Jeremy was very detailed about installing these beds close to perfectly. They do look amazing.

Jeremy was very detailed about installing these beds close to perfectly. They do look amazing.

Its spring time, which means of course that we are very busy here on the Rocking Homestead. There is a lot to plant and build this year, and I’m towards the end of my semester so I’m looking at finals. To add to that, my climate activism has been very busy of late, and we’re planning for a trip to Paris to visit our surro family out there (I can hardly believe baby Kennan is 9 months old already!). I’m trying very hard not to slack on the blog, but there have been a couple of weeks that only had one post. I’m sorry. There’s just so much to do right now!

If you are following my polyculture lawn plans, you’ll want to know that I’ve changed my mind on something. I will no longer be growing tall fescue as my primary grass.

Tall fescue is still a fine grass and I highly recommend it, I just happened to see a grass variety I like the sounds of more. It is a blend of fine fescues from High Country Gardens called No Mow Lawn Mix. When I stumbled upon this grass, I was immediately intrigued. One of the problems I knew I would run into in my polyculture lawn is that frequent mowing would prevent any of the additional plant species from blooming. I want some flowers blooming in my lawn because it’s good for pollinators and other biodiversity, and I just love flowers. I figured in order to get some blooming going on in my grass, I would have to go very long periods between mowing which would make my lawn look a little shaggy. I figured I’d hopefully find a middle ground where my lawn wasn’t too shaggy, but also had some other plants blooming in it. A grass that didn’t need to be mowed would totally alleviate that issue!

Picture obtained at the High Country Gardens website.

Picture obtained at the High Country Gardens website.

The No Mow Lawn Mix consists of fine fescues, which I hadn’t considered before because I had learned in my landscape management class that the root systems only went around 8-12″ deep. However, this blend grows roots 2-3′ deep, according to the High Country Gardens website, which means it would be just as good or better than tall fescue for sequestering carbon and improving the soil. It should also be just as drought resistant, and the finer texture of the blades should give the lawn a more traditional look (tall fescue has a thicker blade, but it’s still a very nice looking lawn). It’s not truly no mow, if you want a tidy look, though. It’s very low and slow growing, but still looks a little shaggy unless you mow every 4-6 weeks. Four to six weeks is plenty of time for our other plants to come to bloom though!

Changing my mind about grass selection at this point does have some drawbacks. For one, I had already bought tall fescue seed, with microclover blended in. To switch to this mix means not only buying more grass seed (this seed was significantly more expensive than the tall fescue, too), but also more microclover seed. It also means that I have to do what I can to entirely eradicate the bluegrass already in our lawn. This blend is no/low mow because it grows very slowly and doesn’t get very tall, but if there are other grasses that grow faster and get taller in the mix, then the lawn will need mowing. So now I’m trying to figure out how I can kill all of the bluegrass without killing the crocus I planted in the grass last year. I think I’m going to cut it as low as I can with the lawnmower a few times, and hope we don’t get much precipitation. Maybe I should put some compost over it to boot? I don’t know. I’m still researching my grass killing options. If you know of any that won’t kill my crocus bulbs, let me know in the comments.

In other news, we’ve had a few rainy and/or snowy weekends, and then the weekend before last Jeremy came down with strep throat, so we got very behind schedule on our hugelkultur beds. This weekend we did the most of the work to get them installed. I had assumed that after filling the bottoms of the beds with branches, compost, and straw that we wouldn’t need much more than the native soil we dug out to fill the beds, but I was very wrong. We’ve already put two yards of purchased planters mix into the beds, and we’re looking at needing at least one more. We hope to finish that on Friday. Expect a post on our hugelkultur beds soon.

The almost completed hugelkultur raised beds. We just need to top them off with more planters mix.

The almost completed hugelkultur raised beds. We just need to top them off with more planters mix.

I have started a few seeds indoor and they seem to be germinating well. You can read more about how I prioritize my indoor seed starting here, because I certainly don’t try to get a head start on everything by planting indoors. I also planted some lettuce and other salad greens outside last week, and the arugula is already germinating. I had some chives and chard survive the winter as well, along with some green onion varieties that are really no surprise, green onions always survive our winters.

I also got seeds for some ornamental perennials I want to add to our homestead. Ornamentals are great additions to your homestead if you’re homesteading in a fairly white bread neighborhood, like we are. If you make an effort to make your homestead look pretty, people are less likely to question your food growing pursuits. Also, I just love pretty things. However, ornamentals can be pricey and we’ve already sunk a lot of money into wood for our raised beds, and seed for our new lawn, and vegetable seeds, and a quince tree, and currant bushes, and a bunch of peonies, and we still have to buy our drip irrigation system, and we’re going to Europe for two and a half weeks … so yeah, money isn’t exactly a non issue for us right now. I spread the purchases we have made out, and got some good deals, but I still want to be careful we don’t over do it. So seeds it is. Most of them have arrived and I planted a bunch last night. I feel more confident about some than others. The Northern Sea Oats and Johnny Jump Ups will probably germinate just fine. I’m a little worried about the Coral Bells though.

My seedlings, as of this morning.

My seedlings, as of this morning.

We had our most successful hatch of quail a few weeks ago, we had 11 baby birds hatch. Out of 50 eggs in the incubator, I’m not sure how impressive that is, but I’m still pretty happy with the results. However, at this time, only 6 of those quail have survived. Several of them just died, no real indication as to why. That just happens some times, but this seemed like a lot considering how many we had total. One was accidentally killed by Freja, who snuck into the livingroom and opened the brooder to pet them while I was taking a test online, and she just loved one to death. This is the second quail she has accidentally killed in her short life. Not sure how I should feel about that.

We have 20 more eggs in the incubator now. I candled them last night and I think they are developing fine, which is a relief because for some reason this round in the incubator has been very difficult to keep the temperature steady. Last time it stayed an even 100 degrees the whole three weeks, this time I keep coming and checking on it and finding it at 102, 80, 104, 96, 108! I have no idea what’s going on, unless one of the kids are messing with it. But I think the eggs are doing okay so hopefully it hasn’t harmed too much.

I also made a worm bin a few weeks ago and it seems to be doing well. I don’t intend to keep it in our front room forever, but that’s where it is now. Classy. Ha ha.

I’ve decided on a cobalt blue theme for the hardscape in the front of our home. That was pretty random, as it’s not like I’ve had long term plans for any significant hardscape, but I do want a bird bath and few planters. I painted a formerly brown, fake barrel looking planter cobalt blue and placed it in front of our garage, and I will do another one soon to place on the other side of the garage. That’s where I’ll plant my northern sea oats, coral bells, and maybe some other shade tolerant annuals. I also found part of a lighting fixture at the Denver Habitat for Humanity Restore, which I intend to paint blue and make into a bird bath. Eventually, I hope to paint our front door blue to tie it all together. I’m kind of thinking about an installation of pots filled with lignonberry bushes along the side of our driveway eventually. The lignonberry bushes are very cold hardy and will survive well in pots through our winters, while also providing some good winter interest because they are evergreen. Obviously, they would be beautiful and provide food. And I could probably spice the pots up even further during the summer months with some cheap annuals. Nothing keeps an HOA happy with your homestead like lots of flowers.

Inside remodeling will be resuming soon as well. We are working on reflooring our dining room, and if it works out well, we will extend it throughout the house. Expect a blog post on that subject in the future. We also are painting the walls, because it turns out there’s nothing but primer on them right now. Also, I feel like painting the walls will make it look more … I don’t know … adult in here. I feel like our house looks like a frat house for some combination of geeky and hippy immature college students, who are also running a daycare facility.

Lastly, I’ve been engaging in arts and crafts of late, a little bit of sewing, a little bit of cheese making. I got the book One Hour Cheese by Claudia Lucero and cannot recommend it enough. Yeah, I can make more complicated cheeses, but these recipes are so simple and quick. It’s nice to have a fun, fast project every now and then, you know?

If you want to keep up with all we are doing in real time, Instagram is your best bet. I’m reasonably good at posting photos of projects as I do them.

I think that’s about it for updates. What kind of projects do you have going on your homesteads? Tell us all about it in the comments!

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