Oh. My. Word. It seems as though since the day we moved here, life has been moving at a gut-wrenching speed. Or maybe it has been more of a roller coaster. We have gone whipping around bends, up and down hills (slow times and busy times), and every time I look at the calendar, I think “How is it possibly ____ month already?” July was kind of a strange month for me in that it flew by, yet it was one of the slower months I’ve experienced in a while! With the stuff on the schedule for August (and there is a lot), I think another month is going to be gone before I even finish blinking.
That being said, July was certainly not a bad month. Busy, yes, but bad, no. It was my busiest blogging month to date, mostly thanks to the sewing series my mom and I are working on. The homestead projects were not quite so numerous this month as they were the proceeding months. No, in July, we actually began to have time to enjoy summer! Independence Day was our first real day to stop and enjoy the fact that it was summertime. Then there was the tea party in the middle of the month, and that really was a fun way to enjoy a beautiful, perfect summer day. We had a wedding to attend, a baby shower, there were 3 birthdays for extended family (we visited with them all, but only one included a birthday party). There was a day at the beach, and the oldest three started swimming lessons that they will finish up tomorrow. And the last week of July, the oldest three attended vacation bible school for the first time. Oh, and there were extra play-dates and visits with friends and cousins.
Then there was the hail storm…that was earlier in the month, but that took up an interesting amount of time. We weren’t left with the clean-up that some of the neighbors were, but we still had some cleanup to take care of, and then there were insurance auditors out to the house on two occasions, plus all of the phone calls in between. We’re still waiting to tie up loose ends on some of those issues.
Our chicken protection system has been working very effectively, and just yesterday I finally put the finishing touches on the second chicken tractor. I think I’ll be moving the latest batch of chicks out later today, but by the weekend for sure. Now I still need to make a hanging feeder and waterer for that tractor, but we can use the supplies we have on hand for the time being. Having the stuff hanging will make it easier to move the tractor around. I’ve been reading Joel Salatin’s “Pastured Poultry Profits” as of late, and good timing too…I’ll glean a little info for raising this batch of chickens even better, and by the time we get our final 30 chicks, we should be feeling a lot more comfortable with our set-up than we even do now (and we’re feeling pretty good about it). What is my one big takeaway from reading his book so far? It is much, much better that we raise and butcher our own chickens. I knew that already, but yeah… I won’t go into details, but if there was even the tiniest shadow of doubt in my mind we should be doing this before, it isn’t there anymore!
Scott is reading another of Joel’s books, Salad Bar Beef. Yup, we’re planning for beef cattle next year! I’ll share more about those plans in another post soon, but I’m pretty excited that we’ll be adding a cow to the homestead next year!
The garden is still doing so-so. I’m sure it will start taking off a little more in the next week or two, as August always proves to be the most vigorous growth month for us in terms of gardening. Whenever I get in the garden to weed, I can see the plants begin to do better. Now I just have to finish that final stretch of weeding in the back, and I am going to go in and add a fertilizer (blood meal) to the garden to hopefully help boost things along. I’ve been stuck between a rock and a hard place with the garden this year. There has been so much rain here this year, that I hesitate to water the garden. We have wood chips for mulch, and a good solid layer of the stuff, so I don’t want to drown our plants with too much. But then again we’ve had some exceptionally hot days, and all I want to do is give the garden a good soak on those days. C’est la vie!
Speaking of wood chips. One of our very sweet and awesome neighbors has come by recently with a few loads of wood chips for us! We’ll have to let them rest before using them in veggie gardens, but how cool is that?!? That neighbor does jobs that deal with tree removal/clean-up, and he said he doesn’t always know where to dump his chips…now he has a place to go with them, and I’m really, really excited about that. Who knows how much more we’ll get, but we’ll take anything. Even if he never brings another load over, I’ll be happy, because something is better than nothing! The first load of chips (and maybe the second?) were from a tree that they cut down after the hail storm (they were worried it’d fall on their house in the next wind storm). Like I said, that storm was in many ways a blessing in disguise!
Mowing the lawn just got more time-consuming and complicated. With the pumpkin patch not having been prepared adequately, there is plenty of grass and weeds growing up between the plants. I had to spend two afternoons searching out plants and hoeing around them, and now I have to mow between plants until they are large enough to take over the grass, which still won’t be for awhile. Originally, I had hoped that I would be able to mulch everything right after we ran through with the spring-tooth, but there was sooooo much rain after planting, that there was no way I could get anything into the field without getting it stuck. I’d still kind of like to get out there to weed a larger area around each plant and get a mulch pile going around each one, but I just don’t think that’s going to happen.
I don’t remember what I all told you about our chicken situation, but as far as our egg layers were concerned, we were having really low production from them for awhile. My assumption is that adding the ducks to the flock stressed them out, then adding in that one batch of meat birds, even if it was temporary, also added to their stress levels… and that’s on top of their sisters being eaten by raccoons and other predators. Well, production is back up (still down from where we were when spring began, but that’s because we lost so many of our hens), but we lost another hen a couple of nights back. The kids locked up the birds, but it was a little early and one of the girls must have been hiding in the run from them. I heard her calling for help, but there wasn’t anything I could do other than to make sure all of our other gals were alright.
But there is good news on the chicken front. We gained a rooster! Well, two for now. We got them from a friend who no longer needed them. One is being temporarily housed here until Tiffany and my brother are situated in their new house and have room to add him to their flock. I would never have guessed I’d be saying this, but I really missed hearing a rooster crow! We integrated our smaller egg-layers into the flock more recently. They hide in the corner all of the time, but they are doing well. I think they are about 9 weeks old(?). (Not positive on that one though.) And we bought an incubator! We were trying to get some chicks from somebody who had a breed we were interested in, but he was having troubles hatching them out. He offered to give us the eggs if we had an incubator for them, so we decided to get one. It was something we had talked about for awhile, and I am not sure how much it would get used, but we definitely want to be expanding our flock, so this will be a helpful tool to have.
And we purchased our pressure canner recently! I’m very excited about that as well. We had scheduled it into the budget so that we’d have one before all of the veggies were ready to harvest and the chickens ready for butchering. I’m hoping to try canning some chicken meat just to see how it goes and to be able to add homemade canned soup to the pantry. And I’d much rather can the green beans then freeze them…probably because I grew up on canned beans and not fresh ones 🙂
I feel like I’m coming out of a lazed stupor…sure I have been busy enough, but we have eaten a lot of super easy, probably not so healthy foods the past couple of months, and I haven’t been exceptionally motivated to complete routine housework (sorry if you’ve been over and been witness to that)! We have been training the kids to help with all of the chores, but you know…kids. It can be a hassle to teach them anything. Actually, I feel like I spent most of my time with the kids this summer just trying to get them to clean up after themselves properly! Scott has been a huge help as of late with certain things he has been implementing (not to say he’s not normally a help, he is, this stuff has just been really helpful and offered us a lot of peace of mind). I made recently, and I’ve started to give thought to real cooking and food prep again. In fact, I have been trying to plan ahead for how we will be preserving our food if we ever get anything out of that garden! I feel like I am failing so badly at that this year, but really, we’ve only missed out a little on a few things. But I want to have a game plan for our onions and tomatoes and everything else as it comes out of the garden and into the house.
This year presents us with a different challenge than what we faced last year. This year we planted with more… purpose(?) than in the past. We had done a little more planning and had figured some rough numbers for what might be enough food for us for a year. Pretty sure we are going to come up really short on that goal, but we might still do better than last year. Right now, I’m working on a list of meals we eat regularly or semi-regularly throughout the meals, and then I have to figure out how much of each item we might eat, what ingredients are included and how to prepare those items for storage for maximum convenience for us so that we don’t go through a spell of bad eating like we have the past few months. Even if we don’t store all that we need, we’ll have a better plan for storage next year, and we’ll have a better shopping list for those months between planting and harvesting where we run our of garden food 🙂
I picked up an old nesting box from a neighbor. It is a bit bent up, and there are some pieces missing, but I think I am going to use it in the produce stand for housing smaller produce or potentially, maybe, craft items. I could maybe use it for the chickens, but we’ve tried a few different nesting boxes for the chickens, and they like our current ones the best. When they don’t like a nesting box, they just lay their eggs wherever they feel comfortable, and that’s not such a good thing since we sell our eggs and need to be able to find them!
On the last day of July, our friends Bob and Sara stopped by to do some bartering. They brought us corn on the cob in exchange for the use of some of our tools and some screws. There project? A dry erase board for her parents’ house. They used some old wood (I’m tempted to say barn wood, but I believe Bob said it was from a wagon) and a piece of sheet metal to make it. She credits Pinterest for the idea (she knows a good idea when she sees one 😉 ).
Well, I think that’s all. What was July like for you?
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