Why are you moving to the country?

I’ve been asked that question a lot in the past few years.  People wonder why we would want to be “away from everything”.  One of the reasons came Friday evening as we were finishing up supper.  We heard a voice in the porch saying “hello, anyone home” and when I went to see who it was I found a stranger standing there.

Some of you would be totally horrified to find a stranger has just let themselves into your house, but out in the country  where everyone knows everyone else people just pop their heads in and holler.   If there is anyone home they’ll come to the door.  If no one is home someone will either go on their way, leave a note, or if it’s family or a close friend they’ll wait for you to come home.

So this evening there was a lady in our porch telling me that she was our neighbor from up the road.  This lovely lady who we had never met before saw one of our ducks being carried off by a fox so she got it and brought it back to us.  She didn’t have to leave her nice warm house in order to chase a fox away from one of our ducks.  She certainly didn’t have to go out into the field, pick up an injured half dead duck, and carry it all the way back to us.  But she did and she knows that we would have done the same thing for her or any one of our neighbors.

Its this kind looking out for each other that makes us want to be country folk.

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To market, to market, to buy a…chicken?

I love going to our local feed store. I never thought I’d say that about a feed store, but I also never thought I’d be blogging about farming either, and here I am.

When we moved to the area we didn’t know anyone until Little Miss started school and we got to know the other families in her class.  Thank God for birthday parties that year or I’d still be wondering what parents went along with what kid.  After soccer or the beach or something like that one day, one of those parents that we met through school introduced us to this little corner store where he said you could get ice cream cones for a really good price.  Bonus!  I don’t do well in the heat so any time we can get in the air conditioned car and go get ice cream that won’t break the bank I’m game for that.  And so this became our go to ice cream place.  After a while I started to look around more and more and I realized that this “little corner store” was anything but.  They had something for everyone and that’s exactly who you’d see there…everyone.  They had coffee and snacks, groceries, clothing, jewellery, farm and hardware supplies, souvenirs, books, ammunition, bulletin boards with community events, etc.  I’m sure I’m leaving out lots of stuff but I’d be here all day listing it all.

Of course they have their feed section too. Not being a country girl I equated the Purina sign out front with dog food and thought that was all they carried until another school friend told me about their animal feed section.  What??? Animal feed???  From the corner store???  Yup, from the corner store.   They carry all sorts of different feeds for lots of different farmers around and the owners have been farmers themselves so they can talk about most every animal on the go.   When it’s not busy in the store it’s not unusual, like this morning, to stand around the cash register chatting about how well the new feed is selling and what others are saying about it, or discussing different bedding materials that we’ve used, or where to get piglets this year.

Something else I learned about getting from the feed store in the spring was chicks. Again, who would have known?  Not a girl from a small mining town, that’s for sure.   For now our meat chickens will come from our feed store.  They have a supplier that gives them an estimate of hatch dates and number of chickens they expect.  After the orders are placed we just have to wait for the call.  *Hatching birds isn’t an exact science, but like having a human baby, you have a window of expectation.  Chickens are normally a 21 day hatch so we know an approximate date that they should be hatching and are ready a few days before or after that.*  When we do get the call it’s so exciting and we can hear the chicks peeping in the background…hundreds of them.

After all that, my trip in there this morning was to order our chicks for the season.  I have a plan to raise dual purpose birds, meat and eggs, but that plan got weigh laid when we had to dispatch one of our aggressive roosters (I’ll post about roosters another time and give the rest of that story).

We’ve decided to do three batches of 12 meat birds this summer. Other summer we’ve tried to doing larger batches and have come across two main problems:

  • The first is that it’s a lot more work. They need more food, more water, more attention, more cleaning, more time.  More birds also means more processing time at the end.  An entire day spent processing chickens is exhausting!
  • The second reason I’d like to do smaller batches is so that they have more space in the bird house.  We’ve done several batches of different sizes and the smaller bird house (where the meat birds will live) is more suited to 12 or less birds.  We want them to have good lives and part of that means having room to be comfortable inside, and space outside to do what chickens love to do.

In the past we’ve always lost some of our meat birds.  Some of them as chicks, and some of them as full grown or almost full grown birds.  We’ve been pretty lucky actually and have come through each season with most of the birds we started out with.  That being said, I’m hoping that by the end of October we will have processed and packaged at least 30 chickens for the freezer.

So now I’ve got about 6 weeks to make sure all of our waterers and feeders are clean and ready and that the heat lamp is working well.  There is some controversy with using heat lamps and that will be another blog post later on as well.  For now we still use ours and are using every precaution with it.

It’s raining here and blowing a gale but I hope wherever you are it’s better weather and that you’re having a beautiful day.

How big is your footprint?

I read a post from TreeHugger on Facebook today on reducing the amount of plastic we use and it got me thinking about what we do to try to be more environmentally friendly.  I’m happy to say that where we live we have a great curbside recycling program.  Paper/cardboard/plastic/metals/compost.  There’s not a very big list of what we can’t recycle or compost and it leads to us not having very much garbage at all.  I know we can still reduce that as we produce more of our own food but for now we’re down to only one garbage bag per week.

Here are just 5 ways we try to do our part.

Cloth Napkins   We stopped using paper towel and paper napkins at home quite a while ago.  I have a huge stack of cloth napkins and they can just be thrown in the washer with a load of towels so that we aren’t doing a separate wash.  I have gotten them as gifts, made some myself, found lots at yard sales/flea markets, and gotten some as hand me downs.  They are super easy to make from fabrics you have lying around the house or maybe even from an old sheet, shirt, or pillow case.

Cloth Bread Bags/Bread Box I love making bread and I used to use a lot of plastic bags to keep that bread in.  Now I use a bread box and bags aren’t required for that at all. A properly designed bread box will allow enough air to pass through to keep the bread from going moldy but not enough to dry it out as if it was left out on the counter.  If you’re like my mom and you give bread to friends and family, try using cloth bags.  It keeps the bread clean and works similar to the bread box.  No airtight bags promoting mold growth.  People are always happy to give the bags back to be reused again.  If you are using cloth bread bags just make sure you don’t wash them in a smelly detergent and don’t use fabric softener.  No one wants their beautiful bread smelling like “crisp morning air” or tasting like chemicals.

Cheesecloth One of the reasons I liked keeping paper towel in the house was for times when we cooked bacon.  I would lay out sheets of it to absorb grease when the bacon came off the pan. In order to eliminate this I tried several things but nothing would absorb the grease well enough for me.  Then I spotted some cheesecloth in the pantry and decided to give it a try.  Worked like a charm!   When I was done I would rinse it in hot soapy water in the sink to get most of the grease out and  then throw it in the laundry.  I have several of these pieces of cheesecloth dedicated to this so when they are washed I fold them and put them in a kitchen drawer until the next time I need them.  Again, no smelly soaps or fabric softener.

Reusable Shopping Bags  As much as people like to think about being environmentally friendly there are still a lot who don’t have reusable shopping bags.  Most of the comments I’ve heard are about convenience but for me the “hassle” of bring bags far outweighs the hassle of trying to find space in recycling or storing plastic bags for something else later on.    I also have less issues with broken items than if i was using flimsy plastic.  Reusable bags don’t just have to be ones you buy from a store either.  I have lots of those, but I also have cloth bags that I’ve made (good for packing meat or messy items because you can throw them in the washer) and I have some that I’ve made from the feed bags we get.

Thrift Store Shopping/Buying Used  I love the thrift stores.  Not only can I save money and find things that a lot of the times still have original price tags on, but I’m helping keep things out of the landfill.  I’ve said before that my parents are great at reusing items and re purposing things and this i something that I’ve taken to heart.  Lots of my furniture has been used, most of my wardrobe is from one thrift store or another, our kids know that they can get much more from the back to school budget if we buy second hand, and when you reuse/re purpose you end up with an interesting style that you probably won’t find anywhere else.

I hope that’s given you something to think about today.  As I come up with more recycling/reusing ideas or find things around the house that are recycle/reuse items I’ll post that for you all to see.

Have a beautiful day.

Hello, Spring. Is that you?

Some sort of plague invaded our house for nearly two months before Christmas affecting all of us at one point or another, but then January came with the promise of better things to come and health returned.

Things have improved at our house.

Hubby and I have decided that we are going to declutter the house regardless of weather or not we sell.  Downsizing the house has been on my mind for a long time but we haven’t been able to find the right property so far.  Lots of smaller houses but most of them come with smaller amounts of land.

I have cluttered the house in a different way since acquiring packing boxes for the “declutter”.  I have boxes stacked in almost every room now but it’s good for me because I’m going through everything and deciding if what we have is useful and does it have a place.  A combination of being a pack rat and being disorganized has meant that I’ve lived most of my life in chaos (as most of my family can attest to) but I am trying to change my habits so I can concentrate on the things that we really want to accomplish.  One of these days I will force myself to have a yard sale or bring it all to the local flea market and try to sell off everything I’ve boxed up.

Aside from decluttering, we are getting some neglected projects done around the house.  After only 2 1/2 years we finally got the crown moldings put on the upper cabinets in the kitchen!!!  Hubby did most of it and he did a great job.  We had to redo some cabinetry and plumbing because of frozen pipes in the kitchen so that got done as well. Again, Hubby did most of it so I have to give him a lot of the credit.  I’ll take 100% of the credit for nagging though.  🙂

On the “homestead” front, the birdies have started laying again.  Not a whole lot but for a few weeks now the brown layers have been taking turns and we have been getting 2 eggs a day.  We have two Black Stars and two Australorps and they will lay anywhere from a medium brown egg up to a large brown speckled egg.

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Black Star
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Australorp (Bucky)

And then this morning Hubby found a green/blue egg from one of our Americauna hens.  We were told when we got them that they were pure Americauna but unless you buy from a reputable breeder you can’t be sure that the line you are getting are pure.  I’m still going on the assumption that they are pure anyway and enjoy the gorgeous eggs they give us.

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Americaunas (and a Black Star) enjoying watermelon.

If we get a rooster of another breed I might try crossing them just to see what color eggs we will get.  Some people have gotten all kinds of different greens and blues from cross breeding Americaunas.

The children have decided they want to reintroduce Silkies this summer. The first ones we had were the first laying hens we owned and unfortunately a family of foxes had them for dinner one evening while we were out.

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Roo, Fluffy, and Bat Girl

That was a sad lesson for the kids and a hard lesson for us on the need to secure the bottom of animal fences.  They still want them though and are picking out names already…like Fluffy Butt.  Part of me wants to get some Showgirls, which I just found out about, and they are Silkies crossed with Naked Necks.

 

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Showgirl photo courtesy of backyardchickens.com

 

 

 

 

 

Of course I’d love to have all kinds of different chickens but I’ll settle for adding one new breed this summer…unless I find an amazing deal somewhere along the way.

 

Our flock of ducks is 30 strong and we are planning on butchering some of them soon to add to the pork and chicken we have in the freezer.  It will also create room for a new generation of ducks this summer.  We ended up with two good hatches last summer and I am anticipating at least two this summer.  We still only have Muscovies  and without a pond I am reluctant to add any other breeds of duck.

Piggies went to freezer camp on New Years day and we are planning on raising at least two more this season.  I have been researching breeds and breeders so we should be ready for piglets just over a month from now.We didnt do any hams or bacon from the last two but one of the things we have on our to do list is a smoker so I am excited about that.

Hubby didn’t have much luck with hunting this past season so no venison in the freezer for us.  We did have a good day in the woods with him on one of his hunting weekends. IMG_5547

The kids have been interested in the whole process and where he goes so he decided we should all go with him one day.

Little Man is still a bit young and it’s too hard for him to sit still but Little Miss was more than excited to go out again and she spent the whole day out with Hubby in the woods.    It turns out she’s quite a good little tracker and I expect she’ll be a hunter when she gets older.  I think Hubby will be more than happy to teach the kids all about responsible hunting!

The past few weeks I’ve been planning our garden and doing lots of research.  I have never really had a green thumb and the first summer we tried a garden it wasn’t such a success.  I have lots more knowledge and lots more ambition this year so hopefully we will have something to show for all of it at the end of the growing season. Our pantry is full of mason jars all ready for a bountiful garden harvest and I have been compiling canning recipes based on what we have planned for the garden.  I am also researching year round gardening with things like cold frames and hoop frames so that will be an interesting experiment for us as well.  Wouldn’t it be nice to go out in December and cut some kale leaves or pull up some carrots to have with dinner.

That’s my update for today.  I am working on some more instructional/informational posts for the upcoming weeks so stay tuned. I was thinking about a Facebook page as well.  We’ll see how organized I can get.

It’s a beautiful sunny day here and I plan on getting outside to do something productive this afternoon.  I hope you all are having a beautiful day where you are.

 

Getting to work.

I’ve been reading a lot of posts by different people about how they are working on their weight and that made me think about my own life and how I used to “work on my weight”.  Not any more.  Now I’m working on my health.

Too many of us have been bothered by a number on a scale but didn’t take the time to think about what that number represented.  It didn’t tell us how healthy we were.  It didn’t tell us how big or small any particular part of our bodies were.  It didn’t tell us how loving or caring we were.  It didn’t tell us anything other than the fact that the force of gravity was working…and that’s just not good enough!

We need to start looking at our bodies instead of the scales.  We need to start eating real food again and forget about processed pseudo foods.  We need to start moving and working our muscles.

Have a great day everyone and make sure you get out there and move!

Real World Learning

I saw a post on Facebook a while ago, and it’s one that I’ve seen several times before, but it made me think a little bit more about what I want from not only my life but for my children and the family as a whole.

This is the post and it came from Homesteading / Survivalism  who shared it from  Tiny House Small Homes Little Cabins Treehouses Container Home Design and I’m sure it’s showed up on several other pages as well.  I’m not promoting any specific page, just letting everyone know where it came from the day that I saw it.

common sense

I think the part of this that I want to emphasize is the teaching aspect of it. (I don’t want to get into a debate regarding rewards for children.)  Too often we get caught up in thinking that kids can only learn by sitting in a specific room in a specific chair listening to someone talk to them about the real world.  I’m a big believer in hands on learning and letting kids be kids.  There’s a lot to be said for kids learning in different ways and giving them different experiences that will help them understand a concept and be able to put it into practice.

When you are teaching them about real world things out in the real world they are learning all the math and science they need to know; gardening teaches them earth science and math, cooking teaches them chemistry/biology/math, woodworking teaches them geometry/physics/math, hiking teaches them ecology/environmentalism, knitting/sewing teaches them hand eye coordination and art,  etc.

I love being a teacher for my children and helping them learn all kinds of skills that will guide them through life.

Have a beautiful day everyone.

It’s raining, it’s pouring.

I’m sitting in the living room working on an article for a new e-zine I’m a contributor to  for  in.  Yeah I know, I can’t even write proper English in my blog and I’m writing for a magazine?!

Anyway, I’m writing my article about alternative gift wrapping for the December edition of Off Grid East Coast themed “Green Christmas” and how fitting that it’s pouring out of the heavens and so windy I don’t even want to go out to pick the kids up from school.  Even the ducks have had enough of this today and decided to hang out inside the bird house for a while.

I’ve been in Nova Scotia for quite a while now and you’d think I’d be used to mild winters like this but I’m still amazed that at the end of November we don’t have a ton of snow on the ground.  The year Little Miss was born, we didn’t get our first snow until December.  I went to the hospital in a sweater and pair of track pants it was so mild.

So back to the article again.  Maybe the green grass will help with inspiration for my article

I hope everyone has a great day and have a look around to see what sorts of alternative wrapping you can use this holiday season.

 

 

Remember

I’m heading off to the school soon for their Remembrance Day Assembly and I’m happy that the school invites parents to attend.  As I was getting ready and pinning a poppy to my shirt, I was thinking about the debate that has lit up the Internet since November 1…when to decorate for Christmas.

This is a hotly debated topic and some people get angry when their views aren’t agreed with and their rules adhered to.  In one camp are the people who insist that under no circumstances should there be any talk of Christmas decorations let alone putting them up before Remembrance day has passed because it’s disrespectful.  Then there are the people who say it’s fine, they’ll decorate whenever they want, and that no one is being disrespected.

I’ve heard the arguments, good and bad, pro and con.  I’ll spare you all my two cents worth on the decorating topic but I will say this much.   No matter what your views are on this topic or any other topic, we have the freedom to share our opinions in just about any way we see fit because of the people who fight for it.

So if nothing else this week, decorations or no decorations, wear your poppy with pride and go to a Remembrance Day Celebration, We have had many friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers over the years who are military members and I am grateful for each and every one of them and their service and I will be thinking of them all this afternoon as I stand in that gym with my kids.

Have a beautiful day!

A lame duck.

We noticed one of the younger ducks limping the other day and hoped it was just a sore leg that would get better.  We checked him out and nothing seemed wrong with him (no cuts or scratches and nothing seemed abnormal about his legs) so we let him go and do his usual thing around the yard.  That evening he was tucked up in the corner of the yard away from everyone but didn’t seem any different than earlier in the day.  Unfortunately he was worse the next day so I decided to bring him in the house and put him in the box we use for transporting birds.  I tucked him in with some hay and fresh water and tried to make him comfortable.  If he pulled a muscle or had a problem that needed some rest that would be the best place for him.  And it’s nice and warm in the dining room so that’s where he stayed.

Three days later he’s still in the same state.  He’s eating and drinking a bit, but he’s not standing and isn’t using his wings…so what to do now?  Its days like this I don’t enjoy being a farmer, because I know what we have to do.  I’ve done my research and followed protocols without any success so far, so tomorrow euthanasia is the only humane option left for this little duck.

This one is going to be a bit harder for me though.  I’ve watched them hatch, I’ve brought them to school to show the kids, and this one in particular I’ve taken the last three days to try to make him better.  I have a feeling it will be extra hard on our little man too.  He goes to “baby ducky” several times a day and says hi and asks how he’s doing.  It will be a tough lesson on life and death for a 7 year old.

And so another day on our little farm comes and goes but at the end of it we know we’ve done the best job we can and we learn from everything we do.

Have a beautiful fall day my friends, and say a little prayer for our little baby ducky.

Babies, babies, and more babies.

For weeks now we have been wondering what was going to happen with momma duck and her little nest under the baby bird house.  Every day we would go to feed and water the 11 babies that were in the house and be amazed at how fast they were growing and how much they were changing, and every day we would see this other duck come out from under the house, get a drink, have something to eat, peep at all the other birds as she did her rounds, and then head back under the house to keep her clutch of eggs warm.  We’ve been lucky to have a pretty warm fall and not much real frost until recently but I still didn’t give the eggs much of a chance.

Then two days ago Hubby comes in from farm chores and says “we don’t have any starter do we?”.  *we usually give the birds three types of feed.  Starter is for babies and is tiny crumbles.  Grower is for the older birds and can be crumbles or pellets.  Layer has more calcium for the laying hens*  So when he asked me that I knew that he must have seen some tiny little beaks poking out from under the house.  Sure enough there were the little fuzz balls!  Momma wasn’t letting us anywhere near them and that was fine.  They got some food and water and we left them for the night…after everyone tried to get a look.  How exciting!

Next day we still couldn’t see much but I knew they were eating and drinking so that was a good sign.  I worry though that it’s cold, the leaves are on the ground, and we even had snow yesterday.  The other ducklings we have were born in the bird house with a heat lamp on, tons of clean shavings around, and we didn’t let them outside for a couple of weeks. I shouldn’t worry so much though.  Those ducks aren’t going to let anything happen to their babies.

I finally got a good look at everyone this morning when I was feeding the rest of the animals.  Momma came out to make sure everything was ok and then one by one the babies all came out to get a drink. First they lined up along the edge of the house waiting to see if momma gave them the ok and I could see 5 for sure.  Ok, I was pretty happy with that many.  Then they kept coming 6,7,8.  That’s even better.  Oh they moved too quick, count again.  I see 10.  no maybe 9, no maybe 12.  Man they are quick.  Finally I count 11.  And then I count 11 again.  And just to be sure I counted them a dozen more times.  Yup, 11.  Must be our lucky number.  We had the same hatch last year, the same in the first hatch about a month ago, and same this time.

I stood there watching them for about 20 minutes and I could have watched them all day if I had nothing else to do.  They would run around and play, pick at the grass, have a drink, pick at the grass, run in circles, have a drink, play in the water, but never more than a few inches from momma.

Aside from having children, having this little farm is one of the coolest things we’ve ever done!

Happy fall everyone.  Have a beautiful day.