Calves, Journal Style Posts

Very Bad Day on the Homestead (warning dead snake pictures)

So, Saturday was just a typical blazing HOT day in Oklahoma. I went out to give the calves their sweet feed (basically treats that supplement the grass they graze on) and I was walking towards the small gate I normally walk through because I don’t like using the large gates because I am small and they are a few hundred pounds and well, I don’t want to be plowed over by excited baby cows.

Anyway, I was about 4 feet away from the gate when I realized that something had wrapped around my foot and I jumped to get it off of me and realized very quickly qhat was on my foot was now under my foot. NOT GOOD, Not good at all. Yep, my dumb ass walked to the corral wearing flip flops and ended up stepping on a snake. I ALWAYS look down when I walk specifically for this reason. I saw the snake and made a mental note of coloring and such. Tan-ish green back with a yellow belly and round eyes. I looked at my foot where I felt it bump into me, wiped off some dirt and the snake I had stepped on zoomed off to the area behind the garage. I assumed I hadn’t been bitten.

I fed the calves and was informed that I was bleeding by the kiddo helping me. She was freaking out so, I checked both sides of my Achilles tendon and sure enough I saw blood.

After I got inside and got it cleaned up
Little Fucker bit me twice
Before I had a chance to clean it

Before you assume I’m absolutely insane, I didn’t feel it bite me. Zero pain. It was a yellow bellied racer, a non-venomous, harmless snake. They eat mice, lizards, and small reptiles like toads and frogs. One of the first things I did when we moved to Oklahoma was to learn to identify the snakes. I am not a fan of snakes at all. Hubby did freak out. He immediately went looking for the snake and of course a King snake was spotted near the garage side door and zipped out of there quickly and avoided death by shovel.

Hubby also immediately started mowing a pathway away from the little gate because the grass near the little gate is dead and snakes blend well in dead grass. So he mowed some of the green grass low enough for me to comfortably walk through to get to the gate that is the size of a driveway because he’s terrified I’m going to get bitten by something venomous. We have cottonmouths, rattlesnakes, pygmy rattlesnake and copperheads along with a plethora of other snakes.

I went to put the chickens away and heard the telltale sound of a rattle. My coop is dark and unlit now that the temperatures aren’t dropping below freezing. I had hubby come help me because I can’t kill anything and I didn’t want a snake killing my chickens or myself. I was not thrilled to see the type of snake once it was out in the light where it could be seen because it was a rat snake (nonvenomous and harmless, but they can rattle like a rattle snake.) Stop here if you don’t want to see a dead snake.

That round lump is an egg. I have been getting less eggs than normal lately and now I know why.
The shovel is a little over 4 ft and my darling husband chopped off the head entirely when this dead snake was still trying to bite. You can clearly see the egg it stole before it decided to fake rattle.

So, that’s 3 snakes in one day and one bit me, twice. I’m up to date on all of my shots, I just got a tetanus shot last year when I cut my leg on some rusty barbed wire so, no medical care needed. I just need to treat it like a puncture wound and keep it nice and clean. If that were the end of my nightmare of a weekend, it would still be a nightmare. Nope, not the end. Today, I went to get feed for the calves and some nifty buckets that hook onto the stall fencing and I went to feed the girls and enclose them in the smaller, well lit area with the stalls. Stepped off the back patio and found the ONLY hole in that section of the backyard. The sound my ankle made caused hubby to whip around and with a blank stare, he immediately asked, “How bad did you break it? Do you need help to the truck?” I am still shocked it isn’t broken. It made this awful crunching popping sound that was so loud. It hurt really badly for about a minute and then it stopped. I have broken enough bones in my lifetime to know that it’s not broken just because I can put weight on it and it isn’t bruised, several hours later. It’s a little swollen and the soft tissue is a little tender, but nothing is broken. I hope my new boots get here soon because I can’t be walking around in tennis shoes or flip flops anymore.

I normally wear Dr Martens for everything, but with the no shoes inside rule, it’s a major pain in the butt to unlock and then lace these things up every time I go outside and they don’t look right at all with shorts. I ordered a cute pair of Ariat Fat Baby boots. These are the exact pair . They have actual grip on the soles and they won’t come up to my knees. So, they won’t look absolutely ridiculous with shorts. Also, they are super easy to slip on and off and they are comfortable. I ordered a pair with steel toe and a pair without steel toe. (The steel toe pair has purple instead of blue and actually come up mid calf instead of being short boots.)

I’m not a big fan of “cowboy boots” because they never have any grip on the soles and I need that grip. Also I have wide flat feet and with most brands, I have to go up 2 full sizes before I can even get the boot on my foot. This style is amazing and super comfy right out of the box. That’s pretty amazing in itself because leather boots are the absolute worst shoes to break in. (I usually get them sopping wet and wear them until they are dry (two pairs of thick socks) but these are actually comfortable right out of the box. So, if you are looking for a comfy pair of boots (this is my second and 3rd pair of Ariat FatBaby boots) I highly recommend them. No insoles needed because they come with good insoles in place. I am looking for a place to get my old pair re-soled because they are really that comfortable. I love my Docs, but these are far more comfortable and provide great support for my arches and my pathetic ankles.

Pajamas and flip flops….

The girls are doing great. They have been released and absolutely love grazing on the 8 or 9 acres of green grass every morning. They come running when they see me walking towards the corral because they know I have treats. We lock them in the corral area every evening and I am hunting high and low for a dokey to help keep them safe from coyotes. They tend to stick close to the stalls during the hottest part of the day because they have plenty of cold water and the stalls provide some much needed shade. There are a handful of shady spots around the property, but they haven’t fully explored the whole 8-9 acres available to them. The whole property is 10 acres, but I don’t know the exact amount they have fenced off for their use. I am honestly not even sure how to measure it. During my search for a donkey, I keep coming across pygmy goats and I keep trying to convince hubby that I need them. He hasn’t quite gotten to the point where he agrees with me, but he has talked about how he would keep them contained for me once he does decide that he’s ready to build them a home.

The flock of chickens are the very first chickens for him and the calves are a first for both of us. He’s starting to warm up to the idea of having a “mini farm” as he puts it. He is still dead set against pigs unless it’s a potbelly pig and a pet. He’s had one of those before and I don’t think he has it in him to help raise a pig just to eat it. They have way too much personality and they are too much like dogs in his mind. I swear I married a big old softy who refuses to admit it. He always talks about the turkeys and deer that cross our property and talks about getting tags for the deer and hunting both the deer and the turkeys, but we’ve been here for years and I don’t see him ever even getting a hunting license because I don’t see him being able to take their lives. I think he’s content just knowing they are there. He will take down a coyote with no hesitation though. They are a threat to our animals to include Miss Mia. I think that’s the difference between the coyotes and animals like deer and turkeys.

Anyway it’s late and I need to ice my swollen ankle and attempt to sleep like a normal human. Until next time…

Calves, Journal Style Posts

Calves

So I have had my girls for 3 days now and I have been socializing them as much as possible because I want them tame and friendly when they are at 1,000 pounds and able to trample me in an instant.

They don’t have names yet because I just haven’t decided on names. They are going to eventually be in my freezer, but they will be the most spoiled heifers ever to exist. I will make certain of that.

Day 1

Day 1

They are confined to the stall area until they learn to come when I call them. Then they will have free reign of the property and will be called back to the stalls each evening.

They have water inside of the stall they seem to stay in for most of the day as well as a HUGE stock tank outside of the stalls but still inside the fenced in area where they are being held at the moment.
Day 2
Day 2
Day 2

On the second day, I got to pet them both. They are still super skittish, but getting used to the crazy lady who brings yummy cubes.

Day 3
Day 3

They are tagged, have the insect repellent tags on their other ear, and they have been branded (the brand is for the guy we bought them from and if they somehow get loose, the entire town knows his brand and he will return them to us.) They have been vaccinated and vetted and I didn’t have to do any of those things thankfully. I am not physically able to hurt an animal. I just can’t do it. When the time comes for slaughter, they will be loaded onto a trailer and then I will get back boxes filled with white paper packages.

I honestly wouldn’t be able to handle seeing them slaughtered or anything of that nature. I don’t eat meat so, I am basically making sure that hubby eats the most well loved and well cared for beef. I am okay with this because I would much rather cook beef from an animal that was able to play, run free, wasn’t confined to never see the sun, and was treated with love.

They are approximately 3-4 months old and one is 250 pounds (the slightly fluffy one) and the other is 300 lbs. They are black Angus heifer calves and they are so scared of me. They are coming around slowly though. I was head butted while being thoroughly sniffed for more cubes today so, I will consider that progress. I look forward to them running to me when I call them and getting ridiculously excited for cubes. They will be grass fed, but cubes are treats. I am still deciding between grass finished and grain finished, but I have plenty of time for that. We are already lining up hay, alfalfa, and Timothy hay bales to be delivered in the late fall when the grass is no longer available. They will be completely spoiled rotten by me and I will love them until it’s time for the next calves to arrive. I am hoping for bottle calves next time. They are even smaller and it will be much easier to have them tame and friendly because I will be bottle feeding them.

They fight over cubes.
Day 3

I brought some chickweed to them as well since they are confined and it’s quite hot today. They inhaled it and of course wanted more. They have plenty of grass to munch on until tonight when I bring them their other serving of cubes and some more chickweed. I give them half of their daily serving of cubes fairly early in the day and the other half just before the sun fully sets. Full tummies before bed seems ideal to me. Until next time….

Calves, Journal Style Posts

Prepping For Calves

In our corral area, was basically half of a tree that we had cut down last year because the tree had cracked in half. Well, it needed to go because hubby decided to give me my birthday present early, two heffer calves. I didn’t know the difference between a heffer and a cow before this happened. Therefore, I will take a moment to explain the difference. A heffer is a female cow that had never calved, a cow is a female that has calved. I am learning things 😂

The branch started where you see the cut on the tree to the left.
The branch (it was half of the tree) tookup the entire area and the grass was almost 4 ft tall.
Cleared out the fence line where the frost free hydrant is located.
This was the before picture
All cleaned up and ready for calves.
This is the 102 year old dairy building right next to the corral area. Pay attention to the hole in the brick

I love finding nests in strange places. I will be taking pictures of the calves when they are delivered. They are being vaccinated and vetted before they are delivered by a friend of hubbys. Until next time…..

Gardening, Journal Style Posts

Covid-19 Quarantine Day # 46 (2020)

I have been slacking I know. I am so bad about keeping up with writing. I have been home since March 1st, 2020 and no one is allowed over. The handful of people who get eggs from me are picking them up with zero contact. I place them in a plastic bag on the porch and they return washed egg cartons in a plastic bag on the porch. I have had zero human contact aside from hubby. We are kid free and that has been a huge adjustment, but I am enjoying the quiet and peaceful time with hubby.

Remember my posts for Emergency Preparedness kits? If you followed the instructions and created one, I hope it has helped you out during this time. Since most of us are home, now is the time to prepare even further. Did you know that the drought affected the bean crops last year or that Oklahoma almost lost the wheat crops from a hard freeze and unseasonable snow? I already expect food prices to go up. So, if you want to spend less at the grocery store, plant a garden. It’s not hard. Really. If you suck at growing plants and are anything like me, you kill plants. I have a solution for that too.

I have multiple seed trays in my kitchen sprouting up right now. I have lettuces and spinach planted in planter boxes on the front porch. They will get the morning sun, but they will be protected from the mid/late afternoon scorching sun because of how my house is situated.

The two above planter boxes are filled with lettuce and spinach. I have since swept the seed pods for the trees up and have already laid a lot of them at the back of the property in an area we don’t mow because I have milkweed planted there for the Monarch Butterflies that pass through each year.

Oklahoma is fairly green right now. We did have snow on Monday night over to Tuesday morning, but everything is still nice and green.

Now, here’s how I started the seeds.
These very inexpensive little seed trays hold 72 seedlings each. I planted 2 and sometimes 3 seeds per each little pot. I watered them well and covered them up. They didn’t fit in my greenhouse window, but I have a grow light and once I switch them over to plastic cups they will have full accesstothat grow light. Right now they justhave my sunny kitchen greenhouse window giving them light on the counter. (I will reuse the same cups when I start seeds in the fall and next spring. This is why I chose plastic instead of paper.)

I sprayed them with water every single day, twice a day. I used a glass spray bottle. Not because I am against plastic, but all of my plastic ones have held cleaner at some point and I don’t trust them to not be contaminated.
These pictures were taken 3 days after I planted the seet trays. The two early sprouting sections are okra and cucumbers. Okra was first and it shocked me how fast it has grown. I have 3 different kinds of tomatoes in these trays. I planted cherry tomatoes (for salads), Roma tomatoes (for tomato sauce and tomato paste) and an heirloom variety of slicing tomato for sandwiches and hubby’s burgers. I also planted yellow squash, some herbs (different pots) chives (in a pot) Martin house gourds, zucchini, bell peppers, 3 kinds of cucumbers (I LOVE Cucumbers) some green beans that grow on a bush. I will plant snap peas and snow peas directly into the ground because they don’t transplanted well from my experience. I have pie pumpkins to plant around mid July, garlic & onion sets already planted. I will know if my asparagus survived soon enough. I have more seeds coming from Baker Creek. The one I am most excited about is baby bok choy. They are so tiny and cute. I also ordered peanuts for this year because I have tried multiple times to purchase green peanuts in the shell (goobers) from local farmers and every single one wants to see me green peanuts that have already been shelled. I can’t make boiled peanuts without green peanuts in the shell.

The tomatoes are at the bottom of the picture and cucumber is at the top. The cucumber is just about ready for transplanting to a plastic cup they are quite leggy. And I want to make sure they have plenty of strong roots. I will also begin placing a gentle fan near the plants to help harden them off. Oklahoma is rather windy and planting season is also tornado season so the seedlings need to be tough enough to survive come May when they go outside. The okra is very leggy too. Notice I planted way more than two people could possibly eat, I expect to have some plants die because I am a terrible gardener. 😂 If they somehow all survive, I can easily trade them for veggies or fruits that I am not growing this year. I can also freeze, pickle, or can excess. The green beans are starting to sprout as well.

Now, these pots are herbs and chives. I have what I use the most in these pots. One is oregano, one is chives, one is cat nip because my kitties love their nip, and one is chocolate mint, which is for my tea. Once I get the multiple aloe plants out of my kitchen, I will plant basil, marjoram, and maybe another kind of mint or something else for my teas. In the cup is a cutting I got from one of hubby’s friends. We did a no contact egg drop off / trade for something having to do with welding and he has this amazing succulent in his flowerbed so, I  texted him and asked if I could have a cutting. It’s starting to root so, I will plant it soon. In the pot just out of frame is an aloe baby from last year. I have tons of babies that need to be separated and repotted from my giant aloe plant that I received from a friend in a ziploc bag and it was 3 inches tall when I received it. Now it’s HUGE. I will take pictures of it once I bring it back out to the back porch where it belongs. It’s not too happy about wintering in the mudroom.


This was hubby’s quarantine project. He welded a tire rack for the race trailer. It has a tray that sets in the empty spot on the top section, but I didn’t get pictures of that because I was busy planting seeds in seed trays.

I still have to decide where exactly I am going to put my garden this year because I filled the concrete block bed that is permanently attached to the house with flowers. The hose doesn’t reach that spot very well anyway and it is a lot of energy wasted with me dragging multiple 150 ft heavy duty hoses to reach it. The flowers I planted there are native to Oklahoma and include a type of daylily that is orange and multiplies every single year so I thin them out every fall and transplant them elsewhere to ensure they have plenty of room to spread out.

My roses from last year do not look like they will come back. I also want to get rid of the hideous bushes in front of the house because I hate them with a passion. They have these obnoxious things that grow straight up into the air and look like they haven’t been trimmed in years when this happens. If they flowered, I wouldn’t be so bothered by them, but they are just blah and ugly. Thet will be replaced with something that flowers. I wish Magnolia trees would stay small and make good bushes. I may put some kind of rose that grows like a vine or a big giant bush there. I have no idea. I will have to wait until it is safe to go to a nursery to find something lovely to put there.

I will do my best to remember to keep updating and writing. I always forget. Maybe I need to put WordPress on my homescreen of my phone to remember to keep updating.
Until next time…

Chickens, Journal Style Posts

First Eggs

I went out this evening to check water levels in the waterers before putting the flock to bed. I had about 45 minutes of light left before the sun fully set so, I went out to the coop. I opened the coop door and thank goodness I was paying attention because I found an egg on the coop floor. I immediately checked the nesting boxes, which are kitty litter buckets with the lid cut off at the hinged part. The remainder of the lid keeps the nesting material inside of the bucket when it’s laid on its side. Inside one of the nesting boxes was the second egg. I didn’t have my phone with me so, I grabbed both eggs and actually ran inside. (well, sort of ran) I showed hubby the eggs and he was just as shocked as I was to see eggs.

They are apparently large according to the members of the Homesteading groups I am in on Facebook. They weren’t dirty and they were just perfect and smooth with no weird flaws. The brown smears are mud from my hands because I grabbed the waterer before I saw the eggs and the waterer is always muddy because of the spot where I fill them being somewhat muddy.

I had purchased an adorable egg rack for the kitchen counter on Prime Day on Amazon and it arrived today as well. Absolutely perfect timing for it’s arrival.

My first two eggs fit perfectly in the rack. I plan on numbering or dating them with a sharpie as they do not need refrigeration unless I wash them. I want to make sure I know how old they are. The brown paper is unbleached parchment paper and covers the built in grill area of my ancient stove to keep crumbs and dust from gathering in that area, which means I don’t have to clean it daily. The other section is a ventilation fan and hot air from outside blows in through the vent so, I keep it covered to avoid the heat coming inside.

Hubby also brought me home two 55 gallon black plastic barrels today from work. I will have to clean and sanitize them of course, but they will become rain catchment barrels, which will become a gigantic chicken watering station once I get everything set up.

Friday is Hubby’s birthday and Saturday is race day, (he races Racesaver 305 Sprints) so, I will have to work quickly to get the coop cleaned up, new roosts installed as well as additional nesting boxes. I also have a roll of shade cloth that my lovely mother in law randomly brought me so I am going to create some shady spots for them to hang out under because it is just way too hot.

Hubby’s truck measures the heat index and he took this after his truck had been running for a few minutes and the air conditioning had cooled to ice cold. (It was reading much higher before the truck was running) this is just too hot to be out in the sun. The run has the entire top covered, which does create shade, but they hang out in the coop or under the coop door during the hottest part of the day. The coop does have a rather large window, which is covered in EXTREMELY thick fencing with square holes. It’s too big for rabbit fencing so, I think it’s called hog fencing. No clue honestly but it is nice and secure. I will shutter the window when colder temperatures start, but right now it creates a nice airflow and the temperature of the coop isn’t sweltering hot.

This is an old picture. We completely secured this piece of fencing with weird screws that have washers secured to the screw head. I have no idea what they are called, but they work great. We also attached a shutter so the coop doesn’t get soaked when it rains. I can easily run out and shut it within a minute or two and when we get strong winds, I shut it and make sure they are not being battered by the wind.

Originally I repurposed an old wooden ladder as roosts because the flock was still small. Now they are much bigger and they fight a lot over who gets to roost on top or on the paint can shelf of the ladder. Our solution is to take “L” shaped shelf brackets and use planks of wood we already have and have everyone roosting at the same height. No more fights about who is up higher.

These fights resulted in poor Chicken little ending up with a blood caked comb.

It scared me until I took a closer look and realized it was blood and dirt. Much to his dismay, I took him inside and gently cleaned him up with some warm water and a bunch of q-tips. I then applied Vetericyn (no purple dye), which is a first aid spray. (I sprayed it on a cotton round, not directly on him.) He’s all healed up now, but one injury is too many.

I have learned a lot about chicken first aid and like the Vetericyn spray much better because it doesn’t contain dye and it’s safer than Blu-kote from what I understand. I am not an expert by any means, but I do prefer to NOT have purple chickens.

He still crows a lot and still sounds rather ridiculous. I know when the UPS truck pulls in, I know when the garbage men come, I know when FedEx comes, I even know when the neighbor’s dog comes to pee all over our yard. He greets me and hubby every time we are outside. I know if I hear him crowing, something is going on outside and I peek outside to check on them. He is still snuggly and still adorable. I love them all.

Until next time….

Chickens, Journal Style Posts

Homestead Update

It has been nonstop busyness on the homestead. First a chicken update. The are getting so big and should start laying soon.

It has been extremely hot so, ai try to give the flock lots of fresh fruits and veggies with a high water content after they have had breakfast, which is regular flock grower feed. They love it and I know no one is going to dehydrate because of the high liquid content of watermelon. Now, to be clear, they don’t get a chicken smorgasbord every single day. They do get something to help hydrate and get them plenty of fluids. Some days it will be a block of ice with corn or berries, other days a tray of veggies and fruits. Every single day it’s really hot, I pop a frozen bottle of water into their waterers to try and keep it cool. I also freeze gallons of water and place them inside the coop so they can lean against the frozen gallons if it’s just too hot.

Sometimes, they just get half of a nice cold watermelon. (I slice the bottom so it sits flat and stays a bit cleaner.)When they are finished with their treat, it goes directly into one of the two compost piles that are inside of the run. This is their favorite activity because they can dig through these piles and discover all sorts of tasty little morsels. Everything from scratch grains that I raked up to juicy little insects. Grasshoppers are their favorite crunchy snack.If you have been keeping up with my blog, you know about the two accidental meat chickens. If you haven’t, when I bought my chicks from Tractor Supply, all of the straight run chicks were mixed together, meaning the straight run bin contained layers, bantams, and even meat chickens. I ended up with two accidental meat chickens, which were brutally bullied by the rest of the flock. One died of either heat exhaustion or her heart gave out and the other is living her best life in an extra large metal wire dog crate in my laundry room/mud room.She goes on a daily adventure outdoors for fresh air time and grazing time. This is what happens when I take her outside.

She’s very spoiled and very sweet. She wouldn’t survive the heat. We got up to 110° F (43° C) this week and she would have died in that heat because she would rather dehydrate than walk the couple of feet to get water. I keep a waterer with me when she’s outside and it’s moved around so it’s always in reach. Inside she has an ac vent right next to the crate and she has a piece of cardboard directing the airflow into the crate. The corner next to the vent is her favorite spot because she can watch me when I’m in the kitchen from that vantage point. She has also made friends with Fizzgig and Gizmo and Miss Mia goes to check on her every time she makes any noises. She’s officially a pet now and will never be food.

Other projects that have happened on the Homestead include sprouting seeds, grains, and lentils for the chickens. (and lentils for my own enjoyment)

I purchased these sprouting trays on Amazon and have been soaking everything in old sauce jars in the kitchen window.

I am even trying birdseed out of curiosity.

The next project will be fermenting the chicken feed. The reasoning behind fermenting involves multiple reasons. The first reason and the reason I know fermented chicken feed exists happened because it rained and the feed in the run got soaked. I wanted to be absolutely certain that it was safe for them to eat this wet feed. So, I dumped it out of the feeder onto a metal baking sheet after doing my research. While searching for an answer, I came across hundreds of posts about fermenting feed and I was intrigued.

What I learned was this, not only is it safe for chickens to eat wet feed as long as it isn’t moldy, fermented feed has a number of benefits when done properly. The chickens absorb more nutrients from the fermented feed and get probiotics into their system from the fermented feed, but it also saves money and cuts down on the amount of wasted feed from them kicking, scratching, and generally knocking feed onto the ground below the feeder. To ferment the feed, you fill a food grade 5 gallon plastic bucket a third of the way full, add water, stir, wait a bit, add more water, stir, and then loosely cover so it can release the gasses formed by the fermentation process (think of it like bread rising, the feed expands while absorbing the water.) Let it sit for 3 days and then feed to the flock. There’s a little bit more to it, but I will make another pot and I may take video so you can watch the process step by step.

I will leave you all with a picture of Fizzgig (white and gray) and Gizmo (calico) and the wonderful news that our youngest of seven kiddos graduated from high school on June 1st, 2019. He graduated with honors, president’s honor roll (3.5 to 4.0 GPA), and membership in the National Honor Society. We couldn’t be more proud of him.

Until next time….

Chickens

More Chicken Adventures

I have been so busy trying to keep the coop clean, keep the run clean, and finding ideas for shade for my chickens. So, I am going to share what I have learned.

First, Sweet PDZ is freaking amazing.

I purchased two bags from Tractor Supply (I bought all they had) and sprinkled about two cups in the problem areas of the coop I sort of mixed it into the bedding so it was spread from the floor to the top by the time I was finished. I was being attacked by flies, mosquitoes, and gnats while I was doing this. An hour later, I went back into the coop because I had to spread some fresh bedding before Cheep Cheep Bedtime. Oh my gawd. The difference was beyond amazing. The smell was gone, the flying annoyances were gone, and I smelled absolutely nothing except for the pine shavings. I will never be without this amazing stuff again. This bag was around $8.00 I believe. It worked so quickly to reduce odor and moisture.

I also built the flock a hidey hole.

My youngest kiddo helped by cutting half of the bottom of the barrel off and then filing down rough edges. Then, he drilled holes in the bottom in the 5 pattern on dice for drainage just in case rainwater blows into the hidey hole.

When that was completed, I washed the barrel thoroughly with soap and water and then dried it. I added a nice fluffy layer of fine cut pine shavings and sweet PDZ. Then we put it in place in the run and added a cinderblock on each side so it would stay in place and no rolling away. I think the best part is that perching on top of it is rather difficult because it’s both rounded and a smooth surface. They will eventually figure out how to perch on it, but for now, it will stay poop-free. I also added a nice flat rock in front of it so they had a bit of a step to get inside easier. A few jumped in and right back out, but they were all interested.

While all of this was being inspected, I scooped up Chicken Little for a quick snuggle. He was so mad at me when I put him down. I think I may have embarrassed him in front of all of his women.

While I was at Tractor Supply, I picked up the next two stages of feed, oyster shell for added calcium, two 5-gallon buckets so, I can start fermenting their feed, and another waterer because temperatures are rising in Oklahoma.

I also grabbed a bag of scratch grains because the run is pretty much just dirt now and I wanted them to have something to scratch for. I bring in oodles of weeds and grasses every day for them.

I made them a dedicated dustbath from a sprint car tire, which hubby was kind enough to fold in half for me because these tires are HUGE. This folded tire will not collect water at all. I have to get some sand, gather some ash from the fire pit, and add some peat, but it is getting there. They love the tire because it’s nice to perch on.

I raked the run and put everything into a pile, which they essentially compost for me because they dig through it and I rake it back up and then, this cycle is repeated until there’s nothing left except for soil.

They chase the rake back and forth through the run as I am raking because I usually end up causing grasshoppers to jump or worms to be above ground. They go absolutely crazy for grasshoppers.

At the end of each raking they have a fun pile to dig through to find bugs and other tasty bits.

I FINALLY GOT VIDEO!!! Chicken Little is developing his crow and he sounds like a squeaky toy when he crows and it is just freaking adorable. (This was taken before the run was raked so you can see just how messy it is)

They have so much personality and seem to love my phone. They are also very attracted to my mint green nails and constantly trying to eat them. My toenails were also amusement when I made the mistake of wearing flip flops one night to put them to bed. My toenails are Tiffany and Co blue so I’m guessing they looked tasty too because I had a lot of beaks pecking at my toes. I normally wear my muck boots or tennis shoes, but I was tired and too lazy to put on real shoes. Bad idea.

They also love to perch directly on my back or shoulders and peck at my hair ties. (Hubby mowed the yard the following day so it no longer looks like a jungle outside of the run)

We still need to finish mowing the property, but a storm was rolling in so he had to stop mowing.

I have a few more projects for the chicken run to include planting inside of the run so they always have access to fresh plant matter. This will help me because I wont have to collect weeds every single day for them to eat. I will be trying out a few different methods for planting inside of the run so, I will be sure to document the process. I am also going to attempt to transplant some bushes that are planted around the front porch to inside of the run. I know theh won’t eat these bushes and I am hopeful that they will take root and will be a nice place to provide shade for the chickens. If you haven’t noticed yet. My chickens are completely spoiled. I am doing everything possible to make sure they live happy, healthy lives while providing me with fresh eggs (they aren’t laying yet). I have been informed about bobcat, coyote, stray dog, hawk, owl, and raccoon attacks to friends with chickens who all live near me and they are all free ranging their chickens. I want mine to be completely safe so I am doing everything possible to keep them safe while also finding ways to provide them with fresh plants, plenty of crunchy bugs and squishy worms, and whatever else they need to have happy healthy lives. I don’t want them stuck in an existence of dirt and bedding so, I am looking for ways to plant inside of the run. I will be planting peas all around the run tomorrow so they will climb the fencing and the chickens can munch on fresh peas. I am looking for a way to do the same with other climbing plants so they have all sorts of tasty snacks at their disposal. Any suggestions for planting inside or right outside of the run are always welcome, just leave a comment or send an email.

Until next time….

Adventures, Chickens

The Coop Building Has Begun (Oops I forgot to publish this) from 2018

So, my whole body hurts and I am sunburned in weird places like the tops of my hands and the backs of my legs, but the chicken coop is starting to take shape. (Yes, I was nicely coated in sunblock and reapplied it several times, but I still burned.) Last weekend, we set the support posts into 3 foot holes, which I dug rather crookedly and we didn’t notice until after the posts were set.

I hate Oklahoma clay when digging is involved. Those holes may not look like much, but it was similar to digging through rock with a shovel. Hubby kindly explained, after I finished digging, that it’s easier to dig if you dump water in the holes. I worked really hard on those holes. It killed me when he told me just how crooked they were.

I mean, seriously, that’s a LOT of dirt. The wheelbarrow is bigger than I am when it leans against the garage. I am 5 ft. 1 in. In height. This was a huge accomplishment for me.

Hubby also decided I needed shade after taking one look at me. I became a lobster rather quickly. Those posts are shockingly level. The ground is not level, but the support posts are level.

Once the posts had a chance to settle for a few days, we started building the coop to line up with my crooked posts. None of us wanted to dig new holes. So, the walls went up first.

Remember how I said I was going to frame it with pallets, well Hubby decided that he was taking over my project and went out and bought a ton of plywood. Also, remember how crooked that cut on the compost tumbler door was, you will know exactly which parts I cut as you continue through the pictures. I was fully supervised with the power tools and saws freak me out. I wore my gloves and safety glasses because I don’t want splinters in my eyeballs.

As the walls went up, Hubby was walking around the coop slowly asking me how I planned on roofing it. I explained I wanted a slant roof with a slight overhang and a gap between the walls and roof, which I would close off from predators with construction fabric or this roll of fencing that has 1 inch square holes. This roll of fencing is extremely thick and he’s guessing it is meant for goats. He was thrilled I didn’t want a normal roof. I don’t think he wanted to try to frame out my crooked little square building.

See how uneven the ground is? He made the coop door for the chickens rather large. His reasoning was, what if two chickens want to leave at the same time? I couldn’t argue with that reasoning. Please, don’t panic about those gaps. The floor has not been built yet and this coop will be safe from predators. We are burying fencing almost 2 ft. out from the building walls and the floor will start with concrete pavers and then, plywood on top of the pavers secured to the walls with those L-shaped brackets used for industrial shelving. There are a few reasons behind this flooring design, but the main reason is to keep the inside of the coop dry. Because of the slope, rainwater would run right through the coop. With the concrete pavers, there will be space for water to flow through, but the coop floor will not get wet. The pavers we are using are almost 6 inches thick. They will also deter predators who manage to get past the fencing while digging. We will also be digging out the floor a bit to make it level prior to installing pavers.

I wanted a rounded top door, but once I tried cutting it with the jigsaw, I got maybe an inch cut and told hubby to make it a triangle. (I draw crooked too 😂 He was not happy when he realized I drew a crooked triangle for him to cut out) I’m not sure if you can see it, but each wall is two pieces of plywood, stacked on top of each other. This was necessary because the coop itself is about 5 1/2 feet tall. I can comfortably walk through the door, but everyone else has to duck.

The triangular topped door has some 2×4 boards as support because a plywood door is kind of flimsy. There are also 2×4 boards on the inside around the doorway because he wanted to make sure an animal couldn’t pull the door off easily. Also, the door will have to withstand Oklahoma winds, which can be 70 mph and higher. My neighbors were outside while we were building. (You can see their house, which is an acre away, in the 7th picture.) Her hubby will be over next weekend to assist and learn (He has never built anything either) because his wife decided she wants chickens over on her property. So, he’s going to help and then, when he starts building, we will help them because they are fabulous neighbors. We don’t have any other neighbors aside from a concrete prefabrication place (which is a little bit south of us, past her property and across the street from her and I have the School’s Agricultural Farm north of me.) So, we always help each other out whenever help is needed.

Hubby lined up the t-posts for the run just to see how big he wanted it. He wants it to go to the first tree right next to the nose of the truck. I know what you are thinking, that’s way too short of a fence for chickens and they will jump or fly over it. Not to worry, the run will be fully enclosed. I am taking pvc piping and arching it over the run area then, I have two dump truck covers (they are heavy duty mesh material) and they will go over top of the pvc arches. The run will be fully enclosed and the cover will provide shade because it is black. If you have no idea what I am talking about, think of a dump truck hauling sand, rock, or gravel, they have a tarp like cover over their load. That’s what I am using. Hubby brings me home the coolest things. He works on diesel engines so, he has access to some weird stuff, like dump truck covers that have minor fraying at the edges and are no longer deemed safe by the company. They throw them away or let mechanics take them for projects such as my chicken coop and run. He also brings me blue plastic 55 gallon drums, pallets, and I have a dump truck liner as well. (I am using that for another project.)

In between the coop and the shed that needs a new floor and some other minor repairs, I am building a greenhouse. Eventually, the shed will also be a chicken coop with both coops sharing a run. One coop for meat birds and the other for laying hens. I have all sorts of projects planned. They just take time and money so, I am building them slowly. I am extremely grateful I have a husband who can weld, has tools, and while he laughs at me because of how bad I am at building things, he is always willing to help me so, my projects end up being useful instead of junk. I couldn’t have done any of this without him. I couldn’t even lift a sheet of plywood on my own. The kiddos (two adults and a 17 yr old) are also willing to sacrifice their weekends to help their Momma. Their reasoning is, “Momma, you never ask for anything so, when you ask for help, we are all going to help you.”

Our 21 yr old daughter’s boyfriend was extremely helpful because he can lift plywood sheets and he was happy to help. He’s looking forward to helping with the fencing because he does fencing as a side job. So, it will definitely be done right since he knows how to build fences.

An unrelated update, the horses we were boarding have moved to their new home. Their dad bought 20 acres after falling in love with the quiet on our property. He was so excited about owning his own land, but promised to bring them by for visits when he takes them to the park, where the rodeos are held (it’s a beautiful set of arenas) because it’s free to use. He also promised to give them their favorite treat once in a while. (Brown sugar and cinnamon poptarts) Yes, they are junk food as far as horses are concerned, but they were skittish and would run from him every time he came to feed and groom them. Then, I gave them each half of my poptarts and he would pull in and they would be at the gate by the time he got out of his vehicle. They got excited to see anyone. They mostly got apples, carrots, pears from the pear tree, and other fruits and veggies, but on rare occassions, I would either hand him the poptarts if he was trimming hooves, or bring them out myself. They have turned into extremely social horses and never run from him anymore. They were lovingly spoiled while here. All animals are spoiled here because I can’t help it, I have to spoil all of the animals.

I will continue to post updates on the chicken coop and run until it is completed. Then, the greenhouse build, and the updates to the shed. I will be ordering chicks from the hatchery once the last freeze date passes. (Mid to late May) I will be posting oodles of pictures. I have to find a way to tell them apart because the hens and single rooster will have names. Any suggestions for identifying chicks and being able to tell them apart prior to feathering out? I thought about coloring a wing with food coloring, but I would need multiple colors and I would feel bad because that may be a shock to their little systems seeing their wing blue or purple or whatever. What do you name a chicken anyway? I thought about the seven dwarves, snow white, the queen, and the rooster as the huntsman, but my daughter wants to make one or two of them. We may name them after Harry Potter characters. I have still not decided on a breed either. Any suggestions for both extreme high temps and low temps? I want hardy chickens that can survive in snow. I will insulate the coop once it’s fully built.

Until next time….

Gardening, Journal Style Posts

The Homestead is Blooming

Remember those wooden shipping crates hubby brought home for me? Well, they are painted and have been planted.The salad blend is already sprouting. I planted this on Friday and it is Monday. I am so excited for fresh salad.I set aside two for benches for the front porch and this is one of the benches. The crates contained foam sheets because they were used for shipping windows and the foam protected the windows in transit. Well, a plastic coated tablecloth made the perfect cover. The benches are quite comfy.I have an entire bed dedicated to wildflowers and my lilies of course. The wildflowers are blooming, but I only have one bloom so far from the lilies.I love these. They are always some of the first to bloom each year.Not sure what these will be but they are everywhere to include the front yard.I took this picture because it always makes me happy to see this spot. This is where the air conditioning condensation overflow drains and I have a nice group of toads who love this spot because of the moss and the water. That hole in the middle looks shallow, but it is almost a foot deep with cool, clear water. There’s a 5 gallon bucket underneath this spot with holes drilled into the front in order to redirect the water away from the foundation of the house, which is basement walls in this spot. It works rather well and the spot retains that deep hole of water, which attracts the toads. I may create a fairy garden in this spot.I was very excited to find this in the wildflower bed because it is not something that I planted. This is bee balm and is also known as horse mint or wild bergamot. I left these where they were because I have a huge patch of it at the back of the property and I have a bunch currently drying for tea. Here are a few pictures I took when I started drying some I had gathered last week.I love finding ingredients for teas across the property. Fresh tea is so much better than boxed up little bags of chopped herbs and flowers that are who knows how old once you purchase them.

Chamomile, yet another flower for tea. (I planted these last year and again this year.)

A caterpillar was munching on this wildflower.

These are really tiny and grow in almost a tower formation, kind of like delphinium. I have no idea what they are called, but they are pretty.

Something was munching on these. I’m glad the caterpillars are getting fed.

A yellow wildflower in the Aster family.

This hasn’t fully bloomed , but it is cardinal flower. (I zoomed in so it looks much larger than it really is.)

This is everywhere in the pasture, but I found a lone plant in the wildflower bed. This is poison Hemlock. It’s pretty and is often confused with Queen Anne’s Lace (wild carrot). I have both growing on the property. I have to be very careful around this plant because I am particularly sensitive to the sap and it causes blisters to form on my skin almost immediately.

This lovely plant has been ripped out multiple times by my own hands and it just keeps coming back. It isn’t flowering, but it looks like a form of ivy and it definitely is not ivy. I let it grow because I thought it was ivy. Big mistake. This lovely aggressive little vine is actually mouse melon and it just popped up one year. The rabbits and birds love it so I try to tame it each year just enough to keep it from swallowing my bushes.

My solitary lily bloom.

This is the side of the garage. Every year, I dig up and transport these lilies to another spot and assume that they won’t come back again. Every year I find the side of the garage just like this.

Do you see the hornworm? (Hint hornworms are green)

I also finally got a picture of the tree branch we had to chop down with a chainsaw and a photo explaining why half of the tree had to go.

The half of the tree is currently drying out and the barn kitties have built little nests in the weeds and grasses under the branches. We will cut it into manageable chunks later.

It really was a huge chunk of tree.

So this is a hackberry tree. As you can see, it split down the center the section we cut down was to the right and the branches did not grow leaves when spring came. The section to the left is alive and well with plenty of leaves. The tree was hit by lightning and it split into two trees one died and one lived. We will eventually have someone come out and cut the entire tree down, but that dead section had to go before tornado season came. It was a threat to the dairy building, the garage, and the stalls. It’s down and no longer at risk of falling on anything. If the other side falls it will fall and hit another tree. No danger to buildings. We are looking into trees to plant for shade trees. (Hackberry trees suck so bad because they will completely dull a chainsaw blade.)

We also did the youngest kiddo’s graduation on Saturday and that was just insanity, with 1,204 graduates.

There were so many kids.

The crazy part was that this was only part of the class of 2019. The rest of them will participate in the second ceremony in Tulsa on Saturday.

Our youngest completed junior and senior year with Epic Charter Schools, which is an online homeschool program that falls under the public school system. He thrived in the program and I wish we would have pulled him out of brick and mortar schools sooner.

Until next time….