Consider how the wildflowers grow....Luke 12:27 NIV
Living small in our 880 square foot cottage and micro farming on approximately an acre of land.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Babies Are Already Here!

All of my children were born pre-term, so it makes sense that for me, shoats would come before spring.
Hubby came home last weekend with these two little girls.

Meet Link and Patty.
(Pork and Chop, our Tamworth crosses were sent to the butcher the week before.)

Nothing boosts the farming spirit like new babies!!

Hubby rebuilt their covered portion of the pen, and added the duck coop (the ducks decided to live with the chickens in the chicken coop for the winter) so these darlings could stay warm in our North Eastern Winters.
Hubby was able to get a truckload of loose hay to pack into their pen and hut to keep them warm.

I rebuilt their fencing so the little darlings don't sneak out, as naughty little piggies are prone to do.

I check them every day for frost bite and how warm they are.
So far, despite temperatures in the single digits at night and winds whipping about, they are doing well.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Victory Garden Guide

This is such a good guide.
And you can always substitute the vegetables you don't eat with more of the ones you do.

For example, while I like roasted parsnips, my family won't touch them.
So, I can replace the parsnip row with more peas or green beans.  We eat a LOT of those.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Don't Knock the Fair-Weather Farmers

We all go a little crazy in the spring.
One more goat won't hurt.  One more packet of seeds.  One more hatching of chicks'll be fun!
And so it happens for many greenhorn Americans.
They flock Tractor Supply and ooh and ahh over the chicks peeping away under the red lights.
And wouldn't that red and white pre built chicken coop look adorable in the backyard?

And so they buy.
They set up and enjoy.
All spring and summer long their little flock grows and it is cute.
Fall time the eggs start coming and it is amazing!
This is a taste of what it feels like to be self-sufficient.

But, the American Gothic, magazine cover idealism fades.

Winter comes.
Manure happens.
Illness (human or animal).

And it isn't fun anymore.
The coop isn't cute anymore.
In fact, it's gross.

Some tough it out and find themselves back in the spring fever cycle.
Some just post it all to craigslist.

And that's ok.
Yes, I think it is ok.
They tried.  I think everyone who has the taste in their mouth for it should try.
They might discover something about themselves, whether it is a growing awe and love for farming, self sufficiency, or homesteading.
Or they discover that it isn't for them, and the animals move on to a new home with someone who is willing to trudge out several times a day in January's -20 temps to issue new water and check combs and feet.

Usborne Books & More is having a Book Friday sale ALL WEEKEND
Topped with a Cyber Monday sale with new titles added to the sale!
Click on this poster to check it out!

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Stork Will Be Visiting Us!

I just got word today that some time after Christmas I will be receiving a bouncing baby shoat!  Oh, so much to do before it arrives!  I want to make sure it is healthy and strong for winter.  Need to do research for wintering a young pig.

For every purchase over $15, receive a free surprise essential oil

Monday, November 23, 2015

How To Fatten a Backyard Hog on the Cheap

Without the luxury of an fenced in pasture, feeding a backyard hog for future butchering can get costly.  I am on my second year of raising spring pigs for December butchering, so I have been trying out and brainstorming how to fatten up hogs on the cheap.  This is a work in progress.

1. Try to get a recently weaned shoat.  I notice that the older the pig, the more used to whatever feed he's been getting he is, and the less likely he'll be to turn his snout up at certain foods.

2.  Throw everything edible into the pigpen.  If my beans got too tough and bulky on the plant, or the summer squash got too big and tough, I threw it into the pigpen.  Broccoli went to flower, I pruned the flowers and fed them to the pigs.  We threw in grass clippings (our lawn is untreated and organic), leaves (our current pigs LOVED fresh hickory leaves), cracked eggs from the hens, nuts that dropped from trees, fruit that dropped from trees, hay that the goats dropped and wouldn't eat anymore, etc.

3. Save everything in the kitchen.  I have a slop bucket in the kitchen.  In it goes crumbs, the water from rinsing out cans and jars of their food remains before washing, fruit and vegetable cores and ends, bread crusts the kids wouldn't finish, leftover that hadn't gone bad yet but weren't going to get eaten by humans, egg shells, plate scrapings, cooked potato peelings, the teaspoon or two of milk or juice left in the bottom of cups.  Every little bit is another calorie for the pigs.

4.  If you're not opposed to it, ask around for restaurant or bakery waste.  I personally don't like feeding my pigs unknown or unhealthy waste foods.  Once in a while, a donated bag of donuts I'll gladly throw in, but I won't make a steady diet of it for my pigs.

5. Ask around the neighborhood.  Surely neighbors have neglected fruit trees you could glean from, or even nut trees, acorns, garden waste, or even a pile of bread ends in their bread boxes.

6.  At picnics and parties, ask the host if you could bring a slop bucket for plate scrapings, dropped food, and leftovers to feed your pig.

7.  If you aren't opposed to feeding your pigs raw meat, ask your hunter friends for discards, innards, etc.

Every little bit adds up and whole lot of pig for a little money if you are diligent.  Do you have any ideas to share?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Has it really been almost a year?

Let's see if I can post an update in a nutshell.

We got a good jump start in the spring with some new baby bunnies and acquiring a few new rabbits for breeding.  My main breeding doe died during childbirth in early spring.  However, in September, the Mr. and I discussed it and we were both in agreement that right now rabbits aren't for us.  We sold all but 4, our 4 favorites we are keeping as pets, instead.

The chickens did well.  We had two different hatchings after the Mr. got me an incubator on craigslist!  The first hatching we got 5 roosters.  The second, we got 13 mix-chicks, some hens, some roos.  

We were given 3 bantams, 3 meat birds, 5 roosters, and 2 turkeys.  Unfortunately, we lost the turkeys and 3 chickens to the pigs.

We also bought 3 khaki campbell duck hens.

The meat birds went right to the freezer and the roosters have been slowly making their way to the kitchen as they mature and become troublesome.

I have not had to buy eggs in over a year and for that I am thrilled!  The birds more than pay for themselves.

It was later in the year, but we did eventually get two pigs, two Tamworth cross females.  They are not nearly as personable as our first pig, and the one has bitten me twice, but they aren't escapees.  I did have to double their fencing thickness to keep them from grabbing chickens by their tails through the fence and pulling them in.  I don't think I'll raise tamworths again.  I would like to try Durocs or Gloucestershire Old Spots.

We had two dairy goats this summer on loan again, and my friend was going to gift me the one goat, service her with her buck, and let me keep the baby(ies).  It was a remarkable gift, so generous, but after discussing it with hubby, we decided not to take on goats.  Our current barn situation and my time limits right now were making it very stressful on me.  I love farming and would love to do more, but I admit that I am a split personality.  A part of me loves the suburban style life, with a clean, tidy, stylish house, and smelling nice and wearing nice clothes.  I have to be able to divide myself between the two (as well as homeschooling and running some at-home businesses).

I also tried quail this year.  That didn't turn out well at all.  The little boogers kept dying on me.  We finally ended up with 10 males.  They lasted a while and started dying off.  We got 6 in the freezer.

The garden did fairly well.  I couldn't put in as much time as I wanted to in it and I planted way too much summer squash!  LOL!  Next year more beans and peas and less summer squash!!

The chickens devastated my tomato crop and edible flower garden.  Either they will have to be fenced in or the gardens will have to be next year.

We were able to acquire more cages for the rabbits, some for free, and I kept them because I would like to start breeding a rare meat breed in the future.  I also got a gorgeous large wooden hutch for free, which we used for the ducks this summer.  The best gain was a shed for only $30 from our neighbors.  The house was purchased and is being fixed up, so they wanted to update the shed situation.  It was a nice steal for us!

Next year, our focus is going to be on the birds.  They are the most productive and beneficial right now.  We want to get 6 more non-related chickens, and maybe a breeding pair of turkey. 

 My other focus is going to be on creating a prettier property.  For the last two years it was very utilitarian and well, it got ugly.  I told my neighbors that I recognize that our yard got ugly, and we are working on understanding what works best for our property, our ability, our animals, AND the neighborhood.  After all, while I do live in a rural area, it is still a town neighborhood of mostly nice little cottages, ranches, farm houses, and cape cods.  It isn't fair to the neighborhood when one property owner's place looks unkempt and trashy.  Ours looks like an unfinished project that got hit by a tornado (aka children who love playing outside.)  So, we'll endure and enjoy the sin-covering blanket of snow this winter and in the spring start anew with a plan for prettying up the place, hopefully with a cottage garden, too.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Little Egg Miracle

Everyone I know in the area who has chickens have been reporting that their hens have stopped or greatly reduced their laying for the winter.  This is fairly common as the birds use so much energy to stay warm and don't have the grasses and bugs summer provides.  Most farmers try to remedy this by adding a light bulb or heat lamp to their chicken coop.  Even so, those that do are still reporting great reductions in egg production.

I have 6 laying hens.  Since they only had a dog-house modified summer coop, we put them in the goat barn for the winter.  They have 4 nesting boxes and an old dresser turned sideways for a shelter.  I've littered the floor with layers of wood chips for the deep bedding method of keeping them warm.  The barn is windowless and has no lighting or heating.  In the morning, we open the doors to the barn and at night we shut it.  In foul weather they simply stay in the barn with the doors open, scratching, nesting, and burrowing into the deep bedding if it gets really cold or damp.  We've had it get in the single digits for a stretch of time and the chickens fared well.  So well, in fact that they are still giving us FULL EGG PRODUCTION!

That means, our birds are laying 4-6 eggs a day!  In one 24-36 hour stretch, we got 10 eggs!  And that was after a 3 day snow storm!

Every day I think, "this is it.  They must be done by now," and yet there's eggs sitting there waiting for us.  I am so grateful and I certainly can't figure out how those around me with more chickens and more ideal cooping situations are getting so few eggs, if any, while I am getting summer production in the winter.

I'm not bragging by any stretch.  It's a miracle in my book.  A promise from God to provide.  I still fully expect them to cease such production.  After all, that's what chickens do in winter around here.  But, every day there are eggs, and so many of them, I am thankful.  As we say in our church, all glory to God!