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, July 23, 2017

Harvesting and Preserving Homestead Style

Unless you plant several dozen plants of what you want to preserve, you will rarely have enough to put up for later. For us, we are just starting out (2 year old garden), so we preserve little by little as we go. Most of the harvest is freshly eaten. We are expanding as we go so each year new ground is broken to plant. We are limited by extensive tree coverage on this formerly abandoned homestead. We are slowly clearing as we go. There's just so much of this property that has been neglected for so long.

Clearing an area and keeping it clear is an issue right now. If you bush hog an area and do not have the means to keep the growth down, you've wasted your time, effort and money. Although buying a tractor to do this would be great, with only two acres of land it seems like a waste. It would spend most of it's time in the barn.
 That's a waste of resources. Plus repair bills on a largish tractor is expensive. Especially now with so much of the land filled with trees. So we opted for a tiny tractor that can also be used as a lawn mower. We got it second hand off of Craig's list. It'll haul a trailer behind it too. I imagine, I could even get a small tiller blade set up for the twice yearly turning of the gardens.

But getting back to the garden harvesting and preserving. A couple of weeks ago, I made a video of making no pectin added Triple Berry Jam for Mel. Now each of this berries ripen at different parts of the summer. I just gather them whenever they ripen and put them in the freezer. When I find the time  and have the extra sugar...I'll make jam with them. Not to mention berry pies and cobbler. By putting up little by little like this no huge water bath canner is needed. A simple large pot will do.

Our cucumber harvest is coming along. I've calculated that we need ten half pints of pickle relish  and ten pints of bread and butter pickles each year. I figured this by how many we used last year. That's really not a whole lot of cucumbers if you think about it. Eight medium sized Boston Pickling cucumber will fill five pint jars. We'll also do half a dozen pints of Kosher dill pickles. I make my relish out of zucchini instead of cucumbers. All the rest of the harvest pf zucchini and cucumbers is for fresh eating. All this canning stems from two of each plant.

Now tomatoes are another thing. We go through a ton of tomato products a year.  We planted twenty-five Roma tomato plants, three Cherokee tomato plants and two Beefsteak this year. So far I've put up 27 quarts of tomato puree. We'll need three to four times that amount four a year. I still have to put up my pints of diced tomatoes. For diced tomatoes, I'll put the tomatoes in the freezer overnight or for months. All I do is wash, core, and place them whole in 2 gallons zipper freezer bags. The freezing process loosens the skins when thawed. The skin just slips off. Just run the thawed tomatoes through a couple times with a knife and they are ready for the jars. No standing over a hot pot of water, and then peeling them. For my tomato puree, I'll wash, core and quarter my tomatoes. I'll bring them up to a boil in a large stock pot, and then hit them with my stick blender before jarring them up. From the puree I can make ketchup, sauces, and even soups at a later time when it's cooler. Remember, we don't have air conditioning on this homestead. So any long term cooking and canning projects wait until fall and winter if possible. Luckily, we had a late cool spell that allowed me to get most of the green beans canned this year.

Having a covered and screened porch helps in my canning endeavors.  This is worth its weight in gold for the garden produce that can't wait to be canned later. We have an old Coleman propane camp stove and a couple of electric burners in our make shift kitchen at the back of the house. This is an essential for us.  The house doesn't get heated in the summer with 100 degrees temperatures outside. A large fan keeps the porch from being over heated. I can can or cook to my heart's content. Well, almost.

Today, I got an estimate on the new driveway and the plumber to get my honey-do list partially completed. The new driveway is way cheaper than I allotted for. Yah!! No more getting stuck to my axle in red clay mud! Another YAH! The best part is they can start next week. The plumber still  is about what I figured. The electrician has to put their bid in for the electrical work. Now, to find a handyman to build my ramps and deck, and we'll be set. At least for now. We are pricing new gutters and downspouts for the rain catchment system too.

Things are hopping and finally coming together for us. It's about time.
Y'all have a blessed day!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Rabbitry Revisited

It's actually level.
As you may remember, we bought a shed for our angora rabbits last year. We insulated it, ran power to it, and added air conditioning to it. We even built a poo removal system. It never really worked as we envisioned it. Mainly because Mel got fed up with the project.

It was too small for the rabbits we had. While the smaller cage worked, the rabbits were miserable. That's not exactly how we wanted to humanely raise our angoras.This is what we came up with after the shed company refused to deliver our carport.

The new rabbitry is 24x12 (outside dimensions). The tarps used are reflective so the sun won't increase the heat on the inside. There still some more that has to be done like bracing and a couple more pallets for the ends. The cages need to be hung, lighting and fans to cool the rabbits even further. We are installing and automatic watering system for the rabbits so no more water bottles. The cattle
panels sit on top of the pallets making the structure almost 8' high at the highest peak. Leaving us plenty of room to move around inside the rabbitry. It will also need chicken wire screwed into the inside pallets to prevent predators and allow the rabbits to hop around on the ground safely. We'll be doing a deep bedding method of the rabbit manure.

To watch the build click here for part 1 and here for part 2. There will be a part 3 with all the stuff mentioned above so stay tuned. It will be a bit more chilly caring for the rabbits during winter but they don't mind. Mel has done a great job on it. Even though I'm not shown on the videos, I did help.

Now to get started on the chicken structure and run. Oi Vey!

Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Murphy's Law Homestead Style

Murphy's Law states, 'Whatever can go wrong... will go wrong.' I have a real hard time typing Murphy without an "e" in it as my name. I never had this problem until I named a man named "Murphey" over 25 years ago. There are actually thirteen different laws, but this is one everyone thinks of. I thought of thirteen examples of this law here so far this year.

We named ourselves the Cockeyed Homestead for good reasons. 1) We rarely do anything in a conventional way. 2) Everything we do is slightly off and most times educationally comical results. A lot of the time we, in true homesteading spirit, use what we have on hand.

In the spring, after a winter hiatus, we started doing videos.
  1. Mel's computer crashed harder than either of us could fix. 
  2. We planted the garden after turning it with a spade. 
  3. We fenced it with a 5' 2x3 fence so the chickens wouldn't destroy it again. 
  4. We bought twelve new chicks after losing 3/4 of our flock during winter. 
  5. Devon, Mel's mentally retarded cat, survived all winter only to die in the spring.
  6. Our video camera was drop checked one too many times and we lost filming capabilities. I bought a new video camera. 
  7. The wireless microphone wouldn't work with the new camera. I bought a new microphone and it was wired. I ordered another one that took three weeks to be delivered. 
  8. We released the chicks out of the brooder box to free range. They squeezed through the wire around the fence. They had a great time free ranging our newly sprouted garden. I've given up on planting green beans again until the chicks are fenced in.
  9. Our randy new roosters killed one of the new hens. We figured she was injured and we hadn't noticed. I haven't had the chance to butcher all the roosters yet.
  10. We bought one of those metal carports to provide shelter for our rabbitry. They couldn't deliver it. We'll have to build one on site out of pallets and cattle panels. We lost two rabbits while waiting on the company to deliver.
  11. Mel tripped over her TV tray and broke her wrist. First broken bone or anything seriously wrong with her in almost 60 years. WTG Mel. When she does something...she does it well!
  12. We did our yearly summer shearing of our angoras and our only unrelated buck developed and ear infection that also affected his brain.
  13. We got all our camera and video stuff together and it works, but it's been raining cats and dogs quite literally. Mel found a four-week-old, feral kitten by himself on our bottom acre. Meanwhile, her wifi and ethernet cards died and her computer is yet again in the shop.
And it's only July!

How is your homestead going?

Y'all have a blessed day!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Homestead Progress Update

I brought back ten pounds of large wild Georgia shrimp. This is one of the advantages of still having family on the coast. Mel and I do love our seafood. I boiled two pounds for us for dinner. Along with some potato salad and some cocktail sauce, it was some great eating. I carry two 1 1/2" thick styrofoam coolers with me when I go home just for this purpose. I'll travel down to the docks when the shrimp boats come in and fill them up. $3 a pound sure beats the price of frozen shrimp here at almost $9-$12 a pound. The savings almost cover the gas for the trip. Next trip is for crab in the fall. This one trip allows for us to have shrimp twice a month for a year. With the addition of crabs, we will be set for seafood for a year except for fish. We can always fresh the fresh water lakes here for that.

The rabbitry is coming along. We've got the two long sides complete. Not bad considering we are
both using one hand a piece. Imagine what we could accomplish if both of us had two good hands.  It would be done by now. We've had a cool break in the heat this week. The lows have been in the 60s. Daytime temps have been in the high 70s to low 80s. It makes me want to grab a sweater in the mornings. Very unseasonable for almost July, but a welcome break doing construction and canning. Four more pallets and supports and we can raise the cattle panel roof and hang the cages. Then, it's onto the chicken structure.

I've got to butcher some roosters this week even though they are gorgeous looking. We've ended up with five roosters out of the twelve straight run that we bought in the spring. They are running the hens ragged. Especially Broody, our one functioning leg hen, she's an easy target for them to mount. It turns into a gang bang with three or four roosters pinning her to the ground. Not a good thing because they can injure her more. Most days, she'll stay on the front porch because she knows we're right on the other side of the screen. She'll squawk and protest rather loudly when they gang up on her.  We'll rescue her and beat the males away so she can eat and rest.

The chicks are full grown except for in weight. They are as big as the older hens and they have assimilated into one big flock of chickens.  We've got to get them contained. The roosters are fighting. The hens run for cover. The roosters are even picking on the cats. They are still wary of the dogs, which is a good thing. The dogs will kill them. But then again, the dogs also protect them. Nothing can come anywhere near the flock while the dogs are around. Not even old Sheba, the white German Shepherd, from up the hill. She'll be warned off and even chased up the driveway away from the chickens. Not that she's ever attacked the chickens in the past. Sheba is more dangerous to our dogs if last summer was any example.

I've got one more trip to make. This time to North Carolina to pick up about 40 cases of canning jars. Why go all that way for them? One of our YouTube subscribers picked up the jars from the Amish community for free for me. That's worth the travel expense. Canning jars ain't cheap. It's a necessity for any homestead. Thank you, Ellen, for getting them. I'll also be picking up about two hundred pounds each of wheat, barley, and oats. It will provide us with baked goods and feed for the rabbits and chickens for a year from the community. All GMO free. If I've got to drive that way anyhow, it only makes sense to load the truck up.

I wish I could get soybeans that way. The nearest non-GMO soybean producer I can find is in Washington state. I order enough to make my tofu and soy milk with. I can't afford the shipping for a couple hundred pounds worth for the animals. But I do the best I can. Yes, I've read all the info against soybean consumption. But I'm part Japanese, I've eaten it all my life.  What's more, I love it. I guess I could grow it myself. I haven't seen any of the local farmers around me grow it.

I had thought to plant some of the cotton seeds that I picked up on my last trip home. But the agriculture department has some pretty steep fine against growing it without a permit. It would take using pesticides against weevils, which I'm against. Of course how much damage could a bush or two really do? I'd rather not take the chance right now. Maybe one day, I will. Seeds, when stored properly, don't go bad. There's no immediacy to plant it right now.

So that's our week. If you haven't checked us out on YouTube, I invite you to stop by. Now that we've got all our camera, computer, and audio difficulties fixed (crossing my fingers) we are back up.

Y'all have a blessed day.



Sunday, June 25, 2017

Forward Progress Finally

After the fiasco of the past few weeks, we are finally moving forward in building our homestead.

For our YouTube audience, it's been a long absence from any new video productions. When we ain't doing nothing, there's no sense in videoing it. Sure I've been canning, but it's not something they can't see or learn on fifty other sites. As far as cooking videos, I haven't made anything worthy of videoing. The rain has kept us indoors as much as possible. So no building, animal updates, or gardening stuff. Still, we have to get back into video making mode again.

The hardest part of building these new structures is digging the holes for the 4x4 posts. Each structure has 12 of them. It takes Mel a week with the post hole digger to do twelve. Mind you she's doing it with not a sprained wrist, but a broken one. We cut the 8' posts in half so the 4' are anchored two feet into the ground for added stability. These will allow the pallets to be screwed into them. We don't want the predators gaining access. We'll be stapling chicken wire to the outsides of the pallets also to hold the little ones in. This will allow the rabbits to run around the large enclosure while we groom them. 24x12 is plenty of room for them to scamper and binky to their heart's content. We'll also be seeding an area, not enclosed by the tarp, with rabbit yummies like Timothy, orchard, rye grasses, and clover for them to "free range" in. Straw will be under the cages. We decided to reuse the smaller cages we built for the bucks. The new larger 24x36x24 cages will be for the does. Building this five-plex was an adventure and a half. We put in a drop down nest boxes and a shelf that a momma rabbit can hop on to for getting away from the babies. Yes, they are the Taj Mahal for the does. We are reusing the old hutches as grow out cages and quail cages.

We are now entering the second stage of our rabbitry. The breeding/ pedigree part of raising Angoras. This last year has been spent getting to know our rabbits and get them on a grooming schedule. With Dustin, Mel's original Angora, out of the lineup indefinitely, I'm searching for two does and a buck for our breeding program. The quail are our next expansion animal into homesteading. We spend a year with each animal before getting the next. The next big jumps are to goats and then Guinea hogs.

As for me this weekend, I have been summoned home. I've honestly not been home since Thanksgiving. The reason is simple bad weather and my health. I have a triple A (Aortic Abdominal Aneurysm) growing. My cardiologist is concerned but it isn't big enough to warrant surgery. That doesn't mean it won't blow, but it's unlikely. Knowing quite a bit about these things I've felt like I have a time bomb in my belly and been afraid to go anywhere especially not 6 hours on the interstate. My dad called me. He and his wife are celebrating their Silver Wedding Anniversary. I honestly think it has been longer. I haven't added it up, but he says it's their silver, but he has Alzheimer's too. It's actually their 28th. I broke out my calculator. I'm just happy he remember she's his wife. He often forgets and searches for my mother.

Another new area for our expansion is a grain trial when the old rabbit hutches are and bush hogging the orchard. Whether we plant the orchard this year or not all depends on timing. We still have the driveway and house to fix when I return to the homestead.

So until next week,

"Y'all have a blessed day."




Sunday, June 18, 2017

Still in a Holding Pattern for the Last Time

We are still on hold for improvements to the homestead because of the rain. GRRRRR!

The date for the delivery of our new carport/rabbitry/chicken house came and went. The day of the supposed delivery, I got a call from the installer if he could arrange delivery until the next day by 10 AM. Okay, I thought. We still had time before the Angoras and Jersey Woolies/ Lionheads would be in danger from the heat. It's only one day.

The next day, I waited until noon and still, they had not shown up. I started calling. The cell phone did not have voice mail set up. By four o'clock, I'd given up trying to call. A little after five, the installer called and said he was twenty minutes out...was that okay? Heck, yes! I thought. I had already started dinner. I was making shrimp scampi, and it doesn't hold well, but get me my carport. The daytime temperatures were in the 80s and the Angoras were showing signs of stress. We sat down to dinner and Mel said, "Watch them come up now." They didn't.

At 7 PM, I got another call from the installer. There was no way he was driving his 4-wheeled drive truck and trailer down our rutted driveway. HUH!!! I drive my minivan up and down this same driveway a couple times a week. He suggested we get our money back for the carport and he'd already called the company. They would be calling us. Admittedly, our driveway is rough but we had our double car garage and our rabbitry delivered. The driver for the rabbitry (a full 8x12 already built) storage shed backed his 30-foot trailer and truck down this same driveway. To say we were hot with anger was an understatement.

We figured it was late and the installer didn't want to be bothered to try. It was Memorial Day weekend and he wanted to get started to enjoy it. So Memorial Day weekend, we shaved all our rabbits down to 1/4" length fur. It was costly to lose that income, but we couldn't have them die due to the heat. The rabbits themselves ain't cheap at a minimum of $50 a piece. They look like large drowned rats without their luxurious hair. We'd moved them out of their rabbitry to the outside cages in preparation for the transition to their new one under the carport structure. It wasn't how we wanted to spend our Memorial Day weekend.

Wednesday the company called us. They weren't offering our money back, but a new delivery date. June 14th! Another two weeks of waiting. We were outraged. We had already started dismantling the old rabbitry. While removing the rabbit cages and poo removal system we found rat nests! A bunch of them had set up house in the walls. So while removing the cages and poop system, we were slipping and sliding on wayward ball bearing hard rabbit poo, baby rats and dodging grown rats scampering to get away from us.  We pulled down all the light panel walls and insulation. We were also in the process of scrubbing it all out in the preparation of converting the shed for food storage.  We voiced our complaint to the company about yet another delay for as good as it would do. Not days but weeks. They responded that they would check the schedule again. By Friday, they called back with a sooner date. The next Friday, would that be okay? A week sooner. No, it wasn't but we agreed.

Dustin after grooming
It was only a delay of one more week. We watched the daytime temperatures carefully. We lost one of the Jersey Woolies, Early Grey, due to the rising temps. She was the sweetest of the bunch. Guaranteed wool producer of five ounces of fiber, 3" long every four months. We make a cockeyed blend of yarn that's Jersey Woolie/Angora, and Merino wool. Super soft and warm, but not pure Angora.  Her fiber will be missed greatly. When we groomed all the rabbits we also treated them for ear mites. Mel's self-black Angora was the next to be stricken. He was hopping around his cage lopsided. We thought he'd had a stroke due to the heat. We brought him into Mel's bedroom which is air conditioned to cool him down. We watched over him the rest of the night.

To lose Dustin would be an even greater loss to our rabbitry. He is also Mel's last remaining, original English Angoras. He is the unrelated buck for our breeding rotation. Mel was heart sick. His head tilted to one side and his limbs appeared weakened. An extensive research project began on how to care for him. I found that yes, heat could do this but also an ear infection. I purchased the antibiotic and started administering it to him. He is still in Mel's room two days later. She has the air conditioner running, but the door open otherwise it would be too cold for humans. Dustin is loving it. Whether he survives as a productive member of our rabbitry breeding program is still up in the air.

They can't get the carport here fast enough. This is starting to cost us big buxes! But I'm not done yet. Once again the company tried to deliver the carport structure. Failure. They had two suggestions for us; 1) They could leave all the parts at the top of the road, and then we would be responsible for bringing it down the hill and installing it ourselves, or 2) We could pay them extra monies to unload the trailer into the back of their truck, and then they'd drive it down. I didn't bother to ask how much. I was too angry. I instead emailed the company. Of course it being a weekend again, I can't reach anyone until Monday.

Sort of like this
We've decided to forget about the carport and get a refund for the building. This is ridiculous! We went out after the last cancellation and bought the materials for us to build it ourselves. Using cattle panels and pallets, the price was under $400 for two buildings. One 24-foot covering for the rabbitry and one 20-foot for the chickens. It would have practically built except Mel hurt her wrist and neither of us can lift the pallets into position one-handed.

We are still on hold with the driveway until the carport is up and we can corral the new chicks. They aren't smart enough to be safe from heavy machinery and dump trucks. We can't get the electrician and plumber in here because of the rain.  The storage building can't be used until power is rerun to it and the carport. So it's delay, after delay, after delay.

Oh, our roosters have not only entered into adolescence by crowing. It seems that their hormones have kicked in too. They have started mounting the hens. The little one not the older ones. Much to the irritation to the hens. They are still a couple months off from laying.

So until next week...
Y'all have a blessed day.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Something to Crow About

This morning, I was sitting at my computer when I heard the first, low, strangling attempts of crowing from our young chickens. I knew it was going to happen soon. I figured about a month or so. So I was pleasantly surprised when I heard this at the crack of dawn this morning. Even Mel woke enough to ask if this was the babies crowing.

I'm not real sure, because it was still to dark to see, but I think it was Houdini making all the noise.  I've heard of young roosters crowing at about seven weeks old, but these babies are twelve weeks old. So, they are a bit behind on the growing curve. So far today, since daylight is in full force, I haven't heard it again.

I know this is only the beginning, but as a proud mama hen type I had to do a bit of my own crowing. It looks like I have THREE buff roosters out of the five. Not a good ratio at all. Someone or two may be heading for freezer camp in a few weeks. Right now they are less than three pounds a piece. I'll let them fatten up a bit first. Now the Rhode Island Reds are holding to the planned ratio of two roosters, I think.

We have one hen (yes she's a hen) that is definitely not a RIR or a Buff. Not sure what she is. She's not red enough to be a RIR or light enough to be a Buff. She may be a different type or a mixture of the two. She'll live in the Buff side of the hen house and run. A very tiny crown and an almost nonexistent wattle.

We'll have to buy some more Buff hens at a later date. Probably later in the summer for butchering. I should have done it earlier, but didn't want to have to butcher a lot of chickens plus set up the garden. There's only so much you can handle when homesteading. Since I'm the one that tends and weeds the garden and the only one that butchers animals, I have my limits. I have other things demanding my time including physical therapy once a week and the rabbits.

Speaking of time. I think we lost our WWOOFER, Amy, and son. I haven't seen them since October or November. It's  a shame too because plenty of extra hands would have worked wonders here at the Cockeyed Homestead. Instead of going full tilt, we are moving at a snail's pace only partly because of being short staffed. The tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, green beans, pole beans, and corn did get planted but it took several weeks instead of doing it all in a day. A wealth of information was lost by them.

It's been in the high 50s and low 60s with all this rain. I've been taking advantage of it by canning. So far, I've pressure canned about five pounds of navy beans into baked beans, four pounds of small dry limas beans, and four pounds of kidney beans into chili beans. I still have about six pounds of dried black eyed-peas to can for the following year. How do I know how much I'll need for a year? I simply kept a running mental total of what I've bought the last year.

We're a Zaycon Influencer. If you didn't know, Zaycon is a farm direct meat supplier of hormone free meat. I'd bought 10 pounds of all beef hotdogs. Not the kind made with beef waste products but whole meat ground like ground beef. We like baked beans with this. I also bought 36 pounds of hickory smoked bacon, 40 pounds of 80/20 ground beef, and 40 pounds of sausage links. With all this meat in the freezer, I need vegetable sides to go with them. Now keep in mind there are only two of us one this homestead. This is approximately a year's worth of these items for us. Throw in some steaks, beef roasts, pork chops from our local sourced farms and the butchering of our own chickens and rabbits, we have plenty of meat for a year.

Mel hails from England so a meal of Bangers and mash with green peas is often a full meal for us. I make a mean onion gravy to accompany it. Breakfast fare such as bacon, eggs and grits are also appears a fair amount also. It all depends on what is going on during the day. If it's a quick, slop on the table because we've been busy this often is the quick fix.

We'll that's it for this week from our homestead.
Y'all have a blessed day.