Tag Archives: prepping

A Candle Burnt on both Ends… and Grafting

I haven’t posted with much frequency lately.  That is mostly because I have been burning the candle at both ends so to speak.  As you all know, spring is a busy time most everywhere, and the Homestead is no exception.  I still need to get more pasture fenced in, get a lean-to for the animals built, and plant the garden.  Not to mention a million other smaller chores.

With all that said, I still have root stock and scion wood in the fridge and I am afraid it is no longer viable.  To test that theory I have made a few trees.  I grafted one tree a few days ago, and then ten more Sunday night, late.  We will see if they survive.  I am hoping that the root stock is still viable and that I can at the very least plant that in a nursery area and get new scion wood later this year.  Time will tell.

The first tree
The next ten


Powered Up, Kind Of

In the previous post I mentioned that one of my projects had been wiring up an outlet for the chicken coop that can be plugged into an extension cord.  I finally got it installed.

First I drilled a hole slightly larger than the diameter of the wire.  I then positioned the outlet box inside and passed the wire through the hole.  The next step was to finish the connections on the plug side, and viola we were ready for power.

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This is nice because now I can keep the water bucket plugged in over night.  Previously I had to unplug it in order to close the door which allowed the water to freeze overnight.  I may also add a light in the coop but I haven’t decided on that yet.

Storm Preparation

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.

What do you do to prepare for oncoming storms?

Big Addition

We have a new addition to the Homestead.  It is a big addition.  Like 1100 pounds big.  But let me back up one second.

My brother in law has always wanted beef cows.  Recently he found a good deal on some bred Herefords, so he got two of them.  I happened to ask if the guy who was selling them had any other breeds, and sure enough he did.  He had a couple Belted Galloway crosses.  They were half Beltie half shorthorn, so a good smaller beef cow.  I have always liked the Belted Galloway, and despite their relative rarity, we have several farms around here that have them.  I was interested.

After looking at the Craigslist ad, and getting the green light from my wife, I called the gentleman to see if the cow who’s belt was solid, was still available.  She was, so I made the trip up to his place with my brother in law’s trailer.

All that to say we now have a full sized cow on the farm.  She has been here for a little over 24 hours and seems to be settling down a bit.  The gentleman we got her from called her Oreo, which is a little generic since that is the breed nickname, but that is the name with which we are going to stay.  Oreo had never seen sheep before, so she was very anxious when she arrived.  I let her stay in the trailer for a bit scoping things out, but she was still on edge when she was out.

The sheep for their part were just curious about this new, huge creature released into the pasture.  She wasn’t interested in being friends with the wooly sheep, and mock charged them several times.  That promptly ended the sheep’s curiosity.  I entered the pasture to try and calm her down and make sure she saw the hay bale.  She wasn’t interested in being friends with me either, and mock charged me.  Needless to say the rate at which my heart was beating increases significantly.

 Most of the night she was restless.  Her calf had been weaned a few days ago but the gentleman didn’t realize she started nursing another calf when hers was taken away.  The good news about this is that she has strong maternal instincts.  The less great news is that she is bellowing for her calf, and it had me seriously worried she would try to leave the pasture to find him.  Fortunately she is still here today.  And she seems much calmer.  Yesterday she was curious about the steer calf we have here, but I think after he saw her mock charge the sheep he wanted nothing to do with her.  Today they seem to have made friends, laying near each other and he seems at ease with her.

She has been exposed to an Angus bull, so in the spring we will hopefully have a 1/4 Beltie, 1/4 shorthorn, and 1/2 Angus calf to raise for meat.  My plan is to work with her over the winter and get her used to being handled so that I can see if she will make into a milking cow.  If not, I will start upbreeding her with beltie and continue to get a higher percentage Belted Galloway cows.  Either way, we will have a good beef breed, and at only four years old, I could feasibly get another 14 calves from her.

The adventure continues.

Too Many Roosters = Butchering Day

It just so happened that my good friend Ruth at Firesign Family Farms was having a butchering day today.  I was able to make it, and I had a few extra roosters to take with me.  Before today we had Scooter, our Icelandic rooster, and then four jubilee orpingtons, Pepper, our Americauna rooster, and newly named Avalanche, our buff orpington rooster.  That is altogether too many roosters.  So pepper, who was supposed to be a hen, and two of the jubilee orpingtons have to go.  I think four is still going to be too many, but hopefully with a big coop, and room to free range they will be ok.  The reason I am keeping two jubilees is that they would be harder to find a replacement for if something happened to one of them.  So I need a backup.  Scooter is just a good rooster, but other than taking care of the girls I really don’t need him for breeding.  Avalanche will serve a purpose for breeding, but as buff orpingtons aren’t that rare, I could probably find a replacement without too much difficulty or cost.

All that said, we now have three chickens, grown on our farm, in the fridge.  That is a first for us and a pretty cool step.  I am still hoping to grow a batch of meat birds this fall, I am not sure if it will happen given all the other things that need to happen around here, and we have three turkeys that will be going in the freezer at some point.

Baby steps to self sufficiency I suppose.

The Garden Giveth, and More Ice Cream

I took a five gallon bucket of water down to the orchard to water the two trees we planted yesterday.  On my way back up to the house I figured I should check the garden and pick anything that was ready before the rabbits got to it.  I mostly harvested an assortment of tomatoes, but I also got a couple zucchini and a watermelon.  The watermelon wasn’t much bigger than a cantaloupe, but I figured if I didn’t pick it now, it would be the animals that got it before we did.  It was very good, and the kids enjoyed spitting the seeds out.  I plan to save the seeds and see how they do next year.

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While I was picking I checked on most of the rest of the garden.  Despite me tending to the garden almost not at all, we are still getting produce out of it.  Other than what I picked today, there are still a ton of tomatoes coming as well as a few more zucchinis.  We are also getting some gourds, and even a pumpkin or two.  I’m not sure if we are going to get any corn this year as we were late in planting it, but I’m still holding out hope.  The late planted sunflowers even look as though they may get a seed head on them yet.

The sunset was beautiful tonight, it looked as though the clouds were on fire.

My wife and kids again made ice cream tonight.  We have just been making vanilla, but boy does it taste good.

 Quick story… this afternoon while in the house I heard a quite loud jet noise.  Where we live we don’t have a whole lot of airplane traffic and what traffic there is normally flies quite high.  Our last two houses had quite a bit of airplane traffic over head so I may not have thought too much of the noise there.  I went out onto the front porch to see what was making the noise and one of the Blue Angel flight team was practicing directly over our house.  It was pretty cloudy so we could just catch glimpses of him.  The coolest maneuver we saw was him pulling the stick back and looping back the way he came.  There is a large aerial show near here this weekend so I won’t be surprised if we see cool airplanes all weekend long.  One year a stealth bomber flew in a holding pattern over our place, he must have circled three times.  It just so happened to occur on the day we were celebrating Homestead Boy #1’s birthday so I claimed I scheduled it, hehe.

How Do You Like Them Apples?

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.

ice cream maker

Jail Break, Locked Up, and New Tool

Recently we had our second jail break by the quail. I inadvertently left the cage open and even though the door swings down they always find a way out. I wasn’t planning on looking for them this time. A bobwhite quail seed I thought. But they keep coming back. Over the last few days the boys have caught all but one. Apparently I couldn’t get rid of them if I tried.  

Several weeks ago I had seen a chest freezer in the free section of craigslist. I picked it up to use as an indoor animal food storage. My wife’s only concern was one of the little kids climbing in and getting the door closed on them. So today I installed a lock plate. I probably won’t use a lock, but a carabiner should do the trick. 

I have been looking for a better way to keep the garden at least more weed free and have seen people use high wheel walk behind cultivators. I found a good deal on one and ordered it. The garden may be too far gone for it this year, but I’ll be ready if I do fall planting a or for next year. It is made by a company called Maxim, and it came with a cultivating claw, and two different plows. 

Until next time. 

Garden Pictures

I took these on a quick walk through the garden this morning.

Tomatillos, which I know almost nothing about
Yellow watermelon transplant
Broccoli from seed and tomato transplants
Cucumber transplants doing great
Zucchini transplant
Baby swiss chard
Crimson beans
Zucchini blossom close up


Vineyard, Blueberries, and One Cage Complete

This afternoon while Homestead Boy #3 was taking a nap I got a chance to work on the “lid” for one of the moveable chicken pens.  I have made lids like this before, and like how easy they are to remove and put back on.  I simply make a rectangular frame with the side over the middle of the pen turned flat instead of vertical.  This allows it to sit almost flush with the top.  A couple extra spacer blocks help it to stay up.  The remaining three sides are vertical and give it more security with regards to staying on.  It looks like this…

Framed up
Chicken wire on and ready to go

I also got the chicken wire around the outside of the bigger pen, as well as one of the strips on the top.  I still need to make some lids for that pen, hopefully in the next day or two.


In the evening I was able to get the three grape vines and two blueberry bushes that I had bought on clearance from Tractor Supply planted.  That brings me up to 7 blueberry bushes and 13 grape vines.  I got them planted just in time for a nice rain shower to water them in for me.

Unless I find more great deals on grape vines, the vineyard is probably done for the year, and I don’t have any plans to buy any more blueberries either.  I still have the one apple tree to plant.  I actually was able to pull out the dying one it will replace getting me one step closer to getting the new one in the ground.

Until next time.