Homestead News, Volume 13

Life on the homestead continues unabated, sometimes it’s like running full steam and sometimes it’s more like a walk in the park. Lately we have been surrounded with steam. Here’s a look at what’s been happening.

Isn’t this a beautiful ditch? You’re probably thinking I’ve been in the ‘steam’ too long, right? Well, the ditch itself may not beautiful, but what it represents is very exciting. Emmet has returned to barter more labor, for radios this time, a few evenings after he gets off of work. Weekends are devoted to his family, which is as it should be. Emmet found many, many more rocks in this ditch than any of us were planning on, so it will take longer to accomplish this task that we first thought. This ditch will hold the conduit, that will hold two strands of wire, which will connect this building to the house. Why is that exciting? Because these wires will soon connect our radio shack and house, to a battery bank and solar panels. We’re not sure just how soon, but sometime in the not so distant future.

Yesterday while Frank and Henry installed storm doors on the house, which are great, I butchered a goat. Frank dispatched him for me and brought him down to the garage in the bucket of the tractor. I have to tell you, though, I did not take one picture yesterday. It was a long, long busy day. The goat provided us with about 45 pounds of meat, 10 pounds of dog food and some soup stock.

Dressing out an animal really doesn’t take that long. Processing the meat does. We only kept two partial hind legs as roast. The rest of the meat was deboned, ground and frozen. I wrapped the ground meat in one to one and half pound packages and got them in the freezer at about 7:45 pm, just a few minutes before our second Survival Radio Relay Net. After the digging, Emmet stayed for a cup of coffee, and to see how Frank ran the net.

As I removed the meat from the bones, I kept looking at all the meat left on the bones. In the past, I have always just thrown these bones away. The longer I looked at them, the more I knew I needed to boil them and make some soup stock. So I did. I cooked them for several hours as I worked on processing the meat.

The net went very well with most people from the previous net returning and some new additions. Not long after the net we received a phone call from a man that joined for the first time. I don’t know if this happens to you, but sometimes when life is really busy and we wonder why in the world we are ‘putting ourselves out there’ and possibly increasing our danger factor, we get a phone call or a comment that lets us know we are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing. This phone call was one of those. I almost cried. Not because of the content of the phone call, but because of the unmistakable message that we are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing. So, I guess I’ll keep writing here for the foreseeable future.

We finally had supper at 10:00 pm in the midst of a very messy kitchen. I actually left this tub of dog scraps and many, many dirty dishes overnight. I had totally run out of steam for the day, and 6:00am would come very soon for the start of another day. I also forgot to bake the bread I had made this morning. I just shook my head and hoped it would taste good when I baked in in the morning. It did. Frank thought it was some of the best sourdough bread we have had so far. It sat for 24 hours after I made the dough and before it was baked. Interesting.


This morning it took me a couple of hours to clean up the kitchen. I returned the pots of stock to boiling, made rolls from the bread dough and left them to rise while I fed and milked the animals. Frank and Henry got to work early on the framing for the outdoor kitchen floor. Here it is today, but tomorrow these forms will hold a new concrete floor for the kitchen. We will keep you updated.

Frank worked over the lid and top edge of the All American Canner that wouldn’t seal well enough to reach adequate pressure and we tried it again. It still doesn’t work so we will be sending it in to see if the company can fix it at our expense.


It’s now 6:00 pm and there are two canners of soup stock on the stove with more left in the pot to go. So far we have 21 quarts of stock and we will put what’s left in pints. It looks like the last one won’t be finished until about 10:00 pm. Update. It’s now 8:00 pm. The last seven quarts will be ready to take out of the canner around 9:00 pm. I just put the pressure weight on the canner with 13 pints, and it has to come to 10 pounds pressure and stay there for 90 minutes. We won’t be finished by 10:00 pm, but we’re happy with the amount of soup stock we’ll have to put on the shelf.


We have one more incubator full of eggs hatching as we speak. At first I took this picture to share with you, but before I could finish writing and publishing this article, they started hatching. That means I need to butcher and can the last 12 or 13 chickens out there from our last hatch. They are a too old for fryers, and we wanted some chicken meat on the shelf anyway. Looks like that’s a job for Friday because tomorrow is mozzarella. The refrigerator is over run with milk again.

There have been several questions and comments about the greenhouse since we put this picture up on the header. It still doesn’t seem quite real that we finally have a greenhouse, and we have already decided it’s not big enough. 


We were asked if these barrels hold a back up water supply. The answer is yes. We don’t plan to use the water very often unless it is needed. We hope to have other sources of water connected and ready to use before long. But since we do want this water to remain potable, we treated it with bleach as we filled the barrels. We did a search on recommended amounts of bleach and came up with 5 teaspoons per 50 gallons of water. Five teaspoons is approximately one ounce, which is easier to measure when you’re trying to pour it out of a new gallon jug.


After we filled the barrels and got everything placed where we wanted it, Frank added some brackets to the back of the ‘table tops’ to hold them in place. We brought them an inch and a half away from the studs to allow room to place two trays side by side. This will allow us to use the space more efficiently. The bus tubs, there was a question about them, are the same ones that restaurants use to clean or ‘bus’ tables. Sam’s Club has them with the restaurant supplies. They have been great, but the sun just kills them and makes them very brittle. We will build our own before long and fit them to the trays. I hope they hold up better in the sunlight than the bus tubs did, we’ll have to wait and see about that.

The purpose of the water is for thermal mass. We are hoping it will help even out the temperature in the greenhouse. On sunny days when the outside temperature is in the 80’s, it quickly rises to 100*+ inside. The first day we moved the seedlings off of the porch and into the greenhouse was before we added water to the barrels. I didn’t water them enough, and in the afternoon, a few of them cooked, even with the fan Frank had installed. Since then, I have tried to make sure the tubs are watered very regularly, and we do think the water in the barrels makes a difference. Even if the thermometer is registering 100*, the plants don’t seem to suffer for it. I plan to dig up some strawberries and comfrey and bring them in for the winter and see how they do. That will be interesting. I also have kept the mandarin orange and lemon tree idea in the back of my head that someone mentioned a while back. 

I brought these two black peppercorn vines, piper nigrum, in to the greenhouse. They have been growing on the porch all summer. I also brought in a preying mantis with them. I hope it sticks around and helps with the bugs that may show up.


I planted more seeds in more tubs, but there’s not much to show for now. There are carrots, turnips, muskmelon, squash, lettuce and spinach coming up. I also planted some onion sets that I bought in the spring and never planted. Maybe we will have a few onions to eat this winter.

Tomorrow is another busy day, cheese and concrete. If you’re interested in radio communications, stay tuned. We will have new antenna towers going up soon. This will increase our ability to reach the folks in our area which is critical. The solar panel project will also help insure our ability to communicate. The radio shack will be the first thing to go ‘on line’ once we have the 12 volt system connected and functional. We really look forward to that day. Meanwhile the water storage tanks at the barn are still on the docket for completion. We need a few more supplies and some more ditches dug before we can proceed.

There are days that it would be easy to quit, days that we’re tired and worn out. There are some days that we just don’t want to get out of bed and tackle the day. But we do. There is much to complete and time is short. Our pace seems to quicken a bit more each day. When we get out of bed, we pour a cup of coffee and check out the news of the day including the blog. There is usually another comment telling us what you’re doing to prepare, full of encouragement, and we know we’re heading in the right direction. Make sure you are too.

Until next time – Fern

29 thoughts on “Homestead News, Volume 13

  1. I thank you for your blog and all the useful information. I was about ready to throw in the towel on my preparing, but felt a strong need to stay with it last week. Now I feel that I've been led to your blog and you've gotten me reinvigorated. I doubt I'll ever be as far along as you two are, but I'll keep trying and praying that our world improves!

  2. How is your list doing, Joy? We've marked off a few things, but keep adding more. Keep at it, there is always lots to do that will be a benefit in the very near future. Fern

  3. Hi, Everett. Yes, all four corners are square and there is a tilt for runoff. Afterwards, I didn't take a nap, I took a Motrin, a couple of them. Yes, Everett, it was screted and there will be no tile, it is smooth, no broom type finish. Now I'm going to go take some more Motrin, because next on the agenda is putting up three new radio antenna towers, each one using a little less than a cubic yard of concrete. Thank you for your questions.Frank

  4. Yes, Vickie, we have long wanted to make soap and acquired all of the equipment and ingredients last winter. We just haven't gotten around to making any yet. It's definitely on our list of things to do for the first time. We plan to use goat milk, lard and lye. That's it. We want to make soap from ingredients we can replicate if necessary. Milk from the goats, lard from the pigs and lye from wood ashes. We hope to have this experience before long. We find it's always good to keep the 'plate' full, it keeps us going and learning. It's a great life! Don't be exhausted, get out there and do something for your homestead. It is so rewarding! Blessings.Fern

  5. Thank you, Ralph. Since you just moved to your homestead, your list will be long for a long, long, long time. But that's part of the joy of it all, isn't it? Keep looking for the goats. Around here, this time of year isn't the best for goat shopping, the spring is a much better time. But if you can find some now, get them. You can always get different ones later if they are still available. Kind of like you did with your poultry, get it while you can. Thank you for your kind words and tell Fiona we said hi.Fern

  6. We are both retired, public school teachers and administrators, Grammy, we just beat you by a few years. Ramp up as much as you can now, or stock up on things you may use later. You just never know when you may not be able to anymore. Let us know when you start up your blog so we can check it out. As you know, learning is a wonderful, life long process if you choose for it to be. We just can't picture a day where we don't learn something, small or great, it's what keeps us ticking. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  7. The tubs we're using now do not have holes, but do have a layer of gravel in the bottom to protect the roots, Janet. Your idea for your hot tub room sounds great. Not only will you have food, but it will look great, too. Thank you for sharing your idea.Fern

  8. For now, Jamie, we use an electric grinder. The manual version is waiting in the wings if we ever need to go that route. Too much food is definitely a blessing. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  9. Hi Sandy, thank you for the link. I looked at greenhouse trays before we bought the restaurant version. I just couldn't bring myself to pay the greenhouse price. We may eventually end up getting some, but for now, these will work fine.The greenhouse still seems like a dream of sorts. We wanted one for so long it just hasn't soaked in yet that we have one. I will be very interested in reading about your greenhouse and how you grow things there. I need all the examples I can find, and since you're in our growing zone, that's even better. Thank you for sharing and good luck with the estate work.Fern

  10. Very interesting, Joshua. You're right, stable fats are a wonderful thing to have. We still have rendering lard and soap making on our list of things to do. We just haven't gotten to them yet. Hopefully sooner rather than later. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  11. Hi, Tewshooz. We don't mean to shame the youngsters, well, maybe just a little. (-: We will have to look into shade cloth. I wonder if they roll up and down manually…. I'll have to go look.It's Saturday and we are taking the day off from heavy labors. Enjoying the new baby chicks. I may even go pick the green beans that are getting way to big and tough. If they're too tough for us the goats love them. I watered the greenhouse plants and admired their growth this morning….at 11:30. Ahhh…..a nice slow morning and a nice slow day. We are enjoying every minute of it, and it gives us time to catch up on these wonderful comments. Thanks for sharing. Blessings.Fern

  12. go to new England cheesemaking-on their site they have a directory of where milk from the farm is available, across the country

  13. hoo-ee Fern, you are one busy gal. And yes, we all appreciate what you and Frank are doing. You inspired me many a day to get off my behind and get going on my preparations. Thank you! (and you've even inspired me for tomorrow–making my list now).

  14. Hi ya, your greenhouse is beautiful. I have a freestanding hoophouse and its great on nice daysin winter. Nice and warm. Keep up the good work. Love your blog. Jan

  15. Looking at the picture of the bags of cement waiting to be turned into a floor, reminded me of all the 1000's of bags I ran thru a one bag mixer while pouring house foundations back in the day! I immediately had to take a nap after looking at that and thinking of all the work involved there! Good Luck! I'm sure you got all four corners level or are you adding a tilt to it for water runoff? And I'm sure you know about screting it off when all poured! Are you going to tile it or leave it a smooth surface or a brush finish? Nosy old booger aren't I

  16. Okay – I'm exhausted just reading about all that you do! To add one more thing to your plate – did you know you can make soap from goat fat? Actually, you can make soap from just about any kind of fat. Not that you need anything more on your \”to do\” plate!

  17. When I saw your new header, I just said \”Wow!\”. How great to see some of these long planned for projects come to pass. You two are a great inspiration to me. I so enjoy what you share and the community you are building here. Very few of my local friends are interested in anything to do with food storage, gardening for hard times and the like. So I come here for encouragement to carry on. Thanks. SJ in Vancouver BC Canada

  18. Whew….such a good read. Our days seem to end with more on the to do list than we have done. We are still looking for a local source of at least two milk goats. Your amazing and the kind of leaders we need.

  19. You are an inspiration to me. I am a public school teacher, who will retire in June of 2019. I am living a semi-homestead life, and hope to amp it up after I retire. My goal is to blog about my experiences. I only hope to be half as good as you and Frank. Keep up the good work.

  20. Do you put holes in the bottom of your tubs in the greenhouse? Do you put gravel in the bottom of the tubs? We have an enclosed hot tub room and I'm thinking if we fill the hot tub and keep it at a temp of about 70 or so that would keep it warm enough in there to use as a greenhouse. Glassed on 3 sides and can vent from roof skylights. I didn't see this before. Perfect. Thank you for the idea!!

  21. Boy are you ever busy! But too much food is a blessing of a problem to have. Do you grind your meat by hand or do you use an electric grinder?

  22. Morning Fern,Boy, oh boy, you truly can say both you and Frank have been extremely busy :-)Life has a way of keeping us all busy. You mentioned your containers in the greenhouse will end up becoming brittle due to the sun and heat. I've been using tray's to plant my seeds/seedlings in my greenhouse, and haven't had issues with the tray's becoming brittle. Here's a great resource for tray's of various sizes: thing I do is buy old baking sheets, aka:cookie sheets (from yard/estate sales) to use on the bottom of the tray's to capture extra water drainage, and help with moving the tray's. I'm so pleased (and a tad green with envy) of your greenhouse with a door from your home directly into the greenhouse. Truthfully, I'm very happy for you both…..It's a beautiful completed project. Hopefully, when things slow down with the estate we will be able to get things moving in our greenhouse for the next planting season. Hugs,Sandy

  23. I dunno if goat fat is as useful as cow fat, but with our last two cows we filled several quart jars of suet, either cutting it out of the carcass directly or skimming it from the several gallons of stock we made. Unfortunately I didn't cook all of the suet long enough to drive of all the water and it spoiled, but the remaining jars are fine. Suet keeps unsealed at room temperature, and stable fats are wonderful things to have on hand.

  24. We bought some shade cloth for when the greenhouse gets too hot. Easy to roll up and comes in various depths of shade. Works for keeping chickens cool, too. I get tired just reading about what you accomplish in one day. Put most youngsters to shame. You are an inspiration.

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