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How Does Our Homestead Grow? Part II

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

First harvest from this year's garden...cucuzzi edible gourd & volunteer tomatoes

It’s been so good being back again (I know, it’s been over a week since I said I would post again “next week”). This homesteading thing works better with community.  My last post summarized the maturing of our edible landscaping and gardens. Now I’ll share other aspects of life on our homestead.

Many of our mature hens became fox and bobcat lunch this past year until we cleared more palmettos out of the back forage areas. We worked little by little, clearing away hiding places for such predators. Now the remaining chickens feel at ease going back out again to forage, and their egg production has increased.

We added a few batches of egg-laying chicks the past months. They start out on egg yolks, organic homemade cornbread, and soaked barley and oats, eating only one bag of non-GMO store-bought feed per batch at the beginning, which lasts about two weeks. We’ll raise them the rest of the way without any commercial feed, just as we successfully raised broilers last year. I’ll post more on that another time.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

Barred rock, white leghorn, and brown leghorn chicks. So cute!

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

Silver Oak and Farmer Boy can't tear themselves away from watching the chicks...and neither can our new dog Cheyenne.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

A temporary pen in the bio-shelter when the chicks outgrew their bin

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

A refurbished pen purchased off Craigslist

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

Silver Oak got himself stuck inside the pen! Couldn't resist this shot. Ha ha!

Two of our black Australorp hens successfully hatched a clutch of eggs in a new portable chicken coop Silver Oak built last month. We hope to raise all our chicks the natural way in the future, as well as make more portable chicken coops/tractors and raise laying hens to sell as backyard chickens.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

Mama and brood

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

The front of the portable chicken coops/tractors Silver Oak makes

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

Back of the chicken coop with the door to the eggbox

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

Silver Oak's portable fence around the chicken coop

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

Farmer Boy's set of chicks are growing up!

Our sweet cat Starlett had her third litter of adorable fluffy balls. We’ve been surprised how easy it is to find good homes for her kittens, as they are always so cute and cuddly, with beautiful markings. Our two “mousers” do a great job keeping rats and mice under control so we don’t worry about stored livestock feed being invaded. To be assured of good mousing stock, Starlett is not fixed, which makes our rodent control more sustainable as long as her kittens find good homes and are well cared for. Our family enjoys her kittens so much, and they get a lot of attention living on our deck. The only hard part is parting with them.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

Sweet kitties from an earlier litter

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

Feeding time! The newest litter

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

Playing around recently harvested volunteer spaghetti squash and tomatoes

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

So cute, but sure can make a mess!

Another new member on the homestead is Cheyenne, a new puppy which will hopefully bring additional security for our livestock and gardens. She is a lab/border collie/something else mix, showing a lot of potential so far, with the exception of an injured chicken which she over-zealously “caught” for us. But if she keeps following the example of our faithful Aussie in herding and gently catching wayward chickens, all will be well. The injured hen (which WAS being quite naughty) is on the mend and has hopefully repented of her transgressions (repeatedly escaping the chicken yard and digging up landscape beds).

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

Meet blue-eyed Cheyenne!

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

We chose the most attentive and alert pup in the litter

The windmill Silver Oak installed last March has been pumping almost all our water. It pumps from the well we dug into tanks on the roof. Gravity-fed from there into the house, a 12v RV pump helps add more pressure. Occasionally we run the electric pump with the generator if there is not enough wind, but that is mostly because we don’t yet have enough tanks to store water when the wind is blowing. A bonus to installing our windmill was learning a new trade. Silver Oak has now installed or repaired numerous windmills for others, adding a new and much needed stream of income as he slowly phases out of landscaping in town.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

Silver Oak installs the plumbing from the windmill to our tiny house (trailer)

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

Another windmill Silver Oak has worked on

Our 3060 watts of solar panels and eight six-volt batteries have served us well, rarely needing the generator to charge the batteries except in unusual circumstances. That is, until the past month. Our first set of batteries wore out prematurely because of the severe abuse they received the first 18 months because we added components little by little as finances allowed. That’s not the ideal way to set up an alternative power system, but was the only choice at the time. This month we used tax refund money to buy a new set of batteries, but most months our power expense is almost nothing, and the controversial smart meters are NOT invading our lives. Yeah! We buy propane for cooking and water heaters, but hope to someday eliminate that as well (making our own fuel with a homemade biogas digester).

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

The solar panels on our deck roof (peel and stick)

Perhaps the biggest project we’ve been working on is the greenhouse, better called a bio-shelter since we hope to utilize every square foot with in-ground and container-grown tropicals, perennial vegetables, and annuals in layers as a small food forest. We started its construction with a barn-raising two years ago, but it has remained unfinished until recently. What an exciting moment when we finally got the cover on!

In the bio-shelter and yard we are implementing more edible landscaping, intercropping various trees, shrubs, herbs, and groundcovers as a food forest. My favorite book on the subject is Eric Toensmeier’s book “Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City” in which he tells his story of acquiring a tiny property in NJ with poor soil, and transforming it into an edible and productive paradise within several years (if  you click the link and choose to purchase, I get a few cents, for which I’m grateful). We heard Eric in person at ECHO teaching about Perennial Crops and Food Forests. It’s fun figuring out which useful plants and livestock will work together to produce sustainable agriculture on our homestead.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

Skeleton of the once-hay-barn-turned-greenhouse

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

Digging holes for the tie-downs

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

More holes...

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

The rafters are all tied down so they can't blow away in a storm

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

Framing in the ends and installing vents

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

Pulling the cover on

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

The bioshelter as it looks now...waiting for doors and much more

Two skills we’ve added to our homestead activities are rendering tallow for soap-making and cooking, and making hot processed soap. It’s not nearly as hard as I always thought it must be, and it’s so satisfying to use our own homemade toxin-free soap and take one more item off the shopping list.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

Making soap

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

One batch makes many lovely bars

Several years ago I never dreamed I would so thoroughly enjoy learning about and growing edible and medicinal plants. Now I’m learning yet another activity I never dreamed I would love! In my old-ER age I’m finally learning things I’ve ignored most of my life! And loving it! The new love of my life is…(drum roll please)…fiber crafts. I’ve learned to knit and crochet, making dishcloths, potholders, caps, hair bows, scarves, rugs, and more. And the kiddos are learning with me! Eventually we dream of learning to spin, and grow our own plant and animal fibers. For now we’re having fun with yarn and fabrics found mostly at thrift stores or from repurposed clothing.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

One of my first dish cloths, knitted with crochet border

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

Rag rug I made from our old worn out shirts...every family member represented

Actually, Blossom was the first to learn knitting and crochet, (remember our fall vacation at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park?). She was my beginner coach and together we learn from books and YouTube videos. Now during daily family Scripture readings, rides in the car, or the younger children reading to me I can be productive with my hands. I’ll be sharing more about this in the future.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

The children and I had a booth at the Heritage Festival selling hand-made items

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

Twins born last month

Stay tuned to hear more!

Blessings,

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

PS. Click here to see the list of “beyond organic” foods available through Full Circle Farm, and sign up for email notices of when and where in FL they will be delivered regularly.

Linked w/Natural Living Mama, Chicken Chick, Barn Hop, Growing Home, Backyard Farming Connection, Down Home Blog Hop, Frugally Sustainable, Homemaking, Wildcrafting Wednesday, HomeAcre Hop, Old Fashioned Friday, Little House in the Suburbs, From the Farm Blog Fest, Farmgirl Friday, and Heritage Homesteading.

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

Some of Evenstar's never-ending supply of adorable bunnies, great fertilizer producers and income for her

How Does Our Homestead Grow?  Part II

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23 Responses to “How Does Our Homestead Grow? Part II”

  1. I am interested in learning more about your organic homemade cornbread that you feed to your chicks. Would you be willing to share your recipe with me?

  2. Julia says:

    This is AMAZING! We are homesteaders at heart and I LOVE all of your projects!

    • Rose Petal says:

      Homesteading is something you can do, to a certain extent, anywhere…I think it’s a mindset more than anything. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Gentle Joy says:

    What a lot of wonderful activities going on!!! So many ideas for us…. especially if we ever get to more property in the country…. for now, we are doing so many things here on our “Homestead Wannabe” in the city. :) Thank you for sharing this.

  4. Vickie says:

    I love reading about all your activities. The bioshelter looks fabulous, as does your soap! I am in awe of all the things you do!

  5. Angela says:

    I have learned so much from reading your blog. We are slowly but surely becoming homesteaders. I am really interested in edible landscaping and was wondering if you had any suggestions of resources for plants that can be grown in my area(NC). Also, love your handmade items and if you ever decide to sell them online count me as a customer. Have a blessed week! :)

    • Rose Petal says:

      Slowly but surely is how we’ve always done it too. In Eric Toensmeier’s book “Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City” he describes all the plants they use in their edible landscaping in New Jersey (I refered to it in my post above). We get a lot of our more tropical edibles from ECHO which I’ve also written several posts about. I’m not sure about NC specifically, but since that is between FL and NJ you could tailor your landscaping accordingly. Lots of our tropical edibles like cranberry hibiscus could be grown as a fast growing annual (and easily save seeds in the fall), and the cold hardy perennials of NJ would probably do ok there too.

      My daughter and I would like to open an Etsy shop…I’ll announce it if/when I do! :)

    • Cynthia Rose says:

      I first learned about edible landscaping from a webinar on Seed Savers by Rosalind Creasy and from reading her book (from the library, of course). Because of that book, I will be planting a small plot wheat this fall for a spring harvest. I found the book to have a lot of resources. I don’t know if her webinar is archived at seedsavers.org or not.

  6. I just found your site through the From the Farm link party. Wow. I love your crafts and the way of life you have here. I spent an hour just going through your old links and posts!

  7. Your family is truly remarkable. I don’t know where you find the time to blog in addition to everything else you do, but I appreciate it and thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop! I will be featuring you this week.

    Have a great week!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

    • Rose Petal says:

      I am honored! I actually don’t have much time for blogging these days which is why the blog has been sadly neglected. Thanks so much!

  8. Debbie says:

    Rose Petal,
    Wow! I’ve been following you since the beginning, when you first moved to your land and I have to day just how impressive you and your entire family are with all you have achieved together. You are truly inspiring to all homesteaders! Thank you for sharing your life lessons and projects at Dandelion House…. Best to you all for a plentiful summer! Deb

  9. jean says:

    Your homestead is looking wonderful! Love your chicks and new dog. And I do so like your bioshelter. Takes a lot of fun work to do a homestead, especially off grid. My husband and I are working our way towards off grid in the near future. We are partly there.

  10. Jenny says:

    So enjoyed reading about your homestead. Thank you for sharing with us at the HomeAcre Hop!

  11. Cynthia Rose says:

    Thanks for your blog. I know it takes time away from your homesteading activities, but it is inspirational. Living in CO we cannot grow a lot of the plants you can grow in FL, but we are slowly expanding what we can grow with the goal of providing for ourselves over the winter. I appreciate what you wrote about moving forward one step at a time (with the occasional failures or wheel spinning). My current project is making my own toiletries – lotion, shampoo & toothpaste.

    • ivylover says:

      I’d love to see your recipe… it’s something I’ve been considering

      • Rose Petal says:

        Here it is!!! Cornbread, the way we make it.

        Mix wet and dry ingredients thoroughly, separately, then combine till just evenly mixed (don’t over-mix). Place in greased cake pan and bake at 350 for 25-30 mins.

        Wet:
        2 c sour (or unsoured) raw milk
        4 eggs
        1/2 cup butter (cut in pea-sized pieces)
        3/8 cups raw honey

        Dry:
        4 cups organic cornmeal
        4 tsp baking powder
        2 tsp sea salt