Homestead News, Volume 12

It has been a very productive week in our little corner of the world. We seem to have a lot of irons in the fire, but at the same time, the progress we are making on a number of projects and tasks, not only makes the days fly by, but when we stand back and take stock, we are amazed at how much we are getting done. I’ll probably forget something, but here goes with the latest news from our humble homestead.


We showed you the progress on the greenhouse door #1 earlier in the week. The next day the storm doors went up, completing the exterior of the greenhouse. The doors were trimmed to match the window trim that was used earlier when we had the new windows 

installed. Yesterday when it was 97* outside, it was 120* in the greenhouse. We have been trying to learn the temperature variations in there. It’s too hot to plant anything in there now, but it won’t be long.

Next we finished the new trim on the storage buildings. It’s too bad the original trim was such poor quality. It rotted in just a couple of years in several places, so we replaced all of it before we had to deal with more rot down the road. We laid the cucumbers, trellis and all, down on this bucket so the trim on the window could be replaced. I was glad this worked and they are no worse for the move. Frank comes up with good ideas like this all the time.

Frank ran across an interesting article about canned food expiration dates, both store bought and home canned. It’s very interesting and basically states, with a number of references, that there is no such thing as an expiration date. I agree. It’s a very well done, interesting article that I recommend reading, Dispelling the Canned Food Expiration Date Myth.

We bartered the rest of the young hens and a few roosters, that we are not keeping for our replacement flock, to another young couple in exchange for help servicing our tractor. This young father, they just had their third child, has worked with his father in their tractor shop for years. His help will make for short, accurate work on our tractor. Another very good trade.

We found out this week that one of our American Guinea Hogs has greasy pig disease, or exudative epidermitis. See why I just called it greasy pig disease? From several conversations with our vet, and research in books and online, we found out that pigs generally have staph bacteria on the surface of their skin. As long as they are healthy and don’t have any injuries, this generally is not a problem. The vet said staph is everywhere, on the pigs, in the ground, and very common. Well almost two weeks ago I noticed a few spots on a barrow’s face. It looked like small, white bumps, but not anything important. We watched him for a few days, and when they didn’t go away, called the vet and set up a day for him to come out and look.

Vet’s assistant

The vet took several little scabby areas of skin from these bumps, took them back to the clinic, looked at them under the microscope, then called to tell us it is greasy pig disease, which is very contagious. The good news is that it is easily treatable with penicillin. The bad news is that pigs are hard to catch. Last night the vet and his helper came out and we tried to trap the pigs in some panels to give them the shots. We were only able to treat Liberty, our gilt. We had not put the pig pen back together since putting the lean-to shed up on the barn because we hadn’t needed it. While the vet was here, we got the pen put together. Then this morning when I fed them, I locked them in the pen and called the vet to let him know we had them up. He came out again today and cornered the pigs with a piece of stock panel, and the three boys got their shots. We talked about what could have caused this and found it could be anything from getting scratched or poked with a thorn or on the fencing. Afterward we had a conversation about what to do if this happened again and we didn’t have access to a vet or penicillin shots. Antibiotics in water will work, iodine would work, or maybe something else with strong antibiotic/antiseptic properties. Interesting conversation.

By the way, there is a possibility that Liberty and Lance bred a few days ago. If so, we can expect piglets around January 10th, right in the middle of our first kidding season of the year. Piglets and kids in January will make for a fun winter addition to the homestead. We also found out that the reason Lance keeps poking the other pigs in the side with his nose. It’s normal dominance behavior. He seldom does this to Liberty, but often does it to the barrows. He is a sexist pig.

I’m glad to report that Faith is recovering from the reconstructive surgery she had last week. She still has a way to go, but has a great attitude and looks forward to getting back on her feet and out doing things, like visiting with her goats again. Thank you for your prayers on her behalf.

We have a couple of new projects on the drawing board. The first one deals with the beginning stages of an outdoor kitchen, or what some might call a summer kitchen. This area right behind the porch is the location. 

For Frank to work over this weedy, overgrown area, we moved this section of antenna tower to an empty area of the garden, and this hay bale that is used for mulch into an empty area of the herb bed. We were surprised at how well the tractor was able to clear off the vegetation that was growing all over. 


While he was at it, he also used the disc to mix in the chicken manure we put in the garden last week after our good trade of chickens for a clean chicken house. 


After I raked and cleaned up what was left, I mixed some weed killer to spray down the whole area. It hasn’t been applied yet, though. There were several other things to take care of at the time and I haven’t gotten back to it yet, but I will one day next week.

This location is central to the garden, house, greenhouse, clothes line and in a very convenient place. There will be a water supply from guttering on the house and a large storage tank. Firewood will be handy since we keep it on the edge of the porch. Washing produce from the garden or

dressing out chickens will be accomplished here with a basin sink and work bench. Cooking can also be done here, along with a grid down laundry service. Right now, it’s dirt and planning. This tree stump will have to be removed, but that will happen when we have the water line dug and installed. The radio towers that now sit between the two holes that will house the clothesline poles, will also be installed before long, some of them here and some of them in another location that will facilitate our community radio communications network. This is another upcoming project which will enhance our ability to communicate by radio.


The water line we are installing will go 400 feet from the barn to the house. Here at the barn the guttering on the lean-to shed will funnel rain into these three 1550 gallon water tanks. As you can see, this project is also underway. Frank and Henry installed metal trim on the edge of the lean-to roof yesterday to cover some bare wood. It was an oversight when the lean-to was first built, and more will be installed on the pig side of the barn next week.

We met with the man that will be digging the water line for us one evening this past week. He will also dig the trench for the electric line to go from the new power pole out in the pasture to the barn. Frank and Henry have already wired the barn and installed the lighting, all it needs is juice to the fuse box and we’re in business. This will probably be accomplished in the next week or so.

We fired up the incubator again this week. We have a number of chickens in the freezer, but not near enough, and we haven’t canned any yet this year. There are approximately 60 eggs in there and we hope for a good hatch to supplement our meat supply.

We also found out one of our young does, Easter, has a stifle problem. Her back legs have a wiggle to them when she walks which is not good. We asked the vet about it when he was here and we have traced it to our buck. According to the vet, since Easter’s mother and grandmother were born here and didn’t have this problem, more than likely it comes from the buck. Another interesting thing is that Easter’s mother, Lady Bug, and her twin sister, Cricket, both had kids with leg problems this year. Cricket’s boy, Bo, was the one with the severe bowlegs. There is always something new to learn when you have farm animals.

As you can see, we are trying to complete as many major projects as we can in a short amount of time. We are investing heavily in tangible assets and labor. This investment will pay off in untold ways once we arrive at TEOTWAWKI. Do all you can. Time is precious.

Until next time – Fern

13 thoughts on “Homestead News, Volume 12

  1. The weed killer I mentioned here, Suzie, is for a new area that will be used for an outdoor kitchen, so we don't want anything growing there. We do not use any type of weed killer or any chemicals in our garden area at all. This weed killer is made from vinegar, soap and salt instead of commercial chemicals, and I'm hoping the salt will do a good job of inhibiting future growth through the 'floor' of the kitchen. Great question, thank you for sharing.Fern

  2. That is very interesting information, SJ. Was the greenhouse heated? Thinking about growing citrus wasn't something we ever thought about until we got comments about it. Now we are giving it some thought. Thank you very much for sharing.Fern

  3. Hi Everett. We use a Berkey type filter currently for our drinking water. It's the Katadyn Gravidyn. We also intend to use bleach on occasion to help control microorganisms. There will come a day when we run out of bleach, though. We also have a simple system to remove heavier particulates during the first stages of a rain shower. Hopefully, this will remove some of the gifts from our feathered friends. Thank you for your recommendation. As you know, folks have lived for a long time with rain catchment systems, but only a few of them ever had six fingers instead of five. Take care.Frank

  4. Good question. We chose the opaque color green to restrict sunlight. The tanks also come in opaque black. Without sunlight you have very limited growth potential. Initially, we will add bleach to the first full tank, this will flush the tanks and the lines of the vast majority of bacteria. We filter all of our drinking water through a Katadyn Gravidyn drip type filter. The Berkey is the same type system, we just use the Katadyn. Hope this helps.Frank

  5. Fern, Question about weed killer use is this your existing garden or a new area? Is the purpose to stop any weed seed from getting establish before spring or just save you a lot of pulling? Will it effect garden seeds? Thanks, Suzie

  6. Love the updates. Just thought I'd pass on some information from another blog I read that is in Maine. They are able to grow citrus in their green house. I believe they are growing a Meyer Lemon. Cheers, SJ in Vancouver BC Canada

  7. Not sure what you intend to use the water for, but if it is to be used for drinking, I 'd run it through a Birkey water purifier machine. And dropping some scent free bleach in there once in a while should keep the \”critter\” count down. Lots of stuff comes off the roof in a rain storm, dirt, leaf bits and residue from some of the passing avian types. We lived out of a cistern,2800 gallons for a good part of my life and it was always dosed with bleach.

  8. Love your blog and check it routinely. We have considered doing something similar to your 1550 water tank project but are still in the \”investigation\” mode. Question: do you need to worry about organic growth in these tanks to the extent that you'd need to routinely clean the tank or treat the water to keep the tank functional?

  9. You're welcome, North GA. We have ignored the dates on most things for years and thought it was a good article to pass along. There are very few things that need to be thrown out because of age. The vast majority of things that do need to go here go to the animals, either the dog, cats, chickens or pigs. There is usually someone that will eat it.We have had the water tanks for several years awaiting the completion of this project. There is a man in our area that has a similar set up that gave us the idea. It's a great way to collect water with little effort beyond the initial construction. A little rain goes a long way when you collect and store it.Thank you for sharing.Fern

  10. Yes, Leigh, it has been VERY busy, but we sure sleep better at night!We will be doing a number of articles about the greenhouse and how things develop there. I think I will plant some seeds in pots this week and get them started while we finish up the interior, get the water barrels filled and placed and put the shelves up. The pigs never seemed sick, never lost their appetite or anything, and I never saw any of the little sores on any other pig except the barrow. Apparently it can be common on newborn piglets or weaning piglets. Another thing to learn and tuck in the cap of experience.Times are worrisome indeed. It looks like you two are still making quite a bit of progress on your house which will help with temperature variations. Hang in there and keep at it. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  11. Thanks for the link to the article on canned food and expiration. I opened an old can of corn myself last year (use-by date 2000) that had gotten lost in the pantry just to see what it would be like. It was ok. The quality had gone down a bit, but it was certainly usable–in a stew or other dish any quality loss probably wouldn't have been noticeable. I have never had any problems with my home-canned foods, but I have used those within three years.I hope the water storage project goes well. I have been thinking about something similar myself for a while (though with tanks that are not as large), and need to get going on it.

  12. Wow, you've been both busy and productive. I'm very interested in what you figure out in regards to regulating the greenhouse temps; I'll need to know that too. Never heard of greasy pig disease! Your post has given me a heads up on something to keep our eyes peeled for. Dan finally went back to work last week. Progress is slow when there's no income and the savings is gone. Not that there aren't a zillion things to do, but the big self-sufficiency projects get put on hold and that's worrisome in these times. Keep up the good work!

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