November 27, 2016

Top 20 Ways My Family Spends Less Money

More and more we need to be mindful of earning, spending and saving money wisely.  We've done quite a few things on the homestead to save money.  The family is quite used to this pattern of doing things ourselves.  This sometimes means we have to wait longer for things, like a day for the laundry to dry or pick and clean vegetables before cooking, spending ten minutes finding deals with price matching.  But in turn, we get exercise, fresh air, organic food and more time together as a family.  With some things we save time, like no more waiting at the garage for car maintenance and not spending hours mowing the lawn.  Here is a list of the top 20 ways my family spends less money:
  1. Main family vehicle is compact size and fuel efficient.
  2. Canceled satellite TV and use Roku to watch Netflix and You Tube.
  3. Installed wood stove ourselves, burn some wood from own property and don't use propane furnace.
  4. Share one cell phone for family, no data plan and don't upgrade after contract.
  5. Hang dry all laundry, saves electricity and humidifies indoor air in winter.
  6. Price match groceries.
  7. Cook most meals and limit delivery, drive-thru food orders and eating out, even on vacation.
  8. Keep winter and summer tires on separate rims and change ourselves and do oil changes at home.
  9. Take showers after 7pm for lower time of use rates, wash laundry on weekends for lower rates.
  10. Grow about 4 months worth of our own fresh vegetables (peas, artichokes, potatoes, cucumbers, swiss chard, kale, turnips, tomatoes, green beans, carrots, beets, ground cherries, raspberries, herbs).
  11. Eat eggs from our own hens with feed supplemented with food scraps and backyard foraging.
  12. Use hen waste and kitchen scraps for free garden fertilizer.
  13. Cook using toaster oven, steamer, Crockpot and on wood stove to avoid using large oven.
  14. Mow only part of lawn to save gas (and protect wildlife habitat).
  15. Close curtains at night to reduce heat loss.
  16. Air condition only one room in house over summer saves electricity.
  17. Work from home part-time saves gas.
  18. Groom dog at home.
  19. Low cost family entertainment: hiking, swimming, fishing, skating, gardening, biking, playing with pets. 
  20. Turn off lights when not in room.

November 23, 2016

Chicken Coop Poly Panels for Winter

Weather-proofing the chicken coop for Winter in Zone 4

Coop Weather Proofed
We had our first winter snow storm and these panels protected our coop from all the wind and snow.  Now the snow can't blow into the coop or cover the egg laying door.  The hens will also have some clear ground to scratch and peck around on.

We made the side panels so that we can remove them for the nice weather and use them year after year.  The roof will be permanent.

We made the roof supports from supports from an old tent.  I love how there is still lots of light.

Here's a close-up of how the panel is attached and how the corner of the exterior coop is built.  This coop is built to protect the hens from all critters from raccoons to bears.  Our hens are like our pets and we don't want to lose any.

The hens are free ranging all day.  The Red X's walk all over the snow without being bothered, but the Wyandottes don't like the snow.  A couple days ago, I followed the tracks of one hen across the backyard and found her hiding underneath a brush pile.

Scraps for hens.

When we get into the super cold days, I'll open up the coop door but will leave the exterior poly panel door closed to block the wind.

Before it snowed I added a lot of leaves and dried grass under the coop so that I can sprinkle treats and the hens can dig and scratch to find them.

I'm also adding kitchen scraps for composting under the coop so they can dig through that too.  These scraps have jerusalem artichoke peels, crumbled egg shells and squash seeds.  The hens also get a lot of apple cores.

November 20, 2016

Installing Chicken Coop Poly Panels in November

Winter weather has arrived in Zone 4 Canada, although the homestead and I are not quite ready.  We hastily installed the new poly plastic roof on the outer cage of the hen house yesterday, in the dark, as it started raining.  This morning it started snowing and the snow continued to blow through the open coop door and accumulate on the wood chips.  Tonight, I brushed as much snow off the wood chips as possible (using a car snow scraper) and just managed to squeeze the door shut with all the ice built up around the door frame.  Then later tonight we got the poly panel up on the north side of the coop.  Instantly all the winter weather nastiness stopped blowing on the coop and all was quiet.  We had a peek through the coop window and  the hens looked like they were having a disco party with the coop softly lit with christmas lights.  The christmas lights have really done the trick with getting the hens laying.  After one week we started getting eggs again after about a two month hiatus. 

Only three more poly panels to go.

It's taking us awhile as we wanted to get the fire wood loading window installed in the basement first and rather than throwing a tarp over the hen house we're building removable poly panels for all the sides of the coop and a permanent poly roof.  We're hoping this will last a few years and the hard work upfront will pay off year after year.

Also on the chicken to do list is another ventilation opening to increase air circulation.  I want the girls to have more fresh air because even with six inches deep of wood chip bedding, the ammonia smell is too strong, so that I end up propping open the egg laying door to let fresh air in during the day.