Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Mid-July Fun

A few of our Blackberries!
They taste so yummy!
Our grapes growing up and over the archway.
We have tons and tons of grapes!
We are hoping they are Concorde but we will find out when ripe!

The volunteer sunflower plants that sprouted up in front of my gorgeous blackberry plants.

Its been such a hot summer that we've planted and lost so many things!
My spring peas were fantastic, summer peas burnt to a crisp.
We are trying hard save our tomatoes, carrots and onions.
This summer is shaping up to be a record breaking scorching July!
Praying that things cool off in August!

Also our most recent bunny lost her 3rd chance to be a good mom.
One night we went to sleep with 6 fat happy babies and woke to 1 live weak one that died two days later. Not sure why some rabbits are bad moms but she was delicious.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Garlic Harvest!

Russian Hardneck Garlic

This is our third garlic harvest and I'm happy to say we are finally getting the hang of things.
Our first year we planted two different types that we bought at a local store.
At that time garlic was garlic.
We bought hardneck without realizing it and LOVED it!
We also happened to not pull it all up so some returned the next year as a surprise.
Last year we bought and planted Persian Softneck Garlic.

Last year we realized that all garlic is not equal.
Taste wise the Persian was soft and sweeter.
Softneck however, has much smaller bulbs and no good papery outer-shell.
So it doesn't store near as well.
4 months into storing and it was starting to sprout - even with curing, hanging and following all the tips.

This year we harvested 106 heads of garlic!
5 were Elephant garlic.
(2 of the garlic in the photo above)
10-15 Persian Softneck that we planted last fall before I realized I hated them.
And the rest are wonderfully Russian Hardneck!

So what to do when you realize you have garlic that doesn't winter well - eat it first!
Right now my garlic is curing and drying, in two weeks I will braid them and hang all the hard neck.
The few little bulbs at the bottom of the garlic that are ready for planting (I forgot to take a photo) I soaked for a day then planted in a pot to grow indoors.
They can't wait to be planted, can't wait for fall before they will die.
Planting them outside in this heat would also kill them so I'm going to try this year to get a tiny handful to live. We will see.

When to Harvest Garlic

Garlic Cycle

Monday, July 10, 2017

Two New Ladies!

The other day I received a Facebook msg from a friend I've never met in real life before!
She's moving and needed to find a home for her chickens!
Of course I was willing to take them in, plus it was great to finally meet in person.
Two 1 year old chickens, both good layers - what a blessing!
Praying she is able to find an amazing home in the valley soon.

Golden SexLinks
Golden Sex Link
More information

and where to buy

As this is my first time with this sub breed - I've had Rhode Island Reds for several years but this is my first time with Sex Links versions of the breed.

They merged easily and quickly into my small hen yard - mostly because they are older and were able to easily get to the top of the pecking order.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Our Fermented Feed Setup

Fermenting Chicken Feed

If you've had chickens for any length of time I'm sure that at some point you've run into links about fermenting your chickens feed.
The why, how and benefits will make you really want to.
However the set up, time and dedication... not so much.

Photo is of my ladies enjoying their 3rd morning of fermented feed.
Let me tell you right now, its true they adore it.
(Also please ignore the ugly pan in the background I used their distraction with the food to clean it and fill it.)

I went ahead and started fermenting my feed when I was finally able to find some cheap containers - namely, sand buckets from Shopko on sale for .99 cents each!

I already had the plastic plates that fit perfectly on the top of the buckets, keeping MOST of the air in, bugs out but allowing gas to escape as needed - perfect for fermenting!
Notice the post-its?
They have a heart, flower, star & cross, also they are numbered 1-4.
I will need a 4 bucket system in the winter as it takes longer to ferment in the cold.
In the summer so far I am using a 3 bucket system and it works fine.

My mix for 11 hens is 2 Cups laying mash & 1 Cup scratch.

Add filtered water (we have reverse osmosis - a must for living in Magna)
to roughly an inch above the grain.
After two days of fermenting the feed, you can pour the left over water (normally a cup or so) into the new fermented feed to get it fermenting faster.
Stir it a few times a day.

I use a fine mesh spoon to draw the grain out so that it won't be a puddle and I can re-add the water into the new feed.

So far this mix seems to be working perfectly for my ladies - once all 11 are laying I will tweak it as needed.
I've seen some recipes only use whole grains, I've read where they only use mash.
I'm doing a mix because I happen to have both.

Top reasons for me to start this?
To many mice seem to be eating what my ladies were tossing onto the ground.
I'd much rather my ladies actually eat their food, than other animals - especially dirty animals.
They eat this food so QUICK!
Nothing is left on the ground!
In time I might only do two cups and give my ladies their scratch in the evenings, as that helps with egg production but again that will be once all my hens are laying.

Fermenting Chicken Feed links:

My favorite with Mash
What Containers

Chicken Chick

More on why & how

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bunny Birthday Surprise!

Our doe Stormy's 3rd kindling, born this morning.
All 9 seem happy and healthy.
Which has been a fantastic birthday gift for me!

Stormy's 1st kindling died when she gave birth unexpectedly and her babies froze without a proper nest.
Her second kindling all but one baby (peewee) died and that one lived only because we were able to get her sister to foster Peewee with her kits.
This is her third kindling, we've redone her baby area completely and made sure this time she's alone.
Praying this time she shines as the mama we think she is.
9 healthy babies! Now its up to her to keep them that way!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Tiny Egg

Itty Bitty Teeny Tiny Ray of Hope!

This is a very small egg - still not sure if I'd call it a Fairy Egg,
but its close, its the closest we've ever come yet to a Fairy Egg anyway.

Beyond the fact that its an adorable tiny egg - its also our first egg from our young ladies!
My only regret this year is that all my hens are brown layers.
Tomorrow I'm going to see if I can figure out which lovely lady laid this for us.
For tonight, we celebrate new beginnings and more to come!

New Growth - Plum Health

My Stanley Plums new straight leaves!
You can see where something tried to take a few bites out of the newer leaves, so I've continued spraying the tree with water/soap every week or so at night.
Thankfully the new leaves show that an infestation hasn't taken hold a second time.
See Curled Plum Leaves and how I treated them

We bought 4 Concorde Seedless Grape vines to plant,
picked up the bare root cuttings April 25th and soaked them in wet paper for a few days before planting.
Two of the grape's took off almost over night and are over a foot each with lots of growth.
The above grape was my last hold out.
Earlier this week we FINALLY got a leaf to sprout!
Never stop watering grape vines, they are tough and resilient.

This was the other grape that was struggling to survive for a while
but is growing happily now.
Two years from now those vines will be massive and cover tons of fence line!

These grapes came with our house.
The vine had been neglected and looked horrible, we looked up advice and cut the entire plant back to root.
Three years later we are getting some fantastic looking grapes and I can't wait to find out what type they are!

Also my Thornless Blackberries are outpacing my coffee addiction!
They are growing so fast and so much that no matter how quickly I get the leaves to turn green, they flip back around and yellow again!
Next winter instead of putting our coffee grinds on the compost pile I'm freezing it to use on my blackberries next summer!
This is their second summer and I could not have predicted this many berries!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Our Bit of Dirt

Our Bit of Dirt

Previously I've stated that we have a very small urban homestead.
Our property is roughly one quarter acre large. (small)
Yet we've fit so much!

The black and white version shows everything listed out.
*forgot my compost pile - its on the drive way near the large shed*
Sorry for my bad handwriting.
My husband found this amazing program to create a mock up our full yard.
It even has a 3D walk through option - haven't yet figured out how to share that.

What these photos show is what we currently have.
My darling
(and very patient husband)
also made a mock up of our future plans.

One day we would love to move to proper rural land with several acres.
We'd love to have pigs, goats and a cow.
Until then we have chickens and rabbits,
with future plans for ducks and bee's.
Its amazing what you can fit into a small area.
This last year we've focused on returning crops - last year we added in the berries.
This year we added tree's and grapes.

We also focus on different things each year.
Last year I grew cucumbers, cucumbers and even more cucumbers.
So much that I have several years of sweet pickle relish.
Next year I will be planting one trellis of cucumbers, as we've really eaten down my dill pickles.
Found out those are a family favorite.

Last year I made both Plum Jam and Plum BBQ Sauce.
Next time it will ALL be Plum Jam.
While the BBQ Sauce tasted great, my family is addicted to the jam and are currently fighting over my last quart.

This year is also my first year planting onions, as well as successfully growing potatoes.
Here's hoping the potato harvest is a great as think it will be.
Next year I plan on increasing my potato area, future plans are to grow a full year supply for my family.
We increased our garlic patch last year - we LOVE garlic.
As it was last years garlic almost lasted us a year.
Last years carrots almost lasted us a year as well.

I never knew that my gardening goals would go from a summer supply of fresh healthy food to wanting to grow enough for a full year!
No matter the reason (saving money, healthier, no GMO, no pesticides ect)
home grown food just tastes better!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Our Hen House

Our New Ladies!
We finished butchering our older ladies, we cycle our ladies out every two years.
That way the oldest our hens will be is 2 1/2 years old.
Still young enough to be edible without being extremely tough.
When raising chickens you have two good options and one really bad one.

1. Cycle out your chickens every few years to keep a young egg laying flock.

2. Keep your flock until they die of old age, because they are family.
#1 problem with #2 is space. Most cities have limits on how many chickens you can have at a time.
We can't afford to feed a non laying flock.

3. Give away your two year old flock to someone new to chickens who doesn't understand you just gave them a whole flock of birds that will cost them a lot in feed cost and produce fewer eggs.
#3 May sound terrible, yet every spring I see people "giving" away egg laying hen's all 2 years old and healthy.
I am not a fan of #3.

Our Hen House

Silver Laced Wyandotte's

Esther – Purple
Celia – White
Arya – Pink
Sookie – Yellow

Black Astrolorp's

River – Red
Katniss – Green
Nicci – Purple
Lena – Pink

Rhode Island Red's

Ginny – Yellow
Jensen – Red
Saphira - Green


As you can see, we've put bands on the legs of our ladies.
Normally as a rule, you don't NAME an animal you will eat at some point in time.
However when it comes to my chickens and the fact that they aren't a quick turn around animal.
We name and band them - it helps us keep track of each animals health.
If you need to keep track but not get attached
(which you will do anyway chickens are fun & quirky)
band and label by color.

We got our new hen's in January, so they should start laying in the next two or three weeks!
A few are starting to show signs of squatting - which shows they will soon be laying eggs!

Also like all my hens, my ladies are named after some of my favorite written characters.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Hilling Potatoes

Hard to see but that is a 12 inch ruler.
You don't want your potato plant to grow over 12 inches, so as it grows you need to hill it.
  Dirt layer

Compost layer

Each time I hill I add lots of composted material, hay & rabbit poop is my main go to as the plants are literally 6 feet from my grow out bunny pen.
You want the potato to be able to easily grow potatoes and not spend so much energy fighting against the dirt.
However I like adding a layer of dirt to a layer of compost as it helps hold its shape as well as keep water in my growing large mound!
They are growing SO FAST! Here is what they looked like mid May.

Crossing my fingers this year I get a great potato harvest!
Last time we were not prepared!
Didn't plan or research enough and got three teeny tiny things instead of lovely potatoes.
However at the moment everything thing looks perfect!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

When It Heats Up

Its been 95 degrees here! We went from mid 70's one week to 95 the next!
Next week its supposed to dip back down to the 70's!
When the weather jumps up and down that quickly our animals - chickens, rabbits, dogs,
can't adjust that fast - heat is very hard on them.
Heavy panting is a very bad sign!

We have several tricks and tips that we do during the course of the summer to keep them cooler.
First our water system is shaded and keeps the water in their drip lines cooler - on hot day's we will go out and bled a few feet of water from the line to make sure they are getting the colder water and not what's in the line getting hot.

We take out ice bottles - old glass bottles that we fill half way with water and freeze.
I feed them mint leaves when they are old enough and the mama's aren't feeding them.
Mint can dry up their milk supply so you don't want to give it to them while they are feeding but all other times mint is GREAT at helping to cool off.

We have shade for all of our bunnies.
This photo is right before I watered the grass they are laying on. I also made sure to water the wall they were leaning against to help it cool off.
Once I was done watering they went right back and cuddled up to the wet cold wall.
Feel free to post any of your cooling off tricks below!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Chinese Long Beans & Thai Purple Beans

My not yet finished bean trellis!
Hubs is still working on adding the top and the trim.
Next years plan will be to grow the spring peas
on one side before planting summer beans on the other.
Peas in the shady side
Beans on the sunny side.

The first trellis has Purple Thai Beans on the sunny side.
I planted late onions on the shady side when the other Thai Beans didn't sprout there.

Chinese Long Beans on both sides on the second one.

Again both sides of the third trellis is Chinese Long Beans.
Which you can buy from various rare seed dealers
or like us you can have them shipped from China for cheaper.
If you are going to find them on ebay and have them shipped from China
(packaging is super fun! and all in Chinese)
buy them EARLY!
5-6 weeks for them to arrive - as my hubby bought them in Jan we didn't mind waiting.

Chinese Long Beans on Sunny Side
Radishes in the shade.

Yes I would have planted them differently but this was our first time and we did just finished building and putting the trellis in two weeks ago.
I can't wait for it to be complete!
Also can't wait to see all the beans growing up and over it!
Its going to be so pretty!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Free Tomatoes!

42 free all different types mostly Heirloom Tomatoes!

18 planted gently and perfectly in their own water wells on one side of the bean trellis.

The last 24 I will need to go back and dig better water wells around half of them!
As we dug all 42 in one day we were sore and burnt!

However 24 hours after planting and they all look fantastic!
The varieties are a bit of everything, cooking, slicing and cherry/grapes.

My husband saw a post stating that a lady across the valley was giving away a few hundred extra she'd grown and wanted them to go to the people in our Homesteading group.
Even though it was late when we saw the post we asked if they were still available,
a quick yes and off we drove!
Even though we needed to use a flashlight to see, she still took the time to find me some really great and fun types!
Have I mentioned how much I love Homesteading people?
Great people!

My husband had all but given up hope on growing tomatoes this year.
My old post about planting our tomatoes ran into two massive snags.
Snow and freezing temps - TWICE after we planted them!

Here's a larger photo showing off this section of the garden.
Soon I need to do a video tour of our Urban Homestead and map it.
Two maps would be best - current and future plans.
Adding mapping and videoing to my to do list!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Homesteading, What, Why & How

Homesteading, Urban Homesteading & Smallholding

What is it exactly?

What started out a various land programs across the globe changed into a terminology of a group of people who share similar passions.

I couldn't find ONE photo that encompassed everything to me that Homesteading means.
My kitchen garden is as close as it gets!
The cinder blocks we got from a neighbor.
We bought in a load of composted dirt for the garden bed.
It shows companion planting - my dill and garlic.
Also shows that we are using what would have been wasted driveway space by creating a garden bed on top of it.
In the background is our new brick wall - the 570 free bricks we got last week.

How do you know that you are a Homesteader?
My journey into Homesteading isn't where you would think it might start,
mine started almost 13 years ago in the middle of a Walmart aisle.
My daughter was only a few months old and we were going camping with family and friends.
I'd gone to the store to get a few needed baby supplies along with bug repellent and sun screen.

Standing in the aisle starring at all the really strong sprays and chemicals that would "protect" my child. I couldn't get past watching my daughter rub her eyes, thinking how anything I put on her face or hands would end up in her eyes and mouth.
I couldn't do it.
Walking away empty handed was both freeing and terrifying!
I'd made a choice but now what?!
I still wanted something to keep mosquitoes from eating my baby!
Thankfully I found a simple mix of Clove Oil and water.
As my children grew I found more oils to add in.

Normal Homesteading mixes gardening & raising animals.
Each is area specific.
Many are like I am - chemical free.
No poisons, no pesticides, no antibiotics.
Homesteaders generally build rather than buy.
Free, Sale, Deal, Barter and Trade are happy key words.
Sewing, creating, crafting, cooking, preserving, wood working are fun things to do or learn.

Some Homesteaders focus on one area and everything revolves around it.
If they were pig farmers, they might raise crops, spaces and other animals that all go well with pigs.
Others (like me) branch out.
Homesteading you might start out simply trying to freeze and can a few things from your garden, next your making laundry soap and are looking into building a beehive, aquaponics, greenhouse or duck pond and you have no idea when that slippery slope started.
You dry herbs, milk goats and have fruit trees and look at every fence like a possibility of a new place to add grapes or berries of some sort.
Many Homesteaders go "green" or "off grid",
saving money and removing a dependency.
Saving seeds for the next year.

Homesteading no longer means you NEED to have a massive area of land.
Our small space has two small gardens on the driveway, three fruit trees, 5 grapes, 5 raspberries, 4 blackberries, 48 tomato plants, watermelons, zucchini, peas, beans, garlic, spinach, lettuce, carrots, onions, dill and mint.
Not to mention the rabbits & chickens and the large compost pile they help create.
We are also getting ready to add in a small duck pond, beehive and greenhouse.

The best part of joining the Homesteading movement toward self sufficiency is it doesn't matter if you're a young mom in grocery store taking her first step, or if you have 20 acres and all the farm animals, garden & eco friendly devices on the planet both are Homesteaders.
So far I've found the Homesteading world to be filled with amazing people!
Sharing people - knowledge, plants, & know how.

Did I cover everything?
Not even close!
Homesteading is so big and encompassing it can seem daunting but the best part is everyone starts the same way - one small step, one small choice and the rest is history!