Paper seemed scarcer when I was a kid; at least it was at our house. At the start of each school year, my sister and I each got one new Red Chief tablet. We were not to use a single sheet for paper dolls or other fun stuff until summer vacation.
Now, paper is everywhere – reams of copy paper in every home, books, maps, shopping guides and all manner of free notepads from advertisers. Rarely a day goes by without at least one piece of junk mail arriving here. Perhaps it’s a carryover from childhood, but it bothers me tremendously to just chuck it all in the trash.
For years, I’ve used junk mail envelopes to organize photos, sewing supplies, receipts, small nails and seeds. (See-through window envelopes are great for this.) But, there are so many other uses I have only recently discovered.
For instance, before throwing out junk mail, cut out your name and address to reuse on your own correspondence. And, if you don’t need an envelope for anything else, cut off the adhesive flap to use as a label. They’re easy to write on and stick well to many surfaces. And clip off the corners to use as page markers.
Junk mail also makes wonderful mulch around non-edible plants. Cut it to pieces, run it through a shredder, or use it whole. I don’t trust the adhesives and dyes to be free of toxins, however, so I don’t spread junk mail mulch in the vegetable garden. Plus, it looks funny. But, under the lilac bushes, now we’re talking.
When I was in fifth grade, my best friend, Marcia, showed me how to make a secret compartment in a book by cutting out the center. We thought we were so smart sneaking lemon drops into math class until Marcia accidentally bumped the book and our candy bounced all over the floor.
I’ve thought about making such a hiding spot again, but first I would need some valuables. I do have the perfect book already, though – a 1986 hardcover by Andy Rooney that’s a whopping 2 1/2” thick. I could stuff a whole bag of lemon drops in there if I wanted.
Since adulthood, I had not mustered the nerve until recently to deface a book, not even a bug-eaten, water-damaged 1971 dud. But, then I volunteered in the library sorting boxes of donations last week and realized some books just might be more beneficial in another form.
So, with a pounding heart, I got out a discarded art book that I bought for a quarter years ago. For my first project, I thought I’d try making a few pages into envelopes to go with some mismatched note cards (another thrift store bargain).
I flipped first to the paintings I didn’t like so much, and then (thump, thump) tore out a page. I paused for a moment, and when lightning bolts did not strike me down, I proceeded to cut and fold the page into a colorful envelope. That was fun, so I made another, and another. I did the same with old tourist maps for places I will never visit again. I now have a complete set of one-of-a-kind stationery. Yay.
It sounds trivial, reusing paper, but not until considering Americans receive more than 40 pounds of unsolicited paper a year per household – just in the mailbox. Think of all the other unnecessary paper we encounter, and it begins to make more sense. Never buy another envelope or note pad again.
Mother Earth News printed a thorough do-it-yourself guide some years ago for recycling junk mail into paper, which is fun for calligraphers and crafters. Here are more thrifty ideas for keeping junk mail from the landfill:
- Shred for packing materials
- Line pet cages
- Cut in strips, roll around a toothpick and make curtain beads
- Keep the whole sheets to reuse in your printer
- Staple pages blank side up for a scratch pad near the phone
- Make ornaments, gift tags, gift wrap and crafts of the shiny, colorful stuff
For more photos and ideas, see our blog.
Linda Holliday lives in the Missouri Ozarks where she and her husband formed Well WaterBoy Products, a company devoted to helping people live more self-sufficiently off grid with human power, and invented the WaterBuck Pump.
Photos by Linda Holliday
I was thrilled by the turnout for our comfrey giveaway, so we're giving away another outside-the-box chicken feed on our blog this week. Click here for a chance to win 100+ peace silkworm eggs, which can turn into tasty caterpillars for your flock.
While I'm on the topic of alternative chicken feeds, I thought I'd toss out a few other ideas you may not have heard of. Chances are you've considered growing plants like corn and sunflowers for your flock, but how about ... worms? Or black soldier flies? Or Japanese beetles?
Back in the vegetable kingdom, many books sing the praises of raising duckweed for your flock, but our spoiled chickens turned up their noses (or should that be beaks?). We're in the early stages of experimenting with tree fruits, and so far persimmons and mulberries both seem to have potential in the chicken pasture.
And then there are the crazy ideas I want to research in more depth this winter. Like trapping or raising crawdads for our chickens. Or maybe growing snails, slugs, or grasshoppers. I'd be curious to hear your suggestions on the topic.
After two semi comatose days unpacking, laundering, cleaning and Christmas decorating this morning I was faced with the cold slap of what my friend Claudia termed 'post India stress disorder.' While in the duck yard of all places, perhaps in this moment my overloaded senses allowed a gap for entry, I realized I don't know what to do with my India experience.
My last few nights have been a slow motion nocturnal slideshow of hallowed eyes, babies in miniature, petite mothers sculpted down to the size of middle school children and roving forgotten animals. The nightmares aren't really, as the reality is so much more foul smelling, hopeless, and unjust than any manifestation of my brain.
The sweetness of home, joyous nature of children and feelings of time well spent are a tentative thread holding me above the precipice of abject pain and neglect. I am moving through my home and conversations thoroughly disbelieving of my own worthiness, yet secretly profoundly thankful. I feel as if I somehow cheated and walked away with a lotto win.
The gifts of food and personal security, self worth in the greater world, hope for my child, career and family choices, and the safety nets that have given me freedom from true fear and loss are like luxurious fat enveloping and cushioning me from reality. The seemingly random nature of the universe, never so obvious as when looking into the dull eyes of a child on the brink of death, does not make me feel lucky. Instead I am home to my loving and healthy family, on our dream homestead and left feeling that I didn't earn this, do not deserve this in the narcissistic way I had formerly thought. By accident of birth I was afforded confidence in my place and opportunity in the world. For me it was a case of get up and go fishing, where for many there is no pond in which to cast a line.
With a clarity born under an equally clear Idaho sky I realized my road had only two possible routes at this time. Like the encapsulated droplets on the backs of our ducks on this 8 degree F morning; I can protect myself. I can pull into my warm dry center, letting the sorrow and injustice roll off and take the joy and beauty with. The path that demands jumping off over the edge and committing is less clear. To drink it in, pathogens, neglect, hope and scarred beauty all becoming one with my cells invites the sadness in. But with it, a bit of the God that is in each of us.
This morning I choose to drink of life, and feel myself to my very soul become a child of this world.
After a 2-day workshop in the fall of 2011, I became a “Tennessee Master Meat Goat Producer.” And although I had the paperwork to prove that fact, I still had never even seen a goat up close. Telling the difference between a goat and a sheep was an untested skill!
To further my education, I began attending the sheep and goat auction at our local sale barn a couple of times a month. The main thing I learned was that goats don’t go for much money at the local sale barn, but they do “go”--everyone of them was bought. Most were shipped for slaughter to the Northeast US. I also learned that If I were going to raise meat goats, I would have to consider some basics:
1. With limited resources, I needed to know how to raise them without putting more into them than I could sell them for.
2. What would I do with all those extra bucklings that were sure to come? Considering their rumored smell and disposition, did I even want to keep bucks?
3. I would have to come to terms with how they would be slaughtered. My goal was a quick, humane death after a good life of pasture grazing and brush browsing--and not after a long, crowded, death march across the country to a far-off slaughterhouse.
I had several goals for keeping goats. I wanted them to control brush and to browse my pastures, thus preventing the pastures from having to be bush hogged and from going back to forest. I also wanted the challenge of learning something new and of having a new activity here on the homestead to keep me productively occupied in “my golden years.” Finally, I wanted to eventually supplement and maybe one day replace my beekeeping income. When I reached capacity for my acreage, I would sell the extra goats for breeding stock, pets, or meat.
After reading about all the different breeds, I chose myotonic (fainting) goats for several reasons. They are hardy, love weeds and brush, are native to my area, kid easily, are more easily fenced in than other types of goats, and are unusual enough that I thought I might be able to sell them as breeding stock to keep the breed alive. For their size, they are quite meaty--from all that seizing up and muscle flexing they do when they are startled.
My plan was to raise them only on pasture or hay--no goat chow or sweet feed - and not to use antibiotics (unless absolutely necessary) and no wormers. I had backup for this approach from a vet who gave one of the lectures in the goat workshop. She said the goal in raising meat goats was to breed animals that could carry a normal parasite load, culling those who couldn’t was more cost effective than spending money on medicines and vet bills. I would not let them get overcrowded, which would limit their exposure to parasites and other diseases. I kept this plan of action to myself at the time--I still don’t know any other breeders who aren’t adamant about routinely worming their goats.
Next I had to find a breeder. I wanted healthy goats to start with and was willing to pay for my breeding stock. I also wanted them to be registered with the Myotonic Goat Registry so I could one day sell my own breeding stock. I found a farm about an hour and a half away and went to visit. There I met a woman truly in love with her goats! They appeared healthy and well cared for and had plenty of room. She’d advertised that she did yearly testing for Johne’s disease, CAE (caprine arthritic encephalitis), and brucellosis. It was late winter and many of her does had just kidded and she had a riot of frisky young kids to choose from. She was concerned that they stay with their mothers until they were weaned. I made a down payment on five little doelings. The girls were only a week or two old when I picked them out, but they would stay with their mommas another 3 to 4 months. I spent $250 each for them. Each would come with registration papers and I was satisfied that they would be a healthy starter herd. I drove away grinning from ear to ear.
Meanwhile back at the homestead, I had to get ready for them.
I had a 3-acre pasture behind the house that I planned to start them in. I hired someone to fence that first 3 acres, and that to date has been my biggest expense in this project. Since then I have learned to do my own fencing but I spent $5,000 for that first tight, sturdy farm fence that was 48 inches high with twisted wire at the top. Goats need 4x4-inch wire fencing to keep them from getting their horns caught in the fencing. My first mistake was paying for 2x4-inch--overkill and more costly. To date a goat has never got out of this enclosure unless I let it out!
For housing all I really needed was a shed-type structure so they could get out of the rain and wind. I had all the old barn wood and used tin I needed to build this structure, which I’d salvaged after the restoration of an old tobacco barn. All I had to buy were the five 2x4s that I used for the roofing. As you can see from the picture on the left, it was very crude. But the unsightly monstrosity is still VERY sturdy and continues to serve its purpose well. The picture on the right is of a shed I built this summer--see, I’m improving!
Finally I bought a new water trough for about $80 at the time. So with the fence, the goats, housing, and water tank, my bank account was now $6,330 lighter. How many years would it take me to recoup that investment?! I guess I could have spent the money on a luxury vacation, but then the adventure would have been over instead of just beginning!
Stay tuned for the next installment “Bringing Them Home.”
Deer Isle has gotten cold. It's not so much the temperature, but the stiff western wind blowing down the Penobscot river and right down into our clearing. We were poorly prepared, as usual when a long mild fall turns to winter overnight. The wind blew right through an open window in the attic, our vegetable storage nearly froze and the Golden Russet apple tree we were going to pick sometime soon, well, that will be for an other year. We've spent the weekend catching up and here are some of the things we do to prepare for winter.
Make sure we can stay warm. This really began last winter, when I cut the wood that will warm us now. In spring/early summer I stacked it in our woodshed and now we use it to cook and heat with, using our small Jotul cook stove. Only a few rare nights every winter do we crank up our slightly bigger heating stove. Regardless of which kind of fuel, a small space to heat is a key factor to fuel efficient warmth. Once the nights get cold enough to require a heated space to sleep in, we move a double bed into the main room of our cabin and close off the attic, the mudroom and the backroom that in the summer is our bedroom. That leaves an 12x20 ft space with the bed about 2 steps away from the stove. We cover our windows with insulating plastic and in the deepest winter, we can sit here and safely watch the draft flutter in under the glass panes.
Put the gardens to bed. We cover our entire vegetable garden with seaweed for the winter. Leaves, straw, cuttings from day lilies or irises or even leaves and stalks from the summers corn patch will work. I cut my perennial beds back once they are all bloomed by, weed them and feed the plants and shrubs with compost.
Winterize our orchard. I use hardware cloth to wrap around the bottom foot of our fruit trees, as a way to keep rodents from eating the bark under the snow. It's also good practice to clean up all dropped fruit and leaves since that provides a place for bugs to overwinter.
Winterize our farm. We put the tools away, coil up hoses and make sure we can find the snow shovel. I like to be ahead of the curve and rake up as many leaves and branches as possible now, instead of waiting until spring. We do our best to keep squirrels and mice away from the outbuildings and set traps in the root cellar. I make sure I remember to get soil and compost from the garden before it freezes and keep it in a shed for my indoor spring planting.
Cull the livestock. The chickens that are too old to be productive layers end up in the pot, to save money on feed grain and make the chicken house less crowded. It's also time to butcher our pigs – it's hard to keep them warm outdoors, we're running out of apples and acorns feed them and it's cold enough to process the meat in a safe way.
Find a hobby. On such a northern latitude as Maine, the dark evenings are almost as long as the bright days. With the dinner being wrapped up while it's still technically afternoon and even though I go to bed so early even my Mum makes fun of me, there are still many hours to fill with something. A hobby is not only a way to learn something new and keep those evening interesting, but to me it's the splurge I otherwise rarely allow myself. Like making an advent calendar, for example, or putting together a photo album or painting Christmas cards for distant relatives. It starts to sound on the weather forecasts that the winter is here to stay, now. Not only are we ready for it, it's a welcome relief after a long fall and even longer year. Next week is when we'll kill our pigs and after that, well, after that it's winter for real.
Always on the lookout for non-GMO, chemical-free products, I was excited to hear of a new natural formula unlike any other I’m aware of for cleaning teeth. Even better, it was created by a mom who hoped to help her children want to brush more.
I had just finished watching author Marjory Wildcraft’s instructional video, Alternatives to Dentists, and sent her a message to tell her how much I enjoyed learning about horsetail and prickly pear cactus for healing dental problems. Best known for her “Grow Your Own Groceries” video series, Marjory teamed up with herbalist Doug Simons to demonstrate simple, natural tooth care in this video.
Marjory got me in touch with Jessica Arman, developer of MyMagicMud, the unusual tooth powder made of charcoal and clay.
To my delight, two 90-day containers of the powder arrived in the mail as I was packing for a bus trip to visit my daughter. I tossed one container in my suitcase and away I went, hopeful that I could get some charming photos of my daughter using MyMagicMud. My task was not easy.
The first time I used MyMagicMud and studied myself in the bathroom mirror, I laughed like a hyena at my pitch black choppers. As I said, the product’s main ingredients are activated coconut shell charcoal and bentonite clay. My daughter had the same hilarious experience.
Magic Mud looks just like fine soot. As crazy as it sounds, this black powder does an incredible job of whitening teeth, even for us Earl Grey tea addicts.
Brushing with Mud
Using MyMagicMud is easy. Just dip a damp toothbrush into the powder and brush for two minutes. Keep your lips clamped around your toothbrush or you’ll be scrubbing the bathroom tile. Spit into the drain (aiming well), rinse and floss. To get the remaining tiny black specks from between your teeth, Jessica recommends following up with regular toothpaste. As I learned from Marjory’s video, use one without fluoride and glycerin.
Unlike common charcoal, activated charcoal has an abundance of tiny pores that adsorb stains, toxins and impurities from the teeth, according to the MyMagicMud website. Removing contaminants adjusts the pH balance in your mouth and effectively prevents cavities and bad breath. The accelerated adsorption process makes whitening teeth quick and painless – without chemicals.
Bentonite clay is negatively charged and acts as an extremely powerful magnet to positively-charged toxins and bacteria. Besides removing surface stains, the magnetic pull reaches below the surface for a deep cleaning of your teeth and gums. Jessica says it’s even been known to cure gum disease.
MyMagicMud is now available in mint and orange flavors, which actually have whitening and purifying qualities themselves. Mint extract has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Mint kills bacteria in the mouth, preventing tooth decay and destroying odor-producing germs, and helps to freshen breath.
Orange peel extract contains a mild compound called d-Limonene, demonstrated to remove stains from teeth. The best part is, unlike the fruit, orange peels do not contain citric acid, which can erode tooth enamel.
The Start of Mud
About a year ago, Jessica was working for a natural supplements company where she learned about the benefits of these natural supplements when she decided to try making a whitener. Her experience with nutritional supplements gave her a unique opportunity to find the best ingredients for optimum brightness and oral health.
“It was put together to help my own children with their teeth,” Jessica said of MyMagicMud. “I wanted to come up with something tasteless and fun that would help them WANT to brush their teeth.”
After making and using the mixture for about six months, Jessica shared some with family and friends. Their response was so overwhelmingly positive, Jessica started a website to help other people strengthen and whiten their teeth naturally. All of her profits benefit parentsforliberty.org.
“Everyone couldn't believe how clean their teeth were,” Jessica said. “It made a noticeable difference after the first use.”
As I packed to leave for home, my daughter made sure I left behind my jar of MyMagicMud. Well, it’s the least I could do, since she allowed me to take this delightful photo of her.
For more photos and info, see mymagicmud.com and our blog.
Linda Holliday lives in the Missouri Ozarks where she and her husband formed Well WaterBoy Products, a company devoted to helping people live more self-sufficiently off grid with human power, and invented the WaterBuck Pump.
Photos by Linda Holliday
If you haven’t read Part One, please take the time to do that.
Before we take a quick survey of the most common LGD breeds here in North America, we need to remember a few very important points. First, LGD breeds were specifically developed over centuries to do this work through selective breeding for specific traits. Someone may tell you that their Lab or terrier or herding dog (or whatever) is great as a livestock guardian, but that is definitely not true for the vast majority of non-LGD dogs as many folks learn to their sorrow.
Second, most LGD breeds were landrace rather than standardized breeds. Landrace means that a dog or any livestock animal has been bred without a formal registry, although their breeders may have kept written or informal pedigrees of their animals. Landrace breeds often have a greater diversity of appearance than standardized breeds. Most LGD breeds are now making the transition from landrace to standardized breeds, as breed clubs and registries have recently come into existence in their native countries as well as in their adoptive homes in North America and elsewhere in the world. This can be a tumultuous process, both in the LGD homelands and in their new adoptive homes. Folks can become quite passionate about their breed and their beliefs. As a breed conservationist, I take the position of the FAO – a breed is whatever the people in an area regard as a breed. We have much to learn from the peoples who have worked with LGDs for centuries, as we in North America only have roughly 30 years of experience.
Third, just as there are a multiplicity of terriers and gun dog breeds, the reality is that there are many different LGD breeds. Beyond physical differences, individual breeds often became specialized for different kinds of work that required different combinations of behaviors. These physical and behavioral differences should be treasured because they increase our ability to choose the right dog for our situation. These different breeds need to be carefully conserved. Many of these breeds faced near extinction during the European conflicts of the 20th century and were only saved by dedicated admirers.
Fourth, individual differences between dogs in a breed can be significant. Please take these descriptions as generalizations. Take the time to learn more about these breeds before making your choice. Breeders and breed clubs are wonderful sources of information and mentorship.
Because these breeds were developed in a great sweep of areas from western Europe to Asia, it makes more sense to take a very brief look at the breeds geographically rather than alphabetically.
Estrela Mountain Dog (Portugal)
Estrelas are very protective of family and property. They are highly suspicious of strangers but noted for their fondness for children. They have a loud, threatening bark and are strong self-thinkers who must be socialized. Although the long-haired type is more common, short-haired dogs are also acceptable. Males range from 26-29 inches tall and 88-110 pounds, with females slightly smaller.
Spanish Mastiff (Spain)
This is the heaviest of the LGD breeds, a true giant at 28-35 inches and 185-220 pounds, with females somewhat smaller. Although the heavier type is often seen at dog shows, the lighter type makes a more agile guardian that also copes better with summer heat or high humidity. This slow-to mature breed gives the appearance of passivity in the field, but will react with ferocity if he perceives a threat. Often aloof in nature, he requires a serious, committed owner.
Pyrenean Mastiff (Spain)
The Pyrenean Mastiff is related to its neighboring breeds, the Spanish Mastiff and the Great Pyrenees, although it is also an old and traditional breed in Spain. It is a very large dog at 29-30 inches tall and 120-150 pounds. It carries a medium-long coat, which requires grooming and can be a challenge in high humidity. Although suspicious of strangers, he will accept properly introduced visitors. He is fond of children and often barks less than other LGD breeds, which has led to his popularity in family situations.
Great Pyrenees (France)
The Great Pyrenees is the most familiar LGD although most Pyrs do not work as livestock guardians in Europe or North America. The Pyr is a beautiful, bear-like dog with a heavy coat. Although it sheds dried mud, this coat requires regular grooming and can be challenging in high humidity or heat. Pyrs are noted for their nurturing behavior toward young animals or children, but they will not welcome unwanted visitors and they will bark at night while on duty. Pyrs are generally the least aggressive to humans or stock. Since so many Pyrs are raised as companion dogs, it is recommended that buyers look for breeders who specialize in working dogs or pay close attention to breeding for good guardian qualities.
Maremma Sheepdog (Italy)
Known to the ancient Romans, the Maremma remains a very successful LGD. Although slightly smaller than some other LGD breeds at 25-30 inches and 70-100 pounds, the long-coated Maremma is a highly protective dog that can provide protection against serious predator threat. Maremmas are also noted for the close bonds they form with stock. Although they are often described as aloof, they also enjoy regular interaction with their owners during the course of a workday. Maremmas are serious dogs that must be socialized and they are happiest with a job to do. In fact, the Maremma Sheepdog Club of America does not recommend keeping this breed as a pet at all.
Polish Tatra (Poland)
The Tatra is related to the neighboring Slovak Cuvac from Slovakia.Tatras are generally even-tempered and affectionate, making them more suitable on small farms that may have visitors than large range situations. Tatras are noted for their style of protection against predators. They place themselves between the flock and the threat while barking to warn the predator and alert the shepherd. They attack the predator if it moves close to the flock. Tatras stand 26-28 inches tall and weigh 80 to 130 pounds, with females slightly smaller. His heavy coat contributes to his massive appearance but adds to his grooming needs.
The Komondor is recognized for its distinctive coat – long, heavy cords and felted plates which protected him from the weather and wolves. This coat requires a great deal of work and is best suited to dry climates. Instead, many working Komondorok are clipped yearly. Slow-to-mature, Komondorok range from 25-27 inches tall and 80 to 100 pounds. They are extremely territorial and protective; therefore, they must be heavily socialized.
Despite his roots as a LGD, the lovely, medium-coated Kuvasz was often used as a family or estate dog in Hungary. Males range from 28-29 inches tall and weigh 90-110 pounds, with females slightly smaller. They are agile, fast, and active dogs that work at a distance from the flock and are quick to respond to threats. Often described as one-family dogs, they are human-oriented and therefore not particularly suited to working as a full-time LGD in a range situation. Despite their close attachment to family they are very suspicious of strangers. Kuvaszok require socialization and control.
Karakachan or Bulgarian Shepherd Dog (Bulgaria)
The Karakachan or Bulgarian Shepherd Dog is a very successful LGD in its homeland, which has the highest numbers and densities of wolves and bears in Europe. Owners in North America report that the dogs are levelheaded, steady, and affectionate to family and farm animals. Nonetheless, the breed is best used as a working dog and not a pet. The Karakachan stands 25-29 inches tall and weighs 70-110 pounds, with females slightly smaller. This smaller size is an attractive feature for some owners. Both short and longer haired types are seen, along with a wide variety in coat color.
Part Three coming up – breeds from Turkey and Asia
Photos by Great Pyrenees by Jerome Bun, Maremma by M Gerety, Young Estrela Mountain Dog by Traceywashere