Monday, May 30, 2011

In honor of fallen heroes...

American Bald Eagle Pictures, Images and Photos
On this Memorial Day, I'm so very thankful for those brave men & women (and their families) who have and continue to protect our freedoms and make sacrifices most of us don't want to. May we always honor and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country. It is one of my greatest hopes that our troops overseas will be brought home safely & soon to be with their loved ones and that we can eventually live in a world of peace.

Busy, busy, busy...

Despite my best intentions, I seem to keep neglecting this blog. Oh well, I figure most of you reading probably have a lot of homesteading related things keeping them busy these days too, so you'll understand.
Things have been really busy here on the little homestead. I've finally managed to get some seedlings started indoors (various peppers & tomatoes which its probably too late for but I'm going to try, lavender & 3 types of cucumber). I planted 10 rows worth of seeds in the garden (lettuce variety, romaine, arugula, spinach, kale, collard greens, swiss chard, radish, three types of squash, and carrots). Still lots of planting ahead, but it feels good to at least (finally) start. The garden area isn't completely fenced yet though, so I opted to cover my rows with agribon fabric to protect the seeds from our curious chickens as well as those pesky rabbits, quail, and wild birds that love to go investigate everytime one of us has been working in the garden. In other planting news, the bare root fruit trees we planted a few months ago are doing great, all have or are blossoming, so we're already planning to purchase a lot more next year. The large almond trees are looking beautiful, so I'm hoping we can manage to get a good harvest out of them (before the squirls get them all). Also I'm starting to see some green leaves popping up on some of the near death strawberry plants we received from a friend (I've been spoiling them with lots of whey leftover from my cheese making which is supposed to be a great fertilizer).
In other news, we purchased some more laying hens from a family that is moving to help replace those that were killed by the dogs (we had 2 more just completely vanish after the dog incident). The freedom ranger chicks are growing, though not at the rate of some stats I've seen reported by others (most likely because the organic feed we are using is soy free). Despite their "slower" (still faster than typical chicks) rate of growth, a few of us that ordered chicks together have had one or two develop leg issues...very dissapointing since we were hoping to avoid that by not raising cornish cross, but we actually think its related to the first feed we were all using which most likely was deficient in an area or two. Regardless, I think most of us have decided that we'll stick to dual purpose breeds from now on...I can see a lot of advantages with that method of meat production since you can breed them youself with your own stock (including experimenting with cross breeding), keeping hens for eggs & cockerels for meat, butchering on a more relaxed timetable according to your needs, rather than having to process huge numbers at once & take up so much freezer space. Another advantage is having chicks raised by mother hens rather than having all the work (and smell) of raising them in brooders. Despite the fact that I'm already feeling "chicked out", I picked up 8 turkeys (I must say turkeys take stink to the next level!) the other day (4 royal palm, 1 blue slate, 3 bronze breasted)...I'd really like to end up with a breeding pair of the royal palm, so we'll see. Thankfully we moved all those babies outside to a coop with a light & covered run attached which has helped improve my attitude & work load in regards to them. The last of the chicks I ordered arrived & are in the garage, but since its only 10 they are much easier keepers!
Still trying to manage all the milk our goats have been providing (at least 14 gallons/week!). I tried adding fresh chopped cilantro & diced (pickled) jalapenos to the farmer's cheese previously posted about. It tastes great & is a favorite here now (even among the kids!). I also made my first attempt at mozzarella earlier this week & it was a success which I'm thrilled about since that's one of the cheeses we buy regularly, and its a cheese that I can freeze. I've made it a couple times since. After consulting with some other goat owners who make yogurt, I decided to order a yogurt maker & am anxious for its arrival since we eat a lot of yogurt around here. Made my first batch yesterday & it tastes good, just not as think as I'd like so I'll be working on that a bit. I've also had my eye on the ice cream maker attachment for my kitchen aid the idea of not having to deal with ice, rock salt, an additional appliance, etc...and while we don't generally keep ice cream on hand, its a treat we indulge in here & there, so what could be better than homemade? Thankfully, my mom generously ordered that for me as a thank you for dog sitting during their recent nearly month long vacation...can't wait to try it out!
In other news, I'd been looking for a couple female kittens and was hoping to find some with a bit of siamese in them. I stumbled upon an add in a nearby city for two free female purebred seal point siamese, what luck! Picked them up just over a week ago & they are adorable as you can see...though I must admit that I'm already tiring of the litter box duties & the naughty scratching issues so I'm looking forward to getting their shots & spaying done so they can be moved out to the shop & have access to the outdoors where I'm hoping they'll take to the job of gopher & mice catcher because we could really use some help in those areas!
You know, there have been times when I start to feel a bit disappointed that we haven't gotten to this or that (things we'd planned to have accomplished around the little homestead by now), but after planting today I paused for a moment to drink some fresh brewed ice tea and reflected on the changes that have happened around here since purchasing the house last August, then moving in finally in October. Sure our list of things to do & learn is neverending, but we're making progress and I gotta say, it feels good! And since we have no plans to go anywhere, we've got lots of time to keep checking off that list...

Monday, May 9, 2011

A good problem to have...need your ideas & recipes!

So, our two milkers are producing nicely (well really Raindrop is the big producer, but still they are both producing). I tried making soft cheese the other day & happy to report it was a success...
First I added 2 gallons of milk to the stainless steel pot...

Then, when it reached 185 degrees, my son helped by adding 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar...

it immediately started to curd, so I let it do its thing for 10 minutes...

then strained it & eventually pressed out all the extra whey...

and finally added salt before forming it into a nice shape on a trivet & enjoyed!

So, now I'm looking for ideas on what herbs or other flavorings to add. And also looking for more recipes to use up all this goat milk. Our does are generously providing us with about 2 gallons/day & its starting to pile up. Those of you familiar with goat milk know that after about 3-4 days it gets a bit too goaty, so it goes to the animals or fruit trees. One thing I'm going to work on is finding a family or two to barter with, but until then, I've got to start trying out new recipes, so please share!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Good, Bad, & Ugly

Better late than never I suppose for this Homestead Barn Hop post. Sorry again about the lack of the weather gets better I'm afraid that may be a running theme around much to do in good weather on a homestead. We haven't even had the chance to do more than till the garden space, so needless to say I doubt our garden will be as grand this year as we had envisioned. We went away for a few days around Easter, then came back to a very busy time here on the little homestead. In the last week, we've added 5 goats & 26 Freedom Ranger meat chicks , then traded out one of the goats & lost 8 laying hens and 2 of the FR chicks. Anyway, I'll start with the good stuff and my favorite, our LaMancha goats! I'm still trying to adjust & get used to a new routine...seems like a lot of things are getting ignored/pushed further down the list these last several days. I'll say one thing, I've never appreciated a glass of milk like I do now and I'm gearing up to start making cheese & hopefully yogurt. I actually did make a batch of soft cheese which wasn't too bad and then a few days ago I went to a friend's house to learn to make mozzarella & farmer's cheeses.
So, here are our milkers...Raindrop is the black one (isn't she beautiful!...just love her markings) & Dreamer is the white one. As you can probably see by the difference in their udders, Raindrop is an incredible producer (was giving the breeder nearly 2 gallons a day) while Dreamer is just ok (2-3 qts/day), though she is capable of much better as our breeder suspects that the lady who had her didn't start milking her when she sold her buck so production naturally fell since she was only nursing her little doe.

We actually had an older doe (Dark Rain) for the first few days prior to getting Raindrop, but she became depressed & was getting battered by Dreamer which caused her milk production to plummet, so we took her back to the breeder who was nice enough (though reluctant since she is favorite or hers) to give us Raindrop instead. Raindrop is a bit feisty so she is a good match for Dreamer in that way. She's a bit of a challenge to milk but is slowly improving in that department so I think once she gets used to her new home & us that will be better as well. Her milk production has gone down a little as she adjusts, but its still great so we're no complaining!
Other members of our little herd are two young does & a young buck. We're decided to call this one Sweetheart because that's exactly what she is...she rode the 1 1/2 hour drive home from the breeder on my lap & is just as sweet as can be...loves following me around as I do chores. And of course she loves her 2 bottles/day.

Our other kid doe is Dreamer's. She was extremely skittish & wanted nothing to do with me or any other human for that matter. She was never bottlefed which wouldn't be such a bad thing except that she was obviously never handled either. So, almost immediately I separated her from her mom & started bottlefeeding her (she's old enough to be on just one bottle/day). It was a bit of a challenge to get her to take a bottle the first time but it has become much easier & I don't have to chase her down & hold her anymore. She's still cautious but seems to be warming up to me. We've decided to call her Star Gazer (Star for short) because she black with little bits of white here & there that remind me of stars in the night sky.
Finally, our buck, Jack Frost (though I'm considering calling him Pig because he's such an eater & his belly is always round). Yes, we're those crazy new goat people who choose to ignore the advice about owning a buck when you're just starting out. Actually we'll likely have two bucks since he'll need a companion & one of our local friends wants to keep one of her buck kids (wisely, just not at her place, haha). We may only keep the bucks through next season's breeding, but we'll see (can you tell I'm not looking forward the the rut stage!).

I'll do a more detailed goat post soon, but wanted to introduce them for now.
Other additions were the arrival of our Freedom Ranger chicks which will be our first try at raising meat birds. I went in on an order with some other local homesteaders so we ended up with a total of 102 chicks. We're talking about getting together to butcher them assembly line fashion and looking into building a chicken plucker together which would certainly save some time/effort. We started with 26 chicks, but unfortunately one died from being squeezed a bit too hard by the kids then a second ended up getting a bloody butt that the other chicks kept picking at. I separated it when I discovered it, but it still died. Since then though all remaining 24 are thriving & growing, so I'm hoping we won't lose anymore. I originally had them in what will be our homeschooling room which is nice & sunny, but as evidenced by the first chick's death, it was too easily accessible to the kids. So, I moved them upstairs into a locked bedroom. After 4 days the smell was more than we cared to have in the house, so yesterday they found a new home in the garage. They made it through the night just fine & we're certainly happy to be rid of the smell!
So, we've covered the good and a little bad, now onto more bad & ugly. About a week ago our 2 dogs escaped their enclosure & went on a chicken killing spree. Most days we just let our chickens from both coops free range together on the property since that saves us on feed costs, reduces bugs, fertilizes the ground, & makes for healthier eggs. Unfortunately that meant they were easier prey for the dogs. I wouldn't have been so upset if they had just eaten a couple of chickens completely, but its extra upsetting when they just kill for sport...I was also upset because among the dead were a few of our best layers & also 3 young hens that had just started laying. What's worse is that because I was alone with the kids (seems that is always the case when bad things happen around here) and because we had somewhere to be, I couldn't get the 8 dead chickens processed & into our freezer...instead they just went to waste in the garbage bin (though some were not salvageable anyways because the meat had been bit into which made me concerned about bacteria)...I certainly could have processed them later & fed them to the dogs, but that just seemed like rewarding them for their bad behavior, so I opted not to do it. Two other chickens were hurt pretty badly, but they seem to have recovered ok. Interestingly, despite the fact that the chickens were free ranging from 2 different coops, the dogs killed 4 & wounded 1 from each of the coops. Unfortunately, they've spent much of the last several days either locked in the house or tied up until we can get a new enclosure made escape proof. Here are the naughty culprets, our standard schnauzers...

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Twist on the envelope system

I know that credit cards is an area we need to do some work on...we are good about paying them off every month, unless they are on a limited time interest free plan (for those we plan out how much to pay each month so they are paid off before the no interest period ends). But, I know that we spend more using the cards than we would if we used the "envelope" system, as evidenced by the fact that we dip into our savings more often than I'd like to pay them off each month. I'm thankful that we've pretty much always been able to maintain a reasonable amount in savings each month (though admittedly not the 9 months living expenses that is now recommended!) so that we've never been forced to live paycheck to paycheck, but at the same time the danger in that is that I especially sometimes use that cushion as an excuse to spend when I shouldn't.
We did the envelope system early on in our marraige when we were living in an apartment and saving for our first was amazing how quickly our savings grew when we had a goal set and limited ourselves to spending only what was in each envelope (now we did sometimes take money from one category to spend more in another, but we stuck to the rule of not taking more money out of the bank than our pre-set amount). It wasn't long before we were moving into our first home!
Here's the thing...the reason we use the credit cards is to take advantage of annual reward checks and earned points which we redeem for cash cards. Besides charging things like food, gas, etc., we also have some of our bills automatically charged on the card to get the most out of the reward programs. We use two main cards (we do have a couple of store specific cards but only use those to get extra sales or interest free months for bigger purchases and again they get paid off before we pay any interest). Our Costco/American Express card, which actually yields two annual checks (one from Costco that always covers our executive membership fee plus provides extra money to spend there, the other from American Express to spend at Costco...did you know that you can cash the American Express check at Costco intead of spending it there?...did you also know that records of all purchases at Costco are maintained on their computer system so you don't need your receipt to make a return and if an item goes on coupon a bit after you purchased it, you can just go in and give them your card and ask for the coupon amount to be credited to your card...this recently paid off big time for me when tires we'd purchased 6 weeks prior ended up having a $70 off coupon). Our other card is a Visa that offers points that we cash in for Visa Gift Cards that we can then spend anywhere (I like this one too because its pretty easy & straight forward with little/no restrictions). I get a special satisfaction in knowing that while most people are being ripped off by credit cards, they are actually paying us to use them, but like I said I know that the danger in using them is that its easier to spend more when you aren't handing over cash for a purchase which is what inspired me to try a variation of the envelope system.
So, here's my plan as a compromise of the two systems...I've purchased a coupon holder which will be labeled with budget categories. Inside each section will be an index card with the monthly allowance written for that category. Wherever possible I'll purchase gift cards/gift certificates with my credit cards for each category. I'll keep a pen & calculator in one section. Before spending in a category, I'll review what I have available & then make a note of what was spent so I know what's left. The exception here will be gasoline...we'll keep nearly all our month's allowance for that expense in cash in its section since nearly all gas stations now charge more for credit (though when we make our monthly shopping trip to Costco in the city, we'll use our Amex since you can't pay cash & they don't charge any extra for using the card). And of course online purchases are another category that will require using a credit card...this is something I do more than perhaps those who live in larger cities for the simple fact that we don't have a lot of shopping options here in our small community and I can often score better deals and save time (and aggravation of dragging 3 kids from store to store) by shopping around and using coupon codes. On a sidenote, before you make a purchase online, always do a search for coupon codes...some stores even let you use more than one code and many more are starting to do free shipping, some with no minimum purchase. Another section that will typically contain cash is a vehicle maintenance section...I'll pick a specific amount to place in their each month and it will continue to grow so that we have something to help take care of/offset vehicle maintenance and unplanned repairs. One other nice thing about the coupon holder will be that I can put money made from selling our organic eggs in there to then utilize for buying chicken feed.
I think this system will work as long as I force myself to stick to the rules. Using the coupon holder will also help me keep the receipts better organized which will help me when I evaluate where the money went and also can provide a spot for me to hold coupons/notes about specials in the corresponding categories. I'm looking at starting this new plan hopefully by June 1st...I'll need at least a month of feeding/caring for our new goats to see how it effects our budget (money spent on food/routine supplies vs. money saved on dairy products). I'll let you know how it works.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Never a dull moment...

Life with farm animals (ok, and children) typically means there is rarely a dull moment. The other day one of our red star chickens decided to get into the back of our truck to scratch around the various yard branches, weeds, etc. that had been loaded in preparation for a trip to the dump...I had noticed it out the window at some point that morning and thought to myself, "silly chicken we've got over 2 green acres with plenty of bugs, but apparently you think there's something better in the yard waste pile".
Well, imagine my husband's surprise when later that morning he got to the dump and starting unloading and came across our chicken! The dump is at least a 15 minute drive from our house so I'm thankful that the chicken had the sense to hide low during that trek and that our dump requires loads to be tarped & tied. I would have hated to lose on of our friendliest and most productive chickens! Lucky chicken got to ride shotgun all the way back home!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Coming soon...

We're thrilled to be bringing some LaMancha goats to our little homestead in just two weeks (I had to laugh when I read another blogger comment on the fact that some people impulse buy shoes, but she impulse buys farm animals...I can so relate)! Its something that we've wanted for some time now, but thought might have to wait a year, and so to prepare/cram, I've been reading lots, researching more, and getting some great hands on practice/instruction from more experienced goat owners (even got to feed/milk goats for a local friend while they were away for a few days recently which was a huge confidence booster and helped me put what I've learned to practice).
At this point, here's what I know we're getting (though I can't promise that an extra young doe might not sneak into the truck on pickup day...remember the impulse comment?): an older doe that's been freshened (still got some good years in her & should make a nice foundation doe for us), another doe with her young doe kid in tow, and a young buck. Yes, we're going against what many recommend and starting out with a buck...we have our reasons though (other than the fact that he's very handsome) & are aware of the challenges that come with keeping a buck (and we have a local wether we can lease to keep our little guy company if need be). Here's a sneak preview of our little Jack Frost...
And here's a headshot of Dark Rain, our older freshened doe...
I promise there will be no shortage of pictures once we've got our goats home!
The to-do list is, predictably, a bit overwhelming at this point, but I did manage to finally get the bulk of my supplies ordered from Hoegger (again, goat sitting was a big help in deciding between what I truly needed and what was just fancy my friend reminded me, its a lot like having a baby in that you are sometimes made to think you need all sorts of fancy gear, when in fact you need just a few key items).
In the event that we don't have their pasture areas ready in time (cause we're taking a little trip while we don't yet have to find a goat sitter), we've got barn stalls just about ready as a backup (we even got electricity ran to the barn & automatic waters working in the stalls in the last couple of days). Still high on the priority list is a homemade milking station and a trip to the farm supply store for hay & water containers, goat minerals, and a bit of grain mix to get me through until my next Azure co-op delivery (I plan to make my own grain mix daily to keep it fresh & all organic, while still being cost effective by purchasing barley, oats, & molasses from the co-op). Thankfully I was warned by a friend of the current alfalfa shortage in CA, so I bought 4 bales just in time which will hopefully last me us until the new crop comes into feed stores next month.
And I'm not the only one anxious to bring the goats home...after having a fresh supply of raw goat milk from the days I was milking for our friend, my two oldest children were NOT happy to be back to drinking cows milk from the store again ("NO, we want goat milk mom...its creamier & much better!").

Sunday, April 10, 2011

More chickens

We got a call the other day about someone wanting to get rid of 1 year old chickens...the price was right, FREE, so off I went to pick them up (all 23 of them!...though we may not end up keeping all as another local family whose lost a number of their to dog attacks may be taking some). Lets just say they probably think they died & arrived in chicken heaven (compared to where they were), or they most certainly will feel that way once we start letting them free range (though their coop/run area is quite large).
This presented an excellent opportunity to finally integrate the Red Stars & White Rocks who seemed ready since they'd been intermingling during their daily free ranging on the property. This also put the need for a second coup area even higher on the priority list. The run was completed by the time I picked up the new chickens, but no coup yet, so I moved the new chickens into the existing coup & run that first night and transferred the red stars to the barn stall that the white rocks had been temporarily calling home. The next day my husband, with the help of my dad got the coup built just before sunset (well, the roof was covered as side vents sealed up the next day since the rafters leave enough space for ventilation).
Needless to say the chickens seem to much prefer their new digs over the barn stall and they are getting along great (they save their skirmishes for the new chickens in the old adjoining coop space). Once they'd layed their eggs I let them out to free range (wanting to make sure they knew where the eggs belonged since the previous days juggling really confused them a bit) and they all managed to find their way to the new coop come sundown. I like the fact that the new coop is higher & attached, but not inside the run...I think we might enclose the underneath portion later & add a run to it for young chicks that aren't quite ready to be integrated into the group, but need to start socializing with them & get outside.
The new chickens...I'll start positively & say that they are an eclectic bunch and I've enjoyed searching my chicken catalogs to identify the breeds. We're happy there are some easter eggers in the bunch for some egg color variety. Now, not so positive...well, you know that old saying, nothing is ever free?...So far, they have yet to impress when it comes to laying, and unfortunately of the eggs they've laid, we've come close to losing half to egg eating (despite me running out to the coop a ridiculous amount of times/day to collect eggs). They are eating up my organic chicken feed like its their last meal (which is especially annoying since my I can only get it from my co-op once/month and my alternative is much higher feed store prices) and since the food isn't necessarily going to egg output, they are pooping insane amounts. I put golf balls in the nest boxes to see if it might help (they keep kicking them out...could that be a chickens way of flipping the bird?)I pulled 7 of the chickens out of the bunch & put them in the barn in the hopes that reducing their numbers might improve the situation. Now those 7 gave me 6 eggs the next day, but unfortunately I caught one of them in the red star/white rock coop eating an egg (the door was open so they could free range)! The last thing I need is for them to pick up that bad habit! So, I've decided that I'm going to try a few more things...maybe pull some more chickens out, add more nest boxes, let them free range here and there...and if things don't improve then I'll be making room in my freezer since I'm not particularly attached to this bunch...there are some nice heavy breed birds in the bunch and the little ones will make good soup!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Garden Dreams

So sorry for the lack of posting. I really want to try to be better about that but all of a sudden it got beautifully warm here (though unfortunately they are forecasting snow), which of course has lured us outside to work on the long list of projects we need to get done around here leaving little time for blogging. Here's the garden area freshly tilled by hubby.
We've been dreaming of a big garden at the new place ever since we first laid eyes on the property, about a year ago. At that point, it consisted pretty much of a mixture of overgrown weeds with beautiful poppies mixed in (plus, luckily, a nice variety of trees).

Later all that green turned to a golden brown & made us very nervous late last summer when a nearby brush fire forced us to leave in a (luckily brief) mandatory evacuation only one week after getting the keys! Needless to say, my husband has spent many many hours (if only we had a tractor) clearing weeds the past several months, so as we see hints of spring things are looking much better here on our little homestead.
Back in January, we planted 7 bare root fruit trees (2 golden delicious & 1 pink lady apple, 1 peach, 1 pear, 1 nectarine, & 1 plum).
Hoping all goes well with those, as we plan to add more next year.
Meanwhile, I've been trying to glean off the knowledge of some of the areas veteran gardeners to improve our chances of success this year. The owner of my favorite local organic farm was gracious enough to spend some of her valuable time sharing her knowledge relating to what to grow, when to plant, etc. Last month I attended a garden club meeting where I got a couple of great ideas and most importantly spent an enjoyable time talking with other local homesteaders. Unfortunately I wasn't able to make last nights garden meeting but am hoping to get some notes from the presenter, Mona. On a recent Saturday I spent nearly two hours in a free class at a local nursery taught by a favorite blogger of mine, Amy. I learned so much & feel a lot more confident about our garden's potential! Among other things I now know how to be more prepared to give our garden a fighting chance against the many quail, rabbits, & gophers that have all been exploring our newly tilled garden some shopping & work to do for that of course, but I'm starting to feel more confident about gardening here in the mountains. Prior to attending that class, I liked the idea of doing some raised beds in our garden area, but now I'm eager to start at least 4 of them which will make crop rotation simple. We'll be planting directly into the ground as well (we've actually ordered a big roll of Agribon fabric & plan to use pvc pipe to hoop some in ground rows to allow us to plant a little earlier & protect the plants until they are bigger & stronger), but I'd like to continue to add more raised beds each year until they make up the majority of our garden space. I ordered a bunch of seeds but have been a bit nervous about attempting to start them indoors since I don't yet have lights set up, but after reading some recent posts of fellow bloggers, I'm going to give it a try utilizing the light from the amazing number of windows in our house. I think I waiting too long to start most of my tomato plants unfortunately, so I did buy a few of those from a nursery.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Preparedness, don't forget the animals

On the subject of preparedness, a lot of fellow bloggers have really got me thinking lately about how to make being prepared (to take care of not just my immediate family in an emergency, but also potentially extended family, friends, & neighbors, & lets not forget our animals) a way of life. Natural disasters are nothing new and will continue to happen anywhere with little to no notice (our weather may continue to cause issues as well since I've heard the Japan earthquake shifted the earth's tilt on its axis). We live in earthquake country and also in a small community in the mountains which means that relief supplies may not be able to get to us as quickly (& we may not be high on the priority list due to our small population and frankly looking at response time for hurricane Katrina I think we all learned we can't assume that our government will be prepared to offer assistance quickly).
So, for this week's preparedness challenge, I thought about the animals on our little homestead. We have a couple dogs that offer protection (and companionship of course). We have chickens that provide us with eggs (and soon, meat). Soon we'll have goats supplying us with milk (and possibly meat). In an emergency, fresh organic eggs & raw milk will be more valuable to us than they already are (as will fresh meat if our electricity should fail & spoil our freezer stores) in supplementing our dry food stores. Animals producing fresh food would also very likely be at risk of theft by those not prepared in an emergency, which is where the dogs come in as a deterent (ok, and also a gun or two). This week I realized that I must not forget about preparing food & water stores for our animals while I work on our own stores. So, I decided that at a minimum, I would strive to have at least a month's worth of extra food for our animals. In addition, I'm in the process of sorting through the recycling, pulling out gallon sized juice jugs which I will work on washing & filling with water for the animals. Its a bit of a blow to the budget though to buy double the amount of feed in one month, so this month I focused on the chickens & ordered extra feed in our co-op order, though given the fact that we've doubled the size of our flock this month, what I ordered probably doesn't quite amount to an extra month's worth.
Next trip to Costco, I'll add an extra bag of dog food. And I plan to work on an animal first aid kit. And, despite the ever rising gasoline prices these days, I'm going to try to make it a habit to keep our vehicles' tanks not less than half full. The reality is that my to-do list grows each week, and while that could easily start to feel overwhelming, I'm determined to feel good about the progress we've made, while staying focused on what still needs to be done.
This week, for the human members of our family, I also added extra pasta & legumes to my co-op order and picked up a dozen gallon sized jugs of water, extra juice, & canned goods at Costco.

Visit Homestead Revival for more tips on preparedness.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Another Awesome Giveaway!

Amy @ Homestead Revival is hosting another great giveaway for a Pioneer Drying Rack.
I for one could really use this to help reduce our winter propane bills. Hurry it ends March 25th.

Making Herbs Simple Giveaway!

Very excited to share with you an excellent giveaway opportunity for Making Herbs Simple Volume 1 a $24.95 value!
Go here to enter. Hurry ends March 24!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring?...maybe on paper

Well, spring made its official debut yesterday, on paper at least. Here in the mountains, I wasn't too happy to see what the storm brought...besides blowing anything that wasn't attached to the fringes of our property, the 55+ mph gusts ripped a metal roof off one of our animal shelters.
It remained barely attached on one end and then dangerously flipped around in the wind gusts we continued to get yesterday morning, making me very nervous that it would be ripped off completely and take out some of our house windows. Unfortunately I was alone at home with the kids, but luckily my dad is visiting & was able to come & help me dismantle the roof during a break in the wind.
The door on the old chicken coop (home to the newest chickens) was also ripped right off its hinges sometime during the night. Then later the next morning, the upper half of one side of the coop was ripped off & some of the interior was rearanged. Seems like mother nature decided to give us a jump start on our plans to tear down the old coop, causing quite a bit of juggling on my part (in the pouring rain & strong wind) as I tried to find a safe & dry place for the chickens. Thinking positively, I first tried integrating the new chickens with the old ones, hoping that they'd gotten to know each other enough lately during their free ranging adventures. While the old chickens didn't outright attack the new ones, they forced them out into the run & wouldn't let them into the coop for some much needed warmth & food. So, after some chicken chasing again, I moved the new chickens into a stall of the barn. After realizing it wasn't as dry as I'd hoped, I created a dry spot for them & their food by propping up a sheet of plywood & placing newspaper & shavings behind it.
A combination of lots of precipitation & an unusual direction of the wind from this storm caused some water intrusion issues in our garage & some windows & flooding around the property, leaving me to wish I had those rain barrels that I've been thinking about. In addition to all that rain, the storm brought snow as well, closing the highway & keeping my husband from getting home...luckily he was able to drive to my parents place instead of being stuck in his car all night like so many other stranded drivers.
Despite all the inconveniences of yesterday (and yes, we're thankful that really is all it was compared to what many have/are going through lately), I was reminded of God's glory & a promise of better days when in the midst of it all I spotted a beautiful rainbow.
So, spring may not be all about warm sunny days for us yet, but I'm hopeful that all the rain & snow this year will make our (typically dry) growing season a productive thing I'm sure of is it will, without a doubt, bring gorgeous wildflowers to our property & surrounding hills!
Thanks for visiting! I'm hoping to participate in Homestead Revival's Barn Hop on a regular basis from now on.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Flock

Our first "farm" animals, 8 Red Star Hens, arrived back on June 22nd, 2010 while we were still living at the old's A & Y taking a peak at them.

Here they are all settled in at the place...

I picked this particular breed of chicken from the McMurray Hatchery because they were described as great layers of brown eggs and extremely friendly. So far we are pleased...they worked their way up to 8 eggs/day in the long summer days and 7-8/day during the shorter winter days. They are so friendly with the children who aren't just content to pet them, but prefer to pick them up and carry them around. As we prepared to move, the top priority was making the house liveable for us. So, the chickens had to make do with an old small coop that already existed on the property. It took longer than we had planned & we still have some finishing touches to make, but we finally moved them a new more appropriate dwelling, with plenty of indoor & outdoor the interest of saving time & money, we decided to take advantage of old shed sitting on the property for the coop portion. They seem to be enjoying foraging for bugs & plants in their new outdoor space nestled in the middle of our 6 almond trees. We let them out frequently as well so that they can forage the property for more bugs, plants, etc. and they really seem to enjoy that freedom. Here's a nice shot of the new coop area with one of the blossoming almond trees.

I think most chicken owners will agree that this chicken thing gets addicting. It wasn't long before I was researching other breeds & trying to decide which ones we'd add to our flock. Although not top on my wish list of breeds, I went ahead & purchased another 8 four month old Plymouth White Rock Hens here locally that should be laying in about a month, mostly because I'd like to increase our egg supply soon so that we can start selling some. These particular hens are pretty self sufficient, having been raised to scavenge for their food, so at this point we let them have the run of the property with free access to the old coop for shelter, food, & water.
For our first meat bird experience, we decided to go with Freedom Rangers & are expecting 20 chicks mid-April. Then late May we have 9 more chicks coming including 5 Cuckoo Maran pullets & a cockeral, & 2 Buff Orpington pullets & a cockeral. I picked those breeds because (along with the white rocks) they can be considered dual purpose birds. Although we plan to build a second coop/large run area, we may not be keeping both roosters. I've heard great things about the temperments of the Cuckoo Maran Roosters & that is the breed I most want to start breeding, but we may give it a go with breeding the Buff Orpingtons too, and if not, then that rooster will just join the FR's in the freezer.
So, besides adding the finishing touches to the coop area (need to build in some user friendly nest boxes & paint the exterior "barn" red w/white trim), next on the list will be to build a second coop & run area adjacent to this one. This will be essential when our spring chicks are ready to be moved outside, but not yet big enough to be thrown in with the existing chickens. And of course, even more important is getting brooders set up...I'm a little nervous about raising chicks since up to this points all 16 of our chickens have joined as at around 4 months of age, but I'm excited too.


Hi there! I want this blog to be a place for me to document a bit about the new journey we've embarked on, as well as a place for me to share ideas and resources, and talk about things that I'm passionate about. I've learned so much from many out in blogland that, who knows, maybe I'll be a resource to others as well. So, if you're reading this, introduce yourself...I love comments!
A little about us...we're blessed to be the parents of a 5 year old son, and 3 year old & (almost) 1 year old daughters, and two angels up in heaven...we've built our little family through adoption & birth and hope to adopt again in the near future. So far the animal part of our family consists of a couple of standard schnauzers and 16 chickens, with future plans for more laying hens, a rooster or two, meat birds, milk goats & whatever else I can talk hubby into, lol. Living on acreage is nothing new for us, but we have lots to learn & do to become more self sufficient, which means there will likely be lots of tears & laughs along the way. I grew up on a couple acres where I spent as much time as possible on the back of a horse and hubby spent a good portion of his childhood working on the family farm/ranch. We enjoyed remodeling our first home in Northern California and loved having a big garden there before we made the big move south to 5 acres in the desert. We have a shared dream of becoming more self sufficient by growing/raising more of our own food and supporting other local homesteaders for our other needs as much as possible (I find it exciting that modern homesteading, living greener, etc. have gained so much momentum in recent years!). Other food related goals are to work towards a diet consisting primarily of whole foods. So we've moved on again to a big home on just under 2 1/2 acres in a smallish mountain community with a four season climate that is not without its own unique challenges, yet much friendlier for growing a variety of food than our previous desert home. Much of our time, energy, & money went to completing an unfinished remodel on the new house and the to-do list is still overwhelming, but we're loving life & feeling very much at home in our new community. Let the adventures begin! Its easy to feel hopeful of what's in store for us with views like this from my kitchen window...