Icelandic Chickens

Last fall, I was given a starter flock of Icelandic chickens, 3 hens and a rooster. They over wintered in our unheated chicken house beautifully, despite the worst winter here in Illinois that I have seen since I was a kid.

 

They are a smaller breed of chicken than what I have kept in the past (brahmas and orpingtons), and they lay small to medium sized eggs. They also make excellent mothers, setting eggs, hatching, and rearing chicks.

 

Two of our hens went broody and hatched out chicks. They are good mothers. Our rooster is good with the chicks too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Beginnings of a Monarch Butterfly Way Station

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Migrating monarch butterfly populations have plummeted in recent years. They were once plentiful, my favorite butterfly of childhood. But now they are rare.

Milkweed, the plant they must have to eat as young caterpillars, was also abundant. Round-up herbicide and too much mowing have made milkweed scarce. Without milkweed there can be no monarchs.

We have land. I have some gardening know-how. And so, we decided to do what we can to help monarchs. We are going to develop a monarch butterfly way station. I found Monarch Watch, a non-profit organization devoted to help save this lovely butterfly. http://monarchwatch.org

I got a flat of swamp milkweed, an important plant for monarch caterpillars. I dug up a bed for them, planted them and mulched them. My husband split some stones we had on-hand to create a border. They are next to our propane tank which provides protection from the north.

Next year we will add butterfly weed in an expansion. We are planting other nectar rich flowers in various beds around the yard. We also have a shallow bird bath for water. I hope the monarchs find us.

Training a new horse

Training a new horse

It was a long, hard winter, the worst I’ve seen since I was a kid. But we made it through and we have repaired most of the damage done to our place. This winter we also acquired a young, untrained horse.

He was owned by a horse hoarder, a woman who kept horses but who did not know anything about horses. She did not ride them. She did not have a vet nor a farrier. She did not worm them. She fed them, though they were a bit gaunt. She was selling due to a divorce. We got this beautiful little 5 year old dun Missouri fox trotter gelding for very little money. We also got a training project.

When I first met him, he was curious but untrusting. He would approach me, but not let me touch him anywhere but his face. If I tried to touch him on his side, he would turn toward me and present his face. If I turned to walk away, however, he would follow me. He did like being petted on his face, so he was friendly to humans, he just hadn’t had much training. I wondered if we could get him home. He had been trailered to the hoarder’ s place about 14 months before, so I was hopeful.

I managed to get a halter on him, though he tossed his head trying to avoid the halter. I got it on him by baiting him into the halter using apple slices. He followed me out of his pen, but danced around as we left the barn.

He balked at the trailer, but I slowly baited him into the trailer using food. He did not react well to being tied, but by then the door behind him was closed and so his ability to fight the tie was limited.

We got him home and training began in earnest. I started in his stall, with trust building. I would halter him, tie him up, and then work to calm him, until he could accept being tied. Then I would groom him, slowly expanding the areas he would let me touch until I could touch him anywhere without flinching.

Then I “sacked him out” by holding him on a lead rope and flinging the rope all around his body. He flinched a little at first, but very quickly came to trust that he was safe and was not going to get hurt.

I worked to teach him ground manners, to back, turn, and follow me on lead. I worked with him to step aside when I pushed on his side.

When the ice and snow finally melted, and when he had seen a vet for shots and a Coggins test, and after I had wormed him, I introduced him to our other horses. After some initial squealing and posturing, he was accepted into the herd.

I continued his training in our round pen. I introduced working on a long lead, with circle work. We started with a walk, as he tends to do better starting slow, with trust building. I just asked him to walk and whoa on cue and command. He picked it up fairly quickly. Then I added trotting. He has a nice foxtrot!

I have expanded his sacking out to include a feed sack, then a saddle pad. I have also been simulating having a girth on by holding a rope taught around his body.

He was excellent for his first time with the farrier recently. I was happy at how far he has come with his training.

I hope to be riding him by the end of summer.

Good fences make good neighbors

Good fences make good neighbors

When we first looked at our new homestead, we noticed a number of dogs roaming the area. Clearly, most of our future neighbors were not into fencing in their dogs. We have dogs, but we prefer to keep them fenced in, for their safety, and for the safety of others. We also need fence to keep horses and livestock in, and predators out.

We almost did not buy the place, but ultimately decided to make the purchase. The day we closed on the property we started laying out the fence. Fortunately, the majority of the property was already fenced. We only had to build about 400 feet of fence.

We rented a two-man auger. I believe the operative word there is “man,” because that machine beat me up! I found it easier to dig the post holes manually. I am pretty good with a post hole digger.

It took us a week, but we got the fence built. We have a circle drive that circles around behind the house and past the two barns. There are two sets of entry gates at the road. We have a horse strong fence between the house and barn yard. And, we beefed up sections of pasture fence.

The neighborhood dogs no longer roam our property. Although one neighbor dog challenges our dogs through the fence, there have been no fights.

Good fences make good neighbors! They also keep stock safer from predators. While the horses don’t have to worry about predators, other animals we normally keep do need protection.

We will be getting in new chickens next, and they are predator magnets. This fencing is our first line of defense! 🙂

New Beginnings – Welcome

I have been a homesteader most of my life. Growing up, we valued self-sufficiency. We gardened, canned, froze, and dried our own food. We baked bread and even made our own beef jerky.

I have lived on 3 previous homesteads. This year, we moved to my fourth. I hope to put down deep roots and stay here for the rest of my days.

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Sunset Over the Big Barn

I am a life-long horsewoman. I love dogs. Over the course of years I have raised bees, chickens, ducks, sheep, and goats at various times.

I have been a Master Gardener, although I let my certification lapse. I am an avid gardener and herbalist.

This blog will be about developing our new homestead, as well as my musings about this lifestyle.