We have made it through yet another year on the ‘farm’, which sounds better than ‘small scale agriculture experiment’.  We have a cellar full of food for the winter and are looking for to the meat store opening, which to the rest of the world is known as hunting season.  No doubt the coming weeks will outline some of the projects we have undertaken this summer and ones we are looking forward but for now, a list:

  • Our chickens survived another year and continue to lay
  • We have a FULL cellar – and our garlic is fantastic
  • We planted 6 new fruit trees this spring as well as blueberries, black raspberries and strawberries (both June and Everbearing)
  • We got watermelons – first time we have managed to ripen them
  • We grew ARTICHOKES and harvested them
  • We have been working on the house and after many long hours have restored our original pine floors in both the living room and bed room downstairs
  • We installed our first permanent raised beds for the fruit listed above as well as herbs for culinary and medicinal use

Aside from all of that I am sure I will think of more – check back in the coming weeks for some more in depth follow ups.

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This is part one, I have no idea when part two, three or four will happen or if they will, but, in my mind this is part one.  It is also a lesson learned – a lesson in patience and hopefully not failure, but if it is a lesson in failure, well there will be that.


So let me tell you what I know about chickens – they like to poop, they eat a lot, they don’t like drafts, they don’t want to stay in the run unless the door is wide open and you want them to get out and roam around then they like to stay in the run, the can’t seem to keep anything clean, they need water, they don’t like green beans or sweet pepper but like hot peppers and they poop – a lot.  Did I mention they poop?  This is actually okay with me because at least forty percent of the reason we got them was for their poop, the eggs are a nice bonus but if they can turn scraps and leftover produce into poop to get the compost fired up, that gets me fired up.  But to poop they need food…and water.

Food has been the easy part, just keep it out there – it doesn’t freeze and it seems to magically stay cleaner.  Water on the other hand has been a chore, it is never clean for longer than five minutes after getting out there and they will not drink if it is dirty – unless its on the ground where they poop then they are all over it – go figure.  So our birds have been outside for about a year now – so we are not the chicken experts by any stretch of the imagination, but we have failed a few times.

Our first failure has been keeping the waterer clean and quite honestly I am not positive we have a solution for this one quite yet time will tell.  But last summer we tried, we bought some chicken nipples – don’t worry they didn’t come off real chickens, anatomically it just wouldn’t workout.  But we bought them, you know the red ones with the stainless steel rod that pokes out?  We got those and a couple dollars worth of PVC fittings and like forty bucks worth of brass adapters to make it work.  And I don’t know that I can say it worked, I could hook it up to the hose and the chickens had the opportunity to use it; realize I said opportunity – see I have noticed that even when introduced to the water the chickens couldn’t quite figure it out, so the summer went by and we found ourselves replacing the nipples more than we should have as the leaked ALL THE TIME.  Anyway the summer went on and we kept filling and cleaning the fount so the chickens were watered and it was clean for five whole minutes, unless it was after dark then it was longer.  That was failure number one.

Then fall came and it was really quite mild, we brought the waterer in at night to keep it from freezing and put it out in the morning. This worked until it didn’t – and it didn’t when all of a sudden the cold came and it froze solid – we didn’t realize it got that cold and I came home from work to find a flock of battle weary chickens who had spent the day pecking ice to get some water.  This was failure number two, frozen water.  So we grabbed a heated pet bowl, a hundred foot extension cord and a bucket to make a suitable watering arrangement for the winter months.  We put the bowl on some bricks on the ground, cut four – four inch round holes into the bucket about four inches up and turned it upside down over the bowl to keep at least some of the wind off it and filled er up.  But it turns out a heated bowl outside in the cold doesn’t stay very full – I assume it was from being heated but it needed to be filled multiple times daily, which was a pain.  So we tried to ease the filling pain by rigging up a special filling watering can – which consisted of a tube on a watering can.  Classy huh, sometimes I even filled it outside in just my buck boots, shorts and an old sweatshirt (not one of those fancy ones with a hood either) – we do what we can to keep home values modest around here, sorry neighbors.  Even with the special watering can we had to head out there a couple times a day – to collect eggs before they froze solid and make sure the birds had water.  So we turned number two into water success number one – we kept the birds watered through the winter, even when the temperatures got down below 0°F.

Failure number three wasn’t measured on the chickens thankfully but our pocket books and egos.  One day while out to our local farm supply store we picked up a heated plastic fount, which you can conveniently buy right on Amazon, which will give me a small kickback and help ease the pain of failure.  But none the less, this particular waterer may be fantastic, I suspect it is; however I do know you have to flip it over to fill it, which seemed tedious to me.  In a moment of absent mindedness I thought, let’s drill a hole in the top and use a rubber cork to plug it.  DO NOT DO THIS, EVER!  It seems like it will work, until you think about it, this particular waterer seems to use the vacuum the water leaving the tank into the little drinking bowl thing to keep the water that is not needed in the thank.  Once you punch a whole, no matter how well drilled and finished into the top – water is not able to be poured into the tank fast enough for it to stay in the tank – not even out garden hose could keep up.  Also  I could not find a replacement tank so I am stuck with a reminder of my mistake.

Finally spring came and we are back to the fount, which works but its never clean for more than five minutes at a time.  In doing some research we discovered cup waterers, which should you choose to you can also buy on Amazon.  Now we haven’t been using them long enough to know if they are worth their weight in plastic, it was sort of an impulse buy – we were going to buy one style or another but we were at our local farm supply store and they had them on clearance and we couldn’t resist.  But the waterer is so much more than just a couple of water cups, we decided that we wanted on with a tank and an auto fill float so we could be away and not have to worry about water.  This past week we bought all the parts from our local rebate happy big box home improvement – which gets a disproportionate amount of my earnings each week – and some from Amazon.  Namely from Amazon we bought half inch PVC tees that had one threaded eighth inch side to match the waterer thread, you can buy them on Amazon and I would recommend you do, without hesitation, remember that first nipple water and the insane amount of brass fittings I needed to attach them?  Not so when you have the right parts.  Worth every penny.


Those are my parts, give or take a couple of trips to the extremely local over priced hardware store where I picked up some pipe tape, which I thought was kinda a lifetime supply when you bought it, guess not.

My parts list consisted roughly of:

  • 4″ PVC
  • 1/2″ PVC
  • 4″ PVC Cap
  • 4″ x 2″ PVC Y
  • 4″ Female adapter
  • 4″ Screw in plug
  • 2″ to 3/4″ Threaded adapter
  • 1/2″ Tee
  • 2 – 1/2″ Plug
  • 2 – 1/2″ Tee with threaded 1/8″ side (see Amazon)
  • 1/2″ MIP to 1/2″ ID (Barbed) Brass adapter
  • 3/4″ MIP to 1/2″ ID (Barbed) Brass adapter
  • 2 – Hose clamps
  • 1/2″ ID tubing
  • Various pipe hangers
  • RV Water Filter (more on this below)
  • Float mechanism (see Amazon)
  • 1/2″ MIP to Garden hose adapter

There is more in the picture but it is in the tool box now, also before I forget the RV water filter is not because our chickens are spoiled, which they are, but because we have really hard water when it doesn’t run through the filter and the softener in the house and I did not want the build up in the waterer.  But they are spoiled.

Next came assembly and testing of the waterer, which was built to fit our coop specifically and went together exceptionally well.  A lot of pipe dope and pipe tape and a half hour or so and the ‘bazooka’ was done, which I could not resist showing off as such.  The ‘bazooka’ or what anyone else might call a reservoir holds about two gallons – which is about what our birds drink in a day, if for some reason we need to disconnect the hose from the waterer we have about a day before we have to worry about it.  Anyways this assembly was fairly straightforward, lots of measure twice cut once, etc.


Once it was assembled and tested, forty three minutes later based on the picture time stamps – I never claimed to be a plumber – it was time for install.  I took both the ‘bazooka’ and the section with the cups on it, the ‘wand’, and installed them where I felt they were best suited into the coop.  I then measured and cut a section of tube to connect them.


I then connected the hose and water filter and let it fill – note I also flushed the water filter, thank goodness for those instructions – Henrietta says “hi and what is that noise”


Once it was full I crawled under there and introduced the chickens to the waterer, just like you do when they are young, dip their beaks in it – it was so much easier then.  I then proceeded to clean and refill their fount and observe.


And much to my surprise, a chicken returned to drink from the cup, whoa!  Success!  But not so fast, one in six is not a good ratio, so I waited a bit longer and not so much.  So we left them with both of their waters and went away to celebrate Mother’s day and returned to find both cups empty – well it looks like they might have figured out how to drink from the cups just not how to get them to refill.

Right now I am not sure if this is a success or a failure, it looks nice in pictures and at least one of the chicken appreciates it, but if it doesn’t work for all of them we are back to where we started.  One thing I have learned with chickens is that in spite of the best made and executed plans, chickens will do what they want.  For instance why did we build three nest boxes if they will only use one when they want to, otherwise, they will just make a nest in the bedding in the far corner of the coop.  Hopefully the next post on our waterer is that our chicken waterer was a massive success and we are building a winter version to stand up to the cold.  But if not we will keep tinkering with this one until we have something that will work.  In the mean time they keep turning whatever we feed them into poop, at least that is consistent.

Let’s pretend that blogging has a fiscal year that floats from the calendar year, that will make me feel better about this post.  I was looking back at 2015 and realized that I manged three shameful posts the whole year, I apologize.  In my mind I am much more active in the blogging space, telling you all about the changes that are happening around here, what we are eating and how we making it.  But reality is I suck at this whole blogging bit lately. 20151207_212016

So let me give you a little catch up, the blog has been devoid of tasty recipes as of late – with good reason we have been eating lots of the same things, lot’s of venison and vegetables from our garden.  This past year we canned up a lot of food from our garden in all sorts of fun arrangements, we are eating it this winter and hopefully I will tell you about some of those, but in the mean time here is a picture of our canned stash – it is not amazing, but it is sustaining us through the winter.

Since this blog started off as a cooking blog I suppose its only fair to issue a warning, this will probably become more of a generic farmstead type blog in the future.  We still like to eat and cook – but we are much closer to our food now that we are out in the sticks.

Our chickens are doing their job too, giving us eggs and lots of manure, their coop after some finagling, is finally working out better than we could have hoped.  It is still stationary for the moment, but we are hoping to get it mobile here just in time for spring.  The wheels are sitting in the kitchen – just showed up yesterday.

In addition to updates to the chicken coop we will be adding more fruit this year – we have a couple more fruit trees on the way and have purchased blackberries, blueberries and strawberries to plant this spring.  We will be doing a bit of work to create a suitable planting area for them as we live on the worst drained hillside known to mankind.


I have started to plant seeds in our grow box in the basement and thus far have twelve varieties of peppers planted, artichokes, rosemary and sage.  In a couple of weeks we will start our tomatoes and a couple weeks after that our melons.  I am hoping to get a cold frame in, in our root vegetable garden plot to get some onions started in the ground.  And I am excited to try some garlic scapes when the garlic I planted last fall pops up this spring.

And like that we are off, I promise this year I will do better, if nothing else come and tag along on Instagram

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Disclaimer: This is just going to be a teaser.

This year our ‘farm’ as it is referred to around the office has grown, we are no longer a fruit and vegetables operation, we have added poultry to the mix.  We opted for egg laying chickens at this point and not meat birds, we prefer to find our meat running around in the woods at this point, you know from a cost perspective (total sarcasm).


Anyways back to the topic at hand, we got chickens – and chickens need a place to live so we built a portable smart chicken coop that is solar powered, self contained and at least a little automated, one of my conditions for getting chickens was that I could still go away and at most have someone stop by and collect the eggs – at most.  So we built it, but, its a work in progress and I would like to get a few more weeks/months of working with and on it before I throw out a detailed write up about it.  So for now, just know, we have a solar powered smart chicken coop that keeps the girls contained and the predators out – and we can leave for a week and not worry about it.


This is horrible, I have neglected my poor blog, nearly a year since I posted last and it feels like I have lived two.  Our first year in our home, with out bigger than we should have started with garden was a success.  We are still consuming the fruits, or more appropriately, the vegetables of our labor.  In addition to the produce we produced not 100 feet from our back door – I was fortunate enough to get a few deer this fall as well; as a result we are living high on the hog with lean, truly free range protein and garden vegetables and preserves.  Aside from our garden last year we planted a couple of peach trees, -which seem to have made the winter, found a neighbor who is also a bee keeper willing to keep a hive here – which is fascinating to watch and spectacular for pickle production and we put in a compost bin.

We also did some landscaping and got a couple of cats, well actually we got one cat we rescued from being coyote bait, he was scrawny and malnourished, someone thought he needed a friend and as such we got him a friend.  But let me tell you what I have learned about cats, cats are not dogs – good grief these two HATED each other when we brought the second one home, hated, would not tolerate each other.  Because of their deep seated hatred for one another we created the friendship cage – maybe a little obsessive but we did it and after several months of the friendship cage and slowly acclimating them to one another and then allowing them to be together we have a couple of cats who seem to be the best of friends, in fact Hazel the second cat we brought home will cry and cry and Finley, the first is out of sight.  Who knew cats could be such a pain?  But they are barn cats – and thus they live in the barn, but fear not the ‘cat condo’ as it is known is quite posh and climate controlled, these are the yuppiest barn cats one will meet.

As I write this our seedlings for this year a growing away in the science fare experiment that is my grow box, surely I will write more about the grow box in the future but is my attempt to liberate my seedlings from the pillaging of the mice and provide them with a climate controlled location to thrive prior to being subjected to the outdoors.  It’s also as close as I think we are going to come to a greenhouse, even though it is in the basement, like I said more on this later.

In addition to the garden this year we are going to be adding some chickens to our portfolio for eggs – we are getting them for eggs.  Well more correctly I am more anxious for the chicken poop they will leave behind I can use to build up my garden, but the eggs will be a nice bonus.  We have a bit going on here but I wanted to make sure I remembered how to use this thing before we get started on another summer season, one with hopefully some updates.