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.
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.
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?!
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.
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.
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.
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?