7 Reasons Why You Should Have a Medicinal Garden

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Growing medicinal plants are a great way to ensure garden sustainability and more notably, have access to natural medicine when you need it most. When I introduced more herbs in my garden, I noticed it had a profound impact on the vegetables and fruits I was growing. It also encouraged beneficial insects and birds to visit my garden and this helped cut down on plants being eaten.

Because of this observation, I changed my focus from solely growing to eat and, instead, worked to create a welcoming growing environment. Not only were my plants healthier, but I had access to natural herbs to use for making extracts and poultices. The following are reasons I feel gardeners should adopt adding medicinal herbs to the garden.

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6 Reasons Why You Should Have a Medicinal Garden

  1. Have access to multiple forms of natural medicine for future needs. When you have fresh cut herbs to use for natural medicine, you have access to the freshest forms of their healing properties. For example, what if you cut your hand and did not have a bandage. Did you know that the sage leaf can be wrapped around a wound and used as a natural band-aid? Or, if the bleeding from that cut was so bad that it wouldn’t stop. Did you know that a few shakes of some cayenne pepper can help control the bleed? Or, if you have a severe bruise, make a poultice. It’s one of the easiest and fastest ways to use herbal medicine.
  2. Calm your senses with medicinal teas. Herbs like lavender, lemon balm, chamomile, catnip, and peppermint have a natural sedative quality to them to help calm your spirits or help you sleep better at night. Taking a handful of leaves and adding them to a cup of hot water will create a soothing cup of herbal tea. Here are some great herbal tea remedies to start with.
  3. Many medicinal plants and herbs are perennials and will come back year after year. The more established the plants are, the more they will produce each year. This will save you money in the long run! I bought a small oregano plant three years ago and it is the size of a small shrub. I have so much oregano now that I can use it for culinary uses and experiment with making my own tinctures and astringents. As well, my echinacea has produced so many “baby” plants that I have dug them up and transferred them to another part of my property where I am creating another medicinal garden.
  4. Feed your livestock! Livestock can also benefit from growing herbs in the garden.  Not only can they be added for additional nutrition, but you can use herbs to make natural cleansing shampoos and even clean wounds. Some herbs I feed my animals are oregano, comfrey, lavender, mint, and sage.  Note: not all herbs are healthy for your livestock, so do research to find out which ones are good for your animals.
  5. Another added benefit of having a thriving medicinal garden is that bees love it! This promotes bee sustainability and a healthier garden, as well. The blossoms put out by the flowers and herbs will attract bees that will, in turn, happily pollinate your vegetable and fruits. Consider planting some of these beneficial flowers in addition to herbs:
    • Asters (Aster/Callistephus)
    • Sunflowers (Helianthus/Tithonia)
    • Salvia (Salvia/Farinacea-Strata/Splendens)
    • Bee balm (Monarda)
    • Hyssop (Agastache)
    • Mint (Mentha)
    • Cleome / Spider flower (Cleome)
    • Thyme (Thymus)
    • Poppy (Papaver/Eschscholzia)
    • California poppies (Eschscholzia)
    • Bachelor’s buttons (Centaurea)
    • Lavender (Lavandula)
  6. Regrow from cuttings on your windowsill. Herbs like rosemary, lavender, mint, cilantro, oregano, marjoram, basil, sage, lemon balm, and thyme are perfect for starting in a glass or canning jar. Simply add water and set in indirect sunlight – it’s that simple! Read more here.
  7. Herbs can be great companion plants for the vegetable garden. Don’t feel handcuffed to only growing vegetables, but herbs can be planted nearby to do double duty as companion plants. Companion planting can also help control the insect balance in your garden and repel some of the more unwanted guests like mosquitoes. Some favorite companion herbs are pairing basil with tomatoes, chamomile near cucumbers, garlic planted near apple, pear and peach trees, roses, cucumbers, peas, lettuce or celery. Read more about which herbs are great companions here.

Ready Nutrition writer and herbalist, Jeremiah Johnson has written extensively on how to cultivate a medicinal garden to use in a long-term emergency. His favorite medicinals are what he refers to as the 3 G’s: garlic, ginger, and ginseng. You can read his article on the subject.

To better understand natural medicine and using herbals for health, I strongly recommend you read more on the subject. The following books come highly recommended:

Herbal Antibiotics: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-Resistant Bacteria,” by Stephen Harrod Buhner.

Prepper’s Natural Medicine: Life-Saving Herbs, Essential Oils and Natural Remedies for When There is No Doctor, by Cat Ellis (Herbal Prepper)

This is not a new gardening concept, yet is still not widely used. When you are planting your garden, consider adding a few herbs and watch the benefits grow before your eyes.

 

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

The Prepared Home: 5 Prepper Projects to Start in the Spring

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ReadyNutrition Guys and Gals, as many of you know, planning is an important aspect of emergency preparedness. Each year, you should make new plans and practice your new skills. I wrote an article a little while back about planning (and possibly starting) an icehouse/root cellar during the wintertime.  As of this writing, spring is just around the corner (officially), and the cold weather is starting to retreat bit by bit.  We’re going to cover a few ideas for you to pursue during the spring months for building projects around your property.  Let’s jump right into it, with a description of the projects and the reason for building them.

Here are 5 Prepper Projects You Can Start in the Spring

  1. The Icehouse: As mentioned in the earlier article.  If you plan on doing it, you may just have at least 2-3 weeks where you can obtain some freezing temperatures.  This would behoove you to act, if you rent out a small backhoe and dig your cellar/icehouse.  Remember to go below the frost-line!  Fill up bins with water and let them freeze.  When the icehouse is finished, fill it up with these huge blocks of ice.  Sawdust is an excellent insulator, as is pine mulch (brown needles, not green, if you use needles).
  2. The Greenhouse: If you don’t have one, well, now’s the time to put one into place just before it’s time to plant and sprout your seedlings. There are almost innumerable styles and sizes to choose from.  Once again, you have about a month to get that baby up and running. Here is one greenhouse project you can do for less than $300. As well, consider the convenience of cold frames to get a head start on your garden.
  3. Underground (hidden) vault/cache point: Now this one will take a little bit of explaining. Once again, going below the frost-line, the key here will be to make a little “room,” so to speak, under the ground.  Make a foundation of gravel after you’ve dug out a cubicle/rectangular chamber.  Position this away from the house, where some government clown with a metal detector will not tread.  All the same, you can pick up a precast concrete module, or make it out of a culvert pipe.  You want to cover it up in the end with about 6” of earth, so that it’s not too much that you can’t get through it in the wintertime.  If you’re interested and indicate so in the comments, I can give you a good plan that I know works in a future article.
  4. Storage shed: Yes, build your own, if you have the time and resources.  Those pre-made sheds for sale in the building supply big-box stores cost a fortune.  You can do better by stick-building it out of 4” x 4” s and 6” x 6” s with pressure-treated plywood.  Make sure all your lumber is pressure-treated.  When you’re done, make your roof out of corrugated steel instead of shingles…it’ll save you time and energy during the winter with snow removal.
  5. Smokehouse: Now’s the time to prep that smokehouse for meat…months (or many moons, if you prefer!) before hunting season comes around again. This will involve perhaps the emplacement of a wood stove or the creation of a barbecue pit-type structure.  There are plenty of plans and diagrams on the Internet that you can weigh and balance against your needs.

This is the time to lay out all of your plans and figure out what materials you will be using and the costs for all of them.  In our rigidly-controlled social structures, there may even be a friendly government permit man or inspection man to meet…to find out how much they will take out of you before you start building.  Factor all of this into consideration prior to actually building, as it will alleviate headaches later.  You may want to do some smaller projects, such as a place to store firewood, or a small toolshed or such.  Do not allow the 5 mentioned in this article to dissuade you from some kind of project in the good weather for building.

Hopefully the weather will warm up soon, but this is an excellent time to lay the groundwork for what you have been thinking of building during the winter months.  The only limit is your imagination and to actually take action on the project.  The best plans in the world are only plans until they’re executed.  Here’s hoping you have some good weather and start the ball rolling on whatever project you decide.  Let me know about that item #3 above, and you keep fighting that good fight!  JJ out!

Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.

Mr. Johnson dries and tinctures a wide variety of medicinal herbs taken by wild crafting and cultivation, in addition to preserving and canning his own food. An expert in land navigation, survival, mountaineering, and parachuting as trained by the United States Army, Mr. Johnson is an ardent advocate for preparedness, self-sufficiency, and long-term disaster sustainability for families. He and his wife survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Cross-trained as a Special Forces Engineer, he is an expert in supply, logistics, transport, and long-term storage of perishable materials, having incorporated many of these techniques plus some unique innovations in his own homestead.

Mr. Johnson brings practical, tested experience firmly rooted in formal education to his writings and to our team. He and his wife live in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with their three cats.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Thriving When It Counts: How To Use Bug Infested Food

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It is a fact that bugs in all of their life cycles can be harmful to your stored food sources. They are one of the true enemies of your food supply and can usually be avoided by properly storing food for long-term use. But there are times when they find a way to get into your food supply. While these infestations may prevent humans from consuming it, take comfort in knowing that all is not lost! But first, the facts!

Pantry pests damage food by contaminating it with their bodies and their by-products. According to an integrated pest management system, nearly all dried food products are susceptible to insect infestation, including cereal products (grains, oats, cornmeal, rice, spaghetti, crackers, and cookies); seeds such as dried beans and popcorn; nuts; chocolate; raisins and other dried fruits; spices; powdered milk; tea; and cured meats.

The Usual Suspects

  • The larval stage of the Indianmeal moth produces frass (excrement) and webbing, and some beetle larvae produce secretions that give food a disagreeable odor and taste.
  • Setae (hairs) from the warehouse beetle can irritate the mouth, throat, and stomach of people who eat infested products.
  • In addition, pantry pests might introduce microbes into the food that could produce mycotoxins (highly carcinogenic compounds), especially if the food is stored in warm, humid conditions.

In The Prepper’s Cookbook, it was emphasized that insects are most likely to infest food products that have been opened but are also capable of penetrating unopened paper, thin cardboard, and plastic, foil, or cellophane-wrapped packages. They may chew their way into packages or crawl in through folds and seams. Insects within an infested package begin multiplying and can spread to other stored foods not only in the same area but in other rooms in a home. All stages (egg, larva, pupa, and adult) may be present simultaneously in infested products. Source

That said, there are times that even though all precautions are taken at preserving your food supply, sometimes bug infestations happen. Here are some ways to reuse food that has been infested.

A Bold New Approach to Feeding Livestock

While infested food may be less palatable in certain circumstances, some dry goods can be fed to livestock. Dry grains and cereals are already given to chickens, goats, pigs and cattle as a nutritional supplement. As well, many animals naturally gravitate to ingesting bugs. Goats, chickens, pigs and even cows.

Infested dry beans can also be incorporated into livestock’s diet. Edible beans (e.g. navy, pinto, kidney) that are shrunken, broken and/or discolored will not make the grade for human consumption and may make their way into cattle rations for added protein. In an article on the subject, researchers believe that certain bug infested grains and foods can be fed to livestock for added nutrition.

A new article in the journal Animal Feed Science and Technology notes that insects literally breed like flies and are highly efficient (because they are cold-blooded) at converting their feed into body mass. Though it may need to be supplemented with calcium and other nutrients, that body mass is rich in the proteins and fats animals need. But the best part—questions of squeamishness aside—is that insects can thrive on manure and other waste.

The article reviews the state of research on livestock use of locusts, grasshoppers, crickets, black soldier fly larvae, housefly maggots, mealworms, and silkworms. Each has advantages and disadvantages in different habitats and for different species, but together they offer a battery of alternatives to conventional soybean and fishmeal feed.

Black soldier fly larvae are already commonly sold as pet food and fish bait. Studies suggest that pigs and poultry could do as well or better on a larvae-based feed as on soybean and fishmeal feeds. The larvae could also be a practical alternative on fish farms, particularly where customers object to feeding fish other fish. For some fish and for poultry, eating insects may also be a lot closer to their natural diet than are conventional livestock feeds.

Source

Note: this is not to be confused with feeding livestock moldy food. Doing so can introduce toxins to the livestock that can make them ill and possibly die. Moreover, molded feed contains fungal spores that, if inhaled, can cause a myriad of health issues such as respiratory allergies, or a type of pneumonia that prevents oxygen from getting into the bloodstream.

Why This Approach is Brilliant!

Farmers raising livestock for meat have been on the look out for ways to introduce for nturiets to the animals diets and cut down on feed costs. This sustainable approach could be the answer they have been looking for. A meal ground from infested grains and cereals can be fed to livestock and will drastically cut down on feed costs. As well, one can consider growing fodder to further supplement the livestock diet.

Using this “insect meal” is also beneficial in an organic garden and add needed nutrients to the soil. This promotes a more sustainable gardening method.

To ensure a healthy transition into this alternative food source, research what types of food pests could be added to your livestock’s diet beforehand. This could be a great way to add additional nutrition to the livestock’s diet and make better use of the food you would otherwise throw away.

According to Science Magazine, “regulatory agencies are beginning to weigh the benefits against potential safety risks, including the possibility that insects might accumulate environmental toxins or even transmit diseases to the farm animals that eat them. On 8 October, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in Parma, Italy, released its first report on the risks of using insects as food and animal feed. It concluded that the risks depend on the insect species used—and that more studies like PROteINSECT are needed before livestock or fish are switched to this new diet. But in other countries, the brave new world of industrial-scale insect farming is already on view.”

 

Recommended Reading:

http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/insects/find/insect-pests-of-stored-food/

http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7452.html

http://www.chowhound.com/post/bugs-rice-edible-301992

 

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Why Your Backyard Chickens Could be Giving You Salmonella

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backyardhomesteadThe concept of owning backyard homesteading has been steadily increasing in popularity over the last decade. As people–particularly those in urban areas–have become more knowledgeable about sustainability and ecological living, backyard chickens in particular have become a kind of mascot for the particular lifestyle. It’s affordable, funky, and fun to raise chickens, but this practice is not without some risks.

Live poultry, such as chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys, often carry harmful germs. This year there have been several reported cases of Salmonella spreading via backyard chickens by the CDC. Eight different states are reporting Salmonella outbreaks linked to backyard chickens.

These germs naturally live in the intestines of poultry (and many other animals). Salmonella germs therefore exist in their droppings and on their bodies (feathers, feet, and beaks) even when the birds appear healthy and clean. The germs can then easily get on cages, coops, food dishes, hay, plants, and soil in the area where the birds live and roam. Germs can then pass onto the hands, shoes, and clothes of people who handle the birds or their eggs. While it usually doesn’t cause the birds to be sick or show signs of infection, Salmonella causes serious issues when it is passed on to people. It’s not a matter of keeping your chicken coops clean or purchasing “healthy” chickens. Even organically fed poultry in spotless coops can have Salmonella and there is really no way of knowing which birds have it.

Is Salmonella Serious?

Salmonella infection is no joke:  it can cause serious intestinal distress with symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramping. If the symptoms are severe enough, an infected person will require hospitalization. Babies and children under the age of five, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with immune deficiencies are more likely to have serious symptoms. If the infection goes untreated, Salmonella can even spread from the intestines to the bloodstream, which leads to the infection traveling rapidly to other places in the body. A course of strong antibiotics and observation by a doctor is then necessary. In rare cases, if left untreated Salmonella can even lead to death.

How To Avoid Salmonella infection

The number one way to avoid Salmonella infection is to always wash your hands with soap and warm water after handling a chicken or anything that may have been in contact with chicken droppings. You should also cook any collected eggs thoroughly and be present when small children are around poultry to ensure they do not touch their hands to their mouths without hand washing, etc. In fact, if your children are under five years of age, they should not handle chickens or their eggs at all (the same goes for anyone over 65 or anyone with a compromised immune system).

It should go without saying, but never let the chickens into your home, especially not into your kitchen or areas where food is prepared. You also don’t want to eat or drink anything near the areas where you are minding your chicken coop. And chickens are adorable, but limit cuddling and never kiss them.

How to Treat Salmonella

If you do contract Salmonella and you are an adult with an otherwise healthy immune system, you should be fine in a week or two, though you will feel pretty miserable while the infection runs its course. (If you are in the compromised immune system category, your doctor might prescribe antibiotics and keep you in the hospital where you can be observed.) Make sure to contact your doctor if your symptoms seem to be worsening or if you have a high fever.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

6 Fall Plants to Get Planted Now

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fall-gardenThe weather is getting colder, but that doesn’t mean your gardening plans are thwarted. There are distinct benefits to planting some things in the autumn months: the temperature is cooler, the soil is still quite warm, there is more moisture in the soil and there are more good weather days for planting (as compared to the spring when sudden thunderstorms threaten your gardening days and wet the soil too much). In addition, you can cash in on discounts at your local gardening center as they try to move the last of their merchandise before winter. The ideal time to plant in the fall ends about 6 weeks before the first frost, usually in mid-to-late October.

The following are the ideal plants to get into the ground during the fall months:

Spring Bulbs

Spring bulbs actually require a period of cold in order to bloom. Plant bulbs in the fall in order to guarantee blooms for spring. If you have issues with deer in the autumn months, try planting allium, English bluebell, dog’s-tooth violet, or snowdrop bulbs.

Pansies

Pansies are ideal for planting in the autumn months because their roots thrive in the still-warm soil. You’ll get to enjoy them for two seasons if you plant them in September/October. Keep the soil wet and remove spent flowers so the pansy doesn’t use any effort to set its seeds. Once the soil freezes, mulch to prevent alternating freezing and thawing cycles that can eject plants from the soil.

Turfgrass

Cool-season turfgrass is most successful when soil temperature is between 50 and 65 degrees. Planting in September/October ensures that the roots will take adequate hold before the first frost, when growth slows dramatically. Cool-season turfgrass includes Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, and fine fescue.

Cool Season Veggies

Many vegetables thrive in cooler months (namely broccoli Brussels sprouts, cabbage, radishes and carrots), but they must be planted by late August. Veggies that perform the best when planted during the fall include lettuce, spinach, and other greens with a short harvesting time such as collards and swiss chard. Another benefit of growing these vegetables is that they don’t need a whole lot of space and can be crowded into smaller areas with partial shade.

Trees and Shrubs

Planting from early September to late-October offers many advantages to certain trees and shrubs. Transpiration is low and root generation is at an all-time high during these months. Typically, plants with shallow, fibrous root systems can be planted easier in the fall than those with fewer, larger roots. Trees that can be successfully planted in the autumn months include alder, crabapple, ash, buckeye, catalpa, hackberry, hawthorn, honey locust, elm, Kentucky coffee tree, linden, maple, sycamore, pines, and spruces. Most deciduous shrubs can easily be planted in fall.

Cover Crops

Even though it is Fall, it does not mean you should neglect your garden. Now is the perfect time to get your garden cleaned up and ready for the Spring. Master gardeners like to plant cover crops to help add nutrients to the soil during the winter months. Cover crops such as fall rye, crimson clover, buckwheat and others are easy to grow. Here’s how they work: when they are digested by soil microorganisms they restore organic matter and nutrient levels in the soil. Because they are sown thickly, they also help to outcompete weeds. Cover crops also control erosion from heavy winter rains, and help prevent the soil from compacting over winter. Depending on your growing region, some cover crops will die during the coldest weather. The crop residue is still a valued supplement in the spring. Check with your favorite gardening website to see if they carry these organic cover crops.

Take advantage of the nice fall temperatures and get your garden growing! For more information about gardening in general, check out the 7 Laws of Gardening: Time-Tested Tips For Growing a Successful Garden.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

How to Select the Best Grow Light for Your Indoor Garden

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plantWith the price of food on a steady incline, more people are making an effort to grow their own food sources at home. While having a functioning garden is easy during the warm summer months, when the days get shorter in the fall, gardeners have to get creative in helping plants grow. Many turn to grow lights to provide plants additional light and time to establish themselves. This indoor gardening trick allows you to bring the benefits of sunshine indoors to make the most of your garden. Here is a list of which plants to grow during each month of the year.

There are, however, a lot of different options when it comes to these lights and it can be overwhelming to pick the right one. The following list will help you identify which grow light will work the best for your needs.

The Best Grow Lights for Your Indoor Garden

Fluorescents

Fluorescent lamps are great because they are inexpensive and readily available. Fluorescent tubes are great for installation under counters or on ledges and shelves. They provide enough light for seedlings, herbs, vegetables and some small house plants like African violets; however, they fluorescent tubes may not provide enough light for larger flowering plants or buds.

Compact Fluorescent Systems, on the other hand, are quite bright and can be used for growing most plants. Though the initial investment is a bit more up front, CFSs last up to 10 times as long as incandescent bulbs while only using a third of the electricity.

Incandescent Lamps

Incandescent lamps are affordable and can be bought at most hardware stores. They are sufficient for growing herbs or small houseplants, but they are not always a strong enough light source for growing vegetables.

High Intensity Discharge Bulbs

HID Bulbs are very bright and very efficient, but they are also quite expensive. There are a few different types of HID bulbs available, including High Pressure Sodium, Low Pressure Sodium, Metal Halide, and Mercury Vapor bulbs, though for an indoor garden, you’ll want either the High Pressure Sodium or Metal Halide bulbs (any of the other choices are overkill for what you’re trying to accomplish).

Bulbs aren’t the only things to consider when purchasing an indoor growing system. You’ll also need to acquire a ballast, cord, and reflector, though there is less variety in these components. You can buy each of these parts separately or as a complete kit. It’s best to price these systems and see what works best for your budget and your needs.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Some Basics on Living a Self-Reliant Lifestyle, Part 2

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 ReadyNutrition Readers, we explored some precepts in the first part of this Self-Reliant Lifestyle Series a few weeks ago.  Part 1 covered a major component of such a lifestyle: identifying the needs of your family before you “jump into the water” and begin the lifestyle. This rule holds true in Part 2, as well, and I’ll repeat these major points I wrote in Part 1 that need to be kept in mind:

  1. Self-reliant lifestyles are going to have a different definition for different people.
  1. Self-reliance means you must provide for and take care of each family member’s needs, especially from a medical/caregiver standpoint.
  1. You must correctly assess what your needs are and realistically pursue a course of action to fulfill those needs in order to be self-reliant.
  1. Self-reliance is still going to leave you reliant on someone.
  1. We can return to the basics of living, and do it in a manner that does not inflict severe pain upon ourselves or our family members in the process of doing it.

These things having been mentioned, we can keep them in mind with this piece.  Now comes a time of some important decisions to be made.  There are too many resources on this site alone to tell you how to develop the most self-sufficient cabin and storehouse for all of your supplies.  Miss Tess Pennington has provided a plethora of resources for you to use in the information you will need to make a plan of action for home canning, gardening, and the like.  I have done pieces on survival medicine and for water procurement that you can research on ReadyNutrition’s archives.

Your Homestead/Retreat Should Provide These 9 Essentials

So really, what you need is an outline to go about planning in accordance with your geographical location, family’s special needs, seasons and times of the year, and the developing situation in your immediate location as well as nationally.  This last part, the situation, you can use this phrase to guide you:

            In order to prepare, you must first be aware.

The economy, and federal, state, and local laws are going to affect a great deal of what you do.  In order to camouflage your activities, you must not so much conform, but you must blend in so that your activities are unnoticed.  In this manner your preps are undiscovered by potentially hostile neighbors and you maintain a proper level of OPSEC, or Operational Security.  We’ll go into this more, as we begin our list.

  1. What kind of home/retreat do you have or are planning to have?  How are you going to provide for heat and fuel to do things such as boil water, cook food and can or preserve your foods?  You must take into account how long your growing season lasts, as well as how long the winter is in your locale.
  2. Each person requires about one acre of land to produce food for one year, times two. The “times two” factor involves rotation, because after one year of growing and harvesting, you must have a year that the land lies fallow and can be conditioned (with composting and other methods of fertilization) to be able to produce again the following year.  Micro gardening and terraced gardening along with greenhouses are your solution to this.
  3. Protein. Are you going to raise a whole lot of cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, and other livestock?  Do you have enough forage and arable grazing land to sustain them?  Do you have the capabilities of slaughtering, preserving the meat, and replenishing your stock?  What are your family’s food needs in terms of protein?
  4. Hunting for your protein. Hunting and fishing may play a major part in your family’s sustainment if you are not going to raise livestock, and if you are going to raise it and cannot sustain it with arable land after the SHTF.  Are fish and game abundant in your area, and do you know their seasons and migratory patterns?  All of these questions are “food for thought” in order to help you plan for your family’s food needs.
  5. Solar/Geothermal/Wind/Water. What will be your heat and power sources?  Have you assessed what is within your budget, and how long you will be able to use your system?  Montana is a good example, because solar power goes out the window (literally) at times when there is little sun and a ton of snow and ice that need to be cleared from your panels during the winter months.  Geographical location and severity of the winter are factors that are crucial to determine your plan of action in this regard.
  6. Herb Garden. Do you have an herb garden that is not just for a savory meal, but for medicinal herbs?  This must be grown especially with the needs of any medically-dependent family members with special needs.  Do you have mugwort, Jerusalem artichoke, and juniper that is growing that can be used to make homeopathic solutions for a diabetic in the family?  Do you have Echinacea, oregano, lomatium, garlic, and other herbs for viral and bacterial infections growing in a controlled environment?
  7. Water. This is a biggie, because I outlined a rain catchment system for your use in previous articles.  This is where you have to know all of your existing laws in your locale.  Is it illegal to take the rain?  Well, guess what?  The way around this is to have the system in place and operational but not operating.  When it hits the fan, you probably won’t need to consult with a lawyer, and you can begin to harvest the water.  There needs to be a plan for obtaining water during the summer months and during the winter, because temperature doesn’t change the fact that each person needs 1-2 gallons per day, and don’t forget about any animals that you have, either as pets or as livestock.
  8. Waste. Human and animal waste (with the exception of the latter being cats, as they carry Toxoplasmosis in their stool) can be composted.  Once again, if you live in an area that prohibits such activity, you have to take this into account…and perhaps have a system ready to go at a moment’s notice after the SHTF.  The same for garbage.  It needs to be either recycled (such as aluminum foil, plastic bags, plastic bottles, steel cans) or used as fuel in a woodstove, or if it’s biodegradable then into the compost bin it must go.  The legal consideration exists until the SHTF, so know your local laws.
  9. With whom?  Who can you trust?  This is part of self-sufficiency, because the tenet “No man is an island” holds.  You will be self-sufficient to a point: we are a social creature with needs of interaction with others.  It would behoove you to develop your network of those who are trustworthy now.  I stress one point that may sound mean, but it serves a purpose, that being your survival:  Don’t just link up with people because they’re “nice” people: they have to have either some skill or something they produce that can contribute or be exchanged for your skills or products…or else they’re just a liability…or worse.

Regarding this last statement, I highly recommend watching “The Shelter,” an episode of the old “Twilight Zone” series, where a family builds a bomb shelter, and an air-raid comes about.  Watch the reaction of the neighbors and how things “morph” into a very bad situation indeed.  Having served in some very nasty areas of the world with the military, I have seen firsthand how these situations develop in the blink of an eye, so be forewarned that they can and will occur!

Skills, skills, skills.  You need skills…to develop the ones that already exist, and learn new ones that you don’t yet have.  Gunsmithing.  Can you reload?  Can you fix the firearms that are in need of repair?  Basic Mechanics.  Can you change the brakes on your vehicle?  Change your tires?  Put in a new battery?  Change the fluids?  Put in a new alternator or distributor?

Medicine.  Do you know how to give an IV?  Can you diagnose a life-threatening condition such as ectopic pregnancy?  Can you give CPR?  Do you know how to treat a patient for shock, as well as the injury he or she has sustained.  Herbalism.  Do you know how to dry and tincture herbs?  Do you know how to find herbs (wild-craft) that are medicinal in nature in your own backyard?  Do you know what herbs are nutritious and edible?

I could go on, but the point I’m trying to impress is that in order to live a self-sustained lifestyle, you have to be the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker.  You must be a jack of all trades and a master of all.  You must wear many hats, and assume the role in each hat, and take up another hat when another role comes along that you must fulfill.  In order to be self-sufficient you must prepare.  We had a very good saying that a First Sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division used to say all the time that holds true, and it can serve you well here:

            How you train in peace is how you’ll fight in war.

Very true, and I know I’ve mentioned it before.  It is true, and it is important for us as preppers and survivalists.  In order to live a self-sustained existence, you must prepare, and practice what it is that needs to be done…so that you can actually do it and not just have it stored away in a book or in your files.  Hope this piece helps you to organize, and we welcome any comments or suggestions you may have.  Keep up the good work, and have a great day!

 

JJ

Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.

Mr. Johnson dries and tinctures a wide variety of medicinal herbs taken by wild crafting and cultivation, in addition to preserving and canning his own food. An expert in land navigation, survival, mountaineering, and parachuting as trained by the United States Army, Mr. Johnson is an ardent advocate for preparedness, self-sufficiency, and long-term disaster sustainability for families. He and his wife survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Cross-trained as a Special Forces Engineer, he is an expert in supply, logistics, transport, and long-term storage of perishable materials, having incorporated many of these techniques plus some unique innovations in his own homestead.

Mr. Johnson brings practical, tested experience firmly rooted in formal education to his writings and to our team. He and his wife live in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with their three cats.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Black Gold: Add Nutrients to the Garden – The Easy Way!

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 Black gold is a nitrogen and potassium-rich product that improves soil structure, increases plant yield, and has even been known to improve the taste of fruits and vegetables grown with it. It doesn’t require wasteful packaging and it’s made without chemicals or other harmful industrial additives. So where do you purchase this miracle product for your own garden?  The answer may surprise you.

Black gold is the product of vermicomposting—or, in simple terms, it’s the rich, black stuff that comes out the back end of a worm. This so-called “super soil” has many benefits and it only takes a little bit of work to build your own worm farm and start getting a constant supply. Soon you’ll have thousands of tiny employees helping your garden to grow—they are humble and work hard, twenty-four hours a day. Best of all—worms do their work for free!

To build your own worm farm you’ll need:

– A drill

– Two plastic storage bins with snap on lids (make sure they are opaque)

 – A small flowerpot or a brick

– Some old newspapers and household food waste (aka worm food)

And don’t forget the critical ingredient:

– Worms! Eisenia fetida are common earthworms sold by the pound at most gardening centers. If you have trouble finding them, your local bait shop is your next best bet. You don’t need a ton of worms to start a home worm farm. A pound will yield approximately 1,000 worms. They reproduce quickly and are hearty and adaptable to many environments.

  • Drill out holes on one of the bins. Mark some holes around all four sides of the top of one bin with a pencil. Then mark out about 20 holes in the bottom and the top of the bin. Once you’re happy with the placement of the holed, drill them out. A 3/32” drip bit works best for the lid and sides while a larger bit (3/16or so) works best for the bottom. Leave the other bin free of holes.
  • Stack the bins. Put a flowerpot or brick in the undrilled bin and stack the drilled bin on top of it. This allows some space for the liquid to drain out of the top bin into the one below.
  • Prepare the bedding. Shredded newspapers work very well, as do pieces of corrugated cardboard—make sure to avoid any pages/sheets with glossy color or tons of ink. Once your bedding is laid out, moisten it with water until it resembles a wet sponge. Don’t overdo it—the bedding should be moist, but still a bit fluffy.
  • Add worm food. There’s no need to buy special worm cuisine. Non-animal, non-dairy table scraps work best. Keep the scraps diverse. Here’s a great article on how to use your food scraps for vermicompost.
  • Add your worm friends! Now that your bin is made up, bury a small amount of food scraps in the newspaper and let your worms loose on it. Worms like the dark, so they’ll likely cover themselves entirely in the table scraps.
  • Cover and protect your worms. Place a few layers of slightly damp newspaper over the top of your worms. Roll up a few more sheets of paper and place them around the edges. This will keep fruit flies from infesting your worm farm and will keep your worms from wandering off. The newspaper cover mimics earth and the worms will fee safe and secure underneath it.

Worms can consume their own weight in food in just one day, so soon enough your worms will be flourishing. You can feed them every day or every couple of weeks, just make sure that there is always food available. Once the worms begin digesting the food scraps, you’ll begin to see black gold in the bin. Being careful of your worm friends, gently scoop out the vermicompost for use in your garden. Over time, some dark liquid will accumulate in the lower bin—this is also an excellent nutrient for your garden and can be diluted with water and sprinkled over houseplants for an extra boost.

Your worms should thrive with little effort from you, aside from feeding them and keeping them in a shady location. Enjoy your new little buddies!

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

How To Grow Pineapples Like a Pro!

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pineapple 1Pineapples are delicious and nutritious—they’re great when used in smoothies, muffins, or baked goods (find even more recipes here). They provide 105% of your daily value of Vitamin C, they’re high in Manganese and Thiamin, and studies have shown that three servings per day can prevent age-related macular degeneration.

Pineapples are also hearty, hard-to-kill additions to your garden. If you plant them in the right place they need virtually no care and will thrive.

Grow Pineapples Like a Pro!

Besides the tasty fruit, the flowering plant itself is also very beautiful. Here are the steps for adding pineapples to your garden:

  1. Cut the stem from a store-bought pineapple (be sure to remove all of the fruit flesh as well as the lower leaves). Let the stem cure for a day or two.
  2. Make a small hole in your garden and drop the stem in, pushing the soil around it so that it stays upright and will not tip over. Pineapples don’t need a lot of soil and the soil itself does not have to be high quality. Pineapples are part of the bromeliad family, and like all bromeliads they do not have large root networks. Because of this, you don’t need to worry about having a large space underground; however, beware that pineapples are large and spiky and give them enough room to spread out without bothering your other plants. Pineapples are even content to grow in pots or tubs, so it’s really whatever location you prefer.
  3. Pineapples don’t need a lot of water and they have very tough leaves that don’t lose moisture through evaporation.
  4. Pineapples grow in direct sun, even in extremely hot climates, but they also do well in shaded areas.
  5. Pineapples rely on their leaves for nutrition. If you apply concentrated/artificial fertilizers they will harm your plant. Instead, mix a little compost into the soil if the leaves of your pineapple take on a purple or reddish tinge. Otherwise, your plant is healthy and has all of the nutrients it needs.
  6. Once the pineapple plant flowers you’ll have to wait about 5 months for the fruit to grow and mature. When it’s yellow, it’s ready to pick.

And that’s all there is to it! Pineapples really are ridiculously easy plants to grow and they make an exotic and beautiful addition to any garden.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

How to Ferment Feed for Healthier Chickens

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fermented feedNo doubt that many of you have heard the buzz about keeping your gut healthy with probiotics and fermented foods. Well, a chicken’s health is no different. In fact, the health of a chicken is directly related to how healthy their gut is. If their gut it out of whack, then they can develop illnesses. So taking extra measures to ensure this part of their body is in good shape will go a long ways in terms of the chicken providing you continually with healthy meat and eggs.

Fermenting a chicken’s feed is an inexpensive and easy way to promoting a good gut health and also has some other positive effects..

  • increased absorption of nutrients in feed
  • probiotics in feed will promote overall health of chicken
  • creation of b vitamins like niacin, thiamin and folate
  • naturally increases egg weight and shell thickness
  • stronger immunity

It is said that because the chickens will be receiving more nutrients and vitamins brought on by the fermenting process, they will eat 1/3 to 1/2 less feed! You can go a step further and supplement this with some home grown fodder and will drastically cut down on your livestock feed bill.

Fermenting chicken feed is easy-peasy, here’s what you need:

  • 1 gallon sized glass jar
  • distilled water
  • chicken feed, crumble, and/or oats
  • cheese cloth
  • rubber band

Simply, add the feed and enough water to cover the feed by a few inches and wait a few days. There should be a fermented grain smell (similar to sourdough starter), by the second or third day.

I have used fermented chicken feed with my recent batch of chicks and they prefered the fermented food over the dry feed. It’s a good feeling when you know you are giving your chicks the best start at a healthy life.

Using the process described in the video, you can keep this a small project or make it more large scale by using 5 gallon buckets to ferment the feed. All it takes is three days to start your chickens on a healthier path. As well, other livestock will benefit from this fermentation process, so start experimenting! Best of all, with the extra money you will be saving, you can start some more homesteading projects.

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

What Miniature Cows Mean for Your Homestead

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jersey cowI recently returned from a month-long trip to Iceland. While there, besides the amazing natural beauty and the wonderfully kind locals, I also noticed something interesting and unique about their livestock. In Iceland, there is only one dairy breed: the Icelandic cow. These cows are descended from Scandinavian ancestors and they are small and compact in stature with vivid, exotic coats (including brindle, stripes, and a vast array of colors–over 100 possible combinations!). Their small size, coupled with their ability to produce rich, copious milk, got me thinking about miniature dairy breeds and how they could be useful on smaller farms in the United States. Of course, getting a cow from Iceland might be a difficult prospect, but there are there are more than 25 breed categories recognized by the International Miniature Cattle Breeders in the states. Some of the most popular miniature cow breeds are:

  • Belted Galloway
  • Dexter
  • Jersey
  • Panda Cow
  • Hereford
  • Lowline angus
  • Texas Longhorn
  • Miniature Highland
  • Holstein

As well, this book goes over some of the benefits of miniatures of all types and how they can be beneficial to your homestead.

  • Space: Okay, so it’s abundantly clear that dairy cows are big, but let’s talk about the size difference between a mini and a traditional cow. Minis range in size at three years of age from 36″ in height to a maximum of 48″. This is one-half to one-third the size of normal cattle. A traditional dairy cow can weigh over 1300 pounds and stands close to 5 feet tall. A mini-Jersey breed, on the other hand, weighs about 400-500 pounds and is about 3 feet tall. A smaller cow means a smaller space commitment (for both housing and grazing) overall—suddenly, the idea of having a dairy cow becomes feasible even for people with small homesteads.
  • Feed Conversion: These petite cows need only half an acre for grazing and a third of a ton of feed per year (as opposed to full-sized counterparts who need more than a ton of feed per year), yet minis still produce 50-75% as much milk as the bigger cows. This makes the feed conversion rate outstanding and efficient for a smaller farm or homestead.
  • Safer for families: The sheer size of a typical dairy cow means many precautions need to be taken to handle the animals. Younger kids who might otherwise be intimidated by a regular-sized cow can help with the daily care/maintenance of a mini. Children should, of course, always be supervised around livestock, but a cow the size of a large dog is definitely a safer bet for those with families.
  • Gentle nature: It’s more than only size that makes mini cows so easy to handle and get along with—they are particularly docile and gentle. They do less damage to pastures/fences when they walk, and many owners compare them in nature to golden retrievers.

Initial cost may be the only downside to owning mini cows—they can be $1,000-$2,000 more than a traditional dairy cow; however, when you do the math, the investment into feed + dairy output + accommodations over time likely still make minis worth it for your family. Adding another layer of self-reliance to your homestead is always beneficial, as we never know what the future holds, and for those nervous about making the leap to “farmer,” the mini cow could be a great first step.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

10 Brilliant Ways to Keep Chickens Cool in Summer

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 Chickens can withstand a lot weather extremes, but heat is not one of them. Did you know that a sudden increase in temperature is more dangerous for chicken’s than a gradual temperature climb? Chickens can become very stressed with sudden increases in temperatures and it stimulates additional blood flow to move away from vital organs and toward of areas of their body, such as, their combs, wattles and skin, thus making them more susceptible to heat stroke.

What Happens When a Chicken Gets Overheated

Since chickens don’t sweat, you must be very watchful over them when the warmer months begin creeping up. In fact, chickens pant to cool off. As they pant, moisture within the chickens’ lungs evaporates and is moved out of their bodies. Our feathered friends prefer temperatures staying between 65 F and 75 F. That’s easier said than done in some parts of the country!

It is important to understand the dynamics of how chickens react to heat.  First of all, the body temperature of a chicken is 107° F. When hens get too hot or stay hot for too long, they can die from heat stress. Typically, their body’s first reaction to heat is panting which helps them keep cool, but increases their respiratory and heart rate, as a result. This leads to expelling carbon dioxide at a much faster rate than normal which upsets the pH balance in their bodies and can lead to acidosis, a potentially fatal condition. Another common sign is the egg laying production will slow or suddenly stop. Here are some other common signs to look for:

  • Are they panting or walking around with their beaks open?
  • Are they hanging their wings out a little distance away from their bodies?
  • Have they become listless or their breathing has become labored?
  • Lying on the ground with their wings spread.
  • Eating little to no food.

If you see any of these signs, one “quick fix” is to make them some homemade electrolytes and set it out for them. This will help restore minerals lost from heat stress and normalize essential body functions for the heart, nerve and muscles.

Homemade Electrolyte Recipe

  • 8 ounces warm water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Add electrolyte mixture to one gallon of water. Use full strength on severely ailing chickens, otherwise mix into their drinking water as needed.

10 Ways to Keep Your Chickens Cool

It should go without saying, but always make fresh water available to your flock of chickens. Water will decrease their internal temperature and cool them off. In addition to this, here are some other ways to help minimize any stress caused from heat.

    1. Offer frozen treats. One of my favorite ways to help my girls cool off and treat them at the same time is to freeze some of their favorite foods in ice. Foods such as kitchen scraps, berries, frozen vegetables, etc. If you have a plethora of veggie and/or fruit peels, freeze them in some water, along with some homemade electrolytes and set it outside on a hot day. They will love you for it! Alternatively, you could just freeze the food on its own and offer it to them. They will have fun pecking at it.
    2. Make sure their coop has enough space. Putting too many chickens in too small of an area, can cause the coop to heat up quickly due to excessive body heat and moisture and prevents them from staying cool. It is recommended that the coop have 4 square feet per bird. Also consider adding a thermometer to see what the temperature is.
    3. Ventilate the coop. Ventilating the coop will create good air flow and this will help to move out both the moisture and the heat put off by the birds. Getting good cross ventilation is ideal. One way to do this is by adding vent windows on the sides and in the front and back. This creates good airflow. If you’re not able to get enough airflow with natural ventilation, consider creating a breeze with a fan.
    4. Spray around the coop with cold water. Spraying around the coop and the roof can cause evaporative cooling for your chickens.  You can also create small pools of water for the chickens to wade in and keep themselves cool or provide a mister.
    5. Add some apple cider vinegar to their water. That’s right folks, our favorite natural remedy can be your livestock’s favorite too. By adding ACV to your livestock’s water several times a week, it has health benefits and also increases calcium absorption, which is especially important during the summer months, when the hens’ feed intake goes down and they aren’t ingesting as much calcium as they normally do.
    6. Make some mud. Spray a shaded area of dirt with the water hose and break it up with a shovel. Your chickens will scratch at the mud and lose some a bit of heat through their feet that way. As well, they may enjoy a luxurious mud bathe!
    7. Freeze some water bottles. Freezing gallon jugs of water is great for your chickens to lean against. Just bury it in their favorite dusting space. This is also great for rabbits too!
    8. Offer some shade. If your coop does not have adequate shade, hang some shade cloth or a tarp and create a “shade zone.” This would be an ideal area to add some misters to for extra hydration and also allow the breeze to come through.
    9. Did a hole. Soil temperatures remain relatively constant throughout the year, so digging a hole in a shady area may be just what your chickens are looking for. You can also dig a hole next to the one for your chickens and add a frozen gallon sized water bottle and bury it.
    10. Give them more fruit. Foods such as scratch and corn require longer digestive process, which can heat the chicken’s temperature. Offering more fresh vegetables and fruits like watermelon will give them more hydration. Make it fun for them by stringing up the fruit and vegetables on strings and hanging it.

    Although chickens are very adaptable, they still need a little extra TLC during extreme weather. Ensuring that your chickens always have a source of water and some of the suggestions listed above will help them better adjust during the warmer months.

    The Prepper's Blueprint

    Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

    Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

    Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    Grow the Heartiest Tomatoes with These Organic Tips

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    heirloom tomatoesTomatoes are summer’s gift to the gardener. I simply cannot grow enough tomatoes in one season, so I’ve started growing enough for second, and sometimes third crops. The secret to growing an endless crop of tomatoes during the summer is easy! Follow these organic natural tips and enjoy a juicy crop, perfect for summer salads and fresh sauces.

    1. Choose the right location. Tomatoes love bright locations where they receive 10 hours or more of sunlight. Full morning sun is always the best location, but tomatoes will do well with some afternoon sun too. As well, ensure that you have properly spaced your plants.

    • Dwarf varieties should be spaced about 12 inches apart in a row.
    • If you are staking your plants, space them about 24 inches apart.
    • Indeterminate tomatoes should be spaced about 36 to 48 inches apart.

    2. Plant tomatoes in multiple locations. When you alternate where you plant your tomatoes, it helps to diminish the risk of soil-borne diseases such as bacterial spot and early blight. One of my favorite gardening resources, Carrots Love Tomatoes: The Secrets to Companion Planting taught me that when you plant companion plants near each other, it also helps to reduce soil-borne diseases, as well as, encourage beneficial bugs to hang around. Here is a list of companion plants for your tomatoes:

    • Asparagus
    • Basil
    • Beans
    • Borage
    • Carrots
    • Celery
    • Dill
    • Lettuce
    • Melons
    • Onions
    • Parsley
    • Peppers
    • Radishes
    • Spinach
    • Thyme

    3. Plant them deep! When you plant your tomato seedlings deep, it helps the plant develop a better root system. The extra roots will strengthen the plant so that it can support more fruit and survive hot weather. Gardeners recommend you planting your seedlings up to the first true leaves. If you have heavy soil and cannot dig your hole deeply, you can lay the plant on its side, and cover with dirt (ensure that the hole is at least 5 or 6 inches deep when buried).

    4. Prune your tomatoes. I realize that many feel this step is optional, but it really helps. By pruning off any non-fruiting branches, it directs the tomato plant’s energy into growing more tomatoes. Every three weeks, I will prune my tomato plants in the early morning. Doing this step in the morning will help reduce any plant stress.

    5. Fertilize! Tomatoes are heavy feeders and require lots of nutrients to produce all of those lovely tomatoes. Adding a layer of balanced organic fertilizer like 8-8-8 during the transplanting process will help shield plants from stress and encourage root growth. When plants begin to put out fruit, fertilize every two or three weeks with fertilizer and then water it in.

    As well, consider giving your plants some compost tea. Compost tea takes the beneficial bacteria and fungus present in compost and exponentially increases them through aeration and sugars. These bacteria and fungus are critical in root establishment – and the more bacteria you have in your soil, the better. This all around plant booster helps foliage, increases root development, feeds the soil – you can’t go wrong! I usually make some compost tea once a month to help my plants.

    6. Give them some support. Certain tomato varieties can grow over 6 feet high and will require a trellis, staking or tomato cage. The trellis system keeps ripe fruit off the ground, so it’s less susceptible to disease and is easier to harvest. Any garden center will have tomato cages and trellises. The best time to add stakes is during the time you are transplanting. This cuts down on damaging root systems later on.

    7. Water them correctly. Last, but not least, is the most important tip of all – correct watering. Tomatoes need deep, yet infrequent watering. This helps cut down on tomato blight. As well, do your best to keep leaves dry.

    8. Plant more! Succession planting in three-week intervals will keep you loaded with tomatoes throughout the growing season. As soon as you plant your seedlings, start a new batch of seeds. I usually plant tomatoes two or three times during the summer months.

    9. Harvest as soon as they show their colors. Keep an eye on your growing tomatoes and harvest as soon as they color up fully. Birds and other wildlife love tomatoes as much as we do, so pick them as soon as their color comes. You can also pick your tomatoes a little early and allow it to ripen on your kitchen windowsill.

    These tips will ensure that your tomato crop will be the best crop yet. Happy gardening!

    The Prepper's Blueprint

    Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

    Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

    Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    5 Ways Trash Helps Grow Your Garden

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    compostYou don’t have to spend a fortune at the nursery or garden supply center to have a happy and healthy garden. There are a few things you probably have lying around the house that can put some extra green in your thumb—and many of them are items you might otherwise consider trash!

    • Coffee Grounds: What’s better than starting the day with a strong cup of coffee? Saving those coffee grounds and using them as compost, of course! Coffee grounds are an excellent addition to your garden; simply spread them directly onto the soil. Don’t worry about coffee grounds being acidic—since acid is water-soluble, it stays in your coffee and out of your garden. Coffee grounds improve soil structure and anecdotal evidence suggests that the grounds keep slugs and other pests away. As a bonus, you can even shred used paper coffee filters and throw them into soil as well. These act as a carbon source and make your soil even richer.
    • Toilet Paper Rolls: I’m willing to bet you regularly use toilet paper, and that means you have a steady supply of free seed starter pots at your fingertips. Simply take an empty toilet paper roll and cut it in half. Take one of the halves and cut four slits approximately an inch up the roll. Fold the toilet paper rolls into each other to form the base of the seed pot, using tape to secure. Layer your soil and seed inside. Once the seed is ready to be planted, you can simply cut off the bottom of the toilet paper pot and plant it directly into the soil, where it will break down over time.
    • Lemon Rinds and Eggshells: An even easier, completely natural, no work seed starter is a lemon rind or an egg shell. Just poke a hole into the bottom of wither of these for drainage, sprout seeds and then plan t directly into the soil. The peels and shells will not only break down easily, but they will also provide nourishment to the soil.
    • Beer: Instead of throwing out the dregs of your beer, put them aside in a cup. Once you’ve gathered a few ounces, take the liquid to your garden and make a slug trap. Put some of the beer into a wide, shallow jar buried in the soil. Slugs like beer so much they will crawl right into the jar and drown (not a terrible way to die, IMHO). Empty your slug traps often and prop up a jar top with a stick to prevent rainwater from diluting the beer.
    • Broken Pots: It’s no fun to break a pot, but when accidents happen, find a way to make the most of it. Instead of throwing away broken pieces of ceramic or terracotta, use the shards as plant markers to label the plants in your garden. Identify areas where labels could be helpful, then break the broken pot into enough pieces for your project. Try to keep them roughly the same size for uniformity, but feel free to be as creative as you like. Use a permanent marker or paint that won’t wash off in the elements to write the names of the plants (if your handwriting isn’t great, a stencil might come in handy). Try out a few positions before sticking the label firmly into the ground.

    These tips are win-win—you can feel good about minimizing waste and helping your garden at the same time. Happy recycling!

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    Mail Order Chicks: Caring for Chicks After Transport

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     This week, we had a few additions join our happy little ranch by mail order. This was the first time that I ordered poultry online, and decided to give it a go. Each year, I like to try raising a different small animal breeds to challenge myself in producing my own food. Last year, it was rabbits; and this year, I decided to add some turkeys to the mix. Since my local feed store didn’t carry turkeys, I decided to order them online along with some baby chickens. When you order poultry online, you have a great variety to choose from. Here are some popular hatcheries that are online:

    McMurray Hatchery

    Cackle Hatchery

    Hoover Hatchery

    Meyer Hatchery

    The downside to this choice, is the day old chicks can get stressed from long transport and could become ill or die. To circumvent this, it is imperative that you get everything in order ahead of time and anticipate what your chicks will need when you open the shipping container.

    baby chicks

    1. Make sure you have your brooder set up before they arrive. Get the brooder set up and make sure you have these eight items in the chick nursery. As well, test all of your equipment to make sure it’s in working order.

    2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! As soon as your chicks arrive, you need to get them hydrated. After long transports, chicks can be a little lethargic and possibly on the verge of becoming dehydrated. I like to give my chicks homemade electrolytes as soon I they get into the chicken brooder. Within 30 minutes of the chicks drinking the electrolytes, they pep up and seem more alert. Here’s a recipe you can use:

    Homemade Electrolyte Recipe

    • 8 ounces warm water
    • 2 teaspoons sugar
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda

    I usually dilute this with more water for my chicks, but this recipe is great for all livestock. Use full strength on severely ailing chickens, otherwise mix into their drinking water as needed, a cup per gallon of water. Use this electrolyte drink for the first few days and then switch to regular drinking water.

    3. Make sure they have food available. Right before a chick hatches, it consumes the nutrient rich yolk from the egg. This gives the hatched chicks the most essential nutrients they’ll need to live off of for approximately two days. Therefore, during transport, they usually do not require feeding; however, by the time they make it to your door, they will probably be wanting some chick crumble. One way to revive your mail order chicks is to mix the electrolyte drink recipe (listed above) in with some of the chick starter to create a mush.  Give your birds this special feed and water mix for 3 to 4 days to help get their energy up.

    In addition to the “chick mush,” on Day 1, I also scramble an egg for the chicks and let them snack on this for the first day. Scrambled eggs is nutrient dense and the perfect food to give them needed vitamins.

    4. Extra chick tip! Did you know that a chicken’s gut is directly related to their health? Keep this in mind when trying to boost their health. Here are six natural remedies you can give your chicks so they develop strong guts and good health.

    5. Monitor their progress. Chickens really are one the easiest livestock breeds to care for. As long as you give them what they need to survive, they will take care of themselves. For the first few days, I like to be nearby to check the thermometer inside their brooder to make sure they aren’t too hot or too cold. After day 3, I stop giving them electrolytes and instead, add a probiotic to their water to help them begin developing a healthy gut.

    After the first week, I will start sprinkling grit on their food and begin introducing them to fresh herbs and grasses for them to nibble on.

    Listen to their cues

    Like all babies, you can usually tell if your chicks need something. If they are panting, have shrill peeps, seem lethargic or are piling up and smothering each other, these are all indicators that something is wrong in the brooder. Perhaps the temperature needs to be adjusted, or they are out of water or food.

    Time to move them outdoors

    After six weeks, start paying attention to see if your chicks are ready to be moved outside. They should have a full set of feathers grown and be able to withstand temperatures up to 70 degrees F. Usually, when the chicks no longer need a heat lamp, it’s time to start getting them ready for their coop. Start transitioning them by moving their brooder or nursery to a colder part of your house. During warm days, chickens that have most of their feathers (sometime between 2 and 4 weeks old) can spend the afternoon outside and return to the brooder at night. At six weeks, you can add them to the coop with their heat lamp on at night to ensure they will be warm enough.

    The Prepper's Blueprint

    Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

    Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

    Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    Straw Bale Gardening: Everything You Wanted to Know for the Best Bounty Ever

    Click here to view the original post.

    Two years ago, we moved into a house that had an abandoned garden; and to put it bluntly, the garden was in pretty bad shape. The soil was dry, rocky and compacted and there were weeds growing, but I was able to turn it around by conditioning the soil and experimented using a cardboard box gardening theory I was trying out. Since that time, I have added rabbits to our mini homestead and their nutrient-rich poo has turned my garden’s soil into that crumbly, rich dirt we all desperately want. Even though this garden is primed and ready to go, it just isn’t large enough for what I am trying to achieve.

    9

    This old garden bed has seen better days. Not only is it falling apart, but it doesn’t give me the right space for what I want to achieve.

    For years, I have been working on backyard strategies that anyone can use to achieve food freedom to finally break away from the system and my family’s dependence on grocery stores. We have been able to find local meat sources, now it’s time to get enough produce to put away.

    Why Straw Bale Gardening Works!

    I decided to try my hand at straw bale gardening. It sounded practical enough. In fact, author, Joel Karsten of Straw Bale Gardens Complete, wrote on his website that this gardening method is a game changer. “Minimal maintenance resulting in maximum production, through Straw Bale Gardening.  It will completely change everything you thought you already knew about gardening.”

    As well, this raised bed gardening method is very economical. For under $100, we were able to purchase 12 straw bales and extended our garden area by over 20 feet! We also purchased about $30 in organic fertilizers to condition the bales, but if you have the gift of time on your hands, you can bypass this step completely. I’ll get to that a little later.

    Not only was I was drawn to this gardening method because it was cheaper, but it was easy for those with physical limitations and took poor soil quality out of the gardening equation. As well, I love natural gardening methods and liked the idea of the bales decomposing as the plants were growing, thus giving them essential nutrients in the process.

    How it works

    In short, as the bale of straw decomposes, it creates a nutrient-rich medium for the plants to grow. As well, the space between the straw creates tiny air pockets that are beneficial to the roots.

    The bales need to be “conditioned” at least two weeks before planting. This will create the right growing environment for your plants. Once the bales are conditioned, you plant your garden and sit back and enjoy the view. It’s that easy, folks!

    What you’ll need

    • straw bales
    • cardboard, newspapers or landscaping cloth
    • soaker hoses
    • garden stakes for trellises for tomatoes
    • 2 boxes each of organic blood meal and bone meal
    1. Getting started is easy! All you need to do is choose the area where you want to start your straw bale garden project. Make sure the location will get ample sunlight – up to 6 to 8 hours a day. Next, set down landscaping fabric, newspaper or cardboard boxes to prevent weeds from growing through the bales. Don’t skip this step – it’s important!
    2. Position your bales. Once you have set down the landscaping fabric into an outline you want the bales to go in, start positioning your bales so that the strings that bind the bales should run across the sides, not across the planting surface. By positioning them this way, it will keep the shape of the bales as they start to soften and decompose.
    3. Water your bales and get them ready for conditioning.
    4. Condition bales.
    5. Plant garden and fertilize as needed.
    6

    After positioning the straw bales into the shape I wanted, I was surprised at how much extra space I had in the garden.

    How to conditioning straw bales

    Like all gardens, before you plant your plants, you need to make sure they will have the right environment to grow in. Conditioning will help activate bacteria inside the bale to begin digesting the straw. It will make nitrogen and other nutrients available to the seedlings and create a productive, warm, moist and nutrient-rich rooting environment for young seedlings.  This is an ideal environment for beneficial insects including earthworms. As well, the bales will last you for up to two garden seasons because it slowly breaks down. Once it is completely broken down, you can throw it in your compost pile and turn it into rich compost.

    You will see a difference in the bales overall appearance after it has been conditioned. It begins to slump and the color of the straw will start to “pepper.” In addition, the internal temperature of the straw bale increased too. If you insert a thermometer, it may rise to 120 degrees or even higher. I knew when my bales were properly conditioned when I saw earthworms living in the bales when I was planting the plants.

    There are two processes for getting the straw bales conditioned and which one you use is dependent on how much time you have. Conditioning the bales will take two weeks or more to get the decomposition process started.

    If you’ve got plenty of time, use this method:

    After you have added the landscaping cloth and positioned your bales, simply add some top soil, fresh manure and all-purpose fertilizer to the tops of the straw bales, water thoroughly and allow this to sit uncovered for a few months. Many people who use this method will position their bales in the fall and allow them to decompose over the winter so they are ready for spring gardening.

    If you are short on time, use this method:

    This is a quick way to get your bales decomposition process going. For ten days, you will be watering and fertilizing your bales to get the inner straw composting.

    Days 1-6: For the first six days, you will be adding 3 cups of organic fertilizer per bale every other day. Then, thoroughly saturate the bales with water so that the fertilizer is pushed down through the straw. I used an organic fertilizer that was high in nitrogen like a 12-0-0 blood meal. On the off days, simply water the bales. To make the fertilizer more available to the bacteria more quickly, I use a tent stake and hammered holes in the straw bales before adding the fertilizer. This really seemed to speed up the process.

    Avoid using manures for the “quick cook” method because most manures do not have enough concentration of active nitrogen. The only exception to this is pure chicken manure that has been composted for 6-12 weeks and does not have any bedding or wood shavings mixed in. Read more about why manures won’t work with conditioning.

    Days 7-9:  For two days, I added 1 cup of an all-purpose organic fertilizer and thoroughly watered the bales. By now, you should start seeing some significant changes to your bales.

    Day 10: On the last day, I added 3 cups of bone meal. This fertilizer is high in phosphorus and potassium and is great for making sure there are nutrients present for essential root development.

     Planting time

    After your bales have properly cooked down, now is the fun part and what you have been waiting so patiently for – planting time! Use a gardening trowel to remove the straw in the shape of a hole. You can also help any exposed roots, by adding some sterile planting mix to the hole.

    If you’re planting seeds, then cover the bales with a one to two-inch layer of planting mix and sow the seeds directly into the planting mix. As the seeds germinate, they’ll grow roots down into the bale itself.

    Suggested number of plants per bale

    • 2-3 tomatoes
    • 4-6 cucumbers
    • 2 pumpkins
    • 2-3 zucchini
    • 2-4 squash
    • 4 peppers
    • 2 winter squash

    Tomatoes and cucumbers are very thirsty plants, so make sure you have a way deeply irrigate these plants. I added soaker hoses to my bales and also added these ceramic water irrigation stakes.

    Don’t limit your straw bale garden to just vegetables. You can use every inch of free space and plant flowers and herbs in the bale to attract bees and other pollinators. I even added strawberry plants to the sides of the bales that were going unused.

    Continue to fertilize

    Straw bales do not offer all the essential nutrients like soil does and plants may need extra fertilizing. Here are some indicators to look for:

    • yellowing leaves – nitrogen deficiency
    • leaves are browning on edges – potassium deficiency.
    • leaves turning purple – potassium deficiency

    I am very hopeful that this garden method will be a good fit for me and I am pleased with how easily this addition to my garden was. I will keep you all updated on the progress and hopefully, I can give a good report back with a great summer bounty.

    Happy gardening!

    straw bale

    The Prepper's Blueprint

    Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

    Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

    Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    Baby Chicks Need Love Too: 6 Natural Treatments for Common Chick Ailments

    Click here to view the original post.

    baby chickSo, you took the plunge and bought some chicks. Let’s say you did everything by the book and researched the breeds you wanted, set up all the equipment beforehand, and gave your chicks everything they needed to thrive; but for some reason they aren’t. While there could be a myriad of reasons why this could be, my guess would be on one of the following reasons.

    An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

    Like many babies, when chicks have hatched, they do not have a strong immune system. As well, because their intestines are directly related to their immune system, it is important to build and strengthen their immunity from the start so that a supply of good gut bacteria can develop to fight off unhealthy parasites and diseases. Here are six natural remedies you can give your chicks to give them a fighting start.

    • Add probiotics – Many keepers of chickens swear by adding probiotics to their chickens diets in order to keep them healthy. You can provide a spoonful of yogurt or a probiotic drink in their food, or purchase probiotics from a feed store.
    • Feed chicks scrambled eggs – Adding some scrambled eggs to their diet is one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can offer them. Right before a chick hatches, it consumed the nutrient rich yolk from the egg. This gives the hatched chicks the most essential nutrients they’ll need to live off of for approximately two days. Lacking only Vitamin C, the yolk is basically a chick’s life line until they take their first peck at their starter feed.
    • Keep the brooder clean – A clean living environment  is your best prevention, as is helping chicks build a strong immunity. Keep bedding clean and waterers and feeders free of droppings.
    • Add some apple cider vinegar to their water– That’s right, folks. Our go-to health remedy can help them too. You can quickly boost your chick’s immunity by adding a few drops of ACV to your chick’s waterer several times per week. Not only does this improve immunity, but it promotes good digestion and respiratory health, as well as helps to eliminate unhealthy parasites.
    • Add some fresh herbs to their feeder –  Herbs are another way to naturally boost your chicks health. Specifically herbs that contain essential antioxidants, vitamins, minerals like bay leaves, Echinacea, dandelions, oregano leaves. These will add additional protein and are well known for their antiviral properties. In addition, herbs like oregano and dandelion will improve their digestion too.
    • Add antioxidant rich foods to their diet – Introducing fresh greens and berries that are high in antioxidants can do your chick’s body good. Cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli, lettuce and cabbage are ideal immunity boosters. As well, consider adding baby spinach leaves and berries to their feeders. Another excellent way to promote a healthier immune function is garlic. Add a clove of garlic to their water to help them stay healthy.

    The best way to prevent a chick from developing an illness is prevention. Simply by paying attention to the health of your chick by monitoring its progress and keeping it in a stress-free environment can tell you a lot about its health. The following ailments are seven of the most common illnesses that surround chicks and a few can be avoidable with the tips listed above.

    Most Common Ailments Surrounding Chicks

    chickies

    1. Coccidiosis

    Let’s start with the #1 killer of baby chicks. Coccidiosis is a disease of the intestinal tract caused by the microscopic parasites called coccidia. This condition is often spread by bringing infected hens into your flock, or by wild birds, it is then picked up by your chickens through contact with the infected feces or through drinking water with droppings in it. Since, coccidia multiplies best in warm, wet, dirty conditions, it is essential to keep your chick nursery/brooder clean and remove any wet or caked feed, as well as provide fresh water as needed.

    Some symptoms to look out for are:

    • Diarrhea or bloody droppings
    • Ruffled feathers
    • Poor appetite and lethargy

    If you catch this in time, isolate the sick chick and start feeding it medicated chick feed until symptoms disappear. As well, making a mash of equal parts chick feed and milk mixed a tiny amount of plain yogurt. This will stimulate the chick’s digestive tract by causing diarrhea. Diarrhea is a body’s natural way to begin flushing out undesirable pathogens. Follow the mash with probiotic powder in the feed to help rebuild the good bacteria. Water is essential here, so be sure to provide plenty of fresh water with electrolytes (see recipe below) to help the chick regain its strength.

    Full disclosure: this condition has a very high mortality rate and once the symptoms start, it results in the chick to have an inability to absorb nutrients in food and the chick usually dies within a week; but there is always a chance, so don’t give up on the chick!

    One way to help baby chicks build an immunity to coccidiosis is to add small clumps of grass with the dirt attached into the brooder. This early exposure to small amounts of pathogens that exist outside will help them slowly build their natural immunity. As well, when they are a few weeks old, add some fresh or dried oregano to their feeder. You can also add one crushed clove of garlic and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to one gallon of the chicks water. These natural remedies will help the baby chicks develop the good bacteria they need and protect their fragile intestines.

    2. Temperature

    Baby chicks must have warm heat or else their fragile bodies could go into shock from the cold. We keep a heat lamp on them until they are 4 to 5 weeks old. Because the temperature needs to consistently stay around 90-95 degrees F (for the first week, then slowly decrease the temperature by 5 degrees each week), make sure you have a thermometer in the nursery at all times. Conversely, they also need an area where they can cool off, if they get too hot. Therefore, I have another thermometer set up in a corner so I can monitor the temperature there, as well. Here are some signs to look for if your temperatures need to be adjusted in the brooder:

    • Seem dehydrated
    • Panting
    • Peeps shrilly
    • Sticky bottoms or pasty butt
    • Diarrhea
    • Chicks will pile up and smother each other near the heat source

    If you see any of these signs, adjust the temperature accordingly. If they are huddled or climbing on one another, increase the temperature, or if they move away from their heat source, reduce the temperature a few degrees. As well, if you have a brooder lamp stand, it will help you better adjust your temperatures more quickly, but this is optional.

    As well, try to minimize any drafts that the chicks may be experiencing. This can also cause chicks body temperature to plunge. One way to circumvent this is to create a draft shield out of cardboard to circle around your structure that is about 12 inches high. You can buy one already made, but I had my kids make one as a weekend project with some excess boxes we had lying around.

    Picking can often be a sign of baby birds that are too hot, too crowded, or without fresh air. Occasionally, bright light also causes them to pick, or they pick for no apparent reason. To stop it, try putting in fresh green grass clippings several times a day and darken the room.

    3. Dehydration

    One of the most important issues when caring for livestock is to always provide them with fresh drinking water. Dehydration caused by stress, heat or rough transport can quickly create life-threatening issues with baby chicks.

    signs of dehydration

    • panting
    • opening wings
    • paleness to face
    • labored breathing
    • diarrhea
    • listlessness or not reactive to touch
    • convulsions or twitching

    If your chick is experiencing any of these issues, you must get fluids in them immediately. Making a homemade electrolyte drink for your birds may help to perk them up. Also consider moving their location. Perhaps, the area you have their brooder/nursery in has too much traffic or is drafty. As well, try and limit the handling of chicks for the first day or two so they can get accustomed to their new environment. Adding some electrolytes to their water may help them combat this issue too.

    Homemade Electrolyte Recipe

    • 8 ounces warm water
    • 2 teaspoons sugar
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda

    I usually dilute this with more water for my chicks, but this recipe is great for all livestock. Use full strength on severely ailing adult chickens, otherwise mix into their drinking water as needed, a cup per gallon of water. Use this electrolyte drink for the first few days and then switch to regular drinking water.

    As well, if your chick is only exhibiting the beginning signs of dehydration, try reviving your chick with a mixture of the electrolyte drink mixed with some chick starter. This will make a soupy mush that they can easily consume. Give your bird this special feed for 3 to 4 days to help pep them.

    4. Lack of Gut Bacteria

    Simply put, when chicks are hatched, they don’t have strong populations of good bacteria present in their gut yet. This can be detrimental when they are exposed to potent sources of bad bacteria. This could be from contaminated food or water dishes or chick feed that has been contaminated by rodent droppings. We recommend providing a probiotic to chicks for the first week of life. You can feed them food that contains good bacteria, like yogurt or kefir, or purchase probiotics at a local feed store. But when they develop a healthy gut bacteria, they are less likely to get stressed or develop ailments like pasty butt.

    As well, consider growing fodder for your baby chicks after they are a week old and are ready to introduce more food sources to them. When you sprout essential grasses and grains, it gives the chicks a higher enzyme content. This provides 40-50% more digestible food sources to the bird, so the chick gets more nutrition in the process. As well, it is extremely economical. You could grow some fodder in half of an eggshell. The fodder could give them a healthy snack and the shell could help them with supplementing them with calcium (Help them out by crumbling the egg shell and putting it in their feeder).

    5. Pasty Butt

    Sometimes chicks can get stressed out. Usually the stress occurs temperature fluctuations, transport, too much handling, etc., and it causes manure to stick to the back of the bird’s vent. If this is left on their butt, they can get sick and die. Therefore, remove this daily by washing it off with a cloth and warm water. Gently dry the area and apply a small layer of petroleum jelly. This will prevent the droppings from sticking. As well, one natural way to remedy pasty butt is to add scrambled eggs to the chick feed. If symptoms persist, it could be the brand of chick feed and is recommended you switch feed sources. If diligent, this issue will disappear in a few days as the bird starts to grow.

    6. Spraddle Leg

    This is a common leg deformity that cause the chick’s legs to point to the side instead of the front. If left untreated, this deformity could have lasting effects on how the chick will walk in the future. One way to correct this is to change the lining of your brooder floor with rubber shelf liner. Next, bind the chick’s legs with vet wrap to stabilize the chick. Keep the chick’s legs bound for a few days to help them strengthen and correct the deformity. Be sure the chick isn’t being trampled by the other chicks. If you notice this, separate the chick.

    7. Marek’s Disease

    This ailment is a collective name for several highly contagious viral diseases that cause tumors and paralysis in sick chicks and spread bird-to-bird or via infected dust and dander. Marek’s usually occurs in large-scale breeding operations, and many professional hatcheries. While breeders offer vaccinations, it is not 100% effective. Some level of immunity is achieved by healthy chicks exposed to small amounts who are able to fight the virus.

    The best way to prevent Marek’s is by having chicks in a clean environment and keeping the brooder clean so the chicks can build a strong immune system. However, if your chick comes down with this disease, separate it immediately. There is no treatment for Marek’s disease, so monitor the chick to ensure it will continue to eat and drink. As well, do what you can to build the chick’s immune system with the suggestions above and it will have a better chance at surviving.

    To conclude, raising chicks can be a rewarding experience, but they do require some extra TLC and attention. The best way to prevent a chick from developing any unforeseen illnesses is through prevention. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Start adding the listed natural remedies to your chicks (and adult chickens too) diet to help them develop a strong immune system.

    The Prepper's Blueprint

    Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

    Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

    Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    Shocking Photos: This is the Chicken That You Feed Your Family With… Abuse, Deformity and Disease

    Click here to view the original post.

    Pilgrim’s Pride, one of America’s top leading poultry providers is under fire after leaked videos and gruesome images of the deplorable conditions from some of their contract farms. Gangrenous dermatitis, enteritis, coccidiosis are only a few of the vile conditions chickens are dying from, but it gets worse.

    Disease, Deformity and Deplorable Conditions Spell a Recipe For Disaster

    Two farmers along with Leah Garces, the director of Compassion in World Farming USA, felt it necessary to expose the truth and let the people know about the chickens that America feeds their families with.

    Equipped with secret cameras the brave men filmed inside the chicken houses – revealing the horrifying reality of chicken farming.

    The gruesome footage shows close-ups of the dying, abandoned birds – some discolored dark red, purple and green and others a bloody mess of rotting flesh and feathers.

    ‘About a year and a half ago we started getting gangrenous dermatitis, Hedrick explains to Garces – just one of the many problems facing chickens and their farmers.

    ‘It’s almost like the bird is eaten from the inside out, like its rotten from the inside out… alive,’ he says.

    Source

    Undercover: Equipped with secret cameras two farmers filmed inside the chicken houses - revealing the horrifying reality of chicken farming.

    The gruesome footage shows close-ups of the dying, abandoned birdsSome are discolored dark red, purple and green and others a bloody mess of rotting flesh and feathersSee more of the horrendous pictures here

    According to the article source, the chickens chosen for meat production are “fast-growing chicken breeds who often have poor immune function, making them more susceptible to disease. This fast growth (by genetic modification) is unsustainable and can have other dire consequences for the birds, such as leg deformities, heart attacks, foot pad dermatitis, hock burns, and more. With an already crowded, dirty, and warm environments they are kept in are perfect for such bacterial disease to thrive.” When asked why the farmers haven’t done anything to rectify the situation, Hedrick says, ‘We’re not allowed to do anything with the birds unless it’s approved by the company,’ The farmers decided to speak out about the treatment at the poultry contract farm after the company sent a mysterious letter explaining that no one apart from ‘essential people’, should be allowed into their chicken houses.

    This is a Dirty Industry

    Many of you may be wondering why the FDA or USDA has not intervened? What is almost rarely mentioned about these government-run groups is how little the highly industrialized American food supply is actually inspected. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) doesn’t inspect as many plants as one might think, thus leading to constant chicken recalls due to food-borne diseases. In 2014, Tyson chicken factories came under fire when they had to recall 60,000 chicken products due to staph infections on meat. As well, because of our regular consumption of meat and dairy products that were given antibiotics, bacteria are growing resistant and causing many of the “last resort” antibiotics to be less powerful than in years past. So, I ask you, how healthy do you think our commercialized food sources really are? Look at these gruesome images and ask yourself if you really want to continue feeding your family this food.

    What Can Be Done?

    With constant food increases, one would surmise this is because our food sources are of higher quality than most in the world. Unfortunately, this is not the case. It’s time that we begin to question our commercial food sources. You do not want to feed your family tainted or questionable food and the only way to ensure you have the best food sources available is to research and understand how they are raised. As well, stop buying commercial chicken products. If industry standard is equivalent to the way Pilgrim’s Pride is allowing their farms to be run, then we are all in for a world of hurt.

    One of the most simple recourses for better meat and egg quality is to raise your own chickens. This animal breed is one of the easiest to raise and aside from meat and eggs, the bug population in your yard will be cut down, as well as providing you with natural fertilizer for gardening. Here are some backyard food strategies you can try today.

     

    The Prepper's Blueprint

    Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

    Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

    Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    Gardening During Troubled Times: How to Start a Victory Garden

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    ReadyNutrition Guys and Gals, we’re going to touch on a subject that bears keeping in mind: the Victory gardens kept by citizens of the United States during World War II.  The reason this subject is good to mention is because now that spring has arrived, you should know about shortages and pitfalls people faced before.  As it is aptly written, there is nothing new under the sun; therefore, the same dilemmas faced by people before will be faced again.  A survival garden may be just the thing your family needs, as it will passively produce food for your future.

    Victory-Garden-2Wartime brings real shortages in virtually every area of the economy, especially in the area of foodstuffs.  Rationing becomes the norm rather than the exception, and it is difficult for people to scrape out a bare subsistence.  During WWII, the Victory garden was recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a pamphlet published in 1943.  The gardens were recommended to have the following vegetables planted:

    Spinach, Chard or Kale for greens; Cabbage; Lettuce; Tomatoes; Soy Beans; Snap Beans; Lima Beans; Peas; Asparagus; Carrots; Beets; Turnips; Parsnips; Onions; Strawberries; Raspberries; Radishes; Peppers; Onions; Pole Beans.

    That’s quite a list, but it is not comprehensive and many preppers suggest these 25 seeds to start their survival gardens for added nutrition.  The point to be made is that if you are able to grow food, then do it during the warm months.  Potatoes can be grown inside of old tires, and there are plenty of books and resources out there that will tell you how to perform micro gardening.  This is a type of gardening that allows you to maximize the minimal space and arable land that you may have.

    The main thing is planning and knowing where to start.  On this site Miss Tess Pennington offers many different resources to pursue concerning gardening and cultivation.  You must find out the available square footage that is on your property and utilize it to the maximum potential to grow.  Make use of every possible growing space and do not neglect window boxes and plants that can be grown on the windowsill.  Do not neglect a deck if you live in a high-rise or an apartment building.  Be creative.  Try to plan for what you believe you will need.

    Even if you do not have the acreage to be able to sustain you and your entire family, at the bare minimum you can supplement your food supply.  Let’s not forget that food in the immediacy is not the only consideration.  You want to save your seeds.  Seed-saving will be very important in the times to come, as you want to be assured of crops for future growing seasons.  The Survival Seed Vaults are good investments, especially if you have to pick up and run to another location or want to secure it in a cache.  Along those lines, consider adding the easiest seeds to grow in any of your caches, that way you can have a reliable food source when you need it the most. It’s kind of hard to take everything that is growing with you, and to have these seeds that you can take off with will help assuage the loss of your crops if you must flee.

    Your survival garden should also include whatever you can pick up with wild crafting.  Remember that article I wrote last year on the book, “Eat the Weeds,” that details common wild plants and herbs that are edible?  Man forages as well as produces.  Never limit yourself to one activity.  Remember, when you find dandelions or shepherd’s purse…you can transplant them (here are some other edible weeds to consider)!  Bring them back to your survival garden and maintain them!  The only limits on your survival garden are the limits you place on it.

    Other excellent resources for you are your county extension office and your local community college.  These institutions are replete with free information, tips, literature, and sometimes even free supplies for things such as gardening, horticulture, and composting.  Take advantage of these resources, as your tax dollars are paying for them.  Make inroads with the people who work there and they can point you toward a plethora of information and materials that you can use for your home.

    To summarize, now is the time to get your garden in gear.  Whether you have 20 acres up in the mountains or just a small balcony in a high rise, you can make the most out of your space and resources with the proper planning and desire to grow some foods.  Plan your work and work your plan.  We look forward to hearing any ideas or suggestions you may have for your fellow readers and us.  Have a great day, and happy gardening!

     

    JJ

    Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.

    Mr. Johnson dries and tinctures a wide variety of medicinal herbs taken by wild crafting and cultivation, in addition to preserving and canning his own food. An expert in land navigation, survival, mountaineering, and parachuting as trained by the United States Army, Mr. Johnson is an ardent advocate for preparedness, self-sufficiency, and long-term disaster sustainability for families. He and his wife survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Cross-trained as a Special Forces Engineer, he is an expert in supply, logistics, transport, and long-term storage of perishable materials, having incorporated many of these techniques plus some unique innovations in his own homestead.

    Mr. Johnson brings practical, tested experience firmly rooted in formal education to his writings and to our team. He and his wife live in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with their three cats.

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    Hobby Homesteading: 3 Backyard Livestock Breeds Every Home Should Have

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    backyardhomesteadGiven the state of our economy, many suburbanites and rural homeowners are resorting to raising their own small livestock in order to slash their budgets and provide food essentials for their family. Because of this increase in suburban homes keeping livestock, many are taking a stand against HOAs to change their intolerant policies on no livestock in the neighborhood. Regardless, if prices continue to escalate on basic food necessities like eggs, meat and dairy, we will be left with no choice but to raise our own.

    Getting Started

    Purchasing livestock for the first time, whether you are in suburbia or are a rural homeowner is both a nerve-wracking and an exciting adventure. I prefer to start with “trouble-free” breeds that are hearty and can, for the most part, take care of themselves. Of course, when you first start raising livestock, it can be overwhelming and dare I say nerve-wrecking to say this least. When I first started caring for my chickens and rabbits, I was afraid that I would make detrimental mistakes. But, like everything in life, there is a slight learning curve, good people to help and eventually the confidence to continue on. I recommend doing ample amounts of research. Find out about shelter sizes, how many animals would be best for providing for your family, how to care of them and what supplies you will need. I highly recommend “The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!” It’s a great primer for getting started and using the most of the space you have.

    Favorite Breeds for Hobby Homesteaders

    It goes without saying, but finding livestock that are relatively quiet and will not disturb neighbors is ideal when living in close proximity with others. Quiet livestock choices like quail, guinea pigs and rabbits are ideal in this case. As well, many backyard homesteaders choose small breeds that are easy to care for and require minimal upkeep. Micro-livestock, such as chickens, quail, guinea pigs, ducks and rabbits are, by far, the most popular livestock breeds amongst new homesteaders simply because they are the easiest to care for and require less space, and less food. In exchange, the animals provide your family with meat, eggs and rich manure for the garden.

    Here are some excellent points on the great exchange small livestock provide:

    • More nutritionally dense food.
    • Better feed conversion (amount of feed it takes to make one pound of animal).
    • Small breeds are less expensive to purchase and produce much more per pound of animal.
    • Small backyards are not an issue with small breed animals.
    • Your livestock can also help you to prevent things from going to waste that would normally be thrown out, such as vegetable peels and scraps, leftovers, and stale bread.
    • If you plan on butchering your livestock for food, the butchering time is minimal and the blood and bones of the animals make blood and bone meal which are excellent soil amendments.

    There are many homesteaders who recommend goats as a beginner livestock choice, but there are some challenges you will face and goats are not suited to live in smaller yards like those found in suburbia. As well, many neighborhoods frown upon pigs, even the smaller breeds like the American Guinea Hog because they destroy the yards. So I prefer to stick with the breeds below. Here are some ideal small breed choices and some future reading you can do to familiarize yourself with the breed before purchasing.

     Chickens:

    Which Kind of Chicken Breed Is Best For Your Backyard Flock?

    Homemade Chicken Treats

    10 Foods You Should Not Feed Your Chickens

    Quail:

    Why You Should Consider Quail For the Urban Homestead

    Sustainable Farming: Starting a Quail Flock

    Raising Quail

     Rabbits:

    The Complete Guide to Raising Rabbits

    Expert Advice for Breeding Rabbits

    Raising Kits to Harvest

    Recently, I suggested some easy strategies to get you motivated to start a small homestead in your backyard. Hobby homesteading can easily be transitioned into sprawling suburban neighborhoods provided you find livestock that are small and relatively quiet. While chickens may not conform to certain noise ordinances in neighborhoods, rabbits and quail would be a wonderful alternative.

    What to Feed Livestock

    To live in a self-reliant manner, you want to look at this project as a big cycle: You want to grow food to feed your animals, who in turn will provide eggs and/or meat for your family, as well as, manure for your garden. Many backyard homesteaders prefer growing their own feed so they know the animals are consuming high-quality nutrients and avoiding chemicals, pesticides, and antibiotics. Knowing some natural sources to feed your livestock will need to be researched, but can drastically cut down on the animal feed bill. If you plan on growing your livestock’s food sources, look at this article for more direction. As well, you’d be surprised that seeds like sunflowers are feed favorites for small livestock that chickens and goats.

    I had a lot of success with a small flock of chickens and three rabbits. I have had a few issues with predators, but once I understood how the predators got into the cage, the issue was resolved. I have an overflowing amount of organic manure composting in my yard and should be able to use it for my spring garden. As well, when spring time comes, the eggs will be overflowing and will be able to make some foods made with eggs. I even plan on expanding these homesteading products (at the hesitancy of my husband). I love that we have livestock and feel better knowing we have fresh food sources if the economy continues to decline.

    If you already have some livestock in your backyard, leave some helpful advice or tips you have learned along the way for the beginners!

     

    The Prepper's Blueprint

    Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

    Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

    Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    Four Woes That Go Along With Winter Homesteading

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    winterwoesWe’re only a week or so into January and winter has completely lost its charm.  I’m ready for longer days, California sunshine, and temperatures that don’t require three layers of clothing.  And for those of you that think California doesn’t get any “weather”, I have two words for you: Donner Party.

    Ice and Tailbones

    In a previous article, I wrote about Blue Collar Feet and why it’s important that I have quality boots on my feet, but even though I wear a high quality hiking boot with Vibram non-slip rubber lugs, they are sometimes no match for the hard-packed snow and ice I encounter both on the farm and at my off-farm job.  I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping my footing and choosing the path least likely to send my butt over tea kettle over the years, but the other day when a water-logged wooden retaining wall gave way while I was doing an inspection at my off-farm job, I had no choice but to jump onto some ice.

    What a pain in the butt that was!  All joking aside, I am now writing this from a stooped over, don’t dare sit on anything position because despite the advice from WebMD: “When seated, avoid sitting on hard surfaces and alternate sitting on each side of the buttocks. Also, lean forward and direct your weight away from the tailbone.” It still hurts no matter what I do.  I’m now considering getting a set of these.  I would love to hear from any of you in the comments below about similar products that you’ve found useful to keep one’s footing on ice.

    Seasonal Allergies

    For the majority of my life I suffered from seasonal allergies in the spring and summer.  I always thought I was just catching one cold after another in a perpetual stream of mucus-y misery every winter, but it turns out that’s not so.  I have winter allergies, too, and they’re caused by indoor pollutants, namely mold.

    We live in a heavily forested area there’s plenty of duff .  It’s great for biodiversity and makes excellent mulch.  It also keeps the ground from drying out in the summer and in the wintertime it can hold a lot of water.  All that water is the perfect breeding ground for mold and inevitably, their spores find their way into my house.  We rely heavily on wood heat in the winter and the firewood, no matter how dry we keep it, absorbs moisture from the air and becomes a breeding ground for allergens.  To mitigate this, I’m on a quest almost every week to find any spots of mold that have taken up residence in my home.

    But you don’t have to live in the forest to have mold in your house in the winter.  Mold spores are everywhere and will take up residence wherever there’s enough moisture for them to grow.  There is no way to eliminate all spores in an indoor environment.  The best thing you can do is to eliminate sources of moisture.

    If you find that you have a cold that just won’t go away, it’s possible you have a mold allergy, too.  The most effective treatment for allergies is to limit your exposure to the allergen.  Take a look around your house for the likely hiding places and keep in mind that not all molds are black.  We get a mold on our bathroom ceiling in winter that is a light rust color.

    The bathroom is the obvious environment for mold and the most difficult to keep dry.  A bathroom vent and fan will go a long way in helping keep the moisture under control.  Leave the fan running until the bathroom is completely dry and free of steam.

    For homes that have wall unit heaters, room heaters, or rely on a wood stove, periodically check the rooms that are closed off for the winter.  Many people close off spare bedrooms during winter to conserve heat in the rest of the house.  The room never gets frigid cold, but it never gets warm either.  If you have furniture pushed up against a wall, pull it away and check behind it periodically.  Moisture can build up in those areas and the cool temperature in the room becomes a perfect hidden breeding ground for mold.  The same goes for seldom used closets and cabinets.

    Try to ascertain where the moisture is coming from.  If it’s just moisture in the air, dehumidifiers work well.  If you do discover mold in your house, first fix the problem that’s letting all the moisture in.  For clean up, white vinegar works as an excellent natural cleaner and sponge mops are great for reaching the ceiling.

    Itchy Skin

    It’s the same every winter- as soon as I’ve dried off after bathing I become Rango, the chameleon at the end of the car crash scene  despite the fact that I’ve been using fat-rich homemade bar soap for decades.  I even slather on some extra virgin olive oil lightly scented with essential oils before my skin dries completely.

    I’ve recently discovered that:

    “Each cleansing agent, even normal tap water, influences the skin surface. The increase of the skin pH irritates the physiological protective ‘acid mantle’, changes the composition of the cutaneous bacterial flora and the activity of enzymes in the upper epidermis, which have an acid pH optimum. The dissolution of fat from the skin surface may influence the hydration status leading to a dry and squamous skin.” (Source)

    In normal people speak, that means every time I get soaked in the rain (which is pretty much every time it rains, at least for one part of my body or another), it’s rinsing off all the good stuff on my skin that keeps me from feeling like a dried-out chameleon.  Who knew something wet could make me feel so dried out!  So, this winter I got myself some rain gear to wear over my Carhartt.  Not only am I staying nice and dry and less itchy, I’m also not hanging a soaked Carhartt up in the house to dry and adding to the mold-contributing moisture in the air.

    Mud and Family

    The frenetic pace of summertime on a farm leaves little time for socializing, especially with distant family, but can also mean that we don’t see much of each other when even we live in the same house.  Not so in winter.  Winter weather brings us all inside, cozy and warm, sharing elaborate home-cooked meals, laughing and playing board games or enjoying our favorite shows together, and drinking hot chocolate in blissful harmony.

    Hahahaha!  No, it doesn’t- I totally made that up.  As much as I love the holidays, by the time they’re over I start wishing some of my family would go away.  It’s not that I don’t love them, it’s just that there’s a reason I’m suited for the relatively solitary rural life and frankly, their constant presence starts t make me feel like they’re all up in my nostrils.

    And the mud!  Winter in the California Sierras can be just as brutal as any northern winter elsewhere in the United States, but unlike those places that have a continuous blast of cold all winter, there can be days here that the temperature outside is so warm it melts all the snow and turns everything to mud.  And family, my dear family whom I love so, if you don’t take your *&^#$ boots off before you step into my house I’m going to have to beat you with this mop.

    But all is not as dire as I think it is as I stand here stopped over to protect my bruised tailbone.  I’m comforted that Eye of the Hawk and March 20th are not too far away.

    Ruby is a first generation Californian who grew up in the heart of the Central San Joaquin Valley farming community. She’s been involved in agriculture for 40 years and learned to preserve food, traditional home arts, to hunt and fish, raise livestock and garden from her Ozark native mother.

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    Agrihoods: The Self Sufficient Alternative to Suburbia

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    suburb wikimedia

    Compared to rural agricultural areas and cities, suburbs are some of the most wasteful settlements in the United States. When you really break it down, suburbs are nothing more than the midpoint between rural and urban areas. They have a population density that leans more towards cities, but they take up the space of a countryside. Unfortunately, this means that suburbs, though taking on the costs of both of these extremes, wind up receiving none of the benefits. From an economic stand point, they often combine the worst of both worlds.

    Here’s a few quick examples of what I mean. In the city, the cost of housing is very expensive, but fortunately there are more job opportunities. In rural areas, rent and most basic goods are cheaper, but there aren’t nearly as many jobs in most cases. But in suburbia, you often get the high rents without the same job opportunities, which means you’ll probably have to commute to the city for work. That brings me to another example.

    In the city you probably don’t even need a car. Everything you need is incredibly close and public transportation and taxi cabs are everywhere. If there is somewhere that is too far to walk to, you won’t have any trouble finding a ride. In the rural areas, you’re practically doomed if you don’t have a car, or know someone who can drive you, but at least there isn’t any congestion. In the suburbs, you get the long distances and the congestion. Plus, newer suburbs aren’t built with pedestrians in mind, and they don’t have nearly as many sidewalks and trails as the suburbs that were built several decades ago.

    See what I mean? Suburbs often combine the worst of both worlds. This of course, also includes sustainability and self-sufficiency. Rural areas have great potential for both of those attributes and cities do not, but at least cities have more economic opportunities. Suburbs on the other hand, take up all of the space of that is typical of rural community but without any of the self-sufficiency, especially in regards to food production. Which is a shame, because they have a great potential to capture the best of both worlds, in terms of self-sufficient food production and economic opportunities.

    Case in point, all over the world there are a growing number of so-called ‘agrihoods.’ These are essentially residential neighborhoods that are built around small farms. Having this in the suburbs means you could have the benefit of fresh sustainable produce, but still live in an area that has far more job opportunities. Given the growing interest in organic, and local food, these types of neighborhoods may be the wave of the future.

    This farm-to-table residential model has been sprouting up everywhere from Atlanta to Shanghai. It involves homes built within strolling distance of small working farms, where produce matures under the hungry gaze of residents, where people can venture out and pick greens for their salads.

    “Real estate developers are looking for the next big thing to set them apart,” said Ed McMahon, senior resident fellow with the Urban Land Institute in Washington. “That gives them a competitive advantage.”

    There are many variations of the agrihood, McMahon said. “Some developers rent acreage to farmers,” he said. “Some set up non-profit C.S.A. (community-supported agriculture) programs. Some have the residents doing it (the growing) themselves.”

    Agrihoods frequently include farmer’s markets, inns and restaurants sited in communal hubs where the edibles are processed or sold.

    For now, these neighborhoods are very pricey. They are often built as gated communities, and are marketed primarily to second home buyers and retirees. While the cost of food is much cheaper, that alone isn’t nearly enough to offset the cost of housing.

    Like most things in this world however, the cost is always higher for the first product to fall off the assembly line, so to speak. What will really drive down the cost, is when preexisting neighborhoods start to retrofit their surroundings into small, sustainable farms. The first of these retrofits will probably coincide with golf’s lagging popularity, which is causing hundreds of golf courses to close every year. That’s a lot of open space with plenty of water access, right in the middle of suburbia, and it’s ripe for the picking. Give it a few years, and you might start to see these farms pop up in neighborhoods near you.

    Joshua Krause was born and raised in the Bay Area. He is a writer and researcher focused on principles of self-sufficiency and liberty at Ready Nutrition. You can follow Joshua’s work at our Facebook page or on his personal Twitter.

    Joshua’s website is Strange Danger

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    Food Freedom: Backyard Strategies You Can Try Today

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    Food freedom – now that’s a loaded statement. Is there such a thing? How many of you go to the store every week to get produce and meat? I would venture to guess almost all of us. Over the last several years, a substantial amount of our wealth has gone into purchasing food staples like meat, eggs and dairy. Even though we were “technically” making our way out of the recession of 2008, prices still continued to steadily rise. I was even more frustrated when country of origin labels were removed and serious health-related superbugs were present in packaged meat.

    food-inflation-since-2010 

    For years, I have placed a lot of focuson finding ways to be more sustainable. I was tired of living a life in a dependency-driven system and wanted to make more sustainable choices. Admittedly, I still go to the grocery store, but I have taken significant strides to break away from it. I no longer purchase meat, eggs and most produce. I either raise my own food sources or find them locally. This has saved us from the ever volatile price increases of grocery stores that many are dealing with.

    I also made some drastic changes around the house. While many believe the first steps toward food freedom are the most difficult to take, I found them to be the most rewarding and only encouraged me to be bolder in my pursuits. In a long-term emergency scenario, I knew that I needed the land I have to work for me. Therefore, I started raising my own food sources. The following are four of the easiest steps to take to become more sustainable in raising one’s own food and can be done in the convenience of a backyard.

    Four Ways to Start Achieving Food Freedom

    1. Start a garden. It makes no difference if your backyard is big or small, you can grow vegetables. Growing your own vegetables is a fast way to take the necessary steps toward breaking up with the grocery stores. Think about it – you will know exactly where your food comes from and how it was raised. Here are some great seeds to consider planting for your garden. You could even regrow food from food scraps! There are a few things you need to do before you plant your garden, but for the most part, this is a great weekend activity. These tips can help your garden thrive.
    2. Have a water source. I understand that many of us are dependent on municipal water sources, but those sources of water can easily become contaminated and shut off altogether; especially during an emergency. Just look at the water crisis occurring in Flint, Michigan. If you are not lucky enough to have a year-round creek or be walking distance from a natural water source, consider installing water catchment barrels around your home. I have two creeks on my property, but they dry out in the summertime, so I purchased four catchment systems like these to collect the rainwater we get in the spring. For under $300, you can start collecting water; and trust me, the water will collect quickly. If apartment dwellers have access to rooftops, they can even take advantage of this. Here’s a great primer on how to get started harvesting your own water. As well, Daisy Luther wrote a book about everything you need to know about water.
    3. Get some chickens. Chickens are the gateway livestock that leads to homesteading. Aside from the initial investment of purchasing a brooder lampfeeders, waterers and feed, they are relatively inexpensive. As well, they provide meat, eggs and nitrogen-rich fertilizer (make sure you compost the fertilizer before using). These are some of the most popular breeds to start with. As well, I like that I can give chickens kitchen scraps instead of throwing them away. They are, by far, the easiest livestock choice to start out with. As long as you give them a place to roost at night and bugs and grass to eat, they basically take care of themselves. There are lots of diy plans out there for coops, or if you are short on time, you can purchase a chicken coop like this one at feed stores. I also raise rabbits and because they make no noise, this could be a viable option for those living in close quarters of other families. As well, the manure makes great fertilizer!
    4. Buy some fruit trees.  I realize that there are some who do not have enough backyard space for a fruit orchard, but if you get the right type of fruit tree, you won’t need a lot of space. Self-fertile dwarf variety fruit trees can easily become prolific producers of fresh fruit and can also lure wild game for hunting into your neck of the woods. Also, if you have a sunny area of the home, consider adding some fruit trees that can be grown indoors. Because I live in a more northern climate, I have two pomegranate trees that I keep indoors and will hand-pollinate the blossoms myself. I also have a lemon and orange tree that are in containers that can easily be brought indoors if need be. Look around locally to find quality dwarf variety fruit trees that are self-fertile and you can train them to be small but abundant.

    Anyone Can Do It

    With these four steps, you are essentially creating your own microfarm. If you have a yard, then you can take these steps. In fact, Jules Dervaes proved years ago that you can raise your own food sources on 1/5th of an acre. He says that “growing your own food is recession proof.  You don’t have to worry about the prices.”

    While I live on acreage, the amount of land I use for these sustainable pursuits are very small. Moreover, I found the steps listed above to be the most rewarding and cost efficient ways to get started. Once your endeavors take off, consider how much additional food you will have. This could be great additional income sources or bartering tools that could be used.

    Farms. Food. Freedom. It’s That Simple, Folks

    To conclude, I ask again, is there such a thing as food freedom? The answer is yes; but you must be ready to work for it. The four steps outlined above are the most efficient course of action towards sustainability and if you have a small plot of land, you can make this happen.

    The Prepper's Blueprint

    Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

    Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

    Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    Winter Beekeeping Maintenance for a Healthy Hive

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    When people think of bees, they imagine warm, sunny days and lots of blooms, but the dead of winter is the best time to get your equipment ready so you won’t be caught short when the bloom comes roaring in at the beginning of spring.  Bees, like any other livestock, have specific needs and it’s our responsibility to make sure that we provide good animal husbandry for them.  Now is the time to start taking stock of your equipment.  As commercial beekeepers, we use Langstroth hives, but most of the advice here will apply for any kind of hive.

    Wax Moths

    There are two types of wax moths that live in the United States: the Lesser Wax Moth and the Greater Wax MothSupers stored over winter with honey-extracted comb are a bonanza for wax moths.  They especially like dark, warm, and poorly ventilated areas (outbuildings, barns, garages) or unprotected supers that get wet from being stacked and stored outside.  The larvae of the wax moth will chew through empty comb in their search for food (mostly pollen, but they’ll eat whatever is handy) and can cause significant damage.

    Maximum light and ventilation are the best defense against infestation.  For hobbyists and small scale commercial beekeepers, store supers of extracted-comb or individual frames of extracted-comb by suspending them on wires strung along the rafter of a garage or well ventilated, well-lit outbuilding.

    It’s important to check your stored supers periodically to make sure wax moths aren’t destroying your frames.  If caught early before too much damage is done to the comb, use a hive tool to dig the larvae out.  Another option is Paramoth wax.

    If you discover that there is too much damage to the frame, it’s important take off the entire comb, inspect to make sure the wire is still good, and replace with a new sheet of foundation.  If the wire is bad, rewire the frame, and add new foundation.  Note: this work should be done away from the area where your frames were stored to avoid reinfesting your repaired frames.  If you have chickens, gather up all the infested beeswax and give it to your chickens.  They’ll love scratching through the beeswax bits in search of tasty, high protein larvae treats!

    Thoroughly clean the storage shed, too, before returning your cleaned frames and supers to make sure they don’t get reinfested.  Bug bombs are the quickest and easiest way (be sure to follow manufacturers recommendations), but if you’d like to go a more natural route once you’ve cleaned the storage room, you can cut cedar boards and soak them in cedar oil to drive the moths away.  Wait 24 hours before returning your supers for storage.

    Gearing Up for Spring

    It’s also time to take stock of the equipment you have on hand to be ready for the honey flow.  Inspect your extra supers and boxes for damage- repair cracks, check for dry rot, and apply a fresh coat of paint.  Take an inventory of how many frames you have and build new ones to replace damaged frames and to insure you have enough extras to put into supers when everything is in full bloom and the nectar flow is high.  Get your nucs ready if you plan on splitting hives or catching swarms.  If you do plan on splitting hives or catching swarms, build your new hive stands now. Hive stands help prevent ant infestations and help keep skunks from eating all your bees.  Use coffee containers (or something similar) filled with a little water under each stand leg to make “ant moats” to keep the ants from climbing up the legs.

    This is also a good time to make extra top and bottom boards for your hives to insure you have replacements.  If you plan on trapping pollen (and I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t), clean and repair any pollen traps.  There is an excellent article, written by B. F. Detroy and E. R. Harp, agricultural engineer and agricultural research technician, here complete with building plans.  Keep their advice in mind that “Pollen should be trapped only from strong, disease-free colonies in bee-tight hives. Trapping should be done only during pollen flows of one-quarter pound per day minimum, and traps or grids should be removed at other times. Pollen should be removed from the trap often (daily during heavy pollen flows) and cared for properly. During major nectar flows, pollen trapping is unprofitable, and the grid slows down active flight, which reduces honey production.”

    Bee Yards

    If you plan on using beeyards on someone else’s property, now is a good time to take stock of their availability and get contracts signed.  I’m a firm believer in the saying, “Good fences build good neighbors” and prefer to have a contract in place even if they’re letting us use their property for free.  The contract below was originally posted at www.indianahoney.com, but the website is no longer valid.  I’ve retyped it (with a little modification) below.  Feel free to use it or modify it as you see fit, but keep in mind, we’re farmers, not lawyers:

    Free Pollination Contract

    I, (insert name of landowner here), have requested that (insert your name or the name of your apiary/farm here) place hives on my property, located at (insert full address of bee yard here).

    By signing this contract, (insert name of landowner here) agrees to the following:

    1. All beehives on said property belong to (insert your name or your apiary/farm name here).
    2. By signing this contract, (insert your name or apiary/farm name here) or employees have the right to unrestricted access to the beehives belonging to (insert your name or apiary/farm name here).
    3. All products of the beehives, located in the beehives, or removed from the beehives are the sole property of (insert your name or apiary/farm name here).
    4. (insert your name or apiary/farm name here) is providing free pollination services in exchange for the use of the property as a base apiary.
    5. By having the minimum of (insert minimum number of hives here) present at all times during the growing season and a maximum of (insert max number of hives here), (insert your name or apiary/farm name here) has fulfilled their end of this agreement.  I agree that (insert your name or apiary/farm name here) has no control over what crops/plants/flowers the bees decide to gather pollen and/pr nectar from.
    6. I agree that (insert your name or apiary/farm name here) has the right to cancel this contract and move the hives at any time that they deem the property to be unacceptable for the placement of beehives.
    7. I agree that if I cancel this contract, (insert your name or apiary/farm name here) will have a minimum of 60 days to move the hives off of my property, and that all conditions of this contract are in effect until the hives are moved.
    8. I agree not to move, disturb, or harass the bees or their hives.
    9. I agree not to give anyone other than (insert your name or apiary/farm name here) or their employees access to the hives.
    10. I agree that I am the owner of said property and have the right to allow (insert your name or apiary/farm name here) to set hives on said property.
    11. I agree that (insert your name or apiary/farm name here) will be given the first opportunity to capture any swarms on the property for the duration that their hives are present and that any swarms captured by (insert your name or apiary/farm name here) are the sole property of (insert your name or apiary/farm name here) unless they decline to take possession of the swarm

     

    I understand that by signing this contract, I am agreeing to all the terms and conditions of this contract

     

    Landowner:

    ____________________________  Date: ___________

    Apiary/farm name here):  

    ____________________________  Date:____________

     

    Conclusion

    By doing some winter maintenance on your apiary equipment, building new equipment, and securing bee yards for the coming season, you can be better prepared for spring flows.  Up next, we’ll talk “spring checks”- what you need to do now for your active hives to make sure they are at their peak health for the coming season.  Stay tuned!

     

    Ruby is a first generation Californian who grew up in the heart of the Central San Joaquin Valley farming community. She’s been involved in agriculture for 40 years and learned to preserve food, traditional home arts, to hunt and fish, raise livestock and garden from her Ozark native mother.

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    What to Expect When You’re Goats Are Expecting

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     We’re on Kid Watch here- goat kid, that is.  Several of our does are bagging up and we’re hoping the rest won’t be far behind.  All of our does were exposed to bucks over the summer and gestation lasts about 150 days (about five months) for standard sized breeds.  We have Boer, Kikos, and Kiko crosses that we raise for meat production to sell at farmers’ markets, a couple of mutt milk goats for our own milk, plus several other types of meat animals.  We leave the bucks in the pasture with the does when breeding season comes around, and since we have lots of things to tend to on the farm and we occasionally like to have day off, we’re never sure of the exact day each doe was bred.

    How To Know When the Goat is Pregnant

    It’s not always easy to tell when a goat is pregnant, especially on double-wides like Stella, our herd queen.  Stella has kidded a few times already and like most females who have had kids, she’s lost her girlish figure.  But even with first-time moms, like our does Bo and Kinsey, it can be difficult to tell.  Full rumens, grass bellies, and just plain being too fat can look like pregnancy.  The only accurate way to know is to have a blood test done.

    You can have a vet come out to draw the blood and send the vials off to a lab, or you can draw the blood yourself.  A quick Google search will show you were to the send the blood off to be tested in your area.  We choose not to have the blood tests done since every test cuts into our profits.  This does make it a little more of a guessing game when it comes to kidding time, so it’s important that we’re prepared for a slew of kids.

    It’s been below freezing here in our neck of the woods, and being December, we could get snow.  Scratch that- if washing your car makes it rain, a doe giving birth almost guarantees snow…at night, when company is over for the holidays, and possibly while you have the flu.  So, it’s best to be prepared for the worst.

    Sheltering Pregnant Goats

    We generally require our goats to be resilient – they sleep outside with minimal shelter to protect them from the elements and predators, are expected to forage for the majority of their feed, and to be over-all easy-keepers, but when it comes to giving birth and to newborns, that’s different.  Once the does start bagging up, all the does are brought into the barn each night.  The goats are familiar with the barn because we use it throughout the year to trim their hooves, give vaccinations, and generally check their health.  It’s also used when a goat needs to convalesce like Stella did recently.  Having the does in the barn at night with the kidding pen ready makes it much less stressful on both goats and people alike.  It’s much easier to address problems in a barn than it is under a manzanita bush or in an open pasture in the dark in inclement weather.

    Preparing For the Kid

    There are some basic things every goat keeper should do and have on hand about two weeks before the does go into labor.

    1. Clean the kidding pen- this is very important.  Wash the walls down with bleach diluted in water, muck the floors, and lay down a thick layer of clean straw.  It helps to have a couple of extra bales of straw on hand to replace any soiled straw (from manure, blood, and other nasties) that happen during kidding time.
    2. Sanitize a bucket and have it handy.  We have to tote water in from the well to the barn, so we like to have several of these water containers on hand with fresh water.  They have easy flow spigots that only require one hand to open/close for hand washing and the spigot can be completely unscrewed for easy filling or if we need to pour the water into a bucket.
    3. Create a Kidding Kit – The kidding kit should include:
    • Sterilized surgical scissors for cutting the umbilical cord (once sterilized, put them in a Ziploc bag to keep them clean)
    • 7% iodine for dipping umbilical cords
    • An old, cleaned prescription bottle or a Cello cup to hold the iodine for dipping the cords
    • Dental floss for tying off the umbilical cord (though in a pinch, embroidery thread works, too)
    • A box of surgical gloves
    • KY Jelly or Astro-Glide (in case you need to assist in the birth. Goats can pass diseases to humans.  Don’t forget bio-security in all the excitement)
    • Betadine Skin Cleanser and a surgical scrubs
    • A flashlight, even if you have good lighting in your kidding area
    • A nasal aspirator
    • Colustrum in case your doe won’t nurse and Tractor Supply isn’t open for hours and a bottle to put it in.
    • Several clean, old bath towels

    Since our goat barn and pasture is located some distance from the house, we also like to have several thermoses full of hot water and at least a couple full of coffee.  A heat lamp is nice, too, especially in cold climates like ours, just in case a kid needs to stay warm while mom is busy giving birth to more kids.  If you have a vet or good friend that is familiar with goats, keep their number handy in case things go south.

    Here’s What to Expect

    During a normal kidding, the birth sack will present first- it looks like a small water balloon full of yuck.  After a few more contractions, if you look closely, you should be able to see a couple of hooves and a nose in the sack.  Kids “dive” out feet first and chin to the floor.  The hooves and the nose open the doe up and make it easier to get the forehead out.  Occasionally, a kid will present with their nose or legs turned back or even completely breech.  This is when you’ll need to put on the gloves, lube them and the doe up, and very gently reach in to reposition the kid.  If you’re not comfortable doing this, it’s vital that you get help.

    Once the hooves and head have passed beyond the forehead, the kid sort of swooshes out in a couple of big pushes.  Clean the birth sack and mucus away from its nose and let the doe do the rest.  Be prepared for twins.  Once the doe has cleaned the kid to her satisfaction, it’s time to trim the umbilical cord to about one of two inches long, tie it off and dip it in the iodine cup all the way up to it’s belly.  Let the doe love on her new baby or babies for a few minutes while you clean up and soiled straw, replace it with clean bedding, and check to make sure she has fresh, clean water available.

    Congratulations!  You have kids!  Don’t forget to take pictures of your new babies to post on Facebook.  The Internet may have been built on cats, but WE know it’s all about the goats!

     

    Stay tuned!

    Ruby is a first generation Californian who grew up in the heart of the Central San Joaquin Valley farming community. She’s been involved in agriculture for 40 years and learned to preserve food, traditional home arts, to hunt and fish, raise livestock and garden from her Ozark native mother.

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    Winter Homesteading: A Must-Read Guide to Staying Ahead

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    wintergardenThere’s a misperceptions shared by some that farmers have it pretty easy, relatively speaking, in the winter months compared to the high production summer months.  This isn’t exactly true.  Summertime means longer daylight hours and more time spent working outside, but the short days of winter carry their own responsibilities.

    We’re expecting several consecutive days of winter storm warnings here in the Sierras, and that means that with the exception of feeding and watering the livestock and keeping a watchful eye on the goats who are showing signs of kidding soon, we won’t be outside working if we can help it.  Sure, there’s always a chance that a limb (or worse, the entire tree) will drop and take down a fenceline, but for the most part, if we’ve done our fall prepping right, everything and everyone should be able to sit out the storm safe and snug in their shelters, pens, and coops with little intervention on our part.

    For famers, wintertime means paperwork and in my case, the annual love/hate relationship I have with QuickBooks when entering all those receipts I swore I was going to enter as they came in over the summer and never found time or inclination to do.  Winter also provides the time for inside work like research and continuing education.  Farming is as much science and accounting as it is manual labor.

    I’m always looking for ways to save money and time and in order to so that, I need to be organized.  I need to know how to address an injury or illness in an animal before I need to know it.  Thanks to the Internet and other people’s hard work, I’m able to find that information.  As much as I dislike the Tax Man and QuickBooks, I love spreadsheets, printable templates, online calculators, apps I can load onto my mobile device and take with me in the field, and quick reference graphs and charts.

    Informing

    Some of my favorite downloadable documents for the rabbitry come from AZ Rabbits.  They can be used as they are or, if you’re comfortable with Excel, they can be edited to suit your particular needs.  I use a modified printed version of the doe sheet in the rabbit barn for quick reference and have added formulas to the cells of the electronic copy of the spreadsheet to keep on my computer.  By adding formulas, I only need to add some of the information and Excel does the math for me. Especially helpful if you suffer from The Maths like I do.

    This app available on the Google Play Store takes a different approach.  Instead of evaluating the feed before it goes into the cow, it evaluates how the feed looks once it comes out.  Aptly named the Cow Poop Analyzer, it works by comparing photographs you take to stock photos to determine the approximate crude protein and digestibility of forage/feed.  This app almost makes me wish we had cattle just so I could try it out.

    Wild Edibles for Livestock

    We rely pretty heavily on forage for our livestock, so these two links from Purdue and the University of Vermont Extension come in pretty handy.  Some people call them weeds, but our goats call them noms!  It also helps to know what you’re dealing with in your garden.  These two links do a great job of helping to identify weeds:

    Intro to Weeds

    Weed Identification

    Of course, we also want to know if something is toxic and we need to eradicate it before the goats do.  For that, we use the FDA Poisonous Plant Database and the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Science.  A couple of good links to help with breeding can be found here on calculators for the gestation of goats.

    American Goat Society

    Goat Biology

    Predators

    Sometimes despite our best precautions, we have to deal with predators.  To be the most effective and to quickly eliminate the threat, we first need to know what type of predator is attacking our animals.  This link, from the Texas A&M University does a great job of explaining what to look for to identify what we’re dealing with.

    Budgeting

    We run a multi-species farm and keeping track of the feed costs for all the different animals and their requirements can sometimes be overwhelming.  I really like this Feed Value Calculator from the Government of Saskatchewan (http://www.agriculture.gov.sk.ca/feed_value_calculator).  It’s one of the most detailed calculators I’ve found.  From their Overview:

    “The Feed Value Calculator calculates the relative value of crude protein, total digestible nutrients (TDN), calcium and phosphorous, based on the market price and nutrient content of four reference feeds (barley grain, canola meal or wheat distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) or feed peas. 1:1 mineral and limestone.

    A cost factor is then calculated for each nutrient.  The cost factors are used to calculate the relative value of other feeds based on their nutrient content.  Detailed user instructions are provided in the “Market Price of Reference Feeds”, “Relative Feed Value” and “Feed Price Comparison” worksheets.

    The Feed Value Calculator uses Multivariate Statistical Techniques. The Inverse Matrix computations were validated by Dr. Peiqiang Yu, Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture Research Chair, Feed Research and Development, College of Agriculture and Bioresources, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, using the IML procedure in SAS®.”

    The Pearson’s Square Protein Calculator (a simple protein calculator) can be found here.  If you’re looking for one specific to goats, this one from the Langston University does a good job and also includes the biotype, class, and gender of the goat in its calculations or this one from SheepandGoat which addresses the feed needs of lactating dairy goats.

    Organizing Supplies

    Winter is also the time that I finally have a chance to sit down and take stock of MY shelter.  With all the work that goes into the animals, it becomes even more important that I have a way to organize my home.  Reformation Acres has an extensive list of free or for-fee templates for organizing the million tasks that need to be done to keep a household humming along.  You can also find Essential Prepping Calculators that cover a variety of topics.

    There’s a lot of value to hands-on experience when it comes to farming, but it also involves a lot of science and that type of knowledge is ever-changing as we learn more about biology.  The University of Massachusetts Amherst, Washington State University, and Triton College all offer courses in agriculture and the best part is they’re online!

    Although it may seem that farmers get to take the winter off, there’s more work to be done indoors and technology makes it possible for us to stay organized and continue learning even during inclement weather.  Just don’t ask me how much time I spend on Pinterest.  Stay tuned!

    Ruby is a first generation Californian who grew up in the heart of the Central San Joaquin Valley farming community. She’s been involved in agriculture for 40 years and learned to preserve food, traditional home arts, to hunt and fish, raise livestock and garden from her Ozark native mother.

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    How Goats Can Alert You To Their Health Issues

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    stella2If you’ve already read, So, You Want a Goat? Here Are the Challenges You’ll Face, you already know that Stella, our herd queen, is no shrinking violet.  She rules over her herd with a no-nonsense approach that maintains order through ever watchful diligence and by quashing uprisings and disputes before they get a chance to escalate.  Stella is so firmly established as the Law within the herd that she rarely has to become physical.

    Stella is always first up in the morning, first out to browse, first to the gate and first to the goodies.  She leads the herd wherever we want them to go and they follow her obediently.  Within the herd, she’s a force to be reckoned with.  She’s everything we could hope for in a queen that must rule over a pastured herd.

    We have gotten to know Stella and her winning personality and come to expect certain things from her. It was because of this indomitable spirit that we realized something wasn’t right with Stella.

    It started a few weeks ago one evening as we called the herd in.  There was Stella, as usual, leading the way, but she seemed a little off- nothing we could put on finger on – just a sort of malaise.  She wasn’t as loud or as brassy.  She almost seemed quiet.  Her step wasn’t as quick and it seemed like she was struggling a little to stay in the lead.  The other goats were gaining on her as they all came up the hill and Stella seemed aware that she was losing the comfortable lead she normally has between her and the rest of the goats to be first in line for treats.  We watched her for a few minutes after we had them in the shelter, but nothing seemed amiss, so we shrugged it off and went home for the evening.

    The next morning when we showed up to let the goats out to forage, she seemed perfectly like Stella.  She headed out to forage down the hill with the same confidence and speed we were used to seeing in her.  But again, come evening, something was wrong.  The next morning would be uneventful as the last, but by evening, we knew something wasn’t right.  Stella had slowed down considerably.  She didn’t want to walk up the mountain to the pen and seemed very distressed that she was falling behind the rest of the herd.  About two-thirds up the hill, she stopped completely.  She stood rooted to her spot and calling out to us.

    We hiked down the mountain to see what was wrong with her.  We checked her feet, her eyelids, ran our hands over her body trying to find tender or swollen spots, and even flexed her limbs looking for a sprain.  We looked around to see if there was a hidden danger like a snake or a predator hiding in the brush or trees.  Everything checked out fine and we were flummoxed.  Unable to find anything wrong, we gently urged her up the hill and penned her in with the herd.

    On the fourth evening, Stella wouldn’t come up the hill at all.  We hiked to the bottom to go get her and wondered aloud to each other how we were going to get this big doe up the mountain if she seriously refused to budge.  Again, we checked everything we could think of to decipher why Stella refused to walk up the mountain and again we found nothing wrong.  This time we had to put a lead on her to get her to follow us and it was then, walking side-by-side, that we heard the click.

    We couldn’t pin-point where the sound was coming from, but it was definitely coming from Stella.  We manipulated her joints again, but couldn’t hear any clicking.  When we got her to the top of the hill and into the enclosure where the goats sleep at night to keep them safe from predators, Stella didn’t want to hang out with the rest of the goats.  There was no mistaking now that her attitude had changed.  She was withdrawn and seemed disinterested in her surroundings.

    As we were examining her yet again, we paused for a moment to brain-storm what could be wrong and to comfort her with a back scratch.  Stella stood patiently until we scratched her hips.  A light touch didn’t bother her, but when I placed my hands flat across her hips and pushed down with any pressure, she bleated in pain and tried to get out from under the pressure.  We called the vet that evening.

    The next day our vet, who is very familiar with goats, came out to examine Stella.  She listened to her rumen and discovered that it was a little too quiet.  A quite rumen can mean death for a goat.  Goats, like all ruminants, have multi-chambered stomachs.  The rumen is the largest chamber.  It contains crucial microorganisms (bacteria and protozoa) that are essential for digestion.  If this chamber doesn’t have a healthy, active colony of microorganisms, the goat will develop life-threatening illnesses.

    Stella had been exposed to a buck earlier this year while she was in season, and if pregnant, is due to kid in December.  Because of this, the most likely cause of her quiet rumen would be a metabolic condition called ketosis.  Ketosis is also known as fatty liver disease or pregnancy toxemia.  In some ways similar to diabetes in humans, ketosis is caused by a high energy demand during the last few weeks of gestation.  Large kids, multiple kids, or does who are in poor condition or over-conditioned are at risk.  As the kids grow during pregnancy, they demand more nutrition from the dam.  The rapidly growing fetus(es) compete for glucose in the doe’s blood supply and the doe starts to lose out.  To compensate, her body will rob her fat stores in order to maintain normal glucose levels.  When the doe is unable to maintain sufficient amounts of energy, ketones accumulate in the blood due to the fat being metabolized.

    An easy way to test for ketosis in goats is to use over-the-counter (OTC) test strips.  Simply hold the test strip in the urine stream and the strip will change color letting you know if there are ketones present.  Unfortunately, Stella didn’t need to go pee while we had the vet on hand, so the vet used the alternative method: a blood test.

    Her test came back negative, but something was obviously going on.  Stella’s Body Condition Score (BCS) fell within an acceptable range- neither too fat nor too thin and although she was still eating, she didn’t seem her usual enthusiastic self over the prospect of getting a carrot or other treat.  The vet also ruled out any issues with her hooves.  The asked us to lead Stella around in order to watch her gait.  The vet also heard the clicking and also noticed that each time Stella stopped moving, she would hold her back legs out behind her instead of properly placed under her body.

    With tests and observation, the vet was able to diagnose Stella with osteoarthritis in her knees.  Our herd is tested for caprine arthritis and encephalitis (CAE) which is the leading cause of infective arthritis in goats.  Stella’s blood work had come back negative, as had the rest of the herd.  Less common is traumatic arthritis.  Stella, our bossy, brassy take-no-prisoners herd queen had likely suffered an injury to her knees prior to coming to our farm that didn’t manifest any symptoms until the weather turned cold recently.  Her sore, stiff knees made it difficult for her to get up the mountain (when more weight is placed on the hind legs), but didn’t show when she went down the mountain (when body weight shifts more to the front legs).  We discovered the source of the click.

    And just like humans with osteoarthritis, the cold weather made it worse.  Stella was in pain and the pain made it difficult for her to forage and caused her to gradually lose her appetite.  Without adequate forage, Stella’s rumen was shutting down and she wasn’t getting enough energy to keep up with the increased caloric requirements of very cold weather.  Inadequate feed intake, elevated stress and pain, middle-age, and the additional caloric requirements to keep warm had created very similar demands on her metabolism that are found in late-term pregnancy.

    It’s likely too, that Stella recently re-injured her knees and then forfeited her already diminishing foraging opportunities in order to maintain her herd queen status.  All social species maintain a pecking order within their ranks.  It comes as no surprise that those at the bottom of any social structure can have a difficult time getting their share of food, but what is sometimes overlooked is that those at the top can spend so much time trying to retain their position, they’ll starve themselves.

    Oh, Stella, you hard-headed goat!

    Stella is resting comfortably in the big, warm barn with a few of her more submissive royal subjects to keep her company (for what is a queen without subjects to rule?) that we usually reserve for kidding and convalescing while we wait for a winter storm to pass.  The vet recommended that we treat her for ketosis even though the test was negative to ward off the possibility of her developing it.  Ketosis is so deadly and so difficult to treat past the early stages that we chose to be better safe than sorry.  Her prognosis is excellent and the vet expects she’ll have a full recovery.

    Long Live the Queen!

    Ruby is a first generation Californian who grew up in the heart of the Central San Joaquin Valley farming community. She’s been involved in agriculture for 40 years and learned to preserve food, traditional home arts, to hunt and fish, raise livestock and garden from her Ozark native mother.

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    The Beginning of the End: Newly Discovered Superbug In Imported Meat Resistant to All Antibiotics

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     Many of you reading this are alive today because of antibiotics. It’s a marvel of the modern world that has given us so much life. But because of our abuse of antibiotics and regularly consuming dairy products and eat meat that were given antibiotics, bacteria are growing resistant and causing many of the “last resort” antibiotics to be less powerful than in years past. Inevitably, infections we used to easily treat will evolve and become resistant them. These “superbugs” now threaten to derail decades of medical progress – and no one will be safe in a post-antibiotic world.

    The Beginning of the End

    Perhaps, the not-so-distant future is already upon us. Last month, a scientist discovered a gene resistant to colistin, an antibiotic of last resort. The mcr-1 gene has been found in coli bacteria among pigs, broiler meat and humans in China.  The researchers from South China also found this resistance gene in E. coli and Klebsiella pneumonia isolates from 16 hospitalized patients’ blood, urine or other sites. The isolates were all very resistant ESBL bacteria to begin with, so now were resistant to all antibiotics.

    Sadly, there’s more. According to a team from the Danish National Food Institute, they reported “that they also searched their collection of bacteria, looking for this new gene. They found the mcr-1 gene in the blood of a patient and in 5 poultry samples that originated in Germany between 2012-14. The patient had not left the country and was believed to have become infected by eating contaminated meat. The genes found in the poultry were identical to those from the Danish patient and from China.”

    Why is this important?

    The mcr-1 gene transfers resistance to E. coli, Klebsiella, Pseudomonas—common bacteria—by plasmids, small bits of DNA that can be transferred to different types of bacteria. Previously, colistin resistance was transferred on chromosomes, and therefore affected only those bacteria and their descendants. Plasmid-borne resistance genes are more likely to be rapidly spread widely, and can spread between species of bacteria. According to George Washington University’s Dr. Lance Price, it’s a bit less likely to be a problem with Salmonella for now, as “we don’t have those bordering on pan-resistance like E. coli.”

    One of the problems is that colistin is widely used in China’s agriculture industry. Co-author Professor Jianzhong Shen explains, “The selective pressure imposed by increasingly heavy use of colistin in agriculture in China could have led to the acquisition of mcr-1 by E. coli.

    Source

    This new antibiotic resistant superbug could cause worldwide issues with massive health implications. Perhaps the House will reconsider adding the country of origin labels back on meat so this pressing issue will not create an endemic in other countries. To add insult to injury, the USDA has a rather controversial chicken arrangement with China. Even though China has appalling food safety standards, the USDA allows chicken and seafood to be sent to China for processing before being shipped back to the states for human consumption. This has sparked outrage considering many foodborne diseases in China were caused by human error. Could this be another large-scale health crisis waiting to happen?

    To circumvent this pressing matter, perhaps we should consider seeking out locally grown food sources. For the last ten years, the number of farmers markets have more than doubled and this could be the answer to preventing superbugs from taking over. When you eat locally, you know things about your food that people who shop at the grocery store do not, as well, you are contributing to your community. As well, supplementing with garden fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs would also be beneficial and teach you a time-honored skill.

    Modern day antibiotics are failing us and we must open our eyes to the fact we are in the beginnings of a post-antibiotic world. The signs are there, the superbugs are raging on and we are losing the fight.

    The Prepper's Blueprint

    Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

    Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

    Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    Hedgerows: A Modern Take on an Ancient Homesteading Practice

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     Hedgerows have been around for centuries and date back as early as the Bronze Age (3000 B.C – -1000 B.C.).  Once used as a means to delineate property lines and to provide windbreaks and prevent soil erosion, they are fading from modern agriculture and homesteading.  They have many benefits beyond the aesthetic, though, and are an excellent long-term planting for homesteads.  In Great Britain, the word “hedge” is a name derived from the hawthorn: a thorn tree used as a weapon of defense.  Today in the United States, we are most familiar with the privet hedge- a common, neatly trimmed landscaping bush in urban yards that is usually in a box or rectangular shape.  But a hedge can be so much more than that.

    For the homesteader, a hedgerow can provide multiple benefits.  A traditional Saxon hedgerow, comprised of thorny hawthorns and other native species, makes an excellent “hidden prep” as a dense, thorny barrier that blends in well with the land.  Hedgerows also provide a wind break to help reduce soil erosion, provides surface water filtration, reduces water evaporation in garden soil and seedlings, and improve air quality.  It provides over-wintering grounds that attracts birds and beneficial insects and an early spring food supply for pollinators.  Small food animals like rabbits find a home in the dense undergrowth.

    Depending on the types of plants you choose to include in your hedgerow, it can also provide kindling wood, medicinal herbs, edible berries, nuts, and other fruits.  If you have an organic homestead, a hedgerow on the borders of your gardens can conceal or hide it from view or property can even provide a buffer from pesticide drift from your neighbors that grow crops conventionally.  A mature, established hedgerow that borders crop areas can also help reduce invasive weedy annuals.  The root structures of the established hedgerow perennials out-compete the annuals for food, light, and water and provide a barrier to wind-blown seeds.

    There are several types of hedgerows that can be constructed and care should be taken to select the type that works best for your climate, soil, and the purpose of the hedge.  This should also be seen as a long-term project if you intend to construct a live hedge and it could take three to five years of care and watering to establish.  Once established, though, a hedge takes on the life and ecosystem of its own and requires very little financial input or physical care.

    Dead Hedge

    The simplest and oldest type of hedgerows was known by the Saxons as a “dead” hedge.  Very simple to make and crude in appearance, it can be made by sticking cut branches into the ground and interweaving them with other limber, green branches to create a wall that looks very much like the side wall of a basket or like modern sheep hurdles.  This hedge requires yearly maintenance and is the least effective in terms of both providing habitat and defense.

    Although they don’t provide the diversity and habitat that live hedges provide, dead hedges and sheep hurdles have their place on the homestead.  They’re an excellent use of natural resources if you’re lucky enough to have a woodlot on your property.  They are also completely self-sufficient in that they require no other materials than what can be found in nature.  They’re commonly used to enclose animals in somewhat temporary fencing or to provide a privacy screen around patios or other personal space areas close to the home.  An excellent video on how to make a sheep hurdle can be found here.

    Privet Hedge

    The second type of hedgerow is the one seen most commonly seen in urban landscaping- the privet hedge.  Formal and stately, this type of hedge was very popular about fifty years ago, but can still be seen in many yards today.  It provides privacy, some measure of noise reduction, and is somewhat difficult to penetrate.  The most commonly used plant for this hedge is in the genus Ligustrum, which contains over fifty species.  These plants are fast growing, take readily to any shape you’d like to trim them into, and do well in poor soils.  However, they aren’t native to the United States, can become invasive, and are highly allergenic (rating 9 out of 10 on the Ogren Plant Allergy Scale).

    Some species, like the Chinese privet, have been used in traditional medicines.  Others, however, can be quite toxic.  As always, be extremely cautious when ingesting any plant unless you know exactly what you’re dealing with!  Privets can tolerate sun, heat, and drought, but will develop root rot from wet or heavy soils or over-watering.  This mono-culture hedge requires yearly maintenance to preserve its shape and density and because it’s comprised of a single species of plant, doesn’t offer the multi-culture diversity of a traditional Saxon hedgerow.  An example of a privet hedge can be seen here.

    The Saxon Hedge is a thing to behold.  Carefully crafted, the inter-twining branches offer a formidable barrier to human and livestock alike (although, I’m pretty sure goats would try their best to eat their way through it).  Inspiration Green has excellent step-by-step instructions on how to lay a hedge and what it should look like at various stages.  It can be found here.

    There’s no need to limit yourself to the natives of Europe if you’re in the United States, though.  Hawthorn species native to the United States can be found here.  Not only will you get the added benefit of a native plant that has evolved for it’s climate, you’re also more likely to attract native species of pollinators and birds that will use it as a source of food and shelter.  Insect-eating birds can be especially important to an organic garden!

    Saxon hedges often also contain nut or full-sized fruit trees along the hedge line.  Be sure to plant these when you originally plant the hawthorns or whichever plant you choose to create your hedge.  The hedge then gets laid and twined around the fruit or nut trees and the trunks of the trees become incorporated into the hedge to further strengthen it.  Depending on your climate, you may also want to consider planting herbs along and inter-mixed with your hedgerow plants.  Keep in mind that once your hedge has matured, it will cast a shadow on one side more than the other depending on its location and how the sun tracks across it.  For perennials, like sage or rosemary, you’ll want to choose the side of the hedge that gets the most sun.

    Add Defense Measures to Your Perimeter

    Another consideration is to incorporate physical anti-ram vehicles barricades into the hedge line.  It will take some time before they’re completely concealed by the growth of the hedge, but with careful weaving, the barriers become nearly invisible to the casual observer.  A hidden prep is one of the best defenses- it incorporates an element of surprise towards whomever would do you harm.

    Hedges add beauty, function, and value to your property.  They’re an excellent way to create borders and contain livestock using natural resources and can provide habitat to wildlife, a screen from pesticide drift, and control soil erosion.  Learning how to plant, build, and tend a hedge is a valuable skill to learn whether you’re a homesteader wanting to rely less on man-made materials or a prepper looking to add a hidden prep.

    Ruby is a first generation Californian who grew up in the heart of the Central San Joaquin Valley farming community. She’s been involved in agriculture for 40 years and learned to preserve food, traditional home arts, to hunt and fish, raise livestock and garden from her Ozark native mother.

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    The Autumn Harvest: How To Store and Cook With Winter Squash (plus recipes)

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    winter squashOne of my favorite things about fall is the abundance of winter squashes and all the delicious recipes one can make with them.  Unlike their summer cousins, zucchini and yellow crookneck, winter squashes can be stored for two to three months if handled and kept properly without significant loss to quality.  They lend themselves to cold weather dishes beautifully, too, whether roasted, sautéed, cubed and added to soups and stews, or mashed.

    The most readily available squash in grocery stores are sugar pumpkins, butternut, acorn, and spaghetti varieties, but don’t limit yourself to the ones that are familiar- experiment with different varieties and have fun.  It’s almost impossible to go wrong with a nice winter squash.  Many of the lesser known varieties can be found at farmers’ markets.

    Harvesting and Storing Winter Squash

    In order to store them for months, be sure to select the ones that are blemish or bruise free.  They should also have an intact peduncle (stem) of about 1-inch for squash and 3 to 4 inches for sugar pumpkins.  If any are missing their peduncle, make sure to use them quickly.  The concave area at the top of the squash where the stem used to be makes them susceptible to molds and fungus.

    If you’re harvesting from your own garden, don’t handle or harvest the squash while they’re wet and don’t let the harvested fruit get wet.  Cut the fruit from the vine (allowing appropriate stem length on the fruit) using kitchen or pruning shears, brush off any blossom still clinging to the end and any dirt chunks that might be stuck to them.  Space them far enough apart that each fruit gets adequate air flow around it.  The best temperature for curing is warm days between 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.  If you think nighttime temperatures are going to dip below 40 degrees or so, move your squash indoors to finish curing.  Frost can sweeten the fruit, but it can also dramatically reduce storage life.

    Curing the squash gets rid of excess water which creates several benefits:

    • During the curing process, the skin hardens and creates a protective layer
    • It concentrates the sugars in the fruit making it sweeter
    • It reduces the chances of rot

    A harder skin also helps to slow moisture loss (respiration) during storage which helps preserve the quality of the fruit from both an aesthetic and nutritional perspective.

    Once your fruit has cured, check them again for any signs of blemishes or bruises and to make sure the stems are still securely attached.  Set aside any that aren’t in perfect condition and use those first or can them using the pressure canning method.  Squash store best at around 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit and at about 50 to 70% relative humidity.  Cooler temperatures, like those in your refrigerator, can cause chilling injuries to the fruit and shorten storage life just like a frost does.  Higher temps or higher humidity can encourage mold and mildew growth.

    Don’t wash the squash!  If there are still dirt chunks stuck to the squash, use a soft rag to gently wipe them away.  Always make sure your squash is dry before storing it.  Carefully stack your squash to avoid bruising or breaking the stems, and don’t stack more than about three feet high.  Any higher and the weight of the squash on the top will squish the squash on the bottom.  I don’t have a root cellar at my house here in California, but since I live above the snowline in the Sierras, my outbuildings can get too cold to store them in without damage.  We use wood heat in the main living area of the house and I’ve found that a back bedroom, with the door shut to keep the heat from the woodstove out, stays at just the right temperature.  Also, if you’ve put up fresh apples, don’t store them with your squash.  The ethylene gas that apples give off makes everything else ripen (read: rot) faster.

    I have a confession to make: cutting open hard squashes scares the beejebus out of me.  I’m always afraid I’m going to lose my grip and slice my fingers clean off.  Yes, I know I can get a very nice Japanese cleaver like the one shown here, but I already own a vintage cleaver and many nice knives.  Don’t laugh- my solution is a hatchet.  Yes, the same hatchet I use to make kindling.  It makes an inelegant cut, but pretty isn’t what I’m after.  I just want to cut the dang thing in half (or pieces) and get it in my belly.  If company is coming over, I use my vintage cleaver, a sturdy and thick cutting board to rest everything on, and a kitchen mallet like the one shown here.  I give the squash a firm whack with the cleaver first to se the blade and then use the mallet to hammer the cleaver through the squash the rest of the way.

    Five Delicious Butternut Squash Recipes

    This is especially helpful when I have several imperfect squashes that need to be canned instead of going into winter storage.  According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation the only way to safely can winter squashes is to cube them and use a pressure canner.  However, there are many recipes that one can make and either freeze the finished product or can it.  One of my favorites is a Butternut soup base recipe found here.  This recipe for Pickled Butternut is surprisingly good when warmed and mashed and spread over cold roast beef.

    This recipe, for Hearty Chicken Stew with Butternut and Quinoa, can be doubled and the leftover frozen for later use.

    Acorn Squash with Kale and Sausage makes a beautiful presentation for dinner parties while still providing a filling entrée.

    Going meatless and gluten-free?  This recipe for Spaghetti Squash Alfredo Boats is just the ticket for cold winter nights. Sweet Dumpling squash, with their small size, make the perfect serving for a side dish.  Stuffed with mushrooms, wild rice, and apple sausage, they pair perfectly with this recipe for Grilled Venison Loin from my favorite game chef, Hank Shaw, over at the blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.  Trying to sneak more veggies into a picky eater’s diet?  The Spaghetti Squash is for you!  Once boiled or baked, this squash has a stringy, mild-flavored flesh that is very much like the pasta it’s named for.  Top with marinara sauce and some grated parmesan cheese and your kids will eat it up.

    The Blue Hubbard squash has the longest storage life of all the squashes.  This beauty can weigh 15 to 40 (FORTY!) pounds and has a sweet, fine-grained, golden flesh.  These are excellent simply roasted with apples, nuts, butter and maple syrup or honey.  To prepare, start by cutting the Hubbard in half and scooping out the guts.  Core and chop four or five apples and about one cup or so of nuts (I like pecans, but walnuts and almonds work just as well).  Combine the chopped apples and nuts with about ¾ C maple syrup or homey and about a half a cup melted butter (save a little melted butter to brush the squash with).  Feel free to play with the amount of the ingredients until you find the ratio you like.  Place the halved squash in a baking dish with about ½ inch or so of water in the bottom of it.  Scoop the Apple and nut mixture into the center of the cut squash, brush the cut side with melted butter, and cover with foil and cook at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes.  The meat of the squash should be tender when done like a baked potato.

    Winter squashes come in a variety of sizes, textures, and flavors and if stored properly, make an excellent winter food store.  They’re easy to incorporate into dishes or make excellent entrees.  Check out your local farmers’ market to see their wonderful variety.

    Stay tuned!

    Ruby is a first generation Californian who grew up in the heart of the Central San Joaquin Valley farming community. She’s been involved in agriculture for 40 years and learned to preserve food, traditional home arts, to hunt and fish, raise livestock and garden from her Ozark native mother.

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    Three Natural Approaches To Clearing Land of Tree Stumps and Invasive Plants

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     Whether you desire a life off the grid, are prepping, or just want to be a little more self-reliant, the ability to grow your own food is a valuable skill. Unfortunately for many people, the property they currently have is not perfect, rich, and loamy or free of weeds and pests and ready to be planted. While the easiest way to remove unwanted plants from the area you intend to cultivate is to douse everything in chemicals, I prefer a more natural, poison-free approach. While these options take more time and energy, you will reap the rewards of having a non-toxic planting space. Unwanted plants come in many shapes and sizes. The ones I am most commonly asked about are trees, blackberries, and the ever growing swathes of dangerous weeds such as star thistle, which can take over pasture and kill livestock.

    We all know plants need water, soil, and sun. Trees are often in exactly the wrong spot, taking valuable ground space and casting huge areas of shade. In many cases, chopping down the offending tree is the easy part. The trouble begins when you are left with a large stump that refuses to stop sending up dozens of suckers. You could just keep cutting the suckers as they pop up, but let me speak from experience- that gets old fast. This also doesn’t solve the problem of wanting to use the space the stump is occupying. Fear not, for there is more than one way to kill even the most stubborn stump!

    Three Natural Ways to Remove Tree Stumps

    Option 1: Find a Stump Grinder. While this is the fastest option, it is also the most expensive. Stump grinders can usually be rented at your local garden or hardware store. Borrow a couple of buddies or really good neighbors, and dig as much dirt away as you can. Follow the roots out as well. Then, just stop by your local equipment rental store and grab a grinder! While this is the fastest option, it is also the most expensive. If you are clearing large areas with many trees, do the math and see if it would be more economical to purchase the stump grinder, rather than rent it. Always follow all manufacture instructions for use, but the idea of it is pretty simple. Wear protective gear, turn on stump grinder, and grind a little at a time, as far down and as far out as you can reach. Voilà! From stump to sawdust! Some people choose to burn the sawdust and allow it to smolder until it extinguishes itself. Use extreme caution if you choose to burn what is left. This is better suited for a wetter time of year.

    Option Two: Use Salt. Another natural option that is significantly cheaper and significantly slower, is to kill the stump with Epsom salt. Drill the biggest hole you can manage in to your stump- sized about ½” to 1” wide, and at least 10” deep, or deeper if possible. If there are roots you can get to poking above the spoil, drill in to them as well, taking care to not pass all the way through. Fill the holes in the stump with Epsom or rock salt, leaving two or three inches to the top open. Fill the holes in the exposed roots about halfway. Seal the holes in the stump and in the roots with a generous cap of wax. Paraffin is fine, beeswax is better. You want a good, thick seal so that when rains come the salt is not washed in to surrounding soil. This method can take several weeks for several months. Depending on your climate and the type of tree you are dealing with, you may choose to cover the stump with a tarp to smother any little shoots that may pop up. You will know the stump is dead when it begins to fall apart on its own. At this point, you may let it decay naturally, dig it up, or simply cut it as close to the ground as you can and place a raised bed over it.

    Option Three: Smother it. Smothering is the most passive option. All one needs is to simply cover the stump with a heavy tarp, and hope to smother it. While this is the easiest of the options, the success rate is low and the process is long. You can snip any suckers that come up and try to keep the stump as dry as possible to further cut off lifelines. This method is only for those with amazing patience.

    Removing Invasive Weeds

    Another aggressive, hard to kill plant we all love and hate are blackberries. While what comes to mind for me are the invasive, spread-like-fire Himalayan blackberries we see all over in the west, these methods hold true for most bramble type plants you may want to remove. With any of these methods the first step is the same- remove any visible foliage above ground. You can do this in a number of ways. Hungry goats, chainsaw/ brush cutter, or yank them out by hand. What you choose depends of course on what is available to you and how big your bramble is. If you are going any route besides goats, I recommend burning the vines as you remove them. Some bramble type plants can take root from cuttings. Burning them ensures they will not take root. Like with the tree stumps, brambles often can and do come back even after being chopped down. To solve this, you can choose to either pull up suckers as they appear, which is the slowest and least effective option, or you can smother the suckers with a tarp. If you would rather not deal with suckers at all, you can try to kill the roots of the bramble.

    How to Kill of Bramble

    To kill the roots, you can either hand turn the soil with a shovel or use a tiller to chop up and flip over the vast majority of the roots. To ensure that the surviving roots do not take hold, you can plant a fast growing grassy crop, such as barley, over the tilled area. The barley will be more than happy to settle in to the freshly turned soil and will choke out any remaining roots. If you don’t want to be bothered with barley growing from seeds next season, simply turn the barley in to the soil before the heads mature. Or, you could open the pasture to your livestock that would be quite happy to mow down the barley for you.

    Star Thistle

    The final nasty, unwanted plant on my list of badies is Star Thistle. While your noxious plant may be of a different species, every area has their wicked weed that comes to mind. The key to getting a grip on these unpleasant invaders is to be vigilant. Getting a major infestation under control can be next to impossible and extremely expensive. It pays to keep your eyes peeled for invasive species, and to remove them as soon as is possible. Never assume that you managed to destroy every plant. If it is at a small enough scale that hand removal is an option, be sure to burn the plants after pulling them out. Do not attempt to compost noxious invasive weeds. It is a bad idea to simply till the plants under the soil or the burn the area. These types of plants thrive on freshly disturbed soil, and will move in faster than any native plant. This often makes the situation worse than you started with. If you do till or burn the area, be certain to plant a fast growing cover crop. Tarping the area prevents anything from growing, and once uncovered is at just as high if not higher risk for being infested. A good option is to contact your local or state department of agriculture and see what they can offer you. Some species of invasive plants are able to be killed by certain local plants, or are the favorite snack of a local insect. Regardless of the route you follow, keeping on top of the plants will be essential.

    While it may seem like nothing but hard work and no fun, the rewards of having your land cleared and the peace of mind in knowing you did not introduce any toxic chemicals in to your soils are well worth it. Be sure your game plan is realistic, and is going to work for your specific area as well as the specific plants you want to kill. Once you know the direction you want to take, grab some gloves and some friends and get going! Stay tuned!

    Ruby is a first generation Californian who grew up in the heart of the Central San Joaquin Valley farming community. She’s been involved in agriculture for 40 years and learned to preserve food, traditional home arts, to hunt and fish, raise livestock and garden from her Ozark native mother.

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    Which Kind of Chicken Breed Is Best For Your Backyard Flock?

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     A hot topic in homesteading these days is backyard hens and the eggs they will produce for you. Many people are so swept up in the excitement that they stop by the local feed store and pick up some adorable fuzzy chicks and starter feed. This rash thinking can cause problems down the road as there will be some who are unprepared and have not fully understood the requirements of chicks and then adult chickens. So today I am offering some information of how to select the right chicken for you and your climate. This will not be the end all be all of chicken selection, and I hope you continue to research different breeds to best suit you and your needs. For the sake of simplicity today, we will categorize chickens into four groups: egg production, meat production, dual purpose, and ornamental.

    Best Egg Producing Breeds

    Hens that are egg laying specialists are ideal for those have no plans to consume the chicken after it has passed peak production. These hens will have less meat on their bones than a dual purpose or meat production bird. This isn’t to say you couldn’t eat the hen after, and many people choose to repurpose them as stewing hens or dog food. While eggs can come in as many different colors as the chickens themselves, there is no nutritional difference between egg shell colors. There is however some general connection between egg color and the climate the bird is best suited for. In most cases, hens that lay brown eggs have a heavier-weight body type, and do better in a cooler climate. They generally have smaller combs and wattles that help them resist frostbite, but leave them disadvantaged in hot weather. Chickens do not sweat, and use their combs and wattles to keep cool. The iconic brown egg laying hen we are almost all familiar with is the Rhode Island Red. These birds come in two distinct strains. For the best egg numbers, search out a “production red”. These birds are less heavy than the heritage Red, but lay more eggs. They still retain strong independence and foraging skills, though slightly less so than the heritage variety.

    On the flip side, hens that lay white eggs often have a lighter-weight body type, and do better in a warmer climate. They will lay more consistently in warm weather, and less consistently when it is cold. They tend to have larger combs and wattles to better dissipate heat. This does make them very susceptible to frostbite.  If your large combed hens are going to be out in freezing temperatures, it is recommended you apply Vaseline to the comb and wattles to help prevent frostbite. The most popularly used white egg chicken is the Leghorn. They are often seen as white or brown, but other variants are available. Many hatcheries and egg farms have their own specific strains of this breed. Be advised, if you purchase a specialty strain from a hatchery, it will not breed true. This stands for all production type chickens, be it for white eggs, brown eggs, or meat. These specialty strain chicks are produced by the hatchery having two distinct genetic profiles for the roosters and for the hens, and when combined they create the desired chick. If you purchase a male and female of these strains and attempt to breed them, they will not come out as productive as the parents, and may vary significantly. This method of breeding allows the hatchery to keep you buying more chicks to maintain the same quality of bird.

    When it comes to “Easter Egger” chickens- those chickens that lay eggs in any color but white or brown, the suitability depends greatly on the genetic background of the bird. These birds are often Araucana and Ameraucana cross, though some may be mixed with other breeds. Eggs can be anywhere from pale blue to deep olive, and infrequently even pink. These hens normally have tufted cheeks and bare legs, with small combs and wattles. They often do better in cooler climates, though they tolerate heat better than some dedicated heavy breeds. While they come in many colors and patterns and add visual interest to your egg basket, these hens do not always guarantee the rock-star steady, high production of specialist egg laying strains. Their production is more similar to a heritage breed, but do not always put on the same bulk in weight.

    Meat Producing Breeds

    In the other direction are meat type chickens. The vast majority of meat chickens are the previously mentioned specialty strain that do not breed true. Some get so heavy they are unable to breed naturally. If you want a true breeding meat breed that you can raise on your own, then you may want to consider changing the way you raise the chicks. While no heritage chicken that breeds true can rival the meat specialist chickens, some can get pretty close. Some heavy weight breeds, such as the Buckeye and Dark Cornish birds are good choices. These types of birds are lacking in the egg production area, but can still offer you plenty of chicks in a year for meat. When you take a heritage bird and aim it for meat production, they should be fed a diet consistent with production meat birds. As expected, males will grow much larger than females and will offer better meat yields. When it comes time to replace your breeding stock, raise the chicks as you would normal heritage chicks. This is because the heavy production diet can cause irregular development and health problems down the road, which won’t be an issue for the meat birds destined for your freezer. In this way, you can have true breeding meat birds with sufficient yields and still be able to sustain your own breeding population. Keep in mind the plumage and skin color of the breed you select. White feathered birds with pale yellow skin dress out with the cleanest look. It is often reported that the specialty meat strains are also easier to pluck. If you are considering meat chickens, be sure that you are either comfortable processing the chickens or have a place to take them to be processed. If you choose to do them at home, a good way to learn is to ask someone who has meat birds to show you how it is done.

    Processing meat chickens in any large volume is a significant work load. Many families choose to dedicate a day and process them assembly line style, so that everyone helps and the work goes faster. It always pays to have the processing area entirely prepped and ready to go before starting. Be sure to think ahead on making sure there is more than enough room in the freezer. If you choose to pay to have someone do it for you, consider the processing cost into your overall cost per pound meat. The price can sneak up on you!

    For those homesteaders looking for an all-purpose solution, nothing beats a dual-purpose heritage bird. For many people, this means the Rhode Island Red. As previously mentioned, the Red comes in more than one distinct strain depending on the purpose of the bird. A “production” Red will be of lighter weight, with more intense focus on egg laying. A strain of Reds for show lays the focus on appearance, and less on egg production, ability to forage, etc. A quality heritage bird should come from a line that has steady growth, moderate or better egg production, and sharp wits. For homesteaders who wish to let their hens free range, a sharper bird is more likely to not only find more food on its own, but to avoid being food for something else! Many heritage dual purpose birds can be encouraged to set on a clutch of eggs, and are entirely capable of raising their chicks without help.

    Other popular heritage dual-purpose breeds include Australorps, Orpingtons, any of the Rock (barred, partridge, buff) family, and Brahmas. Always keep in mind that birds vary significantly, even from the same stock, based on diet, age, and conditions. Many seasoned homesteaders choose to breed their own birds after some time, to establish the equivalent of a “land race” population. A land race is a breed or strain of bird specifically bred to be best suited for a given environment, with little to no focus paid to aesthetic features like plumage or egg color.

    Ornamental Chickens

    Ornamental chicken breeds may not come to mind when considering what to add to your backyard flock. They do not offer the meat production or egg production of any previously mentioned class. If you are dying for the bright colors and interesting shapes some ornamentals come in, there are some tasks they are well suited for. The primary function of ornamental or bantam hens specifically on a homestead is to raise other birds’ babies. Bantams, such and Silkies and Cochins, or even smaller, such as Serama hens, can be of huge value for a homesteader who is looking to not have to rely on an incubator. While you can use the small hens to set large eggs, you can’t use a large hen to set the tiny eggs of quail or pheasant.  While some pheasant will set their own eggs, the vast majority of quail will not. If you have decided to add these birds to your homestead, small bantam birds can be vital to continuing your breeding population without the use of an incubator. Click here to learn more about raising quail and the use of different incubators.

    Larger bantams, such as the Silkies and Cochins, can be used to set the eggs for your other large breed hens. Keep in mind that they are not able to cover as many eggs as a large breed hen. Brooding a clutch of eggs is a huge strain on the hen, and while they are brooding they will not lay eggs. If you want to maintain the egg laying rate and body weight of your large breeds, letting the bantam do the heavy lifting is a great strategy. When creating a mixed flock of heavy breed and ornamental breeds, it is not a good idea to mix in Polish or Silkie hens with vaulted skulls. Vaulted skulls are essentially a bubble of skull that is often frail and may leave the brain prone to injury. The vaulted skull is bred in show birds because it helps add body and structure to the poof of feathers on the tops of their head. Polish and Silkie hens with vaulted skulls often get so picked on by large hens that they are constantly suffering or may even die. Their timid nature and irresistibly bubbled, feathered heads lead to many other birds pulling out their feathers and pecking their heads. This can be a death sentence for these hens, as the skull vault may be weak or not complete. Always be certain the “top hat” breed strain you are acquiring does not have a vaulted skull.

    At the end of the day, every flock is as unique as the homesteader who tends to them. What works best for you may not work best for your neighbor living just down the road.  I encourage you to take careful stock of exactly what it is you want out of the birds, and just as importantly, what it is you are willing to put in. Be honest with yourself about the limitations presented by your climate, your land, and your personal schedule. Read up on the essentials of chicken health, the requirements of raising a chick, and be sure you have all the resources needed for happy, healthy, productive chickens.

    Ruby is a first generation Californian who grew up in the heart of the Central San Joaquin Valley farming community. She’s been involved in agriculture for 40 years and learned to preserve food, traditional home arts, to hunt and fish, raise livestock and garden from her Ozark native mother.

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    This Do-It-Yourself Garden Hack Is The Secret to an Abundant Garden

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    My grandfather always had a robust garden filled with vegetables. His secret was rich, nutrient dense soil. He taught me that the plants we grow and soil have a symbiotic relationship. If the soil has nutrients, the plants will thrive. That said, many gardeners forget this vital tip and tend to lean towards chemical fertilizers as a way to quickly replenish their soil and grow their plants. Overtime, this can can cause the soil to become depleted of vital nutrients because the fertilizers kill or leaches out the nutritional aspects of the soil. As well, chemical fertilizers are not welcoming to microorganisms that live in the soil. You want to ensure the fertilizer method you use is biodynamic and efficient in the amount of materials used versus the amount of coverage area.

    Why is Soil So Important?

    Foremost, it is important to understand what soil actually is. According to the Soil Science Society of America, “Soil is not dirt.  It is a complex mix of ingredients: minerals, air, water, and organic matter – countless organisms and the decaying remains of once living things.  Soil is made of life.  Soil makes life.  And soil is life.” In order for plants to grow to their optimum capacity, they need nine different nutrients present in the soil.  While most of these elements and nutrients are naturally found in soil, sometimes they can become depleted and need to be added to keep the soil healthy.

    • Carbon – found in air and water
    • Hydrogen – found in air and water
    • Oxygen – found in air and water
    • Nitrogen – blood meal, fish emulsion, manure
    • Phosphorus – bone meal, rock phosphate, superphosphate
    • Potassium – greensand, mutriate or sulfate of potash, seaweed, wood ashes
    • Calcium – gypsum, limestone, oyster shells, slag
    • Magnesium – dolomite, magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt)
    • Sulfur – sulfur, superphosphate

    Creating a no-till garden or utilizing the sheet mulching method can add these vital elements and nutrients back to the soil. This is a type of whole-system approach to gardening that helps feed the soil while vegetables and crops are growing. Another way to do so is by using an old-fashioned compost tea will help restore many of these essential nutrients, microorganisms and vital minerals naturally.

    It should be stated that the elements listed above are not the only things that should be present in the soil. Microbes such as protozoa, fungi, algae and bacterias should also be present, as they affect soil structure and fertility. In fact, millions upon millions of microbes are present in healthy soil and it is important to ensure they make your soil their home. Ensuring that you have a lot of biomass present in your soil will keep them thriving.

    Compost Tea

    Compost tea takes the beneficial bacteria and fungus present in compost and exponentially increases them through aeration and sugars. These bacteria and fungus are critical in root establishment – and the more bacteria you have in your soil, the better. In fact, if you diversify your bacterias, you will make a healthier soil and compost tea is one of the easiest ways to do this.

    Benefits of Compost Tea

    • Increases root development
    • Suppresses plant diseases
    • Creates a biodiverse soil food web
    • Encourages plant growth and vitality
    • Increases plant yield

    The equipment you will need to make compost tea is as follows:

    • 5-gallon bucket
    • An aquarium pump large enough to run three bubblers or air stones
    • Several feet of tubing
    • A stick to stir the mixture
    • Something to strain the tea, like an old pillowcase or nylon stocking

    Tess’s Compost Tea

    Note: I will also add some earthworm tea that I have from my earthworms and this adds even more nutrients to the brew!

    1. Add water to a 5-gallon plastic bucket. If you are using tap water, allow water to sit for 24 hours in order for chlorine and other chemicals to dissipate.
    2. Add liqui ingredients to water in 5-gallon bucket and stir until incorporated.
    3. In pillowcase or nylon stocking, add dry ingredients (rock dust, inoculant, manure, worm castings, etc.) and tie onto stick and add to bucket.
    4. Turn on aquarium pump with hose attached and oxygenate water for 18-24 hours. This will help the beneficial bacterias, minerals and sugars activate.
    5. Periodically check on brew. There should be a nice foam at the top.
    6. After 24 hours, turn off pump and remove dry ingredients (add to compost pile). Use compost tea as a foliar spray or root drench.

    Note: Do not over-brew your compost tea. Twenty four hours is all it needs to get the protozoa and fungi kickstarted into reproduction. 

    You can use the tea as often as you wish. I used this tea once a month on my garden, or when I thought the plants needed a little extra TLC. In fact, you can also use compost tea to prevent plant shock by soaking new plants in compost tea to add beneficial soil microorganisms right before it gets planted. used it as a foliar spray and as a root drench and my plants thrived. After a three month period, I was very impressed with the soil. It was fluffy, retained moisture and I noticed more beneficial insects coming around more. Another highlight of using compost tea was when harvest time came, the vegetables tasted sweeter than usual. I’m not sure if this was a result for the compost tea or just a fluke, but I felt that it had to be mentioned. As well, I had no issues with molds or diseases this year and believe it to be a result of the compost tea I used. This is by far the easiest way to get essential nutrients quickly into the soil, and I love that it can also be used as a foliar spray. As well, the initial investment of compost tea ingredients will provide for many uses; so I can make compost tea all year with the ingredients that I purchased in May!

    Once again, my grandfather was right about giving the soil what it needs to thrive and proved it by the bountiful harvests he had year after year. I highly recommend using this in preparation for your upcoming gardens. I have had nothing but success with this natural fertilizer method and look forward to my next harvest.

    The Prepper's Blueprint

    Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

    Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

    Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

    Black Gold: Creating Perfect Compost with Kitchen, Yard and Garden Scraps

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    Most Americans produce a lot of household trash and waste a lot of food.  What if I told you there’s a way to reduce both?

    compostpicIn the Kitchen

    Start by planning your meals to reduce the amount of food you accidentally compost in your fridge.  You know what I’m talking about- that kale looked great at the farmer’s market and you seriously meant to incorporate it into your meal planning, but you got busy, and now it’s turning into brown mulch.  That, my friend, is refrigerator composting.  It wastes food and it wastes your money.  For ideas on how to save money and plan your meals ahead, go here.

    Before you start cooking, set two bowls near your workspace.  One bowl will be for food scraps that can easily be made into stocks or added to soups and another for foods that will go directly to your compost bin.

    Most fresh vegetable scraps can be saved for later use in stocks and soups, so don’t compost those.  I like to keep a gallon sized freezer bag in my freezer for the ends of carrots and celery, onion peels and roots, and scallion tops and roots.  I use that bag to season my chicken stock that I make from the leftover bones and trimming of previous chicken dinners.

    Another bag can hold the trimmings and leaves of other root vegetables like beets, turnips, parsnips, any extra carrots, celery, or onion trimmings you don’t need for your chicken stock bag, the stem ends of fresh green beans, pea pods, etc.  That bag can be used for making vegetable stock.  Be careful when adding strong flavored vegetables like cabbage, Brussel sprouts, asparagus, and broccoli – too much of those vegetables can overpower the flavors of the other vegetables in your stock.  Be sure to put these scraps in the freezer quickly as you would any other perishable food.

    The second bowl is for food scraps that can’t be repurposed into soup and stock.  Examples include egg shells, coffee grounds (and the filter!), bruised or insect-damaged portions of fruits and veggies not fit for consumption, etc.  If you want something more decorative than a bowl or want to hold your scraps over for a few days without taking them to the compost pile, one of these “kitchen composters” might be the ticket.  After your meal, you can scrape your plate into the compost bowl/bin, too. If you are running short on time, you can also freeze your scraps and even use egg cartons as compostable container for your frozen scraps.

    Although it’s possible to compost meat products, including bone, there are some stricter guidelines that need to be followed.  We’ll get into that later in the article.

    A word of caution about compost bowls: any open container, like a bowl, should be emptied soon after finishing your meal.  Scraps, especially cooked scraps, tend to draw pests like ants, fruit flies, cockroaches, and rodents.  Keep it sanitary by keeping it clean.  Many of the “kitchen composters” listed in the link above come with a tight fitting lid and some have a filter that fits in the lid to reduce odor.  They don’t actually compost your scraps, though, so you should still empty them into your compost pile or bin.  The real composting requires more than those receptacles can do.

    Don’t forget that you can regrow some of your food scraps. Check out this video to find out which vegetables can be regrown.

     In the Yard & Garden

    If you grow your own food, composting is a must!  Any healthy trimmings or waste can be added to your compost pile.  The compost produced will replenish the nutrients in the soil, reduce water use, and provide a healthy environment for next year’s garden.  If you’d like to learn more about the relationship between plants, the soil, and the microbes that live there, I’d recommend watching Symphony of the Soil.

    Grass clippings and diseased trimmings from your garden can be problematic for compost bins.  Grass clippings are high in moisture and can change the ph balance of your compost, especially if you are going to be adding high-moisture content kitchen scraps.  A better practice is to allow the grass clippings to compost in place right on top of your lawn in a process known as mulching.  Reel mowers are the best choice if you intend to mulch the clippings.  You can find American made reel mowers here.

    Diseased clippings and plants may survive the composting process, so careful consideration should be given before adding them to your compost pile.  The same is also true of some weed seeds, tubers, corms, and rhizomes.  Compost piles can reach 130-140 degrees Fahrenheit, but problem additions need to be exposed to those temperatures for 72 hours (three days) and all the problem material needs to be exposed to those temperatures.  When in doubt, either don’t add it or create a separate quarantine compost pile.

    Meat and bones present their own problems.  Although meat and bones will decompose and turn into compost, it attracts vermin and other wildlife (like predators) much more often than plant-based composting material.  Flies are attracted to the decaying meat and you may find maggots in your compost pile.  If you’re new to composting, stick with plant-based materials for your compost pile until it’s well-established.

     Compost

    There are several options to choose from when composting depending on your space, time, and physical abilities. All of them require a balance of materials to compost correctly and efficiently.  Ideally, composting should recreate the conditions found in nature for the natural decay process.  To achieve that, four components are needed: organic waste (kitchen waste, leaves, woody material, paper in small amounts, etc), soil (to provide microorganisms), water (60% is optimal for microorganisms to break down the material), and air (for oxygen).

    “The compost pile actually has a complex organization of living organisms — a foodweb. Bacteria and fungi primarily break down the organic matter in the trash. Single-celled organisms (protozoa), small worms (nematodes), and mites feed on the bacteria and fungi. Predatory nematodes, predatory mites and other invertebrates (sow bugs, millipedes, beetles) feed on the protozoa, mites and nematodes. All of these organisms work to balance the population of organisms within the compost, which increases the efficiency of the entire process.” Source

    In order to create a hospital environment for your hardworking microorganisms, it’s important to have the correct nutrient balance, or carbon to nitrogen ratio (C:N).  Think of it as browns and greens.  Browns would be things like dead, dried leaves, small wood chips, twigs, etc (carbons).  Greens could be fresh trimmings from your garden or kitchen scraps (high in nitrogen and moisture).  The optimal ratio to start a compost pile is 30:1.  For example, a recipe using 1 part leaves and 1 part food waste by volume would achieve close to a 30:1 ratio.

    Moisture content is important to the microorganisms and the other hard working insects that will inhabit your healthy compost pile.  For instance, did you know that sow bugs (aka pill bugs, woodlouse, roly-poly) are actually crustaceans?

    “Living in a terrestrial environment, woodlice breathe through trachea-like lungs in their paddle-shaped hind legs (pleopods), called pleopodal lungs. Woodlice need moisture because they rapidly lose water by excretion and through their cuticle, and so are usually found in damp, dark places, such as under rocks and logs, although one species, Hemilepistus reaumuri, inhabits “the driest habitat conquered by any species of crustacean”.[22] They are usually nocturnal and are detritivores, feeding mostly on dead plant matter.” Source

    However, moisture content above 70% can create an anaerobic environment and increase the chances of the compost pile developing a foul odor.  It also slows down the composting action since composting relies on living organisms to happen and nothing will live without air.  The best way to test your compost pile is to squeeze a handful of it.  It shouldn’t drip water or be too dry and crumbly and instead should clump together in a soft, non-dripping ball in your hand.

    The structure of the compost pile can range from “piling” (also known as passive composting) which is quite literally just making a pile of organic matter and letting nature take its course, to constructing containers or bins to hold the compost in place.  Piling takes the longest to decompose and the pile of organic matter should always get a top dressing of finished compost or soil to inoculate it with microorganisms.

    Bins, three-sided structures, can be made from wire mesh or wooden frames.  Welded wire and reclaimed pallets are a popular choice for building material.  Drum or “tumbler” composters are an excellent choice for those who have a difficult time lifted a heavily loaded shovel or rake due to mobility issues.  There are also many ideas on the Internet to build your own tumbler composter out of material you might have on hand.

    We’re getting ready for winter and have recently spread our finished compost out in an area with poor soil.  In the first picture, you can see how hard and packed the native soil here is in the Sierras (known as decomposed granite).

    compost 1In this photo, we’ve spread our finished compost and incorporated it into the hard dirt.  Notice how much more moisture the compost amended soil holds compared to the natural, unimproved soil.  They were both watered at the same time, but the compost enriched soil is still moist.

    compost 2Our perennial landscaping is mulched with a new dressing of fallen leaves for winter.  This will compost in place (piling or passive composting) and provide a deep mulch layer for our bushes and trees.  This is especially important now with the severe drought in California.  We haven’t watered our bushes and trees in over two years, yet they’re showing no signs of drought stress.

    compost 3Composting is a great way to reduce the amount of food waste and yard debris from going to landfills, it provides a wonderful “free” amendment to poor soils, and can even reduce your water use and save you money.  With all the different methods, it’s easy to find one that fits within the space you have available and the time you have to commit to it.  Up next, we’ll talk about one of my favorite composting methods- vermicomposting.  Stay tuned!

    Ruby is a first generation Californian who grew up in the heart of the Central San Joaquin Valley farming community. She’s been involved in agriculture for 40 years and learned to preserve food, traditional home arts, to hunt and fish, raise livestock and garden from her Ozark native mother.

    This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition