Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Predator-Proofing the Coop

It seems odd that I am finally raising chickens when several of my friends in suburban Portland, OR had chickens.  We really didn't have a large enough yard in the city for bees, a garden, and a coop; but now we have plenty of acres to spread out and not get in each other's way!  We purchased our chicks on Easter weekend and look how they have grown in 3 weeks!  Variety: Golden Comets.

Their current setup is a box in the garage, and they have made it known that they want OUT OF THE BOX!  I can hardly keep them in the box when I change the bedding and refill water and food dishes.  They get upset with wings flapping, down flying, and one chicken in particular tries to peck me.  Part of me doesn't want the little chicks to live in the barn away from the house where they are more vulnerable to predators, but birds get bigger and need to leave the nest eventually!

We are very thankful to already have a coop in the barn with air vents, nesting boxes, a roosting pole, and an outdoor run, but work still needs to be done before my chicks will call it home.  One side of the barn had a pile of bricks resting against the siding, and without gutters or a wide overhang, rain splashed back against the siding, causing the wood to rot.  For about an hour, Jon and I relocated the bricks to another location so we could access the siding and replace it.  It's a temporary fix, so yes, we know it looks shabby and doesn't match.  I painted a white primer on it to at least protect the wood from rain. 

In addition to replacing the rotted siding, we have secured chicken wire to the walls and buried it about 8 inches below the ground and toe-nailed the edge out.  From what I read, this deters predators that try to burrow under the walls.  We know that some predators will break through our snares if they are really determined.  Our main objective is to keep the cherry-pickers out who don't want to go through the effort of digging a huge hole and damaging their paws on the wire.  

Currently the nest boxes are boarded up because I'm thinking they will just go in there and make a poopy mess.  For those of you with chicken-rearing experience, is this what you do?  At what time should the chicks have access to the nest boxes and should I put a rock or something in there to give them an indication that this is where they lay eggs?  I didn't find this part of nest box transitioning mentioned in books.  I have seen coops where the nesting box is pristine and the eggs look immaculate without needing a cleaning.  I have also seen coops where the straw is poopy and eggs are a disgusting mess.  

Another exciting discovery is that we have turkeys on the property!  I counted 6 of them grazing in the lawn yesterday.  We hear their calls and have seen them fly over the house.  They are fun to watch and hear.  It is turkey season, but I'm not sure if I can pull the trigger yet.  We enjoy having them around.  I tried several attempts at taking pictures of them, and the picture above is what I got (it's a little blurry).

Going Without Appliances

As much as I want to live in the Laura Ingalls Wilder days where people knew where their food came from and life just seemed simpler, there are a few modern conveniences that even I would have a hard time giving up.  I never gave this subject serious thought until recently when we went 3.5 weeks without a washing machine and the microwave left in the home was broken.

The door lock on the washing machine broke during the move so it was completely unusable.  Clothing, towels, and rags piled up, but surprisingly we only had 9 loads of washing after 3.5 weeks, which included sheets!  The final week I washed underwear in the shower and Jon wore his socks twice, but we managed.  Would I want to wash all clothing by hand!  I would have to give a big "no" for  doing away with a washing machine because I have carpal tunnel and wringing out towels would be a bit painful; unless I have one of those old fashioned machines that have the rollers for getting rid of excess water.

Can I go without a microwave?  Yes, I can.  The kitchen has more counter space without it and it's a beast of a thing!  Check out the picture below!  I find myself cooking smaller portions (less leftovers) and being more resourceful with the stove and oven.  For example, I'll use the residual heat on the stovetop from making soup to melt the butter for cookies.  I reheat leftovers in the oven when I am using it for others things such as baking bread.

(This picture was taken when the microwave was sitting on the garage floor sideways.)

Can I go without a clothes dryer?  Absolutely!  I prefer to line dry my clothes anyway.

What about a refrigerator/freezer?  I'm on the fence about this one.  If we had a draft box or a cellar, then I think it would be easier, but I'm skeptical about keeping dairy products in either system and I really enjoy berries from the freezer versus dried.  While living at Aprovecho, an intentional community in Cottage Grove, OR, we used a draft box for everything except dairy.  The draft box at Aprovecho was placed on the north side of the hose and pulled air into this enclosed box through a screen.  It was basically a box placed in the wall with a screen in the back.  It worked well when the temperatures were low outside.  This video also shows a draft box, but this design is open on the bottom and pulls cool air from the crawl space below the home and vents out the chimney.  I think the design on the video is a better model, but I'm wondering if one should worry about gases (e.g. radon) from coming into the home?

An oven/stovetop?  I don't think I could cook over an open fire or use a solar oven to meet all my needs every day.  Our family uses the oven or stovetop probably an average of two times each day.  To help reduce our stovetop/oven demands, I could construct a haybox to help reduce cooking times.  We pressure cook all of our beans so a haybox would work great! I used the hay box many times at Aprovecho with great success.

And for those of you reading this blog, what appliances can you do without and why?

Who Turned Out the Lights??

The first month at our new home has been a whirlwind of odd projects.  Between 6 major plumbing problems (thank goodness for a home warranty!), a broken washing machine (from being moved), poison oak rashes, and having snakes and wasps invade the barn, we have managed to still love this place!  We are eagerly waiting for the last frost to pass so we can plan the garden, but in the meantime, we are replacing shower heads, faucet aerators, and light bulbs to make our home a little bit more energy efficient.

Every fixture in this home now has less bulbs and the incandescent bulbs were replaced with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL's).  We think one or two bulbs in a ceiling fan is more than sufficient rather than using four light bulbs.  Outside the home, there are two really large spot lights that use 400 watts apiece (see picture above) and they were scheduled to be on from dusk until dawn!  With a flip of a breaker, those lights are now off and we can now see the stars!  All in all, there are 41 less bulbs screwed into fixtures in our home.  

For those of you with those long fluorescent tubes, check with an electrician before you decide to remove bulbs because those type of lights require ballasts.  If you're not careful, you can actually use more energy and shorten the life of the ballast by removing bulbs---check with an electrician.

Some people argue that CFLs are worse for the environment because they contain mercury.  At my previous job as a Resource Conservation Manager for a school district, I was faced with this argument a lot.  This article by Energy Star explains the benefits of CFLs and their effects on the environment.  To sum up the article, mercury makes CFLs more efficient thereby reducing the amount of electrical demand.  More than half of the mercury emissions in the US come from coal-fired power plants.  By using a CFL, there is less demand for electricity, thereby reducing overall mercury emissions into the atmosphere.  The amount of mercury in a CFL is significantly less than what is produced from a coal power plant.

When you are finished using a CFL, it can be taken to a recycling facility so the mercury doesn't end up in a landfill.  Home Depot is one place that accepts CFL light bulbs for free!  Look for a recycling drop box by the customer service desk.

Trees, Garden, Water, & Chicks

It's been a busy weekend at the Wolfe house!

Before we even moved into our new home, we placed an order for 13 fruit trees, 2 kiwi's, 10 blueberries, 6 blackberries, 25 strawberries, and 1 raspberry.  They arrived this past weekend and are firmly set inside their metal cages safe from Bambi!

Even Paul's blankie helped with the tree planting!

Apples: Honeycrisp, McIntosh
Pear: Bartlett, Pineapple Pear, Raja Asian
Cherry: Black Tartarian, Rainier
Peach: Charlotte, Q 1-8, Saturn
Fig: Vern's Brown Turkey, Red
Kiwi: Anna Hardy, Male Hardy
Plum: Plumcot

Our friendly neighbor came by and rotor-tilled the garden.  The soil is now aerated and ready for planting!  Paul enjoyed the tractor ride!

Jon decided to tackle some vine maple and was surprised at how difficult it can be to remove.  Some vines (like the one in the above picture) are so tightly wound around the tree that it's nearly impossible to remove so it just hangs off the tree with it's lifeline cut off at the base.  

After an afternoon of vine maple removal, Jon had itches all over his body, particularly on his forearms, face, neck, and ears.  Even as a child, Jon would get rashes when playing in wood piles and in the woods.  He can't figure out what he's allergic to.  He woke up this morning with one eye almost swollen shut.  What is even more depressing is that Jon had a reaction to poison oak last week.  Paul and I are untouched with no itches so it must be an allergy for Jon.

The garden soil has virtually no organic matter in it; it's mainly just clay.  To help beef up the garden, I decided to trek up the mountain and bring down some leaves.  Today I only hauled 6 loads, but throughout the week I will get more...the potatoes will thank me!

At the barn we have a well pump and Jon finally got it working with some help from our neighbor.  The holding tank loses pressure really fast so we have to figure out how to keep it going.  It would be great to water the garden and feed animals with the water.  We do feel more secure knowing we have our own water supply.

And to complete the Easter weekend, we purchased 3 balls of fluff...Golden Comets!

Homemade Mailbox

Within the first week of living at our new home, the mailbox got smashed.  At first we thought it was an initiation into the neighborhood, but the mail delivery lady assured us that several on the road were smashed and that it happens every year during spring break.  Like we don't have enough to do already, we made our own mailbox to save some money and resources.  Jon has been making some bee boxes for me so we have some scrap wood lying around now!  To reinforce the mailbox, we used some plywood we found in the barn.  The hinge came from an old door; and with some luck, we managed to reuse the flag from the previous mailbox!

In this picture I am using a router to make the house number sign that will hang next to the mailbox.  

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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