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Pasture Deficit Disorder

This Life in the Pasture: Balancing our Dream Life with Reality

A Wannabe Pioneer

We love our life in our pasture. And we appreciate our jobs in the city that pay for this beloved pasture. But I’ve gotta tell you, it’s not easy to balance the two.

I don’t know exactly when the idea to have some land actually took hold.  When we got married over eleven years ago, we had no thoughts or plans to own acreage and raise livestock. We started growing a few vegetables and herbs in raised beds and containers in our tiny backyard with a very short growing season in Colorado. It was there that we learned how to make our first jelly and jam. And I can distinctly see myself sitting in our living room in Colorado, reading John Seymour’s The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It for the first time.

My grandparents on both sides had farming/ranching roots.  My paternal grandfather was a cattle rancher his whole life.  My maternal grandfather always lived in the country and raised animals, fruits and vegetables, and canned jams.  My husband’s grandparents on his dad’s side always had land and farmed.  And his dad raised hogs for a short time when my husband was very young. My husband and I have always gardened, but when we moved back home to Texas in 2010, we started exploring the idea of living on some acreage and raising as much of our own food as possible.

We have always tried to be somewhat self-efficient. We’re crafty – enjoying making our Christmas gifts rather than buying them. Back in Colorado, we bought a table saw when we put in our own laminate flooring. And we, especially my hubby, learned to build many more things from there. We did our own landscape makeover in Colorado and our yard was the star of the block. Living on our land now, we've learned to build fences (lots and lots of fences!), chicken coops, cattle shelters and decks. We did all our own plumbing on our land in preparation for our modular house arriving – including planning for future water uses such as the chickens, gardens, and other livestock.

Something I read in John Seymour’s book really stuck in my brain, and more importantly in my heart. “Self-sufficiency does not mean ‘going back’ to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living; for food that is fresh and organically grown and good; for the good life in pleasant surroundings; for the health of body and peace of mind that come with hard, varied work in the open air; and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully.”

This whole notion of homesteading or self-sufficiency is certainly not for the timid or faint of heart. It’s not easy. Especially when you’re starting from complete scratch like we did, and it’s just the two of you (with some occasional help from some amazing neighbors). And that’s where the struggle for balance comes in. We are not off-grid and we are not self-sufficient to the point where we don’t need our jobs in the city. With a long commute and a standard work day, it gets hard to fit it all in. Seems we’re always short of two things: time and money.

Upon returning from work each day, there are always animals to be fed. We currently have dogs, cats, chickens, and cows. In the winter, you come home and do that in the dark. And in the summertime, there are the additional tasks of gardens to water and harvest. Sometimes you come home to find a sick animal, or a missing one. Or something critical that is broken. No matter what plans you had, that situation takes immediate priority. Something that seems to come far down the list of priorities each day is spending time writing for my blog and work on my first children’s book.

Here are just a few examples of tasks that have instantly changed our plans for a day/evening – I’m sure many of you can relate:

• Finding the bull over at property next door.
• The washing machine dying.
• A tree falling on house.
• Discovering evidence that someone came over our locked gate.
• The property owner next door starting a brush fire on the fence line.
• Finding a snake in the chicken coop.
• Just before bed, discovering a skunk in the backyard and the dogs getting "misted".
• Having to redo a gate when we realized the hay equipment couldn't get through … and they were on the way to cut hay.
• Discovering a nest of fire ants in the fiberglass "fin" on the back door to our minivan.
• Hurt or sick chickens.
• Hurt or sick dogs.
• Finding a tree has fallen on the fence.
• Discovering a vagrant stole eggs from us.
• Rescuing our cows from swiftly moving and rapidly rising flood waters.
• Repairing downed fence.
• Directing traffic on state highway for over an hour at a bad accident scene.

And like many people, we are working hard to be healthier and lose weight. You would think that with everything we have to do around here, it would be enough to keep us fit and slim. But alas, it is not. So that means finding time to exercise. And then hopefully, we get to finally have a healthy meal. But often it’s not before 8:00 p.m. Only to have to go to bed soon after and get up early to start it all over again.

Often when I regale people at work with tales from the pasture, I get one of two responses: “I don’t know how you get all that done” or “You need a vacation.” Try as I may, it’s really hard to get them to understand how we’re building a life we don’t need/want a vacation from. I don’t know whether we’ve both always been homebodies at heart – but we certainly are now. And then there is the complication of finding someone to care for a house full of dogs and cats and a coop full of chickens. The cows at least, are pretty self-sufficient. Even if you found boarding or someone to care for the dogs and cats, it would be hard to find someone willing to let the chickens out at first light and secure them before dark. And bring them cool treats in the evening when the day is at its hottest. (Why, yes our animals are spoiled, thank you.)  And if you did find such a person, it would probably cost about the same as the vacation itself!

Are there places I’d like to visit? Sure. But the world seems to be a very crazy, scary place these days. Leave me in our pasture any day. I’m completely and utterly content, and never, ever run out of things to do or find myself bored!

Our big picture plan is to build this place in preparation for retirement. It seems that for every project we complete and get to cross off the list, twelve more have replaced it. But that’s okay. We enjoy the challenges. We are very proud of how much we have accomplished in less than five years. And we’re equally excited to see how much more we’ll accomplish in the next five. So in the meantime, we will continue to work on that delicate balance between our dream life and reality. Because for us, nothing beats this life in the pasture.

Beautiful sunset recently in the pasture:

Recent sunset in the Pasture

My First Winter Garden

A Wanna Be PioneerI've never attempted a winter garden before. Which is a shame, because here in central Texas, we have a very long growing season and pretty mild winters. This year, on a whim, I grabbed some 9-packs of cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. I started working in the garden pulling up the finished-for-the-season tomatoes and tomatillos, and trying to get rid of some of the grass that was trying to reclaim my garden. I got the first few broccoli and Brussels sprouts in the ground. But before I could finish planting those or any of the cabbage, something had sneaked into my fenced garden and not only eaten every one of my cabbage plants, but also most of my Brussels sprouts and all but two of my broccoli. Eaten them to the ground.

I immediately thought of our resident squirrels, because they were the only critters I could think of that wouldn't be deterred by the fence. Hubby said I was spouting nothing but false accusations with no evidence. He likes squirrels. We both do actually. We have a designated squirrel feeder.

But something was eating my plants. So I caged each plant that was left with tomato cages and chicken wire. Inside the fence. Overkill? Maybe. But I didn't battle all that darn grass for nothing!

The plants that were left have all been growing well. The rains have been interspersed enough that I haven't even had to spend much time watering. I went out last week to check on everything. And this is what I found.

First broccoli at PDD

Well hello beautiful! My first ever broccoli. May be the only one we get this year. But I'm already excited and encouraged to try again next year.

Just like I'm plotting a much bigger patch of roma green beans this spring. Oh my stars, are those the best canned green beans I've ever eaten. Funny story on that canning adventure. You can read about it here.

Do you grow a winter garden? Do you use cold frames or a green house?

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Wintertime Is Work Time On Our Homestead Construction Projects

A Wanna Be PioneerThe first project we tackled in the fall was a deck at our back sliding glass door.  It was still pretty warm out this fall, but doable. 

The builder left us these steps.  We don’t even think they used treated lumber, and after three years, they were getting downright dangerous.  I don’t think it even took us five minutes to tear them apart.

 PDD back steps

We built an 8 x 16 foot deck instead.

 PDD deck work

We decided to mimic our fencing style instead of using traditional balusters/spindles.  It’s safe, but has an open feel and doesn’t block our view of our beloved pasture.  :)

PDD finished deck

Notice how all the pictures are photobombed by our furry kids in the sliding glass door?  HA

The next big project on the list was a shelter for our growing herd of longhorn cows.

We went with a loafing shed structure that is 10 x 32 feet.  (The roof is 12 x 34 feet.)

The project begins. The week of Christmas was unseasonably warm, so we were yet again working in shorts and t-shirts.  But with all of our weekends that have been “rained out” so far this fall, we’ll take it.

 PDD cow cabana 1

Don’t let anyone tell you a minivan can’t be a farm truck!  It’s all about making do with what you’ve got. (This was just one of several trips.)

 PDD farm truck

Rafters ready to be installed.

 PDD cow cabana 2

We still have a little bit of framing to do.  But we’ve discovered that the roofing and walls are the most expensive part of the project.  So unfortunately, those will have to come a little bit each paycheck.  But we’ll get there.  If only we had a woodworking shop/barn for those logs stacked there.  That wood will make beautiful woodworking projects some day!

Thanks to my sister-in-law, this has come to be known as the "Cow Cabana" (thanks Krista!). :)

 PDD cow cabana 3.5

We’ll keep you posted on the progress as the Cow Cabana comes together.

Until next time, worms rock, bees rule and chickens are my Zen.

You can also visit us on Facebook, Pinterest, pasturedeficitdisorder on Instagram and now on Twitter.



DIY Chicken Feeder

A Wanna Be PioneerI don't know about your chickens, but ours were wasting a lot of food. We had one of those galvanized hanging feeders. It wasn't hanging, but it was up off the ground on blocks. We even had a clay pot turned upside down inside the feeder to take up some excess space and cut down on the amount of feed in there. When it rained on it, the feed was ruined. So we kept a piece of wood across the top to try and keep the entire bucket of food from getting wet.

galvanized feeder

Our chickens will not eat feed after it has been scattered on the ground. Really? They eat bugs, for heaven's sake. And mice. But, oh no, not perfectly good feed that has touched the ground. Let’s just suffice it to say, for so many reasons, that feeder wasn’t working for us.

There are lots of ideas for feeders online. We used one as a model, but quickly figured out we needed to make adjustments and modifications to suit our setup and needs. You will probably want to do that too. But maybe this will be a good starting point for you.

Here's what we did:

We used all 3-inch PVC pipe and fittings for our feeders. Each feeder cost us about $20. The parts list for one feeder, with prices from our local home improvement store, includes one of each of the following:

Cap socket, $4.15
3-inch piece of pipe (see pipe price below)
Wye connector - $5.89
2 1/2-foot piece of pipe (5-foot pipe - $11.21 – enough to make two feeders)
Threaded female adapter - $3.54
Clean out plug - $1.77

PVC bottom and wye 

threaded adapter and cleanout plug

whole feeder

new feeder in action

Starting at the bottom we put it together like this: cap socket on the 3-inch piece of pipe, wye connector to the other end of the 3-inch pipe (the cap and wye connector should pretty much butt up next to each other on that 3-inch piece of pipe), the 2 1/2-foot piece of pipe goes on top of the wye, then the slip end of the threaded female adapter on top of the pipe, and finally the clean out plug screws in to the adapter.

There's is no real need to glue the pieces. They fit pretty snugly and the contents are not under pressure. The 2 1/2-foot piece of pipe can be as long or as short as you like, depending on your needs and where you are installing the feeder.

To install the feeder, we put a 2-by-4 against the wall behind the feeder so the top wouldn’t be right up against the wall. This little bit of spacing seems to make it easier to pour the feed into the opening. Then we used metal pipe hanging strap to secure the feeders to the outside wall of our coop. We built two and put them under the “patio cover” (see it here) we recently built on the north side of the coop. Even in our record 7.93 inches of rain in one day last month, the feeders and the food stayed dry.

With this feeder, we are using pellet food instead of crumbles. We tried pellets before in the old feeder and still had the same problem. But in this feeder, pellets have worked great.

The only issue we have encountered is the "dust" from the feed will accumulate in the bottom. But these feeders are so easy to clean out. Also, sometimes the food gets just a little packed and doesn't fill the wye fully. So occasionally we just reach in there and kind of rake the feed from the pipe into the wye. No big deal. And now that we know we have cut our feed bill in half ... yes, you read that correctly, in half ... it's a small price to pay.

Until next time, worms rock, bees rule and chickens are my Zen.

Pasture Deficit Disorder – Because Life in a Pasture is the Only Cure

You can also visit us at our website, or on Facebook.

Minor Drainage Issues on a Homestead

A Wanna Be PioneerNo matter where you live, you might have to deal with water drainage issues from time to time. (To clarify, I'm talking minor drainage issues. If you are having flooding issues, you need to seek out the experts, like an engineer. And depending on where you live, permits may be required on some types of drainage work.)

While it's on the the Pasture To Do List to add rain gutters to our house, it's well, you know ... on the list. Not having gutters yet has created some (minor) runoff issues in heavy rain events. We have the edges of the yard up against the house lined with rock to help prevent erosion from the water that flows off the edges of the roof. The rocks help keep the water flowing downhill and away from the house. However, we noticed the side yard was now often under water. Also, water flowed from that side yard and the front of our house towards the chicken coop. In heavy rains, there will be a couple of inches of standing water in those areas.

So we endeavored to install some French drains to help pull the water away from the house and towards the pasture and away from the coop in the chickens' (aka Tiny's) yard.

To install these French drains, we dug a narrow trench about one foot deep. (In an area where it could flow downhill.) We laid a 25-foot piece of perforated drain pipe that is covered with a sock. These cost about $25 at our local home improvement store.

french drain pipe 

Then we back filled the trench with pea gravel. Water seeps through the gravel into the pipe and downhill. The sock helps prevent the pipe from filling up with soil.

The photographs below are the first French drain we put in at the back corner of the house. It runs under the backyard fence and out into the pasture.

PDD french drain 6

PDD french drain 5  PDD french drain 7

These next photographs are of the second French drain we installed in the chickens' yard. You can see they were "helpers" going through all the spoils of our digging and looking for worms and grubs. The chickens think it's high times any time they see us with a shovel in hand. ;)

PDD french drain 2

PDD french drain 1  PDD french drain 3

These types of drains have worked really well for us to redirect water coming off our house or sheet flow from big rain events. Now, instead of having standing water along the side of our house or in the chicken yard, water is moved out to the pasture. And we'll take all the water we can get in the pasture.

Until next time, worms rock, bees rule and chickens are my Zen.

Pasture Deficit Disorder - Because Life in a Pasture is the Only Cure

You can also visit us at our website, or on Facebook.

Fencing for the Homestead

A Wanna Be PioneerI've written about fencing before ... when we were first getting started on our homestead. We’ve done a lot of fencing projects around here since we bought this property. And depending on the application, there are a ton of options available. We had relatively good barbed-wire fences around the perimeter, except for when trees fall on the fence. Why is it that a tree that falls never falls harmlessly in the other direction, but always on the fence? Must be Murphy’s Law.

Soon after moving in, we wanted to start building a backyard. We needed to be able to let our “city dogs” outside to do their “business” unattended, without having them run wild on our 10 acres … or everyone else’s acres for that matter.

We found ourselves staring at every fence we passed by. We came up with a vision of what we wanted it to look like, and designed and constructed it ourselves. That first phase of the backyard was really hard work. We were in a drought, so the ground was really dry and hard. And the backyard happened to be over nice hard clay. Ugh. It was S.L.O.W. going, digging those post holes. And let me tell you, we dug every one of them by hand (we being my husband). We buried 8-foot treated 4x4 posts 2 feet deep and concreted them in. Then we added three “rails,” which were 8-foot treated 2x4s, and stained the posts and rails with a semi-transparent cedar-colored stain. Finally we wrapped the outside with 5-foot tall welded wire fencing. We used a pneumatic stapler to attach the wire to the posts and rails.

Using this style of fence, we built our backyard, chicken yard and front yard. We also just finished fencing off the driveway and the chicken yard to the front fence to create a “cow-free” zone and our future orchard.

Backyard without gates

Fence around front yard 

Above top, our backyard before we added gates and, above, our front yard is completely enclosed. We've planted jessamines to create some screening for privacy and blooms for the bees.

We have several different types of gates. We have pedestrian gates that are approximately 4 feet wide that we built ourselves to match the fence. We also have several farm (tube) gates so we can get equipment, tractors, trucks or trailers in the yards and near the house if necessary.

Single 6 ft. farm gate 

PDD Pedestrian Gate 

Double farm gates

Red Brand Cattle FenceWe have done plenty of fence work around the perimeter too. We started by shoring up weak areas in the barbed wire before we got cows. We have since decided that cattle field fence was going to be our best bet with Longhorns, so we’ve been adding that right over the barbed wire fence. Cattle fencing (at left) has smaller openings close to the ground that gradually get a little larger towards the top, so the hooves and legs can’t get stuck through the fence. That cattle fence has eliminated a lot of problems with badly behaving young bulls on both sides of the fence!

What kind of fencing works best on your homestead?

You can also follow our homesteading adventures at our website, Pasture Deficit Disorder, or on Facebook.

Until next time, worms rock, bees rule and chickens are my Zen.

Pasture Deficit Disorder - Because Life in a Pasture is the Only Cure

A Fort for Our Barn Cat

A Wanna Be PioneerI know, I know.  We've heard it before ... "You do know your animals are spoiled, right?" or "Man, if I were an animal, I sure hope I'd get to live at your place!"

But when you have a barn cat (best dog we have, by the way), and she doesn't even have a barn, where's a respectable mouser supposed to go?

Two Socks Pasture Manager 

When Two Socks adopted us two years ago, we needed to find a safe place for her to sleep. We had a small utility table that was one of hubby's first wood-working projects. We also had some leftover pieces of siding, so we enclosed the bottom shelf and put a tote inside with some paper shreds and some straw. And Two Socks took up residence right outside the back door. As the weather turned colder, we upgraded her "bed" to a huge dog crate we had on top of the table with a dog bed and some hay inside. She made a nice little nest. Problem was, with all the openings in the dog crate, it was susceptible to the weather – especially rain.  So naturally we covered it with a tarp. That worked for over a year.

Leading up to the recent, and very unusual, really cold snap we had last month, hubby wanted to build something a little more weather-proof for our faithful girl (aka the Pasture Manager).

We still used the big dog crate with the bed inside, but we enclosed it in her very own cedar-sided kitten fort.  A barn kitty's gotta have a barn, right?  Even if it's a mini-barn.

Kitten fort

Oh, and that box on the "lower level" with the paper shreds?  Yeah, that's right ... the chickens have taken it over as the exclusive, private nest they can sneak off to. So now we have to check the nests in the coop and the "nest" in the old kitten bed in the backyard for eggs each day. Guess I shouldn't complain ... at least they're not laying them all over in random places!

Until next time, worms rocks, bees rule and chickens are my Zen.

You can also visit us on Facebook, Pinterest and PastureDeficitDisorder on Instagram.

Pasture Deficit Disorder: Because Life in a Pasture is the Only Cure