Homestead News, Volume 24

Life goes on here on the homestead, in the local area, in the country and in the world. Precarious though it may seem at times, the store shelves (here at least) are still filled with an abundance of frankenfood, the lights are still on and water still comes out of the tap when I turn it. 

We continue to adjust our lives for our current and future physical abilities while continuing to prepare our minds for what may be coming down the road one day. We have recently had two and a half acres of our ten acre pasture fenced off for our much smaller herd of goats. This still allows us to have four small pastures for animal rotation, but makes it much easier to manage. We are debating about trying to hire someone to brush hog the remaining acreage once a year, or listing it for sale. Our decision changes from day to day, so for now we are just going to let things settle. We are in no hurry.

Our four does – two adults, two kids

Buck and young wether

The eleven year old matriarch of our goat herd is no longer with us. One Stripe was part of the first herd we acquired when we moved here in 2008. She never met anyone she didn’t like and loved to be petted. She gave us many babies, lots of milk and much affection. All of the does we have now are from her line. 

One Stripe


We also no longer have our wonderful Pearl. She was a one of a kind dog and we miss her. She was great with the goats and devoted to the two of us. We’ll be dog-less for a while. We don’t look forward to training another puppy, but one will come along again when the time is right.

Pearl


We’re also preparing the acre surrounding the house for eventual use as pasture. When the day comes to really downsize the land, if we haven’t already, we will sell the ten acres with the current barn. Then we will use this area around the chicken house for any pasture we may still want to use. It will maintain a couple of goats, although we would have to feed more hay year round.

In preparation for that we have had some overgrown brushy areas cleared out along with tons of pine needles.

This older storage shed has seen better days. We’ve been fighting a leaking roof for years. Now we’re working on emptying it out so it can be moved out by a neighbor that wants it. In the process we are donating many things to a local church that works with individuals and families that are in recovery from alcohol and drugs. It’s good to be able to pass on some things to people in need, but it’s also difficult to start downsizing instead of building up. It’s probably something most people go through as they age, and now it’s our turn.

I have been making some simple cheeses since we are enjoying fresh goat milk again. I tried an herb cheese with onion and garlic, but it came out really strong. Frank doesn’t even like to smell it. I tried a small wheel with fresh basil from the greenhouse a couple of days ago. We haven’t tried it yet, but it smells much milder so I hope this wheel is edible.

 

As time goes on we find we eat less, quite a bit less. Our sauerkraut crock is wonderful, but is now too big. We recently got some air lock lids to make kraut by the jar. This is our first experiment. We had them in the pantry for a dark place, but I didn’t remember to check on them, so I moved them into one of the kitchen cabinets. Two of the jars turned out fine, but the one that wasn’t full didn’t. I don’t know if it was the amount of cabbage or if it was because we didn’t include the rubber gasket in the lid when we put it all together. Another learning experience. It’s always good to learn. I am going to try peppers this way this summer. I think that would be good. And maybe okra? I’m not sure if they will ferment/pickle very well. I will have to read more about that before I try it.

I have been working on a door hanging for my mother who is in the nursing home with dementia. She has been there for two and a half years now. I agree with all of the people that told me over a year ago that this is a very cruel disease. We pray for her peace and comfort every day, and I pray for her release from this world. I can usually still get her to smile and laugh. She even sang Happy Birthday to Frank (I got it on video on my phone) recently and she hadn’t sang with me for months. It was very touching.

The greenhouse continues to feed us some nice green things a few times a week, and is now housing some seedlings, or the dirt that holds seeds that will soon be seedlings.

Two ages of cabbage seedlings

Will be carrots, tomatoes and peppers.

Carrots are just beginning to peek out.

Onions

I am going to cut the tops of these tomato plants, root them and start them in pots. I hope to get some big seedlings ready this way. We still have that one tomato that has been growing slowly all winter. I don’t know if it’s going to ripen or not. Frank thinks it will be really tough if it ever does.

 

We are saving eggs to start the incubator tomorrow. These eggs will be hatching the same time the day old chicks we ordered will be arriving. We’ll raise them all together, keep a replacement laying flock and butcher the rest. It’s a good seasonal activity. Eggs to meat to the table. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

For now, the garden lays fallow, but it won’t be long before we will plant it once more. Hope is eternal when there is spring on the way.

Our country? The world? Viruses, plagues, pandemics, politics, food shortages, lies, corruption, greed? It just goes on and on and on. Every so often I get a small, tiny spark of hope that the world will keep on turning, people will come to their senses and we can continue to live in some semblance of peace, but then the next ‘thing’ appears and extinguishes that spark pretty quickly. So, life goes on. Until it doesn’t. We do what we can and try to be realistic about what we can and can’t do. We try not to play head games with ourselves and pretend we are going to go running through the woods chasing bad guys if the collapse occurs. Not going to happen. Reality. Sometimes difficult to deal with. Choosing not to? Not an option on our homestead. How are things going on yours?

Until next time – Fern
 

For Our Health

We thought we would give you an update on some of the ways we have tried to improve our health in the last year or so. We have intentionally eliminated a number of things from our bodies and feel we are much healthier because of those choices.

In March, 2014, I decided to stop using commercial hair care products. I am happy to report that I am still very satisfied with my routine of baking soda and water for shampoo, with apple cider vinegar and water for a rinse and conditioner 17 months later. 

We still use baking soda for toothpaste, and make our own simple lotion and lip balm. By the way, that small batch of lip balm we made one year ago today is not gone yet. We would have used many tubes of commercial lip balm by this time. It truly is amazing.

Lip balm

I still use the same reusable food wraps and panty liners we wrote about last year. There are so many simple things we can make for ourselves that are less expensive, last longer and eliminate more chemicals from our bodies.

We told you about Frank’s difficulty getting off of Zyrtec, and recently we weaned ourselves off of low dose aspirin as well. The more we learn about how synthetically made ingredients affect our bodies, the less likely we are to consume them.

 

We have added fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and peppers to our diet. We continue to make sourdough bread with our fresh ground whole wheat flour, but we have eliminated all white flour and sugar. Our diet consists of foods high in nutrients, low in carbohydrates along with quality protein and fats. We continue to

make and consume kefir everyday, even though Frank would tell you he could go the rest of his life without kefir. We feel the probiotics we get from the fermentation process in making sauerkraut, sourdough and kefir help our bodies absorb and use nutrients in a much more efficient and effective way.

A little over a year ago, Frank and I chose to change our lives by changing the way we eat. In doing so, we have now each lost over 50 pounds. We are definitely healthier and accomplish much more than we ever did while carrying around the equivalent of a sack of animal feed all the time.

Something we have not done yet, but will someday, hopefully soon, is make lye soap. We have everything we need, but have yet to carve out the time to do it. Our friend, Grace has made her first batch of soap, so now it is our turn.

The older we get, the more we learn about natural ways to care for our bodies. Our modern world has much to offer in the way of conveniences and comfort, but what it has to offer is not always the best thing for our health, in fact, some of what it has to offer is down right deadly. A new year has dawned, make the most of it. Take care of your health, for you will need it to be ready for what is coming.

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 9

Time continues to fly by and autumn will be with us before we know it. We are finally out of the 100+ temperatures. It was 59* here last night! I don’t think it will last, though, we are supposed to be back up into the low 90’s by early next week, and that is fine. It is much more manageable than the 100+ stuff with high humidity. With the cool weather this morning, we were able to use our new double hung windows to fill the house with cool, fresh air. They work great.

We want to send our thoughts and prayers to those that are being affected by the wildfires around the country. We have friends in the northwest that have had to evacuate their home, and we haven’t heard from them since yesterday. It must be very difficult to leave your home not knowing what you may return to. There are many different types of challenges we are all given, but many times on the other side of it, we are stronger for having been tested and refined.

We continue to pen up the youngest kids and accumulate milk for cheese making. The last batch of cheddar is ready to wax, but I ran out of steam before I got to it today. Two more wheels of cheddar are now in the cheese press and will be ready to remove and start the drying process tomorrow evening. Since I won’t be able to wax these two wheels until Saturday, I put them in a plastic storage bag in the refrigerator. I will be having a sinus dilation procedure tomorrow morning, so I don’t expect to get much of anything done for the rest of the day.

 

We continue to eat our cheddar at room temperature, but have found that it gets too oily if we leave out the whole wheel. This time we cut it in half covered the open end with plastic wrap and put it back in the cheese frig until we are ready for it.

 




We also filled up the fermentation crock with four heads of cabbage today. The last batch of sauerkraut stayed in the crock for a month and it was the best tasting we have had so far. We still have three quarts of it in the refrigerator that we are eating, and wanted the next batch to have plenty of time to ferment. It’s interesting how quickly things like making sauerkraut becomes routine.

Today was also bread day. The sourdough was still doing it’s thing and predigesting all those carbohydrates for us on top of the frig while I was writing this. We didn’t get the dough mixed up until about 11:00 this morning, so I didn’t bake the rolls until 8:30 this evening. I wanted to give it plenty of time to ferment and digest beforehand. They sure are good.

 


I’ve tried to make cottage cheese twice by leaving the milk on the counter. The first time it didn’t really curdle, so I thought I hadn’t left it long enough.

The second time I left it for about four days and it was definitely soured, but still didn’t really make curds like it was supposed to. That’s too bad, I was really hoping it would work. Now it will be back to the cheese book and making another stab at modifying the recipe so I can get good cottage cheese.

We still have roosters and wethers to butcher, and we hope next week after my sinuses clear up we can get a lot of butchering done. That and get some fall crops planted. My headaches and general feelings of sickness have put everything like that on hold for way too long. So I hope to have more to report in the butchering department very soon.

The pigs are doing much better in the behavior department. There are some folks at church that have raised pigs for years and Frank was quizzing them on ‘normal’ pig behavior last week. We are still learning, and they are still growing. It will be very interesting to see how they do in the long run. I’m also very interested to see how Lance and Liberty behave once we have butchered the barrows. I think the interaction will be different then. We pay a little more attention to them since they are our breeding pair and the barrows will end up on our dinner plates. I have a question for you. Does a pig’s tail continue to grow longer and get more curly as they grow up?

The whey produced from making cheese goes to good use as pig food. They get upset with me if I take them a bucket of scraps without some kind of liquid in it. I can’t help but laugh at them when they fuss at me. It’s a funny little squeal.

By the time we got most of the day’s activities completed, the kitchen was really a mess. 

As the week has progressed we have watched more major fluctuations in the financial markets around the world. It is just another indicator of the instability of the underlying foundations of economies everywhere. We continue to discuss what tangible items we can invest in that we will be able to use in the future, come what may. An example of one of our acquisitions is a stainless steel water bath canner. We have two like the one pictured above that the whey is in. One of them, after three or four years of use, has chipped and has a place trying to rust on the inside of the bottom. Knowing they won’t be durable for long term use, especially if we get to the point that we can’t buy or trade for another one, we chose to invest in stainless steel. As you can tell, it’s still in the box. We’ll keep using the enameled version as long as we can.

We continue to pick peppers, tomatoes, cowpeas and carrots from the garden. I really hope to write another garden article before long with the things we have been able to plant for fall. 

Thank you for all of the great comments. It’s neat to be able to share. Frank and I have learned a great deal from other folks experiences. Please keep sharing. 

Prepare for the fall of the year and the fall of the world. They will both be arriving soon.

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 8

Sometimes it seems as if there is not much going on here to report, but once I really stop and think about it, I can usually come up with something. This time the news is full of a number of small things. Take the goats for instance.

Last night I started penning up our two youngest kids again. They are both four months old, but are still nursing. We had separated them into the old weaning a pasture for about a month, but then the pigs came and took over that pasture. Then for a while, the kids just nursed through the fence after we put them in with the buck and wethers. As the young doe approached four months we didn’t want to leave her in the buck pasture, so we brought her back out with the does and hoped in vain that her mom wouldn’t let her nurse. She did. Now the young buck comes through the gate to be with his mom and nurse. We haven’t been able to block off the gate yet, and even

Lady Bug has a nice udder for a first freshener

if we did, he would still nurse through the fence. Both of these moms are first fresheners and we still want to develop their udders as much as possible this first season, so last night I started penning up these two kids again. This morning I got over three quarts of milk instead of one. 

That’s good since we are eating our cheddar cheese a little faster than we have in the past. It’s a great part of our low carb diet. So with this increase in milk, we will make more cheddar to replace the six wheels we have already consumed. The wheel I opened yesterday was waxed the end of April and is quite good. Did you know that room temperature cheese is better than refrigerated? Quite by accident we discovered we like warm cheese better, and it doesn’t taste the same as cold cheese. When we open a new wheel of cheddar, I leave it out on the counter in a bowl. The rind will dry out more and harden, then eventually the oils in the cheese will begin to coat the outside of the wheel. In times gone by, cheese was stored at room temperature, maybe covered by a towel or cloth. In a strange way it seems this is yet another small step we’ve discovered that will be one less thing to change when the power goes out and stays out.

The temperatures here continue to be at or over 100* with dangerously high heat indexes. Any outside work is accomplished early in the day, with very few exceptions. I have been having some serious sinus issues for about a month or more which have greatly impacted the work I do in the garden. The heat and humidity, not to mention bending over, many days make the headaches I’ve been having intolerable. Has anyone out there had a sinus balloon dilation procedure? I am scheduled to have this performed in a week or so. At this point, with the headaches I have been having, I am ready for some relief. The headaches have definitely impacted accomplishing things around the homestead as well as writing here on the blog.

In the last few days we have canned the last of the winter squashes. The bugs have killed all of our squash plants and it’s too late to grow any more winter varieties, so we won’t have any fresh to store for winter, but we’ve ended up with 41 quarts, which we are happy with. I have replanted yellow summer squash which should be able to produce before frost if I can keep them alive and win the war with the bugs.

We also made 11 quarts of salsa yesterday. It’s our favorite way to eat canned tomatoes, and I hope we can make another batch. Even with all of this heat, the tomatoes are still producing very well. Frank just walked by the thermometer and told me it’s 104* outside. We closed down some of the blinds to help the AC try to keep up. Now Frank just told me it’s been 106*!

It’s nice to have a few fresh things from the garden in the crisper. I started chopping and freezing fresh peppers today. We really enjoyed using them through the winter last year and I hope to freeze a number of quarts. I’m also doing an experiment with fermenting a few jalapeno peppers. I took the last batch of sauerkraut out of the crock today and put it in the frig. We started this batch on June 20th. It smells and looks great. When we first started eating kraut, Frank wasn’t very fond of it, but like many people predicted, we now really enjoy our daily portion. He even asks for larger servings of it now. 

We got this plastic strainer spoon to use with the crock to prevent scraping the ceramic finish. It works very well.

After I emptied the crock, I strained off a bit of the juice to use with a few jalapeno peppers. I read somewhere, sorry I don’t remember where, it could have been a comment here, that fermented peppers were crunchy and very good, so I’m going to try it. I added a few peppers to the kraut juice then covered them with salt water. I discovered this small jar fit just right into the pint jar, so I’m using it to keep the peppers submerged. For now, it will reside on the cabinet on a plate. I will be very interested in how this turns out since we prefer crunchy to soft peppers.

I used a half gallon of milk. This bowl wasn’t big enough.

I’ve also decided to take the plunge and try the cottage cheese ‘recipe’ from The Organic Prepper several people suggested. Even my aunt wrote and told me what she remembered about how my grandmother made cottage cheese. Thank you for that email, Aunt A.N. The only ingredient is milk, and all you do is leave it in a covered bowl on the cabinet for two or three days. When the cream rises and sours, it is skimmed off and eaten. That’s it. It’s almost too easy, so we will see how it turns out. I will let you know.

 

Our chickens are doing well. The young hens are blending in with the main flock just fine. The young roosters will be ready to put in the freezer soon which is good since we are ready for some fresh fried chicken. The youngest batch of birds are growing well and will soon need to take over the young rooster pen for more space.

They all like the tomato skins from the salsa.

Young roosters

Youngest flock

I made a new batch of lotion this morning since the last one was starting to turn brown in places. Tewshooz left a comment for us early on about using a preservative to prevent this problem. When I made the last batch I forgot to add the vitamin E, so it didn’t last as long as it could have. This time I wrote vitamin E on the recipe I got from Leigh at 5 Acres & A Dream, so I won’t

forget it next time. Since this lotion is made from olive oil, herbal tea and beeswax, I fed this old portion to the pigs. It’s nice it didn’t totally go to waste. The other thing Tewshooz taught me with a comment was to keep working the lotion until it emulsifies, that way the oil and water won’t separate. To do that now, I place the pan of warm oil, wax and tea into a sink of cold water while I stir it briskly with a small whip. It works great. Thanks for the tips, Tewshooz, they have really paid off.

 

Peppermint and lemon balm for the herbal tea ingredients


 

Takes about 20 minutes

Cooling in cold water

For lunch today we had a no taco, taco salad. It has most of the normal ingredients a taco salad would, just no corn chips or shell. A serving of kraut goes well with this meal. We used some of our canned jalapenos from last year, the salsa we made yesterday, a fresh sweet pepper from the garden, some lettuce, spinach, onion, olives, and room temperature, grated, cheddar. It was great! 

Tonight some of the members of Frank’s radio class are taking tests for their ham licenses. We are excited for them and hope everyone does well. We’ll let you know how it turns out and give you an update on how the class went in general. Now that it is over, we’ll see if our hopes of a local communications network materializes. 

By the way. Has anyone been having trouble with their internet service? Our internet service with Verizon over the past few months has gone from good, to a few glitches, to terrible. We get disconnected or ‘frozen’ numerous times a day now. Then we had someone tell us that Verizon and AT&T are having issues nationwide. Then we found out some other folks in this are are having connectivity issues with Verizon. Then we found out a medical clinic in Fort Smith, Arkansas has been having issues for a month. It would be interesting to hear if anyone else knows anything about this or is experiencing any difficulties.

We have taken to carrying a small bat with us into the pig pen for training purposes. The pigs have responded well and no longer crowd around right behind me when I am walking to the feed pan. We will continue to be very consistent in shaping their behavior. So far, so good.

Life on the homestead is good, very good. We continue to keep tabs on the world with a growing certainty that things will not remain as they are for much longer. The stock markets continue to exhibit the roller coaster pattern that many leading economists have been predicting. The media continues to distract the populace with the same mindless drivel they

have served up for years now. Every so often they intersperse their drivel with small tidbits of real news, news of increased violence, intolerance and suppression of the freedoms we once took for granted. Maybe that’s part of the problem. We have taken too much for granted for too long. Now the pursuit of pleasure and recreation is the end goal and the means justifies the end for a large portion of our world’s population. When this pursuit is no longer an option, what knowledge or skills will exist that can be utilized for survival? I’m afraid it will be like looking into the bottom of an empty barrel. There will be nothing there.

You’ve heard this many times before and here it is again. Learn all you can. Experience what you can now when failure is still and option and you can go to the store and obtain whatever it is you will need. Every single thing you can learn now will increase your possibility of making it yet another day when everything around you has changed. If some of the things we read and hear are anywhere near accurate, the beginnings of major upheaval or change may not be far away, not far at all. Do everything you can. Prepare yourself mentally to see and experience the unthinkable.

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 6

The days have been so full, Frank’s Tuesday night radio class seems like more than a week ago. It is going very well, good attendance, with more questions coming up all the time. One of his students came by to discuss antennas and towers yesterday morning while I got started on an all day canning spree. We continue to be very encouraged by the interest folks from around our small area are expressing about being able to stay in touch with each other by radio should an emergency arise, short term or long term.

The day before yesterday I harvested all I could from the garden. The tomatoes are finally ripening and taste really good. We don’t have enough to can yet, but we will. The canning spree yesterday included 16 pints of yellow squash in the first canner. It filled up both layers in our canner with some left over that made it into another batch with one pint of green beans and two pints of cowpeas.

After I got that started, I worked over the plums that our friend Grace gave me. They are very sweet and a pretty, dark red. I canned five pints leaving plenty of room for water to make a nutritious juice to drink along with the fruit. 

 

Next came some minced garlic. I bought nine pounds of peeled garlic. I haven’t harvested ours yet, it’s out there, I just didn’t get to it. Patrice Lewis over at Rural Revolution has a tutorial on canning minced garlic and I wanted to give it a try. I have been using dried minced garlic for years, but wanted to switch to fresh. The problem is I never take the time to peel and chop garlic for our meals, dried was always easier. The house REALLY smelled like garlic last night, so much so that Frank wondered aloud whether people would shy away from us today because we smelled like garlic. Well, no one turned up their noses at us, but we didn’t ask how we smelled either. 

The garlic turned green on top when we added the boiling water to it, but when it came out of the canner it was brown, which concerns me. I had added a quarter teaspoon of citric acid powder to each jar. I read in my canning books that when you can onions they darken and get soft. I hope that is the case with this garlic. We had a little left over that is in the frig which we will use first before we open one of these jars. We’ll let you know how it tastes.

We’ve had another rainy spell with a little over three inches in the last few days, but it looks like we’re in for a hot dry spell for a while. The humidity and heat index have been pretty high and look to go even higher next week. We will have to be extra cautious when we’re working outside.

I’m having a time battling the squash bugs and haven’t spent enough time on my efforts lately. We have lost some plants and if I don’t get out there and fight them some more, we may lose them all. This is another instance of not enough hours in the day.

I have started my mulching project in the garden in between everything else like making another batch of cheddar cheese. We are eating the third wheel and it tastes great. I may have already told you that, I’m not sure. Anyway, the cheese is turning out well, even though there are still a few small holes in it from all the yeast floating around our kitchen. And speaking of yeast, the sauerkraut continues to ferment along over in it’s corner, only needing a little water added to the moat every so often. It’s also time to make bread again, which means I need to get the sourdough starter out of the frig and wake it up for a day or two to lessen the acidity that builds up during storage. 

You know what? I love my kitchen. Not so much the physical aspects or aesthetics of it, just the fact that we have a working, functional kitchen. I like to cook. I love having naturally occurring, healthy foods ‘perking’ away on my counters in the form of cheese, kefir, sauerkraut and sourdough. I like having another bushel basket over flowing with Cushaw squash sitting on the floor that I need to can again. I like fixing fresh food that grew from a tiny seed in the dirt outside my house, that I can pick and cook and serve to my husband. Kitchens are a central, integral part of a home and I like the fact that in this house, where you enter is in the kitchen. Our kitchen is the heart of our home and where most of our living takes place. It’s a busy, happy, productive place. Messy sometimes, since I don’t like to clean near as much as I like to cook, but in our kitchen you will find our ‘home’.

 

And speaking of the kitchen floor, a big section of it is now covered with eight half bushel boxes of peaches we picked up from a local orchard today. Yes, I talked myself out of buying five bushels and settled for four. The next few days will be filled with more canning, while fighting off a few squash bugs and spreading out more mulch.

 

The goats are doing well. Cricket has recovered from her worms and scours. She is still a little thin, but is already well on her way back to normal. We had scheduled the vet to come out this week to teach me how to administer the copper boluses, but Frank and I have been fighting sinus issues with all of the wet weather, so we have rescheduled the vet for next week. The day he was coming this week we both had bad headaches and another hours long rain storm would have had us all soaked in the process. I’m glad we rescheduled. I will take pictures and let you know what I learn sometime soon.

Now that Cricket is doing so much better, we have changed back to our original plan of breeding her and One Stripe this month. We backed up the date to July 15th instead of the 1st to give her more time to recuperate. With the hot, 95* to 97* temperatures that are forecast next week, I don’t know if the goats will breed or not. We have had them do so in the past, so we will just have to wait and see.

 

The greenhouse exterior is almost finished. We still need to settle on which doors we are going to use and figure out some final details on enclosing the roof line and corners. Then the door leading from the greenhouse into the house will be installed. There is currently a house window being covered by the greenhouse. That will be taken out and a door installed in it’s place, with steps leading down to the ground level. The gentleman that we hired to

help with the work is on vacation for a few weeks, and in the meantime, Frank and I will bring our 55 gallon water barrels down from the barn and begin placing them inside. They will be the ‘workbench legs’ we will be using. We will explain more about that once we work out the details of how everything will be set up.

Our adoptive momma hen decided it was time to go back to the flock. One evening when we were feeding and watering she decided to go out into the big pen and visit the rooster, then she walked right back in with ‘her’ babies. The next day she laid an egg in the corner of their pen. That evening when she went out to visit the rooster and the flock she didn’t go back, so now the teenage chicks are on their own again. The young roosters are starting to square off to see who is boss, so it won’t be long before we start butchering them. There are some interesting color patterns developing and we are starting to think about which ones we may keep to replace the current rooster. Once these new young hens are old enough to lay, we will butcher and can the current laying hens, thus renewing our flock and putting more food on the shelf.

 

The baby chicks are doing well, growing and acting like chickens. When we brought them out to the chicken house they made the ‘teenage’ chicks look much bigger. And the ‘teenage’ chicks made these babies look awfully small. The young babies are learning from their next door neighbors. When I bring out greens for all of the birds in the morning, I put the babies greens right up next to the ‘teenage’ pen which encourages the babies to peck at them. It’s been interesting to watch their interactions.

 

The pigs are doing fine. They have adjusted to the routine and environment well. Sometimes they complain if I don’t bring them their desired scraps. They squeal at me, and it’s quite funny. One day they even followed me back to the gate complaining. I kept telling them that’s all they get and if they want something to eat they would have to eat what I brought. It was a funny conversation. I had brought them the Cushaw seeds and peelings from the days canning without any whey or milk or other liquids. Guess that wasn’t their favorite meal. They are all growing well and are a good addition to our homestead. So far.

The days seem to be just flying by, and it’s hard to believe we are almost to the middle of July already. As time ticks quickly on, there are so many things we want to accomplish before the fall arrives, the fall of the year or the fall of the world. We can only hope we can work hard enough and fast enough to beat it here. As we watch the financial markets of the world and read as many perspectives as we can on the complexities of our world, we can’t help but know, really know, deep down that time is running out. But that’s okay. We will do all we can, and it will be enough. As we were talking about it today Frank said it’s like he’s been preparing for this all of his life, and it really does seem that way. There have been so many experiences Frank and I have been given that have lead us to this time and place. We are right where we are supposed to be, doing what we are supposed to be doing, and if the truth be known, loving every minute of it. No matter how the world turns out, it truly is a great life.

Until next time – Fern

No Shampoo & Sauerkraut; An Update

Not long ago, a reader asked us for an update on my no shampoo experience and how our sauerkraut was doing. So, here it is.

I quit using shampoo in March, 2014. I posted updates on my progress at three months and six months. I have to tell you, after looking back at these articles, I think my hair looks better now than ever. 

Before I started, March 20, 2014

Comparing the first picture, March 20, 2014, and today, I can see where my hair is healthier and has a more natural shine. I have continued to use only baking soda and water for my ‘shampoo’, along with apple cider vinegar and water for my ‘conditioner’. I still have the occasional itch on my scalp from psoriasis, but nothing compared to what it was when I used commercial products. I have not used any of the prescription medication I needed for decades to control the itch on my scalp. I couldn’t be happier.
 

April 22, 2014


June 12, 2014


September 24, 2014

June 5, 2015

This was one of the many steps Frank and I have taken to decrease our chemical exposure and intake, in our effort to improve our overall health. Fermenting our own sauerkraut has been one of the most recent experiments I have conducted on Frank. At first we were both hesitant, but now we’re not at all. We happily eat our kraut at least six days a week. Sometimes it just doesn’t fit into the meal, and a few times, I just plain forgot to serve it.

The current batch we’re eating now was a combination of        1 1/2 heads of cabbage and about 15 large carrots. This is okay, but the vegetables are softer and don’t taste quite as good as the plain cabbage. It was something I wanted to try, but probably won’t do this combination again.

I removed all of the carrot/cabbage kraut from the crock two days ago and stored it in the refrigerator. We got about four quarts this time. I don’t pack it down solid, so it’s not a full four quarts, but it is enough to last us quite a while. We eat about a 1/4 to a 1/3 of a cup per serving. 

 

Since the crock and fermentation process seem to be going well, this time I put    3 1/2 heads of cabbage in the crock, filling it pretty full. I continue to use some of the juice or liquid from the previous batch to inoculate, or speed up the fermenting process. I also drink some of it on occasion when we get to the bottom of a jar. It is pretty stout stuff, but it’s good. We prefer the cabbage shredded, which I do with our KitchenAid. I have started using sea salt instead of regular table salt for the minerals it contains. I use it in all of my cooking as well as the kraut. 

I add a little vinegar in the moat to keep it from getting slimy.

This summer I hope to try fermenting some of our garden produce, like cucumbers, okra, turnips, peppers and beets. It would be nice to discover another vegetable, or combination of vegetables we enjoy as much as we do the cabbage.

I appreciate Deb’s request for an update on these two topics. There isn’t any reason for me to ever use commercial products on my hair again. What I am doing now is effective, keeps my hair and scalp healthier, my hair looks better and another added benefit is that it costs pennies on the dollar compared to commercial products. The sauerkraut experience has shown us another way to improve our health by making something for ourselves instead of depending on someone else to do it for us. It takes time, planning and effort on our part, but the health benefits of consuming fermented foods well outweigh the effort expended. It’s a great life. One full of learning, work and progress. I am grateful.

Until next time – Fern