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!

August 14, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Gardening -- Starting to Come to life

Before I show the updates of the garden in mid-June I have a picture of the bushes after I hand pruned them. These bushes were over 14 feet in the air and the now sunny spot that was created was ALL in shade. If you're worried about the bushes surviving, I can say now in August the Rose of Sharon is blooming it's three flower colors and even though I had the back lilac chainsawed to the ground (due to rot) it is coming back full force already. This was actually best for the lilac bushes because the rot had set in pretty deeply and if I had let it continue there would have been no bushes in about a year or so. 

Ok now to the garden. In mid-June it did not look like much from far away, mostly a flower garden. This was great since it had color while waiting for the veggies to grow.
In the front, you can see flats of tomatoes that would become my plants that have been so successful!
These are my radishes and lettuce. In later videos you will only see the radishes. These are not the same as the ones pictured. Unbeknownst to me around this time cut worms were growing in my container. The moths are attached you young soft growth (the lettuce since it isn't head lettuce) and I had TWELVE in this small container. I woke up one morning to all of my greens just gone. I replanted after I sifted the soil. Now those radishes have been picked and one has left to seed. Lesson learned.

These are my little corn sprouts. Now a few of these were moved into the raised bed and the ones left in the pot got tassels but never any silks, the ones in the raised bed however have silks and tassels. Gardening ....*eye roll*

During most of June my corn plants hosted small yellow garden spiders. They stayed there all month until I finally moved them into my garden and I still see them around from time to time.

My pink lemonade blueberry bush had the berries finally starting to change from green to pink.

In the other pots, my cotton in the center pot is coming up well. It will be the only pot to survive, the other two are repurposed for other things later in the season... Gardening.

In this picture, I have planted my peppers and tomatoes with the onions in the center of the raised bed.

Now for some pretty flowers. These are my snap dragons with the Hawaiian 5.0 in the middle. Hindsight, I will put the purple flowers in their own container next year.

These are my marigolds and celosia flowers.  It took until mid-July for the latter to bloom but my marigolds have been going strong all summer!

Here are my begonias. They look exactly the same as they do in this picture today in August.

I got all my flowers and my peppers from a local grower, the rest of my stuff is from Burpee's or Crazy Harry's Greenhouse (not a paid endorsement). 

August 13, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Gardening -- Season Begins

This is my series on my small little garden this year. We decided to forgo our bigger garden this year but next year I have plans of expansion. This section deals with the garden I started way back in May 2017.
I started with a few containers of plants. I have a lovely flower plant, two pots of deck corn and a patio railing of half lettuce and half radishes.

I have two "raised beds," one protected and one not so protected. The one that is protected just has last year's onions in it. The one that was unprotected has 3 pots of cotton (legal in my state). The main thing though is the rose of sharon and lilac bushes behind the raised bed. You can see one lilac bush is really over grown and tall, all three were very poorly maintained.

I took my hand saw and cutters to the rose of sharon and hacked away at the bush with vengeance. There is also forsythia growing into the raised bed. Please, if you don't plan on maintaining a forsythia, DO NOT PLANT ONE. I have been epically fighting this battle for FOUR years and I am losing most years, not next year but that is a different post.

In the next set of photos you can see me cedar trees that are on our front lawn. One has been slightly pruned and the other has been half pruned. I wanted an archway for the mail people to be able to walk through and us if we parked up there.

So out came the loppers and hand saw again. I worked for 3 days getting everything trimmed. I have two small kids and were only able to do this an hour a day. 

So that was the beginning of my gardening for the year. I add a lot more plants as time progresses. Happy Homesteading!

August 12, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Dishwasher woes

We had an old dishwasher that was, well... a pain. It was a problem and it was small. Little did I know what I was getting myself into when I proclaimed one day that enough was enough. About 2 months later the dishwasher started leaking water everywhere in my kitchen and shorted itself out! That was it, it was time for a new dishwasher. I actually had to wait a couple months to have the money to buy said dishwasher and hand washing entailed 2 dish drains a day. So I went to my big box hardware store, I got myself a new dishwasher.

That was the end of the "easy" part of this process. If you have an old house that has been majorly neglected for repair for 20 years then you may know what may have come next. My old dishwasher was put into place in the 1990s. It wasn't a bad dishwasher and lasted until 2017 so one can't really complain, but you leak nasty water on my floors, well your days are done. So I took off the kick plate, and my first "surprise" awaited me.

What I saw would be a home inspectors worst nightmare. I really need that Holmes guy at my house... well he might condemn it but anyways back to the dishwasher. The wires underneath the dishwasher were not even in a housing or casing. they were twisted together and capped (with the wrong size caps might I add). there was no ground (we don't have grounded outlets in 80% of our house so no surprise there. As I cursed slightly, I undid all the wires and the fittings. Pulled the dishwasher out to find my next "surprise."

The paneling on the side of my dishwasher was just jigsawed cut so there is actually no real pieces for my new dishwasher to screw into so that it is sturdy. No problem they can be screwed into the bottom of the counter... I put my new dishwasher to be set into place. That's where my next "surprise" happened. The copper tubing was too long so I had to not-so-gently bend it so I could push the washer back. The wires as I said weren't long enough to go into the main housing for them, and the ground... non-existent. After I sorted all of that out, the install was the monotonous checks, and the side flanges causing me issues because the side panels were real so they kept popping out.

Then came time to screw it in to the bottom of my countertop. It is an MDF countertop and the other one wasn't screwed in, well it had been but the screws apparently fell out because the holes were a complete mess and with YEARS of neglect (remember I have been in this house at least 4 years myself), I could not secure my dishwasher. More cursing later I just decided to get it in and figure that out later.
Dishwasher installed and washing it's first load.

Two loads later, there was a plastic burning smell. I found out that that the wires arced in the caps and melted one of the caps. But I smelled it early enough on that it just put a small hole in the caps. I had my father come over, he lengthened the wires, grounded my dishwasher to my copper sink pipes, and made sure the wires were more then secure but completely waterproof. Problem solved. Now to work on not being able to attach my dishwasher to my countertops.

I decided on the most invasive route after trying duct tape, wood glue and trying different spots to drill. My kid tipped the dishwasher towards her one day and that was the final straw. I took a drill bit and drilled through the top of the counter top. Then I got a bolt (so it was flat on the bottom and wouldn't scratch my dishwasher top. I added a washer and bolt to the bottom and there you have it, it was completely secured to my countertop. However because I used bolts a bit was sticking up that was sharp and in the way. I tried wood glue molded in shake straws on top of them, that didn't work. So my mom found these resin beads that were brown. I took a drill bit and hollowed out the back (which was flat) until they fit. I used a dry erase maker on the top of the bolt to see where I needed to take some more off so it would sit level. I added wood glue and here is the result.

So if you are thinking of replacing an OLD dishwasher, look at attachment sites and look at wiring. My house was built in the 50s and pretty much my wiring is original. We live in a rural area so the person who put in my old dishwasher wasn't so "professional." If you find wiring problems call an electrician friend in to help. I could have done everything my father did to the wiring but it was nice not have to do it (if you catch my drift). So good luck and Happy Homesteading!

August 11, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Chickens -- Egg Collecting

The reason I agreed to 4 more chickens was for the eggs. When I first got my pullets our neighbor graciously gave us two dozen eggs. I think she wanted to show that they would be small in the beginning but would increase in size eventually.

So the first day we got the chickens, they didn't lay any eggs. We received them around 6 PM so they were done laying for the day. However, the next day the nesting boxes proved to be perfect for them. 

There are dummy eggs in the nest boxes as well (the two larger ones). My kids were really excited to collect some eggs from the nesting boxes.

These are our first few eggs!! We have gotten over 60+ since getting the 4 hens and our pullets should start laying at the end of this month!

August 10, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Life hack -- Easy Fire Starters

Do you have left over candles? I burn quite a few scented candles because of life on a farm sometimes the fresh smell is a relief of the homesteading life smell. I burn candles when the power goes out and living in the northeast United States, it tends to go out quite a bit and often at night. 

So I looked up how I could reuse this small amount of wax. Fire starters. We have a wood stove which our only source of heat for the winter. We go on cook outs during the summer, and we burn brush through out the year. Little fire starters seemed like a great idea of a life hack. It needs: a medium in which to hold the wax (I used a paper egg carton), wax, and dryer lint.

I started by boiling water in my electric kettle, you can also warm a pot of water to boiling and set the candle holders in the pot. I put the water in a pot and set the candles in it, I used the empty containers to melt the candles I burn for power outages. The other way is to pour boiling water in the containers and wait for the wax to float to the top and harden (what I have pictured below but it was way too messy so I went with the previously described method).

Prepare the holder with dryer lint. Yes, I wash a lot of jeans if you couldn't tell.

I poured the scented wax into some of the mold spaces.

Then I filled the rest of them with my power outage wax leftovers.

Then I cut them apart by going along the grooves on the underside. I store them in Ziplock bags.

There you have it! Easy and simple to make and uses up some leftover stuff around the house. They work great to start a grill campfire. Hopefully they can help this winter with the wood stove.

August 9, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Gardening Life Hack -- Seedling starters

Quick post, I used egg cartons cut in half to make seedling starters. I poked holes in the bottom of each egg cup and added soil. I used it to start sprouts for my chickens (I used soil to keep down the bugs) and the water collects in the bottom or you can use it as a bottom waterer. The flap from the top fits into the base making it pretty snug.

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Chickens -- Adding a Grazing Frame

Chickens like to scratch the ground and the dirt can build up. This instinct is evident in a run that doesn't move. There is a solution: The grazing frame. I built mine out of an old screen window frame.  I took off the hinges and the old screen. I added chicken wire via my trusty staple gun. Then I painted with the same brown rustoleum paint I used for other weather proofing around the coop.

I started with an old screen window my husband brought home ages ago.

 I stapled the chicken wire around the frame. I removed the other wire since it was not working for me but against me.

I made the wire as tight as I could, that's a lot of stapling but it was worth it... or that's what I keep telling myself and my aching hand.

 Then I painted the frame, I chose brown for everything. My gutters on my house are brown, that was the only deciding factor.

Then, I placed it in the run. You can see my decorative concrete blocks in the corner. This was before I installed the landscape timbers, which included more stapling. 

So here is a recap of the process:

It took about 2 hours because my helpers were a bit busy at the time.

August 8, 2017

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Chickens -- Getting the Chickens

Our now 12 chickens came in two waves. My husband, ever the gossiper, was saying how he has wanted chickens to our neighbor. She said she had a few to off load if we wanted them. Well, that set into motion a bunch of events, including building the coop and run; creating a new egg gathering apron, and researching everything about chickens... and yes, that includes having to cull them.

To "cull" means to kill a diseased or malformed or injured animal for the sake and welfare of the animal. Homesteading has its not-so-pleasant moments and culling is an unfortunate side effect of owning livestock (which is how chickens are classified). If you do not know, I came across the "C" word with bunnies and thankfully they never needed that but it was a possibility. I live on a beef farm so you can see, culling is sometimes necessary.

We gather up the girls and get them in muck boots and farming clothes, ready for anything. We are all in farm clothes and shoes. Their house is high on a hill and beautiful, and pretty muck free so we looked a bit over dressed, but you never know. We saw the pullets in a coop/run area and there were 8 of them, but one she thought was a rooster. There were 6 rooster pullets in the run next to the pullet hens. We were there for 5 (at most) hens only. We left with 7 hens and a rooster... I am still not sure but I believe my husband said something like "well if we are going to take that many why not just take them all." Enabler. These were all pullets, that means they aren't mature yet.

You can see what I consider "farm wear" for my kids and my husband. Yup, a bit more frilly then normal clothes (we were going to someone else's house) but washable shoes. 

Now we got: 1. Rooster-- half silver-laced sebright and half australorp; 2. Hens -- 2 sebright bantams, 2 golden laced wyandottes, and 3 australorps (they have some polish in them due to white tipped wings).

These are our first pullet hens, that is a cat/small dog carrier that my mom used to carry  7 pullets in coincidentally. She let us borrow it for transporting.

This is our rooster: Diamond Joe.

Our pullets were happy, she told me they may peck at the rooster over night. Worried like well... a mother hen, I went to see him the next morning. I opened the coop to find all the girls in a circle and our rooster, now named Diamond Joe?? In the middle. I think he will be fine.
Our pullets enjoying their run.
Some chicken action.

Showing off their feathers.

About a week later I got a message that something got a rooster that was guarding her favorite chickens and she was really worried (since they roosted in the trees) that something would get them as well. So we got 4 more chickens, proper egg laying ones. Two sebrights purebred, and 2 brown leghorns, I would say they are purebred but one lays a tinted egg which leghorns don't do. They melded into the flock beautifully and now we have 11 hens and 1 rooster (a bit more then the 5 hens I wanted to start with originally).
These are the sebrights, a bit shy at first hanging out in the coop. 

Our Brown Leghorns, they are the "twins" as we call them. Very fiesty.
Yes, our kittens absolutely love birdwatching. Especially, my Scottish kitty Simba.

Here are the sebrights plus a leghorn. Funny enough the pullet in the picture is one of the chicks of the sebrights and a wyandotte (I believe because of the feather lacing).

Now I am getting teased about chicks... like getting teased about my children and me having more, I think its because they are beautiful. My rooster is downright gorgeous. People want to see them have babies, and they are all very pretty but chicks is not in my future. We are hoping to get an Easter egger in the spring (a friend is hatching chicks and he put one in there for me).