Spring Garden Line Up

So we finally have all of our seedlings in the ground! And if you have been following me at all you know that this is slightly a big deal for me. I am good at lots of things, but keeping plants alive is not one of them. We currently have some kind of green plant hanging in our kitchen that I just noticed today is starting to turn brown. I’m chalking that up to the fact that I have been focusing all of my plant energy towards the garden. Watering that sucker has just slipped my mind! I did give it a good water today.  So hopefully that will bring that little guy right back to life, fingers crossed!

The whole brown thumb part of myself is a little hard for me to digest. Someone with big dreams of becoming a homesteader should be able to keep a house plant alive! And growing our own fruits and vegetables would be a huuuugge step towards the self sustainability I’m after, right?? But you have start somewhere and learn along the way!

Soooo getting everything in the ground is a huge milestone for us! Now keeping everything alive and growing strong is the goal! Hopefully our baskets will be over flowing with delicious fruits and veggies in the next few months. And I can put my new pressure canner to good use!

We are kinda flying by the seat of our pants here and really have no idea what we are doing, so say a little prayer for us and send any and all gardening tips you have my way! Our biggest challenge so far has been our crappy soil. We technically live in the “Slate Belt” region of Pennsylvania. And that became totally evident when we started tilling our garden space. Sooooo much slate and sooo many rocks. Maybe raised beds would have been a better idea but hopefully over the years the soil will get better and better.

We are also keeping our garden as organic as possible and are steering clear of pesticides and fertilizers. But I have already noticed some critters have been chomping on some of plants. Any tips for natural pest reducers and fertilizers would be greatly appreciated, please leave me a comment!

OK so here is the rundown of most of what we planted this year or that has come back from last year. A bunch of fruits and a whole lot of veggies!  Let’s start with fruits…

We planted a bunch of strawberry plants last year and much to my surprise they ended up coming back beautifully this year. The patch needs a little weeding, but that’s somewhere on the to do list. We have already got a few delicious berries and have tons more that will be ripe soon. Except some little jerk creature seems to love my fruit as well.

We also have blueberries and raspberries that are coming in pretty strong! Our property has hundreds of wild black raspberry bushes and we also planted some red raspberry bushes of our own. So hopefully soon we will be up to our necks in berries!

A tiny orchard has always been something we wanted when we moved to this property. So when we first moved in we planted peach, pear and apple trees. We got a few small peaches last year and have some teeny pears and peaches coming in this year! So exciting!

OK now for the veggie line up… We planted lettuce and beets in some extra containers we had lying around as well as in the ground in the garden. The container plants are looking AMAZING! The garden plants are coming along as well! We planted a different type of lettuce in the garden and it is just starting to sprout!

We planted a ridiculous number of tomato plants, as well as bell peppers and jalapeños! So hopefully I will be able to make lots and lots of salsa, tomato sauce and bruschetta in the coming months! Garlic and onions are starting to come up as well!

Butternut squash, zucchini, cauliflower, kohl rabi and beans are among some of the other things we have growing. I also have a good variety of herbs growing in some planters as well. So I will hopefully have a delicious variety of healthy veggies to choose from when meal planning!

Potatoes also seem to be growing strong as well. After a good amount of research we decided planting them in pots would be our best bet. Hopefully we get a great harvest from these beautiful plants!!

 

So that is pretty much the rundown of what we have growing plant wise around this place this Spring. I’m excited and hopeful that all our hard work will pay off this year. I will keep you updated on ur progress over the next few months. What is everyone else growing?? Leave me a comment with your favorite things to grow and any gardening tips you can share!

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Feels like Spring!

Don’t you just love how as soon as the weather starts warming up everything just comes back to life? I swear over the last two weeks our tiny backyard farm has totally woken up from the winter. Yes, this has been a fairly mild winter for us, but I am still sooooo happy that Spring has Sprung! Flowers are blooming, trees are blossoming, grass in being mowed…. so much life! It is truly amazing!

Waking everything up and bringing it all back to life around here takes a lot of work. Mother Nature does a ton of that for us, but there is also so much we have been doing to help things along! Cleaning out pens and runs was on the top of our list after the winter! Finally our chickens, ducks, goats and mini horse all have fresh and clean living quarters to go with the beautiful weather! We are thankful that is all done and I’m sure they are too!!

Spring is all about new life and this year we have made a big Homesteading step! We decided to forgo our trusty CSA share this year and with much urging from my hubby we are attempting to grow a fairly large garden of our own! Becoming more self sustainable has always been our goal, so this is a logical decision. But my brown thumb may come back to haunt us! We have started all of our crops from seeds and currently have our seedlings growing strong for a little while longer until we transplant them into the garden.

The kids have been super excited and so helpful every step along the way so far! From planting seeds, repotting seedlings, and helping to till our garden space. They just love any opportunity to play in the dirt! This whole gardening thing has been a ton of work and we have already hit some roadblocks along the way! Like having over half of our seedlings die because it was too hot in our greenhouse and having to start all over.  It’s a learning process and the day I harvest my first vegetable will be a monumental one for sure!  I am good at lots of things, but keeping plants alive is not one of them! So fingers crossed this all works out!

This week we spent a good amount of time tilling and prepping the spot we chose for the garden. In the next week or so we will plan out exactly where each crop will be planted and what extras we need to add to help them grow their best. Cucumber trellises, tomato cages, etc… So exciting! I am already planning all I will make with our bountiful harvest… But I better not get ahead of myself! Let’s see if we can get anything to actually produce veggies! Ahhh!

What else has been going on around here?! We planted a small strawberry patch last year and I was pretty positive they wouldn’t make it through the winter, with my brown thumb and all. Literally all we did was dig holes and throw the plants in. But much to my surprise the whole patch is thriving! So we weeded it this past week and already have some flowers! Soo exciting!

Also, when we first moved to this property a few years ago we planted a variety of  fruit trees. Two peach, two pear, and two apple trees to be exact. Last year was the first year we actually got some fruit. A handful of tiny peaches, but exciting none the less. And this year our peach and pear trees are blossoming beautifully! So hopefully this means looootttsss of fruit!

We also have blueberry and raspberry bushes that are starting to come back to life, as well as the hundreds of wild black raspberry bushes that cover our property! So if all goes well with our plants we will be totally set in the fruit and veggie department! And I will have loots of canning and preserving to do!

Other plans in the works around this place include prep for another batch of meat chickens. We plan on getting about 25 meat chicks in the next few weeks. Which we will process ourselves and will stock our freezer for months. This will be our second time growing and processing our own meat and it is a humbling experience to say the least. It is hard to take a life, but knowing we are giving our animals the best life possible makes it a littler easier.

More in chicken news… our laying hens have really been ramping up production! With the longer days and the tons of time they are getting to free range our egg basket it overflowing! So thankfully we have been sticking to the Whole 30 where we are eating a ton of eggs! And we were able to dye eggs from our own chickens for the first time this Easter, which was pretty awesome!

Much to the kid’s excitement we have also  added 6 new baby chicks and 2 baby ducklings to our homestead. The ducklings recently made the transition out of the brooder and outside with the big guys and they are adjusting amazingly well! They are loving the fresh air and unlimited access to the pool! The chicks are still in the brooder until they get a bit bigger. The 3 Jersey Giants, 2 Silkies and 1 Bantam will make beautiful additions to our flock!

So much excitement and new life around of tiny farm! I absolutely love this time of year. Lots of work will hopefully bring us lots of deliciousness over the next few months! What Spring projects are occupying all of your time?? I would love to hear! Also please send all of your gardening tips and prayers this way. I need all the help I can get in that department! Thanks for reading!!

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Happenings on the Homestead Vol. 3

So ready for this weather again!

Ok I have come to the conclusion that I am soooo over winter. With the warm weather we have had around here the past week I find myself dreaming of summer.  I’m longing for the lush green grass, fresh produce, beautiful flowers and warm breezes that Spring and Summer have to offer. I think this happens to me every year around this time! Now we have been spoiled with a pretty mild winter and these past few days have really been beautiful! I think that makes my Spring Fever even more intense!!

There has been a lot going on around our tiny homestead in the past few weeks. Most of it is preparation and planning for the next few months. There is the possibility that we will raise some more meat chickens sometime this spring, so expanding our chicken run is something we may look into. Check out our first adventure with meat chickens here! Also, the idea has been thrown around to build a new permanent barn structure for our goats and mini horse. We built a small enclosure for this winter, but they need something a little bigger for next year.

The gals need a little more space!

Once the weather warms up a bit more we will start cleaning and tidying up a lot. I feel we get a little more lax with this over the winter when the weather is cold, but come Spring everything will need to be revamped. Our chicken coop and run could use a good spring cleaning, as could our goat area! Flower beds need to be prepped, weeding done and mulch placed. We also have a small outbuilding that needs a new roof, so plans to get that done are also being made. Lots and lots of tasks to accomplish. Thankfully we have three tiny humans that are always looking to lend a hand!

My Evening Chore Sidekick!

Now I like to think I am good at a lot of things, but gardening and tending to plants is not one of those things. Hence why we have never have had a really successful garden. So this year we are working really hard to actually grown some things we can eat! We have been busy selecting our crops and finding the perfect spot for the garden. In the next week or so we will go get our seeds and look into starting our seedlings. Sooooo if anyone has any tips in this department I am all ears! We purchased a CSA share last year and I plan to again in case this is a big flop. If we are successful this takes us one step closer in being self sufficient!

So those are all our big plans for the next few weeks and what we have been up to around here. In other news our hens have finally started laying a little more! We eat a ton of eggs in our home and when you have 20 laying hens and still have to buy eggs from the store there is a problem! So everyone is happy with the warmer weather! We are excited for what the next few weeks have to bring and are looking forward to spending a lot more time outside!

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Happenings on the Homestead Vol. 2 and a Freedom Ranger Update

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Thanksgiving Day with My Girls!

As another week comes to a close, I am finally getting a chance to unwind and reflect. It’s been yet another busy week around here, filled with so many blessings. Hopefully you all had an amazing Thanksgiving! We spent the day enjoying delicious food, surrounded by all of those we love. It truly was a great day, made a little bit better by the fact that I got put on call from work Wednesday night! Night shift nurses know how few and far between on call shifts are, so I savored that one!

After an amazing Thanksgiving day, we spend a good part of our Black Friday harvesting our Freedom Ranger Chickens (way more on that in a little)!! Then finally after two long night shifts of work for me, we were able to spend an amazing day today with an amazing photographer and friend. Little Miss turns the Big O.N.E. on Friday! So today we captured some amazing shots of her and got our Christmas cards pictures all done in one shot! Stay tuned for all the pictures and First Birthday Party details to come in the next few weeks!!

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Some of our big Roos a Few Days before Processing

That basically sums up another crazy week here on our homestead. We are very new to homesteading as I have said before. My husband still works full time outside of the home as do I, so we fit as much homesteading in that we can in the little times we have. We are branching out and getting back to the basics more and more, and I must say it feels great. We will slowly add more things to our little farm, which bring tons of learning opportunities! I am always open to any words of wisdom you veteran homesteaders can send our way!

Soooo I’m a little late with the Month 2 Freedom Ranger update, as I am with everything in my life lately! We actually ended up harvesting them a little earlier than expected, due to their freaking ridiculous growth rate. So I decided to combine all of that info into one post. These little suckers, well not so little anymore, grew like weeds! We harvested all 15 of them on Friday at close to 10 weeks old.

This was our first experience killing animals we have raised for food. I’m not going to lie I was very nervous. My husband is a hunter and has shot, gutted and butchered numerous kinds of animals. So I knew he would be just fine, but this was my very first experience killing anything. We have prepared over the past few days, watching numerous videos on the actual process. Butchering them in the most humane way possible was very important to us, so we wanted to make sure we did it right. The past few days have also been spent gathering all of the supplies needed and we were as ready as we could have been!

I’m proud to say that my husband and I alone butchered all 15 of our beautiful, organic chickens in a little over 3 hours. Not too shabby for our first time. The one huge regret we have is not buying a automatic chicken plucker. That was the longest and most painstaking part of the whole process, it was so freaking tedious. Not my favorite part for sure. We also made our own “kill cones”, which worked ok. But for the next time we may just purchase some. All in all things went pretty smooth!

Five Chickens into the Process!
Five Chickens into the Process!

For our first time we kept all of the birds whole. They are currently chilling in our spare fridge for the next few days and will be vacuumed sealed and stock the freezer soon. I plan on cooking one for dinner tomorrow, which will be the real test of all of our hard work! The taste will be the real decision maker if we decide to get more in the spring. We didn’t mind caring for them and the butchering was not nearly as bad as I expected. So as long as they taste awesome, this is something that will become a staple on our homestead. Next time we raise them I plan on doing a much better job of tracking their feed and growth rate so I will have much more information for you all! This time we just kind flew by the seat of our pants!

Our children were present during the whole process, for the most part. We had them stay in the house for the first one, because we weren’t really sure what to expect. But after that and we got the hang of things they were very interested in helping with everything. My four year old son helped my husband bring down the next bird and enjoyed learning what all the internal organs were. My five year old daughter helped pluck feathers and actually ate lunch with us in the garage while we worked. So they were pretty comfortable with everything.

Big Sister enjoying her lunch and overseeing the process!
Big Sister enjoying her lunch and overseeing the process!

I’m going to rant here for a just a second because we have gotten a lot of crap from a lot of people for letting the children be so involved in this process. The whole reason we decided to start homesteading is because we want to show our children a different way of life. They now know the farmers and the fields where our fruits and vegetables come from, and that the chicken they eat for dinner is so much more than a vacuumed seal package from the grocery store.

Our children value life so much more than most adults I know. We made sure to thank each bird for giving their lives to feed our family. We feel it is very important for our children to realize that the meat we consume was once a living, breathing, beautiful creature that had to lose it’s life in order for us to eat. There is nothing crazy or wrong with them learning the value of life. Ok rant over, I’m sure my fellow homesteaders have been in this situation before and any advice on how to handle this would be awesome!

Stocked!
Stocked!

Ok back to the chickens… I was not good at documenting the butchering process this time. I was more concerned about getting the job done right our first time. Next time I plan sharing each step in our process with you all! This time we basically had a little assembly line going where the chickens went from kill cone, to hot water, to our plucking then evisceration station. Hubby did the killing and gutting, I did the scalding, plucking and packaging. I didn’t even gets weights on them after packaging, next time!! It was a pretty good little process. So for those of you looking into meat chickens as a possibility for your family I highly suggest it! We found it to be a great learning experience and a great way to stock our freezer!

So thanks to all of you who actually read this whole post… I told you it was going to be long! After this awesome week full on things to be thankful for tonight I am most thankful for my tiny family. I am so thankful I have an amazing husband by my side to guide our three monsters through this crazy life. Things are not easy at all, but together we will get through and be able to live the life we imagine! Hope you all had a great week and are motivated to start your Monday! This post does contain affiliate links. But I do not endorse any product that I do not wholeheartedly believe in or use myself.

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Happenings on the Homestead Volume 1

Man this week has been long! What’s the saying.. When it rains, it pours? Well isn’t that the truth?! And I am not referring to the Election results what so ever. When we made the decision that homesteading was something we wanted to try we realized it would be a lot of work.  And we knew there would be trials and tribulations along the way. Homesteading is a lifestyle choice for us. Although some days and weeks are harder than others, it is still a choice we are happy we made.

Although some of this really has nothing to do with homesteading, it’s what has been going on in our lives! This week has been a particularly rough one for me!  With the kids in school they are pretty much huge germ collectors, bringing all that junk home. Both our girls had Pink Eye last week and despite my excessive disinfecting and hand washing I got infected as well! Then Monday afternoon I did something to my left foot and have barely been able to bear weight on it since. Sooooo despite my huge To Do List I attempted to take it easy. Cleaning and the countless projects I have on my plate have taken a back seat as I attempted to get back on my feet, literally. I am feeling much better today thankfully!

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Big sister with her girl

To top off my awesome week a rotten hawk ended up killing our favorite chicken. This is the second chicken we lost in the past week. Although we have about 30 laying hens, this one was special. My oldest daughter had a particularly hard time losing her girl. She got her frustration out by screaming “I really don’t like you Hawk!” into the sky. But, we used it as another important life lesson. She understands  that the hawk didn’t know any better and was just getting his dinner. We know losses are a part of homesteading, but it’s still tough.

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Shorty!! With a braid courtesy of    Big Sister!

On a happy note we welcomed a new animal to our tiny farm. Meet Shorty! He is a 9 year old miniature horse, with some special needs. We adopted him from friends of ours that were looking to rehome him. They took in turkeys from us last year, so they asked if we would be interested in giving him a loving home. My children have met him before and when we discussed the possibility with them we really didn’t have much of a choice! He is acclimating to his new home and     family very well!

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Family Photo!!

The goats are adjusting to their new friend well and everyone is happy. In other happenings around the farm our meat chickens are getting HUGE. Check back next week for a post on our second Month with them! Also egg production from our laying hens has slowed drastically over the last few weeks. I’m pretty sure it’s a combination of the days getting shorter, the cooler weather, and the fact that most of them are molting now. We don’t do artificial light in our coop during the winter, I think it’s better for the girls to get a little break and do what’s natural for them.

So that is pretty much a round up of our happenings this week. We have soooo much going on in the next few months and I can’t wait to share it with you all. I am in the midst of planning a first birthday party and a big family trip to Disney. So I will have tons of tips and tricks to share coming soon! I have also started planning things out for Spring happenings on our tiny homestead. So lots of excitement coming up and lots to share! I hope you all have a wonderful and relaxing weekend! Talk to you soon!

 

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Novice Homesteaders

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Happy girls in their new home!

Ah last week was exciting here on our little farm! We purchased three goats, a momma and her two baby girls, way back in June.  They are awesome and have been living in half of our chicken run until we could get their permanent home finished. Soo after several revisions, due to a reckless child on a 4-wheeler and having to start completely over because of an escape artist momma, we FINALLY got them into their new home! And they absolutely love it! They have lots of grass, so much space, logs to jump and climb on and no pesky chickens cramping their style. It was a happy day for us and a mini achievement in the backyard farming thing.

I’m not really sure when we decided homesteading was something we wanted try.   My husband grew up a little more in the country than I did, but neither one of us grew up on a farm. But after living in San Antonio, we knew the city was not where we wanted to raise our family.  So when we came up with the must haves for our new home a little bit of space and some country views were on the top of our list. Our home now is a great starter homestead, but eventually we would love to move to something with a little more acreage.  We currently have about 5.5 acres, but we have some neighbors that are a little closer than we would like.  It’s always possible to upgrade but for right now we are doing all we can with what we have!

I think taking a good hard look at what we were eating and where our food was coming from sparked so many lifestyle changes for us. Wanting to raise our own food and provide for ourselves has become increasingly important.  We watched several documentaries and read lots of literature and determined we cannot truly know what is going into our food unless we raise it ourselves or source it from a local reliable source.

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First time in the coop

We started our homesteading adventure about a year and a half ago.  We purchased 12 baby hens from a farm not too far from our home. As well as two pekin ducks we couldn’t resist at Tractor Supply. I like to think of laying hens as the “gateway animal” to the novice farmer.  Once you tackle chickens you open the door to so many other opportunities!

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Finished chicken coop and run and two of our lazy pups!

Now we did all the research online, purchased all our feed and supplies, bought a coop and my handy husband built them an amazingly huge chicken run. We kept them in brooders in our upstairs living room, under heat lamps until them were big enough to go outside. Come to find out 2 of our hens were roosters in disguise, which opened a whole new adventure! Over the next few months we acquired 6 more chicks and flew by the seat of our pants in this backyard chicken thing!

Now we are getting over a dozen eggs a day from our amazing girls! And have even hatched out a bunch of our own chicks. It’s pretty amazing to know our eggs are coming from happy, healthy girls that have

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Grown up ducks and chickens!

the opportunity to have an awesome life. It has also been difficult as well in dealing with mean roosters, losing baby chicks, injured birds and so on.  But it’s a learning process and I think we are getting the hang of it! And this week we have also started another adventure on our little farm.  We received 16 Freedom Ranger meat chickens in the mail last week. Come December they will be grown and ready to butcher.

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Meat Chickens!

They are super cute right now, which makes me a little nervous that come December we won’t be able to get the job done.  But again we feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to raise our own food.  We know these animals will be well cared for, loved, and lead a happy life.  That makes things a little easier. Now we don’t have a ton of land or really any experience with this lifestyle, but we are learning as we go and utilizing all our space.

I am thankful to have a supportive husband that values same things I do.  I am also so freaking thankful he is handy! In our two years here I can’t tell you the number of things he has built, it’s amazing! So these next few months will be an adventure with these new chickies. Please stay tuned for updates! Also I look forward to heating any advice you experienced homesteaders have!! We have big plans for the next year and are thinking of expanding our homestead with some honeybees and maybe a pig! Stay tuned!

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