Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hand Made Pay It Forward

I've been thinking recently about doing a giveaway on my blog.  It would be my first, so imagine my surprise when a few days ago Mama Pea at A Home Grown Journal posted the following:


She had accepted a challenge from another blog to pay it forward with a hand made gift to the first five bloggers to comment on her post.  In turn, the lucky recipients had to post the same challenge on their respective blogs.  I was one of the first five commenters on Mama Pea's blog, so I will get a hand made gift from her.  Now, it's my turn.  The first five bloggers who comment on this post will receive a hand made gift from me, but in turn, you have to offer the same deal on your blog.  Hand made means whatever your little hands made themselves.  The gifts must be delivered before the end of 2012, so be creative and show off your talents.  It's a pay it forward with a twist.  Don't we all like to receive hand made gifts? 

I'm looking forward to receiving my gift from Mama Pea.

Who is up for the challenge?

And, you non-bloggers out there, never fear.  I'll do another giveaway for you soon.  I promise. 

Happy homesteading,


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Seed Organization and Garden Planning

I've mentioned before that I like things organized and tidy.  It helps me make good use of my time, and I"m sure you would agree time is something very precious.  It also keeps my OCD/ADD brain from going wacko.  I get distracted too easily, so I need order to keep myself focused and on task. 

To that end, I started thinking about seed organization and garden planning lately.  Last year I had my seeds in little plastic storage containers, which didn't work for me at all.  So, this year, I decided to try something different.  I had a stack of note card envelopes on hand, and the see packets fit in them perfectly.  I decided to write pertinent information on the outside, such as variety, from where and when I bought them, whether they were an annual or perennial (This mainly applies to flowers and herbs.), companion planting information, and a log of where, when and how many seeds I planted, as shown here:

Then, I took all of the envelopes and stuck them in a plastic container alphabetically.  It is better than what I had, but I think it can be improved even more, such time of year to plant and reminders to plant certain seeds in succession, such at lettuce.  I've seen systems that utilize a notebook and photo album pages, but I can see the seeds spilling out of the top of the photo album pages.  And what do you do with the big fat seeds, such as beans?  I don't think that would work for me.  My friend, L. has designed her own system with hanging folders and ziploc bags.  She even worked up a spreadsheet to attached to each hanging folder.  It's pretty eloborate, so I look forward to hearing how it works for her.  Just this morning, she sent me this link for seed organization, which I think is probably the direction I may take with some tweaks.  I'm generally on the same path already with my envelopes.


As if organizing seeds isn't enough to tackle, now is the time to start planning my garden for the year.  I already have some things sprouting, but the bulk of the garden is still to come.  I have several raised beds, so square foot gardening is the path I take for those.  I generally get some graph paper and draw out my beds, but a few days ago I came across this online garden planner.  There are several garden planning programs out there, but this one is free, and there are several things I like about it.  You can set the square footage of the bed you're planning, such as 4x8.  You can move plants in and out of the squares, and as you move a plant into a square, it automatically generates how many you can plant per square foot, such as 16 radishes per square foot.  Also, as you select plants for the bed, basic planting information for that plant pops up at the bottom of the page.  You can even rename the plants once you place them from say, tomato, to Black Krim tomato, and when you print the final version, the name changes show up on the print version in each square.  There are other features as well that I have not explored.  I'm going to give it a go for my garden planning this year and see how it works.  I would love to hear what you think of it. 


Now, for you big project planners, Better Homes and Gardens has a project planning program on its website as well.  This program approaches a broader scope than just a vegetable bed, and it has many interesting features.  It is also free. 


Well, I hope this helps you get an organized jump start on your gardens this year. 

Happy homesteading,




Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Big Reveal

Except for a few details, we are FINALLY finished with the rabbitry!  Both Nate and I are so glad it's done as it has taken up most of our free time lately.  He doesn't believe me when I say I don't enjoy huge time-consuming projects like this.  I enjoy the end result and what it means for the homestead, but such a project takes me away from other tasks.  We both only have so much time in the day, so it is a major item off my list as our little micro farm continues to grow and we lay the foundation for self-sustainability. 

I spent alot of time researching rabbitries online and talking to Nate about how we could modify them to fit my ideas.  I'm so lucky to have someone who can translate my ideas into something real and tangible.  Though I know sometimes he wishes he wasn't so talented! 

My plan was to have eight holes, four over four with sloping droppings boards beneath the upper cages.  Here you can see the basic framing with a lattice wall along the back.

I also needed to be able to clean up the droppings from the upper cages, so we created a little alley behind the cages.  Eventually I want to place worm bins beneath the sloping boards to catch the droppings for vermicomposting. 

Here Nate is installing the roof and the droppings boards.

Here is an interior shot with all of the lattice doors closed.

And, this photo is of the finished rabbitry with all of the doors shut.  There are four doors across the front and two side doors that open to the alley.  We chose to use lattice on the exterior to hopefully provide some predator protection, good ventilation and weather protection.  On really cold nights we can always hang plastic sheeting for extra protection, but being able to take advantage of breezes in the summer will be especially nice. 

The rabbits moved into their new digs this morning. 

I didn't notice until I opened this picture that the upper right cage is not exactly level.  Oops. 

What I like about this setup is the cages hang independent of one another unlike the stackable hutch system with the pull out trays I was using.  Since the cages were connected to one another, I could never just clean one cage at a time and I couldn't turn them over to clean them thoroughly.  Also, I really hated the pull out trays.  They always smelled and looked dirty no matter how often I emptied and cleaned them. 

Oh, and after almost three years of housing animals, the garden shed is mine again. 

Now I need some more rabbits.

Happy homesteading,


Saturday, January 21, 2012


Our three new chicks are coming along nicely, but I noticed right off on the Wyandotte the development of the comb and wattles was far more advanced than the other two, even after a week of having them.  I was reading this morning that roos develop their combs and wattles sooner than pullets.  Does anyone have any experience with this?  Here's a picture and the chick is barely a month old.  The other two have not even started growing their combs and wattles yet.  Am I raising a meat bird sooner than I expected to?  Sorry for the picture quality.

If I have a rooster, I am really disappointed because the Wyandotte was the one I was really excited about having.

Happy homesteading,


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Splittin' Wood and Takin' Names

One of the goals on my list this year was to get the wood splitting and stacking area more organized.  Mark it off the list! 

Thanks to my wonderful hubby, I now have two double-sided wood stack holders.  And, thanks to my Smart Splitter, I have been a wood splitting fool lately.  A friend came over recently and said, "Wow, Nate's been busy."  I quickly informed her that I was the one who had split most of that wood.  That's right, little bitty me has split about 80% of the wood on the left-hand side.  I actually love doing it.  It's a great stress reliever after a tough day at work, not to mention the upper body workout.  Who woulda thunk it?

Of course, who needs a fire when it's 60+ degrees outside each day? 

Happy homesteading,


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Harvest Tally 2012?

So, I think my Harvest Tally 2011 went pretty well in terms of giving me a goal for this year.  I'm happy with what I was able to grow this year considering I wasn't able to harvest any squash, other than maybe one, due to the vine borers.  I think they hit me the hardest in terms of lost harvesting.  I'm hoping to solve that problem by growing Zucchino Rampicante, which I've read is resistant to vine borer attacks.  My big coup was my peach harvest, which I hope to replicate next year provided I can keep the tree rats under control.  I ended up with 305.5 pounds of produce and 1011 eggs.  That's an average of 5.875 pounds of produce and 19.44 eggs each week.  The produce numbers are not great, but not too bad either.  For most of the year, we had 4 laying hens, so that's almost 5 eggs a week per hen.  Not too shabby! 

Overall, I'm pleased, but I know I can do better.  One of my goals this year is to increase my food preservation in variety and volume.  To do that, I need a more productive garden and a longer growing season.  I've never been a big early spring or fall/winter gardener, but I'm working on that too.  One reason I don't grow too much in these seasons is because my garden beds sit on the north side of my house.  They don't get any sun until summer time.  I hope to remedy this slightly by taking down trees in my neighbor's yard and one in my yard.  This will open up some south facing space and the potential to extend my growing season.  It will also give me more sunshine in the summer on an area of my yard that gets only a few hours a day.  I have some big plans, but all in time.

Until this year, I've never kept a tally of my gardening efforts, but I found it fun to see the number grow, so I'm going to continue keeping a tally of my harvest for 2012 to see if I improve.  What I want to know is if you, my readers, are interested in seeing it as it progresses as well.  Are you interested in a Harvest Tally 2012 on the side bar?  Chime in, if you please!

Teaser:  We started working on the rabbitry, and it's coming along quite nicely.  I hope to have it finished in the next week or two.  Pictures and post to follow. 

Happy homesteading,



Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 Goals

Last year, I didn't really set any goals, but I had an idea in mind of what I wanted to achieve.  This year, I want to make a list to guide me through the year.  I'm sure this list will evolve as the year progresses, but I'm happy to have a place to start. 

-  Now that we have a designated area for the animals, continue to improve that area.  The first project is a new rabbitry.
-  Continue improving the wood splitting and stacking area, including proper wood racks for the split wood. 
-  Now that we have a designated wood area, continue splitting and stacking the wood from the trees we took down in the spring.
-  Take down more trees in my eastern neighbor's yard.  His lot is seriously wooded with 50+ year old trees.  They block the sun to my backyard until around 1:00-2:00 in the afternoon.  I miss all of the morning sun. 
-  Expand my garden beds once trees are removed.
-  Start an espalier or mini fruit orchard once trees are removed.
-  Implement some cold frames once beds are established. 
-  Breed the meat rabbits and produce the first meat for the homestead.
-  Split the bee hive into two and finally harvest some honey.
-  Consider insulation options for the attic and possibly implement something better than what we have.
-  Improve my compost system, including introduction of vermicomposting.
-  Increase my canning and drying provisions for the year in volume and variety.  Decrease dependence on the freezer.
-  Continue to work toward better succession planting.
-  Use the solar oven more.  I think this can be better accomplished once some trees are removed. 
-  Improve my seed saving skills.   

What are some of your goals for 2012?

Happy homesteading,