This morning at about 7:30 as chores were in progress, our dogs where going crazy once again, barking, howling and at what? As I looked out the balcony doors to our back yard there it was, about 1/2 an acre away taunting the dogs as it moved back and forth. Now I have to say I can't be 100% sure whether it was a coyote or a wolf but it was quite tall and in my opinion a little to close for comfort. It was an extremely cold night last night and the dogs where barking steady for a few hours, but with complete darkness surrounding you its hard to locate what they are barking at, so I have to believe that this animal is hungry and looking for food so coming close to our homestead as it knows our chickens are around. Guess its time to lock the chickens in the barn at night!
So now you have the overprotected paranoid mother for a little bit, as I get used to nature coming close. I now find I am repeating to my children to stay close where I can see you. I sure bet they will get sick of hearing that very soon, but when you take children out of the city and place them in the country were they want to explore...well I am just keeping them safe until I know our surroundings as well!
Today was a busy day on the homestead! Between baking over 100 english muffins, a few loaves of bread and hamburger buns, I was running back and forth from kitchen to barn while our ewe cinnamon was lambing, after a few hours we knew something was happening as our dogs where all going crazy. By the time the girls and I got down to the barn cinnamon had already delivered a beautiful baby lamb. Now this is our first birth on the homestead and so you can imagine the excitement, especially being that we had not expected a lamb for another month...guess my calculations where a little off. So all afternoon we spent laying more bedding and checking up on mom and baby. After a discussion with the children we have decided to name our lamb caramel as he or she looks just like cinnamon!
It has been a while since my last post, but don't worry I haven't stopped writing! It has been a very busy few weeks and these cold snaps make it very hard to get outdoor work done. Currently I am putting together a cookbook that I hope to have completed around July if all goes well. It is very time consuming to transfer all my handwritten recipes to the computer and I really don't have the patients to sit all day and type. My next chore will be to find a program to print it from, but technology is not my favorite thing!
We have been very lucky so far this winter as we only had five cords of wood cut and split for this season and as long as we don't have another really cold snap we should make it through till April. I have to tell you when we first moved here I was so afraid of the wood stove, having a few house fires when I was younger had made me very unsure of them but I put my big girl boots on and sucked up my fears and I have to say even though I am still not 100% with the wood stove I know how to use it and it keeps us warm, so I am no longer a panicked mother watching the temp every five minutes!
Now as February quickly approaches we have our garden stands in our windows waiting to have seeds planted in the soil, we have created a chart to help us keep track of each seed we plant and how many. Last year we did not totally succeed with our garden due to all the rain but we planted 7, 239 plants by hand, we are hoping to do just as many if not more this year. I also plan on trying to sell some seedlings in front of our home in May, so I have to make sure we have extra plants growing. This year I am going to learn my herbs, so I am trying to decide where I would like to make a herb garden that will get adequate light and yet at the same time keep it away from the vegetable garden. Planning the rest of the garden will be done after we work the field, from experience we know this should have been done last season but unfortunately we did not move in on time and did not have the equipment. I am ready though, if it takes us making raised beds in the garden than that is what we will do! In order to succeed in our dreams the first few year will be hectic and a lot of work but I know we can do it!
With February only three weeks away life on the homestead is getting busy. There is so much prep in planting and with our winter having brought us an extreme cold snap we have decided to start our early seedlings inside to ensure they do not freeze and we loose out on plants. At the same time we are designing our greenhouses and watching the sun daily in order to find the exact location in which to build. Remember if building a greenhouse you need an area that receives the longest period of sunlight in order to keep it well heated, but an easy way to ventilate if it gets too hot. We just leave our door open at times like this.
Now some may ask why would you start your planting in February? I did myself a few years back and was told that some plants are slow starters so to get a good harvest they must start early. So on February 1st we start planting our onions, celery, and pepper plants, sometimes we add a few tomato plants so we have early tomatoes to eat. Now don't be like many people we know and rush out to spend a tone of money on all the planting trays there is no need, you will find that you can find everything you need right out of the recycling bin now a days...so lets re-use! To start seedlings you can use anything from small plastic baby food jars, yogurt containers even pop bottles. Last year we started all our seedlings in 2L pop bottles and yogurt containers. We cut holes in the bottom of each yogurt container, then cut 3/4 of the way around the middle of the pop bottles in order to make our own little greenhouses! We placed the yogurt container with soil into the bottle with our seeds and closed the lids and placed in our windows. These worked wonders, just remember to rotate your seedlings and water but do not over water, if there is too much condensation lift the lids. I found these as dual purpose because after we transferred the seedlings into the ground I cut the tops of the bottles off and placed them in the soil as a funnel every so many feet down my garden so if there was a drought I could simply place water into the funnel and it would go into the ground for the plant to absorb. Also you could use the tops as little greenhouses in your garden to help those seedlings that are in need of a little extra warmth, by placing them over top of the plant and into the ground a bit in order not to have them up and blow away ~
Today we began the first day into what will be our first full year homesteading and preparing ourselves to meet our goal of buying our own property and homesteading off grid within the next two years. So to start we want to wish all our readers a Happy New Year and hope we can continue to write interesting posts to keep bringing you back to our page.
In today's post I decided why not start the year off writing about those lovely birds who bring us yummy eggs and later on meat for dinner and soups...you guessed it I am talking about chickens! Here on the homestead we have about 10 Road Island Red chickens that free range, coming and going as they please and 15 Jersey Giants that are currently residing in a large pen in our barn. We have been raising chickens for a few years now and dealt with many problems when we first started out. First things first as we learned quiet quickly, always make sure you use a hardware cloth at the bottom of your cages and chicken wire half way up in order to make it harder for rats and weasels to get into your cages as well it makes raccoons have a harder time biting through the wire. Personally we use hardware cloth for almost all poultry/bird coops and cages to protect our birds. Secondly if you free range your chickens know your predators, we thought our chickens would be fine running the barn, little did we know that we had a fox that would tunnel through and steal a chicken every other day. For the first few weeks I could not figure it out, none of the other animals were disappearing how could this be! So my husband and I decided to build an outdoor coop for them and as we where collecting all the chickens from the barn, I fell and there it was I could not believe it. In between the barn and silo was a dirt wall and wouldn't you know it a hole big enough for a small creature to crawl through. I immediately went to the house and grabbed a field camera and set it up and two days later while checking the pictures to my surprise was a small fox entering and exiting our barn...what a sly fox he was. Needless to say after finding out all his easy kill had moved he didn't stick around too much. Now back to our chickens! When picking a chicken be choosy, look at dual purpose breeds with good egg production. When we first began we did not know much about chickens so started with leghorns, although great egg producers they are not a meat bird. We tried them but it was a very tight meat and very little, although a perfect soup bird. Then we tried the RIR and found they also where a great egg producer but for meat they just were not as meaty as we wanted so we searched and searched and then I found Jersey Giant chicks, well I jumped on the opportunity and bought all the chicks they had and was pleased with my purchase. Not only did their name describe them perfectly but they also where able to produce us with a quantity of eggs. The roosters grow to be a beautiful chicken dinner and the hens if not being kept for breeding are also well worth the buy and still cheaper then buying from the grocer and if you can kill your own chicken and don't mind that kind of thing as we do here on the homestead it just got cheaper for you.