Ever since I can remember, I have grown up with home butchering. Whenever we got some kind of poultry or livestock, we always had the intention of butchering them later on, so it was never a surprise to me when Fluffy the bunny was in our stew the next week.
In my eyes, they weren’t really pets, but they weren’t really livestock, either. We just had animals that I loved to snuggle, and then later . . . loved to eat.
That was that, no hard feelings.
Should You Name Your Meat Livestock?
My favorite part has always been when we first get the animals and they are all so cute and tiny. As soon as I heard that a new litter of bunnies had arrived, I would race out to the garden to marvel at the pink little squirmy blobs. Of course, I wouldn’t pick them up until they were old enough, but the moment they were, those poor little bunnies would be dressed up in bows and sent through little obstacle courses made out of cardboard boxes and various bits and pieces from around the house.
My mom always insisted that I didn’t need to take the bunnies out to the trampoline to learn how to jump, but I was sure that it was my job to teach them this important life skill.
Some people have a rule that they don’t name their livestock, but I’ve never had a problem with it. As soon as I could tell them apart, they all had names. Some of my favorite names were BunBun, Officer Hoppers, Gravy, and Pinky. It seems like every litter had a bunny or two named Fluffy. (Thinking of names is hard—sometimes you have to reuse a name a few times!)
Even when they grew bigger, I would often bring them inside and continue to dress them up and snuggle with them against my dad’s will.
One Benefit to Home Butchering Is Learning Anatomy
When it came time to butcher the bunnies, I would help my mom round them up and bring them to the barn, where I would then pick out who goes first. This sounds really morbid, and my 7-year-old self didn’t think much about it, but I would determine who gets butchered next by how much they liked snuggles. If you were squirming to get away, you were next . . . .
I have a vivid memory of one time when my mom was butchering a rabbit and my brother, who is 2 years older than me, was crying and pleading for her not to do it. I didn’t really understand why he was so upset about it, because I knew that’s why we had rabbits in the first place, and I really liked rabbit enchiladas . . . soooo, what’s the problem here?
That was also the very special day that I got to hold a real heart for the first time. For as far back as I can remember, I have always been intrigued by anatomy and how the things inside of your body work, so I would always hang close to my mom and ask what that weird organ was and if I could touch it. I thought the heart was the coolest organ, so when I got to hold one for real, I was ecstatic.
It’s a Badge of Honor
I was much more involved with the bunnies because they were nice to snuggle with, but when we had chickens, I would sometimes play with them when they were at prime cuteness.
Although I don’t mind the butchering of our chickens, I do mind defeathering 50 to 70 chickens in one day. Usually we will get a hundred or so baby chicks in the spring, raise them up, and then butcher them all in the summer. Not all of them survive getting here and growing up, but still, 50 chickens is a lot of birds to pluck, even with 4 or 5 other people helping.
My brother and I would invite some of our friends over to help, and to our surprise, they were all excited to learn about home butchering.
Actually, most of the kids in our neighborhood wanted to learn how to process a chicken.
My mom says this is a skill that all kids used to know, and apparently, most kids are into it if given the opportunity. Even my older brother became proud that he could teach his buddies how to do it.
I enjoy having the bunnies and chicks around for a while before they land on the dinner table. There is one kind of animal, however, that I am ready to butcher as soon as we get them . . . geese. I’ve never liked geese, and I never will. They’re bullies, they hiss at you for no reason, and they poop anywhere and everywhere that they can get their butts to.
You can tell me that geese aren’t that bad, and they are actually sweet animals on the inside or whatever your reasoning is for liking geese—but in my opinion, having goose stew is like sweet, sweet revenge.
It’s Important to Honor the Full Circle
I’m sure that each kid is going to have a different reaction to home butchering. Although not every 7-year-old is going to want to play with all of the organs in a rabbit, I do think it’s nice to include kids in the butchering process somehow.
It’s a good learning experience about death and giving thanks.
My mom and I would always do a little ceremony and sing a special song after each rabbit died to recognize its life and what it was giving us. If you want to see her perform this ceremony, it’s in the butchering section of the Grow Your Own Groceries DVD set. You can click here to pick up your own copy. (There’s also some footage in there of me doing dishes when I was little.)
The whole butchering process really made me think about where my food is coming from—and about how much of a blessing it is for a living being to give its life for my nourishment.
Life on the homestead requires a lot of creativity and frugality. The “five R’s” seem to be constantly in play: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, Repurpose, and Repair. Nothing ever goes to waste—today’s trash simply becomes tomorrow’s resources.
When buying something new is necessary, I usually try to make sure the item fits at least one of the following criteria:
First, does the item have more than one alternative use or purpose?
Second, does the item take up minimal space?
Third, is the item inexpensive?
My Favorite Homesteading Tool
My absolute favorite “tool” on the homestead actually fits all three criteria: none other than the five-gallon plastic bucket. Not only do these wonder tools nest neatly into a tidy stack, they also have a seemingly unlimited number of uses.
Whether you are into homesteading, preparedness, or permaculture, five-gallon buckets are essential tools of the trade!
Getting Buckets for Free
A note about price: If purchased from a hardware store, you can expect to pay anywhere from $3 to $five-dollars per bucket. But you can acquire them for FREE from your grocery store’s bakery department. All you have to do is ask nicely for the buckets that their icing came in. Other free sources include pickle buckets from hamburger joints, soap buckets from car washes, and lard buckets from Mexican restaurants.
Of course, be prepared to clean them!
The Bucket List
So, what exactly can you do with a five-gallon bucket once you procure it? I thought you’d never ask! Below, I showcase some general ideas that I use quite frequently. (If you’re keen on any given idea, more detailed tutorials can be found all over the Internet.)
1. Container Gardening
First and foremost, five-gallon buckets make for outstanding container gardens when you drill drainage holes in the bottom of the buckets. While some permaculturists might frown on the idea of container gardens, they are quite useful if you want to keep invasive (opportunistic) plants such as mint from taking over your garden. Additionally, in a grid-down situation, you can easily secure your food indoors overnight to protect from potential looters. That brings a whole new meaning to the words “food security!”
2. Growing Mushrooms
Another clever use for buckets is growing edible and medicinal mushrooms in them. Just drill staggering holes in the sides of the bucket, fill the bucket with free coffee grounds from the local corner coffee shop, and inoculate with the spawn of your favorite mushroom.
3. Organizing Your Tools
A five-gallon bucket also makes for a great tool bag. Either online or at your local hardware store, you can buy organizers that are specifically made for buckets and have all kinds of compartments. The outside sleeve compartments of the bucket are ideal for your smaller tools, such as screwdrivers, wrenches, and pliers. On the inside of the bucket, you can store your heavy-duty tools like your hammers, axes, and saws.
You can even make wine with a five-gallon bucket. Simply pour in some apple cider (sans preservatives), sugar, and yeast. Drill a hole into the lid, insert a rubber grommet, and then insert an airlock bubbler (available for a dollar at most home-brew stores). The Big Bird/Cookie Monster–style explanation is that the “yeasties” eat the sugar and essentially poop out carbon dioxide and alcohol. The airlock bubbler allows the carbon dioxide to escape, but prevents oxygen or other contaminants from entering your wine. There are a few more specific steps and ingredients that go into producing quality wine, but this is basically how wine is made! People drink alcohol in both good times and bad. Wine making can prove to be a very valuable and profitable skill in a grid-down scenario.
5. Feed the Worms
One of my favorite uses of a five-gallon bucket is as part of a vermicompost system (a.k.a. a worm bin). Red wiggler worms are voracious eaters. I feed them my shredded junk mail and food scraps. In return, they give me “black gold.”
If mushroom compost is the Cadillac of compost, worm castings are the Rolls Royce!
6. Make Compost Tea
In addition to vermicompost, compost tea happens to be the secret of success for many master gardeners. And with a five-gallon bucket, you can brew your own compost tea right at home. All you need is an air pump for aeration, some worm castings (compost), non-chlorinated water, and a few other ingredients. After two days of brewing, it is ready to spray on your crops using a pump sprayer. Your plants will grow twice as big, twice as fast!
Have a mouse problem, but don’t have the heart to set out a traditional mousetrap? Well, you can make a catch-and-release mousetrap out of a bucket and a few pieces of wood, plus peanut butter for bait. The contraption reminds me of the board game Mouse Trap that I used to play as a child!
8. Filter Water
Lastly, you can make a heavy-duty water filter from two five-gallon buckets stacked on top of each other. The top bucket has a ceramic water filter that filters out the dirty water dumped into it. The bottom bucket has a water spigot that allows you to extract the newly filtered water.
I hope you enjoyed some of the examples I’ve provided of why five-gallon buckets are the absolute best and most versatile tool for homesteading, preparedness, and permaculture. Five-gallon buckets not only serve as a container to grow your food in, they can be used in creating the fertilizer that enriches your garden. To top it off, you can use buckets to collect and ultimately store your bountiful harvests!
What about you? What’s your favorite way to use a five-gallon bucket? Leave me a note in the comments!
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If there’s one ironclad rule of gardening and homesteading, it’s this: As soon as you lay that tool down on the ground, it will disappear! So, whether I’m heading out to the orchard to prune or trekking to the back 40 for fence repairs, I use a very simple trick to keep track of all the tools I need for the job.
Watch this 2-minute edition of Homesteading Basics to learn more:
Spring is here, and that means it’s yard sale season! People all over the country are doing their spring cleaning and getting rid of old treasures that have been sitting in their closets and attics for years. If you’re a homesteader or prepper, this is a great opportunity. As I’m sure you know, homesteading supplies …
If you’ve ever tangled with a berry patch or accidentally backed into a Spanish Dagger, then you know how painful they can be. When strategically placed, plants can act as an efficientform of home security defense without having to invest a lot of money.
When creating a fortress of solitude, most people think about building a fence to keep unwanted visitors out. However, plants make a much better defense for home security. Fences tend to draw curiosity, while plants seem to go unnoticed. That is until someone tries to walk through them! Here are six plants you need to plant for a natural home security system.
#1- Century Plants (Agave Americana)
Some plants can provide an extra “layer” for extreme home security.
Commonly called a Century Plant or Sentry Plant, unlike its name suggest, it typically only lives 10-30 years. This home security plant has firm green leaves that grow 3-5 ft long with massivespikes and a tip that can easily pierce the skin.
The Century Plant thrives in drought conditions and spreads freely. The leaves are pale green and look beautiful in landscaping. Virtually disease free, this plant is easy to grow and maintain.
#2- Spanish Dagger (Yucca Gloriosa)
The Spanish Dagger is another evergreen that is easy to grow in warm climates. The long, stiff pointy leaves make this the perfect plant for home security.
When we were planning our home security garden, a friend recommended the Spanish Dagger. All we did was took a machete to the stalk of the plant, pulled back a couple of the leaves and we stuck it in the ground. Within no time, wehad a realhome security defense garden. As they grow tall, their weight will make them fall over, andthen they will root and spread.
Often a focal point in tropical gardens, the Spanish Dagger is visually pleasing and a deterrent to trespassers.
#3- Osage Orange Tree (Maclura Pomifera)
When I asked my fellow homesteading friends about plant security, many of them recommended the Osage Orange Tree. Osage Orange is a fast-growing tree that was used in place of barbed wire during the early 19th century.
The Osage Orange Tree produces a strong timber that resists rot and outlasts most lumber. Outside of its ability to grow fast, this unique tree produces many sharp, steel strong thorns that make it the perfect tree for home security.
#4- Rose Bushes
“A rose is a rose”indeed, but every rose has a thorn, anda rose bush is an excellent plant for home security when placed in the right location. The woody, thorny branches offer a painful sting which can spread disease and infection.
From miniature to climbing, roses grow in almost any climate which makesthem the ideal plant for home security.
#5- Berry Bushes
How about a home security system that feeds you? Now you won’t see ADT making that claim! Many berry plants like gooseberries, blackberries, and raspberries all produce delicious fruit that are high in antioxidants, but more importantly– thorns. Berries are fast growing and hardy to zone 3. From trellising to hedgerow, berries can be incorporated into any landscape and may be used for both home security and food.
#6- Citrus Trees
Another home security tree that has the added benefit of food are citrus trees. Several lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit trees produce thorns along their trunks, branches, and twigs.
We have several citrus trees on our property, andthe thorns are like no other. We have them planted below our bedroom windows with plenty of room to grow. We chose this placefor two reasons. One, for security. Anyone not knowing about the 3″ long, piercing thorns are in for a treat if they try to enter through our windows. Two, our house provides our citrus trees with radiant heat which helps them thrive.
Where To Plant Your Home Security Plants
As I mentioned above, placement is imperative when planting for home security.
The Osage Orange Tree makes an excellent perimeter tree. Creating a fast-growing hedgerow, the Osage Orange will be your first line of defense.
Plant your home security plants below every window (making sure the residents still have a safe escape in case of emergency) and byevery point of entry.
The climbing roses and berry bushes will do an excellent job of protecting you when planted below upper-levelwindows.
And finally, Spanish Daggers mixed with Century Plants make the perfect home security hedge closer to the home.
Add aesthetics and security to your home with the protection that only nature can provide. No one will ever know you have a secret fortress.
Back in August 2015, I wrote a post about the findings of a joint task force of experts from the U.K. and U.S. The group had released recommendations for Extreme Weather and Resilience of the Global Food System. You can read the original post on food security here:
Quite frankly, that report was pretty scary. It detailed all sorts of reasons why our global food supply was in serious jeopardy. When that report was released in 2015, I had noted how relevant it was in light of a number of catastrophic weather events going on at the time, wreaking havoc on crops and raising food prices in some areas.
Now, just a couple of years later, the situation has become even worse. Hurricanes, mudslides, drought-related fires, disrupted weather patterns, wars, and more have caused crazy fluctuations in food supplies around the world.
In March 2017, the Food Security Information Network (FSIN) released a Global Report on Food Crises 2017.1)http://www.fao.org/3/a-br323e.pdf In that report, they indicated that the number of people suffering from severe food insecurity had increased by 35% since the release of the 2015 report.
Quite a bit of that lack of food security was related to conflict. However, catastrophic weather events like droughts had also driven up the costs of staple foods, making them unaffordable for large groups of people.
If you think this can only happen in poor, war-torn countries, then consider this. In the U.S. in 2017, there were at least 16 weather events that cost over a billion dollars each and resulted in losses of crops, livestock, and other resources, as well as of homes, businesses, personal property, and lives.2)https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/events/US/2017 In 2016, there were 15 of these weather catastrophes; in 2015, there were 9; in 2014, there were 8; and in 2013, there were 9.
It might be too early to say that 15-16 catastrophic, billion-dollar weather events is the new normal for the U.S. However, new data modeling shows that there are real risks that both the U.S. and China might simultaneously experience catastrophic crop losses that could drive up prices and send more countries into food famine in the coming decades.3)https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/15/climate-change-food-famine-study
In 2017, due to a weakened dollar, food prices in the U.S. increased by 8.2%.4)https://www.thebalance.com/why-are-food-prices-rising-causes-of-food-price-inflation-3306099 That trend hopefully won’t continue in 2018, but between weather and world volatility, isn’t it better to bank on building your own food security independent of global markets and events?
We think so, too! So, we want to give you some ideas to help you build your own food security at home.
Food Security Recommendation #1: Understand Your Risks
Many governments and global non-governmental organizations have made predictive models for the likely regional effects of climate change available. You can use these models to identify trends in your area. Here are a few example models available:
Even if you don’t live in one of these areas, a quick Internet search for “climate change impacts” for your area should give good results. This search may link to articles about impacts as well as to modeling tools. Focus on search hits from government or academic websites for more comprehensive, peer-reviewed climate change data.
Food Security Recommendation #2: Consider Using Permaculture-Based Landscape Design
There have been so many weather-related disasters recently that it is hard to know what to prepare for anymore. In California, extreme dry weather and winds made for a devastating fire season. Then, the loss of vegetation from the fire season led to severe mudslides during torrential rains. Parts of Australia have also been suffering similar catastrophic cycles of drought and flooding.
In Western North Carolina where I live—a locale that we chose specifically because it is expected to be less impacted by climate change (e.g., sea levels rising, coastal hurricanes, etc.)—we’ve had extended dry periods followed by heavy rains that led to lots of vegetation losses in our area.
Drought-flood cycles are extremely damaging to plant life. In dry periods, plant roots dehydrate and shrivel. Soil also shrinks from water loss. Then when heavy rains come, the soil and roots no longer have the water-holding capacity they once did. Rather than the rain being absorbed, it sits on top of dry, compacted soils in flat areas, causing flooding. Or it moves downhill, taking topsoil and vegetation with it as it goes, causing mudslides and flash flooding in other areas.
When you use permaculture design in planning your foodscapes, you take into account these kinds of cycles of drought and heavy rain that would otherwise be damaging to vegetation. In fact, you make them work for you. Simple solutions like catching and storing water high on your land can help you better weather the cycles of drought and flood.
By applying permaculture principles, you can help safeguard your food security by making your landscape more resilient to weather extremes and diversifying your food supply to ensure you get good yields regardless of weather.
To get an idea of how permaculture works, check out this tour of Zaytuna Farm given by Geoff Lawton.
Also, if you want a short but powerful introduction to what permaculture can do in extreme landscapes, check out these titles by Sepp Holzer:
Food Security Recommendation #3: Manage Your Microclimates
Every property has microclimates. For example, in North America, it will almost always be a bit warmer along the edges of a south-sloping blacktop driveway. This is because the path of the sun will cast more sun on southern-facing slopes. They are literally like sun scoops, catching its rays.
“Closeup of pavement with grass” by User:Angel caboodle is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
Additionally, dark colors absorb more heat than light colors. If you painted that same driveway white, it would still be warmer due to its southern slope. However, the white paint would reflect light and heat away from the driveway and would keep that same area cooler than with a blacktop driveway.
The physical mass of blacktop asphalt material also acts as a heat sink. It draws in heat during the day and releases it back into surrounding areas as air temperatures cool at night. The same driveway made with light-colored concrete might not absorb quite as much heat as an asphalt driveway due to its color. However, it would still act as a heat sink by virtue of its mass.
The shade of a large oak tree creates a cooler area than the dappled shade of a pruned fruit tree. Large bodies of water will help regulate extreme temperatures. A wide, stone knee wall around a raised bed will insulate the soil inside better than thin wood boards because of its mass. Boulders in your landscape are also heat sinks. Even things like black trash cans can impact temperatures directly around their vicinity.
Gaining a basic understanding of how colors attract light waves, learning how different kinds of mass (rocks, soil, trees, etc.) store heat and divert wind, and knowing the path of the sun at different times of the year in your area can help you use microclimates to moderate the effects of extreme cold and heat. Using your slopes, like north-facing slopes to keep things cooler and south-facing slopes to heat things up, can also help. Working with shade patterns to minimize or maximize sun exposure can help moderate hot and cold temperature extremes.
For example, I live in USDA planting Zone 7a. With the extreme cold weather we’ve had this year, our conditions were closer to Zone 5. Some of my plants—like rosemary, which is hardy to zone 7—were killed by the cold. After our last risk of frost passes, I plan to replant rosemary bushes in front of our south-facing house and mulch them with dark stones. In that location, even if we have Zone 5 conditions again, my rosemary should make it just because the heat mass from our house and the stones, the southward orientation, and the wind protection give it the right microclimate.
Cold frames, greenhouses, and underground areas (e.g., walipinis) are also good ways to create microclimates on your property to ensure longer and more secure food production in extreme conditions. Check out this post from Marjory to learn about building your own underground greenhouse.
Food Security Recommendation #4: Go Big on Organic Matter in Your Soil
If I pour a bucket of water over some of the heavy clay soil in my landscape, water runs off on slopes. In flat or cratered areas, it sits on top, eventually making a big muddy mess that becomes algae-covered if we don’t have enough wind or sun to dry it out.
If I pour a bucket of water over the same approximate amount of area in one of my vegetable garden beds, loaded with compost, the bucket of water soaks in. Even on sloped beds, the water sinks and stays put rather than running off.
Soils that are high in organic matter are more porous and spacious than compacted soils.
If you try the same experiment with sand, the water will also soak in as it did in my garden bed. Unfortunately, it won’t stay there. Come back a few hours later and that water will be gone, which means it is not stored in the root zone for later use by plants.
Soils that are high in organic matter also preserve moisture better than sandy soils.
In order to hold water in your soil during droughts and catch it during heavy rains, you need a lot of organic matter in your soil. Here are a few easy ways you can up your organic matter quotient at home.
Mulch with things like wood chips, straw, old hay, grass clippings, and mulched leaves.
Plant, then chop and drop cover crops like grain grasses, clover, mustard, or chicory.
Use no-till or minimal till practices and leave decaying roots and plant matter in the soil.
Check out these TGN posts to learn more about these methods.
Adding organic matter not only slows the flow of water in your landscape and sinks it deeper into plant roots, but it actually sinks carbon dioxide, too.
Yes! Building soil that is higher in organic matter can actually help solve our CO2 problem. And solving our CO2 problem will moderate the disastrous effects of climate change and can mitigate future weather extremes. (No, this one answer won’t solve all our problems—but if lots of us do it, it will help!)
Food Security Recommendation #5: Remember ABC—Always Be Cover-cropping
Plant roots are like plumbing for your soil. They create little channels that help divert water down into the earth so it can be accessed by the plant and other biological soil inhabitants. By growing something in your soil at all times, you keep those pathways open for water to filter down into the soil.
For annual growing areas, planting cover crops in off seasons is critical. However, even for the rest of your landscape, having some sort of cover crop is necessary for extreme weather resilience.
Many of us grow lawns as our primary perennial cover crop. Traditional lawns, though, are shallow-rooted and do not contribute much to soil health. Growing grasses with deeper root systems like perennial rye and other prairie- or meadow-type grasses can be even more beautiful and give you deep roots to help sink water further into your soil.
Using vegetative perennials (i.e., that die back in the winter) with expansive root systems is also a great way to prevent soil erosion and build biomass in your landscape. Yarrow, Russian comfrey, curly dock, burdock, vetches, and even invasives like mints are useful for covering bare soil in a hurry. Since these plants lose their leaves each year and can be heavily pruned in the growing season, they make great green manure or mulch plants, too. Tap-rooted trees like black locust and paw paw also drill water and air down deep into your soil.
In addition, having a continuous cover of plants (or leaves from those plants) keeps your soil cooler on hot days and warmer on cool days. This protects all the biological life in your soil like bacteria, fungi, worms, and more so that they can work year-round. Their continued hard work means that your soil will get better year after year so that your plants will have more disease resistance and resilience during bad weather streaks.
Bare soil = No biological life = More pests, more diseases, and greater weather sensitivity for your plants
Covered soil = Year-round biological workers = Healthier plants better adapted to your weather extremes
If you are willing to do the research and the work, there are plenty of things you can do to mitigate your risks from a changing climate and more volatile weather patterns. These ideas are barely the tip of the iceberg (which is lucky for us since glaciers are now melting at an alarming rate)!
What about you? What other ways are you safeguarding your food security against extreme weather patterns?
The Grow Network is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for our team to earn fees for recommending our favorite products! We may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, should you purchase an item after clicking one of our links. Thanks for supporting TGN!
I actually resisted putting this post up because I want to buy every single garden hoe for myself, but no … I am generous.
The two listings I won will be fit onto new handles. The “potato hoe” style works great in the hard clay here.
The old steel on these heads are a lot better than the new junk you get from the hardware store. Seriously—it’s amazing. Put a sharp edge on an old hoe and it cuts through weeds like a knife. A new hoe just doesn’t “have it.”
I posted a video about my favorite vintage garden hoe so you can see just how awesome an old tool can be:
That’s the tool that changed my whole perspective on hoeing.
I just didn’t know what a real weeding tool was like until I got a good old American steel garden hoe working for me.
Half the time, the vintage hoe heads end up costing the same as a crummy new one from China … or less! I used a mop handle on one of my garden hoe heads, and it works great. Some of my other ones were re-handled here by a local farmer who cut wild coffee wood to make solid handles. Those look really cool and work quite well.
Anyhow, go ye forth and hunt. Beyond eBay, I also recommend yard sales. Look for the real old hoes with heads that are one solid piece instead of a couple of pieces welded together.
The youth are pouring out of cities all across America. The boom in buying disheveled properties in tough parts of town has come to an end. It would seem that people are looking to the simpler life as a way to bring children into this world and give them an experience that they deserve. The …
Most of the animals you’ll see available for free are males. From intact buck goats and wethers to roosters, buck rabbits and drake ducks, nearly every farmer deals with an overabundance of boys from time to time.
So, why would you not want to take advantage of free males, especially if it’s a type of animal you might be planning to breed?
First, males given away for free are often not of the highest quality. They may be lacking proper bone structure, muscling, libido or markings. Even if they have these things, they may be past their prime, meaning low settling rates from either a low sperm count or diminished breeding hormones.
Second, males take more planning to house and care for. This is especially true of livestock that have a particular breeding season. Male goats can be quite destructive during the fall rut, even when running with a herd of females. Turkey toms that co-exist with other poultry through most of the year can be particularly aggressive at the beginning of the breeding season and may need to be separated.
Unsexed or Incorrectly Sexed
Craigslist and sale boards are full of free animal posts that start with the story of “we brought home two critters that were supposed to be males, and turns out one was a girl” or vice versa. Regrettably, not everyone who has livestock knows how to determine an animal’s sex. To get around it, animals will often be listed as “unsexed,” “straight run,” or as a “must take all” grouping. Sometimes an uneducated owner will just take a guess on sex entirely and give it away.
To avoid unexpected complications down the road, know how to sex the animal you are planning to take in, or have a friend or family member that knows how help you.
Depending on the species, a critter may be carrying something that is infectious to other animals or even to others of its own kind.
A good example of this is chickens with fowl pox. When we lived in Mississippi, it was common for free chickens to be carrying the pox. With the pox, the chicken is fairly asymptomatic, meaning it doesn’t usually display the same blisters, respiratory issues or diminished appetite of other birds. What you will notice is that hens infected with it stop laying while the virus runs its course. However, like chicken pox in humans, it spreads easily, and will readily transmit to other poultry species where it does considerably more damage. From our experience, ducks and turkeys especially will develop lesions and blisters on their heads, around their eyes, and near their reproductive organs. In mild cases and healthy adult flocks, the effects can be pretty minimal, but fowl pox will easily kill chicks, juveniles, and can even cause the loss of fertility in adult breeders.
It’s not just chickens, of course. Often free rabbits are active carriers of Pasteurella, and your free goat may be positive for CL, CAE or even Johne’s Disease.
You can minimize the risk of bringing an infected animal home with a good biosecurity plan and a minimum quarantine of 30 days.
Reproductive Issues, Genetic Anomalies, or Bad Mothers
As an animal lover, we all get attached to our critters in one way or another. Unfortunately, this sometimes means that people will give away an animal that should really be culled due to reproductive problems or being known carriers of genetic issues.
Be sure to ask a lot of questions, especially if the animal previously had offspring. There are bad mothers in every species, from rejecting offspring, being inattentive, not having enough milk, or even killing them at birth.
Unfortunately, not everyone is honest about why they are getting rid of an animal. From being an escape artist, hating men/women, or attacking anything smaller than itself, critters with behavioral problems are often offered up as freebies for the unsuspecting.
A friend once brought home a beautiful one-year-old boer goat doe. She was purebred but given away without papers. The original owners had told my friend that they were just short on space, so they needed her to go, and that was why they had her penned up in a horse stall instead of out with the other goats. The doe was healthy, but my friend put her through quarantine anyway, though there were no issues. Once put out with the herd, this little doe became nothing but a problem child. She would escape from any paddock no matter how good the fence; she was insanely aggressive at feeding time; she would go out of her way to knock younger goat kids down. Then she turned on my friend’s 12-year-old granddaughter. It was the human aggression that earned the doe a trip to the butcher.
Bad Time of Year
Lastly, there is always an uptick in free animals during the winter months. This is mostly due to the increased costs to feed and/or the hassle of taking care of livestock during the cool, wet months. If you are willing to deal with a new addition to your homestead and have the facilities to keep it, be sure that you can afford to feed it. Both drought and wild fires can have impacts on the price and availability of everything from hay to bagged feeds.
With a little planning and know-how, you can avoid these free animal pitfalls. While we all enjoy adding livestock to our homesteads, just be sure they don’t end up costing you more in the long run.
What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:
So I was going through some of my old YouTube videos and came across this video of me talking with Paul Wheaton about rocket mass heaters:
I had honestly forgotten some of the statistics on this thing, but it’s pretty incredible:
If you use a rocket mass heater instead of a wood-burning stove or fireplace to heat your home this winter, you’ll use 1/10th the amount of firewood.
Since the rocket mass heater captures smoke and uses it to produce heat, you’ll be releasing 1/100th to 1/1000th the amount of smoke into the atmosphere.
The core of this thing reaches about 3,000°F, versus the 600°F or so generated by a fireplace.
This is the perfect DIY project. You can build it yourself in a weekend.
It’s inexpensive to make. In fact, some folks build theirs out of cob, discarded pieces of ducting, and old 55-gallon steel drums … for less than $20!
And–here’s the kicker–many people heat their homes with a rocket mass heater using nothing but the branches that naturally fall off the trees in their yard. (In fact, one guy made it through the winter on just junk mail!)
Because rocket mass heaters are so awesome in so many ways, I got in touch with Paul and worked out a special deal for you on the 4-DVD set you hear about in the video:
DVD 1: “Building a Cob-Style Rocket Mass Heater”—Two separate designs using cob (one in a log structure, and one in a teepee)
DVD 2: “Building a Pebble-Style Rocket Mass Heater”—Three pebble-style rocket mass heater designs, including information on building on a conventional wooden floor
DVD 3: “Building a Rocket Mass Heater Shippable Core”—Covers building several different styles of shippable cores
DVD 4: 2014 Rocket Mass Heater Innovator’s Event—Covers the most difficult part of any rocket mass heater build (the manifold) and shows several new designs from the Innovator’s Event, including a rocket mass heater that doubles as a cooker and smoker; the cleanest rocket mass heater design ever; and an indoor rocket griddle, oven, and water heater
As part of this special offer, Paul has agreed to give you instant online access to streaming of the 4-DVD set in HD …
… plus access to 20 hours of presentations from the 2017 Wheaton Labs Permaculture Design Course (including the 5-hour tour of Wheaton Labs)!
If you’re ready to learn how to put this extremely efficient, ultra-clean, highly sustainable heating method to work for you, click here to buy the 4-DVD set (and get your bonuses!) for just $79, including domestic shipping. (This link will take you straight to PayPal, which is Wheaton Labs’ preferred payment method.)
Look what just arrived in the mail!
(And yes, I bought this set for myself … and actually for several of my team members, too! The information in it is just too good to pass up!)
When people conjure up images in their heads of an old-fashioned homestead, a wood-fired cookstove in the kitchen is often part of that mental picture. If you don’t have one of these iconic appliances in your homestead kitchen, here are some good reasons why you might want to consider the expense and hassle of installing one.
1. The most obvious reason is that they are an ideal power-out alternative. If you live off-grid, chances are you already embrace the idea of a wood cookstove and probably use one regularly. But those of us who are normally connected to the commercial electric grid know it is not a foolproof connection. Loss of power, from brief accidental outages to a catastrophic event, can make people wish they had an alternative source for heat and cooking. Occasional spikes in fuel prices can also increase the appeal of simple wood fuel.
2. Wood cookstoves increase self-sufficiency. If you have a wood cookstove and your own woodlot, you can stay warm and eat hot food, no matter what. Even when the price of oil skyrockets or the propane truck cannot fill your tank until next week, you don’t have to worry about the basics. High fuel prices affect the cost of running chainsaws and other wood processing equipment, but you can do it by hand if you have to—unlike other heat and cooking fuels, which you cannot acquire on your own.
3. You can cook and bake with them! We’re talking about wood cookstoves, so you might think that’s obvious—but I get this question a lot: “Can you really cook/ bake on that?” I open the oven door and show them—look, it’s an oven! With racks and everything! “But how do you…?” It does take a learning curve to regulate the heat, for sure. And it’s less precise than turning a knob or setting an electronic panel.
Even in winter, I do not rely on mine exclusively. But I keep a fire going in it most of the season, and I love being able to just heat up a casserole or roast winter squash—or any number of other uses that don’t require a precise oven temperature—for no more cost than a few extra sticks of wood.
4. Wood is a renewable resource. When fossil fuels are gone, they’re gone for good. When a tree is harvested, new ones grow.
5. Wood cookstoves can save energy by way of zoned heating. In most homes and homesteads, people spend a lot of their time in the kitchen, where a wood cookstove can provide a warm comfortable spot without turning up the thermostat to heat the whole house.
6. Wood cookstoves also can save energy by heating water for free. Some models have a water tank attached to the stove, but it’s easy enough to set a kettle of water on top to heat. Free hot water is great anytime for countless applications around the house and barn, and particularly valuable when no other way to heat water is available.
7. You can use cookstoves for free humidification. Anyone who lives in a cold climate knows that many heat systems dry out the air indoors. A teakettle kept simmering on the cookstove all day does more than keep water for tea and hot chocolate ready at a moment’s notice—it helps add much-needed humidity to the air.
8. You can hang clothes next to cookstoves for drying. I’ve rigged a homemade rack using a wire hanger and a heavy-duty magnet, which I used to hang wet mittens and hats from the end of my warming oven. I follow safety precautions, of course, and you should, too. When I was a kid growing up off-grid, safety sometimes was foregone in favor of desperation—I remember the smell of singed wool socks someone laid on the surface of the kitchen woodstove in an attempt for a quick dry.
9. Wood cookstoves add home value. Installing a wood cookstove requires money and space. But because they are such a beautiful and valuable addition to a homestead, there’s a good chance you can recoup your investment if you would ever sell the place.
10. Some people say food tastes better when cooked or baked using a wood-fired stove. I don’t know if that’s exactly true, but I do know that nobody ever turns their nose up at the homestyle baked beans and steamed brown bread my cookstove turns out.
11. Wood fires smell great, as long as you burn good clean fires with quality wood. And as long as you like that kind of smell. If you would like something a little less rustic than wood smoke, a little dab of scented oil in a container in the upper warming oven is cheaper and safer than candles. And if you prefer expensive perfume to natural smells, you probably don’t live on a homestead anyway.
12. You can melt butter on them. Okay, don’t laugh, but one of the things I miss the most during summer when I use my modern gas range instead of my wood cookstove is the ability to plop a couple tablespoonfuls of hard butter into a little metal cup and set it in the warming oven to melt. No worries about forgetting it and having it burn, and melting a little extra means I always have it handy for brushing bread or pies. But it’s not just butter. It’s convenient to regulate how fast foods heat up by moving them around on the cooktop—directly over the firebox for the most heat, and on the far back corner for less—and to keep them warm in the upper oven or top shelf.
13. They make natural gathering places. People gravitate towards a wood cookstove. The metal bar across the front of mine makes people want to lean on it, even on a hot summer day when there hasn’t been a fire in it for weeks.
14. Cookstoves are an instant toaster. At least, some are. I frown on the idea of setting food directly on the clean metal surface of my relatively new Amish cookstove, but people with older stoves aren’t always so picky. A lot of us grew with wood cookstove surfaces that handled toast, wool socks, and whatever else came along without anyone batting an eye.
My wood cookstove plays a central role in the lives of those on my homestead. It is a primary heat source for all but the coldest weather, adds great comfort and convenience, and is one of the smartest and treasured investments ever.
What would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:
One of the more frustrating nuisances to deal with on the homestead are rodents. The three main you will normally see are mice, rats and packrats.
Here are some tips in dealing with, discouraging and ridding yourself of each of them.
Mice come in diverse sizes, types and colors throughout the U.S., but most are from the Deer Mice genus. Deer Mice range in territory across the U.S. and are very adaptive to their surroundings. Usually a gray to reddish brown, they are called Deer Mice because of their white feet and underbelly, as well as their quick speed and agility (like a deer). They prefer more agricultural areas to build a home, so your new homestead with lush crops makes a perfect place to build an adjoining home with an unlimited supply of food.
They aren’t likely to dig underground to make a nest or den, but they rather prefer to find a suitable already complete and secure spot to nest in, such as holes in a hollow tree or fence post, scrap lumber piles, trash piles and firewood bins. They will also build a nest under logs or in tunnels left by other animals. Deer mice, and mice in general, take materials like stuffing from upholstery, string and cloth to build suitable nests. They will build a cache of food including seeds, nuts and plant leaves to nibble on; they have a sweet tooth when it comes to corn.
The best way to discourage mice from taking up residence is to keep things tidy to eliminate nesting spots and eliminate feed whenever possible. A cat or a dog that enjoys hunting mice are usually effective in keeping numbers down, and storing animal feed in chew-proof containers works to deny them an easy feeding source.
Getting rid of mice can be troublesome, as they are prolific breeders and can increase their numbers quickly. We have had the best success with both glue traps on the floor baited with dog food and snap traps baited with peanut butter. Mice aren’t much for climbing but are surprising agile jumpers, and prefer to run along the base of the walls. Place the traps at a corner facing outward where they can run directly to them and be vigilant on checking them every day. You can catch more than one in a day by continually checking them and resetting as needed.
On the homestead, you most likely won’t see the same rats as you would in your favorite Hollywood horror film. They are horrible to deal with, but they may not run in packs like the groups in your favorite sewer scene. Common Norway or Roof Rats are the variety usually found on the homestead. They like to enter structures through openings in the foundation, through the attic, and will cross tree branches that come too close to structures that need to be cut back further. Another infestation sign could be the entrance to an underground burrow. A simple hole near your foundation could be the entrance to a large den containing more rats than you know about. They leave signs of chewing on materials such as soft metals, plastic and wood. Their main food source is vegetation and grain that they can find on the homestead, and their tastes can change based on what becomes available. You may see their droppings or smell their urine left along their normal nightly trails.
Unlike mice, rats are more likely to attack small livestock such as chicks, quail and even rabbits. Along with the usual sign of droppings, you may see rabbits with missing/chewed off toes, chicks that go missing or even wings that have been ripped off.
Getting rid of a rat or many rats should be done with trapping, as cats don’t always discourage these large rodents. Common rats aren’t climbers, so all traps should be placed in a hidden floor location in a corner with the trap opening facing out and ready to catch the first rat that comes by. Add a little fragrant bait like peanut butter or meat to enhance their curiosity to see what the trap holds for them.
Packrats are like a super rodent. Also known as a woodrat, they have strength that smaller rodents don’t and they have unique characteristics that identify what type they are based on how they operate. Packrats typically are very elusive. They mostly operate under the cover of night searching for food and nesting materials unless disturbed during the daylight hours. Their main attraction outside of finding feed is to build a nest or home. Where other rodents try to use natural materials and burrow into something cozy, packrats like to grab the oddest building materials they can find.
They are particularly fond of shiny objects and will drop what they are carrying and constantly trade for something more interesting and shinier. They will take string, grass, and sticks just like other rodents, but they have a penchant for taking things you left out like a gift. We’ve had packrats steal scrub brushes, pencils, yarn, scissors, pliers, rocks from the driveway, and wiring from the engine harness of our farm truck. They aren’t afraid to take what you left out. Just like a normal rat, you may see their droppings or smell their urine along their normal running trails.
The best way to discourage Packrats is to eliminate areas in which they might try and build their nests. This means keeping lumber piles or stacks of pallets away from the home or outbuildings. Check unused buildings regularly for packrat activity, and keep a bag of mothballs in the engine bay of unused vehicles as they are repelled by the smell.
Packrats are climbers, so dealing with them is best done by trapping it in a large trap baited with food or a shiny object. Place the trap along a known running path for them. Packrats aren’t suspicious of changes to their surroundings, so a new trap doesn’t need to be hidden like it does for a common rat. Be warned that because they are strong, the trap should be tied to something they can’t carry away. We have seen a packrat stand on its hind legs and run away with a trap attached to a foot. Also, be prepared to deal with an angry packrat the next time you catch one. They will lead with a foot to take the bait rather than their head, so you’ll most likely catch them by a foot than their head. Disposal of them will be up to you.
Of course, dealing with any of these rodents after they have established a nest or burrow is reactive, so the best prevention is to not give them the opportunity to start a home near your home or outbuildings. Check your foundation for cracks or openings they can get into, and find a new place to live. Always look for new chew marks, holes that could signal a new burrow, and always put away shiny tools that can attract a packrat. Prevention is your best defense against these invasive rodents.
What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:
Choosing to add chickens to the homestead can be daunting with the number of breeds available on the market today. From bantams to giants, there seems to be a million different varieties from which to choose.
For the biggest bang for your poultry buck, consider choosing one or more of the hardworking heritage dual-purpose breeds. These birds not only produce quality eggs, but tasty meat, as well. Additionally, when you are raising a heritage breed you are helping to keep those breeds alive.
Here are our picks for the top 10 dual purpose breeds every homesteader should consider:
1. Buckeye – Developed in the late 1800s in Ohio, these birds are excellent foragers and very cold-tolerant, although not as tolerant with other breeds or confinement. They lay medium-sized brown eggs and are fairly good setters. The Buckeye makes a wonderful table bird, having meaty thighs, muscular wings and fairly good breasts. This breed is not as popular nationwide, and finding stock can be a bit of a challenge.
2. Wyandotte – The Wyandotte was developed in the 1870s and is another cold-tolerant bird. They lay light brown eggs and seem to produce best during cool weather and into the winter months. Temperatures over 90 degrees can cause them to slow egg production more than some other breeds, and some varieties are more broody than others.
As table birds they produce a meaty carcass with a nice, deep breast. Wyandottes are available in many different color varieties, including the Silver Laced (the original color), Golden Laced, Blue Laced Red, Black, Blue and Columbian. Silver and Golden Laced varieties are the most popular, and are often available in feed stores during the spring and fall.
3. Rhode Island Reds – One of the most widely recognized backyard poultry breeds in the U.S., the Rhode Island Red was developed in the late 19th century in Rhode Island and is a deep red mahogany in color. Hens are wonderful layers and fair setters of medium to large brown eggs, and as table birds their meat is rich and flavorful. Temperament can be an issue with some strains of this breed, particularly in matters of feather picking. Roosters also tend to be more aggressive than some breeds, but are attentive and excellent protectors of their flocks. Being so popular, this breed is usually available in feed stores nationally.
4. Buff Orpington – Orpingtons were developed in the U.K. and imported into the United States in the 1890s. They are large birds with very calm, docile personalities and excellent layers and setters. They are cold tolerant but with their large combs the roosters are more likely to frostbite in below freezing weather. They are an overall meaty bird and are quite flavorful. Though Buff is the most common color, Orpingtons also do come in Blue, Black, Splash, Lavender, Chocolate and White. Because of their popularity, Buffs are most widely available and are often offered in feed and farm stores.
5. Plymouth Rocks – The Plymouth Rock was first displayed in Boston, Mass., in 1849, and is a good layer of large brown eggs. Some strains are better setters than others, as much of their broodiness has been bred out of the breed. Rocks have good cold tolerance and feather faster than many other breeds. They have a good growth rate and provide tasty meat. Though the Barred variety is the most popular and readily available, Plymouth Rocks are actually recognized in seven colors here in the States: Barred, Blue, Buff, Columbian, White, Partridge and Silver Penciled.
6. Java – Though the exact date the Java arrived in the U.S. is up for debate, it is known that they arrived sometime between 1835 and 1850. They are considered by many to be a superior homesteading bird, being fantastic foragers, good layers, good setters, and meaty table birds. They are not as docile as some, but do get along with other breeds. The Java is fairly rare, and finding stock can be difficult. The American Poultry Association recognizes two color varieties — Black and Mottled — though there are breeders working with Red and White varieties.
7. Australorp – The Australorp is the Australian contribution to this list, imported into the U.S. in the earlier part of the 20th Century. They are lovely, docile, full-bodied birds that make delicious meat and are excellent layers of light brown eggs. The breed tends to have good tolerance to both heat and cold. Australorp are fairly common and stock is readily available.
8. New Hampshire – Bred primarily for meat production, the New Hampshire Red is a medium to large bird with fast feathering and good growth. They make for both excellent fryers and roasters, and hens are good layers of large brown eggs. The New Hampshire is much lighter in color than the Rhode Island Red, and has a far easier and laid back personality. They have remained fairly popular since their development in the early 1900s, and stock is fairly easy to find.
9. Dominique – The Dominique is widely accepted as the oldest breed of chicken in the United States, and is the breed from which many others originated. Though they are categorized as a dual-purpose breed, they are first and foremost egg layers, producing medium-brown eggs. Though they are cold-tolerant, Dominiques adapt fairly easily to heat and humidity, as well, with hens continuing to lay through the heat of summer when other breeds slow or stop. Much of the broodiness of these birds has been bred out, but those that do set tend to be excellent mothers. Though smaller than most other dual-purpose breeds, the Dominique still produces a nicely fleshed table bird that is rich and flavorful. Dominiques are making a comeback in some areas, and a number of hatcheries are now offering chicks.
10. Sussex – The Sussex is considered to be one of the U.K.’s oldest chicken breeds, and experts disagree about when exactly these birds first arrived in the U.S. Like the Orpingtons, the Sussex have been bred to be calm, docile birds. Primarily they were bred for table use, and have better growth rates than some other dual-purpose breeds. Selective breeding has improved their egg-laying ability, and they are good producers of medium-sized, light cream-colored eggs. They do lack the heat tolerance of some others, but are fairly cold tolerant. Only three color varieties are available in the U.S.: the Speckled, Light and Red. Of the three, the Red is the least common. Both Speckled and Light are readily available at most hatcheries, and also may be offered in farm stores during spring.
A good dual-purpose chicken can be the backbone of the homestead, providing not only eggs but meat, as well. Are you ready to keep one of these fantastic heritage breeds on your own farm?
Let us know your favorite dual-purpose chicken breed in the section below:
Making goals is part of life for everyone all the time, but most people tend to focus on them a little more this time of year. Establishing goals for the homestead is as important as setting personal goals, and often the two go hand-in-hand. Given the deeply personal nature of homesteading, my goals for my place are likely to look different from yours, but here are a few basic guidelines to get you started in the right direction on your own.
First, a word to the wise: If you share your homestead with anyone, it is crucial that you and they are on the same page with goal-making. If you want to take up beekeeping but your spouse is afraid of bees, or if you plan to build a sawmill while your parents envision devoting the coming season to doubling the size of the vegetable garden, these things are going to have to be ironed out first.
Another important point is to keep it doable. It is so tempting to want to dive into everything head-first, and too easy to end up in over our heads. Most homesteaders are passionate about what we do, which is what makes us able to accomplish so much with so little. Passion for homesteading is great, but don’t let it drown you.
There are three major factors which form the framework for goal-setting for homesteaders: money, time and most urgent needs.
Money and Time
Money and time are often homesteaders’ biggest obstacles. Many of us need off-farm jobs which, while they help pay for materials and supplies for the homestead, end up taking away from the time we need to work on homestead projects. It can be a constant juggling act, but few of us can afford to disregard either factor.
The factor of most urgent needs covers a broad spectrum for homesteaders. Most of us strive for self-sufficient lifestyles that include managing vegetable gardens, perennial fruits and a wide variety of livestock—including attention to feed, housing, fencing, breeding, healthcare and milking—along with activities such as processing firewood, tapping trees for syrup, making soap, using medicinal herbs, and more. Not only do we already have all those balls in the air, but most of us are usually trying to pick up even more and to improve the ones we are already handling.
The way to make it work is to prioritize. Some ways to do that include making a chart, doing research, and evaluating positive impact versus cost—or better still, all three.
Charts or spreadsheets offer a concise way to compare costs, importance, work hours required, potential benefits, and whatever else is an important factor to you. Once you lay it out on paper or on a screen, it should allow you to accurately identify what projects and tasks to tackle first.
Doing research ahead of time helps avoid surprises that can end up being overwhelming and increasing the likelihood of failure—as in, how much will that new maple syrup evaporator really cost with all the extras? Or, is this type of crop truly feasible in my climate? Or perhaps it’s useful to determine beforehand when purchasing used farm equipment if replacement parts will be available, or whether a planned livestock expansion will end up requiring more investment in infrastructure.
Evaluating positive impact versus costs can make or break a project—will the milk room upgrade or licensure pay for itself in dairy product sales, or will paying for a professional survey allow the sale of some timber, or does it make sense to take out a loan to buy some additional acreage or to seek crowdfunding to pay for a barn addition? Crunching the numbers ahead of time is vital.
Don’t Forget Small Goals!
Small goals matter, too. I try a new vegetable in my garden every year, to determine if I can successfully grow it or even just to experiment with eating something new. I often move my livestock infrastructure around—a new pen in the barn here, a new gate there—just to tweak their comfort or my convenience. Perhaps you want to try raising lambs for meat this year, or incorporating a new breed of laying hen, or maybe try again with a hügelkultur attempt that didn’t quite meet your expectations the first time around.
Personal goals are closely intertwined with greater homestead goals. This can include everything from finances to education to hobbies to family planning to healthcare to disaster preparedness, and look different on every homestead.
Whatever goals you prioritize at your homestead, remember to choose those over which you have some control. Goals that depend too much on luck or weather conditions or someone else’s choices can leave you feeling helpless and frustrated if they don’t pan out. A better method is to develop plans centered upon your own actions and decisions.
The truth is, there are a lot of different successful ways to set homestead goals. In the end, what matters most with goals is that you proactively make them, are clear about what results you seek, understand what it will take to make them happen, and are on board with others on the homestead.
What advice would you add on setting homestead goals? Share your thoughts in the section below:
After a wandering bull ate my pigeon peas I realized I needed a fence — quickly.
Problem: I rent my property and really don’t want to spend money on new infrastructure.
Solution: Plant a living fence!
So I did, and I filmed the process so you can see what I did:
Isn’t that the greatest song ever to be used on YouTube?
Okay, that’s fine. I understand. It really is terrible, isn’t it?
Back to the post.
I’m not a living fence expert by any means. Back when I was young I did help my dad and Grandpa plant multiple fences by taking long aralia cuttings and jamming them into the ground. I have also planted living barriers of blackberries, silverthorn and pyracantha, but they were more hedges than the interwoven sticks I’m now experimenting with. Yet I’m learning and testing now — and as you probably know, I’m rather insane when it comes to experimentation.
Since there were a lot of questions on this living fence/instant hedge, I posted a follow-up video answering some of them:
Species Options for Planting a Living Fence
For subtropical climates with little to no frosty weather, you could build a living fence with Gliricidia sepium, moringa, some aralia species, purple mombin, or even governor plum.
Farther north you can do this with willow branches — especially in wet areas.
Living fences could also potentially be planted from the branches of species of mulberry, though I’ve had 0% success rooting mulberry by sticking branches in the ground.
If you don’t have any trees with branches that can be rammed in the ground to root, just plant almost any kind of tree seedlings in V shapes at 45-degree angles and tie them together at crossing points.
As recounted over at Mother Earth News, “Easily propagated from seeds, cuttings, or sprouts from the roots, Osage orange is tolerant of a wide range of soils, resistant to drought, long-lived, and affected little by insects or disease. Planted at a spacing of 1 foot, in four years it makes a fence that is ‘horse-high, bull-strong, and hog-tight.’”
Osage orange is also one of the best woods for tool handles and bows. Bonus!
From the same article:
“Other thorny species that could be used to make living fences are pyracanthas, jujube, hollies, black locust (also fixes nitrogen), honey locust (which has high-protein seeds and pods for livestock and people), prickly ash, and rugosa rose (which has vitamin C-rich fruits, or ‘hips’).”
Other Side Benefits of Living Fences
Beyond just keeping out wandering livestock and nosy neighbors, living fences have some serious advantages.
Let’s run through a few.
1. A Living Fence is Free
Unless you buy seedlings to plant, you can start a living fence for free. In my case, all I had to do was cut some Gliricidia branches and plant them. As for potted trees or shrubs, you can start your own. I always keep a little plant nursery going with a lot of bits and pieces in it. Maybe a multi-species living fence would work? Imagine that! Bougainvillea, noni trees, purple mombin, alternating with nitrogen fixers… crazy! A 2-D food forest!
Oh man. I need to try that.
But the point is: free. Free is good.
2. A Living Fence Produces for You
A wire or wood fence is just a barrier, but a living fence is more than that. It’s a living, productive line of trees.
The top can be cut and fed to livestock or used as a green layer in compost. You can also let it grow taller and make the trimmings into plant stakes. Or charcoal/biochar.
Not bad, eh?
3. A Living Fence Supports Other Species
If your living fence is a nitrogen-fixing species, it will feed the plants alongside it.
A living fence can also serve as a trellis for yams and other species as well as a home for birds, beneficial insects, and lizards.
There are plenty of good reasons to plant a living fence and plenty of species that work almost no matter where you live.
My Gliricidia living fence is now dense and strong after growing through the summer. In another year it will be so strong that passing through it will be impossible.
This is Marjory Wildcraft. On this edition of Homesteading Basics, I’m going to talk about the lessons I’ve learned from several years of operating a hoop house.
The Easy Greenhouse Alternative
This is a hoop house that’s about 12-feet wide by 48-feet long. If you need a big greenhouse quickly and economically, a hoop house is definitely the way to go. In fact, for me, it was super easy. I actually built this thing with one finger.
Yeah, I said to my husband, “Hon, I want a hoop house right there.” He built it. He’s really handy, and he loves it. Actually, I did help some. Anyway, it really is pretty quick to put up, and it’s very cost effective.
My DIY Hoop House Plan
There are a couple of things we’ve learned about it. We’re growing here in Central Texas, and we get extremes of heat and cold. In the summer, we get a lot of intense sun here. What we found works really well is using a 70 percent shade mesh in the summer months. It provides a good amount of shade, yet allows a breeze to go through. We are able to grow things really well inside the mesh-only greenhouse.
In the winter, just taking the mesh off and having plastic on is the best way to go. The plastic definitely keeps the greenhouse nice and warm. We are able to grow fabulous plants all winter long.
The main thing about this is it creates a pretty big maintenance issue twice a year.
In the spring, we’re taking the plastic off and putting the mesh on. Then, in the fall, we’re taking the mesh off and putting the plastic on. We did operate it for a while with both the plastic and mesh on in winter, and we found that it just doesn’t work that well.
That maintenance chore twice a year is going to take about four people for a greenhouse this size. That means we get the whole family involved with that chore.
But you can use a greenhouse for all seasons if you’re willing to do that kind of work.
Plans For A Summer vs. Winter Hoop House
My other concern is that the mesh seems to be holding up really well, but I’m not sure what the lifetime of the plastic is going to be. I think taking it off and putting it back on adds extra wear and tear to it, and it may not last as long as it would if we just kept it in place throughout the whole year. I’ve spoken with different operators of commercial greenhouses, and it seems the plastic lasts anywhere from one to three years according to the different farmers you talk to.
Personally, I feel that that’s a lot of waste. But it does seem to be effective, and that’s the way it is.
This is Marjory Wildcraft on operating a hoop house. Again, if you need a big greenhouse really quickly and fairly inexpensively, this is a good way to go. We’re going to be doing a lot more about greenhouses and growing in greenhouses on future episodes of Homesteading Basics.
Stay tuned. I’ll see you on another one.
(This article was originally published on January 30, 2017.)
You’re Just Not Prepared For What’s Coming Can you handle a well armed and group of people who want the goods that you have? Is there a chance that you will have the resources to fight a war against other desperate people? There are dark days coming. Of course, the American people and the American …
Homesteaders who grew up on a farm, or whose family lived in a rural area, are very likely to have many survival skills in their arsenal.
If that’s you, things like milking a cow; butchering a pig; fixing a tractor; repairing a chicken coop; sewing, mending, and washing clothes by hand; and many others could have been part of your education growing up. Parents and grandparents were likely your teachers, as they wanted help with these chores and an extra pair of hands comes in handy.
If you did not have this opportunity because you lived in urban or suburban areas or your parents were busy working outside of the home, you can still get the skills you need to homestead.
Homesteaders, Start Here
The first place to start is the Internet. Search for any skill in which you have an interest, and there is likely a video online of someone doing that. Even if this is not “hands-on” learning, it will still give you an idea about what you may be getting yourself into.
Some videos are better than others, so you may have to watch a few to find one that features a good teacher.
This will usually take you to that person’s website and other written resources that may be available on that skill.
Gaining Skills Through Hands-On Learning
While online tutorials can be a great way to learn the basics about a particular skill, there’s no doubt that the very best way to learn a new skill is “hands on.”
Connecting With Locals
When I started researching resources for our property, I found people in the area who were already doing some of the things I wanted to do: raising goats, raising ducks, and growing vegetables and fruit trees.
You can always ask someone questions about how to do what they are doing, so that’s exactly what my husband and I did. One woman gave us free goat-milking experience. A local fruit tree grower gave us useful hints on how to successfully raise fruit trees and bushes in our area.
Taking a Class
A more intensive way to connect with people who already have the skills you want to learn is to take a class in a specific skill.
Recently, my husband and I attended a weekend at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina. He took a class in beginner wood turning and I took a beginner class in weaving on a loom.
We both had a great time and enjoyed working with the instructors in our respective classes.
Weaving New Skills
Our classes started on Friday evening, right after dinner, so that we could get as much done as possible over the weekend.
In my class, the instructor helped us to pick out the yarns we would use from an extensive collection they had in stock. Every color of the rainbow was represented in a few different fibers, and each person was allowed to choose a palette.
I was amazed at the number of technical terms that are used in loom weaving and asked the teacher for a glossary, which she provided to all of us. We learned how to measure the threads and get them set up on the loom so that by the second afternoon we could all start weaving.
Preparing the loom is the most time-consuming part of weaving, and proper preparation makes all the difference in the final product.
Learning to Turn
For my husband, the first night included basic instruction on the tools and a demonstration of safe wood-turning technique. The teacher made sure that students had proper tools at the work stations before they made some practice pieces on the lathe.
By the end of the weekend, my husband had made a honey dipper from apple wood, plus a pen and a pizza cutter handle with different colors of wood.
Sunday, after breakfast, everyone was given an opportunity to show off what they had learned. It was incredible to see all the end results.
The other classes for that weekend included beekeeping, making a kaleidoscope, basket weaving, iron forging, playing a native flute, three-dimensional paper folding, wood carving, felting, and journaling with watercolors. Amazingly, that is only a tiny sample of the various classes that they make available throughout the year.
Only the Beginning
When we returned home, my husband researched local classes with an eye toward improving his wood-turning skills. I also located a local weaving guild that I can join.
Taking the class was just a beginning. Lots of practice will still be needed to hone our skills, but now we know how to start and can add to our knowledge as we go.
Today you’ll learn how to create homemade potting soil using only three simple ingredients. I’ll also give you alternate recipes for potting soil in case you don’t have those three readily available.
My Homemade Potting Soil Recipe
If you’d like to see me make my homemade potting soil, here’s a video I created illustrating the process:
First, you’ll need a place to work.
I like to spread a tarp on the grass and use that as my mixing area, but you can work on any solid surface. A tarp is easy to roll back and forth to help you mix, but making potting soil isn’t rocket science and you can really do it anywhere.
Second, gather your materials. My potting soil recipe has three main ingredients:
1. Rotten Wood
Fresh wood chips will eat up a lot of the nitrogen in your potting soil mix and can cause your plants to struggle. Rotten wood doesn’t cause that issue, plus it holds moisture and provides a loose and airy texture to the mix.
Leaving a pile of brush and logs in a corner of your property to rot over time will give you a ready source of rotten wood.
If you haven’t started doing that yet, just go for a walk in the woods and get a nice sack of fluffy, crumbly wood and drag it home.
2. Aged Cow Manure
I gather manure from my neighbor’s cows and leave it on a piece of metal in the sun to age and dry for a few months.
Fresh cow manure is too “hot.”
If my home-baked manure sounds too weird, just pile it up in a compost heap somewhere and let it go for a few months. That will leave you with a nutritious, organic-matter-rich pile of good stuff for your homemade potting soil.
I let my chickens do a lot of composting for me, like this:
I go into the coop or chicken run, sift out the grit, soil and compost, then use it in my homemade potting soil.
You don’t need to do that, though. No chickens? No problem.
I sift grit from the local creek bed and add that sometimes. I’ve also just added good garden soil, old potting soil mix from expired plants and even regular old sand.
Mix It All Up
Now all you need to do is get mixing.
Smash the rotten wood into smaller chunks, break up the cow patties, and pour in the grit. I use one part rotten wood, one part aged manure and one part grit/soil in my potting soil recipe, but don’t overthink it. If it looks loose and feels good, the plants will be happy.
As you’ll notice in my video, I often leave pretty big chunks of wood in my homemade potting soil. The potted plants seem to like them and they act as moisture reservoirs and soil looseners.
If you need a finer homemade potting soil for starting seeds, just crush the mix finer or run a coarser mix through some hardware cloth to sift it.
Alternate Ingredients for Homemade Potting Soil
If you don’t have cow manure, try goat or rabbit manure. Both work quite well. Homemade compost is also excellent, though I never seem to have enough for everything I want to do. It’s often full of seeds, so watch out for that unless you want pumpkins growing out of your potted begonias.
Don’t have grit/sand available? Vermiculite or perlite both work nicely, though you have to buy them.
Rotten wood can be replaced with peat moss or coconut coir. I prefer the coir. It seems to repel water less. You can also use leaf mould. Sift it out in the local forest – it’s wonderful. As a bonus, it contains beneficial bacteria and fungi.
Along with these ingredients, I’ve also added some ashes, crushed charcoal, coffee grounds, old potting soil, peanut shells and even moldy cocoa nibs.
When I ran my nursery business I often stretched my potting soil budget by mixing purchased soil with rotten wood chips I got from a local tree company and set aside for years to break down.
Just keep your homemade potting soil loose and fluffy with a good mix of ingredients and your plants will do great.
If you’re lucky enough to have a homestead, you’ve no doubt discovered the peace of mind that comes with being more self-sufficient. Providing for your family through homesteading can be extremely rewarding even in normal times. It can be empowering to grow food, raise your own livestock, and provide for the needs of your family without depending completely on outside resources. And the good thing about building your homestead now is that whenever SHTF, you will be that much farther ahead than everyone else.
Failure is easy. So easy, in fact, that most people who achieve it do so without ever meaning to. But in case you need any ideas to help ensure your homesteading efforts crash and burn, here are a few tips to help keep you on the path toward epic homestead fail.
1. Be focused on life in the city. Seek frequent fulfillment at malls and gourmet restaurants and sidewalk concerts and art festivals. Prefer urban amenities to the beauty of striking sunsets and dancing kid goats. Crave the company of crowds instead of the richness of feasting upon vegetables you planted as seeds. Love the night life, and care little about the satisfaction of jobs well-done in mended fences and weeded gardens.
2. Be picky about the weather. Dislike being outdoors in anything but the perfect temperature and conditions. Expect to stay in the house unless it’s exactly the way you like it outdoors.
If it’s too hot or too cold or too muggy, stay on the couch. Don’t even consider going out to check on the animals during a blizzard—just stay in by the fire with your hot chocolate and let livestock fend for themselves.
3. Maintain an enduring attitude of negativity. Complain about homesteading all the time. Anticipate that everything will go wrong. Don’t even bother creating workarounds or attempting to learn from your mistakes. In fact, altogether avoid taking responsibility for what goes wrong—just blame it on bad luck or other people instead.
4. Be impatient. Hate the idea of having to wait for fruit trees to bear, vegetables to grow, sap to boil, bread to rise, a snowstorm to end, or the mud to dry up in front of the barn doors. Forget that homesteading doesn’t always supply guaranteed two-day delivery, and refuse to accept the idea of natural processes taking place on their own timetable. Demand what you want, and demand it now.
5. Expect to have things done for you. Require lots of services, like the ones readily available in urban areas. Insist upon regular trash pickup, taxi service, convenient public transportation, ample shopping opportunities, a wide variety of ready-to-eat food deliveries, paid housecleaning options—and by all means, expect to be first on the list for rescue and power restoration after a natural disaster.
6. Hate animals of all kinds, both domestic and wild. Don’t ever consider living in harmony with livestock or wildlife. Instead, consider them all adversaries—remember it’s always you against them. When the cows are agitated and challenging at milking time, don’t look around to see what’s bothering them—just bully them into submission instead. And when raccoons threaten your corn patch, spread poison for acres in an attempt to annihilate every animal that comes near your homestead.
7. Need to get away a lot. Declare that life is hardly worth living if you can’t spend the winter holidays at a nice ski resort on the other end of the continent and spring break in the Caribbean. Require a lot of time on weekend and week-long getaways with friends and relatives. Insist on at least one cruise every year.
8. Amass a lot of debt. Buy the biggest and best of everything right away and just put it all on payment plans. Buy a piece of property that is right on the edge of your ability to make the mortgage, and don’t pay any attention to the potential cost of upkeep. Maintain a budget so tight that you rarely have two nickels to rub together by the end of the month—and that’s even before the bill for the unexpected veterinarian visit comes in! Wind yourself into a tight financial ball without a bit of wiggle room.
On the other hand, it’s possible that failure may not be your homesteading goal. I know that I personally have made some errors so egregious that looking back afterwards it was hard to tell whether or not my actual intent was success or failure.
Maybe you have done that, too. But in moving forward, you may want to do your best to avoid doing the things on this list—and in fact strive to do just the opposite—if, in fact, homesteading success is in fact your goal.
What would you add to our list? Share your tips in the section below:
No season is as challenging for homesteaders as is winter. That’s because no season is as deadly – for livestock and humans.
But if you’re prepared and stocked up on supplies, you can survive and thrive the frigid cold this year!
“Prepping the homestead for winter” is this week’s topic on Off The Grid Radio, as we talk to Ann Larkin Hansen, a homesteader and small-scale organic farmer who is the author of several books, including “The Backyard Homestead Seasonal Planner: What to do and when to do it” (Storey).
Ann shares with us her favorite indoor winter projects. She also tells us:
How she prepares her chickens for winter.
How she keeps the livestock’s water from freezing.
Why she doesn’t grow food during winter.
Why winter is a great time to raise new buildings.
Which outdoor projects she absolutely loves.
Winter shouldn’t be a season that homesteaders dread, Ann says.
Listen as Ann provides inspiration for winter that all of us need!
If you have been wondering about living a self-sufficient lifestyle in a tiny house, you may want to check out a new video tour of such a home in Eastern North Carolina.
Jeremy Clemons designed and built his cozy $4,500, 160-square-foot home himself, and it is an evolving work in progress. He is working on the door for his stall shower, and he says he is on his fifth revision of the home’s interior set-up, including the placement of his queen bed in the tiny house. Right now, the bed is set up several feet in the air, allowing plenty of room for storage underneath.
Jeremy grows much of his own food in a garden outside his home. He gets power from solar panels and from three marine batteries. A large woodstove dominates the home, and he admits it puts out more heat than he needs. Jeremy says that the foam board insulation in his walls helps the home retain heat and that his inside temperature is often 20 degrees above the outside temperature in the winter without use of the woodstove.
10 Ways to Make Money on Your Homestead The homestead can be one of the greatest undertakings of your life. It can be a true power move where you take back your liberty. Suddenly, you could be living off grid in a self-reliant and independent lifestyle. Its a dream to many but its one that …
Got Homestead Land? What to Do Next If you own land whether it be a quarter acre or one hundred acres, you can create your own homestead. The essence of homesteading is to focus on increasing what you’re able to produce yourself and reducing the number of store-bought things you consume. How you do this, … Continue reading Got Homestead Land? What to Do Next→
There is something about bare land that appeals to almost all homesteaders. It’s the clean slate — the dream of being able to turn a piece of undeveloped land into exactly what you want it to be, and the chance to control (at least a bit) of your own destiny.
Before you head out to buy your own piece of bare land, there are several things you need to consider.
1. Building codes & zoning
Before buying any piece of land, the first thing you need to know is the zoning. Zoning will determine a lot of what you can do with your property — from building buildings, to installing electricity, to cutting trees, to owning livestock.
Once you’ve established the zoning, make sure to check out any and all applicable building codes. In some areas with an agricultural zoning, you may be able to build barns without permits. However, if you are buying land with a forestry or recreational zoning, you may not be allowed to put a building up at all! Find out the rules BEFORE you buy.
2. Easements, accesses and property lines
Be sure before purchasing any bare land that you have in writing exactly how the property is accessed and if there are any easements that you will either be utilizing to access the property, or easements you will be providing others to access adjoining tracts. This also includes finding out about easements afforded to power, water or gas companies. Never assume that an access road is a legal one. Easements and accesses are recorded with the county, so if the owner or realtor cannot provide you with documentation, check there.
In addition, are the property lines clearly marked, and if not, who will pay to have the land surveyed? No one wants to put a fence in the wrong place and end up in a courtroom, so this is a vital thing if you are purchasing raw, unfenced land. (It never hurts to have it surveyed to confirm that fences are in the right place, either.)
Does the land you are looking to purchase have power already? Are you planning to connect to the power company, or are you planning to put in an off-grid system? These are questions that you need to address before you make an offer on bare land.
In our area, it’s not at all unusual for one street to have utility company power, and the next street for it to be unavailable. Our property is a half mile as the crow flies from the nearest home with utility power, and yet to get it to our place was a quote of over $120,000!
If solar or wind is your plan, pay careful attention to property features that may obstruct the operation of those systems, including timber and hills. You’ll want to visit the property at several different times and get a feel for the feasibility of installing those systems.
What water access does the tract have? Does the property have a well already or access to public water? If there is presently a well on the property, make sure you have it tested or the owner has a testing report from within the last few months.
Image source: Pixabay.com
If there’s not well but there is water, you may be looking at putting a well in yourself. Installing a well can be quite costly, depending on the depth. You’ll want to check with your realtor, the property owner, neighbors, the county, or local well drillers to get an idea on what depth and cost of well installation will be. Keep in mind, though, that no two properties are the same. For instance, our well is at a depth of 330 feet, and yet our neighbor whose well is a quarter mile from our own and further down the valley is at a depth of around 600 feet. Still, it’s good to have an idea of what depth you are likely to be at.
Depending on the location, there is also the possibility that the property will not have or have access to water. In that case, you may be looking at a cistern situation, with water being delivered from an outside source. Do your homework first – good water is essential!
Very seldom does a tract of bare land have a septic, but it does happen on occasion. This is especially likely if there was previously a home or if anyone has lived on the land with an RV. If there is one, then get the usual details — size rating, installation date, who put it in, and last service date.
Most likely, you’ll be putting in a septic system yourself, so again, be sure you know what the codes require. There is a significant difference in price from a traditional system to something more in-depth such as a sand filter setup. Know what to expect before you buy.
6. Soil & drainage
Soil and drainage are two items that not everybody stops to think about when buying land.
When looking at drainage, look for natural features such as creek beds, dry creeks, depressions, etc. What doesn’t look like much in dry weather may become a lake or roaring river during the wet season. Also, are there spots with good drainage that will allow for buildings such as a house or barns? If not, you may be looking at bringing in soils or rock to build areas up before construction can begin.
Furthermore, it’s important to know what type of soil a property has, especially if you plan to garden or house animals. Rocky ground or hard clay can be miserable to put fence posts into, and sandy soils may not keep posts in! You may also have trouble planting or growing trees in rocky or sandy ground. Amending soils or building raised beds can be costly if you plan to have a very large garden, so be sure to do a little investigation on the front end.
Researching the predators in your area is a very big deal if you have small children or plan to raise livestock. This can include the big animals such as mountain lions, bears, coyotes, wolves, and bobcats, but also small critters like fox, skunks, opossum and raccoons, which are all threats if you plan to raise and free-range poultry.
Additionally, if you plan to have an orchard or large garden and are looking at property in the heart of a heavy deer population, this is something you’ll have to consider. Keeping critters out is often more costly than keeping them in!
You might be thinking this one is unimportant, but from personal experience I can tell you that neighbors can make all the difference when it comes to enjoying your homesteading space. I’m not saying that you need to be best friends with your potential neighbors, but getting a feel for who they are will save you heartache down the road.
Buying a bare piece of land to build your homestead on can be a wonderful adventure if you do your due diligence on the front end and keep these items in mind.
What advice would you add? Share your thoughts in the section below:
For most homesteaders, poultry is the “gateway livestock,” the first animals purchased as you try to raise your own food. And chickens are easy to raise, and a wonderful source of eggs and meat.
But when you are thinking about what kind of birds you want to raise on your homestead – for food, for profit and for fun – maybe you also should consider quail. More and more homesteaders are giving quail a try.
Here are five reasons why quail might be a good choice for your homestead:
1. Fast food
Standard meat chickens, while delicious, can take 14-16 weeks before they are ready to eat. Most quail, on the other hand, can be butchered eight to 10 weeks after they hatch. Quail are small, but they’re delicious; you can find them on the menus at the finest restaurants. And if you raise your own, you can try out numerous quail recipes in the comfort of your own kitchen!
2. Great egg layers
Most species of quail are prolific layers of small, mottled eggs. Some species, like the bobwhite and coturnix quails, lay hundreds of eggs per year. Pickled quail eggs are a delicacy all over the world, and every homesteader should have a jar or two on hand for a tasty treat.
Quail also are consistent layers of fertile eggs that are simple to incubate, too, making it easier for homesteaders to keep a steady population of quail on hand.
3. Quiet in the coop
Compared to chickens and other poultry, quail are quiet and easy to maintain. If you are concerned about neighbors and noise coming from your homestead, these may be the perfect birds for you. Most homesteaders keep their quail in some sort of small coop. They don’t need much space at all, and free-ranging them is not really practical. If you’re raising them for meat, you can just harvest older adults, and replace them with the chicks you recently hatched.
4. Easy and cheap to feed
Quail are much smaller than chickens and cost considerably less to feed. If you are raising your quails to harvest, then a good, high-protein turkey starter will suffice. Quail also enjoy the same kind of table scraps you would feed to your chickens. If the quail coop has access to the ground, your quail will almost certainly forage for insects, seeds and grubs. Raising mealworms is also a great treat and protein supplement for the birds, as well.
5. Something completely different
While quail are not rare, they are not exactly common, either. Raising a few quail can offer a homesteader some quality economic benefits that a flock of chickens almost certainly wouldn’t. If you can keep a consistent supply of quail on hand, you may be able to sell them regularly to local restaurants that feature them on the menu. They also are great birds to trade for other items needed on the homestead, and are easy to sell on sites like Craigslist, too.
Have you owned quail? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:
In this edition of Homesteading Basics, let’s talk about learning homesteading skills you need if you’re going to be a modern-homesteader, and where the best place is to get those skills.
Watch the video here: (video length: 2:38 minutes)
A True Story
My son was using the mower the other day and ran out of gas.
He left it in the south pasture with the key turned on, and the battery died.
Now he’s off on a trip, and I’m stuck with a dead battery.
This got me thinking about all of the skills you need to be a modern-day homesteader.
Do you have the skills you need?
Here are some basic skills that you’re definitely going to need on your homestead:
Basic electrical knowledge
Gardening methods and techniques
If you don’t already possess this knowledge, these skills can take a while to acquire.
Where to gain homesteading knowledge
One of the best places to get the knowledge you need is to attend a Mother Earth News Fair. They are held all over the U.S. There are a lot of different workshops in a two-to-three-day period. They offer the basic skills you’ll need for your homestead.
Here are a few other suggestions to help you improve your homesteading skills:
Your local farmer See if he or she will give you a few tips or pointers on something specific, like animal husbandry. Offer to pay him or trade him something that he needs, maybe even your labor.
Big Box Stores A lot of the big box supply stores offer Saturday morning classes in home improvement skills, including basic plumbing, electrical, and carpentry.
Local Community College Many community colleges offer nighttime and weekend classes in auto repair, small engine repair, carpentry, basic plumbing, and electrical.
Online Classes There are thousands of online classes from home medicine to gardening. Choose the one that gives you the knowledge you need and works with your schedule.
County Extension Master Gardeners Master Gardeners are a community of volunteers trained in horticulture by the County Extension Office. You can become a Master Gardener by learning valuable plant and soil information. Then volunteer 40 hours during the year and give your knowledge back to your community. Check your local or state extension office for more information, or call your local Master Gardener hotline for more information on the public classes they offer.
Local Master Classes In many places, there are local classes offered by specialty groups. For instance, Master beekeepers, Master composters, and others often offer classes for free or a small fee to attend. Look online for groups near you.
YouTube videos There are hundreds of thousands of videos online to help you gain the skills you need in just about any area of homesteading.
Let’s improve our skills together.
Where are you getting the homesteading skills you need? In the comments below, let us know what skills you have and which ones you need.
Natural disasters happen all the time all over the world, fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. There is pandemonium and chaos, fear and heartbreak each time. Is it preventable? Most of the time, no. We are at the mercy of Mother Nature. But there are some things you can do to prepare for a natural disaster. Do you know how to prepare you, your family, home, pets, and livestock?
Right now, Marjory and her family are preparing for Hurricane Harvey, which is going to hit the Texas coast today.
Her homestead is expecting 20+ inches of rain and sustained winds of 40 mph. She says that is 2/3 of their annual rainfall.
Marjory knows how to prepare for a natural disaster. They’ve been to the grocery store, cleaned up the homestead, boarded up the windows, and scattered cover crop seeds in the pasture. In her words, “We’ve been broadcasting seed for the fall planting of pasture cover crops. Yes, the time to plant is before the rains or your likelihood of germination goes way down—you never know if/when it will rain again.”
Look for updates on Marjory right here on this blog post!
UPDATE August 25, 2017, 8:03pm CST: Hurricane Harvey has intensified. It is now a Category 4 storm as it makes landfall. Marjory has “battened down the hatches.” They are as prepared as they can be.
Prepare your family for a natural disaster
In 2004, my family and I were living in Florida. We went through 4 hurricanes back-to-back. Two boys, two cats, and I were huddled in the inner bathroom of our house. I lost three refrigerators full of food, and we lost power for weeks each time. It was the tornadoes spawned by the storm that finally got us. A 100 ft. pine tree with a 6-ft. diameter missed my car by inches. Our neighbors were not so lucky.
Make a plan
It’s better to prepare for an emergency or a disaster long before it happens. Choose reliable information sources, and know the warning systems in your area. Talk with your family about your plan, even young children will understand and not be so frightened. Be sure to include your pets and even neighbors in your plans.
Choose a safe place to meet.
Decide how you will contact each other (if cell service or electricity are out)
How will you find each other?
What will you do in different situations (fire, tornado, hurricane, earthquake, zombie apocalypse)?
Okay that last one was a bit of a joke, but all joking aside … what is your family’s disaster plan?
Create a disaster kit or bug out bag
Your emergency kit should be stocked and restocked regularly. Be sure to consider all of your needsand don’t forget your pets! You and your family may need to survive on your own for several days. You’ll need to be prepared with food, water, and other supplies for at least 72 hours.
Basic Disaster Supply Kit, or Bug Out Bag
Store everything in airtight plastic bags or put your entire disaster supply kit in one or two easy-to-carry plastic bins or duffel bags. Check the items regularly to make sure they work and have not expired.
Water – one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days. This is for drinking and sanitation.
Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
Battery-powered or hand-crank radio or NOAA Weather radio with tone alert. (Don’t forget extra batteries in your kit.)
Flashlight – battery-powered, solar-powered, or hand-crank (Personally, I prefer the hand-crank. I know it will work)
First Aid Kit – Check it regularly to make sure it is stocked.
Extra batteries – make sure you replace these regularly or use rechargables that get charged regularly.
Whistle to signal for help – A whistle is much easier to use than your voice and carries over a longer distance. Make sure that each family member has one.
Dust mask – in case there is debris in the air
Plastic sheeting – makes a great impromptu shelter
Duct tape- I never go anywhere without duct tape!
Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation
Manual can opener for your food
Cell phone with solar charger or a battery backup
Personal Emergency Supplies
Non-prescription medications (pain-relievers, anti-diarrhea, antacids, and laxatives)
A natural disaster happens in any corner of the world with some or little warning. These situations are frightening, especially when you live in a rural region. When it comes to your homestead, you need to be prepared for almost any situation. Consider these top tips that truly prep your home in the event of a disaster.
Stock up on Supplies
Canned food, water and batteries should be prioritized as your homestead stock. Disasters often cut off food and water supplies almost immediately. Be sure to have enough water for both drinking, cooking and cleaning. Nearby municipal supplies might be out of commission for several days, depending on the disaster’s extent. Always rotate your canned-food stock too. You don’t want to experience a disaster, and the food has expired several years ago.
Inspect the Building Envelope
Before a disaster occurs, make it a habit to inspect your home. Look at the roof, walls, and foundation. Collectively, these components are referred to as the building envelope. Deal with any minor issues that you observe, such as cracks or broken materials. If these items are ignored, a disaster can quickly worsen them. In fact, it’s possible for the homestead to have severe problems as the disaster weakens any cracks or compromised areas.
Invest in a Generator
Don’t rely on nearby electricity because it can go out for days or weeks at a time during a disaster. Ideally, purchase a portable power generator. Some companies, such as Renogy, know that these kinds of devices uses oil, gas, or a battery to generate electricity. You’ll have limited power with the generator, but it’s enough to keep you going through a disaster. Without power, boiling water and heating your house can be nearly impossible.
Prune Away Hazards
When your homestead is in the wilderness, you’re surrounded by nature’s beauty. Be aware of the hazards that are all around you, however. Dangling tree branches and brush on the ground can quickly become hazards. Branches might fall on the home, or the brush goes up in flames. Prune away these items so that they’re a safe distance from the home. You can still have nature to enjoy, but just at a distance where the home is safe from immediate harm.
Practice disaster scenarios with your loved ones. Create drills that everyone participates in so that you’re ready for almost any disaster. Although it’s impossible to be completely ready for the unexpected, these drills will simplify your response as you keep everyone safe from harm.
About the Author:Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball. Twitter: @LizzieWeakley Facebook: facebook.com/lizzie.weakley
Smart Food Storage! Host: Katzcradul “The Homestead Honey Hour” Since all the Honeys of The Homestead Honey hour believe it’s important to formulate shows based on what our subscribers and listeners want, Katzcradul is devoting this upcoming show to the discussion of “Smarter Food Storage”, how to get the most: for your food storage dollar, … Continue reading Smart Food Storage!→
Many of you know that I got bitten by a copperhead snake late last summer, treated it with home remedies for snake bites, and lived to tell the tale.
What you may not know is that this was the second copperhead bite in my family in the last few years.
(Yeah, we have a lot of copperheads here in Central Texas!)
The two experiences could not have been more different.
Last time, it was my husband who got bitten.
When it happened, he chose to head to the hospital. I respected his right to make that choice—and you’d better believe I went with him and stayed by his side as his advocate the entire time!
His whole experience was very painful, very disruptive, and very expensive. But, within about a week, all of the swelling had gone, and he was back to normal.
Contrast that with my own snakebite experience last summer. My husband knows me well enough that, after I got bitten, he didn’t even mention going to the hospital. Instead, he asked, “What do you want to poultice it with?”
I’m not going to lie—there was still a lot of pain involved.
But in every other way, my snakebite experience was completely different from my husband’s.
I was in the comfort of my own home, being treated by my husband and daughter. And, honestly, while that snake venom was working its way out of my system, I had the most amazing spiritual experience I’ve ever had.
It was absolutely life-changing.
You can read more about it on our website—the first part of my blog post is here and the second part is here.
Perhaps most telling of all was my husband’s comment to me when it was all over … .
I tell the rest of the story in my next video chapter of Grow: All True Wealth Comes From the Ground. (above)
In it, you’ll learn:
My #1 Favorite Home Remedy
24+ Injuries and Ailments You Can Treat at Home
7 Simple Steps to Mastering Home Remedies
I also reveal the fundamental difference between home and hospital treatments, what home remedies are (and what they’re not!), and why treating illness at home can be such an abundant source of family wealth.
After you watch, I’d love to know:
What are your favorite home remedies?
What’s your most memorable experience with treating illness at home?
I can’t wait to hear from you!
P.S. If you’d like to take the Antibiotics IQ quiz I mention in the video, click here!
What you don’t know about copper deficiency, can hurt your goats
It all started with goat cheese more than 30 years ago.
When I had my first bite of goat cheese at a party, I was 19 years old. I wondered where this amazing food had been all my life. Why wasn’t everyone eating goat cheese? When we started our homestead in 2002, I wanted a couple of goats, so I could make that wonderful cheese, which was too expensive for me to buy as often as I wanted.
Making goat cheese, which I learned was called chévre, was incredibly easy.
However, raising goats wasn’t quite so easy…
…And I never expected the little darlings to steal my heart.
Then the problems started
My goats started having problems with infertility, losing babies at all stages of pregnancy, and even dying. I was determined to figure out why. About a third of our does were not getting pregnant. Some never came into heat. Some gave birth to babies too small to survive. For the first five years that we had goats, we never had a buck that lived past three years of age. I went to more than half a dozen vets, including the university vet hospital. I paid for necropsies and tests that told us nothing.
One day my teenage daughter said to me,
“Mom, I think our goats are copper deficient.”
She showed me the information she’d found online. The symptoms matched everything we saw with our goats. The suggestion was to get “injectable copper,” which was only available with a vet’s prescription. I called four different vets and asked for the prescription. They all said, if we were feeding a commercial goat feed and had loose minerals always available, copper deficiency was impossible.
Then one day…
…a doe died and left behind two scrawny looking doelings that were barely two-months-old.
Even though it was June, the doe had not shed her winter coat. She had not been pregnant the year before. I called the vet and asked for her liver to be tested for copper. He replied, “You’re wasting your money!” I said, “Well, it’s my money.”
A few days later…
…he called with the results. Normal copper levels in goats are 25 to 150 ppm.
My goat’s copper level was 4.8 ppm!
I again asked for the prescription copper and to my complete shock, he said “no.” He told me that just because her liver test showed low copper levels that didn’t mean that all of my goats were copper deficient. It was just a fluke.
So, I read and learned all I could…
…about using copper oxide wire particles (a supplement made for cattle) to increase the copper level of my goats. I purchased it and asked an experienced goat breeder how much to give my goats. The giant cattle boluses (a large pill) were ripped open and redistributed into smaller goat-sized capsules.
I only gave it to the goats that I thought had a deficiency.
Within two weeks, the goats that had the copper looked so much better than the goats that did not. It was an easy decision to give it to all of them. When the goats looked like they needed it (based on their coat conditions), I provided extra copper. The next fall all of my goats became pregnant. They all carried their pregnancies to term and gave birth to healthy babies. Our oldest buck celebrated his fourth birthday! He ultimately lived to be ten-years-old!
Causes of copper deficiency
Goats can have primary or secondary copper deficiency. Primary deficiency means they are not consuming enough copper. Secondary deficiency happens when they are consuming enough copper, but they are also consuming a copper antagonist that reduces how much copper they absorb. Providing a loose mineral may be all some goats need. On farms with well water that is high in minerals, the loose minerals may not be enough. Iron, sulfur, and calcium bind with copper and cause secondary copper deficiency. The well-water goats need even more copper.
Want to learn more?
Even though veterinary researchers and breeders have learned a lot about goats and copper in the last ten years, there is a lot of misinformation being passed around. Outdated websites are still shared on social media. I’m lucky that I teach college, so I have access to scholarly databases, which include published research studies in veterinary journals. However, most people can’t read the research unless they’re willing to spend $20 or more. A lot of the studies are hidden behind paywalls.
Unfortunately, most vets graduated from vet school more than ten years ago, which means they were taught that the risk of copper toxicity was the only thing they needed to know about copper. They were told that deficiency in goats was not a problem. Goats are also considered a “minor species,” not too many vets use their continuing education hours to update their goat knowledge. That means it’s tough to find reliable information.
If you are interested in keeping your goats happy and healthy, I’ve created afree online course about copper deficiency in goats.
No one else should have to learn the hard way like we did
Watching goats die or give birth to premature kids is heartbreaking. The symptoms and causes of copper deficiency are easy-to-recognize and easy-to-treat. But there is no one-size-fits-all dosage. It has to be customized to the goats on your farm. That means you have to be informed and empowered to recognize when you have a problem. Then, you’ll have the means to take action.
Busy homesteaders do not have much time to devote to aesthetics. Those of us devoted to raising our own food and leading an independent way of life usually need to stay focused on practical endeavors — spending the warm seasons growing and preserving vegetables and fruit, milking dairy animals, tending other livestock, and shoring up infrastructure. With all that going on around my place, sometimes it’s all I can do to get the lawn mowed, much less plant and tend ornamental plants.
The cost of ornamentals is a consideration, as well. Purchasing flowers, greenery and shrubs—along with the borders and decorative mulch around them—can add up to real money.
But that does not mean that the curb appeal of homesteads cannot be attractive. Instead of carving time and money out of the food-growing budget for beautifying the front yard, why not choose plants that can do double duty?
Ornamental edibles are the perfect solution. While homestead gardeners always see the beauty in a well-tended plot of corn or a field of potatoes in bloom, some vegetables are so attractive that they can be planted in the front yard and admired by passers-by.
Some of the easiest solutions to mixing good looks with good eats are leafy greens. Selections like kale and Swiss chard grow quickly and are super hardy to a wide variety of conditions. They can be planted early in the season and grow into large lush plants, making them an excellent option for garden beds up close to the house where people typically plant vegetation adequate to cover the foundation of the house for an overall manicured appearance.
Swiss chard comes in a variety of bright colors and displays large showy leaves which would rival most ornamentals. Kale, collard greens, and other leafy vegetables grow into large impressive plants, as well, and all are easily planted from inexpensive seed. Another great thing about leafy greens is that they can tolerate—and in many cases prefer—partial shade or limited hours of summer sun, making them the perfect alternative to standard shade-loving plants that are not edible.
Swiss chard. Image source: David Fisher/Flickr / Creative Commons
Most leafy greens will last all season by continuing to sprout new growth after harvesting, depending upon climate and siting. Even in places where leafy greens cannot survive the heat of high summer, careful succession planting can keep greens growing most of the time.
A Few That Might Surprise You
Other types of vegetable to consider planting for their looks as well as their edibility are those which spill out into a large pleasing shape. Think summer squash, which grows quickly into an enormous plant but does not send spreading runners all over. A big beautiful zucchini planting is the perfect choice for sunny spots to cover a lot of bare ground without getting out of control.
And don’t forget flowers. I know that sounds confusing, because I have been telling you about planting vegetables instead of flowers, but you can have both in the same plant. Remember that most of what we call “vegetables” are technically “fruit,” because they come from the fruiting part of the plant. That means that before peppers and tomatoes and cucumbers and peas become food, they must blossom—and “blossom” is another name for flower, of course.
Some vegetable flowers are more visually appealing than others. One of the most stunning is okra, with its deep yellow hibiscus-related blooms. Many eggplant varieties have lovely blossoms, as do most summer squashes. An added bonus to summer squash blossoms is that they can be eaten while in the flower stage; be sure to choose male blossoms so as to avoid diminishing fruit production—along with other edible flowers such as nasturtiums or daylilies.
Don’t Forget Containers!
Containers can dress up vegetables, too. Window boxes are a good place for shorter vegetables, either alone or mixed in with ornamentals, and aromatic selections such as basil or other herbs add an extra pleasing punch. Gardeners can create attractive locations for vegetables by upcycling reclaimed vessels and materials, building raised beds out of cordwood masonry, and using artistic shapes for beds. The sky is truly the limit here, and just about anything is possible. As an example, I was able to acquire a small homemade canoe from a custom boat maker. It was a failed experiment on his part, but it looks wonderful in my yard. I drilled holes in the bottom for drainage, filled it with soil, and the summer squash I planted in it is flowing gracefully out over the gunwales.
Ornamental edibles need not be just annuals. Consider highbush blueberries with their lovely fall foliage, miniature crabapple trees, hazelnut bushes, grape arbors, borders of high-climbing hops, and even rhubarb beds.
There is no need to divert precious time and money from food production for the sake of curb appeal. Instead, choose dual-purpose plants for practical eating and decorative appeal.
What edibles would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:
Have you ever come across a bee swarm? It can be scary, exciting, and overwhelming. What do you do?
All of us at The Grow Network do various kinds of homesteading. Nikki, our Director of Customer Success, is … among other things … a beekeeper. A few weeks ago, she shared with us that the bees from one of her hives had swarmed.
Those little brown specs are bees flying all over the place.
Nikki said, “We have 2 hives in the yard, and one decided it was going to swarm to the top of our sycamore tree in the backyard today.”
With the height of her tree and the size of the ladder, it was going to be quite an ordeal reaching them.
She decided to sacrifice her 13 year old, and sent him up the tree. She jokingly said, “I am officially okay with being shorter than my kids now!”
Her son had to rig the ladder with a tie down strap in the truck.
He used his body weight to hold the ladder straight. There wasn’t a branch to rest it on. Her other son took the cutters and took down the branches. They worked together on two separate branches.
There were so many bees that their weight broke one branch just before her son had a chance to fully cut through. This sent thousands of bees raining down on top of her.
“This hive has the potential to give us more than 100 pounds of honey this year, so we definitely didn’t want to see the bees relocate. Now, they are safe and sound in a new hive. We are re-queening the other two hives we have, and hoping to have 3 healthy and hard-working hives,” Nikki said.
It sounds like everyone is trying to settle down from the experience.
Nikki said she wishes she had seen Jacqueline Freeman’s presentation at the Home Grown Food Summit before she had a swarm of bees on her hands, but all worked out well.
What? You haven’t seen Jacqueline’s Home Grown Food Summit Presentation, “Gentle Ways to Collect Bee Swarms.” She is so gentle with these little buzzing sweeties. You can still get in on this goodness, click here.
Why bees swarm
According to Jacqueline, it’s very natural for bees to swarm. Bees swarm because there is no more room for them. Their home is full of honey, pollen, and brood (baby bees).
The good thing is that healthy and successful colonies create more healthy Queens and new colonies, so it’s a good thing for a hive to swarm.
Before they swarm, the Queen is slimmed down. All of the bees have a feast and fill their bellies with honey. Two-thirds of the colony will suddenly fly into the air. One-third stays in the original hive and re-queen. Bees will only leave the hive if there are new queen cells in the hive.
The other reason that bees swarm is so the queen can increase her fertility, and sunlight does that for her.
When do bees swarm
Jacqueline says that a swarm is a big, bunch of chaos that typically takes flight in mid-spring, around mid-day. There needs to be a lot of pollen available. It also needs to be warm and windless. When they first leave the hive, they fly into the sky in a big, buzzing, whirling cloud of bees. Jacqueline’s amazed that they don’t bump into each other. The queen is hidden in the swarm, so she is well-protected.
Eventually, the bees land on some object, a branch, fence post, vine, or anything that looks like a good spot. The Queen directs the bees to gather and form a tight cluster on the object. Jacqueline says it’s about the size of a football that is clasped to the branch. This is their resting spot for a few hours to a few days. Then, the scout bees roam around trying to find a suitable place to live.
Typically, bees that swarm are very gentle, according to Jacqueline. She said, in the hundreds of bee swarms that she has captured, she’s only been stung four times, and they were all her fault. A bee swarm is not likely to sting you.
How to catch a bee swarm
There is only one way to catch a bee swarm, according to Jacqueline…gently!
Here’s how she does it:
First, take a deep breath and calm yourself. Be respectful. Let the bee swarm know what you are going to do, and how you’ll do it.
Hold a catching box underneath the swarm.
Give the branch a good shake. The swarm will regather in the box. Put the lid on and leave an opening, so bees can get in.
Let the swarm rest for 10 to 30 minutes so as many bees as possible get in the box.
How to transfer a bee swarm to a new home
When you’re ready to transfer the bees, have your hive ready. Remove a couple of the frames to give you room. Hold the box over the new hive. Give the box a good shake so the swarm goes into their new home. Jacqueline shows you exactly how to do it in her video. Get access to it here.
Whether you’re an experienced homesteader or just starting out, you quickly learn: Bills don’t pay themselves, nothing is ever a sure thing, and there is constantly something to fix. Don’t forget about your taxes — the government certainly won’t.
If you want your homestead to generate cash, or even .a profit, hard work is not enough. You must find ways to make as many aspects of your homestead as possible generate revenue.
Here are a few ideas:
1. Fly-tying material.
If you raise poultry and livestock or hunt, chances are you toss a heap of fur and feathers into the trash every time you butcher animals. You could be collecting some money instead. Many of the feathers and furs from poultry and small animals can be re-purposed as fly-tying materials, which are easily sold to fisherman who tie their own flies. Fly-fishing is a popular sport, and these materials are always in demand.
Rooster tail and neck hackles, for example, are important components of dry flies. Ring neck pheasant tail feathers are used in a variety of fishing flies, as well; peacock feathers are often used to make streamer flies. A four-inch strip of rooster tail feathers can sell for anywhere from $4-$10, which is not a bad bit of pocket change from something you would otherwise just throw away. More uncommon feathers, such as those from ring neck pheasants, are even more valuable. Some animal furs, such as the belly fur of rabbits, and the tails from deer and squirrels, also can be sold as well.
2. Goose down.
If you have a flock of geese (and really, you should have one), you no doubt enjoy the giant eggs, the fine meat, and the crazy companionship these big birds provide. But when it comes to butchering, you probably just scald and pluck them and get rid of the feathers as fast and efficiently as you can. If you are, you are throwing away a valuable, easily saved commodity: goose down.
Down feathers, generally defined as those found on the lower carcass of the goose, are important to the textile industry. Down is used as fill for expensive pillows and to make high-end comforters for beds; that expensive jacket you bought at REI is probably filled with the stuff, too. People who make items like these, especially on a small scale, are always looking for a steady supply of quality down.
Image source: Pixabay.com
So instead of just throwing the down feathers away, process and store them. Gather the harvested down feathers, place them in a mesh fabric bag, wash them in cold water, and then hang the bag out to dry. Once the feathers are dry, store them in a cool, dry location until you have enough to sell. A quarter pound of feathers can fetch anywhere from $6-10 online.
3. The black gold standard
No matter how big your herd or flock is, you are probably amazed by how much manure they can produce. Whether it’s poultry, rabbits, goats or other animals, dealing with their manure is likely a part of your routine. But instead of just carting it over to the compost heap, you could be monetizing it instead.
Animal manure is often a high demand item, especially if your homestead is close enough to suburban areas. People want fresh manure to amend their soil, or to energize their compost bins. If your manure is organic, it might even sell for a premium, too.
You should let your manure, especially rabbit and chicken manures, compost for a bit. You can then bag it, load up the bed of your truck, and go sell it at the local farmers market. Better yet, post an ad on Craigslist, and let paying customers come and haul it away for you.
The Internet makes it easier than ever to connect your homestead with customers looking for unique odds and ends. So, try these three ideas when you get a chance, or better yet, think up some new ones on your own.
How do you make cash on the homestead? Share your ideas in the section below:
7 Homesteading Jobs For Winter For the homesteader and the remote homesteader in particular its never to early to start thinking about winter. I think it is so important to have a plan for the whole year. Its not a bad idea to put together what I like to call a Master Schedule. This will …
How Homesteading Has Made Me A Better Wife Sometimes its a title that makes the whole thing go. This article has one such article. If you have gone through the adversity of starting and running a homestead you know it changes you. Most of the time it changes you for the better. This author has …
Top 5 Essential Oil Picks for the Homestead My first experience with essential oil was using some powerful mint oil on my temples to help with a headache. Like most people from the ibuprofen world I was doing this ‘experiments’ half heartedly. I was surprising impressed at just how effective it was. It took a …
If you haven’t added geese to your homestead or your small family farm, then you really are missing out. These big, hardy birds are more than just livestock to be raised and harvested for a meal (although geese are delicious); they are extremely useful birds that you can put to work.
Geese can do everything, from weeding your garden to guarding your chicken flock from predators, and can provide income from the down feathers used in winter wear, pillows, and comforter blankets, as well. Here are some great ways you can put a flock of geese to work for you today.
Geese can help keep the weeds under control in your garden. They have a knack for eating grasses and other invasive plants in a garden or field, while leaving the actual crops alone. Geese often will eat weeds in a garden all day long, and well into the night when there is a full moon. They will eat weeds whether it’s sunny or raining, and also will help keep hard-to-mow places — like fencerows — weed-free, too. As a general rule, four geese can effectively work an acre of cultivated area, although more may be needed initially if the weed problem is severe. While all goose breeds can act as weeders, typically the more active African or white Chinese geese are used in this role.
Image source: Pixabay.com
Geese make surprisingly good guard animals on the homestead. They can help protect your other poultry against predators, as most geese will hold their own against smaller predators like possums, skunks, raccoons, or the occasional wandering dog while sounding an alarm. Some geese can be exceptionally loud, and will make a racket any time they sense something is awry on the homestead.
While some homesteaders (and their neighbors) may not appreciate this, others may want an early warning in case something unusual is afoot. The ancient Romans used geese as guards, and even the U.S. military has recently used geese to patrol its overseas bases.
Beyond meat and egg production, domestic geese also are valued for their fine feathers, commonly called down. Down is valued as a component of high-end products, such as winter jackets, pillows and comforter blankets. While the price of down fluctuates, prices of $16-$20 for one-fourth pound of this material are relatively common. Approximately 20 percent of the feathers on an average goose can be considered down; the larger, coarser feathers on the backs and wings of geese cannot be used in down products. Nine to 12 domestic geese will generally yield enough down to make a single pillow. Although you will not necessarily be able to quit your day job harvesting down from a modest flock of geese, you can nonetheless get money from the down feathers of the birds you slaughter, something your other poultry won’t be able to match.
Having animals to showcase at 4-H clubs and county fairs is a great way to draw attention to your small farm (and perhaps attract new customers), but it can be expensive to raise larger animals for such purposes on a modest homestead. Geese, however, are super hardy, and extremely easy to raise; as noted earlier, you can feed them simply by letting them loose on the weeds in your garden beds. And geese are popular attractions at these events. A giant, handsome dewlap Toulouse goose, for example, often can tip the scales at 25 pounds or more, and will almost certainly generate excitement at any exhibition or competition. Geese that consistently win at county fairs and 4-H shows will often be sought out as breeders, and selling goslings that come from champion bloodlines can be lucrative, too.
Have you ever owned geese? What would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:
When the homestead bug first hit us we were already living on a couple of acres and could dive right in, but that’s not the case for so many who are feeling that pull to simple country living.
You may not realize it, but that is a great time to start building homestead skills- even if you’re in the middle of the city!
There are so many different homesteading, “self-sufficient” skills that I would love to learn but since learning takes time, something which is more precious than gold to me, I’m unable to gain, practice, and perfect that knowledge. Use this time when you don’t have farm chores or a bumper harvest to put up to slowly work toward gaining those skills that will be so beneficial to you when you do finally make it to your piece of land!
30 Skills to Build While You’re Homestead Dreaming
1.) Freshly Mill Your Own Whole Grains
Depending on where you live, storage issues for large quantities of whole grains or freshly milled flours might be a challenge, there’s nothing that says you have to grind whole grains 50 pounds at a time. Even grinding grains a few pounds at a time and storing the extra in a gallon bag in the freezer will make the most nutritious, high-quality flour you can bake with.
Whether you are a seasoned homesteader or are just starting out with a garden and some chickens, you should consider adding geese to the mix.
Geese are the hardiest, most self-sufficient of all poultry, and are extremely useful to have roaming around the pasture. They also are relatively easy to care for. Geese make great guard animals, and it is genuinely entertaining to just sit there in the afternoon and watch their antics; the expression “silly goose” is indeed grounded in fact.
So, if you are considering adding a few geese to the homestead, here are some facts to get you started.
A Big, Useful Bird
There are several breeds of domestic geese, with the larger varieties tipping the scales at 25-30 pounds. A more common weight range for typical market geese is 12-16 pounds, however. Although not common table fare these days, geese were prized years ago and eaten on special occasions. The Cratchits in A Christmas Carol had prepared a roasted goose for Christmas dinner, just before a reformed Ebenezer Scrooge surprised them all by buying a large turkey instead. Scrooge notwithstanding, geese have a rich, unique flavor, and a typical goose carcass will yield over 60 percent of usable meat, which is impressive for a bird so large.
Many geese are prolific layers, and some can produce up to 50-60 eggs per year. Goose eggs are roughly twice the size of chicken eggs, with a higher yolk-to-egg white ratio. They are prized in baking, and their enormous size makes them a popular novelty at many farmers’ markets. Fertile goose eggs for incubation are in-demand items, too.
Goose down and fine feathers are also valuable. The down, especially, is used in the garment industry; your high-end pillows or expensive winter jackets are likely filled with the stuff. Finally, geese are great guard animals. They are fearless, and can hold their own against many common barnyard predators, or sound the alarm when they sense that anything is amiss.
Taking Care of Your Flock
Image source: Pixabay.com
Baby geese, or goslings, can be reared in a brooder like most other poultry. However, they grow fast, and are ready to head out to the pasture much quicker than many other birds. Start your day-old goslings in the brooder at 85 to 90 degrees, and reduce the temperature five to 10 degrees each week, until you reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit. At that point, your goslings are ready to venture outside. Goslings and young geese can be fed chick-starter in standard feeders, after which a cracked grain supplement will suffice. They also need plenty of water. Fortifying the chick starter with brewer’s yeast can help ensure your goslings get enough niacin and develop sturdy legs to carry their heavy bodies later.
Adult geese are relatively easy to take care of, especially when compared to other poultry. On a homestead, leaving them to graze a fenced-in yard or pasture is an ideal option. Although they won’t gain weight as fast as they would in confined, intensive production, they still will grow just fine, will serve as a guard force, and generally will be more content. While some people provide geese supplemental grains, many people rely on grazing alone and are successful. A typical acre of grass or pasture can easily support a flock of two to three dozen birds.
Geese are extremely cold-hardy. In the Atlantic region or southern United States, no real shelter is needed. Even in colder climates, a simple three-sided barn enclosure or shed with bed-down hay will suffice. Geese do extremely well in mixed flocks, although they can be aggressive when protecting eggs or goslings. However, they generally do not like to be confined in chicken coops at night, and prefer to simply sleep outside.
You don’t need a lake or pond to keep geese, either. Although the birds love water, don’t sweat it if you don’t have any such features in your back yard. Buy a trough, or a kiddie pool, and put enough water in it so that they can bathe themselves, they will love it. Make sure you clean the pool or trough out every few days, however; geese can make a mess of a small pool really fast.
Geese are efficient, useful, entertaining birds that can help round out your homestead. They are easy to care for, fun to watch, and can provide an excellent return on a relatively modest investment. So, do a little more research, and then get your flock started right away.
Do you own geese? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:
56 Essential Items for A New Homesteader Starting a new homestead, especially as someone who has been living in the city the whole life, takes a huge amount of courage. It’s not easy, mentally and physically. But that’s not the only thing you need. Realistically, you’ll also need tools, equipment, and supplies to help you live …
Buying your first homestead is an exciting time in your life. The excitement can sometimes mean not being thorough and acting upon impulse just to have a place of your own.
It is important to take your time and make sure that you get the place you desire, that you will live at for years to come. When deciding to purchase your first homestead, here is a checklist of things to consider.
Things to Consider when Moving Into Your First Homestead:
1. What Your Needs REALLY Are
My husband and I are currently on the quest to purchase our first homestead. We have been on this quest for over a year. The thing is, we know what we really need.
We need acreage. Enough so that he can have a large shop, plus the girls and I want a “she shed” that will double as a cabin when our relatives come to stay. Not to mention next to our “she shed” will be a place for our animals and our garden.
We also desire an outdoor kitchen and a little bit more land to just have.
That being said, we have some things that are negotiable. Husband wants a lot of trees so out homestead will not be as visible; however, much of rural Texas still has dirt roads. This means we could be very remote on an acreage with no large trees yet still be remote enough no one will know we are there.
Knowing that we desire all of this means that the beautiful, large, not-yet-finished house on one acre is not going to work. It doesn’t matter how pretty the house is, it is not feasible for our needs.
Another consideration that my husband and I have discussed, is the inability to go to the grocery store all the time. Where we live right now puts us nearby four Walmarts- all within ten miles of the house. How are we going to handle not being able to run to the store when we move away?
I will say, that is something I am actually looking forward to.
Likewise, it is important that you sit down and take inventory of absolute musts and things that are a bit more negotiable. If the house is not the one, don’t worry- the one will come.
When talking about finances, you need to look at your home purchase in two different manners: incoming and outgoing.
Incoming is questioning what it will do to the finances you have coming in. Do you currently work in the city? If you are a farmer and attend the local farmer’s markets, how far away is the nearest one?
Essentially, how far away is the home from your work or how do you bring money into the home? Think about the expense on gas and wear and tear on your vehicle.
Outgoing is how much you plan to spend on the homestead we just talked about in step one.
Part of why we have not found the home we desire is because our money is not in alignment. We have saved enough to purchase a house outright; however, that house is probably not going to be the house we desire for our homestead. Another year and we will be better off.
If you plan to take out a loan, I recommend finding out from your mortgage broker how much you can get approved for and make sure that it is in your budget as well.
For many loans, there is a possibility that they will approve you for more than you need. If that is the case, I recommend sitting down and looking at your finances as well as looking at your list of needs and negotiables.
You might also consider a home that needs some fixing. For example, the yellow house I mentioned above went into foreclosure while the original owners were building it. The house costs $64,000 and needs about $40,000 to finish it out (there is no kitchen, no appliances in the bathrooms, etc). Once done, the house that cost $100,000 would easily be worth $300,000.
But that means having another chunk of cash available to throw towards the house.
And if you’re interested in how much atiny house costs, you have come to the right place!
I guess what I am trying to say here is don’t get yourself into so much debt that you end up over your head. Be thoughtful about your finances on such an important decision!
3. Your Neighbors
Your neighbors don’t have to be your best friends but you need to get to know them for a start. Living rurally, this becomes important and I can give you a great example.
A friend of mine lives on a 1,500-acre ranch. Obviously, this means his neighbors are several miles down the road. Yet they work together sometimes, on one rancher’s “day off” they will help their neighbor and vice versa.
Today the friend was at the back of the acreage working on bailing hay. His neighbor called and said that someone in a red vehicle drove into their driveway and stole their dog. My friend told their neighbor to stay on the car. Neighbor followed, while my friend got in his car and drove over 100 mph, finally catching up to their neighbor.
Thankfully, the dog was rescued and the thief went to jail. But my friend wouldn’t have known had he not been at least cordial to his neighbors!
Going back on the story a bit though- if you are moving from one city to another, please note that sometimes it takes a while to be trusted.
Many small areas have families who have lived in that area several generations and a newcomer is a bit scary to them. Just take a deep breath and put your best foot forward. They are sure to love you!
4. Zoning Restrictions or HOAs
The very first placed that we looked at was five wooded acres in a lake front community. We would have the five acres plus a piece of land right off the lake that was below flood range so we could not put a home on the site. It was amazing.
Although the real estate agent told us that having a beehive would not be a problem because we’d be so far into the acerage no one would notice, there were other concerns. For example, my husband would not be able to shoot his guns.
Why were there restrictions such as this? Because the new development was a part of a homeowners association, or HOA.
It’s important to find these things out before purchasing a home because there are things that you will want to do on your property or to your property.
Even without an HOA, it’s possible for there to be zoning restrictions that would prohibit you from being able to add more outbuildings or something of this sort.
Do your research and ask around before committing to your first homestead.
5. Roads and Phone Service
While for many, not having internet or cable is okay with them.
But what about phone service? Despite the fact that we live in the state with the most growth (four of the top ten fastest growing cities in the US belong to Texas), many rural roads between Dallas and Waco have no phone service.
We both make sure to look at our phones while we are house hunting.
Roads might seem like they should be a non-issue but consider if you only have one way in and out and a bad storm blows trees over. You are now stuck at home for what could be several days.
Many of us are prepared for this but it is still a very nerve racking issue, especially if there is no service at your home.
! Saving our forefathers ways starts with people like you and me actually relearning these skills and putting them to use to live better lives through good times and bad. Our answers on these lost skills comes straight from the source, from old forgotten classic books written by past generations, and from first hand witness accounts from the past few hundred years. Aside from a precious few who have gone out of their way to learn basic survival skills, most of us today would be utterly hopeless if we were plopped in the middle of a forest or jungle and suddenly forced to fend for ourselves using only the resources around us. To our ancient ancestors, we’d appear as helpless as babies. In short, our forefathers lived more simply than most people today are willing to live and that is why they survived with no grocery store, no cheap oil, no cars, no electricity, and no running water. Just like our forefathers used to do, The Lost Ways Book teaches you how you can survive in the worst-case scenario with the minimum resources available. It comes as a step-by-step guide accompanied by pictures and teaches you how to use basic ingredients to make super-food for your loved ones. Watch the video HERE.
Believe it or not, children as young as two years old can begin contributing to work around the house and homestead, and there are a lot of good reasons to get started this early.
Giving children tasks inside and outside the home will support their learning and development and give them practical skills. As they contribute, they will gain confidence in their abilities and be willing to take on more responsibility. They will learn how to solve problems and become more grateful for the work that goes into keeping them safe, comfortable and fed. It’s easy to find ways for them to help.
1. Make a game of it. Mary Poppins would agree. Anything can be made easier if it is made fun. If you challenge your child to sort, tidy or clean an area according to a particular set of rules, you can make it seem like play. There’s no need to go over the top on this; kids have a natural sense of duty and also a natural tendency to make play out of work.
2. Be patient. At first, the chores will take a little longer as you teach the steps to your young child. Bear in mind that kids have to learn what adults have internalized; for example, it might make more sense to a young kid to eat berries as they pick them, rather than put them in the bucket. Try to think like a kid as you explain the chore: Get down on their level, break the task into small steps and remember to look for the fun in it.
3. Work at kid-level. One trick to help kids do more chores indoors and outdoors is to have a special kid-friendly set-up for the chores they are expected to accomplish. If your two-year-old is sorting laundry for the wash, it might help to have a white basket and a dark basket, for example. Storing the supplies at kid level, or having stools to help kids reach, will ensure they will be willing to do more chores.
4. Give lots of positive feedback. Adults know they are supposed to help out, but kids are still learning. Don’t be afraid to cheer and carry on when your child successfully completes a task on their own, especially the first time. As kids get older, give them more responsibility and tell them how what they are doing is contributing to the livelihood of the family. Make your children responsible for a portion of the homestead, piece by piece; they will take ownership of it and their pride in their work will grow.
Image source: Pixabay.com
5. Expect mistakes. As they learn, your children will break things, spill things, forget to finish tasks, leave supplies lying around and worse. This is part of learning. If you are choosing chores that your child can accomplish, the damage won’t be too bad (what’s a broken egg from time to time?). Talk to them about what they can do to avoid the mistake next time, see if you can help make the task work better for them and offer reassurance. Never lose your temper – or that may be the end of that chore for a good long time.
6. Keep kids safe. As with all things, teach young children how to do the task correctly and safely. Consider which hazards your child will be exposed to in the environment where they are working, and either move dangerous items out of reach or supervise your child to minimize the risk. Don’t expose children to unnecessary risk; instead, let them see you working safely and taking precautions so that when their turn comes they won’t eschew safety equipment or measures. Children under five should be supervised at all time, especially around water, vehicles and farming equipment.
7. Be realistic. First and foremost, don’t expect your child to accomplish a task that is too difficult for their developmental level. Below you can find a chart recommending the type of chores appropriate for young children; your child and the needs of your homestead may be different, but this will give you a jump start. Before you know it, your child will be contributing to the household and the community regularly and with enthusiasm, because you have been teaching the necessary skills all along.
Very Young Children (Ages 2 – 5)
Young Children (Ages 5 – 7)
Always under supervision, they can:
Wipe tables and counters
Wash the car
Collect yard debris
Clean up spills
Help with planting
Help with harvest
Everything in the earlier list and:
Sort supplies (buttons, screws, cutlery)
Prepare food (such as shelling peas)
Weed the garden
Sweep indoors with a dustpan
Set the table
Help younger children
Put away laundry
Light cleaning in bathroom
Carry loads, load a wheelbarrow
Composting food scraps
How do you gets kids involved in work? Share your tips in the section below:
The 21st century is an excellent time to be a homesteader. We have the best of both worlds, able to both draw from the wisdom of antiquity and still make use of cutting-edge technology.
Homesteaders today have the opportunity to raise our own food and provide for our own needs in the same ways our ancestors did — but unlike them, we are not completely dependent upon our success at raising crops and keeping livestock and harvesting firewood.
If severe weather, illness, family emergency, or other unfortunate events occur, it is not likely to result in the same level of crisis it would have for our forebears. If wildlife destroys the vegetable garden or a hog dies of disease or a cow goes dry, it probably does not create a risk of starving to death for most homesteaders today. And if an exceptionally cold winter empties the woodshed before spring, most of us are able to find an alternative that will keep us from freezing.
Modern homesteaders are fortunate to have an abundance of technology and skills available, but there is so much to choose from that it can be challenging to know when to lean one direction and when to lean the other. It is possible to achieve a nice equilibrium between the world of the past and the world of the present and future, and enjoy both eras by embracing the ability to choose.
It is helpful to think of new technology and old-time methods as a continuum with many possibilities in the gray area between the two ends, rather than simply a black-and-white view of all one or all the other. Locking ourselves into a rigid set of parameters reduces our ability to appreciate the best of both worlds. Instead, it is valuable to pick and choose, leaning further toward one end or the other in different aspects.
Image source: Pixabay.com
To do this, we need to first think about what made us become homesteaders in the first place. While self-sufficiency is the baseline definition for the lifestyle, there are a variety of reasons that we chose it. For some, it’s about resource conservation and planet preservation. For others, health and food sovereignty are key. Other reasons include saving money, honoring tradition, being prepared for a world where modern technology and resources might become less accessible, the desire to treat animals humanely, or for the intrinsic value of the skills themselves.
You may not be able to consider yourself a homesteader unless you raise meat animals, or make cheese, or heat with renewable fuels, or live completely off the electric grid. On the other hand, the thing that makes you feel like a homesteader might be nothing more than raising and canning your own tomatoes and keeping a couple of laying hens. Whatever it is you do that makes you a homesteader in your eyes, focus on that first.
If it is about having your own fresh eggs, for example, then do what it takes to make that happen and give yourself permission for guilt-free vegetable purchases at the grocery store. If your reason for homesteading is to reduce your carbon footprint, then it may be more important to live in a small home and practice diligent waste reduction than to raise dairy goats.
Another way to bring old-fashioned practices and modern technology together is to toggle back and forth depending upon the season. You can make butter when the milk is abundant and rich, but plan on buying it during parts of the year, or use your wood stove for heat and cooking in colder months but switch to other fuels during summer.
Modern technology is great, but bear in mind the importance of not becoming reliant upon it. Online recipes and GPS are great, yet it’s wise to maintain some access to hardcopy recipes and know how to use a map. Just in case. Most people store phone numbers and contacts in their phones and tablets, but it is useful to have some way to access the information we need in another format. Again, just in case. Remember that if homesteading is about self-sufficiency, it is counterproductive to be overly dependent on tools of any kind.
In combining modern technology and old-fashioned ways, the absolute litmus test must be this: Who or what is in charge? Make sure you own your technology, rather than the other way around. Go ahead and use modern technology when it serves you, but be careful that you do not end up serving it. When the latest electronic gadget enhances your ability to accomplish homesteading in the way that is most meaningful to you, use it. But if it takes away from your goals or raison d’etre, let it go.
As long as we use the best and leave the rest from both ends of the spectrum, we can effectively meld the best of antiquity and the best of today’s technology in a way that allows us to maximize our homesteading enjoyment and success.
What do you think? Share your thoughts on balancing new technology and old-time methods in the section below:
No matter how long you’ve been around farm animals, and even though you consider many of them as pets, there always will be times when they’ll behave unpredictably. A sudden movement, a loud and strange noise, or even just the scent of a female animal in heat, picked up by a male, can elicit the most erratic behavior – endangering even the seasoned homesteader.
It’s always wise to make safety a priority. Who wants to be accidentally stepped on, knocked over, kicked, bitten, squished, head-butted or thrown off a large animal just because it got spooked, stressed out or over-excited by something? Sprains, bumps, bruises, bites, abrasions and all kinds of injuries can be avoided if precautionary measures are taken when working around livestock.
Every animal tends to have its own temperament above and beyond its breed characteristics, gender, size and training. It also tends to be irritable and aggressive when it’s hurt, isolated from the herd or brought to new surroundings. Mothers are extra protective when with their young, while males are particularly excitable when it’s mating season.
It’s best to approach each animal with care — especially if children, elderly, strangers or inexperienced guests and neighbors are around.
1. Always handle animals in a calm, non-threatening way. Approach them deliberately from the side where they can see you, but not directly from the front which they can misinterpret as aggression. Make it a habit to announce your arrival by calling or talking to them. Work calmly and confidently around large animals. They can sense the stress, anger and nervousness of humans, and that could make them uncomfortable, too. When milking, grooming or handling, touch them first on their front or side. Most animals have a wide range of view, but they have a blind spot around the rear. Touching them suddenly in the hindquarters could give them a jolt. This is especially true when dealing with young or spooky horses. Stay close to your fidgety animal, keeping your hand on its body as you move around it, and speak to it so it knows where you are the whole time. When milking or trimming goats’ hooves, keep your face away from its legs. Goats are known to kick in all directions; whereas horses and mules kick out to the back, and cows to the front and sides. In all cases, keep out of their kicking zones.
2.Don’t put your face or head directly over an animal’s head. When petting or handling them, keep your head to the side. Bucks and rams, especially, may head-butt even their owners – usually for play and excitement. And don’t ever trust a bull — even a sitting bull. If you lean over them, you could get a bruised chin or worse, a broken nose. (Be sure to de-horn your goats and cattle.)
3. Always open the gate inwardly, not out, when entering a pen or corral. This would prevent the quick, sly little ones from escaping.
4. Always have an escape path. Many injuries involve livestock being startled and pinning their handlers against a hard surface. When working with large animals, always have a way out, especially in closed quarters.
5. Don’t wrap the lead rope around your hand when walking an animal bigger and stronger than yourself. If it bolts, the noose would tighten around your hand and you’ll get jerked and dragged along. Simply holding the rope firmly so it doesn’t slip from your hand should suffice.
6. Don’t put your fingers inside a goat’s mouth. Even though they don’t have upper teeth and don’t bite on purpose, sticking a finger in there to check the inside of their mouth or steal a cud could hurt you. The teeth on a goat’s lower gums are very sharp, able to snap off tree branches and peel bark off trees easily.
7.Wear protective clothing. Long-sleeved shirts and pants, gloves, boots. When working around cattle and horses, steel-toed boots are recommended. Ordinary leather or worse, running shoes, are no match to heavy horse hooves! Additionally, it won’t hurt to wear a helmet and shin guards when riding horses.
8. Keep facilities and equipment well-maintained. Make sure gates are swinging, hinges are greased, latches are working, and animal restraining gear are available. Keep walkways and work areas dry, tidy and free from tripping, falling and slipping hazards.
9. Wash hands and remove soiled clothing after handling livestock. People can catch diseases, like rabies and ringworm, from animals. If your animals show signs of illness, treat it promptly and monitor it closely. It pays to familiarize yourself with symptoms of common diseases. Remember to wear disposable rubber gloves when working with sick animals. And if they die, be sure to dispose of them properly and to disinfect possible contaminated areas. Always practice good sanitation and hygiene. If you have a cut or a wound, keep it covered while working with animals.
What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:
How To Be A Successful Homesteader Any article with that broad of title has to have at least a few great sentiments. When I started into this article I wasn’t sure if it would be a paint by numbers style article or something else. In my head I was envisioning a step by step breakdown …
Is it women’s work, or is it men’s work? From the outside looking in, it might be easy to assume that gender roles are frequently assigned to homestead tasks. It makes sense that people might think that, because homesteading requires a lot of specialized skills that many modern American occupations and lifestyles do not. And Hollywood has not helped dispel that image—I mean, who ever saw John Wayne baking cookies, right?
A lot of people picture the heavy lifting and icky stuff as male-only jobs, and the kitchen chores done by exclusively females. And on some homesteads, that is the case. But on many 21st-century homesteads—and I daresay on many homesteads in past centuries, as well—the question of who does what is more about skills, timing and necessity than anything else.
There is no wrong answer to the question of gender roles on the homestead. I’ve encountered couples and families who divide up work around the home and farm according to strict gender lines, and it works well for them. The men and boys work in the fields and forest and accomplish all things mechanical and dirty, while the women and girls keep food on the table and the home tidy and the children tended.
Other homesteads are anything but traditional. Many women work outside the home, providing financial security and access to health insurance with regular off-homestead jobs, and many men stay home to take care of kids, wash dishes, tend baby chicks, tend the garden, mow the lawn, and do errands. This system works great, too.
Most homesteads nowadays, however, seem to be an amalgamation of both traditional and non-traditional in most ways, not the least of which is who does what when it comes to chores and projects.
It is not uncommon to find a setup where she bakes bread and milks goats and drives the tractor and plucks chickens, while he goes to the kids’ baseball games and fixes the TV antenna and splits firewood and cans tomatoes. At my house, I’m in charge of livestock and my husband focuses on the vegetable garden. Some market gardeners I once met divide things up this way: she grows crops in one field using a tractor, and he manages another field using draft horses. An elderly neighbor who spent a lifetime homesteading with her husband told me that she often put in long days in her youth—she would work at her off-farm job all day, come home and fix supper, and head out to the fields to help with the haying until dark—but never resented it because he, too, was carrying a heavy load and working long hours.
Image source: Pixabay.com
All people, both men and women, have particular challenges that make it harder for them to tackle certain tasks that others can do with relative ease. They might lack the upper body strength needed for driving cedar fenceposts into the ground or have a phobia about snakes that makes them anxious about working in areas of snake habitat or have seasonal allergies that keep them away from certain plants.
Everyone has definite strengths, as well. They may have a special way with animals that makes them easier to manage, or have a knack for keeping engines running, or be tall enough to throw hay bales into the loft without a ladder, or so skilled at cooking that they can create a delicious meal out of anything.
It makes sense for the person who can do the task more easily to do it whenever possible, letting jobs fall naturally into the hands of the one most likely to do them best. Sometimes people are equally capable and it comes down to preference. There are jobs that some of us really hate doing, and others that we don’t mind or even enjoy. My husband rarely asks me to take on tasks that I hate if he doesn’t mind doing them and has the time, and I afford the same consideration for his preferences, as well.
Timing matters, too. Not unlike most households, homesteaders often divide up chores according to who is available to do so at the time it needs to be done. One parent does evening chores while the other helps with the 4-H project, the person whose route home from work is closest to the feed store picks up grain on the way by, and everyone takes turns sitting up all night with a pregnant animal headed for a difficult delivery.
Timing is important not only in day-to-day operations but also seasonally. The partner who stays out of the kitchen for most of the year might spend the harvest season knee-deep in pressure canners and blanch pots, and the one who prefers to work indoors might have little choice but to make an exception during certain conditions.
Skills and routine timing aside, real life on a homestead means that sometimes stuff happens when it happens, and whoever is available is the person who is responsible for it. The sick mare, the broken gate, the predator in the chicken house, the sourdough starter needing to be stirred, the beans needing more water as they bake, or the dog getting porcupine quills in its nose—the person whose watch it is at the time is the person who has to take care of it.
Many homesteaders work more or less together on projects. For my husband and me, the most rewarding part of what we do is the privilege of doing it side-by-side as much as we can. Rather than spend a day on the homestead on opposite ends of the homestead, we often join forces for everything from firewood-processing to cooking to barn cleanouts.
The answer to the question of gender workload division on the homestead is that there is no one right answer. In relationships where tradition is paramount, it is likely that division of labor might reflect that philosophy. Other couples and families might do things very differently. It all works toward a successful homesteading venture, especially if skill, timing, necessity and the joy of spending time together are all taken into account.
Do you agree or disagree? Share your thoughts in the section below:
Spring on the Homestead – A Busy Time Of Year! Austin Martin “Homesteady Live“ Audio in player below! On this show we catch up with you all! It has been a busy spring on our homestead. Usually, winter leaves us all sitting inside our homes, by a fire, dreaming of all the new things we want … Continue reading Spring on the Homestead – A Busy Time Of Year!→
Have you always dreamed of homesteading or living off the grid, but can’t do so since you don’t own any land?
There’s good news: There’s a variety of ways you can start homesteading without necessarily owning acreage.
After my family and I made the leap from city to country several gyears back, we rented a small property in a rural town that allowed us to plant vegetables and raise small livestock. We did this for several years before purchasing land of our own, enabling us to transition from urban to rural in a gradual and deliberate way.
The benefits of leasing over purchasing land are numerous: you shell out minimal expense, start farming without long-term commitment, and have an option to leave the property – and the farming lifestyle — if you decide it’s not for you. Call it an on-the-job training or a trial period. Leasing gives you a chance to hone your skills and test the land or area around you. Meanwhile, you’re able to gauge just how much space, structures, plants and animals you’ll need when you start homesteading on your own future property.
And because the place isn’t your own, you won’t feel obliged to do home improvement projects unless it’s totally needed, or you can negotiate a deduction from the following month’s rent. Instead, you can save those much-needed funds to raise capital for your own future farm.
Renting could be that important and helpful “middle step” between leaving the city, a full-time job and all the urban pursuits, and settling into your desired country lifestyle – for good.
Why Farmers Lease
Image source: Pixabay.com
There are different reasons landowners may want to lease their properties, big or small, productive or not. Some may be economic factors, others for personal reasons. With the average age of farmers at 57, there’s a substantial number of old-generation farmers looking to retire or slow down. They may opt to downsize their operations, partner with young farmers, or lease out a portion of their land to aspiring homesteaders.
Here’s where you enter the picture. If you’re a beginning farmer, you can learn the ropes by maintaining somebody else’s farm or starting a small one on rented land.
1. Plan your budget. Set limits when estimating the price and size of land you want to rent. Be realistic about your needs but allow some wiggle room to make improvements. Remember, you’ll need to be able to manage the property and provide any necessary add-ons, such as chicken coops, a hoop house, fencing, etc.
2. Search for land. Ask the folks at the farmer’s market, feed store, 4-H Club or farm-to-table organizations if they know of any farms being let out in your area or region. Don’t forget to check out your state’s agricultural extension office for listings. Online, there’s a host of farm-link websites that connect landholders with gardeners, new farmers and ranchers looking to rent land. These sites list available farms and forest lands for rent per state, region and all across the country. Many already have existing barns, pasture and water source. Some websites even allow land seekers to post an ad outlining their desired farm features – electricity, fencing, outbuildings, trees, access to water, land that hasn’t been sprayed for a few years, etc. And still other websites have a “matching service,” offering to facilitate meet-ups, negotiations and agreements. Check out the following:
3. Explore creative solutions. Don’t limit yourself to the standard cash-rent setup. There’s a variety of ways to do farming or homesteading other than self-sufficiency; you can also get into profitable ventures that could benefit both you and your landlord. There’s crop- or livestock-sharing, which allows you to split half of the income you make, in cash or kind.
Urban market gardener Curtis Stone does this, earning six figures a year by growing high-value, fast-growing vegetables in just half an acre he leases in British Columbia, Canada. He simply rents neighbors’ lawns, yards and idle properties in the suburbs, and pays his landlords $20-30 worth of crops each week.
Another possible arrangement is a lease-to-own, which works especially well with older farmers looking to downsize or retire within the next few years. If you’re a young farmer, look into partnership agreements. These pair young farmers with established ones nearing retirement.
4.Formalize. After you and your future landlord have agreed on the details of your land use, finalize everything on paper. Review and evaluate your agreement periodically and adjust wherever needed or desired.
5. Start slow. Work on a garden size and number of animals that you and the property can handle. If you’re building additional structures that your landlord won’t pay for, make sure they’re the collapsible and portable kind. Container gardens, rainwater barrels and electric fences are examples of such removable fixtures.
6. Small space? Go micro. If you end up renting a suburban property whose owner will allow you to do backyard homesteading, wonderful! Go ahead and use whatever available space you find to grow food. Just remember to be a good neighbor. Ask next-door residents if they wouldn’t mind if you kept some hens or a couple of pygmy goats. As goodwill, offer them a number of eggs or a bottle of milk each week, once you start producing consistently.
Even if you’re renting an apartment or a high-rise condo in the city, you can still dip your toes into homesteading. Grow salad greens and medicinal herbs on your balcony. Learn to can and make your own jams and pickles. Bake bread from scratch. Make your own soap and cleaning products. There’s 101 ways to begin your journey toward homesteading and self-sufficiency. You don’t really need to own land to do so.
What advice would you add for homesteading while renting? Share your tips in the section below:
If your grandmother was anything like mine, it seemed like there was nothing she couldn’t do. She could sew just about everything, grow just about anything, and seemed to know just about everything!
This is because my grandmother raised children during the Great Depression. She learned to make things herself … or do without! She passed some of these skills on to my mother, and I picked up a few myself, but I was thinking the other day about things my grandmother did that she really never talked about.
Looking back, I can see that these little “hacks” of hers were pretty darn useful, yet for some reason, she never felt the need to explain them.
So, in this article, I want to share the top 5 hacks that my grandmother practiced, but never talked about, just in case your grandmother never shared them with you, either!
1. Keep straight pins sharp
My grandmother kept two pin cushions. One was the typical cloth “tomato,” but she also had another one that was simply a bar of soap. I foolishly thought that my grandmother was just too cheap to buy a new pin cushion, but low and behold, I later found one of my friends using a bar of soap as a pin cushion. When I asked him why, he told me that this kept his straight pins sharp and the soap made them glide through the fabric easier.
2. No more lonely socks
When I would lose a sock or if by chance one sock developed holes or the elastic wore out before the other one did, I would give them to my grandmother. This was at her request. I never asked why she wanted them; I assumed she would make sock puppets (which she did on occasion) or use them for some “silly” purpose, but it wasn’t until I saw my mother use an old sock for dusting that the light bulb went off in my head.
I was buying those microfiber towels for dusting, and here the answer to dusting was right under my nose. My old socks work just as well as my microfiber towels — and they don’t cost a dime!
3. Umbrella or sunhat?
My grandmother was fond of saying things that seemed strange as a kid but later made me laugh, such as “if you can see the moon and stars, it won’t rain.” Well, if you can see the moon and stars, that means there are no clouds! She would go stand in the front yard and stare at the clouds for a minute or two, and then come inside and announce whether we should take umbrellas or hats for a sunny day. It was many years before I realized what she was doing; grandma was watching the movements of clouds. Clouds that become bigger as they move toward you (of course) indicate it likely will rain later.
4. No more sticky salt
It wasn’t until I moved to a more humid climate that I realized why my grandmother always filled her salt shakers with a mixture of uncooked rice and salt. The uncooked rice absorbed the moisture in the air, allowing the salt to stay drier and move more freely. I discovered this while Googling how to stop the salt from clumping! My grandmother knew this secret years before Google did!
5. Loose screws
No, I’m not talking about your in-laws; I mean those nail holes or screws with holes that have become enlarged over time. Occasionally, you can simply use a larger screw or nail, but with some items, such as a wooden kitchen cabinet door with a handle that will only take a certain size nail, you need a better hack than super glue! This is a true grandma hack that everyone can appreciate. Simply take a wooden toothpick and insert it into the hole. Break it off and then re-use your nail or screw. If it’s a really big hole, try two toothpicks. If grandma didn’t show you this one, perhaps grandpa did.
If you were lucky enough to come from a family who believed in handing down hacks like these the way some families handed down clothes, consider yourself fortunate!
What are your favorite grandma or grandpa hacks? Share your tips in the section below:
Spring is perhaps the best time of the year to experiment with super-efficient heating and cooling systems, since the temperature can flip from chilly one day to warm the next.
However, another reason why spring may be a good time to get those systems up and running is because temperature swings can strain our AC systems. Allow me to explain. Much like automobiles, the stopping and starting of the AC motor — again and again — consumes lots of energy and also can lead to earlier-than-expected repairs. This is especially true for homes that have a heat pump on their system.
But there are innovative, off-grid, eco-efficient ways to stay comfortable during spring, no matter the temperature. And all three can run without the grid:
1. Compost hot-water system
Whether the idea came from a Ph.D. in engineering or a backwoods farmer with a huge amount of creative common sense, I wish I could shake that person’s hand for inventing the compost water heater. The system is set up by winding a heat-capable hose through the compost pile, and then routing it back into the building that requires hot water.
Hey, it’s no secret that compost generates heat. Heck, when piles of hay and mulch are left alone, they can spontaneously combust. So, why not put that kind of thermal energy to work? Chances are that you probably have a compost pile somewhere on the homestead, right?
2. The 5-gallon bucket swamp cooler
For those of you who live in the west or southwestern part of the U.S., you’re probably well-acquainted with the concept of the swamp cooler. When water evaporates, it will expend a tiny amount of energy and remove heat in the process – similar to how our sweat glands work. That’s how swamp coolers work.
Obviously, this system doesn’t exactly serve those of us who live in traditionally humid summer climates, but there’s one extremely handy way to harness the science of a swamp cooler and combine it with a ridiculous level of portability. And since this thing will make even a small solar panel array barely break a sweat, I figured the bucket swamp cooler made the cut.
3. Improvised geothermal climate control
And last but not least, I give you the whole kit-and-caboodle: the improvised geothermal climate control system. This one will also require low-wattage pumps and fans, but again, solar panels ought to do the trick with this one, as well.
The system essentially works like this: Even just a few feet below the ground, temps tend to settle at around a brisk 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit, holding steadily all year-round. In fact, if you’re able to dig deep enough, temps even can approach freezing. That’s why, for this particular system, the climate-control magic is derived from its subterranean water supply. In its most basic form, the system uses cool underground water from your homestead’s well to get the job done. To learn more, check out this great article.
All you need to do is move a little water and air, and the earth itself can take care of the hard part.
Have you experimented with any of these systems? Share your tips in the section below:
Most people today lead busy lives. Between work, kids, house, errands, religious and civic organizations, volunteering, and personal time, there is usually not enough time in the day to squeeze it all in. And if that were not enough demands on people’s time, some folks add homesteading—and all the peripheral responsibilities accompanying it—into the mix.
It is little wonder that even the most seasoned homesteaders, when facing the challenges of fitting not only ordinary life into their schedules but the added pressures of livestock care and gardening, as well, can feel overwhelmed at times.
The good news is that it can be done. The bad news, or at least the news that may not be exactly what we all want it to be, is that sometimes compromises are required.
Here are a few ways to help fit homesteading into an already jam-packed life:
First, determine priorities. The first step in doing this is to identify those critical tasks and activities which cannot be left undone. Asking yourself what is the worst that can happen if it does not get done can help determine which must be placed on the first tier. For most people, the homesteading matters of highest rank are those involving animals. If lawns become overgrown or weeds grow in the garden or some of the lettuce bolts before it gets eaten, none of that is as potentially catastrophic as animals that do not get fed, watered, milked, vetted, and put in at night.
Every homestead and season has its crucial must-dos. Tasks such as getting the hay in before rain, sitting up all night with a sick calf, and covering the tomatoes before a frost usually leap to the front of the line. But if your homestead is suffering a drought or if a piece of the barn roof is loose and in danger of ripping off during the next windstorm, you might choose to juggle those in, too.
Sometimes it helps to compare the cost—in terms of time spent and other measures—of doing something versus the cost of not doing it. For example, will the time it takes building low tunnels over the berries now outweigh the time spent deterring hungry birds and suffering the loss of harvest later? Will getting the new woodshed built this season be worth it in terms of lower heating costs from burning better-dried firewood?
Image source: Pixabay.com
After figuring out which tasks cannot be left undone, flip to the other end of the spectrum and ask yourself what tasks and projects could possibly be superfluous. Homesteading is such an exciting endeavor and has so many possibilities that it’s hard to know when to say when. Is it possible to let the flower beds along the driveway go or maintain fewer birdfeeders or downsize the burgeoning goat herd or maybe heat your home with less labor-intensive fuel for part of the year? Perhaps the barn addition or new greenhouses can be put on hold for later, as well.
Once the most urgent and least urgent priorities are determined, those remaining in the middle might feel more manageable and can be eased into the correct place in line.
Having the order of importance figured out, it helps to write it all down. There is no single best format for everyone, but do try to include some of both short-term and long-term objectives. It is important to first have a conversation with others to make sure no mistaken assumptions are being made, and then create a written plan for the homestead and everyone involved in it. Having goals on paper is not only useful in its own right, but it helps to further refine direction and to prevent straying off target.
With priorities and a written goal in place, the next step is to make it manageable. One way to do this is to chop projects up into bite-size chunks. It is good to keep the big picture in sight and be mindful of long-term dreams, but trying to achieve too much too soon can be overwhelming. It makes more sense to carve off some attainable pieces of the overall scope and focus on a few at a time.
A technique that works for me is to set finite limits. Homestead tasks often go the direction of the children’s book where a mouse is given a cookie, then wants milk to go with it, and then wants to clean up afterwards, and it never ends. Falling face-first into projects that never seem to reach completion can be discouraging, so it helps to set end caps in place before starting.
I like to set forth a goal that is lofty yet achievable, and promise myself a reward when it is done. Sometimes the reward is a fun or easier activity, and other times just the intrinsic satisfaction of making progress or knowing that the task is done is enough. I might commit to splitting firewood for the duration of one tankful of gas in the splitter and take the rest of the day off to go paddling, or plan to spend exactly two hours working in the garden before moving on to some other job.
The next step toward homestead time management is to share responsibilities with others in the household. A crucial task for leaders in any organization is to train others to do their jobs. It is folly to believe that you are the only person who can do what you do. Delegate to others, no matter how difficult it is for you to let go. By doing so, you will relieve your own stress, help others build proficiency and confidence, and create a more efficient homestead operation.
In the end, there are only 24 hours in a day. No matter how wisely we use our time, everyone must accept the fact that we cannot do it all. One way to help embrace this concept is to measure progress according to accomplishments instead of failures. Rather than look at unfinished work and feel dragged down by shortcomings, it makes more sense to pat ourselves on the back for all we have gotten done.
By prioritizing, planning, delegating and focusing on the positive, homesteaders can maximize their efforts and get more done than ever thought possible.
What advice would you add? Share your thoughts in the section below:
I first became interested in homesteading when my husband and I purchased a house on a small suburban lot. The yard was filled with typical city landscaping — a boxwood hedge, a couple of potentillas, a lilac, some overgrown evergreens and a lot of grass taking up the space in between.
The one bright spot in all of this was the fruit trees. Instead of the usual arbor vitae, the former owner had planted an apple and two cherry trees along the fence line — not decorative cherries but a real-life Bing and Rainier. When summer arrived, all three trees produced a prolific amount of fruit. So much so that the neighbors often stopped by and asked if they could join in on the harvest. We were happy to oblige.
It was then and there that my ideas about the “right” way to landscape changed. Since homesteading was a priority for us, why not tear out a few of the ornamentals that came with the house and replace them with fruit-bearing bushes and ground covers? The formal landscaping “look: would still be intact but it would also come with the added bonus of producing fruit.
Over time and with a lot of experimentation, I was able to determine a number of trees, shrubs, flowers and ground covers that behaved well in a suburban landscape but also took me one step closer to my ultimate goal of becoming more self-sufficient. Here is a list of some of my favorites.
1. Plums — The size of a fully mature plum tree varies depending on the rootstock. Smaller-sized trees use the semi-dwarf root stock Mariana 2624. This rootstock will produce a tree between 10-15 feet in height at maturity. It acclimates well to a variety of climates and soil types. My favorite plum is the Shiro.
Shiros tend to be loaded with an outstanding display of white blossoms in the spring, an abundance of golden orb-shaped fruits in the summer and a fiery gold display of foliage in the fall. The plums themselves are tangy and sweet at the same time without the squishiness that can be a turn-off to non-plum lovers. They make excellent jam and can be dried for later use. These trees respond well to regular pruning and are fairly forgiving to individuals who are new to the art of bonsai.
Image source: Pixabay.com
2. Mulberries — Mulberries are incredibly easy to grow and can reach a mature height of more than 30 feet with a spread of 35 feet. They have an open form when properly pruned during the first years of growth, and naturally exhibit generous, graceful spacing between branches. For this reason, Mulberries make excellent shade trees. The fruits are delicious and attract a variety of seasonal birds, such as cedar waxwings and tanagers. Mulberries can be eaten fresh, made into pies and jams, or dried for later use. Mulberry juice can be fermented into an excellent wine. Mulberries are rich in anthocyanins, iron, protein and a host of vitamins and minerals that combat cancer and premature aging. In the fall, mulberry leaves morph into a breathtaking display of canary yellow foliage that will be the envy of the neighborhood.
3. Honeyberries — Honeyberries are a small shrub native to Russia. At maturity they are loaded with elongated blue fruits that have a similar flavor and texture to blueberries. Honeyberries are hardy and easy to care for. Harvest often falls a week or two before blueberry season, which is ideal for individuals who are interested in having a continuous source of fresh fruit in their yard. In the fall, honeyberries exhibit a rainbow of red and gold foliage.
4. Strawberries — As a groundcover, strawberries can’t be beat. Over the summer, they produce a profusion of runners and can quickly cover a patch of abandoned ground. Strawberries require very little care once established, provided they are watered regularly. To propagate strawberries, transplant runners in the spring or fall. Occasionally remove older, woody plants to keep beds productive. One of the most flavorful strawberries for jams and fresh eating is the variety Shuksan. For long-term storage, strawberries can be frozen whole or in pieces. They also can be pureed and dried into fruit leather.
This list is by no means comprehensive. Edible landscaping is all around us, once you know where to look. Now is the time to start transitioning your yard into a homesteader’s oasis.
What would you add to our list? Share your fruit-growing tips in the section below:
Any homesteading off-gridder knows that income from selling produce isn’t always sufficient. Costs for the building and repair of farm structures, purchasing additional livestock, veterinary expenses, real estate taxes — and everything else in between – can leave a homesteader struggling to keep afloat.
If making extra money is in your bucket list right now, then here’s a few things you could consider. The key is to think outside the box. Look for new or unusual needs in your community, and find ways to meet them. Keep an eye out for opportunities that may come up. If you start thinking like an entrepreneur and marketing like a pro – and of course, delivering extraordinary goods – customers will soon be knocking at your door.
And with a little hard work, you can be making thousands of extra dollars.
Image source: Pixabay.com
1. Conduct farm demos and nature tours. Give talks and workshops. Share farming and bushcraft skills with schools, scout clubs, youth and church groups. Gather all your pets and farm animals for a weekend petting zoo. Hold a fall festival, complete with a pumpkin patch, games and bounce houses. Train large goats to pull a cart, and offer kids goat-drawn buggy rides! Do hiking, horse-riding, ATV, mountain-biking and snowmobile tours – complete with a picnic of your family’s specialty meal. If you have wooded acreage, consider building platforms on treetops with hanging bridges or ziplines between them. Offer paintball games. The amount of money people are willing to pay for unique outdoor experiences can be astonishing, especially in areas where there are scenic spots.
2. Rent your land. Depending on the size, features and proximity of your land to towns, industry and tourist attractions, you could rent a portion of it for different uses. Camping. Firing range. Outdoor team-building workshops. Location for film and photo shoots.
Parking or storage for trailers, ATVs, snowmobiles or boats. Billboard space, if it’s near a freeway. Solar farms and wind turbines. Airstrips or heliports. If you live next to other farms, consider leasing portions of your property as extra cropland or grazing area, seasonally or annually.
Image source: Pixabay.com
3. Rent your structures. Rent your barn for special events like workshops, parties, Thanksgiving banquets and wedding receptions. There’s also good money to be made in leasing a room or cottage for a bed-and-breakfast stay or a winter holiday retreat. Depending on where you live, the attractions in your area and the recreation that can be done, you could lease a small cabin for a good fee. Potential clients are individuals or couples looking to get away from the city on weekends; a writer, theologian or doctorate student wanting peace and solitude to write and meditate; a young family looking to familiarize their children with the outdoors. If you have a camper, an old shipping container or a yurt that you had used before moving into your current home, you could use that for starters. Then if business grows, you can start thinking of building a bigger cottage that can host bigger families. Marketing is key — register with your local tourism board and with AirBnB.com.
4. Offer specialized services. Carpentry, welding, plumbing, car maintenance and farm equipment repair are trades that are always needed in rural areas. So are trucking and hauling goods like hay, lumber, livestock and all kinds of produce. Don’t think it’s too late for you to acquire any new skills, too. If there’s an opportunity, learn new trades that can be marketable in your area: butchery, tanning, brick-making, weaving, blacksmithing, shoeing horses. Even simple things like tree-pruning and brush-clearing are chores people are either too busy or lazy to do, and would rather others do for them.
5. Teach art, sports or a special skill. Do you have a unique talent others might want to learn? Even with this age of You Tube tutorials, there may be students in your area looking for teachers that can offer specialized, on-the-spot demonstration — without having to be licensed instructors.
They may just want mentoring or coaching. If you’re great with people and are passionate about your craft, consider teaching it. Photography. Martial arts. Piano. Massage therapy. Herbalism. Home-brewing. Permaculture. The list goes on and on.
Image source: Pixabay.com
6. Do professional service online. There are dozens of websites where you could sign up for part or full-time contracts: Flexjobs, Upwork, Fiverr, People per Hour, and Guru. These are location-independent jobs you can do whenever and wherever, if you have fast, reliable Internet. Most of these sites allow you to create a personal profile where you can outline your credentials and provide samples of your work. Once you clinch a few good, loyal clients, you’ll be good:
Virtual assistant: data entry, online research, making reservations. (Check FancyHands.com for jobs like this.)
Web maintenance or managing someone’s social media account.
Legal and financial consulting.
You don’t need a teaching degree to help young or beginning students to learn a new subject you’ve already mastered. You can even teach English to new migrants or overseas students.
7.Make and sell crafts. Do you fancy refurbishing furniture? Repurposing old doors, windows and used pallets into unique new home decor? How about making scented candles, hand-spun yarn, pottery and faux jewelry? You can supply these to your local craft store or sell online, through Etsy and eBay. Or, you can start your own online store – it’s a lot cheaper and easier than buying or renting commercial space.
8. Sell non-edible farm produce. Sell goods that are off-shoots of what you already grow and do in your homestead. Timber. Firewood. Medicinal herbs. Fresh or dried flowers. Exotic ornamental plants. Vermicompost as potting soil. Worms for worm bins. Soaps and essential oils. Rabbits, dogs or birds that others can keep as pets.
With some of the above, you’ll have to check local and federal laws for restrictions that may apply. And particularly for those that involve some level of risk, you’d do best to include a liability insurance.
Go the extra mile on advertising. Capitalize on social media, telling everyone in your life that you’re in business. Inform your neighbors and the local chamber of commerce. Network with affiliate industries. Leave posters at the community center, church bulletin board, local college, library, grocery store, pet stores, veterinary supply outlets, even on your vehicle.
Focus on one business first, grow it, and then move on to another as time and capacity permit. Each small venture potentially could have a snowball effect. If you have a spouse or older children that you could recruit, ask them to pitch in. You’ll be establishing a successful family enterprise sooner than you think.
What would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:
If you’re thinking about raising a couple of hogs for your family’s freezer, the first place to start is by deciding on the type of pig you want.
Heritage hogs and commercial meat hogs are distinctly different in many ways. Depending upon your space constraints, budget, timeline and individual beliefs you may find one better than the other. Heritage hogs are more self-sufficient but slower to grow. Meat hogs are fast growers but require more maintenance. And when it comes to the quality of the meat, it’s like comparing apples to oranges.
Heritage animals were bred by our colonial forefathers to adapt well to the local environment with little maintenance. In America, common breeds include Choctaw, Guinea Hog, Mulefood, Ossabaw Island and Gloucester Old Spot. These breeds were developed to exhibit better foraging abilities, longevity, maternal instincts, and resistance to disease and parasites when compared to selectively bred commercial breeds.
Here’s four traits of heritage hogs you need to know:
1. Heritage hogs are cheaper to feed (but need more space). You can set a heritage hog loose on acres of pasture and allow it to forage for the bulk of its diet, saving you tons in feed costs. But this means it must have permanent access to pasture. This is the first, and largest, discrepancy between the two types of hogs. How much space are you willing to dedicate as “hog land?” Heritage hogs were developed to fend for themselves on open land.
For a small farm without an acre to spare for hog pasture, heritage breeds may not be the right choice. Commercial hogs that were developed to thrive in very small spaces get by perfectly well on as little as 20 square feet of space per hog. These breeds include Duroc, Hampshire, Yorkshire and Landraces. They will do just fine on dirt; however, these types of hogs need access to commercial hog feed 24/7 to meet their growing potential.
2. Heritage hogs are heartier. Not only are heritage breeds raised more humanely than your standard commercial CAFO pig, but they are also much more hearty. Thanks to their DNA, heritage breeds are naturally resistant to a variety of diseases and parasites. They are able to adapt to their environment without any help from you. You won’t ever have to juice up your Old Spots with antibiotics or growth hormones. Nor will you have to give them regular de-wormer. While commercial-breed hogs may not specifically require antibiotics or other medications, they are more susceptible to disease and parasites than heritage hogs. They also don’t deal as well with extreme weather conditions.
Guinea Hog. Image source: USDA
3. Heritage pork is more flavorful. When you think about the pork you will get as a reward in the end, a big factor is the taste you want. Commercial-type hogs have a leaner carcass, producing a light pink meat and little lard. This is the classic “supermarket” pork taste that so many people are accustomed to and may prefer. However, darker heritage pork has a more full, complex flavor; it is well-marbled with fat, meaning it is more juicy and tender. Like all grass-fed meat, heritage pork is also healthier for you. It is higher in good fatty acids, beta carotene, and vitamins D and E.
Of course, not everything about heritage hogs is great. Let’s examine the one negative.
Caveat: They’re Slow Growers
Though the cost of feeding commercial hogs might seem daunting, remember that you will only be feeding them for a matter of months. Commercial hogs are bred for fast growth and good feed efficiency. A 50-pound feeder hog can reach market weight in as little as 100 days. If you are looking for some farm-raised meat and needing it fast, commercial hogs are the way to go. This is especially beneficial if you don’t like having hogs around full-time. Raise a couple of Hampshire-Durocs from August to November and have a pork-filled freezer and pig-free yard until next summer.
Though some heritage breeds mature faster, most take over a year to reach a weight worth taking to the butcher, some even longer. This is due in part to their genetics makeup and in part to their diet. If you are supplementing your heritage hogs with commercial feed, you may be feeding them more than a commercial hog in the long run.
As far as temperament goes, it can be a toss-up. Both types have more docile and more aggressive breeds. If you are looking for a pig with personality, Guinea Hogs can be real sweethearts. However, you may find raising pigs you’ve bonded with a big drawback when it’s time to hit the butcher’s block. Ultimately, if you want some quick, low-cost pork you raised yourself, then crossbreed commercial hogs are the way to go. If you want to preserve an environmentally sustainable breed that practically cares for itself, get a heritage hog.
What is your favorite type of hog? Share your advice in the section below:
Have you ever noticed that you never feel like you are ever really done when it comes to a homestead?
I realized how frequently I feel like I am caught with my bloomers down last year. It felt like I wasn’t prepared for winter.
But then before I knew it, spring was upon us, and I was chasing my tail again.
So here are a list of spring chores that you should keep on your radar so that your homestead will run smoother. I’m happy to say with a little more organization, I feel much better prepared for my homestead duties this year.
Remember, organization is key to homesteading. Here are a few ways to help your organization along:
1. Nurse Your Garden
If you don’t plan on buying all of your seedlings (which I don’t recommend), then you’ll need to start your own.
Depending upon where you live will depend greatly upon when you need to start your seeds. Here is a great seed starter calculator. However, whenever you can start your seeds, do so. This will save you lots of money and also give your plants ample amount of time to grow.
2. Bring the Babies Home
If you do not set your own eggs, then the spring is the right time to purchase new chicks and ducklings. This is the right time also to purchase chicks that you plan on raising for meat.
Also, if you purchase a hog to raise for meat instead of keeping a breeding pair of pigs, the spring is the right time to purchase it. Keep turkeys in mind too. If you want to purchase just a few turkeys to eat on special occasions instead of raising a breeding pair, then you’ll want to purchase them in the spring too.
3. Rev Up the Incubator
My husband runs our incubator year round. Between it and the massive brooder box he built, we are able to sustain baby chicks, ducklings, and keets year round.
However, if you don’t have a small hatchery in your backyard, then you’ll probably only want to start incubating eggs in the spring and summer months. This means that the spring is a great time to start pulling eggs out of your coops and giving them a chance to hatch.
4. Build Tractors
We use a lot of tractors around our homestead. They are great for baby bunnies, chicks, ducklings, and keets when they are starting out.
However, this means that we must build and repair them in the spring while the babies are still too small for them. Then when the babies get bigger, we can place them in the tractors to move them around the land and allow them to safely forage. This give the animals a healthier diet and saves us a lot of money on feed.
5. Get Ready to Milk
As spring comes around so does the baby boom usually. If you have goats, cows, or any other animal that you use for dairy purposes, then you’ll need to have your milking supplies ready.
We use a basic set-up with a milking station and a pail. However, I have to make sure that my milking stand is in good condition and that my pail is still clean and ready for milk. It is better to make necessary repairs or purchases before it is time to milk. That way you aren’t caught off guard.
6. Prepare Your Birthing Kit
Being prepared for birth is a necessity so you get the most out of your homestead. For rabbits, you need to ensure they have nesting boxes and hay. Be sure your brooder is cleaned out and ready for baby birds.
Though, I actually have a birthing kit when I’m expecting baby goats. It is nothing fancy. It is a laundry basket I purchased at the dollar store. Inside of the laundry basket I have fresh towels and blankets. I also include some latex gloves as well.
However, each spring is a good time to make sure it is easily accessible and that I have everything I need inside the basket. Goats don’t really need much help when birthing, but I’m usually present and there to pull (if needed) and to help my nanny goats clean their kids as I feel sorry for them trying to clean one kid and birth another.
7. Take Down Winterizing Materials
Depending upon where you live, you may have to winterize your coop, hutches, or bee hives. When warmer weather finally comes around, you need to go through and take all of the layers off.
Even though I live in the south, I still winterize to some extent. Our rabbit hutches are layered with more wind breaking material and so are our coops. When summer hits, we remove some of the layering because they just don’t need it.
So spring is the perfect time to go through and shed some of those heavier layers of protection for your animals and bees.
8. Clean Out Your Sheds and Barns
Sheds and barns are used heavily during the warmer months. It is important that they are organized so that you can find everything that you need as efficiently as possible. My husband use to be the world’s worst at just laying stuff down or not putting it in its place.
Finally, I had enough and my oldest son and I went to town on organizing things. It is amazing how much more functional our homestead is now. My husband has even become more organized because it truly makes life that much easier.
So go ahead and clean out your barns, buildings, and storage sheds while you can. It will make your summer and fall much easier.
9. Mend Your Fences
It is a fact of life that things break. Unfortunately, a lot of things break during the colder winter months. Fences are often times one of those things. Something will happen while it is cold and snowy outside.
Often for us, we’ll slap a band aid on it until the warmer months. However, when the warmer months roll around go ahead and mend those fences. It will save you a lot of time later when you aren’t having to round up animals that have escaped through your band aid.
10. Repair Your Buildings
Buildings are not cheap nor easy to build. Taking care of them is a necessity. Over time though, they wear down.
So instead of just letting them fall to ruin, make necessary repairs during the spring. If you had a roof collapse from the weight of the snow, go ahead and put a new roof on it with whatever materials you have on hand. It will save you a lot of money in the long run.
11. Repair Equipment
In case you haven’t noticed my theme yet, spring is a great time to make repairs. The reason is that the busy season is almost upon you. You are making preparations for when your homestead is in full swing again.
So go ahead and get your equipment in tip top shape so you won’t lose precious times in those warm months having to fix a tiller, a tractor, or whatever else you need to help your garden along. This will certainly make your life easier later if you make the time now.
12. Place Your Order
Some times we have to break down and purchase things. I hate those moments because I’m frugal. Yet, they must be done. For instance, I can’t grow a tractor part,gardening tools, or even farm equipment. I can purchase them inexpensively or even second hand, but it still requires I place an order.
So if there are items that you absolutely need and you have to purchase, spring is a good time to go ahead and get it over with. That way you’ll have what you need for the busy season, and hopefully the busy season will be a profitable one as well in order for your to recoup some of the money spent.
13. Build Garden Beds
Every year we add a few more garden beds. It just seems that we want to plant more so we naturally create more space for it. If you have any garden beds that need repair, or if you are needing to build extra space, then consider this a good time to begin building them.
So when spring rolls around, try a few of these garden bed ideas to get your amped up for the grow season.
14. Harvest Winter Vegetables
If you live in a warm enough climate, you can still grow vegetables during the winter months. We usually grow vegetables like carrots, radishes, turnip greens, and lettuce throughout the winter.
However, before we use the gardening space in the spring I have to be sure to go through the beds and pull up any left over veggies. This is particularly true for carrots as they hide very easily beneath the soil.
15. Clean Up Winter Greenhouse
If you have a cold frame or a fully heated green house, chances are you may use it to grow vegetables throughout the winter. I think that is awesome! I have a smaller greenhouse I use to start seedlings and grow fodder for my animals throughout the winter months.
But these greenhouses have to be cleaned up and ready for a fresh cycle of planting. The spring is a good time to clean them up and also to plant in them again for the next cycle.
16. Mix Up the Compost
Planting season is upon you if spring time has rolled around. In early spring is a good time to mix up your compost. This gives everything a good chance at complete decomposition by the time you need it for planting in around mid to late spring.
So keep this in mind in the early months of spring. Compost is a vital part of having a successful harvest during the summer and fall harvest.
17. Plant the Future Harvest
If you expect to have a harvest, then you must first plant the seeds. Mid to late spring is when most items need to be planted. This can be a large task depending upon what size garden you have.
We have a larger garden so it usually takes me a couple of days to get everything planted. I also feel like I’ve had a tremendous work out by the time I’m done. So expect to put in a lot of work with this chore.
18. Plant Some Eye Candy
I love flowers. I know a homestead is meant to be functional, but for me, I want it to be gorgeous too. This is why décor around my homestead is super important to me.
So if you love having a beautiful homestead too, then use the spring months to plant gorgeous flowers in beds and in window boxes to add some natural color to your property.
19. Create an Outdoor Living Space
I have lots of outdoor sitting space. I want my home to be a place that sustains us while also being a place that we can enjoy.
For this reason, I create outdoor living space. We have a back porch that gives us a shaded space to rest on hot days. I have a front porch that gives me a great place to relax at night and enjoy the view.
However, when spring rolls around I must put out my outdoor furniture in order to enjoy these spaces. So if you have outdoor furniture the spring is a great time to pull it back out and enjoy those outdoor spaces again.
20. Clean Your Heating Source
I’ve mentioned that we do have HVAC, but we also use awood stove to heat our home during the winter months. When spring time hits, I know it is time to clean out the wood stove one final time as well as the ash pale.
Also, I need to clean my HVAC unit so it can be ready to blow cool air as those warm temps are just right around the corner. This is a good time to perform routine maintenance on these items as well.
21. Work on Your Water Barrels
We use multiple water catchment systems around our house. You should consider these options if you aren’t familiar with rain catchment systems.
However, the spring is a great time to make sure your rain water systems are working as they are supposed to. Use this time to do routine maintenance so you can water your gardens and animals without having to use the water for your home.
22. Defrost and Clean Out Your Freezer
Spring is upon you so the cycle of refilling the freezer for winter has begun again. This is a good time (when it should be at its emptiest state) to defrost the freezer, clean it out, and reorganize the items that are left with in it.
This way you will be able to know what is oldest and eat it first so nothing wastes. You’ll also be able to spot if your freezer needs any maintenance. Plus, you can take inventory of what you have available to eat in your freezer as well.
23. Get Your Pantry Up to Par
I don’t know about you, but my pantry can become a mess rather quickly. I have multiple children who rummage through it and have a way of taking my organization and throwing it to the four winds.
So spring is a good time to get a grip on that situation. I go through the pantry, reorganize, and rotate canned items so I know what I need to eat first. Plus, I make room for the items I’ll be canning in the upcoming seasons.
24. Make Room for Staples
My husband works a regular job while I work at home and then we homestead on top of that. However, his job is based upon work load. So he usually makes a lot more money in the summer in comparison to the winter months.
So I use these months to stock up on staples while I have the extra cash. But I also have to make room in my home to hold these extra staples. Spring is a good time to start making room and dedicating certain spaces in the pantry, closets, etc. to hold certain staples that you can buy cheaper in the summer and use all year.
A few examples of items I’ll buy in the spring and summer are wheat seeds (I grind my own wheat), sugar, baking supplies (like baking soda and baking powder), and often I find coffee cheaper during these months. So I go ahead and stock up for the year so in the winter when I don’t have as much stretch to my budget, these items are already stored away for when I need them.
25. Clean Your Homestead Home
You didn’t think in all of this preparation I was going to forget about your actual dwelling space, did you?
Well, I didn’t. Having a clean house is so important because it helps to keep things organized and that just makes life function so much better.
Not to mention, there are certain areas in our homes (like behind the stove and refrigerator) that need some attention every 6 months or so. This is a good time to make the time to clean these items so you start the busy season of homesteading with an organized dwelling space.
26. Pull Out the Cool Stuff
I’m talking about temperature cool. Spring starts bringing warmer temps with it so you’ll need to put away the warm winter clothing and linens.
Instead, you’ll need to replace them with lighter weight options. This will keep you comfortable and organized too.
27. Clean Your Canners
Canners need a good scrub down. I usually scrub mine down after I complete a season of canning and then again before I begin. You might think that odd of me, but I want to make sure they are put away clean.
Plus, I want to make sure that all of the dust that can gather on them during the winter is removed. It is also a good time for me to check my canners out and make sure they are functioning properly so they can do their jobs.
28. Go Shopping for Canning Season
Spring time is the time to shop for canning supplies. If you need to buy a new canner you better do it before the season really gets started.
Also, you must buy lids. If you live in my neck of the woods, when lids come into town in certain stores with the lowest prices, you have to hustle or you’ll miss out.
So use this time of year to get prepared for canning season and make sure you have all of the supplies you need.
Well, there are 28 chores that should help you use your time in the spring to better prepare for the busy time of year that is only right around the corner.
But I’m curious what chores you do around your homestead in the spring time. Do you have anything specific that isn’t mentioned here?
Please let us know by leaving your thoughts in the comment section below.
When choosing a meat animal for your homestead you may begin wondering, “What animal will get me the most bang for my buck?”
Each animal uses feed differently, and some are able to turn that feed into pounds of meat more efficiently than others. This is usually expressed by what’s called a feed conversion ratio. Feed conversion ratios are a rate of measure that expresses the efficiency with which an animal converts feed into the desired output. For cattle, broiler chickens and pigs, the desired output is body mass. For dairy cows, the desired output is milk. For the purposes of this article, we are just going to focus on animals where the desired output is body mass, or pounds of meat.
The mathematical formula for a feed conversion ratio is as follows: FCR = feed given / animal weight gain.
This feed conversion ratio (FCR) is typically expressed as one number and is dimensionless, meaning it is not effected by whatever units of measure are used to calculate the ratio. A low FCR means that the animal is efficient at converting feed to the desired output, while a higher FCR means the animal is relatively inefficient. In other words, the lower the FCR, the higher the weight gain obtained from feed. It is important to remember that FCR can be calculated using several different metrics.
Some farmers calculate FCR based on live weight, for example, while some calculate based on dressed weight. Although a good place to start when looking at the feed efficiency of different livestock, FCRs also can be hard to compare between species unless the feed in question is of similar suitability to the animal in question.
That being said, let’s dive into the different FCRs of some common homestead animals.
Image source: Pixabay.com
One of the most common animals found on any homestead is broiler chickens. Broiler chickens are chickens being raised for meat, and their FCR varies widely depending on the breed raised and the conditions in which they were raised. Commercial livestock operations boast broiler chicken FCRs of 1.8 for Cornish Crosses raised in factory farm conditions. Chickens raised on pasture or free-range systems are more active and therefore have higher energy needs, translating into a higher FCR. Cornish Cross broilers can have an average FCR of 3.5 when raised on pasture, while some heritage breeds of chickens have FCRs of 4.0 or higher.
Many homesteaders choose to raise rabbits because of the relatively low cost of feedstock, ease of breeding, high protein content of their meat and short time between birth and butcher. Just as with any animal, the FCR of rabbits is highly dependent on breed and raising method (pasture vs. high grain diet). Rabbits raised on a high grain diet have an FCR anywhere between 2.5 to 3.0, and those on pasture average an FCR between 3.5 and 4.0. When choosing whether to feed primarily grain or pasture, it is important to not only look at the FCR. Consider the cost of feed (grain costs money, forage is free) and your desired turn-around time from birth to butcher.
Due to the prevalence of beef in the average American diet, there has been a lot of research done on the FCR of beef cattle. In modern feedlots, an average FCR of 6.0 is common. In this method, cattle are fed on pasture until they reach approximately 600 to 900 pounds, then they are brought to the feedlot to be raised on grain until they reach 1,300 pounds. The FCR of beef cattle raised strictly on pasture is not nearly as well researched, but preliminary data shows that the FCR will be higher for beef cattle raised strictly on pasture.
Pigs are one of the most efficient sources of red meat on the homestead. When butchered between 240 and 250 pounds, commercially raised pigs have an average FCR of 3.46. Like cattle, data for more pastured-based systems is not as easily come by, but some farmers report FCRs anywhere between 4.5 and 5.5 for pigs raised on both pasture and a ration of grain.
There are obviously many more factors to consider when choosing livestock for your homestead than just the FCR. You must take into account how much you’re willing to spend on grain, the value of raising animals on a pasture-based system, your preferred type of meat and what resources you already have available to you. FCR is not the “end all, be all” for determining how efficient an animal is or if it is the right choice for your homestead. However, it is a measurable number that can be factored into your decision, and it is a good place to start when looking at the wide variety of factors that influence raising animals for meat production.
From your experience, which animal is the most efficient for meat? Share your tips in the section below:
Aryn is a farmer and writer living in Homer, Alaska
One of the biggest issues I have had with my prepping is acquiring and storing the items I have put aside. There are several reasons for this and I have spent some time and money actually working out and implementing what I think is best for me and mine.
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.
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:
Many people in the U.S. are chasing the American dream, trying to make more money so they can – supposedly – be happier.
But a handful of Americans are going the opposite route, leaving the American dream because it didn’t fulfill their desires.
This week’s guest on Off The Grid Radio was president of a Fortune 500 division and ran one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. before he quit his corporate job and sold his house on a golf course … to homestead.
What caused him to leave his job and try something different.
Why the homesteading life is more enjoyable than a high-paying corporate job.
How he learned the skills needed to homestead, prior to YouTube.
Why the self-sufficient life fulfills a need that money does not.
How he makes extra cash living on the homestead – and how you can, too.
Young, who has written several books about self-sufficiency, also shares with us his thoughts on the American dream – and why so many people have it all wrong. If you’re looking for an inspirational story this week, then don’t miss this amazing show!
20 Tiny House Plans You Can DIY Tiny house living basically means living minimally in a small home with a size of under 500 square feet. If you’ve never heard of this concept before, you might think that it’s weird because isn’t it better to live in a modern, big house like those celebrities’ homes you …
As homesteading continues growing in popularity, many wannabe homesteaders face sticker shock – surprised by the costs of a self-sufficient life.
But this week’s guest on Off The Grid Radio says that homesteading doesn’t have to be expensive. Homesteader Steven Gregersen, who lives on 20 acres in Montana, says too many homesteaders begin with the wrong outlook and goals, thus dooming their endeavor.
Gregersen wrote a book, Creating the Low-Budget Homestead, that explains how he homesteads on the cheap.
Gregersen explains to us why he urges first-time homesteaders not to buy livestock – and how they still can get free meat. He also tells us:
How to find inexpensive land that, with a little work, can be perfect for homesteading.
How the proper view of budgeting can place a homesteader on the path to success.
How he “gets by” without having a lot of things Americans take for granted.
How he earns money off-grid, and how you can, too.
If you’ve ever wanted to homestead but didn’t think you could afford it, or if you simply want to learn new ways to save money, then this week’s show is for you!
12 Ways To Be More Self-Sufficient Without Having a Homestead There are many things you can do even on a small piece of land. It doesn’t take 20 acres to be more self-sufficient. Most can be done with minimal effort and offer long term benefits. Start today.. I did it and now I am loving …
How To Make Your Own Aluminum Teardrop Trailer For preppers who are looking for a mobile housing option of the DIY variety, an aluminum teardrop trailer is a great option. This compact, lightweight design is towable so it is much more economical than a large RV or a heavy conversion van. It is smaller than …
Each year more and more Americans are choosing to homestead, but along the way some discover that it is far more expensive than they envisioned.
That was the case with homesteader Teri Page, who along with her husband discovered they couldn’t afford to own a large piece of land in their state – and so they moved cross-country. Once at their new location, they employed a series of cost-cutting measures that would surprise even seasoned homesteaders.
Page is this week’s guest on Off The Grid Radio, and she tells us:
What type of inexpensive house they chose to build.
Why they decided not to set up a running water system.
How they chose the state where they now live.
Why living near the Amish has benefited their off-grid life.
How they make money, off-grid, using the Internet.
Finally, Page shares with us her tips for anyone who is looking to move to another state for an off-grid life. If you are wanting to homestead, or you simply enjoy listening to stories from adventurous people, then don’t miss this week’s show!
Chances are that if you’re reading this, then you’re probably acutely aware of just how tough it can be to handle the year’s coldest months on the homestead.
It’s not long after the winter solstice that the temps begin to plummet, creating a perfect storm for situations on the homestead to deteriorate. After all, February’s full moon is known as the “Trapper’s Moon” — named for the fact that, like the snow, beaver pelts are at their thickest. Beavers have had to adapt this capability, perhaps with the knowledge that this is essential for maximizing their survival in extremely low temps.
Of course, if there ever were a perfect animal to model our own homesteading practices after, then it would have to be nature’s greatest homesteader: the beaver. And here are four great ways to do just that.
1. Please, remember: timing is everything
When it comes to surviving a winter on the homestead, one of the most important challenges to overcome is to see beyond the obvious ones — especially since the cold is something we’re all quite familiar with. If anything, this skill is one that keeps us one step ahead of the challenges.
Timing is everything, especially due to how the daylight drains away quickly. Not only that, but because colder temps often give way to rapid-moving high-pressure zones, the weather can change even faster. For this reason, it’s critical to keep tabs on the following:
Since winter brings low-light conditions early in the day, it’s important to provide lighting in as many places around the homestead as possible. Predators aren’t fond of them, and they simply keep us safer from injury and disorientation.
Additionally, I recommend an EDC (everyday carry) kit that rides along with you. This will buy you additional time if you find yourself in a winter survival scenario and possibly require rescue.
3. Dress (and sew) for success
You’re probably not surprised about just how critical warm clothing can be this time of year. However, it’s important to know how to fix that clothing in a pinch. Knowing how to sew, along with having a kit that can meet the task at hand, could be invaluable.
Image source: Pixabay
It’s not uncommon for homesteaders to find themselves snowed in, largely cut off from access to populated areas, meaning that your best work coat is only as warm as the quality of its patches. With that being said, it’s important to invest in clothing and winter apparel that maintains insulating properties even while moderately moist or damp, such as wool and certain synthetics. Cotton, however, will lose all insulating properties when wet, so it’s best to stick with the tried-and-true materials (and not end up with frostbite).
2. Stay healthy
The cold is downright brutal on the body, especially for immune systems, since our metabolism must work harder to maintain body temps. So, it’s smart to keep your medicine cabinet well-stocked with the usual sick-fixes and your mind well-stocked with at least basic medicinal skills. Not to mention, the cold also can make for far-more-difficult muscle movements, impairing motor skills in the process.
So be sure to keep your walkways — along with those of your livestock — clear of ice and snow. Broken bones and torn tendons tend to make life A LOT more difficult for everybody.
1. Be efficient with your heat
Heat is, perhaps, the most coveted commodity on the winter homestead — meaning that you need to be able to generate it cheaply and hold on to as much of it as possible. Becoming knowledgeable about heat efficiency would greatly reduce your burden to chop wood and shovel pellets. For this, I’d recommend purchasing an IR camera to identify problem spots where heat may be leaking out your cabin. At least then you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly where to apply a can of insulating/expanding foam in the most scientifically efficient way.
In a previous post we discussed how to build your own water heater, running on nothing but the heat generated by your homestead’s compost pile. Not only can this system achieve higher temps than most residential water heaters, but you’re also using zero electricity in order to keep it working. Get good at thinking up designs and innovating your infrastructure on heat conservation, and you’ll spend far less time and energy trying to keep everybody (including your water supply) toasty warm.
What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:
There are a lot of lessons my husband and I learned the hard way since taking up homesteading in 2007, and there are plenty of things we would do differently if we could transport back in time and start over. But I am proud of the things we got right, too. Here are a few of the things that helped keep us going in the general direction of success:
1. We were on the same page. Unlike the 60s TV sitcom where a New York City couple suddenly lands on a farm in a move that appears to be completely against the wife’s wishes—she loved him, she sang in the opening credits, but would rather have Fifth Avenue—we were in complete agreement about why we wanted to take up homesteading and what standards and practices we would strive for once we got started. Many of the details have morphed over the years, sometimes in the same direction as one another and sometimes not, but we started out in complete consensus and have remained largely thus.
This is probably the most important thing we did, or anyone could do, the right way. Sure, one partner might feel more strongly about the venture, or about particular aspects of it, than the other. But dragging along a reluctant or resentful spouse is not likely to work out long-term.
2. It helped that we were not total greenhorns. We were already accustomed to the outdoors and the natural world, having spent hundreds of hours hiking, backpacking, camping, hunting, fishing and camping before the idea of sustainable living ever struck us. As veteran outdoorspeople who were deeply involved with our local Boy Scout troop and other outdoor groups, we were no strangers to life beyond the pavement.
We started out at our homestead with at least a smattering of already-established skills, as well. Our volunteer work with the Maine Appalachian Trail Club had helped teach us basic forestry, carpentry and chainsaw skills. Our previous home in a village had afforded us the opportunity to run a wood stove, grow ornamentals and a few vegetables, and cook food from scratch. It may not be essential that anyone considering homesteading have advance familiarity with such things, but it can be a great head start.
Image source: Pixabay.com
3. We did a lot of homework before taking the plunge. My husband and I read books, watched videos, attended local living fairs, and visited farms. While it is true that studying something in books and other media is never quite the same as doing it in real life, I believe it made a big difference for us. Not only did we gain a lot of practical knowledge that could be put to use on the homestead, but we also gleaned a lot of philosophy from our reading. During occasional spells of frustration and difficulty over the years, we have found ourselves relying on what we learned beforehand to answer not only the question of how to, but the question of why when it needed to be restated.
4. There were mentors in our lives. We knew people who had first-hand experience at many different aspects of homesteading. There were those who had grown up on a dairy farm, who had raised backyard pigs, who volunteered for the cooperative extension as Master Gardeners, who were expert canners, who had worked on a berry farm, and many more. My husband and I gained more knowledge, practical tips and encouragement from our mentors than we ever could have gotten from anywhere else.
5. We were fit and healthy. Homesteading involves long hours, backbreaking work in all kinds of weather conditions, tedious and repetitive tasks, and often high stress — all of which can take a significant toll on one’s well-being. Starting off with our best feet forward was a real plus.
6. Our positive attitudes served us well. We were excited about possibilities, earnest in our endeavors, and confident. We were passionate about our goals, tried to stay open-minded about inevitable detours, and strove to balance idealism with realism. We didn’t always get it exactly right, but an optimistic outlook can carry most people further than they might get without it.
Image source: Pixabay.com
7. More than anything, the thing we got right from the beginning was this: we up and did it! It really can be just that simple. I cannot tell you how many people visiting our homestead have sighed wistfully and said how lucky we are to be living our dream. There was a time when I would attempt to explain to them that it is not luck, but is instead hard work and dedication and sacrifice. A lot of it was about choice—about ours to live without some things they had and theirs to place other priorities above what we had. I used to try to help them understand that we faced a lot of obstacles on our road to homesteading, too—probably as many as they would. I would point out that living one’s dream involves some degree of intentionality.
Now, though, I just nod and agree. We are indeed blessed to be living our dream. Like ducks skimming along the surface of an idyllic pond, paddling for all we’re worth underwater, we are making our choice of lifestyle work.
When a young relative recently lamented her limited success with her first-year vegetable garden, I encouraged her to focus on the fact that she grew more vegetables than she ever had before, instead of beating herself up over the plants that failed. In the same way, my husband and I try to hang onto our successes. And in the end, in homesteading practices as well as life in general, our mistakes do not define us. Instead, what counts is the fact that we dove in and gave it our all, and that we are still enjoying the journey.
If you’re a homesteader, what did you “get right” from the beginning? What advice would you give newbie homesteaders? Share your tips in the section below:
Homesteading is no small undertaking. The responsibility for the combination of growing your own food, providing for your own shelter and heat, and living sustainably can take its toll on even those with the stoutest of constitutions. In short, it can be difficult to get it all done.
If you are among those who resolve to achieve more in the coming year and hope to look back with satisfaction at your homesteading accomplishments, here are five ways to frame your resolutions for success.
1. Prioritize. Don’t get caught up in that which is less important. Homesteaders are frequently pulled in so many different directions at once that the tasks which get tended first are apt to be the ones that make the most noise, whether they are the most crucial or not. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so to speak.
Be proactive about defining priorities. Make a solid decision about what aspects of homesteading are most significant to you, and proceed accordingly. If you define yourself as a market gardener who enjoys keeping a few livestock animals on the side, take care not to get so bogged down with dairy goats or breeding sows that your kale and tomatoes suffer.
2. Focus. With all the things on your plate, it is tempting to nibble at one thing and then another, without ever actually finishing any of it.
I follow a famous personal finance expert who advises people to pay off debt by tackling the lowest balance first, no matter what the interest rate. The reason this works, he says, is because success is more about motivation than math.
I have found that my money guy’s wisdom can be applied to other aspects in life, including homesteading. Sometimes it is worth it to clear an afternoon of big projects so you can tidy up some long-overdue small items. Spending 10 minutes to fix a gate latch, another 15 scrubbing out feed buckets, a few more sweeping the cobwebs from the barn windows, and a half hour pulling the weeds from around the raised bed gardens can result in the satisfaction of actually having a few things finished, and can be the shot in the arm you need to move on to other tasks. And when you get to those, focus on each one as you go, even if it means batting away the others like so many pesky mosquitoes — unless a true emergency happens, focus on the one at hand and force the rest to take a number and get in line.
3. Organize. Spend time up front arranging things — tools, food, ideas, paperwork, and so on — in a manner that allows you to locate them easily. In the end, this will save not only time but emotional energy. It is exasperating to embark upon a project only to have to hunt for the right tools and materials first, and even more so to end up having to interrupt your work and run to the store for a new thingamajigget — especially if the old one turns up later! It is also often counterproductive to begin tasks without having a clear well-thought-out plan.
Frantically searching for spare tractor keys or equipment owner’s manuals or your favorite cheese recipe, discovering some much older home-canned goods that got hidden behind the fresher jars, or making do with a too-small paintbrush because the proper sized one cannot be found are never productive ways to spend time.
4. Evaluate. Is what you are doing manageable? Homesteading is like any other occupation or lifestyle in that you need to know when to say when. Small ideas and side projects can explode into all-encompassing compulsions. A few small lambs can become an out-of-control flock of sheep. A few hours of volunteering can end up as an unpaid committee chair position that swallows you whole. Having five different species of livestock with varying housing and fencing needs can steamroll over you.
Making executive decisions is hard, but imperative. Cutbacks need to happen sometimes, even when you hate to let anything go. Remember that you, your family, and your animals will benefit from you doing fewer things but doing them better.
5. Remember. Think about the reason you got started in homesteading in the first place. Are you still headed in that general direction?
Some friends of mine amassed an expensive herd of registered miniature goats and came to the realization that too much of their time and money was tied up in buying, selling, and showing — so much so that there was inadequate room in their lives for their homesteading pursuits. They sold off the entire herd, purchased a few sturdy dairy goats, and realigned their goals.
Another reason to remember why you started is to reset your heart. In the same way that married couples can heal wounds from a fight by recalling what it was that made them fall in love with their spouse in the first place, homesteaders need to fall in love again with the ideals of homesteading every now and then. Both marriage and homesteading are too hard to do without love. Stop, roll back to the very beginning, and remember why you came.
Whether your homestead is a humble off-grid cabin in the woods with just you and a partner and a tiny vegetable patch, or a sprawling farmhouse filled with a big busy family teeming with activities both off and on the farm, you probably want next year to bring about more progress than the last. By shaping your resolutions within these five parameters, you may well set foot on the path that will lead to success in the New Year and beyond.
What resolutions would you add to our list? Share your suggestions in the section below:
It is said that cats were domesticated around the time humans learned to farm and store a surplus of grain. The grain attracted rodents, which attracted cats, and it didn’t take long for humans and cats to figure out that they had a lot to offer each other. Some historians also have said that cats were self-domesticating, in that they basically moved in with humans without requiring much effort.
Regardless, cats are as important to the modern homesteader today as they were thousands of years ago. They provide companionship and keep crop-destroying and disease-carrying rodents, but not all cats are created equal. Let’s take a look at the five best cat breeds for the homestead.
1. Maine coons
Maine coon. Image source: Pixabay.com
A classic American breed, the Maine coon is a powerful long-haired cat which is optimized for the cold winters of Maine. Known as “the gentle giant,” these cats can reach up to 30 pounds or so in weight (although many are smaller) and they are extremely intelligent and friendly. If you raise one from a kitten, they can be leash-trained, taught to ride on your shoulder, and more.
Their great advantage on the homestead, aside from being extremely loving and sociable creatures, is that they are rodent-slaughtering machines. My own Maine coon has destroyed much of the rat and mouse population around my house and has moved on to cleaning up the neighbor’s property, as well, much to their delight. This hearty northern breed is pretty much a must-have cat around the homestead or farm, and is perhaps the closest thing to a dog you can get in cuddly cat form.
2. Domestic shorthair
A fancy name for a cat of mixed ancestry with a short coat, these are among the most common housecats you can find. Because of this, you can probably readily adopt an outdoor acclimated domestic shorthair from a shelter (and shelter pets can be some of the most loving and loyal companions you can find). This will give you a natural mouser that is as much at home inside as out. Pick a healthy, stout cat if you want a mouser, or consider an older more mellow (and often overlooked) cat if you want an indoor companion that also can serve as a rodent deterrent.
3. Siamese cats
You’ll want to make sure your Siamese has a companion cat, or that you are home every day to be with it, because this highly sociable (and lethal to rodents) breed will get depressed when alone. Often overlooked as mousers, this ancient breed is more than capable when given the chance, and adds a distinguished touch to any homestead or farm. Consider them if you live in warmer areas where summertime heat could be too uncomfortable for a Maine coon. Siamese are very loyal cats and will often bond with a single person, making another excellent choice for companion and hunter.
4. Japanese bobtail
Japanese bobtail. Image source: Wikimedia
The traditional cat of Japan, and noted for its prowess in hunting, it is as sociable as it is lethal. Formerly relied upon to protect the silkworm industry from damage by rodents, it is an increasingly popular breed in the United States. Easily identified by its short hair, stumpy little tail, and often popular calico color, this is a breed rich in history that can easily earn a place on your homestead. This is another one that would be great for warmer weather locations due to the short hair, or if you are simply looking for a different sort of cat.
5. Feral cats
While not a breed, but a type, consider that there are many feral cats which are trapped, spayed or neutered and then released again. These are cats that have already learned how to survive outside and may only ask for a warm, dry place to sleep (like your barn or shed) and a regular supplemental diet of cat food to keep healthy and in good shape. Sometimes these are cats that once had a regular home and were abandoned, and will readily adapt to living with people again. Talk to your local animal shelter or rescue if you think having a couple of relocated feral cats is a good choice.
Picking a Cat
While it is easy to say “breed X or breed Y” is a good mouser, and I am certainly proud of the hunting instincts of my Maine coon, the fact is any cat is a hunter, and the behavior is learned from the mother. While it is a given that any cat that has had to fend for itself is likely to be a skilled hunter, you will want a cat that shows classic stalking and hunting behavior and treats toys like prey animals instead of simply something squeaky and fun.
Once you get a mouser or two for the homestead, you need to remember a few other things. De-worm them every six months and consider getting some basic medication like painkillers and antibiotics from your vet in case of an injury, especially if you live in a rural or off-grid setting, where proper medical care can be hours or more away. Cats are stoic little creatures and rarely show pain when injured, but still deserve the best care we can give them.
If your cat is going to be an outdoor cat, make sure it has a safe, warm and dry place to sleep, and give them food, because there is no guarantee that rodents alone will supply enough daily calories to keep them healthy. If your cat comes and goes inside and out as it pleases, then you’ve got the best of both worlds right there. And, of course, an indoor-only cat makes a marvelous companion and can take care of any odd rodents that might get inside.
Cats are wonderful creatures and have been living and working alongside human beings for thousands of years. There is no reason not to have a couple around your homestead doing what they do best: killing the rodents that want to steal the fruits of your labor. And all they ask for is a place to sleep, some extra food, and a kind scratch around the ears. Seems like a good trade to me.
What is your favorite cat breed? Share your tips in the section below:
Been a bad year for my Bees. Started off OK at home and then I moved them to the land but then was a big greedy and split them at the same time to give me five hives. That wouldn’t have helped, then I had issues with the queens and there were delays during the […]
Water is the key to survival. At least 60 percent of the adult human body is made of water, and we can live no more than three days without it.
Since most modern water pumps use electricity to obtain well water, you may wonder how you would access well water in the event of a long-term power outage on the homestead. Here are five methods:
1. Manual pump – With a hand-operated pump, you can obtain five to 15 gallons of water per minute, depending on the make and model of the pump.
Manual pumps, which can be used with or without electivity, require quite a bit of effort, but they are an economical and easy way to get water during a blackout. (Read our previous story on manual pumps here.)
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2. Solar pump – Another option is a solar-powered water pump, which can provide as much as 1,200 gallons for water daily, depending on the brand and model – and, of course, the weather.
Solar pumps are fairly easy to install, and they can last for up to 20 years or so.
3. Wind-powered pump – Once a fixture on American farms, wind-generated pumps are cost-effective and require very little maintenance.
As with solar pumps, wind pumps are weather dependent, though. A back-up system, such as a manual pump, is important to have during calm weather.
4. Homemade pulley system – Think Jack and Jill and you’ll get the idea. With the use of a bucket on a pulley system, you may be able to access well water without a pump at all.
This system requires that you have the strength to lift and pull up anywhere from 20 to 40 pounds at a time. With an efficient pulley system, however, it can be much easier to lift.
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5. Diesel pump — Diesel fuel is a good alternative to electricity when it comes to powering a well. The pumps are relatively inexpensive and are easy to install. However, they do require a lot of fuel, so the cost of running a diesel pump varies with the price of fuel.
Which type of backup pump do you have? Share your well water tips in the section below:
I have not always been a homesteader. Most of my adulthood has been spent living a lifestyle far closer to what is generally considered mainstream — suburban home, food from the supermarket and central heat.
Nine years ago, my husband and I embarked upon the steepest learning curves in our lives. Even though our previous lives had involved a great deal of outdoor activities and total immersion in the natural world, our new roles as homesteaders taught us so many new things so intensely that we often felt as if we were on a curve so steep we might fall over backwards.
If I could roll back the calendar and give myself a few pieces of advice, I would be sure to include the following five major tips.
1. Infrastructure is everything.
Fencing, gates, bridges, corrals, barns, woodsheds, run-ins, calf pens, kidding stalls, hay feeders, chicken coops, raised bed gardens, cold frames, high tunnels, arbors, traditional garden beds, greenhouses — the list of structures that need to be in place for purposes specific to homesteading are mind-bogglingly endless. The property we purchased had very little infrastructure in place and needed a lot of building, repairing and retrofitting in order to suit our needs. But we didn’t let that stop us — we forged ahead, sending for garden seeds without having enough garden space ready and acquiring animals before having adequate year-round housing in place.
We were far more optimistic and energetic than we had any business being, which ended up being both a blessing and a curse. On the downside, viewing situations through rose-colored glasses in those early homesteading days caused us to cast aside far too many real concerns with casual nonchalance. We were sure “we could always build that permanent fence later” and “there was plenty of time to repair the woodshed roof before winter.” We ended up backing ourselves up against the wall in many cases when “later” steamrolled right over us and winter didn’t wait for the completion of roof repair.
It is far too easy to underestimate the time, energy, cost and potential roadblocks that often accompany infrastructure development. And when construction or repair takes place during the 11th hour — or even later — it can cause a lot of tension, and can even allow the roots of long-term discontent to take hold on the homestead.
On the other hand, optimism and energy are like superpowers. They carried us over rough patches, provided extra strength and courage when we needed it most, and helped us accomplish far more than we ever could have without them.
My advice to myself regarding infrastructure would be this: Stay ahead of it. If you get behind your infrastructure needs, you might never catch up.
2. Homesteading is so much work!
It won’t matter, we thought. The volume of work will be eclipsed by the fact that it is so rewarding and so personal and meaningful, we thought. The truth is, doing work you love and truly believe in really does make all the difference. And in our case, it made us able to do it. But at the end of the day, work is still work. If a homesteader works an off-farm job and then comes home to another 40 hours of work, it takes its toll on even the strongest and most resilient people.
Holidays, vacations or even sick days are hard to come by. Dairy cows have to be milked on Christmas morning, and tobacco hornworms will not take a break from destroying your tomatoes while you recover from knee surgery.
Here is my note to self: Do not underestimate the work required for homesteading. It will require very long hours of grueling, back-breaking, tedious, unrelenting hard labor. It will be worth it, but make no mistake. It will be tough.
3. Community is crucial.
I read a lot of books about homesteading before I started, from memoirs to manuals. One concept I ran across more than once in my reading was the impact of isolation upon homesteaders. I believed it, but I did not really get it. Not until I lived it myself. Spending long hours with nobody to talk to except cows and tomato seedlings sounds idyllic, and sometimes it is. But being completely on one’s own when a porcupine is entangled in the electric mesh fence or standing alone in a sweltering kitchen watching milk pasteurize for what feels like hours on end can make even the stoutest of homesteaders want to throw in the towel — and the canners and dung forks and milk buckets — and head back to the city.
Image source: Pixabay.com
It is loneliness, but it is more than just loneliness. It is the fact that there might not be many visitors — anyone who is willing to touch a homestead with a 10-foot pitchfork probably stays busy with a place of their own. It is the fact that while the rest of the world is weighing the merits of the latest hand-held device, you will be busy weighing the tiny newborn goat kid every day in hopes it will thrive. It is knowing that you are on your own, engaged in a lifestyle that most people cannot understand, with what sometimes feels like very little support from the outside world.
Age, accidents, sickness and disabilities are not friends of the homesteader. Neither is bad weather, predators and equipment breakdowns. My advice to my novice self is this: You will need real friends as a homesteader more than you ever needed them before. Relatives, neighbors, people from church, folks in the goat club — wherever they come from, make sure you and they are ready for the long haul.
4. Homesteading is not cheap.
Raising one’s own food rarely saves money. Sure, there are instances here and there where homesteaders save big. For example, I have paid a grand total of maybe $20 for garlic over a period of three or four years. I plant it every fall, purchase a few new varieties every once in a while, and use last year’s bulbs for seeds. And the eggs from my free-range chickens cost me almost nothing in summer.
But goat milk? Oh boy. When the occasional veterinarian visit and medications are factored in, and even a rare-but-crucial farm-sitting expense that allows us to show up at family weddings and funerals — and not to mention the time spent milking and sanitizing and feeding and shoveling if I paid myself even minimum wage! — that feta and chevre is worth its weight in gold.
Meat is expensive, too. Feed and upkeep cost a lot, especially in a northern climate where an animal’s grazing and foraging opportunities are limited for much of the year. And then there is the cost of processing, which can more than double the actual cost of raising the animal.
Even vegetables can be costly. By the time one buys seedlings or heats a greenhouse to start their own, builds raised beds, buys ground cover, invests in tools, and amends the soil, they might have done better to just go buy sweet peppers at the market.
If I could offer myself advice, I would say to go ahead and endeavor to raise as much of my own food as I could. Knowing it is organic, locally sourced, and humanely raised is everything. Just know this: It will probably cost almost as much to raise your own as it would to buy it at a big box store.
5. There’s no room for softies!
Keeping livestock is not for the faint of heart. Eating meat is harder when that steak or pork chop once had a face — a face you petted and fed every day for months. Even if you do not raise meat animals, there are still difficult decisions. Disbudding. Castrating. Medical intervention. Lying awake at night worrying about whether the animals will be safe in the hurricane or adequately protected from predators. And even selling is hard — waving goodbye to a beautiful goat kid and covering your ears while his mother and twin wail in anguish is rough on those of us with marshmallow hearts.
My advice to myself nine years ago would be this: Know that along with the love and tenderness that comes with sharing your life with farm animals, there will be bits of agony.
Nothing about homesteading is easy, but for many of us, it is worth it. My advice to myself or anyone is simply this: Know that you are doing the right thing, but go in with your eyes wide open, both feet on the ground, and bracing yourself for the ride of your life.
If you homestead, what advice would you have given yourself?
Choosing the right livestock for your homestead is an important decision. You may know what kinds of animals you want — ducks, chickens, pigs, cattle, etc. — but how do you choose the right breed?
Too often when choosing a specific breed of livestock, the winter hardiness of the animal gets overlooked. When winter rolls around with her cold breath, you want to ensure you have livestock that will require little supplemental heat. Heat is energy, and when you’re already trying to keep your family warm, you don’t want to waste precious energy trying to keep your livestock warm unless it is absolutely necessary.
In this article, I will go over some of the common types of livestock people choose for their homestead and then explore some of the most winter-hardy breeds. For poultry, I will focus on breeds that are typically used for laying, assuming that any poultry kept through the winter will be primarily used as a source of eggs.
Choosing livestock that is appropriate for your geographical area is incredibly important and can save you a lot of time and energy while making your winter preparations.
It is hard to find more winter-hardy poultry than ducks. Domestic chickens evolved from tropical regions and by their very nature deal much better with drier and warmer conditions. Ducks and geese, on the other hand, can handle much colder and wetter climates with ease. Another benefit of ducks is that they require a lot less added light to keep them laying. In some areas of the country, you may not have to add supplemental light at all.
Swedish Blue ducks are a winter-hardy bird that are known for both their meat and laying qualities. You can expect about 120-180 eggs a year from them, with males weighing about 8 pounds and females around 7 pounds. They do mature slower than some other breeds of ducks, however. Originating in Germany, they are very winter-hardy and have a calm temperament.
If you are looking for a duck for just egg production, I recommend the Khaki Campbell duck. The Khaki Campbells we have on our Alaskan farm keep laying straight through the winter, and we are still getting good yields from ducks that are over a year and a half old. You can expect 250-325 eggs a year from the Khaki Campbells and, while they are a smaller duck, they are extremely cold hardy. Males top out at about 4.5 pounds and females around 4 pounds. They are very noisy, however, and can be flighty birds.
Another duck you may consider is the Cayuga. They are very cold-hardy, and lay approximately 120-180 eggs a year. Males weigh about 7 pounds and females 6 pounds when mature. Although very loud, they are calm and only go broody occasionally.
Chickens are a homestead staple. To have them lay throughout the winter, keep in mind that they will need added light during the darker winter months. Chickens lay best when they have at least 15 to 16 hours of light provided. When the amount of daylight dips below that, either keep a light on in their chicken coop, or set it on a timer to add the extra light needed when the sun goes down. Although you will need added light for chickens, if you choose winter-hardy breeds you may be able to avoid having to add extra heat.
If you live in an extremely cold climate where frostbite can be an issue, you’ll want to choose a laying hen that has a small comb. The Chantecler chicken is an excellent example of a winter ready chicken. Originally bred in Quebec, these chickens are made to handle the extremely cold winters of the Canadian prairie. They have small combs and wattles, making them resistant to frostbite and will lay throughout the cold winter months. They do have trouble in extremely hot weather, however, so if you live in an area with hot summers, these may not be the right chickens for you.
Another breed that we have been very happy with on our farm here in Alaska is the Black Australorp. The hens do have larger combs that could be susceptible if your winters are especially harsh, but they do extremely well in areas that have winter temperatures in the 10-35 degree Fahrenheit range. They are also prolific layers, laying 280 eggs a year or more.
Although many homesteaders purchase piglets in the spring, raise them through the summer and then butcher them in the fall when the weather turns colder, there are several reasons you may want to keep pigs through the winter. Maybe you are starting to breed your own piglets for butcher or want to do two rounds of butchering a year instead of just one.
When choosing a breed of pig to carry through the winter months, I’ve found it most beneficial to look to the heritage breeds. Heritage breeds of pigs typically do better on pasture and are hardier for the outdoors. Breeds that are used in confinement operations, like Yorkshire crosses, will invariably be bred to live in conditions that have them inside year-round with an extremely controlled environment. Heritage breeds retain a lot of the characteristics that make them suitable to living outside, and if you choose breeds that originated in climates with colder winters, they should do just fine with minimal shelter provided from you.
After doing a fair bit of research, we finally settled on the Tamworth Hog for our Alaskan farm. One of the oldest heritage breeds found in the U.S., the Tamworth originated out of Ireland, where it was known for its ability to forage and grow on pasture. They have quite a bit more hair than some of your other breeds of pigs and do perfectly well in our winter climate. We know of one breeding operation in Michigan that lets their Tamworth sows give birth in the middle of winter with just a small shelter and straw, no added heat or attention. In addition to being hardy, the Tamworths are also extremely intelligent and very personable. We couldn’t be happier with them.
Although it is always tempting to get whatever livestock may be readily available to you at your local feed store, it is always worth the effort to carefully research and select breeds with climate in mind. The result will be happier animals and a more efficient homestead.
What are your favorite winter-hardy breeds? Share your tips in the section below:
Making your home more environmentally friendly is important. You need to live a greener life alongside the environment. Becoming more self-sufficient is a wonderful way of making sure you improve survival skills and help care for the planet too.
We are moving towards a greener and more eco-friendly world, and this is a good thing. But we still have a way to go yet. So you need to do as much as you can to make sure you are as energy-efficient as possible. In recent years we’ve seen the likes of Chile’s Renewable Energy Conference show the importance of greener living. It doesn’t matter if you’re a business or an individual, renewable energy is the future for all of us, so we need to understand that and prepare for it.
Image Source: Pixabay.com
Grow Your Own Food
One of the key things you can do to have a greener life is to start growing your own food. And you’ll notice that more and more people are doing that these days. You don’t even need an allotment to do it. You can convert areas of your garden into a vegetable patch, etc. Growing your own food is a wonderful way to enjoy the freshest produce and save yourself some money in the process. It also allows you to learn the skills of planting and growing and feeding yourself naturally.
Image Source: Pixabay
Technology is so prevalent in life these days that many people have forgotten how to do things without it. There are a lot of things we take for granted these days because we have technology to do it all for us. So, to enjoy a more natural life, you need to make sure you limit your technology usage. This doesn’t mean you have to go all out Amish. But, you should try to cut down on the amount you use, and, where possible, refrain from using technology. This will give you a greater appreciation of the outside world and how wonderful nature can be sometimes.
Image Source: Pixabay.com
Learn to Live off the Land
It’s important to learn valuable survival skills wherever you can, and that means living off the land. You can take weekend or week-long excursions to learn how to do this. You can also move to somewhere more remote so you can make full use of the natural resources that are around. Our ancestors used to live off the land all the time, and we have lost our way somewhat. If you can learn to do this, then you will have picked up some of the most valuable survival skills. It means that if anything were to go awry, and you had to survive in the wilderness, you’d be fine.
Having a more simple and stripped back existence is crucial for helping you live life alongside the environment. You want to try to turn your home into an eco-home and learn to live alongside nature a bit more. We get so caught up with technology these days that we wouldn’t survive without it. At least you’ll be okay if the apocalypse should hit!
The wise homesteader knows that everything – even used garden hoses – can be re-used and re-purposed.
More than likely, you will discover that your old hose is more useful than you originally thought.
Here are five uses:
1. Protect trees and crops.
Wires are sufficient for holding up trunks or branches, but they can cut into the wood of the plant and shorten its overall lifespan. However, if you thread that support wire through a piece of garden hose – or just use the garden hose by itself – then your plant will be protected.
2. Bucket handles.
A garden hose can be used as a grip for bucket handles or anything similar – making it easier to carry. Simply take a section from an old garden hose and then slip the wire of the bucket handle through it.
This will provide a cushion for your hand when carrying a bucket filled with water over long distances. Another option: Slice the garden hose open and wrap it around the handle.
3. Car door/bumper protector.
Simply screw a length of an old garden hose to the bumper of any of your old vehicles. Or, wrap a section around the edge of a car door to prevent dings and scratches.
4. Soaker hose.
An old garden hose can be repurposed to keep your crops watered. Take a relatively long section of garden use and crimp or close off one end of it. Then, puncture small holes all along the hose. Bury the hose underground and next to your crops. You can hook the open end up to the faucet, or you can go more off-grid and pour water from a bucket into the hose. This is a very efficient way to water all or a large portion of your crops at the same time.
5. Protect tools.
Do you have any knives, machetes, axes, hatchets or other tools with sharp blades? If so, then take a long piece of garden hose and slice one end of it open. Fit the garden hose over the blade to keep it fully protected while it is being stored.
Do you know of other uses for old garden hoses? Share your tips in the section below:
Autumn is filled with tons of chores for homesteaders: raking leaves, preparing the livestock for winter, and, of course, canning.
Canning is the time-tested method used by our great-grandparents and grandparents to extend the shelf life of food, and – if done properly – can form the core of an emergency stockpile. But if the right steps aren’t followed, the results can be disastrous … even deadly.
On this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio we examine seven common canning mistakes that nearly everyone makes. Our guest is Kendra Lynne, a homesteader and canning expert whose DVD, “At Home Canning For Beginners and Beyond,” is one of the more popular tutorials for beginning canners.
Kendra, who also leads classes on canning, tells us:
Which mistake is the most common – and also perhaps the most dangerous.
Which types of foods should never, ever be canned.
Which vegetables should be used with a water bath canner, and which ones with a pressure canner.
Which mistakes can be easily corrected without buying any new equipment.
Finally, Kendra answers a much-debated question: How long will canned food really last? She also shares her best tips for storing canned foods.
If you’re a homesteader or just someone who enjoys canning, then this is one show you need to hear!
Homesteaders often spend most of their time devoted to their gardens and livestock, all the while ignoring a hidden gem just beyond their lawn: the woods.
Those thick brambles and gnarled trees are a homesteading goldmine and overlooked source of cash – but only if we know what to do.
This week’s guest on Off The Grid Radio tells us how homesteaders and off-gridders can use their wooded areas for everything from feeding livestock to making extra money. His name is Brett McLeod, and he is the author of The Woodland Homestead: How to Make Your Land More Productive and Live More Self-Sufficiently in the Woods. He also is a homesteader and a professor of forestry and natural resources at Paul Smith’s College in upstate New York.
Brett tells us:
How homesteaders can turn their woods into a cash source.
How wooded areas can be used as a low-cost way to feed livestock.
How downed trees can transform the way you grow vegetables.
How your woods can be used to grow foods you can’t grow in a traditional plot of land.
The good news, McLeod says, is that a woodland homestead can be as small as one acre. If you’ve always wanted to make use of your woods and didn’t know what to do, then this week’s show is for you!
Getting ready for winter when you live in the city is one thing, but winter readiness on the homestead is another matter. Not only are there more needs to fulfill and a wider variety of possible emergencies to consider, but there is often more distance to travel for goods and services.
Out on the homestead, you need to up your game. You don’t want to wait until a blizzard is bearing down on your homestead to make the 70-mile round trip to the feed store, take the risk that they might be sold out of what you need, and worry about your livestock facing the elements back at home while you search for another source.
Begin by making sure your winter readiness includes everything you need. Start with personal items that you cannot go without. It goes without saying that you will need food and water for human consumption. Boxed or canned food that can be eaten hot or cold are great choices, and you can never have too much clean drinking water. Consider keeping a loaf of bread in the freezer and a quart or two of shelf-stable milk on hand, as well.
Make sure you keep adequate stores of toiletries and hygiene items on hand throughout the winter. Stock up so that you don’t have to beat everyone to the stores when inclement weather is imminent.
Do not forget medications. Winter is not the time to practice “just in time” inventory management. As soon as your prescriptions are diminished enough that your pharmacy will refill it, do so. Foul weather, car trouble and sick kids can happen in the blink of an eye, so leave yourself enough wiggle room that unexpected events do not turn a snowstorm into a medical crisis.
Have winter clothing on hand, too. Go through your closet and make sure last year’s long underwear still fits, there are no holes in your wool socks, the zippers work on your winter parkas, and that you have the hats and gloves and waterproof footwear you will need for cold and snow.
Remember your pets. They will not care if snow is falling and stores are closed when they run out of dog chow and kitty litter.
The time to fill up the heating fuel tank, have any needed well or septic maintenance done, and make arrangements to hire someone to plow your driveway is now — before the weather forecaster is wearing earmuffs and a sweater. And before the phones of the service providers are ringing off the hook.
Out in the shed and garage, you will want to have what you need to remove snow and ice from your car windshield, house roof, porches and decks, sidewalks, paths and driveway. Depending upon your neighborhood and climate, this could be anything from roof rakes to rock salt to ice creepers to shovels. But it is about much more than stocking up. It is about making sure your vehicles are winter ready. Check out the tires and change them over to snow tires if needed, make sure there is enough antifreeze in the radiator, and take care of any repairs and maintenance before the weather turns to winter.
Image source: Pixabay.com
Do not forget emergency supplies, from batteries to lanterns. But again, it is about more than buying and storing goods. If you have a generator, make sure it is running well. If you burn wood, see that the stove or fireplace and chimney are clean and safe. If there is a chance a winter storm can drive you from your home — if you have no way to heat it without power, for example — be certain you and your household have a rock solid evacuation plan.
Having all of these plans and supplies in place in preparation for anything winter throws your way is a great start. But if you are a homesteader with livestock, there is more to be done.
Your barnyard animals will need to be fed, watered, sheltered and corralled. Some of them might need medications, supplements and health treatments. In a worst case scenario, they might even need emergency intervention of some kind.
Make sure your fences, posts, gates, doors and chutes are ready for cold and can withstand a snow load. Pull up portable electric mesh fencing before the posts freeze into the ground. Ensure that infrastructure — barns, sheds, run-ins, chicken coops and other shelters — are in good condition, and tend to any shingles or siding or door latches that might need to be tightened up before the winds of winter howl across the homestead.
If you use heated water dispensers or heat lamps, get them out ahead of time and make sure they are operating. This way, if you need replacement bulbs or parts, there is still plenty of time to send away for specialty items.
As with food for humans and pet, staying ahead on hay and grain during the winter months is crucial. Even if you cannot store enough for the entire season, store as much as you can, replenishing and rotating as you use it.
Before winter hits, go through your stores of emergency treatments and medications. Replace items that are dried out or contaminated or expired, and add any new items you might need for livestock maladies and injuries to your kit.
Make sure you bring products sensitive to cold indoors if your barn or tack room will dip below freezing in winter. Even if it is not damaged by the cold, many gels and pastes are easier to use when thawed.
By preparing for winter in advance, you can save time, money and anxiety for everyone. If you can sit back and relax in the face of snow and cold instead of standing in long lines for basic groceries or braving icy roads on your way for essential supplies, everyone wins.
What winter readiness advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:
A debt-free Christmas is possible! There are too many tales of people who finally pay off their Christmas shopping in time to build up the debt again. Don’t be one of them – or if you are, it’s time to stop. No one really wants you to go into debt in order to buy them […]
You don’t have to live next to a farm, field or forest to have a large mouse population in your neighborhood.
Mice are the ultimate survivors, and they thrive anywhere they find warmth, shelter, water and food. They may not bother us during spring and summer, but as the chill of autumn weather appears they look for better alternatives. Unfortunately, that often means our homes and cabins. There are a variety of steps you can take to diminish and resist this invasion.
Mice are prolific breeders. One female can produce up to eight litters a year, with six to 10 mice per litter. That means a single mouse can produce 80 other mice who will also breed and reproduce. The affect can be exponential, and that’s why this is often an ongoing battle against the furry little rodents.
Try to Seal Off Access to Your Home or Garage
This is not as easy as it sounds. A mouse can squeeze through the smallest spaces and gaps between your foundation and framing.
But you have to start somewhere and here’s where to look:
Start in the basement and inspect any gaps in your foundation. If you shut off the lights in the basement, you may see daylight peeking through gaps or cracks. You can seal these with a patching cement, caulk, spackle or even steel wool. Mice are notorious for chewing through wood and just about anything else, so a patching cement might be your best bet if it’s an unfinished area and cosmetic appearance is not as important.
Check for any holes or gaps in your garage, whether it’s attached or freestanding. Garage doors are often left open for various periods of time, and that’s an invitation for mice to hide under and around things in the garage while they search for an entrance to your home.
Eaves and soffits aren’t out of reach for mice. Mice are good climbers and a tree or vine gives them a pathway to any gap or hole in an eave or soffit. Caulk works, or repair with new wood and re-caulk.
Eliminate Accidental Food Sources
Look for food left in or around spaces frequently occupied where food is consumed.
Did the kids leave some potato chips on the floor in front of the video game?
Did some organic garbage fall on the floor in the garage by the garbage cans?
If you have pet food, make sure none of it got scattered around by your pet, and seal the food in a sturdy plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.
Any food storage space can become a destination for mice, and mouse droppings in stored food are especially dangerous. Make sure any food storage is well-protected either in metal cans or sturdy plastic pails or containers.
Grass seed and wild bird seed in the garage are also mouse magnets. Make sure they’re in sealed containers and on a high shelf.
Check for incidental water sources.
I’ve often found a dead mouse floating in the sump-pump well. Try to seal the top to restrict access.
Wet spots in the basement also create water sources. Seal cracks or areas where seepage pools water. You should probably do this regardless of the mice, but if you’re unaware of the problem, this inspection step can help you remedy it.
Trapping and Eradicating Mice
Image source: Pixabay.com
There are a variety of options for mouse eradication, and you should consider them carefully, especially if you have pets or children in the house. Some of the approaches are traditional and time-tested, and some fall in the category of new technology.
General Trapping Advice
Mice are nocturnal animals, which means they come out at night. As a result, they will be most active not only at night, but in a dark room. Shut off the lights and check your traps in the morning.
Mice hug the walls when they travel. They are skittish and nervous animals and like the reassurance of a wall next to them as they move around. They will foray into a dark and open space for food and water, but your best location for any trap is along walls and in corners or under furniture next to a wall or corner.
Yes, you can reuse any trap, and there is some evidence that the scent of a dead mouse actually attracts other mice to a previously used trap. That’s up to you. Wear rubber gloves if you take this approach.
Traditional bait for mouse traps is cheese or peanut butter. I prefer sharp, cheddar cheese pressed around the trigger so the mouse has to exert some pressure to get the cheese. I’ve had many occasions when the peanut butter on a spring trap was successfully licked off the trap without springing it.
1. The traditional spring trap. We’re all familiar with this mouse trap. It’s a small, rectangular piece of wood with a snapping bar sprung by a spring when a piece of cheese or peanut butter is consumed from the trigger.
Pros: A quick kill that is inexpensive and allows you to discard both the mouse and the trap. It’s also highly effective.
Cons: Potentially dangerous to both kids and animals who may innocently trip the trap.
2. Glue traps. Glue traps are a cardboard box shape that have a strong contact glue on the bottom of the trap. Sometimes you add food to the back of the trap and some are already scented with an attractive scent for mice.
Pros: These traps are also inexpensive and are specifically designed to be disposable. They’re also pet and toddler safe.
Cons: Probably the least humane mouse trap. I’ve hunted and fished for years and I’ve always hunted and fished to eat. But I’ll confess that when I used these traps, it broke my heart to see a small mouse squeaking and looking at me with a paw reaching out trying to free itself from the glue. I actually tried to get it loose so I could release it in the forest, but the glue was too strong. I dispatched it quickly and got rid of the glue traps. They work, but I don’t use them anymore.
3. Live-catch traps. There are many variations on this type of trap. The concept is that they can get in, but they can’t get out. They’ll catch anywhere from one to six mice at a time, depending on the size and type.
Pros: It’s a humane option requiring you to find a distant location to release the mice. You also can capture mice in bulk if you get one of the larger traps. Most are baited with some type of food or food combination and are usually made of metal so they can be washed and reused. Also, they are pet and toddler safe.
Cons: They cost more but because they’re reusable, that’s not a big issue. They also tend to be somewhat large and visible, so they’re OK in a basement, but on the kitchen floor they stand out a bit more than you might like. Also, when you release the mice, make sure it’s a good distance from your home. The backyard is just going to invite them to try and get back in, and your neighbor may not appreciate it if you dump them in their backyard.
Image source: Pixabay.com
4. Mouse poison. Mouse poison is a box of small, edible pellets that are usually made with corn and permeated with a potent poison. The mice eat the poison and will often run to an open space to die, although sometimes they will die in a hidden space and the only way to find them is the smell of a dead and rotting animal.
Pros: This type of eradication is often used in barns, sheds and other locations that are hard to access or check on a regular basis. It’s also used for large infestations when single traps just can’t do the job.
Cons: Be very careful with this one. Some stores won’t even sell it for liability reasons. Regardless of how well you hide it, a pet or toddler can die from ingesting it. In the old vernacular it was called “rat poison.” When our dog was a puppy he ate a box, and fortunately my wife caught him doing it. We rushed him to the vet and he put some eye drops in his eyes that caused him to immediately vomit. Sure enough, the tray was filled with the little, green pellets. He survived but it cost us $200 to learn the hard lesson about mouse poison.
5. Ultrasonic sound. There are products on the market that broadcast a high frequency sound that is supposed to repel mice. I’ve never tried them and they might work, but I worry that they might also affect a pet dog or cat. There are enough versions of this type of product on the market to make me think it works, but I have found mixed reviews on Amazon.com
Pros: They’re safe for children and if placed properly may actually repel rodents with little effort.
Cons: Many of these products imply they will repel rodents in a broad range, from mice to rats, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, raccoons and possums. That’s what concerns me about cats and dogs.
6. Chemical repellents. These are repellents that you spray in areas where mice enter or reside. They usually come in a plastic bottle with an adjustable spray, from mist to a direct stream.
Pros: They’re easy to apply across a broad area or areas.
Cons: Some people don’t like spraying chemicals around their homes, although there are natural versions on the market. Also, the scent eventually fades. so you have to reapply from time to time.
Keep at it!
After you have tried one or more of the above methods, be vigilant to see if the mice have returned. Droppings are a clear sign they have, as is chewed paper or cardboard shreds. If you think they’re back, don’t hesitate! Once they start reproducing you’ll be back to the battle again until spring.
What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:
Homesteaders are notorious for finding ways to repurpose items. Nothing gets thrown away without it being thoroughly evaluated for other uses.
Consider, for example, milk jugs. There are plenty of ways you can use those milk jugs that don’t include storing drinking water.
Check out these 12 uses:
1. As a weight. Fill the jugs with water and use them to hold down a tarp. Put a rope through the grommet on the tarp and run it through the handle on your milk jug. They can help hold down a tarp or tent that is threatening to blow away.
2. As a mini-garden. Fill the jug with potting soil. Drop a tomato, cucumber or pepper seed in the top. Poke a few holes in the bottom for drainage and use the jugs as containers for your patio or window garden. It helps if you add a layer of gravel to the bottom of the jug and then add the soil. It makes it easier for the soil to drain. You also can cut off the top half of the jugs and use the bottom halves as basins for your potted plants.
3. As a mini-greenhouse. Cut off the bottom inch or so of the jug. Place the jug over newly planted seeds or plant starts. The jug will act as a mini greenhouse and give you a jump start on spring planting. They can also be used to protect plants from freezes in the spring or fall.
4. As an outdoor organizer. Cut off the top few inches at a diagonal angle, leaving the handle intact. Cut a small section off of the bottom of the handle to create a hook. Fill the jug with clothespins and hang it on your clothesline.
5. As seed markers. Cut the jug into strips and use a permanent marker to mark on them. Use them to mark seeds in potted plants or the garden.
Image source: PublicDomanPictures
6. As a candle holder. Cut off the top one-fourth or so of the jug. Fill the jug with sand or gravel and pop your emergency candles into the center of your filler. The sand or gravel will hold your candle upright and protect it from breezes that would blow it out. Place the jugs around your campsite or inside the house to use as pathway lights.
7. As a scoop. Cut the top at an angle, leaving the handle intact. This creates a scoop. You can use the scoop to get water from a river, barrel or your pond. You could also use the scoop for animal feed.
8. As food storage. Use the jugs to store dry goods like rice, beans and oatmeal. This gives you an easy way to pour out exactly what you need and seal the rest up for later use. Make sure you label the contents and the date on the outside of the jug. Store the jugs in the pantry and out of the direct sunlight.
9. As a wall. If you have a plethora of jugs, you could fill them with sand or gravel and make a wall or even a shelter! The filled jugs would act as insulation. They could be used to make a mini-root cellar or even a small barn for chickens or rabbits.
10. As a greenhouse heater. Paint the jugs black. (If you can’t, that’s OK — it will still work.) Fill the jugs with water. Place them in the greenhouse. Throughout the day, the jugs will heat and warm the water. At night, the warm water in the jugs will release some heat and help keep the temperature warmer in the greenhouse.
11. As fishing bobbers. Throw out your line with your milk jug bobber and get busy building your shelter, chopping wood or foraging. A milk jug bobbing up and down is much more obvious, and you will be able to see it from just about anywhere along the bank.
You can probably think of hundreds of other ways to use those old milk jugs. Think outside of the box and you will come up with some pretty clever ways to keep the plastic out of the landfills.
Our ancestors were experts at living off the land, and that meant knowing everything about the plants around them – plants that they used for food, medicine and shelter.
Sadly, most people today no longer have those skills, but the author of a new book is trying to help us regain all of this valuable knowledge.
On this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio we take a look at 10 of the most versatile, multi-use plants you can grow – many of which likely are on your property. Our guest is Tammi Hartung, an organic farmer and the author of Cattail Moonshine & Milkweed Medicine: The Curious Stories of 43 Amazing North American Native Plants.
All of them can be planted right now, during the fall, and all of them have tons of uses.
Tammi tells us:
Which forgotten plant provides one of the best anti-viral berries for winter colds.
Which plant is high in Vitamin C and is so healthy it’s used in the pharmaceutical industry.
Which easy-to-grow plant is useful for making pillows and blankets.
Which common tree produces not only food but a strong dye for staining furniture and even clothes.
If you are a homesteader who likes to find multiple uses for plants – or you simply want to know how our ancestors once lived – then this week’s show is for you!