Planning our veggie garden

Starting a veggie garden has been a goal of ours for ages, and with the cabin pretty much finished the time is now! Spring of 2021 is launch!

For the past several months I’ve spent countless hours researching: what practices do we want to use? How does companion planting work? How should we protect from predators? And on and on. I’ve purchased many books, watched lots of YouTube videos, learned from homesteaders I follow on Instagram, asked for tips from our neighbors and read blogs & magazine/newspaper articles. My final plans were created with the Old Farmer’s Almanac planner tool after I kept losing the pieces of paper I wrote each plant on and arranged on the table.

In the hopes of inspiring and helping others in their veggie garden plans, I’m going to give a high level overview of what we’ve landed on along with embedding the Excel worksheet I created to track my work. I’ve also embedded a blank copy for you to use should you so desire. The final garden plan for Spring 2021 is embedded as well.

I’ve also posted a YouTube video of these plans if you’d rather watch than read (or want to do both!). I’ll be posting more videos with complimentary blog posts so you can learn more specifics about which plants we’re companioning with each other and how it’s been successful or not so much. I’ll also share info on how we’re deterring predators, preserving our yields and more.

You may not believe that I’ll posting because I haven’t been very regular lately but I’m really going to try!

So, let’s start with one key practice we’re including in our garden – companion planting! What is it? It’s the practice of planting specific plants near others to either enhance their yield or protect one another from pests or disease. The main example everyone gives is the Three Sisters (which we’ll be using in our garden). And since you can find that in literally every blog post about companion planting, I’m going to set it aside here. Instead, here’s a quick rundown of some of our other chosen companions.

With the large variety of veggies we’re planting, I had a very difficult time building our plan. Companion planting is important but inversely, knowing which plants dislike each other and shouldn’t be near one another is important to consider as well. Keeping veggies that like each other together while ensuring that they weren’t near others was no easy task with 18 different vegetables!

I think of companion and “dislike” planting as a logic puzzle (which is no fun).

Plant A loves B and C, but B hates C.

Plant D loves E and F but F isn’t that fond of D.

See the struggle?

Tomatoes are a great veggie for many others, and was something I wanted to plant in about 5 different places. We landed on having it closest to asparagus, bell peppers, pumpkin, onion and carrot. They are a little closer to some of our potatoes that I’d ideally have them, but as I said above, companion planting is a tricky business!

Tomato benefits asparagus as they protect it against the asparagus beetle. Bell peppers also benefit from tomatoes as the tomatoes keep nematodes out of the soil. Tomato and carrot do well near one another as the lower-growing carrot will enjoy the cooler soil under the shade of the taller tomato and provide mulch for the tomato plant. The pungent odor of onions has been shown to deter pests from other plants, including tomatoes. The pumpkins and tomatoes aren’t particularly good for each other nor are they enemies; I just needed a decently-sized space for the pumpkins and this fit the bill.

We’ve also planted carrot near peas, with peas being near potatoes, cucumbers and turnips. Potatoes are also near garlic, lettuce, kale and broccoli.

Our full plant list is as follows:

  • Asparagus (Jersey Giant)
  • Bush Beans (Contender and Blue Lake FMI)
  • Broccoli (Green Magic)
  • Carrot (Tendersweet and Rainbow Blend)
  • Corn (Allure)
  • Cucumber (Northern Pickling)
  • Garlic (Chesnok Red Hardneck)
  • Kale (Russian Red)
  • Onion (Patterson)
  • Peas (Sugar Snap)
  • Peppers (Bellboy and Rainbow Mix)
  • Potato (Red Chieftain and Yukon Gem)
  • Pumpkin (Jack O’Lantern)
  • Spinach (Renegade Hybrid)
  • Tomato (Roma Plum, Beefmaster, Husky Red Cherry)
  • Turnip (Purple Top White Globe)
  • Zucchini (Casaerta)
  • Mushrooms – Wine Cap/Garden Giant

Below are all the documents I promised to share with you up top. If you’re a companion planter, please share your tips and tricks! I’m sure our garden will evolve over time as we discover more about what works well and what doesn’t but I am so happy to have our first pass planned out!

Spring 2021 veggie garden! #s may not be exact but you get the feel of what goes where.

Future posts will include info on succession planting, why we’re including mushrooms in our garden, utilizing a no-till garden practice and more!

Watch our companion YouTube video and check out all our other goings-on in the link below.

https://linktr.ee/the.mn.homestead

foraging preseason

When most people hear the word preseason, images of baseballs, footballs, or other sports-related items likely come to mind. Not so with this homesteading gal!

This past weekend, my husband and I enjoyed several glorious hours on a beautiful Saturday morning checking out all my secret foraging spots. The wonderful things we saw!

Wild roses are popping out. I’m eager to try rose-infused honey this year as well as make rosehip jam. I’ll continue to drink the dried hips in tea as well. Roses contain many wonderful properties, such as a powerful dose of vitamin C along with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.

Someone else is sneaking a taste and pollinating this beauty!

Another lovely sight was my secret wild plum grove, thick with tiny plums! They make an amazing jam and are just the right size when ripe to pop into your mouth for a snack !

Yummy plummy goodness!

Another bright spot (literally) in the day was what we commonly refer to as honeysuckle but is in fact no relation. Red Columbine is tasty but a tease – one teensy drop of sweet honey flavor at the rounded end of each petal.

Not honeysuckle, but delicious nonetheless

Continuing our journey, we found a new stand – wintergreen! This sweet little plant is a great way to perk up a cup of tea.

Tea time!

Also spied with my little eye? The classics! A bumper crop year of raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, chokecherries, and Saskatoons (June berries)! The wild strawberries are even flowering this year which leads me to believe I may have a chance at a few of them!

Wild strawberries 😍🍓😍🍓

I also won’t discount all my wonderful herbal friends, often relegated to the “weed” category – dandelions, yellow dock, burdock, bittercress, plantain and MANY more!

And, not to be outdone by the plant life, we also enjoyed checking out some seriously enormous wolf prints. We haven’t seen a wolf near the homestead for two years but tracks have been more frequent lately.

HUGE

I haven’t been great at keeping up with my blog lately but with all my upcoming foraging you may soon have had too much of me! As I foray into my secret wilderness, I’ll provide more in-depth plant and herb profiles along with tasty and healthy (sometimes 😉) ways to enjoy them.

Also keep an eye on our Etsy store to partake in some of our goodies, subscribe to us on YouTube for tutorials and general good fun, and check us out on Instagram for daily peeks into our homestead.

https://linktr.ee/the.mn.homestead

❤️ – Miranda

Wild ramp pesto tortilla pizza

As you know if you’ve been following our blog or YouTube channel, I am a wild ramp fanatic! Nothing says Spring quite like seeing the tops pop out of the earth.

The first sign of Spring!

After a long winter of veggies only from the store, getting my hands in the dirt to forage my own food is one of the best feelings in the world. Smelling the dirt as it collects under my nails, feeling a grateful connectedness to our earth, and knowing I’ll soon be nourishing my body with the fresh harvest is energizing yet brings me calm and a sense of grounding.

To ensure sustainability for these over-harvested beauties, I almost exclusively take the leaves. Below is a favorite pesto recipe made from the leaves and a couple bulbs.

Harvest!

Ingredients

– two large handfuls wild ramps leaves (chopped, about 2.5 cups)

– 2 wild ramp bulbs

– 1 handful fresh basil leaves (chopped, about .5 cup)

– 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

– 4 T Parmesan cheese (for pesto, plus extra to sprinkle on pizza)

– 4 oz fresh mozzarella cheese

– 3 tortillas

– 3 cloves garlic

– 1/3 cup or more olive oil

Process

– preheat oven to 425 degrees F

– mince ramp bulbs and garlic

– roughly chop ramp and basil leaves

– combine ramp leaves, basil leaves, pine nuts, ramp bulbs, and garlic in food processor (pulse gently, don’t over-blend!) or crush together with mortar and pestle, until chunky

– add olive oil one tablespoon at a time and mix thoroughly (again, pulse very gently if using a food processor – you don’t want a smooth paste) until consistency is a wet, rough paste

– place tortilla in 8 inch cast iron pan (no oil in the pan – you want it crispy!)

– spread pesto evenly over tortilla

– pinch mozzarella into small bits and sprinkle over pesto

– sprinkle more Parmesan cheese over pizza (if desired)

– bake in oven 8 – 12 minutes, until cheese is slightly bubbling and tortilla edges are crispy

– try to pace yourself, enjoy, and appreciate this delicious gift from the earth rather than gobbling up in two bites (it will be hard!)

I hope you enjoy this tasty recipe as much as my husband and I do!

Make sure to check out our YouTube channel, Instagram, and Facebook to enjoy all our homesteading adventures!

https://linktr.ee/the.mn.homestead

adaptogen oatmeal cookies

As I learn more about herbalism, I’m seeking ways to integrate herbs more often for an overall, daily health boost. Adaptogens are a great way to restore homeostasis in the body and support your many systems (Adaptogens by David Winston with Steven Maimes is a great read to learn more). I played around with a no-bake oatmeal cookie recipe and made some herbal adaptogen cookies today and they turned out even better than I expected! One or two a day will be a great way to take care of myself.

No Bake Adaptogen Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup raw, local honey
  • 1/3 cup all natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup adaptogen powder (I used Astragalus, Eleuthro, and Ashwagandha root powders)
  • 1.5 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips

Directions

  • Melt peanut butter and butter in saucepan over medium heat
  • Remove from heat, stir in adaptogens, oats, and chocolate chips (this will make the chips melt somewhat which I like; if you don’t want this, add them last)
  • Cool slightly in fridge, then stir in honey (don’t put the honey in too early or you will lose the benefits of it being raw)
  • Drop tablespoon-sized bits of batter onto a cookie sheet
  • Cool completely in fridge and store leftovers there
  • Enjoy and be well!

Make sure to check out the rest of our homesteading adventures in the link below!

https://linktr.ee/the.mn.homestead

Stellar blueberry muffins

These muffins are so full of flavor! I have 2.5 secrets that make them so yummy you’ll be making some every week!

Tip 1: crush some of the blueberries before mixing into the batter – you’ll have the wonderful blueberry flavor throughout even if you don’t get a berry in your bite!

Tip 1.5: warm the blueberries before mashing. You’ll get more juice out and they’ll be easier to mash!

Tip 2: Swedish Pearl Sugar! Tip your muffins with it before popping them in the oven. They add a delightful flavor and slight crunch. Yum!

Ingredients:

½ cup softened butter
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ cup milk
2 cups blueberries
3 teaspoons sugar
½ cup Swedish pearl sugar

Directions:

1 Preheat oven to 375° and line muffin tin with cupcake liners

2 Cream butter and 1¼ cups sugar until light

3 Add eggs one at a time; beat well after each

4 Add vanilla

5 Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together

6 Alternate adding milk and flour mixture

7 Crush ½ cup blueberries and mix into batter; fold remaining berries in

8 Fill muffin tins with batter and top with Swedish pearl sugar

9 Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or more

Enjoy!!

Check out our YouTube channel in the link below to follow along as I bake them!

https://linktr.ee/the.mn.homestead

hosting at the homestead

This past weekend was a favorite at the homestead! We were lucky enough to host some good friends and two of their little ones – aged 2 years and 6 months.

We finally had some “warm” weather (low 30s) so we could take the girls out for some adventuring.

We handled the snowshoeing and the girls relaxed in the sled

For Christmas, my MIL bought us a snowman kit, so that was a priority in our agenda.

He was a little wonky, but we loved him anyway!

After our outdoors activities, our friend had THE BEST IDEA OF ALL TIME – s’mores in the wood stove!!! It is seriously genius.

Picture this (since I didn’t get a picture):

– Warm wood stove, door open

– Marshmallow on a stick, turning golden brown over the coals

– Graham cracker and chocolate sitting on top of the stove, getting slightly melted and creamy

Is your mouth watering too? I’m pretty sure I ate at least 7.

I always love the homestead and sharing it with others just makes it even more wonderful. That includes you, dear readers! Thank you for spending time with us each week! Don’t forget to check out all our other adventures by following the link below.

https://linktr.ee/the.mn.homestead

bees on the brain

🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝

Welcome to my brain this week! As Spring approaches (I promise, it will come!) I find myself in full-on bee mode.

My most recent YouTube video is about propolis and its importance to a hive (Link to the full video at bottom) and my last post was about prepping for our newest arrivals. And guess what? I still can’t stop thinking about them!

I’m particularly looking forward to a new variety/race of honeybees this year (new to us). Thus far in our beekeeping adventures, we’ve had Carniolan bees. This spring, we’re starting Saskatraz.

Me installing a Carniolan Queen in a new package two springs ago

Saskatraz is a relatively new bee variety, bred in Saskatchewan Canada for preferred genetic traits such as hygienic tendencies, excellent honey production, resistance to mites, and a good winter survival likelihood. There are lots of articles on the web that will give you tons of detail on how these were bred along with further info, so I won’t dive in here. Instead, I’ll give you more context on why these appealed to us.

#1: overwintering

Northern MN is a hard place to keep bees! With temperatures getting to -30 f or lower and windchills of -60 f the last two winters with almost-record snowfalls, our ladies have it rough.

We do all we can to help them out (wrapping them, putting on a big candy board, setting up a wind break) but there’s only so much one can do. This winter hardiness was easily our number one reason for selecting this variety.

Our Carniolan hive a few weeks ago

#2: hygiene/disease resistance

We’ve been lucky enough to not have any major sicknesses in our hives, but we know this is a major concern. As mites and other bad guys become stronger and more resistant to treatments, it’s important to do all we can to naturally keep them healthy, so this benefit fits the bill for sure.

#3: honey production

This was the least of our desires when we looked at bee varieties this year. I will be SO pumped if we get honey this year (we’ve only gotten a tiny bit over the last two summers), but for us, the enjoyment is in watching the ecosystem, seeing how the hive works, and knowing that we’re having a positive impact.

All-in-all, I’m looking forward to our Saskatraz bees this year! I’ll be posting lots of videos throughout our adventures, so make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Catch you next time!

https://linktr.ee/the.mn.homestead

prepping for bees in 2020

As I did last winter, I’m eagerly and nervously keeping an eye on our hive as the winter goes on.

This year’s hive after our first big snowstorm

We were lucky last year; our first year hive made it through the bitterly cold and very snowy winter unscathed! I was so proud of our little ladies. They were weak going into winter but somehow they pulled through!

As you know, we then had trouble over the summer as the colony became queenless. Though we got a new one and the hive was stronger going into winter this year, I haven’t been able to get the same kind of pulse in them as I did last year.

As the colony was weak last fall, we only had two deep boxes on. This meant that the bees had a smaller space in which to cluster, so I could actually press my ear against the hole in the top box and hear them buzzing.

This year, with the larger population, we have three boxes. I can’t hear them buzzing this year. I’m telling myself it’s because they have more room and are likely clustered down in the second (or perhaps even first) box, but I’m scared!

Checking on the ladies late last spring

Regardless of what happens to the ladies this year, we’re going to keep going! I just got off the phone with our local bee supplier and ordered two three-pound packages of Saskatraz bees. This is a newer variety that has been bred in Canada to be disease- and mite-resistant, to over-winter well, and be good honey producers. In mid-April this year, we’ll be installing them in two new hives alongside our Carniolans (provided they make it through the winter).

I’m looking forward to spending some time at our local stores in the coming months, picking up more supplies and prepping for our latest hives.

I’ll post more another time about why we chose Saskatraz as well as why we’re getting two more hives rather than just one.

One of my favorite pictures from a hive inspection last year

Wish us luck as we go into 2020, and stay tuned for updates!

https://linktr.ee/the.mn.homestead

goodbye 2019

Is it already that time? Time to say goodbye to another year and hello to the next? As always, I feel like we’re back in January and there’s no way another trip around the sun has been completed, but here we are, readying ourselves for a new decade!

2019 has been an amazing year for us on the homestead.

We built a cabin!

We successfully installed a new queen in our queenless hive and were able to harvest a small amount of honey.

I did some hardcore foraging, canning almost 150 jars of jam and we started selling on Etsy.

We loved life and each other, celebrating our 6th wedding anniversary.

And I loved filming all our excitement for our YouTube channel and posting about it here.

I hope you’ll keep up with our blog, videos, Instagram and more in 2020. We have TONS of fun planned and I’m eager to share our adventures, challenges, and happiness with you.

Happy new year!

Miranda and Jeff ❤️

Check out all the good! https://linktr.ee/the.mn.homestead

wood stove snuggle struggle

You’ve had a long week at work. Lounging on the couch, cup of coffee or cocoa in hand, soaking in the warmth of the wood stove… bliss. Could Saturday morning be better than this? Could anything be more enjoyable than relaxing the rest of the day in front of the stove, perhaps snacking on a Christmas cookie and having a nap? Sounds unlikely.

You’ve had a long week at work, cooped up in the office, breathing in the stagnant air. Snowshoeing through the woods, fresh crisp air in your lungs, the sounds of nature in your ears… bliss. Could Saturday morning be better than this? Could anything be more enjoyable than basking in the wonder of the great outdoors, slowing down the pace of the world and being at one with the earth? Sounds unlikely.

This is my weekly wood stove snuggle struggle. I get up to the coals of the stove, put a fresh log on, and get a cup of coffee. The fire roars, I sink into the couch, and the idea of venturing outdoors just isn’t that appealing. But I know that if I lounge inside all day, I’ll be missing out. I know for a fact that once I get my snowsuit on and push myself out the door, I’ll be filled with joy. But the couch is joyful too!

Have you ever encountered this struggle? Do you find a way to get yourself outside or do you spend the day in front of the stove? Let me know in the comments!

Don’t forget to keep up with all our cabin and outdoor adventures by following us on Instagram @the.mn.homestead and watching our videos on our YouTube channel! Also make sure to treat yourself by perusing our Etsy store for the perfect gift to yourself.

https://linktr.ee/the.mn.homestead