Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Plans change

We had planned to go out to the land this weekend, just for another day trip. But in all honesty, it's just so hard to do a three hour one way trip twice in the same day with five little kids. I think I'm still recovering from the last trip. Plus, the next phase in the shabin habitibility plan is to paint the downstairs walls and floor with a coat of vapor barrier.

Picture this; five kids + small enclosed space + wet paint. Yeah, not gonna happen.

So, we've decided to postpone the trip until next weekend. I'll be taking the kids to a far away friends house for a baby birthday party and Rob will be going to the land to paint and wait for the bush hog tractor driver. He's hoping to get started on the stairs to the loft and reinforcing the plywood floor of the loft with an additional sheet.

We've been working on some simple plans for the shabin to run electric through the walls before we insulate and drywall. We found some Romex and additional electrical supplies just hanging out in our current shed from a long ago project. We'll be utilizing these in the shabin now.

For now, we've decided to use a sawdust toilet. What's a sawdust toilet you ask? Well, very simply it's a 5 gallon bucket with a toilet seat attached -unbelievebly they make special ones just for this purpose- and a bucket of sawdust. I can get 5 gallon buckets with lids from Firehouse Subs* for $2 a piece. When you're done you either dump out the contents in a hole in the ground or dispose of the entire bucket. Fun stuff!

Once the vapor barrier is completed, the sawdust toilet installed and the stairs complete we can plan on our first overnight trip! We'll plan a time where we'll be up there during the week at which time we will submit our barn plans.

Things are happening, though very, very slowly.

*I wonder if we went to Firehouse if they'd be interested in just giving us buckets if we tell them what we're using them for. Maybe if we give them a plug on the site?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Two new Rabbits and Why

Flora II and Fauna joined us Monday. This brings our rabbitry up to four now. We'll start breeding in October/November when the weather is cooler and the girls are older. They were born on Mother's Day.

Rabbits are the ideal small home/apartment livestock. They need relatively little room. They can be three-fold animals providing manure for gardens (which tomatoes love), wool and meat. You can also breed them to sell the kits.

In our area, Angora's range in price from $30 to over $100 a piece depending on the breed, color and sex. A litter of five healthy babies can make a car payment. They also need very little. Food, free access to hay and a never ending supply of water. Draft and drip free housing with good ventilation and a way to capture their droppings and you're good to go. Initial set ups can range in price from very cheap to really fancy.

We chose galvanized steel cages made for rabbits that are 30x30x16" for the bucks and 30x36x16" for the does (which are housed together). Each has it's own water bottle, food bowl and hay manger. We give them glue-free toilet/paper towel rolls and pine cones to play with and we have a enclosed baby gate for them to get out of cage exercise.

The hutches were built with mostly scrap materials and the cages simply rest on the frames. The new hutch for the does has a place for stackable milk crates that holds all their goodies.

So far, I've harvested nearly three ounces of fur off the older two bucks. Fur runs about $6 an ounce on Etsy, give or take. I buy them Timothy hay buy the 96ounce bag that runs $10-12 and lasts about 1.5 months. I get Hartz pellets from the grocery store. A 10lb bag is $9.99 and lasts about 2 months. I'm hoping to get to a point where the rabbits at the very least pay for themselves. I already use the manure in the garden which I think has really benefited the plants though that is hard to tell. If I had a bit better way to do it I could collect the manure and sell that too.

The point of all this is to point out our effort on bringing in animals to the farm that aren't a burden. They need to pay for themselves in some way or help to reduce the cost of having to do other things, i.e. I don't have to buy manure anymore, which is something I did. Moving towards a dream where we live a self-sufficient life means taking the steps now to build towards that. It would do us no good to have animals that only drain limited resources. We all have to work together to make life easier and more productive. The rabbits have that down already.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Our Latest Visit

Yesterday, we packed up the van and the trailer and headed over to the land to drop off some materials we have into the shipping container. Initially, we were going to spend the night over, trying to get some work done on the shabin but it didn't work out.

The drive up got delayed a lot mainly because the things getting packed up were so builky and Rob was doing all the work himself while I was inside getting all the kids ready. Then, we had to drop Leeloo off at the dog-hotel. She needed a bath and we wern't going to be home until really late. She's not puppy trained enough to be home by herself and the van was just too ful and the ride too long to take a puppy along. Soon, she'll be going up with us. She needs to learn better manners first though.

When we finally pulled up to the land and were greated with a vibrant sea of green almost taller than the car.

July and August are the wettest months of the year here and the land responds accordingly. We drove through the soft fronds up to the doors of the shabin and container. Rob jumped out to unlock it and found someone had cut the locks we put on it. Both of them. I just don't understand people. Thankfully, at that point we didn't have anything in it at all. But it still saddens my heart that someone would do that. They had to have come once, saw the locks and then come back with the bolt cutters. It makes me leery to put anything up there that we couldn't afford to loose. Makes me nervous about staying overnight. I don't want to be afraid to be on my own land. I don't want to be scared to be out of the city and blanketed in the darkness of rurual life.

I tried to push it out of my mind and enjoy the little bit of time we had. My land soothes me. Makes me want to slow down and just be. I need that. The kids loved it even with the grass double their height.

They played in the shabin and stayed out of trouble. Granted if they had run through the fronds we'd have probably lost them for a bit, but I thnk even Max understood that out the rustic-but-still-civilized door there was wildness. With the locks cut we had to run to Lowes to pick up some more resistant ones. Even though there's not much where we are, their are still shops within about a half hour drive.

We came back with batteries for the LED lanterns and the locks and set about finishing up the last of what we wanted to do, which wasn't really much. The kids had a picnic on some blankets while they waited.

When we were getting ready to go, I spied a hawk perched on the top most branch of a tree in our bit of forest. He was watching, standing sentinel, while the wind gusted around him.

A few moments later two of his brothers glided by as if on patrol. It was so amazing to see these birds of prey living on our bit of Earth. To know that we are stewards of their home and they rely on us to protect them, even if they don't know it.

The sun was setting on our trip to the land. Even with the sky washed in the gray of storm clouds from the East, the West still glowed with the remnants of the day. To spend that time there, even when we couldn't do anything, was special.

As we packed up Amelia, our three year old, said "I want to live here forever." Me too, Emmy, me too.