Sunday, December 16, 2018

How to build a chicken coop.

How to Build a Chicken Coop! I thought it might be time to throw out some homesteading tips since that is the actual purpose of this blog!  One of the first animals most people get when they buy some land or decide to try their hand at homesteading is chickens. They are the starter animals. If you can succeed with chickens you have the good chance of doing well with raising your next animal. Plus they have the benefit of providing plenty of eggs for the family and depending on how many chickens you have you might have enough to sell to family or friends or co-workers. This helps the self sustainability by allowing the chickens to pay for their own feed. 

The first thing you need before you get the birds is a place for them to live. There are plenty of options for chicken houses but you can find some plans here. Some ideas that I have personally used have been a hoop house made with cattle panels, a bit of chicken wire, a tarp and some 2x4's That was a easy, couple of hours and under $100 project.  I'll try to add some pictures here. For the more fancy ones look at how to build a chicken coop.

If you decide to get chickens you want to decide if you start with adults, half grown pullets or chicks. Sometimes for beginning chicken keepers, starting with adults is a good idea because you can by-pass the tricky, fragile chick stage. However you have the downfall of not knowing exactly how old those hens might be, plus most chickens egg production starts to fall off after the second year of laying and then you have to decide what happens to those hens. Are you strong enough to turn them into chicken stew or do they become pets and you feed them till they die of old age?  With half grown pullets, you'll most likely have the highest cost per bird since you will know how old they are and they will be getting ready to start their peak production. You will be able to get lots of eggs from them before they need to be retired. Chicks are lots of fun, but much more work. They require special feed, heat lamps, and a brooder house but they can bond to you (as much as a chicken can) and they get to know you and can become very friendly and gentle. Plus it's always fun to raise up a little chick and then the proud moment when they lay their first egg.  The most important thing though is safe and secure housing for them.

There are many things that love to eat chickens. Skunks, Opossums, Raccoons, Foxes, Owls, Coyotes, Stray Dogs and Cats and probably more. Those are what I've dealt with in my chicken keeping. Providing a safe enough coop for them is important, or else you might lose your favorite hen or have to keep replacing them which ends up costly and sad.

Much success to you on your chicken coop building!

Goat Milk Soap!

My current journey in homesteading and farming as a single woman now include a small business making goat milk soap from the milk from my goats. It started because I had way too many milk goats and too much milk and not having a licensed dairy I was unable to sell the milk. So my creative thinking had to work overload and I decided to give the soap making a try. Since I wanted to be as natural and from the farm as  possible, my focus became using the goats milk and as many herbs and natural colors as possible. 

Currently I have a list of over 20 types of goat milk soap that I regularly keep in stock, plus some that I try once or twice or seasonal scents. The goat milk makes such a wonderful bar of soap with so many qualities that benefit the skin.

My soaps are now located in about 5 different local shops, plus local farmers markets and craft fairs, plus my new website:

 This is one of my personal favorites. It is Citrus Sage and has ground sage grown in our organic garden. It smells very fresh and light.

This is one of my best selling soaps, scented with Lavender. Who doesn't love lavender? Ok, well since I'm in the business of selling scented things I have discovered that actually quite a few people don't care for lavender. It's still one of my favorite scents as well as to consume. Yummy cup of hot lavender tea... Anyway, back in focus. This soap is very gentle and soothing.
Both of these plus more can be purchased on my website:

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Ducks on the roof!!!

We raise a breed of duck that happens to enjoy flying! They fly to the pond. They fly over the fence into the animal pens. They fly on top of the roof of the house. They fly to the neighbors pond. They are quite comical and I enjoy watching them fly across the pasture to the pond. The rooftop however is rather annoying since there apparently are lots of bugs and good things to eat up there and they like to walk around and search for those bugs in the wee morning hours when I'm trying to catch my last few minutes of sleep. They don't lay too many eggs but they make excellent mothers and are a good breed for eating as they grow fast and have lots of meat, males especially. The are Muscovy ducks. The are native to Central and South America and are extremely hardy birds. In some parts of the United States they are considered a pest because they reproduce so much. However, they make an excellent choice for the small farmer who likes duck meat since they grow quick and are efficient converters of foraged food into edible meat.  They browse and eat anything they can find. So if you're looking for a fun bird, that would provide lots of meat fairly quickly you might want to consider the Muscovy ducks.

Kidding Season!

We are currently in the middle of goat kidding season and I wanted to give a few tips on that subject. Most often the doe doesn't need any help at all with delivering her babies but sometimes things go wrong and you need to give assistance, especially when there are multiple babies being born in one belly-load.

First of all, you need to know when she is in labor. If you watched them breed in the fall then you probably have a good idea of when the due date is. There are plenty of pregnancy charts out there to plug in the breeding date and get the estimated kidding date. If you let them pasture breed, then you will have to use your powers of observation, which I've found vary in efficacy from person to person. Some of the signs of impending birth are: loose ligaments, which basically means that when you squeeze or touch the goat around her tail area it feels very mushy and loose, with no muscle tone or anything. This is all the body preparing to open up for the babies to be born. Another sign is of course the udder will fill with milk. Each goat is different in that aspect. Some goats start to fill up their udder several weeks in advance but others, especially young first time fresheners only get their milk the day of or the day before kidding. Another sign is mucous. Most does when they are getting ready to kid and start having beginnings of labor have strings of mucous coming out that end. One doe of mine on her first batch of babies had mucous for about a week, but most of them just have it the day of or the day before kidding.  Those are the most obvious signs of getting ready to kid.

Once she is starting labor there are other signs which include: yawning, pawing, nesting, getting up and down, being very affectionate toward you, not wanting the other goats near, etc. Then when she actually starts pushing you will be able to see the contractions. First out should be a "bubble" of membrane. Inside the bubble should be two front feet followed by a little nose. If you can see this then all is well and just let mom push the baby out. If you don't see that then there might be some trouble about to happen and you should be prepared to assist if needed. If you are not comfortable with putting your hand up into the goat to help untangle baby legs then you might need to have a reliable emergency vet phone number on hand or a good goat friend mentor who has experience with difficult births.

Some of the situations I've dealt with as far as difficult births include: breech birth where the back legs came out first. That is the next easiest birth to deal with except you might have to pull and make sure to get the nose and head out pretty quickly once the baby is coming out, otherwise the umbilical cord will break upon exiting the birth canal and if the head is still inside there is the possibility of the baby drowning. 
Another situation that I've had has been tail coming out first. I've had that happen twice and in both cases I have been unable to get the baby turned around or at least get the legs coming first so with those, you just pray that nothing rips and pull gently with a downward pull, holding the baby's pelvis. Those are pretty hard to get out and pretty scary, but both times that I've had that happen the babies lived and the mommas were fine.
Another is in multiple babies, two different sets of legs try to come out at the same time. In that case you must put your hand in and sort out the legs and heads and get only one to come out first!
Another is when the legs come but the head is twisted back or tucked down. Again if you see feet but no nose you must go inside the goat again before too much of the feet are out, reach around in there until you figure out where the head is and get that head pointed in the right direction. One birth I had the head was tucked down in between the baby's front legs. I got it pulled up and started pulling but the baby tucked back down again so back in I had to reach and pull the head up a second time. The second time I kept my hand in the doe while holding the baby's chin up and pulling the front legs at the same time. It was a hairy moment (or should I say slippery moment?) but the baby was born alive and healthy.
The worse birth I've had to sort out was one of my older does. She started labor, the bubble came out,  I waited, nothing happened. I didn't reach my hand right in and didn't see any feet, but wasn't quite sure what to do, nor was I comfortable putting my hand in right away. After a while and still nothing had happened I realized something was going wrong. So I scrubbed up and reached in and much to my dismay, didn't find any legs at all! I felt what seemed like spinal cord and it was laying crossways across the pelvis in a way that never ever would have been born. I felt along both ends until I found the head end and tried to get the head pointing in the exit direction but it wouldn't move. I finally got the tail side moving toward the exit and this baby ended up being born tail first. I thought it had already died so I wasn't being particularly careful as I pulled but when it came out and gasped for breath I cried. It was definitely the most difficult and scary birth I've had to help with. Sadly that little baby ended up dying after all, I'm sure due to complications from that birth but she lived for almost a week.

Hopefully these stories and hints will help you with any birth questions or problems you might have as kidding season goes along.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Of Being Single...

My dream for my entire growing up life was to get married, have about 3 or 4 kids and adopt 3 or 4 kids and live happily ever after with a "normal" life. I didn't want any more crazy adventures in the jungle learning how to trust God for everything, nor did I want any more near death experiences with Malaria or other tropical diseases. Granted, I did still want to live in Brazil for the rest of my life, I just wanted it to be a normal life (whatever that was supposed to mean!)

I wanted a nice little house and a husband who had a job and worked hard to provide for me and the kids (cause you know I wanted to have a bunch of them), maybe a little farm with horses and some animals to be able to teach all those kids good work ethics and all the good things that come from homesteading and farm life. I wanted him to come home every evening and spend time with us and be a spiritual leader in the house. I wanted to have enough money to pay all the bills each month without panicking and worrying about how we were going to make it. I wanted to cook delicious meals and raise Godly kids.

In my early twenties plenty of nice young men came through my life that may have been what I thought I wanted or needed, but none were brave enough to have "THE TALK" with my dad and request my hand in marriage (or even in courtship for that matter). Finally I gave up on the dream and came to a place in my heart where I could look at myself as a future old me and see myself unmarried and okay with it. I embraced the idea of being an "old maid". Reluctantly, I will admit, but I was okay with it.  Then HE showed up in my life.

He was a young man (younger than me) who managed to sweet talk his way into my heart and the hearts of the rest of my family. He was not afraid to talk to my dad, or the crazy requests and requirements that we put on him in order to prove himself worthy of marrying me. We got married in Brazil  in a beautiful outdoor wedding in the coconut grove on our family farm. It was beautiful and blissful. Honeymoon was in the most amazing treehouse resort in the heart of the Amazon that I don't even know how we found out about but it was incredibly beautiful.

Fast forward a couple years and all the sweet talk and fun loving adventure came jolting to a halt. The marriage crumbled no matter how hard I tried to hang on to it and make it work. I went into the deepest, darkest time of my life. During that time my son was born, but shortly after I once again found myself single. This time divorced, in debt, with a kid to raise by myself, ashamed that I who once believed that marriage was supposed to last forever and I couldn't keep mine together.  The sadness and depression almost overwhelmed me. But somehow, the Grace and Love of God reached me and pulled me back up out of the mire of despair.

Once again, I have come (maybe still am coming) to the point of contentment in being single. I have found a deeper relationship with God than ever before. Through the sorrow and loss, I had to trust God or sink pretty much, and He showed me (and still shows me) his faithful provision and love and protection so much greater than any earthly husband could ever show me. It has been an incredible journey of learning to walk by faith and remember that He is my Husband and Father God who will never leave me or forsake me.

My prayer for you who might read this story, is that if you find yourself in the pit of depression or your life is crumbling around you, or you don't know what to do... God knows and sees you and CARES about you and Loves you more than you could ever even imagine. He wants to help you but it's up to you to put your trust in Him and reach your hand up to Him so He can pull you up into life in abundance!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Recipe of the day: Hearty Beef Soup

One of my favorite things to make and eat are soups. I particularly enjoy a hearty beef soup on a cold winter day. Here's how I make mine:

Saute your stew meat, beef chunks in a pan with about a tablespoon or so of olive oil till brown. Amount depends on how much you want to make. I usually use about a pound or less.
After your meat is browned and cooked add veggies: I like potatoes, carrots, cabbage, onions as staples and again, the amount depends on size of pot and size of family.
Add water enough to barely cover the meat and veggies.
Add spices: salt, black pepper to taste and here are my special ingredients I like to add: garlic (lots of garlic) about a teaspoon of cumin powder, a few sprinkles of oregano, more garlic, a beef bullion sometimes, a dash of paprika, whatever else inspires me that day.
Taste it and make sure you added enough of everything.
Now for the part that makes it nice and warm, add about a handful of spaghetti noodles, broken in half. Also at this point I like to add green to my pot and here are some options that make it taste great: swiss chard, spinach, cilantro are some of my favorites. Be creative and use what you have. Peppers taste nice in a beef soup too.
Let it all simmer until the noodles are done and everything is cooked tender and delicious.

You might want to enjoy this soup with fresh home baked biscuits or fresh baked bread if you feel so inspired!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Missing my hometown!

It's winter here and although I live in Texas I still very much miss my home town/farm where I lived for most of my life as a missionary kid. The tropical rainforest of Brazil. This picture was taken on one of my trips home for a visit. It is one of my favorite views of a palm tree, specifically known as a Tucuma tree, right before a thunder storm. I can still feel in my imagination the humidity that weighs so heavy you can almost cut it. The warm air surrounds you like a passionate embrace. The monkeys howl early in the morning or at dusk and the big giant butterflies slowly drift and flutter, looking for their next flower to rest on. The birds fly and call and if you're lucky you might get to glimpse a band of macaws or toucans. These are all things that I grew up with and miss almost desperately especially in the wintertime!