Chickens are easy keepers.

Chicken-love is spreading. From the suburbs of LA to the backyards of PA, chickens are the new black lab. Well, not exactly, but if you haven’t considered keeping a couple hens in your yard, perhaps you should. Chickens are an easy, delightful pet that feeds you and your garden. As long as your township or borough gives you the go ahead, it’s hard to go wrong with a flock of your own. And if you can keep alive a gerbil or a houseplant, chickens will be a very rewarding piece of cake. Here’s what you need.

Shelter. Just like people, shelter is a chicken’s basic need. But chickens aren’t choosy. You can DIY or just hit up Tractor Supply for an easy coop kit for a simple attractive coop. But we’ve found that our chickens don’t need much – a dry, draft-free shelter to protect them from wind, rain, and predators like raccoons and foxes. Most chickens prefer a roost, and you’ll want an easily accessible nest box to collect your yummy eggs. You can make your coop as simple or elaborate as you like, but the general rule of thumb says chickens need 3 to 4 feet of coop space per bird. If space is a premium in your back yard, just remember to keep 12 inches of roost space per chicken and one nest box for every 3 hens. Open their door every morning when it’s convenient, and once they learn the coop is their home, they’ll return to their roost every evening at dusk. Just lock the door to keep them safe from nighttime predators. Pine shavings are great for the floor of the coop, just sweep it out every week or so and replace with fresh shavings to keep your coop clean and your chickens healthy.

Need some ideas for coops? Check out these pretty and inventive ideas.

Food. Chicken are easy to feed. Adult chickens will eat about 1/4 pound of layer pellets a day, while younger chicks should be fed starter/grower crumbles. You can order commercial feed from any Tractor Supply, local feed mill, and even walmart.com. If you allow your chickens to wander freely in your yard, they’ll happily snatch up bugs, worms, and caterpillars that wreak havoc on your garden. Slip them your dinner scraps and watch the antics begin – your happy hens will go gaga over stale (not moldy) bread, scrambled eggs, or just about anything you’ve scraped off your plate. It’s a great way to keep food out of the trash bag and turn it into eggs. Give your chickens food and water each morning when you let them out.

Water. Water is critical to chickens and people. You can use a dedicated chicken waterer or a shallow, clean bucket. Just make sure the water is fresh and your waterer is clean.

Chickens are easy! They just need a little food, shelter, and water, and they will reward you greatly with delicious eggs, pest control, and fertilizer for your garden. Some breeds are great foragers while others, like Buff Orpingtons and Silkies, are cuddly and follow you around like a puppy. You can order nearly grown chickens from most hatcheries or find some locally on Craigslist. And while raising chicks takes a little more in the form of supplies and work, it is definitely fun and worth your efforts. Chickens are surprisingly hardy little creatures, but you’ll want to keep a phone number on hand for a vet that will care for them, just in case you need some help. Of course, we always keep an eye on young children around any animal (especially roosters) and always wash hands after handling.If you live in the suburbs or the city, you’ll want to check your local ordinances first. A quick call to the township office will let you know if you are allowed to have roosters and hens, hens only, or sadly, no chickens at all.

That’s it!  The quick and dirty easy guide to keeping chickens in your backyard. With just a little care for their basic needs and comforts, you’ll be rewarded with eggs, fertilizer, bug control, and chicken love. It doesn’t get any easier – or better – than that.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

 Winter is happening just how I like it – with the cold weather outside, and me, inside, by the cozy warm fire. I don’t mean to complain one bit, but OOOOOH baby, it’s cold outside! My inner scientist can’t decide if this evidence for or against global warming, but I for one wouldn’t mind a little extra warm right now!

Frigid temps mean the animals need some extra TLC. That means trading out frozen water buckets for fresh a couple times a day and making sure they have lots of extra clean, dry bedding to snuggle in. And while the goats and chickens don’t seem to love the snow covered ground, the don’t seem to mind the frigid temps at all. The roosters are outside first thing, happily scratching in their chicken run and cockadoodling the day away.

When frozen padlocks tried to trip us up, we got creative! We discovered a great use for the rice handwarmers on the Tiny Happy Acres etsy shop.  I just heated them up a little extra hot, and my hubby held them on the locks until the ice melted enough to open. So much easier than trying to get a hairdryer out there! It’s definitely worth having a few on hand for that reason.

Speaking of the Etsy, you’re going to want to go sign up for the newsletter ASAP!!!! Don’t wait a minute. Why? First of all, right now you can get a free printable of 10 (Christian) affirmations for kids. We have a great time at breakfast reading and repeating these affirmations. It helps us all start the day on a positive note and helps the little ones learn to read, too.

And the second reason to sign up for the newsletter? So you can be the FIRST TO KNOW about the unveiling of our Tiny Happy Acres Spring product line. I’m so excited I can barely keep that secret, I just know you’re going to love it and right now the office smells so good that I don’t ever want to leave. I’m practically in heaven! So hurry up, don’t delay, sign up for the newsletter! Right here! 

And although it’s January and the ground is frozen, we are busy working on the farm! That’s right, we are planning a major farm expansion for this spring and we are working on our business plans. We are working on nutritious veggies, gorgeous sunflowers, the best eggs around, and we are plotting and planning on bringing you some brand new adorable pets, too! 2018 is a year for growth and I hope that you will jump in and join us in creating an abundant life. I hope we can inspire you to care for your body, your soul, and our planet.

As I look out across the frozen tundra that has taken over my backyard farm, I can’t help but think that even though everything looks dead and frozen, God has instilled life and it is just waiting for the opportune moment to burst forth in beauty and bloom. And even if your life, your dreams, your soul, seem frozen and dead, remember that God is still hard at work. Keep that hope alive and burning within you because at any moment you may find that bloom that changes everything. Take this time to rest, to nourish your body and soul so that you can bloom. It’s our mission and our passion. Nourish. Bloom. Repeat.

Stay tuned because amazingness is in the works!

Check out our Etsy shop!

One of my favorite aspects of homesteading is being earth conscious, taking care of our resources, and reducing / eliminating waste. In an effort to be more sustainable and supplement our homestead budget, we opened an Etsy store! Our store is made up of all kinds of tote bags and containers which have been repurposed from other materials. Check us out at https://www.etsy.com/shop/TinyHappyAcres.

Some of our favorite items are Feed bag Christmas stockings to tickle the fancy of your fav chicken lady, goat totes, and blue jean bags. Please check us out and happy shopping!

Feeling dried up, worn out, deadened? We have hope.

Feeling dried up, worn out, deadened? We have hope.
“Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”
Ezekiel 37:12-14, NIV

 

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The Rose of Jericho, the Resurrection Fern, has an amazing capacity for survival. In times of drought, it dries out and shrivels up, looking dead, but hides a surprising secret. When given a long slow drink, that dead-looking fern resurrects and becomes lush and green and full of life again. If you’re a special needs parent, I bet you’ve got that same capacity for survival. We go through periods that are so hard, so exhausting, physically and emotionally taxing, that we feel pretty dead and dried up inside. I have days when I feel that way, don’t you? Worn out until there really isn’t much left. Just like that fern can live again, there is hope for you, and there is hope for me, too!

There is a pretty special prophet named Ezekiel who we read about in the Old Testament. I love the story of Ezekiel because he never intended to become a prophet. Ezekiel trained his entire life to be a priest. A priest had social standing, was respected, and admired. It was an honor to be a priest! But just as he was about to step into his role as priest and fulfill his duties, God called him to something entirely different – to be a prophet. Nobody really likes a prophet. They were looked down upon, disliked, and viewed with suspicion. But God used prophets to bring his stubborn people back to Him, so a prophet’s job was just as important as a priest’s. Few people desire to be a special needs parent, it’s something that often is thrust upon us, and leaves us feeling kind of isolated and at odds with the world, but it’s just as important and rewarding, isn’t it?

Well, God’s people seemed a lot like that dried up old fern – they were hurting, feeling alone, abandoned because they had rejected God. Have you ever felt alone and hurting? Isolated? It was Ezekiel’s job to bring them back to God. And God gave him an incredible vision, the Valley of the Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37:1-14.

In the passage, God takes Ezekiel to this valley of bones, old, dead bones. Because that’s how Israel felt, like wasted old bones. And Ezekiel was probably pretty horrified by those bones – because a priest would never touch a dead body! But God told Ezekiel to speak to the bones, and he obeyed. And the bones grew flesh, and became bodies. And God told Ezekiel to speak to those bones again, and he obeyed. And those bones were given the breath of life and became a vast army of living breathing people. This vision sounds more like something from the Walking Dead rather than a Bible story, so what does that mean for us?

It means that God sees us and hears us when we feel like we are dried up, wasting away, cut off, and abandoned. And it means that God wants to breathe new life in us! He wants to restore our weary souls, energize our lifeless bodies, and help us stand to our feet, ready to face another day. Just like that Resurrection Fern comes back to life with just a bit of water, God wants to breathe new life into our hurting, dead places.

Maybe you never planned on being a special needs parent, but now, somehow, you are. And it’s hard, and it can be isolating. It’s exhausting. And just as you are breathing life and love into your special needs child or children, God wants to breathe life and love into you. Breathe in, my friend, breathe in God’s Spirit and let God give you new life.

Dear God,

We cry out to You with our hurts, our loneliness, our isolation.
We cry out to You in our deadness, our dryness, our weariness.

We give you the dry places,
the hidden places,
the hurting places
so You can resurrect them.

Fill us, Lord, with Your Breath,
fill us with Your Spirit,
and give us strength to stand,
strength to fight, and
strength to thrive.

Give us Your infinite love
so we have love to give to those around us.

In the name of Jesus,

Amen

-Amanda Furbeck

This post originally published at Comfort in the Midst of Chaos on August 4, 2016.

Are You Ready for Christmas?

Are you ready for Christmas?

The closer the big day looms, the more frequently those very words are uttered. Are you ready for Christmas? 73063_10200132888625462_345328533_n

It’s quite the loaded question, really. We love to be busy about Christmas. We love the frenetic shopping, the baking, the parties, the clothes. Making magic and meals and mastering the art of all things festive.  Are you ready for Christmas?

I am not ready for Christmas. Not one little bit.  The shopping has not even been started. Admittedly, I don’t even have a list, rather a distant, vague understanding of my family’s wishes. The Christmas tree is still waiting – down the road, with all of the other Christmas trees at the Lyon’s Club fundraiser in the local grocer’s parking lot. Maybe tomorrow we’ll get the tree, I assure my hopeful wee ones. Christmas decorations? Yeah, there are a few out and about but most are still stuffed in their boxes, barely put away from last year’s extravaganza. The Christmas lights were all deported to the local landfill, useless, shorted out, burned out, and dead from the flooded basement after last winter’s blizzard. The cookies are not baked and the meals are not planned and I haven’t the faintest idea where the leftover wrapping paper has gone. In this season of preparation, I am not too well prepared. And that’s ok.

In the Lutheran tradition, Christmas Carols are not sung until Christmas. Instead, only Advent Hymns echo through the church, melodiously proclaiming the coming birth of the baby Jesus, and the return of Christ, the King. It is a season of preparation. Preparing our hearts to receive our Savior, preparing our lives for the return of the King.  Are you too busy celebrating Christmas to celebrate Him? Or is your heart getting ready to worship, ready for God to do something new in your life, ready to accept the challenge of living for Him in the new year ahead? Let me ask you, are you ready? If Christ came today, are you ready?

If His return were today, or tomorrow or the next, what would He find? A bustling family battling for bargains and begging for gifts or contentedness, service, and hope? It’s prep time, for sure, but are your prepping your presents or prepping your heart? I have a lot of prep work to do. My heart is too busy, my days are too full, and the noise in my life is just plain loud and threatens to drown out the beautful strains of Christmas joy and the Savior’s love. If I am not intentional with prepping my heart to thank and praise and worship Jesus this time of preparation will slip right by. And once the cookies have left behind nothing but crumbs and the presents are unwrapped and ribbons are scattered and the pine needles are dropping from their Christmas boughs, will my heart be satisfied? Or will I be longing for more of Christmas that can only be filled by the gift of God’s Son?

Let me ask you, just once more, are you ready for Christmas?

 

 

Meet Snapchat

Baby announcement! 

Meet Snapchat, our very first baby born on the homestead. 

Snapchat

Snapchat is a silky chicken, as you can tell by his/her small stature and extra toes. Snapchat is an adorable teeny sleepy little baby chick. And I am in awe at God’s little miracles and this tiny life that hatched in our chicken coop, discovered by the hubby when we he stopped in to gather the eggs. The telltale peeping gave it away and I couldn’t wait to run in and snap a few pics.

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But things don’t always run so smoothly on the the homestead! Due to severe and surprising rooster aggression, we had to say farewell to our beloved Captain Jack a few weeks ago. There is no reason to keep a roo gone mean and we made sure his farewell was as kind and polite as possible. It was sad and disappointing but necessary for the safety of all who reside on and visit our homestead, including the chickens. But he left in his wake 2 broody hens with only unfertilized eggs to sit on. So we borrowed a few fertilized silky eggs, because those hens were new to laying and showed no signs of being brood. We delivered them to the broody wyandottes, hoping that all would work out well. But it didn’t.

The broody mama sitting on the silky eggs just didn’t take to Snapchat and gave her a great big peck and a wound. So we rescued poor Snapchat at just a few hours old and she is now quietly resting in the piano studio. To be honest, we weren’t really sure if Snap would make it through the night. But she’s a fighter and so far seems to be doing everything a baby chick should, peeping, drinking, sleeping, and hopefully, eating, too. Sometimes, broody hens get confused and kill their babies, so we’ll have to keep a close eye on those eggs to see if any more babies hatch. If they do, we can bring them in to snuggle up to Snapchat. If they don’t, we’ll need to ‘break’ mama hen of her broodiness, which is a whole other post and a whole other day.  For now, we are just enjoying our baby grandchick and hoping she recovers well from the henpecking she received.

In the meantime, we have a silky hen whose gone all broody on us. Perhaps there are more grandchicks on the way!

Edit: We found another tiny baby in the coop! Still ‘wet’ from breaking out of the egg. Meet Baby Twitter!

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Insta-gratifying Paleo Blueberry Mason Jar Muffins

Muffins and paleo don’t usually happen in the same sentence, unless that same sentence uses the word, “Don’t.” That is, until now! Since I was having a super-duper blueberry muffin craving, I used my cake in a mug recipe ideas to recreate a pretty awesome, pretty darn near paleo blueberry muffin. (There’s also a completely Paleo version if you prefer!) You’ll be eating in less than 5 minutes. Want it? You got it. Click below.

Insta-gratifying Paleo Blueberry Mason Jar Muffins  

instgratify

10 ways to get more done today

10.  Turn off the notifications on your cell phone. Only check email and messages during designated times. Don’t look at your phone more than oimagence per hour.

Every time it beeps, blurts, or dings your brain gets distracted from its current task, even if just for a millisecond. Turn them off until your work is done. Put the phone somewhere where you won’t be tempted to constantly glance at it.

9. Do the hard things first. Whatever it is that’s hard, distasteful, or annoying, do it first, do it quickly and get it out of the way. Your other tasks will seem easier and you won’t do them slowly to put off doing the yucky thing.

8. Have a short play session with your kids, then give them something fun to do on their own (.like playdough! ). They’ll be more content after having played with you for a bit, and you’ll have more chance to get something done with less interruptions. We use playdough, coloring, snacks, and reserved happy meal toys for just such occasions.

7. Take a nap if you need one. It’s hard to be productive when you’re exhausted, so squeeze in a power nap even if you have a lot to get done. It may seem counterproductive to waste time sleeping, but if you’re really dragging, it will help.

6. Make a plan. Take a few minutes to logically plan out everything you have to accomplish, putting it in some kind of logical sequence. It’s a lot more effective than just running around like crazy. IMG_1089

5. Be strategic – what needs done during nap time, and what can you do when the kids are awake? I can fold towels amidst games of duck duck goose, but I can’t focus enough to pay the bills when there’s a lot of commotion.

4. Fuel yourself. Drink water and eat foods that are going to give you solid, sustained energy, like protein rather than sugary carbs.

3. Don’t multi-task. We love trying to do 6 things at once, but our brains focus better and work more quickly when we focus on one thing at a time.

2. Get kids involved! Even young children can spread peanut butter on bread (with a child safe knife, of course), carry toilet paper, put dirty clothes in a hamper, etc. They love being helpers, and its great for them to learn the satisfaction of a job well done. You’ll be amazed at what they can really accomplish – you’ll all be proud of their new skills!

  1. Turn off facebook! ‘Nuff said.

The secret to saner mornings

There is a dream I have, of gently easing into my day, with a cup of coffee and a magazine and maybe some dippy eggs, and I am still resting in my bed, all snug and cozy, with cat at my feet, while the sun comes up, and I feel awake, rested, and at peace. And I have a few minutes alone with my Bible before the busy of the day begins, and I can think, and pray, and clear my head and just breathe. Oh to just breathe. Breathe in the scent of lavender, or peppermint, or the fresh morning air while I am at rest and at peace and the scent of coffee brings comfort and love.

Reality is so much harder. It is dark, and I am tossing about because I’m too hot or too cold, or maybe it’s my allergies and I think I can’t breathe, or maybe it’s the cat breathing in my air and asking for her breakfast. And finally, finally, I doze off again.

And suddenly there is squealing and shouting and pounding on the floor above and small children bounding in my IMG_0630door and jumping on my head and begging to be fed and I realize there is no gentle easing into my day, there is a harsh knocking awake and my body takes a small beating from excited children who cannot contain their energy because it’s a new day and who could possibly ever want to sleep another minute when there is a world to explore, a language to learn, and new discoveries like worms and dirt and tasty foods and math equations and a pizza party in the classroom and can’t we have apples for breakfast or bagels or eggs or just anything? And the bounding babies make me smile and laugh and cringe and dive under my pillow for just one more moment of sleep.

And finally the coffee maker turns on and there is the smell of dirty diapers, not the smell of lavender and lace and the harsh reality that the day has started long before I was ever even ready. And I drag my weary body up and out and sizzle up some breakfast for tiny little tummies who have much exploring to do.

And getting going is not so hard because there is no leftover work from yesterday. The dishes were done, and the backpacks were packed and the lunches were ready and in their little bags and 6 little sets of pants and shirts are all laid out in a row so there is no scrambling for baby socks or stain-free shirts and hole-less pants. Homework’s been checked and rechecked and signed and even water bottles are waiting in the fridge, ready for little fingers to grab and take along. And it may not be quiet, and it might not smell sweet, but I can sip a few sips of coffee as the baby sips her bottle and I can savor my eggs as the kids savor theirs and we can talk and tell jokes and jump together into this new day.

And the single secret to saner mornings isn’t to do lists or well-behaved babes or skipping breakfast or doing imagesomething that is very hard at all. The secret is simply finishing yesterday before it’s a new day, and putting away, and planning ahead, and whenever you can, to work until the work is done so that rest is more restful and the day starts shiny and new, without dragging along the baggage of the past to weigh down the newness and dull out the shiny and ruin a day before it begins. And it might not be the daydream beginning that is soft and sweet and smelling so good, but it is the closest and best that I can come to making the dreams I dream be my life. And someday the bounding bouncing babies will be seeking coffee of their own, and cringing under their pillows in their own cozy warm beds and I’ll remember the times they bounced me awake and all I wanted was peace and dreams and lavender and a saner morning. And the mornings are hard but they are good because they are full of laughter and sillies and bounding babes and I’ll just do my best to cuddle and sip as they drag me along and it’s ok because yesterday is already wrapped up tight and cleaned away and I can face this new day because joy is in it, and love is in it, and babies are in it, and God is in it first.