How To Make Papercrete Papercrete is the ultimate building material for preppers, homesteaders, and off grid living enthusiasts. It is easy and cheap to make. It also could solve your paper and cardboard recycling problems. Literally! You make these building blocks by using old paper or cardboard. The process to make papercrete is easy and if …
Most homesteaders have to deal with some kinds of invasive plants. On our farm in upstate New York, the main culprit is multiflora rose. People planted it as deer feed back in the 1960s and now, it’s everywhere, taking over hayfields and pastures with its sprawling big-thorned fast-growing stems. Multiflora rose removal was one of my least favorite chores: heavy, prickly and never-ending. Then we discovered that our goats enjoyed eating multiflora rose. And then we learned that it was actually good for them.
I still spend time every summer hacking down multiflora roses in the orchard and pasture, but my attitude has changed. Instead of endlessly beating back a useless nuisance, I’m harvesting a forage crop.
Deciding What’s Safe To Feed
I’ll discuss some specific nutritious invasives below. I likely won’t include all the invasives in your area, so you’ll need to do some of your own research. This may be complicated by the fact that there’s a lot of conflicting information out there. Some plants, for example, appear both on lists of safe food for rabbits and lists of plants toxic to rabbits. Here are a few factors to keep in mind as you decide what to feed your animals:
Many plants are safe when fed as a small portion of the overall diet, but become problematic in heavy concentrations. It’s generally not a good idea to offer only one or two types of forage to your animals, or to feed huge quantities the first time they’re introduced to a new food. Offered free choice, as part of a varied diet, many weeds can be safe and healthy. Some, like mountain laurel or locoweed, are truly poisonous and should be completely avoided. But if you find a lot of recommendations and some cautions around a particular plant, you might try offering your animals a small amount of it and seeing what happens.
Toxicity and nutrition may vary depending on your location and soil type. Try asking local farmers and/or your local Cooperative Extension about the effects of plants grown in your area.
Some plants are healthy at one stage, problematic at another. For instance, we feed young leaves of burdock and curly dock to our rabbits, but after the plants have flowered we stop feeding; older plants may accumulate nitrates to the point of mild toxicity. If you keep cutting plants off before they go to seed, you can harvest young leaves over a long season.
Plants that are safe in themselves may be unpalatable or unsafe if they’re diseased. Clover is generally a safe and healthy feed, but in my region in wet summers it can develop white mold; we take care not to feed any of this to our rabbits, since rabbits are highly mold-sensitive.
Many different plants may share the same common name. Use Latin names in your research to be sure you have the right plant.
A Gallery Of Gourmet Weeds
1. Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), the thorny invader previously described, contains 10-13 percent protein, and it can help ruminants to expel worms. Goats, sheep, cows and horses can eat it. Our goats don’t mind the thorns. After the rose has flowered, our goats may get diarrhea from eating too many of the hips at once. I’ve seen one report of a horse injuring its eye on the thorns.
2. Kudzu (Pueraria montana). Farmers south of us have reported great success with feeding kudzu to cows, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens and horses. It’s high in protein, and apparently highly appealing to many animals. Given its legendary growth rate, it’s a nearly inexhaustible food supply.
3. White mulberry (Morus alba) is an invasive tree in many states. Its protein-rich leaves and stems are a valuable feed for cows, goats, sheep and rabbits; pigs and chickens will eat its fruit.
4. Burdock (Arctium spp.) is a nuisance in pastures. Its flat leaves spread widely, killing everything else; its burrs tangle in animals’ hair. But young burdock leaves, cut before the plant flowers, are rich in protein and minerals. We feed tender small burdock leaves to our rabbits, who tolerate them, and larger leaves to our goats, who relish them. Chickens and cows also will eat burdock leaves, up to a point. Older leaves may accumulate excessive nitrates, so don’t feed them heavily.
5. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) does just what its name suggests. I was very displeased when it started taking over a corner of our pasture. Then I learned that it’s rich in protein, iron, calcium and vitamins. Once it’s dried, it no longer stings. We give our dried nettle to nursing mother rabbits in the early spring before other rich foods are readily available. Chickens, pigs, cows, horses, sheep and goats also can benefit from eating dried stinging nettle.
6. Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) self-seeds copiously and comes up in dense mats. Since it starts to grow earlier than many other annuals, its leaves can provide an early treat and a vitamin boost for chickens, rabbits, goats, cows and sheep. Later in the year it may be less palatable—and any way you’ll want to cut it or graze it before it goes to seed. Some sources say it shouldn’t be given to horses.
7. Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) takes over garden beds and farm fields. It’s widely agreed that young plants which haven’t yet set seed are safe and nutritious feed for chickens, rabbits, pigs, sheep, cows and goats. We’ve fed seeded redroot pigweed to our rabbits with no ill-effect.
What are a few of your favorite weeds to feed livestock? Share your tips in the section below:
Trees on a fundamental level provide shade from the sun and when mature, firewood. But certain trees also can serve as a food source or offer medicinal benefits.
The seven trees below will grow across most parts of North America, from the deep south to far north. It was tough to pick just seven. and you may have your own ideas, but from my perspective these are the best:
1. Apples. I continue to feel that apples are one of the most versatile fruits we have. It’s not just because they’re good to eat, but they offer the ability to make apple cider and most significantly, apple cider vinegar. Vinegar is a natural antiseptic and an excellent resource for canning and food preservation. The variety doesn’t really matter, although you might want to consider planting two of the same variety to help with pollination.
2. White willow. Willow bark has a chemical substance called salicin in the inner bark, or xylem. It’s the active ingredient in aspirin and has been infused in a tea for centuries by the Chinese and Native Americans as a pain reliever and fever reducer. A German chemist in the 1800s first isolated this compound to make a commercial pain reliever. His last name was “Bayer” and he called his new product aspirin.
3. Cherry. Cherry trees have both nutritional and medicinal value. The cherries, whether sweet or sour, can be used across a variety of recipes, from pies to juice. Cherry juice has been shown in clinical studies to be a powerful treatment for arthritic conditions, including gout. They’re also beautiful trees when they’re in bloom and like apple trees, you can use the wood to flavor smoked foods as branches die or need to be trimmed.
4. Oak. Oak is a slow-growing tree but it has numerous benefits. As firewood, it burns long and hot. Baby oak leaves are an excellent addition to a salad or soup. The biggest additional benefit may be the acorns. They are high in protein, calories from fat – which is important in cold weather – and can be used in a variety of ways, such as nutmeats in a meal or to make flour. You just have to be patient because they (like we said) grow slow. Buy the biggest tree you can find.
5. Ginko. Scientists say Ginko is the oldest deciduous tree on Earth. It was thought to be extinct until a botanist happened to come across one growing in a garden in China. The tree has significant medicinal value, and the leaves are commonly infused into a tea. Benefits range from blood thinning to some indications that it can help to treat neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease, as well as boost the immune system.
6. Pear. Pear trees are hardy trees and also provide a good source of firewood, as well as smoking wood for smoked foods and fruit. Pears are a great table food and can also be used to make breads, tarts and other simple desserts.
7. Mulberry. Some people might disagree and say this is a very messy tree. It is. But mulberry trees bear a sweet fruit that shows up in early June, and it’s one of the first fruits to appear. I put a tarp under the tree and shake the branches to make harvesting easier. The fruits are sweet to semi-sweet and are great on cereal or ice cream. You also can make mulberry juice, jelly or blend the fruit into bread for mulberry bread. They will stain your fingers and lips, but if you want to dye fabric, the juice will certainly do that.
The ability of any tree to survive and thrive is dependent on the environment where you live. Most of the trees I’ve identified will survive across most parts of North America, but desert parts of the continent and high mountain areas could be problematic. When selecting the best trees for your homestead, think about if they can offer more than basic shade and firewood. Can the tree offer either fruit or a medicinal benefit that transcends the usual tree? Those are the trees I like to plant.
We’d love to hear your ideas about the best trees to plant. Some of you living in far southern environments may be able to grow oranges and avocados. No matter where you live, let us know what trees you’ve planted in the section below.
Many small farmers and homesteaders use natural wormers for livestock in place of chemical alternatives.
Let’s first talk about why you might consider an alternative to chemical wormers. Chemical wormers are easily obtained, easily administered and touted as the answer to parasite infestations.
However, as with most chemical concoctions that can be used on the homestead, they come with some possible side-effects that you may want to consider.
One of the most prevalent: Parasites develop resistance to chemical parasiticides. That means eventually they won’t be effective on your livestock and you’ll need to change wormers.
Another consideration is the residual chemicals that can be deposited in your soil when the wormer passes through your stock.
If you are raising livestock for meat consumption you should consider the residual chemicals that may remain in your meat. If you sell your products to others, many of today’s consumers do not want to risk chemical residues in their meat.
If you want to avoid the possibility of your wormer not working and the residual complications associated with chemical wormers, you might want to consider some of these alternatives.
1. Herbal wormers
There are many pre-formulated herbal wormers available commercially for different types of livestock. You can also research and formulate your own. Be aware that herbs are powerful and that caution should be used when mixing and dispensing to livestock.
2. Diatomaceous earth (DE)
Food grade diatomaceous earth is approved as an anti-caking agent in animal feeds. Make certain you obtain food grade, as other grades of diatomaceous earth are poisonous to animals or humans.
For the best results, use DE continuously as a feed supplement.
3. Essential oils
Many small farmers have successfully used essential oils as an alternative worming protocol. Some of these oils should be diluted with a carrier oil such as coconut or olive oil before adding them. Some of the most common essential oils are clove, nutmeg, fennel, vetiver cumin, anise, tea tree, Idaho tansy, thyme and laurel leaf.
Fresh garlic or garlic powder can be used as a wormer. Introduce small amounts of the garlic over several days as to get the stock accustomed to it before increasing the amount over time. Garlic acts quickly on existing adult worms.
The best way to keep your livestock free of parasites is to use a regularly scheduled worming routine and practice good prevention methods.
Avoid keeping animals in close quarters for long periods of time. A good prevention method for keeping parasites to a minimum is rotating your stock to clean pastures and shelters on a regular basis.
To test for parasite levels in your stock it is best to have a veterinarian perform a fecal examination test (or you can learn to do these yourself).
As with any alternative health protocol, do your research and consult with your veterinarian before starting any treatment protocol for parasites.
Do you use alternative wormers? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:
Lots of homesteaders grow their own apples, but many people choose not to do so because they don’t understand which varieties of apples will grow best on their property.
There are several things to learn before you choose which variety to grow. You will need to consider your Zone, which will tell you what plants will grow best in your immediate area. You also need to consider whether or not he variety you pick is self-pollinating – and whether there is space available.
So let’s look at hardiness zones first.
Generally, if you choose a tree that is termed “hardy,” then it will grow best in Zones 3 through 5. However, if your chosen tree is termed “long-season,” then it will grow best in Zones 5 through 8.
Once you know what Zone you are in, you are ready to choose your variety. Following are nine of the most popular apple varieties in the US:
1. Red Delicious
- Originally called the Hawkeye, this is the most popular of all the US apple varieties.
- Having been bred for long shelf-life and being “pretty,” the flavor has pretty much been cultivated out of this variety.
- The skin is thick, the flesh has a single note of sweetness that is not at all “apple-y” and the texture is quite crumbly.
- These apples grow in just about every Zone in the US except for the tundral and the more equatorial regions.
- Despite their popularity these apples are used more for animal feed than for baking or canning.
- Similar to what you expect when biting into a Red Delicious.
- The skin is soft as is the flesh, and the flavor strikes a level balance between sweet and acidic.
- This variety grows well in Zones 3, 4 and the upper regions of 5.
- They are best eaten raw, in fruit salad, or made into apple sauce, apple butter, or for juicing and making cider.
3. Golden (Yellow) Delicious
- No relation to the Red Delicious.
- Usually the least expensive apple sold at grocery stores and is considered an all-purpose apple.
- The flesh is juicy, the skin is thin but the flavor is similar to the Red Delicious in that there isn’t a lot of apple flavor there.
- This variety grows well in most regions of the country.
- These apples are good eaten raw, chopped into salads or baked into desserts.
- This is a New Zealand breed that has grown in popularity in the US over the last 15 years.
- It is a cross between a Kidd’s Orange Red and a Golden Delicious.
- The skin is thin with a pinkish-orange striping over a gold base.
- The flesh is crisp, fragrant and fairly sweet.
- It grows well in Zones 4 through 8.
- It is best enjoyed raw, in salads or for making juice and cider.
5. Granny Smith
- Neon green and fairly small considering its girth. Probably the most easily recognized of all the apple varieties.
- Originally cultivated in Australia, it grows well in Zones 7 through 9 in the US.
- If you like tart, then this is the apple for you. The juicy flesh is crisp and it will sweeten when it is stored for a while.
- These apples are best raw, in pies or in salads where the tartness can be offset by other ingredients.
- Granny Smith apples work very well with nut butters. This is the go-to apple if you want apples with peanut butter.
- This apple was created in Japan and is a cross between two American varieties: Red Delicious and Ralls Genet.
- It is dense and crisp. It is considered the sweetest of all apple varieties.
- This apple grows best in Zones 5 through 7.
- Best enjoyed raw, chopped in salads or baked into pies.
- Braeburns were discovered rather than bred in New Zealand. It is thought that it is a cross between the Lady Hamilton and the Granny Smith.
- These apples boast the textbook apple flavor and balance the sweet and tart expected from a good apple. Many consumers say there are faint notes of nutmeg and cinnamon in the flavor profile as well.
- It grows best in Zones 6 through 9.
- These are excellent raw but they are highly regarded as one of the absolute best baking apples since they release very little juice during baking.
8. Honey Crisp
- This apple was developed for a line of cold-weather apples. It is the official state fruit of Minnesota.
- The overall flavor profile is more sweet than tart. It is also juicy and moderately crunchy.
- These apples grow best in the region they were bred for: Zones 3 and 4.
- Known to be hardy and versatile, these apples are good for just about anything.
- This cross between Red Delicious and McIntosh was introduced in New York in the 1960s.
- It blends the sweetness of the Red Delicious with the tartness of the McIntosh.
- Considered a crisp, juicy everyman’s apple.
- Grows best in Zones 3 through 5.
- Best enjoyed raw, chopped into salads and cooks better than most, so they will make really good apple sauce, butter and chutney.
Did you pick your variety? The next step is to do some extra research on your particular choice to determine the blooming overlap time and whether or not your variety is capable of self-pollination. This website has a great deal of good information on those two topics, as well as many others you might find of interest when building your own orchard.
If you are considering putting in an orchard, you will want to plant the trees about 15 feet apart to allow for spreading branches as the trees mature. However, if you only want a few trees on your property, then they will still get pollinated if you keep them within 50 to 100 yards of each other. The closer they are, the easier it is for the bees to find and visit both trees during the pollination time.
Which is your favorite apple variety? Which grows best where you live? Share your advice in the section below: