No rest for the weary…

Goodness there’s been a lot going on around here lately!!

The garden kind of “came and went” this year. Given the amount of rain we’ve had, what the bugs didn’t devour, blight and powdery mildew finished off.  Of course, you can’t treat for either when there’s rain. But, we have enjoyed the bounty that we have harvested.

The poor tomatoes didn’t stand much of a chance, but we have managed to have a few ‘mater sandwiches and have some for salads. Certainly not enough to make sauces or salsa or can some stewed for using throughout the year.

I was pleasantly surprised with the cucumbers. I had several different varieties of seeds that I had purchased and that had been given to me. At the beginning of the season, I just tossed them all in a cup and set about sticking them in the ground. Made for quite the interesting harvest! I have several pints of pickles in my cupboard, and we’re still eating some raw. The ones we have now are quite small, but that’s ok. Due to the powdery mildew and invasion of those doggone stink bugs, I had to resort to picking them small rather than take a chance of the bugs finding them. They taste good even when they’re little though.

The summer squash did well also. I’ve never been able to get squash to grow before! We got quite a few and promptly ate them up. There are still a couple of baggies full in the freezer. These fell victim to the dreaded squash vine borer. This was totally my fault. I mis-identified the flying bug that lays the borers as a beneficial bug. By the time I realized my error, the plants were all but dessimated. But – that’s ok! It was a learning experience and I now know how much room squash needs to grow so I’ll be better prepared for next year.

We may still possibly get at least one melon out of the garden. The vines are absolutely beautiful and have all but taken over a corner of the yard. There are beautiful yellow blooms on them, which I see bees and butterflys happily flitting about on. But alas, no edible melons. I planted honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon. There was one cantaloupe that began forming a couple of weeks ago, but after a few days of rain, it kind of petered out and began looking sickly. Currently, there is one – yes, ONE – watermelon forming. It’s about the size of a softball, so we’ll see what happens with it.

I’ve had the most success with the okra this year! I call it “The Okra Forest” and joke that I should wear a whistle when harvesting in case I get lost. The plants have got to be 6 feet tall, and the stalks are huge! They’re really quite lovely plants!

ImageThere are 3 different varieties going and they make such a gorgeous display of color! They’re quite tasty too!

ImageMy green beans and cowpeas are still rocking it, so we have a good bit of veggies to eat on for a while. I’ll be doing fall gardening this year for the first time. I’m hopeful to get some winter squash, potatoes, radishes, turnips and greens out of it. Maybe some beets. Oh, and carrots! I love garden fresh carrots!

Fall will be an important time at our homestead property as well. We’ve been waiting for cooler temps (and hopefully a break in the rain!) to start some serious land clearing.  Work slowed for my husband, so finances have been tight. We just haven’t been able to justify the gas money to travel to and from the property, and still keep things on track here in our current life. We feel like we’ve got a foot in “both worlds” if that makes any sense.  It’s a careful balance.

In the meantime, we’ve kept ourselves busy planning and re-planning, chasing down Craigslist freebies and dumpster diving. Our most AMAZING find were pallets!

ImageImageThis, my dearhearts, is not even the HALF of them! There’s a plastics facility near our house and they’ve said come and take all we want whenever they’re out in the parking lot!

We have a TON of pallets that are 6’3″ x 6’3″! Husband has been working diligently to take them apart making them easier to transport to the property and begin building with. We actually have collected enough pallets to build the entire cabin! The sub-floor and floor joists will be made from new materials, so, we have to allow for that in the budget. But great googlie mooglie! Our cabin is practically FREE!!! It will be 11′ x 11′ with a porch. I cannot WAIT to post photos of it as construction progresses! We’re hoping by Labor Day to be erecting poles and beginning the framing.

I am so proud of my husband! He has worked tirelessly to dismantle and sort all these pallets. He’s also been constructing things for the cabin,  planning, drawing, and collecting things. It will be a true handcrafted home made especially for us to our specifications! It will be so wonderful!

And every day, I’m that much closer to having chickens again! And goats. And a donkey. And pigs. And a horse. And a dog. And a baby elephant. I’d really like a baby elephant.  If for no other reason than no one would be able to tell me that I couldn’t. 😉

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I’m not crazy and neither are you…

Ha!

I just realized that there’s a whole paragraph missing from the end of my last blog post! The hazards of having a “helpful” cat and keyboard in the same room. Lol! Y’all got the jist of it though. Oh, and Henny and Penny have become “them two little baby ones”. That’s part of what was missing from that paragraph.

Anyhow…

If you haven’t seen this yet, I know it’ll have you busting out laughing. Heck, I’ve seen it more than a dozen times and it still makes me bust out laughing. Let it serve as proof that we are NOT Crazy Chicken Ladies, but rather Crazy About Chickens Ladies!

http://tv.naturalnews.com/v.asp?v=EADC17C55558EC771C29B1DCA1C1EC92

🙂

Busted by the man…

Oh my.
Where to even start?
There have been so many things going on around here! It’s just been a flurry of busy-ness trying to stay on top of everything.

My follow up post to the horrendous amounts of rain we had received was going to be much different. I wanted to share that Kim had went broody and the measures we were taking to try and “break” her of it. I wanted to share about the treasure trove of pallets we had found to use as building material for our sleeping cabin at our property. I wanted to do an entire blog post about the freebies we’ve acquired and what they would be used for. I wanted to do a delightful post to let everyone know that little Molly had started laying, and instead of being an easter egger, she turned out to be an olive egger.

But alas, this post ain’t that cheery.
It’s the post I’ve been putting off. I’ve had to come to terms with our current reality, allow myself to grieve and sort things out. Then, put on my big girl panties, dust myself off, wipe my tears and move on.

I’ll condense this post as much as possible. Because I find as I’m typing, I have a lot I want to say, but this is not the place to go on and on and on.

Yes, we did find an absolute treasure trove of HUGE, solidly built marvelous FREE pallets! As many as we want for the taking. The warehouse we found them at said take them, they were just throwing them away anyhow. (Clutch the pearls and gasp! WHY would you just throw them away?!) So, we began bringing them home, as many as our little truck would carry and still roll down the road. Thankfully, the warehouse isn’t too far from our house! We began stacking them in the front yard, off to the side of our house, dismantling what we needed to from them and delivering as many as we could safely carry to our homestead property to store each trip we made. Our plan was to go ahead and clean out our garage to make room for the stockpile. (Kind of took away all the excuses we had thus far for NOT cleaning out the garage.)

And then…

A Code Enforcement officer came knocking on our door one day. Said “they had received a complaint”, but wouldn’t specifically tell us about what. Once he got here, it didn’t really matter what the initial complaint was though. He was already here, so he made it worth his trip. The pallets fell under the “no outside storage” violation, as did a gas can we had on the porch. The chickens – my lovelies, my girls, my pets and partners, fell under the “no livestock allowed in some residential areas”. Actually, they fell under a very gray area of the code, that could be left up to anyones interpretation of it. (The code however, is perfectly clear that you can own a Vietnamese Pot-Bellied pig as a pet, as long as you don’t breed it. And as long as it is properly housed. I’ll give you just ONE guess what our County Commissioner owns as a pet.) Anyhow, he gave us one week to get everything in order and avoid a costly citation.

Yes…I cried and was hysterical, absolutely crushed. Yes…we discussed fighting it. Yes…we were angry, disgusted, felt violated and intruded upon.

But, that didn’t change the fact that we had one week to comply or have to pay a hefty fine AND still comply. So, the frantic search began to find a loving, appreciative home for 6 chickens. And working each day cleaning our garage and moving these enormous heavy Rock of Gibraltar pallets to an inside storage area. The gas can was no sweat by the way.

I felt a lot of “how DARE you!”, and found myself resenting anyone driving by our house. That was a lot of resentment to feel, considering we are the third house in the neighborhood, and we are on a corner. Still, I was angry at anyone that drove by.

My best friend and land partner was such a dear at calming me down. I was ready to buy myself a Vietnamese Pot-Bellied pig, name him Spite and build him a proper pen in the FRONT yard out of PALLETS. I didn’t though. (But I may have mooned a neighbor that was staring too long into our backyard as she walked down the road when I was working in the garden. I really loved those chickens. Desperate measures are sometimes necessary during wartime.) She told me “Everything happens for a reason. We’ve just got to be patient until we figure out what the reason is.” Ok, I went with that.

We had an incredible amount of help and support from our friends. Everyone was asking everyone to ask anyone if they wanted some chickens. Our only requirements were that they went where they would be taken excellent care of and appreciated. You don’t have to spoil them as much as I do, but they’re not “just” chickens.

And we found it.

They have gone to live with my mother and her husband. Which is very odd, given the fact that my mother does not like animals. Period. Of any kind. She’s terrified of any kind of critter, domestic or wild. Her husband jokes, “She won’t even let me have a goldfish!” So, I was a bit weary of carting 6 chickens to live there. But, I quickly realized that they are not for her. They are for him. Loading them up and delivering them, along with their houses and pens was incredibly heart breaking. I had reserved the right to say no if it didn’t appear that they would be safe. But once we got them to their destination, any fears or reservations I had were quickly dissolved.

The look on his face when those 6 lovelies came bursting out of their travel pen and into their respective pens was priceless. Everyone should have the experience of witnessing – and feeling – that kind of deep down genuine happiness. He looked like a 6 year old that had received EXACTLY what he asked Santa for. Yes, they are appreciated. Yes, they are loved. And yes, they are still getting spoiled. He took me around and showed me his garden. This is the first time in several years that they’ve lived in a place that he could have himself a garden. As I sat on the front porch visiting with my mother, he went and got the neighbors from both sides to come over and see the chickens. A friend of theirs stopped by and he had to show them as well. He was firing questions quicker than I could answer about what they ate, how many times they laid eggs, how much hay to put in the house, what kind of chickens were they. I had to explain that they were his now, and while I would tell him what I did, that didn’t mean he had to do it that way. Now, he was raised on a farm, so he knows good and well how to take care of chickens. I think he was just afraid that I might regret him having them if he did things differently. He wanted me to know they’d be taken care of. I get reports of how they are doing and how many eggs they are getting. I realized that with their garden, and now the addition of the girls, there’s 2 expensive food items that they no longer have to purchase from a store anymore.

Their names have changed, and I’m learning to be ok with that. Khloe has become “that big yellow one”; Kim and Kourtney have become “them 2 big brown ones” (ok – Kim is a bit more red than brown, but I’ll let it go); Molly has become “that little one with brown spots around her head – Molly” (seems she kept her name and received a title – I think I know which “necessary” somehow.

We’ll leap down the rabbit hole a bit with my next post.

 

 

 

 

 

Rain, rain PLEASE go away…

It has rained for two days now!

And I’m not talking about “scattered showers” or “occasional drizzle” or “rain this morning clearing off in the afternoon”. NO! It has rained continuously and the forecast says it will be here until Tuesday! Ugh! There are already flash flood warnings in effect for today through tomorrow evening. They’re calling for 4 inches of rain or more! To add to the frustration of the rain, we’re already behind with plantings due to a Spring cold snap. Now, we’ll have to wait for the soil to dry out enough to be worked or our seeds will just rot from too much moisture.

Everything is absolutely saturated and begging for mercy. Just look at my poor Bachelors Buttons!

ImageThey’re so waterlogged they simply can’t stand up! The Cosmos, Yarrow and Coneflowers look pretty much the same. The poor things are just laying on the ground, admitting defeat to the enormous amount of water that has been unloaded onto their leaves and stems.

 

There are puddles everywhere!

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I’m not sure what vegetable this is. I’m sure it’s something that I planted last year that didn’t take off, but I can’t remember what. Possibly a pepper? Maybe an eggplant? It pipped through the ground and has been growing mightily. I’m excited to see what it turns out to be! It was laid on the ground outside of the box from all the rain. I grabbed some branches and made a quick makeshift cage for it.

 

ImageThe past two weekends, we’ve went to the local landscape supply yard and purchased a full 2 cubic yards of specially formulated “plant mix” (that’s what they call it). It is a special blend of compost, topsoil, peat, etc., put together by the local extension agency for this area. That’s 4 little pickup truck loads, several bucket loads (must remember to ask Santa for a wheelbarrow) and a whole lotta shoveling. Not to mention all the time I spent hoeing it into cute little rows. And this (~sniffle~) is what it looks like!

ImageWe covered the chicken tractors best we could to try and help. Given the amount of rainfall, the tarps are helping quite a bit, but the poor chickens are still soaked. 

ImageHenny, Penny and Molly have spent most of the day inside their little house, running out just to grab a quick bite and drink. The Kardachickens have been outside ALL DAY raising a ruckus. (Like it’s my fault!) I did feel bad enough for them though, that I climbed into the pen and listened to their griping for a bit, petting them and drying them off best I could with my soaked jacket sleeve. They’re still pretty ticked though.

The rain has prevented us from visiting the Homestead property for 2 weekends in a row! I’m quite miffed myself! I am very hopeful that the coming weekend will be much better weather so we can at least begin (if not complete) our sleeping shelter. We won’t mind being in the rain if there’s at least some place to get dry. We’ve done the “camping in the pouring rain with nothing but a tent”  a few times in our life. Kind of loses its romance when you pass 40 though. Lol!

As irritating as it is, I’m trying to find the good side of all this rain. We are going to the Homestead property this coming weekend – rain or shine – to at least walk around check out some spots for ideas we’ve had. This much rain should give us a chance to get a good feel for where the low spots are, areas of erosion that we might need to address and to see how the creek flows when it’s up.

There are bright sides at the suburban homestead as well, in spite of all the rain. The peas, carrots, radishes and green beans are coming along nicely.

ImageIt appears I might have a few strawberries this year! These did not do well last year at all.

ImageI do have to remember that nature is nature, and sometimes seems like it is working against us. I have to remember too that often times Mama Nature knows best. Who knows – instead of  battling a drought this year, maybe the ground will be deep down saturated enough to get us through the hot dog days of summer and we won’t lose any of our harvest to drought like we did last year. 🙂

I’ll just have to keep banging the dents out of the silver linings and be patient.

Fairy tales can come true…

Bless my stars, it has actually, finally, really happened!

WE HAVE ACQUIRED HOMESTEAD LAND!

ImageThat’s right!

No one pinch me, because I’d rather not wake up right now if I’m dreaming!

It still seems very surreal. I’m almost afraid to completely accept it and let myself get too excited. I mean, a DREAM HAS COME TRUE! I’m just still a bit in shock I think, but I’m getting used to the idea little by little.

We have looked and looked and looked and looked the past few years. We’ve watched prices go up and down and back up again. We’ve seen various areas change, missed out on a deal or two, and have changed our budget I don’t know how many times trying to get ready not to miss another deal when it presented itself. Quite frankly, we were really stressing ourselves out. We had finally decided that when it was meant to happen, it would happen. And everything would be in line at the right time it was meant to be. We just had to be patient and quit fooling with it. “Turn a loosen of it!”

ImageSome friends of ours that we have been on this “journey” with, found several acres of land to purchase for a steal! I kept telling them “How on earth can I be so jealous and so happy for you all at the same time?!” Well, 2 weekends ago, we went to visit the property with them. I really got jealous then! They’ve purchased a lovely forest! We got back to their campsite and the husbands were talking and I kind of thought friend husband said something to my husband about purchasing some of the land. But, I thought, surely I wasn’t hearing right. Must have been caught up in the magical forest moment. Then, friend wife turns to me, looks me dead in the eye and says, “We’re serious.” I about fell out of the chair I was sitting in. After working out the details, accepting their offer, the husbands shaking hands and lots of gleeful squealing by us women folk, we set off to see our piece of land.

ImageWe have 8 acres, with a creek, with beautiful old, huge hardwood trees. I’ve set about identifying all the native plants that are growing there. I’m learning so much about the soil condition and moisture condition this way! I simply cannot wait to see it all come to life during the Spring and Summer!

The previous owner had plans of selling off timber from the land, we think. Whatever his motivation, he set about chopping down these big, beautiful trees in what seems like a panic. Some of them are very sad to see laying there. But, don’t you worry forest. There are 4 people heading your way who respect you and are humbled by your greatness. Our goal is not to cut down anything that isn’t diseased, dead or dying. There’s plenty of space to choose a proper place to put a dwelling without destroying anymore of the forest. I’m sure as we start clearing the trees that are already down, the areas will “speak” to us and make the decision for us.

ImageI just can’t fully express how deeply humbled I am by the land, nor how deeply humbled and touched I am by the graciousness and thoughtfulness of our friends. We’ve all be talking, planning, dreaming about that ONE DAY when we’re able to do THIS! We feel like little kids that are being turned loose outside to play after it’s rained for weeks straight. All this pent up excitement and energy and ideas and building we’ve been wanting to do, we finally CAN! I cannot WAIT to start planting my perennials! Comfrey, Columbine, Bee Balm, Lemon Balm, bulbs and flowering shrubs! All the things that need some time to become well established. Our bees are going to be so happy!

The property is only a couple hours drive away. We’ve dreamt about finding something close like this that could be our “weekend getaway”, so we could begin working the land, getting to know the land, and preparing it for our arrival when we’re ready to live there full time.

Our first goal is to select an area for our sleeping shelter. We’ll begin by pitching our tent and camping, but will ultimately build a tiny little sleeping cabin. Just big enough for a bed, but more of a “permanent temporary” shelter. After that, we’ll spend time walking, listening and looking. Introduce ourselves to the land and the animals that may inhabit it. I have a very special speech to share with them when we go this weekend, letting them know that I mean no harm, and expect them to extend the same courtesy, if you please.

There will be goats! Squeal! And there will be so many chickens! Squeal! And roosters! Squeal! And there will be friends! Squeal! There’s a perfect area for an orchard! Squeal! And room for an abundant garden to grow just about anything! Squeal!

The four of us are going to make an awesome team! Helping each other build and work the land. Together, we’ll craft, cook, sew, and sell to establish quite the beautiful livelihood. I mean, it takes a special friend to get excited about an idea for a “road kill” bucket for chicken treats, or an udder wash and fly spray you can make yourself, or the many, many uses for poo. You can’t carry on a conversation about those things with just anybody. Really gotta have someone that’s in the same mindset.

I know it will be hard. I know we will face challenges that we never dreamed of. But, I also know that I (we) want it to be successful with all our hearts. We’re planning on buggin’ out by buggin’ in. We’ve all been working toward the goal of living on less, ridding ourselves of debt, making do or doing without, recycling, repurposing, reusing, etc. etc. to get to the point of disappearing into the woods. We’ve been stockpiling and saving, so we need very little monetary means to live on. I will be perfectly happy when the time comes to work part time at the local cafe, or daycare, or whatever is available. All we will need is a steady stream of money since we can’t completely escape needing money. We just need enough for monthly provisions (which will be very few), property taxes and a little extra. That’s it.

I will be so excited to take some better pictures and share our adventures as we prepare our honest to goodness homestead! As always, suggestions, hints and advice are ALWAYS welcome! 🙂

I see chickens…

Thought I would share some pics and a dedicate a blog post to these spoiled rotten chickens I keep going on about.

Here are the Divas, The Kardashchickens:
divas
Left to right, Kourtney and Khloe. Kim is in the background.

Khloe will always have a special place in my heart. She was the first little baby chick I had ever held, seen, or had the responsibility of taking care of. I was given her as a gift after her brothers and sisters had hatched and their mama had to run off to take care of them. She was the last to hatch in the nest and was rescued by her previous owner. And well, knowing what a sap I am, she was given to me. So, she’s been with me from the moment she was dry enough to come out of incubator she was kept in to keep her warm.

A couple of weeks later, I received Kim and Kourtney and 2 siblings. They were just little peanuts too – about a week old. They were also a rescue. Seems their mama went a little nuts and was trying to kill all her chicks – she’d already killed 3. They came along at the right time, because Khloe seemed very lonely in the brooder all by herself. I was hoping to keep the 2 siblings, but, alas, they turned out to be roosters. I named them Buster and Brutus and found them a very good home. Sadly, we can’t have a rooster where we live, let alone two.

2 months later, I acquired sweet little Molly. (See January posts for her story).
molly
She’s an Ameraucana mix. Very shy and a bit of a scaredy chicken. When she was a wee chick, we could put our hand down into the brooder and she’d climb on and let us carry her around. When we’d go to put her back into the brooder, she’d try to walk up our arm as if to say “No, I wanna stay with you.” She sounds more like a little song bird than a chicken. She’s 4 months old, and my husband can still get her to climb on his hand and walk up his arm when we need to move her out of her pen.

Now, I must tell you, as much as I love those divas, and I have spoiled them terribly, they are TRUE divas!

Khloe is the Alpha Hen of the three. These girls are sweet as pie to any and all humans that come to see them. Moving them from one pen to another has been no problem for any of us. I’ve had friends small children come over and these girls have never scared a one of them. They were gentle when eating from their hands, didn’t make any sudden moves to scare anyone and were on their best behavior. Even adults that professed to not like chickens, or to be scared of chickens, went away with a different opinion after meeting the divas.

But…they hate Molly.

Forget it. Suddenly, they’re the mean high school girls that shove the sweet girls (Molly) into the lockers. Every time they got around her, they turned into a puffed up pecking and scratching gang of thugs.
We tried everything we could think of to get them to accept her, but to no avail. Started with the “introduction pen” so they could see her, co-habitate with her, but not get at her to cause any harm, and they could all get used to each other. Let Molly out, and they attacked her.
We removed Khloe from the group and put her in a kennel next to everyone else so they could all see each other. (I had read about removing the Alpha Hen or rooster for that matter totry and correct the pecking order). Again, tried with the introduction pen with Kim and Kourtney. Soon as Molly stepped out, they attacked her, with Khloe agging them on from the kennel. Mind you, we did this over a period of time, not jsut a day here and there. I swear to you – nothing worked!

I had never believed that chickens have “personalities”, but they do. I’ve seen it. I think if Molly had just once wing slapped one of those girls or pecked back, or not run the instant they even looked at her, things may have been different. But, all she’d do is hide in the coop and cheep out of fear if they came anywhere near her. It was awful. She was just scared and sad.

So, we moved her into her own pen, by herself, so she can at least have a life. But, we were so worried about her being lonely. I mean, whoever heard of a flock of ONE? She wanted to be friends with the divas. We’ve kept their pens side by side so she could see them, and maybe not be so lonely. They all talk to each other, dust bathe together, scratch together – just don’t let them at her. So, what are responsible chicken parents to do when faced with this dilemma? Well, you visit your feed store on a Saturday, and when you see the sign that says “Baby Chicks for Sale”, you create a flock for your lonely sweet girl.

babies8
Henny is on the left (Orpington) and Penny is on the right (Australorp). We chose these breeds because we had read they both do well in mixed flocks, and are docile and friendly. (That and the fact that they’re my “dream breeds” along with the Wyandotte when we move to our forever home where I can have as many chickens as I want!)

We brought them home as wee little fuzzlings. A week later, it was warm enough that we could take them out of the brooder and outside for some fresh air, sunshine and grass. We put them in with Molly and she didn’t peck them, was just curious about them. Their first meeting went very well. Each evening and weekend, we place them outside in the little introduction pen right next to Molly’s pen, so they can all see each other. We’ve put them in with Molly for a bit and they all get along fine. Hopefully in about another month, they’ll be ready to go live outside with Molly full time. (My husband thinks they’re ready now, but I say “nay-nay!” They’re still just babies.)

For now, there is peace and harmony on the homestead.

Vermicomposting…

I attempted a vermicompost bin last season, but it really did not do well. I didn’t research it thoroughly – just kind of went at it all willy-nilly. Had I done a little more homework, I would have realized what I did wrong.

  1. I did not have a thick enough layer of bedding
  2. I did not have my bin in a good location. It was placed in an area that got way too much sun. I either cooked the poor worms, or they found a way to wriggle through the drain holes and on to more comfortable accomodations.
  3. I did not feed often enough
  4. I did not inspect it often enough

Had I completed Number 4, I would have been able to avoid the three other problems and correct them.

It wasn’t a total loss though. I had no worms left, but I did have a bin FULL of Black Soldier Fly Larvae. I did a quick “bug check” on Google, and found that I actually had something pretty beneficial! Check it out here: Black Fly Larvae

I dumped the whole bin of them into the compost pile, and within a week, we could tell the difference in the decomp happening. It was amazing. So, I guess this was one of those “happy accidents” that sometimes occur. I was still kinda upset about the worms though.

I was planning on using a 20 gallon Rubbermaid tub that I had in my garage. I have several of these storage tubs in varying sizes. I pick them up at thrift stores whenever one is there, if it’s priced right. They can always be used for SOMETHING. But, as I was rummaging through the storage closet to get the right sized tub, I found a styrofoam cooler that someone had given us several moons ago. Complete with a lid. Beauty! I decided to use that instead.

I made a few drainage holes in the bottom and on the sides. (Last year, I had waaaay too many drainage holes. The poor worms could have just fallen out probably. Lol!) I then lined the bottom with a couple of layers of moistened brown paper bag. What I found is that you want it “wrung out sponge wet”. (Last year, waaaay too wet.)

Image

Next, it was time to dig for worms! Did you know Red Wigglers go for about $35.00 per pound?! I know that’s about 1,000 worms, but still! Seems awfully pricey! With a bit of elbow grease and patience I found a whole bunch of worms. I stopped counting at 78. And digging thorough areas of my own yard gave me the chance to dig up some grubs and green larvae thingeys, and other ickies that didn’t seem to be too “garden friendly”. Made a nice afternoon snack for the chickens!

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I gave them a good layer of dirt for them wiggle around in. They use the grit of the dirt for digestion, as well as burrowing. I have all colors and sizes of worms in there! One joker was at least 5 inches long!  Next I covered the dirt layer with some brown paper bag material. It was some sort of packing material with something one of my sons ordered online. Good thing I saved it! (What have I said about the danger of justifying my hoarding? Lol!)

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Again, “wrung out sponge wet”. I just tore it into strips, dunked it by handfuls into a bucket of water and wrung it out. I also read that you want to kind of separate the strips of paper, otherwise, it might compact.

After a good deep layer of damp paper material, I added a layer of leaves from the yard and finally, I topped it off with some hay from my chicken coop cleaning out pile.

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To catch the compost tea, I turned the lid upside down and placed it under the cooler. The lip worked great at keeping it elevated, so hopefully all the worm juice will drip into it like a tray. I then added some apple pieces, coffee grounds and eggshells under the leaf and hay layer. I checked after a couple of hours, and there was indeed some wiggling going on through all the layers! Oh, and I put it in a shady part of my yard.

We’ll see how it’s going in about a week or so. I’m hopeful that I’ll have some tea to use as I’m getting ready to transplant the veggies.

I certainly have a better understanding of how worms eat, digest, breed and how to use the tea they produce. And, the best part is I did it for FREE! If this works, I’ll have Liquid Gold for my garden for FREE!

How cool is THAT?!

Thanks Easter Bunny! (er, chicken)

Just look at the wonderful surprise we found this evening!

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We were just going to refresh the hay in the house, but when we lifted the lid, here were these 5 little gems waiting for us! That’s Khloe (our Alpha hen). She seems to be saying, “Look what we’ve been up to while you were gone!”

 These are the very FIRST eggs we’ve gotten from our girls! We knew they were going to be ready soon. Their combs have been getting much pinker and they’ve been eating like crazy! (I had read those were a couple of ways to tell when they’re about to start laying.) We weren’t expecting them to begin for another month or so though, so this really was a surprise! I’m wondering if all 5 might belong to Khloe. She’s about 2 weeks older than Kim and Kourtney. Either way, 5 eggs since Sunday isn’t too bad a start I think.

The eggs are the cutest things I’ve ever seen! They are small, and don’t seem to weigh too much more than styrofoam. I cracked one open just to take a look at it, and it has a beautiful orange yolk and thick white. I’ll have to post a pic of the next one I crack.

The eggs are a bit…shall we say “poopy”.

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So, I have a few questions for the more experienced egg gatherers out there:

  1. I know eggs will keep on the counter as long as you don’t wash the bloom off of them. But, should I go ahead and wash the poop off? Clean eggs on the counter seem cute; poopy ones – not so much.
  2. What should I wash them with? Plain water? Add a little vinegar?
  3. After they’re washed, will they still keep on the counter? How clean do they have to be to get through the bloom?
  4. How long do they typically keep on the counter (unwashed or washed)?
  5. How long do they keep in the fridge (washed or unwashed)?

We are just so stinking egg-cited! I had JUST purchased a dozen eggs at the store last week, and I had told my husband that I hoped that was the LAST eggs I ever had to buy at the grocery store! The girls must have heard me! They’re so good to me!

So, we now have 3 hens that are laying age, 1 that’s about a month younger than them, and 2 little baby chicks that I just purchased 2 weeks ago. Not bad, I’d say. Once we get ourselves a surplus of eggs, we’ll probably start selling them. A few people have expressed interest in buying our wonderful brown, nutritious eggs from our spoiled rotten hens! Might be nice to have a little extra cash to put toward the purchase of our forever home homestead!

I hope you can sense my excitement! I’m just giddy! I’ve loved and cared for these girls since they were wee little chicks. And now, they’ve grown into beautiful ladies, contributing and paying back in their own special way to the homestead. They’re no longer pets, they’ve become partners.

Thanks in advance for answering my questions. Any ideas, thoughts, or advice are always welcome here!

S-P-R-I-N-G…

Oh my sweet goodness gracious! Last weekend blessed us with some beautiful weather, so we were busy working on several different projects getting prepared for Spring!

However, it was just a teaser. The temps quickly dropped and the rain, rain, rain has been upon us. This afternoon did clear off and actually turn into a nice day. But, colder temps are still lingering and appears that they’ll be with us for another week. Hopefully, next weekend Spring will officially spring!

I originally started writing one big blog post about all the things we’re working on, but then realized it was going to be waaaaay too long. So, I’m dividing them into categories which I think will be much more pleasurable to follow.

Let me start with our garden prep…

2 weeks ago, I decided to plant green pea seeds. I was going through all my packets of seeds, saw that they like “the cooler weather”, so decided “what the hay!” I didn’t have my heart set on green peas, so, if they didn’t do well, then ok. But, if they do grow then that’s one more thing to add to our abundance. Well, lo and behold…they’ve sprouted!!! How awesome is that?!

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2 of our raised beds were dismantled, and their dirt moved to a “no till” plot we created. It’s very easy to do, and there are a few different ways to accomplish the same result. (Simply do a Google or Youtube search for “No Till Gardening” for suggestions and instructions to fit your liking. )

First, we laid down several layers of cardboard and newspaper, enough to cover the grass completely. We even used our brown paper chicken feed bags! (Gotta love a multi-purpose item!) Then we wet it all down. Next, we began layering the dirt from the raised boxes along with some of the dirt from our compost pile. (Ooooo…let me say that one more time. The dirt from our compost pile. Squeal!)

ImageThis is the area where the 2 raised beds were.

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 And here’s the 2 remaining beds and the no till plot.

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 We’ll be taking a trip to the landscape supply store on the next weather permitting Saturday to purchase a half cubic yard of Mushroom Compost to finish out the no till plot and help build it up to a deeper planting depth. We’ve had great success adding mushroom compost to our garden, but we’ve always purchased it by the cubic FOOT bag from our local nursery. I’ve since found that if we go to a landscape supply yard, we can purchase a half cubic YARD at a savings of over $28.00! Yes, it will be loaded loose into the back of our pick up, and yes, we will have to shovel it out and move it ourselves. It won’t come in a handy, dandy plastic bag to be easily moved into the back yard. But we don’t mind putting a little more sweat equity into the garden if it saves the wallet that kind of money! And the landscape supply yard is in our neighborhood, so we don’t have to travel any distance to get it. Why I never found this place before now, I’ve no idea. (Kicks self!)

When we removed the top layers of our compost, this is what we saw. The darkest, fluffiest, most earthy smelling black gold ever!

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 The picture does it no justice! AND…it was full of THESE…

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 That’s ALWAYS a good sign! 🙂 To make the most of it, after we finished getting all the cardboard covered of the no till area, we went ahead and topped off the 2 remaining raised beds with compost. I guess I should consider the rains we’ve had a true blessing. I’m sure they’ve helped to soak all the yummy microbial goodness down into the beds and help to get them ready for planting in. And the worms are now doing their happy dance, aerating and fertilizing.

I also started some flower seeds in pots (too boring of a picture to post – lol!). I’m trying to give them a     2 – 3 week head start on the vegetables. If I can have them established and blooming before the bad bugs arrive, hopefully I will have attracted enough predatory bugs and pollinators to give the veggies a fighting chance. That was a valuable lesson learned last year. We put everything out all at one time. And guess which bugs arrived FIRST? So, we’ll see if my experiment works this year.

Well, that’s all for now. Next time I’ll have to tell you about the newest members of our chicken flock, our new coop construction and the further plans we have for our backyard homestead this season!

What an honor…

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I’d like to give a special THANK YOU and a shout out to Simply Homesteading for nominating me for a Liebster Award! If you haven’t already, you need to go check out her blog. She has lots of common sense advice and she is dang funny at times!

I have to admit, I had never heard of the Liebster Award. But what a fabulous way to connect and network with all the different blogs out there! Especially when you’re just starting and have just a few followers. I have connected and begun to follow so many new and exciting blogs by traveling through others lists! And I hope to help connect more readers to their blog.

Here are the rules for the Liebster:

This award is given to new or up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers…the award is then passed along to other bloggers in the same category to help spread the word and support one another. What to do:
1. Each blogger should post 11 random facts about themselves.
2. Answer the questions the tagger has set for you, then create 11 new questions for the bloggers you pass the award to.
3. Choose 11 new bloggers (with less than 200 followers) to pass the award to and link them in your post.
4. Go back to their page and tell them about the award.
5. No tag backs
My Random Facts:
1. I over-engineer everything. Sometimes this is a real hassle when you’re trying to do things “simple”. For me, there cannot be enough glue, screws, nails and support beams in any project. From a planter box to a house. I’m serious. Everything. My husband reels me in by reminding me “We don’t have enough materials for what you’re trying to do.”
2. My husband and I met on a blind date. I worked with a girl named Monica, who was married to a guy named Kelly. My husband worked with Kelly. They decided that we were perfect for each other and they were right. Our first date, we spent about 4 hours talking about the absurd cost of auto insurance. Neither of us knows why to this day. Anyway, something as mundane as that I guess was our “ice breaker”, because after that, we talked on the phone every day and saw each other every chance we got. We’ve been inseparable for 22 years now.
3. I absolutely LOVE to cook and bake. Either by recipe, or winging it. It really does make me happy!
4. Spring and Summer are my absolute favorite seasons. I feel I truly am a child of the sun and warmth. Even during the “dog days” of summer, I’m still happy.
5. I have the biggest, fattest sweet tooth ever. Cookies, pies, pastries, ice cream – you name it.
6. My tastes in movies and music are all over the place. I love a good tear jerking chick flick, action movies, even cartoons. My Grooveshark account has playlists that include everything from gospel to alternative with some country and rap thrown in.
7. My sister-in-law teases me that I have a dish fetish instead of a shoe fetish. Pretty little saucers, cake serving pieces, teacups, little dessert plates – they are my weakness. I’ve had to pare my collection down quite a bit because we’re just not going to have room for a lot of extra stuff that doesn’t serve a function once we get moved to our homestead. I’ve kept several pieces that have sentimental value to me and I no longer just buy them on a whim. If there’s something I just can’t do without at a yard sale or the thrift store, I have to seriously mull it over before I buy it. I figure it won’t hurt to keep a few pieces packed away. I may have granddaughters one day to have a little tea party with!
8. I’m not a “girlie-girl”. I’m much more comfortable in my jeans and a t-shirt than anything. I guess I clean up pretty well when I have to (Lol!). I absolutely loathe clothes shopping. I think that’s why I like the thrift store so much. If something doesn’t fit, then it doesn’t fit. There’s no way to go get the same garment in several different sizes and try them all on. My best friend jokes that it’s a shame they don’t make Garanimals for grown ups. I’ve never gotten over that awkward tomboy stage.
9. I am in my early 40’s and I adore myself. It has taken me this many years to be comfortable in my own skin. I don’t mind the wrinkles or gray hair that are beginning to creep up on me. The wrinkles show that I’ve lived a life full of smiles. My stretch marks are my service stripes for bringing two plump, healthy babies into this world. Every scar, mark, wrinkle, and “imperfection” tells the story of me. I am at peace with myself spiritually. I spent far too many years being afraid of what everyone else thought of me. I am truly excited for the “next phase” of my life.
10. I lost over 40 pounds from 2006-2007, and have kept it off. It was during that time that I realized I was heading for my 40’s, and it was only going to get harder to get in shape the older I got. I nixed fast food, processed food and started drinking water instead of soda. I began exercising and looking at natural alternatives to conventional medicine. It’s been a wondrous journey and I look better, feel better and am in better shape physically now than I was in my 20’s. I’m in no means a “hard body” or “fitness model”, but my energy level and metabolism are such that it makes it fairly easy now to stay in shape. My gym routine has been replaced with yard, gardening and critter duty. Talk about a total body workout!
11. I giggle at the silliest things. I can’t help myself. I’m terrible to take to church or to a movie. And once I get started, sometimes I can’t stop. It’s awful! But I can’t help it. By the same token, if something is over the top funny, I can’t help but let out a big belly laugh. Some people make fun of my laugh and others find it infectious. Laughing is good for the soul, so laugh I shall!
My Answers for Questions from Simply Homesteading:
  1. What color shirt are you wearing right now? Pink
  2. What is your favorite day of the week and why? Saturday. Because I don’t have to rush around in the morning getting ready for work. I can leisurely drink my coffee, hang out with the chickens and start my day off without having to commute anywhere farther than the backyard if I choose.
  3. If you could do without one piece of electrical equipment what would it be? My clothes dryer.
  4. What would your perfect yearly weather be? 70-80 degrees, with a slight breeze
  5. If you had unlimited acres, unlimited money, how many different kinds of animals would you have? 11
  6. How many photos of family do you have up in your house? 38
  7. How many hours a day are you on the computer? Be honest! Including work hours, more than 14. Just personal use, only about 2.
  8. If you had unlimited money what charity would you support? Wow…so hard to choose just one. I would probably have to go with Wounded Warrior Project.
  9. How many hours of sleep do you get? About 7
  10. What one chore would you never do again if someone else were to do it exactly as you do? Cleaning the kitchen
  11. What is your favorite store to shop at? Goodwill

My Questions for My Nominee Picks:

  1. What is your ideal weekend getaway? (Money not being a consideration).
  2. Who was your childhood hero (real or fictional) and why?
  3. If you could be granted a super power, what would it be?
  4. You have to evacuate your house and are allowed to take only one material possession. What would it be?
  5. Are you a coffee drinker or tea drinker?
  6. What is your favorite time of year?
  7. What do you feel is the most important lesson you’ve learned in life so far?
  8. You’ve just won $1 million TAX FREE. What would you do with the money?
  9. How many animals (farm or domestic) do you hope to add in the next year?
  10. Favorite color?
  11. If you could change your name, who would you like to be?

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…MY nominees for a Liebster Award!

Happy blogging everyone! 🙂