Sunday, August 30, 2015


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..


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


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


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

Monday, August 17, 2015


This post contains affiliate links.

Man I tell ya, if theres one thing I gotta say about homesteading... It's that it is tough. Don't get me wrong I love spending my days weeding and cleaning up poop of all kinds... Ahem, moving on...

When I began my organic nonGMO gardening adventure it crossed my mind that it would take more than some light reading and buying some fancy seeds. Along with many other worries I knew there would come a day when pests would appear.

Here on the right you'll see my organic broccoli starts once they were transplanted outside this spring. Looks like it has potential right?

Well folks, that day I'm talking about came a few weeks ago. When I noticed the devastation of my broccoli one morning. I spent much of my days the next two weeks squishing cute little green pillars and burning leaves whose undersides were covered in little yellow eggs. Inspecting the potatoes for beetles became a rather fun pastime... but really anything to escape to the garden if only for a few minutes more each day.

Well to no avail I gave up on that remedy, it was going to take much more to stop these bugs. Trying to find a a chemical free, nonGMO, organic, etc. pesticide is near impossible so I opted to do some research and find a recipe to make from home. Here's what I came up with...

To the left you'll see some of the broccoli that was literally being eaten alive by these cute dumb bugs! You can notice how most of the leaves have holes eaten through, some bad enough have full sides and edges eaten away.

There's one of the little buggers now!

Seems pretty harmless huh?

Think again my friends...

These clever fellows will eat your plant with an insatiable veracity that can be tough to beat, while laying eggs like crazy and grow quickly.


Basically you want this spray to be stinky... Im talking scare even people away kinda stinky... Please folks do as I say, not as I do... Meaning wait for the wind to die down before you spray this!!! Trust me.. I got down wind of this stuff and its a perfume you don't wanna sport. Moving on..


1       organic yellow onion
4-6    cloves of organic garlic
2       tbsp organic cayenne pepper
2       tbsp castille soap
20     drops peppermint essential oil--- looking 4 Certified Therapeutic Grade oils? Email me!
1       spray bottle
1       gallon jug
1       fine mesh colander/bag or cheese cloth


Add onion, garlic, cayenne, (all of which was purchased at my favorite of stores COSTCO! They carry so many organic and NonGMO Project verified foods...just FYI) and essential oil to your blender or food processor and blend completely.

Let sit for a couple hours or overnight if you prefer.

Once it has settled strain through either colander, bag, or cheese cloth... I used a reusable mesh vegetable bag from since I didn't have a cheesecloth or mesh colander fine enough.

Strain mixture into a mason jar.

Transfer the liquid into a gallon repurposed gallon milk jug.

Add the castile soap (we use Dr. Bronner's purchased through and water enough to fill the jug.

At this point you can store the gallon up to a week, transferring whatever amount into the spray bottle for application in your organic garden.

It is sure stinky but I tell you this stuff works! Spray on the undersides of the leaves on plants who are being pestered the worst. I don't put it on everything in the garden, just those who really need some defensive help. Avoid spraying directly on fruits and veggies if applying when your garden plants are in flowering stages as to avoid changes in taste. But by all means spray tops and bottoms of leaves to ensure no pests lay eggs down before vacating the stinky premises!

I would advise applying after a rain or after watering in the evening. I have heard that these bugs don't prefer the agitation of watering from above like a sprinkler or hand attachment for your hose. I have since been watering from above on my broccoli which was the most attacked and it seemed to make a drastic improvement even before applying this spray.

Since my application last week in our homestead garden I have seen a severe decrease in bugs and eggs in my broccoli and zucchini. Ive also since seen a great couple harvests of both and a couple zucchinis the size of my farmstud's forearm!

Amen to wholesome harvests. And zucchini bread. And fried zucchini. And zucchini hummus. Oh and broccoli out the you know what!

The only other thing I can say about homesteading is, I love it.

How do you defend your crops against pests in your organic gardens? I would love to hear your tips!

Interested in essential oils?

Email Quincy at with all your homestead techniques and hacks.