Showing posts with label chickens. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chickens. Show all posts

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Grow and Raise Your Own Food Now So You Can Learn From Loss and Failure Now Rather Than Later

Growing your own food is not easy. Raising your own food is not easy. Many people think they can just put some seeds in the ground and they will have food. Many more people are easily intimidated by raising animals for meat. However, they think they could do it if they had to when an SHTF happens.

The fact is that the truth is very, very different.

I have been gardening for many years. For a lot of those years, I was a lazy gardener. I didn't want to do the work of improving my soil, providing critter control, or even weed the garden. My garden couldn't have sustained us for more than a few meals, much less preserve any of it.

It wasn't until I got into a preparedness, self-reliant state of mind that I started to take gardening more seriously. I started weeding it more religiously. I planted perennials that would provide food year after year. I started raising layer hens and put their used bedding and fertilizer on my garden. Talk about a huge improvement to my soil!

When we had critters eating my plants, we put up a fence. We moved plants around for a better layout in the garden. We learned about companion planting. Gardening was a lot more work than I planned on it being, but I enjoyed the fruits of our labor. Some things I was scared to try ended up working for the garden.

My garden started growing like crazy! Now I can eat, preserve what we don't eat, and still have enough to give away to friends and family. Do we still know everything about gardening? Oh no. Every year I learn something new. Some plants fail. Seeds don't come up (zucchini last year). Mistakes are made. Surprises happen.

I didn't pick broccoli at the right time last year and it bolted (and tasted awful!). We thought a plant that had come up was a summer squash, but it ended up being a weird pumpkin hybrid dropped by birds. That same plant took over my garden just like the pumpkins did the year before. My peas did not fill out the pods very well. The fall planting of the peas did not go well either - they were bitter tasting. I had my first decent crop of bell peppers last year after trying for years to get more than two peppers from six plants!

Gardening and raising livestock are skills. You need to learn how to do these things in order to learn these skills. Like learning any other skill, there is always a learning curve. You will think you know it all, but find out you have a lot more to learn. You can't expect to read all about gardening and raising livestock and be able to do it when you are desperate for food.

You have to learn to deal with loss. The very first batch of chicks I had, I lost nine chicks in the first three days because they needed a heat lamp. Since I had them inside the house, I thought I had the room warm enough. That wasn't good enough. After I replaced them, I kept a heat lamp on them for five weeks.

We had fifteen laying hens and lost them all to a mink getting in the chicken coop. In a different time, we would have been devastated to lose a vital protein source. We were sad to lose good eggs and the small income from selling them. We were devastated to lose chickens to a senseless killing because minks like to kill for the fun of it. We had lost a couple of hens to hawks before, but nothing like this.

Did we learn something new? Yes, we did. While I knew minks existed, I had no idea the damage they could cause. I didn't know what they looked like or how small they were. We are now changing the fencing in the outdoor area of the coop to prevent this from happening again. We are now waiting for fifteen chicks to grow up and start laying. Since this is a new breed of laying hens for us, we are learning about them.

So gardening and raising chickens (and other livestock) is not as easy as it sounds. If this is part of your plan for preparedness, you need to practice these skills now. I have been practicing these skills for years and am still learning new things. Most gardeners will tell you that their gardens are not the same from year to year. Chickens are susceptible to predators and human mistakes. One year is not the same as another. Every batch of chicks I get is different from the last one. I am always learning something new.

If you are planning for your garden to provide all your food needs, you need to be gardening now and making that garden big enough to provide for all your food needs. You will learn by trial and error how much you need to plant, how big your garden needs to be, and what you need to plant for this garden to provide your food for a year or longer. Most people do not have enough area to plant this much so you also need to learn how to garden using trellises and poles. Again, this is something that should not be learned when you are in an emergency situation. It needs to be learned now.

If you are planning on raising chickens, ducks, pigs, goats, and more, you need to learn now. Raising livestock is never easy. You have to deal with loss and injuries. You have to deal with butchering your own livestock. You have to learn how to raise animals from babies to adults. If this is part of your prepping plans, you need to be working on this now. If you live in town, see if you can have these animals in town. Otherwise, befriend a local farmer and ask if you can have some livestock at their place. If you live on an acreage, get started! These are skills to be learned now, not later.

As with any other skill, the time to learn them is now, not when a crisis hits. With gardening and raising livestock, you could be facing starvation before you have any food if you didn't know how to raise it before. Having a stockpile of seeds is great, but learn how to grow those seeds now, not later. Learn how to raise your own food now, not later.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, April 9, 2018

Improving Soil with Chicken Litter

(In March, I wrote an article for the Rootsy Network where I am a guest contributor. I love what they are doing over there! If you are into homesteading, self-reliance, and do-it-yourself, you must check them out!)

Most homesteaders struggle to find ways to dispose of all the waste that livestock can produce. One of the easiest ways to dispose of the waste is to add it to the garden. Gardening is fun, but gardening is a lot less fun when you are fighting your soil to grow a decent crop. Most gardens need soil amendments. Used bedding from your chickens and other livestock is a great way to amend your soil.
Where I live, we have heavy black clay soil. It doesn’t till well, hold a lot of moisture in the spring and early summer dries out during the summer into a hard brick and can be impossible to weed unless it is wet. On top of that, this soil doesn’t seem to grow good produce because root crops are fighting for space in the soil and plants struggle to establish good roots. The garden needs a good dose of fertilizer every year. I also find this kind of soil needs some acidity to balance the alkaline although the alkaline doesn’t seem to affect the growth of most plants.
Thanks for reading,

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Reality of Selling Eggs From Your Homestead

(In December, I wrote an article for the Rootsy Network where I am a guest contributor. I love what they are doing over there! If you are into homesteading, self-reliance, and do-it-yourself, you must check them out!)

When I started homesteading, I did not decide to homestead because I wanted to make money. I homesteaded because I wanted to live a simpler life and provide for myself by producing my own food. After trying to unsuccessfully garden for a few years, I figured out what I was doing wrong. With the garden going strong, I wanted to continue on the homesteading journey.

To me, the next logical step was to get egg-laying chickens. Being a rookie chicken owner, I ordered fifteen brown egg laying chicks in a variety of breeds. They came in the mail, I picked them up as soon as the post office called, and we got them set up in their place. We lost about five of them within a week. I went to the local feed store and purchased six more chicks.

For the rest of this article, head over to The Rootsy Network and check it out! 


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead: June 13 & June 20

It has been two weeks again and time is flying! I mean to do this every week and hopefully I will again soon. I am lacking pictures for this post, but stay tuned and I will have more!

The clothesline is done! Rob finished that last week with minimal assistance from me. I love it because it is a little higher than the last one and it has a center support post. I can hang more laundry on it without the center sag that I had with the old clothesline. I hung laundry out all day yesterday and love it! I hope to have a post up this week about how we built it!

I have been spending a lot of time in the garden trying to stay ahead of the weeds. I haven't been entirely successful, but I am doing the best I can. Rob and Dane have been catching toads for the garden to help with the bugs. So far, so good! Before they started, my green beans and zucchini plants were getting eaten alive. We have managed to keep the rabbits out, but the bugs do not respect the fence!

Paige starts Driver's Ed this week. She just got her permit last week and Grandpa has been taking her driving. Yes, I am totally shirking my parenting duty on this. I am fine with that!

We have started on the shop and the back of the barn. Rob has been getting the work bench the way he wants it and fixing/painting what needs to be done. I started on the back of the barn yesterday. Yuck! Too many critters making a mess! About a third of the barn got done and hopefully I can finish the rest by the end of next weekend.

We (mostly the kids) cleaned out the chicken coop. We do a thorough cleaning about every three months with a more frequent cleaning under the roost. I love the smell of a freshly cleaned coop!

Otherwise we have been doing a lot of little things like getting curtains bought two months ago hung up, going through more stuff and getting rid of a lot, prepping, and staying on top of the kids and their chores!

What have you been up to?

Thanks for reading,

Monday, May 9, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead - April 25 through May 9

To sum up these last three weeks: we got a lot done! I got to play in the dirt and garden! Yes!

I transplanted about 50 raspberry plants to a new area. I just need to get a lot of mulch to help keep the weeds down. The weather is taking care of the watering. As of two weeks later, about 1/4 of the transplants are sprouting new leaves. I wish more were doing the same, but of right now I am happy with that.

I planted four rows of red, Yukon, and russet potatoes and about 50 onions. I hope to get more done in the next week, but I shall see what kind of time I have. I have to plant the other 50 or so onions and some shallots. I have plant those on the edge of the garden by the potatoes so the rain won't affect that.

I also got 11 bell pepper plants and 20 tomato plants in the garden. I might get more pepper plants (4-6) and some grape tomato plants. All I have left is the seeds to be planted. As of right now, I will be planting carrots, parsnips, green beans, peas, kale, summer squash, zucchini, and sugar daddy pumpkins. Hopefully the rain will let up this week and I can get them in. I should have on Saturday, but life happens.

We got a ton of yard clean-up done. There is still some more to do. Rob trimmed up a lot of trees, cut down the dead ones, cleaned up a ton of sticks, and cleaned up the fallen trees. Dane and I cleaned up branches, cleaned out the dead stuff from the lilac bushes, and raked a fair amount. We were able to have a fire in the fire pit one Friday night and burned up some of the branches in there. That helped some! However, we have quite a pile building up. You will probably see that fire from Wisconsin!

We also had another fire in a bigger pit area Saturday night before Mother's Day. That was a big fire! We bought some more wood and brush from another pile to keep the fire going longer. The kids wanted a fire and we had very little wind so the fire happened. We had smores, played a tough game of I Spy, and talked a lot. It was a great end to a pretty great day.

Notice I talk about the weather quite a bit? The weather has been deciding for us what we are doing. We had a beautiful week of weather followed by five days of almost monsoon like rains. Then a beautiful week of weather. Today is Monday and we are scheduled for rain the next five out of seven days. Just crazy!

We got one major project in the shop done. We moved the work bench to the wall with the plug-ins. The work bench was on the opposite wall from the plug-ins and Rob decided (I definitely agreed) that needed to change. It was a major undertaking with lots of sore muscles due to carrying almost everything out that was in there. Rob has a lot of unpacked stuff in the shop and getting the shop done is a top priority now so he can find things and work on other things.

While cleaning out the shop, I purged a lot of junk furniture. I thought some things had potential, but I was wrong. I got rid of a dresser, a vanity, and two desks. They were falling apart! Since I am still in a purging mood, things need to go! I did keep two dressers, a seat, and a bench that have plenty of potential. They just need some love!

We are also trying to decide what to do about the chickens. Of course we want to still keep them, but the ladies are starting to slow down on the egg production. Plan A would involve getting a rooster and letting the ladies lay their own chicks. Plan B would involve getting chicks and integrating them over the summer. What do you prefer?

Thanks for reading,

Monday, April 11, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead - April 11

What happened this week?

This week was a little exciting, a little bit frustrating, and has a little bit more work involved for us.

We are down a chicken. One of the full-grown layers was killed by a hawk. In all the problems I thought I would have with keeping my chickens alive, this was not one problem I thought I would have. Hawks are not a big problem, but we had noticed three of them nesting on the property. We weren't sure what kind of hawk they were, but now we know they are the chicken-killing kind of hawks.

Since I like my chickens to free range a bit, the hawks need to go. I would like to do it humanely, but if we have to shoot them then we will. Shooting the hawks is probably illegal, but I have more invested in my chickens and would rather not lose them!

In the frustrating and creating more work for us category, what you see above is the remnants of my clothesline. We had a dead tree fall on Tuesday and take out the clothesline. Both poles will have to be replaced as well as the line. We are extremely fortunate that the tree did not fall on the house or fall the other way on to the power line. This can be cleaned up and replaced fairly easily.

Gardening is still on hold. The ground temperature is a little bit chilly yet to plant anything. A few days of sun might cure that. We are also going to move the raspberry patch out of the garden and into its own spot. I think they will do better and I will have the room back in the garden. If I don't have a tiller (my dream tiller) by the weekend, I will rent one and get the garden tilled hopefully in the next week.

We (mostly Rob) spring-cleaned the first floor of the house Saturday. He would call it normal cleaning, but the floors look fantastic! We also did some decluttering with another load accumulating for the thrift store. I took one load on Thursday last week, but we always have more things to get rid of.

I also did a big grocery run on Saturday. Meat prices are atrocious!!!! Corn and beans for feed is down. Gas prices to transport the meat is down. Why is ground beef still $4.50-5.00 a pound?!?! Crock-pot and arm roasts were $3.99 a pound. I am still in sticker shock!

Everything is on hold this week while we get ready for prom! Paige is going to her first prom on Saturday and, in our true frugal style, is wearing a dress that Jordan wore her junior year. I still need to get a few repairs done on the dress and iron the skirt. With three track meets this week this should be interesting, but we will get it done!

What is happening on your homestead?

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

30 Things You Can Do On Your Winter Homestead

Ahhh...winter. Love it or hate it, winter happens every year. Some of you have much milder winters than we do in Iowa and can still garden year round. That is not happening here! I can barely see where my garden should be at!

I don't know about you all, but I lose hope Spring is coming when Winter is here. Winter is just so cold and so harsh. We have had it easy this winter until January came. January brought some really cold temperatures, more snow, and the bone-chilling wind (that I wasn't missing!). 

Lacking in motivation lately, I decided to put together a list of thirty things you can do around the homestead! Even though the temperatures are hovering around zero with a foot of snow of the ground there is plenty to do!

30 Things You Can Do On Your Winter Homestead:

1. Search Craigslist and Facebook Sale Sites for heaters. Buy one that actually suits your needs. It is really hard to work in a barn with no heat!

2. Put an extra layer of bedding down in the chicken coop. Who wants to change the bedding when it is 10 degrees outside?!?!

3. Realize 30 degrees is actually balmy and change the bedding in the chicken coop.

4. Peruse seed catalogs. Realize there is hope that Spring will come!

5. Make garden plans. At least then you will have a plan!

6. Study different gardening techniques. Who knows - this might be the year you stick with one of those techniques!

7. Start seeds in February and March. Save yourself some money that way.

8. Buy grow lights for seed starting. Makes your life easier when you have very few south facing windows.

9. Buy heated water dishes for the cats, dogs, and chickens. At least the chickens will appreciate warm water because the dog will just eat snow anyway.

10. Get really excited when the poultry catalogs come in the mail. Spring means new chicks!

11. Clean up the barn shop. Time to go through the tools! Also, it is great to get out the house!

12. Go through the gardening tools and seeds. Fix what needs fixing and throw away the rest. 

13. Time to tackle the house projects. When Spring comes, you won't have time anyway.

14. Decide what animals you can add to your homestead. Maybe it is time for some feeder pigs or meat birds!

15. Decide where you are going to put the extra livestock. Just because you have extra buildings doesn't mean you can just add the animals. You need a plan!

16. Sharpen your knives and tools. No one likes a dull tool.

17. Buy more heat lamp bulbs. Those bulbs go out when you least expect them too!

18. Shovel out the outdoor area of the chicken coop and paths between the buildings. Better yet, send out your kids to do that. 

19. Take a field trip to the Tractor Supply Store and Fleet Farm. Get some ideas for your homestead for next Spring!

20. Buy a bunch of medicated lip balm and healing hand cream. Winter is really hard on both lips and hands. No one likes bleeding lips and cracked hands. Better yet, make your own!

21. Can all the produce you stuck in your freezer when you got tired of canning last summer. Now is a good time for making salsa and pizza sauce!

22. Check your buildings for drafts and leaks. No better time to check them than when the wind is blowing 30 miles per hour and you can feel the cold! Get them fixed!

23. Now is a good time to declutter and organize your home and homestead. You might then curse a lot less this coming year when you can actually find things. And maybe you will find some things you bought last Spring and Summer and can use this coming year! Like a garden trowel and fencing and wire...Ahem.

24. Winter is a good time to prune trees. Pick a less than cold day to get the saw out and have some chainsaw therapy!

25. Winter is also a great time to learn new skills or work on old skills like sewing, knitting, crocheting, wood working, and more. 

26. Work on alternative ways to heat your home. Whether you have electric, propane, natural gas, or wood heat, you can always find ways to lower those bills or use less wood. Make a small heater that only takes a candle. Anything to keep those heating bills a little lower!

27. Make a bunch of freezer meals. That way when you are too tired to cook in the Spring and Summer, you have meals ready to go!

28. Make a priority list for your projects and set your budget for those projects. Do your homework so you have a realistic budget. Because going over budget is no fun for anyone!

29. Set some mouse traps in the barns and coops. The cats can't catch them all. The mice are freeloading off your expensive feed. Time to end that problem. 

30. Make sure you have a good pair of warm boots. If not, buy some. This is an investment that will pay off when you have to go outside in zero degree temps, thirty below wind chill, and a couple feet of snow on the ground. Warm feet are important!

Some of this is tongue-in-cheek, but mostly serious. Winter is a time of rest on the homestead, but so much still needs to be done! Tackle a few of these today and feel a sense of accomplishment!

Thanks for reading,

Monday, December 21, 2015

Have I Always Been A Prepper Homesteader?

Have I always been a prepper homesteader?


I have been a prepper homesteader for at least the last ten years and maybe longer. I have been wanting to be a homesteader for a lot longer than that. I would read and re-read the Little House on the Prairie books as a kid (and as an adult). I have always loved reading about early Iowa settlers and what they had to do to survive and thrive. I find their stories absolutely fascinating.

 As for being a prepper, I found myself becoming one out of necessity. When my son was born eleven years ago, we were broke. My then husband was unemployed and having a personal crisis. I was working part-time and selling everything I could to make extra money. We were getting by on the grace of our parents. We also had three little girls at home needing food and shelter. Sure we had a roof over our heads, but we really struggled to keep the power on. We also had a lot of credit card debt to pay off.

After we got back on our feet, I swore that would never happen again. Not like that. He got a full-time job. I was eventually moved from part-time and full-time at my job. Then he decided he did not want to be married to me anymore. I filed for divorce and did the best I could to get by.

My parents and his parents helped when I asked for it. Even though I had a full-time job, I worked a couple small part-time jobs. I still had to apply for food assistance, child care assistance, and Medicaid. I didn't want to, but my kids were not going to go hungry. Child support was still getting straightened out and took a few years to be consistent.

When I got food assistance, they gave me more money than I had ever spent on groceries. Even when things were going well for us, I never spent $450 a month in groceries. I used the extra money to start my food storage. I never again wanted to look in the almost bare cabinets and wonder how creative I could get to feed my kids.

I was already making almost everything from scratch so I found it easy to know what to stock up on. I had a top ten list of things to stock up on when I went to the store or found a good deal. When I found myself having an adequate stock of those things, I made another list of things to stock up on. I also started using my tax refund to buy meat in bulk. I would buy a half of a beef or pork for the freezer. The price was so much lower doing it this way!

The first stage of my prepping journey was food storage and the second stage involved becoming a lot more frugal. I barely ate out unless I was invited to do so. I shopped a lot more in the thrift stores. I started learning how and doing my own repairs. I mended a lot of the kids' clothing. We already shopped garage sales for their clothes. I drove vehicles until the wheels fell off. I tried not to buy anything unless it was a necessity. I found ways to lower our bills or eliminate them altogether.

The third stage was learning more about gardening and do more canning. I had always dabbled in gardening and had some success. I started to get more serious about gardening and canning everything I could. I am still learning about gardening and from the mistakes I have made, but I have accomplished learning about canning. I have also learned a lot about dehydrating and freezing produce.

During this time, I got off food assistance and Medicaid. We didn't need child care assistance anymore when my son went to school. It was a good day when this all happened! Some days I wish I had the Medicaid back, but I also enjoy not having the government all up in my business. Their questions can be rather intrusive.

I added laying chickens to the homestead. I raised them from two day old babies and now they are 1.5 years old. I have twelve chickens and get 6-8 eggs a day. I wanted to be able to produce some of my own food in addition to gardening and this was a good start. I hope to add meat chickens this year and learn about butchering.

In the meantime, I have been learning more skills and reacquainting myself with others like sewing. I have a good supply of essentials in case of emergency and natural disasters. I keep my vehicle stocked just in case we get stranded or need to make a repair. I keep things on hand like camp stoves, propane heaters, and whatnot just in case we are without power for any length of time.

I am always filling jugs for water or accruing more drinking water from the store. I would love to get a 55 gallon drum for water, but I haven't done so yet. Hopefully in the next few months I will be able to get one. I also want to get a water filtration system like a Berkey so we can have clean water for drinking and cooking.

I am also working more on getting prepared for pets. I buy extra every month and, little by little, get a better stockpile every month. The dog has thrown me for a loop by eating more again so I need to adjust that. However, we just keep the dry pet food in sealable buckets to keep it fresher and free of mice.

Becoming a prepper homesteader takes time. I still working at it every day and learning more as I go. I know I need to do more. I am very proud of myself for how far I have come. I read books, blogs, and watch videos. I research a lot before I start a project. I practice the skills however and whenever I can. I am not an expert by any scope of the imagination, but I enjoy sharing what I have learned.

You can become a prepper homesteader too. Your journey to it might look a little different than mine and that is more than okay. All that matters is that you go on this journey and become one!

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, April 30, 2015

18 Ways To Save (And Make!) Money Homesteading

Homesteading is not cheap. It can be done frugally, but at some point, you have to open up your wallet. You need equipment, feed, fencing, coops, hutches, and so on. However, you can minimize your costs or prevent future costs by being proactive. You can also make a little money homesteading if you wish.

I want to help you save money and maybe make money homesteading. My goal in life is to save money and help others do the same. We can always try to save money!

Below is eighteen suggestions that can help you to save and possibly make money homesteading!

1. Shop around. Your local feed store may be great for convenience, but sometimes you can find feed and supplies cheaper at the co-op or another store. For five miles, feed and supplies might be cheaper in the next town. Shop around and save some pennies.

2. Scout out the junk piles at family and friends' homes. They might have some things to get rid of that will suit you perfectly. That is how I ended up with materials for my chicken coop and outdoor area.

3. Ask for materials. Craigslist and Facebook garage sale sites are great places to look for materials and equipment. If you are looking for something and can't find it, just post that you are in search of (ISO) of something. More than likely, someone has that item and can part with it.

4. Attend farm sales and auctions. I love auctions! I have walked away with a great many things that were pennies on the dollar cost-wise. Look over everything carefully when you get there, set a dollar amount in your mind for what you want, and bid wisely. Many times I have gone to auctions where family and friends feel bad for the family having the farm auction and bid things up with no interest in buying them just to make the family more money. Watch that you don't get caught up in a bidding war.

5. Graciously accept donations from family and friends. I have my own junk pile due to generous offerings from family and friends. I took a dog kennel when I had no idea what to do with it. It became the outdoor area for the chickens when they couldn't be out in the yard.

6. Be creative in using materials. Not everything needs to be exactly like the plan. The internet is full of ideas on re-purposing materials and making your own things. I have also found many books at the thrift shop that has helped me save money and re-purpose materials.

7. Sell the items you don't need anymore. I have bought a few things that I thought would be great for my homestead. It turns out I was wrong or the items weren't a good fit. You can sell those things and use that money for your next homesteading purchase.

8. Do the work yourself. This should go without saying, but a lot of people hire out a lot of work that can be done by them. I am not perfect in this area either as I have the garden tilled by someone else every year. However, I (or the kids) mow the lawn ourselves. We do most of our own repairs. We haul most of our own materials unless the materials are just too big for the vehicle.

9. Don't be afraid to accept help or advice when it is given freely. Most offers of help and advice are given generously and can often be repaid in kind whether it be homemade jams/jellies or a home-cooked dinner.

10. Use what you produce. Plan meals around all those eggs. Eat from the garden when the garden is producing. Preserve the bounty. You get it - stop going to the grocery store and eat what you have.

11. Animal manure is a commodity - sell it or barter with it. People want it so you should use that to your advantage. I often have a lot more than I need of the animal by-product. Other people who have gardens or cannot raise animals will often take this off your hands.

12. Sell the extra eggs and produce. By no means am I saying to take food away from your family, but if you have way more eggs and produce than your family will ever eat, sell the extras. A little income here and there will help pay for other homesteading projects! If you want to take this a step further, expand the garden and sell at the local farmers' market.

13. Ask to glean. If you know your tomatoes are not producing and a friends' tomatoes are going to waste, ask if you can have them. Picking produce after the owner has picked his fill is called gleaning. Offer to pay or trade, but most of the time you will get them for free. This has worked for me for years!

14. Use your free labor. If you have kids or grandkids, you have free labor. Have them help you outside with your projects. Turn it into a teaching moment, teach them what you are doing, and why you are doing it. If kids understand the why, they will be more excited to help with the what. Also, you can always tell them it is a character building exercise - especially if they are "helping" you clean out the chicken coop.

15. Don't ignore the obvious. Look at everything growing on your homestead. Everything should have a purpose. If you don't know the purpose, look it up. Can it be used as food, a remedy, a cure, or whatnot? Find out and figure how you can use it.

16. Knowledge is power. Always be learning. Learning and knowledge are free. With the vast amount of information that is free, you should always be learning.

17. Take care of your things. Keep the tools free of rust, maintain equipment, change oil, make repairs quickly, and you will save money by not having costly repairs and having to buy new things to replace uncared-for things.

18. Wear gloves. Trust me on this. You will save your hands from blisters, broken nails, infected cuts, splinters, and other things that could cost you some inconvenience or a trip to the doctor is bad enough. Gloves are just prevention and finding a good fitting pair can take work. However, gloves are worth it and necessary.

Do you have any more ideas or tips to save money homesteading? I would love to hear them!

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Homemade Nesting Boxes for Chickens

Excuse the mess. The chickens aren't very neat!  

One of the things about my homestead is that I don't have a lot of money to spend. Like none. I have become very good at taking whatever free items come along and putting them aside for future use. I may not know what I am going to be using them for, but at least I have the materials on hand.

Such is the case for these nesting boxes. I am not very good at construction and people around me know it. Rob actually came up with the idea because his neighbor had some big feed tubs that he used for gardening. I had just gotten some free tubs from a coworker about the same time. By using these tubs, I eliminated the need to have to build wooden boxes.

To give the chicken something to fly on to and hold the nesting materials in the tub, I used a 1" x 6" board that I cut half moons with using a jig saw. The board was leftover from the kennel project. I attached the boards to the tub using little screws I had on hand. I used three screws for each board on each tub.

I used a scrap 1" x 2" board I had cut into 1' lengths to use on the inside back of the nesting boxes to give the boxes more stability when I hung them up. I drilled three 2-1/2" screws into each piece of wood to hold them to the wall.

One thing to remember with using plastic tubs or almost any plastic is that you need to drill pilot holes first in order for the plastic not to crack. With these tubs, I didn't have a problem with plastic cracking. The plastic was so thick and tough that screws were not going through.

Excuse the milk jug on top. We use that for getting water for the chickens. It's all about reusing here!

I hung the nesting boxes two on each wall to keep the boxes at an even level and to keep the chickens from fighting. I filled them with sawdust which I fluff for them and keep them clean about once a week.

So far, so good. The ladies loved their new boxes and we have got eggs laid in the one box since I only have one chicken laying so far. Hopefully soon, all four boxes will be used!

Thanks for reading,

PS - Don't forget to enter in the Cox's Honey - Shelley Idaho Giveaway and the Saratoga Jack Thermal Cooker Giveway!!! Both are great items! The honey giveaway will end on October 18th and the thermal cooker giveaway will end on October 19th!

Homestead Blog Hop | The Easy Homestead (.com)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Monthly Frugal and Homesteading Update

This month has been a bit busy and my mind has been going in a different direction. July has been a no spend month. I was very unintentional about it, but the budget demanded it. The budget is going to demand it for August also so no spending unless necessary.

The great thing about having a no spend month in the summer is that my garden and everyone else's garden has been exploding with goodness! My garden was being a bit late, but now is producing nicely. I wish the tomatoes were a little more prolific, but I am happy to just have tomatoes turn red this year! My onions are actually growing too!

It's the little things that get me going...

The chickens are all alive and well. I decided to start free ranging them all day. They are usually in their coop by 8:30 pm all on their own. I let them out at 7:00 am to start roaming the yard. I am still feeding them some starter mash with cracked corn added to it, but they are eating less of that and more of the nature provided food. I am working on their nesting boxes and hope to have them up this week. I will do a post about that soon.

My clothes dryer quit. I am not in a hurry to replace it right now since it is summer and I hang clothes out most of the time anyway. I am determined to try to fix the dryer myself. Supposedly, clothes dryers are one of the easiest appliances to fix. Supposedly. I will find out!

I am working on small batch canning in an effort to not waste produce. We had a good raspberry turnout this year, but not enough made it into the house. I had enough, however, to make a small batch of raspberry jam. I made 2 - 8 oz. jars which will taste delightful this winter.

I was given ten pounds of blueberries and ten pounds of sweet cherries. I froze most of the blueberries, but canned four pint jars and one half-pint jar since I had never canned blueberries before. I canned almost all of the cherries and got thirteen pints out of those that I did not eat!

As you tell, I am really trying to cut down on the grocery bill. I am working hard to keep the grocery budget at $200. Some months are not going to be as easy as others, but I am trying. We have been making more from scratch. Paige made five batches of chocolate chip cookies to share on her Washington DC trip. I have been making bread and granola as always. I want to learn how to make good crackers next since I miss munching on those once in a while. I have also been taking vegie salads or leftovers to work every day. I only ate out once in the last month for lunch.

I made a batch of homemade laundry detergent. I had to fix my big wooden spoon before I started since one of my kids broke it trying to stir a batch of chicken feed. I fixed it with black electrical tape wrapped up and down the handle.

I refilled a lot of plastic water bottles and put them into the freezer. They will help keep the freezer running more efficiently since a full freezer runs better. They will also be great to keep school lunches cold when the kids decide they need a cold lunch. They are also great to have on hand if the power goes out and we need additional water or things to stay cold in the freezer.

I made candles with supplies I bought a year ago. I was really surprised at how easy they were. Since I have plenty of wick left over, I will be ordering more wax when space opens up in the budget. I used glasses for the candles that I had around the house and we did not use anymore.

That is the highlights for the month. Of course, we have still been making our own cleaners, mending clothes, and making do as much as possible!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Introducing the Chickens!

One of my huge homesteading goals for this year was to get laying chickens. So far, this is one of the best things I have ever done! The chickens have been fairly easy even though we had a rocky start together, but all in all I can't wait to try meat chickens in a year.

We had a rough start when they came home. We thought we had their crate warm enough, but evidently not. We lost three due to failure to thrive and four to being too cold. We rigged a heat lamp into the crate and had very happy chicks. We had 16 to start with, we lost 7, and I bought 5 more bring the total to 14 hens.

They outgrew their crate about two weeks after they came home. Rob and I (mostly Rob) got the old dog room ready for the chicks after we moved the dog to the garage. I moved the chicks in there and they loved the extra room. We kept them cooped up with the heat lamp for another two weeks until we built the outdoor area.

We used a 10' x 10' dog kennel that was given to me and surrounded most of it with chicken wire fencing and zip ties. We curled the chicken wire fencing around the open area to they couldn't get out and the cats couldn't get in. We used a piece of conduit cut up to set the kennel on to keep it in place. We also fixed the door so only a small pet door could be open while the big door stayed closed (The whole door is open in the picture).

 A look inside their coop and a view of the newly built, but not very good roost.

 However, they love the roost!

 A look inside the rest of the coop. Next up is building the nesting boxes along the far wall.

 The only black hen to survive. She is one of my favorites, but she is pretty sassy!

 This hen does not sit still. She is the boss of the flock!

They love the outdoor area. I threw some of my pulled weeds into there. They love to much on those! We have been letting them out of the outdoor area and free range a bit. I would like to let them free range all the time, but we have predators and cats. I am also still training Holly the dog to not chase them too!

All in all, I am extremely happy I took this step! I recommend to just about everyone and can't wait for the eggs to start coming!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

In A Holding Pattern...

Feels like I am just waiting and waiting and waiting. Waiting for the nicer weather that is now here and hopefully staying. Waiting for the chicks to arrive. Waiting to plant my garden. Waiting to get my yard cleaned up and in shape. Waiting to build my raised beds. Waiting to be outside in my favorite outfit, tee shirts and jeans.

What is a girl to do while she is waiting? Plan, plan, and plan. Spring clean the house. Reorganize bedrooms. Purge clothes and toys. Figure out where to put the day lilies and how to landscape around them. Watch the amount of sunlight around the barn to make sure the blueberry bushes will get enough sun. Decide what to plant in her planters by the driveway: pretty, functional, or both?

Look at lots of chicken coop plans and decide that I don't want to build anything really. I have two buildings at my disposal and have decided that I want to boot the dog out of her dog house in the barn and put the chicks there. I think it was once a place for the milk separator, but it seems like the perfect amount of room for 12-15 chickens and nesting boxes and a waterer and a feeder. I just need to build a run or get a dog kennel for the chickens to run.

Decide if I want any other animals or livestock. I would love to have a calf or two and a pig or two for meat, but I better stick with keeping chicks alive first. I have to remind myself that taking baby steps are good for my sanity.

Research beekeeping. I know where I could put the hives, but I don't know what is all required and if northern Iowa is a good place for hives. How does one winter bee hives? Lots of questions yet.

Research perennial vegetables and fruits. I would like a homestead that provides food most of the year, but to do that means I have to plant with that in mind. I am already planting asparagus for spring eating, but I want to do more. I also need to buy these vegetables first to make sure my family will eat them.

Staying in the holding pattern for a bit longer. So many dreams, so many plans, so little time!

Thanks for reading,