Headed back down South.. :)

ImageSo, BIG BIG news folks!! We are moving to Georgia in four weeks!! My family owns a house on a small lake in Lake Park, GA. It’s about five miles from the FLA line in Lowndes county. We are so excited about this opportunity! You know around Thanksgiving, we were wanting to get back closer to some family and I seem to have the biggest lot in one place 🙂

The lake house was built by my great-uncle around ’74, I believe. He had moved there to become Principal of Lake Park Elementary. He and my great-aunt have been gone many years now. Their three children inherited the home until my mother bought it.. eh.. 15 years ago?? (don’t hold me to that date ;)) What! I remember working on it on my 13th birthday, so.. that means15 years, hey I was right! Mom gutted some of the house, knocked down partial walls and voila!

She just celebrated her second wedding anniversary with her husband who she now lives with on a beautiful spread of ten acres. She has rented out the house(it is still being paid for because of refinancing) and the tenants moved out last month. So!!! We are going. It’s a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 1 office/laundry room (which was my room as a teen! but when I left, mom knocked down another wall and extended her closet halfway into that bedroom and put the washer and dryer and computer desk in there :/) All brick exterior, fireplace inside, four 75 year old (at least) oak trees that had been there before the house was built. My uncle planted four dogwood trees when the house was built but only one remains living. They died from the inside out just like the Sunday school story.

So how does this help our self sufficient journey you ask?? One major factor here is community (my family and friends of 28 years) We don’t really have and never will have the network we will down there. My two parents alone know 75% of Valdosta, GA. Michael has taken a big decrease in pay and it is really affecting us here. Commuting with my bike will be awesome around the Lakes and community there. The exercise on bike alone will be phenomenal! I’m actually REALLY excited about that! But.. I will not have the garden plot I had here. And everything we have planted in ground, we lose. We are still trying to find out about the chickens. They will be in a dog kennel in the back of the Fit if I can help it 🙂 We’ve planted 5 beautiful trees, 3 tea olives, 3 rosemary bushes, 2 blueberry bushes, 2 jasmine, 1 huge Triplecrown blackberry bush, 1 each mint, spearmint, and apple mint. I can only hope the family who moves in here next sees these as a blessing. Will appreciate the life we tried so hard at putting back into the soil.

We will definitely have to change some garden practices for the new house. Start making a new homestead 🙂 The back yard is mostly shaded by the oaks. The front yard is your conventional turf yard. I can’t wait to get back down there to look at the grounds with a grower’s eye. I know container gardening is going to be huge for us. Can’t wait to keep you guys posted on everything. Wish us good luck, I feel this move is for a right reason and we are embracing it wholeheartedly.

We have started the pre-packing purge for a yard/moving sale and it feels GREAT! Until next post 😉

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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.

Another November day..

ImageWe finished getting leaves and straw through out the garden. Michael’s new job with a landscaping company helps us out with the free leaves and straw for sure!! We covered all the beds and will continue layering with leaves newspaper and cardboard through this month. Not only am I hoping for less weeds this Spring from lasagna layering in the garden, but some serious fertile material as well. I read that the freezing and thawing cycles over winter actually help break down and aerate from the water/air that expands and contracts over and over again. If we can help it I would like the initial tilling we did at the beginning of this year would be the only mechanical till. We added amendments and broke them into the hard clay, but every time I pull weeds, especially that stupid grass, it ’tills’ that whole spot!

The chickens love the new additions of leaves in the garden and the floor of their coop. They are like children playing in the Fall leaves, just scratching away. I cannot keep them cooped all day (Althea just paces) so I leave them in til around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, so their damage time is limited. I have been sketching up plans for them a new coop area. I really hope we are back in Georgia to build it, though. Every day that passes, I feel more sure of my decision to try and go back. To make my home near my family. With Michael’s two boys here, we are just torn..

But the mortgage payment is about to wear us thin. Knowing now like we do, we could build our own tiny home, decked, with what we pay here a year. A 30 year mortgage actually hit me the other day.. I was thinking about if we stayed here another year.. where would that put us on owing towards the house.. $900 a month, between 11 and 12 thousand dollars. Okay that’s a good chunk of change, how much do we still owe. He bought the house for $125,000 less than 2 years ago. 12 grand doesn’t even make a dent, holy shit. We’ve got to get out of here. I can’t have my soul on loan at Wells Fargo the next 28 years. Hell, that’s how long I’ve been alive!! Where has the Tiny House Movement been?? People don’t have to do this, but yet gladly step up to sign leases on houses and cars. I just want my cottage, my garden and my bike.

We are going in less than 3 weeks for Thanksgiving and this will be the big moment of looking at the land with my step-dad and asking.. Asking for a chance. We’ll work off the land any way we can. Michael can get a job, until we get everything in place. I really hope I can make them see how important this is to me. It’s not some dumb project where UI want to go all hippie and live in the woods, well maybe it’s along those lines, but it’s not dumb. To not have a car payment… House payment.. Grow your own fruits and vegetables, so that they don’t come from Chile, unripened and full of chemicals.. Spend more quality time with my family letting Nature and our own unhinged curiosity lead the way to learn and discover.. To encourage our children to not conform, to always dance to their own beat, no matter how funky 😉 Who’s the crazy ones here, I’m really starting to wonder. All over the world people have turned to the simplicity of life, may be the oldest, time tested way to be happy. Do what your heart wants and live a life that allows it.

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!

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!