Simplify Your Life

Evaluate how you think life in these United States, or any country that you may live in, is going to change in the coming weeks, months and years. In the past year the world has changed drastically and appears to be on an accelerated trajectory. To where? I can’t tell, but the underlying feeling is one of foreboding and dread. Regular everyday people, not homesteaders or preppers, express concern and discomfort at the events unfolding around the globe.

So simplify your life. Evaluate what you do, use, need, want during your normal everyday activities. Ask yourself some very basic, tough questions. Do I need _____________? Does my family need ___________? Fill in the blank. This is not a questions of wants, but realistic, everyday NEEDS. What do you and yours really need day in and day out?

Frank and I started researching how to improve our health, reduce synthetic and chemical inputs into our bodies, and just overall simplify our lives a number of years back. It led us to many changes for that reason. As a side effect, it has also reduced the number of ‘things’ we need daily. Examples: baking soda for toothpaste, baking soda and water for shampoo, cider vinegar and water for conditioner, simple meals.

We have written about these topics in the past. For your convenience, here is a list of some of those articles. There are other articles along these lines in the archives if you are interested.

Trying to Escape Chemicals, March 15, 2014

No Shampoo & Sauerkraut, An Update, June 16, 2015

No More Shampoo, March 31, 2014

For Our Health, January 3, 2016

Simple Meals, March 27, 2019

Food on the Shelf, August 4, 2019

We continue to think of ways to simplify what we need and we think of it in terms of how we will be able to continue our life style in the event of inflation, hyperinflation, restrictions on travel imposed by the government, restrictions on the ability to shop or buy due to pandemic regulations, martial law, or collapse. We try not to focus specifically on the “end of the world as we know it” or SHTF, but consider what possibilities could peak over the horizon and affect our way of life. What do we need to change, improve, eliminate or acquire to be ‘OK’ in any of these events? We restock what we use and/or consume and try to have an alternative in case that is not possible. This goes for food and supplies.

We lived through the great toilet paper shortage of 2020. Did you? Did you run out of anything? If so, what have you changed to prevent running out again. What if you could never buy toilet paper again? One of the simple luxuries of life none of us wants to do without. What would you do? Believe it or not, we wrote about that, too.

When There Is No Toilet Paper, January 7, 2015

Frank and I try to reevaluate our lives regularly. As our physical conditions continue to change with age, we seek out new ways to do old things that increase our success and productivity. We talk about what we would do if we couldn’t replace _________________. We talk about how we would feed our animals as well as ourselves. We talk about the unpredictability of the future of our country. What else can we do to increase the likelihood of extending our longevity beyond whatever may come rolling over the horizon?

We encourage you to look through the archives if you are relatively new to our site. There are many, many topics we have written about and if you start towards the beginning, you will find we have changed a lot. Our focus has narrowed to pinpoint those things that sustain us – food with adequate nutrition, water, protection, shelter, health. I encourage you to do the same. Do some serious evaluation of your life and the needs of your family. Wants are a nice luxury, but in the end, they won’t sustain you physically, mentally or spiritually.

Until next time – Fern

Goat Stock Garden Soup

Recently, when we butchered one of our wethers, we made some soup stock with the bones, and since this was a first, we wanted to try it before we made any more. I wanted to see if I could make the soup with ingredients that came from here, just like the wether we made the stock from, so off to the garden on a treasure hunt I went, and here is what I came back with.

Starting from left to right there are purple hull peas or cowpeas, green beans, carrots, tomatoes and some roast from the wether that turned out pretty tough. I was hoping the soup would make it a little better, it didn’t. You can see that the soup stock doesn’t have much meat, but a decent amount of fat for flavor and nutrition.

I also found enough okra in the garden to saute as a side dish. We now cook it with a little olive oil, salt and pepper in a skillet and it tastes great.

This is not a lot of food, but if it was what we had to depend on for our sustenance it would provide for our needs. That is something I look at more and more. In the past I would experiment with all kinds of seeds in the garden, sometimes to see what would grow here, but usually just for fun. I have now grown much more serious about what we grow and I have written about the nutritional content of some of the vegetables. My purpose was to try and determine if what we are growing would be adequate nutrition. I haven’t had the time to sit down and analyze our common vegetable combinations, but it would be interesting to know. I think it will all boil down to what grows well here, the physical demands of the crop itself, the physical demands of growing the crop and how we can preserve it to last until the next crop starts producing, not to mention the ease and success of saving seeds for future crops. There are many variables that will impact the possibilities of adequate, or inadequate nutrition after the SHTF, many of which will be unpredictable. Even if things don’t work out, at least we have to try.

Until next time – Fern

Canning the Garden & Other Stuff

It is HOT! Sorry to yell, but it really is hot here. There are some clouds forming and we might get some much needed rain, even though there’s not a great chance of it. We had record rainfall in the spring, but with these hot temperatures, we are definitely in need of more. Since the afternoons are way to hot to work outside, we have been canning up a storm, not everyday, but more often than not lately.

We finally finished canning the four bushels of peaches we bought. We broke about four or five jars by trying to put them into a hot water bath we had just taken a load out of. I was thinking that since we were putting boiling water over the peaches they would be fine. They were not. Room temperature peaches and boiling water isn’t really all that hot. The last batch of peaches we heated up and didn’t lose a jar. Lesson learned. 

Peach sauce on the left, then plums and garlic

We made a batch of peach sauce from a recommendation in one of the comments we received. Thank you! It was simple, it just took a few days of simmering to cook it down to the consistency we wanted. Wash the peaches, pit, cut out any bruises or bad spots, cut up and cook it down. That’s it. We did add some fruit fresh to prevent darkening, but the sauce does darken some naturally as you cook it down and run it through the water bath. From a half bushel of peaches we ended up with 11 pints. I like the idea of including the peels instead of taking them off. Has anyone canned peach slices with the peel on? I wonder if that would work? I know there are nutrients in the peel just like with apples and potatoes. I may try it next time.

We have continued to can our Cushaw and Buttercup winter squashes because the ones we’ve picked so far aren’t keeping well. They developed during the really wet weather and are getting soft spots or outright starting to rot already. 

We have one hill of yellow squash left alive that the squash bugs haven’t killed. I probably squished about 30 bugs this morning. I have also sprayed them with a water, baking soda, Dawn soap combination followed by a dose of diatomaceous earth. They have killed all of the Buttercup winter squash and are working on the Cushaw. This morning I planted more of all three kinds of squash in an attempt to grow a fall crop. We will see how they do.


We get enough cowpeas to can about once a week for now. Once the new patch of peas starts producing we will have many more. After we fill the shelf with all we want we will start drying them to use for winter feed for the goats, pigs and chickens. 

We haven’t canned very many green beans, and I was hoping for about 70 or 80 pints at least. The leaves on most of the plants look like lace from the beetles and worms. What a year for bugs. I will be planting more beans in an attempt to get a fall crop from them as well. We plan to disc up quite a bit of the garden tomorrow so I can start planting turnips, carrots, potatoes, green beans, beets and I’m not sure what else. Some of these crops will do well after a frost and some won’t. I will start some cabbage, broccoli and brussels sprout seedlings before long as well.

We tried our ‘new’ canner that we had problems with again, we found out it is a 2008 model, and it still leaks around the lid. After two calls to the factory the technician recommended we go over the seal with some ‘000’ steel wool and lubricate it with olive oil instead of Vaseline. When we started using our first All American the recommendation was Vaseline, now they are finding the lid sticks less with olive oil. We have yet to try this out, but will let you know how it goes when we do.

In the meantime we got out our tertiary All American and it works great. You know the saying, three is two, two is one, and one is none? That’s why we have three canners, two of which had never been out of the box until a few days ago. Since I have been very serious about filling our shelves with food this summer, it was time to get out a second canner so I can run both of them at the same time. It saves a lot of time. Like today.

We have some old pinto beans that are getting hard to cook. It takes a long time. So I decided to put a big batch on the stove last night and cook them for a while, let them soak overnight, cook them for a few hours this morning, then can them in pints. Well, there were a little more than 32 pints, so we will eat some for supper as well. Our model 921 All American canners hold 16 pints, and I would highly recommend them. As we were putting these beans in the canner, Frank made a great recommendation. The next time we are at the big box store, we’ll pick up a 50 lb. bag of pinto beans to can. Then, if the time comes that we need to eat these old beans, we will, but for now, we’ll use fresh ones. We can always grind the old beans into flour as another way of accessing the nutrition they contain.

So far, our canning efforts this summer have produced this yield.

  •  7 pints of green beans
  • 20 pints of yellow squash

  •  5 pints of beets
  • 10 pints of carrots
  • 12 pints of cowpeas
  • 11 pints of peach sauce
  •  7 pints of plums
  • 16 pints of minced garlic
  • 68 quarts of peaches
  • 34 quarts of winter squash

The canned minced garlic turned out fine even though it browned as we canned it. The texture is very soft, not really a minced texture anymore, but it smells fine and works well cooked into a dish. I look forward to using it and may do another batch, just to have it on the shelf. I have neglected to include enough garlic in our diets, and this has turned out to be a good option for me.

I’m glad we have put up this much food, but it really isn’t very much food if I stop and look at it. If we were to have to depend upon what we are stocking away as our sole source of nutrition, we would be in trouble. Big trouble. So, I will keep trying to add as many things to the shelves as I can. Before long our oldest baby chickens will be ready to butcher. We will freeze a few for

convenience and because we like fried chicken, but many of them will end up in a jar on the shelf along with some chicken broth. We still have wethers that should have been butchered long ago out grazing in the pasture. They will probably wait until fall. They’ve waited this long, what’s another month or two? Some of that meat will also end up in jars on the shelf. And then there are the two barrows, castrated pigs, that are wondering around in another pasture. In time, they will make their way into the freezer and into jars on the shelf. That will help with our preserved food supply. I still count them now even though they are still out there walking around. I call them meat on the hoof, or I guess in the case of the birds, meat on the foot.

It is a good summer. There is much to do everyday. Do we get it all done? No, not even close. But what we don’t get done one day waits for us the next day. It’s funny how that works, isn’t it? Things just don’t get done by themselves. We find it hard to prioritize things sometimes since there are a number of things that need our attention. The squash bugs really got the upper hand while I was canning peaches. I noticed this morning that some of my elderberries have already ripened and disappeared, probably into the mouth of a bird. I want to make some elderberry syrup this summer since it’s so good for colds. Yet another thing to put on the list. Then I wanted to check on the apple tree next door, and then……..

This thing we all feel coming gets closer everyday, do all you can to be ready.

Until next time – Fern

The Nutrition of Spinach & Garden Gossip

Spinach is something we have been eating a lot of lately, and I wanted to add it to our list of nutritional content articles.

1 cup of raw spinach contains the following nutritional content.

  • calories 6.9
  • carbohydrates 1.1 g
  • protein 0.9 g
  • Vitamin A   2813 IU 

  • Vitamin C   8.4 mg
  • Vitamin K  145 mcg
  • Folate   58.2 mcg
  • Choline   5.4 mcg
  • Betaine   165 mcg
  • Calcium   29.7 mg
  • Magnesium   23.7 mg
  • Phosphorus   14.7 mg
  • Potassium    167 mg
  • Sodium    23.7 mg
  • Omega-3 fatty acids    41.4 mg
  • Omega-6 fatty acids    7.8 mg

As you can see, spinach packs a good amount of nutrition into one cup. When we start getting more sunshine and less rain, I expect our little seedlings will finally grow into the normal, large plants I have been hoping to see for about a month now.

I have planted some more seeds in the last week. Some of them will go in the herb bed, but some will hopefully go in our salads. The new tubs of seeds include spinach, lettuce, baby greens, celeriac, parsley (which we have been eating in salads and the goats have been eating once a week to help expel worms), boneset, feverfew, moonflowers, psyllium, sweet woodruff, cayenne peppers, arnica, borage and fennel. We are also going to have to replant our pinto beans, which we will use for green beans and pintos, because there has only been one come up. And some day, if it ever quits raining four or five days a week, I can do some serious weeding and finish planting the last few rows of the new part of the garden.

This patch of turnips is sharing way too much space with the grass and weeds.

It is interesting how our tastes and interests change over time. We have always grown corn and potatoes in the past, now we are turning toward plants with more concentrated nutrients, like beans, cowpeas and greens. We do have about a dozen volunteer potatoes coming up from last year, which we are letting grow. It will be interesting to see how they produce. Learn all you can about producing your own food, then put it into practice. We have been gardening in this spot for six years now and no two years have been the same. The weather has been different, the insect pests have been different, and the harvest has been different. There is always much to learn. 

For example, the past two years the slug population has really taken off. Yesterday, I placed some scrap 2 x 4’s around in the garden to encourage the slugs to gather under them so I could ‘harvest’ them in the mornings. There were a few under the boards, but you could see dozens of them just sliming around on the ground. Once the plants are grown, they will still be there, I just won’t be able to see them. So, I have decided to treat them like the pest they are and try to ‘harvest’ as many as I can each morning and put them in the chicken bucket. This will hopefully help deter their population in the garden, and feed the chickens at the same time. I probably picked close to 100 slugs this morning alone. Yuck! There were several fat, happy ones that were making quick work of the new squash plants that are just poking their heads out of the ground. I didn’t take their picture.

Taking pictures of the garden from the porch while it rains.

Like everyone else, I can’t wait for the harvest to begin in earnest. We put very little food up last year due to surgeries and illness, and we hope to more than make up for that this summer. In the meantime, we are also working on a few major projects involving the house. Wait, a news flash. Frank just told me that after Tuesday, there is no rain forecast for Wednesday, Thursday or Friday! Yahoo! Everyone around here is more than ready for the puddles and mud to dry up at least a bit, and be blessed with the touch of the sun. 

Until next time – Fern

Bo’s Crooked Legs

You may want to pull up a chair and pour a cup of coffee or tea, because this story will take a little time. If you are a very soft hearted individual, you may also want grab a box of tissue. No, Bo didn’t die, but he had some struggles, and I won’t tell you the end of the story until we get there somewhere down the page. Now if you’re the kind of  person that turns to the end of the book to see how it ends before you even start reading it, you can scroll to the bottom of this article and see what happens. Otherwise, here is how the story began.

On Thursday, April 2nd, right on schedule at 150 days gestation, Cricket went into to labor. Cricket is one of our first fresheners that I have high hopes for. Her grandmother, Katy, was one of our first does. She was a good mother, good milker and all around very good doe. Cricket’s mother, Ivory who we sold last fall, was also a very good doe, except for that very irritating hollering that she refused to stop doing. It’s the only reason we sold her. 

Our friend, Faith (pseudonym), came over to watch and participate in the birth since she plans to start her own goat herd very soon. As the kids feet presented during labor, I realized the legs were crossed. At this point I wasn’t sure whether these feet belonged to different kids or the same kid. Even though I had not seen this presentation before, I didn’t feel I should intervene, instead I waited to see how Cricket would proceed.

After the feet but before the head appeared, Cricket got up and laid down several times, which is normal during labor. But one time when Cricket started to lay down again, she landed on a pile of hay. She had pawed up some of the hay in her birthing pen in a nesting type of behavior, which is also normal. This is kind of hard to describe, but as she lay down, she landed on the downward slope of this pile of hay, which caused her to roll all the way over on her back, then onto the other side. I was worried what might happen to the kid’s legs during this accidental roll over.

Shortly after this event, Bo was born. As his head emerged, we realized one of his legs was quite a bit ahead of it, while one of them was not. After he was born, Cricket took a few minutes to decide what this thing was she had just expelled from her body. Even though it was a cool day, we gave her a few minutes to adjust because the umbilical cord had not yet broken. I wanted her to be the one to break the cord, instead of us. I moved Bo up toward Cricket’s head as far as the cord would allow, to encourage her to begin licking and cleaning him. Faith removed the mucous from his mouth, and some of the birthing material from his body. A little while later, I cleaned, dried and stimulated Bo with some towels. Then a short time later, Cricket stood up, broke the umbilical cord and began investigating her new son.

After Cricket began licking and talking to Bo, I made sure the wax plugs were removed from her teats, and helped Bo get his first meal. At this point, all appeared to be well. A few hours later, as Bo began to get up and try to walk, we noticed his front knees were not straightening out as he stood. He had an awkward look to him, but still was getting up and around and trying to nurse on his own, just like any newborn kid. I hoped his awkward knees would correct themselves over the next few days. The first things that came to mind were the way his legs were crossed and being compressed with each contraction during the birthing process. The next thing that came to mind was that while his legs were crossed and outside of Cricket’s body, she rolled all the way over during labor. Now, I’m beginning to wonder about birth trauma to his legs.


We decided to give Bo a few days to see if his legs would strengthen and straighten out on their own. They didn’t. These videos are at day three and are the ones that really got to me. We knew that we would either need to try to do something to help Bo’s legs, or put him down. Other than his legs, though, he is a strong, healthy animal.

Off to my goat books I went. This is the only book I have that really dealt with birth trauma, as opposed to nutritional deficiencies. I read all about nutrient and mineral deficiencies and bent leg, but none of these maladies matched up with Bo’s predicament. In the book, All About Goats, on page 131 it says, “Contracted tendons, particularly of the forelimbs, are common in newborn kids resulting in an inability to straighten the leg. Mild cases with a partially bent leg will often resolve on their own as the tendons stretch with movement; more severe cases may need splinting to stretch the tendons and allow weight bearing on the foot.” After finding this, I went to the internet to find out how other people have splinted baby goat’s legs. There are many different ideas out there for the looking. Armed with this information, Frank and I decided to use stiff cardboard and duct tape. Here is what we did on Monday morning, when Bo was 3 1/2 days old.

Cardboard, socks, duct tape and scissors

Start off with a sock for cushioning and protection for Bo’s skin

Wrap in preformed, stiff cardboard

Duct tape cardboard in place, then fold the sock over both ends

Duct tape the sock in place over each end

Then do the other leg

One of the first things Bo did after we finished his splints, was nurse. That was one of our concerns, and he had no difficulty at all. Good. That was step one. We encouraged him to walk, just to make sure he could get around on his own. The next thing he did was try out his “new legs” and play. Yea! So far, so good.

Bo quickly got used to using his “new legs” and began to play with the other kids much more than ever before. We planned to leave the splints in place until Friday, which would have been four days. But, Thursday evening, when I went up to milk, I found this.

Since one of Bo’s splints had worked it’s way below his right knee and was no longer serving any purpose, we went ahead and removed them both. The encouraging sight I saw, was that his right leg was straight and he was using it normally. Now to see how the left leg was doing.


His left leg was awkward when he tried to walk on it, even though it was straight. We hoped a few days time would improve it’s use. 

This morning, two days after removing his splints, here is Bo. We still feel his shoulder stance is a little wider than the other kids, but he now looks and acts like a ‘kid his age’, so to speak.

I have to tell you, it chokes me up a little and does my heart good, to see the improvement Bo has made. Frank and I both have soft spots in our hearts for animals that struggle. Bo has given us another great learning opportunity. We had never splinted anything before, animal or human. It gave us the chance to research, brainstorm, experiment, discuss improvements and what worked, and gave us a successful finished product – straight legs. All of this will still eventually lead to food on our table. Bo is destined to become a wether, like the other young bucks, which we will raise and butcher in due time. Does this make me sad? No. We raise animals for the purpose of providing ourselves with good, wholesome food. 

We were fortunate that this story had a happy ending. Not all of them do. We have had baby goats that were not able to overcome the obstacles they encountered at birth and have had to put them down. I didn’t know how this story would end, that’s why I have postponed telling it. But now I feel fairly certain that Bo will do fine. And as for Cricket? She has the makings of a fine milk goat. She has trained to the milk stand and milking routine well. I still have high hopes for her. And if I attend another birth where the kids legs are crossed, I will do my best to reposition them correctly in the hopes that this will not happen again. There is no guarantee that this was caused from birth trauma, but that is what my gut instinct tells me from all of my reading and research. Sometimes there is no way to know why some things happen. But this time, we were blessed with a successful solution. I am grateful.

Until next time – Fern

Homemade Sauerkraut

We finally took the initiative to learn how to make fermented vegetables. I have read about it for years. The more I read, the more I realized how good this process is for your health, and it is another way to preserve foods. This is our first, well second, but I’ll get to that in a minute, batch of fermented cabbage. Let me back up and start with the books I have acquired so far. Here is the beginning of the story.

A few years back, I got this book. I had read little bits here and there over the years about fermented foods, but what I really wanted to be able to do is make a crunchy pickle. How are these two related? Well, I looked up how to brine pickles, and that led to pickle crocks, which led to other things to do with crocks, which led to sauerkraut and fermenting cabbage. So here we are, trying out our first home made sauerkraut. We bought the cabbage since ours is still in the seedling stage. But let me get back to this book and several others that I have bought recently, which include Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Live-Culture Foods and Real Food Fermentation: Preserving Whole Fresh Food with Live Cultures in Your Home Kitchen.

The more I read about fermented vegetables and their health benefits, the more interested I became in trying them. Then after we changed our eating habits to include less carbohydrates, more nutritional vegetables and better protein sources, I learned more about how fermenting foods such as kefir, sourdough and sauerkraut lowers the carbohydrate content of foods. Thus, the motivation for learning how to ferment vegetables increased even more. An article over at Cultures for Health describes some of these benefits in this article: Low Carb Fermented Foods.Fermentation occurs when bacteria feasts off of the carbohydrates found in a food. In making kombucha that food is the sugar. In making sourdough bread that food is the flour. In making sauerkraut that food is the carbohydrates in the cabbage. In making yogurt that food is the lactose naturally occurring in milk.”

All of my reading and research lead me to use a crock made for fermenting. Some of my fermenting books indicate that there is no need for a special crock, while others recommend it. I chose this kind of crock so I wouldn’t have to deal with the scum, or bloom, that typically grows on top of a crock of vegetables and has to be removed periodically. Or that is what I have read anyway. I didn’t want to have to guess whether it was the good scum or the bad scum. I was leery enough as it was without wondering if what I had perking away in the crock would make us sick. I liked the idea of having the crock closed. 

A side note here. I found out the hard way to keep sourdough and kefir across the room from each other so their yeasts and bacteria don’t have a little competition. The sourdough won at that time, and the kefir just about quit working all together. That meant that a week or so ago when I had all three out ‘working’, I placed them at the farthest three points on my cabinet that I could. The sourdough ended up stuck in the corner on top of the chicken scrap bucket, but it seemed to work and they all kept perking along.

We have hesitantly wanted to try fermenting vegetables for quite some time. I say hesitantly, because like anything, you have to be careful to produce a healthy instead of a deadly product. There are guidelines to follow when fermenting anything to make sure your finished product is edible, not something that will cause food poisoning. Neither one of us has ever eaten fermented vegetables before, and don’t know anyone that does, except through things we have read both in books and on the internet. That goes back to why this isn’t the first batch of cabbage we fermented.

 The first batch I started went like this. Chop up the cabbage very fine. Put in a the crock in layers, sprinkling it with salt, and pounding it down to compact it and release some of the juices in the cabbage. I used one full head of cabbage. The crock will hold much more, but it was an experiment, so I didn’t want to over do it. I followed the directions in one of the books that said to wait 24 hours, then check and see if the cabbage juices had covered the cabbage and the stones used to weigh it down. There wasn’t enough juice, so I added some filtered water, then let it sit and do it’s thing for several weeks. The problem I ran into was having baby goats and getting busy with other things. This allowed the

water in the ‘moat’ to evaporate, thus allowing oxygen to enter the crock. When this happens, as it would if you used an open crock, scum or bloom as some folks call it, forms on top of the liquid. As long as this bloom is white, it is supposed to be okay. You can skim it off and let the cabbage continue to ferment. Well……… I just couldn’t bring myself to trust that this was healthy instead of unhealthy bloom. Even though when I opened the crock, outside since I didn’t know if the smell would knock me down or smell good, it had a nice tangy smell, we still didn’t eat it. I just dumped it out in the garden. Nothing else ate it either, it just sat there.

Then I started another batch of cabbage. This time, after I chopped it up, I put a little in a large stainless steel bowl, sprinkled it with sea salt and pounded the whey out of it with a wooden pestle. I used the pestle the first time, too, but didn’t pound it near has hard since I didn’t want to break the crock. After 24 hours I was rewarded with a good amount of cabbage juice, but not enough to quite cover everything, so I added some filtered water. Surprisingly to me, it takes about a month for the cabbage to develop a sauerkraut kind of flavor.

We had our first, small helping today. It doesn’t taste like sauerkraut you buy in the store since it hasn’t been heat treated. Frank said it doesn’t taste bad, but it doesn’t taste good either. I thought it was pretty good. Crunchy, which I wasn’t expecting, tangy, and different, but good. Since our bodies are not used to consuming fermented vegetables, we will go easy on it at first, so we will have time to adjust. I dipped out about a quart for us to eat on, and left the rest in the crock to continue fermenting. This was a recommendation in the books. Since it takes about a month to get to this point, I think I will start a second crock. That will give us a perpetual supply. For now, we will stick to cabbage. Before long though, we will be trying other vegetables as well, things such as turnips, carrots, cucumbers, okra and beets.

This is yet another new food adventure we have embarked on. I’m not sure how successful or long-term it will be, but it is something I thought was worth a try. It is another way to preserve food in a very healthy way. Fermented foods can be kept for years in a cool place according to my research. If this is something we can produce in the summer, when the garden is going great guns, then it will be yet another source of very good nutrition. If you have any information or recommendations for us, we would love to hear them. We learn a great deal from our friends out there in blog world, and appreciate all you regularly share with us. 

Until next time – Fern

Planning the Garden & Changing the Way We Eat

These beautiful, sunny 65* January days only attribute to the spring fever I get every year about this time. Frank and I got out a vegetable list yesterday and started planning the garden for this year. Over the past two months we have made some fairly drastic changes in the way we eat. We’re not calling it a diet, because this is the way we plan on eating for the rest of our lives. You see, we are both over weight, and it is way past time to do something about it. Something permanent. Not something that will last a while, help us lose a few pounds, then go back to the way we used to eat and gain it back. This is a permanent change and we are very excited about it. And from another perspective, if we truly believe that our country and world is in for a very serious collapse, which we do believe, then we need to be healthier and better able to deal with the physical challenges that will come when we are in long term survival mode. 

That being said, we have made some fairly significant changes in what we will be growing, not only for ourselves, but for our animals as well. We will not be growing potatoes, sweet potatoes or corn this year. They are very starchy and full of carbohydrates that we really do not need. There are other vegetable choices that will provide us with the energy we need, along with many other nutrients, that don’t have the significant carbohydrate load. There are some vegetables that we haven’t been very successful at growing, that we are going to get very serious about. Things such as cabbage, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, onions and winter squash. I have looked into buying some green lace wings and lady bugs to try and increase the predatory insect population while at the same time decreasing the cabbage worms and aphids. Since we are both home full-time now, the garden will also get more attention than it did with only few minutes during the evenings on weekdays and weekends. I’m hoping that will make a big difference.

Each year as I start to think about rotating crops in our small garden, I pull out last year’s map to make sure I remember what was growing where then. Last year’s map is one of the messiest ones yet, but it still contains the data I need for this year.

After Frank and I made the list of vegetables we want to grow, I went back and separated this list into early cool weather plants, and warm weather plants that won’t go outside until after the last frost. Most of these will be grown as seedlings, but a few will still be directly seeded into the ground. We have found that growing seedlings, even with beets and carrots, gives them a much better survival rate than direct seeding, which is the traditional way to plant. If we give them a good start as seedlings, they survive the early spring weeds much better and we get more harvest for our efforts.

After we made our list, and lists of lists, I got out last year’s map along with this document that contains companion plant data for the vegetables we grow. I have several garden books that cover this information that I was referring to over and over. So, I kept looking up the same information time and again. After a few years I put everything on this document and printed it out for my notebook, which is much quicker to reference.

I use it every year when choosing locations of vegetables. Companion planting really is effective. Before I knew beets were inhibited by pole beans, I planted two rows of beets on either side of my pole bean trellis. They all died and I didn’t know why until I started incorporating companion planting into our garden design. This is another example of layers of knowledge. The more I learn, the higher our vegetable yield becomes, and the more I realize I don’t know.

Armed with our list of vegetables, last year’s map and my companion plant list, I am ready to map out this year’s garden. Initially I do it in pencil, because I always have to move something. Either I put it too close to last year’s planting, or next door to something it doesn’t get along with too well. But after a little jockeying around, everything usually falls into place. I thought I had everything on this map and was satisfied with the results until I realized I had left out the tomatoes, which means I had left out some of the carrots. I have the companion planting book Carrots Love Tomatoes, and they really do. Some of the best carrots we have grown have been on either side of the tomato trellis.

Taking down trellis, end of summer 2013

Speaking of trellises. We use stock panels on t-posts. Each year at the end of the season, we take them down and stack them beside the garden. Then after we have everything tilled up for the last time and ready for planting in the spring, we install the panels and t-posts wherever we want the trellis to be for that year. There are just about as many ways to trellis tomatoes and beans as there are gardeners, and this way works very well for us. It’s easy to pick from either side of the panel, and we don’t have any trouble even with some of the strong winds and thunderstorms we get here sometimes. One of the trellises will initially be for the sugar snap peas. After our last average frost, which is April 1st, I will plant beans in amongst the peas to take over the trellis when the peas are finished. I did this with peas and tomatoes last year. 

Since we haven’t had any luck with fall planted winter squash for the past two years, I will be planting my winter squash in the spring when I plant the yellow summer squash. We would like to get as many winter squash as possible to store for both us and the animals. The same goes for the mangel beets, which are an old time traditional animal feed.

September 2014

We planted a larger than usual patch of cowpeas, purple hull peas, last summer which actually grew pretty well even though the grass overtook most of the patch during Frank’s back surgery and recovery. Many, many peas dried and went to seed in this patch, so we expect they will come up again this summer. Because of that, this will be one time that we won’t rotate this crop. We make it a standard, rather strict practice not to grow the same crop in the same place two years in a row, but instead of pulling up many volunteer pea plants, this year, we will replant the peas here and let them share space with the expected volunteer plants.

July 2014

We will be growing a fair sized patch of sunflowers again this summer for the chickens, goats and pigs. (The pigs will be joining us in a few months.) The amount of sunflowers we can grow in the garden will not be enough to provide a lot of animal feed, but will be a supplement, and it’s good practice. If our plans work out to get a larger area ready to plant in one of the pastures, we will grow many more sunflowers, cowpeas, maybe some field corn, beets, winter squash, turnips and carrots there. All for animal feed. That would be a dream come true. We have had plans for this pasture for many years.

This year I will plant the spinach, lettuce, celery, celeriac, leeks, collards and swiss chard in the herb bed. There is room there to do small successive plantings, and that will leave more space in the main garden for the larger vegetables. I will also work at getting more herbs established in the herb bed again this year. There are many things that are started, and some of the annuals are reseeding themselves, which is the goal. The weeds and grass had a hayday last summer during Frank’s recovery as well. But there are many things still growing in amongst the weeds that we hope to give more attention to this summer.

There is much to learn, study and do to provide a good, balanced adequate diet. I continue to try to determine the nutritional content of the vegetables we are growing, to make sure we are getting what we need to be healthy, active people. Because when the time comes that we must depend upon our little patch of dirt for our sustenance, I want to be ready. I want to know how to coax that nutrition out of the ground. I want to be able to put a healthy, satisfying, life sustaining meal on the table in front of my husband. I want to live.

Until next time – Fern