Sunday, April 19, 2015


Its not about why we do it. It's more of a how...

You see we wake up everyday, and no not always at the crack of dawn... These days we sleep in a little later. We did just have our second child after all.... We head outside and get our first deep breath of the that cool crisp morning air, and breathe it all in. By 'all' I mean the essence of manure, the smell of the dew, usually some hint of smoke (if you're from around my parts you'll understand with the constant prescribed burning) and yup more poop; cow manure at the neighbors, rabbit scat, chicken droppings, water fowl goo here and there from ducks and the goose who free range the property, and then you've got the heaps and heaps of horse manure.... 

Any body need any manure for their compost or garden beds??? Come on down!! TAKE IT AWAY... Like yesterday..


Okay, ok but really... We have more than enough to go around.. Scooping manure is a constant filler task. What I mean by that is, tasks that are continually ongoing, basically we will be doing these until the end of time. Poop scooping is just one of those tasks on the homestead, if you don't like it or love it, maybe this lifestyle ain't for you! 

Alright, you don't have to LOVE shoveling animal dung, but, you have to understand and respect its necessity to all farm stead animals. 

Our backyard plays a harmony of sounds finches who have once again taken up residence in our aspen just outside the chicken coop, a couple hens obviously laying eggs, and the ducks splashing away in their pool, Lucy goose honks supervisorly. The first task of the day for my farm stud (as I now spend much of the morning tending to our newborn) include: feeding the horses, all 5 of them. Under the shelter of the barn, also resides the two pigs not far from finishing. With the help of barley fodder, they express their gratitude oh so loudly. We provide loose hay for them at all times, they munch, not eating much, using it mostly for bedding. Spencer checks all their water daily. Maintaining proper hydration is mandatory for horses, especially with all the roughage they receive on our non uniform pasture. Even more so for swine, who are very susceptible to heat stroke. 

Our little farm girl has usually arisen by then and seeks something to fill her tummy. Much of the other chores can be completed through the day. With a toddler and new born sometimes the chore timeline changes... Daily. You see, sometimes I'm not perfect.... Hard to believe I know! Sometimes I do my chores a little late and yes sometimes certain tasks take precedence over chores.... Like trying to nurse a sick gosling, and failing.... Or even nursing a newborn!

When I do finally get to the chicken coop I do my I initial egg check, make sure the water is full, and throw some sprouted fodder for all the birds. 

Right outside the chicken coop our rabbits lay peacefully as they wait oh so patiently for fresh picked weeds I snagged for them on the way. Honestly they are the only animals on the homestead who are patient and don't rush me at the sight of food. 

Maybe that's why I love them so much.
Those furry bunnies bring me more joy than I ever thought they would, and they are so simple! 

I free feed them a local organic pellet feed, weeds or cut them some fodder as a special treat! This summer I plan on weaning them off the pellets completely in an effort to pasture or grass feed them. 

The homestud is actually helping me to complete a vision I have to build a rabbit run out of an old flower bed over run by weeds and wild flowers. Hopefully by next week my bunnies will be converted to the colony high life with more to eat than they can keep up with. 

Many of these chores are repeated in the evening; feeding horses and pigs, throwing sprouted fodder for the birds, checking all waters. The rabbits usually only need more pellet feed every 2-3 days, but as they drink a large amount their water can need filling twice daily at times. In my dream works they would have a drop water system... A girl can dream!

And there ya have it! We're now free to garden or whatever else needs attention. Granted there's usually always something needing a fix or a mess to be cleaned. But at the end of the day we're never bored with our crazy life. 

You see, we get to view the fruits of our labor everyday! In the eggs we collect, those trays and trays of veggie starts, potato and onion sprouts making their appearance above soil, the promise of meat soon to be in the freezer... All organic and nonGMO ta boot! We find happiness in becoming producers, not consumers. And that fills us up. 

We only wish to provide a wholesome, healthy, and educational lifestyle for our brooding quiver of kiddos. Life skills like these will only become more valuable to my children's generation as we head into the future of this crazy world. I only wish we'd jumped on the wagon sooner!

Sharpening knives. 
Rabbit stew tonight..

Amen to this life. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015


There comes time in every homesteaders life when things don't exactly work out the way we wanted. Sometimes rabbits don't conceive, or the pigs get out (or in the house in our case!), the last freeze shrivels those beans you planted last week, and sadly at times we lose animals.

When I purchased a batch of hens from a local feed store at the end of February I had such high hopes. More layers means more eggs for our family in about 6 months. But alas, all homesteaders know that with baby chicks comes the possibility that not all will survive. At about two weeks we noticed something funky about our little Americauna, it came down with a common disorder, Scissor Beak. We comically named him Edward and hoped for the best as he struggled with this complication. Keeping him secluded and trying to encourage as many fluids and food as possible was all we could really do.

Scissor Beak is a livable disorder most common in breeds such as Americaunas and Easter Eggers. I've read and read and read about this ailment for weeks now trying to find an answer, a cure, even the cause. It can be caused by an injury, genetics, or an inability to hone their beaks from an early age. Honing is a technique integrated into a chickens natural desire to peck at things while foraging, in the process keeping their beaks the proper length, shape, and size needed to eat and drink. If they are not able to properly hone their beaks on hard surfaces for maintenance, scissor beak can emerge. The worst part? This disorder is virtually incurable.

There is a theory out there naming genetically weak jaw or facial muscles in these breeds as the culprit. I heard a first hand account from my local feed stores owner who has a three year old Easter Egger with scissor beak. He says she lives out her life perfectly adequate, just needing a beak trim here and there. He informed me that the disorder is common in these breeds due to non-intentional inbreeding, in an effort to bring back what was once a heritage breed.

Not all birds with scissor beak can thrive unfortunately. Often times folks have to integrate a water drip system when the bird can no longer perform the normal water scooping technique as its peers. I've read a few cases where the bird had to be fed in isolation as the pecking order becomes more defined. Using a feeder higher to chin level to make it easier may also be necessary. These birds do not commonly complete physical maturity, but can be slightly stunted if the condition persisted since chick days.

One of the tough truths about a homestead, as I said before, things don't always go the way we want. In our case this was true. She seemed to be a lively chick until that last day. Though her maturity fell far behind her hatch mates and she could not make the journey outside to the new coop, she seemed content enough staying in the stock tank with the newer baby birds. I never saw her refusing to eat or drink, but made note at the fact that her body weight was not parallel to the development of her head and wings. As she began to take on a condor type look I grew more worried. Her beak grew more and more crooked even with the addition of rocks, branches, and chick scratch for honing. We deemed it genetic and wanted to do all we could. Edward passed away march 31st, after a good effort at life.

The hard part is, do I spend countless time and money on this one bird? Or do I see how it goes and leave it in God's hands? We chose the latter, as it is so common to lose hatch-lings already, and we were prepared for that. It's another hard truth of farm life. We cannot dauntlessly effort to save this one bird, when in reality if one of the matured hens pronounced with Scissor Beak, she would undoubtedly, be headed for the butchers block. What? I said it's the hard truth and its true!

This is a homestead and this lifestyle is no hobby for us, yes we love it and at times wonder if we even have hobbies since we spend much of our time choring. The grand scheme of the farm is so much larger than any one of our animals that sometimes sacrifices are made. In the end, all of these animals serve a divine purpose. A purpose we are ever grateful for, to contribute and sacrifice so that our family may eat.

And I'm okay with that.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Gotta love em'. Gotta have em'.

Barn cats are essential to fighting mice on the homestead. With so much grain and other forms of feed around, a farm is a smorgasbord  for a mouse colony. If you've seen one, even just their droppings, then chances are you have hundreds! The grossest part? If you can slide a pen under your door, the mice are welcoming their friends right in.

For us this is a HUGE problem... We have bags of barley feed for fodder production, then there's the horses grain, the pig feed, hen scratch, rabbit pellets, dog food, and for a short time longer chick starter crumble. All of these food sources are a target for a growing colony, and I refuse to support their growth. Plus I have a two year old, for whom nothing is sacred, so you may find a piece of fruit or crackers under all my furniture.

We've tried traps, we've tried poison, we have even tried anally cleaning the house and out buildings to avoid finding hints of their presence.... That's right poo..... Sorry but it is the sad truth, there't lots of poop on the homestead. Personally I prefer the kind that isn't toxic or deadly to my family, wouldn't you? Mice carry Hantavirus in their feces. The dust and debris released can then be inhaled into your lungs... Not so good as HRS (hantavirus respiratory syndrome) has something like a 40% fatality rate (don't quote me on that, I think what I read was like 38% but whatever.. you get the point!).

My end game has no traps or nasty poisons anywhere on the property.... I can't possibly have piece of mind knowing there's lethal poison on my property with so many animals and children about.

Enter Poco and Loco, my two newest homestead additions. And boy are they shaping up to be great mousers!

The first thing to keep in mind with raising any barn cats is just that, they are BARN cats. Allowing them to make a cozy home in your home will do nothing to help your mouse issues. They must be motivated to kill the mice. This is the hardest part... do not let them inside. Their meowing may look cute an innocent but if they discover the cozy warmth of your couch, you'll end up with a lazy house cat, and that's not what we want.

Since our kittens were only 5 weeks old when I brought them home creating a safe warm environment for them was a must. Since I didn't have a proper barn stall or set up to keep them safe outside, I settled for our uninhabited guest bathroom. The kittens are given about an hour of daily attention from myself and my little farm girl to socialize and bond. There's nothing worse than trying to get a ferrel cat to the vet..... trust me, socialize your kitties!! We want them to bond and love us, but ultimately I want them to love the outdoors and independence more.

They will be 8 weeks tomorrow and their transition out the garage/laundry room will begin this week. This will serve as their nursery until they are old enough to begin venturing outside and exploring their new surroundings. We will always provide them food as mice will not be their sole diet, especially in cold winter months.
What I love most about cats is their simplicity. There's not need to "train" your cat to mouse. Although a nice game of string or feather will always spark their innate killing nature. They are simply born with that instinct, provide shelter with water and they are good to go. Do make sure your other animals are cat friendly in order to avoid a dog or other animal running the cats off your property.

A few short months after weaning the kittens will begin understanding their territory and all that comes with it, mice included. Personally, I hope my cats will target the finch population... pesky little food skimmers!

Off to get some kitty loving'!


Saturday, April 11, 2015


Animal Husbandry.

Just the idea gives me butterflies in my growing baby bump. And no its not my second baby girl doing somersaults! 

The words take me to a nostalgic time of old fashioned men and women heading out to the barn in hope of what treasures they may find. The gift of new life and the promise of food to come for their families table. Oh the excitement of attempting to catch these mamas to be as they welcome their young into the world. I imagine old flannel blankets wrapped around an orphaned lamb, a proud first time cow cleaning her stumbling calve, or a farmer peaking into the nest in search of fresh hatch lings. The practice of breeding ones farm animals for production is an old and true trade.

As I stepped into my muck boots, tucking my sweat pants in oh so fashionably, I was overcome with excitement! Get me outside ASAP! I quickly tucked my messy bun into Carhartt hood as I strode outside. No matter what I'd find, I was looking good..... 

Okay, back to the task at hand...

after months of anticipation...........

CHESTER IS FERTILE AFTER ALL!!! Now a daddy of seven New Zealand kits.

WOO HOO! I knew ya had it in ya buddy!

As many of our readers already know, on Tuesday we welcomed a bundle of new babies onto the homestead! They weren't as cute as some we've seen but they've certainly been anxiously and at times impatiently awaited. If you need a little background on my rabbit breeding mishaps check out this post! Quincy the rabbit pimp, the struggle is real.... trust me. Rabbits bredding like, well rabbits, was not as easily achieved as I anticipated. So, as you can guess I was more than insanely excited when my friend Lexi noticed our rabbit Belle had pulled a substantial amount of fur Monday afternoon..... You can also guess why the blog has been neglected this week....

DUDE!..... that's A LOT of fur......

Yessssssss!............ victory dance commencing.....

By the crack of dawn Tuesday morning we had 7 healthy kits. Squirmin' and a squeakin'! Since this is my first kindling experience I spent a matter of a few hours on Monday and Tuesday reading up on kindling and kit care. For those of you who don't know, to kindle is the act of the doe giving birth to kits, or baby rabbits. Just as cows calve, horses foal, sheep lamb, and rabbits kindle. So... I have all these kits... Now what?

Belle is a great mama, I was told this by her previous owner, and am happy to now be experiencing her calm and cool technique. She had no problem with me reaching right into the nest box to check her babies out. It is important to check for any cold or even dead kits, to either make an attempt at saving or be remove from the nest, if you don't the mama could eat them. It is imperative that the kits stay close together and properly insulated with enough of mamas fur and whatever bedding material you chose. We have been giving her fresh hay daily to maintain the nest and for intermittent munching. Bottomless food and fresh water are paramount for a nursing mama and provided daily, in addition to rations of alfalfa which we incorporated after the hair pulling was noticed.

This may seem crazy but does only nurse their young once or twice every 24 hours. The proteins in their milk increase with the age of the kits, giving them enough for energy and growth. Other than the daily checks I've been performing, and since Belle is an attentive mother, no interventions or special treatment of the kits is needed until weaning. In just 5 days of life, I have been amazed at how exponentially they grew from just one feeding a day. Born pink and virtually hairless, they are now getting whiter and accumulate more fur everyday. And boy are they ever getting cuter! For now I will just be doing my routine daily checks and let mama do her thing.

The babies eyes will open in a week or so (about 12 days old) and in just a few short weeks they will be jumping in and out of the nest box independently. At that time they will begin wandering out to eat some pellets and whatever leafy greens (fodder or weeds) I've given them. At 6 to 8  weeks the kits will be weaned and moved into their nursery where they will plumpen up for an additional 4 to 6 more weeks until proper butcher age. Their nursery will hopefully consist of whatever pastured pen we've thrown together to allow grazing on the tons of grass sprouting all over the property. Hopefully it will be devised to be moved to a new location daily. As you can see I've put great thought into it...... More on that later.

I'll post about here on the blog about all my haps and mishaps, let me be your trial run! It's always nice to watch someone else screw up so ya know what do avoid right?

And please by all means, feedback is warmly welcomed. Leave a comment or email me with your trial and error stories.

Fryer rabbit recipes???