You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Poultry’ category.

Today I am thirty years old. Yep.

Other big news on the homestead – my husband has worked hard nearly every day until sun down on the shed. It’s pretty much done now, just needs some paint. The picture was taken before he got both doors up. It’s nice to have a place for all of our tools and equipment finally. Good job, honey!

DSCN0582

 

The garden is growing, growing, growing! Potatoes are nearly ready to turn over and harvest. There are hundreds of green tomatoes waiting to ripen, the strawberries are giving us a bowl a day, and the peas are just starting to flower. My rice took an initial hit in the paddy after a rain storm, but some of it looks to be bouncing back. I’ve harvested peppers and basil by the buckets already. I took our first broccoli the other day. The 3 sisters that I planted nearly two weeks after I planted the rest of the corn, beans, and squash are now twice as large as the individually planted ones. I never would have guessed 3 sisters planting was THIS MUCH better! It’s blowing my mind.

DSCN0586

DSCN0591

DSCN0583

DSCN0596

DSCN0598

Aside from working in the garden and cleaning up, I’ve also been working on finishing the chicken coop. The chicks are all feathered out and growing like weeds. Just look at how big they are already! They’re nearly the size of a normal chicken. I wish I had a scale I could weigh them on. I’m guessing they’re around 6-7 pounds, which is about half of what their final weight should be. I can tell the cocks by their forming wattles, and by the fact that they are already starting to size each other up and do the little jumping-neck-stretch-poofy-feather thing at each other. No crowing yet. They are enjoying being let out into their run every day to catch bugs and eat greens. They’ve got little paths all throughout the tall grass. While they play outside, I have insulated and boarded over half of the walls. Last night I put up a large roost for them. Even the guineas were coming up to me and peeping lovingly after they tried out the roost – and they NEVER act friendly, the skittish little goofs. Guess that means they like it.

DSCN0606

As I look back on the last four years of this blog, I realize how far we’ve managed to come. We have realized so many of our dreams! We have paid off our debt. We have bought land. We have built a house. We have chickens. We have one HUGE garden in full swing. We have an orchard. We have wood aplenty to heat our home with. We have learned skills like building, baking bread, sewing, hunting, canning, home maintenance, and pantry rotation. We have accumulated many of the tools and supplies necessary to a homesteading lifestyle: a lawn tractor, a dehydrator, a grain mill, a full wood working shop, a pressure canner and waterbath canner, tons of canning supplies, every garden tool I could think of, a rototiller, a snow thrower, an enormous trailer, a woodstove… and so much more!

So what is left? What more could we possible want?

More.

Yes, the house is nearly finished, but we already have expansion plans that we hope to put into effect next spring. My husband searched high and low for inspiration, and ended up finding this gem. We love everything about it, but instead of a plain old fireplace we’d do a baker’s oven, maybe with elements of a rocket mass heater thrown in. A heated bench would be lovely on crisp fall days. I’d also like to do an outdoor kitchen on the porch – just a small strip of cabinets with a stove-top on the counter. Canning inside in the middle of summer heat sucks. It sucks hard. Canning on a screened-in porch outside? Sign me up!

Porch

 

Of course there will be a bigger garden in our future. I am pretty set on turning most of our south-facing hill into an earth-bermed green house, if not this year then next. My husband found a source for patio door glass at $3 a sheet. Score! He’s also drawn up plans and priced out all of the materials. We can afford it, but I’m not so sure we can afford the time to finish it before winter hits with everything else we’re working on. In case you’re curious what it will look like, I just drew up this quick sketch in Paint.

greenhouse

When the greenhouse is in, I’ll build raised beds in front of it to house a small herb and flower garden. At the bottom of the hill is where I eventually plan on raising our own grains like wheat, rye, and oats. The bottom of the hill is super fertile. Crazy fertile. The grass down there grows twice as tall and thick as it does anywhere else on our land. It should be a great place to grow grains.

Our orchard might grow by a few trees, but not too many. We are at 21 trees now, since four (two peaches, two cherries) have perished. I would eventually like to fence in the orchard to run geese. At the bottom of the east side of the hill is a low, soggy spot. If we could clear it out, it would probably make a decent small pond. This year when we start cutting wood I hope to take down the birch that are growing in this soggy area.

We have been discussing getting back into raising bees again, this time with our own equipment. We’ll order the pieces for two hives this winter and get those put together. Next spring, we’ll get some bees to fill them. A homestead isn’t complete without those buzzy girls roaming all over the place.

We also talked about raising rabbits for meat and fur. No concrete plans there yet. Pigs and some sort of dairy livestock are also on our wish list, but we need to work on fencing in some pasture first.

Our neighbors in Michigan have the Cottage Foods laws that allow them to sell any baked goods made in their home kitchen, but we folks in Wisconsin need to have an annual license and all food items must be produced in a commercial kitchen. Here is a pdf file that shows the hoops we have to jump through in order to create a commercial kitchen that will pass inspection. My husband and I have talked about this a few times. I think I am a pretty good baker. I know for a fact that my cookies, muffins, and bread would sell because we have friends, family, and neighbors request these items from me. Maybe if we build a large pole building someday, we can dedicate one corner of it to a small commercial kitchen for my baking. I already have a name picked out for it. 🙂

If we build the pole building, a kitchen isn’t the only thing we’ve talked about. My husband had a lot of fun creating things on a plasma cutting table when he was overseas. Giving him a workshop is high on the list, especially since it would mean our basement space could be used for storage or another bedroom instead of a workshop.

When I was in college I really got into ceramics. I would love a little shed with a wheel, shelves, and small kiln so I could make pottery again. I got to where I could make a complete mug in about seven minutes back then. I bet I could get back into it and be even faster, more productive. I have yet to meet anyone local who putters around with clay – yet another niche that I could use to my advantage. I still have no idea where I would get the clay from. Probably order it online. We have some on our land, but not enough to go through the trouble of digging all the way down for it and spending all the time to process it.

Other projects that are in the back of our minds include building a rain-catchment system with a cistern and mulch pits around the trees in our orchard. My husband drools at the thought of having our house off of the electrical grid, but I’m not so sure we could afford the start-up costs any time soon for solar. The acre pond out back desperately needs to be re-dug. It was last cleared in the ’60’s. It’s completely choked with cattails, weeds, and cottonwood saplings. I don’t think it will be deep enough to raise fish in unless we provided a heat and aeration system, but digging it out would at least give wildlife and our future livestock a clean water source. And I might be able to raise rice and water chestnuts without having to build a permanent paddy up by the gardens.

Oh! I haven’t showed you my little temporary paddy yet. I got it all set up and filled. The rice is planted, and several fish are swimming around in it to keep the mosquito larvae down. A frog has even taken up residence in it. My next post will have to be a pictorial update. In the next couple of days. I’m busy weeding and mulching to get it all looking good for some company we’ll be having this coming weekend.

 

You’ve all heard of the crazy cat lady who owns way more cats than any sane person would ever dream of? Yes. Well, I’m allergic to cats, so I have a feeling I’m going to become that crazy chicken lady. Today, our little flock showed up in the mail. I’m thrilled!

DSCN0345

I ordered a straight run of 25 Black Jersey Giant chickens. They are all of the black chicks. They are good dual-purpose chickens, laying about 260 eggs a year on average and getting 10-13 pounds at maturity. They’re BIG chickens! I also ordered 15 straight-run hatchery choice guinea keets. They are the brownish striped and buff colored ones. I’m pretty sure they sent me half and half of Royal Purple and Lavender. Two keets died in transit, and one of the survivors is a bit crippled – he’s got one lame eye and two curled feet. He’s a trooper, though. I splayed his toes and taped them in place, and he’s zooming around eating and drinking like the others. Why were his toes curled? I have no idea. It could have been some trauma he suffered during shipping, trouble during hatching/incubating, or it could be a vitamin B2 deficiency. In any case, the treatment is the same – splint the toes straight with whatever you can, and keep the splint on until the bones have set right. It takes 1-3 days in most cases, and doesn’t hurt the chick at all. Like I said, he’s running around with his taped feet just fine.

For those of you not familiar with ordering chickens, you can either order pullets and cockerels (girls and boys) or what they call a straight run, which is a random mix of sexes usually working out to about half and half. I counted at least four little roosters as I was playing with them. I wasn’t thinking, or I would have checked each one as I took it out of the box. Oops. Some hatcheries also do what is called hatchery choice, which is when they take whatever breeds they have on hand and mix them up to complete an order. This is a great way to get discounted chicks, as it uses up their “leftovers.” With the guineas, I wasn’t very concerned about which breed to get – they’re all hell on ticks. With chickens, however, I plan on breeding my own flock, so I only want one breed.

This is my fourth or fifth time now starting chicks, so I like to think I have most of the kinks worked out. Usually I use a big plastic tote as a brooder, but with 40 chicks, it was a tight squeeze. Instead, I converted the bottom shelf of my grow shelf in the living room. Pretty fancy, eh?

DSCN0346

To line the bottom of the brooder, I have come to trust towels more than anything else. I tried newspaper, but ended up with several chickens in need of hobbling due to splayed leg from the slippery surface – never going to try that again. I tried pine chips, but holy man what a mess! And it made my allergies go nuts. I tried straw… messy again, and the chicks had a hard time mashing it down enough to make walking easy. I tried regular towels, and the chicks’ toes got caught in the loops making walking a difficult proposition. The last couple times I’ve brooded chicks, I’ve used extremely worn towels or flour sack towels. There are no loops to catch toes, and it’s a snap to clean. I change the towels out for fresh ones once a day. The dirty ones get shaken outside, stuffed in a pre-soak bucket, then washed at my next earliest convenience. Kind of like cloth diapers. I like this method because I’m not wasting anything and it gives the chicks a perfect surface to walk on. If I didn’t have flour sacks or old worn out towels, I might use paper towels layered on the bottom instead.

These birds are so darn cute. I wish everyone could experience raising chicks in their living room just once. It’s magical watching them learn how to eat, drink, preen, run, and explore. They’re constantly stumbling over their own clumsy feet, falling asleep standing up and toppling over like drunkards, and plowing into each other in their eagerness to get to that very interesting spot two inches away. I watched them all fight over pecking at a single dot of sunlight on their floor for a good ten minutes. They are dumb as rocks, but so stinking cute!

I’m a feather Mama again. It feels good. 🙂

 

Geez! That only took… what? Eight days? At least now the wood is protected so if I don’t get to the actual paint until next spring, we’ll still be in good shape. The primer is tinted a lighter color of our final paint color so that I’m not painting over glaring bright white.

DSC07412

DSC07408

DSC07407

 

Once I finished up the primer today, I went through and cleaned up the interior of the house a bit to get it ready for inspection. The plumber and electrician have been through and made their rough-ins for everything, so the next step is to have it all checked out to ensure it meets code. Once that is done, my builder will come through and insulate in preparation for the drywall crew that is scheduled to come in some time next week.

With the interior tidied up ever so slightly, I got to work on the next item on my to-do list: the shower pan. As my plumber was getting ready to rough-in the shower, he noticed the directions for the shower pan said that it needed to be mortared down to the sub-floor. Well, I figured this was a great way to get intimately acquainted with mortar. It was good to have a little practice because pretty soon I’ll be building the hearth for our beautiful wood stove and tiling the bathroom.

My tools all ready to go. See that sublime tile that the paper toweling is on? That's a sneak preview of what's to come for our hearth!

My tools all ready to go. See that sublime tile that the paper toweling is on? That’s a sneak preview of what’s to come for our hearth!

I swept the bathroom as clean as I could, then tilted the pan up to give myself an easier work surface.

I swept the bathroom as clean as I could, then tilted the pan up to give myself an easier work surface.

Smoothing on the mortar. Took two gallons to fill that monster. Thanks to my oldest son for taking photos of this process because I was too messy to handle the camera!

Smoothing on the mortar. Took two gallons to fill that monster. Thanks to my oldest son for taking photos of this process because I was too messy to handle the camera!

Nearly there! I had to constantly go back over what I already spread on because it wanted to fall downward. Once it was all evenly coated, I added a few extra trowels full and used the serrated trowel to make some grooves for purchase.

Nearly there! I had to constantly go back over what I already spread on because it wanted to fall downward. Once it was all evenly coated, I added a few extra trowels full and used the serrated trowel to make some grooves for purchase.

In place and ready for inspection! I walked over it and banged it tight against the back wall before I left. It's snug as a bug in a rug.

In place and ready for inspection! I walked over it and banged it tight against the back wall before I left. It’s snug as a bug in a rug.

Another preview of what's to come with the hearth tomorrow. *wink wink*

Another preview of what’s to come with the hearth tomorrow. *wink wink*

So that was my day today. Priming and installing a shower pan. Tomorrow I am going to attempt to build a hearth pad and maybe start tiling it. We’ll see how far I get! Friday I am taking the day off to go on a field trip with our youngest son’s class to a local pumpkin farm. It should be a blast!

To finish up this blog, I’ll leave you with a few random interior shots of the rough-in work.

DSC07429

DSC07431

 

 

 

 

 

Today and yesterday I started working on the chicken coop again. I have a pretty long list of things to do to it before winter hits. The house isn’t ready for my tender loving care yet, so the coop is getting all of my attention for now. So far I’ve knocked two items off of my to-do list. The first was to get the hardware cloth put up on the northern gable end.

DSC07276

I will do the same to the southern gable end as well. The coop is surprisingly pleasant in the middle of a hot day. There is adequate ventilation, and the porch on the front keeps the mid-day sun from heating it up through the window. I think our future chooks will be quite pleased with their accommodations.

The next thing on my list was a double door like Mr. Ed was famous for speaking from behind. I’ve never built a door, so it was with a lot of trepidation that I embarked on this project. I figured I would fail miserably. A couple hours later, my builder walks by and says, “Hey! Nice door!”

Must have been doing it right!

DSC07272

My parents stopped by the land today to get a look at the house. While they were there, I enlisted my dad to help me hang the door. That’s him playing peekaboo with the camera. It’s so much easier and faster with two people! The door looks fantastic, and only cost about $20 for the supplies. While I was at Menard’s I also found a back door for the chicken coop for $5. Can’t beat that! It’s an exterior door that’s missing the half window in the middle. I figure I can pop in some trim and hardware cloth and we’ll be set. If it ends up not working, well it’s only $5, and we’ll probably use it somewhere else.

DSC07274

DSC07275

Thanks for the help, Dad!

June 2021
M T W T F S S
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930  

Blog Stats

  • 53,858 hits