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, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

... From our homestead to yours.

Although we haven't decked the hall,
We haven't put up or cut a tree,
We haven't hung a single light,
We haven't made or bought the first present,
nor have we sung the first carol.

We hold the birth of Christ within our hearts
Always thankful for the sacrifice made.
A gift so precious more than jewels or gold
Remembering the day of salvation's grace enabled,
Rejoicing the promise fulfilled for life everlasting. 

Merry Christmas to all believers or not. Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Old Man Winter on the Homestead

Even though winter doesn't official begin until December 21st, it sure doesn't feel like it to me with my way southern roots. It's down in the 20s at night. The daytime temperatures aren't too bad fluctuating between highs in the 40s to 50s. No snow, but every morning I have to crunch through the frost and break the ice barriers which form on the waterers, and tend to our rabbits and chickens. The song about Jack Frost nipping at your nose (Merry Christmas to You or the Christmas Song) rings true. But even still, my thick cardigan keeps my body warm enough... I do wear a glove on my left hand most mornings.

(Just griping here) My right hand is snuggled in my sweater sleeve.  Since it doesn't move, this works great, but have you ever tried buying one glove? It almost seems wasteful to buy a pair when only one will be used.   Plus, having a small hand, I often unable to find small sized gloves. I wear the pig leather work gloves almost exclusively now. They are flexible for fine work and sturdy enough for the tough stuff. And of course, there is a definite left and right hand. Unlike the tube socks I wear over my old lady compression socks. Gloves, or should I say a glove, are fun to put one handed.

The advantages of dropping almost 40+ lbs since I've been here, all my last winter's clothes are too big. Larger sized clothes have several advantages living post stroke, #1 they're easier to get off and on, or up and down as the case may be; and #2 I can layer dress for warmth easily. I was taught how to dress in layers at a very young age living in Nebraska. Wearing one of my summer time tank tops under T-shirts hold my body heat against my body where it's needed, or a combination under a flannel shirt enables me to stay out on the porch stacking firewood or tending to the animals without bulkier outer garments. I know the time for these are coming soon. After all, winter is still a few days away.

That brings me to Christmas ...fast approaching. I've definitely got a "Bah Humbug" attitude towards this holiday and have for several years. It's not a religious reason of it not being Christ's actual birth, nor the date was picked because of paganism. Even though over the decades, I've tried to keep the true meaning of Christmas alive (not what you buy vs what you give from the heart) the joy has slowly ebbed away especially this year. I won't be going home for Christmas, instead I'm opting to stay on the homestead partially because of our financial situation and the other part is not wanting to infect others with the "Bah Humbugs." Let me stress that this is not depression. I'm thinking of me also. The drive home is almost 6 hours one way. I was just home for Thanksgiving. At my advancing age and health issues, the trip is hard on my body. The threat of my Triple A still hangs like a sword over my head. Not that I'm seriously worried about it. Also each trip takes longer to recover from. Next year, I'll do it in reverse...maybe. It's hard planning some things in advance.

But all that being said, I feel blessed in our little hollow. Money is tight but what's truly new with that? Our bills are being met that's the important part. We are warm, safe, and comfortable. Our wants won't kill us. The needs are taken care of. God is good and faithful to us lowly children. I'm excited about our future plans.

As always ... Y'all have a blessed week.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

What Mornings Look Like (Winter Mode)

I'm an early riser. I awake before the chickens by at least an hour or two. I spend my first thirty minutes, before my feet hit the floor, in prayer. It's an uplifting way to start my day on the right foot. My cat, Little Bit, demands some one on one time. Then I'll don my socks, leg brace, pants, and shoes in preparation of actually getting up. I'll grab a sweatshirt from the drawer because I know the night fire in the wood stove has gone out. In the predawn darkness, I'll make my way into the dining room after a pit stop to the bathroom. And so begins every morning.

Once halfway in the dining room I'll ask, "Where's my puppy?" Herbie will sleepily come to me for his first morning head rub. I'll wake into the kitchen and fill the electric kettle with water and then make myself a cup of Earl Grey tea. Some people make coffee, but that acrid liquid hits my stomach and comes right back up. Nobody likes to start the day that way. I'll take my cuppa tea to my desktop to read my emails and watch some YouTube to see what the homesteaders I follow and touch bases with them. I usually will start writing this blog and my other one. (this takes me many hours to complete) I may or may not put on my sweater because the inside thermometer on my desk is registering the temp this morning at 64 inside while outside is a blustering 42. Warm enough for my sweatshirt and keep the chill at bay.

I'll clean the wood stove and empty the ashes from the overnight burn into the outside pile. Since we only use hard woods in our stove they'll be great for the garden later. They are still some hot embers in this right now so shoveling this into the compost pile is not a good idea. I'll put the pan back under the wood stove and set up the fire for later. Mel will want it warmer in the house when she wakes up. But it will a couple of hour before that happens. I'll be fine with all the morning activities. Besides, I have enough body fat to keep two people warm and insulated.

Can you smell it?
Every Wednesday and Saturday, I'll bake the bread we need on the homestead, convert a loaf of bread into french toast, make Mel's crepes (what she calls pancakes), cinnamon rolls, or crumpets. At least get the crumpets, rolls, or/and bread mixed and rising. I may also make hamburger and hot dog buns depending on the week's menu.

Of course, making bread on our homestead takes some preplanning. Two days before, I'll soak the whole wheat kernels overnight. The following day, I'll rinse it and spread it out on a baking sheet to dry by the wood stove. The next day, It will be ground into flour for whatever I'm baking. It will take about three passes through our manual grain mill to get it as fine as I like it. Yeah, I know I can go to the store and buy my flour, but have you seen what's in that?! Is it GMO? Is it organic? What kind of pesticide or insect droppings or particles may be in it? YUCK!

Devon in his healthier days
Next comes the feeding the inside animals. Assorted dogs, get fed half their daily rations per weight. We feed them twice a day. The cats normally have free choice of their dry cat kibble throughout the day except for Devon Angel. This male gets two tablespoons of wet cat food twice to three times a day. He is Mel's special needs cat and is mentally retarded. The reason for feeding him wet rations is simple. All his teeth have rotted in his mouth. He can't chew the dry cat food. He tries but he lost so much weight over the summer, we thought we would lose him. He was literally skin over bones before I started him on wet food with goat's milk supplements. After three months feeding him this way, we can no longer feel his ribs and hip bones under his skin. He's back to his semi healthy state enough to play in the fallen leaves.

After the dogs have eaten and I make sure the other cats haven't nudged Devon away from his food, it's time to take care of the outside animals. First stop is the chicken pen. Not that the chickens are in there. They hear me coming down the covered porch steps and greet me from under the porch. Once the sun rises, they fly out of the coop and run area. They follow me back into their pen for their snack. I usually have leftover bread, leftovers, or stale crackers handy. I'll scatter these and their pellets rations around their run area for them. We do have a chicken feeder, but this week has rained too much to use it. We still haven't tarped around the coop or finished the roof yet. So I really blame the chickens for not staying their coop.

Next come the rabbits. Since we have J feeders in the rabbitry, I only have to fill them every couple of days. I'll go into the rabbitry to pet and talk to each one of them every morning. Mel is charge of their watering them. I do the morning feeding and check up and she does the evening. We split the chores evenly.  The outside rabbits are last. I'll repeat the process all over again.

I'll gather the eggs. Since we are in winter mode and it's early morning, there's only about two or three eggs. They easily slip into my pocket. Now, I've gone almost full circle around the outside of the house. I climb up onto the front porch, pick up a couple of pieces of fire wood and place them on the small table outside the front door. I'll repeat this procedure until I have six or eight pieces stacked on the table. I'll go inside carrying two pieces. I'll drop them next to the wood stove. Then I'll take the eggs out of my pocket and put them in the refrigerator. I'll light off the wood stove, fill the canner pot with water, fill the pet water dish, and bring in the other wood I stacked on the table. By this time, the wood stove is ready to be loaded with more wood. Within half an hour the house is a toasty 76 degrees.

I'll set up Mel's morning tea things. She loves Yorkshire tea with cream and sugar. Ill pour myself another cuppa tea and make myself some oatmeal. I'll stack about ten pieces of firewood by the door for the next time. Between 9 and 10 Mel will wake up. Her tea will be steeping and she can sit in front of her laptop and wake up. I'll fix her breakfast and put the bread in the oven. I'll plan what cooking videos I want to film. Hmm, this week I've got to do the promised dog treat/training biscuits and my caramel apple gingerbread cake. Tis the season and all that. Some time soon, we've got to do a "Tea Time" video. We haven't done one since October. Time flies when you are running around like a chicken with your head cut off preparing for freezes. A list of prospective video topics will take take us into February next year doing my segments once a week and then it will be planting season again. Or, at least seed starting season. Our first hard freeze of the year was this Friday. The high was 32 degrees not counting the cold, arctic wind that came with it. It's been quite a few years since I've endured temperatures that low for more than a day or two. That's just winter here. Still not as bad as the winters I lived through in New York, Nebraska, Michigan, or other places up way north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Mel told me to hay the outside rabbits preparing for the freezing. Being the smart butt that I am, I went to each cage waving like a crazy person and yelled "Hey!" to them. Once she came around and saw me with a quizzical look on her face, I stopped and put the required hay in their cages. My Buddy immediately started eating it as did most of the bunnies. I had to repeat the process several times to ensure they'd have enough to burrow in to keep warm. For the really hard freezes we tack up tarps to block the wind.

So how has your week been? Y'all have a blessed week.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Things that Make Me Go ARGHHH!!!

Everyone has them. I'm not immuned to "ARGH!" moment, but the past couple weeks there have been almost daily events.

ARGH! #1
 I tried something new with this blog. I tried to link this blog to our website. Instead it redirected to our google + page. So I believe all my previous posts are there. So if you were trying to find it...it's there, I think. I also think I've got it all back to normal to appear here now. We'll see when this publishes.

ARGH! #2
Before I left my previous cardiologist, she had performed all of the necessary information gathering for my new cardiologist except for an ultrasound of my legs to check for PAD (peripheral artery disease). So I had one done once I got established with my new cardiologist. The results were troubling. Coupled with severe leg cramps several times a night and pain, I agreed to another heart cath and angio of my legs. If there was significant blockages, stenting would be performed or I'd be sent to a vascular surgeon to have it corrected.

At this point I should mention, I had a coronary artery disease and a heart attack before age 50. I also have a very bad family history in heart disease from both parents. The heart attack damaged two valve in my heart and with time (10 years) the stress on my heart has damaged a third of four total valves. I'm heart broken which limits me even greater than my strokes. Oh, and my strokes were from blood clots forming in my heart which went to my brain. All my doctors agree that I'm a very sick woman, but that's only their opinion.

Angio of triple A like mine
Okay so I go through all of these tests, after waking Mel at 4 AM to take me, and the results...the cramping is NOT a blood supply problem. So now I'm still having leg cramping and pain from some mysterious, unknown cause. So this test didn't do anything. Surprisingly, what the angio did show was an Abdominal Aortic Aneursym (Triple A). It's still small so it bears watching although it could rupture and kill me. My thoughts on the matter, everything else is trying to kill me, why not this too? But hey I'm still here in spite of everything.

Don't think I'm taking this lightly. I'm not. This is serious. It has less than a 10% survival rate if it ruptures. It will be taken care of. It should be as easy as a stent placement with only a day in the hospital.

We built the new coop and run for the chickens. The chickens have flown the coop literally! It took less than two hours for the main rooster, Whitie, to figure out he could fly over the 4' fence safely and show the others how it was done. They were back to roosting on our front porch.

I got irritated with it all. I swiped them off with my cane. They just waited a few minutes and were right back again. I grabbed a sleeve of stale crackers and led them back to their new roosting spot inside the fence. A couple of them decided to fly the coop again. My trusty cane had a workout until they decided to see it my way. I had to do this for a few days before it became a habit for them. Now they at least roost in the new chicken area instead of our porch. I take victories when I can because once daylight shines they are back free ranging everywhere. They still lay eggs in Mel's tool box and behind the front storm door, so I can at least gather eggs. The egg laying bins need to be built. The hens like their privacy and security. Then I'll have to train them to the new set up.

We finally got a good drenching rain!! It's been a long, dry summer and fall. We actually had puddles on the property that weren't from a busted water pipe! They lasted for two days before they dried up/soaked in. Of course, it would storm the day we had to drive at 5 AM to the hospital for my procedure. But we were thankful anyhow. It's supposed to rain today according to the forecast, we'll see. It gave us a reprieve of sorts.

As far as our water conservation techniques go, it looked something like this.
  • Early AM, while the well had overnight for the spring to refill, I'd draw five gallons of water.  
1 for the household animals
2 for the canning pot on the wood stove
1 gallon for cooking
1 gallons for outside animals (rabbits and chickens)
  • Early afternoon

6 gallons for washing clothes (1 load by machine)

  • Early evening
2 gallons for iced tea
Mel's 5 minute shower and my sponge bath.
  • Late evening
2 gallons for the wood stove
3 gallons to run the dish washer.
1 gallon for incidents or in case the well goes dry overnight so we can at least have tea in the morning. Hot tea is our coffee in the morning.

Hope all is going well with you. Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Using What's Available for the Homestead

The homestead just after purchase
The Cockeyed Homestead is all about resourcing what's available and repurposing to get what we want and need. That's what our YouTube channel is all about. Not that we are opposed to spending money when we have to. The barn and rabbitry enclosures cost a pretty penny or two. Yes, we could have done a building project for those, but the needs was immediate. Mel had a Lexus that would not do well without a cover of some sort and she needed a workshop for building projects. Sanity prevailed when working with power tools in rainy or snowy weather. The purchase of the rabbitry couldn't wait with the loss of two of our angora rabbit does over the summer.

But things like the chicken coop and run, while a need, it could be a repurpose/reuse project. By repurposing pallets and reusing fencing, they now have a coop and run for almost free. The chickens had been left to free range and roost wherever for a year. Chicken poop was covering almost every flat surface.  They were left to roost, even during the winter, on Mel's front porch because they'd out grown their coop. Our gardening attempts were decimated and something had to be done. The situation just wasn't healthy for them or us. We couldn't even gather their nitrogen rich poop for composting. It was a waste of a valuable resource too.

We needed a new, larger wood shed for fire wood storage. The previous one was falling apart. This was also a need, but one that wasn't an immediate need. We had all summer to plan and build it. So free pallets could also be used. Leftover roofing and siding from the barn made it safe from rain while the open spaces in the pallets provided ample ventilation for seasoning/drying the wood. The wood from this wood shed allows me to light our wood stove with one match.

The winds that blow up and down through our hollow allows for ample kindling and dead fallen trees each year all we have to do is gather it. Junk mail and my discarded packing boxes sets fire quick. But all that being said, the wood stove was not without expense this year. The stove pipe needed to be replaced this year. The rust had actually eaten large holes in it. That was something we had to purchase new. I guess we could have searched for some that was cast off, but it would have been a lot of effort for little results.

Yes, this one is only $17 at Home Depot
The purchase of good tools can be found at one of the local pawn shops. I purchased Mel a brand new Dremel and accessory package somebody pawned. It had never even been opened for less than $100. Perfect for small jobs and there are always small jobs where the big saws are overkill like cutting a 1/4" dowel rods with a shop saw. Even Harbor Freight doesn't sell it that low. A scythe for the grain we plan to grow was $20. Totally rusted and dull, but nothing a little elbow grease and a wet stone can't fix. We had looked at the ones in the hardware/big box stores and they were cheaper, but not as nice as the old one we bought. The curved handle makes using it more body friendly. With the straight handle, you end up working your back and upper body too much, plus it's hard to do the step, swing, sway motion that is more ergo-dynamic for cutting hay and grain. Work smart to avoid body injury is a priority on this homestead. Cheaper is not always better. After all, we aren't young anymore. Both of us are on the downhill slide of 60.

We look at everything with an eye of how many uses can it have. In my mind, everything should have multiple lives and uses. I'm also thankful for everything I have. I was searching through my belongings housed in the barn yesterday. I was looking for a particular yarn to make Mel's birthday present with. I found the old tattered, handmade and stitched quilt that had once graced my husband and my bed.  It had been made by my husband's great-grandmother. I was flooded with memories of quilting beside my mother and grandmother, and our first years as newlyweds with children. I hugged the quilt before I placed it carefully back in its box. When I rework/repair it, it will grace my bed once again in my tiny house next year. Even if I use it as batting for a new cover, it will provide warmth in the winter and memories to hug me every night.

Enough sappy stuff. My point is everything can have another life even us. We just have to open our eyes and spark our imaginations.

Y'all have a blessed week.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Decisions and Changes

Homesteading has never been an exact science. It's trial and error, and learning as you go. You may watch fifty million YouTube videos and read thousands of books on the subject, but until you actually work your land, you won't know what will work on your homestead or not even compared to the homestead down the road.

You would think that with all the trees on our side of a foothill the soil would be rich. After all, the trees loose their foliage every fall and left to rot for over a decade or more, but you'd be mistaken. The hard packed, clay soil is so dense that you can only dig a couple of inches easily. The soil was basically scattered weeds and bare ground. Even my cultivator couldn't break through it. I would have to rent a large tiller to get down 18" maybe depending on the rocks. The soil was basically so dead earthworm would starve in it. I looked at all this when I first moved here and made the decision that raised beds was the way to go. I could buy amendments to mix into the soil in the boxes. Forty cubic feet of peat moss and another forty cubic feet of compost and we were in business to practice the back to Eden and square foot gardening methods. We had four grow beds and large pots to grow our fruit, vegetables, and herbs in. A couple of unexpected problems kept us from having a great harvest this year...a drought and the chickens. Granted with these methods very little water is necessary to grow, but no rainfall for months?

Simplified system
The fall and winter are huge rainy seasons here. So we decided to do a rain catchment system to supplement our water needs. Great idea except that here it is the beginning of November and no rain. Even our fast running creek is now a meandering eddy so the RAM pump we had planned as a third water system is almost a bust. The water doesn't have enough pressure behind it for the 100 foot climb to the homestead. It really gave us pause. We still believe that all three is our best plan. Backup to a backup. If these systems had been in place a year ago, there would be no problem now. Next year will be better. That's the goal after all.

This week with Amy's help, the chicken coop is basically framed in. We still have to clad the coop and build the nest boxes. The fencing around the coop will be easy with Mel's portable fence posts. The fencing was purchased for the dog training area and be repurposed. Nobody wants to train dogs outside when it's cold outside anyhow.We will be building chickshaws or chicken tractors for the additional heritage breeds and grow out pens we plan to purchase next year. These will go into other areas like the orchard. I have to admit, these portable fence post were ingenious. It is by far the most pinned item on our pinterest page. So next year should be a better harvest without chicken interference too.

Next Spring, we will be breaking ground on new gardening area that will be 10x10 in several areas which have not been planted so far. The plan is to group patches of wheat, corn, millet, popcorn, barley, and flax. Maybe even some quinoa for us.The plan is to find the yield we can get within that trial area to feed our rabbits and chickens with. They will all be going on a sprouted grain diet and organic to boot. The price of commercial feed has been going up over the past six months. Granted it's only $20, but that amount of money can help pay other bills.

But the ground breaking for this project is not actually breaking ground. It begins now because we will be doing it permaculture/back to Eden style. We've been emptying flattening all the boxes from my move here and large item purchases to lay on the ground. All the leaves and spent straw come next. At least, twelve inches deep with saw dust and wood ash over the top of that. We'll leave it sit over winter and sow the seeds in the Spring. Our cost will be zero except for some quinoa, millet, and flax seeds.

Why flax seed? We are going to try our hand a spinning and weaving next year. We'll never have to buy tea towels to dry or dishes again or at least that's the hope. Flax seed also can be used medicinally. It's fiber, has more lignans (antioxidants and estrogen) than any other plant source, and Omega 3 essential fatty acids. Everything should have dual purposes and this fits the bill. It is also healthy for the chickens to eat.

Why millet? Millet contains significant amounts of magnesium, calcium, maganese, tryptophan, phosphorus, fiber, B vitamins, and antioxidants. The stalks can be woven into baskets, and chickens love it.

The wheat and barley are no brainers. It feeds our rabbit, chickens and us. Wheat and barley stalks can be used as straw.

Of course, we don't plan on producing acres and acres of it (we only have two acres total) to be self sufficient, but this will be the first year planting these items. It's a trial and help us be less dependent.  We may even try some sugar cane on an area.

Over the next year, we plan on cutting trees clearing a pasture for dairy goats (that's in our long term plan) and a larger garden area for grains (things that don't need constant attention) because it's on a downhill slope. Also clearing land for an orchard...about a 1/16 of an acre. We have some friends willing to help us with this project. The sweet gum trees will go first. Although extremely difficult to split they make fairly decent firewood when seasoned. We've also got a lot of scrub oaks on the property. We have considered terracing the slopes but it will only require huge machinery which is expensive, neither of knows how to operate, and it's more than we can afford. But it's a nice dream for when we win the lottery, that we'd first have to play. Cutting the trees will also give us more sunlight to grow with.

So this year hasn't been too bad. We've got the English angora rabbitry set up, found out what grows well, the greenhouse fixed, the well pipes done, chicken coop and run are almost complete, and the garden produced. All the items necessary to build the ram pump is purchased. We just have to dig out a deeper pool. We are still looking for barrels or totes for the rain catchment system at a decent price, but the gutters are cleaned out and now have gutter guards. We have varying sizes and lengths of PVC to build the catchment systems. Four for now and more when we get the tiny houses. Not too shoddy for me being here a little over seven months.

I could go on and on with little stuff, but I'll end this here. Have a blessed day y'all.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Buttoning up for Winter 2016

I've been MIA the past couple Sundays, if y'all hadn't noticed. Our videos have been sparse too. We've just been too busy and exhausted buttoning up the homestead preparing for winter. I say that with a sheepish smile because daytime temperatures are close to 80 here.

We've been picking up kindling from around the property after a "big" wind storm blew dead branches from the trees. Mel says it's a normal occurrence around here in the fall. All the leaves are putting on their brightest hues and dropping their leaves. The nights are cooler, in the high 40s-low 50s. Cool enough for me to don a sweater, turn on my little heater, and utter a BRR! Remember, I'm a south Georgia gal. For me, these night time temperatures are my old winter. I'll adjust in a couple of winters. I hope.

We have also planned the new chicken run and coop area. All of our previous plans were rethought out. The gifting of a stack of pallets was a godsend. I've temporarily run low on cash, but that's a long story. Suffice to say, that running two households for 6 months will do that on a limited income. Mel has been out of work for two months now.

Mel has built the wood shed out of these pallets and will be building the new coop out of the rest. All it will cost us is a few sheets of plywood and tin for the roof. We start on it this weekend with the help of a wwoffer (world wide opportunities on organic farms). Amy, while not associated with the organization, is one of our YouTube subscribers who eagerly wants to learn organic homesteading and how to live more self sufficiently. She works from home via the internet, a single mother, and she's living in an apartment 30 minutes away. On the weekends her ex has their son, she comes here and learns. She also has two good arms and legs. Who knows, maybe we've found another person for our community one day. Now, we just have to get her over being so camera shy.

We've reskinned the greenhouse. Built a better door for it. The old one wouldn't close all the way. Of course, Mel couldn't find her staple gun so we ended up using nails to hold the plastic on. We've already planted some of our cold weather crops in it. I've loped off the tops of some our tomato plants, they are still flowering and producing! I've had these stems sitting in a weak rabbit poo tea to generate new roots. I'll plant them in buckets this weekend. When I checked them yesterday, quite a web of roots have formed. I had left the five gallon bucket on our screened porch to root. The chickens got in and had a nice snack so out of the twenty cuttings, I now have five. I've also potted some of my herbs and moved the raspberry bushes into the greenhouse. It's actually getting quite full. With the addition of three rabbit cages (for the meat rabbits), it will be a packed space. We may do two double cages for the babies and my Buddy. She hasn't been an outdoor rabbit until we came here.

We've now filled the wood shed with a cord and a half of splits that will fit in our coal burner/wood stove. We've also laid in gathered kindling and medium sized branches (less than 3" in diameter) to see us through the winter. We may gather some more with Amy's help from the creek area. I just can't do the 100 ft slope to be much help. Maybe one day, we'll install a zip line down there. That is, if I can be brave enough to get on it. But, I can see it being helpful for pulling up stuff from the bottom with a basket attachment.There's a small ton of fallen trees and tires down there.

So this weekend is the hen house and run. I'm sure it will take a couple of weeks to do. Of course, we'll video the progress. I'm making marinara sauce also and doggy treats that will also be vlogs. That's it for this week.

Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

More of the Same

This week on the homestead not much has gone on. In part because Mel has been under the weather, and the other was my doctor appointments hither and yon. I was driving back and forth between Demorest, Gainesville, and Athens. It's amazing how quick you settle into a rural life. I actually make an audible groan when I have to get in my car and leave the homestead. My van actually hates climbing up the 1/8th of a mile hill with all the broken pavement and clay. Somehow we've got to come up with $5,000 to fix the driveway properly. We've approached our neighbors who live along the driveway about sharing the cost of repair, but they aren't interested. We of course, are on the lowest point of the leeway. If I pay to fix it everybody benefits. That doesn't seem fair, does it?

Mel did manage to put in most of the rabbit poo disposal system. If she would work at the rabbitry little by little each day, it would have been done inside a week. Now instead two months later, it's a haphazard affair. Nothing is totally complete and it drives me nuts. It drives her nuts because its such a mess and she gets frustrated.

Bennie Dufus has finally reached the point where he finally trusts us and has become trainable. It has only taken three months to reach this point. I figure within six months, he'll be disciplined enough to sell so I can get the money I paid  for him back with interest. He's actually becoming a good dog like his German Shepherd genetics destined him to be. Although still extremely playful and loving, discipline is evident. You can see that he is figuring out what it is that you are wanting him to do. He's trying to please you so long as his "puppy" behaviors aren't engaged. He no longer chases our vehicles onto the main road but stops just short and climbs the ridge towards home. He still has his dufus moments which will eventually be trained out of him as his attention span grows. Now if we can just get some coordination between his huge paws and his brain going on, he won't move like a dufus too.

I'm still cleaning out the raised beds. I loped off the tops of my heirloom tomatoes yesterday for rooting. I must have put twenty top leaves with 2' stems in my five gallon bucket of rain water. These will go into the greenhouse to overwinter. we will have a jump start on tomatoes and herbs for next Spring. I wasn't paying attention too closely and pruned a branch with a cluster of tomatoes on it. There are still tomatoes growing on the plants. We'll probably have fresh tomatoes until first frost in mid November, if I don't pull them up. I'm kind of hem-hawing around with pulling them up. I do love fresh tomatoes in my salad. I'm not looking forward to grocery store gassed or the price of this fresh vegetable.

Mel and I have been very active with The Homestead Network online/YouTube. They are a PG-12, Christian based group of homesteaders from urban to rural. They do live, interactive shows across YouTube. We've even met a couple members and a slew of homesteaders within two hours driving distance from us in person. Homesteading can be such a solitary life that it's great communicating with other like minded souls. We offer each other solutions to problems we may be experiencing, support, sharing news, checking on each other, and just general comradery. We'll Skype or call each other often when not in a chat room of a live show. The way God intended us to be.

We haven't been invited to have our own live show because our channel is not Christian enough in our videos. Imagine that! I'm a minister and not Christian enough. But, it's just as well. I don't shove religion down people's throats, but instead, go where the Lord leads me. I'm not an evangelist, but a pastor who guides. I prefer tending to my flock and leading by example, rather than bible thumping. Not that I think that the evangelical side is bad, someone has got to bring souls to the Lord. That's not my calling.

Well, that's it for this week. Until next Sunday... Have a blessed day.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Rabbits, Rabbits, and the Rabbitry

Last week I talked at some length about the garden plans and touched on the meat rabbits. This week I'm going on about the English angora rabbits and the rabbitry building, and touching on the garden.

The rabbitry building is coming along very slowly. I wish I could help Mel more but only being able to lend A (as in one functioning) hand doesn't help much. All I can do is assist rather than build which still irritates me to no end. I currently wish that I hand my mother's hand which were large with beefy fingers. She wore a size 8 ring. Or my paternal grandma's really large hand with a 11 ring size because then I could grab and hold a pair of pliers or wire dikes single handed. But no, I had to born with my maternal grandma's hands very petite and dainty with long straight finger. In case you were wondering, I wear a size 4 1/2 to 5 ring. The half size makes a huge difference as in one of the cooking videos I made where I lost my engagement ring of my 20th anniversary wedding set. You see when I first moved here I weighed a whopping 183 lbs. Today, at my morning weigh in, I weigh 150 lbs. Don't ask me how but it probably has something to do with not being able to get out of my house much with my husband alive. Here I'm constantly doing stuff. My wedding set spins around on my finger. I should get them sized down, but can't bear to take them off and leave them anywhere just yet. I will someday.

But I digress (what's new with that, huh?). The rabbitry ceiling is done. The walls, two walls are only partially complete. The floor is still undone. When looking at it, it looks a mess right now. But in our minds we want it done. So what have we been working on? The poo drainage system. Unlike their JerseyWooly/Lionhead and American Chinchilla rabbit cousins, the angoras are in an enclosed space with flooring. We don't want rabbit poo on that. Remember all those light panel covers we bought from the ReStore to do the walls? We had a few left over. Although we've seen similar rabbit waste removal systems online, we wanted something different. Of course we did, we're the cockeyed homestead. The system we designed has the poo and urine running towards the front where it is caught by a gutter which in turn is angled to drop into a Tinker Toy configuration of sewer pipes to all drain into a five gallon bucket at the end under the building. If the poo gets stuck on the panels as it's apt to do, we simply flush the system
with water. The bucket at the end has holes drilled into the bottom and lower third of the bucket for water drain off. we did dig a small trench lined with pea gravel giving the water and liquid waste some place to go. The solid poo will go into the garden beds for slow release fertilizer or sold to other gardeners. We are thinking $7 for 10 pounds, but our beds' needs come first. We will be also making rabbit poo tea, a liquid fertilizer. At $7 a gallon, it's a bargain.We have used both in our garden with great success.

We have started up the fodder system again. This summer was way too hot. Now that we have an air conditioner in the rabbitry, we can grow it in there during the summer. With 15 rabbits and looking to breed them, the standard, commercial rabbit food gets expensive. Over the summer we spent over $100 on feed for them, plus their timothy hay and black oil sunflower seeds (another casualty of the chickens) :o( I ordered from the seed and feed company, 100 lbs of winter wheat and 96 lbs barley seeds. The cost $66 for a year of fodder that will feed all our existing rabbits and kits for a year! Is there any question of why I made this choice? Plus, I know it's organic. That ties directly into our record keeping for organic certification process of our produce. While in the Spring the rabbits could eat it or leave it, the rabbits are gobbling it down especially the new angoras we got last month.

Speaking of the new angoras...they now have names. We ran a poll on our Tea Time for August. The commenters had a choice between 6 buck names, 4 doe names, or they  could write in their names. At the end of the month we had winners for the two bucks and one doe babies of the new English angoras I purchased.
Angus is the buck with all the furnishings on his face. 
Alby is his brother with the tan tipped nose.
And, the precious, little doe is named Moira.
They join their parents

We decided to use Celtic/Irish/Scottish names for all the new rabbits in our rabbitry. Benjamin and Daisy were already named by their previous owner, Kim

Well with the new triple hole cage Mel made this week, we now have six pure bred English angoras in our rabbitry. I've got feelers out for at least four more does before the end of the year. Then we can start breeding them. Although, we might go ahead and breed Daisy to Dustin, our only surviving buck of Mel's. That's after I build some drop down nest boxes for the doe cages for Mel to install. The are only 10x14x8 so I should be able to manage that providing the J clips and their pliers behave. I thought this was perfect. It solves the problem of a rabbit having their babies on the wire and it
Got this pic off Pinterest
mimics nature by giving the doe a burrow to have their kits in. I also won't have to worry about baby proofing the whole cage because when the kits are big enough to jump out they'll be too big the wiggle out between the 1x2 cage wire. I plan to do the same thing with our meat rabbits, but Colleen's will be proportionally larger. I'm thinking 12x18x10 because she can have twelve or more kits at a time. English angoras rarely have more than eight babies at a time, and they are considerably smaller. Rabbits grow pretty quick. They'll double their birth size in a matter of a few weeks.

Talking about babies. Another new happening sort of on the homestead is a new arrival. My #4 daughter, Jenn, delivered a healthy baby boy this week. Murphey Fíon Behan was born 10/4/2016 at 1:27 PM. He weighed 8 lbs and 4 oz and was 20.5 in long. You may remember, Jenn moved into my Golden Isles house back in August and last month brought a U-Haul with my things to Cornelia last month. She was released from the hospital just in time to be evacuated to Charlotte, NC to be safe from Hurricane Matthew.

That's it for this week. Y'all have a blessed day!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Fall Garden Cleanup and Beyond

I have been so disgusted by the DB Chickens in my garden, I practically gave up on it except to cut a few fresh herbs, salvage some tomatoes, and watch for whatever insect that's eating the leaves of a fairly new potato plant starts. I usually will squish the head of the offending insect and throw them in a bucket to feed to the chickens later. But they have had free range of the garden since the dog fight between our Nnyus and Sheba two months ago. That's pretty bad. I haven't even watered it. I haven't weeded. I haven't side dressed or pruned. Nothing, nada, zilch.

It broke my heart to see the damage the chickens and dogs had done to my once flourishing vegetable patch. Granted this being the first year, I'd only planned to test the area for what would grow and fresh eating. Actually before the chickens and dogs, the garden was doing quite well so I have hope for next Spring, But I'm not waiting until Spring. I'm starting now.

I've decided to fix Mel's hoop greenhouse and make it work for us instead of being an eyesore. You might remember, it was destroyed by Mel's first foray into goat ownership a year and a half ago. It will first have to be moved out to the area where the chicken coop was. This is no mean feat because not only did she build the hoop house but she raised it by placing it on pallets. It might be easier to dismantle it and then move it. I bought 2 of the 100' rolls of new plastic already. I forgot the pipe insulation, but we have a few weeks before it really cools down.

Keiran and Colleen
Mel also built shelves inside to plant vegetable starts on. Once dismantled, I've got some reconfiguring to do. My plan is to put Keiran and Colleen, my buck and doe American Chinchilla meat rabbits in the greenhouse over winter on straw bales. Why? The rabbits will throw off their heat to warm the greenhouse for my plants, but be saved from snow or freezing rain.Their manure will soak into the straw bales so when I mulch my Spring garden with it there is a slow release fertilizer effect. The straw from the new chicken coop has to compost at least six months to a year.

I'll also be breeding Colleen this month and again in four months (October and February). So the babies will be in there also. When the second set of kits are born, it will be slaughtering day for the first batch.  If the litter is extremely small, a third breeding is necessary before the summer heat hits. By working in breeding cycles this way, we are overwhelmed by having to slaughter a huge amount at one time.

These are big rabbits weighing in at 12 lbs a piece. They'll be a year old in October and never been bred before. Am I worried about inbreeding brother and sister? Nope. Their offspring are destined for the deep freezer. Any bad traits will be history in 12-16 weeks. Their hearts, livers, kidneys, and brains will become dog food. The meat will feed us. Their pelts will eventually clothe us or bring us cash. That's Colleen and Kieran's purpose on this homestead. You may remember Colleen is our escape artist rabbit too. I usually wait until my rabbits are a year old to breed them. Even though everything I've read says 5-6 months old is fine. I just like to see them as grown ups. I mean the average lifespan of rabbits is 16 years. I figure at least ten of those are reproductive years before retiring. I also don't look at my meat rabbits as just baby making machines either. I figure breeding them twice to three times a year is fine. I mean take a look at the numbers with me...

Litter size                       6-12 kits
Pre-Butchering weight  7-10 lbs each
Actual meat for us         4-7 lbs each for total of 24 - 120 lbs per breeding cycle
                                                      (2-3X a year) and yes, I've done this before.
Dog food                         6-12 lbs total
Pelt for us or sale          6-12
Other unusable bits for maggot farm for chickens
Bones used for bone broth for drinking and/or canning.

Waste- Zero

 I don't know about you, but how many times can you eat rabbit in a year? At the maximum count, that's 360 lbs of rabbit meat alone. That's almost a pound of rabbit meat every day and there is only two of us. A pound of meat covers both of us a meal unless it's prime rib. Don't forget, we'll also be raising some meat chickens too for some variety. Any dish that uses chicken or pork can be cooked with rabbit including sausage with some added fat including chicken fat although it is harder to grind unless partially frozen.

Jennifer and David (my daughter and son outlaw) love to fish and crab. I've taught all my girls the same thing my Daddy taught me... you catch it; you clean it. So they've done it since they were old enough to yield a knife. We can trade with them if they don't do everything I did on my property. Oysters, clams, shrimp, squid, or even octopus make tasty eating and with very little effort in getting them. It means a 10-hour round trip drive to pick them up but heck, I still have family there too so it won't be just a grab and go situation. I will miss the year around growing season down south though.

But as usual, I digress. In the greenhouse over the winter, I'll be growing tomatoes rooted from the organic tomatoes in my garden now. It's a perpetual thing. Take the suckers or clipped top of an existing plant and you get a new plant. Fresh greens for salads and rabbits. Strawberries in hanging baskets. Carrots and herbs planted in flats. The greenhouse will full of life so when the winter seems to be dragging on, all we'll have to do is step inside. We will be adding a heat lamp leftover from Mel's chicken hatching experiment for those nights well below freezing. Also the plants need light so we can put a grow bulb in it at other times too. It can't hurt the meat rabbits either. 

I'll leave room to start my vegetables in the Spring. Our official outside planting date is May 1st, but this year we had a late freeze so the plants I started Easter weekend didn't fair well without the greenhouse being in tact.  Wish us luck and a powerful green thumb.

Y'all have a blessed day!