Homestead Roots Newsletter – 4/4/2024

Hopefully you had a blessed Easter! We were able to join family in worship and then spend the day doing easter egg hunts for the kids and enjoying an awesome Easter dinner. It was a good day despite the snow!

Last week Ingrid and I found our way off the homestead. This is a pretty rare occurrence and something that we don’t do often. Ingrid’s parents came down to watch the kids, which meant we didn’t need to hire a farm sitter as the kids can handle all the chores. The trip for me was mostly work related as I had to attend a conference. Ingrid got to relax a bit and recharge for what is going to be a busy spring and summer season. We were able to sneak a couple of dinners out in between my work. Both of us actually prefer to be at home, with that said we also see the benefit of escaping once in awhile!

More Signs of Spring

Fresh baby ducks!

In my last newsletter I mentioned that we were selling some chickens as we reduced the size of our flock. We finished that up over the weekend and are now sitting with the adult flock we will have for the summer season. They are laying like crazy right now and it is good to be flush with eggs again. To refresh the flock this year we intend to hatch out a few batches of chicks. The goal is to hatch our chicks in a couple of batches so that we can have some young birds laying through next winter. We will see how that goes!

Speaking of hatching, our eldest son Elias is close to having his first ducks hatch out for the season. With a simple Craigslist ad he has accumulated quite the waiting list for his chicks. Hopefully we have a few buyers come through for him. He has already had a bunch hatch out, with more eggs really close and a whole batch that will hatch in a couple of weeks. It is pretty amazing to watch the process play out. Ingrid and I are completely hands off with the process and he is doing great on his own! Below is a link to a video on our social media of him sharing the process:

After a great stretch of dry weather for outdoor work we are back in mud with all the moisture we got last week. We ended up getting maybe 8″ of really wet snow, plus a healthy amount of rain. The ground definitely needs to the moisture so we will take it. The mud will slow us down a little bit but it is certainly something we are used to this time of year.

Chickens – The Gateway Animal

Bergen holding a pretty hen.

Our hens cleaning up some veggies from the farm.

Chickens are really the best starter animal for homesteaders. In many cases keeping chickens is far easier than keeping cats and dogs! And chickens give back! In my opinion the most challenging phase of chicken ownership is the very beginning. The chick phase is where most people start and I think that is just fine as long as you are ready for them. Having a good brooder set up is necessary with heat, wood shavings, chick feeders and chick waterers. A little research can go a long way. Alternately, you could purchase started chickens and skip that phase all together. I see them available on craigslist all the time. I would recommend you spend a little time asking questions and just make sure the birds are coming from a healthy flock. This would be the ultimate, easy way to get started with chickens.

Adult chickens are pretty easy to keep. They need protection from the elements, this just means they need someplace to stay dry and out of the wind. Adding supplemental heat to your coop is completely unnecessary and in many cases it can be a huge fire hazard. Most likely you will need to feed them some sort of ration of chicken feed. They can forage for a large part of their diet but having food available is important. We feed our birds 1/4 lb of feed per bird per day. More often than not people are over feeding chickens instead of under feeding them. Additionally, kitchen scraps are encouraged! Chickens will pick away at just about anything, they are fantastic composters. Your chickens will need fresh water as well. Nesting boxes can be as simple as a modified 5 gallon bucket on the wall to a fancy roll away nest box, we’ve had them all and they all work. Along with their shelter, some sort of protected outdoor run is good to have. I know many people free range chickens, we did too. I will warn you they poop everywhere you don’t want them to, destroy landscaping and flower beds and get picked off by predators.

All in all, chickens are really easy to keep and with just 3-4 chickens you can have enough eggs for a couple of people. In a perfect world just about everyone would have a small flock! It would keep food waste from the landfill, create compost for the home garden and of course provide eggs to enjoy. If you have any chicken questions feel free to ask away!

Getting Caught Up

The plants are thriving under lights and indoors.

Last week’s snow storm has us a little bit delayed with a few of our plantings. It is also a very busy time of year so it doesn’t take much to get behind. The forecast looks really good for the rest of this week as we get back on track. During the warm stretch of days a few weeks ago, we filled up our hightunnel and overall that is still looking really good. We did have some very cold nights and lost a few items but overall I think we will be just fine. The plantings we are backed up on are our first outdoor plantings of the year. All our beds are tarped which makes it pretty quick and easy to get started but when we needed to be planting the tarps were still covered in snow. Thankfully that snow melted quickly and we are now getting those plantings taken care of.

We also have a bunch more to get started and add to our plant starts indoors. I am hopeful we are able to find room for everything! The starts we planted over the past few weeks are looking excellent. We are super pleased with germination and the way the plants are maturing. For things like our tomatoes we will likely need to slow them down a little bit as we wait for the time to be right to get them in the ground outside.

With everything we have seen so far, if the weather cooperates we should have no trouble opening the doors to the farmstand around May 1. Fingers crossed we get some sunshine, decent temperatures and no more snow!

Family Life

Our 2024 Easter photo.

Ingrid and I spend a fair amount of time thinking about how our way of life affects our family and family life. As our kids are growing older we are constantly balancing the important life lessons we think we need to be sharing about hard work, managing a business, responsibility and respect with things like fun, adventure, vacation and downtime. There aren’t really any hard, fast rules on how to do this right. In my mind the biggest thing it takes is intentionality. You have to be aware and intentional about this stuff or else time just goes and before you know it the kids are grown and gone.

With our kids being 14, 12, 9 and 1, we are at an ideal age with our older kids to be doing some traveling. Traveling is a challenge of course with a homestead but we have worked hard to make our homestead resilient and easy to manage so we can bring in some farm sitters to help. The market garden and farmstand is a concern as well but if we time the trip right we think we can make it work. We are excited about the next few years and looking forward to what they will bring!

Thank you as always for reading and for following along on this journey. As always I would love to hear from you. If you have questions or suggestions just reply to this email and I will be in touch.