Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hen Saddles

When I first got chickens I came across something called a hen saddle. It was on a website, being sold next to a chicken diaper. I immediately thought "Wow... there are weird people in the world! Who on earth would put a saddle on their chicken?!" Now that I have had chickens for a couple of years I am a firm believer in the hen saddle. Roosters can be rough on the poor girls! To mate, the roosters grab the feathers on the hen's neck, and hop on their back. They try to balance, but it isn't easy, apparently. When there is more than one rooster, things get even worse. They all mate with the hens and much as possible, especially the roos that are lower in the pecking order, who hop on any chance they get. The rooster's claws rip the feathers out on the hen's back, leaving gashes after a while. The best thing to do, of course, is to only have one rooster for every 10 hens. This helps tremendously. Sometimes that isn't possible. For instance, I have two breeds that I mate, but don't want 10 hens of each at the moment (maybe later... chicken math, you know) so I have a rooster for each. I also have two "babies" who need to go to freezer camp, but I haven't gotten to it yet.

The important thing, is that chicken saddles are very cheap and easy to make! You can, of course, buy some from some wonderful websites, but I am too frugal (i.e.broke) to spend money on something that I can make myself.

First, gather your supplies. You need two kinds of fabric. I prefer a thicker, stiffer, fabric for the outer layer so that the boys' claws don't scratch through. Also, a thinner, more breathable fabric for the bottom layer so that it doesn't hold moisture against the hen and lets air circulate. Sometimes the fabrics don't match as well as I'd like, but the hens don't seem to mind. :) It takes less than a foot of each, so scraps are wonderful to use. To make the straps that go around the wings you can use elastic, found at a craft or fabric store, but I usually use hair bands, that I cut at the seam. I always have some laying around. Just make sure that they are long enough and not too thick. I usually make larger saddles because I have buff orphingtons, which are quite large and fluffy, but they can easily be made any size. I may need some for the turkey hens soon!

- Thick, stiff fabric
- Thin, breathable fabric
- Elastic, hair bands
- Sewing machine, or needle and thread
- scissors
- measuring tape
- pencil/ chalk
- pins
- Chicken model :)

1. Measure the hen. First, the base of the neck, between the shoulder blades, to the base of the tail. Second, between the wings at the shoulder blades. Third, across the back (from the top of one leg to the top of the other). Add 1/2 inch to each measurement for seams.

2. Draw the pattern onto a piece of paper, using the measurements. I usually make half a pattern and fold the material over to ensure that both sides are even.

3. Pin the fabrics together, right sides together, wrong sides out with pattern attached.

4. Fold in half lengthwise, cut out pattern. (My paper pattern is not shown attached)

5. Sew a 1/4 inch seam around the outside of the chicken saddle, leaving a 2 inch opening on the bottom to flip it. Snip the corners off of each side where the elastic will fit in.

6. Turn right side out.

7. Stick the ends of the elastic into the holes that were cut.

8. Tuck the loose ends under, iron flat if necessary. Sew around the outer edge, closing the hole up,   anchoring the elastic, and causing the saddle to be flatter and hold its shape better. Make sure to sew over the elastic several times to anchor it in really well.

9. Be proud :) You just made a hen saddle!

To put the hen saddle on the hen:

1. Hope that your hen is forgiving, and won't put up too much of a fight. They soon get used to it, and some don't mind it from the very beginning.

2. Simply place the saddle on the hen's back, hook the top of the wing with the elastic and pull the wing through. Be gentle and try not to go against the feathers. Do the other side the same way.

This saddle is too short for this hen, but she was a willing model as
she is broody at the moment. :) She is the next in line for a saddle,
poor girl! 
3. Make sure it fits properly. If it is too tight it will cut the circulation off in the wings. If it is too lose it will either fall off, or slide back and forth when the rooster mounts, causing the elastic to rub raw spots, and just not doing much good.

4. Check regularly. I don't like using them for long periods. Usually just when I have a problem rooster that I need to deal with, or until the feathers grow back on a hen's back that has had some very unromantic suitors calling on her much too regularly.

They are so very easy, and are an important part of a chicken first aid kit. Nice to have handy, because they are usually needed when you don't have time to drag out the sewing machine and stitch one up. So, as it turns out, putting saddles on your chickens doesn't necessarily mean you are insane! Simply a prepared animal owner, and probably a chicken lover <3  Hope you find them as helpful as I have!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Life's Lessons

Normally, I don't pass things like this along. This is a story that I'm sure a lot of you have come across online. It has been being circulated a lot lately, but it makes me tear up every time I read it. I think it is a good life lesson and hope that you enjoy reading it as well. I strive to remember these life lessons every day, and I know my life is better because of it.

One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey.
He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, th
e donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement he quieted down.
A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up.
As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!
 Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a steppingstone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up.
Remember the five simple rules to be happy:
1. Free your heart from hatred - Forgive.
2. Free your mind from worries - Most never happens.
3. Live simply and appreciate what you have.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less from people but more from yourself.
You have two choices... smile and close this page, 
or pass this along to someone else to share the lesson .
One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey.

He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, th
e donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement he quieted down.

A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up.

As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!

Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a steppingstone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up.

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

1. Free your heart from hatred - Forgive.

2. Free your mind from worries - Most never happens.

3. Live simply and appreciate what you have.

4. Give more.

5. Expect less from people but more from yourself.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Welcome back to the World of Internet Access!

My brother captured on the game cam while visiting. 
So, I have been offline for a while. It is funny how life takes unexpected turns. I am a firm believer that all things happen for a reason and that everything always works out in the end, as long as you have faith. The grant that I had been counting on for my research assistant-ship at school fell through, and I will have no chance at another one for at least a year. That means no income coming in and no tuition waver, so lots of money going out. After much discussion, agonizing over what to do, and changing my mind 15 times a day, I decided to take some time off of school. Money got tight, really fast, so the first thing we did was disconnect the internet. I have found work and will be starting soon, but many of the plans I made a couple months ago have been put on hold. Rather, they are just happening a bit more slowly. I have been working the last few days to clear the land where the shed will be built. The animals have been keeping me busy. My brother and his family have moved down here for a while. I don't think he wants to stay a really long time, but I am enjoying having him here! He has been enjoying the homestead. I love finding pictures of him interacting with the animals when I check my game cam. He comes over often to visit, and always ends up helping me with chores.
Baby Quasi, one of my foster littles, visiting the turkeys.

So, an update on things on Sunflower Hill...

 Randy (my poor chicken-eating foster puppy with the malformed neck) was adopted! He found a wonderful home where he is now called Trevor, and is spoiled daily by a little girl. We have since fostered two more puppies, Quasi and Vine, both of whom had kennel cough but after some love, and hard-core antibiotics, they both went on the transport up north and found great homes.

The hoop coop after the dog attack. Feathers everywhere!
We had another dog attack a few days before Thanksgiving. A neighbor's pet (didn't know that at the time) hopped its fence and found its way into our yard. Luckily it happened during the day when both Brad and I were home, otherwise it would have turned out much worse. The dog hopped on the hoop coop, pushing the pipes over enough to hop on top and collapsed it. He climbed in through the top and had the turkeys cornered. Our trusty guard dogs let us know and we ran out and dealt with it in time to save most of the turkeys. Two had escaped but came back. All of the turkeys were injured, some worse than others, and one was dead by the time we got there. We had to put some down. We are left with 8 turkeys. We have 6 Bourbon reds, 4 males and 2 females, and 2 Blue slates, 1 male and 1 female. We did have one of the toms that we had to put down for Thanksgiving. It was wonderful, but I cooked it longer than I needed to. The turkeys are now free ranging when ever I am home. The hoop coop has seen better days. It is falling apart every time I move it, so I try to just let them out so it needs to be moved less often. Hopefully soon they will be free ranging all of the time, like the chickens. As soon as we can teach them not to chase cars... My brother helped me throw together a roost to get weight off of the side of the coop, put a new tarp on, and I have braced it. Another turkey coop needs to be in the near future, but it works for now.

The chickens are doing well, and are still laying like crazy. I don't know what to do with all of the eggs! I kept giving them away, and nobody ever returns the egg cartons, so now I have nothing to give eggs away in, and so they are going to waste... I HATE that! The baby chickens are getting big! The two roosters have matured and are now fighting with each other and being really... REALLY hard on the girls. I have made chicken saddles for several of them, but need to make more. The roos are going to freezer camp really soon. Brad bought me the most wonderful hunting knife and scissors for Christmas! His dad (my enabler) is working on finding the parts for a chicken plucker. Both of these things mean that my life will be MUCH easier in the future! He is also looking into an incubator. Have I mentioned that he doesn't have chickens? LOL I don't know which of us enjoys my having chickens.... and turkeys... and growing a garden... and building stuff more, me or him! Brad doesn't find it nearly as amusing and we do... at least he pretends not to. :)

My winter garden is doing well, update on that coming soon.

Even though money has been tighter than I ever remember it being, times have been tough and we are doing without many things, and the stress level has been pretty high around here at times, I am so incredibly thankful for being as blessed as we are. I have such a wonderful family. I missed going out of town to spend the holidays with my parents and grandparents, but how lucky it is that the one year we couldn't go see them they came down in late October to see me? Every time things got really tough and we weren't sure how we were going to make it, something happened, sometimes explainable things, like checks going through when there was no money in the bank account, and things always worked out. It goes to show you that if you keep trying even when things seem bleak, always give of yourself to others that are in need, even when you don't have much yourself, and have faith that God knows best and will get you where you need to be, even when it seems like things are all going wrong, life will always be beautiful. Things get tough, but stress doesn't solve anything. Looking at all the things in life that I am thankful for always makes it a much happier place. Sometimes I need to be reminded of all of these things. I am thankful for that reminder and thankful that we have had such an exciting and beautiful year. Looking forward to another one!

We at Sunflower Hill Homestead hope that your holidays have been blessed and that you have a wonderful start to the brand new year!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Autumn is in the Air! That means PUMPKINS!

I LOVE Autumn! I love the change of seasons in general, but Fall has always been my favorite. I am somewhat sad that the garden is done with the production explosion that occurs during the summer. It is still a working garden, though. The kale is up and doing wonderfully. The lettuce and carrots are close behind. Almost all of my garden beds are full again, and many will remain so until it is again time to replant this spring. One reason I love this area is because it is growing season every month of the year! Unfortunately, my pumpkins didn't do well this year. Pumpkins are my absolute favorite fall fruit! Yes, fruit. Technically, anything that has seeds growing inside of a fleshy covering is a fruit. Hence, the veggie garden, aside from root veggies and leafy greens, is really a fruit garden. Just sayin'! Anyway, pumpkins are also my favorite Autumn decoration, and the majority of the activities and recipes that I enjoy the most this time of year, include them.

I couldn't resist buying jack-o-lantern pumpkins and some sugar pumpkins as soon as they started appearing in stores and at roadside stands. I never can. I did manage to resist the urge, however, to dig into them yet. Last night I finally got to! I de-seeded and baked one of my sugar pumpkins and made pumpkin puree. It is so simple! I couldn't find my camera though! Ugh! I will add pictures later. I always used canned pumpkin, because it is more convenient, right? Not that much... not really. And it isn't nearly as much fun OR as delicious! Fresh pumpkin is by far superior to canned pumpkin. Why take my word for it though? Try it for yourself!

Making Pumpkin Puree

1. Get your pumpkin! Small sugar pumpkins are best if you buy them from the store. Jack-o-lantern pumpkins can be used, but the taste is more bland and they are more stringy most of the time. I have done it, though, and it has turned out wonderfully. There are many heirloom pumpkins that grow to be very large and are delicious! Unfortunately, most stores only carry sugar pumpkins, and I assume that is what most people will have access to.

2. Cut the pumpkin in half length wise (top to bottom, not around the "equator" or the pumpkin). The stem will get in the way, but it will be easy to cut out once you break the pumpkin into halves.

3. Remove the seeds and strings and set aside. Don't throw them away! We will roast the seeds later! Try to get most of the strings, but don't spend forever trying to get every single one. Give it a good once over and then you're done.

4. Set the pumpkin halves upside down (skin side out) in a baking dish. The dish or pan must have sides because juice will collect in the bottom.

5. Bake in a 350 F oven until you can easily pierce it with a fork, the same way you would check to see if potatoes are ready to be mashed. The time depends on the size of the pumpkin. For a 4lb sugar pumpkin approximately 45 minutes.

6. The skin will peel right off when the pumpkin is done. Peel the pumpkin and then mash it with a potato masher or send it through a food processor. If the puree is very watery I line a strainer with a coffee filter, set it over a bowl, add the puree, cover it, and place it in the fridge over night. The pumpkin juice will collect in the bowl (I love drinking pumpkin juice! Very Harry Potter, very tasty, and oh so good for you!) and the thicker puree is easy to scrape off of the coffee filter.

6. Either use the puree right away, or freeze it. It is easiest to measure the puree out before you freeze it. I measure it out in 1 cup amounts, place in a freezer baggie, get the air out, and then smash it down until it is flat. It defrosts faster that way, and it takes up less freezer space.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1. Separate the seeds from the strings. The strings make an excellent treat for your chickens or turkeys. Don't have chickens or turkeys? Put them in your compost pile to enrich your garden next year, or throw them directly into the garden to compost on their own.

2. Many people rinse their seeds. I prefer to leave them like they are.

3. Toss them with seasoning of your choice. Mrs. Dash works great, as does cumin, chili powder, or simply a little salt.

4. Spread them on a baking sheet and pop them into the oven with you pumpkins. 350 F for around 20 minutes, or until they are golden brown.

5. Enjoy! Pumpkin seeds are eaten just like sunflower seeds and are very high in vitamins and nutrients, as is the whole pumpkin. It is a wonder food! The beautiful vibrant color alone is evidence!

What to do with all of that wonderful pumpkin puree? Obviously, pies are high on the list. But that it not all that can be done with pumpkin! I love making pumpkin rolls for the holidays. I will have to include that recipe later, although there is a wonderful recipe on the side of the Libby's pure pumpkin can. I tend to write down the recipe and then put the can back on the shelf! It is amazing mixed with a little bit of butter and a bit of brown sugar, as a side dish. Sauteed with onions is another wonderful way to serve it up as a side dish. Pumpkin soup, as well! I pureed the pumpkin last night primarily to make gingerbread pancakes and pumpkin bread! I make breakfast in large batches on the weekend and then store them in the freezer so we can have a healthy breakfast all week long, rather than living off of high sugar, highly processed foods like breakfast cereal, or spending twice as much on prepackaged food that is also high in preservatives. We don't have a lot of time in the morning and it is usually hectic.I also made sausage and eggs so we can have biscuits in the mornings. Gingerbread pancakes are one of my favorite recipes for this time of year, and are amazing for breakfast during the holidays with family. Just as a warning, this recipe make a very large batch. I think I got about 2 dozen pancakes this morning. It is a recipe I found years ago for waffles, that I tweaked just a bit, but it will still work for waffles as well.

Gingerbread Pancakes

Dry Ingredients                                                     Wet Ingredients
- 3 cups all-purpose flour                                       - 4 large (fresh) eggs
- 4 tsp baking powder                                            - 2/3 cups packed dark brown sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon                                         - 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 tsp ground ginger                                              - 1 1/4 cups milk
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg                                                     - 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/2 tsp salt                                                           - 1/2 cup melted butter

1. Combine dry ingredients in a LARGE mixing bowl.
2. Beat eggs and and brown sugar in a medium bowl until fluffy, then mix in the rest of the wet ingredients.
3. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix just well enough to moisten. Do not over mix!
4. Ladle ingredients onto non-stick pan over medium heat.
5. When bubbles start to form on the top of the pancakes it is time to turn them. Cook evenly on both sides.
6. Top with fresh whipped cream. I find that these are sweet enough to not need syrup.
7. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Doggie Drama

I love dogs! They enrich my life. Dogs can be the best companions that anyone could ask for. Like furry children, even. They have been causing so much heartbreak and drama here the last few days, though. Randy, my foster puppy, has had a bad habit of catching, and killing, my chickens. At first it was Miss Idgie's babies. I assumed that it was because they were small, fast, and made lots of noise. I tried keeping them away from him and hoped that it would stop. On Thursday, he killed Gabby, one of my adult easter egger hens. I assume that it was him, anyway. After today, I wonder. Yesterday, he caught Greta (Gabby's sister) be the tail and was trying to get a hold of the rest of her. At that point, I realized that it wasn't something I was ever going to be able to correct. He is a wonderful dog, he just isn't "chicken friendly". I had to return him to the shelter. I signed a paper saying that I would not give him away to anyone else, and if I couldn't keep him for any reason I would return him. But, I didn't want to take him back to that place. I cried halfway up there, stopped and got Randy a cheeseburger, and then cried the whole time I was getting him processed and coming home. I hope that he will find a good home, somewhere that he will not have feather covered temptation staring him in the face all of the time. As much as I love my dogs, I am just as responsible for keeping my chickens safe, as I am responsible for the dogs' safety. I have been working on circulating photos of Randy in hopes that he will find a new home.

This morning, I was awakened by the sound of my turkeys, upset, right outside my window. Immediately, I hopped out of bed and ran outside, to see a hunting dog chasing them around the yard. He had somehow unlatched the hoop coop, and was trying his best to catch one. Again, I love dogs, but we have to protect our animals. Brad grabbed the gun and took aim, but missed. The dog ran off. After locating most of the turkeys, we went looking for the dog (they always have phone numbers on their collar). We found him next door, got the phone number off of his collar, and hoped that he would not be back. I am missing one of my blue slate females (of which I only had 2). This evening, the dog returned. He was a sweet dog, but I didn't want to take any chances, so I put him on a chain until I could get in touch with is owners. Finally, the owner returned my call and said he would be right over. I assumed that I would be able to explain to him our situation, and he would be apologetic, and promise to keep his dog off of our property. Boy, was I wrong! He was upset because I asked him to reimburse me for the turkey! When I explained why we can't allow hunting dogs on our property, he looked at me as if I were insane, and said he has run dogs here for years, and asked if I was even from around here! I don't care if I moved here yesterday, it is my property! I finally had to tell him that if we caught his dog on our property again, we would have no choice but to shoot it (surely he would think better if bringing them back, right?). He came back with "that really wouldn't be a good idea, I suggest you don't do that" and then started listing the local police and sheriff as his hunting buddies. I called the sheriff's office, because I felt like he was threatening me, at that point. Once the police officer got here, he informed me that I do indeed, have the right to shoot the animal if it is in the act of killing my poultry, but they can be on our property as much as they want and I can't do anything about it any other time. Hunting dogs have more rights than I do, apparently. I have to let the dog attack my animals before I can do anything about it. Really?! Where are my rights?! Where are the rights of my animals? 

Now I just don't feel safe. I feel helpless. Now I have made the hunters in my area mad at me, and half of the hunters are the public officials that should be there to protect me. I am worried at this point that they might come back and retaliate for me causing a commotion and "threatening" their dogs. Perhaps I should have just kept my mouth shut, and ate the cost caused by their dogs, simply because they have the numbers in their favor? I also have to find a new place to buy my feed. The brother of the man I was dealing with owns the feed store. He showed up part way in to the conversation and was not happy with me. He finally bit his tongue, got in his truck, and left. Was I wrong to expect the response that I did? That is how I imagine I would respond if the tables were turned. If one of my animals went onto someone else's property and caused damage I would feel terrible! I would do everything I could to make up for it! I would at least promise to make sure that it never happened again! It makes me want to move. I am praying that the issue is over and the problem is solved, that all of my animals will be safe, but as upset as the hunter was, I don't see that being the end of it. I am worried now, that he will come back when I'm not home and do damage to my animals, himself. I am buying game cameras, motion sensor lights, and lots of "No Trespassing" signs to put up. Only time will tell how this will play out. 

Doggie drama has run rampant here the last few days. I'm ready for it to be over...

Update: We found the remains of our turkey hen in a side field on our property. We received the game camera that we ordered. It will be up and working as soon as possible. The hoop coop dutch door has been wired together so it is more difficult to open. I am more hopeful that things will work out than I was the other night. Everything always works out in the end. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Trade offs

 As with everything in life, there are trade-offs. With every decision there are consequences, both good and bad. The trick is to try to balance between the two. Mostly, it is making an informed decision and hoping that it evens out. Raising chickens is no different. By just having chickens, you must understand that there will be losses. Because we choose to free range (pasture) our chickens, we have (sometimes significant) losses, due to predation, mostly. Everything loves to eat chicken! Why do we choose to do it anyway? Because I feel that the gain that we, and the chickens, get from free ranging far outweighs the losses. They get to spend their lives being chickens. Scratching around in the grass, playing in the sun, always having fresh ground to explore, being able to stretch their wings and run and fly! We get the benefit of better quality eggs and meat, birds that are sick much less often than if they were caged up, and less work cleaning out the coop (seeing as they aren't in there nearly as much). They also squabble less frequently. I have made the informed decision to allow my chickens to free range, and I believe that it has evened out. The losses are still difficult, however. We lost Miss Idgie a couple of days ago. She was the only remaining hen from our first ever batch of chickens. She had survived them all.

I made a post a couple of months ago, about her being twitchy. Now, while I believe that she did, indeed, have bug issues from having not dust bathed in a month, I think there were other issues. I think Idgie may have suffered from heat stroke while she was sitting on eggs. The heat shot up very quickly, and I was unprepared for it to occur while I was out of town. She had a neurological tick which acted up when she got upset. She was a wonderful mom and fiercely protected her young. Unfortunately, we lost most of them too. We have 3 left out of the original 11, I think mostly due to the hawk (federally protected hawk...) and partially to our puppy, Randy, who has been dealt with and will NOT touch my chickens again. The three remaining babies are almost as big as their momma, and she slowly started letting them go off on their own.  She started quickly losing weight at that point. I really wonder if she had not held on long enough to raise her babies before she gave in to being tired and sick. She had been slowing down and getting skinnier all week, despite my trying to hand feed her treats. Finally, a couple of days ago she didn't return to the coop. It breaks my heart to lose her, and all of the chickens that I have lost.

Our chickens are functional animals at the homestead, but they are still pets and we love them. They sit on our laps and let us pet them, and follow us around the yard. They get treats and attention, just like our dogs do (as do our turkeys). Even the chickens that are meant for our freezer are treated kindly are well cared for, their entire lives. Our hens are our babies, though, and we have had them since they were day old babies. Losing one makes me seriously rethink my decision to free range them. To re-evaluate the trade-offs associated with it, every time this occurs. Predators (not federally protected ones anyway...) are dealt with immediately when they are found, the girls are counted and closed up securely every night to keep them safe while they sleep, and we keep a close eye on them, and the area where they are allowed to range, in order to catch issues as (or before if possible) they arise. If we so much as sleep in, they go crazy because they want out of the coop in the morning. Our automatic door opener is on the blink so they have been relying on us. They are NOT happy with the arrangement. I can't imagine keeping them contained all of the time, even with a run. At least when they are free, if a predator comes close they have the chance to get away, rather than being confined. Predators get into runs and coops fairly easily, even the best made ones. In the end, again I feel that they are better off free ranging and taking the chance that their happier life may be cut short, rather than keeping them safe but at the price of their happiness and health. That is my personal decision, and know that there are many ways to raise chickens, and that even confined chickens, given enough space and attention, can be every bit as happy as free range. I am not making judgement on anyone else. In fact, I know that in some areas, it is not plausible to free range because there are so many predators. I know there will be losses, and with every one I will re-evaluate my choice to determine if I am still making the right decision with the circumstances at that point in time, as I should, because the world is ever changing. At this time I think I am. I still mourn for the losses. Especially my sweet Idgie. She will be missed. So long Miss Idgie. Until we meet again.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Still looking for pigs

Nope... I haven't gotten any yet. I'm getting frustrated. I have not gotten their fencing up yet, but I am planning on having them in the pig panel hoop for a few weeks first. I would like for them to root around in the area that my new garden is going to be next year. I still would prefer an above ground bed, because erosion is going to be an issue. The problem is that I'm not comfortable cutting down standing trees on my own (to supply logs to make beds). I may end up doing it anyway, though, if I can't get anyone to help me with it. We'll see how that goes later. Regardless, pigs would be good to get the grass up, move around the soil, and fertilize things. I was reading the other evening, that pigs can be the best tool a small farmer has. They can clear just about any shrubby plants off of land, leaving trees. I really need that for some areas of the yard and they will be put to work once they get bigger! Bulldozers aren't easy to come by and the brush here is too thick for the bush hog (wonder if that's where the name came from?) The book also said that to clear trees, goats are a huge help. Anyway, I have been waiting to hear from some people that said they knew where to get pigs locally. I really preferred that because the ones I found were over an hour away. I'm just going to have to take things into my own hands and find them myself. Another moment, when I get frustrated with people for not holding up their end of a deal, and then I realize that it is my fault for expecting them to in the beginning! It is my project and I need to take control of it! Problem solved. Now I've gotta go find pigs and figure out how I'm going to get them home. 

I finally had a chance to pick up my seed order last Tuesday. I have, since, received my second seed order for the wedding  (pumpkins, sunflowers, and gourds). I have been working in the morning before school and in the evening when I get home before dark, to get some of the beds turned over and replanted. I was really looking forward to getting the rest of it done this weekend, along with a few other things, but it has been, and will continue, raining the whole weekend, so those plans go out the window. Somehow, despite not having been walked on at all, some of the beds became very compacted. I suspect that it was because the soil in those beds had too high of a clay content. I added compost (which I am very low on) and some sandy soil to it so hopefully it will keep the soil loose. I have planted, so far, half a bed of beets, half a bed of carrots (same bed as the beets), a bed of rutabagas (replanted because Randy decided it looked like prime hole digging territory. I hated to even fuss at him because he looked so proud of himself. "Look ma! I'm digging in the garden just like you!), a bed of kale (three types in the same bed), a bed of brussel sprouts, and half a bed of lettuce (I will plant the other half in 3 weeks). I still have three beds left to plant, but the plants in them are still hanging on and I really hate to tear them up. Especially the jalapenos and eggplant, which don't appear to be producing fruit, but are still flowering like crazy. I also have a large portion of the large bed to plant. There are some late tomatoes already in there, as well as, some basil that is still green, but will be dying soon. The soil there isn't very good, though. It needs some serious compost added, but I'm not sure I have enough to supply. 

I still need to plant garlic (which will be arriving this week), cabbage, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, and perhaps a little bit of swiss chard. More left to plant than beds to plant it in. I think I will try growing some cabbage and cauliflower in planters and see how they do. Regardless, anything that needs to be planted needs to be planted soon so I need to figure out where to put it! 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunny Sunday at the Homestead

 I can feel Autumn in the air! I LOVE it! Yesterday was the first official day of Fall. The evenings are cooler, but the days are still pretty warm. It has been in the mid 80's. Enough for me to break a sweat earlier. Brad, Keegan, and I picked up some hog panels, a pig feeder, waterer, t-posts, and electric fencing supplies from Brad's father (my enabler). The pigs can live in the hog panel ring, which can be moved around to new grass, for the first few weeks. At least, until we can get the electric fence up. This will give me time to train them to respect the fence before I rely on it, solely, to keep them restrained. It is getting close! I'm getting even more excited!
 I have been getting lists together, of supplies that we need to buy, so we can get started on the shop, green house, and chicken tractor. Things have been pretty productive, all things considering. I hate that we are losing daylight hours. It will soon be dark before I get home every day and productivity will drop significantly. I, personally, think that the time should be left the way it is during the summer, rather than having it fall back in the winter, and being left with even fewer hours of daylight than we are already getting. In my mind, that makes absolutely no sense, but then that is just me. I'm sure there is logic there somewhere or the rule wouldn't have been put in place. Anyway...

The turkeys are getting so big! I let them out today, for the first time since the hawk attack, to free range.  It was about an hour before dusk, so I was hoping that they wouldn't roam far, and I stayed out there to keep an eye on them. They make the most wonderful noises when they are happy or curious, which is almost ALL of the time! They, almost immediately, found the chicken feed. Einstein shared with them. I think he was relieved that they weren't chasing him off, like Jack does. They ended up doing it anyway, after a few minutes. Einstein put up a fight though! He fended off the whole flock of turkeys and didn't back down. I was so proud and would have taken pictures had I not been trying to catch and rescue
him from the huge turkeys, but Einy was having none of it thank-you-very-much! He fluffed his neck up like an umbrella and flew at them like a crazed lunatic! Normally, he is a lover, not a fighter.... well he's not much of a lover either because Jack doesn't like to share his harem of beauties, but my little Einy is such a sweet, goofy, little guy. I was very impressed. Finally, I fought the turkeys back, and Einy marched off, too proud to admit that he would have pee'd himself, if chickens pee'd. The turkeys puffed up and strutted around the yard like they owned the place, paying the ball of growling dogs that are usually rolling around the yard, no mind at
all. They can't lay still like normal dogs, they are constantly wresting and playing, and more closely resemble an highly energized, and very loud, ball of chaos, that rolls around the yard leaving a trail of dust wafting behind them, than actual, civilized, dogs.
I shouldn't be surprised, though. All of my animals are heathens. I love them though!  Luckily, at least the feathered heathens, are trained with sunflower seeds! That comes in very handy, like when trying to convince 13 turkeys to return to their coop before it gets dark (except when receiving mail is concerned, apparently).

I made a video of the turkeys strutting their stuff and making their wonderful happy noises, along with Jack crowing in the back ground, and it wouldn't surprise me if the dogs growling could be heard too. The chickens are doing wonderfully, as well! I have gotten as many as 9 eggs in one day, but then they usually drop to 4 or 5 the next day. It isn't constant, but it is perfect, as far as I am concerned. Beautiful shades of brown, blue, green, and even someone who is laying a white egg. I haven't figured out who that is yet.

I got some brush cleared this evening. Brad doesn't like me using a chainsaw because he worries that I'm not strong enough to keep it under control. His rule is, if I can start it, I can use it. Well... basically, I can't use it. So, I went and bought my own. I was debating on purchasing a battery powered saw, an electric saw, or going with a small gas powered one. I think electric would be useless, since I couldn't go farther than my power cord will reach. I went with the battery powered saw because small engines can be a pain to deal with. It is very small, but handles small stuff easily and it is light. The problem is that it doesn't hold a charge for very long, so I can't get a lot done at once.I had to go get my hedge clippers to finish up what I was doing. They are stout and can tackle pretty large saplings. I am still debating on whether to keep the saw, or to take it back and get a small gas powered engine. I need to get some more
brush cleared and make my decision before the time
runs out that I can take it back.
Fairy Tale Pumpkins

I got my seed order... or at least it is in town. My mail lady has issues with delivering my mail sometimes, so I have to find a way to make it to the post office to pick the package up during business hours. I think she is afraid of the mass of marauding chickens wandering around my yard, that think that every "people" has sunflower seeds to feed them! The poor girl is probably traumatized by being surrounded when she set foot out of her truck. I'm looking forward to getting to look through my seeds and plant my fall garden. I need to re-chicken-proof the back garden, first. I also put in another order with the same seed company. I ordered fairy tale pumpkins. They are supposed to be wonderful for pies, but I want them as decoration. They are beautiful! I am getting married in October of next year and plan to use an Autumn harvest theme. I ordered a mix of winter squash in the last order, and this time I also ordered a mixed variety of large sized gourds, mixed sunflowers, and maya sunflowers (which are excellent cut according to the description). My main flower will be sunflowers( my favorite!) but I also want to use mums. I plan to have pumpkins, and arrangements of squash, gourds, and flowers, as the main decorations. I figured that going with the season would be the most economical and green way to do it! Hopefully my harvest next year will fulfill my needs! I'm looking forward to the whole process, from seed til "I do"!

Sunday, September 16, 2012


The homestead is a work in progress. There are many things that we have accomplished since moving here 3 years ago, but many more that we have plans for, and even more than that still in the dream stages. This autumn and winter there are quite a few projects that I hope to complete. I think that the best way for me to keep track of them, and be accountable for them, is to post them here.

1) Put up electric fence- I am planning on getting pigs before this time next month. I want to get dairy goats, as well, but they many need to wait until spring. Regardless, the fence need to be put up. I decided on electric fencing, which I have read much about recently. It doesn't cost as much, and will hopefully deter the goats and piggies from escaping. Goat and pigs are master escape artists. Pigs dig under and goats climb over. Hopefully it won't take them long to respect the fence and we can all live happily together. I have already purchased about half of the supplies that I need to erect the fence, and hope that it will go smoothly (or as much so as possible for a first-timer). Side note- anyone local, or that visits regularly, that would like to purchase a half or whole pig raised on pasture please let me know! I would like to know how many to get. A pig weighs between 200-300 lbs once it is processed and I will be selling it for $3.00 a pound (cheaper than you can get the factory produced products at the store). They should be ready about 6 months from the time that I get them.

2) Build shelter for the piggies and goats- Probably just lean-to type structures. More than likely made from pallets. It shouldn't be difficult.

3) Build a new, larger, compost pile to enable me to complete the next project...

4) New above ground garden beds in the 75' x 25' area I have laid out in the front yard. These need to be fenced in to keep the chickens from destroying them like they did to my beautiful beds this year! Ugh!

5) Build a shop- I have the plans for a 12' x 16' shop that needs to be completed this winter. Brad needs a home for all of his radio equipment, first and foremost. I also need a place to put a chest deep freezer, which is necessary for pork, chicken, turkey, and any fruit/veggies/berries that don't get canned immediately. Honestly, I could use more than one, but we have to start somewhere. I hope to have shelves lining one wall for canning jars (both empty and full), my water bath and pressure canners, dehydrators, and all the other equipment I use. I want a few troughs at the bottom with hinged lids to put potatoes, onions, squash, and other things that need to be stored in cool, dark, areas. It will also be nice to have a place to put our bicycles.

6) Green house- honestly, this will probably be a pretty fast and easy project. I am really looking forward to it though! It needs to be completed by January so that I can start my plants. It will be built in a similar fashion to my hoop coop. Probably smaller, and of course, it will have plastic rather than chicken wire, which will make it MUCH cheaper (chicken wire is ridiculously expensive!).

7) Chicken tractor(s)- Yes ANOTHER ONE! The hoop coop is currently full of turkeys (and honestly I need to build at least one more of those so I can separate breeds during mating season) and the brooder tractor I built is a TANK! I think it must weigh 200-300 lbs and is very awkward to move. I wanted to make sure it was strong enough to withstand constant moving... yeah...It was the prototype before the hoop coop, which is light, but very big and not very sturdy. I have devised a way to move both (like the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids and the druids moved the huge stones for 100's of miles to make stone henge. Not very original by why argue with something that obviously works well?!) I use a shovel to pry the side up, place several wide pieces of pvc under each side, spaced out, and then drag it. Once a piece slides out the back, I stick it back under the front end, and drag some more. Although, it is always faster with help, I can mange to move both coops alone. Enough rambling. I want to build 1 or 2 new chicken tractors out of metal conduit. This will make it more sturdy than pvc, and lighter than wood. It is also cheap. The meat chickens destroyed every plant in the yard and GARDENS(except for the weeds and grass that I wanted them to eat, of course! UGH!!!)this year, and next year they will remain contained at all times. I still want them to have clean forage every day. Perfect solution.

8) Make an incubator- I want to hatch turkey and chicken eggs this spring. I would rather make my own rather than buy one if possible.

Yes... I have a LOT of projects, but I am determined. Let's see how far my determination can get me. I will keep you updated as I accomplish things.Wish me luck!

My Seed Order Is In!!!

I placed my seed order. I'm very excited about all of the varieties that I ordered. All are heirloom so I am hoping that I don't have to purchase seeds again. I am going to attempt to save seeds every season and put them up to plant the following year. I will take seeds from the largest plants and fruits that seem to be doing the best. Each season, my plants will become better adapted to my area and more tolerant to parasites and diseases that are common here. I also ordered two types of garlic bulbs from a separate company. I plan to order asparagus from another company, as well. I hope that I get my order soon! Many of the seeds that I ordered are cool weather varieties, so it is the perfect time to get them in the ground, if I hurry! 

I ordered from which is a small family run business. 

- FLORIDA SPECKLED BUTTER POLE LIMA BEAN   85 days - This very popular butter bean was first introduced in the 1840's.  The tall, 10 foot vines bear pods in clusters.  A wonderful buff colored bean with maroon speckles.   Does well in hot, humid weather!  
- RATTLESNAKE POLE BEAN   65 days - This heirloom has unusual, dark-green pods streaked with purple. This vigorous grower often grows to 10 feet tall, and is filled with 7 inch, great tasting pods.  Beautiful, light buff seeds splashed with dark-brown markings.  An old favorite!

- PREMIUM LETTUCE BLEND   43-70 days – A delightful mix of our best selling varieties, especially blended for unique color, texture and flavor qualities.  A wonderful selection for the salad bowl.

- BLOOMSDALE LONG STANDING 46 days - This heirloom variety was first introduced in 1908 and still remains very popular!  The thick-textured leaves are of fine quality, very crinkled and dark green in color. A slow bolting spinach that is heavy yielding.  Excellent variety for either fresh or canned!

Swiss Chard:
- ORIOLE  60 days - The decorative coloring makes this variety a real stand-out in your garden. The green leaves have a beautiful orange stem contrast. Harvest the baby leaves for salads, or let mature for use in braising, stir-frys or cooking greens.

- JACK BE LITTLE (Cucurbita pepo) 90 days   - These miniature pumpkins are great for decorating! The  2"x 3" pumpkins are dark orange in color, and tiny enough to fit in the palm of your hand! Grow your own unique Thanksgiving  decorations this year! 
CONNECTICUT FIELD (Cucurbita pepo) 110 days - This old heirloom variety weights 25 pounds or more, and is perfect for Halloween decorating!   A terrific choice for Thanksgiving pies!

- SPAGHETTI  (Cucurbita pepo) 100 days-  This unusual variety is filled with strands of squash similar to spaghetti!   To serve, simply bake, then scoop the strands out, and serve just like pasta.  Unique!
 -WINTER HARVEST MIX  80-110 days - This nice mixture of winter squashes will provide you with the variety you crave. Whether they're steamed, sautéed, or roasted, this selection is sure to please your palate. A great way to have a wonderful selection of winter squashes to choose from this season. 
-BLACK BEAUTY SQUASH   60 days - This heirloom variety was first introduced to U.S. markets in the 1920's. The semi-upright plants produce a heavy crop of blocky, dark green/black fruits, with a creamy, white interior. Excellent all purpose zucchini.

-AMISH PASTE   82 days - Originally from the Amish of Wisconsin, we acquired our seed from the Amish farms in Lancaster, PA.  The deep red, 8 ounce fruit resembles an acorn, with thick flesh and few seeds. Makes an excellent canning tomato!   Indeterminate vines.
-CHEROKEE PURPLE 82 days - Originally grown by the Cherokee Indians, this has been a popular tomato for over 100 years!  This relatively disease free tomato has pink-purple flesh, with a smoky, sweet flavor,  and grows 10 to 12 ounces, while the vines provide dense foliage.  Very unusual!   Indeterminate vines.
 -STRIPED GERMAN  80-90 days - A West Virginia variety that produces very large (up to 2½ pounds), red and yellow skinned fruits. The bi-colored flesh has a nice, slightly tart flavor and looks very attractive when sliced. Indeterminate vines.

-YOLO WONDER  75 days - A larger and more mosaic resistant variety than the California Wonder pepper.  The 2 foot plants grow thick walled peppers that mature to a beautiful red color, with dense foliage to help protect against sun scald.  A good choice!
-JALAPENO  70 days - A very popular hot pepper, used often in Mexican cuisine. The green, sausage shaped fruits are abundant on these 24-36 inch plants.   Excellent variety for pickling! 
-PEPPERONCINI (Italian)   72 days – These small, very mild peppers are 2-3 inches long and ½ inch wide.  Pick the fruit when green and use either fresh or pickled.  These small, bush type plants are originally from southern Italy, and are very fine flavored!    A gourmet's delight!

-LONG PURPLE   80 days - This Italian favorite has plants that grow 25 to 35 inches, and bear 4 or more fruits per plant, each growing 8 to 10 inches.  A productive variety, with dark purple fruit.  A delight to eat!

-DE CICCO   50-60 days - An old reliable European variety first  introduced in 1890.  The small, blue/green heads are delicious, and deliver lots of side shoots once the central head is harvested.   Excellent flavor!

Brussel Sprouts:
-LONG ISLAND IMPROVED   80-115 days – Was formerly the most widely grown brussels sprout in the United States!  The 20-24 inch plants produce a heavy set (50 to 100) of small dark green, 1½ inch diameter heads over an extended season.  Excellent choice for freezing.   More flavorful than the hybrid varieties!

-CHARLESTON WAKEFIELD 70-74 days - This Southern favorite produces very uniform, dark green, 4-6 pound, conical heads. Crisp and crunchy for cole slaw, but equally tasty cooked. Delicious when sauteed with bacon and onions.

-ALL THE YEAR ROUND  70 days - A good choice for cold frame planting. The large, tight heads are wrapped in dark-green leaves, and keep longer than many other varieties. Nice, delicious taste eaten raw or cooked. Excellent choice for freezing.

-BULL'S BLOOD  55 days - This remarkably sweet variety looks as good as it tastes! The beautiful, dark red-purple tops make delicious baby greens, while the tasty roots are a good choice either fresh or canned!

-TENDERSWEET   75 days - This variety delivers a very uniform crop of 8-10 inch, red/orange carrots. A very sweet and nearly coreless carrot, that has finely grained, crisp flesh.    A good choice for freezing!

-RED CREOLE   95-190 days - This medium sized onion has flat, red colored bulbs with red-purple flesh.   A short day variety of onion for growing in the south.  An excellent storage onion for warm climate areas!
-CRYSTAL WAX   90 - 185 days - This is a short day, white bermuda type onion for southern growers!    Use this medium- large sized onion  for fresh use, as it does not store well.  The white, coarse flesh is delicious and mild tasting.   An excellent choice for pearl onions!

-AMERICAN PURPLE TOP  80 -120 days - This variety has long been the standard for both home and market!  The nearly globe shaped roots grow 4 to 6 inches in diameter, and have a light yellow skin with a purple top.  The flesh is a light yellow color, finely grained and sweet tasting.  A great choice for winter storage!

- SUGAR SNAP  65 days – The original sugar snap pea!  An "All American Selection" winner in 1979.     The long growing vines can reach up to 6 feet and need support.  Use the 2½ to 3½ inch pods just like snap beans.  A very good producer that  freezes well!

- EARLY SIBERIAN   65 days - This hardy and fast growing variety grows 14 inches tall, and has huge, slightly curled, blue/green leaves.   An excellent choice for southern states.
 - RUSSIAN RED  55 days - An heirloom favorite of many!  The red, frilly leaves with purple veins are oak-leafed shaped and are very tender and tasty.  An old, rare variety that dates back to 1885.

 - SWEET SUMMER MIX  80 - 110 days - A wonderful selection of our best selling varieties. All sweet and juicy, this nice assortment will produce a crop of varying sizes, colors and flavors. A delicious taste of summer!
- LOUISIANA SWEET   90 days – This fine melon is known for its outstanding flavor.  The flesh is crisp, red and has a high sugar level, while the rind is green with darker green stripes.  The melons average 20–25 pounds each, and have some tolerance to Fusarium wilt and Anthracnose.  Very sweet!

- LADY FINGER 105 days  - An Amish heirloom that produces short, stalky plants with multiple long, slender, 6½ inch ears of deep yellow kernels, with an occasional red and purple sprinkled in.  A very good flavored popper that also can be used for autumn decorating. 
- TRUCKER'S FAVORITE YELLOW 100 days - Yellow dent corn that can be eaten fresh as roasting ears. The stalks grow 8 to 9 feet, and have 8-10 inch ears with 14-18 rows of kernels. The dried kernels can be ground for flour or used as livestock feed.

- BASIL, SWEET  (Ocimum basilicum) -  A very popular herb, sweet basil can be used in tomato dishes, as well as soups, meat, vegetable and fish dishes.  Sow the seeds directly in the garden after the soil has warmed, or to get an early start, the seeds may be started inside 3 to 4 weeks before the last spring frost.  Basil grows rapidly and is a heavy feeder, so plenty of compost should be worked in the soil before planting.  Harvest often to ensure a continuous supply all summer long.  Basil loves a hot, sunny location in the garden, with a regular watering routine. The delicious leaves can be used either fresh or dried.  Height - 2 feet.   Annual.
 - CHIVES, GARLIC (Allium tuberosum) – The thin, flat leaves of this variety have a mild, garlic flavor.  An easy-to-grow herb for either a sunny or partially shaded location.  Height-12".  Perennial.
 - CORIANDER/CILANTRO (Coriandrum sativum) - The seeds of this herb can be used in flavoring candies, beverages, sauces and soups, while the crushed seeds are often used in cakes, custards and jellies. The fresh leaves are delightful additions in both Asian and Mexican cuisine.  Sow the seeds outside early spring, in a sunny location (the plants can withstand cold weather).  Harvest the leaves at any time for fresh use, as drying the leaves  will diminish their flavor.   Height - 1 to 3 feet.    Annual.
- DILL (Anethum graveolens) - The flower heads of the dill plant add a delicious flavor to pickles, or use the leaves of the plant to add zip to sauces, coleslaw, potato salad, or even fish!  Sow the seeds outside in early spring, around the time of the last frost, in a sunny, well drained location.  Gather the leaves while still young; pick the flowering tops just as fruits begin to form.   Height  - 2 to 3 feet.    Annual.
 - OREGANO, GREEK (Origanum vulgare hirtum) - The leaves of this delectable herb are a must in tomato sauces, pizza and other Italian dishes. Europeans often used it medicinally to treat coughs and bronchitis.    Prefers rich, well drained soil in a sunny location. Sow directly into the garden after the last spring frost; germination can be slow.  Can be dried for longer storage.   Height - 18 inches.     Semi hardy perennial.
 - PARSLEY, ITALIAN (Petroselinum crispum) – Dark green, flat leaf variety.  This parsley has a stronger flavor than the curled variety, and is used for more intense flavoring.  Excellent choice for drying and storing. Soaking the seeds overnight prior to planting will help speed germination, which  is otherwise slow, taking up to 3 weeks to sprout. Choose a sunny or partially shaded location, with rich, well drained soil.  Will regrow after it is cut.   Height - 15 inches.   Biennial, but grow as an annual.
 - SAGE (Salvia officinalis) -The traditional herb used to season poultry, pork, and tasty stuffings! The leaves can also be used to make a tea which may help relieve colds and sore throats. Start the seeds inside 8 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost, transplanting outside in a sunny, well drained location. The leaves can be used either fresh, or dried for longer storage.   Height - 18 inches.   Perennial.

- DELIKATESSE  (Cucumis sativus)  60 days – A German favorite that bears an abundant supply of delicious, pale green, 10 inch fruits.  The medium sized, rounded cukes have excellent taste and make great pickles when small, or use as slicers when larger.

Strong, 12 foot stalks with cheerful, 14", bright yellow flowers. Shows some heat and drought tolerance. Large, edible seeds! Annual. Sun.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Adding More to Sunflower Hill Homestead!

It has been decided. We are getting PIGS AND GOATS! I'm SOOO excited! The more I learn about factory farming and big business agriculture, the less I can handle eating the stuff that they produce. We already rarely eat produce from the grocery store. We never buy hamburger or beef from the grocery store, although we do still splurge occasionally on hamburgers from a fast food place. We also never buy pork, chicken, or eggs. Our downfall has been wheat products, ground turkey, milk, and cheese. My soon-to-be father-in-law raises grass fed cows and I am hoping that he is going to have a cow put into the freezer soon. That will end our ground turkey purchases. He is also looking into growing wheat. Milk and cheese are the only real things holding us back at that point. That is why we are getting a dairy goat!

From what I have read, goats are more efficient on the feed/grass to milk conversion ratio. I LOVE goat cheese anyway. It is the creamiest cheese I know of. I have never tried goat milk, but I have also read that it is easier for human stomachs to handle than cow's milk. At least processed cow's milk. Raw milk is supposed to be much easier to digest. Goat's milk is supposed to be even easier to digest than raw cow's milk and has saved the lives of babies who are lactose intolerant. I, personally, don't like milk. I am a cheesoholic. Brad and Keegan both drink milk like its going out of style. I don't think they could drink enough milk to warrant having a cow, though. I also want to start making goat milk soap and lotion. My mom brought me some goat milk soap a couple of years ago and got me addicted. Keeping dairy goats is going to be a lot of work. They need to be milked twice a day. The evening milking won't be an issue, but I already have a difficult time getting everything around here done in the morning, get ready myself, and getting all of us to school on time. I'm not a morning person. Perhaps I will get a momma goat with a kid and let it have the morning milk? Hmmm... still some things to think about.

We don't eat a lot of pork products as it is. It will be nice, however, to add variety to our diet during the less productive parts of the year. Being on a local diet means that when things are not growing, or in season, you can't have them! It won't help us this winter, but the sooner we start, the sooner we won't have to worry about it. A big reason that I want pigs is to till up and fertilize the new 75' x 25' area where I am planning on adding my new garden next spring. I also hope that they will help clear an area, along with the goats, that is covered in brush and I want to use for other projects. They will also eat all of the scraps from our meals and produce preserving prep, like tomato guts and skin from canning or bell pepper guts and tops from freezing or dehydrating (along with the chickens and turkeys who LOVE them) , as well as any milk or whey that we do not use from the goats. They will be on pasture and have plenty of grassy space to live on and forage from. My next project is to figure out cost efficient fencing to keep them in. Pigs and goats are both notorious for escaping, and fencing in EXPENSIVE! I have to figure out how to do this on a budget.

It is going to be a lot to keep up with, along with graduate school, my research assistant-ship, working part time cleaning, and being a mom. Luckily, Keegan is a HUGE help most of the time. I refuse to pay big business agriculture for the atrocities that they are responsible for and feed my family sub-par and potentially dangerous food because I am too lazy to produce it myself. We will see how it goes!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Post Isaac

Even the flat areas of the yard are pretty marshy
We survived Isaac! Luckily it turned west before it got here and didn't strengthen as much as they thought it would. The one tree we lost right as the storm started was the only one we lost. We were VERY lucky. Even though it didn't hit too hard here there are still many people in our town that lost everything due to flooding. People closer to the coast fared even worse.
The turkeys actually seemed to like their playtime in the cattle trailer. I have a big tree limb in there for them to perch on and they rode out the storm really well. The chickens did as well, although they didn't like being locked up. I kept them in all day on Wednesday because the storm was coming in, but by Thursday afternoon, they were free ranging around the yard, despite the wind still being very strong. I tossed treats in to them while they were cooped up (sunflower seeds) so that they could scratch around and find it, rather than being fussy and mean to each other. The coop is large and has two levels, but they are used to having free range of several acres. I didn't move the turkeys back to their hoop coop until Saturday afternoon. The rain completely flooded where the coop was, as well as much of the rest of the yard. We had no place to move it where they wouldn't be ankle deep in water. I also didn't want to put the tarps back up until the wind calmed down some more. When I moved them back into their freshly relocated coop they all started chasing one of the toms (Big Man) around and biting him. I have never seen them do this before. I tried to rescue him but every time I put him back down they all came after him again. Finally, I put him on a roost and they left him alone. I'm hoping this is just a pecking order issue and they don't hurt him.
The rain was the biggest issue with the storm. There are many places in the area that are underwater. The wind scared me a few times. It is nerve racking to watch the trees bend and sway like they did and know that if they fell, they could reach the roof of the house. Aside from some tree limbs and branches being strewn around the yard and my Cosmos (6+ foot tall plants that grow orange flowers) being knocked down, we really didn't have any damage. I'm thrilled that we fared so well. I'm glad that we prepared, though. It was a nice drill for next time.
Another positive note, my hens are laying 5 eggs a day now!!! Even one of the EEs are laying and I have some pretty blue eggs. I actually have a full dozen eggs for the first time in... I don't remember when. I guess it was at least May. That is, I have a whole dozen eggs, even after Keegan eating his fill this morning! I think he made over half a dozen this morning, and the girls replenished them. I can't wait until I have enough to boil (without Keegan getting upset that I used up all the eggs. He doesn't like boiled eggs that much unless they are deviled eggs).

Randy was keeping an eye on me while I was doing my
walkabout to check on things. 

One of the hens checking out the new "pond" located next
to their coop. 

The turkey coop was pretty well flooded. Randy wanted the
frogs that were enjoying the water. 

Egg production continues, and gets better by
the day. 

The chickens enjoyed scratching around in the mud for
bugs that they couldn't get to before. 

The water trough not only continued filling,
but overflowed from the rain. 

Some photos from an area in town. Completely underwater.

A man walking across a bridge that used to span a creek. I
think the creek pretty well spans the bridge now. 

A whole dozen eggs!!! Even beautiful blue ones, courtesy of Greta.

The turkeys enjoy being back in their hoop coop and are
starting to look/act very turkey-like. 

They are strutting around all puffed up. 

Complete with gobble!