02 January 2013

Thinking Back on 2012

   Well, it has been way too long since I posted and I have no excuse except "life happens".... The year 2012 was a year of transition for my family, Heart's Ease Cottage, and me personally. I struggled with changes and chaffed at some of the new realities, I began eating a vegan /raw diet, lost 32 lbs., (only 15 of which I intended to lose...), and I have worked at becoming physically fit. I am learning to let go, I have searched for purpose, and reflected on my beliefs. I am exhausted... but by the end of the year I am able to say that I have survived this stage of the process and can honestly admit that 2012 was a good year. Just not one I want to repeat any time soon!
   One really good thing that happened in 2012 was I took my health back. I have struggled with Fibromyalgia for many years and it almost got the best of me this past Spring. In April I decided to change to a vegan diet, with the focus on consuming as much nutrient rich food as possible. My husband and I have juiced 20 lbs. of carrots and 10 pounds of leafy greens and other veggies every week since mid April. We are taking barley green and eating only fruit until lunch. The rest of the day we eat small meals of fruits and veggies, smoothies and vegetable juice. As the weather has gotten cooler, I have added some cooked food in the evening, to keep the inner fires burning. To this we have added more walking and hiking, on the average between 15-20 miles a week. We have spent a lot of time together, walking the various green ways as well as trails in state and national parks around North Carolina. I think the time together has helped about as much as the diet changes and exercise!  In the end our efforts have rendered good results. My pain is greatly reduced, I have lost weight, have lots of energy and overall I feel great. The hardest things to overcome were the fatigue and depression. The fatigue diminished early on, but the depression lingered and I struggled with it to the point of despair, but I think I am finally making some headway with that as well, (dealing with depression naturally is a slow process, but if given time is very effective). All in all I am happy with the results and plan to continue in 2013 with the vegan diet and spend lots of time outside with my husband working in the gardens, walking and hiking.

   Life around Heart's Ease Cottage has seen many changes as well. Our homestead has been in the process of changing to suit our present needs. Being empty nester's with less mouths to feed and a  vegan diet, our food storage needs have shifted. There is a much greater demand for fresh food from the garden and no need for livestock for meat and milk, or for chickens for poultry and eggs. So the barns are being converted for other functions, and we are increasing our garden square footage. My husband has spent the year dressing up and refining our present garden space and we have successfully kept the garden producing through 4 seasons. All around the homestead 2012 was spent cleaning, clearing, organizing, re-purposing, renovating and updating. Some improvements we planned for our house in 1989,  that were way laid by Hurricane Hugo, are now almost 24 years later, coming to pass. My dear husband worked tirelessly this past year to earn the funds for a bathroom remodel and to make our defunct coal burning fireplace into a functional location for a 1890's wood burning stove. Both projects should be done early this year. I will make a separate blog entry for each of those projects in coming days.
   One of my hopes for this year is to make blogging a priority. I have been photographing many homesteading projects as they were in process; with the intention of writing tutorials, so I have a lot of blog posts in the que to share with you in the near future.
      As a final note, I will be posting photos of each season over the next few blog entries as a photo retrospective of what has been going on in 2012 at Heart's Ease Cottage. For today here is Spring 2012!

                         Our Azaleas gave us quite a show this year!

         We planted these azaleas as 1 gallon pots 20 years ago...

Our little cottage and our 1957 camper are in the background.

One of my favorite Spring ground covers also has medicinal uses, Vinca Minor, commonly known as Periwinkle, enhances memory when the plant matter is infused as a tea. It also helps with diabetes, is used in cough medicine and when applied to a cut will stop bleeding. In future posts I will be talking about the medicinal properties of common plants and yard weeds.

Fava Beans and Jersey Wakefield cabbages grow together in a spring garden bed. Fava beans are winter hardy and fix nitrogen on their root so we use their mature beans to make tasty Egyptian falafel and the plants as a green manure and winter ground cover.

Here is a close up of the maturing Fava beans. When the pods are ready the beans are 6-8 inches long and thicker around than your thumb. The bean seeds are larger than a Lima bean and can be used fresh or allowed to dry in the pod for storage.

A maturing Jersey Wakefield cabbage. Their conical heads resist splitting and weigh in at 5-6 pounds at maturity. We plant them in August for an October harvest and again in November for an early spring harvest. This cabbage is very cold tolerant, it may grow slower during the deepest cold, but will head up rapidly as  the weather warms up.

These are Detroit Red beets. We grow them year round for their tops and tubers. They tolerate heat without bolting and add lots of good nutrients to our veggie juice, in salads and of course, they make wonderful pickled beets when harvested about the size of a ping pong or golf ball and pickled with cider vinegar, cloves, bay leaf, mustard seed, and allspice.

We start our vegetables, herbs and flowers inside under lights. One 6 foot tall by 4 foot long shelving unit with two banks of florescent shop lights per shelf will hold 6-8 seed flats at a time. We set the shelves up in the early fall and it is in full production until we set out the eggplants, peppers and tomatoes in late April/early May.

Black Seeded Simpson and Lolla Rossa lettuces are good choices for an early spring cutting lettuce. We also grow a mixed variety of "cut and come again" lettuces and salad greens, Cos Romaine and Butter Crunch head lettuce, as well as Bloomsdale Long Standing spinach, and green bunching onions as early spring fare. Later, we will plant Oakleaf lettuce when the weather starts to warm up, since it is more heat tolerant than others.

I hope you are all enjoying the joys of a new year! See you soon!

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