I apologize for the lapse in posts, it’s been a very busy May between finals and homestead projects and some social engagements and getting ready to go to Paris to visit the surro family next week. But I’m back on the wagon now and promise that I’ll try to keep things going while we are in Europe for two and a half weeks. In the mean time, here’s a quick update on what’s happening here on the Rocking Homestead. This will be a lazy post, because I’m still very busy.

We had a lot of yard projects planned for this spring, and I realized eventually that they would all need to be completed around the same time I was doing finals and helping to organize a few local events and getting ready to go to out of the country. One of the first things I did was plant about 75 new strawberry crowns under our Colorado Blue Spruce in the front yard. Many people have trouble growing under pine/spruce trees, and it’s assumed the reason why is because they acidify the soil so much. This might be a problem in places where the soil tends to lean towards the acidic side of the pH scale on it’s own, but it’s certainly not a problem here in Colorado, where most of our soil is so alkaline that even in the middle of a pine forest you won’t have issues with overly acidic soil. The real issue under pine trees is a lack of sunlight, and that pine trees tend to be hogs for water. It is difficult to get things to grow under pine trees, but we have a few things going for us. First, our tree has been trimmed up significantly, which means it has a very tall trunk before it branches out into dense, needley goodness, so we get a good amount of sun under there. Second, I sheet mulched the area around the tree last year which built up some very rich soil that the roots have not migrated up into (however, they probably will in time). Grass was growing under there fine before so I figured that anything with similar water requirements would likely make it just fine. And I was right, the strawberries are loving it under there! I’m excited to maybe harvest some fruit off of them this year.

I also extended two flower beds in the front yard. In the one near our patio I planted three golden currant bushes, three Pawnee Buttes sandcherries, and 4 peonies. We should get fruit off of both the currants and the cherries, though I’m not sure how good the cherries will be, but we’ll also get fragrant spring blossoms and amazing fall color. In the other flower bed, which is by the sidewalk in front of our house, I planted a bunch of herbs and some ornamental flowers. As the seeds start to sprout, I’ll see where I’ll be able to fill in with more seedings and vegetables. Because the sidewalk side of the bed contains all of the pollinator friendly perennials I planted last year, I’m hoping that I can hide veggies in the side facing the house without disturbing any neighbors, although since the neighbors that were on the HOA board moved a few months ago, that might be less of a concern. I prepared that bed simply by digged up the turf and turning the clods upside down. Then I broke them up a little with a pitch fork and mixed in some sheep and peat. The soil there is not as nice as the stuff under my spruce, but it will get there in time, I hope.

The big thing we did was kill and rototill our lawn so it could be reseeded with our polyculture lawn blend. Confession time: after a lot of research and consulting with professionals, I sucked it up and killed the lawn with RoundUp. I know, I know, as a homesteader I’m supposed to think of RoundUp like the Pope thinks of Satan, but honestly, it’s the only thing that would kill the grass in under several months and dissapate out of the soil in a few days. Solarizing takes 8-12 weeks, and kills as much life in the soil as any chemical, possibly more. There were still earthworms when we tilled and there generally aren’t after solarizing a yard. In any case, it’s not like it’s something we do often, and now we have a brand new lawn seeded. I’ve seen a few of the grass sprouted, but so far mostly only chamomile has germinated. I’m a little worried about what it will look like when we get home from Paris, it’s looking more and more like I won’t get a good sense of it until then.

We’ve gotten all the hugelkultur beds planted and installed a drip irrigation system in them. We also installed drip irrigation into our pots where we grow tomatoes, so they should remain evenly watered all season, even if I get lazy and forgetful. I have purchased but not planted my tomatoes and peppers. So why don’t I grow tomatoes from seed? You can get a hundred tomato seeds for the cost of one tomato plant, what gives? Well, I have already explained that I don’t really like seed starting, so there’s that. In addition to that, I like to grow lots of different kinds of tomatoes. Buying a packet of seeds is great if you want a lot of one variety, but if you just want one or two plants of several different varieties, buying seeds is a waste. I used to think tomatoes and peppers were difficult to grow from seed, but I’ve learned that isn’t as true as some people claim. Even without heat pads and grow lights (things you will hear are crucial) I grew a volunteer ancho pepper in my winter garden that now has a cute little pepper happily growing out of it. I believe I will transplant it outside.

I also got some other peonies that I planted around in random places, and other ornamentals I picked up at school or as bonus plants with my orders. I planted most of them around my mailbox, where my patchwork garden is. One of the things I planted was some Mexican feather grass seed. I sure hope it grows because that is a lovely ornamental grass. I also planted nasturium out there, so there will be one edible at least.

We cut down a pine tree that was ugly, and a pine bush that was mostly dead. We also had pruned several hazard branches off of a tree in the neighboring yard (the house has sat empty for several years, and the tree is in terrible shape, maybe the flippers who have it now will cut it down), and collected several broken branches from local neighbors after a heavy snow storm. We rented a wood chipper and chipped it all into mulch, which we used around the hugelkultur beds in the back yard. It smells lovely out there, and I feel good about the use of the wood and it’s potential to improve the soil.

Finally, we buried our cat Zapp, who died shortly after Christmas, and planted our new quince tree on top. It was a bare root tree, and not leafed out yet, so I’m eagerly awaiting it’s leaf out. I’m afraid I may miss that while I am in Paris as well.

There are still a lot of small things I need to get planted before we leave for Paris this weekend, but I feel good about getting it all done and having it all stay alive while we are gone. Most everything will be irrigated on a timer, so our family who will be watching the house for us won’t have to water but a few things. Now I’m going to step away from this post and get to work getting our house ready for us to leave it. Lots of laundry, dishes, etc., to get done before we go!

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