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Homesteading Family’s 2020 Year in Review

by | Jan 2, 2021 | Podcast

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This year is over and that means it’s time to reflect! 2020 has been exhausting and stressful for many and the year at Riverbend was no exception.

In this episode of Pantry Chat, Josh and Carolyn look back at their past year at Riverbend to discuss successes, failures, and accomplishments while hinting at what might be coming up in 2021.

In this Episode

  • Josh and Carolyn discuss the challenges of living in Idaho.
  • Josh and Carolyn describe ice skating on the ponds and family fun at the New Year’s  ice skating party this year. 
  • Josh and Carolyn answer whether they will ever get horses and how their dating story has a fun connection to horses.
  • Josh talks about the four new people living at Riverbend.
  • Carolyn reflects on planning and the importance of thinking ahead while also looking back.
  • Carolyn is hosting a sourdough challenge on January 16th. Join the waitlist now to have access to recipes right away!
  • Josh and Carolyn talk about working on the property and all the surprises that have come along with their rehab efforts. 
  • To see why horse logging was so helpful with property fixes this year, watch this video.
  • How grandma is doing sharing a bathroom with 10 kids and why the laundry room is challenging. 
  • Josh talks about producing compost and plans for next year with the compost. Should Josh make a video about his compost system?
  • Carolyn talks about her favorite method of egg preservation. Learn more about liming eggs.
  • The pros and cons and the success and failures of their garden, animals, food storage, as well as lessons learned. 


Josh: (silence) Hey guys, this is Josh.

Carolyn: And Carolyn.

Josh: With Homesteading Family, and welcome to this week's episode of the Pantry Chat: Food For Thought.

Carolyn: This week we're going to be looking back at the past year here on the Riverbend Homestead, looking at our successes, failures and what we've accomplished this year.

Josh: This week's episode of the Pantry Chat is brought to you by BCS Two-Wheel Tractor. Now you may have already heard of the legendary versatility of BCS Two-Wheel Tractor for small farms and homesteads, we love ours here on Riverbend. It's the most efficient and time-saving choice for a small acreage. Building raised beds with a rotary pile attachment, mixing in soil amendments with the power harrow and shredding cover crops in place with the flail mower. But a BCS Two-Wheel Tractor is more than just a gardening tool. BCS powers more than 40 high quality PTO driven attachments, each with the power and performance of an all gear drive transmission. Blow snow with the BCS's snow thrower, chip and shred limbs and sticks with the chipper shredder, clean up your property with the pressure washer, all up to 1100 pounds, including yourself with a ride on utility tractor and even spread compost over 30 inch beds with the spreader attachment. Yup. BCS is pretty much the Swiss Army knife of power equipment for your homestead. Check out to see the full range of tractors and attachments and find your nearest BCS dealer today. That's Well hey you guys, welcome to 2021, Happy New Year.

Carolyn: Happy New Year.

Josh: Yeah, and we sincerely hope that 2021 is going to look a lot different than 2020. That was quite a year-

Carolyn: We need to cheers with our coffee. Here's a toast to 2021 being a better year.

Josh: Hey, you know what? It was a wild year both in the world out there. I'm sure for many, many of you, it was for us here at Riverbend as well, along with all the things going on in the world. And we're going to cover some of that. We're going to start the year here with just looking back at what happened with Homesteading Family here at Riverbend and some of the accomplishments, some of the failures and what we learned. And as we just lead into 2021 and what we're going to do next, and that's another story coming up next week, 2021 planning. But for now, before we dive into that, what's going on? How are you doing and what's going on here at the start of the new year?

Carolyn: Well you know that week between Christmas and New Year's, we actually took pretty easy. Yay.

Josh: We did, yeah.

Carolyn: That's really, really nice. We were able to re-film the videos that were going to come out, so we didn't even film and we kind of put our feet up and relaxed a little and hung out, and that feels good. That's a good way to end a year end to begin a year maybe.

Josh: And Hey, thanks to all of you that have been emailing in concerned, wondering where we're at, what's going on, we really, really appreciate that. And it's just the end of a big, big year and we needed to just low down the pace, take it easy, spend some time with family at home and having a little fun besides the Christmas season, playing in the snow and just get refreshed in general, ready to go, yeah.

Carolyn: Yeah. I think today we were preparing for today's Pantry Chat and we were writing out a list of the projects that we've gotten done around here or-

Josh: Well, just what happened this year.

Carolyn: ... Been working on this year on the homestead and I kind of had this thought of, "No wonder I'm tired." There's a lot has happened around here this year and I think that kind of reflected by the end of December. Getting into December, we were starting to go, "We need a break."

Josh: Well, and I think that's on top of just the residual stress of the events and I'm sure all of you relate with this. Whatever you've experienced, there has just been an underlying stress to this year. Whether it's directly impacted you or impacted somebody you know, wherever you're at on that journey, there's just no way, I don't think that any of us weren't impacted, weren't just feeling or whatever else was going on, just the weight of the events this year. And that was stressful and tiring, but it's always good to be starting new-

Carolyn: It's a new year.

Josh: Starting fresh, getting excited and yeah. There's a lot of exciting things to come.

Carolyn: Looking ahead. Yeah.

Josh: Absolutely.

Carolyn: Good. What about you? What have you been up to?

Josh: I think that's just about it. Yeah.

Carolyn: The same?

Josh: Yeah. It's been good. It's been good to slow down a little bit and back on the air, thinking about what I'm looking forward to for 2021 and feel a little cautious about that. I think there's still a lot of events that are going to impact us there, but just gearing up for a positive year. And yeah, I'm looking at, like you said, some of these things we've done, it's just amazing, when we wrote it all down, everything that's gone on here in the midst of all of this it, I was like, "Wow, we did, yeah. Exactly, no wonder we're tired."

Carolyn: Hey one thing that we didn't put on this list that we did just do is the ice skating New Year's party.

Josh: Yeah. That's becoming a tradition second year here.

Carolyn: This is kind of new for us. While we've lived in Idaho for quite a few years now-

Josh: Seven to eight now.

Carolyn: ... Seven years. I guess this is the first time living on this property here, we've been here for, this is going in to our third winter under this property-

Josh: Yeah, about two and a half years here now.

Carolyn: ... That we have access to pawns like we do here and they freeze. They're getting frozen. We have ice.

Josh: Yeah. Here's one of the benefits of this location and you're going to hear us talk about a little bit on the gardens and the challenge of this location that we're learning this last couple of years, even after being here in Idaho for seven years, it's colder here-

Carolyn: Yeah. On this particular property it's colder.

Josh: ... That produces some challenges, but also there are some benefits because our area, Idaho, it's not like you get to ice skate every year generally. It comes and goes on the weather, unlike some other climates in farther North. But our spot, the pawns seem to be freezing very nicely by New Year's. And so that's definitely a real sweet spot and a fun spot. Kids will love it. They just absolutely love it.

Carolyn: Yeah. And this year we had a really fun, new element to it, which came from our son who hunted this year and got a buck while he was out hunting. And he wanted to save an entire leg-

Josh: Venison leg.

Carolyn: ... Venison leg for roasting over a spit for the ice skating party staff.

Josh: [inaudible]

Carolyn: And that was pretty neat. It was pretty neat. So anyways, a lot of fun, lots of friends and people, it was really fun. All nicely outside, social distanced and all on the ice. So.

Josh: All right. So we got our questions.

Carolyn: We got a question

Josh: Okay. Amanda Couche I think, on last year's 2019 year in review, so we're going back there a little bit, but Robin was digging through some questions for us and this is just a fun one. I think you'll like this. So this takes us back a little bit. I was just thinking, even before you mentioned Dian, and if you guys would ever get horses also, how do you deal with the stumps after he takes away the logs? And this is in response to the horse logging that we started in 2019 and followed through with here in 2020, but-

Carolyn: And Dian was one of the horses we had-

Josh: And Dian was one of Lucas's horses. Yeah. And that was pulling logs out there. Yeah. So, but the big question here is if you guys would ever get horses and there's actually a story behind that.

Carolyn: I don't know that we've ever talked about it, but horses are actually very much in our history. I grew up riding horses, I grew up jumping and riding English and doing dressage and three-day eventing and all sorts of really fun things. So I loved horses and I loved riding. And when my family moved out of the city, we moved up into the country and so I switched to Western and trail riding and gymkhanas and doing a lot of that sort of horseback riding instead. And I rode my entire childhood pretty much.

Josh: Yeah, you sure did. And I rode a little off and on in my childhood and then rode a lot in my 20s. I lived on a cattle ranch and actually took care of the horses for about seven years and rode Western and rode cattle. And we actually started dating, riding horses-

Carolyn: Riding horses, that's right.

Josh: Yeah. So-

Carolyn: You had a BLM Mustang that you were riding.

Josh: I did. Yeah.

Carolyn: Yeah. She stayed around for a long time. Sweet, old Sal, but she wasn't always sweet. She was actually pretty fiery.

Josh: Yeah, but I tell you that horse would do anything.

Carolyn: She was a good horse.

Josh: We'd take some cattle into some real tough places and he was good for that. Yeah.

Carolyn: So we dream of getting horses again. And we actually had horses at one point after we were married-

Josh: Oh, up until 2012 before we moved out of California we had horses and we actually had larger cattle. We still have cattle. We actually had a 600 acre lease and managed a small herd of herd food cows. And you didn't get down there as much as you would've liked to. But yeah, we got out and rode cows and yeah, that was a fun season in life during that time.

Carolyn: The challenge is that horses are really expensive and they don't... I don't want to say they don't add to a homestead in terms of... Of course they add a lot of heart and a lot of fun and enjoyment to a homestead, but they aren't really part of the food production on a homestead, unless you need them for running cattle.

Josh: Well I was going to say, it depends on what you're doing. They can be very integral for a lot of reasons, depending on your property. But our rule has been as much as we love horses and have ridden and have a lot of special moments in time riding, over the years we've said the horses have to be able to pay for themselves. They're a large expense. And so there was a season where we raised cattle, we were able to sell some beef, provide for ourselves, and that actually paid for the horses and the kids got to start to ride, but we haven't been in that situation since we moved. And so there's a real economic value decision there that has to happen. Now we've got a young lady in our house who would absolutely love have horses. We've got a barn that we're slowly rehabbing that can handle that, and we've got some cows so, Papa is looking for the opportunity to justify horses again.

Carolyn: We're trying. But once you get one, then you need two so two people can ride together. It's kind of a slippery slope, which I am all for falling down personally.

Josh: Oh, absolutely. I would love to take some evening rides with you again.

Carolyn: It's no nice. The timing does have to be right. Okay. We're going to chatty today so-

Josh: Well it's all right. That's good. It's good to start the year just relaxed and having a little bit of fun here, but you're right. We do need to dive in and into a 2020 year in review. And what a year it has been from COVID to elections, to riots, to murder hornets.

Carolyn: Yeah, I remember those-

Josh: Because that was a big story at one time.

Carolyn: ... Those are a thing of the past at this point, luckily.

Josh: Well fires, hurricanes Oh, man, it has just been a crazy year and on top of that, as we were making our list and looking at what we did and it's mind blowing, head spinning. Everything that's gone on here from finishing mom and dad's house and them moving on to the property which is huge too. My nephew coming to live with us, 92 year old grandma Jeanie, who you all are probably familiar with if you've been with us for a while, came to live with us. So we had four new people move in on the property this year.

Carolyn: Oh with mum and dad-

Josh: Yeah. Mom and dad, I'm missing two.

Carolyn: Why would I forget about them?

Josh: Well, mom and dad are seasonal, but still that's a large event and is great. I mean those things, they have their challenges, but it's been great. And from all of that stuff we'll cover here to rehabbing different areas of the property in addition to new processes and to some successes and failures and things new and things tried and true that haven't gone well. And so it's been a really, really exciting, big year, challenging too.

Carolyn: It has been, it's been very good. And we actually have spent a lot of December planning next year. So we're trying to get our planning a little bit earlier in the year, but I know for a lot of people, planning season really starts in January. We're past the holidays, we're kind of into a quieter time of year. It's a good time to reflect on the past year and to plan ahead. And so we really encourage you guys to be thinking about the coming year and things that you need to do or you want to do or needs to be done differently. And really the best place to start on that is to look back in the past year and see what did you do well, what are you happy with? What were your successes, but also what were your failures or things that you feel like you need to improve or do differently.

And so that's what today is about for us, is just looking back and saying where do we need to improve? Where did we do good enough? Where do we need to come up with a whole different answer altogether? And so it's helpful to look back and I'll tell you what, it makes me feel good about my energy levels. When I see this list, I know I already said that "Wow, no wonder I'm tired," but you see a lot really did happen in 2020 even with everything else. So just looking back already, I don't know. It makes me feel good about lat year.

Josh: Yeah, it does mean too. And you know what? Not just on the tired side, you go, "Yeah. Okay. No wonder we're ready for a break. No wonder we're ready to slow down." But on the other side, you look at what we did and all that was accomplished, and that's also very fueling and very exciting, and is very encouraging to look at going forward. But like you said history is a good educator, looking back helps us see what worked, what didn't work, excites us, shows us what to do, what not to do. And so that's good. Let's dive in here.

Carolyn: Okay. Before we start, I forgot to say something that I've got to say to you guys, which is, if you guys want to be part of the 2021 sourdough challenge-

Josh: We heard it's coming up in just a couple of weeks, isn't it?

Carolyn: It is coming up, and this is really exciting. We have so many people that are excited about jumping in. We're all going to be doing sourdough starting together and baking and with a really simple, really straightforward practical method. And to get the information on that, you need to jump onto the wait list for the sourdough challenge.

Josh: Yep. And we have those.

Carolyn: On the wait list, I'm actually sharing recipes, videos, all sorts of things while you're on the wait list too. So you're going to get all sorts of goodies there. Check out the link in the description or in the show notes and make sure you click on over and get on that wait list.

Josh: And just so people know what kind of sourdough starters are you covering? Because it's sourdough starting, but it's not just one kind of sourdough. So give people a little bit information because I know when it comes to bread, you get a lot of different categories of interests, and those covering a lot.

Carolyn: Okay. We are going to be actually together doing a... I'm going to be demonstrating with a all-purpose white flour, a freshly home milled wheat flour, a quinoa, so a gluten free and a kamut. So that's an ancient wheat. So we're going to be doing all different starters, different people are doing starters even outside of that range. Some people are doing rice starters, some are doing other wheat. So there's a lot going on, but we're going to cover a wide range. So if you have special dietary needs, we're going to show you how to get that into a sourdough starter too, so it's really exciting.

Josh: So immersive. Very, very cool. And I know last year's just blew people away and jumped ahead their bread making journey, the sourdough.

Carolyn: Absolutely. It's a lot of fun when you're doing all together as a group and you've got hundreds and hundreds of people sharing successes and questions and altogether, so.

Josh: And not just new people, there are some great... Your moderator, that's in there besides Carol and there are some other excellent bread people and artisans in there joining in besides new people learning.

Carolyn: Yeah. And there are people who are jumping in, who did the challenge last year and they just want to do it again because it was so much fun. It was such a fun experience.

Josh: Cool. All right. So make sure and check that out. Go sign up. Okay. That will be right here. So where do we want to dive in here? This is a big list and there's a lot happened. We talked about finishing mom and dads. Yeah.

Carolyn: Yeah. So we finished building their house. Josh did, and they got moved in and gosh, they did a great job unpacking. I'm always impressed when people move in and they actually unpack all the boxes and there... We still have boxes.

Josh: I know it. Yeah.

Carolyn: We have piles of boxes.

Josh: Mostly books. We like books and we don't have a shelf-

Carolyn: We don't have enough shelves, yeah. We're working on it. Okay. So yeah, we got them in. And then there was a lot of work that happened on the property this year, too. For those of you guys who don't know, this was our second full year on this property and it has needed a lot of rehab, a lot of work, a lot of energy put into it to bring it back up to standard.

Josh: Well, and we have a vision for how we're approaching this. And in the first six years, we really want to tackle the larger projects that we can and just give it a good foundation. So there's a lot of infrastructure from dredging the pond. The pond is 60 years old and it was filled with silt and we want aquaculture and a fish culture in that. And so we had to clean that out. That in turn put an acres worth of nearly two feet of silt across the land that then had to be distributed, graded and so that turned into a pasture rehab, which is a very good one-

Carolyn: Which is great.

Josh: Yeah, a very, very good one.

Carolyn: It was needed.

Josh: Yeah. And that's really exciting because not only has the pond been improved, mostly done, we're still going to have some work to do, but the bulk of it got done, but an area that's going to be a future orchard, maybe a small commercial orchard along with an area to pasture chickens and pigs under the fruit trees just got over a foot of topsoil in that process. And so we went ahead and rehabbed the whole about three acres of pasture in this area and receded that and got that going. So that was really exciting.

Carolyn: Yeah, that was really neat. Along with that, we actually, since we had the machinery out in that front pasture, we went ahead and made a terraced... How do you say that? We terraced the front slope in front of the house.

Josh: Yeah. There is about, I don't know what there is about, 12 foot high curved slope that has a great Southwestern exposure. It's one of the places that warms up the basket. It was totally unusable, it was steep. And so like Carolyn said-

Carolyn: And it was degrading. We were losing soil-

Josh: Yeah. It was degrading and in some areas it's going to take a lot of work to get top soil built back up there. We're going to have to have some good seed planting regimes and whatnot to bring it up. But we turned a non-usable area about, it's not a huge area. It's a quarter acre or whatnot, but it's a quarter acre of what can be very prime growing area into usable terraces. And so that's going to go on next year's project, really exciting when we're going to start to do that, to extend your cottage garden, to bring some of the kitchen garden produce a little closer to the house instead of up in the main crop where we've got more access to it, we can take better care of it. And of course that extends our growing area, which with the size of our family, we just need to keep doing.

Carolyn: We just need bigger and bigger. Yeah. So all of those elements together made for a huge project and really exciting progress.

Josh: Yeah. Cool. Let's see, what else horse logging. Got some horse logging done. That was exciting and fun. Everybody loved going out and seeing Lucas and the horses out pulling logs. And we did a short video on that. So you can check that out, that was very cool.

Carolyn: That was really neat to get done because we have a lot of acres in forest and some of it was overgrown at this point and some of it needed to be opened up to help make some pasture area. And some of it just needed to be thinned a little for the health of the forest and the trees. And so it was really neat to be able to do that with that low impact horse logging, not tear up the ground nearly as badly as you would if you brought all the machinery in. And I mean, then it's just cool to have Lucas out there. You look up and here goes the horse with a lawn down there. You're like, "Wow, that's kind of neat. That's out my window." So that was really, I don't know, kind of romantic. I don't know it was fun.

Josh: It was. Well, and I'm excited it opens up some areas. Most of it, we just did some thinning because we want to do some silvopasture and some grazing under those areas and encourage a little growth, encourage the right trees in the area. And then some, we're going to open up a little bit more because we do need more pasture on this property. And we've got some areas that are pretty degraded and are just suited for good pasture. So we're slowly going to kind of open that up. So we've got enough room to eventually get the cattle back because we have our dairy cow here, but we don't have all our beef cows. Yeah. And we've got to do fencing and it's just some forage improvement where we can do that. So, but that was great. That was a good one. What else? Expanded the barn and barnyard. Being in North Idaho, we get about six months of winter and we're very excited that the property had a large pole barn on it. And so we are slowly remodeling that for the animals and creating a yard because we do have to have those in close a good part of the year to feed. So that's just going to be a multi-year project, but we've got to get started on that.

Carolyn: Well, and this is one of those areas that really needed rehabbing on the property. This was an existing pole barn, but it had really been used pretty exclusively for storage-

Josh: It's been oversized storage shed for, I think 50 years it looked like. Perfectly good structure.

Carolyn: Very good structure. But then the older trees had crept up on the back side. And so there was no barnyard available anymore. And so that needed to all be done. And the paddock area outside of that needed to be reshaped. And this is going to give us such a better ability to house the animals. It's just so exciting.

Josh: I've got a lesson learned here on this one, and this is relating to buying property for people because we bought this barn, we were very excited about it. And sometimes when you buy an old property, it's very easy to get excited about everything you see, but when it's an old property, there's things you don't see and you don't know. And one got by us and it wouldn't have stopped us from buying the property, but it ended up being very expensive. And that was the barn roof. I knew it was older, I knew it had a few leaks in it. And so when we were building mom and dad's, we asked the roofer to come over and look at it. And I thought from when we bought the property and thought, "Okay, well in a year or so, we'll get up there and fix those ourselves or get them fixed."

Well, I asked the roofer to come look at it. And he got up there and the roof was rusted out completely. It was so rusted it was not repairable, it was so old. And the way they had built it, it held moisture against it. Anyways, long story short, what I thought would be something myself and my sons could do, or maybe the roofer could do for low expense, ended up being a full barn roof replacement. And happy for the barn, happy to do it, but it was one of those things that was unexpected. And I didn't get up on the roof and inspect. So just a little bit of lesson learned when you're buying property with infrastructure, you want to know as much as you can, what you're getting into. It doesn't mean you won't buy it, but those surprises aren't nice.

Carolyn: It does give you a heads up.

Josh: Yeah, exactly. Well, and we got an addition started as well.

Carolyn: Started. Definitely. It's a major step forward from where we were.

Josh: It is, yeah. And this is a lot of DIY. So it's going to take us a long time on this one. But it's going to give the kids a little bit more room. And with our large growing family, I need that. It's going to give grandma a little bit more room.

Carolyn: Grandma has been a great sport. The room she moved into, she's sharing the bathroom with 10 kids. And at 92, we would love for her to have her own private space where she can feel like she can have her own bathroom, not waiting in line for it and everything else. But she's been a great sport about it, really. So we're working on that.

Josh: Well, and you've also been a great sport with the laundry room being down in the basement, doing laundry for 13 people. And it's in the basement down kind of at the far end and that's challenging. So part of what we're going to do is get that laundry room up closer to the kitchen in any one of the existing rooms.

Carolyn: I'm very excited about that.

Josh: And we're creating a home for all those books because one day there'll be a library and-

Carolyn: They'll come out of those boxes.

Josh: Yeah, that's right. Cool

Carolyn: Okay, good. So let's move on to the more homesteading things. So a big thing that you did this year was to really dial in the compost systems.

Josh: Yeah. We have a large need for a lot of compost, and it needs to be done on a large level. And this in 2020 was the first year we've ever produced all of our compost. Now we didn't have it in the spring, but for the fall and for next year, we've got it covered. And there's some of the barn systems we created and just using the wood shavings and the animals, the pigs, the chickens, all to turn that over and help us out and add to it. And yeah, we've got a great compost system developed and I was joking with Tristen, we might be able to sell some next fall. Yeah.

Carolyn: Well, I think there should be a video come out of this. What do you think guys? You've got to give a vote down in the comments if you think there should be a video about Josh's compost system, he needs a little nudge to do a video.

Josh: Okay. We'll get that on the roster.

Carolyn: Yeah, that sounds good.

Josh: Yeah. But that's huge. I'm very, very excited about that because we have a large need, and yep. Let's see.

Carolyn: Okay. We grew a huge amount of our root veggies this year. I think we've done the most root veggies we've ever done.

Josh: Well, and we haven't had to buy any. Usually we do a few and then we buy some in, from a local. We have a very good local organic producer. But we got enough in this year. We'll see if we get all the way through winter, it's probably not enough to get us through, but it's going to get us a lot farther than we have.

Carolyn: Yeah. And that's a big step forward for us. So that's exciting because you guys have probably heard me say, I love those root cellared things like root veggies because the preserving is so easy. Now it does require maintenance on the other side, but it's just a much more efficient way of doing things if you can. So I really like having that system increased. What else?

Josh: Let's see. Well just on the level of production we raised and processed a beef, four sheep, two pigs and a hundred chickens and a goose.

Carolyn: And a goose yet to be harvested, waiting.

Josh: Yeah. Absolutely. So that's good. All went into the larder and storage and freezers, so very good. Yeah. Now you limed more eggs than ever and if you know Carolyn's favorite method of egg preservation and also if you haven't seen that video-

Carolyn: Go check that one out.

Josh: Go check that one out, but liming eggs, I think you even did a one year review. Did you do that this year, a video?

Carolyn: I think I did. Yeah. I think I actually got to 18 months before I started losing the eggs.

Josh: That's whole raw eggs preserved without any refrigeration, any other processing.

Carolyn: Yeah. And they were still good. Now I've got to say, as soon as I started moving around that 18 month old bucket, they went bad really quickly after that. So I think there's something to that.

Josh: The movement?

Carolyn: The movement, getting in and out of it. I'm not really sure what happened there, but it seemed like really quickly after I did an 18 month video and they were really good. They look like fresh eggs. I was highly impressed by them, but then weeks after that, I went to pull another one out and it wasn't good enough. The rest of the-

Josh: Yeah, well I mean come on 18 months stored eggs that are still good to use, that's right in there in line with our dry goods storage.

Carolyn: It is.

Josh: I mean, we're only trying to get a year out of most of our dry goods storage, all our bulk wheat and rice and so whatnot.

Carolyn: Well, and the exciting thing about it is it's actually really inexpensive to do. The lime is very inexpensive and you just need a bunch of buckets, five gallon food grade buckets, and you've got your, obviously you need the eggs. So assuming you have chickens and you're bringing in a large amount of eggs in the spring, when you have that egg glut, you can really pack your pantry full and get a lot of eggs sitting in storage. So it's really exciting.

Josh: Yeah, it is. Let's see, we've kind of mentioned that we increased our dry good storage and just really felt the need this year to just really get dialed in some of our long-term food storage systems. So that feels real good. And we did a little improvement even on our backup power and lighting set ups.

Carolyn: Yes we did.

Josh: We had an outage this year for seven days I think it was. And we got through it fine, but we realized we don't want to be having to fuss around quite as much as we can and we don't have the budget yet to do some of the larger improvements. So we added a generator in and added some good backup lighting and a few things that will just make life a little bit easier.

Carolyn: And it has because we've had a few subsequent power outages and just the few little improvements that we've made, made a big difference, I mean so.

Josh: Yeah. Hey, we did a DIY tunnel hoop house. We took one of the bean tunnels and turned it into a little greenhouse and learned some things. We'll probably talk about that in a minute, but that was a great accomplishment as well.

Carolyn: Right. And I think in a better year that would've gotten us a lot of tomatoes. This was a challenging year in the garden for temperature. We had a late wet spring and we had an early freeze. And so there wasn't a lot of time for tomatoes in between those, but I'll tell you what those cucumbers and even the peppers did really well inside that hoop house. They really liked.

Josh: They really did. That was a big boost. And so that kind of leads us right into maybe a few of the pros and cons the challenges, successes and failures.

Carolyn: Yeah. Successes and failures, let's talk about the garden first. So what do you think some of our top successes were this last year?

Josh: I think the root crops were one, that's something you've been wanting to move on to, and lessening the pressure on the pressure canning, some of the canning activities. And so we did that, we put more ground to the root crops and we've got a lot of room for improvement, but that was a big step up for us. We've got a lot more root crops in the cellar. Yeah. So that was a big one.

Carolyn: Okay. Another one?

Josh: Let's see, herbs.

Carolyn: Yes. The herbs out in the cottage garden this year did amazingly well. They did really, really well. This is the second year of the cottage garden and it just came to life. Now, maybe not so much the basil this year was such a cool year. That wasn't very happy, but the perennial herbs just really shone this year. They did a really good job.

Josh: Yeah. Very cool. All right. And you mentioned cucumbers. Cucumbers did great.

Carolyn: Cucumbers were very, very plentiful, but because of the early season cold, we actually had quite a few go bitter. And if you know about cucumbers, once that bitter gene gets turned on from some sort of stress, like drastic weather changes, you can't turn that bitter gene off in the cucumber plant. So all of the cucumbers on that plant will have some degree of bitterness to them. So we had a lot of cucumbers, some of them were inedible. So that was kind of a success and a failure.

Josh: Yeah. We've got green beans down here too. Green beans did well.

Carolyn: Yeah. We had a great green... The green beans bore really well when it wasn't frozen in the garden.

Josh: Well, and that goes into the failures. And one of the biggest causes, the failures was on early, we had a freeze in mid September, a hard freeze, a mid twenties freeze. And so that killed a lot. That put down and slowed down a major part of the garden.

Carolyn: Well, and being that our spring heated up so slowly, it was such a cool wet spring for so long. Things were already a little behind, so we really needed those extra weeks in September to get that stuff done and end, and we just didn't get it. So we lost the grapes. I think we lost pretty much all of the grapes this year, which was sad. They were beautiful clusters of grapes and they just never ripened, so.

Josh: Yeah. Well how about along with that, because of that whether we had a few struggles, mostly because of the weather, and few other things. So the tomatoes were tough, we lost our grapes, you just said. Potatoes were tough. We grew more, but we didn't grow as much as we should have in the space. And that was a planning error, another lesson learned. I don't know what happened in my rotation and in my planning, but somehow I double planted the potatoes, the same rows as I did last year and our soil because we've just been here two years, we're working on improving it. It in was pretty bad shape, just isn't built up and it didn't handle that well. And so production per square foot went down. We had more of the little potato bugs, Jerusalem, those people call them different things, little more damage and less growth there. So that was really a rotation issue and just overtaxing the ground. So lesson learned there be a little more careful somehow and just my planning and charts say, I missed that.

Carolyn: Missed that one. And by the time we realized it, it was too late, everything else was in the ground, so.

Josh: Yup. And squash as well. I don't really know what's up with the squash. I think honestly,-

Carolyn: It was a bad squash year for us.

Josh: Well, it was a bad squash year and I've done well mixing the crops and doing some companion planting. And I think our soil is just not up to par. I think I'm pushing it too hard. And going in the lesson learned in the garden, one of the things that I'm learning is while we've been seven summers growing seasons in Idaho, we've just been two here and our location here while it's, as the crow flies, I, doubt it's 10 miles away-

Carolyn: From where we were.

Josh: ... Where we were it is much cooler. And we had also built the soil up there very well over the course of nearly five years. And I'm learning, I've got to approach things differently in this location. And I'm still trying to do a few things that we had built up and we're doing well there and it's just not working as well. And so having to work on just dealing with the weather, it's just more erratic here and it's staying colder longer, it's getting colder earlier, we're getting some of these random freezes. And so we've just got to keep working on developing those systems and working with that. Yeah.

Carolyn: Yeah. That sounds good. It's a learning process every year. Okay. Well, I know we're getting a little long, so let's move through the animals quickly, successes and failures in the animal systems. One really big success that I feel like we had this year was the way that you integrated the pigs and the chickens with the compost system. I loved walking out in the fall when it was cold and they would even be a little bit of snow on the ground or frost and the pigs were still here and they would be laying on the very top of this compost pile that was steaming. So you knew they were like toasty, warm, happy as could be laying in this compost pile, even though it was cold all around. So I know the pigs loved it. They were just as happy as could be, but he could also help the compost-

Josh: You realize there's a large compost pile. It's probably 12 feet long by six, eight feet at the base and four or five feet tall, at least when it started. Then the pigs get to it, but they get to doing their work. They're rooting through it and maybe finding any of the larger chunks they're stirring it. They're obviously also, well, they're not adding so much because pigs are actually very tidy. They're actually not pooing in where they're at. They're putting that on the side, but we can just scrape that over it.

Carolyn: They really like sleeping in the compost pile so they don't want to use the bathroom.

Josh: So yeah, they just help mix it up. And the chickens did as well, both in that compost pile and in the barn. And we had a kind of success failure thing in the barn working with the chickens. And last spring we started, well going back to 2019 and we started a batch of 50 chickens, egg layers in the barn with the idea that they would actually just be able to spend their winter in the barn because there was too deep a snow to go out and they would help with turning the beds in the cow and sheave stalls. They did a-

Carolyn: So free ranging in the barn.

Josh: Free ranging in the barn. And this is a large area and they can go in and out a little bit, but that gave them the space. So when they couldn't move around out because of the deep snow, they did a great job on helping to maintain the stalls and spread out and mix up the manure and mix that into the wood shavings and help us manage that a little bit. And we actually don't have as many this year and Tristan's feeling that a little bit. Because it's a little more work on his end. Problem was there were so many of them stuck in the barn that it was a nuisance.

Carolyn: They took over the barn. It was like-

Josh: Oh, chickens, everywhere.

Carolyn: It was like a war zone because they thought they owned every inch of the barn and it was-

Josh: That's right. I'd come in for milking and there was a couple of cows on the chicken back and one on the milker's head-

Carolyn: There was a couple of chicken on the cow's back.

Josh: Sorry, a couple of chickens on the cows back and chicken on somebody's shoulder and chickens and cats all around their feet and a bit too much chicken poo with that in places we didn't want it. So it was a great experiment with just stacking functions and systems. And I think what we realized is we just need fewer. We're down to three this winner?

Carolyn: Three chickens.

Josh: Yeah, kind of free ranging in the barn.

Carolyn: That's a big difference from 50, let me say.

Josh: Yeah and I think what we're learning is maybe six to 10 in there would work well. Because they do some good work and they help maintain and mix up. And we've got a compost pile in the barn if you guys saw that last year, we're also stacking some of it because chickens don't take care of all of it. So we're stacking it in the breezeway and just letting the chickens and the cats eat out of the leftover food scraps and the wasted hay. And that's just all piling up and will go into the main compost pile later. So big success there.

Carolyn: Big success. But we were taking complaints from the milk cow who said she didn't think it was cool that they were chickens everywhere-

Josh: Especially in the manger, in the feed bin.

Carolyn: She started taking serious offense to the chickens and going after them, which she's a very nice sweet milk cow, but she said enough is enough. So we had to adjust. So good.

Josh: Good lessons learned. I think we better move ahead here and cover food storage, one of our last items there. And so what are some of the highlights, some of the successes of the year for food storage?

Carolyn: Okay. Well we already talked about our dry goods and the limed eggs that we've increased both of those. And we kind of touched on the root cellared stuff that we actually did all those extra root veggies and we have them in a makeshift root cellar down in the basement. And that's going really well for us this year. And I'm really excited about that. That's a real step forward for us-

Josh: Yeah, it really is.

Carolyn: Really good. But I think some of the, I don't know, I want to call them failures, but some of the areas that we could work on improving or didn't do as well this year is because the garden didn't produce as well on the non-root cellared items, we didn't can as much. That was actually the goal, was to can less this year, but I wasn't thinking this much less. So we just had some of those things that just didn't do as well in the garden. And so there's not as much canned goods.

Josh: Yeah, beans, tomatoes. Corn did good, but not as good as we'd like it to.

Carolyn: Yeah. We got a bit of corn on the shelf from cans. We got a lot of pickles put up in all different methods of pickling. But yeah, we kind of missed out on some of the other things. The theory didn't go quite the way I had hoped this year. I had hoped to have a lot more hard cheese on the shelf this year than I ended up with and that's just a result of it being so busy, really. I just haven't had the time to put into that. We do have a freezer full of mozzarella cheese for pizza nights, all winter. So that's great. But I was looking forward to some more of those hard cheeses and we have some, but not as much as I wanted, but the real... Sorry. You were going to say something?

Josh: No, I was just going to say looking forward to next year, I think cheese is going to be a major focus next year.

Carolyn: Cheese will be a major focus.

Josh: And I think we're going to nail it.

Carolyn: Okay. We're going to... Yeah, it's exciting. Okay. Butter though, was the other one and the butter was great on the production side, we produced a lot of butter this year. The challenges is that we had so many people eating the butter, that we didn't get very much into storage. Usually I've got a lot frozen going into winter and we had a summer with between extra people coming to live with us and then family as guests here, we were going through it as fast as we were making it. And part of that was because we had a failure with lard. I mean the year before-

Josh: I was going to say, right. We didn't have the lard that we usually have this year. We're usually very good at using that lard to spread out the cooking fat-

Carolyn: To extend that letter. Yes. Yeah. And last fall, the year before, and I guess I was 19, we had a mix-up with the butcher boxes and what we thought was dog bones and could sit outside for the dogs as they were eating off of them, was the lard. There had been some sort of mix up in the fat and it got wrecked. It was not usable. And so we ended up losing our ability to lard last year. So we really felt that this year, a success this year-

Josh: We raised some mangalitsa pigs, we're trying different pigs to figure out what we actually want to breed and raise on the property. So I raised some, some mangalitsa red wattle crosses and I can't weigh in on the taste yet because we haven't opened a package, but we got some good lard content, a good amount of leaf lard and on the back fat and other fats. And so that's exciting.

Carolyn: And that's going to help us get through this butter shortage this year. Yeah. To get through it. So anyways.

Josh: What a year. That has just been a lot. It's been trying, it's been stressful at times, but a lot of good things have happened. Riverbend's moving along-

Carolyn: Exciting stuff.

Josh: We're learning very, very exciting stuff and we're really looking forward to 2021.

Carolyn: Yeah. Sounds good. Hey, if you guys have done a project that you learned from us this year and put it in your pantry or on your shelf somewhere, would you go ahead and just share that on social media and tag us in that? That'd be really neat to see your pantries filling up or your projects getting done that you've learned from us and we'd love to see that. That'd be really cool.

Josh: Absolutely. It's been great hanging with you guys today. We will see you next time as we look forward to 2021 and talk about some of our dreams and hopes and things we're going to go after and plan to do in this next year.

Carolyn: Let's see you then.

Josh: We'll see you soon. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Pantry Chat: Food For Thought. If you've enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate and review.

Carolyn: To view the show notes and any other resources mentioned on this episode, you can learn more at

Josh: We'll see you soon.

Carolyn: Goodbye.

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It is our goal to encourage you in the path to a more healthy, more secure and free lifestyle by sharing and teaching the skills that lead to greater sustainability and self-sufficiency for you, your loved ones and your community.

– Carolyn and Josh 


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