Homestead Goals for 2015

We aren’t big new years resolution people.  We’d rather set some small attainable goals to work towards over the course of the year.  Think of it as our yearly to-do list, man I love crossing things off a to-do list.

Our overall goal for life here on the homestead is to be as self-sufficient and sustainable as possible.  In order to get closer to that goal in 2015 we’ve planned out the following “to-do list”.  

Expand the garden…again
The garden did get expanded last year but there is still room for more.  There are two trees that are preventing the garden from getting as much sun as we’d like so, they are coming down! I’m also toying with the idea of replacing the flowers in front of the house with herbs (roman chamomile, echinacea, and calendula most likely).   

Harvest the four older chickens
It’s the circle of life my friends, the 4 older hens are getting old and aren’t laying as consistently as they once were.  They have served us well over the years and it’s time for them to serve us one last time.   This will be a new and important skill for us to learn and I’m grateful to have friends to help. 

Add to the flock
We just added 4 younger hens to our flock and are planning on adding some more come spring.  8 or 9 total is an ideal number for us, providing us with enough eggs plus extra to sell.  

Get approval to sell home canned goods
I love to can especially jams, jellies, and pickles.  We have done a good bit of research on the state laws allowing us to sell these items and the biggest hurdle to jump is getting our kitchen inspected by the department of health.  Once they approve our kitchen then we can begin to sell at local markets and fairs.  This would be a huge step for us and I’m really excited about the possibility.  

Grow my Squigglybugs / Cloth by Kailyn business
I am loving my work as a consultant and educator for Squigglybugs.  Teaching families about cloth diapers, babywearing, and natural baby care has been such a great opportunity for me.  It has been slow to grow and I know that I need to spend some more time and energy focused on making my business great! *Check out my store HERE


We’re always been the kind of people to DREAM BIG but we are realistic enough to know that it takes time and that we are better off taking things one little step at a time.  What little steps are you taking toward your goals this year? 


Preparing Chickens for Winter

This summer we moved our chickens to a portable coop with a fenced in run.  We had enjoyed having them free range but had lost several to predators and the easter egg hunt every morning was getting old.   For the summer, we parked the coop in the shade under some pine trees out behind the house.  This was a great location for them because it stayed cool under the trees all day.  They also had lots of space to run around.

We adopted 4 new younger hens from a friend who’s flock had gotten larger than she needed.  With winter coming and the new little ones joining us we knew it was time to relocated the ladies.
The coop is on wheels so we kept the chickens in one day and then pulled them to their new home.  We set them up right next to the woodshed.  This spot gets full sun in the morning and the shed helps to block the wind so it’s much warmer.  We also added a piece of plywood to the bottom of the coop (it is just wire screen) to help keep it warm at night. 

We set up a run around the coop for the ladies but kept it a bit smaller for the winter.  Our plan is to add some snow fencing across the top so that hawks won’t be tempted to fly in since that has been a problem in the past. The winter spot is also much closer to the house which makes it easier for us to keep an eye on them and we can even run an extension cord from the shed to keep their water dish thawed.

How do you prepare your animals for winter?

A Broody Hen Experiment

It’s spring time here in New England, love (and pollen) are in the air and I’ve got a chicken with an extreme case of “Mommy-itis”…and this isn’t the first time either.

 In farming terms, she’s gone broody.  She is sitting on a nest, convinced that she will hatch chicks, and is not getting up for anyone or anything.  Our mama is angry brooder.  She’ll peck, squawk, and otherwise attack if people (or other hens) get close.  They other ladies are giving her lots of space despite the fact that she is sitting on their favorite nest.  They’ve taken to laying under the pallets in the wood shed which is at least easy to find and well protected.  

Fortunately, I’ve got some pretty awesome friends.  And one of those awesome friends just so happened to have a whole bunch of fertilized eggs in need of a mama hen.  Not just any old eggs mind you, Swedish Flower Hen and Faverolle eggs, two beautiful rare / threatened species.  So not only are we making a chicken happy but we are doing our part to keep rare breeds growing.  

Yesterday was considered “Day 1” of the great experiment.  She’ll need to sit on the eggs for around 21 days before they hatch and we see how things have gone and just how good her mothering skills are.  

I’ll keep you posted and take lots of pictures, I promise.  Has anyone ever had a hen raise chicks?

1 Chicken – Many Meals

Not that chicken, but you get the idea

I am all about saving money and stretching groceries.  My absolute favorite way to do that is what I like to call “chicken in a crock pot”…I’m so creative, I know.  Seriously though, if you’ve got a chicken and a crock pot you are ready to go.

I start by shopping around till I find the best deal I can on a roasting chicken (antibiotic and growth hormone free is a must, free range is preferred, locally raised is ideal).  I chuck the chicken in the crock pot along with some roughly chopped garlic, onions, celery, etc.  Top it with a couple pads of butter, crank it up to “low” and go to work.
By the time we get home it’s good and cooked.  I’ll mash up some taters, warm up some peas and dinner is served.  But wait… we’re not done yet.

Chicken broth cooling on the counter

After dinner, I’ll take all the leftover meat off the bones and store it in the refrigerator.  The bones, skin, and whatnot go back into the crock pot (I leave the veggies from the first round in there too).  Fill it with water, turn it on and let it go for at least 24 hours….tadah! Chicken stock.
Strain the stock into jars, let them cool and then into the fridge or freezer they go.  Now, you’ve got stock to make soup, sauces, whatever you like.
Are we done now?…nope!

Chopped salad with shredded chicken

You still have the leftover chicken in the fridge.  Usually it isn’t quite enough to be a meal on it’s own but it can easily be stretched by using it in a casserole, soup, or as chicken salad.  We love using it in fried rice along with lots of veggies but really it’s up to you.   Visit my recipes board on pinterest for even more ideas!

There you have it. 1 chicken gave you 2 dinners plus enough stock for at least another 2 meals.

What is one way you save money on groceries?

Linking up with: Homestead barn hopHomemade MondayModest Monday

Fall goals and projects

It’s that time of year again…the time of year when I start writing massive to-do lists in order to get us prepped for winter.  Granted, I’ll never finish all of it but still I like to dream.

In no particular order:

  •  Fire wood, fire wood, fire wood.  A free (other than manual labor) way to keep us warm and cozy all winter…yes please!

  • Apples! Its time to pick them, eat them, can them, dehydrate them, and anything else I can think of.

  • I’ve got to get the garden turned over and garlic in the ground.  I tried growing garlic in containers last year but there just wasn’t enough drainage.  This year its going in one of the raised beds that we used for eggplant and peppers.  It will mean needing to build a new bed this spring but thats alright. 
Time to fill the pantry 
  • Chicken coop.  This is the big one! Those pesky ladies have hidden their nests for the last time.  They are getting a new coop with a big fenced in run so that I can actually find the eggs.
  • I’ve got a freezer full of random produce (peppers, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes) and it’s time to start canning it.  Hot pepper jelly, mixed berry jam, and probably tomato puree or salsa.
  • It’s time to give the house a good deep cleaning and get it ready for winter.  The thermal curtains need to be hung and the vents and fans need a good dusting.
Thankfully, the weather has been a nice mix of cool and sunny.  Perfect for getting massive amounts of work done.  Now, if it will stay like that for a few more weeks then we’ll be all set. 

What do you have to do to get ready for winter?
Linking up with: Frugal Days, Sustainable WaysNatural Living Link Up, Homestead Barn HopThe Modest MomHomemade Mondays

Introducing New Chickens

We just welcomed 5 new chickens to our little homestead. The little girls or girlies, as I like to call them, are 4 month old buff orpingtons.
Orpingtons are our chicken of choice.  They are a heritage breed that are strong, great layers, and very friendly.  They are really easy to work with, especially if you free range.  We’ve had little  issues with them and my only complaint is that they like to lay their eggs in about a million different hiding places around our yard.  Its like Easter every day around here!

Introducing new hens into a flock can be tricky. Because our ladies are pretty friendly we weren’t too concerned but, some breeds and bigger flocks can have pecking order problems.  We started out keeping the younger chickens separate from the older ones, to give them time to adjust.  We actually ended up using Fenway’s dog crate.  It gave them the chance to get to know each other while still giving the little girls some space of their own.  The crate worked perfectly and even allowed us to let the old ladies out to free range while keeping the others in.
After a week we opened the crate and let them mingle.  We’ve had no pecking problems and everyone seems to be getting along well.  For the most part the two groups keep to themselves but we’ve caught them all roosting together in the coop at night.

Exploring on their first day of free ranging

It will be awhile before the new hens start laying but hopefully when they do they’ll lay inside the coop. I can dream right?
Linking up with: Frugal Days Sustainable Ways

Chicken T.V.

We’ve had some drama around the homestead lately, I like to call it “As the Chicken Coop Turns”.

My amazing friend, Sam, took this picture of The Ladies
One of our laying hens has gone broody.  Which means she’s decided to sit on some eggs and hatch them.  There are a couple problems with this.

1. We have no rooster so the eggs are unfertilized.  She could sit on them forever but would never get chicks.
2.  She is hogging the only nest that the chickens will lay in leaving the other ladies nest-less.
3.  Because they are nest-less the other chickens have decided to go rogue and lay somewhere else.
4.  We have yet to find out where that “somewhere else” is.

We gave her a day or two to see if she got bored but of course, she didn’t.  Then it was time for a plan (or many plans).  At first we tried kicking her out of the coop for a while but all she did was stand in front of the coop door and squawk until we had to let her back in (she was keeping Matilda up from her nap).  Next we tried replacing the eggs with ice cubes.  Now, you would think that shock her into moving but, nope.  The bird was determined to warm up those “eggs” and just ended up with a wet bum.  Finally, we tried tempting her with lettuce and thats what finally got her up.
Apparently a belly full of salad scraps is all she needed to shake the mothering instinct…who knew?!

Where did the eggs go?

Of course, this all took a few days and by that time the other girls had happily found other places to lay their eggs.  We have hunted high and low and still can’t find them.  We followed them around the yard, crawled under the porch and the shed, and still nothing.

We have kept them all in the coop for the last two days to get them back in the habit of laying inside.  By this weekend we’ll let them out again and hopefully things will be back to normal.

Who knew chickens could be this dramatic?

*Linking up with: Homestead Barn HopFrugal Days, Sustainable Ways