Saturday, May 25, 2013

the hard part of homesteading

Homesteading is not for the faint of heart at any time but days like today are some of the hardest even if necessary.

Today my first rabbit that I have raised from a baby went to the freezer. It was not easy, it never should be, but it hit me harder than I though it would. I had help and we tried to use a pellet gun at first because I know others that have used them with success. It did nothing. We ended up using a .22 handgun and it was quick and easy for the rabbit, hard for us.  I just could not try the broomstick or wringer method, that just seems so much trauma especially if it wasn't successful, which I was very afraid I didn't have the physical strength to do it well and fast.

I will not use a gun for birds anymore (well, except snow and Canada geese) because I have found it doesn't work well and the easiest for birds and me is a quick slit to the throat.  For the rabbits I think it will have to be a .22 or something similar.

I have 3 more rabbits that will be going to the freezer soon and 4 litters in the process of growing. Today I did just this one buck as the first and I think that is enough for this weekend.  I honor his life and he will feed me and my family (including Trollie and the cats). I won't post the pics of all of the rabbits that give their life for our sustenance but I will post this buck's pic. is mother was Berkana, my American chinchilla doe that died after he was weaned and his father is Ronan, my Silver Fox buck.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Homesteading Roller Coasters

I have had some great luck with the 3 litters of kits that have been born in the last 2 months. I was hoping to have 2 more litters born this week.  Sadly so far no kindling from Rowan or Fearn and on top of that, one of Holly's babies (same age as Chubby Butt) was dead when I got home this morning... I have no idea why...was fine this morning is plump and looks healthy. *sigh*

In other news, I got a bit of gardening done tonight. I planted another 2 rows of field peas for the featherheads. The first 3 rows are doing great. I planted 2 rows of sugar daddy peas for me since the ones I planted before didn't do so well.  I also got a row of zucchini planted and a row of spaghetti squash.  I weeded and made the herb garden a bit neater and planted white yarrow, winter thyme, sage, roman chamomile, garlic chives and mammoth dill.  I don't have a lot of luck with herbs from seed so I am crossing my fingers and saying a little prayer!  I give thanks for what is growing so far. Hail the landvaettir!

And, I had the very last of the winter squash for dinner sad, I do love my squash.  I baked it with sage from the garden.
my oregano

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Beauty in addition to bread...

Okay, here is the post that I said I would write after the Living with Intention post.  This is about movement of your body, getting exercise and spending time in nature. As a homesteader, I do get exercise outside, hauling feed bags, moving things around, cleaning coops and rabbit poo, weeding, hoeing, etc.  I don't really like the idea of going to a gym which I can't afford anyway. I honestly wouldn't have the time anyway....not with all the work to be done on the homestead plus still being in school and working a full time job.  So, my exercise is not consistent and it is generally need based...I may be a bit chubby, but I know I eat healthy food and I move my body a good amount more than the average person. (I just happen to like my bread and hate treadmills in a building filled with tons of other folks - although a pool that was accessible would be nice)

I also feel the need to be outdoors.  My philosophy of life and how I live it, in what I want as my career and with my homesteading, is all about living in harmony with the natural world. As an environmentalist, I want my footprint to be light but I also want to enjoy the world around me. I really enjoy hiking and kayaking, fishing and hunting...feeling a part of nature.

As John Muir says:

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.
-- Our National Parks, 1901, page 56.
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.
- The Yosemite (1912), page 256.

I truly believe that to be a part of this world...truly a part of it, we need to live with intention and to walk and see and play with in it... not in concrete buildings and asphalt parks.  There are advantages to cities and I have lived in and loved them at times in my life. Culture and art are also a great part of being human but for me to truly live, I need to be a part of nature, to see the art in a simple stream or bud of a leaf, the connections that make it all possible. I have always know that everything is connected but with my studies, I learn in more detail of how and it is truly amazing.

So, in order to not be all work and no play, I try to find the time to play in nature and just experience.  In the winter, that is hunting and walking trails.  There is something amazing about sitting in a tree stand on a crisp and clear cold winter's morning as the sun rises, listening to the birds wake up and watching the light change from a dim glow to full daylight.  I experience something similar when I take time to fish at sunset at Trap Pond. I rarely catch anything but listening to the inhabitants settling in for the night and the frogs waking up as the light moves to that magickal twilight is just so peaceful.  I try to take time to walk the trails in the parks around me and to kayak on nice days.  I spent a lot of time last year kayaking places like the Pocomoke River in my Viking kayak and exploring the swamps in my sit on top kayak, my favorite places being the local Trap Pond with the Cypress swamps and down in North Carolina, Merchants Millpond with the Cypress and Tupelos draped with Spanish Moss.

So, this Spring, I am hoping to do a lot more and making a concerted effort to spend that time in is too easy for me to sometimes just say that I have too much to do and skip the "play time".  I am hoping to do Delaware's Trail Challenge (a selection of trails around the state) along with other trails in the neighboring area.  Of course, I will be back in my kayak soon, as well, the weather has just been a bit chilly and windy lately.  I will be documenting the trails on land and water at my site on

I truly believe that we need the beauty as well as the bread to live a whole life.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013 much for keeping up to day...SPRING!

I can not believe how long it has been since I have posted! I will do a brief overview of the Spring.

First, my landlord sold the land I live on to someone else who is making the big horse barn into their workshop while the visit family.  So, they are here only occasionally, supposedly. So far it has not been so good for me or the homestead. First I had to take down all the pens I had just built trying to make more secure areas that dry out better for the ducks, in particular and to separate the turkeys (bunch of boys together in the Spring is not a good thing!).  For a little bit the ducks were free ranging but that didn't work so well because I lost quite a few to the road (4 in one day!) and I lost most of my teenage ducks last year to an owl pair. So, most of the winter the ducks have been confined to the shed (that I had made into a coop for the chickens - who have now been kicked out) and back into the pen that stays wet and mucky any time it is only really good for long hot summer days.  The landlord has also forbidden me to put rabbit manure directly on my garden (even in the late winter) because according to him it isn't sanitary...actually even yelled at me and said he didn't know what kind of farm I grew up on but it wasn't happening here). This past weekend he bulldozed down all the berms that have been there since before we moved in but were convenient to help keep the dogs and featherheads within our boundaries...and it all looks terrible....not to mention all the tractor messing around every single day and some right outside by bedroom window! He is about ready to give me a nervous breakdown.

So, not to make a long story even longer...basically it means I am biding my time and trying to find a new homestead for me and my critters and I hope and pray that is will not be a "croft" this time and I will own it.... we will see how that all goes.  So there may be some writing about that into the near future.

In the meantime...we move along with things because the farm doesn't stop due to nuisances!

I am having a lot more success with my rabbits and have a whole separate web page I just started for them.  At the moment I have 3 does with kits and 2 does I am crossing fingers and toes that they kindle soon! They both are acting squirly and I caught one carrying straw fur pulling yet though and today is due date.  My 3 harlequin does are the ones with current babies.  Holly has a litter of three with Telsy, the Rex buck.  Hazel has one baby out of 3 that were born and (s)he is staying on the homestead....affectionately named "Chubby Butt", but officially named Muin, with the papa being Darroch, my Harlequin buck. The harlequin jr. doe, Ivy, with a litter of 4 from a mixed Am. Chin/Silver Fox buck that is not staying. This success has been very welcome and a long time coming!

The two does that are hopefully bred are my full bred Silver Fox, Rowan to Ronan, the SF buck and my new black New Zealand doe who was bred to a red NZ buck before I brought her home.  So...we will see!

Meanwhile I have ducks galore setting on nests and a turkey that I think will be setting soon! I do plan to incubate some duck and turkey eggs but am trying to get some of the coop situation fixed first. I am working on is just taking awhile!

And finally, the garden.... onions are coming up, a few peas for me are coming up and a bunch of field peas for the critters. I have broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes and lettuce going from transplants and spinach and carrots starting to pop up from seeds. I have a few tomatoe plants going inside and some seeds going and hope next week to get some of that outside along with herbs. I have plastic heating ground right now...I hope and pray for a big crop of tomatoes and peppers, along with the various squashes and the lettuce, spinach and greens for human eating and feather head/bunny eating. Along with that is a new sprouting adventure that I will post on soon.

Okay, this is long enough. I will post a pic of Chubby Butt as a reward to anyone who has read this whole thing! Then I will get some more timely posts up as things go...

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Living with Intention...what we eat

The other night I was at a discussion group talking about living with intention and how we treat our bodies.   It has definitely been something I have thought about for quite awhile and totally ties into why I homestead. I think this will be the first part of a series. This one is about the food we eat.

What I eat has been a concern since I was very young.  (That doesn't mean that I was always good about not eating junk).  When I was 18 I stopped eating meat because of the industry and animal rights.... even back then I knew how horrible CAFO's were.  Over the years my thoughts on animal rights have not really changed but have matured. After working in, and burning out of, the animal rescue field I knew where my beliefs were but getting there was not something I was sure how it was going to work out.  My thoughts on animal rights/pets/shelters is a topic for another discussion, lets just say I understand why "no kill shelters" won't work until people's attitudes and sense of responsibility changes and in my darkest days of animal rescue I had/have doubts of it ever happening, faith in humans is hard sometimes when you see what they can do to animals.

Anyway, for me, I realized, that I was not against humans eating is natural.  What I was against was the treatment of those animals that became our food and the blinders that people wear.  Not until the last couple generations have people started to eat meat they did not know where it came from or even what it was.  The concept of going to the grocery store and picking out a package of meat and not wanting or caring to know its source is just plain wrong, in my view.  I dealt with people with blinders a lot in the animal rescue field and I found that the amount of blinders people purposely wear about where their food comes from is unbelievable.  My thoughts were that if I couldn't have the courage and honor to kill it, I couldn't eat it.  The very least is people (kids) should learn where their food comes from. Chicken is not a square in is an animal with a life, though sadly a very short miserable one usually - I live in a very big CAFO chicken farm state. I know people who will not eat meat that actually looks like the animal. I also know people that will not eat meat or even eggs that are from a farm but only if it is packaged at walmart...not because of any safety reasons but because they actually do not want to think about the animal the meat came from. A perfect example of blinders.

My concern was at first and mainly for where meat came from and for that I was a vegetarian, with occasionally eating seafood, for about 20 years.  But then I started to learn about what monoculture farming is doing to the land and realized that it is as much of a concern as CAFO's.  The monoculture farming requires an unbelievable amount of fertilizer and that fertilizer not only taints the food but is one of the major reasons for pollution in our waterways.

So I started homesteading and buying primarily local.  The only meat I put in my body is raised by me, hunted by me or someone I know or is from a local farm.  The vegetables are from my garden or local farms and the CSA I belong to...all organic or very close to it.  All my fruit is from a local orchard except for the bit of avocado, mango, banana and citrus - if I still lived in Florida I would grow all this myself but even though the zones are shifting we aren't there yet.

I have really been concentrating on eating whole foods, meaning "real food", real milk (raw), real butter, nothing boxed or canned.  I have learned to can and I have been doing more and more each year.  This next year I hope to double my garden and start providing even more food for the animals I raise here.

The next part of living with intention is (moving my body)...

Shared on



The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Little Rooster Croft Goals for the Year

Personally, I don't make "New Year's Resolutions", I just do what needs to be done.  However, sometimes it is good to take stock and refocus.  In my personal life it is just a confirmation to move forward with school, career, home organization, spiritual growth and remembering to take time doing things I enjoy like kayaking, hiking and diving.

For the homestead, it means the same but with an effort to move forward, learn and remain positive even when I learn the lessons the hard way.  I do have to step back and remember that I didn't grow up doing this, I don't have a direct mentor to learn from and I don't have much help and I do still have to work full time and attend school.  And most of all, to remember the goals... I do all this because I believe whole heartedly in my goals.  My goals are simple, to live a simple life eating real food, knowing how my food is raised and to step as lightly on Mother Earth as I can.  In order to accomplish this goal, I am learning to raise my own food both vegetable and animal and with it comes many frustrations and heart aches but also comes satisfaction of goals attained and movement forward. I have only been doing this a few years and if I think back to how I started... I really have come a long way.

Sometimes that is hard to remember when things are going wrong and particularly a bunch goes wrong all around the same time like last month.  There are two things that have kept me going recently besides that I love my animals and I really don't want to think about being without them.  One of the things that gave me some encouragement was the outpouring of support when my turkey tom went missing... that meant a lot.  The other was something my father said to me in an email... he said that he was really proud of me with my homesteading and that he really thought it was a great thing I was doing. My father and I have not often seen eye to eye but this simple statement meant a lot to me.

So, my goals for the homestead are simple...move forward. Specifically I want to be sucessful at breeding and raising my birds and rabbits and to expand my garden so I am providing even more of my own food and food for my animals.  I provide about 40% of my own food now, another 40% is local and the rest is mostly things that aren't grown around here like citrus, flour, etc.  I want to be at 60% grown myself by this time next year.  I want to grow more of the animal feed too, I already supplemented quite a bit from my garden and local this fall but I want to be able to do more. 

My biggest challenge is raising the animals. My thought of letting the turkeys, ducks and geese raise their own young last year didn't really work well. None of the turkey eggs came to term although I know they were fertilized and started, I think my 3 hens fighting for the nest and the heat did them in.  The duck and goose eggs were taken by a snake I believe.  The chickens managaed to hatch a couple chicks but the mothers didn't keep track of their babies and they were lost to the weather and/or predators. This year I will be incubating. I have a decent incubator so hope to be successful with that and if I am then I will let my broodies raise some later in the season. 

I have settled on breeds that I will be concentrating on:
Ducks: I already have a couple pairs that were given to me (Daffy and Donald are the Pekins and Ivanhoe and Rowena are the Roens so I will raise a batch of each)
The two breeds I am concentrating on though are the Muscovies and Khaki Campbells.  The Muscovies for meat and the Khaki's to sell the babies and for eggs.  I have my breeding groups with a group of black and white muscovies lead by Lancelot II and Gwenafar and a couple other girls and a group of brown lead by Cynric and Sabrina with the rest of Charlie's brood (Sabrina is the brood's mama).
Daffy and Rowena
Sabrina and a young Cynric

Turkeys: I am concentrating on the Standard Bronze and Buff breeds.  Big Tom is my stud for the Bronzes with Spring and the young girl who doesn't have a name yet.  Beowulf is the stud for the buffs and he has 2 Buff girls and a Royal Palm girl because I didn't want to keep the royal tom, he was a jerk.


Big Tom

For Chickens:
I have Henry and his girls but some of them are getting pretty old, particularly Henrietta (Astralorp), Buffy (Buff Orpington) and Lucy (RIR) and Vivienne and Merlin (Americauna).  So, I have decided to concentrate on the Buff Orpingtons, Astralorps and Americaunas.  I have some babies growing right now and hopefully they will survive to adulthood and I will be breeding them.

Henry and Buffy





Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A start to the new year

December was kind of a yoyo month, some good things, some not so good, the end of the semester finals, holidays, being sick, new landlords, etc.

So I have been trying to get organized, house and homestead cleaned, etc slowly, a bit at a time.  The to do list is overwhelming sometimes and I think stress has been a good part of me getting sick and feeling so tired all the, taking it a little chunk at a time is how I am trying to handle it. Today I got a bit of that chunk done...still lots more to do but it is a start.

I have laundry mostly caught up, fresh sheets on the bed, clothes set for the rest of the week. I have food set for the week for breakfast and lunches at work and dinners at home so I am not tempted to eat out. I made scones this morning so I have 3 more for breakfasts with the blueberry cheese I made. I have the rest of the french bread I made from last night's oyster po boys so I will have that with the salmon cakes I made the other day and the rosemary cheese I made. For dinners I have soup that I am making now, black eyed peas and tomato. The kitchen is mostly cleaned and organized and so are my other rooms.  

On the homestead, I got my last wayward Khaki girl in the pen thanks to some help.  Her partner is in the garden, so within fence but not in the secure pen but he isn't leaving her so hopefully he will be in there soon too.  I got some pins in to secure the other up front pen that the duck boys are in.  

I also got a bit done in the big barn:
1. I got the turkey girls out of the small coop and into the shed with the ducks for the time being.  I also got Beo (my Buff tom Beowulf) into the shed because the boys are starting to fight. Believe it or not it is the beginning of spring for everyone... the girls (turkeys and ducks) are just starting to lay eggs and the boys are starting their turf wars and giving the girls lots of attention! So Beo is with 2 of his 3 girls and I will be moving his 4th in some time this week.  I hope to get the big pen started in the next couple weeks so the ducks and Beo's crew will have more room outside...until then they have enough room in the shed but will have to stay locked up, I can not afford to lose any more of them.  

2. Since the turkeys are out of the small coop, I put the babies in with the polish featherheads.  Hopefully they do okay but it is past time for them to get out of the baby brooder. 
3. I got the barn raked out and hopefully will get all of that into the garden tomorrow evening.

The rest of this week/weekend I want to get some work done in the shed (light with timer up); clean the rabbit cages and get their poo into the garden; get some prep work done for new big pen attached to the shed and make some plans set for a decent turkey poult brooder and separate duckling brooder since I know brooding time will be upon me way too quickly particularly with classes starting again next week. And this year, I am going to brood my own babies! 

So...that is the start of my new year with determination to make things good and successful.