Can Cats Be on a Board of Directors?

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“So what is your plan?” the advisor asked.  She had a bit of dizziness so I handed her a tincture of something to help her that I had made.  She took it and inquired upon my school.  There I sat in her school trying to think of what my plan was.

“English because I think that will be the easiest way to get a teaching degree for me.  I want to help homeschool parents and be an evaluator.”  She handed me two more sheets of requirements that I would need to take.

“I want to take Native studies, and botany, and…”  None of these are on the required classes so they would be electives.

“What is your plan?”  she says again.

“I want a farm that has programs for youth and holistic healing and organic vegetables, and internships, and animals, and supports the homesteading and homeschooling community, and…I know this isn’t making any sense,” I mention.  “I think I need a teacher’s license to make it all work together or to afford it.”

She wondered, too.  She also wondered if my own customized degree would work.

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Doug and I spent the rest of the day wandering around our grand downtown.  We took in the lights and had a meal, some coffee, perused a book store, held hands, wandered.

At home in bed we wrote down exactly what our plan would be.  And do you know what our plan would be?  The same dang thing we wrote down in detail this time last year!  A piece of land, a small house, a barn, greenhouse, hoop houses, an acre garden, a homesteading school, our herbal school, a holistic retreat, a spiritual retreat, an artist and writer’s retreat, youth programs and internships, farm animals, self reliance, food for the community, education, a place to do weddings and events.  Both of us have the exact same ideas and dream.

I ran through the classes offered at Metro while I waited for my password to be fixed and there on the screen was a very interesting idea.  Grant writing.  Non-profit.  And our world and conversation just got livelier.

 

How Much Do You Feed Chickens?

I think I was starving my chickens.  I am not proud of this.  Further reason that this blog serves as a place to educate folks on exactly how-to because I can never find the answers on these things until it hits me in the face!

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So, when we first got our chickens, we had eight.  Three or so scoops two or three times a day to spoil them, lots of scraps, running around the yard, they were all set.  We lost some, got some more, now at fifteen, upped the food ration some, everything seemed good.  Lost some, gained some, now we are at twenty-four as of last August.  Upped it a little (now at nine scoops a day, probably the equivalent to a cup and a half a scoop) and that is when I noticed as the girls (and rooster) got bigger over this autumn that they seemed more desperate.  We blamed it on our move, then their molting.  We noticed that the gate kept being opened to the chicken yard.  We asked the neighbors, no one had touched it.  We put a cinder block in front of the gate, they moved it.  They meaning twenty-four hysterical birds.  They did indeed descend from dinosaurs.  Velociraptors, I think!

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I began to ask around how much should we be giving the chickens.  They stopped laying eggs all together.  They didn’t look emaciated, but they certainly weren’t happy.  Sandy and Lisa both just fill up the feeders in their coops.  Doug said the chickens will go through it in one day!

“Then they were hungry!” was Sandy’s smart reply!

So, he filled up the two foot high feeder.  And it was half gone the first day.  But since then it has leveled off and we were indeed starving our chickies and we feel terrible about that.  Sandy also mentioned that throwing out a bowl full of scratch daily is added protein and food.

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We read several articles and books.  None of them ever mentioned just filling the feeders up.  In fact, I have read that you don’t free feed because they will just eat and eat and eat.  I also read that you don’t keep a heat lamp on or they get “weak” and that if the power went out on a cold night they wouldn’t be used to it and would die.  I have read all sorts of things, but here is the conclusion that this farmer has come up with.

Henry Higgin's replacement.  Meet Christopher Robin.  Let's hope he's nicer than Henry!

Free feed.  Particularly in the winter, without being able to run around and find bugs and such.  They need more food in the winter to keep warm.  They produce eggs for me which is food to me.  They deserve fresh water, treats, and plenty of food.  They deserve a red light in the coop.  It was negative twenty-two degrees last night.  We turned on the lamp!  They may not be pets in the sense that the cats are, but they are still in my care and on my farm and should receive the exact same care and treatment as the indoor animals.  I free feed the cats and dogs, why not the chickens.

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I hate learning farming lessons the hard way but then at least I can help out a new chicken person when they ask the internet, “How much do I feed my chickens?”

 

A Field Trip To 1860 (learning from an old homestead)

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We traveled back in time yesterday to 1860.  We visited the home of the Hildebrants from Germany at the Denver Botanical Gardens at Chatfield.  Completely as it was.  The added gardens are impressive and the acreage of farming provides a CSA program for the community as well as a ginormous pumpkin patch and corn maze for Autumn fun.

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As homesteaders, especially ones that are looking to delve further into the world of self sufficiency and off grid living, we look for valuable lessons, ideas, and inspirations from those that came before us.  They whisper through the walls of their old homes and the physical pieces left from a time of homesteading as necessity teach us many things in their silence.  Something in us understands them intuitively.

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We started at our dream house.  A clapboard house with a large porch and swing.  The interior was sparsely decorated with furniture and tools from the era.  The wood stove stood proudly waiting for a kettle of water to be placed on it.  Simple rugs, old quilts, hand tools, and kitchen accessories were displayed.  Many things that we have collected ourselves on our homestead.  I cannot wait until the next homestead when I get my wood cook stove!  How fun the second chapter of Farmgirl School will be!  The house was uncluttered, comfortable, and very welcoming.  We peeked through windows and pretended we lived there.

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A summer kitchen was erected behind the main house with another wood cook stove in it, a counter, and a table.  Heat up the smaller house and leave the big house cool in the summer.  Every year I think we will build a summer kitchen for canning.  Soon we will.  The root cellar was on the side of the house and entered below the home to hold staples for winter.

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The refrigerator is a shed looking building, larger than our present fridges but a small structure in itself.  We would locate ice from the rivers in the winter and place them in the ice house with sawdust to keep the shed nice and cool and keep our food chilled throughout the summer.

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The woodshed would be close to the trees, close to the house, and would house the winter’s worth of wood needed to stoke two fires in the home all season.  More wood stood under the eve of the back door to the house.

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We have two interns from New York right now that have travelled by RV to study herbs under me and work on our mini-farm.  If it were 1860 (though I think this rather quaint for right now as well) this is the house they would stay in.

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These raised beds are perfect for building over cement slabs or driveways and are tall enough to not cause too much backache.

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When we move to our next homestead it will be quite likely that we will encounter a good deal more predators than we do here in town, so we will have to build a large pen such as this one.

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This is the blacksmith shop.  A shed with all the important tools to provide horse shoes and for fixing iron implements around the farm.  The buildings were placed in close vicinity to each other along the creek and house in order to block the winds from the southwest.  Everything was close to the water as one could not exactly turn on the faucet and pay a water bill.  I do dream of the day when I can use a grey water system to water my plants, not wasting a single drop, and have fresh well water.

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After about having it with any type of automobile I am this close to getting a pair of work horses and a wagon!  My friends would probably nary blink an eye.

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This is the Granary where we would store all of our grains for the winter.  There are openings along the top of the walls to create airflow so that the precious grain would not mold.

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A barn is very important as animals are an important part of a homestead.  Goats waiting to be milked bask in the sunshine.

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On our quarter acre I have found that I am able to intensively farm and be able to feed Doug and I and a few occasional guests during the growing season.  I am not able to grow enough to provide food for the community or to put up for winter.  That has been an eye opener for me.  I would need at least an acre to provide enough year round vegetables.

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The Hildebrant homestead also has several orchard trees as well as an entire herb garden.  There were many medicinal herbs growing in the plot near the back door.  This would have likely been the kitchen garden that held herbs, lettuces, and things that mama would want to access easily without going out into the fields to pick.

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Looking over the bridge here I saw many medicinal plants as well as wild grapes and choke cherries.  If I could just have a quick word with the homesteaders that lived here a hundred and fifty years ago, the stories and lessons they could teach me.

Doug talking with a tiny bunny.

Doug talking with a tiny bunny.

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Having several ecosystems on a single farm is imperative for biodiversity, wild foods, and plants.  This woodland was so beautiful just steps from the fields of vegetables.  Animals and wildlife may add some troubles with farming but by and large add a great deal of charm and are important on a homestead.

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A homestead is a place to have family around to help with canning and splitting wood!

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and for adoring grandchildren.

This was the old school that was moved to the property.

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Such a beautiful life.  A life filled with hard work, bountiful harvests, and close family.  A place where one can feel proud of their accomplishments and enjoy the world of simplicity.  A homestead is the place to be.

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A homestead can make you very tired though!

 

Scenes From Our Farm

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Tank takes a “selfie”.

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Henry Higgins impressing the ladies.

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Buttercup enjoying the sun.

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Watermelons starting to dream of summer.

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Isabelle wanting more sweet feed.

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Signs of the season.

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Priya and Elsa playing together.

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Irene, Nellie, Sylvia, and Cleo taking a break from standing in their water.

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Six week old Priya playing among the sticks.

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Today the bees are in a swarm around the queen.  Hopefully they can get established!

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Garlic coming up beautifully!

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St. Francis keeping watch over the farm.

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The Java ladies enjoying their new digs in the bathtub away from the ducks.  They were tired of being drenched!  Latte, Mocha, Macchiato, Espresso, and Decaf are so pretty!

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Lettuce starts peeking through the soil.  Hopefully they will be ready for market!

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Twila having a snack in between causing mischief.

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Welcome to the farm!  Come by and visit!

 

 

Rurban Farm (urban/rural)

Now that we have determined that we are not moving for a few years at least and the hundred acre wood is out of my grasp currently, we are going to stop looking at this house as “someone else’s”.  Who cares if we are renting?  It is our home and we really want to homestead, so this is going to become our homestead.

SAM_0563 (See my bee hive right hand side? I may have missed the boat this year, but there is always next spring!  All of the junk shown was here when we moved in.  We have some hauling to do!)

I am going to quit my whining and paint the garage red like a barn.  I am adopting alpacas and goats (before the rules change in town!) and I am going to continue enjoying my chickens.  A fence will be put up to separate this area around and behind the garage.  Two alpacas and two goats (I don’t know where they are presently.) will share the space and use the garage as housing.  This will inspire me to get rid of all the crap currently holding residence in said garage!  According to the USDA standards and my own gut feeling, this is enough space for four smaller animals.  I could always open the door to the garage that exits into the main yard, and if they promise not to eat my half dead fruit trees, they may come out and play with the greyhound and the chickens and have lunch on the deck with us. (Our animals aren’t spoiled or anything.)

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I was telling Nancy as I showed her all of these ideas that I feel like either I just opened my eyes or God just showed me what we have.  Doug said under his breath, “Or both…”  My friend, Kim, mentioned that she lives on 1.7 acres and is not allowed to have animals.  We wrote down our “perfect parcel of land and its proximity to towns and amenities and requirements and such, and save for the lack of well and acreage, everything else matches this house.  I am able to do everything I want to do on this property!

SAM_0564 (Main back yard with tender fruit trees and chicken coop.  The shed shown is the neighbors, the clothes on the clothes line are mine!  We back to the fairgrounds, so the 2/3 of an acre lives bigger.)

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Doug put up this nifty rabbit fence from all of the metal panels we found behind the garage.  It lends a rustic air to my garden, don’t you think?  The beds are absolutely full of good stuff and as you can see, many things are already coming up.  The problem is, I am out of room.  The beds are fantastic, after a mere year of compost the soil looks good enough to eat.  But the square footage is coming up a smidge short to provide for the family and do market growing.

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The front side yard might make an awesome corn field or fancy English garden…just needs a bit of fencing.  The deer love them some gardens around here.

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Front right side of the porch seems that if a fairy godmother came along, she could turn this into a pumpkin patch.  Wouldn’t it be tremendous fun for trick-or-treaters to walk along the pumpkin patch on Halloween?

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And finally, the front left side of the front yard appears in my imagination as groups of lush herbs, carpets of sweet smelling (deer proof) culinary and medicinal herbs; an Apothecary garden for my work.  This would clear out a lot of space in the garden beds if I moved all of the herbs out here.  The beds could then be reseeded with more delicious greens and more tomatoes!

We need a farm name.  We are hitting the farmer’s markets and are changing the look of our shop and it would be nice to have a name.  Nancy and I and our daughters, along with hubbies in the background, are the Farmgirls, but each of us should have a farm name to show different products like her goat’s shares and my yarn.  We always thought that Cuddlewell Mission was a cute name, but it would better fit a New Mexican adobe.  We thought the “fill in the blank” acre wood would be cute because Winnie the Pooh lives under the name of Sanders, which is our name.  However the Two Thirds of an Acre Kind of Wood doesn’t really have that ring to it.  We thought Silly Chicken Farm, but we don’t want it to sound like we are selling chickens.

So, friends out there….what would be a good name for our not quite rural acreage, not quite urban, thirty animal, medium sized organic farm?