Homestead News, Volume 16

When I sit down to write about the news from our place, I always look back at the last article to see what I wrote. I was surprised to see that the outdoor kitchen was still a slab of concrete, and that the antenna towers had just been put in the ground. It seems like much has happened since the last edition, so much so that I won’t remember it all.

We ended up with 77 quarts of pears. I had to do some rearranging on the pantry shelves to get them in there all together. That wasn’t such a terrible task.

I’ve canned another 6 pints of green beans this past week. Six jars aren’t a lot, but I’m still surprised that the Missouri Wonders are producing this time of year. I will be canning a few more pints  along with a few beets, maybe tomorrow.

Yesterday I picked the last of the tomatoes. We have temperatures forecast in the mid 30’s on Saturday and Sunday night, which means we will probably get a frost here at the house. We were really surprised the first time that happened. The house is in a small, low dip in the land, and the barn is on a small hill. It will frost at the house, but not at the barn when the temperatures are in the mid 30’s. That means the tomatoes, green beans and okra will die this weekend. I was surprised at the number of tomatoes we harvested. Most of the vines are suffering from some kind of wilt and are dying anyway. Today I will wrap a bunch of these tomatoes in newspaper and tuck them in the pantry to ripen. 

I was also surprised at the number of carrots we still had in the ground along the tomato trellis. After the rains pass through today, I will dig up the remainder of the carrots along the green bean trellis. I have really enjoyed being able to go out and pull a few carrots for a salad throughout the summer. Carrots are something I have finally figured out how to grow. Now if only I can learn how to grow onions, and store them.

I used to be sad to see the last of the garden die out for winter. This year, all of the new growth in the greenhouse has replaced that sadness with a continuation of ‘gardening’ activities. Many of the new seeds I planted last week are coming up, including the Austrian Winter Peas. I look forward to adding them to our salads and picking a few for the chickens as well.

 Since we are expecting a frost, I dug up one sweet pepper and one jalapeno plant to see if they will survive the transplanting and live in the greenhouse. They have been blooming and producing more peppers, so I thought if the frost was going to kill them anyway, it won’t hurt to experiment with transplanting. I

had mentioned these plants to a friend of mine that encouraged me to try this. I know she’ll be watching their progress or demise, whichever comes first.



Frank has been working on giving some of our trees and shrubs haircuts. The new antenna set up will be a little different configuration, thus the trimming activities. We have made several trips to the brush pile to keep the yard cleared. 

 


 

 

We have another rainy day today which is very good. The soil has gotten very dry over the past few months and we appreciate the nourishment the rain brings. We hope to get several inches today. The hay we put down last week to cover the bare parts of the garden have worked out very well. That was a very good use of old hay. Now it looks like we will be getting some serious weather later on today.


 

The structural portion of the outdoor kitchen is finished. Now we need to paint the plywood walls to protect them from the weather. When that is finished we will start ‘installing’ the stove, grill/smoker, rocket stove, sinks and cabinet/workbench.


This water tank has been lurking around here for about six years. Our original plans for it have long since gone by the way side. Our latest plan was to put it up on a platform by the outdoor kitchen and attach it to the sinks, but that just never seemed quite right. You know those ideas you get that seem to be pretty good, but just don’t quite come together in your mind? Well, Frank and Henry discussed the placement of the tank there by the kitchen one afternoon with plans to build the platform the next morning. That night when we went to bed, we were talking about the next days work and a new idea emerged. I had already asked Frank to put a 55 gallon drum under the guttering down spout by the greenhouse, then I could dip out the water easily. Well, our late night idea was this. Put the 305 gallon water tank here instead. Looks great, doesn’t it? It will be connected to a short run of guttering, with a faucet of sorts for accessing the water. It’s a few short feet from the greenhouse which will be wonderful.

 

In the next few weeks we will be showing you the installation of the water lines. Emmet has been back several times digging the beginning of the ditches required for water and electric lines. This will allow the gentleman to come and dig the lines without worrying about the barn, fencing or existing water line. I have some really exciting pictures on here, don’t I? Holes in the ground….

A few days ago Frank commented on how many acorns one of our oak trees has dropped this year. These are larger acorns than many of the other trees, large enough to affect your footing if you have too many of them underfoot. Until this year, they have been a nuisance to contend with, this year they are turning into meat. Seeing all of the acorns brought a vague memory to mind, something about pigs eating acorns. We researched oak acorns and pigs to make sure they were safe, and found not only are they safe, some people consider pigs raised on acorns to be some of the best pork available. So yesterday I began collecting acorns. It only took about 30 minutes to pick up this many. I gave a few to the pigs yesterday morning and at first they didn’t pay much attention to them. We thought it might be necessary to crack the hard outer

covering, but it’s not. Last night all of the acorns were gone and this morning I saw one of the barrows crunching away on one. It’s interesting how perspectives can change. There are lots of things I now view as meat, meaning food for animals that will turn into meat. Many of these things have lain about for years going to waste, but now with a little effort, they are increasing our food supply. Speaking of pigs, for the rest of this week Liberty has come running into her pen each time I feed. She starts out in one of the ‘outside’ feed pans, but as soon as I pour out her feed and call her, “Come on, Liberty”, here she comes running. Every so often one of the boys tries to come with her, but they’ve figured out that this is not their food. This has been very interesting to me.
 
I thawed out the leg roast I saved from the last goat butchering. We tried cooking one of these roasts, but it was really tough. This roast was sliced yesterday and marinated in soy sauce and pepper so we can try another batch of jerky. Frank didn’t care for the first batch, and I have to admit it is really tough to chew and doesn’t have a lot of flavor. It’s okay, but we hope to improve. One thing I am doing differently today is starting it in the morning so it won’t be left in the dehydrator overnight, which was too long the first time. We also hope the soy sauce improves the flavor. If not, I’ll go back to sea salt and add more than I did the first time.

Easter & Patch

Our buck moved to a new home yesterday. Since we kept his daughters, Easter and Patch, we wanted a new buck for breeding. We have yet to find a new buck, though, and will be borrowing Faith’s new buck in a few weeks. One Stripe and Copper will give us another set of kids from the buck we just sold, but Easter, Patch, Lady Bug and Cricket will all be bred to Faith’s buck. This will give us the chance to add some new blood to our herd. We will keep looking for another full-time buck for our next round of breeding in May. We are still trying to have year round milk, which means two ‘breeding seasons’ per year. It makes things a little more complicated, but we think it’s worth the effort.


Enjoy the blessings of these peaceful days. On the surface, most things seem calm. Don’t let the depth of the swift undercurrent pull you under. The decisions we make today will help determine our ability to survive in the future. Choose wisely.

Until next time – Fern

How Many Different Ways Can You Cook?

Cooking will always be a way of life as long as there is food to cook and people to cook it. With the construction of the outdoor kitchen underway, I have been thinking about different ways to cook. There are many, many ways to choose from, so I thought I would see if we could get a good conversation going. Like Frank says, we’re all in this together, and we always learn so much from interaction with the folks that stop by and visit here.

As I pondered this question, I came up with several possibilities. Here they are in no particular order.

We cook with propane in the house, and will be able to continue to do so until the tanks run dry. For now, it’s easy to call up a company and have them come and fill the tank. When that is no longer an option, we’ll have to come up with other alternatives.

We have our wood stove in the livingroom that has a flat top. It’s not ideal and isn’t meant to be a cookstove, but we can put a cast iron dutch oven on it and cook beans or soup. I’m not sure how well it would work for making a pot of coffee with a camping percolator, though. Yes, we really like our coffee, and until our supply runs out, we’ll be having some everyday, even after the SHTF.

Now we come to the outdoor kitchen. We will have a wood cookstove there along with a grill/smoker.

Another addition for quick cooking and heating will be a Rocket stove. Once we have everything set up out here, I will practice with all three.

An option for baking we have acquired is a Coleman camp stove oven. It folds down flat, so it isn’t air tight, and makes me wonder how effective it will be. It is about an internal 10 inch cube, so no 25 lb. turkeys. In one of the reviews Frank read, someone suggested putting bricks in the bottom to help hold the heat. We have firebricks to put in the wood cookstove, and will try some in the oven as well.

Another oven option is a Sun Oven, which we also have, but it hasn’t made it’s way out of the box yet. I’ve read about several people using them very successfully, including our friend Grace down the road, so it’s time I learn how to use this one.  

Of course there is always a campfire with a metal grate across it, or an open pit fire that you can hang pot over or put a rotisserie on. If you have the right cookware, you can cook all sorts of meals this way.

Another possibility is a small cast iron hibachi type of system. It’s small, doesn’t take a lot of fuel, and will provide a small, hot fire. Again, with some cast iron cookware, this would be an easy way to cook a quick meal. 

Now that we have different ways to cook, we need to think about fuel for all of those fires. Right now we have an abundance of firewood stored, but that won’t last forever, just like the propane. There will come a time when we need more wood, along with a way to cut and haul it.

There will also come a time when it may not be safe to cook because of the smell. If you are trying to keep a low profile for security reasons, the odor of cooking food would be a dead give away, especially to someone, or a bunch of someones, that are hungry. Then what do you do? Even the smell of a fire would draw attention.

On the other hand, if your retreat is your homestead then there are all sorts of noises that come with the territory. Your chickens make all kinds of noises, from crowing to singing the egg song. Your goats will holler good morning when they see you. The pigs will excitedly greet you asking for breakfast. Your dog will bark. Your radio will come to life with a greeting or message from down the road. Not to mention everyday conversation that comes with the activity of the day.

These are some of the things I think about as I go through my days. The sounds and smells of life are a rich addition to all we do. There may come a day when some of these things have to be curtailed for a while for our safety. If that happens, and you can’t cook, how will you provide adequate nourishment? Let’s face it, if a collapse happens in winter, it will be easy to see where the people are. There will be fires for warmth, and where there is fire, there is smoke.

So, what do you think? How many different ways can you cook, and will you be able to cook when the SHTF? Will it make a difference if it is winter or summer? Will it make a difference if safety is a concern? I have thought many times recently that two is one, and one is none. I’ve applied that to many things, including cooking, canning, gardening, clothing, animals, tools, radios, just about everything. That’s what brought me to this article about cooking. I want to make sure I have enough options to be able to put good, nourishing food on the table when we need it the most. I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts.

Until next time – Fern

Tales from the Clothesline

Many of you won’t be surprised that I am writing about a clothes line since I’ve mentioned it before, but you know what? I am so excited about having a clothesline again. It’s been about 15 years since we’ve been able to hang clothes outside. We’ve used a few creative indoor clotheslines from time to time over the years, but the last time we were able to hang clothes outside was in the spring of 2000. Now is the time for us to have a simple, effective,

outdoor dryer available to us again. A few days ago we moved the antenna towers and mowed down the tall grass in preparation for our new adventure in drying clothes outside.

Frank installed turnbuckles on the end of each line so we can tighten them up as needed. I thought this was a great idea!

You’ll notice that the clothesline is very close to the outdoor kitchen. That will make it very convenient when I am also washing the clothes outdoors, not just drying them. More about that process once we have the kitchen

completed. As I took the first load of laundry out of the washer, I had this vague memory of sorting the clothes before loading them into the clothes basket and heading outside. I’ll probably relearn how I want this done as I get used to this new, old routine. We have a plastic clothes basket that I could use, but I’ve chosen to try out a metal bushel basket instead. Every plastic basket we have had eventually breaks off at the handles and has to be replaced. I plan on this lasting more than my lifetime.

I seem to have that radio on all the time, don’t I?

I have had this clothespin apron for many, many years. I don’t remember who made it or gave it to me, I only know that I didn’t make it. We used to have one with a hanger in it that you could hang on the line. I like the apron better. 


Back in August as my birthday approached, Frank asked me if there was anything I wanted. At first I couldn’t think of anything, but then I remembered something. I had recently read about Herrick Kimball’s clothespins. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Herrick’s blog, he is over at the Deliberate Agrarian. He also works from home creating and producing items for his homestead based company, Planet Whizbang. I contacted Mr. Kimball about my interest in his Classic American Clothespins and found out they would be available in early October, but since we didn’t have a clothesline yet, that worked out just fine.

I recently received my clothespins and yesterday was the first opportunity I had to try them out. I was surprised how much larger they are than the regular, store bought version I have been using for years. The stainless steel spring is larger also, and easily holds a pair of jeans or thick jacket. Not only are these clothespins sturdy, they are made from beautiful ash wood. I expect these clothespins will last us a very long time. If you go to his site, you will find that Herrick sells out of his clothespins very quickly. His production run of 8000 is already gone. He did mention in an email that he may have an extra run of 8000 available sometime later, you’ll have to check with him if you are interested.

Ladies please don’t be offended, but I’ve always just thought of us as girls, regardless of age. Now that you understand that I want you to know, as I took the clothes out to the line, hung them up with my new clothespins, stood back and admired my work, that I was one happy girl. A little kooky, huh? You know, why do all that work? I told my friend Grace the other day how excited I was to have a clothesline again, and that I expect some folks to think I was a little off my rocker. There is a young mother that lives close by, and she told me she loves hanging out her clothes, she feels like she is saving money for her family. She’s right, and then there is the advantage of the sunshine killing bacteria, the clean, fresh fragrance without artificial chemicals, and the stiff scratchy feeling of the towels. We were very surprised at how quickly the clothes dried. Frank commented that it was much faster than the dryer.

We broke down today and changed the sizes of our t-shirts. Frank and I were still wearing the shirts we wore before losing almost 50 pounds and they are hanging very loosely. We hate to put something away before it is good and worn out, but it was time to ‘down size’ our clothes. 

As I was hanging out this batch of shirts, Frank ‘Wilson’ Feral arrived and had me laughing so hard I could hardly take this picture. He is one funny man, and I am one blessed woman.

It is truly the simple things in life that fill my heart and soul with a deep, abiding joy and sense of contentment. Seek out what fills your soul. When you are in the midst of stress or strife, dip from that well of contentment and take it in stride. In the coming days our stress levels are not going to go down, they are going to continue to increase to a fever pitch. The

Our sheepskin prayer rug

uncertainty of the future has already caused many to lose hope, lose their temper, lose their families and, for some, lose their life. The stress of the coming collapse can bring the most stalwart and courageous to their knees. We find ourselves in prayer on our knees, side by side, every night before we go to bed. It gives us strength and binds us together like nothing else can. Seek that which will give you strength to face the coming days, weeks and months as our uncertain future unfolds. You will need it.

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 14

Well, let’s see, what have we been up to lately? Bunches. Last week we got a comment that accused us of putting the youngsters to shame with all of the work we’ve been doing. It struck me as kind of funny at the time, and I’ve thought about it a couple of times since then. Because of that comment, I thought I’d let you know that the two men that are doing most of the hard work around here, Frank and Henry, are 65 and 60 years old, respectively. This little tid bit of information may motivate someone out there, so I thought I would share. As for the woman here? I’m 56.

The ditch we showed you last week looks exactly the same as it did then, except we ran a soaker hose across the yard where the rest of the ditch is to be dug. Emmet has been back since this ditch was

started, but during that visit he dug a different ditch, the one between these two buildings, and about half of it was done in the dark by lantern light. The one picture I tried to take showed too much of Emmet’s face, so I didn’t keep it. After the ditch was dug, Frank and Emmet ran 12/2 in conduit connecting the two buildings. And then there was light. Inside that is. Frank did his first night time tractor driving and covered up

the ditch with the bucket. He didn’t like it much, he prefers the visibility daylight provides instead. So now we have temporary power to these two buildings. Temporary because the solar panel installation will provide the power to these buildings in the long run.

 

Today Frank and Henry finished installing the braces and brackets for the new antenna towers. There is one on the garage, one on the garden shed and one on the house by the current antenna pole. Frank has been determining the angle of attachment because these towers will fold over at the bottom so they can be laid down to install or work on antennas. This has taken a lot of planning, plus acquiring some needed equipment and accessories. We will continue to give you updates on how this project is progressing.

 

 

As you can tell from the picture on the header, the concrete for the outdoor kitchen was installed last week. I have to tell you, watching Henry mix the concrete bag after bag made me tired. That was a lot of work, but it went quickly and smoothly. Frank brought the bags of concrete over in the bucket of the tractor so no one had to lift them. We kept water in a five gallon bucket for Henry to pour into the wheelbarrow, which saved time and effort as well.

Here is the first appliance for the outdoor kitchen. Neat, huh? It is neat and exciting to think about completing this project and having a functional, no-grid, rather primitive kitchen right off the back porch. But when I really stop and think about using it out of necessity in a survival scenario, the neat factor drops like a rock. This kitchen has not been conceived, nor created to invite friends over to enjoy tea and crumpets. I picture processing vegetables and meat out here, washing clothes and fixing breakfast before a hard days work. It’s rather daunting, actually.

 

Last week our friend Grace let me know there were some local pears ripe and available. There are folks that have pear trees, but aren’t using the pears. One gentleman’s tree is loaded and they are falling by the dozens to the ground. Yesterday instead of butchering and canning chickens, I went and got pears, five 5 gallon buckets full of pears. Guess what I

Washed pears in the sunrise that’s peeking in the backdoor.

did today? Yep, but I only got started. So far we have 21 quarts of canned pears. We did it a little different this time, no sugar (just like the peaches), and no peeling. When we had finished canning peaches a month or so ago, one person commented that they don’t peel their fruit before they can it. I thought that sounded great and read about other folks doing the same thing, so that’s what I did. Aren’t they beautiful? And there are lots left to put way. I hope to have them finished by the weekend.

 

We have had some cold nights this week, into the 40’s. This was the first ‘cold’ test for the greenhouse and the water barrels we are using for the thermal mass. The first night it got down to 47*, the greenhouse against the wall was 59*. Yea! That is where the tomatoes, peppers, ginger, potatoes and turmeric are living. The temperature on the thermometers along the outside wall read 54*. Another yea! That’s when I discovered that I hadn’t thought to close the screen at the top of the storm door on the greenhouse. That may have kept it even warmer in there. The plants are happy, even when it gets over 100* most afternoons. It is supposed to cool off, even for the highs later in the week. Today it got up to 97*, it was a hot day.

Beets
Carrots

Cabbage
Brocolli

Brussel sprouts
Muskmelon

Squash

Onions!

Spinach

Since I have been watering the plants in the greenhouse almost everyday, I thought it would be good to use the water well that is right next door. This water well has a Simple Pump installed that works very well, it’s just that we haven’t been using it at all. When I pumped some water out of it the other day it smelled awful, so today I put about half a gallon of bleach in it. We’ll let it sit for a couple of days then pump water out of it until the bleach smell is gone. It will be an easy walk with my watering can back and forth to the well. I figure it is a good time to get the well into good working condition since we may be using it regularly before long. I wiped down the main rod to remove any dust and grime. Before I use it again I will clean and lubricate the rod again with olive oil.

 

For now, I am filling the watering can with the hose and rural water supply. I have also been ‘watering’ the clothesline poles for several days. It is really dry here and it hasn’t rained since we put the poles in the ground with the dry concrete. I have watered each pole a number of times, several days apart. I’m ready to use it, it just isn’t ready to be used yet.

 

 

 

I almost forgot to tell you. Monday when Frank and Henry were finishing up shelving and braces in preparation for working on the antenna towers, I tore the carpet out of the bedroom. This

house has old, old, about 35 year old shag carpet in the bedroom, hallway and living room. Did I tell you it’s old? Well, last weekend Frank took up a small piece of the bedroom carpet, just to see what was underneath. That showed me what to do. I thought it would take quite a while and be difficult. It took less than an hour and was a breeze. The hardest part was moving the mattress out into the

hallway and back, and that wasn’t difficult. Now we have a somewhat uneven, paint splotched and stained in some places, plywood bedroom floor. It’s great! We haven’t decided what we’re going to do with it next, but there’s no hurry. We’re just glad to have the carpet and everything that was living in it out of our bedroom.

After I finished with the carpet, I snapped a few green beans I had picked over the weekend and thawed out the gallon bag of cowpeas I had put in the freezer over the summer. Out came the canner and they all went in together even though the green beans only require 25 minutes to can and the cowpeas require 40 minutes. I ended up with three pints of green beans and 10 pints of cowpeas. It sure is nice to have a few more jars of food on the shelf.

There is an interesting article on The Economic Collapse today that Frank ran across, The Numbers Say That a Major Global Recession Has Already Begun. We know that not everybody follows the markets, but we’re all invested heavily, one way or another. Please pay attention. And if you can or would, please pray for the Middle East. Things are not looking good there. Do you think the world economy and the Middle East problems might be connected? Certainly food for thought. A couple of extra cans of green beans might come in handy some day. You just never know when the stores might not be there.

Life continues to rush by at break neck speed. It’s amazing how much we are getting done and how much is yet to be completed. We have never worked this hard and accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. Ever. It’s quite fascinating. This afternoon after Frank and Henry had quit for the day and we were waiting for the last batch of pears to be finished, Frank and I talked about how hard we have been working. I told him we are practicing for what is to come, when there won’t be a choice of working hard all day or not. It’s hard work, it’s good practice and it’s providing us with many things that will make life a little easier. There is nothing like experience for learning. It’s your turn, do, learn, and experience. It will get you one step closer to being as ready as you can.

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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


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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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


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

Until next time – Fern

Projects for TEOTWAWKI Life

A homestead is never without a long list of projects. There are the ones that are in progress, the ones waiting their turn on the list, and the ones that fit better in the distant dream category. Nevertheless, if you homestead, or plan to homestead, don’t be discouraged that the list never gets completed, because if it did, you wouldn’t have anything to do, and you’d be bored. Boredom is not something that occurs here very often unless we’re expending our energy avoiding the things on the list that need to be done.

The installation of this lattice work has been planned for years.
We think it turned out great! I see green beans growing the length of the house next summer.

 
 

A friend of mine recently told me that she just couldn’t keep up with us and all of the things we’re doing. There are a lot of projects that are in progress right now, and when Frank and I stand back and take stock, sometimes it seems like a bit of a whirlwind. One thing that has allowed a lot of this to occur is being able to hire a man like Henry. With his help, Frank has accomplished a great deal in the past few months. The conditions of the world are the major driving force behind the pace of our work and the kinds of projects we are completing. The focus of our work is survival, plain and simple. The things we are doing will make the work required to live easier, we hope, so keep that in mind as you read here. All of our planning, work and goals are with an eye to survival.

Most of the projects we are currently working on have been on the drawing board for quite some time, and in some cases, as long as seven years. Over that time frame we have acquired supplies as our budget would allow. Now we are investing in the remainder of the needed supplies and the labor to accomplish some tasks. These investments will pay huge dividends for the rest of our lives.

Yesterday while I was attending a meeting, Frank and Henry built new steps with a handrail for the front and back door. They are simple, strong, sturdy and wonderful. You see, I like simple, I prefer simple. Anything else just wouldn’t do. We will find another place to use these concrete steps.

Today we planned some odds and ends. While it was cloudy and a cool 68* outside, the greenhouse stayed cool as well. Table tops were cut and barrels were arranged in a workable layout. Don’t they look great? I can’t wait to bring the tubs of plants and seeds in. 

It’s hard to see from the angle of the first picture, but when I take a picture from up here, you can also see the shelves they put along the outside walls. They will show up much better once they are filled with plants.

We had some great comments on the last article about the greenhouse. Several folks mentioned using fans to help with the temperatures. Frank had a fan to use in the building that will house the solar panels and batteries that we hadn’t installed yet. He pulled it out and mounted in over one of the vents in the greenhouse. 

 

He had already put a power pole connector on the wire to the fan, and had an transformer that would work. After mounting the fan over the vent and plugging it in, we were in business. After about 20 minutes the temperature had started to drop.

 

After an hour or so, the temperature had obviously been affected by the fan. Great! One step closer to putting the tubs of seedlings in the greenhouse.

Frank and Henry also utilized all of the sheets of plywood, along with some 1/2″ plywood to cut ten 24″ squares, to put under each water barrel as a barrier from the concrete.

Now we need to rinse out each barrel, place them in their permanent home on a square of plywood, fill them with water and treat them with bleach. Then we will be able to start bringing the seedling tubs and other plants in. That will be a red letter day!

While the men were working on the greenhouse, I was cleaning out the ‘weaning pen’ in the barn. Lady Bug, one of the does we are milking, is still letting her five month old doe, Easter, nurse. I was hoping she would go ahead and wean her, but stay in milk for our use. As I was milking her this morning, and getting very little, I began to wonder if she could be weaning Easter and drying up. This would defeat our purpose of keeping her in milk through at least mid January when One Stripe, Copper and Cricket are due to kid. After this thought hit me I knew I needed to start penning Easter up again at night so I can not only have more milk, but keep Lady Bug producing more, and hopefully longer. Thus, I needed to clean out the pen and get it set up for this evening for Easter. We’ll see how Lady Bug’s milk supply is in the morning. I’ve got my fingers crossed.


We still have some chickens that need to be put in the freezer, so after I finished cleaning the pen, I went down to the house to set up the butchering station. Very soon, this part of the task won’t be necessary. Frank, Henry and the tractor were wrestling with the stump in the outdoor kitchen area when I got back down to the house. Men and machine won out over the stump, although it did give them a run for their money. Now, in it’s place is a nice gravel chip pad and the beginnings of forms for concrete. When we butcher the chickens that grow from the eggs that are currently in the incubator, we may have this kitchen set up so we can dress the chickens here. I didn’t get any pictures of this process because I was butchering chickens down here at the end of the porch, but I was close by and got to watch.
 

My chicken butchering set up, washed and drying for next time.


You may wonder why we are building an outdoor kitchen. It’s not for fun, or looks, or to show my friends. I truly believe that it is something we will need to have in the coming years. It gets hot in Oklahoma in the summer time, and the propane tank that fuels our kitchen stove will run out one day if the trucks quit running. I need a place to cook, process the garden produce and meat from our animals, can food, wash clothes and provide for my husband. This will be where that happens. As we get everything set up and functional, we’ll give you another tour and more explanations. This project is still in the planning stages and has already undergone a number of changes. It will be interesting to see it all come together in a final product. Most of the things installed in this kitchen have been here for a while, some longer than others. A few things will need to be acquired for it’s completion.

Before the wrestling match with the stump commenced, the clothesline poles sprouted wings. We will let the posts continue to cure in the ground for a few more days before we hang the clothesline. I am really looking forward to hanging our clothes out on the line again. As you can see, the clothesline is close to the kitchen which will be very handy. 

After Frank and the tractor won the stump contest, he also ran the disc through the garden again. There are several places that the grass has really grown tall and it’s good he is working it and getting it ready for winter. We will soon be adding barnyard and wood ashes to rebuild what was lost in the early spring torrential rains that took much of our topsoil.
 

We still haven’t decided where to put the outhouse……


What projects do you have in mind for TEOTWAWKI? In the seven years we have lived on this homestead our purchasing has been with an eye to a future that will probably not resemble life as we know it now. Frank has seen the demise of our country and world coming for a long time. That is why we have purchased many supplies that have been waiting in the wings for quite a while. Now is the time for us to prepare these things, for soon the time of preparation will be past. Even if you are unable to complete a needed or wanted project now, obtain as many supplies as you are able. There will be a time when what you have is what you have, and that’s it. Think about that. What you have is what you have. No more stores or driving to town to get something. If you don’t have it, you can’t get it. What is it that you really need for TEOTWAWKI? Think hard, talk it over with your family. Make a list and acquire what you are able. Now. The time is now.

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 12

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vet’s assistant

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time – Fern