Spring Thaw on the Homestead

Spring thaw on the homestead l Homesteading ain't all rainbows and unicorns l Homestead Lady.comThis could be titled something like, “The homestead fur reelz.” This is a raw and ugly look at our urban homestead once we start experiencing spring thaw. Sometimes we’re a little too idealistic when it comes to our imaginings of homestead living. Here’s a little reality to make you feel better about anything you’ve left un-done or under-done on the homestead this year.

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The Spring Thaw

I’m always so surprised every spring thaw at what I find on the homestead. Despite careful and meticulous fall cleaning up and organizing, the grounds come spring look like a cyclone hit them!

I find:

  • compost piles I didn’t place
  • random headbands and popped balloons
  • someone’s shoe (just one – how do you not miss that?!)
  • the goat’s collar that I dropped during that blizzard and for which I refused to go searching
  • garbage that’s not ours (beer cans and we don’t drink)
  • the sad remains of fallen sparrows

This year has been uber weird, too, with the animals all relocated because of our impending move. Not only do I miss their personalities and their contributions on the homestead, but I miss how they rounded out the space in usefulness; with them gone, its just empty mess. Sniff.

I thought I’d take you on a picture tour of random homestead spring thaw vignettes. These aren’t necessarily the weirdest, just the ones that might need explaining.

Especially if you’re new to homesteading, you may come for a visit to our homestead or someone else’s and think, “What on Earth are they thinking?!”

Follow me for a sampling of what you might find during…

Spring Thaw on the Homestead

Is it Dead?

Spring thaw on the homestead - mint stalks from last year - www.homesteadlady.com

You were expecting the dead sparrow, admit it.

Nah, I left the dead stuff out for the tender-hearted among us. Although, homesteaders do need to develop a thick skin because death is a big part of this lifestyle.

This is just a plant, though. It’s last year’s stalks of spearmint – this stuff gets 2-3 ft tall in places!

Right now it looks like I went along and shoved thatching into the ground, but in a month or so that bed will be a vibrant green poof. Come high summer, it will be covered in bees drinking nectar from the abundant flowers.

I love that spearmint and we use it all year long for both the humans and the animals. I usually prune it a great deal in the fall, but I like to leave a short cushion of stems, webbing together to keep the snow from compacting quite so much on top. The mint is usually one of the first things to pop in the spring and its already up!

To learn more about growing mint, click here.

Trap Door?

Spring thaw on the homestead - the winterized pond - www.homesteadlady.com

Over by the family fire pit there’s this weird black thing with plywood just underneath – what on Earth? No worries, its not where the family pets are buried, its just the small pond and waterfall waiting for spring to really come.

This spring/winter fake out thing is one of the valley’s favorite tricks but it can’t fool us. We know that there will be several more snowfalls before all is said and done and we’re not risking bursting the pipes until we’re sure the freezes are over.

I laugh when I look at the pond all entombed for winter. Its such a contrast to its happy, gurgling sound during the growing season. It was particularly happy when we had ducks in it.

Don’t You Believe in Pruning?

what on earth grapevines

Yeah, what gives Homestead Lady, why aren’t the grapevines pruned?

I’ll tell you why – the weather! I can’t seem to find a time when its cool enough and will stay cool enough long enough. This is not a normal problem to have in north/central Utah in February.

Grapes can bleed to death if you prune them when its too warm and I’m not willing to risk the future owner’s entire crop for this coming year. I usually prune them in early February but by the time I thought of it this year what with packing and cleaning, it was already too warm.

So, the new owners may have messy grapes this year, but at least they’ll have some. Its really the younger vines that need the most discipline and they’ll enjoy a year of rebellion anyway.

Missed it By That Much

Spring thaw on the homestead - the Weeping Mulberry - www.homesteadlady.com

Homestead Lady, what on Earth is that?  Bwahaha! That is this year’s attempt at reclaiming the forgotten weeping mulberry tree.

A few years ago we purchased a two year old Weeping Mulberry tree for the our children’s garden. The thought was that we could create a fun, hidden entrance – something akin to The Secret Garden.

Usually, Weeping Mulberry works wonderfully for that.

  1. As the tree grows taller, you simply keep staking the trunk straight up, letting the branches weep down at will or staking them out a bit to form a dome.
  2. Over time, as it grows, it creates a lovely, leafy umbrella for your kids to play within and under which to have secret fairy meetings.
  3. Plus, since ours is female it produces delicious, dark purple berries that are so yummy.

Well, the truth is, I simply lost track of what I was supposed to be doing with that tree and never did stake it until just this year. The trunk has already begun to put on width and has started to bend over despite it’s only being three feet tall – too short to be weeping already!

Not to be daunted, I got a nice, strong T-post and a good, thick nylon cord and have been pulling that tree back up towards the sun. Eventually the poor dear will straighten out and put on a little more height, at which point I will finally let it weep without interference from me.

If I keep straightening and pulling that thing up every year and ruthlessly pruning it and it will someday form a lovely canopy of leaves at the entrance of the children’s garden.

Are Ya Huntin’ Me?

Spring thaw on the homestead - the kids creativy unmaksed - www.homesteadlady.com

 Is it a duck blind or a slide? You be the judge.

My kids mourned the loss of their trampoline as a sacrifice to the moving gods by building a hideaway on the slide. I haven’t had the heart to take it down yet.

If you bring kiddos over, they’re more than welcome to come on in and take a slide. Just watch the dried, pokey pine and the nails. Ah, creative mess. I love it.

To build slightly safer structures in the garden, try these.

Laying Carpet in the Garden Again?

Spring Thaw on the Homestead - using old carpet as weed mat - www.homesteadlady.com

That looks like carpet – what on Earth is that?! Yep, its carpet! That’s the old, yucky carpet we replaced – good call, yeah?

Unless you’re into permaculture, one thing you’re always battling is weeds and I wasn’t about to let those heavy pieces of carpet go to the dump until they’d done some weed suppression work. We had a bad weed problem in that bed last year because I was out with a newborn all growing season.

If we weren’t selling, I’d leave them there longer and plant in that soil late summer for the fall garden. However, we don’t want the new owners to have to be stuck moving it all so we’re in the process of clearing it out now.

Weeds are just plants that haven’t had the good manners to learn to grow in rows for us. We have quite a number of really useful and nutritive weeds around this area. But, you don’t want them choking out your potato crop – ask me how I know.

Ghost Town Goat Area

Spring thaw on the homestead - rotational animal/garden pens - www.homesteadlady.com

What on Earth are those large swaths of bare land? Those are the ghosts of animals pens – one from last year and one from recently.

For biosecurity, we rotate our animals as best we can from year to year. This practice of animal rotation cuts down on pathogen build up and give the animals new bug populations to terrorize. We have a few areas like this one and they all, invariably, get covered in baling twine and the remnant of chicken kitchen scraps.

This is the reality of homesteading, it’s messy. My unsolicited advice? Get over it.

Unless you can homestead full-time, you’ll always have projects in a state of flux creating clean up issues somewhere. Although not tidy when used for the animals, these areas become remarkably clean when the root systems of plants have a chance to work through all that lovely organic matter. When a piece of land doesn’t have animals on it, it’s planted in crops. Some fun facts:

  • This particular pen just had goats on it, but the year before it grew over a hundred tomato plants. Now, its ready for crops again having been fertilized by the goats.
  • All you need is movable fencing of some kind to keep this practice up. We used chain link panels which we buy used through our local classified.
  • I don’t do much tilling, but because of the size of these patches, we will be tilling with a high blade depth to break up a bit of the topsoil and work down some of that dung.
  • We’ll probably do it a couple times to wipe out weed seedling populations and to keep it fresh until you the new owners appear and decide what they want to do with the land; they should be able to plant right into it or put animals back on it, as they need.

Ruminant Playground

Spring thaw on the homestead - wooden spools used for baby goats to play on - www.homesteadlady.com

If you’ve ever had baby ruminants, especially goats, you know they like to play, play, play!

These electrical conduit spools are perfect for that and so we’ve left them in anticipation of the new owner’s animals and because they can be tricky to come by. They do look odd sitting out in the yard, though.

What’s Your Weirdness?

So, that’s some of the weirdness. Its happy weirdness as it’s all evidence of work and progress and new ventures to come but that’s not all immediately obvious to the visitor.

Or to my amazingly patient, wonderful neighbors! Ah, urban homestead life!

What about you – what’s the weirdest thing sitting on your property when the snow melts?

Cover photo gratefully attributed to this Pexels user.

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2 thoughts on “Spring Thaw on the Homestead

  1. I love the idea of using old carpeting over the winter to cut down on weeds. Can’t wait to see your homestead as we enter into spring 🙂

    1. I can’t claim the idea was mine – I read about it somewhere, which is pretty much how I’ve learned everything! 🙂

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