Monday, October 24, 2016

Utilizing Chickens, Goats and Horses for Fall Garden Maintenance

Poop.  That's about what it boils down to.  Okay maybe a little more than that, but multi-species poop is where it's all at.  I wonder what the horses would think, them being emotional creatures and all, if they knew that their manure is the only thing they're good for(besides recreational and therapeutic purposes of course)?  Would they be angry?  Sad?  Happy?  Shocked?

Anyway, back to poop and gardening and fall.

I'm feeling a little giddy right now.  The kids are in bed, the baby is sleeping, hubby is snoozing right next to me and here I am.  Just me and my thoughts.  I don't get to hang out with me and my thoughts too often as of late.  In fact, it's pretty rare.  And being an get the idea, right?'s officially fall as we have the first frost warning tonight.  I still have some things in the garden like okra, peppers, kale and green beans.  We picked all of the beans today, peppers and okra yesterday and because the kale can withstand some frost, it's still out there looking big and green and pretty.  I usually plant a fall garden but this year, well, you know, life happens sometimes and this is it.

Once I get tired of picking kale(it has a tendency to go on forever), I will start to use our animals to clean up and fertilize.  The key to making this work is to have a fenced in garden.  Ours is about a 1/2 acre, including some grass in between garden beds and four apple trees.

I like to use the goats first by putting them in the garden all day.  Usually in November we take them off our bigger pasture for the winter to give it a break.  That is about the time our garden is done so the goats hang out there for a couple of weeks. They do a great job of eating down weeds, vegetable plants and fruits that didn't get a chance to ripen.  An added bonus is we save a little bit on hay while they are in the garden as they don't need any during the day.  Once they have eaten down as much as they can, we put them in our smaller paddock for the winter.

I break out the chicken tractor and put several old hens or roosters that were hatched on the farm in there.  Depending on the weather, we move them about for a couple of months over garden areas that did not get fertilized with the chickens in the tractor last year.  The more ground we cover, the less manure we have to shovel in the spots that didn't get covered.  We also move them around the apple trees to clean up any rotten apples and bugs.

When the goats are done cleaning up the garden, we usually let a horse or two graze a bit.  They don't eat a whole lot of garden weeds or leftover plants, but they do eat the grass surrounding the gardens.  They keep the grass short, and again less hay is given while there's plenty of grass to eat.

Remember, goats are foragers, horses are grazers.  So they work symbiotically together.  There are times we have put a portable pig pen over the garden too.  They do a good job fertilizing and rooting up the soil.  We have thought about just letting our pigs have the whole garden to themselves after everybody else is done.  They are getting pretty big now, so we might have some problems getting them from their pig paddock to the garden.  Might be more trouble than it's worth.

I get bad visuals when I think about three 200 pound pigs loose.  In fact, just the thought could very well give me nightmares.

So... once we have utilized the animals and the garden is cleaned up, it's about time for barn clean up.  That means a whole lot of manure shoveling.  Wherever we didn't put the chicken tractor, that is where the manure goes.  We have sandy soil in some spots and sandy loam in most areas of the garden.  It makes for perfect soil and is so easy to work with.  The draw back is that  the nutrients doesn't hold as well as clay soil, so lots of manure is required!

The manure we shovel out is multi-species manure.  We got a smorgasbord of cow, horse, goat and chicken manure.  Each has it's own make up of minerals, nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous ratios.  So when I test the soil in the spring after applying the manure, it is pretty spot on, not needing any amendments.

And that, my friends is how we utilize the critters in the garden.  How about you?  I'd love to hear how you do things!

If you like this post, you might like this book below.  Lots of good ideas for those who like to use what they have around the farm!

Monday, October 17, 2016

A New Phase in Life...

I've gotta tell ya, it feels good to get back to blogging!  Writing is my way of retreating and spending some alone time.  Plus, my introverted mind has to get things written down from time to time.  It's been a whirlwind around here and I have had about zilch alone time!

No, our new phase in life doesn't mean we sold the farm or quit homesteading.  But most of you know we have a new little blessing as of March 3rd.  We also have two new older blessings to add to the family.  My parents moved in last July due to my Dad's diagnosis of early Alzheimers.  We are in the process of adding a room addition on to our farmhouse as I write.

Although Dad's diagnosis is disheartening, we are so glad they chose to move here.  We have the mindset of keeping them out of a nursing home, and Lord willing that is the plan.

I will be posting here and there about Dad's journey.  Hopefully it will help some of you who are in a similar boat.  I would love to know about your journey as well!

Homesteading has a tendency to have phases.  With a new baby and my parents here, I'm just trying to keep up.  I still garden and can and freeze produce but not nearly as much as I would like to.  We have plenty of eggs from our laying hens.  We still raise and butcher meat chickens but just on a much smaller scale.  We raise our own beef and pork and milk our goats.  The homestead is still humming along.

But I've spent more time on organizing and decluttering than anything else.  When you get that itch, you just gotta act on it!  My husband and oldest son built a tack/tool room in the barn, so now the tools all have a home as well as the saddles, bridles, etc. We organized the garage(I imagine there's messy garages to organize in hell, just a guess).  And we plowed through the abyss in the attic. We also decluttered the boys room.  Man, what a pit that was!  Needless to say, we now have a car filled completely with bags of clothes, shoes, etc. to go to the Salvation Army.

It feels pretty daggone good to get that done. 

So, although it's a big change with a baby and my parents here, it's a good change.  I'm eating up my sweet Eliana and savoring every moment with her.  And I'm enjoying my parents' company and their help around the farm.  It's an adjustment for sure, and I hope I can be a blessing to them like they are to me!

That's it in a nutshell.  Many times at the end of the day, we get to witness a beautiful sunset.  My dad has asked me a few times, "The sky seems bigger up here doesn't it?"

Yes, it does Dad, yes it does.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Keeping Up with the Homesteading Joneses

You know, that Jones family just butchered their own cow(raised on pasture and organic grain), canned their 375th jar of vegetables they grew themselves, built a new coop from reclaimed wood they found from an old barn, made their own butter from their goats(with a cream separator), and claimed they haven't been to the grocery store in a year!


Oh to be like the Joneses.

They've got it going on and I'm over here feeling guilty for not butchering our cow and pigs ourselves. Butchering chickens isn't enough you know.  When we ever get to butchering our own pigs, then we will have reached the homesteaders elite.   

Sometimes I feel like a fake.  Like I should be doing more but it seems as of late it's a good day if the animals don't escape.  The Joneses never have that problem. It's like their animals know they are in with the elites. They know they have an image to uphold.  

I should've spent more time in the garden this year.  I should've canned more produce.  My canning shelves should be loaded from floor to ceiling.  Facebook worthy.  I bet that would go viral.  That's what the Joneses did.

I should really spend at least double the feed costs to get organic grain.  So what if the cost we put into our animals far outweighs what we get out of them.  Sometimes I envision there are the Elites watching over me when I scoop out grain that's not gmo free, shaking their heads or gasping in shock.

I really should save more goat's milk and make cheese again.  Never buying milk at the store just isn't enough.  Making goat's milk butter on a regular basis would up my status for sure.

And, we really need a woodstove.  I mean, a woodstove means we're legit right?

I have another confession to make while I'm at it.  I started buying Suave shampoo again.  Can you believe that?  I know, total fake.  I don't know what makes me feel worse - not making my own shampoo or buying an unnatural brand.  I just can't win.  Oh the guilt.

I mean, my chickens don't even have names!  

I don't think I'll ever be able to keep up with the homesteading Joneses.  

But then again, maybe I wasn't meant to.

"A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones."
Proverbs 14:30

Need a lift?


Sunday, April 10, 2016


Sweet little Eliana was born March 3rd and she couldn't be any more perfect.  I apologize for not posting sooner, but she has taken up most of my time.  And I wouldn't change that for the world!

This little gal is something special.  Not that my other children aren't special, but after losing so many, including two stillborns, the birth of Eliana almost seemed too good to be true.

There were some things I dreamed about before going into labor.  For one, I just wanted to go into the labor and delivery room happy.  Twice I have gone into labor with so much heartache, so much emptiness and longing, knowing I would deliver my child dead.  So this time, my husband and I were beyond happy.  We were ecstatic!  We were all smiles and at that moment it seemed like a dream, a wonderful dream.

I had three natural births and being induced with all of my others, I chose to get an epidural with the rest, including this one.  Some might think that because I do almost everything naturally here on the farm, that I should have a natural birth.  But, after going through a very painful birth with my fourth child who had a huge head, I decided that I was done with the natural route.  Been there, done that, and I'm good thank you very much.

But, this epidural had me thinking maybe I should've gone natural.

I had a little scare with my blood pressure dropping to 66/40, but after getting that under control, things went pretty smooth.  I went from being dilated to six centimeters to 10 in under 10 minutes.  That was a little scary and brought so many emotions.  The anesthesiologist did a botched job with my epidural and so I could still feel a good bit of pain and had some other issues along with it.  Little did I know that little Eliana was sunny side up.

This was the moment I'd been waiting for for so long.  The moment I would see this little gal for the first time.  I'd seen her so many times in ultrasounds, but to see her for real?  Oh my!

As I pushed, the first thing the doc and nurses said was that she was coming out forehead, eyes and nose first.  Her heartbeat dropped a bit with each push and I could tell the doctor wanted her out asap.  So, he had me look back at the cross on the wall behind me with each push.  Maybe the position was supposed to help me push her out.  All I know is it worked.  With four contractions, she was out.  And she was crying!  And she was beautiful!

I bawled.  My husband cried.  We were a mess, but it was a good mess.  I held her and just couldn't believe that she was real.  She was perfect.  She had bruising on her forehead and around her eyes from coming out sunny side up, but she was the most beautiful thing I ever saw.

And she was so soft!  Warm, alive.  It's amazing how we can take life for granted.  This little life in my arms brought me such an intense love.  A deep deep love.  A love that I wanted so much to pour out to my other little ones but couldn't.  Was this for real?  So much heartache before just made this delivery so surreal.  God did answer!  Oh my, did He answer!

She showed her dimples almost immediately.  She was perfect.  Did I already say that?

I found out later that pushing a sunny side up baby out with four contractions was not too common. It's usually a long and drawn out process.  I am so thankful I wasn't the norm!

She's the apple of my eye.

My little pumpkin.

There were some who didn't think I should ever get pregnant again.  Why chance having to go through another loss, they said?  But, I held on to God's promise.  I didn't want to take matters into my own hands, never knowing if He would've answered.  I had to trust Him completely with my body, my womb.  That was not easy!

Eliana means God has answered.  I am forever grateful.

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