Have you wondered where we have gone?? I can FINALLY tell you all what is going on! We have been selling livestock and stuff for the purpose of pulling up stakes and heading West, and I had to keep it all a big secret. We have been in negotiations since last summer with a network to do a t.v. show about homesteading, and we received the initial contracts about a week ago. If we can come to agreeable terms, you just might see us doing what we do, on a weekly basis! Weird. Super weird. But hopefully a great adventure!!

Stay tuned for updates as we follow the Oregon Trail!

Something killed my male duck, and the mama rabbit ate the runt of her litter that was born yesterday. 

I really didn't think the runt was going to make it to adulthood because he was so much smaller than the rest, but it still makes me sick.  Keeping rabbits is really not very high on my desired list of activities, because they are really fairly bad parents.

I'm feeling guilty about my duck, because I built the little coop he as in, and I put him in there; he was being too hard on one of my female ducks and I wanted to give her a break.  I'm guessing it as a raccoon, because of the way it was killed (which as particularly brutal), and because the attacker would have had to climb the fence to the bird yard and it was strong enough to bust out one of
the boards to get to this duck.  Kind of a crappy morning around
After almost three years of living this homesteading lifestyle, I have learned a valuable lesson;  start small, and dream big.

I have a very bad habit of aquiring animals that I think suit our purposes, before I have their buildings/stalls/fencing/enclosures finished.  I am now in the position of having to sell half of our stock, because I do not have the pastures available to them to forage.  That means that every bit of what they eat has to be purchased, which just isn't practical.  In addition, there does not seem to be much of a market in our area for sheep, which makes it nearly impossible to recoup any money spent feeding them through the year.

The main lessons?  Know your market, know your own strengths and weaknesses, and concentrate your efforts on one or two species.  I am grateful for this experience, and know now that I am simply not the kind of person who can keep a menagerie and still break even, let alone make a profit.  I know some who do, and I applaud them.  But for us, scaling back and rethinking our business plan is our plan of action.  And I will no longer bring any animal to the farm without having the space available for them.

Learning this lifestyle is certainly an ongoing project.  But it is absolutely one that is full of lessons worth learning.

Thanks to Rebecca Nickols for featuring our coop in Community Chickens!

If you want to catch bugs to feed to your birds, without the worry of chemicals or even decay, try this bug catcher.  We bought it years ago when we lived in the city, for mosquitos. 

This contraption catches ALL manner of bugs, and doesn't kill them.  During the spring and summer, this hangs at the far end of our front porch at night, and then the birds get the contents in the morning.  It is a bit pricey, but it serves two purposes (which all things must do around here, at least), and it lasts a very long time.  We have had ours for over five years, and have only had to replace the lightbulbs once.

You can buy this bug catcher at Hammacher Schlemmer, which is a fantastic company that stands behind their products forever.  Hammacher is American born and raised, has been around since before the civil war, and guarantees whatever you buy for the rest of your life.  I receive nothing for this post, I just really like this little tool.
"I can't eat eggs, I have high cholesterol."

How many times have you said this, or heard someone else say the same thing?  Turns out, eggs being bad for you is a myth from the 60's.  In addition, if you keep the birds yourself and let them eat grasses and bugs, eggs are actually GOOD for you!!

From Mother Nature Network's article 10 False Facts Most People Think Are True...

8. Cholesterol in eggs is bad for the heart

The perceived association between dietary cholesterol and risk for coronary heart disease
stems from dietary recommendations proposed in the 1960s that had little
scientific evidence, other than the known association between saturated fat and
cholesterol and animal studies where cholesterol was fed in amounts far
exceeding normal intakes. Since then,
study after study has found that dietary cholesterol (the
cholesterol found in food) does not negatively raise your body’s cholesterol. It
is the
consumption of saturated fat that is the demon
here. So eat eggs, don’t eat steak.

See the rest of the list here:  http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/arts-culture/stories/10-false-facts-most-people-think-are-true

And from Mother Earth News, How Do Your Eggs Stack Up?...

In 1999, Pennsylvania pastured poultry producer Barb Gorski used a grant from 
the USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program to have meat 
and eggs from her own birds and those of two other farmers tested for a range of nutritional factors. The pastured eggs were found to contain 10 percent less 
fat, 34 percent less cholesterol, 40 percent more vitamin A and four times as 
much omega-3 fatty acids compared to the standard values reported by the USDA 
for commercial eggs. (Numerous studies suggest that diets high in omega-3s can 
help protect against heart disease, mitigate the effects of Type II diabetes and 
otherwise benefit the human body’s immune responses.) The pastured chicken meat 
(with skin on) contained 21 percent less fat, 30 percent less saturated fat and 
50 percent more vitamin A than the USDA standard.

Read the rest of the article here:

And trust me, chicken coops do not have to be fancy, not do you have to spend $1,500.00 on those tiny custom built jobs that you often see in catalogs and farm stores.  Almost anything will do, as long as you can keep them locked up tight from predators at night.  Be creative!  And get some birds!! 

The only way to be sure where your eggs are coming from is to raise them yourself, because even the high priced "cage free", "free range" kind of eggs at the store are often from the same factory produced cheap eggs; the labeling can be misleading because of the FDA and USDA allowed definitions of those labels.

Put your health first; get your own birds, and produce your own healthy, good for you eggs.  If you garden, nothing beats using your own bird manure.  Your produce waste can be fed to the birds and turned into eggs.  And at the end of her laying life, you have a stewing chicken that has been raised on good food, so you are now producing healthy meat too. 

It's spring.  Go get some birds, and enjoy them and their product

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Having farm animals provides many benefits.  However, along with the fleece, the milk and the eggs, we also have a LOT of flies.  Just sitting on the porch can become a trial.  This spring, I am going to try using essential oils as a deterrent.

From wikihow.com...

Tired of fly sprays and the unwanted chemicals they contain? Are you constantly being bothered or bitten by unwanted pests in your own back yard? There are some very easy solutions to keeping flies away from the
outdoor dining area, and you can do them all yourself. Read on for some helpful tips and hints!

Clean out a small tin with a lid. This will be the "home," so to speak, for your repellent.

Take a clean piece of cloth or a small piece of dish sponge able to fit into the container
. Saturate it with one of the following oils (after it has been diluted appropriately, see Tips):

Lavender oil - lavender is considered to be particularly effective against flies
Citronella oil (dilute with water first)
Eucalyptus oil (dilute with water first)
Pennyroyal oil (dilute with water first)
Peppermint oil (dilute with water first; likely more effective against mosquitoes but also considered to work against horse-flies.
Lemongrass oil (dilute with water first)

Place the cloth in the tin and shut the lid. Allow to sit for 24 hours.

Use as needed. Whenever you need to use the tin, remove the lid and place on the entertaining table. Make as many as you wish to put around the entertaining area to deter flies.

Replenish the oil after each use; once open to the air, the strength weakens and needs to be topped up

Read other tips about using herbs and essential oils for insect repellants at WikiHow - How to make natural repellents with essential oils.
baby French Lop bunny
Beady, our pregnant ewe, using her new hay feeder
little bitty Fench Lop bunny
Holly, the mama bunny, wanting to see why someone is in her enclosure
Kids in the yard with the sheep (you can see two goats on the left)
Building a feed shed with pallets (used old feed sacks under the pallets)
More pallets, good ones too, and a 250 gallon water tote that needs to be cleaned out.
Gracie checking the little lambs, and they moved!
In our first year here, we purchased a flock of seventeen baby guineas, called keets.  Cute as little feathered buttons, they are so tiny.  As they grew, the guineas began to be more vocal.  They grew some more, and were more vocal.  By the time they were roaming around as adolescents, they were the most obnoxiously loud beasts I have ever been around.

All but one of that flock were eaten by owls and coyotes.  So, last fall I bought ten more keets to roam the land this spring, eliminating ticks. 

After guineas are one year old, they make less noise.  It is between three months and one year that they nearly drive me batty.  Don't believe me?  Here is proof!  My young guineas, throwing a fit...