Homestead News, Volume 6

The days have been so full, Frank’s Tuesday night radio class seems like more than a week ago. It is going very well, good attendance, with more questions coming up all the time. One of his students came by to discuss antennas and towers yesterday morning while I got started on an all day canning spree. We continue to be very encouraged by the interest folks from around our small area are expressing about being able to stay in touch with each other by radio should an emergency arise, short term or long term.

The day before yesterday I harvested all I could from the garden. The tomatoes are finally ripening and taste really good. We don’t have enough to can yet, but we will. The canning spree yesterday included 16 pints of yellow squash in the first canner. It filled up both layers in our canner with some left over that made it into another batch with one pint of green beans and two pints of cowpeas.

After I got that started, I worked over the plums that our friend Grace gave me. They are very sweet and a pretty, dark red. I canned five pints leaving plenty of room for water to make a nutritious juice to drink along with the fruit. 


Next came some minced garlic. I bought nine pounds of peeled garlic. I haven’t harvested ours yet, it’s out there, I just didn’t get to it. Patrice Lewis over at Rural Revolution has a tutorial on canning minced garlic and I wanted to give it a try. I have been using dried minced garlic for years, but wanted to switch to fresh. The problem is I never take the time to peel and chop garlic for our meals, dried was always easier. The house REALLY smelled like garlic last night, so much so that Frank wondered aloud whether people would shy away from us today because we smelled like garlic. Well, no one turned up their noses at us, but we didn’t ask how we smelled either. 

The garlic turned green on top when we added the boiling water to it, but when it came out of the canner it was brown, which concerns me. I had added a quarter teaspoon of citric acid powder to each jar. I read in my canning books that when you can onions they darken and get soft. I hope that is the case with this garlic. We had a little left over that is in the frig which we will use first before we open one of these jars. We’ll let you know how it tastes.

We’ve had another rainy spell with a little over three inches in the last few days, but it looks like we’re in for a hot dry spell for a while. The humidity and heat index have been pretty high and look to go even higher next week. We will have to be extra cautious when we’re working outside.

I’m having a time battling the squash bugs and haven’t spent enough time on my efforts lately. We have lost some plants and if I don’t get out there and fight them some more, we may lose them all. This is another instance of not enough hours in the day.

I have started my mulching project in the garden in between everything else like making another batch of cheddar cheese. We are eating the third wheel and it tastes great. I may have already told you that, I’m not sure. Anyway, the cheese is turning out well, even though there are still a few small holes in it from all the yeast floating around our kitchen. And speaking of yeast, the sauerkraut continues to ferment along over in it’s corner, only needing a little water added to the moat every so often. It’s also time to make bread again, which means I need to get the sourdough starter out of the frig and wake it up for a day or two to lessen the acidity that builds up during storage. 

You know what? I love my kitchen. Not so much the physical aspects or aesthetics of it, just the fact that we have a working, functional kitchen. I like to cook. I love having naturally occurring, healthy foods ‘perking’ away on my counters in the form of cheese, kefir, sauerkraut and sourdough. I like having another bushel basket over flowing with Cushaw squash sitting on the floor that I need to can again. I like fixing fresh food that grew from a tiny seed in the dirt outside my house, that I can pick and cook and serve to my husband. Kitchens are a central, integral part of a home and I like the fact that in this house, where you enter is in the kitchen. Our kitchen is the heart of our home and where most of our living takes place. It’s a busy, happy, productive place. Messy sometimes, since I don’t like to clean near as much as I like to cook, but in our kitchen you will find our ‘home’.


And speaking of the kitchen floor, a big section of it is now covered with eight half bushel boxes of peaches we picked up from a local orchard today. Yes, I talked myself out of buying five bushels and settled for four. The next few days will be filled with more canning, while fighting off a few squash bugs and spreading out more mulch.


The goats are doing well. Cricket has recovered from her worms and scours. She is still a little thin, but is already well on her way back to normal. We had scheduled the vet to come out this week to teach me how to administer the copper boluses, but Frank and I have been fighting sinus issues with all of the wet weather, so we have rescheduled the vet for next week. The day he was coming this week we both had bad headaches and another hours long rain storm would have had us all soaked in the process. I’m glad we rescheduled. I will take pictures and let you know what I learn sometime soon.

Now that Cricket is doing so much better, we have changed back to our original plan of breeding her and One Stripe this month. We backed up the date to July 15th instead of the 1st to give her more time to recuperate. With the hot, 95* to 97* temperatures that are forecast next week, I don’t know if the goats will breed or not. We have had them do so in the past, so we will just have to wait and see.


The greenhouse exterior is almost finished. We still need to settle on which doors we are going to use and figure out some final details on enclosing the roof line and corners. Then the door leading from the greenhouse into the house will be installed. There is currently a house window being covered by the greenhouse. That will be taken out and a door installed in it’s place, with steps leading down to the ground level. The gentleman that we hired to

help with the work is on vacation for a few weeks, and in the meantime, Frank and I will bring our 55 gallon water barrels down from the barn and begin placing them inside. They will be the ‘workbench legs’ we will be using. We will explain more about that once we work out the details of how everything will be set up.

Our adoptive momma hen decided it was time to go back to the flock. One evening when we were feeding and watering she decided to go out into the big pen and visit the rooster, then she walked right back in with ‘her’ babies. The next day she laid an egg in the corner of their pen. That evening when she went out to visit the rooster and the flock she didn’t go back, so now the teenage chicks are on their own again. The young roosters are starting to square off to see who is boss, so it won’t be long before we start butchering them. There are some interesting color patterns developing and we are starting to think about which ones we may keep to replace the current rooster. Once these new young hens are old enough to lay, we will butcher and can the current laying hens, thus renewing our flock and putting more food on the shelf.


The baby chicks are doing well, growing and acting like chickens. When we brought them out to the chicken house they made the ‘teenage’ chicks look much bigger. And the ‘teenage’ chicks made these babies look awfully small. The young babies are learning from their next door neighbors. When I bring out greens for all of the birds in the morning, I put the babies greens right up next to the ‘teenage’ pen which encourages the babies to peck at them. It’s been interesting to watch their interactions.


The pigs are doing fine. They have adjusted to the routine and environment well. Sometimes they complain if I don’t bring them their desired scraps. They squeal at me, and it’s quite funny. One day they even followed me back to the gate complaining. I kept telling them that’s all they get and if they want something to eat they would have to eat what I brought. It was a funny conversation. I had brought them the Cushaw seeds and peelings from the days canning without any whey or milk or other liquids. Guess that wasn’t their favorite meal. They are all growing well and are a good addition to our homestead. So far.

The days seem to be just flying by, and it’s hard to believe we are almost to the middle of July already. As time ticks quickly on, there are so many things we want to accomplish before the fall arrives, the fall of the year or the fall of the world. We can only hope we can work hard enough and fast enough to beat it here. As we watch the financial markets of the world and read as many perspectives as we can on the complexities of our world, we can’t help but know, really know, deep down that time is running out. But that’s okay. We will do all we can, and it will be enough. As we were talking about it today Frank said it’s like he’s been preparing for this all of his life, and it really does seem that way. There have been so many experiences Frank and I have been given that have lead us to this time and place. We are right where we are supposed to be, doing what we are supposed to be doing, and if the truth be known, loving every minute of it. No matter how the world turns out, it truly is a great life.

Until next time – Fern

31 thoughts on “Homestead News, Volume 6

  1. I can see where it would be effective to grow squash only every other year for insect control, but we really enjoy fresh squash and will continue to try to find a way to battle the bugs and reap the harvest. Thank you for the link and the idea, Sassafras.Fern

  2. This gardener has a great suggestion for having a decreased population of squash bugs…one I'd probably never think of, she plants them every other year…here's her reasoning. I've no affiliation. ~Sassafras

  3. Short answer: metal or plastic lids, screwed on snugly. Metal lids will probably corrode eventually, so plastic is better, but a metal lid and band in good condition can be used a few times without problems, generally. Corroded metal lids, even if they haven't fouled the contents of the jar, are a major pain to remove.Long answer: We've gotten away with the usual metal bands and (reused) metal lids, but a fully plastic lid (or at least a plastic Tattler lid with a normal metal band) is nicer. The salts and acids in the fermentation process tend to corrode metals, and the contamination from bits of corroded metal lid is one fairly common cause of failures.About towels, I blame — but admittedly without any real evidence — the regular failures we experienced when trying to ferment in a crock to the ready access to outside air (and outside yeasts and bacteria); if my blame is correctly placed, I'd expect a towel-over-the-jar technique to experience similar failures. Some people insist on buying airlocks that can be attached to mason jar lids, to allow gasses to escape without permitting contaminants to enter. I've never used airlocks, but I think they're probably not worth it. Mason jar lids don't hold pressure well, so gasses can leak out anyway, and the pressure will prevent any significant amount of outside contaminant from a normal environment to get inside.There are some ferments that require access to lots of oxygen, and for those you'd definitely use cheesecloth, butter muslin, or a towel of some sort. These include kombucha, vinegar, milk kefir, and water kefir. They'll turn alcoholic, or just plain nasty, or both, if you don't allow outside air in.

  4. Joshua, 1 question as I'm new to fermenting, what lid do you use on the jars and how tight would the lid need to be? IE: mason jar with lid screwed down or just a towel over the jar? Thank you for the info! June

  5. Fermenting in jars is, in my own experience anyway, much easier than in crocks. Batches tend to go bad less often. The basic process for any vegetable is to get good ones, cut them to whatever size you want, mix with saltwater, and put the lid on. Let it sit at \”room temperature\” (which in our kitchen varies from 60 – 85 degrees, depending on the time of year) for a few days or a week, while it hisses and spits juice at you, and when that stops, move it to somewhere dark and, ideally, colder; 40-50 F is ideal. The strength of the saltwater depends on what you're fermenting and on your personal tastes; less for stuff you'll eat quickly or stuff that's especially sweet like grated carrots, or mushy like tomatoes, more for stuff that's larger, harder, or intended for longer storage, like green beans, peppers, or whole green tomatoes. Required temperature, too, depends on what we're talking about. Garlic has been extremely forgiving, for us, in that we'll have jars out on a kitchen counter for months at a time, but generally you want 40-50 F, and out of the sun. Fallon's \”Nourishing Traditions\” was a good source for some fermenting ideas (including garlic), as well as Katz's \”Wild Fermentation\”; Terre Vivant's \”Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning\” is full of interesting stuff to try. One sauerkraut recipe I'm dying to take for a spin says, essentially, \”start with a 55 gallon barrel, and fill with whole heads of cabbage…\”

  6. You're lucky not to have a bazillion squash bugs, Kathy. I fed about 20 or 30 to the chickens yesterday, but that didn't even make a dent. I'll let you know how the garlic is when we open the first jar. If it's good, I may just do another batch.We have waited seven years to construct this greenhouse, with the materials laying in waiting for at least five. It is so nice to have it up and almost running. But I have never grown one thing in a greenhouse. Now my next education will begin. It's a funny thing about learning, I just never get tired of it. It's rather exciting actually. So, on with the next adventure! Thanks for sharing.Fern

  7. There are never enough hours in the day, Fiona, as you will soon find out when you move to Cub Run. That's good news about your kitchen, you will be putting it to good use canning all those tomatoes you will be hauling out there. It's a very good life and we are blessed to be living it. Thanks for sharing.Fern

  8. Hello to the Far North! Thank you for the information about your siding. The brand name we chose was Tuftex, and I hope it is still pliable and translucent in 11 years. Some of my neighbors have told me that within one year it will be brittle and cracked, but my research does not support this conclusion.I am also 65, slowing down with time, but my mind is as crisp and sharp as it has ever been. I hope Alaska is good to you when things shut down. As most in the lower 48 are unaware, Alaska has many different climates. And I hope your area is sustainable and survivable, as many areas there are. Most of the places we lived in Alaska would not be survivable without human intervention. Times are changing quickly, things around the world are not good. I wish I could get a little bit clearer picture, but that has not been provided to me as of this writing. Thank you for your nice comment, thank you for reading.Frank

  9. I will let you know about the garlic, C.Q. The peaches sure smell good sitting in the kitchen, and put a smile on my face. I wish everybody enjoyed spending time in their kitchen providing for their families. It brings such peace, contentment, satisfaction and a sense of security, knowing what you can produce for those you love. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  10. Our tomatoes are just now starting to come on well, Kathi. I hope to make some fresh salsa in a few days. We have been out for a while, and we miss it.The siding on our greenhouse is called Tuftex and is made with greenhouses in mind. We will talk more about it in an upcoming greenhouse article.Thank you for your comment.Fern

  11. Sounds like you have lots of things planned, Bellen, and that is great. You're right about eating from the garden. There is just nothing like homegrown food. Thank you for sharing, it's great hearing from you again.Fern

  12. Thank you for the information, DJ. The siding we used is called Tuftex and is made specifically for this purpose, so I don't think we will have the same problem. At least I sure hope not! Thank you for your comment.Fern

  13. I still haven't done much on the squash bug front, Sandy. Yesterday was spent with peaches and the next few days will be the same. I'll do a little out there, too if I can. The weeds are growing like mad again as well. It's times like this that I need a temporary clone. Well, maybe not, one of me is enough for this planet. Thanks for sharing!Fern

  14. This is very interesting information, Joshua. How cool does the room need to be to store fermented vegetables, garlic, cabbage or any others? Will room temperature do? About 70-74*? So far we have fermented cabbage in a fermenting crock, but nothing in jars. I would like to expand my experience and expertise. Thank you very much for sharing.Fern

  15. Thanks – wasn't aware of his site. I'm much further south, semi to tropical but do grow some of the plants he talks about in the ground – moringa, katuk, sea grape, loquat, & cranberry hibiscus plus some citrus, of course. Will follow his blog for more info.Our sandy soil is at least 6 feet deep – hubby dug a hole just to see – so it will be hard to fix. Our local Extension agent highly recommends container gardening as the area we live in had all vegetation removed 25-30 years ago when building started.

  16. I will be looking forward to the update on the garlic, it is something I have been thinking of doing and we are planting it this fall for the first time. I moved my vines (squash and cukes) to the other side of the garden and planted onions in the area I had squash last year and so far (knock on wood) do not have squash bugs this year (yet!) I now have greenhouse envy!!

  17. This is such a nice post… two are accomplishing so much! The green house is looking so good.The kitchen at Cub Run is wonderful to me, lots of room to work, it will be the very first roomy kitchen I have ever had! I am catching up on my blog reading in the little lull we have. You prove there are not quite enough hours in the day at times!

  18. Frank and Fern, we have a second floor greenhouse on our home, and we used the Lexan corrugated sheets that it looks like you are using. We live in Alaska, so we don't have high heat (except this year!), but our winters are usually very cold (except last year!), and the panels have held up for 11 years now and are still looking clear and have not become brittle at all. We have a full door and a window into our greenhouse, and besides growing much of our \”salad bowl\” veggies out there each summer, we welcome the heat the greenhouse traps so that we can open that door and window into what I affectionately call \”my conservatory\” (said with an English gentlewomanly accent, of course!).About your \”having been preparing for this (financial disaster or some big trouble) all of your life\”… I think you all must be close to my age. I am 65 and grew up spending lots f time with my grandparents who had survived and spent lots of time talking about the Great Depression and WWII. I myself experienced the sluggish economy of the post war years, post-Korea, and the high inflationary years of the 60's. I married in 1970 and experienced economic turbulence until the mid-80's. Although the past two decades have been very good for my husband and me economically, I will never forget that much of my childhood and early married life was spent learning to deal with the high inflation of those decades. Although I do not look forward to less fortunate economic times, I worry far more about unstable political times. But yes, I too, feel as if I have been preparing all my life for when the financial day of reckoning comes. As it was related to Esther in the Bible, \”Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”Blessings!

  19. Hello Frank and Fern! This is Sunshine from The Sunshine Thiry Blog. I really enjoyed your Homestead News from today, and I wanted to respond to one of your readers, Bellen, who wrote:\”It's another couple of weeks before I can start seedlings for my growing season and even though I use containers (FL sand with its destructive nematodes just doesn't work)\”I wanted to recommend a site to her called \”Florida Survival Gardening\” at if she isn't already aware of it. David Goodman is a wealth of permaculture knowledge for those trying to garden in poor sandy soil in a semi-tropical region. If she types \”soil\” into the search bar on his site, she can find many helpful tips about how to improve her own soil. I would recommend she also google \”hugelkultur\” as I think this would help her improve the sandy soil on her property.Best wishes!

  20. I love your kitchen too! Currently I'm canning tomatoes and plums with blackberries soon to follow. I'd like to know how that siding on your greenhouse holds up; we used that material (or something similar) in our first goat shed and it melted in the summer heat and sun. I hope you have better luck.

  21. I really enjoy reading your blog – your sense of urgency is contagious. It's another couple of weeks before I can start seedlings for my growing season and even though I use containers (FL sand with its destructive nematodes just doesn't work) I'm planning on multiple plantings of a wide variety of veggies. We are eating mainly out of the 'garden' altho I have to buy onions, celery, cukes and fresh fruit weekly. I also buy some frozen broccoli and cauliflower occasionaly. Otherwise it's veggies from the garden. Limits what we eat but it is fresh and organic – major pluses in my book.

  22. A friend of mine used plastic panels like yours for the sides of her greenhouse. The panels held heat; heated up the nails/screws; heated up the wood and started a smoldering fire in the studs. Please, be on the lookout for that kind of problem. Best wishes on your projects.DJ

  23. Fern, I loved the pictures and details of what you've been up to. I'm so impressed by all that you and Frank are accomplishing. You've made careful plans, are implementing them, and enjoying doing it. Can't ask for much more than that! God bless you both.

  24. Fern and Frank,I'm so happy to hear Frank's class went well and not a soul complained about smelling garlic……LOL!!!!! I've made sure to dehydrate my onions outside the house because of the same reason, the smell. As for the canning, that will remain inside due to the wind. Your canning is coming along nicely, you're on a roll. I can't wait until were doing the same, it's just a matter of time due to the weather and flooding of our garden. I'm keeping my chin up, it will happen soon :-)I'm sorry to hear those darn squash bugs are going to town in areas of your garden. They started to target mine as well, every time it's stopped raining….. I'm outside killing them and spraying my squash plants with water,alcohol, and soap mixture. Now that's a great batch of peaches, do you have plans for them? Your kitchen is beautiful, and very functional. As you've mentioned, the heart of a home is the kitchen.Your greenhouse is coming along nicely, I'm so happy for you, and can't wait to see and hear more updates on it. Life is truly good, blessings to you and Frank.Hugs,Sandy

  25. Instead of canning minced garlic, you might try fermenting whole peeled cloves. It is simple to do, lasts forever on the shelf, and is an excellent way to scare off an oncoming cold. We've fermented loads of different veggies, and I think garlic may be the only one where we've never lost a batch to mold or some other failure. We just peel the garlic (far and away the hardest part of the job, though the \”bang the garlic around in two bowls, or a jar with a lid, or whatever\” trick helps a bunch. Then we fill jars with garlic, add a tablespoon or so of salt per quart, drop in whatever other spices we might want to try (oregano is heavenly, as are hot peppers; we've even tried cloves), fill with water, and screw on a lid. Let it sit on the counter for a few days or a week, until the hissing stops — or better, leave in a baking tray because it *will* leak liquid, in an unused room because it *will* smell some. Then stick it in the basement, root cellar, or whatever, and use within the next couple of years.

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