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Faithful Homesteader

Bracing for Winter in North Texas

Faithful HomesteaderIt has started to feel like winter here in North Texas. My husband is ready for the cold weather, but I most certainly am not. I prefer fall and spring weather where I don’t need to turn on the heat or air conditioning. I also like to go outside without a jacket. I know that compared to other places it may not seem much like a winter, but for someone who hates the cold, it feels like it to me. So far I made it through a weekend of near-freezing temperatures without turning on the heat. But I think this weekend I'll have to break down and turn it on.

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Probably the last tomatoes of the year.

We still have many tomatoes on the vine, but now we are getting frost and getting ever-closer to that freeze mark. A couple of weeks ago I was out in the garden making sure that everything was covered up, but this week my body is not up for the task. I did pick all the ripe tomatoes, though.

I sure hate to leave all of those tomatoes, but it's getting to be too much to try and save everything. I have had almost a full week of neck and shoulder pain that saps all my motivation. I think it's time to move on and let the summer garden go.

This week, out at the ranch where I volunteer, I thought I was dressed warm enough, but I was wrong. I am not used to dressing in layers. The temperature outside wasn't too bad, but the wind made everything so cold. Since I'm not used to spending a lot of time outside in the cold, I know it will be a challenge for me at the ranch this winter.

They say overall it should be a mild winter, but that doesn’t rule out having some strong cold fronts. I want enough cold to kill off those evil mosquitoes. However, I don’t want to be kept from my quality time with the chickens. I definitely hope they are right about that mild winter!

Embracing Life on the Homestead

Faithful HomesteaderI never had a real desire to live a homesteading life. Most of my adult life I lived in apartments and townhomes. I was good with the low-maintenance aspect of that type of living. Then I got married to a man that embraced homesteading and self-sufficiency. He is a gardener, handyman, and visionary. He was the one that pushed for us to get our own place in the country.

We have had our place for about five years now, and I have softened to this new lifestyle. I like that we live outside of the city, even though it is starting to catch up with us. I like that we have chickens and they provide us with fresh eggs and plenty of entertainment. They are good therapy, too.

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My first time planting garlic.

My husband is good at gardening, and I certainly appreciate all of the homegrown food that we are able to get each year. Usually he is the one that plants everything, but there have been some occasions where I was actually the one putting stuff in the ground. I never thought that I would be doing that. Most recently I planted garlic, and I am happy to see that it seems to be doing well.

Recently, when we were dealing with an early freeze and frost warning, I was the one in the garden picking tomatoes, peppers, and watermelon. I spent a lot of time covering up plants that I hoped to save. In the past, I would not be so invested in doing that.

I really want to get back into doing more made-from-scratch meals. I used to make homemade bread about once a week, and I miss it. Maybe with the cooler months having arrived I will be motivated to use the oven more. I love making a good meal that my husband will enjoy after a hard day of work, and it's even more satisfying to use food grown on our own homestead.

I get inspired by all the pages that I follow on Facebook about living a homestead lifestyle. I do like the idea of us being more self-sufficient. Now I am all about learning and coming up with different projects that we can do around the homestead. We even make our own laundry and dishwasher detergent!

I am definitely more open to doing things that I previously had zero interest in. I also figure that the more I do, the more I will have to write about for my blogs. I definitely like that.

More Thankfulness on the Homestead

Faithful HomesteaderIt seems like the past year has gone by just like that. It has been an interesting year, and I feel like I have so many things to be thankful for. I like my little family — my husband, cat, chickens, and two fish. For the most part, we live a simple and drama-free life.

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With all the chaos in the world, my little homestead is a place of refuge and respite. My critters certainly have a calming effect. I have also made some new friends this year at a poultry expo. It is nice to meet like-minded people, and fun to get together for lunch and share stories about our poultry.

For the last few years I have wanted to work around horses. This year, I was able to make that a reality by volunteering at an equine therapy ranch. It is great to get away from everything and to be hands-on with horses. I am learning so much.

I love to write, and this year I was so excited to have an article published in GRIT’s special "chicken edition" of the magazine. It was a definite highlight for me! I have also written several articles for my local newspaper. I always learn so much about the people and the area where I live by doing that.

The opportunity to speak at a conference this year was interesting. It is something that I have wanted to do for many years; I was nervous about it, but overall it was a good experience. I thought I might not want to do it again, but now I think I wouldn’t mind. I will have to see if another opportunity presents itself.

It has been a full and busy year for me. In some ways I feel more fulfilled than I have in a little while. Life is never perfect, but I never want to cease to be thankful for all the blessings in my life.

Making Challah — A Community Event

Faithful HomesteaderI am not Jewish, but occasionally I attend events in the Jewish community. The most recent was a community challah-making event. It was in a big room filled with men, women, and children working together and making the bread known as challah.

We were told that similar events were going on in 900 countries around the world. It was interesting to be a part of a big community event like that, even if I was a bit of an outsider. I attended with a friend of mine. We had previously learned how to make challah together.

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I am a big bread fan, and I certainly love homemade. The recipe that was used here yielded multiple loaves of bread; I had at least six loaves by the end. The biggest thing is doing the braiding. The woman giving us instructions was impressive with her six braids, but we stuck with a safer three braids. My friend likens it to braiding her daughter’s hair. I am still working on perfecting my braiding, so of course my challah isn’t that pretty.

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Here is the recipe that we used:

Ingredients:

• 3-3/4 tablespoons yeast
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 5-1/2 cups warm water
• 2 cups sugar
• 1 cup oil
• 16 cups flour (1 five lb bag, plus 1-1/4 cup)
• Optional: 1 egg for egging the top of each loaf

Instructions:

1. In a large mixing bowl, add yeast, sugar, and then warm water. Gently mix and let sit for 5-7 minutes until the yeast proofs. Next, add the 2 cups of sugar, oil, and flour. Knead, then cover, and let the bread rise for 30 minutes to one hour.

One thing about making challah that differs from other kinds of bread is the blessing. If over 59 ounces of flour is used, it is customary to take a handful of dough and say a blessing — this is the separation of the challah. Some then take the dough, wrap it in foil, and burn it on the stovetop or in the oven. Others wrap it in foil and throw it away. I include the blessing at the end of the article for anyone who may be curious.

2. Next is the task of braiding the bread. Three is the basic number of braids, but you could also try four, five, or six to make it a little more fancy. If desired, whip the egg with a fork and brush on top of the challahs.

3. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes. It seems best to bake it on a cookie sheet.

I know when I was baking my loaves, the house smelled wonderful. It is something fun and a little different to make; t is a yummy, homemade bread with a long history of tradition and spirituality tied to it. I have never tried it, but my friend says it makes wonderful French toast!

Blessing over separating the challah as it appears in prayer books:

Translation:

Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to separate challah.

Transliteration:

ba-ruch / a-tah / a-do-noi / elo-hai-nu / me-lech / ha-o-lam / a-sher / kid-sha-nu / b'mitz-vo-tav / v'tzi-va-nu / l'haf-rish / chal-lah

Reference:

TheJewishWoman.org

Overcoming a Fear of Horses

Faithful HomesteaderWhen I was a little girl, I was so terrified of horses. I am not really sure what triggered it. The only thing that I could think of is that they were just so much bigger than I was. I think it intimidated me. I have come a long way since that time. Now I am volunteering on a ranch and getting up close and personal with horses.

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When I was around five years old, we lived on a farm. We only lived in the house and had nothing to do with the animals. A horse was loose one day, just in time for me to come home from school. I remember being petrified. I didn’t even want to get off the bus. I was convinced the horse was dangerous. I recall running as fast as I could to get into the house. Looking back, I am sure the horse was not really dangerous, and in fact it wasn’t that big. However, you could not tell that to the little girl at the time.

Another time I believe I was with my Girl Scout's Brownies troop. We went horseback riding. Again, I was just so scared. I wanted to ride on a small horse, which, in my mind, meant miniature-size. They told me that the horse they put me on was a small horse. I was not convinced. I was more than a little upset, yet somehow managed to survive the experience.

Fast forward into adulthood — I came to realize that my fears were unwarranted. There is no doubt that a horse could hurt a person, but that would most likely come from the negligent actions of the person, and it would be hard to fault the horse.

Since I started working around horses, I am learning how to interact with them. Grooming can help form a bond with the horses. It is important that I control the horse instead of it controlling me. I am learning not to be in the path of a horse that could kick me or step on me.

Horses are such wonderful animals. They are full of personality, and they can be so gentle. I am so glad that I was able to overcome my fears. Now I have a great love and appreciation of horses!

DIY Chicken Feeder and Waterer with PVC Pipes

Faithful HomesteaderI am always trying to learn and improve things when it comes to my chickens. For a long time I've wanted a better system for their food and water. After attending a backyard poultry expo, I was more committed to making it happen.

The first project was to put together a new feeder using PVC pipe. We have seen pictures of various ones on the Internet, so we worked to make one that fit our purposes. My husband had the vision. We only have two chickens, so we only needed something small.

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We put it together using a 3-2 inch Y adaptor, one 3”- 4” ID increaser, one 3”- 4” OD increaser, one 3” screw cap, and one 4” knock out plug. The pieces were pressed together without any adhesive.

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Besides a system that would yield less food waste, I had hoped that a smaller opening for the food would deter our many sparrows from foraging through our chicken feed. This part of my plan has been unsuccessful; I am still in search of a good bird deterrent. But I do think it's a cleaner setup overall.

For a couple of years I have wanted to use a nipple watering system for the chickens. We finally got that project done as well. I pictured using a bucket, drilling holes in it, and hanging it up. My husband pictured using the PVC pipe for this project, too.

It was fairly easy to put together, and the only extra step was using PVC glue. I'm not crazy about the messy purple look, but function is the most important thing for me. We hung the finished product from the outside of the chicken coop.

We used two 8” pieces of 1” pvc pipe, one 1” ‘T’ adaptor, two 1” caps, one 4” section of PVC pipe, two 1/4” 90-degree elbows, and one 3” section of a 1/4” clear hose to be used as a sight glass. The clear hose lets us keep track of the water level.

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I was told that it was easy to get chickens to use the nipples because they are drawn to the red color. Supposedly it shouldn’t take long for them to figure out that it is a source of water. However, it has not been that easy for me. I am still waiting on the girls to take an interest.

I really like the set up because it keeps the water cleaner, but it will only be successful if we can get the chickens to use it. But I sure am glad that we finally have both of these projects completed!

My First Poultry Expo

Faithful HomesteaderI have been raising chickens for about four years now. I didn’t seek it out; it came to me when I ended up with a stray chicken. My husband wanted chickens anyway, so we bought another one and started our chicken journey. Everything that I have learned has been on the job and through Internet research.

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My husband noticed an advertisement for a backyard poultry expo in the local newspaper. He was unable to attend, but suggested that I go. I agreed, because it was something new and I liked the idea of meeting other like-minded individuals. This was the first time that I attended a chicken-related event. The cost was only $10, and lunch was included. It seemed like a good deal!

There was a nice presentation on the history of chickens and a lot of information about bio security and various chicken diseases. They also talked about proper feed. Not all of the information was new, but it is always good to be reminded of things. We could certainly do better on the homestead. I am going to switch to nipple waterers, and I would really like to change our feeders as well. The sparrows love eating our layer pellets — I need to deter them.

Other good information concerned coop set up. I am always interested in coops. They talked about how rectangular was better than square. They also mentioned that an east-west orientation was good. I had never heard of using rice or peanut hulls for coop litter, but that was a topic, too.

There were multiple vendors that we could visit with on breaks. There was a nice coop model for us to check out. I fell in love with a handsome bantam rooster that was there. And free samples are always nice! Plus I met some nice people who live in my area, and I am hoping that we can connect and become friends. I really don’t know many people in my neighborhood, and certainly no one else raising chickens or other poultry.

The poultry expo was certainly worth attending. The information was excellent. If I knew I was getting into raising chickens, I would definitely have wanted to attend something like this. I would recommend it to anyone just getting started or thinking about getting started. The one I attended was part of college agriculture programs.