Late February: A Birthday and a Welcome Thaw

Late February means we’re thinking of seeds and gardens and looking out at our snowy Northern Michigan landscape wishing for green again. After the deluge of chocolate and other candy that comes with Valentine’s Day, we have a birthday to celebrate and then things quiet down again.

Our son loves the homemade cards and other gifts his sisters make for him, and the video game and other toys didn’t hurt, either.

Boba Fett the Rooster and our hens, Leia and Rey, are nice and comfy in their winter structure. This was our first winter with them and we’ve been relieved to see how well they’ve made it through all of the sub-freezing temperatures. And with the increasing amount of daylight, the girls have finally picked up their egg production again.

There is plenty to see even at the tail end of winter. The lichens growing on the trees on our land always catch my attention, and there’s something about conifers and raindrops. I probably took way too many photos of this tree branch, to be honest…

And the demon basset is still as adorable and sassy as ever. She’ll be happy when the snow melts and we can easily take her for long walks on the trails again.

As always, there’s lots of woodworking and writing and homeschooling happening, which is often tiring but so worth it. We’re all looking forward to spring and summer, waiting out winter with dreams of green grass and gardens and beaches.


Early May Around the Homestead

This is our first spring here on our homestead, and it has been a busy one! In addition to work (so much writing and editing for me, and woodworking for Roger — we are truly lucky!) we’ve been busy digging garden beds, starting seeds, mowing, and just generally settling into spring. We’re closing in on the end of our homeschool year, and there’s still so much I want to get in before we break for summer. We’ll see how it goes.

Other than that, our big news was that we FINALLY got our chickens! We’ve wanted them for years, and considered trying to keep them on the downlow at our old place, but we waited, and I’m so excited to finally have them. I wasn’t confident enough to start off with chicks for our first time around, so we ordered three pullets from a young woman who hatches and raises them locally, and we picked them up last week.

I adore them. We named them Jyn, Leia, and Rey. 😉

Here’s a quick peek at what we’ve been up to the last couple of weeks:

Tasha is very intrigued by the chickens. They are not her biggest fans.

It’s okay, Tash. We love ya.

This is Rey, and behind her is Leia. They’re Easter Eggers, and my new favorite form of entertainment is watching them take dust baths. They really get into it. 🙂

Roger has had a TON of orders in the past few months, and we’re thrilled to see how many people love the items he makes. Of course, this means that some days, he spends nearly the whole day in the workshop, but now that it’s warmer it’s a lot more pleasant out there. Plus the kids are outside more, and his workshop is kind of right in the middle of everything.

We saw these sweet little wildflowers during a walk in our woods. I have no idea what they are, but I keep meaning to look them up. There are also some white ones.

We’re doing nature study more regularly now that it’s warmer out. Last week, we sketched the little flowers on our maple trees. This week, it was all about chickens. 🙂

And, finally, this little sweetie turned NINE earlier this month. I swear we were bringing her home from the hospital just yesterday.

That’s our early May in a nutshell. Now that there’s so much going on, there should be no lack of things to write about here on the blog. 🙂


Collecting: Milk Glass

I have Martha Stewart to blame for my interest in collecting milk glass. Well, Martha, and the fact that milk glass is plentiful and easy to collect, and you don’t have to put a lot of money into building a collection.

Of course, I’m not focused too much on age or rarity. I simply buy a milk glass item if I like the shape or size of it. For my purposes, our local resale shops, eBay, and Etsy are all good places to get my hands on milk glass pieces I love.

A Quick History of Milk Glass

Milk glass has been around since the 16th century and was produced in Venice in a variety of colors. The white milk glass that many of us think of when we hear the term “milk glass” became popular during the Victorian era. It gained popularity in Victorian times because it looked almost like porcelain, allowing people to purchase dinnerware that resembled the more expensive, traditional porcelain, even if they were on a budget.

Popularity of milk glass fell off a bit until around World War II. In the 1950s and 1960s, many companies in the U.S. started mass-producing milk glass, which is why we’re lucky to have so many pieces available to us today. Some companies still make milk glass, so when you see it in a resale shop, it’s very possible that you’re seeing a fairly new piece, rather than an antique.

How to Tell If Your Milk Glass is Antique

It’s not easy. Most milk glass wasn’t marked, and patterns stayed fairly similar throughout production. Older milk glass often contained lead, and, if you hold these items up to bright, natural light, you’ll be able to see a sort of “rainbow” effect at the edges of the glass. Other than that, you’ll have to look up your item on sites such as Kovel’s or in books such as The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Milk Glass. The National Milk Glass Collector’s Society also has a helpful FAQ on their website about collecting milk glass.

As for me, I’ll continue to collect for fun, based on what strikes my fancy when I see it. Here’s a look at some of the items in my little collection:

The Bookish Homestead: What We’re Reading This Week

When we moved here, we half-joked, half-cried about how “oh, god, there are more boxes of books to carry in!” It seemed as if every time we were sure we’d finished carrying heavy book boxes in, we’d find a few more on the moving truck. Aside from the shared library in our living room, we all have our own little libraries, and we check out books by the armful when we go into town to visit the library.

I thought it would be fun to share what we’re reading, so here’s the inaugural post of our “The Bookish Homestead” series.

What We’re Reading

The Kids:

Alex, age 8: The Magic Tree House: The Knight at Dawn by Mary Pope Osborn. Alex has read several of the Magic Tree House books, and he says “I just like these books.” Good enough. 🙂

Elizabeth, age 9: Princess Ponies: A Dream Come True by Chloe Ryder. My animal-crazy girl is very into fiction about animals right now. She says: “It’s about Princess Stardust’s best friend, Blossom, who likes to play sports.”

Sarah, age 12: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Sarah says “it’s a good story and I like the way Maas writes.”

Emily, age 13: Emily is reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling. She just started this, but since she immediately grabbed it after finishing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, it’s probably safe to say that she’s just as obsessed with Harry Potter as I’d hoped she’d be.

Roger and Colleen’s Reads:

Roger is reading Backyard Projects for Today’s Homestead by Chris Gleason. If you can find a copy of this out-of-print book, grab it! Roger says that he likes the fact that there are lots of good, simple projects and plenty of detailed photos. Great book to get inspiration for your own building projects.

And, finally, I’m reading Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton (and currently listening to the Hamilton soundtrack as I’m writing this post…) I’m really enjoying this massive biography. Chernow does an amazing job of bringing Hamilton to life, and I love seeing Hamilton’s cockiness played against his insecurities. Fabulous read.

So, that’s what we’re reading this week!

5 Herbs You Can Grow on a Windowsill

One of the things I miss most about gardening during the long winter months is the scent of the garden. Green, vibrant, alive. The pungent odor of tomato leaves, the almost antiseptic scent of marigolds, the delicate perfume of the wild roses that grow near the lilacs in our yard.

And the herbs.

At our old house, for a while at least, I had a respectable little herb garden. I grew chives, two varieties of sage, parsley, dill, chamomile, basil, and rosemary. Thyme crawled along the edges of the raised beds and spilled over the sides. Lemon balm and mint blossoms drew bees while providing us with plenty of leaves for tea.

I will have an even bigger herb garden here, but at the moment, the ground is covered in a couple feet of snow pack. This is the time for dreaming and planning.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t grow a few herbs inside while I wait.

Easy Herbs to Grow on a Windowsill

The main issue you’ll run into in trying to grow herbs indoors is that most of them need A LOT of light to grow well. It’s difficult to find a sunny window in some houses even in the best of times, but winter sunlight is even weaker. You’ll also, of course, need things that don’t grow too tall (unless you have unlimited window space).  Luckily, a few herbs will grow well (if a bit slowly) on a windowsill.

Thyme: There are many varieties of thyme, and all of them grow well indoors. Start with a plant; they take a while to grow from seeds and you want to be able to harvest as often as possible. Let the soil dry out a bit between waterings. The scent of thyme is absolutely glorious, and it’s worth having around just to run your fingertips through occasionally, releasing that fragrance into the air.

Parsley: You can grow this from seed and it will grow well on your windowsill, but you’ll have to be patient. I find that flat leaf parsley does better indoors, but curly parsley will work, too.

Chervil: This herb has a delicate, almost basil-like flavor. It grows well on a cool windowsill with little fuss. Start this one from seed; it grows fairly quickly and the leaves are delicious added to salads, tuna or chicken salad, or any variety of sauces.

Mint and Lemon Balm: These herbs have a reputation for spreading throughout the garden, growing in sun and shade and needing to be fought back to keep them from taking over. Needless to say, this exuberance is well-suited to surviving in the less-than-ideal conditions of your kitchen windowsill. Look for different varieties of mint, such as apple, pineapple, spearmint, peppermint, or even chocolate mint. Mint is best if you start with plants, because some varieties, such as chocolate mint, just don’t grow true from seed and they can take a while to get going. Lemon balm, on the other hand, can be easily started from seed.

Please note that these herbs still prefer warmth, and if your windowsill is especially cold or drafty, they won’t likely do well. If your window is well-insulated, though, they’ll likely thrive there. If your window is a little cold, you can still try it; just move the plants away from the glass a bit so their leaves don’t get too cold, and bring them away from the window if the temperatures are especially frigid.

Of course, if you have an area set aside with grow lights, you can grow pretty much any herb you like indoors. Roger bought a little AeroGarden for me this past year for Christmas, and I’m currently growing basil and parsley in it, so that’s another great option as well.

Either way, a bit of greenery, a gentle hint of basil fragrance in the air, and the chance to spend some time tending to plants makes this snowbound gardener happy. Happy gardening!