February 28, 2019

Ceaberry's Homestead: Pretending it is spring

Phew, it has been a wild few weeks but as the temperatures rise around the USA, the gardeners in the upper zones are looking with envy and a bit of bitterness to those in the south who can start their garden by now. With unseasonably warm weather the temptation is STRONG to start seeds, or even plants right now. I am in Zone 6a and 5b (the top half of my homestead is in 6a and the bottom half is in 5b). I actually go with 5a recommendations because I have woken up with snow in my bedroom in MAY after a 70F day the day before. Our frost date is May 23rd and our first frost is October 1, isn't that a kick in the gut? I think I need to invest in some sort of season extender this next year but for now, I am being semi-conservative on my seed starting. Come Mid-March and April then I will be all for starting my seeds.

I look outside today, sun shining, and it is heading to mid-60s in temperature. Unlike my tulips and crocuses, I will not be fooled into thinking we will have an "early" spring. This happens EVERY year and even my peach trees get fooled and my apples... sigh. I will be starting more seeds today, I know I will but I have such a small planting season I need to get healthy, strong plants to go into the ground. Today is an outside the home day and I am hoping I can get everything I need to do done. If you're wondering about the littles, I don't have them every day so 3-4 days a week they are at their dad's house. To me, it was important that they got to see both of us equally and it allows for some reset time for both of us since our kids are small and they require full-time attention.

So what kind of crazy will I get into today? I will let you know tomorrow but the plan is to work on the seeds, garden tilling (hand tilling), and the chicken coop. My burn pile is looking angrily at me and it really needs to be gone. So, for now, I will leave you with the hope that you start seeds to your zone and remember, nature is tricky and don't be fooled into early spring.

February 6, 2019

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Work-stead Wednesday, Depopulation

Not everything on a farm is sunshine and roses. But some tasks which you personally think you cannot do, I will guarantee that life will MAKE you do them. You won't get a choice, face them and embrace them. NOTHING is too hard, NOTHING is impossible. You just have to figure out how you personally are going to face the task with your circumstances and resources in mind.

As I mentioned I had to depopulate. After talking to neighbors, they told me they don't care if their chickens get mycoplasma, probably assuming they already have it. I told them about the basil to help the symptoms (which has worked WONDERS for my flock but that is a different post). It might be because my neighbors know my history and know that this would devastate me. They also love chicken watching my chickens since I free range them in my front yard and they love watching them. They got so upset when I moved my coop to my garden and they couldn't see them in the run when they passed by my house. I live on THAT kind of road, they aren't busybodies, they honestly enjoy seeing the animals and all the improvements I have been making and it makes them smile. I don't know if my pink fuzzy hello kitty PJs and Keep Calm, Farm On shirt makes them smile but I know they are laughing on the inside.

Anyway, back to depopulation. I got with my mom (part of the flock is hers) and we decided to cull the columbian rock crosses (they are sold at Mt. Healthy in case you want to see them). They are a dual purpose bird, almost leaning toward a meat bird. So we figured if my feed conversion has now gone down then the ones eating the most feed for the least gained needed to be culled. It also helps for a little bit of overcrowding and the personality of some of the chickens were a bit bullying. I had one killing chicks in the run so it was decided. Today we depopulated 16 of the hens. Now you'll see me go between culling and depopulation. To cull is to actively decide to kill a chicken for a specific reason within your control, and to depopulate you are culling chickens because you MUST do it. It was a little bit of both with these chickens.

My brother and my mom came over and we set-up the whole process. With a few hiccups we made it through. I will go through a more detailed version of what happened with all the warnings later but for now, it took 5 hours from set-up to all clean.

Its done, and now we can move on to the next phase. I will be watching my birds. Anyone not recovering nor laying (besides my roosters) will need to be depopulated/culled. I have fancies for my own egg production and to give to my brother. The others are my egg laying flock to sell to my buyer.

I have to say if it wasn't for family and friends and neighbors, this would have been one of those tasks. The one that may lead to the end of my homesteading life. I think everyone could see it in my eyes, a small light was slowing fading as I faced the reality of my situation. I never once said it was impossible nor was I going to do it. It was them who told me it was ok, it was ok to continue and it wasn't worth my losses to worry about theirs. They have flocks of 10 birds that do not mingle with my 80+. They know I lost so much to two rogue dogs, to lose my flock to something that isn't going to kill their birds, they felt wasn't necessary.

This depopulation isn't over but I got 7 eggs today. Thats more then in the whole months of December and January COMBINED!

January 29, 2019

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Depopulation and Mycoplasma

Monday became a sad day for me. I will rewind time to last Wednesday when I called the AG extension office. My birds had been suffering form a chronic cold that seemed to never go away. I tried everything I could without needing a prescription. The use of antibiotics and other medicines in poultry is regulated and Tylan 50 is on the VFD, Veterinarian Feed Directive, list. So are a lot of the other common poultry drugs to cure respiratory disease. I can however purchase it online, but to then use it without a prescription is ILLEGAL. Its even worse if I was to use it in WATER or FEED. Please educate yourself on these new guidelines (as of 2017) so you don't inadvertently get yourself in trouble.

So I called the AG guys and one came out on Thursday. He looked at my flock and said he thought they had what would be the chicken equivalent of a "cold" and to get basil to help cure them of their mystery illness. He assured me multiple times my flock exhibited none of the signs of Avian Flu or Mycoplasma. They didn't have the swollen heads or the hanging down mucus. They were a healthy weight, good body condition, very alert, and active.

Come Monday I got the phone call. When I answered the phone his voice said it all. But it was to be the blow of Mycoplasma (if it was Avian Flu they come and depopulate, with mycoplasma you choose what you want to do but they don't come and help you). So I looked it up. Vertically and Horizontally transmitted, once infected always infected, highly contagious, can treat symptoms but they will return, loss of egg production, death of young chicks, infects eggs for hatching, and flock should be depopulated to rid the area of mycoplasma. That is it in a nutshell.

I CAN cure the symptoms and have a nice egg laying flock, although their capacity would be diminished as seen already by me only getting 3 eggs in 2 months from 80+ hens. They would always be infected, they could infect others and wildlife, and I couldn't sell hatching eggs nor birds to anyone unless I wanted to infect their flock too. Let's say I wanted to go the antibiotic route. $50 vet visit, $50 worth of medicine or more, withdrawal of 3 weeks for eggs, and the symptoms can return at ANY point with stress. I would have to maintain a closed flock and farm with biosecurity as high as Fort Knox. Anyone coming onto my property would be at risk at spreading the disease. My poultry could die from its symptoms and the death is either lameness or suffocation. Yes, I can get reinfected and go through this again, and again. If my neighbors have it, it is up to me to keep my flock safe but wild birds such as sparrows and feral cats and rats can bring it into the flock in an instant.

Welcome to the dark side of chicken farming. I do not mean to scare you off but its a nasty world sometimes and very cruel to you and your birds.

So, depopulation it is, aka mass killing of my ENTIRE flock. It might include the ones in the brooders in my basement and even the babies that are hatching tomorrow. Cruel. Very very cruel. As I have mentioned I am a mom of 3 young kids (check their ages above the post) and I do have a homestead to run. Due to circumstances I am left with this undertaking to do by myself (not from lack of compassion but for physical reasons on those closest to me). I will NOT put another farmer at risk and so any close chicken farmers are out of the list of helpers too. I am not setup for a task but by end of tomorrow I will be, and maybe by then I can figure out my plan. We are getting into windchill that will cut through you and so working outside is not a feasible option.

If my brooder chicks have to go then chicken farming won't be a part of my homesteading for a while and I will focus on gardening and the like. It is a blow for sure and I hope you understand if I have a few days in-between postings as I deal with this new situation.

January 24, 2019

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Laundry...

I may just live here with my three young children but the laundry has a different reality to it. Now I do not personally go trough a lot of laundry but my kids, oh my goodness.

I use the Kon Marie method of folding, I live in a decent sized house with as little storage space as they could have mustered when they built it. The story goes that the original occupants went from a one room shack in the woods to this house, it must have felt like a mansion to 4 kids. My ex and his family moved into here from a trailer just up the road and they felt like the house was again like a mansion. I on the other hand am from Dallas, TX. Our houses were sizable, we each had our own rooms for the most part and there was always a living room, den, kitchen, a couple of bathrooms and back and front yards that were again, sizable. That doesn't mean I came form a rich family, that's just the difference in socioeconomics of the two places I have lived in my life. I lived in and out of dorm rooms for about 9 years, so trust me when I say I got good at two things: 1. using small spaces and 2. minimalism.

Myself -- I have a nice sized wardrobe, and a couple of essentials. I own 2 pairs of shoes. Crocs and muck boots. We were spending over $600 a year on someone else's shoes and boots so I never got a chance to grow a shoe collection. I wear one outfit everyday and if jeans are involved they may stretch a few days.

Penelope -- My kids have PLENTY of clothes, they have 3 houses worth of clothes. She wears PJs, then school clothes, then play clothes, then a different set of PJs plus undies and socks. For 5 days, then the weekend its normally just PJs and play clothes.

Calliope -- PJs and play clothes all the way for her but we are potty training. So we may go through quite a few pants and undies in one day. Or the random I got my PJs in the toilet.

Elizabeth -- I have resorted to putting her in body suits (onesies) that I refer to as her wearable bibs. Teething, spitting up, starting baby food, randomly spitting milk, and other such things and this girl goes through some clothes.

Let's add that I am "given" extra clothes and that laundry day is once a week so it all builds up. I am slowly working on getting my house tightened up so I had to undo the dressers and then refold all that laundry so it now flows better. It takes time, and between wood, chickens, household chores, taking care of myself and my kids, I was told that they didn't know how I did it all. I don't know how I do it all, and sometimes I don't do it all. I prioritize. I have the kids for the next 5 days. I have wood, food, and their clothes ready for them. After the dust settles and they go blissfully on to wreck their dad's and grandparents houses I have to start all over again. Things that need to be replenished are restocked, reorganized and resettled for the next go round. Then I take care of the animals and any of the chores with them I can't get done while they are here (like getting their food restocked and mucking out the coop), then getting the wood settled back into the basement to start drying since I probably used all that I brought in plus some. On top of that I schedule their appointments while I have them and mine when I don't. I go to physical therapy twice a week and I have to do that while they aren't here.

That's the secret life no-one talks about with homesteading. Yes, its fun with animals, gardening, innovating, going around and fixing up the property. But the nitty gritty life that some people who don't have those others things find hard to do by itself still has to get done. It seems like I complain, I don't. I am trying to be as real as I can, it isn't sunshine and roses and to homestead is a commitment that is not an easy task for anyone to undergo. Good luck and may the laundry gnomes not take your lone socks!

January 23, 2019

Ceaberry's Haberdashery and Homesteading: Work-stead Wednesday

Homesteading. Stop and think what that conjures to mind. If you think its all sunrises and sunsets with peaceful animals milling about and everything in order and looking that right amount dusty, then you've not worked on a homestead long enough. We are all human, we have our good days and our really bad days. Days where we wonder why on earth are we getting up at 6.30am to open a coop door in -14F for a bunch of chickens that are on an egg laying strike. Add to that repetitive stress injuries, because let's face it homesteading is one repetitive task after another. Let's throw in some kids and predators (you know, because they belong in the same category) and we just have pandemonium. It is sometimes controlled but a lot of the time it is way beyond our control it is almost overwhelming.

Now that I have completely shattered your thoughts of a life on a homestead and farm. Let me say that albeit the life on the homestead is hard it is very rewarding. It is why you trudge out in the snow, -14F weather, after being up every 2 HOURS with one sick kid or another, to hastily put in warm water to defrost it and scoop lovingly corn and crumbles in the feeders, only to open the coop to NO eggs for the 5th day in a row. You look at the chickens, silently cursing but there is a smile on your face. Why? Because chickens are therapy animals in their own goofiness and tenacity for life. As you stand around for a second and the wind is biting at your face, you feel a soft thud on your muck boot. You look down to a chicken tapping your boot. That's why I homestead. I am not a commercial farmer, I am not a huge operation with loads of quotas and spreadsheets. I am a homesteader with chickens with names and tasks done mostly by hand.

I live on a "work-stead." So each Wednesday I will be bringing you some of the work that goes into making my homestead run and what it takes to be a single mom and homesteader. I have my kids 5 days one week and 3 the next. But that does not mean I have all this free time in the other days. Chickens must be fed EVERY day, the wood stove must be maintained EVERY 4 hours around the clock, and the household chores that backed up from having the kids around must be done.

January 18, 2019

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Plans for 2019

As I continue on through to this coming year I feel it is good to have a plan. I had a plan last year and it went all up and smoke. My plans shortened to day to day then slowly increased to week to week. I am still on week to week and I am trying to figure stuff out as I go along. At a moments notice my whole life could change and this homesteading life could be over for me.

At one point I had no chickens on my property. In July 2017, I had a chicken coop built and chickens placed in it within a week. I got more chickens, goats, and ducks quickly after that. It was a crazy couple of months. To look back on that time is not with happiness. But my chickens are my support animals. By July 2018 my property sat empty of chickens once again. It was the loneliest feeling in the world. It was a pain to look at the run and coop and it be empty.

So the plan for this year is in months. January is over halfway over but there is still a plan for the other half.

  • The chicks will be going to a new home or out in the big coop.
  • The goats may be going to a new home this month, but by next month.
  • Get the wood inside the house and drying.
  • Raise more chicks.
  • Have a HUGE sale on all inventory.
  • Tighten things up around the homestead.

January 13, 2019

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Say hello to the girls

Ceaberry's Haberdashery and Homesteading is divided into little sub-sections that each of the girls monitor.

Ceaberry's Haberdashery is run by myself with quality control by Mr. Simba.

Ceaberry's Homesteading, the chickens are monitored and managed by all of us!

Elizabeth's Eggs

Hatching Eggs and Selling Eggs

Her warm disposition and constant smile allows for eggs to hatch well and she woos the customers!

Eggs from Frizzle Feather Farm, highly recommend! These are Marans and Olive Eggers due to hatch January 30, 2019!

Calliope's Chickies

From birth to 6 weeks old

Making sure they get through this fragile time takes special super powers!

Such cute and tiny fluffs!! 

Penelope's Peepers

6 weeks to Egg Laying (or 20 weeks)
She knows how to "let them go!" She is the best chicken wrangler!

They get upgraded in the big brooder until 12-16 weeks then they go outside. The white one is an Easter egger that started crowing at 7 weeks old!

Ceaberry's Chickens

20+ weeks
It takes an army to get them to adulthood!!

These sunflowers grew here out of their feed!

January 8, 2019

Ceaberry's Homesteading and Haberdashery: Hi 2019, what happened to 2018??

I know its been a year since I have posted on my blog. This coming year is going to be full of fun and I will be touching on a few events from 2018 but for now I am going to explain very shortly why 2018 was a year of change.

1. I got a divorce on November 13, 2018. After 5.5 years of marriage (to the day) and 3 lovely girls my husband decided our marriage was no longer worth his time. He moved a mile (yes 1 whole mile) down the road. That's about all I am going to say about that and him.

2. I still live on the homestead, which if you look back is my now ex-inlaws family farm. I will be referring to them as my in-laws in any future post. I have kept my last name and my girls will maybe get this farm one day so they are my in-laws, can't divorce grandparents in my mind.

3. I had my third girl on August 28, 2018. It was an unplanned natural, but induced birth. Her name is  Elizabeth and she has lovely red hair!

4. I lost 350+ chickens/chicks/ducks/ducklings/guineas/keets this year. My original flock is long since gone, the only ones left my ex-husband got in the divorce (long story but lets just say it was a tad backstabbing how he acquired them). The loss of my chickens will be explained later on but it was a rough couple of months.

So that is why I haven't had the time to post on my blog. As things have finally calmed down and the dust is getting settled I can refocus my energy on my true loves in life and my passions.

I have posts already coming up in the future and I hope we all have a better 2019 then we had in 2018, no matter what happened.