This is a guest post and entry in Round 1 of the Farm Dreams writing contest. The prizes for this round include: First Prize: A $300 gift certificate toward any purch

This is a guest post and entry in Round 1 of the Farm Dreams writing contest. The prizes for this round include:

First Prize: A $300 gift certificate toward any purchase of Featherman Poultry Processing Equipment, including pluckers, knives and more!

Second Prize: A 164' roll of electric poultry netting from Kencovevalued at $140!

Third Prize: A large heirloom pack of assorted seeds from Baker Creek (northern or southern region) plus a copy of Jere and Emilee Gettle's recently published book The Heirloom Life Gardener.Valued at $125!

Fourth Prize: A $55 gift certificate good toward any purchase at Lehman's!

Round 1 ends began January 15 and ends March 15 so GET BUSY WRITING and email your entry to us today!

New Homesteading Experience, by Ellen

In 2010 we went from always living in metro Atlanta to an out of the way rural four acres homestead. With no experience in septic tanks and well water our first year was a learning experience. These experiences taught us how important water was,  not like living in the city where you turn on a faucet anytime and the water flows. We learned how to tap on the well pump when there was no running water in our house and not to do dishes and laundry at the same time.

When we bought this place the owner left us with 12 chickens. To say this was a learning experience would be an understatement. One morning while letting the chickens out into the run I noticed lots of feathers on the ground. Further inspection lead to a headless chicken, that was our first encounter with the numerous predators on the homestead. After speaking to a neighbor he offered his spring loaded trap and suggested I use a can of tuna as bait.

The trap was set that night, the next morning I went to check on the chickens to my surprise, we had trapped a big fat raccoon who ate 2 of my chickens. My youngest granddaughter Raquel and I struggled to load the trap with this big raccoon in the back of the pickup truck. As we carried the trap it hissed at us, we were afraid of being bitten, it went to the neighbors house to be taken care of.

In July of 2010, my egg production was non existent, I made several trips a day to look for eggs. On one of my four trips a day to the coop, I noticed  a snake slithering down the wall to the hen's nest. As I was slowing backing away to the door my first thought was where is my rifle? I hurried up to the house to get the rifle and load it, when I got back the snake and the eggs where gone. I came back to the house to research on line on the different blogs I read how to keep snakes out the chicken coop. My question was how do you keep snakes from entering the chicken coop and eating the eggs? I was told to use moth balls, I had never heard of this before but was willing to try any thing. Okay off to the store I went and bought two boxes of moth balls, I put them all over the inside of the coop even all the way up the walls to the roof where the snake came in. I even put the moth balls around the out side of the run, knowing that if it rained I would have to come back and reapply them. This is a temporary fix, but if you reapply them every two weeks it will keep the snakes out of the coop and your egg production will go back to where it was.

We had a run for the chickens that was open, our next predator experience was with a chicken hawk.  I came home one day to find a chicken hawk in the run over one of my chickens, as I approached the hawk tried to fly out with the headless chicken. The hawk could barely get off of the ground because the chicken outweighed him, I was screaming and waving my arms trying to scare the hawk which I finally did. Now to get the shovel and bury another chicken, put the rest of the chickens in the coop and shut the door. The very next day we got two rolls of bird netting and up it went , that was the last visit we had from the chicken hawk.

Now we are down to three chickens because of the predators, off to the Flea Market we got two Rhode Island Reds and two Barrel Rock hens and one black hen okay we are back in business. We are walking around the market looking at every thing when we spot a donkey in a small corral. That is when we were introduced to Buford and off course felt sorry for him, asked the lady how much for Buford? She said $200.00 of course we said that is too much, then the price drops to $100.00 we said sold. But how do we get him home?

We had come in a mini van with a cage for the chickens, the lady offers to deliver him for $20.00 okay give her the address. Buford is eight years old and is a full size donkey, we have a fenced pasture that has plenty of grass in it because it was the end of May. We bought Buford not knowing a thing about donkeys just felt so bad for him in that small corral, we later learned donkeys are social animals. Now I couldn't look at Buford in that one acre pasture all by himself, three donkeys across the road always braying and even escaping one day to pay Buford a visit. One of the donkeys was a male the other two females, my grand daughter and I had to get some sweet feed and lure the donkeys back into their pasture. This was not the last time the three escaped and we had to round them up and walk them back to their own pasture, the two females were very docile but the Jack wanted to have a go at Buford.

We are looking for some companions for Buford when we came to a goat farm in the nearest town which was seven miles from us, we pulled in and talked to the owner about buying a couple of goats. I didn't want any billys, I want a nanny. He showed us a mother and her baby goat; meat goats. So we bought the pair, the baby we named John Deere, he was still trying to nurse on the Mama.

About a month later we purchased Ramport from a different goat farm, my daughter wanted to breed the Mama and raise goats - or so she said. John Deere was constantly get stuck in the fence because of his horns and trying to reach the greener grass on the other side. It was a constant battle of trying to get his head back inside and the horns were always in the way, I always carried wire cutters with me on any trip to the pasture. If he wasn't stuck in the fence he was trying to run straight through the fence as he bounced off of the fence he would shake his head and try again, after five months of this I was ready to sell him and did.

It wasn't long after John Deere was sold we noticed the Mama was pregnant, okay now start reading about pregnant goats and what to do and how long is the gestation period and any extra food to feed her. This has been since July of 2011 and the Mama is still pregnant, hopefully she will have her baby soon because she is really big it looks like she might have twins. I hope not.

Not only did I learn that having a well meant that just because you turn the handle to the faucet doesn't mean you will always get water, I learned about wood stoves and how to get the wood to keep the wood stove burning it isn't as easy as it sounds. We have plenty of trees.

We are surrounded by them about half of the place is in trees.The problem is that I have never use an axe or chain saw. My son in law has the experience and is going to be the teacher for me and the three grand daughters and one grand son. It is already hard enough he has four females to teach and three of them are teenagers, the grand son is also a teenager who is 15 and full of it. Now first thing to do is show us which tree to cut down a dead one, he cuts it down and we haul it up out of the woods in wheel barrels. Now the real fun begins the axe lessons, you have to stand a certain way and learn to aim at the wood not the plastic bucket with the kindling in it that I split open. The girls and I were very sore for days as the lessons moved on, after three dead tree's that have fallen we have only improved marginally. We came from a city house were if you wanted heat you just turned up the dial on the wall, I didn't under stand any thing about  seasoned wood or wet wood that it had to be stacked a certain way and covered up. It has been a real learning experience for me, but I have always wanted to live on a homestead and have a large garden and chickens and other animals.

I was retired now and could give every thing to the home stead all my time and the grand kids were here with me to learn and work, we learn together about starting a fire in the wood stove and how to keep it going and what wood to use. My next lesson would be in the garden, planted a big garden had eight raised beds and a even bigger area in the woods, my next lesson was deer that loved the garden more then I did.
The corn was up and really looked good we never got one ear to eat the deer made sure of that, the melons, the green beans, peas and pumpkins were all eaten by the deer.

A lesson well learned this year we are expanding the garden and putting up a fence. The well we had so many cucumbers,egg plants and carrots but the tomatoes didn't do as well. This year more compost and some better soil from down in the woods hauled up with really help, also with all the fallen limbs I'm going to build a hugelkultur raised bed; read about it online and really think it will work. This is my chance to get rid of all the fallen limbs and some of the tree's that are dead and on the ground.  I'm also going to try gardening with PVC pipe found this online also and it really looks like some thing I want to try. Even though we have had our share of problems it has been a really wonderful experience and wouldn't trade it for any thing, really love living in the country and working the land.

Views: 246

Tags: WC1, donkey, homesteading, hugelkultur

Comment by Karen Paro on February 10, 2012 at 1:40pm

Great article!!!

Haven't done the goats yet but do have chickens, turkeys, ducks & a goose. Just bought a bunch of hatching eggs thru E-bay, half the chicken eggs and 3 turkey eggs will be here today so the incubator is all set up and ready to go. The rest of the turkey eggs, and the goose eggs will be here next week so the other incubator is set up but not plugged in yet.

At one point we had mini donkeys and a mini horse that we had bought but were forced to get rid of them, even though they are classified as a pet because of size and don't need as large an area as a full sized donkey or horse our town decided to enforce their equine ordanince and because we didn't have 5 acres we had to give them up, during the time we had them though we found out what escape artists they can be, we finally had to chain & lock the gate to their pen to keep them in. Our next adventure was with winter pigs - they can be good escape artists too and they will eat chickens if given the opportunity, we lost a few to being dumb enough to fly into the pen with the pigs.

We no longer burn wood but are going to be going back to it in the near future.

Our big project this spring is going to be building a permanent greenhouse attached to the garage, we have most of what is needed to build it all for free the only thing to this point we need to buy is the clear polycarbonite for the roof, the walls are being built from sliding glass door panels and the ventilation fan was also a freebie. I am so excited to be finally getting out of a 6 X 8 portable into a 12 X 15 permanent I will be able to start so many more of my own veggies with this one.

Comment by Ellen Peavey on February 12, 2012 at 10:18am

  Thanks Karen, I'm still in the learning part of it the goat  had twins  five days ago. We have one male and one female that was certainly a learning experience in the middle of the pasture. We are going to get more chickens around Easter time.  We are thinking of pigs this spring we want to raise them for the wonderful bacon and sausage. Have a small green house working on a much bigger garden for this year, already have three tree's down that shaded this area on the edge of the woods. Karen where is your story?

Comment by Tina on February 12, 2012 at 11:03am

I love the fact that you just went out there and did the research and did it! Cheers to you and your family, very inspirational 

Comment by Ellen Peavey on February 12, 2012 at 4:03pm

 Hi Tina were you talking about my story or Karen's?

Comment by Karen Paro on February 12, 2012 at 10:24pm

Ellen, My story would have to be a comedy When we bought the boys (the minis) we didn't have access to a trailer to get them home so my Sister & I took the back seats out of my minivan - whala instant horse trailer now that was a sight!! At least when we bought the piglets and brought them home they fit in large dog crates for the trip.

Hubby has decided sometimes ignorance is bliss around here and has learned not to ask questions when it comes to anything sis & I are up to, he and my brother-in-law have learned to just roll with the flow.

Comment by Ellen Peavey on February 13, 2012 at 10:01am

  Hi Karen that is funny but I'll bet the minis they fit perfect in the back of the mini van. We all have to make the changes we do to take care  of the animals we have. I have to use the old mini van to get the hay and straw for Buford and the goats, I just take all seats out and lay a tarp down and off we go  have put six bales in the back and it works. We love the animals and want to take care of them so we all do what we have to. You should enter the writing contest would like to read your story

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