Homestead Vision and Action

Update on the Big Move

IMGP0865After what has been literally months of solid work and upheaval, the dust is beginning to settle on our move to West Virginia. With boxes half unpacked, updates half finished, and prospects for employments still a bit hazy, it’s a busy time to say the least. However, our new home does make it all worth it.
(Our house in Virginia is officially for sale, should anyone be interested in a rural 2-bedroom home with an updated kitchen and bath on 3+ acres with great views, apple trees and wild raspberries, and a spring box as well as all of the city conveniences such as high speed cable internet and city water and sewer! Spread the word! )

What’s Going on with the Chickens

The flock is settling in very well. In fact, they feel so comfortable in their new home that two of the hens have snuck off to sit on eggs in hidden nests. Well, not so hidden – they are underneath the 4×4 coop. They have been sitting for about three weeks. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to reach them under there, so I haven’t monitored them as much as I would like. I did candle their eggs this weekend only to discover eggs at all stages of development, from what looks like about 4 days into incubation to about 14 days, although there were a number of eggs I could not reach from any side of the coop. I also found a few bits of egg and dried yolk on some of the eggs, so I suspect the girls have been shoving each other around under there and breaking a few eggs in the process. I’m considering giving the sitting hens a few more days to see if they hatch anything before trading out their eggs for wooden ones and sticking the real eggs into an incubator. Maybe I can salvage some of the hatch and have a few new layers for next year.
This will be the first time that I may keep any of the cross-bred chicks from my flock. It will be interesting to see how they turn out because it will reveal with of my two roosters the hens prefer. My dominant rooster is Mr. Pink (unfortunately named after his leg band as a chick), a Basque Hen rooster. He carries two genes for barring, a dominant trait, so all of his chicks will be barred. (You can read about barred gene genetics here.) Mr. Red, my German New Hampshire rooster, is not barred and so would not pass on that trait to his chicks. As none of my hens are barred, I can be assured that all barred chicks are Mr. Pink’s progeny and all unbarred chicks respectively Mr. Red’s. It will be quite a statement on their relative popularity with the hens.
They are currently living in the 8×8 hoop coop and the 4×4 small coop right next to the house, which is a bit more than an annoyance. It feels like living in a barnyard, and I will be glad to see the new coop built in the pasture set aside for that purpose.  Why in the world would we put them next to the house? In a word, bears. Ah, yes, we have had about a half-dozen run-ins with a local black bear or two who think that chickens would be tasty. We haven’t lost anyone yet, but one of the bears did try to scratch his way into the coop, unsuccessfully, thank goodness. He tried the side of the coop furthest from the house which leads us to believe that he might be more bold if the coop was further from our human habitation. Thus, the front-yard barnyard.  But – the new coop is now under construction!  The ground has been leveled and seven of nine main posts are in.

What’s Going on with the Property

We’ve enjoyed taking time off from painting and repairing the house to work on creating some trails around our property which is 14 acres. We’re lucky to adjoin timber company tracts which allow us to walk or hunt on their land as well which gives us a huge area to range. The timber company select cuts the land periodically, the last time about 15 years ago, which creates land that looks pretty normal.
Most of the apple trees aren’t producing much this year owing to a late frost, but about a third of the trees look pretty good. The wild blackberries are ripening, and the pear trees my husband planted for my birthday are a mixed bag – the “deluxe” tree which was bigger and older is flourishing while the smaller tree looks like it may have died. We’ll see – I’m not calling it one way or another until next spring. It may surprise us yet!
I still need to move both functional and decorative plantings from the old place over to the new. As far as functional plants, I want to bring our wild red and black raspberries, the comfrey, and our grape vine. I have many more decorative plants I need to divide or dig and bring: irises, daylilies, lilacs, double-flowered tiger lilies that once grew at my childhood home in central New Jersey, and rose of sharons that once grew in my grandmother’s garden in north Jersey.

What’s Going on with Us
Our new home is between Snowshoe Mountain Resort and Elkins, West Virginia. The area is a really interesting mix of Northern and Southern cultures, which is a great fit for my husband and me as I was raised in New Jersey and he was raised in Virginia. We can go to Elkins and get a ruben at a regular café, not even a specialty restaurant, which seems quite familiar and northern, but in the surrounding country, people speak with what I consider to be a southern accent. In addition to the National Parks, the nearby Elk River has fantastic fishing, and Cranberry Glades is excellent for hiking. There is also a lot Civil War and Native American history in the area. We have been impressed with our area.
Elkins is a small town of just 7,000 people as well as Davis and Elkins College. Despite its small size, there is a bustling little downtown with charming, non-chain stores: a home improvement store, an office supply store, a bookstore, a sewing supply store, all ‘mom and pop’ style, which I love. The little things like this make me really feel like we’re here: These places help me to imagine how we will create a life in this new place and even become part of a community.

I’ve been pretty much incommunicado because we did not have any form of internet until this weekend – and now we have dial-up. We have spent at least ten hours on the phone with our local provider going round in circles to try to get DSL service, but it’s a no-go. Needless to say, we are thrilled to discover that the local library has high-speed wireless internet which we can use on the few days a week that they are open. With the limited internet access, I’ve decided to use desktop blogging software so that I can draft on my computer and upload my posts later. It’s this software which sent out the ‘blogging theme’ post which my subscribers may have received. In case you noticed that this post is pretty light on pertinent photos, it’s because I can’t find my camera charger in all of the boxes!
Slowly, we are getting things straightened out and settling into our new home. I am so happy to be here and to be beginning this adventure. There is so much to do and so much to still figure out that my head is spinning most of the time, but it is worth it!
Thank you to everyone who has left such kind and supportive comments over the past few months. I appreciate your experience and advice.

19 thoughts on “Update on the Big Move

  1. I love your blog—-thanks for the updates. I’ve also thought of selling my current land (NC) & looking in WV. The prices are great! Did you manage to get mineral rights with your land? If not, are you worried about that? I’ve been hesitant to look in WV because of this. Am I worrying unnecessarily?

    • You are so right! We had a very hard time looking in West Virginia. Most properties do not have mineral rights; they were sold more than a generation ago and no one even knows who holds them. We had decided not to buy any property without the rights — until we found this one. Ours does not have mineral rights. My husband is sort of fascinated with energy anyway and spends a lot of time researching it, so when we found this place, he went to work and found out what kind of shale is under our property, the quality of the natural gas that can be derived from it, the type of coal seam in our area, the quality of the coal, what companies are working in our county, where former work has been done, etc. He found out that the shale in our area is not great for shale gas and that a test well had been dug below our mountain about 15 years ago. They decided that the gas wasn’t work it and moved on. In our area, they had surface coal mines about 15 years ago as well. Thankfully, there was nothing deeper that would justify deeper mines or mountain top removal. They have already been through, even just down the road from us, and left. We decided to go ahead and purchase the property, but it was definitely a gamble. There’s nothing to say they won’t come back 10 years from now if they are desperate for any last bit of gas in the area, but we think it is unlikely. Fingers crossed! So, to make a long answer short, you are not worrying unnecessarily. I would look for mineral rights if you can get them, and if you fall in love with a place that doesn’t have them, look into the area and decide if it is worth the risk. Great question, and good luck!

      • Wow, thanks for the detailed response. I really appreciate it!
        I never would have thought of doing the kind of research that your husband did—I’ll certainly keep it in mind. Thanks again!!!

  2. Also, I’ve never properly thanked you for your extensive research on genetics. You blossomed a new interest in me!
    Peace & blessings, Terry

    • I’ve been missing you guys, too. I was just thinking about you today, in fact. If you Virginia folks plan another get together sometime this fall, let me know. I am getting to the point where I actually surface from my chaos every once and a while and see what’s going on around me!

  3. I had a black bear to vissit my chicken house a couple of weeeks ago. The chickens were all around him. He was only interested in their food he had taken down off the chain I had it hanging on. They would not go by him to go to bed. Now I have a resident black snake eating my eggs. I had been missing eggs and I finally saw him. Twice now. Any suggestions for keeping him out of my chicken house?

    • Wow! Yes, I’ve been worried about the bears coming for their feed. So far, we’ve been just putting out what they will eat in one day and storing the rest in the garage, but I’m hoping that the new coop will be bear-proof. I can’t imagine a bear in your beautiful backyard! Just goes to show how adaptable they are.
      As for the snake, I agree with Terry. Wire might be your best bet. Any idea how the snake is getting in? If there are any holes, you can plug those up, but I bet you already have. If he is getting in through the pop door, I wonder if there is any way you could make the ramp or entrance uncomfortable for him, but black snakes are pretty acrobatic. I will have to think on that one!

      • Well it was about 7:30-8:00 PM. Time for them to go to bed. They like to eat before going into the coop. Otherwise I take the food in. I cannot get them to go inside to eat. They were acting unusual and would not go in. Coming up to the house instead. Then I saw him. Probably about 250 lbs. Now that I look back should have gotten a picture. Not everyone gets to see that sight in person in their lifetime. Never seen one here in 18 years.

        As far as the snake, he continues to slither around my yard. He got in the poop door, I think.. He apparently knows what time they lay and scoops them up. I was told to put down lime. I used diatamous earth as I did not have any lime. Now the chicks do not want to go in. Scared of that white powder. Before putting down the de I opened the nest box door and there he was. Yikes! Now the chicks just drop the eggs anywhere in the yard. I only found one egg yesterday and that was in a shed I have where I keep the straw. I will be checking throughout the day and try to beat him to the eggs. In the meantime I will have to try to relocate him or he might meet a fatal outcome which I would hate.

        Just wondering if you get cell service or satellite service in your area? Before I got I had an air card. Much better than dial-up.

    • Thanks! I think so, too. The more we are here, the more it feels like home. Once the basics are covered, we’ll really be able to put our efforts towards the projects we are envisioning.

  4. I’m so glad things are moving along nicely. Your place sounds like a little slice of heaven. I’m so happy for you.
    As part of the beekeeper group here, they say only electric fencing will keep bears out. At different times they want grain and others they want protein. So the chickens could become prey. Bears are very smart and remember where they got grain last year, so it best to deter them quickly. One tip for electric wire was top put a piece of foil with peanut butter on it to teach them a leason quickly.

    Keep us up to date when you can.

  5. Thanks for the update, I’m exhausted from reading about your busy life! Oh my, you have a lot on your plate right now, don’t forget to take a little time for yourself.

  6. Hi
    Besides chicken food, the bears will probably be attracted even more to your property with all the berries you’re planting – or maybe the berries will keep them away from the chickens and their food – Smiles!

    Bears are exceptionally strong when it comes to clawing for food so truly good luck with the new chicken enclosure! Keep food put away in the house as bears can easily tear through open windows and weak doors. In our friend’s mountain cabin he had iron bars over windows and double key lock iron bar screen doors over the regular doors. We could keep the regular doors or windows open without fear of encounters from nature’s unwanted visitors.

    Well, with all your moving now I know why I haven’t got a response from your EO page. You’re forgiven so whenever you’re able – Smiles!

  7. I just read your chicken egg color article (very, very well done, btw!). I clicked on your blog address and found myself here! We own a 70 acre farm in Clay County. Most of it is cleared but the 10+ acres not cleared has not had the lumber taken in 40+ years. We grow apples, blueberries, and grapes. We arranged to have neighboring livestock farmers cut our hay – for the hay they cut. It keeps the farm looking nice.
    Your blog is well written and the photos are very well done. Keep up the good work — and welcome to the neighborhood!!!

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