Homesteading and Livestock
Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.


4 Herbs to Help Repel Insects From Your Chickens

Have you had problems with your chickens being annoyed with flies, mites or other problematic insects?  You may not have noticed your chickens scratching in the spring when the insects become more active, but odds are that they've been doing it.  You can grow herbs that will help to keep the insects off of your chickens and away from their coop.

Lavender, marigolds, mint and nasturtium are easy to grow and all have insecticide value for your chickens.

Lavender

This relaxing and calming herb will calm your flock, just like it would for you.  The highly fragrant flowers will help to repel insects.

Lavender also has the ability to increase blood circulation for your hens.

Marigolds

Add marigold flowers to the nesting boxes to help keep them insect-free.  Marigolds are strong insect-repellents.  Your hens may eat the marigolds, and that's OK.  In fact, hens that eat marigolds will lay eggs that have bright, vibrant orange egg yolks.  It will also improve the color of their beaks and legs.

Mint

Mint is ridiculously easy to grow and is an excellent choice for first time herb growers.  The highly aromatic leaves of mint are strong insect repellents.  They will help to ward off any parasites and can even keep rodents away from your coop.

Mint can help prevent disease once ingested.  Improve the look of your flock's feathers with mint as it helps encourage feather growth.

Nasturtium

Nasturtium is an insect repellant that is attractive also.  The pretty flowers of the plant can add to landscape used around the coop.  Nasturtium is also an egg-laying stimulant.  Provide it to your hens to help prevent them from becoming egg-bound.

Toss dried or fresh herbs into the coop and your flock will eat them quickly.  Grow herbs on the outside perimeter of the coop and your chickens will consume the parts that they can reach.  The plant's roots will be safe from scratching hens.  Tie up bundles of dried herbs in the coop and run to keep insects out of the coop.

Other Herbs to Try

Lemongrass can be grown to repel flying insects, like mosquitoes.  Lemongrass can be used to create landscaping around the coop that is attractive and functional.

Basil can also help to repel insects and can help keep your flock healthy.  Basil will clear the sinus cavities and has some anti-bacterial properties.

Rosemary, another highly fragrant and calming herb, can repel insects.  It can also improve respiratory health.

Garlic is especially good to feed to keep ticks, fleas, mites and other annoying insects at bay.  Add smashed garlic to the waterers to provide insecticide value to the drinking water.

Put dried lavender, mint and rosemary into your chicken's dust baths.  This will help to keep insects off of your chickens and will make them smell nice!

Many herbs are really easy to grow and aren't picky about where you plant them.  You can plant many herbs from seeds for pennies.  Some herbs are perennials and come back year after year.  Others are self-seeding and only need to be planted once.

Are you raising herbs for your chickens yet? 

Shelby DeVore is a livestock expert with experience teaching high school agriculture and multiple poultry science teams. Shelby has over 20 years of experience raising poultry for show, meat and eggs. She lives on a farm in west Tennessee with her husband and two children along with too many chickens to count. You can catch up with her on her homesteading blog, Farminence. You can read all of Shelby's Mother Earth News blogs here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Fun Chicken Names for Your Homestead Flock

Chicken Names 

If you’re looking for a group of names for the flock of chickens on your homestead, we’ve pulled together some egg-cellent choices for you!

Whether you’re looking for something for the cute and fluffy hens, or the bossier dominant hen amongst the group, we have a perfect name for you here. Regardless of their breed or personality, we hope you find something in this list that reflects your little ball of fluff.

Classic Chicken Names

If you would rather stay away from funny or trendier names, and like to keep it quite traditional, think of female names from the older generation, and most of those make the ideal classic name for your chicken.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started, but you could also consider naming them after some of the older members of your family, if you want both a traditional, meaningful, yet also lighthearted flock!

  • Annie – this name is of English origin and means ‘gracious’.
  • Bertha – you could even go for Big Bertha!
  • Dottie – English origin meaning ‘gift of God’.
  • Ethel – if you have a very regal or noble chicken, this could be a great name.
  • Felicity – derived from the Latin word ‘Felicitas’ meaning good fortune and luck.
  • Henrietta – this is a very popular name for your hen.
  • Josephine – this name is of French origin so might suit a Bresse chicken.
  • Lucy – derived from the Latin name Lucuis which means ‘light’, perfect for any bird that has a light complexion such as an Orpington.
  • Mabel – a sweet name for the older lady in your flock.
  • Penny – Greek for flower!

Comedy Chicken Names

Perhaps you’re not interested in a traditional name and want to give your birds a bunch of names which match their comedy personalities?

Chickens are intelligent and inquisitive animals that are very sociable. They have their own pecking order and some are fearless and boisterous whereas others are quiet and shy.

  • Birdzilla – an ideal name for a loud and bossy chicken who is the leader of the flock.
  • Buckbeak – a great name for a giant breed such as the Jersey Giant.
  • Eggspresso – for the more active and wild bird in the flock who is always on the go!
  • Drumstick – a cheeky food based name!
  • Hen Solo – if you or your children are Star Wars fans, why not name them after characters from the movie, or any other movie which you’re a fan of.
  • Lil Pecker – does this bird constantly peck around for food?
  • Mary Poopins – this one is self-explanatory!
  • Miss Cluck-A-Lot – is one of your chickens the loudest in the flock?
  • Princess Layer – a great name for the preened princess!
  • Scramble –maybe for your prize egg layer?

Famous Chicken Names

Maybe you could name some of your birds after famous people? Perhaps name them after the players in your favorite sports team, or after a famous figure who you love.

Alternatively, you could make a play on words of celebrities and make them chicken related like the ones below:

  • Albert Eggstein – great for the most intelligent member of the group.
  • Cluck Norris – Chuck Norris is a famous American martial artist.
  • David Beekham – can your chicken kick it like Beckham?
  • Hennifer Lopez – perhaps this name would suit the most vocal bird.
  • Hilary Fluff – name your chicken after Hilary Duff, an American actress.
  • Lindsey LoHen – after the famous singer-songwriter.
  • Margaret Hatcher – a funny name for the fastest hatching egg!
  • Poca-hen-tas – if you love Disney, consider naming your flock after the main Disney characters.

Cute Chicken Names

You can draw inspiration for the chickens on your homestead, from anything that sounds cute! Why not use some of these as a starting point:

  • Birdie
  • Frenchie
  • Fluffy
  • Henny Penny
  • Lucky
  • Marshmallow
  • Minnie
  • Popcorn
  • Silky
  • Tootsie

Color Chicken Names

If your chicken is a particular color, their name might be able to match their feathers. Here are a few suggestions of beautiful names based on their color:

  • Blanca
  • Blackie
  • Bluebelle
  • Buttercup
  • Caramel
  • Goldie
  • Marigold
  • Sandy
  • Scarlet
  • Opal

Hopefully you’re found a name in this list which suits your flock down to the ground, but if not, use it as inspiration and think about all the things you love or find cute.

Unlike choosing a child’s name, you can get as creative as you’d like to with your chickens names – you don’t have to worry about the funny looks you’ll get for shouting out a very different name across the park!

David Woods is a carpenter, outdoorsman, and author with more than 30 years of professional woodworking experience. He is the author of best-seller How to Build a Log Home and has educated more than half a million people on how to build a log cabin via his blog, Log Cabin Hub. Connect with David on Facebook, and read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Pasture-Raised Turkeys

Nothing beats a home-raised bird, whether it's a chicken or a turkey.  There is a huge push for meat birds that are raised more naturally.  Turkeys and chickens can technically be raised on pasture, but they won't spend their days eating grass like you might picture a cow doing.  Turkeys that are raised on pasture will have a varied diet and will require a little ingenuity to keep them enclosed and safe.

Raising turkeys isn't difficult and can be a fun experience.  Here's what you need to know about raising turkeys.

What Do Turkeys Eat?

Turkeys are omnivores.  This means that naturally, they eat both vegetation and meat.  Turkeys don't eat 'meat' but they do consume insects for protein.

About 50-60% of a turkey's natural diet comes from vegetation.  They'll spend their time eating grasses, seeds and berries.  Turkeys prefer to eat the tops of pasture style grasses, or grasses that are 4-6 inches tall.  This is probably why you see so many turkeys in fields where cattle, sheep and horses graze.

The remaining 50-40% of their diet will come from insects.  Turkeys need the protein and amino acids that are present in the insects.  These proteins and amino acids will help fuel the growth for growing turkeys.  Young turkeys grow fast and need somewhere around 28% protein to feed this rapid growth.

In the fall and winter, wild turkeys will gorge themselves on acorns from oak trees.  This is a favorite food for turkeys in cooler months.  You can often find wild turkeys in the woods where large clumps of oaks are.

If you're planning on pasture raising turkeys, you'll want to provide them with a mixed 'pasture."  If you can enclose an area that is both open field and wooded, they will be the happiest and the healthiest.  Remember, they want access to both grasses and plenty of bugs.  Sometimes the best bugs aren't in the fields, but in the woods.

Enclosing Turkey Pasture

Creating an enclosure for turkeys can seem difficult.  Wild turkeys can fly, but many of the modern, broad-breasted breeds cannot fly.  Turkeys can be enclosed with a four-foot fence in most cases.  If you're raising smaller turkeys, like the midget white, or heritage breeds, keep in mind that many of them are accomplished flyers.  You'll need to either completely enclose their pasture with fenced sides and a top or clip their flight feathers.

Clipping flight feathers is easy and doesn't hurt the birds.  Simple trim the primary feathers to the length of the secondary feathers on the wings to prevent flight.

The best way to enclose turkeys is with poultry netting.  The holes are small and the birds cannot escape through the fence.  If you put up 5 or 6 strands of barbed wire, or even field fencing, your birds won't stay enclosed.  Turkeys can slip through small holes and squeeze between strands of fence. 

A strand of electric fencing 12'' off of the ground can help deter predators that might make an easy meal of your turkeys.

A group of 12 turkeys is perfect for a small family that is trying to fill their freezer with meat.  For 12 turkeys, a 75' x 75' space is enough.  Of course, the more space you can give them, the better off they will be.

What Do Turkeys Need?

Don't worry about building your turkeys a coop.  They would much rather sleep outdoors than inside.  Turkeys enjoy sleeping in a roost at night.  They will fly up into trees where they aren't easily reached by predators.  Make sure that your turkey pasture has trees they can get into.  If it doesn't, make them something that they can roost on at night.

You'll need to provide your turkeys with a constant supply of fresh water.  Turkeys grow fast.  This rapid growth requires lots of water.  Purchase the largest waterers that you can.  You can even utilize large, plastic kiddie swimming pools to hold lots of water. 

If your turkey pasture is more grasses than a mixture of grass and woods, then you'll need to provide them with a quality grower feed.  This will ensure that they get all of the protein that they need to stay healthy.

Raising turkeys isn't hard and can be rather enjoyable.  Turkeys are personable and curious, making them a lot of fun to raise.

Shelby DeVore is a livestock expert with experience teaching high school agriculture and multiple poultry science teams. Shelby has over 20 years of experience raising poultry for show, meat and eggs. She lives on a farm in west Tennessee with her husband and two children along with too many chickens and turkeys to count. You can catch up with her on her homesteading blog, Farminence. You can read all of Shelby's Mother Earth News blogs here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Senior Homesteading at High Elevation

 

Homesteading remotely is difficult but it is particularly difficult as we grow older into our senior years. Of course, it depends on the type of lifestyle lived as to how hard it is. We chose to build a small cabin and heat it with wood. We also chose to be on grid as the financial difference between being on-vs-off grid was negligible. Due to our long winter months at 9,800’ elevation we use a considerable amount of firewood each winter. Our winters can be up to 6-7 months long and we can burn up to 10 to 11 cords of firewood each cold season.

Abrupt introduction to winter. This year, the natural indicators pointed toward an early and cold winter. The insects, birds and animals were spot on because our first single digit temperatures and snow was mid-October. Normally we ease into snow season but this year our first snow was 20 inches and our subsequent snows were an accumulation  of 15 inches. That totals 35 inches of snow inside of 10 days was an abrupt introduction to our lengthy snow season.

Indications of winter. By paying close attention to bird migration, insect activity and squirrels/chipmunks gathering and storing food we knew it was going to be a different type of winter so we were prepared. As we have gotten older and in our senior years the 23+ years which we have lived here have taken a toll on our bodies and joints and we find our two most demanding tasks have become harder to accomplish. Snow removal and firewood gathering are still possible but we approach those jobs more carefully and try to work smarter. 

Aches and pains. For other seniors who would desire to live remotely, consider that as we age those tasks you can easily perform when younger will become more challenging as your joints and lower back have some accumulated years of hard use on them. Remembering how it used to be doesn’t help the present and getting anxious over how things were when you were younger can be self defeating. 

Heating needs. For example, to relieve our heating demands we have installed two electric ceramic heaters at each end of the cabin. They keep our cabin comfortably warm at night and due to their efficiency our electric bill has remained about the same. This lessens our need for so much firewood since we don’t have to keep the wood stove operating 24/7. We still use our wood stove during the daytime when it is very cold so our electric heat doesn’t have to keep the house warm around the clock. 

Snow removal is strenuous. Snow removal has been made easier by the use of our Kubota tractor with a snow thrower attachment. We also have a walk behind snow thrower that gets into the hard to reach spots the tractor can’t easily reach. We then use snow shovels to remove the rest of the snow those mechanized pieces of equipment can’t access. Our senior dogs need an area cleared and shoveling is the only way to provide clear space for them. We also have decks, steps and a walkway that need to be shoveled. Even with the mechanical removal equipment we still do a lot of shoveling which serves to keep us healthy but also generates more aches and pains.

Inconsistent winters. In our 23+ years of living here we have rarely seen two winters alike. Some have little snow (180 inches or less) while other years we have 300 inches or more of snow. Some years have temperatures that range in the teens and other winters we have negative temperatures. Some winters start in November or December and others like this winter start mid-October. We rarely have two snow seasons that are consistent enough to determine what is “normal”. I suspect that may lend itself to what most are referring to as climate change. We also have have periods of drought which led to last years ‘Spring’ wildfire that left us intact within a burn scar area. 

High-altitude weather. We hear about global warming but with our diverse weather at high altitude we do not have any tangible indicators that would prove it one way or the other. From what I have learned from those who have lived here much longer than us, our weather is mostly inconsistent. I am not well versed in the science of global warming but I know our weather does fluctuate from one year to the next. 

Nature heals itself, given time. I recall once when I was a speaking director for an environmental group in Florida that I had one audience in which myself and the state biologist both spoke. He said something that has stuck with me and that is that the Earth is far more resilient than we could imagine and mother nature heals some of our environmental blunders in ways we can’t comprehend. That actually happened to the river we were drawing attention to, and what we were unable to do nature did for itself. 

How old is the planet (and does it matter)? Some say our planet is 650,000 years old — others say it is much older. Over that span of time, there have been many changes. I also recall what a geology professor once said, that when people try to date the Earth, let them, because no one really knows and it is not worth debating over. Our planet changes over the span of its lifetime and those changes can take thousands of years.I am not knowledgeable enough to tell if we are in the midst of global change or warming and will leave that to the experts. In fact I get easily confused over the conflicting versions espoused and the terminology. 

Climate change at high altitudes. There clearly is some change taking place, but the USA needs to work in partnership with other countries to make a difference. Until this and other countries are prepared to do more than talk about it and actually do something, I don’t think much progress will be noticeable. Here in the mountains of Southern Colorado, our weather is unpredictable and as we get older, we have to be anticipatory and prepared to deal with changes. I am not a doubter of climate change or that the USA has made some progress to be cleaner, but we can’t do it all by ourselves.  

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their remote lifestyle and their constant weather changes go to their personal blog site at: www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com


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Off-Grid and Free: Siting a House and Elements of Our New Homestead

Preliminary Clearing and Stakes for Element Location 

The Off-Grid and Free series recounts one homesteading couple's journey to build a new homestead in Nova Scotia. Read the full series here. Find the author's book, Off-Grid and Free: My Path to the Wilderness, at Moon Willow Press.

In our last installment, we built the road in to the new homestead and did the land clearing with our trusty chainsaw. Now that we had an area cleared for the new homestead, it was time to site the house and from there, lay out the rest of the elements. Where would the garden, herb garden, woodshed, compost bins, solar panels, septic system, water well and orchard go in relation to the house? Where were the best paths to access views of the ocean and branch out for firewood gathering as well as walking paths?

House Location is Priority

As you can see, everything really hinges on where the house is situated so that was our first task. In our case, because we had a large chunk of land with a great deal of flexibility, we had no concerns about building near property lines. We wanted to have an ocean view but we also took into account future shoreline erosion. The house will ultimately end up as an oddity for the fish to explore once it tumbles into the sea, but it’s our hope that is a long way into the future.

We staked out the 4 corners of the house as best we could and I used a compass properly set to take into account declination so that the house would be oriented facing due south. Using the northeast corner as a reference point, I sighted down towards the southeast corner and made sure it was a line oriented due south and then repeated for the northwest/southwest line. It took some time to make sure the dimensions of the house were right, the house faced south and the 4 stakes we pounded in were for a square home. I checked squareness by measuring the diagonals. If the 2 diagonal measurements are equal, you can be assured of a square building.

Locating the Rest of the Homestead Elements

Well water. Once the house placement was finalized, the other homestead elements could be figured out and located. To a large degree, locations are logical and fit into place easily. We had a test hole dug for a well which produced water. That gave us confidence we had a supply of potable water. Once the well was located, the septic system was placed at least 100 feet from our water source.

A woodshed should be handy to the door closest to any wood burning device. No point lugging firewood any further than necessary and the closer the stove is to the entry, the less mess is created moving firewood around the house.

The gardens and orchard should be an easy walk from the house. A garden will grow just fine no matter the orientation to the sun. We’ve had a garden oriented north/south as well as several gardens oriented east/west. The important thing to take into account is the location of the tall vegetables in relation to the shorter ones so the tall items don’t cast a shadow on the shorter vegetables.

Barn. If you plan to have a barn, locate it so that it’s relatively handy for lugging water from the well. But keep in mind animals generate copious quantities of manure, so pens and compost bins should be as far as possible from your clean water source. We want to make sure no contamination ever gets to the well. If the animal pens and compost bins are on higher ground with drainage in the opposite direction of your well, so much the better.

Excavator Digging Roots and Rocks

A Small Start to the Garden

Once we had the house and elements located, it was time to get a simple garden planted. In our case, while the excavator was out building our access driveway in to the homestead, we had it rip tree stumps and large rocks from the garden and orchard area. The teeth on the bucket also semi broke up the thick, dense forest sod. This sod was brutal to deal with. I’ve split a lot of firewood in my day and tried using the splitting maul to chop up manageable pieces of the sod, but many times, my whack simply bounced off the ground. The stuff was that dense. Forget trying to chop it with a shovel or spade.

Ultimately, as each smaller chunk of sod came out of the garden area, all dirt and organic matter was shaken back on to the garden and the remainder was piled to dry for later processing with the chipper. Once shredded, the material would also be returned back to the garden. I’ve found that using an old chain on my chainsaw is a convenient way to cut up small pieces to feed into the chipper. I’ve also found that our chipper clogged up at the outlet screen when we processed the sod. Our screen has about 1 inch holes. We didn’t have a larger screen so I temporarily removed the screen thus making it much easier to run the sod through. That screen is a protective mechanism preventing a hand from being lost so please keep safety in mind when that screen is off. Only use a long handled shovel to keep the area cleaned of chips. Never hands or feet anywhere near that output chute.

First Garden Tilling

Our first garden was pathetic. I used our rototiller to churn up a small spot for planting and it was a real workout. Till a few feet and hit a boulder, dig boulder out and go a few more feet. Many of the boulders required pry bars and straps just to get them to the surface. I can now understand why there are so many rock walls as property lines. The new settlers had the same dilemma of starting anew on cleared forestland, although they likely had a draft horse or oxen to help with the load.

By the time we had the ground ready to plant it was July, so we got a very late start. Note also I’m wearing a bug net. Rarely do I use one. The black flies were thick that first year. We figured mosquitoes would be a problem but they turned out to be nothing compared to the black flies.

The garden gave a taste of various vegetables but after the wrestling match with establishing a small plot, we considered it a victory to get anything at all. We also learned that while the soil looked rich, it was deficient in everything.

Foundation Digging

The last thing we needed to do was to invite the excavator back to dig our house foundation. The intent was to dig a partial cellar and leave the rest at grade, essentially creating a crawl space under most of the house. But when the excavator showed up, the operator suggested doing a full basement since it would be easier to dig and lay out the footings etc. Excavating a basement was new to us so we deferred to his experience and went with a full basement.

Excavator Digging House Foundation

The excavator operator brought a transit to help with determining how deep to dig. All valuable top soil was scooped off the surface and piled for use in the gardens. No point having all that good earth go to waste. All the roots of small trees and shrubs were piled separately and over time will be cleaned of soil and organic matter. Any stems that can be salvaged for firewood or the chipper will be utilized. The bigger roots will be burned in campfires.

Removing Top Soil From House Site

So I’ll leave you with the big hole in the ground, the start of a garden and a plan in my head on how this will all come together. Next time we’ll lay out the footings, make a start on the orchard/fruit plants/asparagus and discuss building with ICF versus conventional framing.


Ron Melchiore and his wife, Johanna, are currently building a new homestead on the coast of Nova Scotia. Ron is the author of Off-Grid and Free: My Path to the Wilderness published by Moon Willow Press and is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Connect with Ron at Inthewilderness.net and on Facebook and Pinterest  Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Ayam Cemani Chickens

What is the Ayam Cemani?

The Ayam Cemani is a unique breed of chicken.  If you've researched chicken breeds, then you've likely come across photos of this rare chicken. The breed is fairly new to the U.S. and is easily distinguished with its all black feathers, skin and meat. 

The breed was developed in Indonesia where it is kept by upper classes of society. It is thought to have magical powers and is quite valuable and sought after in Asian countries.

Why are Ayam Cemani all Black?

The Ayam Cemani are thought to be the result of crosses between domestic chickens and green jungle fowl.  Not all of these crosses will survive, but those that do sometimes have the dark pigmentation of the Ayam Cemani. 

Ayam Cemani are black due to excessive pigmentation.  This is called fibromelanosis.  Fibromelanosis is the result of genetics.  A bird must have two copies of the fibromelanosis gene to be a true Ayam Cemani.  Birds that only have one copy will appear darker than birds with no copy of the gene, but they will not be truly all-black.

It can be hard to breed Ayam Cemani as it can appear that a bird is a true Ayam Cemani when in fact there is only one copy of the fibromelanosis gene is present.

Ayam Cemani Characteristics

Ayam Cemani are smaller birds that are game-like in appearance.  They weigh in around 4-5 pounds and have an alert, upright stance.  They wear their feathers tucked in close and do not have excessive plumage.

The birds are not aggressive.  In fact, many owners report that Ayam Cemani are quite sociable and enjoy their humans.  They get along well with other chicken breeds and other livestock.

Is an Ayam Cemani Right for You?

This breed can be quite expensive, with a breeding pair costing about $5,000.  Breeders are often sold out years in advance to keep up with the demands for this luxury chicken breed.

Don't purchase the Ayam Cemani if you want a breed that will be a reliable egg layer.  Most Ayam Cemani hens will lay about 60 eggs per year.  This is quite short of the 180-260 eggs that many layer breeds will produce in a year.

If you're interested in breeding Ayam Cemani for profit, then you'll need to make sure that you really understand the genetics behind the breed.  You'll also want to understand the breeds standards.  In the U.S., the standards for the Ayam Cemani can be found on the Ayam Breeders Association website. 

Feeding and housing the Ayam Cemani is no different than it would be for any other breed of chicken.  Provide them with ample food and water.  A secure coop is a must have to keep these expensive chickens safe from predators. 

If you're looking to wow your neighbors, then this is the chicken breed for you!


Shelby DeVore is a livestock expert with experience teaching high school agriculture and multiple poultry science teams. Shelby has over 20 years of experience raising poultry for show, meat and eggs. She lives on a farm in west Tennessee with her husband and two children along with too many chickens to count. You can catch up with her on her homesteading blog, Farminence. And read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS blogs here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Whatever It Takes: A Mantra for Farmers, and Fishers, and People Who Never Give Up

 

It’s when you dig deeper. When you sit up all night waiting for new born lambs or kids. When things don’t come out the way you planned but, you just change plans. When Mother Nature decides this old Earth needs more rain or snow than you would like, making growing seasons too long or too short, but accept it anyway because you’re not in charge. When the phone rings and it’s not the news you want to hear, but you hold hands and close your eyes and say thank you anyway.

As a writer, there are times when I’m cramping my brain for something worthy enough to get out of my head and down on paper. Other times, there’s no question where the inspiration comes from.

A few weeks ago, a post came up across my Instagram feed. Because of the photo, because of the quote, I was curious to know about the author and the story.

I ordered this new book and within a few days, it  was stuffed into my post office box. I was eager to dig right in to it but running a farm single handedly, quiet time is precious. When evening comes, I sit down with good intentions, but the days chores and a tired body usually results in heavy eyelids winning more often than not.

 About the 3rd day, the calling from the bedside table became louder and curiosity got the best of me. I made a cup of tea and headed back out to the barn after morning chores, book tucked under my arm. I joined my new little bunny, Mr. McGregor, sitting in a pile of new hay, gnawing away on the piece of apple I’d given him. The morning disappeared as chapter after chapter unfolded. That night, I climbed in bed early and finished the book.

The next morning, as I opened up my Instagram, I posted this, along with the picture Islandport Press had posted. “If you want to be inspired beyond belief, renew your faith in the goodness of people, believe in love again, cheer for hard working folks who never give up, be astonished at the tenacity of the human spirit, relish in simplicity, read this book.”

I feel so lucky to cross paths with people in this world, who, through their mere presence, determination, humility, or compassion, have been an inspiration to me. Sometimes, it’s people I’ve been privileged to meet, sometimes it’s through stories of their lives.

As a child, sitting around the kitchen table with my Grandmother and Great Aunt Mildred, that seed was planted. I listened to the same stories, over and over, about them growing up in Revere, Massachusetts. My great grandparents landed there after coming off the boat from Ireland.

They farmed, grew produce, which my Great Grandfather took to Faneuil Hall in Boston to sell. He would meet up with his cousin who was a wool merchant. My great grandparents called their home the Do-Drop Inn because that’s what people did, sometimes just to say hello, for a cup of tea or as Aunty Mil told it, for a year. Stories of my Great Grandmother making jar after jar of jam from the fruit trees on the farm. Stories of kittens being delivered to neighboring farms. I still have the basket Great Grandma Brennen used to carry them.

I can only imagine the amount of work it took and the long hours they must have endured. They bore seven children, burying them all before their twenties, then 10 years later, bore three more. My Grandmother and her sister were the only 2 who lived into their 90’s.

Reading May’s book, it all came flooding back to me. The title says it all. It’s a mantra for farmers and fishermen and like minded people who never give up. It’s a title that inspires. It’s a title for today as much as it was in 1897 when my Grandmother was born. Whatever it Takes. Sometimes it takes everything we think we’ve got, and more.

It’s when you dig deeper. When you sit up all night waiting for new born lambs or kids. When things don’t come out the way you planned but, you just change plans. When Mother Nature decides this old Earth needs more rain or snow than you would like, making growing seasons too long or too short, but accept it anyway because you’re not in charge. When the phone rings and it’s not the news you want to hear, but you hold hands and close your eyes and say thank you anyway.

We may not ever return to a way of life described in May’s book. But, we can still be inspired by it. We can still know there are lots of good people, we meet them every day. We can still cheer for each other, love what we do, believe there’s an answer, inspire others and go to bed at night, living a life with no regrets. I know we can do these things because there are people who have done them and are doing them every day. People who don’t see themselves as victims of their circumstance but rather better because of the challenges they face.

Farmers who show up to help get the hay in. Fishermen who face the angry seas to rescue a boat come off it’s mooring in an October N’oreaster. Emergency workers who answer calls no matter what the time of day or night. People who dig deep and finish writing their book, even though their lifetime companion is no longer by their side. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things, never expecting anything in return. People living life on life's terms.

Thank you May, for sharing your story with us. You and your beloved Jim set an example for us all. Your presence will forever stay in our hearts in the singing of your beautiful bouy bells, yet another example of never giving up.

Dyan Redick is an artisan cheesemaker, writer, and fiber artist is coastal Maine where she operates Bittersweet Heritage Farm, a certified Maine State Dairy offering cheeses made with milk from a registered Saanen goat herd, and fiber from her Romney flock. Follow Dyan on Instagram, visit her My Maine Farm Girl site and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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