Here I am ready to share our homesteading adventures of 2023. Wait? We’re homesteaders now? Yeah, it all happened so fast and I mean like crazy fast. Don’t get me wrong, we had always had a small half dried up garden in Texas and talked about having hens for eggs, but it was never right.
In Texas we lived with a small yard with HOA restrictions…craving nature and a simpler life we moved to Colorado. Living in Colorado we definitely got nature but not the simple life at all -remember all our wind storms, falling trees, power outages, wild fires, evacuations and flooding with our road ripped out? Not the simple life and having any type of garden or livestock was out of the question because living in the mountains something would eat everything we tried to grow or raise.
After leaving Colorado without a solid plan we just migrated east. We discussed living in New England and even Maine, we vacationed in Maine the year before and loved it, but I didn’t want to live in Maine at all. Living in Maine was just too weird. Well, cut to me now living in Maine and I can’t imagine living anywhere else on the planet. If living in Maine is weird then I love being weird (this was just my old stupid point of view by the way).
Maine is nothing but pure awesomeness, and living here just makes us want to be better people in every way possible. Did you know that Maine is the #1 recycling state in the US? Living here changes you, and it turned us into homesteaders.
It’s our first official year, and like everything we do we go in head first 100 miles an hour. It’s our thing.
Can’t have eggs without a proper chicken coop, so after researching coop plans to build we finally decided these plans on Etsy would work for our vision. Then with all the house projects we temporarily forgot about our chicken coop plans.
Brian’s December birthday was coming up, and since men are so hard to shop for I thought what the heck let me buy these coop plans. After downloading and printing them I bought the windows that fit the coop design. So for his birthday he opened shed windows and coop plans… it was unexpected and funny! Sometimes wives need to give their husbands a little nudge to get going.
He was 100% on board though, and from late January to early March he slowly built the coop from scratch, it took so long because we had to work around the winter weather.
We were overwhelmed with what hen varieties to get. We planned on ordering them online but one day in March my hairstylist said hey Tractor Supply has pullets in stock and that was that. That evening we were there selecting chicks and googling the different varieties because we had no idea what we were doing.
Long story short, we ended up with 3 Buff Orpingtons, 3 ISA Browns, 2 Pearl Leghorns, and 2 Olive Eggers. They say to prepare yourself that chicks are fragile and easily die, also that you might end up with a rooster. Well on Day 2 one of our pearl leghorns died and I was devastated. Oh… also we ended up with a rooster.
Rooster was cute at first but big shocker… he turned out to be an ass. Honestly he may not be around much longer, he’s mean to the ladies and he won’t ever shut up! We made sure to purchase our pullets early to have egg production by the end of the summer and we officially have eggs! Brown, cream and green ones. Now I just need to get a blue laying variety!
Our chickens have been such a joy, even rooster was a joy at first… not so much anymore. He’s a buff orpington which is dual purpose and his meat is edible. When he’s yapping all day driving me crazy I start browsing chicken recipes…. don’t be upset. He’s had a happy life frolicking in the grass and sunshine, eating bugs, pulling out my hens’ feathers, and waking everyone up at 5 am.
Naturally, after having chickens and building our garden (I’ll get into that later below) we decided that the homesteading life is for us. We want to live off the land and grow as much of our food as possible organically and respectfully. We think raising meat is the next step for us.
So after watching YouTube videos on raising your own meat birds (and processing them yourself) we drank a bottle of wine and bought 28 cornish cross chickens online. I remember Brian looking at me dead serious “We’re really doing this? Let’s push the pay button together.” We may have woken up in a panic the next morning, but it’s all good now. Remember head first is how we roll.
So did you know you can have baby chicks mailed to you? It’s so common in Maine where we live that there is a special window at the post office to pick up chicks. It’s so cute all the chirps you hear behind the desk. They don’t mess around either. They call you at 6 am begging you to pick them up ASAP.
All chicks need to stay extremely warm for the first several weeks, so we built a brooder box with a heat lamp. Many people act like you’re going to burn down your house, barn, land, and maybe even the neighbor’s house using a heat lamp. For us we’ve followed precautions and it’s been fine, if you’re looking for heating advice please do your own research and do what’s best for you. We’re not teaching anyone anything at this point, we’re still learning.
Brian then built a chicken tractor for the cornish cross chickens to live in once they were fully feathered. Cornish cross are meat birds and they put on weight FAST. They’re ready for processing at about 8 weeks old although some can go longer. Taking an animals life for nourishment can be a little emotional, you are taking a life after all. However we feel it’s better than buying factory-farmed meat where animals are living in cruel and unsanitary environments.
Our chicken tractor gets moved to fresh grass 2-3 times per day. They have fresh feed and water every day and eat fresh grass and bugs each time the tractor is moved. They experience life the best way possible and feel sunshine and fresh air. We also give them fruits and vegetables from our garden as treats and let them out for supervised free ranging outside of the tractor when possible. Raising meat birds is not for everyone but just remember chicken meat from the grocery store was also from a living chicken. It’s easy to get desensitized about where our food comes from.
We’re planning to do our processing next week, and we have another younger batch in the brooder now. I’m not exactly looking forward to “harvesting” them, but we’re doing it ourselves and I’ll update you about that in Part 2 of 2023.
Now on to the garden! We went with raised beds for a few reasons. We think it looks aesthetically pleasing, it’s easier on my poor old back when it comes to planting and weeding, and it helps keep wildlife out (we have no yard fence). I stained them with dark half, the same all natural food safe stain we used on our DIY coffee table and kitchen floor.
Our plan is to add rocks on the pathways and a picket fence around it for cuteness and to make it even more animal and chicken proof.
This garden photo was taken a few weeks ago and I was too tired to take an updated one. The garden has grown even more but I’m tired now… we have chickens like everywhere, 68 of them.
I didn’t mean for this blog post to be so long so I’m going to knock this out! We’re growing chamomile and I’ve been dehydrating it to drink tea for fall and winter. It smells divine!
I’ve honed in on my jam making and water bath canning skills. This is dandelion jam, it was such a pain to pick all the flowers but it has such a delicate unique flavor that I may talk myself into doing it again next year.
I started all our seeds indoors, and being our first year it wasn’t cheap at all. Starting a garden or any homestead isn’t cheap. Don’t plan on saving money the first few years. Maybe we’ll break even in year 2 or 3? Our long-term goal is to eat healthy and save money but you also do it just because you enjoy doing it.
Things we’re growing, again everything was started by seed. I’m hoping year 3 I can have a farm stand. We’ll see.
Butternut squash, zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, brussles sprouts, lettuce, kale, swiss chard, cabbage, peas, beans, over 70 tomato plants of different varieties, tomatillos, jalapeño peppers, Thai chili peppers, broccoli, bell peppers, potatoes, parsnips, rhubarb, carrots, strawberries, blueberries, celery, and of course all the herb varieties you could ever want. Not to mention the wild blackberries and raspberries that came with the property.
It’s been an adventure for sure! We do have fruit trees and are wanting to expand that, and we have started plans for a berry patch. More on that later…I will update at the end of the summer for sure in Part 2, and you bet we’re going headfirst into 2024 and expanding our homestead with bees! Possibly raising pigs for meat too. Remember head first is how we roll.
So far our harvest has had a few hiccups, but it’s overall going wonderful. Stay tuned for our next homestead update!
Chicken Coop Plans HERE
Chicken Coop paint Color – Hawthorn Yellow & Simply White by Benjamin Moore
Garden Box Stain & Chicken Run Stain HERE
Cornish Cross Poultry Source – Myers Poultry
Chicken Tractor Plans HERE