Friday, May 01, 2015

Preparing for Animals on the Homestead

If you've been poking around here for any length of time by now you've figured out that we're city folk in the process of transitioning to country folk.  Nearly four years ago we packed up our (nowhere near) postage stamp existence just outside Detroit and relocated to 11 acres 20 minutes west of Port Huron.  We absolutely love it here, and there's not a thing we miss about city living.  That being said, we are inexperienced at just about everything living on our little homestead requires.  There's wood heat, well water, plants and animals we cannot identify, storing up food, gardening on a grander scale, and now we're venturing into raising farm animals.

About two weeks ago we brought home 20 baby chicks.  It's kind of comical to me, because we really have no clue hot to take care of them.  We're learning in the process.  I read, and we talk; to each other and to those we know with experience.  It's been two weeks, and all 20 are growing and starting to practice flying.  It's high time we got some temporary fencing up so we can let them out for a little while each day for some scratching, bug eating, and flying practice.  They've almost outgrown their two 22 gallon aquariums they are currently calling home.  The plan is to move them into their newer, high-class trailer we converted for them.  However, there is still some work that needs to be completed for our little chicken family can move in and get settled.  The nesting boxes need dividers and covers built to keep the little turd makers happy and their nesting boxes a respectable level of clean.  We need to install roosts and secure the doors.  That's about it aside from needing to purchase a truck load of pine shavings or straw or whatever it is we ultimately decide on for bedding in there.  Seems everyone has an opinion on that one, and we need to develop our own.  Only time and experience will establish that for us.

Some of the baby chicks at one week old.

The other big project currently under way is fencing.  We were fortunate in that there were already present two animal shelters when we purchased our property.  So, we have no building to do in preparation for the second addition to the homestead, four sheep; one to eat, three to keep.  Who knows how many we'll ultimately end up raising, but we are looking forward to the experience.  I choose to not think about certain aspects like babies being born (I watched too many episodes of Dr. Pohl!) and lambs going to slaughter.

The next animal that will be around is the goats that we plan to put to work clearing land.  For the time being we have made arrangements with a good friend to borrow a goat here and there.  After this summer we'll see if we'd like to add our own goats to the homestead.  I am thankful that we're holding off on this one.  I'm all for diving in head first, but adding three different animals that I've never raised, know nothing about, and have no real knowledge of was a bit of an intimidating idea to me.

It's funny to me that now that animals are slowly finding their way to our homestead people keep asking us if we'll be getting cows. for now.  Who knows what the future holds, but sheep and chickens are quite enough for now.

The kids working hard to rid the back bed of weeds
and all the hen and chick, and there were a lot!

Stage one.  Next, we plan to move all the flowers
to another bed and grow only veggies here.

For now, the kids and I are focusing our energies on prepping the three existing planting beds for vegetables.  We will plant some flowers, but our main focus is veggies.  When we moved here there was little in the way of landscaping, and there was no existing garden bed.  So, we are transforming the two original flower beds at the front and back of the house to grow veggies along with the flowers.  This is the technique I used in our tiny yard in the city.  It worked wonderfully.  We also transformed another area of the property the first year we were here by removing a lot of overgrowth and underbrush to create a large planting bed with some trees remaining.  It's been slow going getting stuff to grow there, but we're still plugging away at that.  Since the north side of our property is going to get all dug up in order to run new water lines to both the house and the barn, we'll have to wait another year to have access to the best planing area on our property.  In the meantime there is talk of building a raised bed along the whole south side of the house.  We'll see how that works out.

Spring is a time of growth and new life, and homestead life provides lots and lots of projects and chores.  What have you been up to in your neck of the woods?  We'd love to hear about it!

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