Grit Blogs > Homesteading with Mrs D

Arizona Homestead

By Robyn Dolan 


Tags: homesteading, chickens, electricity, water, sustainable living,

When I first moved out to the 5-acre homestead (we later acquired another 5 next door) with my 3 pre-teens, ten years ago now, we had high hopes of "living off the land" and pipe dreams of self-sufficiency. In the meantime, we lived on our property in a tent and a camper while we waited and waited for the septic to be dug and a run down trailer to be set.

Oh what joy to finally gain shelter once again within four sturdy walls! We heated our water, which we hauled from the town well in a 400 gallon tank on the back of our pick-up, over a campfire until our propane tank was installed and hooked up. And now new delight – water heating over the gas stove, while we carry buckets from the 2500 gallon storage tank to the bathtub for our weekly baths. Then came the golden day when our electric was hooked up and turned on. Ah the luxury of flipping a switch for light, and the electric pump magically bringing water right into the house with only the turn of a faucet! We were kings and queens! Well, I was the queen, they were the royal children.

It's all a matter of perspective out here. Those children are grown (age-wise anyway) now, and I have a 5-year-old son to share the homestead with. We've come a long way from the rundown trailer next door, which is now my workshop for soapmaking, sewing and other miscellaneous projects. Our full ten acres is finally fenced this year, and our small goat and sheep herds, 2 of our 5 horses, our jersey milk cow Mabel, and our chickens are able to graze contentedly and wander at will.

We're still not "living off the land" as much as we'd like, but we keep plugging away at it. I have come to realize that "self-sufficiency" is never completely self-sufficient. But my dream of country life has come true, and I hope to share its ups and downs with you as I contribute to this blog.

Last week we got a surprise batch of guinea chicks. My friend had ordered them, intending to be ready for them when they got here, but wasn't. So she called and I said "sure," forgetting that I was enjoying time off from the "keeping baby creatures alive" struggle.

Guinea ChicksAnyway, here they are, set up in my spare bathtub, in a large bucket with some hay, 2 heat lamps and their food and water. At a week old, they are the size of day old baby chickens. They are very delicate at this age. Originating in Africa, they require more heat than the chicks I'm used to brooding. We started out with 31 and 13 have survived.

Yup. Our weather just turned a lot colder, so they really need to be draft free and warm. When they arrived, as with any baby chicks, we dipped their beaks in sugar water, about 3 tablespoons to 1 quart of water, and since the feed store didn't have any chick starter, we put some lay crumble through the food processor to powder it, so that their tiny beaks could handle it. The heat lamps are about 18 inches from the floor of the bucket and are still there. We are cutting back on the sugar in the water, but still feeding crumble that has been powdered. These chicks seem to be fairly hardy now, and the death rate has dropped dramatically (knock on wood). We are hoping to get these through the next few weeks and have them ready for pest control in the spring.

robyn dolan
12/29/2008 8:34:06 AM

Thanks, Monique, I think that's the best way. I tried it once with some hatchery chickens and had the best results ever.


monique
12/27/2008 11:03:07 PM

I Robyn Next time you may want to try using a hen for encubating your eggs is what I did with my guineas and it work very well. The hen take care of them and if you do that in spring you no need any heat. take care I enjoy your blog Monique


robyn dolan
12/24/2008 8:50:00 AM

Thanks Monique, That's another protien source I hadn't considered. And as I'm a little short on milk right now, I think I'll try it. I bet you have a wealth of helpful tips with your lifetime of experience.


monique
12/20/2008 11:40:03 AM

I never wrote a comment before but reading you experience in homeastiding made me want to help a little. when a was young I worked on a farm in southern France we raised a lot of poultry an guineas birds they are hard to raise .I made a mash of hard boiled eggs mixed with neetle leaves but I'm sure just to ad the eggs will ad a lot of protein. Good look . I'm entraled in reading your experience .At 83 I still do a lot of gardening. monique


heidi moyer
11/26/2008 12:11:50 AM

Are you in northern or southern az?


robyn dolan
11/3/2008 9:30:48 AM

Thanks Lisa, that's a good idea. I know how nervous I was getting started, so I'll try to offer some encouragement by telling how we did it (and still are).


lisa_1
11/2/2008 9:09:29 PM

Robyn - As my husband and I plan our future homestead, we are realizing that a homestead doesn't get built overnight! As you write, I would be interested in learning more about your start-up process, living out of the camper and getting while getting your homestead set up. I think it takes guts to do this! Looking forward to hearing more about the guinea chicks! -Lisa (onthefox.blogspot.com)


hank will_2
10/28/2008 11:23:03 AM

Hey Robyn -- All that extra protein and energy should do the trick. I really like Guineas -- we had a self-sustaining flock many years ago. We don't have any at the moment, but they on my to-do list for spring. I am a little behind on the chicken house at the moment and there is a small fencing chore to complete ...


robyn dolan
10/28/2008 8:58:54 AM

Thanks, Cindy. Glad to be here. I love reading about everyone's adventures in country life. Arizona is definitely a whole 'nuther world as far as flower and vegetable gardening! Hank, thanks for the tip. Being 50 miles from the nearest source of game bird starter, I added some powdered milk and vegetable oil to the lay mash, and the chickies seem to be doing pretty good. 8 survivors now, no casualties for over a week.


cindy murphy
10/24/2008 5:38:53 AM

Hi, Mrs. D. Welcome to the Grit community. A good friend of mine lives in Arizona, and hearing her talk of the plants in the gardens, her trials and tribulations growing vegetables, and the seasonal changes - all very different from my own experiences here in Michigan - always amazes me. Looking forward to reading of your experiences homesteading in a climate so unlike where I live.


hank will_2
10/23/2008 1:13:26 PM

Hey Robyn -- I am thrilled to read about your adventures in homesteading and with guineas. We always brooded our guineas in the chicken house inside a two-lamp brooder that I built. We didn't have any difficulties with mortality, but they were definitely in a draft-free place and plenty warm, even though it was still freezing at night (we were in South Dakota at that time). I also kept some game bird starter around and gave them that. It has more protein and I suspect more fat than the regular chick grower rations. Good luck, and I look forward to reading more. Thanks. Hank