Patio Permaculture

Copy of plant room

When I realized it’s been over six months since I last blogged, I realized that I had two choices when it came to my first post back: 1: Attempt to go back and re-visit every single moment that I didn’t journal, or 2: just start writing again.

Alas, those of you looking for your next novel to read will be sorely disappointed.

I’ve decided to just pick back up and start where we are now, not where I left off. It’s now the end of March, and we’re squirming to see the fruits of some early garden labor. We have four beds prepared with some cover crops to kickstart our summer grow season – radishes & turnips, oats, peas, spinach, and even some potatoes for summer! We moved to our new home in August of last year, so when the ground got cooler we set up some beds with fall cover crops to start introducing some nutrients.

IMG_3915.JPG

We knew three years ago that wherever we ended up, we wanted to have a main area of our garden rooted in permaculture. This idea of never-ending food and food that cares for itself is exciting for us – how else to help nature but by helping nature help itself? Plus, after the initial energy of planting, all it takes is some general upkeep and the plants will take care of themselves. A big aspect of permaculture has to do with planning and utilizing the land fully – tracking the run-off and grading of the area, plus the availability of sunlight and wind, etc.

For us, our permaculture will be our patio. We are blessed with a beautiful patio area, sheltered by two gum trees (we now hate gum trees – and are now taking recommendations for using those damn sticky balls!) and until spring break it was enclosed by a plastic and wooden lattice system that provided privacy but not much else.

So, we attacked it! Evan did most of the heavy lifting, while my mother-in-law and I undid screws, zip-ties, carted the lattice to the side yard, and cleaned the beds of the sticky gum balls, mulch, and excess leaves.

Now that the lattice and posts are out, we plan on widening and raising the beds with pavers. We’ve already begun the research and have started sketching the different ideas we have for the beds – certain plants benefit each other, while others are unhelpful and attract more diseases or pests in combination. (For example, blackberries and raspberries pass diseases between one another and should be kept apart.)

As of now, we’ve planned on blueberries, raspberries, herbs of all varieties, pollinator plants for the bees, birds, and butterflies, a dwarf apple tree, hibiscuses, a rotation of peas and beans, lavender, asparagus, strawberries, and then maybe onions and garlic to tuck in between. It will take a season or two, but soon we’ll have a patio alive and thriving and also providing us with food and medicinal benefits.

We’ve put down roots!

Roots.png

I think my first post back can be summarized in a series of emojis, most of which would just be a variety of crying/worried faces and ecstatic faces, followed by an exhausted face. Exhausted is where we are now, because we’ve finally moved!

IMG_3015.JPG

I last left you hanging with hopeful thoughts about a previous home – all in all, since we met our realtor this past January, we’ve browsed hundreds of homes online, seen dozens in person, and tried to buy FOUR homes. Yes, four. And that comes to the point of why I stopped writing this summer – between grad school and my emotional instability from swinging from ecstatic excitement to utter disappointment, I was more in the mood to live under a blanket and sleep rather than face the stress. I had zero motivation and zero interest in writing or doing anything but attempting to hold on to my cats for emotional support.

IMG_2994
My moving helpers. 

Thankfully, the fourth home came through for us – and it’s probably the nicest and most well-kept option we had seen. I’ve previously discussed what Evan and have been looking for in a homestead, and while this house doesn’t have the acreage, it has the beautiful patio, blank backyard ripe for gardening, and plenty of space for the three of us (me, Evan, and Evan’s mother) to spread out and enjoy a variety of spaces. We have a formal dining room, an ample studio space in the basement, a two-car garage, gorgeous patio, front parlor, and a master bathroom off our bathroom (this is one of my favorite spaces!).

IMG_3066
We love our patio time – and I love my cat mug. 
IMG_3412.JPG
Olivia is testing out the fireplace ledge. 

We’ve already experienced our first power outage and survived happily with the help of some oil lamps my mother gifted us, but we found out that our fire alarms work a little too well – the little bit of smoke that comes off the lamps set them off! There’s a lot of little things to get used to – stuff like the heat settings on the stove to the white carpet (and yes, my cats have christened this multiple times…). It’s been an adventure, and we’re so proud and excited to finally be homeowners and to be happily located in a central location for both our jobs.

IMG_9701
I fondly call this dining room the Audubon Parlor – the wallpaper is flush with birds!

 

Our plans for our suburban homestead include developing narrow beds with no till practices, building a chicken coop in the spring and adding a couple of chickens to our family, developing our patio with permaculture like blueberries and blackberries plus herbs, and so much more. We’ve been outside on our gorgeous patio almost every night, enjoying the beautiful sounds of the night insects and cicadas, even here in the heart of our town. Welcome to the suburban Epperson homestead!

IMG_3014.JPG

The Search Has Begun…

house.png

We’re officially in the market for our homestead! The more we investigate, the more we think that we’ll be investing in a home with an extra large yard – in our area, houses in the country are just outrageously expensive for teacher and manager income. An existing home might be a great stair-step to help us build equity and save for building that open floor plan dream home with a pond and chicken coop out back, but there’s no reason why our first home can’t be a small, humble slice of paradise.

My mother-in-law will be joining us on the house hunt, so we’re looking for a little space to preserve the sanity of all of us, whether that means a separate wing or a separate building. (Let’s be honest – I’m spoiled by my husband working most evenings and getting to do whatever I feel like, so even having him home and around me constantly would be hard!) I am really excited to have an evening companion and to rediscover our city with my mother-in-law – we have so many fun bars or dinner spots to visit and having a companion will be so enjoyable!

We are also seeking some garden space. Ideally, I think 3/4 of an acre to an acre would be a beautiful spot for a handful of chickens, a couple of playful goats, and rows upon rows of tomato plants and veggies. Today, I visited house #4, and it just didn’t excite me. There was decent space in the yard and the bones of the house were in good shape, but my creativity juices didn’t kick in and I just didn’t feel the chemistry. We saw a house on Saturday and fell in love with it – extra den with a loft for our mother-in-law, open floor plan between the kitchen and living room, walk-in closet, even a pool, but it was next door to this hideous chemical plant that, after further investigation through the EPA website due to a weird smell outside, has apparently failed it’s environmental inspections for the last 12 quarters and had OSHA out investigating health complaints in February. It was devastating. Here was this beautiful, quaint home that boasted beautiful soil and we had to say no. I shed a few tears of frustration, to say the least.

It reminded me of an experience I had in high school. I was lucky enough to have my dad pay for my first car when I graduated high school, and I had a miserable time when we started test-driving cars. Dad picked out one he thought was suitable, I test-drove it, loved it and said yes, and the negotiating with the dealership began. Long story short, the dealership wouldn’t give as good of a deal as what my dad wanted, and he said no. I was heartbroken over losing that car, but it took that moment of letdown and frustration to approach looking at any other cars. I entered into the “shopping” with a much more level head and objectiveness than I had before and looked for cars that provided the right fit, not the one I fell in love with right off the bat.

I needed the devastation of losing that wonderful home that, in retrospect, was probably wise to let go. The sellers preferred cash and wanted to negotiate with full-asking price offers only and were proving to be stringy about the money. I needed to be let down by what I thought would be the house so that I can objectively move forward and evenly evaluate the others moving forward. It doesn’t mean that I’ll compare them to that house, but I can approach them with a level head and let them speak to me, rather than me justify their merits in my head.

Breathe, examine, think, and show patience. The house will come.

1cb7a1eee4fba35a82d0f933a93c5f33.jpg

 

Makin’ the Bacon

Copy of eco-friendly.png

Nope, I’m not talking about makin’ money, I’m talking pork! Last week, my husband and I visited Happy Basset Brewing Company in Topeka, which was showcasing a new favorite farm of ours – Stirring Soils Farm! My husband is the associate general manager at one of our local restaurants, J. Wilson’s, known for “inappropriately good” New American cuisine that revolves around local, sustainable, and healthful products. At the restaurant, J. Wilson’s, Evan and Chef Ty have brought on this marvelous farm that boasts biodynamic pork. Not only do they raise happy pigs – their pigs are allowed to be pigs out at pasture, without antibiotics or deformations of their bodies – but their farm is centered on supporting the pigs and soil as a cohesive unit. The happier the soil, the better the pasture grasses and greens grow, the higher number of nutrients the grass (pig food) contain, the healthier the pigs become, the tastier their meat is, the healthier you are when you eat them. The pigs are even given vegetable scraps and spent grains from the brewing company – talk about connections!

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 8.06.28 PM.png

IMG_1928

The resulting pork products are the best we have ever tasted – and I didn’t think I could’ve felt so supportive of being a carnivore again. We have tended to eat vegetarian at our house since we started looking into the living and slaughter conditions of animals that become our food products – it was horrifying. (Ever wanted to try being vegan or vegetarian? Nothing converts you faster than watching a food documentary on Netflix after a glass of red wine – cue the onslaught of tears and frantic check-writing to PETA.)

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 8.08.06 PM.png

But when you eat pork that comes from a sustainable, loving, healthful environment, there is nothing to feel guilty about – there is only gratefulness. We came home with a bag full of ground pork, chorizo, breakfast sausage links, and bacon ends – a plethora of delicious goodies.

My favorite meal so far? Breakfast! Let me paint you a picture: Stirring Soil zesty breakfast sausage links, farm-fresh eggs served scrambled with Alma, KS cheddar, homemade blackberry jam, piping-hot fair trade coffee, and homemade sourdough biscuits (oh my goodness, so fun and easy with my sourdough starter!). Perfection. 

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 8.03.20 PM.png

We’re thrilled to support farmers who value healthy soil and healthy, happy animals, both at home and J.Wilson’s, Evan’s home away from home. Cheers to Chris and Stirring Soil Farms!