Common Sense Home Good News Letter 12/10/23

“First, there was a home. Then came a tiny garden, because a home must have growing things. Evergreen trees were next, to shelter the home and garden from the harsh winds. Then there were trees, and shrubs, and more gardens, and ponds. And the chickens for fresh eggs, but then there were slugs, so the duck patrol was deployed. The homestead grew organically, taking on a life of its own.”

It’s been another year of growth (and growing pains) here on the Neverman homestead. As the year winds down, I’ve been reflecting on 2023, and looking forward to 2024.

After many delays, we finally got the new outbuilding up for tractor storage and wood working. There’s still quite a bunch of finishing work to be done inside, but the shell is strong and protected from the elements.

I was joking the other day that we now have a “mullet homestead”, because the main home is more earth toned and blends with the landscape, while the new workshop has bright colors. It’s business in the front and a party in the back – but that’s okay, because I like mixing things up.

We had our first successful batch of ducklings brooded and raised by momma duck – which has maxed out the duck patrol for now. No more new duckies for a while! Miss Sassy sure was adorable with the babies.

Those trees planted years ago put on an amazing show this year with a bumper crop of apples, and the blackberry patch went wild, too. We had enough grapes for jelly, and elderberries to share with friends. I was pleasantly surprised at how well things grew in spite of the dry conditions.

For 2024, we’re still on the fence about which projects to tackle. August’s current job is ending, and he will be ​working as a consultant​, so it’ll take some time to see how his new schedule settles out.

We still want to build an earth sheltered greenhouse, but it would be nice to have a year without a large construction project.

In the gardens, I want to experiment with maximizing production in a minimum amount of space, cooking and less commonly used plant parts so nothing goes to waste, and boosting the nutrient and health of the plants. (More on this in the ​Growing Healthy membership​.)

We’d like to host a couple of in person workshops or events here, too, but I’m not sure what would be most useful or fun for the community within driving distance.

As always, opportunities abound. Now we have to see what we can make of them.

All our best to you and yours,

Laurie (and August IV, August V, and Duncan)

This week’s featured articles…

There’s a new installment in the Home Apothecary series. This week we’re talking about ​valerian root​, which has many different uses, from sleep aid to tension headache reliever.

I don’t know about you, but if my feet are cold, I have a heck of a time falling asleep at night. A friend of mine gave us some reusable hot packs, and I put those in the bed about 5 minutes before I settle down and it’s wonderful. I’ve put together ​a list of several easy options to avoid the dreaded frozen toes in bed​.

I don’t mention it every week, but back in the day (20+ years ago), I used to do a TON of baking. My mom, my sisters, and I had a family catering business where we baked everything from scratch, from wedding cakes, to buns, to Christmas cookies. And what do bakers do in their free time? More baking, of course.

Each December we’d make dozens of Christmas cookies, plus some sort of large gingerbread creation. Every time we get a heavy snowfall it reminds me of the frosting on those gingerbread trees and roofs.

These ​chocolate mint sandwich cookies​ are one of those old fashioned recipes, so melt-in-your-mouth delicate that they’d never hold up in a commercial bakery, but oh so yummy.

This is my mom and my sister back in 2001, with one of the gingerbread houses.

Side note – check out ​these baking tips​ to help make prepping those holiday treats perfect every time.

Popular on Instagram – ​soaking walnuts to remove excess tannins​ and ​Duncan’s first round of cinnamon rolls he baked all by himself​.

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