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 30, 2017

The New Driveway is In

The barn is <-- that away
This week, our new driveway went  in. The culvert and pipe at the top of the road will follow in two weeks. They have to mark the power, telephone, and cable wires underground first. Keep in mind that the area is NOT our property, but leads to our driveway. It is constantly being eroded by rain so the drainage culvert should help with that. I did check with the owner. Just coming down the drive with a Bobcat made a huge difference! All the ivy, blackberry bramble, weeds, and low hanging limbs are now clear on either side of the road. It is so much wider than I expected and there are even turn abouts and a new ditch for water run offs. It is just cleared dirt (clay) and the first layer of bedrock in the picture.

My joy increased as each dump truck load arrived. I watched (supervised lol) from the front porch as Mel videoed the process for a future video on our YouTube channel. It was so nice not to have to do the work. It was well worth the money I spent. My minivan thanked me as I took it up for a spin when Bob (the Bobcat operator) broke for lunch. He'll be back after lunch for the final sprucing up.

When I think about the huge drop at the top of driveway, I still cringe. Or at least, I will for a couple of weeks until the drainage culvert can be installed.

Not this one but close
To make the service they provided better while Bob was taking a break in between truckloads, Mel was clearing the area beside the barn in preparation of the trencher dude for the plumber. He walked over and asked if there was anything he could do to help. There was a stump from where Mel had taken out a sugar gum maple tree in the spring and a "lovely" stand of Spanish Bayonets to be removed. Mel and I hate Spanish Bayonets! He said he could help with that. Needless to say, Mel accepted. They were history in a matter of minutes. He even scrapped the area free of the grass and weeds too. We sat back on the porch grinning and drooling from ear to ear. I want to get me one of those! We could have so much fun with it! No, not really. I couldn't afford it. It falls in that area I was talking about last week. His bobcat was even air conditioned. Talk about luxury, but it borders on a necessity for Georgia summers.

The drive around the side of the garden to the back of the house is now #4 gravel. It runs down the far side of our property (by the ridge line) to where the rabbitry and chicken areas are. All we need is the top coat of the finer stuff on top to have a bonafied  driveway. It's already compressed. Bob saw to that. About one truck load for the finer gravel should finish it. That will be at a later date. Hard to walk on but a dream to drive on compared to the brush we were driving on.

All in all, I'm ecstatic with the work that we had done. They came in under what they contracted for even with the additional side driveway and an additional truckload of #4 granite gravel. No more getting stuck up to my axle in mud. No more carrying 50 lb sacks of feed over to this side of the house where the bins are. I won't miss it at all and neither will Mel. All this work and then some because Bob said he will clear the orchard area too for a small fee. After this, this company will be the first one I'll call if the need arises.  They've got two very satisfied customers and a referrals and at-ta-boys for life.

Now if we can get the plumber and electrician in here, we'll be set.

Y'all have a blessed week.

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.