Ian Pringle

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since Mar 27, 2017
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urban chicken bike
We have a small urban homestead in a downtown location on a quarter acre. We keep chickens and ducks, have a rabbitry, a small food forest, a vegetable garden, and an herbal tea garden. We both have farming experience and we run our own business teaching horse riding lessons on horses we keep off site and offer other equestrian services including horse training and farrier service.
Central VA
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Recent posts by Ian Pringle

Judging by the county's website, I'm hoping that they tend towards not caring. We're still in the shopping process for this land and have ruled out two counties that are simply inhospitable to our plans.

Another option might be a yurt, but $20,000 for a structure that won't last just doesn't seem worth it when my plans call for just over $20,000 for the final building. I will give a call to the county we're currently shopping around in tomorrow and see what the deal is. I'd be okay with them saying that they won't recognize my structure, give the approval of it, let me have connections to the grid, or allow a mortgage for it. But I'm not sure I'm interested in a legal issue. At that point I'd probably just accept that fact that I'd have to live "rogue" on the land and just keep our current property as our "residence" albeit unoccupied and about 30 minutes from where we'd be doing the residing.
2 years ago
So, I live in Virginia. As far as I can tell the only thing that they *actually* care about is plumbing-- makes sense the state has an interest in maintaining healthy land and water and human waste plays a HUGE part in a healthy environment downstream. That said, Virginia code allows for an outhouse-- which tells me "anything goes".

So, let's say I have an outhouse that meets their requirements. But that's it. My house isn't up to code otherwise. What are they going to do? The power company won't hook me up? No problem. There is no city water anyways so that's a non-issue. As best as I can tell if you don't get a permit and you don't get the house inspected that is all that can happen, which is OK with me because we don't want electricity or water.

Am I missing something? I don't get the big stink about code. I hear about people trying to meet code with these eco houses but then when I look at the books I just don't see a problem with a house that isn't up to code. The only other thing is selling, but my land is where the money is, and my mortgage is a land mortgage not a house mortgage so it isn't a problem. And frankly, we don't ever plan on selling.
2 years ago
Next week dove season opens in VA. A dove is just a pigeon without the stigmatism people have towards pigeons. The problem with dove is that there is a season for them and outside of that season you can't hunt them. Being a bird on the migratory list they are also really hard to get a nuisance permit for, meaning you really are locked into their season.

While watching a Geoff Lawton video about greening the desert he showed how they were using pigeons to create manure for compost. I thought, "hey that's great. I wonder if I could do that and eat the pigeons." What makes pigeons really cool is that they'll fly all over the city eating this and that and then return to their home at night. I would only need to provide them with a home and then come up with the initial batch of pigeons, theoretically. Once this is done the pigeons ought to go out daily and eat for free and then come home at night.

Is anyone else doing this already? One concern I definitely see coming up would be "what is the 'this and that' that they are consuming?" That could/would be a concern, but then again I eat the wild dove that spends all year eating the same "this and that". Additionally, we live on very little income and so meat is something we rarely see. I don't know I'd be so opposed to eating a pigeon that has been dining on McDonald's leftovers.
2 years ago

David Livingston wrote:Ok this my own personal take on this their are  specific recipes out there for most bits of chicken
Like the feet ( Chinese ) and the neck ( French ) but for myself there are far too much faff and bother as there are only two of us and one chicken at a time
So I ditch the head and feet and the alimentry tract retaining the heart lungs and liver plus I detach the neck .
I roast the bird with stuffing ( sage and onion ) two meals take the white meat left and make a curry( two meals ) then boil the left over carcass take off any meat left for chicken casserole two meals and stock left bits of meal after picking over the bones plus chopped up liver heart etc goes to make a soup  so that's another two meals
Making eight meals

You should try adding the feet to the stock pot! If there was only a single part of the chicken I could make stock with it would be the feet! I know people eat the feet, but I think they taste bad. However, they are AMAZING in a stock. Rapid boil for five minutes and then throw into a pot of cold water until they are cool enough to handle. Then peel them (remove the skin) and cut off the talons (to reveal the marrow). Back into a pot and boil down. Makes such a luxurious stock because there is so much marrow and gelatine in the feet.

I will definitely see how many meals we can make. These guys are on the small side (layer breeds not broiler) but I think we can probably nab like three or four meals.
2 years ago
This year we bought 10 chickens, one died and we were left with 9. Of those remaining 9, five are roosters, and we will be butchering four of them this weekend.

I've never killed and butchered a chicken before, but I'm fairly confident I can do it competently (I will be killing and butchering the first chicken before proceeding with the remaining three just in case I mess up or run out of time). The concern I have is that I do not wish to waste anything! These guys have been very kind to me over the last 5ish months and I want their remains to be used by my family as efficiently as possible. My wife and I have both agreed that this is very important to us and we're both willing to try eating parts of the chicken we have never had before.

I'm not really sure what to do with the organs or the feet, but I am sure I will find a recipe to use. But what else can I use? Can the intestines be eaten? Head? What do you guys use the bones for once they have been used in a stock? How about the feathers? I'm thinking that all the refuse I can't find another use for will go into David The Good style "melon pit" but I view that as a last resort.

I figured you guys probably have a similar mindset with regard to animal life and ensuring that you use the whole animal to the best of your ability and in the most efficient and honoring manner, plus I figured you guys might have better and more unique ideas than a typical Google search or Homestead blogger.
2 years ago
Thanks guys.

As an experiment I dug up some of my russets and put about 12 of them into a six foot section of this new hay bed. I know others have had success growing potatoes in strictly hay.

I actually killed all the weeds with a weedwhacker. Went right down into the dirt and killed as many of the root balls as I could reach. In my experience this technique kills everything that is currently alive and then I only have to worry about new growth.

I will look into adding some more stuff (dirt, mulch, carbon, nitrogen, etc) to this bed and to my others as the summer winds down and I start converting more of the beds to this hay.

Hopefully the pests will be dealt with for next spring. We didn't have the funds to install a fence this year, but it's the first thing on the to-do list for this fall/next spring.
My garden from this spring ended up being a bit failure due to pests (groundhogs, deer, bugs) and weeds. I've still got some area of four of my beds which are producing (tomatoes, peppers, melons) but everything else has either been eaten up by the pests (lettuces, kales, collards, broccoli, squash) or harvested (carrot, radish, corn, summer squash, spinach, arugula).

Of the stuff that is either growing or being harvested I have noticed a common theme, low yields. I attribute this to poor soil (mostly Virginian clay with a few beds sporting some "compost" from a local lawn and garden store, which I've been wholly unimpressed with).

Yesterday I went out and made a sort of log cabin like raised bed by laying limbs and trunks from some brush I cut down until I have about a 6" wall around the one bed that was completely empty of anything but weeds. I then found an ad on craigslist for hay (actual hay, not straw, very dry as it had been in a hay loft for a year+) at a $1 a bale and grabbed 20 of them. I've filled that entire bed (35'x4') with hay. Now that it has rained all night and soaked up the water I plan to go back out and fill in the areas where the hay has settled a bit more than the other places.

I've been debating between letting this bed just sit until next year and seeing how the composting has gone or doing something with it right now. I have about a wheelbarrow of compost that I've made with my chickens left and I thought that I could use that to plant some veggies into and see how they take. I also was wondering if I should be adding nitrogen to the pile to help speed up the composting process.

Another thought I had was that I could collect our urine and then pour that onto the hay, which might help speed up the composting and would probably create better soil for next spring since there would be more nitrogen. I was also thinking about calling up the local coffee shop and asking them to hold a few days worth of grounds for me and adding that into the hay as well.

Figured I'd ask what my best course of action would be before proceeding, since I probably won't get to this for a few days anyways.
Thanks for the reply!

I have seen the 1 to 2 ratio, but whenever I search for the C:N ratio it always states 30-25:1. Like here http://www.homecompostingmadeeasy.com/carbonnitrogenratio.html

Maybe you are referring to the same idea in different measurements as I think that the 30:1 gets mighty scientific, they speak about the ratio of carbon to nitrogen in each plant or composting product and not just as greens v. browns.

Glad you mentioned gloves, I had not considered wearing any special protection.

Are you saying I ought to boil these leaves before composting them? That seems like a lot of work and I think I'd just skip doing it all together if that's the case.
2 years ago

Thekla McDaniels wrote:The first goat I ever had went over a 5 foot horse fence (woven wire 2x4 inch spaces).  And she was a nigerian dwarf.  I sold her.  Also bought a nice doeling who had no respect for the electric fence. For some reason she took a fancy to me, and would run through and break down the portable electric fencing when ever she saw me outside.  I took her back to the seller because if you get a behavior like that in the flock there is no ending it.

Just wanted to highlight and commend you on this! Ill behaved or undesirable behavior in one animal ought to be dealt with before it transfers to the whole herd. If our trouble pony was more malicious rather than just curious and if he weren't an investment (he's being trained in order to sell) I'd have him removed from the herd, especially because the only other pony is much better behaved.

Just this morning one of our 16 week old roosters was chasing another rooster and attacking him. The aggressive one is due for the menu next week because I will not tolerate an animal which is interested in attacking another of my animals (even if the other is a rooster, I have put 16 weeks of food into their bellies and I expect to get my investment back when I want, not when another rooster decides to end its life).


A Dexter could live on 5 acres. Probably more than enough milk for a single family, so maybe a Dexter and a horse. You want to give the cow a friend. If you only have a horse that horse will herd with the cow, but if you have two horses then the horses will not treat the cow too well. A horse, maybe a quarter horse, and a Dexter cow would do just fine on 5 acres. But you will need to bring in much of their grass requirements as 5 acres probably won't be enough pasture (since part of that has a house, a drive way, a yard, a garden, etc. it's even less than 5a). But if you are willing to bring in hay you should be fine!
2 years ago
My neighbor's vegetable garden from last is has been overrun by pokeweed, morning glory, and "paradise" tree. After a really bad growing season/war with the wild life last year they decided to not even try gardening this time around. I've been eyeing that garden and thinking two things 1) those pokeweed seeds are going to be spread every year and it's going to suck come next summer and 2) that much green material would make for a huge compost pile!

My compost piles thus far have all been cold, chicken powered compost piles. Mostly lawn clippings and bad hay mixed with our daily kitchen scraps. I get maybe a wheelbarrow's worth of compost ever 6 weeks or so. I would probably want to hot compost this stuff since it's likely to have a good amount of viable seeds and I feel like hot composting pokeweed and morning glories is better than cold composting since they have a lot of poisonous stuff in them. So to that end I have a few questions.

1) Will this compost be safe to use? It seems like it ought too-- but I guess I'd rather be safe than sorry. With the morning glory would the skin irritant still be present after composting? That might determine how I use this (veggie garden v. herbal tea garden where the toddlers play).

2) Could I hot compost this in my chicken run or should I make a new compost spot? Just not sure if the chickens would end up eating too much pokeweed and then keeling over on me.

3) I've never bothered with the C:N ratio stuff before, I just cover my greens with browns and let the chickens do the rest, so I don't know what to do with that. I don't think I have near enough carbon to manage all that pokeweed, the garden is probably 20'x35' or 40'. That ratio never made much sense to me in terms of conceptualizing 1 part N and 30 parts carbon. So any help with how much carbon to use would be good. I have two bales of hale in the back yard, but I don't know if that's enough or not.
2 years ago