Penny and Possum sitting in a tree…

As with many endeavors here on Our Crazy Homestead, adventures are often born out of necessity or to assist with other projects. With all the poultry we had here over the summer (36 meat chickens, 10 laying hens and 5 turkeys) we figured we needed a dog to help protect them and perhaps assist with herding. We got ourselves a registered black and white Border Collie named Penny in late July and it quickly became apparent that she was an over-efficient herder. As the months went on I kept my eye out for a registered Blue Merle Border Collie and in November we found Possum.

Well it took all of 6 hours for the two of them to get down to business upon arriving home with Possum and as a result we are expecting our first litter of puppies on January 5th!! We are all just a wee bit excited to say the least.

Penny is full of crazy pregnant lady hormones and poor Possum is just trying to keep out of her way. She was so snarly with him the other day that he peed on the curtains in what I am sure was a bid to carve out a bit of space for himself in this madness. She has taken a shine to eating the kids socks, eating rabbit pellets when she can find them in the rabbitry and barking her face off whenever so much as a mouse sneezes in the backyard.  Despite her moodiness, Possum still wags his tail so hard that he almost tips himself over when he sees us. Thankfully only about 16 days to go!

Time to get on building her a whelping boxūüôā


IMG_0366Every morning Possum waits for me to get up even if everyone else is downstairs, he waits patiently for me


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IMG_0456Possum sleeps at or on my feet all. the. time.

Redoing the Rabbitry

The very first livestock we had here on Our Crazy Homestead were rabbits for anyone who hasn’t been with us since the beginning. We figured they were a good test animal to see if we were cut out for raising and butchering our own food. ¬†Last April we got our first Rex and Mini Rex rabbits and built them custom outdoor cages with a manure catchment system. We started with the intention of having 4 does and 3 bucks and built them quadruple and triple cages respectively. It did not take long for us to realize that we did not need 3 bucks so we built another ¬†dual stacked cage for our bucks and we got a few more does to go into the triple cage. This system worked well for us through the summer and we had lots of litters.

Our intention was to sell a few and whatever did not sell we would process for food. We are now 9 months into raising rabbits and we have so far butchered maybe a dozen rabbits in total. Apparently bunnies sell better than we thought.

As winter approached we realized that we needed to winterize their cages and set to work designing a tarp enclosure.  In the end we ended up going with a tarp style carport and we decided to move to tray style cages over winter to avoid a buildup of urine and manure on the ground.

We used a large stainless steel table with a sink and build cage stands out of 2 x 4 pressure treated lumber. We also used this  opportunity to move to a gravity fed watering system which we are half way through completion on.  Having all the cages together with identical set ups makes feeding and watering a breeze. We have a Big Buddy propane heater in there to thaw water lines when it gets really cold but its December 19th and tonight is the fist night we have had to use it. This winter has been amazingly mild! For safety we also have a carbon monoxide detector in there as well.

We currently have 2 Bucks and 10 Does and we are expecting 9 litters in early January! Our 10th Doe is a juvenile Himalayan that is only 3 months old.

Here is what it looks like now….

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These are our Bucks. Note the really high urine guards on the sides and back of their cages. Bucks like to spray… EVERYWHERE



We still have a few cages to convert to the new watering system




The nifty rope light that illuminates the tent and the heater in action




Each cage stand holds 4 cages and was constructed out of 2x4s




Our improvised watering system in action and ‘Cloudy’ a shy Doe

SVB = Squash Vine Borer or Squishy Voracious Bastard!

I FINALLY FIGURED IT OUT!! Our pumpkins, squashes, zucchini and cucumber plants have been really struggling along. They began to yellow about a month ago and I thought blight might have set in. Then I thought I was over-watering, then under-watering, then I thought they were low on nutrients, then I thought they were too high on nutrients. Nothing was working and I was losing them. I searched the internet and finally discovered what was killing them….The Squash Vine Borer.

Chief Troublemaker and I went-a-huntin’ last night and here are some clips of the hunt….

We found about a dozen of them in total so hopefully those plants will perk up nowūüôā

How to deal with Loathsome Laundry

In our house putting the laundry away is right up there with emptying the dishwasher as far as most hated jobs. This weekend we solved the problem for good….we moved the closets.

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It usually falls to me to actually *do* the laundry but I rely on the rest of the members of the family to help distribute it and put it away and it seems like I am constantly asking someone to put away something. If the baskets don’t make it upstairs in a timely fashion the kids end up rifling through them downstairs and inevitably clean clothes hit the floor and get confused with the dirty clothes the kids throw down the stairs to be laundered. It’s maddening to have to rewash clothes as a result of chaos!

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I have always said when we eventually build our house up north we will build a family closet with the laundry machines in or adjacent to it. Well I couldn’t wait any longer and we decided to build a makeshift solution beside the laundry machines now and I LOVE IT!!

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Washed, dried, folded and put away all without having to travel more than 10 feet and best of all…no more nagging!

How we did it:

1. We bought 2 x 10 ft lengths of 3/4″ electrical conduit and a conduit cutting tool

2. We bought about 12 ft of chain and bolt cutters to cut it (this depends on how high or low you want to hang the rods from your ceiling)

3. We bought eye hooks with nuts and drilled holes through the conduit to put them into (we measured to put in a chain about every 2 -2.5 feet where there was a corresponding joist to attach it to)

4. We bought shackles to attach the eye hooks to the chains

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5. We bought heavy-duty wood screws to attach the chains to the floor joists from the main level so they are suspended from the ceiling. We used screws with a broad head (wider than the inside of the chain link) so that the chain could not slip off the screws accidentally

6. We bought 7/8″ rubber chair feet to put on the end of the conduit poles so that no one would hurt themselves if they accidentally bumped into the ends. Unfortunately, the conduit ends that they sell in the hardware store are designed to fit an outside diameter of 3/4″, but the conduit tubing is measured by inside diameter, hence the reason we bought the rubber chair feet. We couldn’t find 7/8″ conduit caps at our hardware store, so we had to improvise.

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7. We bought hanging fabric shelves from Ikea

8. We created a kids section and an adult section and organized clothing by type

9. We sat back and high-fived ourselves for being awesome

It may not be as convenient to have to go downstairs to get clothes, but it’s a small price to pay when nobody has to be harassed for laundry or to carry heavy laundry baskets upstairs and have the insufferable inconvenience of having to disperse everyone’s clothing to closets only to find that a day later that once again the kids closet has been emptied all over the bedroom floor.

PS: This is for our everyday stuff, all our fancy clothes are hanging in the (not so heavily trafficked) closets upstairs.

PPS: You may want to use wardrobe racks if you are concerned about putting holes into your floor joists, if you plan on hanging exceptionally heavy things or if there is a very heavy load on the floor above.

What a month can do…

It has been 5 weeks since we planted our raised beds and I wanted to share some pics of our progress. From the precarious start with the dehumidifier incident to the frost, these plants have overcome the odds and I am thrilled. Every day when I am out watering after supper I find myself in awe of the changes and it amazes me that this garden has come so far in such a short time! We have a steady supply of lettuce, broccoli, herbs, strawberries and black currents so far.

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How To Make A Rockin’ Firepit

There is nothing quite like spending your evenings under the stars on an old rocking chair in front of a great fire.

When we moved here we found what was left of a derelict old fire pit filled with beer cans and remnants of burnt pressure treated wood. We dug out all that old junk, restacked the rocks that had once been the border and reloaded it with some nice hardwood for our first fire. All we had at that point were camping chairs and as we sat and enjoyed the first fire, we couldn’t help but remember how those chairs dug into the backs of our legs and they were hard to get in and out of.

I had always wanted a rocking chair and I managed to talk Chief Troublemaker into my vision of buying lots of old rocking chairs and painting them bright beautiful colours to live around our pit. I tend to have a lot of crazy ideas and I was surprised that he thought this one was great. I began buying up old rockers online from all different sources and went to the local hardware store to buy some indoor/outdoor spray paint that had primer right in it. All the chairs got a light sanding with the palm sander to rough up the surface and then they were sprayed twice. I started with a plastic sheet on the lawn under a shade canopy as my spray station but quickly found that an old piece of cardboard was a much better surface to spray on. The plastic sunk or puckered into the grass and any freshly painted surfaces got damaged from where the plastic stuck.

Word of warning – this may require more chairs than you initially planned on because when people discover your rockin’ firepit you might find yourself with folks dropping over to visit more often. Heck, even my perfectly-coiffed-city-slicking-never-miss-a-manicure-completely-not-outdoorsy mother joined us for a fire a couple of weeks ago which was great!


So as a recap just follow these basic steps:

1. Get your chairs (try your local charity stores, kijiji, ebay, freecycle, etc.)

2. Get your paint – look for something sprayable if possible and made for outdoor use. Also you might want to buy oil based paint as oil will stick to anything. It is smellier and takes longer to dry but if your chair was originally painted with oil paint you can easily paint over it with more oil paint. Trying to paint over original oil paint with a latex (water based) paint won’t work unless you get some special primer or strip the original paint. Consult your local paint store to get the most versatile product for your needs.

3. Lightly sand them by hand or with a palm sander to rough them up and remove any shine

4. Wipe them down with a damp cloth (or tack cloth) to remove any sawdust

5. Allow them to dry completely

6. Prime them (preferably with spray paint) if your paint does not already contain primer (Tip – apply thinly. It is better to do many light passes than try and rush it and spray heavily. Heavy application will cause running which will leave you cursing – trust me on this one!!)

7. Paint them (preferably with spray paint) using light coats until you reach your desired colour depth (see above tip)

8. Coat them with Varathane (or similar clear protective coating) if the paint you are using is not made for outdoor use already

9.Allow to dry completely while you source a huge bag of marshmallows

10. Sit, enjoy and roast awayūüôā


Homesteading: What it is and isn’t for us

‘You guys are crazy’ they said. ‘What makes you think you can do this?’ they asked. ‘This will never work’ they thought….

Since we started this project (visibly) 3 months ago – when we took the leap from “research mode” to “go time”, people’s attitudes towards what we set out to achieve have spanned the entire spectrum. At one end, we had some doubters, many critics and a lot of skeptics¬†and on the other hand we had excitement, encouragement and awe with people asking for daily updates.

There are lots of biases and prejudices surrounding homesteading – we understand that not everyone is the same, and not everyone’s situation is the same, but I’d like to correct a few of the assumptions and misconceptions that people jump to when they hear about our want to leave it all behind and set up a homestead.

You’re going to move to a trappers hut in the forest with an outhouse? You’re crazy!

We are not moving to a trappers hut in the forest and we’re not planning on living a “subsistence” lifestyle where we hunt and live off the land and entirely disconnecting ourselves from civilization. Though the thought of this is fascinating, and totally something I’d do as “a vacation”, there is a level of effort (i.e. will power) required to maintain this on a long term basis that I’m not sure either one of us would really consider “sustainable.” While this may be the ultimate sustainability in an economic and ecological sense, I’m not sure I’d consider it sustainable for either of us in an emotional sense. Neither of us is averse to hunting to occasionally have wild meat on the table to supplement the usual beef, pork and chicken, but we feel no compulsion to provide for the total of our carnivorous appetite by such means.

This type of thing is more akin to the kind of home we have in mind than the trappers hut you might have imagined when we said the word “homestead”.

If other people can build this, and they do every day, there’s no reason why we can’t build this too… all it takes is the right land, the right tools, a bunch of research and some elbow grease… and my own invincibility [or at least ignorance of the fact I’m not invincible].

Yes it is going to be very hard work. It’s funny though, when you love what you are doing and you are genuinely interested in the work, it never feels like work. As my Mother, Grandfather and probably every ancestor before them [and countless entrepreneurs] have said – nothing worth doing is easy; it all requires work and there is, of course, always a risk of failure. For metropolitan folks, a job is no different. Adapting to city life means convenience and allows you to concentrate on just one thing that you’re probably awesome at [your job] but in all reality, that life is not immune to failure either – what if you needed to provide for yourself? With so much riding on so few providers, there is a greater risk that if something does go wrong [and it doesn’t take much], the volume of people dependent upon those providers will leave you with few resources and little to no ability to provide for your needs.

But it’s so much work and you two are the laziest people we know!

It has been, and it pains me to admit it, fairly accurately pointed out that we’re both lazy people. Truth be told, we’re only really lazy in situations where one or both of us perceive that the work is pointless – which as far as I evaluate is in the region of 80% of city life, running from pillar to post, completing tasks that we’ve been conditioned to complete to fulfill other people’s objectives, most of which make little to no discernible difference in our own lives – except for the income we’re provided in return. The work we’ve set about doing with the homestead is different. It makes a real difference, to us, and almost as importantly, to those around us. It is the most nourishing and fulfilling work either of us have ever really done. It plays into our curiosity and desire to learn as the biggest project we have ever undertaken and it may never come to an end and we are good with that. It’s like a giant ongoing ¬†science experiment. It also plays into the desire to figure out if we’re good enough to do this… and so far, we’re meeting the challenge.

I don’t know how you’re going to do it, I could never live without X?

We are not planning on giving up the creature comforts that we’ve become accustomed to. We’re not planning on giving up our stove, refrigerator, freezer, washer or dishwasher. We’re still going to have running water and electricity and probably gas. We’re still going to require gasoline [petrol] for our generator and machinery (chain saws, snowmobiles, quads, trucks etc.)

We’re not planning on insulating our roof with moss, heating a one room hut by wood fire with a cauldron of broth hanging over it and keeping the wolves at bay with burning torches while wearing animal skin clothes. We’re still going to have toothpaste, underarm deodorant, shampoo and conditioner. We are still going to have top notch outdoor gear, a nice home for entertaining and my tuxedo will still be on hand for fancy occasions. This is not the stone age. Homesteading doesn’t have to mean giving up modern life exactly. Consider it a departure from consumerism and a move towards a more natural and sustainable life which leads on to the next question…

So what are we planning on doing with this life?

We are planning on living a more sustainable life: Nurture, grow, consume and preserve our own food and provide for our own utilities that supplement, reduce or remove our dependence on mainstream and municipally provided services. With ever increasing monthly costs and service fees (a.k.a. utilities, grocery bills, etc.) we are tied to an ever increasing demand for money. The ever present and ever increasing need for money keeps us on the treadmill of the rat race that despite the constant distraction and brainwashing that “bigger, better and more stuff = success”, ¬†gradually erodes your will to live. It also puts our lives in the hands of companies that really only want one thing – our money. They don’t have our best interests at heart and they certainly don’t care about us. In the event of an emergency, trusting others to provide for your needs without having a backup plan is short sighted at best. Having municipal services is super convenient, but it’s expensive and if push comes to shove, have they really got your back? To them you are just a number.

Of course, we understand that we can’t replace money. There will still be things we need to pay for that are impractical for us to produce ourselves – there’s only so much time in a day and not everything is interesting or fun to produce yourself… and property taxes will still need to be paid – I don’t suppose they can be paid for in chickens and eggs. As such there will be some need for the homestead to be profitable, or one (or both) of us will need to maintain enough income in the very least to support some kind of outside life. Everyone needs a break from life occasionally – even if just for a few hours, and this all costs money. We have been formulating a plan for this, but it’s not formed well enough to talk about just yet. Watch this spaceūüôā

Wow! That’s my dream, but I can’t do it because X…

It saddens me to find so many people so afraid of failure that they use excuses not to try things they would dearly love to try. Perhaps I’m not perceptive enough to see that these are really just conversation fillers, perhaps people don’t want to do them at all, they just don’t want to knock down our ideas; or perhaps they genuinely believe they can’t and just use excuses for why they don’t, I really have no idea.

If we, by all accounts the laziest two people any of our friends and family know can do this, then this will be a walk in the park for you. Stop not living your dream. If we can do it, anyone can do it.

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

– We Bought A Zoo

Life and Loss

Today I discovered that one of our 3.5 week old babies from our first litter of Rex Rabbits had died. It was the runt of the litter and was half the size of its litter-mates. I know we need to be prepared for this sort of thing in this new life of ours but its still pretty sad. Theory is one thing, reality is another. I am thankful that the first experience with this was a bunny as opposed to a larger animal down the road.


Many people do a necropsy (autopsy on an animal) when their animals pass to figure out why it happened but I just don’t think I can bring myself to do this. Maybe in the future when I am a bit more desensitized perhaps.

Thankfully the other 5 babies look happy and healthy and huge.

On a happier note, we had our second litter last Friday and those 4 look good so far!


The Dreaded ‘F’ Word

Despite crossing all our fingers and all our toes, we got the dreaded frost warning last Friday night! As if our little seedlings hadn’t had enough of a tumultuous start, adding a little potentially fatal frost to the mix could have been the final straw for them. Luckily I got the warning in time and I was able to hit our local dollar store to stock up on supplies.


I had a hard time deciding what the best protector would be between regular plastic drop cloth, a white synthetic woven fabric and silver reflective emergency blankets. After careful consideration I chose the emergency blankets because I figured that if they could keep people warm, they would be the best bet to not only retain heat in the soil but also shield the tender plants from the frost coming down from above.

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I bought a bunch of short metal trellises that were about 12 inches high (roughly 30 cm) to span the length of each of the raised beds and some mini hoop style stakes for the pots. The idea with these were to be able to keep the emergency blankets up and off the plants so that they were not touching.

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We gathered and grouped all the pots and trees together to make them easier to cover and we figured they would stay warmer huddled together.

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We worked frantically to cover everything and it took a lot longer than we thought it would. We opened the packages, draped them over and taped them down like presents to the sides of the beds with a removable clear packing tape. They were not air tight but they were 100 % covered if that makes sense and once again there was no contact between the blankets and the plants. We finished up, crossed out fingers, hoped like hell my plan worked and went to bed. I woke up at 4 am and peeked out the window to make sure all the covers were still on as there ware high winds that night and thankfully they were all in tact. One of the benefits to the reflective silver material was that it was easy to see in the moonlight.

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I am thrilled to report that when we took the covers of at 8 am (once the temp had risen past 3 degrees), everything looked as good as it did the night before! Miraculously we got away unscathedūüôā Hopefully that is the first and last we time we will have to deal with the dreaded ‘F’ word…

Emergency Planting Day

After the beating that our little seedlings took, we did our best to nurse them back to life but there was only so much we could do in the little peat moss pods they were in. They needed more help in the way of nutrients.

The common wisdom in our area is that you should wait until after May 24th to plant due to the risk of frost. Our little seedlings however were threatening to give up their last breath of life by mid May so after a great debate we decided to get them into their new fancy square foot garden beds on May 16th. We knew there was a risk of frost but if we left them any longer there would be nothing to plant. Our tomatoes were particularly precarious.


We have 11 beds measuring 6 x 3 ft and a number of fibre pots that we used as well. We used a garden planner by the Farmers Almanac which you can find here and just went with their free trial to see what we thought. When I started, I laid out the whole property and attempted to make it all look lovely but in the end I found it cumbersome and tricky to move things around in the SFG (square foot garden) mode. So I eventually just left the layout in a scattered mess and just worked with the contents of each bed to be able to make sure I was using all the available plants we had.


We used large 18 inch fibre pots to plant the things that are sprawling that would otherwise require mounds like pumpkins, squashes and melons. We also used the fibre pots for things that are invasive like mint and some other herbs. the rest went into the beds. We went with fibre over plastic to cut down on the chemical leeching and, believe it or not they will likely last longer than plastic in our climate. Plastic frequently cracks with big temperature shifts and if you empty the dirt out of the fibre pots each year they will apparently last 2-3 seasons. As you can see in the picture, we also placed the pots on pea gravel to make sure they are not sitting in moisture which would speed up their decay.


Thankfully it was a long weekend because it took a few days to get everything set up the way we wanted. In the end we are pleased with our efforts and are looking forward to watching it all come to life. We are now working on the cedar plant markers to get everything finalized. Yay!


Deluge + Dehydration = Disaster

Washing machine flood + already damp basement + dehumidifier to get rid of some of the overwhelming moisture = disaster for our seedlings under grow lights in the basement workshopūüė¶

We followed all the seed packets and started our plants when required. We lovingly planted and marked all the trays and watered them carefully. We installed 24 ft of grow lights to nurture them to greatness ahead of the big planting day.

Then disaster struck. Our circa 1982 washing machine that is rigged to drain into a wash tub where the water gets piped into a sump pump and out into our backyard as grey water decided to throw a temper tantrum. I think technically it was the laundry tub plumbing (that lacks a clean-out) that had a fit but I digress. Thankfully Chief Troublemaker has good ears and heard something ‘funny’ in the basement as it was happening and dashed to the disaster with a plunger and some colourful language. We managed to get it sorted out and decided to turn on the dehumidifier to help get rid of the excess water that had been absorbed by the old concrete floor and the nooks and crannies that we could not get to. After cleaning up the mess we patted ourselves on the back and went to bed. The following day I emptied about 4L or 1g of water out of the machine and left it running as the floor still looked far too damp to leave it.

The day following that, I was due to water the seedlings and it was like a bad horror movie as I removed the reflective tin foil that I rigged to keep all of that light focused on the plants. All the plants had had the life force sucked right out of them by the dehumidifier! OMG!!


I quickly brought them upstairs, took them out onto the front porch, administered some water and left them sitting in the sunlight, hoping, praying and willing them back to life. They say time heals all wounds – I wonder if that applies to plants. Fingers crossed!!


The Magic of Dirt

I never knew there was so much to know about soil! We have come at this ‘gardening thing’ with as much wisdom as one might expect from a pair of city folk who can barely keep a window box of pansies alive. To say I had black thumbs would have been optimistic!

A lot of research went into selecting our soil blend for this year and once we had our ideal mix we had to figure out where to get all the ingredients which was a bit of a challenge too.

Because we are doing square foot gardening, we needed a very specific blend of growing medium to allow the plants to thrive in such tight quarters. The limitations of normal soil are that you need to set the plants according to the directions on the seed packets or the tags on the seedlings. Square foot gardening allows you to plant almost anything in 1 square foot. For instance, a tomato plant would normally require 2 – 3 ft of space between rows but in square ft gardening they can be planted much closer together at 1 ft apart. The way to make this work is by using a blend of growing mediums that is very high in nutrients, very light and airy, very high in water retention yet very efficient with drainage.

If you dig around on the internet you can find lots of great info about square foot gardening. For sq/ft gardening most people use a blend of growing medium called ‘Mel’s Mix’ named after its creator Mel Bartholomew which is 1 part vermiculite, 1 part peat moss and 1 part composted manure form as many sources as possible (5 recommended). This blend is great for many reasons 1 – its weed free, 2 – its very light and fluffy which makes germination and root development super easy for the plant, 3 – it is very high in nutrients from all the compost, 4 – it retains just the right amount of water and 5 – its drains extremely well making it nearly impossible to drown your plants. If you follow this recipe, Mel Bartholomew says that you only need your beds to be 6 inches deep to grow just about anything. Amazing!

After placing each bed lengthwise in the direction of the travel of the sun to give everything as much sunlight as possible, we filled each bed with 5 inches of triple mix as a base. We had this brought in by truck from a local garden centre and dropped in our driveway. Each bag of soil or compost from the store is usually about 30 litres and there are 27 of those bags in each square yard. It is a bit confusing with the overlap of the metric and imperial math systems when it comes to garden products in this country! It is much cheaper to buy ‘by the yard’ so try and do that wherever you can. We used a calculator to figure out how many yards of triple mix we needed to fill each of our 11 beds to 5 inches – about 1/3 of a yard per bed.

After we got that all put in, we set to task on blending the growing medium. We had some trouble finding course vermiculite so we ended up using perlite instead which is similar. We used 1/3 perlite, 1/6 peat moss, 1/6 triple mix comprised of humus, compost and peat moss and 1/3 compost from cattle, sheep and rabbit. We will be watering with worm casting tea and rabbit manure tea throughout the growing season too. Technically we should have used a couple more varieties of compost but we were limited to what we could find.

We put all the components, (measured by volume not by weight) onto a 10 x 12 tarp and mixed it by pulling corners of the tarp in different directions to fold the ingredients into each other. From there we loaded it into the beds and gave it a good watering to set it. Then we fell over, exhausted and high-fived each other. Yay team!


Building Our Garden Boxes

After careful consideration we have decided to go with raised square foot garden beds for the majority of our plants this year. We don’t know what is in the ground here or what this land has been treated with in previous years so in our bid to keep things as organic as possible, we decided to start with the best soil mix possible.


For the beds themselves we decided to use cedar deck boards as they are not chemically treated like pressure treated wood is and cedar is naturally resistant to rot and decay. As cedar ‘ain’t cheap’, the most economical configuration we could come up with was to use 6 ft deck boars that are 1 in thick. For the corner braces we bought cedar 2 x 4s and cut them lengthwise to create 2 x 2s. Our local lumber yards do not sell cedar 2 x 2s or we would have bought them.

As for size, initially we were going to create 6 x 6 ft beds but after some advice from family members we ended up making them 6 x 3 ft to make reaching and tending to the middle plants easier. Now that they are all built, we sure are glad we listened to that advice! 6 x 6 s would have been monstrous.

We used 6 deck boards and and 2 linear feet of 2 x 4 (creating 4 x 1 ft lengths of 2 x 2 ft pieces) per box and they were put together with deck screws. The long sides required 2 full boards and the short sides used 2 boards cut in half.

Because milled lumber is smaller than its dimensions, the beds ended up being 11 inches deep (2 x 5.5 in boards together) and .75 in thick. This leaves a 1 inch overhang of the 1 ft corner support pieces which we left intentionally. These were placed down toward the ground to help anchor the beds in place in the lawn.


What’s in Your Orchard?

Having never planted a fruit tree in our lives, we had both a huge learning curve to overcome and a world of possibilities to explore. We started by checking the online gardening guides to see what would grow in our zone to make our initial list of possibilities and then we hit our local nurseries to see what we could buy from our list. Just like our veggie selections, we made our decisions on what to grow based on what we eat from all the potential varieties that will grow here. We looked at the options with two thoughts in mind – what we normally eat and what we could process or preserve into other products. For instance, we are growing black currants which we normally would not eat raw but it will make some delicious jam down the road.

The next hurdle was to figure out how we could plant things so that we could take them with us when we move because as many of you know, this is a transitional property for us. We ended up planting the apple, pear and cherry trees in the ground and we used heavy duty Rubbermaid totes and bins to plant the others. We carefully drilled drainage holes in the bottom of the bins and this weekend we will place them in a more permanent spot in the yard on top of some pea gravel to allow for even better drainage. The soil mix we used was one part triple mix, one part composted sheep manure, one part composted cattle manure, one part peat moss and one part perlite. We will water with worm casting tea and rabbit manure tea regularly to add even more nutrients and are planning on adding a layer of mulch on top of the soil to help retain moisture.

So here is what we decide on…..

A grafted apple tree that will produce 5 varieties….

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A grafted pear tree that will produce 5 varieties….

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A Bing cherry tree….


Two kinds of raspberries….

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Three kinds of blueberries….

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Blackberries and black currants….

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And 3 fruit trees, Persian Lime, Meyer Lemon and Tangerine….



I will be starting 2 mango trees and an avocado tree from seed this week and we have 20 strawberry plants ready to be planted in the next day or two as well.

Our plan is to construct a greenhouse before the winter to move the tropical fruit trees indoors but if we don’t get that done, we can always bring them into the house.

How To Build The Mother Of All Picnic Tables

So this weekend we sat down to have a fire in our backyard fire pit. It was the first fire of the year and to say we were prepared would be a gross exaggeration, even though we’d like to think we’re always preparedūüėÄ

It was an impromptu affair, in¬†fact, it was only really as we were building the fire we realized we had precious little in the way of food in the house that was fire worthy. This would either require a trip to the grocery store, which neither of us had the motivation for or grilled cheese sandwiches made on a hot plate/grill over the fire, so that is what was had – only to realize as we were cooking them we had nowhere to sit and eat them – hence this weekend’s project.

So with an idea partially formed – and by partially formed, I mean Her Craziness had some concoction of an idea in her head, we headed to Home Depot. They had a picnic table kit out front which we found too small at 5 ft as it would only have sat 4 people. It was also untreated spruce which would call for paint or sealant to prevent rotting and it looked a bit tippy so we gave it a miss. In we went to figure out how to build us the mother of all picnic tables! We stared aimlessly at a bunch of wood trying to decide which pieces would work best and ended up grabbing a bunch of lumber that we hoped would be suitable and headed back home to build. Sounds painless so far but by now it was 10:30 at night and we had spent over 3 hours in there designing the plan in our heads and picking all the lumber.

I’m going to spare you the agony of driving back and forth to get pieces of wood you were short (like I did), or returning a bunch of lumber you didn’t use (which we always plan to, but never do). I’m also going to help you keep waste lumber down to a¬†minimum (again something I seem to lack the ability to plan for¬†ahead of time – I’m hoping with time and planning, we¬†can curb¬†excess purchases and waste). Hopefully my instructions are simple enough that even a novice can build it – after all, the building¬†bit is much¬†easier once you’ve figured out all the math.


Onward! Here’s what you’re gonna need:


We recommend using either pressure treated lumber of Cedar to make sure that your table lasts for years out in the elements. If you use any other type of would you will need to treat it with paint or sealant to protect it from rotting in the wet weather.

  • 5 x 2″ x 8″ x 10′ ¬†for table surface
  • 2 x 2″ x 12″ x 10′ ¬†for seat surfaces
  • 3 x 2″ x 6″ x 10′ for ¬†table and seat¬†supports
  • 2 x 2″ x 6″ x 8′ ¬†for legs
  • 3 x 2″ x 4″ x 8′ ¬†for lateral¬†bracing
  • 24 x 3/8″ x 3.5″ ¬†narrow¬†thread galvanized carriage bolts
  • 24 x 3/8″ ¬†narrow¬†thread galvanized locking nuts
  • 48 x 3/8″ ¬†galvanized washers
  • 62 x 2 1/2″ ¬†deck screws


    • Eye protection, safety glasses or safety goggles
    • A mitre saw capable of handling cutting up of 6″ wood if you’re going to get the shop to cut your bigger pieces to size, or 12″ wood if you’re going to do it all yourself. If you have one already: Awesome; if you don’t and you’re on a tight budget, I’d recommend either renting one for a couple of hours (realistically, you can get all the cuts you need done in under 15 minutes) or Ryobi have some smoking deals on just now. I’m all for the big expensive tools, but you’re not building a house. No point in pushing the boat out for such minor projects.
    • A Robertson screw driver for the deck screws. Any old drill with a suitably selected Robertson bit will suffice. I don’t recommend driving these in by hand unless you’ve got excess energy and the patience of a saint.
    • A 23/64″ drill bit (I know, the carriage bolts are 3/8″, but a tighter hole will make for a more robust bench).
    • A hammer to bang the carriage bolts through the hole that’s ever so slightly too small for them.
    • A couple of wrenches capable of doing up the carriage bolts and nuts. One adjustable wrench, a socket attachment for your drill and the suitable socket is highly recommended. Save yourself some effort.
    • An accurate tape measure
    • A pencil (and if you’re a clutz like me, a pencil sharpener)
    • A copy of our super awesome design plans.
Picnic Bench
Click here for high resolution plan

So, now that you know what you need, here’s some tips I’ve learned about selecting your supplies during the process of building our table:

      1. Make sure that all the wood is as ‘true’ (straight) as you can reasonably find – this means if you lay it on a flat surface there should be minimal bowing or cupping and if you put your foot on either end, there should be little in the way of flexing or rocking. The way most people check if a board is ‘true’ is to put one end of the board on the ground and bring the other end up to your eye. Look right down the length of the board on all sides and see if you can spot any warping, twisting or bending. You want to select the absolute straightest boards possible.
      2. Wood naturally has a slight cup to the grain. If you look at the end, you can see a curved nap in the grain which will lead to the wood having one convex surface and one concave. When you select the pieces for your table top, the cup should curve so that the concave face is down to the floor. Many boards have a pretty side and an ugly side so make sure that the convex side is the pretty side facing up or the wood will cup upwards and none of your plates will sit flat on the table which will make you slightly crazy in the long run. We learned this the hard way and now I have a surplus piece of 2″ x 8″ x 10′ which will have to wait until our next project because the right side or convex side was an unsightly mess.
      3. The wood for the supports are much shorter pieces so you can be less picky about selecting them, they just need to be reasonably true – true enough to afford a comfortably flat table surface. The rule of thumb is, the longer the board you need, the truer the board needs to be. For example a 10 ft table top piece needs to be much more true than a 10 ft board that you will end up cutting into 2 ft pieces.
      4. The wood dimensions on the label aren’t the actual dimensions, weird, we know. Weirder still is that the bigger the piece of wood, the more incorrect the size is. Here is an explanation¬†as to why that is. Wood below the 6″ mark – i.e. 2″ x 6″ comes in at 1/2″ smaller in both dimensions. So 2″ x 6″ lumber is actually 1 1/2″ x 5 1/2″. Wood above the 6″ mark comes in at 3/4″ less in that dimension – 2″ x 8″ is actually 1 1/2″ x 7 1/4″; 2″ x 10″ is actually 1 1/2″ x 9 1/4″. If you don’t account for this when you’re designing stuff, you’re going to wonder why nothing fits how it did on paper and you’re going to be left scratching your head wondering why all your perfect math doesn’t work when it’s not on paper. That’s why.
      5. If you’re lazy like I am, take your table and bench surface boards to the cut shop at the lumber store and have them cut there. They’ll measure them to the correct length and you’ll have less work to do when you get home. Get all your 10′ boards cut so they’re all perfectly the same length. I found that our 10′ boards varied in length between 1/16″ to 1/2″ over 10′. You only really need to worry about the boards for your table and bench surfaces as they’re they only ones that need to be perfectly the same length. Most big box hardware stores will charge $1 per cut or thereabouts – well worth the hassle of manhandling heavy oversize pieces.
      6. Make sure all your washers fit on the carriage bolts and that the nuts actually fit the bolts before leaving the store or you may get home to find a number of them don’t fit which will be frustrating. I noticed¬†that there were a bunch of wide thread nuts and bolts mixed in with the narrow thread. You can’t mix and match nuts and bolts, a narrow thread nut will only fit a narrow thread bolt and vice versa.
      7. It’s cheaper to buy boxes of washers by the pound (lb) than it is to buy 48 individual washers. Weird but true. You’ll have surplus which will¬†be useful for other projects.


Okay, so now we’ve got our supplies. On to cutting it all up:

The cuts

Here’s the best way I figured to cut it up so you have the least amount of waste and still get all the pieces you need. Put on your protective safety glasses or safety goggles and go!

  • Put the pieces for your table surface and seat surface to one side. If you had them cut at the shop, there’s no cutting required. If you didn’t, just measure them all and ensure they’re all exactly 120″ (10′). If not, cut them down to size.
  • Take your 3 pieces of 2″x 6″ x 10″s and cut them so you have 1 x 73″ length and 1 x 38″ length. This will leave you with a little under 9″ of waste from each piece (the mitre saw doesn’t cut a perfect laser line, meaning you need to account for the thickness of the blade itself so you lose about 1/16″ to 1/32″ each cut depending on your blade.) These are your bench and table supports. You can either cut these square (as I did) or mitre them at opposing 38¬į angles to look pretty. Double check your mitre angle before you cut, you can’t undo a cut!!
  • Take your 3 pieces of 2″x6″x8′. Mitre the end of the wood at 38¬į. This will serve as the foot of the leg. Mitre in the same direction at 36 11/64″. This will put your table surface (once you include the width of the 2″x8″x10′ for the surface at a standard 30″ dining table height). You will be able to get 2 legs out of each piece of wood for a total of 6 legs taking approximately 80 11/16″, leaving a bit under 16″ of waste (if you were to square off the end).
  • Take your 2 pieces of 2″x4″x8′. Mitre the end of the wood at 18¬į. Mitre in the same direction at 40 11/64″. You will get 2 braces out of each of your pieces of wood for a total of 4 braces, leaving you with approximately 13″ of waste from each piece of 2×4.



Alright! The hard part’s done, let’s get it all put together so you can have your picnic!

  1. Take your table supports and mark the centre point on each.
  2. Take your bench supports and mark them at 12″ from either end along with the centre point. The 12″ mark is where the edge of the leg will cross the bench support.
  3. Take a table support and bench support and place them such that the top of the table support sits parallel with the bench support exactly 7.5″ apart with the centre points lined up.
  4. Lay the legs such that they’re square with the top of table surface support and bisect the bench support with outside edge crossing the 12″ mark. If you’ve done all your cuts right, the bottom of the leg should be square under the outside edge of the bench support which will prevent the bench from tipping even if a giant sits down at it. The underside of the table surface will sit 28.5″ above¬†the ground and the top of the seat support will sit at 15.5″ above the ground, making the final table surface and bench surface¬†at 30″ and 17″ respectively.
  5. Drill holes for your carriage bolts. I suggest offsetting the carriage bolts by 52¬į (this doesn’t need to be exact). This way they will avoid running through the same grain in either board which will make the whole structure more robust. Put a washer on the bolt before you drive it through the hole and then another washer on the other side before the nut.
  6. Repeat steps 3 through 5 for each of the trestles.
  7. Take one of your trestles and lay it so that the horizontal pieces are facing up towards you. Attach a cross-brace to the trestle such that the top of the brace sits flush with the top of the table support with the centre mark to one side and slopes in a downward direction as if towards the seat brace of the next trestle. Attach the brace to the trestle by drilling diagonally down through the brace and into the trestle. Do this with 2 screws.
  8. Take another of your cross braces and attach it so that the bottom of the brace sits flush with the bottom of the seat support with the centre mark to the opposite side of the first brace. Attach the brace in the same manner as you did with the first by drilling diagonally through the brace and into the trestle. Again, do this with 2 screws.
  9. Attach the braces together with 2 more screws.
  10. Follow steps 7 through 9 for your second set of braces.
  11. Now you have 2 braces assembled and each attached 1 trestle.
  12. Attach the last remaining trestle to one of these assemblies ensuring that the horizontal supports are inwards towards the braces and the diagonal legs facing out for the world to see. Attach each of the braces with 2 more screws using the diagonal screw technique.
  13. Now you’re at a point where you should take each of the pieces you’ve assembled along with your table and bench surfaces to the location you want to set it up because once you’ve assembled it all into one piece, it’s going to be fairly heavy.
  14. Attach the two trestle assemblies together using the same diagonal screw technique.
  15. Now you should be at a point where you have a free standing structure to attach the table top and benches to. You’ll also note that it appears remarkably shorter than the 10′ pieces of wood you have left. In fact it is 3 feet shorter – 18″ on either end. The reason for this is that there’s nothing more annoying than being the guy who has to squeeze in on the end of the picnic table and has to sit astride the leg. 18″ is a comfortable amount of room to sit and eat without this discomfort.
  16. Attach the outside table surface boards first so that they both sit flush with the supports. Screw it into each support using 2 screws. If you don’t want screws showing, use the same diagonal screw technique we used for the braces to drill up through the braces and into the surface. If you don’t care so much, just drill down through the table surface into the supports. I suggest marking with a pencil above the centre point of each trestle so all your screws line up neatly.
  17. Mark the centre point of your other boards close to each end of the board.
  18. Line up the centre point of your next board at the centre point of your trestles – 19″ from each side of your bench. This will ensure it’s at the centre of your table. Attach the board to each of the trestles using the same technique used for the side boards.
  19. Line up your remaining table surface boards so that the space is even between each of the boards. If my math is correct, this should put the centre points at approximately 10 56/64″ from either side and the middle of your table surface.
  20. Line up your bench surfaces with the side of the seat support. This should leave approximately a 3/4″ gap from where the leg crosses the bench support. This helps prevent small children from getting food jammed down in a groove it’s hard to clean out of.
  21. Grab 11 of your closest friends and family and enjoy!

Congratulations on your new picnic bench. Thanks for sticking with us. We hope you enjoy yours as much as we’re going to enjoy oursūüôā



*While we have done our very best to ensure all these measurements are accurate, please double check your own math for your own project. We cannot be held responsible for the success or failure of anyone else’s construction projects, safety, measurements or materials. This information is intended as a guide only.

Our First Litter!!

This morning we awoke to our very first litter of bunnies! Big Mama delivered 6 kits, 5 solid colour, 1 broken – not sure if they are black or blue yet but I guess we will find out soon enough.

I pulled out the nestbox to make sure they were all alive and in good shape and they are doing very well. She seems to be a good mother so far and is tolerating inquisitive check ins from the kids and Spaghetti, our cat.

I am more than just a little excited!!

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Our Dainty Does

Our doe set up is a bit different than our buck set up and that is mainly due to the fact that they live in our carport (for now). I wanted them in there mainly because with them all being pregnant, I wanted to keep them a bit closer to keep an eye on them. We did not put a roof on their hutch because they are already under shelter, we have used hardware cloth to catch and funnel the manure into a 5 gallon pail and a tarp below that to funnel the urine into a different 5 gallon pail. This makes cleaning up after them a breeze. They have the same grey boxes as the bucks too.

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There are 4 cages built onto a wood frame and the cages are just over 4.25 ft (1.3 m) off the ground. The whole thing is on castors to make it easy to move around for access and cleaning too which is great. The feeders, waterers and hay mangers are on one side and the access doors are on the opposite side. We thought this was going to be beneficial but it turns out that it is not an ideal arrangement – hence the design modification when we built the buck hutch with everything on one side.


We have 4 does at present:

Big Mama, a Broken Blue (white with dark grey spots) was our first doe and she is due to deliver a litter of kits (babies) this Saturday. We are more than a little excited!! She was bred to Young Buck, our Broken Blue Castor buck.


Here she is starting to build her nest. Rabbits normally have a 31 day gestation period but she is really big so I think she might have a rather large litter on the way and might deliver a bit early. Just a hunch. Normally they don’t start building their nest until a day or two before but she started yesterday and is not officially due until Saturday.



Spotty, a Broken Chocolate (white with dark brown spots) who is due to deliver her first litter on May 15th. She was bred to Opie, the Opal buck.


Dove is a Blue Magpie (white and light grey mix) and she is due to deliver her first litter on May 16th.She was bred to Opie as well, our Opal buck.


Caramel is a Broken Red (white with light brown spots) who is due May 24th. She was bred to Young Buck, our Broken Blue Castor buck.



We are pretty sure that they are all successfully bred as all the breeding sessions were supervised and there was at least 4 fall offs (successful attempts). For the seasoned Cuniculturist (working rabbit breeder) successfully palpating the doe (pressing on the abdomen to feel for pea sized lumps that are the kits) at about 12-14 days to confirm pregnancy is easy but I cannot seem to get the hang of it yet. Time will tell how successful we are this month!

Bringin’ home the Bucks (Rabbits)

Our rabbitry is in full swing here on Our Crazy Homestead! Our goal with the rabbits is to try our hand with animal husbandry for the production of meat, fur, feed, fertilizer and potentially show and/or pet quality stock for sale. Once we get North we want to have cows, pigs, goats, sheep and maybe a few other types of livestock so starting with rabbits is as good a experiment to see how we as a family handle the idea of raising livestock for these purposes.

We decided on a breed of rabbit called ‘Rex’ which comes in standard or mini varieties. Around here, all I can seem to find are Mini Rex so that is what we are beginning with. The Rex breed originated in France about 100 years ago and are famous for their amazingly soft fur. To say they are softer than velvet does not even do them justice. You can read more about the breed here.

Most people use either New Zealand Whites of Flemish Giants as meat breeds but we thought long and hard about wanting to raise them in order to fully use all parts of the animal so that nothing was wasted and the fur was a big consideration. The fur will be used in various projects, the meat will be eaten by us and our other animals, the blood and manure will be used in fertilizers and the bones and entrails will be used as livestock feed. Absolutely nothing will go to waste which is vitally important to us.

I have to admit that even though my rational brain knows that everything we buy in the grocery store comes from animals just like ours (yet raised in likely deplorable conditions, unlike ours) it has still been a major mental leap for us. We know that we want organically and humanely raised animals and we also know the we want to be self sustainable in the long term but going from concept to reality has been tough.

Here is our buck (male) set up which is built differently from the doe (female) set up. I still need to staple on the poop catchment mesh underneath that will funnel the manure into a 5 gallon pail. We keep them separated because the bucks spray everywhere which gets messy so those guys live in the backyard where they can spray to their heart’s content. We currently have 3 bucks which is more than we need (1 would do) but I want to experiment with colours. It is very hard to predict the offspring colours ¬†because without impeccable breeding records, you don’t know if the traits you like in an animal are the dominant or recessive genes and what will become of them once you introduce the genes of the other parent.


Here is our eldest buck ‘Old Boy’ who is a Broken Blue:
(He is dark grey and white)


Here is ‘Young Buck’ who is a Broken Blue Otter:
(He has some brown tinges along with his grey and white features)


Here is our youngest ‘Opie’ who is an Opal:
(He is a dark greyish taupe colour with white underbelly)


We have 4 does (females) and will try breeding all combinations before deciding on which buck or bucks will go. It does not make financial sense to have more bucks than you need in a breeding operation because they just end up costing you money.

Their hutch was built using a 1 in x 1 in (2 1/2 cm x 2 1/2 cm) hardware cloth for the top and sides and 1/2 in x 1/2 in (1 1/4 cm x 1 1/4 cm) hardware cloth for the floor. The panels are clipped together using ‘J clips’. The metal cages are all attached and are sitting inside the wooden shelter that is made of pressure treated lumber. The doors on the front are J-clipped onto the cage on the bottom and are closed at the top corners using mini carabiner clips I found at the hardware store. The roof is made of chipboard and covered with cedar shakes (shingles) to protect them¬†from the weather, and they also have the added protection of a tree which offers shade. We put large stabilizing skis on the bottom of it to help prevent it from tipping in the wind.


Note: You might notice 4 rabbits in this pic. It was taken while I was waiting for Young Buck to breed with Caramel, one of our does.


They each have a waterer, a hay manger, a large feeder, a pad to stand on to allow them time off the wire (rest their feet) and a fancy grey hideout filled with hay. We learned the hard way that it is really important to protect any exposed wood ¬†by covering it with hardware cloth so that they don’t chew it (more on that in the next post about the Does). They are fed with rabbit pellets from our local feed store, lots of apple tree branches from our neighbors mini orchard, unlimited hay and pine cones as treats. Water is of course available to them at all times too.


Rabbits do well in various kinds of weather as long as they can stay dry and out of the wind. This shelter we built offers protection from both and come next winter we will only need to make some minor modifications to keep them happy during the coldest months. It is also worth mentioning that they don’t enjoy excessive heat either so lots of shade and good airflow are vital in the hot summer months. Our set up offers that too.

They are high up off the ground – 4 1/2 feet to be exact and this is for a few reasons: 1. keeps them safer from predators, 2. keeps them safer from parasites and illnesses they can contract from ground contact and 3. allows us to harvest manure very easily that we can use in our garden beds and also sell. Rabbit Manure is amazing stuff – many gardeners prefer it to miracle grow, it’s all natural and best of all there is no smell to it. It is a cold manure meaning that is does not need to be composted before being used in your gardens – just toss it right in with your soil mix for amazing results.

So there you have it, our bucks and their new homeūüôā

The Golden Girls

To say its been a busy month here on Our Crazy Homestead might just be the biggest understatement of all time. We have been working very long days in order to try to get as many of our ‘systems’ going as quickly as possible in the hopes that we can get to full capacity and realize a full bounty this summer.

It has been almost 2 weeks now since our laying hens ‘The Golden Girls’ (Blanche, Dorothy and Rose) arrived and it has been great. I have never been a bird person and in fact I have spent my life being afraid of all things that fly so it was a big mental leap to welcome them into my life. I am happy to report though that not only do I not mind them here, I actually really, really like them. I enjoy going out each morning to open the hen-house, give them treats and I even talk to them!! I can’t help myself and it amazes me that they seem to talk back with all their chicken mutterings and sounds. Its like having a group of old ladies yakking away telling stories in a knitting circle or something. It’s truly charming and they are a breeze to take care of.

IMG_5333After all my careful research on breeds we ended up going for Red Sexlink hens as this breed are easy keepers for first timers and they are prolific egg layers which is why we wanted them in the first place. We were limited by the selection offered by our local hatchery too so we had about 6 breeds to choose from. We went with 3 even though our town only technically lets you have 2, figuring that the guy down the street with about 20 is a good indicator of how strict the rules are around here. Our neighbors are on board with our plans and that is really what you need to worry about – a bylaw officer is not just going to happen into your backyard and will usually leave you alone unless someone makes a complaint. We will just give the neighbors a few eggs from time to time and keep our fingers crossed that everyone leaves us alone.

IMG_5335The hardest part of getting into chickens was building their coop by far as we did not buy a kit and we did not work from a plan. We looked at a few ready-made ones which were cute but not suitable for successful year round use here in Ontario Canada with our brutal winters. We wanted something very predator proof as we have Coy-wolves here and also something properly insulated so that it would protect them year round. We also wanted a design with an open bottom that we would not have to clean so we constructed a ‘Chicken Tractor’ that gets moved once per week around our backyard. All of their droppings fertilize the grass, they help to control the bug population and they lay fresh eggs as they go – win, win, win!! I should note that in these pictures we placed the tractor on top of an area that had no grass to begin with. They must have had a pool there or something last year. The plan is to have the ladies fertilize here first and then we will lay some grass seed soon.

IMG_5339The hen-house is 3 ft x 4 ft (roughly 1 m x 1.2 m) inside with 2 nest boxes that are built off the back wall. It is 4 ft (1.2 m) high in the front and 3 ft (1 m) high in the back with a cedar shake roof. There is one perch inside it for the moment but we may add another one as they keep wanting to roost (sleep) in the nest boxes which is not good. The nest boxes should only be for laying eggs as chickens poop a lot while they sleep and you don’t want nest boxes full of poop or you end up with dirty eggs. Each night when we put them to bed we lift them out of the nest boxes and onto their perch to try to train them but I’m not sure if it is working yet. This week we will be raising the divider and installing curtains on their boxes to help deter them from sleeping in there too.

Their coop (outdoor space) is 4 ft x 8 ft (1.2 m x 2.4 m) and is enclosed on the top and sides with 14 gauge 1 in x 1 in wire mesh. I have a couple of old shelves sitting on the roof of it in one corner to offer them some shade until I figure out a more permanent solution. The whole thing is designed to be heavy enough that it cannot be moved by predators but light enough that 2 physically able people can move it by the side handles around the yard.  They have a metal auto water dispenser as well as a metal auto feed dispenser in there too. The water lives outside to keep the humidity levels down inside as too much humidity is harmful to chickens. For the moment I have it sitting on a couple of pieces of insulation to help keep the cold ground from freezing it on the colder nights.  The organic feed lives inside to keep it dry and safe from mice at night. The ladies would be most delighted I am sure if a mouse came in looking for food as they would likely eat it! Many people do not realize that chickens are omnivores so they eat meat as well as grubs and bugs and anything they can catch really.   [Editor: Chickens are apparently more closely related to T-Rex than raptors are Р] There are hinged roofs on both the main house and the nest boxes for access and there is a Plexiglas door between the indoor and outdoor spaces that gets closed at dusk when the chickens put themselves to bed and opened as soon as we get up. The plan in the future is to automate this but we are not there yet.

IMG_5345They have unlimited access to their organic layer feed and we give them treats as well. Today for instance, they got carrots and cilantro and on the weekend they got a part of a rabbit carcass which they enjoyed. So far we have been getting 2 eggs per day consistently but I am trilled to report that today is our first 3 egg day!!

Reblog: Peepers and Chookies

Given that our chickens are going to be arriving in 7 days (Eeek!) and we have to build our hen house this week, I’m starting to read up on chickens and the various things we can expect to see out of ours when they arrive. I was particularly interested to find that you can “work out” broody chickens when you’re not allowed roosters [as we’re not in our area] by giving them fertilized eggs to hatch. You can read more about it¬†below…

AAaaad we’re in!

It has been a long couple of weeks but we are officially out of the old and into the new. If you have been following along you already know that this new place has what they call ‘great bones’ and a great piece of property but beyond that it is what you might call ‘a disaster’. Every room in this house needed drywall repair and a coat of paint at the very least and some rooms needed a lot more work than others.

The house has 3 bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, a bathroom and a rather unbecoming hallway. So far we have redone all the bedrooms, the living room, the kitchen and the bathroom. The hallway is is an atrocious mix of peeling blue floral wallpaper, extreme stucco, discount style Acoustic_Ceil_287_DJF_RNswainscoting and blue carpet that is likely a couple of decades old. The dining room is replete with ominous wood paneling stained to look like dark wood, a broken 9 ft wide picture window, an unframed/unfinished ¬†additional window and some acoustic ceiling panels (which may contain asbestos ¬†we have discovered) that some 1970’s basement somewhere is mourning the loss of.¬†Needless to say we saved the best for last.

Like any good renovation, the moment you go to try and complete one job you realize that that is connected to 3 other jobs that need completing before you can get the first one done. Its like the song that never ends.

Besides all of the usual planned tasks like repairing walls, painting, organizing and unpacking, this house offers all kinds of other jobs you never even thought possible like…

Last night I spent an hour cleaning the washing machine and dryer. Yes an hour. Yes, the machines that are supposed to clean your clothes. The washer is a decades old top loading machine with an agitator that is designed to hold fabric softener and when I pulled that piece out to clean it it was like a horror movie gone wrong. I am pretty sure that no one has ever cleaned it, like EVER… and while I don’t see a date on the machine, I am guessing its circa 1984 [That’s the same year as¬†]. There was what looked like 30 years of built up gunk and slimey petrified fabric softener caked into that agitator. Thankfully since having kids I do not have a weak stomach anymore or it would have likely made me gag. The overuse of fabric softer was also obvious on the dryer lint screen that was also caked in residue so when I was through chiseling and scraping both machines, I put the lint screen in the washer on scalding hot with enough OxiClean to bring it back to life…twice. I am confident that our clothes will now come out cleaner than when we put them in – elbow grease for the win!

This picture is of the kitchen before its face lift. If you look closely you will notice the broken drawer front on the island and the centimetre (1/2 in) of fur on the ceiling fan. We actually thought all the light fixtures were frosted glass when in fact the only thing that they were frosted with was many years worth of grime.

I would like to hope that we are 85% complete now and that by next week we will be dooooooooone!


What you don’t know about Carbon Monoxide

I came across a couple of articles this morning researching some information I had been told regarding Carbon Monoxide detectors and had blindly assumed to be true.

We were in Canadian Tire¬†(a hardware/automotive type store) a few days ago to purchase smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors for our new place and I got to thinking about¬†this story¬†I’d read a few years before about a husband who’d jump started his car using his wife’s car in the morning, forgot to shut her car off and left it running in the garage. She was later found dead with their dogs in an upstairs bathroom. Something about this rang alarm bells as we were discussing¬†where the carbon monoxide detectors should be placed in this house.

There is a widely held belief that Carbon Monoxide is heavier than air and thus carbon monoxide detectors only need to be installed near to ground level in the house as the heavier carbon monoxide would trip the alarm earlier giving you time to get out. This morning, the alarm bells have been ringing once again, and I decided to investigate this “fact”.

It turns out that this commonly held belief¬†is incorrect… and a little digging yields this writeup from Nest regarding this information.

Far be it for me to blindly believe what a corporation tells me in order to hawk their wares, I decided to dig a bit further to validate what they were telling me.

My first stop was the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs to find out what they had to say. Here I discovered that it wasn’t just a good and safe practice to install them, but that in Ontario, it’s actually been the law since April, 2014! Who knew?!

“Since carbon monoxide moves freely in the air, the suggested location is in or as near as possible to sleeping areas of the home. The human body is most vulnerable to the effects of carbon monoxide during sleeping hours. To work properly the unit must not be blocked by furniture or draperies. Carbon Monoxide is virtually the same weight as air and therefore the alarm protects you in a high or low location.

For maximum protection, a carbon monoxide alarm should be located outside primary sleeping areas, in sleeping areas and in each level of your home.
– See more at:

Okay, so this fairly vaguely says…

How to prepare for a fire

How prepared is your family for a fire?…really? Most people’s basic instinctual plans would involve running out into the cold snowy night in their PJ’s¬†worrying about nothing more than kids and pets if it came down to it but with a little forward thinking its possible to set yourself up for much more success.¬†Many people get through life putting as little thought into the potential for a life changing fire as possible. Sure there maybe the purchase of a fire extinguisher and maybe home (or contents) insurance but beyond that its sheer hope that it is something they will never have to think about.

As we transition to our new place, it is vitally important to examine the new house carefully and create our new fire management plan. First of all lets talk prevention. We need to have fire extinguishers in our kitchen, workshop (where the furnace is) and in the laundry room which means that we have the ability to deal with any major appliances that might catch fire. We need to have working smoke detectors on every floor and outside of every bedroom to help with early detection. This weekend we will be  buying an emergency escape ladder to be able to climb down from the second floor if need be too.

The key to a successful plan to deal with a fire is to have an emergency escape plan that involves all family members and pets and has numerous options. How many of you have actually practiced this, I mean really, with a stopwatch and a whistle on some random Saturday. I bet you the numbers are shockingly low.

The trick is to have a friend or neighbor come over to be the timer and fire manager. What I mean by that is have the neighbor walk your whole house and have them secretly select one area on each floor while the family goes about their usual business. The Neighbor should suddenly and without notice blow a whistle loudly and shout where the pretend fire is….for instance…THIRD FLOOR GUEST ROOM!! FIRE!! They should keep alternating between blowing the whistle as loudly as possible and shouting the fire location (like a maniacal drill Sargent) to try to simulate the frantic onset of a real life fire. If your family members are going to freeze up, you want to know during a drill so that you can work through ways to keep them safe.

It is a very sad statistic that many small kids die during…

Safety Scenarios: Choking – Do your kids know what to do?

As a Mom and a prepper, I realize the importance of including my kids in our medical and environmental emergency preparedness plans but I don’t think many people do. Every now and then I play what I like to call ‘Safety Scenarios’ with my kids which is a game of ‘what would you do if X happened’. This is a great way to teach my kids how to respond to emergencies and keep them entertained while doing otherwise boring things like driving in the car, waiting in lineups or in waiting rooms. I try to seize opportunities to teach them whenever I can by role-playing and getting them involved and it seems to help with their confidence and personal empowerment as they learn too which is a great side effect.

Lets talk about choking to start with. As a parent I am pretty sure you would know what to do if your child was choking but would your kids know what to do if YOU were choking?

One fine day I asked the girls “What would you do if Mommy was choking?” and I got a blank look. I then asked “How would you know if Mommy was choking?” and I got a blank look from that too. I expected as much as we had never discussed this topic before and they are only 5 and 6 years old after all.

I started this lesson with my girls by asking them to recall their own choking experiences and what it felt like. All kids choke on food from time to time so most can relate the conversation to real life events. Together we remembered back to what gestures they naturally made to signal that they could not breathe. We talked about the international sign for choking which is both hands around or pointing to the neck and a look of panic on a persons face. There can also be a rapid pointing gesture toward the neck and if left long enough people will start to go blue from not being able to breathe.

From there we talked about the Heimlich Maneuver and how to perform it.

This might be helpful for them if one of their peers is choking but they would not be able to perform it on an adult because they are so small. We practiced finding the correct spot to aim for and the correct movement to make to help dislodge the object as it is a good piece of knowledge to have.

Next I asked them if they could think of a way to help themselves if they were ever choking and I explained the method of bending over a chair or counter top at the same point just below the ribs, thrusting their weight to deliver that same kind of compression. It is important for them to know this because if this ever happens (to me or them), they will likely be terrified and the more knowledge you can arm them with now, the better they will be set up to cope in an emergency situation.

Following all that technical stuff, I always like to throw in a trick scenario to liven things up. I laid down on the floor of my kitchen one day and said “Lets pretend I am choking and I tried to help myself but it did not work and you tried to give me the Heimlich and you were too small to do it and I eventually ran out of air and fell down unconscious, what do you think would be best to try next?” My eldest said ‘Call 911’ and I gave her a really excited YES and gave her a high 5! I asked my youngest if she remembered where the push spot was on my belly and she said yes. I asked her to roll me onto my back, sit on my tummy and point at that push spot. She located it and I gave her a very excited high 5 too. We talked about ways that they could use their whole body weight to push thrusts on that spot to try to help force whatever I was choking on out and I commended them for their excellent ideas and creative solutions. I got up off the floor and gave them both a big hug and told them how proud I was of them. They left that lesson feeling confident and smart which was the goal.

I try to spread the ‘safety scenarios’ out a bit to reinforce and build on their learning too. So a few days later I asked them the same questions and they excitedly gave me mostly the right answers. I corrected any errors and I told them they were too smart and threw in a few other questions to get them thinking. “What would you do if a person in a wheelchair was choking?” was next and they knew to find the push spot regardless of the chair which was good. I referred to this video on YouTube and together we watched and discussed the various ways to deal with that situation.

We also discussed babies choking and how to help them because they require a different method which you can learn in this video.

The more ways I can build on the initial lesson, the better the information sticks. We might cycle through the lesson of choking in general over the course of say a month and then leave it for a while and go on to something completely new. We always have a few themes or topics on the go and quite often I will get them to come up with ‘what ifs’ of their own which is great because then we can think through the answers together and research topics online to investigate. They love this game and often ask to play it!

Pickin’ Paint

Walking into a paint store or department can be simply overwhelming. My advice is don’t go it alone and come prepared with your measurements and information. Most reputable stores will have dedicated experts to help you select the right product from hundreds of available options.

First you need to know the dimensions are of the area you intend to paint. For example, if it is a small 10 ft x 10 ft bedroom (roughly 3 m x 3 m) then you know your floor/ceiling/room size is 100 square feet or 9 square metres. Next you need to know how high your ceilings are. Most ceilings are between 7 and 9 ft (2.13 m Р2.74 m) so lets use 8 ft (2.44 m) as an average. So if the ceiling is the same height in all areas of the room and the room has 4 walls then you can simply calculate 1 wall and multiply it by 4. In our example here, if each wall is 10 ft ( 3.05 m) wide and 8 ft (2.44 m) high then we multiply those numbers together and come up with 80 sq ft (7.44 m). We then multiply that by 4 for the 4 walls in the room and we get 320 sq ft (14.88 m). Once we know the square feet or metres that we need to cover with paint we can then be sure to buy the correct amount required to do the job properly.

The most common paint finish configuration in Canada is to paint ceilings with a white matte finish paint, walls with a coloured eggshell finish (or satin finish for use on kitchen and bathroom walls) and trim (around doors and windows, baseboards and molding) with a semigloss finish paint. These rules are not set in stone but they are the most common.

Painting ceilings can be tricky and tiresome. Looking up for extended periods of time and dealing with fluctuations in lighting can make it extremely difficult to see where you left off and properly judge the amount of paint deposited where you want it. There are several companies nowadays that manufacture coloured ceiling paint that goes on pink or blue and dry white which makes it much easier to see what you are doing.

If you have a steady hand you can paint your trim with a brush by hand but they also sell all kinds of gadgets these days that make it doable for even the most uncoordinated folks like roller pads or other ‘edging tools’ as they are called.

Painting walls is pretty straight forward. Always put down a drop cloth before you begin any paint job if you care about the floor. No matter what you are painting or how you are doing it, you will inevitably make a bit of a mess so be prepared for some drips and blips with a few baby wipes or wet paper towels on hand to clean up any messes as you go. It is super easy to wipe up a drip of wet paint but if you leave it to dry and try and clean it up afterward it will be harder. Begin walls by cutting the edges – that is painting around the outermost edges where the walls meet the ceiling, other walls or floor. While your edges are still wet, begin rolling your paint on the walls to blend the edges.

Now then, back on track for picking paints. For residential interior applications they no longer sell oil based paints in most paint and big box stores. The default interior paint is a latex base. If you know what is presently on the walls in the room you wish to paint that will help. If it is a latex paint then you should be fine to paint more latex over top without issue. If it is an oil based paint, you will likely have to lightly sand the walls before you paint with latex to achieve strong adhesion.

To prime or not to prime….Primer is a necessary evil in some cases. If you have dark walls and wish to repaint them lighter you will need to apply primer before your new colour to provide a light base. If you are painting latex over oil paint, you will need to apply primer after a light sanding. If you have areas that have been repaired with a spackle or drywall compound you will need to prime these areas before painting as well. If you don’t you will get what they call ‘flashing’ which is an uneven reflection of light/changes in sheen in your finished product.

So once you have your measurements, requirements and information about what is currently on your walls and what you want to do with them, it is time to enlist the help of a friend pro at the paint store or department. I find it much easier to speak to them about my needs BEFORE picking colour chips/swatches so that way I know what brand I need and can pick from the right display before I get my heart set on a colour. Nothing worse than picking the perfect colour from paint company A only to find out that I need a product from paint company B and they cannot colour match from another brand.

Paint usually comes in quarts, gallons and 5 gallon containers in Canada. Even though we have been a metric country for decades our paint industry is still in denial apparently.  It is always cheaper as the quantity increases so you want to be realistic about the quantity you need and try to get bigger containers wherever possible. Always check the label for coverage information too Рmost gallon sized containers will cover about 400 square feet but that can range from 125 sq ft to 500 from product to product.

There are also specialty paints that you might want to consider for special applications. For example we just painted our unfinished basement with Watertite which is a mould and mildew proof waterproofing paint just to be on the safe side. Painting concrete, masonry, stucco, decks and other surfaces need specialized paint so it is a good idea to consult a paint pro for those too.

Don’t forget stir sticks, drop cloths, masking/painters tape, rollers, brushes, trays, liners, edgers if required, a paint can opener or screwdriver and a hammer to close the can afterward if you have any left over. Always grab a couple extra paint stir sticks because they always come in handy ¬†– they make good splints for your first aid kit, shims for under wobbly furniture and leveling window frames, etc.

One last word of caution. Make sure you have the paint pro hammer down the lids on any paint cans you purchase. Any time a product is tinted they are usually well closed afterward but when buying off the shelf, you cannot be sure that it is properly sealed and that no one has opened it to have a peek and not properly closed it afterward. I made that mistake yesterday and this can of paint is now the highlight of our driveway. I will post  follow-up about that clean up shortly!


Day two: The legend continues…

So it’s day two… if you’re reading on from yesterday, you’ll know we didn’t even come close to meeting our objectives last night… the kitchen is far from being clean. We had¬†friends¬†and family¬†come today to help with the debacle¬†that is the new old place.

I think I might start referring to it as Chez Nouveau Vieux… because French is sexy¬†:P

We arrived to the same disaster we left yesterday – alas, the stove¬†is still standing… and much of the caked on grease that the magic potion promised to remove is still standing as well. I’m not sure if this is a testament to staying power of 40-year-old¬†grease or that the liquid thermite wasn’t quite as extreme as it professed to be.

The broken picture window has condensation on the inside… which upon¬†closer inspection is¬†actually on the inside –¬†like¬†the inside of the window – the inner side of the outer pane of the broken panel. Lovely. So now condensation is running down the inside of the broken window and the moisture is sitting at the bottom forming mildew and lord knows what else – can’t¬†clean that, it’s on the inside of the panel.

The rest of the guys run and fetch breakfast while I’m waiting for the cable installer to come and install. Warning to anyone that doesn’t regularly move: Before the cable guy shows up, wander around the house, figure out where the telephone modem is going to be installed and ensure that 1). either there is a power socket and a phone socket in close proximity of one another or 2). there is an extension cord that will allow the cable modem to be plugged in by the telephone socket. Neither of which we had… rookie move, I’m a technical nerd so I should have known better – alas, my mind was preoccupied with the disaster of a stove.

So today, I removed approximately 8,423 nails, screws, hooks, eyelets, wall plugs, stickers, thumb tacks, cobwebs¬†and other random articles¬†that don’t belong on walls, ceilings, baseboards or floors before one begins painting. I removed two TV brackets, one of which was only held to¬†the wall by the painted wallpaper upon which it sat – the screws were carrying no weight. This task in my estimate would not normally¬†take more than about 30 minutes for this size of house¬†–¬†and even when I¬†thought I was done, I was¬†getting calls from other rooms to remove items that I’d missed. At this point,¬†I’m not even sure how much I’m¬†exaggerating by¬†suggesting that the interior walls consist of a higher percentage of Polyfilla than wall.

At some point during the morning I hear my better half having a quite heated telephone discussion¬†with someone it took me a moment to intuit was the landlord’s realtor. I smile, amused at how complicated his day is about to get…

The landlord, having grown tired of my wife’s constant¬†barrage of texts has clearly demanded his realtor handle us and stem the flow of complaints:

  • One of the taps in the bathroom doesn’t work – the water’s turned off, if we turn the water on, the tap continuously runs. There is no turning it off, the valve in the tap is broken. So I turn the water off to that tap again – waste not want not.
  • The tap in the kitchen turns on, so that’s good, except that it doesn’t turn off again. It takes about 5 minutes to figure out how to turn the tap off and it’s different every time you turn the tap on, so there’s no way to say “Oh, just turn it left after you push the handle down”, sometimes it works, sometimes you have to try something else.
  • There’s a pipe in the basement leaking lord knows what all over the basement floor. Having dismantled the bath and traced the plumbing, I can’t figure out where this pipe runs to. Though the leak appears to have coincided with a toilet flush and we have to be sure it’s not sewage being dumped out.
  • The picture window in the dining room still needs fixing as it’s still a death trap.
  • The¬†landlord hasn’t produced any evidence that the septic system has been serviced since he’s owned the property in the past 2 years. We either want a receipt as evidence it’s been serviced as is required or he’s required to send a service technician to service it. “But the last tenant did that” “Oh please, no tenant in their right mind is ever going to pay out of their¬†own pocket to have a septic system serviced on someone else’s property. That’s the landlord’s responsibility and was signed for in the lease agreement. We either want the receipt as proof it was completed or we want a technician sent to service it!”

So I don’t think any of these are unreasonable to expect a landlord to fix for their tenant. When you move into a place, you expect everything to work as if it were your own house. That’s one of the advantages of renting – someone else takes care of that stuff for you. We like to try a lot of things out as research for what we¬†are going to eventually want to put into our own place when we build. We’ve learned a ton¬†of extremely valuable lessons on someone else’s dime that would have been uncomfortable, a giant pain in the ass or expensive lessons to learn if¬†we had to pay for them ourselves. So¬†despite everyone’s¬†wonder at why we’d sink money month after month on rent instead of buying a place, it’s really been a very enlightening and worthwhile experience¬†for us – but we’ve lucked out in the landlord stakes since we’ve been together. All of them until this one has been at¬†worst tiresome, but at best awesome.

Anyway, the conversation has escalated…

Our first day at the new old place…

Well yesterday¬†we finally took possession of our new place. The landlord “kindly” allowed us to have access to the place a day early so that we can paint…

Before I continue, I feel like I should give a short precis about¬†me… as to the not negative, happy go lucky kind of person I am…

I’ve never really been one to focus on doom and gloom, I’m pretty jovial most of the time. I rarely take life as seriously as perhaps I should – unless someone wakes me up too early and it isn’t with a cup of tea in hand to apologize for doing so.

In fact, when I do grumble, it’s usually about one of a small number of things that I can easily count on one hand:

  • Issues related to the health & safety of my family
  • Someone perceives that I should¬†be doing something that they feel is more important than what I’m doing… which is clearly important or I wouldn’t be doing it
  • Someone else (actually same someone, but pretend it’s someone different to keep the heat off me) putting me in a position where I have no choice but to figure out how to do the impossible in less than optimal situations – such as, for instance,¬†fitting 50 cu. ft. of stuff into the 31.5 cu. ft. of space in the trunk of her Jeep Sahara… at Costco, when we have a grocery cart jammed to the gills, and we get back to the car to find her trunk is already full of other stuff she’d forgotten to ask me to remove before we went to Costco. I will avoid making any uncomfortable incriminating connections so I can stay out of trouble¬†– but you all know who I’m talking aboutūüėõ
  • The kids making me ask/tell/yell at them a dozen times not to do whatever it is they’re doing because they could injure, maim or kill someone or cause catastrophic amounts of damage by continuing to do so.

So now that you all understand how full of sunshine and happiness I am, back to the real storyūüėõ

When we signed the lease, we made a few stipulations that were agreed to by both parties and were written into the lease agreement before signing, nothing particularly exciting:

The smashed window panel in the porch door must be replaced, not only is it a significant hazard, but it’s an advertisement to the street that the place could easily be broken into. The panel is nothing exotic, just a standard 22″ x 36″ glass insert¬†that you can get in any hardware store [Home Depot]. Pretty ordinary.

The 60′ driveway which was under approximately 10-12″ of snow must have the snow removed so we can get the truck and our cars in upon arrival. Nothing that anyone with a snow shovel couldn’t facilitate – certainly something that should be taken care of by any landlord before someone takes¬†occupancy of their property.

The old junk windows, spare tire and miscellaneous garbage wood in the car port should be removed. Again, no big deal – we wouldn’t bring our junk and dump it in your driveway – just a little mutual respect is all we ask for.

The old moldy car seats in the dilapidated shed should be removed. I think they might have been there since the shed was built… and given the state of the shed, I’m going to assume that was right after the Vikings landed in Nova Scotia. In fact, I might have assumed¬†the shed was¬†where the first settlers had stayed while building the house had it not been¬†made from chipboard; but I’m not ruling out the possibility of a time machine…

The death trap of a carpet on the basement stairs that was shredded by the previous tenant’s dog must be removed. 1. it’s filthy, 2. it stinks, 3. half of it is torn up and if anyone gets their foot caught in it, they’ll fall and break an ankle.

The dead mouse must be removed from the basement. I’m not sure what I think of the dead mouse… I fantasize that poison put down at some point in the past killed him, because then I wouldn’t¬†have to wonder if it was the moldy carpet or walls.

When the landlord said we could take the keys a day early so that we could paint, we might have¬†expected to walk into the place and find it in a fit state to paint…

How safe is your water?

In an emergency situation, do you really know how to make water safe to drink?

You’ve heard flawed the advice on the news: Boil your water. Boiling water kills cryptosporium and protazoa such as giardia, typhus and cholera; but…boiling water doesn’t always make it safe to drink!

There are a couple of things you need to know about that advice before you trust it.

Firstly: Boiling doesn’t remove chemical contamination such as gasoline, poisons and other toxins.

Secondly: It’s the temperature that kills pathogens that make you sick, not the act of boiling of the water itself. What you may not know is that water doesn’t always boil at the same temperature.

Let’s address contaminants first. There are many forms of contaminants, but primarily you’re concerned with chemical and biological. Not all chemical and biological contaminants are bad, but it’s the bad ones we care about.

Ceramic filters remove pathogens down to 0.2-0.3 micrometers but don’t remove viruses. Unfortunately as a by product of removing the pathogens from the water, the filters can become a breeding ground, so they should be cleaned every time they’re used to prevent this. Some ceramic filters are impregnated with silver nanoparticles to mitigate this.

Activated charcoal will remove chemical contaminants. Unfortunately, this also removes the chlorine that renders tap water safe to drink. Hold onto this thought a moment, we’ll come back to it.

Unfortunately even after these two steps, there is still the possibility that viruses can persist in the water.

There are a number of approaches to removing (or killing) viruses:

  1. UV treatment – but this requires a functioning UV bulb and some form of electrical power – both potential points of failure.
  2. Chemical treatment – such as chlorine tablets, iodine tablets or plain old household bleach (6% sodium hypochlorite)
  3. Boiling

My favourite choice is household bleach… I don’t always want hot water, I don’t want to necessarily waste energy to boil water unless I want hot water, I don’t necessarily want to rely on electronics that have a habit of failing at the worst possible moment. It’s easy to store enough bleach to purify my water for an extended period of time, it’s readily available at every grocery store in town and all it takes is space, which on a homestead, is pretty plentiful.

Iodine tablets I don’t like at all, personal preference. My reasons are largely that I can’t stand the taste. Though, it has been noted that consumption of iodine rich foods such as water purified with iodine have the positive side effect of blocking the uptake of radioiodine.

Failing that, I can always fall back to boiling my water (and then waiting for it to cool if I want cold) before drinking.

Before you rely on boiling your water though, there are some things you should know…

Kid Preps

As a mother of 2 rather boisterous little girls, it is important to consider their needs in our emergency preparedness plans. So often we get caught up in the food, water, security, shelter and first aid plans that we forget to think about our kids.

All the life-sustaining preps must take priority and for anyone new to ‘prepping’, you should definitely start there. My thoughts on the matter are that every family, everywhere, should be prepared to be totally self-sufficient for a minimum of 3 weeks. Our government thinks that 72 hours is enough but I laugh at that figure – that’s when all hell will break loose as the stores will finally run out of everything. When I say self-sufficient I mean if you had to lock yourself into your home and you had no power and no water, you would have everything you need to survive. Worst case scenario would be winter so lets focus on that.

Basic rules of prepping for comfort are:

  • 3 litres or 3/4 gallon of water per person per day ¬†(2/3 of that to drink and 1/3 of that for washing, hygiene, etc.)
  • 2000 calories of food per person per day (you can live on less but deprivation makes people grumpy and you will already be grumpy enough in those conditions)
  • A fully stocked First Aid kit including materials for quarantine
  • A fully supply of cleaning products (disinfection quality bleach – min 6%¬†hypochlorite, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, etc)
  • Sanitation plan (bucket, lots of heavy garbage bags for human waste if you lose running water)
  • A method for cooking (no BBQing indoors as the carbon monoxide will kill you)
  • Methods to keep warm (combination of blankets, full outdoor gear for all family members and a heat source safe for use indoors)
  • A windup radio and/or a HAM radio
  • Books, cards or other entertainment items
  • Feminine and baby products if applicable
  • optional security items like self-defense weapons and firearms if that is your thing or if you feel its required

Now lets assume you have all that covered.

If you have kids this can throw a monkey wrench into the best laid plans. Imagine being stuck in your house all day and all night with “I’M BORED” or ¬†“I HATE THIS, I WANT TO GO OUT AND PLAY”…on repeat…about 900 times an hour….nothing is going to make you crazier quicker than kids without a plan!

Here are the items we have on hand in our ‘Kid Preps’ department

  • Lots of books
  • Their current grade academic curriculum workbooks
  • Puzzles
  • Fun snacks in our food preps
  • Crayons and lots of papers
  • Portable DVD player with extra batteries

If it is summer and it is safe to go outside then that opens up a whole other range of kid entertainment possibilities but as long as you are prepared for the worst, you will be in the best shape possible.

Photo Credit – Moi…Our darlings gave themselves a makeover last year when they were supposed to be napping!!

Our transition from rat-race consumerist city life to sustainable organic country living