Rural Lifestyle

Life in Rural America

Tag: prepsteading

Splitting Firewood With Railroad Spikes

Splitting firewood with railroad spikes

A couple of months ago a water oak (pin oak) and a live oak fell on the back of the property. This has given me the chance to stockpile some much needed firewood.

While I have all this freshly cut oak firewood, I decided to play around with some ideas. One of those ideas is splitting firewood with railroad spikes. If someone does not have a splitting maul, 8 pound sledge or wedges laying around, what about railroad spikes?

Railroad spikes are somewhat easy to obtain. Ebay is loaded with them, then there are the flea markets, and the vast number of them laying around old farms. In the early days of logging mills, narrow gauge tracks would be built out from the mill in various directions. When the mills closed crews would pick up the tracks. Left behind were numerous bolts, plates and spikes. Using a metal detector it is common to find spikes left over from these narrow gauge tracks that went out from the mills.

How easy or difficult is it to split firewood wi

Developing Self-Sustainable Farm More Difficult Than Expected

Bush hogging with tractor

When I moved to the farm almost 3 years ago I thought this was going to be easy. Build a nice chicken yard, build a chicken house, plant some fruit trees, and things will be off and running. Then I can work on the pole barn, barn, and fence in a few acres for goats and cattle.

Lets just say things have not been going as planned.

Fruit Trees Have Been a Failure

Either from disease, drought, drowned from too much rain,,,, whatever the reason, my fruit tree project has not gone anywhere near as expected.

A plum tree my kids and I planted several years ago died. A second plum tree is not doing anything. It is not even hardly growing.

Peach trees are not growing as expected, or died. Out of the several peach trees that were planted over the past few years, only one has grown and is producing any peaches. This year that one peach tree is not doing anything.

Fig trees died from the summer drought of 2015. June, July, August and September 2015 we got very little rain fall here in southeast Texas. I did not keep my young fig trees watered like they needed, and 3 out of the 4 died.

One of the blueberry bushes died.

Trespassers at the Bug Out Location

Kevin Felts on a hiking trip

A few days ago I was walking along the creek that is the property line between my land and the timber company land. Not only does the timber company grow timber on their land, they also lease the land out to hunters. It is not unusual to see an influx of urban dwellers into rural areas starting a couple of months before hunting season. Most of the people who lease property in rural areas are good people. They just want to get out of the city, do some hunting, get a deer or hog and pass the tradition of hunting to the next generation.

With hunters there is an unspoken code of respect. You do not touch my trail cameras, stands and feeders and I do not touch yours.

Then there are the people who do not care about respect. They will knock your feeders and stands over and steal the trail cameras. These are the vandals and thieves that screw up life for everyone else. For people who visit their lease only a few times a year the vandals are not that big of an issue. All that gets screwed up is a few items such as the deer blind and feeders. For those of us who live in rural areas next to hunting leasing, the vandals can screw with us year round.

Chickens Are Their Own Worst Enemy

Barred Rock Chicken

Chickens would be great farm animals for SHTF if they were not so stupid. The honest truth is they will find a way to get themselves killed.

Build them a nice cage and they will find a way to get out.

They will wander away from the flock and get killed.

They will stay out to dusk, right when coyotes start looking for an easy meal.

They will spill their water.

They will crap in their food and water.

They will crap in laying boxes.

They will roost in high places so if they fall at night they will be hurt.

They will eat stuff that makes them sick – free ranging eating weeds, rocks, pieces of glass, etc.

They will free range out in fields where hawks can see them. They chickens can have all kinds of weeds and cover to forage under. But no, they have to go out in the open away from the flock so a hawk can get them.

Farm Update October 19 2014

Tractor with auger working on chicken goat yard

Things are moving along nicely, but there is always some kind of setback.

When my wife and I moved to the farm I seriously underestimated the time and effort needed to get things up and running. When we moved here in August of 2013 my main goal was to get the small chicken yard built, get the septic system put down, get the water working, then get ready for winter. Winter of 2013 – 2014 here in southeast Texas was rather harsh, by our standards anyway.

Spring 2014 started out with around 18 – 20 new chicks. Things were looking up, then then it went to hell. My wife and I moved to the farm with 13 hens. We lost all of the new chicks to various predators. When the new chickens were moved to the new chicken yard, a couple of Rhode Island Reds kept jumping the fence. My dogs ended up killing those two Rhode Island Reds.

The good news, things are on the upswing.

Chicken House / Chicken Yard

Remember the videos and articles about building a new chicken house and chicken yard? We are almost finished with the yard. I have a 10 foot gate temporary attached to close the chicken yard entrance with a section of cattle panel and some 2x4s. A section of field fence still needs a top strand of barbless wire ran.

All Of The New Chickens Are Gone

Chicken flock November 23 2014

I need to explain the title in a little more detail. When my wife and I moved to the farm in July – August 2013 we brought with us 13 hens. These hens were a year and a half old.

Between February – March 2014 my wife and I bought around 20 chicks. These chicks were only a day or two old and were bought from local farm supply stores here in Jasper Texas.

We are back to 13 hens and one rooster. Some of the original chickens disappeared, and the new ones took their place. But we are back to the original number we started with.

Between a chicken hawk, fox or coyote, and my dogs killing the chickens, the ratio of new chickens that have died sits at 100 percent.

My wife and I loaned a rhode island red rooster to my cousin, he is doing good. My wifes buff orpington rooster had a stroke. Those are the two extra chickens we have left out of the new we bought.

Update on the New Chicken House

Outside of chicken house

Awhile back I started building a new chicken yard. Now that the yard is pretty much complete (for now), the time has come to build the new chicken house.

The size I decided on was 16 feet by 16 feet. 16 X 16 = 256 square feet. I figured 256 square feet was enough to accommodate roost, laying boxes, storage cabinet, water barrels and batteries for the solar power.

The laying boxes will take up 6 feet on one wall, and the roost takes up around 12 feet on another wall. The laying boxes in the new chicken house will be modeled after the laying boxes of the old chicken house.

An 8 foot wide leanto will be built off one wall. Which is where the solar panels will be installed.

Inside the house is a steel storage cabinet 36 inches wide and 18 inches deep. This is for tools, nails, screws, paint, chicken feeders, waterers, just your usual stuff.

Buying Chicks in the Summer

Chicks inside chicken coop

For the most part buying chicks is a springtime activity. The local farm supply stores start getting their chicks in around early to mid February. Then there are the Easter colored chicks. Please do not buy colored chicks for Easter. You do not know what breeds you are getting, what sex, and the “new” quickly wears off.

You may think that after the feed stores stop selling chicks in the spring that there are no more on the market. That is simply not true. Some hatcheries sell chicks all year long. Where do you find these hatcheries? On the internet.

My wife and I had never bought chicks over the internet. We had always gone down to the local feed store, bought whatever chicks they had in stock, then went home. After buying our first set of chicks over the internet, I doubt we will ever buy from a feed store again. The process was easy and straight forward.

Some of the popular hatcheries:

  • Cackle hatchery
  • Ideal Poultry
  • Murray McMurray
  • Privett Hatchery

Tips on Storing Home Grown Potatoes

Half bushel of fresh potatoes

How do you store potatoes? So far this year the potato harvest has gone well. I have probably gotten close to 3 bushels, and that has not even made a big dent in the garden.

If you had a shed or a barn, you could put down a layer of hay, layer of potatoes, layer of hay, layer of potatoes,,,, until all the potatoes are covered with hay.

Space the potatoes so that they are not stacked on top of each other. The spacing allows airflow and will help prevent potato rot.

The layers of hay add a cushion between the potatoes and will help prevent rot.

  • Keep the potatoes out of direct sunlight. It is ok to put them in the sun for a little while. But do not leave potatoes in direct sunlight all day. Sunlight releases a toxin in the potato, which will turn the potato green.
  • Be careful when harvesting potatoes as to not bruise them.
  • Do not wash the potatoes, just wipe the heavy dirt off.

Besides a shed or barn potatoes can also be stored in a bushel basket.

Update on the Chicken Flock

Buff Orpington chick about 6 weeks old

When my wife and I moved to the farm in august 2013, we arrived with 13 hens. The hens were a little over a year and a half old. Those 13 hens were laying around 9 – 10 eggs a day.

With that 9 – 10 eggs a day I tried to estimate how many chickens and eggs my family would need during a long term SHTF situation. In a previous article we got an estimated number of around 75 chickens or so to satisfy our egg and chicken meat production needs.

In the past 3 months something happened that has thrown a serious kink into my chicken flock plans.

Out of the original 13 hens, only 8 remain.

Out of the 24 chicks my wife and I bought in February 2014, only about 12 remain.

In other words, we have lost about 1/2 of our flock in the past few months.

A Fox Appears

One of my Silver Laced Wyandottes Died

Silver Laced Wyandotte

The day start out as any other. I woke up, threw some clothes on and went out to the chicken house to let the chickens out. This has been my daily routine for 2 years.

Today was different. When I opened the door, one of my Silver Laced Wyandottes was laying on the floor dead. I opened the door to let the chickens out, then grabbed the Silver Laced Wyandotte to get it out of the chicken house. The body was cold and rigor mortis had set in.

A couple of days ago something killed one of my Black Jersey Giants. That is two of my full grown hens who were 2 years old have either died or been killed. That sucks. It really sucks. These hens were in their prime years, spring is here, egg production is picking back up and bam out of nowhere this Silver Laced Wyandotte dies out of nowhere.

On Friday, April 4th my wife and I picked up a Satsuma tree along with 5 bags of cow manure and compost mix. We already have two Satsuma trees in the ground and growing, but we wanted a third tree.

Instead of burying the chicken, or throwing it out in the woods for some wild critter to eat, I planted the Satsuma tree on top of the Silver Laced Wyandotte.

Hopefully the circle of life will continue.

Potato Plants Three Weeks After Planting

Potato plant

The potatoes were planted March 1st. Here we are three weeks later and the potatoes are starting to break through the soil. One of my favorite times after planting is seeing the first sprouts break through the top of the ground.

When the cuttings were planted they were not planted in a mound. The mound will be made as the plant grows.

A common question is how far down do you plant the seed potatoes? I usually plant them about 3 inches deep, or the width of your hand. With well drained sandy soil the potato sprout will have no problem pushing to the top of the soil.

The next step is to let the plant get maybe 6 inches tall, spread some fertilizer along the the row, then use a rake the pull dirt up around the plant. We want to use a balanced fertilizer, such as 13-13-13, or 10-20-10, and some bone meal.

Do not use a nitrogen rich fertilizer as the potato top will grow but no tubers will grow.

One Month Update on the New Chicks

Rhode Island Red about four - five weeks old

It is amazing how fast chicks grow. In 1 month they went from being totally helpless, to foraging for food. With every passing day the chicks move further away from the chicken house.

The more I watch chickens, the more I understand why the species has been so successful, and why humans have grown dependent on them. While cats, dogs, humans,,, are still dependent on their parents at one month old, chickens are pretty much independent. At 4 – 6 weeks old chicks need protection from full grown chickens and predators, but they do pretty well at foraging and looking for food.

The colors of each breed are becoming more defined. The Barred Rocks are getting their distinctive white specs, Rhode Island Reds are getting a deeper colors red, Australorps are still black as they should be and the Buff Orpingtons are turning a bright yellow gold color.

At around 4 weeks old the chicks have shed their soft birth feathers and have got their real feathers in. Some of the chicks have bald spots from shedding (molting) one set of feathers and getting another set in.

Best Four Chicken Breeds

Mulching Around Peach and Plum Trees

Peach tree

Several years ago my kids and I planted some peach trees and a plum tree. At least one of the peach trees died and was replaced with another plum tree.

The oldest plum tree is doing well, a couple of the peach trees are doing ok, but two of the peach trees are not doing anything. They are just “there” not growing at all.

Now that my wife and I have moved to the farm I am resolved to take care of the fruit trees.

Why haven’t the trees been growing? I think it is a 2 prong problem:

1. Texas has been in a severe drought for the past few years.

2. We have sandy soil in southeast Texas that does not have very much organic matter.

I am going to fix those two problems by supplying water to the trees when needed, and adding organic mulch around the base of the tree.

Planting Potatoes For The 2014 Garden

Growing potatoes

If you plan on gardening during a long term SHTF event, the potato is one of your best friends. Not only are potatoes easy to grow, but they also store well, are easy to cook with, and any remaining potatoes at the end of the year can be replanted for next years crop.

Unlike a lot of crops that require special storage, such as canning and/or drying, just keep potatoes dry and in a cool dark place and they will store for close to a year.

Small potatoes can be eaten straight out of the ground. Larger ones can be baked, boiled, mashed, or made into a soup.

Potatoes grow well in loose soil free from rocks, sticks, tree roots and other obstructions. Work the soil with a tiller, plow, disk,,, something that will break the soil up. Make the rows, add fertilizer, I like to mix the fertilizer into the soil using a tiller, then plant the seed potatoes. Plant the seed potatoes about 3 inches deep and about 12 – 18 inches apart.

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