Spring 2014…. Our Growing Homestead

This is our first season with our new garden on the new homestead.  When we first started planning our projects for the summer, I thought we were undershooting.  I wanted goats… like, NOW.  I wanted acres of corn… NOW.  I wanted to double the chickens and raise meat birds…NOW.  But alas, we did not accomplish all of that and I am so…GLAD.  What we have taken on has been more consuming than I thought.  The picture perfect dream of a productive homestead where I would go out to the garden in my perfect homesteading outfit (with apron of course) and harvest the produce, cook and can and blissfully appreciate all the God has given us is well….. not exactly how it all works out.

I’m learning that in the midst of our busiest days we find ourselves harvesting carrots before they rot.  On the rainiest days, a chicken gets sick and has to be tended to.  The beautiful sunflower hideout is infested with caterpillars that need to be picked and squished.  Yes, that is the reality of homesteading.  Oh, and my homesteading outfit?  How about pajamas, uncombed hair, glasses, chicken poop shoes and a cup of coffee.  Ha!

However, amongst all the chaos and imperfections I do find myself appreciating all that God has given us.  There are those moments of beautiful sunny skies when I see my kids picking produce or running with the animals, and I realize this is the dream we set out for.  Little by little, our dream is becoming a reality.

Here is a sneak peak of what’s been going on around the homestead this season.  In a perfect world I would post amazing pictures of the carrot muffins I made, or the best way to hardboil our fresh eggs… but when I start baking and cooking the kids in my house go wild and taking pics is the LAST thing on my mind.  So enjoy the pics I did manage to take 🙂

 

Our new shed/chicken coop in the works…

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The garden…

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Peach Tree                                   Apple Tree

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Tomatoes                                    Carrots

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Beets                                            Peas

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Peppers                                             Raised Beds

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Blackberry Bush

 

Our sunflower hideaway is growing nicely…

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Our first carrot harvest….

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Thanks for reading.  Stay tuned for more updates (and hopefully recipes)!

🙂 Mama Nice

For Those That Care For Children….

before the school bell ringsI can remember the day  I picked up this book.  I was in college, walking out of class and noticed a pile of books sitting in the hallway that were free to take.  I picked this one up because #1 – my major was Elementary Ed ,#2 – it was super skinny and looked like an easy read, #3 – I was a nanny at the time.  I wanted as much advice as I could get – but I didn’t like to read.

This book has sat on my bookshelf and traveled with me for 12 years and I finally got around to reading it.  What a WONDERFUL little book!  If you are a parent of a preschooler, volunteer in the church nursery, babysit the kids down the street, have grandkids or are planning to have your own kids – READ this book!

A few quotes from the book:

“Every question a child asks is  a real inquiry and needs an answer.”

” Children learn most effectively in a place where love abounds and people feel connected.  They learn best in a place where they don’t feel rushed, where they are cradledin stretches of time.”

As a busy mom of 3, I know it’s easy to lose touch with what’s best for the kids in an attempt to stay afloat in our culture.  This little book reminded me what is really important.

Enjoy! 🙂 Mama Nice

 

Bagworm Infestation on the Homestead – yuck!!

Now that it’s sunny and we can get outside, we’ve been busy prepping the garden, mulching and cleaning up the yard.  You know, the usual “Spring Cleanup”.  We’ve been at the new Homestead for one year now and it seems that each month teaches us something new.  This month – Bagworm Infestation 101.  Ew.

What is a Bagworm you ask?  It’s basically a moth that feeds on trees and then takes parts of the tree to form a cocoon with silk strong enough to strangle and kill the tree.  (For a more detailed description click here).

See this lineup of trees?  See the little dead one on the end?  Yup, that tree had the most cocoons hanging from it.

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See those little sack like things that look like seed pockets?  Guess what? They aren’t seeds, it’s a bagworm cocoon filled with hundreds to thousand of eggs.  Again I say, EW.   140421_0006 140421_0008

So how do you get rid of them without spraying nasty chemicals?  You get your children to pick them off of the trees before they hatch.  Once picked, put them in soapy water and throw them out (in a sealed plastic bag of course). P.S. Papa Nice also helped, but he’s not in the pic 🙂

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There are “safe” pesticides out there, and we might resort to that.  For now, we are picking them off.  I will keep you updated as the summer goes on to see what happens.  Right now, the Bagworms haven’t hatched so it’s hard to tell if we’ve gotten rid of the problem.  I also read that birds will get rid of a small infestation, so I’m hoping the cocoons we couldn’t reach up at the tippy top will serve as a tasty snack for some birds (as long as they aren’t Starlings – we don’t need another infestation of those nasty birds!!).

 

February 2014

February has been a very busy month.  This long winter filled with snowy days has it’s advantages – being stuck inside without having to run the “school/activity shuttle” has provided uninterupted time to work on prepping the homestead for the upcoming season.  Here is what we worked on and learned in February 2014:

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Around The Homestead

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– Learned to grow fodder –  I’m not sure how I stumbled on this method, but I was hooked pretty quickly.  The thought that I could give my chickens more nutrients, less cost and would keep them happy this winter – woo hoo!  Click links below for more information.

– Shoveled lots of snow –   Lots and lots and lots of snow.  We had to dig a path around the house to allow for the melting snow to move to the proper drains (ya know, so it doesn’t end up in our basement.)  At least and kids and dog are enjoying the snow 🙂

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– Cooking From Scratch  Before we grow our own grains and attempt to process it ourselves, I thought it would be a good idea to make sure I enjoyed (and coud successfully pull off) cooking food from scratch.  Bread, pasta, baked goods, etc.  Turns out, I DO like it!  Click here to visit some recipes I enjoy!

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Chickens

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-Wry Neck & Crop Issues –  When our Silkie got sick this month, I immediately scoured the internet looking for ways to help her get better (without spending a fortune to save a $10 chicken).  At first we thought she had “Impacted Crop”.  That was something I never heard of before, but upon further investigation we found it was not her crop that was inpacted, but rather her neck that was twisted.  “Wry Neck” is common in silkies – I had no idea.  “Fluffster” was at the bottom of the pecking order and she was being starved out but the other hens.  I believe that becuase she wasn’t getting the nutrients she needed, she then developed Wry Neck as a result of vitamin difficiency.  We attempted treatment and she was doing better for about 5 days, but then I believe she aspirated after a feeding becuase once I put her down, she fell over and died quickly. It was a sad moment for the kids and I.  We tried to nurse the chicken back to health and ultimately failed.  But, that’s farm life and lessons were learned.  I’m posting the pics to give you an idea of what “Wry Neck” looks like.  See the links below to learn more about “Wry Neck” and “Impacted Crop.”

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-Starling Invasion – This winter has been awful and the wild birds are looking for food wherever they can get in.  Unfortunately a flock of Starlings (which come in droves of 50 – 100 birds) decided to feast on our chicken feed and attack our hens.  Our chickens are fenced in, but they are not fully inclosed.  The Starlings eat just about anything, including eggs!  We attempted to put netting over the coop – the Starlings got in.  We put up shiny bird reppellers – the Starlings could care less.  After much research, we learned that Starlings are indeed invasive and the only was to get rid of them is to kill them.  So….. I learned to use a pellet gun and fight the Startling fight almost daily.  Click the link below to learn about these awful birds.

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-Basement Chickens – That’s right, our chickens moved into our basment for about 2 weeks.  The weather got so bad the chickens would not leave the coop and turned to picking each other bare (not to mention the Starling situation).  We seperated them into two groups, ran an air purifier (which worked AMAZING) and put them back outside once the weather got a bit warmer (and the Starlings seemed to have moved on).  On a positive note, I didn’t have to trudge through the snow various times of the day to care for “the girls.”

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Kids & Organizing

 Pajama Themed Birthday Party – My daughter turned 6 and she wanted a “Pajama Party” – without the sleepover part.  Guests came in PJs and we had a great time playing “Pass the Stuffed Animal”, “Pin The Pillow On The Sleeping Bag”, “Musical Pillows” and “Freeze Dance.”  We decorated pillow cases with fabric markers and after eating pizza and sundaes, we ended the night watching a movie while eating popcorn.

sleepover tableware buttonsleepover party theme food sleepover activities

– Homestead Log Book –  In an attempt to get more organized and on top of my chores, I created a binder to hold all of my charts and calendars.  I’ve never been one to keep all organizing charts on the computer – I enjoy have paper copies (sorry trees) that I can write on and cross off.  Here are a few of my charts:

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Thanks for reading y’all!! 🙂 Mama Nice

” Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galations 6:9

5 Easy Tips & Tricks To Decorate For Christmas

Thanksgiving is over, time to decorate for Christmas.  But wait… I have WAY too much to do.  I don’t have time, ahhhhh!  Good thing I can use these 5 tricks and complete my decorating in one day.  Woo hoo!!!

1. Spray Paint – Love this idea from blog.2modern.com.  Find a decor item in a thrift store or your attic, spray paint it white and viola!  An updated decoration.  Brilliant!

white paint trick

2. Glass Jars – fill them with ornaments, candy canes, bows, pine cones ~ anything!  So simple and you can change them for every season.

Turn something like this:   into this:  glass jar decor

3. Picture Frames- with FREE Printables.  Again, print out and change them for every season! Lovely…

Christmas-printable

4. Wooden Letters – Every craft store sells them.  Spray paint them whatever color you like.  Set them on your mantle, or above cabinets.  Get every letter and spell words all year long!

Turn this:  into this: wooden letters

5.  Outside Lights- Last but not least, decorating the outside.  Don’t feel like hanging up those gazillion Christmas lights?  Try out this Light Projector for easy set up with big effect.

Now, get decorating!!

5 Holiday Teacher Gifts for Under $5

I have three kids and a total of 6 teachers to buy for at Christmastime.  While I very much appreciate teachers, I can only afford so much.  After searching Pinterest and talking to some teacher friends, I came up with a list of 5 practical gifts every teacher could use.  Did I mention they all cost $5 or less?  Cha-ching!

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1. Message Board Picture Frame –

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      • Eraser Fabric – cut a piece of scrap fabric, or buy a $1 pair of kids holiday socks (Target $1 bin).  One pair of socks = 2 erasers.

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2. Lunch Coupon –

If you enjoying making food, gift your own coupon like this:

gift cert

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3. Rice Hot Pack –

These rice packs are perfect for sore muscles, cold weather or stress relief between classes.  Click Here for tutorial.

rice hot pack

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4. Braided Scarf

No crocheting or knitting!  If you can braid, you can make this scarf.  Click Here to see tutorial.

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5. WaWa gift card –

(If you don’t live in the Northeast, you might have no idea what “WaWa” is, and I’m sorry you don’t have the pleasure of knowing the joy of a local WaWa.)  

Start a “Classroom Collection Gift”.  If there are 25 kids in the class and everyone donates $5, thats a $125 giftcard.  I think that’s a pretty nice classroom gift.  My teacher friends have said it’s great because it can be used for food, coffee or gas.  Win win!

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If anyone else has $5 gift ideas, please share!!!  Thanks for reading 🙂

Playhouse Chicken Coop

When we moved to our new house we had to start from scratch building a chicken coop.  I ordered a cheapy prefab coop online to house the 3 hens we brought from the old house.  The coop and run was small, but it did the trick until I had the time (and money) to create something bigger and better.  If I had all the money in the world, I would hire someone to build a super fabulous dream coop – but that’s not my reality.  As you may have guessed, I’m more of a DIY/Repurpose kind of gal.  The end result? A chicken coop made from a kids playhouse.  What do you think?

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FYI – The coop was put on top of two pallets that were covered with stapled down linoleum.

Step by Step How To:

1. Clean & Paint

Find an old playhouse (you can usually trash pick one or find a freedie on craigslist). Take it apart and clean the heck out of it.  Then let it dry completely.  (The house I got had mice nests inside….ew.)

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Once you have decided on the colors, lay plastic pieces on a blanket and start spray painting.  Krylon and Rustoleon both sell spray paint for plastics.  Read the spray bottle and make sure it’s made for outside and plastics.  You really only need to spray the outside of the playhouse, the inside doesn’t matter.  Make sure you read the label and allow for the correct amount of drying time in between.

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2. Weather & Predator Proofing

Once the paint is dry, it’s time to start making sure all the parts are weather tight and predator proof.  Starting with the door, I used heavy duty plastic (sold at walmart in the fabirc section) and chicken wire to cover the holes in the door.  The plastic allows the light to still come in, but protects the hens from the rain, wind, etc.  The chicken wire keeps out any predators that might try to scratch their way through the plastic.  I caulked the edges for extra sealing, but I don’t think it’s necessary.  I used screws designed to hold the chicken wire in place (like this).

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Attach plastic and chicken wire over the windows.  Again, you want light to come in.

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Since there were 4 windows in the coop, I covered 2 of them with plastic and chicken wire and the other two I covered with repurposed lids of old plastic bins.  My kids helped to decorate those windows with permanant markers which was then coated with a clear coat of spray paint.  The white color still lets some light in.

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Now for the tricky back window.  In my coop, there was a gaping whole in the back of the playhouse.  I formatted a hinged door to cover the hole.  This allows access from the back to clean it out.  At first I thought it would be a good “egg collection” door, but you will see I didn’t end up putting the nesting boxes there. I put another piece of heavy plastic to help prevent drafts under the “flap door”.

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Now you can put the pieces together to finish the inside and finishing touches.

3. Fixing Up The Entryway

First, add some kind of predator proof latch to the door.  I also added a hook and eye latch to prop the door open and also keep the door from flapping in the breeze.  I also found that when it rained, the rain blew in the front door, so I added an overhang using an old plastic bin lid.

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4. Preparing The Inside

You’ll need to add some kind of roosting bar and nesting boxes.  The playhouse I used had a little shelf on the inside.  I thought it would be a great place for the nesting boxes.  I added supports on the sides of the shelf and put a little ladder together. Then I added some more plastic bins (can you tell I have a bunch laying around?) Here is what it looked like the first time.

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I quickly found out that the girls would roost on the nesting boxes at night and (ahem) poop inside the nesting boxes.  Yuck.

So I reconfigured the nesting boxes and put them on the floor under the shelf and attached some peices of wood to the shelf for roosting.  Since the hens didn’t seem to use the ladder, I took out the ladder to make more room.  This is what it looks like now and it has worked much better.

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Now all you have to do is add wood chips, water and food and you’re good to go!  Total cost was about $100 – which was mostly paint.  The fencing was another $100.  Considering most new coops cost over $500 NOT including a fence, I think my $200 project is pretty awesome!

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Things I will probably still do to make it even better:

– Secure the playhouse to the pallets with “L” brackets.

– Secure the pieces on the inside with “L” brackets and then seal the seams with caulk.

– Add a vent out the top that can be opened and closed. (Right now the natural breeze through the seams provides air flow, but I worry the draft will be too cold this winter.)

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on how I could make the coop even better! Thanks for reading! 🙂