Wednesday, May 22, 2013

This and That

Lots going on here at the homestead.  We are staying busy with the garden and the animals.  Here are some photo highlights from the last couple of weeks.

'The girls' (hens) have been laying for us regularly the last couple of weeks.  We started getting just one or maybe two eggs per day, and now we are up to five or six per day, which means about half of our hens are laying!  Considering that we eat half a dozen eggs per day, they are barely able to keep us in eggs, but we know it won't be long before all of the girls are laying, and we will be set!  Aren't they beautiful?

Official Hen Hollow Homestead Eggs in the pan!

Apparently, one of our layers has been laying double yolked eggs, and this particular morning, we enjoyed TWO with double yolks.  Making breakfast has become a treasure hunt, wondering what we will find when we crack the eggs!

Natalie has been trained on the lawn mower and has been enjoying her chores.  She feels so big when we let her mow on the riding mower.  I remember feeling the same way when I first started MANY years ago, but it lost it's luster when I realized that even in the 105 degree heat, it was MY responsibility to mow.  Ha!


As is typical of farm living, we have been clearing out underbrush and dead trees from the land, trying to keep things tidy.  We have amassed TWO large burn piles, but have been waiting for the perfect day to light them up.  The day finally came when everything was in place...perfect weather, no wind, and a weekend so Nathaniel was actually home to do it!  Here is a picture of the doesn't look as big in the picture as it was in real life...we made much if the pile using the tractor, if that helps with some perspective.  It was over our heads for sure!

A little fire starter and a spark, and we had flames!

The kids were fascinated...they never got to experience a controlled fire when we lived in town!

Mostly ashes now, after hours of burning.

Not bad for a day's work!

Now we are waiting on another perfect day so we can strike a match on pile number 2!


In other news, the hens LOVE Natalie's muck boots.  They are covered in tiny pink rosebuds and the hens think they are tasty is funny to watch! 


I have created a prayer wall in our dining room, where the kids and I can add prayer requests and people we want to pray for.  It is in a central location in our home, so when we walk by it a thousand times a day, we will be reminded to pray for those things.  I simply found an old frame I had in storage (from a garage sale, no doubt) and painted it red.  Then Nathaniel put chicken wire across the back, and we use tiny clothespins to attach the names of those we want to pray for.  This was only a few minutes after I hung it up, but there are more added here now, and the requests continue to grow.  I am hoping this will help all of us to pray more constantly throughout the day.  It is an honor and a privilege to pray for those around us, and I want the kids (and myself) to grow our prayer commitments!  Here is our wall:

Nathaniel made the shelf underneath out of some old barn wood...I am not finished accessorizing it yet, but for now, it holds our paper for prayer requests and a pen in an mason jar, and also our tiny clothespins.  It's a work in progress.

I also hung a few prayer quotes I printed off the internet...just as sweet words to read as we pray for those near and far.


In the garden, we have faced some challenges, but we are working on them, and learning lots about organic gardening along the way.  Here is a picture of the huge horn worm that decided to feast on my tomato plants...all three of them!!  Ugh!

Well, consider that his last meal...we found him, plucked him off of there, and fed him to the chickens!  That will teach him to eat my garden!

The tomato plants seem to be surviving, and are growing some new green.  I am hoping they will pull through and produce a bountiful crop for us.  I have big tomato canning plans!

We also discovered that an animal had trampled a section of my onions, and broken them down.  Out they came, and I spent some time processing them for the freezer.  From the onions I had to harvest, I ended up with 14 bags for the freezer...7 bags of sliced (for fajitas), and 7 bags of chopped.  Not bad for a few hours' work.


The end of last week, we had a little excitement here at the farm.  I had gone out to gather the eggs, and when I pulled open the door to the nesting box, a LARGE rat snake was there to greet me.  I have killed smaller snakes on my own before, no problem, but this one was HUGE, so I called in back-up.  I LOVE having my parents living just across the road...when Nathaniel is at work, I can call on them if I have an emergency.  I considered this an emergency!  Ha!

A quick phone call to my dad, and he grabbed the gun and came on down!

It took some looking to find the snake again, because after he had seen me, he decided to climb up into the rafters of the chicken tractor to hide, hoping we would go away.  Obviously, that snake had never met my dad, and didn't realize that he had met his match in the stubborn department.  My dad looked and then worked hard to irritate the snake making him climb down from the rafters.  Of course my dad won!  Ha!

Once the HUGE rat snake had climbed back down into the nesting box, we flung that crazy thing out onto the ground and it was over.  My dad shot it in the head, and that was the end of life for the slimy thing. 

Of course, once it was dead, we had to examine it and measure it!  We are rednecks :)

From what we could tell, he had not eaten any eggs, which was a good thing for us.  My dad pulled out the tape measure (which he ALWAYS has on his person) and measured the length...he was a little over 5 feet long.  Folks, that is just about as long as I am tall...craziness!!

Here is my dad holding it up...and my dad is TALL!

Once it was dead, though still moving because that is what snakes do, we decided to use it to do a little training with the dogs.  We want them to recognize snakes, and bark to alert us that there is one around so we can decide if it is a danger or not.  We took the snake up into the yard, and let the dogs sniff it and then got them wound up a bit by shaking the snake at them and hissing.  Of course it worked, and they began barking like crazy and alerting on the snake.  They kept getting more and more brave, and eventually were picking it up a little in their mouths and shaking it.  Good dogs!

Giddy-Up checking out the snake.

CowPatti decided to get in on the action, too!

Both of them going crazy, barking at the still-moving snake.  They didn't know it was dead!

Apparently the training helped because we have since found GiddyUp chewing on a tiny snake that she had killed.  Hooray for snake-catching dogs!  Ah, farm life :)


Sadly, we live in the middle of lots of tragedy lately.  First there was the West explosion, which we felt all the way here at our home.  We didn't have damage, but we did feel the blast which made the pictures on the walls hang crooked.  And now, over the last week, the spring weather has reared it's powerful head, and tornadoes have been all around.  One evening we spent hunkered down in the hallway with our emergency packs and the dogs.  There ended up being 16 tornadoes in our area that night, but thankfully, none of them hit our home.  Unfortunately, many around us were effected, enduring lots of damage to their homes and property, and even some lost their lives.  Devastating.

Then again yesterday, there was a threat of severe storms, so I placed our emergency 72-hour packs in the hallway again, along with my purse, some extra bottled water, dog leashes and a small supply of dog food,  and other emergency supplies.  I decided it would be good to be prepared, especially since Nathaniel was an hour away at work.  Here is a photo I took of our hallway stash.

Thankfully the storms did not get as bad as they were predicting, and we never had to hunker down in the hallway that day, but it was so good that we were at least a little more prepared for the possibility of something happening.

Please continue to pray for all those affected by the storms...people in Cleburne and Granbury are still trying to recover, and it will be a long road to rebuild all of the homes that were destroyed.  Please also pray for those in Oklahoma who have endured tornadoes as well...those in Moore and surrounding towns, who lost everything.  So many lives forever changed by the human loss that occurred that day.  While so very sad and challenging, losing homes and materiel things does not compare to those who lost children and loved ones in the storms.  God be with them all.


Well, that just about covers it.  Lots and lots of things going on here at the farm, and this is a snapshot of a few of those things.  We continue to feel blessed to live here, and are taking each new challenge as it comes, learning much all along the way.  We are so very blessed!

Sunday, May 5, 2013


After feeding the sweet baby chicks, and watching them grow, and waiting, and waiting some more, we FINALLY have our first egg.  One of our Black Austrolorp Beauties laid us an egg today.  VERY exciting evening here at the homestead!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Around the Homestead

Some photos from around the homestead!  We have been busy :)  The garden continues to grow and thrive and we are super excited for the day we can begin harvesting the bounty and eating from the land.  I also have my work cut out for me, as I need to educate myself on canning and storing up all of this delicious food for the winter!


Green Beans - There is a whole row of this growing!

Romaine Lettuce - apparently lettuce is not my gift...I only have three heads growing!

Okra - can't wait to dry some in my dehydrator.  MMMM!

Squash - Delicious!

This is the kids soon-to-bee sunflower house.  We planted all of the seeds in a large rectangle so when they grow up big and tall, the kids can play inside like a playhouse!  So far so good :)

Cantaloupe peeking through!

In other news, we have been cleaning out the back of the chicken yard, where trees and vines were taking over.  It is dangerous work for sure, and here is why:

Why yes, that is a Copperhead snake.  We actually killed two of these venomous creatures in our clean-out.  Where there are two, I am sure there are more.  Alert eyes becomes the name of the game when you are out and about around the farm.

Natalie thinks life is sweet because she got to help mow the yard for the first time on the RIDING mower!  Talk about feeling big!  She loved every second.

In our quest for low-carb and sugar-less eating, we have found a delicious little treat!  They are called indian food and they have less than 2 grams of carbs each.  That is LOW.  Straight from the package, they almost look like a circle of cardstock, but 3-4 seconds in the pan with a little coconut oil, and they puff up like a tostada.  We really enjoyed eating them that way, topped with lots of yumminess like seasoned beef, lettuce, tomato, grilled bell peppers, sour cream, and avocado.  A tasty low-carb treat for sure!

I stumbled upon a fantastic deal at one of my favorite secret grocery spots!  I purchased this entire crate of sweet potatoes (around 40 pounds) for $5...including the crate.  Awesome!  We have enjoyed baked sweet potato fries, and will also be using some on the garden, as well as the flowerbed hoping for some sweet potato vines.  We will see how it goes!

 For those of you from Texas (which is I am sure all 3 of you who read here!) I am sure you heard about the terrible explosion tragedy in West, Texas.  So very, very sad.  While we do not live in West, we do live close enough that we heard the explosion, and it really shook our home, leaving pictures hanging crooked on the walls.  We are all fine, as we are far enough away that there was no damage, but it was certainly alarming as we did not know what had happened for about an hour.  It wasn't until they began showing it on TV that we realized what had really happened.  Our hearts are broken for the community of West, and we know that it will be a long road of recovery as they grieve and heal and rebuild.  Lives were lost that day, families forever changed.  We pray for the community there, and for those ministering to them.

That tragedy, along with the B0ston tragedy, really spurred me on to begin working on a project that I have LONG wanted to take on.  I have done quite a bit of research about emergency preparedness, and have finally started on 72-hour kits for our family.  Should something happen that would cause us to need to evacuate, like terrible weather or some other tragic event, we can grab our backpacks and have everything we need to self-sustain for 72 hours.  Our kits are not complete yet, as it can be a bit expensive to put them all together at once, but they are started!  Once complete, they will include food, water, shelter, communication tools, first aid supplies, and other items we might need.  Yes, somehow it will fit mostly in our four little backpacks.  It was amazing to me how many of the items I already had around the house, but they were not useful in an emergency because they were so scattered and there might not be time to gather in the moment.  Now they are gathered together and we can grab them easily.  The beauty is, we could even use these packs if we needed to stay here in our home, yet had no electricity or water.  Over the coming weeks and months I will continue to add to our packs until they are complete.  We have even put together a pack for Nathaniel to keep with him on his commute.  Since he is an hour away from us, in an emergency he could grab his pack and walk home.

It may seem silly to others for us to think about preparedness, but we feel like it is a wise move for our family.  We believe and have no doubts that God is in control, but we also believe that preparedness is something God would have us do.

Here is a picture of our bags in progress:

So that's a brief recap of the happenings around the homestead.  Check back soon for more fun pictures!