On the Road Again

Yesterday was along day spent on the road with appointments in a nearby by city that’s an hours drive from our homestead.

This is always a love/hate relationship for me. I love living in the quiet country in the middle of no-where-ville but hate the long days spent driving to the city where most everything is located.

Many rurally based homesteaders find that in order to see a specialist or have a variety of shopping they must drive some distance. And if I am driving that distance that day inevitably becomes a day of errands appointments and visitations.

So know this issue may be pertinent to you ahead of time before you make a commitment to this kind of rural lifestyle.

Yesterday I had an early appointment followed by lunch with an old friend. We went to a lovely restaurant and sat outside on the patio by a small lake. The food was tasty and the companionship was wonderful. That lunch date was certainly the highlight of my day.

Jan DJ shade but great smiles edited jpeg 7-2015

 I’m on the left and my friend Jan is on my right hand side.

After a quick stop for gas and shopping at a health food store, I went to visit another old friend in her 90’s who now lives in assisted living. She wanted to take me to lunch but I had already eaten so we compromised on going out for dessert. While I certainly did not need a piece of too rich, peanut butter pie I knew that this was a read treat for her and something she was looking forward to so I readily agreed.

Roberta close head tilt but sweet

By the time got home it was late and by the time my goods were unpacked and put away I was one tired camper and ready for bed.

I was happy and glad to be home again in the breezy, cooler countryside!

Small House homesteader, Donna

Chicken Run Roof Going Up

In spite of being in the upper 80’s on the homestead today, the chicken run roof is going up.

White roof on run USE

The two roof lines will meet when the roof is completed.

We selected white plastic corrugated roofing panels to match those given to us by a friend used previously on coop number 1. These will also reflect the heat in the winter months and provide more light and warmth in the run during the bitter winter cold that we typically experience here.

Run chiekens ans sunflowers USE FIRST

The run frame as seen from the west. This is tall enough to walk in.

We decided to build a covered outdoor run for our birds to enjoy the fresh air. During the nice weather months the feeders and waterers can be placed in the covered runs so the coops stay dry and clean. During the cold and snowy months, the birds can get out of their coop and move around without walking in the deep snow, which most chickens do not like to do.

This will eventually have chicken wire with plastic panels over it for winter use.

Sunflower edge of run and Rhodies USE

The 4 month old Rhodies scratching around in there outside run area.

This large, covered walk in run area is important for chickens for a number of reasons including:

  1. To provides shelter from weather and direct sunlight.
  2. To provide security from predators.
  3. To provide a measure of biosecurity by not allowing droppings from wild birds to land.

One Rhodie USE

Happy chickens lay happy and tasty eggs!

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna



Splendor in the Homestead Meadow

Late July and early August is the time for splendor in our homestead meadow. It’s now ablaze with color of day lilies, yarrow, cup plants, ox-eye Daisy’s and more.

Butterfly bush house in rear to left hand side  USE

With the open prairie as my inspiration I began creating a meadow garden here over a decade ago. This is the is the month of splendor for colors in the meadow at the Small House Homestead. The native flowers are in full bloom now and creating stand out color this year.

Pathway deep meadow boarder

I selected varieties that would flourish in the heat and sunshine and require little care once established.

Daylilies and meadow path USE

The sweet smell of the Butterfly shrubs is intoxicating and the splashes of red bee balm, orange butterfly weed, yellow cup plants and brown-eyed Susan’s, and purples butterfly bush, ornamental grasses and blazing star make for an invigorating and beautiful stroll around the meadow.

Meadow boarder gorgeous USE

These hardy natives can tolerate the summer’s heat and drought with nary a blink like warm weather warriors.

VERT boarder edge and studio unusual

Most all attract butterfly’s, bees and dragon fly’s and other insects.

Meadow boarder gorgeous USE

It’s hard to believe that when I started this project in 200 this was a traditional mowed grass area I decided to let grow up. I wanted to add a lovely destination garden for my White Oak Studio &  Gallery customers to enjoy. Come for the garden and shop the gallery. Or come to shop the gallery and enjoy a stroll in the meadow garden.

I started by digging out the grass and weeds in a 5 ft. border all around the meadows edge and plugged in perennials and added layers of bark chip mulch.

Red daylilies and artesmia USE

My plan was to choose native plants that are drought tolerant, that attract insects for the birds, make a splash of vibrant color and be good for the ecosystem. I wanted to create many “edges” where birds of many species would come to nest and raise their young. We call this our “Songbird B&B!”

Butterfly bed to left and daylilies to righthand USE

Later on I added another 4 ft. of garden behind the perennials and planted taller shrubs using Viburnum’s I dug up from a friend’s garden , Forsythia’s I propagated and Flowering Quince shrubs that pop up in places where I do not want them. I now have  a nice shrub backdrop that blooms in the spring.

VERT boarder edge and studio unusual

We also have a Monarch Butterfly way station and are a certified National Wildlife Federation garden.

Here are a few images of the early meadow around 2004 when it was a  brand new project. It’s been fun and rewarding to see its growth and expansion.


Our meadow edge border in 2004.



Corn, beans and squash –  a Three Sisters Garden



Cut flowers grew in the raised bed in the early garden years.

Small House homesteader and gardener, Donna


An Abundance of Organic Blueberries

A heartfelt thank you goes out to my friend and fellow foodie, Elaine Herbert of Yelton Manor Guest House www.yeltonmanor.com/ for ordering me 30 lbs. of organic blueberries this season. This kind gesture was the perfect answer to my need, especially this year.

Bliwbrries close USE

If you are ever in the South Haven, Michigan area and are looking for a “knock your sox off” bed and breakfast, be sure to contact Elaine, owner/Innkeeper. Gene and I stayed there one night on our belated honeymoon, 18 years ago using a gift certificate given to us by a group of my girlfriends. It was the perfect stay.

Blueberrie sin bag in boxes USE

I had planned on picking blueberries at our favorite U-pick Farm, Pleasant Hill Farm in Fennville, MI but a painful bacterial infection knocked the stuffing right out of me. I just did not have it in me to find the extra physical resources I would need to go out and pick blueberries myself this summer. We picked our strawberries at Pleasant Hill Farm this spring and you can read the details here:https://smallhousebigskyhomestead.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/strawberry-fie…e-beatles-song/

Berries close

Like so many others we love our blueberries year-round; using them in salads, our morning oatmeal and Cream of Rice as well as in crisps, baked good and plain from the bowl. Every year I buy and freeze more and more blueberries and still we always run out before the next season’s picking begins.

Blueberries are one of the best antioxidants available on the planet!

Thank you Elaine for coming to my rescue this year! You are a peach!!

Small House homesteader, Donna


Hidradenitis Suppurativa

It’s been a very long and painful week for me.

Turnaround July from driveway USE

I have a skin disease called Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) and this week I had a serious flare-up. To help understand HS; imagine having a skin disease that your doctor does not understand, that is painful and none of the treatments you’ve tried make it any better and that keeps getting worse overtime. Now you have an idea of what having HS is like.

VERT Back of pool shack close July

For me most flare-up’s means bacterial infections that are sore, inflamed and very, very painful and my typical life stops.

In order to not take antibiotics every three months (or thereabouts) I mostly cold turkey these events using only a hot compress and a drawing salve. It’s not easy, it’s certainly not comfortable and it’s not fun but I know that the constant drugs can cause serious side effects and are generally are very bad for my body as they kill the good bacteria as well as the bad. HS is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that affects an estimated 1-4% of the world’s population.

VERT corer of pole barn daylilies

Without going into too many of the gory details, this event starts in a sweat gland and hair follicle that becomes blocked and ends in a painful and infected boil. There is no cure for HS and I know others who have it much worse than I do. I try to control mine thorough efforts to keep up my high quality nutrition, get lots of rest and sleep and keep stress at bay but sometimes with the demands of this homesteading lifestyle, I fail.

VERT sunflowrs and new run frame July

This episode resulted in two back-to-back cysts in a very delicate place, requiring antibiotics and painkillers. So it’s been severe pain, stomach and digestive system upset, mind-numbing fatigue and flu-like symptoms going on 9 days and still counting.

Studio triangle ned in foreground USE

So as a result I have not been able to post on a regular basis. Quite frankly I’ve been barely able to keep up with caring for my chickens, garden and cooking and extra doctors’ visits and hot compresses multiple times a day. That’s about it.

Pink flowers at studio mid close

I’m sharing more garden and chicken run building photographs because that is all I have been able to manage this week. Next week will be better!

Small House homesteader, Donna

Hot and Muggy on the Homestead- July 13-20 Photo Diary

LOVE THIS flag and catmint bedIt’s been a hot and muggy week in SW Michigan. I’ve been under the weather this week with a painful bacterial infection so have done what needs to be done around the homestead and left the rest. We are also getting ready for our guests arrival.

VERT pick daylilies and brick bed interesting view USE

Studio sidgarden NICE

The homesteads flowers are at their peak right now – so lovely.

Sunflower straight on

Three sisters sunflower close

The Rhodies are going in and out of their new coop this week. last night three out of four of them went in when it was time to go to bed, leaving just one for me to catch and put in.

Rubeckis bed close

Snowball puzzled look

I picked and we ate our first Provider green beans, snow peas and yellow sweet peppers from that garden.

Rubeckis bed closeVERT pool shack garden USE


Traingle fruit trees BEST view

ROR on her soapbox USE

path from woods side

Eating and posing USETHIS ONE

I hope you enjoy some of the photographs from this week.

Small House homesteader Donna


Super Serious about our Predator Safe Chicken Coop

Gene on ladder looking and sunflowers

Hubby has finally begun the Rhodies coop addition roof.

We are super serious about building a completely “safe from predators” chicken coop. That’s why coop number two is taking us so long to complete. This is the 4 ft. X 8 ft. permanent coop home for our Rhode Island Red pullets.

Our chickens coop is definitely secure enough for them to sleep in right now but it still needs its corrugated plastic roof, hardware cloth on the bottom for winter dusting, two chicken ladders, window shutters and nest box. We are getting a bit closer every day.

These remaining parts are built and painted but await installation. We are focusing now on getting the roof done next because we have plenty of time before autumn when we will need the window shutters. Likewise we have a few months yet until the pullets begin to lay and we will need the nest box attached.

Our primary focus now is on building the roof truss support and then adding the corrugated white plastic roofing material. We intend to match the roofline of the covered run so this is a detailed endeavor.  After this roof is completed the temporary blue tarp will be removed. The tarp will eventually become just a rainy season cover.

VERT RIR Coop open doors USE

A coop this detailed take a long time to build right.

My husband is not a carpenter just a good guy trying to make his chicken keeper wife happy.

RIR New sand USE

I love using sand as coop litter. It clean up easily and stays cool.

Coop 2 window w hardware cloth USE

Hardware cloth and screwed-in frames makes these windows safe and secure.

Comple from west, coop barn, sunflower

The 2 X 4 wood frame lying on the ground is the east side wall of the new enclosed pen. This will be positioned against the existing fence and a roof truss will be fitted over it. The roof will hang over to make a narrow run area for outside winter activities. It will also funnel the rainwater off it to run into the grassy area and not into the run itself. This gives the pullets an option of their own small run since our Cochins have not taken well to the new pullets yet and continually chase them out of their coop and run area. They no longer peck them but just let them know that they are not welcome to hang out with the big girls.

Coop 2 ceiling hardware cloth

Hardware cloth on the ceiling of the coop also make for a secure from critter home and adds extra ventilation too. Once the white corrugated roofing material is in place this hardware cloth will allow for upper ventilation. This construction technique really made a huge difference in the coolness of coop one.

VERT RIR Coop open doors USE

In this photograph you can see that this coop can be cleaned out thru its double doors from either side of the coop, north or south. I will be able to access the coop inside from the outside run area during the spring/summer/fall months or from inside the covered run area during the 6-month-long Michigan winter. it is common to have 6 to 8 feet of snow here so we are thinking ahead.

We have learned a few important things from the last time we built a chicken coop and added those ideas to this one. And we are taking the time necessary to build this coop right. More to come!

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

P.S. The broody girls are starting to lay eggs again at last. We are now getting on to two eggs a day. it’s a good thing as we have been having to buy them!!

Hens and Herbs – A Love Affair

My chickens love their herbs! Every morning after I feed them their wet fermented mash, I cut them fresh culinary herbs. I walk down through my vegetable garden and meadow clipping fresh tarragon, fennel, parsley, sage, basil, mint, catmint and even spinach gone to seed. I chop them all up and add the herbs to their food dish and offer several dishes of herbal tasty treats. In a short time every bit of fresh green herbs are eaten.

Eating and posing USETHIS ONE

Herbs the breakfast of champions!

It’s important to teach my three-month-old Rhodies to eat these fresh herbs now, because I am already drying many herbs for winter eating for when the deep snow is on the ground and live greens are hard to find. Last spring when they were just tiny chicks, I fed them dried sage, oregano and kale which they gobbled up. Their absolute favorite was the dehydrated kale and I was thrilled because I know how healthy kale is.

babies corner food and herbs USE

My Rhode Island Reds feeding station and hang out place. I give them food, water, herbs, a tarp for shade and a roost bar for an afternoon rest.

I’m the first to admit that feeding fresh herbs is not my original idea. A number of chicken bloggers choose herbs for their many health benefits and many knowledgeable chicken keepers are feeding their hens and chicks fresh herbs every day.

Herb bed 6-2015

In my opinion as a chicken keeper this is definitely a nutritional strategy that is worth the time and effort. If you desire to learn more about the benefit of herbs for chickens, I recommend you visit the Facebook community, Susan BurekPoultry Natural Living & Herbal Care started by herbalist Susan Burek for lots of great information. You can also visit her website Moonlight Mile Herb Farm, http://www.moonlightmileherbs.com

Moonlight Mile LOGO

I am attending the Great Lakes Herb Faire this September and am anxious to hear Susan present and learn even more.

Festival Image

2015 Great Lakes Herb Faire logo. I’m signed up!

My herbs have been chosen for their soothing and healing properties as well as their nutrition. Their fresh smell is delightful too. I had thought that perhaps the strong taste of some of the herbs, like fennel for example, would be too strong to be accepted but this does not seem to be the case. My laying hens and pullets gobble them all up. 

Herbs hanging on old rake USE

I hang a bunch of mint and tansy on my coop where the hens dust to help with fly control.

Yes, hens need their grains, vitamins and minerals to stay healthy but fresh live green are like a nutritious summer dessert. Now why can’t we humans have nutritional desserts every day too? I vote yes, do you?

Herbs and mash

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna



The Privilege of an Afternoon at the Dentist

VERT mailbox bed house in rear interesting

The current street view of the Small House Homestead in its summer glory.

My days are beginning to blur….paint the coop, weed and spread bark chips, water fruit trees, cook a meal, and take care of the chickens. This is one of those day that I shake my head and when I remember that….is my l-i-f-e-and I chose it.

Pnik daylilies close Lupine greens show corner

Day lilies add beauty to the brick planter. If you don’t like it, hide it is my motto!

I am feeling a sense of urgency now that it is mid-July to get things done and projects wrapped up. Visitors are coming soon, I’ve offered to help a friend pack up her house and load the U-Haul for a long drive to the Northwest, the RIR chickens need to get into their new coop ASAP. I am sick of putting down bark chips and just want to that job to be done. And some days, like today, I feel like I am just spinning my wheels and going nowhere fast.

Yesterday we took the day off to drive to our dentist in a distant city. While the day was almost a loss work-wise, the older I get the more I am grateful for another good dental checkup and cleaning. I’ve had gum disease and gum surgery so any checkup where I get a gold star, is a good one.

We don’t have dental insurance but even so I know that being able to have access to a highly competent dentist is truly a privilege, because all too many people in my own community and in many other countries do not have access to dental care at all.  I know that I am indeed privileged.

I’ve been thinking a lot of privilege lately. Even though I left home at age 17 without any parental support or insurance coverage and have experienced hard times my life has been better than many. Divorced at age 45 and starting over again without any support or alimony I made it through creativity, hard work, German stubbornness and perseverance.  I took in renters, cleaned houses and did what had to be done.

VERT close trelli front garden and sidewalk

The entrance to our front door.

The fact that I am white, that I live in a safe, dry home that is paid for, have a car to drive, that I have been able to retire, enjoy affordable health insurance, dependable electricity, food to eat and clean water to drink…. all help me to remember every single day I am indeed a privileged person.

Living in a poor, agricultural county I could easily have a landfill or a fracking sit in my backyard…

fracking sign in whisket barrle close

I have a no more fracking sign in my front garden. I am totally opposed.

I did cook a healthy by scratch meal when we got home from the dentist so I accomplished something good yesterday. I made a baked sausage in fresh pepper meal that was delicious and picked enough greens from our garden to make a tossed salad. I don’t really have a recipe per see, I just make it up depending on experience and what I have on hand.

West side of house front fracking sign

 The July garden at the Homestead.

Stuffed peppers USE

Baked Stuffed Red, Orange and Yellow Peppers

1 lb. of Meijer’s mild sausage

3/4 of a medium onion, chopped

3/4 cup spinach, chopped

2 organic eggs

½ to ¾ cup of Italian bread crumbs

Garlic to taste

Ground black pepper to taste

Chopped oregano to taste

I also like to add cooked brown and wild rice to my meat mixture but I got a very late start today so skipped the rice.

Mix the sausage, onions, add the bread crumbs, and stir in the eggs. Mix well.

Cut off the top of the peppers and use a spoon to dig out the inside of the peppers (save the seeds and pulp for the chickens!)

Fill the peppers with the meat mix

Bake at 350 for 40 to 50 minutes until the peppers are cooked thru and browned on top.

I hope you had a productive day and a great dinner as well.

Small House homesteader, Donna

Another Rainy and Cool Day on the Homestead

Two days of rainstorms broke the intense heat we have been experiencing here on the homestead overnight but the high humidity remains. After all, I keep reminding myself this is humid Michigan so what else do I expect!

Fencing three rows show studio modestly shows USE THISI placed the metal garden edging at the under the tree beds at the studio.

Today chores included emptying and moving the hose trough water container. We had it in the RIR chicks run for daily water but it is now in the way of the new outside coop ladder. So we emptied it of its water, put that water into  our two 275 gallon water storage totes and moved the trough to the vegetable garden. It will now be available for water my vegetables in pots that dry out quickly.

VET shot low Grass path silver horse trough

I spent some time this morning picking up sticks – that is one downside of having so many large White Oaks. I finally got around to putting up the decorative metal fencing panels my neighbor gave to me just before she moved into assisted living. DC has just been gone a week and already I miss her. She was our one friendly neighbor and through the years we helped to look after her especially after her husband died. I call her our angel because she was my “go to” person when I needed a plumber or contractor especially when we first moved here. She taught me how to deal with our county septic systems, for which I am eternally grateful.

Corn in bowl and bags on chopping block

Today chicken coop chores included more never-ending painting, moving the water trough and adding the second chicken ladder. These RIR chicks are going to be able to enter and exit their coop from the out-of-doors or from the inside through the covered run. This is a “thinking ahead” to winter kind of thing and gives them options in case the hens do not give up their mean occasional girl actions.

gen on lader drying out the wet sand

Hubby dealing with the coop flooding.

The other big job we tackled today that came as a very nasty surprise was emptying the new coop of the sand I just hauled in two days ago. Monday’s huge rainstorm soaked the sand clear through we haven’t yet figured out just how the water got into the coop. That was not a happy discovery and basically set us back to ground zero on getting the chicks permanently settled in the new coop. Not a pleasant discovery to say the least…

Yesterday I bought a dozen ears of fresh, local sweet corn to eat and freeze so that is on today agenda as well. The sweet corn was our lunch today and was delicious. The rest that we did not eat was cooked, shaved off the cob and frozen for winter meals.

Corn in bowl and bags on chopping block

The first sweet corn of the season.

Red daylilies and artesmia USE

Day lilies and wormwood in the meadow.

Back of pool shack long row of grasses USE

Garden lushness around the pool shack.

Enjoy the fleeting summer. August is just around the corner.

Small House homesteader, Donna