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

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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¬†‚ÄúAlso 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.‚ÄĚ

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 ūüôā

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¬†‚ÄúThis¬†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‚Äôs 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.‚ÄĚ 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 ūüôā

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.

Playhouse to Chicken House

Playhouse to Chicken House

Chickens were very high on our list of what to have on our homestead,¬†so we really needed a chicken coop. We really wanted to build a proper, permanent and large enough house for a couple dozen chickens right away but the budget is a little tight for a while. Buying a house and paying taxes will do that! As we were sitting on the back deck the other night trying to figure out how we were going to build a chicken coop, a brilliant idea hit me¬†(wife didn’t think so at the time). Why not use the playhouse that the old homeowners left?

The idea was really pretty simple; board up the windows that didn’t have shutters, put a latch on the window with shutters, attach a door and chicken run. That’s exactly what we did.

Step 1 – Secure the windows without the shutters. The playhouse had three windows on two different sides that we needed to secure. Some plywood and toggle bolts took care of those pretty well.

Chicken Coop

Joe is proud of our handy work

Step 2 – Cut and attach a door. We used plywood for the door which isn’t ideal but again, this is a temporary solution. We picked up some used door hinges and a latch at a local trading post (yes, just like in the old western movies). They worked great to hold the door in place and secure it shut at night.

Chicken Coop

Windows & Door Secured

Step 3 – Secure the shutters on the side of the house with a latch. We paid about $1 a piece for each latch from the trading post. We used carabiners as to keep the latch closed. These shuttered windows will be the outside access to the nesting boxes so we don’t have to go into the house to collect every day.

Shutters Secured

Shutters Secured

Step 4 – Build the chicken run. We plan to free range our chickens but wanted a run for them if we leave for a day or two. We used two 16′ livestock panels to make an 8′ x 10′ run. We secured the cow panels by hammering iron stakes in the ground and allowing friction to do the rest. We then overlaid the panels with chicken wire. We rigged a gate at the end of the run so we can access it when necessary. A couple of T-posts worked great for that. The chicken wire is secured to the house by wrapping one end of it around a 2×4 and screwing the 2×4 into the house.

Chicken Coop

Finishing touches on the run

Step 5 – Build a nesting box and put in some roosts. We were able to re-purpose the plastic fridge that came with the playhouse into two nesting boxes. We attached the nesting box to the window with the shutters so we can have access to the eggs from the outside.

Chicken Nesting Boxes

Nesting boxes with access from outside

There happened to be a couple of cabinet doors and a faucet in the house that should make pretty good roosts. We put in a couple of pieces of lumber for additional roosting space.

Chicken Roosts

Roosts

The whole process took under 6 hours and about 4 of it was spent on the run. The run wasn’t difficult or complicated, it’s just time consuming. If you’ve ever worked with chicken wire, you know what I mean.

The only part of this structure I’m not 100% sure is predator proof is the ground around the run. I have plenty of old 2×4 that I can attach to the bottom all the way around if necessary but I’m not too concerned about it. We have two outside dogs that patrol our property 24 hours a day so nothing is going to be able to get under it before my dogs run them off.

Chicken Coop

Finished chicken coop

The chicken coop is ready for it’s new residents!

Chicken Coop

Finished Coop!

Homesteading Plan of Attack

Benjamin Franklin famously said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This quote really sums up a couple of points I’d like to make. 1) Begin preparing for a difficult future now. 2) Come up with a game plan for how you are going to prepare.

If you haven’t already begun preparing for a difficult future, you need to start. The history of the world is full of hardships and just because we’ve had it good for a really long time, doesn’t mean it will always be that way.¬†The hardships could be brought on by nature or acts of man but there’s a 100% possibility of things getting hard in the future. It might not be in the near future or even in our lifetimes but my family’s livelihood and security are not worth the risk of not preparing. If you haven’t started preparing then at least start thinking about it!

Our plan for preparing for the inevitable hard times is to become as self-sufficient as possible. The best way we figured we could do that is by homesteading.

The second point of this post is to briefly touch on our plan of attack to make this home our homestead. As we’ve said before, we are 100% new to this so mistakes are going to happen but we can minimize mistakes by proper planning. Our first step was to layout the land and how each piece of it will be utilized. For this, we relied heavily on some very close friends that were almost 100% self-sustaining on their own 5 acres.

We had our list of things that we’d like to have on the land so our friends could help us lay it all out in an efficient manner. With their help, we now have our land laid out.

Here’s the list of future land usage:

  • Gardens – lots of them and with a variety of vegetation (vegetables, fruits, herbs)
  • Orchard – 1/2 being dwarf trees and 1/2 normal trees (apple, peach, pear, cherry)
  • Chickens – mostly for eggs (great source of protein and fat)
  • Livestock – probably sheep and goats (don’t have enough land for cattle)
  • Bees – honey is delicious and has great health benefits (bees also help pollinate trees and other vegetation)

One of the important things about a plan is that you have to be willing to make adjustments if it doesn’t worked out the way you envisioned. This is our current list but that might change as time goes on. We have the land laid out but that might change as we progress. Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” We have a plan but God might direct our steps down a different path.

In any case, our plan is set and we are ready to get to work!