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homestead happenings: unshackled

2013 April 10
by Rachel Turiel

There’s a house finch singing outside our window, sounding like the very ambassador to spring. Sometimes she says, “holy holy spring, kneel down and kiss this earth.” Other times, it’s “get your ass out of bed and water the 3000 seeds you planted last week, woman.”

How Rose sees spring:

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How I see Spring:

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First dandelion salad! 

Everything about spring is coming back to me, how it feels a little like jailbreak from winter, like don’t look now but we’re riding bikes to the park while our snowsuits hang cartoonishly limp at home. Chimes of freedom ring in my ears, except when Rose and Col conduct their sibling competitions while riding bicycles in the street and every nerve in my body feels like it’s being strummed by an insane guitar player. Twaaaaang!

But, I’ll tell you, parenting outdoors is so much easier. It feels like we’ve all shed some sort of arcane shackle we’ve dragged around all winter, just to be able to play outside again. Yesterday I announced, “I’m going outside to play,” and the kids trailed me into the yard wondering exactly what this meant. When they realized I was simply planting more seeds, they tried to bust me. “You said you were going to play!”

This is how I play, little ones.

On the homestead:
:: If you can’t have a horse, then perhaps you can be a horse.
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Complete with saddlebags!
And if you can’t have a human rider, than apparently a chicken will do.
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:: Children being certifiably helpful at the Tupperware Heights Brewery!
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They bottled, I capped. 31 bottles of brown ale aging in the Solarium. See you on May Day!
:: Thanks for all your orders of piñon salve! Until I get an etsy shop all set up (which, I’ll be saying for the next 2 years), I will announce on my Facebook Page when more salve becomes available. Hint: this week.
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This is what piñon sap looks like. 
:: I’m thinking about doing a regular (aka: when the spirit strikes me) “garden tips” post. Would you be interested in that? Here’s a trial run:
Tips on transplanting tomatoes:
I plant tomato seeds sometime in late February in our greenhouse. (Before I had a greenhouse, I put the pots in front of a south-facing window and moved every pot outside into the sun everyday, and back inside at night. But, remember? I’m obsessed). By late March the tomatoes are ready for bigger pots (yes, it would make sense to start in bigger pots, but for some reason, putting a bitty seed in a gallon pot in February is something I just can’t do).
Here’s what Hal, my beloved father-in-law (botanist and fellow obsessed gardener) taught me about transplanting tomatoes. (This goes for transplanting into larger pots and into the ground).
Remove seedling from pot:
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Place seedling sideways in pot, so the highest surface area of roots (aka: more roots) will begin fanning downwards. Typically, the top 6 inches of soil contains the most organic matter, so let the roots take advantage of those nutrients, and the ability to grab more water while sinking lower. Also, more stem gets buried, which will throw off more roots and contribute to a sturdier plant. And, trim the bottom set of leaves before transplanting, also known as the “seed leaves.”
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Roots placed on their side.
Cover the roots with at least 3 inches of soil, tamp down, water and let the house finch sing her benediction.
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:: We’ve been playing a lot of monopoly around here, which has boosted the kid’s math skills without anyone feeling like they’re actually doing math. I only like this game when I’m winning, or a least when Dan’s not winning, but I also can’t handle it when the kids lose all their money and continue playing like sad pauper orphans with their lonely smattering of five’s and one’s.
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:: We just finished the last root cellar apple. And 6 months later it was still a crunchy, flavorful little critter, which is just to say that the root cellar is functioning!
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We’re down to squash and potatoes now.
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It is snowing today which is absolutely delicious and absoutely April.
Also, apparently, one doesn’t need to hand-dig and lay brick for a root cellar because the carrots we neglected to harvest last fall, having spent the winter encased in soil, are perfect in April.
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Crunch, crunch.
:: If you’ve been following Col and Rose’s nutty baby-chick swaddling on my Facebook page, here is the current pinnacle of weirdness and cuteness, but mostly weirdness.
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Five baby chicks all swaddled and sleeping in Rosie’s bed. 
One more thing: I contributed to the new, super fun website 3 Things for Mom: a truth, a tip and a find. I’m a little sheepish about having used my 15 minutes of fame to write about toilets and grandmother-chic kitchen gear (and also a little about what keeps our marriage humming), but I think you all will dig it. Also can you tell it’s an elk hide I’m posing in front of?

26 Responses leave one →
  1. April 10, 2013

    What a delightful blog. I love seeing the pictures of the kids and the yard. Its not one of those picture perfect yards, its a real, lived in, Colorado yard. Very much like my own! I loved the chicks in the bed. As a kid I had a baby duck from the day she was born. She attached her self to me and would sit on my shoulder. Its just something city kids have no concept of and how lucky your kids are.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      April 10, 2013

      Exactly. So not picture perfect. Sometimes it makes me cringe, mostly it makes me laugh. xo

  2. Erin permalink
    April 10, 2013

    Hi Rachel,
    I would love to read your garden posts! And I absolutely loved the chicks snuggled in Rose’s bed. How adorable. And they’re all sleeping! p.s we love the salve.

  3. Britta permalink
    April 10, 2013

    The tomato trick is handy! Thanks!

  4. Laura Matthews permalink
    April 10, 2013

    Cool tomato tip. I started mine super early this year in hopes of enjoying fresh tomatoes before the Fourth of July. I’ll be sure to send pictures. Love ya! And yay for spring

  5. April 10, 2013

    hah! that sleeping chick pic is priceless!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      April 10, 2013

      Oh man, that picture cracks me up everytime I look at it (whereas, at the time, I was a little like: “whaaaat? you guys did whaaaat?”). It’s my new screensaver…I can’t take my work too seriously opening up my computer to that picture!

  6. dale_in_denver permalink
    April 10, 2013

    Yes for garden tips! Thanks for tomato tip. Think it would also work with peppers? What about tips on how to fortify plants from the brassica family – my brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli all look so leggy. I turned a gentle fan on them to help strengthen them, but I should consider transplanting soon – maybe even into garden. My little tomato seedlings look so tiny and pathetic compared to yours. But then again, my chicks are huge. Guess that is where I put the early effort this year. It’s our first time having chicks, so I notice a lot of my time is sucked away just watching them instead of planting seedlings. They are fascinating.

    Love love LOVE my pressure cooker. I have started making big batches of beans in my crock pot over night and freezing them in meal-sized servings. I use my pressure cooker mostly for meat now. Especially meat that I want to shred. Everytime I cook meat in the crockpot, I overcook and it is dry and tough. In the pressure cooker? Moist and fork tender every time. If my beans get overcooked in the crock pot, I don’t much care because usually I’m mashing them into refried beans or whirring into hummus anyway.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      April 10, 2013

      If you can bring your brassicas outside on sunny days, they will benefit from overhead light, and maybe fluff out some. If you really are in Denver, be careful about putting brassicas in the garden too early. I’ve had mine freeze in early May. But if you’re ok with watching the weather and covering them if a frost comes in, they could go out in late April.

      Our pressure cooker has definitely seen some tougher meat (hello, 3-year old chickens! And elk shoulder roasts!) and done a fabulous job of becoming, what Dan calls: spoon meat.

  7. April 10, 2013

    oh I love that you still have squash! were opening up our last canned goods… so happy spring is here for the circle of food to continue!

    we just had our first harvest the other day from forgotten about potatoes and kale. I love lazy fall clean up.

    I think gardening tips is a great idea. and I am jealous of your brew.

  8. April 10, 2013

    Even when you aren’t writing an actual tip, I feel like you help me be a better gardener. Just think what could happen if you actually spill the beans on how you pull those carrots off. How much does it rain up there again?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      April 10, 2013

      Kyce, I think we average about 19 inches of precipitation, annually. However, in the 17 years I’ve been here, there haven’t been too many “average” years, so that the years that *are* average look huge, moisture-wise.

      Carrots need: really loose soil and to be harvested before they split (about 2 months around here).


  9. Sara permalink
    April 10, 2013

    I have had spring carrots like that, but I’ve also had a bunch of mush. I suppose it depends on the kind of winter.

    I love your garden tips. Still contemplating the pee fertilizer.

  10. Andi permalink
    April 10, 2013

    Love the gardening tips, and love the pressure cooker! Did you know you can make baked potatoes in the pressure cooker? By far my favorite way to eat potatoes these days. Fast and delicious.

  11. Rachel Turiel permalink
    April 11, 2013

    Andi, I didn’t know that but I am geting very friendly with potatoes since they hold up so beautifully in the root cellar. Thank you for the tip.

  12. April 11, 2013

    ooh, tomato tips. yes please. i am guffawing out loud and making rich look at my laptop screen so he can see the swaddled baby chicks. etsy shop assistance sounds like a need. you’ll be pleasantly surprised how easy it is. i think. unless you’ve already looked and that was how you calculated your two year prediction. monopoly makes for excellent unschooling, and of course mama inner soul searching. and finally, huzzah for hand dug brick lined root cellars!

  13. Andrea permalink
    April 11, 2013

    19 inches of annual precipitation???
    thats about how much we get in, say, november! ha

    love the garden tips!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      April 11, 2013

      which is exactly why I’m so nutty-delerious over each centimeter that falls.

      • Andrea permalink
        April 11, 2013

        Well that much rain will cause a whole different kind of nutty-deliriousness!

  14. April 11, 2013

    I’m excited for spring, so ready to go outside to play EXCEPT it’s been raining. Every. Day. Boo….

    Oh and I can’t get enough of those swaddled baby chicks. Too cute!

  15. April 11, 2013

    I love reading about your garden and your homeschooling and of course your writing which makes me laugh out loud. So, I have a question–how did you manage your garden when your kids were babies? I just had my third, and my bigger ones are about your kids’ ages, and I was used to really be able to work in the garden. I am finding it hard and discouraging…I want to be out there, but my body is rebelling at having 17 pounds on my back…and I am not the most awesome gardener in the world. Anyway, I love your blog-I resonate to the peaceful parenting, homeschooling, and gardening parts.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      April 14, 2013

      I scaled way back in my gardening efforts when my kids were little (and not necessarily gracefully). I actually put two of my garden beds back to grass because I knew I just couldn’t care for all that land and it would have turned to weeds if I hadn’t.
      Rose was the “don’t put me down ever” kind of baby and then the “I need you very close” kind of toddler, and it wasn’t until Rose was 2 and Col was 4 that they were genuinely playing together – and this was for stretches of maybe 20 minutes. So, I did a lot of work in 20 minute increments!
      We made a sandbox, and then got a swingset, both of which were helpful in engaging the kids while I worked. I let the kids water a lot, because wielding the hose was a pleasure they both coveted. Chickens provided good entertainment. And, I relished in the reality that each summer they had grown enough that I could do so much more…so it felt like more time was opening up annually, and continues to feel that way. xo

  16. Jennifer permalink
    April 11, 2013

    Ok…I’m going to be totally honest here and tell you that I had to keep coming back to the picture of the chicks and even now, thinking about that picture makes me laugh. It’s 9:30 and my older daughter is hopefully asleep but it is a guarantee that I will show her that pic tomorrow. Thanks Col and Rose!

  17. April 12, 2013

    You had me at swaddled chicks. Oh the sweetness!!!!!!

  18. April 12, 2013

    oh those chicks all tucked up slay me!!!! Spring is barely starting over here in England. This post gave me a much need Spring lift! xxx

  19. June 2, 2013

    So wonderfully weird, but I just posted about playing Monopoly with my kid (and the life learning skills that come with that)…and in that same post, I quoted your February 2nd post.

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