Become Comfortable Dwelling in Uncertainty

“You can become comfortable dwelling in uncertainty, and take a position in proportion to the evidence, and the extent to which each possible outcome would affect you...there's no way to define a useful signal except with hindsight.”
 -John P. Hussman, Ph.D., Hussman Funds Weekly Market Comment (exerpted), Jan. 16, 2012

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I don't want to get morose about peak cheap oil or the chances of possible CME/EMP or economic downturn today, but I do want to just mention that I feel an urgent need to "become comfortable dwelling in uncertainty".

This is the undercurrent to everything I do now. It's my answer to being fearful, to feeling helpless or even hopeless at times, it's my efforts to combat despair. (Action has a way of doing that. The more you can rely on yourself, the less fear you will have, and the more security.) 


That is the premise anyway. Of course we can't count on anything being certain, and of course we could never provide fully for ourselves. But even if it is a fools' errand to try, it's something that keeps me busy and is positive and responsible to do.


I don't know if I'll ever actually feel 'comfortable' (secure), but that is the purpose and meaning behind my agenda. 


I'd love to hear what you feel would give you back a sense of security. I'd love to hear what you're doing to gain some measure of 'comfortable' with the uncertainty we live with. What you decided to do FIRST...and why!!

And now I just HAVE to mention the chickens! 
(Previous blog post promises NOT to mention them, don’t count!)
My first line of defense against hard times is having chickens. 
Growing more of their feed supply so that I'm not dependent on the feedstore is another of my aims. (If I needed to let them freerange in the warm months, I could provide them what they needed in the cold months). I've got a long way to go for that. 

Meantime, while the rolling stone gather s no moss, things are going slowly here, but according to plans and season...

I’ve got a broody hen! 
Silly me... I thought she was SICK! Maybe dying!

I watched her sit in that corner, in a nest she carved out of the straw and shavings, for  a whole week. I petted her a little to comfort myself. I watched and listened as other hens vied for that nesting spot. I shooed them away after she made threatening gurgly noises.
There were never any eggs underneath her.

So I finally did a google search -"hen sitting on empty nest" (thinking at the very least it would be a bad habit or a syndrome like the egg-eating is, and at the worst that this is where hens go to die!)
I found out she was just ‘broody’. She's wanting to hatch some chicks is all...

I’m so excited, because I ALSO had some eggs I could slip underneath her...and I absolutely did this! (Jan. 28th)


[Last August, I tried hatching eggs under a lamp...not a good outcome -only one of the two eggs was viable after candling, but it was a pretty green egg! Then the electricity went out and then the bulb went out overnight.]  

It's funny, I told my husband what I did, THREE TIMES. Yet when I said it  to someone else later that day, he said "what?!" in alarmist tones. LOL
"Yes, I DID do put eggs under that hen!!"

I want her safe from the egg-eater:
*blue paint marks the egg-eating hen

Because she does get up to eat and drink. And one of the eggs I have is a GREEN one from my neighbor. 

So I cleaned out the coop and put fresh pine shavings and straw down ...  put her in the safe ‘jail’ (it has it’s own heat lamp, food and water) and just let her do her job in the nest she carved out right up against the edge of the ‘real’ nests.

Two hens used the other set of nest this morning but I didn’t get out in time to save one of the eggs. I caught yet another hen (my favorite one- the smallest and darkest gray)...
 ...EATING AN EGG! I had to shoo her away from the remains- twice!
So, I took the remaining pretty egg (we got 2 eggs that day) and slid it underneath the setting broody hen. 



THEN I added another egg later just for the heck of it! 
(Because I'm pretty sure at least one WILL BE a rooster... right?)
That's my great math logic! She now has 7 eggs beneath her:
4 Blue Cochin eggs (coffee-with-plenty-of-cream colored)
1 pretty pastel green egg
2 mystery-breed eggs (also light mocha-colored)

In a week (next Saturday) I’ll candle them all to see progress and ‘cull’ as needed. (Feb. 4th)
Hatch date, should any eggs be viable and fertile.... Feb.18th.

I hope another hen goes broody – the possibility of hatching our own eggs is thrilling, and I know it makes me a little silly.  


PS Today Broody Hen wanted outside with the others (in a bad way), so I let her out. She cackled the entire time between bites of corn scratch off the ground (she has food 24/7 available), but she seemed RAVENOUS! 
She came out all nervous-like, and kept all of her feathers ruffled (lol, now I know where that term came from!) - but only the rooster pestered her. He ran after her 4 times and they squawked at each other. I think she was making herself appear 'larger than life' in order to keep herself safe from harm and he noticed and took it as a threat.


She rooted awhile under the brush and sunned herself, but this made me nervous - I ran in and turned all the heat lamps toward the eggs, and shoo'ed her up after a minute hoping she'd go back to the nest before any other hens discovered it... but an hour later I found her back on the nest, eggs safe and sound. Lots of chickies depend on her now, but she's doing her job  -and I'm not only thrilled, but proud!


I spent some time at night getting better profile pictures of them, so I can learn to tell them apart. Fun stuff, but not that productive! They wouldn't stand still! LOL 


All this fun, and chicks coming - takes my mind off the wearying bad news of the day. 
One of the things I do every Monday is check out the Barn Hop- so many others on the same farmgirl/homesteading journey, you'll be amazed, inspired, and you're bound to learn something! Click the Barn Hop icon on the right-hand bar and see what I mean!


THE PROGRESSION OF BECOMING

I read a blog this week that really impressed me as living in the midst of the dream farmlife. The name of the blog: Just Another Day on the Farm (Living my dream life on the farm) She has it all; she raises all the animals (enough livestock variety to qualify as a real farm), and she produces goods from the things she raises (sheepsmilk cheese for instance). 
I stand in awe of the results of her hard work, knowledge and skill.

It's easy to cruise the web and find someone doing for real what is still only a dream for me... but they had to start somewhere too!
I suppose there are those lucky enough to have inherited a farm they grew up on, complete with the set-up and the animals and the flow of income from production/produce/products. They live the dream for sure. 

But, I expect these days that most of us with the farm/homestead/self-sustaining permaculture food security/farmgirl dream are starting from scratch in our back yard.
I'm 'rural',  but still a novice: without the wherewithall in finances or equipment or livestock or knowledge or skills to just jump right into it all.

Arriving at the ideal or the dream life – is a progression of becoming. It takes more than time and goals, it takes focus-and tracking, or you could arrive and never know it!

My to-do list is written on a calendar page inside a manilla folder with that month’s priorities and goals on the cover in the form of a sort of collage. It’s an inspiration picture.

This keeps me motivated and on track with goals and keeps me from getting overwhelmed or from getting a chair butt.
(You know how it is, when you’re offline you get a whole lot done – opposite that you’re getting saddle sore just from sitting?!)

I use a “12 Folder” system – 1 folder for each month. (Details, Scroll Down Here). But here’s a visual example (it doesn’t include my “TO-DO” list additions which would go onto the bottom half of each day – these are suggested ways to take action on the focus of that month. Some of the permanent TO DO items for instance are Home Maintenance – and those are listed on the link just below the “12 Folder” details):

*with motivational 'collage' coversheets and unfilled calendars: 

 *with sample of filled-in calendar - monthly focus:
 *notice the 15th and 16th - items I wouldn't write in because they are part of everyday items or on the necessity/practicality to-do list. I have to clean the coop, manage the groceries, water plants, etc. Every room in the house gets a month for deep cleaning etc. (which is all laid out in detail on the 12 Folders link).
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I am pretty sure I’ll be adding one more facet to my agenda: “Farmgirl”.
(I wonder what I’ll take away to add this one – any suggestions?) I think I’ll give it priority this year- from then on I’ll just focus that same month on homesteading or animal husbandry...Farm Life (learning)?

First I’m currently creating an office/studio space for myself that is dedicated to my overall Longterm Agenda of simple homesteading & preparing for uncertain times. Everything that applies to that agenda is in that room. Painting and other creative pursuits included.

I am a farmgirl at heart and I want to live the part to the best of my ability. I think maybe some things like having an egg-gathering apron would add to the flare of this lifestyle.

It’s kind of a game with myself, wherein I grow into the part as I accomplish the short term goals, but I forgot that I could look cute doing it!
LOL I don’t really mean that, what I mean is more along the lines of feeling more ‘authentic’ in the role.
So many careers include some kind of uniform – a cook wears an apron or a chef wears a hat...Farmers wear Carhartt’s coveralls, or maybe it’s bluejean overalls.

Anyway, I have my pretty hat, and I need to figure out how to wear my hair under it. It can get hot pretty quickly under our high-altitude sun and “hat hair” is not a pretty sight!
I need to set this as a goal, what better way than to dedicate a slot of time and effort to the progression of becoming?
How do I picture myself in this role? What do I need to add or change to meet that picture I have in my minds’ eye (and hopefully will on paper)?

Any suggestions on what I should add to this?
What do YOU picture when you think of ‘farmgirl’ or ‘farmers’ wife’? Do you fit your own ideal? What would you add or change?

A long term objective is one that exists 1-5 years out. Where do you see yourself/what do you wish to accomplish in that time-span (1 year, 2 years, 5 years)?

Long term objectives are specific and tangible dreams.

To reach long term objectives : 
Create mid -term goals that map  to the longterm objective – as a tangible benchmark that shows you are in line to hit the long term goal/dream.

Next, set short term objectives (steps/ stepping stones).
These will be weekly, daily or even hourly goals.

To set up short term objectives (steps) work backwards  from the medium term goal and be specific:

1) For motivation and visual cues - Set up a file: get photos of the end goal/dream/objective(s).
Create a collage to tack onto the wall or use as a cover for the folder (action files/steps with calendar), or as a cover to your binder.

2) Take action - Write a specific to-do list on the daily schedule/calender.
The Monday Pages – this is the weekly list of ‘to-do’s’ to schedule as daily tasks (or whatever)- set aside a specific time each week to go over them! (I like Monday mornings in the winter, Sunday mornings in summer where I can take my notes outside).

3) Tracking and accountability - Monitor on a weekly & quarterly  basis against the larger planned goal to make sure nothing has shifted or changed, and that you’re on target.  If you aren't meeting your objectives, perhaps you need to adjust your vision or your capabilities.
Create a table to track things (weight lost per week, costs of supplies, whatever).  This keeps you focused on what’s important and gives an immediate picture of where things are in progress.

 A good way to stay accountable is to share your goals and the journey toward them. I keep track with the calendars and lists.

For instance, I run an appointment desk for our service business from home during the week. Between calls and paperwork, I roughly organize my computer time 9am-lunch (3 hours), like this:

Monday-  e-mail, farm topic web surfing & research
Tuesday-  document creation, blog topic research, filing
Wednesday-
 e-mail, weeding out, backups & creating disks (music)
Thursday- 
blogging (writing, editing, posting)
Friday-
 e-mail & PC maintenance (running scans, defrag, etc.), dusting desk & printer, cleaning keyboard, phone, mouse & cell phone
After lunch I attack whatever is on my to-do lists:
Exercising, animal chores, housework, errands, crafts, etc. as I determine their schedule.
At this time I dedicate my weekends to writing and animal care and getting out!

This schedule could be written on the top half of any calendar day leaving the bottom half, the 2nd part of the day free for activities based on my goals. It allows me to stay focused through blogging, through research, through actions (to-do list of activities), while keeping on top of the practical tasks or chores I need to do.

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I really want to talk about the chickens and how I’d be going out right now to get their profile pictures while they’re all settled down on the straw for the night, but I PROMISED not to talk about them in this post.

Long sigh, as thoughts course through my mind of going back and editing out that promise from the last post.
I KNOW, it’s ridiculous to just be so caught up in this journey of learning how to be a farmgirl... the obsession beginning with chickens and ending with eggs. LOL


So let’s launch into something else... 

Winter hasn’t really been its brutal harsh self this year and I’ve been all mixed up thinking it’s fall or spring so far... but sure enough the days are getting just a bit longer and I’m thinking hard on Garden Plans. I  envision glistening micro greens and herbs in pots in the window, and seedlings spread across the table in the morning light.

I am burning to finish a picture layout of the plans, with a list of actual plants (and the seed sources), and what will go where and what planting methods I’ll use (indoor/outdoor, etc.)
It’s not just a yard garden we’re talking about here. Every method of gardening will take quite a bit of prep and effort to get going – we have so much land and it’s so unusable (as is)> that we’ve had to come up with alternative gardening methods.

Here's what the property looks like (10 acres):

First, we’re on the edge of drought country, so any plants (talking perennials) we plant need to be
1) close to the water source
2) drought and deer resistant
3) useful for something besides ‘pretty’
That is a limiting kind of necessity. A lot of labor and some amount of money will be going into everything we do- it had better be well worth it).
I'd like to add Russian sage and raspberry bushes as a hedgerow along our driveway – interspersed with Shasta daisies, and maybe a line of trees.
A tree-lined driveway! (It’s about 200 feet long, then another 100 feet around the circular driveway not including the parking area in front of the house).
HB would like pines trees, I would like fruit trees. Both have their value, so there’s something to decide. Pine trees would be FREE from our own property, but I would prefer to spend precious water on fruit. Perhaps we will combine everything and stagger the plantings, putting the drip line in two rows or between like a zig-zag...
*Russian sage, courtesy of Colorado U. Extension Office

We have about 1/3 of an acre of ‘pasture’ area (could be as much as ½ an acre that backs up to a hill):
CONS: Not fenced. No water sourced to it. All un-amended clay soil.
PROS: It has a few scattered cedar trees (good for shade). It’s near the road and next to the driveway. It would be good for small livestock or an orchard- if prepared and fenced.

We have limited indoor space with direct East light for seedlings or partial shade plants.
There is a deck for container gardening.
We have a 400 sq ft room with a cement floor and being unused would be available for grow lights and raised bed crops (not melons, corn or squash).
An outdoor garden area, an UPRIGHT coldframe, and possibly lighting in the chicken coop as an additional 'cold frame' are planned in the future.

The plans are therefore going to be accomplished in several stages. One aspect at a time. Right now- simply containers for growing on the deck when the weather warms, and in containers in the window (on a large work table in my Farmgirl Office). Sounds simple enough... hahaha.

I plan to plant 'bird feed' (multiple grains you buy at Walmart for wild birds) across the septic leach field (approx. 14'x 50') which lays behind the house under the partial shade of tall pines. This is the ONE area where green grasses grow thigh-high without watering! The deer often nap there and crush the grasses but they aren't damaged. If it successfully grows it will be used as supplemental feed for the chickens over the winter. (Before the bears discouraged me, I used to feed the wild birds on the deck. Our unwatered backyard sprouted many grains, so I am fairly confident).

I plan to plant black oil sunflower seeds/giant sunflowers around the perimeter of the chicken yard too. The hose reaches there easily.



 #1 Decide What Your Goals Are -  It is important to have an idea of what your goals for your garden are BEFORE you get started.

Questions like:
Do you want to grow enough just to add a few vegetables to your dinner once in a while? 
Do you want it to be able to provide enough food for your family if there is a major emergency?

Some people who want to live "off the grid" end up building a garden large enough that it will provide almost all of the food that their family needs.
There is a consensus that the #1 survival crop (w/o a doubt) is sweet potatoes.
“You can live on nothing but sweet potatoes as has been proven time and time again in times of famine - sweet potato must surely be included be in the top 10 (if not #1) when it comes to survival if TSHTF and the store shelves are empty.”

Fortunately most people don’t need to worry about planting just one thing!
On the PBS show Victory Garden, they made succotash from the garden using a small multi-colored corn, pumpkin, and 4 kinds of beans (black beans, the little round ones), and green, yellow, and purple pole beans. They said that the “Three Sisters’ Garden” was being used as a basic survival group for the last 1000 years for a reason- the beans grow up the corn ‘pole’ and fix nitrogen into the soil which the corn needs, and the squash (any kind), shades the ground, conserving water. All the roots and nodes remaining in the earth feed the soil and ‘refresh it’ for the next planting.

Of course it could be a messy looking garden. So what! I can’t think of a better use of land. Corn rows waste a LOT of ground. If all these ethanol corn growers were growing for FOOD instead, they could raise 3x the food on the same land.
Sure, the machines wouldn’t work well, but hey, people can pick corn, beans, squash. I don’t see the problem. Then you can allow animals to eat whatever is left in the fields and their manure can fertilize the ground. Seems like logic to me.

Anyway, back on topic...Then you need to determine or learn other things:

How to amend soil
How to compost/make compost tea/fertilizers
What to grow where (crop list, grow method by type of crop)
Know the Sow & Reap Timelines
How much to plant for desired yield
How to Preserve (or recipes for)
Special needs or instructions (needs 60 degree soil to grow, line of crown to soil when planting bare roots, etc.)
When to Prune & How
How to propagate (seed, cutting, etc.)
What kind of plant it is: Perennial/Annual?
Care and maintenance (sun/partial shade, keep moist, let it dry out...)
What types of beneficial insects do they draw?
Uses for/of end product (animal feed?)

And this is why I don’t yet have a visual garden plan!! 
There are plenty of illuminating and inspiring plans on the web... it's just a matter of time before I figure it all out. Right now it's a little overwhelming.

How do you decide how much of what to plant? 
What obstacles and challenges did you overcome and figure out solutions for?
What was your favorite crop or plant (why)? 

See you next time- when I talk about the chickens again! I have more news to tell!! (Super Exciting! LOL)









In the Coop

In the Coop... I have a SUPER exciting update...

I heard the eagle cry out... not a reassuring sound when you just let your hens out in their yard and the eagle is obviously within a few hundred yards.
First I ran into the house to get a look at the regular resting tree...
yep, there it is, not even facing the direction of the coop yard.
 Then I notice something....
Compare the BRANCHES the eagle is on... not the same! 
There were 2 of them - it's courting season
(Nooooooo, this is not the super exciting update!)


It's just one of those 'too cool' things! 
Of course a couple of crows chased them off a little later. 
Those branches are prime real estate.

Last Monday it was 6 degrees out  - I rushed out to check on my chickens (for frostbite), but the coop was at least 20 degrees warmer and they were all making contented noises.

I have 2 heat lamps and a dog bowl type electric water bowl (so it won't freeze). Unfortunately they don’t seem to know how to use it!
Last weekend one heatlamp blew it's tube (again)...the other one blew thru 3 tubes in a month, but it’s a better heat source.
It's quite a bad system with up to 3 heating devices at a time set up on one electric extension cord... Next year maybe I'll be insulating the coop with bales of straw on the outside. Or something. (Ideas anyone???) 

*Everyone I talk to seems to have the same kind of "do whatever works" system, it’s not just me (whew!)... but there must be a better system!
The feed store has a $47.+ tax 2-gallon plastic electric chicken waterer... Riiiiiiiight.

Good news is that the eggs are being fertilized – at least some of them! 
Jocelyn from Chicken Scratch took the time to examine my pictures and affirm my hopes. Then she told me the best way to check on egg fertilization is to candle them after a week in the incubator. (Who knows which hens will get fertilized, not all the eggs are showing the full bullseye mark).
Once fertilized, a hen can remain fertile an average of 2 weeks (sometimes longer). 

Not all are laying this winter- the breed is not marked an “excellent” layer, but “good”, and mine are almost 3 years old now).
They ARE supposed to be good mothers, so IF I had one go broody I’m sure it would be fine... but then the egg-eater might also be a chick-chaser? So if I get a broody hen I will definitely be separating the nesting hen from the rest of the flock.

We got 4 eggs 2 days ago and 1 egg and 1 "empty shell" day before yesterday – and 3 eggs yesterday, and 2 today (so far). 

They lay from 8am to 5pm... it's hard to catch the eggs before they freeze or are eaten! (I need a webcam, but I’m not getting one, lol.)
It does all seem to get complicated to figure all of this out, because not all hens seem to be laying... but maybe it’s that they lay every other day and one lays every 2 days?

I am thinking that knowing the actual layers is crucial because only they will be interested in sitting on eggs to hatch them.
It’s too early to lament or get keyed up-  it's winter now!
I have time to figure this out.
Yes, good news I have something to work with. But it's not the only good news....

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SUPER FANTASTIC UPDATE!
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I just spoke w/ someone in our subdivision who will be butchering 10 roosters this weekend and will let me come and learn/help. If I really mean what I say about creating some self-sufficiency in our lives, I have to do this eventually. Much better if I’m not doing it by myself the first time!
It could make a lot of difference - raising chickens a trade-off in food costs if I could do this on a regular basis. Even if I grow some supplemental feed it won't be enough unless I also process meat birds.


Nooooo, that was not the super exciting update! Sorry...

He also offered me his brooder machine to use whenever I want, since he no longer needs it w/ his 30-hen flock (they are raising chicks enough on their own, obviously). And, he'll give me some blue/green eggs to hatch too!
Isnt' that super exciting?!


I said I'd like to get the incubator at the end of February for an end of March hatch date, if this mild weather holds up. If not, then I’ll plan for an end of April hatch date.


Supposedly our mild winter is because of La Nina and will become a WET spring as La Nina fades. Whatever they mean by ‘wet’. We could definitely use rain.

I’m not sure how many eggs his incubator holds. 

I'm thinking I'll hatch up to 24 eggs with the incubator (some in the incubator will obviously not be fertile) and see how many hatch. 
Then as soon as one shows signs of broodiness I’ll let her hatch out 6 eggs naturally. This sounds like a plan. 
I'm not sure it's the best of plans though. 

Out of the results I hope to keep only 6 hens for myself (to make an even dozen hens -once Miss egg-eater goes bie-bie, if she’s still doing that- right now it's off and on).  

I could ALSO try to hatch out – like 4-- of the darker brown 'organic' eggs from the grocery store because they're fertile too! It might be a good experiment...to find out what the breed is! The eggs are a rich terracotta color. (Yes, I'm still buying those $4. a dozen eggs!) I might add 2 in the incubator and 2 under the hen.
Any experience in this experiment, thoughts, or words of wisdom you have, feel free to share it! 

(cochin chicks)

I had a 'duh' moment yesterday after I realized that each of my birds has a different shaped comb on their heads.

I could therefore learn to tell them apart! 
Yeah I know! DUH!
I ran in to get my camera and get head shots of each of them, LOL, what a waste of photos.....thankfully it's only digital and not real 'film'!
But it was a learning experience all the same.
*She has 6 perfect spikes
I learned that taking pictures of dinosaur-heads is not only time-consuming and is a direct cause of suspicious looks from Roo, but if I make silly chicken noises to make them LOOK sideways at me, (need your profiles ladies!), the noise that seems to be a response from the rooster is really my jealous doggie crying at the door... and so this kind of activity must not be done when I'm trying to do two other things at once: at the end of the day trying to beat the sun and work around it's flare effects coming in the window so I'm rushing, nor when I'm trying to include the dog in an outing. 
He will never understand.

*She has 4 spikes

Plus when Roo wants to show me he's boss in the coop, he flaps his wings -and ALL THE DUST he raises is cough, cough, Blah! Then I get the 'evil eye'....
 * His suspicious, watchful, "look", just so you can feel the effect! 

I'm going to have to start giving him treats I think! 
Back out I go now, to check on the progress of the egg-eater who's setting on a nest, and get a pie crust into the oven...it's supposed to snow today!
Next post will exclude chickens, I promise. 



Farmgirl Chat

I’m gushing enthusiasm for projects related to farmgirl arts right now. I’ve  been inspired  by some very creative and productive farmgirl ladies, and I want to share some of it your way – hopefully inspiring something in you.

Some things can be made for little or no money at all, but add to or create such a fantastic farmy atmosphere!
Jill did something I just love for it’s rustic simplicity. I want you to go see it now, and mark her website in your favorites to read when you’re done here - because if you don’t you might be tempted to stay there all day!

Jill’s Homestead Decor: DIY Chicken-Wire Frame

She inspired me to add chicken wire to my last project (HERE), which seemed to be perfect for this addition- I knew it was missing something- and I am loving it:






 (I was told that it would look so much better if I painted the frame with fresh paint... what do you think??) 

And Kimberly’s project is a dream. She’s a year into her farm dream on a real farm, and has taken magazine clippings to a new level. 


She call these notebooks her ‘everything books’.

Not only does she do a collage on the cover  - then uses her clippings and illustrations as writing prompts that help her with all kinds of ideas and planning, jotting notes and sayings and thoughts about all kinds of things in between. 
It’s useful art- the very best kind.

Wait until you see inside them!!

I imagine that thumbing thru them is like reading a fairy tale of farm dreams. The very best reading there is!

I thought how fun this would be for fighting winter doldrums around here - of course it's been pretty ‘duldrum’ here already (the sky is rarely blue, mainly white all the way down to the horizon - but in all fairness I suppose the smoke from fires in Canada are making that worse).
It would be a great way to distract yourself from summer's heat too!

A reason to print out my personal library and make it my own - I've been keeping documents on the PC – DIY and how-to’s, lists, goals, and plans. I also keep folders with clippings from magazines for projects that I want to do. This is a great way to combine them!


Even without the buttons and lace embellishments, they’ll be like a collection of beautiful coffee table books, like notes to inspire myself into action, or to brighten a ho-hum, day.

I ddn’t really need another project, especially since I have 1000 favorite clippings it would take me years to just glue them in... but you know, I am really loving this idea 
Maybe when we get some snow (and in Minnesota they get REAL, real snow), I might feel better about letting other things slide so I can indulge in it without guilt.

A recent post by Kelly, who has gone farmgirl with homesteading @ The Morris Tribe –caught my attention with The Art of Persistence.

She  writes from a place of having raised 9 kids, and biblical wisdom – on a timely piece about discouragement, obstacles, fear of failure. I left feeling less alone with these feelings  better able to recognize them,  and better equipped to deal with them.
  
The Farmgirl Dream and Homesteading and all that... shoot it's a long haul journey!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Now I am hoping someone with a good eye or some experience will help me with this quandry I am finding myself in. Help if you can!

I’ve got 7 hens that are going on 3 years old now and I’m getting 1-3 eggs a day (it often depends on me catching a persistant egg-eater).
I think that the hens are laying every other day, but because they almost all look alike, and some sit on nests for 45 minutes and then leave nothing behind, I’m really unsure of what’s going on. However, I’m thinking I should ‘refresh’ the flock while I can, by adding some chicks. 

I can order chicks of any breed I want, however many I want, at the feed store. That’s awesome, and I was considering some Orpingtons, blue or buff colored. (They look like mine, BUT without the feathered legs.)
But before I do that, I want to know if I HAVE to do that, or if I could hatch a batch here, from my own special chickens.
They’re special because they are MINE, lol. But, it’s also FREE that way- and who needs extra cost when you know you’ll have to buy chick starter anyway?  That stuff doesn’t come cheap!!

Now, the question is: 
DO I TRY GETTING A HEN TO GO BROODY? OR DO I JUST BUY CHICKS?
(If so, how many? - because they won't be sexed)!

omg... JUST LOOK AT THESE CUTE COCHIN CHICKS! They're so cute!

(Photo courtesy of Mckinney & Govero Poultry)

One question that bugs the heck out of me all the time:
WHAT THE HECK DID THE PIONEERS DO WITHOUT A FEED STORE?

Anyway, the main glitch is, I’ve been checking each egg as I break it open, for signs of fertility. Roo has not shown any indication of that kind of activity – at least as far as I have seen, though he’s certainly cocky enough to rule the roost in every other way.  

I’M NOT SURE, but ordering chicks in January seems like it could put me in a bind too: Is there a best season I should wait for, you know, like Spring- because it seems to me a hen will not want to sit on eggs in the coldest part of winter, right? 

But I don’t even know if my hens will go broody and sit on eggs.
But if I wait to order, then I will have possibly ordered prematurely for nothing.

Some  photos of the eggs I’ve checked this week:

 What do you think: Fertile chicken eggs – or not? 

I just can’t be sure! I don't want to trust myself, being that I really HOPE they're fertile.
IF this is all new to you, here’s a source of information with photos of fertile-vs-infertile-egg-pictures.

Believe it or not, I actually for sure found a fertile egg from the carton of store-bought organic eggs. It’s a crazy mixed up world, eh? I considered whether it would be fresh enough to try hatching with a clutch under my hens- lol, some people have actually hatched eggs they bought from Trader Joes!
It would be such a fun experiment!

BUT the thing is- you would be hatching what breed? I guess it really doesn’t matter much; it won’t be some exotic breed.

On gardening-
 I saw an interesting Victory Garden show this morning. They cooked up some eggplant and chilies and peppers – good stuff, but before that part, discussing the different egg plants and peppers- he mentioned diversity as a means of real food security!

Remember the Irish potato famine? They were growing TWO types of potatoes, but both failed and people starved. In Peru, they have probably 1000 different potatoes and they plant ALL of them! When blight or too much rain, or too little, or whatever occurs- you’ll get something out of it that survives.

There’s a documentary I saw once featuring a little old lady in Peru who saves these diverse potato slips. There’s a woman in India saving rice – for diversity. Apparently there are many American Indian corn types too ...I’m sure what worked in one region was specially adapted over time to that region. Colored corn is like jewels and some can even be used as beads.

Not that I would advocate 1000 different types of anything- but I would like to plant at least a dozen kinds of ‘dry soup’ beans (excluding green beans and lentils). Like potatoes, not a complete food, but close to it (just add corn or rice?) I think it would be easier to save bean seeds over time rather than potato slips, too.

Dried beans are as pretty as pennies in a jar- and worth far more than that for food security!
What kinds of plants do you lean toward most for your sense of food security?


Icing on the Cake!

Sometimes we find ourselves in a fashion rut - or there would be no need of magazine covers on this topic year after year.
Mainly I am guilty of falling into the "no one ever see's me except at the grocery store" mentality- so being cute or fashionable isn't really on my mind.
Wearing an apron is dressing for success out here- although at this point even that would be high fashion to me! [It's not really practical to wear earrings or rings or any other 'bling', and even my nail polish is now ALWAYS just 'clear'!]


But, practical doesn’t have to always mean boring!!
 This makes me reconsider my entire current and boring wardrobe: cowgirl boot bling! @ the Sugarpie Farmhouse blog. She's always so cute but this one is over-the-top cute. 

That's ok- I've chosen this lifestyle and it suits me, but sometimes, a little frill, a little fancy, a little bling- really can make a difference in how you view yourself and your environment! It can affect your overall mood.

For instance, many of us are thinking about 'prepping'. That has it's own connotation of 'practicality' that may mean wearing thermal long-johns and include no bling at all. It can be disheartening in some ways. Maybe a little pretty is good for the soul - be it pink nail polish or lipstick, or a charm dangle on the hat (or boot)... 

I'd be interested in how you dress yourself up in a practical way -a wreath on the door, dried flowers, or a pretty egg-gathering apron?

Everything about emergency/survival preparations means organization, learning new skills and researching PLUS actually taking actions on the plans! None of it comes easy, and it’s a longterm project, so follow-thru is a must. It ends up being a bit overwhelming.

Because of weird weather events (global warming if you will), I hope you are learning that we cannot count on ‘normal’ weather year to year!
Not only have freak heat waves brutalized crops in the south and southwest the past few years, rainfall has been scarce -and many places are experiencing severe drought. In other places, the temps shot up to 20 degrees above normal for a couple of days, then dropped to 20 degrees below normal, and in others, rainfall has been unrelenting and/or torrential. In other places, even by mid-summer, they experience such cool weather that only get cool weather crops will grow!

The point is, if you only rely on a garden to survive, that’s putting all your eggs in one basket- and you could be in big trouble.

We all need back up plans...with back up plans.
Aside from meat animals, what other options are open to you? Fishing? Eggs? Milk and cheese? That’s all a great deal of good, but we all want and need more than protein, right?

Alternatives might be:
Grow indoors
Learn to sprout grains/beans and eat sprouts
Take advantage of what foods you can forage on available properties (it may be BLM, state forest, park land and river access areas, etc.) Those are a few backup plans. But practice makes perfect, and also, getting the hang of it all so you know what you need and you have it. And, maybe doing that practice to know what you don't want to do or invest in. Can you imagine a 'meat and potatoes' kind of guy suddenly feeling satisfied with a salad - and gulp, SPROUTS? The end result might be like handing a kid a fresh glass of wheat juice when they've only ever had milkshakes. 
Funny, but not.



Here, we have only some prickly pear cactus – for cactus pear jelly and ‘nopalitoes’ (cooked cactus strips). They aren't ripe until the end of summer, but the cactus 'pads' can be used any time (once you get the SPINES off, right?) 
Not that anyone really wants to prep or eat them. If you haven't experienced them, they are a bit like aloe or okra - on the slimy side. But I discover more about the nutrition of cactus, and should think of recipe possibilities. 

Meantime, I’m planning what I will grow - where, and when, and how! For now, am taking special interest in drought resistant plants.

For starters, I am going to grow several kinds of dry soup and heirloom beans for canning and drying (several from Rancho Gordo which is actually an heirloom bean company for beans to consume which makes them priced very reasonably to grow).
One is called the Rio Zape which is a pinto like bean with essence of coffee and chocolate; don’t they sound  good?!


I love the looks of dry beans in a jar...


I love dressing up the jars too. 
I have so many little sewing projects re-using old blue jeans- one of them is for jar covers! Cutest idea yet... though I'd love burlap & and lace too- maybe I'll combine them!


Anyway, back on topic!
I wonder how many people are growing the new colored beans? They make me drool...



In planning these things I’m trying to keep in mind that we’ll be growing what we can for more than just ourselves. We expect my parents to move in with us at the end of next year, so bye-bye farmgirl office... since they’d like a sunny sitting room (it’s next to the large bedroom) and... hello new  project:  building stairs to the attic!  (You can take the farmgirl office away from the farmgirl... but you can’t take her determination for office space away – I need my space!)

I thought I'd just toss this out there to share too - the cutest idea for an apron- by Jenny @ Farmchicks blog:


Gosh, after seeing this (I call it the “candy button” apron) I only wish I had granddaughters... and cute cupcake material...

Wait! 
I can still enjoy sewing some up! It might be a good product for the Farmer’s Market- or gifting. I don’t like to sit around with nothing to do, and it will make a great indoor project to share with my mother! (The only thing we have in common aside  playing piano, is sewing).  I think it’s a good idea to ‘prep ideas ahead’ for what we can enjoy during our time together.

I really like it when I find a project that takes on different aspects of possible diverse avenues of income- or that in some way adds a resilience factor
Being cute is just icing on the cake.

Come back and share: what projects have been/are your favorites- and why???