backyard chickens, carpentry, chickens, farming, homemade, homesteading, turkeys

Building a Turkey Coop

img_3102

So many times on the homestead projects are born from necessity.  When we want to plant a new crop, or raise a new animal, there is always an investment to make.  Sometimes its as simple as a trellis for beans, other times its an 8’x8′ turkey coop.  This project was born several months ago when we were at the feed store. There were chick order forms laying on the checkout counter.  We took a quick look and to our surprise they also offered turkey poults. (baby turkeys)

img_3095.jpg

We had been interested in trying to raise our own turkeys for the the holidays, but shipping was always an issue, so this was a golden opportunity for us.  We did some research after placing the order and found out that the turkeys would need a separate area because disease can be passed from chickens to turkeys.

img_3036

When we began designing our turkey’s coop,  we decided to make it a more generic structure that could also be used for other purposes, just in case the turkey rearing didn’t work out.  We also wanted it to fit our homestead and look good.  We designed it to match our chicken coop.

IMG_5389

We finally decided on an 8’x8′ structure, which would allow us to use it as storage in the off season, or maybe a small barn for a couple of sheep.  Since we chose the same roof design and materials as the chicken coop, our next stop was Porosky Lumber.  img_2978

My good friend Scott is a purveyor of both fine hardwood and beautiful rough cut hemlock.  He also makes beautiful cutting boards, wood art, and is one of the best conversationalists you will ever meet.

img_2977

Scott loaded us up with some of the most gorgeous 12″ boards and 3″ battens you have ever seen.  These will be used for the exterior of our coop.  It also has some natural rot resistance which was a bonus.

img_2979

We began by framing the floor from 2″x4″s and used some pressure treated for runners that would contact the ground and would also allow us to move the coop if necessary.  After squaring the frame up by measuring diagonally from corner to corner we added 3/4 inch cdx plywood for the floor.

We framed the walls adding openings for doors and windows.  After this we mocked up our rafters.

img_2984

img_2983

We then cut all of our rafters and made the frame for the roof.  We installed the corner boards on the frame to stiffen the structure before we climbed onto the roof, which we covered in 1/2″ cdx plywood.  We also framed in the gable ends and added framing for vents on both sides.

img_2989

We then covered the structure with those beautiful 12″ boards

img_3012

Next we installed the soffits and capped the fascia, and installed the metal roofing. We also had an unexpected guest. (Take a look at the upper window/vent)

The next step was to cap and trim the windows, and install 1/2 inch hardware cloth into the windows and vents to keep out predators.  Finally, we installed the battens ripped them down to 2″ for aesthetic purposes.

The last thing to do was build the doors.  We used the same hemlock boards so that everything matched nicely.

img_3103We now had a great looking addition to the homestead.  This building is versatile, and is built with quality materials that should last for decades.  We can’t wait for our little turkeys to move in.  They say that “necessity is the mother of invention”, and that is certainly the case on the homestead.  Over and over we take on new projects that not only make us use our bodies, but also challenge our mind.  Innovation is still alive and well on the homestead, and every time we take on a new challenge, we are rewarded with a feeling of satisfaction that we can’t find on a screen.

Advertisements
cooking, farming, gardening, homemade, homesteading, recipes, salsa

Pork Empanadas with Primo and Mary’s Black Bean and Corn Salsa

As our fellow homesteaders are aware, the barter system is still alive and well. We have traded many things such as pickles, vegetables and honey for many other things, including the fertilized egg that gave us Mr. Wing (remember him?).

But, a new trade came about recently that was a little unconventional. Eggs and maple syrup for salsa. Yes, salsa. We have many of your basic pantry ingredients like flour, sugar, salt and spices, the usual suspects. We don’t buy or eat many pre-packaged foods, but this is the exception, and one we like to keep in the pantry. We have all heard the term, “if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it”, and there are some very scary labels out there, but not this one! It is Primo and Mary’s All Natural Salsa (primoandmarys.com). We know, seems like a shameless plug, but we assure you, it is not, and you won’t regret it.

img_0648

So, back to the trade…we had an abundance of chicken eggs for sale as well as some maple syrup and an old high school friend contacted us, the owner and founder of Primo and Mary’s. She wanted to buy both eggs and syrup. Now, we have had her salsa before, and loved it, so we knew that we had to at least try to arrange a trade since her products are not readily available to us locally. So a meeting was made, and of all places, in our Church parking lot one Sunday morning after services. So our proposition was to trade the maple syrup and eggs for some salsa and in return we would also create a recipe using her product and share it with all of you.

Pork Empanadas with Primo and Mary’s Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Empanada Dough

1 ½ c flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp shortening (Crisco)

3/4 c ice water

Empanada Filling

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 lb ground pork (feel free to substitute ground beef or venison)

1/2 lime, juiced

1/3 c Primo and Mary’s Black Bean and Corn Salsa

1/2 avocado, diced

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 egg white mixed with 1 tbsp cold water

To make the empanada “shells”, using a hand or stand mixer, combine the flour and salt, add the shortening and mix until the mixture looks like coarse sandy crumbs. With the mixer on, slowly add the water until the dough sticks together and cleans the side of the bowl. Gather in a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While the dough is resting, prepare the filling. In a cast iron pan, heat the olive oil on med high heat. Add the meat and cook until browned and no longer pink. Turn heat to low and add the salsa, avocado and cayenne pepper and the juice of the 1/2 lime. Stir to combine. Remove from heat.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Now the fun part! Grab about 1/4 of the dough and roll out to about 1/8th inch thickness on a well-floured board.  Using a 4” round cutter, or in our case a 4” round plastic container (homesteaders are great at improvising!) cut out the shells and set aside for filling. Gather the extra pieces and by hand, mix back in with the remaining dough.

Lay each shell out flat and in the center place about 2 tablespoons of the filling, we use our trusty 2 inch cookie dough scoop. Fold over the shell to create a half moon shape and using a floured fork, press the seam together to seal. Set on a greased baking sheet and repeat with the remaining filling and shells.

Mix together the egg white and water. Brush the tops of each empanada with the egg wash. Bake at 350 F for about 25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Serve with a side of the salsa for dipping and a black bean, corn and avocado salad dressed with a little lime juice and a sprinkle of cilantro. Enjoy!

There are lots of variations on the empanada, some are baked, some are fried, and they are all filled with an abundance of different ingredients. Use what you have in your pantry, and get yourself some of this amazing salsa!

We are blessed on the homestead with delicious fresh food, and bartering some of our surplus has become a great way to get more from our harvest than just the food itself.  Bartering allows you to make new connections and see old friends.  And it seems like every time we do it everyone leaves smiling.

farming, gardening, homesteading

Spring on the Homestead it’s the little things that can get you ahead

img_2914

If you are anything like us, you can’t wait for spring to arrive after a long winter.  Although the temps are still chilly, there is so much you can do to get ahead of all the work that will pile up when the real warm weather arrives.  There are many days in early spring where we feel like there isn’t much we can do, but if you look a little closer you will find many jobs that can be done.  You can also get a jump on this years’ garden.  One of our first signs that it is time to get moving is the arrival of garlic. When these pretty green plants emerge from the soil our dreams of warmer weather begin.  It is around this time that we move our tomato seedlings into the green house. We have a small 6’x8′ greenhouse that is heated by a small electric heater.  It keeps the greenhouse at least 50 degrees at night and this seems to be warm enough for our seedlings, but not for germination.  We germinate our seeds indoors.

This is also a great time to start planning your garden layout for the growing season. We assemble, construct and put in pea and bean trellises and fix fencing.  We also are busy raking and cleaning out coops now that all that great fertilizer is thawed.  IMG_2647

This is also a perfect time to do little projects.  Especially those that require a few hours in the shop on a rainy cold day. We also do projects that are close to the garden so that we don’t have to worry about stepping on plants like we would in the summer.

While we are getting all of these projects done, our little seedlings are growing away in the greenhouse.  It is almost like getting two jobs done at once.

Before we know it asparagus is poking out of the ground.  It won’t be long before we can start planting cold weather crops outside. img_2912

This year we started many of our cold weather crops in pots to give them a jump start.  We will try anything to get fresh vegetables onto our table as soon as possible.  We are even trying to grow peas for the first time in the greenhouse.

img_2703As soon as we know that the freezing weather is past, we move our cold weather veggies outside.  These include kale, spinach, lettuce, peas, collards, broccoli, and cabbage.  We also plant potatoes and carrots.

img_2899 It is so good to to see life and have plants to check on again.

While we wait for Memorial Day to plant our warm weather crops we spend time getting to know the new arrivals to the homestead.

There is always something to do in the spring.  Often those things are little projects that barely seem worth taking your tools out for, but rest assured you will be glad you did when summer arrives.  Spring it seems is an exercise in motivation, and as the years go by, we find ourselves more and more motivated to get going earlier.  In homesteading, there is never enough time, and getting moving earlier in spring may just give you a little more time to enjoy that beautiful summer weather.

cooking, farming, ham hock, ham shank, ham soup, homesteading

Sometimes Happiness Looks A Lot Like A Pig

IMG_1134

Sometimes things just happen for a reason.   Last fall we had our first set of pigs butchered.  Our first time raising pigs was very rewarding, and all the meat in the freezer was a great reward.  However, I was feeling a little blue without them on the homestead.  They gave me so much joy and without them around things were a little boring.  One day while looking at Facebook, I saw that my neighbor had a post that said there was a pig loose.  We live on the edge of a small village and a pig running around was a first for us.  My son, wife, and I went to investigate, and sure enough there was a spotted pig running around.  We tried to catch him, and soon realized that he belonged to another neighbor who erroneously thought he could keep a pig in a small dog kennel.  Finally we caught him, but he just kept escaping.  I knew that life for this pig was not going to be pleasant so I offered to buy him.  Luckily my offer was accepted, and  I carried the pig like a big baby back to my house.  We named him Houdini because he was an escape artist.  We found out later he was brought home in the trunk of a car. Because of it, Houdini was traumatized. We gave him hay and a heat lamp, but he was so unhappy.  He would just lay there and not move. So after some research, we came to the conclusion that he needed company.  We were able to acquire another pig, and when we brought her home Houdini perked right up .  We named her Dottie (Dorothy was Houdini’s assistant in real life) and after a few days they were inseparable.

I was so happy to have some buddies again.

They warmed up to us after a few more days and would even take apples from our hands.  Keeping pigs in winter was a whole new experience.  We insulated their house with hay and put a heater in their water.  We would find them in the morning buried under hay with just an ear sticking out.   They would often pull the heater out of their water so it had to be checked often.  They did not seem to mind the snow and spent a lot of time outside.

On the coldest days, they would lay right next to each other and just snort at me when I went by.  When the weather finally warmed, we opened the fence into the garden so they could till and fertilize for us.

They grew at a slightly slower rate than the pigs we raised in the summer.  In the end they wound up being about 20 lbs lighter with the same amount of feed.  Soon it was time to go to freezer camp.  I was sad to see them go, but it was much easier than the first set of pigs.  I also knew that more piglets were coming in a few months.  We chose a USDA butcher and ended up with 317 lbs of responsibly raised pork.

These pigs gave us the most amazing pork chops, but that is a story for another blog. img_0576

Again our freezer was full.

We have even been selling some of the pork to offset our costs.  I find the best experiences in life are never planned, and you need to recognize opportunity.  So the next time life throws you a hanging curve, knock it out of the park.  To me raising pigs is a home run every time.

cooking, farming, gardening, homemade, homesteading, peas

Take a Step Back in Time and Grow Peas This Spring

IMG_0070

One of the first crops we plant every year on the homestead is peas.  They give us our first opportunity to really work in the soil.  They are also one of the first vegetables we harvest.  They are very easy to grow and preserve, so they are a great addition to any garden.  You can even plant peas again in late summer for a fall crop.  We start planting peas as soon as the soil can be worked.  We plant both bush and vine varieties,  we also plant sugar snap peas for stir fry and salads.  We start planting seeds by turning over the soil and then making a small 1/2″ deep trench.  We then place the seeds about 4″ apart in the trench.

img_2825

Finally, we cover the seeds with soil.  Some varieties require a support to grow on, and for those we construct a simple trellis system made from t-posts and some used garden fence.  Over the years we have used all kinds of different materials, but these are the simplest to install and seem to last the longest.  We simply put a t-post every 8 feet and then tie the fencing to the posts with wire.  The least expensive wire we have found is in the masonry department at our local lumber yard, it is used to tie re-bar together so it is strong enough to do the job and the price is right.  Sometimes we use wooden stakes for additional support.

img_2826

In 7-10 days you should see your seedlings begin to emerge.  It is so exciting to see new green in the garden. After a long winter those little green leaves can really lift your spirits.  They grow fairly rapidly and really enjoy the cool weather.

IMG_9668

Those little marvels will send out tendrils and climb up your trellis.  We keep the weeds at bay by using an extra heavy weed guard, but weeding by hand is also a snap.  As the days grow longer the peas will stretch for the sky .

IMG_9905

Eventually white flowers will form and it is from these flowers that your pods will emerge.  You can eat the pods when they are young or leave them on the plant to grow big round peas. We pick sugar snap peas when the pods are about 3″ long, but the best and most fun way to see if they are ready is to taste them.  Peas are perfect for a snack in the garden, and often more make it into our mouths than into the house.  Kids love to pick peas and eat them.  You can teach them quickly how to pick them without damaging the plant.  Some of my first garden memories are of picking peas and beans in my grandfather’s garden.  Even then, very few made it back in the house to grandma.

IMG_9997

We pick our peas when they are nice and round inside, again it takes a little trial and error to get the right size.  Once the peas are picked it is time to shell them.

IMG_0070

Sitting on the porch shelling peas truly brings you back to a simpler time.  We often shell them at the end of the day and have an adult beverage with great conversation.  The most wonderful part of shelling peas is that you cannot use your cell phone while doing it.  Two hands are required and after a short time you really get the hang of it.  A big bowl of pods does not yield a big bowl of peas, but they sure are worth the effort. We also feed the pods to our chickens and pigs so nothing goes to waste.  Unless you have grown them you have no idea how good a fresh pea is.  Frozen and canned peas are not even close.

IMG_0008

Preserving peas is a snap.  You just have to toss them into boiling water for about 30 seconds then shock them in ice water and freeze in a single layer.  Once they are frozen you can put them into a good quality freezer bag.  Every year we grow more and more peas aside from being a great side dish, they are a great addition to salads.  They can also be a healthy snack.  Growing anything in our garden has to be worth the effort and space we give it.  Peas take up little space because they grow vertically,  and because they grow quickly you can grow more than one crop a season.  The time spent shelling them is almost as valuable as the nourishment they give us.  Growing peas takes us back to a simpler time when people actually talked to each other.  And after growing them you will never look at that big bag in the grocery store the same same.  So grow some peas this year, and don’t forget to wave to your neighbor when they drive by.