Fall is on it’s way, and some of us are more than ready to get started! Today the Schenanigans Family traveled home from our favorite end of summer trip, visiting the Grange Fair in Centre County, Pennsylvania. Surrounded by all that agriculture and knowledge, I was inspired to make the most of my tiny 1/4 acre homestead, less than 5 minutes from the Baltimore City line.
Lucky for me, we passed several Tractor Supply stores on the trek back to the suburbs, and the one closest to us still had chicks in stock. Anyone who raises chickens knows what a long haul raising chicks feels like. At least it is for hens used in egg laying. That dead space between when they are no longer cute and when they lay their first egg seems to stretch on FOREVER!!! It’s in those moments that I promise myself I will take a looooong break before I bust out the heat plate again and drag home another fist full of peeps. But it’s never true. I never do. I raised 7 birds that hatched this February, half for my neighbor (who traded me backyard local honey and crab trap privileges in exchange for some white leghorns), and the rest for myself. He was months late in coming for them, and I vowed not to raise more chicks for another year and a half.
So here we are on August 21st and I just picked up six Cornish Reds for meat and one Black Australorp for laying. Only one egg layer because my coop was full, but I had one old girl who was no longer laying and just an all around pest, so she needed to be dispatched. I generally don’t process my layer flock. They rarely live long enough to stop laying, and if the kids raised and loved on them they get to stay. But I can’t remember where this girl came from, we didn’t pick her, and neither of the kids cared for her or her attitude.
After we arrived home and finished unpacking the van, I got the chicks settled in their new brooder, set up their food/water/heat, and got started on dispatching one fat chicken. Since she was old, the meat will need a few days to rest in the fridge before stewing. But I always feel so quietly proud of myself and my skills when I am able to produce my own protein to feed my family. Would you believe I learned to butcher by watching Youtube videos? I started out raising quail.
After I finished with the bird, I started looking for more garden space. See, I have two raised garden beds that Captain Schenanigans built for me last Christmas, and I made myself another temporary one out of old firewood in a test spot that might be too shady. But in testing out old seeds (I never buy plants, too expensive and I lose about a quarter in the transferring process) I over dosed on peppers and tomatoes, which I planted in my raised beds for round three of plants this year, and filled those beds up (I also have tomato seedlings in six locations around my property to test new garden spots).
Accidentally forgetting that I had wanted to plant spinach and bibb lettuce in my raised beds this Fall left me looking for new planting space today. I had found some bok choy and red lettuce seeds in the clearance bins at Tractor Supply, so now I needed even more room. I had used up all my garden space in the front yard, but had a bit of a problem with my male dog peeing on everything in the back. My solution? Planting my short cold crops behind already established tall plants, like flowers and shrubs. I found about sidewalk’s width of space in the back of my flower bed, between my flower and the fence! All it needed was some rabbit manure to freshen up the soil and the shavings to hold water. I busted out my Christmas rototiller (I love my husband) and planted to my little heart’s content, then watered like crazy. It was a very accomplished feeling! I dare say one gets that more in gardening than parenting some days…
By then I was tired. I’d been driving all morning and micro-farming all afternoon, but there were still more chores to do. So I did what any good mom would do. I pulled my kids off screens and threw out directions like parade candy. Of COURSE they grumbled. Of COURSE they whined. So what? No one wants a lazy adult, which means you gotta fight the lazies during childhood. I’m just doing my part to contribute to society. Girlchild cleaned out the chicken coop in record time so she could return her 12yr old self to organizing her dresser (girl after my own heart), but Manchild clucked and fussed like a broody hen during egg collection. I got him to scrub out the chicken water container with baking soda, and get most of the algae out, but not without a fight. My girls use the bottom half of a turtle sandbox to hold their water, and I’ll agree it’s awkward to scrub, but perfectly within range for a 10yr old boy. Ya just gotta put your back into it, Bubba!
After supervising the young’ens and watering all my veggies, I tossed Manchild a grilled cheese sandwich and hit the showers. It felt FANTASTIC to have so much growing on my little property, and I loved the prospect of so much more to come in the next season. I’ll never be able to feed my family entirely off the land, but that’s okay. The more I accomplish the better I feel, and more our family can sustain ourselves by buying less. Like the Proverbs 31 woman in the Bible, I actually enjoy these types of tasks that help shore up our family’s future.
“She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come” Proverbs 3:25
I’m no Biblical icon, but I do look forward to enjoying the fruits of my labor in the coming winter, and that’s a good feeling! 🙂