Running the backyard farm. Preparing for winter.

DSCF3222When I’m writing this post it is still early September and we have all sorts of Hurricanes going on.  Harvey just hit recently and now his family members are making their way down with Irma, Jose, Katia.  Who are all these windy folk?  It’s starting to make changes in the weather over here.  We went from triple digits to some rain in the night and a very cold and windy morning.  By the time this post comes out it will have been weeks as I post far in advance by 5 or 6 weeks.  Prayers for all who are affected. But for now we are watching the news and following the storm watches from Irma going straight for Florida.

I’m sort of like a ground hog except I can tell when we’ll have an early winter and I’ve started planning.  Joette and I have created a mini pantry in the laundry room/office closet with some extra shelving.  This is a small house and we are limited on space so we have to get creative.

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Humble beginnings, I know.  We have plenty of top shelves in the kitchen we can use and after some organizing, we will fill those too.  I love having a stocked pantry.  Something about it makes you feel like you are prepared for anything.  I made sure to stock up on everything from casserole fixings all the way down to play dough ingredients for those long stormy days ahead.  We have 25 lb bags of rice, pinto beans, black beans, white flour, and wheat.  With all the bread, tortillas, biscuits, and pots of beans we make and devour this is not an absurd amount.  For most normal people this would seem odd but we use rice, beans, potatoes, and homemade bread as a main staple.  We are also mostly vegetarian so rice and beans are the perfect protein.  We also stock up on nut butter as those with bread or tortillas also make a complex protein.

If you are limited on space as well, find or purchase some tall shelving units and put them in a closet, or make the top two shelves in your kitchen available, it’s smart to stock up.  Use all the great sales to start your stocked pantry.  Dried goods are the wisest as they take no refrigeration or freezer if the storms take the lights.  Rice, beans, and flours are good for feeding a big family for months.  Canned fish, crackers, canned beans and vegetables, fruits and such are good for emergencies.

This is handy for the winter when it’s hard to get out and about, to prepare for storms, to save many unnecessary trips to the store, to save on the grocery bill, to be able to whip up anything and anytime with out going out to the store.  It’s also wise for those of us on one income or fixed incomes to make sure we don’t run out of groceries at the end of the month.

Joette and I spent a pretty penny at a JoAnne’s Fabric sale recently.  I purchased my first sewing box and filled it.  I’m going to attempt my first quilt here this winter.  I also bought yarn to make Bali and the boys scarves, which I’m good at because it’s one long, boring and simple stitch.  I’m excited to start my quilt.  I used to read piles of Amish fiction and quilting and casseroles is what I took away from it all.  My favorite author would be Cindy Woodsmall.  She is an incredible author, her books had me laughing and crying.  I’m rarely moved emotionally with a written story.  She creates characters you truly grow to love.  I’ve read all her books to date…unfortunately. I keep checking for new books on the way.

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The winter garden is in and sprouting!

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There is my dog Babu looking longingly at the compost bed he can no longer access due to Bali’s handy garden fence here.  We recycled a previous fence and used .99 cent wood stakes from Home Depot to put this fence together.

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I spend many days out there in the backyard now weeding, watering, planning.  I love working out there with the boys playing and the hens clucking.

Those hens are so spoiled and not producing so much.  I was getting 4 to 5 eggs daily in the beginning but the days got up to 108 and I was lucky to get two eggs.  They get misted and big rinds of watermelon, along with frozen berries and peas during these days and I wet under the coop.  They also have a good-sized tree in their yard.  Bali put a compost in there as well.  They are having the life.  I have added Rooster Booster to their water with vitamins and electrolytes with lacto bacillus to help them recover.  They were factory chickens and looked worse for wear when I got them.    One

One hen had explosive diarrhea and was missing neck feathers.  That is what you eat when you buy that cheap meat at the stores.  If you saw my factor rescue hens you would never eat another factory Foster chicken again…or their eggs.  Their yolks were pale, pale yellow.  Factory chickens are sickly because they are fed cheap food and stuffed in artificially lite sheds with hundreds of other chickens.  They snipped their beaks so they wouldn’t peck each other to death because they go mad in those unnatural conditions. They are then loaded up with antibiotics and hormones because they get so sick from this way of living and sitting in their urine and feces while being forced to lay eggs at a fast rate and the minute they slow down they are butchered and sold cheap at the box stores.  Soooo, next time you see chicken on sale at a fabulous price at your big market…think about why it’s so cheap.

But now with the healthy food and tons of greens and produce scrapes, the oyster shells, grit, vitamins, the sun, fresh air, a huge run to scratch and peck and be hens…the yolks are almost orange, the feathers are back, the poops healthy, the chickens are happy.  They run to me the minute they see me at the gate and surround my feet, following me closely every where I go in their yard.  They aren’t the prettiest of ladies, not the pretty Rhode Island gals but I just love these girls.  Their chicken faces make me laugh, they look so serious and a little put out all the time.  And they are loud about everything.

So, onto other topics.  I found a new way to save on the TV bill.  If you have a smart TV and no cable or dish contract, sign up for Amazon Prime and you can stream everything on your TV.  I’m sure everyone knew this already.  Amazon Prime is $99 a year but it’s free shipping on all your orders, tons of free ebooks, movies, TV channels and other goodies.  Well worth it if you are an Amazon user.  This is great if your antenna doesn’t work in your area.  But now with these smart TV’s, you can also stream Netflix and maybe Hulu?  Cable and Dish are such a joke these days with all their filler channels.  I pay for a hundred infomercial channels but I’m trapped for another year.  I also have a very old 1980’s TV.  I’m far too cheap to upgrade.  Besides, I watch very little TV these days.  If I get a hankering for entertainment I get a movie from the library and watch it on my funky DVD player I got a thrift store (I can’t believe it still works) and my huge 100 lb TV from the 1900’s.  It was free, what can I say.

I found aphids on my apple tree.  Water and dish soap sprayed on the leaves is supposed to work.  I soaked the leaves and will rinse off the solution tonight.

I found a great Youtube site for the VeganAthlete:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfK2mIposr4.  He also has a website http://www.jakemace.com/.

He also has a website:      http://www.jakemace.com/.

This man lives in Arizona and turned a 1/3 acre of desert into a food forest with 200 fruit trees, 20 raised beds, and chickens.  He gives great advice on how to make sandy soil rich, how to farm in less than ideal conditions and intense heat and drought.  His biggest suggestion is wood chips.  He swears by them and says they decompose and turn into rich soil.  His homemade soil to feed his trees and gardens is part compost, part straw, chicken poop, and a bag of some mineral soil mix.  I was really inspired by him.

It was so hot here this summer and I put my garden beds in the back so I can grow lettuce and Kale and other plants that don’t like the intense heat.  I have a back yard that has direct light and a part of it is cement.  Turned out having garden beds on the cement did not work so well.  I’m seriously thinking of jack hammering it all up.  I would have so much more garden space.  I would love more fruit trees or shade trees and many more raised beds.  Experienced backyard farmers say to start small and build up.  I can see why.  It hasn’t even been half a year and I’m learning so much about how to plant a tree properly, chicken and egg health, making your own soil, caring for fruit trees through all seasons.  We have already made a few big mistakes but I think everything will pull through.

Being a new farmer is fun though.  It isn’t fun when things go awry but you learn so much that it’s actually a good training tool.  It forces one to really do the reading and research, to talk to other farmers and get ideas to later share with others.  I’m looking forward to the year and how much we will all grow and prosper.

I have learned this; farming doesn’t have to cost a lot or require a lot of high powered, fancy tools and machines.  You can do a lot of farming on very little land and with very little to work with.  But that will be another blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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21 comments

  1. I’m going to look up the Amish fiction writer you mentioned.
    I’m reading your “Farmer’s Widow” book right now and really enjoying it.

    Your pantry stock looks great! Use what you have

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    • It’s even bigger now.:) I’m glad to hear that you are enjoying A Farmer’s Widow. I rewrote that book because it was not so great the first time. I think I mentioned Cindy Woodsmall? She is fantastic.

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  2. I know exactly how good it feels to have a full pantry. When we lived in the mountains, I would go once a month to the store at the base of the mountain, and stock up. There was a 10 pound meat sale the first week of each month, and I would buy a package of each type of meat–pork chops, ground beef, counttry style ribs, roasts, etc. When I got home I would repackage everything into meal sized portions and freeze. All I had to do was decide what I wanted for supper the next day and set it out to thaw. I bought cases of canned goods, huge bags of flour, beans, rice, etc. I had an old cabin that I kept my fridge, freezer, and shelves that I had built from cinder blocks and salvaged wood (we actually lived in a 35 foot travel trailer). We also had 55 gallon metal drums filled with dog and horse feed, and stacks of hay bales for our horses. I had extra blankets and sheets for our beds, and extra winter clothes stored. We kept oil for our lanterns, even though we were the only folks with electricity in our area. We hauled in drinking water, but I kept 55 gallon plastic barrels for collecting rain water around the cabin to wash dishes and clothes, and to bathe in.

    When we moved back down to Texas, I brought I dunno how much food with us. I could concentrate on getting the house set up without worrying about groceries for a few weeks, other than the occasional gallon of milk or fresh produce.

    Looks like you are doing a good job. Don’t forget candles and lamp oil for power outages, and a source of heat for the winter.

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      • Lamp chimneys can be purchased at most hardware stores. You can buy a Big Buddy propane heater from places like Tractor Supply or other farm supply stores. You only need a 5 gallon tank and an adaptor hose to make a toasty household. If you shut off the rest of the house with blankets, everyone could sack out in the living room on couches and Army cots if the power goes out for several days. Make sure you let the water slightly run in the faucets to insure that the pipes don’t freeze, and if your state allows water collection (and I don’t understand the states that don’t), put a couple of 55 gallon plastic barrels under your eaves so rain will fill them up. If you place screening over the barrels, mosquitos won’t be a problem in summer. In the summer you can use the barrel water to ease up your water bill since you have a garden. See how everything works together? From heat to garden water!

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  3. Okay, my brain got ahead of my typing again. What I was meaning to tell you with the suggestion of the rain barrels is that in case your pipes DO freeze in winter, you can use the rain water to flush the toilet. I realized about 30 minutes after I shut down the laptop that I hadn’t told you that! lol

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    • I have thought about it at times. Even have a title–If You Didn’t Bring It, You Ain’t Got It. It’s what my one legged biker buddy Stinger always says. We have a philosophy that if you come up the mountain, you need to THINK about what you need to bring with you, because whle other folks might help you out a little, they are not going to support you if you are stupid. We once took some friends up with us, and while our family stayed up on the mountain all week, perfectly contented, they drove down the mountain at least once each day to get something they HAD to have–like a drink from SONIC, a candy bar, etc. It’s a 15 mile trip, one way. That’s an expensive candy bar!

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  4. Loved this post! I get sad thinking about the living conditions of the chickens and it is scary to think we are eating such sickly chicken. I don’t generally purchase the cheap stuff, because I do think about that. I try to stick with the organic stuff when I can. I get sad when I get behind a chicken truck or hog truck on the highway. I see their little faces peeking out and it makes me so sad. We put up a little fence like yours to keep our dogs out of our tiny little garden, too. One of my dachshunds was stealing all my cucumbers and tomatoes!! She loves veggies! I like your pantry ideas and I like to know I have a few things handy for if the power goes out, too.

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    • That is funny about the dog! I have a darn squirrel to contend with right now. It’s eaten all my lettuce and spinach. The factory farming is extremely cruel. The best thing to do, besides go vegetarian, is to buy “cruelty free” meat and dairy and free range eggs.

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    • The dog reminded me of when I was a kid and my mom ran a 7-11 store. This was back in the day when the stores would open their doors during the day in the summer. There was a little dachshund who would sneak into the store and steal one Tootsie Roll from the candy rack, then run off. Always one Tootsie Roll, once a day. Never could catch him, so mom would just drop a penny into the register each day to cover his ‘purchase’.

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  5. I know this is an older post, but I just discovered your fabulous website! If you’ve not already discovered them, look up Hollis and Nancy’s Homestead on youtube. They have awesome tips for backyard gardens. I’m amazed at what all they grow.

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    • I just got on their site and bookmarked it. I can’t wait! I’m more visual in my learning so this will be fun. I’m not doing so great with the gardens but I figure that if I really study this winter I may have some success in the spring. 🙂

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