Setting Up the Homestead: An Update

One of our primary goals in buying a home was to have our own land for homesteading. We ended up with a single acre, which was far less than we wanted but still plenty of room to get started (and a tremendous improvement from our third-floor apartment).

Over the last several months, we've been working hard (my husband much more so than me, thanks to my current pregnant state) to make some of our homesteading dreams a reality. I thought I'd share what we've been up to in regards to this. 

Let me begin by reminding you that we have a tiny budget, so we've been pretty limited as to how we could do this effectively. A self-reliant homestead saves you money once it's up and running, but when you're starting from scratch, there's a lot of investment to put in. Thankfully, we were able to salvage and DIY ourselves into something workable.

Take this first step, for instance. My husband's work had a shed full of unused, leftover pieces of fencing, chicken wire, and scrap wood from old turkey trap sites.

After obtaining permission from his supervisor, Matt and I rented a U-Haul trailer and loaded up as much as we thought we could use. The only cost was the U-Haul.

This was around the time we received our tax refund, which we decided to use to purchase fruit trees and blueberry plants. Since we don't have a truck, we made sure to do this in the same trip with the U-Haul.

Somehow, inexplicably, everything fit in there.

We soon depleted our funds and had to wait several more weeks before proceeding. But once we had the cash to do it, Matt started working on some raised beds for the backyard.

We'd really hoped to simply till the land for a garden, but without the proper equipment, this was impossible. And the proper equipment is ridiculously expensive, way too much for our current budget. These simple raised beds filled with a blend of cow manure, organic compost, and soil was a much more frugal alternative.

My hard-workin' husband used the salvaged fencing from his job to enclose our raised beds from obnoxious critters.

This inexpensive idea of his turned out perfectly! In here, we have squash, zucchini, gourds, watermelon, carrots, onions, spinach, lettuce, beans, four different varieties of tomatoes, and four different varieties of peppers.

Behind the raised beds, you'll also see a patch of okra sprouts, some very cute teepees my husband constructed for pole beans, and our little fruit tree orchard. We have two peach trees, two fig trees, and four different apple trees.

Fruit trees are notoriously difficult, so I have no idea how we'll do with them, but at least we're giving it a try.

Here's what the beds are looking like now, the first week of June!

In other homesteading news, several weeks ago, I came home from work one day to find this:

Yep. The husband had finally taken the plunge and purchased our first flock of baby chickens. A total of twelve unsexed babies, a variety of Rhode Island Reds, Barred Plymouth Rocks, and Australorps.

They were so teeny and cute and fuzzy! Our two dogs quickly grew obsessed with them. Brenna, the black lab, especially. She would go to their cage and hover over it, frozen, watching stoically for hours. Hours. 

I liked to pretend she was watching over them lovingly like a mother hen, but I'm afraid she was just trying to figure out how to eat them.

Baby chicks grow ridiculously fast. My Mawmaw had chickens, but this was my first time dealing with them up close and personal, so I was constantly shocked every day I checked on them that they seemed to have doubled in size since the previous day. Before too long, they were big enough to ditch the heat lamp and move outside. My father-in-law gave us this little homemade chicken coop that he'd DIY'd for his own chickens, which served the purpose well.

Two of the chickens, both Rhode Island Reds, died not long after this. We think they overheated, but we really aren't sure. There were no signs of disease or anything among the flock afterward, and everyone else has been growing healthily since.

In fact, it was no time before they outgrew this pen and we realized we needed a real chicken coop. My husband did loads of research, trying to figure out the most cost-effective way to do this. He priced the boxed kits at places like Amazon and Tractor Supply Company (which started well over $300 for the large size we needed), then found plans on the Internet to build his own. He customized the plans to suit our needs, wrote down everything he would need to build one from scratch, took his list to Lowe's/Home Depot, and calculated that this would be zero dollars cheaper than the kits.

He kept checking Tractor Supply until one day, he stumbled upon a heck of a deal. Someone had purchased and returned this coop:

The box had been opened and was marked damaged. The price was only $200, half off the original $400. Matt asked store employees exactly what was wrong with the kit, and it turned out that there were only two damaged areas:

Some ripped wire and a broken strip of wood on one of the panels. That was it. For $200. He snatched it up, brought it home, and repaired the damage in no time, patching and gluing and repainting with supplies we already had.

The damaged panel was good as new. The rest of the kit was in perfect condition; all he had to do now was assemble. While I watched and took pictures.

Behold, the finished product!

Isn't it adorable?!? The chickens seem super happy in it, too. Look how big they've gotten!

So, that's where we are these days. Raising chickens and waiting for our plants to produce. I am so extremely proud of how hard and well my husband has worked on all this (and continues to work on it to make sure nothing dies). I think he was really cut out for the farm life.

As for myself? It's hard to tell being pregnant. Going outside is a struggle for me as I'm currently at twenty-six weeks, quite round, still queasy, and becoming completely heat intolerant. I mean, I sweat when I'm sitting inside with the AC on, with additional fans aimed at me. It's going to be a loooong summer, and I'll be at my largest in the hottest months of the year, in Alabama humidity. I just don't know how the pioneer ladies did it.

Hopefully this time next year, I'll be more fit for the homestead life!


AMPS said...

Soooo impressive!! I can't wait to see how your first crop turns out. You guys have accomplished so much with what you have to work with. What an awesome place to start raising your firstborn!

Lacey said...

Omg! This is SO COOL! I'm seriously super impressed by how much you guys have done... raised, fenced beds, planted TONS of delicious plants (and trees?!) AND managed to raise a flock of chickens, housed in a cool coop to boot... whoa! This is seriously all a dream of mine, too. Once we get a house, we'll be joining you and Matt in the homesteading business! So excited!