Finally in a Tree

Bow hunting season opens up here October 1, gun season November 15. I had not yet hunted this year. I finally got into a tree tonight. I hope to make it out again in the morning.


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Adding to the Orchard and a Vineyard is Born

A few weeks back I ordered a few apple trees and a couple grape vines. The expected ship date was more than a week before we were supposed to leave on our trip. As fate would have it, the shipment arrived about an hour before we were supposed to leave.

But let me rewind a bit.  Many of you have read about my ongoing orchard saga here, here, and here.  This isn’t yet my third attempt, more like an addition to the second attempt.  I won’t know for sure if the trees I planted this spring have made it over the winter.  Anyways I have been wanting to add some trees to the orchard this fall, and had been looking at having it done, buying balled and burlapped trees and doing it myself, and buying bare root trees and doing it myself.  For cost efficiency I opted for the last option, kind of.  I will explain the kind of later.

I had been looking for a reputable online fruit tree retailer and Stark Bros name kept on coming up.  Not only did everyone swear by the quality of their trees, but their customer service and guarantee is supposed to be excellent as well.  I ordered a honeycrisp, a Stark Jon-a-red Jonathan, and a Golden Delicious, all in Semi Dwarf size.  I also decided no better time than the present to order a couple grape vines so I got a Thomcord Seedless and Neptune Seedless.

I planned on leaving them in the barn while we were gone and hoping they didn’t come out of dormancy in the 50 degree heat.  Luckily, and as I have mentioned before, I am very blessed in so many ways.  My father told me to mark where I wanted them planted before I left in case he got around to planting them for me.  So not only did he get the trees and vines in the ground, he took pictures of the process so I could use them for this post.  I had three tree cages made from concrete remesh left from last fall’s attempt at an orchard, hence the ordering of three trees, so the small whips will be protected from our deer.


Tree positioning I marked with yellow X’s


For those of you who have never planted a bare root plant you first dig a hole large enough to spread the roots.  We normally then make a little pyramid of dirt in the hole to allow us to set the roots on and spread them out over the pyramid.  Then you fill in the rest of the dirt around the plant.


Tree planted and watered



Grape vines as they were packaged




So as I said, I had planned on buying the bare root trees and vines and planting them, but thankfully my dad got around to planting them first because by the time I got home this is what it looked like.





Vines covered

And at the time of writing this blog there is much more snow on the ground and much more frost in the ground I am sure.  Digging a hole wouldn’t be fun, and spreading wouldn’t be possible because there would be chunks of frozen dirt.

Until next time.


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Road Trip!

I am one of those crazy people who doesn’t like to post anything about my current location on any social media.  Where I am, and by logical reasoning, where I am not is something I avoid making public.  It just seems prudent.  For that reason, on this blog you will always hear about trips or events in the past tense.  That said, here we go…

My wife’s cousin was getting married in Texas last weekend, and with the amount of children we have, the need for a full sized van rental, and the overall hassle of flying, we decided to drive.  We had considered having my wife fly down alone for the weekend, but instead decided to make a family trip out of it.

We left Tuesday afternoon, after my wife got off of work and headed south.  It started to rain about the time we left, and the wind was howling.  Driving a full sized van is similar to driving a sail down the road.  If you are broadside to the wind, you will be fighting the wind to stay in a somewhat straight line.  We were broadside to the wind for the better part of the first day’s drive.

The tentative plan was to drive to just short of Nashville and find a hotel there for the night.  As any prudent family traveling with multiple children, some of whom are under the age of three know, plans are nice, but must be flexible.  As we drove out of Michigan and into Ohio what clouded sunlight there was began to fade.  I actually enjoy the drive to Nashville, Kentucky and Tennessee are beautiful states.  Unfortunately it was pitch dark, windy, and rainy as we drove through them, so there was no admiring of scenery possible.  I was more concerned with trying to drive our sail down the road in such a way as to not look drunken with the wind pushing the van this way and that.  As it got later, the kids fell asleep and I decided to push on as long as my eyes would reasonably stay open.   We ended up getting to Jackson, Tennessee, just shy of Memphis at about 1:30(all times will be eastern, I don’t like adjusting to different time zones).  11 hours in and we passed out in the hotel room.

A slight aside story.  When we would travel as a family when I was a child, my mom would often tell my brother and I to look at the scenery and imagine what it would be like for the original settlers to travel whatever area we happened to be in.  It became somewhat of a joke for us, because it happened so often.  As a child, even a “grown up” teenage child, perspective is often limited.  I have to admit now, as a more seasoned human, I often think about what it would have been like to travel as one of those first settlers.  The daunting task of scouting mountain passes, or making river crossings, the ease with which we are able to travel is not lost on me.

We awoke the next morning and enjoyed a quick hotel breakfast before getting on the road.  My wife wanted to stop in Memphis for some barbecue, and frankly so did I.  As I drove she googled barbecue places and settled on one not to far off the highway.  When the area that the restaurant was located in looked less than hospitable, we opted for a restaurant nearer to downtown.  Central BBQ.

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To say the food was good would be an understatement.  Not only was the food delicious, the staff and service were excellent.  Our order was served quickly, with a smile, by happy workers.  I would highly recommend trying them out if you are ever in the area.

After a delectable lunch and stocking up on some new sauces we were headed towards Dallas.  As is always the case, traveling with small children necessitates more frequent stops.  Rather than power through the night to our destination we opted to stop earlier at a hotel with an indoor pool outside of Dallas in Greenville Texas.  It was surprisingly hard to find a hotel with an indoor pool.  To our children’s delight we were up to the challenge, and they were able to swim for awhile before bed.


Sunset on the way to Greenville


The following morning found the polar vortex that had chased us out of Michigan had finally caught up to us.  It was frigid cold, even for my northern blood, with the howling wind making sure the cold was felt all the way to our bones.  We began the final leg of our Southerly trip heading to my wife’s aunt and uncle’s house outside Austin.  The trip south on I35 was pedestrian.  Only when we exited the highway and headed west into hill country did the scenery become exciting.  Literally we were driving down the road on fairly flat ground that was unimpressive to behold when we crested a hill and were blown away by the landscape the sprawled forth before us.  I hate to admit, but I failed to take any pictures of that stretch of drive because I was both amazed and anxious at the scenery.  There were so many ups and downs, lefts and rights, and crossways roads that it would have been unsafe to take any picture.  We arrived at their home, and like the landscape we passed to get there, both the inside of their home and the outside were beautiful.  The kids enjoyed taking hikes or Ranger rides down to the lake and out in the subdivision looking for deer.


Our oldest starting his descent


To the right


And to the left


The preferred method of travel


A panorama from the end of their dock


The ride down the loose steep rock incline


The view from the deck




Sunset on the lake


As with all others on their lake, my aunt and uncle-in-law have a floating dock.  This is necessary because the water level on their lake can fluctuate greatly.  If you can believe it, I had a hard time doing so, their lake is almost 45 down from it’s historical average!  That’s a four story building!  Most of their current shoreline would be significantly underwater.  This does have a couple benefits, it allows you to see what will be underwater when the water level does rise, so you can be aware of your surroundings when boating.  We promised the kids we would come back another time when the weather was warmer and they could go swimming and boating.  After a wonderful home cooked meal with even better company, we turned in for the night.

The next morning found us preparing for our trek back north.  After a few more rides on the Ranger, the kids were ready to load back into the van.  We decided to take the more westerly scenic route to the Dallas area.  It was so much more enjoyable that the way we had traveled down.  Texas hill country, of which we only scratched the surface, is beautiful and made the drive that much easier.


None of the pictures I took did the landscape justice


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We arrived in Dallas and prepared for the first of the three day party that was the wedding weekend.  Festivities included a rehearsal dinner, the wedding itself, and a reception brunch for another of my wife’s cousin’s who had a smaller wedding earlier this year.  A good time was had by all.

After the brunch on Sunday we started our trip back home.  We decided to travel through Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, and finally to Michigan on the way back.  My wife and I had never been to either Oklahoma or Kansas so we figured why not.  When we travel I tend to do all the driving.  Not because my wife can’t or won’t drive, she can and will, but especially with small children it is many times easier if she can get the in back with them.  I mention this only because the plan was for her to drive a bit that Sunday afternoon so I could try to sleep so I could drive later into the evening.  Unfortunately the several hours she ended up driving ended up being the several hours of the trip that ended up snowing, making them probably the most stressful driving conditions.  Needless to say I didn’t get any sleep.  I have to say, driving through Oklahoma was an odd experience.  The highway we were on had a speed limit of 70, but there were driveways and small roads that intersected the highway, rather than the only point of ingress and egress that we are familiar with being on and off ramps.  We made it through St. Louis and just shy of Springfield, Illinois and stopped for the night.

Consequently both nights we drove later into the night we stopped at about 1:30.  Apparently my body clock will allow me to drive with no adverse affects until 1 o’clock, after that it becomes more of a challenge.

After fending off requests to swim that morning we hit the road where we were able to mostly miss lake effect snow and arrive home in time for a winter sunset greeting us home.




















Our trip was a blessing.  Our kids were able to visit places they had not been before and see family not often seen.  Time celebrating family weddings is always a blessing to partake in, and this was no exception.  We look forward to our next trip to Texas, I only hope that it finds us enjoying warmer weather.



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Chasing Quail, and It’s Good to be Back

We just got back from a week long vacation that included lots of driving.  I will be posting on that soon, but I quickly wanted to tell you about what happened this evening when we got back.  I went to check on the quail, and they had kicked a bunch of wood chips in their waterer so I opened the top of the brooder to reach in and clear it out.  I am quickly learning that quail are much faster at maturing and can jump significantly higher at an earlier age than chickens.  One jumped out and started darting around behind tools and equipment.  Fortunately I slowed down enough to realize the “lost” quail was calling to it’s litter mates and they were calling back.  I waited, and sure enough it came back towards the brooder and I was able to catch it.  It is amazing how quickly their feathers are coming in.

I also realized that my chicken waterer isn’t staying thawed.  I think the nipples get cold enough to freeze even if the water in the bucket is warm.  I am going to have to do some juggling around to figure this out quickly.

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Parental Musings – An Investment that Pays

I was talking to a gentleman the other day at a banquet my wife and I attended.  Somehow we got onto the topic of projects around the house with kids.  You know, those projects you are all ready to knock off the list in a timely manner and just mow through the weekend’s to-do list?  And then just as you are about to start one of your children appears and asks if they can help.  Ever had the urge to tell them that it is an adult project and to go play outside?  Never?  Me neither, but I am sure there are those out there that have.  You know without a shadow of a doubt that the project will take at least 50% longer if your child helps.  But how else are they going to learn?  This happened on my siding the trailer project.  Homestead boy #2 wanted to help, and who am I to tell him he can’t?  Did it take longer?  Sure.  Was it more rewarding for both me and him?  Absolutely!  To have him know that he can help with a project and see the smile on his face while we were working and when we were done was priceless.  My to-do list will always be there, but they will only be young once.  Don’t think of it as losing time or taking longer, think of it as investing that time in your children.  The dividends on that investment are astronomical.

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Weekend Preparing for the Cold, and a Loss at the Homestead

Much of this weekend was spent preparing the animals, and my work regarding them, for the cold that is to come. Later this week, highs are supposed to drop down into the mid thirties. I don’t mind those temperatures, but with the animals some preparation is required. This is particularly true regarding waterers.

When we got the rabbits all of their stuff came along with them, including heated waterers. So I switched over from regular waterers to the heated ones. One had a slow leak, so I switched it out with another.


The chicken waterer I made here had already frozen a little on one of the coldest mornings we have already had. I bought a stock tank heater that is safe to use with plastic and installed it. I drilled a hole in the top of the waterer lid and then cut a slot over to it so I could slide the cord in. For now I have some vinyl gloves blocking the rest of the whole so nothing gets in the waterer.


I will probably buy another heater for the sheeps’ water tank, but for now I will just break the ice when necessary.

The good thing about all these heaters is that they are thermostatically controlled. This means that they only come on when the temperature is cold enough to warrant it and that I am not heating the water when I don’t need to be.

I also moved some of their feed into seal-able barrels.  This will make more room in the barn, and make feeding them more streamlined.

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The quail will be staying in the barn a few more weeks at least. They mature faster than chickens, but they need their feathers before heading outside. The kids want to hold them, but they aren’t like chickens. They are much more flighty and skittish.

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While I was getting some of these thing done, the kids came running up and exclaimed that Hunter was dead.  Hunter was the kids favorite chicken.  When I came to investigate it was clear that Hunter was not dead, but it was not far off. She couldn’t stand and was very weak.  I told the kids to say their goodbyes.  Death with farm animals is part of homestead life.  Unfortunately this was not just another nameless chicken, this was the one that they all liked holding and pretty much taking her with them whenever they were outside.  There were tears, and questions, and I did my best to explain why letting an animal suffer isn’t the right thing to do.  I had tried to prepare them for this day, she was by far the smallest of the chickens, and just wasn’t growing.  I don’t think she would have even had enough body fat on her to keep her warm when it got colder.  It is taking some of the kids longer than others to get over her death, but we are doing our best to get them through it.  When one of the sheep we bought last fall died, it wasn’t as big a deal because the sheep was at my brother in law’s house so the kids didn’t get attached.  That wasn’t the case here.

Until next time.








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Pumpkin Carving, Chicken Style

The chickens apparently didn’t think that the children’s pumpkin carving had been completed. So they decided to carve a duckling.  Beaks aren’t quite as precise as knives, so don’t judge them.  They are artists.


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Sunday, Fun Day

Sunday had been shaping up to be another busy day.  We had not gone to the vigil Mass so we needed to attend Mass, we had a photo shoot to get some baby pictures, and we had another meeting we were planning on attending in the afternoon.

With the falling back of time(which I hate, seriously who like’s when it gets dark so early?) we were able to get to an earlier Mass which allowed us to get to our photo appointment.  Our afternoon meeting was cancelled so we were home by a little after noon with nothing on the docket for the rest of the day.  I took this opportunity to get cracking on my to do list.

The first thing I got working on was a PVC rabbit feeder, that I will detail in another post.  I had been wanting to create something that would hold at least as much if not more feed, and hopefully stop the rabbit from wasting as much.  It is undergoing beta testing right now, so I will let you know in that future post how I did.

I also wanted to get some barrels rinsed out.  I had recently bought 6 barrels with either screw on, or compression seal type tops to use for keeping our animal feed away from the little critters.  They are all food grade, in fact some of the red ones still had a couple peppers still in them. I rinsed the insides and the tops and set them out to dry.  If I am lucky I will get the lids back on them before it rains.


The rinsed tops



The barrels

I also got to work trying to get the rabbit hutch ready for the quail.  I cut some cardboard to width and used it to block the bottom and side since as they are chicks I want to keep them warm.  Since having gotten some advice about making sure their droppings can actually drop through and out of their enclosure I may have to rethink this.  I will definitely keep shavings in the enclosed area for them to cuddle in, but maybe I will block the front side from wind.  I think there is a tray that goes underneath so if I can use that to not only catch the droppings but to block a draft that might work well.  We will see.


In the left compartment of this picture would have wire flooring if not covered by my cardboard


We will see if this is how I keep it, leaning towards no at this point.

Another quick project I knocked out was getting a couple tractor buckets full of leaves taken to the compost pile.  The other day when the neighbor was raking the kids wanted to help out, so I told them if they raked the leaves off our property first they could help the neighbor.  They had a pretty decent pile in no time and commenced helping the neighbor burn his leaves.  So those were taken down and added to the compost.

The last project I completed was getting a pile of wood off of our forest trail and up by the rest of the wood that needs to be cut and split.  The cutting of the tree can be found in this post.  It had been sitting down on the trail since that time and I figured before it gets covered in snow again I should get it moved.  The boys helped with the first couple loads, then they had to head to the store with my wife, so I finished before dark.


This was the pile of wood last fall before it had been covered by leaves and such this fall.

I hate that it gets dark so early now.  I truly wish we could leave it as it was in daylight savings so that it was light later in the day.  Oh well.

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How To Hollow Out a Pumpkin The Easy Way

Homestead Dad:

I wish I had thought about this two days ago.

Originally posted on The Garden Smallholder:

pumpkin collageEach year I grow a couple of extra pumpkins to carve for Halloween. Instead of scooping out the insides myself, I give the chore to my chickens. But I guess it’s not really a chore to them, considering how eager they are to help.

chickens eating a pumpkinEach pumpkin is hollowed out in record timing, flesh and seeds vanish (I’m careful to remove the pumpkins soon after, otherwise they’ll eat the whole thing before I get the chance to carve crazy scary faces). This saves me a bit of time and the hens get a healthy afternoon treat containing a natural wormer.

pumpkin hollowingUncooked pumpkin seeds contain Cucurbitin, an amino acid that can eliminate parasitic worms such as tapeworm and roundworm.

chicken eating a pumpkinEven more reason to get your flock involved with pumpkin carving!

Happy Halloween, Blessed Samhain x

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Fortune Favors the Bold, Especially on Halloween

The weather here this evening was in the mid 30′s and a rain/snow mix was blowing sideways. Throughout the day, my wife and I had talked about whether or not I needed to take the older kids trick or treating at all. They had been two other times at various events so it wasn’t as though they would be deprived of candy.

Before the main event we had our traditional Halloween meal of home made white chicken chili and pizza. As dinner finished and there was talk of going out, the first flakes of snow began to fall.

It was decided that we would go to a nearby neighborhood where we had some friends and hit one or two cul de sacs and then call it a night. There were very few kids out and people were shoveling candy into our kids buckets. After the two courts the kids were still going strong. Only my three year old nephew had dropped out. He rode in the car with my sister in law behind us. Homestead Boy #2 lead the way all night. They continued for two more streets with various of the younger kids taking breaks to ride in the car. At the end of the night, after probably only a half hour, the kids had full buckets and we headed home.

Because of the weather, we had no one to compete with or wait behind at houses. And people were very generous with their candy portions because they knew the trick or treaters would be few and far between. Despite the weather, it was a wonderful Halloween.

I hope you and yours had a safe and wonderful Halloween as well. IMG_5021.JPG

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