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.