Archive for the ‘The Transitional Movement’ Category

The Truck Cap Chicken Tractor

Saturday we started to work on our Truck Cap Chicken Tractor, which is a portable chicken coop with a Truck Cap as the roof. We are building it in two separate parts, the Cap and the Run.  We  don’t have a whole lot of carpentry experience, and don’t have the best tools, but we are doing the best we can.  Here are some pictures:

Paul putting together the base, which we made from salvaged wood from our deck we just tore down.

The cap, which we got for free from FreeCycle, fits on top of the wooden base.

Here are the roosts on the inside of the cap. The nest boxes will be in the back under that window, so we can reach in to get the eggs.

We have the plywood around the sides, but we aren't sure how we want to build the door in the front.

We plan to put four wheels on the base so we can move it, because the cap is kinda heavy. For nest boxes, I thought some milk crates that we picked up on freecycle would work, mounted under that rear window.  Does anyone have any objections to that idea?  Also we aren’t sure how we want to build the chicken door in the front panel.  I would like to have a horizontal door that folds down to make a little exit ramp, but I’d also like to be able to shut and lock it from out side the run, which we haven’t built yet. Run is going to be detachable with small wheels, and slip over the end of the coop with the window.  To facilitate feeding, watering, and moving, the idea is to lock the chicken in the cap at night and then in the morning, detach the run, move  the cap to a new spot of pasture,  open the cap window and refill the water and feeder, close the window, and then re-attach the run, and then open the horizontal chicken door to give them access to the run.  I’d like to have the cap coop to be predator proof enough to be usable without the run, if I need to isolate a bird, or  raise some young birds separate from the rest of the flock.

Any feed back, comments, questions, advice or suggestions are welcome!



Giving Up Angel Food Ministries

Julian helping me in the kitchen

Julian helping me in the kitchen...

It’s been two months since I’ve ordered food from AFM.  When I first quit my job to stay home with my son Julian and raise some chickens, I was freaked out about money. We started buying food from Angel Food Ministries, and it’s been a big help! But since then, I’ve done enough comparison shopping to know where to find the best deals  (around here, Sam’s Club)  and we just don’t want to eat the processed foods anymore.  We have been eating most of our vegetables from Provident Organic Farms CSA or from our

Vincent learning to Vaccume

"I love vaccuming!" said Vincent! No really that's what he said!

own garden, and this year from “Sharron’s Natural Gardens”.  The Processed foods that come with AFM  taste so salty that we can’t  really eat them!  Also their cuts of chicken come so badly mangled that they are only good for making soup.  One good thing about living on the Eastern Shore is that chicken is very cheap! Until we have our new “Chicken Tractor” (a portable coop) built and we can raise more of our own meat, we will be taking advantage of the $0.88 a lb roasters at Sams Club, and the $0.95 a lb chicken thighs.  We are also considering raising our own pigs.  I’ve begun reading “Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs”.   The nice thing about being a part of the Transitional Movement is that over night progress is not expected…. and I’m proud to say that in this time of “economic re-evaluation” (aka Resession) we have been eating more local home cooked organic foods than we ever have in our entire lives!

Barter and Trade In the Internet Age

Barter and trade are a pretty quaint way of getting the things you need or want or getting rid of your surplus. (Like my eggs.)  Here are some websites designed to facilitate the barter and trade of goods and services. Not all have a local focus but some can be organized for a local focus.

PaperBackSwap I’ve been a member of this site for several years and love it! I’ve gotten rid of many books I wanted to read. It’s not locally focused, and you do have to spend money on mailing out your books, but to request a book is free to you. You earn book credits when your requester marks your book as received. Costs are kept down by using media mail. And it’s not just for paper back books, its for any book, including audio books, which cost 2 credits. Recently they have added the sale of books where you can use your credits to lower the price.  If your the kind of person who is terrible at returning library books, this is a great alternative, if  you don’t mind the postage.  Oh, and just to let you know, it’s USA only, sorry! The same people also run DVD Swap and CD Swap. This is a neat site where people can trade in groups for just about anything! Mostly crafty people use it to make works of art of all kinds to swap.  I’ve done some hand made post card swaps, and crocheted item swaps.  Some people swap things in their crafting stash that they don’t want anymore. Some swaps are very specific and some are as vague, but all members have a profile that includes their preferences: things they collect, wish lists, and things they don’t like.  It’s a typical practice to send extra goodies in with the required swap items.  This site does have potential for local community building because you can form private swaps and private groups, based on a region. Once you join a swap, the site organizes and matches swap partners, and keeps a rating system to let people who when people are dishonest and join a swap without sending out their items. Of course you can avoid this by having private swaps and private groups. I think it would be fun for a large extended family spread all over the country to make a private group and exchange holiday gifts, one partner per family member, with a cost limit on the gift exchange.  The possibilities are really endless with this extremely flexible system.

Babysitter Exchange I just found this site and I love it! You can create communities of local people you know to exchange babysitting with. You start with a certian number of tokens and use them to “pay” for requested services, like babysitting, pet sitting, house sitting, carpooling and other errands.  Groups of 5 or less are free. Larger groups have a paid premium membership. You can also have multiple communities, so if some friend live to the north, and some to the south, you can organize separate groups, though members in the middle can belong to both.  I’m always hurting for some childcare, and looking for someone to watch my chickens when we are away, so I’m really looking forward to using this service.

FreeCycle This is an email list where people can give just about anything away, as long as it’s free. You can also post “wanted” adds. It’s organized locally and the receiver picks up the item, no mailing.  The premise is that we should reuse old things instead of filling up our landfills.  If you hating getting a ton of irrelevant mail, you might not like this group, but you can always choose the no mail option and just read posts at the web site.



How We Got Started With Homesteading

Sharon, a neighbor who does biodynamic gardening asked me about my gardening experiences on her email list. Here’s my response…

I live out side of town limits (in Wicomico County, on the MD side) on almost 2 acres.  We moved here about five years ago and our first spring we planted several blueberry bushes, thorn-less blackberries, an apple tree and grapes. We also tried to turn our crab grass back yard into a huge garden with the help of  another family,  but boy did we bite off more than we could chew! We really had no clue what we were doing, but I’m very glad we got those perennials in the ground that first year. I did love the fresh zucchini! It was the only thing that grew well. We decided we didn’t know what we were doing and needed a better plan.  We were rather discouraged watching the bugs eat our veggies, but we knew we didn’t want to use any pesticides on them.

About two years ago we tried “Square Foot Gardening” which worked better, but not great. We didn’t have very good compost and our “Mell’s Mix” wasn’t right, but it was smaller and better planned. We learned all about Tomato Horn Worms.  One problem I ran into is that I just didn’t know how to prepare and cook fresh veggies! We started composting more, and we did put in a descent herb garden. We talked about raising rabbits for meat, and worm composting. We bought more books and read online, and subscribed to Mother Earth News!

Julian arrived in July of 08, and we decided my stay at home mom project would be chickens, not rabbits. We converted a dog pen that came with the house to a coop, and made plans to build better one next to it, where they could share the run. We bought some extra chickens from a vegetarian friend, mostly speckled sussexes: 7 roosters and 2 hens. Well, when the roosters started harassing the hens way too much, we thought we should eat them. That first kill was the hardest. Paul tried to break the neck by hand but, it didn’t go so well,  we didn’t know really what we were doing. We didn’t scald that first one, and the plucking was slow!  I was reading directions out of the book for Paul. We felt really bad about the botched kill, and opted to just use a hatchet next time, and to scald the birds. We did two at a time for next couple of weekends. After that we raised some leghorns, and butchered those roosters, this time I bought an orange traffic cone  for a killing cone, and that worked much better. I didn’t drop them in the bucket of blood this time.  And that was the last time we butchered any chickens. At the moment we only have two roosters and the rest are layers. We hope to raise some more to eat this spring. Also in 08, I was gifted some red wriggler worms  and got started with my “lazy no turning” worm composting. The black berries started to produce well, and I cooked several “Blackberry Buckles”..MMM!

In December 08 we planted 12 dwarf fruit trees and some more blueberries.  We ordered the dwarf trees from the Arbor Day Society.  The advantage of dwarf trees is that they don’t need a high ladder to pick, and you can plant more trees closer together. I’ve read that they will produce 2-3 bushels of fruit when they mature, which won’t be for several years.

So in 09 we decided to join Provident Organic Farms  CSA .  Paul still wanted to do a garden, but this time we used “How to Grow More Vegetables” by John Jeavons. I also got a great cook book from the CSA! . Paul double dug a bed, and we got some seed from our local farm store. I didn’t know anything about GMOs then, or seed saving. The first thing I learned is that sprouting seeds takes up a lot of space, which we don’t have. I hope to fix that this year, if it would ever stop snowing!  So we had the best luck with potatoes, and bush beans, but we had several pumpkins grow, a few cucumbers and the compost pile outside grew a lovely butter nut squash that I still have some squash from.  Those black berries that planted that first year were plentiful.   We were gifted some raspberries, a hops, and a fig too.   This past summer my mom taught me to can, we made grape jelly from our grapes, and some apple butter.

This year we need to put up a green house and build a chicken tractor. We might also be tearing down our deck and putting up a sun room with a wood stove. We are just a little too dependent on electricity for heat in an emergency for my comfort. I also bought a hand push reel mower. We have a riding mower, but needed something smaller for doing detail work around the trees and garden, and I thought a hand push mower would be perfect.  I also plan on making blackberry jam, which is my favorite.  I hope we get a few blueberries,  just enough for a taste.

Looking back, we were very discouraged after that first garden, but we stopped putting money and time into gardening for a few years, and bought books instead.  My mom bought me a copy of “Storey’s Guide to Basic  Country Skills” which is a great resource! If you have “Barnheart” this is the book you should start with! We also picked up the “Storey” book on chickens.  The CSA cookbook is called “Simply in Season” and it has really taught me how to use what’s coming out of the garden. I’d be lost without it! Every year we learn something new and get better at it. Finding the local organic community to help us has been the best blessing ever!  Thanks Sharon and Lisa!


And Then There Were 12

Just before Thanksgiving, several of our hens went missing, and I did actually see my neighbor’s dog eating one of my Rhode Island Reds. Unfortunately there isn’t much I can do about the dog, unless I get a picture. Trust me I did call the sheriff, but the neighbors swear their dog doesn’t get out of the invisible fence.  So now I am down to 10 hens and 2 roosters, and I have them confined to the coops.  They aren’t happy about it but I bring them my

Chickens Eating Apple Scraps

Chickens Eating Apple Scraps

table scraps to eat, in addition to their feed and “scratch”.  They really love apples and anything with seeds like squash.  A friend who makes his own beer gives us sprouted grain to feed them as well.  My heated chicken fountain appears to be working, keeping the water ice free when it gets below freezing, and turning itself off when it’s above freezing.We did put up a light on a timer that is on from about 5pm to 10pm, to keep the hens laying,  and our electric bill only went up $10/month, so not so bad.  Good news is that egg production is going well, I get about an extra 3 dozen eggs every week.   We plan to build a “Chicken Tractor” in the spring, so the hens can get more pasture time, but for now this is the best we can do.

The Transition Movement

At church yesterday, Andy spoke about a book called “The Transition Handbook” which is about how communities can make a planned transition into the “Energy Decline” and how to build local economies.  As a homesteader, I’m already part of this movement and I am fond of this new label.  I haven’t studied the issue of “Peak Oil” as much as Andy has, but I agree we are probably at the top of that bell curve and it’s in our own best interest to march boldly into an energy scarce future with a plan, with hope, and with a community.

One thing Andy emphasized is the need for community effort. He pointed out that the Environmental movement is very much “doom and gloom” and that it is narrowly focused on individuals making small changes (for example changing to florescent light bulbs)  and government passing laws, and totally ignores the community level of response.  It’s kind of ironic that this talk was at a house of worship because I recall one talk with a biologist working at a wetlands preserve in Symrna DE where I argued that people won’t listen to environmental issues until ministers preach it at church, and this biologist was dumb founded. He said that he thought people wouldn’t listen until they stopped going to church.   And this is what I love best about the UU, the delicious paradox that science and faith can peacefully co-exist.

I’m glad my UU Fellowship is a community where we can talk about The Transition.  I like to say, I’m not afraid of hard work, or getting my hands dirty, but being without allies would be very hard.  I’ve been watching the TV show “Jericho” off the internet, and what scares me the most are the terrible things humans can and will do to one another in a crisis.  We all need to remember that things don’t make us happy, that hard work won’t kill us, and that humans lived without electricity for hundreds of years!

And one last tidbit, the UUFS is implementing, is an on-going arts and crafts table where members can sell their hand made things, donating 30% to the church.  I put out a bowl of crocheted hair scrunchies for $1 each and I sold four!  Goodbye Etsy, local is where it’s at!



Greetings and Salutations!

Welcome to my first blog dedicated to my quaint lifestyle.  So what do I mean by “quaint”? Lets take a look at the definitions, according to Google.

  • strange in an interesting or pleasing way
  • old-time: attractively old-fashioned (but not necessarily authentic)

Right on! That’s me to a “Tee”! But there is more to Quaint Homesteading than nostalgia, it has to do with the “Transitional Communities Movement” and the belief, that one way or another, there will be an “Energy Decline”. Living in a more sustainable way and decreasing our dependency on electricity will help us survive this decline in cheap affordable energy.  Some projects are very high tech, like solar panels, but others, like putting up a clothes line are low tech, hence the emphasis on “Quaint”.  A big part of the Transitional Movement is creating local economies, starting with food, which is also an area my blog will cover.  So if you like cooking from scratch, organic gardening, Community Supported Agriculture, raising back yard chickens for eggs and meat, slow foods, and crafts, like crocheting, you will find something to read here!  I’m also an Earth Centered Spiritual Liberal and member of my local Unitarian Universalist congregation, so I’ll be posting about my faith and how I celebrate the divine.  On occasion I even write poetry!  Other topics will also include writing about my battle with CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome) as I’m an organizationally challenged housewife.

So, if any of these topics interest you, please add me to your favorite blog reader (I like google reader) and let me know what you enjoy hearing about the most. I’m here to please the audience!