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!