Herbs & Things

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Herbs & Things

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This Month Around the Homestead {April 2015}

I have been so busy around here that I haven't been able to keep up with posting photos (or even taking them) and updates. I've realized that the bulk of my photos have been taken on my Iphone, because it has just become more convenient than lugging my camera around and taking the risk of it dropping into the duck pond or getting full of dirt in the garden. I've also realized that I need to take less photos sometimes....yes, that's right. Sometimes I miss being in the middle of the moment, because I'm too concerned with getting that "perfect shot". So, I regress, just a bit!

None-the-less, the little homestead has been in a big transition this month, so there is a lot to update about (be it with iphone photos or the real camera). Between the Icelandic chickens, lots of baby rabbits, and a brand new garden -- we are absolutely enjoying life and all that we have been blessed with this month, and every month!

We'll start with the chickens. When we first got chickens, we had a menagerie of sorts -- all different kinds and breeds. It was fun, not knowing which color eggs would be gathered into the carton that day. This year we decided we would add Icelandic Chickens. I love being able to conserve a dying breed, and they have such a rich history as well. Unfortunately, as many of you may remember, we lost about 75% of our Icelandic flock this year (we only had 16 Icies) to predator attacks. Nothing made a difference with these Icies. Re-enforced wire, netting, and clipping just didn't matter. They would some how weasel their way out and/or over our chicken run (they can clear 10 ft fencing). Which almost always resulted (when they wanted to escape) in their death by a lurking predator.

We realized that we did not have the capability to keep up with their needs, nor did we have the finances to throw down another $200+ just to re-enforce our entire chicken run (which is huge) just so they couldn't fly out. It wasn't fair to the rest of our animals when all of our money was going into making this one particular breed safe, so we made a hard decision, but a necessary one for our homestead.

Iphone photo -- juvenile Icelandic rooster
We made the very tough decision this past week to send what was left of our Icie flock to a nice little B&B here in Virginia. They are trying to be more self-sufficient -- offering fresh eggs in their customers breakfast and a fun experience. We know they are going to a good home with lots of space to roam. And when they aren't roaming, they will be in a coop and run built like Fort Knox.

You see, it's all part of homesteading. We bought into the Icelandic chickens because we wanted chickens that could be more self-sufficient and reliant. And they were. But when it came down to it, they we just too wild for us. We could not meet their needs in a high predator area. It was not something that came down to our entire flock -- it is something that came down to this specific breed. I will have my Icies again one day -- of that I am sure! But for now, we are shifting our focus. Sometimes the hard part of homesteading is not taking on more, but knowing that you need to take-off more, and giving your animals a better life because of it.

I also take comfort in knowing that through Harvey Ussery, ourselves and through the publicity through Mother Earth News, many people are now conserving this close to extinction landrace. I have no issue not having this beautiful bird on our property when so many others are now aware of their existence.

Iphone photo -- Scarlett's litter
In the rabbit world, Scarlett and Esther have both finally kindled. They kindled this past weekend and both of them have healthy and beautiful litters. Scarlett, however, had gotten extremely huge at the end of her pregnancy. She ended up having 13 kits -- this completely blew me away. I am not used to my rex having such large litters...never in the double digits. My flemish giants are notorious for large litters, but not my sweet rex mommas! 

Both Esther and Scarlett have proven to be wonderful moms, but Esther has taken it a step farther and has been very aggressive. You can see the video of her on our facebook page. Over all, we have close to 20 Rex babies that will need new homes in the next 7-8 weeks. So I will be contacting many of you who were interested.

Missy's meat mutt litter is absolutely huge. We should be able to process this litter before 14 weeks old. I am extremely pleased with the Rex/Flemish Giant breeding this time. This was our first time trying it, and it was a huge success. I will be happy to have rabbit in my freezer again!

Our garden is coming along....

Mountain Man built some raised beds into the hillside since we live on a steep hill. So far I've planted spinach, lettuce, beets, carrots, green beans, peppers of various kinds, tomatoes, lavender, thyme and cilantro. And I will be planting onions and garlic, squash and zucchini, and a few other herbs and veggies in the coming days.

We've planted strawberries in our hanging baskets so that we can bring them indoors during the cold months -- they will come back every year if brought inside. This is something that I never thought to do before, but an elderly client of Marks told him that she had been doing it for years and it had been very successful. I'm very hopeful that they will do well this year!

All of our tomatoes were planted in containers that a client of Mark's was planning on throwing out. Free stuff is always the best! We try to reuse and recycle when possible. The long middle planter you see behind this first one will have flowers and herbs to help break up the monotony of tomatoes. I planted a lot of tomatoes this year, of various kinds. I hope to make spaghetti sauce (we go through it like crazy), ketchup, and do a lot of canning of the two, as well as canning tomatoes by themselves.

At the advice of a dear homesteading friend, I've decided to try and plant some onions and garlic this year. Both of which came from the grocery store (organic). The onion sprouted on its own, as did the garlic. The onion will be hardened off before planting tomorrow or the following day.

Spring has officially sprung here. Everything is popping open and pollinating. We have tossed around the idea of adding honey bees to our homestead. This would definitely be headed up by Mountain Man, as I'm not so sure I could get as easily passionate about them. I am passionate about honey bees and the conservation of them, however, it's not necessarily something I am personally passionate about conserving myself (with everything else I am doing). So, Mountain Man seems pretty excited about the possibility, but we will see where it (the thought) takes us in the next year.

We've added a hammock to our property, and we'll be adding lots of "restful" things to that area. Flowers, grasses, and log sculptures are just a few of the things I have in mind for that extra feeling of "nature" and peace. Oh, and our little farmer man on the tree.

Junior is especially grateful for the hammock....or, excuse me...."his" hammock.

The more work we do to our mini-homestead, the more I just want to stay here and enjoy it for at least another year. Property and land searches have been put on hold for a little while, and we are finally content with where we are, right here in this moment and on this property. Eventually we will sell this property -- it is inevitable. But until then, we're going to enjoy the heck out of it.

My need for a larger property and different home was clearly stemmed in the fact that I was completely drained from the constant overwhelming feeling that our house, after 7 years, is still just as much a "fixer upper" as it was when we first bought it. But over the past 2 months we've been doing a lot of changes, and that overwhelming feeling has slowly started subsiding and being replaced with peace and comfort. When you aren't comfortable in your own home, it can really drain you. But as we begin having the time, motivation and money (most of all) to complete projects, things are really starting to shine!

In other news -- our backyard has finally been seeded and the grass has decided to grow (after two weeks of it looking like it didn't take!). Since we are down to about 12 chickens and 6 ducks, free ranging will be much less stressful on our backyard. We have slowly began introducing our birds back to ranging, but only on a strict time limit (about 20 to 30 mins a day right now). They are happy and almost worn out after ranging for 30 minutes. They understand that they must get all of their range time in before being put up after feeding the rest of the animals, and they are happy with what little time they are receiving right now. 

The good news is that the chickens are still getting plenty of veggies and scraps from our kitchen now that we have been buying more organic produce. One of our local grocery stores has been switching over much of their store to completely organic items, which has really been a joy to watch. The more items that are organic and bought in bulk through them, means my end consumer price is less expensive for me. With the exception of some specialty items.

We still plan to utilize the farmers market as much as possible this year, as I can't plant but so much on our property with the limited space. We are also preparing for a whole hog that a friend of ours has raised. This will be our second time buying a hog from them for our freezer, and it will be just as delicious, I'm sure! It is especially needed right now as well, as we did not nearly fill up our freezer with venison this year as we have in years past. With Mountain Mans busy work schedule (thank the Lord!), it just wasn't possible for him to get out into the woods as much as he would have liked to. We are looking forward to the rabbit and hog meat this Summer.

Homestead dog, Samson, has been as lazy as usual. He turned a year old last month and he's the biggest snuggle monster you ever did see. He sits still for about 2.14756 seconds before darting off away from the camera. Deer antlers are his favorite, and he's vicious about them when you come for them. The sibling rivalry struggle is real between him and Junior, but they are inseparable. 

I have been extremely busy with work (since I work from home), trying to finish up homeschool before June, being a mom and housewife, and trying to keep my sanity through it all. It's not easy, by any means, but it works, and it's fulfilling, and I couldn't ask for a better life.

That's about it right now, though I'm sure I've missed something. Wishing you and yours a beautiful and productive Spring!!

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