Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

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MOTHER EARTH NEWS has been providing information about how to live a more sustainable, eco-friendly life for more than 40 years.  We understand that it’s important we also “walk the talk,” so for this reason and more we set to work creating a slick and easy-to-use digital issue that allows us to reduce our paper and ink consumption while emitting a smaller carbon footprint from magazine deliveries.

We love providing our readers with simple, cost-effective ways to make a difference, and this is one.  By purchasing a digital issue you will still receive all of the same content as the print magazine, plus you’ll save paper and help reduce the company’s fossil fuel consumption. Our digital issue is linked to our website in order for you to peruse related MOTHER EARTH NEWS articles with the swipe of your finger. We also thought it would be fun to link most of our author bylines to the author’s online biography. Are you unsure as to why you should listen to Steve Maxwell for DIY advice or Barbara Pleasant for composting tips? Simply click on each author’s byline to see their credentials and to understand why they’re one of our most trusted experts.

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One of the things we have enjoyed most about these digital subscriptions is the ease with which you can post your favorite MOTHER EARTH NEWS content to the social media channel of your choice. By lightly tapping the screen once, a scissors icon will appear on the right-hand side of the page. You can use these scissors to digitally clip out your favorite recipe, photo or section of text from the page. After your customized clip is selected, you can choose to post it directly to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Flickr, Google + and more. You can also choose to email any clip to a friend, or share the clip in our live MOTHER EARTH NEWS digital issue stream. These instant clips are a great way to share MOTHER EARTH NEWS content with your friends, and you’ll never have to worry about losing a ripped-out page of the magazine again!

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A one-year digital subscription, which includes 6 issues, is $12. You can also buy a print and digital subscription bundle for $17 a year. To sign up for a subscription and receive step-by-step instructions about how to download your digital subscription, visit


DR Kinetic Log Splitter. In-use 1.

Kinetic technology is the wave of the future when it comes to log splitting. Instead of using hydraulics as most log splitters do, kinetic log splitters use a hefty flywheel system that stores energy from the engine in spinning flywheels, releasing it in one burst to pop through logs with record speed. No waiting for the ram to slowly press its way through a log, and then painstakingly retract itself. Here are some incredible facts about kinetic log splitters:

1. Their full cycle time is as little as 2.5 seconds.

How long is the cycle time on your hydraulic splitter? It's probably somewhere in the 15- to 30-second range. Those seconds add up when you're splitting cord after cord. With a kinetic log splitter, you can expect a cycle time of 2.5 to 3 seconds, including auto-retract. This makes them about 6 times faster than most hydraulic models.

2. They aren't measured in terms of tonnage.

When you go shopping for a new log splitter, the first thing you probably look for is tonnage. It makes sense; in hydraulic splitters, it's the best way to assess their power. Kinetic log splitters can't be accurately measured in terms of tons because the force they produce comes in one quick thrust, instead of a prolonged push. So here at DR, we tell you what hydraulic tonnage our kinetic log splitters could outsplit. For example, the Pro-XL RapidFire kinetic splitter can out split a 34-ton hydraulic.

DR Kinetic Log Splitter. Studio.

3. They're easier to maintain.

With no hydraulic oil or pumps, kinetic log splitters are much easier to maintain than hydraulic units. No leaky valves, no messy oil. The only maintenance a kinetic splitter needs is an engine tune-up now and then, just like any other piece of machinery. And electric-powered models don't even need that!

4. Yes, they can handle tough logs.

Kinetic log splitters can handle any type of log that a hydraulic model can. Knotty ones, tough ones, you name it. They have the power to pop through even challenging logs at a pace that you just won't believe!

DR Kinetic Log Splitter. In-use 2. Scott.

5. They are available in powerful electric models.

Electric log splitters are a great way to be able to split wood indoors – say in your shed or barn – or just have the convenience of not having to deal with messy oil and gas. Electric hydraulic splitters are usually only available at very low tonnages (3-ton, 5-ton, etc.). This is great for splitting kindling and other small logs, but what about the big guys? DR recently introduced an electric-powered kinetic log splitter that can out split any 22-ton hydraulic! That's plenty of power, all powered by clean electricity.

6. Kinetic technology is nothing new.

While applying kinetic technology to log splitting may be a relatively new concept, the system itself has been around for ages. Modern designs are adapted from mill machinery used during the US's industrial heyday – solid steel machines built to last and last!

Want to see for yourself how fast kinetic log splitters are? Watch a kinetic model outsplit a hydraulic in a head-to-head competition:

Want to give a kinetic log splitter a try? Check out the top-of-the-line selection at DR Power Equipment, and even try one on your own property for 6 months. 

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.


Author Len McDougall cuts up venison to feed his sled dogsAuthor, novelist, survival instructor Len McDougall feeds venison bones that he's hacked from whole carcasses to his grateful teams of Siberian huskies.  He and his wife began the practice of feeding raw meat, poultry, and fish (no pork — pork is difficult to digest, and not especially nutritious) to the purebred gray wolves that they raised, under license, for 18 years.

They no longer raise wolves, but the longevity and good health of several generations of sled dogs who shared that diet says that it agrees with dogs, too.

Enjoy the video of these happy dogs, and don't miss watching Len McDougall's other videos.

You can find many of the author's magazine articles on-line, as well as 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.


A surprise doelingBolt was looking thinner and thinner. Despite multiple wormings, extra food, and putting her into a pen to gain weight. With both her and Blaze failing to have healthy kids, we were seriously thinking of putting them into freezer camp. Our reasons were practical. Being Boer mixes, they tended to consume a lot of food. They were no good for milking because they carried double teats on each side and didn’t produce as much milk as my dairy goats. So, with Bolt failing to conceive this year and Blaze having a stillborn, we both decided to write off the Boers as a learning experience.

Until today. Tomorrow we were supposed to get cooler weather in and our first frost. I walked into the barn to feed critters and Bolt was in labor. Labor? I pondered the signs carefully. She looked thin – I hadn’t seen any obvious sign of pregnancy. I sort of noticed that her bag looked a little bigger, but given she hadn’t had a kid when the others were delivering. I went into the pen and tried feeling if the baby was in the canal. It wasn’t. So, I finished feeding everyone and went back up to the house to get lunch. We turned on the goat pen camera and called it good.

A little while later, I thought I saw something that looked like a kid beside Bolt. My husband went out to check and came back with a “Kid alert!” So, I went down to the barn with the right tools to cut the umbilical cord and tie it off. There was a lovely little doeling with LaMancha ears and Boer markings. Bolt had mostly dried off the little girl and was happily munching on hay. My husband was holding the doeling in his arms and petting her. The doeling was snoozing comfortably there.

How many kids have I seen born? It was getting in the dozens. How could I have missed this? I suspect that my thought that Bolt was infertile had a lot to do with it. So, now I’m thinking Blaze is carrying too.

We named the little doeling Frost. After all, she was born before the first frost.

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.


New Window ViewMany people have contacted us the past few years asking about how to get started planning their own new homesteads. I have written numerous articles about how we went about building ours. They include articles like  Homestead - Where To Start? What Have We Gotten Ourselves Into?, Lessons Learned Parts 1 and 2, and many others found here at Mother Earth News.

For this article I have created a checklist of potential expenses to consider when planning your own homestead. It is by no means comprehensive and most of the items you are already aware of as typical living expenses. The list is based on the probability that you will be living in a rural area although homesteading in the city is certainly possible.

As you may know, homesteads can vary hugely in cost depending on the level of comfort and convenience you choose. Some people may choose to live in a tepee and others like us will choose a more traditional structure. You may choose to have satellite services or not.

The list below is intended to get you thinking about your own expenses you may choose to afford and others you may not have considered. An “oops” moment later on can be expensive. Your own similar list can help you make choices on when to start your homestead, how much money you may choose to borrow, or what you are willing to live without to get started.

The List:

• Land
• Realtor Fees
• Clearing
• Road Building
• House Construction
• Barn or Out Buildings
• Fencing
• Septic System or Other
• Well or Water Source
• Permits
• Moving Costs

Homestead Angora Goats
• Animals
• Feed
• Pens and Fencing
• Vet Care
• Garden Supplies and Fencing
• Tools
• Generator(s)
• Farm Equipment
• Craft Supplies
• Food Prep Supplies

Monthly Bills
• Food
• Homeowners Insurance
• Medical Insurance
• Fuel for vehicles, generators, farm vehicles, and equipment
• Property Taxes
• Other taxes (income tax, sales tax, etc)
• Vehicle Licensing
• Other licensing (hunting and fishing)
• Clothing, etc.
• Satellite for TV
• Satellite for computer
• Phone service
• Propane or other heat and cool fuel expense

• Repairs and Maintenance

If you are thinking of starting your own new homestead, start by making a comprehensive list similar to the one above. Don’t be overwhelmed. Consider each item one at a time. Decide which items are necessities and which are conveniences and go from there. It’s better to be prepared and aware than not! Always keep your goals realistic.

Ed and Laurie Essex live off grid in the Okanogan Highlands of Washington State where they operate their websites  and

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.




dairy cowsThe biggest change that the approach of winter brings to Micro Dairies in cold climate regions like Vermont is in how the cows are fed. Even before the snow flies — around the middle of September — my cows start to lose their interest in grazing, even if the grass is lush. I think that the flavor of the grass must change as the sun gets lower in the sky; like clockwork, as soon as the leaves change color, my cows' appetite for hay increases.

Haying equipment is expensive, and I have a full-time job off the farm running Bob-White Systems. So, I buy my hay. I purchase second- or third-cut hay (called rowan in certain parts of New England) that is harvested later in the summer. I stock up on two types for the winter — small, square and large, round bales. I buy 500 to 600 classic, small square bales that I store in my barn's hay loft where they stay dry. I also buy 10 to 20 large, round, wrapped bales. High-quality dry hay (the small bales) is the best type of winter feed for cows because it is good for their digestion, especially their rumens, and they like it. Good-quality second- or third-cut hay (the rowan) is expensive, though less so than the small bales on a pound-for-pound basis. I have the facility and equipment to store both types.

The little square bales are tricky to make because the hay must be bone dry before it is baled. If the hay is too moist when baled and put into the hayloft, it can heat up and mold or, worse yet, spontaneously combust and burn your barn down. There is nothing worse than worrying about wet bales burning you barn down (on top of the regular list of daily chores).

The large bales, called baleage, are the things that people say look like giant marshmallows sitting in a field. This hay is baled after the mowed hay wilts but is still moist. It is then wrapped in plastic by an odd-looking machine that I won't even attempt to describe. Once wrapped, the hay actually ferments and becomes "pickled,” which makes the hay easier for the cows to digest. This is good for their milk production. I store the larger bales outside on dry ground where the hay will stay edible all winter as long as the plastic remains intact. If the plastic gets torn and isn't patched with tape, the hay inside will quickly begin developing a white mold and eventually the whole bale may be ruined. Watch out.hay bales

I first saw the large round bales in the early 1980s. The technology used to create baleage has really helped farmers in colder and wetter climates (like Vermont) harvest higher-quality feed. With baleage, rain isn't as big a threat as it is with the small, square bales, especially with the first cut of hay early in the summer when rainy weather is common. Also, because the hay doesn't need to be so dry when baled, the leaves on the nutritious alfalfa and clover don't crumble and get lost to the ground during the baling process.

Because the hay in these larger, round bales is fermented, the flavor of your cows’ milk can be impacted. If the hay was too wet, your cows’ milk can smell like Three Bean Salad (I’m not kidding). Too dry, and the milk can smell like an old tobacco butt. For this reason, there are farmers who won't feed baleage to their cows, especially if they make cheese with the milk. One benefit to buying hay is the ability to be choosy: I only buy hay that I know was "put up" correctly.

Regardless of how much hay I store for winter, I always worry about running out before spring. The common wisdom says that you shouldn't be more than half way through your hay and firewood by the first of February. I am sure that I'll worry about my hay supply this winter, even though I have fewer animals this year than I did last year.

I hate to see the summer end, but when the snow is flying outside, I find it very rewarding to see my cows enjoying emerald green rowan as they rest comfortably on their mattresses in their stalls before I turn off the barn lights at night. The next blogs in this series will cover preparing your barn, your cows and yourself for the cold weather. Stay tuned!

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 wouldn't feed your kids a steady diet of Captain Crunch, or even Wheaties, despite nutritional claims made by the manufacturers of those cereals. We feel the same about dog kibble. A cursory perusal of any bagged kibble's contents will show what vitamins and nutrients it contains, but a canine is a carnivore, and a fundamental definition of carnivore is "meat-eater." Particularly when those dogs are Siberian huskies.

We raised full-blooded gray wolves, under state license, for 18 years, and their diets demanded red, raw meat every day. So when we acquired our first team of sled dogs, nearly 15 years ago, it was a natural conclusion that they, being more closely related to wolves than any other dog breed, should also benefit from a diet of meat.

Today, several generations of dogs later, our animals health says that we were on the right track. I hope that you'll enjoy the video.

Links to some of the books authored by Len McDougall (also look for his recently-released collaborative effort, titled The Ultimate Preppers' Handbook. 

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.


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