Thursday, February 23, 2017

Chickens 101 Class Coming Soon!

What a cutie pie!!

We will be teaching a Chickens 101 class here on the farm in March. We will be covering how to start chicks you get from the hatchery (we will have new chicks here for you to see), how to set up for the new chicks, feed and feeding, how to grow out your birds, how to feed adult birds, housing, and natural first aid. If you are interested in attending, the cost is $25 and LHG members receive a 10% discount. Leave a comment below, if you would like more information!

Our Open-Air Coop

Georgia, Sundance and their offspring

Good Morning from the Farm

What  funny winter we have had, this year...not that I am complaining...

Monday, January 9, 2017

kinderGARDENER...part 1

It's that time of year. The time to start thinking about what the garden will be like for this coming growing season. Well, "They" say it is that time of year. I personally have never had a garden two years running, so I have never before done this, hence the "kinderGARDENER title! I suppose I should look back at what I did, evaluate how it worked, and then make new plans based on conclusions.  Sounds pretty reasonable, so let's go!

this is what I planned
First, when I started my garden planning last year, I was a bit overwhelmed with the size of the garden. It is about 1/8th of an acre and was by far bigger than any garden I have had to date. Because I am a visual person, I was desperate to find some way to map out the garden so that I could see exactly what was where and when. I finally settled on the Garden Planner put out by The Old Farmer's Almanac. Things I loved: I could move things to my heart's content; I could create seed orders; it calculated seeds needed based on the size of the plots I used; I could map out an entire growing season; and it emailed me when it was time to do stuff. Cons: Well, no cons for the program. But looking back, either I did such a masterful and complete job of laying everything out, OR (the more likely option) I just did not look at it again, once I was done.

what we actually did
Clearly, I did not do much of anything according to my plan!  I think that when I actually got out to the space and was faced with all of that dirt I panicked! I ended up making long rows that ran roughly north/south and at that, things were way too close together. Once August hit, I could barely walk down some of the rows! So, for this year, put what I learned on the ground into the planner and add more space between rows

typical early summer Market offerings

Next, I need to decide if I am buying seeds and planting for our family use or for the Market. I planted for both this year, with some really fun varieties of veggies. Purple beans and orange tomatoes. Round cukes and white and striped winter squash. I found that many of the times, people at the Market were more comfortable with the things they knew (which should be expected) and less comfortable buying strange colored (though beautiful) veggies.

Although, we had so much fun with WEEDs this year! I had my customers trying Lamb's Quarters, Purslane and Plantain.  It was great fun and some people came back asking for more!

fresh from the garden
This year...I don't know. I think I will still plant for both, trying to educate my customers on great tasting AND beautiful veggies and being brave to try new things! It does not hurt to try and we LOVE our colorful variety! Every time I pop open a jar of orange tomatoes for sauce, I am reminded of my beautiful Orange Icicle tomatoes that just kept putting out fruit, no matter what!  We have very much loved all of the seeds we purchased at Baker Creek. What a joy to grow and harvest quality food!

the okra, completely overtaken by the sunflowers

One of my biggest "oh, shoot" moments (well, there are several) was when I planted sunflowers in between my okra. Wow. That was a serious lapse in judgement! They did ok together for awhile, but then the sunflowers shot up and, well, I know there was okra in there somewhere, it was just really hard to see, and since it could not get any sun, it did not produce very well at all. Next year, sunflowers go somewhere else, altogether! But I will plant MORE! The Wytheville Farmer's Market customers LOVED the sunflowers!

I suppose we will wrap this up for today. There is a lot more learning to tell, but this is a homestead and there are plenty of things to do, even in the winter! I hope you will check back tomorrow for "kinderGARDENER part 2" or What we learned about Garlic, Water and Wormy corn.

Oh, don't forget to check out my favorite organization... Ladies Homestead Gathering! They are the reason I am doing all this crazy stuff!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Peaches and Cream

Peaches and Cream. Is that what you think homesteading is like? All sunshine and buzzing bees, the gently blowing breeze on your cheek as you gaze over your tidy homestead?

The reality is often much harsher than that. Winds gusting to 50 mph, hawks hunting your birds, water lines freezing, wells going dry and the winter garden shriveling in the fall drought.

It has been a rough fall her at HoW. I have not been in much of a frame of mind to find the humor in it all. Frankly, there has not been much to laugh about. But today I am reminded that it is in the tough times that we are shaped and molded. As a mountain before the wind or the soil at the edge of a raging river, we must all give way. We must all surrender to the shaping. We must; for if we do not, then we will be lost.

first winter snow on the homestead

Here are the things that I know to be true:

God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good.

I have an amazing family. My family of birth, the family I have made with my husband, the family of sisters that God has given me, and my LHG family.

God's provision is always timely.

The sun always comes out again. Always.

Water freezes. Water thaws. Be prepared for both.

The propane will run out at 5 am when it is 12 degrees outside. Check your tank before you go to bed!

Chicken Math never works. Do it for love, not for money.

You can cry or you can laugh. Choose laughter.

When you find yourself stuck in the mud, unable to look up, remember that you are under the power line the birds like to sit on and get outta there! :-)

When all else fails, rejoice! You can find something, even if it is the tiniest thing. So do it.  Maybe this needs to move up to number 2, instead of being at the end.

What's going on in your piece of the universe?

Friday, August 5, 2016

My friend Jeanna and I are part of a local Farmer's Market, and last week I promised them a story. It is too good not to put here for posterity...or for rereading when I get the desire to get more chickens!

                                                           Why You Should Buy Eggs From Us
                                                         (and not have chickens...a cautionary tale)

Today is Chicken Moving Day. A day that not every one in the family looks forward to. Heck, NO ONE looks forward to chicken moving day, except the chickens! 

We keep our birds on pasture, inside a movable electonet fence. This not only protects them but lets us move them to better grass when needed. My husband built us a really great open air coop, or chicken tractor, and while we love it for how well it suits the birds it is a real pain to move. It takes all five of us to get it moved with lots of grunting and heaving, the help of our big lawn mower, a lot of rope and two well placed flat shovels.

The coop has been in one spot since last winter and we have been moving the fence around it. Today was the day when it was finally time to move the whole shebang. To complicate matters, we also have the 25' by 25' nursery in the middle of the fencing that must needs be moved, without losing track of the 18 chicks and 2 Mommas that are inside.

Everything was going better than expected, at first. The chicks wandered, but not too far. The big birds were staying close as the fence was moved. We got the brooder tractors moved and the nursery fence moved too.  Whooohoo... this is going a little too smoothly... so we decided to break for lunch.

I came inside to get some water and all hell broke loose. My husband came running up to the camper, shouting "Get out here now! There's a storm blowing in and no place for the chickens to get out of the rain!" (By this time the fence had all been moved but the chicken tractor was still in it's old spot.)

I pulled on my boots and boogied out the door and we spent the next 30 minutes racing a giant storm! We pretty quickly got the tractor hooked up to the lawn mower, shovels are in place and....nothing. The lawn mower wheels were spinning in the damp grass! 

Plan B. Steve ran and got his truck, drove it down into the chicken yard and hooked up the tractor. By this time, rain is starting to fall and we are hearing thunder. We had to open the fence to get the tractor inside, so the birds, looking for shelter, scattered...all 30 of them!  We hurriedly got the tractor in place and the door open and about 2/3 of the birds (the smart ones) ducked inside to get out of the by now, pelting rain. The rest of them were running around, being chased by three soaking wet children, while I tried to get the rest of the fence back up and Steve got the truck out of the way. 

By now it is a flood. The rain is coming down so hard that it is difficult to see. We are dashing about, trying to outrace soaking wet chickens, it was a scene from a college mud bowl! Wet chickens, wet children, wet Mom and Dad. I wish we had it on video tape! We would surely win $10,000!!

FINALLY my daughter caught the most wily of our birds, Little Blue (she has blue ears and lays blue eggs). This bird is notorious for not letting anyone get their hands on her, but somehow, she was captured and deposited in the coop.  The kids ran for safety, I buttoned up the fence and then we hauled tail back to the camper, rain pouring off of us like we had gone under Niagara Falls!

And this, this is why you should buy eggs from us. Because no one should have to go through that, just for fresh eggs!

The End

Monday, February 1, 2016

Go Away Rosanna!

It has been a crazy five months, since I last posted in August. It seems that an unwelcome guest had moved in with us, by the name of Rosanna, Rosanna Danna. You've met her before, right? She is famous for her saying "...if it's not one thing, it's another!" Every day, it was something new. Duckie died. Pipes froze, and then drain lines, and we narrowly missed flooding the camper. Mold abounds; we lost the bottom half of our mattress and then discovered a leak in the roof and now there is mold in the space between the roof and the ceiling. The Hillbilly hurt his back, bad. I got sick in January and still can't kick this cough. Less than three weeks ago I got a text; my dad was headed in for quadruple by-pass surgery, so I threw some stuff in a bag and spent the next two weeks in GA. And we have had our usual ups and downs with the Outlaws, some worse than others. These are just a few of the things that stand out. Honestly, there at the end of the year, it was something new EVERY day!

And yet. God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is GOOD!

I have seen families torn asunder by lesser trials than we have been through in the last 10 months. And here we are. All cozily living in our 250 square feet, getting on each other's nerves from time to time (ok, since we are being honest, on a regular basis) but when the rubber meets the road, we are tight. We are growing amazing relationships with our kids and they are learning compassion on a deeper level than many adults ever do. They are learning to live with little and be content. To share. To let the needs of someone else supersede their own needs, and be okay with that. It is something wonderful to experience.

We have also made some new friends up here, and have been richly blessed by their kindness and sweet friendship. We have been heartily lifted up in prayer by our family, those related by blood and those related by life. I celebrated my 50th surrounded by the folks who have invested themselves into our lives, and I can't imagine doing this life without them all! Oh, and toothpaste! Remind me to tell you THAT story!! It deserves it's own post!

And then this:

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come? 
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth. 
He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand. 
The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night. 
The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.

Psalm 121 NASB

Enough said.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Home Away from Home

View of the Granary coming up the driveway...glorious!

I was just very blessed to get to go to Lexington for a few days to visit my friend Becky. She and her husband Tripp have a GREAT place called Owl Moon Farm, just outside of Lexington and guess what...YOU can go there too!

Becky and Tripp rent out the old granery, but it is not old any more!!  In the last ten years, it has been turned into the most amazing vacation spot!  They are tucked into a valley, surrounded by green, rolling hills and winding country roads. The stars are brilliant in the black velvet sky, but you may never see them if you get tucked into your cozy bed before they come out!

The Granary is located just a few miles from Lexington, Virginia which is the site of many cool shops, restaurants and LOTS of amazing history.

Check it out and then make sure you reserve a weekend to get away from all the chaos and relax!

The view from Becky's front porch, looking toward the Granary.

The future Wedding Barn was once home to some commune folk...they built this awesome ladder!

Amazing piece of art aka the Garden Gate

Link to Airbnb site for lots more pics and details.