Blind Lady Chicken Drama

So picture this.  You’re driving down a rural highway in Indiana, and you see a white-haired old lady hobbling along the shoulder followed by a blind lady who’s carrying a dog food bowl with grain falling out of it.  Behind the blind lady, you see a line of chickens busily pecking in the grass.  Lastly, you see a police officer who appears to be involved a slow-speed chase.  After all, chickens, a blind lady, and an old lady are such a threat to the safety of our county.

No, this isn’t the start of a good joke.  It was the story of my life two weeks ago.  Yes, I wish someone had recorded it for posterity because it was pretty funny, but today, I’m not laughing.

Why did the chickens cross the road? Mine didn’t.  They weren’t even in the road.  They were in the ditch alongside the road, but apparently, that earned me the honor of a fine from the county.  That’s right! Apparently, the PD for the town I don’t even live in decided to call Animal Control.  Now, the folks who showed up at my door were really nice and understanding, but I still ended up with a $20 fine for “livestock running at large”.  That’s right! The blind lady’s chickens COULD go onto the roadway and someone MIGHT swerve to miss them and there MIGHT be an accident.

Now, I admit that we have a fence problem here.  A neighbor altered our fence without providing proper anchoring and tension for the fence that remained, so as a result, the fence fell over during a bad wind storm a couple weeks ago.  (We didn’t know until Fred looked at the fence after the chickens had escaped.) Fred tried to fix the fence temporarily, but it just fell again, so there is a problem that we have to address.  But really? Is our little town so boring that you have to pester a blind lady about her chickens? They don’t seem to care when dogs are running at large killing my chickens, but they call Animal Control immediately to come handle me.  I guess I’m a local menace.

So now I’m left with a bit of a dilemma.  I have to figure out how to keep free-range chickens from going anywhere near the road.  With previous flocks, it wasn’t an issue because those chickens never went within 200 feet of the road.  These chickens, on the other hand, discovered the awesomeness of the ditch when we’ve had lot of rain, so they keep going back.

Our first stop-gap will be the use of safety fence to make visual and physical barriers.  We’ll exclude them from the back yard so they can’t access the damaged fence, and we’ll run barriers along the highway on either side of our driveway to try and exclude the ditch.  This definitely wasn’t in the plan for this weekend, but apparently local law enforcement had other ideas for us.  I’m still shocked!

“Wings up! Don’t shoot! Chicken lives matter!”

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Recipe Review: Philly Cheesesteak on Mark’s Daily Apple

Philly Cheesesteak on white plateA few weeks ago, I came across a recipe on Mark’s Daily Apple for Philly Cheesesteak (with Optional Primal Cheddar Cheese Sauce).  I thought the recipe looked like something my family would like, so I saved it.  Tonight, we tried it for the first time, and I thought I’d share my thoughts.

I didn’t follow the recipe precisely.  I didn’t have any bell peppers in the house, and I had red onions on hand instead of the yellow onions called for by the recipe.  And for the meat, I opted to use thick-cut Angus ribeye from Sam’s Club.

First, I’d like to say that the end result tasted amazing! The meat and veg were flavorful like I expected them to be, and the Dijon mustard added a really neat flavor to the cheese sauce.  In fact, I think I’ll make more cheese sauce using that method in the future.  Everyone who tried it really enjoyed the dish.

There were definitely two downsides though.  The steak alone cost almost $30, so it’s not something that we’ll be making very often for financial reasons.  The other downside though was the prep time.  I started working on dinner before 4:00pm and wasn’t able to serve it ’til 5:30.  The most time-consuming part was slicing the steak.  It was definitely worth it with the texture of the end product, but boy did it take a while, and it required pre-planning.

I cooked the steak in my 14″ cast iron skillet, and I cooked the veg in my 8″ cast iron skillet.  I used butter for the onions like the recipe called for, but I used MCT oil with the steak since it has a much higher smoke point than olive oil.  That really worked well.

Over all, the meal was a nice change from our usual suppers, and I’ll definitely make it again, but my husband had it VERY wrong when he said, “So you’ll be making this every week?” (He was joking, of course.)

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Seafood Boil with the Power Pressure Cooker XL

seafood boil in a potWe love seafood boils here at the homestead, so when I saw the recipe in the book that came with my Power Pressure Cooker XL, I was pretty excited.  We modified the recipe to suit our needs, and now we have something that’s just amazing!


  • 4 c water
  • 4 T Cajun seasoning
  • 1 T sea salt
  • 2 T garlic sriracha seasoning
  • 1.5 lb colossal shrimp
  • 2 lb smoked sausage, cut into large chunks
  • 1 lb small potatoes, cut in half
  • 3 ears corn on the cob, cut in half to fit in the pressure cooker


  1. Place water, salt, and seasonings in the inner pot of the Power Pressure Cooker XL.  Stir.
  2. Add the shrimp, sausage, potatoes, and corn to the inner pot.  Lock the lid, make sure that the vent is closed, and cook the seafood boil on the BEANS/LENTILS setting for 15 minutes.
  3. Press the CANCEL button, vent the pressure cooker, and serve!
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Reclaiming Independent Travel with a Leader Dog

Today, I want to cover a very different (and very personal) kind of liberty, freedom, and independence than my readers are used to seeing here ont he blog.  I won’t be writing about the usual topics you’ve come to expect here like budgets, politics, food, business, and homesteading.  I’ll be writing about dogs.

Back in 1994, I went to Leader Dogs for the Blind up in Rochester, Michigan, to train with my first dog guide, Gradi.  The experience was life changing, and even now, more than 21 years later, I remember the anticipation of that first meeting.  I remember all our firsts — first trip home, first trip to school, first walk THROUGH a fountain instead of AROUND it — and I cherish them all.

I did so much with Gradi.  He was by my side during my senior year in high school.  We even starred in an educational video about dog guides that still airs occasionally on the Muncie PBS affiliate, WIPB.  And of course, Gradi guided me across the stage for graduation!

Fred, Sarah, and Leader Dog GradiHe was by my side for so many important events in my life.  We were a team at college.  We were a team when I met my husband.  And of course, we were a team when I got married,

I retired Gradi in 2002 when I went back to Leader Dogs to train with my second dog guide, Dream.  He lived happily with my parents until his passing on January 13, 2004, and even now, I have to fight back tears as I think about that sad, sad day.

The good memories far outweigh the bad ones though.  I was so blessed to work with both Gradi and Dream.  It’s something that I can try to put into words, but unless you’ve experienced first hand the independence that a dog guide helps to facilitate, it’s a concept that’s tough to grasp.

Some of you might wonder though.  If a dog guide is so amazing, why is it that there isn’t a Leader Dog at my side today? Well, an interesting set of circumstances led to that situation for me.  Now I’ve found myself entirely rethinking the choices I made regarding the pursuit of a third Leader Dog.

I went back to Leader Dogs to train with Dream in January of 2002.  It was particularly challenging for me because not only was it winter in Michigan, but I was pregnant with our daughter, and the first trimester hadn’t been treating me well.  I was a hot mess! See, under the best of circumstances, training with a dog guide is stressful, but I found that training unusually tough.  Not only was I wrapping my head around the fact that I’d retired Gradi, but I was an emotional wreck because of hormones.  To this day, I still remember all the times that I cried during training.  And I’ll never forget the hurried early morning trips outside to relieve my dog so that I could get back inside in time to deal with the morning sickness.  It was challenging to say the least.

My time with Dream was pretty unremarkable though.  She was well-trained and all, but I didn’t feel like we were as solid a team as we could have been.  Combine that with the fact that I couldn’t predict how my life and travel needs would change once my daughter was born, and you get a bored Leader Dog and an isolated mother and wife.

By the time I became pregnant with our first son, the writing was on the wall.  I guess if it’d been in Braille, I might have been able to read it then, but it didn’t turn out that way.  See, I started suffering terribly with arthritis in my back during that pregnancy, so I wasn’t working Dream like she needed.  I couldn’t keep up with her, and I was feeling pretty defeated.

Given our situation, I felt that it was only fair to Dream and to Leader Dogs to reach out to them.  I thought that since Dream was only 5 at the time, they might be able to send her out with another person who needed a dog guide.  And in hindsight, it’s good that I decided to send her back because our son ended up requiring a great deal of our attention.  He had developmental delays, so that combined with my issues made my decision the right one.

In time, I ended up working through my back issues (mostly).  I had our third child, we worked through our middle kiddo’s therapy needs, and then we started house hunting.  When we bought our homestead back in October of 2009, I still felt like life without a dog guide was the right choice for me and our family.  After all, I had a cane, I could travel sighted guide with my husband, and we’d moved out into the country where my traveling off the property realistically needed to involve a car.

Even last year, I remember explaining my choice.  “I don’t feel like I’d benefit enough from a dog guide to take that resource away from another blind person whose life would be more impacted by such a partnership.” The fact of the matter was though, I still missed the independence that comes with traveling as a guide dog/handler team.  I still felt like it didn’t make sense for me though.

Over the past couple months though, I’ve found myself significantly reconsidering my position.  So many things are different now, and my perspective has also changed.  Now I find myself compiling a list of reasons in support of getting Leader Dog number three that’s pretty compelling.

  1. My opportunities for independent travel are significantly different now that I don’t have babies to manage.  Imagine how quickly you’d run out of hands if you used them to experience your environment AND use a dog guide AND tote babies with all the stuff that involves AND do stuff like push a cart, open doors, carry items, etc.  Now that my kids can walk and carry their own stuff, I don’t have to worry so much about juggling.
  2. In urban environments, I don’t question my cane skills.  I don’t live in the city anymore though.  For instance, if I wanted to walk to the hardware store that isn’t even a quarter of a mile away, I’d have to navigate a busy highway that doesn’t have a shoulder north of my driveway.  That wouldn’t be a problem if I could simply walk in the grass alongside the highway, but there’s a spot where the highway crosses a small creek.  One wrong step and I’d end up in the drink with some decent injuries to accompany my wet clothes.  I’d feel so much more confident doing that with a dog.  I haven’t trusted myself to do it with a cane even once though.
  3. Even though I’m still a stay-at-home mom, I’ve become an active volunteer in my community.  I’m active in our Cub Scout pack and my church community, and if that weren’t enough, I’m joining the Civil Air Patrol as a senior member.  All these activities require independent travel, and while I’ve done it with a cane or a sighted guide all this time, I’d be much more confident with a dog guide.  I’ve discovered that as I get older, I’m just not as bold and fearless as I used to be.
  4. I’m planning some business ventures for the near future.  I’m traveling more and I’m finding myself in more unfamiliar situations than I used to when I was more of a home body.  It’s so convenient to not have to worry about where the door to a building you’ve never been to is located.  When traveling with a cane, there’s a lot more guess-work.  That’s not how it goes with a dog guide though.
  5. I’ve fallen victim to many bumps and bruises as a result of cane and sighted guide travel.  When I’m traveling with a cane, there’s always going to be that tree branch that I didn’t hear or that uneven spot in the grass that I didn’t detect.  And there’s always a learning curve for those who’re guiding me.  Even as practiced as my husband is, we still have issues.  For instance, I have a shoulder injury that’s not wanting to heal because of the way I have to hold my right arm when I’m taking someone’s elbow.  What I wouldn’t give to walk around in unfamiliar places without having to hold my arm up all the time.  It’s not something you really think about until you experience it, but it’s definitely becoming a problem for me.

And to be fair, I understand that there’d be challenges to address if I got another Leader Dog.  Right now, there are three dogs living in my house — two belong to my family and one belongs to our house mate.  I’m not concerned about our ability to care for a fourth dog.  After all, we had four dogs and a cat living here not too long ago.  (And then there are the chickens too!) The dogs that live here now would have to adjust to a new dog though, and the whole family would have to support the process as I develop my relationship with my working partner.

It won’t be easy, but I’ve come to the point now where I know that the benefits far outweigh the problems.  I feel like getting another dog guide is the first step toward a new phase in my life.  Call it a “midlife crisis” if you must.  I’m fine with that.  I am not, however, fine with the feeling of being so dependent, so limited, and even isolated because of my blindness.  Folks who know me know I’m used to just going out there without limitation, and I’m ready to do that again in all aspects of my life.  It’s definitely time!

Related Links

  • Walk a Mile in My Shoes — This amazing video does a beautiful job illustrating the differences between cane travel and travel with a dog guide.  Those of us who’re blind absolutely get it, but the gentleman in this video does an excellent job of articulating the differences, the challenges, and the triumphs!
  • Leader Dogs for the Blind Prison Puppy Raising Program — a brief look at just one of the many ways that Leader Dogs for the Blind is changing lives through its important work
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Product Review: Power Pressure Cooker XL

For those who follow the Claiming Liberty Facebook page, my review of the Power Pressure Cooker XL won’t surprise you at all.  So far, it’s met or exceeded my expectations, so I thought I’d share my thoughts here on the blog.

I first heard about the Power Pressure Cooker XL over at The Survival Podcast.  Initially, I thought, “I don’t need a pressure cooker.  This isn’t relevant to me.” But when Jack started talking about using the device for canning, he had my attention.

What Is It?

The Power Pressure Cooker XL is a countertop slow cooker, pressure cooker, and pressure canner.  It’s programmable with a time delay feature, so you can ensure that meals are hot and ready when your family is ready to eat.  A computer controls the various cooking processes, so there’s no guess-work.  You simply push a few buttons, secure the lid, and forget it until it’s done.  It really couldn’t be easier!

First Impressions

I couldn’t wait to receive my Power Pressure Cooker XL from Amazon.  So when it arrived at my home, I didn’t waste any time unpacking it and familiarizing myself with the appliance.

The device came in a sturdy box, and the packing foam was perfectly engineered to prevent damage during transport.  All the accessories and documentation were packed inside the inner pot, so there weren’t loose bits inside the box to surprise me as I unpacked it.

I handed the paperwork to my daughter, and she started looking over the recipe book and canning guide that came with my Power Pressure Cooker XL.  I started pulling plastic off the accessories.  It came with a really cheap plastic ladle, a cheap plastic measuring cup, a “condensation cup”, and a “steam rack” that goes inside the pot above other food or steaming liquid so that you can cook vegetables without boiling them.

While the accessories seemed cheap and flimsy, the appliance itself seemed well made.  I had no trouble removing and replacing the lid on the first try, and the controls seemed intuitive enough.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the digital controls aren’t “soft touch” like those on a microwave oven.  Each “button” has a tactile relief, so I didn’t have to enlist the help of my family to label controls with my Braille labeler.

Another pleasant surprise was the bright, large LED display.  I can use the appliance without seeing the display because it beeps each time a button is pressed, but once I started cooking with my new toy, I liked the fact that I could look at it and see where it was in the cycle.  Yeah, I have to get close to it to read it, but that’s better than all the other digital items in my kitchen that I can’t read at all no matter how close I get.

Pros and Cons?

Keep in mind that I ordered my Power Pressure Cooker XL about three weeks ago, so my experience is somewhat limited, but I still have lots of thoughts to share.


  • Features — The appliance can serve as a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, and a canner for both high AND low acid foods.  It has a sear function that allows the user to sear meats or saute veggies before cooking your dish, and the unit automatically switches to “keep warm” once the meal is done.  (I really like that because I can get distracted sometimes, and with that feature, I don’t have to worry about things getting cold.)
  • Convenience — It’s an excellent multitasker.  Because of that, I don’t mind leaving the unit on my countertop so that it’s ready to go whenever I want to use it.  The inner pot is also easy to clean, and I can control the unit with only a few button presses.  There aren’t any complicated menus or labels; the controls are intuitive.
  • Accessibility — I’m certain that the engineers didn’t design the Power Pressure Cooker XL with accessibility in mind, but they succeeded brilliantly! I bought the device hoping that I’d be able to can without sighted assistance (among other things), but I expected to have to jump through some hoops to make that happen.  With this appliance though, all I had to do was memorize the locations of all the buttons.  I didn’t have to create special labels so I’d know where to press on the control panel, and I don’t have to wonder if my key presses were registered because the machine beeps each time I press one of the buttons.  I’ve really enjoyed the independence that the Power Pressure Cooker XL has given me.
  • Safety — Because the unit is a pressure cooker, there are lots of safety features built into the device, and you don’t need a degree to take advantage of them.  When I’m using the unit, I don’t worry about those horror stories that many folks my age have heard about the pressure cooker that blew its top and put a hole in the kitchen ceiling.  This unit is very safe.


  • Size — I wish the unit were larger.  I cook for a large family, and I have to think carefully about the meals that I choose for the Power Pressure Cooker XL.  Also, as a canner, it’ll only hold 4 quart jars, so I won’t be using it for any substantial canning.
  • Inner Pot Design — While the inner pot is easy to clean, it moves freely inside the appliance.  I’ve found that while serving food from it, I need to grab an oven mit to steady the pot as I serve.  If I don’t steady it, attempts to serve food cause the pot to spin inside the unit, and I have trouble retrieving and plating food.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I’m glad I purchased the Power Pressure Cooker XL.  I’m certain that my family will enjoy a wide variety of foods prepared with this efficient multitasker, and I know I’ll be posting more projects that I’ve dreamed up using this handy kitchen appliance.

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Blind Lady Chronicles?

Because overthinking is the norm for me, my readers have found me all but silent on the blog for far too long. See, I’ve been pondering the direction and scope of The Claiming Liberty Blog, and there’s absolutely something to be said for “paralysis by analysis”.  I am living proof!

Yes, the past year has been abnormally crazy, but rarely has the blog been far from my mind.  I’ve considered a wider scope, a narrower scope, new topics, old topics, videos, reviews, and just about anything else that my readers could imagine seeing here.

After a good bit of thinking, I concluded that the directive to “crap or get off the pot” was particularly appropriate here.  Pondering, worrying, planning, and even conspiring weren’t going to get me readers if I wasn’t actually getting content onto my blog.

I’m here now though, and I’d like to present my readers with an idea followed by a question.

For some strange reason, those of us on the TSPN Zello channel have been joking about producing YouTube videos starring Yours Truly.  These videos would feature me driving different vehicles in different settings, and we all agreed that these videos would probably make a fortune in ad revenue alone.  After all, the thought of a blind lady driving is sort of like a train wreck.  Nobody wants to see it, but if it were caught on film, thousands (or perhaps millions) wouldn’t be able to NOT watch.

Now, to be clear, there are only a very limited set of circumstances in which I could be convinced (or is it coerced) into driving an automobile.  But it did get the gears turning for me.  What if I started a blog/video series that featured me doing pretty mundane things (most of the time) so that I could both entertain and educate folks about what it means to be visually impaired? I’d include all sorts of things from household and homestead chores to stuff that I do for fun.  I’d also like to include videos featuring me learning new skills.

For the folks who know me in real life, this whole concept might seem pretty silly.  There are very few things that I can’t do or are unwilling to try at least once.  But when my husband gets genuine questions like, “You let her use knives?”, it seems like some education done with bad humor thrown in for good measure might be in order.

Now that I’ve shared my idea, here comes my question.  What kinds of things would you guys like to see? Can you help me brainstorm some ideas because I’ve been blind all my life, so everything’s pretty unremarkable from where I’m sitting.  I get that folks have genuine curiosity, and I’m happy to share, educate, and hopefully entertain.

Keep in mind that it’s very difficult to offend me.  There’s no question I won’t answer if someone asks said question with a sincere interest in my answer.  I don’t take kindly to questions that are asked with the sole purpose of shaming or marginalizing.  Fortunately I almost never get those kinds of questions, but when I do, I just ignore them.

So what do you folks think? Any specific tasks you’d like to see? As I said above, I’ve been considering some day-to-day activities along with some that might be a bit more exciting (to all of us).  Feel free to comment here in this blog post or visit me on the Claiming Liberty Facebook page!

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Two Firsts in One Week After Three Years of Backyard Chickens

I’ve had laying hens here at the homestead for three years now.  In that time, we’ve learned a lot.  Who would have thought that we’d have TWO firsts in one week after all this time though?

Last week, we got our largest egg ever at the homestead — a monster, 100-gram chicken egg.  We had planned to film me cracking that egg to see what was inside it, and I’m glad we decided to wait ’til after our trip to West Virginia because while we were gone, we got another egg to explore.  Apparently while we were gone, one of our chickens laid a “rooster egg”, so I decided to include that one in the video too.

I was somewhat surprised by what we found in the “mega egg”.  I actually expected to find a second, completely formed egg inside the larger egg.  I wasn’t quite sure about the “rooster egg” though.  With it being not much larger than a grape, I guessed that it might not contain a yolk.  What surprised me about that tiny egg though was how easily it cracked.  That why I sound a bit startled in the video.

It just goes to show that after all this time, there are still things to learn.  No matter how much you think you’ve seen, life has a way of surprising you and keeping you on your toes.  To be honest, I like it that way.  It keeps things from getting too boring.

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Homemade Fodder System for Chickens — Think Beyond Barley

I wanted to build a homemade fodder system for my homestead laying hens, but I’ve had trouble sourcing barley.  Then it occurred to me.  Chickens eat all kinds of grains and seeds, so why hadn’t I gotten growing?

Those of us who have backyard chickens know they’ll eat just about anything.  My free-range birds are no different.  I do feed a non-GMO layer ration, but they go crazy for kitchen scraps, fermented corn, and scratch grain.  Those supplements along with access to pasture keep feed costs down, but I got to thinking after doing some research that fodder would be another great addition to our process around here.  Thing was, I was stuck on the idea that ONLY barley fodder would suit my chickens, so I spent a lot of time focusing on getting barley.

In hindsight, I feel like that was a silly limitation that I’d placed upon myself for no good reason, but at the time, I didn’t really know any better.  I thought that if I sprouted other items for fodder, they wouldn’t be “as good” as the barley and my flock would suffer somehow.  But then I got to thinking.  It can’t hurt to try a bucket-based fodder system with other grains.  Surely that’s better than offering just fermented corn and the layer ration.

buckets for fodder systemSo when I got a coupon for 10% everything from Rural King that wasn’t on sale, I decided to go ahead and get some more buckets, drill some holes, and get to sprouting!

There was a learning curve for me.  Believe it or not, I’d never used a drill before, and I kept making mistakes.  I had to remind my husband that he hadn’t used a drill perfectly the first time he picked one up, and since I’m blind, I had to adapt the process a bit.  In the end though, it worked well, and I feel a lot more confident with a drill now.  Drilling a bunch of holes will do that for you, I guess.

I have a 40lb bag of black oil sunflower seed that I’ll use as fodder.  I also have a line on raw oats and non-GMO corn that’ll cost a LOT less than barley, and they should give the chickens some variety.  I’ll have to post some more updates to let folks know whether or not things went as expected.  Even if they don’t go the way I think they will though, the seeds and grain will have other uses at the homestead, so it won’t be a waste of time, money, or effort.

Jack Spirko over at The Survival Podcast likes to remind folks to just DO something.  Sometimes when you sit around and ponder it too long, you’ll either talk yourself out of even trying, or you’ll waste time that could have been spent gaining experience.  While I didn’t talk myself out of feeding fodder to my hens, I’ve definitely lost valuable teachable moments.  I’m not being hard on myself about that, but I’m acknowledging it.  It wouldn’t have hurt a thing to just try SOMETHING, and I don’t know why it took me over a month to figure that out.

Related Links

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Fermenting Feed for the Laying Flock

fermenting corn in a bucketLast Sunday, I started fermenting a batch of corn for my laying flock.  I’ve never fermented feed for livestock, so this has been an entirely new experience for us.  So far, so good though.

This first batch of corn came from my local Rural King.  I wanted the “test run” to cost very little while I got a handle on the process and the needs of my flock.  I guess I was over-thinking it — big surprise — but I had some doubts.

Things seem to be going well though.  I’m certain that the fermentation process will go a little more efficiently once it warms up a bit.  Right now, I have the bucket sitting on my dining room table so my dogs won’t eat it, and that’s fine except for the fact that it rarely gets over 61 there.

Today is the second time that I’ve offered the fermented corn to the chickens.  I gave them two scoops of their layer pellets and two scoops of fermented corn.  Those birds were practically beating down my front door to get the feed, and when I stepped out to place the trough on the ground, one chicken jumped onto the feeder before it hit the ground.  Another chicken ran onto the porch, and boy did she start yelling when I closed the door.  I guess she thought she wasn’t getting any of the good stuff.  It seems like fermented corn has been a success, at least for now.

Now that I’ve experienced the ease of fermenting feed for our birds, I’m certain that I’ll be doing more of it.  I’ll definitely be using some non-GMO grain and feed that I sourced this week though.  I was fine buying a 50lb bag of feed corn to start, but now that I’ve discovered that I don’t have to drive all the way to Central Indiana Orgainics for non-GMO feed and grain, paying a bit more for products from Liberty Feed is ABSOLUTELY worth it to me.

I suspect that I have some particularly happy chickens right now.  Adding fermented feed was easy, and I’m guessing that fodder will be almost as easy.  Then, my hens might actually make it through my front door to get their food though.  I better watch out!

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Posted in Blogs, Homesteading, Natural Living | Tagged , | Comments Off on Fermenting Feed for the Laying Flock

Spring is in the air — someplace else!

winter scene at the Wittekind homesteadThe kids had yet another snow day today.  That means that since President’s Day, they’ve had five snow days, and I want to say that there’ve only been days in that same timeframe where there hasn’t been a two-hour delay.  What’s more, Fred noticed that our county has been under a travel advisory since President’s Day.  (i’m writing this post on March 5.)

Needless to say, despite the fact that the chickens started laying again and folks are planning gardens and spring livestock, I can’t help but feel like spring is in the air — someplace else.  I know that winter’s always hard.  Usually around the end of January, folks start longing for spring.  How often is it though that winter doesn’t seem to roar in until AFTER Groundhog Day? That’s what seemed to happen here in Indiana, and to be frank, I’m over it! I’ve been over it for weeks now, and I’m ready for some subtle indication that we will in fact see spring this year.

NWS forecast screenshotFortunately for my mental health though (and that of the folks around me), it looks like we can expect a break in the awful weather.  Even if it doesn’t last, I’ll take it.  It makes planning this year at the homestead a lot less theoretical for me, and it also means that we can actually start DOING stuff (even if only in fits and spurts.)

So what are this year’s plans at the Wittekind homestead? I’ve been tossing around a lot of ideas, but there are some basic tasks that I really want to accomplish.

More Chickens

Some folks might remember that our laying flock took a pretty decent hit around Thanksgiving.  We lost our Black Australorp rooster as well as seven laying hens over the course of about six days.  We never did manage to figure out what was getting them, although based on when they were killed and the way we found their bodies, it was likely a dog that got them.

Those kills took us down to 14 laying hens, so we have some rebuilding of the flock to do this spring.  After a good bit of thought, we’ll likely add twelve to fifteen Barred Rock pullets along with some Barred Rock straight runs.  This strategy should mean that one, we won’t be overrun by cockerels while adding some much-needed male DNA to the flock and two, we’ll be able to easily identify which birds were added to the flock when.  (We have just one Barred Rock hen left in our flock right now, and I don’t think it’s that big a deal if just one runs a good chance of being confused with birds from another year.)

Feeding Chickens

Although our chickens free range, we offer a supplemental ration as well as scratch grain.  It’s not expensive exactly, but it’s certainly not free.  Pondering this fact got me thinking that if  I can decrease feed costs while offering a more nutritious food source to my flock, I’d be stupid not to consider doing so.

I fell in love with the idea of feeding fodder to my chickens after seeing a post over at The Survival Podcast on the subject.  Jack made it seem so easy, and I was determined to do it at some point, but it never ended up happening last year.

Just last month though, I was having a conversation with another member of the TSPN Zello channel who happens to have first-hand experience with fodder feeding.  He patiently answered my questions and even shared another idea for supplementing my flock’s feed — fermented corn.

After some more talking, a bit more research, some phone calls, and a trip to my local Rural King Supply, I managed to snag a bag of feed corn, and I known when and where I’ll be getting my barley for fodder.  I’m pretty confident that these feed supplements will work well around here.  I’m just waiting for “spring” because this intense cold we’ve been battling has made it hard for me to get organized.

The Greenhouse

Since Fred and I bought this house back in 2009, I’ve been eying one of our enclosed porches with a specific purpose in mind.  It measures about 12’x12’, its windows face east, south, and west, its slab is covered in dark carpet to make an awesome thermal mass, and it’s attached to an entrance that’s almost entirely unused.  What’s more,  that particular porch  hasn’t been used for much of anything other than storage and chick brooding one year.  Doesn’t this porch sound perfect as a greenhouse of sorts? That’s what I was thinking anyway.

The deal was sealed in December when two of my best friends bought a house nearby.  They’re awesome with plants, but their new house doesn’t have the room for indoor seed starting.  Because of that (and a number of other reasons), I’ve decided that this year has to be the year that I get started on “the greenhouse”.  I’d like to start and grow plants out there, I’d like to give microgreens a try, I’d like to do fodder and fermented corn out there, and I’d like to brood chickens out there again.  I just need to spend some time out there with some sighted help to get things cleaned up and organized, and I’ll have to come up with a strategy to avoid roof leaks (when it matters), but all told, the starts of that project shouldn’t be too hard.  I’m excited!

Good things’ll be happening this spring around the homestead.  I just have to keep telling myself that ‘til we actually get there!

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