January is always the month we begin to get antsy for warm temps, fresh shades of green, and humidity in our lungs. It’s the time of year that all-things-spring begin to pop up on store shelves and seed catalogs take up residency on countertops. I love the anticipation of another year with my hands in the dirt, but the wait until April is agonizing.
We’re steadily getting ready for this year’s garden. Seeds have been ordered and should arrive any day for getting into flats in our homemade hoop house (I’m so excited to not be using our front window for seedling this year). While we’re pretty confident in our vegetable game, we’d like to step things up a bit and invest in fruit trees and bushes this year. Luckily I made a spur-of-the-moment donation to the Arbor Day Foundation in December and was sent a member’s card (I’m so flippin’ fancy) which also scored me some unexpected discounts on trees, shrubs and more. I went from looking at an almost-$300+ bill for fruit to only $150. [Amen]
Top priority this spring is getting our backyard fenced in, but I also have a short wish-list for our homestead and, to my surprise, we’ve knocked out pretty much everything on it already. The list includes:
EcoZoom Versa | This handy portable stove uses wood, charcoal or solid biomass fuel to cook, can, and more. I love that we can take it camping, set it up out back, use it to water bath canned goods, and serve hot-off-the-burner meals outdoors during maple syrup season rather than relying on granola bars all day.
Juicer | Now that baby number two is nearly ten months old, I can cut out the copious amount of oatmeal binging (if you’ve been a nursing mom, you’ll know what I’m talking about) and replace a meal a day with low-sugar, homemade juice. I scoured juicer reviews within my $100 budget for weeks before settling on the Breville BJE200XL. My mind was blown the first time I used it. Such a small amount of produce made a generous amount of juice and clean-up was a breeze. I look forward to using it to help sneak greens into the girls’ drinks, to preserve some of our own produce (tomato juice, for sure), and much more. Plus, the pulp is great for chickens (we don’t have those yet, but soon).
Produce Scale | To better calculate just how much money we’re saving on produce each year, I need a scale. Thanks to Santa Claus, I’ll be able to weigh what we pull from the garden and compare pricing of comparable organic produce in my local grocery.
Fruit Trees | I’ve been diligently tending large pots of strawberry plants for two years since I don’t have a permanent location for them yet. We also planted four teeny blueberry bushes last year that will likely take a few more years to produce any amount of berries worth bragging to the neighbors about, and the apple tree I started from seed is now three years old. As you can imagine, we source 99% of our fruit from other farmers or the grocery. Even so, I want more. Lots more. I want raspberries, cherries, apples, peaches, blackberries, apricots, plums – if it’s food that grows in Southwest Michigan, I want it. We’re also on a budget, and plants aren’t cheap, so there’s that, too. This year we’re investing in two cherry trees, a companion for my Jonathan apple tree, a couple more blueberry bushes, raspberries, and blackberries (and maybe a peach tree or two – I just can’t seem to help myself). My initial purchases were all going to be from Fast Growing Trees, but since the Arbor Day Foundation swooped in to feed my new fruit-tree obsession, I’m ordering only our cherry trees and blueberries through FGT and saving a lot of money. I’m not one to plunk down $300 or even $150 on plants (see above’s note about planting an apple tree from seed), but we’ve decided it’s worth the investment to plant something that will provide food sooner rather than later.
We’re relatively new to this so I’d love to hear some of the items that are must-haves for your homestead!
We’ve got a lot of work to do in the months ahead, but I’m so looking forward to trading snow boots for bare feet. Here’s hoping the groundhog’s shadow stays away and warmer days follow.