safe house for hens

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We have worked very hard this week.  We finally made a huge yard for our chickens.  After two years of them pooping on our porch, and all over the concrete barn, they are fenced in.  They are still free-ranging by definition.  The decision will also make it safer for them and easier for us.

I went back and forth about this.  I wanted them to roam, but I wanted them to stay out of my garden too.  They had free-range on our whole twenty-acres, then five, but they never utilized more than a hundred foot areas anyhow.  So space didn’t seem as important anymore.  Safety was also a concern.

There are many, many coyotes where we live.  We hear packs of them almost every night.  The hens now have a yard within a yard.  Double safe.  Now that they are laying solely in the coop, our Pyrenees dog Leia cannot eat their eggs.  That’s her favorite.

She is 100% trust-worthy with the hens, but boy does she love eggs.  She is patrolling happily, and making the safety of our animals even more secure.  She is a sweet and clumsy thing, but her bark is ferocious; she knows those coyotes are bad news.

The kids find it more convenient to check eggs when they know exactly where they’ll be.  Those hens used to lay everywhere.  In the hay, in the coop, in the back of Nick’s truck, in buckets, in twine, everywhere.  Easter egg hunts loose their excitement when everyday is hunting day.

Guess what?  I can now plant flowers to my heart desire too.  Things are always coming along here at the farm.  What improvements have you made lately?

humble homesteading: plans and dreams

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Oh, Winter.  The time here on the farm to make plans for the rest of the year.  We have some grand plans for this year.  Gathering knowledge these past (almost) two years has been beneficial.  We have wanted to jump into everything, but thought it better to bide our time.  We finally have a way to get a beef cow.  We are preparing for honey bees.  The pasture has a plan for expansion for more goats.  The chickens are gearing up for their very own yard.  And (Lord help us) we’re making calls to buy pigs again. Many talks have happened here.  The funding is seeming to come through.  Nick has side jobs one after another.

Our neighbors who have had many head of cattle in the past have offered to host one cow of ours.  This is grand news since we haven’t ventured that far due to fence mending we need to do.  Nick is as happy as a clam.  How ever happy that is.

I’ve read no less than four books cover to cover this week on beekeeping.  I stay fascinated by bees.  They are intriguing creations.  I have a feeling they will teach us all some important lessons.  I’ve made calls to local pros and really honed in on the Africanized Bee dilemma.  I am making plans on the best ways to keep them from invading our future colony.  While they really aren’t as scary as the movies dipict, there are reasons why they can be.  We will be keeping bees on our property.  That calls for extra measures of caution.  Any breed of bee can do damage to people and livestock to the point of death.  This is rare.  It can also be nearly preventable by being observant and educated Apiarists.  I don’t take this topic lightly.

Nick has spent the better part of a particularly restless night planning the expansion of our goat pen.  We want our ladies on pasture as soon as we have the funds for the materials.  We are also getting real serious about keeping another one-two girls this year.  We just never seem to have enough milk between ourselves and customers.  I really want to venture into selling goat milk products (soap, cheese ect) this season.  More milk please!

Bottom line with the chickens– I’m done with them pooping on my porch.  They’re getting a nice big yard this year.  Just last week we were late to the library because a certain tiny girl placed her special box on the porch steps while making her way to the car.  I can’t accurately describe the wailing that ensued when she discover it was covered in chicken poop.  Ahhh, the things you never think of when you start a farm from scratch.

This brings us to the pig talk.  I am semi-confident they won’t get out of their pen this year.  Semi.  We’ve learned not to make definitive statements when it comes to this topic.  The plan is do get 4-5 pigs and sell meat this year.  With all the hub-bub going on about pig illness on the East coast, we think the demand will be good for us.  I’m on the search for Heritage Breeds in our area.  Just pray.  Pigs are all they said to be in movies and books.  Except Wilber.  Wilber was a good pig.

Do you have plans and dreams?  Move forward.  These plans are subject to change depending on the provision and direction of God.  We pray and think plenty before we make plans, however we know who’s running this homestead.  We try to stay humble as we keep that in mind.

enjoying now

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Last week we saw some very cold weather.  By cold I mean in the teens, which isn’t normal here.  This week couldn’t be more opposite.  I love 70.  Doesn’t it feel perfect?

Today, I finally made some headway on laundry.  I really missed drying clothes outside.  I have no idea how you East coast friends survive without a dryer.  We were struggling here without one.  You can only do so much laundry with a 24 hour drying time.

Nick worked on fencing in the back of the property.  I am thankful he works so hard.  Our little hens got some roaming time under the close and constant supervision of Nick and the kids.

It was a productive and beautiful day.  I could handle a few more like it.  Especially in the clothing department.

tiny moments

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IMG_0021IMG_0020Here at the farm we have divided up the household and animal responsibilities into age appropriate sections.  I have had very little to to with feeding the animals since the goats have been dried up.  Yesterday was different with illness still lurking about these parts.

I certainly didn’t want to send any sick child into 20 degree weather.

So, I slipped on a few knit layers and rubber boots and went about the morning chores alone.  I forgot how much I truly need to get outside more, even in the cold weather.

I love listening to our winter friends, Sandhill Cranes over head.  I can’t get enough of the affection our sweet does give me and each other.  Are there really so many things more adorable than a fluffy rump chicken running about?

Okay, if you’re about to say kids, I’ll give you that.  But, seriously, I absolutely love our life, how ever trying times can be, no matter the sacrifices of worldly glamour.  Caring for animals may tie us down more, but they are more than pets.  They are our livelihood  our food, our entertainment, our family.

We learn so much, even about our Heavenly Father, as we raise and care for our animals and our farm.

I can’t imagine wanting to go back to our former life.  I know we are always open to whatever path is laid before us, but I do hope it includes livestock and mason jars.  I really love it here.  I am filled with thanksgiving and humility for the life we are living right now.  I am so excited for the future lessons and experiences that only a farmer’s life can offer.

I don’t say this to make you feel as though your life is unimportant.  I have simply come to realize more depth in my own life.  For me, it can be as simple as grasping the meaning of time-honored sayings or, even, spiritual concepts.

The phrase “pigs sty” just doesn’t mean as much unless your eyes have seen and nose has smelled.  Seriously, I would rather starve than eat from a pig’s trough as the “Wayward Son” of the New Testament did.

When I read in the scriptures that the fields are “white for the harvest, but the laborers are few”, I envision our neighbor’s cotton fields-breathtakingly white as far as the eye can see.  What a daunting task to think of harvesting a field like that without enough help.  It would seem downright impossible!

The Bible is filled with farming references and examples.  As I walk about about our humble farm, verses are alive before my eyes.  Much how I would imagine a trip the Israel,  I see and have a greater understanding of the depth, pain, toil behind the stories.  I know for certain I would go leave a flock of sheep “to pursue the one”.  Every animal we have, we love, nurture and enjoy.  How much more does He love me…you?  He pursues us!  Searching, calling…do we listen?

The future is never certain, so all I can be is overjoyed to be placed here, now, and forever in my heart.  I don’t want to forget these tiny moments on the farm, with my Lord talking to me while I go about my chores.

farm news

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So much to report here.  First, the hogs are dropped off for processing.  *sigh*

I can’t fully explain how relieving it is to say that.  The (unnamed) pigs were not my favorite.  We have been completely humbled by raising the duo of trouble known only as “girl pig” and “boy pig”.  What an experience.

If ever we thought we could build a strong enough fence from free and re purposed materials…we were wrong.  If ever we thought pigs were “clean” animals…we were wrong.  If ever we thought we could think steps ahead of how they would escape next…they would forget digging and nudging and bust straight through the pen.

Sheesh.

Will we ever raise pigs again?  Yes.  But this time we know all their shenanigans and we’ll be prepared.  At least, we think we will be.

As for chickens…ahhhh.

Coyotes have taken six of them this week.  I really feel like we failed them.  We are in the middle of re enforcing our back fence directly because of this.  For now our once free-ranging chickens are locked safely in the coop where those mangy killers can’t get them.

I am still sad about this, though I’m also a bit surprised it took nine months before this became a problem.

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Lastly, our Nubien does are pregnant, and will be kidding somewhere between the end of May or June.  I cannot wait to have baby goats to love on.  I am also looking forward to the abundance of fresh, raw goat’s milk and cheese.

ladies in laying

Have I mentioned yet how I love Southwest winters?  Hmmm…I do believe I have.  There is plenty of sunshine here.  The last two weeks have been in the beautiful 60s ans 70s.  Guess who else love all this sunshine?  My ladies.

All the girls are layin’ again.  I can’t wait until they’re all laying everyday.  Today 6/10 earned their keep.  The blue eggs are back.  I simply love the colors.  Don’t you?  It kinda make getting up in the morning and making breakfast happier.  At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

 

chicken chronicles

Our ladies are finally laying.  At least the first batch are.  We lost one :(  so we have 4 laying hens and 5 soon to lay pullets.  Chickens grow up SO fast.  Remember the last post about our new chicks?  Now look at them!  We have 4 Americaunas and 5 Black Australorps.  I tell ya, they are smart little escape artists.  The older ones have given us a run for our money.  One named Dot in particular, and Clara coming in as the second most mischievous chicken.  Who knew chickens could be such trouble makers?  You fix the problem and they find a loop hole, especially if they can see greener plant on the other side.

Things I’ve learned while raising chickens:

1.  They literally fly the coop.

2.  They are partial to strawberries (including the leaves) and parsley.

3.  They like to peck a hole in each tomato they can.

4.  They are very smart and super curious.  Did you know you can train them?

5.  They know my voice and come to it.  I love calling them from the window and watch them look for me.  I know, real mature huh?

6.  They attract more flies than horses.  I didn’t see that one coming.

7.  They make barking type sounds for no reason (like a yappy dog sound).

8.  They are the best at putting themselves to bed (if only the kids would call it a day a dusk).

9.  They love to dig themselves holes to lay in (like a dog, again).

10.  Putting a worm in the coop in fun to watch and great for the garden.

I have been enjoying raising these girls.  I love to see the process and recycling that comes with them as well.  They eat our scraps, I compost the waste, the compost fertilizes the garden, chickens we eat the garden, and around it goes.  So loving it all.  Considering all the frustrations and the joys, it is well worth the effort for me.  Just today I was two eggs short of a recipe so I sent Isabel out to check for eggs.  She came in with three.  Again, love it.