Last week we went up to my dad’s middle of the woods homestead/off-grid location in Northern Minnesota. Check out his set-up at Livingoffmyland.com.
The kids and I have been up to dad’s once a year in the past, but we have never been able to convince hubs to join us. This year he decided to go! We have a ton of motivation to add things to our homestead, skills we would like to build and we were sent home with quite a few plants. 🙂 More on that later.
It is not only nice to see dad in his element, but to see how other people build their homesteads and ideas that one would never have imagined thinking of… is inspiring.
While we were there it rained most of the time – luckily it was a drizzly rain instead of a downpour, so we were not washed out. Only being there for 36 hours no time was to be wasted indoors.
Hubs has been really into woodworking – building projects like The Sheep Shed 2.0, refining skills on the lathe, and just overall skill-building.
The dead or fallen trees on our property are usually converted to firewood – because what else do you do with trees without the proper tools? Hubs has been interested in investing in a sawmill, but has reservations because he has never used one. Sometimes things LOOK like a good idea, but when you actually get the tool, it is not worth it or not enjoyable.
A sawmill is a pretty large investment to risk not enjoying the process.
Dad has a pretty basic sawmill that is not only easy to use, but is easy to fix.
Hubs was working on dad’s sawmill and it was malfunctioning. He was able to show dad how to fix the issue in a matter of minutes and move on with the show. They cut a Maple Tree down to boards with custom measurements.
Needless to say, hubs is hooked.
I foresee a sawmill in our future – just waiting on good deal, and a reliable source of trees that we could use.
Regardless, we were lucky enough to leave dad’s with a few nice boards, a new goal and plans to come back for more practice!
Maple Trees Anew...
Another huge benefit we got from visiting dad was the maple tree supply! We tap Maple Trees each spring and make syrup for our family to last the year – any remaining syrup we are able to gift or share. Maple Syruping is by far one of my favorite homestead activities and includes the entire family in the process.
Dad seriously has 80 acres of Maple trees. I wish I was joking – mostly because I am extremely jealous!
Maple Trees are very self-sufficient in re-seeding themselves and unfortunately for dad, this has made his driveway a lot more narrow. Fortunately for us, this allows him to let us dig up small trees for replanting on our property.
We were able to haul home 10 Maple Trees for future tapping – likely like 2030… but alas, more Maple Trees.
The long car ride home may have injured the trees beyond repair, but we planted them anyway. In the past when trees have been relocated on our property, they suffer for a year or two and then come back in full-force. I am PRAYING that this happens with the Maple Trees as well.
The trees were planted on our path to the big garden, which will be a pretty site if they all take. There is one tree planted near the greenhouse which will add more color and shade in an area of the yard the desperately needs it.
GIVE ME ALL THE MAPLES!
Not only will the addition of these trees be a supply of future sap, but they will also produce seeds on the other side of our property, hopefully creating MORE Maple Trees for the future. What a beautiful thing.
Hazelnut & Thimble Berry.
Another abundance of trees dad recently discovered on his property are Hazelnut Trees.
Through the conservation district, I almost purchased a bunch this spring – thank goodness I didn’t because I could get them for FREE from dad. THANKS DAD!
Hazelnuts are a low growing tree/bush that produces a nut that is edible – if you can collect them before the wildlife.
We are hopeful that these trees take as well and are planted along our property line as a type of privacy border giving them dual purpose.
Hazelnut is one of my favorite flavors and I am praying these tree/bushes made it as well so we can learn how to harvest, use and flavor with their flavor! Only time will tell.
That is the funny thing about planting things – in such a ‘microwave’ society and generation we are accustomed to instant results and gratification. Gardening is a great teacher for patience. Sometimes planting something one year will not provide results until a year or five down the road. Caring for the plant year after year getting zero direct benefits (other than oxygen and building the environment) can seem like a waste – what if you move before the plant produces? What if the plant does not produce?
Care and nurture day in and day out for years will still provide the satisfaction of seeing a tree be uprooted from one property to the next – moving from a flourishing life state to a near death experience only to provide years and years of benefits in the end.
Another bush that we were able to bring back from dad’s is the Thimble Berry Bush. I have zero knowledge of this plant, but I know it resembles a raspberry and it is edible.
These were added to the border along with the Hazelnuts.
...Maple Trees Old.
Talk about Maple Trees…
Last year we were not fully educated in the types of Maple Trees when we were tagging. Silver Maples were on our radar, but Red and Sugar were not. I mean, we knew they existed but in walking through the woods to tag trees, we did not suspect that type of bark to possibly tag a tree.
Now we are more educated and in touring the woods, we discovered that we have MORE Maple Trees to tap! Whaaaaat?! Yess, MORE MAPLES.
Last year we were able to tap around 8 Maple Trees, this year we should have about 14. That nearly DOUBLES our tapping quantity.
Not only that, but also at dad’s we were able to see his new Sugar Shack – a building which is used for boiling down Maple Syrup. There is sufficient ventilation that allows steam to escape, but also a roof and walls for the comfort of fully enjoying the process.
In dad’s sugar shack, he has two boilers that reduce the sap into the sweet sugary syrup that we have come to know and love. Our set-up last year was a bit of a hodge podge that worked, but was far from efficient. Hubs is a crafty fella and in his observations of dad’s set-up, he has been calculating and planning our future set-ups.
The Sheep Shed Zuckerhütte is in our future.
Building knowledge of trees and supply of sap will increase production, the Zuckerhütte will be a great addition to our Farm.
Sweet Babydoll Southdown Sheep.
Okay, enough about trees.
I get jazzed about plants – it is miraculous to me that something can provide for the environment, the earth, and our health.
Our ram and whether sheep turned 1 year of age in April – transforming them from lambs into sheep. In August at 16mo of age our Ram got REALLY rammy and was attacking the hubs and basically any male that was on our property.
We thought it was due to the fact that the weather was changing, but he is no longer ramming.
Was it because the weather got warmer again that he stopped ramming? Was he just meeting his peak maturity? Only time will tell.
As I said earlier, he was ramming males – it has to be the testosterone that he was sensing, because sweet little Friedrich was rarely ramming me. Only if I had food that he thought he wanted would he ram me.
This week I sat down in the grass to enjoy the remaining days of sunshine and warmth while the kids played and the animals grazed. Friedrich came up to me head down as if he were going to challenge me. I braced myself for impact and instead he rested his chin on my shoulder.
Our most ‘aggressive’ sheep rested his fuzzy little chin on my shoulder.
It has been awhile since I had sat and bonded with him through snuggles and pets – yes, the sheep we own are like dogs sometimes and enjoy a good scratch.
He had clearly been lacking and was asking for some love. He was directing his head in my hand to where he would like his scratches and even began losing stability in his legs for the fact that he was enjoying the relaxing scratches so intensely.
Before getting Babydoll Southdown Sheep, I had done a LOT of research of wool quality, temperament and overall care of what type of sheep we wanted to invest in. I could not be happier with the breed we had chosen. Never have they challenged the children, never have they been ‘mean’ or ‘wild’. Their wool is extremely soft and insulating. They are small meaning they provide less wool and meat, but the trade-offs are well worth it in our book.
Only a little over a month before we begin breeding our sheep for spring babies!
Sometimes it is difficult to look at one’s property and feel fulfilled. Too often we see everything that needs to be done, that is yet to do, or that others are doing better. What an overwhelming and sinking feeling.
It is important to sit down and see what we can do in this current moment to build our property up, and enjoy everything we have worked on thus far.
Seeing everything dad has going on could have made me feel overwhelmed about things we are still working to achieve, or overwhelmed that we are so far behind someone. Instead, I chose to feel happy for everything dad has accomplished and proud of the goals he is working toward. Happy that we have a different property and goals in some aspects and that our set-up is tailored to our goals. Learning from what dad has accomplished and seeing how he has succeeded and maybe had failures. Teaching him from knowledge we have gained and sharing our failures.
It is exciting working side-by-side with people we love and care about – because at the end of the day, we all live on some type of homestead. From a small patio garden, to acres of vegetation, most of us are working toward fulfilling our passions and getting more connected with nature and the land.
If you ever have any questions, or ideas for future blogs, comment below or shoot me an email!
From the farm,