Country Living & Penny Pinching

Getting back to "Little House on the Prairie" living

Tag: homestead (page 1 of 2)

2016 Homestead Management Printables

***This is a review for the 2016 Homestead Management Printables that Quinn over at Reformation Acres put together. I was not paid for this review and all of the thoughts are my own. If you just want the meat of the review scroll down until you see stars.***

For those that have been following from the beginning you know that the beginning wasn’t that long ago. October 2015 (the end to be honest) was when our blog started. Before that we only had chickens for a couple of months and a somewhat of a sad garden and now we have dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, goats, better plans for a garden and the pigs will get here in a couple of months.
With the chickens there was not much record keeping to do. They were little, had no eggs and I knew about how much feed I would need a month and I just budgeted accordingly. Now there is production flowing out our ears. Baby goats due in a month which means milk coming in, almost every chicken is laying, half the ducks are sitting on eggs, and it seems that I have been really bad about record keeping.

Now in my defense I really was trying but using a pen and lined paper was just not cutting it. I felt like things were missing, everything was getting put together when it should be separate, there was no direction to my unorganized chaos and there needed to be. That is when I stumbled upon a heaven-sent printable package over at Reformation Acres Quinn has made a full scope homesteading printables package. When I first saw it I thought it would have the basics, chickens, goats, pigs and cows. Then upon further investigation it also has gardening printables and my FAVORITE PART……..

a seed sowing calendar!!!!!!!!!!!!

Last years garden was so sad even though I tried to plan well for it. I believe that if I had these printable and sowing calendars then things would have gone a lot smoother. Knowing the exact dates of when to soak seeds and start them indoors and harden off and transplant them is such a load off of my mind that I don’t have to figure it all out I feel really confident that this year we will be a much happier garden and gardener. If you want to know about our garden adventures click over here to read about that.  Otherwise I will keep going.

****the meat of the review****

There are pages for all of the animals we have, so we are able to document expenses and production with no hassles and there are even pages that make the Hubby not too happy….there are ones for meat chickens… cows…. rabbits…. and bees….Oh those pages are just calling to me “Please start raising us so you can write down all the expenses and production” haha yes I know I am a bit crazy and I am trying really hard to just stick with what we have now and get good at it then expand but these printables are so cute and fun and I really love beef and honey…I’ve only had rabbit once out on the trail but I want to start them anyways!

 

So long story short 2016 is going to be an organized year thanks to these fun and clear printables that Quinn put together. Now I know that I am all about penny-pinching and spending money is not something I like to do but when it comes to something that will truly help the homestead out and is very reasonably priced I just can’t say no. For the time and effort that Quinn at Reformation Acres put into these printables I gladly paid the high price (just kidding) of $5.99. I would pay that price just for the seed sowing calendar that is included.

Now I know that not everyone has all the crazy amount of animals that I do, or the amount that Quinn has, but even if you are starting out with a garden or a few chickens these printables can work for you and maybe even encourage you to start adding more ways to help you get back to the basics of living.

Our (Wannabe) Livestock Guardian Dogs

Upon coming to the homestead I got introduced to the concept of a livestock guardian dog (LGD). Seeing as we had nothing but chickens we weren’t ready to invest in a real purebred LGD. Instead we went to an event in the Mall by the Humane Society and found ourselves the cutest most adorablest had to have …….. PUPPY!

She was an 8 week old, German shepherd, Australian shepherd, border collie mix, (or so they think from her looks). Her name was given by the shelter, Ellie, and she practically trained herself.

Apparently chickens use the bell system too!

We used a bell system to let us know when she had to use the outdoors and she only ever had a couple of accidents in the house. She became like our chickens, Free Range. But there was something missing, a partner. Ellie got a bit lonely so two weeks later we picked her up a buddy, Bella the Newfoundland.

she slept all the time!

Now this breed is on the LGD breed scale but the question arose “Was Bella from a working dog line?” So we called up the original owners and found out she came from a working farm!!! But her parents were the laziest dogs…..NOOOO!!!!!

It all started going down hill from there. Chewing, nibbling the Littles, chasing the chickens, peeing everywhere, this all continued until the unfortunate happened. Two thirds of the chickens died from the neighbors dog and Bella’s rampage. I know there is a chance I could have trained it all out of her, but with three Littles under the age of four I mentally was not there. If it was during any other season of life I would have considered keeping her, but it wasn’t so we found Bella a home (without chickens) and continued on with just the one dog, Ellie, and things calmed back down.

she hated the car

When considering a Livestock Guardian Dog know that BREED matters, PARENTS matters, and your willingness to TRAIN them matters. Even though breed does play a big role in all of it, know that personality trumps it all. Eventually we will acquire a real LGD but until that time comes, a good farm dog will have to do.

helping dig the new tree holes

Ellie quickly became an excellent farm dog, she kept coyotes away and only bothered the chickens when she wanted to eat the scraps I gave them or drink out of their waterer. The turkeys would climb all over her, the feral cat kept her company, and the newest kittens learned that she was their friend and only wanted to play. Unfortunately our fence was not up to par, our entrance gate didn’t work, and Ellie had discovered she could get out.

On the morning she figured out there was a way out she tried to follow me out of our driveway, I stopped and put her back and the Hubby kept her from running. Later on that day as we picked the fruit on our fence line my heart dropped. I heard a huge thud and ran to find that Ellie had been ran over by a car and the car didn’t even stop. She died on impact. We promptly buried her, said our goodbyes and spent the rest of the night crying (ok I was the only one crying), and talking about how good of a girl Ellie was and how she was in Heaven with Jesus, if you are not a believer that is OK, but we are and like the eldest Little likes to say, “Great Grandpa is taking care of Ellie until we get up there ourselves”. We will miss her dearly and I miss having that security she brought us.

She is even more behaved then the chickens 😛

One day another dog will come to live on the homestead, but until that day we will be fixing the fence, making sure the gate will shut, and saving up to be prepared financially.

Have you ever had a farm dog or Livestock Guardian Dog? I hope your story ended better than ours, do tell 🙂

 

Deciding on Free Ranging or Building a Run

To cage or not to cage? That is the question. We chose to not cage but everyone’s answer is going to be different. When asking this question one needs to consider the land, neighbors, money, predators and time.

  1. Land – If you live in a cul-de-sac my guess is that you will be building a run. Although if you train them to come when called and have supervised free-ranging time, there could be the best of both worlds. The more land you have the more options there are. We live on seven acres so we chose a stand alone coop and the birds have free reign over the whole property.
  2. Neighbors – When in close proximity you MUST make friends if you decide to free range. Go around to the neighbors and let them know what you are thinking on doing, then hear them out and go from there. If they are being difficult try an egg offering deal such as every couple of weeks bringing them a dozen eggs. If they are happy about having chickens running around then still bring them an egg offering to keep them happy. When building a run make sure that you keep it clean and not too smelly or else know an egg offering is needed to keep the neighbors OK with smelling poop.
  3. Money – This was our biggest challenge. In order to safely enclose the amount of chickens we wanted we would have had needed a couple hundred dollars in fencing to keep them safe. There was no way that was going to happen. So free ranging them became even more of a reality. Survival of the fittest right? If you have the money and are only doing a few, then a run would not be nearly as expensive.
  4. Predators – Ask around! Again with the neighbors. People who have lived in your area for more than a year will know what to watch out for. If your predator is bears, get livestock guardian dogs; coyotes, trees for the birds to jump in; hawks, bushes for the poultry to hide under; snakes, set a trap. Building a run will over course help deter all of these predators except the bears. All in all a livestock guardian dog will help with all predators but…that is only for the people who have major flocks. Some regular dogs are easy to train and will help with the predator problem as well, just be careful because dogs are also a type of predator to the poultry. Bottom line, make sure there is a place that the flock can escape to if a predator decides to come traipsing into camp.
  5. Time – If you are impatient like me, not to cage (free ranging) will definitely be your answer. How much time do you want to spend cleaning the run? How much time do you want to spend building it? Planning? Your time is valuable, always remember that. Opportunity Cost! Economics class coming into play. What you choose to spend doing for thirty minutes is time you could be doing something else. Choose what matters and is important.
  6. Eggs – Do you want to go on an Easter egg hunt everyday, train chickens to only use the laying box, or not worry about it all? Luckily we have not had a problem laying outside the nesting box but we are only dealing with one laying hen at the moment.

So now you know the factors to consider free ranging or building a run. I do realize this is all written in a free ranging voice, but there is no right or wrong way to raise birds. Keep them safe, love on them (to a point), do what is best for your family, and if you do something and it doesn’t work out just dust yourself off and try again. Good luck on making your choice.

If you have chickens what choice did you make? If you don’t which one would you lean closer to? and why?

Stages of the Duck Pond

If your husband is anything like mine than all you need to do is get ducklings and he will jump on the farming band wagon. We started with two Muscovy ducks. This breed was chosen because they do not need a pond, it would be great but they wouldn’t suffer if there was not a permanent pond in place. So plans were never made for one, but since the Hubby was smitten he declared they must have water since they really did love playing in it. That brought us to the 1st stage of the duck pond. A Pie Tin!!!

 

Two little ducklings sitting in a tin, S-P-L-A-S-H-!

Yep, this was a throw away pie tin in my cupboards from a certain restaurant that sold Calendar’s (haha I crack myself up, Marie Calendar’s). It was the right size for them to sit together, splash around, and still left plenty of room for them to walk around the cage.

Once the ducklings moved to the pen with the chickens on the deck we quickly learned the pie tin was now too small and the chickens would try to sit on the edge and dump it over immediately. This is where the 2nd stage came in. It was brought on by the Hubby’s love for the ducks and not knowing which dishes were the expensive ones.

a Pyrex Baking Dish

That’s right, one of my glass Pyrex baking dishes. in his defense there really wasn’t anything better to choose from in the cupboards and this worked out really really well. Heavy enough to not flip, deep enough to dunk their heads in, and really easy to clean. So props went to the Hubby after I had a couple of breaths and thought it through. Also I happened to have a weird size and he thankfully used that one, which is one I do not use regularly.  So I definitely recommend this to others as one of the stages to use for growing ducklings.

our lovely ladies

After the ducks were in the coop we realized they were getting way to big for the baking dish and needed something bigger that would not break the bank, easy to clean, store, and move around. Thus moving us into the 3rd stage of the duck pond. We went to Walmart and found the $4.88 kiddie pools! The Littles got a blue one and the lady ducks got pink. It took some coaxing but the ducks eventually learned that this bright pink thing was something fun and they would only go in when we weren’t watching. By the time we could get the camera they would have jumped out and ran back into the coop.

can you even imagine what this animal conversation was?

Word of caution! Baby chicks and duck ponds do not mix very well. Our dog was acting weird so we went out to see what was wrong and there she was with this hen staring at one of our Leghorn chicks who had fallen into the pool…I mean pond and couldn’t get out.

Eventually we would love to make a real pond but seeing as we are penny-pinching, our kiddie pool will suffice for now. Have you ever had a duck pond? What was it like? Pictures are always great too!!

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