welcome to our little slice of paradise

We bought the most stunningly amazing acerage with five old logging cabins and the most gorgeous land we ever could have imagined. Follow us on our journey of cabin rehab and turning an organic hay farm into a sustainable oasis of fruit, veggies, berries, nuts, and culinary and medicinal herbs.

 

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building a free chicken coop and goats again, part one

With the craziness of falling nesting boxes when the tree fell on the coop (that still need to be fixed) and a couple little naughties getting confused about where to lay so laying outside, coupled with too many roosters (3), we’re building another coop. This project is 100% free. And who wouldn’t want a free chicken coop?

(That’s 3 duck and 12 chicken eggs, discovered under an overturned wheelbarrow on the burn pile — Stella the duck started it and others soon followed.)

And I must rephrase. I decided to build a small garden coop out of a trailer that was on the property when we bought it, but the husb abruptly took over and made it his project. Apparently my ideas were structurally sub-par. We started with the idea and this past weekend the project began.

The roof is framed in with peeler cores that we had, back panel/front door was swapped out by an old piece of plywood we had on hand.

He added the most awesome nesting box! My girls like to share, two to three to a box, so this is perfect! 12″ high and 18″ wide. Plus it’ll be a nice drinking spot on top — that’s where I will hang the waterer so it doesn’t get funky with straw and pine shavings. Again, all scrap wood, some of which was pulled from pallets. See the truck overflowing with pallets and barn metal in the background? That whole collection was traded for duck and chicken eggs, and future veggies from a non-farming neighbor.

I squealed with delight when he showed me the egg door that goes right to the nesting box!!! Again, pallet wood. Still totally free.

I love that the handle is made from the actual trailer — there were 2 on each side for tying things up.

The front door also has one of those cool handles and again, 100% free/recycled/upcycled wood. Look at the peep holes! Omgosh, so cute! I think there needs to be a Rustic Garden Cottage Coop sign over the door.

The side is so cute too. I love this little coop in progress! If I recall, it’s 30sf so more than perfect for 3 girls and a boy. Although my chickens are only inside to sleep and free-range the rest of the time, I still like to give them lots of extra space. This coop is going to live in a portion of the garden, behind a big Russian Olive for shade. I’ll probably plant a couple other big things over there as well (we need mulberries!). They, like the others, will have a compost area in their run to graze upon as well (this really cuts food costs and doesn’t effect egg laying negatively at all — my 30 layers we’re giving me over 12 dozen eggs a week in the dead of winter without supplemental heat or light). These ladies and gent are going to prepare next spring’s garden area — chickens and ducks are such amazing gardeners: weeding, aerating the soil, fertilizing it as they go, eating any potential invasive pests, excetera. Also, because the husb is a Virgo and said the floor needs to be replaced in two or three years, he made it so we can just unscrew the corners, pull the whole house off the top out of the metal frame, replace the floor and put everything back easy as pie. He’s so brilliant! I never would have thought of such a thing.

All that’s left is the roof, a roost bar, a ramp, a couple of coats of paint (I may splurge and buy a gallon of mis-mixed paint for cheap, otherwise we have a light sky blue and a deep purple, also cheap color faux pas paint we got last year). I think we also have a bunch of the nursery coop (former duck house) recycled green paint (above) as we got 5 gallons of it. Part of me wants to just seal it and leave it as is because I think it’s awesome in its rustic wood beauty.

That mountain of pallets and barn metal in the truck? Obviously that wasn’t for this little coop but rather… (drum roll)… a goat house! Yes, looks like we will be getting goats after all which means I need to get my ass in gear and start painting, book making, selling and advertising my healing services again in order to feed them.

Meet Julia (who I will rename Brida), the 3/4 Toggenburg, 1/4 Nubian baby. She’s 3 days old in this photo.

I was so excited meeting them the other day that I couldn’t get a good picture for the life of me. I was bouncing around like a baby goat myself so all of them are fuzzy. This is Mama Fauna who will also be coming to our farm. Fauna is 4 years old so can have another batch of babies or two before Brida can start having her own. She’s 1/2 Toggenburg 1/2 Nubian. In the meantime, we have milk for drinking, baking, yogurt, butter, and selling. Oh, and maybe soap making if I can make goat milk soap without lye.

Papa Hercules will not be coming to live with us but will breed any future babies Fauna has. He’s full Toggenburg and a soulful and beautiful guy. I fell in love with him and would be honored to bring up another round of his babies. Or at least another girl. I’m not ready for boy goats yet.

Hopefully all of this works out, otherwise we will be getting two baby girls, likely pure Nigerian Dwarfs when we can find some that aren’t disbudded. I won’t keep goats without horns (or cats without claws).

Stay tuned for completed Chicken Coop photos at its new location… and future goat house construction. (The above baby is half Buff Orpington, half Wesummer — I was so excited because orpingtons are one of my favorite breeds for friendliness but I think it’s a boy which means we’ll sell or eat him.) Always have to sneak in a chick pic, don’t I?

assessing the damage, a miracle, and baby chicks

As usual, I started this post over a week ago so some is old news. Updates will be in bold again. It all probably reads like someone with multiple personalities conversing amongst themselves.

As snow and ice begins to melt, more and more storm damage is coming to light. Heartbreaking and devistating are both huge under statements. The landscape has been forever changed, at least for our lifetimes. It’s overwhelming and hurts my heart to see so many damaged and fallen trees (I like a lot of trees more than a lot of humans). We were originally thinking around 50. Now it’s appearing to be at least 100. We used to live in a beautiful, private oasis. Now it feels more field than forest that offers significantly less privacy, though still beautiful. Before we could hear but not see the highway from the courtyard near the cabins. Now we can see passing cars up the driveway (and they can possibly see us). Guess that’ll make outdoor bathing a little more interesting this summer if they can, eh? I’ll be replanting that area first and think it’ll only take five or six trees once grown in, and maybe a couple of shrubs.

Although 95% of the greenhouse contents had been lost, a couple things survived — 7 cauliflower seedlings. And the greenhouse damages are infinitely less severe than I thought so I can fix it without having to ask anyone for help. A bit of UV plastic and some greenhouse tape and it’ll be good to go, needing only a new door but we’ll get to it when we do. In the meantime there is a UV plastic flap door.

Update: I’ve been planting like a crazy lady, both in the greenhouse and in the garden. Let’s see if I can remember it all: 64 heirloom tomatoes, 36 strawberries, 48 broccoli and cauliflower each of several varieties, more radishes, carrots and peas (those three love being planted together and thrive as companions), cabbage, poppies, calendula, lavender, dill, coriander, mint, thyme, sage, turnips, beets, onions, green onions… There’s more but I don’t have my garden journal with me and I’ve not had enough coffee yet.

The garden holds a great deal of death. A dozen dead four year old blueberry bushes. A dozen dead raspberries. Our two potted/need to be planted blackberries will likely return, plus all of our delicious wild blackberries. It looks like our garlic is safe and most of the radishes remain. I would rather have blueberry and raspberry bushes than radishes, but someday we can buy more berry bushes. Plus we have 8 more to plant so our annual blueberry cravings will be satiated in a couple of years. There’s frog life in the garden too, and frogs are a symbol of luck and abundance. I’ll tale that!

Update: Raspberries are resilient plants. This one above is our golden raspberry which sprouted these leaves in under a week. Now most of the others are sprouting. It looks like we only lost two heirloom raspberry plants but I’m still hopeful. I’ve grown huge raspberry bushes out of tiny little pieces of raspberry roots so I’ll work my magic and see what happens. (Tip: if you have raspberry loving pest, plant some onions and calendula around them.)

So far only four orchard trees are lost: a wine crisp apple (ouch!), our only apricot (also ouch!), a peach and a nectarine. We’ll have to watch the rest and see. Fruit trees can only tolerate only so much ice and frost before the decide to just give up. I’m trying not to be the same. I’m trying to force on my fighting gloves and kick ass on everything. At least the free stuff to fix, like replanting seeds that we already have.

Update: The wine crisp may be saved. It was laying flat on the ground due to other things falling on it but I replanted it. Plums and cherries are starting to blossom.

The the chicken house was so new I never even finished painting it. It has trees on it. The roof is smashed. The sheathing under the roofing is smashed. Support beams are smashed. Once it rains, it may leak and that’s no place to keep chickens. But fixing it can’t happen until we fix the cabin first. I would hate to rehome all of my girls to have to start over again later so I’m not even going to think about that. It’s not raining right now so that’s good. I would put that big tarp over the roof instead of their enclosure (that I was planning on covering in suntuf next month) but it’s now riddled in holes. Clearly my husband is an amazing builder though. The force of the trees and branches falling on the coop jarred the nesting boxes off the walls. But the whole building remained. He’s awesome! But now, the girls are so traumatized today aren’t laying eggs in the coop. I went from an average of 18 to 23 eggs a day all winter and now I’m getting 3 or 4. Spending $50-60 a week to feed chickens to only get three or four eggs a day is not my cuppa tea either, haha.

The chicken house damage hasn’t effected the mama hens Juniper and Olga. Both hatched 5 babies and all are thriving.

Update: A massive oak tree had fallen on part of the chicken Nursery yard fence and apparently that gave any access to the neighbor cat. It ate one of the babies. 😦 That’s fixed now. Out of 10 babies there were only two black ones, fathered by my barnevelder that I rehomed and that cute little black and white one in the front was one of them. That’s the one that got eaten. Farm life.

Update: We also have 7 eggs in the incubator and 100% fertility rate. I candled them all again last night and five were moving so we will have at least five more babies soon. And the Coastal Farm store has a few kinds of day old baby chicks I’m also going to add into the mix. I’ve been selling lots of babies and pullets to keep my flock rotated so am rewarding myself with some blue egg laying Ameraucanas. This baby above is the only one I’m keeping, except for the roosters to put in the freezer, out of the first two batches. She, if she’s a girl, is half Partridge Cochin, half Welsummer. Feathered feet! I call her Hild.

Easiest part of everything is all the fencing. It’s fairly cheap and easy to run. The duck area, the chicken area, the garden area, all need fencing replaced. We should be able to get that done in the next couple of months. And hopefully I can just do it myself without having to harass the husb who already works six days a week and has a million other things on his plate.

Paul has been kicking ass on chainsaw work (thankfully we had 2 offers to borrow one as we don’t currently own one). We’re going to have many years of firewood. Just need to build a wood storage shelter.

The cabin is the biggy, but also the biggest question mark as we haven’t totally gotten to assess damages yet. This is the cabin we took down to studs and have been working on rebuilding the past year-and-a-half. The cabin we were going to be moving into in about two weeks. The cabin that was finally soon to be insured because everything was redone so amazingly well. It could be infinitely worse. In fact, it’s kind of miraculous that it’s not. So on that note, we are so lucky.

The brand new metal roof has damages. The back covered deck is kindling. The front porch awning was ripped off on one side and is being propped up by a peeler core (log). I’m not sure if it needs to be replaced or if we can salvage it. Redoing it eventually was on the To Do List anyway, along with gutters and well filtration. The already problematic septic system has been completely jacked by a tree going roots-up. We hoped we could just have it pumped. Now we have to replace the whole thing. That in itself is bare minimum of $8,000 we dont have but I’ll figure it out. I’ve been looking for cheap leftover building materials on Craigslist that they would like hauled off. Then we can have an awesomely mismatched hodgepodge of recycled material goodness to live in. With the wood stove! That will be so amazing, warmth.

Update: Holy crap! As it turns out, the book of the weight of the oak tree that fell on the cabin is resting on the now shattered deck and roof. A branch is propping it up both from the ground and the deck rubble. If you look closely in the photo above you will see that the oak isn’t even actually touching the roof. A couple of branches are and it appears that they did not pierce through. It looks like it might not even be dented. That means we don’t have to replace any roof panels, only a couple of pieces of flashing. Less than fifty bucks, I’m guessing but a crap load of work. Trees are magical and wise. I asked them to please not fall and if they had to to do as little damage as possible. If it fell even a few inches towards the north, the entire roof structure could have been crushed.

I haven’t even gone to the creek again yet via the multiple trails after the first attempt. I’m kind of terrified to do so. The loss in itself is painful to me, as dramatic as that sounds. But there are also about 10,000 widow-makers, some as long as 10 or 12+ feet. It’s dangerous now, our once safe and beautiful forest. Is no longer a place of solitude or peace but a war zone where shit can fall on your head at any given second. We’ll find a way to fix it all, replant a couple of hundred trees and bring new/different life back to the forest. Same spot, before and after, on my favorite path:

chickens and gardens. wait. nevermind.

This is the blog post I started a day or two before our storm. Updates are in bold.

Though it’s still winter, our gardens and crops are already well underway. The recent frosts have set things back a tiny bit, but I’m confident that I’ll catch back up with my original plans and intentions within the next week or so.

garlic, heirloom garlic, homestead, garlic farm

About a dozen chickens and all three ducks had a recent garden party and unmulched all of the garlic I so carefully mulched in November. I had planned to cover it again but it’s doing so well. I decided that I’ll only do it if we have more freezing spells (garlic likes a little freezing, fyi). We’ve never had garlic this big at this time of year. So lush!

Sheep sorrel

I was pretty upset with the feathered ones at first but now we have an abundance of sheep sorrel growing where the mulch was which is an awesome addition to salads and stirfrys. Their leaves are a great source of vitamins C and E, and lots of cartenoids and beta-carotene in the seeds (seeds come way later in spring and summer). New studies show that it also is a great cancer fighter. Definitely a good “weed” to welcome to your garden. (This photo is from last year. It’s still quite tiny right now.)

Radishes sprouting in the garden

I recently planted 325 radishes and a crap load of carrots which are now coming up (two of which are too close but they’ll work it out). I need to put some more carrots in between and add some peas. The three are a wonderful companion plant trilogy or permaculture guild. I also have started an abundance of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage in the greenhouse and plan to start tomatoes in there today or tomorrow — I’ll have to check my calendar as I’m doing things on a 100% biodynamic agriculture schedule. Oh yeah, and planted more herbs and a crapload of greens. And a million other things. If you’re not planting yet, you’re missing out! I have probably 300 starts going in the greenhouse already. UPDATE: The weight of the snow imploded most of the greenhouse and surely all starts are dead due to freezing. Guess I get to start over and kick some butt once this snow finally melts. Hopefully everything in the garden is safe but seeing as how it’s been sitting under a foot or more of snow for over a week, I kind of think not. As long as our garlic survives, I will be happy. I’m most concerned about our Orchard since the trees are still so young. That was over a $3,000 investment last year. But I’m going to be positive and say all will survive because being hopeful is good.

Organic kale, heirloom, heirloom kale, in my garden

I want to add another 100 kale or so in the garden (this is from last month’s frost). I could eat kale every single day so I will just plant a bunch (maybe not really a hundred, but a lot) and reseed every month or so along with peas and radishes. And spinach. You can never have too many greens or fresh veggies.

On another note, chickens. This one you see here, right above? Her name is Myrtle. She’s on my shit list. She’s a baby killer. She went broody just over a month ago and I gave her some eggs to sit on. I candled them after a week and all were viable but one. I candled them just over 2 weeks and I could see all of them moving, outlines of little feet and all kinds of cute and magical goodness. We were about to have 9 babies! Then, that night, she pushed the four brown eggs out from under her and pecked a hole in one of them. All four died. The very next night (which happened to be 20° f) she decided to leave the brooder and go to the nesting box for the whole night, leaving all of my second generation Olive Egger babies to die. I removed all the eggs and she continued to sit on fake eggs. I caved a couple of days later and gave her nine more eggs. She sat wonderfully for a week and then decided to move and sit elsewhere again. What the hell!? She is a defective chicken and I think she killed babies again. I candles last night and 1 looks alive, 4 look possible and the rest look dead. Long story short, she is either going to be rehomed or… soup. That would be a dozen dead chicks due to her malfunctioning brain. Not cool! I had 10 of the chicks pre-sold. UPDATE: unless she malfunctions again, there are at least two or possibly three chicks due to hatch on Thursday. In 2 days! That’s far less than nine but much better than zero.

Thankfully I caved and bought an incubator, starting nine more eggs the same day as Myrtle. I candled those last night also and 6 are 100% viable and the other three are too dark to tell but look good. Sometimes it’s really hard to candle dark brown or green eggs. These babies are 2 Golden Cuckoo Marans and Welsummer mix, a Black Copper Marans and Welsummer, 5 Olive Eggers and Welsummer or Barnevelder, a blue Easter Egger under Welsummer and a total mystery just for fun. Mom could be a Partridge Laced Cochin, Buff Orpington or something else entirely, and dad could be a Welsummer or Barnevelder or Swedish Flower Hen. Or Swedish Flower Cock as we call him. UPDATE: With the power outage, all babies died. It hurts my heart.

Speaking of roosters, remember my Swedish Flower Hen and Lavender Ameraucana that I was so excited we’re both girls? I lied. Mr. Jasper Florington (previously named Flora) is a boy. Lumin, the Lavender Ameraucana may be a boy now too. She has a boy tail and a super red comb for her age of Ameraucana but despite everyone telling me she’s a boy, I’m not fully sold. I only have one other blue egg-layer and twice now I’ve had two blue eggs in a day. I’ve never seen her anywhere near the nesting box though. And she did mount someone yesterday, but one of my Rhode Island Red girls used to do that too. She’s never crowed. I just got rid of a sweet, sweet rooster because I didn’t need three and now I may have three again. Soon to have probably 10 with the babies, haha. Two are sold, but the rest will become my chicken processing practice. We need another freezer.

Oh yeah, in addition to the 18 eggs in the incubator and under Myrtle, I have another Broody sitting on 7. That was not my plan but you know how things go sometimes. I have no clue what Olga the Black Copper Marans is sitting on other than some crazy mixes with Olive Egger, Easter Egger, Barnevelder, Welsummer and I think Rhode Island Red and Barred Rock mamas. Basically she hijacked those eggs from the nesting box one day and I just let her go with it. Barnyard mixes can be so fun! And like I said, I have 10 chickens pre-sold. 2 boys and 8 to 9 girls. I’ll keep a couple girls, sell the others, and eat or sell the roosters. I have 100% of the supplies necessary for chicken processing now so need to make that next step. UPDATE: somehow her 7 egg clutch turned to 17. She doesn’t get up much so I didn’t notice in time. I think this means we will start getting hatchlings from her on Monday and then a couple of day for about a week after that? I have no clue but… yeah. That’s a lot! I will candle them again tonight but there are at least two that I think are not viable.

Anyone else need some baby chicks or started pullets or cockerels? So far no one wants day old babies but I have no problem keeping them to 4 or 8 weeks and selling them for a bit more money. The above picture is my first batch of 28 I got last April, 17 of which were sold and 1 died at a couple of days old.

My next breeding endeavors are going to be much more controlled with Easter Eggers, second generation Olive Eggers, pure Welsummers and pure Swedish Flower Hens, with a few mixes thrown in because tinkering can be fun. I really want a Swedish Flower Hen and Buff Orpington cross and a Partridge Cochin and Welsummer Cross. I also thought about getting a few Lavender Orpington girls and crossing them with my Lavender Ameraucana for a pale blue egg laying lavender bird… if the feather color would breed true. I know Lavender Orpingtons breed true but beyond that, I know nothing. I need a couple more chicken coops! Material donations accepted, or I’ll trade for eggs and future babies. ♡ Update: probably not going to be able to build a second coop this year. But next year for sure! After the storm, the ducks moved in with the chickens and really seem to be enjoying themselves. As soon as I can get some materials together I’m going to build a little stall for them in there and clean out their old house to make it a chick nursery. With all the babies coming I should do it now but there are only eight million things on the list.

I’m going to do a full post on everything here in the coming days or weeks. All of the good, bad and ugly. The amount of trees that have fallen is absolutely devastating. It seriously looks like someone took a bulldozer through our property. But good things can be birthed of bad things sometimes. The second strip of snow beyond the trees in the above photo is the property across the creek. We’ve never been able to see it and they’ve never been able to see us. That is a tiny glimpse at how many trees we’ve lost.

Oh, and here is Jasper Florington:

snowmageddon. the apocalypse. chaos.

It’s kind of stupid to use the last little bit of phone juice to do a blog post but because we will likely be unreachable for days or potentially even weeks, I wanted to do a quick update.

We are under two feet of snow and counting. There is no power. There is no heat. There is no water. Very soon to be no phone. The roads are closed. Power and internet lines are down. Trees are falling left and right. Branches on the chicken coop, a huge oak fell on our cabin… all kinds of horrible crap. It’s not fun. It’s devastating, in fact. But we are sucking it up and getting shit done. We’re safe and alive, albeit cold, but that’s an easy fix next door.

We set up our camp stove on our neighbor’s covered porch. We are all feasting on hard boiled eggs. We are about to start a stew of Random beef parts that we could find in the freezer and we are putting it on the neighbors wood stove. It will be a dual Family Feast. Soon we will add carrots, onions, potatoes, garlic and a lot of goodness. They are sharing their heat and we are sharing our food. They have a lot of food to share too so no one will starve. We could last a month, the 5 of us. We will probably have to sleep in their cabin because our main house is 40 degrees.

It just started a blog post yesterday about the excitement of my first incubator hatch but the babies have died. No power means death. Absolutely heartbreaking.

If I can charge my phone on the neighbors generator, I will keep up little updates here. All of our roads are closed so we aren’t going anywhere. Cross your fingers things don’t get worse. Almost two feet of snow and no end in sight. It’s snowing like a mother clucker out there! The photo below is from last night and the snow never stopped.

Another scary thing is that there have been numerous massive trees of falling in the creek. It’s starting to overflow. It could flood our entire lower field and the neighbor’s back acreage.

goats. opinions accepted.

Sooo… goats may happen here. I’m not entirely sure about all of the particulars yet but we have a few potential scenarios and I would love some opinions. But only if you have goats, or have had goats. Blind opinions based on fantasy don’t count. I’ve got plenty enough of those on my own.

Toggemburg goat
Photo credit: CultureCheeseMag.com

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Long story short, I just traded $120 worth of chickens for a goat credit from a lady farmer friend of mine who has a sheep and goat farm down the street. Hers are primarily Toggenburg and Nigerian Dwarf crosses. Or Dwarf Toggenburg? Both being milk breeds, they should be awesome. The photo above is a Toggenburg. The photo below are Nigerian Dwarfs.

Nigerian Dwarf babies and mama
Photo credit: Weed ‘Em and Reap

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These are the potential scenarios we are looking at:

1. Getting a 1 year old boy and impending doeling from my aforementioned friend. She has two pregnant mamas due in the first couple of weeks of March. The good part is they would have a different parentage and we could breed them later. The bad part is they would need to be kept separated 24/7 because a pregnant teen goat can mean a dead teen goat. He could be put on a post moved around on the property to graze and laze and forage happily. We don’t have our entire 7 acres fenced. I’m not sure how I feel about keeping an animal tied up though. I mean I know a lot of people who do that and with really long leads but is that mean? Chime in with opinions here. But again, only if you’ve had goats. And for argument’s sake, he frequently jumps over 6 foot fences and goes off on little boy goat adventures, the boy she thinks we should have.

2. A second option would be to buy one of her doelings, presuming she ends up with at least a couple, and purchasing a pure Nigerian Dwarf doeling elsewhere at the same time. The beauty of us purchasing from my friend is that she literally lives less than three miles from us and we could pick anything up anytime so she could definitely work with us. We don’t even have a house built yet. I’m trying to see what I can do without putting yet another building project on Paul’s list since he already works at least 6 days a week. Maybe I will buy a shed. That’s another question mark. But I think I could build something with 8 foot peeler cores, four by fours, plywood and pallet wood that we mostly already have.

3. This is a potential fantasy scenario presented to me by farmer friend. She said it’s possible, depending upon this kidding season, that I could care for a mama goat and two babies. And by care for, I think that means she would want mama goat back and I would be totally cool with that. I just want goats.

So basically I don’t know what we’re doing but I want to figure it out. Goat milk would be awesome for feta and other goat cheeses, yogurt and butter, plus an emergency milk source for my coffee when the cartons of organic whole cow’s milk run dry. Or who knows? Maybe I will love goat milk coffee? It would be awesome not to have to buy milk. (Though this leads to the conversation about my deep desire for a miniature Scottish Highland cow as well, shhh.) Yeah, I really need to start working more and creating/selling art again! Animals aren’t cheap but oh my gosh, they make me so happy! And they feed us. ♡ Best of both worlds.

I actually did start one painting but I haven’t finished it yet. Flower Farmer. I worked on her some after this, but not much. 6×12 and soon for sale.

ducks, ducklings, and a waterfowl oasis

Last year we we so excited (and a tad nervous) to get our three ducks but they have been the most amazing and fun (absolutely hysterical) addition to our ever-growing farm and homestead. Our first three are a Saxony named Stella (below), a Black Swedish named Frida (above) and a Chocolate Runner.

None of these crazy quackers have laid a single egg yet, but we love them none the less. They’re just about to hit 7 months old. Tip: don’t buy ducklings in June because it will be too dark by the time they’re ready to start laying.

We (Paul) built them the most precious house with a shady veranda… and apparently I never got a completed/painted photo of it so I’ll work on that once the torrential rains die down for a minute.

This year we decided to add three more ducklings which quickly morphed into five. In about a month an a half, we’ll have a Cayuga, a White Layer (because I’ve wanted a “Jemima Puddleduck” since I was little), a Khaki Campbell and two Welsh Harlequins (a boy and a girl).

Their current house will become the chick and mama hen(s) nursery and the duckies’ new house is in the works — we just have to add a couple of laying boxes on the back, a little footer at the base of the front door opening so teeny littles don’t escape and a roost bar or two. It’ll be fantastic, and totally separate from the other “big chickens”.

Because there isn’t a huge amount of shade in their new homeland, we got a bunch of fast growing shade trees to plant around the area to create a duck (and potential future goose) waterfowl oasis.

I planned on digging a big pond for them and to serve as irrigation for garden watering but upon sharing my idea with the neighbor, I found out that due to the proximity of our property to the creek, we’re not allowed to create any permanent water feature. I looked it up and they were right! Good thing I found that out before rather than after. Instead, we are buying a huge stock tank and burying it, putting river rock around the edges. It’ll definitely beat their little kiddy pool but we’ll probably leave that for them as well.

They’ll still be allowed to free range with their chicken siblings, but these duckies will have such a lovely new home, especially as the trees start growing in. I’m still working on planting them.

Stay tuned for baby duckling photos in mid-February!

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I see I wrote and never posted a blog post again. And now it’s mid-February. And of course we just got a call from the breeder that our Welsh Harlequin ducklings are not available for our hatch date and our preferred types won’t be available in unison until June. What a bummer!

But in good news we have duck eggs!! They started laying Sunday before last, starting with a pretty green egg, presumably from Frida, and laying one single egg every single day since. It’s the weirdest thing. All the new ones have been white so it seems like maybe Frida started and now Brunhild and Stella are taking turns? Or she just wanted to practice with a green egg and is now laying white? I have no idea. But we get one duck egg a day and it’s pretty awesome. Paul prefers duck eggs to chicken eggs so I have deemed them all his but will sell a half-dozen here and there to anyone interested.

the farmer, the grave digger, and plans of sustainability

We learned *a lot* about our land and different climate this past first summer. I didn’t realize garden zone 9 and garden zone 8b were as different as they are. When we first moved here we made a One-Year Plan… which was pretty lofty and, in retrospect, extremely comical. Now we have a Five-Year Plan based upon realistic goals and desired outcomes.

We never wanted to be “just a farm” but a homestead. Finally, we are well on our way to that level of self-sufficientcy. In the first year, we have completely stopped buying garlic, berries, a lot of fruit, jam, fruit butter, syrup, eggs, chicken meat, peas and most herbs (my cilantro didn’t grow so we bought some once). These are all things we now produce ourselves on our land and every little bit helps. We’ve hugely cut down on buying summer and winter squash, greens, onions, apples and other fruit, pumpkin and sunflower seeds which we consume *a lot* of, potatoes, beans. Plus I make our own crackers, cookies and baked goods, much of our bread and “snacks” like gluten free apple cinnamon corn bread:

There are a few things we’ll never produce ourselves but this means tiny, infrequent shopping trips (some we could grow, we just don’t really want to… at least not yet):

Things have shifted a bit though. We were both going to be farmers once we got here. But oddly, that was never the original plan but only developed once we were here. I was just going to be the farmer and Paul was going to do whatever he wanted to do (music, bow making and woodworking, car stuff…). But as universe would have it, we’re back to the original plan of me being the sole lady farmer and him doing something else. In this case, that something else is a grave digger. We needed money for the aforementioned coffee, chocolate and dish soap so he stepped up. And I’ve got the animal tending, homestead garden and farm growing, meal planning and cooking, etc. When I need help with heavy lifting, he’s on it, and all the remodeling and rebuilding is his too (though I help with taping and mudding, do the painting and design things like the kitchen). We’re an awesome team.

As far as crop selling, we’re starting small and sticking to selling herloom garlic and herbs, heirloom tomatoes and excess fruit to start, plus having a small seasonal farm stand with excess veggies, fruit, berries, herbs, garlic, eggs and such. We have a prospective buyer for our fresh culinary herbs and garlic already too, which kicks much ass, as well as a small handful of weekly egg customers in the works. (Soon we’ll have enough egg customers to coverall all chicken and duck feeding, bedding and supplimental costs with enough left over to go on a hot date each month. Heck yeah!)

Within the next five years, the plan is to never have to buy any of these things again:

Yup, that means we’re getting goats. And sheep, and meat rabbits. Plus I’ll raise 3 to 5 turkeys a year to put on the table. We’ll eat our “extra” chickens (boys and mean girls) and do a batch or two of meat birds per year. But this is all over time. This year probably will only include meat and extra chickens, and two goats. Five more ducks come in February (hatching on my birthday — imagine all the impending Pisces goodness around here!!) It’ll be a year-and-a-half before we have goat milk because “we” (which in this case actually means I) want babies. Two Nigerian Dwarf doelings to be precise. They are the best for milk, butter and cheese. Not all goat’s milk is good for drinking. These girls will taste more like cow milk than anything else. No thank you on super gamey goat milk. Been there, done that. Though really a mama already in milk and tw babies would be ideal.

Maybe in 2020 we’ll add a couple of sheep (the fella above was Gabe from our friend’s farm down the street — we loved and ate him) and some meat rabbits, then in 2021, honey bees and a miniature cow (see how I snuck that one in?). Pacing ourselves is good. Lamb is good too.

It’s amazing how much things have changed in only one year (plus 4 months) on the farm. Our love for this place and gratitude overflow more and more with every passing day. I’m so glad we spent the bulk of the first year focussing on our orchard because we won’t have as long to wait for apples, pears, plums, peaches, nectarines, cherries, persimmons, apricot, yuzu citrus, almonds, and walnuts. We also planted 18 blueberries, 3 blackberries (not as if we didn’t have enough already), 8 red raspberries and a golden raspberry. This year we’ll be adding a couple of figs, elderberries, mulberries and if we’re super lucky, a couple of Meyer’s lemons. Next year: cranberries and currants gallore!

Another part of our dream/vision is making this into a small off-grid farm community. Building a tiny house for another family or couple to live in, adding a loft dwelling above the future workshop for one of our manfriends to make his own. Sharing of the work and bounty and weekend feasts. We have that with our neighbors already, our next door family, and are thrilled to be able to expand that love one of these years.

We’ll also be potentially offering retreats and workshops for natural building (cob, earth bag, etc.), permaculture and vermiculture, homesteading, chicken and duck and goat keeping, bow making and archery, art, music and shamanic retreats, wild edible and foraging classes, etc. It would be fantastic if that could fund our solar. Let me rephrase: It *will* be fantastic when we’ve earned enough to fund our solar endeavors. How long could it possibly take to save up $30k? 😘

our first chicks hatched on the farm

Who knew that a five month old hen would go broody? I certainly didn’t… but it happened, and whilst our two roosters were too young to facilitate their roosterly duties. So what’s a farm girl gonna do? Buy fertile hatching eggs, of course!

That was about 10 weeks ago. She’d been broody for a week and I caved because she didn’t look like she was going anywhere. These were from MyPetChicken.com and were from the Chickens for Elitists selection. I ended up getting a Chocolate Orpington, a Blue/Black/Splash Ameraucana, a Lavender Ameraucana and a Swedish Flower Hen.

Mama Ginger sat like such a champ in the little broody house we made her that she didn’t get up. At all. It got scary. She refused to eat or drink unless I hand fed her egg and peas… so of course I did. She pooped right where she sat. It wasn’t lovely.

But three weeks later she got up, ate, pooped a softball, and dustbathed in the sun. I thought “yikes, the babies are supposed to hatch tomorrow, should I take them inside?” I though she was finally done. That’s when I’d noticed that the Swedish Flower egg was pipped and chirping. A baby! Mama was smart and knew what was up, returning a short time later. Phew. I moved her and the eggs to the big brooder with a door, just to be safe.

Little Flora (Swedish Flower Hen) was the first to hatch. I begged and pleaded and hoped for only girls for three weeks. Phew again. She’s a girl.

Lumin (Lavender Ameraucana) was the second to hatch. I went back and forth with her a few times but I’m now positive she’s a girl too. Heck yeah, blue eggs!

The other two eggs didn’t make it. They were probably boys… I feel bad that maybe I killed them with wishes.

Lumin has some pretty magical looking blue eyes.

And Flora has a funky cute head plume and fancy green eyes like her human mum (me).

These girls were fully integrated with the rest of the flock by 5 weeks and it was the easiest chick integration ever. It would have been sooner but Lumin cut her comb a piece of wire fencing and was bleeding so I didn’t want them running around a bunch of carnivorous bitches with bloody wounds… so we waited an extra couple of weeks for her to heal, though two days would have sufficed. (The other reason is that I fell victim to other people’s opinions. Like don’t integrate them until 6 weeks. You would be evil if you integrated them before they were full grown. You know, stuff like that. But then two of my Farmland friends both said they’re already integrated. They’ve been looking at each other for weeks. That makes sense.) The girls immediately took to muddy dust bathing and jumping over the big chickens for treats… like literally jumping on their backs, running up their bodies and pouncing off their heads in front of them to snatch a yummy chunk of hardboiled egg.

In spring I hope to hatch several more, plus add some more Lavender or Blue Ameraucanas and a couple of Cream Legbars. But I really want more now. My basket needs more blue in it! (Pardon the muddy feet prints on the eggs — it’s been raining like crazy and rain means crazy mud. And I don’t wash my eggs until consumption, if at all.)

If anyone has an old incubator laying around that you want to let me borrow for 3 weeks, I have some fertile Welsummer roo x Cochin, x Golden Cuckoo Marans, x mint egg laying Easter Egger, and x pinkish lavender laying Australorp eggs I think would be fun to hatch out, plus a mystery double yolker (Barred Rock, I think — dunno, just want to attempt twins). Those would make a little half feather footed fluff baby, one with super dark and hyper speckled deep chocolate eggs, dark green speckled and maybe mint green speckled? Those would all be awesome. I could force Finn to participate and we can get all science experiment up in here. I keep threatening to try to hatch one in my pocket or bra but my fellas are appalled at the idea.

They’ve obviously never been mothers.

oops, it’s autumn (i mean winter)

Well… it appears that we haven’t done a blog post in roughly five months. Which then suddenly morphed to eight months after starting this. That’s unfortunate as many amazing things transpired in late spring and all through summer, then autumn. And some seriously unamazing as well.

Here’s the nutshell version of things, as we couldn’t possibly share it all, but first, happy autumn!… and happy winter!

Our first batch of 12 chickens are all grown up and laying. This is Raven, our champion layer of mostly massive double yolk eggs (this photo was taken before the run was enlarged to include the chicken compost she’s on).

I know we started with a lot more than that but one died, as you recall, 10 went to the neighbors per a prearranged deal, and I have since sold 5 troublemakers. It was either sell or soup and even though I bought all of the proper knives and accoutrements, I opted for the sell option this time around. Next year soup. Lots and lots of soup.

Our second batch of chickens (7 girls) are about to start laying too, probably right around the time of the ducks within the next three or four weeks. Update: a few of our second girls are now laying. Not a duck egg in sight.

Two of them are Olive Eggers, one is an Easter Egger that I got as a surprise bonus and to our Golden Cuckoo Marans so we have the beginnings of a rainbow egg basket. Just need some blues, darker greens and more chocolatey chocolate. That’ll happen by Spring for sure.

Our third batch of chicks (10 girls and 2 boys) may not start laying until Spring either, unless they want to be winter layers. I think I have two but I’m not positive yet. In retrospect, July born babies aren’t the best idea. They end up being freeloaders a lot longer than spring or late fall babies.

And then we hatched our own chicks, but that’s a different story. We have 33 chickens now. ♡

Ducks are disgusting little beasts as babies, I’m warning you. You need to change their brooder every single day and it’s… yuck. If I were a nicer human, I would have changed it twice a day. I’m not that nice.

Ducks as teens and young ladies (as in outside ducks) are freaking awesome! They will make you laugh and smile and totally crack up several times a day, every day. They are the best farm entertainment I could possibly think of (outside of goats, which will hopefully also happen in Spring). And the most impatient (try to change their pool water without them getting in until you’re done — not going to happen). Three more ducks are getting added to the farm in February.

The garden was kind of a sad story this year. It started awesome in spring, then turned lame with the start of summer.

Thankfully it got mostly awesome again after that.

We had previously decided that all we were going to grow year one was stuff for us to eat on our homestead and get to the market garden growing and farm sales next summer.

Anyone who knows me knows that I can grow the crap out of anything except (bell peppers from seeds — we frequently quarrel) but most of our garden just refused to grow. And what did grow, the deer mostly ate. Except squash. The whole no fence thing? Dumb idea, at least until things are established. We’re buying some fences within the next few weeks to protect our autumn garden.

(Yeah, that actually already happened — we now have about a 3000sf fenced garden area.)

After a couple months of little to nothing going as planned in the garden, we tested our water PH. Things had been growing amazingly when watered by the rain but when we switched to well water via hose, they stopped growing. That was the problem! 8.4 ph, I think it was. Or 8.6? Now that we have that sorted out, everything is growing miraculously well again… just in time for autumn. Except our rainbow fingerling carrots that got off to a poor start.

Fruit has been a totally different story. Plums, pears, blackberries and apples have been so abundant. We even had early blueberries and cherries.

Canning has been awesome this year! My favorite so far was a maple bourbon plum butter. Oh and blackberry pear jam. We also canned spiced apples, chai spiced plum butter, cinnamon anise pears, plain blackberry jam and we’re about to do some pickled apples this week. (That was months ago.) I’ll keep you posted on that one. (Next year I’ll do a post on pickled apples.) I’ll probably also do some apple and pear sauce. (Didn’t happen.)

Cabin one still isn’t done but we literally didn’t touch it until about a week or two ago because we’ve been too busy with animals, orchard planting and other plantings… and everything else. I think the last time we worked in it was November? Maybe December? But the floors are now all done, all of the electrical is done, drywall and insulation is about to start going up in the living room and kitchen and everything will soon be textured and painted like that.

Holy crap, and we have a bathroom sink! With hot water to wash your hands! I can’t find the pic right now but I’ll share soon.

Paul ended up having to get a job and we discovered that he miscounted that we’re 9 pieces short on drywall so the cabin is once again on hold. Working 6 or more days a week it’s just way too much for that sweet man and I can’t do drywall myself. But, I can tape and mud once it’s up!

a chicken hiccup and a veggie harvest

Oh how I love our new baby chicks!!! We received them last Monday and have gotten behind I’m sharing due to working 12 to 16 hour days. We had a little hiccup though. Or heartbreak. Or… a fuster cluck.

One of the chicks arrive injured and sickly. I named her Penguin because she looked and hobbled like a penguin. We bonded hard and fast because she was too weak to eat and I was hand feeding her. By day two, she was doing MUCH better and could actually walk for the first time, and feed herself a bit, though I continued to hand feed her egg yolk and chick starter to keep her strong.

Every hour or two, when I went in, she would perk up, hop into my hand and snuggle in for a nap. She always nuzzled my hand. It was so precious! I was head over heels for her, my soul chicken. The one that would never go to freezer camp or end up in the soup pot. By day four, she stopped eating or drinking entirely, but every half hour or so I would try anyway. Sadly, she died in my hands. I’ll spare you the gory details but although rough, I’m so glad it was quick.

I dug her a little grave in our pet cemetery (in the faerie garden), planted arnica and yarrow over her and marked her spot with pretty rocks, daisies and fir cones. It was sad.

But the good news is that we still have 27 other fluffy little feather balls to adore. None of them are my soul chickens like Penguin was but I adore them times a million. Six are actually for our wonderful neighbors. I’m just fostering them for a few weeks. 

There is nothing cuter than their egg yolk feeding frenzies!

They’re a crazy blur of darting and hopping feathers most of the time, but every once in awhile one will slow down enough to get a not totally fuzzy shot.

In other good news, those few days of nearly 80º days kicked things into high gear. We have lots of big beans, zucchini, yellow squash, herbs, corn, peas, raddishes, etc.

We even nibbled our first baby radish today. It was a bit small because they were planted late, but we really felt like it was a perfect day for a sacrificial radish.