State of the Homestead: July 2016

jailbirds, july 2016Despite the heat, the homestead goes on. The garden is nearly spent except for the hardiest of vegetables–the ones not tasty to deer, rabbits and raccoons. Here’s the rundown.

Garden: Every year it gets better. More compost in the beds, better weed barriers around the plants, and more permanent sunflowers, july 2016walkways. The walkways are a slow process. My plan is to eventually accumulate enough brick to cover the walkways.

My first task is to keep them clear of weeds. Weed barrier helps but it’s flimsy and short term. I’m opting now for heavy rubber matting, the kind used in horse stalls. It’s expensive, but nothing will grow through it.

On top of that is the brick. It will take many thousands of brick to finish the walkways. I’ve already lay nearly a thousand brick now and it’s barely covered the perimeter. At this rate, it might take the rest of my life, but it’ll look nice when it’s done. I don’t buy my brick. I look for free brick on Craigslist whenever I can.

Deer and rabbits have decimated my chard, soybeans, strawberries and sweet potatoes. Greg said he’d build me a fence. I hate to do it because it looks nice the way it is, but it’s either that or he’ll have to get all Elmer Fudd in their furry faces. At this point either is an option. I’m really tired of getting robbed nightly.

We did get some corn and strawberries before the greater damage was done, but no soybeans at all. The sunflowers are over 8 feet tall. I had hoped to bag the flower heads as the kernels ripened (to save them against birds and raccoons) but there’s no way to reach the tops. Next year, a shorter sunflower variety.

Tomatoes were so-so. The plum tomatoes weren’t as prolific as last year, but there’s a large yellow variety that popped out fruit like a machine. The yellow tomatoes are tasty but they over ripen fast. I barely have time to preserve them before they go bad.

I am getting some nice spaghetti squash and okra. The beans and peas were few but delicious. Must plant more next year.

Chickens: I incubated several dozen eggs but my hatch rate was low. Why? Because I have a certain rooster who’s rather picky about his mates. Half the eggs from his harem were infertile. The other half turned into cute little chicks.

Never in my life have I heard of a picky rooster! I still have his father. I might put Picky in the pot and keep old Dad. He loves all his girlfriends equally.

dog tracksWe did have a terrible murder in the chicken coop just the other day. We found one hen gutted. At first we thought it strange because a raccoon or possum would’ve eaten the whole chicken. This poor thing was simply murdered and disemboweled, that’s when we found evidence of a different predator in the coop.

A dog had dug under the wire and entered the coop from the pen. He left his calling card on the hay. It had to have been a little dog because it was a pretty small pile of poop but that would explain why he killed the chicken and didn’t eat it.

I know this chicken. All the others roost way up in the rafters, but this hen liked to roost at a lower level. The dog must’ve snatched her right off during the night. He had the nerve to come back and try again, but Greg used concrete blocks to bar the way.

(Click on each image for full size.)

Rabbits: Bunnies are going in the freezer this week. I’ve held back two for next year’s breeders.

Goats: We’ve put it off too long, but we really need to get a new doe. Since we lost Daisy, we’ve been a doe short.

Our plan was to get smaller goats, but I think we’ll have to transition to that more slowly since I don’t want to get rid of the Boers before I buy their replacements. Buying a new herd is expensive, so it’ll be bit by bit as funds allow.

I’ve decided on a Nubian doe. First for her milking abilities but also because I can breed her to Ray Charles (the Boer buck). They’re close to the same size so there won’t be delivery issues with babies.

The solar panels are working beautifully on Greg’s shop. I think it’s safe to go ahead and create a solar array for the main house too. It’s going to take some time to find the right place because we’re so surrounded by trees. I’m sure one or two will have to come down. But first the fence. We’ve needed that for a long time. I hope we can start on it this fall.

solar array

Thanks to Greg being home full time, and despite him crying foul for depriving him of retirement status, we are doing a better job keeping up with homestead chores. It really is a 2-person job. It was awfully hard when I was alone.


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  1. Darcy

    Loving your blog. When you get a chance, would you consider answering a few questions about solar? I think we are in an “OK” spot for it — though northeast Indiana = a lot of cloudy days. We’re on a peninsula in the middle of a small lake, and our house and garage face south with no trees between us and the road. The only obstruction between us and half a lake is a our across the street neighbor’s one story house.
    I’ve tried to do a little research but regarding start up but I don’t know enough to know what to look for. So far it seems like a VERY LARGE investment when I don’t think we get enough sunny days to do anything more than supplement our power supply. But our house is all electric — sometimes paying the power bill seems like an “investment” 🙁 Plus, while I’m not a green fanatic, I do believe in stewardship, and that’s worth something to me too.
    Any insight you care to offer concerning equipment needed, installation, maintaining a system, and figuring cost v. value would be truly appreciated.

    And again, so glad Maria pointed me in your direction!

    • Darcy: Email me through my contact link on the top or from my contact link on my Facebook page.

      Greg is the real expert so if I can’t answer something, he can.

      As for investment, it was about 5k. If you consider the electric company was going to charge us nearly the same amount to run a line to the shop (it’s very far from the house) solar was the better investment.

      re: clouds
      You can still generate power on cloudy days, just not as much. What you have to consider is how many sunny days you have throughout the year. I know Indiana. I think you’d be okay.

      If you write me with specific questions I can ask my expert. 🙂

  2. Good update. That was terrible about the chicken, but glad you found the culprit (at least narrowed it down to the type of animal that had done the damage). I do admire you and your hubby for the work you are doing. It definitely is worth the effort!


    • Betty: I suppose we can be like other retired couples and travel all the time, but then the poor dogs would have to be boarded. These two are so stuck on us, I doubt they’d do well in a kennel.

      Travel is the only thing I miss. The rest of the time it’s a pleasure to work around here.

  3. Stephanie: These panels power everything but one humongous air compressor in the shop. Considering all the equipment he has in there, that’s pretty good.

    He has it set up with a bank of batteries so that the shop has power no matter the weather or night time.

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