Drying Herbs the Easy Way

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My favorite way of drying herbs is to use nylon mesh hampers that have cloth handles. These were designed for college students, and they come in various colors. They are also collapsible for easy storage, so we have several of them and we usually dry four to five different herbs at a time.

We have installed hooks used to hang plants in the ceiling of our carport, and we loop the hamper handles over the hooks. Since we have a lot of wind in our area, looping the handles over a second time secures them from being blown off the hooks, and the herbs can dry in the shade of the carport.

The herbs need to be stirred up occasionally to separate them and make sure they are getting enough air, and it is easy to just hit the bottom of the hamper a couple of times as you go by. Some dry within just a couple of days.

If it is going to rain, it is best to take the hampers down and hang them indoors. Even though they are protected when they’re under the carport, it is still better to put them in a place away from the moisture while they are drying.

Drying Different Herbs

When I am drying herbs on stalks, I cut the whole stalk and put it in the hamper.

When I dry leafy herbs like comfrey, which are more compact, I leave the stems on the leaves and put just a small amount of leaves in each hamper. I stir these more often.

As you put the herbs in the hamper, you will get more of a feel for how many to put in as you see how much they compact. I usually don’t fill the hampers more than one-third full.

Storage Tips

When the herbs are dry, just strip the leaves down off the stalks.

For comfrey or mullein leaves, wear gloves and crumble the leaf off the stems. You can use a coffee grinder if you want to powder some of the dried herbs.

Store the dried herbs in separate bags. When the herbs are in the bags, you can crumble them up some more. I prefer using the gallon-size plastic storage bags, but not the kind with sliders.

You can also store the dried herbs in jars.

Keep the stored herbs out of the light, in a pantry or other cool area.


This article by Sharon Devin was submitted for The Grow Network’s 2015 Writing Contest and was originally published on June 15, 2015. Thank you, Sharon!

 

The post Drying Herbs the Easy Way appeared first on The Grow Network.

Congratulations, February Certification Graduates!

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Congratulations to the following Community members on completing one or more of our Certifications in February!

As many of you know, one of the perks of membership in our Honors Lab is FREE access to several amazing certifications in our Honors Lab area—and lots more are in the works.

These Certifications dive deep. They’re essentially multi-lesson master classes, full of practical know-how so you can immediately start reaping benefits for yourself, your family, and your garden.

(And if you’re not an Honors Lab member yet, you can gain access to these Certifications + lots more perks of membership by joining today. Click here to learn more!)

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification 

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification

This 8-week course teaches the principles of bio-intensive gardening—one of the easiest, most sustainable ways to produce big, delicious fruits and vegetables!

It covers everything from starting and transplanting seedlings to the basics of garden beds and soil, and from making compost to garden maintenance. There’s even a section on harvesting and processing grains!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members for completing the Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification in February!

  • Robert Held
  • Scott Sexton

 

Home Medicine 101 Certification

Home Medicine 101 Certification

The Home Medicine 101 Certification is a perennial favorite in the Honors Lab!

This eight-week class teaches you how to remedy:

  • Burns, stings, and rashes,
  • Wounds and lacerations,
  • Coughs and colds,
  • Fevers,
  • Indigestion,
  • Anxiety and insomnia,
  • Muscle pain, and
  • Topical infections …

… with readily available plants you may already have growing in your backyard!

Congratulations to the following Community members for completing Home Medicine 101:

  • cathy.marcotte
  • DeniseChristensen
  • emull
  • Heather Duro
  • James Douglas
  • RoseBruno
  • Barefoot Kent
  • Catherine
  • JaneMcCutchen
  • George
  • Ruthie Guten
  • Bonnie Guffey
  • Shelley Buttenshaw
  • Debbie Kennedy
  • cathieonline
  • Emma May HunterHunter
  • janetch2008
  • russraiche
  • ShirleyJohns
  • Markkroneberger
  • Sharon Companion
  • joysong42
  • Carol Harant
  • jonhg
  • Lisa Cannon
  • Ericka Bajrami
  • rachelthudson
  • Patricia McBurney
  • PamWatros
  • Scott Sexton
  • Jane Mobley
  • Kim McClure
  • Waylon Olrick
  • Lisa Carroll

 

Instant Master Gardener Certification

Instant Master Gardener Certification

In just 8 lessons, The Grow Network’s Instant Master Gardener Certification reveals gardening secrets, tips, and tricks that most people spend years discovering.

Lessons include:

  1. “The Secret to a Green Thumb”
  2. “How Much Land Do You Need?”
  3. “The Power of Herbs”
  4. “The Easiest Way to Prepare a Garden Bed”
  5. “Three Facts About Seeds Every Master Gardener Knows”
  6. “Transplanting Baby Plants”
  7. “The Four HUGE Advantages of Backyard Food Production”
  8. “A Homemade Fertilizer So Powerful, You Could Create a Business Out of It”

Congrats to the following Honors Lab members for completing this powerful certification in February:

  • Robert Held
  • PatriciaWolfe
  • tnsh5699
  • Lisa Carroll
  • Scott Sexton

 

Saving Quality Seeds Certification

Saving Quality Seeds

Learn how to save seeds that will ensure an abundant harvest in years to come with the in-depth information in TGN’s Saving Quality Seeds Certification.

This 7-lesson Certification teaches which plants are easiest to save seeds from, how to plan your garden with seed-saving in mind, how to do a garden soil inventory, the basics of dry and wet harvesting, the best way to store seed, how to determine seed quality—and more!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab member on completing this Certification:

  • Scott Sexton

 

Backyard Chickens for Egg Production Certification

I’m excited to announce that we’ve put the finishing touches on another multi-lesson, deep-diving Certification, which has just been added to the Honors Lab:

NEW! Backyard Chickens for Egg Production 

In this awesome new certification, TGN blogger (and homesteader extraordinaire!) Tasha Greer covers everything from breed selection and coop design to flock health and egg storage — plus lots more….

We’ve also got several more certifications in the works, including “Making Home Medicine,” “Backyard Meat Rabbits,” “Bird-watching,” and “Beekeeping.” We’re working with some fantastic experts on these, so you’ll definitely want to check them out in the Honors Lab once they’re ready. Exciting stuff! 🙂

 

The post Congratulations, February Certification Graduates! appeared first on The Grow Network.

The Pig Slaughter

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CAUTION: This article, and the photos in it, include graphic details about pig slaughter. If you are disturbed by information and images of this nature, please use your own discretion when determining whether to read further.

To read the first entry in this multi-part series on pig processing, start here.

Read More: “Preparing for a Pig Slaughter”

I really love raising pigs. Their innate joy for rolling in the mud, chasing each other around their paddocks, pig-piling, and enjoying long-lingering naps is inspirational to me. I honestly think they can teach us a few things on how to bring more joie de vivre to our human lives.

Unfortunately, not all pigs get to live like this. Some spend their entire lives in spaces so small they can’t run, play, feel the sunshine on their bodies, or use their powerful snouts for digging up dirt and searching for food.

So, whenever someone asks me how I can stand to kill pigs when they are so adorable and affable, I have my answer ready. And here it is.

Mental Preparation for the Slaughter

I have a deep and abiding love for pigs – not just the pigs we raise, but for pigs in general.

I can’t imagine eating a pig that spent its life in industrial squalor. I also can’t stand the idea that these beautiful, domesticated beasts would become hated feral pests, or be forced into extinction, if we stopped eating them. They grow to be hundreds of pounds. Their powerful digging ability, in the wrong locations, can decimate whole ecosystems. Their nearly insatiable appetites for both food and adventure is the reason why packs of feral pigs end up digging through trash in urban shopping areas. Without a cultivated, co-dependent relationships with human care-takers, more and more pigs would quickly become dangerous to us. This is why so many of them are hunted with impunity and hated around the world.

Plain and simple – in my opinion – the best thing for pigs is to be raised on small farms, by farmers who care about their well-being and do have a hard time killing their pigs on slaughter day.

My point in sharing this is not to proselytize my pig views. It’s because, for me, having a genuine love for pigs and meaningful philosophical reasons for raising and slaughtering them is the only way I can face doing the act when the day comes. Coming to terms with my reasons for doing this is my method of mentally preparing for the slaughter.

Preparing Piglets for Slaughter

My other preparations for slaughter day actually start well before that final moment. As soon as a new set of piglets join our farm family, I begin training them by feeding them in a line at the edge of the electric fence.

After a few days of standing close by as they eat, allowing them to become comfortable with my presence, I begin to touch the tops of their heads. At first they shy away, but after a few attempts, they let me scratch behind their ears. In time, we move on to back scratches, then belly rubs.

Petting piglets is a pleasure. Like puppies, they can easily get riled up and start nipping excitedly at your fingers and feet. So, I am really careful not to let this happen. Instead I focus on making them calm with my petting practices. If I am effective, they stretch out like cats do and bask in the affection. Then they flop over on their sides and expose their bellies as a sign of trust.

As much as I enjoy this bonding, it also serves other purposes. It helps if I need to inspect or treat them for health problems. Most importantly though, when their final day comes, our pigs come easily to the fence line for feed. I give them a calming pet on the head and behind the ears, as they put their heads down and eat.

They have no fear of death – not even as we take aim. And if something were to go wrong with our first shot, I can use this established pattern to lull them back to calm quickly so there is no unnecessary suffering.

Only when they are calm and quiet, and distracted by the food in front of them, do we take the shot.

Taking the Shot

When we first started processing pigs, we would stand back some distance and take our time waiting for the perfect shot. We’d seen this on videos and figured this was the best way to do it.

It worked well most of the time. But we had a couple instances of the pigs turning their heads at the last moment and the shot bouncing off their tough forehead plates. The pigs were then frightened and had to be coaxed and calmed for a long time before we could get them back in the slaughter zone. We even saw signs of stress in the meat of one of our pigs.

Now, since I take so much time to tame our pigs from the moment they arrive on our homestead, we stand just a couple feet in front of them and take the shot. This way we don’t miss.

The target for the shot is right between the ears and the eyes. If you draw an “X” in your imagination between these locations and then shoot for the center of the X, the pig will drop on its side and twitch with nervous convulsions.

We use a .22 rifle do to the job. But we suspect that at that close range a .22 handgun might work just as well.

Also, make sure you are not on the downhill side of the pig when you take the shot in case they roll in your direction when they drop.

Bleeding out a Pig

The shot stuns and immobilizes the pig so that you can then use a knife to bleed the pig. You don’t want the pigs to be in pain as they die, but you do want to keep their heart beating until the last of their blood flows from their body. This makes evisceration (gutting) much easier.

There are three common techniques for bleeding out a pig.

Cutting the Carotid Arteries on each Side of the Neck

The first method is to cut the carotid arteries on each side of the neck. The arteries basically run along either side of the throat. Because we like to make jowl bacon, we try to make our cut below the jaw line closer to the clavicle. Then we use that cut as the line for decapitating the pig later.

Since the pig normally drops on one side, you can cut the artery on whichever side is facing up first. The blood will run quickly and thickly if you have cut the artery. If it doesn’t, then you know you have missed and need to cut deeper. To cut the other artery, you usually have to flip the pig to the other side and repeat the procedure.

The pig will die faster if you cut both arteries. However, depending on the size of your pig and how they fell, it’s not always easy to flip them over or get your knife in position to cut the other side. If the pig is bleeding out quickly and shows no signs of suffering, sometimes you can just cut one side and still get a quick death.

Cutting both Carotid Arteries from One Side of the Pig

To get both arteries from one side of the pig, poke your knife through both sides of the neck tissue on the stomach side of the pig. Then face the blade of your knife towards the pig’s throat and cut until you cause both arteries to gush. This is the method most of the “old-timers” (experts of a certain age) seem to use in my area.

Photo Courtesy of Tim Miles

Severing all of the Arteries at the Heart Junction

Alternatively, you can severe all the arteries at the juncture where they meet the top of the heart. Plunge the knife in the space between the clavicle and the neck tissue and direct your knife towards the center of the pigs body at an angle until blood gushes. You can see a really simple diagram of the correct angle at this site.

Read More: https://www.hsa.org.uk/bleeding-and-pithing/bleeding

This method is a bit easier than cutting the carotid arteries. However, many people who use this method also tend to puncture the heart. The tissue damage and subsequent clotting can make the heart a little unappetizing if you plan to eat it.

Photo Courtesy of Tim Miles

With any of these methods, when the blood begins to slow, you can lift and lower the pig’s front foot to force pump any remaining blood.

Reflection

After the blood visibly stops flowing, before we drag the pig the few feet to our scaffold area for scalding, we pause to have a moment of silence and honor our now deceased pig. We also let out a sigh of relief at giving our pig the most merciful death we were capable of.

If you are processing more than one pig, you’ll probably be pretty surprised to realize that the other pigs don’t seem at all bothered by the loss of their paddock mate. In fact, they will often come over and push the dead pig out of the way so they can eat any food and blood on the ground.

Photo Courtesy of Tim Miles

When things go well, even your last pig of the day still has no concerns about what’s coming. However if things go wrong, such as you miss a shot and one pig squeals in fear, the other pigs do notice, and are wary of you until their moment comes.

We learned this the hard way our first year of raising pigs. Now, we strive never to have our pigs know the fear of death again.

Writing this is nearly as difficult as doing the deed. I have five pigs up in the paddock now who will meet this fate just a couple months from now. So, this seems like a good point to pause and go give them some pets and appreciate their perfect pigness while I can.

Next Up

Our next installment in this series will cover scalding and evisceration. Then, we’ll move on to butchering. And after that we’ll get to sausage making, ham curing, bacon making, and more. So, stay tuned for more posts to come!

Also, if you feel as we do and want to raise your own pigs, now is the time to start thinking about piglets.

Depending on breed maturity rates, you’ll want to get your piglets about 6-8 months before you plan to process them. Since you want fairly cool, but not freezing temperatures for processing, in many climates, most people starting thinking about getting piglets in spring time to have them ready by fall. Piglets from good breeders tend to sell out quickly, so if raising and processing pigs is on your radar for this year, start looking for your piglet source and get your reservations in early.

If you’ve managed to read this far, I’d love to hear your thoughts on raising and slaughtering pigs at home. Please use the comments section below to share your views, experiences, or ask any questions you may have.

Also, if you’d like to read more on pig processing before we move on in the series, you can check out my earlier posts from my first time processing pigs.

Continue reading

Is It Raining? Get Outside and Do THIS!

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Those of you who know me know I love to play outside in the rain … barefoot, preferably. 😉

But there’s another reason rain draws me outside.

Beyond just irrigation, rainstorms serve another incredibly valuable purpose on the homestead: They show you where the water flows on your property—and where you might be having some problems.

In this new edition of Homesteading Basics, watch as I walk my property during a storm (after making sure all the hatches were battened down first, of course!) and glean some really valuable information—from clogged gutters to the best natural location for a new pond.

You’ll also see a little part of my property that’s almost magical. When my kids were young, we built a gabion with rocks and chicken wire to help slow the flow of water in an eroded spot. We never did anything else to that area, but we still had something pretty cool happen there. You’ll see what I’m talking about when you watch the video.

Then, I’d love to know: What’s your favorite way to slow the flow of water on your property? Share your tips in the comments!

 

The post Is It Raining? Get Outside and Do THIS! appeared first on The Grow Network.

The Kidney Wrap: Prepare Your Body For Winter

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Have you ever heard of a kidney wrap? It’s a simple but powerful technique to take care of your body during the winter months.

It soothes the adrenals and ensures your body will be ready to have a fabulous spring. This amazing health technique used to be well known by folks who lived in cold climates, and you’ll recognize the truth of it when looking at the fashions people wore in old photos.

Learn how to protect your own body with a kidney wrap in this video featuring Doug Simons (the master herbalist who teaches “Treating Infections Without Antibiotics”).

(This is an updated version of an article originally published in October 2013.) 

 

The post The Kidney Wrap: Prepare Your Body For Winter appeared first on The Grow Network.

Congratulations, Members, on Completing These Certifications!

Click here to view the original post.

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members on completing one or more of our Certifications!

As many of you know, one of the perks of membership in our Honors Lab is FREE access to several amazing certifications in our Honors Lab area—and lots more are in the works.

These Certifications dive deep. They’re essentially multi-lesson master classes, full of practical know-how so you can immediately start reaping benefits for yourself, your family, and your garden.

(And if you’re not an Honors Lab member yet, you can gain access to these Certifications + lots more perks of membership by joining today. Click here to learn more!)

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification 

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification

This 8-week course teaches the principles of bio-intensive gardening—one of the easiest, most sustainable ways to produce big, delicious fruits and vegetables!

It covers everything from starting and transplanting seedlings to the basics of garden beds and soil, and from making compost to garden maintenance. There’s even a section on harvesting and processing grains!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members for completing the Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification!

  • Brian Moyers
  • Debbie Kennedy
  • Jennifer Walton
  • Alice Krueger
  • Ann Kudlicki
  • Carole Barrett
  • Chantal Turcotte
  • David Clark
  • Diane Jandt
  • Ellie Strand
  • Fern Cavanaugh
  • George Griggs
  • HP P
  • James Tutor
  • Keith Gascon
  • Kristina Head
  • Lori Rupp-Reagle
  • Lyndsy Schlup
  • Marlene Wild
  • Michael Clayton
  • Michael Oden
  • paulasmith
  • Rachel Tardif
  • Revola Fontaine
  • Robert Wohlfiel
  • Rogers George
  • Saunya Hildebrand
  • Shawn Skeffington
  • Stephen Biernesser
  • Stephen Bolin
  • Susan Faust
  • tnsh5699
  • William Torres

Home Medicine 101 Certification

Home Medicine 101 Certification

The Home Medicine 101 Certification is a perennial favorite in the Honors Lab!

This eight-week class teaches you how to remedy:

  • Burns, stings, and rashes,
  • Wounds and lacerations,
  • Coughs and colds,
  • Fevers,
  • Indigestion,
  • Anxiety and insomnia,
  • Muscle pain, and
  • Topical infections …

… with readily available plants you may already have growing in your backyard!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members for completing Home Medicine 101:

  • Raelene Norris
  • Alfredo Moreno
  • Alice DeLuca
  • Alice Krueger
  • Alta Blomquist
  • Amanda Gossett
  • Amy Blight
  • Amy Marquardt
  • Andrea Hill
  • Angel Hartness
  • Angela Wilson
  • Anna Zingaro
  • Anne McNally
  • Annette Coder
  • Antony Chomley
  • Arlene Woods
  • Barry Williams
  • Beth Zorbanos
  • Bohn Dunbar
  • Bonnie Shemie
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Brian Moyers
  • Camilla-Faye Muerset
  • Cara Hettich
  • Carol Bandi
  • Carol Ryerson
  • Carole Barrett
  • Carolyn Winchester
  • Carra
  • Catie Ransom
  • Chantale Mitchell
  • Charles Marian
  • Chelsea
  • Cherisbiz
  • Christi Crane
  • Christina Hawk
  • Christine Lawler
  • Christine Sadilek
  • Cindy Farley
  • Constantine Spialek
  • Craig Mackie
  • Cynthia Parker
  • Dale Bolton
  • Daniel Shook
  • Danielle Stenger
  • Dave Danner
  • Debbi Sander
  • Debbie Ford
  • Debbie Hill
  • Deborah Scribner
  • Debra Jensen
  • Debra Miller
  • Denise Callahan
  • Desiree Garcia
  • Diane Devine
  • Diane Jandt
  • Diane Massey
  • Dianna Burton
  • Don Wong
  • Donna Detweiler
  • Donna Norman
  • Dr. Carol Viera
  • Ellen Reh-Bower
  • Emily Bell
  • Emma Dorsey
  • Felicitas & Leandro Cometa
  • Fern Cavanaugh
  • Gail Maynard
  • Gary Flinchbaugh
  • George Griggs
  • Gilbert Sieg
  • Gina Jeffries
  • Ginger Cline
  • Hannelore Chan
  • Heather Munoz
  • Helen Bailey
  • Helen McGlynn
  • HP P
  • Irida Sangemino
  • Jamie Birchall
  • jamingo62
  • Jane Burkheimer
  • Janna Huggins
  • Jaudette Olson
  • Jessica Bonilla
  • Jessica Conley
  • Jim Hadlock
  • Jodee Maas
  • John Kempf
  • Jouski
  • Joyce Tallmadge Tallmadge
  • Judith Johnson
  • Julene Trigg
  • Julian San Miguel
  • Julie Kahrs
  • Juliet Wimp
  • Justin Talbot
  • Karen Brennan
  • Karen Suplee
  • Kat Sturtz
  • Katherine Keahey
  • Kathy O’Neal
  • Kathy Williams
  • Kelly Pagel
  • Kim Adelle Larson
  • Kim Kelly
  • Kim Osborne
  • Kimberley Burns-Childers
  • Kimberly Dolak
  • Kimberly Martin
  • Kristen Fitzgerald
  • Kristen McClellan
  • Laura Elliott
  • Laura Riches
  • Laurie Swope
  • LeanneTalshshar
  • Leediafast Bailey
  • Leslie Carl
  • Liann Graf
  • Linda
  • Linda Adair
  • Linda Beeth
  • Linda Cavage
  • Linda Grinthal
  • Linda Maes
  • Linda Raymer
  • Lisa Emerson
  • Lisa O’Connell
  • Lois Pratt
  • Lori Rupp-Reagle
  • Lori Spry
  • Lyudmila Kollin Kollin
  • Mandi Golman
  • Mandy Allen
  • Marcel Legierse
  • Marie Kidd
  • Marilyn Lange
  • Marjorie Hamrick
  • Marlene Moore
  • Martha Stanley
  • Mary Atsina
  • Mary Coons
  • Mary Dove
  • Mary Holt
  • Mary Sanderson
  • MaryAnn Kirchhoffer
  • Michael Hedemark
  • Michele Langford
  • Michelle Messier
  • Mike Scheck Scheck
  • Millicent Drucquer
  • Mimi Neoh
  • Monika Thompson
  • Nancy K. Young
  • Natalie Burton
  • Nellie Bhattarai
  • Nikki Follis
  • Nikki Thompson
  • Pamela Morrison
  • Patricia Scholes
  • Paula Frazier
  • Pete Lundy
  • Phil Tkachuk
  • Rachel Tardif
  • Rebecca Hale
  • Rebecca Riddle
  • Renee Hume
  • Revola Fontaine
  • Richard T. Tungate
  • Rick Horton
  • Robert Harris
  • Robert Kennedy
  • Robin Marshall
  • Rochelle Eisenberger
  • Rodger Huffman
  • Rogers George
  • Ruth Hester
  • Ruth Macrides
  • Ryan Johnston
  • S. Henshaw
  • Samantha Stokes
  • Sandi Huston
  • Sandra Mikesell
  • Sarah Cowan
  • Sarah Schwartz
  • Shalise Klebel
  • Sharon Marsh
  • Shawn Elmore
  • Shelly B.
  • Shelly Vogt
  • Sherry Hofecker
  • Steve Frazier
  • Sue Mortensen
  • Susan Abdullah
  • Susan Auckland
  • Susan Friesen
  • Susan Gray
  • Susan Phillips
  • Suzanne Oberly
  • Tammy Gresham
  • Tamora Gilbert
  • Teresa Elston
  • Teri Moote
  • Terra Eckert
  • Terry Bomar
  • Theresa McCuaig
  • Theresa Schultz
  • Tracie Velazquez
  • Wanita Martinelli
  • Wendy Meredith
  • William Torres

Instant Master Gardener Certification

Instant Master Gardener Certification

In 8 lessons, The Grow Network’s Instant Master Gardener Certification reveals gardening secrets, tips, and tricks that most people spend years discovering.

Lessons include:

  1. “The Secret to a Green Thumb”
  2. “How Much Land Do You Need?”
  3. “The Power of Herbs”
  4. “The Easiest Way to Prepare a Garden Bed”
  5. “Three Facts About Seeds Every Master Gardener Knows”
  6. “Transplanting Baby Plants”
  7. “The Four HUGE Advantages of Backyard Food Production”
  8. “A Homemade Fertilizer So Powerful, You Could Create a Business Out of It”

Congrats to the following Honors Lab members for completing this powerful certification:

  • Brian Moyers
  • Debbie Kennedy
  • Dianne
  • Jennifer Walton
  • Aldo
  • Alice Krueger
  • Andrea Hill
  • Annie Degabriele
  • Barb
  • Beth Zorbanos
  • Bonnie Tyler
  • Bryson Thompson
  • bydawnsearlylite
  • Christina Hawk
  • Christy Dominguez
  • csells815
  • Cynthia Parker
  • David Clark
  • Debbie
  • Debbie Kennedy
  • Deborah Gonzales
  • Debra Frazier
  • Debra Hollcroft
  • Doc Hecker
  • Elmer Caddell
  • Gary Conter
  • Gayle Lawson
  • Geraldine Christmas
  • Gregg
  • HP P
  • Ibeneon
  • James Judd
  • Jamie Barker
  • Jeanette Tuppen
  • jeff780
  • Jennifer Johnson
  • JoAnn
  • Joe Prohaska
  • John Kempf
  • Karen
  • Karyn Pennington
  • Katycasper
  • Kcasalese
  • Keith Gascon
  • Kenneth
  • Laura Mahan
  • Leah Kay Olmes
  • Lisa Blakeney
  • Lori Rupp-Reagle
  • Marti Noden
  • Mary Falkner
  • Megan Venturella
  • metaldog227
  • Michael Clayton
  • Michael Merriken
  • Michael Dirrim
  • Nicole Mindach
  • Philip Vance
  • Rachel Tardif
  • Robert Wohlfiel
  • Robin
  • Rogers George
  • Ron Atkinson
  • Samantha Straw
  • Sammabrey
  • Sandy
  • Shawn Skeffington
  • Sheila Robadey
  • Sherry Ankers
  • Sherry Baer
  • Spraygsm
  • Stacey
  • Teddy Plaisted
  • Teresa Wolf
  • William Torres

Saving Quality Seeds Certification

Saving Quality Seeds

Learn how to save seeds that will ensure an abundant harvest in years to come with the in-depth information in TGN’s Saving Quality Seeds Certification.

This 7-lesson Certification teaches which plants are easiest to save seeds from, how to plan your garden with seed-saving in mind, how to do a garden soil inventory, the basics of dry and wet harvesting, the best way to store seed, how to determine seed quality—and more!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members on completing this Certification:

  • Debbie Kennedy
  • Brian Moyers
  • Diane Jandt
  • Gary Conter
  • HP P
  • Janna Huggins
  • Phil Tkachuk
  • William Torres

Backyard Chickens for Egg Production Certification

I’m excited to announce that we’re putting the finishing touches on another multi-lesson, deep-diving certification, which will be added to the Honors Lab very soon:

Backyard Chickens for Egg Production 

In this awesome new certification, TGN blogger (and homesteader extraordinaire!) Tasha Greer covers everything from breed selection and coop design to flock health and egg storage — plus lots more….

We’ve also got several more certifications in the works, including “Making Home Medicine,” “Backyard Meat Rabbits,” “Bird-watching,” and “Beekeeping.” We’re working with some fantastic experts on these, so you’ll definitely want to check them out in the Honors Lab once they’re ready. Exciting stuff! 🙂

 

The post Congratulations, Members, on Completing These Certifications! appeared first on The Grow Network.

Tablet Weaving Loom Using a Wooden Stool

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Tablet Weaving Loom Using a Wooden Stool While there are a lot of great prepping skills out there to learn, there are some that most people bristle at. Buying guns and learning how to make fire couldn’t make you feel more powerful. Then you realize that your tactical pants are going to get ripped. Once …

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Preparing for a Pig Slaughter

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CAUTION: This article, and the photos in it, include graphic details about pig slaughter. If you are disturbed by information and images of this nature, please use your own discretion when determining whether to read further.

Raising and processing your own pigs at home is a great way to provision your family with a year’s supply of meat. If you start with weaned piglets that are about eight weeks old, it takes around four to six months to raise your pigs to “market weight,” which is around 250 pounds.

A 250-pound pig, also called a hog, will yield about 140–145 pounds of meat products. Anything you can’t eat, you can trench compost to improve your soil (assuming you have a place on your property at least 50 feet from your wellhead or watershed to dig a trench). And if you want to do some extra processing, you can also grind bones into bonemeal for your garden and make a year’s supply of bone broth to up your protein and gelatin intake.

Read More: “Benefits of Bone Broth: Myth or Magical Mystery?”

Raising pigs is the easy part. They simply require adequate space to root inside a really robust electric fence, fresh water, a lot of food, and a three-sided shelter for weather protection.

Training your pigs to the wire when they are small is important, and if you can find piglets that are already wire-trained, that’s even better.

When they are young, or if you raise them through winter, you may also need to give them some bales of straw to use as bedding to help keep them comfortable and avoid weight loss during cold spells.

Planning for the slaughter, though, can be a bit daunting.

Technically, you can field dress a pig, like you would a deer, by basically removing the guts and hide. But, if you plan to make any kind of fancy products like bacon and cured ham or pork rinds, then you really want to think about your setup and plan to have on hand all the necessary equipment that will make your pig slaughter as easy and organized as possible.

Here’s what we do to get ready for our hog processing each year.

Assemble Your Team

One person can slaughter a hog. But we find that having two to four people available to help makes the process a lot easier. And if you plan to make it a whole-day event and do multiple pigs at once, like we do, having more help for shift relief makes things go much faster.

We tend to make our hog killings a bit of a community event by inviting friends interested in learning to come for the experience. However, making sure that you or your helpers have the necessary skills for each task is the most important factor.

We tend to plan our team with the following skills in mind.

The Shooter

If you get in the habit of standing in front of your pigs while you feed them, your shooter will basically be able to shoot the pigs at almost point blank when processing day comes. This way, there is no chance of missing the mark. But, even with such an easy target, an experienced shooter is a good team member to have. We also like to have a second shooter ready just in case something goes wrong with the first shot.

The Sticker

This person sticks the pig in the heart to bleed it out after the shot drops the pig in convulsions. The sticker can also be the shooter, but in this case, you’ll need someone nearby for the shooter to pass the gun to. That person can then put the safety on the gun, and put the gun back in its case so no accidents happen. Alternatively, you can set up a chair, table, or even picnic blanket to set the gun on if your shooter is your sticker and there is no one there to take the gun.

The Heavy Lifters

We personally raise our pigs a bit bigger than 250 pounds, so we like to have two strong people who can help haul the pigs the 15–20 feet from their paddock down to our scaffold.

 

Pig Slaughter -Scraping

The Skinner or Skin Scrapers

If you plan to skin your pig, that’s pretty much a one-person job. But if you are scraping, a few extra hands get the job done quicker. Up to four people speed up the process, but if you get more than four sets of hands on the hog at once, you just start running into each other and flinging hair on the person below (yuck).

The Gutter

Gutting is delicate work, but intestines are also heavy. So you want someone with steady knife skills and the ability to hold back 40 pounds of innards with their elbow during the “unzipping.”

The Splitter

Splitting a hog carcass down the spine with a saw is extremely physical work. You can use power saws to make it easier. But it still requires a fair bit of strength and stamina. It’s also a bit easier if you have two other people hold the sides of the carcass to steady it while the person operating the saw cuts through.

The Butchers

You need one skilled butcher who can find their way around a carcass to cut off the bacon, hams, Boston butts, etc., and who can distinguish pork chops and roasts from sausage meat. But after those initial cuts, butchering is the part of the process where more hands really make light work. Quite a bit of hog processing is sausage making, and that means cutting your meat and fat into chunks or strips that will fit in your grinder. There is also a lot of curing and packaging to be done. So if you want to involve people interested in learning, this is the part of the processing where almost anyone can get in on the action.

Prepare Your Equipment

Beyond having the right people with the right skills lined up for your pig slaughter, you also need to prepare your equipment.

We’re minimalists on the equipment front because we like to do things fairly “old school.” But we still have a pretty lengthy list.

Here’s what we use:

General

  • Deboning Knives—For gutting, head removal, and butchering
  • Knife Sharpener and Steel—For knife maintenance, as needed
  • First Aid Kit—With lots of bandages, disinfectant, and superglue to close skin cuts
  • Disposable Gloves—In case you get cuts that bandages won’t stick to and for anyone who prefers to work with gloves
  • Three Five-Gallon Buckets—To set up a washing station outdoors; we fill one with soapy water, one with bleach, and one with clean water to use for cleaning equipment, hands, and whatever else you use during processing

Pig Slaughter - The End of a Life

For the Kill

  • .22 Rifle With Bullets—For stunning the pig
  • Sharp-Tipped Knife—For sticking the pig to bleed it out
  • Two Ropes—To drag the pig down to our processing area
  • Hose—To wash the pig off before scalding

For Scalding and Scraping the Pig

  • Scaffold—For elevating the pigs into the scalding vat; a front loader or tripod will also work
  • Two Engine Hoists—We hang one over the scalding vat and another next to it to use to hang the pig for gutting. You can also gut the pig on a pallet on the ground if you only have one engine hoist.
  • Scalding Vat—Large enough to hold an entire pig, ours is a 250-gallon oil tank cut in half and welded into a horseshoe shape. For smaller pigs, 55-gallon drums work, too.
  • Hose With Sprayer Nozzle—With access to a clean water supply for filling scalding vat and using to wash the pig, hands, tools, etc., during processing
  • Cinder Blocks—For stabilizing scalding vat
  • Chains—For use to agitate the pigs in the scalding vat to keep them from sticking to the bottom (if the flame is on, as it often must be in cold weather)
  • Two Gambrels—These are placed through the front and back legs and used to hoist and direct the pigs when lifted and lowered onto the scaffold.
  • S-Hooks—For attaching the gambrels to the engine hoists
  • Propane Tanks and Burners (or Lots of Wood)—For heating the water in the scalding vat
  • Thermometer—For checking water temperature prior to scalding to make sure you reach 150–155ºF
  • Bell Scrapers—For scraping the hair from the skin

Pig Slaughter - Splitting a Carcass

For Gutting, Beheading, and Splitting

  • Bone Saw—For splitting the carcass and cutting through ribs
  • Deboning Knife or Knife with Gut-Hook—For gutting
  • Twine—To tie up the anus
  • Gut Bucket—A really large bucket to catch the guts and store them until you get a chance to take what you need and bury the rest
  • Smaller Bucket—For the organs you plan to keep, like the liver, heart, and kidneys

For Butchering, Processing, and Packaging

  • Large Cutting Boards
  • Large Cooler—This works great to hold the heads until you process. Just leave the lid off so the heads stay as cool as it is outdoors. Then, after you process the heads, you can use the cooler to organize your cuts until they can be packaged.
  • Lots of Buckets (or Pots, Bowls, and Whatever Large Vessels You Have)—For holding fat or meat chunks; and to use to brine heads, for curing bacon, etc.
  • Pressure Canner—For making stock and head cheese and to use to can stock and lard after processing
  • Slow Cooker or Other Large Stove-Top Pot—For making lard
  • Canning Jars and Lids—To hold stock and lard
  • Meat Grinder—For making sausage
  • Sausage Stuffer and Casings—If you plan to make links
  • Vacuum Sealer With Bags, Butcher Paper, or Freezer Bags—For packaging
  • Food-Grade Scale—For weighing cures and meat cuts, etc.
  • Permanent Marking Pens—To label your packages
  • Pillow Cases or Old Sheets—To use for curing hams
  • Parchment Paper and Twine—To use to keep the cure in place on the hams
  • Rope—For hanging hams

Pig Slaughter - Tasha Gutting

Storage, Space, and Special Planning Considerations

In addition to the equipment necessary for processing, you also need to make sure you have the space to do this. Pig slaughter is easiest when you have room to move and have planned where you will store everything while you work through that large amount of meat.

Short-Term Needs

You will need some fairly big, sturdy tables to work on. We have a stainless-steel table for breaking down the carcass and a really large picnic table that we cover with plastic and use to cube and cure meat. If it is really cold, we also use our indoor dining table covered in plastic and our kitchen island for doing the curing and bagging.

A stainless-steel or granite-topped table is also really helpful if you plan to make sausage links.

You will also need some equipment for safely storing your meat overnight so you can finish processing the next day. We put some of our meat on pallets in a truck bed, tied it in with tarps, and covered it with chairs to deter critters. We also hung some of it with our engine hoists.

But if you have a secure, unheated outbuilding, that would work best.

You will need a place to store your bacon while it cures for 14 days. You need to flip the bacon once a day, so this location should be easy for you to access. We usually use the same cooler we used for heads and cuts, and keep it on our front porch so we remember to flip the bacon daily.

Long-Term Needs

You need a place to hang your hams to dry for 60–75 days while they cure and for another 6–18 months while they age.

You need a freezer to store your bounty of meat for the year.

Special Considerations

If you plan to make fermented sausage, you will likely need a fermentation chamber to control humidity and temperature for a 30-day curing period or longer.

If you plan to smoke your meats, you will also need either a hot or cold smoker, depending on your preference. Cold-smoking is used for flavoring meat after it is cured by other methods (e.g., salt and Insta Cure). Hot smoking is usually applied to meat that will be used quickly or frozen.

Plan Your Recipes and Prepare Your Ingredients

We are total foodies, and so half the reason we raise our own pigs is so we can make our own gourmet products at home for a fraction of the cost we’d pay at gourmet grocery stores.

Before we ever set the date for processing, we plan which recipes we’ll use for making bacon, ham, and any other cuts we want to cure.

We decide what kind of sausage mixes we plan to make. Then we shop for items we don’t grow ourselves and make sure we have adequate stocks of everything else.

Regardless of which recipes we use, we always need large quantities of the following:

  • Sea Salt—For curing and seasoning
  • Demarara Sugar—For curing hams and bacon
  • Insta Cure No. 1—For bacon and smoked sausage
  • Insta Cure No. 2—For dry-cured hams and salamis
  • Garlic—For sausage and bacon
  • Wine, Beer, Water, or Milk—For sausage liquid
  • Spices—Marjoram, oregano, paprika, black pepper, cayenne, thyme, rosemary, fennel seed, etc.

I also like to make up my mixes for bacon, ham, and most of our sausages in advance of processing so that we don’t have to worry about tracking down ingredients when the meat starts coming off the carcass.

For example, I’ll make up ham cure in 50-pound increments, but then I’ll weigh the cure, divide by 50, and leave a note on the cure indicating how many ounces of mix to use per pound of ham. This year it was 1.2 ounces of cure to a pound of ham. So, my helpers weighed the hams. The first was 28 pounds. They then weighed out 33.6 ounces (1.2 ounces x 28 pounds of meat), and rubbed that into the hams before wrapping.

I also had parchment paper, twine, and pillow cases all ready so they could get the hams ready for hanging.

I do the same with the bacon cure.

I also prepare sausage spices in 20-pound batches so that as soon as we’ve got 20 pounds of the appropriate quantities of meat and fat ground, we can immediately start mixing up our first batch of sausage.

Check the Weather and Make the Final Call

About three days before our pig slaughter, we check the weather and make sure we are on track for our proposed date. Rain or excess wind are deal breakers for us, because we do most of our processing outdoors and we want to be as comfortable as we can be while we are doing this. If you have a large outbuilding to use, your considerations may be different. For us, we like daytime temperatures in the 45°F–55°F range and hovering above freezing overnight. If the weather looks good, we alert our team and start setting everything up.

We check the weather again the day before just to make sure our forecast still looks good. This year, we had a snow storm sneak up on us on our first planned date. So we had to cancel the day before. But the next weekend turned out to be perfect.

Even with good preplanning, you’ll inevitably forget something. Part of being prepared is knowing that you’ll still likely have to do some improvising the day of. Flexibility and ingenuity are also key skills that you want every member of your team to have.

Pig slaughter requires a lot of preparation and work, and you should know that going in. However, I find that if I keep in mind the fact that I am literally provisioning most of my meat supply for the entire year with those few days of hard work, it’s a lot easier to get through. And, at the end, I have the satisfaction of knowing where my food came from, how my animals were raised, and what went into their processing every step of the way.

I’m pretty experienced at pig slaughter now. But a few years ago, I was a total novice. You can read my posts about a first-time hog killing using the following links:

Then, stay tuned for some new, upcoming posts with more specific details about processing and product making from your hogs at home.

If you have experience at home processing or are thinking about doing it, we’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Please share any thoughts or information you have in the comments section below.

 

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The post Preparing for a Pig Slaughter appeared first on The Grow Network.

Stay Inspired for Sustainability: How to Find Your Own #Sustainability Crew

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In the last eight articles of the Apartment Homesteader series, we’ve discovered dozens of ways to live sustainably in our apartments and condos as apartment homesteaders.

But what about when the road to sustainability gets rough?

When your hours get cut at work and you have trouble affording organic food….

When you’re running low on time and it would be easier to simply run to Wal-Mart for shampoo and deodorant than make your own with natural ingredients….

Read More: “Homemade Shampoo Disaster”

When you just want to throw your food scraps in the garbage instead of taking them out to your compost pile or reusing them….

When it’s raining and it would be so much easier to drive your own car to work than to wait for the bus….

When you’re living as sustainably as possible but see on the news that 200,000 gallons of oil leaked into the groundwater in South Dakota and wonder if anything you’re doing is actually making any difference at all….

You’ll have your moments of, “Is this all worth it?” We all have those moments on our journey to sustainable living.

That’s where your homesteading community comes in.

Your #Tribe, your #Gang, your #Group….

Your #SustainabilityCrew can help keep you inspired to live your most sustainable life. They can inspire you to go that extra step when you lack resolve. They can inspire you to implement new projects in your apartment homestead and keep going when the going gets rough.

And best of all, your #SustainabilityCrew can help you see that what you do to conserve, reuse, and live sustainably in your apartment or condo can actually make a real difference in the world.

Here are some ways to find your #SustainabilityCrew as an apartment homesteader.

Your Online Crew

Congrats! If you’re reading this, that means you’ve already found The Grow Network, an incredible community of like-minded individuals to add to your #SustainabilityCrew!

Have you joined the Honors Lab yet? The Grow Network Honors Lab is where you become an insider in The Grow Network world. Join a group of homestead enthusiasts from around the world and get new publications and blog updates in your inbox.

Also, participate in discussions on The Grow Network’s Facebook page! Thousands of people with homesteads of their own or homestead dreams flock to The Grow Network Facebook page every day to participate in discussions, find projects to implement, or learn from the experts. Be sure to like and follow the page to get updates and be part of the #SustainabilityCrew online.

You can also head over to HungryHomesteaders.com, my personal homesteading website. I ask the question, “What defines YOUR most sustainable life?” I blog about homesteading projects, toxin-free living, travel, food, essential oils, herbal medicine, and all the ways in which we seek to live our most sustainable lives. Also, like my Hungry Homesteaders Facebook page!

Go where the homesteaders hang out online to find your online #SustainabilityCrew.

Your Local Apartment-Dwelling Crew

After a little searching around to find your online crew, go local to find some fellow apartment dwellers who are interested in joining the #SustainabilityCrew movement as apartment homesteaders.

Check for local Meetup groups on homesteading and green living topics. You might be surprised to learn that there is already a local group of green-living lovers who can help inspire you to keep up with your apartment homesteading dreams!

Another place to find your local apartment crew is to attend block party events or other neighborhood events and talk to your neighbors about apartment homesteading. More of your neighbors than you realize might have their own countertop or patio gardens! Swap tips and ideas to live more sustainably in your apartments.

Connect with your neighbors by inviting them to attend area farmers’ markets and conservation events around town. Besides gaining a new #SustainabilityCrew member, reaching out to your neighbors may also give you some new pals!

Your Local Homestead Crew

Get inspired to save for your own homestead land or to expand your apartment homestead operation by finding local homesteaders to learn from.

Not sure where to find the homesteaders in your area? Start by shopping local farmers’ markets. Many area farmers will attend and sell their produce or products at the local markets. Some may even have visit days already scheduled when you and the apartment homesteading pals in your local crew can go visit the farm and check out their operations.

Read More: “Build a Community in 9 Easy Steps”

Another great way to find your local homesteaders is to join a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) group or produce-box delivery service and contact the farms where the produce comes from.

Local conservation groups may also host events where you can meet like-minded homesteaders to add to your #SustainabilityCrew.

Be Your Own Crew Leader

Having trouble filling out your #SustainabilityCrew with local apartment-dwellers or established homesteaders? Be your own #Crew leader!

Start your own Meetup group to find people in the area who are interested in conservation and sustainability projects. Meet at your local public library or in an area park. Find an area homesteader who would like to host a “get inspired” rally for sustainable living initiatives!

Host Apartment Homestead Planning sessions in your apartment or in a central location of your apartment complex for residents like you who want to live sustainably but need a little help moving in the right direction.

Host “make & takes” for personal care products or cleaning supplies and help your friends live toxin-free lives like yours.

Whatever direction you choose, be your own crew leader and inspire other apartment dwellers to live more sustainably. You did it; now spark the fire of change in the people around you. 

Your Expert Mentors

Finally, cap off your #SustainabilityCrew with a dose of expert advice.

Learn from the experts to live your most sustainable life in your apartment.

You’re already in the right place. Marjory and other experts with The Grow Network know their stuff and can help you learn to live even more sustainably!

Have you attended a Home Grown Food Summit yet? If not, sign up for the Honors Lab and make sure you’re on The Grow Network e-mail list to get alerts when registration opens for the next online Summit in 2018!

Your #SustainabilityCrew will help keep you motivated to live your MOST sustainable life in your apartment homestead. Join the Apartment Homesteader Facebook group—and invite your friends!—and together let’s inspire the urban world to live sustainably as apartment homesteaders and #SustainabilityCrew members!

 

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Homemade Shampoo Disaster

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So I’ve been working on researching plants high in saponins—which is a natural form of soap. And I was delighted to find that the roots of pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) are very high in saponins.

Pokeweed is also a fairly toxic plant. You can eat it if you harvest the leaves in the very early spring while the plant is young and before the stalks turn red. You have to boil it and discard the water at least twice (three times or more for those who worry a lot). So I probably should’ve been a bit more cautious.

By the way, the purple berries (also toxic to humans, but I’ve seen poultry enjoy them) make a really nice dye for cloth or buckskin.

Anyway, I harvested a big chunk of root and grated it up with a cheese grater. When I put that in water, I was delighted with how soapy the water got—it is soapier than yucca root. Let me point out that natural soaps like this never get quite as frothy as commercial stuff, but this was surprisingly soap like.

Between handling the pokeweed root and then washing my hair with it, I got a good dose of whatever else is in those roots. Oh dear, I got quite a headache and a bit dizzy! LOL. So let me be the first to tell you NOT to try this one at home!

Stick with baking soda and vinegar if that is what you are using. And my personal favorite to date is the egg/honey/lemon blend I wrote about in this post on homemade shampoo.

If you are wondering why I don’t just make soap using lye and fat … well, here is a short video that explains why not.

 

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(This article was originally published October 29, 2013.)

 

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Surviving A Cold Night With Nothing But The Clothes On Our Backs

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We greedily drank water, our cupped hands gathering it up from the little spigot on the “water buffalo”—which was an old army water tank mounted on a trailer. It held the main supply of water for the entire camp.

“No water bottles, no ChapStick, no flashlights—nothing but the clothes on your back” had been the directions. So we were all wisely filling up and carrying water the old-fashioned way: in our guts.

It was just after dark and already cold. I zipped up my jacket the last few inches and wished there was a hoodie on it. The clear sky told me it would get much, much colder before it was all over. The full moon was going to be helpful. There was nothing around for miles except chaparral bushes. Well, OK, there were some saguaros or barrel cactus, scorpions, and kangaroo rats, too.

Most of the plant and animal life here had the attitude of stabbing you first and asking questions later. So the bright moonlight would at least help keep the kids from getting punctured.

(Twice a year my daughter and I attend primitive skills gatherings, where we join other adults and kids to learn, practice, and trade skills from the Paleolithic era.)

The real guide of this group was David Holladay. Like many of the others from camp, David had been picked up and featured in some crazy reality show (for David, it was The History Channel’s No Man’s Land). Cody Lundin of Dual Survivor, George Michaud of Mountain Men, and Jason Hawk of No Man’s Land are all regulars at these gatherings.

The thing about these guys is they are the genuine real deal.

Sonoran desert

So when word got around camp that we needed a leader to take the teens out for an adventure, David jumped in.

I would have been quite content to sleep in my comfy tent and double-thick sleeping bag, but when teens go out overnight, you need to have separate boys and girls camps.

And you really need a woman.

While all the other moms thought this was a fantastic project, uh, apparently I was the only one who was up for the whole enchilada.

“Thousands of people are doing what we are doing tonight,” David said, setting the tone for the evening as we circled together before leaving the main camp. “Thousands of people have been suddenly awakened out of bed, grabbed what they could carry on their backs, and are getting away into the night as fast as they can. Their homes behind them are being destroyed by civil war, by fire, by oppressive governments, by any number of things. Like us, they are going to walk for a ways and then they will try to find a place to sleep. Unlike us, they will not be able to return back to camp in the morning for breakfast.”

“You will be miserable tonight. It’s a cold night, and we are taking nothing with us into a harsh desert environment. You’ll experience tonight a small piece of what is a very hard reality for many people all over the world.  But you are really lucky; we are not that far from the main camp with your parents who love you. And we will be back after sunrise.”

We walked out into the desert. We played games in the moonlight, picking out buddies for a buddy system. We ran some foot races. We talked about what makes a good camping spot. We set up systems so everyone would stay safe.

David had brought the materials for a hand-drill fire and showed us as a group how to make a fire, even though none of us could do it alone.  We spoke in circle around the fire, sharing our deepest fears and hopes.

Teens can stay awake so long into the night!

Then we tried to sleep. In the girls’ camp, we readily snuggled up into a big puppy pile to keep warm, which helped. The boys roughed it out in their own ways around a huge bonfire, roasting on one side and freezing on the other.

The cold, hard ground sucked warmth out of everyone, and no one was really comfortable.

How much longer could these kids bear this? Most of them had only minimal experience camping.

The warm afternoon with its enthusiasm for adventure seemed so far away now.

But the thought of the homeless in other parts of the world kept haunting us and no one complained. And not a single kid left camp. They all hung in there.

“You have deep survival in your genes,” David told us. “All of your ancestors were survivors or you wouldn’t be here now. Humanity has faced plagues, famine, wars, floods, and every other form of disaster you can imagine. In your lineage are people who fled, or fought, or learned, or adapted. The people who didn’t make it, died. You are direct descendants of all those who survived. You have it in you even if you don’t know it.”

In the morning, way before dawn (well, this is one way to get teens to rise early!), we got up to watch the moon set. And then turned around to see a spectacular sunrise.

It was so beautiful. And empowering. Each of us knew we would never be afraid of walking out into a cold night if we had to. It really helps to be prepared.

We felt like champions.

And we were.

(This is an updated version of an article that was originally published in April 2014.) 

 

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Planting a Living Fence (VIDEO)

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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?

No?

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 fence made of willows

 

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.

Dwarf apples, anyone?

There are a lot of possibilities for building a living fence. Interweaving the trees causes them to graft together over time and make an almost impenetrable barrier — even more so if you use a hard and thorny tree like osage orange!

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.

Sorry bull, no more pigeon pea lunches for you!

 

*Willow living fence image via Rhian on Flickr. CC license.

 

The post Planting a Living Fence (VIDEO) appeared first on The Grow Network.

How To Stay Warm While Working Outside In The Cold

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As you start to live more sustainably you will be spending more time outdoors. And in the winter it can be tough to stay warm while working outside in the cold. Getting or cutting firewood, tending livestock, taking care of the orchards or greenhouse — all of these activities mean you’ll be outside, in the cold.

Sure, it may not be a full-on survival situation but, you are going to want to stay warm regardless! Here are my three best tips for staying warm and toasty during the winter months:

Cold-Busting Tip #1:   Wrap Your Neck! 

3 COLD-BUSTING TIPS How To Stay Warm While Working Outside In The Cold | The Grow Network

Your neck radiates more heat than any other area of the body. The head and feet are next on the list.  However, your neck is the most important area to keep warm. In my backpack (which also doubles as a purse), I keep a neck wrap. I’ve used it more times than I can count to stay warm during an unexpected cold front.

Have you ever started to get that scratchy feeling in your throat and you can feel the beginnings of a cold or flu coming on?  I like to wrap my neck while sleeping at night. I have found that this simple act seems to nip that sore throat in the bud! While I am no doctor, my theory is that by wrapping your neck, it creates a localized mini-fever, which possibly stops trouble before it has time to spread.

Check out this article on treating fevers — and when not to treat a fever.  The comments section of this particular article are especially amazing — click here to read how to assist a fever.

Cold-Busting Tip #2:  Stay Hydrated! 

3 COLD-BUSTING TIPS How To Stay Warm While Working Outside In The Cold | The Grow Network

For some reason, it seems harder to stay hydrated and drink enough fluids when it is cold outside. Of the many signs of dehydration, getting a bit chilled is usually one of the first to appear. Some other signs may be dry lips, dizziness when standing, and slower mental function. I find that making a quart of tea to sip on throughout the day helps me to drink more fluid. By using a quart sized mason jar I am able to easily keep track of how much I am drinking during the day.

I find tea helps to keep my body hydrated better than justing drinking straight water. My Grandmother was always drinking herbal tea that was nutritive. Good health is best achieved with gentle nudges! Sipping tea is a great way to help the process. Wildcrafting and/or growing your own teas is easy and can be a fun gardening project for the whole family.

Cold-Busting Tip #3: Prepare A Warm Space For Your Return

How to stay warm while working outside in the cold; gardening, chopping wood, or homesteading.

I picked up this tip when I got my permaculture certification. It is a lot easier to go out and brave the cold if you have a warm place to come back to! It doesn’t have to be a large room or even the whole house. But knowing that when you come back inside there will be somewhere warm gives you a psychological boost! I’ve relied on this for so many years that I don’t think about going outside without setting up my warm spot first!

Before you dress up and head out, throw a few logs on the fire and set the flue so you’ll have a warm spot waiting for you. If you are not heating with wood, perhaps you might run a tiny heater in a small room to have a “warm area” to return to.

Whatever you choose, knowing you have a warm place to come back to after working outside is vitally important. And you never know, if you have an accident outside, having a warm space to return to during an emergency may be crucial to your survival.

 

Do you have any tips or tricks to stay warm while working outside in the cold weather? Leave a comment — I’d love to hear them!

(This post was originally published on December 1, 2016.)


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The post How To Stay Warm While Working Outside In The Cold appeared first on The Grow Network.

6 Homesteading Skills You Need To Know—And Where To Get Them

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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
  • Carpentry skills
  • Plumbing knowledge
  • Animal husbandry
  • Gardening methods and techniques
  • Home Medicine

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.

The post 6 Homesteading Skills You Need To Know—And Where To Get Them appeared first on The Grow Network.

Teaching Children Homesteading Skills

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Growing up on a homestead offers not only the chance for a picture-perfect childhood, but also gives parents the opportunity to begin teaching the kiddos how to be self-reliant as soon as they learn how to walk! Children homesteading can be synonymous with children playing with these helpful tips.

Children Homesteading – Good for the Whole Family

Homesteading children are exposed to a myriad of learning opportunity on a daily basis. Each chance to help their parents and learn why they are doing what they are doing should be capitalized. Even a toddler has the capability to absorb information about their surroundings and be enthralled by all the sights, sounds, smells, and textures they can touch while helping do necessary chores around the farm.

The work will seem like play to the little ones! While older children and teenagers will likely come to view their given tasks as chores, hard word breeds not only good character. Besides, they’ll also get a sense of accomplishment when a task or project has been completed.

 

                                              READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

 

 

 

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30 Skills to Build While You’re Preparing to Homestead

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30 Skills to Build While You’re Preparing to Homestead There are many different skills you will need to be self sufficient and ready to homestead. If you’re don’t own that perfect piece of land yet, there is still time to start honing your skills in areas that will be advantageous when you finally get off …

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The post 30 Skills to Build While You’re Preparing to Homestead appeared first on SHTF & Prepping Central.