Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

This Update is Brought to You by the Letters D, B, and C

(We are traveling this weekend)

So this week we have been planning to go to the Golden Isles for a long weekend. No, it's not vacation. I'm finishing my moving out process. It also means the last of my stuff is coming up here. It's a good thing Mel cleaned up the barn. It will be stored there until our tiny houses are built. We are still a couple months away from that.

Mel has been working 9-1 each day at her job. It seems that home office finally decided to train her in her job. After a year. Government jobs, ya gotta love them, right? She's been hopping between one location to another on a daily basis instead of two days a week. It seems that they are coming up on funding review and that's the reason they are doing it now in a hurry.

Our free video editor went to pay for use. We had made several videos during the past couple of weeks and needed to edit them before uploading them.  It made for a flurry of internet searches to find a new one so we could edit our YouTube videos. I suggested just buying a program out right with Mel arguing that we should be able to get a fairly decent one for free. We finally found one that we both could agree on after each trying a couple of them. So we are back in business.

It doesn't help that Mel's truck windshield got hit by a rock on her last trip with me. The little ding spread with our heat wave to show a crack almost to mid line of her windshield. She got pulled over for it and was given a warning. Joy, joy. What fun she is having out and about. I took her Tuesday and we carpooled it back to the homestead for more fun with rabbits and pickles.

Tempest, Blue English Angora
On the homestead, she's been dividing her time between her workshop, where she's rebuilding our rolling cart, to nursing ill bunnies. Tempest is still nursing her sore hocks and is playing it up big time with Mel. She hobbles around her cage lifting her now healed front feet in the air  for attention. Her rear feet are healing nicely.

As many know, rabbits can sleep with their eyes open. She is a heavy sleeper.  Tempest has to be around here with the chickens, dogs and cats. She's been loving her time in the bunny hospital aka Mel's air conditioned bedroom. She was flopped over on her side when Mel went to check on her. Mel being Mel spoke to her through the cage in a loud, corny voice she does. Mel even poked her through the cage. Tempest would not rouse. Mel thought she had lost another English Angora. The rabbit was only sleeping because when Mel reached into the cage and picked her up, the rabbit looked at her with a startled look. I might also mention this rabbit has been treated for a body mites. So she's almost hairless. She looks so pitiful.
Dustin, Gray English Angora

Mel came rushing in from checking on the rabbits Monday. "Dustin has diarrhea! What do I do?" Nothing will kill a rabbit faster than diarrhea in the summer time. They can't drink enough to keep them hydrated.  I told her to empty out his cage. To give him only timothy hay and put some apple cider vinegar into a clean water holder. We bleach and clean their water bottles and food dishes routinely. In fact, we had done it over the weekend. Nothing had changed drastically in his environment to cause the stomach upset. After Mel returned from work, she bathed his hind end of all the mess. Straw and poop everywhere.

In the end, so to speak, there was nothing wrong with him. What Mel thought was diarrhea was just rabbit poo drenched with urine. Once cleaned off, he was his usual playful self and getting into everything. She clipped his poo trail because I'm dangerous with scissors. Now electric shearers is a different story, I can handle those fine. We have yet to get those. They can be a bit pricey for good ones. But they are in the budget for two months from now with the purchase of the new rabbits.

In the garden, I have been waiting and on tomato watch. The one and only tomato we had earlier this month has been joined by about fifty or more little tomatoes. Considering the tomato plants themselves are now 6' high, it's about time.  That first tomato started to go yellowish-orange. I could almost taste it. The first tomato to harvest from our new beds. Every morning I'd go out and peruse my tiny garden. I'd retrain feeler vines, talk to the plants themselves and hand pick any varmint that was trying to damage them. The chickens have gotten used to my routine because they wait for me to throw the offenders over the fence for them to munch on.

This first tomato was my pride and joy. It had gotten so heavy that it carried its branch to the ground. I placed straw under it to cushion it from the ground. It was now on its way to be harvested. Imagine my surprise to find that 6" tomato half eaten this week. I picked it up from its cozy bed and just stared at it. It was then I noticed not the rounded bite marks of an insect or even a rabbit, but the "V" shaped bite marks of a chicken. GRRRR! I threw the tomato into the compost bin. The chickens raced for it, and then squawked loudly because I'd thrown it into the center and they couldn't reach it.

The chickens strike again! But their uncontrolled free ranging days are numbered. They need to enjoy them while they can. As fun as they can be, I'm tired of them thinking my house is theirs to come and go as they please. I'm tired of cleaning up their poop, or slipping on it. But most of all, I want to be able to eat my own vegetables that I grow for us. Giving them scraps and leftovers is fine, but not everything the greedy buggers. I can honestly say, I'm going to enjoy culling day. At least I know what they are eating was good stuff, but it was meant for us. They are eating all of my garden, their chicken food, the scraps, and whatever they find when they are foraging around the yard. So far I've harvested 2 lbs of green beans, 3 lbs of zucchini, 1 winter squash pumpkin and that's been it. They have eaten the rest! And, they say sharks only live to eat and make babies. What about chickens?! They even eat their young.

I know, I know, I always seem to complain about the chickens, but can you blame me? Yes, they give us eggs but compared to what we've lost is free eggs really worth it? Something doesn't balance. Around here right now, we are the Cockeyed Homestead under chicken rule. The chicken building can't get here fast enough. Unfortunately, too late for a garden this year.

Next year, I'm (human) taking control back. (Laughing wickedly and maniacally) I will rule, or so they will let me think so. Yes, insanity is hereditary. It's gleaned from rampant homestead animals and plants. No, not the illegal kind of plants either. If not careful not only will be talking to yourself but answering yourself too.

Okay, so I'm dreaming now. Any minute now Whitie will crow and wake me up. Ah, there he is now. It was a nice dream while it lasted. The Cockeyed Homestead is brought to you by the letters D, B, and C for Darn, Blasted Chickens. It's a good thing I'm not home right now. I hear sirens approaching to come and take me away from the homestead.

I watched this a couple of years ago. Enjoy while we're away. Shaking my head sadly. I didn't read between the lines and listen to her.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Rabbitry Expansion and a Chicken Area

With death of Kinley, we were faced with some decisions to make. None of them cheap. Did we want to continue with angora rabbits? How big did we want our rabbitry to be? How will they be housed? Angoras do not do well in the summer months outside here.Where would it be? How much did we want to invest? Ready built or could we build it? Could we meet Mel's  financial needs goal in two years when she's out of a job?

Although we had a rough idea of what we wanted, there were quite a few kinks to work out like whether this would be a hobby or profitable business. Yeah, you guessed it. Profits are a good thing when talking about a sustainable lifestyle. Remember, I'm the practical one. I know how to set up a business. I have an MBA that focuses on marketing, planning and expansion of businesses. Of course, that was before I ended up with brain damage from my stroke. That's where Mel comes in. She helps focus me and keeps me thinking the right way. We needed a business/action plan. Those ready built sheds ain't cheap. Plus it would have to have electricity to run the lights and air conditioning in the summer. We'd also need water available for the rabbits for them to drink and clean them up when necessary. Yes, we will be raising English Angoras in a full fledged rabbitry.

We ran a profit, break even, and debt analysis spreadsheets. Taking what we knew and what we later researched. Gathering the information we needed was a no brainer. We knew that we could only care for two dozen rabbits at a maximum. For every two or three does, we'd need one buck so we aren't inbreeding too much. As in, breeders and woolers full time. We didn't want to over breed and stress the rabbits so we figured breeding them twice a year at most. English Angoras will have between six and ten kits a litter. We calculated the expenses and possible income in sales of babies, wool, and yarn. To make the rabbitry profitable will take fifteen Angoras. So we decided on twenty angora rabbits.

To house a minimum of twenty angora rabbits and grow out that many kits, we'd need a 10x12 building. That would give us room for the cages and work space to tend them. We calculated each cage at 30x 36 for the does and grow out with the bucks in 30x30 cages.

Mel designed a litter catchment system so we can harvest and sell the rabbit poo to gardeners. That's above what we need for our garden. We knew how much poo ten rabbits can make in a year so we doubled the figure. Our very conservative estimate was 250 lbs of poo per year that will be for sale.
Like this but ivory siding and green roof

In the essence of time, we decided to buy the building. It will still need to be insulated and a floor put in. It will have a standard door off to one side so we don't have to go through the chicken area. There will also be a window at the other end. The carport side will house the chickens and the meat rabbits. We'll hang the meat rabbit cages from the ceiling. We'll run fencing wire for added protection and corralling the blasted chickens. Yippee!!!! No more chickens in my garden!

We went to one of the local shed vendors who we've been talking to about our tiny houses to purchase the rabbitry/chicken house. With a modest $145 down we bought it and a nice sized discount. Designed and sized the way we wanted. Amazing what my added income can do for Mel's old homestead. The final payment is due in about a month. No sweat. By the time we add the floor insulation, and paneling you can add another $1,000 in cost for the materials. Mel originally wanted a concrete slab. Yikes! Not within the budget, but the rabbits and chickens will have a home. We decided on a deck type floor because it would be easy to clean and easier on the budget. Mel says she only needs a week to do it all. I'm figuring two weeks and working until the wee hours of the morning.

On the two-four year plan, the rabbitry will grow by purchasing four to five new Angoras a year until we meet our goal of twenty rabbits. Of course, we may be keeping a few of the kits born in-house too to make up that goal number. Though we aren't interested in showing our Angoras, part of our target market will be.

Now I happened across a deal on Craig's List for English Angoras. I can get all five rabbits from a person getting out of the wool trade. Combined with the buck and doe we have, we can diversify the gene pool some. Unfortunately, other than the bred buck and doe, they are all related. But being separated by one generation is better than no separation. So in two months time, the owner is holding the rabbits until the Angora shed is finished, we'll have an influx of new rabbits. By purchasing these five rabbits now together means that next year, we will have to get our stock from different breeders. But then again, they can be purchased one or two at a time too. Pure bred Angora rabbits ain't cheap. Along the way we'll be formulating a pedigree for our kits. Pedigreed angoras command a higher price tag at sale than nonpedigreed. We should be getting some interesting colors from the REW (red eyed whites). <Shivers> They still remind me of something demon possessed, but Mel loves them. Kinley almost changed my mind...almost.

Now about them chickens. If you've watched the latest videos about Mel in the workshop, then you know about our broody hen. Well on Monday. Mel went out to the shop and heard peeping. That's right, we've got a new edition to our homestead. Ms. Broody hatched a chick. She sat on the
remaining six eggs for an additional almost forty-eight hours, and no more chicks, before tossing the baby out of the nest. It's a long way down from Mel's tool chest to the floor, but it managed fine. She first got the chick's feet wet, so to speak, scratching around the straw in the barn before venturing out into the yard. By early afternoon, they were underneath the Camellias in front of the porch. If we were worried about how good a mother Ms. Broody would be, we shouldn't have. She ruffled out her feathers every time another hen or any animal came near. The chick learned fast about running under its mother when she did that. I took out some bread and cornmeal to them making sure to leave plenty for the other hens and roosters away from them. Ms. Broody (formerly known as Ms. No Comb) broke the pieces into chick size bites. She ate very little of it. She's a wonderful mother. Unfortunately, chickens can be vicious. The chick lasted in general population for three days. This was a fluke and a trial and we weren't really set up for baby chickens, but next time we will be.

Ours will be smaller, but same principle
So, we are now planning our hen house to be split between layers and a grow out place for meat birds. We don't need the mammoth meat chicken breeds neither. These New Hampshire Red provide us with two or three meals a piece at a full weigh of 4-5 lbs each unless we have company. So the 12x12 undercover (carport) area will be put to good use. We figure to deep bed the area and let them compost their waste, the rabbit waste and straw/grass clippings/weeds for us. This in itself will be enough for our garden beds until we make a lot more beds. Cleaning out the meat rabbit and chicken area three times a year is doable.

We were going to cut a hatch out for the nest boxes so we don't even have to go into the coop area to gather the eggs. We will be getting two 55-gallon drums for a water catchment system so we should have plenty of water for all the animals both inside the Angora house and the carport. I downloaded some plans for an automatic chicken feeder that will hold 50 lbs of feed. The rabbits will have 2 1/2 lb pellet feeders with their own watering system set up. All we have to do is go in with goodies like fodder and vegetables. I figure LED lights strung from the supports should provide enough other light. We've got a 45-watt solar panel power that. Mel insists on having an additional chicken run outside the covered one.  "Because my chicky babies need full sunlight." (Do I have to specify who said this??)  I'm leaving that up to her. I've a feeling after we build the fencing around the carport and the doors, she'll be saying good enough. We've got Nnyus to protect them from predators.

Mel has had to chase the hens more times than not out of the garden. This is even with installing a higher fence around the garden. Out of twenty-five green bean plants I planted (4 times) we got ONE plant to actually produce beans this year. No corn out of 200 plants. No cucumbers out of twenty-five plants. No cayenne or sweet peppers. Three sunflowers out of fifty. The chickens ate the seed or the plants before I could harvest any. Yes, the local wild cottontail population was guilty of munching most of my radishes and carrot tops, and my lettuces.They will have to be grown in gutters next year.

It's a good thing I planned this year's harvest as an experiment. If we had counted on it to feed us through the winter, we would have starved. But next year is a different story. My five-year gardening plan calls for fresh eating and 6 months worth of stores by the second year.   The third year is 9 months worth, and the fourth is a year's worth of fresh eating and stores. Where Mel likes to list things. I tend to plan things out over the long haul via some sort of scientific method. It's measurable to what you dud right and wrong.

So keep tuning in to this blog and our YouTube channel for updates. Houston, we have a plan. Now it's time to implement it.

Be blessed until next week.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

RIP Kinley

Kinley @ 2
Kinley, one of our prized angora rabbits, died this week. She was a REW (red eyed white) with the most silkiest, luxurious, 6" staple length coat that I've ever seen on an English angora rabbit. She was also had the sweetest nature while grooming. We missed breeding her this Spring because the weather went from frost to hot with little time in between.

I hear you thinking, 'that's life on the homestead.' That's true. I've at this a few decades and know it's true. My roommate, Mel, on the other hand, is relatively new to all of this. She had  found Kinley prostrate in her cage. Still breathing, but just barely. She had run inside to her air conditioned room with her wrapped in a bath mat. She had slammed the front door on the way in and yelled, "I've killed Kinley!"

By the time I made it to her room, Mel was lying on the bed, crying, and petting the rabbit softly muttering how sorry she was for not taking better care of her. For the past week she had been worrying about Tempest (named for her blue coloring and her temper). She had sores develop on her paws. She's the bluish grey puff ball behind Kinley in the picture above. So Tempest had been inside in front of a box fan. That too is the way life goes. The sickest get the most attention. That is how it should be.

Kinley in full bloom
Mel had told me earlier how Kinley was blowing her coat again. At the time, I thought it was strange because when I had played with her earlier in the week and her coat was only a couple inches long. It was too soon. But I made a mental note to check her coat in the morning before I went back into the garden. I was kicking myself too for not checking on her as soon as Mel said something.

We couldn't tell what exactly killed her. We had thought neglect or the heat. We debated it most of the night. All the time Mel was blaming herself. I was trying to be supportive and comforting. She was even designing the new cage system for the rabbitry/ chicken pen we are having delivered the end of the month. Just in case it was the heat, we were planning on an air conditioned space for them and us. We all might as well be comfortable while grooming them too. We planned the rabbitry portion to be 8x 21 so it would have enough space for them and us to work with them. If you didn't know, the optimum temperature for angoras is under 70 degrees not the 100+ temperatures we have been getting. We weren't taking anymore chances with future rabbits.

I mention to Mel that after Kinley's body cooled the wool could be plucked from it. Mel was horrified. I'm not heartless. Far from it. I just look on the practical side. A 100% angora wool spun into art yarn can sell for $45 - $65 an ounce. I made Mel go into her air conditioned bedroom while I tended to the wool. I had tears in my eyes as I plucked the wool from the lifeless Kinley's body. Her hair flew, as it usually did while grooming, into wispy strands. She's not the first angora I've had pass away on me.

Harvesting wool this way is far from an enjoyable task. All the while I was wracking my brain for a way to ease Mel's guilt and sorrow. I was also wondering what exactly killed her concerned about the other rabbits. I was praying as is my usual custom whether I butcher the animal or not. Many of you new readers of this blog may not know, before I was a minister and a chef, I was a life flight nurse. I was offered and retired after fifteen years at full pension when I turn 65. I'm close, but not quite there.

There I was plucking fur off this dead rabbit who was once the lovable Kinley. Carefully and unsuccessfully brushing fly away fur from my wet cheeks, when I notice what appeared to be her wide opened jaw. Or what I thought was her jaw. As I pulled the fur closer to the edge, I realized it wasn't her jaw at all, but a wound. That raised my medical curiosity. Although I treat even dead animals with respect as I would with any human, I turned her over for a better look at her throat. At first it looked like something had ripped her throat out. I gently pulled at the opening. Very little blood, so nothing had actually cut her. Then I saw it. A residual pus pocket of infection. Apparently, she had gotten a cut or scratch on her throat area and it enlarged to the point of rupture. There was no way Mel or I could have seen it with all her fur unless we had turned her on her back and touched the area under her chin (which all rabbits hate being prey animals). Cause of death- I'm chocking up to shock and heart failure. You can actually startle a  rabbit to death.

I rushed into Mel's room to tell her. Absolved of guilt, she can ease her grief a bit. Kinley was her absolute favorite angora of the bunch. Just as precious as my Buddy is to me. My heart aches for her. These angora rabbits were her children. For a childless woman, it's a hard blow. In the meantime, I'm praying for comfort for her.

Currently, I'm looking for loving and caring folks to adopt four Jersey Woolies/Lionhead mixed rabbits. In the near future, we will be purchasing new English angoras for breeding and selling babies, and wool production for the expansion of the rabbitry's income source, but not today. Today, we are in mourning for Kinley. May she rest in peace in a field of abundant clover and timothy grass forever.

Be blessed.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Runaway Dog or Dogs Just Want to Have Fun

Bennie Dufus
We had grand albeit frustrating week with two of our dogs this week. Bennie is still in training mode. He is never still for long while inside. Mel calls it pacing. I recognize it, from half a century of training Shepherds, as making the rounds or on guard. He is walking the perimeter. It's a Shepherd trait. Anyhow, it drives Mel batty and she's not used to it.

Bennie is also determined to make friends with all the domestic animals. It's going fairly well considering the first day's of him trying to kill everyone (pets).  He's met with quite a bit resistance from our two alpha female cats, Dervish and Patches. While he doesn't get hissed at or slapped during the regular day, he forces the issue with these two. Did I tell you he was a dufus? He has a huge nose that is constantly sniffing them. Both cats hate it from anyone let alone this huge dog. They will first warn him off by growling, yelling, hissing, and spitting at him. Being a dufus, he ignores these warnings until they slap the daylights out of him. After being slapped a few times (usually four times...they are quick), he will shake his head and back off a step or two. He'll whimper, cock his head to the side, and stare at them. The cats hate being stared at almost as much as being sniffed. You'd figure he'd take the hint. No, he's a dufus. After a few minutes, he'll stick his nose within striking distance again.

Herbie has taken to growling at him too when Bennie gets too close. Of course, Herbie growls at anyone who touches him except me. He's adopted me as his favorite and is so relieved that I've come to stay. You may have read that Bennie had picked him up and shook this terrier during the first twenty-four hours together. But Bennie has learned his lesson about hurting other household pets. Herbie has a big dog compressed into a small frame attitude. He'll lay around the house like a bigger dog. He has no fear and will attack an animal five times his size. It's a typical terrier trait to take on all comers fearlessly.

Bennie's new problem is actually stepping on Herbie's tail and other parts of his body. Herbie doesn't like ANYBODY touching his tail. He will snap at Bennie for doing it after yelping from pain. Poor Bennie has a problem with no knowing where his huge paws land.

All except for the chickens. I told Mel of how we used to break dogs from killing chickens on my uncle's farm. We tied the carcass of the chicken the dog killed around its neck. We left it in place until it stunk to high heaven. For how long depended on the dog. Most dogs got the message within a couple of days. They never killed chickens again. It may sound cruel, but it works. After the first twenty-four hours of no human interaction, (no talking, loving or even petting) most dogs get the message. We both train animals with love and positive reinforcement. We use punishment as a last resort and find withdrawal of attention a mighty stern reprimand.

Mel's front door has a large plastic pet door, or did until Nnyus broke the plastic off bit by bit over time. Now it's just and opening in the metal door with black fabric duct taped over the opening. The only way to close it off is to shut the storm door. The first day Bennie figured out the pet door with the help of Nnyus. This is pretty smart because Little Bit, my cat, still hasn't figured it out. It seems strange to use the word "smart" with Bennie Dufus. After the first night's reprimand of not going out the pet door was working until this week.

Nnyus heard something outside and bolted through the pet door with Bennie on her heels. Once he was outside he realized with some shock that he was free. Of course Nnyus decided she wanted to play with him and they were off. Together they made a bee line up the driveway and through the overgrown woods. Occasionally, you would see one or the other's heads as they jumped at each other in the undergrowth. There was no catching the two runaways short of getting into the truck or grabbing the machete to get through the brambles of blackberry thickets and vines. They were having too much fun to listen.

While we weren't concerned for Nnyus, Bennie was a different story. He didn't know about streets and cars. Nnyus has some buddies who live up the street. If she decided to go visiting with Bennie he was stupid enough to get hit by a car. As if two acres wasn't enough to romp and play in. After about an hour, Nnyus and Bennie emerged back out on the driveway with their tongues lolling out of their mouths. Since Bennie was still wearing his leash, he was easy enough to catch. I was surprised that he hadn't hung himself or gotten trapped in the woods with it. But he didn't. He spent the rest of the night tethered to Mel's bedpost in the dark with no attention. As social as this dog is, he was beside himself by morning. He hasn't gone through the pet door again.

Hope your week has been better. As always, be blessed.