So.. Just trying to figure it all out :)

ImageSo, wow is right.. We are going to have to start over in so many aspects when we move. It’s so scary to let go of what you already have to even embrace the possibility of a better future. The future we want is less dependance on anything store bought. And that ranges from food to clothing to gas. We started that here and now we’ll start again.

I’m losing the chickens today. Yes I’ve cried more than you can imagine over three birds. I put their whole package on Craigslist for $100 and it sold in 30 minutes. He’ll be here today. A small family with two growing children. I’m glad people are starting to realize the importance of growing it yourself. You know what goes in that chicken, the eggs are walked in your back door, fresh as they can be. Who wouldn’t want that?! And to have it all packaged up to boot! We’ll have to check ordinances once we get settled in, build a better coop and start again. Keep moving forward!! (saw it on a movie)

ImageWe found Budget to be the cheapest rental. They have a 20% off until the 28th and we’ll save around 75-100 bucks going during the week instead of weekend. So the last week of February will be our last week in Indian Trail. My stomach is doing somersaults right now!

I have already emailed Michael’s resume to my mom to hopefully work her magic!! She knows someone at the Honda dealership there in Valdosta and took Michael’s resume up there. Everyone seemed really excited about his certifications in general not just the ones with Honda. They asked all about the move, when we would be there and if he would be able to start work the following Monday. THIS COULD BE A GREAT THING!! So please everyone keep your fingers crossed. He is so worried about finding a good job in a smaller city and it working for all of us. I’ve also decided to seek employment. The house sits pretty central in Lake Park so commuting on the SS is going to be sweet. I really hope I can find something close enough and be able to work things out to be home for Syddo! Because that is really what this is all about for me in the long run. Raising her to have a different awareness on the world and I have to be there to do that 😉

ImageSo I’m really scared, nervous, excited, etc., etc. Everything is moving so fast. I think we are going to try for the yard sale this weekend. Go ahead and get that stuff gone and purge again. We plan on taking the basics, we just all have different definitions on what exactly the basics are!

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DIY Ammo box wood stove (part 2), Molting Chickens in an Ice Storm and Cheddar’s First Egg

ImageSo, Michael bought black high heat paint and applied 2 layers. We have burned it as is 4 times. We still need to pick up 2 pieces of the 4 inch pipe plus elbow. We want to make sure everything is going to work before we cut a hole in the side of the shed! (Between us though, I would have love to have had it done before this recent ice storm hit ;))

Our two older hens are in the process of molting right in the middle of an ice storm. They started about a week ago. We had some super cold rain at the time, so we went out inspected their coop. We stapled some 6mm plastic in some place because the wind was fierce and we knew the ice was coming. When we built the coop, all the specs we followed didn’t include them molting in the middle of Winter!! Oh No.. Improv with the plastic! I read during molting they need to be kept between 70-80 degrees. Our house right now doesn’t stay that right now. We cooped them so they would have to stay together and roost and hopefully keep warm enough. We sealed for drafts and supplies leaves and straw for their boxes and the floor of the coop. I read wood shaving are best because they actually do better at absorbing thermal heat throughout the day..

ImageCheddar, on a lighter note, has started laying!! I didn’t think she would until next month when the days stretched out a little more, but about 4-5 days ago I heard that ‘I got an egg in my butt’ cluck. At first I thought something was attacking one of them outside. I run out and Cheddar is pacing. We had our first little brown egg from her the next day 🙂

That’s it for now!! Send my hens warm thoughts, please and everybody safe safe and warm too!

Mixed Emotions..

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Yesterday was a bad day for the urban farm. One of my neighbors has a Dodson who got off her runner. She got into our chain link fenced backyard and started attacking chickens. Michael saw it first, but it didn’t take the rest of us long to figure things out as he ran out the back door yelling. By this point the dog had Pepper, our 4 month old Barred Rock, down by the neck. If it wasn’t broken, it was close. There was a terrible hole in her neck. No, this was not supposed to be happening. This can’t be happening. It was and it got worse. Michael tried to grab Pepper away and Nikki, the dog, bit him. He kicked her at this point. We don’t know this dog. His hand bit, Pepper trying to stand, blood everywhere, kids screaming.. he kicked the dog off of her and I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same thing.

The dog died instantly. Are you KIDDING me? This is really happening right now? The kids ran to see if the dog’s owners were home, while Michael had to put Pepper down. Her neck was broken. This is, was my favorite hen. She hasn’t even started laying yet. Why the HELL was that dog in my yard. I watched Michael hold her feet, slit her throat and hold her as the life drained away. She finally quit flapping. I mean I knew we would one day eat these chickens. We’ve been plotting the roosters death for weeks. But it wasn’t supposed to go like this. These were unnecessary deaths. Tears rolled downed my face.

Nikki’s owners weren’t home, but by now every neighborhood kid knows and a mass greeting when they did get home is exactly what I wanted to avoid. They have a little girl in fourth grade and a son in ninth. The dog was with them a lot and I knew was close to all of the family, that this would be really hard for them as well.And I just made friends with their mom, she offered to let Sydni ride to the bus stop not only when it rained or snowed , but every morning now that it had gotten cold. We had just passed down shoes, jeans and sweaters to Ashton, which worked out perfect. Why did this happen.. You know, I thought what if the dog hadn’t died. Pepper would just be dead. I wouldn’t worry they may be mad at Sydni for some weird reason. I’m so confused about this..

This is definitely one of the problems of urban farming. I grew up on a real farm and if any dog, no matter owner, even came into our yard, it would have been shot. They stress the animals at the very least. The owner would be saying they were sorry. I wouldn’t be feeling this bad. I’ve just beat myself up and that’s nothing compared to what Michael has felt. Even though his dad is one of those shoot on site and he doesn’t even have any animals. His answer is he has kids and I can’t argue with that either. And he would expect an apology for the bullet wasted as well. (He was the first person Michael called) We wanted to call animal control at first to make sure we weren’t liable for anything. I think I was just so freaked out. But then my second thought was I didn’t want the neighbors to get in any trouble because the dog was on no leash and it bit Michael. Torn.. word of the day. Why am I feeling so bad when this dog came into my fenced back yard, killed my chicken in front of my three kids and nobody said sorry to me when I must have apologized twenty times. But I do feel bad, I feel terrible and you know, I’m not really apologizing for Michael kicking the dog, but just that little girl’s dog is dead. Why was it out, geez. What a mess.

Garlic sprouts showing!!

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Now to keep the chickens out. I’ve been making them stay in their coop until 2 hours of daylight left. They destroy everything I do!! They had a field day with the leaves and straw I put out last week. I just spent nearly an hour raking the beds back together. They can stay. Gotta get a fence around the garden! I put maple leaves in the bottom of their coop so they could scratch around in there. It’s still so cool to open their nesting boxes and find 2 different colored eggs! They are getting a bit bigger in size too. I have the coolest looking dozen eggs on my street, I’m willing to bet!

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Covered my container carrots and strawberry beds with straw. It’s supposed to be 28 degrees here tonight. They are really flourishing, one thing chickens couldn’t get to! I call them Carrots for Eli to encourage an apartment dwelling friend of mine to garden anyway! I rearranged the chickens new design of the drip hoses. Creative little buggers.

Getting ready for winter..

Image Getting the chickens ready for their first winter.. I first cleaned out most of their old soiled bedding, not as good as their Spring cleaning will be if they are still in that coop, but remove all wet or really soiled stuffed, wiped out the nesting boxes. Then we laid in extra straw and leaves back in their boxes and the area under their roost and around the pen. We had our first frost this week and I don’t want their feet to get frost bite. We definitely have a rooster, now to figure out what to do with him. Michael wants to butcher it himself. I told him to have at it, but finish the job if he starts it.

We stopped letting them out of their pen this week as well. I will have no Fall garden because of them. Our plans are to build  a fence over Winter and move their pen once a week. We built it to where the two of us could do this, we just thought the birds all over the yard was ‘cute’. Not anymore! Donna finally started laying yesterday!! She laid the first that morning in the shed and the second in their coop but on the floor, not in the nesting boxes. The other two pullets will have around 2 months before they lay if we supplement their light. Pepper already sits on Althea’s!

We are still pulling peppers by the day. Today’s pull of jalapeno barely took the weight off the bush! Bell peppers are still forming, but I’m sure once the frosts are more consistent, they’ll be gone in the week. We let the chickens ruin most of our trail and error for this years Fall garden. I did plant three rows of garlic and plan to get onion sets over the weekend. But they completely ate the Brussels, lettuce, striped the potatoes. I guess I did learn one error!

Our 43 dollar chicken coop :)

ImageHaving a flock of laying hens is a staple to a good homestead, so March we decided to invest in chickens. Michael began salvaging wood where he could. At the time he worked at a huge strip mall from which the stores were always tossing things out. One was a shelving unit he took apart, saving the lumber and heavy duty screws! We had to wait until April to get the chicks, so we started watching documentaries on the chicken industry, um.., no mam. No longer a good feeling when you saw the largest carton of eggs for the cheapest price, just ugh.. You begin to wonder how many chickens did that chicken have to eat, with NO beak, before that egg came out?? Yet to do the organic thing on cage free eggs (when you still don’t know) you gotta really fork out the dough!

We have had too cut down on eggs, milk, meat because of the organic price. I can tell you there is not a lot of wasting around here anymore 🙂 So to stay in our budget, not to mention peace of mind on what we were eating, we buy and consume less of these products, filling the void on the dinner plate with larger serving of vegetables or a good salad. I’m a true sucker for a good salad, there have been lunch and supper served with a salad topped with a few chicken strips I cooked up really quick with olive oil.

So in turn I guess the food industry going down the drain and me realizing is actually saving my family’s health. It has made us all aware not all food is the same!! If we can’t afford the best, the healthiest or grow it ourselves, we simply go without. I’m not talking starvation, this is still America folks. But there are no more Cheetos, if you don’t want an apple, then you really weren’t that hungry. POOF! Sorry I’m back.. On to the chickens!!

With the materials Michael acquired, a small pallet we found and my neighbor giving us the corrugated roof. All we had to buy was the wiring and hinges. And the chickens of course!! It took us 2-3 days to build it, we could have finished it in one (it’s a small coop, we wanted to be able to move it by ourselves around the yard) but we were in no rush. The chicks were still under the lamp. And well Michael likes to stop and stare, I mean analyze his progress every other step. We had a few Google images to go off of to build. We’d spend an hour in the unfinished frame deciding what would go best where. The sun was shining, the air felt good.. I knew this was right, and it was just the chicken’s coop!

Now finished (for under $50), the birds love it. One of our initial chicks died and we got 3 more about 12 weeks ago. We suspect we have a male and we suspect we’ll be eating him around Christmas. That will leave us 4 hens with 2 nesting boxes, it worked out perfect. We are on our third egg in three days.

One project at a time..

Ladies and Gentlemen… We have our first egg!

ImageWhat a feeling!! We have not even started our oldest two on a laying feed of any kind. The proud owner, Althea!!

She gave us another one today. She is a Golden sex-link. Beautiful bird. She was nesting in the compost heap yesterday for long spells. The other chicks would even come check on her, chirping and peering under the cover at her. Sure enough, Michael checked after she made her graceful exit, there it was!! Light brown, small like they said they would be at first. You couldn’t slap the smiles off our faces 🙂 Donna will be up next, her eggs will be blue-green! This makes them 5 months old, it seemed only yesterday they were peeping from their cardboard box.

That means the others should be laying around the beginning of the year with adequate light. Chickens need 14-16 hours of light to produce a single egg! Laying slows down during winter months due to shorter days. If we supplement their light with an artificial bulb, probably a heat lamp during the severe temps, we can expect them to lay all winter. Pretty cool, huh?

Well, we ate the egg, boiled, on our salad last night at a friend’s house!! They put on a feast, so we celebrated with Althea’s first egg!! It was delicious.

 

Meet the Flock..

Image We decided the first livestock on the farm would be the chickens. We have five chickens, all under laying age. We bought three in April and one died as a chick. I thought the other two were lonely, so we got three more about a month back. I love, love, love these birds. They are so funny and quirky. My two oldest are Althea, Golden sex-link, and Donna the Buffalo, Americauna. Althea is my right hand chicken! She walks or more runs behind me where ever I go in the yard. She really seems the brightest of the two. She has learned that when we’re looking intensely at the tomato plants that we are looking for horn worms! She evens comes over and looks for them now. Looking up and down the plant, first with the one eye, then she turns her head and scans with the other. Donna is too busy trying to harass the little chicks! Meanie!! She make the oddest sounds, you can tell when she’s really wound up!! Our last pick up included a Barred Rock, Pepper, and the twins, two Rhode Island Reds, Cheddar and Spark. We have a bad feeling Spark may not be a hen at all :c It has a lot of subtle differences from his sister with tail feather, vent, coloring and let’s not forget his comb is growing daily! So even if he goes, we will have four laying hens of different kinds. Our coop will really max out at 4 birds, so we’ll let Nature be Nature and see what happens!