Homestead News, Volume 10

Life on the farm, or homestead, is trucking right along. The one man ‘crew’ we hired to help with some of our projects is back from an extended vacation, so he and Frank are back at it.

They started Monday morning by doing some of the finish work on the greenhouse. Now the vents are all in, the outside and top corners are closed in and the flashing has been added where the roof meets the side of the house. The doors will be installed later.

Yes, that’s a radio antenna in the background on the other end of the house.


This is used to block rain from blowing in under the edges.


8:30 am in the greenhouse

This morning before it got hot, I went out and swept out the greenhouse in preparation for placing the water barrels. On one of the trips to the barn to bring down supplies for their work, Frank loaded up some of the barrels that have been stored there. As he took them out of their cardboard containers he found the invoice. We ordered these barrels from Emergency Essentials in 2009. They had a great sale with free shipping, so we ordered ten 55 gallon barrels. We couldn’t believe we would get free shipping for these in our rural location, but we did. That is how long we have had this plan for a greenhouse. We already mentioned that we had the slab poured in 2008 when we first moved here and had the porches added to the house. This project is definitely a long term dream come true.


The reason for ten 55 gallon barrels of water is multifaceted. Initially, it was a place to store water in case of emergencies. It will still be good for that, but the reason these barrels are being placed in the greenhouse is for temperature regulation. It probably won’t make much difference in the summer. The shear impact of hot air temperatures, will create a very hot environment in there. We plan to use the greenhouse in the summer to dehydrate, or dry many plant materials. Right now it easily gets 105+ degrees by noon each day. But in the winter, as the sun heats the greenhouse, and thus the water in the barrels, it will help raise the temperature not only during the day, but all night long. Our hope is that the heat absorbed by the barrels during the day and radiated overnight will help keep any plants that are growing in there from freezing. Will it work? We will find out over the coming months. We will place a 3/4″ sheet of plywood over two barrels, one barrel at each end of the plywood, then will have a working area. This should give us about five areas to pot, store, dry and grow plants or food.


The placement of the barrels has to take into account the vents, and shelving against the wall of the house.

This window will be removed and a door installed in it’s place before long. We don’t know if there will be room for another set of barrels in the middle of the floor, it depends on how the stairs work coming out of the house. We’ll figure that out when we get that far along.

These two concrete block were left over from when we had the house leveled. They’ll make nice steps coming into the greenhouse.

The grass and weeds are already trying to grow up inside the sheathing on the greenhouse. After I finished sweeping, I trimmed the grass and pulled everything out of the way. We will spray some of the foam stuff around the bottom of the siding to prevent plants and bugs from finding their way in so easily. Speaking of tools (in the last article), this is one tool that I haven’t taken very good care of. It lives outside under a roof, but the blades were starting to rust. After I finished trimming, I got out the wire brush, gave them a good cleaning, then sprayed them with WD-40. Maintenance of tools is essential if we expect them to last.


The projects the men worked on yesterday included replacing the rotting trim around this window and door. The materials that were used to construct the building were of very poor quality and didn’t last very long. Frank chose to replace them with some of the cedar we had left from trimming the windows in the house. While they are at it, they are going to replace the trim on the other window and the other building as well, instead of waiting for the same thing to happen to them. They also chose to put an angled board above the window for rain runoff. Not only is it functional, it looks very nice.

Remember that big patch of zinnias we had in the garden earlier in the year? They’re coming back up everywhere! That’s okay. I hope they bloom enough to make more seeds. They look great, attract pollinators and are supposed to deter some bugs. Besides all that, we really like them.

This old shed was here when we moved here. It has seen better days and needed some roof repairs. We had covered the old aluminum vent system that went down the middle of the ceiling with a tarp a while back because the roof decking was starting to rot.

Well, yesterday off came the tarp and rotted boards, replacement boards were installed and a roll of shingle material was applied the length of the roof ridge. That should hold it for a while. We also put vents in both ends of the building.

New light on top, old light on bottom

Today Frank installed a new light fixture up at the ceiling level. This is a great improvement. The old light was down at head level on the bottom of the rafter. These rafters are not even six feet tall. The man that built this shed was short and he only built it tall enough for him to walk under. I can walk under it, but Frank has to duck between each truss or bang his head. Anyway, the lighting up at ceiling level instead of truss level is a vast improvement. Maybe we won’t need to use the flashlight all the time to see.


We also had vents installed in the garage today, as well as some electrical repair. These vents had been stored in the barn for a while and had been blown around by a few storms. This one had the screen backing torn, so I did a little repair job before it was installed. Bellen, you’re right about having sewing supplies on hand and knowing how to use them, even if it is in unconventional way.


This morning after I finished sweeping the greenhouse, I swept out the old shed as well. Small price to pay for such great improvements.

The goats were waiting impatiently for their breakfast and milking when I arrived this morning. They are always ready to eat.

The pigs continue to do well. Liberty, our gilt, will let me pet her all over while she is eating, even under her stomach, which is very good. I will be monitoring her closely over the next few months trying to figure out if she is pregnant. We haven’t seen any signs of breeding or a heat cycle, but since we aren’t familiar with raising and breeding pigs, I don’t know if we would recognize it anyway. We will see. There is one barrow I don’t particularly care for. He is always jumping up at the bucket or at my hand with his mouth open for a taste or bite or something. I just don’t trust him. He will be the first one on the dinner table when the time comes.

10:45 am in the greenhouse


This is where the water barrels have been stored for the last six years. These two still need to be taken down to the greenhouse, then the mess cleaned up.

We have been using some of our lumber store while working on our many projects. It won’t be long before we will need to restock this supply. This is one way we are investing our money in tangible assets, and is something we think is very valuable. Let’s face it, when the SHTF, we are not going to be ‘making’ 2×4’s or plywood, fence staples or barbed wire.

Here are some more supplies we will be using in some upcoming projects. You can tell by the layer of dust that they have been here for a while, kind of like the water barrels, just not as long. 


This is an area that will soon be involved in a project, along with these water barrels. We are really looking forward to this one as well.

The porch is full of tools that are used daily in our projects. The weather isn’t as hot as it was a month ago, but the humidity sure makes it feel that way. The men start early in the morning and stop in the early afternoon. It makes for a shorter day, and keeps them out of the hottest part of the day.

I want to thank everyone for their well wishes on my sinus dilation. I went back for a checkup on Monday and found out that I was already growing scar tissue back over an area the doctor had worked over pretty good initially. He was surprised at the rate I was healing. I told him it was because I don’t eat chemicals. I don’t think he believed me or paid much attention to that statement. I do think that is the case, though. But because of the scar tissue trying to close off the left maxillary sinus, he had to cut it out. Suffice it to say that it was gruesomely painful and extremely difficult for Frank to see me hurt that bad. It took a while to quit shaking, and I was exhausted. 

Noon in the greenhouse

Yesterday I made some mozzarella and waxed two wheels of cheddar which filled up the small cheese frig. Now I need to try making cottage cheese again. There has to be a recipe somewhere that will work with our goat milk. 

Thanks for the flower seed, Grace.

Today I was glad I felt up to sweeping and helping Frank install the light in the shed. Tomorrow I plan to butcher a few roosters, maybe only two for fresh eating, but it will be a start. I already feel better each day and can only pray there will be no more cutting when I go for my next checkup.

As you are aware, the stock markets of the world have been, and continue to be, on a major roller coaster ride. The politicians continue their playground antics pointing fingers at each other and exposing themselves for the weak, ineffective people they are. The world leaders continue their saber rattling and posturing. And most people continue to stare mindlessly into screens small and large for the diversion of the day that is meant to distract them from the fact that the temperature of the pot is fast approaching the boiling point. Folks, you need to work hard and fast to get as many things in order as you possibly can. Many, many indicators are getting closer and closer to that red line, and when they cross it there will be no turning back. 

Until next time – Fern

23 thoughts on “Homestead News, Volume 10

  1. Thank you, Leigh. I will be watching to see how your greenhouse plans make their way from paper to reality. Like you, we don't know if the pigs have reached the age of breeding or not. We have begun to watch them closer, but haven't seen any signs yet. I'm glad Liberty doesn't mind being petted and having her stomach scratched. When she starts filling out and producing milk, I will at least have a remote idea of when she might have babies. It sounds like it is good that we have a pen with hog panels on it for containing the babies when the time comes. Thank you very much for sharing.Fern

  2. When I figured out I needed something done because of the headaches, Ilene, my thought was the sooner the better. If things fall apart this fall like some economists are expecting, I'd rather have my ducks in a row now than wait and see what happens to them in an uncertain future. I think you were wise to have your knee surgery now, and it's good to read about the progress you are making in the healing process.We are really looking forward to seeing how the greenhouse works out. Cross your fingers for us. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  3. The greenhouse looks fantastic! That's such an important addition to any homestead. Ours is still a plan on paper.I never could tell about heat cycles, breeding, and pregnancy with our AGHs either. Our piglets were a welcome surprise! We finally had to separate them from Polly. They were very demanding of milk and she was looking alarmingly thin. But gosh are they every wily. The can squirm under fences I wouldn't dream they could! I think we finally got it though.

  4. Fern, they always comment how fast Hubs and I heal and I agree with you, every little \”food chemical\” you can avoid is a real plus. Doctors are just now beginning to accept the benefits of using herbs and spices, a turnaround from the 60's when they just laughed. I suppose it will take them 40+ years to recognize the benefits from avoiding food additives, as well. I, too, love zinnias. I guess some would say you and I chose a poor time to have our surgeries, this being fall garden time but I can't see either of us coping with our \”issues\” until later, not knowing if we're even going to be able to HAVE surgery by then. For sure I would've put my surgery off till early November otherwise. I've been wanting a lean-to greenhouse, on the east side of the house. There's already a door there, and a couple of windows that could be opened during the winter when the sun heats up the greenhouse. I think, even with it being shaded by the house in the late afternoon, there would still be plenty of light, and it would help keep it from not getting so hot in the summer. I'd been thinking of a roll of shadecloth for the roof for the afternoon or even all day on really hot days. But, unfortunately, I've not gotten anywhere with it, I just can't get Hubs interested in it, and I can't do it alone. That's a good idea, building a lumber stash, and not such a bad idea to stockpile concrete blocks and pavers, too.

  5. oh, Fern! I enjoy your postings so much. You are such a positive and uplifting person. I love your photos, they are amazing! Thank you for sharing all of your accomplishments. You validate all the rest of us crazy so called ( I am not going to use the p word). It is people like you and your husband who give us all hope that their is a future for America , and for our children and grandchildren. God Bless you, and I pray for perfect health in your future.

  6. Wow, you folks have been busy, everything looks great. I love zinnias too. My grandmother grew them (and hollyhocks), and when I met my present husband, he was growing zinnias and hollyhocks too! It's part of how he 'won me over' (without knowing it)!

  7. The plywood leaning up against the house in one of the pictures above, is to protect the barrels from the concrete, I just didn't explain that in this article. Thank you for bringing it up. We will put a two foot square piece of plywood under each barrel as we get them set up in the final configuration. I hope I can produce as much food this winter as you did last winter! It would be just great to go out and pick some of our dinner in the middle of winter. I really look forward to that. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and ideas with us.Fern

  8. That's two folks that had the great idea of putting black trash bags over the barrels, Bellen, and it's a wonderful idea! We also have some heavy duty black plastic that may do the same job, but be more durable. It's good you can mix and mingle your garden produce into an acceptable arrangement for your HOA. I've read about many people doing the same thing now days.It's very interesting what you can do with a needle and thread once you put your mind to it, isn't it? Frank brought me the vent and didn't bat an eye when he asked me to sew on a patch. I've been sewing since long before we were married, let's see, for about 45 years now. It sure does come in handy. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  9. Hi Gail. This recipe is almost exactly like the one I used from Mary Jane Toth's book. I haven't tried to make any more lately, but it's on my list of things to do. Thank you very much for sharing the recipe.Fern

  10. Sandy, I actually like this doctor. Granted the extra procedure was very, very painful and somewhat unexpected, but he took it well when I told him I was going to start calling him Dr. Pain. We'll see how the next visit goes.I will be planting some things in the greenhouse as soon as we have the shelves set up and ready to go. That means placing the barrels and filling them up, cutting the plywood tops, and ….. I'm not sure what else. I'm not sure how soon, but in a few weeks, we should have it up and running. I will have to wait until it doesn't get up to 105+ degrees in there, or it will just cook everything. Today Frank and crew installed lighting and outlets! It is very exciting and looks great.It's good to know there are other folks out there like you and Kymber that like zinnias as much as we do. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  11. Now I am even more interested to see how the water barrels will work out since your water bottles help heat your house and you are so much farther north. Very interesting, Kymber. I plan to grow brassicas and greens, but I'm also going to experiment with some warm weather vegetables just to see how it goes. I'm sure some will die or go semi dormant, but that's what I need to learn. I will have to figure out how to keep them from cooking and from freezing, it will be a very interesting process. I'm doing better each day, I just wish it would hurry up and be done with it. (-: Thank you for the kind thoughts.Fern

  12. Greetings from Indiana!I'll keep this short, but am wondering about your greenhouse water barrels in the wintertime. If you just slipped a big, black trash bag over each one, wouldn't that help with heat absorption? Then, when temps got warm again, just slip them up and off.Just a thought – and not as permanent as black paint.God bless – and keep up your great work!

  13. Hi Fern,I enjoyed your post today and it is fun to watch the progress on your greenhouse. It is looking great and I am sure you are both excited. I have loved mine. It's not nearly as nice as yours. It's just 6 X 8 and I picked it up from Harbor Freight for a little under $300. Last winter I calculated that I grew about $150 worth of food, so after this winter's harvest I will consider it free food.One thought about your barrels. I have read that barrels sitting on hot cement can transfer harmful chemicals to the water inside. Apparently it's not a problem with barrels sitting on cold cement, though I have heard that opinion expressed as well. But most seem to agree that hot cement does pose a risk for the water stored in barrels sitting on said cement. Perhaps you have already considered this, since your greenhouse will get so much heat and sunlight in the summertime. If not, then an easy solution is to sit the barrels on bases of wooden pallets which have been cut to the correct size. Just thought I should mention it to you after watching all of your hard work.Good luck with all of your projects, and with your healing process as well. You are both inspirations to me.

  14. Fern – love to read your posts about what's going on on the homestead. If you find the water barrels don't work as well as you'd like you might try covering them with heavy duty black plastic bags – the black will help them absorb more heat and release it slower. Still waiting on the temps to get into the 80s so I can start more seeds. Like you, I'm experimenting with plantings – food crops with ornamentals for me, the HOA has rules about landscaping but I figure as long as I keep it 'pretty' and neat nobody will mind.About 5 years ago I put a small, about 2\”, patch on the side garage screen door – until we could get the screening replaced. Used black buttonhole nylon thread – still there with no signs of wear. Gotta love supplies that you can use for whatever purpose.My hubby would be envious of your stock of supplies of wood, pipe, etc – we no longer have the room or the need, but still….

  15. Fern,Thought you might like a recipe my family enjoys for home made cottage cheese, using goat's milk of course.Warm a gallon of milk to 80 degrees and stir in 1 cup of buttermilk (or 1 cup yogurt or 1 cup sour milk – 1 Tab white vinegar to 1 cup milk) – Add 1/4 tsp rennet to 1/4 cup cool water and stir in – Let rest for about 5 hours to set curd – Cut curds into 1/2 inch pieces then let rest another 30 minutes – Slowly bring temp up to 110 degrees using double boiler method (one pot inside another with some water in the bottom pot) – Stir often so curds don't mat – Hold @ 110 degrees for about 30 minutes until curds are cooked and firm – Drain in lined colander – When drained dip in warm water to rinse – Then drain and dip in cold water to rinse again – Set by Jackie Clay. to drain for 1/2 hour – Add canning salt to taste and a little milk for consistency you likeI found this recipe in Backwoodshome magazine .

  16. Fern,Sometimes, I wonder if doctors realize how much pain they put their patients through when examining them and removing scar tissue like they did to you. I wonder if they would do things differently if the shoe was on the other foot?? I'm enjoying the progress on your greenhouse, and can't wait to see the final product. Are your plans to use your greenhouse this year? Every year I harvest old zinnia flowers and place them in a paper bag for drying. Last year I had so many seeds harvested, when planting I planted every where. I just love the beautiful zinnia flowers. We had all kinds of bee's and butterflies this year, I wonder if the zinnia's attracted them.Hugs to you and Frank,Sandy

  17. I so enjoy these homestead news posts, Getting basic supplies ahead is an investment few people think of. I have to admit this last stage of moving is so frustrating. The things we have to do! People still seem to ignore the warnings all around us!Do take care, God bless you both.

  18. Fern – i am sorry that your check-up was painful, but i agree that the reason you are healing so well is due to your diet and no chemicals. i hope that you continue to feel better and stronger each day.where to start? your homestead news is full of great information. the greenhouse looks lovely and i am sure that the barrels filled with water will work in the winter. my hubby puts glass windows all along the bottom of our house in the winter and then puts garbage bags full of water bottles inside of them – we can't believe how much it cuts down on our heating costs!!! i can't wait to see what you will grow in your snazzy new greenhouse over the winter…because we are farther north, we are able to grow a few things but we use the greenhouse to let perrenials go into dormant stage so that they can start producing immediately in the spring. i am sure that you will be able to grow a variety of brassicas and lettuces in your greenhouse.the animals all seem to be in good shape and i love zinnias too. i am hoping that when you get this message that you will be in top shape. sending warm and healing thoughts your way. your friend,kymber

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