I had no idea that I shouldn’t plant them so close together!
I thought this was enough room between plants!
This is our first year of a full garden! Full for us anyway. Let me start at the beginning…
When we had to rehome our precious hens last year after the hurricane, our first thought was to sell the 2 pens we had put together as our enclosure for the chickens and their coops. But winter came, time slipped away and then I had an epiphany!!!
Since we have 3 small dogs that would absolutely destroy a garden, I thought it would be a perfect place to put our very first “in-ground” garden! I had done some container gardening up to this point, so I was really excited!!!! The big bonus was the shade covers over the entire 30 x 10 area – the birds wouldn’t be able to swoop in for a fruit or veggie snack!
When our farmer market open this spring, I went to check it out…and there were starter plants!!! Not knowing exactly what I was getting myself into, I got 4 containers of each of these plants: Watermelon, Squash, Cucumbers, Bell Peppers, and Tomatoes! I had already gotten 5 Strawberry plants from another homesteader friend.
I got the ground ready, and planted my little starter plants. They were so cute! I only used 2/3 of the area I had, but I soon realized that I was going to have to move some of those running plants!!! I had NO idea how quickly they spread!
Now we have TONS of cucumbers, a good amount of squash, several nice sized watermelons developing – on in a hammock hanging from the fence (his fence mate fell off – I was wondering if it would hold or not – so he got his own hammock to finish growing!
The tomato plants are HUGE and producing very well, the bell peppers are delicious and sort of at a standstill right now after picking all the mature “bells”. I definitely need to do more research on the strawberries…they are a confusing bunch for me.
All in all, it’s been a good season so far – we can’t wait for those melons to ripen! But, I have alot of studying to do for next year!! I’m thinking about some raised beds too, adding jalapeños, beans, onions, and we might try some potatoes!
At least now I know how much room all those vining plants need!!!!!!
I can’t believe that we have never introduced our furbabies to you yet!!! We have 4 furry kids…Molly the cat and Mike, Carlos, and Bella, our pups! They sure do keep this old couple on their toes!
Meet Molly –
We adopted Molly from the local animal shelter, she was a year and a half old when we got her. She had been an “owner turn in” – why anyone wouldn’t want her is beyond me! She is an awesome cat and a great huntress! She will hunt down every moth and fly in the house! She really is a great cat with a really good personality! Molly is 3 years old now and loves her furry dog siblings!
She loves her Daddy!!! She was laying by his feet while he shaved.
When Chica and Roscoe (our pups Mom and Dad, like for real mom and dad) first decided it was time for puppies (yeah, not really a conscience decision!), David and I were so excited!!! Great grandpuppies! On a very hot day in August of 2016 Chica had her first 6 babies! Of course I went to their house right after work to check out the precious pups and I knew immediately which one I wanted!
We chose the little black and white puppy with the snowman on his back (Mike got older the “snowman” turned into more of an exclamation point…now it’s just a black blob).
Molly was very receptive to Mike (Mike and Molly, get it?) and they were the only pets for almost a year before the 2 younger pups came – the two of them really bonded !!!!
We always said that when we had a dog we wanted one just like Roscoe (my daughter’s dog and Mike’s Dad) – because he is the bomb dog! We got just what we ordered !!! Mike is so much like Roscoe it’s scary!
Meet Mike – (aka – Mike the Farm Dog)
Not only does Mike look like his dad, every single thing is the same (except their coloring). Mike is horribly spoiled (if you saw the amount of photos on my phone and the toys in our living room, you would seriously agree!), and Mike doesn’t know that he is a D-O-G, so if you know him, please don’t tell him 😉 Mike has slept in the bed with us since the very first night he came home, right as Hurricane Matthew was hitting our town and devastated our entire county in October of 2016.
He is seriously the perfect dog! The only way he could be closer to being a human is if he really were a human! He is our baby. The one and only…until Chica got pregnant…again!
Meet Carlos and Bella –
Ok…so it took a TON a fast talking to convince David to get another puppy! I even let him pick the puppy himself! Carlos was his choice…we knew we wanted a male (this is a good point to remember for a little later on in the story), we didn’t want to have to go through a little girl puppy and heat and spaying and all that jazz. Then, out of the blue, David has this light bulb moment and says we should get TWO puppies so they will keep each other company! We discussed and mulled it over for, oh, about 30 minutes and decided it was a GREAT idea!!!! So…I chose Bella…the one that would eventually go into heat if we didn’t spay her! Geez…what were we thinking?
These two are inseparable!!!! They love each other more than any two dogs I have every known! They are two peas in a pod. Womb mates. Litter mates. Crate mates.
Carlos is such a wimp…MY little wimp…I love him like I never thought I could love another dog (Mike is the perfect one, remember?). And he loves his Mom just as much! This little guy is afraid of EVERYTHING. No, seriously, he is! But, he loves to be outside and would stay out there permanently if you let him.
Bella is a FEARLESS little girl. I have NEVER seen anything like it! She isn’t afraid of anything! I do believe that she got her courage and ALL of the courage that was supposed to go to Carlos in the womb! She is not overly affectionate unless she wants to be. She make her own decisions and doesn’t care what anyone else says. She has no clue what the word “no” means and isn’t willing to learn. BUT….she is the most beautiful (junior) dog – not really a puppy and not really a dog yet – that you will ever see! And she loves her Carlos. And he loves her. And they both love their big brother Mike. I love our little Bella Boo (aka Belly Belle), she makes life so interesting!
These 4 furry ones are our lives. Our furry kids. Like, for real. They are all so spoiled and so loved. We are the blessed ones that were chosen to be their humans. Thank you Lord, you did good 😉
We have a regular wellness routine – especially in the winter! We use our arsenal of essential oils to maintain our immune system naturally and this year we have been learning all kinds of other home remedies that we hear are foolproof!!!!
Elderberry Syrup is one of them! According to Edible Wild Food, Elderberries are “sometimes propagated as an ornamental shrub, the elderberry bush is a member of the honeysuckle family. It attracts birds and butterflies and can be pruned back every few years to keep it looking good in a landscaped garden. This deciduous shrub produces a fruit that, in recent years has become very popular. The white flowers transform into dark purple fruit late summer. Although the flowers and berries are edible all other parts of this bush are poisonous containing toxic calcium oxalate crystals. Sambucus canadensis is a very close cousin of Sambucus nigra (European Elderberry).”
“Elderberry is used for “the flu” (influenza), H1N1 “swine” flu, HIV/AIDS, and boosting the immune system. It is also used for sinus pain, back and leg pain (sciatica), nerve pain (neuralgia), and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) .
Some people use elderberry for hay fever (allergic rhinitis), cancer, as a laxative for constipation, to increase urine flow, and to cause sweating.”
As mentioned above, this syrup can be used to help ward off the flu and colds and also is great on ice cream, pancakes or anything that needs great tasting syrup added!
The recipe is really easy peasy…dried elderberries, a couple of herbs, and honey – preferably local honey – make a yummy syrup to boost your immunity, ease allergies, can help to lower blood sugar levels, and has been looked at for its cancer fighting abilities.
Put the water, elderberries, cinnamon, ginger root, and clove in a 3 quart saucepan – don’t add that honey just yet though!!!!
Let all of this come to a boil and let it simmer for at least 30-45 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to about half of the starting amount.
Remove it from the heat and when it’s cool enough to work with, pour the liquid through a strainer into a glass bowl or directly into a quart size Ball Canning Jar. Then squeeze the berries that are still in the strainer to get out all the remaining juice– I use a spoon to squeeze them in the strainer but you can use cheesecloth instead if you want.
Toss the elderberries and let the liquid cool off to a little warmer than room temperature and add the cup of honey and stir well until the honey is melted. Pour into a jar if you used a bowl to mix it.
You are done! Wasn’t that easy? And fun! Elderberry syrup needs to live in your fridge, and you can take some each day! The normal adult does is ½ – 1 Tbsp for adults and ½ -1 tsp for kids – use your judgement according to age.
If you do get the flu – take the normal dose every few hours until you start feeling better, but let’s pray that you don’t!
Finally !!! One of our Ameraucana pullets is a big girl now !! A hen!
We found our very first “easter egger” bluish-green egg yesterday ! Our six EE girls were born last February – we got them in mid-April – and we have been waiting for this day since then!! I was soooo surprised when I went to collect our 5 eggs yesterday (our 5 laying hens are usually on it daily…sometimes we only get 4 though if one is taking a rest day!) and there were 6 eggs – a smaller bluish green egg along with the normal 3 white, 1 brown, and 1 light brown collection.
Pullets (“baby” hens) typically start laying eggs around 6 months old, but that depends on the breed. Larger breed like Wyandottes, Plymouth Rocks and Orpingtons will start laying a little later, but smaller breeds such as the Leghorns, Stars, and Australorps will start laying sooner.
We got all of our laying hens when they were already laying, so this is a learning experience for us!!! We are excited that our other 5 Ameraucana (Easter Eggers) will start laying soon, and we also have a Barred Rock and a Blue Andalusian that are the same age, so they will be getting ready to put their eggs into the mix too!
Here is one of our Easter Eggers…maybe this “big” girl is the layer of our first blue/green egg yesterday!
Yep…it’s our Fire Pit Yardscape!!! We have finally started our fire pit area!!! We purchased our fire pit last fall and have been planning our “pit area” for a long time now!! This is only the beginning!
Not too long ago there sat an old worn out shed on this spot. When we found an awesome lady that wanted the old shed – for a chicken coop no less – she came to our place and my hubby helped her take down the shed, loaded it on her trailer, and waved bye bye to them both.
We were left with a 10’ x 10’ area that was nothing but dirt. Then a light bulb went off! We had been planning for our fire pit area to be on our concrete patio, but this area would be so perfect!!!
Hubby and I moved the fire pit over to the “sandlot” and it looked so pitiful there all by itself. We needed seating and had thought about building benches or getting some cool looking lawn chairs…but then, my daughter and son-in-law had a HUGE tree cut down in their front yard!! Another light bulb exploded in my head – STUMPS !
So, here is the beginning of our Fire Pit Yardscape! We are going to get four more tree stumps from my daughter soon. I will be moving my outdoor chandelier to this area and also adding solar lighting on the ground and eventually some lighting on poles around the pit. This is going to be awesome for hanging out with friends, roasting marshmallows with the grandkids, and just enjoying an evening fire with my hubby.
Now…if we can just get all of that done before cooler weather we’ll be OK!
Since we are new to chicken “farming”, we wanted to incorporate our love of essential oils in our poultry care! We knew that Lemon Essential Oil is awesome for its cleaning properties and it is all natural, so we decided to use it to deodorize our chicken coop!
This spray works great, is safe for our chickens, and best of all it is 100% chemical free!
Using a 16 ounce spray bottle – glass is best – fill 1/2 way with white vinegar
add 25 drops of Lemon Essential Oil – you can buy it here – swirling the bottle to mix
Fill the rest of the bottle with water
We clean our nesting boxes, roosting bars, and for general coop clean up !
*If you would like more information on how to get your hands on essential oils or how to use them, you can contact me here !
You have been my #1 fan since my first post! I appreciate that!
How was this blog born?
When we got our chickens there was soooo much to learn and so our blog was born! As we learned, I wanted to pass those “chicken tips” along to other newbies! Since we have become more natural and are attempting to be self-sustainable, naturally healthy, and cleaning our home and coop with chemical free homemade cleaners, I thought a blog incorporating all of these would be a great way for me to keep track of everything! I’m no spring chicken (pun intended) and my memory fails me most days, so having a place to go to document our recipes, DIY projects, etc. sounded like a great idea. So our “brand” is homesteading, essential oil using, healthy (most times) eating, chicken loving old folks living! Oh, and DIY stuff too!
For the new bloggers – a tip or two.
Hmmmm…..first, don’t stress about posting! Pick one or two days a week that you will post and do that until you feel you have the time/topics to post more.
Secondly, have tons of topics listed and a bunch of posts written and ready to post when you start! I didn’t. So I stressed. Until I realized this isn’t a job…it’s for fun!
I have a full time job so I knew I couldn’t post each day so I started with my Fun Fact Friday series. Take it slow unless you are completely ready to dive in!
I’m nominating these blogs…
Hot Mess Homesteading – we have like interests and I love reading about the goats, that’s something we want to add to our “urban farm” when we purchase our own property!
I also LOVE Three Story Homestead !!!! Again, right up my alley! Such an informative and beautiful blog! Thanks for all you Share!
For those nominated, here are the rules for this award. Keep the love going!
Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
Write a post to show your award.
Give a brief story of how your blog started.
Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
Select (up to 15) other bloggers for this award.
Comment on each blog to let them know you nominated them and provide a link to the post you created.
Happy Blogging everyone and Thanks to my faithful readers!
This week’s read question is “Are there any common chicken practices that you believe to be harmful or just less-than-ideal? Certain coop setups, feed, nesting materials, etc.”
As far as “chicken practices”, I am only assuming that the reader means commercial practices in hatcheries and chicken processing plants. Since we are small backyard chicken parents, I will be the first to admit that I know nothing about the practices in commercial facilities, so I really can’t speak to that. I have seen articles on Facebook about overcrowding, feeding them steroids for bigger chickens (meaning bigger chicken pieces to sell to consumers), etc. and I don’t agree with any of those things at all! I realize that we eat these little guys and gals and that we, as consumers, contribute to the demand for chicken to eat, but I believe there are farms that are more caring and I am going to make it a point to find some local organic chicken farms to purchase my chickens for eating! Thanks for that question, it has really made me more aware of what I am eating and where and how the chickens were raised!
Now, coop setup. This totally depends on how much room and money you have! Just my opinion. We have 2 chain link fence dog kennels configured into a 10’x30’ are for our chickens.
We live in a neighborhood, so they can’t free range all over the place, but we do let them in our fences in back yard to semi free range in the evenings while we are outside cleaning coops, tending to the plants, and letting our little dog Mike run around.
Ideally, when we have our own property, I plan to purchase a small, pre-built shed to turn into a “chicken house” with a large totally enclosed run for them with a door in the shed to go in and out. To me, this is the ideal coop set up! With a walk in door in the shed it makes it much easier to clean, gather eggs, and I will use the front end of the shed to store feed/cleaning items. Sort of like these (on a smaller scale)…
Straw and Hay – a very popular choice, soft for the hens and eggs, inexpensive, and durable.
Pine Shavings – readily available and very affordable, this is what we use. They dry very quickly, and can be scooped out easily. They are also great for the compost pile after cleaning out the coop!
Cedar Shavings – they work much like pine shavings, except for the scent and chickens respiratory systems. There are differing opinions on whether cedar is safe for chickens, therefore, not an option for us.
Sand – a great choice as nesting box bedding if you are committed to spend time sifting it! I have a cat and I detest the litter box, so this is not an option for me as we have to sift litter inside already! As a ground layer for the outside run, I would LOVE to have sand, when we own the property where our chickens live 😉 It dries super fast and the hens would love it for dust bathing!
Grass Clippings – they could be free but clippings tend to stay more moist. This will make them smell more. Also, if you don’t know where the clippings came from, they may be full of pesticides or chemicals! The chickens will pick at it and that could be dangerous!
Recycled Paper – again, not a favorite option of mine since there is ink in the paper and can also be slippery when wet. The main drawback is that when a hen lays, the egg is wet and the paper will stick and dry to the egg!
For the Nest Box – pine shavings are our choice. One nesting box for 3-4 chickens is ideal.
Some ideas for nesting boxes are:
Covered or uncovered cat litter boxes
Pet carriers (you can find these at yard sales or thrift stores)
5-gallon buckets obtained from restaurants or other sources, on its side
Plastic dish tubs
Plastic milk and soda crates
Wooden crate (harder to clean than plastic)
Old drawers from a dresser or desk
Plastic storage tub – cut a hole in the lid and lay on its side
Chicken Feed: totally a personal choice as to what you think is best for your flock. We chose Nutrena Layer Feed from Tractor Supply. It has all the nutrients and egg hardening properties for “adult” (over 16 weeks) hen! We do have 2 that are just under 16 weeks and have also been eating this feed. I’m thinking now I should go buy this. I just realized they are NOT 16 weeks old yet – still a few weeks to go! We tried the pellets first, but our flock seems to like the crumbles better!
So, I think this week’s Fun Fact Friday is a wrap! I hope I answered the questions of “Are there any common chicken practices that you believe to be harmful or just less-than-ideal? Certain coop setups, feed, nesting materials, etc.”!!
Next Friday we will be looking into our final reader question…”What would be your number one tip for new chicken owners?” – please come back next week and join us!
Our next reader question is – Do you ever sell chicks or eggs? Is that regulated at all? Great questions!!
We don’t raise chickens, so as far as selling chicks, I had to research that and here is the North Carolina Statutes on Chick Dealers and Hatcheries. I learned a lot reading through this…thank goodness we never intended, nor had a desire, to hatch or sell chicks!
So, yes, there are laws governing selling chicks and hatching eggs (eggs that have been fertilized and are being sold for hatching purposes).
Selling eggs for eating (unfertilized eggs) we do! North Carolina law – the “Egg Law” – can be found here. The short version of the Egg Law is “a producer marketing eggs of his own production shall be exempt from this section when such marketing occurs on the premises where the eggs are produced, processed, or when ungraded sales do not exceed 30 dozen per week.”
The way I read that is that if a farm sell eggs that their chickens lay and the sale takes place on the property where the eggs were laid, they are exempt from the grading of eggs, or if they sell less than 30 dozen ungraded eggs a week (that’s a bunch of chickens y’all – 360 eggs a week – that would be a max of 360 hens!!!) Also, containers must have the word “Eggs” on the container along with the farm’s name. We purchase our egg cartons at our local Tractor Supply Store.
We sell eggs to our friends that know the value of fresh eggs! We only do this when we have an abundance of eggs – our main reason for having our hens is so that we are more self-sustainable – but when we have more than we will eat, we sell a dozen or two!
That’s pretty much it in an “eggshell” – NC laws for selling chicks and eggs – at least that is what my research turned up!
Fun Fact Friday next week will tackle the question – “Are there any common chicken practices that you believe to be harmful or just less-than-ideal? Certain coop setups, feed, nesting materials, etc.”
The first reader question we got was “How did you decide how many chickens you need? I mean how many would fit?”
That’s a GREAT question ! One that is very important to decide from the start!
In our research, of both the internet and local “chicken parent” friends, we determined that 6 hens would be a good number for us to start out our backyard flock. Based on averages for our area, a good laying breed, such as the White Leghorn, will lay 5-6 eggs per week – if they are overachievers you may even get an egg every day from them ! Rhode Island Reds are also good layers we hear.
Since our family consists of my awesome hubby and me, we decided on 6 hens to start off so we’d hopefully get a couple dozen eggs each week. We both love eggs and eat them daily! We did get 3 hens before we really researched well, and luckily those 3 (a Delaware – named Della – and 2 Welsummers – Brownie and Broody) are great layers too and we wanted some brown eggs along with the white ones from the Leghorns (all named “Holly Hen” since we got them from our friend Holly)!!! No, we are not very original with our chicken names, don’t judge! 🙂
So, from our 6 ladies we usually get 4-6 eggs a day…those leghorns really ARE great layers – which gives us an average of about 3 dozen per week.
We have recently added 6 Ameraucana pullets, but they are only 2 months old now and have not yet been incorporated into our little flock yet. They will lay blue/green eggs when they do start producing, one of the reasons that we got them – and they were hand raised by our good friends, Hannah and her son Jacob, at Humble Hollow Farm.
We decided on the extra hens for several reasons – the first one being that we are addicted to our chickens and wanted more!!! Seriously, we LOVE have chickens in our backyard – even our little dog Mike likes the hens! When we let them out of the run to free range a little during the day, he loves to lay and watch them too ! Another reason is that we have family and friends that love fresh eggs, so we wanted to be able to give some to family and sell some too (which is another question we will be answering in our series on Fun Fact Fridays – “do you ever sell chicks or eggs and are there any regulations”.
So, the short answer to the question of “How did you decide how many chickens you need? I mean how many would fit?” is that we wanted about 3 dozen eggs a week so we chose 6 hens to make sure we got the amount we wanted.
The answer to the second part of that question is this: we purchased our coop/run after we decided on 6 hens and bought/built according to the size appropriate for 6 hens. Our first coop (we bought a second one for the 6 new pullets) will hold 6-8 hens at night and has 4 nesting boxes (you really only need about 2 for 6 hens as they share nesting boxes very well!). We also expanded our “run” to accommodate 12 hens to 300 square feet.
Chickens need approximately 4 square feet of coop space (nighttime roosting and egg laying) and 10 square feet of run space per chicken. Of course the more room you can give them, the happier they will be and happy hens = good laying hens!
I hope that answered the question well….hubby and I really enjoy learning more about our chickens, so these questions have been alot of fun !!!! Keep asking and we will be back next Friday for another Fun Fact Friday!