Garden View

Garden View
Hello and Welcome! I decided to start this blog for everyone out there who has an interest, or WANTS to be interested, in living a life that is a little more sustainable. I am still learning, and invite you to follow this blog to learn along with me. I will share what I have learned as we go, and hopefully you will pitch in and share what YOU are doing to live a little more off of what you can grow and DO from home. PLEASE BELIEVE ME when I say, if I can learn how to do this on a very small backyard plot in a city, then ANYONE can do this!!

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Farm Dreams

Tell me HONESTLY; You ever had a dream that occupies most of your thoughts, most of the time?  Have you ever wanted something so badly that you feel like devouring every single bit of information available in order to prepare for making it happen?  Then you have probably also experienced the push and pull moments where you start to feel a little scared when considering all of the details.  You start to wonder if you could really do it.  My Farm Dreams are just that: a concoction of endless details, excitement, fear and wonderment.  It is driven by a God-given love for animals and caring for them; as well as a newly acquired passion for raising food and food animals without detriment to the earth OR our bodies.
I can't be alone in this, right?  I know I'm not the only wanna-be farmer girl living in the city trying to learn and do what she can in the urban setting, but ever longing for wide open spaces.  And cows.  There's a lot of details involved with big dreams.  But what if it fails?  It's a scary thought when you are at the edge of the precipice looking at what it might take to make that leap across to the other side.  Sometimes you start to look over your shoulder at what you will be leaving behind, forgetting about the passion that drove you to the precipice to begin with.  If you truly want to make your Farm Dreams happen, I would like to share with you what our family is doing to work towards accomplishing those very things.  It's important to remember that there is no one prescription to making your farm life dreams happen.  First and foremost,you have to have a vision and goals to make this happen!

"As your vision becomes your passion, dreams will give place to reality."-Joel Salatin

1.) What do you want?  Have you thought about what scale you want to manage?

            -Hobby Farm:  A little of this and a little of that.  Are you, like me, an animal lover and want to have a little of everything?  Look into all of the details required for the amount and variety of animals you want to have.  Can you afford this?  Do you have the time to commit to caring for them every day (even when you are sick, tired and just don't wanna!?)

                   -Production Farm:  Do you want to raise animals for profit?  On what scale?  Do you have experience?  If not, plan to start on a more conservative level and see #3!

                           -Somewhere in-between:  and what does that mean to YOU?
**Regardless of which model you choose, do your homework!  Research breeds, looking at both the positives and negatives.  What are the housing requirements and costs of upkeep?  Ultimately, you want the most bang for your buck, right?  So choose animals that will give you high production for low cost.  Don't spend money on things that won't make you money-especially at the start.  For example:  I really want goats....but I want them because they are CUTE!  I actually want to devote my time and energy into chickens to start out then adding in cows as we go.  While goats can also produce many things, I don't want to overextend myself, especially during the start up stages.  We have already started developing a business model that doesn't include them at the onset.

2.)  Are you willing, and able, to WORK?

Let's face it: even though we have a deep love for animals, it is still work.  There are always things that aren't pleasant with farm life that someone (aka: YOU) still needs to take care of---every day.  If you don't want to work hard, face the fact that this may not be the best choice for you.  If you are not as physically capable, find someone to partner with that matches your goals and that can provide the physical labor.

"Really, accomplishing your dream is not so much about mechanics and opportunity as it is about character qualities: self-denial, perseverance, commitment, focus."-Joel Salatin in "You Can Farm"

3.)  Look Around and DO IT!

While you have visions of farm dreams and chicken fairies dancing in your head, what could you be doing right where you are?  Could you turn your back (and front) yard into a vegetable garden and mini orchard?  What about adding a few chickens?  There really is a lot that you can do from where you are to start learning and growing, even if it's starting with an herb garden indoors, or vegetable pots on your apartment balcony.  It's better for you to start learning BEFORE you get your land anyway.  The land itself is not a necessary element to becoming a successful homesteader.  Learn how to become more self sufficient and to 'farm' what you can from where you are right now.  Could you grow some extra produce and take your eggs to a local farmers market on a small scale business level?  Come up with a marketing plan BEFORE you plant the seeds or buy those cute peeping chicks.  If you can get started doing this right now, from where you are, you will gain invaluable experience and learn a lot along the way about how you want to manage things.  Think about how far that will take you when you finally DO acquire some land and you can do this on a larger scale!

4.) Finances

We are using Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace in order to get completely out of debt so we aren't starting out in a hole.  It's all about setting yourself up for success in every way possible.  This means that we will grow our farm business slowly, but I'm OK with that because it means that we won't be overextending ourselves before we have money coming in to support the initial operation costs (plus, we will no doubt still be working 'regular' jobs).

As mentioned in #3 above, there are a LOT of things you can do to start 'farming' that don't require much space OR much capital.  You can easily raise broiler chickens in your backyard with a portable chicken tractor, or even on some rented land (or borrowed yards) nearby.  Or raise several great laying hens in your backyard and you can sell eggs to neighbors, coworkers or at the farmers market.  It doesn't HAVE to be complicated....but we can sure make it that way without trying very hard, can't we!  If you have a Farm Dream that starts at the base of your soul and works it's way out into every other sentence you speak, God has given you something called a CLUE!  And you don't have to wait until you can buy that chunk of land, etc, etc.  You can start acting on your dream on whatever scale you can in whatever environment you are in now.  Don't listen to the naysayers or give in to the fear of success or failure; if God has given you this desire, listen to where He is guiding you and GO FOR IT!

Now, get out there and get some dirt under your nails and chicken poop on your shoes!

Here's some great books to get you started and keep you motivated:

YOU CAN FARM, by Joel Salatin
FRESH EGGS DAILY, by Lisa Steele

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Winter Molting? WTH!

WTH (What the HEN)?!  This expletive resounded when I made my daily visit to the girls and found that the scrawniest of them all had decided to molt during the throws of winter.  This is the first year the girls were due to molt and only one of them accomplished this during the Fall like they were supposed to.  Molting is typically triggered by the shorter days/light as the season changes from summer to Fall.  However, major temperature swings can also trigger molting.  Here in Colorado, we have definitely seen some bi-polar weather this year; going seemingly straight from summer to fall with flooding involved (??); then a strange winter cycle with snow, then temps back to the 50's for weeks before winter showed up again.  When it finally did rear it's frosty head, we had the coldest sustained temperatures in a long time, breaking records that were made in the 70's with 15 and 20 below!  Two weeks later (or so), we had temperatures reach 64 degrees.  No wonder these poultry pals are confused.

Needless to say, I kept a close eye on the smallest of our hens for a few days to make sure that this was nothing to worry about, since she didn't molt when she was SUPPOSED to!  Shortly after, the other 2 hens began to molt and the run certainly looked like a couple of chickens spontaneously imploded leaving only downy evidence behind.  Feathers abounded in the run, coop and nest box.

It's amazing how their behavior changes during this time as well.  I give them regular free range time in the yard, and they have only been spending a short time out, then they will hunker down and hide underneath the coop.  The smallest hen retires to the coop for good portions of time, no doubt due to the fact that it's insulated and much warmer than outdoors when you are nearly naked in the winter!  "They" say that the better layer the hen is, the quicker her molt will be.  I am seeing that in my flock as well; the Rhode Island Red is molting very quick, as well as the Barred Rocks. Then there's the Andalusian....she's taking her time and definitely looks it!

Seriously though, molting causes extra stress on a hen and there are some things you can do to help them out in their time of need.  Here are a few things I am doing to help them through the molt:

-Extra Protein: Making fresh new fluffy feathers takes energy and requires protein to develop.  Great sources of protein for them are leftovers of your scrambled/boiled eggs, meal worms, black oil sunflower seeds, sardines (they love 'em!), leftover meat scraps (as long as it's not heavily seasoned).  I also give them regular free range time in the yard so they can continue normal chicken behaviors such as hunting and scratching for bugs.  

-Make Molt Muffins as a supplement (find the recipe in this necessary natural chicken keeping book Fresh Eggs Daily by Lisa Steele).  This provides extra nutrition and protein as well as something for them to do and peck at besides each other.

-Supplemental Heat:  This will be a personal choice for you based on your geographical location and weather, as well as your 'position' on the matter.  We do NOT add supplemental light for our chickens in the fall/winter so as to give them the natural break for their bodies.  However, we set up a very small, crude, heating 'device' inside the coop to provide a small amount of radiating heat.  We have a light bulb inside a clay pot set up inside the coop for this purpose.  We use this during only the coldest nights/days in the winter.  Truthfully, we probably wouldn't have it at all if we didn't own a Mediterranean breed (Blue Andalusian) that does not do well in colder temperatures.  There are some great, safely designed heating devices to have inside your coop such as this Heat Lamp I found available from Premier1 supply.

Important things to consider if adding supplemental heat:  

1.)  You are conditioning them to 'need' the heat so they will, in turn, not be as hardy with the colder temperatures.  If you choose to do this, you must be consistent with when and how much you supplement.

2.)  What about power failures?  Do you have a back up generator or other plan to keep the heater running?  As said previously, the chickens won't be as tolerant of the colder temperatures if you are giving them added heat, so if the power fails you may be facing illness or even death in your flock without it.

3).  Fire Hazard.  Supplemental heat sources can be a fire hazard.  Make sure you triple-quadruple check and plan out the safety part of this.  We lock our chickens in the coop at night and there is no way I would want a fire to develop inside with no escape route for them.  Tough to think about, but you must think through these things if you want to be a responsible chicken keeper.

Would my chickens survive without the small amount of added heat?  Absolutely.  This is not something that chicken keepers have to do (think of the people that have chickens in Alaska!), but it is something we chose to do to keep them a bit more comfortable.

Nice single tail feather Tina!
The 2 hens on the right are molting
And last, but certainly not least, give them plenty of alone time since they seem sincerely embarrassed at their pitiful condition!  They don't seem to want you to see them in less than tip-top shape!  They are a bit more sensitive to touch during their molt, so on behalf of the hens, don't force any snuggling.  I might have to take up knitting chicken sweaters if they decide to molt during winter next year (Kidding...I think)!

P.S. Odice the Bunny doesn't mind the molt.  'Course he doesn't mind much of anything, really.
Bandit running from the camera

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Setbacks in reality: Sappy post alert!

As many of you may have noticed, it's been a little quiet on the blog for a while.  Life.  Sometimes life begins to fly by so fast that we occasionally need to slow down and take a reality check.  I am one of those 'straight forward' communicators that doesn't like to beat around the bush.  In short-I like to call-it-like-it-is. So here's the deal: I began to lose priorities in my life.  This past year, my work stresses began to consume me both professionally and personally.  Not good.  I had all kinds of goals and excitement for my writing and where I wanted to take the blog-but even that began to feel like a burden.  My garden was planned beautifully-with succession plantings and lots of food that would be canned to store and have to feed the family throughout the winter. 
I can tell you I have nothing in my pantry from the garden except a bag of frozen shredded zucchini and some cherry tomatoes.  There was a lot of waste in my garden this year.  You know there needs to be a reality check when the things that bring you joy are only another stressor. 

THE POINT-I am here to remind you that there are a lot of things that we plan and would like to accomplish at certain times in life, but God will always remind you of where your focus should lie; and I can tell you its not on stuff-and-things, or even work.  I still have a lot of the same goals-but they are no longer self-centered.  They involve my family and, perhaps more importantly, helping others.  God has a way of humbling us right when we need it; and for that I am thankful.  I am grateful for hardships and suffering that bring about perspective and humility.  We pick ourselves back up and begin again-with a fresh mindset. 

So-onward we go.  I am refreshed and renewed and excited to continue sharing our path of learning about homesteading with you!  I have no doubt that many of you have experienced frustration, set backs or motivation struggles while learning to homestead where you are.  I'm here to tell you that it's normal-and that you aren't the only one who goes there; I guess I'm just willing to tell it all-the hilarious, the growth and even the ugly.  This stuff isn't glamorous folks-we get down and dirty in this game of life!  Come on now-what has been the biggest obstacle for YOU in homesteading and how have you overcome it?  Let's inspire each other to keep-on-keepin' on!  What are you working on right now?

Until next time,


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