Saturday, January 31, 2015

Matters of Privacy

Not everyone lets "it all hang out".

Take my ducks, for example: they have never had nesting boxes since we brought them home until about three weeks ago. Then suddenly I found an egg in their coop and felt that they were finally ready for boxes.

But birds do not like change. They thrive on routine and they show their appreciation and comfort with routine by producing eggs and growing at steady, healthy rates. As in a previous post, I found I has unknowingly been underfeeding them which resulted in a stark dearth of eggs. I took immediate action and soon had quick results.
But with the ducks, they did not take well to the addition of their laying boxes. Whether it was me checking their coop every day or simply because I had changed things around, they weren't happy with me. For two weeks I had no signs of eggs but paid VERY close attention to their food resources, as per lessons already learned. Then today I found a large, beautiful duck egg in a nesting box!

So now that my ladies are comfortable with their nesting boxes, I'm going to implement another change and give them a bit of privacy. I've read in so many places that birds really need privacy when they lay, and anytime I walk in on a hen who is right in the middle of nesting, her sounds make it quite clear that I'm not welcome yet. What I plan to do today is to make a trial-run nesting bucket for my ducks--for FREE!!!

That's right, free! Here is a quick list of materials:
  • sturdy bucket with tight-fitting lid
  • permanent marker
  • straightedge of some sort
  • drill with med. sized drill bit
  • metal putty knife
  • torch
  • safety gloves (not pictured--Bad Betty, bad!)
  • 2 bricks
  • generous handful of straw

    Now, keep in kind that these materials are free to me because we've been collecting a lot of junk to get our farm started. I imagine if you don't have access to them, it would only cost a couple of bucks to get some 5-gallon Home Depot buckets (which will last you forever). the idea here is to be creative with what you do have and avoid spending money as much as you can. Here is a link that I took a lot of inspiration from. These folks are awesome resources and very helpful!
    1. What I did first was gather my materials.
    2. Next, I drew a cut out line on the lid that would allow my biggest duck to climb in and out comfortably without all the straw (or eggs) spilling out.
    3. In the furthest corners, drill a hole. This will make the edges come together easier and the center will pop right out when you've finished.
    4. Hold your metal putty knife to the torch flame for about 20 seconds. In slow, precise movements, touch the hot knife to your line straight down and apply some pressure. If your blade is hot enough, it will cut right through without too much effort. Do this all the way around your line. When I cut the lid, I put the blade in at a 45* angle and slid it across. Be safe!!
    5. With the lid off and carefully in your (gloved) hand, take your torch to the inside edges of the lid hole to take away any sharp edges. This step is not really necessary, but I know I will regret it later if I don't.
    6. Place bricks in the coop area right where you want the bucket to sit. I moved them forward a bit to rest just under the collar of the bucket so the bird will nest cozily in the back.
    7. Toss some straw in there (and a decoy egg if you have one). Mother nature should take over from here!
    One on each side
    Drill hole

    Heat knife
    Cut carefully

    Lid is finished
    Last steps

    Add bricks

    If this works, I want to create a nice little storage shelf in both coops for a line of nesting buckets.
    Do you have any other ideas? What has worked for you? Can you help me improve on this plan?

    Have a Blessed Day!
    Betty Crockett

    Thrifty Missy

     How thrifty can you be under $120? Aaannnnndd---GO!

    No I can't complain about much, but I sure wish I could cook. And just because I can't, I think that's why God blessed me with a husband who can cook a five-star meal with barely two ingredients.

    This little beauty was a life-saver!
    But still, how can I make sure something is ready for him to eat when he gets home from work? We get a steady stream of pizzas from "a guy we know", but man cannot live on pizza alone. So I set out on a quest to find some way of compensating for my lack of culinary skills.

    Thus came the Crock Pot! My friend at work lent me her little recipe book (as seen here, thanks!!) and I sat my fanny at the kitchen table and wrote my grocery list. Early one Saturday morning, I rode to my local Krogers, got a small black coffee and filled my cart with all kinds of delicious foods. I even grabbed ingredients for salsa and spent 5 lovely minutes trying to explain to the cashier what tomatillos are.

    When I got home, the kitchen was already spotless so I got all my supplies out and chopped, diced and boiled like a mad woman. The next time I do this kind of marathon I am most certainly (a) going to frame my receipt and (b) take thousands of pictures to share.

    At the end of that following Sunday (I was too tired by 10 pm so I threw in the towel), I had 29  meals in my deep freezer! How magical is that? And the best part is, now I can cook! Since all of the bags are labelled, all I have to do is set the slow cooker on "low" before I leave for work and make some pasta or rice and veggies when I get home.
    Label clearly
    Note to self, line baskets
    What's left in the freezer

    Where I really saved a lot of money was in having left over seasoning packets for things like Carne Asada and such. Any time the hubby and I take a trip to Jungle Jim's, I keep an eye on the discount racks as they tend to have some really great treasures every once in a while. I also took time the weekend before to can my own pinto beans so that saved me somewhere around seventy cents per can of beans especially when it only cost me around 2 pennies per pint. Since we made salsa while I was putting bags together, I had fresh salsa for the recipes that called for it and that afternoon I pressure canned 16 pints.

    Freezer meal list
    All in all, this tiresome adventure has left me with 29 freezer meals, 16 pints of salsa, and a very happy Hubby Crockett. Do you have any good recipes? Post them here!

    Betty Crockett

    Wednesday, January 28, 2015

    Time for Eggs!...And Calendars?

    Who wants a fridge full of eggs? ME!!

    Sadly, we didn't always get eggs, even with our properly mature birds. For the longest time I had been feeding our birds (what I thought was) plenty of food, and they almost always had food left in their feeders the next day. My reasoning for this coupled with the strange lack of eggs made me think that they simply preferred the taste of egg over the feed mix we'd been giving them. I was panicking big time. I did a bit of research and asked everyone I could and the only consensus was that I would have to slaughter all the birds because they would never eat anything else again.

    I just love the range of sizes we get!
    As it turns out, I have picky birds! They had food left in the feeder because they didn't like it, so I switched up their mixture, put a 5-gallon feeder in their coop and --voila-- eggs are coming out of my ears! We even started getting our first duck eggs, quite the milestone for us (duck eggs are truly a culinary delight).

    Its a little like Christmas morning to go into the coops when I get home from work and see how many eggs the ladies have given me, and now they have started laying anywhere between 3 and 8 eggs. What am I going to do with all of these cartons in the fridge? I love eggs (especially cage-free and hormone-free, etc-free eggs) as much as the next person, but we just can't keep up!

    Here's the method I use to track my eggs (which I learned from a very smart country gal pal). On the inside of a kitchen cabinet door right next to the back door to the yard I've hung an extra calendar and always keep a permanent marker next to it. That way when I come inside either through the back door or the basement I can quickly write down how many eggs I've gotten that day.

    Calendar tracking system
    "C" is for chicken, "D" is for duck
    Why track, you ask? Well, given that mine stopped laying and it took me a while to notice before, a list of numbers would sure make any problem obvious. Let's face it--if something's wrong with the birds, egg production would be a fairly reliable indicator. Also, I'm a visual person and to see that big number "8", I take a lot of pride in that.

    We are beginning to use the calendar system for other events as well. For instance, on a couple of days you might read that we slaughtered some roosters and on another day we slaughtered ducks. That's helpful in the event that if I toss a bird in the deep freeze and forget to label it, I've got a good idea of when it was put in there. And, like with the eggs, if we slaughter a few birds and notice some odd behaviors in the rest of the flock, we could get a good idea of what might have contributed to that.

    Now, I'm off to hustle some eggs!

    Betty Crockett


    Welcome to the Betty Crockett Homestead Blog!

    This page is a lovely chaotic journal about my ongoing trials and victories in life on a wanna-be homestead. Nothing is perfect here and I'm generally learning through failing (over and over and over).

    Chicken Coop
    Duck Coop
    My handsome husband grew up on a 10 acre farm, but I'm a regular city girl--who just moved onto three and a half acres in the middle of the country! We both decided we wanted to raise animals humanely and delve into fruits and veggies along the way. Since both the Hubby and I work full-time, we dedicate the rest of our spare time to the farm so we have to cut corners and improvise as well we can. Its all rather janky and ghetto-fab, but by golly prayers and duck tape work miracles!!

    So far, we have raised 14 chicks (5 easter egg chickens, 2 silky banthams, 2 turkeys, 5 guineas) and inherited about the same amount of all different breeds. We also have ducks (anconas and various mixed breeds), three goats, a pig, and two dogs. It sure is a crazy place, but so far we're doing alright.

    Lucky for us, Hubby Crockett's dad gifted us a lot of his old equipment as well as 21 bales of hay and assorted bags of feed. The coops we slapped together late in the summer for the birds were built from donated, repurposed and scavenged wood/parts. The pig pen is a mess of gate pieces, lumber and pallets all rolled in mud and sprinkled with hay.

    Needless to say, Hubby and I are sure blessed to have so many resources!

    Unlike last year, I will not be planning a wedding right before planting season, so I'm ultra-eager to get the ball rolling. These photos here give you an idea of just how crazy the house is right now--a giant folding table covered in dirt?? In my LIVINGROOM! That's right, with all the supplies I could scavenge I've got tons of seeds growing. My favorite is kale, featured below already sprouting before the rest!
    Tiny kale sprouts
    Living room mess
    Handy thermometer
    I've got two types of lettuce, five kinds of tomatoes, three kinds of peppers, six varieties of fruit trees all ready to pop their little green heads at any moment. I've also got corn, peas, beans and squash to plant when the ground is ready. Planting is soo meditative, and how exciting is it to eat the stuff you grew from seeds? Last year was the first time I had ever grown tomatoes from seeds, so you could say I'm a bit prideful of my newly green thumb (I used to be known as the Cactus-Killer).

    Anyone else on the homestead bandwagon? How did you get started?

    Betty Crockett