We can officially build

We have obtained the building permit!  We slaved over these plans. We stressed. We worked until they were PERFECT.  We went into planning and zoning completely anticipating they would make us go back and get an architect to sign off on them, which basically would have been someone singing off on what an engineer had originally made that we modified slightly. 

They handed C some papers to fill out, asked him some questions, we wrote a check, and they handed us a building permit. We have to have our electric inspected so we have to fill out all of that paperwork too, but WE HAVE A BUILDING PERMIT!!! 

C’s reaction: “building permit quest complete. New level obtained.  100,000 exp points gained” 

   

The new puppy

We now have a new puppy.  We decided now was the best time to get one if we want it to be old enough to defend the flock next spring.  There was a guy living about an hour away who had a littler of “ooops” Great Pyrenees puppies.  They were so cute and really inexpensive.  I wanted to get a puppy from a rescue center or shelter but we aren’t exactly the prime candidates for them.  Even though we are building our home we don’t actually own our own home yet, we rent where we are staying.  We don’t have a visible fence because the fence is around the 75 acres.  We also plan on having the dog sleep outside when it gets older.  It wont be chained up but it’s going to be a farm dog with a job and many of the shelters and rescue centers think dogs should only be inside companion dogs.  We aren’t going to lie to get  dog either.  We chose to look at the dogs this guy had because they were inexpensive and they were also ooops puppies.  I would much rather get a puppy that was an accident than give money to a breeder who obviously does it for profit.

puppy 1 puppy 2

The puppies were a little over six weeks old.  They had three boys left, although one of them had some pretty severe hip dysplasia, which C taught the guy about and showed how you can feel for it on the puppies.  We got the alpha male of the group.  He was definitely larger and had eaten more than the others.  C said that we wanted some alpha qualities in a farm dog, not for him to be the alpha because that’s us, but to have alpha over the other animals.

He did really well on the drive home, looked out the window a lot, and even slept some.  He went potty outside before bed and held it all night.  He did have accidents on the carpet this morning though, but he’s still very young so I don’t expect him to be as good as he has been.  He’s a pretty chill puppy too.  He sleeps a lot (which is expected for being so young), plays, loves his chew toys, and is so far pretty good with the kids.  He slept with our 5 year old all night.  He also follows me around.  He’s really cute.  We have yet to come up with a name for him.  We were thinking either Sampson, Thor, Bear, Sue, or Baron.  I am really liking Sampson.  We are going to give it some time before we chose a name, see what fits his personality best.  Oh, and he’s also afraid of the chickens, although they are bigger than him at the moment.  He’ll get better.

Daydreaming and role models

I don’t have much time during the day for things like daydreaming, so unfortunately I daydream at bad times, like when I am driving (which causes me to turn when I mean to go straight, oops), or when I am talking to people (which is really bad because my mom says I am not as good at multitasking as I think I am and have a hard time formulating coherent sentences when I have so much going on in my head). I just have so much going on right now and I need to daydream to keep it all straight (because my daydreams are mostly figuring things out for the future).

Right now I am trying to figure out our brand. What exactly do we want the farm to stand for and how to we get this out to people and make sure that the steps we are taking are the correct steps in this process. Well, we know that our main stance is to help people break away from the corporate greed that has so many of us enslaved. Currently I would say we have large companies that control the wealth of the country, and because they control the wealth they also control the government and every aspect of it. These companies are insurance, pharmaceutical, packaged foods, oil, utilities, and banks to name a few, I am sure I am missing some but these are the big ones. We dish out most, if not all, of our money every month to almost every single one of these guys. Very few people do not have one of these industries taking money out every month. We want to help break this cycle by showing people how they can lower their carbon footprint. The second thing we want to do is show people that eating an “organic” lifestyle doesn’t have to be expensive. We pay more for food that is good for us because we think we have to, but we don’t. The third thing we want to do is show people what good food really is. What different food labels mean, why it’s important to be able to visit the farms that grow your food. I encourage people to visit our farm, see what goes into the soil, how the chickens are raised, what the cows eat, whatever they need to see to make them feel better. We shouldn’t have to hide what we are doing, If we do then we know what we are doing is wrong.

This also got me thinking about my role models in this field we are getting into. The two that stuck out in my mind the most are Ed Begley Jr. and Joel Salatin. When I was first introduced to the work of Ed Begley Jr he was always being portrayed as the crazy environmentalist actor who runs his kitchen appliances with a bike. I am very impressed with his work though. I am impressed that he can step away from the life a “traditional actor” would lead to follow a position he feels very strongly about. He lives in a modest house with renewable energy sources, drives an electric car, and even rides a bike to the Academy Awards. He has books and gives talks about the importance of maintaining a low carbon footprint. Heck him and Bill Nye are competing for who can have a lower carbon footprint. That’s so cool.

I know I have talked about Joel Salatin before but he is definitely my role model in building the food part of the farm. I greatly respect his ideas that a farm should build on itself, and that animals should be animals. If you take care of your farm the right way there really should be no need for non organic soil additives, mass produced chicken feed, even silos. Everything on his farms builds on each other. The cows “mow” the grass, his chickens eat the bugs in the grass that the cows “mowed” for them, It’s all very cool.

What we want to do is take these same ideas and mesh them together with the idea that neither one has to be expensive.  We dont care about being a million dollar farm, or build a $200,000 home because our goal isn’t how much money we make or spend, it’s how many people we help.  If we can show people that they can build a house with a low carbon footprint and renewable energy sources and grow or buy  really good natural food while living at or below the poverty line then we have reached our goal.

I would love to hear these two speak in the near future, but more than that I would love to meet them someday. When I say I want to meet them I don’t mean in a “I’m gonna stand in line and spend a second shaking their hand or having them sign a book” kind of way. I mean that I would like to meet them because we are involved in some sort of activist thing together. Be that a talk, or a film, or whatever. I want to meet them as a colleague, not just a fan, if that makes any sense. I want to publish books and give talks, and have real conversations with people who are already in it. This gets me excited. This is what I have wanted to do my whole life. Now I just have to get our building permit….

Who needs the gym

I am not a workout person.  I tried joining a gym when I was in college.  I went once.  I have been thinking about working out ..again? or at all? since having the baby.  The thought of it makes me cringe though.  Last night however, as I was working in the garden I came to the realization that this is an excellent workout, actually running a homestead in general is a workout, constantly.  Who needs to spend $30 or more a month on a gym membership when they can grow their own food and get the daily workout for free?

In the past two days I have finally built my chicken run and moved some of my chickens into it.  The run has to be moved every day to ensure the chickens get adequate nutrients and aren’t living in their own filth which can make them sick.  The run itself is upwards of 75-100 lbs and i have to lift and drag it about 6 feet every day.  Some of our roosters are about fryer size so we may also start taking down some of the bigger guys.  Have you ever killed, plucked, and processed multiple chickens in a day?  Its hard work.  My arms and back are killing me by the time I’m done.

Then there is the garden.  Everyday we go out and pick everything we have and check on what isn’t ripe yet.  It’s probably at least 30 minutes of squats.  Then I do another 30 minutes of weeding.  We bought a hoe which makes weeding SO much easier.  Last year we weeded without a cool tool and we hated it.  In fact, I don’t think we weeded at all after June.   I go through the garden and hack apart all the larger weeds with the hoe.  It’s quite a workout on both the arms and the legs.  Add in chasing after the kids and housework and It’s no wonder I am tired all the time.

Once we get the house done, or done enough to be able to start putting animals out on the farm, we will be getting our milk cows and goats.  That will add that much more work.  Plus there is the processing of all the food we bring in.  It’s hard work but it’s totally worth it!!

Talking about being tired, i think it’s a two coffee morning.

Living as a Community

One of the most important things I find about the homesteading lifestyle is the importance of working together to help each other achieve your goals.  I think in life we don’t help each other enough, but as a homesteading community altruism is a much more desired trait.  There is a lot more trading of goods and services than you would ever find in everyday life.

A perfect example of this is our good friends A.J. and Aimee.  They have been homesteading for much longer than I have (I would say we but C grew up homesteading).  They have goats, chickens, ducks, and even a very friendly pot bellied pig.  They also have one of the largest backyard gardens I know of.  They have helped mold my views on affordable food prices as well.  In years past he has set up in small farmers markets with some of his goods and I have come away with loads of potatoes, peppers, carrots, onions, and kohlrabi all for about $10. Their aim is that real, organically, home grown produce can cost the same as the crap you get a walmart or kroger.  You can and should be able to eat well without going broke doing it, which is exactly what we are doing.  In the past few years he has taken his pepper business to the extreme.  He grows some of the hottest peppers in the world, along with the rest of his garden, and sells them online.  It’s a pretty amazing business.  If you like hot peppers check out his site: Peppers by Mail.  Mention you found him because of us!!

  
C loves hot peppers.  He finally was able to grow habaneros this year which he is very excited about.  He was going to buy some plants from A.J. this year so he could grow the hotter peppers but they went fast and we were unable to obtain any.  That’s where the “working together to help each other” awesomeness comes in.  We have about 24 squash plants and 12 zucchini plants.  Needless to say we have an overabundance of yellow squash and zucchini.  They were unable to grow their squash and zucchini this year but really wanted some.  So we struck a deal!  We are now doing a produce exchange once a week.  They are giving us red potatoes, onions, carrots, and occasionally the hot peppers (like they did today), and we are giving them squash, zucchini, honey, and anything else they want out of our garden.  It’s a great deal and allows for homesteaders to be able to focus on fewer types of plants yet still get a good variety.  it’s really important to utilize your strengths yet still help others around you.  Imagine what would happen if C and I were stingy and kept all the squash and zucchini for ourselves.  I think we would probably get really sick of them pretty fast. 

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More meal planning

Now that summer has officially hit and we are starting to harvest some of our garden crops I am once again really excited about meal planning.  We have been doing really good at planning our meals and staying within a $150 budget for 2 weeks, however…. things are about to get real!

We splurged a bit this week and spent $60 at lucky’s.  We bought 2 nights worth of teriyaki steak kabobs for $16!  I nearly had a heart attack until C reminded me it was for 2 nights.  We also bought the milk, cream, and buttermilk that we prefer but can’t justify buying because it’s almost twice the price of the cheap stuff but it’s so much better for you because it’s low-temp pasteurized and un-homogenized.  You can definitely tell a HUGE difference in that vs the cheap stuff.  We also bought butter, oatmeal, veggies that we need that we either aren’t growing this year or havent come in yet.  We got cabbage, bananas, sweet peppers, and organic onions and potatoes.  We have decided we are no longer buying root vegetables that are not organic.  We really want to get the most out of our food and until we either are growing everything we need or can buy all organic we are slowly moving towards what we feel is most important, and after reading about the soil quality of potato farms after the dirty dozen list came out we decided to make the change.  We also bought some spices, cheese, and drinks for us.

Today C is going to the restaurant store.  He is buying yeast, flour, corn meal, butter, and cheese.  My guess is he will be spending about $50.

Here are our meal plans for the next 2 weeks:

Dinners:

bean stew MON 1
teriaki beef kabobs with rice and naan TUES 1
pizza WED 1
chili THURS 2
buffalo chicken cornbread with blue cheese salad FRI 2
cornbread sliders with green beans SAT 2
spinach and mushroom quiche SUN  2
calzones MON 2
Chicken enchiladas with rice and salsa TUES 2
baked cabbage and ground beef WED 2

Breakfasts:

frittata, fruit oatmeal, omelete, fruit pancakes, scrambled eggs, breakfast burrito, pork buiscut sandwich

Lunches:

chicken sandwiches, feta and spinach fritters, steak sandwiches, curried chicken salad, stir fry veggies with rice, veggie roll ups, leftovers, homemade fish sticks

and snacks:

Bananas, banana bread, zucchini bread, oatmeal cookies, veggies with homemade ranch dressing, cheese cubes,

Now I know what you are probably thinking: “Wait a minute, you didn’t buy a lot of those things”, and you are right, but as you may recall 1) we are growing a lot of our own food 2) we have been slowly buying bulk meat and putting it in the freezer, and 3) we have both meat and egg chickens.  I have also been figuring out a preliminary dinner plans for the NEXT 2 weeks:

here is my shopping list:

restaurant store: yeast ($2), olive oil ($16), steak ($35), cheddar cheese ($12) = $65

lucky’s/ kroger: fish ($5), onions ($5), peppers ($4), chocolate chips ($3), kale ($2), raisins ($3), potatoes ($5), lettuce ($5), beans- dried black and pinto ($4), cream ($8), milk ($4) = $48

Now these things may change because I’m not sure we will need cream, and i’m going to try to find steak for cheaper than $35, and I tend to overcompensate for the price of things so that if C decides to splurge on a few things I’m not freaking out.  So right now we are looking at about $110 for 2 weeks of food.  and this is what it looks like:

thai curry fish with rice THURS 1
chicken tikka masala with rice FRI 1
stuffed pablano peppers with beans and rice SAT 1
rolled steak with cucumber tomato salad SUN 1
grilled cheese with zuppa toscana MON 1
ranch taco salad TUES 1
beef stew with beans and veggies WED 1
stuffed cabbage rolls with fried green tomatoes THURS 2
pizza FRI 2
chicken pot pie SAT 2
veggie fajitas SUN 2
green beans with pork and fried green tomatoes MON 2
grilled cheese with homemade tomato soup TUES 2
tortellini WED 2

I dont know about you but i’m pretty hungry now.  The beans slow cooking on the stove aren’t helping.  yummmmm

On The Road Again

Tomorrow we pack up all 4 kids again and head out in the early morning to make the 3 hour drive back down to C’s parents to finish up the list of stuff we didn’t finish the last time we were there. This includes finishing the plumbing, moving our bee hive (which after tonight will have a stand on our property!!), and picking up more chickens. We were going to also harvest his parent’s hive but with all the rain in the past three weeks or more the bees haven’t been as busy as they normally would have been so we may have to hold off on that. We were going to leave tonight but we would get in really late and I have an appointment that wont be over until after 9.

I’m always a bit nervous about bringing all the kids. We don’t get to see them often so we don’t like to go on weekends that we don’t have all the kids, but at the same time that’s four rambunctious kids in a tiny home. It can be a bit overwhelming to say the least. It doesn’t help that the 10 year old really wants to help on the farm so the 5 year old (who has CP) wants to go too but cant because he isn’t mobile enough to do it himself and nobody can carry him. We need to figure out something for him, especially once we get our farm going, because it isn’t fair that he has to miss out on everything. He gets really upset sometimes, especially when his big sister gets to do something and he doesn’t. I guess once we get everything else figured out we can start working on a system for him.

Hopefully we can get everything finished this weekend that we need to. We need to make sure we dont forget the screen and cage this time…..

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The Great Chicken Massacre

Around the same time we purchased our 10 laying hens A bought 50 Cornish Rock chicks to slaughter. Our hens grew up with them and I helped take care of them because of that. Fast forward now almost four months later and here we are. Its time for the slaughtering of the chickens. We have been slowly taking down about 10 a day about twice a week. I became certified to slaughter chickens to sell last year but haven’t had an opportunity to actually slaughter any until now. These wont be sold but I still got some great practice in, and i’m now super excited to slaughter mine in another 4 months. Which i figured out wont be until November or December, which isn’t ideal but its better than nothing. Next year I’ll have to order them earlier in the year. I’ll also order 50 next time (if I like them).

I think the hardest part for me is actually killing the chickens. She doesn’t have a stunner (which knocks them out before you kill them). I think I’m going to have C buy me one before November so I’m not as squeamish about it. I really don’t like the idea of killing something while it’s conscious. We first put the chickens in some sort of a cone. She uses old detergent bottles that have been completely cleaned. know a lot of people use traffic cones. You stick the birds in upside down, then shock them and slit their throats. Once they have bled out you either skin them or scald them in boiling water for a few seconds to loosen the feathers and pluck their feathers. Once that is done the other person takes over and takes out their insides. A keeps the heart and gizzards while we take the livers. C really likes some fried liver. I haven’t had any yet. We will fry some up soon though. Then we throw them in a cooler of ice water until we are done and can take them back to the house to put in the fridge for a day or two before finishing the processing and vacuum seal them and throw them in the freezer. A is giving us a few for helping her process them all. She also has another 50 to do in another 4 months.

She does hers very differently than we do ours but they are still better than what we get at the grocery store, and a lot cheaper. Ours are pasture raised. We are putting together our run in the next few days so I’ll post pictures of that once we get it up. The way it works is you move it once a day to the next section of pasture so they aren’t in their own feces for longer than a day and they get fresh bugs and grass every day. I like this method better than any other.

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Rainy Day Blues

I have been really sluggish lately. I’m not sure if it’s the amount of rain and mold we have had the past two weeks, the stress of not having things with the house in order like we wanted to by now (waiting for the rain to stop so we can do an accurate perc test and my architect is no longer answering my phone calls), the loss of the dog, or having the kids home all day every day that is really wearing on me. Whatever it is I have no desire to get off the couch lately. I do get off the couch because we have to. As one of my mentors says “the cows have to be milked” meaning no matter what is happening, how you feel, who died, etc, things HAVE to get done, life has to go on. If you don’t and you let things go you spend that much more time getting it back. It’s a downward spiral that you just don’t want to get started. I think my solution to this will have to be to make myself a to do list and really work on getting it done. Today I need to wash all the dishes (there are maybe 10 dishes in the sink so that’s not a huge deal), put away the load of laundry in the dryer, do some actual work, straighten the living room, check on the garden, and take down baby girls crib and set up her pack and play. The crib is too big for our current room and changing it out for the pack and play will allow me enough room to start unpacking some of my work stuff. That seems like an overwhelming amount of stuff to do but most of it is easy stuff that can be done when the baby and baby girl go down for their naps, which thankfully is very soon. My day so far has been spent chasing around baby girl and cleaning up her pee messes because she still refuses to wear a diaper but wont use the potty. Yay me! please pray we will both survive her potty training and that I can get out of this funk soon.

WE GOT THE PLAT!!!

We picked up the plat today.  We should be signing the documents that will make this land ours in the next few days (he had to have it separated from his land).  Which means we can 1) get the sewage permit and 2) get to have our own address and mailbox soon!!  This has been an area of major stress over the past few months, especially in the past month.  YAY!!!  this makes me so happy.