Whose that crazy Chicken Lady?


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ultimate fails on a Homestead

I don't always show the failures of this sustainable lifestyle. I admit I am still learning bunches about this.

Here's a bit of my garden experience:

I was trained as a Master Gardener what seems like years ago. I had a small grass cutting company I managed and ran. I wanted customers to have a better experience so I took the class out of U of I and loved it!

I was able to provide weed identification, applied fertilizers, potted plants and gave a few basic ideas for landscaping. But I didn't focus at that time on how valuable it was to feed the earth.

Fast forward to present, I can truly see how much more I could have given to my clients if I had seen the Permaculture/Sustainable/Biodiverse community at that time. I always had a heart for homesteading but didn't really know what it was until I met my 2nd Husband, Terry too had a interest in learning to live off the land someday.

We made the leap into homesteading after being apartment dwellers in 2011. We were blessed to rent a HUGE old hunt lodge that was off the Kankakee river- see some of those goings on here-Redrum hotel .

Now to get off track a little here is some info on Terry (A.K.A- Mr. Awesome) has a background with Radio/TV and as recent as a few year ago as an IT Specialist for FEMA. He was gone at least 8 months out of the year and I missed him. At the time of the change from the apartment to the hunt lodge he was gone. I did as much as I could by myself and when he could come home on the weekends, he would become a weekend warrior. But that was really heard on him and our relationship.

I missed him and made a deal that I would work so he could stay home. They money was definitely not anywhere what he was making but he was home.

During this time we started to make plans to open a B n B with antique shop inside. We were already hosting Barn sales that were building steam! We had people knocking on our door to ask when the next one would be.

We also toyed with the idea to have a small cafe that would serve tea, coffee, soups, sandwiches, and desserts. We were approached by the park service to host "Wild game dinners" this would be held a few times a year and cooked by the employees.

I wanted to host classes that covered: Hunting, Fishing, Cast iron cooking, Foraging in the backyard, Canning, Survival skills and First aid in emergency situations. Of course crafty type of classes featuring old and new skills. I had asked a small group of friends that are amazing with these skills to help us learn, connect us with others so we could make almost a fest out of it.

We were so EXCITED!  These plans came to a screeching halt when there were some changes to our handshake agreement with our rental company. Everything fell through.

We managed to be blessed a second time to find our forever home. Here we could raise the animals, garden as much we want, run naked if we wanted to. (Scary thought I know!)

So what does all this have to do with our fails and why share them?

This is kind of a "Do as I say not as I do" type of thing.

I don't think I was as prepared as I thought I would be to start raising animals, the garden took more time then I hoped, and I was battling exhaustion. (My teen helpers weren't always very helpful)

Canning had several mishaps. We lost dozens of jars due to someone who shall remain nameless
popping the caps on my jars before they were done. This person liked the sound it made while cooling. Some of my canning was mushy despite following directions. I have learned some things about that since then!

There are the bugs that infested our tomatoes so I lost almost the whole lot. The chickens that flew in and ate my herbs to nubs after being in the garden the whole day. Or the rows and rows of veggies that didn't come up or were damaged due to the weather. My water person didn't water for long enough or often enough and many plants died.

Living in old homes has it's charm but when it rains it could pour literally! There were some mold issues in our old place so bad the kids and I were miserable. Also that is the 2nd time I was infected with Lyme. Deer are pretty normal to see in the country, since living off the river it was a water source for Deer so ticks were all over. So were mosquitoes! We couldn't go out at times when they were too thick to make a run just to go to the car. And by the way it was either a mosquito or spider that infected me with Lyme.

We did fogging, DIY fan units, sprays, essential oils, keeping the lawn short, cutting down any old wood, dumping standing water and bug zappers. They were too intense.

Our new home also has some water issues, not as bad as our rental thank goodness. I have pots and containers strategically placed in our attic to collect water. The roof is a job that is not readily affordable at this time.

We knew the house was a challenge when we purchased it! We hope to barter, trade and work out some sort of agreement to help with repairs that may be a bit too large or not in Mr. Awesome expertise.

There are always cooking fails! The old joke when the smoke detector goes off food is done. I am notorious at forgetting (Brain fog darn you Lyme!) to put things in my recipes. Eggs or Butter are on my forgetful list. So you may have a brick for banana bread or the cookies just are a bit off. And we did splurge for a new oven that we realized later has to be leveled. Cakes usually come out lopsided.

We had the animal fails. I embarrassed and sad to say it was our error in many cases.

As an example, a friend had sexed a rabbit we had gotten from a animal auction. Our friend said it wasa Doe.

We should have double checked. But several weeks later much to our sad dismay Fluffy (an Angora rabbit) had babies. Unbeknownst to us at a time when we were taking apart the rabbit hutch so they were in a dog crate for temporary use on the ground.

Needless to say some of the babies wiggled out and ended up being food for hungry chickens. I felt awful! I heard a wee voice screaming and didn't know until too late what it was. We tried to save a remaining injured baby but it succumbed a few days later. 2 others did survive! They stayed by Momma and were safe and sound. (Pictured above) We no longer have them. We had planned to go across the country in a renovated School bus but ended up finding our forever home as well as becoming Grandparents for the first time. A few months later we found out we were going to be Grandparents a second time too!

There was time we ran an errand into town and left our dogs outside, chained to a in ground stake, while our chickens were ranging. Now I did ask Mr. Awesome to put the dogs in. But he figured we wouldn't be gone that long.

We came home quickly to a view of white puffy looking clouds on the grass. It looked like snow piles here and there in the grass. We jumped out of the car, quickly realizing the dogs were gone and something was horribly wrong with those piles!

Up bounded one of the dogs, Blue, with a white hen mustache in her mouth.

We had a flock of 12. Key word there is "had".

It appeared the Rooster, Combs, put up quite a fight. He seemed to die doing exactly what Roosters are supposed to do. Protect the Hens.

We were angry, sad and upset with each other and the dog. It took a lot of restraint for Terry not to take care of the dog with his pistol.

Of course the dog was just doing what part of her breed does. Hunt. They are part Lab/Australian Shepard.

We did find a good home for Blue as soon as we could and kept Vi. 

Vi has more of a Shepard in her and seems to herd our animals. Not that given the chance she won't eat wee one We closely monitor her whereabouts and never leave her alone with chicks or ducklings.

There is the great beehive disaster! Mr. Awesome built a really cool hive for our first set of bees. We made it through the Spring, Summer and Fall without injury. Buttoned up the hive for the winter and thought all was well. We had some freezing, warm and then freezing again with a sprinkle of icy rain. This lead to the wood on the hive expanding and cold rain getting into the hive. Which ultimately caused them to die. In case your wondering Mr. Awesome didn't think the hive needed the dovetails, which would have been more secure, maybe there would have been no lose of the hive. We did have about 5 lbs of wax and several jars of honey. 

We lost our Mason bees the placement was not the best at our new digs. They area had too much rain and wind. They re homed themselves.

We have lost Chickens, Ducks, Guinea Fowl, Quail, and Rabbits to:



Den of Foxes

Some large fish that devoured one of our 2 year old Ducks at our old house while she was swimming a week after a flood near the house.


We have also lost these to other Chickens, Guinea Fowl, and Rabbits.How?!

Remember the pecking order? It is not uncommon for a flock to peck at a younger group brought in. They seem to know the weaker ones even if we don't. Chicks may climb all over a chick that is down, eventually killing it.

They may keep the odd one away from food and water. They may fight to the death. A momma Rabbit may not feed her litter. She may eat them, step on them, push them out of the nest and they freeze if they get too cold (if it's the Fall or Winter). Finding a half eaten baby is not something you will see me post on social media. But it's nature, it happens.

Even with our efforts to rescue these babies, it isn't always pretty or a happy ending.

A chick can end up with Splayed legs, notice down below. Even after binding this wee one up after this picture was taken. It was weak and died. I thought for a few days it was on the mend but I was wrong.

Then there were deaths that happened and we had no idea why they died. We found them in the cage/coop in the morning.

Now many of these things we could have prevented. Some things you can't. I have heard stories from other homesteaders/farmers that have dealt with larger animals deaths.

Sows that rolled on their babies, killing them.
Mother animals that walk away from their babies leaving them to fend for themselves.
Animals that die during birthing.
A group of people  bought a pregnant cow and though the cow was considered healthy she and the baby died overnight.
Animals that chocked on something too big for it.
Whole crops gone in an instant due to flood, tornado or fire.
Crops gone to severe insect infestations

While we have those moments of stupidity, anger or sadness; it is still beautiful to celebrate life, something green that we grew, and feeling grateful for a job well done. 

We have learned many valuable lessons that comes for caring for our animals. We have a roof over our head, food in the fridge, cars that run, love and support from friends and family.

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