Just popping in for a quick update.  Things have been crazy around here, so there hasn’t been a lot of time to update the blog.

I have my big surgery on Monday, so I’ve been busting my butt to get everything ready.  My freezer is pretty well stocked with food, although I have a few last minute things to make and freeze today.  I’m trying to be positive about recovery, and I’m planning to be back on my feet after about 2 weeks.  I better be.  I have to be a bridesmaid in my sister’s wedding 3 and a half weeks after surgery.  In Florida.  So that means an 8 hour drive to Orlando.  Awesome.

Anyhow, we finished building the coop!  And it is awesome.  We still have to put the doors on, and do a bit more critter proofing, but the big part is done.  I was hoping to get the barn framed up, but, well, that’s just not in the cards.  So I’ll take on the roll of supervisor while Megan and Melynda build it.

It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it.

The big news is that we put a deposit on a couple baby goats, and the mamas are due in two weeks.  Soon we’ll know if we’ll have some little goaties running around here come July/August.  So think pink!  I am dying to have a couple little milk goats around here.

And if you have any ideas what I can do to take up my time while I’m recovering so I don’t go absolutely stark raving mad, please  let me know.  Because I am going to go crazy if I just sit around watching tv all day.

Building Our Chicken Coop and Run

Well, if any of you hadn’t heard the news…we got some chicks a little over a week ago! We had their brooder all built and ready to go, so we went to get some chicks! It’s nice to have some animals again on the homestead.

Katie calls them Fluffy Butts!

Katie calls them Fluffy Butts!

But they are getting bigger and will be outgrowing the brooder quicker than we’d like to admit. So we both knew that we needed to get a move on with building the coop and the run. Especially with Katie being out of commission for a few weeks after her surgery.

We came across a fantastic video about building a fence out of pallets and instantly knew that it was the route to take. Melynda started getting some of her friends to save some pallets/wood for her and by last week she had almost 80 pallets and a ton of lumber for us to have.

Now we just had to get all of that from up there….   all     the      way     down….to here.  We had a little dilemma on our hands. No one had a truck, or a trailer, or a Star Trek transporter to get this wood from Melynda’s house to Katie’s.

Enter the 26′ long U-haul truck.


It took a day to get everything picked up, loaded, driven down and unloaded. But just look at the pretties!


I was itching to get started on building the coop and getting the fence built, but sometimes life and children and dinner get in the way.

I spent most of my morning on Tuesday measuring and sketching out the design for the coop. Thanks to my Grandpa for a little bit of his drafting and engineering brain. We were able to start about midday on Wednesday getting the coop framed up.


photo 2

By the end of the day, we got it framed up and screwed together. Siding and doors will have to wait a few days, but it doesn’t look to shabby if I say so myself!

With that done, Katie and I moved onto working on fencing in the chicken’s run on Thursday. Once we started getting everything put in the right place and screwed together, it was amazing how fast it was going up! It only took about two hours for us to get the run fenced in!



It may not look all glamourous and ritzy, but by golly I think it look absolutely amazing. It was invigorating to get working out in the yard, and build something great out of all of the wood and pallets we were given.

Now to get a reciprocating hand saw so we can break down some of the pallets we have to use as siding for our coop! It’s all starting to come together! I’m so excited!

fabio 018

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Last week I was at Wednesday Night Supper at the church and sat down at my usual table.  Creature of habit.  But that night my friend who provides me with pallets was there.  He and his wife sat down.  Across from us is a very dear friend, but somewhat squeamish about her food.  Oh she loves food, but not knowing it is her policy.  So, pallet friend and I began talking and he asked if I needed more pallets.  YES, I always need pallets.  I began to tell him about the fence the girls and I were planning on building.  He chuckles at my big plan.  I get this a lot.  Then he ask what I’ll be putting in the fence.  I tell him, pigs of course.

He was really excited now.  I make an effort to not mention slaughtering or processing or anything of the sort.  His wife jumps into the conversation telling me of how when she was young her parents and two other families shared in raising animals as well.  She said one family raised the chickens, one a pig and the other a cow.  And split everything.  I told her that this is very much what we do.  I didn’t really find it a gruesome conversation, but at this point my friend is looking across the table at the squeamish friend.  She is sitting there shaking her head with her hands over her ears.  Huh?

I was so surprised by her reaction and it set my mind in motion.  This woman is disgusted by where her food comes from and has no desire to even think about them in the living capacity.  Yet, she sits there chowing down on the very thing we are speaking of.  Only the difference is we DON’T know anything about that meat and the way it was treated up to this point.  We DON’T know what it ate, how it lived and what chemicals were pumped into it to make it “well and healthy” for consumption.

Now if I had been sitting there talking about how I slaughtered the chickens just the very day before I would understand.  But we were talking about raising the animals.  As a nation we don’t really want to know our food.  We will go to the big health store and buy organic, but that’s good enough for most.  Not for me.  It really saddens me that more people don’t put more of an effort in what they eat.  I know I sound preachy, but we are too quick to just take the easy way.  I’m not saying everything I buy is perfect, but I make an effort.

One of the reason this country has an obesity problem is that we take the easy route.  Why make the effort if it’s all wrapped up nice and neat at the grocery store.  We also aren’t willing to spend extra on healthy choices, but yet we will spend the same on crap food and our bellies will not be nearly as filled.  It makes absolutely no sense to me.  I fall into this myself.  But I am making an effort to change.

I raise chickens for meat and eggs.  I have a garden.  The girls and I are planning on pigs, goats for milk and there will be more turkey.  I’m also going to be raising rabbits soon and there is the idea of quail.  I live on an acre and I can produce most of my food.  It can be hard, but I feel good about it.  My animals have a good, natural and healthy life.  My kids eat this and I feel good about that.  Also they are making better choices about their food.  I actually over heard a conversation with The Girl and The Max that me very proud.  The Girl tells The Max she wanted to make popcorn.  He said it took too long, don’t we have microwaved popcorn.  The Girl tells him he doesn’t want that crap, it’s full of GMO’s and plus microwaves are bad.  This is why I do everything in my life.  My kids are worth all my time and effort.  We really need to rethink how we eat.

Easy Homemade Tortillas



I love Mexican/Tex-Mex food.  Love.  I could eat it every day.  Well, except for the days I wasn’t eating sushi.  Or pasta.  Or fried chicken.

I just love to eat, okay?

Anyway, whenever I make Mexican/Tex-Mex at home, I always make my own tortillas.  They’re easy to make, they taste SO much better than store bought, and they don’t have junky ingredients.  I mean really, what’s not to love?


So, want to make your own tortillas?  Great!  This is a fun activity for kids too, so gather your kids, and make some tortillas for taco night.  A fun activity to keep them busy that isn’t too messy.  Win win.

Please note, the amounts pictured are for a quadruple batch.  One batch makes about 8 tortillas, depending on size.


The ingredients couldn’t be more simple.  Flour, salt, fat, and water.  I know the top of the jar says chicken stock, but it’s not.  It’s lard.  I reuse my canning lids for storing things in the fridge or freezer.  I also used butter, but I forgot to take a picture.  Sorry.


Dump all the dry ingredients in a bowl, and mix them together.  Melt your fat and pour it in.  You can use solid fat and cut it in with a pastry cutter, but I’m lazy, and melt it first.   Stir it all up.


Pour in your boiling water.  I don’t know why it has to be boiling.  Since I don’t know why, mine is often just hot, not boiling.  I’m a rebel like that.


Stir it all up until it forms a shaggy dough.


Dump it all out on a heavily floured counter top.  Having a cat doing quality control is helpful, but not strictly necessary.  Being she’s a cat, she can’t be counted on to be there all the time.  Cats are flakes.


Knead the dough briefly until it comes together to form a somewhat smooth ball.


The dough will still be fairly sticky, so make sure you keep your counter and rolling pin well floured.


Pinch off a piece of dough.  This size will roll out to be a great size for fajitas, or small burritos.


Roll in out nice and thin.


Pop it into a preheated dry skillet.  I use cast iron, and on my stove I put the heat on medium low, this is the only part of the process that takes some trial and error.  You develop a feel for how high to set your stove pretty quickly though, so have faith.

Once you see the tortilla start to bubble like in the picture, it’s time to flip.


Mmmm, toasty.  Okay, it’ll bubble again, and then it’s time to take it off.  Remove it to a plate and cover with a tea towel.  The tortilla might seem stiff right now, but it will soften as it sits under the towel and steams a bit.


Go a head and try one.  See those pockets of air inside?  These tortillas have such great texture.  I can’t help eating one every time I make them.  Or two.

These freeze well, so it’s super easy to make a huge batch and then just pull a few out of the freezer as needed on busy weeknights.


Easy Homemade Tortillas

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tbs fat (butter, lard, and olive oil all work great)
  • 3/4 cups boiling water


Preheat skillet on med-low heat.

Mix all of the dry ingredients, then mix in the fat by either melting it or cutting it in.

Pour in the water and mix.

Dump out onto a well floured counter and kneed until the dough comes together into a somewhat smooth ball, it will still be sticky.

Pinch off a ball of dough and roll out to desired size and thickness.

Cook in a preheated skillet until bubbles appear.  Flip, cook a few more minutes until the tortilla bubbles again.  Move to a plate and cover with a tea towel.

Repeat until all the dough is used.


Linking up with the Prairie Homestead Barn Hop.




When Megan and I sat down to plan out our shared garden this year, one of the first things we wanted to plant was potatoes.  We both use them a lot, and they seemed really easy to grow.  Our conversation went a bit like this:

Me: “Oh, potatoes!  So many potatoes!”

Megan: “Yes!  We love potatoes too, we need lots of them.”

Me: “Okay, so how many pounds should we plant?”

Both: “……”

And then we looked up prices on seed potatoes.  One place was $3.99 for a lb.  for fingerlings and $2.99 for the normal potatoes, both organic.  We started adding up how much it would cost to plant everything we wanted.

It was, uh, more than expected.

Okay, maybe we won’t have lots of potatoes.

We decided to sit on it for a bit.  A couple days later we were at Tractor Supply and what did we find?  Seed potatoes!  And $4.99 for a 5 lb bag to boot!  I think we both did a little dance in the aisle.  People were staring.  We snapped up a bag each of Yukon Gold, Reds, and Russets, along with bags of red, yellow, and sweet onion sets.  We cut up the potatoes into chunks, laying them out to dry for a couple days before we stuck them in the ground.


Imagine our surprise when a couple days later we were checking out another feed and garden supply store and we found MORE seed potatoes!  A 10 lb bag was $6.00!  I grabbed a bag of Yukon Gold and figured we’d come back at another time to get more of the others.

Well, yesterday was the day to get them in the ground.  It was a beautiful day, around 60 degrees this morning when we went outside to start work.  Megan and her husband David came over and we set to work making rows.


Then we started plopping our potatoes in the rows, aiming to keep the pieces about a foot apart.


After we filled the first bed of Yukon Gold, we realized we had a bit of a problem.  Now, we knew that we needed to more than double my garden space this year, but we hadn’t planned on using more than 3 beds for potatoes.   We started work on the next bed, and started filling it with more Yukon Golds.   Then the next was filled with still MORE Yukon Golds.  Four beds total were filled with Yukon Gold potatoes.  After the first bed we started putting the potatoes closer together, because this was just insane.

Megan and David’s daughter Penny even got in on the action.  We start them young around here.


We managed to squeeze the other two types of potatoes into one bed each, but they were a little squished.  Six beds (SIX!) total were used for potatoes.  I only have eight right now.  Megan and I covered the seed potatoes with a bit of soil.  As they sprout we’ll mound the soil up around the plant.  Hopefully we’ll have lots of potatoes when all this is over with .


Next up Megan and I got the onion sets into the ground.  We got about 200 sets into one bed.  Thank goodness, because I don’t know what I would have done if it took another 4 beds.  Geez.


After a day of making sure I have lots of home grown food (or at least potatoes) to get my family through the year, my back hurt so much that we got takeout for dinner.

Whatever, I’m not perfect.  Tuesday is my first appointment with my spine surgeon.  Hopefully we can set a date for surgery at that time.

Who else is growing potatoes?  How much do you usually plant?  What are your yields like?  Are we crazy for planting 25 lbs of seed potatoes?

Linking up with the Prairie Homestead barn hop.


A Tour of Our Barn Apartment


Okay, let’s see… lots of things have happened since our last post about the apartment. And we have gotten a lot of emails and messages asking for updates. So at long last, I’d like to take you on a little tour of our home.

After many man hours and some crazy problems along the way, we moved in about the third weekend of January.  But maybe I should start out on where we last left off so we can refresh everyone’s memory.

Downstairs looked like this after the first few days of cleaning out.


This space became my children’s bedroom and playroom. We puttied, sanded and painted the subfloors a great gray color. Though we still have some finishing work to do, I’m quite pleased with how everything came together.


My son Joshua’s bed is the gold sleeper sofa at the moment. With the limited space it works out great and he loves taking it out at night to go to sleep.


This is our only working bathroom at the moment. And yes, it doesn’t have a door. YET.


It was one of the most in-depth parts of the apartment renovation. We replaced all of the old PVC piping under the barn with brand new CPVC piping. ALL OF IT. It had to be replaced. It was 20 years old, brittle and terribly put together.

2014-01-11 20.35.13

Now we have all new plumbing, a new toilet, a new pedestal sink and we put down ceramic tile in both bathrooms. It still needs some paint but right now it’s acceptable for where the renovations are at right now.

Time to go upstairs.  Here’s a picture to jog your memory of how it looked just a few months ago. Ya know. Empty.


Yeah…it doesn’t much look like that anymore.


That’s my little living room, a bathroom in progress and my kitchen/pantry area. With such a small space, I’m surprised at how spacious it feels sometimes.


Welcome to my kitchen! I found my oven on Craigslist in December. A vintage 1940′s General Electric range that still works for only $200? Yes Please! Our fridge was a gift from my parents, and all of our cabinets were free. I like free!

We rolled together our living area, bedroom, dining room and office space into one. Here’s how we made it work.




We have some work to do to finish everything off, but we’re still renovating. It’s cozy for now.


In Search of Soil Fertility


Yesterday we lit the garden on fire.

On purpose.

And yes, we are crazy.  But not for this.  Wait till you see the garden plan for this year, then you’ll know why we’re crazy.   All I’ll say about it now is this: 124 tomato plants.

Anyway, since we have such an, ah, ambitious  garden plan this year, Megan and I have decided to really focus on soil fertility.  Now that she’s moved in next door we’re expanding the garden, and the other beds are only a six months old, so they haven’t had a lot of work done on them.  We need to build lots of fertility in the soil.

Which is why we set the garden on fire.

This year we decided to experiment with Biochar.   Biochar is good stuff, creating a great environment  for microorganisms to take up house, holding nutrients and making them more available to plants.  It’s essentially charcoal that’s made a particular way.

Now, if you have read here for a while, you might be aware that we aren’t real sticklers for making sure we do everything “by the book”.   So read what to do, Megan, her husband David, and I gathered some brush, dug some trenches  in the garden beds, and lit the brush on fire.  We figured that even if we didn’t do it perfectly, we would still be enriching the soil, so why not give it a shot?   I mean, you can buy ready made biochar, but some old limbs from my pecan trees are free, and I am seriously considering naming our homestead Shoestring Budget Farm.  I mean, I  have to put up a lot of fencing this year.  And a barn.


So light that stuff on fire we did.  It was very exciting.  I was wishing for some marshmallows so I could make s’mores.  After the fire died back a bit we covered it with dirt and let it smolder.  Let me tell you, that stuff Smokey the Bear taught you about fire safety is no joke.  We let them smolder for a a couple hours and then wet everything down really well.  I came back a couple hours later and they were still smoking, so i wet them down again.  With a lot of water.  A couple hours later I came back to check and one of the beds was still smoking.  This time I dug it up and SOAKED it, and did the same with the other beds.   If you do this, please be careful.  No one needs an uncontrolled fire on their hands.  We made sure we had the hose with us at all times while we were doing the burn, and we waited until there was almost no wind, and we did it in the morning when everything was still damp with dew.  Be safe and smart.  Don’t be that guy that makes all the other homesteaders look bad.  Imagine me shaking my finger at you and looking at you sternly.


As for the results to our little experiment, I’m not sure yet.  Not everything burned, but we learned some things from this first burn.  Like the smaller the pieces of wood the better.  That Christmas tree trunk didn’t burn much.  Today I’ll be making a compost tea (yum!) to mix in with the “biochar” that we made and then we’ll spread it through the bed.


Anyone else made biochar?  How did you do it?  What do you do to increase your soil fertility?

Linking up with the Prairie Homestead Barn Hop.


snow 007This is how this past Tuesday started.  The forecast was for an epic snow storm.  I saw this and thought I better get things prepared.  In the navy there was a saying, “Red at night sailors delight.  Red in the morning sailors take warning.  So I did just that.  After I got home from work I made sure all the water buckets were full and extra hay for all the animal.  On the way home I had to stop off and get some feed for the birds.  I already had my milk and bread.  Good thing, everywhere was completely out.  Southerners, no storm can pass without completely depleting all the available milk and bread.

It had snowed a good bit Tuesday, but the big storm was to come that night.  I woke Wednesday morning and there was no new snow falling.  I fed the animals and began to curse the weather man for all the work I did and get nothing.  Just at that moment it began to come down.  It snowed all day.  The kids had a wonderful time.  And I spent most of my time in the house being as lazy as possible.  Great day.  snow 011This is what I woke up to this morning.  Very beautiful.  The kids were thrilled for their third day of no school.

snow 017Super Mutt remembers our time in the tundra called Minnesota.  He was not thrilled.

snow 031I sent the kids off to sled while I made an epic snow day brunch for this “epic snow” we got.

snow 036The Girl came back wet and really hungry.

snow 032Good thing.  I kinda went overboard.  There was something for everyone.  Waffles, waffles with chocolate chips, blueberry muffins, eggs with cheese, sausage, fried apples, and grits.

snow 037Logan even came from his attic cave to partake of the feast. The eggs were still steaming.  And yes it was fabulous.  The Girl is currently baking her famous “Fudgy Chocolate Death Cake of Doom”.

In the South we try to make the best of snow days.  They are almost like holidays.  We are not equipped for “epic snow storms” and it just wouldn’t be cost effective to do so.  So we just deal with it.  And we make lots of yummy food.  I really think it works out just fine.  My Northern friends still have to go to work and school.  So to all those who make fun of us Southerners who can’t handle a few snow flakes, I’m eating cake and sitting in my PJ’s while you have to drive to work in the freeing cold.

Stay warm everyone.  And to my Northern friends you can rub it in my face when summer comes and you aren’t melting in the 100+ that I will be.  Sounds fair to me.

Dealing With Physical Limitations on the Homestead


First of all, sorry about the lack of posts.  I decided to take December off because it was crazy, and that sort of turned into taking January off too.  My bad.  But never fear!  I am back and I’ve got several things to talk about!  Go me!

Alright.  Let me start off saying that I don’t really like talking about this, because I don’t like thinking about it and it bugs the heck out of me saying that there are some things that I can’t, or shouldn’t, do.  However, some things are happening now where it’s going to impact what’s going to happen on my homestead in the coming year, so here goes.

See that x-ray up there?  That’s my spine.  As you can probably tell it isn’t exactly straight.  I have a 60 degree curve in my thoracic spine and a 20 degree curve in my lumbar spine.  Now, this is not a new development.  I’ve had scoliosis for as long as I can remember.  When I was in high school a specialists wanted me to have surgery.  I said no, because hello scary spine surgery!  All anyone had to say was “risk of paralysis” and I just shut down.  Nope, nope, nope.  Not gonna happen.  Then they wanted me to at least wear a brace.  Now, if you aren’t aware, a scoliosis brace is a hard plastic brace that goes from your collar bone down to over your hips.  As a high school girl who was already very anxious and picked on a lot, not to mention this was in Louisiana and it gets HOT there, well, that just got a big resounding NO as well.

Anyway, my back has always hurt.  I get tension headaches almost every day because my neck and shoulders are always in knots, by the end of the day I can barely stand, etc, etc.

But I dealt with it.  I learned to live with it.  I do just about everything a normal person does.  I mean, sure, by the time I go to sleep there are more days than not that my back hurts so much I can’t sleep without the aid of sleeping pills, and if I do something like process chickens I hurt so bad I feel like I can’t breathe, but it was normal life for me.

Seriously, I’m not complaining.  Many, many people have it much worse than I do, and I can’t STAND being treated like I have a disability.  It actually causes a lot of arguments between my husband and I because he wants me to not do as much and I can’t just sit around on the couch, it would make me crazy!

This is kind of all over the place, sorry.

Anyway.  A few months ago I started noticing that I was having a harder time reaching things in my cabinets.  Things that I could reach two years ago when we bought this house.  And then I took a good look at myself standing next to my husband.  Now, I have been 5’7 since high school.  My husband is 5’6, and it has always been a kind of a joke that I’m taller than him.  Suddenly I was noticing that I WASN’T taller than him anymore.  I was, shorter?  What?

I was totally freaked out.

So that, coupled with the fact that my pain had gotten significantly worse spurred me to make an appointment with a spine specialist.  I got officially measured at the doctor’s office and found out that I’m now 5’5.  I’ve lost 2 inches in height in two years.  Color me concerned.

Anyway, there were x-rays taken, a physical done, and then I waited while they reviewed my x-rays.  And waited.  And waited.

Finally the physician’s assistant came back to see me and told me that my scoliosis is what he would classify as severe.  That I definitely needed surgery, and that he really thought I should see their specialist while I was there, even though they knew they couldn’t help me there. They were rearranging his schedule so he could fit me in.  That was a little concerning, but okay.

Anyway, I spoke with the specialist, and he urged me to get surgery, and to see someone who specializes in scoliosis surgery.  He let me know that there is no one in state that he would recommend and that he really thought I should fly up to New York state for surgery.

Well.  That’s not going to happen.

So what is going to happen?  I’m going to have surgery.  I am going to The Hey Clinic at Duke University Hospital, which is one of the best in the area.  The place I’m going specializes in scoliosis surgery, so that’s good.  My initial appointment with them is Feb. 13th, and I’ll know a lot more after that.

Now, if you are feeling brave, go ahead and look up pictures of scoliosis surgery.  I probably should not have looked up any pictures, because it totally freaked me out.

And how is this going to alter my plans for homesteading this year?  It kind of depends on when surgery is.  I’m hoping it’s soon, because I really want to be recovered by summer when the major work begins.  Thankfully I have some nifty new neighbors living in my barn apartment who can  help out with the garden, fencing, chickens, pigs and all the other plans we had for this year.  So I guess I’ll have an update for this post once I find out when surgery is.

Anyone else deal with chronic pain?  Do you have to use the Spoon Theory in your daily life?


Linking up with The Prairie Homestead Barn Hop.


A few months ago I took in four hens that were no longer laying and the owner didn’t know what to do with them.  I told her I would take them, but if they didn’t start laying I would put them down and process them.  The owner was fine with that.  I told the kids the same.  The Girl wasn’t fine with it, but she never will be.

Out of the four, one started laying.  Yay.  So the plan was to process the three hens and any roosters from the eggs I set.  Right now I know there is one rooster.  I’ve been waiting for a good warm day to do it.  But here is the dilemma I was put in.  Last week we got that terrible cold and Omelet the rooster’s comb got frost bit.  And now he has developed a limp.  I have checked the feet and there is no bumble.  It appears to be the leg.  Omelet is my oldest son Logan’s bird and I had to tell him.  I told him that if Omelet’s leg doesn’t get better I would have to put him down and being that this is suppose to be a working farm, Omelet would be dinner.

Ok, I know my son is smart and he loves animals the way I do, but I was blown away with his reply.  He tells me, “Of coarse he will be dinner.  He huge and that’s how it goes.”  Whoa, this boy is amazing.  I tell him the plan to replace Omelet with his son, because he is a very dominant bird.  Logan wants to know if it is ok mixing him with other due to inbreeding.  I explained I know who the momma bird is and just want take her eggs for setting.  Oh he has a future as a chicken farmer.

The big challenge will be for me on the day I have to put him down, but it will have to be done.  There are a couple of birds at the Hole that will never be put down, but I have to keep in mind the cost.  As Logan says,  ” They are food mom.  From beginning to end.”  Oh how proud I am of him.