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Archive for the ‘Homesteading’ Category

Staying Cool

A while back, Suesie asked a very good question… “What do we do to stay cool?”

For the several weeks it’s been hot, hot, hot with temperature of 90+ degrees and heat indexes in the 100s most days. Living off the electrical grid means no air conditioning and no fans except the old fashioned kind that your hold in your hands and wave back and forth :)

So how do we beat the heat? Well… one way is to get up early in the morning so we can get our daily chores and work done while it is still cool outside. Currently that means feeding and watering the poultry and watering the garden.

After the morning chores are done we usually cook up some breakfast. Breakfast varies from light to elaborate depending on what we’ve harvested from the garden. Lately we’ve really been getting into sautéed veggies — green beans, lemon squash, zucchini, onions, and tomatoes with a little bit of soy sauce. Yum! We have our outdoor kitchen set up now so it’s a bit cooler than cooking indoors.

By then it is too darn hot to do anything but sit in the shade and drink lots of water. OK, OK…. sometimes we still find some tasks that we can do in the shade but a lot of times it’s a just a good excuse to read a good book. Any suggestions?

And when we get REALLY hot we take a nice cold shower with the garden hose. Blaze gets a shower now and then also. She likes to act like she doesn’t like it but it sure perks her up.

Finally, as it cools off in the evening we’ll take another tour of the garden and do “bug patrol” and gather more produce for dinner.

If you have any other ideas on how to stay cool… let us know!

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Garlic is not a quick crop. We planted a 4′ x 8′ garden bed with approximately 100 cloves last fall. You want to plant the garlic cloves late enough in the fall so they get enough root growth with keep them in the ground during the frost-heave cycles but not too much top growth.  When it turns cold in the winter, you mulch them in and wait for Spring.

When Spring comes you pull back the mulch and let them start to grow… and grow… and grow. Finally when the tops turn brown and fall over it is time to harvest the garlic. Using a small garden fork, we worked them up out of the soil. Yes, a few heads got damaged but that’s just the way it goes.

garlic in the garden

Garlic Ready To Harvest

(Click image for larger view.)

Now they need to cure in the sun. We laid them out on the wire sifter and set them on top of an empty compost bin. I didn’t even rinse them because I didn’t want to add any more moisture to the drying time. In fact, with the rainy weather we had I was constantly covering and uncovering them with a tarp but the outer skins finally got nice and “papery”.

Garlic Curing In Sun

Garlic Curing In Sun

(Click image for larger view.)

I cleaned them up some by rubbing them gently with a towel and cut off the roots to prepare them for storage. After watching a couple of videos on YouTube I decided to try my hand at braiding them. I got 9 braids with 10 heads each and a couple of extra on the side.

How do they look?

Braided Garlic

Braided Garlic

(Click image for larger view.)

Of course, quite a few cloves will have to be saved back to plant this fall.  Garlic is a very adaptable plant. If you use the largest cloves to replant it will grow  larger heads. Repeat the process each fall when you plant.

The actual harvest was 95 heads but since Bob and I use about 2 heads a week this won’t last until the next harvest but it’s a good start. At least I know that they were grown in good soil and nothing bad was sprayed on them. Looks like I’ll be planting 2 beds full this year :)

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The wait is finally over. We have baby ducks on the homestead! Yippee! Little Number Five did a great job! Bob calls them duckens. I call them lil’ Dickens :)

By our calculations they were due on Sunday but you know how that goes. Three of the ducks hatched on Saturday and one more hatched on Sunday. Good thing I sent hubby to the feed store for baby food.

We got 4 ducklings out of 7 eggs. Not to shabby considering we didn’t use an electric incubator.

Bob just stuck the camera inside the door and tried for a decent photo of them. Turned out pretty good, eh? This was when Number Five was still sitting on the last egg.

Baby Ducks With Mother Hen

Baby Ducks With Mother Hen

(Click image for larger view.)

They have been temporarily named Number 1, Number 2, Number 3, and Number 4 until we can figure out if they’re boys or girls.

I tried to include some video we took but YouTube was having issues or I was having issues with YouTube. Either way it didn’t work. I’ll try again soon because they are sooooo cute you’ll definitely want to see it.

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There are quite of few tomatoes on the vine in the garden. The beans are loaded with blossoms and just look at those cabbages. We plan to eat the tomatoes and beans raw and cooked. We’re going to try drying some of the produce too. (More

green tomatoes

cabbages

beans

Obviously, we can’t wait until they ripen and we can go browsing for fresh food from the garden.

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Hey y’all, just thought we’d let you know that Little Number Five is still alive and, more importantly, still sitting on that batch of duck eggs :)

With heat indexes in the mid to upper 90s, this chicken has to have real dedication to sit in that dog house all day (and night too, of course). You can’t see in it the photos but we laid a tarp over the wire pen so the dog house is in the shade most of the day. I’m sure that helps quite a bit but it’s still HOT!

She only comes out to get a drink and a bite to eat every 2 or 3 days. We’ve read that a chicken may lose up to 25 percent of her weight while she’s brooding so we’ve been feeding her up with some cracked corn. Number Five also gets the occasional treat from the garden. This morning it was a couple of strawberries.

chicken drinking from bowl
Ahhhh… I was soooo thirsty!

(click image for larger view)

 
Oops, looks like the photo opportunity is over. See? She’s STILL in a “fowl” mood.
broody speckled sussex hen ruffled feathers
Broody Chicken In A Fowl Mood

(click image for larger view)

We’re still counting the days. We’re very hopeful that she’ll stay broody and hatch us out some ducklings. We’ll keep you updated on the progress.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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After our recent post about the copperhead, we thought we’d let you know that we don’t think every snake is bad.

Here a “good” snake we found sunning himself on top of an old tree stump. Speckled King snakes are known for eating for rodents and if the opportunity strikes (pun intended) they’ll also eat venomous snakes — like those nasty copperheads.

Speckled Kingsnake On Stump 1

Speckled Kingsnake On Stump 1

As you can see we didn’t find him very far from the tipi.

Hope he’s hungry!

Speckled kingsnake on tree stump

Speckled kingsnake on tree stump

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One of the reasons we chose to raise Speckled Sussex chickens here on the homestead is because they still have the instinct to “go broody”. Broody means that the chicken will sit on a clutch of eggs and raise the chicks. Of course this means that the chicken stops laying eggs!

Broodiness has been bred out of most of the modern breeds . Commercial egg producers don’t want a chicken to go broody because that means the hen won’t be laying eggs to sell. For example, a breed of chicken that most people are familiar with — the Rhode Island Red — is a great layer but almost never goes broody.

Some folks buy fertilized eggs and use an electric incubator to hatch them. A few people use a mother hen to incubate eggs. Because we live off the grid we don’t have access to the amount of electricity necessary to use the electric incubator method.

We want more ducks. We really REALLY enjoy eating the duck eggs. They’re larger than chicken eggs and have a richer flavor. Also, in our opinion, the ducks are easier to handle than chickens. We have Khaki Campbells and Indian Runners ducks and a Khaki Campbell drake. Both of these breeds are known as great layers. Our Khaki Campbell duck, Princess, consistently laid an egg every day last winter something that we didn’t get from the chickens. Only one big problem…. Khaki Campbells and Indian Runners seldom go broody.

So what does this have to do with a broody chicken? Well… a broody chicken will incubate just about any egg you place under them.

We’ve been hoping that one of the chickens would go broody. In fact we’ve been trying to coax them into it by replacing their freshly laid eggs with a golf ball so they would think, “Hey! Maybe I should sit on these nice round eggs!” After about a week and one of them finally did!

We realized that we hadn’t seen Little Number Five (the name came from the movie Broken Trail) all morning. When Bob went to check on her there she was sitting on that clutch of golf balls. Success! Broody Chicken!

Now for the master plan — replace the golf balls with fertile duck eggs! The tricky part was to get her moved to a location that would separate her from the other chicken without breaking her instinct to brood.

We gave Number 5 most of the day to settle into setting on her clutch of fake eggs. Then, after it got dark we moved her and substituted seven duck eggs for the golf balls.

Another tricky part of this situation is that chicken eggs take 21 days to hatch while duck eggs take 28 days to hatch and sometimes between 21 and 28 days the chicken’s instinct says, “These dern eggs ain’ta gonna hatch,” and stops sitting on them. If this is successful, we’ll have a chicken who will be the mother of baby ducklings. The due date is June 27th. Mark your calendars!

After discussing it a while, we decided to move the chicken to Blaze’s dog house and let her use it to incubate. Don’t worry… we have a good secure door we put on it at night to keep her safe. Don’t feel bad about Blaze because she doesn’t use the house at all… she’s a tipi dog!

As you can see, Number 5 has a good supply of feed and water but so far she’s taking her duck egg incubation responsibilities very seriously so we haven’t seen much of her lately.

Broody chicken house and pen

Speckled Sussex Hen

Speckled Sussex Hen

She’s certainly acting broody… as hubby says, “She’s in a FOWL mood!”

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