Category Archives: Chickens

Unemployment is capitalism’s way of getting you to plant a garden. ~Orson Scott Card

My dear friends please excuse my long absence. It was a long hot summer in which we faced many challenges and changes at (what a dear friend of mine has dubbed) Fungus Ranch, and I am long overdue on a “catching up with MsGrubbyFungus” post, it will come I promise.

One of the changes is that I am now officially unemployed but allow me to allay any concerns. We are very blessed, privileged, lucky, fortunate, however you interpret it in that MrGF makes an excellent living that keeps us safe and secure (especially given our mutual squirrel like nature). That said, I have a number of friends who have struggled with job loss and underemployment over the years, including my now former boss. So with that in mind I wanted to share this post from The Morris Tribe.

Until we meet again, I wish you health, happiness and success.

The Homesteader’s Guide to Unemployment: 11 Steps to Take Control

Unemployment is capitalism’s way of getting you to plant a garden. ~Orson Scott Card

Being unemployed, underemployed or laid off is no joking matter.

Millions of Americans are out of work today, many with few prospects for work without moving their family or retraining for another career.

While we are blessed to be not only employed, but also an employer, I never get too far in my thinking about how we could make it without an income.

The worldwide economy is suffering right now.  When and if we’ll see a recovery is anyone’s guess.

Yet, there’s another economy out there.  It’s the economy of the homesteader and there’s no recession going on there.  That’s because we play by a different set of rules.

The homesteader’s employer (besides God) is the soil and the weather.  While these two can be harsh employers at times, much of the time they can be modified and adapted to.

The soil and the weather do not lay people off, nor do they require much in the way of credentials.  Further, once you get the hang of how things work, you’ll be on your way to providing your family with nutritious food and cheap energy!  

If I can do this, so can you.

Plant a Victory garden:  Regardless of where you live, there is something that you can grow and put in the ground now.  A few packs of seeds and you can at least grow some greens for salads.  Get a little more organized and you can start growing your own food!  I cannot tell you how fulfilling this is!  Fall is a great time to plant perennials as well, for free!

Learn how to pressure can:  Canning is a skill that will enable you to preserve the food that you come across, without using the freezer.  Look on Craigslist, thift stores, garage sales, etc. and find a decent water canner, pressure canner and jars.  They will pay for themselves in no time.

Call your local deer processing plant:  Many times, you can put your name in for venison that hunters don’t want.  I scored two deer last year, enough to feed our family much of the year.  For just the processing fee, I got the venison for free.

Start hunting:  This is how our forefathers did it.  You want meat, you go hunt for it.  Check your local laws and ordinances, but think of all the fresh meat you could bring home.

Get rabbits and a hutch:  This is easily done by looking on Craigslist, for little or nothing.  Rabbits can serve as meat for your family as well as give you excellent fertilizer for your garden!  Learn how to raise your own meat here!

Barter your skills:  Skills are just as valuable as product these days.  Use your skills in exchange for goods and services.

Get chickens:  Urban chicken keepers are cropping up all over!  Check here for your local ordinances.  While many counties won’t allow roosters, to have a few laying hens could be perfectly acceptable.

BIG cities, like San Fransisco, are allowing chickens in town, with limitations.  How can a city deny a family’s right to grow some of its own food?  We’ve done it for centuries, even encouraged to do so by our own leaders during WWII in terms of a Victory garden!

Consider wood heat:  Do your homework, but if there’s anyway you can make good use of your fireplace or get a woodstove on the cheap, you should consider it.  I see free firewood all the time.  Save the money from your electric/gas bill for something else.

Get Your Goat:  Goats are cheap (even free!) and hardy animals.  Buy a dairy goat, who is currently milking, and you now have your own milk source.  Learn all about goats, A-Z, right here!

Glean:  I love gleaning.  It’s a skill that all homesteaders love!  We thoroughly enjoy bragging about what we got for free. Read here for tips.

Forage:  Once again, homesteaders relish in the joy of foraging food that we didn’t even plant.  Free, organic, nutrient packed food.

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One Misty, Moisty Morning…

One misty, moisty morning,
When cloudy was the weather,
I chanced to meet an old man clothed all in leather.
He began to compliment, and I began to grin,
How do you do, and how do you do?
And how do you do again?

It’s been a misty, moisty day here, (though the sun has just broken through) so this old tune my dad used to hum to me has been going through my head all morning.

Yes it’s been raining again, and I’m very happy for that. I “should” be cleaning the house, but… well, I’d rather chat with you, dear friends.

As promised a couple of weeks back, I’ve updated the Cast of Characters page with some better pictures –I love the new camera. In addition to the regular motley crew we have a canine house guest at the moment. This is my dad’s new dog Alex. Isn’t he just the prettiest thing? And such a sweet-heart too.

Alex

I’ve been in love with Alex for over a year now but I can hardly keep up with the pack I have right now. So I’m very happy that dad adopted him; I think they will be fast friends and hope they have many happy years of fishing together.

Dad is heading back up north for the summer, so we have a few months to catch up in the remodeling projects he’s started for us. I’m really pleased with how it’s all turning out; it’s nice when you see your vision come to reality. I have a functional laundry room once again, yippee! There is still a lot to do though – onward and upward.

On the gardening front, spring planting season is fast coming to a close in this part of the world and (as usual) I haven’t got all the plants I wanted to in the ground; so time to plan for “over summering”.

On the blogging front, I have a number of draft topics simmering away in my brain; I just need to find some quiet time to put them to paper. In the meantime I have run across a number of items that I wanted to share with you. My cyber-friend Deborah at Romancing the Bee wrote an excellent post on the nitrogen cycle (sigh, another post someone else beat me to). She’s also posting some excellent recipes (but I’m trying to ignore them so that I can continue to fit into my new smaller clothes).

For those of you who have/are considering chickens I also have a couple of “for the birds” items you.  First, I found another article on feeding your flock – how to make your own chicken feed; and I found this interesting post on Nesting Box Herbs – Chicken Aromatherapy. If you need housing for your feathered friends I may have found the perfect coop for you. Isn’t this the cutest thing? (I know you’ve been racking your brain on what to do with that old playhouse!)

Little Tikes Chicken Coop from: cluckingaround.blogspot.com

If this isn’t quite up your alley I have some other interesting ideas posted on my Pinterest; and if you just have to experience real coop envy then you’ll have to visit BackYard Chickens.

Ok, the house isn’t cleaning itself.

I hope you have a great weekend!

Stop this garden tour, I want to get off…

Off the bus, the garden tour bus, come on people get your minds out of the gutter. I mean I know it’s spring and gardening is all about sex right now (yes, and asexual reproduction, etc. too) but I’m trying to keep this blog “G” rated. Seriously though, UNCLE, I’m crying uncle. I really thought I’d nearly got the garden in and then yesterday I cleaned out the greenhouse and discovered flats, and flats, and flats of seedlings – some varieties I haven’t even planted yet. I tell you, this garden better produce otherwise I’m going to be very, very grumpy!

Enough whinging though, I really want to talk about chickens. You may remember that I made a pun about fodder in a previous post, but said you’d have to stay tuned to get the joke. Well, I’ve been wanting to follow-up since then but… well see above. Anyway, spring has been glorious here – mild with nice steady rains – so we’ve been doing lots of lawn moving. For years we’ve been throwing the clippings into the chicken run; the girls love, love, love them. However, occasionally we get more than even they can deal with and the clippings go into the compost heap. I got to thinking though (I know, that’s where the trouble starts), wondering if there was a use for these excess clippings a little higher up the food chain? So I got on trusty ol’ Google and started looking into it. The first thing I found was a fellow who discussed making hay (which he uses for bedding) with his clippings. I thought this was pretty clever but wondered “could I use the hay as food, rather than just bedding?” This led me down the rabbit hole to silage. Ideally chickens (and rabbits) should have access to greens year round, and I try to make sure they get at least some by way of scraps and cole crops during the summer and winter, but I know that they aren’t really getting enough. Now I knew about putting up silage for cattle, but I never thought of putting it up for chickens. (If you don’t know what silage is, it is essentially high moisture vegetation that has undergone some aerobic, but primarily anaerobic fermentation in order to be used as fodder.) Mother Earth News has a short article with some excellent resources on the hows and whys of small-scale silage production. Things are starting to get hot and dry here so I think I’ve missed my window for this year, but I’m definitely going to remember it for next year.

In other chicken news, one of the things I least like about keeping chickens is the whole “how to keep their water clean” issue. I tried traditional waters, I tried large bowls but inevitably I ended up with poop soup (and now you all know why the Kale right outside the coop is so big and vibrant). In addition to wanting to keep the water clean and reduce maintenance I also have to be able to add ice or super cold water to the waterers in the summer to ensure that the chickens take on enough fluids; I have the same requirement for the rabbits. Now there are all sorts of commercially available or DIY products (such as the one pictured below) that will address my needs, but to be perfectly honest with you I didn’t want to spend the money to buy one, or time to make one.

I’d remembered reading a couple of articles about watering chickens with rabbit bottle, so I tried it. Result! Poop soup problem solved, but it was still a pain to take them down and fill them up every day. So I went in search of bigger bottles and I stumbled upon flip-top waterers.

I love it when a plan comes together! The chickens took to them quickly (I was a little worried as this uses a nipple instead of roller ball). Yippee… easy, clean water that I can easily add ice to. Now if I could only convince the rabbits to use them.

Oh, the good life, full of fun seems to be the ideal…

Do you remember a British television show called “The Good Life”, about a middle-class (in the British sense) couple living in Surrey who decide to pack it all in and become suburban homesteaders (much to the chagrin of their social climbing neighbours)? I’ve always loved that show and always related to Tom and Barbara Good. I consider myself very lucky (charmed, some may say) to get to spend most of my days doing what I love and basically living “the good life”. However, today it was as if central casting had thrust me in a one-off special, complete with all the toil and MUD, but decidedly lacking Margot and Jerry plying me with booze! Now, of course, I brought the day on myself… but still. It started with a planned run to the landfill to dispose of construction bits that we couldn’t reclaim or recycle (and you know it has to be bad if we’re chucking it). MrGrubbyFungus was an angel and decided to ply me with coffee and breakfast beforehand, which softened the task dramatically. After that productive start the day just seemed to go hilariously off the rails.

Here’s the thing, I’ve had my girls for about 4 years now (raising them from 1-day old chicks), we’ve had some losses in that time and our flock is dwindling, so I was considering getting some new chicks to revive the flock. Not that we need more chickens – the remaining girls supply the two of us quite nicely – but friends and family really like the eggs too and there just aren’t enough to share these days. You will however notice that I said “I was considering”, as in not quite ready to do this thing? Why don’t I learn to be careful what I wish for? So here I am last night reading through one of my favorite local gardening forums, making trades, etc., when I notice a message from one of my friends asking if anyone wants some chickens that one of her friends needs to give up– me, me!!! It’s actually a rather upsetting story (and I think rather unjust, but I’ll save you the rant). This family has had a backyard flock for three years, many of their neighbours have backyard flocks – it’s the norm in their neighborhood, no one is bothered. It seems though that the city they live in is on a code compliance campaign of some sort (I have another friend in the same city who is also struggling with code compliance over different issues). On their first visit city personnel told the lady if the house that she could keep half her flock, but they subsequently decided that she had to get rid of her whole flock and they’d “give her a few days” (whatever that means) to do so before they came back and cite and fine  her. So it was mutually advantageous for me to take some of her girls. Now though I was in a bit of a logistical muddle, as I can’t go pick up several new chickens and just throw them in with my girls. This would not make for a sitting around the table at a quilting bee chatting back and forth kind of scenario; no, this is very much more a plot from “Mean Girls” sort of situation. It’s alright, I’m sure I can work this out, no really… have I convinced you?

I have a chicken tractor that someone very generously gave me a few months back. So I decide the best course of action is to move it over to the coop area, move my girls into it, deep clean the coop, put the new girls in the coop and then reintroduce my girls. Sounds like a reasonable plan, right? Yeah, so…
I don’t know what the guy who built this chicken tractor was thinking, perhaps he thought it would serve as an air raid shelter if needs be, whatever he designed it for though it was not to be mobile! Ok, chicken tractor FINALLY moved, now to put my girls in it – only, for some reason, they weren’t so keen on this idea. So I finally get them moved without too much bloodshed (mine or theirs), now to deep clean the coop. Before I can start in on this though the lady with the chickens I’m getting calls and we decide now would be a good time to come get them. So I grab the only thing I can think of to transport them in, an extra-large dog crate, throw it in the back of the truck and away I go. I get to her house no problem, more chicken wrangling ensues.  We get them in the crate and in the truck, the kids say their goodbyes, we agree that they are welcome to come by and visit and I will try to bring them eggs when I’m in their area, and away we go. I must say that we had a rather uneventful ride home, a dog-crate seems to be rather effective for transporting chickens.

We all make it home in one piece, I’m getting ready to deep clean the coop and the skies open! So picture, if you will, me with one bunch of angry chickens in a “tractor” they don’t want to be in, another bunch sitting in a dog crate wondering what’s going on, me up to my marigolds (rubber gloves) in chicken coop cleaning, and our sweet neighbour comes over for some eggs. So I have to explain to her why I’m out in the pouring rain cleaning a chicken coop, calling in to MrGF, who is up a ladder plastering a ceiling, to bring out some eggs. It’s a good thing that the neighbours seem to kind of like the fact that we’re “eccentric”. I won’t belabor the point, I eventually get the coop clean… but you can imagine what I look like at this point. Time to introduce the new chickens to the coop; now in my mind this was going to be a simple case of me opening the door and them running into the coop. Do I need to say that it didn’t play out that way? Nope, they weren’t having it, wouldn’t budge. So here’s me manhandling and tipping this big ol’ dog crate into the narrow door of the coop trying to “pour” these chickens into the coop, while meanwhile they’re doing everything in their power to stay in the crate (bearing in mind they’ve been in there for a couple of hours now, and done what chickens do a lot of – not pretty, not at all pretty my friends). We finally agree that they will go in the coop and, hey, they kind of like the new digs. I’m still finishing up some of my clean-up, it’s still pouring, and everything seems to be going well with the new girls so let’s introduce a couple of my girls to the mix; this is one of my more brilliant ideas. Needless to say, all hades breaks out and my girls dash to the run, only IT’S POURING RAIN. There is no way I’m getting them back out of the run and back into the “tractor”, and they are dripping wet looking at me like I’m the vilest biped to ever walk the earth. Fortunately, we had some very large pieces of cardboard lying about in the garage, so I’m able to put a makeshift roof on the run and provide them with some shelter. At this point I surrender; I don’t think I can adequately describe to you (and I’m not sure you want me to) how sodden, muddy and filthy I am at this point. Suffice it to say, the pile of clothes is sitting right inside the backdoor, where I peeled them off, I contemplating just waiting for them to dry and then burning them – I’m not sure washing will work. I crawl into a hot bath and then basically pass out for the next couple of hours, after Goggling how I should go about getting the rest of my girls back in the coop. Turns out you should do so at dusk when they’re all groggy and want to go to sleep. I have to admit that it worked like a charm, except for the very last one who shrieked like I was murdering her.

So who’s buying the first round?

By the way Pyjama Gardener, remind me of this story the next time I say I miss the rain in England.

More adventures tomorrow, see you later!