Final Push

I have been trying to get the last things done for the party. To that end my mother in law came over and watched the littler kids while I got some things done.

There was a small amount of chainsaw work that needed to be done. Small enough that I may have considered not wearing my chainsaw chaps. That is until I was reminded how quickly things go wrong. A thread I follow on TractorbyNet told about how a gentleman got nicked with the chainsaw he was using, had to go to the hospital and has to keep his leg immobilized for six weeks. Fortunately his is mending and will be fine but it was just the unfortunate reminder I needed that no matter how “small” the job is, safety doesn’t depend on the size of the job.

I was also able to get the old water heater, air conditioner, a few batteries, and some other scrap metal loaded up and taken to the metal yard.

The chickens seem to be fine. I have checked some more for mites and haven’t found any sign. May have just been unlucky. As many people know, prey animals hide any sign of illness as long as possible. Many times until it is too late to notice or do anything about it. I will keep an eye on them but I am hopeful it was an isolated incident.









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We Lost a Hen

Late this morning Homestead Boy #2 came inside exclaiming that there was a dead chicken in the coop. I grabbed some gloves and headed to check things out. Sure enough, there was a dead hen in the middle of the coop. I took her out and did a quick exam. I found no wounds, no feather loss, and only a few what looked to be mites, certainly nothing that seemed excessive. I disposed of the hen and got to figuring what could be done to make sure no more birds were lost.

Apparently wood ash is a good material for chickens to take dust baths in. Fortunately we had two five gallon buckets of wood ash from the small wood burner we had in the barn. I took an aluminum baking pan and out about half wood ash and half sand for a dust bath.

On the way home from the dog groomer I stopped at TSC and picked up some poultry spray and this evening I cleaned out all the old bedding, sprayed down the coop, and put down all new bedding. I also raked out the run area and sprayed it down as well.

While I was at it I changed out the rabbit litter and took everything down to the compost pile.

I am hoping this takes care of any problem. The hen was one of the smallest and was what I will call failing to thrive. Fortunately it was not Homestead Boy #2’s favorite hen, Hunter. However she is another small hen so we will have to keep an eye on her. In fact tonight while I was working in the barn I noticed it was starting to rain. Hunter had stayed outside to sleep on the roost there, so I went out and out her in the coop. I figured cold and wet was not a good way to spend the night.

Sometimes farm animals die, even if you try to provide everything they need. I just hope there isn’t something else going on.

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In that crate is 346 pounds of fire breathing, back breaking, house warmth for this winter. Who wants to help me get it into place once I build the surround?

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Parental Musings – Alone Time

I have seen on Facebook and in videos parents who are hiding in the bathroom just looking for five minutes of alone time.  My thoughts on that are this, alone time is over rated.  In fact, with a toddler it’s a little scary.  I am not worried when my two year old is hanging on my leg begging for cookies.  I get really nervous when I can’t see my two year old, and come to think of it… I haven’t seen her in fifteen minutes.  That is when you find the bathroom sink overflowing, or a hallway wall covered in marker, or a Nutri-Grain bar smeared into the carpet.  That banging on the bathroom door while you are in there, sweet music to my ears.  I know right where they are.  When the knocking stops, and I can’t hear them, time to hurry up and get out of the bathroom.  I’ll save alone time for when they are asleep.

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Is what the cow says. On Saturday I had the opportunity to learn how to milk a cow and a goat. It was actually a class that covered all things home dairy. A nearby farm, Firesign Family Farm, offers classes on all sorts of self-sufficiency/homestead/farm type things. We talked about fencing requirements for both goats and cows. We also talked about pasture and food requirements, handling, milking stations, routine, and health care. There were twelve of us, including a friend of mine who I was able to to convince to join me, in the class and anyone who wanted was able to trim the goat’s hooves and milk bot a goat and cow.


The cows waiting to come in for milking

Going into the class I was very interested in goat milking. With goats being smaller and more manageable, I thought, and also producing far less milk I wanted to know if that would be an option that would ever appeal to me.  One thing that should be obvious about goats, and I guess I had never really thought about, was that their udders are much smaller than a cows. Stands to reason that a smaller animal would have smaller udders, but if you don’t think about milking much, it’s not something you ruminate on. While I didn’t have any problem milking the goats, I pretty much used only my thumb and first finger. Not a big deal. We then got to taste both fresh warm and cold goat’s milk. I had never had goat’s milk before but had heard about how “gamey” it tastes. I was surprised that it didn’t taste that much different than cow’s milk. There was a slight difference, but nothing off putting at all.

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Then we moved on to her jersey cow. There is something about cows. Maybe it was watching city slickers when I was young and growing attached to Norman, but those big brown eyes just get to you. I knew as soon as we brought the cows in, if I was going to be milking something it would have to be a cow. As I said, they milk Jersey cows at Firesign. They can supply up to six gallons of milk a day! Even if you share half with the calf that’s still three gallons a day. That is a lot of milk drinking, cheese making, ice cream making, etc. and I am not interested in starting a herd share program at this point so that was something to think about.


Seriously, how can you not like cows?

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Filtering the milk


Milking the cow seemed easier. I don’t know if it was the size of the udders, or my attitude about the animal, but it was a lot of fun. We then got to try fresh warm milk, and cold which we drink as a family anyway.

The class was great. Ruth was a lot of fun, and a fount of information. I will definitely be going back for more classes which are listed here.

Upon getting home I started doing some research on a cow breed that I have looked up before, the Dexter. Dexter cows are a much smaller breed, and thus produce less milk. More along the lines of one to three gallons a day. Splitting that with a calf now sounds more reasonable. Dexter are also considered a triple threat cattle breed. Not only do they provide milk, but they are a good meat breed as well. The third threat is that they can be draft animals. All I can think about now is how awesome it would be to have a fall party hay ride on a wagon pulled by Dexter cows.

This gives me one more thing to think about. It would be really fun to be able to produce our own milk and cheese from right here on the homestead. I know milking is a chore, but with only one to milk it may be manageable. I have also heard about leaving the calf and heifer together if you want to go on vacation so the calf takes care of the milking while you are on vacation. It isn’t anything I am going to do this winter, unless I run into a smoking deal, but something to think about for the future.









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Done, For Now

My wife got home early enough this evening for me to spend a little time working on the patio.  I was able to move a couple more buckets of crushed lime, and level the area with a rake.  It still isn’t perfect, and probably never will be.  I don’t plan on putting a stone or metal edging around the rock.  I will just rake it back when it becomes necessary.  Because of that it won’t have that finished look.  But I only have a few hours into it and a load of crushed lime, so I am pretty happy with where it is at right now.  I still have some dirt to smooth out around it, but I am going to wait until I put the back blade on the tractor to do that, hopefully later this weekend.  For now, it’s done.



I also found another craigslist deal the other day.  A gentleman was selling forty 5.5′-6.5′ t posts and about twenty five 8′ treated posts.  The treated posts are anywhere from 5″-9″ in diameter.  I got them at a deal, and the guy delivered them because he wanted them gone!  Can’t argue with that.  This should get me a good portion of the way towards fencing in more of the front for next year so that maybe I can buy a bull calf for beef.

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My Kids Keep Me Humble

Over the past few weeks I have been going out into the barn at night, after the kids are asleep. I spend a couple hours trying to move, organize, and decide what can be donated out of the things we have in the barn. I TRY to make it into bed before midnight. All of this has been motivated by preparing for our annual fall party. (If you haven’t gotten an invite let me know) I have been pretty pleased with my progress. But any time I ask my kids what they think of my work they shrug their shoulders and say it looks the same. They definitely keep me humble.

Not only am I trying to get the barn organized and ready, but there are a multitude of things to be done outside as well. With the daylight hours growing shorter it has been harder and harder to get things done when my wife gets home from work or after the kids activities. I was lucky that today my mother in law was able to come over for a few hours.

During that time I moved all the asphalt/cement/rocks down to their respective piles at the back of the property. I think in all I moved four full tractor buckets of asphalt/cement that had been picked out of my “clean” fill dirt.

After that I hooked the trailer up to the tractor and unloaded the wood from it. It hadn’t gotten any light since it had been put there. Luckily I was able to position the trailer so that it was slightly downhill towards the tailgate. This allowed me to flip the rounds 90 degrees and just let them roll out of the trailer. The longer branches I just pulled out. Homestead boy #1 was my helper for both of those projects.

Then I started on our patio. Several days ago I had a load of crushed limestone delivered. I am going to use that as a patio off the driveway and next to the barn. That will mean that the patio furniture will have a permanent home, not on the grass, so I won’t have to move them every time I go to cut. I got a really good start on that, getting the whole shape dug out using both the tractor and hand shovels. Homestead boy #2 and homestead girl #1 thought it would be fun to help with the shovels, but quickly tired of it and went to play with the rabbits.  I didn’t get pictures until I was out working in the barn tonight, but I wanted to throw some pictures in the post.  I think it will look less messy by daylight.


In these pictures it actually looks pretty terrible. I hope it doesn’t when I am done.


In my defense I needed to hurry up to leave to go to a banquet.


We also solved the mystery of which hen was laying. I had thought it might be an Amberlink, but today I caught Atilla the barred rock in the neat box. It makes much more sense. She probably just stopped for a bit after getting acclimated and has now resumed. The Amberlinks should start laying later this month with any luck.

All in all, I was very happy with the progress I made. Now off to work on the barn.





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My Knees Don’t Like Installing Flooring

When we moved into the house we knew that we needed to replace the linoleum floor in the kitchen. Costco had their laminate flooring on sale at the time so we bought enough to do the kitchen. Yesterday my dad and I finally got around to installing it.  They say you are supposed to let the flooring rest in the house for several days to acclimate to the humidity, temperature, etc.  I figured four months was plenty of acclimation.

We had soccer in the morning so my dad had gotten to the house before I did and had gotten the saw set up, and had planned our attack.



In the begginning…



The first course

The first course found us going under the stove, diswasher, and having to cut some trim to allow the floor to fit.  After that was done we were able to move more quickly, until we came to the kitchen island.

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That also required moving the refrigerator.  Along the way we ordered pizza for dinner and continued to work.  The hours continued to fade away, the kids went to bed one by one, and then even my wife went to bed.  How the kids slept through the continued noise of banging the floor into place, and the front door continuing to open and close as we went out the the barn to cut more pieces I will never know.  But at a quarter to midnight my dad left for home and I finished cleaning up and went to bed as well.

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We still need several pieces of transition to finish it off, and I think we have enough to do the front entrance area of our house.  But we finished with all the cuts, which was what we wanted.  That way there were no exposed tabs that the kids, dog, or myself could have stepped on and broken off forcing us to replace that piece.

I like how it looks, but my knees didn’t like putting it down.  I am very blessed to not only have a dad who is willing to spend pretty much his whole day helping me work on my house, but that he has the knowledge to do it.



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I Need One More Thing on My Plate

So I figured I should add something. After all, I’m not nearly busy enough. A little back story, I regularly check the “free” and “farm and garden” sections of our local craigslist. Recently I saw a listing for free rabbits to be pets only. And they came with all of the hutches, accessories, etc, free to a good home. The rabbits are used to being held, which obviously works well for my kids. The woman even had an extra hutch I could use for breeding. The rabbits are bucks, one Dutch and one Havana, so I am thinking I will get a doe to breed.


This is Cocoa, the Havana


The empty hutch


Henry, the Dutch

I have wanted to get into rabbits, but haven’t had the time to build hutches and buy accessories so this situation works out great. I will not use these rabbits for meat, even though I really won’t need more than one buck, but being a man of my word I plan to keep both bucks as pets/studs. Hopefully they will pass on their easy temperaments.


This evening, at their new home


On another front, I have been getting frustrated that Attila has not started laying again. Being an eternal optimist I check the nest box daily. Today I was rewarded with this.
One of the Amberlinks has started laying. I can tell because it is a smaller and lighter egg than barred rocks lay. They should get a bit bigger, but will probably remain lighter brown.
Not a bad day.






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Runaway Horse!

The gentleman who baled our hay has a daughter who has horses.  Our kids love to look at the horses every time we drive by.  Homestead Boy #2 decided he was going to ask if he could ride their horses when the gentleman was over baling hay.  I didn’t think much would come of it. A couple of days ago his daughter drove up and asked when would work for the kids to take a ride.  Today was that day.

She stopped by late this morning and Homestead Boy #2 was ready to go.  She brought a three year old paint gelding that she had raised since birth.  She got Homestead Boy #2 up in the saddle and they headed around the barn and towards the open field near the sheep.  I ended up shoveling a “present” and taking it to throw in that field when I noticed the horse getting antsy, and our son getting antsy as well.  Our neighbor got our son off the horse and was trying to show her horse that our sheep weren’t a threat.  He didn’t care and even after five minutes of trying to show him they are harmless he reared up, broke the leather lead she was holding, and took off down the road.

She started after him and I jumped on the golf cart and followed.  By the time we got there, her father had tied him up and he was waiting for us.  Apparently he just really didn’t like my sheep.  She jumped back on and we headed back to our house.  This time we stayed on the far side of the barn away from the sheep.  The kids had fun taking their turns.  It was especially nice for Homestead Boy #1, who doesn’t get to ride my brother-in-law’s horse because he has outgrown it.

I thought it was really nice that she took time to bring her horse down so that the kids could ride.  She could have just as easily not worried about it, but she went out of her way to make sure my kids got to ride.  Gotta love country neighbors.

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