Our Mission

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

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Rethinking Going to the Wood Shed

On the other side of the chicken coop and wired enclosure is the wood shed Mel built out of pallets.

We did an oops with it's placement. I tried to tell Mel that it needed to be closer to the house, but as usual she did it her way. Back when she first built it we didn't have a deck with ramps off the back porch, the rabbit hoop house, the driveway beside the house, or the chickens penned in beside the rabbit barn. Hind sight is 20/20, right?

 She was man handling the wood into a wheel barrow, rolling in around to the front porch, and then lifting each arm load of wood, carrying it up the stairs, and stacking it on the porch so it could be carried inside as needed. How cumbersome the whole process was soon had Mel regretting her decision on the location of the wood shed. The first winter after it was built, Mel realized I was right. HA HA! Told you so.

Now a year later, the wood shed is virtually unusable and impractical. It will be moved closer to the house. Actually, behind the food storage building to be exact. Some 30 feet closer for the bulk of our firewood. We'll stack half a cord of firewood at a time as needed on the porch. We'll toss wood onto the new 4 wheeled cart, walk along the new graveled driveway, and Mel will chuck it through the new gate we installed along one side of the porch. The gag gift I bought for Mel has come in pretty handy...a box full of assorted sized hinges. She has a major love relationship with hinges. But back to the new sequence of events. Once the split wood is on the porch, I'll sort and stack it. We have a large 18 gal tote that we put smaller pieces in as fire feeders. If the cart is too heavy to maneuver, Mel breaks out the riding lawn tractor. It's amazing the time savings that little tractor has gained us. A nice, sunny (although cold) afternoon's worth of work and it's done for a week.

Peppermint plants between the pallet bottom will deter rodents from making their nests in the wood. I've transplanted some thirty plants around the food storage building. We found rat droppings in the building. Not a good thing. They demolished my stored sweet potatoes. I'm glad I canned most of them.The peppermint plants will reseed and root themselves into a nice large patches over time.

So when we get down to the last half a cord of firewood we are playing demolition derby on the old pallet wood shed. It will be reconstructed using the same technique shown in the video.

So everything is falling into its cockeyed place around here. Maybe Mel will listen to me next time. Who am I trying to kid? She's just as hard headed as I am.

Starting in the spring we'll be dragging fallen trees up the 100 ft slope to get ready for the winter of  2018-2019. Some of these trees have been down since before Mel moved here four years ago. They should be good and seasoned in place. First, I need to put a winch and a trailer hitch on Mel's truck. Anybody know of an electric start chainsaw? We've got the Poulan, but Mel can't pull the cord with enough oomph to start it. For me, it's backwards and awkward to pull. The thought of running several hundred feet of power cords for the 14" electric chainsaw, just seems a tad more cockeyed than we are down the slope, but we'll do it if we have to. It would just be simpler with a larger hand held chainsaw. One of these days, Mel will let me operate the little chainsaw. Exactly when that will be, God only knows. She's like my husband was with ours after my stroke. He gave ours to a son-in-law to get it away from me.  I don't think I can control the big one one-handed but the little one...no sweat. You'd be amazed what I can do with battery operated hand tools. My Ryobi set got a good workout after my husband died.

Mel is basically one handed again because of trigger thumb (pulled tendon at the base of the thumb). I've got her in my cock up splint to let it rest if only she'd keep it on. I've tried to convince her to go to the doctor for a steroid shot, but she's having none of that. At least, she's taking the Alieve so it's working on the swelling. Granted she has no medical insurance, but I'd be willing to pay for it, if she would go. How does she get away with it with Obama care and all? She's only worked part-time for years or been unemployed. We've had this argument for over two years. I can't make her go. It hurts both of us the longer she's out of commission. So for now, between the two of us we have two good hands. Unfortunately, it's two non dominant left hands.

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

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Cockeyed Homestead Profit Maker for 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Y'all have a blessed day.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Homestead Well Woes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

More Cockeyed Winter Mode

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Y'all have a blessed day.