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Homesteading with Mrs D

Lessons From the Mobile Garden

 

Homesteading with Mrs Dpeppermint oregano lettuce

 

This is more like a review of what went right and what went wrong in my mobile garden experiment. The only things going right at this time, are the peppermint, oregano and lettuce. Even the oregano is not the one I tried from seed. That one died. It is from a plant I purchased at Sprouts, same as the thriving peppermint. Well, at least I’m having good luck there.

The lettuce is from seeds I planted that took a very long time to germinate. They were from the 10 for a dollar bunch I got. Looks like romaine. The peas and collards came up nicely. So nicely that the abuelo’s dog ate them before they could get more than a few inches tall. The birds got the rest of my lettuce. The rest of what actually germinated got fried when I left the mobile garden in the back of the truck too many days during hot weather.

I’m sure the lessons here are obvious.

Abuelo’s dog also dug up my strawberries. What is it about potting soil that some dogs just can’t resist? I rescued them and they appeared to revive for a few days, but now they have given up the ghost.

The pansies I got from Home Depot finally died off last week. They lasted from March through our trip to Oregon, and then came back again in June for a couple of months.

The mobile compost bucket is a success! I have to admit that I have dumped it twice, once in the abuelo’s garden and once at the Homestead. Though the contents have not been completely composted, the odor was not unpleasant. Apparently I had the right mix of food scraps and brown matter — sawdust, grass clippings, leaves, shredded paper, moldy hay and a bit of dirt. It actually smelled like the compost you might buy at any home improvement store, even though it was still decomposing. My reason for dumping into the more stationary compost heaps is that I need several more buckets, so that I can let the full ones continue to compost, while I fill new ones. At the current rate of about one bucket a month, I will need about 6 buckets, I think, and room in the truck to transport them. For now, I am just letting them finish their composting at my various homestead stops.

Although I have not harvested in any kind of sustainable amounts, I have learned much to apply to next year’s mobile garden.

Here is a list of what I’ve learned:

- Sometimes seeds are hard (for me) to start. I might be better off, with my limited space, just purchasing hardy young plants.

- Avoid weather extremes, if possible. Purchasing plants in sunny Albuquerque and taking them to frozen Colorado is not the best idea. Plants need to be warm and have sun.

- Do not keep the garden in the back of the truck for more than a day or two. The plants will fry. Maybe in very cold weather it would be okay to put them next to the sunny window,  for a greenhouse effect.

- Protect the garden from predators: dogs, birds, and ??

- Protect the garden from hail (learned that last year!)

My checklist to get ready for next year:

- Create a second garden box.

- Set up a second compost bin.

- Research aeration, drainage and vermicomposting options.

- Create protective covers for severe weather and pests.

- Work on planting list to be ready to order seeds and purchase young plants.

Yes, I am determined to keep my mobile garden going. I may put in some more lettuce for the winter, and hope the mint and oregano will keep producing. I will need to find some sunny windows for this, while we’re in cold weather, but I think I’ll enjoy that challenge. I’ll be sure and let you know, here, how it works out.

I hope you will consider joining me at my website, Mrs. D's Traveling Homestead, for more updates on our mobile homesteading, roadschooling and simple living adventures. Please also check out my book: The Working Parent’s Guide To Homeschooling.

Woman vs Water Pipes Part 2

Homesteading with Mrs D

woman vs water pipes

In the continuing saga of trying to find a better way of getting water into my house, I made another stop with parts at the Arizona homestead. The connections I had in mind (and hand) did not work. I am determined to use a flex hose and a removable connection in the pumphouse. I am tired of making the same repair to frozen pipes over and over again. Since my latest solution failed, I decided to take the hose and connections with me this time, so that I can browse the options with parts in hand. I also managed to break the shut off valve, so I will have to replace that, as well. At least the water was turned off!

broken shut off valve

In the meantime, I still have a 2500 gallon water tank with a brand new hose bib. So I hooked it up to the transfer pump to move water into the trailer. Luckily we are traveling with our mobile homestead, so we can still have all the comforts of home. I did have to cement one of the connections, so that it would withstand the pressure of the transfer pump. Here is the setup: white hose from the big tank to the transfer pump, gray hose from the pump to the travel trailer. Unseen is the water filter between the hose and travel trailer.

transfer pump

Another step I took toward more independence and less expense, was to have the 200 gallon propane tank removed. We just don’t use that much propane anymore, and I don’t need to be paying for tank rental, either. We haven’t used the forced-air heater for over 10 years, since we installed the wood stove. I’ve been wanting to do away with the gas dryer, as I like to hang my laundry in the sun or in front of the wood stove. I am looking at other options for hot water, so I turned the gas water heater off and drained it. Lastly, the gas range/oven can run on a small 25# tank for quite a while, without having to keep the pilots and gas on all the time.

the pipe cement

The electric grid will probably be the last thing I switch over at the Homestead. We love our electricity, our gadgets and our internet! But that is only costing us $30 a month and is very reliable, so I can put that on the back burner for now and concentrate on other homesteadifications.

cementing the pipe

Until next time … I hope you will visit my website, Mrs. D's Traveling Homestead, for more updates on our mobile homesteading, roadschooling and simple living adventures. Please also check out my book: The Working Parent’s Guide To Homeschooling.

Working on the Mobile Garden

Homesteading with Mrs DToday I got dirty. I worked on the mobile garden, which has mostly been neglected since we left for Oregon, back in April. Yes, it has been watered, and I have begun harvesting the peppermint, but mostly it has sat untended. My strawberries refuse to either produce or die out, so I pulled the dead pansies and other flowers and made a nice mulch around them. I will continue to cover them as they go dormant and hope that they come back again in a few months.

I added my compost/garden soil mix to the remaining pots and took inventory of my seeds. Since potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic are relatively inexpensive, I decided to forego planting any of those. Tomatoes, squash and cucumbers are probably too late to start, so I decided to go with greens, herbs and peas.

the mobile garden 

Fall is coming soon, here in Colorado, so cooler weather crops that might do well in small pots seemed like a good idea. They also have to be mobile, since we will be changing locations every few weeks, and our fall and winter travels will include New Mexico, Arizona and California. I also put in some rosemary, oregano, parsley and dill seeds. We will see how they do.

This time, I labeled everything, along with where I got the seeds – some from Bountiful Gardens, by mail order, and some locally from farmers' markets last year. A few I got from discount stores at 10 for $1 – could you resist? I want to see what germinates and what doesn’t and how they do, so I can “weed out” the non-productive seeds in my backlog of inventory, and justify the cost if the mail order or farmers' market seeds take off. This way I can also keep track of what I planted in which pot, especially when it comes to harvesting the salad greens.

the mobile garden   the mobile garden

I also started a mobile compost bucket. Since I am used to the outdoor compost heap at the Homestead, I am not sure if I should put some aeration and drainage holes in it or not. I have put a base of wheat and pine-based cat litters (I don’t like the clay-based ones) and have started with food scraps. I may add earthworms, too, but I need to do a bit more research on composting in containers first.

For now, the cat litter will contain the odors. I am excited to start this mobile composting project. I have been feeling like I’m wasting so much by just throwing it in the trash. Can’t wait until I get a paper shredder again, so I can add that to the mix. I think this will cut down greatly on our waste and help us be more sustainable by producing our own soil for growing some of our food.

the mobile garden   the mobile garden

It is always nice to get back to Colorado, because my cow-share people also make raw butter and fresh eggs (well, their chickens make the eggs). Even though in Arizona and California I am able to get raw milk from Sprouts, I like my cow share even better because I’m getting it right from the dairy farm. As my No. 2 son says, “You can taste what the cow’s been eating,” and I like that. It’s earthy, connected and I think it’s healthy. Why would I want my milk to taste like water? I am looking forward to lots of dairying this week – yogurt making, cheese making and, now that I picked up my little ice cream freezer from the Homestead, ice cream, too!

Speaking of frozen treats, I happened to pick up a cooking show on the local stations, Lidia’s Kitchen. On this particular episode, Lidia made Mint Granita, a frozen dessert. It looked scrumptious, and I can’t wait to try it with some of my fresh peppermint. I will post on how that turns out another time. Right now, I have to clean the dirt out from under my fingernails and throw together some store-bought greens for lunch.

I hope you will consider joining us at my website, Mrs. D's Traveling Homestead, for more updates on our mobile homesteading, roadschooling and simple living adventures. Please also check out my book: The Working Parent’s Guide To Homeschooling.

Woman vs. Water Pipes

Homesteading with Mrs DThere’s no place like home, and I still consider my Arizona homestead my home base. It seems that every time I stop there for a couple of days, I have to fix the water line just to get water into the house. I guess that’s how it goes. Water pipes freeze and break in the winter when the weather gets cold. The way I have it set up for full-time living is not working for our stopovers, so I have to formulate a new plan of attack.

I had nearly all the parts on hand to make the repair, except for elbows. The elbows hadn’t burst in the prior two or three freezes. So since I had to get elbows anyway, I picked up some flex hose and clamps as well. I also got a couple of fittings to install another gate valve at the tank, so that when the house lines or water pump are down, we can at least still fill water jugs to bring in for washing and such.

IMG_1514

The problem: The pipe is broken from the backflow valve to the elbow.

Since the 2,500-gallon water tank was empty, I considered it a good time to install the gate valve at the bottom of the tank where the threaded connection was located. That was fairly easy: wrap pipe tape on a threaded fitting, screw the gate valve into that and voila! Done. Now I could call for a load of water.

I figured it was easier to have it delivered all at once than to spend the rest of the day running back and forth to the water station 7 miles away, fill my 400-gallon hauling tank, pump into main tank and repeat. Success, no leaks. On to the next challenge.

IMG_1515

The water tank.

As I was inspecting the breakage, deciding just where to cut off the broken pipe, I discovered that water was still slowly flowing into the pipe. That should not be happening with the flow shut off at the main tank. Went to the shut-off valve and turned it. Nothing. I pondered for a few moments and decided that it had to be the shut-off valve, so I got my gloves, which give my wimpy girl hands a lot more grip, and my handy pipe wrench and gave the valve a turn. It closed some more.

Went back and checked the pipe. The flow had slowed, but was still coming through. Gave the valve another turn, terrified of breaking it with a full load of 2,500 gallons of water in the tank. The valve finally seemed to reach its limit. Checked pipe, flow seemed to have stopped.

IMG_1516

The new hose bib on the water tank.

After I cut off the broken pipe and disassembled the rest of the apparatus from the pump, I put the new backflow valve and pipes together for a dry run before gluing everything in place. It took me some time to work out how to install the flex hose, which I had to soften with a heat gun and I still did not get all the connections right, so I left it for next time, but I think I’m on the right track. I just need to investigate a better way to connect the hose to the backflow valve and give it another test.

My plan is to leave one connection unglued so that it can be removed and the pipes drained when we are gone, to eliminate breakage from freeze ups. This way we will also be able to detect a freeze and thaw it before turning the water back on. It will be far less labor intensive than repairing the entire connection every time we come home. Once I get the water flowing into the house again, I have another project that will need to be completed before winter: a new insulation box around the water pipes and pump.

IMG_1524

Almost to the solution.

Until next time … I hope you will visit my website, Mrs. D's Traveling Homestead, for more updates on our mobile homesteading, roadschooling and simple living adventures. Please also check out my book: The Working Parent’s Guide To Homeschooling.

Changing The Landscape

Homesteading with Mrs DIn our ongoing green mobile homesteading adventure we are hitting the inevitable bumps. For some reason, though our “house” batteries last quite a long time (3 to 4 days running just lights and water pump), they don’t seem to charge up at all while we are driving. My first piece of knowledge, gleaned from a Google search of “why won’t my trailer batteries charge while I’m driving,” is to get a multi-meter and check the connections – at the trailer and at the truck. If all lights light up, then apparently it is a case of the truck just not providing enough charge to top up the batteries. In that case, I am looking at different options. I also have the spare battery to consider, for running the inverter so we can charge our gadgets and computers.

This leads to several choices: generator, alternator, solar panels or wind system to name the most common. I am first going to investigate the less expensive options of running a separate alternator to charge the batteries before I resign myself to the more expensive generator or solar/wind options.

inedible berry planter 

In other parts of the country, our urban homestead in California is under severe water restrictions due to the ongoing drought in that state. We had already pulled nearly everything out of the flower beds in preparation for a whole new landscape look. I want edibles, the grown children who are living there want trendy, good-looking stuff. For now we are putting in red mulch, to keep down the dust, help keep the water from evaporating and add some attractive color.

grapefruit tree 

future patio

Now the grass I had worked so hard on last fall, watering, fertilizing and seeding, is all brown. Apparently Pops doesn’t like to water it. After much discussion and some preliminary research, we are going to interview landscape contractors and greywater specialists about costs of installing a greywater and/or timer controlled sprinkler system. We plan to install all new gutters and rain barrels and pave over the grass in the tiny back yard to create a barbecue, fire pit and sitting area.

plum and grapefruit trees 

I hope to have some real how-to hands-on info for you next time, as right now we are still in the planning and info gathering stages. Much of the past few months have been taken up with taking one grandpa on a road trip and making RV repairs and truck repairs. The mobile garden (below right) is doing very little right now. Peppermint is taking off, strawberries stagnating and flowers coming to the end of their season. With the major issues at bay, perhaps some new planting and projects can now take place.

Camelia planter  mobile garden

Until next time … I hope you will visit my website, Mrs. D's Traveling Homestead, for more updates on our mobile homesteading, roadschooling and simple living adventures. Please also check out my book: The Working Parent’s Guide To Homeschooling.

Sealing Up Roof Leaks

Robyn DolanToday I’m pulling from my recent archives. I have since traded in the tiny trailer, but here is a post that was waiting, about sealing up my roof leaks.

Weatherstrip putty only lasts so long, as I recently discovered. We have been in Southern California for a couple of months, and the rains helped us to discover a new leak on the roof and one of the windows. So after replacing some of the rope caulking, I sealed up every crack and seam on the roof of the tiny trailer with elastomeric rubber roofing sealant. Elastomeric is wonderful stuff. Before moving out to the homestead with my older three children, we spent several months on the road with a camper on the back of the truck. I bought the camper for $400 and made several repairs to it, including an intensive roof seal with elastomeric. The rest of the camper is sitting on the homestead, slowly falling apart, but the roof is still not leaking! That is quite possibly a record, even for elastomeric.

on top of trailer 

spreading elastomeric 1 

elastomeric

Elastomeric comes in a paint can and goes on with a putty knife, or other spreader. First clean your surface with soap and water, remove old sealant if necessary, and scrape off any stuck on stuff. Then take your putty knife and scoop the elastomeric out of the can, glop it on seams, cracks or holes, and spread it to fill in and seal to the surface. It is very thick, about the consistency of frosting. It does take some time to cure, but will then swell and contract with the weather, and usually does not crack. I am sorely tempted to plaster the entire roof of the homestead with it, but maybe I’ll just stick with the asphalt shingles for now. elastomeric is really designed for RVs and trailers. 

spreading elastomeric 2

I also sealed up several other leaks with elastomeric. Since the trailer is so small, the roof only required about 1/4 of the gallon can I bought, so there was plenty left. I had to remove several non-working running lights and sealed up the remaining holes with elastomeric. The front corners of the trailer were getting pretty ragged and would not hold to the wood supports very well in places. I glued them down/together with elastomeric. The plastic sink and shower pan were getting brittle and cracked so I sealed up those spots with elastomeric. I still have half a gallon left. No use for it in the new trailer, so far. Any ideas?

tiny trailer

I hope you will come visit my website, Mrs. D's Traveling Homestead, for more updates on our mobile homesteading, roadschooling and simple living adventures. Please also check out my book: The Working Parent’s Guide To Homeschooling.

Adventures in Mobile Gardening

Homesteading with Mrs DThe Homestead crew went to Albuquerque the other day and stopped at a home-improvement store on the way back. I couldn’t resist the colorful flowers and perky tomato plants, so I picked up some new victims/prospects for this year’s mobile homestead gardening experiment. Aren’t they pretty?

 

pansies 

Tomatoes, crookneck squash, strawberries, peppermint and some flowers. Vines which I do not have luck with starting from seed. Sadly, the tomatoes and squash have already succumbed to the late Colorado freeze.

garden soil

The current survivors have been transplanted into pots. The boy and I used a mix of organic compost and non-organic garden soil. Hey, the budget is a bit tight right now. We do what we can. The first night, the pots were all next to the front door of the trailer, but the lack of sun (our door is currently facing north) prompted me to move them to the back of the trailer, where they would get the morning sun and hopefully survive the cold nights a little better. We used the foam board we skirted the trailer with during the extreme cold for windbreaks to protect the little plants.

garden with windbreak

Still not satisfied with the amount of sun my little garden was getting, I decided I needed a more mobile setup. So I dug out Mrs. Susie’s doghouse, which has been languishing in the back of the truck for the past year, unused, and repurposed it. I removed the top, placed all my containers in the bottom, and enlisted the boy to help me move it to a sunnier location. While the nights are still cold, I am putting the top back on overnight, removing it in the mornings.

mobile garden 

I have yet to plant my lettuce and other veggies that I am starting from seed. As you can see, my garden is currently full. I also need to replace the tomatoes and squash that died and get some cucumbers, but that will have to wait until we return from our upcoming trip to Oregon. Maybe by that time I will have found another conveniently sized mobile container that I can use to hold the rest of my garden.

strawberries, peppermint, squash

For now, the questions remain: will the garden survive Mrs. D’s black thumb? If so, will it survive the frequent moves? Stay tuned, as Mrs. D’s Mobile Gardening Adventure continues.

garden by step

I hope that you will consider joining us at my website, Mrs. D's Traveling Homestead, for more updates on our mobile homesteading, roadschooling and simple living adventures. Please also check out my book: The Working Parent’s Guide To Homeschooling.