Hobby homesteaders unite (over at my other blog…)

I’ve posted the ocassional blog entry here that relates to my backyard chickens, my sustainable living goals, my garden, and my sourdough baking. All of this material (and more related topics) will now be posted over at my other blog, The Hobby Homestead. I’m waiting on a domain transfer to get rid of the .WordPress part of the URL, but while I wait, I figured I’d start spreading the news that I’m splitting up my blog into two distinct interest areas.

If you’d just like to keep seeing my posts about mom-life, do nothing.

If you’d like to read more about my urban hobby homesteading endeavours, check out my new blog and consider following me there, too! I’ll be posting less content there (about one post a week), but content will always include pictures and a walk in my shoes as I learn new ways of being self-sufficient as a wannabe urban homesteader. It’s pretty much all food related for now, with topics ranging from growing vegetables to brewing beer.

Here’s a sneak peak in pictures of what I’m writing over there right now.

Hint: Maple syrup season!

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Garden Journal: May 2017

I tried a classy little moleskin gardening journal a couple of years ago, meant to track my garden layout for rotation planting, list what seeds I needed to order, and make notes on what worked and what didn’t work for me that season. I ended up storing the journal with seeds in the shed and I didn’t get much use out of it. Since I’m really consistent about using this blog, I’m going to try this format. I hope my readers don’t mind the deviation from purely two-mom family stuff, but gardening and self-sufficient lifestyle stuff is an equally huge part of who I am. 

For anyone interested in our urban backyard homesteading projects, we have a 100′ x 50′ back yard in zone 5. Unfortunately it’s North facing, but we work with what we have. 

Tasks done this spring

February

  • Started chicken coop design, started to source materials
  • Ordered seeds (a little late…)

March

  • Started kale and herbs indoors. I started a bunch of perennial herbs this year. Perennial is where it’s at.
  • Started scavenging materials for the chicken coop. Waited for the snow to melt to start building…
  • Searched for ready-to-lay hens.

April

  • Topped up gardens with fresh compost (store bought because my compost bins are slow acting right now) 
  • Started tomatos indoors
  • Transplanted kale and cold hardy herbs (winter savoury, lemon balm, chives) outside. Hope to never have to do this again thanks to cold frame plans for this fall/winter… 
  • Pruned last year’s old growth out of raspberry bushes
  • Construction on the chicken coop commenced! I should be clear – I played NO part in this. It was all my wife. Someone had to watch the baby…
  • Ordered chicks after giving up on finding ready-to-lay hens in the breeds I wanted. They’ll be ready for pick up mid to late June.

May

  • Transplanted everything else to outside gardens after last frost date (we had frost mid May this year, so it’s good I waited).
  • Harvested some fiddle heads – they really didn’t do well this year and I have no idea why. They’re native, they’ve done well here in the past, and they’re supposed to be prolific. Need to do some research into why they are struggling.
  • Harvested morels! After trying and failing with mushroom logs for the past 3 years, this was a big win. And that’s why I love wild edibles and native planting. It’s there for you when agriculture fails.
  • Harvested asparagus – also not doing well. Need to bite the bullet and dig it up in the fall to move to a better location.
  • Chicken coop nearing completion, but still need to build the run and get all the chicken husbandry supplies.

General To-Do/Goals List:

  • Have a more perennial vegetable garden. Give more space to things that come back every year and minimize the amount of seeds I have to start inside and transplant.
  • Build raised bed covers out of framed hardware cloth (i.e., heavy duty welded wire mesh) to keep the squirrels out of my freshly sowed seeds next spring.
  • Build a mini hoop house for over my herb bed/kitchen garden so I can harvest kale and herbs through the winter and start greens really early next spring.
  • Move asparagus this fall to a sunnier location.
  • Improve composting methods (maybe trade in black bins for an open-air heap in a pallet frame for easy turning) 

 

Getting Our Flock: Backyard Chickens

I have been wanting backyard chickens since I moved to this house with its big yard 6 years ago. This year, we took the plunge. The timing seemed right because the bylaws just changed this spring making it easier for people to have backyard flocks, and because we have a child now who will learn about living a self sufficient lifestyle through collecting eggs every day. 

My wife set to work building the coop. It’s still not done, but the framing is done, insulation is done, walls are up… We still have to put siding and shingles on, and then build the outdoor run. But I knew I had to get started looking for hens if we wanted to have them at all this summer. 

I searched for a while for ready to lay hens (they don’t start laying eggs till they are at least 6 months old). But I wanted specific breeds so we could get that Instagramable colourful assortment of eggs… Those proved very difficult to find in a 6 month old bird. 

Finally, I found a farmer not too far away who has chicks in all the varieties I was looking for, and he will keep them on hold (for a mere $0.50/week) until they no longer need to live under a heat lamp and can come live in our coop. So I placed my order, and we are expecting them some time around mid June. Plenty of time to get the coop done, and done right. We won’t have eggs until fall or possibly next spring, but we will get to bond with really young chickens, so that’s a bonus. 

I ordered: 

  • Ameraucana chick who will lay blue eggs
  • Marans chick who will lay dark chocolate brown eggs
  • Olive Egger who will lay olive green eggs
  • Buff Brahma (with feathered toes) who will lay common light brown eggs

I am SO excited. There will be pictures a plenty when we finally get them home. 

Weekend update: Easter

It was a beautiful spring long weekend. My wife got four days off (her new job gives both Easter Friday and Monday off!) and we only spent one day away from home. It was ideal. Busy, but at least we were busy in our own home doing our own stuff. Oh, and we were both sick, which was exhausting. We caught Avery’s bug. 

Friday 

I prepared an Easter dinner to have with my mom, and I managed to get the house cleaned too, all while taking care of Avery. It was one of those super mom days that balances out the days where I can’t even seem to get dressed by 5pm. My wife got a lot more progress done on the chicken coop, and my mom got a good visit in with Avery. 

Saturday 

I got some plants for the garden transplanted into bigger pots until all risk of frost has passed (mid May), and we sat on our first pub patio of patio season. Avery couldn’t get enough of the fries. 

Sunday 

We went to the in-laws for Easter dinner and Avery had a great time interacting with all the family she used to have stranger anxiety around. Except for her 1 year old cousin… She still has some issues to work out with him.

Monday

I had to go to work to invigilate an exam and Avery stayed home with her Mo. More coop building ensued, and some relaxing in the afternoon. 

Sleep

Since I last wrote about the floor bed arrangement, we have changed gears with sleep arrangements again. She seems to have matured a bit in the needing comfort area, because when she wakes through the night (which is still every 30 min to 2 hours) she doesn’t wail or cry in a panicked way. She cries in a complaining way now. So for a little over a week I have been putting her to sleep by nursing in the chair in her room, and then transferring her to her crib. The first transfer of the evening is hard. She needs to be really asleep to go for it, so it can take an hour and a half still. But after that all it usually takes to get her back down is a quick (2 to 15 minute) rock. She sometimes rolls around to get comfy after you put her back down, too, so she seems aware that she’s going back in the crib alone. 

The problem I’ve had over the weekend is that I’m too exhausted to rock her back to sleep. My legs feel like they’re on fire and I just don’t have the will power and I instead sit down in the chair with her. Sometimes she nurses, sometimes she just cuddles. She falls asleep, but so do I. A couple of hours pass. This isn’t helping our “training” because she still spends half the night sleeping with me, and it doesn’t benefit me like bed sharing did because I’m so uncomfortable. 

My wife took some of the night waking shifts over the weekend which was great for our “training”, but she can’t keep it up once she’s back to work this week. This will be my greatest challenge – staying the fuck awake through the night. 

Weekend Update: crawling practice 

This weekend was nice. Saturday was a spring projects day where my wife worked on the chicken coop and I worked on deep cleaning the house, one wall of one room at a time. Baby steps. Avery was feeling good (finally 100% over her cold) and super into independent play on Saturday, so we were really productive. My dad also visited for a few hours – he’s moving back to our province and was apartment hunting. Avery hasn’t let him get close to her since she was 1 month old (bad case of stranger danger that was heartbreaking for my dad), and this weekend she seemed to have completely gotten over that. They played and cuddled and it was great. Just took some patience and gentle encouragement. 
Sunday I had a board meeting and Avery was more clingy, so I didn’t get anything done. I felt pretty shitty about life by the end of the day. I also hadn’t had a break all weekend because I was watching Avery and cleaning and working 24/7 so my wife could get good coop building time in. But it paid off:

*this is the base of the coop, insulated and sturdy as hell. Walls and roof will go on top, run will be attached to the side, and underneath the coop is an extended run area. My wife drew up the design herself and sourced pretty much all materials either for free from hoarder family members, or for cheap from the Habitat for Humanity Restore. Note the classy faux hardwood vinyl flooring that will be the floor of the coop. 
The big update from this weekend:

Avery is so close to crawling! She gets up on all fours and rocks back and forth. I rarely did Tummy Time with her because she hated it. There was definitely some pressure to do it more so she would build upper body strength and learn to crawl. But I believe babies will learn things when they are ready regardless of how you push them toward opportunities. They might learn faster with pushing, but I’m not concerned with having her grow up any faster. Anyway, she got there on her own. Just a little more practice and she’ll be mobile. Hopefully independent sleep will start to develop when she reaches this new independence milestone!