Frozen Water Pipes

So I had mentioned that my new blog friend Dan at Vegetablurb.wordpress.com had his pipes freeze and he is having to haul water from an outside yard hydrant. 

This morning I went out and got the animals watered quickly, no problem. This afternoon I went out and wanted to use the hydrant again and it wouldn’t budge. I have to believe it’s frozen. The good news is it’s only the hydrant that is frozen, not the whole house water supply. For now I can get water in the house or the barn. If I get a chance I may try to gently warm the hydrant with a torch and see if I can free it. 

Hopeful the slight warm up this weekend will help things. I may be ready for a bit warmer weather. 



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Cast Iron Pizza

Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE pizza.  Honestly I could eat pizza for every meal for the rest of my life and I would be a happy man.  So I was understandably excited when I saw this post shared on the Homestead Blog Hop by HomesteadMccoy.com.

Cast Iron, AND pizza?  Yes, please.

cast iron pizza

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Fear, Just a Little Longer

We have lived in this house for about nine months.  This is the first house I have ever lived in that had it’s own well to supply water.  This is also the first house not to have a basement.  Because of this, I have been living with a fear.  The record cold we have been having here this month has brought on this fear.

Under the house is a crawl space.  It is unheated.  We added sheet insulation around the perimeter, but it is not a conditioned space.  The water line that we laid last year is buried safely underground where the temperatures don’t fluctuate, but it must come above ground between the cement slab and the bottom of our house.  My dad and I installed a heat tape, which is a thermostatically controlled heated tape that activates when the temperatures drop below a certain point to stop the pipe from freezing.  We also added pipe insulation on top of that.  As long as that heat tape doesn’t fail, we shouldn’t have any problems.  In fact, even if the tape failed, with the insulation around the perimeter and the thermal mass of the house, I would guess we would be ok, but I still have that seed of fear.

I was reminded of that fear when a blogging friend of mine, Sam at Vegetablurb, blogged about how their pipes have frozen.  Like him, we have an outdoor frost free spigot that I use to water the animals all winter long.  I also have a supply of drinking water, so we could survive the pipes freezing, but it wouldn’t be fun, especially with the kids.

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This is the time of year when it is supposed to be getting warmer, not colder.  The rest of this week is supposed to be extremely cold, but then by the grace of God, it is supposed to start warming.  And by warming I am talking lows in the teens and twenties instead of single digits and negatives.  I will take what I can get I suppose.  Until then, I will have that seed of fear, just a little longer.

Rooster sitting in a barn on a rural farm

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Busy Weekend, as Always

This past weekend found our family making the trip north to Mount Pleasant.  There was a homeschool basketball state tournament there that they boys were playing in and I was coaching.  Being a ten and under team, we hadn’t had any weekend away tournaments up until this point so it was a good experience for the kids to spend a lot of time with their teammates watching the older kids play basketball.

We were lucky enough to win our age group and be awarded an altogether too large of a trophy.  The kids all played great and it has been so fun coaching them all this year.  Not only did we have my boys as siblings on the team, there was another brother pair so that was also fun.  With boys ranging in age from 7-10 it has been a fun season of watching them grow as boys and as basketball players.  Because of that the end of the season is bittersweet.  The time back from practicing and playing will be nice, but the boys have been making some of their best improvements the last few practices.  I look forward to next season and the challenges and opportunities that it will entail.

Upon getting home Homestead Boy #1 wasn’t feeling well, and Sunday morning found me under the weather as well.  Hoping to kick the cold quickly and get back to normal.  Being sick is never fun.

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What do Winter Chores Look Like?

For me, winter chores take a little bit longer than the rest of the year. The sheep need hay, I need to check and make sure all the water is still liquid, and all the animals get more bought feed because there isn’t much to forage for.

Typically for me, if I don’t get out before my wife leaves for work (and I almost never do), I will go out mid morning when Homestead Boy #3 takes his nap or when I have Homestead Boy #1 hold him for a couple minutes. Chores in the winter typically take 5-10 minutes, so not long at all.

The first thing to be done is get the sheep some flakes of hay. As soon as they see me come out the front door they commence their bleating, baa-ing, and in general belly aching. They are by far the most insistent animals, very unladylike if you ask me. Once they get their hay the quiet down and get to the business of eating. Checking their water takes only a second and typically only needs to be filled every four or five days.

Next comes the chickens. They are far more ladylike, except Big Red, who crows when he knows I am outside. Funny thing about Red is he doesn’t like to go through the wind flaps on the door, so typically he stays in the coop while the hens have the run to themselves. The hens cluck and buk at me politely until they get their food. I have to get them water each morning as well since their water heater isn’t working.

Then it is one to the quail. They need water about every other day and the water heater I made for them works just fine. I will be posting shortly on that build. Their food needs to be filled about every other day as well.

The rabbits are pretty easy. They don’t complain and need water and food only every three to four days because of the size of their feeder and waterer.

The last thing I do before heading back in is collect eggs. If this is done too late and the temps are extremely low, I could be collecting frozen and cracked eggs. Yesterday I ended up losing four eggs because they were cracked from being frozen.

In the summer chores typically take less time because there is no frozen water and more forage to eat. I plan to make some new feeders for the quail and chickens that can hold more food.

So if anyone was interested, that is what typical morning chores look like here.

Rooster sitting in a barn on a rural farm

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Cannibals

Last night may have been the coldest night of the year. The night before last we lost our first quail. There had been one that was smaller and didn’t look as strong as the others and that is the one that died.

This morning though, all the animals were fine. It did take me a little later to get to the chores because Homestead Boy #5 didn’t want to take a nap. When I got to egg collection I caught a hen eating a frozen egg.

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I am going to need to keep an eye on this. If egg numbers drop, the offending party will have to be dealt with.

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Principles of Permaculture – Part 1

Homestead Dad:

For anyone who has asked what Permaculture is, this is a great blog to give you an idea.

Originally posted on Blisters, Bunions and Blarney:

BuntingThe Philosophy of Permaculture

Permaculture is a creative design process which emulates the processes found in nature in our daily life.  Adoption of the philosophy enables the transition from dependent and wasteful consumerism to more ethical food production, land usage and housing.

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Stainless Steel Table

I have been looking for a stainless steel table for awhile.  Something that I could possibly use to butcher birds or rabbits and to put down by our garden to wash off produce as it comes out of the garden.

I had found a stainless steel counter on Craigslist the other day and called on it.  It didn’t have any pictures but it was an 8’x30″ table with a shelf below that had cabinet doors, and a backsplash for $200.  Not a bad deal at all.  So this morning I went to go take a look at it.

It was massive, the doors were insulated, and it was going to be heavy.  Honestly, while it was still a good deal, it was bigger than I was looking for.  I had planned to cut a hole in it and drop a sink in to make it possible to wash with it.  Fortunately for me he had a smaller table, that already had a sink in it that was less money.

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Nothing a little TLC can’t clean up

It needs a cleaning, but I think it will work out perfectly for what I want, right now.  I may need another table in the future as another butchering station but for now I plan to make a cover for the sink to allow the whole table space to be working space when water isn’t needed.  One more thing off the list.

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After a quick wipe down last night

a homesteaders freedom hop

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Posted in Chickens, DIY, Family, Farming, homesteading, hunting, kids, orchard, Outdoors, Preparation, quail, Rabbits | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Who Wants to Help Pick Chicken Breeds?

In all likelihood I am going to get more laying hens this spring.  I have several breeds in mind with several goals for our homestead flock.  Many of you have experience with chickens so I figured I would poll you for your knowledge and opinions.  Please don’t be offended if I choose against a breed you suggest.

I will probably order from Tractor Supply for cost efficiency and I believe that they have a two breed limit per special order.  That limits me from getting five of this and five of that, so if you have a Midwestern, specifically near Michigan, hatchery that has reasonable prices let me know as that might allow more breeds.

One of the criteria I am basing my choices on are docility, with children and frequent visitors at the Homestead I don’t want flighty birds, rather I want birds that are comfortable being held.  I especially don’t want a breed of bird whose rooster is known to be aggressive.  I want decent egg production, which should seem obvious, but there are some who have ornamental flocks.  I need a breed that is at least a decent meat bird, any future roosters will most likely be headed for the pot.  This leads me to broodiness.  I would like at least one breed that will give me decent broodiness.  I don’t want to have to buy chicks every year, so a good mother is a must.

One breed I am interested in, and have been for awhile is the Black Australorp.  They lay a bunch of eggs, and from what I have heard their production drops off less than other breeds in the winter.  I have to say that this is the breed where I read the most contradicting information.  Some places say they are docile, others flighty.  Some say they are moderately broody, others that they are not.  I am fairly certain I will get this breed this year.

The next breed is Orpingtons, specifically Buffs as they are the most common.  I have had a Buff in the past and she was great.  They are docile, and broody.  They are large enough to be a decent meat bird, and I have heard people say that roosters are in general well behaved.

Plymouth Rock is another possible replacement for the Orpington in the flock.  Another dual purpose breed, they are not reported to be as broody as Orpingtons.  One bonus would be being able to get them in a partridge color.

Another breed I am considering is the Wyandotte, specifically in the blue color.  They are another dual purpose breed that is reported to be broody and docile, while also beautiful.

Finally, I would consider Speckled Sussex as a homestead breed.

I also wouldn’t mind getting a few geese as watchdogs and some turkeys for meat, but Tractor Supply seems to have changed their minimum policy so those may be out, unless I find another hatchery.

Any and all opinions are appreciated.  Thanks.

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Quail Coop

This post has been too long coming.  If you remember I got some free quail this several months ago.  They had been in a brooder in our barn for several weeks and had started getting stinky and dusty, so an outdoor hutch needed to be built.

My original plan was to half lap the framing members for a clean look.  This lasted about four boards.  I decided to keep things moving faster and abandoned the half lapping.  It ended up working out ok though, because it gave me a perfect spot to staple the hardware mesh.  This will hopefully become clear later through pictures.

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Marked for cutting

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Cut with the circular saw

 

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Cleaned up and ready for joining

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One of the half laps

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The basic frame

You might be able to tell from the picture above I half lapped the top cross member in front and back.  The bottom cross member was only, I will call it quarter lapped.  As I said this gave me a lip to staple the mesh onto.

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Quarter lapping

I then cut some support beanm to go in the middle of the coop to support the wire mesh.  I cut them at an angle so it might help the eggs to roll to the front to make egg collection easier.

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Supports installed

I then stapled down the wire mesh.

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I rounded it at the front to help avoid egg breakage

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I then started cutting the sides.  I had some exterior grade siding left over from my pallet built sheep shed so that is what I used.

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My makeshift saw table

Because of the quarter lapping there was a gap between the siding and framing in the back.

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The gap

To fix this I screwed a piece of scrap wood there to fill the gap.

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Filled in

I then installed a piece of mesh across the front of the coop.

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Three sides, a bottom, and a front later this is what I had.

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Next I cut out two openings in the front.  I used some scrap pieces I had to fashion doors out of.  I used J clips and J clip pliers as the hings on top of the doors.  The doors push in so that if I forget to latch them they fall into a closed position.  Unfortunately I didn’t have a good way to latch the doors.  I resorted to using carabiners and some clips for tractor attachments.

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After some internet sleuthing I found some proper cage door latches on a website called rabbitnipple.com.  They work fantastic.

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I plan to put a steel roof on the coop, but for now I am using a sheet of the exterior siding.  Here are some pictures of the coop in the final location with the birds in it.

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I put some straw in the coop thinking that it would give them something to bed down in, but I am not sure they needed it.  Really, it is just keeping their poop from dropping through the wire.  As we get more and more light every day, I am hoping that I will start getting some eggs.

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All in all I think it turned out pretty well.  I never plan to have a ton of quail, plans can change I suppose, but for now this gives me plenty of space for the birds.

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a homesteaders freedom hop

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