The Duck Massacre

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We have had some terrible luck with predators this past couple of months. We have lost about 7 hens and 4 ducks. We have 3 predators that frequent our little farm. And all 3 are not welcome here.

A chicken hawk was arriving each day to see who he could pick off. I was on high alert and so were my trusty roosters. I have a rooster in charge of his ladies safety in every coop. Having a rooster is so important. His job is to keep his hens safe and he is always on alert. When he senses danger he makes an alarm sound to get everyone’s attention. When danger is near he goes into full alarm. This sounds is unmistakable. You learn quickly that this sound means get out here NOW! There are times I can be seen running outside in my robe, bare feet, hair a crazy mess and scooping up a handful of rocks on the run. My rooster calls all his ladies to him during emergencies and takes them to their hiding place. It is really interesting to see. His one sounds makes all hens stop scratching for bugs and run straight to him. My roosters have saved many lives from this pesky air attacker.
Free ranging
We researched different chicken hawk deterrents to ensure our chickens could continue to live the free ranging life they have come to love. Here is what we found:
*Build a scarecrow and plant him in the middle of your field
*String up CDs. They will spin in the wind and reflect sunlight. You can use                      anything that will reflect the sunlight: mirrors, grazing balls
*Hang mylar strips around the field
*String nylon rope in a crisscross pattern from fence post to fence post across                  your pen

Coyotes are the sneakiest predator that we have encountered. As soon as they get one chicken they will frequent your property until every last chicken is eaten up. It is important to act quickly. The coyote patrols the area daily usually at the same time and if there is an opportunity he seizes it. Our annoying coyote comes each day at noon. We seem to be his lunch time restaurant. The chickens wise up fast after a couple are picked off. My rooster now takes his ladies to the far corner away from the coyotes entrance. In the area most affected by the coyote the chickens go to bed a little earlier than the rest of the coops. As their keeper we need to help them with their coyote problem.

Here is a small list of things you can try if you have a similar problem:
*String up a small radio in the trees and play talk radio
*Frequent the area that the time of his arrival and scare him half to death by                  screaming, waving your arms and clapping your hands. Be careful though!
*Get a good guard dog
*Electrify your fences

Our last predator who left by far the most gruesome scene is the 3 bears. Momma and her 2 cub have been causing a number of problems in our area. Last year they ate a few chickens and we had a rather scary encounter with them. We electrified right away and didn’t have any more issues. We recently got 4 ducks and we were loving them! If you don’t have ducks get them, I promise you will love them. There is nothing better than that waddle they got going on.
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We incubated 18 eggs to try and get more but only one hatched. My oldest called him Meetri. Meetri imprinted on me and my oldest and would follow us all around the yard. Here is a cute little video. I was doing my morning chores and stumbled upon a sad bloody scene. The bear had ripped the wall right off and ate my poor ducks while they slept. It is the worst feeling to lose your animals. I stood in the yard hands on my head trying to find the words to tell my family our ducks and our little Meetri were gone. I called over to my dog to come and mark the area (my dogs sleep inside…I know I know….I see the light of having an outside livestock guardian). I guess my little Meetri heard my voice because he came running from the woods. I scooped up my poor frightened little Meetri. He now sleeps in a large dog crate in a chain link dog kennel.

Here are ways to deter that bear that can devastate your farm:
*Electrify your fences
*Install a motion activated light
*Install motion activated sprinklers
*Sting up a small radio playing 24/7

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Coyote Predators

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We took 12 chickens to their new home in the back 3 nights ago. We are now down to 9. I heard the alarm from my rooster today so I ran out there to catch this annoying predator in the act. I watched as the guilty coyote jumped into the blackberries and dashed away.

Now we are on alert. The key with predators is to act right away. You need to come up with a plan and quick! The last time we had a coyote issue I hung up a little radio in the trees and played talk radio at a high volume. That is what I am going to try again. If it doesn’t work I may need to set up a blind 😉

Has anyone has to deal with coyote problems? What have you tried??

Bunk Beds: The Good, The Bad and The ugly

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We recently decided to put our 2 boys in the same room. Our youngest is 5 years old and oldest is 6 years old. They go to bed at the same time and usually chat across the hall so we figured why not. Both my husband and I shared rooms with our siblings and had good memories talking and laughing before sleep set in.

The Good

Bunk beds save space! We measured the kids original beds to see what they would look like in the space. The bedroom would have been filled with beds and not much else would fit. Bunk beds solve that problem, stack em up!

Putting your kids together frees up a bedroom. Who doesn’t like a free space. I am trying lead a more minimalist lifestyle these days so fingers crossed this free bedroom doesn’t end up a storage room piled up to the ceiling. (Seriously cross your fingers for me)

The Bad

Who will go on the top? This can cause an uproar. We told the boys the rule of bunk beds was the oldest is always on top. Still every other night my youngest will say “why can’t I sleep on the top” Rules are rules friend.

If you have a dare devil child like we do the last thing you want to do is create a high platform for fancy jumping, flying or climbing. Our youngest doesn’t have a lot of thought before he does something awesome. He is only 5 years old and we have been to emergency 5 times. If I ever hear “Hey mom, watch this!” I have to run as fast as I can to the scene screaming STOP!!! He also has a war cry that I know something dangerous is about to happen. If you ever hear a child scream

AH ZABENYA

RUN! Run to see what they are doing…trust me, its dangerous.

The Ugly

We have had the flu cycling through the house. The boys keep passing it back and forth. I think we need to enact a quarantine or something. Well guess what folks?? If the top bunk child pukes…..you have THE UGLY of bunk beds.

Last night my top bunk boy screamed MOMMY! I went running to find him puking over the edge of the bunk beds onto his brother! I had to shove the sleeping boy to the other side of the bed and rip his blanket away at the same time. All the while screaming to the toilet! Climb down! Of course my sickie boy couldn’t really comprehend what I was asking of him so I had to use my momma strength and pull him off and carry him down simultaneously. Anyways the moral of the story bunk beds can sometimes be problematic.

Early Morning Farming Adventures

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There is nothing like being thrust out of sleep by screaming pigs. The squeals were unmistakable, something was happening out there and it needed my attention. Tearing off the sheets and barreling down the stairs to get outside is quite the exercise for 4:30am. I ran out into the dark.

Once you get out into the middle of the black you start to question the stupidity of your choices. You realize your flashlight that you thought was amazing is really not! I was feeling like my flashlight was only casting light on my deliciously edible human body. It is at that moment when you hear every sound of the night and they are all scary. The dogs were running around like maniacs but I think they were only excited at the possibility I may throw a stick.

While in the darkness of the middle field the horse in the next field breathed a heavy snort sending me jumping for the stars. It seemed like the best place to hide. It is at these moments when I very loudly have swearing fits. I collected myself and moved on.

In the end the pigs seemed scared but ok. I think we scared off the beast. The fences seemed solid and there was no break in the electric strand that is supposed to stop the need to run out at 4:30am.

Perhaps this is a gentle reminder that the year is 2015 and I am supposed to be getting up each day at 4:45am with a smile on my face. Not smashing down the snooze button and eventually turning that stupid alarm clock off. I have fallen off the wagon and am now a dusty heap on the road. But not today! This morning I did a jog at 4:30am. Got my heart rate up. Came inside and guess what I did….Come on guess….you’ll never guess……

I did Pilates! Seriously! Now if you filmed me that would have been a funny sight because my dog thought Pilates was about the best thing on the face of the planet. It looked much like this.

The Stinky Bathroom – It’s a Boy Thing

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 “Remember to make sure you pee in the toilet. NOT ON THE FLOOR!”

This is a statement I say every time my boys go to the bathroom. There is nothing as
stinky as the boy bathroom. It is like a urinal that has never been cleaned. I clean the bathroom every second day and it still stinks!

I went to use the bathroom once and there was pee all over the floor. I had had enough so I marched to find my boys (4 yrs and 6 yrs)

Me – Who peed on the floor??
Boy – Oh sorry that was me. 
This was said without any worry or care. Seriously!!! All over the floor. What the h&*^())*&^%$#@ are you doing that you can’t pee in the toilet. The toilet bowl is not an itty bitty hole that requires great skill. Am I getting a glimpse of their future no care attitude …. Are they going to fail in school and life because they don’t care if they pee on the floor???? I have to fix this!

Me – You have to go clean that up!
Boy – What?! That’s gross!
Me – Uh yeah! But I didn’t pee on the floor. I pee in the toilet son. Now go clean that up and remember to make sure you pee in the toilet. NOT ON THE FLOOR! And that is where it began! Now I have to remind them every time. And every time I remind them I think why in the world do I have to remind them to pee where they are supposed to pee.

We recently gutted our bathroom and have a fancy new bathroom. We saved for a longIMG_2666 while to get this beautiful bathroom so I am determined to have a bathroom free of pee smell.

I clean using natural cleaners, baking soda, dish soap and vinegar. Here is what I do:

  • Shower/tub/sink –  I sprinkle with baking soda and add a small drop of dish soap and scrub scrub scrub. Then rinse with water.
  • Counter/tile – I clean with a 50/50 vinegar and water mixture. For the tile I combine in a spray bottle to make it easier.
  • Mirrors – I clean with a 50/50 vinegar and water mixture. Paper towels don’t work DSC04659with this so we sure to use old rags.
  • Floor – I clean with a 50/50 vinegar and water mixture.

For my new beautiful bathroom I have to step it up around the toilet! Here is the formula I am going to try.

Pour the following ingredients into a spray bottle:

  • 5 oz hydrogen peroxide
  • 1  tsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp dish soap
  • 3 drops of wild orange essential oil, I have read that orange is magic with that nasty pee smell.

When all of the ingredients have been added, gentle shake the bottle.  Now generously spray the effected area with this solution and allow to completely dry. Once it dries it will become powder-like. Then vacuum it up or wipe it clean. (With all cleaners test a little area first)

Also don’t forget to clean inside the hinges of the toilet seat and lid. They need to come off every 2 weeks or so and cleaned thoroughly.

How do you clean your bathroom?

 

Valentine’s Day for the Kids

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I love special occasions even the downright silly ones. I never liked Valentines Day until I had little ones. It always seemed like such a money grab and stressful day to impress the one you loved. Now I have a whole new outlook on this special day. I always surprise the kids with something on the day of LOVE. Last year I cut out a million hearts in all different sizes and stuck them to ribbons. I hung them from the ceiling to fill up the hallway as they left their bedroom. They were so excited.

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This year I am going to post heart shaped messages all over their door with special messages about how awesome they are. It would have been a good idea to save those hearts!! Mental note for next year. Then on the floor I will have heart shaped message and arrows leading to a surprise valentines breakfast. We will have heart shaped pancakes, berry smoothies, and heart shaped cinnamon treats. The table will be dressed to the nines. I think I will add champagne glasses filled with orange juice.

Leading up to the big day I place something heart shaped with their lunch each day (heart shaped sandwich, heart candies, heart cookies, heart shaped pieces of cheese you get the idea). This is so easy. All you need is a couple different sized heart shaped cookie cutters.

We also make our own valentine cards to give out to classmates. We have made these super cute fish bowl valentines and these cute valentines using pop rocks. This year we are going to make valentines using pencils, check them out they are adorable. I like to switch it up so that the day is not all about candy and chocolate.

I know everyday you should show you love someone and we definitely do that here but this day we just make it extra in your face. Have a little fun with it. The kids love it and who doesn’t like a smiling kiddlet. I hope you have a great Valentine’s Day!

That moment when… as a Homesteader

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  1. That moment when… you are plucking a chicken and something splashes on your cheek or lips.
  2. That moment when… you feel something warm and wet in your pocket after collecting eggs.
  3. That moment when… you are freezing and cursing while you are breaking ice in everyone’s water feeders.
  4. That moment when… you slip and fall in the chicken run.
  5. That moment when… you realize you have blood splatter on your pant legs and you are picking up the kids from school.
  6. That moment when… you ask your significant other does this look like blood or could it pass for mud??
  7. That moment when… you check on the pigs for a quick second in your nice clothes and they manage to get dirt all over you.
  8. That moment when… you pick up the feed bucket in the horse stall and a mouse comes flying out right at you.
  9. That moment when… you decide you can’t do anything in gloves so your hand are destined to be dirty FOREVER.
  10. That moment when… you run out the door in your robe and pajamas to collect whatever animal has escaped.

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Farm Loss

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Loss is something you experience on the working farm. Sometimes it is planned and sometimes it is not. I still have heart ache when we process any animal. I have a moment when I think we should all become vegetarians but I don’t think my family would like that very much. I realize that we have to process in order to feed the family and to keep the farm producing. If you don’t process you end up with 60 plus 2 year old hens and only a few eggs a week. That is not ideal!

When farm loss is not expected I find it even harder to deal with. Last year I decided to let my hens hatch eggs if they went broody. There is something magical about letting a hen sit on her eggs. She is a devoted mother from the beginning and will sit on her eggs for 21 days (give or take) leaving briefly for food and water. We had 2 beautiful chicks hatch under 2 hens. They were great mommas.

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One night I woke up to horrible hen noises. I ran out into the night (not the best choice) to help scare off the culprit. There was a small hole in the coop that one of my hens could squeeze through but the others could not fit.

Lesson 111 – Don’t wait to fix something! I noticed this hole and said to my hubby I will fix that tomorrow. And what happened that night??? Back to the hen screaming….

When I arrived on the scene momma hen was lying on the ground making dying sounds and her terrified chick was trying to escape. I scooped up my hen expecting the worst but she was in perfect condition. I am convinced she was trying to get the attention away from her babe and on to her. I put them somewhere safe for the rest of the night. I did a quick check at the other momma and she seemed fine but it was dark.

The next morning I went out to the coop bright and early to check on my mommas. Momma and chick I separated were great. When I opened the coop the other momma she came out and started to call for her little chick who was nowhere to be found. I have NEVER been so upset on the farm. I searched for the little chick and all I found was a wing. My momma hen was distraught. She roamed the yard calling and searching. I stood in the yard crying my face off saying “I’m so sorry!!” I am not sure I have ever cried this hard in my life. I probably looked ridiculous.

This kind of loss is difficult. I was a little angry with myself for not jumping on the problem with the coop. I should have fixed it right away. Sometimes you have to learn things the hard way. Now we don’t let things go until the next day. Lesson Learned!

Benefits of Raising Rabbits

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Rabbits were the second animal we purchased on the homestead. One day I went up the road to buy a silke hen but ended up with a rabbit instead. I brought her home and my hubby gave me the look. He asked me where I was going to put a rabbit?? Just so happens I found a cage in our woods while walking with the boys….true story! So really if you think about it it was meant to be 🙂  Then I asked hubby if he could build me a hutch because GUESS WHAT?!?! shes pregnant!

He promptly asked if I knew anything about rabbits giving birth? I said nope but I have 21 days to figure it out. He smiled shook his head and built me a hutch. I am so lucky to have such a patient man 🙂

Raising rabbits have many benefits. If you could never imagine eating rabbit meat that is ok their manure with change your world! They make great pets too. Our Stella is a hit on our homestead and everyone loves to play with her. Below are some benefits for raising these cute little creatures.

Cost effective

Rabbits take up little space and can be feed many scraps. They love lettuce, apple, carrot, celery etc. They are super easy to maintain. If you build a rabbit tractor or run your feed cost goes down even more because they will dine on grass. We tractor our rabbits in the summer. TIP – Make sure it is secure because chase rabbits around the yard is not fun. I say this from experience!

Meat

We raise California New Zealand rabbits. They are a big rabbit which is perfect for raising for meat. They are great producers and they grow quickly. You can have a good sized 5-6lbs of meat in just 10-12 weeks. Rabbit meat is an excellent source of protein, it is low in cholesterol, and low in fat. The meat tastes very similar to chicken. We use it as we would use chicken. Rabbit a la king on homemade biscuits is delicious! The heart, liver and kidneys can all be eaten and are never wasted. The bones are used to make nutrient packed broth. Waste not want not.

 Manure

Rabbits have the best manure for your garden. Rabbit manure is packed with nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and many minerals, lots of micro-nutrients, plus many other beneficial trace elements such as calcium, magnesium, boron, zinc, manganese, sulfur, copper, and cobalt… PHEW!… that’s just to name a few! It is considered a cold manure so you can use it without aging it. It is one of the few manures that will not burn your crops. Worms LOVE rabbit manure and the manure will add a nutrient boost to your garden any time of the year.

Fur

Rabbit fur is beautiful. We keep all our pelts for future crafts on the homestead. For example I would love to make some moccasins, mittens, and hats.

As you can see nothing is wasted. Rabbits are a great addition to any homestead.

Dog vs housewife – Top 5 ways my dog sabotages house chores

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Update:  It has been 11 days of my 1950s/modern day housewife transformation adventure. I set my alarm for 4:45am each day to get up before the kids. My plan is to get 1 chore done while my coffee brews. Then enjoy a cup of coffee watching the news without a single moooommmmyyy. After my delicious coffee I will make a healthy breakfast for the boys and get ready for the day. Well…that’s the plan.

January 1-4 my alarm went off and I promptly turned that sucker off! Who in the right mind gets up at 4:45am!

January 5th magic happened and I got up. I felt much more together when the kids woke up so I had a new vigor and have managed to get up bright and early everyday.

Guess what?? I have brushed my hair everyday this week! I have had proper clothes on by 6:30am. And I have had a good healthy meal ready for dinner each night. FIST PUMP (do people say this anymore??)

Now on to my dog story.

My dog is out to sabotage my housewife journey! Here are the top five things my dog does to make my chore life harder than it has to be!

  1. Sweeping – I have to sweep my floors everyday because I have dogs that I let in my house (I can’t help it they are just so darn cute!)
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    The cute culprit

    As I do my daily activities in the house or on the farm Shaggy follows my every movement. When I sweep I make a pile like everyone does (unless I am doing it wrong! possible advice needed) Every time without fail he gives a stretch with a yawn and lies right in the middle of my pile.

  2. Vacuuming – When I pull out the vacuum I see terror and joy in my pups eyes. While I vacuum he attacks the vacuum with leaps, bounds and growls. I can’t tell if this is his favorite chore or his least favorite chore. It makes it hard to quickly vacuum with him trying to eat my vacuum all the time.
  3. Making the bed – Shaggy insists his chin needs to be resting somewhere on the bed while I make it. His head is usually on the blanket I am trying to flip into place. If he is feeling really naughty he sees this as the perfect opportunity to jump on the bed.
  4. Kitchen Chores – Washing dishes and cooking meals have become a dangerous activity. Because he is under foot all the time he is a major tripping hazard! I have to slow down so I don’t break my neck.
  5. Washing the floor – I constantly have to tell Shags to get out of my way while I move around to floor with my cloth. I wash my floors on my hands and knees because I hate the mop. Dog hair sticks to my mop and I can’t get it off and when I wash the floor dog hair gets everywhere. It is super frustrating. So cloth in hand works better for me. When my floor is sparkling clean is usually the time when Shaggy decides to bring me a present. One time he brought me to hugest rat I have ever seen! He dropped it on my sparkling floor and sat nice looking at me. I know in his head he was thinking look momma this is for you, aren’t I a good boy! I was thinking holy cow get that outta here! Other days when I floor is sparkling somebody lets the dogs in and they are covered in mud from head to toe. By the time my hysterical screams and snapping have pushed the dogs back outside my floor is covered in muddy prints. So back to the cloth and bucket I go.

Not to mention I will never pee or shower alone again! Dogs and kids are similar that way!

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Shaggy