December 30, 2013

Evaluation Time: 2013 Homestead Goals

This is the time of year when we take time to look back over the goals we made for the year. It's encouraging to see our progress, plus it helps us decide what our next steps are going to be in the coming year.

We divided our goals into areas:
  • house
  • fencing
  • rain catchment
  • garden
  • pasture improvement
  • animal shelters
  • outbuildings 

Here's the progress we made on each.


Rather than individual goals for the house, we had a project list that was more like a list of steps.
  1. finish hall bathroom - completed in July
  2. make a study for Dan - completed in August
  3. finish new bedroom - almost done except the floor
  4. continue replacing siding on the house - good progress here. Basically, we work on siding as we replace windows in whatever room we're working on.
We have several places that need fencing. The first was to fence an area of the woods as a browse for our does.

Detail from our 2012 Master Plan. The red line is the proposed fence.

I started clearing a line for the fence last January, after all the kudzu and blackberries had died back for the winter ("Trailblazing The Property Line"). Progress stopped in February, because of all the rain we'd been having ("Non-Progress on the New Fence"). Rain continued to be a deterrent all summer. This month we resumed work on that fence again. I hope to be able to announce that it's completed soon.

Rain Catchment
This was the first goal checked off the 2013 goal list.

We got a system set up in January, but had to fix a leak. It's amazing how much we can collect off a small section of roof. We hope to eventually add one to each downspout plus our outbuildings.


I did try some firsts, such as the flax pictured above. I also tried
cushaw winter squash, pak choy, and tatume summer squash.

I didn't actually set any goals for the garden, but I did try to challenge myself to accomplish and record at least one thing daily of working toward year around independent eating (I did that on my Garden Journal). Eventually just having to find time to do this became too time consuming. Not that it took a lot of time; I just have too much else to do until it was no longer a priority.

Pasture Improvement

Our quarter acre buck pasture. Minerals added & ready to plant.

This year's goal was our small buck pasture ("Soil Remineralization: Year 2"). After remineralizing, we planted field corn and cowpeas. After these were harvested I sowed annual rye for a winter pasture and we let the boys back in to munch down the stalks and vines.

Animal Shelters
goat shelter painted and ready for goats
Our newly built goat shelter.

This is one goal we made progress on in spite of so many rainy days. We wanted to build two: one for the bucks while we grew field corn in their pasture, and one for pigs. We got the goat shelter done, but decided to wait on getting pigs.


Floor plan for a goat barn. Click for larger. Details here.

Besides constructing new shelters, we also have two (three if we count the carport) old structures which are in need of either repair or demolition. We have discussed everything from repairing and re-using, to tearing down and starting over.  We especially need a better setup for the goats. We finally decided to tear down the largest of our two outbuildings and build a new structure in its footprint. However, before we can do that, we have to clear it out. We've been using it for hay storage, garden tools and equipment, and Dan's workshop. All of these things need new homes, but we have made a beginning. More on that soon.

All in all, I think we accomplished much this year and made good progress. It's a rewarding feeling. Next post, goals for 2014.

December 28, 2013

Year In Review: 2013


Our rainwater catchment system

Our two big projects for January were the hallway bathroom and our first rainwater catchment system. The hall bath was actually on it's way to becoming a master suite bath: we insulated and paneled the walls, dropped the ceiling, and trimmed out my pretty stained glass bathroom window.


Laying a new tile bathroom floor

The hall bathroom remodel continued as we worked on the floor and began refurbishing the old clawfoot tub.


Newborn Alphie

In March my first Kikobian kid was born! Not a true breed, this little guy is the first of what I hope will be a line of Kiko/Nubian cross homestead goats. His birth was a difficult one but thankfully both he and his mom made it.  This was the month we let the goats on to our new pasture. Progress on the bathroom (the tub) was slow because of cold temperatures.


Ziggy, taking a breather from carrying around her yet-to-be-born quads.

April seemed a slow month while we waited for Ziggy to kid. Dan built a new shelter for the goats in the front pasture so we could prepare the buck pasture for planting field corn. In the bathroom, the clawfoot tub was finished at last and installed.


Lily and her 2 day old twins, Daisy and Rosie

In May, our goat population exploded. Lily gave birth to twin Kikobian doelings, and at long last, Ziggy had quadruplets. Sadly, only three survived, but what cuties they were. These were a Kiko/Nigerian cross, which proved to be very nice little goats. Also in May we bought Hooper, our second Kiko (future) stud.


Mama Buff and a few of her new brood.

In June, one of my Buff Orpington hens hatched 8 eggs and happily adopted 16 mail order chicks. We got our field corn planted (in between rain drops) and had our first experience killing and butchering a goat. In the bathroom remodel, Dan built a gorgeous sink cabinet and installed a vessel sink.


Our field corn was sock high by the 4th of July

July was a difficult month as our baby chicks began to disappear during the night. We eventually caught the killer, a rat. About the same time there was a coyote sighting in the area, the first in a long time. On a happier note, it was the month we got our guinea keets and finished the bathroom.


Katy and Sam.

After losing 6 chicks to that rat, we decided to expand our rodent control department. As part of our master suite remodel, we used found space to make a study for Dan. When the rain wouldn't let up, we also got to work on the new bedroom by replacing the old drafty windows with new energy efficient ones.


Progress on the exterior of the house. We're gradually replacing the vinyl
covered original siding with a barn board look panel and new color.

Our beautiful September weather was timely. Once the new bedroom windows were installed, we needed to get them trimmed on the outside of the house. We made progress with the siding, trim, and painting. We cut down one of our old (but mostly dead) shade oaks for firewood. It was sad to lose it but worse, was losing two more chickens to an unknown predator.


Our guineas

October was a harvest month: field corn, cushaw, muscadines, popcorn, and what turned out not to be pumpkins. I planted winter pasture. To keep things fun, our guinea fowl were a source of never ending entertainment. 


His & hers closets were made by tearing out a wall hiding closets for
the adjacent bedrooms. Tall ceilings enabled the storage space above.

November saw progress on the bedroom closets (phase 1 and phase 2). Other good news, my pullets began to lay.


Of course the big news in December was the publication of my book, 5 Acres & A Dream The Book: The Challenges of Establishing a Self-Sufficient Homestead. Sadly, it was the month we lost our guinea fowl. Being a mild month, we were able to make progress on fencing and a new chicken coop, as well as work on the bedroom. I'll have photos and details on all of those soon.

Year In Review: 2013 © December 2013 

December 26, 2013

Where Oh Where Did My Guineas Go???

This is the sad story of how we suddenly became guinea-less.

Of all our critters, I think the guineas were my favorite. We got them as keets to clean up our tick problem. What we discovered, is that they are unique and remarkable birds. They have personality, and opinions! Ours came when they were called, ("guineaguineaguinea") and usually spent the night in their guinea house.

The most common question folks ask about them is, are guineas really as noisy as they are reputed to be? The answer is yes. They are loud and noisy sometimes, at other times, they chirp and twitter amongst themselves like songbirds. The other problem is that they roam.

The noise and roaming were always potential problems because we have neighbors near the front of the property. As long as the guineas stayed away from the road, no problem. True, they would often hop the fences to check things out next door, but there had never been complaints. The neighbors on the one side had lots of acreage and likely never noticed. Our neighbors on the other side have chickens, so occasional stray birds on either side of the fence (theirs or ours) is mutually accepted. If only things would have stayed that way.

When the guineas wandered too far we'd go bring them back. They would come for chicken scratch when called, and could usually be distracted by being allowed into the chicken yard. For some reason they loved the chicken yard and would happily spend the afternoon there (much to the indignation of the chickens). Even so, it was a chore to keep retrieving them.

One day the guineas were being particularly naughty. They decided they were going to go across the street. We'd already had several go-rounds with one of our neighbors, about their dog doing its business on our property, and wanted to keep things amicable. Having our 9 guinea fowl continually exploring others' neat, trim, suburban looking yards didn't seem a good way to keep things neighborly.

Anyway, I had to go get the guineas several times. None of the usual distractions worked, and the last time I went to fetch them, they balked when they got into the street. To make matters worse, a pick-up truck came barreling over the hill and had to stop because of them. I'm out there waving my arms and trying to herd them to our side of the road, they're all screaming at the truck, and the driver is making faces and hand gestures to let me know that having to wait 20 seconds for me to get my birds out of the road was not acceptable.

As I herded them toward the back of their property, I debated what to do. As much as we loved and wanted the guineas, the nine noisy wanderers were really too many. Keeping track of them was becoming a full time job. I began to understand why the job of herding animals was often given to youngsters in days gone by. Still, I needed to do something immediately.

In the end, I took them back to their house and used chicken scratch to get most of them to go inside. I closed the door, posted an ad for free guineas on craigslist, and waited by the phone. Seven of them were locked up, two were still on the loose, and I figured two would be a better number for our situation than nine.

The folks who took them were trying to get their own little place together. They didn't live close so there was no chance of the guineas coming home. It was hard for me to watch them go and I kept hoping a few others would get away too. It was amazing how quite the place was after they left.

The interesting thing about the two remaining birds is that they were not only on the bottom of the guinea pecking order, they were guinea rejects. The others would continually chase them away and not let them come in the coop at night. It took forever to get the guineas put up in the evening because the last one was afraid to go in with the others. I'd seen them attack it several times. But it always went in, which I felt was safer than leaving it out all night as easy picking for some predator.

About a week later I went to feed our two guineas and they were gone. Dan had seen them at about 2:30 that afternoon and I discovered they were missing around 5, so they disappeared within a several hour timespan. We'd been outdoors and never heard them holler and fuss, so we have no clue as to what happened. Did something get them? Did they decide to leave? Did a fed up neighbor pick them off? Did someone think they were wild turkeys or oddball pheasants?

The other night Dan woke up and went to look out the window. He thought he saw something run by and went outside to investigate. While he stood there in the dark, something came running across the road. At first he thought it might be a large fox. A second one followed and he shined the flash light on them. It was coyotes, likely the same ones our neighbor told us about last summer. Right now, that seems the most probable reason for the last two guineas' disappearance.

I've not given up on having guineas, but will definitely not mail order them next time. The minimum order of birds was too many for our situation. Maybe next summer, if I get a broody hen, I'll see if I can buy a couple keets locally and graft them onto her.

So that's the tale of our brief career as guinea wranglers.

December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone the very merriest Christmas!

A treasured ornament made by my son when he was in nursery school.

Do you have a treasured Christmas ornament that adorns your tree every year?

© December 2013 by Leigh at

December 21, 2013

Around The Homestead

I haven't done an Around The Homestead post in ages! But it seems like the best way to get back into homestead blogging once again.

My Book - I promise that I'm not going to turn my blog into an ongoing book promotion. I did want to follow up the giveaway with another sincere thanks to everyone who participated, promoted, bought, reviewed my book on Amazon, or simply left a comment to help me celebrate. It's tough because, while I would love for it to do well and maybe generate a little income for our homestead, self-published books, even good ones, rarely do well because few folks know about them. Hence the temptation to promote it all the time. As with all things, word of mouth is best. If you think the book is worthwhile and are willing, there are several ways you can help:
  • Write a review on Amazon, pretty please! These are supposed to be key to selling books. (Would appreciate some on Copies are selling there too).
  • Review it on your blog or website. If you do, let me know! I'm going to start a "What readers say" and will link it to you.
  • Like it on Facebook. Yes, I broke down and made an FB page for it. FB is new for me, but hopefully I'll catch on soon.

In the end, however, my homesteading blog is about homesteading. I'll use Facebook and my author blog Building A Book, for sharing interesting updates and writing about it. I'm going to leave the image of the book in the sidebar, with links for more information and where to buy.

Eggs - I'm getting about 7 or 8 eggs per day now.

Three different breeds, three different colors

I think I've figured out who's laying what. I believe the Speckled Sussex are laying the lightest eggs and the Silver Laced Wyandottes the darkest. The medium brown pullet eggs match the medium brown of my adult Buff Orpingtons. Now I'll know which ones to give a broody hen next summer.

Chickens - We're down to one rooster and 16 hens. We put two cockerels in the freezer and I canned my oldest hens.

Canned chicken with carrot, celery, and onion.

They still had eggs to lay, but I have to remind myself that the goal is not maximum production. My goal is meeting our needs while having happy, healthy chickens. 23 chickens were too many for our set-up. Too much squabbling and fighting. The oldest animals are usually at the top of the pecking order, and so get the most while producing the least. Things have calmed down considerably with less numbers.

Guineas - gone! :( There's a story behind that, which I'll share very soon.


My girls

While the rest of you across the U.S. were getting snow and ice earlier this month, we were getting rain. One thing I've noticed is that my Kiko and Kiko/Nubian or Kiko/Nigerian cross goats go out to forage in light rain. My purebred Nubians and Nigerian stay inside because they don't like to get wet. They'd rather lay around and be served hay all day. Why is this newsworthy? Because in my quest to develop a true homestead goat, finickiness is not an appealing characteristic. I added Kiko to my genetic mix in hopes of adding hardiness to good milk production qualities. Good foraging ability is part of that. If we are going to truly be self-sustaining in feeding our animals from our homestead, then we this is a quality we need.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about all of this, and will have another food self-sufficiency for goats post soon, to share my thoughts.

Indoor Project: Bedroom - the ceiling is almost done and I'll have a photo update on that soon. All we have left to do is the floor! I will say that properly insulating the outer walls and installing energy saving windows has made a big difference in how the whole house retains heat.

Outdoor Project: New Chicken Coop

Corner posts in & foundation begun. The chicken inspector approved the work.

We've just begun on this. It is part of the preliminaries to building our barn! I'll have details about that soon.

Garden - is mostly dormant except for broccoli, kale, and a few collard plants. I also have a small stand of winter wheat.

Frost tipped winter wheat

One thing I've figured out is that if I put an armful of unthreshed wheat into the hay feeder my goats will eat it seed heads, stems, and all. I'm not big on feeding a lot of grain to my goats, but for an easy way to grow and feed our own, this is it! No threshing required!

Parting Shot

Riley & Katy in never-seen-before close proximity

While Riley remains generally displeased about the presence of both Sam and Katy, he nonetheless tolerates Sam. Katy, he has no use for. He hisses, swats, growls, and grumps at her any time she gets within a couple feet of him. When I happened upon the above, I had to get a picture. He was sound asleep on the bed when she jumped up. He either didn't know, or pretended not to know she was there. There was no long term change after naptime was over. Life, and grumping, resumed as usual.

Around The Homestead © December 2013 

December 18, 2013

5 Acres & A Dream The Book Giveaway Winner & Thank You Book Discount

5 Acres & A Dream The
Book: The Challenges of 
Establishing a Self-
Sufficient Homestead 
Firstly, thank you to everyone, for your encouraging words and helping me spread the word. A huge thanks to those of you who bought a copy, and especially thank you for starting to write reviews on Amazon. I understand these are very important in helping folks decide whether or not to buy a book. Please consider writing one for me. A few of you mentioned that you will do a review on your blog after you've read it. Thank you again! In fact, if you do that, I'll create a "What Readers Are Saying" page with quotes and links back to your blogs. You can also help by liking my new Facebook page.

Quite a few Canadian readers asked about availability on and I am pleased to announce it is now listed there, click here. For more options around the world, visit my publishing website at

Now on to the winner. I had 82 entries for this giveaway! I kept a list as they came in, giving 3 entries for every blog post, and 1 each for every mention on any social media. I used the Custom Random Number Generator at Math Goodies to select the winning entry.

Entry #81 is Katie from Our Journey! Katie, I'll be in touch for a mailing address. Congratulations!

For those who didn't win, I am offering a consolation prize. I am offering my book at a 30% discount for the next three days, now through Friday, December 20th at my CreateSpace eStore. List price is $12.95, but with the code it will be available for $9.06 plus shipping.

To take advantage of this offer click here and enter the following code at checkout - PR4XQ9BS  (offer expired).

A caveat: Even though CreateSpace is an Amazon company, it sells independently of Amazon. That means the discount code cannot be applied at Amazon, nor can Amazon's discounts be applied to this offer. For one or two copies for yourself or to send directly to someone else, this is the way to go. If you're planning to add it to an Amazon free-shipping order, you might do better that way depending on shipping. Just do the math.

Next up, an "Around The Homestead" post to catch up on our homestead news.

© December 2013 by Leigh at

December 4, 2013

5 Acres & A Dream The Book: The Challenges of Establishing a Self-Sufficient Homestead

It is with great pleasure (and relief) that I am finally able to announce the publication of my book!

To celebrate, I'm having a book giveaway!

The book is based on my blog but has been organized into topics and expanded. It is neither a "how-to" book, nor a "why-to" book, although in the introduction I included your answers from my blog survey "Question For My Readers: Why Homestead?" Rather, this book is the telling of Dan's and my story, of our experiences in trying to establish a self-sufficient homestead. It's the telling of our dream and how we've begun to fulfill it. I share what we've researched, what we've tried, our successes and failures, and what we've learned from them.

  1. The Dream
  2. Defining Our Goals
  3. Setting Priorities
  4. Developing A Master Plan
    • (Includes copies of all our Master Plans)
  5. The Establishment Phase
  6. Food Self-Sufficiency: Feeding Ourselves
    • What Do We Need?
    • How Much Do We Need?
    • Preservation & Storage
    • Working Toward No-Energy Food Preservation & Storage
    • Perpetuating The Food Supply
  7. Food Self-Sufficiency: Feeding Our Animals
    • Doing The Research
    • Putting It All Together
  8. Energy Self-Sufficiency
  9. Water Self-Sufficiency
  10. Obstacles
  11. Difficult Things
  12. Work Smarter Not Harder
  13. Where Do We Go From Here?
  14. Conclusion: Doing What We Ought
Also included:
  • 7 of my homestead recipes for homegrown foods
    • Green Bean Broccoli Salad with “World Famous” Croutons
    • Stuffed Summer Squash
    • Goatherd's Pie
    • Cracklin' Cornbread
    • Sweet Potato Honey Pie
    • Canned Green Tomatoes for Frying
    • Sauerkraut
  • A list of resources
  • Calculating Protein With The Pearson Square
  • Homegrown Vitamins & Minerals For Goats
  • an extensive index

That's 262 pages in a 6 inch by 9 inch paperback for $12.95.

Why no Kindle (mobi) edition? Kindle lovers will be asking this so here's the answer. Although I don't read books by this method, I looked into it for those who do. What I learned is that e-readers do best with text, less so with images and illustrations. In fact, it's the images that drive up the cost of the Kindle editions. Because my book has 142 photos and 14 drawings/diagrams, I opted not to go this route for now.

The story behind this book goes back to Benita, (Basically Benita) who first encouraged me to turn my blog into a book. I honestly didn't take her seriously at first, but she kept prodding gently, until I finally decided to do it. Her support and help have been invaluable.

It has been several years in the making, in fact, my first subtitle was going to be "The First Four Years". I thought I'd have it done by then. We're wrapping up five years here, so you can see it took longer than I first anticipated! Part of that has been tackling some steep learning curves. Unless one wants to hire out the various parts of the process, the world of self-publishing falls almost entirely on Self. It includes not only writing and photography, but also formatting, book and cover design, learning the software to make it all happen, as well as learning how to comply with commercial printers' standards. I can't tell you how many times I became discouraged and felt like giving up. But every time that happened, one of you would email me and tell me I ought to write a book! It is to you, my blog readers, that this book has been dedicated.

I'd also like to draw your attention to the cover photo of my wood cookstove. Do you see the pot holders hanging on the pot rack above the stove? Those are the potholders I won in a giveaway by our very own Mama Pea!

Please do consider entering my book giveaway. It's open to anyone, anywhere in the world. I would love to put a free copy into someone's hands, plus you'd be helping me promote my book. I would be ever so grateful for that.

Information on how to enter is now closed.

The giveaway ends December 17 at midnight. Until then, I'm going to take a brief break from blogging. I'll be back on December 18th, announcing the winner and ready to blog once more.

Again, to order you can currently choose from one of the following:
Linking my good news to Homestead Barn Hop #139

© December 2013 by Leigh at

December 1, 2013


Notice anything different about my blog title? :)

HINT: It's why I've often been negligent on writing posts, replying to comments, and returning blog visits.

ANSWER: is here.