Homestead News, Volume 19

 It seems a number of things around here are aging, animals, people and such. Pearl, our Great Pyrenees, is now 10 years old and is showing some wear and tear. She is slower to get around and takes an arthritis medication regularly. Recently she started making this huffing sound, not really coughing, just a quick breath out, everyday. We took her to the vet, did x-rays and found out she has an enlarged heart, which isn’t unusual for a dog her age and size. She weighs about 120 pounds. Now she takes Lasix.  

One Stripe

One Stripe, our old lady goat, no longer gets to have kids. Two years ago she had her last, Two Tone. We had to take One Stripe to the vet to have the kid pulled because of a bony protrusion that had grown down into the birth canal. Without that assistance, they both would have died, I just couldn’t get the kid out. We really thought the kid was dead, but she wasn’t. The challenge then was to keep them both alive since neither could walk for about a week. One Stripe because of the trauma of birth, and because when we were loading her in the trailer to go to the vet, I pulled her leg out sideways trying to lift her hind quarters. Two Tone had front leg trauma from the long birth process where first I, then the vet, tried to pull her. We splinted her front legs for about two weeks before the ligaments were strong enough to hold her upright. It was a long haul to recovery, but they both finally made it.

Two Tone

This year Two Tone had her first kids. I have only been milking her for about three weeks, but it appears she will be a good milker.

There are a bunch of turnips still in the garden. Last fall we picked and canned a batch, then picked, cooked and froze about eight quarts. Now we plan to till them in and plant some more. We are going to try a perpetual turnip bed. We don’t eat the turnips, by the way, only the greens. I have found a type of turnip seed that doesn’t make a turnip bulb, just mostly greens, that I will try this year. The vast majority of my seeds come from R.H. Shumway’s. The turnips I grew in the greenhouse last winter did well enough for us to pick and cook a batch every week or so. Then, when I planted them out in the garden in the spring instead of taking off and giving us a head start on greens, they surprised me, and went to seed. I saved the seed, but let them cook in the greenhouse too long while they were drying, killing off most of the viability. Now, our experiment will be to establish a turnip patch, let them go to seed the following spring since they are biennials, and see if they will reseed themselves. That is the theory anyway, we’ll see how it works out in practice. 

We’ve been working on getting the barnyard to the garden when we can get into the corral through the mud. This past late summer and fall were exceptionally wet, and the trend has not changed. We are tired of the mud and would like a little more sunshine.

After Frank’s bypass he was anemic for about nine months. We tried iron pills, which he could not tolerate, we ate lots of liver and spinach. During my research at that time I found out turnip greens are much more nutritious than spinach and are higher in iron. We were surprised, and since turnips grow much more prolifically here than spinach, which just doesn’t tolerate our hot summer weather, we are now even more determined to have turnip greens on the shelf and in the ground. 


I’ve started the Pot Maker routine and have planted some carrots in the greenhouse. Next will be beets. I’ll wait until later in the month to start tomato, pepper and squash seedlings. The new garden map is planned and awaiting warmer weather to put into action. 

We have started the cheese making season with mozzarella, which we had run out of in the freezer. We still have chevre and cheddar from last year, so mozzarella was first on the list.

From mozzarella comes pizza, of course. The difference now is using sourdough for the crust instead of the previous white flour recipe we used before.

Right now I’m milking five does and we have way too many babies running around. I’ll do a goat tail story before long and get you up to speed on all of them.

So, how do you like our new Frank & Fern logo? It was Frank’s idea.

Life on the farm is good. Very good. We wouldn’t live any other way. We need your comments positive and negative, we need your ideas. We are all in this together. We need to share. How are things in your neck of the woods?

Until next time – Fern

Books Are Amazing Tools

Some of this article was originally written on September 20, 2013, only four months after we started this blog and had a very small readership. I thought about doing a whole new article, then I thought about adding some things here and there to the original article, but what I’ve decided to do is use the old one as a base for a new article. We still use the books I talked about then, but now we have quite a few more as well. If you want to read the original unedited version, it is here, You Can NEVER Have Too Many Books.

I have been a reader all of my life and it’s true. You can never, never have too many books. I know, I know. What about your Kindle, or Nook, or iPhone, or laptop, or computer? What about when the power goes down, and stays down? What if you could never read an electronic version of anything again? We have bought ebooks, and now own a Kindle with a number of books on it. Quite some time ago we bought all of the past issues of Mother Earth News on CD and downloaded them on our computers, which has provided us a great wealth of information. Even if we had a solar panel system that would keep our computers charged and running, it would be a waste of energy to do so. Printed material is a necessity for information preservation and a tool that will prove invaluable when the internet goes down for good. I have to tell you, Frank and I will really, really miss the internet. It is a tremendous wealth of information, right at our fingertips. Let’s face it, we wouldn’t be having this ‘conversation’ if it weren’t for the internet. We wouldn’t have ‘met’ you and been able to share information, ideas and experiences if it weren’t for the electronic super highway. And sad as it may seem, I do believe that one day information will be passed by word of mouth again for a long, long time. I wonder how many old type set printing presses will be available to create books if we come to the point of TEOTWAWKI? I would surmise not many. And so I would encourage you to obtain or maintain a print copy of the information you frequently use. 

Here is a glimpse of a wall in our living room. It is my favorite wall. Frank built this bookshelf just for me and I love it. After we put most of our books on it there was a lot of extra space, not anymore. Back then I told him, “You know what that means? We need more books!” So we got some, then some more and still some more. After a while, we had to have the floor leveled and  reinforced which was a worthwhile investment. By the way, this is the wall where most people would expect to see the big screen television. Not in our house. You will not find one television here. Computers, yes, televisions, no. An aside. We were listening to someone talking on the local repeater the other day, and this gentleman spoke of his seven televisions. SEVEN? Why in the world would anyone need SEVEN televisions? It’s beyond me to see any value in one, let alone seven. Okay, back to books.

A friend of mine, I have mentioned her several times, I told her the next time I mentioned her [back in 2013] I was going to give her a pseudonym. 

Grace, for by the grace of God we met and have become friends. Grace has laughed and told me I am her only friend that has a ‘bug book’. We have talked many times about needing to know how to do things for ourselves in the case of a collapse or downturn in the quality of life in our country. When she has asked me about a variety of

topics, my answer is often, get a book about it. We have been trying to stock our library with many useful reference books over the past few years and continue to do so to this day. By the way, you can never have too many Bibles.

These two belonged to my mother when she was a young woman.

Patrice Lewis at Rural Revolution recently [September 18, 2013] reminded us in, A project’s that never done, that having our important information on an electronic device may not always be a dependable medium. She has printed out and organized her important information so it will not be lost if she can no longer access it on her computer or online. It is still a great idea.

We would like to share some of the many books we use as resources, and some we have read for knowledge and ideas, as well as entertainment. Here are some of our favorites by category and in no particular order.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Gardening

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible – great general information

The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening – We have a very old version that is literally falling apart at the seams. Tons of great, fairly detailed information.

Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver – Good book. All kinds of plant and pest information.

Carrots Love Tomatoes has taught me a great deal about companion planting. I have changed my garden planting patterns with the help of this book.

The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control is my favorite bug book and the one Grace was talking about.

The Seed-Starter’s Handbook is not only good at helping me get my seeds started, I use it for information on how to save seeds as well. It is an old book (1978), but one of my favorites. 
The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food is one  from Backwoods Home.

I have several new and old reference books I use as well. I have begun keeping my annual garden ‘map’ of where I plant things in a binder to make sure I rotate crops and don’t plant a new crop where it will not thrive because of the last occupant.

Recently Leigh from 5 Acres & A Dream wrote an article about the book One Straw Revolution and how she was trying to increase her food production year round. Frank read this book before we were married. His copy is dated 1978. 


Leigh has also written a book about the adventure she and her husband have had in the process of developing a homestead titled, 5 Acres & A Dream The Book.

There are so many different resources that can be used in many different ways to increase food production. That’s what we’re trying to do with the greenhouse, so I will be revisiting the three books that we have dealing with year round food and greenhouse production, The Winter Harvest Handbook, Backyard Winter Gardening and Gardening in Your Greenhouse.


Food Preservation

Stocking Up – the old and new version. This is a great book. It covers canning, freezing, drying and storing. It has things other books don’t. By the way, all of the recipes use honey, no sugar in this book.

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is a book I use every time I can something.

I have half a dozen other canning books including Jackie Clay’s book Growing and Canning Your Own Food. It is a great book and full of a lot of information besides canning and preserving.

A book I have had for a while and just started using [now I use it each time] with my dehydrator is Making and Using Dried Foods. After I bought the dehydrator, I was surprised that it didn’t come with more instructions. Then I got to thinking…… don’t I have a book about that? Sure enough, I did.

Another new adventure we have embarked on is making and eating fermented foods. This, of course, has necessitated a few more books. Do you get the feeling that I really love books? Yep. I really do. Some of the ‘same’ recipes in these books are quite different which I find very interesting. A little confusing sometimes when I’m trying to learn something new, but interesting never the less. Here they are: How to Ferment Vegetables, Real Food Fermentation, Making Sauerkraut, and Wild Fermentation.

Along the same lines of fermenting foods, we have added sourdough to our menu since the first writing of this article. The first few sourdough cookbooks I bought were a disappointment to me since they dealt mostly with fancy, elegant breads. This book, Baking with Natural Yeast has just the recipes and ideas for me.

Two more books that I have not put to good use yet, but I’m glad we have them are Apple Cider Vinegar and Vinegar. I finally found a recipe for simple, plain vinegar.

Cheese Making

I have several books, but the only one I have ever used is Mary Jane Toth’s  Goats Produce Too! The Udder Real Thing. I have found recipes that work great for chevre, mozzarella and cheddar in this book and still haven’t tried any of the others. I will be branching out and trying a different cottage cheese recipe before long, though, and I’ll let you know which book it comes out of.



Our book collection about herbs for cooking and medicinal purposes started many years ago. This is a mixture of old and new that I use most often now. The Herbal Antibiotics book is from Backwoods Home

The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants and The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies both have a great deal of information about how to use plants medicinally, but little to none about how to grow and harvest them.

One of my older books Growing and Using Healing Herbs has great information about planting, harvesting, preserving and using herbs.

But the best one I found for information about growing and harvesting herbs is Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. 

When I was researching sources of perennial vegetables that I could get established here I ran across Perennial Vegetables, which has proven to be a good resource.

Here are two new medicinal herb books we have added to our collection, Healing Herbs and The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook. I like to compare notes between all of the different books if I am researching a new way to use an herb, or looking for a remedy.



When we got our first Great Pyrenees to guard our goats, we wanted to make sure it was a successful venture. We had read enough to know that training a livestock guardian is not like training the Labrador Retrievers we used to raise. We found that Livestock Protection Dogs gave us very valuable information, otherwise we probably wouldn’t have kept Pearl. She has a very different temperament, and has turned out to be an excellent dog.

We have a number of books about goats, which I call my goat book collection. If something comes up, like an abscess, I look in all of my books and compare the information I find. I feel much better informed this way because not all authors have the same opinions or give the same advice for a particular situation.

All About Goats has some good basic information.

Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats is a good beginners book with fairly thorough information.

Raising Milk Goats Successfully and How To Raise Dairy Goats are very similar and have good basic information.

Natural Goat Care is by far my favorite book. It raised my learning curve on the natural needs and health of goats. I would highly recommend it.

We have other reference books for animals which include The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable and The First Aid Companion for Dogs and Cats. I have begun to use the Farm and Stable book a little more, when researching natural solutions to our animals needs.

Now that we’ve added pigs to the homestead, we’ve also added pig books. So far, these are our two references, Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs and Free Range Pig Farming, along with another one we have on our Kindle called Raising Pastured Pigs.


Resource Books

We have a variety of books that we have not and may not ever use. They are for references when and if the need ever arises for the topics they cover, such as, establishing a black smith shop, how to train oxen, small scale grain raising, cooking on a wood stove, building small tools or equipment, and more. 

Grace and I have been doing some bartering for eggs [until she got her own chickens]. One of the things she brought was this Chicken Health Handbook which is another good reference book. Books that will add to your peace of mind are also an important part of a good library. The Simplicity Primer from Patrice Lewis is one of many. We read the Little House on the Prairie series last summer [2012]. They are a great resource of information for living without electricity and growing or raising what you eat, or how to do without. There are many books that can help us in our quest to learn how to do things without the help of all of the modern conveniences. I was able to acquire an old set of Cyclopedias. I didn’t even know cyclopedia was a word until I saw these books that were published in 1913. I have looked through some of them, but haven’t sat down and read through any of them.

One thing I ran across dealt with why a war had started. I wonder if the perspective of someone from that time is different from the prevailing opinions of today. Why did I bring these books home? They may be a good resource for how to do things without all of the modern conveniences we are accustomed to these days.



So, to go back to the [original] title I truly do believe you can never have too many books. Printed information may one day be in very short supply. Electronic media may one day be a thing of the past. As memories age, they don’t keep details stored as well either. I have felt a strong need to include a plethora of books as a very important part of our preparations. 

We have even stored more than one copy of some books to share with others if the opportunity arises. Books such as James Wesley Rawles How To Survive The End Of The World As We Know It and The Ball Book of Complete Home Preserving. James Wesley Rawles’ book is what got Frank started in radio. It was the first place he read about MURS radio frequencies. You never know when that little bit of information can revolutionize a person’s perspective and greatly increase their ability to be self-sufficient and provide for their families.

Frank has added a number of books on radio communications, along with some programming discs to our bookcase collections.

We have a small, older collection of children’s readers. As a teacher these books appealed to me. Now I see them as resources when we no longer have schools for children to attend. 

There are several survival/preparedness novel series we have read over the last few years that we have not only enjoyed, but learned from as well. A. American has an interesting series that starts out with an EMP and a long trip home to family. Glen Tate has the 199 Days series that begins with the drive to prepare for the collapse of society and ends with rebuilding a portion of the country. It’s a very interesting series that gives you some things to think about along the way.

We have a number of medical resource books on our shelves. We truly hope there does not come a day when we will need to rely on ourselves, the knowledge we have and the information found in these books. But if we do, I know we will be extremely grateful they are here.

And to top it off, two of these references were a recent gift. You can’t beat that.


The printed word may be a very valuable commodity in the days, weeks, months and years to come. When a society depends upon something as fragile as a bunch of ‘0’s and ‘1’s to maintain  the vast wealth of knowledge we have come to expect to be accessible at our fingertips, they are bound to be disappointed. Sometimes for a few seconds, sometimes for up to a minute, or even a few minutes. What will happen when we no longer have access to electronic data? Period? So much knowledge will be lost and probably lost for good. If there is something you truly value and want to insure your accessibility to it in the future, get it in writing. Something you can hold in your hand. Yes, there are some disasters that will even take your books from you, and we can’t insure against all possibilities, but we can at least try. And besides all that, I love books!

Until next time – Fern

Pictorial & Ponderings

While we were visiting a 91 year old relative the other day, he made a comment that stuck with me. He is having some health issues that may end up being significant before long, but his take on the state of our country and our world was interesting to me, to say the least. 

I don’t remember what we were talking about at the time but he said he just didn’t know if he wanted to stick around in this world too much longer. Considering the state of his health, that comment is not too unusual, but it was the reasons he gave that caught my attention. He talked about the rioting, our open borders and the unconstitutional state of our government. He said, “There is just no telling how all of this is going to turn out and I don’t know if I want to be here to see it.” It does make you stop and think.

Carrots and green beans

The mustard I planted last fall is blooming. I hope it spreads.

With all of the rain we have been having there are many wild things on the move. We’ve seen many more snakes on the roads and have heard of people finding them on their porches. The bugs are trying to move indoors and find a dry place to be. The mice are trying to follow them in as well. Since the cats can’t find a dry place out in mother nature to use as a litter box, they’ve decided my dishpans full of seedlings is a great place. Somehow, I don’t agree. I planted our pepper seedlings out in the mud today because the cats had stirred them up like spaghetti. There are still a few tubs out there that we are going to cover with frost cloth in the evenings to see if we can discourage that practice.

You know, they are kind of cute, aren’t they?

Easter and Bo, almost ready to wean

Next Saturday is hatch day

Cushaw squash

Cushaw has beautiful leaves

Flower pot on the porch

German chamomile in the herb bed

Wild yarrow by the barn, I hope to harvest these seeds

We think Pearl likes her haircut.

There are more and more people talking about things falling apart this fall. It makes me more anxious for this incessant rain to depart and give us some sunshine for the garden. I’m also finding the unusual amount of cloudy, rainy days difficult. If there is even just a little sunshine it makes a difference. The dewberries are turning, but there is little flavor, they need some sunshine to sweeten up. I hope we get some before they are past their prime.

Muddy footprints

Coming in from the garden

Wild dewberries


Luffa squash in a pot on the porch

Too wet to work on our new garden area in the pasture, it’s growing over

Stinging nettle in the herb bed


Frank is giving lots of thought to the radio class that will be coming up at the end of June. There are so many possibilities that can come out of it. We are excited and very hopeful. He has already heard of about 10 people that are interested. We pray for blessings and success with this class.

The grass in the pasture is as tall as the goats.

I think some of the parasitic wasps have already hatched.


They have really grown in just one week.

Elderberries in bloom

We have rain forecast for the next seven days. Yippee! I can hardly wait. Sarcasm is in full bloom also, along with a little crankiness. It appears that congress has once again sold us down the river without a paddle with the new ‘secret’ trade deal and Patriot Act Part II. Keep your eyes open and watch your back. Hope all is well with you and yours.

Until next time – Fern

Things on the Farm with Ponderings

We woke up this morning to a little sleet/frozen rain giving a light coating to everything outside. There are many folks around that have weather much worse than ours, especially up in the northeast. But, out in this neck of the woods, when we get this type of weather everything shuts down until the roads all thaw out. We’ve heard a few folks on the VHF radio this morning that are out and about ‘going to get something’ they need. We always ask ourselves, “Why didn’t they need this a couple of days ago when it was sunny and 76*?” That’s when we filled up both vehicles with gas and bought what we needed from the store. We can’t help but shake our heads and wonder what is actually contained within their craniums that causes them to throw all caution to the wind and venture out in their immortal skins, knowing that all will be well regardless of the weather conditions. It kind of reminds you of all those folks that know a collapse is coming but refuse to prepare anything for it’s inevitable arrival, doesn’t it? Take hurricane Katrina for example. People knew for days and days it was coming, but some didn’t prepare. The video clip that really got to me was the one with some folks out on their porch asking, “Where’s my water? When is somebody going to bring us our water?” We will never be able to understand the thought processes of people that throw caution to the wind and expect others to take care of them if something bad happens. Remember the story about the grasshopper and the ant? We’re ants.

Our pine needle covered path is extra slippery this morning

Every so often when I am out taking pictures, I get a variety of shots from here and there that don’t fit into any particular theme or post, but I like them and keep them. Today seemed to be a good day to dig some of them out to share. So, in no particular order, here is a view of life on our farm.

This is a great little lantern that is charged with a small solar panel on top.

Our funny Pearl, waiting with me for baby goats.

My first attempt at fermented cabbage that I haven’t told you about.

The salad is growing. Lettuce seedlings

Mixed baby greens


Lunch & Buttons, 5 days old

Patch running around like a nut.


Lunch & Buttons. The lighting makes them look lighter than they are.


The wethers and billy goat

Eating hay in the manger

One of our oldest cats, Pooh (there used to be a Tigger)

Frost on the turnips

It’s back to milking twice a day. Yea!

This is the first year I’ve been able to get a few decent bird pictures.

Before we became bloggers, we really didn’t take very many pictures. There are still many times we will be in the middle of something, or even finished with something that would have made a good post, but didn’t think of the camera. Very little effort has been made to figure out how to take decent movies and upload them to the blog. The first time I tried, Blogger wouldn’t accept whatever format our camera uses. I tried again a few days ago and figured out that I can upload short movies now. Here a few short shots of the kids playing in the barn today. Please forgive the wiggling and sometimes blurry shots from zooming in too close. The quality of the upload is not the best either. You’ll notice I am not the narrator. No one is. You may hear goats munching hay in the background or moving around in the barn. Or crows calling. Life in the barn is generally quiet and peaceful. I like it that way.

There are many times that the peaceful, quiet days we enjoy on the farm belie the distant rumblings and groanings of the discord that is growing across the globe. Some days it seems louder and others more distant, but there is no denying the fact that the discontent with life as we know it on this planet is growing and growing at a rate that is visibly escalating. Almost everyday we talk about the blessing of being tucked away from most ‘happenings’ out in the everyday world. There is no TV or radio blaring here. There are few neighbors and most of them are known. There is no desire to ‘go’ and ‘see’ and ‘be a part of’ anything happening ‘out there’, like we might miss out on something. 

There is contentment with who we are, where we are and the work we have to do here. There is a true blessing in living a quiet, peaceful life on the farm for us. This contentment can be found most anywhere if you choose to pursue it. It won’t come knocking on your door, but if you look for it, you will realize it’s always been there, waiting to be discovered, waiting to be found. 

Until next time – Fern