62 Degrees Sunny and Windy – Photo Diary

  Wow, what a great day on the homestead.

Chickens outside comples and bkue sky USE

Blue sky and white fluffy clouds overlooking the chicken complex.

Gene Rhodies Forge 2-19-16

Gene by the blacksmith forge while the Rhodies scratch in the bark chips.

We enjoyed a lovely sunny and warm day for our mid-winter February thaw. The morning was full of chores; washing clothes, cleaning the stove, making bone broth and more.

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Elsa taking a dust bath.

In spite of the recorded 50+ mile an hour winds our afternoon was spent outside enjoying the chickens.

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Dirt flies when a chicken takes a dust bath.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring so gotta make hay today!

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Doors open and the sun shines in the covered run.

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Chickens follow the snow blown path around the homestead.

Small House Homesteader, Donna

 

How to Heal a Sick Chicken in a Laundry Room Infirmary

After a week or more of sub-zero temperatures I noticed about three days ago that Crystal, one of our Rhode Island Red chickens was not acting like herself.

In kennel US

Crystal spent a few days in the chicken infirmary in our laundry room.

She held back from eating when her sisters were mowing down my special “High Test Cold Weather Feed” (recipe below) both morning and night. Then I noticed that she was wheezing and keeping herself separate from the others hanging our under the chicken coop and dosing off. I knew then we had a problem.

As the lowest chicken in the four chicken Rhodie flock, Crystal has always been a bit of a loner, happy to free range off on her own. She has never cared to be caught, held or physically put back into the run after a free range time. She was always the last girl in the coop at bedtime.  A most independent chicken!

Gene and I jumped into motion…Out came the dog kennel, the baby gate, the chicken waterer and jar lids as feeders. I also moved the humidifier from the kitchen counter to the laundry room to increase the humidity in her body. This healing technique actually reminds me of the way I use to treat my young son’s croup – healing foods, rest and high humidity.

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Boy would I like to crawl into that supersized nest box!

We have used the laundry room/mechanical room as an infirmary before and it works well because it is right off of our kitchen, is warm and I can keep close tabs on whoever is not feel well. We have water in the sink and the chicken food cupboard is there as well.

I filled the kennel with dry leaves while Gene brought Crystal inside. The first thing I did was look her over closely, feel her crop to make sure it was not hard, make sure she did not have any lice or mites on her and determine that this was indeed an upper repertory issue. Crystal was sneezing, couching, congested and shaking her head.

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After a couple of days of healing Crystal asked to come out of the dog kennel.

I gave her a bit of tincture of Echinacea by gently forcing her beak open and using an eye dropper I dropped a small dose of the tincture into her mouth. We then put her into the kennel and set up her food and water. I kept a close watch on her on and off most of the day. She was eating enormous amounts of food, water and pooping – all good signs. So I pretty much knew that means she was not getting enough food out in the coop as she was beginning to feel more and more ill.

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On the road to healing…”Hey whose out there?”

On day one I gave her three servings of high protein cat food shreds which she devoured. She normally does not get cat food but I needed to fill her up quickly with a high protein food and boost her immune system in order for her to heal.

She was sneezing quite frequently and shaking her head to try to clear things out. Her voice sounded very croupy and horse so an upper repertory issue was confirmed. I kept her full of food, water and on day two switched to Elderberry Elixir made by herbalist Lisa Rose, of Burdock and Rose Herbals that is filled with many good herbs and organic plants. I could see her beginning to get better a little bit each day and she began to make a few soft and happy chicken “talking” sounds.

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Curious Crystal loved walking around the laundry room, exploring.

In case you are not familiar with the healing properties of elderberry Lisa Rose writes this…

“Plant medicines like elderberry (Sambucus nigra) can help shorten the lifespan of a virus — If you know when and how to use them! If you listen to your body’s call, and try preparations of elderberry elixir within the first 48 hours of the start of a virus, medical research shows that symptoms that come from colds and flu can be lessened by as much as 4 days.

How does elderberry work?

Elderberry is not only filled with antioxidants and flavonoids useful for the body, but it stimulates the body’s inflammation response against the virus. By triggering the production of cytokines – the inflammatory and anti-inflammatory agents that regulate the body’s immune system – elderberry powers the immune system which then inhibits the virus’ ability to reproduce.

Elderberry is most commonly prepared as a syrup of the fresh or dry berries and it’s easy to make your own batch of Elderberry Elixir.” Thank you Lisa Rose for this great information!

Each night Crystal climbs up on her roost bar to go to bed for the night. Content to wait until morning when she jumped down and signaled me with little chirps and that she was ready for her breakfast.

On day three she made signs of wanting to get out of the kennel so I let her out for a half hour or so. She walked around, looking the room over and actually came out for a small cuddle letting me touch her which is quite unusual for her self-contained nature.

Today she got a real good shot of Elderberry Elixir, her sprouted mung beans and barley grass in addition to her chicken food and mealworms which she devoured.  This elderberry makes me a tiny bit sleepy so I was not surprised to find her laying down in the leaves and resting later on this morning. She rested for perhaps an hour and was then backup and scratching for more food in the bottom of her kennel.

I think this poor girl was very, very hungry by the amount of food she has put down in the last three days. I have given her as much to eat as she as she wanted because my goal is to give her protein to help her recover as quickly as possible.

Crystal has not been in the house since she was a tiny, day-old chick and she surprised me at how calm she was throughout. Maybe one more day in the house and then we will put her back out on the roost at night to lessen the possibilities of re-entry pecking from the flock. Good job Crystal!!

MY HOMEMADE WINTER HIGH TEST FEED:

For eight chickens I mix the dry portion of the feed into a quart Ball jar. If you have more chickens than I do you may wish to double this recipe and mix this in a bucket or bin.

THE DRY PORTION:

1/3 jar organic layers pellets

1/3 jar black oiled sunflowers seeds (BOSS)

¼ cup rolled oatmeal (or soaked meal worms)

½ to 3/4 cup of sprouted mung beans

THE OLIVE OIL WET INFUSION:

Fill another quart canning jar about ½ full of olive oil. (I buy organic olive oil from Sam’s Club.) This infusion steeps continuously inside the cupboard and is refilled as needed.

Add dried basil and oregano or basil, mint and sage

Add three cloves of fresh chopped garlic

I taught my chicks to eat fresh herbs as babies every day. As a result my chickens love their herbs so I add these liberally, fresh in season and dry in the wintertime. Add to taste,  probably ½ to ¾ cup of herbs to a small bucket of feed.

Each evening I mix up two jars, one for the morning feed and one for the evening feed. I pour just enough of the olive oil mixture to coat the dry materials. Stir. This sits over night to continues to soak into the dry ingredients.

My chickens get their coop lights turned on around 5 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. when our Lab Sassy has to go out to the bathroom. They then have from that early hour to daylight to eat their layers pellets and drink water. Around 8 a.m. we take out the “High Test Feed.” We then let them out of their two coops and into their covered runs, feed them, clean out the heated dog waterers and refill with fresh water and clean out the chicken coop for the day. Light go off after that so they have dark and quite for egg laying. At night the procedure is repeated.

Always an adventure when keeping chickens!

Small House Homesteader, Donna

 

Living and Sleeping Under the Sheltering Oaks

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The view of the Small House from the back side of our property.

I can’t help but share more of the exquisite fall color we are experiencing here on the homestead. It is simply outstanding this year. The White Oak leaves are now turning brown and dropping. The Maple tree leaves have already turned their bright yellow/orange. The Sassafras leaves are heading towards yellow and the native Dogwood leaves are now a brilliant red. Our local Burning Bushes have sprung into a dazzling pink and the St. John’s Wort’s shrubs are a lovely mix of yellow/green heading towards orange.

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A small landscaped bed in the front of the Small House focus’ on fall color!

Our property is now surrounded by the most beautiful color-making-autumn and in my opinion, one of the prettiest times of year here on the Small House Homestead. I just can’t spend enough time out-of-doors now. The cleaning, the cooking and organizing just does not matter enough right now. Time enough for that work later on when the snow is blowing.

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I am standing on the road to capture the front of our Ranch-style home.

The past few weeks have been rainy with gray sky period so that meant no blue sky, no sunshine and there no great fall shots! For a while there I had to settle for a vignettes of pumpkins, Halloween flag and the last of the summer flowers.

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A woodpile stacked up against the wood lot of oaks and pines to the east of our home. This area features a large cut-back meadow where I had hoped to someday have miniature goats!

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This stack of logs is a current favorite of the chickens to free range in the early evening.

But this week the blue sky is back and I am soaking up the sunshine and photographing with a vengeance!

Barn coop rounded snte bed USE FIRST

Our pole barn side garden curves back to the chicken coop and run area.

Winter is coming in quickly now and we are due for a heavy frost. This means we are powering our way through the rest of the garden clean up chores; putting away anything that might freeze and cleaning out the dead and the dying.

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The Rhodies coop inside their protected run soaks up the afternoon sun.

The cement chickens were stored in the barn, the metal benches safely stored away as well. We quickly planted 12 burning bush starts today hoping to take advantage of the coming rainfall to nestle them in for the long winter ahead. These starts pop up here and there from our other burning bushes and in the spring I dig them up and pot them up for the summer.

Front west bed colors

I have allowed the overgrown shrubs to stay in order to help buffer our home from the Class AA roadway traffic. Luckily we have the proper large-scale 5-acre property and big open sky that allows this.

I am trying to create a visual barrier and some more fall color by planting them on the dirt side road where Consumer’s Energy cut down our 23, 75-year-old pines because, they said, they were growing too close to their power lines. You may have read this before but quite frankly I am still mad that an owner before us signed an easement that allows them to come 350 feet on our property and no amount of explanation, questioning or even begging would deter them from cutting down our wind block of tree. Lesson learned… NEVER ever sign an easement with a corporation. And when buying property make sure you find out if any easements have ever been signed before you close.

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I hope you are not tired of me saying this…our Small House Under a Big Sky!

Please enjoy the autumn wherever you live.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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

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The pool complex, storage shack and garden.

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

Small House homesteader, Donna

Update on the Small House Fruit Tree Inoculation

If you have been reading this blog for very long you probably know that our fruit orchard was all but wiped out by the 2009-2012 high ground water flooding we experienced. After getting over the stress and shock of those terrible four springs when we thought we were going to lose our home to either flooding or mold. And we did lose much of our painstakingly built up soil and then like many farmers who have experienced such loss, we set about shaking off the crisis and replanting.

USE FIRST PEACH and comfrey

Our peach tree with its comfrey guild below.

We replanted in the spring of 2015 using a mix of three nursery bought pears and peaches trees and three grafted heirloom apples from South meadow Fruit Gardens located in Benton Harbor about an hour’s drive from us.

Email smfruit@aol.com

I had never used grafted stock before and I wanted to hedge my success by planting three years old Jonkers Garden Center bought trees as well and the one-year-old specialty grafted tree stock from Southmeadow Fruit Gardens.

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The large triangle bed in the very early spring after we dug up the sod.

Following the advice of Michael Phillips, author of The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruit and Berries the Biological Way. At his recommendation we dug up a large section of grass in a large triangle shape and planted the trees 8 ft. apart.

I worked hard to improve my lean oak savannah forest soil by adding well composted horse manure mixed in with hay and covered in bark chips. his is the secret recipe to growing anything here.

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Sterile Russian comfrey, native lupines and ramial bark chips as mulch.

The plan was to plant comfrey under each tree at the root line which we did. I ordered 58 slips of Russian comfrey at $1.00 each and they have grown beautifully and flowered quite well their first summer. The delicate blue comfrey flowers call out to the bumble bees who come and take home their yellow pollen.

The Holistic Orchard book front

Using permaculture terms, we planted a “fruit guild” with our White Oak trees for the top layer, the fruit trees for the middle layer and nitrogen-fixing plants like comfrey, native lupines, daffodils and chives below. And then I added the best material of all; ramial wood chips as the main course for feeding mycorrhizal and saprophytic fungi in an orchard food web that in turn supports our fruit trees.

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This is a terrific book and one I highly recommend for anyone who wishes to grow fruit organically. You can locate this book by using this ISBN number; ISBN 978-1-933392-13-4.

I watered our fruit trees and comfrey faithfully all summer and they have gotten off to a good start. We plan to stake and fence in the triangle beds this fall to protect the tender fruit trees from deer, rabbit and any other browsers who might come along and decide they are a good-looking treat! We also feel that fencing and staking them will give us a good visual to work around this first year so we can avoid them in winter playtime, dog ball kicking and snow blowing paths to and from the pole barn.

A few weeks ago, at Phillips recommendation we drove into the state-owned Todd Farm Preserve located about 10 miles from the Small House homestead. We located the sight of several wild apple trees we have visited, and picked from in previous years. We dug up a couple of buckets of soil from under these trees and brought that soil home and “inoculated” our own fruit trees with that soil.

According to Phillips the purpose of inoculation is to both create an orchard soil that ideally contains a fungal presence ten time higher than that of bacteria and because the key to tree vitality is this nutrient exchange between the roots via these fungal helpers and the soil.

In a few weeks I will do a chop and drop of the comfrey leaves so they too can work their magic on the soil around the beds.

We are trying to be as biological as possible with our fruit trees and not spray or use chemicals in any way.

Small House Homesteader, Donna

Wood Prairie Farm Organic Potatoes Review

I dug up our potato crop this morning. The stems had died down several weeks ago so I knew they were ready. I hate to say it but I was very disappointed with the less than expected productivity of these expensive seeds potatoes I bought from Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater, Maine.

Todays haul

I purchased what they call the “Experimenters Special” for $19.99. This is a kind of sampler box with four different potato varieties, four of each variety a way to experiment and to test to see which variety works best in your zone and your soil type.

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I was so excited about finding organic seed potatoes as I have not found them easy to locate. I had no luck at all locally or regionally. Then when I discovered this sampler box, I though what fun that could be. I remember thinking that $19.95 for 12 tubers was a bit high but I reminded myself that these were certified organic and I would have to pay more for that certification. And, I was supporting a small, family owned business so I decided to order them.

But when the charge card bill came for the $52.00 total, I was in shock. The tax, shipping and handling on this one small box of 12 seed potatoes was over $32.00. The was one of those very rare times that I did not ask for shipping costs ahead of time and I certainly should have – my mistake and a hard lesson learned.

I carefully planted the tubers in different areas of my garden and marked each variety with a paint stick with the variety name written on it as well as the date of planting. Because I was testing these potatoes I wanted to be sure I could at dig up time tell exactly what was what. They were planted in my Zone 5b garden, in shallow raised beds with our sandy soil that has been amended over the years with compost and bark chips. After they sprouted I put bark chips over the top to keep the moisture in. These potatoes were in the full sun and were well watered throughout the season.

Purple potatoes close

Today when I dug them up I was quite disappointed. The least amount of potatoes in an area from three tubers was two potatoes and the most potatoes in another area were seven small ones. I had planted 12 tubers and I dig up a total of 23 small potatoes. Good grief! That was certainly not what I expected or had hoped for.

Can you imagine my distress? Ultimately I paid $52.00 and some change for 23 small organic potatoes… I guess I will be buying organic potatoes from here on out at the grocery store.

For the record these tubers were planted on 4-10-15 and dug up on 9-25-15.

Small House Homesteader, Donna

Fall Garden Work Months Ahead

It was another big work day on the homestead this morning.

Pool shack new mulch USE FIRST

A clean and tidy bed after weeding and new bark chip mulch.

My newest garden helper came around 9:00 a.m. and together we put down a nice layer of bark chips and three bags of cedar mulch that had been given to me in the chicken run area. I am doing this in anticipation of the autumn rain and the resulting mud.

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Bark chips laid out around the chicken coop.

We cut back several perennial beds and added the same bark chip mulch so that we do not get disease in the beds from old dead foliage and so that Gene can more easily blow leaves out this coming November.

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I love the tidiness of the pool shack bed now. Now to keep the chickens out of it!

We transplanted a chestnut tree I grew from a nut I was given last fall and transplanted three burning bushes starts I potted up last spring. I had planted about a dozen chestnuts before the last freeze but only one was successful. The rest of the nuts unfortunately just rotted in their pot.

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One years growth on our chestnut tree.

Gene worked on digging and pulling out the Sassafras trees that have been threatening to take over the forge perennial garden. He saved the roots for a friend who wants to use them to make bitters.

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I love the Sassafras trees because they turn a lovely color in the fall.

I washed two loads of laundry and hung them out on the clothes line to dry. It was a beautiful fall day; sunny and 65 degrees. it was not a burden to be outside working but rather it was a pleasure.

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The compost bins are getting full of clipped perennials.

We spent the afternoon sitting in the porch reading and relaxing! A rest time that was much needed for us both!

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A two years old burning bush transplant.

Small House Homesteader, Donna