FAST Blog: Family Homestead

Permaculture, Preparedness, Homesteading & Survival

Friday, 31 March 2017

Fast Five on Friday - On the Trail

Thank you so much to all of the people that took part in Five on Friday last week, we are so grateful for all of your support and loved visiting you all!

Five on Friday Weekly Linkup

Welcome to Five on Friday, a weekly opportunity for the community to link up and share 5 things with us or take 5 minutes to talk about one topic. We’d love for you to join us and add a link to your own Five on Friday blog post! It’s a great way to make new friends from around the world and gain some motivation to keep your blog updated. Every Friday we'll be sharing a Fast Five and look forward to seeing yours.


I've been trying to get out at least a couple of times a week to hike with the children and explore a bit more of the surrounding mountains. There are so many cool old ruins that have just been forgotten and left to be reclaimed by nature.

Below is an amazing structure we found overlooking an ancient quarry site that right now is full of rainwater making an awesome natural pool. The cabin is made completely of stone inside and out and despite clearly having no maintenance done it is still standing strong and could be a quite usable space with nothing more than a new door

An old cabin built in to the rock overlooking an ancient quarry site
Beside the cabin is a set of steps that are built in to the structure so you can walk on to the roof (which is all natural earth and wild flowers)

Ancient Steps
Life out here is so different from the UK, something we were quickly reminded of when we came across this gentleman sunning himself in the middle of the trail

Sunbathing Serpent - Don't Tread On Me!

We didn't interrupt his day, he didn't interrupt ours and the kids were very happy with themselves that they had seen a snake in the wild.

We often see reptiles on our travels too, this little guy has no idea how close he was to being eaten by our chickens before we rescued and relocated him!


My last photo this week was taken at 3007ft, near to the top of the mountains near our house. I had hoped to visit the fire lookout post but when I got up above the tree line I realised I had taken a wrong turning and ended up on the opposite peak to the lookout! The views up there were still fantastic though, and it gives me an excuse to hike up there again soon :)

Near the summit


How To Join In

Your 5 things can be all on a related topic or 5 totally separate things of your choosing, it's totally flexible and up to you. You might choose 5 photos, 5 quotes or use it to recap 5 things you've done this week, you have the freedom to exercise your creativity!

All that we ask is that you link back to Five on Friday using the button below (just copy and paste the HTML code in to your blog) and try to share the love by visiting & commenting on the other participants blogs. Each week the post will go live at 5.00am GMT on Friday and will close for new link entries at 10.00PM on Sunday

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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Sparrow Sorrow

When I went out to the Community Garden to let the chickens out I noticed something moving in the vegetable bed. My first thought was that it was a mouse or rat, but when I got up close I saw it was a small bird that didn't seem able to fly and seemed to be quite distressed. It had been cold that night and I had no way of knowing how long the little fella had been exposed on the ground. I picked him up and he didn't try to escape, he gripped on to my fingers and huddled in to the warmth of my hands.

Male House Sparrow

I'm not an expert on birds but from his markings he seemed to be a male house sparrow, quite young and by the look in his eyes he didn't look like he was doing too well. By the time I came back inside with him the kids were awake and watched in quiet curiosity as I carried this wild bird in to the house. I kept him warm, provided some food and water but unfortunately he died on our kitchen table an hour later. I did what I could to make him more comfortable and although it wasn't enough to save him at least he didn't die alone out in the cold. The children had left the room when he passed away, and it would have been easy for me to tell them that he had made a full recovery and flown away to live happily ever after, but that isn't real life is it? We keep livestock which means sooner or later we'll have deadstock and our children will have to deal with the concept of death. So I told that the bird had died. Logan asked me why I didn't save him, and I told him I had tried but it was just too late. Then he asked me "When you saw the bird outside did you move as quick as you could?", I told him I did but it was still too late, to which he said "Well it's great that you tried to save him Daddy, he was magnificent" The kids looked at the body, asked me questions about what type of bird he was, then Logan said that he wanted us to bury the bird so the neighborhood cats wouldn't eat him, so that's what we did.

I don't ever want to lie to my kids, I don't want to disconnect them from nature or life's cycles. Logan asked me 6 months ago where meat came from, after I told him (as a meat eater) the unbiased truth about how commercial meat is produced he said he wanted to be a vegetarian because he didn't want to hurt animals. He's stuck to his decision ever since, and we have been so proud of him that a few weeks ago the rest of us went completely Veggie too so that he doesn't have to be the odd one out at mealtimes. I haven't spoken to him about dairy yet, not because I am hiding it from him but because he hasn't asked yet, but when he does I will tell him the facts and let him make his own mind up about it rather than brainwashing him one way or the other.


Friday, 24 March 2017

Five on Friday - Natural Beauty

Welcome to the new home of Five on Friday! Originally created by Amy of Love Made My Home she has handed the link-up over to us so that we can keep her legacy going.

Thank you so much for your support during the changeover, we are very grateful to everyone that has taken the time to join in with us for our very first Fast Five on Friday :)

Five on Friday Weekly Linkup

Welcome to Five on Friday, a weekly opportunity for the community to link up and share 5 things with us or take 5 minutes to talk about one topic. We’d love for you to join us and add a link to your own Five on Friday blog post! It’s a great way to make new friends from around the world and gain some motivation to keep your blog updated. Every Friday we'll be sharing a Fast Five and look forward to seeing yours.
Details of how to join in below


Natural Beauty

This week I want to share some photos of flowers, specifically wild flowers. Of course there are so many beautiful flowers that people put a lot of time and effort in to growing on the basis that they are aesthetically pleasing, but for me that is what sets wild flowers apart. Nobody plants them, no one weeds them, nobody waters them in the summer or shelters them through the winter and yet every year they grace us with their natural beauty completely free of charge or commitment.

Here are five photos of flowers growing wild beside the trail just a stones throw from our front door

I took many more photos all within a 10 minute walk round but thought I better stick to the theme of Five on Friday!


How To Join In

Your 5 things can be all on a related topic or 5 totally separate things of your choosing, it's totally flexible and up to you. You might choose 5 photos, 5 quotes or use it to recap 5 things you've done this week, you have the freedom to exercise your creativity!

All that we ask is that you link back to Five on Friday using the button below (just copy and paste the HTML code in to your blog) and try to share the love by visiting & commenting on the other participants blogs.

Instructions: Select all code above, copy it and paste it inside your blog post as HTML


Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Worst Wonderful Wednesday

I had so many amazing photos and things to share with you all, but this morning my phone began playing up again to the point where it was impossible to even get the cursed thing to turn on. As a last resort I had to do a factory reset on it, losing all my data and recent photos which still didn't alleviate the problem. Luckily my older photos were backed up so it's only the last month or so that have vanished. I don't know if it needed an old priest and a young priest or just a very big hammer.

I started the exorcism on my phone at around 8.30am and didn't manage to get it working properly again until roughly 4.15pm. Admittedly I did go out for a couple of hours hike in between to calm my rage and avoid throwing the thing down the mountain!

As you can imagine this put me in somewhat of a foul mood, even on the hike I couldn't take any photos to share of the amazing things we saw because my phone was going cuckoo and restarting itself every second with various error messages. I had just got it fixed when the postman came strolling up the drive to totally turn the day around.

It seems like every time I have a bad day karma balances it out again, this time I received a lovely package from Kymber and Jambaloney over at Framboise Manor. There was this gorgeous card and a box:

A Card From Kymber

Now Kymber told me she was going to send me some of her comfrey seeds and maybe a few other herbs but nothing prepared me for what was inside the box!

A Mammoth Package of Heritage/Heirloom Organic Seeds
I was totally blown away, they are all Organi/Heirloom/Heritage seeds, in no particular order she sent us: Chives, Comfrey, Anise, Milk Thistle, Good King Henry, Penny Royal, Super Shepherd Sweet Peppers, Bergamont, Kale, Kurly Scotch Kale, Oregano, Radish, Red Oakleaf Lettuce, Forellenschluss Lettuce, Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard, Pak Choi, Big Beef Tomato, Lupin, Mint, Shelling Peas, Romaine Lettuce,Beets, Spinach, Sugar Snap Peas, Red Malabar Spinach, Lucullus Swiss Chard, Catnip, Australian Yellowleaf Lettuce, Yankee Bell Sweet Peppers, Green Bush Beans, Yellow Spanish Onion, Green Pole Beans, Orange Sun Peppers, Nasturtiums, Lemon Balm, Onions, Sorrel, Borage & Garlic!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you Kymber, we are so grateful for all the seeds! definitely made my day after a bad start too! Can't wait to get some of these growing over at the Community Garden so we can share progress photos. Speaking of which, here's a rare non-selfie pic of me working hard in the sun over at the Community Garden Corral

Working Hard Or Hardly Working?

We had to put the netting up to stop the plants eating the chickens, vicious things these veggies!

Friday, 17 March 2017

All about Amy

Today is the final week that we will be linking to Amy at Love Made My Home for Five on Friday, from now on it will be hosted right here on the Fast Blog!
This week I'm going to take the opportunity to share Five things I love about Love Made My Home Blog as a tribute to the wonderful woman that started the link up off for us.

Five on Friday with Love Made My Home

1) Five On Friday
Many of the blogs I follow and indeed many of the blogs that follow me come from the Five on Friday link up. I started joining in with Five on Friday when I first started out blogging and it really helped me connect with like minded people and grow as a new blogger. Amy has built and amazing community, full of positivity from people all over the world and all different walks of life. I am incredibly thankful that I have been able to be a part of it so far and feel completely blessed to be able to carry the torch for Amy from now on. 

Love Made My Home Christmas Card Swap

2) Christmas Card Swap
What a fantastic idea! We joined in this year and it was great fun to make a hand made card for someone and exciting to open the one they sent us and see the effort they had put in. I think it's great to connect with people in real life and get to know some of our blogland friends better. I hope I can talk Amy in to hosting it again this year or if it is too much hassle for Amy to do alone at the moment then perhaps she could help me to co-host it here as I think it is something we all loved taking part in.

Basildon Park

3) Basildon Park
I for one have LOVED hearing about Basildon Park and getting to have a peek inside through Amy's photos, what a beautiful place. Some of the pictures of furnishings and decorations inside I think I would have totally missed if I had visited but Amy has made sure we all got a chance to see some of the hidden treasures inside this fantastic country house. From the crimson bedroom to the time that Downton Abbey filmed on site there has always been something interesting or fascinating from Basildon Park that Amy has shared with us

How could I forget the Podcast! For me it was the first time I got to put a face to the name behind Love Made My Home and I always love being able to see and hear the people I am friends with in Blogland. I think Amy has the most wonderful accent and she sounds exactly like I thought she would whilst teaching us all about the yarny things she loves. I have started trying to crochet and I must admit I am totally terrible at it so hopefully I will improve with time!

Amy from Love Made My Home

5) Amy
I just had to use the photo that we all know and love from Amy commenting on our blogs each week! They say a picture paints a thousand words and we can see from this one that Amy is always the lady behind the lens and even her camera strap is all about yarn! 
Amy is such a lovely and genuine person, always full of kindness, friendliness and love no matter what life throws at her. The community that she has built with Five on Friday is something to be truly proud of and I will certainly miss her hosting the link up and I'm sure we'll all still be visiting her blog and keeping up with her :)

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I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend, don't forget to spread the love and visit some of the other blogs taking part in Five on Friday :)


Thursday, 16 March 2017

Permaculture Diploma

Today I took the next step in my Permaculture journey by joining the Permaculture Association and submitting my application for a Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design.

Harvesting Bamboo in the Spanish Mountains

Permaculture has been such a massive positive energy in our lives since I completed my Permaculture Design Course in 2016 and has been the driving force in us completely changing our lives for the better. I'm really excited to be working with my old mentor Graham Burnett, he is a published author, writer and owner of Spiralseed as well as being, in my opinion, the Yoda of Permaculture!

The Diploma takes a minimum of 2 years but I am going to give myself 4 years to complete it, I think that the fact I will be building my own house & homestead would leave me too time poor to attempt to do my diploma portfolio any quicker than that, and it gives me optimum time for reflection and evaluation of my designs. I will be writing more about my permaculture designs on our website for our homestead, Wyrdwood Acres which we home to build in to a flourishing permaculture centre over the next few years and can't wait to share our progress with you all :)

Sunday, 12 March 2017

A Really Seedy Post....

My addiction to seeds is no great secret, I have more than too many but I'm always excited to grow even more.

Today I received an amazing gift from our Facebook friend Angie that has a few varieties that weren't already in my collection

Seeds sent to us by our friend Angie
The seeds Angie sent to us are:

Tomatilla "purple" - Physalis Ixocarpa
Squash (winter) - Blue Hungarian
Tomato - Roma VF
Swiss Chard - Rainbow
Sweet Pepper - California Wonder
Basil - Sweet
Evening Primrose - Oenothera Missouriensis

I'm thinking of setting up an online seed swap through the blog next year if it is something people would like to be involved with to help diversify the varieties we all grow and help each other grow some exciting new things 

Friday, 10 March 2017

5 Ways To Test Your Garden Soil

So many people go about their garden with a sort of haphazard, hope for the best approach without observing what type of soil they are working with or having any idea what sort of problems they may come up against.

Since it's almost time for people to get stuck in to their gardening this year I thought it might be useful to share with you some different ways to test your soil so you have a rough idea of what you're working with, which will allow you to figure out maybe what amendments you may need to apply and help you get the most from your Garden this year. Most of these methods were covered in my Permaculture Design Course and are easy to do at home without forking out on complicated professional soil testing kits or specialist equipment.

You can collect soil for different parts of your land and mix it to give you an overall picture or you can target specific parts of the garden to get an more intimate knowledge of your soil.

1 - Glass Jar Soil Test

Take a clear glass jar and fill half way with soil. Fill the rest of the jar with water leaving a 1" air gap at the top to allow you to shake the mixture. Attach the lid and shake vigorously for a minute to break up any clods in the soil and allow all particles to become suspended in the water. Put the jar in an out of the way place to allow the particles to settle undisturbed

Glass Jar Soil Test
The next day your sample should have settled in to something vaguely resembling the photo above. If you look closely you should be able to see the separate layers that make up your soil. Sand are the largest particles and make up the bottom layer, Silt forms the middle layer and Clay is the smallest mineral component and falls on top. By looking at the ratio of each you can build a rough picture of what type of soil you have, in my photo example the soil is from the part of our land where the kitchen garden will go and you can see that I have almost equal parts Clay, Silt and Sand which classes my soil type as Loam - one of the best soils to garden with.

The perfect combination for garden soil is 20% clay, 40% silt, and 40% sand.
If the combination is 30% clay, 60% silt, 10% sand = It is a Silty Clay Loam soil.
If the combination is 15% clay, 20% silt, 65% sand = It is a Sandy Loam soil.
If the combination is 15% clay, 65% silt, 20% sand = It is a Silty Loam soil.

To confirm your results if you are unsure you can couple them with the next technique:

2 - Hand Soil Test

Hand Soil Test - Form A Bolus

The following test when used in conjunction with the jar test can help form a picture of what type of soil you really have, it's time to get our hands dirty!

Use the following infographic to find out your soil type using your hands (click to see full size)

Hand Soil Texture Test
Hand Soil Test - Forming A Ribbon

Knowing your soil makeup can help to foresee what you might expect to come up against. If your garden is predominantly Clay then you will find it may be prone to waterlogging in the winter, backbreaking to dig in the summer and difficult to grow things like carrots, although brassicas will thrive on the high nutrient content that it provides. If you have mostly Sandy soil it will be fast draining and may not hold enough water for thirsty plants like tomatoes but will suit long rooted plants like tomatoes/parsnips perfectly. 

Once you know the texture it is a good idea to find out if you have acid or alkaline earth with the next soil tests

3 - Alkaline Soil Test

Collect 1 cup of soil from your garden and put 2 spoonfuls into separate containers. Add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the soil. If it fizzes, you have alkaline soil, with a pH probably between 7 and 8.

4 - Acid Soil Test

If it doesn’t fizz after doing the vinegar test, then add distilled water to the other container until 2 teaspoons of soil are muddy. Add 1/2 cup baking soda. If it fizzes you have acidic soil, most likely with a pH between 5 and 6.
If  your soil doesn’t react at all it is neutral with a pH of 7 and you are very lucky!

5 - Worm Test

The worm test requires a bit more energy and enthusiasm! Worms are a good indicator of your overall soil health, and it's easy to test your soil at home with a worm test. Wait until soil is warm and moist, mark out a 12 inch x 12 inch square then dig out a 12 inch cube of soil and place the earth on a tarp etc, Sift through the soil and count the earthworms. If you have at least 10 worms (the more worms the better) then your soil is healthy and passes the test. If your soil is low on worms it could be an indicator of underlying soil problems, it could be down to lack of organic matter, contamination of chemical pollutants or high salts and worms will also die if your soil is consistently too wet, too dry, too hot, too cold, too acidic, or too alkaline.
Since these wriggly subterranean helpers do so much to improve the soil in your garden it is well worth giving them a favourable environment; Earthworms adore damp organic matter like compost and love to chill out beneath mulch and no till gardens in general. 

Whatever your soil type do not despair, there is no type of soil that cannot provide an abundance if given the right TLC. I have yet to find any soil that does not benefit from good quality compost and organic matter, after all you can garden on top of solid rock/concrete with raised beds of good compost!

I hope you've found this post useful. We're linking up once again with Amy of Love Made My Home for Five on Friday, and a quick reminder that as of the 24th of March the link up will be hosted right here on FastBlog! Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend :)

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Sunday, 5 March 2017

Wild Resources

We love to make something out of nothing. Whether it is making our own Woodburning Stove, building our own Pallet Chicken Coop or making all manner of things from recycled materials.

This time we're making the most of the natural materials available to us in our local area. A fun project I wanted to do with the kids was to build a Bee Hotel to provide shelter for the pollinators and other bugs that are essential for a healthy Garden, so we went on a hike up the mountain to see what Mother Nature could provide us with. 

Near the top of the mountain their is a natural font/water source, and beside it is a huge stand of bamboo growing beside the trail. We cut a few canes to use for our bug hotel and have started putting it in a basic frame that will be our bug hotel when I get a chance to drill holes in the bottom blocks and finish it off.

DIY Bee Hotel from Bamboo and Pallet Wood

The tips of the canes we brought down the mountain with us have been dipped in rooting hormone so hopefully we will be able to get some of our own bamboo growing on the land. Although if it is left to run riot bamboo can be seen as invasive for us it would be an invaluable resource for building and making things around the homestead, I am certain we can find uses for it far quicker than it will grow!

Cuttings of Wild Bamboo
Another wild resource we noticed on our hike was an abundance of Rosemary growing in the mountains. Not surprising since it thrives in poor soils and is drought tolerant it must feel very at home in our arid mountains. We have taken some cuttings of the rosemary to try growing too since this local stuff will likely be far more suited to our climate than the rosemary seeds we have planted.

Wild Rosemary Cuttings

We have a beautiful Peruvian Pepper (Schinus Molle) tree growing outside our house on the bank of the dry riverbed, if anyone would like seeds from it we would be happy to do a seed swap and post them to you to try growing at home, let us know and we'll sort something out :)

Friday, 3 March 2017

Learning Leatherwork

Wow this week has flown by!
Today we're linking up once again with Amy at Love Made My Home

Just a reminder that from the 24th of March onwards the link up will be hosted right here on the Fast Blog with the new badge below:

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This week I thought I'd share five photos of the new skill we're working on, Leatherwork!

We've never done any leather working at all before now, these are the first few attempts so we're definitely hoping to improve with practice. At the moment we have mainly just been getting used to the tools and seeing what we can do, hopefully it's something we can add to our Etsy Store: Thor's Threads

The first things we made were some simple leather name patches:

Custom Leather Name Patch
I love the way they have come out. There is a patch for each of us with our nicknames on:

Nicknames on Leather Patches
Then we thought we would try our luck and jazz up my wallet a little, I think that it has really transformed what was an ordinary wallet in to something really unique and personal:

Personalised Leather Wallet

After that we thought we'd step our game up a notch and go for something a bit more fancy and put a Mjolnir (Thor's Hammer) on to one of my leather belts:

Leather Belt with Thor's Hammer

I was so happy with how it came out that we decided to make a pendant/necklace featuring the Mjolnir design:

Leather Mjolnir Pendant

It's great fun and I think it's a cool way to personalise some otherwise mundane items, I can't wait to get in to some of the more advanced techniques and tools.
What skills are you hoping to improve in 2017?
I hope everyone has an amazing weekend, catch up with you all soon



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