Year One at Keeper’s Croft

Today marks the one year anniversary of Keeper’s Croft! Below I reflect on the top ten highlights that tell the story of this first year.

1) The First Morning and First Christmas – 12/20 and 12/25, 2019

Seeing the sunrise behind my new home and the welcoming lights on that first morning was a new pleasure. Prioritizing decorating for Christmas and making sure Rudy had a new toy to destroy was also important for me to start feeling like this was our home.

2) My Favorite Trees – March, 2020

The first winter was all about adjusting and as spring started to creep in I finally started to explore and found some trees to admire. My two favorites are both oaks. This is how I start to connect to this land.

3) Callum

Callum joined the family in late March. Part of the reason the winter was so quiet was because I was grieving. In late September 2019, just as my 3 month bid to buy Keeper’s Croft began, I lost my sweet boy Jasper very suddenly to undiagnosed cancer. It was incredibly heartbreaking and because I was in the middle of this endeavor, I didn’t have a lot of quite moments to mourn. When I was able to welcome Callum in, he came charging in full of love and hijinks. He woke up Rudy and I and I am so glad to have him in my life!

4) Birds

To my never ending delight, Keeper’s Croft is not just my home! I want this to be a paradise for wildlife and I have been THRILLED with the birds that have used the resources they found here. It was almost as exciting as my next discovery….

5) Rusty-patched Bumblebee

The rusty-patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis) is a federally endangered species, so I was beside myself to discover that keeper’s Croft is providing habitat for it! It is one of my top priorities to continue to add habitat for this species and other pollinators. And while I would love to have some honeybee hives, the presence of Rusty-patched has convinced me to abstain. There are studies that have found that European honeybees can outcompete native species for nectar resources. Maybe some day if I feel like I am really overflowing with nectar.

6) Herb Garden

I cleared an area and started my herb garden, which included: Horseradish, Anise Hyssop, Dill, Lemon-Mint, Bee Balm, Lavender, Rose, Chives, Oregano, Thyme, Butterfly Milkweed, Borage, Chamomile, Sage, Wild Indigo, Echinacea….and a few more I can’t remember. It didn’t look like much this year but I have high hopes for 2021 and will be continuing to develop it.

7) Vegetable Garden

Thanks to the brilliant idea from a friend, I turned the existing chicken run into a protected vegetable garden and it was incredibly productive! It is an excellent temporary garden space until the main garden is developed and fenced.

8) Derecho! And Chainsaw!

A derecho, which is basically an inland hurricane, tore through Iowa in August. It damaged so many trees and took many completely down. I bought and learned to use my first chainsaw which was a real milestone for me in learning to be self-sufficient. I even successful cut down my first tree, under supervision.

9) Prairie!

I planted about an 1/8th of an acre of high diversity prairie mix on the front part of my property. I will be adding more pockets of native prairie on open areas of the croft but this is the first and a significant chunk! I have all fingers and toes crossed that it will successfully establish but I probably won’t entirely know for another 2 years! The agony!

10) Main Garden

One of the last projects I started before winter, was to begin developing the main garden area. It will likely take several years before it is in its in full swing – it needs a fence and will be primarily raised beds – but through the use of sheet gardening and no-dig techniques, it is on its way!

Honorable Mention: French Drain Installation

This isn’t a very exciting project but it was the one that was furthest out of my comfort zone. It was also a biggie that required digging 95 feet of trench, approximately a foot or a bit more deep. The project helped me feel one bit more confident about tackling my own projects!

There is so much more I could have included! I bought dehydrator and used it to really up my preserving game. I stuck a first tentative toe into fermenting, too. I learned how to drive a riding lawn mower. I fostered 8 rabbits and have seen 7 of them successfully adopted. I transitioned to working from home and have discovered that I love it. I expanded my vermicomposting abilities. Progress feels slow but I have actually been very productive and busy!

I am attempting to do this homesteading thing solo but I also have to say that I had many people who contributed and helped; with advice, with physical help and with free plants! I have so much to be grateful for and can’t wait to see what this next year brings!

If you want to know more about me and Keeper’s Croft, check out the ABOUT page.

2 Comments on “Year One at Keeper’s Croft

  1. I think the honorable mention should be higher up on the list! Way to go, Steph! What a great year. So proud of you for taking this on, having fun, and making the land productive.

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