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.**

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.

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… ūüėõ

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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!

Salsaness

This past weekend, my mom and dad came out to visit. It’s always nice to have them spend time with us. My mom brought out a bountiful basket for me, which was fantastic. I didn’t get a picture of it, but it had asparagus and coconut in it. Yummy. She also picked up 125lbs of Roma tomatoes from Bountiful Baskets.

Needless to say, we spent the day making salsa. I made 13 quarts of freezer salsa for my little one. He has a jalapeno allergy, so he gets a special salsa made with green chili. After that, we made another 32 quarts of regular salsa. I went to bed ridiculously tired on Saturday night, then woke up an hour later in a panic when I remembered that salsa is not supposed to be canned in quart jars. Eeep!

 

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I¬†put everything in the fridge and reprocessed it all¬†on Sunday in pint jars. That was not an experience I want to repeat. At least we’ve got¬†enough salsa¬†to last us a few m0nths.

Does anyone know how it’s possible that I only got 9 pints out of each 5 quarts of salsa I reprocessed? The math geek in me is still perplexed over that one. I wish I could blame the kids, but I kicked them all out of the kitchen that day.

We should (knock on wood) have 3 litters of baby rabbits tomorrow. We haven’t had baby rabbits since Spring, so it will be nice to have little ones hopping around again. I hope the young rabbits do well with their first litters.

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!