Homestead News Volume 21

We are enjoying below normal temperatures here this week which is a welcome relief to the hot humid weather we have been having. Our hot weather has been similar to what is happening across the country east of here, we have been having daily heat advisories for a while now. We know the heat will return because that is what is normal for this location in the middle of summer, but this morning the low was 61*, normal is about 80* in the midst of summer.

Self discipline has kicked in a little better this summer with rising early and getting out of the house before 10:00am. We don’t always, and definitely haven’t always in the past. It’s easy to sit and drink coffee, visit and peruse the internet. That’s more fun than going outside and sweating. But when we do get up and about and get things done, it feels better, physically and mentally. The bonus is that things get done. So, here are some things that have been happening around the homestead.

We have put about two dozen roosters in the freezer, with the last of them butchered today. Now that the chickens are finished we have six wethers we need to get in the freezer as well. That will be next on the meat preservation list.

There are now more jars on the shelf including green beans, turnip greens and beets.

The garden continues to produce a good harvest almost daily. We are currently getting okra, tomatoes, peppers and green beans.

The pinto beans have been pulled and I’m working on shelling them for canning. The harvest would have been much larger if I had realized pinto beans are pole beans, not bush beans. 

Pinto bean harvest

The first planting of cow peas, purple hull peas, are just about ready to begin blooming and the second planting is up and growing well.

We have harvested the first cutting of amaranth. I will be doing a separate article soon. The second planting is in and also doing very well.

Amaranth after the main seed head has been harvested.

New amaranth seedlings

I have pondered doing a Goat Tale for you, but there really isn’t much to tell so I will include them here. The doe, Patch, that had mastitis and a retained placenta, is now healthy, and I am still milking her on the ‘good’ side of her udder.

Patch – you know, see that patch of white on her side?

In the last few weeks all of our does have bred which has happened before, but is unusual. Neither the does or the buck seem interested in breeding during the heat of the summer most years. This breeding means in the next few months our milk supply will diminish and dry up sometime before they give birth in December. Winter babies are good. They tend to be healthy and thrive better than summer babies, but we will miss having our own fresh milk while waiting for them.

Here is a sneak peek at a project Frank has been working on. He will fill you in on the details in a future article.

We have begun reading Leigh Tate’s book Prepper’s Livestock Handbook. Leigh blogs over at 5 Acres & A Dream which is packed with information about developing their homestead and becoming as self-sufficient as possible. Leigh does a lot of research and tracks data covering their successes and failures. This is where I discovered amaranth and kefir. If you haven’t been there, go take a look, she has a wide variety of information available. We’ll be telling you more about her book after we have more time to graze through it. After all, it is about livestock. 

Frank and I were talking about plans for our activities yesterday and came to the conclusion that this time of year almost everything we do is related to food. It is the food production and preservation time of year. Other things can be postponed until winter when the harvest is in and the weather cools down. 

Life is good on the homestead. Very good. The world? Well, that’s another story. I could direct you to all sorts of horrible, troubling things, but you know what is out there. You know what is coming our way. Prepare accordingly. Don’t be caught by surprise. What comes may shock us, may devastate us, may end the world as we know it. But until that time arrives, the sun is shining, I get to spend my days with the man I love at my side. The flowers are blooming. There is food on our shelves. We have a wonderful life.

Until next time – Fern

Simple Meals

We have found our meals getting smaller and simpler as time goes by. Part of that is age, we just can’t eat as much as we used to and we don’t need to because we burn fewer calories, otherwise it is a matter of choice. I have found myself using fewer ingredients and trying to incorporate what we grow or store in almost all of our meals. We buy some things – olive oil, apples, carrots, onions, cabbage, occasional eggs, milk when the goats are dry. We buy wheat, oats and flax in bulk buckets. But there’s not really much else we buy. Coffee, we definitely buy coffee, for we are daily coffee drinkers. 

After I thought about it a while I realized that if we do experience a collapse, everyone will be eating much simpler meals made out of what is on hand. So our advice is to have on hand what you want to and can eat. Some folks have dietary restrictions because of their health, that is something to plan ahead for. Part of what we eat is to keep our bodies regular and provide adequate energy and nutrition. We have found that most people find our meals lacking enough items, ingredients or flavor, and that’s okay. We truly believe everyone should have the freedom to choose, whether it is meals, location, weapons, vehicles or religion. This is the way we choose.

Here are a few of the meals we eat regularly. Sometimes they are like this, sometimes there are variations of the same theme. I didn’t take a picture, but the other day we had a quarter pound ground pork burger on one of our sourdough buns with a slice of onion. Frank has mayonnaise and I have mustard. The side dish was a bowl of turnip greens. Different? Probably. Good? We like it.

 
Ground pork from the pigs that are no longer with us, eggs and salsa we canned last summer.

 

Okra we grew last summer and froze whole after washing. We slice and saute it in olive oil with salt and pepper. The purple hull peas were grown and canned in 2017.

 
Spam and cabbage, both store bought. Yes, Spam. We consider it part of our meat food storage and keep a good quantity on the shelf. We buy a head of cabbage about once a month and eat on it until it’s gone, usually over three or four meals.

We eat greens regularly and keep a good stock on the shelf. We prefer our own turnip greens, but have others just in case we need or want them. We had quite a few comments and questions about turnip greens recently, so I was going to do an article about the nutritional benefits until I realized I had already done one. You can find it here, The Nutrition of Turnips & Turnip Greens. What we do differently now than when we wrote the previous article, is a serving of greens is simply water, salt and greens. We drink the water after eating the greens for the nutrients it contains.

Soup. Frozen tomatoes, cowpeas, cabbage and peppers. Canned green beans and squash. Ground pork, carrots, onions.

We are slowly using up some of the things we froze last summer. This batch of soup provides us four meals, some we eat fresh and some we freeze for later.
 

We have made a number of variations of the meat pie.

This version is made with our canned chicken, salsa, frozen peppers, cheddar, sourdough starter and store bought onions. It’s okay, but we like it better with ground pork instead of chicken.


This meals takes little effort at this point. Turnip greens and Jacob’s cattle beans. The tape measure was part of Frank’s meal, um….. humor…. for this picture. Does this food taste wonderful? No, not really. We eat it for the nutrition and the taste is okay, but nothing great.

 

 

Think about simple. Think about how your meals would change if the SHTF. How would your diet change? What choices would you have? Are you used to eating what you would then be forced to eat? Would it make you sick? Can you afford to be sick in that situation?

Our diet is the way it is by choice. We like it that way. It’s interesting to think it may benefit us if the world continues to spiral down into the abyss we seem to be forced to march a little closer to everyday. Eat what you store. Store what you eat.

Until next time – Fern

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

Surprise Vegetable of the Year

October 23rd

The humble turnip is the winner. Fern and I have been married a little over three decades, and we tried turnips at least once a decade. The first time, when we were in college, we were financially poor. One day at the grocery store, we bought a turnip. We took that thing home, cut it up in little chunks, boiled it up like you would mashed potatoes, added butter, salt, and pepper, took one bite, and that was it. That was basically how it went for three decades.

A couple of years back, a man brought a bunch of turnips to church, fresh out of the ground. That was the third decade. So, we basically came to the conclusion that turnips, to our palates, offer an undesirable experience. 

But, one day while at the local feed store, the owner was out planting turnips in his pasture. Never having been shy in the

October 7th

question pool, I asked him why. After getting that look, that you normally get when you realize you have just asked the most unbelievably stupid question, he told me that his cattle would eat the greens all winter long if he would rotate his pastures. Okay. I’m a big city boy, but I’ve been around cattle on and off now for about 30 years, and I’m used to that look from these all-knowing country fellows. But I had still never heard of what he was talking about. So, Fern and I did a little research and found that this was a common technique from days gone by. You see, he uses techniques that were used before every farmer had their own hay equipment and a 500 gallon diesel tank. But it works for him and he doesn’t buy, bale, haul, store or use the diesel to produce hay. He rotates pastures and grows turnips. Well, actually he doesn’t grow turnips, he grows the greens.

Well, at the same time, since Fern and I have a pretty good idea what’s coming in the future, we have been looking into different forms of feed for livestock when the commercial grain is gone. Interesting as it is, we humans have very short memories. People did feed their animals before commercial grains came along. Most livestock are more than happy to eat turnips, rutabagas, beets, sunflower seeds, carrots and a large variety of things that we don’t take the time to produce anymore because grains are so cheap. But the fact of the matter is, these animals stomachs are not designed to process grain. They are designed to process not only the greens from these vegetables, but also the vegetables growing in the ground themselves. 

To make a long story longer, when we were putting our garden to sleep this year, we decided to plant some turnips, carrots and beets on an experimental basis to see if the livestock would eat them. I’m going to focus on turnips here. We are still feeding our chickens turnip greens which they love. We are also starting to feed them the turnip itself, which they happily devour. We also grew and dried some corn this year. You give the chickens dried corn and a turnip, the corn will sit there and not get eaten, but the turnip will be gone.

Now, onto the goats. They will happily consume the turnip greens, and if we chop up the turnip itself, some of our goats will eat them and some of them won’t. But they also know that a bucket of grain is coming, too. It’s kind of like feeding a child, you make the child eat what you want them to eat, then they get desert. Having read the history of goats and turnips, I have no doubt that when the grain is gone, they will be happy to eat turnips. On a side note here, if your goats are expecting babies, be careful changing your feed ration during gestation.

November 23rd

Now, on to the crux of the story. I have always liked turnip greens, Fern has not. There is a lady at church that fixes up a big batch of turnip greens once a month at our potlucks. I get a big scoop, and now, Fern does too. What has caused this change and revelation? Well, one day we decided to cook some turnips, and we got the same results we have gotten for three decades now. Fern mentioned it in the post The Nutrition of Turnips, and a reader posted a very interesting comment. They said we needed to peel all of the outer layer off and it would remove the bitterness from the turnip. “When you peel the turnip be sure to get the translucent layer about an 1/8 of an inch under the skin. The peel will be about 1/4 inch thick. The translucent layer is what has the bitterness in it. Then slice and eat raw…no bitterness. In a stew the turnips now take on the taste of the gravy.”

Look at the line just beyond the knife tip.

We tried it. It is easy to see the line between the outer peel and the inner core, which had escaped our recognition up until now, because we were not looking for it. Now, I know this is comparing turnips to oranges, but imagine eating the peel of an orange, while you’re eating the orange. Now we peel the turnips, and they are actually a very pleasant vegetable.

November 23rd

That tells us that we can grow a much larger plot of turnips to feed chickens, goats and humans, not to mention the pigs coming in the future, but that’s a different story. The turnip is a good food, the greens and the bulb are highly nutritious, and we eat them very similar to potatoes. Soups, stews, and guess what, mashed with butter, salt and pepper. But it was that one comment from a reader that changed our perspective, and relationship to the turnip. This causes us to ponder the possibilities. Are there other things in life that could, with a very simple modification, affect the way we live and do business daily? The possibilities are endless.

December 21st


Fern talks about learning something everyday. We asked a couple of our friends if they knew that they could peel a turnip and remove the bitter part. Neither one of them had ever heard of it. So, how many other products are out there that we don’t consider or would never consider, that with just the smallest change on our part, could become an integral part of our lives? No pun intended here, but it’s certainly food for thought.

January 12th

I guess the reason that this is important to us is we have had at our fingertips for years, and didn’t know it, the ability to feed our livestock, but most importantly, feed ourselves. Yes, I know it’s a turnip, so what’s the big philosophical deal? The big deal is that this has opened up a new window for us. There may come a day someday, maybe someday soon, where that turnip may save our lives. We are excited to have learned how to grow this plant successfully. I can see where it’s going to be a major addition to our future lifestyle. It’s easy to grow, very few pests, really easy to harvest, it will provide us with greens, turnips, eggs, chicken meat, milk, butter, cream, red meat and cheese, all from the humble turnip. And in the future, it may provide us with pork chops and lard. Of course, don’t forget beets, carrots, rutabagas, parsnips and cowpeas. It’s opened our eyes and minds.

We’ll talk more later. Frank

The Nutrition of Turnips & Turnip Greens

September 8th

This is the first year we have grown turnips. Our purpose for growing them is threefold. We wanted another source of food for ourselves and our livestock. The versatility of this crop provides two sources of food, the turnip bulb and the greens. The hardiness of this crop in our location, zone 7, will provide us with greens for much of the winter, both for us and the animals.

October 25th

 

October 3rd

We haven’t eaten very many turnips in our lives, actually very few. They are apt to have a bitterness to them if not picked and cooked in a way to minimize that flavor. Needless to say, I haven’t had a lot of experience cooking them, but I have found a couple of ways to fix them that are okay. Not bad, but edible. 

 
First, I used the recipe that our friend, Grace, showed me. Add a little salted water in a pan. Peel and cut up the turnips. Boil long enough for them to becomes soft, then add a few tablespoons of butter. As the liquid cooks down, sprinkle in a little cornmeal to thicken. Right before serving, sprinkle in a little sugar to help cut the bitterness. This recipe is pretty good. I find the smaller turnips taste better, and they are better after a few frosts, like my gardening books indicated.

 
We have also baked peeled, and cut up turnips with carrots, onions and potatoes. I put a little butter in the pan, added the vegetables, and baked until soft. We find that we enjoy them more if they aren’t the only vegetable on the plate.

So, what nutrients do turnips include? 1 cup of turnips cubes, cooked, boiled, drained with salt have the following nutrients.

  • calories 34.3
  • carbohydrates 7.9g
    November 23rd
  • protein 1.1g
  • vitamin C, K
  • choline
  • folate
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • phosphorus
  • sodium
  • omega-3 & 6 fatty acids

 
 

November 23rd

From this small patch of turnips, I have been harvesting greens for the chickens almost every morning, with few exceptions, for almost two and a half months. I expected them to die down once we started having temperatures below freezing, but that has only slowed them down. I figured the night we got down to 17 degrees, that would do it. Nope. They are still growing leaves left and right. 

So the next thing I needed to learn, is how to cook turnip greens. A woman at church fixes them for our monthly potluck meals this time of year, so I picked her brain for her recipe. She told me there isn’t really a recipe, so she just talked me through it.

 First she wilts the greens in just a little water. 

Then, add a little bacon grease and let them cook. Sprinkle with a little sugar right before serving to help cut the bitterness. That’s it.

Well, my greens were okay, but there are definitely things I need to do different next time. I added too much bacon grease, for one. Two, I needed to let them cook longer, and at a higher temperature. After I had added the grease and the water had cooked out, I lowered the burner and put a lid on the skillet to let them cook, stirring occasionally. I cooked them this way for about 10 to 15 minutes. I knew they needed to cook for a while, but wasn’t sure how long. 


This pan full of leaves, turned out to be two very small helpings. And, that was okay, because they weren’t the best greens in the world. Next time, I will tweak my technique and hope they turn out better.

What was the nutritional value of these greens? Just as with the turnips, the nutrients included in the butter and bacon grease are not a part of this analysis. 1 cup of turnip greens, cooked, boiled, drained with salt include the following nutrients.

  • calories 28.8
  • carbohydrates 6.3g
  • protein 1.6g
  • vitamins E, C, K
  • folate
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • sodium
  • potassium
  • iron
  • selenium
  • omega-3 & 6 fatty acids

If I were figuring the nutritional content of turnips and greens for the chickens, I would be looking at raw instead of cooked nutrients. But that will be another post.


I find it fascinating to be able to grow food that will continue producing in the winter in our location. In an emergency, short term or long term, this could be another source of food for us as well as our animals. The opportunity we have been given to learn to grow and utilize a variety of foods is a gift I am truly thankful for. You may not want to grow turnips, but there is something that you’ve been wondering about. Something that will be of benefit to you and yours. Go learn it, figure it out and be able to use it. With the way things are going now days, you just never know when you may need to use your new found knowledge and skills. So get busy.

Until next time – Fern

Growing Animal Feed

Growing some of our animal feed is something we have wanted to do for a long time, but it’s a goal that is not easy to meet overnight, in a year, or even over a couple of years. This summer we have been able to make a little head way on this project, and we want to share what we have learned.

In the spring when everything was turning green, I started gathering grasses and weeds to feed the chickens. Our chickens are not out ranging at this time, but they do have a run outside of the chicken house. We need to add a chicken proof barrier along the bottom of a couple of gates to keep them on their side of the yard and out of the garden. So, for now, they get some kind of greens almost everyday along with other garden or kitchen scraps as they come along.

In the early spring, I started to feed them beet greens as soon as the plants were big enough to spare a few leaves.

I also planted some new comfrey roots to expand our ability to provide more animal feed. This patch had really done well. For most of the summer, the chickens received a handful of comfrey leaves almost everyday. This was a great addition to their feed. The goats like them as well, but since they had lots of good things to eat out in the pasture, they were not a crazy about these leaves as the chickens were.

We grew some sunflowers this year to be used as animal feed for both chickens and goats. Our patch was about six feet by thirty feet with four rows of plants. Here is our harvest. All of these plants were grown from seeds we harvested last summer from our very first plants. I think there were about six of them. It’s good to know the seeds are easy to save and replant. If we wanted to grow enough to feed a little all winter, we would need many, many more plants than what we grew this year. But it is a start.


 
The corn we grew ended up being dried for the animals instead of canned for humans. Sometimes things just end up that way. It is interesting to see how it has dried, and figure out an easy way to remove it from the cob. Once it is this dry, the kernels separate from the cob fairly easy just by rubbing two cobs together. I will keep the dried shucks to see if the goats will be interested in them this winter. Another thing to learn. This small amount of corn won’t go very far as animal feed, either, but it has been a very interesting learning experience.

 

Now that the fall crops are up and growing well, I pick a batch of greens for the chickens every morning. They get a bucket full of turnip greens.

Turnips, Kale & small Swiss Chard

Add a handful of kale…..

 

 And a handful of beet greens.

The fall carrot crop is growing pretty well. It will be interesting to see how the animals take to carrots, turnips and Mangel sugar beets as a source of winter feed. Very interesting. This is something I have wanted to try for a long time.

 Our patch of purple hull peas has been taken over by the grass and weeds. But before that happened, we were able to pick several batches that had dried on the vine and fed them to the chickens and goats. They were all more than happy to eat them, the chickens just the seeds, but the goats, pods, seeds and all. This is a very easy crop to grow that is highly nutritious, for both animal and human.

I still throw in a few comfrey leaves every now and then, but I am letting the comfrey put energy into their roots for winter. The original comfrey plant I added to the herb bed about four years ago stays green until about January when our weather turns cold. I have been surprised every year that it takes that long for it to die back. It starts peaking out new leaves in late March when it starts to warm up, but doesn’t produce enough leaves for fresh feed until sometime in April.

The amount of feed we are harvesting each day for our animals really doesn’t amount to a whole lot, but it is a start. There are some other things we also want to try. Our friend Grace found a article in Mother Earth News that talked about Austrian Winter Peas that can be used for chickens and deer. Some folks also eat the shoots in salads saying they taste just like peas. It is better known as a cover crop for fixing nitrogen in the soil. After Grace told me about them and I read about them, we ordered some seeds. It will be another thing we can try for animal feed. Thank you, Grace.

If times get hard and we have to provide for ourselves and our animals, this small amount of experience will hopefully help keep us on our feet while we learn even more. Challenges will always come our way, and we have had more than a few this year. Even so, our little animal feed growing project has taught us a lot. And we hope to learn even more through the winter and during the growing season next year.

Until next time – Fern