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.

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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?

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?

 

We are home

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Have I mentioned that I love this place? There is so much to catch up on, that I’m not sure where to begin. I guess I’ll do a quick recap of the last few weeks, then I can go into more detail later.

We have wonderful neighbors. They came over and tilled our garden for us! The garden is much bigger than our last garden. If I had to guess, I would say it is about 1500 – 2000 square feet. The barn in the picture is 3000 square feet, so that should give you an idea of how big the garden area is. We put the garden next to the barn, so we could have easy access to water, once we set up our water catchment system. If you look at the left hand side of the barn, you can see that we started implementing our water catchment, we just need to find a water barrel or tote that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg (at the feed store, they are $180 for 275 gallons, yikes!).

I planted a ton of things, lots of herbs, spinach, kale, swiss chard, lettuce, carrots, onions, strawberries, collard greens, and everything else I had seeds for. I used all of the Spring/Fall seeds that I had. Every single one of them. And I still have 1 row that’s completely empty. How do you like the flour I used to mark my rows?  I couldn’t find the string and nails I usually use, so I had to improvise. I think it worked out rather well.

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The neighbors are older than my parents, and it’s hard for them to plant their garden, so after they tilled our garden with their tractor, I offered our knees and backs and volunteered to plant all of their seeds in their fall garden. It took the kids and I about 2.5 hours to plant their seeds. It was SO worth it. We were treated with homemade ice cream and stories about what this place looked like before we moved in. It’s nice to feel like our neighbors are also going to be great friends. It’s also nice to know that we have other people living out here that are looking out for us and rooting for us.

We planted six fruit trees. Two red delicious apple, two yellow delicious apple, and two Bartlett pears. The red and yellow delicious will pollinate each other. We had to buy two 150′ water hoses in order to keep them watered. We spent about two days trying to tote water to them before we decided that the hoses would be a good investment. Right now, there is a trash bag with holes poked at the bottom, filled with water and attached to each tree. The 4 year old and I spend about 15 minutes each morning filling up the trash bags with water and they slow release all day long. It’s hard to tell in the picture, but the trees are all 25′ apart from each other. Eventually, I’d like an entire fruit tree orchard. I’ll be very happy if we can plant another 6 trees this fall, then 12 more in the spring. We’ll see how that goes. I’m sorry for the cruddy picture, I’ll get some better ones at some point.

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I found some free goats on Craigslist, and DH and the teens went to round them up and bring them home.  They are very skittish around people. One of them went into our freezer. The other three are starting to become friendlier. We now have a 2 year old nanny, and a 7 month old (unrelated) buckling and doeling. Yes, we are crazy and brought them home tied up in the bed of DH’s truck. Luckily, we didn’t have to drive very far with them like this.

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The main problem with free goats is that we were not prepared for them at all. We have a metal barn, and a cattle pen that is meant for loading and unloading cattle. We adapted what we had to what we needed by using things we found. We had 42 pallets and we used metal hangers to tie them around our cattle pen. It’s pretty ugly, but it works for now.

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Here are the goaties trying to figure out how to escape. Uh, I mean, enjoying their new home.

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This is the friendly one of the bunch. She is a sweetie.

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We got our barn cats last weekend, they have to spend two weeks in a holding cell before we can let them wander around. Their names are Marla and Monty and they were found wandering around Moore, OK after the tornado that devastated the town back in May. They seem to be very timid and fearful. I’m bribing them with cat treats and canned food. I hope they decide to stick around once they are released. I don’t have a picture of them yet, they keep hiding whenever they hear the click of my camera. Silly kitties. I’m getting another batch of water kefir and another batch of composting worms next week. We should also have a litter of rabbits next Wednesday. There is always more to do, we just have to pace ourselves so we don’t get overwhelmed. My farm chores take about 30 minutes a day right now, once the garden starts growing, it will increase by an hour or two each day. It’s manageable right now, but I could see how it could easily get out of control. It really is worth it though – we are home!