The Miracle Backyard ‘Weed’ That Heals Wounds, Reduces Fevers … And Doubles As Toilet Paper

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The Miracle Backyard ‘Weed’ That Heals Wounds, Reduces Fevers … And Doubles As Toilet Paper

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Having a backup plan for emergencies is essential, and this medicinal plant replaces many staples in the first-aid kit — in addition to some other sanitary necessities.

Commonly used to create textural interest in border flower gardens, wooly lamb’s ear is an adaptable perennial that is quick to spread to other areas of the homestead and is often labeled a weed in backyards across the country.

Each silvery-green leaf is covered with a light fuzz that is extremely soft. Pale violet flowers bloom late in the season, though they hold little to no medicinal value. (They do make a nice addition to floral arrangements, though).

Starting your own patch of wooly lamb’s ear is relatively easy. It can be started from seed in seedling pots or small containers, and can continue to grow to maturity in containers, provided they are thinned out regularly and are stored in a sheltered area over the harshest winter month.

In a garden or raised bed, plant seedlings 12 inches apart in a partly shady spot. Lamb’s ear prefers six to eight hours of sunlight. It is hardy, tolerating most well-drained soils, but is prone to wilting in the hottest days of the year. Equally important, the plant is drought-tolerant and deer-resistant. It will easily spread to the surrounding areas and should be regularly thinned.

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Wooly lamb’s ear is harvested at various stages of development, which should be based on its intended purpose. Plucked from the ground, leaves can be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator or other cool container for a few days at the most. In most cases, leaves of any size are fine to use. At the end of the long-growing season, leaves can be dried for use in the winter months.

The Miracle Backyard ‘Weed’ That Heals Wounds, Reduces Fevers … And Doubles As Toilet Paper

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Wooly lamb’s ear has historically been used for a wide variety of purposes.

The soft, fuzzy leaf of the wooly lamb’s ear plant is an excellent substitute for a bandage. Hunters and soldiers refer to the plant as “woundwort” and have used the leaves as field dressing for years with great success. Each leaf is antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, thus reducing the risk of infection.

Furthermore, it readily absorbs blood and assists in the blood-clotting process. It is also safe to use on children and most livestock. These leaves are often used in conjunction with comfrey leaves to dress wounds.

Because of its unique texture and absorbent nature, in addition to its anti-bacterial properties, lamb’s ear makes a great emergency substitute for several personal hygiene products. When the stockpile runs out, wooly lamb’s ear leaves can be used as toilet paper. In the past, the leaves also were used for feminine hygiene needs, including use as an aid following childbirth.

A crushed or bruised leaf will release a clear juice that relieves insect bites, spider bites and bee and wasp stings. When applied to the affected area, the juice will reduce swelling and inflammation and calm the itch from the bite or sting. The juice is also useful for treating inflammatory conditions such as hemorrhoids.

Steeping the leaves creates an antibacterial, antiseptic wash that can be used to bathe wounds. Additionally, wooly lamb’s ear is useful for soaking traditional bandages to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation. A mild or diluted wash can be used as an eye wash that is useful for treating pinkeye and sties.

Harvest young, tender leaves for drying. Consuming tea made from dried, young wooly lamb’s ear leaves reduces pain and fevers. It speeds the recovery of sore throats and mouth sores as well as slows diarrhea. Historically, tea made from wooly lamb’s ear was used to strengthen weakened heart conditions and also thought to stop internal bleeding.

How do you use wooly lamb’s ear? Share your thoughts in the section below:

The 6 Best Ways To Predator-Proof Your Chicken Coop (You Are Doing No. 4 … Right?)

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The 6 Best Ways To Predator-Proof Your Chicken Coop (You Are Doing No. 4 … Right?)

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My headlights showed that no one had closed the pop door on the coop even though the sunlight had vanished a half hour prior. I had just returned from picking up pizzas for supper and noticed a hen sitting outside in the snow.

Putting the van in park, I glanced at the coop again. There he was — an opossum standing just inside the building. I honked the horn to warn the other hens. The pop door seemed as if it were exploding as my hens flew out and scattered. Some ran for the safety of the back steps to the house, a few scurried into the garage, and one flew up to the roof to roost. Fortunately, all of my hens returned to the coop unharmed. On this night, pizza saved my flock, but by utilizing a few tips, I hope to prevent this from ever happening again.

Predators are a fact of life on the homestead. Raccoons, opossums, weasels, foxes and snakes are common threats to any chicken coop. In addition to these ground-level predators, air attacks from hawks and owls occur in some rural areas. Of course, completely eliminating the threat to hens is impossible, but managing the threat is doable.

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Here are a few tips to tighten the security of your coop and increase the level of safety enjoyed by your flock.

1. Install an automatic pop door

A sliding pop door is a DIY project that can be made with the help of an electric motor and timer, or it can be purchased and installed rather easily. Using a timer to regulate the door opening and closing can be tricky if your birds free-range, as the length of each day changes dramatically and a bird closed out of the coop certainly will draw predators. If constructing your own door, including a bottom rail will hinder some types of predators from lifting the door and helping themselves to your flock.

2. Upgrade your locks

A few predators, raccoons in particular, are skilled at opening doors and lifting latches. This could pose a problem for the inhabitants of your coop. Upgrade the latches and locks on your coop by including multistep latches and even padlocks to deter the most-skilled predators.

The 6 Best Ways To Predator-Proof Your Chicken Coop (You Are Doing No. 4 … Right?)

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3. Replace chicken wire

Chicken wire is fine for some projects, but it is not the best option for protecting your flock. Replace the chicken wire in windows, screen doors and the run with hardware cloth. This cloth is a sturdy mesh that allows air to flow through easily while making it difficult for predators to tear. It also can be used as a covering for a run to deter hawks and owls from sampling your chickens.

4. Bury the fencing

Bury at least 12 inches of fencing below the surface to prevent burrowing animals from entering the run, but do it with the proper materials.

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Uncoated metal, such as chicken wire, deteriorates quickly. When burying fencing for a chicken run, or as a protective measure around the coop, use coated metal below the surface. Chicken wire can deteriorate in as little as three years when exposed to the constant moisture typically found in the soil.

5. Keep it clean

Cleaning the coop is certainly necessary to maintain healthy chickens, but keeping the area surrounding the coop clean is just as important to their safety. At dusk, remove uneaten food and treats from the run and coop. This will discourage predators looking for an easy meal — and rodents that can spread disease — from entering the coop. Remove tall grasses, vines and other debris from around the coop, as well. Predators will be less inclined to stroll out to the coop when they will be in full view.

6. Perform regular maintenance

Small creatures, such as weasels, snakes and young opossums, can squeeze through very small holes. Replace worn or rotten boards promptly, including floor boards. Also, take care that the seams are properly fitted together, using a sealant to ensure there are no gaps for predators to slide through. Mend or replace fencing or hardware cloth that has been damaged.

How do you keep predators out of your flock? Share your tips in the section below:

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5 Wise Ways To Use The Last Few Weeks Of Winter (No. 2 Is The One Everyone Forgets!)

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5 Wise Ways To Use The Last Few Weeks Of Winter (No. 2 Is The One Everyone Forgets!)

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Transitioning from winter to spring is an exciting time around our homestead. We have used these last few months to research and plan new ideas to incorporate on our land throughout the coming growing season. Right now, we are seeing the last remnants of snow and ice melt away, creating a soggy mess of our land, but there are still plenty of things we can do inside to prepare our homestead for the busy spring season.

Using these last few weeks of winter to prepare for spring weather allows us to work efficiently during those first weeks of spring when life around the homestead becomes increasingly busy. As with any project, creating a plan, even if it is a simple list, enables us to establish what needs finishing before the weather breaks and it helps us take full advantage of the warm winter days that come our way. So, what will we be doing to ensure we are using these last few weeks of winter wisely?

1. Preparing for seeds.

This year we are going to use newspapers saved by neighbors, family and friends to create seedling pots. Cutting and folding enough pots for the seeds we are planning to start indoors this year will take some time, but the materials and labor are free. Additionally, using newspaper pots will allow us to place the whole thing into the ground. No chasing down plastic seedling trays blown about by the wind or finding a place to store them in the offseason. If you are using traditional plastic seedling trays, use this time to clean them, inspect them and replace them if necessary. Or consider newspaper pots!

2. Implement maintenance.

Now is the time to be sure your tools, mechanical and otherwise, are in sound, working condition. For hand tools, sharpen the edges, oil the blades and repair or replace splintered or broken handles. Sharpening the blades of mower decks, tillers, plows and other implements now will allow spring ground-breaking to get off to a smooth start.

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5 Wise Ways To Use The Last Few Weeks Of Winter (No. 2 Is The One Everyone Forgets!)

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In addition to the array of outdoor tools that need to be maintained, sharpen and oil your scissors and knives. Sharpening butchering tools in these last few weeks of winter will save you time during the busy harvest season.

3. Stocking up on the essentials.

If you produce your own soaps, detergents and other household products, stocking up now will ensure you make it through the busy spring and summer months without setting aside precious time to whip up more. Estimate the amount you will need to have on hand until after harvest, and set aside a day to complete multiple batches. This is also the perfect time to rotate food storage supplies while cleaning and reorganizing, if necessary.

4. Preparing soil amendments.

Not all of the prep work can be done indoors, so take advantage of those warmer days in the last weeks of winter to work outside. Enrich garden soils by adding a top layer of compost to the rows. This will allow the compost to begin breaking down before you till it under in a few weeks. If you are planning on adding new raised beds, begin marking off dimensions, or even start constructing them, weather permitting.

5. Building and fence maintenance.

Inspect your outbuildings and fencing for damage due to wind, ice buildup or other weather-related activity. Wet winters can cause wood rot, as well as mold and mildew issues if the temperature remains above freezing for long. Repairing buildings and fencing now will ensure there are no untimely accidents later due to escaped inhabitants or ruined food supplies.

What would you add to our list? Share your tips in the section below:

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5 Strange Ways Your Ancestors Saved Fuel During Winter

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5 Strange Ways Your Ancestors Saved Fuel During Winter

Our first home was built in 1907 and boasted drafty windows and a minimal amount of insulation. Before our first winter came to an end, we knew changes had to be made if we were to survive in any amount of comfort. Staying warm at the expense of draining our savings account was not an option. And although we have since moved on to a well-insulated home, we still employ many of the fuel-saving practices we learned many years ago.

Our ancestors knew how to conserve energy. Whether it was using nature’s colder temperatures for food storage or keeping the house warm without turning the thermostat up a single degree, they utilized ordinary objects to conserve fuel.

Below are some time-tested methods to put into practice this winter.

1. Window coverings

Windows are points of entry for cold air, and although new windows are certainly more effective, they still cool the room. Foam tapes, clear films and other products abound at big box home improvement centers, but these are unnecessary and may in fact cause damage to your home. Foam tapes are often difficult to remove completely, damaging the finish of the casement and sill.

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Clear films have been known to cause cracked window panes, particularly on south-facing windows. Years ago, homeowners used quilted window coverings to block drafts, raising the temperature of a room by several degrees. In addition to windows, glass patio doors also can be covered with an insulated curtain to reduce the amount of heat lost.

2. Straw bales

Using straw bales around the foundation of your home may not increase its’ curb appeal, but it will help to keep your fuel costs down by adding an extra layer of protection against cold winter winds. Place bales where they can absorb the greatest impact from winter’s worst weather. The bales also may help to prevent heat loss. Straw bales may later be used as livestock bedding, mulched for compost or used elsewhere on the homestead, provided it is dry, and mold- and mildew-free.

3. Humidifiers

We are not talking about the commercial humidifiers that release moisture in the air, but rather, the strategic use of space on an indoor burner. Cast iron kettles filled with water will release moisture in the air when safely situated on a fuel-burning stove. Even if you do not have an indoor wood burner or corn burner, you can utilize other appliances as humidifiers.

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For example, once you’re finished using your kitchen oven, place a dish of water in it while leaving the door ajar. As the oven cools down, it will heat the water enough to release moisture into the air. Indoor air that has the proper level of humidity feels warmer.

4. Cover bare floors

Bare floors keep a room from retaining heat and contribute to an overall chilly feeling. Using area rugs to cover wood or tiled floors will not only keep your feet warmer, but also will raise the ambient temperature by a few degrees. Rugs can, of course, be purchased, but old quilts, toweling, and scraps tied into rag rugs work just as well.

5. Door rolls

From a unique design that matches your interior to the thrift store quilt, a roll of material stopping drafts from entering your home is essential to any fuel-saving plan. Scrap material can be fashioned into a tube that can be filled with numerous things to block cold winter air. Fill the tube with densely packed material. Rice or sand are both common options, but materials such as recycled quilt batting or scraps of denim are also very effective.

Do you know of other time-tested ways to keep the house warm? Share your tips in the section below: 

All-Natural Antibacterial Gel You Can Quickly Make At Home

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All-Natural Antibacterial Gel You Can Quickly Make At Home

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As the cold weather sets in, we find ourselves taking extra precautions to ensure we are not the next victim of the cold and flu viruses spreading around our communities.

Perhaps we increase our vitamin intake or even obsessively wash our hands. And while those are easy to do around our homestead, many of us reach for an antibacterial gel or foam when we are traveling about. But that’s probably not the best idea.

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Each spring our local elementary hosts a science fair that invariably includes one project investigating the effectiveness of antibacterial gel versus traditional hand washing. A quick glance at the petri dishes confirms that traditional hot soapy water does the job just fine. Even the FDA has banned certain ingredients in commercially manufactured antibacterial soaps and alcohol-based gels. One controversial component now banned in soaps by the FDA is triclosan, which has been linked to thyroid problems and increasing resistant strains of bacteria. Manufacturers have until the fall of 2017 to reformulate their antibacterial soaps; however, antibacterial gels are exempt from this ruling.

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Nature, though, has provided all we need to combat viruses and bacteria that we encounter in the normal course of life. From medicinal plants grown in our herb gardens to essential oils curated from the best sources, creating our own antibacterial gels and sprays to use when we are away from home, or when we need an extra layer of protection after coming in contact with those suffering from illness, is a simple process and requires few ingredients.

Here are several ways to do it …

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Grown in containers, rosemary is useful as a seasoning and as a garnish for savory dishes, but it has several medicinal qualities, as well. Rosemary is antibacterial and anti-viral. Preparing an infusion of fresh rosemary creates a non-toxic alternative to commercially produced antibacterial gels. Using a one-to-eight ratio of fresh rosemary to distilled water in a stainless steel pan, bring the water to a simmer, and then cover and remove from heat. Let the rosemary steep for 20 minutes. The infused water, when cooled, can be transferred into a spray bottle for convenient applications. It also can be added to foaming solutions of castile soap, adding a layer of antibacterial protection.

All-Natural Antibacterial Gel You Can Quickly Make At Home

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Wooly lamb’s ear is not typically thought of as anything more than a textured addition to landscapes, but it has amazing antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties and is useful in the treatment of bruising and cuts and abrasions, in addition to reducing fevers and swelling due to insect bites and bee stings. As with the rosemary infusion, an infusion of wooly lamb’s ear makes a quick and effective antibacterial on-the-go spray.

If time permits, create your own extract using a one-to-three ratio of chopped wooly lamb’s ear and vodka. Let steep for four to six weeks in a cool, dark area, gently shaking every few days. Use a few drops of this extract combined with rubbing alcohol or witch hazel in a spray bottle for a concentrated antibacterial spray.

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The use of essential oils has certainly experienced a revival in recent years, and as a result they have become much more readily available to the average consumer. Many oils are antibacterial in nature and most contain additional properties that are beneficial to our overall health. In addition to the benefits gained from using essential oils, we also help diminish the growth of resistant strains of bacteria. That’s because the use of naturally occurring antibacterial extracts, oils or the like does not lead to the creation of superbugs or resistant bacteria.

Perhaps the most commonly known essential oil is tea tree oil (melaleuca oil), which is a medicinal powerhouse. Antibacterial, anti-viral and antiseptic, tea tree oil is an excellent addition to any antibacterial gel or spray formula.

Start an antibacterial gel formula with Aloe Vera, adding a small amount of witch hazel at a ratio of one-to-eight, and essential oils; a popular antibacterial combination is lavender and tea tree oil. Rosemary oil added to this formula will act as a natural preservative.

To any essential oil blend, a few drops of vitamin E oil will not only act as a natural preservative but also will moisturize your hands.

Do you make your own antibacterial gel? If so, share your tips in the section below:

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5 Cold-Killing Spices Hiding In Your Kitchen Cabinet

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5 Cold-Killing Spices Hiding In Your Kitchen Cabinet

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As winter blasts the U.S., the local pharmacy is dispensing various chemical cocktails aimed at curbing the symptoms associated with the common cold and seasonal flu virus. The pharmaceutical companies certainly benefit during the cold winter months, but their relief is costly — and not guaranteed. In fact, some medications often produce side-effects that are just as bad or worse than the original symptoms.

So, what natural options are available? The answer may be as simple as a glance in your spice cabinet.

Good nutrition is essential for a healthy life. As the adage states, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” A well-thought-out diet, full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, will bolster your immune system. Whether sprinkled on as a garnish, used to create a flavorful broth or sauce, or even steeped in a tea, this list of cold- and flu-fighting spices can keep you healthy and happy this winter.

1. Turmeric

Dress up your farm-fresh eggs, create a tangy dip, or spice up a side of rice with a dash of turmeric. Produced from the roasted rhizomes of the turmeric plant, turmeric powder stimulates the immune system, reduces inflammation, balances blood sugar levels and aids the digestive system, all of which are important aspects of fighting off the common cold or seasonal flu.

2. Clove, nutmeg and cinnamon

This trio is most often associated with baking fall and winter “goodies,” and with warm, soothing drinks; however, they also work well together to aid the body in resisting infectious illnesses prevalent during the holiday season. These spices are antibacterial, antiviral, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agents. The addition of nutmeg also has the added benefit of being an anti-depressant, which is helpful to calm the wintertime blues and relieve insomnia, although caution should be used by only including small amounts of nutmeg to any recipe.

3. Ginger

5 Cold-Killing Spices Hiding In Your Kitchen Cabinet

Ginger. Image source: Pixabay.com

Although ginger is used with the popular fall spices listed above, it also works to aid the digestive tract — relieving nausea, reducing bloating and gas, and overall working to relax the digestive tract to promote healing. Ginger also provides extra support for the immune system and further relieves inflammation due to irritation or infection.

4. Oregano

Not to be limited to Italian dishes, oregano can be sprinkled on eggs, salads and meats, enhancing your immune system by acting as a powerful antioxidant. It contains multiple vitamins and minerals, giving it helpful antibacterial and antiviral properties. Oregano also provides relief from inflammation, particularly in the upper respiratory tract, which is more vulnerable due to the drier air found in the colder climates.

5. Thyme

Well known in ancient times for its medicinal properties, thyme is most effective against respiratory infections and intestinal distress. It boosts liver function, increases immune function and clears the sinuses — the breeding ground of many respiratory infections.

For many of us, these spices are staples in our cabinet, only to be pulled out for special recipes and not considered based on their medicinal properties. Yet by incorporating them into our regular diets, we can increase our chances of staying healthy during the winter months.

What is your favorite spice for health? Share your tips in the section below:

11 ‘Powerhouse’ Essential Oils That Combat The Cold & Flu

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11 ‘Powerhouse’ Essential Oils That Combat The Cold & Flu

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Farmers are hard at work bringing in this year’s harvest, and in many parts of the country, deciduous leaves are boasting a myriad of beautiful colors. We love much of what autumn offers, but these days also bring with them some of our least favorite things: viruses, mainly colds and flus.

Cold and flu season is quickly approaching. The cool, dry air of fall keeps the mucous membranes dry, leaving them vulnerable to invading viruses. In addition, most of us spend a lot more time indoors during the fall and winter months, providing additional opportunity for viruses to spread.

There are many ways to prevent cold and flu viruses from affecting you. First, frequent hand washing is a must. Making a conscience effort to keep your hands away from your face is also a great way to lessen the chance of you contracting one of the many viruses out there. Second, make it a habit to get a good night’s rest. Sleep deprivation has a negative impact on how effective your immune system is in resisting harmful bacteria and viruses.

Another line of defense can be made with judicious use of essential oils. Using essential oils as cleaning agents, topically, or through a diffuser can not only kill viruses, but also can strengthen your immune system to more effectively fight off seasonal illnesses. An alternative way to reap the benefits of using essential oils while on the go is to use an oil diffusing pendant. These pendants may be made from porous stone, or unglazed clay, allowing them to absorb oils that are then slowly released throughout the day. Other pendants are essentially lockets that include a mesh cover and felt swatch to absorb the oils. Either method will allow you to use essential oils effectively while working on the homestead or traveling around town.

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Not sure what to buy or use this fall and winter? Below are 11 suggested essential oils to help you stay healthy this season.

Tea tree oil is anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-microbial, making it an important part of many preventative measures. The frequent cleaning of door handles and light switches alone with a cleaning solution that includes tea tree oil will greatly reduce the possibility of spreading germs to others. Tea tree oil used in a diffuser will combat pollutants in the air, while topical applications will reduce cold symptoms by relieving congestion.

A blend of lemon eucalyptus oil and balsam fir oil will fight viruses, bacteria and fungus and is also effective when used topically with a carrier oil or when diffused. Additionally, it relieves fatigue, muscle and joint pain commonly associated with flu-like symptoms when used as part of a warm soak.

Cinnamon, clove, lavender and sweet orange oils combine to create a seasonal smell that is an anti-virus powerhouse. Use this blend in a diffuser to clean the air in your home.

Lemon oil alone is a wonderful agent for boosting one’s immunity by naturally increasing the production of white blood cells. Use lemon as a single oil or combine it with clove bud oil and pine oil for a potent blend that fights infections.

Peppermint oil, coupled with eucalyptus oil, provides an extra layer of defense against common viruses. These oils continue to work well for those who are suffering with cold and flu symptoms by relieving nausea, congestion and fever-induced pain.

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A blend found in writings from hundreds of years ago, thieves is a popular blend that provides antiviral, antibacterial and antiseptic qualities when used in several different ways. This blend of eucalyptus, clove, lemon, cinnamon bark and rosemary can be used as a disinfectant around the house and to clear the air of pollutants. It also can be used topically to support immune function and fight infections.

Please be aware that as with any substance, you may build up a tolerance if used topically for prolonged periods of time. It is best to switch up the types of oils you use, or alternate a blend with a single oil, every seven to 10 days for maximum effectiveness. For topical applications, a few drops applied to the soles of the feet before bedtime, three to four times a week, is a good baseline.

*This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or cure any particular health condition. Please consult with a qualified health professional first.

What oils would you have place on the list? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:  

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5 Steps To Get Your Chickens Ready For Winter (And Ensure You Still Have Eggs)

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How To Get Your Chickens Ready For Winter – And Ensure You Still Get Eggs

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Preparing the chicken coop for winter should be at the top of any homesteading to-do list. A well-maintained coop will help prevent illnesses in your flock and keep your chickens happy enough to continue providing eggs for your table.

Winter often finds us with frozen water buckets, more cleaning than usual and cranky hens, but taking care of a few fall chores can make overwintering much easier – and make it far more likely your flock will continue producing eggs.

1. Prepping the coop

After every snowfall I am reminded there is a slight gap in the hinged door that rests on top of our coop’s nesting boxes. That results in a small snow drift that materializes and scares the hens from using the far west nesting box until I clean it out. A few minutes with a caulking gun will ensure that doesn’t happen again this winter. Seal crevices, tighten screws and make sure doors close flush with the coop walls.

Now is also the time to clean the vents that allow air to circulate through the coop and clean debris off the outside walls and roof. In addition to general cleaning and maintenance, determine if your building would benefit from extra protection from the elements in the form of wind breaks, wraps or extra insulation.

2. Cleaning the coop

Start winter with a fresh, clean coop. Remove old bedding from the entire coop, roosting areas, nesting boxes and runs. Before loading the hen house with fresh litter, dust the interior with diatomaceous earth (DE). This will deter unwanted pests from finding a home with your flock.

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Some homesteaders choose to use sand in the winter as bedding, because it is easier to spot clean every few days. Others opt for the traditional straw or wood shavings that need to be replaced weekly during the more confining winter months. A few poultry owners choose to use the deep-litter method, which works by adding a fresh layer of bedding on top of the old to act as an extra layer of insulation and requires fewer full cleanings. Those using the deep-litter method must be sure the enclosure is well-ventilated. Decomposing droppings release ammonia, which can cause blindness and other illnesses if levels remain high inside the chicken coop. No matter which method you choose to use during the winter months, you must be certain that the enclosure remains dry. Bedding that is retaining high amounts of moisture will cause your birds respiratory issues.

3. Watering the flock

How To Get Your Chickens Ready For Winter – And Ensure You Still Get Eggs

Image source: Pixabay.com

Keeping the flock healthy throughout the winter months has much to do with water. Too much water in the litter will cause disease in the birds, but too little fresh drinking water will do the same. Chickens will not break through the ice with their beaks, so you must provide water containers that are free from ice. For the busy homesteader, heated waterers are quite a timesaver. A heated pet bowl with a pet-safe cord will keep your flock drinking throughout the day, although the shallower pet bowls may need more frequent cleaning. For those who do not have electricity in their building, or choose not to risk a fire, changing the water frequently, two to three times a day when temperatures are below freezing, should be sufficient. Use thick plastic containers to delay ice build-up.

4. Lights on or off

There is much debate on whether you should provide a light for your chickens, whether for the sake of heat or the sake of artificial daylight for egg production. Much of the debate stems from the risk of fire that arises when heating or lighting a hen house. It takes just a few moments for a heat lamp that has been knocked over to start a fire inside the coop. Heat lamps, or brooding lamps, should not be used in most chicken coops. They produce too much heat and also can stress the birds in the colder winter months.

In most areas, adequate lighting can be achieved with one 40-watt bulb with a reflector for every 250 square feet. Using a timer to achieve 10 hours of daylight will encourage your flock to keep producing eggs while also providing them adequate time to rest.

5. Boredom busters

Poultry cooped up in the coop all day will quickly become bored. That’s where the trouble starts. They will begin pecking at each other, to the point of death in some instances, while others will find mischief in the nesting boxes by destroying precious eggs.

Keep the boredom at bay with a few additions to the coop. A produce bag filled with fresh greens hung from the ceiling works as a healthy treat as well as a distraction from pecking at each other. Similarly, broccoli crowns, cabbages and other vegetables can be hung as a treat as can more traditional suet bags and seed blocks.

What advice would you add for taking care of chickens during winter? Share it in the section below:

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Composting 101: Essential Fall Chores Every Homesteader Should Do

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Composting 101: Essential Fall Chores Every Homesteader Should Do

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An invaluable resource on the homestead, compost is easy to create and maintain in a relatively small area on your existing acreage. It revitalizes nutrient-stripped soil and helps to maintain a balanced pH level throughout it, in addition to encouraging the growth of beneficial microbes.

Much has been said about the benefits of composting your kitchen waste in recent years, but for the homesteader, composting goes far beyond just reducing waste in your home.

Even the best composting systems require a bit of attention when the seasons begin to change. Whether you are using commercial barrels or drums, homemade fence-style bins, or open windrows, a few fall composting chores will ensure your soil gets nourishment throughout the winter months. This, in turn, will make sure that you have a new supply of rich compost come spring for established gardens and fields and any additional acreage that will be planted.

Following harvest, clearing the garden beds is an essential chore, and vegetable plants left to decompose in the garden often introduce diseases into the soil. However, before you add those plants to your compost, set aside your remaining summer compost so that it can be used anywhere in the garden that won’t have a cover crop.

Composting 101: Essential Fall Chores Every Homesteader Should Do

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Put your garden to bed by covering it with a layer of this finished compost. Layers as deep as three inches work best. This will allow nutrients to start assimilating into the soil during the winter months, as well as protecting the soil from acquiring agents that cause many common plant diseases. Moreover, compost can be incorporated again in the spring before planting begins, adding additional nutrients to the soil.

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Restocking your compost system, or even starting one, is simple to do in the fall months. Fallen leaves and dried garden plants, free of seeds, provide a nearly endless supply of brown material for composting. If there are not a lot of leaf-dropping trees on the homestead, then ask friends and neighbors if they would donate their leaves. Many of them will be more than happy to part with bags of leaves collected for disposal.

All of the scraps left over from putting up late summer fruits and vegetables, as well as from used livestock bedding and the last grass clippings of the year will provide the necessary green material for a healthy compost system. If the ratio of green material to brown material seems too low, then consider finding a source, like your local coffee shop, for coffee grounds. The coffee grounds will make an excellent green addition to a compost pile.

To maintain a healthy compost pile you may need to water the pile, as the breezy days of fall can quickly dry them out. Compost should be moist, but not wet. This also means that a cover may be needed in the wet winter months that follow. How frequently you should turn the compost also should be considered. Turning the pile frequently will speed the rate of decomposition, but in late fall it may be better to allow the pile to rest. Compost that is finished will begin to release its nutrients immediately, so allowing it decompose more slowly through the winter months is to your advantage.

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The ‘Laid-Back’ Way To Improve Your Soil During Winter

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The ‘Laid-Back' Way To Improve Your Soil During Winter

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Nothing slows the activity on a homestead down as much as wintertime. The bustle of spring planting and calving, and the harvest of summer and fall give way to quieter days of tending livestock, maintaining equipment and feasting on the bounty gleaned from this year’s harvest.

There is something you can do this fall that will quietly work through the winter months – while your laid back and relaxing — to improve the condition of your land. No matter how small the fields, gardens or raised beds on the homestead might be, consider allowing a winter cover crop prepare your soil for the next planting season.

A winter cover crop is valuable in many ways. Winters can be harsh on the land, particularly soil left bare following fall’s harvest. Winter cover crops prevent erosion, which is important not only in maintaining a garden or field, but also valuable for protecting nearby waterways that can be corrupted by too much silt. Cover crops add nutrients back into the soil. Many of these crops also can be used as livestock fodder.

1. Cereal grains

As I drive through the small homesteads that surround us, I see a haze of green rise in the fields each autumn. Many choose cereal or winter rye as the cover crop of choice. There are several benefits to using cereal grains as covers. Their root systems break up compacted soils, reduce erosion and fix nitrogen. If cut before flowering, the cut stalks can be left to decompose and be turned under in the spring, adding nutrients back into the soil.

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These also can be left to harvest as usual if time permits. Oats, barley and wheat can also be used; however, rye produces the largest amount of green material to add back into the soil. Grains and grasses are best used in fields and gardens. Avoid using them in raised beds, as they are more difficult to eliminate.

2. Clover

Though more time-consuming to manage, clover provides a generous supply of green material for your compost pile while improving your soil. Choose crimson clover for a yearly cover, as it is easily eliminated by simply tilling under. Red clover can be used as a biannual crop, while other clovers are perennial and much harder to control as cover crops.

3. Field peas

Field peas can be grown either as a companion crop, under sown during the growing season, or as a winter cover crop. As a winter cover crop, field peas will be killed off from the cold temperatures and left to mulch-in-place, adding nutrients to the soil.

4. Vetch

The ‘Laid-Back' Way To Improve Your Soil During Winter

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Similarly, fava beans, or bell beans, are actually a member of the vetch family. It is a popular choice as a cover crop, because it is easier to till under than hairy vetch and less likely to overtake other plantings. Purple vetch is another close relative that is less cold-hardy, which allows it to be left to mulch in-place.

5. Radish

A relatively new addition to the winter cover crop rotation is the radish. Radishes, particularly the daikon radish, provide all of the benefits of a good winter cover crop with very few drawbacks. Radishes break up compacted soil, reaching even into the subsoil. As they decompose after winter killing, they leave empty holes that improve soil drainage and even help the soil temperature to warm more quickly during spring. They are nitrogen fixers, and also draw additional potassium and phosphorus to the surrounding soil.

Planning Your Cover Crop

Starting around September, planting of the chosen cover crop should begin. Time the planting to allow the crop to mature before the first hard frost date for your region. For other crops, such as oats and cereal rye, multiple cuttings may be needed to prevent the crop from reseeding your land. Some cuttings can be used as fodder for your livestock, while other cuttings must be added to the compost pile or left to mulch in the fields.

Growing a winter cover crop will add a bit of work to your fall schedule. However, you will greatly benefit from improved soil conditions come spring.

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Natural, Off-Grid Cures For Spider Bites

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Natural, Off-Grid Cures For Spider Bites

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Feeling sore and chilled, I awoke to find numerous large welts on my right arm, which was slightly swollen and hot to the touch. For the next 24 hours a fever raged, peaking late afternoon at 103.2 degrees. It was obvious I was experiencing a severe reaction to multiple spider bites on my arm.

My throat began swelling and my sinuses were inflamed. To get my reaction under control, I turned to basic natural health care. Alternating topically applied essential oils with mineral salt soaks, the swelling and redness were gradually reduced. Warm herbal teas soothed my irritated throat, while an oil diffuser calmed my inflamed sinuses.

There are many different ways to treat spider bites naturally, especially if you are in a survival situation where no other health care is available*. First, if possible, identify the spider, although this may be impossible if the bite occurs while you are sleeping. All spiders are venomous, meaning that they inject venom when biting another subject, but how individuals react to the spider’s venom varies greatly. In North America, the most severe reactions are caused by the venom of a black widow spider or that of a brown recluse spider, but any type of spider venom can cause painful symptoms.

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If ice is available, apply it to the location of the bite while waiting to begin alternative treatments. Ice will decrease the amount of swelling at the site. Wrap the ice or ice pack in a thin cloth to avoid further irritating the skin surrounding the bite.

Applying a poultice or paste that draws out the venom is the next step in naturally treating a spider bite. There are many herbal poultices that are useful in natural healing. Below are a few of the best for healing venomous wounds.

Activated charcoal, or active carbon, has numerous pores that trap chemicals inside of them. When a paste of active carbon and water is applied to a spider bite, it will trap the venom and allow it to be washed away while contained in the carbon. Creating a thick paste that is applied to the affected area for up to four hours is the most effective way to use activated charcoal.

Natural, Off-Grid Cures For Spider Bites

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Bentonite clay can be used in a similar manner as the active carbon. Bentonite clay, made of volcanic ash, absorbs toxins, heavy metals and other impurities when used in conjunction with a liquid. Create a poultice with plain water and bentonite clay. Apply to the location of the bite and gently bind it with a damp piece of gauze. Change the dressing every two hours.

A plantain poultice is also helpful in treating spider bites. Since plantain grows readily in most areas, it is the most likely ingredient to have available in an emergency. Whether ground in a mortar and pestle, or shredded and crushed by hand, the liquid found in the plantain leaf will draw out toxins, such as spider venom, by constricting the cells affected by the toxin. Apply the poultice to the affected area and loosely wrap the area with gauze or cover with a large bandage. Replace the plantain regularly for the greatest effect.

Used as a standalone poultice, as part of an herbal poultice, or as a medicinal wash, slippery elm is valuable in treating spider bites naturally. The inner bark can be used to create a poultice to reduce swelling and help manage pain. In times past, Native Americans would soak thin strips of the inner bark until the bark was pliable, and then they wrapped a strip of bark around wounded areas until the bark dried out again. In addition to poultices, slippery elm bark can be decocted into an antiseptic wash, useful for bathing infected bites.

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A natural antibacterial agent, honey, added to any poultice or as a pack itself, will encourage the healing process to begin. Additionally, peppermint oil, when properly diluted with a carrier oil, also speeds up the healing process by increasing circulation in the area to which it is applied.

Between applications of poultices, it is helpful to soak the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes in a mineral salt bath. The mineral salts will continue to draw out the venom and soothe the affected area.

You can lessen the effects of the spider’s venom on your overall health, as well. Echinacea, taken in capsule form or as a tea, will bolster your immune system and has long been used to treat venomous snake bites; it also works well on spider bites. Keep taking Echinacea until the wound is completely healed.

*This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or cure any particular health condition. Please consult with a qualified health professional first.

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The 20-Pound Plant Your Ancestors Grew To Feed Livestock

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The 20-Pound Plant Your Ancestors Grew To Feed Livestock

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Creating a homestead that is self-sufficient is challenging enough — and one of the most challenging aspects is trying to grow enough food to sustain both humans and livestock each year.

As difficult as that may seem, it is possible with careful planning and a bit of creativity. Choosing what you grow for your family and livestock will make a big impact, especially for those with fewer acres with which to work.

What to raise for livestock fodder may seem like an easy question to answer. We all know that grains and grasses are primary sources for most commercial feeds and many homesteaders, but there are many other choices available if you plan on growing your own feed. One such alternative crop is the mangel beet.

Mangel beets, known as forage beets or mangel-wurzel beets, were a staple crop on many homesteads until the advent of modern day farming equipment and the rise of big agriculture. Their use is recorded in writings dating back to the 1400s, and many modern homesteaders are reviving the popularity of this type of beet.

Mangel beets, also known as fodder beets, contain a wide variety of nutrients in both the root and the greens. The root of the red mammoth mangel beet and the giant yellow eckendorf beet will grow to an average of 15 to 20 pounds apiece, thus providing a sizable amount of feed — up to 50 tons per acre. The greens also can be used as feed, adding even more value to this beet as a crop for sustainable homesteads.

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The 20-Pound Plant Your Ancestors Grew To Feed Livestock

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These beets prefer neutral soil and are capable of thriving in less-than-ideal soil conditions. Full sun, however, is a necessity. Sow seeds directly into the prepared soil one month before the final frost date for early harvest, 10 to 12 weeks before the fall frost date for a late harvest. Seeds should be placed two inches apart and seedlings must be thinned out early. Rows should be spaced no less than 12 inches apart. A moderate amount of rainfall or irrigation is necessary for optimal growth to facilitate this, and a light covering of mulch may be necessary to retain moisture in drier climates.

The greens can be harvested at any time. Plucking a few leaves from each plant will not stress the root and will allow you or your livestock to enjoy nutrient-rich greens for many weeks. Carefully monitored and controlled grazing may be acceptable in the last few weeks before harvest.

The roots can be harvested anywhere from 70 to 100 days after planting. It is important to protect the roots from drying out. In warmer climates, the beets may be stored in the field and dug up as needed. In colder climates, store mangel beets in a root cellar or other cool, dry area. Farmers, in days gone by, would dig a pit to bury the beets in, near their livestock. Lining the pit with straw, the farmers would add alternate layers of beets and straw, finally covering the pit with a wood lid to limit the loss of fodder to rot or mold. In Europe, it was common to create what is known as a clamp, a protected pile of mangel-wurzel beets above ground.

Traditionally, mangel beets are not used as livestock fodder until January. During the time between harvest and January, certain components begin to break down in the root, making them easier to digest and less likely to cause digestive issues in your livestock.

To supplement your poultry feed and provide a pecking distraction, simply hang a beetroot in the coop. Greens can be fed to the poultry, as well. For other livestock, including cattle, horses, pigs and goats, beets are best sliced or cut into chunks before adding them in the daily ration of feed.

Have you ever grown mangel beets? Share your advice on them in the section below:

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Stockpiling Basics: 3 Areas You Better Not Overlook

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Stockpiling Basics: 3 Areas You Better Not Overlook

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In uncertain times, having a plan allows us to have a sense of security knowing essential details are covered. Whether the plan is designed to include the bare bones necessary for immediate survival or is intended to span years, every plan should include some measure of stockpiling.

Stockpiling, or accumulating a large quantity of goods, may often be viewed by onlookers as paranoia, especially in light of reality shows that highlight extreme shopping, but stockpiling is simply a wise practice for anyone when it is included as a part of life.

Homesteaders, of course, know that each year brings new challenges, with disease, drought and other disasters having a major impact on the homestead’s production. Having a stockpile to rely on in tight times, or when faced with difficult circumstances, is essential.

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New homesteaders naturally will start accumulating foods and other goods that are routinely needed on the property. For homesteaders, maintaining a stockpile of goods becomes part of everyday life.

With any course of action, having a plan will only increase its effectiveness, and this can be as simple as adding a few items each week to your local purchases.

The Basics

Food stockpileThere are at least three key areas to consider when starting a stockpile for your homestead.

1. Space and location

What areas can be used for storage: both long and short term? Cool, dry rooms are traditionally thought of as the best areas because they reduce loss due to moisture, but other areas should not be overlooked. It depends what you’re stockpiling. Choose carefully for your intended location. If the electricity fails during heavy rains, could your stockpile be ruined in a flooded basement?

2. Containers and shelves

What about shelving, totes, boxes and other storage containers? But consider carefully the materials, especially plastics which have the potential to leach harmful chemicals into the stored goods. All shelving should allow the stock to be rotated easily to reduce waste.

3. Stockpile but don’t waste

Estimate the needs of those on the homestead. Only store what can be reasonably used before foodstuffs and medications expire, or other materials deteriorate. This may be as simple as marking the date you open a new bottle or jar, and recording the date it is completely used up for an entire month in a small notebook. Then calculate to find the amount used each year.

Only stockpile foods that are of good quality, or that are known to work well for the household. Many have stocked up on high-quality foods that were wasted, because no one ate them.

Perhaps the easiest way to start a stockpile is to set aside a specific amount in the household budget each month to put toward stockpile goods. With as little as $5 a week or even a month, a small accumulation will begin. This amount should be used to buy items that are not produced on the homestead. For those who want a large supply quickly, a fair amount of cash and a well-written plan can make it happen.

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The Incredible Tree That Controls Flooding, Cleans Soil, And Cures Headaches, Too

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The Incredible Tree That Controls Flooding, Cleans Soil, And Cures Headaches, Too

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Eking out the greatest potential from your homestead may seem like quite a challenge. Acreage is at a premium, so how can it best be utilized to produce what is needed to make a homestead more self-sufficient or even produce additional income to reinvest in the land? These are common questions, with no definite right or wrong answers. There are many good ideas to try and implement — one of which is adding a stand of willows on your land.

Have you considered growing willows? The trees and shrubs that make up the Salix family are varied, including the ornamental varieties popular in modern landscaping and the supple basket willows used in ages past for creating baskets of all kinds, furniture and fences. Willows, when properly maintained, can be a wonderful addition, such as to the edge of streams and low-lying areas that retain a lot of moisture on the homestead. They can provide fuel and medicine, act as a living fence, be harvested for wickerwork or even be harvested and sold as a cash crop for biofuel energy plants.

The Incredible Tree That Controls Flooding, Cleans Soil, And Cures Headaches, Too

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Willows are easy to start from cuttings, which means they are often free for the taking. Plant cuttings after the danger of frost 10 to 12 inches deep, allowing one or two sets of buds to remain above ground and ensure it remains well watered. Keeping new stands weed-free and lightly mulched will ensure cuttings become established. Willow root systems are large, so it is necessary to avoid planting them close to building foundations, septic systems and other underground structures. Coppicing, or cutting the trees off at ground level once each year, will help to control the size of the root system.

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There are several ecological reasons for including a stand of willows on your homestead. Willows are effective carbon filters, absorbing large amounts of carbon dioxide and filtering out other air pollutants. For urban homesteaders, a barrier of willows can effectively reduce pollution and also diminish the noise pollution from nearby roadways. The root systems of these trees are also valuable, as they will clean multiple types of toxins from the surrounding soil in addition to adding valuable nutrients. They will filter pollutants out of nearby water sources, such as streams, rivers and ponds. This same root system also will reduce erosion along these waterways and stabilize steep hillsides.

Willows are great additions to hedgerows or living fences. When included as part of a living fence around an orchard, willows that are not coppiced will attract bees, and they bloom earlier than most fruiting trees. Beekeepers will benefit from including some willows in the hedges around the homestead.

Willows can be weaved into a strong barrier along waterways to control flooding. These woven barriers can be used to enclose gardens as well, providing an extra layer of protection from marauders.

The Incredible Tree That Controls Flooding, Cleans Soil, And Cures Headaches, Too

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If you are interested in including medicinal plants on your homestead, do not forget to include willow. Willow bark tea is nature’s aspirin for headaches and pain, with no adverse side effects. The inner bark of the willow tree, best harvested when the sap is running, can be used to make tinctures and teas that are used to treat inflammation, in addition to being valuable as a mild pain reliever and for reducing fevers.

Of course, willows can be harvested to make many household items. Known as wickerwork, willows can be woven to create baskets, furniture and even fences. It may take a bit of practice, but those with patience to develop their weaving skills may be able to make a decent profit from their creations, or at the very least save some money building their own instead of buying new.

Willows also are worth taking a look at with the current push toward renewable resources to burn for fuel. In fact, many homesteaders are raising willows as a cash crop. Using willows for energy production is ecologically sound, as they are renewable and burn clean, releasing far less pollutants into the atmosphere than other types of fuel. A typical stand of willows can be harvested as a biofuel seven or eight times before needing to be replanted.

Have you ever grown or used willows? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below: 

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The Toxic Truth About Cinder Blocks Every Homesteader Should Know

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The Toxic Truth About Cinder Blocks Every Homesteader Should Know

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Planning to add some raised beds to your homestead this year? Raised beds are excellent for those who need more compact gardens or those who have back or knee pain, as they eliminate the necessity of bending down to weed the rows.

Natural rock can be used to create raised beds. Think of the stone fences frequently seen throughout the countryside. Most of these barriers were constructed out of rocks gathered from the adjacent fields. Although you may not be able to gather enough rocks from your homestead alone, visiting with a local building contractor may allow you the opportunity to glean rocks from new construction sites for the amount needed for your project.

Of course, raised gardens also can be constructed out of lumber. Cedar is a popular choice, since it is resistant to wood rot and deters termites. Avoid using treated lumber of any kind. Treated lumber can harbor toxic chemicals that will leach into the soil, contaminating both the soil and plants grown in the affected soil. The same can be said for railroad ties and other scrap lumber of unknown origins.

In an effort to save time and money, many homesteaders have turned to using cinder blocks, new and reclaimed, to build raised beds on their property. Although cinder blocks are relatively easy to obtain, are simple to work with and last for years with very little maintenance, there are a few safety concerns that should be addressed.

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First, you must determine if you are working with true cinder blocks or cement blocks, as there is a difference in their composition. Cement blocks are made with Portland cement and aggregates. They are heavier and costlier on average, while cinder blocks are made with Portland cement and fly ash, a byproduct of the coal industry, and they are lighter in weight and most often cheaper to purchase.

The Toxic Truth About Cinder Blocks Every Homesteader Should KnowThe addition of fly ash to the Portland cement is the cause of concern. Fly ash is a byproduct of coal-burning electric plants. The ash is trapped and collected, then used as a partial substitute for Portland cement. While it is true that this process creates what is now considered a green building material, questions remain about how safe fly ash truly is. The coal itself contains many heavy metals and other substances known to be toxic. A considerable amount of these metals and substances remain in the ash and are subsequently found in the cinder blocks that are created from it.

Garden beds, framed with cinder block, may be fine for flowers and other nonedible plants, but be wary of using them to frame gardens that will be home to edible plants and medicinal herbs. There is the potential for toxic materials to leach from the cinder blocks into the soil. These materials have been known to affect cognitive ability, cause nervous disorders, contribute to increased cancer risks and have given rise to many general health complaints.

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There are some ways to safeguard yourself and your raised beds if you are concerned about the increased health risks from using cinder blocks.

1. Plant only in the actual garden space created by the cinder blocks. Do not plant edibles in the hollow chambers of the blocks. The roots of these plants are completely surrounded by the block and may absorb the higher amounts of toxic material leached into the soil from the fly ash.

2. If building a new bed, seal the blocks with a waterproof sealant on all surfaces. This may lessen the amount of leaching that occurs over time from watering and natural rainfall.

3. For a few seasons, grow cleansing plants, such as sunflowers. Some species of plants clean the soil by removing toxic materials from the soil, or at the very least neutralize them. At the end of the growing season it is best to destroy the plants. Adding the contaminated plant to the compost pile will only spread the toxic materials to a new location.

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Dirt-Cheap, Nutritious Chicken Feed You Can Grow In Your Garden

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Dirt-Cheap, Nutritious Chicken Feed You Can Grow In Your Garden

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Keeping your backyard flock happy is pretty simple and is the best way to ensure a plentiful supply of nutrient-rich eggs and plump meat chickens.

Some homesteaders are choosing to grow their own poultry feed in order to cut down on the unnecessary chemicals and fillers added to the commercial feed consumed by their flocks. They also may grow their own livestock feed as a way to become more self-sufficient and as a way to minimize the financial burden of maintaining their chickens. Whether this feed is used to supplement the foraging diet of a free-range flock or as the exclusive diet for a fenced flock, homegrown poultry feed is worth investigating.

Chickens need protein, calcium and carbohydrates in their diet. In most commercial poultry feeds, grains account for the largest percentage of carbohydrates in the feed. Grains, however, take up a lot of land, making them unsuitable for today’s smaller acreage homesteads. Corn is, of course, the most popular of grains for chicken feed, but barley, rye, and hulless oats all work well.

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On the homestead you will have several options to choose from if limiting or avoiding grains. Give your chickens the carbohydrates they need through root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, beets, parsnips and sweet potatoes. After harvesting the root vegetables for the flock, add the greens to the mix as well for added nutrition. These root vegetables are easy additions to the garden. Whether grown in a separate area or as a part of your family’s garden, beets and other colorful vegetables provide an array of macro and micronutrients that also will promote good health in your flock.

Take, for example, the Mangel beet. Mangel beets are fairly hardy, reaching 10-12 pounds apiece and providing plenty of nutrition. Homesteaders in ages past used Mangel beets to feed the livestock through long winters, and these beets are slowly becoming a popular feed option for today’s homesteaders.

Dirt-Cheap, Nutritious Chicken Feed You Can Grow In Your Garden

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Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, work well for chickens. Hung in the coop or in another accessible area, chickens will pick and peck at them and not at each other. These vegetables can be planted earlier in the season than most and provide quality nutrition, including some calcium.

Keep your flock cool while in the summer heat by indulging them with a cool treat. Cucumbers provide adequate nutrition, but most importantly help to hydrate individuals due to their high water content. Cucumbers, sliced in half lengthwise, are the perfect treat to keep them cool and hydrated on a hot day.

A few leafy plants provide a small amount of protein as well as other essential nutrients. In addition to beans, which are higher in protein, but must be cooked before feeding to your flock, kale provides a small amount of protein with large amounts of necessary vitamins and minerals. Kale is easily grown in the cooler spring and fall months and can even withstand frosts.

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A lesser known plant, called duckweed, is also higher in protein than most greens and makes a nice addition to homegrown poultry feed. Duckweed has a higher protein content than the soybeans used liberally in commercially produced feeds. It also provides some additional nutrients. It can be cultivated in small ponds or even in shallow tanks or pools, and although poultry can eat it fresh, most will consume it better when dried. Duckweed needs a nutrient base to thrive, so adding small feeder fish will provide a sufficient base for growth. Some have recommended using graywater from the house or even using some manure from the homestead to feed the duckweed.

Though by no means an exhaustive list, the above mentioned vegetables and greens are worthy of incorporating into any plans for growing poultry feed on your homestead. Add grains if space allows, but don’t allow a lack of space keep you from trying to feed your flock.

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‘Living Fences’: The Way Smart Homesteaders Get Extra Food, Fodder & Fuel

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'Living Fences': The Way Smart Homesteaders Get Extra Food, Fodder & Fuel

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A quick drive through the countryside provides a glimpse at perfect fields, some still outlined with old growth trees. While the sight is common, more and more of these fence rows are being uprooted for modern fencing and big agricultural endeavors.

Living fences, made up of many types of trees, bushes and vines, have been utilized for centuries as an effective way to separate livestock, protect gardens and orchards and designate borders and public spaces. Although seemingly outdated, these fences are very efficient and provide many additional benefits.

Though not a quick solution to your fencing needs today, investing time and effort into growing and maintaining a living fence is rewarding for many homesteaders. Living fences, also known as hedgerows, involve a dense grouping of trees, shrubs and other plant life that form a barrier between areas on the homestead. These living fences take a few years to establish, but they can be sustained for hundreds of years with proper planning and ongoing maintenance.

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We’re not just talking about the beautifully trained espalier fruit trees that provide minimal ornamental fencing, but hardy trees and shrubs, both fruiting and non-fruiting, that are combined to create barriers that are strong enough and tall enough to even control larger livestock.

Why bother establishing living fences on your homestead? In short, living fences add much good to the land. They provide privacy, security, livestock control and serve as windbreaks, and also help purify the air and balance accessible nitrogen in the soil. Depending on the species selected for cultivation, these fences can provide food for the homesteader, fodder for their livestock, and may be selectively harvested as a source for fuel. The root system of an established hedgerow along waterways and other contoured landscaping will reduce or completely eliminate soil erosion. Furthermore, the presence of this dense vegetation tends to keep the rodent and pest populations in check.

'Living Fences': The Way Smart Homesteaders Get Extra Food, Fodder & Fuel

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Urban homesteaders can benefit greatly from incorporating living fences into their plans. In addition to providing privacy, these fences reduce noise pollution, produce enough shade to lower utility costs and clean the air by trapping dust and other airborne contaminants. Dwarf fruit trees thrive as part of living fences, allowing urban homesteaders to glean a modest fruit harvest from necessary fencing without sacrificing valuable space for other endeavors.

There are numerous trees, shrubs, vines and hardy perennials that will thrive when grown as part of a hedgerow. As with most homesteading additions, planning the exact location and determining the intention for the fence will guide your species selection. Fencing needs will vary depending on the average size of your livestock, or based on the type of wildlife you expect to prevent from destroying your crops.

By far, the most popular species for quickly establishing hedgerows is the Osage orange tree, or hedge apple tree. It is a dense tree that provides a strong windbreak and excellent livestock control. Natural pest control, superior wood strength and hardiness in a wide variety of soil conditions make the Osage orange a good choice for many homesteaders. Other popular choices for living fences include honey locust, black locust, autumn olive, hawthorn and blackthorn.

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Fruit trees, such as apple, peach, pear and cherry, are easily incorporated into living fences. Willows, hazelnut and many others with pliable branches, can be inosculated, or grafted together to form a tight barrier. One distinct advantage to this type of fence is the development of the root system. As the trees grow into each other, they begin to utilize the root system of every grafted tree. This allows the hedgerow to continue to thrive, even if the root system of one individual tree dies.

Maintaining the fence or hedgerow is a must. Depending on the species growing in the hedgerow and the livestock being raised on your homestead, pruning may be as simple as allowing your livestock to graze the fence back. This will take careful monitoring to ensure it is not overgrazed, and some additional pruning may be necessary. Otherwise, heavy pruning is necessary to keep fencerows in check. Much of the pruning can be added to livestock feed, turned into mulch or even used to start new fences.

Do you incorporate living fences on your property? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

Every Spring, Gardeners Make This Avoidable Mistake — But You Don’t Have To. Read More Here.

‘Living Fences’: The Way Smart Homesteaders Get Extra Food, Fodder & Fuel

'Living Fences': The Way Smart Homesteaders Get Extra Food, Fodder & Fuel

Image source: Pixabay.com

A quick drive through the countryside provides a glimpse at perfect fields, some still outlined with old growth trees. While the sight is common, more and more of these fence rows are being uprooted for modern fencing and big agricultural endeavors.

Living fences, made up of many types of trees, bushes and vines, have been utilized for centuries as an effective way to separate livestock, protect gardens and orchards and designate borders and public spaces. Although seemingly outdated, these fences are very efficient and provide many additional benefits.

Though not a quick solution to your fencing needs today, investing time and effort into growing and maintaining a living fence is rewarding for many homesteaders. Living fences, also known as hedgerows, involve a dense grouping of trees, shrubs and other plant life that form a barrier between areas on the homestead. These living fences take a few years to establish, but they can be sustained for hundreds of years with proper planning and ongoing maintenance.

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We’re not just talking about the beautifully trained espalier fruit trees that provide minimal ornamental fencing, but hardy trees and shrubs, both fruiting and non-fruiting, that are combined to create barriers that are strong enough and tall enough to even control larger livestock.

Why bother establishing living fences on your homestead? In short, living fences add much good to the land. They provide privacy, security, livestock control and serve as windbreaks, and also help purify the air and balance accessible nitrogen in the soil. Depending on the species selected for cultivation, these fences can provide food for the homesteader, fodder for their livestock, and may be selectively harvested as a source for fuel. The root system of an established hedgerow along waterways and other contoured landscaping will reduce or completely eliminate soil erosion. Furthermore, the presence of this dense vegetation tends to keep the rodent and pest populations in check.

'Living Fences': The Way Smart Homesteaders Get Extra Food, Fodder & Fuel

Image source: Pixabay.com

Urban homesteaders can benefit greatly from incorporating living fences into their plans. In addition to providing privacy, these fences reduce noise pollution, produce enough shade to lower utility costs and clean the air by trapping dust and other airborne contaminants. Dwarf fruit trees thrive as part of living fences, allowing urban homesteaders to glean a modest fruit harvest from necessary fencing without sacrificing valuable space for other endeavors.

There are numerous trees, shrubs, vines and hardy perennials that will thrive when grown as part of a hedgerow. As with most homesteading additions, planning the exact location and determining the intention for the fence will guide your species selection. Fencing needs will vary depending on the average size of your livestock, or based on the type of wildlife you expect to prevent from destroying your crops.

By far, the most popular species for quickly establishing hedgerows is the Osage orange tree, or hedge apple tree. It is a dense tree that provides a strong windbreak and excellent livestock control. Natural pest control, superior wood strength and hardiness in a wide variety of soil conditions make the Osage orange a good choice for many homesteaders. Other popular choices for living fences include honey locust, black locust, autumn olive, hawthorn and blackthorn.

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Fruit trees, such as apple, peach, pear and cherry, are easily incorporated into living fences. Willows, hazelnut and many others with pliable branches, can be inosculated, or grafted together to form a tight barrier. One distinct advantage to this type of fence is the development of the root system. As the trees grow into each other, they begin to utilize the root system of every grafted tree. This allows the hedgerow to continue to thrive, even if the root system of one individual tree dies.

Maintaining the fence or hedgerow is a must. Depending on the species growing in the hedgerow and the livestock being raised on your homestead, pruning may be as simple as allowing your livestock to graze the fence back. This will take careful monitoring to ensure it is not overgrazed, and some additional pruning may be necessary. Otherwise, heavy pruning is necessary to keep fencerows in check. Much of the pruning can be added to livestock feed, turned into mulch or even used to start new fences.

Do you incorporate living fences on your property? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

Every Spring, Gardeners Make This Avoidable Mistake — But You Don’t Have To. Read More Here.

10 Heal-Anything Herbs That Just Might Replace Your Medicine (No. 5 Is Popular During Summer)

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10 Heal-Anything Herbs For Growing Your Own Off-Grid ‘Backyard Medicine Chest’

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Growing herbs for use in the kitchen allows you to add a freshness to the table that store-bought herbs can never produce. Whether grown in a small plot designed especially for a kitchen herb garden, in containers along the patio or as companion plants in the family garden, herbs are an excellent addition to your homestead.

Although herbs add much to our culinary endeavors, they are also useful in many other ways. Many common herbs have great medicinal qualities, are helpful in caring for livestock, and some have the ability to control unwanted pests around the homestead. For the cost of a few seeds, or potted plants, and a bit of time for researching your options, you can grow a natural medicine chest in your backyard.

Below is a brief overview of 10 common plants that can be used to treat a wide variety of ailments. Some can be taken internally as an herbal tea, while some should only be used as an infused oil or as part of a poultice. Still others are best suited for pest management on the homestead.

1. Sweet basil

Sweet Basil is not only versatile in the kitchen, but also works as a repellent for flying insects such as flies and mosquitos. Basil reduces inflammation and has been shown to be effective as an antibacterial agent.

2. Calendula

Not to be confused with marigolds, which are toxic, calendula has many healing properties. It is best used as a salve in treating skin irritations, including rashes, bruising, cuts and scrapes. It is safe to use for everyone on the homestead, including livestock.

3. Comfrey

10 Herbs For Growing Your Own Off-Grid ‘Backyard Medicine Chest’

Comfrey. Image source: Pixabay.com

Comfrey contains allantoin, which aids cell formation, giving comfrey wonderful healing properties. Used to treat wounds, burns, skin irritations, sprains and even broken bones, comfrey can be used as a raw leaf, in a salve or more often as a poultice.

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Please note that comfrey should not be taken internally, as it disrupts liver function.

4. Garlic

We all know that garlic has health benefits when added to our meals, but it is also helpful as a repellent for pesky mosquitos. A garlic poultice can be used to treat ringworm and other skin irritations. Painful ear infections can be eased by the application of warm, mashed garlic cloves.

5. Lavender

Even in ancient times, lavender was added to bath water to restore calm. Today, we recognize that it is helpful not only for relieving anxiety but it has beneficial properties that can be utilized to treat burns, cuts and insect bites.

6. Marsh mallow

Marsh mallow is a versatile healing plant. It can be used as a salve for insect bites, bruises and other types of skin inflammation. It works well as a poultice for chest congestion and can also be made into a syrup to further alleviate congested airways. An herbal tea, made from the root of the mallow plant, has been known to help multiple ailments, including excessive stomach acid and even the passage of kidney stones.

7. Painted daisies

Painted daisies, as well as other daisy relatives, contain pyrethrum, a natural insecticide. Whether it is used as a companion plant in the garden or planted around an outdoor living space, this plant is a colorful natural alternative to toxic insecticides.

8. Parsley

10 Herbs For Growing Your Own Off-Grid ‘Backyard Medicine Chest’

Parsley. Image source: Pixabay.com

Aside from garnishing your dinner plate, parsley aids in digestion, promotes optimal liver function and combats bad breath. It can be used as poultice to reduce swelling and bruising. Additionally, adding parsley when juicing other fruits and vegetables also helps to eliminate water retention.

9. Sage

A common addition to savory foods, sage, used as an herbal tea or as a syrup, is helpful in reducing fevers, easing headaches, and clearing sinuses. Relieve skin irritations, such as itchy rashes, with sage leaves.

10. Thyme

Thyme is a multipurpose plant, offering many medicinal uses, as well as being helpful for pest management. Adding thyme to your garden will draw bees for pollination. However, if you add thyme to a campfire, it will repel unwanted insects. Medicinally, thyme can be used a number of ways. As a poultice, thyme acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and is also antifungal. As a weak tea, it can be used as a mouthwash and gargle to relieve sores in the mouth and general sore throats. It works as an expectorant, helpful in relieving painful coughs.

Which herbs would you add to the list? Share your advice in the section below:

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Fish Farming: The Overlooked Path To More Income, Tons Of Food, And Less Worries

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Fish Farming: The Overlooked Path To More Income, Tons Of Food, And Less Worries

Generating an income that can sustain operations on the homestead is critical for many of us.

Newly established homesteads require a decent amount of income to add acreage, outbuildings and livestock, as well as purchasing many other items or services. Well-established homesteads also require a steady income to repair and replace, upgrade and add on to provide for needs or wants. Perhaps you are looking to replace an income from a 9-5 job; there are numerous ways to make that happen on every homestead.

Homesteaders, especially those who have the desire to be completely self-sufficient, are frequently researching new opportunities to generate a sustainable income on the homestead. We sell fruits and vegetables at farmer’s markets, livestock to local butchers, and milk and eggs to friends and neighbors.

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Fish farming, used for centuries in many parts of Asia, is also a good way to generate income on the homestead. Also called aquaculture, fish farming provides not only enough meat for those living on the homestead, but will eventually produce plenty to sell at local markets. It need not be expensive, either. The cost of setting up an aquaculture system can be relatively low for those who already have water sources on the homestead, such as a pond or stream.

Fish Farming: The Low-Cost Path To More Income, Abundant Food, And Less WorriesFish farming is similar to growing plants. Fish require steady temperatures, daily nourishment, and relatively clean water to flourish. Providing these essentials will result in large, firm fish that will make for easier sales in local markets. In my area, we have a couple of fish farms that regularly sell out of each week’s harvest during the farmer’s market season. They have found that aquaculture generates an income great enough to sustain the rest of their homestead every year.

There are several methods for small-scale fish farming, including:

  • The cage method, which can be further modified to include a flow-through component.
  • The greenhouse method, which includes raising hydroponic plants to filter and add nutrients to the water.
  • The contained method, in which one pool or tank is used in conjunction with several filters and aerators to maintain water quality.

Which method you choose depends largely on what water sources are available around your homestead. The cage method, consisting of a system of cages submerged in ponds, is perhaps the least expensive method, as ponds have a natural filtration system in place. A slight variation on the cage method involves using a nearby stream with a system of cages, allowing water to flow freely through each cage and providing nutrients to the fish that are carried to them continuously by fresh water.

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Starting a greenhouse operation is the most difficult, due to the many variables that need to be taken into consideration. In addition to the cost of the greenhouse materials and tanks for holding large volumes of water, you also may need to purchase or produce chillers or other cooling mechanisms in extremely hot weather to keep water temperatures in the range necessary for the fishes’ survival — a considerable financial investment.

A simple pool or even a livestock tank can be used to set up a contained system for aquaculture. Water filters and aerators will definitely be a necessity to ensure healthy fish. This type of system can be quite inexpensive.

Not all types of fish will flourish in your location. Choosing the right type of fish for your homestead’s environment may take a bit of trial and error, but a small amount of research will lessen the amount of losses due to the weather.

Have you ever “fish farmed”? Share your tips and advice in the section below:

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The 3 Types Of Preppers (Which One Are You? It’s OK – We Won’t Tell)

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The 3 Types Of Preppers (Which One Are You? It’s OK – We Won’t Tell)

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“You’re like a closet prepper!” an associate exclaimed to me during a recent conversation. After considering her words awhile, I’m ready to admit that, yes, I am a closet prepper.

Those of us who homestead do not necessarily consider ourselves to be preparedness experts, but the natural result of living on a functional homestead means we are more prepared to meet unexpected challenges and crises than a majority of our neighbors. Homesteaders in ages past were the original preparedness experts and following their example, modern-day homesteaders are some of the most prepared.

But first, what is a prepper? A prepper is one who has made preparations to provide for his or her own immediate needs during a crisis situation – whether that be a natural disaster, man-made crisis or a job loss. Clean water, nourishing foods and a secure shelter – those are all a part of the prepper’s plan. Most plans include stockpiling. Preppers also gather other essential goods, such as medicines, fuel for a variety of heat sources and physical money.

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Recent terrorist attacks remind us that we are not immune and that disaster could strike at any time and without any warning. The day may come when we face a tragedy that includes the loss of a major portion of the power grid, our transportation system or even our food supplies. We are certainly not exempt from the effects of an ever-turbulent weather forecast. One major volcano, such as happened during the summer of 1816, would disrupt much of the food supply and cause unrest in the general population. Prepping is simply common sense.

So, what type of prepper are you?

1. The closet prepper

Bucking up against those who mock at the preppers, closet preppers quietly begin implementing a plan to prepare themselves for handling a crisis. A closet prepper may have a small stockpile of six weeks to three months’ worth of food stored in portable containers under the bed, or in an out-of-the-way closet, or even stored off-site. Maybe they have a small flock of chickens for fun or for eggs. A few patio containers may contain a handful of herbs grown for use in making herbal teas or poultices. The closet prepper also will find ways to unobtrusively integrate preparedness standards into the landscape, such as decorative barrels for water collection.

2. The backyard prepper

The 3 Types Of Preppers (Which One Are You? It’s OK – We Won’t Tell)

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For a majority of people, the backyard prepper is the safe middle ground between ignoring the real need for emergency preparedness and the extreme survivalists shown on reality television shows. Backyard preppers may have a nice stockpile of food, often six months to one year’s worth, in addition to growing a garden or raising poultry for meat and eggs. They also may invest in alternative energy sources, such as solar or wind.

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Both potable and non-potable water collection and filtering systems may be seamlessly integrated into the home, giving the homeowners access to clean water no matter the circumstance. For some, this level of preparedness comes naturally through daily living; however, many of today’s young adults are unaccustomed to this way of living and think that the transition to a more self-sufficient lifestyle is wholly unnecessary.

3. The bunker prepper

Many of us know one person who is forever speaking about how no one is going to make it when the next catastrophe strikes. Although this attitude is not always held by bunker prepper, this level of detailed preparation does require a commitment of time and resources that is sure to stand out in the crowd of closet and backyard preppers. The bunker prepper not only has a fully stocked pantry, including medicines, physical money and other items of value for bartering with, but even may store this stockpile in various locations to ensure availability. If food becomes scarce, the bunker prepper has field guides to refer to and has also foraging knowledge that allows him or her to glean edibles from the surrounding areas. An alternate location for sheltering off the grid is usually secured for this level of preparedness. This location may have easy access to water and forgeable plant life, while being protected from outside intrusions.

No matter what type of prepper you most identify with, each one has recognized the great need to prepare for whatever we may face tomorrow. Planning for emergencies, whether natural or national, is the best course of action for any one person to take.

What type are you? What would you add to this story? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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The Hidden Danger In Pallets Every Homesteader Should Know

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The Dangerous Truth About Pallets Every Homestead Should Know

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With so many needs on the homestead, using pallets to meet some of those needs seems like an easy and inexpensive option. From simple shelving to mini barns for goats, projects around the homestead that can easily be completed with pallets abound. What makes them even more attractive is the fact that most often these pallets are free, or nearly free, in exchange for a prompt pick up.

Pallets are available from any number of retailers, manufacturing facilities, grocers and other places of business. The quality of pallets varies. From debarked hardwood to cardboard-enhanced pressed wood, pallets are made to withstand the rigors of shipping via train, plane and truck.

But have you ever thought where the pallet you picked up last week has been? It is an important question. Pallets are expensive for the companies who use them frequently, so these companies use them until it is no longer safe to do so. The pallet may have been left outside, causing it to harbor mold and insect larvae, or left in a warehouse with undesirable bugs and rodents. In addition to that, spills often occur due to improper handling of materials, resulting in residue that may or may not be toxic. This also provides a breeding ground for bacteria such as E. coli and Listeria, both of which are found present in an alarmingly high percentage of pallets tested.

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The Dangerous Truth About Pallets Every Homestead Should Know

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How do shipping companies eliminate these problems? For many, the answer to cleaning pallets is to fumigate the pallets with methyl bromide, a pesticide that has restricted use due to its toxic nature, or they may choose to heat-treat each pallet. Methyl bromide is not only an environmental toxin, but is also a known neurotoxin and carcinogen that causes symptoms such as fatigue and acute memory loss. Heat-treated pallets are, of course, free from methyl bromide and its’ less-than-desirable side effects, but exposure to outside elements will allow them to be contaminated again. Pressed wood pallets carry an even higher risk as they may contain formaldehyde in the cardboard component in addition to chemicals used to deter pests and inhibit mold growth. New government standards include labeling pallets for methyl bromide, shown as MB on pallets, or HT for heat-treated ones. This will help you choose a pallet that is safe for you.

Any project on the homestead that will be indoors should be made with clean, heat-treated pallets only. These are not pallets that come from grocery chains or big box stores that are doused with additional chemicals to ensure produce looks fresh and stays pest-free, but those that come from schools, newspapers and similar businesses that use an ample amount of paper. These pallets tend to be very clean and are the most likely to be free from chemicals that leach into the air. Pallets can quickly be made into shelves for storage, or even into an organizer for gardening tools in a potting shed. Sealing the wood reclaimed from pallets helps to reduce the risk of chemicals leaching into the air you breathe, but it is important to note that no pallet is safe enough to use in creating food prep surfaces.

Using pallets outdoors reduces the risk of exposure to methyl bromide, while keeping mold and burrowing insects out of the home. Replace a broken gate, create a feeder for small farm animals or build a fence with pallets. Even larger projects such as fashioning stalls for separating small livestock or building a small structure for livestock can all be accomplished using pallets. Every homestead, no matter what size or where it is located, should have a compost bin. Pallets also make it easy to create a bin with several compartments in a short amount of time.

Related:

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What advice would you add on using pallets? Share your tips in the section below:

Discover The Secret To Saving Thousands At The Grocery Store. Read More Here.

Your Very First Homestead: Costs You May Not Have Considered

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Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

Transitioning from a traditional city or suburban lifestyle to that of a more rural homestead is occurring with greater frequency these days. The call to live the ultimate do-it-yourself life appeals to many different types of people, and with a little bit of planning and forethought, mixed with drive and determination, most can successfully create a self-sufficient homestead of their own.

Building a homestead from scratch, or even purchasing an established homestead, is an exciting step forward in making that transition, but it is vitally important to budget and plan for each aspect of the new venture. Failure to be financially prepared has left many would-be homesteaders scratching their heads and wondering where they went wrong.

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A major part of launching a homestead involves the initial startup costs. Startup costs include acreage, dwellings and outbuildings, seeds and livestock, but they also should include such details as alternative energy sources, water sources and purification methods, necessary farm equipment, and other basic needs that the homestead is not yet producing.

Below are some helpful considerations to start with.

Land of Your Own

After determining the minimum amount of acreage that will be sufficient, the search for the perfect location can begin. Land prices vary greatly, so those who are willing to relocate may have the opportunity to save a significant amount of money. Some rural locations are looking for families to relocate and offer homestead contracts for acreage at drastically reduced prices. In other areas, though, it is much harder to purchase just a few acres. Some locations have laws against farmers selling small acreage allotments along the edges of their properties. Before contacting a landowner, check local ordinances for such restrictions. Renting is also a budget-friendly option for those who are just getting their feet wet in homesteading and not ready to commit.

Dwelling Places

Your First Homestead: Costs You May Not Have Considered

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In pioneer days, a hastily constructed dwelling was erected, while time and attention was given to the barns and other outbuildings. Despite the suburbs filled home of enormous proportions, a new trend is emerging: the tiny house. If the acreage set aside for the homestead does not have a preexisting dwelling, there are several options from which to choose. A traditionally constructed farmhouse is the most expensive option, but it also the one that people feel most comfortable with. Small homes constructed from sheds, cargo containers and other salvaged materials are a recent trend that can be much more cost-efficient. Some homesteaders even are living in yurts.

On the Farm

Barns and other outbuildings are essential on the homestead. Providing shelter for the livestock and protection for precious feed, these buildings can be acquired in much the same manner as the principle dwelling.

Even good quality used equipment will set the new homesteader back some. Budgeting for the necessary equipment is a must. For those pieces of machinery that are for convenience, try bartering with a neighbor or acquaintance to reduce the initial investment in equipment.

Seeds, trees and other perennial plants may not seem like a source of budget woes, but these relatively small purchases can add up quickly.

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Livestock can be bartered for or purchased outright. The biggest expense for the new homestead is feed costs. For the first few years, livestock will need to have their feed supplemented until the homestead can produce enough feed to sustain itself.

Alternative Energy

Off-grid living and homesteading go seemingly hand in hand. Even if living off the grid is not the intention of the owners, alternative energy sources are a positive when faced with power outages and rising utility rates. Solar power systems, wind turbines and hydroelectric outfits have become more readily available for the consumer.

Living Essentials

While focusing on the dream of starting your homestead, it may be easy to lose sight of the fact that daily necessities will still need to be budgeted. Food not produced on the homestead will need to be purchased, and toiletries, clothing and other miscellaneous household supplies will need to be replaced. Buying ahead or setting aside a portion of the budget to prepare for them can be a great help.

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What advice would you add for purchasing a first homestead? Share your advice in the section below:

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Bartering: The Old-Fashioned, Time-Tested, Stress-Free Way To Get What You Need

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Bartering: The Old-Fashioned, Time-Tested, Stress-Free Way To Get What You Need

In ages past, bartering was not only an acceptable way to conduct business in the community, but the only way to conduct the business necessary to sustain a household.

The modern culture shuns bartering for goods or services. Credit is king in a world filled with unnecessary goods and a culture that pushes the use of services that are purely for convenience, not because of necessity. Those who propose to barter are often mislabeled as a miser, a cheapskate or a penny pincher.

But for those who are looking to escape the consumer-driven culture and focus on living a more self-sufficient lifestyle, the art of bartering can help lessen the financial burden. Bartering is, by definition, the process of exchanging a good or service for a different good or service. Relying less on cash, or on credit, to maintain any portion of a homestead is possible with careful and considerate bartering. With practice, successfully bartering to provide for the needs of the homestead may become an integral part of a well-devised financial plan.

Historic Overview of Bartering and Currency

The concept of bartering is evident in many ancient cultures. Trading goods in exchange for different goods within the local area and across borders was routine in ancient times. It was not until roughly 600 B.C. that the first currency was minted for use.

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Currency hastened the consumer process, allowing a greater number of goods to trade hands quickly. As currencies were developed around the globe, the demand for a currency-based financial system overpowered the natural social practice of bartering within and around the community.

Modern Day Bartering

Bartering: The Old-Fashioned, Time-Tested, Stress-Free Way To Get What You NeedMany modern day homesteaders are using their bartering skills to meet a wide variety of needs. From building materials, livestock and seeds, to skilled labor, any task or any good can be used as part of a successful bartering agreement. Though their stories are not in the headlines, many people have pulled back from the consumer culture and fully funded a portion of their annual budget by instead bartering.

If no currency is exchanged, how does a person determine if it is helping his or her bottom line? The value of bartering can be measured in time, as it relates to imparting knowledge, or measured by the exertion necessary in physical labor. Or, it can be measured by the amount of currency saved by bartering instead of paying outright for the good or service.

The most common item used for bartering is foodstuffs, both livestock and produce. In a world where naturally raised meat and poultry, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables are in increasingly high demand, the potential for bartering is greater. Even unexpected needs can be met through bartering. For example, I’m aware of a local holistic practitioner who has been known to accept organically raised poultry in exchange for medical care from careful and conscientious households.

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In another case, a family was able to add an outbuilding and repair an additional building by being willing to exchange labor for receiving reclaimed building materials. In addition to this, meeting the wants of those in the community can also be easily accomplished through skillful bartering.

Getting Started

So, what do you do first? Perhaps there is a local general store, a diner or a pub where locals gather and agreements can be struck, but in most areas, this is no longer the case. Farmers markets, health food stores and the like are good places to start looking for potential connections. Come prepared with an idea of the goods or services that you could offer, but keep an open mind. Part of the art of bartering is learning the strengths and weaknesses of the community. Being prepared to fill a need in the community will provide ample opportunities to strike beneficial agreements.

Many members of the online community are also turning to bartering to fill the wants and needs in their lives; however, most are not utilizing the barter system as a way to promote financial independence. Caution is, of course, very necessary in negotiating any agreement online; nevertheless, there are avenues for securing legitimate agreements that benefit both parties. Practice good security measures to ensure everyone feels comfortable throughout the entire process.

Another aspect of the art of bartering is the building of relationships. Whether in person, or online, a relationship built with trust earned from satisfactorily fulfilled agreements promotes the overall wellbeing of society, as well as promoting financial stability for the individuals involved.

Add value to the community while lessening the financial burden of the homestead by practicing the art of bartering.

Do you barter? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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5 ‘Get Ready For Spring’ Chores You Better Do Before Winter Ends

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5 'Get Ready For Spring' Chores You Better Do Before It's Too Late

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The fields lay dormant, the animals are less active and the earth is at rest. For most, winter on the homestead means daily chores may take longer to complete each day, but there certainly are fewer of them to tend. Although that does leave plenty of time for dreaming, planning and even relaxing, there are numerous things that can be done in the final few weeks of winter to make for an easier spring on the homestead.

Here are five items to put on the checklist for the end of the winter season.

1. Create an action plan.

Where should the homestead be by the end of the year? Start by brainstorming ideas and putting them in writing. Prioritize the few that need to be accomplished this year and, for the moment, save those that should be put off. Think realistically. Multiple large projects may seem feasible, but could lead to burnout or worse yet, be completed with less-than-quality work. From gathering materials for a building project to ordering spring chicks for increasing the backyard flock, getting a plan in place is essential for a smooth spring.

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In this planning stage, consider negotiating bartering agreements for skilled labor that needs to be done on the homestead or for supplies that are not locally available.

2. Evaluate the property.

Looking to increase the garden plot, the orchard or the fields this coming year? Map out the locations and evaluate the potential yield as a result of the increased areas. Some areas can serve dual purposes with careful planning. Use these winter weeks to read up on effective land-management strategies that will increase the production of the existing property when appropriately utilized.

Seed orders will be arriving soon, so be sure to have the potting shed or potting area ready to go. This includes performing necessary maintenance on grow lights and other greenhouse apparatuses. Cold frames should also be prepared for use. This is the time to check trellises, tomato cages and other gardening tools. Make repairs, sharpen shears and replace these items if necessary.

3. Rotate stored supplies.

5 'Get Ready For Spring' Chores You Better Do Before It's Too LateHaving a ready supply of food and other necessities is a trademark of self-sufficiency, but rotating these supplies is sometimes neglected. There are few things more discouraging than having to dispose of supplies that are no longer fit for use on the homestead. Inventory the food storage areas, including all pantries, root cellars and freezers. Plan the next few months’ worth of meals using foods that will be replenished with this year’s harvest. While completing the inventory, take time to clean the storage areas thoroughly before they are refilled.

4. Work ahead.

In the busy months of spring, summer and fall, it is often difficult to find time to replenish homemade goods that are used throughout the year, such as laundry soap, cleaning solutions, medicinal ointments and other products. The slower months of winter present the perfect time to work ahead and leave the stress of adding one more item to the to-do list behind. Estimate the needs of the household and start from there. Keep careful records of what product was made, including the amount produced, and also note when it runs out in order to plan more accurately for the following year.

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Clothing needs can also be addressed early to avoid hassle during the busy summer months. Reinforce buttonholes and knees, and replace worn-out clothing items by purchasing or making ahead for the warm summer months.

5. Perform seasonal maintenance.

Seasonal maintenance is a normal part of the home life; however, nonessential repairs are often left for those days when the problem is no longer bearable or nothing else more important fills the time. Patching and repainting drywall, mending frayed linens, tightening door handles, oiling hinges, and reinforcing loose handrails all add to the comfort of home but are often neglected. Even repairing or replacing the screening material on removable window screens and doors will save valuable time.

The above-mentioned items are certainly not the only things to consider doing in these last few weeks of winter. Any work that can reasonably be done ahead is work that should be done now, leaving more time for the necessary work around the homestead in the busy spring months.

Related:

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What would you add to this list? Share your suggestions in the section below:

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