Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Spring fever already?

I know Winter just officially started a few days ago, but I just got my 3rd seed catalog in the mail and I think I can feel Spring Fever already!  The worst part is that I'm not sure where we're going to be living come Spring time so I can't really plan :(  I'm still excited though!!!  Can't wait to find our new place :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Some good pantry storage videos

Blah! it's been raining for 2 days now and I'm about to go stir crazy! I'm already ready for spring....sigh....So since I've had some time on my hands, I've been watching some videos (Hello....my name is Eva... and I'm a YouTube-aholic) Anyway, found some cool pantry storage videos and thought I'd share some with you.

Just for kicks, I threw this one in. I would never have a pantry like the one below. It's really neat, but I bet it's  E-X-P-E-N-S-I-V-E!!!!! Wow.

Happy Food Storage!

Monday, December 19, 2011

...and everything keeps changing...

I bought my postage stamp sized property with dreams and high hopes of planting some roots for a while. I wanted to turn that ugly little property into something beautiful; something to be proud of. Of course I would have rather been able to get something a little more to my liking and better suited to our needs, but it was cheap ($150 a month) and it was a roof over our heads and it was OURS. We are still purchasing that place, but we no longer live there. My kids kept getting sicker than normal. They've always had health problems (Especially Destiny, my 14 year old) so I didn't think too much about it at first. I finally realized the problem was the house and was debating what to do with the place. I didn't want to give the place up after paying on it for 2 years, but I didn't want to continue living there. During this, I lost my job sooooo......now my ex-Father in Law is living in our old place (paying the $150 mortgage) and we are staying with my parents (along with my youngest brother and his wife and baby) ....sigh...We buy most of the food and the girls and I cook and clean the house. Zac does all the fixing and "grunt" work around here for my dad, while I take my mom wherever she needs to go (if and when she ever feels up to getting up and about).  Before we started staying here, I got rid of my chickens because without a job I couldn't afford to feed them and I couldn't let them free range. We also downsized the rabbits to 3. If I would've known we would end up here with my parents, I would have kept them since there is almost 4 1/2 acres here...ah well.

We will be looking for another place towards the end of next month. The guy I'm buying my other place from has fixer-uppers all over the county (and surrounding counties). He works with you on down payments, and monthly payments and does everything legally. People question why I want to buy fixer-uppers. My cousin says it's too much money and I'd be better off buying new (or newer lol) Well, first of all I don't make enough to qualify for a bank loan. 2nd. The guy I'm buying from is SUPER nice and lets me slide on payments when needed and never harasses me. 3rd. I don't want to be stuck in a super expensive mortgage for the next 30 (or more) years of my life. I would much rather buy something cheaper, pay it off, and be done with it. Paying as I go when fixing and remodeling is WAY less stressful for me than worrying about a big bank note every month. Yeah, remodeling can be a pain in the ass, but it's the perfect chance to learn to do things yourself.

Dad talked to me about us taking over payments on this place (HUGE 4 bedroom, 3 bath, 2 living rooms, office, laundry room, 4 1/2 acres, creek, woods, pasture, storm shelter (that needs new roof), patio, and big storage building) in 2 years. I wouldn't mind having this place except the payments are almost $700 a month (not counting insurance), taxes are insane, and they still owe almost $100,000 on it! That may not seem like much to some people, but it's completely outrageous to me. I just can't commit to that. I would feel too much weight....it's too scary...I wouldn't feel....free. So, we are biding our time, trying to make the best of the situation till we can find a place better suited to us and then it's back to starting over....AGAIN.

I'm still determined to have my homestead, and I'm still determined to name it About Thyme Farm, cause it's about dang time I had a farm!!! lol

Friday, December 16, 2011

New Bunny and my bf builds me a rabbit hutch and butchers his first rabbit

Needless to say, I'm sooo proud of my city slicker boyfriend!  He killed and butchered his first rabbit 2 weeks ago, and yesterday killed and butchered the remaining 3. He did a great job!  I am really proud of him since he's never killed and butchered anything in his life. Now I can rest easy knowing he is more prepared to take care of us.

We also downsized the "rabbitry" to just Bella and Snickerdoodle and were planning on getting a NZ doe and keeping a baby when we breed Bella to Pops 3/4 Silver Fox 1/4 American Chinchilla buck. Well, after all the time of waiting on the breeder to breed his 2 best rabbits, waiting for them to be born, then waiting for them to be old enough to bring home, he tells me she had 1 female. The day of meeting he calls to say "oops, it's not a girl, it's a boy" I wasn't interested in buying a male and he knew that, but since he felt bad about me waiting all this time he decided to give him to me. He's cute as a button!!

His mom is a white New Zealand and his dad is a red New Zealand. I can't wait to see how big he gets! My youngest daughter immediately claimed him and named him Checker (NOT Checkers lol) I may still buy a female from him in the future, but not right now.

Zac (my bf) also built me a rabbit hutch (I helped some) and he built it almost 100% from recycled/free materials that we had laying around the house. Here are some pics:

Still need to finish up the roof and put some supporting legs in the middle. Also going to put smaller wire on the doors as soon as we get the money to buy some or can scrounge some up somewhere.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Goodbye summer

I'm REALLY enjoying the cooler days.  Nothing beats the beautiful sunshine bathing your skin along with a cool breeze to keep it from getting too hot...ahhhh...it's nice.  Too soon though winter will be here with all it's bone chilling winds and yucky ice and snow. BLAH!  It's better than the sweltering heat though.  So anyway, started building a vertical "recycle" garden.  I'm not finished with it yet, but it will be made almost completely from recycled materials.  Another plus is that since it's vertical, it will take up less of the already VERY limited space I have on my VERY small piece of land.

Another 2x4 will be added to the top and it will be covered with 2 liter bottles (as I collect them from people) and milk jugs. Notice the 2 wooden boxes at the bottom.  These were sitting out in the driveway of the house my brother rents and he gave them to me.  The final concept will be that I can pour water into the top bottle and it will drain down to the next, which will drain to the next, and so on until it empties into the back wooden box.  Seems like a great idea in theory, but my concern is the water dripping onto the plants.  I'm not sure if it will work, but I'm hoping it will.  As of yesterday, the top 2 liter got garlic chives planted in it, the 4 milk jugs got lettuce, and the 2 boxes got collard greens.  Like I said, not sure how the plants will do, but I'll be finding out.  You live and learn, and if something doesn't work, you do it better, or differently the next year.

And I'm happy to announce that all 5 of my percentage silver fox babies are doing wonderful and happily hopping all over the rabbit hutch, eating the feed and hay cubes.  They are getting big.  They are around 3 weeks old and already bigger than my hand.  I'm trying not to get attached since they will be food, (except for the one going to Dilly) but it's hard not to when I'm so smitten over their mother :)  Oh, and I found TWO Silver Fox breeders within about an hour from me.  One for sure has stock that is not related to my Bella and I'm SOOO excited about this.  She doesn't have any available at the moment, but I'm on the waiting list.  I will also be purchasing 2 red/white New Zealand babies around Dec for $30.  I'm very interested in crossing the NZ and the SF to see what kind of litters I can get.

Been doing Alot of cleaning and landscaping around the yard.  Recycled what we could and took the rest to the dump.  Started building this: (also from free, recycled posts)

The little plant that you see in there now is what's left of my Raspberry bush.  There was a blackberry at the other end, but it Zac stepped on it while helping me build the beds and now it's in blackberry heaven.
This will eventually extend out and turn to the left and for a "L" shaped bed around the camper.  This will be planted in Blueberry bushes next year.
This is the "new" chicken yard. The last one was much smaller.  This still needs improvement, but will do for now.

The white leghorn, the australorp, and thesilver laced wyandotte.
 The Buff Orpington mom, with her one little chick that survived, is in a temporary pen we put around the compost pile.  I'll take pics of her and the baby to add in the future.

OH!  And I almost forgot to mention that I'm the proud new owner of an Excalibur dehydrator!!  It's the small one with only 4 trays, but I figured that's a good start.  I've already dehydrated some mushrooms and a bag of carrots.  I think I got the carrots a little too done though....ah well...practice makes perfect.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Baby Silver Fox bunnies

Bella (my blue Silver Fox) kindled 5 little one's on September 12 and those little buggers are already big enough to hop in and out of the next box lol  They are too cute. 

There ya go...not the best pics in the world but at least some pics to give ya an idea of how big they are already.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Half log siding

I have always wanted to have a log cabin....there's just something so cozy and homey about them.  Well, the place I have now is pretty far from that, but I've discovered half log siding.  It's not really the "rustic" cabin look but it's still beautiful and it's something I can hopefully do a few pieces at a time as I can afford it.

Simple yet beautiful and effective.  I can't wait to get started on this so I can have my very own log cabin....even if it isn't a "real" one.

And since we're on the subject of log cabins...just thought I'd throw in a few video's that caught my attention as well....enjoy!

Aaaahh....this would be like my dream come true!  I'll get there one day....

Gotta get me one of those little on demand hot water heaters!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Got some fertilized eggs for my chicken to sit on -- yay!

My wonderful friend Dilli was nice enough to donate some fertile eggs to my poor baby-less broody hen who has been pretty much sitting on an empty nest for over 2 weeks now.  She now has 5 little eggs under her that hopefully, in about 21 days, will be cute little balls of peeping fluff :)

The poor, poor garden and my rant for the day

There is still so much to learn about gardening that I feel completely overwhelmed. I read everything I get my hands on about the subject, but it doesn't really help much in 'real time' circumstances. So many different soil types, so many different growing requirements, different growing requirements for plants....how do you fit that all together along with what grows good together and what doesn't? The garden did absolutely HORRIBLE here I purchased potting soil, hummus, top soil, and composted manure and mixed it in with the the dirt from the property. I even sifted all of it so it wasn't lumpy or rocky. I just don't understand why hardly anything produced?? The squash that I just threw in the ground in the side yard (with nothing added) did better than the one I had in the actual garden (even though it still didn't do the best in the world) Some say I watered too much due to certain symptoms I was describing about the tomatoes, but it's so hot everyday they wilt really bad if I didn't water....should I have just let them wilt?

It's just so frustrating. I'm trying desperately to to prepare and be self-sufficient and I feel like I'm just running in place....between the heat, the deer, the soil conditions and my immense lack of experience (and money) I'm just not getting anywhere. I never had these problems with my gardens in TN, except for the lack of experience part. Had a few gardens in various places (along with a hardworking husband to help pay for it all) and they usually did pretty good. Of course we usually weren't in one place long enough to truly learn how to 'live from our gardens'; it was more of a hobby I suppose; the start of wanting to be self-sufficient, but never really reaching it. I no longer have my canning jars, my pressure canner, my water bath canner, or my dehydrator. (heartbreaking story there) I've been buying a few jars here and there and hopefully can get another water bath canner soon, but the pressure canner (even the cheap version at walmart) is WAY beyond my financial means at the moment....sigh....

I know it takes time...nothing happens overnight...but I feel we're quickly running out of time and it's going to happen before I'm even halfway prepared. I did build a pantry, and it's the most food we've ever had at one time in my life, but honestly, if the economy were to collapse right now...the food I've worked so hard to stock (and I mean it's taken me MONTHS to save this amount) would maybe last 2 weeks if we were lucky.

I guess I wouldn't be as worried if I had more experience with gardening and raising livestock. Or if I knew more about wild edibles and how to save seeds. I learn better from a teacher, not a book...there's only so much my brain will process from reading. I probably have over 1,000 magazines between Mother Earth News, Countryside, Backhome, Backwoods Home, Hobby Farms, Urban Farms, and a few others.......yet I still can't figure out what's going wrong with my garden :(

I know my first mistake was not getting a professional soil test done. I barely scrounged up the money for one of the cheap one's from Lowe's but I couldn't make heads or tails of it. That's not a mistake I will repeat. I will get a proper soil test done this spring regardless of what else I need to pay. My daughters and I will be living from this garden (hopefully) so it needs to be a priority. I have a bag of sulfur and plenty of leaves so that I can PRE prepare a few blueberry beds...ugh...I REALLY want blueberries and that's one thing I always kill....even in TN. I'm not giving up though. I will try again and again until I get it right.

I have learned how to blanch and freeze a few things though and am now wishing I had bought a bigger freezer. I also have been having good luck with breeding my rabbits. The female I currently have is not a 'meat' rabbit so she's not big (about 5 or 6 lbs) but she's a great breeder and a great mom. The babies grow slow though, so I sold all the last litter as pets. Probably what I'll be doing with this litter as well since they are almost 2 months old and weigh only about a pound. Not really cost effective feeding 8 baby rabbits that aren't even big enough to butcher. My blue silver fox was just bred for the 1st time so as soon as I see what kind of mother she is I will be getting rid of the smaller female and the second smaller buck (he's a dutch) and keeping my New Zealand mix buck and my silver fox female. My Father in law (who is now living on his own) also has his full blooded New Zealand female, but she won't be old enough to breed till about February. I'm just praying that it will all come together for us eventually and hopefully before TSHTF

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Harvesting Rain water

This is something I did on a small scale years ago and something I REALLY want to get back into.  Since I haven't started it myself I thought I'd just post a few videos on the subject.

 eh, gotta run but I promise to post more video's asap

I know it’s been awhile since I last posted; I tend to get lazy sometimes and other times I’m just busy with life and trying to make ends meet. 

Zac brought home more free stuff:
some hanging racks, which really excited because now I have a place to put my spices and it doesn't take up precious cabinet or counter space. Overlook the busted up door in the background, it will be replaced eventually 

a miter saw (which also excited me) Notice the nifty sawdust catcher bag in the back     

a circular saw, a table top fountain, some tv tray things (which we never use lol) an art easel for kk, some  wildlife pictures for Destiny, a wooden porch swing (still excited),                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

 a gate, a door,  and a few other little odds and ends.

I learned how to make homemade washing detergent with borax, washing soda, and Fels Naptha soap. (which I just recently found in Walmart) It’s sooo simple, cheap, smells good and works great too.
Homemade washing detergent:
·         1 cup borax
·         1 cup washing soda
·         1 bar fels naptha

Grate the Fels Naptha and slowly melt over low heat; stirring occasionally until melted.  Pour into 5 gallon bucket.  Add borax and washing soda. Stir again.  Fill the bucket the rest of the way with water and stir. 

I read that you’re supposed to let this “set” for about a week.  Not sure why.  I didn’t and it worked just fine.  I just stirred it before each use. 

The garden isn’t doing nearly as good as I hoped it would.  The deer keep eating the okra and eggplant that we have planted on the backside.  Lots of black spots on the tomato leaves (I was told it was from too much water) There are also black spots on the Stevia leaves.  I’m not sure if that’s from too much water as well or if it’s something else.  The potatoes started yellowing after reaching about a foot tall; although, one plant did actually reach the flowering stage.  The volunteer potato in my compost pile looks great though.  I think it has a lot to do with the soil here as well.  It is clay and full of rocks.  I sifted through all the soil I planted in and added some stuff from Lowe’s: top soil, potting soil, humus, and composted manure.  I couldn’t really afford the good stuff, or even enough of the stuff I bought, so it was mostly soil I sifted through.  I didn’t have any of my own compost to add since I haven’t been living here long enough to have any of my own compost ready (sure would LOVE to have a compost tumbler) but have a good pile started and have the manure from the rabbits and chickens to add.  You learn as you go; figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

And speaking of compost tumblers, saw some pretty neat DIY one’s on youtube

Pop (my ex FIL) has moved in with us and loves to talk to me about gardening and living off the land.  His ideas are different than mine so we usually butt heads lol, but I still love talking to him and hearing his ideas.  He bought a 3 month old New Zealand doe(ling) and named her Princess Grace.  It’s good to see him getting excited over having something of his own since he recently lost everything.  He loves that darn rabbit and goes out and talks to her everyday lol  

We also have 8 new baby rabbits.  Snickerdoodle (NZ/?) is the sire and Smokey (Blue Tipped Himalayan) is the Dam. I think there are about 8 of them.  I also plan on breeding Bella (Blue Silver Fox) to Snickerdoodle in September so I can get at least one more litter before the weather turns too cold.

Still have a ton of projects to do around here and now that I actually have an outside job, I’ll actually have some money to get things done….hopefully.  I’ve already started digging into the bank so that when I get the money I can start on my second tier of beds. 

Pop's garden 'BEFORE'

Pop's garden 'AFTER'

And last but not least…..my wood stove herb garden before and after

As you can see, the peppermint plant on the right isn’t doing too good.  I read that it does good in part shade so I’m thinking maybe it’s getting too much sun?  I’m not sure though since I’ve never grown it before.

Between the heat and the deer , the garden is really starting to look rough.  My tomato plants haven’t done good AT ALL this year.  They are puny and the leaves keep getting black spots on them.  I know if the water splashes up on the leaves from the ground that they will get spots on them, but these leaves are too far up to be splashed.  Someone suggested that they might be getting too much water, but it’s hard not to water them when it’s so hot outside everything is wilting.  Maybe the soil is missing something?  I’ve been adding all the compost to the future spots for the garden beds and I think I will invest in a professional soil sample a.s.a.p.  In my actual compost pile I have volunteer watermelon and potatoes growing great.  My 12 year old tells me yesterday “mom, I’m sorry but the compost pile is a better gardener than you” lol
Did I mention in my last post that I finally found a job?  I am working part time in the admissions office of the college I attend.  It’s in the next town and I only get paid once a month so it’s been hard to come up with gas money to get there, but at least it’s a job.  My first check will only be for 24 hours so it will be going straight to my house payment, but the next check will hopefully be able to be put towards building more garden beds (YAY!) and finishing the chicken yard properly.

Aug 2, 2011
Received my first paycheck (woo hoo) and my financial aid refund  so I paid my house payment, put gas in the car, got some groceries, bought some netting to put over the extended chicken yard, bought a landscape timber (yeah, can only afford one or two at a time), some electrical outlets, some expanding spray foam for all the little cracks in the house, a sprinkler, a thing to fix the end of the hose (instead of buying a new hose), a doorknob for the front door,  oh and a video game lol  (Zumba for the Xbox 360…got it used for a REALLY good price and hey, it’s cheaper than a gym membership)  Now will be the end of next month before I get another check L  Ah well, at least I have a job.
Anyway, my Buff Orpington hen has decided to go broody which isn’t a problem except that we don’t have a rooster so none of the eggs with hatch.  She refuses to leave the nest to eat or drink.  I will remove all eggs daily and she still sits…I take her out and put her in the yard; she still gets back on the nest. I took her completely out of the chicken yard into another cage for awhile, then put her into the chicken yard (after making sure there were no eggs in the nest box).  She started eating and dust bathing so I thought things were ok…next day…back on the nest and she hasn’t moved since.  Now I just plan on purchasing some fertile eggs to put under her so she can just get it out of her system lol.  My chicken set up isn’t good for more than 4 hens so I guess we’ll just sell or eat the extra’s when they’re big enough.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Worried about lack of bees....

 I have a zuke plant that's full of blooms and I have yet to see a bee in or around it.  This really, really worries me when I think of all the CCD going on around the country and possible the world.  I mean, without bees how will the plants get pollinated to feed us?  I know some insects help with it, but without bees we would definitely suffer.  I've planted some plants that will attract bees (haven't flowered yet though) and plan on purchasing some Mason bee blocks.  Maybe one day will be up to tackling having some beehives around, but that's an endeavor for the future.  That being said, here are some more recent pics of our little micro-homestead.


lower garden shelf

this was a wood heater I bought for $150 last year then accidentally broke the darn thing after I got it home so now it's just an expensive planter.  It has lemon balm, oregano, and peppermint.

Dutch bunny nibbles (buckling)

blue tipped himalayan doe's  babies


bee balm


radishes and carrots

rhubard and strawberry


rhubarb and onions

Potato bed with strawberries in the chair to the left and radishes/carrots to the right

Birdbath with rhubarb on each side, thyme in front and a few onion plants

Bought this metal tipi for $8.00 and wooden finnial on top for $1.00.  I will be growing 3 pickling cucumbers around it. oh and that's a stevia plant to the right

The stevia to the left, and planted is basil, bee balm, onions and some tomatoes