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.

Happy 2014!

Last year, I made some homestead resolutions.

The resolutions were…

-move from our suburban home to acreage in the country
-Make cheese
-Make kefir
-Make soap
-Make candles
-Dehydrate beef jerky
-Can all of our fruits and veggies for the year with in season produce either grown in our garden or bought locally in bulk
-Landscape with edible plants.
-Process rabbits.
-Plant fruit and nut trees
-Buy meat in bulk from a local farmer
-Cancel cable

I managed to get most of them done. I still haven’t made cheese and there was no way I could have canned all of our fruits and veggies for the year. Other than those two items though – I finished everything else on my list. 2013 was a big year.

-We sold our house and moved from our .17 acre suburban lot to 71 acres in the country
-Made water kefir
-Made homemade lye soap
-found an easy and cheap laundry soap recipe (post about that coming soon – it only costs $0.15 per gallon.)
-Made candles
-we landscaped our old house with Kale, Swiss chard, and roses before we moved.
-Dehydrated beef jerky and multiple other items with my dehydrator
-Planted 14 fruit trees in our orchard and bought a 15th tree that lives inside when the weather is cold.
-Cancelled cable (we haven’t had cable since August – no one misses it!)
-Started learning how to sew on a sewing machine
-set up water, electric, septic, and a house on our property
-met and became friends with some of our neighbors
-got chickens and built a chicken coop (The girls laid 14 eggs for us today!)
-butchered a goat and stocked the freezer with fresh meat
-canned meat with my pressure canner
-set up our water catchment system
-built a driveway so our vehicles don’t get stuck in the mud when it rains
-acquired our barn cats
-butchered and skinned rabbits
-quadrupled the size of our worm barn
-stopped using shampoo (I’ve actually been “No Poo” since October of 2012.)

For 2014, we have some big plans. I’d like to…

– Keep up with my garden. It’s 5 times bigger than the last one, and I’m worried it might be a lot to handle.
– Order our bees and beekeeper supplies
– Plant more fruit and nut trees
– Plant a perennial garden with berries and grapes
– Plant an herb garden
– landscape with edibles
– Finally make cheese
– Make all of our soap and laundry detergent for the year (I’ll still buy dish soap and dishwasher detergent.)
– Can more fruits, veggies, and meats
– Dehydrate more fruits, veggies, and meats
– Get to the point where I only grocery shop once a month. Right now, I go weekly. I’m going to try to stretch that to every two weeks to start.)
– File the right paperwork to officially make us a farm
– Sell some extra produce and eggs
– Keep good records
– Buy a tractor
– build a shop
– build a storm shelter
– build a front porch
– get a dairy animal
– raise meat chickens
– hay our own property 2 times during the summer if the weather cooperates

That’s a pretty big list. I’m not sure we will be able to buy a tractor, a shop, a storm shelter, and a front porch – – but I’m going to leave all of them on there. The tractor needs to come first, since the tractor will allow us to bale our own hay, which will make us some money over the summer and might pay for some of the other items. We’ll see.

There is a lot to do, and there is a lot to learn. I’m having so much fun though. I cannot wait to see what 2014 brings. Do you have any homesteading goals for 2014?

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!

We got the power….

Due to a recent ice storm, we were without power for four days. We feel very blessed that we had running water, a propane heater, a propane camping stove, wood for the fireplace, and plenty of blankets and food. It wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been, it was just very cold. The house temperature stayed between 38-50 degrees for the first day, then we dusted off the propane heater and¬†we kept the house at about 55 degrees. With 2-3 layers of clothing, a few pairs of socks, and a hat, it was downright toasty in here.

I did lose a lot of food from our fridge and freezers, but it could have been worse. I feel very blessed to live in an area where the neighbors check on each other and look out for each other. We had a neighbor ask us if we wanted to bunk with them since their power had been restored before ours. We also found out another neighbor had no way to heat up water, so we brought them hot water and food at regular intervals so they could enjoy their instant coffee and warm up with hot cocoa or ramen.

Have I mentioned that I love living here?

There’s been rumors that another ice storm is expected in a week and a half.¬†I hope it never materializes, but I’ve already replenished our firewood, propane, food, and water stash – just in case.

 

 

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?