Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chickens in the Garden!

This may seem something akin to an oxymoron, but apparently it doesn't have to be so. While many a "chicken farmer" has been disappointed to find their seedlings and plants disheveled after their dear fowl friends took a stroll through the vegetable beds, Jessi Bloom (author of Free-Range Chicken Gardens) says she's learned a thing or two that can bring bird and garden together in harmony. Wouldn't that be nice?!

Timber Press is hosting a give away through February 17th where entrants can win...

• $50 gift certificate to McMurray Hatchery

• A downloadable coop plan 

• Organic seeds and forage mix from 

I'm all over this one! 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Barn Hop #47

Good morning Homesteading friends! Welcome to the Monday Barn Hop! For those of you who are new, this is a weekly opportunity to link up your blog post on any homesteading topic so that others can visit and get to know you. In turn, you can visit their blogs, gathering some great ideas!

It's always fun to see what others are doing and how they're solving problems as they encounter various homesteading challenges. Take gardening for example... this subject has been on my mind a lot the past week. There are so many ways to grow a vegetable garden; the number of techniques and philosophies are quite astounding. But because each of us must garden with different variables (climate, soil conditions, weather patterns, pests and beneficial insects, etc.), it just isn't a one size fits all.

This week I'll be sharing some thoughts on a particular method that I've recently encountered, but I've lived and gardened long enough to know that it may not be a fit for everyone. However, I do think it's worth considering. Even if you've tried a similar method and failed, you might glean something new that may make the difference between failure and success. (Did I get your curiosity up yet?)

All that to say, visiting different homesteads is a real blessings. Each of you contributes uniquely based on your experiences, research, and focus. Thank you for helping to cultivate the homesteading community!

Join The Barn Hop!
and Amy @ Homestead Revival...

...invite you to link up and share your homesteading adventures!

1. Write a blog post about what's going on at your homestead or a post on something you're learning or an item of interest that will benefit the homesteading community. Be sure to add the red barn button and link back here so others can join in the fun.

2. Come back here and enter your information in the Linky. Please be sure to link to your actual post (click your title and then copy the URL above) and not your home page so those participating later in the week can find your post easily.

3. If you don't have a blog, leave a comment and tell us what's going on at your homestead!

Please Note: As hostesses of the Homestead Barn Hop, please understand that we reserve the right to remove any links that are not family friendly. While this may be subjective, we will err on the side of caution in order to keep our blogs appropriate for all readers. Thank you for your understanding!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Preparedness Challenge #31

Today is our 31st Preparedness Challenge, but it's a new beginning as well. Starting with today's challenge, we will be welcoming our new sponsors USA Emergency Supply (representing Emergency Preparedness) and Tattler Reusable Canning Lids (representing food storage)!

Since we didn't have a December Preparedness Challenge, it's been a while since we've come together to talk preparedness. Let me just emphasis the three areas we are concentrating on (because there are so many things one could be prepared for!):

Food Storage: this is basically to have a "savings account" of food for hard times which could be as a result of any number of things including a job loss, a cut in pay, an illness, etc.

Emergency Preparedness: for the unexpected major events in life whether it's a power outage due to weather, an earthquake, a sudden collapse in the economy, etc.

Sustainable Living: because the best way to be prepared is to have sources close to home - like your own back yard!

If you're new to prepping, you may wish to read my older posts on preparedness (start with the last post and read forward), but keep in mind that you'll need to read more than one or two posts to get a fuller picture of what I mean when I use the term preparedness. Not everyone has the same views on the subject, so please don't assume... read what I say, what others say, and then pray about what God would have you do. Each person will prep differently because needs are different from family to family.

Now for my list this month. As I've mentioned before, I tend to focus on the sustainable living much easier than the food storage and emergency preparedness, but that's why the challenge is so good for me; it keeps pushing me so as not to neglect these last two categories! Personally, I want to do something in each category every month (or more if I can). It's up to you how much you prepare each month, but I hope the challenge will keep preparedness in the forefront of your mind since it's apt to slip to last place on our to-do list!

Here's what I did this month in each category...

• Food Storage: Added venison (2 doe) to my freezer and thus my food storage for the rest of the winter!
Emergency Preparedness: {sigh...} I dropped the ball on this one! But I did clip a coupon for a fire extinguisher on sale at Costco. Next trip!
Sustainable Living: I attended a beekeeping meeting and learned about top bar hive methods. Then came home and did a little more research on it. Also, I watched a movie about permaculture agriculture (more on that next week), and I spent time locating a major item needed for this project. I'm still waiting on calls back, but it's in process. I know this isn't much, but I have about 5 things on my plate that I'm working on so that February's challenge should easily make up for the small showing today!

Now it's your turn to join the Preparedness Challenge. Just write a post on something you did this week to prepare and then link up below or leave a comment. Even one thing a week adds up and it will encourage you to do even more! And by participating in the challenge, it will get you thinking about prepping on a regular basis. The three areas we are focusing on include: 

• food storage 
• emergency preparedness 
• sustainable living

And don't forget our give away prize from USA Emergency Supply... a 5 gallon water barrel. You can store water in lots of items, but if you need to do it safely and without compromising the integrity of your container, this is an item you should consider (read more here).

Join the Challenge & Enter The Give Away

Leave a comment on something you did this week to be more prepared OR link up your Preparedness Challenge blog post (one or the other please). Posts not related to one of the three areas of preparedness will not be counted toward the give-away. Please be sure to clearly state in your comment or post what you did this month to be more prepared. The three areas we are focusing on include: 
• food storage 
• emergency preparedness 
• sustainable living

Please be respectful of our challenge and only add a post on one of these three preparedness topics ONLY in order to retain the integrity of the link up event. If your post is just a general homesteading post, please save it for the Monday Homestead Barn Hop. Be sure to take the Preparedness Challenge picture and add it to your blog so others know you're participating and hopefully they'll join up, too! THANK YOU!!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Say Hello...

to Mark and Erin, the new proprietors of Homestead Drying Racks! Daniel and Abby Jo haven't gone far, but they're refining their calling and pursuing a little bit different direction. Here is what Abby Jo shared on their blog...

"As for Homestead Drying Racks.com we are passing the torch to a wonderful homesteading family. We are passing full ownership to Mark & Erin Harrison, this family has the same hard work and ethics that we have put into our online business. We will continue supporting and advertising for them.

Mark is a talented craftsman, with attention to detail. With his large shop he will easily be able to handle the growing demand. Mark will also be able to reduce the shipping of 4-6 weeks to 2-4. So you will get your drying rack sooner.

We are very excited for the new direction this change will bring. We are ready to start on a long awaited filming project. Our heart has always been to grow non-GMO, chemical free, organic food, and we want to get serious about it. So filming and farming is where this family is headed. Mark and Erin are helping us walk into a long awaited dream, and we know our drying racks are in good hands."

To celebrate the new merge of their two families they are hosting an enormous giveaway valuing $255.00 in new products, including a Grandpa Jakes Campfire Cooker, Homesteading for Beginners DVDs vol. I- II-III, a Plunger Washer, Erin’s Super Green Drink Mix 1 lb., and Erin’s Sick Tea ½ lb. 

So be sure to visit Forgotten Way Farms at their new blog and say hello! I can't wait to hear more about their new adventure!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gardening Goals 2012

I've definitely put off this post, procrastinating terribly! Nothing like a bad gardening season the year before to discourage one from ever attempting again. But, I WILL persevere, with a few changes so as not to have a repeat performance from last year.

It's not that anything went terribly wrong, but not much really went well either. My tomatoes struggled along all spring, so I purchased some larger plants. Those didn't produce until late in the season and by October 1st, I still had only green tomatoes on the vine. Fortunately, the frost was late and I harvested a few for eating, but not enough to can or dehydrate. (I realize I should have pickled or fried the green ones, but I was exasperated at this point.)

The potatoes were viciously attacked by gophers (okay, THAT went wrong!), but after trapping a culprit or two, the remainder never got very large or prolific despite rotating the crop location.

And onions... what onions? I forgot to plant them. Squash? Not one zucchini plant made it, only one crook neck and a spaghetti squash or two. Carrots never sprouted again this year despite the fact that the nation's largest commercial carrot farmer is within 5 miles.

What did go well? My cucumbers were the best I've every grown. The Swiss chard was nice, some of the lettuce, and eggplant. I also got my peppers to do better than they've done in the past, but somehow I'm not harvesting them at the right time because they started to rot before I can pick them.

Enough whining.

The important thing at this point is to focus on what I learned and will do differently.

I learned...

I need to have fewer goals that are clear cut. I tried to do too much too soon. Have you ever heard in gardening circles "start small and gradually increase what you grow"? Sage advice. Unless you're really young (ie: no kids yet) or retired with very few responsibilities outside of gardening, listen to this wisdom! I took on way too much before I had mastered certain skills.

I must stick to seeds that have a shorter growing season. Because of the mountains around my house and our microclimate, I have about 60-80 days for my heat loving plants. TOPS. Fifty days is more like it.

I need to cut back on the varieties I'm growing. I think diversity is highly needed, but not necessarily for the beginning gardener or until you know which varieties grow best in your microclimate. I have had repeated success with Diamond Eggplant, so now I know it's a winner for me. So now I'm going to add a totally different kind of eggplant to my garden. I need to do the same thing for tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. Maybe lettuces, too. At least until I'm growing enough that I know I can feed my family with the dependable varieties first.

I need to mulch so I don't have to water as much. I'll talk more about this soon, but because I stressed over watering the garden (worrying about a high water bill), I actually didn't water enough. But without mulch, it quickly dried out and I had to water again! So I probably stressed my garden more than necessary (ughhh - both the garden and I were stressed!). To add insult to injury, we had a small section of water line not insulated and exposed... yes, it broke in a freeze and a day or two later we found it. I won't tell you how much that mistake cost me!

I need to create heat where I can. After watching a permaculture video of a guy in the alps who grew all kinds of things, I realize I CAN garden in my Zone 7 (actual microclimate more like a Zone 5 or 6).  He used large rocks to soak up sun and distribute heat to near by plants. And I have some ideas for other heat generating solutions.

Extend the season. I have GOT to get this thing down... shading lettuce in the heat and protecting tender plants from frost. I've bought supplies, I have covers, I have the basic knowledge. But I have to do it and keep it up! For some reason, I'm extremely intimidated by this subject, but I feel compelled to learn.

Grow more than I need. Lots more! If I grow more than I need, I will have plenty to share or feed to my animals. It's not wasteful because someone can benefit. Even if it's my chickens... that's less commercial feed I have to buy. This is not to be confused with the idea that I have to grow every single thing I put in my mouth, but rather if I think we will eat two plants worth of eggplant, plant 3-4 of the same thing. I get really stressed thinking I have to grow every single vegetable known to man. It's pressure I put on myself; why do I do that? I need to be more proficient at a few good vegetables that we like and feel good about it instead of feeling guilty that I didn't plant garlic or something!

Okay, those are the big basics. Now if things go well, I hope to slip in one or two additional challenges, but I don't want to get my hopes up if they don't pan out...

Grow a small amount of pasture plants for the goats and chickens. Okay this one is waaaayyy out there for me. I have no clue where I'm even going to do this, therefore I intend to start REALLY small. I just want to try growing it and see if they'll even eat it before I go hog wild.

Practice more succession gardening. That means growing lettuce more than once. Planting a second crop of peas in the fall. That kind of thing.

So... there it is. The list for all the world to see. I'm committed now. Thankfully, I've found some new inspiration this year, but I'll save that for another day.

What is your one biggest gardening goal for 2012? 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Feeders and Water for Goats

Just in case you don't already know this... goats are very curious! They like to use their head for testing stuff, moving things around, and who knows what else. And they climb. A LOT. Standing on their back legs, jumping up on things, head butting... they're just a lot of fun to watch. Such a happy animal!

So I've learned that I don't wear my good clothes in their pen and never have anything that's dangling down that might be fodder for chewing. That would include jacket drawstrings, apron ties, long skirts,... things like that. 

I've also learned that they need a good sturdy feeder because they ARE going to climb on it. And they need something for water that they can't knock over, because they will find it oh-so-fun to do so. 

The first few weeks after the trio arrived on our homestead, we just made do by using a bucket and filling it often and making a feeder from extra pieces of wire cut from hog panels which we attached to the fence. But it was temporary at best. 

So I did a little research on the internet to see what others were using as feeders. Having been mentored by a friend on goat care, I knew they do not like to eat hay that has fallen on the ground (my they're picky!), so it needed to have some kind of tray to catch most of what gets knocked around and eventually to the floor. I was surprised to see so few had something like this. And even fewer from suppliers. I visited every local store that might possibly sell feeders and still... I couldn't find just the right thing. Which meant making our own feeder.

I gave my husband a picture of what I wanted and he made a feeder out of scrap wood from around the garage. I think it only cost us $12 for some dowel rods. It was large enough to hold two flakes of hay along with a tray on the bottom to catch the stuff that gets knocked out, dropped, or just left over. You can see it works well and is popular with the goats.

We hung it on the wall, but made sure it was resting on a 2 x 4 that was nailed to the back wall. Also, we added sturdy legs in front. The goats can climb all over and it doesn't budge a bit. Seems like we're not using as much hay either, since it catches what they drop. Hopefully this will save us some money in the long run.

For watering, we purchased a wall bracket that has a lip on the back side for holding a bucket. To make it even more secure, there is a pin that holds the handle up and supports some of the weight. Both of these use the weight of the water in the bucket to help hold it firmly in place. It's been working perfectly! No more buckets being knocked over.

Finally, I picked up a mineral feeder at Hoegger's. If you're thinking of getting goats, you need a Hoegger catalog! Funny how the books and catalogs by my bedside table have changed!

I admit, I'm totally a novice at raising goats. And I know there is "more than one way to skin a cat", so I'm sure readers would like to know how others have solved their feeder and water issues for their goats. What seems simple and obvious to someone who has raised goats for a while is like a foreign language to those who haven't stepped into the water yet. So please share your thoughts and ideas!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Loving The Little Years

If Rachel Jankovic had a blog, I'd read it every day. Oh, but wait... she does blog! Over at Femina along with the rest of the Wilson women, just not every single day. As the mother of five toddlers and another on the way, she would be insane to attempt such a thing! But can you believe she managed to write a book filled with some very powerful vignettes on motherhood... and survive? (To my knowledge the children and the husband did, too.)

Rachel has honed her writing skills to be sure, but it's immediately clear that she also has a natural talent along with plenty of wit to communicate in such a way that you feel like she's hanging out with the girls talking face to face. I love that.

Loving the Little Years, could only be written after spending time "in the trenches" herself. She masterfully teaches without being preachy, throws in some natural humor (that could only come from someone who has learned to laugh at herself once in a while), and leaves you with a nugget of wisdom to take with you as you re-enter the trenches of your own home.

Each chapter is short enough that you can read it in the bathroom when you get a 2-3 minute break. Seriously, I'm a slow reader, but I could read one of her 20 chapters in the amount of time that it takes to go to the bathroom and no one need ever know! But don't think that just because this book is smaller than most that it's thin on substance. You'd be grossly mistaken. Those nuggets I mentioned are meaty... something you can chew on for a while and put into practice.

It would have been great to have had this book a few years earlier! My girls would've really appreciated it (once they were older). I think I'll be buying this in multiples and tucking them in baby gifts - for the moms, of course!

I received a copy of this book to preview, but I have not been compensated in any other way. My views about this book are strictly my own.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Barn Hop #46

Welcome! Mondays are for visiting around here as we hop from one homestead blog to another. I think last week was the first time we had over 200 friends link up! And although there are so many great homesteads to visit, we have all week long to stop by and say hello. One or two a day and you'll have made a lot of new friends while catching up on some you visit regularly.

I spent some time this week getting our goats better situated with their new feeder and a better water solution. They kept knocking over their water bucket, as goats are prone to do, and so we resolved that issue. My next goal is to get them tested for CAE and CL, add something for them to climb on for entertainment, and introduce Miss Fiona Bleu to a beau!

Don't forget this coming Saturday is the Preparedness Challenge! I hope you can all come back and participate. USA Emergency Supply will be giving away a nice item and you'll find ideas to help you meet the challenge of being good stewards in terms of preparedness.

Join The Barn Hop!
and Amy @ Homestead Revival...

...invite you to link up and share your homesteading adventures!

1. Write a blog post about what's going on at your homestead or a post on something you're learning or an item of interest that will benefit the homesteading community. Be sure to add the red barn button and link back here so others can join in the fun.

2. Come back here and enter your information in the Linky. Please be sure to link to your actual post (click your title and then copy the URL above) and not your home page so those participating later in the week can find your post easily.

3. If you don't have a blog, leave a comment and tell us what's going on at your homestead!

Please Note: As hostesses of the Homestead Barn Hop, please understand that we reserve the right to remove any links that are not family friendly. While this may be subjective, we will err on the side of caution in order to keep our blogs appropriate for all readers. Thank you for your understanding!


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