Archive for April, 2008

April Showers Bring ….. Lots of Rain!

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

We’re getting our fair share of April showers this year. We need it, but it’s been slowing down the chicken coop progress the past week or so. Even so, we’ve managed to get a fair amount of work done on it. By “we”, I really do mean Bernie, but I have helped as much as time will allow. You can take a look at how far along we are on the Back to Basic Living website.

Between rainy days, Bernie has to find one dry enough to go to town and mow the lawn at our house there. He’s got his plate full between trying to keep up around here, and do maintenance there. But he fits it all in and never complains.

I made some gift baskets to sell for Mother’s Day. One has a Goats Milk Body Lotion and a Goats Milk Soap bar made with goats milk, honey, and oatmeal. I put them in a reproduction antique enamel soap bowl:

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I also have some gift baskets with three large bars of soap. Check them out if you’re looking for a nice Mother’s Day gift. Since I’m selling the soaps and lotions at a lower price with these baskets, I can’t offer any discounts, but I may be able to save you a couple of dollars in shipping if you request it in the notes section when you order. If you want me to check for better shipping, add a note and don’t pay right away – wait for me to get the shipping cost and I’ll bill you via PayPal.

All of the rain is really helping my spring garden grow. It won’t be long until we’ll be eating fresh salads here on the homestead. Next month we’ll be putting in the summer vegetable garden. With the arrival of the chicks scheduled for the middle of May, we should have plenty of fertilizer for it!

Bee Free,
Penny

Oh Deer, That’s Good!

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

We’ve got the Chicken Coop DeVille building pretty much complete – minus trim, chicken door, nest boxes, roost, and fenced in chicken yard. We still have a little work ahead of us, but the lion’s share of it is finished. You can check out the pictures on the website.

Yesterday, after we finished working on the coop, we spent some time walking around the yard and enjoying the wildflowers and trees that are just starting to bloom here. I found a crab apple tree in bloom. Most of the blooms are up high, but I found one at just the right height for me to get this picture:

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It was such a pretty little bloom, and I spent quite some time studying it. Which is a good thing, because this morning I looked out the back window and saw this:

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Look at how calm and sweet those girls look. Look at how…. wait. What is that one on the right, in the back doing? Why is her head so far up? It looks like she’s…..

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Ugh. Yep – she’s eating a crab apple bloom. The one, single crab apple bloom I could actually reach and see. We went out a few minutes ago, and this is what’s left:

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*Sigh*. It’s hard to be too upset about that though. It’s a wild crab apple and I’m sure that deer was quite happy to find it. Living with nature means accepting nature as it is. We chose this exact location for many reasons, and one of those reasons was the amazing range of wildlife that calls this homestead their home. We’re learning to live with the wildlife. We’ll do what we can to protect the food we raise for ourselves, and part of that includes planting extra food for those inevitable times when one of those furry little buggers sneaks past our efforts and finds the bonanza of tasty vegetables. We’ll all get this figured out eventually.

Several of you have asked if I will be willing/able to butcher any of these chickens for our meals. Let me first say, I am getting these chickens to be pets, and I am extremely hopeful that they will show their appreciation of being pampered by rewarding us with eggs. Having said that, I also understand the basics and necessity of practicing good flock management. While my primary purpose is having these chickens as pets, we really can’t afford to feed a bunch of pets that serve no purpose at all. Mean chickens/roosters should be culled. Non-layers should be culled. You will notice that I said “should”.

A couple of you asked if I have ever killed a chicken in the past, and I said no. But the truth is that I have killed a chicken before. It was such a traumatic experience, I think I temporarily blocked it from my memory.

Many years ago, my parents had a rooster named Roy. Roy was the meanest rooster on the face of the planet. I hated that rooster – and that rooster hated me. In all fairness, everyone hated that rooster – and that rooster hated everyone. My parents kept him in a large fenced in area and, while it kept him from viciously attacking anything that moved in the yard, it did not keep him from trying to get at us through the fence. Well, one day Roy managed to get out of the fence. And my parents’ little terrier, RJ, finally got back at Roy for all the tormenting through the fence. My mother and I were the only two at the house that day, and when we heard all the commotion, we ran into the back yard to find that RJ had all but killed Roy. Roy was a bloody mess of rooster feathers. He could not get up and he was certainly dying. My mother said “We’ve got to kill him and put him out of his misery.” I completely agreed. “How are you going to do it?”, I asked. The look in her eyes explained everything. By “we”, my mother meant “me”. She told me where to find an axe, and then stood behind me as I sent Roy Rooster off to his certain reign in Rooster Hades.

As much as I hated Roy, I hated killing him even more. It was very unpleasant, to say the least. I will spare you the gory details, but if you’ve ever chopped off the head of a chicken, you understand just how unpleasant that experience can be. There is a fair amount of flopping and kicking involved – and all of it occurs AFTER the head is detached from the body.

So CAN I kill a chicken? The answer is apparently “yes”. WILL I kill any of these chickens? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

A friend told Bernie we could make some great chicken noodle soup out of these chickens. Bernie told him he didn’t know if I would be able to kill any of these chickens. His friend said “Well, I guess she better learn how to make the noodles then.”

Bee Free,
Penny

Chicken Coop DeVille

Monday, April 14th, 2008

I ordered my chickens today. Yay! They are scheduled to arrive the 19th or 20th of May. The post office is supposed to call me when they get there so I can rush over to bring my chicks home.

It’s pretty late for ordering chickens this year, so I was very limited in my choices. I ordered a variety of Phoenix, Golden Pencil Hamburgs, White Faced Black Spanish, Silver Leghorns and Silver Gray Dorkings. I ordered 23 hens, and 2 roosters. Bernie isn’t so thrilled at the idea of having roosters around, but I love watching them and all their antics, so I ordered them and asked for his forgiveness afterwards. He didn’t seem too terribly upset. I think he was just happy that I quit singing my chicken song to him. I ordered from Murry McMurray’s, and they throw in a free exotic chicken with every order. So we’ll end up with 26 little baby chicks. I can hardly wait. McMurray has an excellent reputation for sending healthy chicks, and getting the sex correct the majority of the time.

I also put a new page up on the website with pictures of the erection of the Chicken Coop DeVille. Check it out!

Bee Free,
Penny

Stuff is Springing Up Around Here

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

Another busy week on the homestead. Warmer weather brings not only the necessity, but the desire, to be outside and preparing for spring. We had 6 dump trunk loads of gravel delivered this week to help repair our driveway. Winter is tough on gravel driveways – so is 4 years of heavy equipment traveling on it to put in a well, septic, etc. So we got gravel delivered, and Bernie spend some time shoveling it around. I honestly can’t remember what else he did, but I know he was busy every day and seemed to love all of it. He is so darn happy here. It makes my heart happy.

I had to go into town early this morning to deliver some soap, get my hair done, and meet up with a good friend that found someone who may buy one of the way too many motorcycles we own. I didn’t get home until just after 1PM, and as I pulled into the yard I saw that Bernie was working on my chicken coop! Yay! He had just gotten the foundation level, so I ran in and changed into some grubby jeans and a tee shirt and went out to help him. I have never built any sort of building in my life. In fact, I have rarely used a hammer. I mean, I have certainly hung my share of pictures – but I typically use the heal of a shoe – something that drives Bernie to the brink of insanity. But today I used a hammer to hammer nails. Lots of nails. And the result was a floor for the coop and one whole wall. My arm was rubber by the end of it, but even when it assured me it could not lift that hammer one more single solitary time, it came through for me.

This chicken coop is WAY better than I ever anticipated. I figured we’d throw up a lean-to and be done with it. But Bernie has designed a Chicken-Coop-Deville. My little chickens will be proud to live in it. They may even be obnoxiously obnoxious to all other chickens that don’t live in such a nice abode. He wanted to keep it chicken coopy (I think I just made that word up) but, at the same time, he wanted it to look presentable, as it is in our front yard. So he designed an 8 X 8 slant roof coop. It will have 2 windows, a door, and a little chicken door with a little chicken ramp. It’s within a couple feet of my new garden shed, and it has the same exact siding. I’m going to post pictures of what we did today, and our progress along the way, to the website in the next couple of days. My arm is still not functioning quite right, so I’m pretty sure I won’t be posting them tonight.

I did manage to get my arm to cooperate enough to post the following pictures, though:

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That’s my wildflower garden that Bernie help me put in last weekend, using a few of the several million rocks we have around this place. You probably can’t tell in this picture, but the wildflowers are coming up! Several broke ground the past few days. I just love that little garden.

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That’s a picture of the lettuce we planted in a container. I’ll admit, it’s a close up. The lettuce is really not very big at all. But it’s so darn cute, I wanted you to get a good look at it.

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That’s my radishes. They’ll need to be thinned. They are larger than life in that picture, too. But they really give the lettuce a run for their money in cuteness.

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Those little blades are the spinach that just decided to pop up today. They are so delicious looking already. Don’t they make you just want to run outside and start eating grass?

We’ll be working on the chicken coop each day when I get off work this week and I’ll be taking pictures along the way. Bernie even got one of me hammering today. I look like I really know what I’m doing. In reality I was on the brink of tears and praying my rubber arm didn’t flail uncontrollably just as he snapped the picture. I’ll let y’all know when I get all the pictures posted.

The homestead is always a joy to us – even when it involves a lot of work to maintain it. There is a feeling of true accomplishment and pride when you can look, and I mean really LOOK, at the results of your labor at the end of the day. Tonight my poor body is feeling the results of my labor. It’s a good feeling though. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Bee Free,
Penny

Life is Busy and Good on the Homestead

Monday, April 7th, 2008

With the weather warming a little on the homestead, we’ve been busy outside. While I rarely go outside when it’s cold, you can hardly keep me inside when it’s warm. I absolutely love warm weather. I even love hot weather. I don’t even mind hot and humid weather. But I am really not a fan of cold weather.

Bernie’s been busy with the fence. He’s about 80% finished with the posts now. The last little bit is going slow as he has to clear a path for it. I helped him pull out some old, rusted, fallen field fencing with barb wire on it last weekend. He has some trees to cut down and brush to remove before he can do much more. He’s reseeded the entire yard and laid down straw over the most naked parts. Today he started building my raised beds. Yay! Over the weekend he helped me get the radishes and spinach in some large containers outside. He also helped me build a little flower bed around the well head. We used a few of the thousands of very large rocks we’ve dug out of the ground around here. We filled it with some soil and then I planted a variety of wildflowers in it.

This weekend, First Choice Construction came out and built Bernie’s barn shed and my garden shed. I have to tell you, we were completely impressed. This company not only beat the heck out of the price of pre-fab sheds from Lowe’s, they custom built them on our property and used some top quality materials. Top notch workmanship, too. I just don’t think I can say enough about them. If you live in Virginia and need a building built, I strongly suggest you get ahold of them. I have no clue how far they will travel, but they came about 120 miles to build our building. So check them out! http://www.firstchoiceconstruction.us/ In the meantime, here are some pictures:

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Is that not the cutest little garden shed you’ve ever seen? I just love it! That’s Chris, one of the owners of First Choice, on the left, and his helper Bruce on the right. I managed to chop off the roof in this picture, but decided to post it anyway because it’s the only one I had with both Chris and Bruce in it. Chris is super nice and very professional. Bruce is really sweet, and spends a lot of time talking to himself. He even asks himself questions, and then answers them. It seems to help him work – and he is a very hard worker.

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That’s Chris in front of Bernie’s barn shed. You probably have barn shed envy. I’m sure that’s the coolest barn shed ever.

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And that’s Chris beside his monster freaking truck. That is one cool truck. And that bad boy can haul all kinda massive size loads. It has side compartments that carry every shed building tool known to man.

These guys built these two sheds in a total of two days. From scratch. Even the doors. I was sorry I didn’t get to meet Kat, Chris’ wife and the other owner of First Choice. She handles the customer service portion and scheduling of the business. Kat’s great at what she does and she’s super sweet. She spent a lot of time with me on the phone, not only discussing exactly what we wanted in these buildings, but giving advise on purchasing and caring for chickens, as well as building a chicken coop.

So there you have it. We’re tickled pink with our buildings and totally impressed with First Choice Construction. We’ve got lettuce that’s sprouted, garlic that’s perking up, spinach and radishes planted, a new rock garden, vegetable beds in the works, and a fence that’s close to being finished.

Life is good on the homestead. And Elvis has slept through most of it.

Bee Free,
Penny