How to Arm Knit a Blanket

Here’s a pretty cool video about how to knit a blanket using your arms. It’s not my video, but since knowing how to make blankets, etc is part of homesteading, I thought I’d share it. Thanks to Simply Maggie for making such a neat video! Enjoy!

 

Finally! An egg!

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After many months of being on strike, my red hen finally laid an egg. In reality, I think the low daylight hours effected her, so I added a light to their new coop, followed by a few threats about the stew pot. (Don’t let anyone tell you threats of the pot don’t work because THEY DO.)

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Now to check fertility! This is welcome news since the passing of Mrs Leedle means this is my last laying hen for a while. I already have 2 juvenile roosters from the red hen, as well as 13 from Mrs Leedle, and they are very healthy and very (very) fast growing. Definitely genetics I want to keep around! They have nice broad chests which promise good meat. My blue copper marans are very pretty birds but slower growers than my mixed breeds. And now we have eggs to eat!

So far, out of the first hatch I have 5 roosters and 3 pullets. Out of my second hatch, it’s hard to tell, but if my feather sexing is correct, I only have 2 pullets and 6 roosters. I’ve been told to give them away or sell them because of the cost of raising them to slaughter age. There are so many for sale or free on craigslist that I don’t see that being a viable solution. I’ve come up with a sustainable way to manage all these roosters.

 

When spring comes, I will use them for meat and also insect control. The reason we got chickens in the first place was to control the flies and mosquitos, and they did a great job. It worried me that confining my laying and breeding chickens to the coop would bring back all the bugs. But preserving the flock from predators if equally important. Using the excess roosters to control the bugs is a win/win solution, especially since we plan to electrify the whole property fence. They will require less feed since they will be free ranging, and they get to live the good life scratching for bugs, etc.
Win/win!

What do you do with your excess roosters?

Wow, that was an eye opener

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One of my young roosters

Today was interesting. We visited a chicken raising operation nearby to buy hay for the farm critters. It was a new hay dealer, the teenage son’s operation, and his dad owns the chicken factory. Yes, I’m calling it a factory because it was contracted to Tysons Chicken, which is a big player in this part of the world. So, I’m guessing, they produce their chickens to Tysons specifications. Let’s just say the alternate title to this post is “Why I homestead: part 2.”

I don’t have photos, although some people told me I should have taken some, in part because I wasn’t there to do an exposé, and that’s not really my agenda.

Experiencing first hand what you read about on the internet is eye opening. I hate those stories because they’re usually so laden in emotion and propaganda, it’s hard to know what’s truth and what’s blown out of proportion. Don’t think for a minute I’m exaggerating, and as proof I offer that the owner was really nice and it was clear this was just another normal day.

As we pulled in, we spotted a tractor with a bucket full of dead chickens. There were dead chickens all in the living quarters for the chickens, so the living had to live among the dead. The smell of rotting meat was overwhelming. They didn’t bother to clean up the dead in an efficient and sanitary manner.

It was beyond disgusting, and it turned me off of Tysons and reinforced that by raising my own, humanly treated chickens, I’ve made the right decision. At one point I almost threw up and I have a strong stomach. And on a farm, you see a lot of death (another one of those things you aren’t prepared for but get used to), so really, it was the unsanitary practices making my stomach churn.

My chickens will even get their own garden of goodies next spring! I scouted a location on the property near a pond that can’t be used for us. So I’ll grow greens, corn, millet, etc. especially for them. On the pond itself, I’m thinking of growing cranberries for the chickens!

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Why Homestead: An Insider’s Look

Why Homestead: An Insider’s Look

 

Why homestead. This is the eternal question every homesteader must answer.

Why do we do it? Why reinvent the wheel of sorts, why put out the effort?

If you ask different homesteaders, “Why Homestead?” their answers are as varied as they are thematic. Usually, it’s something to do with getting back to a simpler life, reducing a carbon foot print, etc.

For me, the moment came when we suddenly were charged more for hay when a seller learned we moved here from an affluent part of the country and have horses.

In the horse world, people are decidedly more consumers than producers. Therefore, it must stand, we can afford to pay higher prices. That incident was the fundamental shift in my thinking. In short, I started homesteading because I was tired of getting ripped off.

The answer to “Why Homestead” became clear. I wanted to become more of a producer, and less of a consumer.

It hurts now to go to the grocery for meat because now I know sausage is usually the tougher parts of the pig and also the scraps left from the other cuts. Yet it still sells for $4/pound.

I can’t stand the cost of beef. We are on our way to producing our own pork. That’s some solace. We are further away from producing beef, mostly because of the cost.

I am working on the aquaponic system, which is slowly coming together. (Planning for 3 different types of fish and fresh water prawns eventually).

One thing I wasn’t prepared for, aside from the slow pace of things, was the financial side, which absolutely effects pace. I was prepared to build everything in a month, but that was just unrealistic. I also wasn’t prepared for the immense learning curve.

Things like plumbing to build my methane digester (I’m all about this methane digester, manure management is pretty much my life, and a part of homesteading I don’t see frequently addressed) and the aquaponic system.

Guess how much I knew about plumbing? It’s only slightly better now. 😉

The second reason I ventured into homesteading is after moving to rural America, after years of suburban/urban life, we couldn’t find any gourmet type food. Cheese especially. Our choices are cheap cheddars, or Swiss, made from who knows what additives. I’ve been dying for goats and sheep to start our own artisan cheeses.

Pretty much the only food you can get around here is super fried. And forget any Indian cuisine! (One of our staple cuisines. My husband had never even tried it before he met me, and neither had anyone in his family).

We decided to start our own chickens for meat, and not just eggs, when I read the USDA will allow chicken from China to be sold in the US. Now that I’ve studied butchering and taken apart whole chickens (we are still building our flock), I’m looking forward to harvesting from our own well-treated and well-cared for flock.

In addition to culling our excess roosters, we will add Cornish Crosses to our flock. While there might be more ethical or sustainable choices than that breed, I feel I will have an easier time emotionally butchering them since, if you let them live to long, it negatively effects the quality of their lives.

The two pigs we have here are for breeding, but their babies will be for butchering, or if they don’t breed, then they will be butchered, but it will be hard to do it.

I also like the whole idea of a closed-loop system, from everything from cooking to manure management. I like that after we fry chicken (I do like the occasional fried food!), we make gravy from the left over oil and chicken bits in the pan to make gravy (my husband likes biscuits and gravy for breakfast), and broth from the left over chicken and bones, which we use in rice, savory pancakes, etc in place of water to add extra flavor and protein.

Nothing goes to waste. Any leftovers go to the dog or the pigs.

We will install an orchard in the spring, and I’m looking at spots in the property for perennial beds (herbs, sunchokes and daikon radishes for livestock feed).

We are working on producing our own energy. We are actively looking at wind power, which seems an easier option for us than solar power, and at natural gas. With the wind we get and the animals, both are renewable sources of energy.

Since we have forested parts of our property, we are also looking at wood heating, which is a sustainable resource for us. I don’t mind staying tied to the grid for electric for now, but anything we can do to reduce our outputs, right?

We are looking at more sustainable heating options for next winter because of the cost of propane.

So, that’s why I homestead! Why do you homestead?

Why I homestead

New chicken coop

After the chickens found a new roost and the loss of Mrs. Leedle a few days later, I’ve decided our chickens are safer in a coop and tractor. I thought it was odd they suddenly started roosting in the horse barn after 8 months in our storage shed. I initially chalked it up to the cold, but wondered if some animal disturbed their peace. We do have mice in there and cats have come around. I know it seems common sense to not let your chickens free range, but with the horses, we had A LOT of flies and mosquitos, and the chickens pretty much got them in check as soon as they arrived. With foals and other baby animals, pesticides aren’t the best answer.

I am using an old shed as a coop, and have moved the last remaining hen, Leedle, and my juvenile pullets and roosters out there too. The good news is the red hen (who we call 2.0) has started laying again, although she needs to learn to use the box we set up. I put a light in the shed for warmth.

Leedle is confused by the new comers, was ok with the older juveniles, but has completely lost it over the younger 12 week olds (who are considerably smaller). I had to separate them into a smaller cage. We will start them in a tractor soon.