Category: homestead

Our Backyard Chickens

One of our homestead goals this year was getting backyard chickens. There was already an old structure in place that was once used for chickens, then had become a catch-all for 2 or 3 decades. Over a few weeks Hubby and I cleaned it out and reinforced it with chicken wire and scrap wood. It was more work than we’d planned, and we’ll probably build something brand new in the next couple years, but this works for now. Sometimes you’ve just got to DO something and figure out the details later.

In April we were gifted 3 laying hens and a rooster from my aunt and her husband.
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We love the chickens. I love that my toddler loves feeding and taking care of them. They’re part of our everyday chores, and I’m happy that he’ll be growing up taking care of lots of animals. And we love those eggs!!

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Next year our expansion plans include setting up a portable, electric fence in order to let them roam around different parts of the property. Once the garden is done, we’ll let the chickens eat it down, scratch in the soil, and fertilize it as they go. We may have to come up with some creative solutions this winter if it gets as cold as last winter. Currently the chickens are on a slight strike because it’s been so hot. We were getting 3 eggs a day – right now we’re getting 2 or 3 every other day.

Homestead – Year One

This year was our first foray into homesteading. We tried a few things, had some successes and failures, and learned a lot. I’m hoping to get a fall garden started here soon, but we’re also neck-deep in remodeling our house so that’s been taking priority.

Jác built his mother and me some garden boxes early this year. We filled them with soil and waited a few weeks.

I was antsy to get started so I planted early April. That was a mistake. We had a frost mid April, and I lost my pepper plants and most of my marigolds. I replanted and ultimately had the following: 2 Zucchini plants, 2 Squash plants, some Onions, a red Bell Pepper and a green Bell Pepper plant, 2 Sweet Banana Pepper plants, Oregano, Dill, and a bunch of Marigolds. (The Marigolds look pretty, the chickens like to eat them, and they’re a natural pest repellant.)

My MIL planted at the end of April (some Spaghetti Squash, Bell Peppers, 3 different kinds of tomatoes, Sweet Banana Peppers, onions, and tomatoes) and her garden shot up like a rainforest! We’d never grown Spaghetti Squash before, so we had no idea what to expect. It needs a freakin trellis! Or maybe to grow out along the ground like pumpkins. The plant itself was our first major surprise, and eating it was another one – it’s delicious!

Maybe because of the frost, or its location on the property – for whatever reason, my garden took much longer to get started. While my MIL’s was growing like crazy, mine was stunted and looked like nothing was going to happen. The Dill and Oregano were the only things that looked healthy. My Marigolds look dried out, and the Squash, Zucchini, and Peppers just looked like the plants I’d bought for weeks. I’ve never had much luck with plants so I was beginning to get dismayed.

But sometimes you all you need is a little patience. My garden eventually got going and ended up looking really great and produced a lot of veggies. I guess I’m a master of Dill – it grew bigger than my toddler! I now have a giant jar of dried dill from my garden. I gave bunches of it away to friends. Next year I think I’ll plant it in its own pot. My oregano, too, grew quite large and is actually still growing nicely. Since the rest of the garden is about done, I may transplant the Oregano to a pot and see how long I can keep it going. The chickens love Oregano and it’s healthy for them, too. The Squash and Zucchini plants, too, were excellent. We harvested so many squash and zucchini that I gave some away to my neighbors, put up 10 pint ziplocks worth in the freezer, cooked 2 giant batches of sautéed squash and zucchini over the weeks, and I still have a basket-full of the vegetables that I need to put up soon. Only 1 of my banana pepper plants produced – a total of 3 peppers. My bell pepper plants grew but never produced. I grew medium-sized onions – the rest got shaded out by the squash plants (oops!).

My MIL’s garden produced a ton of tomatoes, 4 or 5 spaghetti squash (definitely growing these again next year), some onions, but also no peppers. And her squash plants didn’t really produce either.

Next year we plan to combine efforts and make a single, bigger garden. We also plan to till a few rows for some things (zucchini, squash, peppers), and use boxes and pots for others (herbs, primarily). I want to make a couple smaller boxes to put around the chicken house for oregano, marigolds, and mint. The soil around there is a bit sandy, and the only thing that’s growing there right now are some weeds and a rosemary plant.