Some random pictures of our first week of spring–thanks for visiting!
Spring is here–wait, it snowed earlier this week but I am pretty sure it’s on its way, around the corner! Feeling very blessed!!
The perennial garden is coming back to life!
Fluttershy and Oreo enjoying their time roaming the backyard
Potatoes are going in! Emphasizing container gardening this season!
The girls are in the full swing of things with egg production 🙂
Making starts using our soil blockers
Peas and radishes went into ground last Saturday!
If these aren’t blessings, I don’t know what is!!
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One day too late…
Our sweet bunny Honey has been acting weird. She has been attacking the cage door with her paws and making a grunting noise. She isn’t vicious but is definitely acting different–strange. I got a bit concerned and asked our local bunny expert Alecia, from Edelweiss Ranch and Rabbitry, if I should be concerned. I got an answer I was not really expecting–she wants to breed! Well, who am I to get in the way of nature?? We decided that it was time for our homestead to have more babies. We love babies and what is cuter than baby bunnies?? We were advised to wait a month, which was a month ago, for warmer weather and longer days. Alecia is a wealth of information. I am not sure how she feels about it, but I am glad that we met!
We never just do something, so it was time to take out our bunny books and do some research! Here are some bunny breeding facts and cool information I found in our books.
- Bucks are almost always willing to breed–not so shocking! Buster has been chasing (not very successfully) Honey from day one.
- When it’s time, the girl bunny (doe) goes into the bucks cage. Does are territorial and can hurt the buck.
- If the doe is ready to mate, she will not make the buck play hard to get, she will “lift” for him.
- According to the books, it is easy to tell when mating occurs. The buck usually is very vocal toward the end.
- It is recommended that you, the owner, are present during the mating to ensure that it did indeed occur. Also ensuring that everyone is safe, intervening if needed. I guess rabbits are not shy and have no issue with an audience however I have read and heard that the act is quick enough to miss.
- If the doe is not interested, take her out in 10 minutes and give it another try another day.
- A girl bunny giving birth is called kindling and the gestation of the pregnancy is 28-35 days (average of 31). It boggles my mind that it goes from conception to baby bunny (or nine) in just a month!!
- Fatness in a doe causes a difficult pregnancy, so properly feeding the mama is important. It is recommended to keep the doe on the same ration of food for the first half of the pregnancy (15 days) and then gradually increase her feed. Towards the end, before she kindles, she will decrease her food intake on her own.
- The doe will need a nest box; wooden, metal or wire. Dry clean shavings, hay and straw (all clean and dry, of course) is placed into the box and the doe then makes it her own by pulling out fur from her chest and belly, providing a soft nest and exposing her nipples for the babies to nurse from.
- It is important to place the nesting box on day 27 (so documentation is a must) into the clean (not potty) corner of the cage.
- Once the doe kindles, her appetite increases and so should her feed, as she is now eating for the babies as well.
- Does get anxious about their babies as any mamas do. Be considered of her needs and provide a quiet and safe area for them to be.
- Baby bunnies are born naked (no fur) and blind. They begin to grow fur within a few days and by 2 weeks will be completely furred.
- Keeping the nest box clean and dry helps control disease. Cleaning it is essential.
- By 10 days the babies should open their eyes.
- By 3 weeks, kits (baby bunnies) start to come out of the nest and nibble on pellets. At this time, it is advised to start handling them for socialization. It is also recommended to start sexing the rabbits as it tends to be difficult when they are young. So doing it weekly can help confirm your previous observation.
- At 8 weeks, the babies are ready to be weaned form their mama. To make it easier on the mama psychologically and physically (reducing milk production), some separate all the boys first and a few days later separate the girls.
- By 8 weeks, the bunnies are ready to go to a new home or if they are meat rabbits, to be butchered.
Just like with human babies, you can do all the research and read all the books but you will never be too prepared when the babies come. This type of knowledge is not learned, it’s experienced. We feel that we are ready for the challenge and are looking forward to having more babies. We haven’t made the decision whether we will be butchering these rabbits or re-homing them.
Once Honey is bred, we will keep a journal of the experience. We know she had two litters before we got her and we’ve had her for almost a year now. We hope that she is still capable of having babies. It will be fun to see the new fuzzy little bunnies in her nest box.
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Happy Belated Valentines Day!!!
For us, late fall and winter are seasons to get crafty for the upcoming holidays, shop from our pantry, reflect on our year and plan plan plan. Holidays are behind us and the good Lord knows we reflected…so now for the planning mode–seed ordering! A few weeks ago, I placed an order with Seed Savers. It was so much fun to go through all the cool seeds and select the ones we will be harvesting come spring and summer. I tend to go into my own little world when I order seeds, and have many visions about the upcoming garden. I reread that sentence and sure, it sounds like I am crazy, but its true–I go to my happy place!
Last year, we used up most of our seed reserve, so this year, we needed everything. I also ordered some additional seeds for people in our community–a small co-op group of local backyard farmers/homesteaders/gardeners/. Here is a photo-list of what is on its way. To say that I am excited is a HUGE understatement! I can’t wait until late February-early March to get these guys into soil…some as starts and some directly sown into the ground!
My mouth watered and my heart was happy looking at all of these photos! Thanks for reading! Like us on Facebook for daily updates, news, recipes and pictures of our journey.
A revelation, conclusion or an admittance to ourselves, whatever the proper word here is, Paul and I made peace with the land we have. After spending much of our time trying to move our homestead to acreage, we decided that its time to live and not dream.
Staying put in our home had many deciding factors. The kind of land we want and can potentially afford is too far away from family. Having my whole family within walking distance or a short car ride away has been a life saver for me. Four kids is no joke. Plus, my kids adore their cousins and the idea of separating that bond is unthinkable. We grew up in a very tight-knit family. My sisters are my best friends. I want my children to have the same experience as I did, not just among themselves but with their whole family.
Another factor in this decision was what we can afford. Our pocket book did not match our vision. The kind of land that is within our price range would require a lot of additional finances and time, that we simply do not have. Although it would be fun to get a wild piece of land and mold it into our own homestead dream, we simply don’t have the means.
The last, and very important reason for staying on our current property is our kids! We home school and LOVE it. The plan was to show our children as much as we can outside the textbooks. We are looking forward to taking trips and learning together once the boys are bit older. It is much simpler to find a sitter for bunnies and poultry than for goats and cows. Maybe once the kids are out of the house, we can revisit other live stock.
We have a fifth of an acre, doesn’t seem like much, but its enough land to keep us busy. We have a garden that is very productive but there is more land that is not being utilized, we have room for a few more fruit trees and a backyard that will one day be an awesome outdoor kitchen for fun BBQ and food preserving. Our current children per room ratio is two to one. We are looking to expand our home, so every child has a bedroom to call their own. I think sharing a room is important in building a bond between siblings and solving some of the “entitlement” problems (not mine, but ours), but it would be nice if everyone had a corner they can call their own. In reality it will be a while (if at all) before each kid of ours has a bedroom, I am hoping that they will experience the best of both worlds. We are going to talk to an architect soon about adding a story with four bedrooms and and a bathroom. I dream of having a guest room and an office. Whether the dream of expanding our home will become a reality or not, we love our home and want to put down roots for our kids. We are staying and making the best of what we have.
Paul and I sat down and made a few lists (we like to make lists). One list of improvements for the outdoor and one for our home. The home list is always on going, this needs to be fixed, that needs to be replaced, so I won’t bore you with details. The outdoor list is a bit more exciting.
A fence! We have been working on a fence for almost all seven years we have been at this house. I think we have narrowed it down to what we want and if it turns out how we think, it will be super cool. The fence will be a big part of the garden as it will be used as a trellis for many of our perennial edibles. We will also build planters into the fence to add more vertical gardening space. Hopefully this will increase our harvest and attracting more pollinators.
If you have been to our home, you know about our Pagoda and the 30 year old non-functioning hot tub. The pagoda is our temporary rabbit barn, but one day it will be an awesome out door dining room. The hot tub is from the 80’s. The heating and electrical part of it is so huge, it required a whole side building, placed near the pagoda. This structure will be converted into a wood oven and grill. It is perfect for this project as three of the four walls are made out of cinder blocks and there is already natural gas and electricity there. Paul’s dream of having a fancy outdoor wood burning oven will soon be a reality. He is thinking grilling…yum, I am thinking canning in double batches–we each have our reasons!
We have a lot of space in partial and full shade that are currently under utilized. We hope to turn some into garden beds for plants that are sun sensitive (spinach, kale, lettuce to name a few) and leave some as areas for the dogs to go potty on. One of the shaded areas will one day have a pond, fish and maybe two ducks in it. I am working on Paul to give up some of the drive way space for a few raised garden beds–the theme is vertical and container gardening to maximize space. He is not super keen on this idea, so I really have to sell it to him.
This post turned out to be much longer than I thought and more of a dear diary moment but I am so excited to finally start living outside an unrealistic dream and start putting down roots in a home that I really love and realizing its full potential.
Thanks for reading!
2017 is the year of the Rooster!!
As we say good bye to 2016, we evaluate all that it brought us! We make plans to improve and make things more efficient on our homestead. Here is a short list of things that we hope to achieve in 2017
1.) FINALLY finish the greenhouse and actually use it for starts!!!
2.) Depend only on our starts this year. Last year we bought a few pepper and cucumber plants. This year, we hope to do it all…and barter some of our starts at fairs and have another spring plant sale.
3.) Preserve our own seeds. I will experiment with the tomato seeds I preserved this season–if it work, it is super easy and there is no reason to buy seeds. If it does not work, then I shall try again and do more research to better my protocol.
4.) We hope to add to our home, so that will be a huge project! I am dreaming of having a bigger sun room or built in greenhouse, fingers crossed on this one.
5.) Work on a patch of grass that is overtaken by buttercups–we will conquer this war!!
6.) Put in our duck pond…maybe get a few ducks. We will only do so if we are able to build them a 100% secure home. I don’t want to ever live through another raccoon tragedy .
7.) Get meat birds to fill our freezers.
8.) Learn the art of making ham, bacon, sausages and other cured meats and smoked fish.
9.) Learn more about medicinal plants and dry more herbs for teas.
10.) Have an open house on the homestead.
It has been a while… I haven’t had a chance or words to sit down and share the last, gosh, 9 months of our journey to self sustainability. Today, I feel is the day!
There are many new and exciting events on the homestead. I am officially a stay at home mom of 4!! I was pregnant during the most prolific months of the year, making our huge to do list impossible and somewhat unrealistic! Paul has been on double duty with chores and responsibilities–he makes me fall in love with him all over again. Although there was a lot to do–I feel like we accomplished quite a bit this year/season.
Since May, we have gotten meat bunnies, a breeding pair. After numerous tries, we came to a conclusion that we are not rabbit people. We tried all except barbecuing the meat. I hear that’s the best way to eat a rabbit. Maybe one day we will revisit the bunny meat. As of now our bunnies, Buster and Honey will live out their years as manure producing pets. Rabbit poop is excellent for the garden and its “cold” meaning it can straight into the garden. Chicken poop needs to be diluted and has to “cook” for six months before its safe to use.
We harvested our meat birds. This time around, it was a challenge for Paul. We rented the whole set up used by commercial farmers and I believe that was our problem (and Paul had the flu)! It became so impersonal, it felt like we lost the connection with the birds we raised to nourish our family. Don’t get me wrong, it was great getting 15 birds culled and cleaned in less than 3 hours but I think when we get our new batch of chicks in early spring, we will be going back to our old fashioned way of harvesting them. We have to cull some of our older girls, we hope to confirm that our problem with the last harvest was just that and not a more deeper moral dilemma. I would like to continue raising meat birds as the meat the kids consume is 90% chicken but I can not force Paul to do something he does not want to do. Last harvest, our neighboring farmers Paul and Howard came to the rescue and helped Paul finish 7 of the 15 broilers.
The chicks Debbie hatched are full grown adults. Unfortunately, 2 of the 3 are boys and need to go! One is a white mixed Araucana with a Rhode Island Red so he looks like a dirty white rooster with a little brown on his neck feathers. The other one is a white Araucana and Brown Sexlink mix, he is more handsome but super annoying. If all goes well, I might have found a buyer for them and three older hens. If they don’t get purchased by the weekend, soup they will be. We can’t keep them in our neighborhood nor can they mate with our girls, since we don’t know exactly who their mama is.
Food harvest and preservation 2016 was very plentiful and productive! We had our garden in full gear and collected a bountiful harvest, We planted everything from seed and had a great success rate, which is a first for us. We have plans to expand and improve as always. We used our seed blocks. They were fun to play with and they produced quality starts.
With our garden harvest, our beloved CSA from Helsing Junction Farm and the farmer’s market stand Carpenito Brothers we were able to preserve lots of good and healthy foods for our family to enjoy off season. We made the most amazing marinara sauce from a recipe I got from Backwoods Home magazine where you slow roast the tomatoes on a bed of herbs, onions and garlic overnight at low temperature and then puree and reduce the sauce prior to canning. It was so good, I had to make a quadruple batch since the kids can survive on meatballs and spaghetti. If anyone if anyone is interested, please comment and I will send you the amazing recipe!
We also stocked up on tomatoes, green beans (plain and pickled), canned beans, canned Cioppino base (tomato juice from the roasted tomatoes and herbs, it smelled phenomenal), corn, peaches, cherries and plums (canned in minimal sugar syrup) and spicy Mexican vegetables–escabeche. We also dehydrated mushrooms (foraged and from our garden, more on that in a bit) soup base vegetables (dehydrated fennel, leeks and cilantro/parsley melody), plums, apples and peaches. We jammed quite a bit this year but not as much as we did in the past–we simply don’t eat that much jam. All the jams we made came from local fruit, mainly plums and berries. We had so many raspberries this year that we made five jars of raspberry preserves.
I mentioned mushrooms above, I think it is safe to conclude that I love mushrooms. Paul, being the wonderful husband as he is has gotten me a mushroom CSA. Basically, the company send us mushrooms when it is time for us to plant them. Thanks to them, we have harvested about 50lbs of garden giants. We have did not get anything from the second batch and are still hopeful for the third (Milk mushrooms). It has been so cool to go to our very own mushroom patch and collect mushrooms. We had so much that we gave away to my parents and sisters and dried a bunch as well. I am excited to do it again next summer!
Quail, we finally got quail. Like literally a few days ago! I am part of a Seattle Permaculture/Barter group and a gal was downsizing her flock and we were chosen by her to be their forever home. They are super cute, shy and quite comparing to our LOUD chickens. The last blog I wrote was about quail…and it was 8 months ago, so I am very excited.
Last but not least the most exciting event since my last post was the change of seasons and the end of the growing season. We winterized the gardens and the animals. Now, we are making crafts and goodies and getting ready for the holidays. Time to reflect and plan for the next year. We hope to start planting our starts indoors in February and at the rate time flies, February will be here tomorrow.
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So, this is batch number five of chicks for us and a first pasty butt experience (also known as paste vent).
What’s pasty butt you ask? Well, in a nut shell, pasty butt is when a chick poops and the poop gets dried on their down plugging up their vent (butt) . Seems like a simple thing but if goes untreated, it could be fatal.
Apparently, this is common in mailed chicks and is caused by stress. This would explain why it is our first time experiencing this. All of our other chicks where locally bought. Another cause can be over heating or under heating the brooder. Chicks are sensitive to heat (or lack of) and get stressed out easily. More uncommon causes can be viral or bacterial infections or improper feed, all leading to diarrhea, causing the poop to plug up its tiny little butt. This is a fatal because their butt is literally plugged up and elimination can not happen.
The way to clean up pasty butt is pretty straight forward. You run its little vent under warm water, making sure its warm and not hot or cold, gently softening the dried up poop. Yes, you will have to touch chicken poop but chances are, if you are a chicken owner, a little chicken poop on your hands is no longer an issue. It is super essential not to rush the process and pull on any of the dried poo. Chicks are delicate. You can rip their skin or worse, you can cause intestinal damage. Patience is the key. So today in the morning, I spent about 10 minutes standing in my bathroom with a chick under running water. The poor thing was confused at first but then I think he started to enjoy it.
After the vent is visible (pink and puckered up), I dried the chick with a heated towel, wrapped her in a warmed up blanket stuck her in my coat (next to my chest) while taking her back to the brooder. The down was still pretty wet so I put her right under the heat lamp and the little booger took a big poop! Success. About 15 minutes later, I checked on the chick and it was impossible to tell which one got a bath, all 15 were back to being cute, yellow and fuzzy.
So according to the book of knowledge–Google and Storey’s guide to raising poultry, this could happen again. And if it does, the same process should be repeated and and a cooked egg yolk should be added to the chicks diet for day or two. If it still occurs, you can put a little bit of vasiline or antibacterial ointment around the vent down to prevent poop from sticking to them. Avoid oils, as they can become rancid and cause infection.
A very serious problem (if left untreated) with an easy fix–I’ll take it.
The chicks have grown a lot in their first week. They are officially 9 days old and already have their wing feathers. Pretty soon, their cutie-pie fuzzy down will be replaced with white feathers and they will go through a few weeks of ugly duckling experience.
On a separate note, today is day two of our broody hen Debbie sitting on a clutch (7) of eggs. If all goes well, we hope to hatch a few chicks of our own by April 24-ish. We had a rooster up until this last weekend and hope to witness a chicken brooding eggs. We had to sell the rooster to avoid angry neighbors.
Thanks for reading! Stay updated on the our journey with raising Jumbo Cornish Cross meat birds and our broody hen Debbie in her natural element.
It seems that the theme of my blog (and life) lately has been about not being able to reach set goals on the homestead. There is so much that we want to do but there is just too little time! We got a lot of chores done last weekend–some were a little later than usual but I think we just need to accept the fact that with almost four kids, certain deadlines are not possible. We aren’t sitting around dwelling about our tardiness, rather learning from our experiences. Being a homesteader is an art on its own and we are still learning!
Here is a picture summary of us finally using our soil blockers to make soil blocks, for our vegetable starts. This is our first attempt and I really hope that we sprout something. We made more starts than we need in hopes of having a plant-start sale soon, as a little fundraiser for our homestead. The kids are stoked and to be honest, so are we.
I want ducks! I really do, but Paul brought up a good point, our property is pretty small and ducks will turn anything into a mud puddle. We had plans to build them a secure area with a pool, and we still might, but for now, I think we will be duck-less. I have mixed emotions about this but for now, I think it is for the best.
We still want a different egg and meat source other than chicken, so after a bit of research, we decided to give quail a try. Quail are a common backyard bird that have many benefits on a homestead.
Quail are smaller and quieter birds. They require significantly less room (1 square foot per bird, vs. chickens at 3-4 square feet per bird) and quite content living in a caged hutch. I had reservations about keeping any critter “caged” up, but apparently, quail do much better in such habitats. They don’t free range without running or flying away and they can actually do more harm to themselves in a big space. They tend to fly into things and if their habitat is too tall, they can break their necks. Apparently, they are pretty low on the totem pole of poultry intelligence. It is common to keep quail in a green house and most likely, they will be one of the occupants of our green house.
According to the available literature, quail eat less per body mass ratio and are very healthy sturdy birds. They do not roost or lay their eggs in a nesting box (they pretty much lay where ever they feel like) and start to lay at 6 weeks (versus a chicken that usually starts laying at 6 months). Male quail do not crow, so keeping both sexes is possible in a backyard setting (no pissed of neighbors is a good thing) and allows for fertilized eggs and hatching of eggs.
Quail eggs taste similar to chickens eggs, although about three times smaller. They make an adorable egg salad or egg drop soup. Quail meat is lean and tender. One quail is a serving size for one adult meal.
*All pictures are courtesy of Mother Earth News and Wikipedia.
I am looking forward to welcoming quail chicks to our homestead. They are super cute and make the cutest little chirping noise. It will be fun to have the kids collect teeny-tiny eggs.