Dismantling the Water Totes

We drained and dismantled the two, 275 gallon water containment totes today. The winter freeze up is coming and it is time.

Double tanks water

The water totes sit on logs that we picked up for free along side of the roadway. This height allows me to place a 5-gallon white bucket under the faucet for a bucket full of water.

Even though we are blessed to live in the Great Lakes State and are blessed with a lot of fresh water in our county, many parts of the US are facing severe water restrictions. My heart goes out to them.

Brown downspout and brown tub

The water flows off of the pole barn roof and into the totes via a hose-way.

We are fortunate to have two wells on our homestead. Both were here when we bought this property There is one well for the house and one for the in the ground swimming pool (which has not been used since the big flooding in 2008-2012.)With the flow of a pump, both offer us sweet accessible water and yet, we are always very water conscious.

Gene tube best

Gene is disconnecting the water hose.

When remodeling we have chosen low flow shower heads and low flow sink faucets. We considered the low flow toilet options but our plumber told us not too as well as on a well pump system and there is apparently trouble with that combination. 

White pipe with faucet

Plastic PVC pipe with a turn on/turn off switch.

Anytime the water is flowing out of the sink or a faucet there is another receptacle nearby to catch the overflow. That overflow is used in cooking, rinsing out dishes, put on house plants, used for animal drinking water and so on.

I never take potable drinking water for granted. And, even though our water table is high right now, I am always conscious of being responsible with this precious natural resource. Water conservation is now a natural part of our everyday living.  After fourteen years, I don’t think much about it anymore, I just do it naturally.

Clover snowball and bin USE

The galvanized water trough in our vegetable garden is handy for containing water and for on the spot watering.

I also keep multiple 5-gallon buckets out under the metal pole barn roof to capture the natural run-off of water from a rain storm. That rainwater is then poured into planters, under trees and shrubs in the garden. Or if the rain has watered the plants, then this water is poured into the animal tank in the vegetable garden and used on the vegetable as needed.

Last year we bought and connected two 275 gallon water tanks to the back of our pole barn to capture the flowing water that cascades off the top of our pole barn roof. These totes were filled two and half times last growing season. All of that water was used to water either our vegetable garden or the freshly planted evergreens we planted over the past two years to create a bit of screening and privacy between our home and the busy roadway in front of us. No electricity needed.

I have never lived in an area where water was scarce but I read about the Western states and beyond, and I think and I react accordingly. I feel a strong responsibility to use our resources wisely…all of them…

Small House Homesteader, Donna



More Tweaking of the Chicken Run

The wet and cold weather is coming on fast in Michigan. When the days grow shorter and autumn’s brisk entry turned leaves colorful and crisp the dipping temperature mean its time to think seriously about preparing your chicken coop and run for the coming winter. Because many backyard chickens live outside and are exposed to the elements cool chill we need to think about preparing their coop and their runs.

Our coop is brand new so most drafts have been eliminated. We’ve already added the pink foam insulation in the roof gable and screwed in the winter boards to the roof itself so we are already half-way there. The water heater is in the chicken waterer and the electric light is ready to turn on.

Today was my husband’s day off and it was time to make a quick and easy wind break for the chicken run. While this won’t help them a lot in the deep snow of winter, I am hoping this tarp may give them a few more extended weeks of free ranging. Our babies are still little and I have to be very careful of them getting wet and cold. 

Gene at corner USE

Adding a repurposed tarp as a wind break to the chickens favorite corner of the run. They follow the sun when it is out and lay and bathe in the warm and sunny soil.

We talked about buying construction grade plastic or a few cheap tarps. Then my husband mentioned repurposing our old brown tarp that was pretty much torn in half. Brilliant idea! This tarp had been sitting under a pile of pea gravel for many years and the wear and tear tore it almost in half.

Doing the tarp USE

I am standing in the vegetable garden facing the North side of the run. The black plastic mulch is laying on a large area of weeds to solarize and kill those weeds.

We picked the north and west sides of the coop to tarp since the wind blows in the hardest here from the west. Beautiful Lake Michigan is the final watershed located to the west of our property so that is where the wind blows in as well. This corner is generally the sunniest corner of the run when there is sunshine too.

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Tarp stapled to the wood post at the gate.

We simply folded the tarp over the chicken wire and wood pieces and used the stapled gun to attach the tap to the wood pieces at the bottom and the wooden poles at the gates. We also moved the galvanized water tank from the chicken run and into the vegetable garden where we are really using it for spot watering.

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The view of the South side of the chicken run sitting under the tall White Oak tree that provides shade to the run and coop.

This is such a simple but important project for chicken babies who should not be left in windy drafts.

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna


Don’t Bag Those Leaves, Put Them to Use!

When Gene said to me last week, ‘Maybe I’d better rake those leaves out of the chicken run too?’

I replied, ‘No way, leave them, please.’

HORZ coop under tree barn in background

The chicken coop (brown with white corrugated roof) sits between the raspberry bed and the pole barn under the White Oak shade tree.

We started out with weedy moved grass in the pen this spring before we adopted our small chicken family. There is nothing wrong with grass in the pen of course, but I knew at some point that after a few months of scratching that grass would soon become mud. I also knew that because our pen is located under a giant oak tree for shade to try to keep the pen emptied of leaves would be fruitless. So then we decided to use leaves for the chicken pen “flooring.”

Barn-shack-deepsky-trees USE

This view gives you an idea of our large White Oak trees and you can imagine the amount of leaves we have each fall!

With 47 large White Oak trees on our property, using our plentiful leaves is so much more economical than buying shavings and so much less work than keeping the leaves raked up and out of the pen. The chickens also love to jump in and scratch around in these leaves too.

Gene on tractor behind pool shack

We pick up the leaves from our property using our lawn tractor and leaf pick up attachment.

Not only does the leaves cover up the chicken poop mess and it keeps their little feet nice and clean too.

Clover-leaves in run

Momma Clover and the chicklets scratching in the oak leaves.

With the chickens continual scratching eventually those leaves and that poo will turn into composed soil and when that day arrives we will scoop that compost out and use it on the garden to grow some great vegetables. The rest of our many leaves go on the woods paths, under the White Pines as mulch, in the vegetable garden pathway and they are also used to create a weed free, border around our property.

Every leaf here is put to good use!

Small House Homesteader, Donna





A Few of our Favorite Things

One of our favorite things to do on our homestead is to share our home and land as well as our rich, down-to-earth and humble lifestyle with friends and family.

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Our 5-year-old granddaughter drawing on the sidewalk with chalk.

On this Sunday our granddaughter came to visit us for the day and to enjoy a few of the county-style activities that help to make our simple life here so special.

We had lessons in the garden; picking some vegetables for dinner, followed by a home-cooked, from-scratch meal that is always the centerpiece of our day. Brenna at coop with stick USE jpeg

Brenna at the chicken coop and run.

And of course, a day at grandpa’s would not be complete without a ride on the lawn tractor.

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Driving the lawn tractor with Grandpa!

We visit grandma’s chickens, feed them and then drew with colored chalk on the sidewalk. Then we took a hike into the forest behind our home with our pack baskets.

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Enjoying the crunch of autumn leaves under our feet.

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Brenna and grandpa Gene with their matching pack baskets for collecting treasures.

Simple yet memorable things.

Brenna getting measured

Getting measured on the growth chart. This girl grew an inch in the last three months!

I like to think that these are memories that Brenna will cherish and remember for a long time. I know that I will.

Small House Homestead, Donna



Seed Saving at the Small House Homestead

This is the first year I have attempted to save my own garden seeds.

Seeds Saved all jars

A row of garden seeds in air tight jars sits on my window sill.

I bought my organic seeds from Territorial Seed Company, Oregon this spring and I was not sure I would have the time or energy to save seeds this year so I didn’t make a commitment one way or the other.


One of the Territorial Seed Company catalogues.

But when fall was coming on, I began to think maybe I would just let some of the beans pods rest on the vine and dry out. Then on the day we pulled out the old beans vines we found a lot of pods that had been hiding underneath that were dry and full of seeds.

Then I found myself feeling inspired… and the race was on.

I saved five varieties this year; snap and dried beans. And tomorrow when my 5-year-old granddaughter comes to visit for the day I plan to show her how to open the dried pod, take out the beans and save some for next year.

I really want her to know where her food comes from.

I also saved some carrots for her to pull up from the ground too and well eat those for dinner.

This is an age-old experience, the elder passing on their knowledge to the next generation. I am proud to be a part of this lineage of teaching self-sufficiency.

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The Homesteads vegetable garden at its peak last summer.

If you want to read all about seed savings and the how-to’s this is a great site: http://www.howtosaveseeds.com/whysave.php

Should you like to contact the Territorial Seed Company you can call then toll-free at 800-626-0866. For a free catalog, you can go here: http://freebies.about.com/od/free-gardening-catalogs/p/free-territorial-seed-company-catalog.htm?utm_term=territorial%

I received nothing for this post. I am just a satisfied user!

Small House Homestead, Donna

Physical Therapy and on the Run

I’ve been a bit MIA this past week. I’ve been trying to juggle a new schedule of physical therapy twice a week and exercises three times a day at home.

My house work is not getting done, my bark chips are not getting spread, the leaves are not getting picked out of the stone beds and I am not getting my much needed rest periods either. It’s been a big juggling act around the homestead.


I’ve been struggling with a painful back for many months now and finally got to see an orthopedic surgeon. On the positive side it’s just a bulging sick and won’t require surgery. But it is still a painful budging disk that is requiring treatment and that has sent my schedule into a total downhill slide.

donna 014

Gene and a few years ago.

I also discovered that I have one leg shorter than the other and that has wreaked havoc with my hip, spine and neck areas. My spine is twisted the opposite of where it’s supposed to be and therein lies the rub.

The goal is to straighten my core, learn better techniques for posture and move the hip bone back into place. I may be looking at a lift inside my shoes too.

To quote Betty Davis…’Getting old is not for sissies!”

Small House Homestead, Donna


Hard Frost Arrived on the Homestead

Last night the temperatures dropped down to 27 degrees in SW Michigan. Brrrrrr. I went out this morning to put the freshly washed clothes on the line to dry and my fingers about froze. Jack Frost made a visit here last night!

Smll House Under blue sky

No, it did not snow here last night but this is what the homestead looks like in the wintertime.

It’s a good thing we have been hustling in the garden for the past few weeks. The last of the vegetable and seeds have been harvested as a well as the final tomatoes, and herbs. The birdbaths have been emptied and the heater is in the birdbath that remains out all winter for the songbirds.

The house plants summering on the porch are inside now and positioned in their winter spot in front of the south facing windows for winter sunlight. The hoses are emptied, drained and stored in the pool shack for the winter months.

The light bulb was turned on in the chicken coop last night to keep those chickie babies warm.

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Off comes the full length screen at the front door.

Off came the front door screen and on went the storms.

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On goes the glass storm doors.

There is a whole lot of chopping, blanching and preserving work in planned the kitchen today!

Island filled with produce USE

My kitchen island on the day of our last harvest for the 2014 season.

Happy Small House Homesteader, Donna




Patience Required When Re-homeing Chickens!

When you rescue any animal, be it a chicken or a dog, you expect some different habits and possibly some pretty major difference in the level of known skills.  Challenges are to be expected.

When we recently adopted a momma hen and her five two-week old chicks and they definitely came to us with a lack of what I call, “standard chicken skills!”

Momma in front of sandbox

Clover and her chicklets in front of the chicken duster area.

Clover, apparently does not know how to eat from a chicken feeder nor does she want to go into her safe coop at night. She also does not want to go up and down the chicken gangplank. She eats nothing but cracked corn; no vegetables, no fruits, nothing else. Even when I threw her a worm she did not know what to do with it. This sure makes the nightly shut up a big problem.

White baby can't get out

The little white chick can’t figure out how to get out of the under the coop opening.

Now on the positive side she is an extraordinary momma, taking care of her babies and watching out for them but still it’s been quite a challenge for us.

We are still catching her every night after dinner in the fishing net, which from any of you who keep chickens cause quite a big “to do” and a lot of chicken trauma. I am hoping that as her babies get bigger they will be able to go up the gangplank to go to bed on their own at night….we shall see about that.

Since apparently I don’t speak the right chicken language (apart from my chick..chick..chick sounds when I throw out some cracked corn/mixed in with my preferred organic layer feed) it’s taking her a while to catch on to some of the behaviors I consider “normal” for an adult chicken.

VERT momma corner nr pool house jpeg

Clover like scratching for bugs in the corners of her coop.

Today’s big growth…was figuring out how to go under the coop (which sits on 2 X 4” stilts) and eating from the chicken feeder filled with the organic layer feed – Hooray!

Even though they are tiny, four of the five babies figured out quickly how to hop/fly over the 2” X 4” but the one little white one can not. I think the white one has an intelligence or neurological problem (it goes around in circles when it gets upset) and never does figure out on its own how to get up and over. Finally we removed a brick providing a space for it to walk through and in it went, amid a whole lot of frantic peeping going on.

The importance of this step is that if we get a sudden rain storm the girls can find a place more or less out of the rain on their own until I get out there to help them and the feed has a place to stay dry.

I’m discovering that a lot of patience is required when adopting or re-homing chickens!

Small House Homestead chicken keeper, Donna




Last of the Fall Color at the Small House Homestead

Time is short today for  a big blog post so I’ve decided to post pictures of our homestead in the Autumn! 

Barn-shack-deepsky-trees USE

Looking from the west side of our property to the pole barn and vegetable garden.

Winter is coming on fast at the Small House Homestead. The bright colors have faded and the leaves are falling. We’ve had our first hard frost already which is very early for SW Michigan!!

Back of house sun blue sky

Standing behind our homestead looking towards the back of our home. Look at those leaves!!

But even though the bright leaves have gone for this season, the beauty of the late fall landscape remains. I think it is just as beautiful in its own unique and subdued way.

Studio under deepblue sky NICE

My art studio along the meadow and woodlands edge.

Here are some fall images I took of our homestead for you to enjoy.

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The front of our 1,800 sq. ft. Indiana limestone Ranch-style home. I am so happy with our new roof!

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The rear of our home viewed under the canopy of our many majestic White Oaks.

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A slightly closer view of the rear of our home and gardens with our three season porch in view.

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This is our front doorway painted a salmon color picked up from our limestone exterior.

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Our gravel driveway turn-around area flower bed with its field stone edging.


The wooded property at the rear of our land is filled with sassafras trees.


The native burning bushes turn a bright pink color here.


The oak leaf hydrangeas along the back of our home under the dining room window.


Ornamental grasses along the meadow pathway.


The meadow and its wooded border overlooking the busy 109th roadway.


Ghostie USE

Little ghostie says, “enjoy the fleeting autumn colors!”

Small House Homestead Donna

The Big Chicken Escape

Day Four of the Big Chicken Adoption Adventure…

Gene and I look like Abbott & Costello in a bad comedy each night at dusk trying to catch Clover, the Momma hen and her five babies. She will not go into the coop on her own. I think it’s a combination of the fact that her last coop home was on the ground and because her babies are too small to make it up the gangplank by themselves. She is such a good momma that she will not leave them.

Clover and babies show USE

Cover and her babies out free ranging for bugs.

Yesterday we got the coop roof insulation panels installed and the exterior boards put on for the coming cold. We hooked up the chicken waterer heater to keep it from freezing and added the light bulb to keep the coop warm at night. A hard frost was predicted for last night!!

We finished our work just about 6 p.m., and no sooner than we ate a quick meal and went back out to check on them we found Clover outside of the pen in the raspberry patch. Evidently she had just flown out.

baby underher wng USE

There a little baby peeking out from under that chicken wing!

Half of her babies were in the pen and half were out in the raspberries and everyone was squawking and scurrying around. Gene scooped Clover up in the fishing net and I rushed around trying to get the babies who were running back and forth, away from me –and right THROUGH the tiny hexagonal holed chicken wire. What an unplanned comedy routine.

Now we have to solve the problem of the big escape until the chicks grow big enough that their size will prevent this from happening again.

Gene working on boards USE

Gene working to put boards along the pen edge to stop the babies from going through again.

On the positive side, I did see Clover eat from the chicken feeder for the first time so that is a bit of progress.

Chicken keeping sure makes for rapidly learned lessons and even more rapid problem solving. Calgon take me away!

Small House homestead chicken keeper, Donna