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, November 20, 2016

Using What's Available for the Homestead

The homestead just after purchase
The Cockeyed Homestead is all about resourcing what's available and repurposing to get what we want and need. That's what our YouTube channel is all about. Not that we are opposed to spending money when we have to. The barn and rabbitry enclosures cost a pretty penny or two. Yes, we could have done a building project for those, but the needs was immediate. Mel had a Lexus that would not do well without a cover of some sort and she needed a workshop for building projects. Sanity prevailed when working with power tools in rainy or snowy weather. The purchase of the rabbitry couldn't wait with the loss of two of our angora rabbit does over the summer.

But things like the chicken coop and run, while a need, it could be a repurpose/reuse project. By repurposing pallets and reusing fencing, they now have a coop and run for almost free. The chickens had been left to free range and roost wherever for a year. Chicken poop was covering almost every flat surface.  They were left to roost, even during the winter, on Mel's front porch because they'd out grown their coop. Our gardening attempts were decimated and something had to be done. The situation just wasn't healthy for them or us. We couldn't even gather their nitrogen rich poop for composting. It was a waste of a valuable resource too.

We needed a new, larger wood shed for fire wood storage. The previous one was falling apart. This was also a need, but one that wasn't an immediate need. We had all summer to plan and build it. So free pallets could also be used. Leftover roofing and siding from the barn made it safe from rain while the open spaces in the pallets provided ample ventilation for seasoning/drying the wood. The wood from this wood shed allows me to light our wood stove with one match.

The winds that blow up and down through our hollow allows for ample kindling and dead fallen trees each year all we have to do is gather it. Junk mail and my discarded packing boxes sets fire quick. But all that being said, the wood stove was not without expense this year. The stove pipe needed to be replaced this year. The rust had actually eaten large holes in it. That was something we had to purchase new. I guess we could have searched for some that was cast off, but it would have been a lot of effort for little results.

Yes, this one is only $17 at Home Depot
The purchase of good tools can be found at one of the local pawn shops. I purchased Mel a brand new Dremel and accessory package somebody pawned. It had never even been opened for less than $100. Perfect for small jobs and there are always small jobs where the big saws are overkill like cutting a 1/4" dowel rods with a shop saw. Even Harbor Freight doesn't sell it that low. A scythe for the grain we plan to grow was $20. Totally rusted and dull, but nothing a little elbow grease and a wet stone can't fix. We had looked at the ones in the hardware/big box stores and they were cheaper, but not as nice as the old one we bought. The curved handle makes using it more body friendly. With the straight handle, you end up working your back and upper body too much, plus it's hard to do the step, swing, sway motion that is more ergo-dynamic for cutting hay and grain. Work smart to avoid body injury is a priority on this homestead. Cheaper is not always better. After all, we aren't young anymore. Both of us are on the downhill slide of 60.

We look at everything with an eye of how many uses can it have. In my mind, everything should have multiple lives and uses. I'm also thankful for everything I have. I was searching through my belongings housed in the barn yesterday. I was looking for a particular yarn to make Mel's birthday present with. I found the old tattered, handmade and stitched quilt that had once graced my husband and my bed.  It had been made by my husband's great-grandmother. I was flooded with memories of quilting beside my mother and grandmother, and our first years as newlyweds with children. I hugged the quilt before I placed it carefully back in its box. When I rework/repair it, it will grace my bed once again in my tiny house next year. Even if I use it as batting for a new cover, it will provide warmth in the winter and memories to hug me every night.

Enough sappy stuff. My point is everything can have another life even us. We just have to open our eyes and spark our imaginations.

Y'all have a blessed week.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Decisions and Changes

Homesteading has never been an exact science. It's trial and error, and learning as you go. You may watch fifty million YouTube videos and read thousands of books on the subject, but until you actually work your land, you won't know what will work on your homestead or not even compared to the homestead down the road.

You would think that with all the trees on our side of a foothill the soil would be rich. After all, the trees loose their foliage every fall and left to rot for over a decade or more, but you'd be mistaken. The hard packed, clay soil is so dense that you can only dig a couple of inches easily. The soil was basically scattered weeds and bare ground. Even my cultivator couldn't break through it. I would have to rent a large tiller to get down 18" maybe depending on the rocks. The soil was basically so dead earthworm would starve in it. I looked at all this when I first moved here and made the decision that raised beds was the way to go. I could buy amendments to mix into the soil in the boxes. Forty cubic feet of peat moss and another forty cubic feet of compost and we were in business to practice the back to Eden and square foot gardening methods. We had four grow beds and large pots to grow our fruit, vegetables, and herbs in. A couple of unexpected problems kept us from having a great harvest this year...a drought and the chickens. Granted with these methods very little water is necessary to grow, but no rainfall for months?

Simplified system
The fall and winter are huge rainy seasons here. So we decided to do a rain catchment system to supplement our water needs. Great idea except that here it is the beginning of November and no rain. Even our fast running creek is now a meandering eddy so the RAM pump we had planned as a third water system is almost a bust. The water doesn't have enough pressure behind it for the 100 foot climb to the homestead. It really gave us pause. We still believe that all three is our best plan. Backup to a backup. If these systems had been in place a year ago, there would be no problem now. Next year will be better. That's the goal after all.

This week with Amy's help, the chicken coop is basically framed in. We still have to clad the coop and build the nest boxes. The fencing around the coop will be easy with Mel's portable fence posts. The fencing was purchased for the dog training area and be repurposed. Nobody wants to train dogs outside when it's cold outside anyhow.We will be building chickshaws or chicken tractors for the additional heritage breeds and grow out pens we plan to purchase next year. These will go into other areas like the orchard. I have to admit, these portable fence post were ingenious. It is by far the most pinned item on our pinterest page. So next year should be a better harvest without chicken interference too.

Next Spring, we will be breaking ground on new gardening area that will be 10x10 in several areas which have not been planted so far. The plan is to group patches of wheat, corn, millet, popcorn, barley, and flax. Maybe even some quinoa for us.The plan is to find the yield we can get within that trial area to feed our rabbits and chickens with. They will all be going on a sprouted grain diet and organic to boot. The price of commercial feed has been going up over the past six months. Granted it's only $20, but that amount of money can help pay other bills.

But the ground breaking for this project is not actually breaking ground. It begins now because we will be doing it permaculture/back to Eden style. We've been emptying flattening all the boxes from my move here and large item purchases to lay on the ground. All the leaves and spent straw come next. At least, twelve inches deep with saw dust and wood ash over the top of that. We'll leave it sit over winter and sow the seeds in the Spring. Our cost will be zero except for some quinoa, millet, and flax seeds.

Why flax seed? We are going to try our hand a spinning and weaving next year. We'll never have to buy tea towels to dry or dishes again or at least that's the hope. Flax seed also can be used medicinally. It's fiber, has more lignans (antioxidants and estrogen) than any other plant source, and Omega 3 essential fatty acids. Everything should have dual purposes and this fits the bill. It is also healthy for the chickens to eat.

Why millet? Millet contains significant amounts of magnesium, calcium, maganese, tryptophan, phosphorus, fiber, B vitamins, and antioxidants. The stalks can be woven into baskets, and chickens love it.

The wheat and barley are no brainers. It feeds our rabbit, chickens and us. Wheat and barley stalks can be used as straw.

Of course, we don't plan on producing acres and acres of it (we only have two acres total) to be self sufficient, but this will be the first year planting these items. It's a trial and help us be less dependent.  We may even try some sugar cane on an area.

Over the next year, we plan on cutting trees clearing a pasture for dairy goats (that's in our long term plan) and a larger garden area for grains (things that don't need constant attention) because it's on a downhill slope. Also clearing land for an orchard...about a 1/16 of an acre. We have some friends willing to help us with this project. The sweet gum trees will go first. Although extremely difficult to split they make fairly decent firewood when seasoned. We've also got a lot of scrub oaks on the property. We have considered terracing the slopes but it will only require huge machinery which is expensive, neither of knows how to operate, and it's more than we can afford. But it's a nice dream for when we win the lottery, that we'd first have to play. Cutting the trees will also give us more sunlight to grow with.

So this year hasn't been too bad. We've got the English angora rabbitry set up, found out what grows well, the greenhouse fixed, the well pipes done, chicken coop and run are almost complete, and the garden produced. All the items necessary to build the ram pump is purchased. We just have to dig out a deeper pool. We are still looking for barrels or totes for the rain catchment system at a decent price, but the gutters are cleaned out and now have gutter guards. We have varying sizes and lengths of PVC to build the catchment systems. Four for now and more when we get the tiny houses. Not too shoddy for me being here a little over seven months.

I could go on and on with little stuff, but I'll end this here. Have a blessed day y'all.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Buttoning up for Winter 2016

I've been MIA the past couple Sundays, if y'all hadn't noticed. Our videos have been sparse too. We've just been too busy and exhausted buttoning up the homestead preparing for winter. I say that with a sheepish smile because daytime temperatures are close to 80 here.

We've been picking up kindling from around the property after a "big" wind storm blew dead branches from the trees. Mel says it's a normal occurrence around here in the fall. All the leaves are putting on their brightest hues and dropping their leaves. The nights are cooler, in the high 40s-low 50s. Cool enough for me to don a sweater, turn on my little heater, and utter a BRR! Remember, I'm a south Georgia gal. For me, these night time temperatures are my old winter. I'll adjust in a couple of winters. I hope.

We have also planned the new chicken run and coop area. All of our previous plans were rethought out. The gifting of a stack of pallets was a godsend. I've temporarily run low on cash, but that's a long story. Suffice to say, that running two households for 6 months will do that on a limited income. Mel has been out of work for two months now.

Mel has built the wood shed out of these pallets and will be building the new coop out of the rest. All it will cost us is a few sheets of plywood and tin for the roof. We start on it this weekend with the help of a wwoffer (world wide opportunities on organic farms). Amy, while not associated with the organization, is one of our YouTube subscribers who eagerly wants to learn organic homesteading and how to live more self sufficiently. She works from home via the internet, a single mother, and she's living in an apartment 30 minutes away. On the weekends her ex has their son, she comes here and learns. She also has two good arms and legs. Who knows, maybe we've found another person for our community one day. Now, we just have to get her over being so camera shy.

We've reskinned the greenhouse. Built a better door for it. The old one wouldn't close all the way. Of course, Mel couldn't find her staple gun so we ended up using nails to hold the plastic on. We've already planted some of our cold weather crops in it. I've loped off the tops of some our tomato plants, they are still flowering and producing! I've had these stems sitting in a weak rabbit poo tea to generate new roots. I'll plant them in buckets this weekend. When I checked them yesterday, quite a web of roots have formed. I had left the five gallon bucket on our screened porch to root. The chickens got in and had a nice snack so out of the twenty cuttings, I now have five. I've also potted some of my herbs and moved the raspberry bushes into the greenhouse. It's actually getting quite full. With the addition of three rabbit cages (for the meat rabbits), it will be a packed space. We may do two double cages for the babies and my Buddy. She hasn't been an outdoor rabbit until we came here.

We've now filled the wood shed with a cord and a half of splits that will fit in our coal burner/wood stove. We've also laid in gathered kindling and medium sized branches (less than 3" in diameter) to see us through the winter. We may gather some more with Amy's help from the creek area. I just can't do the 100 ft slope to be much help. Maybe one day, we'll install a zip line down there. That is, if I can be brave enough to get on it. But, I can see it being helpful for pulling up stuff from the bottom with a basket attachment.There's a small ton of fallen trees and tires down there.

So this weekend is the hen house and run. I'm sure it will take a couple of weeks to do. Of course, we'll video the progress. I'm making marinara sauce also and doggy treats that will also be vlogs. That's it for this week.

Y'all have a blessed day.