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!

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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!

Winter on the Homestead

IMG_20150226_075520255 We’ve just been hit with another round of snow.  Five inches this time.  I have been able to go to work only three and a half days in the past two weeks, and even Michael’s work has closed and restaurants rarely do.

IMG_20150226_071509644This has been quite a February on the homestead.  Seems like endless winter storms.  It has been a struggle to keep the animals water unfrozen and the peace of mind that everyone is warm.  Last week we had snow and some of the coldest temperatures this area has seen in years. We decided we would move the rabbit hutches in the garage and keep them with a heat lamp.  We moved them out over the weekend and now we’ve gotten two more winter storms, but it has not been nearly as cold so we left them out.  Everyone seems to be doing okay, but the chickens would rather not walk around in the snow.  The pigs are sleeping late and are happy with a big hay bed. At least the little ducklings are still brooding, so they are staying nice and warm.

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It is beautiful though, and peaceful.  It has also been nice getting a little time off of work to do things around the house and think about the coming Spring and the growing season ahead. We have started a lot of seeds and will be working on garden beds once we thaw out. There has also been a lot of cooking going on and it has been great feasting on what we had preserved from the fruits of our labor last year in our first couple of seasons on the homestead.

Stay warm!

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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!