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, August 19, 2018

Cockeyed Weather

Now that spring and summer of 2018 are almost fully gone. This one has to be one for the weather record books for this area.

We had a fairly mild winter that stretched into May. Our spring may have lasted a week, and then we got blasted with high summer heat. While this is not unusual for south Georgia, it's almost unheard of here in the high foothills. We had three weeks of rainy weather going into late spring followed by late arctic blasts. Our poor plants transplanted at the end of May didn't know whether to grow or shrivel up. They either got too cold in the low overnight temperatures, wither in the heat blasts of the afternoon (heat indexes reaching 100+ degrees), or struggled to keep their heads up above the onslaught of heavy rains. This trend continued throughout spring.

Summer????
And then came summer, we expected the heat waves to continue as it usually did. We were pleasantly surprised and mistaken. Nighttime highs ranged in the 60s. We ran Mel's little air conditioner exactly two times and that was because of the high humidity from days of constant showers. The daytime highs ranged in the high 70s to mid 80s. Our heat loving plants like melons, okra, and sweet potatoes were hard pressed to find the heat they needed to grow and thrive. Inside our abode, our sweaters still hang within easy reach because the early morning temperatures cause us to put them on, or drape them across our shoulders to ward off the chills. It wasn't until late July or early August that these heat loving plants even flowered. Time is running short them to produce harvestable fruit before the fall's nighttime chilling temperatures arrive in late September.

There's no predicting fall after the last two seasons. While I planted my fall garden seeds last month as usual, the weather is so cockeyed, I expect another heat blast like we had in the spring or early freezing temperatures. Either one will kill off any hopes of expected harvests.  The plants may have to overwinter and get a jump start in the spring. Except for the heat blast this spring and the blizzard of squash beetles, we could have planted cool weather crops all summer long. Go figure!

The only plants that did well this year so far are my green beans and tomatoes. My tomatoes were grown in straw bales, or my raised soil bags so their feet (roots) maintained a good moisture level without drowning. The same went for my bush green beans which I planted in double width, raised rows. My original intention was to conserve watering over the summer. LOL

Try as you might, there's no predicting Mother Nature. She's been the blessing and cursing of gardeners everywhere since man first planted a seed.

Y'all have a blessed day!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Planting the Fall Garden

I usually start thinking of the fall garden after I finish harvesting the cucumbers and zucchini each year since I've been in the Northeast Georgia foothills. This year the weather has been crazy. Almost no spring, soaring temperatures, and then a coolish snap in July (daytime highs in the 70s). We've had a very wet summer, not that I'm complaining. It was a welcomed change from the previous two summers.

So my cabbages, napa cabbages, daikon radishes, carrots, leeks, and lettuces all went into the ground this week.

But it led to a very buggy growing season. We had an explosion of squash beetles and mosquitoes galore. The beetles not finding much to eat on my zucchini plants devoured my poor cucumber and watermelon plants with gusto, and then even chewed the leaves of my tomato plants. These little buggers went after my bunny greens patches too. Nothing was safe from them. Even planting my usual deterrent of icicle radishes and dusting with DE (Diatomaceous Earth) worked to control them.

I'm finding pests choose different years to attack my garden. Thank goodness, they don't all have explosions at once. Last year was stink bugs. The year before it was cut worms. I'm not the only on complaining about them either. Paying visits to my local feed and seed store and Tractor Supply Co., everyone there were complaining about the squash beetle explosion this year.

Unfortunately, even my chickens find them distasteful too. I'd hand picked these morsels in the beginning, partially squish them, and toss them in my bucket I carry with me into the garden for this very purpose. After I finish, I'd call the chickens and dump these morsels out for them to gorge themselves on them. Normally, the rooster would call the hens because there were tasty tidbits available. With these beetles, he uttered no sound. The hens and he would peck at them and spit them out. I'm not joking. They would then look up at me with a disgusted face and walk away. As if they were saying, "What is this crap you're feeding us?!"

After a few attempts to feed these beetles to them, I even noticed that their usual behavior of circling the garden while I was working within the fenced off area, changed. They no longer cared that I was in the garden. They were off to greener pastures like going down to the creek, 1/2 an acre away and down the slope, where there are endless smorgasbord of tasty nibbles to be had.

Our peaches have colored up and will be harvested this week. Some actually survived the squirrels!  They are small, but this is only the third year for them. I'm looking forward to tasting them not that I'm expecting much as I previously explained. It should be interesting.

Speaking of peaches, I went to my neighbor's and picked up a a peck for fresh eating and to replace the jars we used last year. I also went grocery shopping. I really liked the Loring peaches this year of all the varieties he grows in his orchard. He's only a mile down our road.   Another farm about a 1 and a 1/2 down the road has blueberries. We do a barter for fresh eggs. Ain't I lucky?

Well, I brought my groceries home and told Mel to fetch 'em. Well, a month's worth of sodas, milk, and assorted other groceries came in, but my peaches and assorted produce that I didn't grow this year were left in the car. It wasn't an imperative that they come in immediately. Mel got her drink and sat down a spell to rest before getting the rest inside. Mel has a nasty habit of leaving the sliding door or the hatch open while she rest. No big deal. Normally, she'll be out again in about fifteen minutes. I started processing the day's harvest of cucumbers, peppers, and store bought Vidala onions for bread and butter pickles and relish. This should be the last batch I'll have to put up for the year.

It's been a while since I've said this but THOSE DARN BLASTED CHICKENS got into the back of my van and feasted on my peaches! About eight of the thirty were hen pecked. Mel tossed two of them out into the side parking area to get the chickens out of my van. It's far easier than trying to chase them the inside of my van to get them out. These peaches were three-quarters the way eaten anyhow. After looking at the remaining peaches, I  decided to give the half eaten and severely pecked peaches to the rabbits. Grrr!

Pictured is the worst of what's left. I may be able to salvage the rest for canning and fresh eating. Double Grr! More work for me because of our birds. At least, they didn't poop in my van and they did leave me some. At least, they are staying  out of our garden this year too, thank God!

Well, that's it for this week
Y'all have a blessed day.


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Introducing Cara to the Cockeyed Critters

Cara @ 8 weeks old
I found another nonrelated English Angora doe! Cara is the newest addition to the Cockeyed Homestead Rabbitry.

I found her on Craig's List for a price at the within my price range ($25). Cara is what we are naming her keeping with the Celtic names for our rabbitry. It means beauty and adored. At just 8 weeks old, it will be next spring before we can breed her at the earliest. But we will probably wait until fall 2019, giving her a full year to mature. But we're in this for the long haul.

The only down side to Cara is that she is a English/ Satin cross angora rather than the purebred English that we specialize in. What this means is she will be bigger (5-6 lbs) than the standard English (3-5 lbs), her fur will be longer, finer, silkier, and have luminescent qualities. Not necessarily a bad things for fiber production. What makes her more difficult is the guard hairs that will have to be removed before spinning. English Angoras have no guard hairs. I'm hoping, because she is a cross, the guard hairs will be reduced.
Cara@8 weeks

It will take three generations to breed the satin out of the equation to get a purebred angora out of her original litter. Of course, they'll always be a few throwbacks in future litters. As you can tell from from the picture, she looks more of the Satin angora than English (French+English=Satin) with her fur clad face and ears instead of fiber. No fluffy, tufted ears that Mel loves and I have a hard time grooming.

Wool Chart
The fiber from a satin angora is finer than an English angora thus lighter weight. The micron count for English to Satin is 22-25. Compared to  the finest sheep's wool, Merino, at 22. This is why we usually blend Merino wool with it for the lightest weight, strength, and warmth. It is the cheapest fiber and yarn we sell.

Why weight is important to us? Have you ever picked up a fisherman's wool sweater? Heavy wasn't it? As a woman wearing this sweater and moving, it's sure to add several pounds to your scale weight. It will easily add 5-7 lbs. If you could get the even more warmth with over half as much weight, wouldn't you? I would. Just the sheer ease in movement would be worth it.

Cara @8 weeks
I currently have one 100% angora knitted sweater. It weighs a pound, but when I wear it, there's no need for an over coat outside with temperatures in the high 20s. Yes, it's that warm. Angora doesn't give you the itchy feel next to the skin either unlike sheep's wool. The only down side to angora is it's hydrophobic (it doesn't like being wet). But, it is also prime luxury fiber. It's the mink of spinning fibers and no animal has to die to get it.

Cara, by being a larger rabbit, has an added benefit. Possible meat production. If I can ever get Mel over her dislike of culling rabbits. I refrain from butchering rabbits because of this. To her, they are just too cute and lovable to kill. I'm partial with her when it comes to angoras. I'd rather sell them than eat them. But push comes to shove, I'll do it regardless.

Well that's it for this week. We are thrilled to have a baby on the  homestead again.

Y'all have a blessed day.



Sunday, August 5, 2018

Reorganizing and Plans for the Barn

Similar to this but no door or window in front
It really isn't a barn though we call it that. It's a metal structure that's supposed to be a garage. It has one window which overlooks the orchard and a door on the opposite side of the garage door. It's 18x 26.

Mel built a raised, platform floor inside of it that takes up a quarter of the space from the back entry door out 8x12. We will be expanding this area out another 4' to give her more room to play  in 12x12. She didn't have near as many toys to play with before I got here. It's easier on the feet and legs standing on the raised platform than the asphalt patch type floor.

I bought about $100 worth of 2x4x8s for a shelving unit along one side of the garage between the window and garage door.  I wanted them sturdy and strong. Rather than use plywood for the shelves, we used 2x4s. It is almost overkill for weight bearing. Didn't I say I wanted it strong and sturdy? Each upright is double thickness between the shelves.  Then each unit is secured to the building at the back.The earth would have to shake a whole lot to move them.

Most of my stuff is in these 45-gallon, wheeled totes, and are heavy.  There are four of them and a foot locker that's mine. They are almost totally rodent and bug proof. Two of these totes would fit on each bottom shelf. She built three of these storage shelves units. These are on the lowest shelf while the upper shelves house the standard 18 to 30 gallon totes. One whole shelving unit houses paint, varnishes and assorted odds and ends that Mel stores. The upper most shelves hold seasonal stuff. Hopefully, the rats won't chew through the plastic as easily as they did the boxes these items were originally in.

A whole truck load of damaged belongs were taken to the landfill this year because of the rats and bug damage...mostly stored in cardboard boxes. With each tote labeled and stacked, we should be able to find what we want more easily. Better organized, the easier to find, right? Of course that meant having to go through each and every thing too. We've been at it since spring and we're almost done. The days of dumping whatever wherever in the barn is over! Now it has a proper place.

Next in the barn to build is building a small storage building within the barn (8x12x6). This space will be designated for storage of extra empty canning jars, rabbit and chicken (and people too) grains and feed when we catch a sale on these items. It will be built out of recycled pallet wood. It will be sealed against rodents and bugs. With recycled nails, visits to the Re-store, it shouldn't cost much at all to
build. We are only planning to build this room 6'  tall. The "roof" will allow for storage of extra hay and straw for the animals so we can take advantage of sales without cluttering up the rabbit barn. Buying 5 compressed bales of straw and hay for the critters severely limits the area our bunnies have free to scamper and play in. It also hampers our ability to catch them after free play is over. This is even with the almost 6' expansion of the rabbit barn.

The rest of this side of the 24' length will be for lumber (8x4) and large garden tool storage with a much smaller shelving unit (2x2x5) for storing sacks of perlite, bone and blood meal, Epsom salts and small hand tools and gloves. The large garden tools have a place in the space between the door and runs along a 2' of the walkway between the wall and the platform for the workshop about 6' wide.

As I said before, everything will have a designated space. The yearly cleaning out the barn will be history. There also will be no more hiding spots that Patches, my mouser cat, or Herbie, our rodent hunting dog, can't get to. Although neither of them like snakes very much, they will alert us us to their presence. Patches may play with smaller ones. Both have permission to kill whatever is in the barn. The beauty of this is we'll be able to close the garage door when it doesn't need to be open. Right now, it stays open even in winter.

We may eventually have a barn that really is a barn.  All the livestock we have already have their designated areas so it isn't necessary. But for now, we are using what we have for optimum use.  We even have space to drive the yard tractor in to get it out of the weather. What a novel concept!

The infrastructure plans include a goat area to be built beside the current barn. We'll set up a milking station at the garage door opening and fence off an area between the shelves and the storage room as well as a walk thru area that's the car park area for this purpose. The goats won't mind the sloping area between the barn and the orchard. They might even enjoy it. So long as their house is fairly level ground. There's about a six-foot wide area between the barn and the slope for their house. We can set up other areas for them to play in also on the property. I'm only talking about two or three dwarf Nubians or Nygoras not a full herd of  10-20 goats.

Like this one
The infrastructure future plans also include a chick /chicken grow out area just beyond the well house as soon as we clear it. Not huge, but space enough for ten to twenty birds at a time to be healthy and happy until slaughter. The plan is to raise up these chickens twice a year.

We always insist that our animals be healthy and happy no matter what their eventual disposition may be. Housing our chickens for slaughter needs to be everything they could dream of. Happy, healthy chickens mean a healthier end product for us to consume. We'll also know how they were treated and fed.

That's it for now. ***Please use the contact firm to subscribe to our weekly newsy emails.***
Y'all have a blessed day!


Sunday, July 29, 2018

Fulfilling Your Homesteading Dream~ How to Get It

Credit
I've been conversing via email with one of our YouTube subscribers and blog readers. She wants to live our lifestyle too. It has been a dream of hers for decades.

We actually get quite a few comments and emails along this line. "I wish I could do what you are doing." We are visible because of YouTube and this blog documenting our progress on our homesteading efforts. We are just one of hundreds of channels that are doing the same thing. We aren't experts by any stretch of the imagination. We are just like anyone out there viewing us.

Viewers and readers alike have different circumstances which keeps them from selling it all and moving to a piece of land to homestead. That's the only difference between us and them. For Mel, her husband and mother died freeing her from her urban lifestyle. For me, it was the death of my husband. All my children are grown up with children of their own. We were free to make choices on how we would like to live the remainder of our lives and had the nest eggs to do it with.

Many feel frustrated and trapped by their circumstances.  They feel their dream of homesteading slipping farther and farther away as time passes. It's almost like they are in jail unable to do anything about it. You feel there is no escape.

STOP THAT.

It's only a matter of perception and perspective. Your dream only dies if you kill it or replace it with another one. Until then you are in waiting mode. The Bible promises "to everything there is a season.'

Even if you grow a tomato plant in a sunny window, or your own herbs, or lettuces you are taking steps to fulfill your dream of homesteading. If you have a pet, you are learning and taking steps towards homesteading. By learning how to grow and care for anything, even houseplants, you are in the infancy of fulfilling your dream. When you get a pet, be it a dog, cats, rabbit, a snake (getting the willies with that one), you learn everything you can about the animal. It's a living thing you want to keep alive, healthy and happy, right? It's no different from our rabbits, chickens, and other livestock we have or will have on our property. Even a chicken can be a pet. They make chicken diapers and they can live in a cage.

Do you knit, crochet, weave, or spin fiber into yarn, or sew? Can you learn? That's all part of homesteading and self sufficiency also. Even if you have to purchase the products to work with. While Ma Ingall's, Little House on the Prairie, did all of that, she still went to the General Store to purchase cloth goods and thread.

Can you learn how to can? Sure you can, even a one-handed person like me can process and preserve food stuff. It's not rocket science although there is a little bit of science and math involved. Almost every county in the nation has some sort of farmers market or wholesale vegetable market even New York City. I know because I used to frequent it when I lived there. I was making my own pickles, jams and jellies, and tomato products way back then. How about a U-pick operation? Even when I lived in Norfolk, VA, they had this type of operation to get fresh produce to preserve. As you can see, I was practicing homesteading and self sufficiency principles from an positively city living environment.

Nobody goes into homesteading and a self sufficient lifestyle without practicing a bit first. At least not a smart person. Mel did it before I came along to help her. I was luckier than most, I had family in the bread basket area of the nation.  They lived on farms, lived through the Great Depression, war on their home soil, hard times and good times. I got their first hand knowledge of how to be self sufficient. If you aren't so lucky, you'll have to settle for books and talking to others who have these experiences. Volunteer at almost any old folks home and spend time listening to their stories and ask questions. They'll be glad to tell you all about it. Or, watch YouTube videos or join an online forum group.

Okay, you've mastered all of that and want to take a bigger step, but your circumstances are still the same that keep you from taking the big step of moving to a homestead of your own. Find a community garden project. Or even, start your own with like minded individuals. Have a friend that lives in the suburbs? Borrow a small corner of their yard. Guerilla garden it. Yes, it's not without its problems, but this is you trying to fulfill your dream of homesteading. Isn't it worth it? Maybe their subdivision bylaws will let you have a hen or two, or maybe a few rabbits. Their daily care is up to you not your friend's. Share your harvest with your friend as a thank you. It's only common courtesy.You are in practicing and preparing mode. Like starting your car in winter up north and letting it run a bit before you go anywhere. You are also using muscles that you haven't used before so having a really small area is a blessing. I started my subdivision homestead with three hens, a breeding trio of meat rabbits, and a 10'x 10' square garden. I'd recommend no bigger than 10'x 10' in the beginning. You'll harvest the bare minimum for fresh eating of a variety of vegetables, or plant one vegetable and preserve the surplus. The next year you can go bigger by 10'x10' if you want to and it's allowed. Even a 4'x8' raised bed garden is better than nothing. It's definitely bigger than your window sills.

Affording your dream is another sticking point for most folks. Take all the money you've saved by not having to purchase items from the grocery store for the down payment on your real homestead.  Wash even one load a week of laundry in the bathtub and line dry it wherever you can. Save those quarters you would have spent at the laundromat. Brown bag your lunch at work one week a month instead if getting that $5 or $10 lunch. It all adds up. When you have $100. Open a savings account at your local bank. Even at 1% interest it's 1% less you'll have to save of your money. It's also
unavailable when the spirit is weak. Every time you squeeze an extra $20 deposit it.  To make it more untouchable by US saving bonds with part of your savings. You're saving for your dream. Eventually,
you too can purchase a home with an acre or two of land. Then, you too can homestead like us sexagenarians. Maybe, if you're younger, even a ten or twenty-acre homestead is possible. All these small baby steps aren't a waste. You have to learn how to walk before you can run. It can happen.

By taking these baby steps to get there, you'll be all the more successful in fulfilling your dream completely.
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Y'all have a blessed day!
 


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Homesteading Groups

Homesteading can be a some what solitary existence. There are fields to tend, animals to care for, and household needs that need doing. You can go weeks, if not months, on end without speaking to anyone not directly in your household.


You've got a couple options to rectify the situation. Church, an online presence, or groups of like minded folks that get together to share information. For us at the Cockeyed Homestead, we have several iron in the socialization pot. We create videos on homesteading on YouTube, Mel does the Facebook thing and I blog. We knew about a local Homestead Ladies' group that gets together once a month at our local library. We just never investigated it before.

I went to the library to pick up a book Mel wanted. The library is just up the main road from my pharmacy. I had to pick up my prescriptions anyhow. I combine trips into town when I can. While I was at the library, I asked the librarian when the homestead women met. It was something Mel and I had talked about doing for the last two years. What can I say. I'm like that. It takes time for me to commit the time to join a group. There are so many angles to look at. What's going on on the homestead, do we have sick animals, do I have the energy after all we do during the day, what other commitments do we have that might interfere, etc. etc. etc. I'm sure you have the same concerns in your life too.

Once I commit to doing something...I do it. It's an all in sort of thing so I weigh all other factors carefully. The monthly meetings are at 6:30PM so it shouldn't cut into homesteading time as in animal care. It would cut into our computer time, or our get together and bull sessions, but it's only one night a month. And heck, we might even learn something.

Well, as it turned out, the meeting was at that very evening, but it was almost two hours before it started.  I'd already gotten Mel's book. Doh! I was at the library, but I still had to go to the pharmacy and we had decided on Subway's for dinner. The librarian told me that the group leader was already in the classroom so I popped my head in to introduce myself. She told me that this night attendees were going to build their very own solar ovens and were going to learn how to cook in them. I was interested, but I was well versed in both. I mentally calculated the time it would take to do what I had come into town for. I could just make it if I hurried.

Well, I was filthy. I'd been pulling weeds in the garden and helping Mel expand the rabbit barn out another four feet. Every place I needed to go had a drive-thru except the library. I hadn't planned on meeting and being around people. I told the woman I'd try to be back in time and maybe have Mel with me. I left to do my errands. As the crow flies, the distance is only a 10-mile triangle. I had almost two hours. I might even be able to do a quick wipe down and put on a clean shirt. There I was thinking again.

Remember my post about expect the unexpected? How about Murphy's law and I'm a Murphey. I should have known better.

I went up three blocks to the CVS. I'd gotten a text message saying my medicine was ready for pick up. So all I had to do was drive up, pay for it, and drive away. Except I was the fourth car in line. I forgot my phone at home so I couldn't even call Mel to tell her about the meeting. After 30 minutes waiting in my car with a 100+ heat index, the line of cars hadn't moved. The dashboard clock ticked away the minutes. After 45 minutes, only 1 car had been served. I would really have to fly to make the meeting now, but I could do it. I decided to come back the next day for my medicines and pulled out of the line of cars.

On to Subway's. Once again, I was the fourth car in line. But two of them had already placed their
orders and were waiting to pick up their food. As the truck in front of me placed his order and drove forward, I was rubbing my 4-leaf clover. I could just make it home, change my shirt and get back to the library for the Homestead Ladies meeting. I'd eat afterwards. Mel probably wouldn't come now. After fifteen minutes waiting to be served, the back door of Subway's opens and a worker comes out with a piece of paper. She tapes it onto the order screen. "Drive-thru is closed. PLZ come inside."

The disgust must have shown on my face. She quickly explained that her headset broke and I would be the last customer through the drive thru. I thought, 'Good. The other two cars behind me would have to back up, but I won't have to.' She asked if I knew what I wanted to order. I'd had fifteen minutes looking at their menu board...Doh! She wrote my order on the back of her hand and went back inside. Okay, that worked, I thought as I drove around the building. I saw the truck that ordered before me AND one of the other two cars waiting at the pick up window. ARGH!!! All hopes of attending the meeting faded. When I finally got to the window, they were busy making all the inside orders. They hadn't even started on our sandwiches yet.

The woman saw me pull up and came to the window. She asked me for my order again. When she went inside, she had washed her hands. I saw her put the meat and cheese on our sandwiches, and then she came back to the window, "Did you want them toasted?" I shook my head. I just wanted my sandwiches and go home. I'm pouring sweat as the sun begins to set. She gave me a free cookie and apologized for the wait. It was hour from the time I drove in to the drive-thru and actually was on my way home. I was hot, tired, and frustrated beyond belief. I told Mel about the Homestead Ladies meeting as I pulled the food out of the bag.

"Oh, when is it?"
"It started 30 minutes ago."
"Oh."

There's always next month.
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"Y'all have a blessed day!"


Sunday, July 15, 2018

Homesteading~Ya Gotta Love Freebies or Almost Freebies

For weeks now, I have been looking for more angora rabbits for our breeding program. I was actually searching for an unrelated breeding trio (two does and a buck). They would also be a mixed breeding cycle with our five related does and bucks (mother, father, two bucks and a doe which are brothers and sister). I really wanted to get started on our pedigreed breeding program. The kicker was most of the breeders within a 100-mile radius wanted $100 per rabbit. This kind of initial layout of cash just wasn't in my budget. But, time was on my side because we won't start breeding until the fall or winter.

I contacted a breeder one town over to inquire whether she had any English Angoras available. She didn't have any, but she would put out feelers for our needs. Believe it or not, I met her on Raverly, an international site for producers and crafters.  She's a fabulous lady who has been in the angora rabbit circles for this area for a decade as a breeder and fiber producer. Considering, if successful, we'd be in direct competition with her business, she still gave us help. We are still newbies in the area and to angoras by comparison.

It took a couple of weeks, but she passed our contact information on to another lady who had a buck for sale. I was in North Carolina and negotiating with this lady for her rabbit via email, and then by cell phone.  Her father had taken a fall in the Florida Keys, where he lived. She was selling her urban homestead and moving to be closer to him. In fact, she was closing on her house in the Keys the next week. This lady had also had a hip replacement a couple of months prior.

I made arrangements to meet with her the day after I got back from North Carolina to check her bunny out. It was a few days before her FL trip. I had already found out that he was a self black English angora. He was a 2 1/2-year old, proven (had fathered kits) buck named Einstein. He was priced at the median level I'd set for individual rabbit purchase price. Sounded good so far. The deal breaker would be his manners and temperament. An unruly buck that bites and scratches you up during grooming has bad manners. While doable, untraining the bad behavior and retraining good behavior takes time with these furry creatures that we really didn't have. With an aggressive natured rabbit, the genes could be passed on to his offspring. We wanted kits we could handle to groom or even be handles by children. Especially for a one-handed groomer like me and grandchildren to boot. He was the perfect gentleman! So Einstein, we call him Little Albert, became the newest Cockeyed Critter.

Not Einstein but close
Einstein's  silver colored coat will allow us to to get deeper colors using natural dyes just as Dustin's fur did...may he rest in peace. This new addition will head up our pedigree breeding program starting this fall. I really wanted another doe or two, but his offspring can be paired with our current bucks (Benjamin and Alby, a father and son) for genetic diversity.

This will work until I can purchase the unrelated does. It's a start anyhow. After the false start with losing our unrelated does and buck over the past year, it's a new beginning. So our 15-hole rabbitry will be full soon as it cools off some. I'm personally looking forward to having baby bunnies again. They are such characters and so cuddly. You can't help picking them up, cuddle, them, love them, squish them, and name them all George...even the girls.

You may notice I left Angus out of the breeding cycle. You may recall a post from last year about a bunny surgery. This was the six-month old buck that tore open his scrotum with his toe nail. We didn't realize it until he was dragging testes behind him in his cage. We stitched him up to close the wound, but I doubt he has enough or functioning testes left to sire kits. I could be wrong. We haven't had any does to test this yet. It's a real shame to because this REW (red eyed white) has beautiful facial furnishing and fur. He is still an excellent fiber rabbit.

Since the lady was moving to FL permanently and selling her homestead, she had plenty of "junk" to dispose to get it ready for sale. Her back yard was an English garden complete with healing and culinary plants. It was badly overgrown with her hip replacement happening in late spring, and her traveling back and forth between her home here and FL. It was a jungle. But hidden in this jungle of overgrowth was a treasure trove.

We were given permission to take what we needed.

  • So into the truck with Einstein went 20- 5''x4' pieces of roofing tin. She had replaced the roof on her gardening shed.
  • Then, we noticed a hen house that was lop-sided because a tree limb had fallen on it. Mel doesn't go anywhere without her tools. It was quickly dismantled and put in the back of the truck. It was partially buried in a foot of wet, composted chicken manure. While we could always use compost, I was using the bins for another purpose. We didn't ask what happened to her hens. 
  • With a little bit of work, this hen house would be the new home for Broody/Gimper. It would get her out of a rabbit cage. It could also be used as a chicken hospital so we won't have to have chickens in the house anymore. We have plenty of leftover wire fencing from building the big coop and run to give them outside space under the rabbitry tarp roof to socialize with the other hens and such. It could also be used as a grow out area for any hatched chicks.
  • I found out what happened to the lady's chickens when I reached the back of the yard. There were three hens in a makeshift pen with a tarp covering for them to get out of the weather. They had to go also, but we'd only brought one cage for the rabbit. We made arrangements to pick them up later.
  • In the gardening shed, there was a Standlee bale of timothy hay and a 3/4 of a 25# bag of pellets for the rabbit. There was barely a flake of the hay gone. Into the truck it all went.
  • We had taken both vehicles because I'd had a therapy appointment before we met up at this lady's house. A good thing we did because there were more gems on this property to be gotten rid of. Half of a 25# bag of chicken feed, a Standlee 50# bale of straw with barely a flake gone all went into the back of my van. My van was still loaded from my North Carolina trip too.
  •  Pushing farther into the overgrowth, I found a plum tree with all its fruit ladened branches on the ground. I grabbed the bushel tote and started picking. On getting to the center trunk, I found the reason its branches were now partially broken and on the ground. The central trunk had a foot long split in half. Without the support, the heavy branches fell. I filled the tote and another quarter sized tote with ripe fruit. After I finished gleaning the tree of fruit, the branches that were not broken rose off the ground a foot. There was still plenty of life left in this tree. It's just a shame I couldn't dig it up, transplant it into my orchard, and heal the split, but I didn't have permission to do that.
  • There are still some other "junk" we wanted to get, but both vehicles couldn't hold one more thing so we headed home.
  • The plums I picked were organically grown. I taste tested one before I harvested the tree. Naturally sweet, the juices were dribbling down my chin from the first bite with a fantastic plum flavor. The downside of this harvest was the size of the fruit. All the fruit was between a large Concord grape and a golf ball. I spent the next two days canning plum halves and plum syrup. I wanted to make plum jelly but hadn't made enough apple pectin left from last year to jelly that much juice. Like an idiot, I forgot I could have used the Clear-jel I bought on my North Carolina trip instead of pectin. Oh well, I can do it later. So we now have enough plums and syrup/jam to last until we harvest our own plum trees to be planted in the fall.
  • And finally an almost free. I was checking out Craig's List and found a 375-gallon empty tote. It was food grade. It came complete with a standard hose hook up and the top opening was ready for a gutter...for only $40.The owner's wife was tired of it being in their front yard. You know how wives can be (grinning). I honestly wished he'd had five more, but that wasn't the case. It will be perfect for watering the orchard and/or garden.
Nothing beats a freebie. I think we racked up. What do you think?

Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Amish Store Purchases and Plans for Growth

Thirty cases of pint canning jars that I went to North Carolina to get a couple of weeks ago are now washed, put back in their boxes, and stacked into their respective spots in the storage building.

Plus, the food grade three-gallon buckets are washed, and filled with the GMO-free flour, wheat, and raw sugar I bought at the Amish store also from my trip to North Carolina. My van was packed coming home, but not as packed as last time when I brought home sixty cases of jars, but I did buy more flour and sugar this trip.

All thanks to one of our Cockeyed Homestead YouTube subscribers. Who lives near the Amish store. She opened her house to me and let me stay. Thank you, Ellen! Another subscriber I tried to meet on this trip had a family emergency. Maybe next year, Marie. I'd really love to see your homestead operation.

In a year, we used 40 lbs of sugar. It was used in baking, canning, and wine making. So I bought ten extra pounds to make even more wine with. At $0.88 a pound, I thought it was a bargain.

By picking up my Clear-jel also, I have all I need except for the produce to make my cream of chicken and mushroom soups for the coming year with plenty of Clear-jel for my pie fillings too. The base ingredient (thickener) for all my canned goodies that are yummy in our tummies. I'm still hitting the reduced price section for mushrooms and dehydrating them. If there is a lot of them, six# or more, I'll can my cream of mushroom soup. The chickens for the cream of chicken soup are awaiting slaughter. They'll be pressure cooked to make them tender. Now, all I have to do is wait until my onions and celery are ready to harvest for both.

I still may have to buy more sugar for the wine making though. It all depends on our Muscadine and Catawba grape harvests. I plan on setting aside a few pounds for fresh eating and jellies. I might even try canning some for winter munching. The rest will go into the 5-gallon recycled water jugs for wine. It might make an interesting flavored vinegar if the wine turns too. We've been saving Mel's wine empty wine bottles for a year now to put the wine in once it's finished. I may play with blueberry, apple, blackberry, and raspberry flavored wines also. It all depends on the harvest. I missed the dandelion harvest due to rains and busyness of planting the garden this spring. There's always next year.

In the store, I went up and down each aisle as usual. But as I expected, there wasn't much "new" or exciting to pick up. Not that I was shopping for anything else. So now I've checked off three items that I'd need for a year of baking, cooking, and canning.

No trip would be complete without a trip to their version of thrift stores. I love a good bargain, don't you? I told Ellen that I was looking for another fermenting crock. A good size crockpot bottom is what I normally use. While I had two, and bountiful harvest would overwhelm them. We found one without a lid ($3). I put in my basket and traveled down the aisle. I saw another crock on the top shelf. I thought it was a cookie jar. It was too heavy for me to lift one handed so I pulled off the lid preparing to lift it by the rim. Ellen came to my rescue and lowered it down for me to get a better look. It was a complete German fermenting pot. The same one pictured. Brand new it sell on Amazon for $59 plus shipping. My price at the second hand shop...$10.

Now, if I just had a solution for our milk consumption, we'd be set. Yes, I know we need goats. A cow, even a miniature one, is an impossibility. I've researched it. We are still not set up for housing and caring for goats. I refuse to buy any animal unless we are knowledgeable about the animal, had everything in place for the animal, and an outlet for any extra production (like milk, cheese, butter) from that animal. It's just a smart way to do it.

I'm still a firm believer that an animal pay it's own way on our homestead. Either in production we can use to replace a grocery item, or for straight cash sales in babies, or products like our rabbits and chicken do. On such a small homestead with a limited resources, this is an important consideration. The fact that we'd need multiples because they are herd animals is also part of this consideration. They will also be a huge outlay of initial cash for them and creating a habitat for them. It isn't in the budget for this year even though it was on my 5-year plan for this year. I'm running at least a year behind schedule with Mel being out of work.

I'm also still researching mini angora goats (Nygora or Pygora). They would give us triple bang for our dollars in meat/for sale, milk and fiber. So long as I'm in research mode, there won't be a purchase.

Well, that's it for this week.

Y'all have a blessed day!





Sunday, July 1, 2018

Pick it Now or Tomorrow? The Beauty of a Homestead Garden

I've been watching my garden grow and am content with its progress. We actually planted very little in the garden itself. We just planted a lot of a few things. What I did plant has started producing fruit. I get a thrill each time I see a tiny vegetable start to form and grow bigger to maturity.

I grew this with my own one hand! Yes, I've been doing this for decades, but this cycle of life never ceases to amaze me. God is perfect in all He plans. Yes, it takes a lot of nurturing on my part to get seeds to grow to maturity, but the joy of biting into that first cucumber harvested from the garden to the last, is tasty, nutritious bite just can't be beat. I use cucumbers as an example here because that was the first thing I've harvested so far. Soon, I'll be busy making bread and butter pickles. I've only got one jar left from last year's crop. This year, I need to make double.

With the rains, I've been watching my zucchini, cucumber, and tomato plants very carefully. All it takes is a little rain, and small zucchinis and cucumbers blow up to huge zucchinis within 24 hrs. Tomatoes will split. Not that I mind split tomatoes. I'm going to cut them up anyhow, but pests can enter a tomato this way. Enter the decision making. Do I pick it now or tomorrow? This is the beauty of planting your own garden. You decide on the ripeness you want. The extra day of sunshine or rain can add to the taste and growth to any vegetable.This is something commercial farmers miss, but you as a homesteader gets to choose.

Another consideration you need to make is about processing your harvest. When the fruits of your labor start coming in, your first inclination is to eat it that day. Nothing beats fresh eating. Otherwise, you'd purchase your vegetables from the grocery store or produce markets, right? I do a 50:50 ratio. Half a harvest is for fresh eating and half is for preserving. Will leaving the produce on the plant one more day or two allow other ripening fruit be harvest size? Can I get a full canner load, or fill a freezer bag by waiting? I want everything preserved at the peak of freshness. If the answer is no, then I'll go ahead and pick it. It will be incorporated into a recipe for the night. Hoppin' John is a great recipe for using a handful of black-eyed peas, 1 tomato, and 1 pepper in. Just chop up some onion and add the rice and you got a tasty side dish or add some ham for a meal. This is what I'm fixing for dinner tonight because I had to harvest these today or lose them.

Of course, there is the old stand by of a good, old tomato sandwich with that one tomato with a cockeyed twist. Two fresh slices of homemade bread, a little bit of homemade mayo, fresh basil leaves, a sprinkling of fresh oregano, some slices of homemade mozzarella cheese, and a little bit of salt and fresh ground pepper. I'll brush my bread with a little olive oil and rub it with a clove of garlic, and grill it before I fix my sandwiches. It's to die for.

Are you hungry yet? I'll quit for now.

Y'all have a blessed day.