Friday, September 30, 2016

Subsidized Housing For Chickens

We believe  all birds have the right to adequate cold weather shelter  regardless of their income, breed, color or sexual preference. Therefore we pay for everything for these slackers, some of which we know are not even laying eggs as per our agreement.

But we've been rotten landlords so fair is fair.

Since we moved here in April 2015. our feathered flock has had to tolerate all kinds of temporary housing. At first they took shelter in the trees (last spring) then a converted pig farrowing building, then here and there in the feed shed. Everyone and their brother, chickens, guineas, ducks are totally free range, meaning that right now, they are laying their eggs every which way and loose.

So we'll forget where their most recent drop site is and then "SURPRISE" we'll find a nest of 10-12 eggs with no sentry and wonder just how old those eggs are. Did I collect from this place just a few days ago or was it a few weeks ago.? If there is any doubt the eggs go to the pigs, so they are never wasted but still, it's nice to to have to play Russian Roulette with your eggs.

Soon though, the foul on our property will have their new housing project completed. At first this wooden A frame building was probably a wood shop of some sort based on the antique pulleys and wheels still intact within.

At some point in its past,  the bottom third was hacked away and the abbreviated structure became the well house, covering and protecting the original 19th century well from creature explorations. This must have worked well for 80-90 years but by the time we arrived, the building was beginning to fall apart.

Plus the well had to be repaired. So the shop turned well house soon to be chicken coop was hoisted onto a hay wagon and moved closer to the grain bin house. For the last few days Keith has been remodeling the structure for its final purpose of housing chickens and ducks.

Of course as is our annoying trademark, the rebuild has been with 100% recycled and repurposed items. The wood is ever present, Keith has been collecting it for decades, truly, decades. The windows came off a relatives mobile home when she put in new windows this summer. The door was created by Keith, nice and wide to accommodate the third window allowing lots of southern sun to enter the abode this winter.

We have an old set of metal nest boxes which will be moved in soon and plenty of limbs around to craft roosts. The roof does leak in several area but we have shingles on site to repair it. Of course they won't match the shingles already in place but only the very tall visitors and the very low flying pilots will find that design flaw.

I'll up date you as the project progresses. Don't bother about asking for blueprints or plans to follow to build a similar chicken house. Keith pretty much makes it up as he goes. He's a wild man that way.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Ladder Approach to Vertical Storage

Living in a round building with less than 700 square feet of living space is challenge enough, but it's time to rise above our floor space issues.

With cooler weather and increased energy, coupled with the impending doom that winter always threatens, Keith and I are pushing hard on Poor Farm Projects. He's been busy on our chicken coop, which I'll blog about in my next post, while I have been struggling to find creative ways to get more essentials out of storage in the decrepit house, and into this micro-home of ours.

Yesterday, I attacked a century old ladder, cutting it down to size. Seven foot size.

The ladder was purchased at a friends farm auction over a decade ago, and too rickety for its original use, Keith did not balk when I asked if I could hack away at it. A couple passes with my circular saw and I had a workable section which I planned to convert to a blanket rack for our bedroom.

The ladder was imperfect of course, a couple rungs had bent slightly over the years (I can relate, "Bent Rung" was my Indian name those years I lived in SD) and there were old paint stains, nicks and splintered areas.

Not to mention some old dried bird dung. It was a farm ladder after all.

I scraped off the majority of dirt and debris with a stiff wire brush and then hauled out more of the ten year old, combo stain-polyurethane product I used on our window trim last week. The ladder wood was super dry and soaked up the stain as fast as I could apply it.

I especially appreciated the hardware still attached to the ladder so coated it as well, since it was now purely decorative and would never be put to use to secure the other ladder section I amputated. Just to be sure it dried well, I left the ladder outside overnight and then brought it inside this morning.

It fits perfectly in the oddly shaped corner formed by our closet and the round wall of our upstairs bedroom.

Tomorrow I'll wire the ladder to the studs in the wall so we don't have any late night crashing of ladder onto floor or our bed.

It feels good to be getting more of the finish work done inside, bit by bit by bit and to be moving so many of  our floor space hogging items, up and up and up.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Saponification Saturday

This weeks soap is a citrus creation because with all the Marigolds and Warty Pumpkins on our farm, I'm in an orange mood. 

Made with coconut, sweet almond, castor and an olive oil/rice bran oil mix, (the soap, not the pumpkin) it is colored with tumeric powder and titanium dioxide. The erratic EKG looking lines are very high tech. I create them with a stainless steel pastry blender.

Keeping those costs down by using funky kitchen items, that's how I roll.

These bars are scented primarily with orange essential oil with a bit of grapefruit EO to add another layer of scent. They smell fresh and bright and would be a great morning shower soap bar, or again a great bar for the kitchen because the orange is good at removing onion, fish and other strong food aromas.

They will be ready to ship October 1. Price is just $5 for a large (over 5 oz) bar plus postage. If interested email me at with your address and I'll tell you the shipping amount. I have just six of these available.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Shopping Cheap Shopping Local

Image result for Junk for Sale signs
Internet Image

One of our goals here, not yet obtained but getting closer, is to live under the poverty line. Here, in the USA, for a family of 2 that magical number is $16,020. Scroll to the bottom of this post if you'd like to see how these poverty levels break out by family size.

In my years of nursing management I brought home five times that level. Coupled with our prior farm income from sales of organic meat and milk, we were fairly flush. Currently our income is far more inconsistent. When our Chatsworth farm tenants were making the agreed upon payments last year, our income was enough to pay that mortgage , our small mortgage here and our basic living expenses. In July those payments stopped and our financial world was flipped over on its face. By selling off livestock and equipment we've kept our heads above water. Our ears were drenched, but with the right upward angle of our chins, we've stayed afloat.

Soon, we hope to close a deal on the Chatsworth farm, I'll tell you details on that when it happens, and then after that...we'll see a huge income drop. Huge.

It's exactly what we want, what we have planned for. Less income, less expenses and most important; less taxes paid to a government that overreaches its boundaries and under claims its responsibilities. We are not victims of downsizing, early retirement or layoffs. We are both college educated and we have chosen to decrease our "standard of living" in order to work primarily at home at the tasks that bring us the most satisfaction: homesteading and writing.

One way we live cheap is by shopping cheap. The terms pre-owned, salvaged, recycled and just plan USED make us giddy. It took me years to figure out that once an item enters your home and is worn or used just one time, it is know longer "new" yet generally just as valuable. We, society, pay big bucks for sharp creases and shiny surfaces that do little for an items functionality. Household items are an excellent example of this and so I wanted to tell you about this great new shop in Fairbury, Il. I recently discovered.

Someone Else's Treasure is located downtown at 124 W. Locust Street and it is a welcome change. The owner has filled her shop with a nice variety of items including home decor, housewares and used furniture. These items are not so unusual in themselves but what is unusual, what is super appreciated, are the prices. They are reasonable. Definitely marked up from the estate sales, or auctions from whence they originated, as they should be, but still easily affordable.

Her used furniture is by far the best of deals, recliners for $25-$50, end tables for $10, dining chairs for $15. Certainly one can find these same things at other used furniture stores but lately there has been this insane upward pricing of used furniture that is "Mid-Century" aka. over 50 years old. Craziness to spend $200 or more on upholstered furniture that contains other peoples, excuse me, moistenings. Don't get me wrong. As a retired RN, I have a fair tolerance to other peoples' body fluids but I don't care if George Clooney napped in that Lazyboy, it isn't worth more than the one my grannie snoozed in.

And sure you might get furniture cheaper at garage sales,but soon garage sale season will be over and great deals generally take travel time, going from one sale to another. The owner at Someone Else's Treasure has taken the time, gathered the items and made it easy to find wonderful used stuff for great prices.

And no, she is not a friend of mine, nor do I get a free set antique dining chairs for my blogging efforts. I just appreciate the entrepreneur who wants to make a living without skinning her customers alive and I like telling others about good deals.  Here is her FACEBOOK PAGE.

2016 Illinois Poverty Levels, For Your Viewing Pleasure

Household SizeYearly Income Poverty LineYearly Income (125%)Yearly Income (150%)Yearly Income (175%)Yearly Income (200%)Yearly Income (250%)Yearly Income (300%)Yearly Income (350%)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Old Wood, New Window Frames For the Grain Bin House

A few weeks ago Keith built window and door frames for the downstairs with repurposed wood from a variety of sources, some pieces granted safe harbor in our barn in Chatsworth for years. I've been pondering the options of finishes. At first I was leaning towards a nice crisp white latex to unify the variety of wood types but Keith and our three sons all thought that was a bad idea. Only one of those four males actually lives here and yet opinions abound.

Who raised these kids anyway?

So, I've been living with the bare, mismatched wood (in both age, condition and type) waiting for inspiration to hit, a decision to make itself known. Paint or stain? Paint or stain?

Inspiration came in the form of available FREE wood stains.

Years ago my brother-in-law gave us several quarts of combo stain-polyurethane. The stuff was indestructible. It's been in basements, frozen (can it freeze?) moved from home to home and yet, still perfectly usable. In contrast, we were out of white paint and I didn't want to pay good money for more.

Decision made.

Yesterday was warm and dry so we took down all the trim from three windows and one door in the downstairs of our Grain Bin House, and lined them up outside on 2 x 4's and saw horses. You can see the wide variety in wood types and condition in their pre-stained status.  I lightly sanded all the sections, removing all debri of a suspicious nature.

A couple hours later, (I get distracted easily. OH LOOK, THE MAIL IS HERE, IS THAT A LOOSE BROILER? I WONDER IF THE STEERS ARE OUT OF WATER. WHY DID THE NEW YORKER REJECT MY SHORT STORY? DO THESE SANDALS MAKE MY TOES LOOK FAT?) I had completed  one coat . I stayed with that single coat for the simple reason, I didn't want to do more. It was hot here and those tiny black bugs were so annoying.

It didn't take long for all the trim pieces to dry and we put them all back in place late yesterday afternoon. I'm happy with the results, the window frames fit in well with the rest of our rustic-eclectic "motif". Please excuse the fuzziness of the after pictures. My phone's camera is bi-polar. Also my walls are not orange, they are pale grey, not that I am opposed to orange walls, some of my best friends have orange walls. Well, actually none of them do, but if they did I would still visit them and drink all their coffee.

Cost of all wood       $0
Coats of stain           $0
Sandpaper                $1   (had on hand, used only one sheet)
Brush                       $1   (had on hand, can't even remember when I bought it, used it several times)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Saponification Saturday

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I was making soap again now that I'm done with school, unless I win the lotto and can afford to return to NUIG for my MA in Irish Studies. Until then we're moving forward with our goal of creating income off the wealth of the land or the sweat labor of the homesteaders.

So, I offer two kinds of soap for sale this week. Neither is available anywhere else but through my blog. No web page costs, labeling expenses, or fancy packaging means lower prices for you. Email me at to order or for more info.

The first bars are made from cows milk, specifically the first milk after calving called colostrum.  (Thank you to our cow Lis) These bars also contain Coconut, Almond, Castor and Olive oils plus generous amounts of the aforementioned colostrum. They are unscented and uncolored. The cream colored hue is all natural.

They come in either a flower shape (4 available) or an oval shape (4 available). Each weighs about 3 oz and is perfect for guest baths. Wonderful to use as a body or shampoo bar. Super moisturizing and gentle.

Each is $3 plus shipping and handling.

The second soap bar available is a mildly exfoliating coffee-cinnamon bar. Made from Olive, Castor and Almond oils plus pastured lard, it is colored with real coffee and scented with cinnamon essential oil. It smells like yummy Fall! The middle layer also has a few coffee grounds for exfoliation. Its slanted layered shape is fun to look at and hold, and its lather is fantastic. A perfect bar of soap for a cook or gardener. Each bar is at least 5.5 oz. ( a solid handful)  and sells for $5 plus postage. Only 6 available.

The soap bars are simply first come first serve.
If you want any you must email me to order.
Thanks a million.


All I have left are 2 oval colostrum bars.
EMAIL ME at to order before they are all gone. 
I'll be listing more soap next Saturday

Monday, September 12, 2016

Got Milk? We sure do.

Pregnant Lis. Not near as ominous as she looks.
 A few weeks ago I told you of Puppettes dilemma, the older cow of ours not so well taken care of by our Chatsworth Farm "tenants". We brought her up here to The Poor Farm and put her out to real pasture. She did well as far as overall appetite, strength and leg muscle recovery, but the mastitis in her udder never resolved and so, as we had planned, she was sold at the sale barn.

Not an easy trip for Keith to make but at least he knew he did the best he could for her those last few weeks.

Since Puppette was meant to replace Holly the cow with the attitude problem, this left us again, without our own milk source. I even had to buy store milk in order to make pancakes for my grandkids last week.

How gross was that? Really gross. If you're a raw milk drinker like we have been for decades I know you feel my lack of good gut bacteria pain. Nothing kills my appetite and desire to cook than using store bought milk which is basically white water devoid of all nutritional benefits.

Enter Lisdoonvarna.

No, not the cool village in County Clare which holds the worlds biggest Matchmaking Festival, which incidentally is going on right now, but Lisdoonvarna the cow named as such by me many years ago just after I returned from visiting said village.  For simplicity sake and to avoid folks giving her all their contact information and love interest specifics, we just call her Lis.

Lis and new bull calf

Lis is seven, 15/16 Jersey and 1 teeny part Holstein. One of Keith's favorite cows from our old herd he thought she and I would get along well up here on our new place. He was right. She is super gentle, calm, kind to her pasture mate (the young heifer Mucca), a people lover, and an excellent mother. She recently calved a handsome bull baby.

Dry spell over,  we are once again raw milk drinkers.

It's good to be back.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Organizational Fireworks

 Friend Jay visited again last weekend and as always when he is here, sparks flew.

I've been in need of a decent file cabinet for my tiny office for sometime , so Jay and I went shopping at the Restore in Champaign. This is the resale shop that supports the Habitat for Humanity organization and it is filled with used furniture, lighting fixtures, floor and bathroom tiles, paints, and all sorts of building and household supplies. It takes time to find true treasures but the low prices make the hunt, well worth it.

In addition to a small couch and chair to go in our upstairs lounge, we discovered an older, very sturdy, all metal file cabinet for just $20. A real steal of solid steel. But, Jay thought it too big for my wee office space. I dared to oppose him and we brought in home.

Turns out, he was right. The depth was ok, the height, too tall.

But I wasn't about to return it, it was too cool of a file cabinet, so Keith took it into his work shop and  cut it down to size, shaving three inches off the bottom. What my husband can do with a power tool always impresses me. Sparks flew brilliantly while Keith cut and Jay (too close for my comfort) used his body to control some of the fallout. No one was injured in the filming of this documentary and Keith's shop did not burst into flame as I feared. The file cabinet however, suffered a serious amputation of its bottom portion, resulting in a custom fit under my desk.

Now all my papers, stories, book chapters and generalized ephemera, have a decent place to hide out. Of course the fit is so tight I can't quite figure out how to remove the towel we used to slide it under there to protect the floor. Details, details.