Summertime

It’s summertime!! Things have been heating up around our homestead lately. (Har har) It’s a beautiful (rainy) day today, so I figured I’d put down my gardening gloves and my Zane Grey book so I could post a homestead update.

Rabbits – Poly (our Californian doe) had 8 kits that all ended up dying. I think they had a genetic issue. We decided to cull all of our rabbits. The boy had white raised lesions on his liver. We’re pretty sure he had some form of cancer. We are NOT eating him. All of the girls ended up in our freezer. The hides are currently salt drying on top of the dog house so I can egg tan them. We will get more breeding stock in the future, but I have to take a break from rabbits.

Chickens – We still have all 23 hens and 1 rooster. One of our hens went broody. She was doing a great job of sitting on a clutch of eggs, but two days before they were set to hatch, she decided to switch nests. So, we currently have no baby chicks. That will change next week. I ordered 25 day old chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery. I specifically ordered a Brown Egg Layer mix, so I’m excited to see what varieties we end up with.

Garden – The garden has exploded this past month. Everything looks lush and green. There are a ton of weeds. I have to spend about 45 minutes a day weeding, just to keep it in check. This week, with the rain, will mean that I need to spend a solid 4-5 hours in there this weekend to make it weed free again. So far, we’ve been able to harvest onions, radishes, snow peas, carrots, potatoes, and quite a few handfuls of herbs. (My Stevia plant is doing exceptionally well.) I have to put down more seeds in the areas we’ve harvested. I’m planning to do that this weekend. I have an entire 150sq feet section of beets that need to be harvested and canned this week. It’s a good project to do while it’s raining outside. I think I will work on that tomorrow and Wednesday.

Fishing – We learned that the House Pond has crawdads in it! My nephew was here with his family, and we ended up catching about 70-80 crawdads in less than 45 minutes. Needless to say, I got out my largest pot and we had a Crawfish Boil. It was delicious.

Projects – I asked the kids to come up with a project to do this summer around the property. It could be an educational project, an entertaining project, or a money making project. They decided that they are going to build a gazebo by Lost Hook Pond. They originally wanted to make a pergola, but then they decided they needed to make a solid roof so they could add a solar fan. I think it’s the perfect project for them to work on together and it will be very beneficial to us when we are out at the pond fishing.

Land – We had our hay baled. A neighbor baled it for us, took the hay, and paid us per bale. Our first cutting of the year yielded 67 large round bales. Next year, I hope to have a tractor and the needed implements so we can bale our own hay, but this arrangement worked out very well this year.

In a couple of weeks, it will have been a year since we bought this property. I still can’t believe that I get to live here. I love this place.

**I have a few pictures to add to this post, but for some reason it isn’t working correctly. I’ll try to log on later and see if I can get them to post.**

May Flowers

We’ve been doing quite a bit of work on the homestead over the past few weeks.

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Our bees were delivered! We set them up in our hive with some sugar water and left them alone for a couple of days. When we went to check on them, we saw that the queen was dead. We put a few feelers out there and found someone that had a spare queen that only lived 2.5 hours away from us. It was a bit of a drive, but we knew if we didn’t requeen the hive ASAP all of our bees would die. It’s been 2 weeks since we picked up the new queen, and everything seems like it’s going great. We’re going to check on them again in late May.

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The garden is coming along. It’s very hard to tell in this picture, but there are some things starting to pop up. Our potato plants all look great. We’ve also got two sections of salad greens that should be making their way onto our dinner plates within the next couple of weeks. I’m going to put our tomato plants in the ground tomorrow. I’m also going to put our second batch of succession carrots in the ground. We spent about $250 on seeds, so I’ll be very happy if we can get at least 250lbs of produce.

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The chickens are laying an average of 19 eggs a day. We currently have 14 dozen eggs in the fridge. We still have 23 hens and 1 rooster. We’re going to get chicks at some point this year. I don’t want to raise them inside, so I’m trying to trick a hen into going broody. I haven’t been successful yet.

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When we end up with too many eggs, we just start letting the word out that we have extra for sale, and we almost always sell them all within a day. People love fresh, free range, happy chicken eggs. I always have to put a dozen back for me so I can make homemade egg noodles. Here’s a test batch of spaghetti drying.

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This test batch of spaghetti was delicious. We used a recipe that I found in my grandma’s recipe box.

I saw one of the craziest things for sale at Atwoods a couple of weeks ago.

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It’s two half pint mason jars taped together. The mason jars had holes in the lid. They were labeled “Redneck Salt and Pepper Shakers.” It was highly amusing to me, since they were right next to a box full of mason jars that were $1 each.

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Since we’ve been spending so much time outside, we’ve been able to enjoy the gorgeous surprise irises that decided to pop up by our gate.

I’ll try to be better about posting more often. Our internet here is mediocre at best, so I have to try to download pictures one at a time throughout the week. The internet company is going to be replacing our tower soon, so hopefully I will be able to post more regularly after that.

Happy Homesteading!

Springing

It’s been a month since I posted an update, and I’m honestly not sure where to start.

Family life – My son (15 years old) with the torn ACL has surgery on Friday to reconstruct it. I’m going to be very glad to be on the other side of surgery so we can start working on recovery. He also starts Driver’s Ed next week (with his twin brother). I’m not ready to have twin teen drivers in the house. I’m scared to see what my insurance will jump to once they get their licenses.

Pet life – Samson, our Great Pyrenees, was neutered last week. We also adopted an indoor kitty, Bella. Bella had been in the shelter for 6 weeks before she picked us. The first night here, she killed two mice. She is already worth her weight in gold. She going to get spayed next week.

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Garden Life – We fenced our garden. I planted seeds in half of it so far, but a few days after I planted seeds, we ended up with 1.5″ of rain and I’m afraid that my seeds might have rotted. I’m going to replant everything this weekend if I don’t see more things popping up. We are cheating a little. We haven’t been able to property work the soil, so after we plant seeds, we are covering the seeds with compost. We are also spraying a compost tea once a week. I hope that it helps our yields this first year.

The orchard is doing well, all of the trees we planted last fall have new growth on them. We also planted 10 grape vines and 12 berry bushes. I have plenty of room to plant more, but that should get us started.

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Livestock Life – We lost a chicken. I went out in the morning to do our animal chores and it was just.. dead. That brings our chicken count down to 23 hens and 1 rooster. When Samson was getting neutered, we had a feral dog try to attack a hen. The rooster step in front of the hen, and the dog got the rooster. The Rooster lived, but he is now missing all of his tail feathers. The cat thinks they make great kitty toys.

We still haven’t had any baby rabbits this year. I’m giving our buck two more months, but we might have to replace him. I really want the rabbits to work out. Not only do they grow fast and eat very little, but they also provide excellent meat and soft pelts.

We ordered our package bees and they should be here in two weeks. Dh wants to take over the beekeeping. He picked a spot for the hives on the other side of the property. (The bees are going to be more than 1/4 of a mile from the house.) It’s nice and shady there, and they will have great access to water.

My composting worms all died. It got too cold for them this winter. I’m on the fence about ordering more.

Kitchen Life – We are getting 14-18 eggs a day. I wish I could say that was plenty and we have a kitchen full of eggs, but fresh eggs are an item that always seems to have demand exceed supply. I’m going to have to start hoarding them so I can make and freeze egg noodles to have when production drops back down.

I bought 125lbs of tomatoes and turned them into 92 pints of Salsa. Last time I made this much salsa, it lasted us about 4 months. I hope it lasts until we can start canning our own tomatoes.

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Homesteading Life – The kids went through their closets and brought out all of the clothes that are too small. I took out all of the holy jeans and I’m using them to make a scrap rag quilt. It’s my first quilting project, so I’m antsy to get it finished. I love it so far. It’s nice and warm. I’m backing it with a worn out flannel sheet.

My Hubby ended up hiring a guy with a backhoe to dig out the space we are using for a storm shelter/root cellar. After the backhoe made it down about 10 feet, it ended up hitting something that made the hole fill with water. We’ve since figured out that it was a large trash pile that had filled with rainwater run off. Craziness. Apparently, at some point, someone dug a giant hole and buried a small house here. There are layers of wood and metal about 8 feet under the earth. Out of 71 acres, what are the odds that that we pick that exact spot to dig a hole? I wish I knew more about the history of this property.

We’ve been doing some projects with all of the fill dirt that we have. Some of it is going to bulk up our shooting/archery range. We are using some of it for grading around the house. I’d also like to use some of it to create a cobb oven and cobb seating area.

Too many projects and not enough time.

Almost Spring

I’m sitting here, warm and toasty in my house. The sound of thunder and the howling wind are in the background. The teakettle is on the stove, warming water to use with my homemade hot cocoa mix. Life is good.

We’ve been busy around our homestead. I’ve been neglectful of this blog. I finally realized why there are so many blogs that tell the story of a family’s journey towards homesteading, that stop soon after the family finally started making real progress. It used to frustrated me to no end. Now I find myself on the other side of that spectrum. We’ve just been really, really busy.

Here’s a quick recap of the month of February.

We brought home Samson. Samson is an incredible addition to our homestead. He is 7 months old and already weighs 70lbs. He is a Great Pyrenees and he is just beautiful. He is loyal, obedient, and fiercly protective of us. He lives outside and he protects the area around the house, barn, and coop from Coyotes, Stray Dogs, Hawks, Wolves, Snakes, Rabbits, Strangers, Skunks, and anything else he percieves as a threat.

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We tilled the garden for Spring! My neighbor came over and tilled it for us. (I love our neighbors. They are so sweet and helpful.) He asked if we wanted it the same size or a little bigger. Of course, I said “a little bigger.” I was very happy with the size until I measured it. That sucker is 90×50. It’s 4500 square feet. That’s about 1/10th of an acre. I have a feeling I’m going to be spending many hours weeding.

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We started working on the beginning to our storm shelter/root cellar. It’s going to take awhile, but it will be wonderful once it’s finished. There will be three rooms. One for storage, one for a root cellar, and one with some cots and equipment for a storm shelter. We’ve done all that we can with the front loader, so now we need to pay someone with a backhoe that can dig out the rest of the hole. It’s going to be about 12′ deep.

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Many people in our area are dealing with the (hopefully) last winter storm of the year. It’s snowing outside. Two years ago, I was able to plant my garden in January! This year, I think I’ll have to wait until at least March 14th. What a strange winter. Yesterday it was 80F outside. I walked over past the 10 new grapevines and the 12 new berry bushes to our 14 fruit trees. This little bloom was greeting me on an apple tree….

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I know it’s not going to make it – but it’s nice to have confirmation that spring really is just around the corner.

We ordered our bees in late January. The equipment showed up already and I’m very happy with it. The bees should be shipping in a little over a month. I hope we end up with a little honey this year.

As for the chickens – before we got Samson, we lost one hen to a chicken hawk. It was fairly traumatic. It took me a week before I would let them out of the coop to free range again. I’m getting about 16-18 eggs a day. We’ve been selling and trading the extra to our neighbors. Extra eggs for grass fed beef? Yes, please.

My younger twin (15 years old) tore his ACL playing catch with the football a week and a half ago. He has to have prehab and then a surgery, then months of rehab. It’s going to take 6-12 months before he is fully recovered. He is having a hard time dealing with it, since he is usually so active. He loves running the property line with the dog and he’s just not going to be able to do it for a long time. I’m trying to be encouraging to him, but it’s hard. He wants to be outside working. I think I’m going to have him start helping me in the kitchen. It would give him something to do and help him feel useful around the homestead. I’m not sure what else I can do to keep his spirits up during his long recovery – any ideas?

Winter Morning Routine

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It’s another beautiful morning on our homestead. I woke up at 5:30 and made French Toast for breakfast. I packed lunches for my teenagers and my hubby. I started my coffee, then I headed outside to do my morning chores.

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I had to mail a Netflix disk. The 15 year olds finished MacGyver and started watching the A-Team series. They watch 1 episode every few days, so 1 disk lasts us awhile.

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The House Pond is starting to fill up. We have the rainwater catchment system currently set up to send all of the water it collects into this pond. It’s slowly making a difference. Our neighbors have told us that this is the first year they’ve seen this pond get low. (They have been here for 25 years.) I hope that means it will stay full from now on. I’d like to set up a little dock and stock this pond with catfish.

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My neglected lime tree has new growth on it. I’m going to plant it by the house so I can keep an eye on it in cold weather. I cannot wait to make some fresh lime-ade from our own limes. Yummy.

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The chickens are waiting for me to let them out. This coop has worked out really well for us. I’m happy with the design, but I’m anxious to see how well it works in the hot summer months.

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The chickens get to snack on the leftover French Toast from breakfast. Lucky girls. This picture was taken about .076 seconds after I opened the coop door.

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We had two Roosters, but we turned one of them into soup when he started to act aggressive. This one is a keeper though. His name is Henry. (Fun Fact – Our Rooster is named Henry and all of our Hens are currently named Henrietta. The only exception is the inquisitive little ring leader we affectionately call Dora (the Explorer).

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I have a trowel hanging inside the coop. I use it to scoop poo from the nesting boxes. I clean the boxes daily. Every week, I add extra wood shavings to the nesting boxes. I clean out the coop weekly. In the future, I might try the deep litter method of coop cleaning. But for now, this system seems to work well for us.

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The rabbits heard me coming. We have four rabbits at the moment. Pretty boy is our Buck. Polymorph (Polly) is our older doe. Out of their previous litters we kept two other does, Q and Quinn. The rabbits we keep get names that start with that litter’s letter. Sometimes I think I overcomplicate things… 😛

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After I make sure all of the animals are taken care of, I head back inside to warm my hands up with a big cup of coffee. Henry says, “Come back with treats.”

Winter Blahs.

There hasn’t been much to write about lately. It’s been a “Blah” type of month. The clouds are grey, the grass is brown, the trees are leaf-less. I’ve been catching up on some paperwork, drooling over seed websites, and sewing myself some new skirts.

We did eat one of our roosters. We started with 2, Henry and Red. Red was very submissive as long as Henry was around, but whenever Henry was out of his line of sight, Red turned into a mean little punk that kept trying to take a chunk out of my shin. He never did – but his temperament suggested that he would, and with a 4 year old running around, I am not taking the chance. I refuse to feel threatened by my livestock. So, Red went into the pot. I cooked him in the crockpot all night, then shred the meat, added it back to the stock and made a big pot of Rooster Soup. Delicious!

I finally have a pregnant rabbit again. We haven’t had a new litter in almost a year! It will be nice to have kits around. I’m not sure why our buck wasn’t feeling the itch. We kept putting girls in there with him and he would just snuggle with them and occasionally let them hump him. Odd rabbit. If everything goes as planned, we will have babies right before Valentine’s Day.

We’ve been getting a ton of eggs. We got the chickens on November 27th. We got our first egg on December 13th. We ended up with 65 eggs in December. It’s January 17th and we are already at 220 for January. We get an average of 14 a day. The most we’ve gotten is 18. I have a feeling that number will keep going up. I’ve got plans to let a few of the hens go broody and have them adopt some day old chicks in a few months. We’ll see how that works out….

We found a small company that we decided to use for our bee purchase this year. I think we will pick the hives up in mid-April. I’m looking forward to having our own personal pollinators around. I just have to decide what color we want the hives to be. (I’m leaning towards yellow.)

I know I should be grateful that it’s winter and that we have a little break from chores; but I’m ready for winter to be over. I don’t want to work on fixing fences and cleaning the house. I don’t want to do taxes and fill out our AG exemption forms. I want to cuddle with baby animals, play in the dirt, go fishing, and gorge on watermelon and tomatoes straight from the garden.

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone reading this has a wonderful and beautiful Christmas.

I’ve been trying to think of things to write about, but not much is going on around here. Here’s a December recap…

-We brought our 27 chickens home on November 27th. We got our first egg on December 12th. We are now getting about 3-5 eggs every day and that number is slowly rising. I imagine that in the Spring, we will have 12 – 20 eggs every day. I’m really looking forward to it. Farm fresh eggs are so much better than store bought.

-We had a nasty ice storm that caused us to lose power for 4 days. This was a great opportunity to spend time together as a family, but it was also really hard and made me realize how important it is to be prepared for different situations that could arise in this area.

-We have 15 fruit trees planted. They all survived the ice storm, but 2 of them are leaning at a 45 degree angle and need to be supported. We’re planning on doing that this weekend. I also need to repot my lime tree.

-We have had no babies yet from our rabbits this season. I think our buck might not be doing his job correctly. I’m not sure what is going on. I’m going to give our older doe a week to see if she kindles after her Thanksgiving week breeding, then we are going to reassess the rabbits. We’ve put a lot of time and money into feeding them over the last 6 months and I really hope that it wasn’t in vain.

-I made lye soap for the first time. It took 2.5 hours to stir it. I think I will invest in a immersion blender. The soap is currently curing and we should be able to start using in it early January. I hope it was worth it.

-I found a fantastic, easy laundry soap recipe. It’s ten times easier than the one I had been using, and quite a bit cheaper as well. It costs me less than $1.50 to make 10 gallons. That’s less than $0.15 per gallon. Crazy. I’ll write up a post on it after I give it a good trial period. I can tell it gets clothes clean, but I want to make sure it doesn’t dull colors or anything like that.

I hope everyone is having a lovely December, and I hope that you all have a very blessed Christmas!