Monday, March 14, 2016

Chocolate covered...yum....

Another day, another dollar.  

Isn't that what they say?  

When you work from home, I think that still sticks.  I mean, while I am juggling my work duties and making sure I am fitting in my full eight plus hours, I also have dishes, laundry, dusting, vacuuming, and dinner on my mind.

Work is good though.  

I mean, I am grateful to have the opportunity to work for a legit company based in Minnesota, with a work load that keeps me busy, but sometimes a girl just needs a break!

This was true on Friday.  After pushing my ten hour day (pouting the whole way through) and having it then turn into a twelve hour day- and that is straight hours, I was ready to slam the laptop shut and walk away, far away!

I signed off and stopped reading all emails coming in from my phone and literally disconnected

Much needed, considering that the Monday before, I had pondered taking Friday off all together.  I would not have been able to, as I was holding down the "fort", but it just proves that I was more than ready for the break.

Then, I ask, why do weekends go so fast?  

I had things to get ready for my Mom's birthday (Happy Birthday Mom - I love you!) and then a celebration and a kid who was feeling under the weather and bam it's Monday again... Oh vey!

I made it through my Monday, which was super hectic, signing off at a decent time, with only nine hours in!

I went to bed feeling tired and woke to a Chocolate covered Boston Creme doughnut greeting me on the kitchen counter.


Yes, I ate it all!  

Every last delicious part of that yummy doughnut and I feel glorious about it.  

Working fifty PLUS hours a week is a killer while raising two kids solo, as my Hubby leaves this gig to me at night.  Rough...right!

So, I had my chocolate covered yummy yum yum and went on with my day of work.  Yes, it's busy but that doughnut made my day just a little better.

Thank you Hubby for my yum yum yummy, it was much needed and I love you!

Doughnut or Do-NOT?  You be the judge!


Thursday, March 10, 2016

How to Raise Chickens Cheaply

Our farm is getting ready to blossom, as we work on our research for chickens.  

My first question is, how much is this going to cost...right!   

Well, after looking at websites, books and talking to folks about their experiences, I think we might be able to pull off raising our chickens, wait for it...wait for it...cheaply!

How to raise chickens cheaply?

We have been talking about chickens for a while now, before we even moved out here to be honest.  This last year was just a little busy, what, with moving and getting situated, our oldest starting school and just plain l i f e.  

We were able to start somewhat of a garden this summer, I even got to enjoy some of the home grown veggies, so win, right!  

Next on our list though, was eggs, fresh eggs from our own chickens.  

So, we set out to learn before putting up the cash.  

Here goes nothing..

To build or buy?
This one is fancy, but it is what I would like to see!
You have all seen the super fancy chicken coops out there, the ones with multi-level luxury.  I mean, we are going to love our chickens and appreciate them for giving our family food, but do they really need a Jacuzzi and wine?  What if you could spend your cash a little wise, would you? There is convenience, I give you that, of having one already built and ready to go but you pay for that labor, big time!

If you are a city dweller (we are!), then you might have to put a lot more into your chicken operation than the country folks do.  City folks have zoning regulations and neighbors to deal with.  That being said, my thoughts for this cheap chicken operation is for those of us with a little more space between us and the neighbors. 

Totally Creative!
Chickens need a place to get out of the wind and rain, a dry and safe place to roost at night and somewhere to lay eggs. Keep these very simple requirements nearby when building your coop.  When you live in the country, you are only limited by your imagination, as far as what your coop can be.  Get creative!

Choose your coop Placement, very carefully!
Location, Location, Location!   There need to be a few "rules" here, like 1) OUT OF SIGHT and 2) WE DON'T WANT TO SMELL IT! 

Should you let the Chickens free range -or- keep them in a run?

Having chickens free ranging is great.  It gives the place a "country" look and they will eat bugs out in the yard.  Keep in mind though, they will also eat your young plants in the garden, flower beds and can wander into the neighbors yards or the road.  We, for instance, live on a busy road, we have about four hawks that are on or around our property and recently, we have a pack of coyotes that hang out on our land.  We will be building a run for the flock to keep them safe. 

For a run, we have an old dog kennel fence that we are using behind the coop, with a top, to keep the hawks and raccoon's out. 

Now that these are figured out, it is time to start thinking about nesting boxes. There are a lot of plans and ideas all over the internet.  Here is what we are thinking of doing:

What breed of Chicken Should I get?
This has been the most trying of questions in our house. We did not even know there were SO many breeds!  It is a personal decision and we have found that these questions help!

Because I wasn't joking about there being a lot of chicken breeds!
  1. Why are you keeping chickens?
    1. Meat?
    2. Eggs?
    3. Both? 
  2. What Climate?

One breed is a White Leghorn or Brown Leghorn.  This is a cold tolerant, major egg laying chicken. There are a lot and we still are trying to figure out which ones we are looking at.  You do have to watch how many you order also. You might think that you are going to go big or go home- and with all the extra eggs, you will just sell them, right!  Well, from my experience driving around the country-side, a lot of people are trying to sell eggs. If you thought of making money raising chickens, it is kind of a faux paux because on a good month you might break even, but most months, guess wont! (things I have learned from those county-side folks, as we stopped to ask!)

We have a local Tractor Supply store who sells eggs and chicks at different times of the year- usually around Easter (go figure!) Things to know is that during the winter, egg production drops but feed consumption goes up and during the summer, feed consumption goes down, but egg production goes up. So, I guess that being said, you will either have so many eggs that you will not be able to get rid of them all, or so few that if you did have a steady customer, they will not be able to get eggs year round.  This is just raising chickens!  So, now you are ready to order your eggs and chicks! 

Be Flexible!
So, this one neighbor tells me that she ordered her her flock, she went with pullets (8 week old chicks) and due to some mix up, she ends up with 1 week old chicks.  She said that she had a panic attack in her head, but she took them because more or less, they were hers, whether they were 1 week or 8 weeks old.  She was not prepared for 1 week old chicks, so she made an impromptu brooder out of a cardboard box (I have seen this done with a large Rubbermaid tote also) and a heat lamp.  She just set hers up in her living room for the first two weeks.  She said that the noise and the smell were getting to her, so after that she moved them to the coop.  She still set up the heat lamp in one corner, so the chicks knew where to find heat, but they all survived just fine. I guess this is raising chicks, right!

How much time and effort does it take to raise chickens?
I know that this is a BIG concern for me, having a full plate with work, kids, Husband, house remodel and all of life little feats.  So how much time do we need to spend taking care of these birds? 
Well, I have been told that it does not take up a whole lot of time.  It is 10 minutes in the morning to feed and check water, adjust ventilation for the day. Then 10 minutes in the evening to make the same 'rounds'.  It become routine, and one that I am hoping my two beauties will help with as they grow also. 

I hear that in the Winter, it is a little bit more time, but not a lot of trouble. I am reassured that they are easy!

As for gathering eggs, this needs to be done every day.  A neighbor made this point to me, "If people are buying farm fresh eggs, they don't want to crack them open and find a developing chick inside."  Um, gross!  Also, you want to get them right into the refrigerator soon after collection.

Tips for Winter and Summer
During the winter months, water freezes, right! It is a fact here in Ohio. It is helpful to have a second waterer and keep it in the house.  Fill with warm water and bring it to the coop in the morning and swap the waterer you put in the night before.  This needs to be done every 12 hours (more depending on temperature).  A heated waterer is also nice, but not needed for the first year of raising chickens. 

Also, look into making a draft shield to stop the blast of cold air from hitting the birds when opening the coop door.  A good idea is to use some feed bags on a wire wall next to the door to protect the birds. 

You might also want to give the flock some scratch in the evening inside the coop, they will love it and it will keep them warm on cold nights.

Did you know a red light helps keep down incidents of picking?  You can keep one on all the time inside of the coop.  Chicken's get "cabin fever" like people do, in the winter, which leads to picking!  Scratch blocks in the coop work well also, and enclosing the run in plastic sheeting so they can still get outside even on cold, snowy days.  Throw in a head of cabbage once a week or a bale of hay in the run, so they can pick it apart during the winter months.

In the winter, create a "dust bath" by taking a cat litter box and filling it with a mixture of 1 part play sand, 1 part sifted (cold) ashes from the wood stove and 1 part food grade DE.  It helps them clean themselves.

Ventilation is important and especially during the winter.  Keep the windows closed on one side but open for air intake on another (usually between coop and building).  Put down extra bedding on the coop floor and stuff the next boxes thicker during the cold months.

In Summer, keep the windows opened. Keep a close eye on water, they will drink a lot more with the heat.  Keep the dust bath full also.  Take plastic sheeting off of the run and replace it with a tarp on the top to help with the sun and rain.  A good tip that i have heard is that after cutting the grass, dump the clippings in the run.  The chickens love it.  If you are not spraying for weeds, it is OK.

I haven't purchased my chickens yet, but I am one step closer.  We definitely are this spring and to be honest, I don't think that either of us can wait.  It is going to be great to have fresh eggs and be able to survive off of our land.  We sure are adjusting to country life, like we have done this before!

The future of Gray Gables Farm...

If you have tips, please use the comments box below, always looking for great advice!  

Thanks everyone!


Monday, March 7, 2016

How to ROCK this Social Media Manager Gig

Friday, February 19, 2016

How to ROCK this Social Media Manager Gig

Hi all!  

As many of you have read, I have recently completed my eBook for The Social Media Manager Kit by Kel (yours truly) and wanted to make sure that Sweet Tea & Business focuses on making the Social Media Manager Gig you get ROCK! 

Social Media Management is one of the most in-demand freelance skills today

It may go by the name (alias) - community manager, social media content writer, brand manager, social media strategist - but many of the tasks, training and personality traits are the same a crossed the board.  This field has a low barrier to entry and is often requires "on the job" training due to the diversity within the jobs.

If you have what it takes, can provide a broad skill set, and a positive, can-do attitude with willingness to learn- well MOVE over because you are likely to ROCK this Social Media Manager gig with more work than you can possibly handle.

The SCOOP- What does it take to be a Social Media Manager?

First, you need to understand that you are the voice behind the social profile in many cases. You interact with the followers for the company you represent and are sharing information that gains interest. You keep tabs on the lastest news within the industry and it is your job to pass this information along to the audience to get them talking and engaging in the companies stance.

It is important for you to set realistic goals for yourself and the company. It is vital that you understand that responses to customers via email needs to be completed almost instantaneously

We, as a society, do not like to wait!  

We want our questions and/or concerns addressed ASAP. This causes us to turn to the social media channels to get our voices heard.  

As a Social Media Manager, you need to keep an eye out for issues that are happening directly or indirectly. 

(directly= @company) 
 (indirectly= mentions on blog/social media/ or not directly addressing company or you personally)

Please note that this is not always the BAD mentions either, you need to acknowledge the GOOD ones also!

Within this role, you need to be aggressive in order to keep growing and getting the client's name out into the public. This is where those trending topics, hashtags, and news can get your client ahead. 

It is your job to grow the community constantly!

Also, things change, almost constantly, right! Keep eyes peeled and ears opened for new platforms that might be of interest, privacy changes, ad policies and/or how competitors are connecting with their following, in order to stay ahead of the game.

 Going Above & Beyond- What does it take to ROCK this Social Media Manager Gig?

In order to stand out within this industry and really rock your business, you need to be able to bring new ideas to the table. This is definitely the challenging part of your position, addressing what you are doing that is just NOT working in front of your client, but it needs to be addressed, bottom line. 

If you find a tactic that you know will increase engagement or conversations, it is your duty to bring it up.

Learn how to report to your client. 

This position is a results-driven job.

Analytic's are a great way to track, and are available for almost every platform out there. It is vital to know where to find this information in order to provide it onto your client. 

This is something that I recommend doing "on paper" in order to dig further into what changes can be made and what is working based on facts!

It is also important to always be professional and consistent within this role.  Followers should never know that someone outside of the client's company is behind the social media reins.  And it is also important to be accountable. If things get flawed, own up to it and find a way to learn and grow from the experience.

Tools of the Trade (a few of my favs to get the JOB done and ROCK it!)
 For scheduling and staying on top of comments and mentions, I use Sprout Social. The reporting is amazing also.

In order to know what you are posting and when it is important to have an Editorial Calendar. This will save you time in the long run, allowing you a plan of action and giving you the expected results.

Images are everything in social marketing. I love the free tools at PicMonkey or Canva to help me with my photos and editing. 

Your first "job" is going to be marketing and branding yourself. This is your first "on the job training" exercise. You can be more aggressive on your own accounts and experiment with new strategies

Where do you get the Clients?

Well, I know this might be a shock of sorts, but Social Media is a great outlet to find potential clients. You can see who needs help, they will see how you work as well.  You will be up to date on best practices from your own experimentation. 

I recommend joining a few Facebook Groups that focus on Social Media Managers and ideal clients. 

When you start seeing results, you can see that word spreads fast. You will see your business growing. Don't be afraid to ask for testimonials or referrals as well. 

And a great way to get clients is to build a simple website. You can add the URL to your business cards and have a place to show off testimonials and your profiles.

I think that as a disclaimer, it needs to be said that this field is not for everyone. It has a set of challenges that can vary per job. You need to be accountable and willing to take risks. You need to be confident in your skill set and what you can offer. 

I strongly recommend my eBook, The Social Media Manager Kit by Kel (w/ bonus) in order to get you started. It will include templates for emailing potential clients or those you landed a completed job with, it will allow you to focus and challenge you to keep moving forward. 

This life, working at home, being financial free and with my family, is something that I used to dream about

  • I am living it. 
  • I am loving it. 
  • I am making it my life! 

Need More Help?  

Check out my eBook, Make your Dream a Reality in 30 Days or Less! - a jump start guide with templates to get you ready, set and ROCKING this Social Media Manager gig!

Originally Posted on by Kel Amstutz


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