Free Dozen Eggs in time for Easter!

We were very busy with a wedding to attend, and lots of projects on the homestead, we didn’t collect eggs for 2 days and this is what we came back to.

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Get a free dozen, go to our Facebook page and put in the comments your guess. 1st right answer gets them. Local or close to Greenwood pick up.

If you are interested in buying eggs we sell them for $3 a dozen pick up. Some drop offs can be arranged.

Our birds are free range and get some scratch grains along with whatever they dig up in the compost and any unfortunate worm, insect, mouse, or fish that cross their path. Fish? Oh yeah, I have witnessed some of the ladies get a goldfish from the pond.

New Podcast out on 2 Midwest Guys

 

We needed to put out a podcast and this is a solo one by me. Dustin and I had a hard time lining up schedules so I talked about some of the activities on my 0.2 acre homestead in suburban Indianapolis. There is also the introduction of Rick’s rules. Rules my wife has set up because someone needed to do it.

Podcast 002 Rick’s Homestead

Soft launch of new Podcast 2MidwestGuys

podcast

The podcast is finally here. I have been giving hints and updates well it is finally live. We are having a soft launch of the 1st introduction podcast. We are still waiting on logo and intro/exit music but we wanted to get something out there. It will be refined as we go along and we hope to have 2-3 podcasts a week on various topics. There will be some humorous segments such as Rick’s Rules where I explain the lengthy amount of rules my wife has set in place for me and why. There is always a reason for a rule. We would really like feedback for anyone listening as to what you want to hear, the good the bad and the ugly. The website is www.2midwestguys.com and you can download or listen to the 1st episode there. It is about 40 min long. We are going to try and keep them about that length. It is waiting on I-Tunes to approve for publication, but you can download from the site now. The site is a little empty at the moment, but we are working to get it filled up.

You can listen directly at the site, right click on the “Download” link and save to your computer, mp3 player, or other podcast device, and once I-Tunes is up there will be another option.

We are looking for advertisers for not only the website but also the podcast. We want to feature locally own businesses we know or have worked with. Both of us have been in the area for a while and there are so many to choose from. Lots of different options to choose from, 15 sec to 2 min spots are available and at the beginning and the end of the show. We also want to have feature interviews with our businesses as well. So look forward to great things to come. People ask “Do you know where to get….” or, “Who do you know that does….” We want to be able to fill in the gaps for people.

Take a listen and come take a ride with us. It may be bumpy at first as neither one of us have ever done a podcast before, but both have the “gift of gab” as our spouses tell us.

New addition – Ducks

photo from albc-usa.org
photo from albc-usa.org

We have had aquaponics and ponds for running on 3 years. We have had a variety of fish and the chickens do their part to keep the majority of insects down. Chickens are great for insect control except they eat everything else. Each year we have to come up with more creative ways to keep them out of our vegetable gardens. What does that have to do with ducks? We seem to have a slug problem and ducks seemed to be the solution. Chickens won’t eat the slugs and ducks love them. Supposedly ducks will also leave your gardens alone. Only time will tell on that bit of advice.

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We recently struck out to our first animal auction with the intent on getting some Khaki Campbells. We selected this breed for the higher number of eggs laid per year. I wanted them for slug and insect control, but might as well have one that also produces a product. Along the permaculture principals we are now selecting species or products that have at least 2 purposes. With the ducks it was slug control, fertilizer in the aquaponics, eggs, and because we got a drake (male) as well we can get fertilized eggs to sell or hatch them and wither sell the young ducklings or raise them as meat birds. We learned that ducks will imprint on people at a young age so while at the auction we decided to only get ducklings and not adult ducks. We wanted them to grow up in our back yard around our family so they wouldn’t be afraid of us.  My wife does worry that our youngest child will let them follow her in from the yard into the house. She has already asked to take a bath with the ducks on more than one occasion. Not all ducks needs water, for example runner ducks are perfectly fine without having water to swim. You also don’t need a pond, a small kiddie swimming pool, a stock tank, or just a Rubbermaid tote could work as long as they can get in and out.  

Like chickens, young ducks need some time to grow before they can move outside. So we are back to using a brooder box. They are currently living in our living room under a heat lamp. We were advised that if we give them water to swim in then we risk the chance of them drowning if unsupervised when really young. So, no tub in the box at the moment. We do let them swim in the bathtub when we clean the brooder box out.

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We picked our ducklings up at our local Rural King. When we were at the auction we looked into ordering from a hatchery but after a $7.99 each bird and a $45 shipping fee it would be expensive. Rural King had them for $4.99 minimum of 5 birds, which we wanted no more than 5. While there, another customer happened to be picking out ducks as well. She would reach in and hold the ducks upside down, and either put them in her box, or back in the tub. Not knowing a stranger, I asked what she was doing. She explained that when you hold them upside down you can tell the males from the females. This was news to me, but after watching her there was a distinct difference in the birds. Time will tell if she was right. Supposedly the males will point down at the ground when held upside down by their feet and females will point up turn their body so they face up. I could not find this on the internet when I got home so not 100% sure if it is accurate. By this means we got 4 females and one male. When you talk to old farmers most have all these “odd” ways to determine things such as when to plant, how long winter will be, if there will be a drought, and now how to sex a duck. From what I have found, most are right.

Most of the equipment needed is the same for ducks and chickens when they are little. Some items you will need: A brooder box (to keep them contained and safe), heat lamp, waterer, litter, and feeder. We had all these materials left over from when we raised chicks a few years back. You do not need to buy all of the components, with the exception of maybe a heat lamp. A large enough Rubbermaid tote or any box for a brooder could work. We are using an old guinea pig cage we had left over. The cage has a solid bottom as the ducks like to play in the water, and a cage to keep our other animals and kids out. Food and water containers could be small bowls, Tupperware containers, etc. The heat lamp may set you back $10 for the lamp and the fixture. The lamp does get hot so don’t allow it to get too close to any flammable materials. We do keep them with a small blanket over the top to retain some of the heat.  

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With the little peeps, we can hear them from across the house now. It seems as though they have doubled in size in just a week. I know they are more vocal, and it seems they know our voices. It will be quite in the house or while we are watching TV, until they hear us speak then “PEEP PEEP PEEP”. So as all the projects go, I now need to build them a duck house.

This is what my wife wants me to build. Seems the animals at our place are living in luxury.

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Humor from back in the day

M R Ducks

M R Not

M R Too

C M Wangs

L I B…M R Ducks

Our first livestock auction

If you have never heard of an animal auction and are looking into getting animals for homesteading you may want to check them out. The family and I went out last weekend to check things out. None of us have ever been so it was going to be an experience. If nothing else the kids could check out different types of livestock.

It started later in the evening and we went prepared with snacks and eating dinner along the way. Veedersburg Sale Barn The auction was about an hour and a half from our house in the city. It started at 6pm but we arrived at 5 to check things out first and get registered. If you have never been to an auction you must register to get a bidding number. When you bid on an item, your number is recorded. It takes about 20 min or so to get everything registered and you can pay and leave with your item, or stay and pay at the end. Arriving early gave us the opportunity to check out all the livestock and equipment. Not only were animals being auctions but feeders, watering containers, cages and other homesteading and animal equipment as well as hay.

While checking things out we spotted a few things we liked, and might bid on. We went looking for Kaki ducks, and if it was a good deal, maybe get a few. There were a couple of calves, goats, rabbits, turkeys, ducks, pheasants, fertilized eggs, guinea pigs, quail geese, pigeons, and a whole bunch of chickens in all shapes sizes and breeds. Hundreds and hundreds of chickens. Having only chickens as livestock at the homestead (with exception of fish) our only comparison for pricing was as chicks in catalogs or at some of our local farm stores. $1.50-10.00 depending on breed etc. We saw 1 year old laying hens going for as low as $2.00 each. For us this was a deal. You didn’t have to feed for 6 months, no heat lamp, no brooder boxes, and you get almost instant eggs. Now I have checked out Craigslist for layers and 1 year old layers can go from $20-40 each in our area. $2.00 was a steal in comparison to raising them for 6 months. With 22 chickens on hand at the moment we were maxed out on hens.

We did see some ducks later in the evening, or should I say morning (1am) but they were older and we have read that ducks will imprint on you when they are young. We wanted that kind of relationship with our animals and opted to get chicks later (turns out the next day).

We watched a few rabbit lots go by, what was available, and pricing. Because we had checked things out before hand we knew there were better rabbits coming. We ended up picking up 4 rabbits, 3 does and a buck. We are going to use them for our breeders. So, because rabbits weren’t on the agenda, guess who got to come home and get materials for building rabbit hutches.

More details on rabbits, hutches, ducks and duck house in a later post.

Each auctioneer was different. We had 4 over the span of the night. The first one would tell what sex, and breed the animals were and sometimes age. The second one would only tell you the sex. The third said nothing other than how many and type of animals. He seemed to go much faster and didn’t spend much time allowing others to bit. You either got his attention right off or it was gone.

The auction was a learning experience. Some things we picked up for next time, and advice to others going. Research what you are looking for before getting to the auction. Often they are in the middle of nowhere and there is no wifi or cell service. Show up early and inspect the animals. Know the order of the lots. You would hate to miss the animals you were looking for on a bathroom run. Plan on staying late, we left around 1:30 am and there were still plenty of animals left (5pm-1:30 am). If you don’t know what to look for bring someone with you who does. Ours had hard bleacher seating, so next time we are bringing cushions, sitting on those for 7-8 hours makes the backside sore. If bringing kids, bring entertainment, and explain BEFORE that, yes they are all cute animals, you cannot take them ALL home. Also, isolate your new animals for a period before introducing to your existing animals; this is to protect any potential diseases or parasites. If you wear you work boots, mud boots or footwear you normally wear around your animals clean and disinfect them before going around your animals. There are lots of animals moving through the sale barn and lots of potential to bring something home. The auction is a great way to pick up equipment for a much reduced rate, but be sure to inspect it before you bid on it. Make friends with the people around you. Turns out the couple next to me is looking to slim down their herd of milking goats, and we are looking to get some. Save us a trip to the auction barn, for goats and equipment. The couple on the other side sells piglets, and I know two people looking for piglets. Unless the auction lists what is up for sale, you never know what you may see, and for me it is like a treasure hunt. Each new lot brings new potential. Don’t get stuck on one particular animal or lot. Sometimes a bidding wars can erupt because two people let emotions get the price WAY above what it should be. We saw a baby goat go for $260 when the twin only went for $70. Go figure. Listen to the auctioneer carefully for several lots before ever making a bid, you can distinguish between $20/lot for 20 birds and $20/bird in a lot of 20. A difference of $380.

This was our first but most definitely not our last auction. So more on different auction barns, and what we learn along the way.

New water feature

Over the winter I took down the aquaponics outside due to freezing temps. I let the pump run through a long pipe so that the fish would continue to get oxygenated water. One day while I was out and about I was able to snag a 20×25 foot section of roofing EDPM liner. The family was moving, and he worked at a roofing company and had it left over at his home. He needed it cleaned and I can always have a use for EDPM liner. Brainchild happened. I always loved playing in creeks as a kid, making damns, waterfalls, pools, and just listening to the water. All the kids like this as well, so I put in a new water feature. It served several purposes.

Current water feature 2014
Current water feature 2014
Water Feature 2013
Water Feature 2013

First, adding additional oxygen to the water for the fish in the pond. Having stagnant water hinders the fish growth. Having several waterfalls adds tons of opportunity to get more oxygen into the water. More oxygenated water means a higher stocking density is possible. It is not only good for the fish but also good for the plants and the beneficial bacteria breaking down the fish waste.

Second, the waterfall and associated mini ponds foster more places for bees and other beneficial insects to get water. Having lots of areas where the water is shallow allows bees, butterflies, frogs and toads to hang out. While cleaning out some of the winter litter off the bottom we will have tons of frogs over the next couple of years, due to the number of tadpoles I found.

Third, all the pools, and rocks it mimics more closely what is found in nature. Sediment and particles can settle and be filtered out of the water. I plan on adding more water loving plant species on my next trip to Aquatic Design. I want to plant in the pond itself and along the creek too.

Fourth, the sound is calming and relaxing. We can now sit on our deck (now that it is chicken proof) and listen to the babbling stream in the evenings while we eat on the deck.  Sorry for the “mess” I went out to get a quick video so I can publish. Sounds great. It will look much better once I clean up, finish laying rocks, and put in plants.

Fifth, it acts as a barrier to the creeping plants. Last year we added some mint and catnip to the area. These will get out of control if not in pots or otherwise contained. The creek will act as a barrier to keep them between the creek and the deck (we hope).

Sixth, the creek is an overflow from the water collection rain barrels. Once they are full the water will overflow into the creek.

Lastly, it keeps the kids entertained and is a learning opportunity. How does water flow? Making damns, making pools, boat races, currents, eddies all kinds of lessons can be learned. Once more wildlife sets in we can study what lives in the running water. Where do the frogs hang out and why? The kids and I can spend hours adjusting the waterfalls, where to place the bigger rocks, the smaller rocks, the pebbles, where to have a sand bar. When you move one rock the whole dynamic changes for that section. Who knows, maybe we will make a map like they do for white water rafters. Where are the good rapids, where are the large boulders, where is the waterfall, where are the deep pools. Let the kids name them. Then next year, make a whole new path.

Every year we have found new things to add to the yard, change or redo. What we learned and how to make it better, or change something around. In the five years we have been at this property the landscaping has never been the same from one year to the next.

Growing and teaching sustainable and healthy food production

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