Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Add to My MSN


Life on a Homestead

The images most people get when they think of life on a homestead is that of the Amish community — people living off-grid without modern technologies — or the images of families living in the remote wilderness as glorified by reality television shows.

Homesteads come in all different shapes and sizes, from being in remote wilderness to a backyard in town, from ½ acre to several hundreds of acres, and everything in between.

While these are forms of homesteads, there is a very wide base as to what is considered a homestead and what is not. Most modern homesteaders live on-grid with modern technologies such as power, internet, and modern conveniences. Yes, there are those that are living off-grid with no power and no dependency on anything but themselves but the former is more common than the latter.

No matter what format each homestead is, one thing remains the same throughout, and in my opinion, that is the desire for each individual to achieve a sustainable lifestyle while continually lessening their dependence on outside resources.

Life on a Homestead is 'Simpler'

One thing that most people would state about homesteading is the life itself is simpler. Well, as with anything, living on a homestead has its ups and its downs, but generally most homesteaders can agree that they would not change it for the world.

Yes, life seems simpler compared to the fast-paced life of the city. You have your daily chores that you have to do, such as feeding your animals, watering your garden, milking your cows or goats, collecting firewood, or more.

However, if you actually look at it, life really isn’t more simpler than city life. In fact, there is much more work that you have to complete within the same amount of time that most people complete in their day. This work must be done each day and does not stop for inclement weather, does not stop for sick days, does not stop for vacations or days off.

Life on a homestead is hard work, it is constant work and if you don't do this work potentially you, your family, or your animals will go without food, water, or more.

Now, do not get me wrong. As the old proverb goes, All work and no play makes jack a dull boy” (courtesy of Wikipedia). There is so much beauty in a homestead. Being able to take a dried-up seed and cultivate it into something healthy to feed your family, or raising an animal from birth, or getting your very first egg from your flock of chickens, is special.

The Joys of a Homestead

Chickens on homestead

There is not a homesteader who has raised chickens that cannot tell you the pride they have felt when they bring in their first egg from their chickens. That egg is the best egg in the entire world, bar none. It surpasses every egg ever laid before it, because that homesteader worked day in and day out to raise, nurture, and grow their flock, and now they are able to reap the rewards of their hard work.

Every homesteader can tell you of their first time successfully canning their harvest — the musical pop of the metallic lids of the jars that every homesteader can relate to. The birth of a baby animal from an animal that they raised (and raised its mother before her and its mother before her and so on) is wrapped in the homesteader's pride.

The feeling of being able to sit back some days and look over your land and see nature working in harmony together because of the sweat of your brow. The smiles on your family’s faces as they gobble down fresh food from your land and you knowing that it is the healthiest meal that you could possible provide.

So, no, life on a homestead is not simpler than that of city life, because the homesteaders has to be doctor, veterinarian, event manager, midwife, accountant, salesperson, farmer, gardener and more all wrapped into one. But in my humble opinion, life on a homestead is more pure, more basic and far more rewarding, however all of this is in the eye of the beholder.

The Pains of a Homestead

Not everything is as joyous as it sounds on a homestead — life itself can be downright cruel and heart-breaking.

One of the biggest things every homesteader faces on a homestead is loss. This animal that you have spent years raising, taking care of, treating with respect and love is found dead across the field as you go out to feed it in the morning. That same animal who has greeted you every morning and has showed you affection in the only way it knows how. Now it is dead from a predator, dead from disease, or dead from something unknown, it does not matter what the cause is — it still hurts.

While we strive to work within the laws of Mother Nature, sometimes she can be very cruel. Spending many hours working on your garden pulling weed after weed, making sure the pH balance is just right, making sure the correct nutrients are in the soil, watering like clockwork and on any given day it is all taken away by floods, hail, storms or lightning induced fire — it does not matter what the cause is, it still sucks.

Homestead or Not

So, whether you choose to live life on a homestead or not, knowing that regardless of the size or shape we all face the same kinds of situations in one format or another. For good or for bad, it is how we choose to see and react to each situation that makes us who we are: homesteaders living a modern life on a homestead.

Shane Floyd has been passionate about homesteading and sustainable living for more than 40 years. Now located in Oklahoma, he is using his experiences and passion to create his own sustainable homestead on 7 acres of land, using the same principles and ideals of his ancestors with a modern-day twist. Read about his adventures on the Floyd Family Homestead websiteand connect with Shane on Facebook, Twitter,  Google+Pinterest, Instagram, Youtubeand Amazon. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


Goats on the Go

A few years ago we decided we would "value-add" our farm a little more. For us, value-add means to upscale any product or project the farm is currently involved in.

We took a look at the farm to see where we were paying out but not taking in equally. That would be the goat herd. Our goat herd was a "work in progress". Our initial plan for the goats was to get the herd Animal-Welfare Approved and then try to get approved for a micro-dairy.

Well, as things often go, it was going to take time and money to get our milking parlor up to par. We were Animal-Welfare Approved (AWA) and audited yearly. During this time, our herd of dairy goats grew. We were also keeping the wethers. We were practicing rotational grazing for the health of our goats, as well as staying up with our AWA requirements.

Just When it Looks Like Things are Going Well

As I said, looking at the growth of the herd and the expense, and asked myself what else we could do to bring income to the farm. The answer hit me when I decided to apply for a grant through AWA: goat rentals! It was the perfect solution. Take the wethers out to provide the rotational grazing they needed and that would leave enough pasture for the dairy herd to be moved around more.

So, I worked up a plan and submitted it for the Animal Husbandry grant. I was so excited. I had done my research, and I knew this was doable and was promoting another way farmers could have access to additional pasture to implement rotational grazing.

Well, I waited and I waited — finally, I got an e-mail! I opened it up and..."we're sorry..."

That was all I needed to read. I couldn't believe it. I just knew I had this. Well, if they wouldn't help me, I would figure out a way to downsize the expense and Alan and I would put our plan in motion, Goats on the Go would become a reality!

Question and Answer Time

Well, we would have to decide which goats would be taken out. How would we haul them, and how would we make sure they stayed safe after reaching their destination? So many questions, but eventually we came up with answers.

goat herd

Advertising a Goat-Rental Service

Advertising was the next issue. Advertising had to be free starting out. When starting any new venture we try to stay small and low expense until we see where it takes us.

We advertised in, which lists rentals by state and is free. We utilized the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) free classified, Facebook, and our online store through

We were also doing workshops on goat owning, sort of like a Goats 101. So, we would let our students know and it was word-of-mouth advertising.

Stay tuned for Part 2 to learn about when things start to go baaah'd.

Susan Tipton-Fox continues the farming and preserving practices that had been passed down to her by her family. She presents on-farm workshops in Yancey County, North Carolina, and growing her on-farm agritourism by promoting "workshop stays" on the farm (extending the farm experience). Find Susan on Facebook, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


Make Money Raising Livestock

Did you know that, as a homesteader, you can make a great living in the stock market?

No, I am not talking about the New York Stock Exchange big board. I’m talking about the big-time live(stock) market. For most homesteaders this means cows, but it could mean bison, water buffalo, or large flocks of sheep. I will put pigs in there as well.

It goes without saying that you will need adequate pasture land to accommodate these voracious grazers, and that there are many benefits to raising them.

For example, if you purchase a young bull for $1,000 or so and five ready-to-breed heifers for the same price each, your $6,000 investment will likely produce five calves that will be fed for free (by their mothers and your pastures) each year for 12 to 15 years. You’ll also likely incur mineral expenses, but that’s nominal.

What will you do with these calves?

Perhaps you will sell them as stockers when they are weaned, or perhaps you will raise and market grass-fed beef.

If you were to raise the calves as grassfed beef, as I have done for many years, it is likely that each calf would become worth approximately $2,200 for you (net) in about 2 years. This assumes selling to consumers in urban markets. You can earn more or less profit depending on whether you sell individual retail cuts or market the beef as whole, halves or quarters.

Often the values are even higher than this and prices have been rising steadily over the past few years. That’s in your favor, but keep in mind that there is a ramp-up period of a couple of years before you realize any income, since it will take roughly 24 to 28 months to “finish” the cows. For that reason, some people view this model as an attractive homestead retirement strategy.

Once your "beeves" are ready for market beginning in Year 3, those five heifers (now cows) will be throwing off about $11,000 per year in gross profit ($2,200 per calf times five per year). If they do this for 12 years, then your initial investment of $8,500 for the bull and heifers will return a gross profit of $132,000.

Again, that's only with one bull and five cows. If you have the land, you can multiply the herd size to fit your resources. Try safely getting those returns in the financial stock market.

Safely Make Money Farming with Livestock

The nice thing about this financial model is that it’s quite safe. Even if you lack the skills or time to market the product as beef, you can always sell to private buyers or at sale barns. Unlike with pieces of paper, such as worthless stocks (remember Enron?), I’ve never heard of anyone having a total loss with livestock.

Staying with this scenario and assuming each cow needs one acre of grazing land, you will need approximately 16 acres of pasture. This is for, A) the initial bull and five cows (6), B) the five calves born the first year that will take two years to grow (5), and C) the five calves born the second year (5).

After the second year, the five grown calves will be sold or processed, clearing the way for the five new calves born the third year, keeping the pasture demand static at 16 acres.

Now, there are entire books on this topic, such as Grass-Fed Cattle: How to Produce and Market Natural Beef, and I encourage you to read them if this path interests you.

Of course, generating these returns requires that you purchase land for the animals. While the chart below shows the national average value of pastureland to be $1,200 per acre, good luck finding that in most areas.

Acreage Grazing Price Chart

In my neck of the woods, pastureland goes for $3,000 to $4,500 per acre, which is probably a better average to work with for most new homesteaders.

So, the 16 acres of land necessary for grazing will cost anywhere from $48,000 to $72,000 (not to mention paying modest annual taxes on the land), which takes a big “capital” bite out of the gross profit.

I emphasize the word “capital,” because the land-acquisition cost does not reduce your profit since, if you desired, you could sell the land at the end of the 12 years, likely get back at least what you paid for it and still have earned the $132,000. Plus, you would still have a dozen or so cows left over.

However, purchasing land ties up your capital for a long time, which is why you are entitled to the returns you can generate through certain farming enterprises. The returns go along with the risk and loss of capital.

Do You Have to Own Land to Raise Livestock?

No, you don’t, and some farmers follow Missouri farmer Greg Judy’s advice in his book No-Risk Ranching.

Today, Judy runs a grazing operation of over 1,400 acres of leased land over 11 farms. He and his wife went from near bankruptcy in 1999 to paying off a 200-acre farm within 3 years using his custom grazing model.

Using the above example of starting modestly with one bull and five heifers, you could consider leasing pasture land adjacent or local to you for perhaps $30 per acre, per year. Your annual rent would be $480 for 16 acres, and you would have no income from the grassfed beef operation to offset this for the first 2 years. However, after this you would generate $11,000 per year in income — far more than you would need to cover the expenses.

In this model, however, you would need to lease land that had good water (which will cost you more) or incur the cost of drilling a well. You would also have to fence it, as Greg describes in his book, but you would tie up far less capital. Perhaps you can even be debt free!

You may incur other minor expenses such as hay when grass is not growing, vet bills if you plan to use vets, and, of course, taxes on the land you own, but the income will drastically exceed the expenses as long as you market the product successfully.

Pastured Cattle Grazing In Field 

Other Market Farming Considerations

I cover marketing homestead products in Chapter 6 of my book, How to Make Money Homesteading. If you need some help/advice in marketing, either ask in the comment section below or join the free Farm Marketing Group on Facebook.

I caution you to avoid exotic animals unless economic times are very good or are likely to be. In poor economic times, people want and need basic foodstuffs and materials, and your attempt to market grass-fed zebra may prove more challenging than you expect. 

Stick what people want and know, unless you’re a highly-skilled marketer. Stick with beef.

You can do similar calculations to scale this up or down, or with other species such as pigs, bison, and so on.

The point is this: Putting the animals to work allows you to generate a stream of future income, improve your soil, and create wealth. The wealth is held not necessarily in fiat currency but in the value of your fertile soil and livestock.

Tim Young is the author of the Amazon bestseller, How to Make Money Homesteading, Start Prepping, and several other books on self-sufficient living. Tim and his wife learned to run and market a sustainable livestock farm, make cheese, preserve food and all the skills the term "self-sufficient" brings to mind. He shares this knowledge through his blog at and through his books.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


The revitalization of the “Back-to-Basics” movement has brought with it the old-world skills that the pioneers once used to survive, but with a modern-day twist. While no longer essential to survival, these skills are now being used by modern homesteaders to gain their freedom from dependence.


Skills such as preserving food, gardening, and raising animals were essential to the pioneers after they ventured westward in 1843. Fast forward hundreds of years and we now see another modern-day expansion; while not heading westward on the Oregon Trail but rather from cities to the country.


These skills once meant life and death for the pioneers, but today it is not as life-threatening as it once was. Rather, relearning traditional skills has become an asset to counter the rise of food prices and the addition of added chemicals, additives and preservatives to what we consume.


Food Preservation

The preserving of food has been around throughout history from the days of using the sun and wind to dehydrate food up to the invention of sealed tin cans by Peter Durand in 1810.


Most modern homesteaders are re-learning the old-world skills of preserving food using such methods as water bath or pressure canning, dehydration, and curing for the sole purpose of eliminating their need to buy commercial products — and the satisfaction of knowing where their food is coming from and exactly what was used in growing it.


Nowadays, many homesteaders can tell you about the metallic “pop” that is heard after successfully preserving food. The “pop” is like music in its own right.


Home Gardening

The number of gardeners has fluctuated over the years, the way we garden has. As technology grew throughout the years commercial farmers and the home gardeners began to use chemicals to resist drought and increase the yield of their crop production; however, the modern homesteader has become leery of utilizing those chemicals and have chosen to go back to the earlier methods of the pioneers.


Having never had access to these kinds of chemicals the pioneers had to learn how to use what the Earth could provide, such as manure, crop rotation and companion planting; a perfect example is that of the Native Americans using the 3 sisters planting method which is a form of growing three different plants together so that are beneficial to each other.


In reverting back, the modern homesteader has developed many different kinds of beneficial methods based off of pioneer mentality, such as the “Back to Eden” method which is a no-till gardening method.


Utilizing the old-world skills of gardening has begun to revitalize the homestead gardens into producing great results with less chemically infused food being consumed.


Raising Livestock

Pioneers had no choice but to raise their livestock on their own, barter or trade with their community for their meat. Sure, they had the opportunity for some wild game but the chances are that they had to rely more on their own animals than that of wild game to feed their families and to get a variety of meats.


Raising animals in my opinion is one of the harder old-world skills, simply because they are a living, breathing things with their own temperaments, attitudes and personalities; because of this, there is so many things that you have to learn on how to care for, feed, and treat that when you have multiple animals on a homestead the knowledge gets to be quite extensive.


More and more cities are now beginning to allow the raising of some small livestock such as chickens, to be raised within the city limits. These changes have become a great advantage to the modern homesteader wishing to raise, consume and even sell byproducts of or the animals themselves.


“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” — Maimonides


This wonderful quote by Maimonides (courtesy of Goodreads) rings all too true to the modern-day homesteader. Anyone can buy food from a grocery store and feed themselves for a day, but learn these old-world skills and you will feed yourself for a lifetime.


While we only touched on the surface of some of the old-world skills, these are some of the most common that have found their way from the days of the pioneers to modern homesteads across the country.


I would really love to hear your opinion on what old-world skills you have learned, so please take a moment and let us know by leaving us a comment.


Shane Floyd has been passionate about homesteading and sustainable living for more than 40 years. Now located in Oklahoma, he is using his experiences and passion to create his own sustainable homestead on 7 acres of land, using the same principles and ideals of his ancestors with a modern-day twist. Read about his adventures on the Floyd Family Homestead website, and connect with Shane on  Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and Youtube, Amazon.
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



You can read the previous posts in this series here.

Financing a college education? Did I fail to mention the beauty of Advanced Placement (A.P.) high school classes before getting to college? A solid score on the national A.P. test will land a student free college credits that can be applied to a 2- or 4-year degree. My wife and I had some personal experience with this.

For my part, ever the slacker, I only took one A.P. course in high school (biology) but entered college with a half of a semester's worth of credit that only cost me (my parents) the $50 fee for taking the A.P. test. We both had high school classmates that used A.P. testing to knock out more than a year's worth of free credits before they were even admitted to a college.

Our next to oldest child, as a sophomore, scored well enough on her A.P. World History course to garner 6 credits and, as a senior, nailed an A.P. Literature test score good enough to garner 4 credits. Our boy, at age 15 and a sophomore, tackled A.P. biology (still waiting for those results).

(In our family, we have agreed to cover the kids'  testing fees, unless they fail to secure a score that grants credit; then they pay the $50.  Money is a great incentive for better studying.)

So, a key financial principal for us has been to have the kids start college with as much free credit under their belt as they can manage.

"Then what?," you ask. "That can only take you so far." Yes. Did you know that if your child, homeschooled or not, takes the GED exam, the scores could qualify the student for more free college credits?  Our second eldest gained an additional four credit-hours just through this route. For her, between the A.P. and GED tests, a full semester of college course credits will be covered at no cost! The things they do not tell you in life.

Also, way before we got to these points, where we could start executing these plans, the very month that each kid was issued their social security number, a month or so after birth, we began putting money into tax-free 529 plans.

By the time we quit our careers, each of the four children had enough funds in just those accounts to completely cover at least full two years of college here in Hawaii (more than had we stayed put in Virginia and they had gone to in-state schools). A little money here and there in tax-exempt Coverdell accounts and tax free educational bonds issued by the Treasury Department (from us and birthday gifts from relatives) will help pay for some of the remaining coursework.

The kids will cover some costs themselves, too. For example, our three oldest have taken jobs (no more than 10 hours per week) to help fatten up their savings accounts for expenses that lay ahead, to prevent them from having to go into debt before they enter the career workforce, and to gain some life skills experience. I'll note here that this requirement of the kids is not aimed at easing any financial burden on dear ole ma and paw — though it certainly helps.

Simply put, we want our kids to come out with a greater sense of responsibility than they would if we handed everything to them. Again, going back to our own experiences with alternate paths taken by student-peers of ours, I'll say that I graduated with kids who paid their entire way through 4 years of college by themselves through a combination of work and grants and scholarships or ROTC, and I can tell you that they emerged with a different mettle, a good measure of grit, compared to the rest of us soft bellies, and they did not waste time partying. That is not a bad thing, by most measures, and I am confident that our kids — as most — are up to the task.

And that about sums it up.

John and Esther Atwell and their four kids’ journey into sustainable living, organic food, and homesteading began while living in the San Francisco Bay in the 2008-2010 timeframe. Their current grand life experiment — detaching from a fast-paced, conventional, urban lifestyle to establish a sustainable, organic homestead, homeschool their kids, and become more involved in community and church — began in earnest in early 2014. The couple, graduates of Duke University and the University of Virginia, have homeschooled their four children — two of whom are now in college — and Esther previously ran a tutoring business focused on hard sciences and math up through calculus.  Find them online at Sojourn Chronicle and read all of John's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


Building up a homestead is challenging under any circumstance, but when you work full-time and you have young children at home, “challenging” might just be the understatement of the year.

My husband and I purchased our homestead a short year ago, when our son was 5 and our daughter was 1. We both run nonprofits in our adopted state of Vermont, and though I get some time off in the summer, we do most of our homesteading chores after the kids go to bed. It is not unusual to do them by the light of our head lamps.

There are some days, however, when homesteading is a family affair and we get to share our love for this place with our kids.

In the year that we have owned the homestead, informed by the 5 years of suburban gardening with our son in tow that lead up to it, we have developed some tried-and-true philosophies when it comes to homesteading with kids.

5 Tips for Homesteading with Children

Reign in your romantic expectations for full-family homesteading. Kids are kids. We cannot expect our children to love every minute of working on a homestead, and it would be unreasonable to expect them to spend every minute doing so.

On most nights, we try to give our kids the attention they need after being away from us all day before attempting to accomplish chores. If we absolutely have to get something done, we will “divide and conquer,” making sure our kids have attention from one of us while the other mows or chops wood.

Choose exciting projects to involve the kids. While we don’t expect our kids to participate in every project on the homestead, we do try to find projects that will excite them and get them involved so that we can plant the seeds for future appreciation for our land.

We have learned that our 6-year-old loves to feel strong, so we involve him in projects that allow him to demonstrate his strength — like shoveling compost into his own wheelbarrow or moving logs. We comment frequently on how he is building his muscles and on how much he has accomplished — we’re certain our daughter will want to do the same when she is older since she tries to do everything big brother does and usually succeeds.

When your kids are helping, don’t aim for perfection. With all of our willpower, we resist the urge to tell the kids they are doing something wrong or should do it another way. We’re trying to let our kids develop their own love for the land, and lecturing them about proper watering techniques will probably build resentment instead.

Instead, we hand them the hose on a gentle setting and let them go wild, not bothering to worry about whether they will need to change their clothes or whether they are watering everything perfectly. We can always follow up to fill in the gaps.

If we’re worried they’ll cause harm, we restrict their watering to a certain area of the garden that is more resistant to their not-so-gentle touch.

Resist the temptation to spend money on “kids” equipment. You’ll find kids gardening tools and equipment in all sorts of places, from miniature shovels and rakes to miniature versions of farm equipment — there’s a cartooned version of almost everything. But let’s face it, most of it doesn’t work very well or breaks if a child tries to do real work with it.

Likewise, half of the pleasure that kids get in helping their parents is from using the same equipment that the adults are using (within certain safety guidelines, of course). Children will learn more and be more confident if we trust them to use adult tools to accomplish adult chores in reasonable, kids-sized chunks.

For example, buy a small but sturdy real-life wheelbarrow instead of the flimsy plastic ones that can’t actually carry dirt, and invite your child to move sawdust or light topsoil with it. They’ll feel more empowered and important, and you’ll get much more bang for your buck.

Find creative ways to engage kids while you are working. If we absolutely must get work done while our kids are around, we try to create a play space or activity that will keep them engaged while we are working.

Take a page from the research on outdoor play and develop a natural outdoor play space near your garden — natural “equipment” like logs, rocks, pieces of wood, or string can be made into magical creations by creative kids.

For more ideas, visit websites and social media spaces dedicated to outdoor play for kids. Some of my favorites include Wilder Child and Timbernook. Food can also be a great source of entertainment. We often pack a picnic lunch with our kids to take down to a blanket in a shady spot of the garden.

It may take some time and practice for your kids to develop the free play skills necessary to keep busy while you are working, so be grateful for even a few minutes as you start using this strategy.

One of the primary reasons we purchased our homestead was to create a place that would be better for our kids — a place where we could provide for them and also help them to develop a sense of connection to the play where they are growing up.

We don’t want them to view the homestead as something that takes their parents’ time and attention away from them instead. These strategies are helping us to find that balance, all while realizing that we have the rest of our lives to build our homestead but only a few precious years when our children are young.

Carrie Williams Howe is the Executive Director of an educational nonprofit by day, and parent and aspiring homesteader by night and on weekends. She lives in Williston, Vermont, with her husband, two young children, and a rambunctious border collie. Carrie has a PhD in educational leadership and is passionate about being an authentic, participatory leader in various settings. She is a contributing editor at Parent Co Magazine. Connect with Carrie on The Happy Hive Facebook page.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


If you are trying to stay away from chemical fertilizers, stack the functions of the plants and animals on your property and save money then these simple fertilizer teas are just for you. There are many different kinds of fertilizer “teas” and we will be covering three of them in this blog. We will talk about comfrey, rabbit manure, and vermicompost tea! All of these teas work very well. IF you want to do a deep dive into fertilizer teas read some of Dr Elaine Ingham’s work.

A couple of general considerations on making fertilizer teas: first, make sure you either have your own source or get them from a trusted source where you know how they were grown/raised. For example, if minimizing chemical exposure is important to you then understanding the source is extremely important.

Second, all liquid fertilizer teas are quick acting. If you are looking for a prolonged and steady source of nutrient release then other methods will work better in most cases. One of the great benefits of liquid fertilizer teas is the application can be made at just the right time. If your plants are in dire straits this is also a good time to give a fertilizer tea boost.

Third, all three of these fertilizer teas can be used as a foliar feeding or a regular water feeding for the roots.

Finally, all of these methods can be sped up with aeration through stirring or using something like an aquarium aerator.

1. Comfrey tea (for plants) is simple to make and great as a fertilizer tea. For a very simple start just fill up a container, like a 5 gallon bucket, about 2/3 full with comfrey leaves and add water. Let sit for around three weeks and you are ready to go.

Dilute the concentrate with about a 1:10 ratio of comfrey tea to water and you have a great fertilizer to use on your plants. Comfrey not only provides a good NPK boost, it is also packed with micronutrients.

2. Rabbit manure tea is simple to make and highly beneficial for plants. You can go simple or complex. Start simple. Use a ration of 1 part rabbit manure to 5 parts water, let sit for seven days and it’s ready to use. When ready to use, dilute by using one cup of manure tea to one gallon of water.

Rabbit manure tea is higher in nitrogen then the other teas listed here but not nearly as high as chemical fertilizers so if you need a bit more of a nitrogen boost look to use rabbit manure tea.

3. Vermicompost tea (worm castings) is another easy to make fertilizer for plants. Take a couple handfuls of worm castings (poop) and add water. If you stick to the same 1/5 ratio as rabbit manure you will do just fine. Let sit for 1-3 days and it’s ready to use on plants.

Again, you can speed up and perhaps, increase the beneficial microorganisms by aerating and/or feeding the solution with a sugary substance like molasses.

All three of these fertilizer teas are great for providing nutrients and micronutrients to your plants, helping to keep you off the chemical treadmill and to save you money. If you are more interested in the science of soil check Dr Ingham’s online course.

Sean and Monica Mitzel homestead with their family on 40 acres and are using permaculture techniques and methods for the property. The homestead is a demonstration and education site where they teach workshops and raise dairy goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, chickens, and ducks. The Mitzels have planted food forests, guilds and enjoy wildcrafting and propagating plants. Sean and Monica can often be found podcasting or speaking and teaching at different events. Listen to the podcast and to learn more about the Mitzels, visit The Prepared Homestead. Read all of their MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.       

All photo credits: Linde Mitzel, P3 Photography

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.

(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here