Monday, September 8, 2014

Around the Homestead - August 2014

It's been another full month. When I look back, it seems like it was crazy busy. It's been full of both wonderful and challenging things. Here is just a glimpse. 

The first harvest and sickness

This was our first harvesting night. I was just coming out of a difficult bout of sickness, but we all managed to get down to the garden together and I even picked some of the beans.

There are 10 cups of blackberries under those green beans.

Joel set up the hammock so that I could rest while everyone played or worked that night. I had just gotten through 3 nights of fevers, chills, headaches, and then extreme neck pain and stiffness. Joel was amazing and I told him a couple times that I would be in the hospital if it weren't for him. We found out at the end of this month that it and everything that followed was Lyme. The days that followed at least didn't have fevers, but the fatigue never ceased, disseminated lyme rashes started, and tons of random pains, weaknesses, and stiffness, sweats, came and went. I am so thankful that last week all the lyme tests came back positive so that we could have a diagnosis and start treatment. After less thank a week of antibiotics (pregnancy safe) I'm feeling much better!

As we were trying to figure all this out, Joel trudged through, kept working on stuff and kept up with the house. He really carried the whole family through. He was superman as I was mostly useless. Thanks to him, there were still plenty of wonderful homesteading moments and everyday life things that got accomplished and were able to happen.

While we were out harvesting, I noticed that our 4 year old is as tall as our mini-Jersey. A cow and a 4 year old... Who would have thought.

A visit with friends and a farmstand

Spoiler alert! Joel got that bee suit. I know I haven't gotten to bees yet... Hold your horses (or other livestock). This came in the mail while our friends were here visiting from MA. While I hung out and chatted with Bekah, Joel and AJ worked on building a little farmstand! Of course they had to take a break for him to try on the new bee suit.

Here are some progress pictures of the farmstand!

And here is the finished farmstand minus some signs and protective coating on the outside:

That's chalkboard paint behind the refrigerator. The fridge is working great for selling the eggs (hopefully milk someday), and we love having more space to put out other items we have for sale. We have some of Joel's woodworking out there right now.

We loved our visit with friends and it was so fun that the guys enjoyed working on this project. Bekah and I got to talk and even take a nap in the afternoon.

We had more friends from our MA days visit the next week too - I think it was all perfect timing. We got to chat with them for a couple hours while they were en route to more family in NH.


These were a gift. They really were. I'm about to tell you the story.

We so desired to start bees this year, but the startup cost and time building hives and possibly catching bees was too much for this year. We decided to just be content with trying another year, unless we met a beekeeper that wanted to help us get started or get rid of their hives. We put out a fairly detailed craigslist ad explaining what we'd already researched, what our homestead was like, and the types of hives we had been planning for (mostly top bar or frameless langstroth) but explained that we would be willing to learn and take on what people were willing to offer. They could set a price, or if they were just wanting to downsize and give them away, we'd do that too, obviously.

Well, we received a crazy email. First, look at those hives up there. Those boxes are new. One hive is incredibly full of bees and developed, the other is perfect size to get through the winter, and the third could be added to the medium hive with some care so that it can make it through the winter as well. Now - I'll just tell you the cheapest I've seen a developed hive for has been $450 on craigslist.

Back to the crazy email: We were offered 11 hives for $50 a piece. Loaded with honey. This beekeeper needed to downsize as his bee business was too large and he was taking care of an ill loved one. Joel and I took a few minutes before we realized that this kind person just offered us a small business for $550. We emailed back that we needed to think of logistics, but that we would love that opportunity. Sadly, he emailed one other person and they had spoken for the hives before we had emailed back (this was all within 3 hours of receiving the email!). BUT, would we like a hive for free? WHAT? He wanted to help us get started with beekeeping. Of course, we would love that.

Joel bought a bee suit to get ready to go get them. He emailed the nice beekeeper back and said he had his bee suit and he was wondering what morning would be best. I saw the beekeepers email response come in, but I didn't feel well and ignored it on purpose. Joel read it when he saw it that day and was beyond excited and blown away. WHAT? Would we like three hives?

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Joel drove down to get them. He met an incredibly nice beekeeper that wasn't much older than us. His beekeeping started from a class, and then developed into a business that got a little too big for what his current life situation could have. He was congenial, helpful, and kind, and we totally respected his priorities and values.

Meeting like-minded farmers around here has been one of my favorite parts of homesteading. Just hearing their stories, and having the silent understanding of why we do what we do. Fantastic.

These bees were yet another part of the homestead that we just couldn't have orchestrated or willed on our own. Just like the cows. And quite a few of our chickens. The free shed we use for milking. And the free or cheap materials that we've used to build stuff from scratch. It was after we had researched, prayed about, and settled on waiting for the crazy perfect opportunities and being content while we see if we ever get there. We are confident that the Lord provides in so many ways (beyond homesteading too). He's done it over and over. It often still means we put in work, but our time is a resource that we have been blessed with. And we can use it wisely to build up beneficial things around here.

Here's one more thing about bees:

That is the beginning of a bee platform. It is nearly finished now, but I don't have a picture of it. The bees are down on the leach field at the back of the property, so we won't be hammering posts into the ground. Joel will be using the corner posts on the platform to attach ag panels and then electric fence. We've got a neighborhood bear, so he'll have some electric wire baited with bacon pretty soon.

Renovation/New Look Progress

Those three pictures up there are of the kids' bathroom/guest bathroom. That is a new paint color and new towels and toothbrush holder. The paint color is the same color we used in our master bathroom (below). Two years ago, we had put in that part new and part free vanity, new toilet and other accessories along with a floor. Within a couple months the floor was flooded by a 2 year old (middle of the night, potty training all by himself, didn't want mom and dad's help - you've got the picture), so the last bit to be done in this room is to rip out the floor, replace it, and put trim. Easy, right?

This is the master bathroom - and I LOVE it:

This bathroom also needed a new floor, etc. My dad and Joel took care of that and the toilet a couple months ago, then Joel patched, painted, and installed the vanity while I went away overnight to visit with my sister. This month, Joel and I put the finishing touches on by painting and adding trim, hanging all the bathroom related stuff, and putting that corner cabinet together. I also made a curtain for the window (first time pulling out the sewing machine in quite a while). It's really nice. We still have to finish the master bedroom, but I still like to travel across the house from our current bedroom to use this bathroom instead. 

That's 28 weeks and 3 days me (I'm 29 weeks and 3 days today). That was a good day (for lyme symptoms) although I was still very tired. I think my elbow was acting up and my back hurt, but my jaw had stopped hurting. lol. So that was a good day.

And these are my cuties enjoying fruit from the yard as part of their breakfast.

It's been a long, but productive and friend filled month. Difficulties came beside blessings. I'm thankful for the way everything worked together. God is good.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Around the Homestead - homemade garden signs, homestead progress, and more eggs

We've been doing a little of this and that. We made some progress on a major chicken coop renovation. Everything takes longer than you want it to - so we'll wait to talk about that. I'm thinking that chicken breeding and selling eggs will be one of our favorite things to do here, and because of that, we really wanted to get some work out of the way.

But here's what's been going on around here:

I've wanted to make these signs for a while. I purchased paint markers to make it easier. This ended up being a fun Sunday evening project to do together. I still have a few more garden spaces that I'd like to make these for, but this took care of the garden own back.

This was the garden this morning after I put the marker in. The garden was planted so late that I'm praying we still get a late, but good harvest. The plants are looking pretty good!

This is what our egg cartons look like now. I love the variety. I'm sure it was a surprise for our regulars to get a few blue eggs in there.

I can hardly get over it.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Catching up in photos from around the homestead - July 2014

It is a crazy chicken month. Lots of decisions and steps to build our flock the way we would like it. I'm hoping with all the additions that we'll have at least one broody hen and can start letting her hatch eggs asap. We are going to revamp the coop area in preparation of future breeding seasons and add a little farmstand with refrigerator to hold all the eggs we are selling. The cooler just isn't working out that great!

So here are some quick updates in pictures:

This Easter Egger is turning out to be a he. So sad. He isn't any trouble, but he isn't needed here and we'll be trying to find him a new home. He was the lone survivor of those beautiful 10 chickens we brought home and then lost to a fox.

The garden at the beginning of July. Things were a little slow, and have since picked up. We were hit by cucumber beetles, but I think the chickens have taken care of those for us now.

First year with bee balm in the garden. I can't wait to see how it spreads next year.

We picked up 6 free chicks that were from a barnyard mix and hatched out by a broody cochin. These eggs were a mix of Blue and black copper maran, blue/black/splash ameraucanans, and lavender orpingtons. It looks like we have a few pure marans, but we'll have to wait and see. It also looks like 3 of the 6 are roosters. :-/

These are two mottled english orpington roosters we also got for free (from someone different). I was so excited to have these. They will get to be 9-12lbs and I was hoping to use them as the roosters for our future australorpe gals. They were super friendly. "Were" - because we went searching for them one night while we were closing up the coop and couldn't find them. The next morning, only the less friendly and not breeding quality one came back. I'm still hopfull he'll show up. That pretty Easter Egger at the top of this post came back days after he went missing.

LOOK AT THAT WING! He was perfect. He was so friendly and ran to greet us. Now we can't find him. Nothing wandered into our yard and took him - I'm guessing he just explored too far away in the woods and something took him. Or a dog. This one has been the hardest one to loose so far. I keep looking for him every time I go outside.

Mottled English Orpingtons shouldn't have those white feathers. This guy is still sweet, but we can only keep so many roosters, and if he isn't what we need for the hens, we might have to try to find him a new home.

Gulp. They were inseparable and so sweet. Look at how they just sit on people's shoulders.

Norway is here to try to breed Buttercup. He's feisty and somewhat difficult to handle. I never found him a herd - so a circle of life event happens tomorrow. This will be our first cow we'll be sending off. We can't keep him, and this was going to be his ultimate fate someday - it was planned. But it's still a new thing to experience and figure out how to "feel" through. Things I know: He had far from a feedlot experience and I'm so happy we were able to raise him "grass fed". He was useful and helped farmers out. He was respected and given a pretty good life.

That beat up buckeye is becoming a best friend. Partly because of how she loves my kids and me. She's the hen that survived the fox attack (was being carried away in his mouth). And she was also a rooster favorite. She's healed up, but I'm not sure she'll ever get those feathers back. She came up to the house and squatted down while Isaac was 3 yards away. She waited patiently, while I told Isaac, (in shock) "She wants you to pet her... Uh, sure, walk up to her. Go pet her." Which he did. And she just happily sat there.

I love seeing the chickens free ranging.

And these are the long hoped for Ameraucana flock. Hens: three splash, two blue, one black. And one blue rooster. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to get these, but after a few weeks of communications, they are here. They were all hatched last year from Paul Smith eggs.

The first really blue egg in the nesting box this morning.

This rooster is fantastic so far. He's so friendly and he doesn't spook or feel the necessity to show off when people are around. That results in fewer hurt chicken backs and a rooster that is welcome around my children and guests.

The chickens have been working in the garden to reduce bugs while we occasionally keep up with weeding. Norway likes to spread out his hay and wastes quite a bit so the waste will be used to mulch the garden. We just couldn't seem to find a good source of mulch that we wanted to actually purchase this year. I love that we'll be getting the most use out of what we were already buying. And we'll finally get to mulch the garden like we planned!

More big homesteading changes are on the horizon too. We'll see if they pan out - but I'll let you know if they happen!

Monday, June 30, 2014

End of June 2014 update

Update time! We finally got things going in the garden. We are starting very late, but we might as well try. This will be picture heavy with some explanation. That's my favorite way.

Our first strawberries are coming. We are pinching off the flowers on most of the plants so that they focus on root development and multiplying this year. This was the suggestion from the gardener we purchased these plants from.

We also changed the garden area on the side of the house. I've been wanting to mulch in in for a while and we finally did. We decided to add a second raised bed, but this one is lasagna style with lots of repurposed and free material.




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