18 days until spring

Despite having 3 feet of snow on the ground, I am dreaming of digging up dirt, planting seeds, hatching chicks, yoga sessions on our back deck and making herbal tinctures in the summer sun.

I am eager for spring. At work, I sneak in a few blog posts from the Elliott Homestead just to satisfy my appetite for blooms and homesteading projects. At home, Mosi sleeps in my lap while I scroll through local hatchery sites. Charlie draws maps of our garden and keeps our houseplants alive. I think we are ready. Ready for warm, thawing winds and new growth.

Every once in a while - when I get too excited - I have to remind myself: “baby steps Laurel. Baby steps. Slow down. Celebrate the small victories.”

Small victories like surviving a full work week.
Finding good books at the library book sale.
Trudging through deep snow drifts on a sunny afternoon.
Watching my tulips and paperwhites grow tall and green.

This afternoon was especially a victory. I went out to take care of the chickens and collect eggs. The usual brown eggs were tucked away in round nests, but in one dark corner I noticed a solitary, olive-green egg. At first I thought it was a duck egg left behind by our recently deceased duckies, but on closer inspection I realized it was a genuine Joanna Egg.

I could have not been a prouder homesteader than in that moment.

After 12 months of the most nurturing care, nutritious food, warm housing and companionship, our beautiful ameraucana (Joanna) has finally figured it out and laid her very first egg!
I am almost too proud to actually eat it - I’ve waited too long to have a lovely green egg!! Here’s to hoping she will keep laying and not give up.
Yes. Today was most certainly a small victory.

So even though winter still resides in our hills, Charlie and I give thanks for each day. And we both lean on the promise of spring.


the handmade summer

     While Charlie has been fishing out on the lake, I’ve been exploring the world of natural dyeing. I was scrolling through Instagram last week when I accidentally discovered some beautiful accounts: @danceypantsdisco @oldjoy @homesweethomestead and @growingwildthings. These accounts are run by young women/mothers who live such beautiful lives with their families. Most of them live on a homestead of some sort. They garden, raise chickens and sheep, knit sweaters, dye fabric for handmade clothing and teach their children to love the outdoors. These women have inspired me to build a similar life for Charlie and me; in fact we’ve talked about our own future homestead quite often. Charlie wants to build a greenhouse and I want to make things in my beautiful kitchen. We both dream of the day we can be (mostly) self-sufficient. That’s why I decided to start natural dyeing. Not only is it a joy to forage for plants and experiment with colors, but I’m one step closer to making our own clothing and quilts.

            After a little bit of research, I drove to town and purchased the materials for dyeing – fabric, stock pots, rubber gloves and alum. Then I rolled up my sleeves and set to work soaking the fabric, boiling my plant materials, dissolving the alum, stirring the clean white cotton into dye pots. The whole process took two or three days – it was a real test to my patience – but everything paid off. My fabric turned out beautifully. And now I’m hooked. Sometimes I feel like Rose and Topaz from “I Capture the Castle” who decided to dye everything in their house, from the curtains to their socks.           

            Another (smaller) project I’ve been working on has been making yucca shampoo. Yucca has been my very favorite plant for a long time! I’ve always loved the milky white flowers and waxy leaves. When I was little, my mother read me a book about white yucca moths flying from plant to plant in the silvery moonlight. She told me how the plants need the moths to be pollinated and the moths lay their eggs on the plants – neither species can live without the other. Recently, I learned that the Native Americans used yucca (also known as soapweed) for a variety of purposes. The leaves make excellent fibers for weaving, the blossoms can be eaten, but most importantly, the roots can be used for soap.

     Using a variety of how-to articles for a guideline, I set to making my own shampoo. First, I dug up three young plants (which was surprisingly hard even with the sandy ground). Then, I cut off the roots, washed them thoroughly with a stiff brush and began peeling the outer shell. This part took a little while, as my knives were pretty dull :) Once the roots were peeled, I cut them into ice-cube sized pieces and hammered them into a pulp. (I might have gotten a little carried away with the pounding. Good thing we don’t have neighbors, or they might have wondered what the heck I was doing.) Finally, I let the pulp air-dry for a few hours. One website said you can freeze the pulp for storage, or dry it and keep it in a Tupperware. Agitating the dried pulp in water will produce suds. So far I am satisfied with the results – my hair feels clean and it was easy to brush. Maybe after a few days of consistent use, I will give y’all an update :)

     What projects have you all been up to? Tell me in the comments below! Also, if you know of any good dye plants, let me know – I have a lot more fabric to use up!

natural dyeing
yucca shampoo
yucca shampoo
natural dyeing
(please ignore the crooked edges of this four square! I'm getting better -- doing patchworks by hand is hard!) 

(please ignore the crooked edges of this four square! I'm getting better -- doing patchworks by hand is hard!) 

picking mulberries

     Yesterday afternoon, I discovered there are three mulberry trees in our backyard simply loaded with fruit. So, Pip and I picked a pot full of berries. As I shook the branches in the late day sun, I thought about all the wonderful jams and pies I would make. Next, I gathered herbs from our garden: basil, rosemary, oregano, peppermint and wild sage. There's something satisfying about cooking with food straight from the garden... Soon we will have peppers and tomatoes on our kitchen table. 
     Charlie came home just as a storm rolled in. Thunder echoed through the sandhills and lightning split the sky; we enjoyed it from our snug home made sturdy with cement bricks. Our fingers were purple from mulberries and our hearts full with the blessings around us.

valentine nebraska
valentine ne-126.jpg