Art-earnative Life Farm Blog or Vlog 365

Day 65 of 365 Blog or Vlog

Thinking about spring planting.

One of the the things any gardener does is to start gardening the next year in their mind as soon as frost hits.

I have a pretty good seed stash, so I don’t think I need to put in a big seed order.

What I do need to do is to start getting new raised beds built.

We managed to find a nearby rancher that sells IBC totes for reasonable cost. We got a couple IBC totes for water storage. The last couple years gardening efforts failed due to lack of water.

Rahn is getting some plumbing bits and pieces to not only pump water to the house from the IBC, but to collect rainwater from the roof.

By the way, IBC stands for “Intermediate Bulk Container”.

Art-earnative Life Farm Blog or Vlog 365 Homestead

Day 59 of 365 Blog or Vlog

Discussing more chickens.

Rahn and I were discussing when we plan to get more chicks.

There are a number of good hatcheries. We use Murray McMurray. We’ve always had good results with their chicks.

Chickens are a great choice for even a person beginning a off-grid lifestyle. They are pretty easy to keep healthy and you get breakfast!

I plan to order chicks to arrive in mid-March. That way, they’ll have a period inside and go to a sheltered brooder pen after last frost in early April.

This year we’ll order all females. I’m not sure on breeds this year. I’d like some more Brahmas. Because of a bird flu disaster at Murray McMurray, I wasn’t able to get any last year. Brahmas are generally considered to be a breed better suited to cold areas, but have done quite well here regardless.

Rahn plans to send the rest of the roosters to freezer camp (Yes, that’s an euphemism for slaughter, clean and freeze for food.) at some point this winter.

Historically, food animals were processed during the fall when the weather cooled and before food for animals ran short. People kept the animals that they planned to breed for the next generation, or needed to keep for eggs or milk.

New chicks arrive at our post office only a couple days after they hatch. The post office calls me as soon as they arrive, so I can drive in to pick them up.

We set up a brooder box indoors for their first week with a heat lamp, chick starter food, and a chick waterer. We get each chick to drink, and make sure that they are warm enough. We don’t want the chicks to have to pile up to get warm. That’s a fast way to get chicks to smother the smaller and weaker chicks.

We keep them indoors until they have feathered out. When we do take them outdoors, we keep them in a protected part of the chicken run apart from the older birds until they are large enough to not get bullied.

The best time to integrate the new birds with the older birds is after dark. The two groups have had a couple weeks with a fence between them, and after dark the birds are more interested in sleeping than chasing each other around.

Most breeds of chickens start to lay eggs at about six months of age.

Art-earnative Life Farm Blog or Vlog 365

Day 50 of 365 Blog or Vlog

Chickens not laying eggs?

There has been a lot of talk lately about possible causes for chickens not laying eggs. There are a number of reasons why, and many have more to do with time of year and weather than the situation with Tractor Supply Feed.

We did change feed, and I think our chickens getting back into production has a lot more to do with higher protein than anything else. We haven’t been feeding TSC feed exclusively, but rather had been following some other advice for cutting feed costs and improving chicken health.

We added crushed oyster shell and diatomaceous earth to both supply calcium and eliminate any pests and parasites.

Some chicken wheat and black oil sunflower from Azure Standard has also been added. While Azure Standard is more expensive than TSC, I think the fact that none of their products have any GMO “food” is worth a few extra dollars. I’ve also become less trusting of anything to do with big pharma and big farm. I still need to read the analysis of the suspect feeds.

I am also going to be buying from our local mills rather than TSC until I can get enough home grown feeds going to feed our birds and rabbits.

The plan is to plant several strips of sunflowers, squash, beans, wheat and oats. Sweet potato vines are vigorous, corn leaves and shoots are enjoyed by both rabbits and chickens, and I will be sprouting a number of seeds for our eating as well as the animals.

We’re going into the coldest part of the winter here, so I can get some sprouts going in my homestead office and the kitchen alongside the seed flats.

Art and Music Art-earnative Life Farm Blog or Vlog 365 Homestead Recovering Health and Fitness

Day 45 of 365 Blog or Vlog


A lot of positive changes will be coming up here at the Homestead for 2023.

With my upcoming cataract surgery, I will have a key part of recovering Health and Fitness going into place. This will allow me to make headway on my art plans, and may even let me add a new musical instrument to my abilities.

Rahn has a pair of new instruments on layaway – a guitar and a bass. I’d like to get a saxophone, and being able to see will let me learn to play it. I may also see if I can get a new clarinet. I used to be pretty good at playing clarinet, and skill on a clarinet should translate to being able to play sax fairly quickly.

We’ve been discussing the layout for this year’s garden. I have the seeds I need, and will be getting some seeds started this week. Rahn will be getting a new top on what will be my main potting bench (hopefully) today. I still need to get potato, garlic and onion sets.

Plans for a more stable water source are also moving forward. Meanwhile; with rain in the forecast for tomorrow, I’ll be getting the water collection tubs put back in place today.

The new tool shed is progressing nicely. The walls are up, and Rahn will be starting to organize and store the tools in it. That will get some of the things that are currently in my Homestead Office relocated.

I got some warning that the pay structure at my work will be getting updated. While this may be good news, I have some ideas about making a new stream of income. I’ll be starting a new line of products to resurrect my Amazon Handmade store.

Rahn plans to build the new back deck today. I’ll be getting the video camera out and will take video of the progress. He also plans to relocate the security cameras for better coverage.

Art-earnative Life Farm Blog or Vlog 365

Day 43 of 365 Blog or Vlog

Mother Nature is a psycho.

We’re going to go from single digits to highs in the 70s in less than a week. While I’m grateful for the more moderate weather, this past week has not been kind to most of the country. I’m glad we didn’t have to travel in that mess!.

More clement weather makes me think of spring and planting. I’ve been giving more thought to garden design as applies to our odd-shaped property.

Most of the plants will be in raised boxes about the size and depth of two or three five gallon buckets. I’ll have a group of them outlining the sunniest corner of the property, a 20’x20′ area between the front porch, the south end of the house, and the Homestead Office shed. This is where I plan to have at least six Climbing Triple-Crop tomatoes, multiple pepper plants, and some summer squash.

The Kellog’s Breakfast tomatoes will be in a planter at the other end of the house to try to keep from inadvertent crosses.

I’ll have two lines of planter boxes going from the shed out to the mailbox on either side of the walkway that comes down to the office. Eventually, we’ll have the front porch expanded northward along the front of the house. I’d like to not have to move the planter boxes out of the way of that expansion.

Rahn has mentioned only building eight planter boxes. Sadly, he’s thinking too small. Either we’re going to need a lot more planter boxes, or we’re going to have to till open a number of beds, and more plants are going to need to be trellised.

The image above is the “before” and I have a mind’s eye view of the plants during this summer.

Art-earnative Life Farm Blog or Vlog 365 Fiber and Fabric

Day 42 of 365 Blog or Vlog

Planting and bits and pieces of other projects

Several things are going on. I have some sweet potatoes in water in the kitchen to get some slips started, I ordered some additional seeds from Azure Standard for this year’s garden, I’m still working on cutting up t-shirts, and I’m starting an artistic sculptured box series to post on Amazon Handmade.

It does seem like a random collection, but the connecting thread is the time and space to work on these things.

I want to get the t-shirts cut up to clear space to work on the sculptured boxes.

The boxes need to get assembled to use up the cardboard and clear the corner of my office to have space for the rack for the seed starting.

Getting the boxes completed and sent to Amazon Handmade will start a new income line.

Once I have the seed starting rack set up in my office, I can move the trays I have in the kitchen to the office.

It does all make sense when I put it in order.

Art-earnative Life Farm Blog or Vlog 365 Homestead

Day 38 of 365 Blog or Vlog

We got about 2 inches out of this rain event. Not even close to the record deluges elsewhere in north Texas

We do have more rain in the forecast for later this week. This will be welcome, as the other water storage barrels need to be set up.

The yard is already starting to green up!

It was CRUNCHY after two and a half months of dry weather!

Art-earnative Life Farm Blog or Vlog 365

Day 33 of 365 Blog or Vlog

Farm Projects and Progress

Progress? Slight and hard-fought is the first reaction.

A couple mistakes where made with this year’s garden. The biggest one was that the grow bags I had were too small to allow for enough water retention. Consequently, when we got a prolonged dry spell, everything dried up and died.

The second part of this was inadequate water storage. We had gotten more barrels but they were not hooked up yet. (Still aren’t, to be honest)

The biggest part of the solution is to build a number of raised bed boxes that have much more soil in them. The plan is to build boxes to equal the volume of two to four five gallon buckets. These will be placed in a double row from the front door of the Office northward across the yard. The plan includes connections to both sides of the front deck at both the current stairs and the stairs that are planned to head to the Office. Another planned addition is to build a connecting trellis to arch over the walkway.

With the upcoming cooler and rainy weather I’ll be planting starting pots for a number of fall crops. Some plastic covered frames to protect the grow pots may also get done.

Elsewhere on the property, the chicken coop is nearing completion, and more cages for rabbits are being built.

The chickens are doing fairly well. The birds we got this past April are nearing lay. Our older birds have laid pretty consistently all year.

I downloaded an interesting YouTube video that shows over 200 chicken breed annual egg production. Here is the link:

The egg production has been such that we need to preserve eggs for the winter. We ordered a bag of of pickling lime and will start waterglassing eggs.

The rabbits came through the heat far better this year. A lot of attention was put on improving cages, shade, plenty of fresh water and ventilation. We got a big shop fan from the pawn shop

One goal of the garden is to raise more of the feed for the rabbits and chickens. Feed costs have gotten pretty out of hand. We’re to the point that we are spending nearly as much on feed for the animals as we spend to feed ourselves..

Other people have come up with some interesting ideas that we are examining. Fermented feed is allegedly a practice that can cut feed costs. Another idea is sprouting feed to provide daily sprouts of various bulk seed varieties. Others are able to get spent brewery grains, produce tossed by grocery stores, restaurant produce trimmings.

Since all of these either need equipment and supplies we don’t have, or daily trips to town that we don’t do, I have decided on developing home garden crops that will also feed what feeds us.

Winter storage squash, plants like cabbage that have leaves that people don’t eat, sweet potato vines are fully edible by both people and critters. There are quite a few others. Tomatoes that get blossom end rot, extra peppers, lettuce or spinach that bolt, etc.

Tomorrow should be a good day to do some planting between rain showers.


Art-earnative Life Farm Blog or Vlog 365

Day 31 of 365 Blog or Vlog

Some Chicken Activity, and Some Gardening

The grow bags are doing well. Need to get some more filled and planted. I plan to concentrate on the peppers, onions and tomatoes until we get some more bags and pots filled.

The yard is in serious need of getting mowed. I’ll see if I can get the lawnmower started once the rain stops and the yard dries out.

We moved the chicks to the larger brooder in the barnyard yesterday. They were getting too crowded in the tub in my office.

They are three and a half weeks old now, starting to flap short distances. I can tell what they need by the volume of the cheeping.

The older birds are laying well – about a dozen eggs a day.

Art-earnative Life Farm Blog or Vlog 365

Day 25 of 365 Blog or Vlog

Continuing look at living within our means.

Chicken math.

The cost of eggs and chicken is skyrocketing in the stores. We’re happy to be ahead of this curve. We have fourteen one year old chickens, and just got twenty-seven more birds two weeks ago. The older birds are laying over a dozen eggs a day, and the new chicks are “straight run” – meaning that they are males and females.

We plan to keep two or three of the roosters, but the rest of the roos will be sent to freezer camp. Since these are all large breeds, we get large eggs in at least three different shades.

We learned our lesson about letting the birds free-range. Having lost all our birds to predators last year, all the birds are under wire and a large coop is nearly finished.

The younger birds are currently in a brooder tub in my office, and will go outside to a separate pen in the farmyard in a couple more weeks. There they will be away from the older birds, but all of them will be able to see and hear each other for a couple weeks. We hope this will limit the pecking order fuss. We’ll also mix the two groups after dark in the coop.

Then there are the rabbits. The cute factor is something to be considered. Rabbit meat is a great deal easier to process and can be self sustaining with minimal inputs.

I am growing a great deal more of the rabbit feed this year. The Three Sisters planting I did a week ago should go a long way towards deleting the feed bill this year.

The rabbit cages are getting some badly needed expansion and upgrades right now, and we plan to manage the breeding much more closely once the upgrades are done.