Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Because They're Chickens

It was spring cleaning time in the chicken house. The first batch of broilers was due to arrive the following week. That is the perfect time to not only clean and disinfect brooder pens, but the entire chicken house.

We subscribe to the deep litter method for our chicken house. The concept is simple. You only clean out the chicken house once or twice a year. You start with a layer of bedding material. We use shredded paper because it is free. You let the chickens do their thing, and you add some more bedding material as needed. As long as the mixture stays dry, all is well. If you start to smell that ammonia smell, you know things are not dry, and you need to add more dry material. By the end of the winter we have a good thick layer of partially composted manure, shredded paper, and wasted feed.

Chicken manure is hot. Fresh and put directly on the garden it can burn plants. We use our deep litter clean out to fertilize the garden before tilling and planting, or in the summer, to mulch between the rows, especially for nitrogen lovers like corn, keeping the clean out a good distance from the plants. Both of these uses have worked well for us.

This clean out we hauled out the waste by the bucket to the garden nearby.  Remember, we are cleaning out  the hen house. The place the hens have access to 24/7. The place that they are all in every night. They've been with this stuff all winter long, and never found it very interesting. What is the first thing they want to do when it is hauled out and dumped on the garden? They scratch through it and act as if they have been given the biggest treat ever. That is a chicken for you.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


For months the kids have been torturing me with this song:

Besides singing this song repeatedly, they have begged me to make bacon pancakes. Today, I indulged their request. Using my favorite pancake recipe and adding some pre-cooked bacon for this all in one breakfast treat; Bacon Pancakes.

And because just bacon is not enough, we added some chocolate chips too; Chocolate Bacon Pancakes.

Yes, I have won the cool mom for the day award! Now, if they'd just stop singing the song.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Slow, but Sure

My winter "creative" project. 

This is my winter project, and braided rag rug made from old jeans. Considering that it is intended for the kitchen floor, and that spring is almost here, I better get busy! Or I could finish it off and call it a trivet!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Just for Fun

Take some climbing equipment. Add a couple of trees and a little imagination. You'll get a lot of fun!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Beginning Homesteading Class

In a few weeks, Tim and I will be teaching a beginning homesteading class at The Wild Ramp

Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Have you thought about starting a garden? Canning the harvest? Maybe you want to keep a few chickens, a dairy goat, or a pig. You might be interested in cooking from scratch, making soap, or just generally doing more for yourself. You are a homesteader. 
Wikipedia defines Homesteading; "Broadly defined, homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency."  
You might live in the city, suburbs, or out in the country, but regardless there are things you can do to become more self sufficient. Tim and Stephanie Appleton of Mil-Ton Farms share their experiences, and provide information and resources to help you get started. Specific questions are welcome beforehand to help guide the discussion!  
Class is $15 and $12 for Friends of the Market. Payable the day of the class.

I am excited about this class. I'm happy to share what we have learned, but homesteading is such a broad subject! Recently, I was talking to another homeschool mom who wants to become a little more self sufficient. She said she didn't even know what questions to start with because there was so much she didn't know.

So, where do I start?  Love to have your feedback on what you'd want to know, or what you wished you had know before you started your homestead!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Letter From Kellen


Dear Friends and Family,

I’m writing to you because I’m going on a missions trip this summer to the Dominican Republic. I’m not usually a person who likes to ask for things. So, typing out this fundraising letter, whose purpose is to ask numerous people for money feels incredibly odd. Like, really odd. It would, I admit, be much easier to just send out some generic letter, using all the latest Christian buzzwords. In fact,  I was given such a letter to use. I didn’t like it. At all. It just wasn’t me. It seemed really cheesy, and not at all like something that I would want to send to someone I thought liked me well enough to give me money.

Now, more than likely, I’m not the person you think of, when you think of some guy feeding the hungry, helping the poor, and going out to some remote village in a jungle, just because he want to show the people there what God can do. That’s because I’m not. And besides, my family has a farm to run, I’ve got school to do, and various life-y things going on.

Do I have the time to go to the Dominican for a week? Of course I don’t. Do people really ever? No, not really. There are tons of reasons why I shouldn’t go, or why I can’t go, and why I’m not really the person who should be doing this at all. But despite all that, I’m going. From June 22nd, to June 29th, I’ll be in Juan Dolio, Dominican Republic. Choosing to go really wasn’t a hard decision at all.1 Corinthians 12:6-7 says why extremely well, “And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:”   Wow. I think that’s pretty cool. “For the profit of all.”  All of us. Everyone. Makes me want to do something, how about you? And sure, praying for people is great. Prayer is amazing. It gets stuff done. But physically seeing what people are going through, that’s harder. It motivates. And I’m really excited to go, because we could all use a little prod off our, comfy first-world couches, right?

As I said, I’m excited. But of course, you can’t buy a plane ticket on feelings alone. You have to have some money. Most of you don’t know, but recently my siblings and I saved up and bought a $350 Wii U for our family. The feeling of accomplishment when we finally held that controller in our hands, it was the best feeling in the world. I can’t even describe it. I’d love to be able to do the same thing with this trip, but sadly, dollars are hard to come by. And 2100 of them are even harder. So instead of selling my Wii U 7 times, I’m coming to you, and asking you to help me pay for it. Because I can’t do it by myself, it’s just too much, too fast. If you decide I’m worth giving money, I don’t care how much you give me, a ton, five bucks, whatever. You can even send me a check for one cent, I don’t care. Actually, if you did, I’d probably hug you for it. Also, if you want to hire me to do something, I’ll do anything you want. Even manual labor.

That’s all I’ve got guys. Thanks for reading this weird letter from a guy you barely know. But before you stop reading, and throw this on your desk, I want to say one or two more things. You know that cheesy letter I was talking about? And while It talked about a bunch of stuff stuff I’m not, it also talked about prayer. I do agree with that prayer, as stated before gets stuff done. So please pray for me. I appreciate it. Also, if what I’ve told you here isn’t enough, message me on Facebook, E-mail me (,) or you can write me back. I’ll tell you what you want to know, best I can. Lastly, I’ve put a form in here too, that you can fill out if you want a rigid system for giving me money.

Again thanks,

Kellen Appleton

Dear Newsong Church & SCORE International:

Please put the following moneys on account for Kellen Appleton, who is traveling to the Dominican Republic on June 22-29, 2013, with Newsong Church Mission Team.

Yours truly,

(City)__________________________ (State)__________ (Zip code)____________
Gift Enclosed: $100_____$50_____$25_____Other________________________

Please make checks payable to: Newsong Church (please put Kellen Appleton in the memo line)
Mail to: Newsong Church, P.O Box 459, Barboursville WV 25504

Friday, February 15, 2013

They Like Food Too

There are so many reasons to grow your own food. There are health reasons. There is the satisfaction of providing for yourself. There are economical reasons, but I think at the top of my list is taste! Food you grow yourself just tastes better. Worlds apart from anything you'll get from the grocery store, or a restaurant. Apparently, the kids have caught onto this too.

Lydia (11) had a writing assignment this week. I think the assignment was talk about something you consider a blessing in your life. My girl, she picked food!
Farms and School Food
I live on a farm. Your probably thinking; eww gross. Well sorry, but you're wrong. Farm life is cool. You get to eat so much better food. I mean come on, you like bacon.... right? ( Because if you don't, you are not worthy to live in this world.) The bacon is so much better. Do you know why Jesus created farms? So you can eat. When you eat at school, do you think that's good food? WRONG!!! That food is not good at all! My family hates public school food. ( Its a good thing I don't go to public school, huh?) To me school food tastes like, crap. To me school food is not even food. So there you have it school food is gross. And nobody should have it, in their body. Farms are amazing. There you get the best food.  The food the schools and Wal-marts get are from  factory farms, that is not good at all. You need good food from our farm or other small good farms.        
Not exactly on topic for the assignment, but her paragraph cracked me up. By the way, the extent of her experience with "school food" is 4-H camp. I guess she also, isn't aware of the effort to improve school food through the Farm to School program.

For lunch that same day, we had salad with greens from our low tunnel, boiled eggs, and bacon. Kellen (14,) who has been know to post pictures of things he has cooked on Facebook, took a picture of his lunch. With the following caption, "Behold. A real man's salad. Full of delicious deliciousness. Tremble in fear as you stand in its presence. And yes. That is bacon."

 We are raising young foodies in this house. Guess it is just a by-product of the life we live.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Our First Maple Boil

Last summer we marked the trees. A few weeks ago we tapped them. Sunday, the sap was gathered, and the boil began.

And it continued:

And oops! Got distracted. Didn't get the candy thermometer in soon enough, and it was ruined; hard as a rock and slightly scorched.

~sigh~ The learning curve is no fun. Luckily, it looks like some more good days for the sap to run are coming up soon!

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Puppy Love

Today we went to pick out a puppy. We are purchasing a Great Pyrennes working dog from another farmer.  She and Nolan bonded. She was particularly enamored with Nolan's chin. 

Can't wait to bring this little cutie home. She needs a few more weeks with her mama. Looking forward to her guarding the property and keeping the flocks the safe.

 Now our task is to give her a name. Stella is at the top of the list right now. Suggestions are welcome.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Hillbilly Raincoat

Last week, during one of our unseasonably warm days, before the freezing days moved in, the kids spent the morning playing outside. A heavy rain storm moved in quickly, and Vivian and Kellen found themselves stuck in the chicken house. As the story was told to me, Vivian did not want to go out in the rain. Big brother improvised, as would any good homesteader, and cut a holes in a feed sack for Vivian to wear.

Apparently, she didn't mind getting her head wet, as this solution obviously doesn't not provide head covering. She played in the rain for some time with this get up. It wasn't too long until Nolan was sporting a similar outfit. Then they all played for about an hour in the rain while I enjoyed a quiet (dry) morning inside.

The things these kids come up with. Long time readers may remember another impromptu solution the kids came up with a few years back, Hillbilly Swimming Pool.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Ah good planning!

The beginnings of the pig barn 2009
Long time readers will remember that this little farm was built from nothing. All the buildings here, we put here. Houses were moved in, and animal shelters were designed and built (with some help) by my dad.

Most of our building materials were salvaged. Which saved a lot of money, if not time. My dad always had a lot of ideas. He had farm experience before we began this adventure. So, he was looking to design the buildings to make our work in the future easier.

One of the features he installed in the hog house was automatic waterers. This involves running the water line to the barn and plumbing the interior. Nipples are inside for piglets to access, but the adult water nipples are outside to help keep the inside of the barn dry. This system works like a charm for all but a few weeks of the year.

Weeks, like the last couple,  where temps fall and stay below freezing create extra work and care to keep the hogs in water. The hog house is well insulated. The hogs themselves are fine all winter as long as their is enough bedding material (and a heat lamp for piglets.) The water pipes though, they require some heat. Below freezing temperatures mean we are running some sort of portable heat, most often kerosene.

While everything is nice, warm, and safe inside, there still are those nipples outside the building. They require a little more attention. On really cold days, especially cold windy days, we will head to the pig barn at least three times a day to keep these babies thawed. We use a small propane torch to thaw them out.

Most of the time it doesn't take too long to get them thawed, but this year it has taken a little more work. If you've had pigs, you know they are hard on buildings. We did quite a bit of winterizing work to this building in the fall. We missed however, that the interior and exterior walls where the water nipples are have been pushed apart a bit, and that it needs insulating again. The years of using heat for these pipes has also worn away at the hardwood around them. All of this allows a lot more cold air to that pipe. On really cold days, we have to thaw the inside elbow and use the heat longer to get things moving.

Last week I was having a particularly hard time getting the middle pen going. To complicate matters, this was the pen where the new, and rather protective, momma was with her piglets. I was trying my hardest to thaw that nipple without going inside her pen. Then I saw the flames. Something between the walls (in hindsight I'm pretty sure it was the plastic sheeting insulation,) was on fire. It wasn't a lot of fire, but enough to make me panic a bit. I couldn't stomp it because it was between the walls. Any significant source of water was frozen, and at that time, there was no snow on the ground.

I ran inside the building, and there it was, a fire extinguisher. I imagine dad put that there with just such a issue in mind. A quick squeeze of the trigger and all was well.

Later, I figured out I could reach that inside elbow from the other pen, and there have been no issues since. Add to the to do list: getting the extinguisher charged, checking other buildings for extinguishers, and working on that wall of the pig house.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Weather Swing

January 30th:

The weather was gorgeous first thing in the morning. A heavy rain quickly moved in, but that didn't even stop the kids from playing outside. It was so warm. They played in the rain. 

February 1st:

The predicted high today is 22F. When I went out to feed animals it was 15F. 

Crazy weather swings!