Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Snowball The Teenage Rooster Plays Hide-n-Seek!

Just when I think my chickens couldn't do another thing to surprise me... they do!  I never realized what superb gaming skills they have.  We learned about chicken rugby pretty quickly when we threw a worm into the brooder while the peepers still peeped and we still love to watch them play it as teens. (You know where one gets a treat and tries to keep it but the rest of the flock chases and tries to take it for themselves?)  I never would have took my chickens for hide-n-seek players though, but they are quite astute at it.

I went out to check on location and food/water levels of my flock and counted 5 teens in the enclosure and two running around the fence outside.  For the life of me, though, I couldn't find Snowball (the rooster) and four other hens.  They weren't in any of the usual places they go when they escape their enclosure. (Which they do often.) They weren't in the garden, the compost, in any flower beds, or under the trees.  How could I up and lose 5 chickens?

I walked the entire front of my yard (probably two acres) looking.  Did someone steal them?  Did they organize themselves and walk out the front entrance way and down the road?  I had just seen Snowball a few minutes ago.

Finally I heard something near one of the trees they like to hang out under.  I walked over but still didn't see any chickens.  Then I heard a cluck.  I looked up into the tree and there they were.  Snowball and four hens roosting quite comfortably in the lower branches of the maple.

I had read that free-range chickens will do this but I never expected it!  I still don't consider our teen chickens free -range but with the ease and number of times daily that they escape their enclosure I guess they consider themselves free.

We had a heck of a time getting them down.  They would just hop around to the next branch.  Finally Reagan was able to get them all down.  I suppose they will try out all our trees now.  At least I know where to look if they go missing again.

I wonder what they'll do next! I hope when they start laying they will choose the nest boxes and not just lay them in odd places.

What strange places have you found your chickens?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fighting Summer Colds

I think I found out why I was so dang-dog tired last week.  I was coming down with a cold.  I don't believe I've ever had a summer cold before.  Winter colds... check, spring colds... check, autumn colds... check, but never a summer cold.  I guess there really is a first time for everything.

Usually I get colds during the change in seasons where temps and weather are varying by large degrees.  That might also explain why I picked up this one. We had a week of 90 degree temps with really high humidity.  We didn't run air conditioning so we were HOT! Now we are having a week with mid-60 to mid-70 degree temps.  My body evidently couldn't process the change very well.

The virus that causes a summer cold is the same that causes any other at any time of year. The symptoms aren't any different.  You may be tempted to think that this is allergies but I've been fighting those all summer (and still am) along with the added dragged behind a bus feel of a cold.

How do you fight a summer cold?  The same as a winter cold:
1.Wash your hands often.
2. Drink plenty of fluids... I like Yogi's Echinacea Immune Support and cold season teas infused with lemon and honey.  Also plenty of water with lemon in it.
3.Get plenty of rest... supervise summer activity instead of participating.
4.Eat well... take advantage of the bounty of summer fruits and veges (especially berries) and the nutrition they have to offer!

There is one different treatment for a summer cold...
5.Lay out in the sun! (It's a rough life, I know.) Let the sun's natural vitamin D do its thing.

So while the kids are weeding today,  I will lounge in the sun and sip iced lemon water.  Perhaps this cold thing isn't so bad after all.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Cottage Industry: Back Yard Blueberry U-Pick

Blueberries are currently in season in my neck of the woods!  They are one of my favorite fruits to u-pick.  When we lived in our rental place there were two blueberry u-picks in biking distance. This year I was wondering what I was going to do because I really didn't want to drive the 1/2 hour to go pick.  Low and behold, thanks to the sharp eyes of my parents, when they were visiting, a little sign advertising u-pick blueberries went up only a couple of miles away from home.

I went to investigate and was pleasantly surprised to find a little quaint family farm.  I'm guessing they maybe had 5 acres of land and only maybe 1/2 acre to 1 acre was blueberries.  I didn't get to talk to the owners but it seemed a pretty simple operation and an excellent way to make some $$ from your land. Here's their set up:

 Little sign on the corner of the main road. Not even big or fancy. (Sorry it's not the best picture but we had an impatient driver behind us and didn't have much time to snap a picture.)

 Another sign at the corner of their road.  Pretty simple.
Sign with hours and phone number in front of their property.  Again not big or fancy.  Their hours are Monday thru Saturday, 8 to 8.
Next they had a simple place for cars to park, marked with another simple sign.
On their back porch they had their main set up:  A sign with instructions, buckets, scale, money box etc.  Some of the buckets were buckets I've seen at other u-pick operations and others were simple recycled ice cream buckets.

They've done a really excellent job of "cuting up" the property, making it atmospheric and a visual treat.  Red, white and blue are the d├ęcor scheme and every where you look there are festive decorative touches.


 They had amenities to make the experience a little more pleasant too: A shady spot to sit and rest and a bathroom!

It was just a hop, skip and a jump to the picking field from parking and we were greeted by a friendly farm cat.

In hindsight the cat may or may not be a good idea.  It was cute and my kept my littles occupied but they were supposed to be picking the fruit, not petting the cat.  The farm would have made another buck or so out of us if Reagan had been picking.

We had a great time.  The bushes were full, the fruit was easy to pick, the price was wonderful,  $1 per pound, and it is so close to home that we can go back and pick any time during the season.  We ended up with five pounds of berries for freezing and using fresh.  There is nothing better then getting great quality local food and supporting a family farm too!
There was nothing overly complicated about this set up and I went away feeling it was something that any of us could duplicate. We have strawberries and blueberries in our vicinity but I have yet to find raspberries, currants or gooseberries in the area so that could easily be something for my homestead, Creek Cottage Homestead, to capitalize on.
If you have a little bit of land, good fruit skills and some creativity this could be a good little side biz. (Of course one would need to check with the local powers-that-be for regulations etc. and I'm sure some form of insurance would be a good idea.)
One last tip for you:  Make sure to bring something to take home your fruit in.  They did have bags available but not every operation will.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

God's Plan For Us

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ...
       - Philippians 1:27a

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
     - Ephesians 4:1-2

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Read & Write

I've been feeling pretty darn tired this week.  It's eight at night and I could lay down and go right to sleep.  Still, I have a new pile of books and magazines courtesy of the local library system.
For more writing education I picked up The Everything Get Published Book by Meg Schneider and Barbara Doyen.  It was published in 2006 but the info still seems quite relevant. I'm enjoying it a lot.
I also picked up Blogging  All-In-One For Dummies by Susan Gunelius.  I would like to make my blog a little more interesting and noteworthy so I'm hoping to garner some tips and inspiration.  We're talking a platform blog. (Wanna-be published authors will know what I mean.) It was published in 2010 so the info should be pretty up to date but I'm not sure it will have what I'm looking for. 
  On the homesteading front... I found Pay Dirt How To Make $10,000 A Year From Your Backyard Garden by John Tullock.  It looks interesting. Published in 2010 it should have lots of good tips for earning some money from homesteading ventures.  $10,000 seems like a feasible number if I could just keep my gardens weeded!

The newest issue of Hobby Farm Home is also out.  I especially liked the article on working goats, the article on pickling and the article on cooking on the hearth.

With regards to homeschooling, I picked up The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook by Raymond and Dorothy Moore.  It claims "A creative and stress-free approach to homeschooling".  I found this in what I thought was the library's new section but when I got it home and checked the published date I was disappointed to see it was published in 1994.  That's pretty old and homeschooling has come a long way since then. I could appreciate the content but there is nothing new to me since I've been homeschooling since 2001.  If you have never home-schooled before I would suggest it but remember it is almost 20 years old.

Lastly, if you are in the Grand Rapids area and are looking for an affordable writer's conference to go to check out the Breathe Writer's Conference.  I can't afford to go but have put an essay in to be considered for a scholarship to attend and have a friend who is registered as well.  From all the online info it looks like a really good and fairly priced conference.  It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of bigger conventions but I don't really need bells and whistles.

That's all from the reading front.  I'm still trying to carve out time daily to work on my YA novel and made some good progress this week.  How about you all?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Weeding & Sweating To The Oldies


We're out in the garden today.  Can't ask for more perfect gardening weather.  It is sunny and 75'ish.  Still when you are out there working it gets hot and let's face it, weeding is not the most intellectually stimulating activity around.  So we got the idea to take out a fully charged computer and play music.  My daughter's band of choice?  The Beatles!  Andi Rose likes my music.

Well, not exactly "my" music.  I love the Beatles, but they broke up shortly after I was born.  I wanted to clarify that because I'm vain enough to not want to age myself more then I have to.  "My" music is 80's new wave and alternative which Andi likes too.

The time passed way too quick and soon we had our goal for the day met.  Yeah!  We figure if we weed consistently every single day (except Sundays) then we will be victorious over the weeds.

 Weeds vs. Vegetables

In other gardening news, we are buried beneath "green" beans and zucchini right now.  I say "green" because we also planted purple beans so we have both.  We haven't canned any yet but probably this weekend.  We don't have a pressure canner so we will pickle them.  The zukes we shred and freeze.  I most definitely have more than enough for the year. (No complaints- food is food and zukes are pretty darn versatile.)


Our peas are done and we even have some to save for seed for next year. That is the beauty of heirloom seeds! Wow, I can't believe that I'm thinking about next year while I'm still in the dirt of this year. In a few more days I'll be planting some things for fall gardening.  We're getting pretty serious about wanting to supply as much of our own food as possible. (Not that we're there yet.  I'm very thankful for grocery stores.)

Pea Seeds

What all are you planting, planning, harvesting? Do you use conventional or heirloom seeds?  Do you save seed?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

God's Plan For Us

Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing and your vats will brim over with new wine.

Proverbs 3: 9 -10

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Grandparents, Shopping & Beestings!

Mom and Dad Schuh

We said goodbye to my parents today.  They headed toward home this morning.  I always love when they come and I hate it when they leave.  I love living in Michigan except for being so far from family.  The spot where they parked their trailer looks sadly empty.  Sigh. 

 The entire clan posing for the camera (set up on the BBQ)

 Closer pic with me at the camera... the way I prefer it!

 The kids... do they look hot and sweaty?  We all were... it was right before we finally got a storm to cool things down.
I made two discoveries while out shopping today.  1. If you are looking for flip-flops and/or sandals now is the time to buy.  All the stores are clearing out their summer stuff in order to make room for fall items.  My pair of dress flip-flops (yes, I said dress flip-flops- I might be a redneck.) broke a couple of days ago necessitating replacement.  I found a great pair for $8- 1/2 off. I am pleased.  I was willing to spend up to $15. 2.Sadly, it is cheaper to buy full length pajama pants at Old Navy and Sears and cut them to the needed length (long shorts) instead of sewing your own.  My daughter needed some summer sleepwear and she didn't want the short shorts or full length pants that most stores have.  She was willing (and able) to sew some but the fabric she wanted was $6 a yard (which is actually not that expensive as far as fabric goes) and she needed around 3 yards.  Hmmm... $18 to sew or $10/$12 dollars premade.  For pajamas we'll go with the latter but it is still hard for me to buy something new and then cut it up.  It seems wrong, just like buying jeans with the holes already in them.
It would appear that some type of stinging bee-like creatures have made a nest in the ground in my red lettuce.  I was picking tonight and felt a prick.  I thought maybe it was a thorny weed I had brushed against but while inspecting the injury (on my lower leg) I noticed "bees" flying around the area.  Ahhh... I've been stung.  The pain was not very strong at first but boy did that pain level rise.  I had to call harvesting to an end and rush inside to tend to it.  Thank goodness for plain old baking soda and water paste.  It may look funky on my leg but the relief was almost instantaneous.
What home-remedies do you use for bee-stings?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Read & Write

Just a short note for today's read and write.  The new Writer's Digest is out.  I have perused it but have yet to read it in depth. I am looking forward to finding time to sit down with it soon. But probably not tomorrow.  The heat wave we've been having is supposed to break and that means that I have weeding and harvesting and preserving to catch up on.   Lots of beans to "dilly", zukes to shred, kale to blanch, basil to cube and blueberries to pick. 

What are you reading?  Writing? Harvesting? Preserving?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Lock Your Doors & Booby Trap Your Porch!

Is this a familiar site in your neck of the woods?
Zuke season has arrived and I made the mistake of planting all the seeds in the packet.  I forgot just how prolific each plant can be.  We are bursting with zucchini.   But the fun thing is there is so much you can do with it: quick breads, muffins, pancakes, cookies, stir fry, battered and fried, pickled and on it goes.  We shall not go hungry where there is zucchini.  My freezer will be stocked high!  My chickens will eat well.  And still there will be surplus...

What will I do with said surplus?  Start a cottage industry of course.  Creek Cottage Homestead (The official name of our farm.) is now offering fresh, homebaked, zucchini bread for $8 a loaf for local area pick up.  If you live in the Grand Rapids area you can place an order via the comment section.  If you don't order you run the risk of heaps of huge zukes being dumped in your car when you aren't looking and dropped on your porch steps. (Warning zukes produce like rabbits.) I know where you live! (Well, not really... some of you.) Don't let this be your fate.

Coming soon muffins and cookies and perhaps even cake.  I might try a gluten-free experiment too.  Anyone ever try quick breads with out wheat flour?

What do you all do with your zucchini?  Anyone willing to share recipes?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mrs. Q Thinks She Is People!

Mrs.Q wanting to be on the inside.
Today was another hot day.  When we weren't down by the creek we were hanging in the back yard under the trees and who was hanging out with us... Mrs. Q.  My dad commented that he had never known a chicken that liked to hang out by itself.  That is when it dawned on me that she wasn't hanging out by herself.  She was hanging out with us.  We are her new flock.  She thinks she's people!
The other day when we were gone but my parents were in their trailer they said she stood at the slider door off the deck and cackled and clucked for us.  Today when I was inside for a moment she followed me right up to the door and thought she was coming in.  She squawked with indignation when I didn't let her follow.    She also hangs out under the picnic table when we eat outside.  We don't have a family dog... we have a family chicken!

Martha making Mrs. Q. Jealous.
 Martha isn't sure what to make of Mrs. Q and I'm sure Mrs. Q wonders why Martha is on the side of the door she wants to be on.  But here's a hint... Martha uses a litter box and I'm not buying chicken diapers.

Making rope and keeping cool.
 When we weren't hanging with the "Q" we were down at the creek.  Farmer John doesn't like to just sit around and he doesn't like to read or write like I do so he gathered a bunch of dried grass along the bank and wove rope.  Very ingenious! Last year, after a shoulder surgery, he used his downtime during recovery to make himself a "straw" hat out of dried daylily leaves.  We'd sell them but it took a lot of time to make and I don't think most people would pay $100+ for a daylily hat.

$100 or more for a handmade hat?

Ingenious Chicken Feeding Contraption
Earlier in the day he finished setting up our teenage chicks' "Protein From Thin Air" bucket.  There is a smaller bucket inside the larger.  Inside the small lidded bucket are the entrails from butchering our roosters.  We allowed flies to land in there and lay their eggs.  The eggs will hatch and the maggots will fall out of both buckets. (Courtesy of the holes drilled in each bucket.) Then the chickens can feast.  The smell is masked by grass clippings stuffed in the bucket to keep predators away. You can read about the process in depth in Harvey Ussery's book The Small-Scale Poultry Flock.

Snowball the teenage rooster
Clearly the maggots aren't dropping yet or Snowball wouldn't be escaping his enclosure and free ranging in my garden!  He is so funny to watch.  He'll fly to the top of the chicken tractor and crow to let all the ladies know he's in charge!  Only his crow isn't quite developed yet.  My mom thought she was hearing a cat in the morning.  She figured out today it was snowball "crowing".  Keep at it little guy!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Beating The Heat!

Highs for the week are in the 90's with a heat index pushing what the temp. feels like to more around 100!  It is hot, humid and we are going AC free by choice (well actually by budget).  But we still found ways to beat the heat...

 City daughter and Tay sat by open windows and doors, under a ceiling fan.

 Grandma and Grandpa chose outside in the slight breeze under the shade trees.
 Andi and Rem chose the coolest place in the house... Downstairs in the craft room.
 My favorite place is a little redneck...
  ...but it's cool!
 Reagan likes the creek too!
Even the chickens chose shade!