Our new baby chicks have arrived! We ordered 100 baby chicks from Privett Hatchery in New Mexico. They were shipped on a Monday and arrived the following Wednesday. Our order arrived in two days and all 100 were alive and chirping when I opened the box. We are not keeping all 100, we split the order with a couple friends in order to meet the minimum order requirements.
The minimum order for chickens from Privett is 25 which fills one corner of the shipping box seen here. With 25 baby chicks packed into the corner they generate enough heat to keep each other warm during shipping. When we checked around for someone to split the order with, three other families wanted to order, so we ended up with a full box of 100 baby chicks. I could hear the chicks chirping in the background when the post office called to tell me.....
This Yanmar tractor is our main workhorse here at the yardstead. This has been a great little tractor. We have had a lot of interest in our Yanmar tractor articles, so I thought I would post this article with more detail about this model. The YM1300d is a 16hp 4wd tractor with gear transmisison and 13hp PTO. It weights approximately 1135 lbs.
When I was shoping for a tractor, I had never heard of Yanmar, so I did a little research and found out a good bit about Yanmar tractors. Yanmar was founded in 1912. In 1930 they designed their first diesel engine and built the first small horizontal diesel engine in the world in 1933. Yanmar manufactured a number of compact tractor models for John Deere and by 1986 had shipped over 100,000 tractors to the US for John Deere alone. Today Yanmar is considered a world leader in the diesel engine market, with their engines under the hood of many tractors by numerous manufacturers.
The eggs shown here are all from free-range chickens here at the Yardstead. You can see they are all different colors including green, blue, pink, beige, brown and white. They vary in size a bit as well. They all look the same on the inside though, and taste the same, which is far better than mass produced eggs from large poultry farms. They have more flavor and many studies have shown they are more nutritious.
The first thing most people notice when they crack open one of our fresh chicken eggs is the thickness of the shells. Because these chickens eat a more varied diet than "sweat shop" chickens, they get more nutrients such as calcium (good for shells) in their diet. The fresh egg yolks also look different. They are more orange than yellow and appear thicker.
I was going to crack a store bought egg and one of our's side by side on a plate to illlustrate the difference, but I couldn't bring myself to buy eggs at the store. It is interesting to see them together. I will post a picture for comparison later in the forum. I'll just borrow a store bought egg from a neighbor.
One of our goals here at the Yardstead is to produce as much of our own food as possible. By growing our own groceries we have much more control over what we put into our bodies. We feed our chickens mostly garden waste, grass clippings, food scraps and occasionally scratch feed to supplement when things are slow in the garden.
Other than a small garden or a few fruit trees, I believe that raising chickens is one of the easiest ways to gain some self-reliance in your food supply. It can also be a very rewarding and enjoyable hobby for adults as well as children. An adult chicken only needs 3-4 square feet of space. Hens do not need a rooster to lay eggs (only to reproduce). Anyone can have a few chickens and their own natural egg supply. Here are a few reasons why I think raising chickens is a great idea: Chickens are easy and inexpensive to maintain Home raised eggs are great tasting & nutritious You are in complete control of what goes into the production of your eggs. Chickens are fun & your children can get involved in their care (maybe even show one in the state fair) Chickens provide free fertilizer Chickens eat bugs! What a great idea for pest control Everyone has a dog or cat. Why not be the interesting neighbor raising their own hens and eggs? Now that I've convinced you that this is a great idea...Where do you buy chicks?
We use our hand tools everyday here at the Yardstead. Because we are a small scale urban homestead, we don't really need to use power tools that often. Sure we use a small tractor to till the garden and power tools such as drills and circular saws for construction projects, but most of the daily business gets done with hand tools. Many of our hand tools have been around for years now and their handles are worn smooth from use. We have also disposed of a lot of tools which seemed like good bargains when they were purchased, but failed shortly after being put to use. Over the years I've learned a few things about selecting tools, and these days our tools fail a lot less often. I love my trusted, reliable tools and I will share with you a few things I've learned about selecting quality tools.
One of the most common gardening tools is the garden hoe. Used mostly to eliminate weeds in the garden, the simple hoe design has been around for a long time. As with many hand tools there are no moving parts and the design is sturdy enough that even the cheapest models will usually be sufficient for its intended purpose. I have never broken a hoe while cutting down weeds in the garden, but because of the useful design of this tool, it frequently gets used beyond the garden.
One of the best ways to save money and resources is by reusing materials. Reusing also helps reduce the amount of waste going into our landfills. Reusing is an important part of our resource conservation plan here a the yardstead. We reuse everything from plastic bags to building materials. Some items such as plastic bags can be reused with very little thought or effort. Other items such as lumber or fencing, require a little more effort to reuse. A little bit of planning ahead can make it much easier to reuse these larger items and greatly reduce the amount of waste.
Whenever we begin a project at the yardstead, we always consider ways to reuse materials we already have. We have a section of the pole barn dedicated to reusable materials. Despite the fact that I take care to keep this section organized and free from trash, its sometimes refered to as the "junk pile" by my wife. Im sure it does look like a junk pile to the untrained eye, but to skilled reuser its a treasure trove of possibilities. I revisit this area daily, whether I'm looking for a scrap of wire to mend a fence or one more board to finish a project.
We have been raising chickens here at the Yardstead for over 4 years now. We started with 12 chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery. The minimum order for baby chicks from Mcmurray is 25 but that's more than we wanted to start out with. A friend offered to split the order so we each picked several varieties from the catalog and placed the order. I don't remember the particular breeds from the first order (my wife actually picked), but they were all hens listed as good layers. We didn't want to get any roosters mainly because we did not want to listen to the crowing. The baby chicks were shipped overnight and the post office called me the next morning and said they were holding a box for me at the front counter and that it was chirping. I sped over and picked up the package and opened it as soon as I got in the truck. There were 25 lively chicks inside. I took them home and put them in a larger box with a small waterer and food dish. It was the end of winter so we kept them inside in their box for several weeks. All of the chicks we ordered for the yardstead survived to adulthood, and all but one of the chicks my friend ordered survived. In fact two of our current chickens are from this original order.
We purchased more chicks the next year from a local feed store after an unexpected event caused a rapid drop in our chicken population.....
We love trees here at The Yardstead. We have added several trees to our landscape over the last several years. In keeping with our policy of Edible Landscaping, most of the recent additions have been fruit trees. Although we are located in north Florida, we still have to consider the cold hardiness of trees and all the plants we plan to cultivate. We have had several frosts this year including a 2 day stretch where the temperature was below freezing for four to five hours each night. Frosts are not uncommon in January and February around here, but by noon the temperature is usually back up around 50F at least. Considering the dozen or so frosts we have had this year, maybe 4 or 5 of the days saw freezing or below temps for 4 hours or more. It was cold enough however to damage several of our young citrus trees.
The lemon tree seen here on the left appears to have survived the best out of all our citrus trees. I believe this is a Myers Lemon. It was started from a seed left over after my wife sliced up a lemon grown on a local tree known to be at least 30 years old. It is three years old and has never produced fruit. It suffered a little frost damage last year also and I pruned it back a bit to much. It lost some leaves this year and some parts of the branches have turned brown, but I will wait until after the spring to prune it this time. By then I should be able to tell better what is actually dead. I believe the older (year or longer) branches have a better chance of growing fruit, so I want to prune them as little as possible. This is something that I need to look up about pruning citrus.
Most of our other citrus trees....
When I was shopping around for a used compact tractor I came upon some brands and models that I was not familliar with. I had never heard of Yanmar tractors, but I found a handful of them at very reasonable prices scattered around the area. After searching online I found that Yanmar had manufactered compact tractors for John Deere for several year models during the 1980s. In fact after looking thoroughly at my fathers compact John Deere (15hp), I found the Yanmar manufaturer ID plates on the diesel engine. My father has used his John Deere for many years and found it to be extremelly reliable. This information and the low price was enough to make it an easy decision to buy the Yanmar YM-1300d I had been looking at. This is a 13hp 4wd compact diesel tractor. I have used this tractor for about 5 years now and have been very pleased with it. In the first few weeks after I bought it, I spent some time online searching for user and service manuals. During this research I learned an interesting fact. I had purchased a "Grey Market" tractor.
I had never heard the term before, but I was able to find some good information online. A "Grey Market" tractor is a used tractor imported from another country (usually Japan) which was not specifically manufactured for sale in the USA. Many of the grey market models match nearly identical models which were manufactured specifically for sale in the US. The main differences lie in some of the safety features .....