Security Continuation – Poison Ivy Prevention

To this point in my life I have not shown an allergy to poison ivy.  I know what it looks like and always make sure I am very careful when I need to work around it and take as many precautions as I can to avoid the rash.  When I was hanging the chain yesterday I mentioned that I was going to be working around poison ivy and that I needed to remove some that was growing up the trees I hung the chain from.  It was also all over the ground in the whole area that I was working in.


The poison ivy was all up and down both trees


The poison ivy was all over the ground as well as the ground around the other tree to which I hung the chain

In the past I have always made sure to wash in cool water as soon as possible.  Then I saw this video about how not to get a poison ivy rash.

Since then I have always washed with dish soap and a wash cloth.  I wore my muck boots and gloves yesterday, but I know I brushed up against the poison ivy plants around which I was working.  Today, I have no poison ivy rash.  That could be because I have not become allergic to the oil, or it could be because I washed afterwards.  Either way, I will continue to be careful when working around poison ivy, because I’d rather not end up with the rash.

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Sunday Funday -> Security

Today was a day to add to our security stance at the Homestead. There was a burglary a few weeks back around here and because of that I wanted to address a couple things around here.

First off I wanted to chain off the south entrance to our property. The long term plan here is to put up a gate, but short term a chain will have to do. The two trees I wanted to hang the chain around were both covered in poison ivy so I had to at least remove the poison ivy where I would be hanging the chain on the tree. The tool of choice for this task was a machete.

The tree on the left if the one I hung the chain on, it looked like the one on the right before I started.

After clearing the tree I hung the chain. I used a lag bolt to keep it at the correct height and then padlocked both sides.

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In addition to the chain, I added a couple neighborhood watch signs, one to each side of the property. I liked the one that says, “we are watching you.”  I hung them on 7′ posts from Menards.

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The last addition I made was adding two signs that say, “smile, you’re on camera.”  I put on one the barn, and one on the swing set in front of the house. Burglars have been duly notified.

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Obviously I can’t/won’t detail all of my security measures here. These are a few that anyone could add on the cheap.

Until next time.

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Too Many Roosters = Butchering Day

It just so happened that my good friend Ruth at Firesign Family Farms was having a butchering day today.  I was able to make it, and I had a few extra roosters to take with me.  Before today we had Scooter, our Icelandic rooster, and then four jubilee orpingtons, Pepper, our Americauna rooster, and newly named Avalanche, our buff orpington rooster.  That is altogether too many roosters.  So pepper, who was supposed to be a hen, and two of the jubilee orpingtons have to go.  I think four is still going to be too many, but hopefully with a big coop, and room to free range they will be ok.  The reason I am keeping two jubilees is that they would be harder to find a replacement for if something happened to one of them.  So I need a backup.  Scooter is just a good rooster, but other than taking care of the girls I really don’t need him for breeding.  Avalanche will serve a purpose for breeding, but as buff orpingtons aren’t that rare, I could probably find a replacement without too much difficulty or cost.

All that said, we now have three chickens, grown on our farm, in the fridge.  That is a first for us and a pretty cool step.  I am still hoping to grow a batch of meat birds this fall, I am not sure if it will happen given all the other things that need to happen around here, and we have three turkeys that will be going in the freezer at some point.

Baby steps to self sufficiency I suppose.

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The Garden Giveth, and More Ice Cream

I took a five gallon bucket of water down to the orchard to water the two trees we planted yesterday.  On my way back up to the house I figured I should check the garden and pick anything that was ready before the rabbits got to it.  I mostly harvested an assortment of tomatoes, but I also got a couple zucchini and a watermelon.  The watermelon wasn’t much bigger than a cantaloupe, but I figured if I didn’t pick it now, it would be the animals that got it before we did.  It was very good, and the kids enjoyed spitting the seeds out.  I plan to save the seeds and see how they do next year.

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While I was picking I checked on most of the rest of the garden.  Despite me tending to the garden almost not at all, we are still getting produce out of it.  Other than what I picked today, there are still a ton of tomatoes coming as well as a few more zucchinis.  We are also getting some gourds, and even a pumpkin or two.  I’m not sure if we are going to get any corn this year as we were late in planting it, but I’m still holding out hope.  The late planted sunflowers even look as though they may get a seed head on them yet.

The sunset was beautiful tonight, it looked as though the clouds were on fire.

My wife and kids again made ice cream tonight.  We have just been making vanilla, but boy does it taste good.

 Quick story… this afternoon while in the house I heard a quite loud jet noise.  Where we live we don’t have a whole lot of airplane traffic and what traffic there is normally flies quite high.  Our last two houses had quite a bit of airplane traffic over head so I may not have thought too much of the noise there.  I went out onto the front porch to see what was making the noise and one of the Blue Angel flight team was practicing directly over our house.  It was pretty cloudy so we could just catch glimpses of him.  The coolest maneuver we saw was him pulling the stick back and looping back the way he came.  There is a large aerial show near here this weekend so I won’t be surprised if we see cool airplanes all weekend long.  One year a stealth bomber flew in a holding pattern over our place, he must have circled three times.  It just so happened to occur on the day we were celebrating Homestead Boy #1’s birthday so I claimed I scheduled it, hehe.

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How Do You Like Them Apples?

Just before we left on our vacation I bought a couple apple trees on clearance at a local farm supply store.  I didn’t get them in the ground before we left so they were looking pretty sad when we got back.  Tonight, Homestead Boy #2 and I got them planted.

We replaced one of the apple trees that had significant damage from mice over last winter.  The tree limped through the summer, but I don’t think it will ever thrive so it is being replaced.  We removed the dead trees and expanded the holes.  After breaking up the roots, since the trees were quite root bound, we placed them in the holes, backfilled, and added some organic fertilizer.  I will make sure to keep them watered for the next couple weeks and hopefully next spring they will start strong.

 Even if the replacement trees don’t work out, they were only a few dollars, so worth the risk.  The other tree we replaced was one that was planted this spring.  I will contact Stark Bros and have them send me a replacement.  I think I am going to create a small orchard area up by the side of the house.  This will spread out our resources and bring some of our home grown food closer to the house.

Homestead Boy #2’s impetus for helping me plant was that he wanted to shoot a bow that was new to us.  A friend of mine was cleaning out his basement and was kind enough to give us a youth compound bow so my son was eager to shoot it.  The only problem was that I hadn’t set up a target area yet, and really hadn’t had any time to check out the bow.  With light fading fast and the bugs coming out in force(Homestead Boy #2 is a favorite target of mosquitoes) I decided to redirect.  I have a couple airsoft pistols so I was able to convince him that would do for now.  We filled a magazine with airsoft pellets and headed out to the field.  It gave us an opportunity to talk about gun safety and practice those skills with a less than firearm.  Not a toy to be sure, but less intimidating for him.  It was nice to spend some time with him one on one working on firearms skills, and we were able to get inside before we got eaten alive.

One last thing… while we were on vacation with my family at my parents I found a Hamilton Beach ice cream maker in the clearance section of Walmart for only $12.  I figured it would be something fun to do while on vacation.  We made ice cream once while on vacation and I enjoyed it.  It is really easy to do.  The last two nights my wife has made ice cream with the kids after dinner.  I am going to count that as $12 well spent.

ice cream maker

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Firing Up, Propane, and Grass

Yesterday afternoon I set up the camper so I could work on a few things.  One of those things was familiarizing myself with the furnace.  I am not sure we will ever take it out when we need the furnace, but if we do, I want to know how it works.  I was vexed.  I thought I was following all of the procedures.  I even hooked up the camp stove to make sure that the propane was in the pipes, it was.  For some reason I thought I could turn on the furnace without the electric being plugged in.  I am not sure why, as it only makes sense that the electric would be needed to run the fan to circulate the hot air.  So after I finally plugged the camper in, amazingly the furnace worked.  Wonders will never cease.  It seems to put out a good amount of heat so I think the camper would remain comfortable even late into the fall.

In the process of figuring out the camper furnace I realized one of the two propane tanks was empty.  So off to Tractor Supply we went to get it filled.  Upon getting there I was informed that the tank was too old and they couldn’t fill it.  They did tell me I could take it to the gas station down the street and they would exchange it for me with one that was newer.  So I now have a full, newer, propane tank ready to heat the camper.

After my wife got home from work, I jumped on the mower and got to cutting grass.  It had been a couple weeks since it had been last cut, and it showed.  It’s a little humorous, I spent many years of my life owning a company whose sole purpose was to make peoples’ yards look immaculate, but I really have no desire to do the same with mine.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want my house looking unkempt(it probably does), but having the perfect landscape will never be a goal of mine.  I cut into the twilight hours, finishing by the light of the headlights on the mower.  I didn’t finish everything, but I got a good start on it.  I think next year I am going to try to fence in around the garden to allow the sheep to keep the garden fence line trimmed for me, it’s a thought.

Until next time…

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Vacation, Kayaking, Garden, and other Stuff

We were gone last week on vacation.  It was nice to spend time with family and friends.  The week found us enjoying food(way too much), playing cornhole and Kan Jam, the kids going to four wheeler driving school(where I decided I really want to four wheeler), going to a water park hotel, walking the flea market in Shipshewana, stopping into the animal auction at the flea market, kayaking on the lake, playing boggle, tubing behind the boat, fishing, and all sorts of other fun.

This was the first time we were able to use the new camper.  It performed as expected and the whole family, minus Homestead Boy #1 who wanted to sleep in the bunkhouse, slept in the camper comfortably.  The water-tightness of the camper was tested as we had some thunderstorms, and everything checked out well.  The air conditioner was nice on the hotter days, but unfortunately I didn’t fill up the propane so we could test the furnace on the colder nights(I didn’t think we’d need it).  Overall it was a nice shakedown outing as we get to know our new camper.

Upon returning home I found that the garden had done this…

The tomatoes had really started to ripen.  We have been enjoying them, especially the “Dr. Carolyn” cherry tomatoes.  They are a sweet yellow cherry, that are easy to down by the handful.


The turkeys really grew the week we were gone as well. The difference between the Tom and the hens is quite obvious. They are slightly eerie to look at as their eyes are all black.

 Before I even knew that there were an abundance of tomatoes I had found a pressure canner on one of the local Facebook sales groups.  A brand new, never uses, Presto 23 quart canner with the canning kit tools with it for $75, which means I got the canner at a $5 discount and the $12 kit essentially for free.  Not a home run of a deal, but I’ll take it.  Now I need to wait for some more tomatoes to ripen when the weather warms back up to give it a try.

The wildflower garden continues to impress me. Much better than looking at septic caps surrounded by grass.

Other than that, it’s back to the grind.  Getting ready for Labor Day weekend and school to start the following week.

I will leave you with a story I am going to hashtag as #farmworldproblems.  It will hopefully be an ongoing addition to the blog and is my spin off of the hashtag #firstworldproblems.  Problems that aren’t really life shattering, but happen on the farm.

Last night when I got home from basketball it was late, and dark.  As I parked the car in the drive I saw a shadow darting away from one of the chicken pens.  In a desire to protect my livestock, in a very manly way, I rushed into the barn and got a flashlight.  After a little bit of searching I found that a young skunk had scurried under our small utility trailer.  I really didn’t want to get sprayed, but I also didn’t want any chickens to perish.  Staying upwind, in case of a spray, I got a couple rocks and threw them at the top of the trailer trying to encourage the skunk to leave while avoiding alarming him to spray.  He was staying put under the trailer.  At the very least I needed to close up the chicken coop, which was what I was on my way to do in the first place.  But the skunk had placed himself in my way.  Giving him as wide a berth as I could and keeping the flashlight in it’s general direction so I could see if an spray attack was imminent I managed to make it to the coop.  After closing the coop, I knelt down on the ground to look under the trailer.  It was at this point that the sheep decided to welcome me home by “bah”-ing loudly.  I jumped, in a very un-manly way, and resumed my search.  I am ashamed to say the sheep got me jumping one more time before I decided the skunk had run off and I headed for the house.  So the poultry are safe, I remain un-sprayed, but my toughness is in question.

Until next time…

Posted in Chickens, DIY, Family, Farming, Garden, homeschool, homesteading, kids, Outdoors, quail, sheep, Turkeys | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

New Ram, Volunteer, and Flowers

This past weekend my brother in law picked up our new ram.  He was born this year and should carry the spotted gene, so we may get spotted lambs in the future.  His current working name is Abraham Lincoln, I think it will stick.  I like the look of him.

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Along the barn I had put some pots with hostas that we had transplanted from my parents’ house.  Next to them I found a pumpkin plant.  Last year we had some pumpkins there and a seed must have started.  So we have a volunteer pumpkin plant.


Despite the slow start to the wildflower patch around the septic tank, it is really taking off.  I don’t think that the pictures do it justice, but here’s one.

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Get Them Out!

The turkeys and a few chickens had still been in the barn, and the smell was becoming a problem. Last week I had attempted to unite the clans, and it didn’t end well. So I needed more pens to get everything out of the barn.

Sunday, after picking up a camper in the morning, homestead boy #1 and I got to work. For the turkeys we made a 3′ tall by 6′ wide by 115″ long pen. The 115″ was because that was the length boards we had so that’s what we used. I showed him how to use the power miter saw and the air staple gun and gave him a few more pointers in using a drill driver and he did most of the work himself. He measured and cut, screwed and stapled. I am very proud of him. We used some sheets of plywood I recently got. One sheet on each side of a corner, and another for the roof. On the turkey pen I hinged the roof and made a board to hold it open.

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I adjusted the feeder to account for the increased height over the brooder.  That is the beauty of not gluing the feeder together.  I just separated the upper tube and cut a longer one.  I used bungee straps to tie it down.


I found a gentleman on Craigslist, selling half sheets of 1/2″ plywood, so I bought a pallet.  I know I will find a multitude of projects for them.



With that project down we got to work on a pen for the chickens.  We made this one a bit shorter at 24″ as chickens don’t get as tall.  It was 6’x115″ for a foot print.  We got that one done just in time for dinner.  Homestead boy #2 was another helper for that one.  This allowed me to get some of the hens that had been picked on during the failed integrating of the flocks to have their own space.



I really like the look of the jubilee orpingtons.

After getting the two pens and getting all the birds out of the barn I moved the brooder out of the barn and sprayed the floor where it had been.  I then removed all the bedding from the brooder and took it down to the compost pile.  I plan to take the floor off of it, and use it as a pen for the roosters until I decide what to do with them.  The barn already has lost the smell of birds and all that goes along with them.  Woohoo!

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30 Frugal Living Tips: Small Changes That Result in Big Savings

I love a lot of these tips.  Some we have done, some we will start.

30 Frugal Living Tips: Small Changes That Result in Big Savings.

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