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, March 25, 2018

Still Healing, but Not Healed Yet Setback

Just when I thought my foot was healed, I found out it's not the hard way. It's been a couple of weeks that my healing broken bones in my foot has virtually been pain free. What with the new AFO and rocker sole on my affected foot's shoe, I thought I was out of the woods. I've actually been pretty good about staying off of it. Even though it has felt better.

As it happens too often on the homestead, we had a calamity that took both of us to fix. A couple of the cattle panels that make up the roof of our rabbitry slipped their shelf. The brackets we had screwed in to hold it in place came loose. Thus the roof caved in on one side. But worse than that, the five male rabbit cages were attached to the cattle panels suspending them off the ground.

I said that I've been good and I have. I've only been out to the rabbitry twice since I broke my foot. So now, I looked at the five cages with rabbits in them tilted to a 45 degree angle. Those poor rabbits! I helped Mel by supporting the cages as she released the cables. It took both of us to lower the 15' section of rabbit cages to the ground so that they were level once more. Then we began transferring the bucks to the outdoor hutches on the other side of the house ( a good 80' walk each way). We removed the remaining screws from the rail which held the cattle panels and reattached them. Finally we zip tied the panels to the pallets so this wouldn't happen again. By  the time we finished all of this my foot was screaming at me. The old twisting knife pain was back. I don't know if I rebroke the original bones, or new ones, or the one I'm hoping for, just aggravated the dickens out of it.

If you haven't viewed the YouTube video on the rabbitry. Enjoy it now. You'll see the bunny cages on the left of the screen that fell. Mel's showing off the some of the bucks and Gimpy.

Now instead of brushing out these rabbits, we are going to have to shear them. We'll lose all that fiber. The reason- Broody(Gimpster) chicken and her sister had made their home on the tops of the cages. The hens like being on top of the cages because the roosters leave them alone. They just hop on  the straw bales we house in the rabbitry for easy access to the top of the cages. Now chickens aren't toilet trained. They go wherever they feel like it. Not to mention their feed and watering bowls were all up there with them.

We placed metal oil pan drop trays on top of the cages to catch all of it. Well, when the roof gave way, all those trays dumped into the buck cages dousing them with all that poop and everything else. Of course being rabbits, they couldn't get it off no matter how hard they shook themselves. The shaking only cause that poop and straw to get embeded further in their hair. The five bucks look pitiful! We would wash them but their fur is so fine (think cashmere) that it would mat against their skin. So we lose a little over four pounds of fiber. At the selling price of $8 an ounce... you figure out how much this additionally cost us.

We've just chocked it up homesteading. Things like this happen in life when you least expect it. Living post stroke doesn't make it any easier. Recovering from broken bones and Mel's trigger thumb which is now reinjured also, just makes for a bad turn of events. We're in bad shape for the fast approaching springtime busyness.

So once again, I'm off my feet again. I will be helping Mel rehang the rabbit cages after some minor adjustments and a good cleaning. The bucks will return to the rabbitry after we shear them. Mel with her little scissors and me with my mustache trimmer.

It's kind of amazing that while I don't play well with scissors, I can handle a battery powered trimmer with great accuracy. The bunnies do tend to move more with the vibration, but I can hold them pretty securely by pinning them down with my affected arm. Except for their fuzzy ears and their nails, I can shear a rabbit without cutting them once unlike Mel with her scissors. Mel is responsible for their ear and nail care for all the rabbits.

While we're at it, a good cleaning of the rabbitry is in order. I'll do what I can, but it's going to up to Mel for most of the grunt work this year. The deep bedding needs to be raked out and piled up to decompose further. But I can scatter flakes of fresh straw under the cages scooting my rollator around once it's cleared.  If my broken foot has taught me anything, it's the need for a cleared and possibly a matted surface down the center of the rabbitry. I'm thinking the rubber mats like horse stalls have in them. They are 4x6 so four of them would work perfectly. We decided to expand the rabbitry another 4' long. We wanted a larger area for the rabbits to get sunshine and a "free-range" area that they would be protected in. The 3' section we currently have for this is taken up by food storage bins (plastic garbage cans). They hold the sprouting grains and seeds (corn, black oil sunflower seeds, barley, wheat and oats) and commercial, organic feed for both the chickens and the rabbits. We use the commercial feed as back up.

So while I'm still healing I'm taking it slow. In about a month, I'll be setting seed for the transplants to go into our straw bales. They've been "cooking" (decomposing) since October. Their centers should be full of composted material to feed the plants. Notice how I'm only mentioning things I can do while seated. I plan once again to be good. Hopefully, neither one of us have another setback in healing.

Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Cockeyed Videos Standstill, but the Programs are Great!

We are still on hiatus with our cockeyed videos on YouTube. Mel is still busily working on an additional Java based software programs. The garden planner/seed catalog/gardening journal is now out for beta testing.

This new program is based on animals on the homestead. For example, (it can be used for whatever animal you choose) I'll use our angora rabbits. Date of birth, breeding, offspring, size of litter are important information you'll have access  within a few clicks of your mouse after inputting your data. It will also contain a simple profits and loss calculator which will show you where and how much money you are making and spending for your animals. Like the gardening software, it will help you stay organized. It will also include information enabling you to pedigree your stock.

These are separate programs. So you can buy just what you need. It's a buy once and it's yours to use unlike the online subscription based services. It has plenty of wiggle room built in to expand or customize it based on your needs. The exact price of the software programs has not been set yet, but we want to make it affordable for small homesteads like ours. These are not comprehensive programs but they do cover the basics every small homestead up to hobby farm size ventures.

What determines what software to make? Well, that's simple. Whatever we need or want. If we could use it, you can bet other homesteads out there can use them too. The small homestead governs what we make because we are tiny compared to other homesteads. We have just two acres. 

What's next on the programming agenda?  How about something based on your pantry/freezer? We can a lot of our vegetable and poultry production here at the Cockeyed Homestead. We have chickens that provide us with meat and eggs. A garden that produces about 75% of our needs. It's great that we are able to put by each year. How do you keep track of it all? Do you know how many jars of food stuff to put by each year. What did you can too much of? What did you can too little of?

I canned about three bushels of tomatoes last year thinking that would be enough. It lasted the two of us four months. Guess what I'll be planting and canning more of this year. My pickles? I barely will eek through. A few extra jars would be heavenly. I canned way too much jams. We don't need half as much for a year. Peaches, between frozen and canned we broke even. I did this by memory and guessimation this year. A program would have been nice. It will help us produce more accurately and hold down costs.

I normally buy meats we don't produce from Zaycon by the case.Well, it turned out their pork sausage links made Mel nauseous. I ended up giving 3/4 of a case to my neighbor. We loved their all beef hot dogs so much that I'll be buying two cases this summer to last us all year. With just the two of us on this homestead, a case or two of whatever will last us a year. Coupled with their sales, it's cheaper than the grocery store. I'll hit a local vendor for grass fed/ no antibiotic beef. I'll buy half a cow a year. I'll even take all the bones, tongues, and fat the processor will give me. It's bone broth/beef stock and rendered fat for soaps for basically free. The dogs love the bones after I've finished with them.

So why did Mel design the computer based programs? 
We started, like most homesteads, with a ring binder journal. We quickly found that the forms that were downloadable were inadequate for our needs in just three years. We tried creating spread sheets of our own. We were quickly overwhelmed by just pages upon pages. A 3" binder wasn't big enough. We ended up with several. And then, it was shuffling back and forth between notebooks trying to correlate the data we needed. It became a headache in record keeping. Now, we have the data we need and want within a simple program that we can adjust based on our needs.

Let's face it, as homesteaders, we have a duty to be self accountable. We want to know if something is a dismal failure or a success, and by how much. Are we getting our money's worth? A return on investment? Where did we spend too much or too little? How can we save money? Will these programs help with that? Well, let me put it this way. It sure couldn't hurt. It had to be simple to use because my damaged brain and at my <cough>age, it has to be.

The programs will be available soon.

Y'all have a blessed day.

Cockeyed Garden Philosophy

Here in northern Georgia we have a definite winter season unlike my previous homestead in south Georgia. This is much to my dismay. I've waited this whole cockeyed winter season for something to grow. Yes, we are still in the Y'all part of the country too, but there are three distinct growing areas in Georgia, and we  ain't that big of a state. I know I said we'd start seeds around Easter, but I want it now! Yes, I know we still have several more cold snaps to go before spring. I'm not talking about planting outside yet either.

The back porch is finally wrapped in plastic wrap. Nobody really wanted to be outside replacing screens and hanging plastic when it was 40 degrees outside, but we've had a spell of really nice days of late with daytime temperatures in the 60s and 70s. Of course, this warming spell had its days (weeks) of rainy weather too. As much as I wanted the porch enclosed, I didn't want Mel out when it was raining. It was bad enough that I had to get out in it going various medical places.

Now we have a cozy spot to grow in even if the night time temperatures drop near freezing. The great part is that the plastic can be rolled up out of the way during the warmer months to allow cooling breezes in. The plastic will also keep out the blowing rain. I like doing the work once the right way and not having to do it again. Now, it's just putting up the storage racks to hold the seedlings and plants. It has become my 18'x25' greenhouse.

Do you start you plants in trays? Do you actually purchase these? My question is why are you paying for it? Have you bought tomatoes or other vegetables in the winter? What are you doing with all those baskets and cardboard or foam bins? You aren't throwing them away are you? How could you! You might as well be throwing dollar bills in the garbage.

These are excellent seed starting trays. I also use  my homemade soil block maker, and paper towel cardboard rolls. The toilet paper rolls are used exclusively for rabbit treats and toys. The cardboard is thinner on toilet paper rolls and won't hold up for 6-12 weeks for growing plants.

As the days grow warmer I find myself getting more excited about the prospect of being in the garden again. My garden time is also my one on one time with God. He shows and teaches me all His wonders in the garden. Even through the weeding, disease management, and pest control, He is constantly showing me something new. I no longer try to eradicate all the pests in my garden. There really is no need. They are happy with their 1/3 and I am happy with the 2/3rds. If a fruit of my labor is a bit bug bitten, do I really care? Nope, it will still taste good. If the plant is healthy enough and produces a good yield, isn't that good enough for a few bugs?

I used to be almost anal about pest control in my garden. God showed me that the best plants will have the most pests. It stands to reason, right? Who honestly wants to eat substandard food? I'll spray my plants with a cayenne, garlic, oil, and soap water solution to hold the insect population to a dull roar. I'll do this a couple times a season. That's it for my organic bug spraying. The rest of the  time, I'm picking off caterpillars and larva for the chickens. I won't get every single one. That would almost be impossible, but I don't sweat it either. So long as the bugs don't take over their 1/3 share, I'm content to live with nature.

2 cups of poo to 1 gal rain water
By starting my plants indoors and then transplanting them into the garden, they have a chance to get a head start on growth. I look at it this way. Who is more susceptible to harm a newborn baby or an adult? The baby, right? Well my plant babies are protected from that which will harm them. Temperature variations and pest/diseases being the major threats. They receive abundant nutrients via the compost in their growing medium  and a couple waterings with rabbit poo tea during their first 6-12 weeks of life. While the temperatures may vary, it never falls below 50 degrees in my make shift growing area. The plants will also be watered in with rabbit poo tea when transplanted to prevent shock. By transplant time, they will have grown into teenagers and less susceptible to damage by temperature and pests.

To me, I think of plants like children growing up. I did raise five children.
I consider this babyhood- anytime before flowering
When the flowers start budding= teenage/puberty
It takes a lot of energy to grow a teenager to adulthood. Ask any mother of a teenager what their grocery bills are like. If you don't have children compare it to double the normal cost and amount.
Adulthood= produces fruit

I'll usually top/side dress the plants with additional rabbit poo when they start to flower and again after the first flush of harvesting. Your plants need food to keep producing great fruit. It takes hard work and energy to keep producing offspring (fruit). You consume a lot of calories when pregnant to grow healthy babies. If you garden like me, I grow several different plantings of seedlings a couple of weeks a part to have a continual harvest over the growing season. It seems like I'm always feeding my plants.

An entire growing/harvesting season for us starts in May and lasts until September most years.  Gone are the days of waiting for November to plant greens and other cooler weather crops. It will freeze before harvesting. I've had to rethink and reorganize my planting/harvesting charts for these more northern climates. It's been a heck of a learning curve. But with the addition of plastic on the porch, I can eek out a few more months of planting/harvesting. I'll also be able to grow citrus fruits that Mel and I love. An almost year around harvest of ginger, horseradish, and turmeric too. Three medicinal/culinary roots that I can't do without. I may even try propagating pineapples too. Mel loves her some pineapple.

I thought I'd update you on some of my general garden philosophies that I hold dear to my heart as we travel this homesteading path. Hopefully, I can implement it all this coming year.

Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

It's a Cockeyed Life

You know if it wasn't for my body crapping out, I'd live on this Earth forever. But that is not the case for me. For instance, I'm still dealing with a broken foot. As if a surviving a stroke isn't bad enough, I also have a bum ticker, aortic aneurysms, and now moderate kidney damage. In other words, I'm dying, but aren't we all?

All each of us can do is the best we can do.  I'm no different. I'm busy living my life and dreams until I can't anymore. As should we all. Bummed out yet? Don't be. I'm not.

Even with all these health issues, I'm getting ready for Spring. We've got a garden and orchard to plant. Although right now, all I can do is plan and pay for it. It will be up to Mel to install it. Much as I hate it, it's the truth. It's already March. The last expected frost date is May 1st. That means come Easter, I need to start seedling in trays so we'll have a jump start on our garden. My garden plan and layout still stands. Hopefully by about mid growing season, I'll be back on my feet again.

I'm praying for a great harvest this year now that the chickens are finally penned up. Well almost. Houdini, Buff Orpington rooster, and Little Red, Rhode Island Red rooster, are still free ranging. They service our two remaining New Hampshire Red hens who live in our rabbit barn. But all of them are too big to squeeze under the gates or through the fence. So my garden should be safe now. Just the occasional squirrel or small cotton tail rabbit should be the only predators.

Now pests and birds in an organic garden and orchard is another  story. I plan my planting and yield with them in mind. I figure 1/3 of the proposed harvest for them leaving 2/3rds for us. Bugs and birds do have their benefits. Birds eat the pests. For the caterpillars and larva the wild birds do not eat, my chickens will feast on them as I go through the area. It will break their hearts to have to wait on their treats this year, but oh, well, if they had left my harvest alone they'd be loose still.

I'm already gearing up for canning and freezing my produce. I found an upright freezer for free on Craig's List and it works great.  This will be for bunny bottles and vegetables. The chest freezer in the barn will be for just meats. I bought another sleeve (364) of canning lids off of E bay. I also purchased rolls of food saver bags. So I'm ready.I still have another 60 cases of pint canning jars awaiting pick up for when I to to North Carolina again.

I still haven't found a good, used small pressure canner yet. I'm still looking. I'm in the market places and auctions looking for two of them actually. I want a smaller one for smaller batches. My two large ones are great for bulk produce, but as any gardener knows, fruits ripen at different times. Sometimes, there's just enough harvest for 6-8 pints or even half pints. It just seems like a waste of energy and resources to keep pulling out my 23-qt pressure canner for these jobs.

The reason for two of them is that the Lord has put it on my heart to provide one for an internet friend in TN. She wants/needs to can food, but doesn't have the resource to purchase one. She only has her freezer that's on top of refrigerator too. That makes canning a necessity. I'd love to find an All American, but almost any small pressure canner will do. If it needs new seals, gauges, or weights is a small issue that can be corrected. I usually change mine every couple of heavy canning seasons just out of habit. Better safe than sorry.

This isn't a story of a friend of a friend occurrence with a pressure canner. I've actually seen one of these explode through no fault of the owner. She was scraping canning jar glass and beef stew, I think, for weeks off of walls and ceiling. There was actually imbedded glass into her dry wall. The cause was a fault in the metal which held the lid on. Two of the prongs snapped off when the canner was under pressure. The lid made a dent in her range hood. Luckily no one was hurt. She was also an experienced canner. This was a Chinese knock off pressure canner too, which I will only buy a canner from reputable dealers and check them out carefully. I always follow the instructions of the manufacturing company. So far in almost 25 years of pressure canning and cooking, I've had ZERO incidents. It just takes caution and common sense when operating your equipment. Oh Lord, please don't get me started on the lack of common sense these days.

Anyhow, I'm healing and hope to be ready for Spring.

Y'all have a blessed day!