Even though I haven’t been posting much, my homesteading/gardening fervor has continued to percolate throughout the winter months. I don’t feel like my first Southern winter in any way compares to winters back home, but I have definitely noticed the additional few minutes of sunlight at the beginning and end of the days the past couple weeks. Spring is definitely just around the corner.
One thing I’ve been up to since October is volunteering and taking horseback riding lessons at a wonderful equestrian center in a small town nearby. I have been doing nearly weekly riding lessons on Wednesday evenings after work and then helping out with a class on Saturdays. The center is designed to accommodate young people and adults with a wide array of cognitive and physical disabilities as well as at-risk youth. It is such a wonderful place, and I am so grateful to have found it. I’m learning so much about handling horses and how to have confidence around large animals. Each horse at this center has their own history with varied difficulties – swayed backs, rescued horses, horses whose families could no longer care for them but weren’t ready to retire. I adore everyone that I get to work with and learn from, both human and equine.
The temperature was pretty nice yesterday so most of the horses opted to pop their heads out of their stalls, saying hello to whomever strolled by.
It is also time to start thinking about gardening. I went through my seed inventory and have so many varieties of veggies to squeeze into whatever space I can get my hands on this year. I am going to grow in containers again this year and out in my little plot at the community garden. I’m mulling over what I want to plant where. I also think I am going to start some seeds this year, even if I only grow 1-2 transplants of each type of tomato and pepper plant I want to try.
I asked for a new composter unit for Christmas from my hubby – and got one!
It looks a bit like R2D2 and in this photo appears huge even though it isn’t really. I wanted something like this so it could be transported where the whim of the Army takes us next. Plus it is really heavy duty, can be spun and thus “turned” as often as I want, and animals are not able to get into it. It feels so good to just toss any non-animal/dairy food waste out in R2D2 instead of the garbage and know that it is going towards something. Even if I accidentally let a bag of herbs go slimy in the fridge, I know it isn’t being completely wasted.
Another little project I am cooking up is beekeeping. I’ve written here before about my admiration for bees. I got to thinking over the winter that even though I can’t have chickens right now, there is another creature out there associated with urban farmers that has an even smaller footprint.
And wouldn’t you know, there was a Beginner’s Beekeeping Class about to start the first week of February at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. The class is instructed and held by an active local beekeeping society – the Jefferson County Beekeepers Association. I decided to take the class and even if I decided against keeping bees, I would at least learn something and meet some people. My books and a couple catalogs are pictured above. Three classes in and I am fascinated and on board. I am a little scared to be surrounded by thousands of bees, but am pushing through the fear for the promise of honey and pollinators. I am planning to suit entirely up until I get more comfortable with the process and am not as likely to get stung that way. The experienced beekeepers that run the class are very wise and the first thing they addressed was stings and allergic reactions – their point was that you are not highly likely to die from a bee sting, which I think was reassuring for most of the attendees.
I don’t think my house, though, is where I will “keep” the bees. As I’ve mentioned, we are renting a nice house with a teeny tiny yard with neighbors very close by and do not plan to be here forever; I am still actively campaigning for home buying this spring, but that is another topic. However, I spoke to my friends at the community garden and as it turns out – they would love to have a hive or two of bees! I decided to commit already so I mailed in a check for a package of bees through the Association. Now there are many decisions to make about the type of hive, suit, tools, etc. This purchase goes directly against my “consumption fast” I have been sticking to pretty well since Christmas (no unnecessary purchases – only bills and food). But . . . well, I can’t have chickens right now (maybe this summer) and I can no longer fight the urge to raise animals, grow things, and create!
I’m planning to meet up with my friends at the garden soon to scout out the best location for the hive. I went out there today with Dixie to see what ended up growing after I scattered some seeds out there last November.
The pea plants got frozen and are crumbling but I left them to completely die off so that their roots can release some nitrogen into the soil. I had some carrots that I could pull, and the kale plants are coming along! I am hoping they get really nice and big over this summer. I think when it comes time to put more things in that space, I’ll pull the smaller two or three and just let one or two grow up. I did some weeding as well so never mind those creeping greens along the edge of the photo.
This raised bed is fairly small – I would guess about 4 x 4 feet. As you can see, it was constructed with cinder blocks and I think I’ll use the holes in the blocks to grow things as well. They are about a foot deep, and maybe 5 x 6 inches. I could do one or two carrot plants per block, a couple radishes, a bush bean plant, Tom Thumb pea plants . . . I don’t want things that will get too tall or else they will block the light.
The carrots were crunchy and super sweet. I washed them up, peeled them, and had a little snack once I got home. The carrot tops went into R2D2. I only wish now I had planted an entire bed of carrots last fall.