Monday, February 29, 2016

Just chores on the homestead

Ever have one of those days when you seem to be busy the whole day, but it doesn't seem like a lot got done? That was today. I'm tired enough now that I FEEL like I've dug ditches all day. I haven't. Didn't even work on gardening.

We started off slowly, then around lunch time we headed into town to run some errands. I'm talking about Big Town, not the little town where our mail comes from. Some things can only be accomplished in Big Town. One of the errands was to go by Office Depot to pick up some tiny price tags with strings on them. I'll be using those to price the knitted and crocheted items I plan to sell this weekend at a craft/yard sale in the town where my Mother and Sister live. I'll plan to be up there a few days early and celebrate Mom's birthday, then deal with the sale, then head back home on Sunday, which is one of my sons' birthday.

While we were out, we went to our favorite Chinese buffet to eat a late lunch. When we were done with errands, we headed back to our town where I stopped in at a discount store for some needfuls, then we headed home. Stopped at the feed store that's up the road, on our way, to get a bale of hay, came home, and I fixed a pot of coffee. By then it was around 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

Our septic line was stopped up, so we got to work on that and I think it's fixed now. Son did most of the hard work while I went back and forth to check if the toilet was flushing, fetch tools, and just generally be a "gopher". We thought we had it fixed a couple of days ago, but it stopped up again. This is one of those times when a composting toilet would come in handy!

After that, we fed and watered the animals, dispensed hay to the goats, and temporarily patched a hole in the chicken run where the ladies all got out today and free ranged. I don't mind them free ranging, but prefer it to be on my schedule, not theirs. I got them all rounded back up and in their yard, collected a very welcomed 4 eggs today, and filled their waterers. Thank you, hens!

We're pretty sure the hole got in the fence because one of the little piggies keeps getting out. It sure looked like it was pushed up and in, just like a pig would do it to go under the fence.

Then we (I say that as if I actually did anything) worked on the truck. It's old. It's ugly. But it's paid for so a few dollars now and then for repairs doesn't really hurt. We already went through and replaced some vital parts last summer - new belt, new rotor and cap, new battery, new radiator, new alternator - plus the usuals such as oil changes, fuel filter change, and air filter change. This past weekend we put new spark plugs in it. This time there was a rigid little airline that was broken and making the "Check Engine" light come on. It goes to the EGR (is that right?) and might be one of the reasons why it's been running rougher than usual. I'm thinking that air line got broke when the plugs were being changed since it's right over the top of one of them.

I also have front and back brakes I ordered that need to be put on. That will be an all day adventure of it's own, I'm sure.

So, no gardening. Also, I had wanted to move the tote that has the battery bank for our solar setup closer to the house, readjust the solar panels, and start running wires for having off-grid lights inside. I guess that's for another day, and it's supposed to rain tomorrow.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Planting Potatoes

I had told myself I wasn't going to try planting potatoes this year. I tried a method last year that I'd seen online. (Probably a big mistake to learn it there.) Anyway, I planted potatoes in very good soil into feed bags. They grew beautifully. The problem is, they didn't make potatoes. Just beautiful plants! That's not what I wanted. I wanted something we could eat.

Those ^^ are the potatoes in feed sacks.

See how beautifully they started out?

I even put some in containers!

So, I swore off planting potatoes. They take up a lot of room and I only have raised beds to plant them in.

I'm a glutton for punishment, I guess. Either that or I really want to get this potato growing thing down well enough that I can grow enough for us to have at least 6 months' worth, if not more. So, the other day I headed back out to the garden and guessed it...potatoes. This time I did a more traditional method of planting and put them in the dirt of one of my deeper raised beds. Keeping my fingers crossed this works! I used potatoes from my storage that were trying to sprout anyway. I did NOT cut them. They were fairly small anyway. I did put them about 2 feet apart in the bed and covered them well. I had amended the bed with well-rotted hay.

Yes, I know potatoes can be bought pretty cheaply year round, but just being able to produce them here, on the Mini Homestead, would be another step toward food independence. So, without further ado, here's my video from when I planted the potatoes. Any suggestions are always welcomed!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Hens and eggs

I only have 6 laying hens, which is plenty for us. We don't even eat all the eggs they give us, when they are in the mood to do so. However, I'm always disappointed when we don't get any eggs at all.

When they go into moult, the egg production goes down and sometimes stops completely. Also, shorter winter days will slow them down. We don't add light to the coop for them. We figure they need the break to rejuvenate, grow feathers and fat, and gain new strength for the next go 'round of egg laying. So, while they are laying well, I put eggs in the freezer. These eggs are good for baking, cooking scrambled, or making egg-based casseroles. I use single portion cups for this that I get at the large chain store you're all familiar with, or I order them online.

I break an egg into a white coffee cup first, to check and make sure it's a good egg. Then, I add a pinch of salt and use a fork to very gently break the yolk and stir it a bit into the white. This method helps prevent the yolks from turning gummy. Then I put the egg into the portion cup (these are 2 ounce cups), put on the lid, and stack them in the freezer. Here's a picture of them, ready to freeze.

Even when thawed, they are very appetizing.

After a short winter hiatus, the hens are again laying. Even the very old one that lays green eggs gave us a lovely green egg yesterday, so I hope we get one today, too. I was out there this morning and gathered 3 eggs from 2 nests.

In a few weeks I'll be saving a few to see if one of the hens will set the eggs so we can have a few more chickens for egg laying and for meat. I'll update when we get that project started. I do have a couple of hens who love to hatch eggs and take care of babies.

Check back often for other updates on the Mini Homestead!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Another rooster dispatching delay

Today was very windy and cold. That makes me a bit sad because I had hoped we could get out and dispatch the rest of the roosters. However, I can't keep a fire going when using one of the butane e-stoves so we can scald them for plucking.

Right now we have 7 big roosters, plus 2 grown turkeys, that need to be butchered. They are getting too old to be fryers so we'll probably wind up deboning them and grinding them up for poultry burger. I'll can some of that and freeze the rest. Might even try making a small batch of sausage from it. We'll see.

A couple of weeks ago we did get one rooster dispatched. Then, the weather got cold and windy again. By the time it was nicer weather it was time to start planting garden beds. I still need to get some seeds started, but first, those roosters need to go! Especially the one that bit my hand hard enough to make it bleed. He's first! He got hold of the skin on my hand and shook his head like a dog while he had it!

Here's a short video of when we dispatched the first one. There's no gore so you don't have to worry about that, and it's a slide show. There are enough folks online who demonstrate killing chickens already, and they do it very well, that I feel no need to go into all that.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Planting peas, radishes, and collards

Brrr!! It sure has gotten cold again! Last weekend, we had temperatures in the mid and high 70s. Today, it's windy and in the mid 40s. I'm so glad I got some things planted while it was decent weather for working outside.

Part of what I planted was sugar snap peas, radishes, and collards. All those things do well when the ground is fairly cold so I expect they will make their presence known very soon. As usual, I made a video showing the planting of these vegetables. I hope you enjoy the video. Be sure to check out my YouTube channel for more homesteading videos! And don't forget to like, comment, and subscribe so you can stay caught up with what's going on here!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Heirloom Seeds Source

I want to share with you all the source of my heirloom seeds.

I bought seeds from a fellow YouTube publisher who lives completely off-grid, works odd jobs to support herself, and sells heirloom seeds on her own website. She also sells some plants and produce at a farmers market close to where she lives. She really is living the life of off grid homesteading, and she works very hard at it, too!

She goes by "Arky" and has the YouTube channel "Crystal Cottage Off Grid", where she shares her successes and failures, her ups and downs, all along the way.

You can find her by clicking the link for Crystal Cottage Off Grid and watch her many adventures in primitive living.

If you are interested in buying seeds from her, just visit Crystal Cottage Seeds. She offers free shipping in the US and only $3 shipping to Canada. I bought 10 packets of seeds from her back in January and planted the collards over this past weekend. I'm anxious to get the others into flats in my portable greenhouse and get them started.

Here's a video I made showing the seeds I got and giving you more information about her and another YouTube publisher. Take a few minutes to visit them both, subscribe to them, and be sure to comment. YouTube publishers love comments!

Monday, February 22, 2016

30 Day Garden Challenge from a friend

My friend, who is also on Facebook and YouTube, has thrown down the gauntlet for a 30 Garden Challenge. The challenge is to do something toward gardening every day for the next 30 days.

I have to tell you -- I have spent the past weekend really doing a lot of digging and planting. So, I wondered if I could make that account for 2 days. Of course! (What are friends for?)

I've already shared this on my YouTube channel, but I'm going to share her video here, too. Go visit her channel, leave a comment, and subscribe. It's free and, who knows, you might learn something!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Tiny Homestead Pigs

I sure do lose track of time, don't I?

Things are going well here so far. Since I last posted oh-so-long-ago, I've gained some little black pigs which are supposed to be part potbelly pig and part American Guinea Hog. They sure are small. We started out with 4 and they did fine in an enclosure where we had them temporarily.

After awhile, though, it was apparent that was way too small for them so we beefed up the "security" on the regular hog pen and put them in there. That was an adventure for sure since we had to bait them into a pet carrier one at a time, then move them to the other pen. After the first one, the others were pretty leery which meant me standing at one end of the small enclosure, just on the outside of it, and goosing a pig with a piece of PVC pipe when it got a front foot or two into the carrier, making it jump forward into the carrier while my son shut the little door on it really fast.

We set up a little house for them with lots of hay in it, for cold or rainy times, fed them really well, then crossed our fingers that they wouldn't figure out an escape route.

After a day or two, one of the little pigs died. We have no clue why. It was active and had a good appetite the day before. The others are doing very well, though. There is one especially tiny one that manages to get out of the big pen, and sometimes finds his way into the front yard. He's easy to put back in the goat pen, which is where he passes through on his way to the yard, but it's difficult to get him back in with the other pigs. Our older potbelly pig, Ellie May, isn't crazy about him but she seems to be tolerating him for now.

We are raising these for meat and breeding. There is one female and 2 males now. One of the males is pretty large so we'll probably keep him for awhile to breed with the small female and Ellie May. The runty little pig will probably have to be butchered. We just don't need that many pet pigs!

Here's a video of the little pigs over on my YouTube channel. Enjoy!