Friday, November 29, 2013

Reflections of a Maine Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving. It's a act, it's a praise and it's a day with pie. In our family it's a day with a pie per person (or more). And, I love Thanksgiving. A holiday about nothing but food, fellowship and reflection. No gifts, no muddled meanings, it is what your family makes it but with turkey! As I have grown older I realize how rare and special our family's dynamic is. We are close. Sometimes too close, but nevertheless I am grateful for it. Yesterday, we gathered around the table and said no fancy words and had no fancy "table scapes" or place cards. We sat, took a group photo, blessed the food and ate. Four generations of us.

We ate the usual fare of turkey with sides but I did put my own little 'homestead' spin on some of it! The turkey was from a friend that raised it on her family's mini farm and I helped them butcher last week. Our pumpkin pies were from my own home canned pumpkin and the mince meat pie from my husband's deer I made with my grandfather. The rest was made by my mother and grandmother's hands. It was small this year, just nine of us, but I like it that way. It was quiet and relaxed.

Mr. Tom

My mom and me and Mr. Tom

Can I cook a bird or what?

Now, I can look forward to my little boy's birthday and Christmas. Our house is on a roll with the foundation walls poured, soon to be finished off and capped to begin above grade construction. More on that soon!

How was your Thanksgiving?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Check Out Our Feature On American Family Now!

I was so flattered when my friend Naomi wanted to feature us on her blog with an interview. I really admire her family and their mission in building an off grid home and homestead, homeschool their children and heart for Jesus. So check out her blog and the post!

Click here!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Farming With Small Children (video!)

When I first started really entering into this homesteading journey I had one small child but he was old enough to stay with me and being only him I could easily keep and eye on him while I did chores or rooted around in the garden. Then number two came along and I inwardly panicked. What was I going to do? How was I going to get basic chores done let alone keep adding to the barnyard? Let's face it, kids are a huge time/attention suck. Some days just taking a pee break is precarious in this house. So how do I get chores done twice a day, every day?

First of all I will say that my kids come first. Coffee comes second. Then comes chores in the morning. I don't kill myself (at present time) to do chores at the crack of dawn. Heck, I don't get out of bed until at least 7:00. Puzzle Boy always is up before me but he plays quietly(ish) for about a half hour until I wake up enough to get out of bed. I am not a morning person, can you tell? So, after we have all had our morning sustenance, I then do chores. Some mornings I am leaving first thing to run errands or pick up my friends baby to watch him, etc. In this case I would load the kids up in the car first and then do chores while they sit safely buckled up in my preheating car. Other mornings I will put Mini on my back and just take them with me or put them in separate contained places of safety while I run out to do the bare minimum. A lot of times the later is the case and I will just save the bigger more involved chores for when they are napping or supervised with someone who is not me. Like my mom. Or the dog. Just kidding.

Set yourself up for success! Honestly, when you are farming with small children there need to be continual reality checks. Do you really have time to milk three cows? Or, would just two or three goats be more manageable? 100 chickens? Geesh, that's a lot of poop everyday! Think realistically. Start small and know your own limits about what you can handle without outside help. Currently my weekday chores take less than 10 minutes twice a day. How is that you ask with a horse, a laying flock and a meat chick flock? I set it up for success!

My horse lives outside, not in a stall and he poops outside. The most his stall needs is a sweeping of the dirt he drags in every couple weeks. Time saved: 30 minutes of poop scooping. Throwing him his hay and giving a quick check over for ailments takes about two minutes.

The laying flock and rooster need to be fed once a day and the eggs collected. I collect eggs in the morning and feed at night. I clean the laying area every other day or as needed. They take about 3-5 minutes to care for.

The meat birds, while temporary are in my current schedule and take about the same time as the laying hens. They also get cleaned every other day and this seems to work well right now. * I will be doing an update on them soon.

On the weekend when Montana Man is home I will do what big projects need to be done while he watches the kids or we work together as a family like we did this weekend while we made a larger pen for the meat chicks. I had Mini in the Ergo and PB sat on a hay bale and safely watched us from there. Really, I do like having them tag along when MM and I are doing a project because not only does it show them farm skills, it shows them mommy and daddy working together (which we do very well!). Life skills all around!

In the spring we will be adjusting to a new schedule and ways of getting things done as things pick up in the growing season. With this I need to plan carefully and stick to that plan. I have just sent my deposit for two Nigerian Dwarf goats, a milking doe and a maiden yearling doe. I will be adding milking to my morning chores! But, again, I chose an animal that requires smaller increments of time to care for. I will only need about 20 minutes to milk total including sanitation steps and milk prep. I will be milking only my lovely Scarlett next spring, but the next year I will be milking both. Organization will be my friend.

Also next spring, the greenhouse will be full of seedlings to tend and cold weather veggies. New raised gardens beds will need to be made... next year will be a busy one. And, I will probably need to enlist help from a sitter to get some of these things done. For now though, we manage. Farming with kids can be fun, rewarding and enriching for both child and parent. Just remember to know your limits and theirs, have a plan and work together as a unit.

This video was one I did for a lady in LA that approached my about being in a reality show. Nothing ever came of that and I have forgotten I even made this! But, now I see it's true purpose... to share how I got stuff done this summer.

Update: Meat Birds

Update time! We finally got that stall organized and outfitted for the meat chicks. We used pallets to section off one side off it...

We used pallets because, well, that's what we had! It didn't require much of any construction other than nailing them to the stall walls to keep them steady. The middle one I can remove for cleaning and it also turns into a partition while I clean to keep them from taking off.

Getting big aren't they? After some trial and error and a sick chick that spent the night in my bathroom because she got squashed, I decided to feed them with more structure. Free choice was causing them to grow too fast so I feed them twice a day and let them run out in between feedings. The result is very lively and alert birds that don't lay around the feed dispenser all day. Yes, they are growing more slowly because of this but, I decided it was worth it in the long run because it's a more kind way to raise them. It won't be effecting my bottom line price per pound amount but it does push butchering time back about 2-3 weeks. We're looking at the first week of December right now as a rough estimate for butcher time.

Something I have learned when I switched to using shavings instead of straw: put the feeder/waterer up on a block of wood about 2-3 inches high. This keeps it from getting clogged with shavings the chicks like to scratch around. Ideally I would hang these but I don't have a good way of doing that at present time. In the official chicken coop we'll build at the house we will have a hanging set up.

Speaking of the house...

Footing forms are going up today! We have the inspection on Wednesday and then we are free to pour the concrete. Our ICF blocks should also be here Wednesday or Thursday this week and we will likely have the foundation walls up next week sometime. We are already getting snow showers here so we need to get this hole filled and covered up!

Til next time!