Our Homestead in Drought

We took a vacation up to our future homestead this past week and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!  Our friends Shelley and Bruce invited us over for a Fourth of July Party and we had so much fun visiting with lots of our neighbors.  We met the “new guy” who just recently purchased property in our area, made some new friends, and Ray found a new fishing partner!

Between clearing an area to place a shipping container to use as a storage shed, getting our valley house ready to put on the market, and  bad nonexistent internet service on the future homestead, I haven’t been blogging much lately. Plus, I found out that I have bursitis, tendonitis and a probable healing rotator cuff tear in my right shoulder… and I’m right handed!  Ugh!  Hopefully physical therapy will get me back on track.

The drought here in California isn’t getting any better.

California lake in drought

This high mountain lake about 1/2 hour from our future homestead is usually one of the last lakes to get drained in the fall. At this time of year the water is usually way up and spilling over the dam.  Unfortunately, it’s already pretty low because there just wasn’t any snowpack to fill it up.

Anyhow…  there are a lot of things happening on the future homestead:


The gooseberries are starting to ripen, though because of our drought I don’t think we have half as many as we did last year.  In fact, some of the bushes that were loaded last year have only a dozen or so gooseberries this year.  It’s a shame.  However, I do think I will get enough to make a batch of gooseberry jelly.


The blackberries look even worse.  The berries that are developing look very small and will probably be very seedy, and I think it’s too late to water them, though I don’t think I would anyway.  While I know they will still make a great jelly, I was hoping to get some nice juicy ones to can into pie filling this year.  This is the recipe I wanted to use: http://oursimplelife-sc.com/blackberry-pie-filling-recipe    Maybe the hubby and I can take a ride down to our local creek and find a few plump, ripe berries.

ripening rose hips

Even the rose hips that I planned to harvest this year for a healthy and delicious tea are already starting to ripen, which is way earlier than I remember this happening in previous years.  At least they look somewhat plump, despite the drought.  I guess I will just have to harvest earlier than I had planned.

woodpile torn up

And then, near our campfire ring where our wood  is  was stacked, some critter tore it to pieces and made quite a mess.  I assume whatever it was (bear, raccoon, dog), was going after some critter that had made a nest in the woodpile.  Unfortunately, if you look at the bottom of the picture, you can see the beginnings of a poison oak bush, which is why I didn’t clean up this mess right away.  UGH!  I hate poison oak and unfortunately it likes me! 🙁  I will just have to keep my Technu and Stri-Dex pads on the ready.

Along with all the bad news due to our current drought here in California, we still have some good to report:

irrigation using rain barrels

The new zero pressure water timer and irrigation system we set up for our raised boxes is working well!  These tomatoes have absolutely tripled in size and are in full bloom!

ambassador walnuts

Our two year old Ambassador walnut tree has seven walnuts on it!  Heavens to Betsy – they aren’t supposed to produce until they are at least five years old, but this one seems to be extremely happy.  We weren’t positive that walnuts would grow well in our area, but apparently they do!

Redhaven Peach

Our Redhaven peach tree has three nice peaches on it, and at the rate that they are taking on color, they should be ripe in about a week.  Unfortunately our apricots didn’t put on any fruit this year, probably because we had a snowstorm just when they were starting to bloom, and the few cherries that we had were eaten by birds.  But, we are very hopeful that within a few years our small orchard will be providing us with lots of fruits and nuts!

purple thistle to make vegetable rennet

Finally, the purple thistle is starting to bloom again.  Apparently they aren’t bothered much by drought, because they seem to be as numerous and as big as they were last year! It’s time for me to start harvesting the purple thistle (before the down develops) so that I can continue my experiments with using it as a vegetable rennet to make cheese.  Now that our local natural foods market sells raw goats milk, I have all I need to make fresh goat cheese!  Click HERE to read about how to make rennet out of purple thistle.

Because of this drought we are seeing a lot more beetle activity and wasps on the future homestead, partly because they didn’t die off during the winter because of our warm temperatures, and partly because the drought weakened trees aren’t able to resist the beetle invasion.  We may lose some of our pine trees because of this. 🙁

On the brighter side, our well seems to be holding it’s own.  So far.  Since we were able to get three 1,100 gallon water storage tanks full from the winter rains, we haven’t had to pump much water from the well, which is a good thing.

Until next time – stay happy, healthy and as honest as you can be.



The Self Sufficient HomeAcre



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30 thoughts on “Our Homestead in Drought

  1. So exciting! What a bountiful future homestead! I have to read some of the other posts – thistle to make cheese? crazy!! Glad you are doing ok! I would send some rain over if we could!

    • Yes, we could use some rain – just no lightening storms! It’s funny how more than half of our country had an extremely cold winter and some are now dealing with terrible flooding, when we here in California had one of the warmest and driest winters on record. Too bad that instead of an oil pipeline from Canada to Southern US, we can’t build some water pipelines from the areas that are prone to floods to the areas that desperately need water. Otherwise, we will just have to pray that everyone is super careful this summer so we don’t have too many more wildfires. Toodles!

    • I can’t wait to try out that peach! Hopefully we will get it before the birds do. Thank you for the compliment and thanks for visiting!

  2. Hello Vickie,
    once you have a great, interesting written post.
    You have with you drought, we have with us in Germany at the moment too much rain and thunderstorms.
    Our vegetables also growing, but not as it should, since even the sunlight a little lacking.
    You’ve got a nice variety of fruit and vegetables.
    With us the blackberries grow wild here in our country and on the neighboring property.
    Since it will probably be a lot this year, I think.


    • Greettings, Uwe! Our blackberries are also wild. They were here when we bought the property. When we build our house they will be removed and we will re-plant them near the orchard. I wish we could take some of your extra water! I enjoy hearing from you, Uwe!

  3. Hi Vicki,

    You left a comment earlier today about throwing in some chili bean jars with leftover space when canning beef… That is a great idea! Just wondering how you put the chili beans in the jar for canning… Do you soak them first, just use dry and add boiling water… basically, what way do you prepare these last minute jars? Thanks for your help!

    • Hello, Jess – good to hear from you! The recipe is super simple and lends itself to last minute canning! Just put 3/4 cup of dried beans (any kind) in a pint jar with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp minced garlic or 1/4 teaspoon dehydrated garlic, 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon dehydrated onions. Then fill the jar with water leaving 1 inch headspace. Then pressure can along with your beef. When it is all done, some of the beans will be just a bit out of the water on the top, but that’s okay, as long as you got a good seal. They will be cooked just right and it sure is cheaper than the store bought stuff! Let me know how yours turns out, and thanks for stopping by!

      • Thanks for being so quick to respond! 🙂 Do you cover beans with boiling water? I am definitely going to try this. I may even do a full batch of beans trying out your seasonings since I usually just put in taco seasoning…

        • If you are hot packing the meat, use boiling water. If cold pack, use cold. I personally have only used the hot pack method and it has worked well for me. By the way, I saw a recipe where you put taco seasoning in with the beans, using that as the only spice, so you could do this method if you don’t like mine! I think I am going to tweak my recipe a bit by adding a little diced up jalapeno pepper next time. We will see how it turns out. Have a great day!

          For anyone reading these comments, if you are curious, you can read my post on canning beef and beans here: http://makingoursustainablelife.com/canning-beef-recipes

          • Thanks for the info! I do the taco seasoning with our beans but thought to change up the flavor with your recipe. Jalapeños are a great idea 🙂

  4. Good job! All that hard work is really showing when weather extreams happen. Don’t give up on your blackberries just yet, though small, and because of the drought/heat combination, they could develop a wonderful flavor and higher sugar content, wonderful for making a few bottles of blackberry brandy for winter. Many years ago there was another drought in California. We were eating the lemons right off the trees like oranges because the heat brought up the sugar. I had chapped lips from my chin to my nose!

    • Oh, that is so cool about the lemons! I didn’t know heat made them sweeter. I haven’t totally given up on the blackberries, but I would certainly love to have your recipe for blackberry brandy! I do plan to make some blackberry jelly, as this is my favorite. Thank you for your wonderful comment, Sheri!

      • There’s a lot of sources and the brandy can be made using different berries and stone fruits like apricots and peaches. With blackberries, after the fruit and brandy have “fused”, for a month or so, strain out the fruit and use it to make jam or jellies so nothing goes to waste. In my old college days we made Kahlua: strong brewed coffee, Vanilla extract and Brandy. It was good and kept us awake studying for finals!
        links: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5RtnsJgHtY

  5. Its so sad about droughts, they say it has nothing to do with global warming but I disagree and think it does, with all the melting of the glaciers, it is not normal. Your homestead is beautiful and I appreciate the tour. Thanks for listing my Weekend party hope you can stop by again this weekend. Enjoy your day!

    • Hello, Karren. I truly believe that our wild weather is due to global warming. I know, I know, there were record cold snaps in the country this year, but here in California we had record warmth! Thank you for the compliment. Of course I am partial, but I do believe that my homestead is beautiful! Have a great weekend!

  6. We have been in a dought the past few years until this year. I just saw a list of seeds that are not drought resistant but the called them drought evaders because they mature after whatever spring rains you get and before they have to go through July and August. I think it was in Mother Earth News. There were a lot of short season varieties.

    • Oh, what a great idea! I will have to find that article – thanks for the tip. Luckily we got enough rain this past winter and spring to fill up our three 1,100 gallon rain barrels. We are getting another one this fall, so we will be able to harvest 4,400 gallons of rainwater. Take that you nasty draught! Haha. Thanks for stopping by, Kathy. It was good to hear from you again!

  7. Hi Vickie,
    I’m sorry to hear that so many of your edibles are being affected by the drought 🙁 We often have dry spells and hot weather right about now…but this year it has been cool and much wetter than usual. Not sure if I’ll get any peppers!

    I hope you get some rain soon. Thanks for sharing on The HomeAcre Hop!

  8. Definitely a mixed bag of good and not so good – I’d heard on the news about the drought – how that it is breaking records – we’ve been there before, it is not fun, though you do find out what can survive! I hope you’re feeling well and your rotator cuff is healing, my husband had to have his repaired – take great care of yourself! I do appreciate you sharing with Home and Garden Thursday,

    • Thank you for your support, Kathy! Since we have never irrigated anything on our future homestead except our fruit and nut orchard, I assume everything else there should survive in some type of mode through the drought. That being said, we have some lovely wild irises all over the property that didn’t bloom this year. I guess they are in survival mode – as well as the thistle and rose hips. See you again on Thursday!

  9. Glad to hear that there is some good things happening! Sure hope you get some relief from the drought soon! And hope you get feeling better too! Thanks for sharing with SYC.

    • I know – big spikes – and they hurt! I have to pick them with gloves. This will be my first year making jelly with those – wish me luck!

  10. Aha….I found the comment section. Love your blog, your photos and recipes. They are wonderful. It takes me back to my young years when we lived in the country in the Adelaide Hills in Australia. We lived next door to our landlord who grew an abundance of produce which he occasionally shared with us. He also grew what I knew as gooseberries but they didn’t have the prickly outer skin covering that yours have. I personally didn’t like them ,but when fruit is given to you free it is used with grateful thanks. Us three girls had a beautiful time there but was a lean time for our parents who were trying to save for a house for us. This was in the early 60’s.
    Thanks again
    Alexa from Sydney, Australia

    • Hello, Alexa – so good to meet you! Aren’t those gooseberries scary looking? But, I must admit, they do lend a nice sweet/tart flavor to the blackberries. Thanks for stopping by!