Saturday, March 29, 2008


I hate snakes and bugs and mice and creepy, crawlies of all types. But sometimes a woman has to do what a woman has to do, especially when her husband works long hours.

This morning, I went into the hen coop with my pitch fork to turn over the hay bedding. I found this next to a nest:

I really do not like snakes. In the wild, I leave them alone and give them plenty of space. I avoid places snakes are likely to be. But when they invade my chicken coops, I shoot first and then figure out whether or not they pose a danger to my kids or animals.

I have seen more snakes in the last month than I have seen since we moved here. Yuck! I'm thinking this one is a rat snake. After shooting it at least 6 times with Gregory's BB gun, it finally looked dead enough to move it. I picked it up with my pitch fork. Gregory decided he wanted the skin. He practically had to fight the chickens for it. We cut off the snake's head and then distracted the chickens by throwing it into the bushes. Gregory wants to make a whip from the snakeskin similiar to one we saw at the Munson Heritage Festival last Fall. Or maybe a snakeskin belt.

Gregory quickly found instructions for cleaning a snake skin on the internet. (You've got to love the internet.) He got his Dad's knives out and went to work. Somehow he conned me into slitting the snake's belly. It wasn't too bad because the snake didn't bleed hardly at all. But it was a bit weird when we found the snake had just devoured 5 mice.

After opening up the snake, Gregory carefully removed the snake skin with a knife. (He is working on the table he constructed a couple of years ago from old fence boards and small trees cut from the property. He's a smart young man.)

He got the skin off, but got a bit confused about the whole scraping thing. So, Gregory rolled up his snake skin, popped it into a baggie and put it in my freezer. I think he is going to try to get some help from his Dad with the rest of the process.

I feel a little weird about having a snake skin in my freezer.

A little more than a decade ago, I gave birth to Gregory in a smaller hospital in Las Vegas. A city. We hired professionals to spray poison all around our home to make sure all unwanted life forms died before getting near to our precious child. I had carefully manicured fingernails, drawers full of make-up and more shoes than could fit into my closet.

What happened?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Homestead Doings

Spring is a busy time around here. We try to raise as much of our own food as we can and in the Spring, we plant and typically raise a flock of meat chickens.

I finished planting this garden with cooler season crops yesterday per instructions in my seed catalog. However, a friend of ours from church who has been gardening in this area for years told me I should be doing my summer garden, not my cool weather stuff. Apparently she plants her cold weather stuff the day after Christmas! Since she always has great produce with plenty to share, I'm throwing away the seed catalog and listening to my friend Mabel.

After filling the rest of the space in my cool weather garden yesterday with pink eyed, purple hulled peas (good for nitrogen fixing), I used our tiller to prepare my summer garden soil. I went ahead and tilled the kids garden area too where they plan to plant pop corn, ground cherries, carrots and some snap beans given to us by a couple at church. You can kind of see their garden patch behind the one in front.

In the winter garden we have garlic up already.

The English peas are just starting to poke through the hay.

I just LOVE watching the new plants sprout. It is so amazing to me still to think I can grow something useful. And I really love it when there are no weeds to mess up the view.

Last Fall, we put sugar cane in the ground. Something (a friend, Jeremy, tells us it was a opossum) dug around in there badly before Gregory and I got the fence up. Yet, I think it too is sprouting.

We've got an interesting group of meat chickens this year. We started with a smaller than usual order because we are going to try raising turkeys this summer and didn't want to fill up our freezer with chicken. But then we lost a whole bunch of them and in frustration, I contacted the company, who immediately sent out replacements, plus "filler chicks."

I think these are some of the "filler chicks."

The really little one by the waterer is strange. I think there is something wrong with him. He doesn't grow and barely moves. I thought we were going to lose him, but he just keeps hanging on. He gets stepped on periodically since he can't move out of the way too well. But he seemingly wants a mommy and keeps trying to get under some of the bigger chickens.

Our first group of chickens are getting pretty big. They have a hard time moving so I don't know if this one had to take a break from walking up the ramp before moving on or just decided the door was a good place to roost.

A couple days of go we got a telephone call from an old friend from Gulf Breeze. Their family got some chickens and they had some roosters that needed a new home. Apparently their neighborhood forbids roosters.

The chicken walking the branch is one of the five from Bob and Melanie. (The others, taking a dirt bath, are from our replacement batch.) I'd love for Bob and Melanie and their kids to join us for chicken butchering this year and take their roosters home for their freezer. We'll see what they decide. I want to call Bob or Melanie soon anyway because my husband told me Bob found a local source for grass fed beef. I got very excited until Kurt reminded me we didn't have the money to buy half a beef right now anyway. Lousy details.

Our layer chickens keep a close eye on the new chickens.

I do believe they also covet the meat chickens' lush grass.

Our laying chickens are allowed free access to all of our property and they manage to keep it mowed close during the slower growing times. But the meat chicken coop is used only periodically, so the grass is given plenty of chance to grow during off times. This has taught me how valuable pasture rotation will be when we bring goats to our homestead, God willing, very soon.

Last Fall, we ordered a few more Americauna hens to bolster our laying crew. We ended up with quite a few roosters. I figure the person sexing the chickens was new to the job.

We gave a couple of the new roosters away already and plan to keep this guy. His colors are quite stunning.

Each year we try to add new long term plants to our homestead. This year, we started with grapes.

We will see how they do. They are not the grapes that normally do well down south. But they were cheap at Sam's Club.

We also have a couple sassafras trees on order and some herbs.

Our strawberries from last year have a few blooms.

I moved a couple runners to the kids' garden so they would spread there as well. We had an unusually cold and long winter this year and lost a bit of growth from last year.

Our blueberry bushes have quite a few blossoms this year. I would love to have as many blueberries.

Our apple trees are just starting to bud. We planted those a couple years ago and haven't had any apples so far. It may still be a couple of years yet for apples.

Apparently our woods are lined all the way around with wild huckleberries this year.

Hopefully we will be able to pick them and find something yummy to do with them as well.

Even the wild black berries or dew berries look like they will be more abundant this year. (We just have to get to them before the chickens do.) We've been in draught for the last couple of years and so far this year looks good. We are praying the weather will stay more normal this year.

Spring is so late this year and I am glad so long as summer tarries as well. This is the first time I can remember the first of Spring actually looking like the first of Spring. The dogwoods and azaleas are only now starting to bloom. We normally find them blooming in late January.

Even my banana trees are only just now putting out their new leaves.

Can you tell I started playing with different settings on my camera? I discovered the little flower picture means I can take close ups of plants.

Kurt has been so busy with school this semester that Gregory and I have taken over much of the homestead activities. We are actually quite proud of ourselves. I don't think either of us realized we could do as much as we have already done. In fact, Gregory got so much confidence from it all that he decided not to wait for his Dad to finish the tree house.

I'm really proud of the job Gregory is doing. He scavenged most of what he used for the tree house and built everything but the second story floor and front wall.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


A couple of weeks ago the family attended our first Renaissance Festival.

Gregory has been interested in finding out more about the SCA ever since he decided he wanted to learn blacksmithing. The Renaissance Festival is one of the SCA's annual events.

I enjoyed browsing around looking at the vendors' booths. Gabrielle loves heirloom style clothing and I got some ideas for dresses for her. Gregory (and Kurt too I believe) loved the jousting.

Gregory has often thought he'd like a mail shirt.

Gregory got to try on this outfit and he just loved it. At home he found some wire in the garbage pit and tried making his own mail. He did a really good job, but ran out of wire.

When Gregory found out swords were being sold, he tried to convince us to get him one.

In the end we agreed he should start saving his own money up if he felt the need to arm himself. After all, he first wanted to learn blacksmithing to forge his own sword (which got him interested in the SGA, which caused him to want to attend the festival, where he found swords for sale, and around and around).

Kurt tried to get Gabrielle and Michael interested in the goats and miniature horses.

Of course our neighbor has sheep and miniature horses and they see them over our own fence regularly.

The family finally unpacked our new exercise equipment (which has been sitting in a box for about a year).

We grind our own flour for all of our baking and I had wanted a really good hand grinder for quite some time.

Hand grinding makes better flour and gives us all regular exercise.

Gregory and I compete against each other to see who can grind the most or the fastest or the longest. We are both getting stronger and it has been very good for us. (I keep repeating this over and over.)

In the meantime, I have not been doing a very good job keeping up with our project-along over at Christian Artisans.

This is the beginning of the Minuette sweater from Fiddlesticks.

I'd been working on a sweater for my mother.

I don't like the way it is turning out however, and she has lost some weight. I just know this is going to be WAY too big.

The cable work gets lost in the color, which I knew would probably happen. But I am most definitely thinking the sweater is just going to drown my petite mother. I've been stalled while I tried to decide what to do. I'm thinking I really need to find a different pattern for the yarn. I'm not sure what would best showcase the yarn colors and still be pretty/fancy to suit my mother's taste.