The Weekly Digs #92

by Becky

If this week had a theme it would be Christmas miracles! There are two miracles that happened this week. The first is short and sweet but so exciting.

The roofing materials arrived and our metal roof is going on! Wahoo! We have been waiting for over two months with lots of bumps along the way. The moment finally arrived and I almost cried happy tears to see it going up.

Metal roof materials. I will share a picture of the roof progress next week.

The next Christmas miracle is related to our house too. And it takes a little bit of explaining some background information to get the full effect of how amazing this miracle is so I will put the story at the end of this post and give you the update on the garden and animals first.

In the garden:

I discovered I had some voles living under my row tunnels. Because of all the snow and cold temperatures, I hadn’t uncovered them in a while. The voles had made tunnels all through the dirt and then as a finishing touch decided to eat every bit of the kale we had planted. It was nearly 50 row feet of kale. 

As disappointing as it is, we had harvested a good amount of kale before they topped it off so it really wasn’t so bad. We set a few mouse traps to see if they would work but no luck there. 

Little kale stubs and some weeds is all that is left.

The day before I saw all the vole damage, I had gone up to put our chickens away and found a dead chicken. Cameron had let the chickens out earlier in the day and had planned to come back not long after. However, because we were expecting company that night, we were busily bustling around and didn’t make it up to put the chickens away until an hour after dark.

It is the time of year when wild animals are extra hungry and an owl came down for a meal. Our chickens are inside the garden fence which has both electric on the top to keep out raccoons and six foot tall welded wire fence on the bottom so we knew it wasn’t a land animal. 

I also knew it happened after dark because I found the dead chicken inside the coop and the others scattered around the outside and also some inside piled on top of each other trying to hide. So I assume it was an owl not a hawk.

I explain all that because it gave me a great idea to leave off the row covers and remove all the places a vole could hide during day and night. Because the owl had found food before, I figured it might be back. 

After keeping the row covers off for about a week, I haven’t seen any signs of the voles! They either got eaten by the owl or found a new home far away from the garden (I hope).

We got some unseasonably warm weather today and Cam and I were able to finish off making some new garden beds. This garden is 100 feet by 100 feet. Next year, we hope to add another 100x100ft garden area for the kids garden and enough space for corn and potatoes for a year.

Christmas Miracle Story #2

The background:

For our new house we had decided to get a freezerless refrigerator for the kitchen. We chose to do that for several reasons. 

One reason we are getting a full refrigerator is because in the last ten years, somehow, someway, almost every time we have left on vacation our refrigerator/freezer combo has failed and the frozen food thawed and leaked all over the floor. 

Another reason is I ferment a lot of food throughout the summer and it needs to be stored in an environment just above freezing and for me the best place is a refrigerator. The freezerless refrigerators can store lots more food so I can ferment more! 

Some of the kimchi I made this year

So Cameron and I set out to get one of these full types of refrigerators for our new house almost five months ago. For the reasons I mentioned above, we were not willing to settle on anything else. Consequently, we called around and searched online to find one. They aren’t common but a place locally said they would get them in stock in the month of October. 

When October came we called them and they said, it will likely be December or January that they come in stock. As many of you may know, Covid triggered an appliance shortage and many big name companies are behind on getting them shipped out. Our freezerless refrigerator that we wanted wasn’t just out of stock at our local appliance store but nationwide! 

We had mentioned to Cameron’s parents at some point during this that we would love to get a nicer brand of refrigerator like a Sub-Zero but getting a new Sub-Zero was out of the question because of price (the one we were waiting to come back in stock was a Frigidaire).

Cam’s parents have had a lot of luck finding used Sub-Zero refrigerators in the classifieds where they live in the western US. But to find a good used Sub-Zero refrigerator here would be like finding a needle in a haystack.

So Cameron’s Dad said if we ever found a fridge for a deal on the classifieds out there, they could pick it up and drive it out to us or meet us halfway. It is a 24 hour drive for them to get to our house so it was a very generous offer 🙂

About a month ago, we saw a great price on a used Sub-Zero freezerless refrigerator from the classifieds out there. We checked with a friend of ours who repairs refrigerators and he said the make and model was good. We also checked with Cameron’s parents to be sure if we purchased it they would be ok checking it out and picking it up for us. They were. 

The plan was for them to pick it up and bring it back to their house for the time being.  Then they would come out in January or February and bring it to us when their schedule allowed. The other option was to have them pick it up and then ship the refrigerator to us via freight if the winter weather wouldn’t allow them to travel out here.

We had left it at that and they picked up the fridge and brought it to their home. Last Saturday, they called and said they could bring the refrigerator this week and they would drive it all the way out, then be able to spend some of Christmas with us. It was unexpected but we were excited to have them come. 

Cam’s parents left on Sunday and arrived on Monday night. The plan was to unload the Sub-Zero refrigerator at our new house while it was still being built and unload it on Tuesday. Late Monday evening, I noticed our refrigerator at our current rental house was feeling oddly warm inside. 

I had been noticing it over a few days but kept thinking it was because of the kids being home and opening and closing the door to it so much. Every once and a while the door wouldn’t shut all the way so I chalked it up to that. 

Another thing that tipped me off to the fridge being warm was a few of my ferments had some mold on the top and that has never happened to me before. Generally they last nine months and it has only been about three months since I made them.

I called Cameron at about 10pm Monday night as he was picking up some groceries to tell him the fridge seemed too warm. He suggested I use our little infrared thermometer to make sure. As I pointed it in the refrigerator it read 65 degrees fahrenheit! Oh boy. 

I quickly removed all the food that still looked good and put it in our mini fridge. The bad stuff went to our chickens. I was able to save my ferments by scraping off the top couple inches. Everything that didn’t fit in the mini fridge got put outside since it was going to be 35ºF overnight. It gave us a little time to think about what to do.

When we moved to our rental home it didn’t have a refrigerator/freezer so we found a super cheap one on classifieds locally just to last us until we got to our new house. 

The answer to our dilemma about the fridge seems obvious now, just put in the new fridge right!? But we had to think about it a bit. We hesitated about putting the beautiful new (to us) Sub-Zero in our rental because I was afraid it might get beat up here in this tight space but mostly we didn’t want to have to move it twice. 

We talked to our friend who fixes fridges Tuesday morning and he said it would cost about $200 to fix the old fridge which is what we originally paid for the used refrigerator. It became very clear that we should just put the new fridge in the rental home to use for now.

And for that fridge to come at exactly the right day and time could not have been coincidence. There was definitely God’s hand in it. If Cam’s parents had arrived any later, we would have needed to fix our current fridge (even though we would only have used it for a few months until our move). If they arrived any earlier we would have dropped off the new fridge at our new house and then would have needed to figure out a way to load it up and bring it back here.

But what happened was perfect timing. We didn’t have to worry about fixing or buying a new fridge just before Christmas. The fridge for our new house still sat on the truck Tuesday morning and we unloaded it into our rental. It works great and the food is nice and cold now. A Christmas miracle for sure. 

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and a Merry Christmas!

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Cole December 28, 2020 - 12:53 pm

God is so good! He knew you’d need the new fridge before you did. Thanks for sharing these great stories. Lifts up my spirit.

I had a question. Is your soil clay? How do you make the new garden beds? Till and form the rows? Any amendments? I’ve been reading your blog and have been encouraged to try to grow lot more veggies next year. I have a good size garden now but I need to increase the size for next years growing and I am torn as how to prep the soil. Soil test is pending.My current garden has tons and tons of leaves and grass clippings that I’ve added over the past 4 years and the soil is finally not as claey lol.

theseasonalhomestead December 29, 2020 - 3:24 am

Hey Cole,

Yes my soil is a very heavy clay. I prefer to do a no-till garden but when I begin, I do one till initially. My soil has terrible drainage properties and needs to be mounded into raised beds. Actually I use a BCS Tractor with a rotary plow attachment to do that. It was an investment but has proved worth it with how much we keep expanding the garden. Before I had the tractor I just did things the old fashioned way with a shovel and piled soil from the walking path on to the garden bed to make a raised bed. I add compost as I’m making the raised bed. I have added both sand and peat moss in the past but found those aren’t really necessary. The big thing is compost! And once your soil test comes back you’ll see if there is anything else like lime, nutrients, or minerals that need to be added.

If you’ve been adding leaves and grass clippings over the last four years to your garden, I bet you already have a some great natural compost from those breaking down. And honestly you really could plant straight into the sheet mulch you have there and be on your way. But of course you would need to put in transplants for the best results. For seeds, rake away the mulch and plant.

But If the drainage isn’t great, you’ll want to make some of that into raised beds. We string a line to keep the raised beds straight as we make them. Use a what you have (shovel, plow, tractor) to mound it up. The size of my current raised beds are 30 inches wide and 100 feet long, paths are 24 inches wide. The thirty inch size bed has been great because they make a lot of tools now specifically for a market garden type situation that has 30 inch wide beds. I don’t have a market garden but using a lot of these tools has made the work more efficient and faster. When the bed is make I rake the garden bed flat and put down an inch layer of compost on the top or if the timing is right I plant a cover crop. Or of course just transplant a regular crop right into the bed.

Weeds love new exposed soil so just make sure to get the soil covered with something right away. 🙂 I hope that helps!

Cole January 3, 2021 - 7:55 pm

Thank you for the reply, Becky! Yes it did help! And I found your youtube video shortly after I asked my questions. I am elbow deep in garden preparations for next week. I also started a blog!

I only have one post up so far but I’m excited to start this new adventure.

Thanks for all you post and teach!

theseasonalhomestead January 6, 2021 - 12:30 pm

Oh I’m glad it did, and how exciting you are starting a blog! It’s fun. I will go check it out. 🙂

Charity December 29, 2020 - 4:47 am

Yes! God is good! My main goal is to grow as much of my own food as possible. I am almost to 5 years of living in this house and while my garden gets bigger each year, I still haven’t figured out how to grow enough for a year. Side note- the 3 summers I was pregnant in that time frame I didn’t get as much as I wanted to finished. Kids just take over so much time! 😉
Anyway, I just found your page and am excited to learn more!
Do you share the recipes or how tos of what you have canned?

theseasonalhomestead January 1, 2021 - 2:10 am

That’s awesome Charity. Growing lots of food is so empowering and exciting, as you know!! 🙂 I gardened through most of my pregnancies too, it definitely makes getting things done harder. I have finally reached the stage where my kids are more helpful and it is great!

I haven’t shared any recipes or how-to’s of what I’ve canned. I almost always follow a recipe from a book or a tested resource to ensure safety of the finished product. Since the recipes aren’t made by me, unfortunately I can’t share them here.

Here is a link to a blog post with my favorite preserving books.

PS. I do plan on making a few videos that I will share on Youtube about canning when the season begins again. It will be more of a general how-to water bath or pressure can 🙂


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