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 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.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Homestead Year End Summary 2017

What a difference a year makes, but then again not that much has changed over the past year. This year has flown by at record speeds. I've blogged it all since April 2016 with 81 posts here. The Cockeyed Homestead is better organized than when I first came here.
Some major and minor achievements in 2017...

1.  A driveway was installed to replace the washed out one that was here before. An additional 80 feet of new driveway along the side of the garden, house, and down to the chicken and rabbit areas. This has been a godsend and well worth the price.  All together 1/4 mile was sub-surfaced and graveled. My mini van thanks me every time I go out on it. Even though we have a large car park area in front of the barn, we no longer use it. Instead, we now park around back beside...
2.  The new deck and ramps off the back porch. It makes for easier access into the house, rabbitry, and chicken area. Now we have access to the screened porch from both sides. The ramp makes the transport of feed, and canned goods from the storage building much more easier for the both of us. Bringing firewood from the firewood sheds to the house is a breeze via a wagon. We have planted yellow mums under this deck section to prettify the area. We also planted spearmint and peppermint around the base of the storage building to deter rats.

3.  We contracted out the refurbishment of our water delivery from the well to the house. It meant a trencher and dozens of new PVC pipe all buried two-foot down. You may remember our previous "pipe" was flexible hose buried, in places, 6" below the surface and was constantly leaking, breaking, and freezing in winter.

4.  We added extra circuits to our power panel and had the electrician make sense to our two circuit boxes. The workshop/barn now has dedicated circuit breakers, and lights. We were using an extension cord from the house. The storage room also has it's own circuit to run the air conditioner, heater, and lights. A small freezer will be added later for frozen bunny water bottles and maybe a mini refrigerator for egg storage. The house also got some wiring and additions in the way of two new ceiling fans  with overhead lighting for the living and breakfast rooms, and a dedicated circuit to run the larger air conditioner in the living areas. Yippee!

5.  We had an additions to our homestead too! We bought twelve Rhode Island Reds and Buff Orpington chicks in the spring to revamp our chicken flock after predators maimed or killed 3/4 of our New Hampshire Red chickens. As of today, we still have eight after culling out the roosters. We now get seven eggs a day and have plenty of chicken in the freezer and canned.

6.  We lost Bennie to a car incident and Devon Angel, but the Lord blessed us with Flynn. Other than Mel thinking she was a boy, she has been quite the character. She fits right into the Cockeyed Homestead Critter collection. You should see her playing in the rain and snow. Hilarious for a cat to do this. Everything is new and exciting for her and she knows no fear..only adventure and playfulness. At six months old, she still demands her Mama snuggles and follows Mel wherever she goes around the homestead.

7.  We lost three of Mel's original English Angoras, but bought five in the spring. We also changed our rabbitry set up. The storage building we originally had our angoras in is no more. The building was cleaned and converted into a food storage building for our home canned goods, root cellar, and staples storage.

8.  A quarter acre was cleared and terraced in preparation of a fruit and nut orchard. We are still laying cardboard and straw over the area in preparation of our organic orchard. Slated to go in are Muscadine and Catawba grapes, blueberry bushes, raspberry bushes, and blackberry vines in the spring. With apple, pear, cherry, fig, pecan, and black walnut trees to follow.

9.  Our garden has a major revamp. With the addition of the side driveway and the drive through area beside the barn, the garden now has definite borders. The trapezoid shaped area has had two feet of wood chips, cardboard, and straw added to the whole area. The raised beds are gone. Along the driveways will be straw bale garden beds. These areas were previously weeds and hard packed clay. They need intensive conditioning and soil improvements. The whole area will get a thick compost boost over winter for the 2018 growing season.

10.  The rabbitry was moved to the new rabbit barn. Mel built it with a broken wrist if you can believe that. The bucks are now housed in 24x36 cages along one side and the does are all in 30x36 cages along the opposite side. The grooming table is at the other end pictured with all their supplies and compartments for each rabbit's fur. When the grooming is finished the rabbits are allowed to run free within the barn. Two large hurricane type fans were added for their comfort and tarps were added to the ends for increment weather.

11.  The chickens also got their own enclosure. It is wired across the top and all around to make predator access more difficult. I'm not going to say predator proof because predator will find a way in no matter what you do. But they should be considerably safer this winter. The nesting boxes are accessible outside the enclosure which makes harvesting the eggs a simple matter of opening a hatch. We can still free range our birds too. This way they will stay out of our garden. Yeah!

12.  With the pick up of sixty cases of pint jars (free) from North Carolina, we actually have a food storage pantry. See #7. While the garden this year was lack luster in production, we made some new friends in the local produce market for produce to can. Some valuable contacts were also made for when we launch our own chemical free produce and products maybe as soon as next year.  While we are no where near filling all sixty cases, we are comfortable in what we have. Next year, we hope to have even more. It's a start. I can see needing another sixty cases of jars easily to supply our needs for a full year. While we aren't totally self reliant yet, we are on our way.

As I write this blog, I'm amazed about how much we actually got accomplished in 2017. It didn't seem like that much with long periods of hurry-up-and-waits. It's good to jot things down and look at accomplishments. Hindsight is twenty-twenty after all and we have been truly blessed in 2017.

Y'all have a blessed day.