Have I mentioned it is chicken season?

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March is the official start of chicken season and I am beyond excited.  I adore chickens and can’t wait to make them a part of my homestead again.  Neil has never raised chickens before and it is going to be so fun to start this journey with him.

We have a corner of our homestead picked out for the Chicken Palace.  There is some brush that needs to be cleared, but we should be able to get that done this weekend.

Chicken coops are extremely expensive and can range from $500 to $2000.  I found a local company who does a rent to own chicken coop purchase plan and decided to go with that option so we didn’t have to come up with as much money initially.  This is a fantastic business idea because keeping backyard chickens has become popular in recent years and most people are discouraged when they learn how much coops cost.  I am paying around $30 a month for a fantastic coop that I normally wouldn’t be able to afford.

The company delivers and sets up the coop for $10 which is well worth it-chicken coops are super heavy and take quite a few people to move one.  They said it should be delivered within a few weeks.  What do you think?

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And the inside:

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I have never had good luck with the pre-fab roosts. All of my chickens have preferred a rounded, natural branch roost so I will likely have to replace the ones that come with this coop.

Neil and I are wanting a few specialty breeds, purely for our entertainment.  I mean how can you not smile when you look at this?

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(Thank you Google Images!)

I have been in contact with two local hatcheries that sex (determining the gender when chicks are first born-as opposed to “straight run” which mean you won’t find out if they are a rooster or a hen until you get an egg or a cock a doodle do!), but both have not so great people skills. Let’s hope that just means they are really good at raising quality birds!

In the next few weeks, Neil and I will make the trip to go pick out our fabulous flock.

Do you have any chicken plans for this spring? I would love to hear about them!

Until next time…

FINALSIGNOFF

 

National Pig Day 2015

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To celebrate National Pig Day 2015, I thought it would be fun to take a walk down memory lane.

Oliver is now almost two years old, and life with him has been a wild ride.  When I first decided to get an indoor pig, I was only moderately prepared for what life with a pig would involve.  This was the first picture I saw of little Oliver.

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He arrived at the airport and was a tiny bundle of piggy snorts.  One thing that I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of screaming that owning a pig involves (mostly the pig, sometimes me!).  Pigs are extremely vocal and if they don’t like something they will let you know it no uncertain terms.  A pig “scream”  is straight out of a horror movie.  It is loud and high pitched and will make your ears ring for hours.

We had a Welcome Piggy party, but he wasn’t too interested.  The human guests sure had a good time though!  I made a special piggy cake which was a lot of fun, as well as all kinds of piggy themed snacks.

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It took quite awhile for him to settle into our family.  He was very nervous and it took hours of spending time with him before he learned we meant no harm.  Litter box training was not too challenging, once he learned it was for pooping, not sleeping!

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Oliver’s two favorite things are sleeping and eating.  He does quite a bit of both!

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Oliver has always been a handful and now he is topping the scales at 75 pounds.  Although he is a miniature pig, he is still not tiny by any means.  I am very grateful for the time I spent with him when he was younger, training and bonding.  I would not want to try and establish discipline with a previously untrained, very strong, 75 pound pig!

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Life with Oliver is never dull and I plan to give this big boy lots of special treats to celebrate National Pig Day.  No matter how big he gets, he will always have a place in my family-and my lap!

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Enjoy this special piggy day.  Until next time…

FINALSIGNOFF

Snow

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When Neil and I woke up this morning, everything was covered in sparkling, bright white snow.  Over the night, we had 6 inches cover everything on our little homestead.  I know that for a lot of folks across the country snow is a typical sight in the winter, but here in the heart of North Carolina it is a beautifully rare experience.

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We dressed in layers upon layers, and headed out to the family farm to enjoy this brief break in our dreary winter weather.

The farm was peacefully silent, with nothing but smooth, creamy snow as far as you could see.

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Neil and I ventured out in the Ranger and explored the enchanted snow haven.

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The snow burdened the old Cedar trees, and they lay drooped towards the earth, their backs heavy with Mother Nature’s desires.

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The pond was unable to withstand the well below freezing temperatures of the last few weeks and lay frozen in its place, only the edges braving any movement against the frigid air.

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As Neil and I ran through the snow covered pastures, our laughter and the sound of snowballs flying through the still air, I captured every detail of this sliver of time and buried it deep in my heart’s memory.

Until next time…

FINALSIGNOFF

Freyja the Hedgehog

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For those of you that have been around the homestead for awhile, you know I adore animals.  I have always had a passion for caring for creatures and have loved the satisfaction and joy that taking care of them brings.

Our most recent addition to the homestead is a 7 week old hedgehog.  Neil and I have been watching a variety of animal related vet shows (Yukon Vet and Dr. Pol are both awesome shows by the way!) and one of the stories was about a hedgehog.  After watching that episode, we both got the idea that a hedgehog would make a fun addition to the homestead.

After some research and online ad perusing, I found a breeder in a not too far away military town.  We made the 1.5 hour drive and met the breeder who brought along two baby hedgehogs, a male and female.  Freyja was instantly friendly and curious.  She crawled right up my sleeve and wouldn’t come out.  Her brother on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with us and staying tightly drawn up in the safety of his spike ball.

I was surprised at just how sharp the quills on the hedgehog are.  When Freyja is scared she pops her quills up and gives the characteristic “huffing” of a not happy hedgehog.  They are definitely temperamental little things.

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After she warms up to you, she is definitely a cuddly little thing, despite her sharp spikes.

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Cold temperatures can be dangerous to hedgehogs so she needs temperatures between 68-78.  Since it has been in the single digits around here lately, we put her in the bathroom under a heat lamp, since it is the warmest room in the house and she is much happier in there.  Our friends certainly never expected to have to share the bathroom with a hedgehog when they visit!

She eats kitty food that we soak in water because she has a hard time crunching up the hard pieces, from all of my research and talking with the breeder standard kitten food is whats best for hedgehogs.  She also has treats of crickets and mealworms, which she devours.  Check out that action HERE.

Freyja is very low maintenance with the biggest obligation being to handle her everyday so she stays friendly.  So far, she hasn’t been any trouble at all and she is a fun new addition here on the homestead.

Until next time…

FINALSIGNOFF

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Snow Pig

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Here in North Carolina we have been dusted in snow and ice.  While most Northerners poke fun at how a little bit of snow brings everything to a halt here in NC, it is pretty much true.  When the news of snow or ice is announced, it takes only hours for the local stores to run out of milk and bread.  It makes me wonder if folks are fearful they are never going to be allowed out of their houses again!

Now that I am a Mon-Fri folk, the pediatrician’s office was either closed or letting out early so I got to experience what it is like for the outside conditions to actually have an effect on whether or not you have to go to work.  When I worked in the ER, it didn’t matter what was falling from the sky, you were still expected to be present for your shift.

The weather delays gave Neil and I an unexpected whole day to complete a few projects left hanging over our head, and with the exception of our master bathroom, all major projects at the Little Rock House are complete.  It is such an incredible feeling to actually be caught up on things for a change!

Oliver experienced the snow in a whole new way this week.  I took him on an impromptu walk around the homestead, and surprisingly he loved the cold, wet snow.

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He also enjoyed the fresh from the dryer blankets to warm up!  See Oliver and his snow walk in action HERE.

We also added a new furry face to the homestead and she is definitely not a fan of the snow.  Stay tuned later in the week for an introduction to Freyja our baby hedgehog.

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Even though there is snow on the ground, we are busy planning our Spring projects.  Tractor Supply has already brought in baby chicks, so you know chicken season is right around the corner!

Our first order of business is to build our chicken coop and purchase our new flock. I haven’t decided what breeds I want this year yet.  I do know I will have a few Black Copper Marans, their dark chocolate eggs are so pretty!  Here is a rough sketch of what we have come up with so far.  I am so looking forward to the walk in run.

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What is on your Spring project list? We are almost exactly a month away from the official start of Spring, I am certainly ready to kiss this winter goodbye!

Until next time…

FINALSIGNOFF

 

Crib to Coop Repurposing Project

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My Crib to Coop project is complete!  This project grew from the need for a better coop for my Black Copper Maran chicks.  They quickly outgrew the mini-coop they were in and there was not much space in the other two chicken living quarters.  Chicken coops and tractors can be ridiculously expensive (see more about this HERE).  I knew building one myself would be less expensive, but I lack extensive carpentry skills.  I figured that starting with some type of basic framework for a chicken tractor would be easier for me than to start from scratch.  I saw a picture online of someone who turned a crib into a chicken coop and the Crib to Coop Repurposing project was born.

I began my hunt for cribs at thrift stores and searching Craigslist, but most were priced higher than I wanted to spend.  I was then blessed with two donated cribs from two very generous women (thank you!!).

The basics I wanted to stick to throughout this project were to stay simple and inexpensive.  I looked around the homestead and utilized what materials we had available.  Paint was my most expensive cost.  This project was moderately challenging and overall cost roughly $100.  I am very pleased with the cost of this project.  It took me about 3 full days to complete.

I began by removing all plastic parts off of the crib and stabilizing the framework.

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(By the way, when you build a crib, do it from outside the framework, or else you will be trapped on the inside. Lesson learned!)

Next, I strategically placed cattle wire on 3 sides to prevent predators from entering.  Since I was planning on making this a tractor (mobile coop) I didn’t go all the way to the ground with the cattle wire.  I didn’t want to inhibit moving the coop around or damage the grass in the process.  Instead, I left very sharp edges (insert evil laugh here) a hair off the ground so that all predators will encounter an unexpected surprise if they try and sneak under.

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I wanted to provide extra support for the frame so that when I am rolling it around the homestead, it is very sturdy.  I painted four boards (which I cut to exactly the same length as the crib without messing up or cutting a finger off-major accomplishment) and secured them to the crib.

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I removed the wheels that came with the crib and wood glued in a more sturdy set.  I let this sit overnight to ensure a strong bond.

We have plenty of scrap metal roofing that was taken off our shop when the roof was replaced.  I decided to utilize these leftovers as the roof.  I placed a support bar across the top of the two vertical sides (thank you for the idea hubby) and nailed the roof to the support bar.  I also added some decoration to make it a bit more cute.  Black Copper Marans lay a dark chocolate colored egg, so I decided to use this fact as inspiration.

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I then screwed in several natural roosts and got the hubs to help me put in a nesting box and access door.  I didn’t want to push my luck and operate the jig saw!  I added a bit more decoration and voila, the crib is now officially a chicken coop!

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What do you think?

Until next time…

FINALSIGNOFF

Officially Normal Schedule Folk

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Welcome back to the homestead!

We are a little more than a month away from the official start of Spring (March 20th) and as you can guess I am counting down the days.  Today is a blistery cold, windy day that makes me grateful I have a nice warm, dry house to protect me from the elements.

I accepted a position at a local pediatric office and am beginning to adjust to this Monday through Friday lifestyle.  It has been a drastic change, but such fun to see and care for little ones.

Neil is off crutches and back to light duty already, we are so blessed he has healed so quickly.  For the first time ever our schedules are both Monday through Friday and we are so enjoying having every night and our weekends together.

This past weekend was a glorious preview of what North Carolina Spring brings.  The sun was shining down from a blue sky and it was a mild 72 degrees.  For us Tar Heel fans we said goodbye to Dean Smith, who was a historical basketball coach in UNC-Chapel Hill history.  I couldn’t help but smile at just how Tar Heel blue the sky was that day.

Neil and I walked the streets of Franklin Street in Chapel Hill and enjoyed the reprieve in the cold weather.  We stopped into a Leggopalooza event and saw all kinds of fun buildings and cities.

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We enjoyed some traditional Ben & Jerry’s Icecream and had a blast people watching.

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We ended our first weekend as normal schedule folks with a walk down to the Haw River.  Not too far from our little homestead is a great artsy little community that usually has something fun going on.  We both are so looking forward to taking the pups down there in the Spring for a nightly walk.

HRW With the coming of Spring, my homestead head is full of gardening, chicken raising and goat getting ideas.  We have quite a large area in front of the Little Rock House that would look so much livelier with flowers.  Any ideas for brightly colored flowers that tolerate medium to full sun?

I am planning on making another sunflower “bloom” box for this house, I just loved the one at my old homestead.

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We are also beginning to get our thoughts together on what kind of chicken coop we will be building this year.  We have neighboring chickens, which is new for me, so I won’t be able to let them free range like I did at my old homestead.  We don’t want any flock takeovers from our neighbor rooster!  Stay tuned later this week for my most popular post, “Crib to Coop” which explains how to transform an old crib to a functional, and portable, chicken coop.

Until next time…

FINALSIGNOFF