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, April 30, 2017

We Made a Chicken Tractor

The chicks that we bought a month and a half ago have outgrown their brooder box. There are just so many of them in there. They were running out of space and fighting each other. One even escaped and was fending for himself with the grown hens in the yard. I aptly named him Houdini. At least, I think he's a rooster Buff Orpington. His comb and wattle are beet red and much larger than the rest. According to everything I've read, this is an indicator. But I'll know for sure in a couple of months.

Actually several have escaped their box over the past couple weeks, but they were easily caught. But Houdini stayed on the loose for two days before we caught him. Even now that I've fixed the wire on top of the brooder box, I'll watch him trying to get out. He'll look and analyze every buckle in the wire for an escape route. If nothing, he is persistent.

The chicks still aren't friendly. They are still terrified of us giants. I'm not sure what else I can do besides spending time with them. But my  time is limited between the building projects on going, the garden, and the rabbits.

Speaking of rabbits. My American Chinchilla buck has escaped his cage. He's actually done this several times, but he's so tamed that he's usually easy to catch. Not this time. Kieran is off sowing his wild oats. I haven't seen hide nor hair of him for two days. This is highly unusual and I'm afraid I've lost him for good this time. He's such a big boy, 12 lbs, there are limited places for him to hide.

I noticed the local pet store had some Flemish Giants for sale for $20 a piece. If one is a male, I might just purchase one. I was thinking of purchasing another female before Kieran disappeared. So goes my American Chinchilla purebreds. Colleen is perfectly content in her wooden hutch our neighbor David gave us, and hasn't escaped since we put her in there. She's even become very protective of her home by boxing with me whenever I stick my hand in there.

We've been building the elevated raised beds for the herbs this week. We refenced the new garden area and built a wooden gate 6' tall out of pallets. So far so good. The chickens, New Hampshire Reds, haven't figured out how to get in there yet. I'll be planting the potatoes in one just as soon as I can blow enough leaves and straw into one without the elevated bed part.


Mel has been insisting on turning the hard packed red clay by fork. It came back to bite her in the back this week. She's had a backache since she turned one row. I've been really good and not tell her, "I told you so." But I've really had to bite my tongue hard not to.

I try to be supportive. I'll mention something twice and if she ignores me, then it's on her. Heck, she's an adult and can make up her own mind. She will have to pay her own consequences. Good or bad.

So we will continue on with the garden. So far in the greenhouse we still have cayenne peppers, sunflowers, tomatoes, and strawberries to get in the ground. I'm looking forward to sowing fresh green peas, corn, and beans.Hopefully, this year we'll have a bountiful harvest.

I wanted to buy half a cow for the freezer, but Mel is resistant. She doesn't realize how much beef we actually eat. At a $1.50 a lb for grass fed, no hormone beef, it's a good deal. I'll keep after her on this. Sometimes, I just don't understand her reasoning. Meat in the freezer or canned while cheap is a good thing. Yes, 800 lbs of beef is a lot of beef to buy at one time but it sure beats having to pay grocery store prices a little at a time. I mine paying four times the price or more, and it's commercially grown beef. But then, it's only money, right?

Well that's it for this week on the Cockeyed Homestead. As always...
Y'all have a blessed day.




Sunday, April 23, 2017

Spring Busyness on the Homestead

I've started the onions, garlic, horseradish, and celery. Lowe's had a Spring Black Friday event where all their peat potted plants were $2. I went wild and bought four heirloom tomatoes, twelve strawberry plants, and some assorted herb plants. It doesn't sound like so much but it will enable us to get an earlier start on harvesting while the seeds we planted grow.

We also extended our garden area by about eight feet this year. We've had a bed of straw and chicken manure over cardboard on this new area since early winter. Next comes the rabbit manure, peat moss, and leaves before we give it a final turn with the tiller before we plant our corn, sunflowers, peas and beans. It's getting close now.

The weed barrier and wood chip mulch we had on our walkways of the old garden has had a year to break down so it gets tilled into the ground this year along with more rabbit manure. I'm a kid at heart and love playing in the dirt! Especially our amended garden dirt.We repurposed the weed barrier in our new elevated beds. Waste not; want not.

I bought russet potatoes at the grocery store last week. When I opened the bag I found every potato had huge eyes on them. Bunches upon bunches. Although I'd thought to buy seed potatoes this year, I'll use these and buy the red potato seed potatoes instead. It makes sense. But I run into the problem I had last year, I had no idea whether these russets are determinant or indeterminant. It makes a difference in how you hill them. If they are determinant, they'll only produce one or two strings of potatoes so after the second hilling that's it. They won't produce more. But indeterminant will produce as long as you keep hilling them up.

It's actually level
I talked a few weeks ago about larger cages in the rabbitry. Larger cages means less angoras we can keep in the rabbitry. Thereby less income overall. Well this weekend, we are finally getting around to building them. The outside temperatures look like they are on a steady rise...finally! That means the angoras will need airconditioning within about a month. Currently we have the five males in the outside hutches. We are rethinking the gutter poo system or at least I am. I'm also considering PVC stands for the cages. Our current system is totally suspended. When one rabbit decides to hop around the whole thing moves making the other two hang on for dear life. I can imagine when we start breeding them those poor babies will be all over the place with the current set up. We are also doing the quarterly deep cleaning of all our cages and hutches. It means bleach, soap, and a lot of scrubbing.

The baby chickens and our three remaining hens from the older folk are getting a new home. The chicken coop and run is getting a revamp also. We will be dividing it into three sections, one for each breed. Plus a separate section for broody hens and babies. It's no small undertaking. The chicken are now 6 weeks old and need the bigger space. They have outgrown their brooder box. They are still deathly afraid of us giant folks. But I'm harassing them several times a day by picking them up all loving on them. They still look a hot mess but their feathers and tail feathers are coming in nicely. I still can't tell how many are rooster or hens. They are actually trying to fly now when approached. I often find them standing on the two foot side of the brooder box. They'll drop back in for safety when one of the cats, dogs, or other hen come near. It's a good thing because chickens are viscous and the dogs and cats might want to play with them. Not that the household pets would intentionally hurt them.

Well, it busy, busy, busy work on the homestead. How's your week been?

Y'all have a blessed day.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Essentials in Adaptive Gardening

HAPPY EASTER Y'ALL. HE IS RISEN!

When gardening with disabilities, there are a few things that are essential and a long list of things that are really helpful. As many of you readers now know, I'm living post stroke. In other words, I'm partially paralyzed on my dominant right side.

You won't find me on my knees or squatting to plant vegetables unless I've fallen and can't get up. I will lean over or use my thigh muscles and knees to crouch down or lean closer to the ground, but not so much to lose my balance. In doing this I always have a sturdy hoe or rake to steady myself.
$65 on amazon plus shipping

You won't find me making things easier on myself by using a standard wheel barrow either. I don't have two working hands to operate one. Instead, I have an alternative. It's new for me, because I got jealous of Mel having all the fun. It's also an easier way to bring groceries up to the house. Notice this has two wheels for better balance. In a pinch, it can steady me if I lose my balance. If my load is heavy enough, it can also help me get on my feet again. Now, I'm not expecting most disabled folks to do this. I'm just too independent and impatient to wait on someone else to do it for me.

Some disabled folks, even me at times, use elevated raised beds as the way to garden. I tend to plant low growing things like
herbs, salad goods, carrots, and strawberries in them. It's just easier to care, weed, and harvest from them. But honestly, I can't see doing all my vegetables in one. There just isn't enough space in them to produce what we need in a year. This year, I've planted strawberries in a elevated raised bed made from pallets. I've also made my potato boxes out of them. Nothing beats free. If it can be done cheaper, I'm all for it. Unlike the elevated raised bed pictured on the left that will set you back $100+.

Notice the straw in between the slats. It's old composting straw and chicken dropping from the hen house. There is also a three-foot layer of this at the bottom as a compost pile. Only the top foot and a half is a mature compost and soil. As the bottom layer composts the level of the top layer will drop. Then next year, I'll  grow sweet or regular potatoes in it. I'll mound it up as they grow. Pretty nifty, huh? Waste not; want not. The pallets themselves are screwed together with long screws. and baling wire on one end. In case we want to move it.

Some tools you will need is a hand trowel, pruners, gloves (although I rarely wear 'em), and something that will hold water. I'm able to lift a two gallon watering can but pouring the water where I want it when full is chancy. I prefer carrying an old, gallon milk or juice jug with me, or just use the sprayer on the hose for the out of the way areas where my sprinkler doesn't reach.

Now about shovels and hoes. First of all, I'm short (5 ft nothing) and I'm one handed doing most of this. The regular length of the handles on these items are too long for me to work effectively and efficiently. The same thing goes
for leaf rakes, brooms, and mops. I could buy those terrific, adaptive gardening tools (an expensive option), but I'm cheap. I just chop a couple feet off the handles of regular tools. I bought an old, camp shovel from the second hand store. I think I paid $5 for it with its canvas cover to boot. It just needed some TLC and WD-40. It works perfectly for those times I want to move more soil than my little hand trowel. It's also handy for other times too. The handle takes the awkwardness out of digging with my nondominant hand and gives me better control.

A gardening stool like the one pictured is too low to the ground, even flipped, for me to rise from easily. Plus the legs have a nasty way of sinking into the garden walkways. So again, my second hand store to the rescue. They had a heavy plastic toy box for $2.50.  A couple of bolts, washers, nuts and some wheels later. I have a place for most of my tools and harvesting too. I drilled a couple large holes in one side and threaded some clothes line through it for pulling ease. The double plastic wall holds my lard butt and more. Another cheap fix.


I've given up on peat pots for starting seeds this year and seed starting trays. This year, I'm trying something new. I built a soil block maker. For years, I've sworn by my biodegradable toilet and paper towel core pots as a way to start seeds, but I saw this idea on YouTube where they used PVC pipe to make them. But I thought of a better way and cheaper. Each month I refill my prescription of Lovaza for my cholesterol. It comes in either the big manufacture package as shown or, I imagine, the largest prescription bottle made. Since my pharmacist doesn't cap my prescription in child proof caps, my request. I always used to hand my childproof lidded caps to my grandchildren to open. The inner lid  fits snugly into the inside of the bottle. I was saving my prescription bottles for MAP International, who recycles these bottles to third world countries, I simply cut the narrowed end off with an Xacto knife and drilled a hole in the other end for a long bolt. Now making a hundred or so soil blocks would be tedious beyond belief, I made four of them and held them together with duct tape. To press all four bolts down at the same time, I simply attached all four bolts through a piece of 1x4. Voila! I can make four blocks at a time. They are 2 1/2" around by 2" high. Much bigger than the cell seed starting trays shown above. So now I can make four at a time in one go. It also stands up better with four.

I'm not the first one to make this
As far as operating my new toy one handed, I put a row of hot glue near the plunger end of the bottles and cut strips of burlap to wrap around them. That way I can hold the plunger down with my thumb and anchor the tubes with my little finger as I pull the contraption upwards to release the pots. I do plan on doing a video of this. Both the making of the soil block maker and using it. All it cost me, other than the original prescription, was $4.00 for four bolts and nuts. I had assorted washers in one of Mel's soup can holders in her shop. Duct tape, burlap, and hot glue gun and glue sticks, we had on hand also. What self respecting homesteader and/or crafter doesn't have these? I found bolts and nuts around the shop, but not all the same length that I needed. If I had had them, it would have been a free, totally recycle/repurpose project. So this soil block maker used up some of my chomping-a-the-bit waiting to plant time. But it was well worth it. I'll still recycle my toilet paper and paper towel cores, but for rabbit toys and fire starters. With only two people in a household, we don't go through paper products that fast. Plus, like many self reliant folks, we use cloth alternative more except for toilet paper.

Where there is a will and a little bit of creativity; there is a way.  So disabled folks out there...what are you waiting on? Well that's it for this week. As always...

Y'all have a blessed day!


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Spring Has Sprung, I Think

?????
It's spring finally, I think but it's still in the 40s at night. We actually had some 80 degree daytime temps. Talk about a temperature shift between the two. It's now April. You'd think it would be safe to plant outdoors, but you'd be wrong here. May 1st is our last frost date.

I did plant some things though this week. English peas, potatoes, onions, garlic, lettuce, and a few other things that a late frost won't damage too bad. I've held off until now. It's a way different mindset.

When I think about my children's childhood in southeast Georgia, we had this rule. No swimming until after May 1st. That's because it was already 80+ degrees in February, and the ocean and outdoor pools had a chance to warm up. But here, nope! It would be like my childhood spent partially at my Grandmother's house in Nebraska. There would be snow on the ground until after Easter. The community pool didn't open until mid June when school let out. No, it isn't that bad here.I haven't even worn my heavy coat this year, mostly sweatshirts and my bulky sweaters. But then, I grew up and lived in northern type climates.

As you might have guessed, the proceeds from the sale of my south Georgia house has been reinvested somewhat into the homestead. I'm researching grading and driveway installation for our 1/4 mile drive. I've only talked about it for the past year. We are also researching companies for bush hogging and tree removal. This was an abandoned property for far too long. The sun doesn't hit the ground in most of it. We want to terrace our down hill slope into usable areas.These are big bucks things. With big bucks come big changes.

This will be easier for me to access. By planting the orchard and grains this way. The amount of sunlight and rain that the trees, plants, and bushes get will be optimized. It's a win win situation. It's also working within our property constraints. Or in other words, making applesauce. The only semi flat area we have is where the double wide and barn sits. Everything else is on a slope of a foothill. With the terraced sections being ten to twenty feet wide, It'll give us ample space for whatever we want to grow. it will also enable us to raise American Guinea hogs, or goats, or sheep plus have pastures for them to graze. Another step in becoming more self sustainable.

No, we won't be cutting all the trees. But we shouldn't have to cut firewood for a few years. This will be a good thing, because we aren't getting any younger. On this two-acre lot even cutting fifty or sixty trees to start with, is a small dent in the trees.

We've bought a used, but good rototiller for gardening. This hard packed clay takes years to get very productive. Now I can't use a tiller, but Mel can. It's a two handed thing. By adding lime and lots of organic material, even newly tilled soil can become very productive within a year. It is just a hardship to turn the soil with a shovel for new areas. While we have the chance, we're doing it.  If ever the SHTF situation arises at least we'll be prepared. If it doesn't, we still are prepared and more self sustainable.

Mel and Moira
Meanwhile, the English Angoras have blown their coats yet again. I plucked 5 ozs of just the back and shoulders of Moira yesterday. In all total I think I got 10 ozs of usable fiber off of her.  I did remove all her mats and buzz cut around her poo area with a mustache trimmer. I'll weigh it all up after I finish her up today and do Daisy next, then Dustin, Angus (so he can see again), Alby and start on the Jersey Woolie/Lionhead - Ebony, Kiki, and Early Gray. Luckily, our two male Jersey Woolie/Lionhead have the shorter Lionhead gene for hair more prominent so it's just a brush through on Squirt and Snowballz. After that, it's just standard beauty parlor grooming for them for a couple of months until they blow their coats again. Mel will give all of our rabbits a manicure this week.

We culled eight meat rabbits this week and they are in the freezer. Eighteen meals + for us and treats for the dogs and cats. We don't eat the livers, hearts, and kidneys. While I'm told they are tasty, I don't care for them. I'll be breeding Ms. Colleen again in the coming weeks to get our total rabbit meat needs until Fall when we breed again for human consumption.

Our baby chickens are four weeks old. Although I thought I bought six Buff Orpingtons, the feather pattern is different on two of them. It might just be our two roosters. I've never raised Buffs before so I don't know for sure. Time will tell. The Rhode Island Red chicks have almost tripled in size. I'd heard they were fast growing. Their coloring and feather pattern is more pronounced every day. All the chicks crowns have begun to form. They are at that gawky stage where their necks have elongated with their heads are tiny compared to their bodies. I'll be replacing their little, 24-hole chick feeder with a standard one. They are just going through the feed to fast. I draw the line at filling it more than twice a day. Their 2 gallon waterer is working out well. Now to get busy on their chicken tractors. No, I haven't started them yet. I've been too busy with rabbits.

So we are starting in earnest. Join us on YouTube to watch the journey and here for updates.

For now and always

Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Cockeyed Homesteading

This week everything is cockeyed. Quite literally. It's a good thing we named ourselves the Cockeyed Homestead.

Chicks at 2 weeks
Our chicks that we purchased from Tractor Supply Co are growing and feathering out nicely. They are about doubled in size since we got them. They are still deathly afraid of us. They are so cute that we want to squeeze them, hold them, love them, and call them all George. No, not really. Georgette maybe. They are rarely staying under the heat lamp except at night, which are cooler (50s). We haven't lost a single one. Although, we expected to. During the day they run around the brooder box, eat about a pound of crumble and grit every couple of days.

Jersey Woolie-Ebony
The weather has been cockeyed. I work up a sweat after the sun rises literally. I can't see at times because it's in my eyes. I've been revamping the rabbitry. We are building new cages for our six English Angoras. The cages will be bigger. 24x36x24 to give them more room to romp and play. Although I am still considering 30x36x18 cages for the females.They are miserable in the smaller cages before they blow their coats. With 3-5 inches of fur all over their body, even a 3 1/2 pound rabbit gets huge.The 18x30x18 cages won't go to waste though. We still have the tiny, two-pound Jersey Woolies to house in them. We have five of them. They are in the outdoor hutches which are 36x30x24. It's almost too much room for them.


Fodder
I moved one of the fodder racks into the rabbitry in preparation for hotter weather. Fodder grows best at under 75 degrees. Even in our 100+ temperature summers, the rabbitry is air conditioned so it will continue to grow. A hole in one corner of the rabbitry floor makes draining the pan easy, instead of lifting a tote of smelly water. The lower temperature should also lessen fruit flies and mold which loves the fodder. This year, I'm trying a different mixture of seeds than I usually do. I'm sprouting 1 part hard wheat, 1 part barley, and 1/2 a part black oil sunflower seeds. It's all sprouting well with no signs of mold. The rabbits are get their first taste of spring fodder as I type. The beginning of their slow (1 month) transition to a complete fodder diet. They will continue on this for the rest of their life. I may still have to buy pellets for babies.

Meanwhile, it's been too wet to till the garden for spring planting. It has stormed, including hail, every day for weeks. Usually it rains at night. It will take most of the day to dry off, or at least have the puddles gone. So, I've got seeds and plants ready to go into the ground but can't put them in. 

Broody on the porch
Broody, our wounded hen, has been out and about. For a while she stayed in the dog crate. She now just stays in it at night. The other hens do pick at her, but she has figured how to get away from them in the yard. She does have a separate area for food and water. Broody still hasn't laid an egg though so culling her is becoming a real possibility. But we have time.

Everything is all cockeyed, or should I say things are happening normally around here. At least for this week

As always,
Have a blessed day.