Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Saying Hello and Goodbye on the Homestead

This week brought more loss to the homestead. We lost our New Hampshire Red rooster to a stray dog. Whitie was our last surviving rooster. He will be missed. So we were left with four remaining hens plus Broody.

Broody still hasn't laid an egg. But she's in her protected new home on the porch. A medium dog crate. The other hens come to visit and talk to her but are unable to peck her. This is until I can build a tractor for her. She still has the use of only one leg.

In the meantime, Tractor Supply has "Chick Days" going on. While we had eggs in the incubator, I basically ignored it. But we had four viable eggs in the incubator at the time. This was until Dervish, Mel's cat, tipped over the incubator and cracked open all of the eggs. None of the chicks survived. With the death of Whitie, we needed a rooster for our free ranging flock of Reds. This was coupled by the concern Nnyus had actually killed Whitie. This seems unlikely to me because the dog had lived with this free roaming rooster for almost two years with no problem. So I blame a stray. We've had a few over the past few weeks. Not having our acreage fenced, this is a continual danger.

After some discussion, we agreed to purchase six Rhode Island Reds and six Buff Orpingtons. Straight run so the odds are 50-50 of gaining at least one rooster for each type. The weather has turned warmer. So we set the brooder up on the porch. We still have a heat lamp hanging in one corner. The huge 3'x5' brooder seems like over kill for so small a number, but they won't be small long. In a few short weeks, they'll have feathers and more than doubled in size. In the meantime, they have plenty of room to run around. I would have loved to find some Americaunas too, but there are none within a 50-mile radius. Maybe next year. If YouTube chicken sexing videos are correct, we should have two roosters and four hens of each. I could be wrong though. Extra roosters are just destined for their next stage of life when they are big enough. We'll be separating the Rhode Island Reds and the Buffs so we'll have pure bred chicks to sell or increase our flock. So now we'll be building three tractors.

I pulled all the sprouting containers to be washed today. Our fodder and sprouting grain operation will be up and running again after the winter lull. It's hard controlling the temperature over the winter months so we suspend the operation. I spent 15 minutes mixing a 5-gallon buckets of wheat, barley, and sunflower seeds. The first cup of the mixture is soaking as I type. Over the winter I purchased another 100-pounds of wheat and barley and 40 pounds of sunflower seeds. To make sprouted grains for the chickens, I'll need to add oats, corn, and Milo.  Cost wise, rabbit feed costs $34 a month for our rabbits in commercial pellets. For sprouted grains, the cost is $100 for nine months worth of feed and it's better digested. The fact that it's non GMO grain is an added benefit. The seeds for rabbits are sprouted for seven to eight days for optimum protein for the rabbits. For the chickens, they eat half as much plus their free ranging for optimum protein only takes three days. Total cost for the chickens eating sprouted grains per month is $17 instead of $34 for commercial feed. The cost consideration is important to the homestead finances, but the animal's health and what they pass on to us in their meat and eggs is even more important.


That's it for this week.
Y'all have a blessed day!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Beginning to Feel Like One Woman and Two Acres

A comment last week by Amy Davis got me thinking. Mel had a previous YouTube channel, One Woman and Two Acres before I came to live with her. This is how we first met several years ago. We became fast friends. Both of us were trying to build a homestead and all. I actually had an urban homestead of 1/3 of an acre for twenty plus years with rabbits, chickens, and a organic garden. Upon meeting Mel for the first time, it just cemented the deal. I moved here after my husband's death. This was a huge step of faith because the Lord told me to come. I've put all my eggs in one basket with this move and trusted in the Lord.

Mel has had a life long problem with depression, as well as ADHD. I've dealt with both in my life. I considered it not an issue. It can be terrifying at times. Especially, some of the things that comes out of her mouth. During her dark days of winter, it's at it's worse. I've experienced it full force the past couple months. It's mainly verbal with an occasional object being thrown around. This I can handle. I just find something to do outside until her tirade is over. Then, she is spent and falls into a moody silence. I can handle this, but the feeling of being trapped isn't a comfortable one. Because it is winter with all the bad weather, often going outside isn't an option which compounds the issue.

I'm left  with all the chores. The care and feeding the animals, the shopping, paying the bills, and the cooking. All she has to do is the dishes, bring in heavier pieces of firewood that I can't lift one handed, bring the animal feed and put it in the bins once a month, and rarely get my bra out of a wad. You know, the stuff normally takes two hands or a non-impaired can do. But then, I have lifted 50 lbs of rabbit pellets and put in the bins too. It's just so much easier and faster, if she would do it. What would take me 30 to 45 minutes to strategize and implement takes her 15 minutes. Lifting a 30 lb bag of cat food, climb the stairs, and empty it into the bin...no problem. Well sort of. But a 55 lb bag of dog food? Is beyond my capability. But lately, she's even complaining about this. I'll just be glad when winter is over.

The only saving grace is our Wwoofer, Amy, and her son. When they come things get done. They are a bright spot in an otherwise dreary winter. I know, based on lasts year, Mel's depressed behavior gets better in the spring and summer.

I think a big part of what is making Mel's depression so bad is her lack of a computer. She got irritated this winter and deleted her Windows 10 from her computer. She downloaded Linux but had issues with the wifi connection. She also can't save anything so her writing has come to a standstill. All we are left with is my old desktop. It runs Windows 7 and only has 4 gig of RAM. It's okay for what I need it to do but, videos and video editing is too much. I know when I was going through a depressed state, writing was my salvation. I could escape into my own little world where I controlled all. It was okay though, everyone knew me there. :) When my house sells, I'll just have to buy a new laptop or desktop. A deal is being brokered as I type. Crossing my fingers. The buyer is getting a heck of a deal at my expense. We honestly need the influx of cash since Mel lost her job five months ago and hasn't found another one.

Well, that's my news? How has the world been treating you?

As always,
Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Decision Making on the Homestead

As y'all know for the better part of a month now, we've had an injured chicken in our house. The trial of incorporating her back within her flock was a dismal failure. She was attacked by hens and rooster alike. We kind of figured this would happen because she's been away from the flock for so long and is still a one legged chicken. I fear she will never regain the use of her hurt leg.

Since Broody is the only one of our hens to go broody, we've decided to let her live a little while longer. But we'll have to protect her from the rest of the flock also. The other concern we have is that she hasn't laid an egg since she's been injured. A nonlaying chicken won't go broody, I don't believe. But still we are giving her the benefit of the doubt. She may lay again. Being injured can stop egg production. So the plan is this. We'll give her another month or two. In the meantime, I'm building a small chicken tractor 2x6 out of PVC and chicken wire. I realize chicken wire is not much protection from predators. The plan for such a small tractor is to put it between the rows in our garden. She'll be on bug patrol. The extra fertilizer leeching into our garden beds with each rain will be one less chore we'll have to do. Chickens weren't meant to live indoors with people full time. This tractor can easily be moved every day by me and my one handed self. Since the rows are four feet apart, there's plenty of room for me to tend the garden and the chicken tractor.

If after two months she still hasn't laid an egg, she can be culled. Why wait so long? Well, we have four fertile eggs due to hatch on the 9th. These new chickens will need a grow out pen. Yes, I know it's after the 9th already but I write a week in advance. It's only the 7th for me. :) I can cull a chicken any time. I, unlike Mel, have no problem doing the deed. It's part of homesteading and being self sufficient.

Seedlings after a freeze.
It's still too cold to plant or even start seeds yet. This morning I thawed twelve water bottles for the rabbits and cracked a 1/4" layer of ice off the 5 gallon buckets we have around the house of rain water for the cats, dogs, and chickens outside. It might break 60 degrees today. Yes, I know we can start seeds inside, but I hesitate.  I started seeds in the greenhouse last Easter and an arctic blast killed all my seedlings two weeks later. An overnight frost is one thing but this was three days of below freezing temperatures at night and the daytime temperatures may have been in the mid 40s was too much for the seedlings. I'll wait until mid April to start anything even indoors.

This year, I'm trying something new. I built a soil block maker. For years, I've sworn by my biodegradable toilet and paper towel core pots as a way to start seeds, but I saw this idea on YouTube where they used PVC pipe to make them. But I thought of a better way. Each month I refill my prescription of Lovaza. It comes in either the big manufacture package as shown or, I imagine, the largest prescription bottle made. Since my pharmacist doesn't cap my prescription  in child proof caps, my request. The inner lid  fits snugly into the inside of the bottle. I was saving my prescription bottles for MAP International, who recycles these bottles to third world countries, I simply cut the narrowed end off with an Xacto knife and drilled a hole in the other end for a long bolt. Now making a hundred or so soil blocks would be tedious beyond belief, I made four of them and held them together with duct tape. To press all four bolts down at the same time, I simply attached all four bolts through a piece of 1x4. Voila! I can make four blocks at a time. They are 2" around by 2" high. Much bigger than  the cell seed starting trays shown above.

I'm not the first one to make this
As far as operating my new toy one handed, I put a row of hot glue near the plunger end of the bottles and cut a strips of burlap around them. That way I can hold the plunger down with my thumb and anchor the tubes with my little finger as I pull the contraption upwards to release the pots. I do plan on doing a video of this. Both the making of the soil block maker and using it. All it cost me, other than the original prescription, was $4.00 for four bolts and nuts. I had assorted washers in one of Mel's soup can holders in her shop. Duct tape, burlap, and hot glue gun and glue sticks, we had on hand also. What self respecting homesteader and/or crafter doesn't have these? I found bolts and nuts around the shop, but not all the same length that I needed. If I had had them, it would have been a free, totally recycle/repurpose project. So this soil block maker used up some of my chomping-a-the-bit waiting to plant time. But it was well worth it. I'll still recycle my toilet paper and paper towel cores, but for rabbit toys and fire starters. With only two people in a household, we don't go through paper products that fast. Plus, like many self reliant folks, we use cloth alternative more except for toilet paper.

Well, that's been my week. How has yours been?

As always,
Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Poor Little Chicken and Decision Time

This week our healing house chicken had a mishap. As if she didn't have enough problems.  Poor thing was dripping blood all over the floor. I called to Mel and while she held the hen, I checked where the blood was coming from and she cleaned off the blood. She cracked her beak on the concrete bricks by the wood stove...her favorite place to be. It was a clean, straight fracture about mid way up her beak. It wasn't cracked enough for the upper beak to come off unless struck again. We cleaned it with hydrogen peroxide and used Superglue to mend the break. We made her comfortable in her milk crate. After a few hours, she flew out of the crate and dipped her beak into her water bowl. She appears to be no worse for wear within a few days and her leg therapy continues.

We are now four weeks post predator attack with this chicken. In the coming week, we will have to make a decision on whether to cull her or continue as we are with her. A chicken as a domestic pet wasn't in either of our plans. Most homesteaders would have culled her by now, but we hesitate. Why? This is the same hen that went broody last year and hatched a chick. New Hampshire Red rarely become broody so she's an asset to our flock in future birds. The fact that she's done it once means she may do it again. She was a good mama hen too. This is her saving grace. Let's face it. If given a choice between incubating eggs and us being the mama hens, or having a hen do it as nature intended we choose the hen. None of our other hens went broody so we named this one Broody. There was some confusion in the beginning about whether this was Broody or the other short ragged crown hen, but putting her on the eggs provided the answer. Broody would tuck and reposition the eggs under her. At least she did until the eggs hurt her leg. Still she tried.

Next week, I'll try to put her out in the flock. She moves around well, but still is using her wing as a crutch. Of course we'll watch her. If she does all right during the day and isn't severely bullied, then we'll let her be. Or we might still bring her inside at night for a few days. She flies fairly well and puts herself to bed, in the milk crate, each night if we are busy doing other things. She seems to understand that her butt end is to be pointed at the towel to empty her bladder. But she is starting to wander about the breakfast room. She's not afraid of the dogs or cats, and they leave her alone. They will sniff her if she is making too much noise, as if to ask 'are you okay?' She'll peck at them and they'll leave her alone again.

If she doesn't do well outside with the flock, we have two choices left to us because she is an asset. One is build her a separate enclosed area to live which we had plans to do anyhow as a brooding/ brooder area, or two, we cull her and hope that another hen will become broody. I really wanted to see if she would raise the chicks in our incubator. So we might hold off on the culling. They are due to hatch this week. As much as I ranted about the darn, blasted, chicken on this blog. I'm actually pretty tenderhearted. It's the care giver in me. I can't stand to see an animal, either human or nonhuman, sick or in pain.

Well that's it for this week.
Y'all have a blessed day!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Nursing Animals Inside Continues

This week on the Cockeyed Homestead, we are still nursing hurt and sick animals.

The hurt hen is now in physical therapy. Twice to three times a day we are stretching her hurt leg and working on her claw. After a week and a half post attack, she needs to use it or lose it. I can't imagine being a chicken and not be able to scratch. Her feathers are growing back in and she even makes allowances for me picking her up one handed. She doesn't like the therapy, but I think she understands I'm trying to help her. She has actually tried to put her foot down when she tries to catch her balance. So there is hope that she will rejoin her flock. Although she's not in danger of dying now, she is getting too comfortable inside where it is always warm and dry. She has unlimited food and fresh water too. I'm afraid she will become another Cuddles, who also stayed inside while she was egg bound. Now, Cuddles wants to be one of the domestic pets. She will come inside at any opportunity like she owns the place.

The Jersey Woolie, Ebony, is still in the dog crate. Her shoulder has scabbed over and it isn't tender to the touch any more. What's she still doing inside? She's next in line to be sheared. What Mel is waiting on I have no idea. Oh wait. That's right. Mel is trapped in la-la-land writing her next novel. I guess I could finish grooming her to get her back in her outdoor cage. If worse comes to worse, if Mel doesn't finish her this week I will. I've done the rabbits in the rabbitry (the girls Daisy, Moira, and Early Gray). It's a level surface for me to get around. Dustin, grey angora, is outside and needs to be done, but I can't climb stairs while holding a rabbit so he's left to Mel.

The new casualty this week is Mel's special needs cat, Devon Angel. He's sick again with our warm, and then freezing weather. He's got a severe head cold. But as usual, it's in his lung now too. I can hear him gurgling when I listen to his chest so he's back on antibiotics. For the past two days, he's eaten nothing. He has even turned his nose up at tuna! He's still drinking lots of water though so I'm not truly worried yet. He lost quite a bit of weight over the summer and fall, 4 pounds of his ten pounds, so I imagine his immunities are low too. But then, Mel says he's always been sickly.

In case you are wondering what Devon Angel is lying on, it's a homemade incubator. It's on the table nearest the wood stove. The hurt chicken stopped setting on them forty-eight hours later. I think it hurt her injured leg. Best laid plans and all of that. Inside are four New Hampshire Red eggs. Kind of over kill with that huge tub, huh? It's a plastic, lidded tub with a towel inside, and sitting on a heating pad. Then we wrapped the whole thing in a blanket. Inside are the eggs, a candy thermometer, and a small stainless steel bowl of water. That's it. No special equipment. It's on the table nearest the wood stove. We manually turn the eggs twice a day. It stays 99-100 degrees inside. I have no idea what the humidity percentage is but we are having to add water to the 3 oz bowl every couple of days. It's not humid or hot enough to fog up my glasses so it's about right, I figure. Mel swears by this method over the standard incubator. She had a 100% hatch rate of fertile eggs last time. She had compared it to her incubator hatch rate of 25%. We haven't candled the eggs yet. With a ratio of four hens to one rooster, I figure the chances of these eggs being fertilized are pretty good. But we'll know for sure in about a week when we do candle them. We are hoping for a couple of new hens, but if we get roosters, we'll just grow them out and butcher them.

Why so small an amount of eggs? Well, we plan to get other chickens this year too. We just wanted to replace what the predator killed. We figured if two hatched and lived to adulthood, Whitie, the rooster could easily care for his girls. They would produce enough eggs for us and friends. We also want a back up rooster like we had before Dinner gave his life protecting the flock from the predator. It gave Whitie a chance to lead the other four hens to safety. But if all four eggs are viable and hatch, it's just gravy for the goose. No, we aren't raising geese too. Roosters and soon quail are enough noisy animals. What with our neighbor raising cattle, we got a regular barnyard cacophony surrounding us.

Well, I'm off to make my sour dough bread. Mel was surprised that she liked it better than plain, white bread. Until next time...
Y'all have a blessed day!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Starting Seeds and Preparing for Spring

This week on our homestead we planted English peas, carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic and leeks in the garden. Now our last frost date isn't until the end of April. In the greenhouse, I started my herbs, peppers and tomatoes. Am I nuts to think the cold won't kill them? Not really. I far too aware I'm farther north than my previous gardening experience.

Now I could have gone out and spent a small fortune on those seed pots but the Cockeyed Homestead is a shoe string operation. My seed starting pots are made out of toilet paper and paper towel rolls. If more are needed, there are plenty of free newspapers available. FYI (for your information) we also use toilet paper rolls stuffed with dryer lint and dipped in paraffin for fire starter in the wood stove, and also use them for rabbit treat toys. We recycle as much as we can. In fact, it takes us two months to fill three 32-gallon trash cans. Even my empty one liter bottles of tonic water are saved. But I digress.

For frost protection
It's almost the end of February. It will take a few weeks to grow the seeds big enough to transplant from the greenhouse.The plants outside can be covered with sheets to protect them from an overnight frost. Our daytime temperatures are in the 50s and 60s. We even hit the 70 this week. Or for really tender plants, my empty tonic water bottles protect them. We simply cut the bottoms off and place them over the plant in the afternoon before a frost. During the summer, a small hole is drilled into the top and they are inverted as a slow drip watering system for the plants. The water goes where it is needed most...the roots. As an alternative, I can replace the water with either worm, compost, or rabbit poo tea for a slow release fertilizer. If slower release is
For summer drip waterers
needed, a quick trip to my local dollar store for a supply of sponges. Two sponges pack will net twenty sponge inserts in the caps to slow the dispersal down. For a buck and some change for tax, it's a good deal.

Two liter bottles work better, but we don't buy two liter sodas opting for aluminum cans instead. Recycle centers actually pay you to recycle these. Everyone can use a few extra bucks back, right?

I take tonic water for the quinine to help with my nocturnal leg cramps. There is nothing like waking from a deep sleep by Charlie horses. Before the tonic water, I was awakened a couple times a night with these.

Planting, setting seeds, grooming angora and Jersey Woolies has dominated the week. Fifty English peas, ten pounds of russet and red potatoes, forty leeks, onions, and garlic cloves all in the ground. Ten bell peppers, cayenne, turmeric, ginger, ten types of lettuces and spinach, fifteen assorted herbs, and thirty tomato seeds are snug in their pots in the greenhouse just germinating and growing for spring.

How has your week been?

"Y'all have a blessed day."

Sunday, February 12, 2017

On the Homestead: When Predators Attack

It's been a disheartening week on the homestead this week. With the cold snap came the nocturnal predators. I awoke and started my outside feeding of our critters.  I noticed that only four hens out of six showed up and were closely followed by Whitie the rooster. Dinner, the other rooster, and the other two hens were no shows which were highly unusual. Well, I figured it was their loss and went on the tend to the rabbits.

I rounded the corner of the house and headed for the angora rabbitry building. I noticed a huge amount of feathers on the ground near where the chicken roost at night, then I knew the cause of these chickens absence. A predator had entered the chicken pen during the night. There were rooster feathers all over the place. I do  know Dinner had not gone peacefully, but had put up a fight. No bodies, not much blood, but loads of feathers littered the ground.

We are still not sure what predator got the hens and rooster. Needless to say, Whitie and the hens have abandoned their newly built coop and are back on the front porch for the time being. They are safer. We'll clean up the mess after we build a proper enclosed area for the chickens this spring.

A couple of days later, Mel was bringing in one of the Jersey Woolie, Ebony, to groom  and she noticed Whitie harassing a hen to walk to the other hens so he could protect them. The bird was obviously injured and hobbled on one leg with the other tucked tucked up under her. She was using her right wing as a crutch. Mel filled a milk crate with straw, placed the hen in it, and brought it inside. She now has a permanent spot by our wood stove.

After checking her out, we found no cause for her leg being drawn up. No obvious breaks or wounds. It might be muscular which time may heal. Her comb is a ragged mess and you can see where feathers have been stripped of their fluffy bits around her head. We figured she survived the attack and went into hiding under the house and hunger brought her out. For now, I'm calling her Gimpy. I know cruel, right? But it's true. Whether she survives or not is still up in the air. All we can do is hope. She just might be able to join Whitie and the other hens again.

Meanwhile, Mel cut a little too deeply while grooming Ebony. Rabbits have tissue paper fine skin. It resulted in a rather large cut on her shoulder. We are tending to it with an antibiotic ointment. She's been placed in the dog crate in the living room. She'll get the preferential treatment until she heals.

Mel was doing dishes and I was at my computer last evening when she looked around the corner of the short wall that divided us, We're running an animal house!"
Three of five cats were on the breakfast table because it's next to the wood stove, the border terrier, Herbie, was under my feet, and Nnyus, the pit bull, was lying on the kitchen floor. Plus the chicken by the wood stove, the rabbit in the living room, and two other cats lazing on the back of the couch. "We can move out and let them have it," she said.
I responded, "Sure we could, but none of their houses would fit us. We wouldn't be the Cockeyed Homestead, if things were normal, would we?"
We both had a good chuckle about that.

Amy on the left
Our Wwolfer, Amy, and her son were here last weekend. Mel showed her how to groom angora rabbits. I had him building a drop down nesting box out of wire for the new/old 30x36 rabbit cage. It was Colleen's, meat rabbit, previous home on my old homestead. I'm still waiting for his return next weekend to attach it to the cage itself. I got the idea from the Hillbilly Half Acre Homestead channel on YouTube. It seems like a more natural way to have litters for rabbits. In the wild, rabbits would have their babies in burrows. It would also free up floor space in Colleen's cage by not having a nesting box cramp her up. She's a big bunny. Once the babies are big enough to climb out of the drop down nest box, they can be weaned and placed in grow out cages within a couple of weeks.

I have been researching the raising of quail on our homestead. Now that the angoras have been moved to their official home, our angora rabbitry, we have empty cages outside. It would be another meat source for us. I was talking with Jason at the Big Bear Homestead, and he raises Cortunix quails. He has offered to hatch half a dozen for us in the spring. They are easy to butcher, clean and are delicious! So stay tuned to our YouTube channel for further updates on this.

I kinda like this one with additions
I could get hatching eggs but the plan is to get some Buff Orpington chicks in the spring. They are a broody bird so hopefully we can hatch out more birds. We will also be incubating some of our own New Hampshire Red eggs. We're both sold on this breed. I wouldn't mind getting some Americauna, Easter eggers, chickens also. Yes we are branching out in our chicken and egg production. Since Mel has the certification to sell eggs, why not take a stab at the market. They will be semi free range eggs and definitely organic once I start sprouting their feed in the spring. Only semi free range because I want to have a productive garden this year. I plan on housing the different breeds in chicken tractors. They are mobile and can be moved daily if necessary even close to the garden. I figure all it would take is one 4x8 piece of plywood, some 2x4x8s, chicken wire, and some screws. Maybe a couple of latches, a tarp, and a tow rope. We've got enough paint leftover from other jobs to paint them for weather proofing. We could even stick rabbits and quail in them too. I figure under $50 each.

Anyhow that's my plan. Mel may have other ideas. That's it for this week. As always,
"Y'all have a blessed day."