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!

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New year.. New projects.. New goals..

ImagePumped up for the new year!! Michael started a project on a mini wood stove. I’ve been pouring over seed catalogs, brushing up on crop rotation. Last year was all about growing, this year we actually are incorporating a little more method behind the madness 🙂 I want to focus more on preserving this year. My mom got us a dehydrator for Christmas! Score. And I’m picking up a canning set soon with the Ball book to start reading through it. I canned tomatoes in a class last year so we’ll see how it goes..

Image We have a shed outside that is roughly 100 square feet. With the tiny home movement in our future, we decided to turn the shed into a model tiny home for us to see what it’s like. Now mind you, we don’t plan for 100 sq. ft. but it’s going to be fun to see what we can do with our shed.

Michael scored an 50 cal ammo box to project a mini wood stove we have seen on a couple YouTube videos. We had some old pavers left over to use for the corner for both protection and to help absorb and hold some of the heat. Using a Sharpie, ruler and his dremel, he cut out a door. He went and got piping. We want to make it chimney out the side if possible instead of the roof. Right now we are burning in it outside to burn off any zinc.

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More up to dates next week. Hope everybody had a great Christmas and Happy New Years!!

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!

This is my American dream…

Image I mean think about it. Wake up with the sun, crawl into your custom breakfast nook to enjoy the kiss of sunrise. Think to yourself.. What do I want to do today. Get rid of the have to. We don’t have to grind away at a corporation setting to have things, nice things. We just have to change our perception.

Remember in school, where they ask you to take out a sheet of paper and write where you want to be in five years.. ten years.. Every year it changed, so why was it so important to push specific goals? For me to realize later, I failed them all in some way or another. I remember my 8th grade ten year was to be married to Buck Cargile, well that didn’t happen. Neither did I become a veterinarian, nurse, astronaut and I’m pretty sure the first female President floated around through elementary school. What’s the point? What if our teachers didn’t ask for specific goals, just directions. Maybe write out our favorite hobbies over a few years span, collect them and let us explore the options that have appealed to us best.

I think its more important to lean towards behavior rather than strict goals. If focus is put towards good behavior and open direction, we could have several places we could end up and that would be perfectly fine. I want to look more into ‘unschooling’. When we get our place, I would like to unschool Sydni. Let Nature be her guide. Giving her questions and answers at the same time. I picture us going through out our day making observations and talking about it. Going to the library to look further into things we had questions about. Just this time together, outside of four walls, will be beneficial to us both. Working in the garden together, talking about the principles of things without it seeming like a drill, working out the details of the house. Letting her see that we built our house, we own it, not the bank. We are free to do as we please with our time due to the simple way we live and that is true riches.

Garlic is in the ground and the potatoes are piled high!!

We planted three rows of garlic cloves today! I spent the morning weeding the beds and hard raking all the loose dirt the chickens have been scratching away from the beds. They have really screwed my pooch on the Fall garden, I knew they would and the precautions I took just weren’t enough. I planted the garlic in the beds to the farImage left. Not like a regular Fall crop I guess, it stays until May. I think I’ll rotate out with a block of corn.

Writing down bed layouts for crop rotation is one of the biggest things I want to learn and work on. I planted legumes after the corn to hopefully fix nitrogen for the next crop. Each plant can help or hurt each other just by the way you plant it! I guess it’s time to reread all my Permie stuff. I have different questions this time through, just like they said I would. The old theory vs. practice. With Winter approaching, I’m sure I’ll get my fair share of catching up on my reading. A new GRIT came just today, with winterizing your chickens on the cover, just what we’ve been talking about!

I piled the potatoes today as well, tried to leave just the tops showing. This will be my first trial with growing them this time of year. I’m assuming just like the carrots, if I keep the tops from getting freezer burnt and die, they’ll continue to grow. The carrot tops in the container out front are a good 4 inches now. I’m glad they’re out front, the chickens would have had a field day with those fluffy tops! I plan on getting onions from Renfroe’s this week and a couple bales of straw to add some finishing Fall touches.

Keeping up the good work 😀

Potato Pull!!

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We had a great day potato pull yesterday of some white sweet potatoes. Less sweet and less nutritious than the orange variety, this was a new potato for us. This harvest had been growing for about 6 months. We covered the beds twice with straw and compost as the greenery raged.

We started by loosening the soil with the pitchfork and digging in and around for the potatoes. I always feel like an archeologist digging away fossils. Yeah, I grew up in the Jurassic Park era.. So I love digging up potatoes and garlic.. and onions,, 🙂 It was a great day to be in the yard. Lower 70s, great breeze. I love just being out there with Michael harvesting part of our dinner for that night. It was just a really good moment in all the stress we’ve had lately. The world sure doesn’t make it easy sometimes to go back to basics, ya know? That little cottage I want nestled in the foothills with a clean stream that runs by. We can’t catch and eat but so many of those fish due to mercury levels.

What do we do you ask? We cook potatoes. I pour enough olive oil to drizzle over the pan of cut potatoes and went out front and stripped two rosemary branches. Dropping those in with the oil, I chunk 3 small/med white sweets and one large orange sweet. I spread them out on a cookie sheet, drizzled the oil and roasted them at 375 degrees F. The rosemary made the house smell so good and even though the scent was strong, it did not out power the potatoes at all 😀

Weekend with my family, karaoke style :)

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So this weekend was my aunt’s 60th birthday party in Milledgeville, Ga which is just over halfway to my moms. Sydni(who is in the blond wig, stealing the show) and I jumped on the chance to get to see them before Thanksgiving, I have been missing them a lot lately!!

The road trip was great. Syd had her stuff set up in the back, we had packed a lunch and set out at around 9 Saturday morning. We printed out our directions (which got us lost!! that’s another story!) the night before and felt really good about the trip. It was a karaoke party so we sang all the way there. I love to drive. Road trips help me clear my mind and I’ve got a lot rolling around up there these days so I looked forward it for days.

I thought about where I really wanted to go to build for awhile.. My mother and her husband sit on 10 acres, most of it woods, right on the Georgia/Florida line. As much as I have been thinking about my family.. Well it got me thinking, my mom is sitting on the perfect site. Would the husband agree to work out a deal with me on even 1/4 an acre…? Man, to be back near my family, red Georgia clay, a piece of land I might could share or work off.. This probably took up a good two and a half hours.. I’ve never thought of really going home before until recently. It wasn’t that I had forgotten about that land, just never thought about it. I could build at the back of the property to where they wouldn’t know we were there. There is a road that goes down along the property so there is even a different access point. I decided to put the bug in mom’s ear. Who knows? Her husband may say no to my cob house idea on their property..

It’s just.. I love my family. We have always been really tight and when I moved Sydni and I to North Carolina last year, I felt like there a hole that would never fill up. I thought it would get better over time, but as we gradually get to a more simple lifestyle I realize how much further away I really am from them. I mean I drive a bike now for the most part and gas is so high. I just feel like the tear will become permanent with a homestead and do I want to be that far away??

Plus all that free labor 🙂 My little brother would love to help us build with cob. I think it would even help him reconnect with himself. I thought about cobbing in general.. Mushing the cob, making loaves, packing them on and smoothing out the clay with wet hands filled with the life of this earth. My spirit is longing to start. When we go down for Thanksgiving I will talk to Jay and hopefully look at the land!! I really could have my place there. It can happen 😀

There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling. ~Mirabel Osler

Shelling peas in the September sun..

Methodically snapping the tip and pulling as far down the pod as I can, just like my Grandma King did. I turn it up-side down and start splitting it down the middle letting the peas fall in the shiny metal bowl in my lap. Just mindfully shelling.

Have you ever smiled when a wind blows by from nowhere. A sweet breeze to partner perfectly with the sunshine on your face. I did yesterday and the day before that and the day before that. Lifted my face, closed my eyes and smiled. It was a simple moment, a few seconds with an afterglow that made me feel like maybe everything will really be all right. The moments come more now, usually in the garden, almost always outside.

I haven’t shelled these peas since I would visit my great-grandmother, who we all called Grandma King, in the summers. My great uncle had a garden a couple blocks down from their small home in Pitts, GA. The first thing I would o when I got there was load up in Uncle Benny’s truck to check on the garden. Thinking back now, I knew he had been down there if not more than once that day, but was waiting to take me down there! I don’t remember much as after King passed, we didn’t visit as much. And when we did the garden had gotten smaller and smaller. I remember right off my older sister and cousin being jealous they didn’t get invited, not that they gave a hoot about Uncle Benny’s vegetables, just that they weren’t going.

We walked the rows looking, touching here and there, pulling off a damaged leaf or pointing out a bumble bee covered in pollen. I remember my favorite thing was to peel back the corn husks to see if the worms had gotten past the vegetable oil trick! When we got back, lunch was served then it was pecan picking time. It seems we were trying to fill a never ending bucket!! But we filled many and they sat on the porch in their 5 gallon glory til after supper when it was shelling time. Peas or pecans, your choice 🙂

Days there were repetitious in the most soothing of ways. You knew what to expect. Meals were served at the same times everyday. And you could count on certain things to always be on the table. Sliced tomatoes at lunch, fried cornbread with supper. I think of how I wish they were still here for me to reach out to, to ask so many questions. To send them pictures of my garden, I know they would be so proud..

Uncle Benny would always send us home with starter plants of tomatoes and peppers, which my mother would normally kill. Along with freezer bags of shelled pecans and my favorite peas. To know now the work it took to fill just one bag. How we took it for granted, not meaning to, of course, but all the same. Those same peas are $4.00 a pound at the Farmer’s market last time I checked. I think I paid $2.99 for a pack of pinkeyes that will take me through a couple growing seasons!

Sometimes I miss them so much, but other times I feel they are right here beside me kneeling in the garden, being part of the very energy that pushes these beautiful, bountiful plants from the soil.Ashes to Ashes means more to me now. Dust to Dust. They are here, just as all energy is everywhere. Never created or destroyed, only transfigured. I know now that I really never lost anyone. I visit them every time I walk in the garden or jog early morning in the woods. Every time I run my fingers through the soil, every time I feel a breeze right when I need it the most, they’re there.

I feel my uncle saying, keep it up, girl, I knew you’d be the one. My sweet great-grandmother sitting beside me shelling peas, just watching life around me. Being content just living simply..