Solstice Update


Life around Ye Old Homestead has been a little crazier this spring than it usually is. The pandemic certainly has been a big factor. I went back to full-time, 10-hour days at the clinic, just about the time I really needed to be getting the garden in. While I always grow food, this year the gardening activities took on an extra sense of urgency. Last fall I ordered non-wheat grain seeds (rice and barley) for the first time ever – that little bit of prescience may have been A Very Good Thing. I had also been planning to expand the kitchen garden because I wanted to center more of my growing activities close to the house in preparation for becoming older and more decrepit over the years. And finally, I found a milk cow to replace Maybelle. In other words, the hurrier I went, the behinder I got, and there’s no question the blog suffered from my lack of time. Today being the solstice, which means the countdown to winter has officially started, I thought I would do a quick update.

Lettuce (one head, three meals!) and chard, with summer squash seeded but not yet sprouted.
Sugar Snap Peas making seed for next year.
Karan Barley
Gopal barley


Yep, it’s still there, and in California, the case numbers are still climbing. In our county we’ve had record increases in the last week and we’re at Level 3 (high risk). Our clinic is trying to do all the video visits we can, which is not an easy thing in a mountain area with inconsistent internet connectivity and a high proportion of elderly patients. We’re up to about 80% of our pre-pandemic visit numbers. Unfortunately, we have some very foolish people out there who think that biology doesn’t apply to them and that wearing a mask is an infringement of their personal liberty. One idiot was symptomatic and went to a birthday party anyway, infecting 11 others and putting 20 in quarantine. A local grocery store has instructed its employees not to wear masks and will not enforce the mask requirement for customers – I fully expect a cluster of cases from that location in short order. I also full expect that we will still be dealing with the pandemic at this time next year and possibly the following year.

A “potting” bed and the soaker hoses stretched out to get rid of the kinks.
New garden site – admittedly it doesn’t look like much right now.


Since I knew there was no way to get the new garden done in time for spring planting, we’ve been working on the current garden. First, hubby and the grandkids renovated all the beds and the grandkids helped me build four new ones. The renovated beds have nice, light, fluffy and very fertile soil, thanks to generous applications of compost and chicken litter. And I admit I cheated, by buying a pallet of potting soil to add to the fluffiness – didn’t have enough compost. I had a space between two beds that was wide enough to build another one but couldn’t do that because we couldn’t get the backhoe in. So we bought/collected a couple dozen 5-gallon pots and lined them up in the middle of the two existing beds. I basically gained one more bed. Next, hubby used some pig-trashed fencing panels to erect a couple of trellises along two beds. I also got some soaker hoses, since watering is the most time-consuming garden chore in the summer, and with the expanded area I wouldn’t be able to keep up. They should go in today, or at least this week. The new garden site has been cleared of brush and hubby will be digging out rocks in between the usual chores like irrigating. Once it’s (relatively) rock-free, he’ll dig, fill and edge new beds. It will at least double and I think triple my growing space. Then we need to fence it. I hope to put in fall crops and grain in about four months.

Meet Just Earth Kaia.
Violet and Daisy.

Milk Cow

As my long-term readers know, we lost our milk cow Maybelle a couple of years back. I had planned to use her daughter Violet as a replacement but Violet was too darned rowdy for this old woman. Violet, by the way, found a new home with one of the women who works with me and has just presented her owners with a heifer named Daisy. In the meantime, I had been looking and found a likely cow up in Oregon. Kaia is a Dutch Belted and Jersey cross, from a long line of good milkers who have stayed productive well into their teens. She is due to calve July 27th (and hubby says she’s big enough he wouldn’t be surprised to get twins). She came home yesterday, which means we need to add cleaning and setting up the milking barn, and checking/testing/repairing the milker, belt and compressor to our list.

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1 Response to Solstice Update

  1. littleleftie says:

    Love seeing photos of your new garden and newest family member. I have also tried using pots as a raised bed….as I age, the ground seems further down than before, lol.
    Mine are large half barrels (food grade plastic) that I’ve been using for almost 5 years. Love ’em. Good luck with it all. And I am thoroughly enjoying learning about your continued pandemic activities at the clinic.

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