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.**

Twelve weeks later

We’ve been at the property 11 weeks and 5 days now. It’s been an interesting journey so far. I think I am finally over the transition period. I did not realize it at the time, but I think I was a little bit depressed. I woke up a week ago and felt more like myself than I have since before we sold our old house. We had a lot of life changes happening at once, and it was a little overwhelming. Now that we’ve gotten past the shock and awe of moving here, I’m ready to dig in and get some real projects going.

I think my DH and kids felt the same way. We managed to get quite a bit done this past week. We planted 4 more fruit trees, so now we’ve reached our goal of planting 12 trees this fall. We’ve planted 2 yellow delicious apples, 2 red delicious apples, 2 Bartlett pear, 2 plums, 2 belle of Georgia peaches, and 2 Lisbon lemon trees in our orchard area. I also bought a Mexican Key Lime tree that I have hanging out by the front door so I can sneak it inside if the temps drop below 30F.

It doesn’t look like much now, but this Orchard will be loaded with fruit within a few years. You can see all 12 trees in this picture. They are planted 25′ apart from each other.

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Our sweet dog, Hugo, has finally proven himself to be a great farm dog. He loves the fact that he doesn’t have to be on a lead anymore. He is very protective of us, but he is quick to befriend people that we welcome on the property. He’s a great dog. I really love the Transylvanian Hound breed.

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We started work on a chicken coop over the weekend as well. We were trying to wait until we could get the materials really cheaply, but we weren’t having much luck. On Friday, I stopped by Home Depot to check out their cull wood, and they had an entire cart full. I ended up spending $80 on enough wood to build the frame and nesting boxes for our coop. The entire project has cost us $270 so far. I’m expecting that it will cost us $500 by the time we are finished.

We are making a 3 sided coop. It’s 8′ x 16.5′  with two rows of nesting boxes. Here is the first row of nesting boxes. The little one in the picture had a pocket full of screws that he would hand us one at a time whenever we needed it. What a great helper.

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The steps are from the back door of our double wide, they aren’t staying in the coop. We just borrowed them for a little while. They are much sturdy than a ladder on our uneven soil.

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Here’s an outside shot of the coop, so you can see the framing better.  We have the metal roof started in this picture and if you look closely, you can see the second row of nesting boxes along the back wall.

 

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Here’s a better shot of where we stopped last night. It took us about a day and a half to get to this point. Some of our cull wood is bent, and we didn’t have plans. We are just eyeballing everything and hoping that it works out. (ha)  On the back of the coop, we are building an easy access door for egg collection. Also, the spot underneath the nesting boxes is going to be for storage that is accessed from the back of the coop. We are going to use the leftover wire from the rabbit hutches on the floor of the coop and then put wire around the outside of the coop as well. We’re also going to dig about 10 inches down around the perimeter of the coop and make a wire barrier from any animals that try to dig under the coop. We’ll make a door using scrap wood,  staples, wire, and a few hinges. Then, we’ll be ready for chickens.

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It’s fun to see how our projects change the landscape of the property. The coop doesn’t look very big next to the barn. We positioned the coop so that we could easily walk to it when we are doing our daily animal chores. It’s also positioned to give plenty of shade in the afternoon sun and also give plenty of protection from our strong winds. I hope we can get it finished pretty soon. I cannot wait to have fresh eggs every day.

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I was having problems with the amount of mud we accumulate on our shoes. I’ve been making everyone take their shoes off on the small porch area before they came inside. It helped to prevent mud from getting in the house, but it was an eyesore to see a pile of muddy shoes on our small entry porch. I had a great idea yesterday. We have a few dozen old pallets, so I decided to put one of them to good use. Eventually, we’ll have a large front porch and I’ll have more options, but this solution works for now and it’s free!

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We’ve got a lot going on this week. I want to finish the coop, paint the coop, paint the doghouse, buy some chickens, get signed up for insurance at DH’s new job so we can cancel our gap insurance, make a few batches of lye soap, plan my Thanksgiving menu, and get started making some Christmas presents. What do you all have planned this week?

 

Rainwater Catchment System

Our area of Texas is in it’s third year of a bad drought. One of our ponds is nearly dry, and the other two are noticeably smaller than they were when we first saw them. It’s not pretty. We try to conserve as much water as possible. One of the first homestead projects that we’ve done is set up a rainwater catchment system.

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We were lucky, our barn already had gutters set up. All we had to add was a large bendable pipe (we used sewage pipe) that we picked up at Home Depot. It ended up using $6 worth of pipe and another $3 worth of connectors.

Our local Farm Supply company sells 275 gallon totes for $180 + tax. I hate buying things for full price, so we started checking craigslist daily, hoping we could find a great deal.

About two weeks ago, we were driving into town and saw a house that had two 275 gallon water totes sitting outside with a phone number on them. We called, and ended up buying both of these totes for $50 each. We cleaned them and sterilized them very well, just to be safe. We put them on pallets, so when we use the water, gravity will create water pressure for us.

Eventually, we will connect the two totes, so we don’t have to go out and manually move the pipe from one to the other in the rain. But, for now – it’s a blessing to be able to use rain water to water the garden. The plants love it.

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P.S. Please ignore the weeds and grass in the garden.

P.P.S. We ended up spending $110 on this project. After we fill up both totes 14 times, we will have recouped our investment. This number only accounts for the cash cost of water in our area, not the cost of taxes, meter fees, and the environmental cost of using city water when we could be using rain water. This was definitely a project that was worth doing.