Observing and recording natural events on your homestead offers many benefits, from sharpening your skills to developing data that help you understand natural patterns which influence your surroundings. Developing an organized approach to documenting and sharing your observations can be especially beneficial, creating a resource that’s useful to you and others.
Strawberries are a core component of our annual diet, as they’re one of the easiest fruits to grow and preserve. Many guidelines for strawberry preservation call for extraordinary amounts of added sugar, which we’ve found quite unnecessary for the fresh, sweet, high-quality berries we grow. Here are the three main ways we handle our fresh berries.
Rotational grazing can reduce the parasite load of goats, but this is difficult to accomplish with a dairy herd which needs to return to the same location every day for milking. On our homestead, we developed a rotational shelter and management system that allowed us to keep the herd on pasture 24/7 during the warm season. This significantly reduced our reliance on chemical de-wormers and helped us feel better about the quality of our milk and our soils.
Documenting your homestead’s growth produces a wonderful record for the future and helps illuminate natural and human effects on the landscape.
Fencing is a perpetual challenge for our wildlife-rich homestead farm, as we try to balance security, aesthetics, budget, and sustainability. Our fences range from serious permanent barriers made from thick cedar posts and wire mesh to lightweight and portable electric lines. Recently we’ve been experimenting with a modern twist on the classic split-rail fence, with a method that fits many of our goals for a good fence.
Portable fences made of electrifiable netting allow practical movement and protection of small livestock on pasture. It’s important to use and maintain the nets properly, and to train goats to respect the barrier for their own safety and security. Well-managed net fencing offers significant benefits to the health of herds and pastures, and to the homesteader’s peace of mind.
What we know about the community of life in a healthy soil is that it is wildly diverse with a broad range of species. With so many members in the community, there is an answer for every problem. Every pest has a mortal foe waiting to attack it. There might be some occasional pest damage but very rarely a complete takeover by a particular pest or disease.
Tapping maple trees for home production is practical and productive. Even in the lower Midwest, tapping as few as three trees can produce much of a household’s year-round maple needs. Although fully concentrating sap into syrup takes significant time and attention, it’s also possible to preserve sap at a lower concentration with far less work, using it year-round as a refreshing drink.
This is an exciting time for the healthy food movement. The number of tools and techniques that inform organic farming and gardening is exploding. Evidence is pouring in that the conventional food system is broken and the interest in food that can lead to health grows daily.
Most homesteads have trees that need to be cut down, but how can you ensure minimal waste and maximum benefit from every part of the tree? Trunks, saplings, green branches, dead branches, and more can all be used in multiple ways to save money and add value to your homestead, while capturing some of the carbon and nutrients in the tree. Here’s a look at how we break down an especially abundant and useful tree: the Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana).
Goats tie you down, particularly dairy goats. Even an overnight absence, or a short trip to visit family for the holidays, creates a management problem for the daily needs of your left-behind livestock. By developing working relationships with other goat enthusiasts, you can have your milk and travel, too.
How should you choose good hay for your dairy goats? Hay should be composed of plants goats like to eat, cut and cured properly for best nutritional content and storage life, and free of unwanted chemicals and weed seeds. If you can, buy hay fresh from the field of a trusted source, where you can inspect it and its growing conditions.
Dairy animals such as goats produce milk in a seasonal cycle, requiring homesteaders to handle both an abundance and shortage of milk during the year. Freezing milk directly, and making & preserving cheese, are two ways to ensure a reliable supply of dairy year-round. Allowing your diet to change with the seasons can also reduce the impact of low-milk periods, replacing its nutrition with food crops or meat when milk isn’t convenient to produce.
Starting with gentle livestock breeds is key to success for new homesteaders. Scottish Highland cattle and Dorper/Katahdin cross sheep proved easy-to-handle and good producers for a retired Missouri couple.
Raw milk, so controversial to buy and drink, can also be used in the kitchen for everything from cheese and yogurt to soufflé and custard.
Many garden vegetable crops produce excess leafy material perfect for feeding goats. Using these materials as milking snacks helps reduce the need for purchased grain & hay while recycling these waste products on the homestead.
My brother told me about breeding fruit trees in order for them to go to market both earlier and later than the main crop. He said, “The real money is made on the shoulders of the season.” But it takes some real thought and effort to bring in your crop on the shoulders of the season.
Goats need to be held still in various contexts, including slaughtering, hoof-trimming, and milking. Ideally, the method of restraint should be comfortable/humane, strong, portable, easy to use, and affordable. We’ve developed a homemade goat restraint that fits these categories and has worked for many years.
White snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) is a potentially toxic plant, particularly for dairy animals as the toxins can be passed through the milk. It caused many human deaths during the age of European settlement in eastern North America, due to dairy animals grazing in brushy areas and woodlands. Modern homesteaders using such landscapes for their goats or other ruminants should learn to identify and remove white snakeroot to ensure the safety of their milk supply.
Ripping apart old clothing and other rags to remake into useful items takes more time than purchasing new fabric, but the rewards – reducing landfill overload, reviving an old-fashioned skill, conserving a treasured memento and saving money – are worth the extra trouble.
Homestead dairy goats need proper shelters. Ideally these would be easy to set up and move, while providing all the animals’ needs. A variety of basic shelters can be based on simple, reusable pieces like cattle panels, pop-up tents, and chain-link panels. These structures make pasture-based goat management easier on a budget.
Consider renting your equipment this fall. Use Featherman Equipment’s nation-wide rental list to save a bundle and share the cost with your neighbors.
Over 6-1/2 years, goats became an integral part of the author’s life. He experimented with shelter designs, pasturing methods, the elimination of grain and chemical de-wormers, fencing styles, and milk management. This hard-won knowledge of homestead dairy goat management is introduced in this post.
Homesteaders with a shallow water table and sandy soil can save thousands of dollars over the cost of a drilled well by driving a sand point themselves for a secondary or primary water source.
Planting seedlings from large garden centers often delays production as plants must overcome neonicotinoid insecticides, hormones, and chemical fertilizers when planted in your garden. Learn more about the toxins used by large growers and then support small producers for a healthy garden.
This deliciously sweet and sour stir-fry is perfect for when you want a spicy dish that will knock your socks off. This stir-fry is gluten-free and the pineapple reduces the amount of additional sugar needed.
Shag rag rugs made of old clothes are durable, attractive, easy to care for and can be machine sewn in a few hours.
The Missouri Organic Association is gearing up for its 2015 Annual Conference in Springfield, Mo, on February 5th, 6th and 7th at University Plaza Hotel and Conference Center.
A small food producers' cooperative in Missouri wins a national award and will share with others how to form a successful co-op that focuses on bartering, sustainability and the economy of neighborliness.
Leaving a job with benefits and security to live a simple, country life, also known as un-jobbing, can be scary, but as we learned, so very worth it.
Every year gardens suffer from the "blight effect" on tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants. If left alone, the disease can prevent plants from flowering and maturing altogether. Here are 5 easy steps I encourage everyone to take before next year's garden even begins to sprout.
Trendy purple sweet potatoes are a less sweet but no less tasty variety of sweet potatoes and are delicious prepared a number of interesting and unusual ways. Try this salad warm or cold for a scrumptious meal!
"Folk Medicine" by D.C. Jarvis, M.D., written in 1958, explains how humans would do well to watch animals that know instinctively how to stay healthy. Jarvis advises drinking raw honey and apple cider vinegar for good health and vigor.
Garlic is resilient, easy-to-grow, highly nutritious, and a natural antibiotic.
HOMEGROWN Life blogger Bryce Oates considers the burden of beef and explains why his Missouri family farm chooses to raise cattle.
Follow these simple tips on fall gardening.
A chirping predator may be an unexpected and unwanted visitor. Mountain lions do chirp and one set me on edge.
Use a hand water pump to compress air for filling tires without electricity.
HOMEGROWN Life blogger and West Missourian Bryce Oates explains how he and his family survive summer on the farm. Two words: swimming pool.
What to do with all that surplus asparagus? Maybe you have too many pole beans? Or okra? This is the best ever recipe for pickling extra asparagus, and the recipe can also be modified for any thin vegetable you might have from your garden's bounty! Canning is such fun!
You decide you want a pole barn, what is next? Site preparation can yield some surprising findings. Flexibility when planning a pole barn is key to success and making adjustments to your plans early will be most beneficial; saving time, money and perhaps even improving on your original ideas!
The Food Is Free Project has become a food revolution in Austin, Texas
Roasting green coffee at home is not only easy, but the first step in making a truly great cup of coffee. Roasting at home also does not mean you are limited to small batches; follow the instructions below to roast 3 lbs of beans and get ready for a great cup!
Learn how to use a well bucket in a drilled well to get water without electricity.
Learn how to make a scarecrow from scrap materials that moves and makes noise to keep deer, squirrels, rabbits and crows out of the garden.
The old goat barn must go! Follow the progress as we choose how to best replace an aging (and dangerous) structure for livestock housing. Pole barns are an economical alternative to traditional framed barns, are long lasting and multipurpose. You can even live in one!
Not enough hours in the day? Want to make tomato sauce but are short on time? Use this recipe to make great-tasting tomato sauce (using frozen tomatoes)at your leisure. Perfect for pressure canning and delicious!
Why manual water pumps are making a comeback and how to select the right type for a homestead.
HOMEGROWN Life blogger and Missouri farmer Bryce Oates traces the history of county fairs from their origins in the country life movement to his own kids' involvement.
Home experiment reveals tomato seedlings started in water heated in a microwave do not grow well. How different are we from plants?
A mortarless rock-wall raised garden bed is easily constructed with simple tools and adds long-lasting natural beauty.
Leading food sovereignty activist Vandana Shiva will present “Cultivating Diversity, Freedom and Hope” in Kansas City. Many other farming and gardening workshops and events are planned for April 17-18, 2014.
Cheap imported goods do not stand the test of time compared to locally crafted goods.
Western Missouri farmer Bryce Oates shares his thoughts on the USDA's once-in-five-years census.
Intensive grazing management can answer questions regarding field carrying capacity, how much forage your animals need each day and how to manage what you have. Pizza, anyone?
One of the most exciting facets of raising goats is when kids are born on your farm. Knowing how to prepare for the grand event makes for a smoother and more successful kidding process.
Pre-spring work up for beehives coming out of winter.
Sawing oversized sycamore logs with my Norwood portable sawmill was a huge job, but yielded a lot of great lumber, and salvaged the logs instead of dozing them into a pile and burning them.
A copy of "Good Housekeeping" magazine from 1944 reminds us how housewives found ways to stretch meals, repair household items and plant gardens to overcome wartime rationing hardships.
Because county health departments and public water systems check only for a few contaminants, homeowners are advised to test their own water, an inexpensive and simple solution for peace of mind.
Use materials at hand—stumps, logs, railroad ties, and sawmill slabs—to build a firewood log deck that takes the effort out of lifting the logs, and holds them at a convenient height for splitting.
HOMEGROWN.org blogger and West Missouri farmer Bryce Oates shares his thoughtful position on vegetarianism.
White Family Rotary treadle sewing machines are well-made and easy to operate – but the hand wheel operates backward of other treadles. Modern bobbins can be used, if one extra step is taken when winding on thread.
After trials and errors with various forms of bread baking, it seems that for sandwich bread success, the key is having the right tools for the right job. Introducing the Pullman Loaf Pan!
Gardening is as easy as you want it to be!
A hippie in the 1980s who demonstrated for a clean environment, particularly water, now owns an online water filter business where she shares her views about the scarcity and fragility of water, the toxins dumped in it and what we can do about it.
Fed up with cheap, easily breakable clothespins, craftsman Herrick Kimball is now making Classic American Clothespins and has a vision for inspiring others to make them in their communities.
A blog about the joys of wood heat that covers comfort, energy savings, ecology and history of the trees and sustainable harvesting
Tips on creating nature art, winter bird feeders and children's art.
With the increase in small-scale farming activities, people are looking not only at backyard poultry but also into raising backyard livestock. This post is about Mary Jane Phifer’s experience with Irish Dexter cattle, a small-sized dual-purpose.
Junk mail, old books and other used paper can be easily recycled into something useful. Never buy notepads or envelopes again.
A Texas mom created an all-natural toothpaste that whitens teeth and encourages her children to do a better job of brushing because it’s fun.
A description of a pioneering workshop featuring no-till, cover crop cocktails and mob grazing. Douglas County Conservation Service educated local farmers in cutting-edge biological farming techniques.
The first bite of frost brings a frenzy of activity.
Helpful tips on keeping earth stewardship alive this holiday season.
Jenna Woginrich’s latest book, “One Woman Farm,” whisks readers away.
A do-it-yourself portable solar cart allows us to have solar power without removing trees from the yard. We can also take it away from the home site and move it indoors before storms.
Bringing back Victory Gardens could help ease hunger and dependence as U.S. social aid programs, such as Food Stamps, are drastically cut.
Some observations after demonstrating the Norwood sawmills in Pennsylvania and Kansas.
Author Marjory Wildcraft visits Cuba to learn how people learned to grow food after the country’s economic collapse when fuel and other imports stopped arriving.
United Nations Climate Week invokes memories of first Earth Day and how far we have yet to go to clean up our environment.
Writer attributes eating wild food, game, homegrown vegetables and forest food to good health.
To prevent algae growth deterioration by sun damage to a plastic rainwater tank, cover it with a painted bed sheet.
Water filter supplier offers recommendations to avoid radiation contamination following the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster.
Autumn offers not only a bountiful harvest, but also an abundance of art materials directly from nature.
The documentary film “Beyond Off-Grid” is nearing completion and includes a dozen specialists across the United States living self-reliant lifestyles.
A recent trip to Vietnam presents an opportunity to study people-powered devices and transportation.
One woman’s fascinating journey from a high-rise apartment overlooking Hong Kong Harbor to sharing the earthly pleasure of growing food.
HOMEGROWN Life blogger and West Missouri farmer Bryce Oates discusses why his family works so hard—both on and off of the farm—to practice subsistence farming.
Substitute teaching can be a pretty good gig, if you have the patience and discipline.
Used T-shirts can be turned into many useful household items, including weaving without a loom.
The "Household Discoveries" book from 1909 instructs how to build an outhouse, with plans simple enough for any average 14-year-old schoolboy to follow.
Discover the Ozarks region's natural beauty and adventure hot spots as told by Mike McArthy of Photozarks.
One thing I know for sure is that many in the local farm and food scene are working through the same issue. We are numbers people in search of numbers. We aren’t crazy unscientific loons like our industrial brothers and sisters think we are.
After months of waiting, worrying and hoping, the clouds finally arrived here at Yellabird Farm last week and brought us the long-sought gift of good rain. It was a great two days of slow and soaking moisture that the cracked soil guzzled up...
As everyone gathers around this campfire this fall, unite this variety of flavors into one savory skillet that will be enjoyed by all.
All of us farmers,large and small, are a big part of the engine that drives the economy
of rural communities, rural counties and rural states.This year, we are learning a lot about what happens when that engine sputters.
Worrying about keeping up with Justin's chores while trying to maintain my 8-5 day job was a losing battle.
Drought is hard on us out here in Farm Country. But drought in the midst of boiling hot summer is amongst the worst conditions I can imagine.
Take a tour of the mills and mountains of the Ozarks of Missouri and Arkansas, home to some of the finest remaining historic gristmills that still exist in the U.S.A. Based on the popular Historic Ozarks Mills book created by award-winning photographer Mike McArthy. Hydropower's energy-producing capacity is getting well-deserved attention these days, and these old mills provide inspiration.
So, yes, I have become a lover of goats (and ducks have won me over, too). But the truth is, I can’t wait to eat the boys.
We wanted to write up a post about asparagus to explain how farmers look at the crop, but also as a sort of apology to our customers. We have spent many hours in the field and on the phone seeking farmers with an existing asparagus supply. We had man
The morning started off with a decent lecture on poultry operation, production, and marketing. After a midday break, lectures resumed, this time being led by a different fellow, on the subject of free-range, humane certified broiler production. I won
Clearly the NACE considers “useless” degrees to be ones in which pay is low and availability of jobs is scarce. However, shouldn’t measuring the usefulness of an education take into account the actual benefits bestowed upon the person doing the study
Evergreen Institute founder's Missouri home burns; wood furnace is suspected cause.