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.