Monday, November 16, 2015

Business as usual

Hello, friends! I wanted to let you know that from time to time I may make compensated reviews for folks. This won't in any way interfere with my normal homesteading. It's just a way to broaden my horizons, and yours, too, I hope. I will always be honest in these reviews so my integrity stays intact at all times. Now, on with homesteading!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Ups and downs

I seem to be spending more time learning how to do YouTube videos than blogging lately. However, I'm going to try to keep up with both and do chores.

Last night, the overnight of June 2 to June 3, my dear sweet dog passed away. She got sick the day before and was thrashing around for hours while I held her wrapped in a towel. Eventually she calmed down from that but still had problems controlling her head movements. Also, she could no longer sit up or stand. I fed her water with a dropper and bits of food with my fingers. She ate very little and drank very little, and finally last night refused either food or drink. Mostly, she just lay next to me on the sofa and occasionally nuzzled my arm or leg.

Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, she crossed Rainbow Bridge and was gone. I am absolutely heartbroken even though she was about 15 years old. Anywhere I went around here, she was right with me. I'll miss that old girl so much and I can't even imagine how to conduct my days without her now.

Below is a picture from when we were camping and she was a lot younger.

The next one is when she was still a puppy and it looked like she wanted to taste the flowers.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Catching up for the week

It's been a week since Mother's Day and a few things have happened on my mini homestead.

A predator took two of my younger juvenile chickens overnight one night. I went out to do morning feedings and to milk the goat when I saw piles of feathers around one of the chicken cages. This was one of those I'd been moving around the front yard so they could have fresh green grass every day.

Piles of feathers next to the chick cage

The predator moved the cage almost 4 feet from where it was next to the peach tree

I had to make a decision about the current practice of them being in the yard, so I moved them into where the milking doe lives and placed all three cages a few inches from the fence where Molly Dog lives. That way she can scare off any predators and the chicks will be safe. It's worked out well so far.

We moved the 6 medium age roosters into a large pen where the tom turkey used to live. I sold him so that pen was open. They have lots of room in there, plenty of bedding, and good places to roost at night.

The same day I found the chicks missing, I also discovered my mama hen with the 14 chicks was missing, along with 4 of her brood. Then, that evening at milking time, I heard the free range chickens squawking and screaming. I ran out to where they were ranging in the woods and they came running to me and to the safety of the chicken yard. Another chicken, my black hen, gone missing.

I gathered up the fuzzy chicks that were left from the loss of the mama hen, got them into a safe cage and set it in the chicken coop. I hooked up a light for them, for heat, and gave them a rabbit water bottle for water. They are now doing fine but I had really hoped the mama hen could raise them naturally.

It has rained every day and the ground is soggy everywhere. It's hard to garden, even in raised beds, with so much rain. I got the doe goat pens raked out to get rid of wet hay and manure. Piled all that in a new compost heap for the garden. I'm having to run out between rain showers to get chores done.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day 2015

We just got home a bit ago from an outing to another town where we met up with quite a few family members for a nice Mother's Day lunch. We ate at a favorite buffet style restaurant so everyone was able to get exactly what they wanted to eat, plus have the many dessert choices available.

The town is about an hour's drive from our house, through the back roads I'm so familiar with from living in the area nearly my whole life. We met up with my Mother, my sister, one of my daughters, my sister's three children, and various and assorted grandchildren, nieces and nephews. It was such a great dinner. The food was ok but the fellowship was amazing.

When everyone was through eating, we all adjourned to the parking lot where the lively conversations continued, kids played on the sidewalk, and lots of pictures were taken. My son took the picture below of all the Mamas in the family that came. A few were missing, and we wished they had been able to come.

Down front in the wheel chair is my mother who is 93 years old. The woman in the bright pink shirt on the right is my sister, I'm in the center with the flowered shirt, and my sister's daughter is on the left. Back row, left to right, is two of my sister's granddaughters, one of my sister's daughters-in-law, another of my sister's granddaughters, my sister's other daughter-in-law, and my older daughter.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Planting peppers

I just don't buy chemical fertilizers. I try to use natural materials for the soil. Things I have all around me. For instance, today I moved 2 garden buggies worth of soil, decomposed leaves, and old rabbit manure from an area next to my rabbit hutches over to a raised bed garden I created last year using logs and firewood. I had filled it with mulch and more soil (dug up just like today), and chicken manure.

I already have tons of old, wet newspapers on hand for overlaying the garden beds as a weed barrier and to compost into the soil. I also have some old, wet hay to top it all off with. I know that hay has seeds and sometimes it can cause problems in the garden beds because it "plants" grass and weeds. But, it's what I have already so I use it anyway.

Below are a few shots of what the bed looks like during the amending and adding, and after it's been planted. After planting, I put about a tablespoon of epsom salts in beside each plant, the using a bucket, I watered them all well.

This is the dirt I hauled to the grow bed.

Here you can see the layers of newspapers I put on the bed. That corner did get covered.

Pictures from each end to show the thick layer of hay over the newspapers.

After all 17 pepper plants were planted. Front to back, 6 jalapeno, 6 cayenne, and 5 sweet banana.

Closer shot of 2 of the jalapenos.

Mini Homestead water well video

While we have a temporary fix for our water problems, it can't stay this way. We are running water from son in law's outside spigot over to our newly installed outside spigot to put water into the pipes of our house. It uses his water, which he has a water bill for, and it causes us to not have any garden hoses to use in the gardens or to water the animals. I've been hauling buckets of water from our water storage tank for the animals. I'm glad I topped it off recently!

Water well problems

About a week ago, we began to experience some problems with our water well. It began as greatly reduced flow to the point that it was barely a trickle coming out the end of the garden hose. We were also beginning to see flecks of dirt or something in our drinking water in the house. We started pouring it through a coffee filter to get the flecks out. Then, it began turning really dirty looking.

I talked to my son-in-law about the issues. He and my son began working on things, starting with putting in a new well switch and pressure gauge. The gauge has little to do with water flow other than telling you what pressure it's at when the switch kicks on and off. They also replaced the spigot that was in the well house because it was pretty corroded. Sometimes the water pressure would build up, but then it would drop again and it looked like the water was running BACK into the well from the water lines or pressure tank. There was a definite vacuum pull on the open end of the water hose.

None of the quick, cheap fixes worked, to our dismay, so the next step was to "pull the well". In other words, unbolt the well cap and pull out the water lines and well pump. Because my son has come down with some sort of bug, I helped son in law with the pulling. It wound up being about 100 feet of water line out of the well before he got to the pump, which was crazy dirty and muddy.

He rigged up a way to put the pump into a garbage can full of water, then hooked the power back up to it to see what happened. It pumped for a bit but didn't really get up to pressure. It stopped. Then it pumped again and sounded awful. Even from under the water you could hear lots of grinding going on, and it wasn't really pumping much water at that time.

So, the conclusion is that we need a new well pump. Son in law thinks he has one lined up for little or no cost, but if that one isn't up to specs for our well he'll have to buy a new one next week.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Aww baby chickens!

For the first time since she hatched the eggs, the mama hen was off the nest so I could get a better look at her babies. They aren't really all hers, but she thinks they are.

She started out with 16 eggs under her and it looks like all but 3 hatched. Of those that hatched, one or two were green eggs, which means those will be at least half Easter Egger, Araucuana, or whatever you call them.

There are several different colors of chick -- yellow, black, yellow with a few black flecks, and a couple that are several tones of brown or red.

Friday, May 1, 2015

New chick housing

I got the 6 half grown roosters into an old rabbit tractor so now we can move them around the yard. Then we divided the other 10 chicks into three cages -- two are converted guinea pig cages and the other is a medium animal kennel with bird netting on the inside. Now they can all peck and scratch at grass and dirt, which is what chickens are supposed to do.

The rabbit tractor takes two people to move but it covers a fairly large area so we can move it every other day or so. The other three cages I can move by myself, so I just move them around the yard to where ever the grass is getting high and let them have fun with that.

So far, it's working out pretty well and I'm happy with it. What do you think?

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mini homestead dairy goats

I was happy to read another blog that said their Nigerian Dwarf goats gave about a cup of milk a day in one milking. Not happy at the low amount, but in the knowledge that my milking doe is actually on target since she gives close to a pint a day in two milkings. Some days are better than others, and I don't really know why but it averages out to enough to put into my morning coffee plus have some extra for cooking or occasionally drinking.

In another week or so, we'll be pulling the new doeling off the mama goat during the daytime and milking the mama goat in the evenings. Then, we'll let the doeling back in with her mama overnight. We're just waiting for her to have a real good start, so figured around 2 weeks old she'll be ready for that extended away time. I already know they will cry a LOT during those hours. The mama goat is very devoted.

Enjoy the video and don't forget to rate, like, and subscribe!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Small permaculture beginnings

In my efforts to become more self-sufficient, or as much as is possible on such a small place, planting perennial fruits and vegetables plays a big part. I've planted 2 apple trees, 2 plum trees, 2 peach trees, 4 tame blackberry bushes (two different kinds), 3 grape vines, 2 blueberry bushes, and 2 strawberry beds with a total of 25 strawberry plants. I also have a few asparagus crowns planted that have produced a little, but it's plain to see I need to move them this fall and create a larger asparagus bed, adding more crowns. To my way of thinking, perennials are the backbone of our mini homestead, providing us with annual fruits and vegetables.

The second year the peach trees were planted, we got a whopping 7 peaches from them...LOL. Not much, I know, but they were so sweet, juicy and delicious that numbers didn't really mean anything at the time. Last year, we got one single solitary apple. That's it.

Also last year, we got no peaches at all. I blame that on 2 late, heavy frosts. Though we did do our best to cover all the flowering trees and bushes, it didn't help much. Such is the risk with homesteading, I suppose.

This year, the apple trees haven't bloomed but the peach and plum trees did, and the peach trees look like they're going to give us a lot of fruit. I haven't seen any fruit on the plum trees yet, and the grape vines don't look like they're going to bloom at all, but I'll give them some time. They are growing and are getting lots of big leaves on them.

I took a little tour of the yard, filming the highlights of what's growing in the raised beds and on the fruiting plants. Enjoy!

Middle of the night Molly alarm

We've been outside twice in the middle of the night on this chilly Sunday night through Monday morning. We went out once to just check on the new doeling. I'm a worry wart and since we lost the other doeling overnight, I am tending to hover a bit over this one.

Then, our dog Molly was out there barking wildly, so we took the shotgun out with us this time to check on things. While we didn't see any threats, we did hear coyotes in the surrounding area, yipping and howling. That's creepy! I'm glad Molly is out there to at least warn us of varmints and scare off threats.

We know that Molly is part Airedale, but we aren't sure what the other part is. She has some black spots on her tongue, so maybe chow? Anyway, she's a high energy dog and has pretty much lived with the livestock for a long time now. It was cold weather when we got her last year, so we kept her inside with us. When the temperatures improved, we put her on a tether next to the livestock and chicken yards so she'd get used to them all.

We then put her in the goat pen, but at first she could fit through the field fencing and came right back out. We tried this every week until she grew big enough that she could no longer go through the fencing.

Molly when she was about 6 months old.

Molly now at a little over a year old. Isn't she gorgeous?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Another new baby goat

Well, one of our does kidded this morning. Our dog, who lives out there, was barking and yipping oddly so I went out to see what was going on. Discovered the doe in labor.

She is an especially small doe and we have been worried whether she could have this kid (or kids) without help. It turns out she did just fine. When she was done, though, she acted like she didn't want to get up so we got some feed and helped her to her feet. After she ate, she was okay for the rest of the day.

Her baby, a doeling, is solid white and very pretty. We will keep her as part of our herd. The doeling is 3/4 Nigerian Dwarf and 1/3 Kiko.

As soon as the larger doe is bred back, in another month or so, we will sell the buck and replace him with an unrelated buck. He's done his duty here so it's time for him to move on to another farm.

Here is a short video of the new mama goat, the doeling, our male pig (potbelly), and the dog that looks after everybody out there.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hail storm

The other night we experienced strong storms along with high wind and hail. Thank goodness we weren't damaged here. My solar panels are all just fine, as well as my garden beds and fruit trees. A handful of immature peaches bit the dust, but there are lots left on the trees.

My biggest fear was a tornado warning. One did hit near a lake about 30 miles from us, but there was no significant damage from the EF1 storm. Strong straight-line winds hit a brand new farm-to-table market not far from us and tore up their greenhouse plastic and damaged some new plant starts, but for the most part they are ok, too.

Here's the only picture I got of pea to marble size hail on my front porch. It wasn't late enough to be dark yet, but due to the storm is was really dark outside and I just barely opened the door to get this shot. I manipulated it to brighten it some. You can also see leaves from the trees around my house.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Happy 4-20

Ok, so we don't celebrate 4-20 in the "traditional" sense, but we did have some fun today.

One thing we did was start setting up our solar electric fence. We got the insulators nailed into handy trees and added step-in fiberglass posts in places where more support was needed. We also ran two strands of electric fence wire and put one safety handle on the bottom strand. I still need to get another safety handle for the top strand.

Awhile back, I purchased a 10 watt solar panel and a 12 volt low impedance fence charger. I already have a charge controller on hand and a battery I can use for the fence. The reason for using two strands of wire is so that we can put either a pig or a goat in the enclosure and not be concerned with a pig going under or a goat going over. When it's all set up and operational, I'll share pictures and a story with them.

We also added a section of field fence from the back corner of our house over to an older existing fence so that chickens or goats that are in the side yard area can't get out into the garden. We had to put up other fencing close to the front of the house and near the pen where the does live on account of chickens tearing up the gardens.

The biggest thing we did today, though, was cut down an old, dead double-trunk tree that could have fallen on our house during a recent severe storm. It's been dead a couple of years, but that storm was bad enough that I was afraid the tree would wind up in my kitchen! I took a short video of the felling of the second trunk of the tree. You can see straps tied to it leading down the hill to another tree where they were wrapped around that second tree and tied to a 4-wheeler. My son was on the 4-wheeler keeping the straps pulled tight and my son-in-law manned the chainsaw to cut the tree down. Without those straps, the old tree would probably have landed on the house since it was leaning in that way and all the limbs were on that side.

On to the video!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Goat update and stanchion build

One of our latest projects. 

The baby goat was rejected by it's mother and died the next day after it was born. We just hated it. I suppose that's life on a homestead, but it's still so sad.

However, the mother goat is in milk now, so after I milked the colostrum from her for a couple of days and put it in the freezer for emergencies, we set about to build a milking stanchion. We followed the directions we found at the Fiasco Farm website. While the directions were very clearly written for the most part, we learned after we were done that it called for more screws and nails than we actually needed. Still, we got it built plus bought parts to turn our rechargeable food saver appliance into a goat milking machine.

Below are pictures of the finished stanchion and one with the milking machine being used. 

Our goats are not pets and so it took some work and training to get the mama goat used to jumping up on the stanchion and being handled for milking. It's been about a week now and she's really doing great. I have a brush that I also brush her with while she's on the stanchion. Brushing goats helps to tame them down somewhat and it's good for their skin and hair. When we milk, we also let the other doe join the milking doe on the stanchion for a few minutes so she can get used to eating there, being brushed, and being handled. I massage her udder while she's up there since she'll be kidding very soon as well.

We do have a baby goat nipple to put on a soda bottle if we encounter problems with the second doe so we're in better shape now to fully adopt a baby goat. We mainly need to build a holding pen for the baby so that we can pull him/her off the doe overnight and milk her in the mornings for ourselves. Of course, we won't do that until the baby is well established and doing ok.

Finished milk stanchion before we added the feed tray to the front.

Finished stanchion from another angle with the two does in the background.

Milking the doe with the milking machine we made. She is eating from the feed tray we added to the front.

Stripping out the udder by hand. 

Here is the price list and what we spent on building the stanchion and the parts for the milking machine. We purchased it from a local hardware/lumber store and you may find these things for less money at a big box hardware/lumber store.

  • 1x8x12 yellow pine -- 9.30
  • 2x2x8 furring strip --2.39
  • 2x4x8 spruce --2.69
  • 1x4x8 yellow pine (4) -- (2.39) 9.56
  • 1 box 2" exterior screws -- 6.19 (shouldn't have bought these at all)
  • 1 box 2" exterior screws (these turned out to be all I really needed for the whole project) --3.99
  • 1 box 3D finish nails --1.29
  • 1 2-pak screen door hooks/eyes --2.98
  • 2 angle brackets -- (1.49) 3.98
Various bolts, washers, screws, and other fasteners (some of which we wound up not needing after all)
  • --.40
  • --.64
  • --.27
  • --.30
  • --1.36
Milk machine parts:
  • 1/4" coupling barbs (3) --(.49) 1.47
  • vinyl tubing -- 11 feet --.66

Total before tax = 45.98
Tax = 4.14
Total = 50.12
We did wind up going back to get rubber washers and nuts to go onto the coupling barbs to help seal the tubes to the jar lid. You can find instructions for building this at My Little Homestead. We didn't put the "T" in the lines, so that's basically the only difference between what we did and what's on the website indicated above.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

New baby goat

We are so excited! We went out to feed and discovered one of our nanny goats had given birth to a sweet, cute baby girl! This is just the beginning of many more wonderful surprises to come on our mini homestead.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Spring storms on the homestead

Right now, about one or two days a week is all I have to get out and do my gardening. I try to make the most of those days because 5 or 6 days a week, we'll have storms and rain. Of course, I'm glad for the rain. It refills the aquifer that feeds my well. We had hail last night but it was small, thank goodness. No harm came to the solar panels. Some folks just a few miles away got hail so large that cars were dented and car windows broken out,.

So far on my mini homestead, I've planted strawberry plants, onion plants, cabbage plants, broccoli plants, and sugar snap peas. The cabbage and broccoli plants were given to me by the lady at the feed store up the road. She said her uncle had grown all the starts but our weather had been so crazy, including snow, that no one was buying them. So she gave me 2 kinds of broccoli and 2 kinds of cabbage plants -- 12 plants in all of each. I found places to plant them and got them in the ground as soon as I could.

I prepared a grow bed for 6 of the cabbages and all of the onion plants. I'm really hoping for good results on all of them.

Then I soaked the strawberry plants in water for a couple of days, since they were bare root plants. In the meantime, I prepared two permanent round beds to plant them in. Got them in the ground and after only 2 days you can tell the difference in them. Already putting on big, new leaves.

I prepared a narrow bed for the peas. I had made the bed last year for kakai pumpkins. It has a large piece of lattice tied to the side of the hoop house. The hoop house doesn't have plastic on it. I planted the peas and hope to train them up the lattice and further, over the hoops.

My aquaponics is inside the hoop house and I'll be planting strictly tomatoes and eggplant in the grow bed, when it's time. I got more tomatoes last year from the aquaponics setup than I did from those planted in soil. The only exception might be the Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, and that was in the soil and as always, produced like mad.

I got the weed whacker out yesterday and trimmed the foot paths in between the raised beds, got weeds trimmed down to dirt in the beds, and did a little more trimming here and there around the yard. Still more to be done. Due to circumstances last summer and fall, I couldn't get the beds cleaned out properly so I am having to do all that now, and they are in a great mess so I needed to take drastic measures to be able to continue planting.

Both chicken houses have been cleaned out now. We do the deep litter method, which means we keep piling bedding on the chicken house floors then once a year dig it all out and start over again. That litter becomes part of the compost that's used on the garden beds. We still need to clean out the goat house. It's supposed to continue raining and storming until next Sunday, and this is only Wednesday, so that chore will have to wait.

In the meantime, here's a happy pair of chickens for your viewing pleasure!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

New chicks on the block

Yay! I now have some new baby chicks. I got them from a local person who hatches them themselves.

I got 6 little roosters, which will eventually be canned chicken in a few months. They are about a month old now and have lots of feathers. I'm just hoping Spring will actually warm up enough to put them in a little "tractor" we have outside. We had built it for rabbits, but we have no luck at all raising rabbits and seem to to better with chickens. The tractor will allow us to move them around the yard where they can scratch the dirt, eat grass, bugs, and seeds, and live a chicken-y life while they're still with us. Of course, we'll supplement with chick feed as needed to help them get everything in their diet they need. It's non-medicated chick feed.

I also got 14 of what's called "straight run" chicks that are a little younger. Straight run just means a mix of male and female chicks. We won't know until later which is which. I hope to get a few hens just to add to the 9 we already have laying, and possibly one replacement rooster, if one of the roosters I have doesn't stop jumping on me with his spurs! Sadly, one of the baby chicks died. It looked like the others crushed it.

I add apple cider vinegar to their water to keep their gut in good balance. Here's pictures of the chicks!

Young roosters.

Straight run chicks

As you can see, or maybe not, they are also mixed breed chickens. It should be interesting to see how they turn out. Most are black but a few are yellow right now. 

It's been awhile since I raised baby chickens. I am hoping one of my current laying hens will go broody and raise more for us, making us more self-sufficient in that regard.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Mini homestead pigs

I just wanted to pop in and share a couple of pictures of our little pigs.

They are mini potbelly pigs, which work out well for a tiny homestead like we have here. They require less space and less feed to keep them healthy. As a butcher animal, they don't produce a lot of meat and lard, but they do produce some. Being so small, they are easier for the homesteader to handle on their own, without needing to go to a butchering plant for processing.

Soon, we'll be putting up an electric fence to allow them more access to another part of our little homestead. I can use them there to turn the soil and remove unwanted understory plants so I can start my permaculture gardening in that area. The electric fence we'll be putting in will be powered by a small solar panel.

The pig in the top picture is Leroy. He's about 3 years old. We just got him a few weeks ago. His weight is around 60 pounds right now. He'll be the daddy of future little pigs.

The pig in the bottom picture is Ellie May. She's also about 3 years old. We got her last year. She's had several litters in the past, when she belonged to someone else. But, since we didn't have a male pig, she's just spent her time with us so far getting chubby. She probably weighs around 80 pounds now.

Both of these little pigs are very sweet and easy to handle. They've been handled all their lives and don't mind a little scratch behind the ears or down their backs. They will walk right up to us for petting or for treats.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Beginning the mini homestead

Where do I begin, since it's now March? I've been working on homesteading my very small place for several years now. It takes time, patience, and work. I don't have the luxury of acres and acres of land to make my dreams a reality.

I live on less than an acre, but I'm here to tell you, homesteading can be done on a place even this small. I am out in the country, which is a plus, and I'm in Arkansas. There are very few limitations on what I can do where I live as long as sanitation is taken care of. I have a half dozen raised beds for gardening, a solar aquaponics setup which only has minnows in the fish tank right now, plus a variety of small livestock -- dwarf goats, chickens, turkeys, and mini pigs. Everything that I raise has to be on a smaller scale.

I am hoping this spring to begin my permaculture, or food forest, beside and behind my house. As I go along, I'll share my projects with descriptions and pictures. Join me as we grow our Mini Homestead!