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 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.




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