Chickens

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Eggs ready to sell tomorrow. It seems like every backyard farmer wants chickens, if you are planning on it look into it ALOT! Some people can do things very inexpensively and others have to buy everything, I had to buy everything for the coup they are in, and it ran around $2000. Part of the reason it cost so much was that I had one earlier that was thrown together but I couldn’t keep raccoons out of it and ultimately lost all my chickens. When my wife wanted chickens I said OK but it’s going to be expensive because I didn’t want to loose the birds to predators again, and I ran electricity to it for heated water in the winter and lights to see when it was dark.

Chickens are also very destructive if allowed out, we have had to change the way we let them range and it still isn’t perfect. The chickens had the whole back yard but they dug up my fruit trees and killed all the grass. A plastic safety fence was put up to keep them out but they cut through it. Since the green house they have been trying to dig it up. In the very near future I will put a more substantial fence to keep them out from my trees and the green house/garden area.

As stated earlier they are expensive, and yes we sell eggs and get chicken for the freezer. Now they pay for themselves for the most part but considering fencing and coup we are probably down to about $10 for a dozen eggs for our use, and they are broken. My math may sound strange but generally there are enough broken eggs for us to eat so I sell the ones that aren’t broken. Eventually we may come out in the black on the chickens.

As bad as I said they were we do enjoy having them, if your only reason to have a homestead or backyard farm is to make money your in the wrong business. Get chickens if you want them but they aren’t easy and be cautious with all the hype over chicken tractors, to work you need a good bit of land if they are on the ground, it doesn’t take long to tear up an area.

Feeding

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With creatures around there are always things to do in the morning, they will be waiting for you. These guys get let out during the day and I’m being accused of being late!

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We have had a horrible drought this year, I normally count on supplying the horses hay through the winter but they normally have field too. It is very important to have a back up on food including multiple sources if possible. It is easy to get all of your hay from one place but if they run out other suppliers will sell to their regular customers first. My primary supplier normally runs out in February but they ran out two months ago. I have my emergency hay that will get them into summer but I will be feeding more grain than what I would like.

Green House

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Years ago I got a pvc frame for a green house but didn’t get around to doing anything with it for years, here I was attaching the top cross beam.

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The ends are being framed up for the doors and for a place to attach the plastic.

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The doors are important, they are a bit of a pain just for the reason that they have to fit and hold up to movement. The doorway  was 48 inches so I made the door 48 inches, made the second door 47 and it worked better.

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Doors obviously need to be square, providing your door way is square, reinforcement is needed.

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Corners  being reinforced with plywood.

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One thing I almost forgot to say, I got the frame free, don’t buy pvc, it has to be covered so the plastic doesn’t touch it or it will void the warranty on the plastic, maybe it doesn’t matter but they probably react when together.

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Ends get covered first.

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Easiest way to do the ends is to screw or nail the door shut so it won’t move and cover it all at once then cut out the door later with the exception of the hinge side. Prior to covering the ends or sides dig a ditch to bury part of the plastic so the plastic should be a foot longer than just to touch the ground for that purpose, otherwise wind will blow in, heat will be lost and possible the green house all together.dsc_0029

Part of the plastic buried, no reason to dig in front of the door if you want to open it.

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Getting ready for the hard part, I have covered hundreds of green houses before but covering a house is never done with fewer than 5 people and I’m about to do it by myself, if a wind came (it has been windy), it could all be ruined. I also had to figure out a way to do it with out the plastic being held. If possible a person holds each corner while another person straightens the plastic and a sixth staples, but it’s just me.

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Got it on, notice the extra hanging off the end, it will need to be trimmed but one of the biggest mistakes made is cutting the plastic too close and not having enough to work with, excess can always be trimmed but it has to seal.

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There she is, once the top goes on you really need to seal the bottom immediately,  If a good gust of wind gets in it may cause big problems. The green house has more wrinkles than I would like but it’s not bad especially considering it was a solo job.

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First plants in the green house, kale, I sprouted it under a tarp, it has been freezing almost every night. It may be too late to start it, but I’m going to try. This is the floor of the green house, it needs more work.  Ultimately I would like to bring in more soil but this is what I have now.

This house is not in the ideal spot, I have my reasons for the location but if possible it needs to be where the sun hits it first thing in the morning. It should run east to west so most of the sun hits it on the side, this one does run east to west but my house blocks the early morning sun.

People often think that a green house will make big changes, it depends on what you mean, this house is really more of a cold frame than a green house meaning that it is not heated, heating is expensive, since it is not heated it will freeze inside at night. There are options however. I have heard from people up north, that they put barrels of water on the sides of the green house, the water acts as passive solar and kept the green house above 40 degrees F. even when it was below 0 outside.

You also have to worry about massive temperature swings, ideally someone would always be there if the green house isn’t going to be automated using fans and thermostats. I will have to be very careful to pay attention to temperatures. The doors will need to be opened on most days to keep it from getting over 100 degrees during the day just to freeze at night. When I leave to work I will have to open the doors sometimes.  Then, they really should be shut at 3:00 or so to maintain heat from the day, I’ll do what I can.

Bee hive

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Going into this year I had three bee hives, one was weak and two were strong. I did a split with the two strong hives this being one of them. Sadly there was a hive to the right of this one and it was actually my strongest and I got the most honey from it, but they left and the hive was taken down and put in the freezer to kill any possible parasites. The weak hive left in the spring leaving me with four through the summer, now I have three remaining, I hope they make it. At this time I have nearly 10 gallons of honey to put in jars for sale. Selling is one of my weaknesses, I do have one restaurant that buys from me but they don’t get much, so far I have sold 6 pints of honey.

Mill Creek Homestead, the Dream

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By no means am I much of a professional in regards to doing anything especially in the terms of blogging or homesteading. I have a dream like so many people and probably like everyone that may read this, the dream is to be free. It seems that most of the time those that we hear shouting “Freedom!” from the roof tops or to the media don’t have the slightest clue what freedom is about.

This is not going to be a political site even though I may voice my opinion from time to time about my frustration in the loss of freedoms we had, I believe that the greatest thing we can do to insure our freedom is to use it. One of the greatest ways we can exercise our freedom is by becoming as self sufficient as possible. One place that many of us can become less dependent on the outside world is with food production. Food production is where the homestead comes in.

Above is my horse Cyrus, (and no not named after Billy Ray Cyrus but Cyrus the Great, King of Persia), may tell you that I have more land than many people do and that’s true. My Homestead is nearly 55 acres but much of it was clear cut when I bought it 15 years ago, it didn’t have any structures or power to it, the road was rough and all of my cars had the bottom of the muffler ripped off. Eventually things did get built and it is still a work in progress. At this point I do have a few fruit trees, raspberries,  about 30 chickens, honey bees, and around 4 acres cleared off for fields but my two horses, Cyrus and Cate, clean them off. I do hope to clear off another 10 acres and leave the rest hardwood.

This year is the first year, being since July, that I have had the ability to start working on actual homesteading. I was a teacher before this with a big commute and lots of changes taking me away from home, now I work with my wife doing, learning, book keeping, that gives me more time to follow my passion to make a semi profitable homestead.

The biggest reason I decided to do a blog is selfish, I am horrible at documenting my successes and failures and with the blog at least there will be a digital log, but  I know it will be rough for a while.

The second reason is that I believe it is great for people to share their successes and failures especially when it comes to growing their own food, it can be a lot of work, and it can and often does cost more money than what you get out of it. I know there are other blogs on homesteading out there so maybe this one isn’t much different, but at this point it is very new and I will fail a lot so reading it may make you feel better about your own aspirations of growing food!

One thing that we all need to recognize is that it does not necessarily take much land to produce a lot of food, one of the biggest mistakes I made starting out was planting too much corn, it seemed easier to me to plant 1/4 acre than a very small patch but I was never able to harvest it all in time and much of it was lost. My back yard which is similar to many backyards is a hand full at times when things are going well especially when combined with regular work.

We can all reach a little farther to gain our own security and freedom, I would love to have you along on the journey!

Good luck and enjoy the ride,

David