We’re back!

Happy New Year! After a much needed unplugging, we’re back online. It’s been a busy couple of months, but we’re happy to report we finally found our new homestead and moved this fall.12062488_10153168353113994_1763491438_o¬†Finding the balance between our list of wants and needs and the right location was tough, but after looking far and wide we found a house in the perfect location of our area. We almost bought far out in the country which probably would have been great, but it was such a relief to find somewhere with a country feel but close to some of the great spots in our area. We couldn’t be happier! ūüôā

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Our new neighbors.

It¬†is a great little 2/3 acre plot with lots of potential. After doing all of our homesteading projects on under a half acre so far, we are excited about this extra space and what we can do with it. The house is great and just what we were looking for. It’s a 1940 farmhouse that now has a bungalow/cottage feel and also has tons of potential. After looking at some major fixer IMG_20160102_084936280_HDRuppers we were pleased to find something move in ready, but with some room for upgrades. Thankfully, we had plenty of time to transition to the new house with all of the animals and things to get ready. We built a chicken coop and some temporary goat houses. It was a blank slate so we’re working to get things as we want them and make it comfy for all of our critters.¬†IMG_20151031_101345222_HDR

In other news, to prepare for the big move we did some downsizing on the farm. We butchered all of the ducks and rabbits, and about seven chickens. Our freezers are getting stocked for the winter and we’ll plan on getting more in the spring. It is so quiet without ducks around. We have one extra goat around now, because our little Georgia had a baby! We got Georgia not knowing she was pregnant at the time. Over time it became apparent that she was pregnant and one day we came home to her in labor. IMG_20160102_084732964_HDRShe ended up having to have a c-section and thankfully we lived next to a wonderful local vet who performed the surgery and was such a big help. We’re so grateful momma and baby were okay. We named the little one Savannah and she is the cutest, sweetest thing ever and has brought so much joy to our lives. Baby goats are the best!

Also, one of our chickens has become the best momma. IMG_20151003_173942194We put a few eggs under her and two little chicks ended up hatching. We decided to see how she would do with them and they are the cutest little family.

We are slowly getting settled on the new homestead. We’re working on plans for the garden and moving the goats to the yard, making space for pigs, and thinking of making a little pond for the ducks to come. We’ve joined a local produce group who will deliver fresh NC produce to us weekly while we figure out our garden plans. And we get to explore this new part of town where we’ve settled.

So many good things happened last year, we are so excited to see what this year will bring. The New Year is always such a fun time of new beginnings. We are wishing you the best for 2016!

Happy homesteading!

 

Summer Days

Well, another month has passed and we’re having as much fun as ever. We are still house hunting which we knew would be a challenge but did not anticipate it taking so long to find the right home. We do have a very particular list of needs because of our long-term homesteading goals which has made it extra tough to find one that is just right. Thankfully, our realtor has been very patient and understanding with us. I don’t think any of his other clients have space for chickens, goats, pigs, and a huge garden on their list of requirements.

As usual though, it is never a dull moment on the homestead. I’ve been off work and enjoying time at home cooking, working on organizing projects, and putting together homesteading materials. Michael has enjoyed some much-needeIMG_20150719_135807280_HDRd time off work and got to visit his brother and we have a big family trip to the mountains coming up.

IMG_20150719_095425640We had an extra fun Sunday Funday a couple of weeks back when we participated in Loose on the Neuse and did a trash pick up on our kayaks a few miles down the Neuse River. The group ended up picking up hundreds of pounds of trash. We got over 80 bags and dragged in lots of lumber and very random items like bikes, tables, and chairs. Michael even won these killer Sweetwater Brewing signs which we will be happily displaying in the new house.

While doing my usual homesteading reading online one day, I came across a saying which read, “an only goat is a lonely goat,” so we had to get IMG_20150717_183335433Geoffrey a friend immediately. We came home with Georgia just a few days later and we’ve loved having her around and for them to keep each other¬†company. They’ve only gotten into a tiny bit of trouble. They got in the garden one day and ate all of our ripe tomatoes, our only two pepper plants (the whole plant), and our cucumbers. Geoffrey also learned how to climb under a particular spot in the chain link fence so I spent one Saturday chasing him down and retrieving him oIMG_20150728_075029018 (1)ff of a neighbors porch about 5 times until I finally caught him in the act and barricaded the spot. Thankfully, no escapes since. Georgia was raised with lots of goats and little Geoffrey was bottle fed¬†and treated like a pet with humans since about 10 days old, so she has been a little skittish with us but is coming around. They have lots of fun grazing and palling around, and of course terrorizing little chickens.

IMG_20150701_154602814Our wee ones are coming along nicely. In about another month or two we will butcher all eight and load up the freezer for the fall. We also tried incubating duck eggs with no success. We did stick a few under a broody chicken so we’ll see what happens with those. We think we may have one successful experiment with the rabbits. We took our bunnies to a friends who has a female rabbit for a play date and we are expecting a litter in just a couple of days. The rabbits have been our biggest challenge. We thought they would just do their thing and we would be getting to stock the freezer with fresh meat but since December we’ve had no litters.

IMG_20150730_132605839We are blessed to have lots of friends who keep a big garden because ours has not done well this year. We put in the raised beds but in our eagerness to get stuff in the ground did not amend the soil and it has been slow going indeed. It will be a late IMG_20150730_133005374harvest but thankfully our friends and neighbors have lots to go around so we are still enjoying fresh local veggies everyday and keeping our grocery bill super low. We trade pork and eggs when we need to and have gotten pounds and pounds of kale, tomatoes, peppers, and squash. Nom nom!

Day-to-day we post a lot on Instagram so please feel free to visit us there to keep up between posts. There’s always some cute critter just begging for us to take a picture and share.

Happy homesteading!

Quotes to Live By

“I have been blessed with friends who do things rather than buy things: friends who will change books at a library, take a bag of your old clothes to a thrift store, bring you cuttings and plant them in a window box, fill the bird feeder in your garden when you can’t get out.” -Maeve Binchy

June Fun

The summer season has started off with a bang, and as usual there is never a dull moment on the homestead. I am off of work for the summer and have enjoyed having extra time around the house. We have had an early heat wave though and it has been too hot to get much done outside unless it gets done early. This has given me time to work on projects in the house which we have been putting off. I have also been working on a homesteading binder to help us keep all of our inventories, records, and ideas in one place, rather than scattered all over the house and on the computer as they are now. I got some great ideas on Pinterest and think this will become a valuable resource.

IMG_20150606_170932654We rescued a little goat and he has brought us lots of joy. Michael found him wandering on a very busy road near our house. We took care of him a couple of days while trying to locate the owner. We finally found some notices for him and found out this poor lady adopted him but they couldn’t IMG_20150609_164154958_HDRhave him in their neighborhood. She gave him to some people and he got out of their lot, but they weren’t keen on trying to find him. She wanted to find him to make sure he was okay, so Michael talked to her and she came by to see how Geoffrey was doing and was happy we found him. So little Geoffrey has a new happy home. He is getting on well with the chickens, ducks, and rabbits, but we’d like to find him a friend soon.

IMG_20150614_135017923 (1)Michael also found 8 baby broiler chicks for free on Craigslist which we also adopted. They were a second grade class project on life-cycles and needed a home once they hatched. We are going to try our hand at raising them strictly for meat, no names. When the time comes, we will have eight freezer chickens which will be great for the fall.

We are also so proud to have shared our homesteading exploits with a summer camp for tenth and eleventh graders. Michael has a friend who works with the Design CampScreenshot 2015-06-20 at 9.44.34 AM at NCSU, and she needed a last-minute speaker from the restaurant industry to talk about food and sustainability. Screenshot 2015-06-20 at 9.48.28 AMMichael agreed to do it and we prepared a presentation about his work at the Art Museum, what we do at home, and our overall philosophy about local food and simple living. I wasn’t able to attend but he said it was a great experience sharingScreenshot 2015-06-20 at 9.46.16 AM what we do with these high school kids and that they were very interested and engaged. We’re so happy to share our lifestyle and encourage others to leave a smaller footprint and connect with their food, and to do this with passionate high schoolers is even more rewarding.

In other news, we want to buy a house with the intention of homesteading on it. It is such a big task! There is not a lot of inventory in our area right now and everything is moving fast. This has become my new full-time job. We currently rent from people we know, which has worked out great, but we are ready to have our own place. Trying to find the right house in the right place so we can do all of the fun things we love doing with all of our animals has been a real challenge, but I know we will find the right one. This has given us the opportunity to really articulate and identify what our long-term goals for the homestead are and think about the things we really need, instead of just what we think we want. We will be looking at a couple of places this weekend and hope we will have some luck.

Happy homesteading!

Month of May

Where did the month of May go? The time has flown by. We finally finished the pigs after nearly two weeks of breaking down meat and getting items ready for the freezer in the evenings after work. That was some real work! We thought this would be the easy part but it was one of those things that had to get done and we could only do it after work. Needless to say, those were very long days. But we ended up with 285 pounds of pork in our inventory and over 200 packages of meat. Since it is just the two of us, we tried to keep things in relatively small portions, enough for just two to four people.

IMG_20150606_085424369We have steadily bartered for some nice items and have enjoyed having all this fresh pork around. There certainly is something very gratifying in a full freezer of meat you butchered and prepared yourself. Our first batches of bacon have been delicious! The pigs even left us of lots of nice looking veggie plants in the dirt where they lived. 

We’ve been a little disappointed in the garden so far this year. In our excitement of having the raised beds and fresh compost wIMG_20150606_085522107e eagerly planted things, but did not test the soil and it now appears we have some nutrient deficiencies and our veggies just are not getting there. We are upping our watering routine and trying to keep a close eye on things, but have not been able to eat anything out of the garden yet this year except for a couple of peas. We did get a fence around it which looks great and is doing a good job of keeping away the chickens, ducks and deer.

IMG_20150606_085440011Sadly, we lost three bunnies. We thought it was an early heat spell where we got to just over 90 degrees, but after three died in a row in two days we think it was some sort of disease or virus. We got the last two moved away from where the others were and each other and they seem to be happy and healthy.

The ducks are super sweet and appear to have begun trying to mate. They are just over four months old so it will be awhile until we get eggs and possiblyIMG_20150606_085631355 little ducks, but we are hoping they will all come. We ended up with three sets of male and females, but we butchered two of the males yesterday. They were beginning to be aggressive so after a tough decision it was decided to butcher two of them. We chose the rouens so we have one pekin male now. I am happy to have been at work while this occurred because I was sad to see them go.

As usual it is never a dull moment on the homestead, and our days have been full of hard work and lots of fun. I am looking forward to my Summer break from work and devoting myself full-time to backyard fun and lots of time outdoors. Michael reminded me today it has been way too long since our last update, so we hope to post more about the farm and work more on our site very soon.

Happy homesteading!

Pork Day

IMG_20150427_073152643Well, our pigs are now pork. On April 27 we took the day off of work and with the help of some friends we killed and butchered our two pigs. It was a sad and difficult task to have to kill them, this was something neither of us had ever done before, but after a few tears we all got through it.

It was a cool sunny day and we worked in the open air in our backyard. It ended up being a fun time and it was great to have many hands to help out.IMG_20150427_095346588_HDR

It took just over three hours from start to finish to break down both pigs and get all of the meat in coolers. We chilled them in eight coolers for three full days. The meat looks great and is super tender.

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Now we are still steadily breaking these girls down, vacuum sealing, and doing inventory. After freshening the ice daily we are down to two coolers with two giant hams and belly to go. This has been the hardest part of the task. We were prepared for the long task of breaking both girls down but we’ve been doing it in the evenings after work and it has been a big job.

We quickly used up all of our freezer space and had to get another chest freezer, but it was well worth it, and I think we will get great use from this new freezer. IMG_20150506_074148939It tripled our freezer space. We also traded some eggs and pork for a smoker which will come in handy when time to make bacon and other tasty treats. We used it this weekend on some ribs and shoulders and it was delicious!

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Once we complete our inventory we will do an overall cost analysis, but we are looking great so far on our return. We’ve processed 200 pounds so far and are at a high estimate right now of $2 a pound for fresh, local, backyard pork.

It is very quiet in the yard now and we do miss the pigs and their playful natures, but we think we will be ready to try this again in another year. We will be able to work through what we have over this year and continue bartering for other products and goodies made by friends. It will be a great year!

Happy homesteading!

Pig Decisions

It’s been a crazy busy couple of weeks on the homestead. We’ve had a birthday, both families in town for a visit, lots of outdoor fun taking kayaking and fishing trips, and of course lots of work in the garden and with the animals. We have eagerly planted all of our Spring and Summer veggies. We may have jumped the gun on Summer crops, but I have a feeling we will have tons of food like last year and a wider variety.

11117238_10152792776193994_7129713777641164806_nSince we had a visit from a couple of very helpful family members it was decided it was time to harvest a duck. We processed two. For our first duck processing day I think we did a great job. It was about two hours to do both.

We enjoyed one with a taco dinner. The duck was quartered and seared crispy then braised and it was delicious! We will probably sear off the breasts of the other and1462987_346272128904159_2218199822882081439_n enjoy those with crispy skin. The last duck we got from the farmer’s market we rendered down all of the fat and it supplied us in duck fat for nearly a year. We have the tiniest amount left and I can’t wait to have my stores replenished. We love using duck fat in the kitchen; it’s good with everything!

10269466_10152618892498994_8339796715640002491_n (2)Now we are wondering what are we going to do with these pigs? They are seven months old this week. Happy Birthday dear girls! Last week we did a preliminary weigh in using string to measure them and a simple equation we found online. We were surprised to discover they are weighing in at about 200 and 220 pounds.11152694_346270792237626_6777028383505960025_n

After a lot of discussion over how to process these girls, we have decided to do it at home with the help of an experienced friend. We debated frequently over sending them off to a local processor, but we think the cost involved with that is not worth it. The point for us of raising the pigs was to humanely and frugally get our own food from our own backyard. We have heard a lot of opinions on the cost of sending them off for processing and it seems that would really take away from our original goal.

IMG_20141115_111420We are planning on having a friend who is an avid hunter and homesteader, and who has processed many many hogs on his own, to come and help us in about two weeks time. They have grown so much since we first brought them home nearly six months ago. No doubt this will be a difficult task. It will be a sad day to lose these sweet girls, but we look at it as one hard day after a happy life.

Happy homesteading!

Going Local

Over the years that Michael and I have been together our lifestyles have changed dramatically. While always interested in good food, buying local and sustainability, we have¬†drastically increased our support for local farmers, local businesses, and self-reliance. I don’t see ourselves as ever becoming die-hard preppers or living completely off of the land, but we have learned so much about decreasing our footprint and buying responsibly I do not see us going back to our old ways. We also both believe that people have the freedom to choose how they live their lives and get their food and basic needs, but for us it is important to do more for ourselves and limit our support of big corporations, and particularly, the industrial food complex.

I can tell you this did not happen for us overnight. ¬†While I was working on my degrees and we were both busy working at least two jobs we were not able to do for ourselves as we do now. But now that we both have careers at great workplaces we have the luxury of getting to make decisions about how we live and shop during our time that we aren’t at work. This is a blessing that we are most certainly grateful for. So we thought we would share some of the ways we have decided to “go local” in our daily lives.

IMG_20150404_102618346Last year when we moved to the homestead I heard about a food co-op in our community which was still recruiting founding members and working to expand their mission. We proudly joined as one of 500 founding family memberships and we LOVE shopping at the co-op. We shop here for our pantry staples like nuts and seeds, dried fruit, beans and baking supplies.  They have recently moved to a new location and are greatly expanding the products available, so we are excited to add many of the supplies we buy like local milk and butter, and even more household staples. You can read more about our local food co-op, the Grain Mill of Wake Forest, here:  https://www.grainmill.coop/

A recent addition to our local purchases was joining a local Community Supported Fishery (CSF) offered by the NC operation, Locals Seafood.  We know their products are great and have visited their shop at the NC State Farmers Market in Raleigh, but are now going to try a short share, about three weeks, later this month to see if we like it and want to commit to a longer share in the future.  For $25 a week you get 2 pounds of fresh and locally caught seafood.  Whatever we do not use right away we will plan to stock our freezer with.  You can read more about Locals Seafood and their CSF here:  http://localsseafood.com/

We are blessed to live in an area and a state where there is a lot of support for local IMG_20150404_102101606_HDRfarmers and there are lots of farmers markets. We tend to visit the Wake Forest Farmers Market because it is open on Saturday mornings and is very close to the co-op so I can usually get all of our weekly shopping done at once. There are a few meat purveyors, local cheese makers, and so much beautiful fresh produce, but they also have locally made goods like pottery, soap and hand-knitted items, and even a food truck comes out sometimes. It is a fun place to spend Saturday mornings, and with the fresh air and live music it certainly makes for an enjoyable shopping experience. You can read more about our local farmers market here:  http://www.wakeforestfarmersmarket.org/

IMG_20150404_104319889_HDRNorth Carolina is a leader in the craft beer movement and has more independent local breweries than I could ever count, so we have to send a shout out to our most local brewery, White Street Brewing Company. It is a great little downtown Wake Forest brewery where you can have food delivered, fill up a growler, and watch a ball game. They get area food trucks to visit a lot and it is a great local hangout.  http://www.whitestreetbrewing.com/

We strive to constantly improve on how we ‘go local’ in our daily lives. I know we both feel better and share a sense of responsibility in supporting our local economy. Getting food from our own backyard and from other hard-working people in our community is so fulfilling and brings us joy everyday. We hope you find ways to ‘go local’ in your own community.

Happy homesteading!

Spring Garden

Phew! Spring is starting out to be busy. IMG_20150318_090709459We have both had extra busy weeks with work stuff and are trying to fit in home projects when we can in order to help us get ready for the season.  Thankfully, the past two Sundays have been very productive.   We spent all day  one Sunday building 260 square feet of raised garden beds and filled them with compost over the the past weekend.  We found a great deal on the lumber which was locally milled right down the street from our house. We made nine rectangular beds and they are beautiful.  As of right now, we still have two to level and fill with compost. IMG_20150324_165650169

Last year, very soon after we moved to the homestead, we tilled a nice big plot of a garden bed and planted right in the ground.  The harvest was phenomenal!  It is amazing how much food you can grow right in your back yard.  While this was successful, we did not keep the plot very tidy over winter, and decided to place the raised beds over the existing plot.  They look great and I love the organization of the beds.  We are planning to plant them square-foot garden style in order to maximize our yield, and we have just started planning them out.  While paper and pen are great tools to track a garden plan, this year we are trying an online program, smartgardener.com.  IMG_20150324_183631196It looks very promising, providing a detailed plan, journal, and to-do list, but definitely takes a long while to set up with your seeds and desired plan.  I at least got all of the seeds we have in our collection in our virtual garden plan and began thinking about how we will plant things; and perhaps, soon we can organize our seed collection. It has gotten a little haphazard.

On Wednesday morning we had 18 cubic yards of local compost delivered which we filled the beds with, but there is still a ton of dirt.  I am excited to use it around the yard though, and be able update all of our existing garden beds.  IMG_20150318_090756665_HDRFor our veggies, so far, we have lots of lettuce and kale sprouted and our beets and peas have shot right up.  We also started some of our Summer goodies like corn and tomatoes. We will do squash and a few others next week.  Getting those seedlings in the ground will be so satisfying!

Also, we adopted four hens who needed a good home. ¬†Michael picked them up yesterday afternoon and they seemed to have already adjusted pretty well. ¬†Their IMG_20150324_170001538previous owners did not feel up to caring for them any longer, so we thought we’d take them under our wing. ¬†They may have another good year of egg laying, we will¬†see, but we are already super happy to have them around.

Happy homesteading!