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!

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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!

The Chickens

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One of our first homesteading experiments on our half acre was getting chickens and building the chicken coop. We decided for Michael’s birthday, soon after moving to the homestead, we would go check out a local family who sold chickens and we came home with five. We were hungry for fresh eggs everyday.DSCF2351

I immediately checked out Building Chicken Coops for Dummies from a local library and we re-purposed and salvaged materials to make ‘the minimalist’ design.

minimalist coop

Nearly one year later it has been such a joy and quite an experience! We began with five baby chicks, and one dog attack and one hawk attack later we still have four egg laying hens; one of which had a difficult day with a bird of prey.

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Dozens and dozens of eggs later we are beginning to entertain the notion of keeping meat birds. Once the little ducklings are finished brooding and get settled into their new home, it is possible there will be a new lot of baby chicks to care for at the homestead. Stay tuned…

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Happy homesteading!

Raising Rabbits

At the end of December we decided to get five rabbits–two bucks, and three does–who are all getting close to being four months old. Our plan is to raise these five bunnies, breed them, and harvest their litters for food.  We got this great hutch off of Craigslist for a great deal.  10838057_10152514010353994_3375092796978780821_oWe have now separated the ladies and gents, but we think a couple may have already mated.  We keep checking out the does to see if anyone is pregnant, but can’t be sure yet.  If so, we think someone could deliver later this week.

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We tried our hand at planned breeding yesterday and we will see what comes of it.  We found two more nice used cages off of Craigslist and will eventually build a structure to cover and hang cages from.  We’ll have to figure out the best way to house all of these little ones.  Ideally, it would be a semi-permanent structure from which we could hang the cages, allowing us to easily collect the compost from below.

The bunnies are sweet little beings and we have really enjoyed having them around.  I am also super excited to practice some French cooking techniques to make delicious rabbit dishes.  Recipe suggestions are welcome!  Stay tuned for pics of baby bunnies.

Happy homesteading!

Year One Inventory

We can hardly believe we have been on our half acre for a year now.  The time has flown, but working with the earth through the seasons really helps us to remember the progress we’ve made over this past year.

One of the beautiful things about homesteading is you can begin anytime, anywhere.  Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-reliance.  What we love about that is we began with what we had available (a rental property), and did not feel discouraged by what we didn’t (our very own dream farm).

As soon as we moved in we began sowing seeds for an early Spring garden and kept planting through Summer and into Fall.  We view a garden as a continuous, ongoing project, so we were excited to add some fauna to our lives this year.

So, on our one year homestead-iversary, we now have:

4 egg laying chickens   IMG_20150131_144027609

5 bunnies 10401945_10152541768843994_7622560708564101386_n

2 pigs  10269466_10152618892498994_8339796715640002491_n (2)

8 baby ducklings   1511218_10152671627618994_2198901058063708291_n

2 house cats IMG_20141220_193633285~2 IMG_20150111_090932062_HDR

and us.

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We don’t know how long we will be at this house, but we will make our homestead wherever we are. We are so excited to see what this year will bring and are looking forward to documenting and sharing the journey.

Happy homesteading!

Brooding Ducklings

We did not plan on coming home with eight baby ducklings on a recent Sunday afternoon, but a trip to our local farm supply store changed that quickly.  ducks at tractor supply

We went for a routine supply trip and the store had just gotten a shipment of chicks and ducklings the week before, and they were too cute to pass up.  We had discussed getting ducks in the past, but without a pond or water source were discouraged.  After hearing from multiple people at various occasions that ducks were easy enough to care for, we went for it, and got four Peking and four Mallard ducklings.

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We have quickly learned ducklings are pretty messy and like a LOT of fresh water.  Compared to brooding little chicks, they are definitely higher maintenance.  After futile attempts at keeping cardboard boxes fresh and dry for them, as well as using a big tub, we were able to borrow a dog crate from a friend and we have all been much happier with this arrangement for the time being.  Two more weeks of brooding to go, however, and they will need more room. We are thinking a kiddie pool will do the trick.

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We are excited to see these little guys and gals grow up on the homestead.  They turned two weeks old yesterday, and are too young to sex but we will see what we are working with as soon as we are able.  We are hoping in time a couple of them will breed and maybe, if the ducks aren’t interested, a broody chicken will incubate some of the eggs so we can keep a supply of fresh ducks going.

It was $40 for eight ducks, and while well worth it, we have paid that for one locally raised duck at the farmer’s market.  We like to make duck confit, have crispy duck breasts, and especially render duck fat, which has endless uses in the kitchen. Once a few of them grow, and we get over their cuteness, it will be time to harvest a couple for the freezer.

If you have any tips on raising ducks please do let us know.  Like with many projects on the farm, we need all the help and insight we can get!

Happy homesteading!

Welcome to the homestead!

cropped-cam01276.jpgThank you for visiting!  What began as an attempt at a small container garden outside of our old, tiny (500 square foot) apartment has grown over the past few of years into a small backyard farm on a half-acre.

As our backyard experiment has evolved, we have thought about how best to document and share our journey on the homestead.  We were inspired to create this site when we heard a news piece about small US farms being operated by what were referred to as ‘gentleman farmers.’  Gentleman (or gentlewoman) farmers being small-scale independent farmers, usually with another source of income, farming mostly for the pleasure of it.

Michael and I agreed that sounded a lot like what we were trying to do.  We both work full-time jobs that we love, but are always passionate about the food we eat, where it comes from, and the treatment of animals and the earth.  So we delved deeper into gardening and eventually added livestock to our homestead and have changed our whole way of living over time to support ourselves and our local community.

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It is important to us both that we document and share our adventures on the homestead as we learn to live like members of our families once did. We hope that you will find joy from our experiences and share our gratitude for life’s blessings.

Happy homesteading!