There is an ice storm forecasted to blow through here this afternoon through early tomorrow morning. So I took the opportunity late Sunday night to go and fill up my gas and diesel cans. It was an overdue chore anyways so this was as good an opportunity as any to get it done. I also picked up a couple extra gallons of water. I already have a decent supply of drinking water, but when you are on a well, not having power can make drinking water a pain.
I still need to organize some things in the barn so that I can more easily access the generator, but at least now I will have fuel for it. I still want to have an electrician come set me up with a manual transfer switch so that I can run the well pump and most of the house with the generator when necessary. So if you know a good, affordable, electrician let me know.
I figure that this will probably be more hype than actual bite, but it always pays to be prepared. The good news is that our location in Michigan shouldn’t get the worst of the ice build up, and the temperatures on Tuesday should get high enough to melt most of the ice so, knock on wood, we won’t have widespread power outages. Still, better safe than sorry.
Just before we left on our vacation I bought a couple apple trees on clearance at a local farm supply store. I didn’t get them in the ground before we left so they were looking pretty sad when we got back. Tonight, Homestead Boy #2 and I got them planted.
We replaced one of the apple trees that had significant damage from mice over last winter. The tree limped through the summer, but I don’t think it will ever thrive so it is being replaced. We removed the dead trees and expanded the holes. After breaking up the roots, since the trees were quite root bound, we placed them in the holes, backfilled, and added some organic fertilizer. I will make sure to keep them watered for the next couple weeks and hopefully next spring they will start strong.
Even if the replacement trees don’t work out, they were only a few dollars, so worth the risk. The other tree we replaced was one that was planted this spring. I will contact Stark Bros and have them send me a replacement. I think I am going to create a small orchard area up by the side of the house. This will spread out our resources and bring some of our home grown food closer to the house.
Homestead Boy #2’s impetus for helping me plant was that he wanted to shoot a bow that was new to us. A friend of mine was cleaning out his basement and was kind enough to give us a youth compound bow so my son was eager to shoot it. The only problem was that I hadn’t set up a target area yet, and really hadn’t had any time to check out the bow. With light fading fast and the bugs coming out in force(Homestead Boy #2 is a favorite target of mosquitoes) I decided to redirect. I have a couple airsoft pistols so I was able to convince him that would do for now. We filled a magazine with airsoft pellets and headed out to the field. It gave us an opportunity to talk about gun safety and practice those skills with a less than firearm. Not a toy to be sure, but less intimidating for him. It was nice to spend some time with him one on one working on firearms skills, and we were able to get inside before we got eaten alive.
One last thing… while we were on vacation with my family at my parents I found a Hamilton Beach ice cream maker in the clearance section of Walmart for only $12. I figured it would be something fun to do while on vacation. We made ice cream once while on vacation and I enjoyed it. It is really easy to do. The last two nights my wife has made ice cream with the kids after dinner. I am going to count that as $12 well spent.
I have been looking for a stainless steel table for awhile. Something that I could possibly use to butcher birds or rabbits and to put down by our garden to wash off produce as it comes out of the garden.
I had found a stainless steel counter on Craigslist the other day and called on it. It didn’t have any pictures but it was an 8’x30″ table with a shelf below that had cabinet doors, and a backsplash for $200. Not a bad deal at all. So this morning I went to go take a look at it.
It was massive, the doors were insulated, and it was going to be heavy. Honestly, while it was still a good deal, it was bigger than I was looking for. I had planned to cut a hole in it and drop a sink in to make it possible to wash with it. Fortunately for me he had a smaller table, that already had a sink in it that was less money.
It needs a cleaning, but I think it will work out perfectly for what I want, right now. I may need another table in the future as another butchering station but for now I plan to make a cover for the sink to allow the whole table space to be working space when water isn’t needed. One more thing off the list.
This post has been too long coming. If you remember I got some free quail this several months ago. They had been in a brooder in our barn for several weeks and had started getting stinky and dusty, so an outdoor hutch needed to be built.
My original plan was to half lap the framing members for a clean look. This lasted about four boards. I decided to keep things moving faster and abandoned the half lapping. It ended up working out ok though, because it gave me a perfect spot to staple the hardware mesh. This will hopefully become clear later through pictures.
You might be able to tell from the picture above I half lapped the top cross member in front and back. The bottom cross member was only, I will call it quarter lapped. As I said this gave me a lip to staple the mesh onto.
I then cut some support beanm to go in the middle of the coop to support the wire mesh. I cut them at an angle so it might help the eggs to roll to the front to make egg collection easier.
I then stapled down the wire mesh.
I then started cutting the sides. I had some exterior grade siding left over from my pallet built sheep shed so that is what I used.
Because of the quarter lapping there was a gap between the siding and framing in the back.
To fix this I screwed a piece of scrap wood there to fill the gap.
I then installed a piece of mesh across the front of the coop.
Three sides, a bottom, and a front later this is what I had.
Next I cut out two openings in the front. I used some scrap pieces I had to fashion doors out of. I used J clips and J clip pliers as the hings on top of the doors. The doors push in so that if I forget to latch them they fall into a closed position. Unfortunately I didn’t have a good way to latch the doors. I resorted to using carabiners and some clips for tractor attachments.
After some internet sleuthing I found some proper cage door latches on a website called rabbitnipple.com. They work fantastic.
I plan to put a steel roof on the coop, but for now I am using a sheet of the exterior siding. Here are some pictures of the coop in the final location with the birds in it.
I put some straw in the coop thinking that it would give them something to bed down in, but I am not sure they needed it. Really, it is just keeping their poop from dropping through the wire. As we get more and more light every day, I am hoping that I will start getting some eggs.
All in all I think it turned out pretty well. I never plan to have a ton of quail, plans can change I suppose, but for now this gives me plenty of space for the birds.
I haven’t mentioned much about the chickens lately except to say that I have been trying to keep them with liquid water. They don’t much like the snow and prefer to stay in their coop. The younger chickens I bought mid summer never started to lay before we hit winter so I had pretty much given up having a decent supply of eggs until spring.
When we had the really cold snap I put a light in their coop, and the added light must have helped, because the last couple days we have been getting a couple eggs a day, and today there were four eggs in the nest boxes. Hopefully it keeps up.
To be honest, I am not trying very hard, or at all to help myself. Any time I go to the store I have to look. There are too many beautiful pictures to be able to avert my eyes. The possibilities!
I am talking of course, about seed packets. All the stores now have their shelves full of them and I can’t help but find my way to the seed racks and peruse the merchandise. I am a sucker for anything with “organic” or “heirloom” on the package. At only a couple dollars a package it is a pretty cheap habit. Here is my latest haul from Meijer.
These are the rest of the seeds I have. Some of them are a couple years old, but should still work this year. They are a smorgasbord of high mown seeds bought from a family friend during a fundraiser, seeds bought from Dollar Tree, Ace True Hardware, some packets from a seed saving class, and the mylar bag is from a family friend. It is filled with a variety of corn that is supposed to be bred to be extremely hardy. There are even some flower seeds in there for the bees. Now that I am thinking about it, I have more flower seeds/bulbs I bought at Costco last year that are not pictured.
I have also been lurking on some seedy websites, I couldn’t help the pun. Actually bare root trees are what I am talking about. I ordered three trees from Starkbros.com this fall and will be getting more this spring. I actually have three apple, two pear, two peach, two plum, two cherry, an almond, two pecan, a cherry bush, strawberries, raspberries, three grape vines, and a ten pack of lilacs on order from them. I tried to convince them last fall to create a “homesteader pack”, but as of yet they haven’t.
The last two winters I have protected the fruit trees with individual cages, explained here. When I set up the garden this spring I am going to fence in the whole thing with field fence. I may wrap the bottom with hardware cloth to try and keep out the rabbits. I will add some sort of streamer and string to the top of the posts to try and keep the deer out. I just can’t see individually wrapping each and every tree, the time, effort, and cost doesn’t seem to be worth it.
Not only do I enjoy the winter, but I love the lull it affords in the outdoor chores, allowing for dreaming of summer gardens and picking fruits, vegetables, nuts, and smelling the flowers. There is definitely a time for every season under Heaven.
That should go without saying right? Well the storm we had last week knocked our power out, and if you have a well and no power, you have no water. I had gallons of drinking water stored, so that wasn’t an issue, but not being able to flush the toilets was a pain. I had some water collected in a cut off 55 gallon drum, but not nearly enough. We have a small generator, probably large enough to run the well pump, but I don’t currently have a way to connect the generator to the well pump. Immediately after the power went out I re-positioned the 55 gallon drum under the eaves of the barn so that it would get some rain, but that didn’t help me at the time. We made it through, but it reminded me of the importance of having what I will call gray water to be able to use to flush the toilet. Fortunately today on Craigslist I found this for $100. It is a 525 gallon water tank, only used to store water, no chemicals. There is no top with it, but I would have had to taken it off anyway to pipe the gutter water into it. I plan on making a screen top to allow water to enter, but keep the bugs out. This is will give us a decent supply of water for flushing toilets, water the garden(if I even find time to plant one), and water the animals if necessary. In a true emergency we could treat the water and drink it. I plan to treat the water with a small amount of bleach in order to keep things from growing in it anyways.
I will need to construct some sort of base for it to sit on, since it will weigh 4200 pounds when full.
The ram and the rest of the sheep seemed to have integrated already. Yesterday the original sheep were keeping a healthy distance between them and George Washington after the initial meeting. Today they were all eating in the same general area. That was actually somewhat odd in and of itself. Normally the two mothers would take their babies and would be off by themselves. Maybe the ram has united the clans and they are a proper flock now. Only time will tell.
I have stopped more this year to help people who’s cars were stuck than in the last ten years combined. This winter has just been that bad with regards to the amount of snow we have gotten and never having it been warm enough to melt any of the snow. A friend of mine commented the other day on how she had picked up a young man (probably in his mid twenties) whose car had gotten stuck and who was only wearing a hoodie, no gloves, hat, or coat. Many times, after I have gotten the kids bundled up and into the car, I will jump in without grabbing a coat for myself. But I know this, and prepare for it by leaving a winter coat, gloves, and hat in the car at all times. I also leave a pair of warm, and high, winter boots in the car, so that if I need to get out and help someone else, or myself, I have proper footwear.
Not to mention that I keep a bin of supplies in the car year round. This bin contains water, a small medical kit, a fold up shovel, and several wool blankets. If I were to need to wait for help in the car, I would have enough warmth for myself and my family.
The story about the young man in the hoodie made me wonder, how prepared are people when they are out driving in the cold and snow weather? Leave a comment and let me know how prepared you are.
I have wanted a school bus for over a year now. When I tell people that I normally get a weird look, blank stares, or a nervous laugh. But I am totally serious. With four kids (and another on the way, yes we are expecting) staying at relative’s houses is getting more and more difficult and finding a hotel room to sleep six or more is not only difficult but expensive. And flying anywhere with this many people is expensive too. Enter the school bus. They can be had inexpensively, their diesel engines tend to run forever, and you can make them to your own designs. I am actually looking at one now that is partially finished and has a floor plan similar to the one in this video(although it would be easier to deal with if we could sell our house). What do you think? Am I crazy? Or crazy like a fox?