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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Homestead Happenings

We went up to our future homestead this past weekend to work on our road, check on the fruit and nut trees, and enjoy a peaceful afternoon relaxing in the screened gazebo.  It was a pleasant, cool weekend and true to the weather report we got a few sprinkles on Sunday.

The walnut trees are doing well. In the picture below you can see the 300 gallon water tank behind them that we picked up off of Craigslist for a very good price.  The 300 gallon tank lasts about 3 weeks, which means each tree gets about 50 gallons of water each week. I suppose this is quite enough because they look really happy!

gravity flow irrigation

The gooseberries are forming quite well.  I have never done anything with the gooseberries on our property because, unfortunately, we have the VERY prickly type.  I have heard these can be made into jelly, I just haven’t tried yet.  Besides, I have been informed that gooseberries are the intermediary of a fungal disease that attacks white fir trees, so we are actually considering pulling them all out.  Perhaps I should try making a batch of jelly first to see if there would be a reason to keep them!

spiky gooseberries

The blackberries are also starting to size up.  Blackberry cobbler is a favorite of mine – warm out of the oven with a large scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.  YUM!  This year I may try making blackberry leather or I may try my hand at canning some blackberry pie filling.  Well……. maybe I should just live it up and try both!

green wild blackberries

I checked on our resident toad who has made a home under the apricot tree.  Yup – he’s still there.  Judging from the picture, he seems to have grown quite a bit as he now fills out the entire hole in the ground. Gee, no wonder I don’t see any insects around the orchard area!  But wait – you don’t think he’s stuck in there now, do you?

toad under the apricot tree

Speaking of critters, we found this critter nest along the side of the new road we are cutting into the north side of our property.  We haven’t seen anything coming or going, but whatever it is seems to have built itself a pretty cozy abode.  We haven’t had the heart to tear it down yet.  Actually…. well you see…….. it’s just that……..truthfully we are a little afraid of what may really be in there! A friend of ours suggested it’s just a wood rat’s nest.  If it is, that’s a pretty big wood rat!wood rat house?

The mystery plant in the compost pile has revealed itself as a cantaloupe, which is very cool because my hubby and I adore cantaloupe.  It has curly tendrils now and I know that I have thrown plenty of cantaloupe seeds on that pile in the past year.  Actually, we like just about any kind of melon, so if it turns out to be a watermelon (it’s possible) we will be happy with that also.  In our backyard garden at our home in the Sacramento Valley, we are growing two different kinds of melon (intentionally) that we have never tried before, both heirloom cantaloupe type melons, so I certainly hope they are good. The potatoes in the compost pile seem to be doing well also!growing melons in compost

The peaches are getting bigger and look quite healthy – except for the holes in the leaves.  I wonder what is causing that?  We inspected the leaves and couldn’t find anything, so we are hoping that whatever creature caused these holes has gone away now.  This is only the second year in the ground for this tree, so I’m not sure if we should leave all of the peaches on the tree.  We may have to thin them again next week. freestone peaches

This is the purple thistle plant we have growing here and there around the future homestead.  I have read somewhere that a certain purple thistle can be used instead of rennet to make cheese.  I am going to have to do some more research into that, because if it is true, wouldn’t that be a great find!  Another way I would not have to depend on a store, which is another step toward self-sufficiency!

purple thistle

I actually took quite a few more pictures, but I think this is enough for one post.  However, thought I would leave you with a picture of the mess our friendly neighborhood squirrel left behind on part of our driveway!   Actually, at the time I took this picture Mr. Squirrel was up in the tree eating another cone, with the pine cone bracts raining down on us below.  We stared up at him – he stared down at us. Then, just out of the blue the squirrel dropped the remainder of his cone and nearly hit me on the head!  I am quite certain he did that on purpose!  😉 squirel pine cone

Thanks for taking a tour with me on my future homestead!

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