Showing posts sorted by relevance for query homesteading book. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query homesteading book. Sort by date Show all posts

Jan 9, 2012

Backyard Homesteading: A Book Review

LinkThere are two kinds of homesteading books: Those offering some practical info, but also heaps of inspiration for further research, like The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It and Self-Sufficiency for the 21st Century. The other type of homesteading book focuses more on how-to advice, like The Backyard Homestead.

Until now, when asked to recommend the most practical homesteading book, I suggested only Backyard Homestead. But now I'll recommend both Backyard Homestead by and Backyard Homesteading by David Toht.

Backyard Homesteading is designed primarily for those living in the suburbs, although city and country dwellers will find lots of good, practical information in it, too. In comparing it with Madigan's book, I have to say I find hers most thorough. However, Toht's book offers a different outlook and quite a bit of different information. For anyone seriously wanted to homestead in the suburbs, both books are worth referencing.

Toht begins at the beginning by covering municipal regulations and basic homestead planning. He briefly covers topics like rooftop gardening and water supply, then delves right into the heart of the book: Growing edibles. Here, he offers advice on choosing vegetables, preparing the soil, improving the soil, and timing plantings. He briefly covers seed saving, dealing with weeds, and basic requirements for common vegetables and herbs. Illustrations show what a typical suburban garden might look like during the various seasons, while others show what a generous urban homestead might look like compared to a suburban homestead and a mini-farm.

Fruit trees, nuts, and berries are covered in a separate chapter, with all the basics covered, including concerns about pollination, maintenance, pruning, and general care requirements. The entire section on gardening is not, in my opinion, as comprehensive as Backyard Farming's, but it does offer some different information.

There is also a chapter on raising chickens, including information about city codes, choosing breeds, caring for chicks, and general care. I notice the author makes the common assumption that backyard eggs are more expensive than store bought, but as I wrote about recently, this isn't always the case. There is helpful information on getting the most eggs from your hens, making your own feed, chicken health, and cleaning dirty eggs. Only two pages are devoted to raising meat birds, and a few basic recommendations for butchering are given. The author also very briefly covers ducks, geese, turkeys, and quail.

There's also a chapter on raising goats, which covers everything from housing to milking. Cows, sheep, and pigs are given only a few paragraphs, making these sections not very useful. Bees are given an entire chapter.

Next, canning is covered, as well as making sausage, dehydrating, smoking, and freezing. The basics of beer, wine, and cider making are covered, and there's a useful chapter on root cellaring (hint: even a garbage can will do the trick).

All in all, this is a useful book, especially for those just starting out in homesteading.

Jan 1, 2014

How to Live on Almost Nothing and Have Plenty - a Book Review

There are a lot of homesteading and self-sufficiency books available these days, but in my experience, only a few are really worth reading. How to Live on Almost Nothing and Have Plenty by Janet Chadwick is certainly one of them.

What makes Chadwick's book unique isn't so much it's scope (it covers the typical homesteading topics, from gardening to caring for animals), but the fact that she's been living a mostly self-sufficient homesteading lifestyle for some time now. The most valuable parts of her book, then, are the wisdom and (often amusing) anecdotes she passes down to the reader.

The book begins with a little information about how and why Chadwick and her family chose to homestead, then proceeds to give some great advice about what to do in your homestead's first year. The supposition is that you aren't in an urban area, but that you have at least some land. Chadwick even gives a basic idea of how much you can expect to spend doing basic homesteading activities, like gardening and caring for animals.

Other chapters teach you how to start seedlings (conventionally, indoors); plant, care for, and harvest vegetables; grow fruit; keep bees (offering one of the more realistic guides I've seen, by the way); raise goats, hogs, rabbits, poultry (chicken, ducks, geese, and a wee bit on turkeys, which the author has never raised), and a veal calf. (The author argues that a small, self-sufficient homestead can't support a milk or meat cow through grazing or the growing of grain.) Throughout, I discovered advice I'd never heard or read before, even though I read a lot of gardening and homesteading books.

Ever practical, Chadwick explains why dairy and beef cattle aren't practical for a small, self-sufficient homestead. (You can't grow enough food for them, so you'd have to bring in feed - which makes cattle raising not self sufficient.) She explains how to choose the best animals for your homestead, and all the information you need to house and care for their basic needs. The last two chapters are mostly recipes - recipes you probably won't find in a cookbook. For example, you'll learn how to cook an old hen, make headcheese, render lard, and cook a rabbit or a goat. You'll also find recipes for making basic soap, cheese, candles, and such. In addition, Chadwick gives readers the basics on how to make an indoor seed starting center (that looks something like a bookshelf, plus grow lights), a simple smokehouse, homemade dehydrator, cheese press, and many housing requirements for homestead animals.

My only real complaint about this book is the title, which I find a little misleading. Sure, the author shows readers how to raise or grow almost all of their food, but that is only part of living. The title implies Chadwick might also discuss things such as affording the land for a homestead, clothing the family inexpensively, and energy. But she does not.

Nonetheless, Chadwick packs an amazing amount of information into a 271 page book. More even than The Backyard Homestead (another guide I highly recommend, but which lacks personal anecdotes and advice). For anyone striving toward the homestead life, How to Live on Almost Nothing and Have Plenty is a must read.

Jul 3, 2015

Maximizing Your Mini Farm - a book review

I've found Brett Markham's book Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre (see my full review here) one of the better homesteading books available today, so when I saw his newest title, Maximizing Your Mini Farm, I was excited. Excited because, like probably all homesteaders, I'm always looking for ways to streamline - to make the most of the land, critters, and garden I have.

But, as it turns out, this book is poorly named. There is very little here about maximizing your homestead. Disappointing? Yes. But if I set aside the expectations the title gives me, I find this book is still useful.

The first chapter mostly recaps what Markham said about soil in Mini Farming. I understand why he included this short chapter; trying to grow food without making your soil awesome is an uphill battle likely to discourage gardeners. The rest of the first three-quarters of the book are chapters on how to raise particular veggies. I think the author's intention was to give readers his best tips for growing these veggies so they will get the most possible from their plants. But really, this section reads just about like any book on growing organic vegetables. He does make sure to cover pests, weeds, diseases, seed saving, and harvesting, and gives at least one recipe at the end of each chapter. Included are chapters on asparagus (including growing it from seed), beans; beets and chard; cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower; carrots and parsnips; corn; cucumbers; greens; herbs (a little info on his favorites); melons; onions; peas; peppers; potatoes; summer and winter squash; tomatoes; and turnips, rutabagas, and radishes.

I found some of these chapters a little frustrating. For example, the author writes that "the glycemic index of a potato is influenced by the variety grown, where it is grown and even how it is prepared." Yet he doesn't give us any information on choosing or growing varieties that are lower on the glycemix index. Another example is in the chapter on onions. The author mentions multiplier onions, which self sow - making them, I'd think, the perfect thing to discuss in book about maximizing your garden space. But instead, the author chooses only to discuss standard onions, like those found in grocery stores. I also found it odd that the author didn't necessarily mention how you could get the most food from certain crops; for example, he didn't mention eating radish seeds or pea greens. Still, his information on planting, care, and so on is spot on.

The rest of the book is a sort of hodge-podge of useful information: How to make your own, simple, seed planting guide; how to plant small seeds easily; how to make a heated water platform for your chicken waterer (so it doesn't freeze in winter); how to make a PVC trellis; thoughts on weed control; a primer on making wine; how to make vinegar; how to make some simple cheeses; and a chapter with tips on how to make cooking from scratch a bit easier if you're busy (mostly through making up multiple batches, instead of one each night, then freezing the extras).

Maximizing Your Mini Farm has some great information, especially for novice or intermediate gardeners. But I recommend reading Mini Farming first and consider Maximizing Your Mini Farm as a kind of (admittedly large) appendix.

Jan 21, 2010

I'm Dreaming of a Huge Garden...

It's that time of year where I have trouble thinking about anything but gardening. Buying seeds for the coming season and winter sowing both make winter bearable for me, as does reading gardening books. So when DK Publishing sent me The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It, I couldn't wait to sit down for a nice long read.

And this book, a classic by John Seymour, is an excellent one for dreaming. The volume looks like a coffee table book; it's large and filled with color pictures. And while John Seymour was able to live a pretty self-sufficient life on a farm, I know it's unlikely I'll ever do so. Nevertheless, reading about all Seymour learned and how he suggests others follow in his footsteps is inspiring.

Seymour is quick to note that self-sufficiency isn't about going back in time and living what is probably an idealized version of the old homesteading days. But he does realize the more self sufficient we are, the more free we are. And so his book explains how to raise and grow food, produce your own energy, and build a variety of things (from compost toilets to brick walls). While there are a couple of pages with ideas for the urban garden, this book is really for those who have (or dream of having) real acreage. Seymour explains what he'd do with one acre, five acres, and more. Those of us without the means to buy that much property can only drool.

The gardening section of the book provides solid, organic gardening advice, with good information about keeping the soil working and healthy with crop rotation, growing grains, the basics of extending the season by "growing under cover," how to grow a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, and fruits, and building and using a greenhouse. The next largest section focuses on raising
cows, goats, pigs, sheep, poultry, and bees. You'll also find information on obtaining power from water, the sun, and the wind; how to clear and irrigate land; a bit about obtaining food from the wild; building and using a dairy; making butter, cream, and cheese; building a store room; making bread, wine and beer; some bare bone information about crafts like basket making and spinning; and some rather incomplete information (along with some unsafe, outdated details) on canning. The author also offers some practical ideas on how to gradually become more self-sufficient.

I enjoyed this book immensely. In fact, I liked it so well, I purchased a copy of what is possibly the author's most famous book: The New Self-Sufficient Gardener.
This is also an attractive book with lots of color illustrations, but unfortunately, the latest edition of The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It contains most of the meat from The New Self-Sufficient Gardener. However, if you've never gardened much, Self-Sufficient Gardener is a better, more practical reference, offering details about choosing a garden location, treating the soil, making compost, and better detail about using greenhouses.

Spring, here we come!

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Dec 9, 2009


The idea of sustaining your own family as much as possible, without the need to rely on goods from stores, is the latest trend. Although I have dreams of homestead living in the country with a small orchard, a good-sized vegetable garden, chickens, goats, and a few other animals, I know that probably isn’t going to happen any time soon. In the meantime, like many of my neighbors, I’m interested in living that dream as much as I can in the suburbs. (Why? Because I think it’s great for the kids and I like the idea of knowing exactly what goes into my food.)

So I was excited to see Abigail R. Gehring’s new book Homesteading and was surprised to find how comprehensive it really is.

The first section covers gardening, focusing not just on vegetables but on ornamentals, too. You’ll find details on choosing the best location for a garden, testing and amending your soil, companion planting (what plants may grow best next to each other), making compost, irrigation (including how to make your own rain barrel – although the author neglects to mention that, crazy as it may seem, some cities and counties do not allow citizens to collect rain water), planting and caring for trees (a section oddly absent of information on fruit and nut trees), growing in containers, and rooftop gardens. There are even sections on growing plants without soil, attracting beneficial insects to your garden, and starting community and school garden. Beginners may find the wealth of information here a bit overwhelming, but it’s nice to know you have all the details you’ll need to start your own garden all in one location.

The next section covers the pantry, with information on choosing locally grown food, joining or starting a co-op, and a pretty extensive section on canning (including many recipes). There’s a shorter section on drying and freezing, which includes a simple design for making a food dryer that hangs over a wood stove, plus a few pages on edible wild plants. This last section, while interesting and accompanied by photographs of each plant, isn’t detailed enough, in my opinion. Great care must be taken when eating wild plants; if you misidentify something, you could poison yourself or someone you love. I don’t feel the author stresses this enough, and if you’re interested in eating wild plants, I suggest you find an excellent field guide for your area. (It should have detailed descriptions of the plants as well as color photographs of them, and must include information on which parts of the plants are edible and how they should be prepared.)

The author also offers great information on making your own butter (in a jar), yogurt, ice cream (in a coffee can), beer, wine, and cheese. There are even basic instructions for making a cheese press for hard cheeses – and the author makes it all look so easy, I think I’ll have to give it a go. I also appreciate the mention of the Plant a Row for the Hungry Program (PAR) and how you can help feed those less fortunate with bounty from your own garden.

The next section is titled “The Backyard Farm” and includes all the basics about the space, time, and energy required to raise animals like chickens, ducks, turkeys, bees, goats, and llamas. The author also offers additional info on such things as building a beehive and milking a goat. Everything you need to determine whether small farm animals are right for you is included, and then some.

This is followed by a section on structures, which offers general information on building fences and gates, dog kennels, birdhouses, stables, hen- and duck houses, foot bridges, sheds, smokehouses, root callers, tree houses, trellises, and weather vanes. At least a little experience working with wood is best before delving into this chapter.

There’s also a chapter on alternative energy. Unfortunately, for most folks the ideas here are either too spendy or will provide only a small amount of energy – but even supplementing your standard energy can be a boon. Topics covered include solar power, wind energy, hydropower, and geothermal power. There’s also information on composting toilets (ideal for locations where it’s impractical or expensive to put in sewer lines) and using grey water. (Again, be careful. Although the author doesn’t note it, in many parts of the country it’s illegal or requires a permit to use grey water.)

There’s also a mish mash of crafts included in this book – some practical (like candle and soap making) and others not (like making potpourri and jewelry). You can learn a bit about pottery, knitting, making paper and bookbinding, trying knots, making kites, and basket weaving, too.

The final sections of the book give the very basics of herbal remedies, listing common plants, what ailments they are sometimes used to treat (exactly how to use and dose the herbs is rarely included), preparing for natural disasters, first aid, stenciling, making your own wall paper, and more.

There are certainly some sections of this book I will never refer to (for example, Feng shui and living in “international communities," i.e. communes). And there are some that, to my way of thinking, stretch the meaning of homesteading, especially as applied to the backyard. However, the sections on raising and caring for animals are more complete than other homesteading books, the canning information is thorough, and there are also great how–to details on gardening, co-ops, and many odds and ends of sustainable living. If you’re interested in being more self sufficient, this book will be a good addition to your bookshelf.

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Feb 14, 2012

Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre

A great many people these days are talking about being more self-sufficient, and many are planning on buying land in order to make this more feasible. Brett L. Markham's book Mini Farming promises food freedom with just 1/4 acre - significantly less than what most homesteading books suggest. So naturally, I couldn't wait to see how Markham does it.

Overall, I think Markham does an excellent job with this book, covering many areas other homesteading books neglect. He clearly grows or raises most of his family's food. Most - so I find the sub-title a little misleading. But if you're looking to grow produce and raise chickens for eggs - and if you especially want to do it on a scale so you don't have to buy either of those items and still have enough left over to sell, Markham's book is a definite must read.

First, let me explain my quibbles with the book.

Readers should know Markham uses an intensive gardening method. This shouldn't be too much of a surprise, since he suggests gardening on so little land. My only complaint, then, is that he fails to mention that without plenty of water and fertilizer, you're not going to be at all self-sufficient using intensive methods. In other words, while intensive gardening works well when water is plentiful and not too expensive, it fails miserably if there is a drought or the gardener can't afford to pay the water bill. And if there's no money to purchase the supplements for the soil Markham suggests, the garden isn't going to do well, either. A heads up to readers on this matter would have satisfied me.

Markham also repeats the old idea that vegetable garden rows come from "agribusiness" and have no place in a successful homesteading garden. But wide row gardening actually dates far back into history and was most likely adopted because vegetables grown far apart require far less watering. (Their roots spread out better, and it's easier for them to find water already in the soil.)

Markham also suggests planting one seed per hole, in order to save money on seeds. But he fails to mention that even the best seeds don't have a 100% germination rate. Certainly a gardener can follow his advice and have a fine garden, but they should be warned that not every seed will sprout.

But Markham does such a superb job in other areas, I can't help but recommend his book. For example, he may offer the best guide to starting a new bed that I've ever seen. He also gives some good, solid ideas of how big intensive gardens should be (700 square feet per person, in his estimation). He also provides great information on maintaining the soil in the garden, and even attempts to answer how many vegetable plants should be grown, using the USDA pyramid as a guide. He explains why growing grain on a small scale isn't economical. He teaches pest control through prevention first. He offers good advice on starting seeds on a big scale and discusses the difficulties of seed saving due to inbreeding in a relatively small garden. He covers cleaning eggs for sale, butchering meat chickens, and how to build a plucker and a thresher.

He briefly mentions graywater for irrigation; but here he should have mention that graywater (the dirty water from the washer, for example) can contain feces. (If you wash your undies, that is!) And that in many areas it's illegal to use graywater. He offers the basics of canning and covers freezing with a sealer. And - more briefly than I'd like - covers selling produce and eggs. He also does an excellent job of explaining soil tests and how to amend the soil so a garden can thrive.

So whether you just want a backyard veggie garden (and maybe some hens) or you want a 1/4 acre intensive garden, you're sure to learn something from Markham's personal experience, years in farming, and skill at making the complex simple and understandable.

Apr 20, 2016

The Woodland Homestead: A Book Review

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information.

When you imagine your ideal homestead, what do you picture? A suburban home with a 1 acre yard? Old farmland with flat pastures? Rolling, grassy hills and barns? But did you know an increasing number of modern homesteaders are following the lead of old time homesteaders and settling into the forest? Yes, even my own family will soon trade suburban life in for a little house in the big woods. In part, because we love the forest - and in part because forested land is much less expensive than pastures and grassy hills. (In my neck of the woods - pun intended - there are even tax breaks for those who keep a certain amount of their land forested.) Indeed, choosing wooded land can make your homesteading dreams affordable and practical.

But, you may ask, how can you homestead in the woods? Won't the trees get in the way?

It is true you have to clear some of the trees to make way for a house. And it's true you have to clear away a few more for a productive garden and orchard. But the rest? It can stay there! And that's what Brett McLeod's The Woodland Homestead is all about.

McLeod has impressive credentials. Not only does he homestead on 25 acres of wooded land, but he's an associate professor of forestry and natural resources, and spent years as a forester and lumberjack. Even if you think you already know a lot about homesteading in the forest, I'm betting you'll learn a few things from McLeod's book.

To begin with, did you know that livestock don't need pastureland? That's right; even cows can thrive in thinned woods. And some livestock, including pigs, goats, sheep, and poultry not only benefit from the food the forest provides, but help keep the woods in good health. This is a win-win for the homesteader because it cuts down feed costs, results in healthier meat or eggs - not to mention woods, and the critters do a lot of work that would otherwise fall to the humans.

Yet, as the author points out, there are so many other benefits to homesteading in the woods. He not only goes into depth about understanding your forest (this is where his forestry experience becomes awesomely apparent), but he explains how to use specific types of trees for different homestead needs and how to maintain your woods through forest succession - that is, keeping the right balance between old and young trees. Have you never cut your own firewood? You'll learn how in The Woodland Homestead. Never built with cordwood? You'll learn the basics here. Want a portable sawmill? McLeod gives great advice. He even talks about using draft animals in lieu of heavy equipment.

McLeod also covers topics like living fences, building with stumps, orchards in the forest (including resurrecting old orchards and planting new ones), bees in the woods, making cider, gathering sap for syrup (Hint: you don't have to have sugar maple trees), hugelkulture (using decomposing stumps and limbs as the basis for a garden bed), and other forest edibles, like berry vines, strawberries, nuts, mushrooms, and more.

In fact, this book is packed with so much information, I had to read it twice to soak even most of it in. My only complaint is that much of the information in the book is based on the author's experience in the Eastern part of the United States. Therefore, he talks a lot about the trees that grow there, and not so much about the trees that grow elsewhere in the nation. Too, as someone who lives where frosts aren't heavy, I didn't find the answer to my long-time question: "Can I collect sap for syrup even if it doesn't get very cold on my homestead?"

Still, if you're considering a wooded homestead, The Woodland Homestead is a must read.

Feb 17, 2018

Weekend Links & Updates

Playing Miss Hannigan in Annie.
In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

On practising (i.e. "repeated exercise in or performance of an activity") sin:

"No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him...the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil...By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God nor the one who does not love his brother."

1 John 3:4 - 10

* I've been rather absent, not only on the blog, but also on Facebook and Instagram. I'm sorry! I haven't forgotten you, I've just been a bit overwhelmed. As I mentioned a while ago, I've been rehearsing for a local production of Annie, plus doing all my usual homeschooling, working from home, and homesteading. As if that weren't bad enough, I've been SO sick! In fact, the whole cast of the show is quite ill; I've never seen anything like it. I blame it on having lots of little kids running around, plus tiny, crowded dressing rooms with no ventilation. All my usual herbal preventatives and cures haven't worked, and I ended up with a bad sinus infection (that's has me partially deaf...fully deaf in one ear for a couple of days) and had to get on a course of antibiotics. Oh, and when I saw the doc he freaked out because my iron levels were so low, and the iron supplements he has me taking make me vomit. Fun times! Well, actually, yes. Despite illness, I'm having a fantastic time pretending to be mean to little girls :)  (P.S. People are very quick to blame my diet for any health issue I may encounter, but I've been anemic since before going keto. The root cause is excessive menstruation.)
Our (pet) buns.
* On Super Bowl Sunday, my daughter let her pet Polish rabbits mate. If you're never seen rabbits mating, get thee to YouTube right now. It's hilarious. The male often gets at the wrong end, and when he's done, he faints. We suspect the bunny mating "took" because our doe, Pickles, is acting aggressively toward our buck, Buddy. We're talking punching, growling, and attempted biting. This is normal pregnant doe behavior. (Some does will even castrate bucks that dare to come near.) Let's hope Pickles other maternal instincts are strong, too!

An excellent novel!
* At least being sick gave me a chance to sink into a new book (A Refuge Assured) by one of my favorite novelist, Joceyln Green. She writes so well - and not only did I learn about an aspect of history I was unfamiliar with (French refugees coming to the U.S. during the French Revolution), but Joceyln gives me a lot to ponder about liberty and whether it can be abused. I highly recommend her books!

* Have you ever tried baking with a wood stove?

* How to plant trees in spring.

* This looks like such a great, easy gift idea. How to make personalized candles.

* 5 Regrets You Don't Want to Have if Your Kids Walk Away from Faith. Some excellent reminders here.

Oldies But Goodies:

* Gardening hacks you should ignore.
* How to grow epic tomatoes!

Jul 1, 2017

Weekend Links

Still waiting for the contractor to start re-roofing my canning kitchen!

In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God,  the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

Isaiah 40:28-31

* I just returned from an out of state trip to visit my Dad, and am busy trying to catch up on homesteading, home keeping, and blogging chores. Forgive me if I take a little time to catch up!

* It's official! Duck eggs do NOT raise my blood sugar the way chicken eggs do...and they don't seem to upset my tummy, either. So now my 11 year old daughter is saying: "Does that mean I can get some pet ducks now???"

* Once, you could walk onto our front porch, easily look into the bathroom window, and see a person sitting on the toilet! Bad layout. But this inexpensive window cling easily took care of the problem...and it looks pretty, too! I recommend it.

* No one likes to look like a city slicker when they live in a rural area. But for months, the kids and I have been looking for tadpoles to scoop into fish tanks so we can watch them turn into frogs. A couple of weeks ago, we were excited when we saw some in the greenhouse water tank. I'm glad we didn't put them in tanks in the house, though, because my hubby later informed me they aren't tadpoles...they are mosquito larvae. He thought it was cute that I didn't know this...

* Recall on dog raw hides.

* Recall of almond butter due to possible listeria.

* Respecting Your Husband the Proverbs 31 Way.

* Some interesting insights into what makes teens rebel.

* Lately I've noticed Netflix has some questionable titles readily available to anyone browsing their offerings. Even just the "covers" for the shows are not something I want my kids to see. If you're concerned about this, too, Our Good Life has instructions on how to block Netflix shows so your kids can't find them.* Here's a fun, free summer activity for kids: Playing Bible detectives!

* Did you know I have a free children's chapter book all about time traveling to the days of the dinosaurs in order to learn about creationism? It's action-packed and fun, and perfect for summer reading! 

* More fun ideas for summer fun.

* With wild berries beginning to come on, now is a great time to start foraging! Even city dwellers can forage.

* Tick bites can lead to  meat allergies. It's true!

* These look good! Crispy Green Bean Chips.

* I recently joined a Facebook canning group...and oh my goodness! People get tossed out for mentioning botulism or suggesting a certain canning practice isn't safe. The things these people are doing are shocking. There's a lot of "My granny did it and she didn't die." Um, yeah, that's like saying "I drive home drunk every night and I've never gotten into an accident." There are many reasons Granny didn't die - mainly because she boiled the heck out of her canned food before she ate it. She also stored it in a fridge-like setting (a cellar or something similar). And she took for granted that spring time (as the last of the canned food was consumed) was a time of sickness, not realizing her home canned foods were making her ill. Please. No food you want to home can is worth making someone ill or killing them. Period. Learn more here.

* In my day, I've used a lot of manure. In the garden, that is. But by far my favorite is rabbit manure. I love it because you don't have to wait for it to age before using it, and because it makes plants grow abundantly! Don't have your own rabbits? Sometimes you can find rabbit owners who are willing to give away or sell their bunnies' pellets. Here's more on using rabbit manure in the garden.

Oldies But Goodies:

* Preserving Herbs with Salt
* Tips for Keeping the House Cool in Summer
* An EASY Way to Make Your Own Butter
* Crock Pot Sloppy Joes
* Easy Refrigerator Pickled Beets

May 1, 2017

8 Common Chicken Keeping Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

Recently, someone my husband and I know made a huge newbie chicken raising mistake: He added pullets (teen age hens) to his existing flock of adult hens. The next day, he discovered every single one of the pullets dead - killed by his grown hens. It's a terrible story - but just one of hundreds I've heard or witnessed that involved a perfectly preventable chicken keeping mistake. Here are the mistakes I see most often - and how you can prevent them in your flock.

Mistake #1: Not reading up. Almost every chicken raising mistake can be avoided if you just do a little reading. You'll save yourself tons of time, money, and aggravation - not to mention suffering on the part of your chickens - if you read up on caring for them before you bring them home. Internet sources are useful (see my Chickens 101 posts, for example), but I recommend reading at least one book on chicken care before you buy chickens. Better yet, read a few! If money is tight, look to the local library. Or buy used books for cheap off Amazon. (Spending a little money on books will save you money in the long run, friends.)

Mistake #2: Not having everything ready for the chickens before you buy them. It's tempting to pick up chicks and think, "I'll worry about their coop (or their feeders, or whatever) later." But the truth is, those chicks have immediate and important needs right now - and before you know it, they'll be needing a coop and run, too. Prepare for the chickens before you bring them home, and you'll ensure the animals stay healthy and happy.
Have all supplies ready before you buy chicks.

Mistake #3: Trying to skimp on supplies. Frugality and homesteading go hand in hand; however, there are some things you really can't skimp on. For example, all chicks require a heating lamp and chick waterers and feeders. Trying to use, say, a bowl as a waterer will result in disaster. (Chicks drown in water bowls.)

Mistake #4: Not knowing how to introduce new birds. You cannot just throw chickens into a new flock and expect anything less than blood. New birds should, first of all, be kept in quarantine for 4 weeks, to ensure they are not contagious. Ignoring this rule may kill your entire flock. Then, new birds should be kept in a caged area immediately next to the old birds; this allows the animals to get to know each other without letting them kill each other. Don't co-mingle the birds until they've had at least a week to get to know each other through the fencing. And while you're at it, don't add a single hen to any flock. She will be mercilessly attacked, possibly killed, and at the very least, ostracized.  P.S. Chicks should be kept separate from the flock until they are almost grown. Put them in an attached but separate run when they are pullets. For more advice on adding new chickens to a flock, click here.

New chickens should be separated by a fence. Courtesy

Mistake #5: Allowing chickens to free range. At least without understanding the consequences. Free range chickens scratch at everything. They will destroy your lawn and gardens, and poop everywhere. If you're fine with that, then by all means let your birds free range. Otherwise, let go of the idea of true free ranging, and consider a chicken tractor, a rotating run, or a permanent run.

Mistake #6: Not feeding your birds. Some people think they can let their chickens free range and not give them poultry feed. But even if you have excellent forage in your yard, all chickens should be given feed, too. They will lay more consistently, have stronger egg shells, and will generally be healthier hens.
Free range chickens are a handful. Courtesy

Mistake #7: Not keeping chickens safe. All chickens require a predator proof coop they get locked into every night. When outside the coop, it's a good idea to protect chickens from predators, too, especially hawks and other big birds. This means covering the chicken run or having the run where there is plenty of tree cover.

Mistake #8: Getting too many chickens. Don't overcrowd your birds. This will make them fight, and will make them more prone to disease. At bare minimum, chickens require 3 square feet of indoor space (including 1 foot of roosting space) in the coop, and 10 square feet of outdoor space. But more space is better!

Jan 21, 2017

Weekend Links & Updates

First egg from the new flock!
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

"The Lord is slow to anger but great in power;
    the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.
His way is in the whirlwind and the storm,
    and clouds are the dust of his feet."

Nahum 1:3

* Our roof blew off. Well, part of one of them, anyway. We'd known for a while that the original building on our homestead needed a new tin roof. We've had buckets catching rain inside the building all fall and winter. (An obstacle course for me, as I carry wet laundry from the washer on one side of the building to the dryer on the opposite end of the building!) When we had a big wind storm last year, my hubby tied down one especially precarious part of the roof, and we just prayed the thing would stay on until it grew dry enough to replace the entire roof.

No such luck. This week during a storm, that piece flew off. And, of course, my husband was sick in bed with a fever. It really could have been much worse, though. As it is, none of the appliances (washer, dryer, etc.) are wet. Mostly just miscellaneous junk the previous owners left behind are affected. This weekend, my hubby hopes to be well enough to temporarily repair the roof in a stronger way. Life on the homestead is certainly never boring!

* In happier news, last week we got our first egg from our new flock! In fact, at least three of our hens are now laying. I'm so thrilled. With my new diet, I eat a lot of eggs, and store bought eggs are really gag-a-maggot to me compared to backyard fresh eggs.

* I finished this book last week, after neglecting a lot of housework because of it. I really can't recommend it highly enough. It's a page turner with an inspiring message about redemption and grace.

* Chocolate candy recall. 

* Tupperware seasoning recalled due to potential salmonella contamination.

* Junket Pudding. Sounds weird, but it's another healthy, yummy fermented food worth trying.

* How I Learned to Stop Giving the Silent Treatment in My Marriage.

* 6 Newbie Homesteading Mistakes to Avoid 

Oldies But Goodies:

* The secret to backyard eggs that are cheaper than store bought!
* DIY Seed Tape
* How to Clean Soap Scum, Easily
* Sex Ed: Recommendations for Christian Kids


May 19, 2016

Starting a Vegetable Garden on a Budget

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information.

 Years ago, I remember talking with a friend about growing vegetables. "I read The $64 Tomato and now I'm scared to start a garden!" she said. I'd never heard of this book, so next time I was at the library, I checked it out. Oh my goodness! Now I knew why my friend was afraid to start gardening! The author of The $64 Tomato spent ginormous amounts on his garden, and after figuring out his costs, yes, indeed, his tomatoes cost his $64 a piece. Crazy! But let me assure you, friends, this is not the norm! Most people save money when they grow their own food. For example, the last time I figured how much our vegetable garden produced, I learned we saved a minimum of $1,492.89 over buying our veggies at a grocery store.And I wasn't doing anything extraordinary.

Here's how I recommend starting a garden without breaking the bank

Save on Raised Beds
Raised bed gardens don't have to be expensive. (Courtesy

There are advantages to raised beds - namely, the soil in them gets warmer more quickly in the spring and stays warmer in the fall, which increases yields. They can also be a solution to problems with poor soil - if you fill them with great dirt. But there's no reason you need to spend a fortune buying or making raised beds.

You could go without, just layering organic matter on top of the soil in a method called lasagna gardening. Or you can use old fashioned berms - a method I've used successfully for years, and which is basically raised beds without any structure holding the dirt in place.

Other ideas include building raised beds from found materials (like free pallets - make sure they are the safe kind, rocks found in your yard, excess building materials like bricks, etc.) You can even use logs to create raised beds.

It's easy - and not expensive - to build great garden soil.
Save on Garden Soil

I do understand the desire to start your garden right away. When I began growing food in earnest at our current suburban home, I spent a couple hundred dollars to bring in soil to create berms. Even with that expense, I saved some money on our food bill. But the soil wasn't terrific (which is often the case when you buy garden soil in bulk), and maybe you don't have enough money laying around to purchase soil. (I think I was actually fortunate the soil didn't contain traces of Round Up. That seems to happen fairly often, and makes the soil deadly for any plant.)

So, begin at the beginning. Test your soil first; you can buy inexpensive soil test kits at gardening centers. (I've successfully used Leaf Luster brand's kit.) Follow the kit's instructions on how to amend your soil using organic matter. Or, if your soil seems really terrible and you can't truck in dirt, consider lasagna gardening (also called sheet mulching). As soon as the top layers are composted (rotted through), you can begin planting.

Assuming your soil isn't the depleted clay I was dealing with when I first began homesteading, you can also plant directly in the dirt, amending with good organic matter as you go. Start a compost pile. Use grass clippings as mulch. In the fall, shred fallen leaves and add them to your garden bed. Dig trenches in the soil, near plants, and place vegetable and fruit leavings in them. And if you have livestock like chickens, rabbits, goats, etc., be sure to compost their manure and add it to the garden soil. Pretty soon, you'll have soil so good, money can't buy it.

It's a good idea to start with inexpensive garden tools. (Courtesy of
Save on Gardening Tools

Confession: I have cheap gardening tools. I do want to upgrade to more durable tools, but right now I can't. And if you're just starting out in gardening, I actually recommend you don't buy expensive tools. For one thing, you have no idea what type of tools you need or like best! So don't be afraid to buy less expensive tools right now.

Which brings me to the subject of tillers. Every spring, I see people all over Facebook and Craigslist, desperately seeking someone to till their garden. But you don't need a tiller.

There's a whole gardening philosophy that says tilling is really bad for the soil. It disrupts the good bugs n the dirt, ruins top soil, brings up weed seeds, and just plain makes you - and your plants - work harder. So, you see, there's no need to spend oodles on a tiller.

It's easy - and much cheaper - to start plants from seed. (Courtesy
Save on Plants

Don't buy seedlings; they are too expensive. Plus, the plants will be at least somewhat stunted when you change their environment and plant them in your garden. (And especially don't buy starts at big box stores, since there is no way to know if thwinter sowing, or planting seeds in "mini greenhouses" made from re-purposed plastic containers, like the lidded bins salad greens often come in. For more on seed starting, check out my ebook Starting Seeds, which gives step by step information. (And is only 99 cents!)
ose plants will thrive - or not -  in your garden.) Instead, start plants from seed. You can do it - really. The easiest method for beginners is

If you have a friend who gardens, you might also consider a seed exchange. For example, if you don't use all of the seeds in a seed packet, offer them to your friend - and in turn, she will give you some of her extra seeds.

You might also try cuttings, especially of tomato plants. You can buy one or two tomato plants (or maybe a friend will let you take cuttings), snip off a branch, pop it in the soil, and viola! You'll soon have a new tomato plant.

As your skill increases, you can consider saving your own seed, too.

Above all, though, be realistic about what you can grow. Make sure it will thrive in your gardening zone and in the conditions in your garden. (Don't expect tomatoes to produce abundantly in part shade, for example.) And when you're just starting out, keep your garden small. As your skill increases, you can add extra beds to your garden.

Save by Going Organic

Some methods of watering are more economical than others. (Courtesy of
Buying chemical fertilizers and pesticides is expensive. Plus, it's not great for the soil, the water table, or your health. The happy thing is, growing organic is a lot less expensive because it's mostly about building the soil up so your plants thrive. See "Save on Garden Soil," above, for cheap, easy ways to do this.

Save on Water

Irrigation can seriously increase the cost of your garden, but there are several things you can do to reduce watering costs. First, mulch your garden, to help keep moisture in the soil. (Use an organic mulch, like bark or straw and the mulch does double duty, decomposing and helping to improve your soil.)

Second, water only when necessary. (If you insert a finger into the soil and it feels dry two inches down, it's time to water.)

Third, don't use a sprinkler system, which throws water where it won't help your plants grow; instead, use a soaker hose or hand water at the base of plants.