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, January 21, 2018

Cockeyed Homestead Profit Maker for 2018

For 2018, we are focusing more on income producing ideas drom the homestead. Everyone needs income source, right? I'm unable to work because of my disabilities. I have a limited, fixed income from Social Security and a pension. Most of my nest egg that I had is gone on making necessary improvements to the homestead. Much needed and essential in the past two years. Homesteading ain't cheap.

While Mel is able to work off the homestead, she hasn't worked for the past 18 months. Blame it on her mental quirks and the local job market in this area. She isn't the 9-5, office type like so many folks out there.

Yes, we sell our eggs, but we have heavy competition on the local area. The eggs sales may generate enough income to offset half of a commercial feed bill. Which is why we feed our birds non gmo sprouted grains and their ground egg shells back to them. This breaks about even cost wise so there is no expense in raising them.

We sell angora wool, but once again the market is limited. With the loss of Dustin in 2017, we lost our ability to breed on related stock which would allow us to develop a pedigreed line of litters to sell. It actually stopped our breeding litters for sale totally. Inbreeding causes genetic mutations. So we lost income in that respect. With the loss of Keiran (my American Chinchilla), we lost our meat rabbit and pelt line. Two major losses in 2017, really put a hurting on our income production. We either have to replace these two or get out of breeding altogether. I believe that is the direction we are going. The fiber and yarn sales generate enough income to pay for their keep, but not a lot extra. We aren't large enough to generate a serious profit without breeding.

So that leaves us with searching for new income generating sources from the homestead. It's a dilemma every homestead has.  The bills keep coming and a way to meet them is part of grown up life.

I mentioned in an earlier post about making plarn. One man's trash can be recreated into usable objects. Call it recycling, repurposing, upcycling, thrifty, frugal, or whatever catch phrase you want to use, I call it income producing. Whether I sell it as plarn or make market bags with it. With a little bit of labor on my part, it can create a product to bring in income. The cost of materials is basically free. The reason for selling both the plarn and market bags is- that we are not the only crafty people out there the world is full of knitters and crotcheters. How do I know? Take a look at how many YouTube videos, forums like Raverly, and magazines there are at the book stands. But then again, there are uncrafty folks out there that need finished products too. Not that we expect to get rich with this item alone. Far from it. If we sell enough to even pay a couple of electric bills each year, every little bit helps. I've included the video inspiration with you below.


It's easy enough to do. Spinning it with my Heavenly Handspinning Vespera electric spinning wheel is a breeze.  Jan at Heavenly Handspinning is a true gem to work with and now she lives in a neighboring town too. Yes, it uses electricity, but hey, one handed spinner here. I gifted myself this machine after I retired my great-grandmother's spinning wheel. Yes, I relearned how to spin one handed again after my stroke. I spin the plarn for added strength and a more consistent product. Knitting and crocheting one handed has enough challenges. I can make yards of plarn watching my favorite show or movie via Netflix in one evening. I can comb fiber or spin while rotting my brain with the boob tube. Otherwise known as relaxing in the evening before bed. Spinning is one of my old favorite winter pastimes. And, it is winter.

Of course, there are our other handmade products as well. Mel and I are avid needlework gals. Whether it's dishcloths, socks, sweaters, caps, or anything else, we can make it. My knitted beaded evening shawls are a sure fire money maker. It all takes little startup capital and higher profitability.

Again, there is the farmer's market. Offering chemical-free, heirloom produce won't make us rich either. But as I said before, every little bit helps. It all depends on the harvest. There's also my pickles and jams we can sell.

With the farmer's market, we can sell other things too. Mel made me a fantastic harvest tote for Christmas. It was made of scrap lumber. She used welded wire mesh on the bottom so I can rinse the vegetables outside with the hose before bringing them inside. She also made me a folding board so I can fold laundry easier. There are a tons of wood working projects she can make and sell.

The only drawback to farmer's markets is that they are for a limited time. Events in our local area also are a possibility. But then we have the website too that is doing nothing right now. There are other websites like etsy and ebay which offer year around access to sell on. There's always business cards for word of mouth referrals.

So making money on the homestead is challenging, but not impossible. You just have to put your mind to it and maybe a little creativity. What will sell and what won't is a trial and error method. All you can do is try. Wish us luck.

On a personal note...I've had an increasing amount of pain while walking. After therapy, yes still physical not mental, I couldn't climb the stairs into the house without it feeling like someone was stabbing a knife into my foot with each step. After a couple of days, it was worse, not better. A run to my podiatrist for x-rays showed that I had not one but three fractured bones in my braced foot. I've been ordered to be nonweight bearing on my right foot for 3-12 weeks. Talk about a bummer! It sure puts a hurting on us with both of us on the injured list and trying to homestead too. But as always, we'll be thinking of more creative ways to get the job done.

Y'all have a blessed day.





  

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Homestead Well Woes

It's not very often I say this, but THIS DARN STROKE! At times, frustration gets the better of me. As usual, it is costing me money too because I can't do something because I'm having to hire someone else to do it.

I said this before when the door handle busted on my vehicle and I couldn't maneuver the working side of my body to fix it. That ended up costing me a few hundred dollars. This time it's our water well.

It's not rocket science diagnosing and fixing a problem with a well. If you've done it once, you can do it again. I've done it several times over the years. Everything from drilling a shallow well for the garden to installing and fixing all components that go along with it. I was lucky enough to have a father that didn't mind teaching me the ropes. He was a certified welder, electrician, plumber, heating/air conditioner tech and auto mechanic. He is a Jack of all trades and is aptly named Jack. Or, Poppa Jack to all his abundant grands and great-grands. But I digress.

Here at the Cockeyed Homestead we had no water in the house. Having just replaced all the pipes from the well to the house wasn't the cause. At first, we thought it was because of the hard freezes we'd had. I honestly thought that burying the pipes deeper would help with this. They were 2 1/2 feet deep and it's well below the freeze line, or suppose to be. To say I was irritated at this point would be stating fact. Well, it was two days before the temperatures rose above freezing. The daytime temperatures was a little above but not much. I was biding my time. We keep four 5-gallon water jugs filled in the stores building for just such occasions. They aren't light when filled but the new deck and ramps make it easier to move into the house.

By day three, the temperatures rose well above freezing. Still no water. I knew at this point that the problem was with the well or one of the components. Mel and I start trouble shooting the well. The first issue I have is the well itself. I told y'all how the previous owners had Jerry rigged the door. It gets better. The whole bladder tank, well pump, switches, and well, everything is cockeyed and Jerry rigged. In all my days on earth, I've never seen anything like it. A nightmare post Christmas. If ever there was a convoluted way of putting things together...this was it. Pipes and wires spliced, glued, and screwed into a mess. All housed in a 4'x4'x3' building. There was no way to move let alone get into the building short of laying on your back or squatting. I might mention here that they did use roofing nails in the 1/2" plywood roof. Half an inch or so of the nail points came through the plywood and shingles inside the roof and they were nice enough to leave them in tact for anyone trying to work inside the well house. It was a Machiavellian's torture chamber's delight if you got too close to them. Oh, there is an actual old time well (the kind you drop a bucket into) in the building covered by a concrete lid too. The well pump assembly sits on top of it.You just can't get to it let alone remove the lid. There's no room!

So you get the picture right? Now imagine little, old, impaired self me trying to troubleshoot this thing. It was a comedy of errors at every turn. Mel had always called a plumber before being a city girl and all. But I had the knowledge and hands on experience to fall back on. I powered on the well. I tend to troubleshoot the highest cost to lowest cost repair that way I can be relieved when it isn't costly. Actually Mel did this because the power switch was up at the house a couple hundred feet away. We are playing relay with cell phones. Good news, the well pump kicked on. I reached around various pipes and wires to touch the pump. Not hot after it ran for a few minutes cycling off and on. That's a major cost savings. Well pumps can run a couple hundred dollars upwards. To replace this size would have set me back $360. Whew! But still no water inside the house.

Next pricey item is the bladder tank. While usually filled with compressed air and water, it makes a particular sound when the bladder inside has ruptured. I'd had to replace on of these before. When the bladder ruptures the vessel fills with water and depending on the size of the tank, it can be quite heavy. The well pump also tries to keep running which in turn burns out the pump motor. I know this from experience too. I picked up the pipe wrench and git the side of the metal tank. Ping. I hit it again to be sure I heard what I heard. The old measure twice and cut once. The tank was full of water and the bladder was blown. That will set me back $140, but that's still better than having to buy the pump motor. I could reach the bladder tank, but it's actually called a pressure tank. But I've  seen it called both. So I ran to my local Lowes to pick one up. It would have been cheaper to go through the plumbing supply house, but I didn't think about it. I was too thankful that the tank was just inside the shed. Other than the connection of the water line and a few wires, it would be an easy fix once Mel remove the old one.

THIS WAS MY FIRST BLUNDER.

I went to Lowes and actually got a fully powered wheelie cart. You just don't understand how rare this is in the big box stores in this town. Most times, the cart dies halfway to your first item. So I'm still in a thankful mood as I grab a sales associate to carry the box to the cash register and put it into my van. I get the tank home. It was only a 20 gallon tank instead of a bigger, more costly one. By this time, it's getting dark. I decide to leave installation until the morning. The box with the tank isn't heavy, but too bulky to pick up one handed easily. I got a two handed Mel for that. Yes, it's the laziness of two again. But I wanted to teach Mel how to do it. What's the use of experience if you can't teach it?

So morning arrives, Mel  cuts the fittings and tips the old bladder tank on its side and starts to disconnect everything. The dirt floor of the dirt is now red clay mud. Everything is underneath with this type tank. Trying to break the seals around the fittings was a nightmare. The couplers actually broke opening a whole new can of worms and another trip to the hardware store. A union would have great if the previous owner had installed one. If only I could have gotten in there with my two hands, but would have been better than trying to explain how to do it. It also would have been easier if the assembly hadn't been on the dirt. But the piping was finished after another run to the hardware store for more couplings. Next came the wiring. But once, again dusk is falling and Mel was exhausted. With no light in the well house, working on wiring was impossible. But it was still light enough to see an electricians nightmare of different colored wires attached wire nuts snaking around, coiled and spliced here and there from the well pump, to the pressure switch just behind the well pump at the back of the shed. At least they used wire nuts, right? We'd have to disassemble everything to reach it.

At this point, I'd had enough! I called my handyman. I couldn't do it. Mel was exhausted to tears. I just didn't want to struggle with it anymore. I just wanted running water in my house and a hot shower instead of birdie baths after heating the water on the wood stove! It was time to make it all somebody else's problem.

By the next afternoon, my handyman showed up. He'd had to complete another job first. Our handyman ain't cheap at $65 an hour, but he is good. For this reason, I don't call him very often. But he's the only one I call. He believes as I do...do it right the first time and it'll be easier the next time. When I explained our problem, he felt certain that he could finish in an hour. This was over the phone, mind you. Seeing is believing. He arrived and saw the same mess I did. He changed his estimate to two hours.

MY SECOND BLUNDER.

The first thing he did was install a circuit breaker mini panel to cut the power to the well in the well house and a light. Doh! I'd already figured to do this when we actually had water in the house. But that's okay, it's done now. He untangled the mess of wire and all those wire nuts to see what was what. Instead of trying to go through everything to get to the switch, he simply cut around it from outside the building and pulled it through. Then he installed the pump switch closer to the door because he couldn't work inside the pump house either. In my mind. I'm hitting myself in the forehead. I could have done that. I was so frustrated that I couldn't see the forest for the trees. It turned out that the switch was burned out so it was replaced too.
We finally have water in the house. Yippee! It was well worth the money I paid him. I got my hot shower. But as you know I'm a Murphey and well versed in Murphy's Law. I noticed another problem. The water pressure wasn't what it should have been. By process of elimination, there's only one other ting it could be...the foot valve at the bottom of the well. It means pulling the pipe out of the well and replacing that pump. That means tearing down the pump house and rebuilding. But, I'd already decided to so that this coming summer or fall after dealing with the pump house during this calamity. So we'll be building a 8'x8'x8' pump house. We'll be raising the bladder tank off the dirt too. We're getting too old to play in the dirt and mud. With this new building and the rain catchment system in place, we should have any water woes in the near future, but if we do, we can fix them.

Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

More Cockeyed Winter Mode

We are constantly learning something new around here. Every day brings new challenges. While we depend on the internet for instant answers, nothing beats a good book on the subject...or several. Part of the mantra I live by is death is the absence of learning. So this is nothing new for me. Everyone can't know everything. But to me, it's not for the lack of trying.

For this, we search for books on a subject that we want more in depth knowledge of, in our case it's natural dyeing. We are changing to a more organic sourced (plant based dyes) dyeing technique for our fiber production. We don't head to our nearest book store or Amazon to purchase these books. I did the internet searches. Now I want more.

Instead, we head to our local library. That's right, the library. Now, our town library is tiny. But what makes it huge is an interlibrary loan service they offer. I can search online for books from all over the place. They will be shipped into our library for me to check out. I have to travel no further than my local branch. But, it's more than books, they will also loan DVDs too.

What is really sweet is that it's free! Unlimited resources at my fingertips on anything that I want to know. I know I'm old fashioned by reading books. The actual paper kind. Things just sink in better on paper.

But then again, some of my fondest memories are centered around libraries. You see, my grandmother was a librarian in Bloomfield, NE. Bloomfield is a small rural community. Nothing major. The livestock auction house/slaughter house serves as the only place big enough for local dances. Mail is only delivered via P.O. Boxes. The newspaper comes out weekly. Half in German and half in English. But the library was huge. Two storied, brick building with a basement full of books, stereograph card, vinyl records, and old films. This is where I spent hours upon hours of my childhood. It instilled in me a deep respect of reading and the treasures within the musty covers of books.

This was  outside a library not my house
With my move here, the 12x15 library I had in my old house was liquidated. My cash flow to purchase books and the place to store them is limited now.  I have to depend on the internet and the library. But in a way, this is a good, frugal thing. How many times have you purchased a book that had a great blurb and reviews, but you hated it? Or, the book was too basic for your needs? The real meat of what you were looking for, was absent? I can honestly say, too many times. It was hard earned money down the drain.

By searching for books through the interlibrary loan system, if a book is a real stinker, I can return it. No money changes hands. If I find that I'm checking out the same book multiple times, I may buy a copy to have on hand. Or better yet, wait until it appears as a free kindle download. I still don't have the space to store or the money to buy all the books I want to read or keep.

I rarely read fiction these days, since my strokes, it's too difficult keeping track of story lines and characters. This from a person who used to write five novels and a nonfiction, AND reading/editing another twenty novels at the same time. Yes, there was more impact than just the obvious physical impairments with my strokes. So now I read nonfiction exclusively. There isn't a lack of reading material for me so don't feel too bad for me. I can still be transported to another place in nonfiction too.

But this time, I can see into the future as I implement what I've learned. I'm a die hard science fiction and mystery reader. I love this aspect of reading nonfiction. But not I'm not only see into the future, but creating the future by stepping back in time. Homesteading today is stepping backwards to our grandparents' or great grandparents' lifestyle. By choice, not because we have to.  A simpler life with hard work that does the body good. Stepping away from the hustle and bustle because we've had enough over our lifetime. (Re)Learning the almost lost arts of self-sufficiency and sustainability. One step at a time. Forever forward or is it backwards. Constant research before implementation. Yes, this is winter mode too at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Cockeyed Winter Mode

Happy New Year! Yes, winter slumber has finally comes to the Cockeyed Homestead. The nighttime and some daytime temperatures are below freezing. The delay of the colder weather was nice. Now is the time we snuggle indoors by the warmth of the  wood stove, but our self reliant mode still continues. With the first dusting of a couple inches of snow, outdoor work ceases for the time being. I doubt it will warm up much again with the arctic dips hampering outdoor activities until spring.


Work on the back screened porch begins. While the weather was
warmer, other outdoor things occupied our time. We had to fix and screen the gutters first. Isn't it always the case- one projects leads to two or three. We've replaced the torn screens to the dismay of two of our cats, Lil Bit and Flynn. They had taken to use the unattached area of screen as a doorway between the deck railing and the porch.We bought  a roll of 6mm plastic sheeting to cover the screened porch. Hopefully it will keep most of the frigid winds and cold out. Two 6x8 area rugs cover the deck spacing of the floor. It won't cover the entire floor but a good patch of it. We had to wait for the trees to loose all their leaves to begin this project. The animals and wind kept blowing them in. The purchase of a small electric heater will keep the temperatures above freezing. The old, clip lights will be repurposed, we used for brooding chick, will also heat and light the area.

The plan for this space is still a month or so off. We've basically turned the area into a greenhouse. I plan to start seeds in this area. Raspberry, blackberry, and grapes to begin with because they will take the longest and grow into transplant size. We'll also be starting dwarf lemon, limes, oranges, rambutans, and other tropical type fruit trees in pots which will be moved into the actual greenhouse when it warms up.  We've hmmed back and forth between buying fruit and nut trees or starting them from seeds. We decided to do both. So apple, peach, pear, pecan, and black walnut seeds will also be started. These can take up to ten years to bear fruit. That's why we decided to do both ways. We can get some harvest while waiting for the from-seed-trees to mature. The space will also be used to start other garden vegetable seeds in around Easter for the regular garden and herb patches to get a jump start.

Transplants are easier to plant and give instant satisfaction points when planted outdoors. Satisfaction points are important for pats on the back. :o) It looks like instant success. But the real work begins in keeping the transplant alive and healthy until harvest time. Keeping bugs and common diseases away organically takes time and planning by way of companion planting.

But even companion plantings is not enough. Sometimes manual labor and a little extra TLC is needed. Gardening is more than if you plant it; it will grow. There is no truly hands-free, organic gardening. If there was, would you do it? I wouldn't. There's something calming, relaxing, and therapeutic in gardening. All the tender, loving care that you put into the plants reaps a better harvest and puts you closer to what you feed your bodies with. Enough of the dreamy philosophy reeking from the pores of the Cockeyed Homestead, back to winter mode.

The wool from the angora rabbits is brought in. It is sorted and a portion is dye bathed. Of this portion, we'll form rolags for spinners by combing and straightening the fibers in preparation of spinning into pure angora yarn. Another potion will be blended with sheep's wool and/or alpaca sourced from neighboring homesteads, or our lionhead/ Jersey Woolie mix for our own Cockeyed blend of fiber. These blends will also be portioned into natural dyed or undyed lots. The rolags will be sold or spun into yarn for use or sale. I'm looking forward to producing some beaded art yarn by the end of  next year for sale. First I've got to find a wholesaler for the beads and /or sequins used. Running up to Gainesville to Michael's or Joann's is an expensive proposition when talking about bulk production.More handling of the fiber means a higher price point. Higher price points mean more income.

Between the fiber preparation, spinning, and knitting/crocheting, it will keep us pretty busy during the cold months of the year. There is also a pile of mending and sewing. There just isn't enough time during a day when the weather is nice to do it. I can envision a day when we'll be spinning and processing fiber year around to keep up with demand, but that may be wishful thinking on my part. There's just too much to do on a homestead when trying to be self sufficient in all areas, but then income coming in is also important for acquisitions, maintenance, and forward growth of our homestead too.

$300 plus shipping @ etsy
I still want to buy a small loom to try weaving. We have the ability to grow and process flax into linen. A locally sourced organic cotton may be available. I haven't looked into it yet. Napkins, handkerchiefs. place mats, and dish towels galore. Or, even using wool for fabric or woven scarves. This particular loom is only 24" wide so it's limited in making fabric, but you've got to start somewhere. Few people have to space to house the larger floor looms...us included. Since we only knit and crochet woolens during the cooler/cold months, spinning and weaving cotton or linen would give us a summer/hot months projects to accomplish. Cottons and linen production is perfect when the outside temperatures hit above 80 degrees.

Something to keep the hands busy while the brain rots with our three hours of television or movie time each night. We never rest unless we are asleep.Four to eight hours of sleep and we are back at it. Striving for a self sufficient, a more organic lifestyle, and homesteading demands that you are constantly busy and productive.

But again, I digress from winter mode. But then again, isn't that what winter mode is for? Down time to begin anew in the spring when life is reborn on Earth? There's something that makes you want to hibernate like a bear during the winter months. The stark beauty of leafless trees. The almost instilled silence of winter. Shorter days, longer nights. A cozy fire for warmth while the world takes a rest. With a hot mug of tea or hot chocolate, just watching and waiting for the first breath of spring. The reawakening of life. This too is winter mode.

Y'all have a blessed day!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

RIP Logan

On my other blog, my stroke recovery blog, I talked about the piles Logan left for me on the carpet each morning and evening. It made walking in the small hallway between the rest of the house my bathroom and my bedroom a precarious adventure. It has been this way for months since I removed the litter box from my bathroom. It's not that he wasn't outdoor trained or that he couldn't get outside, it was because he was stubborn and liked the convenience of having a litter box right inside. He didn't have to brave whatever weather was outside.

His stools were noticeably loose. He had chewed his fur off leaving bald and sometime bloodied area of skin exposed, but he did that every summer. Usually, his thick black coat would return in the late fall and winter. He had allergies and was like this every year. He was a peculiar cat.  He was a Manx, born without a tail. Pure black with yellow eyes which reminded me of two moons shining on a black night. He was a beautiful cat. He belong to Mel's mother before she died so Mel inherited him.

He became a service cat. He could sense when your blood sugar was too high or too low. It was a perfect attribute for Mel's mother and me who both had diabetes. To everyone else, he was a pest because he would yowl and pester them until he got to smell their breath. If he sensed that the person's blood sugar was normal, he snuggled up to be petted or leave you alone. If your blood sugar was not normal, too high or too low, he'd bite you. Not hard at first, just enough to get your attention. If your ignored him, the bites and pestering would get more intense. He'd bite me long before I ever felt the symptoms of my blood sugar being too low. A much better glucometer than any brand and he didn't need batteries.

 Earlier this week, I was making the rounds of the household animals. I caught Logan crouched in the hallway ready to leave another present for me to step in or have to clean up. I yelled and literally at kicked him. My foot missed him by several inches. I would never hurt an animal on purpose  other than butchering them for our needs. I figured I'd made my point. He ran outside through the pet door. It was later in the evening, when I noticed he wasn't on the breakfast table with the other cats trying to grab some extra warmth from the wood stove. I asked Mel if she had seen him. She hadn't since earlier in the day.

The next morning, still no Logan. We both, Mel and I, canvassed the property looking for him. We eventually found his body by the wood shed. What exactly killed this cat, we have no idea. He must have been sicker than we thought. So we are down another cat on the homestead. Not that we are lacking puddy cats here. There is still Whirling Dervish, Flynn, Lil Bit, and Patches to keep us company.

Still, I'll miss Logan. Darn, now I've got to put batteries in my glucometer. I haven't had to worry about it in almost two years. Not that my blood sugar is that high anymore with my diabetes, but low blood sugar can kill you just as fast. RIP Logan.

Y'all have a blessed day.