Monday, July 31, 2017

I'm the crazy chicken lady you were warned about

Let's get right into what I had in planned for our homestead before we even moved here.
How can you say no to fresh eggs every day and the best bug catchers ever!?
As I said in our introduction, we started with 8 hens in spring 2016. Since then, we lost 4 of those original.  
The two Barred Rock in the front, the back and top left are my evil twin Silver Laced Wyandotte's, the hen facing away is my sweet Rosalyn that was an Easter Egger hen laying light green eggs. She was killed by a raccoon not too long ago. 
My beautiful girl, Rosalyn. ❤

We added 4 new babies, with only 3 left (the babied ones living in my garage)
From Left to Right: Maxxie, Blanche, and Persephonie. And Sargie, protector of our baby chicks!
Now we have added laying hens from Matthew's friend. We originally took 4 while our friend, Autumn, got the other 4. Unfortunate events happened, and we ended up taking the remaining laying hen. So, 5 white laying hens later... we have 12 chickens. 

"Could I trouble you for some sunflower seeds, Miss?"

Now that hen introductions have been made... I'll discuss some coop issues we have had and where we are now with that.

First, we start all chicks in the house with a lamp. Chicks must maintain a high temperature until they are over 10 weeks of age. 
Our first chicken coop was basically a composite shed from Home Depot that we were shown. It looked easier to put up than it actually proved to be. There were a few missing pieces and the siding was warped from the rain but we made it work the best we could! Unfortunately, early spring 2017, it blew over taking out one of our hens as it blew into pieces. With no where to put chickens until we got a new coop, they wound up in my bathroom with the babies!! (There was no complaining on my part! I got to sit on the pot and watch them babies grow!)

YES. I had 8 chickens in my bathroom just living life. Three babies in a plastic tote and five in a rolling crate a friend made. It was fantastic... for me. 

That didn't last too long, as Matthew doesn't particularly care for chickens... so they ended up in the garage not long after. ): 

Blanche - Isa Brown

We have all 5 spring 2017 chicks here, now 3 left.


Oh, the wonders of building things and it being in a time crunch!
This chicken coop needed to be finished as soon as possible. These hens were making a mess of our garage and were loud and obnoxious. The poor things kept going back to the wreckage like it was time for bed. It was heartbreaking!

Matthew and I went to Home Depot, purchased the lumber. Went to my dads and gathered some tar paper, shingles and metal siding. Got some random other items to make this actually work... we were doin' fine!

Look at that dog!

I thought Matthew had done a great job... until I received this ALARMING picture via text message..

That dog, wanted to be where Matthew was on the roof shingling the chicken coop. I could not believe that dog climbed the ladder to be where Matthew was. We have NEVER taught him to do that and yet he knew how to get up there to Matt.

Anywho, going on to paint and put some nesting boxes into the coop... 
Something we had experienced with just one chick this last spring was an impacted crop. With an impacted crop, food gets stuck in the crop which is at the base of the esophagus where digestion starts. The chick had an obstruction causing the food to not properly pass into the stomach. This can be from eating poorly or from not eating enough grit. Chick grit is small stones that aid in breakdown and digestion of foods and grasses. Since chicks in my house were not free-ranging and finding rocks in my bathroom, I needed to supply that aid to them. We attempted to massage the crop to assist in digestion but were unsuccessful . 
I knew I wanted a different color that stood out... why not TEAL?!

Holding one of my evil twins last month.

The underside of the roof has yet to be finished as well as the painting of the sides that I wanted to do. I am thinking of doing some scalloping to the top where I painted the teal color. While it has not been put up yet, we have some paneling to go on the interior walls that I painted with Killz paint in white. I'm hoping it will brighten the coop up some on the inside!
To add to the front, the middle black square above the door is a motion sense solar light. The two outer boxes and cords go to two separate strands of flower solar lights. The lights change settings each time they come on so sometimes it looks like a rave in the coop.

The girls are much happier in their new coop and run!

 We have added the shade cover to the top but it looks great and the chickens love it!
**All 9 of them!!!**
Our mini door on the side for the chickens to get back into the coop. This door has a rope and pulley so that we can shut the door from outside the coop and run. It has a hinge mounted to the top of the sliding door that automatically locks (the hinge falls down 90 degrees when there is slack in the line and sticks inside the metal siding so it can't be opened by predators) and only opens when you pull the string and the hinge flips up straight.
I wanted to take a picture of our watering design here.This is PVC pipe with the small cups you can buy at TSC. Basically the chickens move the little stick inside the cup and it fills the cup with water. It's simple and I don't have to worry about them knocking over a bowl 800 times. It takes about 2 gallon jugs to fill this tube.
I purchase my chicken feed from Family, Farm and Home. It cost about $9 for a bag and lasts about 3-4 weeks. I also add chicken scratch which is a mix of cracked corn and grain to their run for them to dig around for. A big bag of scratch can cost around $15. 

The chickens have four nesting boxes, though the chickens only lay in one. I keep the straw nice and fluffy in the box so that when the chickens lay, the egg doesn't break on the drop.

If you're interested in watching a chicken lay an egg...

Currently, we are getting about 6-7 eggs per day with 9 hens of laying age. I expect the three living in my garage will start to lay in September. The chickens, in my experience, are around 8-9 months of age when they start to lay. 

Most times the eggs are normal size and shape. However, we have recently had some rather odd eggs. Aside from the unusually small eggs, often called 'fairy eggs', we have had two odd eggs in the last week.

This egg is completely soft. There is no shell around the membrane. This sort of thing can happen if the chicken is producing two eggs at roughly the same time. If there are more than one egg being produced, the calcium for the shell will go into the first egg. This egg had a perfectly normal yolk and white when we cooked it for the foxy dinner!

The egg on the bottom is a rather large egg that we get each day from one of the white chickens. The top egg is roughly the size of a duck egg. Two times the size of what we thought was a large egg. 

Less than ONE week!

You may still be with me... or I lost you at the YouTube link of the chicken laying the egg. 

Either way, thank you for stopping by and I do hope you maybe learned something, got ideas for your chickens, or heck - now you want chickens! 

I will do other posts about our chickens and their care but I felt this one was dedicated to diving into my flock. 

Until next time...

**"chickens will be fun she said..."**

Matthew & Melissa

Follow on Pinterest - I get crafty ideas there!

  • 1/3 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 8 strips of bacon, uncooked, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1/2 of large onion)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 chicken breasts, 2 lb total, boneless, skinless
  • 1 and 1/2 cups chicken broth
  1. Combine Dijon mustard, paprika, salt and pepper in a small bowl, to make a paste. Spread the paste evenly on both sides of chicken breasts. Set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, cook chopped bacon on medium-high heat just until it starts to brown. Remove to a plate, leaving bacon fat in a skillet. To the same skillet, add chopped onion and cook in bacon fat until softened. Remove to the same plate, with bacon.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same, now empty, hot skillet. Cook chicken breast (with mustard paste on it), on medium heat, about 1.5 minutes on each side. The chicken will not be done as you will continue cooking it in the next step. Remove chicken to a plate.
  4. To the same skillet, add 1 and 1/2 cups chicken broth, bring to boil, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add back bacon and onions, mix well. Add back the chicken breast, reduce the heat to low-medium and cook for about 15-20 minutes, turning chicken once, until chicken breast is fully cooked and no longer pink in the center.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

"Don't step on the mome raths"

'Ah, Mr. Bond, we've been expecting you..."

It's been decided that we begin our first official blog, following our introduction, with our lovely garden. Our garden is not something common, though it looks like it at first glance. There is something special about our garden that you might not imagine. 

Our garden is much like a raised garden bed, however, there's something hiding beneath the soil that helps our garden flourish...

Hugelkultur is a no-dig raised beds with a difference. They hold moisture, build fertility, maximize surface volume and are great spaces for growing fruit, vegetables and herbs.

Hugelkultur, pronounced Hoo-gul-culture, means hill culture or hill mound.

Basically what we did was outline our garden, in whatever shape we wanted, with straw bales. Inside the shape, we added logs, branches, grass clippings, leaves, paper products, chicken coop cleanings, any organic material. 

The gradual decay of wood is a consistent source of long-term nutrients for the plants. The composting wood also generates heat which should extend the growing season. The logs and branches act like a sponge. Rainwater is stored and then released during drier times. 

In our situation, straw bale gardens, it requires less soil, less water and will hold heat. As the straw breaks down nutrients, it will feed the plants.

Once all of the logs and such were in place, we watered all of the logs then added a layer of grass clippings from the pasture and then compost soil to the top to make a level bed. 

We had a pile of compost from the previous owners of horse and donkey waste.
Backing the quad off the trailer was a lot easier than shoveling by hand 

Our cucumber trellis from a cattle panel

Once all of the soil was in, we watered the soil and began planting seeds or plants we started in the house! ( On a side note filling the bed and letting it settle while watering regularly a month or so before planting would have been better. we occasionally have to fill holes where the dirt has worked into the cracks.)

The list of our plants this year:
**Broccoli and Cauliflower too!**

While all of this grows in the garden, we maintain picking weeds and providing water in a good soaking from the sprinkler every few days during the dry spells. Though the watering is not necessarily needed every day, we do have some plants that are still rather small and the roots are closer to the surface that we water with the hose regularly. 

As you can see, it didn't take long for these plants to take off once planted!!
We started out using a regular sprinkler to give some extra moisture to the top soil. 
Now, we use a soaker hose that zig-zags through the plants delivering water close to the stem of each plant!

Cucumbers on the right and zucchini on the left

Some of the cucumber vines reach the trellis but these plants are still young! The brussel sprouts can be seen on the far left beyond the trellis as small little plants. There is the sweet seedless tomato plant just beyond the zucchini plants. Our beans and peas are mixed together growing up cattle panel chunks for stability going directly behind the zucchini and cucumbers.
Shortly after, small zucchini's start to appear!

There is something I would like Matthew to elaborate on for me regarding the zucchini plants before I add the current garden pictures...

I get a lot of info from the MIgardener channel on Youtube. He has a ton of great info on backyard gardening and he is in the same zone as us. Pumpkins, Squash, Melons, Cucumbers all have a terrible fight with powdery mildew (especially when planted close together.) Don't worry! This can be easily combated without harsh  Anti fungal chemicals. You just need to prune the plants, they grow ferociously and get intertwined. Prune all the leaves that reach into another plants space. That might seem extreme but I assure you that it's not hurting but actually helping your plant. Your plants need the airflow and it helps the little miracle workers find the flowers easier to pollinate!

**Little girl squeal**

Ain't she purdy?!

She's finally producing some food! I've been picking off sweet cherry tomatoes for a few weeks now as well as some green beans, a few cucumbers and zucchini!
Roma Tomatoes, OH MY!
From L to R, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Beets

Broccoli in front and Cauliflower in back. Let us discuss the white dust... it's called Diatomaceous Earth. It is an organic alternative to pesticides and the like. Again, I will let Matthew take the reins on this one...
Diatomaceous Earth is basically ground up sea shells to a fine powder that scratches the exoskeleton of those pesky plant eating bugs and dries them out so they die!

Brussel Sprouts

Beans and Peas

Cucumber on left, Zucchini on Right...
And NO, that is not a dog in the garden.

Roma tomato plant is larger than our Sargento Cheese!
Again, no dog in the garden here...

AND finally,

Here is what I gathered in two days. It's not much yet but as we keep picking more and not finding something to do with these guys... it get's crazy up in here if I don't find something to do with these! (That's for another post though!) 

On the cutting board, I did gather some berries from around our property yesterday. Just recently, I have found a red raspberry patch nestled in with the black raspberries. The black raspberries are just about finished while our blackberries are just beginning. Ah the sweet fruits of nature!! ❤

Until next time folks... 

❤ Matthew & Melissa

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& Instagram: arcticfox.blueheeler

Additional information and a poem post: 

Red Text: Hugelkultur
Image above:

We have also decided to add a recipe each post. Something we both love!! Enjoy!!

Marinated Zucchini with Garlic and Fresh Herbs
  • 2 medium zucchini, rinsed, ends trimmed off
  • ½ tsp kosher salt

  • For the marinade:
  • 100 ml (1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp) good quality olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ⅓ tsp red pepper flakes (plus more to taste for more heat)
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp each fresh chopped basil, parsley, dill and coriander
  1. Slice the zucchini thin. Sprinkle with kosher salt and set aside for 15-30 minutes. Drain the liquid and dry on paper towels.
  2. Mix together the sliced zucchini with the rest of the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Take out from the refrigerator. Remove the crushed garlic clove. Add the chopped herbs and toss together. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve.
Follow IFoodBlogger for more great recipies!!                    

Friday, July 21, 2017

Beginning with an introduction...

Greetings! Welcome to our blog and journey of our little homestead! I wanted to start with a great THANK YOU for stumbling upon our story and life.

"We may not have it all together but together we have it all"
-Wookie, All Together

My name is Melissa. Together with my boyfriend, Matthew, we want to share our journey of our home and small gathering of animals. I am a full-time Certified Medical Assistant at a large hospital here in Michigan. While, Matthew works for the village we live in as well as doing landscaping care the other days.
Matthew and I after my college graduation, May 2017

Matthew and I have been dating since 2013. I moved into his previous house with him shortly after. In fall 2015, we sold that home in town to enjoy life with more property. We currently live on 25 acres with lots of woods, fields for planting, a lovely pond, and a big red barn.

When we moved to this home, we had only two animals. We now have grown to 19!

In 2014, we traveled to southern Michigan to pick up our first pet together - an arctic fox!
Chief is a polar arctic fox and turned 3 years old on May 18. He has been the most trying animal and also the most rewarding. There are times I want to pull my hair out but other times that make the trust we have gained worthwhile.

Our foxy boy, Chief

In early 2015, we added to our household - a puppy!
Sargent Eugene is a 2 year old Australian Cattle Dog who's energy level exactly matches our fox. While he may not be the most loveable dog, he is very protective and smart as a whip. He is our Sargie boy and is a great addition to our household.

Sargent Eugene

Easter 2015, a cat joined our crew! Miss Katie is her name, catching mice is her game. Katie came to us after my Great Grandmother passed away and she had no where to go. Katie has been a great cat to have at our home.

Miss Katie
In spring of 2016, we added eight chickens to our little farm! Through some difficult and sad times, I currently only have four of the original eight I purchased. Of the original girls, I have two Silver Laced Wyandotte's (I call my evil twins as they are pretty feisty hens) and two Barred Rock hens named Lucy and Evelyn.
This past spring, we added four more hens to our flock. We have three of those girls left as one died from an impacted crop. Thethree are Maxxi (Black Austrolorp), Blanche (Isa Brown), and Persephone (Black Jersey Giant). These girls are so sweet and are still living in our garage as I am not ready to let them out with the big girls yet.
And last of the chickens, a friend of Matthew's no longer wanted to keep chickens so we acquired four of his eight hens that he had. All white girls that I can say are great layers of big brown eggs.

The next additions to our small farm, four goats! Three we will be keeping while the other goes to a friend. Until then, we are caring for four goats. One goat is a LaMancha goat named Georgia. LaMancha goats have small ears and are great for milking. Georgia's protector is a Nubian goat we call Mama. She's larger than Georgia and will be a great milking goat. The other two goats are Nigerian dwarfs and are mother and baby. The baby goat is what our friend will be taking while the mama gets to enjoy life at our homestead.


The very last addition, last for now ;)
a small kitten named Hugo. We obtained Hugo from Matthew's cousin and he has been the most rambunctious kitten! At about 8 weeks old now, he is so playful and cuddly!

Hugo the boss

I'll end this blog post while some may still have your wits about you.

I hope you will continue to return to our blog to learn, experience the triumphs and sometimes losses, share and explore the wonder. We look forward to hearing from everyone!!

❤ Matthew & Melissa

Follow on Instagram: @arcticfox.blueheeler