Spring Garden

It’s already getting hot in Florida. But my spring garden is looking fantastic.

I have to admit I have been giving myself pats on the back for this one. I am so proud.

I love just looking at it and admiring its beauty.

I have had gardens in the past. But this one takes the cake!

These pictures are from April 21st.

Left side of the garden

Left side of the garden

Watermelon

Watermelon

Watermelon with a fly

Watermelon with a fly

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe

Nibbles always waits by the fence when his Mama is in the garden.

Nibbles always waits by the fence when his Mama is in the garden.

Right Side of the garden

Right Side of the garden

Right side of the garden

Right side of the garden

Back in the fall, my right side of the garden looked great and my left side was still getting prepped. But as you can see the left just exploded this season. These are pictures from this morning.

Growing a large family

Pea pods

Pea pods

Right side of the garden

Right side of the garden

Left side of the garden

Left side of the garden

Watermelon

Watermelon

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe

Pickling cucumbers

Pickling cucumbers

Watermelon

Watermelon

Corn

Corn

Green Beans

Green Beans

Pineapple

Pineapple

I am definitely not done. I want to get some wild flowers planted. Oh I also forgot to take pictures of the milkweed with butterfly eggs on it. Brianna is so excited. But the heat is getting bad so I don’t how long some of these plants will last. Summers in Florida is like a winter up north. You can’t plant anything; it’s too hot and too rainy. I will be conditioning my soil during that season and prepping for a huge fall garden.

I am even thinking of another expansion. One in a more shady area to grow plants that can’t handle a lot of heat and sun.

I love Springtime

I love the holidays. But I LOVE springtime more than the holidays.

Especially when it is chick days at all the local feed stores.

I told myself that I would be good.

I tried really, REALLY hard. But if you read my last post I was going through a funk. And I needed some joy.

Well baby chicks and ducks give me joy! LOTS OF JOY!!!

So we ( meaning me) have been adding to our flock.

We added 2 more Pekins. I know one is a girl for sure. And I am hoping the other is a boy. Right now I am 75% sure it is.

Pekin Ducks~Growing a large family

Then I added 6 Lavender Ameraucanas. These were straight run, meaning boys and girls, so I bought all 6 in hopes I have at least one girl. These chickens lay blue eggs. I love these chicks. I bought them from a local breeder. And they are the friendliest chicks I have ever had. We use to enjoy morning coffee together until Hubby said they had to go outside. I was sad to see them move. But now they are free and they run up to me and after me. I just love it. I know there are some roosters in there and it’s going to be so sad when I see them go. But luckily I have a local connection to get more.

Lavendar Ameraucanas~Growing a Large Family    Lavender Ameraucanas~ Growing a Large Family

Next came, my birthday present. All 29 of them! I order 27 female chicks from a hatchery. They sent me a free chick and an extra. But then I lost a few to stress, so now I have 26. All different kinds of chickens with all different egg colors. That is really my goal this year, I want to taste the rainbow of eggs from my backyard.

Last (for now), I had sold my car and was cooped up in the house for a couple of weeks. So when I got a new car I was gone! I somehow took a field trip with the kids to all the feed stores and ended up an hour away at Rural King. And they had barred rocks, like my Midnight. We had to get some. I thought we had 8 and it was actually 9; 3 Barred Rock, 3 Gold Sexlink, 1 Rhode Island Red, 1 Phoenix and 1 Egyptian Fayoumi. And a few days later, my daughter and I went to local farm event. And she ended up making friends with a family selling Jersey Giant Chicks. I paid for 1; we came home with 3!

This is Roman. Roman was suppose to be a Rosa, but tricked us all.

This is Roman. Roman was supposed to be a Rosa, but tricked us all.

As I type, because I had some eggs hatching over the weekend, we are up to 87 chickens. I know that I can’t keep all 87, but my hubby is worried that I don’t understand that. But I swear, I am in the process of listing and selling some of them.

Because I gotta make room for my next batch shipping in June!

 

Love and Loss on a Homestead

Barred Rock Hen~Midnight~Growing a large family

 

 

Having a homestead brings so much joy to your life. You care for the animals and become attached. Some even become family.

But with love and joy, there are also heartache and loss.

We loss 2 of our hens a year ago because of a poisonous plant.

Then we loss 2 of our dogs to old age.

And today we loss another hen.

She was egg bound. I tried everything on the internet I could find to help her. I even turned to some Facebook homesteading groups. But nothing would help.

I made the decision to just put her back outside with the others. I knew she would inevitably die, but I thought if I knew my time was coming, I would want to die being me. So I let her live out her final days being a chicken. Lounging in the sunshine and pecking at bugs and scratch on the ground.

I will miss my fat girl. She had the funniest waddle and was always everywhere I was because she knew Momma had treats.

My hubby and I had made the decision to put her out of her suffering today. Actually he made the decision that I should do it. So she must have known that it would be hard for me to do it. Her being my favorite and all. I found her this morning quietly gone in the run.

My only regret is not hatching more of her eggs and keeping some of the babies.

RIP Midnight.

This blog post is partying over at Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop

Sleepless Nights, My Garden and El Nino

Gardening~Growing a large family

 

Living in Florida, we are used to dealing with hurricanes. They take several days to get here and we have plenty of time to stock up and plan.

But dealing with El Nino, this past month has been stressful. You don’t how severe it’s going to be or how soon it’s going to get to your location. And the worse part has been 99% of the severe storms have been at night. I hate when they hit at night.

First off, I live in the boondocks so you can’t see anything on a clear night, but now you have added in a wicked storm, so I really am left in the dark. I always take my phone in my room for all the alerts. But that’s the problem, I’m up all night checking out the alerts and warnings. And of course, the one alert that didn’t come through on my phone was the tornado on the ground alert. Thankfully all my kids sleep with radios on. And thankfully one of them does wake up when the emergency beeping comes on.

Now here in Florida, we are used to water spouts or quick tornadoes. They touch down, last for a few minutes and then they’re gone. But when the weatherman and National Weather Service is saying take cover, a very large and dangerous tornado is on the ground. It makes you think What the …… These are words my local weatherman were using, along with, this is a tornado you would see in the midwest and we have never seen anything like it. It lasted through 2 counties!

I mean it came to the bottom of my county. In my mind, I’m mentally giving out assignments to my 2 children, that at this point were scared to death and looking like a deer caught in headlights. Luckily it dissipated. But it came awful close to my Mother-in-Law’s house. Which my kids were at the night before and she doesn’t own a smart phone or a TV. And lives in a mobile home.

Needless to say, I will be investing in 2 weather radios. One for my house and one for hers.

So what does this have to do with my garden. Well it’s been to hell and back! First, our weather was too hot for winter. I mean, its was 85 degrees on Christmas, who does that!?! Now it turned cooler and my plants were so happy.  Then all the rain came. And that was ok, my garden never flooded. But then the winds came. We have had strong winds as least 2-3 times this year. I am talking, don’t let your kids out or they’ll blow away strong. And well everything fell over!

On the positive side, all the rain loosened the ground so Brianna could finish getting the grass up on the other side of the garden. And I did get a ton of cherry tomatoes before the winds, along with 2 cabbage, 3 broccoli and some green beans. So I am going to replant on the other side and see what happens.

Spring Garden~Growing a large family

Here’s hoping Spring comes soon.

At least that’s what Punxsutawney Phil said.

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Best January ever

Growing a large family

 

I feel like I have accomplished so much in these first 3 weeks of January.

I turned 34! My birthday was quiet and uneventful. So YAY! to a drama free birthday.

I have stood up for myself and told 2 important people in my life that they will not disrespect me or walk all over me or my family anymore.

We started back to homeschooling and I feel like we are doing pretty good. Some days are better than others, but yesterday was the best yet. I felt like just in that one simple activity so much was learned. We talked and discuss while they used their hands to create something so wonderful. It was definitely a proud mommy moment.

My youngest daughter has been working with a wonderful therapist for the last month. Up until now she has resisted any kind of therapy, but she has really connected with this therapist and I truly see a difference. Then this week, the therapist got us in for an appointment with their psychiatrist. And let me just say, WOW! Where has he been my whole life!!! When our therapist asked how it went. I told her she was a life saver. He just knew what he was talking about and none of this well it could be A or B or Z. He nailed it and talked to my daughter not just about her. Wonderful man!!! I am beyond thrilled because it has been a long 10 years of trying to find a diagnosis.

As I am writing this, I am sitting here looking at my 4 brooders. That’s right~count them FOUR brooders. First one has my baby chicks that hatched on January 2. Second one has a week and a half old Pekin duck with a couple of chicks flying in and out. One chick has really taken a liking to my lonely duck and is very protective if any of chicks come in. The third is full of Cayuga Ducklings about 4 days old~19 of them to be exact. And last but not least~ more Pekin ducklings. These are 4 days old. I have 19 of them also. Most of these will be sold with the exception of the chicks and 4 ducklings. I sold 15 ducklings at the beginning of the week. So my new little business adventure is very productive. Keeps me busy that is for sure.

Growing a Large family

I am also setting up the incubator so I can set 24 eggs for a Valentines day hatching. Or as I like to call it The walking dead hatching. We aren’t big Valentine’s Day people. It’s just too close to Christmas and my birthday. I will probably just cook a nice steak dinner, so why not also hatch some babies!

I also have a couple of pre-orders on some female chicks that I am keeping. Just trying to add some interesting chickens to the flock. My first order comes the end of February and my last order won’t be here until first week of June. Who knows what other kind of trouble I can get into between now and then.

Growing a large family

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Holiday hatchlings

Well I did it again. I couldn’t resist watching little baby chicks hatching. So I got out my incubator and put some eggs in to see what would happen. At first, I put in some of my Cayuga eggs, but they weren’t fertile.

And then I put a dozen chicken eggs in there, only 1 was a dud. So I waited another 2 weeks and then I got this result.

Growing a large family

 

9 out of 11 eggs hatched. They hatched the middle of November.

I’m not trying to brag but the coloring of my chicks are beautiful. Since I don’t specialize in one breed of chicken, mine are considered mixed. But let me tell you. They are pretty!

Chicks~Growing a large family

 

It was also a good lesson in genetics. We keep playing Whose your Daddy as their feathers come in. I was a little disappointed in the fact that I only got 1 turken out of the bunch. But that’s okay because we have another hatching coming up on New Years Day.

I just put 31 eggs in the incubator. I was going to try some of Lucky’s eggs but she was hiding them from me and I found them too late. So I put 15 of my own, 15 I bought from a friend and 1 from the neighbor.

 

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Chickens with Bumblefoot

Growing a large family

 

*Graphic Pics in this post. Warning for the faint of heart*

Never in a million years did I think I would be a chicken keeper! Never in a million years did I think I would love birds! Never in a million years did I think I would have the knowledge to perform a surgery on a chicken! But all of those things I can and do.

Having chickens are really not for the faint of heart. Yes they are very easy to take care of…until there is a problem.

One of the first major problems I had to encounter was bumblefoot. And I have had to deal with it on several occasions with the same 2 bozos.

Growing a large family

Thing 1 and Thing 2. These 2 seem to get it like they get bugs in the leaves. It’s crazy.

Basically bumblefoot is an infection. If they land on something and cut their foot, it could lead to bumblefoot because of all the dirt that they walk around in. Almost like a staph infection. Signs of bumblefoot are swelling, redness, a black or brown scab on the bottom and sometimes limping or holding the leg up. If left untreated it could be fatal.

On this particular day, I had, not 1, not 2, but 3 cases of bumblefoot. Thing 1 had one of her feet and, always trying to one up her sister, Thing 2 got a double case!

So I gathered my team of homeschooling homesteaders, my supplies and got to work.

Growing a large family

This is your basic supplies for bumblefoot: Epsom Salt, Honey, scalpel, vetricyn wound spray, gauze and vet wrap. As you can see some of this you will have at home. The rest I picked up at Tractor Supply. You will need a bucket or bowl so you can soak the chickens foot.

Growing a large family

Sorry for the foggy picture. I used this activity as a photography lesson for Cailin.

First, you need to get warm water in your container and add some epsom salt. I don’t measure the salt. I just pour a little and let it dissolve. This is just to soften the area around where the surgery will take place. Hold them there for a minute or two.

Now comes the fun part. Keeping them still on your lap so you can perform the surgery without hurting them.

What I do is put a towel down on my lap, then I take them out of the water and lay them on their back on my lap. I have one of my daughters immediately cover their head with a towel. Chickens can’t really see in the dark. So the towel simulates this and keeps them calm. Once in a while they will kick their leg. But usually I have my youngest daughter holding on to them so my hands are free.

Growing a large family

This was a very mild case of bumblefoot. I probably wouldn’t have known she had it, had her sister not been limping and I decided to check both of them. But for this post I am going to show you the most severe case I have had.

Growing a large family

As you can see Thing 2’s right foot is extremely swollen.

Bumblefoot~ Growing a large family

That black spot is what we need to cut out. That is the infection. Again this is the worse case I have ever had on our homestead.

Growing a large family

You take your scalpel and cut around the edge of the black scab. You shouldn’t see blood or any fluids coming out. It is literally just a scab that is holding in an infection. You will see the scab start to come loose from foot.

Growing a large family

Once you cut away the scab, you need to scoop and squeeze to make sure there is no pus still in there. I very rarely get extra pus out. But at this point you have an open wound.

Growing a large family

Spray with wound care, put a little honey on the gauze and place over the incision area.

Growing a large family

Wrap with vet wrap. You will want to change the wrap at least once a day. If you see it has fallen off, then soak in warm water to kill any germs and repeat with meds. You may even need to use some medical tape to keep it on. Within 3-5 days it should be better and can remove the bandage.

Growing a large family

 

This post is partying over at the Simple Homestead Blog Hop

 

 

Cayuga Ducks

I have 2 Cayuga Ducks on my homestead right now. I love these ducks. I have 1 male and 1 female. I named them Hook and Dark Swan in honor of the show, Once upon a time.

Hook is such a sweetheart. He is one of the ducklings we hatched.

Cayuga Ducks~Growing a large family

He likes to chase after our feet and nibble at our boots. He is also very spoiled by his Mama. He always waits for his food because he knows I let him eat out of the food container. He is also very curious of everything, like my camera.

Cayuga~ Growing a large family

The male Cayugas have more green coloring on their heads than females do. Also you know a duck is a male because they will get a few feathers that flip back towards their head near their tail.

DSC_0406

Male Cayuga~notice coloring on head and flip tail feather

Females are also more vocal. That is how I knew my Lucky Duck was a girl. Now my female Cayuga isn’t as vocal as Lucky, but very much has the features of a girl.

Female Cayugas have darker beaks and are mostly black with very little variation in coloring. Also the biggest giveaway is no flip feather on their tail.

Dark Swan is more standoffish when it comes to people. But if you have food or treats then watch out. She pushes most of the chickens out of the way to get to them. She is more calm and doesn’t freak out when you walk near her, which some males have a tendency of doing.

Cayuga Duck~ Growing a large family

Female Cayuga~ no flip tail feather and the coloring is more on the feathers and less on the head.

For a year, I told my hubby that I wanted Pekins. They were the best ducks for my homestead. But one day, I was reading a duck magazine and when I read about Cayugas and the amazing thing they do, I had to have them.

Cayuga Egg~Growing a large Family

That is the best first egg I have ever gotten. Only the first egg comes out black then they start getting lighter in color. My one Cayuga female has been laying for a few weeks now and has laid more eggs than some of my chickens. Ducks will out lay them and keep laying during the winter.

Another exciting moment was when I found the egg in the nesting boxes! Most of the time ducks will just lay an egg where ever they want and you have to hunt it down. Not with my girl! She has laid every egg either in the nesting box, coop or run. It makes my life so much easier! Hopefully she can train any other girl ducks we get to do the same.

Duck eggs are best used for baking. It gives it a much richer taste. Some people will use duck eggs just like a chicken egg. But then others say it has more of a game taste or is much saltier, depending on your breed. I personally have only use them for baking.

And of course this……

Cayuga Eggs in Incubator~Growing a large family

 

My Hubby is going to kill me.

 

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Holidays upon us…Week 1

Well it’s the first full week of October. And that means the holiday frenzy begins. But first, can I just say Man, this year flew by! So I thought I would blog about what I am doing to prepare for the holidays. Every Monday, there will be a post about what I have done to get ahead of the craziness. In October, we have homecoming, Alissa’s 18th Birthday and Halloween. But I am also thinking ahead to Thanksgiving and Christmas because with a family this size and a schedule as busy as ours is, I don’t have time to be running out the door the day before to prepare.

First thing, get your kids talking about Halloween. Especially if they want the most popular costume on the shelves, you have got to find it now. Believe me, I ran into this problem last year with my son’s costume.

Last years Olaf costume

Last years Olaf costume

Everybody wanted to be a character from Frozen. And trying to find the costume in his size at a reasonable price was a nightmare. As you can see, I got it but it was a close one and cost more than I like to admit! So get them talking now. I have a feeling if you try to go out even the week of Halloween you will have a hard time. At our Walmart, the school supplies were gone and it was the day of school starting. Everyone is trying to get ahead so you need to be even more ahead of them. And if your going to be making your child’s costume get started NOW!

Luckily for me, my kids have been talking about it for the last 2 weeks. I actually had to put a rule that no one could talk about Halloween until October 1st it was becoming an all day, every day conversation.

Now is also a good time for figure out your plans. Usually we go to my mom’s house in the next city over because my little country city doesn’t do much as far as house to house. But this year, we will have 1 kid doing their own thing, 1 kid going to a party and 2 with us trick or treating. So we have to stay close by to be able to pick up one or both kids. We will be going to the trunk or treats around Plant City.

Next, Thanksgiving! If you plan on ordering a farm fresh turkey, now is the time to do it and put your deposit down. Some areas it may even be too late. If that’s the case start looking for a backup plan. I can say with total confidence that if you can’t do farm fresh and you have a Fresh Market near you, get it from there. That is where last years turkey came from and it was the best one we ever had. I know in my area most of the farm fresh have all been reserved. So I will probably get a Fresh Market turkey.

Growing a large family

 

Now, Christmas!  Definitely start looking at sales ads, emails or just cyber window shopping. Start getting an idea of the new holiday items coming out so you can be making a list of things to possibly buy. I haven’t actually bought any presents yet because I have 2 birthdays to get through first. But I usually start shopping the end of the month. But I have been keeping my eye out on the new video games coming out, toys and latest electronics.

This month is actually a pretty easy month. Mostly just mental stuff. So what I also like to do is declutter and start organizing. I have actually been doing this for a few weeks already, but I still have a tons more to go. I just have this need to purge before the holidays hit and the all the gift giving happens. What I am doing is selling what I think someone else would appreciate and donating the rest.

And of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t at least mention homesteading preparations. I use the deep litter method during the winter. And even though I still have about 3 months before a significant cold front moves through, I like to be prepared and not caught off guard. Now is the time to do a deep cleaning of your coop and fix anything that needs to be fix. I have a fence that has been calling my name for a couple of months now. I also took everything out of the coop, scrubbed it good and put bed shavings in. This is the start of deep litter method. Every day I fluff and turn the bed shavings and add more in once a week.  I keep adding more bed shavings for a good month or two, depending on the weather, before I start adding the straw layer which will hold the heat. I will also be ordering my ingredients to make my own chicken scratch.

Look for week 2 next Monday. Happy Holidays Ya’ll!

 

Introducing Harley the Farm Dog

At the end of June, we had to say good-bye to our Great Dane, Duece. He was 9 years old and having hip problems, eating problems and all kinds of other problems. He would constantly fall and trying to pick up a dog bigger than you was no easy task. He would spend endless nights just staring at me while I was sleeping and whining. We had to stop his suffering.

growing a large family

But now we were left with just a toy poodle and an old, fat cocker spaniel to protect our homestead. Having Duece gave us peace of mind because everyone was scared of him. And I had been wanting a puppy that I could train to be with my chickens and whatever other livestock I get. My other dogs would bark and chase after them. I had been looking for months but couldn’t decide what I wanted.

And then almost a month after we said good-bye to Duece, we met Harley.

growing a large family  growing a large family  growing a large family

 

He is a Golden Retriever. He was 8 weeks old when we got him. This dog is playful, crazy and really smart. He learns very quickly. And half the time he learns it on his own without any training. He is really good with my kids. Especially Dakota, who goes around calling him his little brother.  But he grew so fast. One minute he was this little cute puppy to this big 40lb, thinks he needs to be in Mama’s lap, dog. And he is only 5 months old!

Growing a large family

NOW!

NOW!

 

He knows Mama will protect him when he is scared, but he also knows Mama is the disciplinarian. He is also very well-trained to protect considering he almost ripped my hubby’s lip off. He still doesn’t have any feeling in it. But hey, like I told Hubby, you shouldn’t be messing with my puppy. Lesson learned!

 

He is really curious about my chickens. He wants to go in with them, but has never chased or barked at them. He actually wants to play and eat their food. Never even touches the chicken poop. Which from what I read is a miracle because most dogs think it’s better than caviar!

So I think we have found our perfect farm dog. Introducing Harley the farm dog.

 

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