Category Archives: Chickens

Mother Earth News Fair, I Met the WranglerStars!

This past weekend HB1 and HB2 joined me on a quick weekend trip to WI for the Mother Earth News Fair.  I had never been to one before, but I love the magazine and website so I pre-ordered tickets months ago thinking that the whole family would go.  As we got to planning out the summer, we realized that it might not work for the whole family to go.  I initially thought we could incorporate the Fair with our annual summer trip to visit family in WI but that wasn’t going to work.  Family is available on the weekends, and the Fair was on the weekend.  So it was decided I would go, and if the older boys could behave themselves and take care of their chores leading up to the weekend they could come with me.

We left Friday afternoon and got into WI around 9:30 local time.  We were staying with my grandma so after visiting for a bit, we hit the hay preparing for the next day.  My grandma’s house is only 20 minutes away from the Fair location so we left around 8:15 wanting to get there a little early and get our bearings.

After waiting a few minutes for the gates to open we made our way to the main stage where Joel Salatin was going to be talking about Salad Bar Beef, about which he wrote a book.  I have read most of the book, but I really wanted to hear him talk.  One point that he made that stuck with me was moving the animals every day gives you an opportunity every day to observe the animals and see how they are doing.  He initially started talking about large numbers of cows, but then took it down to a Homesteader level of cows and acreage.  I may have to start moving the cows more on smaller sections of grass.  We will see, the thing we have going for us is I already see the animals every day, they are right outside my bedroom window.

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After Joel’s talk I was walking around some of the exhibitors’ booths, and who do I see walking down the path towards me, but the entire Wranglerstar family, of YouTube fame.  I normally try not to make a big deal around famous people so as I was walking by I just said, “hey, I love your YouTube channel” and planned on continuing walking.  The whole family stopped and said thanks and struck up a conversation.  I got a Wranglerstar pencil, and we talked for probably five or ten minutes.  I actually ended up talking with them for about a half and hour or more over the course of the weekend, and my boys ended up running around the Fair with Jack.  The word I would use for the whole Wranglerstar family is genuine.  What you see is what you get, they are an honest to goodness genuinely nice family who go out of their way to make everyone they are talking to feel as important as anyone else in the world.

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On to the fair in general.  I had a great time.  There were multiple talks at every time period that I wanted to attend.  So much so, that I am trying to figure out how I can go to another one.  There were exhibitors who brought different breeds of animals, the most interesting to me were the American Guinea Hogs, miniature Jersey cows, and Idaho Pasture Pigs.  There were also tractor manufacturers with test drives, natural products, geodesic domes (we ordered a kit so a blog/video will be coming shortly), food products, walk behind tractors, alternative energy, Chinese greenhouses, aquaponics, charcuterie and on and on.  It was a ton of fun.

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HB2 using a solar death ray to make a smore
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Ben, the purveyor of www.300mpg.org and owner of this solar death ray.

Not only was the Fair fun, but I got to spend some “guy” time with the older boys.  In the car, at the Fair, and at my grandma’s.  Time one on one, or one on two doesn’t happen all the time, and many times when it does it is busy time.  So this laid back time was great.

If you have ever considered going to a Mother Earth News Fair, do it.  If you haven’t considered it, do.  It was a ton of fun, there were talks for everyone, and a ton of community building was going on.

Talk to you later…

Coyote Attack!

Yesterday evening, HSB#1 went out to close up the chickens, he re-entered the house telling me to come quick.  One of the Buff Orpingtons was bleeding on her back.  I figured it was just the hens pecking on each other, but when I got out there I found her with a gashed up back.  The only thing I can think it that it was a coyote.  Earlier in the day, during a party I saw a coyote run across the corner of our property, but it looked like it was heading across the street away from our animals.  Apparently not.

We moved her to a pen by herself and will keep her there under observation for awhile.  Chickens tend to peck at anything that looks different, so if we put her in with the rest of the chickens they would probably keep pecking at her and make it worse.  So for the time being she is going to be in her own hen suite resting up, and hopefully healing nicely.

Time to call the trapper.

Continued Progress

Over the last few days I have continued to work away at the fence and other chores.  I have managed to get two sides of the new pasture fence stretched and hung, that leaves just one side left.  I did, however, have a mishap when stretching the fence.  See if you can notice it in the picture below.  It’s probably hard to see via a picture..

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That picture is of the second side stretched, but not hung onto the posts.  It might be hard to tell but the fence is on the outside of the T posts.  That is NOT where you want it, and I only noticed this when I went to wire tie the fence to the posts.  But by that point I had stretched the fence and stapled it to the corners.  So I decided to pull the T posts, and then re-pound them with the fence on the correct side.  Did I mention I don’t have a post puller?  I don’t.  So I pulled them all by hand and then re-set them.  Lot’s of fun.  Don’t believe me, try it.  But worse things could happen so the next morning I got up at 6, before anyone else was up, and went to hang the fence.  I also made sure to put the last side of the fence on the right side of the posts so I didn’t make that mistake again.

The only access I currently have planned for the new pasture is through a gate out of the old pasture.  Security, ease of build, and cost are a few of the considerations that went into that decision.  In the meantime, we are having to walk further and further around the fence in order to get inside the new pasture to work since I hadn’t hung the new gate yet.  So on Tuesday, I hung the gate.  I haven’t yet cut the old field fence to accommodate the new gate, I won’t do that until the new fence is near enough being done to not have to worry about animals escaping.  It’s not perfect, but it should work.

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I want to tell you something I am really excited about.  There are peaches on one of the trees I planted last fall!  I count five, and even if I don’t get to eat any of them, we are getting close to fruit on some of our trees and that is exciting.  I am sure there will come a day when I am begging people to come take fruit, but I can’t see that far ahead yet.

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Homestead Boy #1 is continuing to grow his egg sales business.  He takes it very seriously, reading books about chickens, collecting eggs often, and worrying and taking care of his birds.  In order to keep up with demand he bought another seven White Leghorn hens from a farmer friend of ours.  They are started birds, about 16 weeks old, so they should begin to lay in a month or two.  He wanted to have some white egg laying hens so he could offer a greater variety of colors.

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It often happens that God rewards a hard day with a beautiful sunset.  I always say I will cry if someone buys the field across the street from us and puts up a subdivision to ruin our sunsets.  I don’t often get up early enough to see the sunrise, I’m more of a night owl, but I did catch this the morning I hung the fence.  Fortunately no one will ever be able to take the sunrises from us.

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Until next time…

 

Homesteading Resources – By State!

The good people at TaylorMadeHomestead.com have compiled a list of homesteading blogs and websites and they have arranged them by state.  So if you are looking for a local resource for homesteading, take a look.  I happen to be on there as well.

Homesteading Blogs Sorted By State!

Picking Away

I have been trying to get out for an hour or two in the morning and then again in the evening to pick away at chores that need to get done.  It is nice his year with HSB#3 being almost two that he can play with his older siblings or hang out with me while I do work.

One of the things I was able to get done is to hang the solar fence charger I bought last fall.  I had been thinking about where I wanted to put it so that it was convenient to get to.  The solar panel on the fencer is in a fixed position, so the fencer needs to face south.  This meant that the location we have the current fencer wouldn’t work because the controls would be on the opposite side from us.  I settled on hanging it on the corner nearest the chicken coop.  I will have to move the grounding rods, pulling them out probably won’t be fun, but we are closer to getting my brother in law’s fencer back to him.

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I have also been working away at the new sheep/cow pasture fence.  HSB#1 has been a huge help.  He very seldom complains about hard physical labor.  He is right there with me using the post hole digger to clean out the holes, and then tamping the posts into location once they were set.  Now if I could just get him to work as hard on finishing his school work for the summer.

Just last night I got the last post set for which I had a hole.  I still need to drill two more holes to set the gate between the current pasture and the new pasture, and for the pig pen.

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I also have the hog panels set in place.  I am not exactly sure how I am going arrange them with regards to being on the inside or outside of the posts.  My preference is for them to be on the inside so that any pushing by the pigs would be pushing into the posts, not pulling on the panels.  Part of this will be determined by the sheep/cow pasture fence and a very slight misplacement of a post.

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Last night, after getting the last of the posts set, I was awarded with this sunset.  I love living on the Homestead.

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Long Weekend – Speed Round

I have so busy I haven’t taken the time to sit down and write a blog, so I am going to write a speed round blog post to get caught up.  These topics may or may not be in order.

The grafting experiment has been a mixed bag.  Only a few of the grafts have so far seem to have taken.  I think this is because I had to store my scion wood for so long until I was able to graft.  I am going to try and graft as many more as I can, but I will just plant the rest of the root stocks.  The root stocks seem to be find and growing once planted so I can plant them now and then use them in the fall or next spring.

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The root stock sprouting

 

We have some great friends who gifted us some mint and chive plants.  I up potted them and put them on the front porch so that the chickens wouldn’t eat them.  The kids love snapping off chives and mint to chew on while playing.

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The calf had us worried yesterday.  It was really hot, and he wasn’t staying in the shade and ended up panting quite a bit.  His eyes were always clear and his ears were attentive so we just kept an eye on him.  By today, he was running around and playing with the sheep.

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In front of our house I have been adding plants since we moved in.  To date I have planted lilacs, both large and mini Asian lilacs, a magnolia, and a couple apple trees.  In an effort to remove grass to cut, we started looking for ground cover.  I really don’t want to rely on wood chips, at least long term.  I’d rather have something that will spread and cover the area.  I got a few native plants, monkey grass and ajuga, but it is going to take a while for them to spread to cover the area.  I ended up getting 50 strawberry plants that were on sale from Stark Bros and am going to see how they work as a ground cover.  This all seemed like an awesome idea, and then the chickens rounded the corner of the barn.  Not sure if the plants will last, we will ever see any berries, or if this will work, but the plants were inexpensive and it only took a couple hours to plant them.  If it does work, we will have strawberries right out the front door.

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The turkeys continue to grow at an almost alarming rate.  I forgot how quickly they grow, but I also forgot how messy and smelly they are in the barn.  As the weather has warmed and they have added feathers, we move them outside during the day and only bring them in at night.  It is amusing watching three week old poults puff up their feathers and flare their tail like they are full sized Toms.

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I finally found time this weekend to pick up my brother in law’s post hole digger so HSB1 and I drilled the holes for the posts for the new pasture.  We were able to get the 7 holes done pretty quickly.  We then decided since we had some more time, we would drill the holes for the new chicken run and the pig pen.  We ran into a problem as we started the pig pen.  The auger just wouldn’t dig.  We couldn’t figure it out, and no amount of pushing, pulling, or hoping was making it work.  We even tried moving and trying another location.  As I was looking at the auger, I noticed a rock stuck in the cutting blade that was preventing it from drilling into the ground.  With that setback solved we quickly got the rest of the holes dug.  The pig pen will be 64’x32′ and I plan to use hog panels.

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With all the warm weather I wanted to get the sheep sheared.  The boys were anxious to shear them as well, so the other night I got all set up to try and get a few sheep sheared.  Not thirty seconds in, the shears broke.  Several teeth broke off the comb part of the shears.  I have since ordered replacement parts off Amazon, so hopefully this week will find the sheep cooler.

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Lastly, I have been trying to be diligent with regards to watering the newly planted trees, the replacement trees that replaced the ones that have died since last season, the landscape plants, and the garden plants that are still in pots.  The new orchard trees are doing great.

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That is all for now, I am sure there will be more soon.

 

New Life

The new life that occurred today was of the plant kind. We are still waiting for new animal life here on the homestead.   But let me begin at the beginning of the day, which was actually last night, remember the post about our ram freaking me out?  When I finally got in bed, I remember thinking, “If I can just sleep until 8.”

No dice.  At 7 o’clock I was awoken to a scratching coming from my daughters’ bedroom ceiling.  Our 4 year old had woken me up in the middle of the night to help her get back to sleep and I sometimes end up falling asleep in their room.  At first I thought the scratching was our 6 year old scratching the wall in her sleep.  It wasn’t.  So I bounced, or dragged, myself out of bed, threw on my boots and headed out to investigate.  As soon as I opened the door I saw a bird leaving the soffit near the girls room.  Apparently a windstorm a bit back had blown a piece of the soffit down and a pair of birds thought it would be a good nesting site.  I grabbed a ladder and observed for a bit.  After I was convinced that the birds were not in the house, I replaced the soffit.  Hurray!

By this time HSB2 had woken up and wanted to play catch.  So at 7:30 Sunday morning we played catch, shortly thereafter HSG1 joined us.  Then the baby was awake and wanted to play outside.  So we decided to take a short walk down our street.

After the walk was over all three kids wanted to help finish assembling the last bench I needed to make.  I can’t remember if I mentioned it last night, but I am very happy with the way the benches turned out, and how they match up with the picnic table.

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Next it was on to planting.  When we visited Greenfield Village last week we got 5 butterfly bushes and 4 Concolor firs, as the Forest Service was giving them away.  So I got the fruit trees I picked up last week and the Concolors soaking in some water to prepare them for planting.  While I was preparing, my wife and the two girls planted the butterfly bushes in the back of our house where we have our wildflower patch.  HSB2 and I then replaced some dead trees with the new Concolors.

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For free trees, they were pretty nice size and quality

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The one thing I wanted to make sure I got done today was getting the apple and pear trees in the ground.  I changed plans from where I had originally thought I was going to plant them to a spot behind my nut trees and nearer so I can take care of them better.  I only have cages for five of them currently, so three are unprotected.  It shouldn’t be a problem now, but I will plan to fence/cage them before fall.  In case I hadn’t mentioned the varieties of fruit, I got two apples each of Liberty, Gingergold, and Wolf River, and then two Kalle Pears.  Some day in the not too distant future, I should be buried with fruit.  At which point one of my friends this weekend told me we will be making fruit liquor, Apple and Pear Brandy sound mighty fine to me.

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Eight new fruit trees in the ground

At some point in the afternoon we got out the golf cart and the lawn tractor.  HSB2 wanted to cut grass and the chickens seemed glad that he did.  We finished the day with a family trip to Dairy Queen.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous, we were able to spend copious amounts to time together as a family, and we were productive.  I would say it was very close to a perfect day.

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The chickens seemed to appreciate the newly cut grass

Chick Sighting?!?

So I was playing basketball Monday evening and my phone rang.  Normally I don’t even hear my phone when we are playing but it happened just as we were taking a drink break.  It was my wife.  Apparently HB#2 saw a chick in the hay and was frantic.  My wife had already told him to leave it be and the momma hen would take care of it, which was my exact advice.  He insisted she call, so since my advice was the same that is what happened.

When I arrived home, HB#1 greeted me at the door and asked if I wanted to go see the chick because he had seen it as well.  Why not?  We headed out and started searching through the hay.  He kept thinking he heard cheeping, but I didn’t hear anything.  We didn’t find any chicks, but we did find 9 eggs hiding among the hay.

In the morning we will look in the coop to see if there is a chick in there with a hen.  That is the only possibility in which I can imagine there is a chick out there.  If a hen went to the trouble of setting on eggs, I can’t imagine she would have just left if after hatching.

It should be an interesting morning.

Good Wood, Dog Crate, and Peeing in the Car

I think I had mentioned that I am planning on trying my hand at grafting some apple trees this year.  I have already ordered root stock.  A local orchard was kind enough to give me free scion wood if I would come pick it up when they were trimming.  Well, they were trimming this week.  Since last Sunday they were trimming each day for a few hours.  Today was the last day they would be trimming and fortunately I was able to get over there.  The kids and I stopped by and met the owner of the orchard for the first time in person, we had talked several times on the phone.  She is a gem of a woman, and I hope this is the beginning of a long relationship.  She was so kind to the kids traipsing through the orchard and more than generous to give me bundles of 9 different varieties of apple trees.

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While we were there, HSG2(our almost four year old) had an emergency bathroom event.  She couldn’t wait, she had to go now.  Fortunately we had just purchased an item for just such an event.  A small portable child’s toilet from Ikea.  Friends of ours have used one when their kids were small and they swore by it.  Saving several stops on long trips was enough for me to give it a try.  It came to the rescue today.

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When we got back to the Homestead, I further trimmed the scion wood so that it would fit in the refrigerator and bagged it up with some wet paper towels.  Hopefully it stores until the root stock gets here.

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Earlier in the day we picked up a Craigslist find.  A larger travel dog crate.  It will give our dog slightly more room in the back of the van when we are traveling.  I also plan to multitask it as chicken, turkey, piglet transport as the need arises.

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Finally, I have fully given the egg business over to HSB1.  The final step was for him to start buying feed for the chickens.  Today, while we were out, we went to the feed store so he could pick up four bags using money he has made selling eggs.  He has been very diligent about collecting eggs, storing them in cartons, and asking people if they want to buy from him.  I look forward to where this goes with him.

Until next time.

Not Broody

It seems as though the hens were just playing at being broody.  We had marked the eggs that were being sat on so we lost only a few in discovering this.  It was kind of amusing.  The hens would seemingly take turns sitting on the eggs.  They also would sometime steal eggs from each other and try to make another nest.  So as of now, we won’t have any new chicks raised by hens this year.  Maybe in the future.