The Long, Hard, Winter

It’s been a rough winter for us on the homestead. As Ed told you, we lost all our bees. By the way, thank all of you who offered him so much encouragement. We really appreciate it. He has decided that if we can make it through some financial difficulties, he will try again.

So, yes, we’ve had some financial difficulties, which we aren’t through yet (prayers always appreciated), and we’ve had some health issues as well. The health issues have mostly been mine, and I’m still trying to work through all that. The doctors can’t quite figure out what’s wrong, although they have some guesses (prayers appreciated there too).

Weather-wise, it has been a cold, wet winter. I have no idea how much snow and rain we’ve had altogether, but the well is overflowing. Remember that drought last summer? Yeah, we’re over that.

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As you can see, the water is actually out of the well and climbing the cinder block.

In addition to the wet, the bitter cold presented its own challenges. There were several days where the temperature was below zero, and that was without the wind. From what I understand, the local kids have missed at least fifteen days of school due to bad weather.

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Part of the elm tree on the garage and chicken tractor. Thankfully, the rest of the tree is still standing

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Our car stuck sideways in our driveway

When we finally had some pretty days, Sunny Rooster couldn’t wait to free range himself. Unfortunately, he got out one time too many, and all we found was feathers. Chicken Girl is inconsolable. We put all the chickens back in the big coop. One of Moony’s hens decided she liked laying eggs back in her old coop, so she was getting out too. Praying she’ll get over that. Don’t think Chicken Girl could take losing another one so soon.

The coop renovations never got finished last fall. With all the water, some of the posts started to shift, so it looks like we may have to scrap that idea and start over. Whatever we do, it needs to be soon so we can keep any independent chickens from leaving the coop.

A neighbor, who has veterinary experience, gave our chickens some medicine for the mites. They will probably need to be treated again though. She said the coop will need to be scrubbed out because they live in the wood. One more reason for a new coop.

This picture is from a few weeks ago. Chicken Girl noticed that one of Moony’s claws was curling back into his skin, so she decided to clip it. I don’t know what Bookworm was doing. Supervising?

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Chicken Girl, Moony and Bookworm

On a lighter note, Libby is doing very well and has gained all her weight back. She still has no bowel control, but it’s solid so we can quickly clean it up. She’s obviously feeling better, except for some arthritis, and often plays with the other dogs. Both Gracie and Rex enjoy playing with her, but I think Meeko is a little jealous of “his” Libby.

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Libby and Gracie

For some reason, Meeko and Rex, who were both neutered as puppies, have decided they need to mark the house. We don’t know if it’s a dominance thing or an anxiety thing. Regardless of the reason, we need to do a deep scrubbing to make sure they aren’t just coming back the odor, which they can smell a hundred times better than we can. Great. One more thing.

Recently, I had two pleasant surprises that fell right in line with my wanting to “learn it all.” The homestead blogging network that I follow but don’t belong to had a giveaway of the introductory course from The Herbal Academy of New England. I entered but didn’t think any more about it. (I enter things all the time). I was shocked when they emailed me that I had won. So, yes now, I am working through that course, and yes, I’ll be sharing some of that info with you.

The four herb pots that I put in the basement greenhouse for winter are doing very well. The smell of rosemary and lavender is wonderful inside that little enclosure. I should have done it already, but soon, I will get some seeds started. Not sure how much we really want to do this year, but I do have a few herbs that I definitely want to start, so I’ll share that as soon as I do it.

The other surprise was discovering that there is someone here in Braymer who weaves and spins. After I told her of my interest, she invited me to a group of people who are big into fiber arts, so yes, I am learning there too. Got my first left-handed knitting lesson last week, and got to play with a spinning wheel. I need a LOT of practice. So expect to hear more about that too.

Ed has a new series of posts that he is working on that he’ll start sharing with you next week. In the meanwhile, I’m working on my own set of “make your own” posts.

Connie

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A Slow Week on the Homestead

Sometimes with homesteading, as with any other kind of lifestyle, you have a slow week; a week where there isn’t much happening. For us, this has been one of those weeks.

The weather has given us a break, the dogs have settled down into the new routine (as have we), and I’m trying to decide just how much I want to do for Christmas.

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Gracie thinks she’s Snoopy.

My friend Mary Lue, gave me some of her sour dough starter. From what I understand, it’s been around for a long time. Anyway, I’ve been playing with it some, and today I have bread rising. I also experimented with a sour dough donut recipe. Since I don’t have a donut cutter, I just used a pizza cutter and cut the dough into squares. They were good. You can find the recipe here.

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Starting the 8 hour slow rise.

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These were good! Even Chicken Girl liked them!

Since it was such a nice day, I decided to go outside for awhile, and like almost every other time I go out, Sunny Rooster greeted me. He is our self proclaimed free range rooster. He goes in and out of his pen whenever he feels like it. The hens could too, but they don’t.

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You’ll notice that Sunny is outside the pen and the girls are inside.

Once we get the coop completely finished, we’ll be able to put both groups in it, but right now. Moony and his girls are still in the little coop, which is fully winterized at this point.

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The big coop: A continuing work in progress.

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The winterized little coop, that has definitely seen better days. 

I told Chicken Girl to come out with me, and we would let Moony’s bunch out for a bit.  They probably stayed out a total of fifteen minutes, and then they decided to go back in.  Moony has all his feathers back after his last molting. Isn’t he gorgeous?

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Moony and the girls enjoying some free range time.

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Moony Rooster

Unfortunately, we are still fighting a mite infestation.  Every time we think we’re done with them, they come back, so I am looking at some different treatment options.

Like I said, it’s been a quiet week on the homestead. I’m sure that can’t last long!

Connie

Winter Came Early

The last few years, we haven’t had much of a winter. Last year, we had a week or two of some frigid temperatures, but we never had any snow to speak of.  By the middle of summer, as I wrote about here, we were in a serious drought.

Since we haven’t had a “good” winter in a few years, we felt like this was going to be the year, and some of the winter forecasts agreed. As I wrote in my last post, we have already had some cold temperatures. Well, this last week, winter came early.  Friday evening, we were under a “Winter Weather Advisory”. By Saturday morning, that changed to a “Winter Weather Warning”, and by Saturday afternoon, we were under a “Blizzard Warning”.   It started with rain about nine Sunday morning. By 11, it was turning to sleet, and our church dismissed early.  It was all snow by noon, and done by about 9 in the evening. We probably had somewhere around eight inches or so, but it was hard to tell because the wind caused so much drifting, we had some places that were bare, and others that were eighteen inches deep.

Ed got this amazing picture on Monday. He shared it on his personal Facebook page, but I wanted to share it here too. The sun was behind him, and he literally could not see what was in the camera viewfinder. He just aimed in a general direction and took the picture.

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Ed captured his own shadow

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This one is a little to the left of the other one. Look at the weight of the snow on the juniper tree in the center of the shot.

Now, for an update on Libby. The vet informed me yesterday, that it could take a couple of months for her to get control of her bowels again. Wonderful. So while it is no longer runny, it is still coming out whenever and wherever it wants to. We were giving her two showers daily, but now, we’re down to one every few days. As long as she doesn’t lay in it, she’s good.

Last week, when it was warm, she really enjoyed being outside, so I decided (since it was nice and warm), to get a new pen built sooner rather than later. Yes, sometimes I do get the bit in my teeth, much to the consternation of the rest of my family. That being said, we now have a small pen built off the front of the house, with plans to double the size of it this spring. All the dogs can go out, and stay out for as long as they want without us having to worry about them. We used all the experience we had from all our past pen building failures to make this one right the first time.  The area is also small enough that I can go out and clean it daily, keeping track of who is doing what. Yeah, I can tell, for the most part, whose is whose. You all were wondering about that, weren’t you. If you have dogs, you know just what I mean.

Most of the time, they go out, do their business, and come back in. Libby would rather be out, so to provide some temporary shelter, I put her old dog crate out there and fixed a tarp over it. Ed started taking the old dog house apart, with plans to use at least some of it for the new one. Then came the Blizzard Warning, and the whole thing became a rush job. Ed was working, so Bam Bam got the job. Chicken Girl and I helped as best we could. When it was done, it was large enough to hold all four dogs, and give them all room to move around. Then we put a whole bale of straw inside.

Saturday night, Libby would not come back in. Meeko was torn at first, but decided to stay out with her. Since the weather wasn’t bad yet, I let them stay out there. I knew I would be able to hear them if they needed back in. I didn’t hear a peep out of either one of them until I called them back in Sunday morning.

Yesterday, they all went out for awhile, and I took this picture.

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New pen and new dog house.

I was concerned about all four dogs being in the house, as well as in a small pen, together, and there have been some tense moments, but I think everyone is starting to relax…even the cats. One of them left a mouse in front of my bedroom chair last night. Thanks guys!

On the chicken front, there are still some mite issues. Chicken Girl brought one of the hens in the other day to dust her. All the other chickens are fine, so we are kind of concerned about her over all health, because we know a weaker chicken is more susceptible to secondary infestations.   Meeko was very interested, but he kept his distance. Ed clobbering him with the last one he killed may have finally got the message across.

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Meeko trying hard to be good.

Next week, Ed is planning to continue his firearm series, with a post about hand guns.

Connie

While We’re Waiting

While we’re waiting for Ed to figure out that washtub bass, I thought I would fill you in on our last year, and share some plans for upcoming posts.

Last August, we took our first ever family vacation. We went to Georgia to visit my dad, then to Charleston SC so Chicken Girl could see the ocean. From there we went to Greenville SC to visit Ed’s daughter, and on to North Carolina to visit Cherokee and see where Ed’s grandparents lived when he was a boy.  We put 2600 miles on my car and made some great memories. There will be more about that in later posts.

While we were gone, James was supposed to stay here and take care of the critters.  Well, that didn’t go quite as well as we had hoped.  To make a long, sad, story short, James was not able to fight his Meth addiction and surrendered his probation. The judge gave him nine years.  The blessing in that is that he is clean and sober.  We pray that this time he gets the tools (and the desire) he needs to stay that way.

In the meanwhile, Bam Bam’s life kind of fell apart too, and he is staying with us again, along with his two small dogs, Rex and Gracie. They have been with us since December. It’s been nice to have him home again, and he is a big help. The little dogs provide a lot of “entertainment” although the cats are less than impressed.

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Bam Bam with Rex (black) and Gracie (white)

The big dogs are doing ok. Some days, Libby really shows her age, but I think we’ve stopped her digging out. Meeko still climbs out, on occasion, comes to the back door and barks! I think he wants to play with the little dogs, who aren’t terribly sure that’s a good idea.

On a positive note, we have finished homeschooling and Chicken Girl graduated on June 3rd. She is now taking an online Voice Over class, since she wants to be a voice over artist.

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Chicken Girl at her graduation party

As for the chickens, with the exception of one hen we lost to illness (we’re not sure what), they are all doing fine. We get between one and two dozen eggs a week, which is more than enough for us.  We are working on rebuilding the coop (again), as well as some new chicken tractors.

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Sunny about ready to fly the coop!

This spring has been an exciting time with the bees. Currently we have four hives. One we bought as a nuc, two from a hive we split, and one we took from an old house. I know that Ed will want to tell you all about that, but I will say I have finally put on the bee suit and started helping him. Capturing that wild hive was amazing!

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The wild hive was behind this wall!

Weather wise, things have just been strange.  With the exception of about a week of frigid sub zero temperatures, last winter was mild and dry. We didn’t get much spring. It just went from cold to hot, and still very dry.  We finally got some rain yesterday, but we need more.  The grass is dry and crunchy, but the plantain is doing beautifully!

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All the green is plantain. The brown is grass

We bought some fruit trees as well as some elderberry bushes planning to create fruit tree guilds. Well, we didn’t get as far into that as we would have liked, but we did get all the trees in the ground and they are hanging on.

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An apricot tree with mulch inside the drip line. We plan to plant understory plants here later.

Ed and Bam Bam built me a basement greenhouse, so I was able to get some seeds started. The only problem was that when they were ready to go outside, the weather was still too cool, and then the tiller broke down and Ed wasn’t able to get everything tilled.   We improvised and got everything I started planted. Some things didn’t make it, but most are, like the trees, hanging on.

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The greenhouse

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Tomato plants in the garden

After three years,  the blackberries are producing! Then a few days ago, I discovered wild raspberries growing behind the barn. This must just be a good year for berries. The mulberry trees in the fence rows are full of fruit in varying degrees of ripeness. The wild grapes have taken off too.

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Blackberries!

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Wild raspberries behind the barn

Well, I think that is pretty much everything. Hopefully, Ed will have that bass built next week, and he’ll post about that and all the other ways you can make your own musical instruments.

Connie

 

 

 

Homestead Update

Since Ed updated you on the bees I thought I would  update you on the rest of the homestead.

A couple months ago, I found out I had an umbilical hernia. While we waited for the insurance company to decide if I could have surgery, and then get said surgery scheduled, my doctor gave me one order: No lifting and no straining. Great.

I had visions of spending another summer completely out of commission. I am now happy to report that I had the surgery, it was a success, and I have just been given the go ahead to gradually increase the work I am able to do. Yes, I am obeying the “gradually” rule because I really want to get better.

Since I didn’t know for sure if I would be able work outside this summer, I decided to not have a garden. For the first time in years, I did not buy any seeds or plants. I keep feeling like I’m forgetting something. I am going to use this summer to plan next year’s garden, and work on getting the ground ready.

My camera got knocked off the table with the lens open, and suffered some damage. Sometimes, it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Chicken Girl took these pictures, and had trouble getting consistent focus.

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Thyme growing inside the tire. If you look closely at the right side of  the picture, you might be able to make out the blue flowers on the Borage plant.

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Love in a Mist

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Wild grapes

The thyme survived the winter, and there are some volunteer sunflowers.  Last summer, I planted some Borage and Love in a Mist, but they just decided to come up now. Gotta love those unexpected blessings. I’ve found wild grapes growing in one of the fence rows, and some of the mulberry trees are producing like crazy. The blackberries we planted last year survived for the most part, and a few plants even have some green fruit.

The lawn and weeds have taken off too. Unfortunately, one of our weed eaters, and both lawn mowers are out of commission. Ed will probably want to tell you about that. I did pull a few weeds yesterday, but I got tired quickly, and decided I probably shouldn’t over do it.

The dogs have finally decided to stay put. Ed is two thirds finished with a new dog house, and they have already moved in. Libby is still digging like crazy, but she has found other places beside the fence. We just have to watch for the sink holes!

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Meeko and Chicken Girl “helping” Ed build the new dog house.

My mom’s best friend decided that Chicken Girl needed a better chicken coop, so she bought one and had it shipped to us. Moony and his girls are living there, and Sunny and company were finally moved from the oldest coop to the new one that we built. Everyone seems happy for now, and the eggs are coming steadily again.

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Moony and the girls in the new coop

Chicken Girl and I finished the school year, and we were both ready. Several months ago, I told you we were getting ready to start dissection in Biology. She did one crayfish, and begged me not to make her do any more. I didn’t, but I adjusted her grade accordingly. Oh, she just had a birthday. She’s seventeen. Time sure flies.

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Chicken Girl and the unfortunate crayfish.

Last week, we had three days in the 90’s and three nights of some intense thunderstorms. We didn’t have any serious damage; just a few limbs down off the big elm tree near the garage. One of those mornings, I stepped out on front porch just to take a quick look around. The weeds all survived. So did this guy.

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Frog just off the front porch.

This morning about 5:00, Ed and I heard a dog barking in our front yard. It wasn’t one of ours. We got up, looked, didn’t see anything, and went back to bed. When we got back up later, I realized two of the cats were outside. Captain came in, but Adora didn’t. We found her this afternoon. She was alive, and she didn’t have any marks we could find, but she was obviously not good. The vet couldn’t find any marks either at first. She has super thick fur. When he finally did find them, there were three or four bite marks and they were on her back end. So, he gave her fluids, antibiotics, steroids, and liquid nutrition. He said to bring her home, keep her warm (her temperature was below normal), and call him in the morning to let him know how she’s doing.  Now she’s covered up in a box in Chicken Girl’s room.

This is a picture I took of her a few days ago: A living bookend. I thought the glowing eyes were funny. IMG_2114

Well, that’s all the news for now.

Connie

 

 

 

New Hens and Other Updates

Ed is feeling better and working to rebuild the dog pen. He hoped to finish today, but the weather has not cooperated. Cold and wet is not a good environment for someone barely over an upper respiratory infection, so he spent yesterday working inside. He worked some this morning, but then went to bed, because he has to work tonight. When we finish new pen, we’ll show you what we did.

Last week, I had the opportunity to purchase six grown Rhode Island Red hens from an acquaintance who had more than she needed. When the hens were delivered last weekend, we learned they hadn’t been handled much. Chicken Girl was going to have her job cut out for her.

When we first got them, we dumped them in the chicken tractor…literally. They came in a dog crate and the old owners upended the crate under the tractor, while we blocked the sides to prevent escapes. The funniest thing was that within five minutes of getting them in the tractor, Moony Rooster escaped his pen and came running to investigate the new girls.

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Moony Rooster

That evening, we decided we needed to put them in the big coop with the other chickens, because the tractor doesn’t have much in the way of shelter. That was an experience for Katherine. First, raising the tractor enough to grab a chicken that didn’t want to be grabbed. Then trying to hang onto it long enough to get it into the pen. Once she got them all in the pen, then she had to get them into the coop. Still, once she gets hold of them, they calm down quickly. She only got scratched once, and she considered that a win. Every day, it seems that they are easier for her to handle.

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Sunny Rooster and three of the new hens

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Katherine says this is Voca Hen. I’ll have to take her word for it.

The six new girls and the two old ones are having to work out their differences of course, but that was expected. Like she always has, Tundra Hen escapes several times a day. Then Moony Rooster follows her. Day before yesterday, during one of the many daily escapes, Katherine had a moment of panic when she realized Tundra was inside the dog pen. Then she remembered the dogs weren’t there. Later however, when when Ed was moving the dog house, an egg rolled out. Then I noticed the second egg inside the house. I guess Tundra was feeling a little crowded with her new coop mates. Coop improvements will be coming soon.

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See the egg?

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Close up

 

Have a great weekend,

Connie

One of Those Weeks

Well, maybe, one of those months.

Since Ed and I both write posts for this blog, we trade off weekly posting; last week my post, this week his. The idea is that we both then have two weeks to work on writing a post worth reading…Yes, I know, we don’t always get there.

This is technically Ed’s week. However, Ed has been sick for the last two weeks. What started out as a sinus and ear infection has moved to his chest. He went to the doctor for the second time yesterday, and she started him on a new round of antibiotics and a prescription cough medicine. He really hasn’t felt well, and to be honest, I don’t know if he realizes it’s his “turn”. I’m not going to put any more pressure on him than he has already put on himself. He missed two days work that first week. He made one day up, and has been working ever since, except for his normal days off.

Several weeks ago, he wrote about our constant battle to keep our dogs contained. Pallets around the fence perimeter seemed to be the solution…when we could get pallets. Unfortunately, the supply dried up, and we were back to using whatever we could find. At least twice a day, one of us would walk the fence, looking for evidence of new digging. Once or twice, we found some and were able to block the hole. I would love to go buy everything we need, and just fix the stupid fence, but we don’t have that kind of money, so we do damage control. At least Meeko quit climbing right?

Wrong!

A few days after Ed went back to work, the dogs got out, and I couldn’t find the hole. Using flashlights, Katherine and I walked the whole fence, and could not find where they escaped. I was doing some things in the house that made bringing them in for the night extremely inconvenient. In frustration, I decided to shut them in one of the rooms in the barn that had a cement floor and locking door. Katherine and I carried blankets, food and water out to the barn, and locked them in for the night.

The next day, Ed and I both looked for the escape route, but couldn’t find it. I still can’t believe that Libby climbed the fence, but I don’t have any other explanation for her escape. To see if we could catch them, Ed put out the game camera for a few days. The only thing we saw was chickens, three of our chickens have found out how to get out their pen, and have decided to free range themselves. The interesting thing was that the dogs really didn’t seem interested. Four days later, we found out how wrong we were.

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 From the game camera: chickens outside the dog pen. If Libby sees them, she’s not interested. 

Last Friday, we finally got good, gully washing, basement flooding, rain. We needed it. It’s been a dry winter. That day, our three free range wanna be’s flew out of their pen. I saw them and told Katherine. She can round them up faster than I can, so she went out to get them. A few seconds after she went out the door, I heard a noise that I cannot describe. I went to investigate, and met Katherine and Meeko at the back door.

“Put him in the house! He got Hoppy! Hoppy ran off!” Katherine was already running off to find the rooster when I grabbed Meeko, pulled him inside, went outside myself and shut the door behind me. (Ed was sleeping). My first thought was of Libby, but she was still in the pen.

Katherine and I found Hoppy hiding in the weeds. At first glance, he looked like he had been plucked. All the feathers were gone from between his shoulder blades and from his back, near his tail feathers. Later I would change the impression from “plucked” to “skinned”.

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Hoppy’s back near his tail feathers.

I rounded up the other chickens, and then went to get Meeko put back in the pen. Ed was awake and I quickly explained what happened. Once Meeko was out of the house, Kat brought Hoppy in and we cleaned and treated his wounds. Then we put him in a crate in Katherine’s room.

Did I mention, it was pouring? Yeah, we were all soaked.

Ed and I restarted the discussion we’ve had too many times: How do we keep the dogs in? Ed went to the barn and came back with two cables with hooks on them. His thought was that we’re going to have to tie them up, we just weren’t sure how to do it.

A little while later, one of us, I don’t remember which, saw Libby outside the fence. I went out first while Ed went to get his shoes. By the time I got outside, Libby had bolted. I saw both dogs on the far side of my neighbor’s house, and called to them. Then I saw the other dog. Meeko ran toward it, and then both dogs ran back toward me, with the new dog coming quickly behind. I got Meeko, and gave him to Katherine. I turned to see Libby head back toward the other dog. In the meanwhile, our neighbor’s son came calling the other dog. I called Libby again, and for the first time in her life, she came to me, and I was able to get hold of her.

The man was apologizing for his dog, and I was apologizing for ours, and somehow, Katherine lost her grip on Meeko. Fortunately, Ed was out by then and was able to get him before our neighbor’s son was in the middle of a dog fight. Fuming, Ed headed toward the barn with Meeko. I sent Katherine to the house for a leash, and when she brought it, I used it to take Libby to the barn as well.

Ed had to go to work, so Katherine and I would have to deal with letting the dogs out to do their business. That would be ok for the night, but what about tomorrow? Then I remembered the cables. I attached them to a stall door, and then was able to use them to let the dogs out.

Hoppy died the next day. We were even more determined. We know that we need to do something about the chickens too, but we feel that the dogs are the bigger issue. Even if we could protect our chickens, some of our neighbors have chickens too.

The original plan was to keep the dogs tethered out for a few days  while Ed and I did some serious refurbishing of the pen. We decided we would start over. We would clear the fence rows, and combine everything that we have to dig and climb-proof the pen. We would even get out the electric fence box and see if we could figure out why it won’t work. We would start on Ed’s next day off. The dogs would only have to spend a few nights in the barn, and a few days tethered.

The Ed got sicker. His chest is so congested that he gets winded easily and has been sleeping a lot. I can’t help but feel that if I had been a little more on the ball with learning about natural remedies, he might have been able to head some of this off. I’m not real crazy about his having to take a second round of antibiotics, and neither is he, but that is where we are.  I’ve been dealing with some health issues myself, and that doesn’t help either.

Ed says he is feeling a little better today, but he has to work tonight, so we’ll see how he is in the morning. Prayers are always appreciated.

As for the dogs, they are just going to have to deal with being tied out for a little while longer.

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Unhappy Dogs

Connie

 

More of the Same

It was a quiet week on the homestead, except when we were putting the dogs back. It seems like we spent most of the week just doing that. Three times in one day nearly sent Ed and I both over the edge. However, we did agree that we could be thankful that the weather has stayed fairly warm, so we weren’t having to try and do all that with ice, snow, and frigid temperatures. On the other hand, if the ground had actually frozen this year, Libby wouldn’t be able to dig out!

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In the afternoon sun, resting up for tonight’s digging!

Ed’s pallet plan seems to be working. We just need to be able to get our hands on enough pallets. To do the whole fence line, will probably need about 75 pallets. How many do we have now? Nine. Yeah, it’s a work in progress, and basically damage control for now. We find  where she’s digging and block the hole with a pallet. For two days in a row, we went out in the morning and the dogs were still in. These days, that is a major victory!

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Pallets on the gate side of the pen

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Two more on the opposite side. This is where they’ve been working the most.

I had some concern that the chickens were taking lessons from the dogs, because Moony rooster has been leaving his pen three or four times a day. I think Hoppy rooster may be picking on him, and he just needs a break. When I mentioned moving him, Ed said something under his breath about putting a diaper on him and bringing him inside. Um…no. Not doing that. Katherine and I did notice that the hens seem to be a little protective of him though. It’s kind of cute. Oh, and they have started laying eggs again.

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Rooster on the loose!

Like I said, it was a quiet week, so I don’t have much to tell you. I need to start thinking about starting seeds for this spring’s garden, but I just haven’t been able to get much into it. To be honest, I’m just tired. I’m carrying too much weight and I’m still having some problems with my foot from last summer’s surgery. I’ve gone back to cutting sugar and other processed carbohydrates. I feel a lot better when I keep with a paleo type diet. The most exercise I’m getting is up and down the basement stairs, and back and forth to the dog pen. I need to work on that too.

This weekend, Katherine will start the dissecting part of biology. I’ll have to let you know how that goes.

Connie

Damage Control and Starting Over

That is how I would describe the last few months on the homestead. Kind of like one step forward and 250 steps back.

When we first started this blog, our thought was to chronicle our journey into homesteading while we deal with the challenges of getting older, as well as dealing with a teenager who has challenges of her own. The challenges seem to have taken over, and there hasn’t been much growth on the homestead. That includes keeping up the blog, and for that, we apologize.

When I started to write this post, I had to look over the pictures I did manage to take over the last four months to give me some perspective and see that there was some progress, albeit not nearly as much as I would have liked.

I’ve been scooter and crutch free since the end of October, but I still have a lot of pain and stiffness. I don’t have much stamina and tire easily. The doctor said it could be six months total before I am completely healed, so we are looking at another six weeks or so. The Lord must really think I need to work on my patience!

Ed’s work schedule leaves him unavailable four days a week, with the other three days for trying to catch up. It’s not working out all that great, especially since he has to spend at least part of the time finding and fixing the new dog escape route. That deserves its own blog post, but let’s just say that Meeko meets us at the back door nearly every morning now. Libby has got out several times too, but she insists on digging her way out and Meeko just finds new places to go over. Apparently, he has forgotten that is how he dislocated his hip last winter.

The garden was mostly a bust; and what wasn’t, mostly rotted on the vine. We did collect a few tomatoes, and I did manage to make some bread and butter pickles from the over sized cucumbers. I found the recipe here (You have to scroll down the page a little to get to the recipe). They were really good, and I am not a big fan of bread and butter pickles.

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Romas

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Lost in the jungle!

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Finished Pickles

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I know it’s hard to tell, but this is basil. I hope I get some volunteer next year.

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Awesome Elephant Ears. I think I was supposed to dig them up before it froze. Too late now.

The first week that I was able to get about without the crutches, I decided that Kat and I would harvest the sunflower seeds The same day Ed decided to start clearing the fence row between the yard and front pasture. We both worked about two hours and I pretty much wiped myself out. From Ed’s side of it, when he quit for the day, there was a spot where you could actually tell there is a pasture on the other side of the fence.

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Sunflowers off the front porch

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Sunflower heads

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Seeds and Chaff

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Ed in the fence row

The okra continued to grow into November. We had a super mild fall and only recently have had freezing temperatures. I decided to just let it dry on the vine in hopes of collecting seeds and using the dried pods for art projects…They are still out there.

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Okra “Fingers”

We collected quite a bit of honey, and even sold some locally, but then the hives were infested with hive beetles and the bees died. So, we are working on cleaning up the hives in hopes of getting new bees in the spring.

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Dead bees on the hive bottom

A few weeks ago, Ed, James, and Kat, built the new chicken coop. We officially have three roosters and two hens. The jury was out on Hoppy’s gender for quite a while, but his crowing made it official. Since we discovered that a single rooster’s amorous tendencies are more than one hen should handle, we decided to separate the girls from the boys, by building a split coop. The plan was to run fencing between the two sides, but the weather caught up with us. The first night the roosters all stayed in the same coop, Sunny attacked Moony and Hoppy. There was a LOT of blood. So now,  Sunny stays in “time out” in the old coop, while everyone else seems to be getting along fine, at present, in the new one. Yes, we know we still have one rooster too many with the hens, and that really, there needs to be more hens for the one rooster. We’re working on that. The girls, particularly Scarlet, did start laying eggs this fall, but they have stopped now. We got a couple dozen fresh eggs anyway.

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The New Coop. Notice there are two drop down doors. Only one is open.

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Shingles we found in the garage when we moved in. Just right for the chicken coop!

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Hoppy the Rooster

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Eggs!

So what else happened since July? In August, James had a relapse of sorts and is back on probation. Bam Bam got married in September. I turned 53 in October and Ed turned 66 last week. James and I have both had to deal with some Bi Polar issues and we’ve all dealt with a stomach bug that cost Ed a week’s work. That, of course, caused us some financial strain, but the Lord took care of us, just like He always does.

On a positive note, school is going pretty well this year. We finished a study of ancient Greece and have moved on to Rome. In American History we are finishing up the “Gilded Age”(1877-1912ish) and have formed strong opinions about Herman Melville’s writing.  Have you ever actually read Moby Dick?  Now, only morbid curiosity makes us keep reading.

Katherine has discovered a handicraft that actually sparks her interest: candle making! We did manage to get some bee’s wax, so we will be playing with some of that.

Although I plan to get back to consistent posting, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to keep up with it until after the holidays. If I can’t, Ed and I  both want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year.

Connie

 

A Cranberry Merchant

Reading over Ed’s post from last week, I decided I wanted to add my own two cents to what he said, as well as catching you up for this week.

Yes, we have been crazy busy. When he started saying all the things we were busier than, I could just hear grandma say, “Busier than a cranberry merchant”.  After Ed’s post last week, I decided to try and find the source of that saying.  Google gave me the answer in the first result. Subsequent results said the same thing. When you add the words “in November”, the phrase makes perfect sense. November is the time of Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving is the time for cranberry sauce. As a matter of fact, you might be hard pressed to find cranberries at other times of the year. So, yes, a cranberry merchant might be very busy in November.

Ed truly loves the bees. It’s fun for me to watch him watching them. I am, however, looking forward to getting my own bee suit, so I can get a good look myself. As it is now, I can get about ten to fifteen feet away, and watch, without drawing the attention of the irritated bees.

I don’t think Ed mentioned it, but Kat has named the hives Sparta and Athens. Sparta was named first, when I pointed out to her that the bees would cast out those members who weren’t able to pull their own weight…kind of like the ancient Spartans that we were covering in school. Of course, the other hive had to be Athens. Interestingly, the hives’ behavior seems to mirror their respective namesakes. Athens is definitely more laid back than Sparta.

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Athens on the left and Sparta on the right.

Jim’s death took us all by surprise. I couldn’t have been more proud of how Ed stepped up to help, not only for my children and I, but for Jim’s family as well. Jim’s brother went so far as to tell Ed that he is “family now”. Katherine was definitely daddy’s girl (the only girl in a total of six children, and the baby), and she had him wrapped around her little finger. She was actually concerned that she wasn’t crying like Bam Bam, and I reassured her that everyone grieves differently and it was ok. She’s brought him up a time or two since then, but that was it. I was kind of waiting for something to break, but wasn’t sure if it would.

Then the dogs killed those two chickens. She fell to the ground and just screamed. I told Jim’s sister later that I thought some of that might have been for her dad too. In any case, it was hard to watch. My heart just broke for her. Then a few days ago, Moony came up missing. After looking and calling for a couple hours without locating the runaway rooster, Katherine just sat and cried. She told me she was a terrible chicken keeper. I told her it was not her fault, and we just had to pray that he was alright. The next morning, Ed and I had both gone out to the coop at different times hoping he had come back, but he hadn’t. At least, not where we expected him.

Ed was out near the other pen, also known as Sunny’s bachelor pad, when he heard a rooster crow nearby. He was looking right at Sunny and it wasn’t him. He heard it again, and it was coming from inside the garage. He came to get me and we both went back to try and find the source. Ed was checking the rafters and I was checking the corners. There was Moony, sticking his head out of a bunch of boxes in the back corner! He may have been there the whole time.

That very day, Ed and Kat worked together to cover the top of the chicken pen, so no one can fly out again.
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Hanging out after the work was done.

The rain finally stopped, and the sun came out with a vengeance. For about two or three weeks, we had 90 and hundred degree days. That is not June weather for Missouri; July or August maybe, but not June. Now, the weather people are saying we need to be prepared for the possibility of 4-6 inches of rain this weekend. I guess we’ll see. We had a little shower this evening. The clouds looked ominous, the temperature dropped and the wind picked up. It rained for about ten minutes and the sun came back out.

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Those clouds were rolling!

Like Ed said, we’ve both been dealing with health issues. That’s part of that whole “Old Folks” thing. I had an endoscopy yesterday. I do have some issues, but the doctor wasn’t overly concerned. I just need to watch what, how, and when I eat. He didn’t say so, but I know that losing some weight would solve a lot of the problem.

The foot surgery is another matter entirely. I have a bone spur, along with a “diseased” Achilles’ tendon. They are going saw off the bone spur and remove the diseased portion of the tendon. After the surgery, its “no weight bearing for three months”. The doctor told me it would be either a wheel chair or a knee scooter. I chose the knee scooter. I’ve been told twice now to get it early and practice. Yes, I have already apologized to Ed in advance, because I know it’s going to drive me crazy.

I started a bunch of tomato seeds back in April and just now got all of them in the ground. I think there are about 30 plants in all. I noticed blooms on a few plants today. I also planted sunflowers, okra, and a few other plants here and there. After I knew I was going to be out of commission for at least three months, I decided not to try and plant anything else this year.

We did get some nice lettuce in the cold frame, but the spinach never came up. The onions we planted last fall came up though, and we still have a couple in the ground.

In addition to the trees we planted in the back field, we also planted ten blackberry bushes. I think we have about eight left. A few of them are really coming along.

Ed went to his first regular shift at his new job tonight. He always did like working thirds. Kat is now calling him a bat, because he’s working nights.

Well that’s about it for now.

Connie