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...