Thursday, March 27, 2014

End of March Update

 The growing chicks are doing okay with the sunlight for heat and a jug of hot water over night.
The home hatched babies are getting pretty big.  The desperately need to be in an outside coop.  I'm working on it.
The grass is starting to green up in small patches.  Still down right cold over night around here with lows 20's last night.  The newest baby is making it.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Homesteading and Self Reliance Trend

I for one and glad to see that the whole "homesteading" and "self reliance" trend is still going strong.  I've been looking back and reading things I wrote from way back in 2008 and I must say Wow.  My life has really been rough!  LOL  Besides that, I've been reading all the things I've written about gardening, simplifying life, saving money, being frugal and self reliance.  It's a little hard to realize how much harder life is now compared to just 6 years ago.  The "little recession" that never went away has hit me pretty hard in combination with the outside forces in direct contact with the farm that I should have had better control over.  Being completely wiped out about once a year no matter how hard you try is hard to deal with.

So, what's the big advice from all of it?  Frugal living and self reliance pay off in the fight for survival.

Be careful of who you put your trust and faith in because it usually doesn't work out so well.
Even if it's only possible to grow a small portion of the food you consume, it makes a difference. 
Keeping purchases and expenditures to absolute necessity adds up.
Never giving up, no matter because it will make a difference.
Not sweating the small stuff (even the big stuff) will make a difference.
It's okay to be upset and disappointed about things that don't go as planned, as long as you keep going and keep trying.
Small additions, one at a time are easily handled and incorporated into the homesteading plan.  Overwhelming yourself never works out well, especially when you have to do all the work yourself.

So now, here it is, basically a complete start over, again.  Some things aren't so bad such as the kitchen being partially complete, the animals coming out of the hard winter in decent shape and the ground drying up enough to start working on the gardens.

This years start is going to be pretty close to 1800's pioneer living.  The electric service here is slated to be terminated on Wednesday of this coming week. Once it's shut off, the fee to turn it back on will prohibit reconnection for a long time.  So, I will be simply dealing with it as I can.  Should be interesting to say the least!

The seed starting has commenced.  Another season of production is on the way.  As I go, I will be building a roadside farm stand to take advantage of the access I have to a busy rural route.

A disappointment from not having any calves this spring.  Where I should have had 2, neither cow was bred by the runt of a bull I had here for a year.  I did notice the Holstein bull showing interest lately.  Maybe in 10 months I can remedy the lack of fresh cows milk, greatly adding to the homestead food supply.  Meanwhile, the milk goat is coming along well, the new baby is getting stronger and the Momma is healing from the birthing. Fresh goats milk and cheese should be in the works soon.

The chicks are growing, both sets of them.  The new coop is still incomplete as the funds needed have been diverted to the bills and just trying to stay afloat financially.  Just need to hang on until the farm produce can supplement the paycheck.  I should see the first eggs about the middle of May from the first group.  July for the second group.  Not a big addition to the piggybank but better than nothing.

So, what's the homesteading/farming plan for this year?  A farm rebuild, produce from the gardens, goats, goats milk, goat cheese, goats milk soap, chickens, eggs, rabbits, finish the kitchen, get inspected and start baking again.  Then add in the woodworking projects when my future farm helper/ partner gets here later in the year.  Then, the second helper/partner arriving at the end of this year.

Best part of this is, there's hardly anywhere but up to go from here.....

Thursday, March 13, 2014

It's Alive!

Yep, it's a closet baby!  My favorite goat was in pre labor yesterday morning when I did chores.  She waddled around, bleating at me thru chores and hobbled her way to the front porch and cried.  Since we had 40mph winds, sleet and air temps at freezing, I let her in the house.  She laid on the floor and complained for 13 hours before actual labor.  20 minutes of it and there it is.  This year, she knows what's going on and the good Momma in her took over.  We were not having a repeat of last years under the truck in the pouring rain birth where in the end, the baby died.  So, at 11:45pm, last night, we had a live baby in the closet.  The damned goat ate my wallet over night to thank me for it too.  Ate my drivers license, gun card, insurance card, debit card, every receipt I had in there and half the actual checkbook.  Not a trace of the ID cards at all.  Ate them whole I guess.  Eh, the price one pays for being a loving goat herder I guess.  I need a shed with a wood stove in it.  This critters in the house thing got old quick.  Soon as the frost burns off the ground today, out they go.  8 towels and an old blanket need washed now......

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Self Sustained Urban Living with Style

These are photos of what I’ve been talking about. Leokat75 turned her backyard into a free grocery for her family. Kat keeps chickens and rabbits in her backyard as well. Like I’ve been saying, it doesn’t matter where you live, you can feed yourself with some creative planning and a little bit of follow-thru! Good job LeoKat75! This is a backyard to be proud of!

I know a retired couple that lives in a major city about 35 miles south of me, they have turned their city lot backyard into something similar to this.  Even with an alley behind them, no one bothers their garden or backyard critters.

Self Sustained Living with Home Made Breads

I’ve been baking my own bread for several years now but for some people, the thought of baking bread can be a bit scary. It really isn’t and the rewards outweigh any fears you ever had.
While searching the web for some variations on what I’ve been baking, I came across this wonderful website, the Hillbilly Housewife.
It’s full of frugal living tips and baking recipes and easy, step by step bread baking! A well put together site full of great tips and tricks.

Self Sustained Living

As many of us have realized, things are getting pretty expensive lately. Fuel and food take up most of our paychecks. Life in the fast lane of Blackberries, cell phones, fast food and video gaming is getting harder. Some would say that is a good thing. Either way you like it, something has got to give.
I can help you with the grocery bill no matter where you live, even in condos and apartments. It is not difficult to grow things such as tomatoes and peppers, lettuce, cucumbers, even melons in small spaces and containers! A sunny spot is all you need. If you don’t have a sunny spot, a florescent light will do. You don’t need to waste your money on the “grow lamp” bulbs, the white light bulbs do just fine. If you don’t feel like that is going to do it for you, you can always use the bulbs designed for fish tanks, readily available at Lowes or Home Depot.
For people living in rental homes, you can expand a little with a small chicken coop built like a dog pen or even rabbits in wooden hutches. The hutches even work well for a few chickens. Remember tho, if you have crabby neighbors, don’t get a rooster! Chickens are daylight sensitive and lay an egg every 24 to 28 hours so plan accordingly for your egg consumption. Just 6 hens give me 3 dozen eggs a week, give or take an egg here or there.
In an 8×10 coop with a 10×10 run, I have 4 to 6 fresh eggs every day and fresh meat whenever I want some chicken. How to kill a chicken will be another days post.
Remember my post on raised bed gardens? For those of you that have the opportunity to make a raised bed, I forgot to mention how easy they are to maintain! It is easy to cover the garden in the fall with grass clippings, even newspaper or paper sacks, anything organic that will decompose, kill off the weeds, add to the nutrient value of the soil and keep your soil easy to turn. Just one small raised bed garden here produces literally hundreds of pounds of healthy, pesticide free food for my family.
Now to rabbits- I keep 2 does and 2 bucks, I breed every other month for 12 to 18 kits for the table. Rabbit is high protein, low fat and can be served up just like any chicken recipe you have.
Rabbits don’t make any noise, their manure is high in nitrogen, phosphorus and potash and can be used right out of the rabbit, no composting needed. It will not burn your plants like cow or horse or chicken will. Rabbit is a win win situation! Small spaces work out well as a medium sized meat rabbit needs just 2′x2′ to stay healthy and produce for you.
All these things add up to savings. Think about how much money you spend on food stuffs like meat and veges. Canning is easy to do and cooking is just as easy. Think about how much money you spend eating out. A healthy and tasty meal can be whipped up in your own kitchen for a third of the price if not cheaper than that, for just 20 minutes or so of your time. Plus, you get to spend a little quiet time at home relaxing while you do it!

Raised Bed Gardening

Raised beds are great for areas with poor soil or for a contained gardening area. I used all compost from the farm(sticks, leaves, hay, straw and animal waste composted down to soil) for the humus in my raised beds. Old oak timbers from the local coal mine I picked up dirt cheap. Square foot garden plans and slightly reducing the spacing between plants maximizes the harvest from smaller spaces.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Special Day

Today is my birthday.  I always seem to gauge my success or failures by where I am every year on my birthday.  I started the day with a cup of coffee and my sister messaged me.  She remembered my birthday!  I miss my family very much.  No matter what I am doing, they always have comfort and constructive criticism to offer.  Always suggestions on how to move forward.  Advise that makes sense to me when everything else is out of whack.  Even when it's not what I want to hear, I know they're probably right, LOL

So, here I am, another year older and looking back at my successes and failures of last year.

Successes- I got my food safety and management certificate.  I got my farmers market certificate.  I baked wonderful breads, cookies and pastries, did well at the market.  I got divorced.

Failures-  I didn't get the kitchen finished.  A few odds and ends to bring me into compliance that I didn't figure in with that old house.  It was more rough than it looked.  It needs to be brought up to the success side quicker.  Then, I chose my friends poorly.  I let outsiders get way too close and left myself open to injury when I got successful and they felt threatened by it.  Next comes the livestock liquidation and the equipment sell off to keep the land.  My previous failures led up to that and I learned that lesson the hard way.

So, into the new "year".  I'm feeling pretty good about it even tho I am rock bottom and struggling.  I'm in a position to work back up to success.  I've got the chickens, the rabbits, the goats and the gardens to work with.  The kitchen will follow once a little cash flow is established.  I am ready to begin a new season of preparedness and homesteading classes.  I hope to be able to do a few cheese making classes as well.  That will all depend on the one goat.  Stock liquidation and the one first time goat losing her kids and drying up on me put a dent in my potential but I'll just have to get around that in time.  I also have other opportunities floating in the wind for later this year.  Late summer is going to be exciting around here!  I can't tell you about it now but when it gets closer, I'll let you all in on it.  Big stuff!

I'm looking forward to the ground drying out.  Hard to build the brick oven and grill pit with soggy earth to work with.  A proper base needs to be built so when the earth gets soggy next year, the oven and grill pit do not sink or flounder in any way. This winter has taught me that the normal freeze line I intended to go down to for the base is not sufficient to prevent damage.  Considering how water lines froze in the ground, another 6 to 12" deeper is now on the agenda.  That means I will need a few more blocks for the base of both the oven and the grill pit.  One block at a time, I'll get them!

So..... stick around, this is going to be an exciting year!  Lots of projects in the works for more self reliant living, more frugal living projects too!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Pioneer Living

Looks like the Cranky Old Hen is going to get a first hand look at the old ways this year.  Life has been a struggle pretty much from the get-go of imagination here.  Every time I'd get going and find just a hint of success, something would happen that knocked me back down to nothing.  The problem has been eliminated, now all I need to do is build back up to some success.

I'm not one to stew in my misery, yes it depresses me and leaves me in a sour mood but it happens to all of us at some point.  I got in a really bad spot last year and many people reached out and helped me.  I am forever grateful.  Those wonderful people helped me survive when there were no options but homelessness for me.  I scraped by and I'm still scraping by, continuing to fight my way thru it.

This winter has been devastating.  For more than just myself.  As I look around and read my fellow bloggers posts, I become overwhelmed by the feeling of success from just still being here.  Alas, the lousy winter has caught up with me.  An outrageous electric bill has now landed at my door.  There is no way I can pay it, just not enough income here, no matter what I do.  So, I'm not going to worry about it and when they show up to shut it off, so be it.  I'll deal with it.  I do have a little experience with living absent electricity already.

Now, some people would most likely freak out not having electricity.  I am not going to like it much but I look at it this way.... the pioneers that settled this country did it.  They often traveled by wagon, out in the elements, months at a time to get where they were going.  When they finally got there, they had to build themselves a life out of nothing.

For me, I won't have to load a wagon and hitch up the oxen.  I won't need to build a shelter, this crappy house trailer is hardly good shelter but it keeps the rain off anyway, LOL  I also won't have to turn virgin ground into productive soil for growing food.   So, stick around and read about the coming train wreck, LOL  Aw, it won't be that bad, I hope anyway.

Cool DIY self reliance ideas

A couple interesting videos I've seen recently, thought I'd share them with ya'll.

This one is "da bomb".  It always gets so hot and humid here.  Stuck in this crappy double wide trailer where the windows don't open higher than knee high, it's a sweat box.  The fan looks to be run on solar, since I didn't get to this with sound at the time I viewed it, I don't know if solar was talked about.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Surprised and Overwhelmed

A surprise from the guys I work with!  Everybody chipped in and bought me a box full of chickens!  I am absolutely overwhelmed, I don't know what to say.  It's been a very long time since anyone did anything spontaneous for me, just to do something they thought I would enjoy.
This is a serious jump in sustainability for me, not only feeding myself but a source of income in a few months.  It's been a rough winter for me and they guys thought I needed a pick-me-up.  This worked!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Just a Lazy Day

Yep, that's how the Cranky old Hen feels- lazy. 

I discovered this morning, when I woke up with a chicken laying on my pillow next to my head, that the chicks can now jump out of the brooder.  That is unacceptable!  Chickens are horribly messy and I've a big enough mess in here with 2 stock dogs, a handful of cats and the mud that gets dragged in with every boot step.  I am NOT living with chickens pooping everywhere, how gross!  I can see now how my brilliant plan of hatching chicks out in the dead of winter for May eggs was filled with great intention but not actually such a great idea.  With nowhere safe and protected outside to put growing chickens, I am now stuck with them, in the house, until better weather gets here.  So, rounding up pieces parts from various areas of the farm to whip up a make shift growing pen for the now flying birds. 
Didn't quite have enough material to work with to build as big of a growing pen as these birds need, but this will do for now.
The wayward barn cat who begged to be a house cat when the temperatures turned brutal gave me kittens about a month ago.  She hid them out under the cabinets until last night.  This little grey had an encounter with one of the farm dogs this morning.  It puffed up as big as it could to scare the evil farm dog off.  Of course, the dog tucked tail and ran away.  I would too, what a ferocious lion that is!
Since today is my only day off from the off farm job, I'm kind of taking it easy and piddling around.  Made myself a typical farm snack for lunch, fried potatoes.  I still have a decent pile of potatoes from the fall harvest and if I don't eat them, they will just eventually go bad on me.  I was pretty worried about them when we had the sub zero temps, a few did get mushy so I'm watching them closely now.  Some bacon (who doesn't love bacon?) some diced onion thrown in once the bacon is mostly done, some sliced potatoes ( I use this cool mandolin slicer my son gave me to make shoe string taters) salt and pepper to taste and fry them until desired doneness.  Farm snack!
Now I need a nap, LOL
Oh, I got the electric bill today.  Total sticker shock there.  As usual, I have no clue how I'm going to pay it, the past due is more than my 2 weeks worth of paycheck. C'est la vie, quess I'll go without electric again this year.  Maybe I can save up enough to get some solar panels.  If anybody can live thru it, I can!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Need Coffeeeeee...

Oh yes, one of those days.  The mental stresses of yesterday have caught up with me while sleeping.  Plus, it's bloody cold in the dump I call home!  Wow, it's cold!  The handy little thermometer says 58F, yep, that's what I consider uncomfortable.  Just a few more days of this nasty, so the weatherman says.  Craziest winter I've seen since childhood!

A few more misc tidbits I didn't calculate in for the kitchen but those things will come along in due time.  The goal is the same, the intent is the same and it WILL happen.  Just not as quick as I thought it would.  LOL  Story of my life there.  But, I don't give up so easy so I keep plugging along.

Sure would be nice to have seedlings growing around here.  I take small consolation in knowing that none of the major greenhouses have anything started either.  I'm sure those businesses will just purchase seedlings from somewhere warmer come regular planting time.  Me, I'll just end up being behind because I don't plant anything I don't grow for myself.  Ah, I take that back, I made my son replace some plants with locally grown seedlings (amish greenhouse) one year when he was too busy playing video games to watch the unweaned baby goat for a couple hours.

Soon my place will look like it always does come spring. I am ready, willing and able to grow me some produce!  Have tomatoes, will travel, LOL

Eh, the sun is blazing on the combination of ice and snow that finished up yesterday morning here. 

So, what's on the agenda today?  Let's see.... bucket some water to the kitchen to do dishes and clean up so I can bake some bread and fix something for supper. Then, bucket more water to the wash machine for some laundry.  There always seems to be something here needing washed.  Then out to tend the farm critters, bust ice and such, check everybody out for injuries, sickness and so on.  After that it's back into the house to thaw rabbit water bottles, sweep and mop the floor.  Daily chores around here.  Another pot of coffee and then it's off to the job for a few hours.  Back home later on to do a last check of animals and a little reading before bed.  Yep, that's how exciting it is here!  LOL

This is what my batch of bread making usually looks like.  Simple recipe I got from I think the Happy Homemaker or maybe it was frugal homemaker, 4 or 5 years ago.  It's simpler than the old recipe I used to use and comes out the same every time no matter what the temperature and humidity of the day is.
So, why take the time to make my own bread you say?  Hmmm, have you ever read the ingredients label on a loaf of commercially sold bread?  Yep, bingo!  What just came out of my oven is nothing but flour, sugar, salt yeast and filtered water.
Well, off to get things done before the farm critters think I abandoned them!

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Cranky Old Hen

Welcome aboard the ship of madness!  It's a never ending story of choices.  Mostly bad ones.  Poor judgment in friends, partners and life.  So, if you don't enjoy sarcasm, just move on now!

So........ where to begin........ let's start with the delusion of the good life, LOL  Struggle, struggle, struggle, get a good job, get married, raise a couple kids, throw some farming in to round it off and here we are.  Rock bottom with nothing.  Marriage ended, kids grown, no farm, a handful of friends in the area who I was stupid enough to let screw me over and waaaaalllllaaaaaaa, cranky old hen.

Did I learn anything from all of it?  God, I hope so!

This blog will be a compilation of things I've learned along the way.  Join me in my journey (since you're still reading) and maybe you'll learn something too!

Today up until now has been a total wash out.  I haven't even managed to get dressed yet.  Kittens in the bed, born last night I guess.  Now I'll need to wash the blankets.  Yay rah.  The never ending bucket brigade to the wash machine.  No running water since the big freeze, all the pipes burst.  No sense in repairing them when winter isn't over yet.  Can't afford to do a job twice.  Laying under the crappy house in the freezing cold to repair broken water lines plus replace the ruined (an apparently worthless) insulation is not my idea of big fun.

What I'm actually procrastinating more than anything is going outside in the freezing cold to scrape the inch or 2 of ice off the vehicle so I can go to the job later today.  The sun is blinding, reflecting off the nice layer of sleet and ice on the ground and it's cold.  That's the extent of my thinking this morning.  Coffee and how to get the vehicle to be ice free without any effort.  Yah, like that will happen.

Well, I better get off my lazy ass and get to it.  More tomorrow..........