Backyard chickens are one of my favorite pleasures on the homestead. We built a coop for our hens (check out our post on “How to Build a Chicken Coop Like a Boss”) but we didn’t have a good brooder for the baby chicks. So this became a great DIY and family project. This post on “How to Make a Chicken Brooder without Spending a Dime” explains how we turned an old dresser into a home for our baby chicks!
We looked at numerous brooder ideas online but did not want to spend a ton of money since this was a temporary home for the chicks. Backyardchickens.com has a great article about different types of brooders.
After researching different types of brooders we decided to re-purpose an old dresser that we had picked up at the local trash collection center (Yes, the trash collection center). Someone was dropping off the dresser and my husband asked if we could have it before it was thrown away.
We knew the dresser would be the perfect space for our four baby chicks and could be reused for future chicks.
Instructions – How to Make a Chicken Brooder without Spending a DimeWe started the project by removing the top three drawers of the dresser. Next, we took the bottom out of one of the unused drawers and used it to create a “floor” for the brooder (above the bottom drawer). It laid perfectly within the area and we nailed it in place and the runners from the drawer.
We used some scrap hardware cloth over the openings and stapled it to the dresser. My husband had some leftover wood from a previous project so he framed a small door with a latch and we affixed the door to the dresser using some old hinges.
We drilled a small hole, big enough for the heat lamp plug, and fished it through the back of the brooder.
We added some pine shavings, water and feed. The brooder was ready for the chicks! We also added some pull up curtains to the front of the brooder to keep drafts out of the brooder. The curtains are adjustable in order to better control the temperature.
I love the way the brooder turned out and it works perfectly for our little ladies! Our puppies even loved the open view of the chicks!
If you are interested in raising backyard chickens, check out “The Complete and Easy Guide to Raising Backyard Chickens in 7 Steps” This is a great article for beginners!
When I first started sewing I never thought much about the sewing supplies. As a result my sewing was not efficient. Sewing supplies are extremely important to the success of any project and doing it in a timely manner. Luckily my mom gave me a sewing kit with all the necessary supplies, consequently speeding up my sewing time. The post walks through my “Must have Sewing Supply List” and includes a description and links!
Must Have Supply List:
Scissors: Use sewing scissors for fabric only because you want a clean, crisp cut! Have a second set of scissors around to cut other items. If you want your cuts to be clean, keep your sewing scissors clean and sharp.
Tailor Tape: A tailor’s tapes is a flexible measuring tape. It can easily and accurately measure parts of the body or garments.
Needle & thread: Use a needle and thread for hand seaming because most projects require some hands on resources.
Thread: All purpose polyester thread works best for beginners because it is multi-purpose. Polyester thread won’t shrink, stretch, or loose it’s color and works with all fabrics. Thread should typically match the project fabric and is necessary for handing sewing or on a sewing machine.
Pins & Pincushion: A pincushion is one way to secure sewing pins or needles. This small cushion holds pins and needles for safe keeping. Most pincushions also serve to sharpen needles and pins because of the special material inside the cushion.
Seam Ripper: This tool has a sharp, hook-like end and slides under the stitch to cut the thread. It is used to remove temporary stitches or stitches that are mistakes.
Tracing Wheel: The wheel transfers markings from patterns onto fabric, this sewing tool also makes slotted perforations and are used for placement.
Seam Gauge: The seam gauge is handy for quick (and short) measurements, but is specifically made for things like hem lengths.
Marking Utensil: A marking utensil is necessary to mark fabric. Disappearing Ink fabric pens work great. One side is water-soluble and the other is air soluble. Chalk is also a good utensil for marking fabric because it shows up well on dark fabric.
Pins & Pincushion: A pincushion is one way to secure sewing pins or needles. This small cushion holds pins and needles for safe keeping. Most pincushions also serve to sharpen needles and pins because of the special material inside the cushion.
I’ve learned that sewing is somewhat of a lost art in many generations, especially in generation X and millennial generations. I picked up the craft from my mom. She taught my sisters and me to sew when we were small (8 or 9 years old) and continued to teach us other sewing techniques as we got older. I compiled this list of “5 Sewing Mistakes to Avoid” for beginning sewers. Most seamstresses are self-taught and these are common mistakes!
5 Sewing Mistakes to Avoid
Mistake 1 – Buying an expensive machine
One of the first mistake beginner sewers make is buying an expensive sewing machine with all the bells and whistles. Of course everyone would love to able to use the best sewing machine on the market but as a “newby” to sewing this is often not the best idea.
I have a Brother sewing machine that was given to me as I left for college. It is simple and easy to use and still my go-to machine. It is simple to use because it doesn’t have a lot of options! As a beginner, too many options can be overwhelming especially if you don’t know what all the options do.
Mistake 2 – Starting too many projects
The second mistake to avoid, is starting too many projects. It is really easy to get excited about all the sewing projects you’ve dreamed about or “pinned” on Pinterest but this can be a huge mistake. I suggest starting with a simple beginner project and seeing it through to the end. This gives you experience and the confidence to move on to another project. When you are doing too much at one time you can become easily overwhelmed.
Mistake 3 – Using the wrong sewing tools
Another mistake that needs to be avoided is using the wrong sewing tools. I suggest getting basic sewing tools BEFORE you start your first project. It is also important to understand what each tool does. This can save you a lot of time!
Mistake 4 – Not learning sewing terminology
Just as important as the tools is the terminology used when sewing. Do you understand the parts of your sewing machine, how to read a pattern, how to decide how much fabric you need etc. All of these things are important and learning the terms can make sewing easier.
Mistake 5 – Getting discouraged
I think getting discouraged is the biggest mistake for beginners! It doesn’t take much to become frustrated with a project or with sewing in general. The best way to avoid discouragement is to be prepared. Understand your machine, how it works, learn sewing terminology, and your project details.
I taught a quick sewing class to some co-workers (day job) and I started with hand sewing. One of the first things I discovered was their inability to tie a knot. Although this is an easy task (if you know what to do) it can be difficult if you don’t know where to start. This post on “How to Tie a Sewing Knot” will give you two options for getting the job done!
To tie off the back end of the thread, there are a few options. Option one is to tie several overhand knots and option two is wrapping the thread around the needle. Either of these methods are super easy and make tying a knot for hand sewing really simple.
Both quickly bring a knot to the end of the thread with no slipping. Try both methods and decide which one works best for you. I prefer the needle loop option because it brings the knot to the end of thread neatly.
Tie a Sewing Knot Option 1 – Overhand Knot Loop the end of the thread around your forefinger a couple of times. Roll the loops into a tight bundle with your thumb, then slip the whole bundle off your finger. Grip the bundled loops with one hand and tug the long end of the thread tight with the other. This should pull the loose bundle into a tight knot.
Tie a Sewing Knot Option 2 – Needle Looping Knot Start with a threaded needle. Hold the end of the thread and the needle in the same hand, creating a loop.
Hold both thread and needle with your thumb and index finger, near the eye of the needle. Aim for 1/4 inch tail hanging down.
Wind the thread around the needle three to five times, using your other hand. The more you wind, the bigger the knot.
Move your grasp on the needle/thread so you’re also pinching the wrapped thread. Hold the needle with your other hand, and pull it away from the wrapped thread. This will slide the thread onto the rest of thread.
Continue pulling the needle, until the thread has all been pulled through the coil to the end of the thread. You have a knot.
If your knot is not large enough, just repeat the process.
One of the skills I have found most valuable on the homestead is sewing! I have used my skills to sew custom curtains, pillows, clothes, dog carriers, cat hammocks, chicken brooder curtains and doll clothes. But one of the most used skills in my sewing repertoire is sewing on a button. This is also something I’ve taught my husband and kids to do!
So the question is: do you know how to sew on a button? This is a great skill for men, women and children.
If you don’t know how to sew a button but want to learn, then follow these easy instructions!
How to Sew on a Button
You will need a needle (2 if possible), thread and a button.
Step 1: Thread the Needle & Knot the End
You will need at least 12 inches of thread. If you have 24 inches it always works better to double the thread. In order to do this, thread the needle and pull it to met the other end of the thread. Tie a knot in the end of the thread. If you don’t know how to tie a knot, see my post of “How to Knot Thread Like a Pro.” If you don’t have 24 inches you can definitely use a single thread instead of doubling it.
Once the knot is tied it’ll be used as the first anchor to help keep the thread from coming through the fabric.
Step 2: Create Anchor Point
Create a “X” using the thread to mark the location of the button. You can do this by starting at the back of the fabric. Pull the needle through from the back to the front and then run the thread through to the back, and then again back to the front. This will create an “X” where the button will be centered.
Step 3: Add the Button
Put the button on the “X” and push the needle from the underside of the garment/fabric to the front through the first button hole. Pull the thread until the knot is snug against the underside of the fabric. Before you go back through a button hole add a spacer (another needle or toothpick etc.) to the top of the button.
Turn the needle around and push it back down through the hole opposite the original button hole. Push it through the fabric and tug the thread tight. The thread should be a loop from one hole to another.
You’ll repeat this process six times, three for each set of holes on the button (if the button has four holes).
Step 4: Create the Shank
After six times through the previous process, come through the fabric from underside but don’t go through the button hole.
Remove the spacer. Pull the button, allowing space between the button and the garment. Wrap your needle around the threads under the button. Make four to six loops around the thread that connects the button to the fabric.
Pull the thread tight and then push the needle back into the garment to tie off on the underside of the fabric.
Step 5: Tie Off Thread
Loop the thread to make a small knot on the back side of the fabric. Hold the thread down against the garment, make a loop, then pass the needle through the loop, creating a knot. Do this process a couple of times and make sure the knot is snug to the fabric.
Cut the thread close to the garment.
These “How to Sew a Button” directions can be used on a variety of garments and buttons! If you’ve lost a button from a shirt or jacket look for an extra button sewn in the inseam. An extra button can also be purchased one at a local craft store.
When my husband works on his hand-crafted cutting boards he takes special care in the final stages of the sanding. It all comes down to the finish. The finish really makes the wood shine! It’s the same with sewing. A sewing project is only as good as its hem. A beautiful smooth hem makes any project look professional. Not sure where to start? Read further to learn “How to Sew a Simple Hem.” One of the simplest hems is the double-hem. This works well for almost any project and leaves an edge with a clean finish.
Before hemming any edge, consideration must be given to the finished length. Knowing the final length will help determine how much needs to be hemmed, thus the width of the hem. I prefer a narrow hem versus a wide hem because it is less bulky and it will lay nice and flat. I usually opt to trim excess fabric so the hem is not wide.
Do the Math
Here is where those fraction lessons come in handy! To calculate the hem width (after you have determined the desired finished length) take the total length allowed for the hem and fold down ¼ of the fabric (raw edge). The next step is critical to a smooth finish –– press the turned fabric. Ironing the hem makes the next step easier and helps in the presentation of a professional hem.
Now, make a second fold. This fold should be about ¾ of the total length. The first fold rolls inside the second fold. There should be a folded edge on both the top and bottom edge. Iron the fold in place, sew down the fold in the fabric, sewing close to the fold in the fabric.
If you prefer the hem to be thinner or wider make adjustments accordingly.
Here are a couple of hem measurements following the process above.
Hem Measurements Wide Hem – Curtain
Fabric length = 2 inches
First fold = ¾ inch
Second fold = 1 ¼ inches
Medium Hem – Clothing
Fabric length = 2 inches
First fold = ½ inch
Second fold = 1 ½ inches
Small Hem (rolled hem) – Napkin
Fabric length = ½ inch
First fold = ¼ inch
Second fold = ¼ inch
Note: When sewing a small hem most machines have a “rolled hem” pressure foot to help with the job. A hem this small can get rather tedious without this foot.
One of the most useful skills on the homestead is sewing! I was taught how to sew by my mom when I was young. She bought me and my sisters sewing machines when we went to college. I’ve used my sewing machine many times over the years and it has definitely come in handy! But I’ve realized that using a sewing machine is not something many people are familiar with. So I wanted to share my knowledge on the topic. “How to Use a Sewing Machine” is a quick overview on the topic.
Using a Sewing Machine: The Basics Winding the Bobbin
It is of utmost importance to use the bobbin spool that is made for your machine. In my Sewing Machine from A-Z section in my Timeless Sewing Guide, I mention how bobbins come in several different sizes and shapes and one size does not fit all. Use the guide on the top of the sewing machine to wind your bobbin correctly.
Start by running the thread from the large spool of thread (on the spool pin) to the empty bobbin spool on the winding shaft (the dashed line is for bobbin threading). The winding shaft should have two positions. One to the left, used for sewing and one on the right, used for winding bobbin.
Once the end of the thread is around the bobbin spool, use the foot control to load the thread. Special care should be taken when winding a bobbin. The bobbin should be equally full on the top and bottom of the spool and should be free of tangles. The bobbin will rub the bobbin winder when it is full. Once the bobbin is full, move the winding shaft to the left, cut the bobbin from the spool of thread and its ready to load.
Note: Thread usually matches the sewing project and the bobbin should also match.
Threading the Machine Once the bobbin is full, it is time to thread the machine. All machines do not thread exactly the same, but most machines have a guide on the body of the sewing machine (usually on the top). The solid line indicates the needle threading process and serves as a walk through on how to thread the machine. The thread should start on the spool pin. The bobbin will also need to be loaded and threaded before beginning.
Top Loaded Bobbin and Needle Threading
Step 1. Turn on the machine
Step 2. Raise the presser foot using the presser foot lever
Step 3. Raise your needle by turning your hand wheel counterclockwise
Step 4. Remove the spool cap which keeps the thread on the spool
Step 5. Place a spool of thread on the spool pin
Step 6. Slide the spool cap back onto the spool pin and be sure it’s on as far as possible
Step 7. Guide the thread behind the thread guide cover
Step 8. Then under the thread guide plate
Step 9. Then back up in order for the thread to go through the take-up lever
Step 10. Following the thread path indicated by the machine, being sure the take-up lever is in the raised position
Step 11. Pass the thread behind the needle bar thread guide, as the thread comes down through the end of the thread path
Step 12. Lower the presser foot and thread the needle
Step 13. Trim the thread using the thread cutter on the machine
Step 14. Ensure at least 2 inches of thread is pulled through the needle
Step 15. Open the bobbin casing and add the full bobbin spool. The bobbin case will go into the bobbin shuttle.
Step 16. Once the bobbin is in position turn the hand wheel counterclockwise until the needle goes into the throat plate. Turn the hand wheel again, to bring the needle back up.
The bobbin thread will be looped in the needle thread. Pull the bobbin thread out along side the needle thread and trim.
Front Loaded Bobbin and Needle Threading
Step 1. With the needle and presser foot up, open the hinged cover on the front of the machine.
Step 2. Pull the tab on the front of the bobbin case and gently remove the bobbin case from the sewing machine.
Step 3. Remove any bobbin that might already be in the bobbin case.
Step 4. Lay the bobbin in the bobbin case. It should fit in the bobbin case with the thread in the clockwise position.
Step 5. Place the thread in the small slit at the top of the bobbin case, and slide it to the right until it clicks into place in the slot under the finger.
Step 6. Once the bobbin is in place, pull the hinged latch and put the bobbin case into the machine.
Step 7. The needle should already be threaded thus allowing the bobbin thread to be pulled from the bobbin case. Turn the hand wheel counterclockwise until the needle moves down into the throat plate.
Step 8. Turn the hand wheel again until the needle comes back up to its highest position. At this point, stop turning the hand wheel and pull on the upper thread until you see a small loop of thread below the presser foot.
Step 9. Gently pull that bobbin loop out and trim.
Leaf lettuce is one of my all-time favorite vegetables to grow in my garden. I am a salad lover, so when I have fresh leaf lettuce for my salads it makes my heart flutter. When we started our garden many years ago, lettuce was the first thing we planted because I realized I could not eat store bought lettuce. So whether you are in the same situation or just want to have fresh lettuce at your finger tips, here is the secret to harvesting lettuce all summer long.
One of the biggest misconceptions for most first-time gardeners, is the idea that once leaf lettuce is picked, that’s it! But, I’ve learned the secret to harvesting lettuce all summer long and so can you!
The Secret to Harvesting Lettuce All Summer Long
Most beginner gardeners pull up the lettuce as they harvest it, root and all. But if you think about it there are a lot of vegetables that follow that strategy. Potatoes, carrots, and the list goes on and on.
Picking lettuce this way, definitely stops continuous growth of the lettuce but with the “cut and come again” method you can extend the growing season and have lettuce all summer long. Leaf lettuce can be cut anytime the leaves are large enough and before the plant starts seeding out.
Once the leaves are big enough (3-4 inches) you can start harvesting the lettuce. I usually use scissors to cut the lettuce. You can cut one leaf at a time or grab a bunch and cut them all at once. I’ve learned that scissors are the hot ticket to cutting lettuce, instead of trying to do it with your hands. Inevitably the root will come up when you try to do it by hand and there goes the “come again” part of this tutorial.
You should cut the lettuce about 1 inch from the crown of the plant. If you plant multiple rows of lettuce in your garden, like we do, it allows for harvesting at different times. Our plants were planted at varying times allowing for a revolving harvest.
If you have a greenhouse or live in a climate that warrants fall lettuce you could potentially have lettuce all year long using the “cut and come again” method.
How to Store Lettuce after Harvesting
I usually rinse my lettuce after clipping and let it dry on a paper towel. Once the lettuce is dry I just roll the lettuce up in a dry paper towel and store the lettuce in a plastic bag in the fridge. I have found water is the enemy of lettuce and even after drying the lettuce there is still some moisture in the lettuce. Rolling the lettuce in a dry paper towel keeps the moisture off the lettuce, making it last longer.
Lettuce that is grown and harvested on your homestead definitely will last longer than store bought lettuce! Lettuce can be stored for 1-2 weeks if refrigerated.
Chickens require clean drinking water and there are many choices for delivering water to them. Other things to consider are frozen water dishes in the winter and what works best for your setup. This Ultimate Guide to Chicken Waterers will explain the different options and the pros and cons of each.
Ultimate Guide to Chicken Waterers – How Much Water Do Chickens Need? Chickens need constant access to fresh, clean water as well as Feed. A water supply should be available to chickens and not limited. Chickens will not lay well or grow as fast if their source of water is restricted.
Each full-grown hen will average about a pint of water a day and this can vary widely, especially depending on the temperature.
If the water is too warm or dirty it can cause the chickens to not drink. This can be problematic depending on the type of feeder you choose. So, I have detailed the different types of feeders in the next section.
Types of Waterers There are many waterers and systems to provide clean water to your flock. Some of these systems are even automatic.
Open bowls are one of the simplest waterers and they can work just fine but many times the chickens step in them and knock them over, and the water gets dirty immediately. I don’t know about you but I have to many things on my plate to change water out every time a hen turns over the water. I’m pretty sure my chickens would thirst to death.
Another simple waterer is the round galvanized waterer with a trough around the bottom for the chickens to drink. This type of waterer also has a plastic option (Chicken Drinker).
You fill the waterer from the top and as the water diminishes gravity constantly fills the trough. This is usually situated on the ground, which is one of the major flaws of this waterer because the chicken’s have a tendency to poop on it and there goes your clean water. Hanging the waterer or sitting it up off the groud works best. This keeps the chickens from contaminating the water or getting shavings in the trough.
Our waterer of choice is a nipple system. We bought a 2 Gallon Chicken Watering Bucket & Lid w/ 4 Nipples which, already has the nipples installed. It is a clean, gravity-fed system that works really well for our coop.
You can also make one yourself. You can attach these nipples to the bottom of five-gallon bucket for a homemade waterer. One con to this type of waterer is the tendency for the nipples to clog so these Automatic Poultry Water Drinking Cups would work similarly, without the clogging . Minerals in the water can cause the nipples to clog, thus creating the need to check the nipples regularly.
The other hurdle with this waterer is you have to train the chickens to use it. This was not a big deal for our hens. I introduced the chickens to the nipples by taking each one to the waterer and showing them how it worked. The dominate chicken immediately went back and used the waterer and the others followed. I really appreciate the cleanliness and ease of use with this type of system!
Depending on where you live you might also need to consider some type of de-icer product to keep your water from freezing in the winter. We usually do not have temperatures that dip that low but on occasion we do have a string of cold nights and something like this Chicken Waterer Deicer works well to keep the water thawed.
Now take this Ultimate Guide to Chicken Waterers and go make those hens happy! Happy hens = producing hens!
It’s interesting to think about all the water we use on a daily basis and why we should learn how to turn rain into usable water. I’m not talking about turning the water into a drinkable source for the family but I am referring to using the water around the homestead. That’s why we thought it was important to learn How to Turn Rain Water into Usable Water .
The United States Geological Survey states that on average, a person uses 80-100 gallons of water per day. Want to guess what is the largest users of water in the house? The toilet and shower/bath…I can vouch for that in my house. With two “tweens” and a husband who likes to take multiple baths each day, it’s not surprising.
We have always collected water in rain barrels but have never really had a purpose for the collection (other than collecting mosquitoes)! After we built our chicken coop we decided it would be a perfect time to put our rain barrels to work for us. We wanted to turn rain water into usable water!
Over 10 years ago my husband acquired five plastic barrels from a co-worker. They were clean and ready to be re-purposed. So, those barrels lived on the edge of our building, collecting rain off the roof for all those years. Then we decided to turn that rain water into usable water.
How to Turn Rain Water into Usable Water – Supplies
Before the barrels were retrofitted we built a rack to hold the barrels high enough to fill a 5-gallon bucket. This would make it easy to access the water because we could take advantage of gravity and it would especially help with the watering bucket for the chickens.
My husband researched multiple ways to convert the barrels and decided to put water valves on each barrel in order to access the water. He drilled a hole in each barrel near the bottom, on the side. The male and female coupling were added on both sides of the hole with a rubber washer on the inside of the barrel.
He then added the valves to each barrel.
He then decided it would work best to hook all the pipes together thus the water could be equally used from each barrel and help with the water pressure.
The water system turned out great and has worked like a charm because we don’t have to carry water from the house. This “How to Turn Rain Water into Usable Water” post is an easy project for any homestead. The day after we finished the project, it began to rain so the barrels started filling up quick!