Shingle To The Left, Shingle To The Right

How would you describe the work of a homesteader? DIYer? Permaculturalist? Farmer? Gardener? Homemaker? Builder? All of the above? Well, this is how I would describe my hubby: Modifier. He is a person who truly thinks out of the box and can take anything and make it better! With that said, this post is about his latest creation: The Shingle Maker! It's happiness, joy, fabulousness and brilliance all in one fabricated contraption-thingy. The idea came to him when we started building the Pig Palace.

Hubby: "It'll need a roof."

Dee Dee: "Uh, obviously."

Hubby: "It seems such a shame to buy the roofing materials when we have all this lumber sitting around here."

And then bam. Just like that, he gets busy.

shingle7

The hubby modified a bedframe and used bits and pieces of metal from things he had laying around. It's re-fashioned into two rectangular parts, where one sits on top of the other.

shingle13

Both top and bottom are hinged on one side.

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Along the other side, a long rod runs the entire length of the bottom portion and has a handle at one end. The rod has four metal tabs that stick out of it. When cranked, the tabs rotate and lift the upper portion 3/4 inch higher.

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shingle8

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Nails were welded onto both sides of the top portion to grab onto the wood to keep it from sliding around.

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A very long threaded rod along with a handle is used to tighten the top portion so it holds the logs in place. Several cranks/handles* were needed.

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When it was finished we couldn't wait to see if it would work. It's very light in weight and one person can carry it if necessary, but it's a bit wobbly and so both of us set it up. The whole thing sits on top of the deck of the sawmill... fits perfectly.

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The short pieces are placed in a row, one next to the other, and fills up the frame. Everything gets tightened down.

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After the first layer is cut, one side cranks up and another cut is made.

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Instant wedge. When it's lowered again BAM! Another wedge. Many cuts later and we have enough to cover Piggy Central:

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Dude, that's cool. (does a happy dance)

*The rod shown was switched out for a longer one because the handle was hitting something... use a longer rod to start and you'll be good to go!

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BONUS OF THE YEAR!! When the wood is cut this direction it creates a different kind of sawdust. Forget about the tiny little flyaway pieces, this stuff is stringy like Spanish moss. How perfect is that? Not only will this make excellent bedding for nests for the chickens, but I can think of many other uses for it. When I pack gift boxes I can use this great stuff as packing material instead of having to buy the stuff. It looks just as fabulous and it's free! Don't you just love it when a byproduct ends up being the best and most useful thing ever?! Okay, back to the shingle maker.

The Problem That Led Us To Marital Bliss

Have I told y'all that the hubby LOVES his sawmill? Oh yeah, I did. It makes him proud cut after cut, which leads to a sweeter hubby at the end of the day, which in turn strengthens our marriage... wow, a sawmill did all that!

Got a big ol' log? No problem! (read more)

But here's the question: How does he get the most out of a 16 foot, freshly milled board? It is very hard to start with a simple table saw. The raw edges don't work with the machine's fence, and trying to freehand a straight edge with the naked eye is a task for the gifted. The best thing to do is to first make one straight cut down one side on an edger. So the hubby decided to come up with a way to make an extra-long "homemade edger" of sorts.

Actually, the idea came to him after seeing old conveyor parts come through the auction. He shouted out the highest bid and brought it home with a big ol' smile on his face. He mounted a 32' x 24" table to the side/wall of his shop, right next to the sawmill; the conveyor/rollers were mounted right on top. The length is no accident; that's exactly double the length of the longest board he can mill.

Using two pair of roller blades, springs and some scrap metal, he fashioned two rolling contraption-thingies that fit snugly into a channel along side the table.

Some of the rollers and springs are used to keep them in place, and some for movement.

Both are connected by an all-thread rod, so it all rolls together. The distance between the two can also be adjusted according to the size of the slab. Attached to each is a metal arm with a spike on the end. The whole thing kinda hugs and holds onto the wood while he easily pushes/pulls it in a straight line all the way down the table.

Not too sharp now... we don't want to do any real damage!

In the center is the saw, the last piece to the puzzle. A simple 10" skill saw turned upside down is mounted underneath. (Really, any skill saw will do, the hubby just wanted to be able to cut up to 4" thick boards.) Now, slabs that come off the mill can go right on over to the edger.

A nice, clean, super-straight cut. It's a beautiful thing. (teardrop)

After this, he's taking me out to dinner! Golly, I think I love the sawmill and edger even more than he does!

The New/Old/Improved Garden Arbor

My entire homestead plan is divided into sections or separate areas that serve a specific purpose. I happen to be working on the fruit tree and herb garden area this time. What will make this garden different from the rest is the laid back feel of it, where all you'll want to do is grab a lemonade, sit down and relax. (That's the plan anyway.) I'll add many shaded seating areas and of course, a grand entrance.

An arbor. It has to be an arbor that marks the start of this garden. And it has to be big and beautiful; a major focal point. Could I possibly DIY such a thing? Well, I had to face it. My makeshift projects can look a bit... well... makeshifty. This time I decided to take a step back and really put some thought into it.

hmm, looks like a project to me

The two gate-sized arbor tops you see here are the wonderful creations of the previous owners. The wood is aged and very beautiful and the design is quite nice. But our plan for the homestead layout does away with the walkways/gates where we found them. So I decided to use them for my project. I carefully took each one apart and laid everything out in a similar design. All I needed was to replace the short support boards with two longer, wider support boards.

careful now!

In my head it'll look great. But in reality, it could ruin the beautiful scenery for the entire property! Dramatic? Not if you've seen some of my projects. So the first thing I did was to get over my "makeshift momma" attitude and ask for help from the hubby when I needed it. But before I approached him, I ran off to find a stack of old fencing that looked as if it were the same kind of wood. And the same age. The hubby was happy to cut two boards to size for me. Back to work...

still a bit makeshift

With hammer, screws and drill in hand the real work began. This cutoff end piece from one of the fence boards was the perfect size to space the slats. Everything was just falling right into place as I started putting it all together...

this deserves a pat on the back

It's a work of art! I'm so happy with how it turned out, and inside I'm doing cartwheels. On the outside, I am trying very hard to look as if I know exactly what I'm doing. I stay calm and cool and ask the hubby to help me yet again.

it's what dreams are built on

He and our nephew dug the (very deep) holes for the posts.

and you though I was makeshift?

Then, with forks (yeah, forks!) attached to the backhoe, he lifts my beautiful redesigned arbor top up and into place. We screw it down, I say thanks to the hubby, and call it a day. At some point I plan to finish the sides off by reusing pieces of lattice I swiped from my mom's house. Then I'll lay cardboard down on the ground and top it with mulch. And I also want to build planter boxes on either side for growing a climbing/flowering plant. I tell ya, the brain is on overload folks.

standing tall

We have a nice sunny day for a picture shoot. The arbor turned out great. It's tall and wide enough to easily drive my tractor and golf cart through, and it's quite a site from afar. I love it! Now I just need to do everything else on the list and we will have achieved garden design perfection. 🙂

Makeshift Momma Strikes Again!

A few weeks ago the hubby and I found a roofing supply warehouse harboring stacks and stacks of pallets behind the building. After talking to one of the forklift operators (who was the most cheerful forklift operator I'd ever met) we were allowed to pile some up on the truck and take 'em away for free... and even come back for another load later on. Pallets are cool. Pallets can be turned into stuff and I needed something. By the time I got around to using the pallets, the hubby was out of town picking up more trees and I was all alone. What's a mother squirrel to do?

makeshift is my middle name

Well, you do what you have to do. First, I had a roll of screen (and I don't even remember why I bought it) that I cut to fit the greenhouse doors. Several clothespins secure it in place. I did this because for some reason the honey bees are still in full force around here and all they want to do is stow away in my greenhouse. My plan is to build an L-shaped potting table/shelving unit and part of it will be used as a desk where I keep track of all that goes on in the gardens. Bees buzzing around my face will be too distracting. Now, they can't get inside and I can work all day and not be bothered by anything.

you got me all knotched up

Since I already had the plywood cut to fit the greenhouse, all that was left to do was to cut a few pallets down to size and put in some notches. Three pallets are cut to fit the width of the plywood boards and became the end pieces; more pallets line the backside. Notches are cut into all the pallets so the plywood can just slip right in. With everything screwed into place and reinforced underneath, this is one super-strong potting bench/project table.

rescued treasures

Okay, confession. I had the hubby make all the cuts before he took off. And some time ago he also cutout the hole for this bin that makes a terrific potting trough that is easily removed for cleanup. But I tell ya truly, I did everything else myself...

steady as she goes

...like add this makeshift hutch to the top of the bench. Remember the three pallets that were cut for the ends? I used the scrap pieces to make it. I added gopher wire to hang bundles of herbs, pictures and what not. And shelving for storage. Funky but functional. I like it anyway. 🙂

as if it were planned that way

Underneath, planks are used as shelving wherever I want them. Kinda like my own customized shelving unit!

beautifying the work space

To make it a bit more personable and purposefully rustic, I stapled burlap around the bottom. I think it adds a nice touch but I know what you're thinking. Staples? Remember who you're talking to. But don't worry, I intend to fix it when we get around to setting up a project/sewing room. One thing at a time right?

still so much to do...

So what's next on the agenda? Tall open shelves* for the left-hand side of the greenhouse. I'll need them for growing the seedlings. Tall because my eyes were open a little too wide when ordering seed this year and I'll need the extra space. (I found a FABULOUS heirloom seed company and pretty much ordered everything.) Maybe I can build the shelves myself? Hey, I have my own set of power tools so why not? And look what I just did! Yeah, I'm pretty sure I can do anything now.

(not so secret) getaway

I still have to add temperature controls and lighting but it's a working greenhouse just the same... I am ready for spring.

*Update: I decided to give makeshift momma a rest because I had to get busy starting the seedlings and ran out of time. This shelving was easy to put together and cheap enough. These will let in lots of light and I can add more shelves as needed.

rackem' stackem'

She’s A Buxom Backhoe Beauty

Working girls are beautiful. And sure, by the worlds' standards, a brand new and shiny girl is what most will go for. For some reason when it comes to a piece of farm equipment, a fresh coat of green and yellow is what sells; marketed as if it can do more than its used, dingy and rusty counterpart. Ha!

ima craig's list addict

On that note, we found a beauty-of-a backhoe on Craigslist that will handle all the projects around the farm with the greatest of ease. It came from another farm that is really close by and at a great price. But as it turns out, the thing needs work. So she isn't perfect, so what? I say that perfection is in the eye of the beholder. And when buying used vehicles/machinery, you or someone you trust should know how to work on them just in case. The hubby had to rebuild the starter and she was dangerously low on oil, but now she's perfect. She can run circles around any one of the other shiny, brand new girls... they're too worried about getting dirty!

backhoe babe

She ain't scrawny either. Don't blink twice 'cause she'll sashay that bucket of hers around and have that hole dug out in no time. Yeah, she knows she's gorgeous and she knows how to work it. So our list of projects is starting to pile up and by next year she'll be a full time working girl. Here's a quick look at her 'to do' list:

future duckie paradise

She'll help us dig a pond around this group of trees next summer. Though one could argue that this project has an aesthetic purpose (it's right in my line-of-sight from the kitchen window - it'll be gorgeous!) the real reason has to do with ducks and water runoff. First, we want ducks and we want them to be able to access all gardens; so the pond will be located right in the center of them. The right breed of duck will gobble up slugs, beetles, grasshoppers and more and leave the gardens alone, helping this organic grower stay true to her beliefs. Second, the slope of the land will allow the water that runs out of the gardens to end up in the pond; where we can pump it back up to the gardens for a nutrient-filled, water-recycling system that benefits everything living and growing off the land. (sniffs. wipes a teardrop.)

the claw

This is one of her secret weapons. Yep, buxom indeed. This bucket is about 24" and she also came with a 18" bucket. Both are a little wider than I wanted for the next project, since it involves digging out a trench for gopher fencing. From what I've read, the most effective way to deal with gophers is to dig a 3 foot trench and put in gopher fencing (vertically) which shuts them out completely. But it makes no sense not to try it since the little critters are a never-ending problem around here. It's a lot of digging that will be easy for her... she can handle it for sure.

drainage problem, be gone!

Last winter (and little did we know) this entire area had a big problem with drainage. The water just doesn't know where to go after a big rain storm and the ground is very slow to soak it up. That's where the backhoe will once again come in handy. All the way to the back of the property is a natural drainage path to the river that serves the entire neighborhood. We can tie into it, but I couldn't imagine us digging a 300 foot trench by hand! Or even a 150 foot trench to the front of the property where the public drain system is... whoa! What's that saying? Ain't nobody got time for that!

So if you just stop there, then you have to admit that our beauty is surely worth every penny and all the time we put into her. Would a high priced, brand new machine be worth it? Uh, not so much... to us. Around here you're valued for what you can do, not how you look doing it. So how do you determine whether or not to make a major purchase like a backhoe or tractor? And if you go ahead and purchase something, should it be new or used? Well, we don't have all the answers but we do have a few rules we always follow:

  1. We first take a look at the size of the project. For us, digging 300 feet of drainage either means we buy machinery or hire outside help... we can't do it by hand. So we knew from the start that we'd be spending some money to get it done.
  2. If it's decided that machinery has to be used, then can it be used for more than one project? For example: Plowing is something homesteaders will do just once or once in a great while... it's usually meant to break up super hard ground that has never been worked before. It could be that hiring your neighbor to plow your property will be sufficient. Or maybe it can be hand-plowed with less-expensive equipment? Buying an expensive machine to do only one project is not an option for most of us. We always consider whether we'll be using it more than once to make it worth the time and money.
  3. After we've determined that, we decide if it really has to be brand new or not. The farm supply stores are usually trying to get top dollar out you. Do the math and take a good look at where your money is going. For example: Our beauty above cost us about $5,000 (plus another $400.00 to rebuild parts and add oil) but if she was brand new, it would cost anywhere between $25,000-35,000. Pretty big price difference between new and used, ya think? And what you have in the end is two machines that do the same thing!
  4. For the most part, we try to not be in a hurry to make a larger purchase. Craigslist doesn't always have your neighbors' hand-me-downs readily available, so you'll have to also decide if your project can wait. We knew that drainage would be a problem since last year... that was plenty of time to start a dialog with several sellers and find the perfect deal.
  5. The really cool thing about buying used is what I call the "check it out" factor. Look it over very carefully, test it out for as long as you need to, and ask about prior maintenance, quirks, etc. Take your time, use your intuition and always ask if you can call back if you have questions after your purchase.

Afterwards, we'll post her back onto Craigslist and let someone else enjoy her hard-working ways. And her beauty, let's not forget that. Yep, there is something for everyone and she is just the kinda girl we like and we know there are others out there that will like her too.

The Dutiful Homesteader: September

First chore: Collect more seed

a nice variety

We started this last month and so the chore continues:

It’s easy to harvest seed in a wide variety of crops. All you need is the space to let them sit out and dry for a while. Some, like squash and melon seeds, will need to be washed and then laid out on a towel to dry. Pepper seeds don’t need to be washed, only laid out for a short time. And peas are dried right in the pod on the vines. Most seeds are ready to sow the very next season. Store inside an envelope or recycled paper, stick it in a jar and put it in a cool, dry place… they’ll last years!

 
Tip: Got lemons? Don’t let these seeds dry out if you plan to use them. They need to go straight from the lemon, get washed and then planted. Start in a teeny pot with a small amount of starting mix… they’ll want to be transplanted soon afterwards to soil they really like (sandy, well-draining) so don’t leave them in the starting mix for very long.

Next chore: Stock up the pantry with your own canned goods

saucy sistas

I don't know about you, but even with last month's freezing and dehydrating chores, I still have bucket loads of tomatoes to deal with! So it's back to canning because we love our homemade canned foods so much, right?

Super-easy tomato sauce

Wash tomatoes and throw them in the pot. (No need to peel and seed them.) Cook for several hours; until super mushy. Run the mixture through a food mill and return to the pot, keeping it very hot. For each sterilized quart jar, add two tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice. Fill the jar with the tomato sauce to a 1/2 inch head space. Add one teaspoon each: Canning salt, minced onion, minced garlic, basil and oregano. Follow the main canning page using the water bath method and process for 40 minutes (quart).

Next chore: Clean gutters

Save yourself a major headache and do this before the crazy weather hits ya. Follow these easy steps:

  1. Clean out leaves and other debris (throw it in the compost pile)
  2. Check all spikes and make sure things are tightened and secured
  3. Check all downspouts and secure any loose rivets
  4. Wash out gutters with a powerful sprayer (keep the angle low/tilted so nothing gets damaged)

See all tips and advice at DIY Network.

Next chore: Clean and set out rain collectors

We'll be setting up some of our own this year, so look for more information soon.

Next chore: Let the chickens clean up your garden

We're still cleaning up the summer plantings and everyone has to chip in... including the chickens! Here is the reminder from last month:

Chickens do wonders in the garden… as far as cleanup goes. They are so destructive that allowing them into the garden prior to cleanup is iffy. But when it comes to end-of-season gardening, let ‘em in because they will eat, till and fertilize all day long. Some farmers use chickens to turn compost piles, since they are nonstop with digging and pecking. And if you have a weed problem, they’ll take care of it; save your back and let them do the rooting for you!

 
Chicken poop decomposes quickly and will be ready to go by spring. A chicken tractor helps when you want a specific area targeted. Think of it as a portable poop machine that’ll give your garden beds a much needed boost. You can also do what we do and use portable fencing to target areas that need cleaning and fertilizing.

 
Here’s a great article on how to do it right: Chicken Proof Garden

Next chore: Build bed covers (hoops) or cold frames for late fall beds

looks good now...

Veggies (like lettuce) love cooler daytime weather. But freezing nights? Forget about it. So here's a tip: You can extend the growing season by covering them up when the lows get really low. If you're a makeshift mama like me then follow these steps as outlined here for an easy hoop house:

  1. Use straps to secure bent rebar to the outer sides of your raised beds
  2. Cut 6 mil plastic to size
  3. Staple a 2 x 4 to either side of the plastic (if you have a small box) to easily roll up one side for access or, cover two large raised beds (pictured above) and create your own 'mini green house', entering through either end
  4. Weigh down the plastic by the bottom of the beds with brick or whatever you have on hand

The point is so the hoop houses can quickly be removed and put away; and they will use up very little storage space.

Final chore: What to plant this month

how to beef up on iron

Like in springtime, we've got major sowing/planting going on. This planting schedule assumes you are in zone 8 or 9 and practice succession planting… so you may also see the same items listed on other months.

Seed or plant the following: Beets, Bok Choy/Pak Choi, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chard, Cilantro, Collards, Garlic, Kale, Leeks, Head and Leaf Lettuce, Mustard, Onions, Peas, White Potatoes, Radishes, Shallots, Spinach, Turnips

Resources

The Farmer Fred Rant
The Weekend Homesteader Series (amazon.com books)
Real Simple
Martha Stewart Living
pickyourown.org
DIY Network

People Who Live In Polycarbonate Houses…

The original plan to build a greenhouse near the back of the market garden still stands. We need a big space for growing food through the winter and an aquaponics system (eventually). We have all the framework here already (milled by the hubby) and we'll try to find salvage materials for the rest of it. The new plan is to get the seed for all the gardens started on a larger scale - right now. And so we decided to buy a smaller greenhouse and not wait another season to get things rollin'. Impulsive? Yeah. And to think I used to be (slightly) critical of others' hasty decisions. What was just an idea was suddenly sprung into action when our favorite hardware store presented us with a mega-clearance-palooza-bargain-basement-blowout we just couldn't refuse. Lesson for the day: Don't judge lest you be judged!

not your average house

And here it is, the 12' x 10' too-good-to-pass-up greenhouse. Plenty room for starting shelves upon shelves of seedlings for the market garden, chicken garden and kitchen garden.

makeshift mamma

I was so eager to start something, that I couldn't wait for the hubby to build shelves. I ran to the garage to find our old camping prep table. I can start anything in the cabbage family right now, and the kitchen garden has a couple of empty boxes just waiting on me. I mixed up some seed starting mix and got busy.

makeshift momma strikes again!

I have a small stack of carrying trays on hand and put a garbage bag in between two to hold water. This great idea is a life saver, and I'm ashamed of how I first reacted when I saw a friend do it several years ago. "That's so makeshift! Ha!" Now, I get laughed at for my makeshift ideas... what was that lesson again?

ahh, such cuties!

Makeshift momma strikes again and a flat of broccoli is started in repurposed water bottles. I cut them in half and cut slits in the bottom for drainage...

now you see me...

...and the tops will serve as covers for anything I start in the winter. I'll let you know if it helps or not.

the sandstone carpet

Finally, I decided to line the rest of the greenhouse with sawhorse/plywood tables as a quick way to move forward. The floor is layered with 3/4 inch drainage rock, thick landscape fabric, sand and pavers. Lookin' good! One day it'll be more functional but this works great for now.

a nice variety

Fall planting is now underway even though I'm still harvesting seed from the summer plants. I can start the bok choi and peas while cleaning up and storing the squash seeds, tomato and pepper seeds. This greenhouse will certainly help me keep it all organized.

And that's the latest around here. With the ability to start so much all at once, I'll need help next year for sure. I expect the market garden to go from 1/4 acre to almost 2 in no time. Someone recently said to me, "So you'll be looking for help? Out here? You sure you know what you're doing?" Wow, dude. Don't be so critical.

The Dutiful Homesteader: June

First chore: Work on a sewing/quilting project

Or any craft that makes you happy. The farm work is all about maintenance and watching things grow this month, so it's the perfect time to make an apron, piece together a scrapbook or turn a mason jar into a pendant light.

Next chore: Plan your fall and winter gardens

what to PLAN this month

We'll be so busy during harvest, that planning a winter garden will be the farthest thing from your mind. Since this month is just about routine, now may be the time to do it. Lettuces, onions, peas... they've all hit the road. You'll know how to prepare the empty spaces for new plants once you get it all laid out. Follow this rotation chart and you're good to go.

Next chore: Tuneup/service vehicles (cars, tractor, etc)

wheels go round...or do they?

You tidied up the compost bins and realized you're getting low. So you set aside a day to pick up some more. Wouldn't it be a shame if you headed off in your dump truck, only to find that you have bad bearings? Making sure the homestead vehicles are running properly can be the difference in you getting that compost or finding out that your truck won't take you anywhere. Now you're doing the V8 head-slap because it could have been prevented. Don't do the V8 head-slap. Put this chore on your list and you'll be sure to discover the leaky seal on the axle, fix it and get your day started as planned.

Next chore: Store and/or dehydrate garlic and onions

minced, dried onions... is there anything better?

We cannot have enough onions and garlic in our lives and we've grown plenty to get us through the entire year. When the onion family has flowered and is ready to leave the building, it's time to dry them out a bit for long term storage. (Find out more about it here: First-Time Grower, Long-Time Lover.) Then take storing them even further by dehydrating your own minced and powdered cooking helpers. Trust me, you'll be so happy you did.

Next chore: Do a bit of in-season canning

relishing the thought

Speaking of onions, another great way to store them is by pickling them or make up some onion relish for the upcoming BBQ. While you're at it, you may as well pickle all that zucchini and crookneck you planted. Stay on top of the harvest and you won't have to scramble around come August!

Next chore: Double-check the homestead before going on vacation

The onion family is tucked nicely away or drying out for the farmers market. The tomato family is busy plumping out and slowly turning beautiful colors. And everything from the rose to the grass family still has a little bit longer to go before they get sweet and tender. So this happens to be the best time for your family to get away. Since you took the time to carefully plan this vacation back in February, you don't have to stress when the time to leave finally arrives. And handing the farm over to someone you trust has already been rehearsed and so you're ready for a good time! This short list of last-minute to dos won't take long, and then it's off to paradise! (If you have a house sitter, some of these things won't be an issue.)

1. Ask a friend or neighbor to feed the fish and water the house plants. The person taking care of the homestead may get overwhelmed if they have to worry about the house too; so you may want to give this job to someone else.

2. Have the post office hold your mail for you. A stuffed mailbox is a sure sign that you're out of town, and this is a simple way to fix that.

3. Install a timer for the lights, TV, etc.

4. Turn off the thermostat (if necessary).

5. Arrange to take your house pets to a kennel (or friends' house) the day before leaving. You won't want to make extra stops on your way out of town. You'll want to head straight to your destination and get the vaca started!

6. Make a list of appliances and what not to double-check as you walk out the door. Unplug the computer, TV and other electronics.

7. Shutting off water valves may help prevent a disaster waiting for you when you return.

8. Clear out the refrigerator of things that can go bad, do all the dishes and take out the garbage. No stinky smells! Make your house a place you want to return to.

9. Hide a copy of your house keys or give them to a relative for emergencies (like, if you lose them). You'll be so glad you did.

10. Smile a lot! Get the vacation off to a good start by creating a positive atmosphere around you. This will help you have lots of fun!!!

Next chore: Stick to a house cleaning schedule

The entire cleaning schedule that I use breaks it down to a daily, weekly, monthly, biannual and annual schedules. I just took out the once-a-month portion and added it here. Remember, you’re just trying to stay ahead, not be perfect!

Monthly: Clean out the microwave, oven and fridge. Wipe down the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Wipe down towel racks, toilet paper holders, hooks and other fixtures. Dust the laundry area/room. Vacuum upholstered furniture. Dust behind TV. Wipe down doorknobs, light switches, windowsills and baseboards.

Final chore: What to plant this month

This planting schedule assumes you are in zone 8 or 9 and practice succession planting… so you may also see the same items listed on other months.

Seed or plant the following: Snap Beans, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Leeks, Melons, Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkins, Soybean, Edamame, Summer and Winter Squash, Tomatoes, Watermelon.

Resources

The Farmer Fred Rant
The Weekend Homesteader Series (amazon.com books)
Real Simple
Martha Stewart Living
pickyourown.org

Building A Homestead

As I sit down to take a break outside in my kitchen garden I decide to write about the latest. Slowly but surely we are making the dream come true. I am excited that my first try at selling (at the farmers market and crafts fair) is as much fun as I thought it would be. I realize that the idea of homesteading is to become as independent as possible, but it is also about community and helping each other. And though we have to make money right now, I can see us bartering or making a deal on the exchange of services. What a cool thought; connecting to other homesteaders and forming a real network, so that none of us need or want for anything.

a sprawling ecosystem

The gardens are sprawling! I can't emphasize enough the need to create a good plan before building a large garden. I need to rethink a few things that got out of hand. I didn't add cages (or any kind of support) for the tomatoes in the last row in the market garden, I planted rows of corn and sunflowers too close together in the chicken garden, and I don't even want to talk about the kitchen garden. Let's just say that you should really think about your garden plan and imagine yourself tending to it. It'll make all the difference. My gardens are getting close to needing a cleanup before I start fall and winter crops, so you can bet I'll be putting more brain power into my plan this time!

I decided against staggering market garden plantings next year. Especially with things like tomatoes and peppers, where they kinda stagger themselves anyway. And potatoes, onions and garlic can be stored until they're sold. It makes sense to get rid of that work and worry, and just plant all at once. If I get into crops like lettuces and radishes, I'll rethink this subject at that time. Staggering plantings in the chicken and kitchen garden is a must though... the chickies and the fam can only eat so much.

feed 'em this!

If our homestead was a neighborhood it would have four distinct subdivisions of interest: Our home, the hubby's shop, the three gardens and the animal spaces. This fall, I plan to expand the gardens and add more chickens to the brood. These two "subdivisions" are almost completely self-sustaining already. Collecting seed, composting, growing organically, using the layering method for minimal watering and sticking to a crop rotation plan means we can now sit back and let the land begin paying us back. And if I can grow all of the chicken feed by next year, then we'll have a pretty good ecosystem going. I think the next step will be to sell eggs, raise meat birds and (dare I say it?) get a rooster or two and raise chicks.

try not to eat this

Another super-important part of homesteading is the DIY side of it all. Yes, there are many healthy, natural and organic products out there now that are all perfectly good to use. But do a breakdown of the ingredients and you'll see that it can all be made for practically free! We've been using our own concoctions for everything from homemade deodorant to mite control dusting for the chickens. And for bigger things around the house, farm and shop, there is no better DIYer than the hubby who has had this attitude from day one.

ima craig's list addict

If you think we have a Craig's list addiction, you'd be right. But I promise, one day it will stop. It has to, right? This backhoe beauty will be much appreciated when it comes time to take out the rest of the dead walnut trees, dig trenches for vertical gopher fences and dig the duck pond. Because the homestead plan is so large, this tool is a necessary expense for my ambitious dreams. When all is said and done, we'll pass on this good deal to someone else one day.

It would also be a good thing to get started on driveways. While I love the fact that I lost 5 lbs (woo hoo!) the ol' knees are not thrilled to have to walk the entire 5 acres each day. As stated above, the lesson of the year for me is learning just how important it is to plan a good layout for your homestead. Once we get good walkways and driveways in place, a good shed couldn't hurt. I have no problem with my messy nature but I still like an organized mess!

you don't mess with the zukes

So what's the biggest accomplishment? Getting back to putting up. It's one of the key factors in distinguishing a hobbyist from a homesteader. Think of the old west... you had to put up your food to be able to survive winter. Don't think "Walmart" when stocking the pantry, think about canning, dehydrating, freezing and cold storage. And it's fun too! A good pickle never does me wrong and soon I plan to add fermenting and curing to the list of kitchen skills. I think it has something to do with summertime barbecues. Mmm.

quick and simplifying

One thing I am really trying to work on is to create easy and delicious recipes using nothing but ingredients grown and raised right here. Right now, I've been able to cut back on weekly trips to the grocery store to just going once a month. I'd like to get that down to every six months; only shopping for things we can't make like TP and salt. How great would that be? But until we raise our own meat, I've been simplifying by stretching meals as far as they can go. Roasting large cuts of meat (or two chickens at a time) for 1-2 dinners, then using leftovers for lunches, and finally for boiling the bones into stock or soup; either for canning or freezing. Again, planning is key.

To bring our homestead plan closer to completion we will be putting in solar this fall. We picked out the site and drew up a plan for running the electrical to the house, shop and greenhouse. Technically, we could stop there. We could be somewhat self-sufficient and satisfied with just that. But y'all know us by now right? We're going to take it further and figure out how to create our own biofuel. (Actually, the plan to start on this had to be pushed back to next year. There just aren't enough days on the calendar.)

Okie dokie my break is over. Until next time, here's to working on the dream!

One Quick Chick

stuffing: not what you pictured, is it?

Pump up the flavor by stuffing a chicken with fresh herbs, lemon and garlic. Carefully stuff underneath the skin, pushing the herbs (etc) as far as it will go, so as to flavor the breast and thigh. Stuff the front and back cavities too. Rub the chicken with a little oil and rub in some homemade spice rub. Roast as usual. (more)

This pairs well with a simple tomato salad: Equal parts of thinly sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, throw in some bell peppers and onion, a little chopped basil and minced garlic, and toss with your favorite vinaigrette. Salt/pepper to taste. Yum!

The Dutiful Homesteader: April

First chore: Spring planting/sowing

our babies

We've moved this one up front and center this month. It'll be the only thing we can focus on right? And we already have our garden plans from previous months, the soil is nice and amended, and now all that's left is to get busy planting and seeding. Yes, it's true that some of us have already started last month, and there are many things that can be planted during every month really. But this is the time when we all can just go for it; get that spring bug out of our system because the list of things to grow is long and very exciting. Go get all your hand tools you put up last year and take the gloves down off the shelf. Begin with the following:

Snap Beans, Basil, Beets, Carrots, Celery, Chard, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Mustard, Parsnips, Peppers, Sweet Potatoes, Radishes, Soybean/Edamame, Spinach, Summer and Winter Squash, Tomatoes.

This planting schedule assumes you are in zone 8 or 9 and practice succession planting...

Next chore: Prune fruit trees after first buds have sprouted

prune the prunes

If you type "prune dead branches" into Google you get a multitude of responses that say different things. So, to prune or not to prune? Hmm... well, this beauty had many dead branches from neglect and most likely it was susceptible to disease, which means that pruning it was the best thing to do. And what if you have a tree that is so overloaded with branches that the center of the tree can't get enough sunlight and stay healthy? If you're pruning for shape, however, I do agree that you should be very careful to not (unnecessarily) stress an otherwise healthy plant. With each cut you encourage new growth and one blogger explains that winds at this time of year can cause too much damage to these tenderlings. So consider everything and prune with care. (how to video)

Tip: Now is also the time to prune old canes off your berry bushes that already bore fruit. Keeps the plants strong and prevents the spread of disease.

Next chore: Plant perennials/annuals

Beautifying the homestead? Give your soil a boost with a bit of compost and start planting. But make sure you allow the young plants to sit out a few days first to harden off. This will help them get through the shock of being transplanted outside where there is no protection from the elements. Plant in the late afternoon and mulch.

This site has an excellent and extensive library of plants to grow according to the zone you're in.

Next chore: Mow, mow, mow

tractor and me

Right after all that crazy winter weather, things get ta growin'. That includes grassy fields with weeds! Break out the floppy hat, grab a water bottle and jump on the tractor... it's mowing time. In most cases, regular mowing at this time of year will keep fields under control since grasses and weeds won't be able to go to seed. Then you can slow way down during the summertime, and quit altogether by late fall. Way to show that field who's boss!

Next chore: Move your overgrown indoor plants outdoors

so much flava!

You've had the pleasure of growing your own herbs, citrus, roses, even blackberries indoors over the winter... isn't it about time you let them breath some fresh air and take in as much sunshine as possible? Overgrown plants (especially citrus trees) will certainly appreciate it and produce much more for you. But do it right, put them out by day, bring them in by night for the first few days... letting them stay out longer and longer each time. And if the weather is still a bit iffy, then move them to a spot that is close to the back door, so you can quickly bring them back inside if need be. Are the plants large enough to be planted outside? That's something you may want to consider as the weather starts to heat up.

Final chore: Stick to a house cleaning schedule

The entire cleaning schedule that I use breaks it down to a daily, weekly, monthly, biannual and annual schedules, so that housework doesn't leave me feeling beat up. So I took out the once-a-month portion and added it here. Remember, you’re just trying to stay ahead, not be perfect.

Monthly: Clean out the microwave, oven and fridge. Wipe down the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Wipe down towel racks, toilet paper holders, hooks and other fixtures. Dust the laundry area/room. Vacuum upholstered furniture. Dust behind TV. Wipe down doorknobs, light switches, windowsills and baseboards.

Extra for this month, clean the windows inside and out (assuming the heavy storms have passed, if not, move this to next month).

Resources

The Farmer Fred Rant
Dummies.com
Fine Gardening Plant Guide
The Weekend Homesteader Series (amazon.com books)
Real Simple
Martha Stewart Living
chron.com
This Old House

The Great Seed Starting Mix Debate

Update posted here

The saw mill and the table saw both make very fine sawdust. Lots of it. At first, I was so discombobulated by the amount of sawdust we made... I mean, there must be something we can do with it all..? Sticking it into the recycle bin each week seemed like such a waste.

byproducts - just another surplus

The sawmill does its job man. It is truly a beautiful machine. And that is coming from someone who really doesn't want to go near the thing, just admire it from afar. When you cut into a log, the first thing to get stripped is the bark. The bark makes a great mulch for pathways and other landscaping, so I'm really happy about that. But then the cutting continues and you're left with a big ol' mess. So we came up with a plan to make pressed logs by combining it with extracted fatty acid after making biodiesel. We learned that while the bark is fire-resistant, the inner part of the trees burn just fine and so the sawdust from redwood should work as a pressed log. (I can't wait to write about that one!) But the business gal in me couldn't help thinking that until then, there must be something we can do with it right now.

a little of this, a little of that

So I decided to go to the people I trust with all things concerning homesteading. My go-to place is Homesteading Today. This message board has made life so much easier for us, it ain't even funny. (When I first learned that there is no need to peel, seed and chop plums to make plum jam, I instantly became a fan of this site. Thanks knowledgeable homesteaders!) So once again I find myself searching this site for help on what to do with all this dang sawdust. One lone soul speaks up. On a post about making your own seed starting mix, he explains that compost mixed with sawdust is all he's ever used to start his seeds. Well, while the debate continues, I've already decided. I'm game! The only problem is the recipe wasn't explained, so I just took equal parts of each and mixed them up. (I should also note that both the sawdust and compost weren't fresh. They had been sitting around for several weeks.)

life pots

We have plenty of both, sawdust and compost, things we made ourselves. And you know me, I am not into buying extra stuff when I can just use my own stuff. Sawdust retains water like crazy, which is all you have to worry about anyway because seeds contain their own nutrients. I mean, how else do they get started all by themselves in the wild? Seeds can start amongst the worst conditions as long as there is water and light. (Yes, I used the word amongst.) And by the time you're ready to plant, the seedlings are already used to growing in compost which makes for a smooth transition to your garden. So I watered the mix down and waited another few days to sow. The mix looks great and seriously holds the moisture in*. Even with these clay pots that like to draw moisture out, the mix held up fine.

look at those muscles!

And before I knew it, my little peppers popped up! These are red bell peppers which always take forever to start. Within a week and a half they started popping - that's a record for me! I also started jalapenos, ancho and cayenne peppers in this mix, and they're even stronger and bigger.

peeping peppas

So far, I'm convinced. But I should say that I don't know if this would work for a more delicate seedling? While the peppers worked out great, I'll be trying this with eggplant, tomatoes and more this week. I'll update this page asap with the good, the bad, the trials and the triumphs.

aw, they grow up so fast

And they're off!

*Info: The mix held water so well, that you should watch for mold/mildew. I scraped off 4 different spots where I saw growth and the rest was fine. I never really had a problem with mold or mildew in the past... just kinda ignored it and my plants would still thrive. And it only happened in the clay pots, so I figured that may have something to do with it. That clay...

Update posted here

The Dutiful Homesteader: March

 First chore: Pull weeds and add compost to soil

The best thing you can do for yourself and your garden is to clean up the beds and add compost. In our area, this is the month to do it. The rainy weather will ease up while the ground remains soft, making it the best time to dominate weeds. And when you immediately follow that with a slathering of compost, you convince the worm population to stick around a little longer, while replenishing your beds with much needed nutrients. Your garden will thank you for it.

To mulch or not to mulch

For many, mulching your vegetables seems strange if not unnecessary. Yet I've found that this method works so well, that I have to recommend it. Whether using leaves from your yard or wood chips that you purchased, it has its benefits and should be considered as we get closer to springtime.

 Next chore: Build more bed covers (hoops) or cold frames for early spring beds

We have such a long growing season here and that has to do with the amount of sunshine we get. But even though we have sunny days, we still get freezing nights this time of year. Enter covered beds. Any kind will do. You just want to keep the baby plants warm at night and then be able to open it up during the daytime so they can soak up the rays. Way to extend the season!

 Next chore: Organize your garden tool bucket

Buckets around the garden are a handy thing. I use mine mostly for carrying things to and fro, and of course to keep my tools organized and with me. Any pail or bucket will do but you can buy organizing kits as cheap as $15.00. Or you can be really cheap like me and use what you already have - a tool belt strapped to a paint bucket wins me over every time. Some things you may want to keep with you include:

2 hand trowels (different sizes)
Hand rake and/or fork
Hand pruner/trimmer
Hand saw
Dibbler
Measuring stick
Waterproof knee cushion
Gloves
First aid kit

Make sure to leave room for a spray bottle and water container.

 Next chore: Edit your home storage

We all use them... closets, bins and drawers to hide the clutter. But they can turn you into a hoarder if you don't take the time to keep it organized. This is the month to toss out the old, the unused and the unnecessary. That's it, now you're getting into the swing of spring!

In the kitchen: Clear out that utility drawer. Are you holding onto a set of keys that don't open anything? Toss 'em! Do you store unopened bills from a year ago? File 'em! Don't let these things fill up that space because before you know it, you'll be using a second utility drawer or worse - the countertop.

In the bedrooms: Get the kids together to help you make decisions about the clothes, shoes and toys they've outgrown. Ask them what is okay to store in the garage and what can be donated to Goodwill. Take that same decisive attitude into your own bedroom closet. We all love to shop so unless we learn to edit, the closet will just keep filling up.

In the bathrooms: The medicine cabinet is often overlooked when it comes to cleaning. Medications and vitamins don't last forever you know. Check dates and get ready to toss anything that can't be used anymore. Under the sink is another strange place to tackle. Is that rock-hard box of Epsom salts back in the corner of the cabinet really necessary in life? Can you use it or toss it already?

Inside armoires and other standing cabinets: On occasion, I open up the entertainment center to find a big ol' mess, tossed around any which way and we can't find anything. It's just our nature to be messy. When I finally organize it all I find movies and music CDs that we'll never watch or listen to again. It's a garage sale in the making so in a bin it goes with a sticker that says "50 cents each" on it.

In the entryway: Take a good long look at the catchall basket that catches more than just money and keys. Yuck. Now go through it, edit and clean. Do the same in the entry closet and/or cubbies.

In the office: Don't be like me and poke your head in, then turn around and run. File, stack, organize. A little effort goes a long way.

 Next chore: Stick to a house cleaning schedule

The entire cleaning schedule that I use breaks it down to a daily, weekly, monthly, biannual and annual schedules; it helps me to look like I'm organized and on top of things! This is the once-a-month portion that will help you to stay ahead of it all.

Monthly: Clean out the microwave, oven and fridge. Wipe down the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Wipe down towel racks, toilet paper holders, hooks and other fixtures. Dust the laundry area/room. Vacuum upholstered furniture. Dust behind TV. Wipe down doorknobs, light switches, windowsills and baseboards.

 Final chore: What to plant this month

This planting schedule assumes you are in zone 8 or 9 and practice succession planting… so you may also see the same items listed on other months.

Seed or plant the following: Fava Beans, Beets, Carrots, Celery, Chard, Collards, Kale, Leeks, Leaf Lettuce, Mustard, Peas, White Potatoes, Radishes, Spinach and Turnips.

Start in pots: Eggplant, Peppers and Tomatoes.

Resources

The Farmer Fred Rant
The Weekend Homesteader Series (amazon.com books)
Real Simple
Martha Stewart Living

Combining Shops: A Hubby’s Dream

Although the shop is still in need of an overhaul, we've been busy using it just the same.

Just outside the shop is the area for the sawmill which has already paid for itself. We now have all that we need for the greenhouse framing and about 300 feet of fencing (with posts). It took about 3 of the redwood trees that we've had laying around for a long time.

Once the shop is all done, we can keep it organized a little better. Right now everything is just all over the place and space is at a premium. The plan was to focus on the spaces that would get us closer to independence first; the shop being one of them. We just didn't realized how important it is to us.

The inside of the shop is getting very good use. But the hubby needs more. He still has tools in storage: a surface planer, a jointer, another table saw and band saw. They are dirty, a bit banged up and cheap Craig's List finds, and they're also perfect things of beauty in his eyes. He desperately wants to move them to this space pronto!

So now we're on a mission to complete the shop. (We just have to reunite the hubby with his tools!) So he's starting off by adding a concrete floor. Concrete will eventually surround the entire outside of the shop too, making it easier for loading and unloading the truck with supplies, creating an even surface for the sawmill and stacking wood, and so much more. But that's for later days.

So far, about a quarter is finished. Yay! After the concrete set up enough to walk on, we carefully looked around and began planning out the space, then realized the walls and ceiling are a bit, well... icky. There are cobwebs, pigeon nests, bee hives and dirt. Lots of dirt.

We first thought about power washing the place down because that would be quick and easy. But it is still wintertime and it would take a dirt floor forever to dry. That would cause the hubby to suffer since he would have to wait to pour more concrete. So the scaffolding went up and the shop vac went to work. Now that's better!

The shop cleans up well and now the hubby's wheels are a turnin'. It will be divided into various sections for doing woodworking, metal fabrication, pottery and creating biofuel. The area for woodwork will have to be sectioned off with something that keeps the sawdust contained. And the hubby intends to build a loft for the pottery section to keep it as far away from all the dirty work as possible.

The most exciting part for me will be watching the process for creating fuel. From what I understand (and the hubby has explained it several times already) we'll get three uses out of used cooking oil. Yeah, three! First is the biodiesel. (sigh - Fuel that is practically free. What a wondrous thing... this thing called independence.) Next is the byproduct glycerin. (Clean, real soap. Go figure.) Now, you can stop there, or, you can take it a step further and extract the fatty acid out of the glycerin. That gives you a substance that can be combined with all that sawdust the hubby's been making. And (you guessed it) that creates pressed logs. Free heat too! (I tell ya, this is just too much for me folks.)

As things take shape, I'll put it all up here. I'll also put up step-by-step instructions on the biodiesel, soap and pressed logs processes. Hooray for us homesteaders!

Eat your heart out Home Depot.

The Dutiful Homesteader: February

First chore: Plan your spring and summer gardens

Last month you figured out the rotation plan and how your garden will work. This month you'll be picking out the plants that will go into the spaces you've laid out. (Your plan says 'tomatoes', but what kind?) For example, I have the seeds of a few favorites from last season like Cherokee Purple, Copia and Amish Paste. But I'd really like to try a new variety called Black Krim and the garden won't hold everything. Now I know I have to switch one out and get these started on time. Running to Home Depot for last minute, overgrown and under-nourished potted plants is a big fail for me... I never get exactly what I want and who knows if the plants are really organic as promised..?

Once the plan is worked out, buy or start the seeds according to your area and the package directions.

Next chore: Plan a vacation

Do not forsake a good long rest. You work very hard and need this time away. Dr Christiane Northrup explains how women especially need to learn this lesson. While men know how to "shut down" every evening to reset themselves for the next day, a woman will often keep on going all the way 'til bedtime, and then wonder why she's moody or drained. She needs to learn how to heal herself from day to day in order to be healthy and happy. So let's take that lesson for a daily reset and apply it to a yearly reset by going on vacation! Us homesteaders work (physically) harder than the average bloke, and deserve it for sure.

Take this month to plan a trip with your family during a time when the weather will be just right. Then get on the phone and call up a family member or friend, and make plans to show them the ropes. And give them plenty of time to get it right. If the month you choose to travel is in July, invite them over in May once or twice to take notes. Then step up the visits in June, and let them take charge so you can see if they have things under control. This will give both of you the confidence you need before you go. Bonus: Have them stay in your home as a guest while you're gone. The homestead will be safe 24 hours a day and never skip a beat. If this isn't an option then have a second person do things like pick up the newspaper and mail, feed the fish and take care of the dog, and water the house plants. It'll just be easier that way.

Tip: Want to really get some rest? Take a cruise! We love to go on them for two reasons, 1) you can pay it off a little at a time (start the previous year!) so it doesn't seem like it's taking a big bite out of your wallet, and 2) it is the most relaxing vacation you'll ever have in your life. Nothing to think about with an all-inclusive package like this, and a staff to wait on your every need. FAB!

Tip: Move this chore to later in the year if you prefer a winter vacation. You know, if skiing in February sounds like more fun to ya. It's all good!

Next chore: Taxes schmaxes - get a jump-start on 'em

The other chores are easier this month because this one is a doozy! That's why you should start them now... get a good jump-start on your taxes and have no excuses when it comes time to file. Start the paperwork (or tax software) by filling in your personal information, find all your receipts, figure out which tax forms you'll need, download bank statements, etc. Go back to it little by little and guess what? You'll have 'em licked in no time!

Tip: What do I consider the invention of the century? The Neat Receipts Scanner! Brilliant. Saves us so much time it ain't funny.

Next chore: Stick to a house cleaning schedule

The entire cleaning schedule that I use breaks it down to a daily, weekly, monthly, biannual and annual schedules, so that housework doesn't completely get away from me. This happens to be the once-a-month portion. Remember, you’re just trying to stay ahead, not be perfect.

Monthly: Clean out the microwave, oven and fridge. Wipe down the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Wipe down towel racks, toilet paper holders, hooks and other fixtures. Dust the laundry area/room. Vacuum upholstered furniture. Dust behind TV. Wipe down doorknobs, light switches, windowsills and baseboards.

Final chore: What to plant this month

Seeding in between storms isn't easy. A simple covering helps them get established, stay warmer and continue to grow.

This planting schedule assumes you are in zone 8 or 9 and practice succession planting… so you may also see the same items listed on other months.

Seed or plant the following: Fava Beans, Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Chard, Collards, Kale, Leeks, Head and Leaf Lettuce, Mustard, Peas, White Potatoes, Radishes, Spinach and Turnips.

Start in pots: Eggplant, Peppers and Tomatoes.

Resources

Neat Receipts
Royal Caribbean Cruises (we've been on many in the past and this is our favorite cruise line)
The Farmer Fred Rant
The Weekend Homesteader Series (amazon.com books)
Real Simple
Martha Stewart Living

The Dutiful Homesteader: January

First chore: Write down your garden rotation plan

Sit down this month to do this chore. It's the perfect month for it since most of the gardening you do happens indoors anyway (if you're starting seeds) and let's face it, it's cold outside! The following example is a rotation plan that can serve as a starting point for your garden. Gardening this way is something I've learned to do just recently (well, just this last year) and it just makes sense. It works as a wonderful way to grow organically by warding off bugs, fighting disease and repairing the soil. So start with a plan and then rotate...

Year #1

Row 1 - Fallow with oats and/or annual ryegrass (add extra compost prior to planting)
Row 2 - Tomato family - eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes (first year composting only)
Row 3 - Onion family - garlic, onions, leeks, shallots (first year composting only)
Row 4 - Legumes - beans and peas, clover, vetch (no extra compost needed)
Row 5 - Cabbage family - broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chinese cabbage, collards, cress, kale, kohlrabi, radishes, turnips (very light composting prior to planting)
Row 6 - Fallow with buckwheat and/or white clover (add extra compost prior to planting)
Row 7 - Lettuce and Beet family - artichokes, chicory, endive, lettuce, beets, spinach, Swiss chard (first year light composting only)
Row 8 - Legumes - beans and peas, clover, vetch (no extra compost needed)
Row 9 - Grass family - grains–corn, oats, rye, wheat (add extra compost prior to planting)
Row 10 - Tomato and/or Squash family - eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, melons, summer and winter squash, pumpkins, watermelon (light composting prior to planting)
Row 11 - Carrot family - carrots, celery, anise, coriander, dill, fennel, parsley (no extra compost needed)
Row 12 - Legumes (or) Onion family - beans and peas, clover, vetch (or) garlic, onions, leeks, shallots (no extra compost needed)

Year #2 (rows move over one space)

Row 1 - Tomato family - eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes (no extra compost needed)
Row 2 - Onion family - garlic, onions, leeks, shallots (no extra compost needed)
Row 3 - Legumes - beans and peas, clover, vetch (no extra compost needed)
Row 4 - Cabbage family - broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chinese cabbage, collards, cress, kale, kohlrabi, radishes, turnips (very light composting prior to planting)
Row 5 - Fallow with buckwheat and/or white clover (add extra compost prior to planting)
Row 6 - Lettuce and Beet family - artichokes, chicory, endive, lettuce, beets, spinach, Swiss chard (no extra compost needed)
Row 7 - Legumes - beans and peas, clover, vetch (no extra compost needed)
Row 8 - Grass family - grains–corn, oats, rye, wheat (add extra compost prior to planting)
Row 9 - Tomato and/or Squash family - eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, melons, summer and winter squash, pumpkins, watermelon (light composting prior to planting)
Row 10 - Carrot family - carrots, celery, anise, coriander, dill, fennel, parsley (no extra compost needed)
Row 11 - Legumes (or) Onion family - beans and peas, clover, vetch (or) garlic, onions, leeks, shallots (no extra compost needed)
Row 12 - Fallow with oats and/or annual ryegrass (add extra compost prior to planting)

...and so on. The original post has more information about it - that's here. Don't leave out the compost and mulch... it's been very, very good to me and I recommend this method to everyone.

Also, I am a very visual kind of person. I need to see charts and graphs and... colors. 🙂 So after I type it, I pin it, onto a cork board or some other big ol' in your face, chart-of-sorts. I make it visually pleasing with colorful paper and pictures. It helps me stay organized because I have no choice but to focus on it each time I walk by. Then I know it'll get done. This year I think I'll try using flash cards with the plant names on them, then velcro them to the garden rows laid out on the chart... this will allow me to easily move each card one row over each year, or to mix it up!

Next chore: As you use up your canning goods, store water in the empty jars

This is a good idea for an emergency water supply - especially during the summertime when wells run dry. Save the lids from used jars and wash everything in the dishwasher, using the sanitizing cycle. (Or you can also sanitize the jars in the oven or a water bath.) If you're on a well, boil the water prior to storing it. If not, chances are that your municipal water supply already has chlorine in it which means it will store for a very long period of time. There is no need to actually can the water, it should do just fine whether you take these extra steps or not. But check it every six months just in case, and be prepared to change it every January (yearly) if you don't use it all up.

Next chore: Create a budget and plan out the year

Your time indoors is best spent doing the one thing that can quickly get out of hand and make your head spin. Budgeting your money for the year. If you do this then you won't be shocked when it's tax time, and you'll realize what your spending habits are before it's too late. And I suggest using a good program like Quicken (and Quickbooks if you run your own business). The key to not going crazy when using this kind of software? Set it up properly from the start. I have a subscription to a wonderful newsletter called Growing For Market and in their latest issue, there is an article titled "Better Bookkeeping" that talks about this very thing. Learn the program well, set it up properly and then the rest is very easy from year to year.

Next chore: Plant blackberry and raspberry bushes (while dormant)

If you don't already have a bush and you always wanted to plant one, now's the time to jump at the chance to do this chore. If it's possible, do it on a sunny day. Sunny days are a fluke this time of year and you know it, so don't hesitate! Forget the cold. Think 'jam'. How great would it be to walk outside and pick a bowl full of berries for canning? Now think 'free'. How high will you hold your head at the farmers market when you pass by a table of over-priced, teeny weeny baskets of last week's berries? Let these thoughts motivate you!

Next chore: Clean out chicken coop litter

By my own experience, I've calculated that every six months is sufficient enough for this chore. And this is only if you decide to use sand like we do, otherwise, the schedule will be more often according to the type of litter you use. This is the first (and easier) cleaning of the year. The second is in July when you clean it from top to bottom. This time, all you have to do is shovel out the litter, sweep and replace it with new stuff. The addition to your compost will create a really nice well-draining soil to plant in. Win win! Do this the same day you plant your berry bushes.

Next chore: Pick a day to tidy up all gardens

Another one to do on your day outside. Though the real tidying happens in October, wild weather may create a need to re-clean. And weeds don't seem to ever take a break. Make the most of the only good weather you'll have for a long while. Weed all gardens (vegetable, flower), rake leaves and pick up wind-blown items.

Next chore: Stick to a house cleaning schedule

The entire cleaning schedule that I use breaks it down to a daily, weekly, monthly, biannual and annual schedules, so that housework doesn't feel like I'm getting worked (over). I just took out the once-a-month portion and added it here, as well as the biannual schedule. Remember, you’re just trying to stay ahead, not be perfect.

Monthly: Clean out the microwave, oven and fridge. Wipe down the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Wipe down towel racks, toilet paper holders, hooks and other fixtures. Dust the laundry area/room. Vacuum upholstered furniture. Dust behind TV. Wipe down doorknobs, light switches, windowsills and baseboards.

Biannually: This month and then again in July we'll be cleaning all garbage pails. Clean the coffee maker, stove hood and washing machine, and then wipe down the dryer. Wash the curtains and/or wipe down the blinds. Dust/clean the forgotten things: Moldings, ceiling fans, lamp shades, etc. And finally, vacuum and flip your mattress(es).

Final chore: What to plant this month

Seeding in between storms isn't easy. A simple covering helps them get established and stay warmer.

This planting schedule assumes you are in zone 8 or 9 and practice succession planting… so you may also see the same items listed on other months.

Asparagus, Bok choy/Pak Choi, Head and/or Leaf Lettuce, Mustard, Peas, White Potatoes and Radishes.

Start in pots: Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Peppers and Tomatoes.

Resources

The Farmer Fred Rant
The Weekend Homesteader Series (amazon.com books)
Real Simple
Martha Stewart Living
Growing For Market
Quickbooks and Quicken

The Dutiful Homesteader: December

First chore: Update catalog of tools, supplies (indoors and out)


Although we carefully cleaned and retired our garden tools for the season last month, this time we're taking inventory. It should first be noted that I already have a reference catalog to begin with. I made one because I noticed that when starting a project, it would sometimes take us just as long to find the tools needed as it did to actually build something... and that added up to a lot of wasted time. We tend to use the garage, the closets, the desk, even our cars as catchalls. As Martha Stewart reminds us, these "dumping grounds" can quickly become too overwhelming and we have proven that true. I've found that if I take inventory on every tool each year, it forces me to clean things up and stay organized. It really works for us.

The program I use is a simple Microsoft Word template that has columns for a 'yes' or 'no' answer to whether the tools are put up and clean, and if supplies need to be restocked. Notes can be written at the bottom. Click to download - docx format or pdf format.

 

 

Next chore: Plant fruit trees or prune (to shape) existing trees

We have a plan for a fruit tree garden area and now is the time to plant them. (Zone 9) As ambitious as this plan is, it's made easier with the excavator, that's for sure! Planting holes need to be only as deep as the pot the plant comes in. You can loosen a few inches below to mix compost into the original soil, then repack it. Just make sure not to bury the tree any deeper than it already is. (It can cause the trunk to rot.) But you want to make the hole about 3 times as wide, mix in compost and then pack it back in around the tree. This will really help it take off since the tree roots generally grow out first, then deep.

We planted two apple trees (Fuji and Yellow Delicious), two cherry trees (Bing and Rainier), two peach trees (Elberta and Tropic Beauty), one nectarine tree (Fantasia), and finally one pear tree (Red Bartlett) that will be planted with the other pear tree that was already here. Oh boy! This is gonna be good. And I'm still trying to get my hands on a couple of orange trees but that may have to wait for next year. Turns out that they grow very well in this area... who knew?

Tip: Although fruit trees will put out fruit the very next year after planting them, you should pick them off young and allow the tree to put all its energy into getting strong first. Let it grow great fruit for you the year after that, then everybody is happy.

Next chore: Winterize the chicken coop

Coops and runs can get real messy. Pair that with cold and wet weather and you can have a real disaster on your hands. A few simple changes can help get you through the winter.

Make sure the run is covered and lay down a thick layer of mulch or something that will keep the ground dry. (Make sure it won't mold.) Patch up the roof of the coop and clear out the gutters. Fix doors that tend to stick when the weather changes. Move feed and bedding to a dry place. If you live where it snows, you may want to install a light or other source of heat. Use a pail of hot water to melt frozen water in waterers.

Next chore: Stick to a house cleaning schedule

The entire cleaning schedule that I use breaks it down to a daily, weekly, monthly, biannual and annual schedules, so that housework doesn't feel like I'm getting worked (over). I just took out the once-a-month portion and added it here, as well as the annual schedule. Remember, you’re just trying to stay ahead, not be perfect.

Monthly: Clean out the microwave, oven and fridge. Wipe down the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Disinfect bathroom floors and toilet. Wipe down towel racks, toilet paper holders, hooks and other fixtures. Dust the laundry area/room. Vacuum upholstered furniture. Dust behind TV. Wipe down doorknobs, light switches, windowsills and baseboards.

Annually: Go through your pantry and use up or get rid of old stuff; wipe down the shelves. Change or clean the stove hood filter. Clean behind the refrigerator. If your kitchen or bathrooms have tile, then it's time to deep clean the grout. As suggested by sources below, you should rewash any unused items in your linen closet. (We have just what we need and so this doesn't affect me. Whew!) Deep clean furniture, slip covers, pillows and comforters. And finally, wash the walls.

Next chore: Check your emergency supplies this winter

Emergency supplies for your go bags and emergency bins (in the house, car and/or outside storage) need to be updated from time to time. Test batteries, change out water jugs, change out dried foods and my most embarrassing test: make sure you still fit into emergency clothing. Add more cash to the reserve as inflation rises. Update emergency phone numbers and addresses. And re-rehearse the family "plan of action" so everyone remembers what to do in case there is a real emergency. If you're just putting an emergency kit together, then the following is a good starting point:

Include in each go bag and emergency bin a large envelope that can hold things like a list of contacts, birth certificates, passports, social security cards, a credit card, insurance policies (homeowner's, auto and life) and cash (enough for a bus ticket or cab ride, motel room for a week, etc). Store the envelope in a plastic bag to make it as waterproof as possible.

Refer to this page for stocking a go bag. For creating emergency bins that you can store in the house or outside, use the same guide as the go bag but add enough supplies for everyone (not just for one individual) with enough to last several days to a week. An inside bin can be a large plastic storage box, and the outside bin can be a trash can stored in a dry, safe place.

A family plan of action can include: a meeting place if you are separated (make sure children know how to get there); contacting a specific family member (who doesn't live with you but is the closest to you) who knows the plan and can act as the "check-in" person; teaching everyone what to do in case of fire, heart attack, flood, etc, and act it out so all family members are clear about it; keeping emergency phone numbers right next to each telephone in your home; and if your home is really large or has more than one story, keeping a walkie talkie in the common areas. My family also has "emergency phrases" that sound normal to the hearer, but only we know something is wrong. (For example, if my son says "dad's car looks good since he painted it red," I know to snap into action. The hubby hates red cars.)

You can never be too safe. Now pat yourself on the back, you did good.

Next chore: More stocking up on homemade canned goods and dehydrated foods

Since you already have a decent amount of soups, stews, tomatoes and veggies canned from last month, maybe it's time to take it a step further and go to the fish market and buy a whole tuna for canning? Or why not try a simple pot pie filling? When you think pumpkin pie, do think Libby's or your own canned pumpkin? What about apple pie filling? Go ahead, go for it.

Another terrific way to stock-pile your pantry is to store dehydrate foods. If using a tabletop appliance try to stick to one thing at a time so flavors don't mix. If using your oven, keep the temperature under 150° and check it often. Take a look at this youtube.com queen of dehydrating and learn how to put together entire meals. FAB!

Final chore: What to plant this month

Seeding in between storms isn't easy. A simple covering helps them get established and stay warmer.

This planting schedule assumes you are in zone 8 or 9 and practice succession planting… so you may also see the same items listed on other months.

Seed or plant the following during the month of December: Asparagus, Bok Choy/Pak Choi, Carrots, Garlic, Kale, Leaf Lettuce, Mustard, Onions, Peas, Strawberries, White Potatoes and Radishes.

Start indoors: Broccoli.

Resources

The Farmer Fred Rant
The Weekend Homesteader Series (amazon.com books)
Real Simple
Martha Stewart Living
Red Cross Emergency Planning Tools
Dehydrate2store

The Dutiful Homesteader: November

Each month I'll attempt to list the chores we do (and need to do) to keep the homestead organized and running properly. Then I'll put it all together so we can look back over the year to see what needs to be adjusted. Way back when, I thought the bulk of the duties would happen during the spring and summer, and then as fall arrives it would slow down, coming to a gentle and peaceful halt during the winter. HA! Nature slows for no one baby and I had to get used to it quick. Creating lists like this one is the key to success.

First chore: Prune fruit trees

This plum tree was so overloaded that a couple of branches broke before we decided to prop the rest of them up with boards. Pruning will no doubt de-stress the tree so it can put all its effort into growing perfect fruit.

Prune trees in the winter for shape (just prior, or right after leaves fall), and then again in the spring right after new buds form.

Next chore: Plant flower bulbs

This is one of many flower planting projects I have planned for the market garden. Daffodiles and tulips need to be stored in a cool place until late fall. Then they can go into the ground and get covered with mulch to lay dormant for the winter. Small spurts of growth will happen which will help the flowers become as strong as they can be by spring.

Next chore: Clean garden tools and take inventory

This may seem like a waste of time, but it actually prolongs the life of your tools if you take a moment to clean off the summertime grime and put them up for the winter. If you have a tool that is used year round, then keep it clean and find a designated place for it near the area it'll be used.

Next chore: Stack up the firewood

A fireplace or stove will keep your heating costs down to almost nothing during the winter. And if you are blessed with free firewood on your property, then the next thing to do is get ta choppin'. Otherwise, find a neighbor that sells firewood, or a local hardware store that has reasonable pricing and stock up. You'll want 2-3 cords to get you through the coldest part of winter. Keep a tall stack near the house for easy access, but because a cord is about 4' tall by 4' wide by 8' long, you should have a separate place to stack it so it can stay dry. The best woods to burn? Dark, hard woods like manzanita, madrone, walnut and oak; they burn very hot and slow. Soft woods like pine burn really fast and may not be cost-efficient. Whatever is available to you, you may want to test it first before committing to it.

Next chore: Stick to a house cleaning schedule

Completing this list each month will keep your house cleaning on track. I've been doing this for a few years now and so far so good. The entire schedule breaks it down to a daily, weekly, monthly, biannual and annual schedules, so that housework doesn't overwork you. Do some or all of the following throughout the month and every month. Remember, you're just trying to stay ahead, not be perfect.

Clean out the microwave, oven and fridge. Wipe down the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Wipe down towel racks, toilet paper holders, hooks and other fixtures. Disinfect bathroom floors and toilet. Dust the laundry area/room. Vacuum upholstered furniture. Dust behind TV. Wipe down doorknobs, light switches, windowsills and baseboards.

I have lists for the other schedules that I plan to post someday. Hope this helps.

Next chore: Stock up on homemade condiments

Because the growing season is really long where we live, this is a reasonable task for November. Otherwise, this may be better off done earlier in the year or whenever the end of harvest is for you. Either way it saves you money. We're talking ketchup, mustard, relish, hot sauce, bbq sauce, salsa, steak sauce, pickles and sauerkraut for canning. Mayo and salad dressings for the fridge. And pesto for the freezer. Make all your own condiments and instantly, the savings will start to add up.

Next chore: Start canning for the season

All winter long we crave comfort foods. With your pressure canner, you can be sure the pantry shelves will be stocked with them. Soup, stew, chicken or beef stock for gravy and sauces, meats, veggies... do it all now and feel good about the food you eat all winter.

Next chore: Cold storage

Since storing garden produce in a cold storage is an easy way to preserve it through winter, we certainly want to try it asap. So I know that keeping it clean will definitely be part of the chores. But we're still in the planning stages right now. Details coming soon..?

Next chore: Tidy up the garage

Put tools back where they belong. Use bins and buckets to organize large items. Sweep! One of the best things the hubby invested in was a shop vac (a close second is the power washer) which is the difference in us looking like the Clampetts or the Carringtons. A little tidying goes a long way in my book!

Final chore: What to plant this month

This planting schedule assumes you are in zone 8 or 9 and practice succession planting... so you may also see the same items listed on other months.

Seed or plant the following during the early part of November: Fava Beans, Bok Choy/Pak Choi, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chard, Garlic, Kale, Leaf Lettuce, Mustard, Onions, Peas, Radishes, Shallots, Spinach, Strawberries and Turnips.

So there ya go. Things that need to be done this month so that the entire year doesn't get backed up. December is on the way and I'll put all the months together on a single page for easy access. Maybe this will help you as much as it's helped me? I really hope so. 🙂

Resources

The Farmer Fred Rant
The Weekend Homesteader Series (amazon.com books)
Real Simple
Martha Stewart Living

It’s Milling Time (Or, The Unexpected Surplus)

Yep. It's that time. Break out the gloves and goggles because we're cutting wood today. The redwood we stored went from this:

To this:

That's just about three logs. That's money. That's at least $800.00's worth here in California. Hmm. Redwood, oak, fir, madrone, walnut, maple. Where does a girl start? Goodbye Home Depot and Lowes, hello free garden boxes and fencing. Goodbye expensive furniture stores, hello country cabinets and dining table. Goodbye California Closets and Closet Maid, hello free shelving and dresser drawers!

The hubby not only has vision, but you have to see his 'make-it-work' style in action. The tractor became a lift as he used the post hole digger attachment to lift the logs onto the mill.

Brilliant.

The cutting goes fast...

...you just measure and get going on it. Right now, he's squaring it off by taking a bit from three sides.

That makes boards that are ready to put together for garden boxes - the first project on the list.

I'm just starting to learn about ways to use all the leftover sawdust. To tell you the truth, it surprised me. Quite unexpected to have so much of it. There are many articles on making wood pellets and composting, but I don't know if you can do either with redwood. At the very least, I know I can just stick it in the recycle bin. (We figured out a few things since then... see here and here!)

Beautiful. (teardrop) The hubby went through a lot to get to this point. He's having one of those "I love you man", "Miller time" moments where all is good in life. And he deserves it.

Loggin’ On Empty

As the days began to wind down toward the move we made from one side of California to the other, we started to realize something: we have a lot of free wood on our hands. And how terrific is that? With a log or two you can have yourself an out building. Throw in one more and you can add a nice deck to the list. Okay, one more and now you've got outdoor furniture. We saved all the trees that had to be cleared for the foundation, as well as a few that were already down when we first bought our previous property. The new owners want a few more redwood trees taken out and a couple of friends have trees that need to go (for one reason or another). Now we have quite a bit of redwood, oak and fir. And we can also add walnut to the list since buying this place. Nice.

The wood slowly began to pile up higher and higher and wait for the day the hubby could move them to the new property. And there are more logs to come since the word got out that we're looking for fallen trees, a few more were gifted to us if we would clear them out too. Cool. The hubby now rents this space from a friend (near our old house) to store it all. And the hubby keeps his storage container full of tools there too. Now, exactly how does he move it all? Well, the tools can fit into the back of the truck and the container was sold to a friend and will stay there, so that won't be an issue. But the logs... hmm... maybe he can use the dump truck? (Which is now sitting comfortably at the new house.) The intention was to only use it for moving compost and mulch, but take it across several counties and haul all that weight with it? Or do we hire a trucking company to do it? Think, think, think...

This is "Old Yeller" and he is a real work horse... as long as he is only toting things around the property or in town that is. The problem is that he's a real gas hog and polluter too, which is a concern of mine since it will take him many trips to do this job. With a semi, it would only be one trip and it's done. But then again, using Old Yeller would keep one less semi off the highway. Of course with a semi, we don't have to do anything but wait for it to be delivered safe and sound. But then again, we wouldn't have to fork over unheard of amounts of money to big business. I don't know which is the lesser of two evils? What to do. What to do.

I think... I think... I'll come back to that later. Too stressful. The brain is empty and has called it quits. So the hubby decided to distract us from our dilemma by choosing a log mill. Good ol' Craig's List to the rescue. The hubby found this beauty only several hours away and he's had a big smile on his face ever since. It is completely portable/towable which means it was a quick trip in his truck to pick it up and go. And it is nice! We already grabbed the neighbors' attention with this one. "Wow, I've never seen one of those before," said our next door neighbor as he practically climbed over the fence to get a closer look. Yeah, it's that nice.

Unlike the average mill where you have to "push" the blade through the log, this one is automated! Just the flip of a switch and the mill does all the work.

Flip another switch and you get the precise thickness you want without batting an eye.

The fine gentleman that sold it to us was kind enough to throw in a toolbox full of extra blades, straps and tools. The hubby instantly knew it was a great deal from the moment he saw it, how could he pass it up? Did I mention just how much we love Craig's List?

Well, you all know what came next. He had to mill something of course! It just so happens that we have a few dead trees around the 'stead and don't have to wait on the other logs to be transported here. Before I knew it, the chainsaw fired up and I grabbed my camera and ran outside to find this:

Before I could take another picture, this tree was loaded onto the truck and then loaded onto the mill:

And just like that, a board is born. Usually a board will also need several passes through a planer, but this will probably only need one... that's how perfect it cuts. Quick, easy, fun! I never thought I would say that I enjoyed watching the hubby use one of his tools, but this is one of the coolest things I've ever seen. The business gal is quickly adding up what a board like this would cost at a lumber yard, and beginning to realize what an amazing investment this tool really is! And the hubby is smiling even bigger now (because of the saw or the look on my face?) and is making plans to fix up the shop so he can do more.

I know. I haven't forgotten about the original issue at hand. How to move the logs. We're going to have to figure something out by the time we get around to building other out buildings and remodeling the house, etc, etc, etc. Oy vey! Who wants to make such a decision anyway?

As it turned out, Old Yeller did his job. This load was towed behind him and it didn't cost any extra in gas to do it. Believe it or not, this is only two redwood trees. I think about four more trips like this will get it all (all that's cut that is) and at that point we'll see what the cost comes out to. The pollution? Not the worst, and I've compromised on this because of the fact that he won't be on the road forever. C'est la vie... I must be able to give at times. (sigh)

You know, that big burled stump on top would make a FAB end table. Let's get back to milling! 🙂

Mini Cooper

I had to do something about the babies that were not received well by the other ladies. I now understand why the couple I bought them from divided their chickens into size and type categories. There's just no getting around the pecking order and its affects, so keeping the babies safe is top priority. We started by cornering off a portion of the run but that made them stir-crazy, so we sectioned off a larger portion of the run:

Then we expanded the run area for the divas so that part of it was semi free range (sorta) and we can tell they are super happy about it:

This turned out better than we expected because it makes the babes feel like they're a part of the action while giving the rest of the ladies more room to spread out. The only problem is that silly-little-a-frame-coop-thingy the babies have to stay it. It isn't safe or weather proof. So, the hubby has agreed to build a mini safe house for them.

He agreed because it will practically be free since we already have the materials here. He took the shed down not too long ago (what an eyesore that thing was) and now we have more than enough to build the mini cooper. The only thing we had to buy for this project was the insulation and a couple of latches. Cool!

A standard box-frame with a slanted roof and raised to save the ol' back while cleaning.

An easy way to add insulation to a small structure like this is to build it backwards. Build the inside walls first and then add the insulation onto the outside.

Cut the insulation to size and add the siding on top of it and your good to go.

Once the sides went up, the roof went on which left a gap for venting. There will be a large door across the front that will open for easy cleaning, but it will also serve as a way to cover up the venting. And a smaller chicken door will be cut into the large door. Nothing but a perch will go inside since this will not be used for layers. Just the bitties - and eventually mommies and their chicks.

Because mini cooper is so tall, the ramp is extra long. We know it'll be necessary to change it for birds smaller than our current babes. But this works for our needs at the moment.

Of course I had to paint mc... and eventually I will paint a coat of lime on the inside. Now, how to beautify it? Well, once I can unpack everything, I suppose I can get out my Cricut and create stencils for painting flowers on it and what not. I think I'll hit up my old magazines for some ideas.

A board across the front allows the (large) door to be removable; slipping in and out without the need for hinges. A small landing for the ramp was attached to the bottom. A large piece of plywood sits on top for now... so that we can see if it will shield the babies from rain in winter. If not, we'll come up with something else. I added sand to the floor of the coop and will make a small scooper for the brilliant method I learned about and put into action. It's working out to be the idea of the century. Hmm... where do you get a mini pooper scooper for the cooper anyway?

The blog is moving to a new location. Please visit https://oldhomesteadhideaway.com/blog. Thanks!

The blog is moving to a new location. Please visit https://oldhomesteadhideaway.com/blog. Thanks!