“Eggerators” and Compost Makers.

wp_20170117_0011As I write we have 13/17 hens laying and so we have lots of eggs on our hands! Eggs are great of course but the chickens also perform another vital role on the homestead.

COMPOSTING!

I have a large bowl that I put scraps into and feed to the chickens; trimmings from greens, carrots, tomatoes, apple cores, leftover popcorn, dry bread…they chow down!

I have their coop set up where the mornings they stay in their large aviary style enclosure until they have all laid their eggs in the coop where it is clean and dry. In the run portion, they work on being my compost machines. About every two weeks I haul in fresh dirt from out on the property that is in desperate need off fortification with organic matter.  I spread the dirt around and then sprinkle straw and leaves in the there. Over the two weeks they scratch the dirt up, break down the straw and leaves, eat my scraps, and then I scrape out and haul that dirt out to growing areas or the compost pile. It’s been working nicely and keeps them happy and busy. Then in the afternoons they free range.

Furthermore on the compost front…because compost is gold for a garden…I recently gave 5 families plastic boxes in which to put their kitchen scraps into. These either go onto the compost heap or to my worm farm.

Yes, worm farm!

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I bought 2000 meal worms and made them a habitat in a free, used aquarium. First I thoroughly cleaned the aquarium and  then added oatmeal. You can use wheat bran, flour…anything grain based. The worms eat the grain and any produce waste you give them. So they eat the things that chickens do not like such as onion and potato skins or the hard core of a broccoli. They will eventually pupate, grow into beetles, and the life cycle will start anew and meanwhile I have a renewable source of protein for the chickens.

I strive to reduce, reuse, and recycle where ever possible and the chickens and worms are helping with that!

I also recycle our hens egg shells by baking them and then crushing them to offer back to the hens free choice. They know when they need more calcium and in the wild they would eat the shells of their chicks once hatched and they would even eat their own eggs if they thought they were ‘duds’.

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In other news on the homestead, we are very excited to be incubating our first clutch of eggs! We have had a couple hens play like they wanted to be broody but then abandoned the eggs after half a day. Not just to eat, full on abandoned the eggs. So I decided to incubate some until the hens get the idea and set some eggs properly.

To select eggs for incubating, I weighed them and made sure to chose eggs that were not too small or over sized. There is an optimum size for each breed and type of bird and too much either side and you will see reduced hatch rates [Card. 1952].

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Left is over sized. 

I labeled the eggs and made record of weights and then at 3 and 10 days marked if they were first fertile and second if there was still life and growth at 10 days.

It’s a great learning opportunity to incubate your own eggs, we have even made up our own name for the incubator and it is “Eggerator” Okay, that’s what the boys call it and I think it has stuck.

Here is day 10.

As I write we have 3 days left until hatch day. I am superstitious and believe you should not “rock the cradle before there is a baby to put in it” and so I have NOT set up the brooder yet. I will do that when they start to hatch, after all they will spend a day in the “Eggerator” to dry off and fluff up.

Since we have 2 roosters of the 4 breeds, 25% of all our eggs will be pure, 75% will be hybrid. Pure breed chicks will be sold to heritage breed enthusiasts , hybrid hens will be kept or sold for laying eggs, and hybrid males will feed us.

Reference:

Card, Leslie E. Poultry Production. 1952. Lea & Febiger, Philadelphia. 

 

To close, we do now have eggs for sale!

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Genetic Engineering – A Short Essay

Here is last weeks college essay, hopefully it interests you enough to look into G.E, GMO, and your food supply. 

Genetic Engineering could be considered by some to originate with selective breeding. For thousands of years humans have selected desirable organisms from livestock or plants and continued to breed them to keep that blood line alive or they cross bred animals or plants to create desirable traits. Examples could be keeping a blood line of heavy milk sheep, rams that produce twins in their bred ewes, or sweetcorn with large and full corn kernels. This however is not really engineering genetics, it is enhancing what COULD happen in nature. Ancient farmers only brought two animals together that might have found each other in the wild or they saved seed from naturally occurring and desirable mutations that proved beneficial to humans.

The practice of genetic selection in American history is probably most known with the Native Americans and corn but it is also known in more recent history with cattle. America, previous to settlement by Europeans, used to be vastly populated by bison. They were the native and largest grazing beast of the day. When Europeans settled in the U.S they brought with them Cows (among other European bloodlines and species). The Bison were nearly hunted and destroyed to extinction for one reason or another [sport, food, and to hurt the Native Americans prime food and material commodity] and cow herds gradually spread across the states from the east. Ranchers practiced genetic selection by breeding particular steers with cows to create a livestock with desired traits. Perhaps a livestock that produced more meat on poorer grazing or that could survive winter and birth strong calves.

Until 1883, the science of animal husbandry and veterinary practice was questionable and basically did not exist. Animal medicine was practiced by self-proclaimed veterinarians that often merely bought a certificate from for-profit style schools. They did not practice in laboratories and were not even required to attend lectures. The ‘science’ of animals was non existent with medical treatments consisting of harsh and to todays standards, inhumane treatments. However, in 1883 the USDA answered the call of farmers to find the cause and treatment of diseases that had the potential to nearly wipe out herds and profits. Thus the advent of veterinary science and medicine in America was born. Agricultural colleges became scientific and dedicated to a legitimate and effective education and research.

Today, in a relatively short 130 or so years, animal science has far surpassed the witch-doctor like torturous medical treatments prior to 1883. Now, science is able to manipulate human and animal DNA to produce living organisms with desired traits. Insects, bacteria, and plants are also subject to  genetic engineering (G.E) but the G.E of animals is something that more people have emotion about. Scientists, for whatever reason, are finding ways to change the DNA of animals to produce or switch off desired or undesired traits respectively. The purpose could be for human medical research or for agricultural needs. The cross breeding of different breeds of cows is not enough today. Scientists and farmers are striving to produce more and more to “feed the world”. Most of us have heard about dairy cows being bred and given hormone to allow them to make far more milk than they ever would in the wild. We see this in relatively cheap milk prices. What we do not often see is the cost to the cows life and the environment that this selection and manipulation of the cows DNA causes. Nor do we see or know what affect these and other such G.E could have on human health in years to come.

The future of G.E [or this could already be happening now] could be the altering of pest DNA so that swarms released into the wild, breed with natural pests and infect the entire population with a desired trait. Could this be a way to mass extinct “undesired” insects? What if the Colorado potato beetle was altered to automatically die upon breeding before eggs can even be laid, over time this would wipe out that bug. GREAT! Some may say, no more chemicals on our potatoes to keep away the Colorado potato beetle. But is wiping out or messing with nature ever a good thing? The reason we have problems with pests is because modern agriculture relies on mass monoculture crops that are a haven for vast plagues of bugs that affect that crop. Why is the answer in modern science and agriculture to get into DNA, change things, and even hurt whole food chains for the sake of humans? Why do humans see it as acceptable to alter nature for our own gain? It is argued that we have the ability to feed everyone on the earth without manipulating nature and that the problem behind malnutrition in developed countries and starvation in developing nations is food distribution and NOT availability. There are many theories as to why governments are supporting G.E, one being control of the masses. That is for another discussion but I have to question why have we come to the point where people think the answer to our food supply is something as complicated, expensive, and possibly devastating to ecosystems as acceptable?

For the sake of a broad view on the subject we should consider some pros and cons of G.E. Pros that are popularly toted in favor of the G.E of animals is disease resistance. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our cattle never caught certain disease or illness that are currently treated by antibiotics or the slaughter gun. The problem is, disease and bacteria evolves just as quickly as we prevent it. Eradicating the susceptibility to one disease will not stop new diseases from evolving or becoming the controlling factor of livestock health. Further pros of G.E include: fast growth, higher fertility, greater milk production, larger egg production, and heavier muscle growth on meat animals. Cons, [and in my opinion should be on everyone’s mind and not the embellished and false pros] would include new disease, possible temperament disorders, poor health, and even dangerous changes in the edible products of animals that could be a risk to human health.

The future of G.E is sure to expand whether encouraged by governments or not. The practice is sure to continue with government support or none because private investors will support G.E for monetary gain and even if our governments see sense in the dangers I am sure now G.E is a known science the practice would go “under ground”. I do not see any real benefit in altering nature. There is no change that we can make that wont inevitably cause change elsewhere. If we change nature, nature will fight back or possibly a more devastating effect, she won’t be able to fight back. I foresee that G.E will become more and more popular in my lifetime but by the time my children have grandchildren I hope that this manipulation of nature will be recognized to be a poor management practice. If G.E continues, my fear is that new disease, new viruses, and possibly unhealthy animal products will get into the food chain. The animals that are subject to G.E in the name of agriculture may contaminate wild animals and breeds and these small changes could have a devastating and existential affect on whole food chains. In an attempt to be modern “land stewards” and manage our livestock we could wipe out entire populations.  I don’t think that G.E is even truly useful as a disease management tool because there will always be new strains of disease that beat the odds against them. We are humans, and we are not truly capable of controlling nature. We will either fail in our attempts to do so or we will find ourselves with reduced diversity and great dependence on a small handful of large corporations.

G.E is magnificent and has to be admired for the hard and thorough work of scientists…but that does not make it a positive discovery.

Farm Workers – A short Essay

Here is an adapted version of a recent college essay I had to write for my History of Agriculture class. It does not fit the format of my usual posts but I hope you enjoy it!

Agriculture has an interesting and at times shocking history. America has had her controversies surrounding agricultural development to include the British government imposing restrictions on American industry so that the colonies were reliant on England for British imports of farm tools and heavy equipment, the slave trade of agricultural laborers during the antebellum years, and in modern America there is the matter of illegal alien workers.

To summarize American agriculture from the colonial years, farmers of the 17th century relied on hand tools and imported plows from England or trading farm products with Native Americans to get by. Then during the American Revolution (war for independence from England), demand for rope, sacks, sailcloth, cordage, wheat, and meat increased and so the production and price of hemp rose. This rise in demand and the intensity of the production of hemp created a demand for slave labor in order to be able to meet demands. The use of slaves in the south also allowed the cheaper production of tobacco and other commodities but this movement was met with the British attempting to weaken the American agricultural economy by luring slaves to escape and join British armies and gain freedom. The slave laborers were treated as a commodity, property, and escaping their masters to fight for the British would have had its own dangers and pitfalls and their freedom for their escaping is questionable. Americans mirrored the British by offering slaves ‘freedom’ to join the Continental Army, or Navy so again the slave laborers were forced to choose between two evils, and this after all is not freedom or a choice.

Regardless of the incorrectness of slave labor, it did benefit agriculture as well as the revolution for farmers were able to keep producing food for Americans at home and establish infrastructure and farms as well as meet the increased need for certain crops for the war effort. If farmers had not have met these demands then perhaps America would not have succeeded in her independence from England when she did.

During the Antebellum period, cotton was a major cash crop and valuable source of fiber but again slaves were utilized to keep the production active and level with demand. What did this bare on the life for slaves? The people captured for the slave trade were treated like cattle, graded for price based on their ‘quality’ and ability. A man in his prime working age was described as “one hand’ and could fetch $1800 while a woman aged 18-25 were described as “half hand” and were usually not expected to be AS productive ad their male peers – not that it was a pleasant or easy way to live. The laborers were able to grow a garden for themselves in their own time and were provided basic shelter but they were usually at the mercy of the Overseer (like a foreman) for rations of bacon, cornmeal, and sometimes sweet potato and molasses. Not only did the Overseer control rations but they also were responsible for setting targets for production that were then enforced by a Driver (who often times was a high ranking slave who earned special privileges for keeping his subordinates in line and meeting quota).

The Civil War brought about some relaxation of the slave trade when there was much turmoil to do with the use of slaves. In short, the north mostly opposed and the south mostly approved and it was one of many factors fueling the Civil War. One thing that cannot be denied is the fact that slavery did allow agriculture in the south to expand rapidly, it developed a biracial society, and of course it brought profit to the southerners states for it meant southern could manage larger areas of land and thus produce more crops.

The subject of supply and demand and controversial labor sources did not end in history for even today America is largely reliant on laborers from other countries. The migrant worker, guest worker, or illegal alien. However we describe 90% of Americas farm laborers (10% or less being citizens) for the most part they have low wages and often live in poor rural communities. They are lured to America with the view of adventure and earning money for their families or escaping turmoil in their own country and then they end up working long hard days, migrating to work the harvests, and living in what in America is considered to be poor and squalor conditions.

In an attempt to control illegal immigration whilst also improving conditions for laborers the Immigration Reform and Control Act was instilled in 1986. Since then however, there was an influx of illegal migrant workers and their living conditions and workers rights declined. The argument being that Americans simply do not want to work the hard, long hours at the low wages payed that illegal workers are willing to do and that without the cheap labor, many farms would not manage to keep up with production.

A new bill is being evaluated that would close borders and reduce the flow of migrant workers to America whilst actions being applied to inspect and regulate farms and their employees. The great concern for farmers is that provisions will not be made to compensate the inability to use cheap illegal labor. Many big farmers want to remain legal and in doing so lose millions by doing so.

Whatever ones personal views on immigration and border control may be, it is hard to deny the reliance America has on cheap farm labor and the cultural reality that most Americans will not work the same hours of physical labor for the money that farmers are affording to pay. In brief, farmers generally make a small cut of what we pay a supermarket for an item and so they need cheap labor in order to keep the farm running. It is a cycle of government, stocks, and mega stores controlling the value of food and the amount that a farmer receives for it. By no means should we look bad on farmers for employing illegal aliens, they are doing what they have to do to bring in the crops and make money. It is neither good nor bad to use migrant workers, it just ‘is’.

The problem for many people with using migrant workers is that for the ethically concerned, the living and working conditions for the laborers are shocking to most of us who have never broke a sweat outside and who have a reliable home to return to. Migrant workers must follow the harvest and oftentimes their children miss school and so are bound to follow in their parents footsteps and be farm laborers also. I think the stem of the problem is that America has lost focus on what is important. We want cheap food but most of us do not question WHY the food is cheap. Most of us do not appreciate how little of our grocery receipt actually pays the farmer and then his laborer budget and how much goes to the government, investors, and big supermarkets. There needs to be a push for lower distributor profit in favor of higher farmer profit. This will lead to better working conditions and wages for laborers and may even lure American citizens to take up farm labor jobs. This would then keep money in America. Another concept a lot of us have lost touch with is the cost of food and the acceptance that food production is hard work and deserves more benefit than the hardest workers behind our food get. Too many of us are happy to pay $5 on a box of sugary corn cereal (sugar and corn are cheap and the end product is highly inflated) but yet we question the value to our health the cost of a $5 bag of organic, fair trade apples. The last couple of generations have been brainwashed into believing we need a diet heavy in cereal and corn crops, everything is laced with corn syrup and byproducts. We have lost touch with real food and its value. We happily drop money on music downloads and fast food but do not question why fast food is often cheaper on our pockets than good, healthful food. This plague of skewed thinking that is mostly by no means the fault of the average citizen need to change so that we value real food again, fight for farmers to be payed a higher percentage of the market value, and then and only then will conditions for farm laborers improve. The more that we vote with our dollar at farmers markets, the more farmers will sell directly to customers and this will trickle more cash into the system without growing the middle man that is really only the face of our food.

As a Permaculture and fair trade enthusiast and budding small permaculture farmer I am passionate on the subject of access to organic food for all and the ethics behind our food production. It is my hope that in my lifetime I see and be part of a change in how we as a nation think about and prioritize our food purchases in order to create  shift in the availability of whole food and the economics of agriculture. I realize that this process may be slow but I am hopeful. If we all chose one item that supports the ethical employment of laborers and the restoration and preservation of our lands then eventually we will be able to feed everyone in the nation as well as doing so in a sustainable and ethically just way.

 

 

“Me time” – A Homesteaders Day Out.

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This past weekend my husband and our boys went camping and I had a couple days to myself.

Yes, Mums, I HAD TIME TO MYSELF and you all know what heaven that is!

So what did I do with my time? Well Friday evening my friend came over and we ate pizza, watch a movie, and ate candy. Lots of it actually. Then Saturday morning I had a relatively late start at 8am! I checked that the homestead was in order and that nothing needed water or had any pest issues. I visited friends at our local farmers market and  then I drove about 70 miles to the next town and visited the farmers market there.

It was so nice to browse what people had for sale: greens, tomatoes, agua fresca, bread, beef, woodwork….so much to see. The market is in a down-town area and along the strip is a used bookstore that is heaven for book nerds like me. I managed to find some great deals on used farming/homesteading books and I will review a few of them at a later date.

After the book store I headed to the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Museum http://www.nmfarmandranchmuseum.org/  Now I have been there a few times but have always had the children with me and it ishard to really enjoy and read the exhibits with small children (can I get a what whaaaat). But this day! I was able to READ what I wanted and linger as long as I wanted.

This exhibit showed the many ways of using plants and minerals to dye wool, cotton, and other fabrics. It is amazing at what can be used to stain things, my favorites were Indigo and Black Walnut. I have used beets to stain home-made lip balm but I was amazed at the diversity of color that you can make from plant or mineral based sources.

The Mercantile is probably my favorite exhibit and is basically how I am styling our kitchen. I love to see canned goods and useful gadgets. This example of an old mercantile is just so wholesome, I don’t know what it is but I just love it.

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No farm museum would be without old equipment. I really like the horse drawn stuff but the row of John Deere is cool! The green and yellow is just so iconic.

The covered wagon, the mascot of the West. And an old stove…who wouldn’t want that wood stove? Sure propane or electric is easier but I love to cook with real fire. One day I want one!

I bought these plants form the greenhouse where proceeds support an education program. They have great prices and its worth a visit for the greenhouse alone.

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Lastly, no homestead would be without a dinner bell. I bought this from the blacksmith that does demonstrations and sells hand made iron work.

It was so nice to have a day to browse at my leisure and support a local greenhouse and a local blacksmith. If you are even in the area you should check it out!

Look Around You…Making Use of What you have.

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The Colonials, Pioneers, people living in the Depression era and then WW2 all learned to be resourceful. The colonials arrived at Plymouth rock with whatever they packed on the ship…and those were finite resources. They had to look around and see what they could use to survive.

The pioneers moving west also had to be inventive on the trail to make repairs, supplement their pantry supplies, and treat illness. Folks living through the Depression era were struck with low wage or no wage in conjunction with high prices or poor supply. They had to save and reuse, re purpose, forage, and make meals out of very little.

*We will explore frugal meal options in a future post and youtube videos*

The same again with families during WW2 when rations limited the amount of food that could be purchased and oftentimes the supply could not even match the ration books of many families in many towns.

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School Children during the Depression Era.

[pinterest.com]

Right now, at time of writing, there are many Americans who are malnourished in the face of an affluent country. Malnourished, yet they live in a country that wastes millions of tonnes of food annually and when an increasing number of people are obese.

For those people who always have the financial stability to just drive to the store and buy more food if they run out, the thought of having very little to eat might seem unlikely….and that is the wrong way to think entirely. 

We should not take for granted that the supermarket will always be open and stocked, we cannot take for granted that there will be mechanics, electricians, doctors, hardware stores, access to purchased fuel. We should learn to make use of what we have more in order to humble ourselves, to waste less, and to give ourselves a little bit of security knowing that we have acquired skills and knowledge that we might not have otherwise.

Lets look at the prickly pear cactus at the top of the post, the Native Americans knew how valuable this plant was and we can make use of it too. It grows wild all over the southwest and is easy to keep in other climates [check with your local extension office if you can grow them where you live]. The prickly pear fruit can be used to make a drink, syrup, jelly. The young cactus pads can be skinned and eaten like a cucumber and even pickled too. The larger spines can be used as sewing needles. Neat huh?

What grows wild near you (away from traffic and chemicals) that you can utilize?

What can you grow in your garden that can feed you and give other purpose too?

We have wild creosote and mesquite bushes…the creosote attracts bees, when pruned it provides mulch material, and most importantly it holds the soil structure and prevents erosion.  The Mesquite makes bean like pods that can be ground for flour, they provide shade and habitat for beneficial insects, and when pruning the dead wood you have a great wood for smoking meats.

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A small handful of Creosote and Mesquite.

It’s not just wild things that we can make use of (with good reference books of course!) but what man-made or man-left things can you re-use?

When we arrived on our homestead, there were some things left behind in the barn, a shed, and in a small salvage pile. In the rafters of the barn we have a bunch of scrap wood, siding, pipes, iron rods, a few tools. The shed we have pvc piping, old milk pails, rebar,  and the shed is also the perfect size to renovate into our hen house. In the salvage pile we have cattle fencing, fence posts, wood boards, and even sign posts!

Luckily the materials left behind are all decent and useful to us…I know sometimes people move to a home and find actual junk that they wont use…or things they see as junk instead of a resource. I have already used some posts and cattle wire for my compost coral, wood boards for a couple raised beds, and I plan to use a piece of particle board to make a barn quilt *more on that later!*

Above is the giant mass of bamboo growing inside our “back yard”area. A problem if let to get too out of hand but what a great resource! I am using some as a filler in the bottom of raised beds and also permaculture beds, some I will use to make edging for our garden flower borders, some will be used as a flooring and interest for our chickens to scratch through (and after they have scratched it up it will go to compost) and the leaves I have been using as a mulch along with bush trimmings. Not to mention I doubt I’ll need to buy bamboo canes for climbing plants ever again!

By saving some food cans, I have been able to use some to grow sweet potato slips in and some as seed starting pots. I punched holes in the bottom for drainage and at planting time I will remove the bottom and plant the seedling WITH the can around it. This wards off pests that attack tomato and pepper stems. Eventually the can will rust and I will carefully dispose of it at the recycle center.

Saved food jars that are not of suitable size for home caning lids, can be used to store dried foods in having kept the screw caps but here I am using them to propagate celery.

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Lastly for now, these railroad sleepers were left behind and I used them to make a small bed that is for the boys to experiment with. We filled it with native soil and steer manure compost. They got to chose and buy seeds and they can grow and learn with this bed so that I can manage our main food and market beds. Presently they have basil plants, mint, thyme, radish, lemon cucumber (that will trail out the right corner), a baby watermelon (trail out left corer), sunflower along the back, marigold along the sides, and ruby chard in the middle.

Its great for kids to learn for themselves. Experiment and learn what works and think about solutions and plan based on prior knowledge. Example, knowing that the sunflowers grow tall, we discussed the best place would be the back edge with west sun behind them so as to offer some partial shade for the chard and radish in the middle and apex.

So that’s me finished for now, just a few ideas of how to look around you and be inventive. Re-use things as much as you can and think outside the box.

Your giant bamboo monster needs thinning? Do so mindfully and make use of it in several ways. Another cute idea I will be making is solitary bee nests and I will have some of those for sale.

Did you purchase celery and are still waiting to be able to plant your own seeds out? Propagate…in a later blog post I will show you everything I am propagating from bought fruit and vegetables.

Also, I will show you how to make flower border edging with said bamboo monster and of course! A barn quilt. Excited for that!

Thanks for reading if you got this far and sorry for delay since the last post. Been super busy over here but I have lots to catch you up on. I hope you enjoyed today’s post and look forward to any comments or thoughts below.

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The Quiet After Monsoon Rains

 

One Month In – Busy as Bees

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Our Homestead.

WE MOVED IN! And without further delay I am back blogging.

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I had taken lots of videos of our first day, first projects, and tutorials for the YouTube channel and they were all lost. Yes. Lost.

How? Oh, well I was relying on OneDrive to upload my photos (it did that) and videos (it did not do that) and so then I manually shared them to OneDrive – or so I thought. I deleted them off my phone to make room for an impromptu video. I go to edit and upload videos. Gone. So if anyone knows how to recover videos from either my phone or from some mystery place in OneDrive that would be great!

Whilst on one of the truck runs we spied another truck pulling duty moving house…I guess he got moved really quick with it all stacked like that! How NOT to haul your stuff! Or perhaps one mattress and a couple of boxes at a time was a bit cautious of us?

The second day in our house and I was busy putting things away when the doorbell rang. It was some of our neighbors across the trail bringing fresh scones and jam! They were very nice and offered any help we might need. As one friend put it “people just don’t do that anymore!”

If that wasn’t hospitable enough of the country neighborhood, that same weekend we were invited to go eat with a couple of the other neighbors who were already getting together for food and drinks. They invited us, complete strangers, into their home for food and we found both of those families are really nice too. Win.

 

We have been super busy this first month. Moving all of our stuff from storage with our truck (9 trips!). Not that we have an insane amount of things but for example, one bed was one trip. Putting things away, cleaning, assembling new furniture we had done without for quite a while, oh and you know….PLANTING TREES!

We ordered trees from Stark Bros and our seeds from Annie’s Heirloom Seeds. We also got a few trees from a nursery about 100 miles away from us.

We are now the proud parents of: 2 Mulberry, 2 Pomegranate, 1 Granny Smith, 1 Fuji, a 4in1 heritage apple tree [Golden Russet, Roxbury Russet, Snow (Fameuse), and Summer Rambo] , 1 Jujube, Desert Gold Peach, 1 Nectarine, and 1 olive. 

Here are the trees from Stark Bros soaking before being planted and in the bucket are the cane fruits. 3 raspberry, red and green gooseberry, and 3 muscadine grape varieties. The trees and perennials from Stark Bros came bare root with the exception of the olive which came in a small pot. Below you can see from left, the 3 grape canes along the south facing fence to our back yard area, the red gooseberry is already leafing out, and the east facing fence with berry row that wraps around to the north side.

I also ordered 75 strawberry plants, rhubarb, horse radish…..I can’t wait for those to start growing!

I have also broken ground for our vegetables and I post more on those later. For the most part I am trying to companion plant and intercrop. So with the grapes I have bush beans, in front of the berry canes will be small beds and stepping stones with more bush beans, kale, marigolds, and some herbs. Around our trees this year will be pumpkin and watermelon and these should offer shade to the ground and trap moisture. Also to trap moisture the trees have a thick mulch of chipped vegetation from a local source.

The more plants you have mixed together, the less of a problem pest and disease are and you make the most use of the land you have – especially when some crops mature and are harvested at intervals and at slightly different times to the companion crops.

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Of course, companion and intercropping needs to be planned out. As does spacing for the purpose of saving heirloom seeds. This is where our survey map, graph paper, and an eraser come in handy! More later on the mapped areas for this year!

There are more things to write about but I will address those in subsequent posts – there is a lot of catching up to do! You can expect to see the first two rows of many tomatoes we are testing this year. 2016 is the year or the heirloom tomato! We are testing 32 varieties to see which ones we like the most to continue to grow.

Furthermore: seed starting, season planning, soil amendments, composting, local resources, wild foods, and much more.

You can also follow along at :

https://www.facebook.com/oldsoulhomestead/

https://www.youtube.com/user/likewatyasee89

Until next time, thanks for reading!

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Always on hand to “help” and patrol!

 

A new baby, waiting to close, and itching to garden.

 

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So a very busy past few weeks have passed…house paperwork, packing, hauling, and cleaning. Thank goodness for pick -up trucks and coffee!

We packed  most of our things a few weeks before move out day and began hauling it to a storage locker and then the weekend of the 2nd April we began moving the last of our furniture and appliances -phew! Heavy work! You don’t get these muscles at the gym!

Tuesday this week was our move-out inspection at our rented home and so over the weekend we worked on emptying the last of our things, cleaning the house, tidying the yard, and moving into our camper – again. Although THIS time it is only for a little more than a week. (More on our 13 months as full-timers in the camper in another post!)

Oh, how could I forget? A week before move-out day my husband found us a second dog…yep, and she is a puppy too.

Crazy some might say, to get a puppy a week before moving out, a week before spending 10 or so days in a camper waiting for house keys…but she has been a great addition to our family and from being a 100% outdoor LGD bred puppy, she has had a whole list of firsts in this one week: first time in a truck, in a house, in a camper, learning to play with busy toys, walks…and she has adapted very quickly.

Moose is in love and she is excellent and gentle with the children.

 

She still has about a year or so to finish growing and is already a big girl – but so gentle and intelligent and will make a great homestead dog along with Moose. She was already named Gypsum or “Gyp” for short. As many of you may already recognize, she is a Great Pyrenees with an ounce of Anatolian Shepherd (about 1/8th).

As for the homestead, this past couple weeks we have been waiting for more paperwork to come through (septic, invoices for inspections, survey…it’s hard being an adult!) and although the wait is coming to a close it seems to be taking forever because as the days pass on the New Mexico wind season is in full effect and all I can think about is soon it will be summer and I am itching to garden!

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Antsy to garden for food – and of course fresh cut flowers. 

We will have to break ground but I will be utilizing permaculture and xeriscape in our food and flower garden in order to work with the desert land. Our homestead will be “organic” – or should I say NATURAL – there will be no need for chemicals or bought amendments as I will be using manure, local mulch materials, and compost from our land and animals. Of course, there will be blog posts and YouTube videos about all of that later on!

For now I am keeping on reading and making tentative plans for micro-climates around the property and meanwhile my husband is planning on what kind of truck-port he wants and where it might go..and meanwhile that he is doing that I am planning how to grow food up the siding so it isn’t just an ugly sun shade for the vehicles! Oh I have summer grapes, kiwi, and cucumbers in mind and then in fall/spring I think snap peas would pretty that thing up a great deal along with floral climbers for the hummingbirds and bees.

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Hide ugly things with food! This case – cucumbers.

So lets get a discussion going…whether it be in mid-winter when not much is going on in the garden or you are in the middle of moving, what do YOU do to help the craving to get your hands dirty?

Right now I am reading and re-reading my homestead related magazines and reading library books like I should have them intravenous. I am out of online school until summer so it is a real pleasure to read other than for school…but now all my courses are focused to my major and it won’t be for tedious filler courses so that itself is exciting.

In another post I will share my long and changing college journey and how I have finally let myself complete a major in something I 100% love, not just something that I can do, not something that others will necessarily approve of, not just because it will be well payed, but because it is something I really want to do and it just so happens that it will fit in around our family goals and homesteading ideal. I will let you know what that is LATER and how my husband is joining me by changing his major to the same field! #parentsinschool #couplessharetextbooks (!)

 

 

 

Sauerkraut – Thrifty, healthy, and how Daniel eats his greens.

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Sauerkraut I think is one of those things that you either love or hate…like so many things in life. We happen to love it but were beginning to be disappointed with the shelf stable jars and in no way were we interested in purchasing the live krauts that can be found in health food stores for a pretty penny. Cha-ching I think not!

I tried making sauerkraut in a large glass crock once before and all seemed to be going well until mold developed and it smelled like death and was infested by fruit flies. I almost got turned off of fermenting right then and there. I had chopped 20lbs of cabbage, packed it, added enough brine, I thought I had a good seal on that glass crock but alas, nope.

THEN I discovered that it is possible to make small batches of raw, LIVE sauerkraut and so that is how I have made it since the zombie sauerkraut fiasco and until I get a suitable fermentation crock

Recently one of the local supermarkets had cabbage for 14c a pound so I bought two heads and here is how you make small batch sauerkraut for the refrigerator OR if you have a cold storage pantry/cellar.

(You can also actually can the jars but this then kills the beneficial probiotics so I almost would prefer to store my whole cabbages in a cellar or underground pantry and then make a few jars fresh as needed).

  1. Gather these things:  One (about 1lb) cabbage, canning salt, canning jars and lids, 1tbs, sharp knife, chopping block. That’s it. Wait, I lied, a canning funnel helps too.
  2. WP_20160327_016Thoroughly wash the outside of the cabbage to avoid transferring bad bacteria from grubby people touching it when you cut with the knife.
  3.  Quarter, core, and slice to 1/4 inch thick to make ribbons of cabbage.

    4. One head of cabbage filled two bowls. Sprinkle 1.5tbs of the canning salt between the cabbage and gently toss and massage to get the salt worked through the layers. WP_20160327_025

5. Let the cabbage sit at room temperature. The cabbage will begin to sink down in the bowl, it will look shiny from the moisture drawing out, and water will pool in the bottom. The salt is drawing water out and this is the sauerkraut brine. This takes maybe one hour.WP_20160327_027

 

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See the water pooling?

6. Begin packing the cabbage into the jars once a good amount of water has leached out, about 1.5 hours. Use a spoon to pack those cabbage strands tightly into the jar. The brine will begin to rise to the surface of the cabbage block.

7. I ended up needing one quart, and one pint jar. You could use 3 pint jars. If there is not sufficient brine risen to the top to COVER the cabbage after packing the cabbage confetti in the jar, make up a brine of 4 cups water to 1.5 tbs salt to top it off a little. You can then use a fermentation weight on top of the cabbage to weigh it down OR use a reserved piece of core. You will throw this out before storing and eating your sauerkraut. WP_20160327_046

8. Put the lids on and let sit in a dark cupboard for about a week or two until the desired tang has been developed. You can burp the jars every other day or so to prevent the fermentation gasses from building up and exploding Eu De Cabbage everywhere.

When the sauerkraut is fermented to your liking, store in the fridge to slow the fermentation process and eat!

 

There you have it…3 pints of sauerkraut for about $0.15.

I had about 1lbs of cabbage, and 1.5 tbs canning salt. The jars I always have on hand for canning and don’t factor those costs. I consider my jars the same as having plates.

But you can reuse a store bought pickle jar.

P.S This is how our son who does not like the texture of fresh cabbage will actually gobble up cabbage!

Sad Strawberries – When you are lured by a good deal but they are just plain crap.

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Look at those pasty, bitter, sadberries disguised as early summer Strawberries…pfft.

We have all done it and if you are like me you haven’t learned your lesson either. You walk into your grocery store and see swathes of bright red and fragrant strawberries. You pick up box after box inspecting the carton for any that look moldy, soft, gooey, or pale.

They all look pretty good, they smell good…and they are priced at such a good deal it must be an early season glut.

WRONG, they are priced so cheaply because they are pathetic excuses for strawberries and they taste bitter and terrible.

There, I said it. They taste BAD.

For me, this happened 2 days ago. $0.99 for a pound of seemingly good berries. So I bought – TWO boxes, yum yum…hah, wishful thinking. As soon as I cored the first one, they were basically all white inside, not the rosy rich red of a REAL strawberry.

They were hard. Grainy. Flavorless, and yet still managing to be very astringent.

Obviously the answer to sadberry syndrome is to grow your own since there is NOTHING in this world like home-grown, picked when actually ripe, pesticide free strawberries. But we are in the middle of moving house and I have none of my own growing.

But what do you do if you cannot grow or have been lured into buying a crap box of sadberries?

THIS is what you do…

A.) Make a jam and concentrate those traitors down with some sugar.

OR

B.) Macerate them until they are bearable as BELOW:

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  1. Core and quarter the sadberries.
  2. Sprinkle with 1/4tsp black pepper (yes, I’ll get there…)
  3. Toss in 2tbs of Balsamic vinegar (I use Raspberry Balsamic).

The black pepper enhances any trace of sugar actually present in the fruits and the balsamic does the same while also drawing a little water out and so concentrates the sugar that might be lurking in the fruit. SIMPLE. You could of course douse them in actual sugar or honey but this is a little better for you and you can save the honey for other treats.

There, you can turn disappointing, aggravatingly sly, tasteless sadberries into something tolerable so that you don’t waste them.

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Your next step, is figure out how you can grow your own strawberries. I think almost anyone can grow them at home since they do very well in containers as well as wild ground.

They are also initially cheap to start a patch or series of containers.

Here are the ones that I am ordering for our new house http://www.starkbros.com/products/berry-plants/strawberry-plants/all-summer-long-strawberry-plant-collection I have grown all 3 varieties at some point of another and they do well even in our dry high desert in zone 8. This collection comes with Honeye Strawberry June bearer, Ozark Beauty ever bearer, and Sparkle June bearer. These plants will give you a steady supply between them over the strawberry season…and they are $18.16 for 75 plants so I think that is an amazing deal.

Keep watch in the coming months for when I not only order my strawberry plants but also order other  start up seeds, trees, canes, and roots for various fruits and vegetables for our homestead. I will link up with my YouTube with videos of planting and maintenance…and later harvest and storage – and yes, even cooking.

So that is my tip for improving store bought strawberries that are just a bit, nay – a lot – crap and a source for a great price on berry plants. Don’t need 75? get a few friends together and split the cost for a SWEET DEAL.

 

**My blog is not yet monetized nor do I benefit from posting links to items that I buy/prefer/or plan to buy. The items featured on my blog are what I genuinely see value in**

Taking the Leap…House Hunting!

As a military family, we have been too scared to try to buy a house for fear of being relocated. So, we made do with rented homes…and for 13 months, our travel trailer!

Here are some pictures from the gardens I have grown in the two homes we have rented while at our current duty station.

FIVE YEARS have passed at this duty station and a re-enlistment. Due to my husbands job, there are two other bases that he could get sent to…one is a 4 hour drive away and the other about 8 hours.

So yes, we took a huge leap and decided to buy a property to call our own. Who knows how long we will be here wasting money on rented homes and so we did it.

It is scary.

We spent a few weeks hunting and found a home and if all goes to plan it will be ours mid April

**so good vibes will be appreciated!**

Now, what if he gets orders? THAT is a very scary and dreaded concept now we actually decided to start being adults and buy a home. If he gets the base 4 hours away, he would live there in our camper for the work week (remember, we lived in it before) since he would only be ‘home’ to eat, sleep, and bath. He is quite content with that. Since we do not see much of each other during the work week, he would come home for the weekends so that we would not be forced to SELL or RENT the house out. He can also pick up home cooked meals on the weekends to freeze, home canned items, and garden food.

But HOPEFULLY that won’t happen…and especially hopefully he won’t get the base 8 hours away because we would likely have to rent or sell – lets just not go there ok?

Our PLAN is to make as many extra PRINCIPAL payments we can each year and the big hope is to pay off the mortgage quickly so we 100% own it and will always have that.

BESIDES – do you know how much interest we could avoid by living modestly now instead of stretching a mortgage over 30 years? It was over $70,000 in interest lost compared with paying it over 8-9 years.

Of course this only works if you chose a home below your top end budget so you aren’t extending yourself. But for US, a huge priority was being mortgage free as quickly as possible so we have the FREEDOM to have a home that 100% is ours, we can sell it and own all the equity, or we can rent and bank on it if we decide to move elsewhere.

It will be a thrifty and spend conscious time but we will have much more security  later on and choices if we own our home. It is lucky we enjoy “simple” pleasures like camping, hiking [shed hunting, scouting, foraging], hunting, fishing….because we won’t miss more spendy activities in favor of paying the mortgage down.

Plans aside though, it is still scary. 

So stay following us on Old Soul Homestead because I will be not only sharing our homestead journey and the tasks and skills associated but I will ALSO be sharing ways to be thrifty. Thrift and Homesteading go hand in hand really, especially when you are first starting out.

          www.thewarinmykitchen.com                          boomergirlsguide.blogspot.com

After closing day, I will share what we were looking for in a homestead, roadblocks that needed investigating, and resources that are available to you as a Homestead hunter.

Do you have a house hunting story to share? Comment below.

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