Sunday, December 12, 2010

When the Weather Outside is Frightful.....

The weather is starting to get a bit nasty. When the snow falls and the temperatures drop, there is something that keeps my mood feeling warm and sunny--planning our the garden for next year!

I always go through the seeds I currently have, before cracking open my catalogs. It helps prevent buying duplicate seeds. Making a list of what I'd like to can/dehydrate also helps when browsing through the catalogs(I might not have remember to get cilantro for my salsa this year). Then I scour the catalogs to see what I want, comparing prices between companies, and make a list from there.

The seed catalogs have been arriving the past few days!

We use graph paper to chart out our garden space. This is a helpful way to see just "how much" we can plant. It's easy to get eager during the cold months and buy more seeds than you can reasonably plant in your allotted space. Gardening is a lot of work, so it's important for us to keep things as manageable as possible. This prevents us from being overwhelmed by weeds, bugs, and diseases that can really hinder your overall production.

On another note, a member on the Homesteading Today forum pointed out a great tool for planning the garden. It's a chart that allows you to enter your last frost date, and it figures planting dates for you! It makes things that much easier, plus you can print off a copy to keep in your gardening notebook! The seed starting chart can be found HERE!

We just had some windows in the house replace a few weeks ago, and kept all the old window panes to create some inexpensive cold frames to start seeds, as well as extend our harvest throughout the fall and winter. Once we get those started, I'll post our progress and hopefully some of my readers can get some ideas to help out their garden/food production around their homesteads!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Milking Time!

We are now only milking Tease once a day. She has done really well for a first freshener, and I can't wait to see how she milks with her next freshening.

The biggest complaint about milking now is my milk stand. Don't get me wrong, I love my milk stand, but I wish we would have built it with an area to the side that I could sit while milking. It's normally not a problem for me to milk while sitting on the stand, but it has become a bit more difficult now that my center of gravity has been changed by an ever-expanding belly.

Fortunately for me, Mr. H has been gracious enough to take over milking duty for the time being.

Our Current Milk Stand

We used the plans from Fiasco Farms, with a few slight modifications for our own preferences. Those plans can be found HERE.

The grain feeder had to be screwed in because Tease likes to pull it off and toss it around.

Tease has a great let down, and is very easy to milk. We usually finish milking well before she's done eating her grain.
Tease finishing her grain.

Mr. H showing off a bucket of fresh milk!

I'm hoping to build an extra seating area that is level to the milk stand before Spring. I'd love to have this so we can be a bit more comfortable, especially since we'll be milking more than one goat!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Buttermilk Bread

With the gloomy weather we had yesterday, I decided to make some buttermilk bread. This is a great cold weather bread. It's dense and delicious. We like to toast ours and spread butter and jam on it. It's also great with soups or as the bottom layer to turkey/beef manhattans.

We weren't able to get a picture of both full loaves because Mr. Homesteader was slicing into it as soon as it came out of the oven!

1 cup buttermilk *
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup butter
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (equal to one packet)
1 cup warm water
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
All Purpose flour

Scald buttermilk; stir in sugar, salt, and butter. Allow to cool. Soften yeast in warm water in a large bowl. After buttermilk mixture has cooled, add to softened yeast mix. Stir in 3 cups of flour and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. Beat well. Add enough flour to make a soft dough (for me this is usually about 2 cups). Knead. Allow to rise in a greased bowl, covered, for 90 minutes. Punch down. Form into two loaves. Let rise until doubled. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes. Enjoy!

*You can substitute buttermilk by using 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice and filling the measuring cup with milk to make a full cup.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Monday, November 8, 2010

Not about goats this time...

I realized that the last few posts have been all about, or at least in part, about the goats. I figured I would remedy the situation with this post, as to prevent a feathered-friend uprising.

We recently cleaned out the bedding in the chicken coop and put in fresh bedding to start our deep layer system. We just keep adding fresh bedding, and as the lower bedding composts under it, there is heat provided for the birds. Less work for us, benefits for the birds. Hooray! We also put down food grade DE as a preventative measure. We've not had any issues with any creepy crawlies yet.

A few of the girls being nosy, and trying to check in our the renovation process.

Since we've hit freezing temperatures, we put out our chicken water heater base.

We don't have any lights installed on the coop for winter laying, but are girls continue to lay well just the same.

Before we got rid of our rooster, we noticed that he was being a bit hard on some of the hens. They were missing quite a few back feathers, and they were molting on top of that. We had an issue with some of the Barred Rocks pecking on the red spots where the rooster tore feathers out. It seemed like we may have naked chickens going into winter. Well, with help of some Blu-Kote, we were able to get the hens to leave the bare spots alone. Feathers are finally coming back in!

This isn't a dirty chicken, her feathers are just tinted from the Blu-Kote.

I think something else that may have helped with their feathers is black oil sunflower seeds. I read somewhere that they helped with new feather growth. So I started bringing out a few handfuls for them to scratch up. Even if they aren't a huge help, they sure do love them.

Big Sister loves to help us with the chickens. She goes out and sings to them, pets them, and just watches them.
The picture above is reason number 1,487 that I'm glad we moved out here.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Goat Barn Pen Update

I wanted to give a final update on our barn pen for the goats.

Mr. Homesteader built a hay feeder and put it up in the pen.

We put up the bucket holder for their water bucket. These little metal bucket holders have proven to be VERY handy for us.
There's also a small bucket of baking soda in this picture. We had both goats out there the other night, and wanted to make sure they had access to this. We'll be buying a mineral/baking soda feeder to attach in there soon.

We've had the goats in there twice now overnight, and they seem to approve. When we go out to check on them, they are usually just laying around chewing their cud.

I'll leave you with a photo we took a few days ago. We had some sleet/rain and when the sun decided to peek out of the clouds, this is what we saw.

Big sister and little sister were both squealing with delight over the "double rainbow."

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Just a few final touches...

Well, Mr. Homesteader is still out in the barn working on a few final touches for the goat pen. He is moving some of the electrical wiring to put a light in over the pen. He's also building a hay feeder for the pen as well. Other than that, we're good to go!

We braced the posts on the outside of the pen for extra support as they do like to lean on the pen. It's not the prettiest pen, but it was remarkably cheap considering we had most of what we needed here. I'll take functional over pretty any day!

We have the goats out in the barn pen now. We were concerned about the goats being messed with around Halloween night, and decided to take the extra precaution.

Now we'll be using this pen when it gets closer to kidding. I'm very excited to expand our dairy herd!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Goat Barn Pen Progress

Not much going on right now. Mr. Homesteader spent some time yesterday working on the goat pen we're putting in the barn. We're hoping to create a small outside pen as well to hold our goat kids in the spring.

Here are some pictures of the barn pen progress.

There's still a bit more to do (including building a gate) before it's done, but we're almost there!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Getting the Goats Ready for Winter

We've been preparing ourselves to care for the goats this winter. Both of our girls were bred, so we are preparing for both of them to kid in March, as well.

The first thing we did was buy almost 80 bales of alfalfa hay. We were lucky enough to get some second cutting hay. This wasn't a great year for hay in our area, so we feel fortunate that we were able to get this hay. We'll probably try to get a few more bales before too long. We don't mind having a little extra.

We stacked the hay bales on pallets to keep it on the floor. I admit, I love the smell of good hay.

Since the goats will be kidding in March, we're also constructing a pen in the barn for them. We'll bring the goats in at night during the colder parts of winter, and keep them in there closer to their kidding dates. I need to get a baby monitor to make sure we can catch the kids as we will be practicing CAE prevention with our goats and their kids.

Mr. Homesteader and Big Sister taking measurements for the pen.

We are also in the process of winterizing the goat shed. We cleaned out the old bedding to put in fresh bedding while we were out there. The old goat bedding was spread over part of our garden space. Hooray for free fertilizer!

Here is Mr. Homesteader cleaning out the old bedding.

I will try to document more of the progress with the goat pen in the barn as well as winterizing the goat shed. I know Mr. Homesteader and my father-in-law will be working on the barn pen this week.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Garlic is in!

We finished up our raised bed, and planted our garlic yesterday! We planted a lot more this year than last year. There are so many ways to use garlic, I think it's almost impossible to plant too much! We ordered our garlic from We Grow Garlic this year, and I think we will continue to order from them in the future. They have great service matched by a fantastic selection of garlic.

Here I am planting garlic. We plant them with 4 inches in between every way.
(Side Note: Overalls are fantastic for pregnant bellies).

We planted three different varieties of garlic this year: Red Toch, Pennsylvania Dutch, and New York White. We ended up planting 56 cloves of Red Toch (area outlined by red), 12 cloves of Pennsylvania Dutch (outlined by blue), and 10 cloves New York White (outlined by white).

I did keep a few cloves of Red Toch to the side to try with a pasta dish I'm making this evening. I'm really hoping to try using some of the Red Toch for homemade garlic powder. I know if we end up with good results on the garlic powder, we will be expanding our garlic production next year.

We covered the garlic, watered the bed well, and then topped it off with a layer of dry leaves as mulch. Last year, we used straw. Unfortunately, the straw we used still had quite a few seed heads left in it. It made that much more work for us in terms of weeding. Leaves are not only free, but we're hoping to avoid the extra weeding work in the spring as well.

We surround our bed with mesh fencing for a few reasons. Big sister and little sister seem to want to treat our garden boxes like they would a sandbox. The dogs have a tendency to walk through garden beds too. The added bonus of the mesh fencing is we can pile mulch a bit higher as well. It works out very well for us.

Now we can eagerly await our garlic harvest next year!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Farm Update- We Are Still Around!

A lot has happened since our last post. I'll try to catch you up on the more exciting bits.

Around the time of our last post, we got one of these.

It was very exciting for us to find out. It's even more enjoyable now that the morning sickness phase has passed!

We were even lucky enough to see the little guy!

Not long after this little guy makes his appearance, we'll be enjoying some other new arrivals on the farm! Both of our goats have been taken to be bred for spring kids! We heard news earlier this week that our Alpine doe was bred! Next year, we should have enough milk to experiment more with making our own cheese!

Chessie- Our Alpine Gal

We also took the hogs to the butcher. We miss having them around. They made short work of any food scraps we had in the house. However, we can't complain too much because we enjoyed some FANTASTIC pork chops for dinner tonight.

It's nice going into winter knowing this is here for us.

Additionally, some of our new Welsummer hens have started laying their dark brown eggs! We're still waiting to see some of the green eggs from our Easter Egger girls. I will say though, we are quickly becoming fond of the Easter Eggers. They have great personalities. There are a few that will just walk up to my four year old and invite her to pet them!

Here you can see a Welsummer egg nestled between eggs from some of our other chickens.
Finally, we've sold all our of pine trees! This gave us money to replace some windows in our house before it gets too cold. More importantly, it gives us more space to add on to the small orchard we've started. We will be using part of the cleared space, and space we already had cleared, to put in a small hay field for the goats!

Bye Bye Trees--Hello Spring Projects!
Is there anything you've done lately, or even something you are planning that you are particularly excited about? Feel free to share with us in the comments!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

All Around the Mulberry....Tree?

We have several mulberry trees around our property. Now, around here, most farmers are quick to chop the mulberry trees down, but our mulberry trees have a varietly of purposes.

1. They provide a nice place for us to put our behive(s). We only have one now, but there will be more in the future. I'm looking forward to building some top bar hives this fall and trying them out in the spring.

2. The goats appreciate the shade they provide. They also find the leaves to be a tasty browse. (Just a side note--I love my Saanen. Isn't she cute?)

3. The chickens enjoy the shade and quick snacks. This is our rooster, Gus. You won't see too many more pictures of him, as he will be stew very soon. That's what happens to cranky roosters around here.

4. The kids LOVE to fill up their little pails with berries to munch on. I love watching the kids do this while I weed in the garden. This picture was taken at the start of my 4-year-old's picking for the day. After a while, her face and hands were stained purple!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Milk on the Homestead

In our family, we consume a LOT of milk. We can easily drink a full gallon in a day. We started talking about having either a cow or a goat on the property to help us keep up with our milk consumption. We settled on a few dairy goats to start for a number of reasons. The first being we have very little experience with larger livestock, and smaller animals seemed like a better place to start. Not only that, but the area we have fenced is better suited for goats. Finally, the overall cost made more sense to us.

We have 3 dairy goats, but only one is currently milking. She is a lovely Saanen doe. Even as a first freshener she is providing us with roughly 3/4 of a gallon of milk A DAY! Her milk is creamy and delicious.

I'm glad we only have one doe in milk at this time, because it helps prevent us from being overwhelmed with milk. In the meantime, I plan on trying my hand a cheese, soaps, and even ice cream! If in future, when we have a little extra milk, we can always feed it to the pigs and chickens. Dairy goats were definitely a great choice for a small homestead.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tractors on the Homestead

I've noticed in my time reading magazines aimed at homesteaders, that many suggest purchasing new equipment. However, most of the newer tractors that are the appropriate size for most homesteads can cost between $15,000-$30,000. Personally, my goal in homesteading is not to spend as much money as I can, but to do things for myself. I thought it was important to share, that a tractor does not have to be this big of an expense for a homestead.

Having never even driven a tractor prior to moving to our homestead, I had my work cut out for me. After becoming discouraged by magazine articles that pointed to these more expensive tractors, I got online and dug a little deeper. I evaluated our homestead and what we planned for it in the future. I took that and then decided to find a tractor that suited our current and future needs within a smaller budget. I found the Yesterday's Tractor forum. I was able to peruse this forum to get a really good idea of what I needed and what I wanted.

After I had a good idea of tractors that would work for me, I looked for weeks through Tractor Trader ads trying to find the perfect fit. I finally settled on a 1965 Ford 4000.

Before Pic (shortly after purchase)

You can see by the picture, she wasn't so sharp looking, but she had potential. I was able to learn along the way about fixing her up, and making her run smoother than when I bought her. I spent time in the barn over the winter giving her some TLC and a nice coat of paint. The paint not only makes her look sharp, but protects her from rust.

After Pic (after working on her over winter)

This tractor can handle anything I might need to do for our current homestead, without breaking the bank. I think most small homesteads can easily find a suitable tractor in good working order between $3,000-$5,000.

I've been able to learn a lot about tractors and their maintenance. Not only have I learned a lot, but I've also found a new hobby.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Raising Meat Birds

This years egg layers with the Cornish Cross chicks

This year, we decided to purchase some new baby chicks to eventually add to our flock (better known as the Egg Brigade). Because we have a flock of birds already, we knew we didn't have a need for 25 egg laying chicks, and 25 chicks is the minimum order with many hatcheries. We thought that we'd just make up our remainder of birds with Cornish Cross birds to butcher this summer.

I feel this was a mistake.

Now, I'm sure that many people don't mind raising this little chirping freaks of nature, but I am not one of them. While my egg laying chicks are thriving, these creepy hybrids are not. We had the experience of a few of the Cornish Crosses having heart attacks--at one week old. We have had to remove their feed from them for 12 hours at a time, as a way to help prevent their over eating. These birds have been bred to have a drive to eat this much, and it seems sad that something would be bred to have habits that will kill it if they go unchecked. Aside from the depressing eating habits, their feather growth cannot keep up with the body growth, and they almost seem bald in spots at times. Finally, they defecate so much that they seem (and smell) like very dirty birds.

Once these chicks are grown out and butchered, it will be the last time Cornish Cross birds are on our homestead. If and when we place another order for chicks, we will make up the remainder of the 25 chick requirement with cockerels (most likely Buff Orpingtons, but any dual purpose cockerel breed will be fine). I would much rather spend a bit more time growing out roosters that can free range, then deal with the sad excuses that are Cornish Crosses.

I also wanted to note, I've heard great things about Freedom Rangers (a slower growing meat bird). This would be a great option for those wanting a larger number of meat birds to butcher.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hello and Welcome!

We decided to start a blog about our adventures for a few reasons. The primary reason being that we wanted to have our progress on our small homestead documented. It's nice to have a place to go back and see what our shortcomings were the year before and have an opportunity to build off of that. We also hope that we can share what we learn with others so that they might benefit from our experience.

This blog will be written by both Mr. Hoosier Homesteader (Mr. HH) and Mrs. Hoosier Homesteader (Mrs. HH). Hopefully with both of us contributing to this one blog, we'll be able to provide a well-rounded source of information.