Thursday, April 28, 2011

3 Week Old Chicks

Looks like they are getting to big for the brooder
Well today I finally got the camera out to take pictures. I can't believe it has been three weeks already. We did have to put a make shift top on the brooder and now I am thinking of getting a giant box for the last few weeks. They are getting to big for the space.

One of the white birds flew up on the the edge of the tub today about 5 times. It flew right up in my dogs face and just stood there. Asuka, my German shepherd, was stunned for a second so she didn't bite it. She has been doing well as long as they stay in the tub but I think she might feel like they are toys so she is always supervised. Enjoy the pics! Oh and by the way I cleaned out the water when we were done taking pictures.

You can see the darker colored ones getting brown feathers

Please Look at the Camera

No I don't want to!

Thanks to my hubby's patience we got a front shot

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sorry I Have Been Sick

This is just a quick update because I have been stuck in the house where I can quickly reach a toilet for the past two days. I had a stomach bug of some sort and it was not pretty. The only thing left is sore muscles in my stomach a massive headache and a bit of a sore throat. Thank God the worst is over.

Farm and Garden
I had to postpone my trip to a farm that I am hoping to volunteer on. I did make it to the urban garden at the church on Sunday and I offered to help out. They are only about 5 minutes from my house so if they show me some things they would like me to do I would be able to go help most days that I don't have other projects.

My own starter plants are starting to grow. I will have to get some pictures of them to let you all see what I have going on. The cucumbers and tomatoes are doing well already but not the peppers and I am not sure why yet.

Well I am kind of surprised at how well they are doing after two days of a lot less attention. They are getting much bigger and they didn't die with only having their water changed 3 times a day. I have not changed there bedding either as I had planned I just added more to it. My husband checked on them a few times each day too but they didn't get as much attention as they had been getting. They look good but they are rapidly outgrowing the tub I have them in. I need some sort of huge box or something.

Well off to get the things done that I have to do and then maybe a nap before I start sanitizing the house. I don't know what made me sick but it would be best if I make sure those germs are gone.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Baking Budgeting Gardening and Chickens

Baking For Easter
Today I have a bunch of baking to do. I am in charge of dessert for my mom’s Easter meal. I am trying some homemade cookies, brownies and a toffee cheesecake recipe that I just love. I can’t bake the cheesecake today but I can prepare the rest. I work 12.5 hours Saturday so I will have to bake the cheesecake after my shift. Then my Sunday morning looks like this:
  1. Get up while it is still dark and get ready
  2. Pack up the desserts and take them to moms
  3. Go to a church with an urban garden and some chickens for breakfast, service and a tour.
  4. Come home and check on chickens change food and water if necessary
  5. Make sure hubby is up and moving so we can rush to his grandparents for an hour or so
  6. Go to my moms who will be expecting me at 2pm

It wouldn’t be so bad if it was not all crammed into a few hours but then again it is just one day and I can make it work. I have been meaning to go back to church and this is a start. I love going to church once I don’t have to drive in the snow but I have been putting it off until I am done with the long Saturday shifts.

Garden Update
Well right now my urban farm idea is up in smoke but I am looking at finding places to volunteer that have it together and know what to do when the weather is not cooperating. I have seeds planted in a tray indoors but I can only have so many plants in the house at a time. I have been thinking about getting a raised bed going here and working on raised bed plans at my mom’s house. I don’t know how they will feel about that but I can always ask on Sunday.

As I said above I am visiting a church that is making some strides in urban gardening here in the Toledo Ohio area. Monroe Street United Methodist church is also has many other great services that help the community. I look forward to learning more about this project and to the service and fellowship.

Budgeting Mania
Okay so I kind of fell of my queen of cheap wagon this month. I bought way too much chicken stuff! Now the chickens only cost fifteen dollars so they were cheap. The tub to put them in was about 13 dollars and their food was about the same. Then dishes, bedding and warming light and a little grit about 40 dollars. The main expense was a bunch of magazines and books about chickens and gardening. I really can’t believe how much I spent on that stuff by not paying attention to price. So now it is crack down time. I have lowered our Netflix plan for next month and I am selling a bunch of my older books on eBay. Next month the grocery bill will need to be much lower and no going out to eat unless we have a coupon or go to one of the places where we have a gift card.

I will have to come up with more creative ways to earn money. I just have to say a quick thanks to the people visiting this blog. I have had enough visits and clicks on my ads to earn a few dollars and this is a baby blog. I would really love it if this blog would help me earn a bit but I am really just glad people are enjoying it.
I am finished with my Saturday shifts after May 14th so I will have to work to replace that income in some way. Now that can mean saving money by working for food somewhere or getting another part time job. I am not too worried about it we can make it without my income but it is nice for saving for that future farm. So I either have to find a way to save that money or make it.

I have some fun unpaid work lined up and I am really excited about it as it is good for building a resume that will get me closer to my goals and dreams. You know, the dream of living on a farm and running some sort of program for children or needy people or something that would change lives. It may not seem like it is related now but it will be as it seems to be where God is leading me.

My Back Yard Chickens
They are doing great! They are getting big fast and they can fly either across the tub or straight up to near the top of their brooder. It has me a little worried but I do have a plan to use some netting left over from last year’s garden over the top to keep them inside. I just have to cut it and figure out how to secure it to the container.

 I will be moving them to the basement today because the weather is a bit warmer and they seem to be hot and running away from the warming light even with it raised. I have to admit I can’t wait to put them down there because it is much more convenient for changing bedding and cleaning dishes. I won’t have to use buckets to haul things up and down the stairs and I won’t have to clean out dishes in my bath tub. 

Happy Easter Everyone!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Urban Farming Update

Snow Rain and more Snow

I am seriously wishing I lived in a warmer climate right now. I have been saving plastic containers I can use for my porch garden and working on plans for the garden at my moms house.

I can deal with rain but I am so sick of the cold temperatures and the snow I want to pack up and move right now. I don't have enough room or light to grow a lot in the house. I am going th have to start some of the plants this week and then just hope for better weather soon so I can plant the rest.

It is so cold most days I can't even put the plants on the porch for the day and bring them back in at night. I am itching to get my hands dirty and plant something. I want to grow all or most of my own veggies for the summer and then learn to can, freeze or dry the leftovers.

Sustainable Living Planting Goals
I am working toward a life where I am less reliant on the grocery store and utility companies. I want to start by reducing my grocery bill. I eventually want to be able to make, raise, and grow much of my own food. I am a bit depressed about the slow start at this point.

I am really starting to think we might have to move further south to make a go of this sustainable living thing. If we don't move I am going to have to find a mentor that can help with gardening/farming in this climate. Most of the books I have been reading assume the weather is nicer by this time.

Sustainable Living and Back Yard Chickens
Because planting has taken a back seat for this week and maybe next I am working on learning to cook things that use a lot of eggs. In about 4 months I will be blessed with quite a few eggs from our 6 hens and by next spring I am sure I will have eggs coming out of my ears. People are already offering to pay for my extra eggs so that is good news.

Once the hens are producing I would just like to be able to sell enough eggs to pay for the feed I will need to buy. It won't take long for the chicks and there setup to pay for themselves once they start laying. Thus far they are exceptionally easy to care for and I really enjoy it.

I would really like to start raising some meat birds as well but that will have to wait until we have a place of our own. I am sure to get complaint from neighbors if I were to cram six hens and six meat birds into my backyard. Then if I try to process them myself I know I will get complaints.

Toledo Ohio doesn't have any laws against chickens but they do have quite a few policies that could get your chickens taken away really fast. I will have to keep the coop and the yard very clean once they go outside and I just have to hope they are not too noisy. I should not have any roosters and if I do they will be going back to the Tractor Supply store because I paid extra for pullets (sexed-chicks).

Living off the Grid
I was hoping someday to reach the status of living off the grid, where in my own home I was able to produce all the resources needed to live. I don't see that as a possibility with out a lot of capital to start with at least not in the Toledo area. I also don't want to live in a shack and wash my clothes on a wash board so what I would like to do is live off the land as much as I can without sacrificing all the luxury items.

I am going to try to test that as much as I can in the home I live in now hence the idea of an urban farm update. I hope more will join me and work hard to change the way things are in this country. I am not saying I don't love living in the USA but I would like to see a shift in how we obtain our resources. I really don't like to think of what they do to bring us our eggs, milk, beef and chickens because I still have to rely on that but someday I won't have to. I am starting small with laying hens so I don't have to buy my eggs from the grocery store anymore and then I will move up to meat birds and then up more until I can fill my freezer with meat and sell my extras.

If you have some great recipes that use a lot of eggs I would love to try them. Remember I am learning to cook from scratch and I don't want a recipe that induces a lot of processed foods.  You can comment here or send them to my email with egg recipe in the subject line.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bringing Home Baby Chicks

First Day with the Chicks
This household changed in the instant I brought six baby chicks home. They are not hard to care for and there are plenty of online communities that can help if you have questions. They are however very cute and fun to watch.  I spent some time setting up a brooder and making sure they were warm enough. Then I brought Asuka, my German shepherd, into the mix. The dog is still not sure what to think about the chicks but I am hoping to socialize her with them.

Basic Supplies
I went the weekend before and picked up all the supplies I needed for the chicks except the actual bin to put the chicks in. I purchased the wood chip bedding that my local Tractor Supply suggested, a large bag of starter feed, water and food containers, a warming light and a book about chickens. Just before I picked up the chicks I bought a big plastic tub to serve as a temporary home for my chicks.

I like to be well prepared so I bought supplies beforehand yet the planner in me still wishes that I had set up the brooder before bringing the chicks home. It would be just as easy to pick up all the supplies and the chicks at the same time. If I do this again I will set it up so it is nice and warm and all I have to do is plop the babies down into their new home.

Chickens are Easy
Thus far chickens are much easier than puppies and just as cute. The only thing I have to do constantly is check their food and water. They get their bedding in it and they poop in it so it has to be changed often. Thus far they seem to get the mess in the water more than the food. I have placed a wood block under it where they can still get plenty of water but it is not right on the shavings. Other than that they are no hassle at all.

I have done puppies and they are so much work the first few months but as far as I can tell chickens are easy. I know as they grow I will face some challenges but for now they are just cute little fuzz balls I can’t stay away from.  There is no setting my alarm to take the chickens out and they are not chewing up my bed sheets or trying to eat electrical cords.

Still Learning
I have been reading books, forum posts, blogs and magazines about chickens and I am still learning new things each day. I have no intentions of becoming a general chicken expert but I do hope to gain a lot of knowledge about the chickens I am raising. They seem happy and healthy and I plan to keep it that way as long as it is within my power. I will leave you with something my new catch phrase “stop dreaming and just make it happen.” Okay it needs work but I am getting there.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Baby Chick Pictures

Well here they are I brought them home today. I am hoping to find new homes for 2-3 of them and keep the rest. If not a few will be meat birds. They are super cute and they seem to be getting along fine now that there brooder is nice and warm. Enjoy the pictures!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I am Getting Chickens

After I wrote the post Backyard Chickens 101 quite a few things changed. I follow Toledo Grows a local organization that is teaching young people many things including how to grow your own food. They were on Facebook polling the public to see how many people would want chickens. I asked them what I had to do to have chickens in the city because the page I looked at for local laws was outdated. They said chickens are completely legal in Toledo just ask your neighbors to make sure they don’t have a problem with it.

With all the chicken research I have been doing I was kind of excited to learn they would be able to buy the chickens and divide them up so I wouldn’t have to get the minimum of six  from tractor supply. Not that I wouldn’t like six but I was thinking two or three would be enough for our yard. Then I asked my hubby who wouldn’t answer me even after I told him how I was going to take care of them and keep them from the local predators.  

My hubby’s answer was your mom and Mike (my step-father) will say no. I texted my mom who is on vacation in Florida and expected her to tell me I was crazy and there was no way I could have chickens in her backyard. I had a backup plan for that but it would have been a hard sell because I would be much less likely to get up and drive over to the other house to take care of chickens. We rent this house but two blocks away we own a duplex and the chickens could have stayed in that yard.

So now it was back to asking my hubby what he thought. I asked if we could have two laying hens and he said three would be better. I think he wants them he just does not want to have to take care of them. He works 46-52 hours a week and he does not want to have something else to take care of. I assured him that I would take care of them and if I don’t like caring for them I can stick it out until they are big enough to eat.

I still need to ask my neighbors but I am not so sure I will be asking as much as I am informing them. I don’t think I will have any problems with either of them but if it seems like I do I will just promise them eggs. With all the promised eggs we will have to get 6 chickens to feed us, two neighbors, my mom and Mike, hubby’s mom and my sister. Oh and let’s not forget the dog who loves a raw egg for a snack.

So there you have it once I have cleared the neighbors I will be well on my way to getting some chickens. When the process starts I promise to take some pictures and share my journey with you. I will share it all especially my failures so you can learn from my mistakes. Come along for the ride as I become an Urban Farmer.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Backyard Chickens 101

I really want some backyard chickens and I am really envious of those who can have them. I live in a city that will let you have up to six but as far as I can tell you have to get permission from the health department first. The first thing you need to do if you want backyard chickens is find out about the legal ramifications of having chickens in your city. You don’t want to buy a flock and find out you can’t have any or you have to get rid of more than half of them. Find out how many chickens you can have and what conditions are necessary to keep them.

My next obstacle is my hubby and he doesn’t want chickens here. He is not opposed to having chickens he just doesn’t want them here. I understand his concerns and have decided not to get chickens until we move. Considering that we have a small yard and a dog of our own plus 3 dogs surrounding us that are out most of the time it would be hard to protect the chickens. Then we live in an area that is also full of raccoons, opossums, foxes and coyotes once the spring hits full tilt. Not sure why these animals are in the middle of the city but I have actually seen the foxes when walking the dog and I had baby raccoons terrorizing my strawberries last year.

All that to say if someone one in your family has legitimate concerns about your desire for backyard chickens listen to them. If you still want chickens then you must come up with a plan to combat the concerns. I am hoping to move by next spring so I don’t feel the urgency someone who will be stuck in the city for a few more years might. So if you can address you all the concerns you family brings you can move on to the next concern.

If you rent your home like I do you will need to ask your landlord if you can have chickens. You lease may cover house hold pets but unless it specifically talks about farm animals you will need to talk to your landlord first. I rent from my mom and I am reasonably sure she would say no, but then again I am lucky I can have a dog with her dislike of  animals. Just ask or you and your chickens might be put out on the street.

The last topic I am going to talk about today is neighbors. Roosters are not likely to make neighbors happy but if you just want a few hens you might make some new friends. You should talk to the people closest to you and let them know you are adding chickens to your family. You need to assure them that you will keep your chickens and their living quarters clean and that  roosters won't be waking up the third shifter next door right as he dozes off to sleep. You can also promise them some fresh eggs to help win them over. It is important to know if you are going to have someone calling every local authority they can find to report you and your chickens.

I bet you thought I was going to talk about baby chicks here and now you are disappointed. I will get to that in another post but I think it is very important to bring you chicks home to a welcoming environment. While chickens are relatively easy to take care of compared to most farm animals they do require some work. It would be a shame if you had to fight with everyone around you and learn how to take properly care of a new type of animal.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Pinching Pennies

Things are going pretty well for me and the hubby right now. He is a bit worried about layoffs at his job so I am looking for new ways to pinch some of those pennies.

I have been a little lax in my spending habits lately and I need to cut the fat. I have not been the queen of cheap lately nor do I plan to be. However I do need to start looking at some things and say "do I really need that." I need to buy some thing but I can choose to only buy things that I need or things that will be of great benefit for me in the future.

I did buy two books Mini Farming for my Kindle and You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise with my 25 dollar gift card. I ended up spending a little over seven dollars.

I am going to go through all the things I need to grow a porch garden and see what I can make from the materials I have. I know that I can plant in some strange containers. I have seen websites dedicated to finding things you don't use anymore to make your garden interesting your garden. I am sure I can use that concept to save money on gardening supplies. I don't want to spend a lot so if I have to cut, clean and poke holes in a milk jug I will. It may not be pretty but it will be functional.

Also I can save money on Netflix by reducing our plan. I don't have cable television so we rely on Netflix to deliver us movies and television shows. The really good thing is that many of the programs are changing to instant streaming. I can save about seven dollars a month if I go down to the next level and even more if i go down to one DVD. I know it is not a lot of money but if I were to find ten areas to save seven dollars a month in it adds up. Since I don't buy a lot of extravagant things what I really need to do is stop splurging on items such as cosmetics and eating out too much.

I used to do a budget every month and I think I am going to have to get back on track with that. I always allow for some fun because we are not broke. My hubby works 46-52 hours a week most of the time and he deserves to have some fun. When I work a lot too we go out to eat more because I budget it in. I know when I work a lot I will not feel much like cooking and I tend to forget to thaw things out for dinner.

Right now I am working 12.5 hours on Saturdays and spending my weeks trying to build a writing portfolio. I also accept work as a freelancer. I have had a few projects on my plate but most of them are not paid but some of them will help me build my writing portfolio. Once I get more paid work it can all go into savings for the farm of our dreams.

The main thing is to stop spending on thing I really don't need. My hubby is not a spender most of the time but he works hard and when he wants something it is usually costly. If I am honest we I don't usually buy big items but I do purchase a lot of little things I don't need. Could I get away with a less expensive face wash or cheaper shampoo. I am sure I can and those are the things I am going to start with.

Happy savings everyone! Please feel free to offer you savings tips in the comments section.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Garden Planning

Since I don't foresee getting any farm animals this year I am laying out some plans for a garden or two. I know that I get to plant a huge veggie garden at my moms. This is something I am really excited about but it is also a 20 minute drive there and another 20 minutes home.

The drive still beats the price for potentially poor tasting supermarket produce. I am extremely grateful that I get to use her land to plant fresh veggies. I do however have a porch that we don't use much. It is really long and completely enclosed. I hope to use this to keep a few extra plants and grow some herbs.

I asked my friends on Facebook to help me with some ideas. If I can grow some herbs and a few tomato and pepper plants I should be able to cut down on the extra trips to the grocery store. My hubby loves a few of the expensive peppers and some strange tomatoes and I really like the roma tomatoes.

By the time I am done I may have the entire porch filled with potted veggies and herbs. I just really want to grow as much of my own food as I can and learn to can, freeze or dry anything that will last. If I can't do that this summer how will I take care of a farm. So this year I will bring a piece of the farm to my city dwelling and see how well I do.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Found a House I Would Love to See.

Well that is if the pictures are not a half a century old or doctored up to look great. There is a huge barn with quite a few stalls, a 3000 sq foot home and 7 acres of property. It is not too far from town but far enough away to be able to raise animals. It is in our price range but just barely.

I talked to my hubby about it last night and he seems interested. He is worried about job security at the moment but thinks he will be okay if he makes it through this month. He is a man of few words most of the time but he had some thoughts on what we could do with the property so he might want to look at it.

It is a long shot because most of the time this stuff is too good to be true. You get there and there is no furnace and scrappers have come out and taken anything they can get off the house. Not to mention we don't want to look at the house and then fall in love with it but not be able to make an offer until May.

So my hopes and prayers are that if it is the house for us that it stays on the market. The last week of April or so we will call our real estate agent and ask to see it. In the mean time I need to work on building a writing portfolio. My dream would be to make a living writing and selling items from our small farm.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Moving from the City to Build a Farm

Today, April 4th 2011, I will start on my journey to my dream of moving to a home in the country where as much as possible I would like to live off the land. On this blog I will chronicle the steps I am taking to move closer to that goal.

I live in the city with my hubby, Ryan, and German shepherd dog, Asuka. I am rather clueless on how to raise farm animals but I have been reading a lot about chickens and my hubby loves to read about goats. When we move those are the first animals on our list.

I can have chickens in the city but I am renting the house I live in right now and I don't see it being okay with my mom/landlord. If consent was granted I would still be weary of getting them without knowing how to care for them in the winter. It gets very cold in the winter and I don't have an out building for them.

My hubby and I really wanted to build a house but that is looking like an either or situation now. Meaning that either we buy a farm with some fencing and a few out buildings or we build a house that we love and forget about the farm. We are not actively looking right now because we want to save a bit more money before we make the leap.

We would also love to sell our duplex before we move. I was impulsive and wanted to move to a bigger house thinking we could sell the duplex but rent it out in the mean time. Not so! Good renters are hard to come buy and selling a house in Toledo, OH is like trying to sell mud pies. I don't want to be impulsive again.

That brings me to the garden I want to grow. I would love to do it at my house but I have failed the last two seasons. I had a very nice small garden at the duplex when we lived there but I can't get anything to grow here. I found out the walnut tree is to blame. Each year I have planted right under a walnut tree which is apparently toxic to most plants.

This year my mom, who lives on over two acres, will let me plant a huge garden in her yard. She only wants me to plant a few things for her and take care of the weeds and any other issues that might arise. It is a bit of a drive but it will be well worth it. I also plan to have a small container garden on my front porch. If I am going to live off the land I need to learn how to do it ahead of time.

I am under no illusion that I can live without bills but I can quite possible cut my grocery bill way down and live a more active and rewarding lifestyle.