This Month on the Homestead (July): Learning and Losses

this month on the homestead july 2018 featured

It has been a tragic couple of weeks here on our survival homesteading retreat. We lost our most long-standing and skilled self-reliance tribe member, the last of my ducks, and my favorite chicken.

We have not had such extreme predator issues since our first few months on this property. Something, and I am thinking it was a member of the raccoon family we have been trying to catch, climbed into Pearl’s nursing stall (and it is not an easy climb) and killed my ducks.

The ducks often chose to sleep with Pearl and her first kid, Rooster, in the stall. Ironically, it was the first night in weeks that the ducks chose to sleep with Pearl and her new kids, when the attack occurred. My Bobby said having the ducks in the stall probably saved the lives of Pearl’s kids – Sunshine and Whiskey. Even though he was probably right, the loss of the ducks was still extremely upsetting.

rooster the goat

This is Rooster, Pearl’s first kid. He is a wether and will be one year old just before Christmas. He does not like being separated from his mom and night. He can be a little much for his younger siblings to deal with in close quarters – and his momma get more than a big agitated when he romps with the twin kids, so he is sleeping solo until Sunshine and Whiskey get bigger.

I had had the Pekin duck since right after we got our homestead. Not much was left of the Rouen drake when I went to do turn out and morning feed, but the Pekin was still alive. Since it had not died of shock overnight, I had hoped it stood a good chance of making it, but I was wrong.

At first I had worried I had made a deadly mistake allowing the ducks in the nursing pen with Pearl and her kids, even though the chickens flew in there quite often, and napped without any problems. But, it was eerily clear that Pearl was not the one that killed the ducks with one look at the Rouen’s remains and the ripped flesh of the Pekin’s back.

Her back was almost completely devoid of feathers and she was a bloody mess from the yanking of the feathers and some small claw marks. Bobby and I moved her into the outdoor brooder after treating her wounds. She was still in a very startled state, but responded to me and I think was comforted by my presence during the slight location change.

She drank a good bit of water, but she would not touch her feed and was barely tempted by some bread chunks I gave her. She did not walk well yet I did not think that her leg was broken, at least it showed no visual signs of such an injury.

The Pekin lasted two days before she died and hobbled about at least a foot in several directions during the course of that time. I can only imagine that perhaps she had some type of internal injury from a coon getting on her back, but that is just a guess. Her wounds did not show any signs of infection.

Next we lost Stew, the second chicken hatched on our survival homesteading retreat. I figure it was the same raccoon that got Stew. She was a super sweet Banty hen that ate right out of my hand and would sometimes land on my shoulder as I dipped the scoop into the feed tub.

Now the only chicken we have left is Soup, the first chicken hatched on the property.

stew the chicken

She is quite lost without her pal Stew and the ducks. I have always wanted Buckeye chickens, so I think now is a perfect time to invest in some. They are the only breed of chickens in America that were created by a woman and originated in my region of the state.

Buckeye chickens are known for having superb barnyard smarts, making them stealthy free range birds. They are an increasingly rare heritage chicken breed and lay around 200 medium brown eggs per year.

Soup and Pearl have always spent a good bit of time wandering around together, but now Pearl and her kids are spending their nights inside the chicken run.

Yep, you read that right, the goat and her babies are communing in the chicken run. I will not have time until this weekend to build a top for the nursing stall in the barn and the run was the only seemingly secure place for my three legged nanny goat and her babies.

There were some great things that happened on our survival homesteading retreat this week as well. I continued on with self-reliance training of two of our youngest grandchildren. Colt and Auddie (Audriella) live in a tiny house cabin with their parents and infant sister, Ariyah, on the homestead.

By the time their parents finish building their dream homesteading home on the land, Colt and Auddie will be youthful homesteading all-stars. It is never too young to teach self-reliance and homesteading skills to children, in my humble opinion.

All of our work (the kids think they are just having fun with Yaya – name they somehow created out of Grammy to call me) is paying off tenfold. While far too many American children are spending their summer sitting in air conditioning playing video games and watching cartoons, Colt and Auddie are learning how to identify trees, cook their own lunch from food created on our land, feed and water the animals, and find their way around our 56 acres.

Did I mention Colt and Auddie are only 3 and half and 2 and a half years old?!

colt and auddie eating a snack

Today Colt and Auddie and I made grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. They learned how milk is used to make cheese and butter, how wheat is grown to make bread, how to safely be around a hot stove and why and how butter melts when it gets hot. Yesterday we made pizza bread and tomorrow we will pick the ingredients for our chef salads out of the garden and toss in some chicken bits from birds that were raised on our homestead.

I was delighted to discover there are now Little House on the Prairie picture books designed exclusively for younger children. Each one is based on a chapter from one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books – my favorite childhood books…and television show.

There are a plethora of learning extension activities for Little House on the Prairie books for older children available for free or a nominal price (Pinterest is the place to go to find them all!) but until now I had no idea I could start reading and engaging in extension activities, many of which are self-reliance based, with our youngest grandchildren.

The first book in the series is due to arrive today. Last night I created Little House on the Prairie wood peg dolls to represent the characters in the book to use when cuddle up on a blanket beneath the kids’ favorite oak tree in our woods, and read the story to Colt, Auddie, and Ariyah. I snagged a small cardboard box from the burnable trash pile to turn into a covered wagon to use when reading the book as well.

Little House on the Prairie peg dolls

The Little House on the Prairie peg dolls are not yet complete, I still need to put a second coat of paint on the girls, draw on simple little aprons, and then cover them in a clear coat.

Every day the kiddos and I go riding on the new-to-us Polaris Ranger and practice finding our way around the property and identifying the “tree of the week.” Each week we learn about a different tree and try to find as many of them as possible on our rides and hikes. The children do bark rubbings, leaf nature crafts, learn about what each tree is used for around the homestead and produces.

This week we are learning about oak trees. Once the acorns come on we will do crafts with them and I will show the children how to grind them into flour.

In the mornings, Colt and Auddie are now fully helping me with not just egg collection, but feeding each animal as well. They do not just hand out the feed, but help scoop it out of the feed tub and then tote it to the animals in a bucket and feed them.

children feeding animals collage

The livestock have constant access to both a creek and our pond-in-progress, but I like to offer the cold water out of the spigot during the hot summer months too. When I ask Colt and Auddie if they want to help water the animals, they now run to the spigot and trough, bucket in hand, and turn it on all by themselves and work together to hold it in place until I lift it out and they turn off the spigot.

Sure, one day Colt and Auddie will look at doing these same tasks as chores and not just a bit of country fun (though doing the same tasks are the favorite part of my day) but they will absolutely not be able to remember the day they became homesteaders because they will have been actively engaged in the lifestyle since they were literally in diapers.

boy and girl washing their hands in a bucket

What happened on your homestead this week? Share your self-reliance adventures, successes, and mistakes with the New Life On A Homestead community in the comments section below. How are you teaching the youngest members of your family to homestead?

this month on the homestead july 2018 pinterest

Tara Dodrill
About Tara Dodrill 54 Articles
Tara lives on a 56 acres farm in the Appalachian Mountains, where she faces homesteading and farming challenges every single day. her homesteading skills are unmatched, she raises chickens, goats, horses, a wide variety of vegetables, not to mention she's an expert is all sorts of homesteading skills such as hide tanning, doll making, tree tapping and many, many more.

5 Comments

  1. Claire,

    I had never heard that about hogs before, thank you for sharing the predator tip! I know miniature donkeys are great at keeping coyotes away, wish they were better at kicking the stuffing out of fox, also. Hogs are on our “to get” list, now I have even more reason to get some. Our homestead came complete with a hog pen, waterer, and feeder, so the set up is all ready for them and a neighboring homesteader has kept them for years and will be my hog mentor. I so agree on the predator issue, if one leaves our property after attacking or threatening livestock, it does not do so alive if we can help it!

  2. Grilled cheese sandwiches are good sometimes.
    Let me give a basic introduction to food.
    Simplicity first. More advanced can come later.
    Use olive oil or your choice of fat. Add flour like you’re making a gravy. Where you want it on the dryer side but wet enough it don’t stick and scorch. Put on a low heat and cook for about 30 minutes. For a stronger flavor, cook longer.
    Start with say a while onion, a bell pepper, or I prefer pablano. And a couple sticks of celery. Everything chopped. Put in what you choose to cook with whether pot or skillet with a little bit of oil. A high heat is what I use. Stirring to spread the heat around until they start appearing clear. Where there shouldn’t be much oil, so add to the flour and oil mix. Say 20 minutes into its’cooking. So that these vegetables convey their flavor into the flour. Then add your favorite meat whether it’s chicken, crawfish or shrimp, which may need cooking, unless shrimp or crawfish, where seafood cool fast, just from residual heat. Left over fried chicken cut from the bone and cut up works good too.
    Where it’s kind of like a gravy, but called a roux the gravy & vegetables. Then serve over rice. Where never neglect salt & pepper.
    You can alter the ratios of the vegetables to alter the flavor to your preference. If you like garlic, add a little toward the end of cooking. Cayenne pepper is good, more of you like the taste, just a pinch to open the taste buds if the heat isn’t desired.
    It tastes better the next day.
    DO NOT USE OLD OIL! The crumbs left over after frying chicken fried steaks or fried chicken with oil drained makes a better roux.

    Sorry to hear about the chicken. It’s odd how we get so attatched and the animals so attatched to us. Where it hurts to lose an animal you’re close to. I lost a pet turkey to a mean dog. I had a cat that came around visiting like a friend. She got into a fight with a possum I suspect and lost an eye. Where I didn’t want to, but I killed the possum, where this was the cats domain. That same cat, I seen her pacing back and forth the length of the road. I couldn’t figure it out. Didn’t want anything to do with anything. Then later I found her dead baby cat. Where she was grieving. Anyone says animals don’t feel like us is simply stupid. Where they’re also comforted by our presence if we’re liked. Some are abusive or neglectful, so the animals only stay because they need to eat.
    I won’t make any suggestions as I have none other than maybe a dog, a specific breed with traits favorable to your life. I read lots of good things about Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Traits I like that a long legged beagle I had-had. Instead of a master/dog trait, it’s self willed and more like a friend. It’s supposedly people friendly, but protective too. Get it from a pup, you’ll grow to understand each other, which you know what I’m talking about. Smart too. It’s said to been used to hymn lions up. Now I had the only be beagle I know of that liked to fight. But I suspect that came from our neighbors’ dog who’d play fight with him from a young puppy. Where a good natured dog will take up with animals like you and me, so likely be protective. I’ve known too many people get a dog just to have one. Where breed is very important. Other breeds might serve your purpose, but there’s other less known breeds that might have the temperament favorable to your position. Then knowing about training a dog is more important too. Library staff don’t know much about the best specific types of books, unless they’re familiar with it. But there’s interlibrary loans where you can get books or if like me, videos, where it’s preferable from other libraries, even the Library of Congress.
    Consider a Rottweiler I knew of. This fellow would swing his arms into his side’s and it must have been annoying at the least. One night the owner was at home and his son did something, where he gave his Rott an order. The Rott was all up in his sons face and revenge was in his eyes. His son was sitting there hymmed up, pleading, dad-dad. The Rott was basking and snapping his teeth each time not 3-4″ from his face. Can you imagine the joy the Rott was feeling? Where I bet the Rott was wishing for another command where he could exact justice and let out some pent up frustrations. But he was so well trained, you could beat him to death and he wouldn’t resist. Given an order, he’d tear you to shreds. Then otherwise, he was just an easy going dog, friendly and good to be around anyone. Now again, just an animal they’re apt to snap at anyone, just like a person. It’s the animal nature in us to escape pain, even if it means attacking or evading. For anyone reading that doesn’t know better. But that’s just to give you an idea of what training can do. Like my dog, our neighbors’ dog trained him to fight. Again, I had to leave him at home one time. I came back, he had torn down the shower curtain, the toilet paper off the spool, the blinds off the window and literally chewed me out, just raising cane. Some would say, I’d beat that dog for that. Where they’re so neglectful to consider an animal is an animal just like you and me. Where I was angry from the damage, but again, it’s not like he could speak English like a human, which IS AN ANIMAL!
    Where again, if one can afford a dog and take care of him like one should and get aware of how to train a dog specifically for what’s desired, they can protect animals or anything else given their nature and depending on what culprit it is they’re dealing with.
    There’s plenty of booby traps that can be used for different animals, creatures too. I saw one book on ebay at rare-book-collections in the U.K. that I think dealt with old time trapping methodologies, well it did include traps but seems like it would have went into greater depths as it’s several 19th & early 20th century scanned and put onto cd. I “think” it mentioned native americans methods too. Which they sell these books scanned and several put on cd they sell for about $4-6 each. Where people knew a lot more about natural life back then. If you don’t see it in the listing, ask and they can probably tell you if they’ll get more orders in. Also, don’t neglect those in the surrounding area that might do some trapping. As anyone with experience can generally tell you something to try, if they haven’t done it, they may have heard of it from others they associate with.
    Again, if you folks cared about that one, I’m sure you have feelings for other animals so I mention these things. Which I just thought of that bookstore. Where this book stood out from the rest given it dealt with catching animals & fish. Which I know enough to know there’s some traps that are species specific! Otherwords, one might catch a coon, but wouldn’t a dog.
    Which I’m guessing this is still weighing on your mind.
    If there’s game wardens around, they might be able to tell you someone as well if they don’t know.
    Where these couple of things I guess are more immediate solutions which are preferable.
    If the creature is a smaller creature, there’s smaller traps that wouldn’t catch your other animals. Or if the creature is using a certain path to get in, it’ll go where your other animals won’t, which can benefit from a trap. Which makes me think of contacting someone that sells different scents for trapping different animals. Some hire just anyone that knows where things are at. There’s some that hire people with different experiences and could tell you what you’re probably dealing with and the best way to deal with it. One place I got a particular oil from is called Murphys, I couldn’t make out the address as the ink smeared. Whether they could help, it’s worth a try. Or find a local supplier (trapping supplies somewhere in the state), where again, if they hire who’s beneficial instead of quotas, they can probably refer you someone or a few that might be able to identify your problem and tell you how to handle it. You know regular stores, I’ve seen some have staff that simply knew nothing about what they deal with, guessing most their customers already know. But it’s kind of like local bait stores, they can tell you what’s biting and generally where. The small shops. Not to run off on a tangent, but some can get tax write offs and incentives to hire certain people. Where they might hire students and call it training, lol.
    Oh well, I hope this might be beneficial for you. I said I wouldn’t give suggestions, but the more I talked, the more I thought. Where I hope it helps, where I know when others don’t know anything and give their two cents just to be heard can run salt into a wound.
    As I mentioned about the possum. Where Moma cat was my animal friend and a possum was the only thing I’m aware of that could hurt her eye like that, I was waiting for the opportunity to get rid of it. Didn’t want to, but Mona Car was my friend. So I’d imagine you have similiar feelings.

    • Bertski,

      Thank you for sharing the recipe tips. It sounds like you have had your shared of predator issues as well.

  3. Hogs help keep predators away. It works with coyotes. You might want to get a couple as “watch pigs”. The chickens and ducks can sleep on top of the pens. Our goat herd cuddle around there as well. But the best solution for the animal that is killing your babies, is to trap it, and destroy it. DO NOT TAKE IT DOWN THE ROAD TO MAKE TROUBLE FOR YOUR NEIGHBORS.

    • Claire,

      I had never heard that about hogs before, thank you for sharing the predator tip! I know miniature donkeys are great at keeping coyotes away, wish they were better at kicking the stuffing out of fox, also. Hogs are on our “to get” list, now I have even more reason to get some. Our homestead came complete with a hog pen, waterer, and feeder, so the set up is all ready for them and a neighboring homesteader has kept them for years and will be my hog mentor. I so agree on the predator issue, if one leaves our property after attacking or threatening livestock, it does not do so alive if we can help it!

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