We Got Chickens!

Chickens are a must have when homesteading. Heck, they’re great in the suburbs even! Chickens are very low maintenance, cheap to feed, and produce a lot of food. A healthy hen in her prime and with good conditions can produce an egg a day. An egg will provide you with 5 grams of healthy fat, 6 grams of protein, and about 80 calories. Eggs are some of the best fuel that you can put in your body, especially if you produce them yourself and don’t get them from the supermarket.

Due to reasons previously explained in Playhouse to Chicken House, we are starting with four chickens. This isn’t enough to feed us when you consider that I eat 3-4 eggs a day for breakfast. Like anything in life, it’s good to get your feet wet before jumping in the deep end. We will hone in our chicken raising skills with these four hens and when we are confident we can handle more, we’ll add more.

Our plan is to eventually have a couple dozen hens laying and maybe a couple of roosters. This would provide us with more than enough eggs and we’ll be able to sell or give away any extras. In order to do this we’ll have to build a bigger chicken coop, which is in the budget for next spring.

We’ve had the chickens for a few weeks now and other than an incident with one of our dogs they’ve been very easy and stress free. We free range them as often as possible, which makes feeding them even cheaper! I let them out in the morning and let the dogs in our house (they’re not trained to not eat chickens yet). The chickens will scavenge our woods all day long and as soon as the sun goes down they go back in their house. It’s really as simple as opening the door in the morning and shutting the door in the evening.

Free raning the chickens

Free ranging the chickens

DIY Laundry Detergent

One of the goals that we made in regards to homesteading was trying to be as self-suffiient as possible.  In doing that I have started making more of our household cleaning supplies and other “consumables” from scratch or more cost effective components.

One of the first things I thought I would tackle was laundry detergent.  I have made my own detergent in the past using this recipe but I wanted to try something different as my “year” was almost up.  I stumbled across this recipe on Pinterest and thought I would do a combination of the two.

I decided on simplifying the first recipe by removing the oxy-clean and the fabric softener crystals, replacing Fels-Naptha with Zote Soap, and adding one bar of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soaps.

All the Ingredients

All the Ingredients

  • 1 bar of Zote Soap
  • 1 bar of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap – Lavendar
  • 1 box Borax
  • 1 box Washing Soda
  • 2 cups of baking soda

The first thing I needed to do was grate the Zote and Castile Soaps.  This is the most time consuming part of the whole process.

Grating the soap Zote Soap Grated Castile Soap (I promise it's not parmesan cheese)

After the grating was done, I started mixing all the ingredients together.  I did this in stages to mix the ingredients better.  I also used a large stock pot to mix everything in. This stage is the easiest and most rewarding.  As the stock pot was filling up, I knew that we were once again simplifying our life and becoming more self-sufficient.

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By the end, the stock pot was full and I had about a year’s worth of laundry soap to show for it.  To store the detergent, I used a canister that we had sitting around.  It holds 5.0 L.

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Both recipes that I used as jumping point stated that 2 tablespoons was all that is needed per load.  I think that next time I will use a different scent of castile soap as the Zote soap does have citronella oil in it.

Front Gardens: A Work in Progress

This week has be unusually cool in our region so we thought this would be a great time to start prepping our gardening space in the front of the house.  Below is a picture of our house before we started clearing out the beds.

The front of the house before any projects had started.

The front of the house before any projects had started.

Our plan is to use the square foot gardening method. We will have gardens on either side of the covered porch and along the front of the porch as well. The first bed will be on the right side of the porch as this bed is already defined and has the most work to get ready.  We have a lot of shrubs, decorative grasses and weeds to clear out before we can get anything started.

My project was to clear out everything in the bed, leaving just the line of boxwood bushes in the back.  We are leaving these for now as they provide some protection from the afternoon sun.  The big bushes were cut down by my husband.  I started digging out the decorative grasses and pulling up the weed blocker that the weeds and grasses started growing on top of.  We are going to let the bushes dry out and the rest of the yard waste will be thrown into the compost bin.  Below are a few pictures of the progress on clearing the bed.

Pulling up the weed blocker.

Pulling up the weed blocker.

Clearing the bed and the extra bushes cut down.

Clearing the bed and the extra bushes cut down. The boxwoods are trimmed up and looking more uniform.

Here is what the front of the house looks like during the process.

Front of the house - during the clearing process.

Front of the house – during the clearing process.

Yom Kippur: Day of Atonement 2013

We had the opportunity to celebrate Yom Kippur, otherwise known as the Day of Atonement, for the first time this last shabbat. It is the only time of the year that we are commanded to fast. Leviticus 23 outlines all the feast days and appointed times of the Most High.

26 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 27 “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. 28 And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. 29 For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. 30 And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. 31 You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 32 It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.”

The rules for Yom Kippur are pretty simple. Do no work and fast. Doing no work not only means your normal job but it also means other forms of work such as: mowing the lawn, painting the house, cleaning the house, cutting wood, weeding your garden, etc. Basically you don’t eat anything and spend all day focusing on the Lord. I personally spent quite a bit of time in prayer, the word, and watched some Know Your Enemy episodes. It’s also a great day to sleep in, just ask my wife :-)

I decided to go with no food or drink (even water) for the 24 hour period. From sundown Friday to sundown Saturday I neither ate nor drank anything. This was the first time I’ve done a fast like that and it was something else. I think YHWH (God) blessed me this time and took some of the pain and difficulty from me. Normally my stomach hurts if I don’t go for 5 hours without food but I had very little stomach pain all day. The most difficult thing was going with no water. That left me with a slight but not unbearable headache all day long.

Leviticus 16 goes into great detail about the Day of Atonement and the sacrifices that the High Priest had to make. I’m not going to get into all of it with this post but I encourage you to read it and look for the similarities between it and our Messiah Yeshua (Jesus).

29 “This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. 30 For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. 31 It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever. 32 And the priest, who is anointed and consecrated to minister as priest in his father’s place, shall make atonement, and put on the linen clothes, the holy garments; 33 then he shall make atonement for the Holy Sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tabernacle of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34 This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the children of Israel, for all their sins, once a year.” And he did as the Lord commanded Moses.

Notice Leviticus 23:31 says, “it shall be a statute forever throughout all your generations in all your dwellings.” Leviticus 16:31 reads, “It is a statute forever.” Leviticus 16 goes on to say in verse 34, “This shall be an everlasting statute for you.” I’m not the smartest man in the world but I think forever and all your generations is still going on. It’s clear that YHWH really wants us to keep this feast.

I know that many reading this might be thinking, “This sacrifice and feast was to make atonement for the children of Israel but we now have Jesus to make atonement for us.” And you are absolutely right! Yeshua did and does continuously make atonement for us but we don’t keep this feast because we think it will wash away our sins. Yeshua has already accomplished that, praise Yah! We keep this feast as a memorial and because the Most High commanded us to. We are merely worshipping our God the way he wants.

Underground Dog Fence

For the first couple of months of living on our land I constantly had poison ivy on my arms, right on my elbows. I know, it’s a weird place to get it. I used to think I was immune to poison ivy but that thought quickly eroded as my entire arm would swell up. It turns out I’m extremely allergic to poison ivy. At first we couldn’t figure out why I kept getting it and why in the same place on my arms.

After a couple of months of misery we finally had a breakthrough. Our dog, Lucy, also happens to have allergy problems and she kept having problems with inflammation and irritation in her paws. We didn’t think much of it at first but then a light bulb turned on.

Our 5 acres is made up of about 3 acres of grass and 2 acres of thick woods. As I as mowing close to the tree line I realized that poison ivy is covering all the ground right where the trees start. There’s also a ton of poison ivy as you get deeper in the woods. We finally figured out that Lucy would run around back there and have the oil on her paws. She would then lovingly jump into my arms to greet me. What she meant as affection ended up being weeks of misery for me.

Once we figured out where the poison ivy was coming from the next step was to come up with a solution to keep Lucy out of it. We thought about putting up a chain link fence to keep her corralled but we decided against that for three reasons. 1) We just moved to all this land and we didn’t want to restrict her to a yard like in the city. 2) We wanted our dogs to freely run around the entire house and be able to protect us. 3) Chain link fences can be pretty expensive, especially when doing a large area.

We decided to install an underground dog fence. This is similar to a an electric fence but the wire is buried underground and the shocker is on the dog’s collar. When the dog gets close enough to the line, the collar give them a quick zap and they turn around. The collar also gives them an audible warning when they are in the danger zone, which allows them to stop before they get shocked.

All you need to install an underground dog fence is the copper wire, collar, and base unit. You can pick up a kit that’s adequate for a typical yard at any pet store but if you have a lot of land you are better off looking on Amazon. You can get a whole kit for about $200 and if you need more wire that’s easily and cheaply obtained.

It takes about 1,500 feet of wire to fence in 3 acres so it’s no small task. I could have rented a trencher but I figured I’d do it myself and save a few hundred dollars. Brother Joe and I spent about seven hours digging the trench and laying the wire on a sunny 90 degree day. Yes it was hot and tiring but we had a good sense of accomplishment after, and rewarded ourselves with a few cold brews :-)

The real reward is that I’ve been poison ivy free ever since installing the fence!

All said and done, I would suggest using an underground fence if you need to keep an animal in a specific area. It’s cost effective, easy to install, zero maintenance, and very effective.

 

Growing Food, Not Shrubs and Flowers

Shrubs and flowers certainly look nice but do they really serve a purpose when you’re trying to live off the land? When your goal is to produce all of your own food, curb appeal gets put on the backburner. Our goal with the majority of our gardens is for them to be close to the house for easy access. A good friend reminded us that a great garden is tinkered with everyday, so easy access is a must. For this reason, we are converting the shrub/flower garden in the front of the house to a food/herb garden.

We hope to find mostly “pretty” foods and herbs since it is in the front of the house but in reality, we are not going to be super picky. We live on a dirt road 10 minutes from a tiny town that doesn’t get a lot of tourists. So in all reality, how many people are really going to be driving by our house?

We are going to be utilizing a gardening method called square foot gardening. Square foot gardening is a fairly new method of gardening that is supposed to multiply your production by up to 500%, reduce water usage, and is easy to maintain. I say supposed to do all those things because we have yet to try it. From what we’ve read, it seems legit so we’re going to give it a shot. You will all know how well it works for us in the coming months. Another plus other than efficiency is that square foot gardening creates nice, clean lines, which is perfect as the garden will be in front of our house.

Here’s a picture of the front of our house before we started any projects. We will keep you up to date with progress pics in future posts. As you can see, the previous owners didn’t give much TLC to their garden. The next time you see this house, most of those shrubs and decorative plants will be gone!

The front of the house before any projects had started.

The front of the house before any projects had started.