An Illustration of the Coop and Yard


We named them "Lunch" and "Dinner" so the kids would remember what they were for.

~Jim & Marcy Lilly (High Lonesome Ranch, Inc.)


Well, since I'm still without camera, I thought I'd draw up the map of my henhouse and chicken yard. It's in progress as we speak, but should be ready for the chickens by Sunday. (Monday I go to visit the local Bee keeper club (Buzz Club). It's a potluck and we know one person there, so maybe not too awkward? An excuse to hit the Farmer's Market again!) 
Anyway, here's what I've got set up on the coop:


Today I'll be digging & putting 5 long wooden fenceposts upright into the ground to hold up the trampoline netting as a predator deterrent over the chicken yard (owls, hawks, eagle). Yesterday I trimmed some scraggly oak tree growth and still need to rake up all the broken twigs and branches littering the ground (as all our land is prolifically covered with broken pieces of wood). Every day one more little something to do. I'd like to figure out how to hang some flowering plants from the eves...pretty it up a bit! That may have to wait until next year, but it's in my plans.



Here, I'd like to stop and recommend the video: “Food Inc.” (Netflix)
It really enlightened me as to how the food supply system really works. I promise, you won't like the truth of it... but you need to know.
It has changed my entire outlook on life and what our dependency means. Watching the fires of California last year, and in AZ, NM, and TX this year, makes me certain that I'm not even adequately prepared to evacuate or put up with loss of electricity in case of a fire here either. It makes me feel vulnerable to anything and everything- and I hate that feeling of knowing I'm dependent on others- others you can't count on anymore with all the economic factors.

Food production, preservation, longterm storage, and processing is big on my priority focus list right now and will continue to be. Maybe my agenda will look like this – I’m still working on it (and there are other options I haven’t included because they depend on others at this point, more on that if it pans out):


2011
spring – clear out storage areas
summer– build chicken coop and yard, find source for chickens, start compost pile, save seeds
fall - get chickens, start peach & nectarine trees from seed, purchase soil, seeds, & containers (on sale now)
winter- indoor greenhouse (buy bulbs & install light fixtures (6 light fixtures that need tubes were in the shed rafters), set up tables & start seeds to grow container plants), paint pictures to sell later, sew up a few gathering apron(s), dehydrate veggies in "chip" form (beet, sweet potato, zucchini, etc.), experiment with homemade dressings and vinaigrettes


2012
spring - hatch new chicks to grow the flock, build goat shed and put up fencing, get bees, start seeds indoors, put up a clothesline, build 3 coldframes (I already have 3 windows to use. I found them leaning on a garbage can 3 years ago.)
summer - get canning supplies, raise herbs and vegetable and berries (in containers if nec.), sell eggs, try growing feed seed (like black oil sunflowers)
fall – cull & process (roosters will go to freezer camp) or sell roosters from hatched chicks, buy 2 meat goats, clear the property of weeds, harvest produce, process/dehydrate and store
winter – buy canning supplies (on sale), order berry root stock, paint pictures and sew up some new clothes, try tanning a goat hide


2013
spring- breed meat goats, plant berries, hatch chicks, try growing a food staple grain
summer- buy Ron a UtiliKilt for 18th wedding anniversary (yes he will hate it but I will love it and so I’m sure he’ll wear it), sell eggs & paintings
fall – get a milk goat, can 2nd-season produce, harvest honey, start coldframes, cull roosters (freezer camp), sell hens
winter – sell honey, buy stone fruit trees (*or at appropriate delivery time), sew up a new bed cover, grow food indoors (try some unusual plants like black pepper), paint


2014
spring- breed 2 meat and 1milk goat, get a freezer, build a root cellar/secure longterm storage, expand gardening efforts, hatch chicks
summer- get meat ducks, turkey, geese, and expand chicken yard, sell paintings & eggs
fall - harvest, process, store food crops, harvest honey and beeswax, sell 1 meat and 1 milk goat, cull & process 1 meat goat (for freezer), cull roosters (freezer camp), sell hens
winter – make beeswax candles, grow food indoors (try growing some unusual plants like black pepper), paint


2015
spring- breed meat goats, get a pig, sheep, or rabbits and/or start raising fish (via pond or aquaponics)?


2016
spring - get a horse (done with BK, free to get another horse)


Now, don't take this as written in stone of course. I'm a novice at this farmgirl thing, so if any of you have any suggestions or corrections- they are mighty welcome!

Thanks for visiting!

Spin-offs...

I don’t want to focus solely on resources or guides, but my camera is in New Mexico with my daughter who just moved there and I’m not able to get it back just yet. I’m itching to share progression of getting the chicken house and yard ready, but maybe it will be a welcome relief to some people if I can’t!
Tazz has to know where I am at all times- to make sure I don't leave without him.
So I'll focus instead on a few topics that pique my interest, and I'll include a few irrelevant pictures just for eye candy. 

OK, still with me?
I love to take an idea –even someone else’s idea, and expand it, shrink it to fit or do some tweaking of it, then run with it to see where it goes.

What am I talking about?
People that have made innovative leaps by doing just that.

Lets take SPIN farming – a growing trend, a method of growing high yield, high profit crops in small places, for profit (versus a kitchen garden). What makes SPIN different from other commercial vegetable farming methods, and uniquely suited to the everyday person without specially designated farmland. (Of course with applicable soil amendments and a watering system, right?).

SPIN stands for Small Plot INtensive, and it is giving rise to a new class of farmers who are showing that agriculture can be incorporated into our built-up urban and even suburban environments.  It is a great choice for urban and suburban gardeners.

For the latest buzz on SPIN farming (further descriptions and explanations), see:

SPIN Farming Check out the right-hand bar to “Watch a 3 minute video of how SPIN-Farming was used to create a model urban farm in Philadelphia, PA.”, and take a look at their calculator to see how much $$ can be earned from different square feet of farming. It’s pretty impressive.

Just remember that growing things is not the same as getting them to market and selling them... farming takes commitment of time and heart, and is a multi-step process before you ever even get plants in the ground.

Still, it seems pretty worthwhile farming system to consider for some possibly substantial side-income.

IF you plan for adversity such as diversity built into the plan -and have a back-up plan.

Wrens at the deck feeder - when I take the time to provide seed (unlike this year- I'm such a slacker!).
Recently on the news we saw how a late freeze in February and the drought in New Mexico has affected nut trees. One pecan farmer with 1700 acres of pecan trees was featured. Instead of getting the usual 4 million pounds of pecans, he’ll probably end up with around 1 million. Lately his crop has been going to China more than anywhere else ... unfortunately their demand has made the price go up for all of the rest of us.

One pound of pecans goes to market for $2.50 or more per lb., that’s well over an $8 million income in a normal year for this farmer. Sure, some of that would go for equipment to harvest the nuts and some workers and the water... the farmer said that you plan by managing that income to cover a poor crop like this year’s. We also got to watch an apple orchard get slammed with flood waters after this summer’s large fires. It was devastating- took the orchard owners’ home and ruined an old community icon.

What I’m getting to is that it seems the bigger farmers seem to focus on one crop. If you don’t diversify your crop then you are really depending on nature to be the same all the time. It doesn’t seem to be a good bet in  your favor. A home-based farmer is more likely to grow multiple kinds of crops.
(Of course a flood, tornado, ice storm or grasshopper plague could wipe everything out, but a farmer can also insure their crops).
Here is something that blew my mind yesterday! 
stag wandering through....
No, not the stag- 
“Your Backyard Harvest”, which I saw featured in a local magazine, is an edible landscaping business in Durango, CO, inspired by SPIN Farming that focuses on organic vegetable gardens.
From what I understand, people volunteer pieces of their land and Backyard Harvest brings volunteers and supplies and sets up farming. The land owner gets a share of the product, the rest goes to the community thru the Farmers’ Market and CSA shares.

Love it!  *I'll be calling them today, just to see where it goes....

Another edible landscaping business, called Avant Gardens Edible Landscaping, in Gunnison, CO, focuses on design and installation of anything from a small vegetable garden to a full fledged food forest. It also expanded into an organization called Mountain Roots Food Project that is bringing community gardens and urban agriculture to the Gunnison Valley.

Apparently there are more of these popping up all over the country.
Yes!

Artisans and Farmers alike are also being featured in a growing # of magazines.

 "Edible Front Range"is a quarterly magazine that celebrates the abundance of local, seasonal food in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Pueblo and towns in between, covering a multitude of timely subjects.
Edible Communities, a network of local food publications.  Their website reflects this diversity, bringing together over 30 prestigious members of our community to post daily blogs on subjects ranging from reality tv chefs, CSA soldiers and gardening, to cooking up the best of the season, community activism, beer making, herbs, health and so much more. I love the stories featuring both local and small farms/farmers. 

the GIANT paw prints of a mountain lion 

So, how have YOU used the ideas of others to expand your own ideas? 


I HOPE that "Your Backyard Harvest" will be able to work with us on some of it- but our water quality and distance of water taps (or our distance from town), and keeping deer out may be an obstacle. 


I think my favorite idea from someone else aside from building from pallets, would be the egg-gathering aprons. One woman sewed egg pocket dividers INSIDE her egg-gathering apron.That may be a little too intense for my ability, but I still imagine sewing one up, out of a dusty plum color...

Here are a couple of instructional pages:
gathering apron tutorial #1  (from "On Just A Couple Acres")
gathering apron tutorial #2(at The Cottage At Frog Creek)


Power Words: “If” vs “When” & “And” vs “But”

Now, this is a short post, but I really wanted to share something worthwhile (I think), especially since it is really easy to get discouraged and think in negative terms.
This blog post: Power Words really hits on a fine point in the realm how our dreams/hopes/plans/goals work, and are attained.  Or not.
After you read it, let me know your thoughts on it.



One Small Step

One of the hardest things is the frustration of waiting when you've done all you can do.
It's now August, and I've been prepping for a small flock of chickens since April.
Some things I had help with, (see: bootstraps in JUNE), and then there was a lot of piddly things, starting some fresh eggs to incubate (without a real incubator), and waiting.
First I was cleaning out the shed for chickens, then hubby wanted it back for his tools. Then he saw that his tools were safer here in the utility room of the house, or more conveniently located under stairs outside (yard & garden tools), and relented. Then when I was ready to put up the fencing, he decided my idea of moving it to the south side of the house was sound after all, and started enlisting someone with a truck to move it (who didn't show up), then someone else with a truck, to move it. Then the truck was too big to turn around in the area I had planned to put it. But yay, it's moved and the new area it had to go is even, and it looks really nice there:

Then our electricity went out. While we were gone to town on errands. So my ONE  egg went over an hour without heat. After that, I put it outside in the sun with an opaque cover so the heat would increase slightly for another hour.
I can only keep my fingers crossed now... but we shall know by Wed. (hatch date). If it doesn't hatch, I'll probably keep it thru Thursday or Friday, just in case. I'm not one to give up.
One should only give up when one NEEDS to for some reason. Reason, not feeling.
Anyway, that's how I see it.

*Update: after I got the egg heated back up... the lightbulb burned out over night. So, poor little eggy didn't have a chance. It was cold by 5am Wed. morning. I put another lighbulb in for the remainder of the day---but you know,  it didn't cheep-cheep when I called out to it. I gave up on it by noon. 


I have to say it's really hard when things don't pan out like that, when you think the odds are in favor of it, and you've been diligent in followup... you know, when you have more than just a hope to go on and it seems likely. 
I know it was just an experiment, but geez, things were really working against it. 
Do you ever feel like fate is really working against you???



One out of Two ain't bad...right?

 "At 17 days of incubation, a viable egg is totally black except for the air cell.
 It is probably too black to see movement." (source here: Robin)


For the first time I actually looked up egg candling. Duhhhhh.
Well I didn't want to know. Now I do. I know the green egg is 16 days old - it came to me still warm from the nest. 


The tan egg had a 'blob' or mass, on one side of the shell. Looks like it wasn't fertile at all.... at any rate it's NOT looking like a viable chicken embryo.


Here is the green egg- you can clearly see the air pocket at the top, and at the bottom is a little space (for the white of the developing egg, as per info at Robins' website above). The rest is solid! This means I get a green egg layer if it's a girl.... oh, and if it successfully hatches. I'm upping the humidity a tad more consistently with a bowl of water next to the egg. My nightmare situation would be the chick sticking to the shell.
One more day of turning, then I have to leave it alone and wait....... fingers crossed that all goes well and I don't kill it. I'd better get some baby chick feed today; all the feed stores are closed on Sundays and I can't always get the car before they close weekdays either. 
Due date: Next Wednesday, the 10th of Aug.
I'll let you know- or post pictures.
Now I'd better get serious about a little better container for a chick than just a rubbermaid bowl...lol.


Wish me luck!





Held Together with Baling Wire

I'm no expert at being a Farmgirl, and I'm going after this dream based on the romanticized version that's been in my head and heart since childhood. Most of what I've learned is off the internet, but I have raised many animals over the years- not as any kind of plan, or with any goals in mind. This time is different for several reasons. I feel a more urgent need to have the skills, knowledge/info, supplies, and have been diligently seeking out resources/contacts/networking of like-minded people. In other words actively learning and putting together a plan, rather than just raising animals as something to do.


Currently my farmgirl dreams are really held together with baling wire....
I've actually owned a truck that had parts held on with baling wire. I know how it can be to live on the edge. 
This post isn't really about that aspect of possibilities, or about how tenuous some connections might be- and that's certainly OK sometimes. 
No, what I'm thinking of is more like getting a small taste of the reality of what is involved with playing farmgirl, in living it by the seat of your pants, in 'making do'.


The good news is: it looks like there’s no further issue with getting the shed for chickens - so I don't have to build something from scrap wood!
Yesterday when I came in from taking the trash to the road (full of old dead electonics, and empty/dried up mystery containers from the shed, etc), I came in to hear Hubby on the phone with someone talking about moving the shed with their truck or tractor. He didn't elaborate whatsoever, so I am assuming that he is wanting to move it...which he didn’t want to do before. (No telling when they plan to do this).
So, I will NOT be doing fencing this weekend, or it could be a waste of time.
 (I can't put up fencing before the shed is moved, or the truck/tractor pulling it would be fenced in and couldn't get out on the other side. 
At least he's on board with getting the chickens, even if he's doing things differently than I thought we had planned. He finally found someone to barter with is my guess- moving the shed in exchange for PC work. I'm sure I'll find out more over the weekend.
Moving the chicken house rather than telling me to build one is a HUGE step in the right direction- what I wanted in the first place.
 But.....in limbo with it until further notice.
I think everything will work out fine on this end- the journey can be frustrating at times, because ANY LIMBO is frustrating.
I don't care where the shed location is, but the south side is so much better for winterizing - as well, the area has been cleared by the horse and they can happily dig thru all the manure piles for grubs and stuff, and work it all into the ground (passively fertilizing it for some future use- like a garden area). Instead of watching them from the office & kitchen windows, I could see them from the deck & bedroom window. Much closer to hearing range when the rooster crows...
I have one House Rule: No Chernobyl chickens allowed!

Tonight I'm going to a 94th birthday gathering, and will likely pick up Chinese food afterward, but that's not guaranteed- maybe I’ll get pizza. I will go to the vet's office first and pick up the little plaster cast of Tikki's paw print that they made when we had to have her put down. Having that will be bittersweet, and I hope it will give us more joy than sorrow to see it. I can almost talk about her without crying now, but that too, is not guaranteed. She is really missed. 



Tikki Talisman 2003-2011

Tikki Talisman (our little goodluck charm)





So.....weekend plans:
I have to clean out the nasty waterfall pond again. It rains just enough to hold water, and then mosquito larva develop, and the most GIANT beetles we've ever seen - come and die in it (and other things)... blech! 
This is how it SHOULD look. (with lots of TLC):



View from the downstairs office/pantry window (just as often as birds, deer come to get water too, but they mess up all the rocks and eat my hollyhocks and daylillies...):

We have only baby toads this year to keep the water clean, and they sure aren’t any match for those beetles or mosquitoes. Last year we had a salamander - that up and disappeared after I bothered it. I found a snake skin under the rocks one year. 
So I don't really like being involved with cleaning that little pond. Even in the best of times it needs help several times a summer, and I wear big man gloves, and do as much as I can with a long-handled shop vac!!
I have tried 3 times to patch the leak (it drains about 1/2 way dry overnight) without success- maybe I'll try lining it using the painters' plastic sheeting (folded over a few times and taped into place under the rocks at the edge.)

Then I'll have to dismantle the little fountain on the deck to use that pump - since the waterfall pump completely died last year. It is much smaller, but I might get it to work if I can jimmy-rig the tubes together (one is 1/2" diameter, the other is 1.5"). 

What would we do without duct tape and bailing twine?? LOL
Isn’t that what farm life is really all about?

I think you would gag to see the waterfall the way it really is right now... definitely NOT dreamy. I don't really want to post something icky on my blog. 
This is about dreams, remember? Ok, it's ok to look at reality, as long as it isn't too gross. 
Sometimes we need to face those things, even when they are.





Keeping it Together


"Do not let who you are presently get in the way of who you want to be. Embrace it and let it become part of what's ahead....Being part of something outside yourself can only start if you've already made it a part of what's inside you."
 -quote by Jenna of Cold Antler Farm
 (article in Mother Earth News (Here



It's been a while since I've broached organizational topics. Organizing is like butter on toast- it really makes things go down better.


Yesterday I got a newsletter from Randy Ingermanson, writer and writing coach. Check out his really 'cool' Snowflake method! http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/

He said:
“Your "Master Plan" list contains all the lists and sublists that you plan to do in the indefinite future, in all their gory detail. Your "To Do List" contains the urgent or
important things you're going to focus on today.
If there's one thing successful people do, it's focus.”
He developed the Snowflake Method for organizing the brainstorming one uses when writing, and he uses The Fractal Planner, so impressed with how it helps him that he’s become an affliliate.  (It’s a thought-document-task organizing tool by subscription.) 
Check out the features here: http://bit.ly/oCeMQz

We all know that you break things down into smaller and smaller tasks and these are steps to a bigger goal –but this method helps  keep those tasks/steps and every thought organized.

43Folders.com is Merlin Mann's website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work: www.43folders.com 
Apparently even he uses the Fractal Planner. 

Me? I love binders. I like paper. A lot. Maybe too much. 
One time when the kids were younger they had a neighborhood water-balloon fight. In OUR back yard. 
And front yard.

For a week I was picking up bits of colored balloons... oh well, it's exercise, right? 
Funny me. I decided to commemorate that very fun day by making paper with bits of balloon in it. Just like people make paper with pieces of leaves, ferns, flower petals... you know?
Well I did it and it was a really fun, successful, experiment 
(if anyone cares I'll dig up the paper to show- I still have that one piece of paper somewhere)... but the point is that I like unique and decorative papers. 
And books.

Anyway, the more artful the better!
Here is the binder for keeping all kinds of tabs on my chickens and peeps!


Those monthly tabs will cover monthly care and costs and notes. 
Maybe my chickens will acquire names, and those notes will make it clear to me who is who.


De-lurk yourself and leave some thoughts!



When it FEELS like Progress

This is always going to be a highly personal evaluation, but sometimes any movement  at all feels like real progress. It renews your faith in yourself and in the whole stinkin' idea of your dream.




Here I am today without that much to show for it (as a rule, sweat gets washed away but the dust returns, so it never looks like I did much).
But I feel closer to something coming to fruition for all that sweat and dirt and the daily grind/repetitive stuff that I've had to stay on top of in the meantime.


The shed is ready (eight 5-gallon containers of paint and 'stuff' -no telling what it is- will not hurt chickens- it's too heavy for me to move it out- my neck is tight just from lifting them into stacks... anyway, on to the fencing!
And a gate. And setting up nests, feeder/water, getting feed and straw... Oh, and blocking access to UNDERNEATH the shed- since it's about 8"-12" off the ground on skids. 
That means 1000 trips down the hill with the wheelbarrow for rocks - and back up again. (Remember this is a slightly unweildy little wheelbarrow, so 'loads' of rocks means not very much). And we don't have nice round rocks. No..... they're almost all less than 2" high FLAT rocks. So I'll have to stack them! 
Ugh.


But some things are worth it. And maybe I'll drop a pound or two in the process. 


Update on the eggs- having not been able to take a reliable temperature of them other than feeling them, and adjusting the light every so often, I'm not too hopeful, but my daughter has had several dreams about finding chicks when she opens the door, so if that's any kind of a sign, well I'll take it!
Sunday will be day 18 and I'll keep misting them but quit turning them... and  a week from now we'll know -one way or another!


I should have the real chickens by then, so either way, something accomplished. 


What in your life is like this- an uphill battle to get somewhere? Or are you honestly happy with the status quo, peaceful in your heart that things are as they should be, and couldn't be any better?


Life plans interrupted:


Or, no pressure, content as things are: