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American Atheists

Tiny House Blog

Hillbilly Housewife (recipes here are GOLD)

Backwoods Home Magazine

Homesteading Today Forums

Simply Living Smart (lots of info on food storage, helpful videos, etc)

Path to Freedom (city dwellers living the homesteading dream)

Murray McMurray Hatchery

Journey to Forever (lots of yummy info on small farms)

When I was growing up we had lots of chickens. We had Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, Black Australorps, Barred Rocks, and White Leghorns. My favorite were the Blacks, because in the sunlight their feathers shone emerald green, and they were just gorgeous. The Buffs were also in my favor for their gentle nature and willingness to be petted while setting eggs. We raised all of our chickens from day-olds. They lived in a big cardboard box brooder with plenty of heat from a lamp and comfy newspaper to snuggle and romp in. When they outgrew that, they were moved out into the coop, where they were confined all together in one corner under a heat lamp. Winters tended to be on the cold side where I grew up. As they grew, so did their enclosure, until finally they were allowed full reign. As soon as the weather was warm enough and they had enough feathers, we’d let them run around the yard eating bugs and terrorizing any garden plants that weren’t fenced-in. We had nearly 30 chickens at one point. Three roosters, and the rest hens. I deeply hated our roosters. They were smart and mean. They would wait until you were distracted, then all three of them would attack from a different side. We kept a shovel by the coop door for these occasions. Maybe it was cruel, but it was the only way to stop them: knock them out temporarily with the shovel, finish cleaning and feeding and egg-gathering, then make a hasty exit before they regained consciousness.

I really miss having chickens. My parents just got back into raising them this past year. They have a very mixed bunch of 20 or so birds. Plus two Guineas. Oh my goodness, if you have never seen nor heard a Guinea, you must put that on your to do list. They are the ugliest, most obnoxious birds EVER! But something about them is endearing. My parents named their Guineas Spaz and Schizo. They are the guard dogs of the bunch. They herd the chickens together when there is anything odd going on in the yard, whether it’s a hawk flying over, a new car parked in the drive, or a couple of cranes coming in to snack on fallen apples. They do not like to be touched, but they love grapes. As a matter of fact, all of the chickens love grapes. That was my way of spoiling them when I visited. I’d buy some grapes and my kids and I would sit on the porch throwing grapes into a mad fray of squawking, greedy birds.

Why do I want chickens someday? Well, nostalgia does play into it a bit, but birds have many uses. They eat all kinds of food scraps, bugs, spiders, and worms. Then they reward you with the richest orange-yolked eggs every morning. There is NO competition between store-bought and farm-fresh when it comes to eggs. And while we’re on the subject, freshly killed chickens taste amazing compared to meat that has been sitting in a butcher shop for a few days. Chickens offer free composting material in the form of poopy, well mixed straw. They can be raised gentle, to accept a scratch behind the neck or a pet on the back. Of course, there’s also the fact that chickens are highly entertaining when let loose. Watching chickens run around, converse, curiously explore ever nook and cranny… well, I’d say it’s even better than television.

I’ve already made a list of the types of birds I like. These are the dual purpose birds (meat & eggs): Brahma, Jersey Giant, Orpington, Rhode Island Red, and Welsummer. I also have a fondness for Silver Laced Wyandottes and Silver Phoenix roosters. I’d like to start out with a dozen or so assorted egg layers and maybe ten meat chickens.

I would also like to have some other fowl on the homestead eventually. Guineas are a given after watching Spaz and Schizo. I’m thinking about Khaki Cambell ducks because it’s been said that they are slug-eating extraordinaires. A few geese would be nice, as long as they behaved themselves. If they turned out to be naughty, maybe I could cook up a traditional Christmas goose one year. I’ve also been looking into heritage turkey breeding. I think the bronze are just gorgeous, but turkeys would definitely have to wait until we are settled in a bit more on the land. They are a difficult bird that requires a lot of attention when young. I’ve read many horror stories about turkeys piling up in a corner and smothering each other, trampling their nest mates to death, etc. Lately I have also had a fondness for runner ducks. They are silly looking birds, and I have heard that they lay rather efficiently. Ducks would also have to wait, as we probably won’t be set up for them for a while.

Instead of the crazy old cat lady, I plan on being the crazy old fowl lady. I can’t wait for the day that I can drive down to the post office to pick up my own box of peeping chicks.

So the first step to owning land and building a house is to have money. My husband and I have worked our way out of a lot of debt already. We have yet to pay off one final credit card, a deed, our car loan, and my student loans. We have no mortgage, as we are living in an apartment. It sounds like a lot that we still have to pay down, but we’re halfway there. With the economy as bad as it is now, I’m proud that we are still able to work on our debt at all. I’m guessing we’ll be able to pay off at least the card and deed by next summer, and then we can start saving up for our land.

Of course, there are also a lot of supplies and tools we’ll need for when we get our land. We already have some things: wagon, saws, chainsaw, misc woodworking tools, wheelbarrow, rakes, shovels, lawn mower, etc. But there are some big purchases we’ll also have to save up for, like a small tractor and implements. We aren’t all about buying everything new, like some “homesteaders.” We know about farm auctions, classified ads, and word of mouth advertising. Craig’s list has also become a good place to find cheap items. When we build a house, we’ll buy new where it counts, but plan on going to the Habitat for Humanity Restore and farm auctions for some used materials like windows. Our first home on the land is most likely going to start out as a little shack. I don’t mind, because it will be ours. I really hope we can pay as we go, and that if we do take out a loan we can pay it off very quickly.

One of our main goals in all of this is to stay as debt-free as possible. Being in debt to another person is like being enslaved, and we have had enough of that.

I have worked in the past, when I had family near that could take care of the kids. But now we live far away from any family members that could help. My husband wants me to get a job – something in the evening so he can watch the kids, or so we don’t have to waste all of my income on daycare. I think it’s a great idea, except for the fact that his company has him travelling out of state for a week at a time at the drop of a hat. Honestly, sometimes we only get an hours notice to get him to the airport. And all that travelling gets him extra pay, extra overtime. He’s making more with that than I would ever make working full time, much less part time.

So for now, we’ll just continue on the same way we have been. It’s slow going, but we’ll get there eventually.

Being prepared is something I am just starting to learn. As soon as our first child came into the world, I began to worry. I worried that the power would go out and I wouldn’t be able to keep him safe and warm. I worried that a pipe would burst and we would be sans water, and perhaps even sans home. I worried that a fire would consume our house and we wouldn’t have anywhere to go. I worried that a burglar would enter our home and I would be defenseless to protect my family. I worried that my husband would lose his job and we wouldn’t be able to pay all of our bills. I worried that food prices would soar too high and we woudln’t be able to afford to feed our family.

My answer to these worries… these fears? To prepare. I’m starting small. For now, I make sure that I am stocked up on batteries for flashlights, candles, canned and dried food, paper products, and hygeine items. We don’t have a lot of space to store things. At the moment, I would estimate that we would be able to get by for a month on our own. It woulnd’t be a pleasant month, but we’d get by. If the power were to go out, or we had a fire, we could probably visit family for a short time. But that is getting by on the backs of others, and eventually I would like to be free from that eventuality.

So what would we need to overcome these obstacles? I think having our own land and building our own house would help with all of these. We have agreed to heat with wood. That would mean that even without power we’d still be able to heat the house and cook. Two big worries knocked down. We have also talked about water storage. We could build a large holding tank with a water-pumping windmill attached. Water worries, check. We could till up a couple garden plots and raise many of our own fruits and vegetables. We could hunt game on our land. Food worries, buh bye. If we were able to pay for all of this as we went, we wouldn’t have a lot of debt to worry about paying for if times got really tough.

Yes, I know there is a lot of work that goes into making homesteading dreams come true. I have experience gardening, woodworking, raising chickens, chopping wood and stacking it, operating a woodstove, canning, dehydrating, clearing brush, pruning fruit trees and bushes, and living in the country. Things I still need to learn include seed saving, building fences, how to care for a well and septic system, construction techniques for a house and outbuildings, how to compost effectively, organic methods of gardening, how to chop a tree down, and much more. I’m a fast and willing learner, though, so I think this will be an interesting adventure.

No, I am not one of those nuts that believes in the end of mankind. I am not preparing for a massive nuclear war, nor am I readying myself for zombies left over after a major virus wipes out 90% of the human population. I just want to make it through the small stuff life throws at us. I want my children to grow up knowing where their food comes from. I want them to grow into responsible adults, to know the value of a hard days labor, to know how to take care of themselves.

So this is my first post. My first EVER blog. I swore I would never do this, yet here I am.

I started this blog to chronicle my journey from awkward citified gal to official country woman. This is a process that will take many years. It’s been a life goal of mine for quite some time now. At first, I just thought this was a phase that every young woman goes through. Get married, have kids, dream of living in the country. But for me, it’s so much more. I have filled hundreds of pages of graph paper with layouts of houses, cabins, shacks, chicken coops, barns, garden layouts, and little project ideas that I have picked up here and there. I have joined forums that are all about homesteading, preparedness, living sustainably, gardening, chickens, goats, and intentional communities. If there’s a book on canning, you can bet I either have it or have read through it at the library. Construction, alternative energy, permaculture, and organic promoting websites all have their spaces in my favorites list.

I have even made extensive lists of supplies that we’ll need, things I’d like to grow in my gardens, companies that have good customer reviews (like Husqvarna), seed catalogs, animal breeds that I’d like to try raising, and what I require of our future plot of land.

In short, this “phase” has become an obsession. I dream about it at night, and plan for it all day long. I will achieve it.

In the meantime, I’ll blog about it. I’ll regail my nonexistant audience with my goals and silly lists. And I will also post links. Lots of links. To other blogs and forums, as well as to products that I am interested in. This blog will become my place to ramble. My place to dream. My place to plan.

I look forward to this journey to becoming a homesteading pro. Oh, and by the way… I’m an atheist.

October 2009

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