My first garden harvest

Look what I grew! A cucumber! It is my first one and was the only one so far. I don’t have any recipes that call for cucumber so I think it will get put into a salad with some hard boiled eggs from my girls in the backyard. I’m not much of a salad person unless there is some boiled egg and ranch dressing involved.

please excuse the blurry photo but YAY

Something else I’m currently “growing” is this abandoned kitten a friend found. She didn’t have a place to keep it and it was tiny and bony scrawny and flea infested. He is currently getting kitten formula and combings with a flea comb and is doing well. I’m planning to rehome him but we’ll see. It is kitten season so all the rescues all overrun with babies. Meet Yoda:

IMG_20170611_143836_105_resized

My volunteer pumpkin vine is doing well although no pumpkins yet. I really need to get out and work in the yard but the mosquitos are awful, even with bug spray on. Heck, everything is awful this year; mosquitos, fleas, ticks, flies. Ugh. I knew it would be like this though because our winter was so warm this year. It’s always warm, this is Georgia after all, but we needed a good hard freeze to kill off the bugs. We’re also getting crazy things like earwigs and carpenter ants all over the place. I’m starting prayers NOW for snow this winter.

What’s living so far

I sprouted from seeds this year instead of buying baby plants. Not everything has died so I consider that a success. One vine cucumber is thriving:

20170507_132012

The peppers are all perking along and need to be transplanted to give each other more room:

20170507_132028

And I have a volunteer something from the compost I mixed into the soil around the raspberry bush. I think and hope it is a pumpkin vine:

20170507_131923

What do you think? Is my pumpkin guess correct?

 

We got chickens!!

For years and years, I’ve wanted a flock of chickens in the backyard, as pets and for egg production. Hubby was skeptical, I think because of the cost and the work involved. Still, I dreamed, read homesteading websites, stalked Instagram feeds of people with chickens, and lurked on the Backyard Chickens forum.  

When we moved, I started trying to come up with a chicken coop plan. We have an old playhouse we wanted to use and had started researching. One night I was on e-Bay though and found a local seller trying to sell 5 chicken coops for $99 each. They were A-frame tractors so they would be easily movable, although only hold a few chickens. I messaged the seller and made a deal to buy two of them for $150.

20160917_170244-1
Hubby assembling our coop!

A few weeks later, I was on Facebook and someone posted in a local group that they needed to re-home their flock of 11 chickens of various breeds. I texted Hubby and he reluctantly agreed that we could go take a look. I messaged the lady and made arrangements. Since I wouldn’t have time to go home for cat carriers, I snagged some large boxes and poked holes for air in them.

The chicken lady had a huge coop and a fantastic set up. She pointed out the different types of chickens and told me about each one. I picked a Rhode Island Red that had been rescued from an overcrowded farm, an Easter Egger, and what I think she said was an Orpington mix. We popped them in the boxes and headed home.

One our way home, we stopped and picked the boys up from daycare. We did not tell them what was in the boxes. When we got home, we set the boxes down in the backyard and let them boys take the lids off.

20160916_174734
Background chicken is molting
20160916_174738
Surprise! Chickens!

sebchicken

They did not come with names and we had fun coming up with what to call them. The RIR is now Gladys, the Orpington is Gertrude, and the little gray Easter Egger is Bernadette.

20160917_182849

The boys love them. Orion especially, and he is great at helping catch them when it is time to put them up. “Mama! Catch chickens! Orion catch chickens!” It is the cutest thing, and anything that gets him to practice talking is a miracle. He has a speech delay and has had speech therapy but is still making progress.

I will admit, that to my embarrassment, I was a little afraid of them at first. They were squawky, and unfriendly, and Gertrude was so loud when we’d get close. Things are calming down now that they know we’re nice and give them treats. So far I’ve learned that they like strawberries, even just the tops I cut off for the kids. They also liked Sebastian’s leftover peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich. Bananas, oranges, and apple chunks were not a hit.

For the first 2 weeks, we didn’t get any eggs which I expected since they were traumatized with the move. Then we started getting one a day. I suspect it is Gladys. She was the quickest to catch on to the humans=treats thing and is now the friendliest.

20160926_100352
Side note: That isn’t a giant egg, I just have really small hands.

I love the chicken tractor because we can move it around the yard every few days to give them some new green space and a clean floor. I’m using wood shavings inside the coop and just add a little layer every day and then clean it out on the weekends. The dirty shavings go in my compost bin.

It has been about 3 weeks and we’re up to a dozen eggs now. The girls are getting used to us but I need to plan an enclosure around their coop so they can get out and about without us worrying about the dogs.

OK, I’ve rambled enough about our new ladies. If you have a flock, please tell me about them! What treats do they like?

What your pallet stamps mean

Moving is a big deal. It isn’t just taking stuff from one place and putting it in another. You have to pack, move, unpack and organize. We’ve been so scattered for so long that the unpacking and organizing is taking forever. It is certainly giving me something to do until Spring planting time though. I had ambitious plans to do a Fall/Winter garden but then I realized that I need to get my ducks in a row first and use the winter to get good and organized.

What I’m doing until Spring includes buying books and reading and also subscriptions to Mother Earth News and Grit. Side note on Mother Earth News and Grit: their websites have some awesome giveaways for things like homesteading supplies. I haven’t won anything but I keep entering. I love entering contests and sweepstakes. It’s like playing the lottery but doesn’t cost anything.

OK, back to what I’m doing: I’ve joined backyard homesteading type Facebook groups which are a wealth of information. I’ve asked one or two questions and always get tons of answers and responses. I’m planning for chickens come Spring and we’ll be working on the coop for the next few months. I’m keeping my eyes open for things and supplies that I can use. Pro tip: when you need supplies, TELL PEOPLE. You never know who will have what you need.

For example, Hubby works for a brewery and I mentioned that I wanted some pallets for my garden plans but didn’t know where to get some. He said “Oh, you want pallets? We’ve got some that we can’t use or return, I’ll get them.” and voila, I have pallets.

pallets.png

I started searching for ideas of what to use them for and came across a thread in one of the aforementioned Facebook groups. Several people warned against using pallets that had been chemically treated. Apparently pallets are treated to kill bugs that might be in the wood and they can be heat treated or chemically treated. I never knew that was a potential problem but I learned that you can tell good and bad pallets by their stamps. The stamp isn’t always in the same place so I had to look for each one. Here is what I found on my pallets:

palletstampscollage.png

The HT means each one was heat treated which is good because it means they were treated by heat instead of a chemical spray. Chemically treated ones would be marked MB. MB stands for Methyl Bromide which is a pesticide that can be harmful. Here is what the rest of the stamps mean:

palletstampsid.png

I had to Google IPPC because I’ve never heard of that before. IPPC is a group that safeguards against potentially harmful pests being carried to new areas of the world on products like pallets. Invading species could take over and do serious damage. They want to make sure trade among countries isn’t affected by those risks.

Now that I know my pallets are safe, I’m good to go on projects with them. Have you recycled pallets for anything? What’d you make?

Cats and mint

We’re closing on a house on the 31st. We’ve been rental nomads for so long, this feels unreal. I have big plans for being a homeowner. I’ve had container gardens this whole time but it isn’t easy. I could plant things like tomatoes in a container but I just don’t have the gumption. I’ve stuck to herbs such as mint. Mint is so easy! I knew a girl who took the piece of mint that was a garnish for her mojito home with her, stuck it in water, rooted it, and planted it. It lived and did nicely. This is my current container of mint:
image

It looks like it is escaping.

My biggest wish is to be more self sufficient so my homeowner plans are all to further that. I want to be prepared if a zombie apocalypse happens. I’m a huge Walking Dead and Z Nation fan.

I want to:
Cut out the processed foods and cook from scratch
Bake our own bread
Have a garden and grow some of our own food
Have backyard chickens
Compost
Use less plastic in the kitchen and recycle more
Put in a rain barrel
Start canning and preserving food

… and more!

Big hopes and plans, I know. Especially with us having full time jobs and two small boys. It is a suburban house, but it is on a little over half an acre so at least we have a little plot of land.

I will admit that I don’t have any experience with chickens, but I’ve read a lot, and I have lots of cats. I know chickens require different care than cats, but at least I have an idea of animal care. That counts for something, right?
image

Since I have such big hopes, and dreams, and plans, I thought that I would start a blog to document it as I go. I only have real experience with cats and mint, so that became the title.

So welcome! I hope that you will say hi, and follow along on this adventure.