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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stay tuned to hear more!
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.