Homestead News, Volume 19

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

One Stripe

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

Two Tone

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time – Fern

Gardening & Goats in February

The weather has been snowy and cold for a few days and doesn’t look to be letting up anytime soon. We don’t have it near as bad as some of the folks to the north, east, and west, so I thought I would share the sounds of the coming spring. There is hope that spring will arrive, even if you’re buried under feet of snow. Before long you will be hearing this sound in your area.

I started some seedlings back on February 10th. The age of the seeds made me question their continued viability, so I planted them pretty thick. Well, most of them have done really well, to the point that they are in serious need of thinning. Here is a pictorial of their progress.

Green cabbage, February 16th

Green cabbage, February 25th

Michilli cabbage, February 25th

Kohlrabi, February 25th

When I thin these out, we will either eat the seedlings in a salad, or I will give them to the chickens. Now, if I can just get these cabbages to grow to maturity without feeding another crop of cabbage worms, that will be great.

Mixed lettuce, February 16th

Mixed lettuce, February 25th

Spinach & mixed greens, February 16th

I was surprised how much they grew in one day. February 17th

Now they really need thinning. February 25th

Onions, February 17th

Onions, about ready for a haircut to encourage bulb growth, February 25th

The broccoli didn’t do as well, but there are enough for plenty of plants. February 25th

Yesterday I decided it was time to get the carrot seedlings started. I already had some pot maker pots rolled up, but during the cold, snowy, wet weather, I rolled up a few more. It was a cold day, but the sun was shining on the west porch yesterday afternoon, so I decided to give it a try. The garden soil we have in a large trashcan on the porch was so cold! It didn’t take long before my fingers were frozen, even with gloves on. I decided to bring the three trays of pots I filled inside to thaw out before I planted the seeds. 

 This morning I planted them and watered them in with hot water. As it turns out, our indoor growing area is getting pretty full. I hope the weather warms up enough to move these cold weather crops outside into the sunshine during the day to encourage more growth and to harden them off before we plant them in the garden. If all goes according to plans, I hope to plant them around the middle of March. Next up will be starting more carrots, along with beets and green peas in more paper pots.

In the meantime, I have collected a few more short videos of the baby goats. They are doing very well, strong, healthy and active. The vet will be here this afternoon to disbud them. Today is when we were originally planning to start penning them up an night so we can get more milk. But with the disbudding and predicted 19* weather tomorrow night, we will wait until it is warmer. Maybe Saturday. Right now we aren’t getting any milk, with the cold weather, the babies are drinking it all. But we don’t hold that against them, they are babies after all.

Here is Patch chewing on One Stripe’s ear and my jeans, along with a good look at Cricket, Lady Bug and Copper. I felt Cricket’s babies kick for the first time yesterday.

Here we have babies nursing and Lady Bug on the milk stand for the second or third time. I have started bringing in my three young does to eat on the milk stand so it won’t be such a foreign place when I begin to milk them. Penny is the most hesitant about getting on the stand. Cricket and Lady Bug are doing great.

These are our day to day events, and in some ways, year to year. I’ll teach the young does to eat on the milk stand and get them used to being touched because before long they will be milked, everyday. We did this last year, and the year before, and we hope to do it next year with Patch and Buttons and ????. The garden is also day to day and year to year. It’s a cycle, and it’s a chore, but that’s what life is about, isn’t it? Now, how do I train those tomatoes to attach to that trellis? Think maybe they’ll just jump right up there? Life is good. We have high hopes for a productive garden this year. And we have high hopes for productive goats this year. Hope your dreams come true. Mine have.

Until next time – Fern

Getting the Garden Ready

Yippee!! It’s time to get the garden ready to plant. It’s great this coincides with cleaning out the barn since not only does it mean we’re going to have goat kids, it means fertilizer for the garden. So, now that the fertilizer, AKA goat poop, is spread out it’s time to till it in before the next chance of rain comes along. It was 70 degrees today and pretty windy. This helped the garden dry up enough for us to be able to work in it with the tractor, but there were still a few spots that were almost too wet.

First, detach the brush hog.

Then, attach the tiller.

This will be the sixth year we have worked this garden spot. We have added barnyard and wood ashes each year. Most of the soil is in great condition for gardening. There are still some rocky areas that seem to grow more and more rocks every year. There is one patch that has a lot more clay than the rest. I think this is where the septic tank was put in, since this patch is just different.

We have developed a good routine for getting the tilling done pretty quickly. It has it’s challenges since Frank has to back the tractor into towards the fence then till as he come back out. With our storage sheds and relatively small space between the house and the fence, we don’t have a lot of room to just go back and forth. But Frank has figured out a good routine and makes short order of this chore.

So, now I have my garden plan

I have dug out the seeds I need for my first wave of seedlings. 


I have rolled up about 275 pots for the seedlings that are just waiting for dirt and seeds. That may be the chore for tomorrow.

So, another day’s chores are almost complete. Just like any other day. Morning chores; off to work at school while Frank does more daily chores around the house; after I get home we: till the garden; feed the animals and milk One Stripe; cook dinner; write a blog post; make butter while we read a novel together; say our prayers and call it another good day. The Lord is good and we are very blessed. Count your many blessings each and every day. Each day is given to you to use to the best of your ability. Make it count. 

Until next time – Fern

P.S. Even though it was not forecast, we had a nice freeze at 28 degrees last night. That is perfect timing. Freshly tilled ground with all of those nice bugs and eggs exposed to the freezing weather. This increases my hopes for the garden this year even more!

Seedlings for the Fall Garden

Frank made a great discovery a few years ago – a Pot Maker. We had always saved up a bunch of newspapers to wrap chickens in when we freeze them and various other things. When we got serious about growing our own seedlings, we wanted a way that would be economical, practical and ecological. With all of the information coming out about GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds, we were determined to grow and eat the most natural foods we could. Thus, the discovery of the Pot Maker. They are very simple wooden forms which make great little biodegradable pots. And since it is time (well, actually a little past time) to start my seedlings for the fall garden, I thought I would share this with you.

The pot maker comes with instructions and measurements for the

size of paper to use. At first I cut them according to directions. I soon figured out that you can cut six strips out of a standard sized newspaper and it works just fine, so I no longer measure. Start off by rolling the paper up on the wooden form. One 

trick I learned was to begin the fold under where the paper ended. This tucks that open part of the newspaper in first and lets the other folds hold it closed. After all of the paper is folded under, place the form into the base and twist back and

forth, shaping and somewhat sealing the bottom in place. It doesn’t take much effort or pressure to do this. Children love to make pots for seeds. So if you have any kids at home, this is a great project. Gently slide the paper off of the form. They tear

sometimes, but are still usable. The dirt will hold them together. These pots are easy to make. It doesn’t take any time at all to make up a hundred or so, and then you are ready to plant.

For now, we are buying garden soil for our seedlings. My handy red crate holds 100 pots and that will be a start. I will need to roll up about 400 more, which sounds like a lot, but it really doesn’t take long.

We buy our laundry detergent in buckets at a warehouse market and have found out that the lids make great trays for our seedlings. Each tray will hold 20 plants.


Another trick I have discovered, is to make sure I pack the dirt into the pots until they are full. Some of the first pots we did ended up with about an inch of dirt in them because after we watered them in, the dirt really settled a lot. It wasn’t really

enough to support the plant well and they dried out very quickly.  It doesn’t take long to fill the pots and get ready to plant the seeds.

One more thing learned by trial and error was paying attention to the way the pots are turned. If I put the open side of the pot toward another pot instead of facing out, they won’t gap open when I water them.


I mark my seedlings with popsicle sticks and I reuse them until they rot or break off. I have a fine tipped marker for writing the name of the plant, but some of these I have already marked and they are ready to go.

A friend was at a yard sale and saw this bundle of popsicle sticks. She knew I used them, so she brought them to me. Some people may think that is funny, but I thought it was a great gift.


I am planting Acorn, Buttercup and Cushaw squashes along with some pumpkin and melons. The seeds we buy are heirloom or open pollinated or non-hybrid. This is so we can save the seeds. Hybrid plants don’t always reproduce the same product as the original plant.

Then there are the spinach, mixed greens, kale, kohlrabi, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce…… 

and snap peas…..

Here are some zinnia and marigold seeds we picked this afternoon. I’ll show you how I harvested and processed some cucumber seeds in another post.

There. I have them started. That feels much better. I hope I haven’t waited too late on the winter squash. We really enjoy it. The planter in the back in another experiment. We planted some of our chicken scratch to see what would come up. So far we have sunflowers and something else that could be wheat or milo. 

The seeds are watered in and ready to germinate. Tomorrow morning Frank will hear, “Did my seeds come up last night?” I am always impatient and excited to see new growth.

Seeds are truly miracles. It always amazes me to see what can come from a tiny little seed. Soon they will be worth more than gold. Do you have a good supply of seeds to grow the things your family eats, enjoys and that will provide the nourishment necessary to carry out your daily duties? Frank has been heard to say, “You can never have too many seeds.”

Until next time – Fern