Adventures on the Homestead

Pig Sense

Monica SmithOver a month ago, I was given two male pigs: a potbelly, which I dubbed Bacon Bits, and a mini potbelly I call Little Bits. I brought the pigs home, and my husband built a pig pen. I've only ever owned one potbelly before, and he was an indoor pet, not a bacon-seed producer. Hubby has never owned pigs. So, since they were both still quite young, we thought we could get away with making a pig pen by laying tin on its side for the fencing until a better option could be found. We out Bacon Bits in first, and I went to get Little Bits. By the time I got back, Bacon Bits had jumped the enclosure and disappeared in the woods! We spent over an hour trying to catch him. Set out live traps to no avail. People always said that pigs were smart, but I underestimated them still. So it's been over a month with him in the woods, showing his dirt encrusted nose to us and running off.

Until two days ago ...

One of the gates to my fenced-in backyard had fallen off the hinges and, for the time being, lies on the ground. This is where I keep my rabbits and quail. I had gone through (over) said gate to feed my rabbits when I looked up and saw a pig. Now, I'm thinking it's Little Bits. But it occurred to me that he seemed to have grown overnight. Then I hear Little Bits oink from his pen behind me, outside the fence. And slowly two things dawn on me: (1) it's Bacon Bits, DUH! and (2) that's one heavy gate to try and lift back in place before he escapes. Because, you see, he's standing there looking at me. He knows I'm between him and his only way out. He's trying to figure out how to get by me. I'm trying to figure out how to lift this gate before he can. Perhaps I'll just stand here till someone comes out. But I've already told everyone to stay inside. But they never listen to me. But since I really need someone to come out, this will be the one time in all of eternity that they listen. He's watching. Screw it, I've got to try.

I go to set the scoop of rabbit feed down, and he runs further into the backyard ... YES! PERFECT! I quickly heave up that freaking heavy gate (6-1/2 by 10 feet of cypress) and slam it into place.

Aw, heck naw, he figured me out. He comes screeching and running as fast as he can and slams himself into the space between the gate and the fence. He doesn't fit. He runs to the other side and once again slams himself into the opening. Once again, he doesn't fit. So he runs into the corner and starts snorting retorts that I'm thankful I can't understand. I get the gate situated so that he can't possibly fit through, and it won't fall back in, either. I did it! I outsmarted a pig!

Then I remember: the back door is locked. I'm locked in with the pig ...

Potbellied pigs
Photo by Fotolia/Tamas Zsebok

Playing With Cast Iron and Fire

Monica Smith**A recipe for Chicken 'N Rice Soup is at the bottom**



Our Fire Pit

The beginning of fall always means bonfires around here. Families look for any reason to gather around outside with a fire roaring, laughing and enjoying each others' company. I enjoy a bonfire as much as anyone, but we decided to tone things down a bit this fall. Down to a fire pit.

After taking Zander and Lucas outside, I showed them how I wanted the fire pit dug. They proudly went to work, knowing what was to come. We had an unused grate laying around that would suit our purposes perfectly. 


My cast iron was just begging to be re-seasoned on the new fire pit. Who was I to argue? The kids and I sat around for hours feeding the fire and seasoning pots, looking forward to the evening when we would cook our very first meal over an open flame. I was nervous and scared and excited all at the same time. Lana, Constance, and Aubrey walked through the yard picking up sticks while the boys chopped wood.

Evening Sun

As the evening wore on, I looked up and saw this gorgeous sight. And I was thankful I wasn't cooped up inside to miss this. There was actually more to see, but the camera just couldn't bring it all into the picture. It was breathtaking and memorable. Perfect for the day.

I could only shake my head at some of my chickens through it all. The fire seemed to beckon them. Or perhaps it was the stew pot. Several came running the instant the fire was lit, and one little anxious rooster ran onto the grate! We saw where he was headed and was able to scoop him off less than a second after his foot landed on it. Although he was uninjured, I had to explain to him that his time would come soon enough to be over that fire! Our patience will be rewarded; he just isn't old enough yet. But you know kids. They hate hearing they aren't old enough.

It took a few gentle swipes of my stick towards chickens wandering too close for Chewie, the Great Pyrenees, to understand what I was doing. After that, I never had to worry again. He was on the job.

Then ... the time had finally come.

Chicken N Rice

I can't even begin to describe the little thrill the children and I had when that water had come to a boil. You'd have thought none of us had ever cooked a blessed thing in our lives. Soon, the cast iron had cooked the chicken through, and it was time to add the rice. Normally, I would pull the chicken out of the broth and de-bone it first, but decided to leave it as-is and serve everyone a chicken leg with their rice. It turned out great!

We sat around as the coals died down and enjoyed a great meal. We had put a wash basin full of water close to the fire to wash dishes with before we brought them into the house. Cleaning up didn't take long since there were no surfaces to wipe down. And I have to admit ... sitting down the whole time I'm cooking is a great way to go. Who ever thought standing up and cooking was a great idea?! They need knocking in the head.

**Recipe for Chicken 'N Rice

(this isn't an exact recipe. If I see the water is getting too low, I just add more a little at a time.)


• 1 lb chicken, boiled (reserve broth)
• 2 cups of rice
• 4 cups (or more) of chicken broth
• 1/2 stick butter
• 1 cup milk
• salt & pepper to taste


1. After boiling the chicken, use tongs to pull chicken out of the pot and into a bowl. Allow to cool enough to de-bone. At this time, add salt & pepper to the broth. Taste and see if you should add more. Word to the wise — blow the broth before putting it to your lips.

2. Add meat back to the broth and stir in rice. Cook over medium heat, stirring often. If the broth gets low, add water. Cook until rice is tender. (Sorry, I never time anything. Follow package instructions for length of time.)

3. Once rice is completely cooked, add milk and butter. You can also add a little flour if you want to make it thicker. Allow to come to a boil again, then remove from heat. Letting it sit for 15 minutes will give it time to thicken up a little. 

The last step is always to enjoy!

More Animals on the Homestead

Monica SmithFirst, I must apologize for my long absence. Switching phone carriers meant that I no longer had access to mobile hotspot abilities with my cell. It took a while to get everything straightened out. I'm back now and here to stay.

As of my last post, my list of critters included three Ameraucana chickens, several Lavender Orpington chicks, and one Angora rabbit. Things have changed since then, beginning with the chickens. After seeing a lady online looking to sell her incubator in favor of the two bigger incubators she had just bought, I bartered with her. I acquired it; she got my chickens. I had discovered that my chickens were not good dual purpose birds, so would not serve my purposes. I'll spare you all the details, but I'm no good with incubators apparently. Even with multiple people trying to help, we couldn't get it right. Someone is taking a look at it for me in hopes of getting it to working right. I was more upset over all the eggs that I bought and fried than anything. However I was still able to add several more Lavender Orpington chicks to the chicks I still had at home.

I worked at some friends' and family's houses after that to earn some chicken money. I knew it would be a long time before my chicks were big enough to start laying, so I began my search and research. I found two different people looking to sell their Barred Rocks and after looking it up, I found they are great dual purpose birds. One lady sold me a rooster and 4 hens, another lady sold me 2 hens. All of them are very docile, including the rooster, whom my oldest son named Bass. He loves that name. Bass tolerates being picked up and toted around like a baby quite well. He has never made a move to hurt anyone. Perfect for us.

Bass and his hens

I had to go to a local trade day (people meet up to buy, sell, and trade animals and homemade goods) to acquire the two hens. It was my first time going to this kind of a gathering and I quickly fell in love with everything about it. All the vehicles parked side-by-side in several rows on a man's front lawn. Some sold their animals and goods out of the back of their trucks, others set up canopies and chairs. Many just put a chair out and piled the cages of animals around them. Hearing the sounds of chickens, quail, guineas, peafowl, pigs, goats, and even ponies while families walked and talked brought a smile to my face. I never would have thought it was a scene for me. It was amazing! I met with the lady to get my hens and noticed she was also selling rabbits. Many people were, but she had one rabbit that captured my attention. The woman and her husband had built some pet carriers from chicken wire and 1x1 pieces of wood to haul the rabbits in, and I quickly asked how much for the rabbit and the carrier. $25 later, and I had a doe to bring home to Red Cliffs. She's not Angora, but she's still a gorgeous animal. Baby Girl is her name and she is a New Zealand cross.

This is Baby GirlWe are expecting a litter from her on August 11, 2016!

I will be going back for yet another trade day soon. I'm bringing crocheted baskets and such to try and sell for feed money. And if money pans out, I will be bringing home two more New Zealand cross does that are currently 17 weeks old, and a 7-week-old New Zealand/Flemish Giant cross buck. I'm looking to buy a silkie hen to sit on eggs as well. I'd rather have the ability to hatch eggs without an incubator, and silkies are supposed to go broody quite easily, or so I'm told. I really don't like the idea of relying on electricity to hatch my eggs and I don't know how often my Barred Rocks will go broody.

I'll be posting again soon, so check back often!

Racing Forward

Monica SmithI can't believe it has already been a month since my last post! So much to talk about and yet I don't want to make this an incredibly long post. So, condensed version right? Haha! Yeah, right, sit back and get comfortable!

At the beginning of May, we got the first of our livestock. I didn't expect to get anything so soon but was pleasantly surprised. I bartered with a lady that lives a few hours north of me and was able to get 3 Angora rabbits, 2 bucks and a doe. I was nervous when I first saw them. I didn't realize how huge they really were!

Red Cliffs and Bob

Except little Ayla. She was 8 weeks old when I brought her home. Still so tiny compared to the bucks.

Our youngest bunny Ayla

The same day, I also received two Ameraucana hens and a Lavender Ameraucana rooster. They are such sweet birds. The hens hardly ever make a sound. The rooster does the crowing and the cackling all on his own. I used to think that the sound of a rooster in the morning would be as annoying as an alarm clock or worse. I was very wrong. I love hearing him in the morning. Right before I roll back over and go back to sleep. No, I do not get up with the sun. I give the sun ugly looks and go back to sleep.

Our Lavender Ameraucana Rooster

Our Ameraucana hens

Two days after bringing all six home, we got our very first eggs! I literally squealed when I saw them. There were two of them, a pretty shade of blue. But a few days later, I discovered from some research that this particular breed is not good for meat. That really was depressing. I want a good dual-purpose (multi-purpose) breed. But I really like these three.

After doing more research, I discovered that Buff Orpingtons would be everything I wanted in a chicken. They are large birds (hens reach around 8 lbs), great layers, and good mothers. They go broody more often than most birds. Surprisingly I was having trouble finding some around where I live. But then I found a lady who has Lavender Orpingtons. They have the same characteristics as the Buffs except for their exceptional color. Once again, I was able to use bartering to get what I needed and brought home these four cute little chicks.

Lavender Orpington chicks

Lavender Orpinton Chick

I took these photos of the chicks today. They are about to be 3 weeks old. I didn't realize just how rare they were when I first got them. In fact, I just found out yesterday. Looking at the online hatcheries, I found they usually sell anywhere from $10-$17. The lady I got mine from sells hers for $6. Good thing I had already decided I would like to get 6 more! She'll have more hatching on 6/10 so here's hoping!

And last but not least:

Chewie the Great Pyranees

This is Chewbacca (Chewie). Our 6 month old Great Pyrenees puppy. He is such a sweet puppy and as curious as their breed is known to be. He's been raised around sheep and chickens already before we got him, however, he does not know rabbits. We have introduced him to our livestock, but he is still too young to be left alone with them.

We couldn't be happier with the direction our lives have taken. The children love helping out with the animals and the garden (not so much the weeding!) and get so excited over each new development!

But sadly, we had some bad news as well. Just three weeks after bringing the rabbits home, both Ayla and Bob died. I am unsure if it was because of heat or fear. I was gone longer than usual on 5/23. We put frozen bottles in with the buns everyday, but when I came home and went straight back there to check on the critters and found them. Red Cliffs had managed to escape his cage and ran off to hide. I found him shivering behind our car shed. When I picked him up, he began clawing wildly at me. By the next morning, he was back to his usual self again and all has been well with him.

We'll miss our buns but we knew going in that this would be a learning process and there would be losses along the way. We have Red Cliffs with a better set up so that neither fear nor heat should be able to get him. I thought I had them set up well before but was proved wrong. I hope I'm not proved wrong again.

Learn Something New Every Day

Monica SmithI am being shown so many new and wonderful things. Correction: these are not new things, but they are new to me.

Several months ago, I became interested in plants that grow wild in my region; what their nutritional and medicinal value was. What would happen if I couldn't take my husband or children to the doctor some day for whatever reason? I have herb books at home and have looked at them many times but it gets overwhelming quickly and it's easy to go broke trying to buy this herb for skin problems and that herb for digestive health and yet another for improving lung function and so on and so forth. So, I started walking around my yard looking at what plants I could identify with ease. Okay, pine tree. That's easy enough to identify and they grow like crazy around here. I pulled out my phone and googled 'pine tree medicinal uses'. Now, I already knew that you could make pine needle tea. I did not realize that one cup of pine needle tea has 100% of your daily value of Vitamin C (scurvy is a disease in which there is a deficiency in Vitamin C. It is deadly). I also did not know that you can eat the inner bark of a freshly felled pine nor that you can use the sap as a bandaid in a pinch! How awesome is that?!

From there I googled crepe myrtles, different oak trees, etc. since I could more easily identify trees than anything else. Then, I joined up with some homesteading groups on Facebook. It wasn't long before I found a local group as well. Almost every day, I'm posting a picture of a new plant or weed asking if anyone knows what it is, then I'm off to googling again. It's important to note that I am never satisfied with one website's information on any given thing. Especially something as important and potentially dangerous as ingesting plants in the wild. I cross-reference across several websites. And I personally steer clear of any kind of websites that may have any kind of .. I suppose you could say socially acceptable medical or government preferences. That's just me. I prefer to find websites by tried and true herbalists and those who enjoy wild crafting. I want to learn from someone who is in the woods harvesting nature regularly!

While I have been on these Facebook homesteading groups, something else was shown to me. The age-old system of bartering and trading. It's great! I love the fact that no money has to exchange hands. I can use my skills to get the things I need for my homestead. I'm using my knitting, crochet, and sewing skills in order to get rabbit hutches, Angora rabbits, and a nesting box for chickens. I'm still working on everything at the moment since all five of my children came down with strep throat last week and my husband has gallstones on top of that. Now that everyone is getting better, however, I'm back on it!

Pictured below: A group of newborn kits. Two of these sweeties will be coming home with me when they are old enough!

Baby Angoras

A few days ago, my sister in law and I bought 23 guinea fowl eggs. I can't wait til they begin hatching, which should be around May 18, 2016. We will split up the successful hatches between us. I'm ready to meet my first flock! I've already been warned of how loud they can be. I think I'm ready for that. I guess we'll have to see when they are big enough to let loose in the yard! I also have to find ways to keep them from turning wild on me.

And last but not least, I received my present Devin let me order on Valentine's Day. My spinning wheel. I can't wait to start spinning some angora yarn! I have more practice to do before I am able to do anything worthwhile though. Practice makes perfect and I'm more than willing to practice.

My New Spinning Wheel

Stay tuned for more adventures on the homestead.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Monica SmithThe past couple of weeks has been almost nothing but rain! We’re about to float away down here! Which means, work on my chicken coop has slowed to a crawl. That is very frustrating. I’m ready to get some livestock on the homestead.

On the days it didn’t rain, we finished getting our garden prepped and planted. We didn’t plant a whole lot of any one vegetable, choosing instead to kind of experiment with different things. We planted sweet corn, white potatoes, green beans, sweet peas, squash, carrots, cabbage, onion, and garlic. I’ve also planted some raspberries and strawberries around the place. I’m a berry junkie!

I couldn’t resist starting some seed trays as well!! I planted some tomato and watermelon as well as chives, thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley, basil, and stevia. Only one of my stevia are coming up, but then I was told that starting it from seed is difficult and it still may not be sweet when it grows. I hope it is. I really want my stevia plant!

All that rain did have some positives, however (besides feeding the thirsty plants, of course). I’ve had time to work on my knitting and crochet. I started crocheting on a curtain for my daughters’ bedroom window. The last one got messed up a while back and never replaced, and I’m just not satisfied with anything I see in the stores. Necessity being the mother of all invention, I decided to design my own. Then all the sudden, the orders start coming in! Setting aside the curtain for now, I began work on two hats. This is how I make some money to help things along since I don’t work.

A friend of mine ordered a fox hat for her son, so I bought the pattern to knit and went to work. Only, either the pattern didn’t make sense or my brain doesn’t make sense! So, once again, necessity was the mother of all invention, and I designed my own again. It made my day to find out the boy loved it! He wore it even when it was making him sweat.

Hand Crocheted Fox Hat

Now, I’m working on another hat and soon will be crocheting shoes out of flip flops! What a cool idea! I wish I could claim the idea as my own, but I would be lying.

You can see some of my work on Facebook.

Now that the weather is turning nice, its time to get back into action. Of course, more rain is on the way so I better hurry. The coop won’t build itself!!

In the Beginning

Monica SmithI have thought about raising animals for meat for a very long time now. And I have attempted gardening (half heartedly really) in the past with no success. But now, things are changing. My oldest son has been diagnosed with High Functioning Autism, ADHD/ODD, and depression. His younger brother has been diagnosed with ADHD/ODD, anxiety, and is treated for impulsivity. Then, there's my own problems: Narcolepsy with cataplexy, ADD, anxiety, dpression, migraines, and cluster headaches. I used to think that all these diagnosis were just a doctors attempt to get more money. Now I see. Now I believe (and deep down I know I'm right) that it all comes down to what we put into our bodies and into our childrens bodies. Therefore, this begins my life of homesteading.

It's kind of ironic. All throughout my childhood, when hunting was discussed in our house, my mom would emphatically tell me, "We don't eat Bambi!" I knew that hunting was a 'necessary evil' or else the population would get out of control. There has to be balance. But I swore I'd never marry a hunter. Boy was I kidding myself there!

By the time my husband and I got married, I reconciled myself to the fact that he hunted but I made sure he knew that I was not going to eat it. It wasn't about the taste. People had a hard time understanding that. I remember my grandfather trying to tell me how good that deer was he was cooking at that precise moment. He kept trying to make me take a bite. So finally, I grabbed the piece of meat, ate it even though my stomach was churning, and looked at him and told him, "It tastes good. Now, I don't want any!" They finally left me alone after that.

My husband was cooking some deer one day, and I was really hungry so I finally ate some. Man he cooked it good. After that day, I ate it more often. But still, there was no way I could kill an animal. I certainly couldn't raise an animal from a baby and kill it! That's just cruel! Or is it …

Fast forward. My boys have health issues. I have health issues. I know so many people who have gotten cancer, and I have known for a few years that what you buy in the grocery store contains carcinogens. Finally, my brain has gotten over its absurd aversion to what is natural and realized the fact that I am literally feeding my children cancer, leukemia, ADHD, ODD, anxiety, depression, etc etc etc.

I joined several homesteading groups on Facebook and started watching Youtube videos and one thing stood out clearly with everyone in these groups. They all LOVED their animals. Yes, they still harvested them. There is s difference in harvesting and butchering in my book just for the record. Butchering is what goes on in the chicken plants. There, they are killed one after another, with no love, no respect, no understanding of the animals sacrifice for us. When a homesteader harvests the animals, they are raised with love and care. They are given a good life, fed good food that helps them to be healthy and therefore FEEL better and yes, in the end it gives us better health so that we can feel better too.  And on the day of the harvest, the animal is still looked on with love and respect and above all, with a thankfulness to that animal. Big difference in the way those animals live and die.

I watched a few videos on the actual harvesting of chickens and animals and my children were interested in it too. I figured if they were going to see it in real life then there was no harm in letting them see a video and truthfully, I wanted to gauge their reactions to see if they could handle it. My girls looked at me and said, "Can we keep the feathers?" I laughed and told them about down feather pillows.

It's going to be a bit yet before we get our birds. Longer still before we get our rabbits. But for now, I can work on the garden. I can't use our tiller since it is actually too powerful for me and my husband is afraid of it getting away from me and hurting me or someone else. I don't know how to use the tractor. Truthfully, I'm good with good-old-fashioned labor. I bought a broadfork to dig up the garden instead. Which brings me to present day …

I started digging up the garden last weekend. We got a small portion of it dug up, not big at all. We were only working in the evenings for two days though, so it was good progress regardless. That Sunday, I was just tired and my narcolepsy was giving me a run for my money, so I decided to just chill for the day. And that's what I did. And then it was bad weather for the rest of the week. I was kicking myself in the butt so bad!


Today was the first day I was able to get back out there. It was in the lower 70's and bright and sun-shiny. My legs were bothering me pretty bad (my quads will feel … cold. Like really really cold and achy even when it’s warm weather. Not circulation problems. Don't know what it is) but I made myself get out there anyway. I had to stop and start several times. Being overweight is very hard on someone trying to do some labor, but hopefully the labor will help in that as well!!! Between last week and this week, I've got 18 x 28 feet (roughly) dug up. Let me not forget to mention all the help I've had from most of my kids! They help with the broadfork, although the girls just don't have enough weight on them to pull anything up with it. They help get the grass out of the garden for me which is harder on me than the broadfork. I'm hopeful that we can get the last 18 or so feet done in the next two days. Monday is the end of the month and I just really want it done by then. I also hope to start on my chicken coop and run this week as well. I THINK I have most everything I need here.

Super excited to see what this week brings!!!