It all begins with the chicken!
Eggs are a big thing here on the homestead, we use them for breakfast, baking, salad and sometimes dinner. When we began our homesteading journey chickens where our first purchase and like anyone starting out sometimes its overwhelming deciding on what breed of chicken will work for you.
THE EGG LAYER OR THE MEAT CHICKEN?
When we started out I never really took into consideration how many chickens we would really need to feed us all, what breed or how old they should be, these are things I learned over time and researched as I had no one but myself to ask and I am still learning.
You have your egg layers and just like we label them their main purpose is laying eggs. An egg layer can lay you between 280-300 eggs per year, which is an awesome amount of eggs per bird but once the chicken begins to age the number of eggs reduce and eventually the chicken is only good for soup broth or dog food.
Your dual-purpose chickens come in many different breeds and for the homesteader are a little more useful. Not only does a dual-purpose chicken lay you between 200-250 eggs, but it also provides you with meat during or after egg production. The dual-purpose chicken is meatier and not so tough like the meat of a egg layer is.
And finally the Meat Chicken, these chickens are bred just for the purpose of meat and a lot of people enjoy that it only takes 6-9 weeks to get a freezer full of plump meaty chickens. If you are looking for a fast growing, non egg laying bird the Meat bird is for you!
Now I've tried chickens from all three categories and have found that I like to have both my egg layers and my dual-purpose in order to keep our family fed. I am now experimenting on trying to produce a large meaty dual-purpose chicken with a few of my larger breeds and am hoping eventually I succeed and have a bird that will lay roughly 250 eggs an year and be able to feed our family and be able to withstand our colder climate temperatures. Eventually I would like to just have dual-purpose chickens on the farm as I find they do not eat as much as the egg layers or the meat birds over the winter months when they cannot graze.
Don't rush out and just purchase a bunch of chickens, research them, take your time and make sure the chickens you purchase meet all your needs.
Here on the homestead, we try, we learn, we fail and we try again!
This year we have decided to take the risk and plant ourselves an orchard in hopes that we will benefit from the fruit and also be able to offer it at roadside within a few years.
So of course I went a little overboard as I normally do and decided to find a wholesaler and purchased a bunch of different fruit trees, berry bushes, blueberries and strawberry plants! If we didn't have enough work prepping the garden and starting seedlings, we do now as I have to prepare holes for our trees which we will receive on April 27th and the other half of our order on the 5th of May. All I can do is hope that Mother Nature works with us and gives us a week of good weather in order to dig holes in the next week or so.
Once the trees are here and planted, we will be waiting impatiently until our fruit trees bare fruit in the next few years. It will be a learning experience for ourselves and our children as we learn all about each type of tree we will be growing and chart its growth per season.
We have ordered a few different varieties of apple, pear, peach, nectarine, pawpaw, cherry and apricot trees, as well as three varieties of grapes, blueberries, haskaps, raspberries and 100 strawberry plants.
Check out our Instagram page for pictures at the beginning of May to see our orchard progress!
I used to be one of those "Save the Earth", don't forget to recycle, help out and save the endangered animals and habitats kind of girls, but then my family moved to the city and well I had no choice but to go as I was only 13 at the time. Nothing changes a person like the peer pressures of wanting to fit in and not being a social outcast, anyone who went to high school could understand what I am talking about.
Although now as I am sitting here in my mid thirties with nine children, I am regretting that I never stayed true to my heart, I am still the same girl I was back when I was thirteen, I still care about the planet, our way of life and trying to do my part to enjoy and give back to nature. In some ways I guess I am hippie chick..lol.
So, now its time to get back to my roots, to become that hippie chick all over again. To reduce my carbon footprint and to try and help save the planet, all while raising nine children, tending to a husband and becoming as self-sufficient as I can get and I know it won't be easy but honestly I never do anything the easy way.
To start off my save the planet, "Go Green" movement I am slowing saying goodbye to all the plastic in our home and the best way to start was with our dinnerware. As a parent plastic seems to be the most convenient way, it doesn't break and so kids can use it everywhere, but I was sick of the plastic plates, they scratch, peel and you cannot put anything hot on the plate, then while scrolling though Instagram I saw a stainless steel kids plate that a store in Kingston, Ontario was selling and I was instantly intrigued. I went to the site and had a look see, they had reasonable prices and some in stock which was a bonus, although when I tried to order then I was only allowed to put a total of eight in my cart at the time which I was kind of bummed about as this is one of my favorite family owned stores in Kingston, but I didn't let that stop me, I went right to the wholesaler and purchased plates, bowls, and tumblers for our household.
I don't know how to explain it other than to say that I was overjoyed, knowing that I had begun my goal to reduce the plastic in our home, only to realize what a chore it would be to eliminate all the plastic kids toys in our home but once it is done I am sure a weight will be lifted off my shoulders. I will keep you updated! ~ Jenn
I am finally feeling back to normal and although I am still unable to lift more then 15 lbs, I am so happy to be up and moving around. I am very lucky that I have my husband and children to help out with the chores because I was extremely sore and could barely walk for a month.
Now that I am up and going, I am ready to get this season started! There are so many things to prepare before spring, I have finished all my seed orders and luckily am only waiting on a few seeds. Now I have to record all my seeds and plan the gardens, with the hope that we are able to get into the garden without it being too wet like last year. The one thing I have learned the last few years is that gardening isn't easy and you always have to work with Mother Nature and sometimes get crafty with planting ideas.
I always want that perfect garden but it never seems as pretty as what I see in movies or on tv, but I can say that I always end up with enough to feed our family. This year we are giving our market garden another go, but with a lot more knowledge. We will be planting numerous varieties of tomatoes, because we love tomatoes! Also we will be planting peppers, lettuce, beets, radishes, greens and so much more, basically if we can grow it we are going to try because we like to provide as much food for our family as we can while trying to provide the local community with a choice of reasonably priced locally grown foods. Although we won't be providing garlic or corn this year for our customers we want to eventually do so, but it takes time to work the land and being that most the work is done by my husband and myself we figure another two years of working the land will work up the soil and give us a better PH balance in our soils.
So next week as I begin to start my onions and some sample seeds, I will write more and post photos on our Instagram account!
Thanks for following ~Jenn
On Wednesday I had my gallbladder removed, I have to say I was so nervous before surgery and now I’m eager to feel better and get back to my normal routine. It is quite funny how much we take for granted, sure I was tired most mornings and sometimes dragged my butt just to get going but it seems so funny now, as I sit here in pain trying to figure out what I should try and eat without making myself nauseated. My lower back has been giving me shooting pains here and there and I don’t know if it’s normal or something I need to get checked out, I have to say I liked life a lot better when I was less paranoid about everything but having my children has made me crazy paranoid and this year I need to learn to let go a bit and relax...that’s the biggest word relax! Hopefully I will be able to get motivated soon, I don’t like not knowing what to eat and toast and water just sucks. I have seven weeks left before I can pick up my baby girl and am awaiting the day. I miss being able to cuddle and tend to my little angels. I’ll keep you updated
During the past year I have been overwhelmed with life's reality, I have had to put my life and dreams on partial hold and have learned more then most will ever know. For those who don't know me, I am overly nice, maybe even to nice. I was raised to be polite, considerate and help others who need to be helped, growing up I always wanted to be a mom and when I was about eight years old I met this wonderful family who babysat me, they were foster parents and so kind and thoughtful. Every child that came into that house, whether it be over night, a few days, months or even years, each one was treated like family, like they belonged. It was then that I had realized that not only did I want to have a large family, I wanted to help kids that needed a family or a home.
It's been twenty seven years since I decided I wanted to be a foster parent or adopt and in all honesty I admire those who can do so. For the last fifteen months we have been kin parents through the kinship program and I don't know if its because I have nine children of my own or the fact that I am a schedule person and am used to having half my year scheduled by January for appointments, but kinship is the most stressful life you could imagine. Maybe being a foster parent is easier because you don't have to actually deal with the children's parents and you don't know the background, I don't know but since I've been a kinship parent my life has been expected to just stop and it seems that I'm supposed to put my children and their appointments and life second to our kin child.
When we moved here in June of 2016 we had plans, we had dreams of what we where going to do with our land, our home and our lives, now sitting her in December 2017 we still have our dreams and our plans for the future, but we have a lot of unneeded stress and fears and honestly it really brings you down. We lost days in the field last year because I had to travel to access visits, so my husband had to take on my job and homeschool our children on those days and between me being away and Mother Nature providing us with huge amounts of rain on the days I was home, our garden was planted late and after planting season was done coincidentally so where those visits. Farming is hard enough on its own but when its just your husband and yourself and your learning to farm, homeschooling and trying your best to homestead and be self-sufficient time is money. So as many of you know our crops didn't do so well this past harvest, our beets, kohlrabi, radishes and tomatoes did well but being that they where planted late our harvest was only enough to preserve for our family's winter storage. And our hay, well due to not having our own equipment we lost a lot when the people we hired had their machinery break down and our field that gives us close to 2000 bales was still like soup by September. We've learned that with homesteading and farming comes loss and fails but when you add on the stresses of not knowing if your coming or going, hearing two sides of things and not knowing what to believe, and being forced to treat one child different from the others, well it makes life a lot harder. I had plans to place my children in "after school" programs this year, but even that was put on hold because we no longer live on a set schedule and its like other people our running our lives. I find it funny how many double standards there are with the whole kinship program, and how funny it is that you can basically abandon a child and then over a year later when they are set to be placed in someone else's care, you can say hey I've changed and uproot a child and try and take them out of the only home they know, in my eyes its not looking out for the well being of that child or the family who cared and loved for them. How is it that protecting a child and giving them a loving stable home means that you are expected to change your whole life, that all of the sudden you are expected to uproot your way of living to accommodate someone who abandon their child and refuses to even verbally communicate with you to know their child. As 2017 comes to an end, I am taking back my life, my homesteading, my farm and my family. I will no longer have someone else schedule my life for me and I refuse to be told to be nice to people who disrespect me and my family. Life is way to short to live a life full of stress, our dream was to live as self-sufficient and happy as we could and by golly I refuse to let that change anymore.
So looking ahead into 2018, our blog will be updated weekly after January 20th and our journey will begin all over again. I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and all the best to all our readers in the New Year!
I am currently changing the way we do some things around the homestead and have currently deleted our Facebook page but don’t worry this means I’ll have more posts coming to this blog and please follow our Instagram page!
I will have everything up and running shortly
Way back in third grade they taught us that the world was rotating and that the weather we were accustom to would eventually change and we would have the weather that people on the other side of the world dealt with. I am pretty sure most where not paying attention to this but it stuck with me. Way back then I was full of energy, I tried to save endangered species the best I knew how, I was big on making sure to encourage my family to recycle and reuse and I wrote I don't know how many letters of concern to the Minister of Environment although somewhere along my journey I got distracted and lost. I had people saying it was a ridiculous thing, that you alone can't save the earth! I ended up quitting my personal research and went on with life as your average teenager but as I became a mom it was like everything slowly came back to me and still is.
I knew I needed to provide my family with shelter, food and love and being that we are not your average sized family I knew it wasn't going to be easy. When I had my first son I was lost, he had so many allergies and my two older girls had none, I had to stay away from so many foods to ensure he did not break out in hives, end up with constant diarrhea or end up in the hospital. It didn't take me long to find out that many different companies use different wording in their ingredients labels to hide certain ingredients. I was that women you would see in the grocery isle reading every ingredient over and over and checking through my notebook to see if it was one of my sons "unsafe" foods. At times I spent over two hours in a grocery store because I was clueless, and then my second son was born and diagnosed with Autism. It was so hard, I was frustrated that we could live in such a world where so many chemicals where being hidden into our foods and that is when I made the biggest decision in my "Adult" life, it was time for me to grow up and try to do things the "old school" way. Living in the city, I was unable to grow my own food so I depended on the local farmers market for my foods and yet still had to depend on the grocery stores and I have to admit I currently still do.
But in 2010 I met my husband and fell madly in love. This man was so kindhearted, he understood my children came first and when I had told him how I would love to live like the pioneers did and supply for myself, he didn't laugh or think I was crazy like most, instead he said well lets look for a farm! It's taken me seven years of research and three years of one failure after another to realize this life just isn't going to be easy but it does get a little easier when you let go and realize that failure is the only way we learn and it makes you stronger, you now know what not to do and avoid those methods.
So currently as most farmers in our area we are still trying to get into our fields, plants that should have been in the ground in early June are just being planted, our feed corn crop is just not able to happen this year as there isn't enough time. Our weather is now "NEW TO US", almost as if we moved to a whole new country, we now have to learn how to work with Mother Nature and Pray that something will work. One year we have drought conditions, the next we have the soggiest of soggy conditions and we need to figure out how to work with both in order to be able to call ourselves completely self sufficient, but at the same time we need to learn our natural sources of the vitamins we need in order to stay healthy. I guess we are lucky to have the technology now a days that provides us with all this information just by clicking a button but it makes me wonder how much is true and what percentage is actually false, if we can have false news why can't we be provided with false research. I always wanted to go back to the pioneer era and work hard and do it to provide a good source of healthy food for my family and I am now stepping up and in so many words "detoxing" my families life.
We are now downsizing to the basics, tools, kitchen tools and trying to stop from buying electrical or plastic items, mind you there is always room for more literature especially the old classics. I wanted to give my children a healthy upbringing and I intend to buy growing and raising our own foods and depending on local farmers for things I am unable to supply myself. I am hoping to be less dependent on big box changes and more dependent on myself. A simpler lifestyle isn't always simple but its so refreshing and in this busy rush rush lifetime I think everyone could use a little refreshing and maybe just a little one on one with Nature itself.
Last year was hot and dry and rain was something we hoped and dreamed to see, our crops where scarce and our well was dry at times. We had 10 to 15 gallons of water a day if we where lucky, our animals came first, we bought bottled water for ourselves and when we did get a good rain we all went out and ran around to enjoy it.
I was hoping for rain this year, enough to allow our plants to grow and allow us to live comfortably off our well water without having to rush to find enough to supply both ourselves and our animals. I am guessing most other homesteaders around the area had hoped the same thing, because we have had more rain in the past two months then we did all last year I swear. My fields are a wet soggy soupy mess and not even the ATV can get through some of them, I have one field, I am estimating an acre....ONE ACRE that is actually able to get into without sinking! No matter how I look at it, it's just not good. Enough is enough already, yes we need rain but I need to plant my gardens and now I am busily trying to figure out how I am going to manage to get the thousands of plants I have into One acre and in a timely fashion. I want to pull my hair out, it's like a test that is almost impossible. I refuse to let my market garden fail this year and so I may have to quickly make some trellises and try growing some of my cucumbers and squash this way. Next week every plant I have will be placed in the garden and this week all the raised beds that I will require will have to be made as I went from ten acres to one.
The one thing I have learned while homesteading is always have a backup plan because you need to be on top of things. So as far as my planting goes I have hundreds of tomato and sweet pepper plants to get in the ground, some spices, leeks, over 50 lbs of onions, celery, and hot peppers. I just planted my cabbage and Brussel sprouts and am hoping I still get something from them as I ran out of room in my green house. I have every seed imaginable and I am hoping it all turns out. So follow along and I will update with pictures and stories of whats happening in our soggy gardens of 2017!