Pasture, wedding prep, etc!

This weekend was a busy one.

First, the pig pen was moved again, leaving a new spot to smooth out and plant for pasture. They have a lot more shade now, which is nice with the weather getting warmer. Much warmer. Very abruptly.

My brother, sister, and a friend came over to help me with this project. We raked out the just vacated pen, pulled any blackberry and scotchbroom stubs the pigs had left, and spread the seeds. We also smoothed our the terrain a bit, eliminating some humps and bumps. I had a pile of parrot composted straw from the bunny barn. Well, I say straw. It was about 3/4 straw and the rest was poo. Anyway, we very lightly scattered that over the seed as mulch and fertilizer.

We also planted the arbeqina olive and the Chicago fig trees that have been in pots for longer than I care to admit. The olive will border the driveway like the pear, apple, and nectarine trees.

The fig tree, since it remains dormant longer than the others, I was able to put closer to the tree line. It doesn’t need sun quite as early in the year as the others, and it’ll get plenty there as it starts to wake up.

The next day I managed to get the old veggie garden cleaned up and raked out to plant the barley. Also found space for a small patch of wheat. I’d have make it bigger but I had considerably less wheat than I thought. Keeping the chickens out of this will be a challenge.

All of this was made more difficult by the pigs. See, they’ve been contained by just those electric wires for almost a month now, I think. With very little trouble. Until this most recent move. The two smaller ones have figured out that if they are quick enough, they don’t get zapped. So now I’ve got woven wire temporarily around most of it with logs and rocks across the front. Rice is the worst, Fried is the second worst. Rice has gotten out at least nine times.

However, I think I might finally have it. Last time I brought them food, he tried climbing the logs to meet me in the driveway, but got zapped and shifted into reverse. Hopefully that’s the end of it.

Last but certainly not least, we picked up some red ranger chicks! While I am sure our chickens can brood enough to feed the wedding, I don’t want to take any chance of not having enough chickens. So we picked up 14!

And seriously, we have the best farm cat in the world. I want to clone her. When separated from the brooder by a door, she napped by the door. When allowed near it, she slept next to it. She’s guarding them! No aggression at all. Also, the baby is very excited to have cherps. Took Freyja a minute to decide the baby was allowed to be there.

It always sucks going back to work after such a productive weekend, but especially when the to do list is still so long. But I am pretty happy with what we got done.

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Pig tilling

The future pasture has been cleared of brush for a while now, but work remains before it can really be planted with the pasture blend. But today I was looking at how much the pigs have rooted up their new pen already and wondering if they’d undo the work we do for the wedding. I figured we might have to keep them out of the wedding area entirely as it grows and until the wedding was done.

But then I looked at the planted part of the yard and got to thinking about how fast that grass grows and realized that there’s enough time before the wedding that we can simply use the pigs to finish prepping for planting. As long as they’re out of the wedding area so we can plant it at least a month out, then they will have actually saved us work instead of made more.

So today I moved their pen. I basically just moved one post at a time so the fence stayed mostly intact. They didn’t even really try to get out. Good pigs.

They tore up the grass in their new area so quickly that I feel confident that I can move them every weekend until they’ve taken care of the whole area for us. Then it’s back to just past where they were originally. I’ll follow behind each move raking and planting.

Other than a couple blackberry canes and scotchbroom stems, they tilled the entire area. A bit of raking was all it needed.

Once it was raked out, I went ahead and spread the seed for the pasture blend. And in a couple of weeks, we will have more grass. The free ranging birds should help keep it from getting too out of control until the perimeter fence is up and the pigs and geese can have it.

Their next move will encompass the actual wedding ceremony area. I may leave them there a little longer to be sure it’s nicely tilled since that’s not just grass, it’s also corn being planted. They should be ready to move out of their just about the time the corn needs to be planted.

In the meantime, I also got a couple fruit trees in the ground. We’ve got some lofty food goals for next year so I’m glad to have that done. I will probably need to go hunting this fall and have a greenhouse up before winter in order to meet those goals, but the fruit trees will help. Bonus, any fruit we don’t get to is free pig food!

Big things happening!

Barring crazy weather or last minute rescheduling, we have a neighbor coming this weekend for some tractor work! I know, I know. I’d initially planned on clearing using animals. But the wedding plans put a bit of a time crunch on me. Plus I got impatient. Making the fence through the brush and trees to contain goats to clear the brush…

Yeah, I ain’t got time for that mess.

So tractor. He’s going to clear to bare soil and drill the holes for the perimeter fence. Since the perimeter fence line goes through the woods a bit, I would not want to drill them by hand!

In preparation for this, I’ve been gathering together materials. We had some awesome sales here this weekend. So I got all of the wooden posts, and enough T posts and fencing to at least do the pig pasture plot. I’ll go ahead and set the wooden posts and just collect the remaining T posts and fencing as I have time and money. Should be entirely fenced before the wedding.

Another thing I picked up has been on my list for quite some time! We’ve talked about getting a generator since we first moved out here. We got lucky not losing power these last two winters. Not gambling on that luck. Besides, portable power for the wedding will be great! Lights, music, etc. I’d looked online to determine what size generator we need. I figured we could run the fridge, freezer, an additional freezer when we get one, and lights with a minimum of 3000 Watts. At first I was looking at a 3200 watt generator on sale at a local hardware store. Best price I’d seen for that size generator and well reviewed online.

So imagine my surprise when I see at our local farm store a generator rated at 3650 watts, with a bigger fuel tank, on sale for a full $40 less than the one I’d been looking at! Again, quite positively reviewed online, though not as many reviews as I’d like.

Once we’ve had time to get the shipping brackets off and get it gassed up, I’ll do a review post. For now, I’m pretty excited.

I managed to get a few other important things handled in the past week or two, but I’m really excited about getting that fence done. Once we have the perimeter done and gates up, we can let that dog run herself exhausted every day! She’s getting more time outside and is being pretty good with the birds first thing in the morning. As the sun rises earlier she will get more and more time. I’m hoping within a couple of months she can be with them full time.

Looking forward to showing you the transformation that’s about to happen here!

Updated before even posting!

Seems February saw I had plans and said “hold my beer!” Probably not getting the tractor work done tomorrow. But that doesn’t mean I can’t get the piglets settled into their temporary home in the meantime! We are picking them up Monday, which gives me plenty of time to get that pen locked down!

Why not?

We decided to do something homesteady despite having no real need for it. We had a bunch of cream and a brand new power mixer. So we made butter! It is worth noting that 30% cream is not usually used to make butter, but apparently works.

For anyone not familiar with the process, it’s actually quite simple, if time consuming. Take cream, and whip it. It will become whipped cream. Continue to whip it and it will become butter and buttermilk.

That’s it! We did it largely to test the new hand mixer, but it was also a fun evening project. The butter was delicious, and I don’t even like butter.

Worth noting that butter made this way has no preservatives and has a very short shelf life. Just a few days and it will start going rancid. But you can always freeze any you won’t eat fast enough!

We would be family even if we weren’t related.

Happy holidays from Huckleberry Hills! The lady McFarmFace and I have shared a few christmases now, but this one is special. Because our little monkey butt gets to be here too.

Throughout the years I’ve heard lots of stories of family holiday horror. And I’ve come to realize that I live in a weird little hallmark card. I am extremely fortunate that my family gets along decently well, but so do our friends.

But folks, this is a choice. You will be surrounded by only those you choose to surround yourself with. If someone in your life is constantly negative, you have no obligation to keep them around. Whether it’s a neighbor, a cousin, an in-law, or even immediate family. You don’t owe anyone your own sanity!

So if you’ve got an uncle who gets drunk and picks fights, don’t invite him. If you’ve got a friend who is passive aggressive or constantly puts people down, that’s not a friend.

People like me homestead for a better quality of life. That starts at home.

Rant over! Soapbox put away.

As usual, my lovely fiancée absolutely killed it on dinner. This was our combination holiday and engagement party. We served roasted goose (raised here), mashed potatoes, figgy pudding, Turkish delights, cranberry brioche, and various appetizers. And wine. Lots of wine! Even more wine because my wonderful family brought more! We watched muppet Christmas carol and generally had a wonderful time.

One of these days, I’m going to remember to take a picture of one of our birds after cooking but before eating. I only got to the desserts!

My whole life, I have heard that many people don’t like goose because it’s greasy. Same with duck. In fact, for a long time I was one of those people. I would like to state, unequivocally for the record, that these people haven’t had a properly cooked goose or duck. This was a big goose, and half the guests were a little wary of goose. And we ran out of goose before anything else.

This post got away from me a little. It’s a bit rambling. But that’s ok. It’s the holidays.

Happy holidays from Huckleberry Hills!!

Winter is coming…

No, I don’t watch GoT. I know myself well enough to know I’d binge watch the entire show and get nothing done. But winter IS coming, and fast!

We learned quite a few lessons from the last winter, and are applying those this time around. The animals were miserable with the incessant rain. I’ve already modified the rabbit pen to provide lots of cover, but the birds and dog still need some.

The canopy we put in the rabbit pen is pretty great for the price, so I’ll be getting two more. We also had our heating bill explode, so I’ll be getting a furnace tune up, pellets for the stove by the pallet instead of by the bag (wasn’t able to replace it with a wood stove this year), and replacing weather stripping around all the exterior doors.

I’m also considering installing some landscaping steps where the side yard slopes down to the back yard. With the birds out there, it could get really muddy.

The food and water situation is well in hand for the birds because even when it was 18 degrees Fahrenheit, it didn’t freeze inside the coop. The rabbits, I’ll need to work something out for the water.

But there’s some exciting stuff happening, too! We only had our two breeding turkeys last thanksgiving but this year we have one for the table! We will also have a goose for December.

The rabbit population got a little out of hand so my job for a couple weekends is getting them in the freezer. With the baby, it’s been tough finding time for all the farm stuff but I feel like we are already falling into a groove with that. Minus the week I was out with bronchitis, that is!

I’m very grateful for the assistance my nephew gave recently with the baby so I could get the coop door rodent proofed and a few rabbits processed.

Things are hectic, but I look at all we have accomplished in less than a year and a half living here and I know we are going to be more than just fine. We are going to be great!

Another busy weekend

Whew! This weekend isn’t even over for me but I’ve gotten quite a bit done. 

First, I played with the goslings. It’s taxing work, but somebody’s got to do it. They need to not be afraid of us. 

Next, I got some more planting done. We had a packet of sunflower seeds for snacking as opposed to the black oil seeds I already planted, and a little packet of purely decorative ones. Got those in, along with some buckwheat. 

Then beans. And why yes, that is in the middle of the yard. I ran out of other places. But being by the deck means I’ve got a great place for a trellis!

Then there was a bunch of little projects and cleaning up. The rabbits have the nest boxes back, as we figure at least one is probably pregnant now. By the way, like my little rabbit barn? We figure it gives them more space out of rain, and that front board can help contain the very young babies. 

Speaking of babies, they’re getting big! We will probably only keep six of them for the freezer and sell the rest as pets or breeding stock. 

The rat bitten turklet is completely recovered and back outside, though we are triple checking it goes on the roost at night. In the meantime, I’ve installed an anti rodent skirt to the coop. I’ll do a post just on that soon. 

The geese are starting to get real feathers, and are spending every day outside. The pen keeps them confined until they’re big enough to not get through the fence. 

And finally, it’s been consistently warm and dry for long enough that I felt I should water everything. And with the soil darkened, I could see much more clearly that the salad garden is actually doing quite well! That spinach was nearly invisible before watering. 

Same with the lettuce! Several varieties of loose leaf and I’m even doing some butterhead lettuce this year. And the radishes. I wasn’t even planting more radishes, but I found old seeds and figured I’d give them a shot. 

Big milestone!

Less than one year after moving in, we’ve reached what I think is a pretty big milestone! We have more baby birds than we want to raise up to eating weight. And you know what that means right?

Craigslist! I’d prefer to use Facebook, but Facebook doesn’t allow any sort of animal sales at all, not even the legal sale of livestock. 

But we have nearly a dozen baby turkeys, and at least two more ready to hatch. We’ve also got fertile eggs and rabbits that seem to be weaned. So, a couple ads are up and more will be going up soon. This is a pretty big deal!

For the first time, instead of saving us money (on food) or costing us money (on feed and supplies) our animals can start earning us money! This is a huge step towards not needing my full time job anymore. As you can imagine, I’m pretty excited!

We actually don’t need to “earn” a lot for this to be a big deal. By my figuring, if they pay for themselves and provide us with just a small amount of income plus food, it could allow me to change shifts. Night shift pays a little better, but I’d like to be on day shift long before my daughter starts school. I want to be present for her big moments. 

So yeah, I’m really excited right now. The animals are about to start paying for themselves, the veggie garden is the biggest I’ve ever done, and we’ve got five fruit trees that may produce this year but certainly will next year. Big things are happening!

This post is no joke!

Seriously, it’s like 8 feet long and almost half of that goes underground!

Ok, so I’ve assisted with fences before, and I’ve used T-posts to make simple poultry fencing. This stuff is hardcore, though. Oh sure, I could rent a trailer mounted auger (hand operated is too dangerous with these tree roots) but that would more than double the cost of the fence. 

So instead I get to dig post holes by hand. It’s not fun, to be honest. But at least I only had to do three near the trees. The hand auger is surprisingly good for these holes. It only takes me about 10-15 minutes per hole (provided no big rocks or roots) but it’s definitely a work out!

With my work schedule, this project has spanned a couple of weekends. Last weekend, I got the materials and plotted where everything would go. I’d have done more, but we had a party. 

Saturday, I got the holes dug and about half of them cemented in. Some people will tell you that these treated posts don’t need cement. I’ll wager these people have never tried replacing a rotted post without dismantling the entire fence. Some people will tell you that in western Washington, you can set a post with dry cement mix and the rain will set the concrete for you. These people have never left a bag of concrete in the rain and then busted it open.

Then there’s people like me. I have a cement mixer. I got it years ago when landscaping and have never regretted it. I don’t expect to have the fence totally done this weekend, but it’ll be done next weekend for sure. Gotta get more cement tomorrow and give the posts time to set. 

Asparagus and onions! Eventually. 

Things have been quite busy here at Huckleberry Hills! I’d been meaning to get asparagus crowns for weeks now, but wanted a better deal than I was finding. $1.60 per plant might not seem like a bad deal, but when you’re getting fifty, it adds up quick!

Amazon to the rescue! I was able to get both a green and a purple variety, 25 crowns each, and spend a total of thirty bucks and some change on them! They arrived during the week and I got them planted Saturday. 

Now, we didn’t really have an ideal spot already prepared so I had to make my own. I knew we wanted them near the house, but with the entire plot being sloped, and the front yard being poultry territory, I really didn’t have any options better than under the kitchen and pantry window. Of course, the soil isn’t fantastic there because there’s a steep slope right below it. 

Enter the bunny. Rabbit poop is one of the best fertilizers because it doesn’t need any aging or composting before applying to the garden. So I shoveled out as much as I could, and mixed it in with some garden soil I’d purchased to make my own seedling mix. 

I weeded the spot under the windows and started digging trenches for them. It’s a little more crowded than I’d prefer, but they should be fine. 

Despite some spotty reviews (largely from people who didn’t seem to have a firm grasp of gardening), they were almost all perfect crowns. Some had even broken dormancy and had tiny spears starting! 

Fifty plants, even if some are female, ought to be enough asparagus for the two (three soon!!!) of us, though we won’t get to harvest any until next year. 

After that, I got the red onions in the ground. Between red and yellow, probably a hundred total. Haven’t even gotten the leeks and scallions outside yet. A few are about ready though!

Also got the tomatoes repotted, for the most part. I don’t have nearly enough space for seedling trays, so I got some of them repotted and then just spaced the rest out in their original trays a bit. I’ve definitely determined that I need a better dedicated seedling area, with shelves and more lights. 

The incubator is set up and ready for eggs, just waiting on that silly turkey. The cuckoo maran pullets are spending the days outside and will be moving to the coop by next weekend most likely. 

As much as there is to do lately, it’s super important to not forget to take time for yourself and your loved ones. Saturday we had a family gathering at my mom’s house, and Sunday after planting, the girlfriend and I went to a local park. We really do live in a beautiful place, and I can’t wait to show it to my baby when he or she gets here!