The tale of my family’s barrel composter.
Soup swaps are a great way to fill your freezer with real food.
Pot scrubbers are an easy kitchen gift to crochet.
Clear those almost-empty jars out of the fridge in no-time flat.
A different way to make these old time favorite crocheted dishcloths.
A healthy and great-tasting muffin recipe.
Have you ever tried eating only what you've grown for a day or eating only food sourced withing 10 miles? Cindy Conner and Vicki Robin have. Learn more about the thoughts behind these adventures.
Getting ready for new bees involves preparing equipment and the site. Planning ahead leaves little to disturb the bees once they are in their new home.
Picking the best strawberries is easy with these gardening tips.
A delicious way to use your favorite cranberry sauce, relish or chutney.
A yummy way to make mornings easier.
Whether you are a novice or experienced homesteader, we've all heard those "crazy things" that people say when it comes to living a self-sufficient life. Here are 10 things you should never say to a homesteader.
Learn why it is helpful to have a group of fellow homesteaders, then start a group of your own in your local community.
Though the rumors that spaghetti squash is a good pasta substitute may seem far-fetched, I’ve found them to be true.
Bread baker Heather Alf shares her experiences baking quick breads. She includes a quick and healthy easy banana bread recipe.
A story of farmers’ markets, local food, and saving the family farm.
While livestock and gardening are part of homesteading, it's not all there is. At its core, homesteading is about learning new skills to increase your self-sufficiency.
The cold weather is hitting Virginia early this year and it's time to winterize!
Hatching eggs in the wintertime presents many challenges. Here are a few things you should take into consideration before hatching during the most bitter months of the year.
These 10 organic solutions for vegetable garden pest control are easy enough for the beginner.
Here is an idea of daily hoop house tasks and information on growing and harvesting abundant, healthy winter vegetables in your hoophouse, avoiding hazardous nitrate accumulation in greens.
While many of us are homesteaders, some of us have another special job that comes first: parenting. Here are some ways to get through Spring prep and Summer projects on your homestead by involving even your smallest children in daily chores and activities.
Thinking about getting into meat rabbits? Here are a few basics about raising, breeding and processing that may help you along the way.
Taking a couple of extra steps before planting your crops will help ensure healthy garden soil. Here’s how to prepare your garden for spring planting.
Many sustainable agriculture groups sponsor conferences in the winter. Learn more about these opportunities to continue your learning and broaden your network.
Whether you have 1/4 acre or 100 acres, raising rabbits is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to have a constant supply of meat on your homestead. Here are some of the things we learned at the beginning of our journey.
Whey is the liquid that remains after milk is curdled. Full of protein and nutrients, whey can be used to soak beans or grains, as a substitute in baking, and for lacto-fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut.
Why are we feeding our dogs the same exact dog food every single day? Why are we feeding our dogs overly processed food when we try to eradicate processed foods from our own diet? Here are a few basic steps to switching your homestead dog over to a more natural diet.
Interested in beginning beekeeping? Here’s a simple checklist to get you started in time for spring.
Backyard chickens have become the new thing for country folk and the urban folk - but as with anything, there's the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here are a few things to consider before diving head first into your new chicken keeper adventure.
How to choose a sustainable flooring product. Review of sustainable flooring used over time and links to more material choices.
Allegheny Spurge is an East Coast member of the Buxaceae (Boxwood) family. All in all, it's difficult to find a better, all around, more useful, adaptable ground cover plant than Pachysandra procumbens.
Often times, whenever someone wants to start living a more natural lifestyle, they never know where to begin. Here are five quick and easy things you can change in your home to help promote a more natural lifestyle.
Find out whether your home compost pile will benefit from commercial compost accelerators.
It can happen to the best of us, and the worst of us. But rather than using chemical powders and unnecessary medicines, here are a few ways to get rid of chicken lice completely all natural.
We hatched our first batch of Icelandic Chickens this past fall, and what a treat they have been. Follow our journey through the first 5 months.
We often want to live a healthier lifestyle, but forget that our mouth health is so essential to living healthier. Here are a few reasons why you should consider making your own toothpaste, along with a quick and easy recipe.
Practicing good husbandry skills is extremely important to ensure healthy and happy animals on your homestead. But it doesn't just mean making sure everything is "clean and tidy." Here are a few more things that you might not realize help pull together the "art" of good husbandry.
A perfectly ripe heirloom tomato is one of the great joys of summer, here are some tips for organizing your own heirloom tomato party.
A healthy comfort food!
Tips for those with “Barnheart.”
Cover crops protect your soil over the winter and are beneficial for soil building. Learn more about your cover crop options and the time to plant them.
What would you do if the trucks stopped coming to the grocery stores? Find out how a community college class project spurred students to make plans for just such an experience.
Using up CSA produce is often difficult, but I found a fun and easy way to do it.
Once the frost has finished the warm weather crops, the cool weather crops take center stage for a fall and winter harvest. Learn how to make that happen.
My second visit to the seventh annual Monticello Heritage Harvest Festival.
Seed Savers Exchange members and friends in the southeast region of the U.S. gathered on September 8, 2013 in Louisa, VA. This event was facilitated by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and the Virginia Association for Biological Farming.
It doesn’t matter how much you know already, there is always something to learn at the Mother Earth News Fair.
Are you new to backyard chickens? Raising chickens is easy once you get the hang of it, but a little knowledge will help you skip these beginner mistakes.
When I asked some chicken-keeping friends what they wished they'd known about chickens when they first got started, the answers were varied.
While the snow's flying, this is a good time to plan your garden rotation, order seeds, preheat early spring garden areas, and more.
Richmond, Virginia, legalized chickens in 2013. Since then, cities and towns have joined in legalizing family flock. The organizers of the Richmond Home and Garden Show (one of the largest on the East Coast) wanted to feature chickens and offered us free booth space.
America needs one million new farmers. Veterans want the job.
Chocolate peanut butter cups make a lovely Mother's Day present. They're all the better when you can make them organically, inexpensively, and sustainably.
A seed library is a place to get free seeds to grow out and donate back. It is a means of keeping seeds in the hands of the people and out of corporate control. Learn how to begin to start a seed library in your community.
Description of how to unroll and fasten edges of biodegradable plastic mulch without using tractors or mulch-laying equipment. Discussion of different types of biodegradable plastic, and how to store them.
Make the best use of your cold frame by having lids designed to be easily adjusted or removed.
How to grow enough sweet corn for the whole summer, in eight easy steps.
Noticing the cycles of the plants, animals and insects around you, which is the study of phenology, will help you become more attuned to your garden. Soil temperature has a lot to do with those cycles.
Find the best places to store your harvest in your home through the winter.
Celebrate meals with homegrown or local food. Tips for making your celebration gatherings zero-waste events.
For the last week we had no propane and as a result I have had to cook all of my food on an electric skillet. Holy week usually involves a lot of baking in preparation for Easter Sunday.
Find out the easy way to make hard-boiled eggs.
This blog teaches readers how to make homemade Greek-style yogurt.
How to make a quick, healthy dessert on Three Kings Day.
Includes two recipes to enjoy over the holidays along with time saving tips.
Malabar spinach is an easy-to-grow green that loves the heat of summer. Make it part of your garden plan for tasty summer meals.
A low sugar recipe using whatever fruit you have on hand!
Learn when to expect your crops to be ready to harvest. Giving attention to the days to maturity for the varieties you choose to grow will help you in your garden planning.
We called in friends to help us with brain-tanning a buffalo hide that was donated to us.
A quick guide to deciding whether fresh or frozen organic whole turkeys are right for you, your farm, or your family.
A great way to use up extra sourdough starter.
Contrary to popular belief, most breeds are very well equipped to deal with the cold. But good husbandry skills will ensure very little frostbite irritation for your rooster and other large-combed chicken breeds. This blog post is about protecting your chickens' comb, but frostbite can also afflict the feet, mainly on snowy days.
Low tunnels are easy structures to build to protect your winter veggies. Keeping the covers on in windy conditions can be a challenge. Learn simple steps you can take to make your low tunnel covers stable, no matter what the weather brings.
Since we began raising rabbits on our homestead, the phrase "breeding like rabbits" has taken on a whole new meaning to us. The sad fact is that domesticated rabbits don't "breed like rabbits." Here are a few tips that will help you make breeding more efficient and less stressful.
You can eat carrots and greens from your garden and grow cover crops to feed back the soil the rest of the year. Learn how Cindy Conner does it with this 3-bed plan.
September brought a huge chestnut harvest that I delight in gathering and eating.
Imagine if you had one source to refer to with the basics of starting and maintaining a seed library to use with your seed-saving partners. "Seed Libraries: And Other Means of Keeping Seeds in the Hands of the People" is that source! It will provide you background about the seed library movement and help you establish your own seed sharing initiative.
I took some of my Sumatra Chickens to two poultry shows and this is what happened.
You can make your own seed-starting flats from scrap wood you already have or from pallets.
For first-time chicken owners (or even for experienced chicken enthusiasts), selecting, purchasing, and preparing for your home chicken flock can seem like a daunting task. After thirty years of raising chickens, here’s Forrest Pritchard’s personal guide to ensure your new flock remains safely tucked beneath your wing so you can start a flock of chickens without worry.
Nankins are a rare breed of bantam chickens that are a worthwhile addition to the backyard flock.
Ecology Action sponsored a two-week Farmers Course in early 2014, and videos of some of the lectures are now available for you to learn from.
Tangible benefits of companion planting come from intercropping (also known as relay planting, interplanting or undersowing), which is when one crop (or cover crop) is sown or transplanted in the spaces between the standing crop before it’s finished. Here, I write about relay planting in the early spring, particularly interplanting peas in spinach beds.
When you save your own seeds,you choose what characteristics you want to preserve by your careful selections. Seed saving is an adventure waiting to happen in your own garden.
January is a great time to count your seeds and share the extras with others through a seed swap or seed library. Find a seed sharing event in your community or start one with friends.
Ever wondered about the real meaning behind terms like cage free, free range, and pasture raised?
Sharing some of what we have learned about treating Pink Eye naturally, as in our region, this has been an epidemic summer due to all the rain and flies.
“Grow a Sustainable Diet” is an upcoming book (spring, 2014) that helps you plan what to eat and what to grow, feeding you and the Earth while maintaining a small ecological footprint.
Learn about what goes on at the Heritage Harvest Festival in Virginia and the Mother Earth News Fair in Pennsylvania, both held in September.
Reading between the lines of the seed catalog variety descriptions is a science and an art. How not to get carried away by all the positive exclamations and miss some basic fact that would tell you this variety is not for your farm? This post provides tips.
Using only honey and water, you can make naturally fermented mead to enjoy at home.
Every now and then we need to re-evaluate our thoughts, just as we re-evaluate our things. Learn about making cloth Christmas gift bags and find out how walking barefoot in the grass is good for you.
Western culture has taught us to eat all the wrong things for all the wrong reasons.
To create a chicken tractor that will keep both you and your hens happy, you'll want to focus on weight, shelter, doors, handles, and more.
This is the story of how I learned to make yucca rope.
With all the TV shows depicting "survival", I will sort through the various groups and argue that the reality shows are far from reality.
I’ll let you in on a little secret; there is no PERFECT knife. Cutting tools are only as effective as the handler wielding them.
Temporary brooder setup for CSP, chicks in Gossamer Foundation's office (in February).
This blog post covers receiving baby chicks by mail, minimizing chick starve-out, brooder waterers and feeders, and getting chicks contentedly settled in.
This pentagonal structure was costly and tricky to build, but the finished structure is both beautiful and functional.
Twin Oaks Seed Farm’s focus has been producing seeds on contract for a handful of small seed companies. The author discusses involvement in starting a new cooperative retail seed project, Common Wealth Seed Growers.
Organic gardeners often need to remove mammal pests such as groundhogs and raccoons. Like many, I use live traps. How to deal with a skunk you accidentally catch, without getting sprayed?
Cleaning the chaff from the seeds you want to save can be done with screens of different sizes. There are options for all budgets, including using the strainers and colanders you already have in your kitchen.
Peppers and tomatoes are some of the easier plants to save seed from. This post covers isolation distance and introduces basic seed saving techniques.
I am off to Polyface Farm to intern for the summer and I’m so excited! I plan to write every week to explain to you what we are learning, how we spend our days, mistakes we make (that you can learn from) and basically anything that can help readers become better farmers and homesteaders. I’ll include lots of photos too, so make sure to check back!
Figs, grapes, hazels, rabbiteye blueberries, and gooseberries are among the easiest plants to propagate using cuttings, layering, or just by digging up suckers.
Everywhere is full of micro-climates. Discover the places in your garden where the soil warms first, or last, by watching the snow melt and taking pictures.
March brings us into spring - celebrate the season in your garden with easy-to-grow root crops: potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yacon. Learn how to give these roots the best start in your garden this spring.
If you know much of each food from your garden you consume each year, you can better plan how much to grow.
My favorite source for raw peanuts in bulk, and how to make homemade peanut butter.
This post informs readers on the advantages of using whey in baking. It includes a recipe for whole wheat sandwich bread.
We are trialing 135 varieties of cucumber, winter squash and muskmelon - with a focus on Downy Mildew resistance and fruit quality. An introduction to our trials and to the importance of variety trials in general.
This blog covers baby chick nutrition and avoiding delayed starve out.
Allan Savory visits Polyface! This was a week of permaculture lessons, staying up late with birds, processing honey and winding down from Field Day.
This week was a lot of fence line and firewood work, a water systems discussion with Joel Salatin, fun with turkeys and my birthday on the farm (with a surprise guest).
Kefir is a yogurt-like dairy substance that you can easily culture at home using grains and milk.
Ground cherries were once a popular staple in backyard gardens. Urbanization and lost space to grow our food led to ground cherries falling out of favor. Though older folks may remember eating ground cherry jam, they’ve only recently begun reappearing at farmers markets and in seed catalogs. Ground cherries are easy to grow and pack an unusual flavor punch in jams, pies, savory sauces.
Could you eat only food grown within 100 miles of your home for 10 days?
Learn more about this challenge and why you should consider taking it on.
Beans are usually divided into two categories: shell and snap. Shell beans have thicker pods and are typically cultivated for their seeds. Snap beans are harvested before their seeds ripen and are grown for their tasty pods. However, I've discovered there is some leeway in how beans are harvested and used.
West Indian Gherkins are disease-resistant, heat-tolerant, prolific, easy to grow, ideal for hot humid climates, and make delicious pickles. Plus, you can save your own seed.
Week 15 brought a trip to the cattle auction, putting piglets out into their first pig pasture and a crash course in Polyface’s buying club.
This week included the digging of a new catchment pond, catching roosters and getting my first loose pig back in the corral.
Winter is the best time to step back from your garden and learn something new. Do some research, participate in learning programs, and work on your garden notebook. When the opportunity arises next year, visit the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR.
The options for obtaining locally grown food have expanded in recent years, particularly with farmers markets. Expand your diet beyond your garden and meet the folks who can help you do that and stay local.
The most basic part of food is the seed. Learn to grow and save your own. You can do this at home, but if you want to further hone your skills, attend Seed School.
Seed libraries are seed sharing programs designed to promote local seed growing and sharing, leading to resilient communities. Learn about how to establish such a program and other ways to celebrate seeds in the soon-to-be published book, 'Seed Libraries and Other Means of Keeping Seeds in the Hands of the People,' by Cindy Conner.
Living in a tiny house is good for the environment and for the wallet, but requires a lifestyle shift for the inhabitants.
Our quest to make pasture egg collection more efficient.
Marketing green homes has been limited to few websites with outdated listings that cost the seller or agent an arm and a leg to list. As a homeowner who had invested a lot of money in a green remodel of my own, I was perplexed as to how I was going to show off all the features of my home in a normal MLS listing. With years of research and development, I created a very innovative way to buy, sell, and market sustainable homes.
With a little bit of elbow grease, you can turn kale fresh from the garden into a delicious raw salad in the middle of winter.
Dehydrating is a great way to preserve food.
You can get twigs to graft onto your rootstock for the price of shipping a padded envelope, allowing you to grow rare fruit-tree varieties for nearly nothing.
Vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash are easy to grow and provide healthy supplemental nutrition for working goats.
If you're yearning for spring but are stuck indoors waiting out the snow, these five projects will cheer you up.
Please don't let the common name mislead you. Virginia Bluebells are native to just about the entire eastern half of the U.S. and Canada, and there are 18 different species of “Mertensia” in the U.S. alone!
Just as people are more comfortable and productive at certain temperatures, so are your seeds. Consider the soil temperature before you plant.
Compost piles don't have to be relegated to an out of the way bin. If your compost-making materials are being produced in your garden, as they are following biointensive methods, the best place for the compost piles are in rotation right on your garden beds.
A list of the 6 most basic questions to ask before a buyer purchases a green home.
Review of The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast, a new book written by Ira Wallace.
Among a slew of other awards for her outstanding writing, Barbara Pleasant has received the 2013 Silver Award of Achievement from the Garden Writers Association for her Gardening Know-How column.
Lessons learned from my first week as a summer intern at Polyface Farm.
Kristen learns more about poultry and rabbit shelters, and salting hay at Polyface Farm.
One month into my Polyface Summer Internship! This week was focused on processing birds, hay and a lesson on Cow Days with Joel Salatin.
Week three of my Polyface Farm summer internship! Lots of hay and some other things, too.
This post outlines the basics of garden planning to save seeds from cucumbers, melons, squash and gourds.
Thoughts on managing an event with lots of people and having minimal or no trash.
Some crops survived the cold temperatures while others died. Which ones are most reliable for winter outdoors and in the hoophouse?
Ira shows how you can keep sowing and planting through late summer and into fall. Learn how to keep your garden producing abundantly through the cold months ahead.
Polyface Farm Field Day! This week was all about prep for all our visitors, lot of processing and for some last minute hay making.
Consider planting these three categories of vegetable crops during late summer and fall:
Warm weather crops that will die with frost.
Cool weather crops that grow well in spring and fall, but don’t thrive in your summer.
Cold-hardy crops to grow over the winter and get off to a fast start in early spring.
This week at Polyface Farm included mornings with rabbits, fence line work, moving calves and my first foray into canning.
This week at Polyface Farm was a lot of fence installation, turkey processing and the making of some major life choices for some of my fellow interns.
This week of my Polyface Farm summer internship included a forestry lesson from Joel Salatin, installing my first fence, and the introduction of Polyface’s new guardian dog puppy, Cody!
Week thirteen of my Polyface Farm summer internship brought two high volume chicken processing days, lots of chicken catching, moving pigs and catching a loose steer.
Clean up your garden now and plant cover crops that will protect your garden soil through the winter and provide compost and mulch material for next year.
This week at my Polyface Farm Summer Internship, I spent working with turkeys, touring our local USDA inspected abattoir, prepping for the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund’s annual fundraiser and processing stewing hens.
The last week at Polyface. We spent a lot of time processing turkeys for Thanksgiving, moving pigs to their fall corrals gathering firewood and tending to fall crops.
Alexander Goldberg’s first blog post, introducing himself, his chickens and his concerns for rare and endangered breeds of poultry. Alexander talks about poultry shows, his work with 4H and support for the Livestock Conservancy.
Suburban life has always been synonymous with long hours in the car. That’s changing now. Arlington, Virginia, shows how feet on the street helps a community thrive. Learn about how Arlington is promoting walking through city initiatives as well as 10 more cities that are striving to make their communities more walkable.
If you just happen to need white dinner rolls for a crowd at Thanksgiving, here's the recipe. Also, check out some really cool contests and special offers from King Arthur Flour.