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, January 15, 2017

Homesteading Honesty

Happy Birthday Mel!!!! Yes, today is her birthday.

We approach, mentally and emotionally, with the reality of what is on the homestead. Although we are not off the grid, we are trying to get there or live as self reliant as possible. Honestly, we may never truly be off grid. We love our tech stuff like cell phones, video cameras, and computers too much. Modern convenience like an electric well pump which allows for running water inside the house is a no brainer for us also. We use our modern washing machine/dryer. We have no problem running the dishwasher for sterilizing canning jars.  And the microwave for those quick meals. It's not that we can't live without these things. We have and can do it again.

We don't buy into the romanticized versions of homesteading either. We know it takes lots of hard work.

Some misconceptions in response to "It's a simpler life."
It's a simplistic or simplified life because you are doing it all with less. You are thinking outside the box more to repurpose and reuse instead of going out and buying what you need or want. You are mostly thumbing your nose at commercialism and the instant gratification that the world has become. Not that we are totally against instance gratification. We are harkening back to a time when saving for large cash items was the normal. There isn't the same satisfaction owning something you charge on a card as something you scrimped and saved for.

Sure, we could go out and purchase everything we need or want for this homestead spending thousands of dollars on it too. I see quite a few homestead start ups that do that very thing. Would we like to have everything spanking new? Yeah! Wouldn't every one. Well I did title this "Homesteading Honesty" so that's not entirely true. Think about a baseball mitt for a second. Brand, spanking new isn't the greatest mitt you can own. It hasn't been broken in yet. It will take time and work to make it a great mitt. Now, take a look at homesteading tools. A brand new scythe. Has a smooth finished wood and a shiny blade. You can ooh and ahh over it because its pretty. Compare the same scythe that farmer Brown used to cut hay with for a decade. It ain't pretty but it slices through the gay like a hot knife through butter. Why? Because the handle is worn down to exactly where it needs to be. Repeated sharpening has made the edge sharp where it needs to be. There is no awkward breaking in period.

The building is actually level
Yes, we purchased a  ready built shed for our angora rabbitry. But it was a repoed model so it was wired and almost fully insulated saving us several hundred dollars in the conversion.  We couldn't gave built it for cheaper. It allowed us to spend the savings on the rabbit poop disposal system.

We had talked about purchasing another building for the chicken coop. We hemmed hawed around in discussion. We always do the pros and the cons of every purchase. A gift  from a neighbor of free pallets and a YouTube subscriber (now our Wwoofer/helper) made the new chicken run and coop area a reality for cheep cheep cheep. While it is still not complete, it's usable. The chickens have been turned loose into our garden area and new areas to scratch it up for spring planting. Meanwhile, I've been planning the garden and new orchard. I plan on buying 6' fencing before spring but I haven't decided whether to use it for the chicken run or the garden. I'm leaning more towards the garden area. I've got an idea the chickens will get out of any area we put them in unless it's electrified. I've has an aversion to electric fence since I was 5 years old and gotten shocked by one. Although I've been intrigued by the likes of Justin Rhodes and The Grass fed homestead and their mobile pastures.

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

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Winter Doldrums Feeling Stress

This is a fairly new thing to me. The winter doldrums, for me, have set in and it's not even February yet. It's truly making me irritable! Down in the more southern regions where I used to live, winter was wet and freezing for several weeks out of the season. A handy covering of extra sheets were enough to handle the frosty overnight and early morning temperatures for the most part. My plants were rarely damaged. These frosts are deadly here. Everything on the greenhouse that we planted is dead. But the rosemary, spearmint, and raspberry are doing well. At least one raspberry bush is. The one that was trying to make a comeback after the dog fight this summer died back to the roots. It may be salvageable in the Spring if I can keep the roots healthy through winter. The only thing still living in the greenhouse is the English peas. But something is nibbling the green leaves. I can check it in the morning and find an entire plant reduced to a main stem. Mel seems to think it's rats. I'm not seeing any signs of insects so she may be right, but I'm not seeing any rat signs either.

Our plans to breed the meat rabbits and house them in the greenhouse is on hold until our wwoofer can help build the hanging rabbit cages. She and her teenage son should be here sometime this week. She's been off doing holiday stuff with friends and family for over a month. It will be a welcome relief and some company. Man oh man, I'm glad the holidays are over. Maybe with some positive, forward action around the homestead it will help my mood.

Mel's got another new project in the works so it kind of leaves me in a lurch. There's no sense in video taping because the unedited footage cannot be uploaded. The video editing software is on Mel's laptop currently in use for her new project. She doesn't frequent the online live streams because of her project also. Mel's ADHD and depression is working overtime because of the gray days of winter. Me, I'm just stir crazy.

My usual winter activities of spinning and knitting hold no interest for me. I'm feeling my body run down. I'm busy tending to animals, with frozen or broken water bottles, breaking up layers of ice on the various 5-gallon water pails around the houses, gathering buckets of kindling, to keep the house 78 degrees like Mel likes it, and tending the wood stove, making sure all the rabbits have hay and food keeps me hopping.  The automatic chicken and rabbit waterers that I purchased to make this chore easier is left by the wayside. Forget about grooming the rabbits. I'm just too pooped just trying to keep up with this list!

A lot of projects Mel wanted to do like replacing and burying the water pipe deeper from the well to the house so it won't freeze. All that pipe and connectors sits in the barn while the water pipes freeze until noon or so. First the ground was too dry and hard due to the drought. I can honestly understand this. Now, it's too wet and spongy to get anything done. Huh? Hello?

This really sounds like a griping session doesn't it? But to me, I wasted my limited financial resources. Yeah, I know it will be eventually done when Mel gets around to it. Everything is half done which drives me nuts! Like I said her depression and ADHD is working overtime. Not that I'm a stranger to either of these health issues. I've had decades of practice with my youngest daughter. We are suffering through some growing pains or getting to know you right now. The close confinement and Mel not working. During the spring, summer and fall the issues were minor. We were just too busy. I'll have to plan better for next winter to keep her on task until completion, but it's harder with an adult who is used to having her own way.

The way I see it there are quite a few options. We'll either kill each other over the winter. Fight and bicker through the winter (neat trick when neither of us like conflict). Decide for sanity's sake to stay in separate corners. We can decide to go our separate ways in the spring. I won't feel bad about leaving because my almost $10K investment mostly stays here. I would have done all that I could do given the situation. Or, we can decide that three months out of a year isn't too bad and find a workable solution for next year. I don't call anything quits unless the pain is greater than I can bear...always leading to more health issues. I may be a martyr, but I do have my limits. I will only give up when there is no other choice. Now Mel is the opposite. It should be interesting.

Y'all gave a blessed week.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy 2017 Y'all!

Happy New Year y'all from the Cockeyed Homestead. This is year two of the new homestead and we've got big plans coming up.

We will be enlarging the garden. Our goal is 25% of our food stock needs. Planting areas include a flax, wheat, and corn plots. These will be a whole new 10x10 planting beds. They will be testing plots to check out varieties and yields. We are starting this small on purpose. We will also be planting our orchard this year. I've researched apples, pears, pecans, peach, blackberry and raspberry brambles, and oak trees since last Spring. I hesitated actually buying the trees and bushes on purpose. But 2017, is the year to grow the orchard. We've spent this winter laying the groundwork for the new organic orchard and test plots.

The garden will take on a whole new layout. This will be the permanent place in front yard. We figure this amount of area will suffice for now. The plan is to clear a few trees this year so we gain a pasture area for our heritage breed chicken project for 2017. Our plan is to have separate areas for different breeds to do a contained/ free range set up. They will help hold down the insect population is the various garden plot areas too. Our goal is to add a dozen chickens of various dual purpose breeds quarterly. They will be butchered on demand meeting our food needs while expanding their flocks size. We will be selling off the excess chicks to fund this project. It also means focusing on a couple of broody breeds to start with. Next year we'll research selling butchered chickens for added profits.

Mel and Moira
The angora rabbitry is complete finally. the long/short range plans included the purchase of new does every year. The search is on for the newest does. We calculated having twenty English angoras by 2020 in breeding and wool production.

Daisy and Moira are old enough to be bred to Dustin. This will be the first generation of our pedigree line of English angora rabbits. We figure to breed them in the Spring. The first batch of meat rabbits will be ready for harvesting about the same time. Tummy yummies rabbit stews and roasts for dinner. This will be the second leg of being more self sufficient in a protein source. We'll also be planting drying beans and peas for additional proteins.

This new year will also see the addition of tiny houses on the property. Yes, they will take time to complete, but we are building a pay as we go set up with no additional debt. The plan is for two of them in 2017, but it may be just one. When the first one of us moves into their tiny house we will also be remodeling the double wide trailer into the community building. The first thing to go is the wall dividing the living room and the office. The next thing is all of the wall to wall carpeting removal. Carpeting is yucky stuff. New plywood flooring will replace it.You'll just have to wait for the video to see what we have planned. It's going to be awesome! We may get the kitchen enlargement done also in 2017 too, but it all depends on finances and time.

We are still on track in our five year plan. So how are y'all doing?

Y'all gave a blessed day. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

... From our homestead to yours.

Although we haven't decked the hall,
We haven't put up or cut a tree,
We haven't hung a single light,
We haven't made or bought the first present,
nor have we sung the first carol.

We hold the birth of Christ within our hearts
Always thankful for the sacrifice made.
A gift so precious more than jewels or gold
Remembering the day of salvation's grace enabled,
Rejoicing the promise fulfilled for life everlasting. 

Merry Christmas to all believers or not. Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Old Man Winter on the Homestead

Even though winter doesn't official begin until December 21st, it sure doesn't feel like it to me with my way southern roots. It's down in the 20s at night. The daytime temperatures aren't too bad fluctuating between highs in the 40s to 50s. No snow, but every morning I have to crunch through the frost and break the ice barriers which form on the waterers, and tend to our rabbits and chickens. The song about Jack Frost nipping at your nose (Merry Christmas to You or the Christmas Song) rings true. But even still, my thick cardigan keeps my body warm enough... I do wear a glove on my left hand most mornings.

(Just griping here) My right hand is snuggled in my sweater sleeve.  Since it doesn't move, this works great, but have you ever tried buying one glove? It almost seems wasteful to buy a pair when only one will be used.   Plus, having a small hand, I often unable to find small sized gloves. I wear the pig leather work gloves almost exclusively now. They are flexible for fine work and sturdy enough for the tough stuff. And of course, there is a definite left and right hand. Unlike the tube socks I wear over my old lady compression socks. Gloves, or should I say a glove, are fun to put one handed.

The advantages of dropping almost 40+ lbs since I've been here, all my last winter's clothes are too big. Larger sized clothes have several advantages living post stroke, #1 they're easier to get off and on, or up and down as the case may be; and #2 I can layer dress for warmth easily. I was taught how to dress in layers at a very young age living in Nebraska. Wearing one of my summer time tank tops under T-shirts hold my body heat against my body where it's needed, or a combination under a flannel shirt enables me to stay out on the porch stacking firewood or tending to the animals without bulkier outer garments. I know the time for these are coming soon. After all, winter is still a few days away.

That brings me to Christmas ...fast approaching. I've definitely got a "Bah Humbug" attitude towards this holiday and have for several years. It's not a religious reason of it not being Christ's actual birth, nor the date was picked because of paganism. Even though over the decades, I've tried to keep the true meaning of Christmas alive (not what you buy vs what you give from the heart) the joy has slowly ebbed away especially this year. I won't be going home for Christmas, instead I'm opting to stay on the homestead partially because of our financial situation and the other part is not wanting to infect others with the "Bah Humbugs." Let me stress that this is not depression. I'm thinking of me also. The drive home is almost 6 hours one way. I was just home for Thanksgiving. At my advancing age and health issues, the trip is hard on my body. The threat of my Triple A still hangs like a sword over my head. Not that I'm seriously worried about it. Also each trip takes longer to recover from. Next year, I'll do it in reverse...maybe. It's hard planning some things in advance.

But all that being said, I feel blessed in our little hollow. Money is tight but what's truly new with that? Our bills are being met that's the important part. We are warm, safe, and comfortable. Our wants won't kill us. The needs are taken care of. God is good and faithful to us lowly children. I'm excited about our future plans.

As always ... Y'all have a blessed week.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

What Mornings Look Like (Winter Mode)

I'm an early riser. I awake before the chickens by at least an hour or two. I spend my first thirty minutes, before my feet hit the floor, in prayer. It's an uplifting way to start my day on the right foot. My cat, Little Bit, demands some one on one time. Then I'll don my socks, leg brace, pants, and shoes in preparation of actually getting up. I'll grab a sweatshirt from the drawer because I know the night fire in the wood stove has gone out. In the predawn darkness, I'll make my way into the dining room after a pit stop to the bathroom. And so begins every morning.

Once halfway in the dining room I'll ask, "Where's my puppy?" Herbie will sleepily come to me for his first morning head rub. I'll wake into the kitchen and fill the electric kettle with water and then make myself a cup of Earl Grey tea. Some people make coffee, but that acrid liquid hits my stomach and comes right back up. Nobody likes to start the day that way. I'll take my cuppa tea to my desktop to read my emails and watch some YouTube to see what the homesteaders I follow and touch bases with them. I usually will start writing this blog and my other one. (this takes me many hours to complete) I may or may not put on my sweater because the inside thermometer on my desk is registering the temp this morning at 64 inside while outside is a blustering 42. Warm enough for my sweatshirt and keep the chill at bay.

I'll clean the wood stove and empty the ashes from the overnight burn into the outside pile. Since we only use hard woods in our stove they'll be great for the garden later. They are still some hot embers in this right now so shoveling this into the compost pile is not a good idea. I'll put the pan back under the wood stove and set up the fire for later. Mel will want it warmer in the house when she wakes up. But it will a couple of hour before that happens. I'll be fine with all the morning activities. Besides, I have enough body fat to keep two people warm and insulated.

Can you smell it?
Every Wednesday and Saturday, I'll bake the bread we need on the homestead, convert a loaf of bread into french toast, make Mel's crepes (what she calls pancakes), cinnamon rolls, or crumpets. At least get the crumpets, rolls, or/and bread mixed and rising. I may also make hamburger and hot dog buns depending on the week's menu.

Of course, making bread on our homestead takes some preplanning. Two days before, I'll soak the whole wheat kernels overnight. The following day, I'll rinse it and spread it out on a baking sheet to dry by the wood stove. The next day, It will be ground into flour for whatever I'm baking. It will take about three passes through our manual grain mill to get it as fine as I like it. Yeah, I know I can go to the store and buy my flour, but have you seen what's in that?! Is it GMO? Is it organic? What kind of pesticide or insect droppings or particles may be in it? YUCK!

Devon in his healthier days
Next comes the feeding the inside animals. Assorted dogs, get fed half their daily rations per weight. We feed them twice a day. The cats normally have free choice of their dry cat kibble throughout the day except for Devon Angel. This male gets two tablespoons of wet cat food twice to three times a day. He is Mel's special needs cat and is mentally retarded. The reason for feeding him wet rations is simple. All his teeth have rotted in his mouth. He can't chew the dry cat food. He tries but he lost so much weight over the summer, we thought we would lose him. He was literally skin over bones before I started him on wet food with goat's milk supplements. After three months feeding him this way, we can no longer feel his ribs and hip bones under his skin. He's back to his semi healthy state enough to play in the fallen leaves.

After the dogs have eaten and I make sure the other cats haven't nudged Devon away from his food, it's time to take care of the outside animals. First stop is the chicken pen. Not that the chickens are in there. They hear me coming down the covered porch steps and greet me from under the porch. Once the sun rises, they fly out of the coop and run area. They follow me back into their pen for their snack. I usually have leftover bread, leftovers, or stale crackers handy. I'll scatter these and their pellets rations around their run area for them. We do have a chicken feeder, but this week has rained too much to use it. We still haven't tarped around the coop or finished the roof yet. So I really blame the chickens for not staying their coop.

Next come the rabbits. Since we have J feeders in the rabbitry, I only have to fill them every couple of days. I'll go into the rabbitry to pet and talk to each one of them every morning. Mel is charge of their watering them. I do the morning feeding and check up and she does the evening. We split the chores evenly.  The outside rabbits are last. I'll repeat the process all over again.

I'll gather the eggs. Since we are in winter mode and it's early morning, there's only about two or three eggs. They easily slip into my pocket. Now, I've gone almost full circle around the outside of the house. I climb up onto the front porch, pick up a couple of pieces of fire wood and place them on the small table outside the front door. I'll repeat this procedure until I have six or eight pieces stacked on the table. I'll go inside carrying two pieces. I'll drop them next to the wood stove. Then I'll take the eggs out of my pocket and put them in the refrigerator. I'll light off the wood stove, fill the canner pot with water, fill the pet water dish, and bring in the other wood I stacked on the table. By this time, the wood stove is ready to be loaded with more wood. Within half an hour the house is a toasty 76 degrees.

I'll set up Mel's morning tea things. She loves Yorkshire tea with cream and sugar. Ill pour myself another cuppa tea and make myself some oatmeal. I'll stack about ten pieces of firewood by the door for the next time. Between 9 and 10 Mel will wake up. Her tea will be steeping and she can sit in front of her laptop and wake up. I'll fix her breakfast and put the bread in the oven. I'll plan what cooking videos I want to film. Hmm, this week I've got to do the promised dog treat/training biscuits and my caramel apple gingerbread cake. Tis the season and all that. Some time soon, we've got to do a "Tea Time" video. We haven't done one since October. Time flies when you are running around like a chicken with your head cut off preparing for freezes. A list of prospective video topics will take take us into February next year doing my segments once a week and then it will be planting season again. Or, at least seed starting season. Our first hard freeze of the year was this Friday. The high was 32 degrees not counting the cold, arctic wind that came with it. It's been quite a few years since I've endured temperatures that low for more than a day or two. That's just winter here. Still not as bad as the winters I lived through in New York, Nebraska, Michigan, or other places up way north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Mel told me to hay the outside rabbits preparing for the freezing. Being the smart butt that I am, I went to each cage waving like a crazy person and yelled "Hey!" to them. Once she came around and saw me with a quizzical look on her face, I stopped and put the required hay in their cages. My Buddy immediately started eating it as did most of the bunnies. I had to repeat the process several times to ensure they'd have enough to burrow in to keep warm. For the really hard freezes we tack up tarps to block the wind.

So how has your week been? Y'all have a blessed week.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Things that Make Me Go ARGHHH!!!

Everyone has them. I'm not immuned to "ARGH!" moment, but the past couple weeks there have been almost daily events.

ARGH! #1
 I tried something new with this blog. I tried to link this blog to our website. Instead it redirected to our google + page. So I believe all my previous posts are there. So if you were trying to find it...it's there, I think. I also think I've got it all back to normal to appear here now. We'll see when this publishes.

ARGH! #2
Before I left my previous cardiologist, she had performed all of the necessary information gathering for my new cardiologist except for an ultrasound of my legs to check for PAD (peripheral artery disease). So I had one done once I got established with my new cardiologist. The results were troubling. Coupled with severe leg cramps several times a night and pain, I agreed to another heart cath and angio of my legs. If there was significant blockages, stenting would be performed or I'd be sent to a vascular surgeon to have it corrected.

At this point I should mention, I had a coronary artery disease and a heart attack before age 50. I also have a very bad family history in heart disease from both parents. The heart attack damaged two valve in my heart and with time (10 years) the stress on my heart has damaged a third of four total valves. I'm heart broken which limits me even greater than my strokes. Oh, and my strokes were from blood clots forming in my heart which went to my brain. All my doctors agree that I'm a very sick woman, but that's only their opinion.

Angio of triple A like mine
Okay so I go through all of these tests, after waking Mel at 4 AM to take me, and the results...the cramping is NOT a blood supply problem. So now I'm still having leg cramping and pain from some mysterious, unknown cause. So this test didn't do anything. Surprisingly, what the angio did show was an Abdominal Aortic Aneursym (Triple A). It's still small so it bears watching although it could rupture and kill me. My thoughts on the matter, everything else is trying to kill me, why not this too? But hey I'm still here in spite of everything.

Don't think I'm taking this lightly. I'm not. This is serious. It has less than a 10% survival rate if it ruptures. It will be taken care of. It should be as easy as a stent placement with only a day in the hospital.

We built the new coop and run for the chickens. The chickens have flown the coop literally! It took less than two hours for the main rooster, Whitie, to figure out he could fly over the 4' fence safely and show the others how it was done. They were back to roosting on our front porch.

I got irritated with it all. I swiped them off with my cane. They just waited a few minutes and were right back again. I grabbed a sleeve of stale crackers and led them back to their new roosting spot inside the fence. A couple of them decided to fly the coop again. My trusty cane had a workout until they decided to see it my way. I had to do this for a few days before it became a habit for them. Now they at least roost in the new chicken area instead of our porch. I take victories when I can because once daylight shines they are back free ranging everywhere. They still lay eggs in Mel's tool box and behind the front storm door, so I can at least gather eggs. The egg laying bins need to be built. The hens like their privacy and security. Then I'll have to train them to the new set up.

We finally got a good drenching rain!! It's been a long, dry summer and fall. We actually had puddles on the property that weren't from a busted water pipe! They lasted for two days before they dried up/soaked in. Of course, it would storm the day we had to drive at 5 AM to the hospital for my procedure. But we were thankful anyhow. It's supposed to rain today according to the forecast, we'll see. It gave us a reprieve of sorts.

As far as our water conservation techniques go, it looked something like this.
  • Early AM, while the well had overnight for the spring to refill, I'd draw five gallons of water.  
1 for the household animals
2 for the canning pot on the wood stove
1 gallon for cooking
1 gallons for outside animals (rabbits and chickens)
  • Early afternoon

6 gallons for washing clothes (1 load by machine)

  • Early evening
2 gallons for iced tea
Mel's 5 minute shower and my sponge bath.
  • Late evening
2 gallons for the wood stove
3 gallons to run the dish washer.
1 gallon for incidents or in case the well goes dry overnight so we can at least have tea in the morning. Hot tea is our coffee in the morning.

Hope all is going well with you. Y'all have a blessed day.