Homestead News, Volume 11

Outside of butchering seven of our ‘teenage’ roosters a couple of days ago, there isn’t much new to report. We were glad to get five of these roosters in the freezer since our meat supply is literally down to nothing in there. We have quite a bit of meat walking around on the hoof or foot, but the freezer is looking very bare. It reminds me of stories about folks that went out and grabbed up a chicken when meat was needed for a meal. It was killed, dressed and cooked for that day’s food. Refrigeration has really changed the way we are able to live. I have given quite a bit of thought to what it will be like to live without refrigeration again. It sounds much more difficult and not near as convenient as we have it now. Something to ponder. How will you keep things cold or cool that need refrigeration to prevent spoilage and extend the life of your food?

We’ve had a nice little rain today which has helped cool things off. We had planned to butcher the last seven teenage roosters today, but it was 96* by 11:30 this morning. This evening we will have a cold front come through that will make the temperatures much more comfortable, thus it will be easier to work outside.

Our dear friend Faith, that bought some of our goats, took a very bad fall last week. She will be undergoing some reconstructive surgery to her face this week and we would appreciate it if you would keep her and her family in your prayers.

Frank and I have had many conversations about how to set up the greenhouse and all of the possibles that go with that process. As the temperatures start to cool down, it will be easier to work in there. It’s very interesting to see how quickly the temperature rises once the sun reaches over the tree tops and touches the walls. Very interesting. 

We have had a question or two about the exterior sheathing on the greenhouse. When Grace came to visit after we had the sheathing up she looked at it, looked at me and said, “What are you going to put over it?” She explained that she wasn’t sure what she was expecting, but it was something more than what it is. The exterior of the greenhouse is a product called Tuftex. Frank did a lot of research on this product before we decided to use it. The type we chose is called Poly Carb which is described on their website like this: “TUFTEX PolyCarb corrugated panels are our toughest building panel. Made with a polycarbonate thermoplastic polymer in an octagonal-wave profile, TUFTEX PolyCarb corrugated panels are 20 times stronger than 5 oz. fiberglass corrugated panels and are designed to withstand a wide range of surface temperatures: 270° F to -40° F.” Lowe’s carried some Tuftex, but we had them order what we needed to have enough of the right type, colors and lengths. We used the translucent white on the roof and clear on the sides. Until we put the barrels in there, from some angles you couldn’t tell the walls were up. It will be very exciting to look at it and see plants inside, especially when we get it full of plants! I know I have said this before, but it will be a real treat to walk out there in the winter and pick something to eat. I think I will be worse than a kid in a candy shop.

It’s about time to make cheese since the frig is filling with milk. It will be mozzarella this time since the cheese frig is full of cheddar. We still haven’t tried to make cottage cheese again yet, but we will. It’s about time to make bread, too. I have set out the whole wheat sourdough starter to feed and lower the acidity level before I use it. Now days after I feed the starter for a few days, I pour half of it into the pig bucket instead of the chicken bucket. The chickens never did like it much, but you know what they say about pigs, they’ll eat just about anything. Except jalapenos. They don’t like them very much. Or really big, hard okra pods. Either they don’t like them, or they are just too hard to eat, I’m not sure which.

Since I tried our milking machine and didn’t like what it did to the goat’s teats, I haven’t tried it again. What I have done is really pay attention to my milking technique. Over the years I had developed a certain rhythm that was comfortable and seemed to be effective. Now I pay more attention to making sure I get as much milk out with each squeeze as I can. This is causing me to slow down some, but requires fewer squeezes per doe. I don’t know if this has made a difference with the arthritis in my hands or not, but I do know that I can straighten my bent finger out more than I could without working on it to do so. Interesting. I have also been told I have trigger finger on the same hand and same finger. Does anyone know of a natural way to deal with this? Grace told me her sister had it and wore a finger guard for a week and that fixed it. I haven’t tried that yet.

I have also started drinking apple cider vinegar with the mother in it, with local honey in warm water. This should help some of the sinus issues I have been having, as well as the arthritis. I hope. I used to do this everyday for years until it made my teeth hurt. The vinegar I used back then didn’t have the mother in it, though. This time I will make sure I rinse my mouth well with water after I drink it to protect my teeth. I’ve even thought about adding a bit of the canned garlic we have to the mix. Vinegar, honey and garlic are all very good for the body, so it couldn’t hurt any. I don’t mind the taste of vinegar and honey at all, I’m just not sure how the garlic would taste with it. Probably pretty good if you ask me.

We continue to eat our sauerkraut everyday. The portions are bigger than they used to be, and if there is a day we don’t have any, we miss it. When we first started eating it, there were several people that commented about how our taste preferences would change and that we would really enjoy fermented food. You know what? You were exactly right. We do really enjoy the sauerkraut and the health benefits it provides as part of our daily diet. 

We will be starting another project later on in the week that I will be showing you before long [it’s not the outhouse]. It is very exciting to have so many long term plans coming together. There is also a feeling that time is short to get some of these things completed. Frank and I talk about making plans as if there isn’t a collapse coming also, just in case. But at the same time we know it is coming, so we have to plan for that eventuality. Like I said last time, wishing won’t make it so. Just the other evening as we were getting ready for bed I asked Frank, “So where are we going to put the outhouse?” Another one of our recurring discussions. We still haven’t decided on a location.

Hello everybody, Frank here. The immigrant issues that are happening in Europe will soon be knocking on our doors here at home. There have been mass forced immigrant movements all through history. One of my grandfathers came to America around 1900 as a very young boy. His family was forced out of Russia. It has happened for centuries, and it could happen here just as easily as it has happened there. It’s easy to be cynical, but the fact is, people are being dislocated and they are willing to die or drown to escape wherever they are. It has to be horrible. Don’t kid yourself that it can’t happen right here. As we speak, there is a quiet exodus from the drought ridden areas of California. Towns there are shutting down. No joke. We are about to see many people, many more than are already coming here, from the areas affected by this forced relocation. It’s just one more thing that is happening. Is it a diversion? Could be. You decide. But you’d better get prepared. Frank

Now take Frank’s commentary and apply it to a collapse scenario where thousands of people are trying to escape the riots and starvation of our major cities. People that are desperate for water, food and shelter for themselves and their families. What happens when there are hundreds of them walking down the road where you live? I see the pictures of the Syrian people walking through Hungary, and that’s what I see. Hungry people, desperate to escape the carnage behind them, with hopes of assistance awaiting them at their destination. In a collapse situation there is no assistance awaiting them. I really think some people in smaller towns will actually go to the cities in search of government assistance. We’ve all heard the stories about FEMA camps and the rounding up of people to ‘keep them safe’. Don’t get on the bus. 

What I keep seeing when I look at the Syrian refugees are groups of people at the gate demanding water, food, shelter and assistance. There is no way we can feed them. We’re far enough off the beaten path that there probably won’t be many folks walking down this road, but I can see it happening all over the country. What are you going to do if a group of demanding people show up at your door or gate demanding the things you have prepared for your family? If you turn them away angry they will just come back with reinforcements. It is something Frank and I discuss regularly. If you feed one group they will tell the others and the next day there will be 10 groups, then 20, then 40, then 100. Before the last group arrives you will be out of food and desperate yourself. Then what? We can only pray we will never be faced with this situation. But part of being prepared, probably the most important part, is being mentally prepared. You need to have an answer to that question. What are you going to do?

Frank will be doing another article before long that will address some of this mental preparation. What he will discuss is a very difficult topic that will require very difficult decisions and actions from all of us, but one that should be discussed and thought about. Do all you can to have your family ready for what is about to befall us all. Remember, we would rather be prepared fools than unprepared fools. One minute too late, is just that. Too late.

Until next time – Fern

A Simple Non-Electric Milking Machine

The time has arrived that I need to employ a milking machine instead of continuing to hand milk our goats. This time has arrived much sooner than I had hoped, but the arthritis in my hands have made that decision for me. I have a finger that will no longer straighten unless I work on it for a while. It is affecting my grip and I’m dropping a lot of things. Rats. One of the biggest draw backs for me is that I really enjoy milking my goats. I’m sure I still will, it will just be different. I can enjoy the still of the morning, watching the animals and listening to the birds, it will just be different. As the goats and I get used to this new routine, I’m sure there will be challenges and adjustments along the way, so later on, I’ll do an update on my new milking routine and tell you what I’ve learned. For now, here is my very first experience with this machine.

I can’t say our milking machine is new because I bought it several years ago. It’s been in a storage building awaiting the time that I needed it. This is an example of storing things that will become useful in the times to come. If you have a future project that will make life easier and more productive after the SHTF, and you can afford it now, acquire what you think you will need now and store it away. It will wait for you, just like this milker.

Back when I researched and looked for a simple milking machine the Henry Milker out of Alaska was the only one I found, so I got one. Now there are several companies that have similar products like the one Patrice Lewis at Rural Revolution uses, the Udderly EZ Milker. Patrice did an article on how she uses one to milk her cow here.  If there is anyone out there that uses or has experience with a non-electric milking machine, please share with us. I would really appreciate anything you can share. I wrote this part of the article before we went to the barn and tried out the machine. You’ll realize why I said this later on.

The components of our milking kit included the vacuum pump, four tubes, two tube cleaning brushes, two wide mouth quart jars, two lids, a micro fiber cloth and a carrying case. The directions are simple and easy to follow.

Copper with her kids back in March

Copper, our three year old doe, was the victim for the first trial of milking with this machine. This is the second year we have milked Copper and she is very easy going and a good milker. She looked at me a few times as I fumbled around trying to get the bucket, which we brought to protect and support the jar, and the syringe that goes over the teat in place to begin this process.

At first I couldn’t get a good suction going so the pressure would build up a vacuum and begin withdrawing the milk. With Frank’s help, we finally got things going and the milk flowing.

Yes, we always have our radios, even when we’re together.

The pressure gauge has to be pumped much more often than I expected, and even though I had to squeeze it less often than if I had milked by hand, it really wasn’t that different than milking by hand except I didn’t have to squeeze as hard.

I had to restart the suction/vacuum process twice on each teat because the milk stopped flowing. The directions included this possibility, and directed to release the syringe from the teat and start over, which we did.

Even with restarting twice on each teat, we only withdrew about half of Copper’s milk. The rest I ended up milking out by hand into the bucket. I’m glad Frank recommended we bring it.

I’m sure with practice this machine would withdraw more of the milk, and I would be get much more adept. Even with all of the commotion of trying to figure out this machine, Copper was very cooperative through it all, and I was grateful. Frank did end up feeding her quite a bit more than usual just to keep her occupied while I tried the milker and he took the pictures. Even the flash on the camera didn’t bother her. She did a very good job.

The Henry Milker worked just as advertised. The instructions and videos found on their website were helpful since I did run into a few things that were mentioned. Because I had access to the information ahead of time, I knew what to do when these situations occurred.

No filtering necessary

Pros? The milk goes directly into the jar which prevents any hair or dust from getting into it like it does when you hand milk into a bucket. The milk doesn’t have to be filtered. Just change out the lid for a regular plastic one and put the jar in a bucket of water to chill, then into the refrigerator it goes. Even inexperienced people could milk an animal using this machine.

Cons? I have read in other places and heard from an acquaintance that you still need to finish the milking by hand if you want to

Copper’s udder

make sure you get all of the milk and keep production to a maximum. The thing I noticed as we were increasing the pressure to create the vacuum and get the milk to flow, was that Copper’s teat was pulled down and lengthened in the syringe. My first thought was that I didn’t like that. What will that do to the tissue of her teat if this process is repeated over and over twice a day? Will it cause the teats to lengthen and stay that way? Will it cause them to loosen and lose their natural elasticity and break down the structure of the orifice? Will it cause them to leak over time because the tissues have been stretched so often?

One Stripe’s udder

I don’t even know if these are questions that address a valid concern, but my first thought was I don’t want that to happen to my does’ udders. I have grown very particular about the udders my does have and we have bred them to have certain characteristics. Another thing that has caused this concern is a video about another company that makes non-electric goat milking machines that shows the process compared to an electric milking machine. Some of the does in this video have very large teats and the suctioning motion of the electric milking machine rhythmically pulls on the teats. I think this process over time has caused part of the shaping of the teats. I don’t see how it can keep from it. There are also some people that prefer a large bulbous type of teat, even for hand milking, because you get more milk per squeeze, therefore you don’t have to squeeze as many times to get the same amount of milk as a doe with smaller teats. Maybe I am just backward in my choice of goat teats, but I don’t think so. I think the straight, smaller structure of this type of teat is much closer to what is found in nature as opposed to what is found with structured breeding practices.

So, what about my arthritis? I don’t know. But for now I will continue milking by hand and doing the best I can. I may need to limit how many goats I have in milk at once, I don’t know. It is very interesting to finally get to a place where I thought I would have to give in and quit milking by hand even though I didn’t want to. Now that I have tried it, I really don’t want to use a machine, not unless I really, really, really have to, and for now I don’t have to, so I’m not. I thought about just deleting this article and not finishing it, but then again I thought maybe it would be of use to someone, so here it is. Food for thought.

Until next time – Fern

Adjusting to Fermented Vegetables

We wrote about our adventure with making sauerkraut back in March. I’m happy to say that this adventure continues on a daily basis. We have since made a third batch of kraut using a little of the juice from the second batch as an inoculate. We also shredded the cabbage this time instead of chopping it. I think the texture is better shredded. But this article isn’t really about how we made sauerkraut, it’s about how we have adjusted to eating it on a daily basis.

About two days after we started eating the sauerkraut, my knees were really hurting. I mean really hurting. Now, I have had arthritis for many years and am used to my joints flaring up, getting red, hurting for a while, then calming down. This has happened too many times to count over the years. And no, I don’t take any medication at all for it. I take ginger capsules, Cod Liver Oil and Glucosamine. 

But this time the pain in my knees was different, and the onset was rather sudden. I hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary or anything strenuous that would have instigated one of my typical flare ups. As I thought about it, the only thing I could think of that was different was we had begun to ingest a naturally fermented vegetable. We already eat sourdough bread about three to four days a week and drink milk kefir everyday, so it’s not like our bodies were totally unaccustomed to fermented foods.

When my deductions came down to the possibility of the pain being caused by the sauerkraut, I went to the internet for some research. Here is what I found. This is a very lengthy article and contains some very good information about the need for fermented foods for a healthy life.


At in Fermented Foods Contain 100 TIMES More Probiotics than a Supplement, “There is one precaution that needs to be discussed here, and that is the potential for a so-called healing crisis, or what Dr. McBride refers to as a die-off reaction, provoked by the massive die-off of pathogenic bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other harmful pathogens by the reintroduction of massive quantities of probiotics. It can significantly worsen whatever health problem you’re experiencing, before you get better.

The reason for this is because when the probiotics kill off the pathogens, those pathogenic microbes release toxins. These toxins are what’s causing your problem to begin with; be it depression, panic attacks, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or any other symptom. When a large amount of toxin is suddenly released, your symptoms will also suddenly increase.”


From I found, You’ll meet people who will tell you that they “cannot tolerate” fermented foods: the reason is that they suddenly had a sizeable helping of a fermented food and got a serious “die-off reaction”. Never start from more than 1 teaspoon of any probiotic food per day. Depending on the severity of the condition, different people can introduce fermented foods quicker or slower. If on 1 teaspoon per day your patient gets a “die-off reaction”, let him or her settle for a few days or longer, then increase the amount to 2 teaspoons per day. Once 2 teaspoons are well tolerated, add another teaspoon. Continue increasing the daily amount of the fermented food gradually keeping the “die-off reaction” under control.”


After I read this, I realized that I was probably having a reaction to the ‘die off’ in my gut caused by eating the homemade sauerkraut. Painful, but interesting. We continue to eat a small serving of our kraut everyday. I think we missed one day since March 11th, a little over a month ago. Since that time, I think we have gradually repopulated our digestive tracts with healthy bacteria.


I found an example of this at Breaking Muscle in The Real Reasons Your Guts Need Fermented Foods.Some of the important health benefits of fermentation:

  • Fermentation is the only type of preparation of foods that cannot destroy certain nutrients, will creates more nutrients and enhances others.
  • It removes toxins and harmful bacteria found in many foods.
  • It will improve your digestion, especially when consumed before your meal and also allows for your nutrients to be absorbed properly.
  • It aids in the preservation and creation of important enzymes.
  • Fermentation is a huge supporter to your immune function. It increases your B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, digestive enzymes, lactase and lactic acid that fight off harmful bacteria.”


We are very pleased that we have been able to add fermented vegetables to our diet. I think over time, it will continue to add to our overall health, and especially our digestive health. My arthritis appears to have gone back to ‘normal’, although my hands seem to hurt more than they usually do. I can’t say that I think it is a reaction to our continued consumption of sauerkraut, though. We have gradually increased the size of our portions to about two tablespoons per day. 

As the garden grows and we produce more fresh vegetables, we will be trying a number of different vegetable combinations. I also plan to try fermenting our pickles and jalapeno slices this year instead of canning them. I think that will be a fascinating experience. I truly hope to have a section of jars on the shelf that contain vegetables we grew in our garden with no pesticides, herbicides or commercial fertilizers, that have been fermented using whey from the cheese we made. I think that will be really neat.

As I served another portion of sauerkraut the other day, Frank took a bite and said, “This even tastes like regular sauerkraut. It’s pretty good.”  I asked Frank recently if he ever thought his wife would be making cheese, waxing cheese, growing a garden, fermenting vegetables or even milking goats. He said no, and I agreed. Sometimes our life seems like a dream. And it is. It is a dream come true. Make yours the same.

Until next time – Fern