In spring, we plant several crops into hay mulch to help control weeds, including reducing the "weed seed bank". Few weeds other than perennial grasses will come up through a 4-inch layer of hay. Mulches of natural materials keep the soil damper, which can mean higher yields and less need to water. This method is quick and easy, and more effective than mulching around the plants after transplanting.
Technically a berry, soap nuts are considered to be an environmentally conscious alternative to chemical detergents and soaps. The berries come from a prolific tree that grows well in degraded environments where little else can grow. They are safe for allergies, free from any additives, and can be used to clean just about anything.
Caroline Snyder, Ph.D.,is Professor Emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts at the Rochester Institute of Technology. For the last 20 years she has researched the politics and science of using biosolids and industrial residuals as an agricultural "fertilizer". She founded Citizens for Sludge-Free Land and is a charter member of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Here, Dr Snyder shares with us her views on the role of anti-sludge activists.
If you were to rank sustainable homes primarily based on their energy efficiency, Zero Net Energy homes would rank extremely high. They’re pretty cool — and complicated. Top U.S. home builder PulteGroup moves into the eco-friendly homes market by providing Zero Net Energy homes to the masses.
We live in a society that is constantly telling women they can’t do hard work. But the reality is, some of us do this homesteading journey all on our own without the help of any man. Here’s why I take pride in being a strong, independent, woman homesteader.
The burden of municipal and industrial waste disposal is transformed into a commercial enterprise, with the careless disregard for growing concerns over the risks it poses to the human and animal health and to the natural environment.
For the same cost as one more indoor waterer, we built an outdoor system with 10 times the capacity that won’t require much extra work from us to keep up.
Spring beauties are one of our most beloved harbingers of spring with its dark green, supple, almost succulent foliage and five petaled white flowers with soft pink veining.
Accidents happen that divert us from our plans. Learning ahead to be flexible can make things easier. Here is Cindy Conner's take on having a broken wrist.
Agricultural use of sludge is not only detrimental to human health, but it also damages the social fabric of rural communities all across the country. Federal and state regulations are ill prepared to address medical, social and environmental consequences of this disastrous practice.
Polypodium virginianum aka the "Rock Polypody" is native to just about every state east of the Mississippi, Alaska, almost every province in Canada and all the way north up to Greenland and Iceland. To grow it requires no master's degree in gardening or landscape architecture or any particularly colored thumb. It's really quite simple! This is the perfect fern for any shade garden or along the path of any shade border.
Sometimes living off the land can be pretty counter-cultural. My decision to start raising meat rabbits on my homestead was met with a lot of criticism from others. Learn how homesteaders can deal with unwanted (and sometimes unwarranted) remarks.
Cymophyllus fraserianus is the perfect Hosta replacement for any native plant garden or any shade garden, especially if you have a deer problem as this is one plant that isn't on Bambi's menu or wish list.
Farmers opting for biosolids applications on their farmland believe that this is a safe and natural way to fertilize the soil. Oftentimes they see local anti-biosolids activists as the adversaries, not realizing that the truth is quite the opposite. There is a mounting body of scientific and medical evidence that the practice of biosolids land application is detrimental to human health and constitutes an environmental factor contributing to many chronic conditions. Farmers, their families and neighbors are often first to suffer the consequences.
Native to 35 states and 3 provinces of Canada east of the Mississippi, Partridge Berry is rarely seen in the trade. I fail to see why, as it's very easy to propagate by rooting cuttings or from seed. In fact, it forms adventitious roots as it gently winds its way around the garden. It could never, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered aggressive or invasive.
This is Part 2 of an interview with David Lewis, Ph.D. - formerly a senior-level research microbiologist at EPA-ORD. He currently serves as director of research for the Focus for Health Foundation.
How a simple casting email turned into a crazy, two-week casting experience for a West Virginia homestead to be (almost) featured on the Discovery Channel.
Dr. David Lewis, Ph.D., who was formerly a senior level research microbiologist at EPA-ORD, kindly agreed to an interview for the MOTHER EARTH NEWS blog addressing the issue of agricultural use of sewage and industrial sludge, aka – biosolids. He is one of the most prominent scientific voices in the growing opposition to biosolids land application. Dr. Lewis’ publications are frequently cited as an example of solid, unbiased scientific evidence of the danger posed by this practice.
Learn to choose the right-sized wood stove, manage your firewood and light, and maintain quality fires to heat your home with wood.
When you have become a good enough gardener that you are producing more than your family can eat, it is natural to think about selling some of your bounty. Here are some tips about making that jump from a homestead garden to a market garden.
Want to have the adventure of a lifetime by working in a National Park, Wwoofing in an exotic location, or joining AmeriCorps? Here's what you need to know.
Sewage sludge and industrial waste is applied to the farmland under the pretense of natural fertilizer. This dangerous practice introduces pathogens, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and thousands of other pollutants into the soil and groundwater. This is a brief review of a failed federal legislature that allowed it to happen.
A good snowfall now and then helps to test the limits of our resources. You never know if you are prepared for disruptions until you are disrupted. Here are some hints to help things go smoothly when there are real possibilities that they might not otherwise.
Tricky access lowers land prices but provides for lots of amusing episodes.
A review of popular seed catalogs and recommendations for seeds to start a medium-sized homestead garden.
As we plan our gardens, it is often about obtaining seeds. Many of those seeds were saved by friends. An upcoming workshop from Seed Savers Exchange covers both basics.
You always hear about making your garden plan ahead of time, but part of good garden planning should include evaluating that plan at the end of the season. Take time now to write yourself a letter about how last season went. Include the good and the bad and how you felt about everything. This will become your annual garden report.
Whether it’s as simple as switching our water bottles for crocks, or something more complicated, like stacking hay around your hutches — here are a few quick tips on how to keep your homestead rabbits warm this winter.
Learning to do things for yourself at home is empowering. You don’t need a degree in home economics, although it helped Cindy, to get started. She even makes her own blue jeans! Just as important to her are projects such as making a bench grinder stand, which you can learn more about here.
Learn some tips about adding new chickens or even new bird species into your existing poultry flock.
Mark pulled out the camera this week to share a few short videos about our winter garden and goats. Explore our December garden and goat pasture in these short homesteading videos.
Take a class and learn something new. That’s what I did at the John C. Campbell Folk School. Learn about my experience in the Flax to Linen class.
Gifting is more enjoyable when you know that the gifts you are giving are environmentally conscious and a lot of fun, plus the recipients will be totally in love. VivaGreenHomes.com released its annual eco-friendly gifts list this year with everyone in mind: men, women, children and pets.
Make exceptionally rich compost quickly and easily by utilizing some of the planets very best eaters - worms! Vermicomposting, or using worms to break down waste materials, is a fast and effective way to turn kitchen scraps into worm castings, a highly valued form of compost.
We all are thankful for the things in our lives, but are we thankful for the right things? Tim Rohrer encourages us to consider things that we might not normally consider thanks-worthy.
As you pull crops out of your garden this fall, you can use the roots to get an idea about your soil's quality.
Instructions on how to bake the best wood-fired pizza you will ever eat, right in your own backyard using an earth oven made from cob.
Here is help with planning for a successful installation of new plastic or replacement of old plastic over your hoophouse (high tunnel). This post provides a list of tools and step-by-step instructions.
Don't fall into the "greenwashing" trap when buying a new home. Gain tips on how to avoid it and insight into how one website is trying to safeguard against the real estate practice.
Have an excess of leaves on your property? Here are some ideas for how to put them to use!
An egg shed could be defined as: the eggs produced within a certain distance that go to a specific place. That place could be your kitchen. In chicken-friendly, local food-supportive, low carbon-footprint communities, backyard flocks and small family farms produce eggs. The takeaway message is that egg shed needs for a family, or a community, are relatively easy to meet. A household or a community can somewhat easily be protein self-sufficient.
If you have a garden, then you have garden tools and supplies and you need a place to put them. Carefully evaluate what you have and what kind of space you need to store them. That allows you to choose (if you are buying) or to build a garden shed special to you.
Young farmers have the opportunity to grow in many ways. Responsibility, work ethics, and with teamwork are just a few ways farming can further a young person. These principles can help them down the road of life, regardless of their final occupation.
As part of their Americorps positions at Big Laurel in West Virginia, for the next 11 months, the author and her husband will be living in and maintaining an historic homestead, working in the local schools as teacher aids, and doing whatever they can on the premises of Big Laurel to help further its mission as an Appalachian ecological learning and retreat center.
Ever wonder what the unseen, unnamed aspects of homesteading in community are? Social dynamics and personality types are vital, intimidating elements of farming in the country.
Whether it's a summertime flood or a winter snow storm, homesteaders and farmers must be prepared for the "what-ifs". Here are some ways you can prepare your homestead, and yourself, for disaster.
Shelling corn by hand will soon put blisters on your thumbs. You can acquire a corn sheller to help you do the job. Learn how to make a sturdy box to mount your corn sheller on to make your work easier.
After four changes of plastic on our hoophouse (high tunnel we are ready to tell you some mistakes to avoid, mostly involving hoophouse plastic too tight or too loose, or cut wrong, and inflation blowers that didn't perform well enough. Our experience can save you from the same mistakes.
The emergence of the long-lasting flowers of 'Uvularia grandiflora' is something I really anticipate every spring. And every spring, my robust stand of ‘Large-Flowered Bellwort’ slowly opens their large, pendulous, bright golden yellow flowers that resemble inverted flowing candle flames. Learn how to grow and where to find this ornamental native flower.
Growing plants to produce fiber for textiles can be an adventure. If your climate permits, you could grow cotton in your garden—even in your flower bed. Most climates can support flax that you can turn into linen fabric. Plan for that now when you plant cover crops so your garden beds are ready for cotton and flax when planting time comes around.
Polyface Farm Apprentice Tim Rohrer encourages homesteaders and farmers to try and define clear goals for their farm. By determining clear goals, a farmer is better able to go about furthering her farming adventure.
What do homesteaders, college students, radical anarchists, nut-butter manufacturers, interfaith scholars and farmers have in common? Community!
String weaving is a good method for training and supporting long rows of tomato plants. Plan now for next year’s crop. All you need is a simple handmade tool, stakes and twine. The winter storage space for the equipment is much smaller than with other support systems.
Net-zero homes are very popular. What are they and how do you get one? Here are some tips.
As your summer crops wane, no doubt you are planting cover crops in their space, but leave room for garlic! Plant it this fall, mulch, and harvest in early summer.
Ramps, aka Allium tricoccum, are really wild leeks. They combine the taste of garlic with the taste of onion, although that's really somewhat of an oversimplification as the taste of ramps is bursting with other — so many other — flavors and nuances that they leave their actual essence difficult to verbalize.
A farmer shares tales from 10 years of living La Vida Goat-a.
Tim Rohrer describes why he thinks that farmers need each other. Tim describes his the time immediately following his apprenticeship at Polyface Farm, and how he experienced farmer camaraderie.
Cover crops will build your soil and provide compost material. The time to plant is this fall, but you need to know what the next crop will be when deciding just which cover crop to plant where. Think through your garden plan for next year to make the best choices.
There are probably over 100 reasons that you should be growing shade-loving and native ‘Tasslerue’ Trautvetteria caroliniensis, but the main reason that you aren't growing it is because you've probably never heard of it, let alone had someone offer to share some with you. All that's about to change.
Why do potatoes turn green? What can you do to reduce the amount of green skins on the potatoes you harvest and what are the dangers of eating green potatoes? Read on to learn what you can do to safely eat as much of your potato crop as possible.
Are you bothered by the food industry, landfills, or consumer culture and interested in free, quality eats? If yes, then look no further than your local trash receptacles. Unless a dumpster is located against a building or enclosed by a fence with “No Trespassing” signs, they are veritable treasure troves ripe for plundering.
Polyface has an “Unfair Advantage," but the good news is that you do, too! Here, Tim shares his thoughts on how your Unfair Advantage sets you apart from the crowd and bestows gifts on you that you can turn into success. The trick is learning to utilize your own Unfair Advantage.
Tomatoes and peppers are plentiful in backyard gardens and at the farmers markets right now. Preserve this bounty in the form of salsa with your water bath canner and you can enjoy the goodness the whole year.
The trials and tribulations of our life on a cooperative living farm quite frequently mirror those of any small group of young Americans finding their way in the world, however, for me, there are daily reminders of why I am sticking with these crazy idealists in Appalachia.
The commonly used name for our beloved early-spring, native wildflower Sanguinaria canadensis is "bloodroot." Bloodroot was once used as a dye and as an herbal remedy by early Native Americans. Sanguinaria canadensis is native to every state in the US and to every Canadian province east of the Rockies. Consequently, it's considered hardy down to Zone 3.
Tim Rohrer, A Polyface apprentice, recounts what an average processing day at Polyface looks. Here, Tim Talks through some of his processing experiences and a basic overview of the procedure.
Once your onions are harvested you need to store them so they will last as long as possible. Here are some tips for hanging your onions to dry and for braiding for storage. Also, learn about some of the health benefits of eating onions. They should be an important part of everyone's diet.
Using the sun to dry our clothes naturally is part of a permaculture lifestyle. Learn tips for drying your clothes both outside and inside your house, allowing you to get rid of your clothes dryer and opening up space for other things, such as crocks for fermenting.
We've all either encountered them or will encounter them in the future - it is inevitable. But the age old question still stands - do you kill the predator, or do you allow nature to take its course and try to perfect your security? Those questions are answered here, and more.
New research shows that steam canning can be just as safe as water bath canning if performed properly to preserve acidic foods. Here are guidelines for operating a steam canner.
The principles of intercropping apply also to undersowing cover crops in existing vegetable crops. This article lists the advantages of undersowing cover crops, gives some examples that work for late summer and fall vegetable crops, distinguishes suitable and unsuitable situations, and provides links to several useful resources.
Trilliums just have to be the most beloved wildflower of any native or non-native plant. Trilliums are very easy to grow and are a long-lived perennial plant whose size can double every year when taken proper care of. And I know from experience, as I've spent the last 30-plus years building production stock beds of well over 100,000 trillium plants.
If your garden is becoming a bit overwhelming this summer it might be because your paths have become overgrown with weeds. Getting (and keeping) your paths under control will make less work for you overall, and a more enjoyable experience in your garden. Here are some ideas for working with your paths.
We often hear the debates - which chicken coop floor bedding is best? From deep litter straw to sand, everyone claims their method is the best, but I rarely hear people talk about cardboard bedding. Here is a great natural alternative to straw and sand in your coop.
Interplanting, or relay planting, is a version of companion planting where the second crop is planted while the first is still growing.
Summer with children can be exciting. It is an opportunity to spend time with your children like never before. Here are some ideas for putting your children to work in meaningful ways that will benefit everyone.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to make an article of clothing from seed to finished product? I have. Check out my homegrown, handspun, handwoven, naturally-colored cotton vest.
Five tips for joining your local farmers market.
There are many types of melons, including the new category of personal size, or individual serving cantaloupes. Lists of both hybrid and open-pollinated varieties are given here, along with information on when to harvest.
Seed libraries are coming together to face the challenges and opportunities ahead. Learn about their recent gathering in Tucson, Arizona.
What it's really like to buy, sell and market a green home.
Attracting beneficial insects to your garden is easy once you follow some basic guidelines. With a few management techniques, you will have the good bugs flying into your garden to help you out.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A list of the 6 most basic questions to ask before a buyer purchases a green home.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Just as people are more comfortable and productive at certain temperatures, so are your seeds. Consider the soil temperature before you plant.
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.
Find out whether your home compost pile will benefit from commercial compost accelerators.
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.
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.
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!
Nankins are a rare breed of bantam chickens that are a worthwhile addition to the backyard flock.
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.
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.
If you're yearning for spring but are stuck indoors waiting out the snow, these five projects will cheer you up.
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.
I took some of my Sumatra Chickens to two poultry shows and this is what happened.
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.
Interested in beginning beekeeping? Here’s a simple checklist to get you started in time for spring.
Vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash are easy to grow and provide healthy supplemental nutrition for working goats.
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.
September brought a huge chestnut harvest that I delight in gathering and eating.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our quest to make pasture egg collection more efficient.
Thinking about getting into meat rabbits? Here are a few basics about raising, breeding and processing that may help you along the way.
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.
Living in a tiny house is good for the environment and for the wallet, but requires a lifestyle shift for the inhabitants.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
These 10 organic solutions for vegetable garden pest control are easy enough for the beginner.
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.
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.
The cold weather is hitting Virginia early this year and it's time to winterize!
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.
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.
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.
A great way to use up extra sourdough starter.
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.
A quick guide to deciding whether fresh or frozen organic whole turkeys are right for you, your farm, or your family.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dehydrating is a great way to preserve food.
This week included the digging of a new catchment pond, catching roosters and getting my first loose pig back in the corral.
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.
We called in friends to help us with brain-tanning a buffalo hide that was donated to us.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 at Polyface Farm included mornings with rabbits, fence line work, moving calves and my first foray into canning.
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).
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.
Allan Savory visits Polyface! This was a week of permaculture lessons, staying up late with birds, processing honey and winding down from Field Day.
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.
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.
A low sugar recipe using whatever fruit you have on hand!
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.
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.
This blog covers baby chick nutrition and avoiding delayed starve out.
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 post covers receiving baby chicks by mail, minimizing chick starve-out, brooder waterers and feeders, and getting chicks contentedly settled in.
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.
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.
How to grow enough sweet corn for the whole summer, in eight easy steps.
Peppers and tomatoes are some of the easier plants to save seed from. This post covers isolation distance and introduces basic seed saving techniques.
Temporary brooder setup for CSP, chicks in Gossamer Foundation's office (in February).
Kristen learns more about poultry and rabbit shelters, and salting hay at Polyface Farm.
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.
Lessons learned from my first week as a summer intern at Polyface Farm.
Picking the best strawberries is easy with these gardening tips.
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.
This post outlines the basics of garden planning to save seeds from cucumbers, melons, squash and gourds.
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.
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.
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.
Make the best use of your cold frame by having lids designed to be easily adjusted or removed.
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?
Thoughts on managing an event with lots of people and having minimal or no trash.
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.
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.
Find out the easy way to make hard-boiled eggs.
America needs one million new farmers. Veterans want the job.
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.
This pentagonal structure was costly and tricky to build, but the finished structure is both beautiful and functional.
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.
If you know much of each food from your garden you consume each year, you can better plan how much to grow.
When I asked some chicken-keeping friends what they wished they'd known about chickens when they first got started, the answers were varied.
This blog teaches readers how to make homemade Greek-style yogurt.
This is the story of how I learned to make yucca rope.
Figs, grapes, hazels, rabbiteye blueberries, and gooseberries are among the easiest plants to propagate using cuttings, layering, or just by digging up suckers.
This post informs readers on the advantages of using whey in baking. It includes a recipe for whole wheat sandwich bread.
Western culture has taught us to eat all the wrong things for all the wrong reasons.
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.
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.
My favorite source for raw peanuts in bulk, and how to make homemade peanut butter.
Some crops survived the cold temperatures while others died. Which ones are most reliable for winter outdoors and in the hoophouse?
Kefir is a yogurt-like dairy substance that you can easily culture at home using grains and milk.
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!
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.
Celebrate meals with homegrown or local food. Tips for making your celebration gatherings zero-waste events.
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.
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.
A yummy way to make mornings easier.
While the snow's flying, this is a good time to plan your garden rotation, order seeds, preheat early spring garden areas, and more.
How to make a quick, healthy dessert on Three Kings Day.
Find the best places to store your harvest in your home through the winter.
With all the TV shows depicting "survival", I will sort through the various groups and argue that the reality shows are far from reality.
Includes two recipes to enjoy over the holidays along with time saving tips.
A delicious way to use your favorite cranberry sauce, relish or chutney.
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.
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.
Bread baker Heather Alf shares her experiences baking quick breads. She includes a quick and healthy easy banana bread recipe.
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 up CSA produce is often difficult, but I found a fun and easy way to do it.
Review of The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast, a new book written by Ira Wallace.
A healthy and great-tasting muffin recipe.
A healthy comfort food!
Many sustainable agriculture groups sponsor conferences in the winter. Learn more about these opportunities to continue your learning and broaden your network.
Pot scrubbers are an easy kitchen gift to crochet.
Though the rumors that spaghetti squash is a good pasta substitute may seem far-fetched, I’ve found them to be true.
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.
A different way to make these old time favorite crocheted dishcloths.
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.
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.
Soup swaps are a great way to fill your freezer with real food.
It doesn’t matter how much you know already, there is always something to learn at the Mother Earth News Fair.
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.
Clear those almost-empty jars out of the fridge in no-time flat.
A story of farmers’ markets, local food, and saving the family farm.
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.
My second visit to the seventh annual Monticello Heritage Harvest Festival.
Tips for those with “Barnheart.”
Using only honey and water, you can make naturally fermented mead to enjoy at home.
The tale of my family’s barrel composter.
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.
A perfectly ripe heirloom tomato is one of the great joys of summer, here are some tips for organizing your own heirloom tomato party.
Learn why it is helpful to have a group of fellow homesteaders, then start a group of your own in your local community.
“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.
Ever wondered about the real meaning behind terms like cage free, free range, and pasture raised?
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.