Sunday, November 29, 2015

TURKEY CARCASS. The broth how-to's.

Warning: the tardiness of this post is only a depiction of how crazy busy our life has been pre-wedding. Please forgive our absence. 

It's not every year that I can get around to using our turkey carcass. But this year my crazy life allowed it. Don't get me wrong, I always try to cut down on food waste. But let's be honest, I'm no super-mom and sometimes things get thrown out. That was however not the case for the remnants of our bird. 

My real motive all along was to make some delicious homemade turkey stock. And so I did just that. 

Reeling from the piles of dishes to wash, for who else but moi, I threw in the cleaning towel. The next thing j threw wasn't the dirty dishes like you might be guessing, but rather the bones & all that was left from the pan. The entirety went into my crock pot.........
#favoritekitchenappliance 

Adding garlic, dried onion, parsley and cold water over it all until the bones were submerged, I turned it on high and walked away.... Hence the favorite appliance tag. 

There you have it! I cooked it on high most of the day. Ive been told 4 hours is enough, but I've never been one to do just the bare minimum with just about anything. I have a little problem with going over board on being prepared. So I cooked it for a little over 24 hours. Yum!

The next day I picked out the bones, poured off the broth through a fine mesh strainer, and saved the little meat remnants for another meal. 

Out of the stock I made chicken and dumplings from scratch. Double yum! And yes I'll totally post that recipe soon. 

The turkey meat which boiled off the carcass was frozen to be saved for turkey chowder in the coming weeks. 

From just that one bird we not only had copious amounts of thanksgiving dinner leftovers but were also able to create two more meals. Talk about repurposing resources, and it's so easy! 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

CANNING ELK MEAT with the "NEIGHBORS"


Last 
week our friends from down the road, hence "neighbors", asked for our help in canning up some elk meat. Of course we were all over that! An opportunity to hone our preserving skills?!

Let us at it!!!

Little did we know, we would be learning a lot more that night. 

In my mind I had imagined a nice elk roast we could simply portion out to can. Show my friend Stacy a thing or to that I have leaned about canning. Bing bang boom, easy as pie right?

Wrong. 

To our surprise as much as our friends, we had before us a full shoulder of elk... Fore leg, rib cage, a little fur still left.... Hmm this job was proving to be a little more complicated.  


Much to my gratitude we ended up with a team of 7 people all working toward a mutual goal. Team work is imminent. At this point there was myself and Spencer. His cousin KC and his girlfriend Sarah. Stacey and her fiancĂ© Nick provided this meat abundance and Nicks brother Wes came to assist as well. 

Just setting the scene peeps. It was a long night. Here's the short version...

Before too long KC had all the knives sharpened as the rest of us stared with perilous eyes as Spencer and Nick debated where to make the first cut. 
 
Being that this was the first time any of us had performed this sort of task, it is safe to say we were flying blind!

We decided to seperate the shoulder from the rib cage first. Once that was done we had to remove some outer meat and rinse it off a bit, it had been sitting on ice in the back of truck for 24 hours. 

As the boys began carving the shoulder, and handing us what seemed like 15 pound giant slabs, us girls began rinsing it and removing varying visceral tissues, cartilage, blood, and tendon/ligament parts. 

As a side note. The above a pieces which I ever to as 'the unusables' is cleaned again of any blood and vessel tissue and frozen for dog food. Even though we won't eat it there's still a great deal of usable protein. For piece of mind I make sure my dogs aren't eating raw bloody meat. We just thaw a little every few days, boil till fully cooked, cool, and serve. It helps to supplement the cost of dog food when we mix the two. 

I digress. 

So we finally have the meat cleaned in long beautiful deep red cuts. So we...
1. cubed quite a bit. 
2. Threw it into sterilized pint jars. Finger tightened the rings (just to where the ring stops)
3. Placed them into our pressure cooker.
4. Once the steam from the pitchcock was constant 10 minutes the counterweight was added. 
5. We then maintained 10 pounds of pressure for 75 minutes. 
6. Turning off the burner we let everything cool naturally. 
7. During this time you may or may not hear the lids popping. If they haven't popped by the time they cool to room temperature DO NOT USE. 
For more in depth canning instructions see some of my other canning posts. 

During the canning process Spencer cooked up a strip, I'll admit it was a little weird to eat it after being elbow deep in that quartercarcas. But still it was quite tasty and very tender. 

We didn't get done until after midnight. But we learned a lot! Such as:

1. Be more prepared. 
2. Start earlier. 
3. Prepare more. 
4. Clean the kitchen first!
5. Uh, get prepared?
6. Make a preservation GAME PLAN!

Ok you get the point. I always kick myself for jumping in head first but heck it all gets done eh? What can I say I'm a act now and think later gal when a fun new task comes rolling my way. 

Our family here at the High Desert Homestead would like to give a special thanks to our friends Nick and Stacey! Thanks guys for thinking of and including us in that elk-xperience, it was a memory for the books. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

CLOTH DIAPERING: THE BASICS

Note: This post contains affiliate links. That being said, I want everyone to know I would never and will never promote products I don't absolutely love and actually use in my home. 


In the last few weeks I have received some curiosity with our choice to clothe diaper little Murphy, and, why did we stop with her big sister, Ireland. I've received even more questions pertaining to what products we actually use and what works well. So, I have decided to give you my clothe diaper run down as it were, so hopefully your munchkin won't have poo running down his/her leg..

Hardy har har, one poo joke down, now we can move on...

Well let's just start at the beginning... I will try to give ya'll the short sweet version.

We began our clothe diaper journey back in 2012 when our first princess came into the world. We were fortunate enough to receive a diaper service as a shower gift from my mom and it was all down hill from here.

If you decide to go the diaper service route, all the power to ya, we opted out after a few months due to the expenses. Basically we found buying a nice organic or even regular diapers at times were the same price. We also couldn't afford to buy a whole diaper system of our own at that time. So, we whimped out and dropped our diaper dreams. A couple other things that we didn't like about the service:

- have to hold onto those diapers for a whole week.. yuck..

- don't get to keep the pre-folds when you move up a size.

- more expensive, as I mentioned above.

- unless you ask the company, its not guaranteed they are using eco-friendly products.

- stuck to one style of diaper, water-proof cover and a pre-fold.

Yes these are all quite trivial but at the time it seemed like a big deal.

I love buying all our own supplies.

I buy all of our pre-folds and diaper covers on Amazon! What's better is with our prime membership, we get discounted prices aaaaand, wait for it..... free shipping! Can you say boo-yah? I know I can! BOOYAH baby!

Here's a few links to what we've tried!











KEEP in mind I am a bargain shopper so I waited until a lot of these went on sale. A couple items aren't exactly what brand I bought but the same products and I've tried them all.  I started putting them in a wish list a saved for them throughout the pregnancy.

So as you saw above I had a couple different covers and also showed two different styles of diaper inserts. Oh and those adorable little bamboo/charcoal odor blockers. I love anything charcoal, its works amazingly for something so simple.

So I do two different types of cloth diapers. I use waterproof covers with the unbleached cotton pre-folds primarily, but I dapple in pocket diapers and re-usables. I'll just say now that the only reason I don't do pocket diapers only is because I feel they don't stay nice as long. You can wipe out an poo on a waterproof one since they are virtually plastic or non-absorbent inside and pocket diapers aren't. Pocket diapers are amazing but if you don't buy these.... then you're in for some stained up diapers, and stains just make them dingier faster. Ok end rant.



I love cloth diapering. Some of my friends and family think I'm a nerd, well maybe that part is true, but its really not a crazy time commitment like some think it is.

Here are some of the best things about cloth diapering:

- you only have to buy them once, all the different sizes that is, unless of course someone turns them into dish rags!

- they are so cheap to wash, like cents on the dollar compared to buying disposables.

- you can get creative, with all the covers in all sorts of colors and patterns the cuteness is un-ending.

- there are so many options! From pre-folds and pocket diapers to reusables and birds-eye, the choices go on and on. And everyone has their favorite.

- if you run out, all you have to do is run the wash.

- you don't have to keep buying them since you can use them child after child.

- organic non-bleached Egyptian cotton cloth diapers... I don't know about you but that sounds great.

- no solid waste to add to your trash.

- chemical-free diapering! And apparently its easier to potty train, we shall see I guess!


Ok folks that's all for the this diaper run-down! Next time I'll show ya'll exactly how I fold and diaper my girl.

Now I have to go change one... whoopee!




HOW WE AFFORD TO HOMESTEAD: Part Two

Hi all! I'm back to talk more homestead on a budget how tos.

With all of this talk about not spending money and saving, you may ask how we keep on task with money we actually get to spend. This was the hardest part.. learning to budget and learning to leave our money at home was the biggest hurdle to get over. 

If you were thinking we became this frugal overnight then I would laugh, we STILL impulse buy at times... But we're so lame our impulse buys are usually something like new socks or replacing something recently broken. So, for success on a homestead:

5. Keep track of your budget! 

Organization on a homestead is a huge part to keeping a farm. Creating some sort of binder or box we could store all our vital info in was crucial for us. We have so many tasks to complete and things to remember in a given day so we must have order! 

We keep it all together in our "High Desert Homestead" binder. Our production records for meat and eggs, each animals 'farm profile' which basically tracks their health and wellness, boarding lease agreements, owner/emergency and veterinarian info. I keep the "Homestead Fund" ledger, and all of our future ideas/designs for our farm here also. 

What is the 'Homestead Fund" you ask? This is where our whole farm budget lives. We track all expenses 'homestead' in this binder, in an effort to keep the farm budget separate from our day to day living expenses and Spencer's work income. 

So you guessed it, all the board money from the horses goes into the fund, is then delegated to animals' monthly feed costs, and then again to whatever other expenses are necessary. 

This also helps us track our inventory. We keep a tally of all supplies and farm essentials we have so if we need it for something we know it's been checked and stored.... Somewhere? But if we are to cut costs, holding onto useful items is always good for the next point in case we want to repurpose or get multiplied used out of an item. 

6. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. 

I repurpose everything possible that I can. In a world full of trash, transfer centers and pollution, I feel accomplished when I use anything more than once. Everything counts in the world of carbon foot prints, and ours gets smaller and smaller every year... at least I hope. I'm not saying you have to build your house out of 100% recycled material, although that would be rad, but even saving your bacon drippings counts! Side note: a while back I found a homemade bacon drippings mayonnaise recipe... uh yum. 

Moving on..

Heres a few examples of how/what we reuse on the farm:

-I wanted a warm rug for the bathroom in our chilly and humble double wide... So I cut up a dozen pairs of blue jeans and viola! chunky crocheted denim rug. 

-Spencer built our main rabbit hutch out of 100% free recycled parts from around our property, some was ours, some was literally just laying around when we got here. 

-We built our hog pens from free pallets.  Our compost bin, vegetable boxes, garden gates, tons of wedding decorations, all made from repurposed pallets.

- Had a thought about buying Ireland a school desk with the opening top for our new homeschooling adventure. Well Spencer came home with one last night! Granted it needs a face life, but what a great project! And? FREE! That will be a DIY video for another day. 

- Spencer just finished compiling all the parts to build our own chicken plucker! Instead of spendy retail ones, we are using all repurposed parts. A Whole post on that to come!!!

We find treasures in beat up items which are looked over everyday. We break them down, build them back up, and make them new again. Sometimes on the homestead we are able to go out and buy something, this is usually in the case of, 'we need it right now and can't live without it!'

Last year Spencer got a whole brand new set of power tools, a very very necessary expense since he uses them literally everyday. This was, like all things budgeted into our expenses responsibly. Something we like to refer to as a 'one time expense' meaning this isn't recurring. This way we can buy a nicer set that will last us longer.

Yes, sometimes we would love to grab our cash and head for.. somewhere you spend big amounts of money? 

But the future of our farm, family, and fulfilling our homestead dreams keeps us focused on the end result! One of the most sustainable things we can do to cut costs is to find purpose in something old like I said above. When funds are delegated better and you ditch the retail purchasing addiction, you can focus on other aspects of sustainability on the homestead, maybe like... a garden perhaps? Maybe some meat/dairy livestock??

7. Grow your own whenever possible. 

If you came to our house looking for what we grow ourselves you would find:

- Broiler chickens, we let a rooster and 3 hens live to try hatching our own red ranger broilers.

- Two pigs--- they live in freezer now...

- Meat Rabbits, one of which is pregnant!

- Some lamb in the deep freeze left over from moms ewes.

- Home canned and frozen veggies, some still from last years canning.

- I even grew some hops for us to try home brewing this fall.

- Organic nongmo vegetable and fruit garden 

- 14 egg laying hens

Growing our own meat and veggies wasn't exactly easy either. It took a great deal of time, patience, and lesson learning to get where we are. And believe me, we have a very long way to go. Our goal for next year is to grow ALL of our produce, and can enough to last through the winter.

In order to execute these skills I wish so fervently to teach my children I must first learn them myself. 

8. We never stop learning!

As I've mentioned a hundred times over we do whatever we can ourselves. The world is our classroom and there couldn't be a better time to start learning than now. If you can't afford to hire someone to do a certain task, then its best to learn it yourself if possible. Things such as:

- repairing your own vehicles and equipment

- raising meat and egg birds

- butchering chickens

- butchering rabbits

- treating rabbits for mites 

- welphing puppies

- administering vaccinations/medications to livestock and companion animals.

- making homemade deodorant, shampoo, nipple balm, pomade, and beard oils  

- organic pest/ weed control 

- homeschooling versus expensive pre-school

- painting your own house

I could go on forever... maybe some day I'll just write a whole list for ya'll

These weren't all things we already knew how to do. We had to learn them at times, and at other times we chose to learn these skills. Having a few sets of skills on a homestead makes this lifestyle that much easier. And much much cheaper in the long run so you CAN save for your dream farm.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

HOW WE AFFORD TO HOMESTEAD. Part One

Life on a homestead can be very expensive at times. But I don't want that to hinder your sight of how possible homesteading with minimal funds really is.

The money was never a worry to me, I know that sounds cliche, that I don't need money for happiness or we don't need money to feel secure. But honestly, I knew I wanted to expand my homesteading dreams and I was not going to let a trivial thing like money stop me. 

Frequently I am asked, "How the heck can you afford that?!" I just want you all to keep in mind that this lifestyle is possible on a budget, and I'm here to show you how. Here's a two-part peak into our homestead life and how we make it work.


Before I begin let me preface this by saying when we first began this venture last fall I was boarding 6 horses, not including my own mare. This was our start up (though we already had 6 laying hens). That money paid to feed my horse and all the other animals including our dogs, so we could then invest in other necessities.

I'm not saying to need to go out and find some horses or go gambling, I am simply setting the scene of our transformation. Don't mistake, we love this life and we chose it again everyday. That being said, what I am about to share with you is just a few things we do in our day to day life to live with a smaller foot print and afford to supervise the growth of our food. 

1. Don't let the money scare you!!!

Never let it stop you either, work hard, and your dream will be attainable. DON'T focus on what you can't afford, start with something sustainable that you CAN afford. I am confident that with time and determination, anyone can be a homesteader. 

Maybe your first sustainable act as a homesteader is a savings account, or starting your own sourdough. If you already have a garden save seeds from your harvest for next year. Go berry picking and preserve your loot. Maybe you do have a pasture and are entertaining the thought of boarders.


I know I know, not everyone can board horses. 

And that's ok. This is just one example of how we make extra money.

2. Create new streams of income wherever you can.

It doesn't matter what it is. The possibilities are endless. Here are a few things we do to make extra money on the homestead:

- We sell chicken and duck eggs

- Boarding horses 

- Spencer has numerous professional skills that he uses often for side jobs when we need extra income. Some include painting, landscaping, wood cutting, manual labor, auto mechanics and small engine repair etc..

- I sell Certified Therapeutic Grade Essential oils through my DoTERRA business for supplementary income. More about that to follow. Learn more or join my team here!

3. Don't spend unnecessary cash! 

If you don't absolutely need it, don't bother. Minimize purchases. Cut down clutter.

Personally I would rather dig through a thousand thrift stores and goodwills to find a hidden treasure, but I'm just a nerd like that. We also don't buy anything on credit. All large purchases are made in cash. Yes, it may take longer to save the money but the piece of mind is worth every minute in the long run. 


Never buy things brand new unless ABSOLUTELY necessary. And believe me there are necessary times, but when you save for it you can prepare to buy something of QUALITY. 

Try Craigslist.. there's always a plethora of farm essential and people with tons of it! Animals, tractors, tools, vehicles, you name it.

But Quincy I really have no money but want to do anything possible to change our diet, lifestyle, anything!? Help?

Yes I hear you. I to was in panic mode when we began and there was no way in sight to afford this life!!! 

But peeps... There totally is, which brings me to this...

4. Barter when ever possible! 


I love the barter system, countless exchanges with no paper green anywhere in sight. Its a beautiful thing people. Trading someone for something I already have? Heck yes I will! Like eggs, organic free-range chicken, organic pork, organic vegetable starts, babysitting, a hen and a rooster, or even beer... no really. 

I am a big supporter of giving something when you get something in the farm community. It just feels like the homestead way, and that fills my cup. So, occasionally I provide beer and food for garden/weeding help. Maybe you'll get some cuts of our homegrown pork for manual labor. When a friend brings me a plant for my garden, I send them with a dozen eggs.  


I even got my hanging rabbit cage and 2 nest boxes from a friend's landlord, left behind by previous tenants! And for free? Score!! Just because you have no money doesn't mean you can't find it for free or maybe find something of yours you can trade. Its totally Dancing the Wolves, you should try it sometime. You can even come barter with me, I would love to help your farm ventures.


You can even become members of bartering groups that are looking to expand their contacts. This is a great way to find things you need on the homestead. I know some folks that trade fresh produce for farm fresh eggs. If you think long enough I bet there is a skill or something that you can create from within the home to barter with. 



We came to own our riding lawn mower, weed whacker, leaf blower, and chain saw from bartering auto mechanics and small engine repair. Even a free mower rental to cut our field. Boom. Barter baby! Everyone has some thing they can barter with. What is yours? 


When it's all said and don't we do this because this is how the homestead life calls to us. This is how I feel the Lord would want us to live. Of our own hand and of our own heart. And just because we don't make 6 figures in a year does not mean we don't deserve this life. 

We want more than anything to provide a healthy wholesome lifestyle and attitude for our children. To respect and feel secure in where their food came from. After all, this is why we do what we do, for the love of the food. 

I know I'm throwing a lot of words around. Like minimize, barter... sustainable...healthy 

I'm not asking you to change your life, unless you want to. Food for thought. 

Stay tuned for Part Two

Peace, Q

Thursday, September 24, 2015

OUR ACCIDENTAL PUPPY MIRACLE. AND WHAT I WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY

As many of you know our dog had puppies on the homestead a few weeks ago. As many of you don't know, this was not planned.



I had wanted to breed her in the future, coincidentally the dog who performed the act was in fact the sire I already had in mind! Lucky me huh? 

 Miss Panda

Or not. At least they are full breed so they can be sold to help pay for mama to be spayed. And hopeful;;y begin the savings for an ACL surgery our other dod badly needs. Here are my girls.. Mama is Dollie (left) and my older girl, Dixie Mae (right) who is the one needing surgery.


Don't get me wrong I love puppies, but since my female dog is quite young to be having a litter, I was scared for her. And she is proving to be a realitely attentive mother. Although she does sit on them from time to time.... I can only imagine what's it's like to have seven babies.. Yeesh. 

Anyway, as this wasn't planned and I hadn't much time to think ahead. It was hard to tell if she was pregnant originally. Taking her to a vet for an X-ray seemed an unnecessary intervention for something she can instinctually handle. Nonetheless the last few days of her pregnancy were slightly stressful.


She was bred twice. I know you're probably wondering how the heck this was an accident, and I'll touch on that story later. But I will say this, if you've ever had to wrangle two, prime aged pit bulls, you are in for a chore my friend. 

The first time the two were found stuck together was June 30th. Shortly after, I believe only 5 days later it happened again. Since the average gestation for this size dog is 63 days, I assumed we would see puppies by August 31st. They came on the 29th. Seven fat and noisy puppies. 

Unfortunately the last puppy to arrive, number eight, didn't make it. She got stuck with what remained of the after birth, and mama being so tired couldn't gather anymore strength to push. 

Dogs are very intuitive, being so I, believe Dollie knew the pup had already passed away. She didn't show much interest in her or our attempts to revive her. She simply went on tending to the other seven. 

At least next time I'll have already done this. I'll have already learned how to help birth a pup and felt their first breaths. Next time a puppy gets stuck, I'll have a more direct route to a resolution, instead of a shot in the dark. 

If we ever breed dogs on purpose.. There are a few things I would do differently.

First I would create a birthing kit. Being equipped with some medical essentials to help mama throughout birth was very helpful. Granted, I had the things I needed, they just weren't properly organized... so yes there was a little scrambling after I had noticed she'd already dropped the first pup.

Second, creating a better whelping box may have helped. She had just enough room in her oversized kennel (with the top removed) but as more puppies came it started to seem cramped. After all the mess was cleaned she was happy in there for a bit. Now it is even more cramped than before, since these puppies are growing like weeds, we have to either make mama get in or just bring the puppies out on a blanket to her. Its simply too hot to nurse 7 pups all confined like that.

Thirdly.... babies stink. Especially puppies. We have a relatively small house, luckily its still warm enough to have windows open. But they need a better place to grow...that is not in my house. At almost 3 weeks old they are beginning to go everywhere! I am in the process of buying a large round play pen for them to have outside. Having the luxury of planning your litters is better in regards to weather since its far too cold to have them in our separated garage at night. For now they are fine, as some have already found their forever homes, so I won't have tons of puppies for much longer.

I'm cherishing their fat, adorable yet stinky butts while I can. I love babies, what can I say? And watching them nurse with mama? Gah, my heart melts every time. I'm in love.


Savoring the puppy breath..

Q

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

WHAT TO THINK ABOUT BEFORE FREE-RANGING YOUR BIRDS.

If you were to ever come to my house, you would be greeted by my noisy and nosy herd of birds. That was, until this last week. Ok ok save the ducks, but they really are much better behaved than the chickens..

You see I used to love letting my birds free-range. Its better for them in so many ways, that just made it feel like a no brainer. Only, its totally NOT a no brainer. There is more trial, error, hair-pulling out work, that goes into free-range than I ever thought there would be than if the birds are simply penned up. YES, if they are penned it may cost more in the long run with feed and such but it is so worth it versus the mental anguish I've experienced otherwise. So heres a few points that made us choose to pen up the gangster birds.




See Mr. Huey and his girl friend here..? Making a dust bath in our "yard"... Grrr



1. They poo er'where

I swear, its all over. And if you've ever had chickens before you know that a roosting chicken, is a pooping chicken, oddly enough they poo while they sleep. So hopefully you're lucky enough to not have yours drop all over your outdoor dining set. Or your car. Deck. Rabbits.. oh ya its happened...Driveway. Don't even get me started on everytime the garage door being accidentally left open... You name it, and they pood on it. Remember that time I told ya'll about the birds getting into the house creating a literal sh** storm? Yeesh, that was a rough one.

2. They are ALWAYS hungry

No matter if they just ate or not, if my flower beds or garden gate was left open... All bets are off. I spent more time and money trying to block them out of places, when I could have just blocked them in.  Looking back to the times I would stand looking out the window on summer morning, coffee in hand and so peaceful, only to discover what terror rained down on my poor veggies. I won't lie, these birds now how to make me cry. Ive built structures,fences, hung netting but those little buggers are crafty suns a guns! Oh ya they also love cat food... 

3. So.. where are the eggs?

Once given free reign of the yard it is impossible to find cozy places they lay eggs. Yes the coop training helped, in the beginning... As they spent more and more time outdoors, the more comfortable they were to wander and find a nice little cranny to lay all your glorious eggs. I began seeing less and less eggs in the coop, but would randomly pass them as I did my chores. In the hay barn. On top of one rabbit hutch (hence the first point in the case of the rabbit who was pood on) Under neath the hanging rabbit cages. In the flower beds. Under the deck. In the garage.mWe even found one in one of the kids' play push cars.

4. They are the neighbors you hate.

After I had let my birds to free range for a few weeks, I had thought they'd settle into a good routine. Coming out in the morning, then roosting themselves back up at night in the coop. At first I would go close to door after dark, but since they grew so good at roost training, I found that unnecessary. Until, my neighbors trudged over and expressed their opinion of my menacing and rude birds. Unaware they had started to venture out at the crack of dawn with early summer sunlight, while everyone was still sleeping mind you, and scratch the neighbors lawns and beds to high heaven. I apologized and promised it would continue no more. In some spots they even scratched down to the roots on some ponderosa and aspen trees. Naughty hoodlum birds. Nice job Q, tick off the neighbors. After a few dozen eggs restitution, penned up birds, and a little work with a rake things are right as rain. 

5. The owls/hawks love them. Oh and dogs.

Last year I lost half a dozen free-range birds to owls in the night and hawks during the day. Owls being nocturnal see well in the night, chickens however, can barely see at all at night. If not properly coop trained, a young chicken will just go to sleep on the ground, leaving it vulnerable, so running to shelter may not be an option. Aside from that, having friends with dogs can, at times prove difficult if the owner isn't consistent or the dog likes to chase/kill small prey. We lost 3 birds to friends' dogs in the last year. This is extremely unfortunate since we have to then tell a friend their dog is no longer welcome if the birds are out. We love dogs but we also cannot tolerate nor welcome a dog who kills our farm animals. We cannot always trust our property either as a neighbor dog could come over just as easily as a coyote. Thus, we penned them up.


There you have it. Choosing to keep the birds inside was a decision that took me months to decide. Watching my birds peck and scratch around in the yard used to bring me so much happiness.. But you know what also makes me happy? Going bare foot on occasion. Guess what doesn't make me happy? Stepping my bare foot in poo. Yuck. 

There are so many great ways to use these annoying traits to your advantage though. So stop sharpening your butcher knife like I did and use these clever birds to your advantage. Their droppings are invaluable as fertilizer if composted, they do wonders if put to work tilling the garden, and can even assist you in turning your compost pile. Some where recently I read about the tilling power of 1 chicken, it is positively amazing the different ways you can use the birds. Just imagine what could be done with our whole flock.


We're enjoying fresh eggs every day and we're not stepping in poop anymore. I feel a sense of cleanliness, even in our outside environment, finally. Having poop all over really starts to wear on you. Yes, I choose to have many animals, so, poop is a given responsibility. Only now all we have to do is clean the coop. Save the ducks... blueprints for their winter shelter are stilling being drawn. Luckily they spend all their time away from the house, out in the fields, under the irrigation. And that is a post for another day ;)

Q

Friday, September 11, 2015

TODAY I CHOSE HAPPINESS.

It's been a tough day. A mixture of emotions flooded over me as I recalled what day it actually is. It's become so regular, so ordinary to hear people slanderize about 9/11. It's become so normal for the anniversary to come and go. 

I'm sure it's not the same for everyone. But a lot of sadness rushed over me. About the state of our great country. About the way we reacted initially to the attack, and how we still react to it today. 

I was in 5th grade when I awoke on a normal day just like any other. I remember waking up on my own, which wasn't usual, mom always came to rouse me. 

As I walked from my room through the house and down to moms room I heard her gasp, and dad trying to get ahold of my oldest brother Zak by phone, who had only two years before joined the U.S. Army. 

I turned to the TV and there it was.. The first tower a blaze. I didn't much understand at first but I was scared just the same. I stood there in shock as we watched the second plane hit... 

Confusion

Sadness

Fear

All of these emotions flooded my small childhood body. Unsure of what had actually happened. Mom said there had been an accident, although it wasn't, I'm sure she didn't know what better to say. 

In a moment like that what can you say....

What questions can you ask?

What am I seeing?

Who would do this?

Why...?

What emotions should you feel?

Hate

Anger 

Confusion...again. 

I remember watching the news in school. It was far from a normal day at our small elementary school in a tiny Oregon town. What could we do BUT watch, as our country looked for justice and sought revenge almost instantly. 

The lives lost on that day are remembered in the hearts of our many citizens. They won't be forgotten. 

In the midst of all that was lost we looked to our leaders, and what did they give, but a call to mor death and sadness. 

Though we all have our theories as to what happened on that day, it matters not. That day that will forever live in infamy in all our hearts. 

I wish not to debate.. not to compare thoughts and opinions. I can simply search google and find every conspiracy theory known to man. Maybe one of them is true. Maybe none. 

On this day I wish to dedicate thoughts and prayers to the family members who are still grieving. 

I ask everyone of you to take a moment of silence to pray and remember the souls lost 14 years ago. 

I chose to be happy. To think of all those souls, happy. Peaceful and at rest, not vengeful. I chose happiness. For what I have and for the promise of what is to come. 

This is how we honor them. This is how their spirits will live on. How we can keep moving forward. How we live another day, as a legacy to those who are no longer. 

For those who can no longer, we shall carry them in our hearts. Praying and trusting in the possibility of a more peaceful tomorrow. 

Amen. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

DIY CROCHET DENIM RAG RUG

Transforming old jeans into my new floor decor. That's what I did this month folks. 

Ok, maybe it took me a little longer than a month...

So, my lastest time killer during kiddo nap times and other such down times. I made a rag rug from old blue jeans to fulfill a serious bathroom rug absence.  

I worked out my "homestead muscle" basically I chosing the longer, harder, but cheaper and more encironmentally friendly route. Recycling something we no longer needed and some seriously torn up pants. 

After watching a video blogger from one of my favorite YouTube channels, Julia Dreads, make a rag rug from old t-shirts I knew I could figure out something similar for my cold bathroom floor. I researched and found I didn't have the materials I needed for that sort of rug. What I did have was a surplus of denim. Plus I already had a chunky crochet hook on hand. Thus I began this bad boy.

This type of rug is normally made out of strips of old sheets, though I'm glad that all I had was denim. It's so us, Spencer and I love denim! 

Very durable. Easy to clean. Warm-ish...




Thursday, September 3, 2015

MINT IN THE NEST BOXES.

Just the other day I was reading an article from a fellow homestead blogger, Jill Winger, at The Prairie Homestead. When she mentioned she puts herbs in her hens nest boxes I was a little surprised. 

But then I imagined how I love to smell fresh herbs around me, and how nice some of the herbal essential oils were for me during labor. 

That must be similar to a chicken laying an egg right? 

Ahem.. So I figured, heck I have more mint than I know what to do with... Maybe Ill let the girls have a taste? I gathered it up during the early evening while they were still out scratching, and placed in the the boxes so they would have nice nests to come back to. 

I don't know about ya'll but my laying hens are divas. If their nests aren't properly clean and bedded, they just don't lay as well. They prefer a clean, good smelling environment for peak production, and I am happy to give them that. 

On a side note this was a great helping activity for my toddler. She loved picking the mint and taking it off to the coop. Trying to involve her in as much fun animal related chores as possible is really important at her age. She wants so badly to help, in times she can't, but this time she could and was proud of herself for doing so. Narrating herself all the while, and making mummy's heart happy. Involving her now while she's interested will only help later fuel her own feeling of responsibility for the farm animals. 

So I digress...

To say the least the mint was a hit with the girls. They absolutely loved it. I only wish I hadn't figured this out so late in the season so my girls could have enjoyed all my other herbs. But there will always be next year.  

Or this winter... While I experiment with growing indoors.. under light.. Or maybe some DIY green houses. Wouldn't it be great to incorporate auquapinics into the homestead? Talk about self sustainability people! Just food for thought of course.





Sunday, August 30, 2015

TREATING EAR MITES IN OUR MEAT RABBITS.

There are days around here when every is peachy keen.

Then there are days where, when it rains, it pours. 

The last month on the homestead it has been a down pour of unfortunate events. My meat birds got sour crop, one corner of my garden was mostly demolished by my mare, oh ya and my whole sunflower patch, worst of all, my meat rabbits succumbed to ear mites...



Though this is the first time I have dealt with ear mites in rabbits, I have much experience with them in dogs. Many of the dogs I have owned have suffered from ear mites at one time or another. They are easy to treat when noticed and diagnosed the early. 


I dearly wish I had taken some photos for y'all of my rabbits. I completely spaced in the frenzy of the first few minutes that I forget to document. As I scrambled around in the barn going from cage to cage checking soft fuzzy ears, the very last thing on my mind was trying to hold a rabbit still with one hand while photographing with the other. And be it known that I do no have anything more fancy than an iPhone camera... something I mean to amend ASAP..

Anyway..

I first noticed the infestation on my buck, Chester, who I later discovered had the worst case of all the adults. Luckily none of the kits; the ones headed for slaughter, were infested. Chester was exhibiting a reddish scabby crust inside his ears. What were once soft flexible ears, were now hardened, still soft, though they had lost some fur. 



Not a good sign...  In all my research I discovered that once they begin to lose fur on the outside of their ears or on their neck, the mites are beginning to spread. Luckily I did not pick at the scabs, which are caused from incessant itching by the rabbit, because this will cause more bleeding, feeding the mites, their eggs, and causing sever pain to the rabbit. It is better to treat the rabbit then wait for the crust to either resolve itself and fall off, or gently remove it a few days after.

I frantically searched the web for answers to my questions. I turned to many of the homestead blogs I read for support, but I exhausted that effort quickly. Nothing. Nothing that could explain a step by step plan. Until, I found several rabbit breeding forums, many of which had a variety of ideas from different rabbit folk. I asked some questions and found some other conversations that made this learning curve much smoother. 

I found out that this problem could have been avoided. And that to my amazement there are quite a few ways to treat mites in rabbits, some even vet and medication free. At this point I was jumping for joy at the fact of organically treating this problem from home. Out of the several options I just so happened to have two on hand at that very moment. 

Treatment option 1: Almond oil

I know right? Who'da thunk it! Certainly not me..

Many other oils are also sufficient like mineral oil and olive oil. There are also several essential oils that help.



The premise of the oil is to smother the bugs and their eggs. This way the pest dies before it can lay more eggs. Basically you drip the oil down into the ear canal, you can expect the rabbit to begin shaking its head. This is a good sign as it helps the oils flow through the ear more freely. 

I took a cotton ball, soaked it in oil, rubbed it inside the ear while letting some drip down inside. This can be done once a day, every 10 days until gone. You can begin removing the built up crud and scabs from the ear with a q tip or tweeter once it begins to loosen up and fall off. 

Treatment option 2: Ivermectin 1% administered at .018 cc/lb of live weight

Going the medication route won't always be my go to choice. Had the mites only infested Chester then I may have gone with only the almond oil. Unfortunately I was not so lucky. I care about the well being of my animals, as they provide a sacrifice, and my family eats. So, when your entire colony of rabbits becomes infected you do whatever possible. And in this circumstance that meant medically AND organically tackling the issue. 

For rabbits, it can be very hard to dose the proper amount of ivermectin, it is technically a swine and cattle wormer, so anyone at a feed store can't really give solid recommendations against the proper usage of the product. The dose will be on such small scale it can be easy to over dose the rabbit. Another issue can be finding a small enough syringe for the little amount of liquid you'll actually need. If you can find a 1 cc syringe that will be your best chance. I simply weighed my rabbits, each adult was roughly 5 lbs, then I multiplied it by the amount per pound. 

5.0 x 0.018 = 0.09 cc Ivermectin

A simple subcutaneous infection was needed right between the shoulder blades. Be sure to pull up the skin and make your stick at a 45 degree angle. If you've never done a sub q before I suggest having someone experienced show you, or at least employ some you tube videos... wow I never thought how easy it would be for me to do that...hmm food for though.. I digress.. I chose this administration for Chester since his case was most severe. For the girls I simply went the route of squirting it into their mouths, more like dropping, literally it was basically a drop, maybe even less. 



Upkeep and prevention is now a must to keep the rabbits healthy.

Simple changes in the barn need to made in order to eliminate the risk of this becoming a recurring condition. We need to either paint or replace the legs of our hutches all together. Since they are wood, they naturally attract dust and mites. I'm opting for painting since it seems like the faster-easier option. 

Keeping their bedding extra clean is necessary as always and beginning to bleach the hutches regularly. I poured some bleach into a spray bottle, added some essential oils, and whamo! Homemade mite killing hutch cleaner. I removed all rabbits and gave their cages a good spray down.

I can also retreat with the ivermectin every 4 weeks for 3 dosages if I'm worried. But honestly within days I noticed the scabs had receded and fluffy ears taking on their former suppleness. The rabbits don't seem sluggish anymore and have quite their itching. Thank the homestead gods!




Friday, August 28, 2015

THANK HEAVEN FOR ZUCCHINI.

I had big plans for my garden this year. BIG plans people! Of course like most of my homestead plans, they had to be amended. I did after all have a baby the end of May, even so, I've been really hard on myself. 

....And I've also been an air head and didn't prepare that well.


I spent a great deal of those last few weeks of pregnancy just lazin' around. Playing with bunnies, hiking, eating all the extravagant breakfasts Spencer made, and tending to our meat bird flock and preparing for their slaughter.

All the while my garden was crying... 

'Why don't you come take away these weeds, even 30 minutes would help!"


I know, I know. How dare I try to relax before giving birth....

Here's where I burst out into laughter, looking back now, being so hard on myself did not make me want to weed the garden anymore than before. In fact, the negative message I was sending myself, made me want to garden less. 

And that is so not me. I love my garden, I love having dirt under my fingers, and I absolutely love going out to the garden after a hot day and harvesting some organic goodness. 

All the business surrounding us before/after Murphy's birth made our life total insanity. Not to mention now juggling two children's' sleep schedules with my own, heaven forbid everyone has to eat right?

That includes the 3 horses, 3 dogs (1 pregnant), 2 cats, 17 rabbits, 14 laying hens, and 20 broiler chickens...

Lets just leave it at this... I made some sacrifices, and my time in the garden is where it hit. Granted I still had a great deal planted. There were even days when I could get the girls to sleep at the same time and maybe even for a few hours. So, I planted and planted and we had a great garden going.

And we still do, save the... south western.... corner. I'm hoping that's right, trust me when I say I am no navigation expert. 

So I let the horses out.. As I have every summer we've spent here. We live on a little over 5 acres of flat pasture in hay country. So, I let the horses free range the bigger pasture, which we cannot afford at the moment to fully fence. But it gives them a great deal more to eat and space to roam. They usually stay away from the garden... sure they did until the corn became 8 feet tall and they just had to know what that was didn't they... 




I'll get to point already. Long story short the horses ate most of my whole 3 sisters garden, corn and beans, save the squash. And all, I mean all of my Scarlett runner and Kentucky pole beans. All gone. I would be harvesting both right now possibly, since this happened last week. I have spent the time since in sadness and shock, save to say there were a few tears shed.

Then I grew mad at myself again. It was me who said we didn't need a taller fence. That the horses have 5 acres to themselves, why would they want the garden?


Ya Q why would a horse want some lovely organically grown yummies...? Horses hate corn right? Ugh, even I amaze myself sometimes. 


But hey it happened and thank the lord its over... and I learned a lesson... and it will never happen again... Next time I'm trying my corn first! I can't help but feel like I failed a little this garden season, I started with such high hopes.


This is all that't left of the 3 Sisters garden.. oh yeah and 3 green beans.


If it weren't for my 5 amazing zucchini plants I may have washed this season for gardening all together. I've had modest harvests from broccoli, peas, and onions thus far. But everything in the garden pales in comparison to my Black Beauty's. I've never eaten so much zucchini nor preserved this much. 


To ease my heartache I did a fall planting a few days ago. I planted some bush beans, dragon's tongue and provider, I planted more peas, some kale, and a variety of lettuce. We still have enough time to harvest short season crops, hopefully with my amended fence Ill get a last harvest in a month or so.


Pulling fresh produce from the garden makes me feel like a school girl again; showing something off to my friends or whoever. You get my drift. I want to jump for joy every time I see a ripe veggie or fruit just waiting for me! I guess that's most the reason I do it. I can't wait to see the progress and the phases these natural beauties go through before we get to enjoy their goodness. 


I'm sure all my friends and family get tired of my giddiness and stupid pictures of me with vegetables. Like whoopdido Q, another zucchini pic, as if lasts weeks didn't get the point across. Ha Ha

What can I say I love gardening and l love food. And thank zucchini, you made me feel like a real gardener, and not a failure. The only vegetable I hope to preserve out of my 2015 garden When life gives you zucchinis - you freeze them for bread this winter. And be grateful, so I am. 

Cheers all!






















Thursday, August 20, 2015

MEAT CHICKENS. HOW DO I LOVE THEE.. LET ME COUNT THE WAYS.

WARNING! Some chicken images may be graphic.

Well my friends last week I killed, plucked, and cleaned my first chicken. Yes that may come as a shock... but hey, better late than never eh? 

Heck the day had to come some day, I have been dreaming this whole meat chicken project thing up for about a year now. And holy cow is there a whole heck of a lotta work involved. Honestly more than I ever expected... 

Spencer was supportively reluctant at the thought of adding more animals and more responsibilities to say the least...

"But honey this is the next thing!"

"Q, what's the next thing?"

"Broiler Chickens!!! The next thing we need to incorporate on our homestead for self sufficiency!!! And... I just watched this crazy video that turned me off store bought chicken for good... I must have meat chickens! I must have them! I must!!! Muhahaha!!! Plus look how cute they are as babies!!! Honey you know how I love babies."



Ok I didn't really laugh like a villain, but really, as I add homestead hack after hack to my awesome bright shiny homesteaders belt, I feel somewhat like I'm conquering a new world.... What's that you say? Don't you all have one of these shiny belts?.. Ok that part IS make believe, and yes its okay for adults to have imaginations to. 



Homesteader's really aren't marked with shiny belts or fancy badges to set us apart. We're marked with skills, hacks, rabbit scratches, poop, dirt under our nails, 476 runs to the feed store, hours of research, more poop (only this time its from a tiny human), hours out in the cold/heat with our animals, gardens, or broken vehicles.... Anyone can do this just like we do, but not everyone will. 



Meat chickens, are my ode to this homestead life, a messy messy job.. Yes I could buy organic chickens from the store. But for some weird innate reason unknown even to me I've discovered I would rather kill, process, and cook a chicken from my own farm and through my own hands. The feeling I got after it was all said and done, I want that feeling everyday for the rest of my life. 



A little sappy for ya? What can I say I love my homestead and this lifestyle.. I'll yell it from the rooftops! I'm proud of my birds, don't hate.

Yes I love chickens, so, bringing meat chickens to the homestead was an obvious next step. As much as chickens are amazing, beautiful, lovely, funny animals, and it is no doubt they are some of the best farm animals. Commonly referred to as "the gateway drug to farming," chickens are many a thing, but there are some things that chickens are not.



Things I've learned, relearned, and decided about chickens are as follows;

Chickens are not clean.. They poo everywhere.. their water, their food, your back porch, the laundry...nothing is sacred to them..

Chickens are not smart... They'll drown in their drinking water if you give them the chance.

Chickens are not easy to catch... unlike ducks, chickens do not flock well..

Chickens are terrible landscapers..they don't care if your flower beds or yard look pretty... They'll scratch up and dust bath away all your hard work if let to free range.

Chickens are not very polite.. They'll come right into your front door if you aren't watching out.. Look back at my post about chickens IN my house last fall.

Chickens do not understand personal space.. "What't that in your hand?  A bucket with feed? Well let me just flap all over, scratch you, and jump on your head..."

Chickens have terrible instincts sometimes.. "Oh my stomach can't digest grass and my crop will get impacted if I eat it? Well, a chickens gotta get sour crop sometime, screw it let's eat a bunch of grass!"



You see, chickens can die so easily they are practically suicidial, this is why its so easy to loose chickens in all sorts of ways. So they must be cared for accordingly, still seem like the easiest farm animal? Chickens are a commitment, especially meat chickens. A big commitment, but with such great pay off. 



I say this only because I jumped in head first.. without a plan, without much knowledge of food to weight ratios for growing at the fastest rate, without knowing exactly how much square footage per bird for foraging I would need, and never having killed and processed any animals before..nerdy stuff like that...


All the things I've learned in the last 4 months has left me yearning' for more learning'! ? Here's a taste of some of my new knowledge about the birds;

I learned what products to use and when to worm the birds, I also learned the meat birds should be wormed every two weeks after the initial dose. This is to maintain a worm free bird, we used a simple liquid wormer, which is easily added to their water. 

I learned about sour crop/ impacted crop and of a condition called pendulous crop, which is caused from chronic stretching of the crop muscle. All of these condition which can be avoided with proper access to grit and scratch to aid the crop in digesting food. 


I learned that chickens cannot digest grass (as my chicken narration stated before) or other long vegetation, since it does the former and causes issues with the crop.

I learned how and what temperature to scald the chicken to remove feathers the easiest... I also found the plans for a homemade chicken plucker which will be added to the 'homestead TO DOs' list..

I learned that the birds really need to be killed before the roosters start to realize they are roosters and begin beating each other up.

I learned that they need to have a good source of shade from the heat in summer and need twice as much water since they pant like dogs. 

I learned that with meat chickens, more space is always better. The ground won't suffer as much, the poop won't smell as bad, they run less chance of tearing up the ground, and they will have better access to grit and scratch. 

I also learned the stage of barley fodder at which the chickens enjoyed it most.. about day 3-4, before the grass has come in and just the root mat exists yet.

I learned the fastest cleanest way to make the kill. And too make sure you let it bleed all the way out before scalding..

And hell I learned how to completely pluck, clean, gut, skin, and preserve those little mother cluckers. I say that is a pretty darn good accomplishment looking back on the process. 

Most of all, I learned that patience is key while learning to master a new skill. Skills are after what drives homesteading in a way. Learning to do things you formerly couldn't to become self sufficient. In a sentence isn't that why we're all here? To get back to basics.
You see folks, this is why I blog. I blog to save all my progress in one place for y'all to see... And hopefully learn from my mistakes. I want to show you this life is possible on a budget. I want to show my kids one day how we made it to where we're going. Where it all began. 

Yeah this post is turning into my love letter to homesteading than about chickens... A love letter I want to keep writing. About my kids. My animals. My bearded love. Our crazy projects. Ups and downs. And our quirky crunchy organic country lifestyle.

I saved the graphics for last, so scroll on, only if you dare.
Photo credit: KC Vipperman, Quincy Burke