Homestead News, Volume 4

It seems lately our homestead has been a flurry of activity. I will see if I can give you a glimpse of our life on the homestead.

We told you about the new windows we had installed almost two weeks ago. Well, we have made a little progress on trimming them out, but they aren’t finished yet. Frank had a great idea of making the top board longer and angled. I think they look great. But since we aren’t finished with that project, the porches are still in disarray. It really doesn’t bother me much, life goes on with our daily routines even if things aren’t in their customary places.

You may be wondering why two weeks later, the windows still aren’t trimmed. Well, a day or so after the windows were installed, we began a large project on the barn, which is only about half complete at this stage. This project involves building lean-to shed roofs on the east and west sides of the barn, the full length of the building. After much planning and consulting with the two man crew we have hired to do the building, then acquiring the needed supplies, this project got under way.

The day after the barn supplies arrived the local electric cooperative came and set a new pole for us. We have long wanted power to the barn, but it is quite expensive. Well, this is the year. The pole is about 120 feet from the barn so we will still need to run the wire underground to connect there.

We expected to have a meter and power once the pole was set, but then we discovered that we needed to install a breaker box on the pole and connect it to the meter box. Enter Frank and his many abilities to fix and build things. While the work crew began their tasks using a generator, Frank worked on installing the breaker box and connections. In a couple of days, the cooperative was back out with the meter and we were in business. Then Frank got busy installing an outlet on the pole with a 20 amp fuse, so the guys could have power via heavy duty extension cords. This provided stronger, more consistent power for their tools which was great. It is truly a blessing to have a husband that can do or fix just about anything.

As we began the barn project one of the first things that we had to do was dismantle the pig pen. We had already allowed the pigs out into the larger pen that contained their small, initial pen. But the first day of construction, the pens were dismantled and the pigs were allowed out into their two acre pasture for the first time. Needless to say it was a little confusing to them. That was the day I became a pig herder, spending a lot of time with them showing them around the pasture.

Because of the floor leveling and window installation and rain, we hadn’t had the chance to brush hog the pigs entire pasture, so Frank made some wide trails for them to use. They lead to the one, lone tree in that pasture, down to the pond and provide three ‘lanes’ to the barn area. At first, I coaxed the pigs to the tree with food and water. I knew they needed shade, water and mud. So that day and for several days after, I carried many a bucket of water to the tree. After about two days, the pigs would go to the pond on their own, enjoying the mud for a wallow and whatever they found that was tasty at the pond’s edge. Now they comfortably wander around on their own and we don’t have the concern of lack of water or wallow to keep them cool.


So, how are the pigs? They are doing great. I have to say, I am really enjoying them. We can pet them and scratch their backs almost any time we go into the pasture. We even scratch their heads while they are anxiously awaiting the contents of the feed bucket in our hands. Every so often one will bump the backs of our legs when we are walking to the feed pan. This is when I remind them not to bite me. But 

really, I don’t think they would, it’s just a ‘Hey! Feed me!” kind of bump. They are really funny, and I’m getting used to their grunting and squealing sounds. We are planning a trip later this week to bring home another gilt. She will be much smaller than these guys we have now, but I hope she will work out well.

The pig side of the barn should be complete tomorrow, if we’re not rained out. Then we will reconstruct a pen and place their house under the shed roof. This will provide more shade and a place to pen them if need be. But for now, they have free range of their pasture. I will give you a more specific pig update in a few weeks.

The west side of the barn is next on the barn project docket. It includes our rain catchment system which we are very excited about. I will do an in-depth article with the whys and hows of that project as we get closer to completion.

Our cheese stash continues to slowly grow. We now have 24 wheels of cheddar aging. Well, make that 23. I have been wanting to see how it was doing for a while, so I have opened the first wheel. It is drier than I like, which means I pressed it too hard. It also has a bunch of small holes in it, which it is not supposed to have. Frank read an article recently about why swiss cheese has holes and it was because of the bacteria on hay dust that got into the milk before the cheese was made. This was back in the days before milking machines prevented any air contact with the milk. This made me wonder if something similar caused the holes in our cheddar. It doesn’t appear to affect the taste. This wheel has a very, very mild cheddar flavor since it was only allowed to age for two months. It’s good, though, and we are enjoying it.

We have begun to eat yellow squash from the garden. There is nothing like that first squash of the season. I hope to begin canning some before long.

We have also discovered that we like a dish of turnip greens, collards and beet greens. Not only is it tasty, but very nutritious. Since the turnip patch is almost overrun with crab grass, we plan to harvest the patch and see if there is enough to blanch and freeze the greens. We’ve already done this once and they taste just fine. Not quite as good as fresh, but most things aren’t. Now I need to learn to can them. That will come with the fall crop.

This is the first time we have grown collards and we are very pleased with it’s performance here. The chickens, pigs, goats and humans all like them. They appear to be very hardy and productive. I will be curious to see how they perform in our hot summer weather. The patch is very small, and I pick from it each morning for the animals, but it continues to grow very well. I think I will plant another patch [which I did today] and see how it does this time of year. Just to learn a little more about the plant.

The wild and tame blackberries are ripening now, but the tame berries are not sweet at all. I don’t know if the extended rainy period we had in April and May caused this or not. I do know that these berries need sunshine to sweeten up, but we’ve had a couple of weeks of sunny weather lately. I was hoping that would make a difference in the flavor, but it has not. I ate a few ripe wild berries this afternoon and they were much sweeter, so I hope to pick some in the next few weeks to help decrease our dependence on store bought berries.

The baby chicks and their adoptive mom are still doing very well. Before long they will be moved to the pen next door to make room for the next batch of chicks that will be hatching. Our chicken house will be getting very full of little cheepers, but that also means that in a few months our freezer and canning jars will be filling up as well, and that is good.

The kids we put in the ‘boys’ pasture to wean continue to nurse through the fence at times. We had to do some rearranging when the barn project started, and for now the does are in a pasture adjacent to the weaning kids. It has cut down on our take of the milk, but that’s okay. It just means we only make cheese about one to two days a week, and with the building project and the garden needing attention, that has worked out rather well. We will be breeding two of the does in July for December babies. This is something we tried last summer, but it didn’t work out. Our plan is to breed two in July and the other four in November. This will provide us with milk through the winter and a larger supply in the spring for next year’s cheese supply. We’ll see how it works out this time.

The beneficial insect class I took taught me to identify a few more bees and a few more plants, but didn’t really cover insects specific to gardening. I learned some new information, but it hasn’t really affected my gardening techniques. I did learn that 90% of bees are loners that nest in the ground. I thought that was interesting. 

We continue to prepare for Frank’s survival radio class which will be starting in a few weeks. There has been quite a bit of interest from our small communities, which is exciting. The possibility of creating a communication network in our area is very important to us. It could make all the difference in the world should a natural or man made disaster, emergency or collapse occur. We will let you know how it goes.

Life on the homestead is good. Very good. Busier than usual with projects underway, new animals, a different gardening season this year, and just normal daily chores and routines that come with living a life of producing all we can for ourselves. I know some of you have been wondering if we have made soap. Not yet. We have everything we need, and have talked about it a number of times, but it hasn’t happened yet. One day we will surprise you, and us, with that post. It is almost time to make another batch of lotion. I am really glad we make our own now. It’s quick, easy and not full of chemicals. 

We still have our aches and pains, and our bodies won’t keep up with our minds anymore, but with the exclusion of many chemicals and processed foods, we are healthier than we have been in a long time, maybe ever. That will be important in the coming days, weeks and months. Keep your head up and pay attention. More and more people are saying there is something out there, something in the wind that is unsettling, dark and ominous. Be prepared in all things, but especially in your heart and mind, for without them all of the ‘stuff’ you have will come to naught.

Until next time – Fern

16 thoughts on “Homestead News, Volume 4

  1. Hi, Brenda. We don't really know why that happens either, but it has happened to us before, too. With time, the plants started producing full size, mature squash. I would give it a little more time and see if it works. Good luck.Frank

  2. Hello, Leigh. Actually, the pigs are turning out to be a lot of fun. They're getting a little too fat a little to quick, though. We're going to have to cut them back. So, no more old pasta. I hope the windows do work out. Since they don't develop condensation between the panes, it's a whole lot easier to see out. It is nice to have a good cheese stash. I just wish Fern would get a different color wax next time. Red is so boring. We enjoy your blog. Thanks for the comment.Frank

  3. So many exciting things going on! I am growing yellow crook neck squash and most of them are shriveling after they are half way grown. The plant is continuing to grow new squash and the leave are healthy so I don't know why they are shriveling. We have only gotten one to eat so far. I have seen no pests so maybe it is lacking something in nutrients. Any thoughts? We are only growing one plant in a wine barrel. Thanks for all your inspiration.

  4. Fern, everything looks so good! And your cheese stash! Good job on that. I haven't been getting the milk I'd hoped for (so far, because of the quads) but I'm working on mozzarella making now. Loved hearing about the pigs. :)You will be so glad for those new windows. Our energy efficient ones have made a huge difference in keeping the house warmer in winter and cooler in summer (not that it's very cool, but they still help!)

  5. You made me laugh, Fiona, since today I am not doing much of anything. Well, we weren't doing much of anything until we decided to clean out some of the wet barnyard and put down fresh hay in the barn so the does and dog would have somewhere dry to lay during the heavy rain we are expecting over the next few days. We will need to add a good layer of hay to the sheds in the boys' (billy, wethers and weaning babies) and pigs' sheds this evening when we do chores. We're in for some really wet days, probably through the weekend. Yes, lazy pastoral days. They are pure heaven. They really are. I would not trade this life for anything. It's what I was made for and I am blessed to be able to live here. Thank you for your comment. Take care.Fern

  6. Sandy, I love reading CQ's experiences, recipes and recommendations. I have missed her posts since they moved to Tennessee. She is on our blogroll.The pigs seem to be doing very well. We are trying to make sure and not feed them too much since they are looking a little fat. I know, everyone thinks pigs are supposed to be fat, but this breed doesn't do well if they get very fat. It causes reproductive and health issues. They are growing well and are more docile and content now that they are not in the pen. Be safe in the weather. I don't know if you will be getting any effects from the storm coming up through Texas, but we have major flood warnings here. We are right in the path of the storm and they are predicting 4 to 10 inches of rain or more. The flood waters have not receded here from the last heavy rains, so we will have to wait and see how it goes. It has been raining here on and off all day. Be safe and take care.Fern

  7. From looking at the plants we have, which are also planted close together, I would be surprised to find a large one like you describe. But I may just have to plant one off by itself to see how it does. I am always fascinated that you can take a tiny little seed, put it in the dirt, give it water and with the blessings of sunshine it turns into this big thing that gives you food to eat. It's such a miracle. And I get to see it happen year after year.Thank you for the information about canning the greens. That makes me even more excited to start our adventure of stocking the shelves with canned greens. I appreciate the information very much.Fern

  8. Marilyn, that is fascinating information about overwintering collards. I, like you, will have to plant some back in the herb bed so it won't get tilled in at the end of the season. Thank you for the tip, and for sharing with us here. Blessings.Fern

  9. Ilene, when we butcher, Frank usually does the killing and I do the dressing out. It doesn't bother me at all. I am appreciative of the food that the animal is providing us and always thank them. By the way, wild rabbit has little to no fat, so you could use them as a protein source, but you would need a fat source as well or you would starve. They are also known for being wormy in the summer around here so no one eats them then, only in the winter.I would love to be wrong in this instance, Ilene, but I just don't think so. Frank and I have always prayed about everything and made our decisions based on the feelings we get. The future just doesn't feel good, not at all. And the scary thing about it is that there are many, many other people that feel the same way. We discover more of them all the time. There is a saying Frank has known for years. I'd rather be a prepared fool than an unprepared one. The way things are going now, I think that it is a matter of survival. Take care.Fern

  10. Thanks for the loose leaf cabbage/collard recipes, Calidore. I planted more seeds yesterday and now we're supposed to have anywhere from 4 to 10 inches of rain over the next two days. Yuck! Too bad I can't package some up and send it to you. Take care.Fern

  11. These farm reports should be read in schools….or anywhere people have an incorrect idea of lazy pastoral and bucolic country living! What you two accomplish with your time is just awesome!

  12. Fern,Good morning, I have to say I enjoyed reading about all your new improvements at your place. Frank did a beautiful job on the trim work around your windows. Having a man who is extremely talented when it comes to carpentry, and electricity is the CAT's meow on a homestead. My husband loves working with both himself. One time he taught me how to change out an outside light on the wall just outside the back door my hands were shaking because I've always been afraid of working around electricity. I did succeed in turning off the power, wiring in a new light, turning on the power, and the light actually worked. Will I continue to work with electric, no…..I'll leave those projects for my husband to accomplish. Besides, they're plenty of other projects to keep us busy on the homestead.Last year, I planted Swiss chard, beets, and some collards. I've never canned greens before. I did some research on the web, and research on Blogger friends who have years of experience canning, and decided to follow Canned Quilters instructions from her blog Hickey Holler on canning greens. I'm not sure if you're familiar with her blog, she's an amazing woman with all kinds of experience. Here's the link to her post Enjoy canning your greens!!! Your pigs look as if they're really enjoying running loose on your pasture, it's something really new for them. Having your new lean to sheds will make a world of difference in cooling and storing things. I think your pigs will enjoy the shade!Have a wonderful weekend, and hopefully we won't get too much rain causing flooding again.Hugs to you and Frank,Sandy

  13. Love collards. I know I am planting them too close, but am short on room. I accidently dropped a single seed a few years ago, I let that plant grow and because it had all the room it needed it got 3.5 feet across! Leaves as big as dishpans. I have seen them grown in South Carolina, and appeared to be set out from seedlings. One thing about canning the greens…. they hold up really well on the shelf.. last for years without quality diminishing.

  14. Fern. Earlier this year I read the following comment from a reader over on the \”Ask Jackie\” blog. \”I read with interest your reply to the reader asking if broccoli leaves can be used like kale or collards and you affirmed that indeed they can be. Down here in the lower South I let my collard plants overwinter and they normally do quite nicely, but the time comes, especially when sitting in the garden for almost a year that they go to seed. What I noticed was that the flower stalks look remarkably like broccoli or broccoli rabe so I cooked some up as broccoli spears and were they ever good! In fact, they had a delightful taste and texture almost like asparagus and broccoli together. I continued to pick the spears as they appeared and got a harvest of about 3-4 weeks from them, for multiple pounds long before the spring-planted broccoli was ready. The spears grow faster and longer than broccoli spears and because of that fast growth were exceptionally tender. My next project is overwintered kale flower stalks!\”This is the first year I have grown collards and find that we really enjoy them. I will be leaving a row to go to seed. Sure hope I get these wonderful heads this reader mentions. Sure is worth the try.Love your posts and have learned SO much from you two. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I know it takes a lot of your time but so many of us have been encouraged to do just a little bit more than before. As you say, time is short. May God continue to bless you.

  15. Wow, that cheese looks wonderful! I wish we had the space to raise animals. We had chickens for awhile but it just didn't work out. Hubs was good about helping with the feeding and the water changing, and he'd close up the chicken house on nights when I, because of surgery or just plain ol' not feeling well, would've found it difficult to do. We couldn't keep the sparrows out of the chicken house and they were eating the feed. Our feed bill was higher than if we'd just bought eggs. Hubs doesn't like killing the chickens so we didn't even go into it for the meat. I s'pose we could survive on wild rabbit, if we ever had to, as long as one of us would get over our aversion to the killing and dressing out part. They're all over the place.I sure hope people are wrong and this will go the way of Y2K. But it's better to be as prepared as one can be, anyway.

  16. You have been busy. I do like Frank's way of trimming the windows. Very nice 🙂 I had to look up Mr Google to see what collards are too. Turns out they are what I call loose leaf cabbage. We eat them raw in coleslaw with grated carrot, finely sliced onions and mayonaise. In the winter I cook sliced bacon and onions until they are just starting to catch on the bottom of them pan, add some water to deglaze the pan then throw in sliced cabbage and cook until it's done. Fabulous. The barn additions are exciting – you will have so much more room when it's done.

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