Saturday, June 25, 2016

Mowing the homestead lawn

Ok, it's been several days since I did this mowing and it needs it again. But when I mow I use an old fashioned reel mower. No gas. No noise. No fumes. Yes, it really works!

I kept meaning to shoot video of me actually pushing the mower, but then it turned off hotter than...well. So, I haven't mowed any further than my last stopping place. It's supposed to cool down some in a few days, so I'll be mowing again and doing more yard work at the cabin.

The mower was a gift from my older daughter. It's easy to use, cuts very well, and takes very little maintenance. I actually just sprayed some WD-40 on the moving parts and it works smoothly and fairly quietly. The only sound is the cutting blades lightly brushing against the cutter bar. I've used gasoline push mowers before, and this one is no harder to use than those are.

Comments and Google+

It was recently brought to my attention that folks can't comment on my blog posts here. Well, that just won't do. I appreciate feedback from my readers and didn't know why I couldn't get comments, or why readers weren't able to comment.

So, I started looking around at things. I thought I had all my settings right, but as it turns out, if I activate Google+ on here, then only other people using G+ are able to comment. So, this is a test run to see if commenting from my readers will go through now.

If you see this post, please comment in the comments section below. I think I can still share posts on G+ but just not automatically like before. I have comment moderation enabled so spammers won't get through. I will check comments every day, probably more than once a day, and approve or delete as necessary. You should also be able to go back and comment on any other posts that may interest you, so feel free to do so.

Also, feel free to share my blog posts! Maybe there will be something of interest to other homesteaders.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Three little piggies!

We have new life on the mini-homestead now. A few days ago, close to a week now, I think, our pot belly pig, Ellie May, gave birth. Sadly, most of her babies did not survive.

I found her early in the morning in a small shelter placed in the pig paddock, and could see that she had new babies. We'd been figuring she'd have them very soon since we'd seen her carrying leaves and small limbs to make a nest.

I saw some babies outside of the shelter that looked like they never made it out of the birth sac alive. Maybe they were born dead. And we could see 3 live babies suckling on her, with her just all content and on her side. Later in the day, we found 2 more dead babies where she had been laying. I'm guessing she laid on them because they were clean and free of the sac.

In all, it looks like she had a whopping 11 babies, with 3 of them surviving. They are getting all of her attention and milk, so they should do very well. They've been out and about in the paddock with the other pigs. The other two pigs (grown female and male) pretty much just ignore them, but Ellie May still grunts and snorts at them as a warning to stay away. Ellie May is full pot belly pig, but the other two are half pot belly and half American Guinea Hog, or AGH.

It looks as if the 3 babies are all males, which pretty well seals their fate for later on. We are raising small pigs so we can butcher them at home. Cute as these babies are now, they will outgrow their cute stage and become just pigs in a few months. Looks like we need to get started on building a processing station at the new homestead. We need that for pigs, chickens, and goats.

I need to set up an outdoor kitchen for canning in the hot weather, as I will be canning all the meat and rendering any lard.

In the meantime, enjoy this video of the three little piggies!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

I made my bed!

I mean, I literally made my bed! Well, we made it. My son did the real work while I supervised. lol

The cabin needed a sofa and a place for me to sleep. Instead of putting a standard sofa bed or daybed in there, I designed a sofa I can use as a bed, and it will have lots of storage underneath.

Basically, it's a box but because I had a sheet of fairly heavy-duty lattice in with the lumber I'd gotten at the big box hardware and lumber store, I decided it might be pretty cute as part of the sofa-bed.

It took a few days to build it because we had to figure every single thing out about what to do, but it's done and just needs painting and putting cushions on it. Below are three videos detailing how it all went down. Since the time the videos were shot, a paracord handle has been added to the lid to make it easier to open.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Cabin interior wall build

We did it. We got the bathroom walls built. Not professional. Not beautiful. But functional and pretty well square.

There's more to do, of course. We want to build some kind of wall with an access door to the loft on the south end of the cabin. The loft on the north end will be my son's bedroom. We also added a section to the loft that will be more storage for things like off-season clothing, infrequently used dishes, craft and crochet and loom knitting supplies, and some odds and ends I'm not ready to part with just yet.

We still need so much done in the cabin, but first and foremost is plumbing in the bathroom, including the toilet and shower. We can actually take "bird baths" until the shower portion is completed, though. But the toilet...yeah. We have to have that ready to use soon!

I have a propane, on-demand water heater so I need to get a regulator and gas hose for that, then install the shower portion through the wall. The heater will be mounted on a heavy post just behind the cabin, then we'll build a small vented shelter around it to protect it from the weather. We also need to start thinking about laying the water line in the ground, deep enough to prevent freezing, and keeping the water heater protected from freezing as well.

So many details to work out!

Anyway, here are a couple of videos showing the cabin wall progress. Enjoy!

Goat health

When you raise any animals, whether pets or livestock, a certain amount of health maintenance is necessary. For the goats I have, it's not a lot. Their systems aren't real fussy. Being part Kiko, they are resistant to parasites. Not immune to them, but resistant. I do give them diatomaceous earth (commonly just called DE) in their feed to help control any internal parasites. I also brush it into their hair and skin to avoid mites, ticks (they are BAD this year) and any other external parasites. Brushing a skittish goat also helps establish trust.

What we can't see, though, are pathogens that are naturally occurring in the soil. This means that even grazing or browsing on brush, they may ingest some nasties. We also can't see things like tetanus that can enter through a wound. So, annually we give the goats a vaccine for Clostridium perfringens type C and D and Clostridium tetani (tetanus). This is commonly called the CD/T vaccine. It's very inexpensive to purchase and a small vial holds 10 doses. 

You can read more about it here. (This is NOT a sponsored link. I'm just sharing so you'll have information.)

It's not a good idea to hold it over from one year to the next, but within the course of a year, you can safely refrigerate it and use it for boosters in young kids. 

We follow a routine when giving this vaccination that is as follows:

  1. Wipe the top of the vial with alcohol.
  2. Wipe the injection area on the goat with alcohol.
  3. Insert the needle fully into the vial through the rubber tip and pull the plunger back to get the dose needed. (Do not push air into the vial as this introduces bacteria.)
  4. Inject it into the goat in a place where you can pull the loose skin away from muscle and bone. This is a subcutaneous vaccine so it goes under the skin.
  5. Wipe the injection site with alcohol again.
We put the injection in the loose skin right behind the front leg. It's easy to access and not too tough. For the adult goats, this is an annual vaccine. For baby goats, we give the vaccine at about 4 weeks old, then again at about 8 weeks old. Then they are set until next year.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Solar Aquaponics

One of our projects for sustainability is our solar aquaponics setup. I am going to need a new 12 volt water pump for it and a new small battery and small solar panel to run it, but at least we have moved the fish tank and grow bed over to the new homestead. I'll tell you, THAT was a lot of work!

We had to use a broken shovel (the handle was broke out of it awhile back) to dig out the gravel from the grow bed. It's somewhere around 400 pounds of gravel. My son did the digging out and put it in a bucket, and I dumped the buckets of gravel into an old tub from a washing machine. When the level of gravel got pretty low, he just dug it straight out and over into another old tub. Both of those were in the back of the pickup truck, which we backed up close to the setup.

Once the gravel was all out, we disassembled the bell siphon and any other loose parts, then put the grow bed into the back of the truck. Then, we had to empty the fish tank part, which only has minnows in it, and try to catch all of those we could. I think we had about a dozen or so in there that we put into a 5 gallon bucket of fresh water, so we may have missed some little ones.

Then my son took a car washing brush and scrubbed out the fish tank, rinsed it, and put it in the truck.

Finally, we took the whole setup over to the new place, put it in its permanent location (face it, you can't really move something like that again), filled it with fresh water, and put the minnows back in it. We also did a little "remodeling" to make it easier to access the fish, since we are wanting to get real fish that we can grow for food in there a bit later.

Now I just need to get a new pump, battery, and solar panel, some plants for the top, and reconfigure a hoop greenhouse over the top of it to help grow things in cold weather, too.

One step at a time! Hope you enjoy these two videos about moving the aquaponics setup!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Mama goat in the new paddock

Since we did get a paddock built, we decided the other day to take one of the goats over to the new homestead and see how it worked out. We took our older doe, that we fondly just call Mama Goat.

Now let me tell you, she wasn't at all keen about her traveling accommodations. We had to tie a heavy rope across the bed of the truck, make a couple of large knots in it, then fasten her collar in between the knots with a collar clip. The knots kept the clip from going more than a couple of inches either way. We also opened the sliding back glass in the truck so I could keep my hand ready to grab her, just in case something didn't work like we thought it would. But, it all worked just fine.

Mama Goat, though, wasn't happy with it. She was pretty nervous. See, we've had these goats for a few years now and got them when they were about 6 months old. They haven't been anywhere else beside on our little homestead since we brought them home in the back end of the Explorer I used to have.

Mama Goat is behind the others, with the skinny horns.

Once we got her over to the new homestead and put her out in the new paddock, she was still uneasy but did start eating the tall weeds and grass that are there. We made sure she had a bucket of water nearby, and, though she occasionally would cry (these goats hate to be separated), she ate till she got her tummy full, then laid down to chew her cud.

Next time, we'll take all the goats with us, since we now have a huge carrier for the back of the truck that we can put them in.

Here's a little video of Mama Goat in the new paddock.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

First fence built!

It's not a huge area, but we did get a small paddock fenced in to put goats into. I figure we'll need to put the buck out on a tether, and he does well with that. The does can go in the paddock.

We still need to put up some kind of shelters for all the animals, and the first ones of those will be simple lean-to structures made from pallets. Just something fast and easy to construct until we can get better barns built.

We used a technique for securing the gate post that we saw on another YouTube video, and it's working very well.

For a quick look, here's a video for you to watch. Be sure and let me know in comments what you think about the fence. Just be nice! lol

Starting over is costly

!Whine alert!

Every time I think I've got everything I need to really get the cabin ready to move into, there seems to be a severe lack of cash to get it finalized.

We still need the plumbing pipes for the toilet, for instance, and it doesn't look like I'll be able to get that until next month. It's getting really frustrating.

Paying the immediate bills plus trying to get supplies to make the cabin at least livable for the short term is costing me every dime I bring in. I'm ready to move into the place whether everything is set up or not, just to cut some expenses.

Getting the goats, pigs, and chickens over there where they have more grass to eat will cut feed costs a lot! And being there instead of going back and forth will help a lot toward saving a bit on gas, too.

I think I'm just going to have to "bite the bullet" and move in there, whether it's really ready to live in or not.

Right now, I've got about $40 left for the rest of the month. It's not looking good at all.

!Whine over!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Pumping water off grid

One of the most important things anyone can have anywhere is a good, clean source of water. It's needed for humans but also for animals, and even gardens. We're going to try using rainwater or gray water for gardens and for flushing the toilet, but now we have a way to pump fresh, clean, cold water right out of the well that's already on our property.

After searching online, and doing some research, we settled on this particular submersible well pump. The price was reasonable and within our budget. I bought it off Ebay and it had free shipping. We already hooked it to a battery to make sure it worked, then dropped it down into the well about 50 feet, using pex pipe to connect to it to deliver the water out of the well.

Awhile back, we had measured where the water level was and found it to be at 22 feet. The extra 18 feet puts us down far enough to stay in the reservoir of water. We have no clue how deep the well actually is.

We secured the pump well with some rope that doesn't rot, and tied it to a couple of nails in the wall of the little pump house. We also laid out the amount of pipe we'll need to actually take water from there to the cabin. Next, we'll need to dig a deep trench to put the pipe in, maybe running the pipe through some PVC or something for extra protection.

The pump has a 230 foot lift, so we've got plenty of decent pressure to take care of fresh water needs. The maximum immersion depth is 100 feet, so we're good there.

Here's a picture of the pump itself.

And here's a video about the installation.

Quick cabin update - free stuff & floor

I'm still behind on my blogging, but I do have plenty to write about!

We haven't been able to do a lot to the cabin in the past week or so except move some plants. However, I thought I'd let you see our floor progress at the point this video was made.

Since we had gotten some items for FREE over at my daughter's and son-in-law's house, I thought I'd share that with you. We were able to acquire several very useful items for the new homestead, such as metal walk-through gates, 4X4 posts, old camper windows, and a sink. We've already put one of the gates to good use for a small goat paddock entrance. One of the 4X4 posts made a good gate post as well, and I made a video of how we set that post without concrete.

So, this is just a quick overview of what we got as we unloaded it. I figure the windows can be used to either help in a greenhouse construction project or to build a front porch/outdoor kitchen for canning and general cooking purposes, which would keep the heat out of the cabin.