Initiative and Having a Team Mate

This isn’t a great image but I took it a few days after I wrote this and thought it was appropriate for teamwork. I’m raking hay on our old farmall and WAY OFF in the distance, Jeremy is baling it

As I was drinking my coffee this morning (which by the way, our milk cow Daisy calved last week so it’s actually my homemade creamer! Also even better news, she had a little heifer! We are majorly excited; one more step to building up our herd) and was going through the list within my thoughts of all of the things I had to do and since it’s middle of summer, most of it will be canning today.

Daisy our milk cow with her new little baby heifer 🙂 which I think we will call Gracie

Which reminded me of recent conversations I’ve had. Which in turn, made me think back to my life before being with the right person and changing my life around and as they say, “putting on the new personality” and with that comes, “Stripping off the old personality and it’s practices.” (Which is Bible based–Col. 3:9, 10)
To clarify, there was VERY many things to change but in this instance what I have in mind might seem like something that’s not such a big deal but I think in living you life–this makes a big difference. I’m referring to laziness and taking initiative. (Which also makes me think of the Bible–Proverbs 31 the capable wife)

I know in life, it (life) is busy! It’s very hard to find time between secular work, getting your house affairs (cooking, cleaning, maintaining, chores, etc) in order. I try to compare what I did in the past with my time and I always come to the same conclusion: What did I do really? Yes, I had a 40 hour work week but what else did I do?

The reason I puzzle over this is living on the homestead… I don’t do a secular 40 hour work week, I work part time and I have NO TIME whatsoever (In all actuality, I really don’t have time to write this down but I’m doing it while canning which gives you a little bit of waiting around time. Probably as close as I’ll ever get to multi-tasking 🙂 ).

I guess I did what most Americans do; sit around and watch TV. I didn’t can, I didn’t farm, no chores… I did run around a lot because I didn’t want to be home. When Jeremy and I first got together it was a clash of two different worlds. Mine was previously mentioned, his was a life of raising your own beef, pork and chickens. Having goats to raise bottle calves, constantly busy gardening, fixing broken equipment, fixing fence…  (All of this from an early age. A story Jeremy always likes to tell is when he was… 4 or 5 years old he would get pliers and go walk the fence on his mom and dad’s property and fix it (it was electric, not barbed wire don’t freak out. I poke at him a lot because he says things like, “I’ve been fixing fence for over 30 years.” He’s 35 if you wanna know but he was helping even when he was a little guy.) The list goes on, as well as his secular job.
Back when we first were together, I thought I work, I do my part. That’s all that is required. Jeremy took care of EVERYTHING, even cleaning the house because if he didn’t, who would? Obviously, that was him crying out, begging for us to be a team, for me to just try, just help. I was so naive and lazy. I had no clue. I feel so stupid looking back to those times but at least now I do my best to keep up with everything and I know I’ve made an effort to be better. It didn’t just click into place though, there were countless arguments where I constantly thought I was right and he had no idea and how dare him? but I finally started to see that I was pushing everything on him. I always seemed like a victim in my mind but I really wasn’t unless you count all the dysfunction my mother passed on to me which is what I had to work against this whole time.

To be honest, my mom never raised us to clean house and do those things, even though that’s how she was raised (but that’s another story). I’ve always had a job since I was 18. It’s always been a 40 hour work week or more most of the time. But I was never happy, I was never content. I was never fulfilled. I think that’s the point of this article. (Just keep in mind that this is my opinion and maybe it’s not completely what you might agree with but then I have to wonder why you’re reading this blog lol) I was a provider for myself, I had a full time job but other than that, I was a VERY lazy person. I’m not saying this life is for everyone but what I am saying is; sitting around watching TV all day isn’t a life.

Taking initiative which sometimes I’m still horrible at… But here’s the definition: initiative- the power or opportunity to act or take charge before others do

So, do you want to be the person to say “I can’t” or “I won’t” because there’s always another person that’s going to shoulder the brunt of the load because you didn’t help out or even try and stick with it?

I feel like farming, doing things on your own, for yourself– it alters/changes you in such a way that if you sit around and watch TV or something, you feel kind of stir-crazy like you need to go outside and work (hehe)

Oh, and there’s always bonuses. Here’s something extra you’ll get… Pride, fulfillment, feeling accomplished, satisfaction, etc. Let’s take one example that I’ve used previously… Canning. Canning to me, is an even better feeling than getting a recipe  right ( which is a pretty good feeling on it’s own) because you are preserving something wholesome for you family. Also, think back to the past, that’s what people HAD to do. It wasn’t a choice. What they ate was solely reliant on what they grew themselves and preserved themselves instead of buying from the store which I don’t think happened in a lot of circumstances since most were too poor. Canning is just one example but here’s a few a feel pretty good about… Butchering our own chickens, raising our own beef, foraging wild edibles.
None of these things are easy, they all require work–that’s life. Plain and simple, but that’s also taking initiative. Some people, don’t have the means to do these kinds of things and that’s fine, you do what you can–you live the life you wanna live–beyond that; if you do have this kind of life, I just think it’s better to have a team mate?

It’s better to work together and help each other and don’t push the load onto their shoulders alone. I keep thinking of something Jeremy use to say before I decided to be a good team mate and that was always, “If I don’t do it, who will?”

It’s all YOUR choice on who you wanna be, on how you wanna live your life, I just hope that you kick into gear a lot quicker than I did at first. Anyway, speaking of time… I better get back to the grind!

Happy Homesteading!

 

Bringing the cows in for the last time

Today I left early from work and rushed home to saddle up my horse to bring the cows in. At the survey office we have a big 3500 acre job that has a time frame so Jeremy was needed more there than me so I volunteered do have the cows ready by the time the stock trailer came to pick them up.

I wasn’t going to be alone, Jane (aka Superwoman) was going with me along her her husband Nick. When I got home, I called the horses– they ignored me and proceeded to run out of reach so I went to BabyDoll (my horse whose the sweet one) and pet her and they all stopped and gave in.

I caught Jane’s horse Lady and my horse (when I need him to be) RedMan. I took them in the barn and started saddling up and I heard a rusty gate swing open letting me know Jane had arrived. She saddled Lady and we rode down in the field together down to the south end where the cows were lounging in the shade bunched up together.

The plan (Jane’s) was to try and just grab the ones that werent ours so we didn’t have to cut them out but I thought that was a horrible plan… Who doesn’t want to cut out cows? That’s the best part! That didn’t work because they all wanted to go so we let them instead of wearing out our horses 😉

They all knew the way to go so they started meandering towards the direction of the barn. They didn’t know that would be their last time there. They had been on this Homestead since September of last year, the plan was to let them calve and do calf shares but with all the flooding lately, it did some damage to our bottom land where the creek runs through and took out a considerable amount of fence.

They didn’t put up much of a fight going in. We shut the gates and I took after our cows. Most of them were bunched together at the corner  of the barn so I snuck around them quickly and cornered them toward the corral. Nick was at the gate in case we made the cows on the lease head out with ours.

We shuffled out four, one jersey milk cow, 2 steers, and a young Angus heifer. Some were outside the fence that didnt get the chance to come in because Jane closed the gate on em. I’d bring them to the lane and she would chase down it to Nick and back in the field. Before long they were all out. We did a final count and the stock trailer showed up. We chased them into the corral and backed the trailer up. We separated out 5 at a time and loaded until full and the hauler headed up the road to transfer into a semi trailer.

They can be trouble but I know Jeremy enjoyed having them but hopefully we can build our herd a bit bigger now. I will miss my favorite cow who I called Sweet Face and Jeremy will miss “Snake Eyes.”

And as always, I was on horseback and busy so no pictures but there one of RedMan when I took the saddle off ready to be done and go eat some green grass.

Early night, he said

Jeremy does this thing… I think it’s called being hopeful or optimistic but it’s always the same thing he uses it on which is “Babe, let’s hurry up when we get home and do our chores and make it an early night.” Which means early dinner as well… Writing this article, I’m sure you know where this is going. Obviously, being hopeful means it probably doesn’t happen. I’m not saying having hope is bad, I’m a spiritual/religious girl and without hope that doesn’t leave you much when it comes to that. In this case though, early dinner in itself is hard for me.

I’m not against this idea, I’m just very self-aware 🙂 When you have a farm/homestead, things happen and most nights… they don’t end early. Our days go like this: We get up around 5 AM and get ready for work. Right now we are raising meat birds– so after I convince myself that it’s necessary to have a secular job, I get up and get ready/dressed then pack lunch for the day then before we are about to leave I have to go check on the birds and feed and water them. I have two sets of chicks currently which is the meat birds and then I’m raising laying hens as well so that I can breed my own.

We go through the normal of a workday, decide to eat out since we needed to get 2 horses ready to take to the horse sale the next day to make it a quick easy night. My chores consist of taking care of the chicks again, taking care of the laying hens, and feeding the cats & dogs. Jeremy gets on horseback and rides out to bring the cows in which at this point is 29? I think, not counting the Jerseys. If they are being good and just down in the bottom that doesn’t take too long. Then he feeds them and feeds our jerseys, horses, and some other cows that are separated out. Last night I needed to put pine shavings into my brooder shed and my regular chores. I noticed Jeremy had been gone for a bit and I didn’t see a cow in sight so I had my mud boots on, I decided to scout around to see if I could hear him on the hill side. With the recent rain, the water was RUSHING and it was raining as well. I could occasionally hear him but not enough, I decided to cross the creek on foot (bad idea) and went all the way down to the south end. I knew the cows and him had been that way but I wasn’t sure where he was. I knew he had to be on the bluff line but couldn’t hear a thing so I cross the creek again in a deeper spot and got soaked all the way up to my butt.  After that, I needed to go change and while I was in the house, he showed up, horse soaked in rain and sweat. He told me that he was going to call him mom and by then… I’m thinking it was almost 6 pm. So, I put on my cowgirl boots and my carhart coat and went to saddle Red Man.

When you’re working, you don’t really have time to take pictures but I wish I had because it was a cattle drive for sure. They were 2.5 miles away from the farm in someone else’s field full of lush green grass. We had to cross creeks and go through old abandoned roads to get there but we found them and they weren’t separated into 2 groups, they were all together, we did a count and the 3 of us drove them to the gate opening. Everything went pretty well except they kept trying to bush up a couple of times but with a little ingenuity, we turned them the right directions and headed for home. It was dark by the time we got back and the other horses were at the gate entry when we got there so they started scattering the cows so we had to split up and chase the horses off. We finally brought the cows in and put them to graze in the south hay field to stay until   fixing the fence gets finished this weekend.

After that, we had to go in the pitch black and bring the horses back in since we needed to take 2 to the sale barn the next day. By the time, it was all said and done, it was 8:48 PM when we got into the house. I wouldn’t call that an early night… But it was fun. I did try to shoot a picture with my phone and it flashed… Scared the horse, so I put it back in my pocket so my death wouldn’t be any more eminent than it had to be.

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so you can see much, but a tree line and shadows of cows and some rain but it’s proof 🙂

 

Meet the Gang: Luna

 

Luna is one of our inside cats. The other is Lennon which we recently realized is a girl and not a boy… We are idiots. To be fair though, at the time we had four kittens that were abandoned by the mother who never came back to the farm so I’m assuming a coyote disposed of her. The kitten Jeremy was going to keep who was a boy died and so Lennon was the replacement and we just assumed he was a boy.

Back to Luna, she isn’t sweet like Lennon. She has attitude and she flaunts it and loves to play and fight and climb things as high as possible. You are there strictly to let her sit on you lap only… No touching is preferred. She is a complete brat! But they are amusing together and are buddies even though they are complete opposites. So that’s Luna, our black smoke pixie bobcat.

Keep Your Chickens Warm in Winter

snowchickens

Just to let you know, I feel a little silly writing this because yesterday even though it’s the middle of January, it was 60-70 degrees! BUT a cold front is moving in in a few hours and it’s supposed to go from 55 to 30 and there is a chance of “Ice-mageddon” (That’s what Jeremy keeps calling it) tonight since rain is coming. Depending on the temperature going under 32, it could be good or bad. I guess I shouldn’t feel too silly though because I follow Fresh Eggs Daily on my instagram account and Lisa’s been posting pictures of snow like crazy but she lives in Maine.

So, other than the crazy weather fluctuations of Missouri we should still cover how to care for your chickens during the cold times. First, I’m happy to report, my girls have been laying most of the winter but after doing a little research for Which Chicken Breed Do You Need? article, I learned that Barred Rocks are pretty great little winter birds. Which is AWESOME! I must be doing something right because my mother in law (AKA Superwoman) who has eggs constantly even when it’s cold asked me for 5 dozen eggs to sell and the next day my friend Cindy asked for 5 dozen as well!! I feel pretty good about my little Barred Rocks… THEY ROCK! (Pun intended) Which means I’m supplying my regular customers and Cindy’s. Yay!

Moving on… I’m just going to cover a few basics and hopefully it’s helpful!

Let’s begin with I don’t think you should heat your coop. There is just too much of a chance of a fire and your birds suffering and dying. I’d rather them be a little cold and survive than the other choice. No matter how careful you are, whose to say they won’t knock something over or something like that. I mean, it seems like nature does pretty good for itself. What about the cardinals and other birds flying around. They seem fine in the cold, don’t you think? They don’t have space heaters in their nests? So PLEASE don’t heat your coop.

Deep Litter Method or NOT?

Many people dote on this method. If you’re not aware, basically the floor of your chicken coop becomes a compost pile. As you probably know, compost breaks down organic matter (poop) and brings in bugs to do so, and so forth; it puts out heat. From what I’ve read, people only clean out their coops once a year and apply layers and different things and the chickens scratch around to stir things up and eat bugs in the process. It seems pretty good to me. If you do it right you shouldn’t have the ammonia smell but after reading THIS article…(This website is amazing for chicken info; explore it! Very handy!)

Here’s a snippet, ” The deep litter system might work for you. If you have the proper housing. If you are experienced enough to recognize when it is right and when it isn’t. If you have active, young chickens to do the work. If you know enough to regulate moisture and can judge when to top off the bedding. Don’t jump onto the deep litter bandwagon because it is the trendy thing to do, or because you’ve been told that it’s the best way to be sustainable/organic. It’s one option. It can provide an enriched environment for your hens. But it can also go very, very wrong. As with all animal keeping, pay attention to the individuals under your care. Think critically about the facilities you have. Constantly monitor your flock’s health and behavior. There’s a lot of advice out there and right now, it might seem as if everyone is telling you to switch to deep litter. Heck, I give a lot of advice here on this blog – of course I hope that you’ll agree with me. But, what I’d really like you to do is not to blindly follow what I say, but to listen to your animals. Spend time in the barn with them. Breathe their air. Watch their behavior. Then you’ll make the right decisions for them and yourself.” [1]

What I’ve Been Doing: First off, during the rest of the year when it isn’t cold, I go to our local sawmill and fill empty feed bags full of saw dust and that’s what I use for the coop. During the winter though, I get a square bale of hay or just hay from the pole barn and I put it on the floor in the coop, at least 6 inches worth to cover whole floor. At this point, I also add more hay to my nests as well. Any holes or drafty areas, I add more hay to block it out. At night, I block the little chicken door we cut for them so animals don’t come in and massacre them since in the winter it seems like they are in full force. You might have to clean it out a couple times depending on how much time your chickens spend in there.

The ironic part of your time spent fixing up your coop for make it warm… I did all of the work of trying to make them happy and yet, every night I’d go out there and they’d choose to roost in the trees rather than stay in the coop. I ended up trimming the limbs off my smaller trees because they wouldn’t use the coop! No matter how cold it is, my chickens prefer to be outside. It’s just in their nature. After the removal of limbs they seemed to finally accept roosting in the coop thank goodness!

I’m probably going to stick with what I’ve been doing. Seems kind of chancy to me and since what I do seems to work, why change it? Plus, saw dust is free. I don’t have to buy special bedding it’s all kind of a sustainable kind of process. Hay is free as well since we cut our own hay.

Feed

There seems to be a bit of controversy with what I’m going to suggest next BUT you can go to this forum I found on it and pick your own side! Sounds fair to me. Here is what I do and my chickens seem happy and it’s also what I did last year and all seemed well. During the normal year, I just buy regular old chicken pellet layer feed but when it starts to get cold I get Gamebird Feed and mix it with cracked corn. Gamebird feed has extra protein compared to the regular layer pellets and cracked corn doesn’t have heat value per say but it does help keep the birds warm by the digestion process. The body has to work harder to digest cracked corn vs regular feed which causes the body to put out more heat. That seems to be what my lady at my local MFA says too but you can go read about it in that previously mentioned forum. (Do keep in mind though that they don’t need that much cracked corn, I put their feed out and mix in a little corn. On colder days I’ll scoop out some corn and scatter across the ground for extra. The best way I’ve heard it explained is that candy is to a child like cracked corn is to a chick… They like their crack…hehe)

You can also be feeding your birds extra stuff because their diet changes pretty drastically compared to summer time when they are eating tons of bugs and grass. In winter, most of you grass is dried up and bugs are nonexistent (which was their protein). So you can feed them kitchen scraps and maybe a head of lettuce of something. If I cut up a pineapple i’ll give them the outer shell of it or have left overs from fruit or vegetables I give it to them. You could also buy stuff like meal worms but I don’t. It might seem weird but I also give them raw cow milk occasionally for calcium and fat(I’ve heard pasteurized store bought milk isn’t that great for them though). If I make cheese, I’ll give them the whey for protein, they seem to really love it.

Water (MOST IMPORTANT)

Obviously, everything needs water to survive. I go out several times and break ice for them to drink when it’s freezing temperatures. You could do the heated water thing but I don’t. I don’t have electric anywhere near my coop and I’m okay with breaking the ice.

End Result:

In the end, you need a good shelter that gets them out of the wind. Stop drafts from coming in. You need more than one bird because when they roost they huddle together for warmth. You need good ventilation in your coop for good air quality. Watch out for dampness because that could cause a respiratory infection. Decide on what litter your going to use whether deep litter method or not. Try to feed them greens and decide if you want to add in cracked corn to their diet. They need water. This is what I do, if you don’t choose to that’s fine by me but I still hope maybe you learned something or found parts of this helpful.

(Backstory of the coop: Guess I should also say that my chicken coop is a 8×10 shed that we bought for $100. We occasionally would look around craigslist to see if anything popped up for a coop since what we had was too small for the flock we currently had. That amount of money for a shed was a great buy. We had to drive a bit but we have a flat bed trailer so why not?? It took most of the day but we brought a wench. Halfway up the ramps, we broke said wench… What now, right? I looked around and saw a guy’s house that looked the Tinkering Type and we walked over and asked if he had a wench and he did so he let us borrow it. Partway through the wenching process, he came over to investigate and help. He brought a chain wench that he used to use with his father to pull motors and that helped EVEN MORE. We eventually got it and offered the old man some cash and he refused. Really nice guy, I wish we had butter at the time I would have given him some but we were far from home. Gas mileage wasn’t the greatest but hey, it was cheaper than buying a new shed and the guy had replaced the insides and had the doors rebuilt. When we got home we used the tractor to get it off the trailer into the chicken pin. So worth it!)


Cited Sources

[1] https://hencam.com/henblog/2013/12/why-i-dont-use-deep-litter/

 

Sorghum Days aka SqueezeStalk 2016

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Where did this idea come from? Well, I was trying to think of ways to produce my own sugar on the homestead and I figured the easiest way to do that was grow sugarcane. I researched it and back in the 1800s they use to  grow it here in Missouri but it doesn’t seem like they do it anymore. Sugarcane does better in climates that are tropical so the next thing I came up with was growing sorghum.

The crazy part of all of this was that I just decided to do it and figured things would fall into place. We went to Baker’s Creek Pioneer Village in Mansfield where they sell heirloom seeds and we purchased a few seed packages containing the Black Amber variety. I planted them in May of 2014. They grew like crazy and I had researched mills and substitutions of mills and I knew I couldn’t afford a new or used mill so I read some blog that said you could use an old wringer washer. I did find a neighbor that had one but looking at it, there was no way it was going to work at least in my mind.

The days started to accelerate towards September when the the stalks would be ready and we still didn’t have a mill and I started to panic because we still didn’t know how we were going to get the juice from the stalks until one day my husband and I were talking and he said, “What about Bert?” Anyone around this area knows Bert. He has everything. He’s just an old retired guy that tinkers around on different projects constantly. So we decided to go to Bert’s.

We pull up into his driveway and got out and started walking towards his front door and there is this rusty looking piece of machinery a few feet from the door. Jeremy says, “Babe, I actually think this is what we’re looking for.” We knocked on the door and we asked Bert what it was and he said it was a sorghum mill. He just pulled it out a few days before so he could sell it as a yard ornament to someone. We asked how much and he said $100 so we bought it. I think that mill was meant for us!

It was seized up and needed a bit of work but Jeremy got it going pretty easily. It’s a smaller sized horse drawn mill but it did the job.

So how do you know when it’s ready? That’s all based on the seed heads. Also, it’s a preference to whoever does it has well. Some actually will dehead early to increase the sugar levels in the stalks. What we do is test the seeds. Grab a seed from the head of the stalk and try to break though with your thumb nail. If it goes through easily and its white like milk. It’s the milky stage and that would actually be the time to dehead if you were going to which we don’t. We like the soft dough to hard stage which is when you can’t break the seed. To us, I kind of feel like that comes by pretty fast so you have to check weekly to make sure.

I also pay attention to the date I planted. Most varieties of sorghum will range from 100-120 days to maturity. When the stalks are ready, you need to cut them down. I usually just use loppers. They need to cure which usually boosts your sugar content as well. I’ve tried a week and less and the happy amount for us is about 3 days. You have a choice to strip the leaves before they are cut down or after. I let the stalks cure out for 2 days in hopes that the juice goes to the stalk and out of the leaves. I don’t know if that is accurate or not, it’s just what I tend to do.

After you stripped the leaves and deheaded they are ready to go. The processing day is a long one so start really early, it’s an all day event which is why we have “Sorghum Days” and we invite friends out to be a part of it.

Our 1st year of sorghum (Black Amber variety)

We didn’t have my mother in law’s plow horse so Jeremy rode for 6 hours… Needless to say he was saddle sore!

The juice–Also from our first year, we did it a little different this year

Our cousins cooking down the juice into syrup (and a few curious and meddling ducks)

From this year, Jeremy built and welded together a stand

Squeezing of the stalks

 

 

 

Stormy and Jane (A better view of Jeremy’s handy work)

Sorghum from this year (variety called Sugar Drip, we loved it–produced more than we were use to)

Stripped down, ready to be ran through the mill

Oh yeah, I should also mention. We make sorghum syrup. Many people think that sorghum is molasses but molasses is actually a byproduct of sugarcane. Anyway, back to it now that the sorghum is ready to be processed, that’s exactly what you do. You put the stalks in the biggest end first and just keep going until you’re done. The raw juice needs to be filtered. We use cheesecloth and it works pretty well then we use a propane burner and start cooking it down. While this is being done green stuff will rise to the top. That is impurities and needs to be skimmed out and it is called “Scum.” Eventually it will start to turn brown and get thick but it takes quite a while.

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This is a picture of my grandma Fern from 1944 processing sorghum.

 

Hope you enjoy this post! Any questions feel free to ask!

 

 

Wood Cutting Season is Here

 

Right now, even though we are in the middle of November here in Missouri, the weather still seems fall like. I am by no means complaining because that is less wood that we have to burn and more we have in stock. It is odd looking out to see that there are still leaves on the trees and roses are still blooming. Just recently it has began to frost so there is a sign that it will get cold soon. I’ve heard that it’s supposed to be a bad winter but you never know since Missouri is kind of in the middle when it comes to hard winters. Last winter was definitely an easy one and wasn’t too bad.

Anyway, I just thought I’d do a simple post on heating. This isn’t going to be a big detailed post, just a couple short examples.

These are averages of popular heating methods

Cost of natural gas = $1.10 for 100,000 BTU
Cost of electricity = $2.93 for 100,000 BTU
Cost of heating oil = $2.50 for 100,000 BTU (This info I think is for Oregon just as an example)

Electricity is in cents per kilowatt hour, and gas units are in dollars per therm
In Missouri the average cost of electric heat 8.87
The natural gas 1.18

Propane Heat

I grew up with propane heat so I always thought I liked it and when I was in my teens I lived in an old house that wasn’t well insulated that had a regular stove in the middle. My bed room was in the attic right over the stove. Heat rises so it wasn’t half bad. Then I lived on my own for a bit and I purchased 3 of those water radiators and they did a decent job but my electric bill was pretty high and it always took forever to heat up the house. Otherwise it has always been propane heat that I have been around. As an adult, I never had to pay for the price of propane so I tried to look up an average of what a household would use.

Honestly, it will be different for everyone. It depends on the square footage of your house, the temperature that you leave the thermastat on, how cold it is in the area you live, how many people live in said household, etc! Let’s say you live in the midwest and you have a 1200 sq ft house and the propane is for heat only and not a stove or water heater. Just looking at averages, it seems like you’ll need 750 gallons and depending on what time of the year you buy it ranges from $2-3 a gallon. (In most cases) Let’s pick $2 a gallon, that equals to: $1500 (If you have a different outlook on this, leave a comment)

Wood Heat

Here is what we do. Wood heat is pretty cheap if you are cutting it yourself. Initially a saw can be pricey but compared to electric bills and propane bills I don’t think it’s too much especially for an investment that you can use every year. You’ll have to buy gas, the oil mix to put in the gas, chains, and chain oil. Other than that, it’s pretty much just your time. I will say this: It’s hard work and unless you want to hurt yourself, you need to take it easy and pace yourself. Big thing that I often fail at is when you need to lift, lift with your legs and not your back. Last Saturday, I just tried to not lift logs that were heavier than I can handle. Usually, I want to get it done as fast as possible so I push myself too hard but I did pretty decent this time and left the heavier to Jeremy who can handle it better than my wimpy self.

We have a wood furnace. We upgraded a few years ago from an outside furnace that didn’t do a very good job. We’ve also upgraded the place a bit. We’ve run new ducting and moved vents around to where they made more sense being at. We’ve also put thermapane windows in the whole house which has been awesome! I think last year which was an easy winter we went through… 3-4 cords of wood? We’ve got that cut right now so we are doing good for the year so far. I will say, I’m so ready for those fires though! You can buy wood around here for $125-160 a cord. Different areas I think average is $150-200 a cord. We used around 4 cords last year so let’s go in the middle at $150×4=$600. So we saved money for sure but I still consider that lower than other options I’ve listed.

Pellet Stove

I know people like the idea of wood heat but don’t want to do the wood cutting and pellet stove seem like a cheaper alternative but the price of a stove runs from $1700-3000. That being said, any start up cost is usually high. Our wood furnace ran us around $2000 but I can handle the investment because cutting wood isn’t going to cost.

With a pellet stove, you have to buy pellets for said stove. Pellets are measured in dollars per ton. Average costs usually run $250 per ton. If you buy early in the year before cost and demand hits, you can get them cheaper. There are 3 different grades of pellets: Premium, Standard, and Industrial. They are measured by the amount of ash they produce. The standard grade is mostly composed of bark so it burns really fast and you won’t get much out of them even though they are less expensive you’ll end up buying more. Premium wood pellets have less bark which means less ash and more burn. It is usually comprised of pine, spruce, or oak wood. Industrial is only to be sold for industrial use and has a production of 3% of ash or more. The average home uses about 7 tons of pellets (During a mild winter like this one so far it would be less). So let’s use the 7 just for an idea. That’s going to run you $1750.

What this all leads up to is… Cutting your own woods, save money. Hope this helps anyone who isn’t sure of what heating system they want. I don’t have a lot of information on this just some basics but, this gives you an idea anyway.

What I Accomplished Today

 

This is what I did today…. I tried hot process soap making for the first time and… Gotta say I like it, need to buy more soap molds and more lye and apparently pH test strips. I think hot process is the way to go, it cures a lot faster and, really, feels easier.

I also made my first batch of shaving cream and Jeremy tried it and I attempted but in my opinion it clogs up the razor. So, I need to find a different recipe that works better then I’ll try and do a post about it.

My pear apple wine was ready to bottle so I did that as well. If you check out the Blue Missouri Skies Homestead FB page, you can see a short video of the bottles being corked. I know it’s simple, but of all the process of wine making, that has to be my favorite part!

Anyway, it was a nice day and I thought I’d share it with everyone. By the way, if you are interested in more day to day stuff the Facebook page is more where it’s at since I don’t have to write in detail about what it is a just post a picture… Just easier.

The Cold Finally Came

 


Well, it isn’t so cold that snow came. Flurries that didn’t stick was all. We did have freezing fog which was a fun experience in the dark one morning going out the door. You think I would have been careful but I was in my sneakers headed out to work with the husband and soon as I slid, I kept going and slid all the way down the porch. Fun times!

Other things going on on the homestead are me testing different recipes for different products to go into the Etsy store. I did a lip balm since my lip balm tubes came in the mail. SO EXCITING. I only made a small batch. This time I tried out chocolate mint flavor. Was a pretty simple process and other than not having the right tools and making a mess, it went well. I only made up 5 tubes which I gave to my mother and father in law because they are constantly using the crap you buy from the store. I gave one to my friend Bethany and one to an old classmate from high school. I also kept one for myself. I gotta say, I’m not a lip balm kinda person but I really like it. The reason I don’t like “chapstick” from the store is because it has always felt like it was smothering my lips? Does that make sense? I just had to get it off of me. I hated it yet in the winter times I sometimes got dry lips or chapped. The last few years I’ve just used coconut oil or this product from a local health food store called Miracle 2 which I wasn’t a huge fan of because it was kinda pricey. This homemade stuff doesn’t have that feeling and it stays on your lips for hours and hours.

The other thing that I’ve been wanting to make is lotion bars. There again, wasn’t complicated at all. I need to get more essential oils so that I can start adding lavender in but this mixture was Beeswax, shea butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, lemongrass essential oil, peppermint essential oil, and rosemary essential oil. Loved the smell and what I have been using it for is around my eyebrows I get really dry flaky skin during the winter and just applying hardly any at all has been helping me so far. My skin isn’t breaking out either. Usually if I add a lotion type thing to my face… Breakout outs in no time. Anyway, been meaning to do a blog post, sorry it’s been a bit!

The next things on my list is goat milk lotion and trying a few different scents for my soaps. I’m going to try and do a Honey and Oats one for sensitive skin, some kind of manly version of soap lol, Lavender, and at some point I think I might try my hand at a comfrey and plantain bar. If anyone reading this has any ideas of their own, feel free to comment!

Anyway, I guess that’s it for my updates so far.

Meet the Gang: Rexxie

Periodically on the blog I’m going to do little profiles on our animals. This one is going to be on Rexxie aka Rex aka T Rex. He is actually a fairly new addition to the homestead. I think we got him in August. We needed more protection for livestock so we saw an ad of a lady needing to rehome him for $100. My husband who must have been Amish in another life convinced her  to barter with us and traded 5 frozen butchered chickens, farm fresh butter, homemade strawberry freezer jam, and fresh Jersey milk.

At first, he didn’t do so great because he was use to being cooped up in a small caged area definitely too small for his energy level but now he seems to do pretty well having free reign of the 100+ acres. He is a half Great Pyrennes and half Anatolian Shepherd. He’s really personable and a good buddy to take with you on walks or just farm stuff like gathering cows. Definitely a good trade 🙂