Sunday, April 28, 2013

Spring Is Here

     It has been a while since my last blog.  My father-in-law's health declined last November and eventually he passed away in March.  The last several months have been consumed with hospital stays, hospice, nursing home placement, and then death, so my time to blog came to a halt until we could get back into a routine again.  It has been very hard for my husband's family losing their patriarch.  Although everyone misses him dearly, we all know he is better off now in eternity with his Lord than in his last days, weeks, & even months.
      Now that spring is here, there are many chores and projects that must be dealt with.  Our yard being as sloped as it is, has a lot of erosion and our hens have scratched under their run walls opening themselves up to predators.  After seeing many coops with pavers around their perimeter on Pinterest, I decided to try it too.  I have to say, it has helped block any outside diggers from getting inside.  I have only completed the front side so far.  We are having dirt work done soon to scrape and level our front yard and I need some of the dirt shoved around to the lower part of the run to level out the rest of the pavers.  I also replaced their roosting bar and nesting boxes to help make cleaning easier. 
We were still having some late frosts so we still had the water line covered and windows closed.
I also added an outdoor roost for those rainy muddy days. 
I gave them 2 Brand new 2x2s in hopes to reduce crowding, but they still only use the top bar.

They had a raised floor over their nursery pot nests, but I took it all out after my last big cleaning episode when it was too hard to get to those tight corners.
These larger pavers give us a level no-slip zone to gather eggs and clean the coop. 
     Chloe' and Prissy met our newest additions.  Chloe' is a Great Pyrenees/boxer mix, which gives her all of the GP personality with the short hair so desperately needed for down here in south Mississippi.  Prissy is our latest rescue dog of a Jack Russell mix.  Prissy got a little too close to the cage and Chloe' wrapped her entire mouth around Prissy's head as a warning.She never harmed her, just layed down the law.  Chloe' is a great guardian dog.
     After working on their house, I had to get started on the garden.  I added a small bed just for corn and added more dirt and compost to the old bed.  After the seedlings were big enough, I put them in the earth.  My oregano had become ground cover in the bed and I had to dig it out and pot it.  I used row cover with my hoops until the last frost was over, but some of my weaker crops did not survive and I have had to plant more seeds.  I have also added nasturtiums and marigolds to the bed to help deter squash bugs this year.  If you have never seen the power of chicken poo compost, let me show you...
     The clover on the left is from my patch out front; pretty standard ankle height and the clover on the right is from a patch about 20 feet below my chicken run and comes up to my knees.  I pray that I will get the same results when I apply it to my garden.  I have bought some dwarf citrus trees that I have always wanted and gave $10.00 to Arbor Day Foundation and received 10 free flowering trees.  I have the flowering trees in the ground and potted the citrus for now.  I also put our fig tree that was potted last year into the ground.  Once we level off our yard, we plan to set the easy set pool back up soon and enjoy it again. 
     The home improvements seem to be never ending.  I will not have need of a subject to write about.  My next project is to build our portable coop for our new feathered friends.  I have seen several examples and have written out my plan.  I will start with the run to give them a daytime retreat and as the funds allow, I will complete the coop and move them into it permanently.  We built the main coop house mostly out of recycled materials, but I have not been able to get my hands on any scraps lately.  I will share my results as soon as I am done.  If you have any chicken coop or gardening tips, please share them with me. 
God Bless you all,
Marla B.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Simpler New Year

     Wow, this fall has flown by so fast.  I had a great opportunity to teach full-time this fall semester to fill-in for someone on maternity leave.  While it was a wonderful learning experience as a new nurse educator, my homestead did suffer.  This Christmas break has given me a chance to reflect and remember what my goals are and what my priorities must be in order to reach those goals as a homemaker and family. 
     I have worked or been in school all of my daughter's life except for the first 3 years.  I have longed to transition home to full-time homemaker and just work part-time outside of the home or full-time from the home.  The crossroads that I have anticipated is finally here.  Our little homestead missed me dearly when I was working Monday through Friday and I missed it.  I have grown to love those daily and weekly chores.  I have ordered more spring chicks and have plans to expand and improve our garden this spring.  We have other yard improvements that must be done in March such as building a portable coop, dirt work, and privacy fence completion that will require more invested time than just Saturdays.  We have been searching for a bigger plot of land so that we can be more private and add more animals, such as milking goats.  We will need to build a small barn or find some land with an existing one.  There is still so much to do.
     When we decided to live a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle, we knew we would have to give everything we had to make it work well.  Now that I will be part-time at work again, I will be able to devote those daily hours to tending the homestead without guilt that something is being neglected.  Also, in order for me to be able to eventually work from home, I will need to enroll in a PhD program.  I was not planning on returning to school this soon, but fortunately the local university has a hybrid program in which I will only meet 3 times a term and the rest is done on my own time.  I can go at my own pace as my personal and work commitments allow.  This program is pretty much a continuation of my previous program and I know what to expect.  I can work on assignments after my chores are done and I have tended to my family. 
     I get excited when I think about living off of the land, but I know it is hard work at the same time.  I am planning on making a batch of soap today...I have put it off for about 6 weeks but I am putting it back on my calendar.  My blogs may be on more of a monthly or bi-monthly basis for a while until we get our routines back in line.  I had to let it go while working full-time. 
     I am so glad to say that we did finish Big Red and are moved in.  Big Red is our portable barn-style building that serves as our extra rooms.  It has 2 lofts for storage and we divided it  for each of us to have a working office/craft space.  It is insulated, wired, and walled with a portable air-conditioner and heater.  I will have to post final pictures later.  We still have some organizing to do to make it flow easier and appear less cluttered, but at least I can find and use stuff that has been in storage for a few years.  We sold and gave away a truck AND a 12 ft. trailer load of old furniture and junk.  Now our old storage building is a workshop for tools lawn equipment and such.  It is neat and we can walk and reach everything.  That gives my minimalist husband peace of mind. 
     I have been looking at our stuff differently lately.  I ask myself, "what good is this doing me or my family?"  If it is collecting dust and causing me more work to keep it, I put it in the box to find a new owner.  I am seriously working on simplifying our lives.  What decisions have you made lately that has made your life easier?  What tips can you share to help others de-stress their lives.  I pray we all let go of things that hold us back and cause unnecessary work in our lives. 
May God Bless you and I hope you have a Happy New & Simpler Year,
Marla B.