Tag Archives: DIY

Raising chicks while living off-grid

So yeah. I’m a sucker for chicks. That is a fully established fact.

Yup. That’s two MORE chicks to add to our menagerie.

I was not planning on buying more chicks. But the feed store I was in had these 5 week old Ameraucanas for sale for only $2 more than they were selling brand new chicks.

And two of our four Ameraucana chicks had died (being crushed) within the first week. I really wanted more Ameraucanas. So when I saw these 5 week old chicks, who are almost the same age as our original chicks, and at a reasonable price?

Well, how could I resist?

[Did I mention that I went to that feed store, miles out of my way,  because I heard they had 5 week old Ameraucanas? No? Oh, well, that will be our little secret, k?]

So as Flower Girl sat in the parking strip grass next to the laundromat today, cuddling one of the new chickies, I figured it was high time to detail out how we have raised our chicks while living off-grid in a camping trailer.

She’s the chicken whisperer for sure!

On April 19, we brought our first chicks home and fostered them to a broody hen who had been sitting on golf balls for about 6 weeks. It worked great. You can read that post HERE

A few days later we tried again with another broody hen. It didn’t work at all. So we had to implement our backup plan.

We knew we needed to raise these chicks in a brooder. We had just emptied a large plastic tote, so that would work perfect. But there was no way that our solar power system could run a traditional heat lamp.

As the weather warmed up, we were able to use the warmth of the sun during the day. 

Solar powered warmth for the chicks – at least on sunny days 😊 (PS, this pic was take  after we got our bantams – the original chicks were about 10 days old, and the bantams ranged from less than a week old to about 2ish weeks old)

But what about at night? Or when it was overcast or cold? Sure, their brooder box would be in the mud room, out of the elements, but April in Northern Nevada is still pretty chilly. Too chilly for newly hatched chicks.

I had seen some warming plates online that advertised that they only use 15watts, but even with Amazon’s 2-day shipping, it would still be several nights before we could get one and set it up. 

So, to keep our little chickies warm, we built a little hut out of some reflectix we had laying around. (Reflectix is a insulative mylar and bubble wrap material, basically what a lot of car windshield shades are made from.)

Reflectix hut inside the brooder box

We cut a hole just big enough for the chicks to get in and out.

So we had the hut made, but we still needed a heat source. So, we heated some water and put it in a quart size canning jar and placed it in the warming hut, making sure that the door was not blocked so the chicks could get in and out.

The hut was sized just right so that a quart size jar and 6 chicks could all fit in the hut together.

This worked great, except that the water needed to be reheated every 4 hours. Even in the middle of the night. Which meant that for three nights, I was getting up at 2am to reheat the water for the chicks. 

It reminded me of middle of the night feedings of the girls when they were babies. 😄

So after three nights of getting up at 2am, I was very glad to see this come in the mail. (This is not an affiliate link. I am not being paid or reimbursed or compensated by Amazon or Premier. I’m just giving an honest review of a product I actually bought.)

Warming plate for chicks

The under side gets to be about 110°F, just a bit warmer than a mamma hen. It’s easily adjustable in height to accommodate growing chicks, and advertised that it only takes 15 watts to run. 

Considering we are set up on solar power, and this would be running all night, a minimal power draw was essential. But we were skeptical, especially seeing that it was designed for a 220volt system (maybe because it’s made in Germany?) and we are running 110 through our inverter.

But we plugged it in and gave it a go. 

And it worked as advertised. Actually, the power consumption was even less. We hooked it up to our power meter, and it never drew more than 12watts. It and the refergerator could run all night long on our battery bank no problem. Providing the batteries were fully charged, of course.

When the chicks were about 3 weeks old, we got a new (to us) little coop and decided to put the chicks out there. The warming plate went with them, of course.

See the orange extension cord going through the closed window? That’s for the warming plate​ inside.

(Edited to add this photo since I finally found it.)


When they were between 4 and 5 weeks old, I noticed that they were no longer sleeping under the plate at right, rather preferring to cuddle up in a corner. After several nights of that, and with overnight lows expected to hold steady for a while, I turned off the warming plate. They haven’t needed it since. Even our smallest chick, our bantam frizzle, who is still so very tiny, would snuggle her way into the middle of the pile to stay warm. I thought for sure she’d be crushed. But she’s a tough little thing. (As a side note, at 4 weeks was also about the time our mamma hen stopped mothering the chicks in the other flock. Seems 4-5 weeks is the magic age for chicks to be mature enough to “be on their own”.)

The chicks are now between 6 and 7 weeks old (except for our newest ones who are 5ish weeks). They recently got a small run to roam around in outside.

New small run on the Brooder Coop

Soon we’ll start letting them free range in the afternoons with all the other hens and chicks (and Cogburn the Rooster). And this week, the bantams are going to their new home at my parents’ house (that’s been the plan all along), so there will be more room for everyone as they continue to grow. 

So there you have it. How we raised chicks in a brooder while living in a camping trailer off-grid. 

And now the question begs to be asked. Which way do I prefer – letting a mamma hen raise the chicks or raising them in a brooder? Honestly, I can’t decide. There are pros and cons to both systems, especially the way we have things set up here. Let me think on it and get back to you, k? 😉

This awesome hack will save your pant cuffs!

OK, I know the title of this post sounds like click bait, but it’s really true. Today I did one of those simple little things that had me saying, “No way! Why didn’t I think of that sooner?”

You see, all this winter as I’ve been bundled up working outside, I have been frustrated with the cuffs on my insulated pants. The legs are too long and the edges would get nasty in the mud and dirt.

Too long pants

In fact, the cuffs are even starting to fray. And that’s just really annoying.
Often I would just roll then up, which looks silly, but whatever. 

This works if  there’s not a ton of mud or it’s not actively raining, both of which I was dealing with today. The mud gets on the inside of the pants if they are rolled up like that while working in mud, and the water gets trapped in the cuffs if it’s raining.

What’s a girl to do?

Then I had an epiphany!

Elastic cuffs! It’s kinda hard to see in the pic since my elastic is the same color as my pants, but I found some wide elastic and wrapped it around the outside of my pant cuffs.

I didn’t even sew them. Just used a big safety pin on each one.

External elastic pant cuff

So simple. Just a couple items and my pant legs didn’t bother me all day!

I’m thinking this same idea would work with Velcro, or string, or even a thick rubber band. 

I’m just wondering why it took me all winter to think of it! 🤣

Granola Recipe

Back this summer I learned to make my own granola and we are loving it! I made up another big batch today, so figured it was a good time to give you my recipe.

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Making Granola in the early autumn sunshine with a borrowed solar oven.

I have spent countless minutes in the grocery store reading ingredient labels on granola packages and still ended up having to accept some ingredients I did not like in order to have the convenience of a cold cereal that is at least somewhat healthier for you.

So I decided to make my own. From be able to use whatever flavors you want to being able to control the quantity and quality of the ingredients, it just makes sense to make your own. Below is the recipe that I make every couple of months. Every time we run out, the Hubs gets a sad face and continually asks for me to make up another batch.

Oh, and speaking of the Hubby, did you see the post he did the other day about flashlights? I was so proud of him for taking the initiative to write up a post for this here blog. Ain’t my man great? 😉

I digress…

The recipe:

Homemade Granola

  • 6-ish cups Old Fashioned oats
  • 4-ish cups nuts or seeds of choice, chopped small
  • 1-ish cup chia seeds
  • 4-ish tsp Cinnamon
  • 2-ish tsp salt
  • 1-ish cup pure maple syrup
  • 3/4-ish cup coconut oil
  • 2-ish tsp real vanilla
  • 1-2 cups raisins
  • 1-2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes

Directions: Place all ingredients except for the coconut flakes and raisins in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Once mixed, spread a 1 inch portion of the uncooked granola onto a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes. Stir the granola and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or until the granola is just barely lightly browned. Empty that panfull into a large bowl and repeat with more granola until the entire batch has been cooked (it takes me four 9×13 pans to cook this amount. You could do it one at a time or if your oven is big enough, all at once – lucky you!) Add the coconut flakes and raisins and mix completely. Let cool and store in an airtight gallon sized container (I use 2 half-gallon jars). Enjoy by the handful or with milk. And feel free to experiment next time.

Notes:

-As you can tell by all “ish” statements, I tend not to measure my ingredients very precisely. I just scoop or pour till it looks about right. 🙂 This recipe is very forgiving that way.

-Nuts: I usually use sliced almonds and chopped walnuts. Lately I’ve been putting in raw pumpkin seeds as well. This time I even added a bit of flax seeds. Whatever seems good at the time and to ramp up the nutritional value. If you really want to be uber healthy, you should soak the nuts ahead of time. I have never done this, mainly because I never think about it ahead of time. It sounds really easy to do, just takes some planning.

-Other recipes will tell you to add the coconut flakes in at the beginning or midway through for a “toasted coconut” flavor. I found that by doing that, I lost the coconutty flavor. So I just add it at the end with the raisins (which don’t taste good baked in my opinion – they get too dried out).

-Feel free to make substitutions as needed/wanted. Your results may vary from mine, but that’s what making your own food from scratch is all about, making it the way YOU want it. Want to use regular oats, not old fashioned? Go for it! Want to play with the ratio of oats to nuts? Awesome! Can’t stand coconut? Leave it out. Make it yours!

-A note about price. Obviously the price of your ingredients is going to affect the price of this granola. I have found that it is not really any cheaper to make my own than a good quality store bought, mainly because I use so many nuts, which are expensive. But, and that’s the most important “but”, I can make it exactly how I want it with the exact ingredients I want. I get to control everything that goes into it. And that is worth more than the price tag.

Well, there you go. I finally got my granola recipe up here for y’all, as I said I was going to in a facebook post way back in August!

I hope you enjoy.

How do we…take showers

We are a family of 5 (while our godson is living with us) living in an off-grid camping trailer while we build our house. 

And we ripped the shower and toilet out of the trailer long before we ever started living in it.

So, how do we de-stinkify ourselves when the need arises? (And believe me, living all together in 280 square feet, the need arises quite frequently!)

However, in reality, we all take fewer full showers than most people do. Being that we have to haul in our own water, we try to conserve as much as possible. The girls and I only wash our hair once a week, and the water always gets turned off while soaping up. And in between those several full showers a week are the “rinse offs”. This is where we basically only wash off the truly stinky parts. You know, those areas you’d hit with a quick sponge bath.

When we lived here two years ago for those few idyllic months, we mainly took sponge baths and went to my mom’s house when a full shower was needed.

But we knew that couldn’t last for too long, so when we moved back to the homestead this summer, we knew we needed something more permanent. And yes, there’s always Pajii’s trailer, but we don’t want to constantly be using his water and power or crowding his space every time we need to clean up. Not to mention how tiny those trailer showers are!

So Hubby built us a shower room constructed from 2×4’s and plywood.

This 4×4 mini-shed makes a very spacious and wonderful shower. We use a 20 amp hour, 12 volt battery connected to an RV water pump which sits on top of one of our 50 gallon barrels of water. 


A 100 watt solar panel is hooked to the battery to keep it topped up. The pump brings water through a propane powered instant hot water heater.


Right now, we only have the ability to turn the water on and off while inside the shower, not adjust the temperature. So showering can be quite the adventure depending on how warm the ambient air is as well as how warm the water inside the barrel has gotten. If you’re taking a shower mid-afternoon on a warm day, you’d better turn that puppy waaaay down before you get in there. 😀 We have plans to rig it up so we can adjust the temperature from inside. But we’ve had a few, more pressing projects.

And speaking of the inside…


The reason we have a shower curtain in there is so we can hang our clothes and towel on the hooks and close the curtain around them so they don’t get wet. 

There is no floor built into the shower. Rather, we placed pavers on the ground inside so the water can drain easily. 


So far, the whole system has worked almost seamlessly. Once the temps drop, we will need to do something to keep things from freezing, but for now, and probably at least another month or so, we’ll be fine.

And hopefully we’ll have the well in by then and can move our whole base of operations down to the house pad (we’re still camped out on the upper pad about a quarter mile away from where the house is going to go.)

Oh, and the latest news on the well is that the drilling company has a broken rig, putting them further behind schedule and they’ll contact is when they can get us back on the schedule. *Sigh*

But it will happen when it happens. There’s nothing we can do about it, so why stress over it? God has his reasons. In the mean time, we’re keeping busy.

So anyway, now you know how we get clean here on the homestead.

Re-purposed garden boots/clogs

So, when we were in Nevada a couple weeks ago, we spent some nights in the trailer, and it became very evident that I needed to find myself some slip-on shoes of some sort. Putting on real shoes in the middle of the night to visit the outhouse is not fun.

They needed to be waterproof for the rain and mud we occasionally get there. But also because waterproof also means dirt proof, which is more my concern seeing as how our homestead is in Nevada, afterall. I hate tromping out to the outhouse and having to empty the sand and pebbles out of my shoes before coming back in the trailer.

So I started searching in various stores as I was in them. Not a concerted effort, mind you, just seeing what they had since I was there.

And then my wonderful hubby reminded me I had some old rain boots which could work. You see, the rain boots had developed a hole in the sole of one which, when worn in heavy water, leaked. General mud and dirt and dampness, however, stayed out. So they still worked just fine as muck boots, so long as I wasn’t standing in actual water.

But seeing as how I won’t be needing muck boots in the near future, and I DO need some slip on shoes, I made the change.

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It was very simple. I just took a sturdy pair of kitchen sheers and cut the tops off.

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Now I have a pair of clogs that I can slip on and off easily for use while living in our trailer. I didn’t have to spend any money, and I am re-purposing something which was “broken”.

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Recycling/re-purposing/re-using for the win!

Final Daily Life Post – Deconstruction, EDC, and One Year after the Rooster Incident

February 25th.

It would have been my grandmother’s 91st birthday if she were alive. It’s also the 1 year anniversary of slicing my hand after decapitating a rooster. [Warning: if you click on the link, it has some rather graphic pictures from my emergency room visit.]

So how’s my hand doing one year later?

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Well, it’s looking pretty good. The scar is fading (and disregard that other small cut. I scraped my hand on a nail today. And yes, my tetanus shot is up to date. Got it one year ago exactly). I don’t have too much lasting nerve damage. Just a little bit of numbness in the skin near the cut. And the only time it ever hurts anymore is if I hit it on something. Like yesterday, I hit it on the edge of the table. Oh, my, GOSH, that hurt! But otherwise, I don’t even think about it every day any more. Or if I do it’s a passing thought that doesn’t really enter my conscious. Over all, I am so blessed it wasn’t more serious.

And taking a picture of my hand reminded me that I’ve been wanting to do an EDC post for forever.

What is “EDC” you might ask. It stands for Every Day Carry. My hubby watches YouTube videos of gun guys and outdoor enthusiasts and they are always talking about the things they carry on them every day.

What does my hand have to do with my personal EDC? Well, in the picture you can see my watch. Yes, that pretty bracelet is a watch.

So here is this Homesteader’s EDC and some of the philosophy behind what I carry on my person every day. Not everything is related to homesteading, and some of it applies to my particular situation, so not everything would apply to everyone.

Watch: First, as in the picture above, I always wear a watch. I know lots of people who use their phones as a clock, but I believe it’s very practical to have one on you that you don’t have to pull out of your pocket to see. What if you’ve got mud and guck all over your hands as frequently happens to a homesteader?  And it has to be waterproof! I’ve killed too many non-waterproof watches just by washing my hands or forgetting I have it on and getting in the shower. This last Christmas, one of my moms got me the one I now wear every day. It’s waterproof so it’s pretty and practical. I love it!

Hair Tie: Next, I’ve always got at least one hair tie on my other wrist (along with a bracelet that Princess Girl made for me). With three females with long-ish hair in our family , I am always in need of a band to get one person or another’s hair back out of the way. I found these extra large hair ties at the grocery store. They are actually a bit loose on my wrist, so they don’t cut off my circulation. And the three of us have thick hair anyway, so they work great. But even if one or more of us had thin hair, the convenience of always having one on hand (pun not intended 😉 ) would outweigh the inconvenience of having to twist it around a pony tail a few extra times.20160225_170709_resized

Chapstick: I’m very particular about my chapstick. I only like one particular brand and only a couple of the flavors they produce. That’s the biggest reason I’ve never tried making my own. But I always have chapstick with me. Even up here in the humid Pacific Northwest, I use it on my lips a couple times a day. And down in arid Nevada? Yeah. I think you can figure that one out.

Another reason I’ve never tried making my own chapstick is that I need it to have a good SPF in it. The ones I buy are SPF 15, and when I’m out in the sun, I slather it on. If I don’t , I will end up with cold sores on my lips. No fun. Also, it works as a quick sunscreen for noses and cheeks if we find ourselves frying out in the sun without any on hand. I buy other chapsticks every once in a while to try to find another one that I can tolerate which has better ingredients. So far, I’ve struck out.

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Flashlight: As you can see from the picture above, I also carry a small flashlight. This is something my wonderful husband got me this last Christmas. He carries one all the time and knows that when you have it, you use it. Constantly.

And he’s right. I’m thrilled that it is small enough to fit in my pocket or even clip on my wasteband, but since it’s modern LED technology, it is bright! I pull that thing out at least several times a week for one reason or another. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s purple. My favorite!

Knives: I carry two knives on me almost every day. The black folding knife is a cheaper replica of one I’ve had since I was 16 years old. I use it all. the. time. Imagine opening a box that just came in the mail. Instead of finding the scissors or a kitchen knife, I pull out my pocket knife. Or you’re outside cleaning up the chicken coop and find some bailing string tangled around the fence. Rather than leave it till later or go find something to cut it, I can whip out my knife right then and there and get the job done. I probably use it on average at least once a day. Now, it is a rather large knife (by normal standards) and I know the general public can be a bit nervous about sharp, pointy things, so I am careful when and where I whip it out. But it is a great tool to have on hand.

The other knife I carry is a mini multi tool. This is the kind that has the scissors in it as well as a few other tools. I use the scissors and knife blade the most. The scissors are great for when we’re out and about and I find a string that needs cutting, etc. Usually Princess Girl is asking to use them to cut the top off a honey straw. I use the knife blade in those situations when I don’t feel it appropriate to pull out my larger blade. But just the other day, I also used the screw driver it to tighten a screw. Worked great. Sometimes though, I’m wearing an outfit that doesn’t have the right pocket to carry this one, so it might not be worn.

Belt: Since I wear jeans 99% of the time, I have a belt on me 99% of the time. As I said in my post about making it, I decided that I would make a paracord belt so that I have tons of cordage on me at any time. Paracord can be used in thousands of ways, and I think I have about 75 feet of it in that belt. If I ever needed to disassemble the belt in order to use the cord, I would just cut a length to tie around my waist as a simple belt. And yes, this is not something I use every day – other than as a belt. It is truly an emergency item I like to have just in case.

Phone/Camera: The last thing I have on me constantly is my phone. Since we don’t have a house phone anymore, I like keeping my cell at hand. If it’s in the other room and someone calls, I won’t hear it. But more than that, I love having a good camera on me at all times. All the pictures on this blog were taken with my cell phones. I love that I can snap a picture or two (or 50) of whatever catches my fancy. And as a blogger, that means I can usually capture the moment to share with my readers later.

So these are the things that are on my person all the time. Or nearly so. There are times when whatever I’m dressed in isn’t conducive to wearing a belt, for instance. But really, the belt is about the only thing that I might leave off completely. My big knife and flashlight usually get tucked into the band of my bra so I can still wear them even with a dress. Not real comfy, but tolerable for a day. And I have chapsticks stashed in several places of the house so even if I don’t have it on me, they are easy to get to. And if I’m out and about, I will have my purse, and if it’s not on my body, it’s in my purse.

So there you go. An EDC for a homesteader.

 


So today we started a project that is intended to get the house ready to sell. Years ago, Dad and Mom had their kitchen rearranged, but never did anything with the old soffit (a dropped down portion of the ceiling that the cabinets used to hang on.) So, today, we got that torn out and Dad and Hubs went to the store and bought an over the range microwave. Win-win! We finally will have a vented hood over the stove (which it should have had all along!), and the microwave will finally be up off the counter, giving us much more counter space!

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Princess Girl was a great help!

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Flower Girl had my camera and wanted to take a picture of her “pitty pink shoes”.

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All ready to do the electrical and hang the new microwave and then put new drywall in. Yay!

So that was our very eventful day yesterday. Oh, I also finally got some boxes so we can start boxing up things for storage or garage sale. Since we’re going to be living in the trailers afterall, we have to go through the downsizing process all over again. Especially Mom and Dad who own 90% of the stuff in this house. We don’t really have much to get rid of. But we do have a lot that needs to go back into storage. But I am totally ok with having to go through all this once more since it means we are moving back!

And speaking of packing and downsizing and storing, I probably won’t be posting very often since my updates would probably be along the lines of “More boxes packed today.” But if anything happens that is out of the ordinary or is part of our building process or actually has something to do with homesteading, I’ll be sure to let you know. 🙂

Until then, thanks for hanging in there with my mostly uneventful month of daily posts. Maybe once we get the house built and are settled onto the new place I’ll do it again and we’ll see how/if our daily routines will have changed much since I’ll be a homesteader living on a homestead rather than in the city. Maybe they will, maybe not. Because at the end of it all, us homesteaders are mostly just normal people who choose to live an uncommon lifestyle. And if all goes according to plan, our life is about to get even more uncommon. And we’re soooo looking forward to it!

 

Daily Life #23 – making lists, burning candles, and studying the Bible

No, not more candle tests, but I did let the ones I made burn all day today while I worked on making my Master Food Lists on the computer. I lit the candles (including the popsicle stick ones) at 7am, and other than the occasional wick trim, I didn’t do a single thing to them all day. Such a relief to finally be successful!

As I thought, the thicker string wick burned through its candle quite a bit faster than the thinner string. By 3 o’clock (nearly 12 hours total burn time)  the thicker wick had almost burned out. I blew it out along with all the others) since Princess Girl and I were leaving for our bible study date. When we got back, the thicker string candle would not re-light. It was too far gone.

But, I lit the others and they burned nearly till bed time. The thinner string candle burned for a total of 17 hours! And the smaller popsicle stick candle burned for probably 25 hours total. The larger popsicle stick candle has many, many more hours to burn!

One thing about the popsicle sticks is that they crackle as they burn. Kinda cool actually. 🙂

Both the popsicle stick wick and the thinner string wick ended up burning all of the wax. There is only a small residue of wax in the jars. This means that even with the smaller flames, they burn very efficiently.

I will take a look at the paperclip stands tomorrow and see how they fared when the flame burned all the way down. I’m hoping they will be usable again.

It was nice to get outside today and go for a walk with my girl. Then to sit in the coffee shop and watch the rain pour down as we sipped our coffees and talked about or Saviour. I love our weekly bible study dates.

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As the evening progressed after dinner, I nearly finished our Master Food Lists. My goodness, we eat a lot of variety! I can’t even imagine trying to produce all that ourselves, even though with only a few exceptions it is theoretically possible. As I see the whole picture, I’m thinking that “producing/growing as much of our own food as possible” might be a bit overzealous unless we fairly drastically cut back on variety. However, more and more, I’m seeing the value of community. If I can’t, or don’t want to produce something, but my neighbor can, then it might just be worth it to buy it from them. Or better yet, barter for it!

At any rate, it’s still exciting to plan. Have you ever written out a list of the foods you actually eat? I highly recommend it. It can be an enlightening experiment.

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121