Friday, May 12, 2017

Mothering in Decades Past

Have you ever wondered how mothers did it all 50, 100, 200 plus years ago? I do--all the time. I think about how stressed, overworked and struggling to juggle so many different responsibilities the mothers of today often are. I wonder if the mothers of yesteryear felt the same way--not to say mothers back then were not stressed out too--I'm sure they were. But it just seems like they had a better handle on things.

I struggle to get through a day without yelling at my girls, I let them watch too much TV, and I let them eat far too  much processed junk than they should be. I often feel frazzled when I'm home with them all day and it makes me want to scream when I get a fun project set up for them (that they requested) and then they don't even want to do it for 5 minutes. I need grace and forgiveness in this area--parenting is. so. hard.

My priorities are often pulled in so many directions--even at home. I work part-time (partly from home), so work duties are constantly calling me. Then there's the homemaking chores and the homesteading and the gardening that all take time. I feel guilty enough not spending much time really "playing" with my girls but I just don't have that luxury a lot of times.

For one, I think because a majority of women in decades past did not work outside the home (or perhaps they worked on the farm), work-life balance was not as much of an issue and the childcare situation--at least financially--was taken care of somewhat. Two, those that did engage in pursuits outside of home life were privileged to have help in the form of nurses, nannies, or relatives that served as caregivers for young children. It seems that in order for one class of mothers to have the necessary help needed to care for their children, another class of mothers--namely servants--would have sacrificed their family life.

Oh how I would love to ask the advice of those mothers long ago who were able to juggle the responsibilities of home and farm and raise up multiple children without the help of modern conveniences. Because this mama needs a lot of help most days. To do everything that society expects of a mother in today's world as well as a professional in the workplace requires us to be "supermoms"--is that really sustainable and healthy?

So what is the solution? Is it impossible for moms these days to both work and raise a family and do a fine job at both? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Hatching Chicks in an Incubator

Believe it or not, for as long as we have had chickens (7 years), we have never hatched any chicks using an incubator. This is the first year!

In the past we have always let one of our hens go broody and sit on our fertile eggs OR we have purchased baby chicks from a breeder we knew. In my opinion, if you can let a broody hen do all the work of sitting, hatching, and raising the chicks it is WAY easier and I tend to think the birds end up being a bit hardier that way--something the Dominique breed already has but it never hurts to have extra hardy birds.

This year due to our shortage of available laying hens (only 3) we did not have very many eggs and our rooster isn't too good about fertilizing the eggs either, haha! We probably would have had a pretty unsuccessful hatch if one at all using our own flock. Fortunately, I was able to get some fertile Dominique eggs from a breeder friend I know who has some great stock. He gave me 15 fertile eggs which was so generous!

Fertile eggs take approximately 3 weeks to hatch using an incubator. The temperature needs to be set according to the incubator's instructions--ours at 100 degrees and water added periodically to keep the humidity level where it should be. We candled them a couple of times to check the development of the eggs but tried to not open the incubator more than once or twice.

Once the eggs begin to pip then it gets pretty exciting!! The hatching process takes a little bit of time and can occur over the course of 2 or 3 days. Do not open the incubator once the eggs begin to hatch unless you are removing already hatched chicks to the brooder. Ours almost all hatched within 24 hours of each other--we had 14 chicks! So many babies!!

Eventually the chicks will fluff out and be ready to be removed into the brooder. They can survive for 24 hours or so without food or water in the incubator by absorbing the rest of their yolk.

For our brooder, we used a large plastic tub lined with puppy pee pads, a chick "nipple" waterer, an egg carton filled with chick feed and a heater designed so that the chicks can sit underneath for cover and warmth like they would a mother hen (see image below). You can move the heater higher and higher which allows the temperature underneath to drop 5-10 degrees each week as the chicks feather out. We will also eventually switch to pine shavings for brooder bedding once the chicks get a little older. All of these items can be found either at your local feed supply store or available online.

The pee pads will need to be changed every day or so in the beginning until the transition to pine shavings. We have been handling the chicks daily but they are still quite afraid of our presence and do not like being picked up. It is important to check for "pasty butt" at this stage and clear any blockages up to prevent illness. Fresh water and food every day (or multiple times a day if food dish is small) is critical.

You may need to make some adjustments depending on how the chicks are doing--especially if some of the appear to be sick or having trouble thriving. For example, we had to separate two of the chicks who were much smaller than the others and getting a bit trampled on. I put them in a separate brooder and babied them a bit more--I added a little water dish with pebbles and this helped one of the chicks with drinking tremendously. Adding a nutrient supplement to their water can save a chick's life as well at this stage if they aren't eating and drinking much.

These two chicks were not thriving as much as the others
and needed to be separated to their own brooder

We recently moved our brooder to the screened-in porch and hopefully around 4-6 weeks of age they will be able to go outside permanently into their brooder coop with the weather being so warm now. We could probably put them outside already with a couple of heat sources available for them. Until they go outside, we have been letting them enjoy the outdoors in a "play pen" set up so they can't roam very far but enjoy the grass and sunshine.

4 of these chicks will go to some relatives that live nearby who are raising chickens for the first time (and who I've made partial to the Dominique!) and the rest of them we will keep. In addition to all of the pullets, we will likely keep 2 of the best cockerels and either sell, give away for breeding, or process the others.

It was a fun experience to hatch the chicks in the incubator and nice to know that we have that option if necessary. However, I will say it's way easier to just let the broody hen do all the work herself and I think we will try to go that route the next time :)

cute little fuzzy butts!

Baby chicks can be time consuming and a little needy at first--especially if you have one that gets sick or stops thriving. But they sure are adorable and sweet!

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Friday, April 28, 2017

House Build Progress: Walls, 2nd Floor and More

A lot has happened since my last update on the construction of our new farmhouse! We are LOVING seeing the progression of the build and are getting so excited about all our plans and dreams for our little homestead.

For one, the second floor framing has been completed and sheathing has been placed on the roof rafters and on the exterior. It has also been wrapped for protection and the subfloor is completed.

An oblique view of the rear elevation of the house

The "great room"--where the fireplace will be

Having all the framing complete makes it so much easier to envision actual room sizes and the feel with the light from the windows and traffic flow.

Since we don't really have a true "open" floor plan, having a living room that is two-stories high gives it a larger, more open feel and I love that. (Even if my husband thinks it's a waste of space!)

View of second floor framing from our bonus room facing west

View of the girls' bedroom and bathroom

Peeking into the kitchen facing south

They had to move the casement windows in the kitchen down a few inches (as much as they could) because I am fairly short and I couldn't see very well out of them. I wish they could have lowered them further but now according to code windows have to be higher due to required outlets that have to sit at the sink in between the counter and the windows, or something like that. They joked that the builder can make me a little pull-out stool under the sink cabinets to stand on and see better out those windows :)

Our front door, unstained

Another huge change is the installation of the windows and doors! We chose an all-wood DSA Mastercraft front door with four-lights-over-one-panel and matching sidelights and a transom of five lights. We plan to stain this door with a walnut colored stain. I am planning to devote an entire post to the windows soon, but I'll briefly describe them here: we chose a JELD-WEN all wood double-hung window, two-over-two sash that has an aluminum-clad exterior in dark bronze. The windows will be trimmed out and painted white on the interior.

The back French doors with transom leading to the screened porch are a Plastipro fiberglass, six-lights-over-one-panel that will be painted. I'm think I'm going to go with a dark grey or charcoal color for these. Already we know that our favorite room in this house is probably going to be this glorious screened porch.

The only other door is our laundry door leading to the screened porch which is just a simple steel door with one light in the upper half. Nothing fancy for that one.

Laundry room

Next week we are meeting the electrician and pretty soon we have to pick out all our flooring! Light fixtures too. So many decisions to make! It's starting to get a little overwhelming :)

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Favorite Treats for Backyard Chickens

I will admit it--my chickens are spoiled. They get let out of their pen to free range AND they get plenty of treats. It's gotten to where they associate me coming out of the house with them getting treats, so now I just open the back door and they automatically come running, ha!

A lot of times the treats are just leftovers of things we aren't going to eat anyway, but the chickies DEVOUR them. My always rooster acts like HE found the treats for the hens and calls them over with his "I found food" call.

They definitely have some favorites that I thought I'd share with you in case you are in need of treat ideas for your flock:

1. Shredded Cheese

2. Grapes

3. Any type of leftovers with a lot of grains/rice/bread

4. Blueberries or other berries

5. oatmeal leftovers

6. scrambled egg leftovers

7. large pieces of cut up pumpkin or large squash

8. cabbage and leftover greens

9. leftover corn on cob

10. leftover watermelon

11. Cherry tomatoes

What are your flock's favorite treats?

Monday, April 3, 2017

House Build Progress: Framing

We pulled onto the property the other night and couldn't believe our eyes. The last progress we had seen on the house was the subfloor and now all of a sudden WE HAVE FRAMING AND WALLS!!

The house's façade (east elevation)

Southeast corner of the house--you can see the south elevation is where the kitchen will be

north and west elevations of the house--you can see the screened porch is framed!

The first floor is fairly complete and it won't be long until the second floor is completed--the girls will love seeing where their room will be! The footprint of the house is pretty basic with a minimal number of corners, projections, or other variations. We did this mostly to save on cost.  It's crazy how fast it went up and it's great to be able to physically walk into the rooms, feel their size and experience the spatial relationships to other rooms. It makes it all so real!

The "great room" facing where the fireplace will go

The view from our front porch!
 The photo below is a view standing in the "great room" looking towards the rear of the house where the screened porch is, and where a pair of French doors will be flanked by windows.

For one, I CANNOT believe how large our master bathroom is compared to what we have now--it is going to feel palatial to us when we move in. And all the closets are going to be divine. Yay for more storage!

looking into the master bath with a walk-in closet on the left

standing in the master bath looking through all the way to the master bedroom

Below is a photo of the kitchen space. I'm so excited to design our farmhouse kitchen and even more excited that it will overlook our vegetable garden and fruit trees to the south of the house.

the kitchen space, facing south

The screened porch framing is up as well and even the stairs--we are so looking forward to being able to walk around the second floor once it is framed out.

I love the photo below because it captures all the rooms on the south side of the house before the walls divide them--standing in the laundry room, you can see all the way through the framed out pantry, kitchen, and finally dining room.

Perhaps the most incredible thing to see (for me) was the window and door openings. I love seeing how wonderful the windows are going to be (I LOVE lots of light!) and getting a feel for the amount of light that will be in certain rooms.

And finally, the view from our screened porch at the rear--we won't ever get tired of this peaceful, beautiful sight!

That's all the updates for now--have a wonderful week and happy Spring :)

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Paint Colors

It's easy to get overwhelmed when building a house--we have had plenty of stressful moments when making decisions and modifying plans in order to stay within our budget. Choosing paint colors is no exception to creating confusion and uncertainty.

And who knew there were so many different shades of white to choose from?!?

Since it's hard to get a feel for a color like white, grey, or another light shade from a small paint card sample, I've been relying on seeing the paint used in whole rooms from pictures online or in magazines.

Since we are building a farmhouse, I feel that white is an appropriate color to start with for a clean, fresh slate for all of the rooms. Plus, I love the brightness and lightness that it will give to the house. I may gradually paint some of the rooms a different, darker color (perhaps the dining room and bedrooms), but to start I'd like to live in the house with white for a while to help me decide if and what color to paint before I make the plunge into color!

I am so nervous about committing myself to color and tend to go with a pretty neutral palette anyway....

The other night my husband and I got a rare "date" night to go out to dinner together by ourselves--want to guess what else we did? Went to the Sherwin Williams paint store, of course! I grabbed a bunch of paint chip samples that I knew were close to shades I would like to use in the new house.

At home I grouped them further into what I'd be using them for (see above image)--the whites for most of the interior walls, the greys for the kitchen cabinets, the mint greenish bluish colors for our master bath, and the others were just colors I liked in general. These are just the colors from Sherwin Williams--we have yet to look at other stores (and I'm not sure I want to!) so needless to say it will be a difficult decision.

Below are some inspirational photos from Pinterest with pretty neutral color palettes and various shades of white or light grey. I'm starting to lean towards a light creamy grey color perhaps for the kitchen cabinets, but I'm just not sure yet.....

Via Workbook by Westbrook

Via Jennifer Rizzo on Bloglovin

Via Décor Pad

Via DeVol Kitchens

I've always loved a "mint" type green close to a robin's egg blue or jadeite type green in small doses--so I may use a color like that somehow in our bathroom or maybe as an accent color to some of the other rooms too. I'm also partial to deep chocolate browns--I feel like brown is a nice neutral for a lesser-used room.

And I couldn't help myself picking out some light pinks because I know the girls will love them :)