Faithful Homesteader

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.

banty rooster - Copy

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.

Easy Way to Clean Burnt Pans

Faithful HomesteaderI sometimes have issues with burnt stainless steal pans, and they can certainly be a pain to clean. I am always open to good tips for dealing with such things. Some time ago, I read a tip in First magazine about cleaning a grill. The tip was to put a wet paper towel on the grill while it was still hot. This made it easier to clean. I tried it with my George Foreman Grill, and it worked! I often find handy little tips in First magazine.

burnt pan - Copy

I thought about the paper towel tip and wondered how it might work for cleaning burnt pans. I decided it was definitely worth a try. As soon as I removed the food and turned off the burner — while the pan would still be hot — I placed a wet paper towel into my burnt pan. Of course, it is necessary to make sure the burner is turned off. (With brain fog these days, I definitely need to make sure I complete that step!) You could also move it to another burner that is not on, but it seems better to keep things hot for as long as possible. I found that the paper towel tip did work pretty well for cleaning my burnt pans.

I like to pan-sear steak, and find that I often have a problem with pans ending up burnt, but now I find the paper towel trick makes cleaning easier. It usually does work pretty well, but on those occasions that I need something more, I soak the pan with baking soda and a little water. This is another good tip, but usually with the paper towel, it is unnecessary. I hope this is a new and useful tip for others dealing with the issue of burnt pans!

Embracing Fall on the Homestead

Faithful HomesteaderWe are finally getting some fall weather here in North Texas. We are loving it. Even though we had a small break in the hot weather during the summer, for the most part it had been hot and muggy. We have been waiting a long time for fall.

Our girls enjoying the day.

One of the hardest things for me with the summer was spending less time with the chickens. It was just too hot to spend much time outdoors. I found that the thick air caused me to have breathing problems. I am definitely looking forward to spending more time with my girls.

The main problem with that is that the mosquitoes are still stalking me. Even last night as I tried to go to sleep in my own home, I was attacked by a mosquito. They are certainly another thing about summer that I dislike. I am not ready for super cold weather, but I wouldn’t mind just enough cold to kill them off for the season.

The change in the weather really brings about a great sense of joy for me. Today was a beautiful fall day. The sun was out, and there was a lovely cool breeze. I was able to spend a little time with the chickens, and it was nice. They are my therapy.

I will miss the spring and summer birds. However, I do look forward to seeing different birds returning to the homestead. I like the white-crowned sparrow, American goldfinch and cedar waxwing birds, among others.

We are still enjoying some of our summer crops, but we are looking forward to our fall garden. I wrote about that in End of the Summer Garden and Beginning of the Fall Garden. I am hoping for lots of carrots. They are definitely a favorite vegetable of mine!

The biggest challenge now is figuring out the best way to dress. It is definitely cool enough to start wearing pants again, but I like wearing summer attire. Nevertheless, whatever the minor challenges, I am definitely embracing fall on the homestead.

Learning to Tie a Highwayman's Hitch Knot

Faithful HomesteaderIn the past couple of years, I have been having new adventures and learning new things. I really like to keep my mind sharp, and I think learning is a great way to do that. As I get older, it can be a bit difficult at times. My brain does not always want to cooperate. Sometimes something like a simple knot can be a challenge.

knot - Copy

I volunteer at an equestrian therapy ranch, and I have been learning about tack, grooming horses, and even washing them. There came a time when it was necessary to tie a horse up using a highwayman’s hitch knot, aka: quick release knot. The person training me tried to show me how to do it several times, but I just could not get it. Eventually we had to give up so we could complete our chores, but I was determined that I had to learn to do this before I went back to the ranch.

I decided to check out the Internet, but I was still not wrapping my mind around how to do it. I knew it was probably a simple thing, but I was having a bit of a block. I asked my husband to show me the knot, and he was unsuccessful at showing me as well.

However, I am definitely not one to give up. I went back to the Internet, determined to get this thing figured out. Something finally clicked and I was able to do it. I checked out a few different websites, but what ended up working for me was found at WikiHow.

After having so much trouble with the simple little knot, it just felt so good to finally get it. I keep practicing it and am ready for when I next need it at the ranch. Now I get that the knot is made with three loops. The first loop goes over whatever the rope needs to be tied to, then a second loop goes through that one, and finally a third loop goes into the second one. One end stays secure, the one that the horse is attached to and then the other end releases the whole thing with one quick pull. What a great knot.

I am sure it may seem silly to some people, but I feel a sense of accomplishment. I am always happy when I learn something new. I sure never want to stop learning.

End of the Summer Garden and Beginning of the Fall Garden

Faithful HomesteaderAs we are preparing for our fall garden, I am reflecting on our spring/summer garden. The garden definitely had its hits and misses. However we are moving forward, and I am anxious to see what the fall garden yields.

variety of tomatoes

One of my biggest disappointments with the summer garden was the failure of our corn. I was really looking forward to some fresh garden corn. We have not had any success with that for the past few years. My husband said that as he looked around at other gardens, they did not seem to do well with their corn this year, either.

More so than any other year that we have been on our little homestead, the mockingbirds have been a real problem. We didn’t get to enjoy any blueberries or grapes because of them. They went after the blackberries and our Jujube tree. My husband is ready to take them out, but I just want to do more to keep them away, like some kind of netting.

We are done with squash for the season, but we are still enjoying plenty of tomatoes. I am always happy to have an abundance of them. Even though it is not so much a summer food, we have most often used the tomatoes to make chili.

And now we have started planting the fall garden. This season, my husband is using garden frames to help with weed control. He is using four, 10 x 2 pieces of wood to make the frames, and then burying the frame eight inches into the ground.

Garden frame for carrots

So far he has planted carrots. In the past, the carrots were pretty small. I am hoping they are a little bigger this year. Carrots are definitely a favorite vegetable of mine, although my husband doesn’t always plant my favorites. He likes to experiment with different foods.

Other crops still to be planted include garlic, kohlrabi, turnips, radishes, and lettuce. In previous years, the kohlrabi was a real hit with the chickens. I am hoping for a good fall garden, as always!

Chicken Drama on the Homestead

Faithful HomesteaderIt has been a challenging month on the homestead. First, I had to deal with one hen’s prolapsed vent and then our other chicken went broody. My cat also has a urinary tract infection. I am just ready for everyone to get back to normal. I have certainly had enough chicken and cat drama for now.

Chickens on the coop.

Our sweet cat

Buster, the hen with the prolapsed vent, spent a good deal of time inside for over a week because we were trying to stop her from laying eggs. We needed to give her time to heal. It took awhile, but she finally quit laying, and I put her back outside to get her back to a normal routine. Now she is molting big time.

It has been over a week, and she is still not back to her old self. She crows most every morning inside the coop. She spends a lot of time in the coop, and that was not her normal behavior in the past. Our chickens are pasture-raised and normally they only lay eggs and sleep in the coop. I don’t know if part of this had to do with getting used to spending so much time indoors in our chicken hotel, or because our other chicken decided to be a moody broody. Maybe it is a little of both.

I would have been okay with Buster going broody, but instead it was our other one, Keypone. Part of me wondered if it was boredom because she spent a lot of the day alone when Buster was inside. However, we did try to spend time with her. It seemed like this time she was extra moody and mean. For the first time ever, she pecked me.

Another thing that was incredibly annoying about Keypone is she started yelling a lot, and it is a really unpleasant sounding yell. I definitely worry about my neighbors when she goes off like that. It seems she did it when we locked her out of the coop, or when she wanted Buster to come out and play.

But, finally, Keypone is no longer broody, however both girls are still spending a good deal of time in the coop. Keypone still yells a bit. Before all this happened, the girls were really active in the yard, but now not so much. My cat Abigail is still dealing with her UTI, even after getting an antibiotic. We have to get her taken care of, too.

I will feel better once they all get back on track. I don’t like all this drama on the homestead. I can’t even get good quality time with my girls with so much going on with them. I will be glad when the chickens get back to living their quality, pasture-raised lives.

Prolapsed Vent and My Chicken's First Vet Visit

Faithful HomesteaderI guess things were going too well with my chickens. My little bantam Buster was having her most productive year ever, but it came with a price. I noticed from a distance that it looked like she had something stuck in her vent. My husband and I were going to try to help her out, but we soon noticed that she had a prolapsed vent.

I had heard about this, so I was a little bit familiar with it, but my husband and I did not feel too comfortable trying to push it back in and deal with it on our own. Thankfully, we do have a veterinarian in the area that is able to treat chickens. I immediately made the phone call and then headed out for little Buster’s first ever vet visit. 

Buster on the washing machine

The vet recommended sutures to help keep everything in place because of her condition, but we had the problem of her laying an egg. I knew she was due to lay an egg, and the vet suggested we would need an X-ray to check for sure. It seemed like just as soon as he said that, Buster dropped her egg on the table. So that was one problem solved.

The next concern was trying to discourage her from laying again so that she would not bust open her sutures. The vet suggested that we needed to keep her mostly in the dark so that she wouldn’t have much daylight to encourage laying. I needed to keep an eye on her, and if it looked like she was going to lay the next day, then we would probably undo the sutures until she finished her business.

After she was all stitched up, I brought her home and put her in our chicken hospital located in the laundry room. She definitely wasn’t happy because she felt just fine and had all kinds of energy. The next day we checked on her several times, and it seemed like she was not going to lay. Later on, I heard her kind of crying and decided we should check on her again. Much to my distress, I found an egg with blood on it.

I immediately called the vet and arranged to bring her back in. I was definitely stressed, but she seemed okay and alert. Thankfully, the vent was not prolapsed again. The vet stitched her back up, but a little differently this time. When we were in the exam room, Buster seemed so good. I mentioned to the vet tech that she could be pretty feisty. She informed me that she had been biting at her in the other room, and she had also pooped on the vet. I did feel bad about that. She was living up to her name.

Now, once again, I am trying to discourage her from laying. I am okay with her not giving me eggs. I don’t want another prolapsed vent. She needs time to heal. One of the biggest challenges is that I only have two chickens, so when one is away from the flock it is hard on the other one. I will be thankful to get past all this and get her back to normal. It has definitely left me in high-strung, chicken mama mode.