Homestead Clearing and Soil Sampling

Sunday was exciting! Underbrushing is officially underway. In case that term is unfamiliar, underbrushing is accomplished using a skid steer with a mulcher attachment to remove all the “underbrush.” Essentially on our land this means anything six inches or less in diameter. It allows us to truly see the topography of the land and movearound more easily.

So Mike has been working on this and working his regular job until eight or nine each night this week. Thank you babe!

I’ve missed all this progress until yesterday because last week my adulting responsibilities demanded rushing home to my puppy every night, working on grad school homework, and spending half of Saturday getting my hair done. And I needed to get my old car ready to sell. And I needed to go buy rubber floormats for my new car because we have a lot of dirt and a ridiculous amount of this dirt somehow finds its way inside my car.  Because of all of these necessary non-homesteading chores, it was Sunday before I was able to go out and see this!

The Farm At Homestead Cove
WOW! You can see the land AND walk it without battling brush!

We spent some time considering where and how we will place our future home. We changed our mind several times and even though it is marked now, we changed our mind again last night and will need to move these stakes and ribbon next time we are there.

The Farm At Homestead Cove
Where will the house go? Nobody knows. 🙂

 

Even though we don’t yet know exactly where the house will go, it was fun to envision our home and where it will sit. We are considering factors such as the location of the sun at different times of year (there’s an app for that), cardinal direction positioning (so the North wind doesn’t beat us up on the back deck), and privacy factors.

The Farm At Homestead Cove
Fourteen million sticks on this farm and you have to chew on the stake we are using? Really Jax?

While Mike worked on cutting up trees, as usual, I gathered some soil samples. We are taking them to our local extension office to be analyzed. It is time to begin planning the future orchard and vegetable garden, so I gathered about two cups of soil at each of these locations. For just $6 per sample, we will get a full analysis and learn what we might need to do to prepare our soil for these purposes. The garden will have your normal vegetables and in the orchard we plan to grow figs, peaches, pears, and apples.

The Farm At Homestead Cove
A good excuse to play in the dirt!

The weather in our area was incredible this weekend with temperatures in the 70s and 80s. For July in South Carolina, it was a treat to get a little cool weather. Not only was it super pleasant, but it made us consider how nice it will be to work out on the farm this fall!

By five o’clock it was time to head home to bathe the dogs (see sweet post-bath puppy R&R time pic below), make dinner, and meal prep for the week.

The Farm At Homestead Cove
Jackson watching the world go by after his bath.

This week we will be getting ready to head to the beach with family on Saturday, so my posts will be centered on more domestic topics such as meal prep, homemade dog food recipes, and Kombucha making!

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read our little blog and sent sweet comments and messages. We are happy to have you on this journey with us! Have a happy week everyone.

 

 

Advertisements

Homesteading Safely

My husband Mike has been working incredibly hard on our homestead for years, even before we knew where our land might be. He worked hard to make and save money, locate and secure the property, and now is putting the sweat equity in every chance he gets.

The Farm At Homestead Cove
That’s not how any of this works….early days learning the “right way” to wear the hardhat when working with trees.

We knew when we we spent our first day cutting up trees we needed to put safety ahead of our eagerness to get started. I insisted on hardhats for both of us and chainsaw chaps for Mike whenever he was using the saw.

The Farm At Homestead Cove
Safety First Folks!

Above is an example of one of the fallen trees on the property. This one will be used for firewood and is now stacked and ready to season and be split this fall. Mike had cut trees before, but to ensure he was using all the best methods he spent many evenings this winter watching YouTube videos about how, and how not, to cut down and cut up trees. Knock on wood (see what I did there?) he has really become skilled at this and can drop a tree to a very specific location. I’m always impressed.

The Farm At Homestead Cove
Pure Exhaustion/Labor of Love

Unfortunately I have some trouble with my back and have to be careful with what and how I lift stuff. Mike is strong and has great endurance, as well as a healthy dose of stubbornness to push him along. I help with the lighter stuff, keep track of the dogs, and make trips to the hardware store as needed.

The Farm At Homestead Cove
Post Hole Digging

We will be putting up a good deal of fencing, but until we get a tractor with an auger we are sticking to simple post hole projects as seen above. Mike installed a simple gate here to deter uninvited visitors.

Note the snake boots Mike is wearing, designed to protect against snake bites. They aren’t the most comfortable footwear in the world and we both wear them anyway because one snake bite could set us back significantly.

Speaking of snakes, did you know there is a snake bite vaccine for dogs? There isn’t one for humans but since one does exist for pups, ours are getting vaccinated this summer. According to our vet it doesn’t mean you skip the emergency vet visit if your beloved Fido is bit by a snake, but it gives you a bit of extra time and lessens the severity of the symptoms. Too bad there isn’t a snake vaccine for humans!

The Farm At Homestead Cove
The “Why are you taking my picture?” expression, which I see often. I think he’s handsome. ❤

And then there’s all the lovely neon colors. Up until this week (more to come on that in a day or so), our homestead has been entirely wooded minus a few trails and the gravel drive. More than once we have run into hunters on our land and while we support the hunting world completely, now that this land is private and frequented by people we want to be sure no stray bullets or bows are flying. So, we wear neon colors when on the property working, at least until there are fewer trees and we are easier to spot from a distance. We also tie neon cloth to the dogs collars (cut from Mike’s shirtsleeves) to be sure they aren’t mistaken for bears or boar.

The moral of this short post is to stress how important it is to be safe when working in this environment. It is easier and more comfortable to wear tennis shoes, a ballcap, and a pair of shorts for this type of work, but it just isn’t safe. We both need to stay healthy to accomplish our BIG dreams, so we committed early to only working safely.

Thanks to my husband for allowing me to snap endless annoying pictures to show how to be safe working land!

Sneak Preview: the “underbrushing guy” has been clearing out on the land for two whole days now, pictures to come on Sunday!

A Wee Bit of Messy Fun

Saturday was just a big ol’ messy fun time!

Mike loaded up his tools and headed to the farm and I loaded up the dogs and stopped at the store to grab sub sandwiches and a few other things. I left the dogs in the car (with the air on AND another fan going, don’t call the authorities) for a few minutes and when I came back, my Rottie puppy Jax had found his way to the backseat on top of my daypack with it’s frozen camel-pack inside. This pup would live in the fridge if I let him!

The Farm at Homestead Cove
Jax found the coolest spot in the car. Excuse the mes, its takes a lot of stuff to manage a day at the farm! Older lab Tessa is in the back, excited about the adventure ahead.

Get Rid of the Bugs

Last weekend we were eaten up by bugs and spent the whole week covered in anti-itch cream. It wasn’t pretty. So we bought a 50-lb bag of food grade diatomaceous earth and some all natural insect repellent made with essential oils. After spraying ourselves down with the repellent (which I am going to make myself from now on after reading the ingredients and paying retail), I got to work spreading the DE.

We are using this product because I am adamant we won’t have any pesticides, insecticides, etc. on this farm. If you aren’t familiar with DE, it is pulverized fossil material that is safe for humans and animals to consume but kills bugs. From what I understand it’s microscopic jagged edges deter and kills insects. It’s not a chemical, won’t hurt us, so I gave it the seal of approval.

Our research advised to wear a mask so you don’t inhale the baby-powder-like substance, so Mike went to work on a tree and I donned a mask and started spreading. We wanted to focus on the areas where we tend to spend a lot of time, so started on one of the trails. The puppy couldn’t help himself and was all up in it, so he was quickly tied to a tree outside the cloud of white. He of course had no interest in wearing a mask. I covered the area pretty well in an hour or so, making a HUGE mess. Below is a pic when we got home, covered in this lovely stuff!

Right before we left I covered our parking area since we tend to sit there with the dogs a lot and it was crazy to see the ants immediately start to vacate the area! We should know in a week or so if it is working. I would love to hear how others have used DE, it’s fascinating!

The Farm At Homestead Cove
My summer wardrobe used to be swimsuits and cutoffs, now it’s cargo pants and hiking boots!

Found More Berries!

Last week I posted about finding wild blackberry and blueberry bushes on the farm. We picked a bunch last weekend and I added them to my greek yogurt all week, so yummy! Mike and I spent a few minutes picking the ripe blackberries Saturday and managed to collect about a quart of berries in short order.

We are going to lose these bushes when the underbrushing guy starts work this week, but there are others on the property and I’ve transplanted a good number of young plants out of harm’s way. The blueberries aren’t ripe yet (looking forward to that!) and they are staked off so they won’t be underbrushed if at all possible.

Blackberries The Farm At Homestead Cove

Cleaning Up

The last couple of weeks has brought a lot of summer storms, so much of our day was spent cleaning up fallen tress and limbs from the trails. We have several natural trails on the property already and have made a few more to access other areas.

Yesterday Mike was cutting up a fallen tree and found about fifty yards of old rusted barbed wire buried just under the surface. Luckily he was able to get most of it out, that wouldn’t be fun for one of the pups to get tangled up in!

Mike Saving Us From Barbed Wire The Farm At Homestead Cove
Mike gathering up old barbed wire, makes me wonder what kind of farm was here many years before us?

Name That Mushroom

I saw the mushroom pictured below by the creek and was careful to keep us and the dogs away from it until I identify it. I’m hopeful it’s a Chanterelle and google says it might be. Do any readers know?

Name That Mushroom The Farm at Homestead Cove
Name That Mushroom!

That’s a Wrap

It was a hot day in Upstate SC and we worked until the water ran out. Back to our rental for a dip in pool, a hot shower, and a cold beer!

On Monday, the whole property will begin to look different as the underbrushing gets started. We will take pictures along the way!

Hot Sweaty Messy The Farm At Homestead Cove
Hot mess covered in diatomaceous earth, sweat, dirt, and dog hair.

Meet Punchface

Punchface the tree.

Yep, you read that right. This tree is one of two trees on our property we have found that look like they have a face. I will update this post with a picture of the other one this weekend.

Back when we first found this land, my husband nicknamed this particular tree “Punchface” because it looked like a veteran boxer after a few too many trips in the ring.

Now Punchface is a landmark for us. He stands proudly near the spot we have chosen for our home to be constructed and we very much hope we can keep him. It would be sad to see him go, I like that he is hanging out there watching over us.

Soon we will start naming the “parts” of our property. While 20 acres isn’t a huge amount, each section has it’s own unique vibe. Right now our descriptions are “the goat area (the place we intend to have goats),” “the rock” (one of many rocks but I have designated one as “the”) “the diaper” (there is literally a diaper someone left there at home point, we haven’t moved it because it really is a landmark for us), “the meadow,” (the place where we park our cars right now) and of course, “punchface.”

I look forward to officially naming the sections of the property and making signs for each!

Punchface standing tall and regal.

It was a berry good day….

Yesterday we woke early and began our quickly-becoming-normal Saturday morning routine. I rose around 6AM, took the puppy out (more to come about the pup), and started coffee. Then I began to gather all the things we would need for the coming day on the land.

Items needed:

-Water and ice for humans and dogs. These must be differentiated and have the ability to stay cold for as long as possible. The dogs have a knack of relocating dirt, sticks, and rocks into their water.

-My daypack Ozark with water reservoir which carries my drinking water. If you fill it with water with a bit of lemon juice in it and then freeze the whole thing, it operates as a cooler and a source of cold water alllllllll day long. Hubby makes fun of my face sucking the straw to get the water out, and I’m here to tell you it’s worth it. In addition to the water, my daypack has four other compartments for a first aid kit, radio, hand sanitizer, seeds (I have a guilty pleasure of taking a seed packet with me every time we are on the land just to see what happens when I plant them where we are working), . etc.

-Lunchbox: Hubby eats a LOT and needs calories to keep him going throughout the day. He is handsome and strong and deserves every bite. 🙂 A typical “land day” for him consists of a breakfast of biscuits with sausage and gravy, a king size sandwich with chips, snacks of protein bars, chips, and jerky, and a large dinner to round off the day. He earns every bit of it and makes it look good.

-All the tools! Every time we go out we need all sorts of tools and equipment.

….

When I arrived at the land, I opened the car doors for the dogs and they couldn’t get out fast enough, immediately  comfortable in their natural habitat. I unpacked the car and Mike arrived a few minutes later, telling me to “get your boots on so I can show you the blackberry bushes I found the other day.”

Before I laced up my snake boots (a safety precaution even though, knock-on-wood, we haven’t seen a snake yet), I grabbed a plastic grocery bag and my work gloves from my car just in case there were a few blackberries ready for picking.

When we were setup for the day, we left “camp” and just a few yards a way we found a patch of beautiful blackberry bushes! We picked as many as we could reach, battling the thorny branches. Many of the berries aren’t ripe yet, so we got what we could and I excitedly gathered them up in my plastic bag. Note: plastic shopping bags are terrible blackberry picking containers because the bag rips on the thorns and you have to use your bandanna instead. I know that now.

 

When we walked back towards the cars in the “meadow” area, which is a treeless half acre or so, we noticed that there were dozens of young blackberry bushes scattered there! Since the area we were just picking is soon to be underbrushed, Mike suggested I try to transplant some of the young bushes to an area that won’t be mowed down in a few weeks when the underbrushing guy comes out. We know the bushes will likely come back after a year or so, but having some protected would be a good idea.

Mike went to work cutting up a fallen tree and I went about digging up the small, young blackberry bushes. I grabbed my spade and started digging, then realized these thorny buggers aren’t exactly easy to carry the 100 yards I was about to move them. Also, I happened to have some organic potting soil in the back of my car and nothing to carry that in either. Make-Do solution: the shoe organizer in the back of my car lost it’s shoes and found a new job as a blackberry bush/soil carrier. See photo below. 🙂

Shoe Organizer Becomes Gardening Equipment the Famr at Homestead Cove
The “Make Do” Solution of the day. Please excuse the mess.

After planting the baby blackberry bushes (and a patch of pumpkin seeds), I went to where Mike was working on a tree. He asked me to look up a plant, saying “These look like blueberries. If they are, we should clear out the weeds and vines from them and mark them so they don’t get underbrushed.”

I looked at the berries (not yet ripe), the leaves, and the base of the plant. I grabbed my phone and consulted my friend Google. Yep, they look like blueberries to me!

Blueberries the Farm at Homestead Cove
Thankful God has blessed us with these beauties!

Ya’ll. We have TONS of them. TONS. I did a happy dance and started ripping out grass and vines like a crazy woman. I went nuts marking the bushes with survey tape. The blackberry bushes are everywhere and will come back, but I want these blueberries to stay now!

Marked Off Section of Trees The Farm at Homestead Cove
One section of blueberries bushes we want to preserve. Will later fence the area.

The section above is just one of the five areas we marked off that are FULL of blueberries. The bushes are pretty low to the ground (internet says this is normal for wild blueberries) and I’m hoping once more sunlight can get to them they thrive even more. We found several more patches of blackberries, too.

In the late afternoon we called it a day and loaded up the very tired pups, just before a surprise summer thunderstorm rolled in.

Last evening I used some of the blackberries to make a blackberry, pecan, and honey mixture to layer on top of brie for my book club gathering. It was a hit and the perfect treat after a berry good day. 🙂

Brie and Berries The Farm at Homestead Cove
Recipe: 1/2 Cup Wild Blackberries, 1/2 Cup Chopped Pecans, 1 T Local Honey, 1 spray of olive oil in pan. Simmer until the juices from the berries make a sauce. Layer on top of a wedge of brie cheese and back at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or until melted. Serve with multi-grain crackers or bread. Yum!

Dreams really do come true.

Welcome to the future site (let the puns begin!) of The Farm at Homestead Cove. My name is Maggie, it’s nice to meet you! Since this is a new site, I’m excited to dive in and share with anyone interested in our journey as first time homesteaders. My husband Mike and I plan to document our successes, failures, learn from others, and hopefully share some lessons learned along the way.

First of all, I would like to share that when I say we are first time homesteaders, we are truly BRAND NEW. If you are experienced with all of this, I’m confident you will be laughing at us and with us as we take on this major new adventure.

We’ve read books, attended classes, consulted experts, and watched about 84 million YouTube videos. We’ve been drinking from the proverbial fire hydrant for several years now, planning and dreaming about the farming homestead we want to create as our forever home. Finally, this spring, we closed on our 20+ acres in Upstate South Carolina. We spent years looking for the perfect property and saving money for this piece of paradise. We prayed and hoped and held our breath and now it is officially ours!

Now, of course, the real work has begun!

Thanks for your interest as we share our story along the way. Welcome to the Farm!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton