Category Archives: Homestead

Day tripping

For months now, we’ve been talking about heading south a bit to a real, live farm where they raise real, live grassfed beef, organically. There always seemed to be something interfering, but last week, after dithering on it, we finally said enough: we’re going, on Thursday, to Citra, which is about an hour south of here in the midst of horse and farm country. Which means that it’s really in the midst of a whole lot of nothing.

After driving through various small towns…

…we wound up at Rosa’s.

Off to the right is the start of the actual farm, which is also where they live, so no pictures of that. I can say that it was a perfect, crisp day, the fields were green, and there were cows moooving around on the fields.

There was also hay for sale, and we picked up a couple of bales to put around the plants that are sitting in the raised beds here (more about that later).

The office is guarded by a rather amusing cowboy and his chicken.

Inside a small office, the only case without a lock on it was the refrigeration case: cage free organic eggs, and organic butter, both of which we picked up in addition to everything else.

What everything else? Ah, you’ll have to wait. After packing everything into the coolers we’d brought, and having one of the guys load the hay, we set off back toward the homestead. We tried to stop in Cross Creek at a restaurant called the Yearling Restaurant – based as it is in the hometown of a rather famous author – to have some cracker food, but were a tad early, as they don’t open for business until dinner on Thursdays. It’s on the list for a return visit.

Instead, we stopped by a place called Cracker Boys, which apparently has not yet been sued by a rather large chain of restaurants.

The boy was hungry.

So were we, and we opted for the buffet while the kid had a burger.

It was passable. The only gripe I have about buffet-style food (and quite a lot of other restaurant food that isn’t a buffet) is that it’s so very bland.

We hit the road for home, catching up with and passing a train on the way. I love trains.

We also stopped by Norman’s on the way back to pick up some fresh veggies.

We needed those things to stock the fridge but also to go with the dinner we’d decided on, which was selected from the assortment we’d picked up at Rosas – this assortment, to be exact.

The winner: rib eyes, grilled outside. We also decided to stoke up the firepit.

Gabrielle joined us as well.

Simple is better.

Much, much better.

How about a little fire, scarecrow?

Or, how about some veggies and steak?


At the homestead

After much discussion, calculation, and other assorted dithering around, it is finally completed.

Of course, I’m referring to a driveway. It looked like this before, and was akin to living in a perpetual construction zone.

With some grading and some dirt, it was made nice and smooth.

After looking at pavers for the drive – and the 100+ feet from the road to the drive, by about 10′ wide, plus the labor and the time that would take – we decided to go with slag: less than half the cost, can be done by one guy with a tractor and one guy with a few truckfuls of slag, and finished in one day.

Why, yes, that is our most beautiful barn in the background. I have pictures of that before and after and no no doubt will get those up at some point.

This is Wade, the quite pleasant, very nice guy with the lovely tractor.

Seriously: this is lovely.

OK, ok: the requisite other lovely shot for those of you who don’t find machinery as attractive.

Still, this is on my wish list.

Almost there, after just a few hours.

And then, like magic, ready for use.

The boy made cookies while all this was going on, and mom just had to have her buttermilk with a cookie or two.

She even gave a couple to Wade while we were between loads.

A view to the road, after, and a good image of just why we chose this over pavers for now.

That would have been a lot of damn pavers.

Now if we could just convince the UPS guy that he can, in fact, drive on the driveway without circling off into the dirt, where we will be putting down grass and landscaping.

And so it goes

Every so often, I look at this blog and wonder if it’s worth the bother. I think my life must be terribly uninteresting and the failures here at the homestead have far outnumbered the successes in the gardening realm. Still, on the rare occasions that someone does come by, as my aunt and uncle did this weekend, and looks at the place with their eyes instead of mine, it reminds me that being too close to something can give you tunnel vision sometimes.

So here’s what’s been going on around here of late, beyond the workaday crap that made August a hellish month, stress-wise – a month in which I managed to lose eight pounds, dropping me to 100 even. I’m working on keeping the needle there and climbing, and thus far, the “keeping the needle there” part is working out better than the “climbing” part.

I had worked my ass off to prep a bed of corn, which started out well.

Very well.

And then, there was zero rain. None. Zilch. Nada. So I was trying to water. Then I had some kind of animal run through this back side of the plot – probably the damn dog next door, who is forever running all over our property. And then these critters showed up, along with the corn earworms.

I don’t think I could have done enough to turn that plot into arable soil that would sustain growth to maturity. Between all of those factors, the corn withered, and eventually had to be cut down. A total loss of the time and effort spent.

I’d put in a line of limas, which I hate, for other people to eat. Out of eight seedlings, two survived. Neither has put out any beans as of yet, although they both have flowers.

I had also set up several cucumber plants, of two varieties: picklers and lemon cukes. One of each survived, and this lone pickler, along with one lone lemon cuke, are the output so far.

Continue reading And so it goes

Work in progress

When it all comes down to it, life is just a series of small steps on the way to somewhere else. It’s never as simple as, say, telling someone you’ve bought a house. What you’ve really done is saved up the money for it, decided what you want, scouted properties, negotiated the deal, signed a thousand pieces of paper, taken the keys, packed and unpacked, sorted things over, and then started the things you want to do. But it’s much easier to say “I bought a house.”

In the same way, it’s easier to say you’re improving the soil on the property. What has actually happened is that you’ve looked over the soil, discovered that fill dirt and sand from other lots was dumped on yours, dug down a foot or so in various places looking for the real soil you know is there, tested the soil, brought in a ton of topsoil and compost, and sweated your way into what is the beginning of returning the top layers of nothing to a form that is rich and loamy and beautiful for growing Stuff.

Continue reading Work in progress

Visitor to the estate

“Look out the window,” my mom shouted to me. I looked, saw nothing. “You won’t believe this!”

I was unable to figure out what in the world she was talking about – after all, my view out the window includes the pool area and some of the patio, and other than the heat waves radiating off everything, there was nothing extraordinary going on out there.

So I thought.

Continue reading Visitor to the estate

Leaving your mark

You should always leave your mark on the world, even if it is meant to be fleeting and ethereal.

After the rains came and went, I walked the property in bare feet. I finally killed my old boots a couple of weeks ago and haven’t replaced them, and sometimes you just need to feel the dirt and sand squish between your toes. This footprint lasted a couple of days before it finally vanished into the soil completely.

Life goes on, and my sister the vegetarian requested sub rolls so she could make her veggie subs for lunches while she attends classes every single day. I’ve never made sub rolls, but that doesn’t really stop me from doing much of anything, so I took my tried and true italian bread recipe and adjusted it.

Individual balls of dough, each around four ounces.

The rolls, formed and proofed.

Fresh from baking on the stone.

Cooled, ready for immediate use and also for freezing.

The Boy tells me today I need to make baguettes for french bread pizzas. Hey, I said, there are these rolls in the freezer that haven’t been used yet…

Gonna be a hot one tonight

Throughout May, there was always a fire burning somewhere in the general area: the huge fire on the GA border that jumped down into Florida, smaller fires in counties around us, a fire in the uncleared area at the commerce center about eight miles away, and at various other location, in various sizes. Late one afternoon, looking off into the distance, we spotted the distinct plume of another brush fire. This one, though, was only about 4-5 miles away, and the wind was blowing in our general direction.

I couldn’t resist. I grabbed the camera, jumped in my car, and went off to find it. Didn’t take much work to do that, since I could already tell where it was.

It was described as a “small but fast-moving brush fire” on the news. This road has houses on it, and when I got there, at one of the last houses on the road, a woman and her kids were sitting on their front step. On their roof was a sprinkler, wetting down the shingles in case the wind picked up embers and tossed them there. The end of the road was closed, but no one was evacuated and the fire was contained very quickly, thankfully – so quickly, in fact, that we never even received any ash falling on the property, as we have with other fires that have burned in the area.