxins when heating

Buying organic meat and produce until we have our own to fill our freezer and pantry with.

Finding new uses for old warn out clothes we’d otherwise just donate

Working adamantly to pay off my one car loan so that I have one less debt…and possibly something big to barter with!

Continuing to teach Riley how to shoot a gun and a bow and arrow with efficiency, part of his home schooling “life skills”.

Teaching Riley how to drive so that when we have a tractor or quad he can be my go to man if I need him, even though he’s only 11 (useful farm skill).

NETWORKING with a large variety of people nationwide but also in our backyard to help teach us about raising animals in Az, homesteading do’s and don’ts from people nationwide, joining local bartering groups, etc. All in an effort to get “in the know” with the homesteading thing and hopefully learn from others! Which has already happened tremendously!

 

 

What we are researching to do next:

Doing a TON of research on how to make and cook as many homemade things as possible, with the least amount of preservative type items in it. (This is a huge thing for me and I’ll do a whole other post to go into this and what all I’ve learned that is just plum fascinating!)

Research which seasonings we need to buy and keep in bulk for cooking until we can get the herb garden going.

Currently researching homemade soaps, shampoos and deodorant to get our hygiene products 100% homemade.

I have spent COUNTLESS hours researching the most effective way to garden productively and “with nature” in the low desert with our hot summers, year round cross winds, small predators and late summer monsoon rains. Researching this BEFORE setting it all up to make the first trial run as effective as possible, assuming there will still be some stumbling involved.

Researching how to dig a root cellar since I’m going to need somewhere to store all that canned goodness.

Researching how to grow wheat and what plants and trees I need to grow to one day produce all of our own oils and flowers used in cooking, baking and skin care.

Also researching what types of solar power and wind turbines will be useful and efficient on our specific property and how to set those up.

Researched how to get the house on our private well so that we can be off city water 100% and that project is in the works, easier than I thought. So then we’ll have 1 less utility bill.

 

 

If you have any insight, advice, suggestions or anything at all to share PLEASE DO! Consider me an eager baby bird ready to be fed knowledge from any source I can find it in because that is just about how I live my life 24/7…always learning! Thanks for reading!

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

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How to re-use washer gray water!

So in early November walking around my back yard I noticed some water standing at the back of the house and after some curious poking around I realized it was the gray water draining from the washer to the side of the house and then due to improper setup and slope it was running under the house. Standing water anywhere is a no no, but especially near, under or up against your home!

I didn’t want to call a handyman out to fix it and I got to thinking with all the research I’ve been doing lately about gardening, permaculture and especially desert gardening with minimal or the least amount of water. So I got to doing some research on the uses of gray water…and quickly landed on this idea to redirect the washer gray water INTO the side yard where it is supposed to go but to then dig a trench so that the water will be gravity fed into that side yard in certain areas SO THAT I can have my future rose garden there. Ever since we moved in I wanted this small area to be a rose garden one day and this water drainage “issue” can now be the SOLUTION for that. As Geoff Lawton of Permaculture always says, let the problem be the solution!!! Think about it!!! =D

 

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So I quickly got to work on that. This project took me about 2 half days maybe, all by myself in early November and the only tools I used were a shovel and a rake. After the project was finished to make it look cuter I gathered some bricks and river rock laying around on the farm and “fancied” it up a bit and that’s it. So the project was 100% free, very necessary to not cause damage to the house and will be free water for a future non-edible garden AND…reusing something that would have otherwise gone to “waste” and just been absorbed into the ground elsewhere and non-contained, non-purposeful way! Those are all major bummers!

 

This is a heavy picture post as I took pictures throughout the whole process, as I always do. The visuals are very necessary for me to see my way through a project and to ALSO help me feel more accomplished. I also decided to do some videos of this project strictly to send to my Mom to show her but then I ended up sharing them publicly on You tube and since they help you see the water in action and everything I decided to share them on here as well.

 

VIDEO DISCLOSURE: I am no professional film maker (I know there is a word for that??) and in fact I’d call myself a super newbie to “recording videos” of anything other than family and kids playing! So these are a little shaky and there is no special editing or anything, very cut and dry and less than 1 minute for most of them.

 

Let the fun and pictures begin!!!

 

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As a fun little reminder, this is what that side yard looked like when we moved into the home about 6 mths ago now.

 

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Then this is what it looked like early summer after we cleaned up the weeds and junk. There used to be a chainlink fence there that a tenant’s animals knocked down, I guess.

 

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In early Fall I was poking around outside on a windy day and I thought I’d reuse these trellis’ we took off the front deck and put them up as a “temporary fence” since I had the posts so I just cable tied them up there. No it doesn’t look fancy or even pretty but it serves its purpose for now and when we redo the front fence, I’ll put new fencing up here as well. But free is always nice!

 

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Day 1 of the project!

This is what the area where the washer drain comes out goes to. This is the side of the house, directly under the laundry room and also next to the Ac. You can see there are bricks there I guess someone else had this intention of the water flowing towards our view (towards the camera) and out that way….it does not do that. Lol!

 

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Here is what that area looked like the day I walked over and decided to do this project.

 

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Step 1 for any project for me is always CLEAN UP! I have to start with a clean slate. Some people say that wastes time but I will tell you there is nothing more productive than working on a project with a happy, positive outlook and having a “clean space” is what gives me that outlook. Therefore…I always clean up first.

 

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This is the area just between the house and the fence, where the AC and electric meter live. These are also between myself and the majority of the side yard where those future roses will go. So I knew before starting my first trench would have to come out, around the AC and go between these two guys to then lead out into the main part of the side yard.

 

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I removed one of those bricks that was in the ground there to create an opening and got to digging the trench. I just used a regular rounded edge shovel because it is the only one I have. Thankfully the ground wasn’t too bad on this side of the house, I’m assuming from periodic soakings from the washer. Although you’ll see in the first video below the majority of the washer water does not actually come THIS way, as you’d think it does.

 

So I dug that first trench and then dug it around the AC then straight out into the side yard only maybe 2 inches deep the whole way. I really started was starting my outline and seeing what shape I wanted to have, where I wanted it to go. After doing that I dug 4 channels off of that main trench. And THEN I turned the washer on to drain so I could see what would happen after that little bit of work. This video below shows what happened the 1st time I ran the washer…

Digging a trench from washer drain part 1

Let me just say, at 20 seconds in when that water starts to go into that channel it made me feel like a Mama Bear proud of a kid doing something on their own for the first time. It was like I immediately thought “OMG, this is going to work!!!! How cool!!!”

 

So in this video we learned that with the trench obviously not done and not deep enough, after that water fills up that initial basin it then rises up and runs UNDER the house! Which is then where all the remaining water goes, preventing it from entering new said trench! Progress!

 

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So then I got to work on digging these existing trenches and channels all a little bit deeper and making some parts wider. At this point I just have 1 trench with 4 channels off of it to the left and right.

 

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A little deeper…

 

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Then I shift my focus back on that basic and I dig it deeper and wider as well, to catch more water initially.

 

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Then, thinking of that water running under the house I start shoveling mud from the pile of what I had dug out and start mounding it around the drain. I put it all up against the side of the house and all around, to block water from OVERFLOWING anywhere other than into the new trench!

 

And then I filmed video #2!!!!

Digging a trench for washer drain part 2

 

You see about half way through this video that this is the first time the water in the trench had MADE it around the corner and passed the first channel! It ALSO starts filling the basin and spilling over that brick wall on the front side AND a little bit starts spilling over on the right side going under the wire for the AC unit and back behind there. =( Add to that that once it got about half way down the channel, none of it was really deep enough so then it just started flooding the banks and overflowing. Lol! Learning as we go!

 

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Overflowing the banks because all the channels were too shallow at this point.

 

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Adding more mud around the main basin to keep water in the places I want it, without over flowing.

 

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I dug every trench deeper and as the water would flow through I’d watch curves or corners where it’d slow down so as that would happen I’d be there with my shovel to make certain areas wider or deeper as needed.

 

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At this point I still only have 4 channels off of the main trench. But I had dug them all to 4-5 inches deep, which was as deep as I felt they probably needed to be. So I ran the washer (not videoed) and with the washer draining TWICE with each load, it put out just enough water to fill the trench, all 4 channels and then over flow the very last channel but ONLY after that second drain cycle. So I concluded with a 5th channel, then it should be fine to hold (and trap, to soak into the ground to water nearby flowers) the water from 2 cycles from each load of laundry. I didn’t plan for it to hold more than that as we typically do about 1 load of laundry per day and that’s it, rather than doing a ton all in a day.

 

 

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With water standing in the whole system it made for digging and trenching THAT much easier. Thank God for that with our Arizona hard, clay-like soil…if you can even call it soil!

 

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I put 2 stray bricks on each side of the wiring for the AC unit just to try to keep water away from it and then put up a mud mound on the left side of it as well so that water won’t even go that way. I also put a mud mound on this front side of it where you used to be able to see the bricks in the ground, now you can’t.So it made that berm type thing about an inch taller.

 

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By this time, I added that 5th channel off the end since it was still overflowing at the end after a second drain (2 per load).

 

Digging a trench for washer drain part 3

You can see in the video that channels 3 & 4 weren’t as deep as all the others yet.

You will also see by the time of this video I no longer had issues with escaping water at the start, from the drain or the basin! Yay!!!!

 

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Day 2!!!

 

Time for clean up and small modifications!

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I started working to level all the dirt at this starting point because although you can’t see it, where I’m standing to take these pictures is a small chain-link gate. So once I started this project I decided this gate and this area would need to stay clear for myself or handymen to come access the AC to work on it or when I clean it seasonally. So in the future there may be a cute little mulch or gravel walk way here. So I leveled out that mud that was just all in a pile before I got to raking everything BEAUTIFUL!

 

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With all the trenches perfectly deep enough and 2 drain cycles putting out JUST enough water to fill all channels to the top but no more…the big work was done. So here I just leveled out the mud piles and started raking so that finished look I love so much!

 

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Main trench, channel 1 and part of channel 4.

 

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Channels 2, 3, 4 and part of 5!

 

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This side that butts up against the house I noticed while working the ground slopes down to the house so all that excess mud I had I threw that way and at the end I leveled it out so that it is a flat surface but also berms up a tiny bit at the house so that rain water or anything will flow away from the house, as it should.

 

Digging a trench for washer drain part 4

Video 4 is just a picture, video collage I put together on my phone to try to show some photos of it start to finish. Again, video disclosure, no sound or music or anything fancy. =)

 

A FEW DAYS LATER…

 

Riley man came outside and offered to remove 2 stumps from some old bushes that used to be here. As far back as 3 years, any time I’ve ever been to this property, there were never bushes here. They were always just those stumps. So I think we could resolve that they were 100% dead. And Riley loves destroying things, being a typical 11 year old boy so he got the shovel and went to town.

 

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ABOUT A WEEK LATER…

 

I was doing laundry and decided I’d come out to watch my little system with pride just to see how it was holding up a week or so after finishing and I decided the basin area just had to look a little cuter. So I gathered some bricks and river rocks from around the property and just made it cuter! My goal is to actually fill the trench and drains with sand one day so it looks cuter when it is empty and then of course I’ll plant roses. I recently decided I will be adding hibiscus to this flower bed with my roses and I can’t tell you how excited I am about that!

 

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This is how the channels are holding up about a week later. You can’t really tell I raked which is a bummer but that’s fine, the dogs had to run around and explore what I had done differently of course. Plus after Riley removed the 2 stumps I didn’t rake so that is all disheveled as well but oh well! (You see that little green patch of grass that came up where channel 1 ends and some water pools right there? Nature is a beautiful thing!

 

Digging a trench from washer drain part 5

Video 5 I filmed one morning early after I had started laundry AFTER everything was done and I added the rocks to the basin. You can hear the birds chirping, my dogs eagerly running around for the first time in the morning and my son Riley off in the distance in his chonies (not pictured, of course!) because he came out to see what I was doing, lol!

 

I love how in this video within just like 20 seconds the water is marching down that main trench like it is on a mission and it knows exactly where it is supposed to go. No issues in the way, no confusion, nothing. Just on it goes to fill up the whole system with ease. Bliss. And perfection! Pride swells!

 

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True before and after of the whole thing! =D

 

3 WEEKS AFTER THE PROJECT WAS COMPLETED…

I was outside walking around and I hadn’t done laundry in maybe 2 days so these channels were just dry (which is fine) but I noticed something green. So upon closer examination I found 4-5 spots where little grass is shooting up in the trenches or on the sides! How marvelous is that!!!!

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Since I’ve spend this whole last week currently studying Permaculture like it was my last dying wish or something (seriously, about 45 hours this week of studying and researching) these little green patches of life make me so happy and proud. Because Permaculture teaches that Mother Earth will rebound and heal itself and become lush and wonderful with a few simple techniques. These trenches I dug to redirect washer gray water are a small scale version of exactly what Permaculture is all about. All I did was redirect a wonderful resource like water and although I haven’t planted anything here yet, nature is responding, the dirt is happy, it is moist and it gets ample shade and sun and it is coming to life all on its own! It is just such a wonderful thing for me to see in action! Someday soon…or maybe in the spring, there will be happy roses and hibiscus of 10 colors here!!! And…as expected, I will smile every time I come home and walk passed this garden to get to my front door as I see the beautiful colors and smell those glorious roses!!!

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

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Swales in landscaping/gardening!

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I don’t even recall where I first learned the term “swale” or what they are but google keeps telling me it isn’t a word or I’m misspelling it, haha! But, alas, it is a thing! I’ve dug 2 swales around my 2 withering cottonwood trees and used that to slowly, SLOWLY bring those back to life. And since my pomegranate trees are right next to those I dug a small trench from 1 swale to the pomegranate trees and then dug a swale around all 5 of those trees (1 big swale) and they are doing great as well!

 

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So I thought I’d put together a post with some research I’ve found online to help anybody explore this topic if they feel intrigued!

 

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This video on YouTube shows how someone dug a swale in the Sonoran desert and left it alone for 80 years and the ending result! Amazing!!!

 

This video is a great shot of how a guy uses small swales in his urban garden. So these can even be used in small spaces or micro gardens, aka, micro swales, rather than large scale permaculture situations!

 

NOW…this video made me make a sad face when I saw his wedding ring (haha!) and say “AWESOME!” out loud at 2:15 when he shows how he redirects rainwater into a channel system, into a rainwater diversion box INTO these two pipes that shoot out rain water into 2 tree swales to water 2 citrus trees! GENIUS!!!!!! Ahhhhh! Endless ideas on YouTube. He is one worth following on YouTube, especially because he lives in the desert like I do!

 

If you think you can’t do swales on flat land, this guy proves that wrong in this video, so worth checking it out! Capturing 12,000 gallons on water from just rain, with minimal grade in the land!

 

Want to know all about swales from a permaculture “expert”? Well here ya go!

 

I think that might be enough videos and so hopefully if you think this is something you might want to add to your garden then I recommend doing your research and setting yourself up with a way to “harvest” rain water and redirect it to where you need it, even without pipes and drains!

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

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Prepping Lemongrass for winter!

Have you ever heard of LEMONGRASS!?!?!

 

Well just in case you haven’t, the first time I heard about it was when I was researching “natural” ways to repel mosquitoes here on our homestead.

To break it down, as stated on this website; “Lemongrass is a tropical herb packed with strong citrus flavor. The lemon taste is prized in Asian cooking, as well as in teas, sauces, and soups. In the garden, lemongrass forms a tall, grassy clump 3 to 5 feet tall. Its appearance rivals that of many ornamental grasses and can easily fulfill a similar role in the landscape.”

Lemongrass being a grass, lasts outdoors most of the year but lasts longer in warmer climates. Here in Arizona we’re in Zone 8 so it lasts the majority of the year. It is recommended to uproot it and plant in pots in the winter and bring inside when temps are below 40 degrees.

 

Our Plans

We want to have a good defense against those pesky mosquitoes this next year and when a local small farmer mentioned on her Facebook page that she had some free Lemongrass stalks for anybody who wanted some I totally went and grabbed up some. They sat on my front porch for over a good month because I couldn’t decide if I wanted to risk it and go ahead and plant them in the flower boxes around our front deck now and pray they survive the winter or what. So we finally did this week for Riley’s handicraft lesson in Gardening (his choice), which is the word to describe the extra curricular subjects children learn with the Charlotte Mason Method for home schooling. I explain handicrafts in depth in this post.

 

Where do you get it?
If you aren’t blessed with a giving local farmer or friend who has some lemongrass on their property, where do you find it? Well, it’s actually SUPER easy! When I was researching HOW to take care of this cute little grass I came across a blog post about how you can buy lemongrass in the grocery store and prep it to plant! <–Make sure you check that out!

 

Over on the blog The Prairie Homestead, whom I eagerly follow because she’s currently living a lot of my dreams on her farm/homestead and her blog is packed full of USEFUL information! I found this post on her blog about how to grow and use Lemongrass and in that they start it from a seed and germinate the seed! Awesome! At the end of the post there are also some linked posts with ideas and recipes for other uses for lemongrass other than as an aromatic bug repellent.

 

Something I plan to get obsessed with in the very near future is homemade soap making and you can find my ideas for that on my Pinterest board Soap and more soap! DIY Ya’ll! And you can use lemongrass a lot in homemade soap recipes! Things to come!

 

If you just want to follow all of my MANY Pinterest boards you can find my page here!

 

So after our research online a few days ago Riley and I gathered our donated lemongrass stalks, some empty pots we had in the shop and a bag of soil.

 

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As we went through all these steps I was trying to teach Riley the little bit I had learned about lemongrass and the little bit more I learned about planting in pots that I learned from my Mom growing up.

 

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Those donated lemongrass stalks!

 

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It took us MAYBE 20 minutes! But it was a great “Gardening 101” lesson for Riley’s once weekly gardening handicraft for home school.

 

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Proud boy!

 

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This is what I hope our lemongrass looks like come late winter or early spring!

 

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The GOAL is that our lemongrass will look like this by late Spring and it’ll be happy in its new home in the flower beds around our front deck. I’ll probably put some out by the shop as well since I often find myself there. And if we do our pool in the backyard again next year then I’ll put some out by it because the bugs were pretty annoying out there this past summer.

 

There is no telling if we did it exactly right or what will come of it but that is the fun of doing something new the first time. If we have issues with our potted sprouts I can at least get some at the grocery store and try to begin again before Spring. Live and learn!

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

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