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, February 25, 2018

Straw Bale Gardening Continues

I know, I know. I told you last week that I'd give you an update on our outdoor Cockeyed Critters this week. All I can say is things change. My foot isn't healing as anticipated. In fact, I have two more fractures starting to form. So no updated photos of our bunnies and chickies.

But today, I'm going to give you an update on our straw bale gardening endeavors. As you may have read here, we've expanded our garden spot. As you can imagine with 10 rabbits and a dozen or so chickens, they produce a lot of waste. Their poop does not go to waste. Get it, waste and waste? Two meanings for one word. Oh, never mind.

We placed our straw bales on the new areas of the garden rather than trying to dig through the compacted red clay soil. We have huge granite rocks and thick tree roots under the surface. It was just a labor saving device to build the fertile soil up rather than spend big bucks and years of labor to get the new areas up to speed with the rest of the garden area that we spent years amending to make fertile. It will take two years to completely rejuvenate the new areas rather than the four it took for the rest of the garden and we can grow produce while we do it. Makes sense right?

We started with a layer of wood chips over the entire area. Thanks to Hurricane Irma. But we wanted to hedge our bet for a better gardening season.  We decided to do two growing seasons (2 years) in straw bales as well. One row of straw bales around to new perimeter of the garden. It will serve dual purpose for now. A garden outline and build up the soil.

We've waited all winter long for the rains to fall. We wanted Mother Nature to do the work for us to decompose the straw bales. I added bone and blood meal to the bales last month when we had a couple of rainy days. Now was time for the serious nitrogen boosters, the manure. Chicken manure is very high in nitrogen as well as several pathogens that can be passed on to humans, such as botulism. That's the reason it should be composted for a year. But for our purposes, the three month deep bedding method used for our coop,and then sat undisturbed for three months, and plus being on he straw bales for three months works.

We loaded a couple wheel barrows full of the stuff. Yeah, chickens are messy critters. We also took a couple of wheel barrows of the deep bedding method manure and straw from the rabbit barn too. It does not have to be composted. We mixed it all together. We spread this about six to eight inches thick on top of the bales and growing areas. It will have three months to perform it's magic on the bales and regular garden areas. Meanwhile, Mother Nature complies with heavy rain falls soaking all that nitrogen run off into the bales and ground. Working with nature is the backbone of self sufficiency. It's like that very old television commercial, "It's not nice to fool [with] Mother Nature."

As this one farmer found out.
The warmer temperatures, we've been having will speed the composting process up.  This morning, two weeks ago manure was added, the temperature of the bales was 105 degrees. I added some more rain water to the bales that were this hot. So it's cooking rather nicely since it rained. We will be expecting another drenching down pour next week. But between now and then, we'll be having sporadic showers to cool the bales down some. The danger in straw bale gardening is that they can catch fire without matches. Yes, the decomposing pile can get that hot. So we are watchful. We take the bales' temperature every other day. We'll add more rabbit manure and straw if the temperature falls below 50 degrees to keep it bales cooking. Until we are ready to plant the end of April and the beginning of May. The interiors of the bales should be fertile, compost and more than ready to receive plants.

The plan is that next year, we'll plant directly into whatever is left of this year's straw bales.  We've got two 4 cu ft of peat moss and about two bags of mushroom compost to add to the existing garden too to replenish the soil. They were left over from our raised bed gardening endeavor two seasons ago. Although we have plenty of earth worm working for us in the existing garden as well.

Public Domain
Nothing is fast when dealing with organic gardening on the cheap side. But that's the way nature intended it. We prefer to work with nature here at the Cockeyed Homestead rather than the chemical ladened alternatives. So we have an off season or two as we attempt to become more self-sufficient. In the long run, we'll get there.

In the mean time, the farmers' markets and grocery stores are full of options. We've got time to experiment on what works best for us and our area. To get the best, it takes a lot of practice. We are constantly searching for alternatives to getting back to nature and self sufficiency. Some things work, but others can work better/worse too. You never know until you try. That's why we are the Cockeyed Homestead. We do things a little twisted and corny rather than the normal way to do things. We make you tilt your head to one side and go, "Huh?" followed by an, "Oh, now I get it. How neato!" Interject whatever word you want here, I'm just showing my age. "I never thought about doing it that way!" AND, everything was originally done cockeyed when building this place originally. There isn't a day that I don't cock my head to one side and go, "Huh? Why'd they do that like that?"

Y'all have a blessed day!"

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Inside Cockeyed Critter Report

It has been a while since I've done a critter report so I'll address it now. First, we'll start with the household critters and next post will be the outdoor critters. There's just too many of them for one post.

Nnyus, our pit bull/ridge back mix, has had a busy winter keeping large predators away from the chickens and rabbits. Arthritis is starting to set into this older girl. As with most working class breeds, her hips are affected. A baby aspirin encased in a cube of cheese keeps the pain and stiffness away. She's had her dose of DE (diatomaceous earth) for worms this week. It should take care of the bloated belly she's had. We've had an active coyote presence this winter. There's not a night that goes by that she's not in and out protecting her charges. Of course afterwards, she'll take her rightful spot next to Mel on her queen sized bed with her muddy clay covered paws and muzzle. It makes quite a mess of Mel's ivory colored quilt too. But she's earning her keep.

Herbie, our border terrier mix, is our rat and small vermin catcher. Since the hurricane blew past us in late summer, we've had an issue with rats. It doesn't help that the cats will bring them inside to play with them. But Herbie to the rescue. With his allergies to fleas comes whining sessions as he scratches and nibbles away at spots where they frequent. He's a grumpy, old man by nature. If you tell him to do something he doesn't want to do he'll bark/argue with you. In fact, he can be very demanding at times with his sharp sounding, terrier bark. Mel and I both have been awakened by him several times a night.

Although Mel taught him to whisper, he has to want to do it. But by the same token, the terrier trait of loyalty holds fast in him also. He's always at my feet. If I go somewhere on the property, he's always close by. If I drive off the property, he waits for me to return, and then announces that I'm home as I come down the driveway. It's a happy "Jo's home!" bark. He doesn't know what to make of my rollator though.

Whirling Dervish is truly Mel's cat. She suffers with her sinus issues sometimes sneezing twenty times in a row. Everything is touched with her snot art. I've never seen a cat that asks for wine before but she does.She's an alcoholic, I swear! No matter what Mel is drinking, even screwdrivers, this cat has got to have some. I've watched her when Mel leaves the table. Dervish will put her face into glasses of alcoholic beverages and help herself! She loves her some Mel too. Even if Dervish wasn't Mel's service cat, she's always withing calling distance of Mel. She loves to do her tricks when out in public. On rare occasions, she will allow me to pay homage to her.

Patches is my tortoise shell cat. At 16, she's still the best mouser around. She cleared the barn of rats and other vermin in a matter of days. Mel came in and told me about a line of dead rats near the garage door of the barn. She wondered what had killed them. The answer was Patches. Every since she was a younger cat with an older cat around, she learned to line up her presents to me outside. That's how she got praise and acceptance of her gifts. She has a mission in life to serve as my guardian when I'm outside. She'll walk me to my car door. When I return she'll escort me from my car into the house. She and Dervish have settled on being dual queens of the household. They will still hiss at it each when both are in a foul mood, but otherwise peace reigns.

Lil Bit is my 16 year-old Calico cat. She's a timid thing having always been the baby of the house until moving up here. She's a mama's girl. Wherever I am, she's content. She purrs me to sleep at night and wakes me in the morning with kisses/licks. Usually, her licks are with the soft part at the tip of her tongue. If I don't wake up she gets more insistent. She licks my eyelid with the rough part of her tongue. After almost two years here, she's finally going in and out the pet door. I wish she and Flynn would get along because they could have so much fun together, but Lil Bit is having none of that. I don't think Lil Bit has forgiven me for moving her up here. She's low man on the household pet's hierarchy totem pole because of her timidity.  But then, wherever I am is home. She'll go into hiding if I'm gone longer than 24 hours and won't come out until I return.

Flynn, Mel's orange and cream baby that we found abandoned on our property, is growing up. She's still got a lot of kitten in her. Everything is a toy to her even little scraps of wood. So much so that she's even got the old lady queens, Dervish and Patches, playing with her. I don't believe she knows how to walk. She runs and scampers everywhere. She's definitely Mel's baby. She's still got to have her "momma" cuddles times with Mel several times a day. Wherever Mel is on the property, Flynn is close by. If she isn't eating, playing, or sleeping this kitten is in Mel's arms.

Of course, we both still treat her as a baby. She's adventuresome and almost fearless. The only time I have seen her shy away from something is strangers. She'll peek around corners until Mel tells her they are alright. Then, she back being busy investigating everything. It's been good for us having a kitten around again.

This week Flynn started her day as normal by harassing Lil Bit, and playing with Patches and Derv. Then, she went outside to play with the chickens and say good morning to the rabbits. Her idea of playing with the chickens is to hide in the Monkey grass or bushes and jump at them. It's great fun to hear them squawk and jump straight up in the air. Unfortunately, one morning she found a snake to play with. It was poisonous and Flynn was no more. We dutifully killed the snake. With all the rain we've had they are coming out of the woods.

That's it for the inside pets. It is never quiet around here unless they are all sleeping, which doesn't happen very often. As you can imagine, it's difficult keeping a clean house with this many animals under foot. But then again, this is a working homestead not some glamorous penthouse apartment in the big city.
It's supposed to a dusty blue color carpet

We do dust and vacuum, but you wouldn't know it if you visited at will. But we are also in winter mode,we are toting in wood and kindling inside, and emptying the ash pan from under the wood stove. If you've ever operated a wood stove as your only source of heat, you understand what I'm saying. There are little bits of wood and ash in a five foot circle around it. We'll sweep it clean and vacuum, only to do it all again in a day or two because it looks like we have never touched it. It's four dustpans full every time we do it.

Currently, we are trying to figure out a way to rip the carpet out of the living and dining areas. As you can see from the photos, it needs to come out. What's underneath this carpet would give someone nightmares. Not that taking the carpet out is the issue besides moving the heavy furniture. It's the staining and varnishing the new wood floors that's the issue with all these animals. We'd have paw prints all over it before it dries. If it dried in a couple of hours there would be no problem, but for eight to twenty-four hours! It's just not feasible. Of course, we could also do linoleum, but it wouldn't be as pretty or durable.

 Next week, I'll introduce you to the outside Cockeyed Critters namely the rabbits and chickens.

Y'all have a blessed day!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Helpless and Useless Cockeyed Style

"I just can't do it all!" This from Mel. It's a usual indicator of a depressed cycle and fatigue for her. She's feeling helpless, hopeless, and useless. There is also nothing I can do for her but listen to her.

I've heard this more and more since I broke my foot. Of course, I have. I'm not mobile and I'm in a state of forced inactivity. That leaves everything up to her. From bringing in the wood to starting and maintaining the wood stove for heat. But, she's  also doing the lion's share of my chores too. She's gathering the kindling, cooking, and keeping track of all the animals. Not that she didn't do it all before I came to live with her, but that was almost two years ago.

Homesteading and self sufficiency are labor intensive. I'm chomping at the bit to pitch in and help. but I can't. Not that I won't, but honestly can't by doctor's orders...nonweight bearing on the fractured foot.

I've looked at various alternatives to alleviate my situation. First there was the Iwalk crutch. This sounded marvelous. A hands free crutch. But it had some serious drawbacks where I was concerned. It depends on having a stable gait and foot balance before use. I have issues with both because of my strokes.Even walking with a quad cane, it would be dicey to use.

Not that I'm totally immobilization, I still have a rollator I can use. It allows me the prop my knee on the seat and use it like a walker. But in a mobile home full of furniture, it's an obstacle course to get around. Then there is the issues of the doors, not all of them are wide enough to fit through like bathroom doors. Being a single-handed gal using a double handed device is doable but not easy. There's a slight step up/down at the front door, and a two-three larger steps up/down at the back door which poses a problem for the rollator being used in this fashion. Sitting on the seat and being short puts me right about nose level to cook in our kitchen. Not exactly safe, but it does give Mel a break from time to time. Using small appliances like the Kichenaid mixer or a crockpot is out of the question. They are over my head to see into. So we are buying bread at the store. Mel now does the shopping too. She hasn't had to step foot into a grocery store in almost two years unless she's wanted to. So she's gathering the coupons, the sales circular, my grocery list, and goes to the store. I usually hear the "I can't do it all!" after one of these excursions too.

Part is selfishness on her part. She's just gotten used to Jo doing it. By doing activities (that I usually do) that she doesn't like or want to do is cutting into "her" time of doing what she wants to do. But the has to be done has to be done regardless. What little I do around this homestead has gone basically unappreciated until now. I mean I'm still paying all the bills since she can't find a job. The luxury of two doesn't apply. Even now, I rarely ask for help for my needs. I just do them except for changing my bedding that's a two handed job with the egg crate topper. That doesn't mean I don't help her doing it, just that I can't do it by myself. But then honestly, don't we all feel this way when our world turns upside down. When we've gotten used to a status quo and it changes?

Nobody truly likes changes including me. I've been railing against my forced inactivity because I want to be doing more. I'm getting bored with watching Netflix, computer time, knitting and spinning. When the temperatures outside rises to the 60s, I want to be out doing things. Pain brings the idea of doing to a screeching halt so I sit some more resting my foot. As far as the last set of x-rays taken, there is absolutely no healing in the fractures in my foot. Don't you just hate doing something (you don't want to do) and getting no results? That's me. So while Mel is going through her "I can't do it all!" So am I.

Y'all have a blessed day!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Winter Blahs?

I can understand why most people get the winter blahs up north. I've lived there during winter. Usually, it's nine months of grey skies along with the cold. Seasonal Affective Depression is rampant. This too I understand. Nothing like endless grey skies to compound it.

But here in the south winter skies are usually bright and sunny (unless it's rainy). Snow falls while the sun shines. It's not oppressive. It's exciting mainly because it doesn't happen  that often. With sunny skies, you want to get out and do except for the bone chilling temperature, unlike our northern counterparts. I say bone chilling temperatures with a grin because the thermometer reads 30 degrees not below zero in the afternoons.

Mel has been learning a new (for her) computer language this past nine months online. Java will open new doors for us. In fact, she has been hard at work on a seed cataloging for our purchased and saved seeds. We've only got a medium sized box full of seeds to work with. But she may market the program once she gets all the bugs out of it. In case you didn't know, Java codes runs most games and and is used in web page design. Her program is similar to the one offered by growveg.com which offers a monthly subscription based service. Hers, you buy the program and you can update at your leisure. Can't find a variety of seed that you have, simply edit it and add. This simply adaption to the program is what I disliked most about  the growveg planner and it doesn't do. Not all plants are alike or even close. Simple drop down windows allow for ease of use and adaptability. Yes, she is also working one 1.2 or even 1.4 in ease of use for noncomputer literate folks not like us. There may even be version 2 or 3 with more bells and whistles at a later date. When Bill Gates developed Windows 1 did he ever envision Windows 10 some 30 years later? Possibly. Go Mel, go!

The down side is that little on computer time is left for editing videos for our Cockeyed Homestead YouTube channel. Now that we've secured a decent, freeware based video editing software again, we should be uploading videos again. Knocks my wooden head for luck. It's been a computers going down, camera issues, audio issues, and software editing issues, we've had our share of technical issues in 2017.  We appreciate all the concerned comments while we've been dealing with these issues.

The way we combat the winter blahs is to keep busy. We have tons of projects until spring. I'm currently on my new, to me,  Cindwood loom, I'm knitting a cowl neck sweater for Mel. This looms ain't cheap, but they are well made. I don't mind spending/ saving for good money on a good product. I'm making it in Mel's favorite color...green. It was supposed to be finished for her January 15th birthday, but other issues have pulled me away from knitting it as you have read on this blog.

But that's not all on my to-do list. The next project for my looms is a dog sweater for Nnyus, pit bull/ridge back hound mix. That poor dog has very short, thin fur, but still does her job on these frigid days keeping us and our cockeyed critters safe. She comes in chilled to the bone. She had a very nice purchased coat but it was lost on one of her missions on the homestead. After that, it's a baby blanket and layette set for Ainsley's (Mel's niece) who is expecting a little girl in April. I also have orders for two beaded, silk/bamboo blend, knitted shawls to be completed by May.

If it's about Mel, it has to be  a cat
So I'm keeping the blahs at bay. I also have my spinning that keeps me warm and cozy inside with the wood stove. Sunlight streams through the windows keeping our moods uplifted. Mel's SAD isn't as bad this winter with the combination of a new antidepressant, the sunlight therapy, and aromatherapy. She's sleeping, eating, and is all around better. Thank God! I'd threatened to run away from home if she got bad again. Amy and Ellen, you understand. They've even offered me a sanctuary. Yes, 2016-2017 winter was that bad.

While it was hard to live with her during her experience, it was just as hard being Mel during this time. I'm just glad that it isn't as bad for both of us.

So what do you do to keep the winter blahs away? Let me hear from you.
Until next week...
Y'all have a blessed day.