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

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!!

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

Our Girls Eat Live Green Barley Fodder at Last

I let the girls into the barley fodder “patch” today for the first time.

Grass under screen close USE

 The fodder patch before I removed the protective frame.

This fodder I planted is Amish grown and are untreated barley seeds that I bought at our regular feed mill. I tested just 1 pound of seeds to make sure that they would grow well here and that they would be received well and eaten by my Cochin/Phoenix mix chickens. This turned out to not be a problem!

Snowball in grass lookingup  USE

Snowball happily attacks the fresh barley grass fodder.

I planted the seeds right in their smallish open run where I had a nice size patch of sunshine. This worked perfectly.

The seeds have been growing since I planted them on 3-25-15 and the recent rains and warmer weather really brought them on. I let the seeds grow for about three weeks until they were about 4″ to 5 “ in height. The girls were trying to dust between the frame and the fence and I took pity of them.

Screenchikens dusting

This corner is a favorite outside dusting area. Looks like I crowded them!

I’ve read that grasses any longer than 4”to 5” are too long, can get caught in the chickens crop and cause sour crop so I decided to let the girls eat them while the grass was still reasonably short in length.

Screen one chicken up USE

Freckles look over the grass this morning just before I removed the frame.

They had been standing on the frame and pecking at the grass growing under it, taking off tiny pieces with their beaks.

Once I made my decision, I removed the frame and they took to the grass immediately. The best things about this feed is that it is untreated seeds so there are no chemicals involved and it is a live green food – the absolute best for chickens.

Snowball in nest box USE

Snowball in the nest box laying her egg.

The moral of his story is that…Happy, well-fed chickens lay healthy great tasting eggs!

Small House Homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

 

Our Weekend in Photography

Eggs in blue bowl USE

Brown Cochin eggs from our four chickens.

On Saturday Gene worked on the raspberry bed fence project and put up a second gate.

Stapling the fencing USE

Gene stapling the chicken fencing to the bottom of the post.

I experimented with photographing some of our brown Cochin eggs in an antique bowl. I used a piece of fabric I bought at the thrift store when I thought might make a nice seat cover. I feel like I am a bit rusty with my “product photography” and it felt good to practice it again.

Two  Gates

Double fencing on the south end of garden allows for two entry points; one in the vegetable garden and one in the raspberry patch. 

Then our adult daughter Lisa arrived from North Carolina in the afternoon. She is a special education teacher and works in the high school near Charlotte, NC. It is her spring break so she took advantage of that time off of work to come back home to Michigan. We spent our day watching the chickens scratch and peck and chatting and catching up.

On Sunday we did our usual every two weeks trip to the recycle station and then ran Sassy at the SW Michigan’s land Conservancy’s Wau-kee-nau north. We keep a small recycle bin set up in our pole barn and take our recyclable papers, cans, glass to the townships recycle station about every two to three weeks.

Sassy overlooking lake

Sassy overlooks gray and ice filled Lake Michigan.

Lake Michigan is still partially frozen and dark gray in color. We did see a large flock of Goldeneye ducks in the water  – these birds are very hardy and on their migration south for breeding. This is always a thrill for my husband the waterfowl hunter.

Three Birches USE

The three sisters, birch trees in a meadow.

It’s still pretty cold here in SW Michigan, some nights have been 10 some 30 degrees and day around 40 degrees. During the day we let the chickens out to free range in the almost completed raspberry bed. We are still supervising them as one end remains to be completed.

Benches

A wooden bench for resting overlooking the Lake Michigan.

I’ve also been working on and off on stick picking up and lawn raking. I’ve already raked up much of the pine cones from our pine trees. I am just getting a tiny head start on our massive spring clean-up work on the days the weather cooperates.

I’ve been reading a fun new book this week, Chickens in the Garden. I am really enjoying this book not only for its chicken information and its amazing photographs. I know how hard it is to get high quality photographs of moving objects.

Chickens 3 panel no text jpeg

Small House Homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

Unwrapping the Arborvitae

 

Today my big outdoor project was to remove the burlap from the arborvitae. We put in these three evergreens last fall as part of our ongoing attempt to replace the 100-year-old White Oak Trees that had to come down as part of the flood extension ditch digging project.

Drying the burlap nthe fence USE

The giant roll of burlap drying on the garden fence.

I’m always trying to find a way to gain more privacy in front of our home and to create more of a sound barrier from the traffic that flies by in the summer months. Beauty wind break come into play here as well. Trees and evergreen are one way to do just that.

We planted them 8 to 10 feet apart because the plan is to eventually build a lattice type panel to fit in between each of the evergreens to create even more privacy.

Unwrapped in front of house USE

Arborvitae at the Small House Homestead on a cold March day.

The nursery we bought them from recommended that we wrap them in burlap for the winter months because we can at times get quite a bit of wind roaring down 109th right off of Lake Michigan. So between the heavy snow fall here, deer and the winds, we decided to protect our investment by wrapping them.

Wrapped close USE

Looking a little like ghosts the evergreens wrapped in burlap.

In case you are not familiar with arborvitae, they are a North American and eastern Asian evergreen coniferous tree of the cypress family. They are native to the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. They are hardy, require little maintenance, prefer a cool climate and alkaline soil.

An evergreen with scale-like leaves, arborvitae (Thuja) is a popular choice for hedges because of its tall, narrow growth habit. It can also be used as a focal point in a mixed border of shrubs and flowers and is frequently used in foundation plantings. They can range as high as 20 to 30 ft. tall and have a 12 ft. spread depending on the species.

Trees close unwrapped USE

Unwrapped and ready to face the spring.

I did my standard soil prep two years in advance using 6″ to 8″ of bark chips to break down the sod and to begin to amend the soil. I’ll dog out any weeds that may have come back and add more bark chips this June as well.

I actually preferred planting the larger White Pines which will get very large in size and provide an even great screening from the roadway but I have to be careful about planting easy-to-catch fire plants too close to my home. So this was a compromise.

Burlap in a bag

Stored in soccer mom Ziplock bags for the summer.

Today while Gene worked on the fencing project, I unwrapped the evergreens, dried the burlap on the fence and then rolled the burlap up for summer storage. I used two of a giant-size Ziplock bag meant to use with my large handmade paper canvas artwork because the size was just right. I think they were meant for soccer moms to hold balls in the back of the trunk of the minivan but they work great for large canvas’ of artwork too.

One more project checked off the busy spring to do list!

Small House Homestead and native gardener, Donna

Easy to Make High Protein Chicken Feed Medley

I believe that healthy food is our best medicine and in using garden herbs for chicken health. So when I discovered this easy to make infused oil mixture for extra winter protein and nutrition for my chickens, I was thrilled.

Close up

A healthy and happy chicken has bright eyes, glossy feathers and ample energy.

While I can’t grow everything in my garden I do have a number of herbs that I grow and feed directly to our chickens. But winter feeding of herbs is so much harder.

Drinking out of red waterer

Lots of fresh water daily is also important to a chickens good health.

PLEASE NOTE: The credit for this original infused oil mixture goes solely to Susan Burek of Mile High Herbs, This came as a result of a post she made on the Poultry natural Living found on Facebook. This is my favorite chicken group of all time. https://www.facebook.com/groups/herbalpoultrycare/

Snoozle time

Mid afternoon snuggle down time.

While some of you are in states that are getting warmer, some of us “lucky ones” in the Midwest still have 3 to 5 ft. of snow on the ground!! And while our 10 degree below temperature have waned, it is running around 30 degrees at night. I’ve discovered that our woods holds in the snow and cold longer after it is melted in other more open spaces.

IMG_6327

Snow on the coop and covered run.

 So this means we are still feeding our chickens high caloric and protein feed for a few more weeks to help to keep them warm at night. I’ve tried all kind of feed type and combinations and this is the one I have the best luck with. It is versatile and can be adapted in many ways. I make the infused oil up ahead of time and then add that oil to whatever I am feeding that day.

Freckles close

This is Freckles, a Phoenix/Cochin mix and the top bird of our group.

This also kills two birds with one stone (likely a BAD analogy for chicken lovers!) but it gets the oils of the crushed garlic into the chicken as well as giving them the fuel that they need for cold nights. I feed garlic as a preventative measure to keep my birds as healthy as possible and basil for mucus membrane health and for its antibacterial properties.

Cloves of fresh garlic goes into my chickens food and their water. Some times they ignore it but some of them, like Freckles picks it out tosses it on the ground and then eats it. Freckles is the top chicken in our small flock.

Headingout the door of the enclosed run to the outside

Our girls heading outdoors for a little bit of sunbathing!

STEP 1: Garlic Infused Oil:

  1. Pour about 1 cup to cup and a half of a high-grade of virgin olive oil into clean a canning jar.
  2. Peel, crush and chop up 7 garlic cloves and add the garlic to the jar of oil
  3. I like to add dried oregano leaves but you can add almost any of your chicken healthy herbs that you might have on hand.
  4. Cover with lid and let this mix infuse several days to a week before using. The longer it infused the more it smells of the wonderful wholesome and healthy garlic.

STEP 2: Add Oil Mixture to Your Feed of Choice

I’ve been experimenting with many different combinations this winter but the one my chickens seem to like the best and the one they leave the least amount of waste behind.

Making the Oil and Protein Medley:

  1. I toss two handfuls of black oiled sunflower seeds in an ice cream bucket.
  2. Toss in a half a handful of dried meal worms.
  3. I add a large scoop of fermented organic chicken grower feed
  4. Add a chunk of cut up wheat grass
  5. A splash of apple cider vinegar
  6. Stir and feed

Add this mixture in your feeding bowl or pie plate and watch your girls rush in, cluck, cluck, and go to town!

Sitting pretty

Sitting pretty!  The girls today on their roost in the covered run.

You would never know today that these chickens were rescued chickens from a flock that was fed nothing but cracked corn. It’s taken me 7 to 8 months of providing fresh water and carefully selected food but they are now 8 months old and beginning to lay the mostly beautiful brown eggs.

The results of my feeding regime? Happy, healthy and well fed chickens. It is worth the effort!

Small House Chicken Keeper, Donna