As with every new year we settle down and rethink our plans for the upcoming year on the homestead. What can we expand, what should be dropped, what new projects can we take on?
This year sees us re-certifying our kitchen to allow us to go back full force to canning and making our much loved chicken pot pie and rhubarb rosemary BBQ sauce. We have applied to be part of a local craft fair in November 2018 so plans for that are under way. The raising of chickens is being expanded as are the bees. We have been experimenting with the brewing of honey mead and have come up with a very nice fruit flavored mead we hope to continue and expand on.
Our newest and most exciting project this year is creating a Saturday morning farmers market here on the homestead. We have our seeds ordered for early vegetables and are also doing an early batch of chickens. They should be ready just in time for the first market weekend.
To top off the plans is our application to the Future Farmers Program that should be able to assist us to become full fledged farmers. We are currently working on a rough business plan. To this point we have been working off our lists and personal drive but the time has come to get official and narrow down a 5 year plan to get us to our goals.
From all of this we can tell you it is never too late to make your life into what you dream of. From a couple of “almost old timers”, make a plan, be flexible and look for your local resources. If at first your plan doesn’t work, take a break and look at it with fresh eyes and enthusiasm and try again.
What else are you doing but living your life?
Our female cat, Nemesis, insisted I follow her to the incubator several times as there was definitely something important happening I needed to see. As usual, she was correct.The cracking had started and we watched obsessively all day, just cracks, wiggling eggs and a bit of chirping.
This morning we were awaken by much louder chirps and three little wet chicks. They are 2 yellow and 1 black little bundles of joy. The breed mix is a Black Australorp rooster and Rhode Island Red hens, both good dual purpose heritage birds.
The brooder will be lit and bedded today in preparation to move these three and any others that hatch in the next 48 hours. The hardest part is not opening the incubator for two days to give them a chance to dry off and the others to hatch without a loss of humidity and heat. Patience and I might have to stay outside so I don’t blind them with the camera flash all day long.
I can’t imagine this happening in a class room of little kids, as I hear it does. The kids would be uncontrollable, the shrieking and the jostling to look. I’m hyped up and I’m just a wee bit older.
For our first attempt at using an incubator we are thrilled that,basically, we did not mess up and they are alive. Every morning calling out to each other,”Did you roll the eggs?”, “How’s the heat?”, “The humidity? Did you add water, open a vent?”. It has been a communication contest. We did good.
On wards, with confidence, to more fertilized eggs and the dreams of breeding from our own flock.
For now, adding incubating/hatching to our mental list of skills acquired.
So we are on to another adventure, hatching chicks. We were fortunate to pick up 13 fertilized eggs today ( thanks Julianna) with another 35ish to come. They are a mixed breed of a Black Australorp roo and Rhode Island Red hens, both good dual purpose heritage breeds. A small batch to start with as our first try.
We picked up a new Hova Bator incubator at our local co-op country store, on sale, after looking into making one. For a very small difference in dollars we opted to buy the real deal. Still keeping it simple and turning the eggs ourselves, three times a day. A neat little game of X and O written in pencil on opposite sides of the eggs to ensure each is turned.
In 21 days we should have a few chicks, if everything goes well. We have the heat at a steady 100 degrees with water in the lower tray to maintain humidity. The goal is to over winter a breeding /egg laying flock of 10 hens and one or two roosters from different lines. We want to breed our own meat chickens next season instead of relying on feed store chickens that are genetically modified for fast growth (not capable of living past about 10-12 weeks without health problems or death, but still tasty).
There is a local poultry group, Maritime Breeders and Exhibitors of Purebred Poultry and Waterfowl (fb), with a show happening May 21 that we are anxiously awaiting. We are starting to write down all sorts of questions to ask while we search for the one or two roosters we want.
A new daily routine for 21 days which will lead to the next level of homesteading on our .69 of an acre.
Updates to follow.
These three lovely functional boxes where built today and will be used tomorrow to transport this year’s first batch of meat chickens to be processed. They are built to fit nicely in the truck bed and hold about 10 birds a piece. W has been busy working out the specifics, two fit long ways and the third fits across the back.
It all started with an aspenite bottom board, added corners and uprights then the slats and the top board with a cut out hinged hatch. Keeping it simple, strong and light.
I meant to get pictures of the boxes in the truck bed, with the chickens in them but it was raining and we were moving at a good pace to meet our deadlines. The chickens fit nicely and were able to sit. It was an easy two person lift with each box, good loading at our end and off loading at the dead end.
Now to store them until the next batch in 5 weeks.
Well, I don’t know how to post a video on wordpress so you will have to go to our facebook page to see the chicks enjoying their new coop floor covering, Chicks in new straw .
We have been using feed store bales of shavings, as they advised. The chicks have never been overly interested in them. They do not scratch or dig as chickens should.
We have a leaf vacuum for fall clean up and decided to run some straw through it to break it down into smaller pieces for the new chicks. The laying hens enjoy full straw for their nesting boxes but the littles find it hard to move through. After running it through the vacuum twice we got a lovely texture that the new chicks absolutely love. We keep our old feed bags and store the straw “shavings” in them.
As we have access to free straw bales for the garden mulching( neighbor who banks her non-foundation porch for the winter and we remove it for her in the spring), this frees up quite a bit of time (in running to town) and money( at $7.00 a bale we can go through a lot). We dry it in the garden walk ways, then suck it up as needed.
Next year the garden pathways,between the raised beds, will be all wood chips from a local tree removal company that dumps in our yard when they are in the neighborhood. Tree removal companies are usually looking for someplace to dump for free, welcome to our side yard, anytime you want. So the straw needs a new purpose, and there it is. Like someone knew…we find most things turn out like this.
Keep doing what makes you happy, collect what you enjoy and eventually it will all come together as it should.