Spring on the Small House Homestead – Photo Diary

Good morning! Spring is truly busting out all over on the Small House Homestead this month.

HOR quince and bench studio USE

A favorite flowering quince bush bursts into bloom at my studio building. 

Forsythia and studio USE

All of my forsythia shrubs were transplanted or propagated from tiny shrub starts.

Phlox and stones USE

Creeping phlox offers a splash of pale lavender and spreads.

Spring and its intense flowering beauty is what we in Michigan live for!

Burning bush and daffodils barn

Daffodils and a burning bush in front of the pole barn.

Violets and logs in garden USE

Wild spreading violets in the vegetable garden. They will be transplanted when it rains. 

Our homesteads many flowers, shrubs, fruit trees and bushes are really starting to come alive!

Pink pear blossoms

Planted in 2015 , this peach tree replaced a tree that died from our high ground water flooding.

Phlox and chartreause shribe behind porch USE

The low growing flowers and shrubs behind the three-season porch.

Our 5-acre homestead garden is a bloom with the fruits of fifteen years of my labor.

Silver Lace Vine , trelllis, fence

The newly planted (2015) silver lace vine on the trellis is putting out leaves.

Violets under digwood in bird bed

Masses of wild purple violets bloom in the bird feeding bed under the dogwood tree.

Freckles with persnality and Snowball USE

Freckles and Snowball out and about enjoying the sunshine.

Playhouse with climber

The playhouse in the spring; day lilies are growing again and the climbers are too.

Sidewalk and chalk fun

Chalk drawings on the sidewalk speaks the language of spring.

I hope you enjoy a view of this week on the homestead and that you bloom where you are planted!

Small House homesteader, Donna

The Small House in its Autumn Glory-Photo Diary

I apologize for being so out of touch lately. Fall is such a busy time of year for us at The Small House that the outdoor work just takes over our lives. Hopefully I can make up for fewer blog posts of late with some interesting and lively photographs sharing the beauty of our homestead in the autumn.

We’ve had a hard frost already here in SW Michigan. Hard enough that it froze my remaining potted annuals and tender hydrangeas but once again the weather has turned warm. In these parts we call these warm days, our Indian Summer. I am enjoying the warm sunshine as are our animals who love to lay in the warm dirt and dust or nap.

Small House under bog tree USE

Our small house under the big SW Michigan sky. 

The surrounding woods are taking on new shades of reds, yellow and amber thanks to the cooler nights. There is a vivid beauty about the countryside now that stirs my soul.

HORZ turn around coop in rear USE

This bed, with its ornamental grasses and mum’s really shines in the Autumn.

As those of you who homestead know; this time of is year we call “The Crunch Time” or “The Fall Rush.” I imagine that you are working as hard as we are to gather the last of the vegetable harvest, to close down the gardens and get the animals and their pens ready for winter. These seasonal chores plus my plantar fasciitis, physical therapy and various doctor’s appointments have kept me on the run.

While I honestly prefer a more home-center, slower-paced way of life, I know I must take care of my health right now and that means many appointments in town and twice-weekly working out.

Mums foreground trellis grasses USE VERT

The billowing and blowing grasses are among my favorite native perennials.

The fruits of our labor can be enjoyed in our perennial gardens right now. Native perennial plant, stones hauled home from farmers fields and roadside ditches, mingle with my carefully chosen plantings and projects all lovingly built and maintained, that shine during the Michigan fall. I enjoy every season here but if I had to choose my favorite, I think it would be autumn.

Fencegate raspberries USE

The fenced-in black raspberry patch is one of our chicken’s favorite runs.

Here is a peek at the Small House Homestead this week in all of our lovely fall glory.

Bird grden shrub and birdfeeder USE

Shrubs and feeders provide food and shelter for our beloved songbirds.

Fence and pool shack USE

Our non-working in-the-ground pool resides nestles up against the forest edge.

Gene cart Rhodies on straw USE

Bales of hay will block the winter winds to the chicken run and coop areas. Then next spring these bales will be broken down for mulch in the garden.

Pole barn under sky USEThe chicken condo complex is nestled under our majestic White Oak trees.

Meadow nice USE

The pool shack, meadow grasses and the wood lot in late October.  

North west side of house with hydragneas geen

Our 1950’s era ranch-style home. Yes, that is an old-fashioned TV antenna not a UFO!

Pool shack fall USE

The pool shack storage shed with our home in the distance.

Fence and pool shack USE

The pool complex, storage shack and garden.

I hope you enjoyed you enjoyed a taste of fall on our homestead.

Small House homesteader, Donna

Picking Apples Such a Simple Country Pleasure

Gene and I picked organic apples at Evergreen Land Farm and Creamery in Fennville last weekend. It was an overcast day but a perfect one for being in the orchard among the brilliant colored fruit.

Gene picking arm up

Gene is picking his favorite apple variety, Empire

Evergreen Lane Farm focus’ on making artisanal cheese and growing organic apples.

DJ with goat good

I made a new goat friend!

The story of the farm is an interesting one. They say that their cheese making began when a single runaway goat burst into their lives and their living room and has blossomed into a seven-year journey, and 100 goats later, a thriving business of cheese-making. All of their cheeses are available at their on-farm tasting room and at a number of local retailers and restaurants.

Purple Creamery

The on-farm creamery store.

We have enjoyed this simple country pleasure of apple picking there for many years. We will make applesauce, freeze apple chunks and many delicious apple crisps in the days to come.

Tom on tractor USE

Owner Tom on his New Holland tractor.

Evergreen lane collage 3 jpeg 9 2015 Evergreen Lane 7 collage jpeg

Small House homesteader, Donna


Photo Diary – Chicks Photo Shoot – Day Four


Top bottom chicks day 4 blue dishes jpeg

May all your eggs be fresh and all your chickens healthy!

This Small House Homestead Photo Diary idea came from a similar post done by blogger and homesteader, Lori Leigh of LL Farms. Lori called her project, The Chick Photo Shoot.

I stumbled upon her work on-line and fell in love instantly with this idea. Lori has totally inspired me to try my hand at photographing my new chicks. Lori and I both homestead, love chickens, hand-paint furniture and play with our photography…a lot in common for two strangers!

You can enjoy her photography here: http://llfarmblog.blogspot.com/2015/04/babychickphotoshoot.html

Today is my chicks fourth day in this world and I decided since they had a few days to recover from their trip here, I could risk tiring them out a bit today. I wanted to capture this adorable “new chick” stage while I could.

Honestly, I had my doubts that I could pull this off but actually I am quite happy with the results. I shot less than a dozen images and two of my favorite ones are pictured on today’s post. I plan to take more photographs tomorrow, so stay tuned for those in a future post.

Black streaked alone USE

My four-day-old Rhode Island Red chicks first photo shoot!

The chicks are now eating from their chick feeder, stretching out their legs and flapping their wings. Their pin feathers are doubling in length overnight. They are developing so fast I swear I can see them growing right in front of my eyes!

I used some of my favorite blue and white china pieces as props and to “contain” them. These pieces are left over from a large collection of Phoenix Bird China and small collection of other blue and white pieces  I once owned but sold to build my art studio. However I still have enough less-than-perfect pieces left to use as serving dishes and to fill an antique curved front china cabinet in our living room.

Posing towards m USE

Just like a pro this chick turns her profile to the camera. Say cheese!

I used my light green, dry-brushed kitchen bookshelf because it has a back and sides and I thought this would be the safest setting for these unpredictable and often flighty creatures.

I emptied a shelf and pulled it away from the wall and out a bit to capture the side-lighting from our large dining room window. I hand-held my Cannon Rebel camera with my wide-angle lens and took some photographs. I am sure had I used my tripod and taken more time the pictures would have even been crisper. But the welfare of my funny, quirky and active chicks was foremost in my mind.

Mothers day grphic for Facebook jpeg

A planned Facebook graphic to post for all the mother’s out there.

The single chick just sat docile in the cup and posed but the two other ones (those with the darker stripes on their back) both jumped right out of their dishes. Photo shoot over for today!

They were out of their brooder less than 5 minutes more likely three minutes so please believe me when I say…no chicks were endangered in this photo shoot.

Here are a few more of my creations I made today using PicMonkey.com
Mothers Day graphic for janet 2015

For my own mother on Mother’s day (shhh…please don’t tell her!)

Small House Homesteader, photographer and chicken keeper, Donna

Another Red Letter Day on the Homestead

We had another red-letter day on the Small House Homestead yesterday.

After 8 months of hard work, building a coop and a covered chicken run and healthy organic feed, we got out first egg yesterday! Horray!

First Egg 3-16-15

This tiny Phoenix Egg in Gene’s hands is our first homegrown one.

You may recall that we rescued a momma hen and her five babies last September. One baby chick, JoJo, was seriously injured when her leg and foot were paralyzed and, unfortunately, she did not make it. Rest in peace JoJo.

Freckles close

Freckles the Phoenix with silver in his ruff and iridescent green feathers.

I don’t know for sure who laid it but it was one of our four girls, one who is a white Cochin and three black ones that seem to be more Phoenix than Cochin though I suspect they are a Cochin/Phoenix mix. And to confuse things even more, their momma was a white Cochin too.

Sitting pretty

The girls pose in their covered run.

No matter the origin this tiny egg is brown and as sweet as can be. This will likely end up in an egg, kale, mushroom and cheese omelette. Yum!

Three heads up house in rear USE today

Sunbathing on the bales of straw on a 60 degree early spring day.

When you start out with tiny baby chicks like this, you are laying the ground work for eggs in 7 to 12 months (depending on the breed). It takes a lot of   nurturing, feeding and generally caring for these chicks turned chickens for a long time before you are actually rewarded with an egg.

Funny chickie babies 4 FBcollage jpeg

Portraits of the girls late last fall.

Sometime its hard to be patient and to remember that through all this hard work of building a chicken coop and outdoor chicken run and time and energy to feed organic, will pay off in the end.  In the process we must overcome lack of confidence, injuries and sometimes mites or fleas, bumblefoot disease and more.

One thing I have discovered is that if one spends enough time with their chickens they will tell us where they need to go and how to get there.

Chicken keeping is not a process of instant gratification but instead one of setting a goal and then slowly working hard over the long run towards the finish line.

Kind of like the process of homesteading itself!

Small House Homestead, chicken keeper, Donna

Sunday at Grandma’s Small House Homestead

Brenna holding wedges USEI’ve taken a few days off a couple from blogging. This is in part because I have been under the weather and then getting ready for a day with family.

I spent the morning cooking a big “from scratch” home-cooked meal that included an Amish chicken with root vegetables, a wild/brown rice  casserole, Jello fruit salad and a lettuce salad and then enjoying our granddaughter’s Sunday dinner visit.

We spent a wonderful day with our granddaughter, son and girlfriend Sunday. We enjoyed a tasty home cooked dinner, enjoyed helping grandpa put up the new bird feeder and filling the garbage cans up with sunflowers seeds, playing with the chickens, learning to play dominoes and just generally enjoying spending time together. A wonderful day!

Brenna petting USE

 Brenna’s enjoying her first touch of our chickens.

Whoa wings flying USE

Watch out those chickens do fly!

Brenna looking under grandpa pounding USE

We put up the new bird house but its wiggly?

Brenna holding wedges USETime for wedges!

Brenna looking under grandpa pounding USE

Just a few more adjustments!

Grandpa pouring bucket Brenn w lid

Brenna holding the copper top while grandpa dumps the sunflower seeds.

At the end of the day I asked Brenna what was her favorite thing of the day? She answered, “Helping grandpa with that craft thing!”

Kids say the darndest things! Love that girl!

Small House homesteader and grandmother, Donna


Dogs as Family Members – Our Waterdog

So many of us homesteaders have dogs and consider them real members of our family, especially a working dog.

Sassy sleeping on gun

Sassy sleeping in the sun after a long days hunt.

Gene and I are no different. We happen to be Labrador lovers and always had Labs as part of our family. We have often had up to two Labrador Retrievers at a time, and at the present moment we now have one Lab, a petite 55 lb. black Lab we call Sassy.

Ball Sassy CUTE

Sassy and I play ball outside almost every day. I kick, she retrieves.

Sassy came to us rather unexpectedly when another Lab owner saw how we treat my chocolate Lab “Sprit” that has since passed on. This lady stopped us, introduced herself and complimented us our Spirit’s behavior. She also told about an outstanding breeder of Labs in a nearby community where she had purchased her own dogs.

Sassy eyes

Intelligent eyes!

As these casual encounters often do, one thing led to another, and we brought home this 12 week old black Lab puppy that has been bred tiny for field trial work. In fact, she was the one dog that this breeder had planned to keep her for himself and train her. We heard sweet stories that his four daughters had been really taken to her, played with her and dresses her up in dog clothes on their bed. The girls had already named her Sassy and it fit her personality 100%, so it stuck. To this day when Sassy hears the voice of a young girl her tail wags in circles and she is ready to play. I honestly think she has wonderful memories of those girls.


Some of us pick up sticks – some of us just like to lie down on the job and chew them.

Now at just age seven, Sassy is a petite powerhouse that lives to run and retrieve. And she is a wonderful companion dog to me on the homestead as well. She does chores with me every day, helping me to feed the chickens, give seeds and water to the songbirds, picks up sticks in the yard when I do and generally keeps me company. She looks like a puppy but is a fierce watchdog that I would not want to get on the bad side of either.

Sassywaiting to swim

Retrieving bumpers is part of her daily training.

Late this winter Sassy was feeling unusually poorly and ended up with what we think was a viral infection in her lungs. For a dog that absolutely must be run and hour or more every day, this dog was down for the count. She slept and she wheezed, we were starting see her bones poking though and we knew she was losing weight and we were worried. After about a week of sleeping all day and night, we took her to our vet and came home with an antibiotic and cough suppressant.

Sassy bumpers waukeena collage

On your mark get set go. Swim to that bumper and bring it back.

We started the antibiotic immediately and she rallied a bit on day three but then just stalled. I was concerned that this bug was antibiotic resistant and she was going to relapse. I’d heard about a holistic vet in a nearby community and gave her a call. Through our phone conversation Dr. Dolan told me about a high quality supplement company that makes supplements for equines and canines. They make a product that boosts the immune system and I felt that this product was just what we needed.

Sassy snowon face jpeg use

Sassy the snow dog as well as a waterdog!

The veterinary formula product is called Canine Immune System Support and is made by Standard Process out of Palmyra, Wisconsin. This company that has been in business since 1929 make only certified organic whole food supplements for canines and equines. More information can be found at http://www.standardprocess.com

The ingredients of this Immune Support product are Bovine liver, nutritional yeast, bovine and ovine spleen, rice bran, bovine spleen BMG, bovine thymus extract, carrot, bovine kidney buck leaf wheat juice, pea vine juice, wheat germ, mushroom, Spanish black radish, kelp as well as Minerals including Calcium, magnesium and Zinc as well as other ingredients. I have not listed every single ingredient found in the box, but you get the main idea here.

I admit, it was expensive but I was willing to give it a try.

Within a little over two weeks Our Sassy girls was back with us. And not only was her energy level high once again, her coat was shiny and soft. And perhaps I should not judge her insides by the look and feel of her coat but her pep was back to normal and she was well again.

We have our beautiful girl back again.

I am not being paid for this commercial. I am talking about it by my own free will as I am a happy customer.

Small House Homesteader, Donna