Every article was well written, the magazine is overflowing with beautiful photographs, and filled to the brim with information. There are a couple articles in particular that stand out to me. They gave me an extra boost of confidence that what we are trying to do with our small space in rural Alabama is really a good thing. I will talk more about those later. But first, let me go astray for just a bit to give you a little more in sight to Our Crazy Coop and how we got started with the idea of converting our regular home to a homestead and how we began "bringing the farm to us".
It is very much still a work in progress but it really has quiet a humorous beginning...and maybe to some, a rather ridiculous idea that prompted this journey. I was shopping with my mom and sister-in-law when we came to a store that sold things for the home. These things included picture frames, knick-knacks to sit around, and figurines. All were of a rustic and "farm" style, suiting my taste "to the T". We wondered around and so happened upon a section of ceramic roosters and hens...decorations that prior to that day I had not really been inclined to collect. But, the comment was made, by one of the two women accompanying me, that having a decorative chicken displayed somewhere within a home symbolizes the homeowners ability to decorate well. REALLY?? Guess what? I didn't have A FAKE CHICKEN in my house just sitting around somewhere. LOL! But, just in case that old saying was a true one, I had to make sure that I found the just right ceramic beauty to display...one that was suitable for my rustic style but not too terribly "country".
I purchased the little lady you see in the picture above and placed her in the perfect spot on the kitchen counter. Then, I showed her to my children. Our girls absolutely loved her. They began petting and kissing that figurine...making a big fuss. So, I said to my husband, "We should get real chickens if they love this one so much!" Our second son was beside me when I said that. The thought of us getting real chickens was as exciting to him as it would've been if we had told him we were putting Disney World in the backyard! We spent the entire next afternoon after church, just surfing the net reading about chickens, coop plans, the general cost for raising them, and everything chicken. We watched one YouTube video after another. Within just that short time frame, we were convinced that we were going to be backyard chicken owners. It was only a couple days later that we downloaded plans to build the coop and placed the online order for baby chicks.
When we spread the news of that decision to our family and friends, we are pretty sure they thought we were crazy! (Thus, the name of our blog was created.) As if having four children, one outside dog, and two inside dogs wasn't enough?? But, many of those same people also thought we were crazy when we had child number three and then child number four. And now, they wouldn't know us any other way. It is Our Crazy Coop and we love it. That brings me to what I was writing this blog entry for in the first place.
Although we are very much enjoying the journey, we are early on the path and we are frequently asked, "Why??" When trying to answer that, especially considering the out of the norm way we came to our decision, I find us trying to justify to some people why we'd want to add all this extra responsibility. Although this new found passion has won us over, once or twice we've double guessed ourselves with questions such as, "Do we really have the longevity for this? Are we in it for the long haul? Are we able to make the sacrifice of time and money that it takes for this?"
The first edition of From Scratch Magazine has helped me answer those questions and put some of those worries at ease. Page after page kept my interest and I'm so glad to know that it will continue coming each month having pages overflowing with information. In this edition Lisa Steele, from Fresh Eggs Daily, shares her valued opinions and eagerly accepted advice in a question/answer feature, you can read about starting plants from seeds, gardening, canning, and much more.
Now, back to those couple articles I referenced in the beginning. The article that really sums up my feeling for the new lifestyle we are starting begins on page 36 and is titled "The Farmstead" by Rachael Taylor. The first quote from her that stands out to me is, "Chickens are the gateway drug to a farming lifestyle." I laughed out loud when I read that quote because it is so fitting for our family. My friends would certainly agree that my having chickens has given me a new high and yet another thing to be passionate about. You can't have just one or two chickens! From the moment we got them an instant desire to "bring the farm to us" evoked. This all started just a little more than four months ago and in such a short time it just seems so perfect. There are challenges. It takes a lot of planning and a lot of time to make your backyard a homestead. And, we are only just beginning. While I'm sure there are plenty of things we are yet to face, I know this...the animals need to be good quality, they need to be fed good quality food, and their housing/fencing requirements need to be met in a way that will protect them and keep them healthy. Ultimately, the animals are there for our family so their health equals our health in the long run. I'm not a patient person when it comes to getting things I want, so this has been hard. I'm also a perfectionist. I want everything to be done right and I want our backyard to look like a "farm" not like a junkyard. Again, I agree with Rachael that "the biggest challenge is always money." Everyone knows raising a few kids keeps the budget stretched and the calendar busting at the seams. They are going to want to participate in sports and dance and cheer. The animals are going to need feed and fencing and occasional medical care. I'm finding though, that being passionate about making this work makes me do without a few things. One less take out dinner, one less new sweater, one less whatever...is a little more money left over to buy feed for the chickens and save for our other goals. There are other homesteading things you can do to help save money. Emily McGrath of Our Little Coop gives great tips on pages 58-60 to start your own mealworm farm. That's a great way to save money over time for the "extra snacks" we spoil our chickens with. We've passed by the mealworm treats more than once while out buying feed because those extra treats can get a little pricey. (Just this week, I emailed my husband with a link provided by www.farmchickchitchat.blogspot.com about growing mealworms.) I was happy and thankful to see Emily's helpful article included in the 1st edition. That'll be yet another project added to the never ending to-do list.
So, for now, we've got chickens in the backyard, we've acquired a Ranger ATV that we are excited to be able to use in things such as gathering vegetables to deliver to neighbors and transporting the coop cleaning materials and feed across the way. We have ducks scheduled to arrive in the summer, we've created this blog, and we have a Facebook page for Our Crazy Coop. I've found more "friends" on line than I ever thought were out there. It's been wonderful to find a network of people sharing the same interests and passions. It's also great to know that they are only a keyboard away and ready and willing to share advice about things that work and don't work in the areas where they have more experience than we do. This network of people is a network that is willing to share just because it's a friendly gesture and not because something is expected in return.
Today, there are many who can't understand trying to create this lifestyle in such a chaotic world. Again, the magazine wins me over with another article beginning on page 51, written by Melissa Jones. It's titled "5 Ways to Make Your Homestead a Success". As the title suggests, she points out five things to focus on when planning your homestead. Points number three and four are my favorite. She says, "Homesteading is all about community" and "Making connections with people and businesses is more than just trying to sell products from your homestead--it is about fostering a community that encourages the importance of family, self-reliance, and a simpler way of life."
That's what everybody is really searching for... a simpler way of life...isn't it? Sometimes it means giving up other things to be able to do this. I worry about that because with four children, we are bound to have other things that will pull us away from home on weeknights and weekends and will keep us with a packed schedule. But, it's the big picture that matters. We are hoping given the young ages of our children, the exposure to this kind of life will take root and let them see the quality family time that can come from it.
Sometimes "being weird" and not doing what everyone else is doing is okay. Some people really may find it strange that we'd want to grow a big garden, have chickens and ducks, and maybe one day a couple of miniature goats. Especially since we are not on a "true farm". But that's alright. Yes, it is work. Yes, it may make us have obligations that cause us to have to pass by some things that we otherwise wouldn't have had to pass by. Yes...it IS worth it. Quoting Rachael Taylor again, she says she has traveled all over the world, "...And yet, none of that quiet compares to your very own bit of Earth--a homestead--to call your own." Thank you From Scratch Magazine for highlighting all the reasons having a homestead is okay and for letting us feel JUSTIFIED in our new journey.
(You can keep up with us while we are "bringing the farm to us" by visiting our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/OurCrazyCoop)
BLOGS I REFERENCED IN THIS ARTICLE: