Tag Archives: homestead

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

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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

 

 

 

 

 

2015 Garden Planning

Last week the sun was pouring across the backyard and into the kitchen.  I love these days. It’s like a little glimpse of spring (Charlie Dog thinks so too).

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My yard in the winter is an ice-skating rink.  Literally, my kids go out and skate on the ice that overtakes the backyard.  I can’t even move some of the fence gates because there is an inch of ice keeping them frozen in place.  Going out to the chickens is a comedic adventure as I walk like a penguin hoping to stay upright.  My poor dog is depressed that he can’t run freely, so he mopes around and is gaining weight each day. When the “big thaw” begins, there is a river about 6 inches deep that begins to drain around our house.

As I write this post the sun is shining and Papa Nice and I just finished planning the garden for spring and I’m thinking warm thoughts.  We are more than doubling our raised beds and I’m so excited to see how much food we can grow for our family.

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We are pretty picky about our seeds and we like to order from Heirloom seed catalogs. Most of our seeds are organic, but for those that are NOT organic – at least we know they are non GMO.  For the last several years we have ordered from Seed Savers and this year we are going to order from Johnny’s Selected Seeds also.

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We use raised beds in our garden and this year we are going to try hay mulching.  Here is our garden layout and seed planning list.

2015 Nice Family Homestead Garden Layout

2015 Nice Family Homestead Seed Planning Guide

I hope the ideas and comments are helpful as you plan your 2015 garden!

🙂 Mama Nice

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

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.

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– 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