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, August 28, 2016

Rabbitry Revamp Part 1

This week's blog I'm copying from my stroke blog, but it goes along with what's going on with the rabbitry. It shows how I make the decisions I make and my accomplishments in spite of my stroke. It takes me six hours to write one blog post and I write two of them a week. It's a far cry from what I used to write. I could write a 50,000-word novel in a couple of weeks. Not anymore, but even with scrambled eggs for brains, I still manage. My stroke/author blog is republished (with permission) by stroke recovery groups and organizations world wide for the past four years. It averages out to 50K hits a month. Enjoy!
Copied from: "Sunday Stroke Survival: Relearning Something New" published 8/21/2016 by J.L. Murphey

As time goes on living post stroke, as survivors, we are constantly relearning something to stretch the envelop of our boundaries. Life is not lived in a stagnant vacuum. Unless you want it to be.

Initially, you relearn the basic stuff (walking, talking, bathroom) because it's well basic stuff that allows you to be an adult again and have some moderate control in your life. Having control is powerful. But relearning is tough and that's an understatement. It will make you angry, frustrated, and feel like quitting. But the alternative is worse for your sense of self worth and self image.

I guess that's my real blessings in my post stroke recovery process, my stubbornness and pushing the envelop have always been my blessing/curse. I believe in living an EXTRAordinary life in spite of what life dishes out. I pray for the same for you. I am also well versed in thinking outside the box as any good writer is. All my life experiences, although very challenging, has stood me well.

This week's challenges had to do with the new angora rabbitry building. While I could just leave it with plain, paper backed insulation, I wanted walls. Not only walls, but waterproof walls that I could spray cleaned when the bucks decided to mark their territory. Even with apple cider vinegar in their water, rabbit urine stinks...think aged, but diluted cat urine.

Mel and I went to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore last weekend and happened upon plastic, florescent light covers.The ReStore is always our first stop in searching for anything. The proceeds go to a good cause and what I really love is that it's cheaper. Both Mel and I saw these two CASES of light covers (50 2x4 panels) and you could see the light bulb blinking over our heads...waterproof walls!

We also got a kitchen sink and counter tops for the butchering station and a work surface inside the rabbitry. We also got a few odds and ends for the homestead. I walked away with everything for under $75. Keep in mind that these light panel covers sell in the regular large box stores for $175 for 20, I got 50 of them for $45. I think we did pretty well in the "get it cheaper" department. Heck, one of boxes was still in a sealed. The other one was opened so you could see what was inside.

The light panels are fine they way they are. But it wouldn't be me if I left them plain. I noticed while on side was textured the other side and was smooth. Yes, very easy clean up with the smooth surface out. But, I couldn't leave well enough alone, could I? Being this EXTRAordinary person and all. Remember, I once laid an intricate a mosaic patterned floor in my storeroom in my other house. We needed color in our rabbitry especially since we would be spending greater than a few hours grooming our angora rabbits in there. People often discount the value of color in the work space. Be assured, I never do.

So how do I break up the frosted, whitish clear light panels to add color? I knew this would be a challenge being left with only my left damaged hand to work with. What could I do that didn't involve fine motor skills. In the old days, I would have painted murals on the walls and ceilings tiles. I just don't have that kind of dexterity in my left hand. It still had to be waterproof too. I could just glue the panels up and then roller paint the whole thing, but then choosing one or two paint colors that we both liked was problematic.  Besides, it's boring!

Then I remembered stencils. You didn't have to be exact with that. I could just pounce color on. If I used acrylic paints, it would be waterproof. But what design? There's as many stencil designs as one could imagine. I fell into creative mode and it really felt great!

As usual, I brain stormed the issue. Our homestead is cockeyed. That's why we call it the Cockeyed Homestead. Both of us are constantly thinking outside the box.
We are...
1.  Quirky to the point of whimsical.
2. It is a rabbitry not our living area.
3. Simple is better if I'm doing it, and neither of us is into elaborate, extremely elegant.
4. Colorful, but not distractingly so.
5. It needs to show up well on videos.

What do you think?
Well, I Googled images for inspiration. I ran across an appliqued quilt pattern that fit the bill. It will be perfect for the rabbitry. It's an easy design and I can make the bunnies different colors while the hearts stay red and the inside of the ears can be a lighter shade of the bunny. The inside of the ear is the tear drop shape you see in the picture. I printed out the picture making it standard paper size and transferred it onto cardboard. Yes, I know they make plain stencil sheets, but I have an abundance of cardboard since the move up here and it's free. Hello! Nothing is cheaper than free. I had Mel cut them out because I still don't do well with curvy cuts with scissors or in this case an Xacto knife.

From a coloring book
To fill in some of the blank spaces I use 3" carrots and lettuce. It's just another pop of color. I positioned the rabbits (3 to a panel) sort of straight. I'm cockeyed in more ways than one. I turned the carrots this way and that in the blank spaces. Not so many that the panel appeared too busy. She asked why I was stenciling the panels behind the cages too because nobody will see it. "Doh! So the rabbits have something to look at. LOL!"

I'm just having fun relearning how to paint again. Although I never used stencils much (I preferred free handing it) before my strokes, I'm enjoying the creative aspects of this now. Just like using a loom to knit. Living post stroke is all about adapting to the changes of circumstances and doing. By choosing acrylic paints, soap and water removes all my mistakes before the paints dry. All I needed was a basic primary (8 colors) set of paints. Although I did buy a larger white and black paint to blend with. I outlined the designs with black Sharpie to make them pop. Oh all right, I had Mel do it because she has a steadier hand. But to see the finished product, you'll just have to watch the video which should be posted next week over on the Cockeyed Homestead YouTube channel.


Nothing is impossible.

Well that's it for this week. I hope you don't hold it against me that I copied my other blog here. I honestly started an original blog for this week but realized most of what I was going to say was a rehash of my stroke/author blog. I may do it again periodically so be warned.

As always like, subscribe, share, and comment.

Be blessed.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Change of Plans Again- Rabbitry/Chickens

Well, you know Murphy's Law? Well, I'm a Murphey by marriage. The added "e" in the last name just makes the law extraordinary in both the occurrence both good and bad.

Well, a last month I talked about buying the new rabbitry/chicken area. I also talked about awaiting pennies from heaven from Social Security. We even mentioned it again on our July Tea Time.

 Things that make me go "GRRR!" I wrote this whole blog and even edited it and when I opened it back up later only the above had saved! "E" for extraordinarily bad. So I begin again.

I might mention here that when we talk about something this much, we are stressing about it. The thing is that each of us were stressing in our own ways, but it was bad. We were sweating the full payment when they delivered the rabbitry/ chicken coop. Each day, I'd pull up my bank account and find no Social Security check and start the day off bad. Normally, I do not stress this type of stuff. I write it down and shove it into my GITG (Give it to God) box. But, I was still "playing" with this worry.

I finally went to see Bobby at the shed place. He greeted me with a "Hello!" and followed it up with, "We've got a problem and it's my fault." This is never a good thing. I followed him into the office with an overwhelming sense of dread.

8x12 Sort of like this
There was an addition error ( or multiplication ) made in the final cost of the building we ordered to the tune of $800 that we would owe in addition to the other. My first inclination was to cancel the order. But Mel and I had a partnership where we discuss almost everything concerning the homestead so I knew I had to talk to her first. We had yo have a building for the angoras. After losing two last month, we couldn't afford any more losses. We're talking about future profits here. I told this all to Bobby and asked if he had any solutions. "Well, I do have a repo. It's smaller, but it is wired, and insulated. I can let it go for $1,550."

Now I don't know about you, but when I hear "repo" it can mean several things. 1) shoddily built and surrendered, 2) owner had trouble paying for it, or 3) the previous owner trashed it. Yes, I've had more bad experiences than good in this area. We'd had some pretty bad thunderstorms over the past week so I felt sure that if it was poorly built or the previous owner had trashed the building, the evidence would show. We walked across the "showroom" yard to the building.

Bobby explained to me that the previous owners has cut some openings in the original building. The first thing I saw was a small pet door in the front door. Perfect for the cats to enter the rabbitry while we are in there. The front door also had a quarter panel cut into it that was screened giving an appearance of a Dutch door. Perfect for ventilation when it got cooler for the rabbits. There was also a 16"x16" screened door cut into the side. Bobby thought it was a perfect place for the air conditioner. It's not, but that's besides the point. But true to his words, there was R-13 batts of insulation between the studs all around the building. No framed window through. Two outlets in either on long sides and a light bulb fixture in the ceiling. The fact that the gamble roof started at four foot high would mean reconfiguring the cage set up and the building being smaller meant it could house less rabbits with a work station. But it was doable. There was also a four-inch square drain hole in one corner of the floor. I told Bobby I'd have to talk to Mel. Even though it was my money, it's our homestead. To sweeten the deal, he offered a payment plan of $71 a month. It would lift the financial burden off of us greatly.

Jenn and her boys
Down in Brunswick, my 6-month pregnant youngest daughter, Jenn with beloved in tow, was overseeing the clean up and out of my property there. She now has the house almost ready to be listed. God bless her.

I might have mentioned here that an oak tree fell (Murphey's Law extraordinarily bad) on my pool 14x25 house during a storm there. My homeowner's insurance would not pay for it. Instead they canceled my insurance because I wasn't living there full time anymore! It was part of the reason for Mel and my last trip there. But, we would have had to makes several trips there to accomplish what she did within a week by corralling old friends. The building has been demolished and removed, but she did manage to save one of the double pane 3x3 windows knowing I needed it. It will fit in the rabbitry very nicely. All the old carpet has been removed and while I've thought for all these years that nothing but the concrete slab was under them, lo and behold, beautiful wood tile flooring was underneath. I only have to replace the flooring in one 8x12 room. All it cost me for this labor and hard work was $65 for a pizza and beer party, and the pool table with stained glass light. I was going to give it away anyhow. Oh, and these friends of hers also provided the dumpster to haul away the trash. Not only is this child of mine an extraordinary pastry chef, she's got too many talents to mention. I can't sing her praises enough.

Anyhow, Mel agreed with me that $800 error was too much. We needed to cancel the order. We went to see the repo building. She agreed that it was better than nothing. We could work with it. By buying the building and carport separately, it would cost more up front, but it would save us money too. With the purchase of the previous set up, we'd have to put in a floor, wire it, and insulate the building. We calculated almost $2,000. The overage of buying the pieces separately amounts to $700.

We went in last Saturday to sign the paperwork on the rabbitry. We started pricing water proof walls to cover the insulation in the building. We couldn't do it for less than $400. Yep, we were counting pennies again. The hole in the floor was perfect for a poo drainage system Mel designed. We'd need PVC pipe for that and PVC panels for that. New cage wire because we wanted the outdoor set up exclusively for meat rabbit production. Mel said she HAD to show me the ReStore in Clarkesville. It was huge! It was honestly half the size of my old one. But we went, saw, and conquered. We both saw these light panels and went "Ah ha!" Just wait until you see what we do with them. We also picked up a kitchen sink and counter top for the butchering station and the work station inside the rabbitry. All in all, instead of costing us a couple hundred dollars it cost me $75. Stay tuned a video is coming.

At long last on Monday, the wayward check arrived in my account. Only three weeks late, but Hallelujah! I'm surprised I didn't wake Mel up with my loud "Thank you, Jesus!" and me jumping up and down doing the Snoopy dance of happiness. I went back to Bobby and said we needed to renegotiate our deal. His response was, "What? Already?" We went inside and paid him in full for the building. Then I went to Walmart to wire Jenn some money. She had offered to drive a Uhaul with all the things I wanted out of the house up here. Actually, her beloved offered. So he's coming Friday to take the strain off Mel. Wasn't I singing this child's praises above? It goes double now. He'll also be bring my two oldest grandsons to help with the heavy lifting. It is also on their way back home to their homestead.

Hmm, I think I'll go back into town to see Bobby again tomorrow. This time to order the carport. Think he'll welcome me with open arms seeing me this quick again? Just wait until I order our tiny houses when my house sells. We'll make his week.

While life on the homestead was fraught and stressed a week ago, it's better now. Maybe it's a good thing Blogger ate my previous written blog. When God closes a door, He always opens a window.

Be blessed.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Garden and Downsizing-Ugh!

This week on the homestead is all about the garden and I think the garden is officially done except for the tomatoes, and maybe potatoes and sweet potatoes. It's not from harvesting it. So I know this you may wonder. It's those darn, blasted chicken yet again. This time five of them wiggled their way under the gate and had a feast. Now to figure this out and actually do this seems smart and desperate of them. You would think we didn't feed them at all. I know we do because I buy the layer pellets each month. They have more than enough bugs, grubs, scraps, and assorted greenery to eat as well.

They have scratched up my zucchini plant which was still producing. The green stems of the potato and green bean plants have been like wised decimated. Every ripening tomato that was lower than three foot has had chunks pecked out of it. I'm so disgusted with the garden I haven't been in it for days. That's not like me at all. I am thankful that all my winter squash is above five foot. They haven't been able to reach them. Yet! Given enough time, they'd figure it out I have no doubt.

I'm planning out my late season crops garden as you read. I know I'll be planting spinach, potatoes, and not sure what else. Maybe try green peas again.

Mel has been busy with projects and work. As I said a few weeks ago, her part-time job has her pulling almost full time hours. But she is only paid part time. The kitchen cart is completed except for the painting. I could paint it, but I like the look of the raw wood. I may paint it later when we don't have so many irons in the fire. It would be an excellent late fall project when things slow up. Her newest project is building a firewood storage hut out of pallets. I say hut because it's 8' wide, 16'
Sort of like this-firewood storage hut
long, and 8' high with a roof. The small one she engineered last year out of plastic and pallets is useless. It doesn't keep the wood dry plus it doesn't hold that much wood especially since we heat our home with wood when it gets cold. Strange when you think about cold weather when it's 90 plus degrees outside. But, that's life on the homestead you prepare in advance as much as you can. We will be needing about six of them when we get the trees cut down. We only have hard wood on the property.

I'm slowly educating Mel on prepping/homesteading. It's a lot more comforting than scrambling at the last minute to find necessities. I'll make a semi self sufficient homesteader out of her yet. Our main problem right now is where to store everything for the long term. On my old homestead I had a 12x12 room for storing food stuff, but double wide trailers are not made for that unless we give up a bedroom. Right now, all our bedrooms are spoken for by us two and an office/craft room.

We are talking about getting a storage container to house our canned and dry goods. But then again we'd need a back hoe to dig out an area in the side of the mountain below use too. That's in the long range plan for the homestead. We are constantly tweaking our over all layout for the homestead. Like grading a driveway to the the tiny houses in the area where retaining wall is by the hill side and around behind the trailer. We are planning the ramp access for the trailer off the other side of the screened in patio. It will be easier than steps for me and simplifies bringing food stuff in.

I think the solution is to bring in at least one tiny house for me and let me vacate the main house. It would be back where the dog training area is now. That way in the original plan my bedroom and bathroom are becomes the inside the house pantry. We decided on two pantries over all. The storage container for long term storage and a inside monthly stores area. We decided to place the chicken/ rabbitry building on Mel's current side of the house instead of behind the barn. It's shadier and there's plenty of space for it and the driveway once the current chicken coop is removed. The chicken run/coop/rabbitry is our next big purchase as you read last week. We also will not have to cut down any trees. There are three big ones on the current rabbitry side.
10x16 with porch

My tiny house will be like pictured without the barn door and a window where the barn door is. Where the additional window is will be my bathroom. I plan to put a walk in tub/shower and a composting toilet in it. Gutters along the front and back will form a rain catchment system for it's water. Solar panels will provide all the electricity it needs for lights and stuff. It will have a small wood burning fireplace for heat. For 160 sq ft, it won't take much to heat or cool. Even with 100 plus temperatures here now, I'm rarely in air conditioning although it would be nice. I've learned to make do with ceiling or box fans. A loft area will provide extra storage or a extra bed for overnight visitors. It will have more than enough room for just me even with a simple kitchenette of a microwave, electric kettle, or single burning cooktop, sink, and a small 4 cu ft refrigerator/freezer. My twin sized bed and dresser will fit nicely in the small area by the door and a small desk/table for my computer and television. I'll even have room for a walk in closet. I won't be spending much time in there anyhow. All the major canning/preserving/cooking will be done in the community building, our trailer so mostly you'll be finding me there. The processing/spinning will also be done there also. I really will only need my tiny house for sleeping and maybe some alone time. I'll be in the garden and rabbitry working the rest of the time.

I've gotten over my infatuation with stuff. My old place has TOO much stuff. Somebody has got to take care of all that stuff and it ain't gonna be me any more. I don't need huge closets full of clothes. It's not like I'm preaching or working any more in the public eye. One clergy outfit is enough for hospital visitations of stroke survivors. I normally wear sweat shirts and t-shirts to work on the homestead. Pull on pants and shorts too. None of that takes much room. Yes, a winter coat and a couple of sweaters are bulky, but they'll hang up or sit on a shelf nicely. Honestly, if you have a washer and dryer, do you need much? Sure a week's worth of socks, underpants and bras are nice. All of that I mentioned is in my six drawer dresser now, or in a plastic tub awaiting a cooler turn in the weather before I swap out summer for winter. Oh yeah, my handful of flannel shirts also fit in the winter category. 

Simplify was my goal with my move here. Sure I wanted my lift chair out of convenience. My twin bed may go to my grandson since Mel has one I can use. There was a large amount of kitchen gadgets, craft stuff, and adaptability stuff I chose to keep because it makes my life easier. But everything is small stuff compared to what I've thrown or given away prior to my move here on purpose. Remember, I left over a 3,000 sq ft house that was overflowing with just stuff. Mel actually kept more of my stuff than I wanted as we went through the stuff. One man's junk is another man's treasures. In all total, what I brought would have only filled a 10x16 room, or the area of the size of my tiny house. My whole, new tiny house is the equivalent to the size of my old master bedroom. Talk about downsizing.

Honestly, why would I continue to move all that stuff around? I'm only me. Yes, admittedly some of the stuff I brought is being used in the barn/workshop, the rabbitry, in the community building, or being upcycled to other purposes now. That's okay. I still simplified my life greatly. Plus when I die, nobody will be burdened with my stuff. There are still a few pieces that my children want that I'm not willing to part with yet. But the majority can be used by whomever takes my place in this community we are building. I've done the clean up after four relatives died. It ain't pretty what happens to their prized possessions.  I just simplified it for who has to clean up after me. I sure as anything, I can't take it with me.

Well that's this week on the homestead. Be blessed.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Awaiting Pennies From Heaven

For weeks and months now, I've been expecting pennies from heaven. What I'm talking about is  the back payments Social Security owes me since July- December 2015. I've been patiently awaiting this wind fall and I'm still waiting. This sum was earmarked for relocation expenses to north Georgia. Well, I've moved here without it. Sort of. I'm still driving back and to getting my stuff up here. Now, it'll pay to have our driveway redone and the rabbitry/ chicken house. The problem is, I'm still waiting after being assured I would receive it last week. If I were the cursing type person, I'd be saying WTF! But I'm not. So I'm left wondering what is going on. I mean if they paid me interest on the money that would almost be okay, but they are not.

Tempest, RIP
Counting on the government's word, I ordered the rabbitry/chicken house enclosure to the tune of $1,600. On top of it all, we've lost another English Angora last weekend  It will be a big ouchie if it arrives before the moneys owed hits the bank. Our blue English angora doe, named Tempest. She was battling a number of factors like mites and sore hocks. She was actually healing until the infection we were fighting went systemic.We are comforted in knowing we did everything possible for that little rabbit. But sometimes, your best is not good enough. We can't afford another loss to cut into our Angora wool harvest or breeders. Not to mention the cost involved in the rabbits' purchase, housing, and feeding. It's a good thing I arranged to buy five more English angoras. But, two of our unrelated does are dead. It will take a year to recover from the loss.

One of the new babies
Yes, it would be simpler to line breed the rabbits (father to offspring) but the major issue I have from doing this is genetic faults are not diluted. Dustin ( our grey angora buck) is still in his prime and can father quite a few litters. But, the newly purchased buck is an ermine which is not NARBA showable color class. In case you didn't know, the ermine coloring is a cross between a white, grey, and pearl. They have black or grey tipping to their fur. That would hurt in sales of his fathered kits. Of course, those purchasing the angoras as woolers would love the silver grey color of the wool. It has a luster which shines like silk in the finished dyed yarn.

Genetically, we could breed all the new does (4 related offspring) to Dustin to gain some separation and enhance the grey coloring. For the next cycle, we could use one of the offspring REW buck from the current batch to dilute the gene pool more. Or, we may just buy another buck with favorable wool, body type and color would be easier. We can hold back the ermines for 4-H students and spinners.

In the mean time, the chickens are still terrorizing my garden. I'm looking forward to eating what I grow next year. Sigh.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

This Update is Brought to You by the Letters D, B, and C

(We are traveling this weekend)

So this week we have been planning to go to the Golden Isles for a long weekend. No, it's not vacation. I'm finishing my moving out process. It also means the last of my stuff is coming up here. It's a good thing Mel cleaned up the barn. It will be stored there until our tiny houses are built. We are still a couple months away from that.

Mel has been working 9-1 each day at her job. It seems that home office finally decided to train her in her job. After a year. Government jobs, ya gotta love them, right? She's been hopping between one location to another on a daily basis instead of two days a week. It seems that they are coming up on funding review and that's the reason they are doing it now in a hurry.

Our free video editor went to pay for use. We had made several videos during the past couple of weeks and needed to edit them before uploading them.  It made for a flurry of internet searches to find a new one so we could edit our YouTube videos. I suggested just buying a program out right with Mel arguing that we should be able to get a fairly decent one for free. We finally found one that we both could agree on after each trying a couple of them. So we are back in business.

It doesn't help that Mel's truck windshield got hit by a rock on her last trip with me. The little ding spread with our heat wave to show a crack almost to mid line of her windshield. She got pulled over for it and was given a warning. Joy, joy. What fun she is having out and about. I took her Tuesday and we carpooled it back to the homestead for more fun with rabbits and pickles.

Tempest, Blue English Angora
On the homestead, she's been dividing her time between her workshop, where she's rebuilding our rolling cart, to nursing ill bunnies. Tempest is still nursing her sore hocks and is playing it up big time with Mel. She hobbles around her cage lifting her now healed front feet in the air  for attention. Her rear feet are healing nicely.

As many know, rabbits can sleep with their eyes open. She is a heavy sleeper.  Tempest has to be around here with the chickens, dogs and cats. She's been loving her time in the bunny hospital aka Mel's air conditioned bedroom. She was flopped over on her side when Mel went to check on her. Mel being Mel spoke to her through the cage in a loud, corny voice she does. Mel even poked her through the cage. Tempest would not rouse. Mel thought she had lost another English Angora. The rabbit was only sleeping because when Mel reached into the cage and picked her up, the rabbit looked at her with a startled look. I might also mention this rabbit has been treated for a body mites. So she's almost hairless. She looks so pitiful.
Dustin, Gray English Angora

Mel came rushing in from checking on the rabbits Monday. "Dustin has diarrhea! What do I do?" Nothing will kill a rabbit faster than diarrhea in the summer time. They can't drink enough to keep them hydrated.  I told her to empty out his cage. To give him only timothy hay and put some apple cider vinegar into a clean water holder. We bleach and clean their water bottles and food dishes routinely. In fact, we had done it over the weekend. Nothing had changed drastically in his environment to cause the stomach upset. After Mel returned from work, she bathed his hind end of all the mess. Straw and poop everywhere.

In the end, so to speak, there was nothing wrong with him. What Mel thought was diarrhea was just rabbit poo drenched with urine. Once cleaned off, he was his usual playful self and getting into everything. She clipped his poo trail because I'm dangerous with scissors. Now electric shearers is a different story, I can handle those fine. We have yet to get those. They can be a bit pricey for good ones. But they are in the budget for two months from now with the purchase of the new rabbits.

In the garden, I have been waiting and on tomato watch. The one and only tomato we had earlier this month has been joined by about fifty or more little tomatoes. Considering the tomato plants themselves are now 6' high, it's about time.  That first tomato started to go yellowish-orange. I could almost taste it. The first tomato to harvest from our new beds. Every morning I'd go out and peruse my tiny garden. I'd retrain feeler vines, talk to the plants themselves and hand pick any varmint that was trying to damage them. The chickens have gotten used to my routine because they wait for me to throw the offenders over the fence for them to munch on.

This first tomato was my pride and joy. It had gotten so heavy that it carried its branch to the ground. I placed straw under it to cushion it from the ground. It was now on its way to be harvested. Imagine my surprise to find that 6" tomato half eaten this week. I picked it up from its cozy bed and just stared at it. It was then I noticed not the rounded bite marks of an insect or even a rabbit, but the "V" shaped bite marks of a chicken. GRRRR! I threw the tomato into the compost bin. The chickens raced for it, and then squawked loudly because I'd thrown it into the center and they couldn't reach it.

The chickens strike again! But their uncontrolled free ranging days are numbered. They need to enjoy them while they can. As fun as they can be, I'm tired of them thinking my house is theirs to come and go as they please. I'm tired of cleaning up their poop, or slipping on it. But most of all, I want to be able to eat my own vegetables that I grow for us. Giving them scraps and leftovers is fine, but not everything the greedy buggers. I can honestly say, I'm going to enjoy culling day. At least I know what they are eating was good stuff, but it was meant for us. They are eating all of my garden, their chicken food, the scraps, and whatever they find when they are foraging around the yard. So far I've harvested 2 lbs of green beans, 3 lbs of zucchini, 1 winter squash pumpkin and that's been it. They have eaten the rest! And, they say sharks only live to eat and make babies. What about chickens?! They even eat their young.

I know, I know, I always seem to complain about the chickens, but can you blame me? Yes, they give us eggs but compared to what we've lost is free eggs really worth it? Something doesn't balance. Around here right now, we are the Cockeyed Homestead under chicken rule. The chicken building can't get here fast enough. Unfortunately, too late for a garden this year.

Next year, I'm (human) taking control back. (Laughing wickedly and maniacally) I will rule, or so they will let me think so. Yes, insanity is hereditary. It's gleaned from rampant homestead animals and plants. No, not the illegal kind of plants either. If not careful not only will be talking to yourself but answering yourself too.

Okay, so I'm dreaming now. Any minute now Whitie will crow and wake me up. Ah, there he is now. It was a nice dream while it lasted. The Cockeyed Homestead is brought to you by the letters D, B, and C for Darn, Blasted Chickens. It's a good thing I'm not home right now. I hear sirens approaching to come and take me away from the homestead.

I watched this a couple of years ago. Enjoy while we're away. Shaking my head sadly. I didn't read between the lines and listen to her.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Rabbitry Expansion and a Chicken Area

With death of Kinley, we were faced with some decisions to make. None of them cheap. Did we want to continue with angora rabbits? How big did we want our rabbitry to be? How will they be housed? Angoras do not do well in the summer months outside here.Where would it be? How much did we want to invest? Ready built or could we build it? Could we meet Mel's  financial needs goal in two years when she's out of a job?

Although we had a rough idea of what we wanted, there were quite a few kinks to work out like whether this would be a hobby or profitable business. Yeah, you guessed it. Profits are a good thing when talking about a sustainable lifestyle. Remember, I'm the practical one. I know how to set up a business. I have an MBA that focuses on marketing, planning and expansion of businesses. Of course, that was before I ended up with brain damage from my stroke. That's where Mel comes in. She helps focus me and keeps me thinking the right way. We needed a business/action plan. Those ready built sheds ain't cheap. Plus it would have to have electricity to run the lights and air conditioning in the summer. We'd also need water available for the rabbits for them to drink and clean them up when necessary. Yes, we will be raising English Angoras in a full fledged rabbitry.

We ran a profit, break even, and debt analysis spreadsheets. Taking what we knew and what we later researched. Gathering the information we needed was a no brainer. We knew that we could only care for two dozen rabbits at a maximum. For every two or three does, we'd need one buck so we aren't inbreeding too much. As in, breeders and woolers full time. We didn't want to over breed and stress the rabbits so we figured breeding them twice a year at most. English Angoras will have between six and ten kits a litter. We calculated the expenses and possible income in sales of babies, wool, and yarn. To make the rabbitry profitable will take fifteen Angoras. So we decided on twenty angora rabbits.

To house a minimum of twenty angora rabbits and grow out that many kits, we'd need a 10x12 building. That would give us room for the cages and work space to tend them. We calculated each cage at 30x 36 for the does and grow out with the bucks in 30x30 cages.

Mel designed a litter catchment system so we can harvest and sell the rabbit poo to gardeners. That's above what we need for our garden. We knew how much poo ten rabbits can make in a year so we doubled the figure. Our very conservative estimate was 250 lbs of poo per year that will be for sale.
Like this but ivory siding and green roof

In the essence of time, we decided to buy the building. It will still need to be insulated and a floor put in. It will have a standard door off to one side so we don't have to go through the chicken area. There will also be a window at the other end. The carport side will house the chickens and the meat rabbits. We'll hang the meat rabbit cages from the ceiling. We'll run fencing wire for added protection and corralling the blasted chickens. Yippee!!!! No more chickens in my garden!

We went to one of the local shed vendors who we've been talking to about our tiny houses to purchase the rabbitry/chicken house. With a modest $145 down we bought it and a nice sized discount. Designed and sized the way we wanted. Amazing what my added income can do for Mel's old homestead. The final payment is due in about a month. No sweat. By the time we add the floor insulation, and paneling you can add another $1,000 in cost for the materials. Mel originally wanted a concrete slab. Yikes! Not within the budget, but the rabbits and chickens will have a home. We decided on a deck type floor because it would be easy to clean and easier on the budget. Mel says she only needs a week to do it all. I'm figuring two weeks and working until the wee hours of the morning.

On the two-four year plan, the rabbitry will grow by purchasing four to five new Angoras a year until we meet our goal of twenty rabbits. Of course, we may be keeping a few of the kits born in-house too to make up that goal number. Though we aren't interested in showing our Angoras, part of our target market will be.

Now I happened across a deal on Craig's List for English Angoras. I can get all five rabbits from a person getting out of the wool trade. Combined with the buck and doe we have, we can diversify the gene pool some. Unfortunately, other than the bred buck and doe, they are all related. But being separated by one generation is better than no separation. So in two months time, the owner is holding the rabbits until the Angora shed is finished, we'll have an influx of new rabbits. By purchasing these five rabbits now together means that next year, we will have to get our stock from different breeders. But then again, they can be purchased one or two at a time too. Pure bred Angora rabbits ain't cheap. Along the way we'll be formulating a pedigree for our kits. Pedigreed angoras command a higher price tag at sale than nonpedigreed. We should be getting some interesting colors from the REW (red eyed whites). <Shivers> They still remind me of something demon possessed, but Mel loves them. Kinley almost changed my mind...almost.

Now about them chickens. If you've watched the latest videos about Mel in the workshop, then you know about our broody hen. Well on Monday. Mel went out to the shop and heard peeping. That's right, we've got a new edition to our homestead. Ms. Broody hatched a chick. She sat on the
remaining six eggs for an additional almost forty-eight hours, and no more chicks, before tossing the baby out of the nest. It's a long way down from Mel's tool chest to the floor, but it managed fine. She first got the chick's feet wet, so to speak, scratching around the straw in the barn before venturing out into the yard. By early afternoon, they were underneath the Camellias in front of the porch. If we were worried about how good a mother Ms. Broody would be, we shouldn't have. She ruffled out her feathers every time another hen or any animal came near. The chick learned fast about running under its mother when she did that. I took out some bread and cornmeal to them making sure to leave plenty for the other hens and roosters away from them. Ms. Broody (formerly known as Ms. No Comb) broke the pieces into chick size bites. She ate very little of it. She's a wonderful mother. Unfortunately, chickens can be vicious. The chick lasted in general population for three days. This was a fluke and a trial and we weren't really set up for baby chickens, but next time we will be.

Ours will be smaller, but same principle
So, we are now planning our hen house to be split between layers and a grow out place for meat birds. We don't need the mammoth meat chicken breeds neither. These New Hampshire Red provide us with two or three meals a piece at a full weigh of 4-5 lbs each unless we have company. So the 12x12 undercover (carport) area will be put to good use. We figure to deep bed the area and let them compost their waste, the rabbit waste and straw/grass clippings/weeds for us. This in itself will be enough for our garden beds until we make a lot more beds. Cleaning out the meat rabbit and chicken area three times a year is doable.

We were going to cut a hatch out for the nest boxes so we don't even have to go into the coop area to gather the eggs. We will be getting two 55-gallon drums for a water catchment system so we should have plenty of water for all the animals both inside the Angora house and the carport. I downloaded some plans for an automatic chicken feeder that will hold 50 lbs of feed. The rabbits will have 2 1/2 lb pellet feeders with their own watering system set up. All we have to do is go in with goodies like fodder and vegetables. I figure LED lights strung from the supports should provide enough other light. We've got a 45-watt solar panel power that. Mel insists on having an additional chicken run outside the covered one.  "Because my chicky babies need full sunlight." (Do I have to specify who said this??)  I'm leaving that up to her. I've a feeling after we build the fencing around the carport and the doors, she'll be saying good enough. We've got Nnyus to protect them from predators.

Mel has had to chase the hens more times than not out of the garden. This is even with installing a higher fence around the garden. Out of twenty-five green bean plants I planted (4 times) we got ONE plant to actually produce beans this year. No corn out of 200 plants. No cucumbers out of twenty-five plants. No cayenne or sweet peppers. Three sunflowers out of fifty. The chickens ate the seed or the plants before I could harvest any. Yes, the local wild cottontail population was guilty of munching most of my radishes and carrot tops, and my lettuces.They will have to be grown in gutters next year.

It's a good thing I planned this year's harvest as an experiment. If we had counted on it to feed us through the winter, we would have starved. But next year is a different story. My five-year gardening plan calls for fresh eating and 6 months worth of stores by the second year.   The third year is 9 months worth, and the fourth is a year's worth of fresh eating and stores. Where Mel likes to list things. I tend to plan things out over the long haul via some sort of scientific method. It's measurable to what you dud right and wrong.

So keep tuning in to this blog and our YouTube channel for updates. Houston, we have a plan. Now it's time to implement it.

Be blessed until next week.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

RIP Kinley

Kinley @ 2
Kinley, one of our prized angora rabbits, died this week. She was a REW (red eyed white) with the most silkiest, luxurious, 6" staple length coat that I've ever seen on an English angora rabbit. She was also had the sweetest nature while grooming. We missed breeding her this Spring because the weather went from frost to hot with little time in between.

I hear you thinking, 'that's life on the homestead.' That's true. I've at this a few decades and know it's true. My roommate, Mel, on the other hand, is relatively new to all of this. She had  found Kinley prostrate in her cage. Still breathing, but just barely. She had run inside to her air conditioned room with her wrapped in a bath mat. She had slammed the front door on the way in and yelled, "I've killed Kinley!"

By the time I made it to her room, Mel was lying on the bed, crying, and petting the rabbit softly muttering how sorry she was for not taking better care of her. For the past week she had been worrying about Tempest (named for her blue coloring and her temper). She had sores develop on her paws. She's the bluish grey puff ball behind Kinley in the picture above. So Tempest had been inside in front of a box fan. That too is the way life goes. The sickest get the most attention. That is how it should be.

Kinley in full bloom
Mel had told me earlier how Kinley was blowing her coat again. At the time, I thought it was strange because when I had played with her earlier in the week and her coat was only a couple inches long. It was too soon. But I made a mental note to check her coat in the morning before I went back into the garden. I was kicking myself too for not checking on her as soon as Mel said something.

We couldn't tell what exactly killed her. We had thought neglect or the heat. We debated it most of the night. All the time Mel was blaming herself. I was trying to be supportive and comforting. She was even designing the new cage system for the rabbitry/ chicken pen we are having delivered the end of the month. Just in case it was the heat, we were planning on an air conditioned space for them and us. We all might as well be comfortable while grooming them too. We planned the rabbitry portion to be 8x 21 so it would have enough space for them and us to work with them. If you didn't know, the optimum temperature for angoras is under 70 degrees not the 100+ temperatures we have been getting. We weren't taking anymore chances with future rabbits.

I mention to Mel that after Kinley's body cooled the wool could be plucked from it. Mel was horrified. I'm not heartless. Far from it. I just look on the practical side. A 100% angora wool spun into art yarn can sell for $45 - $65 an ounce. I made Mel go into her air conditioned bedroom while I tended to the wool. I had tears in my eyes as I plucked the wool from the lifeless Kinley's body. Her hair flew, as it usually did while grooming, into wispy strands. She's not the first angora I've had pass away on me.

Harvesting wool this way is far from an enjoyable task. All the while I was wracking my brain for a way to ease Mel's guilt and sorrow. I was also wondering what exactly killed her concerned about the other rabbits. I was praying as is my usual custom whether I butcher the animal or not. Many of you new readers of this blog may not know, before I was a minister and a chef, I was a life flight nurse. I was offered and retired after fifteen years at full pension when I turn 65. I'm close, but not quite there.

There I was plucking fur off this dead rabbit who was once the lovable Kinley. Carefully and unsuccessfully brushing fly away fur from my wet cheeks, when I notice what appeared to be her wide opened jaw. Or what I thought was her jaw. As I pulled the fur closer to the edge, I realized it wasn't her jaw at all, but a wound. That raised my medical curiosity. Although I treat even dead animals with respect as I would with any human, I turned her over for a better look at her throat. At first it looked like something had ripped her throat out. I gently pulled at the opening. Very little blood, so nothing had actually cut her. Then I saw it. A residual pus pocket of infection. Apparently, she had gotten a cut or scratch on her throat area and it enlarged to the point of rupture. There was no way Mel or I could have seen it with all her fur unless we had turned her on her back and touched the area under her chin (which all rabbits hate being prey animals). Cause of death- I'm chocking up to shock and heart failure. You can actually startle a  rabbit to death.

I rushed into Mel's room to tell her. Absolved of guilt, she can ease her grief a bit. Kinley was her absolute favorite angora of the bunch. Just as precious as my Buddy is to me. My heart aches for her. These angora rabbits were her children. For a childless woman, it's a hard blow. In the meantime, I'm praying for comfort for her.

Currently, I'm looking for loving and caring folks to adopt four Jersey Woolies/Lionhead mixed rabbits. In the near future, we will be purchasing new English angoras for breeding and selling babies, and wool production for the expansion of the rabbitry's income source, but not today. Today, we are in mourning for Kinley. May she rest in peace in a field of abundant clover and timothy grass forever.

Be blessed.