September 18, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: The Chunnel

For those of us not in Europe or the UK, using the word chunnel isn't confusing. The Chunnel in the UK and Europe connects the two places. It is the channel tunnel aka the Chunnel. This is a homesteading blog, so a chunnel is a chicken tunnel. I built one using 2x2s and some chicken wire. It is going to be attached to the second coop at some point. It was a very easy construction. I made a rectangle, then attached risers to a support beam at the top. Covered with chicken wire and made a makeshift door for now. I did make the support beam at the top stick out because I was going to move it all around the yard.

Hope that gives you some inspiration to try and make a chunnel yourself. I have a second design in the works but more on that later. Happy Homesteading!

Ceaberry's Monday Musings: Taking a breath

On a homestead there is a lot of work to do. That is an understatement, it is a 24/7 job. I tell Mr. Native Farmer that when he leaves work, he gets to leave work. The homesteading, stay at home mom, and small business owner me does not ever leave work. Granted when he gets home he becomes daddy and son of a family farmer so really... he never leaves work either. We had a Sunday planned that was supposed to be peaceful, taking our time and enjoying a day after some hard work from the day before.

We helped cousins start a bigger run and coop for their 6 beautiful chickens and we need to go back and finish the job sometime soon. Let's just note I put in 1500+ staples without getting a blister. I don't think that is a proud moment more like a show of how much stapling of chicken wire I have been doing lately. I was making sure the chicken wire was secure, they have a much bigger dog problem then we do and they had a bit of duck tragedy recently.

I let him sleep in, it was his weekend. We do that, we alternate weekends of sleeping in, normally it is just one day of that weekend but its good to know that the option presents itself. We also alternate nights (or mornings) when the kiddos arise before the chickens. It doesn't matter if you're sick, tired or just went to bed, if its your night then its your night (or weekend). Anyway, I get him up around 9 and I was just finishing up the dishes (which is why I got him up to watch the kids since I was busy for the next 30 minutes and they are a bit too spirited so early in the morning, I had been up since 5am). The phone rang, he was off to work to put in some cattle. Our plans for the day up in the air again! When he got home we went to go pick tomatoes, you know the ones we don't eat, from his boss' garden. I am so looking forward to all the tomato powder I am going to get from these lovelies to boost my stews and sauces this winter. It is really a different taste one must experience in life... even if you don't like raw tomatoes.

Having a homestead can have you hopping all day, every day. Then having kids keeps you on your toes during the wee hours of the morning. Let's throw in some kittens we have inside until they are fixed and weaned. Why don't we add in the family farm needing to be tended, along with my own business. Taking a breath is something that should happen more often then it does and it is well needed when it does happen.

My breath moments come when I do a bi-annual ritual of watching Dancing with the Stars with my Mother-in-Law and my Aunt-in-Law. We go to my AIL's house and watch the show, eat some sweets, drink some coffee, and chew the fat. It is 1-2 hours away from being... well... me. I get to be the person I was before kids, marriage and homesteading. I don't have friends my age near me. I had a select few friends in High School (Mr. Native Farmer was my best friend in those days), all of whom have moved away from our impoverished area to find better opportunities elsewhere. My college friends are even further flung afield and my Scotland friends are even farther spread then those. I tend to make friends with people who like to travel, even my friends from when I was younger in Texas have spread out to far reaches of this Earth. So no, I don't have anyone my age except my husband to really relate to, so these times with my in-laws (who are apparently awesome since I choose to spend time with them regularly) are my "adult-single-kidless-me" time.

So if you are wrapped up in homesteading and you find yourself doing the dishes at 4am or even 2pm and you find yourself sighing. STOP, take a breath. Your body is telling you, whispering to you stop. Many things about becoming all my titles is learning how to let it go, let it slide, and knowing you can't and won't get it all done today, maybe not even this week, but it will get done, or not. The world will keep changing. If I have an empty dirty laundry basket, inevitably about 5 minutes after enjoying that fact my kids will pee on the floor (potty training at its finest here) or I dunno... spit tea all over their room and their white shirts. So before going off the rails with the unfairness of that, take a breath and laugh a little. Take life a bit less seriously and everyone will be happier for it.

If you seem to not be able to bring yourself to that: Please feel free to download this photo and put it as your background.

Hours old kittens

Or 6 week old kittens

Now doesn't that make you smile?? Happy Crafting and Homesteading!!

September 15, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Chicken update 1 -- Silkies!

We got some new faces around the homestead in August. We bought locally 4 silkie chickens, 2 hens and 2 roosters. They are such characters and they have added to our flock nicely. Who doesn't love these fluff balls of the chicken world?

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Taking Vermicomposting to a new level

Mr. Native Farmer looked at me like I was crazy when I asked that he put the old bathtub down in the lower garden. He couldn't figure out what I was going to do with the tub. Multiple ideas sprouted to mind but alas, he couldn't even fathom what I actually did with it. 

It became a worm bin. Yup. Worm bin. I need to amp up the amount of worm castings to fill my raised beds next year. In came a larger worm bin. I have currently separated my worms but for the winter every one is going in there. I am surrounding it with hay bales and forgetting it for most of the wintertime. It may not look pretty yet but it will turn into a bench back with an arbor behind it (boy do I have lofty goals?). 

I put screen in the draining holes then a bit of gravel near the holes then back filled with creek rock/dirt mixture and added topsoil. Then I added my worms and some food for them. Put on a makeshift lid and let them get to work. It is working so far and I am happy to see my worms just munching away! It is set on two high cinder blocks (6 in total so three sets). It will be framed around and a nice top fitted with a bench in front of it and a cushion and an arbor behind it with our heirloom grape vines expertly intertwined with it. You're laughing aren't you? Its doable, I swear.

September 14, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Heading into Late Summer

So the garden has its last little legs to go and on September 1st, I put of my last set of radishes. Oh radishes the bane of my existence. What isn't the bane of my existence are my snapdragons. Funny my favorite color would make a second appearance (just wait until the next update!) and it made me happy to see the new flowers poking through.

A little later on in September my snapdragons blushed a bit more and the celosia just took on a growth spurt! My begonias also took on a new life!

Here are the radish seedlings, Champion radishes. I will talk about what happened later with these little hopefuls... it is a bit face palm at the moment.

Continuing into the second week of September my snapdragons hit a growth, or should I say, blooming spree. My gracious!! Now if only the tomatoes would actually ripen...

The garlic is looking great... for well garlic.

My Rose of Sharon is blooming nicely even after all the pruning! 

Well that is it for now, I have to get the other photos processed. I am sorry for the silence lately, the family caught a cold and you know men when they get sick... at least my husband, he gets so cranky that its like I have 3 children and he is the youngest. I will be back on a normal schedule soon!!

September 2, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Cotton Growing

You may have seen my previous updates showing my cotton plants. I bought seeds at MRC Seeds (not paid endorsement). I got some white cotton seeds and some green cotton seeds. I placed them in three pots to begin with and something happened and I transplanted all the healthy ones into 1 pot. I went from 20 seeds to 5 plants. Not a problem except I didn't remember which variety was where so I had no idea what plants had actually made it. I now have 3 healthy plants in one pot.

Here are my cotton plants, my uncle-in-law told me sometimes on how to grow the cotton. He used to grow some plants here and there on this very property. So I was encouraged to try it myself, global warming couldn't have affected here too much right?! 

After a LONG wait, flower squares showed up. I was so excited. I would peek in the bigger ones watching the little flower buds starting to form.

Then... on Monday August 28th, my wait was over! A flower! One beautiful, perfectly wonderful, YELLOW flower. Yellow?! Cotton flowers are white normally. But green cotton flowers are yellow!! I may have done a bit of a happy dance.

Then a second one appeared the next day! These are all on the same plant.

This is the first flower after 24 hours. Cotton flowers don't last long, 24-48 hours before the next gorgeous stage happens.

The next day, that beautiful yellow flower looked like this, yup pollination happened and now the flower turns pinks and closes to create the boll. 

Here is the second flower just pink in the edges and a third yellow flower! 

So now to wait for the other flowers to bloom before the frost hits and then the long wait for bolls. Cotton takes 180 days (thats 6 months) to be completely dry. I have 2 weeks before frost and I need to bring the plants indoors, something I haven't quite told Mr. Native Farmer yet...

A note on my reason for growing cotton. Although I know it is a touchy subject for some of my readers, I am growing cotton because I am a spinner. Yes, I am from Texas, and I am a proud southerner. I live in West Virginia (which was neutral in the Civil War), where growing cotton isn't illegal. West Virginia isn't known for its abundance of cotton farms. Now, that being said I have been up against racism from people who told me I should be ashamed of being 1. white and 2. a southerner because my family had enslaved their family. I would like to kindly note, my family (from both sides) wasn't even in the USA until the 1920s. My father's side came from Austria before WWII to escape persecution from Hitler, they were Catholics (Blechl means bell ringer in Austrian, meaning church bells), and they were under Hitler's target list just as much as Jewish people were targeted. Now my adoptive father's family history is Native American. My mom's side came from Mexico (legally I might add), actually she is only 2nd generation born in the USA. My family has never been on the side of pro-slavery, quite the opposite.

August 31, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: My mom's garden

I am truly jealous of my mom's garden. She has raised beds enclosed with some deer fencing (it is the same method we used for the chicken run with t-posts and wire and Zip-ties). She uses Shenandoah Screened Topsoil (not a paid endorsement), it is located in Winchester, WV (can't get much more local than that for the quality we receive). I think her true key is the topsoil, because even though it is labelled as that it is a rich mixture that she DOES NOT fertilize. You will see how amazing that fact really is when you scroll through the photos below. She orders an entire pallet of topsoil bags in the 40lb bag quantity. Then, they sit at least 6 months but most of the bottom of the pile is over a year old and it is black gold when you open the bag. That is probably her second successful secret, she basically composts the top soil and adds just that to her garden.

Now for some pictures! She does "rowish" gardening in her raised beds. They are semi-permanent beds. For her beans she puts up more T-posts with that nylon square netting.

This is her beans, you are correct in thinking there are weeds in the front. Now they have been removed and the bush beans are happier. Her pole beans have lovely purple flowers and she always gets an amazing yield.

This is another raised bed. She has peppers, squash, tomatoes and corn growing in one raised bed. The sea of green is just amazing to watch!

Now this is the last true secret of my mother's garden. Sunflowers... Yup, sunflowers. Now by accident my mom discovered their very nice side effect. She got some plants from Burpee (not paid endorsement), and there was a sunflower seedling in it. Burpee seems to have this occur quite a bit with their seedlings. These are intentionally planted ones. The bees, oh the bees!! She doesn't have to worry about pollination, ever. She also has humming bird feeders nearby and butterfly bushes. For some reason she doesn't have cabbage loop worms either (lucky her) but does get Japanese beetles because of the blueberry farm down the road.

Now to see just a few things she harvested recently.

I know... you secretly are jealous too. Those cabbages were "as is" from the garden. Notice no holes!

This was a different day, her broccoli in there are actually the side shoots that are supposed to be tiny... yeah right. You can't see them but she gets 6 or so banana peppers every few days!

Why am I jealous? She doesn't fuss with her garden after planting and it grows despite the lack of tending. I think her three accidental things have helped her garden grow so well!
  1. Get good topsoil. 
    • My mom orders it from a mom and pop business but you can find it at Lowes in some places.
    • There is topsoil at Wal-Mart but we have found it to be wildly inconsistent. We got bags from two separate cities (about 3 hours apart or around 100 miles), but the SAME topsoil was rich and black at one place and completely clay at the other place. I am not kidding we bought them within a week of each other and the only reason we bought them from two different places is because we liked the first stuff so much we had the truck in another city near us and decided to get more... which was clay... yucky. 
    • Read the labels, really. If you read what is in the bag it will help you decide what is best for your area and growing habits. You can get raised garden bed mix but we were lucky with a local producer.
  2. Let it compost
    • Buy some extra bags and let them sit, out in the rain and everything. My mom just piles hers up and forgets about it until she needs it. Little buggies (and composting worms) will get in there are really make it a treat. I suggest a tight stacking method and keep the area around free of tall grass, it may just bee too tempting to snakes otherwise.
    • You don't have to let it compost but why not? You are going to need to add to your raised beds eventually, having richer topsoil then when you started is always a good thing.
    • I put my bags my mom graciously gives me into my worm tub (upcoming post). I use that as a nice medium for the tub and I get back even better soil!!
  3. Bring in the pollinators 
    • My mom has found that sunflowers, butterfly bushes and hummingbird feeders are all she needs to bring in the good and keep out the bad. 
    • I have loads of flowers and multiple beneficial species. I also have deterrent species as well and it has served me pretty nicely. 
  4. Feed your garden
    • Feeding and fertilizing are two different things. My mom does not fertilize, she feeds. She puts eggshells and spent tea in her garden and that is it. 
    • I fertilize but I also amend my soil plus my worm bins and composting bins with tea, coffee, and eggshells. 
Happy Homesteading!

August 28, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Life Hack -- Plastic Bag Holder

So I have scouring Pinterest lately for ideas to do life hacks. I came across a plastic bag holder, with a nifty pull out feature. Now theirs looked a lot more professional, but I live on a homestead, "rustic" is kind of the description of everything.

I took a sparkling water bottle, that Mr. Farmer drinks, and I cut right where the label hits. Normally there is a small indention, it is a bit thinner and much easier to cut. I left about 1/4 of the bottle uncut for a hinge. 

Since I have children I got some lovely duct tape (that is the real name for the tape, the other is a brand of that tape), in pink kitty print. I taped around the edges and put a small tab on the front with a bit of double sided tape (or the duct tape rolled up to form double sided tape). 

Then I folded and rolled the plastic bags I had laying around and stuffed them into the bottle. I had to test it out of course! This was a Pinterest win for sure!

It was so easy that I made two! One for the house and one for the car!

On a side note, dealing with plastic bags. I sometimes get too large of trash can bags. So I put a hook on either side of my trash can (and on my smaller one that I use the plastic bags in) and it works like a dream. So that is two hacks for one post! Happy Homesteading!

Want to follow my wackiness on Pinterest? Click here

Ceaberry's Monday Musings: Background on Homesteading for Me

Happy Monday! I have been busy these last couple of weeks so my updates got a little sporadic. I am still working behind the scenes and on the homestead for some fun updates and useful information. This is my first year in homesteading and I have not gone completely gung-ho about it but I have done many things around the house and farm that will be making its way to you.

Life on a farm and living in an old farmhouse has it unique set of challenges. I am a stay at home mom with a side business that I have had for almost 8 years (coming up in October). There are a lot of stigmas to each descriptor of my life and it seems key to have so many descriptors that no one seems to know where exactly to place you. I am not a placeable object or a person that fits any kind of box, I love it that way but it isn't easy nor is it for everyone.

I watched a YouTube video of a the lovely personality Starry Hilder Off Grid Homestead. She discusses the fact that people get into homesteading and living off the grid, then they quit. The old adage is that you must do something for 30 days straight to make it a habit. Which is why I choose Lent to change things, you do something more, do something less, and help someone/thing out for 40 days. That is THREE habits that change all at once. Anyways, she was so deeply saddened that a certain couple chose to stop homesteading, but they both worked full-time and had 6 kids. Starry is normally very upbeat, wacky and cheerful. Even if you don't like homesteading, she will make you want to do at least some part of it, she shows the grittier parts of that lifestyle without bemoaning it.

Why I chose her video as an example is because it resonates with me on a different level. Haven't we all been afraid of something we tried and now loved? Wasn't there always times we wanted to throw in the towel (or did) only to look nostalgically back on that thing we loved, wishing in some small part we still did that, were still a part of that community? We can find so many excuses and reasons not to do something, and we all get overwhelmed at times. Homesteading is a task not be taken on lightly, nor is quitting homesteading either. You must be a certain type of person, we all have that potential to change into that type of person, but not everyone has them umph or gumption or want to do so.

Homesteading and "living off the grid" are two VERY different things, and very different lifestyles. One can homestead or live off the grid or both. I have a B.S. degree in Environmental Sociology and Zoology (don't try googling that as a degree, I had the opportunity to create my own degree major at West Virginia Wesleyan College), a B.A. in History, and a M.Sc (that's a UK Masters) in Human Osteoarchaeology. Yeah, you're think none of that has anything to do with homesteading or living off the grid, but it actually set me up to be the perfect person to have those ideals. Yes, I love to do my part for the environment, but I am not a fanatic and probably not as eco-friendly as I should be.

I will always be "on the grid," I do not want to live completely off the grid. I believe in environmentalism and consumerism (thus my none box type of personality, I blame it on being a Libra). You may not know my age, but I lived in a world without the internet, computers, and cell phones (my first one was in college and it was a pay-as-you-go). I didn't get my first Apple product (my computer I am typing this post with) until 2009. I didn't step into the world of Apps and such until 2011. Heck, I still had a tape player (walkman) until I was well into Highschool when finally my parents took pity on me and got me a CD player. People I saw the first DVDs, they were larger in the records!! So it is not all the electronics that keep me "plugged in." I am here for the community, the millions of people and the the think tanks of ideas for anything and EVERYTHING I want to learn about.

Now Homesteading, I decided that to change my life I needed to change my labeling of things. I live on a homestead. Instantly a sprawling farm and ranch style life comes to mind. That's all well and good but I live in rural West Virginia, that's not exactly the rosy picture my house paints (yet). My house is "rustic" and mostly neglected. In remedying the neglect I have made it turn more charming, and functional. To quote a recent Project Runway episode: I am Ballin' on a Budget.

Both topics take YEARS to accomplish. Please do not rush out and try to do all the things, it is hard to do. Changing to "homesteading" rather than "repairing neglect of a house steeped in so much family history is suffocating" made my mind more at ease and peaceful. I became determined, more crazed then determined, to get stuff done this year. After years of pregnancy and babyhood, and excuses as why I haven't done this or that, enough was enough. I started outside 30 minutes every day with the kids at the beginning of May. It was hot, it was humid, it sucked. The kids loved it. I slowly worked up to an hour before nap time, it was still hot and it still sucked but the enthusiasm of the kids and the nap that happened quickly there after was worth it.

Now I am outside about 4-9 hours at a time, if I am not there I am inside doing things that are homesteading indoors (like dehydrating vegetables or seed saving or fixing broken things around the house). On top of all of that I do my yarn business and I am a mom and housewife (means I do the chores and running of the house while taking care of my two children under 3). What does my husband do? He is a farm laborer on another farm and the only farm hand here on our family farm, plus he is a gatherer (he gathers wood, mushrooms, ginseng, extra wood, tools, and stuff I would end up throwing away later). We decided to put the kids bedtime (read that as off of us time) at 7-8 pm, to keep us from not having us or me or him time. Truly, a sanity saver.

Homesteading, take it on piece by piece. I started with cutting down overgrown areas of my yard, which I am still working on but they are cut down, by hand might I add. I am not an in shape person nor am I abnormally strong, if you think you can't do it, try. Again I started with 30 minutes (you can start with less) and I started in the hottest months of the year while watching two kids. I then went to my garden, I started small. A raised bed we have had for years, and a container garden. Not everything made it (are cabbages are hilariously small). After that was the chicken coop. Now that was really my first step to homesteading. Choosing animals to raise is a really important decision. We have joked around about goats but chickens was really our Step 1 to becoming a homestead. Step 2 is next year with my garden expansion and revitalizing the space that is the hill (also add an e instead of an i) of forsythia. So next year will be all about the garden. I added worms and composting in the side mix, things that are by products of having a garden and chickens. They are small and require minimal effort and time. Step 3 will be a revamp of the inside of the house into a processing homestead that my husband is really excited about, something about canning jars just gets him in a happy mood (especially when they are filled with deer meat and deer jerky).

So I am going to end this massive post with this little lesson I learned from Starry: Take it slow and build up to it or you might overload and have to quit when life gets in the way. We live in a world where discomfort is remedy easily and the grit that people once had is slowly vanishing, but it is still there. My start to homesteading has been rewarding but not too terribly fun. It is the hard work that makes me keep at it (and maybe the 10lbs I have lost and the gorgeous tan I now possess). Even if you start with an herb garden in a small planter in your house, that is homesteading. It is giving up convenience in any way to provide something for yourself.

This is who I do it for: The next generation.
Yeah her hair is normally like this in the morning.


I think she was showing Blueberry the grass.
She loves her Blueberry kitty.

We were at the WV state fair. She was having fun in the kid's garden.

This is the look I get before she does something mischievous. I get this look... a lot. 

Having so much fun!
Happy Homesteading!! Want to see my ideas? Follow me on Pinterest!

August 21, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Summer recap

It is now Mid-August and I am looking towards fall. I will be not looking up at the eclipse that is happening today, be safe and smart about enjoying the eclipse. I have my garden winding down and in a near future video I will show you what my garden looks like now that some things have been harvested and my plans for next year. My next posts will be more about what to do with your harvests, big or small. To enable me to do this I have looked to good old Pinterest for inspiration and ideas and to YouTube for wonderful how-to videos. 


I hope your week is wonderful! Happy Crafting and Homesteading!

August 18, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Gardening -- Vermicomposting

Vermicomposting is raising worms for composting. You are raising live beings, albeit worms but they deserve respect for what they can do for you and your garden and in that turn your family and homestead. I started with a grey tub with holes in it but I ended up buying a Worm Factory 360 (not paid endorsement). It was an excellent decision to ensure my worms the best possible home and the most attractive option for us.

Here is my bin completely setup with the wet newspaper on top and the cardboard for the first week to keep the worms from leaving their new home. I ordered my worms from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm (not paid endorsement). They had what I thought was going to be a mass exodus from my worm bin. A lot of people, including the website said they would be thin and not very mobile. I live less than 6 hours from their worm farm shipping place so my worms were very very lively and plump. They went EVERYWHERE. All along the sides and some fell off. I had the forethought to put the worm bin over the grass for the first couple of hours. They were climbing all over the outside bin. I calmed myself and prepared for the worst, they were all going to leave my bin and I would have to reorder my 250 worms.

This is why they tell you to leave the worm bin alone for 24 hours. The worms were just exploring and the few that got away in the first hour (10 of them) were just wild explorers. They settled in just nicely and the bin is teeming with more then my original 250 worms. I have all the tiers set-up, and when I harvested a tier for some seedling starting I got an interloper.

That is Blueberry, one of the resident kittens. She is a "cow" cat, how fitting...

So worms eat food, I do the blender method, well more like the food processor method but you get my drift. From these next few pics I now pre-crush my egg shells making this process a bit cleaner and easier. I made my own baby food for my second child and I bought this now dust collecting thing to help me put the food in pouches. She quickly went from puree to solid due to 6 teeth erupting in a month so it was discontinued for use in our house. I pulled it back out to start making my worm gruel. 

It has a plunger with it and the bags are reusable, especially since they are for worms. I fill these baggies and cap them and freeze. Then I just thaw out what I need to feed them and voila, worm gruel at the ready!

Try your hand at worm composting! I had a rubbermaid tub that did pretty well and now the Worm Factory 360. My next adventure is going to be a worm farm in an old bathtub we have just laying around!! Stay tuned for that fun coming in a few weeks!!

August 15, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Gardening -- Three quarter growing

We were now into July and everything stalled growth because of 3 weeks of absolutely no rain.

However, my oldest is pretty proud of her growing garden.

The snapdragons have bloomed twice already and we have some gorgeous colors going on right now.

I added some herbs. Parsley (which was eaten by a opossum), basil, three kinds of mint (chocolate, sweet, and spearmint), and lavender plants.

 Later in mid-July we have a pretty cool garden growing. You can see the snapdragons have gone to seed, the celosia is coming up nicely, the plants are all doing well and we added broccoli and cabbage to the raised beds! Next time you will see what after the first few harvests look like plus the videos to come will show off the garden!