Category Archives: Self Sufficience

Glorious Eggs

This weekend, I got to do a big sigh of relief.  Building the brooder, sweeping up feathers, building a coop, chasing chickens out of my garden for 4 months…it’s all been worth it.  Know why? Because this weekend, we found THIS!

Yayy!!

Yayy!!

We’ve gone through approximately 200 lbs of feed, 3 rolls of chicken wire, dozens of lost tomatoes, and countless fights between the hens and the dog, but it was all worth it!  We’re now at about half a dozen, although we keep eating them, so I can’t prove that! It looks like just one hen is laying so far (the one we thought looked like a rooster!), but hopefully the other 5 aren’t far behind.  Look out friends! We’re about to have eggs!

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Filed under Chickens, Self Sufficience

A Day of Canning

Well, this post is only a week late, but I’m writing it! What can I say? It’s been a busy and distracting week.

Rain rain, go ahead and stay!

Rain rain, go ahead and stay!

Last Sunday, we woke up to a nice, rainy morning.  Now, there will come a time later in the year where I do tend to complain about rain quite a bit.  But August in Southeast Texas is not one of those times.  We decided to put the rainy day to use, and got busy in the kitchen!

Pretty Cans

Pretty Cans

We knew when we planted our garden this year that we intended to can as much as possible.  We’d hoped for more tomatoes, so that we could can those, too, but those darn stink bugs (actually leaf footed beetles, but po-tay-toe po-ta-toe) so we ended up with just enough for a jar or two of salsa.  Those are still in the freezer until I decide to splurge at the grocery store for the rest of the ingredients.  So, our canning was put on hold a little this year, but now our okra are coming in like crazy, and my grandmother’s friend brought us this:

Bag of Figs

Bag of Figs

Not only could we not even think of eating all of those figs, but they were also already frozen.  sigh.  The only option left was to make fig preserves, which are the best thing ever on a buttered muffin. If you haven’t tried them, go ahead.  It’s almost impossible to be disappointed.

We figured since we were at it, we may as well harvest our jalepeno plants as well, and make some jalepeno jelly.  Some will go out as Christmas gifts (oops, spoiler for family and friends), some will be brought to social gatherings, and others will be enjoyed at midnight with a cube of cream cheese and a sleeve of crackers while I watch re-runs of Scrubs.  Don’t judge.

Canning fig preserves

Canning fig preserves

So, we got to work.  8 hours, 3 big messes, 5 dirty pots, and 43 jars later, we were done.  And tired.  But our first day of canning for the season was a big success, and a lot of fun. We ended up with about 24 1-use sized jars of jalepeno jelly, 8 cans of okra, and 10 cans of figs.  Yes, I realize that adds up to 42 and not 43 jars, but believe it or not, one jar actually exploded in the canner!  That was definitely a first for us, but apparently it can happen if you’re re-using a jar, or the jar is too cold when you put it in the hot water.

All in all, it was a fun and productive day.  We’ll have to do it again really soon, too, since we’ve already got enough okra to go through it again! This time it will be on a much smaller scale.

Do you can produce from your garden? What are some of your favorite recipes? For those of you new to canning, stay tuned for a canning 1o1 post real soon!

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Filed under Canning and Preserving, Self Sufficience

DIY Garden Fence

This week, Cage Free Dad and I decided to get started on a garden fence.  We’ve known for awhile that we wanted to fence off the garden, but our struggle with birds and squirrels made us get started sooner than expected.  We don’t have a huge budget for these projects, having just moved in and having way too many projects to finish at once, so I wracked my brain for a simple, free idea.

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

We constructed this fence from old wood pallets and recycled fence wood.  We didn’t spend a single penny on supplies, which is just great! I love the uneven, messy look.  Eventually, we’ll paint it, but it’s just not in the budget right now.

We designed the fence in a way that we’ll be able to expand it as our garden grows, without too much work.  Right now we just wanted something around our immediate garden so that we could drape the bird net right on the inside of it and fully protect the garden from those pesky birds.  An added bonus, our chickens can now roam the yard again!  They had a great time enjoying the yard after CFD mowed.  Hopefully, letting them out again will help with the bug problem we’ve been having.

I’m pretty proud of our little freebie project.  It sure did take a lot of labor time (we actually started 2 weeks ago pulling apart pallets and fences), but I think it’s worth it! We should have enough wood right now to fence our entire future plot, too.

The process was pretty simple, but I’ll break it down here.  First, we broke apart pallets.  Those were a PITA, though, so after a few, CFD moved on to fence wood, which was much easier.  He cut those boards in half, because we didn’t want a tall fence.  Then, I laid out all the pieces on the grass, staggering cross beams all the way across.  We didn’t measure a certain distance for the boards, just eyeballed it, since we weren’t looking for a perfect looking fence.

Fence posts that borders the garden previously, shown in photo.

Fence posts that borders the garden previously, shown in photo.

Once all of the cross beams were screwed in, we lifted the fence and screwed them to the round fence posts that were already bordering our garden for extra support.  (see photo above)

Once that was done, we secured the corners by making wooden L’s to screw in.  Once that was done, the fence was complete! We still need to build a gate, but I’m hoping that such a small opening won’t be noticeable to the chickens and other critters in our yard.

Side view

Side view

Don’t you just love projects that turn out to be free? I know I do!

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Filed under DIY, In the Garden, Self Sufficience

The Chickens are No Longer Chicks

I swear, now that the chicks I mean chickens, have left the brooder in the house, they are changing at a crazy fast rate.  Who knew chickens grew so fast?! (Okay, well, I guess I did, but still…)

We’ve officially started to let them free range fairly often.  I mean, we kind of had to. Once they had a taste for it, they quickly learned how to fly over the fence for their run and wander the yard on their own anyway.  I swear, it’s like keeping a toddler in their new bed.  It just won’t happen.

Free Range Chicks

Free Range Chicks

Well, hey.  The only reason we really kept them in the run is to keep them away from Scout, our overly playful pup that seems to think they are toys.  But you know what? It turns out these chicks can really handle their own.  Scout is now afraid of getting pecked on the nose again, and all it takes is a cock-eyed look from one of the chicks to send her running in the other direction.  Mission: Accomplished!

They’ve also really gotten to know us! It’s so funny.  Every time they see one of us, the whole flock comes running (and if you’ve ever seen a chicken run, you know what I mean by funny).  In fact, it was incredibly hard to get this picture of them free ranging, because they kept running at me while I was trying to get in the best angle to get a picture!

In addition to running at us every time they see us, they really actually like to be held (well, most of them do, we’ve got 2 shy ones).  And Pistache loves holding them, too.  So it’s a win-win for everyone.

Friendly chicks.

Friendly chicks.

Cage Free Dad enjoys holding them, too.  For some reason, they really like to roost on his arm and listen to him talk.  Or…maybe they just think he’s crazy for talking to a chicken? I sure do!

 

Chicken Talk

Chicken Talk

They also really love roosting on his shoulder, although I don’t think he’s quite as comfortable with that!

Did it poop on me?

Did it poop on me?

The answer, of course, is no it didn’t poop on him.  I wouldn’t have been mean enough to snap a picture of that. But it was funny to see him get so nervous about it!

As far as growth updates, I’d say they are hitting puberty.  They go back and forth between peeping like chicks and clucking like chickens, which really reminds me of boys during that phase of life!

They’ve also finally started eating some table scraps.  These crazy birds really love cabbage! So funny.  I’ve tried a variety of things, and the only decent response has been to strawberry scraps and cabbage scraps.  They turn their noses up at everything else! Who knew chickens were picky?

All in all, our chickens are growing at an impressive rate.  I’m anxiously awaiting our first eggs, but I know it will be awhile before that starts up.  I’m hoping for August, though!

 

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More Coop Work

I don’t know about everyone else, but I feel like we’re constantly doing work to our chicken coop.  Every time I think, “Yay! We’re done with the coop! I can post the final update on the blog,” I find something that needs to be changed.  Sorry, guys.  You may never see a completed coop picture.

However, I can show you an updated picture of the run, because we’ve done some serious work, there!

Door added to the run

Door added to the run

The most noticeable things we’ve changed about the run are that we fenced it higher up, making it more secure. We also added a door, since we can no longer climb over the fence.

New door to the run

New door to the run

The door was really simple to construct.  It’s just chicken wire and some old fence posts.  We don’t have it latched with anything right now, but it’s heavy enough to keep our dog out and chickens in, and we don’t have much of a predator problem right now so we’re not in a big hurry to change that.

In addition to those changes, we also made it more secure at the bottom, because we found where either our chickens or the dog had pulled up a bit of wire, creating a hole at the bottom of the fence.  We did this with some simple metal camping stakes, and it has held up pretty well so far.

Some of the changes I still want to make are:

  1. Make the fence even higher, since the girls are still flying over it very easily.
  2. Cover the top, because we keep forgetting to lock them up at night, and I’d feel better about that if I knew they couldn’t get out of the run.

Over all, some pretty simple changes are coming this weekend.  I *think* we’ll be done after that.  At least for a little while.

So far, the ladies seem to like it a lot in there.  They are constantly grazing, and come running up every time I walk by.  They love to hide out under the coop and enjoy the shade.  Now, if only I could find a way to make this entire run mobile, I’d be one happy chicken owner!

Enjoying their yard

Enjoying their yard

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Let the Harvesting Begin

I can’t believe the day finally came.  It always seems to take ages for the first harvest, but today, I picked the first ripe veggies from my garden (not counting the occasional green onion clipping).  It feels so good! I just can’t wait to put these goodies to use.

first harvest

 

Today, I had a jalepeno pepper (or at least it’s supposed to be jalepeno…that’s a pretty light pepper!), 2 cherry tomatoes, a green onion clipping, a cucumber, and another handful of berries.

So far, the garden is doing better than we could have hoped.  As long as all the peppers and tomatoes hanging on our plants right now ripen, we’ll be doing loads better than our garden last year!  Hopefully, we’ll be harvesting more veggies in the next few weeks, but I’m so excited to already have ripe food straight from the garden.

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Filed under Gardening, Healthy Eating, In the Garden, Self Sufficience

The Chickens Have Left the Building!

No worries.  I didn’t get rid of the girls.  I just finally got them out of my house and into their new home! Technically, this happened more than a week ago, but you know how life gets, especially with out of town guests and an impromptu beach vacation!

DSC_1262

First day in the run, checking out their first offering of scraps

They seem to really enjoy roaming around in their chicken yard, and we’re trying to get them interested in kitchen scraps.  They still seem to enjoy the food, more, so I don’t know if we just haven’t found a food they like or what.  We’ll keep trying, though!

Enjoying some shade under the coop

Enjoying some shade under the coop

They really seem to enjoy the area under their coop, and run under there whenever they hear a loud noise. However, as of yesterday, they have started going back into their coop on their own at night, which has made our bed time routine much easier! Before, they went under there at night and we had to crawl in and move them into the coop.  Not fun.

We’d eventually love to give them a chance to free range in our yard, but our puppy, Scout, has got to learn first that they are not toys.  As you can see, she’s very, very interested!

First day in the run, Scout wants in, too!

First day in the run, Scout wants in, too!

Scout still wants in, today! But she's happy just watching.

Scout still wants in, today! But she’s happy just watching.

Until then, they can enjoy the grass in their separate yards. We also hope to make a second, mobile run soon, so that we can put all of their pecking and scratching to use for us in our future (and current) garden beds.

And…one more picture of the ladies doing their typical activities in the run, just for your enjoyment!

They still don't care for the scraps.  Hmm...

They still don’t care for the scraps. Hmm…

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