Our Favorite Seed Starting Products

 

Who’s ready to start some seeds??  We are, we are!!  We like to start our seeds early and simple around here.  Anything high maintenance just gets left behind and unattended to.  So when it comes to starting seeds indoors, the easier the better.  Here are some of our favorite products & tips for starting seeds.

1. Find a big south facing window and set up an open shelf (even better if there is a heat vent under the shelf).  We use this Ikea shelf:

ikea wood shelf

2. We pieced together this seed starting tray kit.  It’s heavy duty and will last many many seasons.  Fill the pots with soil/seed starter, plant seeds, fill the bottom tray with water, put the hood on and let it go for a bit.  The system will create a moist greenhouse (remember it’s by a window with lots of sun) and when the seeds start growing, use the vents to control air flow and prevent mold.

seed tray dome seed tray flat seed tray

3. Once the seeds have started to grow, the stems need to be strengthened so they don’t get long and leggy.  We clip a small fan like this to the shelf to simulate wind which helps to strengthen the plant.

clip on fan

4. Lastly, I found this super cute water bottle to gently spray the plants and tops of the soil.

glass spray bottle

 

Pretty simple right?  This is what our setup looks like:

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Stop back next month to see how the seeds are growing and what to do next!

🙂 Mama Nice

 

Our First Adventure Raising Pigs

We have 3 acres on our homestead, which isn’t a lot of acreage to raise meat animals, but we wanted to raise more than chickens.  After researching beef cows, dairy animals and pigs…we settled on pigs.  Not just any kind of pig, but pasture fed Gloucester Old Spot pigs.  We read that GOS pigs have a docile personality, were great with other farm animals, and needed minimal grain to grow to butcher weight.  We found a local breeder and back in April we put our deposit in for 2 piglets.  In June we got the call to come pick them up.  The piglets were around 40 pounds and ready to leave their mama.

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How cute are they???  Pig 1 and Pig 2 quickly stole our hearts and we enjoyed playing with them for months…. until they grew too big to be safe for little children.

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The pigs are now 7 months old and about 250 pounds.  They are still very gentle, but they eat a lot more and find ways to escape their pen.  The electric fence no longer works for them, as they have discovered how to pile mounds of dirt up the side of the fence, forcing it to collapse (covering the electric part) and creating a land bridge to freedom for themselves.  So….they are now in the cattle fence pen only and are fed grain and some fruit and veggies.

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They are scheduled to be butchered during the week of Thanksgiving.  If the meat is as good as we have been told, we will raise even more pigs next year.

If you have a small homestead and are looking for a low maintenance, quick adventure in meat animals, I highly recommend smaller pasture raised pigs.

🙂 Mama Nice

Fall Around the Homestead

Fall is here and the Nice Family Homestead is coming to a time of rest.  Aside from our pigs and Brussel Sprouts, everything else has been canned or put in the freezer.  I thought you might enjoy some pics of what Fall looks like around here on a sunny day (unlike rainy today)….

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Welcome to the Nice Family Homestead…

 WP_20150926_08_53_00_ProPig 1 and Pig 2

 WP_20150926_08_57_31_Pro“Minnie” the Easter Egger

WP_20150923_08_03_05_Pro“Cottonball Head” the White Crested Black Polish

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The cornfield at rest

WP_20150926_08_54_41_ProBrussel Sprouts still growing

WP_20150926_08_55_54_Pro Garden beds being prepped for winter.

Do you have a homestead? What do you do during this time of rest?

🙂 Mama Nice

 

Meat Chickens – Take One..

You want to raise meat birds?  Woo hoo!!!  We had a great time raising meat chickens for the first time.  I hope the following information is helpful to your endeavors…. or at least entertaining. 

Step 1: Order chicks and pick shipment date **keep in mind the chicks arrive early in the AM and MUST BE PICKED UP at the local post office ASAP.  I got the call at 5:45AM.

Step 2: A few days before the chicks arrive, set up brooder using large box, heat lamp, newspaper, chick feed and water.  You want to get the area nice and warm before the chicks arrive.

After reading about the different kinds of meat chickens, we decided to go with the Red Rangers from McMurrary Hatchery.  Why you ask?  We didn’t want to raise birds that couldn’t walk on their own (like the X Rocks) and since the Red Rangers are also decent layers, we had the option of keeping one around if we chose.  We also liked that the Red Rangers reached maturity in 10-12 weeks (as apposed to laying hens and dual breeds that often take 20 weeks).

Step 3: When the chicks arrive, get them warm right away.  They will need constant food and water.  McMurray sends newsletters with great info on how to raise chicks.

We started with 20 Red Ranger chicks and a mix of 35 other chicks.  Aren’t they super cute?

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The chicks grew very quickly and were ready to go outside in 4 weeks.  The Red Ranger chicks were also more friendly than the others and would come right up to us and arch their back like a dog to be petted. Awww, right?

We raised our chicks in the garage.  CAUTION: The chick down feathers get EVERYWHERE.  I had the shop vac going almost daily to keep on top of the mess.  ALSO, since these birds grow fast, they eat a lot and….ahem….. poop a lot.  Be prepared to clean up their pen often.

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Step 4: Put the chicks outside and fatten them up

Once the chickens were fully feathered we moved them to their outside area which is 1/2 of a one stall horse barn.  We turned the “tack room” into the chicken coop and cut a chicken door out the back that lead into their fenced off area.  The fencing is about 5 feet high and the chickens were not interested in flying out.  I think they were more concerned with eating and growing.

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Step 5: Find a good butcher in the area and drop them off to be processed.

After 11 weeks the birds weighed about 6-8 pounds and we dropped them off to the butcher.  In 24 hours we had 4-6 lb bagged broilers in the freezer.

Step 6: Find some recipes and enjoy!

We’ve been cooking one a week ever since.

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Some other things that happened along the way….

We didn’t end up keeping any laying hens (thanks to a predator that killed a few), but one of the chickens was a runt and didn’t reach the needed weight at the time the others went off to the butcher.  The runt was added to our laying flock and now “Roosty” is king of the hen-house.  As you can see, they get pretty big.  So far “Roosty” is a very nice rooster. Red Rangers are hybrids and you aren’t supposed to use them in breeding, but he’s useful for breaking up hen fights and alerting everyone of intruders.

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As for the economics of things, raising our own meat birds doesn’t save that much money (if any).  There are other meat animals that are far more profitable (such as pigs which we are also raising).  However, we like the experience of raising the chickens on our own and deciding what they are eating.

Cost Break Down:

Chicks: $2.45 each= $50

Purina Non-Medicated Start & Grow for the first 2 weeks = $17.99

Purina Flock Raiser for the remainder (we used 1 bag every 2 weeks) = $71.96

Butcher: $3.25/bird (we lost some birds due to predators and butchered 12) = $39

TOTAL COST (not including wood chips, heat lamps, and start up costs) = $178.95 or $2.98 a pound

The grocery store is about $2.09/pound for an organic broiler.  If we had NOT lost 7 chickens, it would have brought the cost down to $2.12 per pound.  To make it MORE cost effective you can also raise extra birds to sell and recoup some money.

Overall it was a positive experience and we will be doing this again next year in hopes of selling some broilers.

Have you raised meat birds before?  Please share your experiences in the comment section!

Have a great day!

🙂 Mama Nice

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Ideas From Years Past

I thought you might enjoy these old Easter posts.  I don’t know about you, but Easter is coming fast and I’m not at all prepared! I hope these ideas will get you motivated and give you some ideas.  🙂 Mama Nice

Bible Based Easter Baskets

Non-Candy Egg Fillers and Egg Hunt Ideas

5 Easter Crafts for All Ages

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Indoor Beach Day

It’s March and I am tired of lazy snow days.  I can only watch so many movies without feeling guilty that my children’s brains are rotting away.  So yesterday we had “Beach Day”.  Since most of you probably have another snow day today too, you might want to try it out!

Activities:

Think warm thoughts! 🙂 Mama Nice

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Getting Organized in 2015 #5 – Command Hook Organization

Anyone else out there joining the WHITE HOUSE BLACK SHUTTERS Decluttering Challenge??  If not, I suggest you jump on the bandwagon and start decluttering!  I started a few days late in the challenge, but quickly caught up.  It’s always great to have some support when you take on a challenge, so check out the link above and join us!

To get your organizing/decluttering mojo moving, check out these super simple organizing ideas using Command Hooks.  I use command hooks all over my house and they are wonderful!  My one tip ** make sure you follow the directions completely and buy the hooks that hold the appropriate weight** (otherwise they will fall off and take a chunk of drywall with them, trust me I know).

Check it out!

🙂 Mama Nice