A Security Upgrade for the 'Egg Cart’n' Chicken Tractor

Several years ago we purchased an “Egg Cart’n” brand chicken tractor and have been very pleased with it, save for one significant security flaw we only discovered after a predator slaughtered the coop’s residents. The fix was simple, once we figured out the flaw, helping us feel comfortable using a product we’re otherwise very happy with.

Setting Live Traps for Mammalian Garden Pests

Mammalian garden pests can do serious damage to your crops in a short period of time. Humane live traps such as those made by Havahart are a practical answer to this situation, but outwitting the animal can also be frustrating. Properly setting, baiting, and managing these traps can increase your success in removing problem animals from your property.

Tips for Buying Kitchen Staples in Bulk

Buying certain foods in bulk is a great way to save money, packaging, and shopping time, while opening up new opportunities to support good farmers. Here are some tips and considerations for buying and handling bulk foods in a homestead setting.

Tracking Natural Events on the Homestead

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.

3 Low-Sugar Methods for Preserving Strawberries

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.

Keeping Dairy Goats on Rotational Pasture 24/7 to Reduce Internal Parasites

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.

A Simple, Modern Rail Fence

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.

Tips for Training Goats to Electric Net Fences

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.

Feed the Soil First

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.

Home-Scale Maple Syrup Production

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.

Rich Soil, Rich People (with Video}

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.

Butchering Biomass: How to Use Every Part of a Cedar Tree

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).

Traveling Without Goats: Three Ways to Share the Workload of Dairy Animals

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.

Choosing Hay for Your Dairy Goats

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.

Preserving Milk: How to Balance Dairy Production Year-Round

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.

Gentle Heritage-Livestock Breeds for New Homesteaders

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.

Feeding Greens and Other Garden Materials to Dairy Goats

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.

Use the ‘Shoulders’ of the Season to Increase Farm Profits

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.

Build a Simple Goat Restraint for Slaughter, Maintenance or Milking

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: A Plant Toxic to Your Goats and Yourself

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.

Sewing and Quilting the Old Way with Rags

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.

Basic Goat Shelters for Your Homestead Dairy Herd

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.

Renting Poultry Processing Equipment

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.

Getting Started with Dairy Goats: One Homesteader’s Experience

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.

Small Growers Offer Organic, Rare Heirloom Plants

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.

Oyster Mushroom-Pineapple-Chicken Stir-Fry Recipe

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.

Missouri Organic Association Conference

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.

How To Form a Successful Cooperative

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.

How to Make a Living Without a Job

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.

Fight Next Year's Blight Now with 5 Easy Steps

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.

Purple Sweet Potato Fingerling Salad Recipe

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 Book Advocates Honey and Vinegar

"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.

Steadfast Garlic

Garlic is resilient, easy-to-grow, highly nutritious, and a natural antibiotic.

Why I Raise Cattle

HOMEGROWN Life blogger Bryce Oates considers the burden of beef and explains why his Missouri family farm chooses to raise cattle.

Farmers Swim, Too

HOMEGROWN Life blogger and West Missourian Bryce Oates explains how he and his family survive summer on the farm. Two words: swimming pool.

Best Ever Pickled Asparagus Recipe

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!

For The Love of Pole Barns, Part 2: Siting a New Barn

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!

Food Is Free Project

The Food Is Free Project has become a food revolution in Austin, Texas

More Tips on Roasting Green Coffee at Home

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!

For the Love of Pole Barns

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!

Lazy Gardener's Tomato Sauce Recipe

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!

County Fair Season Is Here

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.

Vandana Shiva to Visit Kansas City

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.

Preparing for Goat-Kidding Season

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.

Sawing Sycamore With a Norwood Portable Sawmill

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.

World War II Magazine Emphasizes Frugality

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.

Testing Well Water Simpler Than Expected

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.

Build a Log Deck for Splitting Firewood

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.

A Farmer Mulls Vegetarianism

HOMEGROWN.org blogger and West Missouri farmer Bryce Oates shares his thoughtful position on vegetarianism.

How to Use a White Treadle Sewing Machine

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.

Water Pollution Activist Explains Water Filter Options

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.

Craftsman Brings Back Classic American Clothespins

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.

All About Irish Dexter Cattle

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.

Thrifty Ways To Use Junk Mail

Junk mail, old books and other used paper can be easily recycled into something useful. Never buy notepads or envelopes again.

MyMagicMud Toothpaste Review

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.

Biological Farming Trending Up

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.

Build a Solar Cart Instead of Removing Trees

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.

Let’s Bring Back Victory Gardens

Bringing back Victory Gardens could help ease hunger and dependence as U.S. social aid programs, such as Food Stamps, are drastically cut.

Remembering the First Earth Day

United Nations Climate Week invokes memories of first Earth Day and how far we have yet to go to clean up our environment.

Savor the Season of Autumn

Autumn offers not only a bountiful harvest, but also an abundance of art materials directly from nature.

Build an Outhouse With 1909 Plans

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.

The Ozarks Natural Beauty

Discover the Ozarks region's natural beauty and adventure hot spots as told by Mike McArthy of Photozarks.

HOMEGROWN Life: The Gift of a Good Rain

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...

Campout Skillet!

As everyone gathers around this campfire this fall, unite this variety of flavors into one savory skillet that will be enjoyed by all.

HOMEGROWN Life: More on the Drought

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.

Take a Tour of The Ozarks Mountain and Mill Country

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.

HOMEGROWN Life: An Ode To The Elusive Asparagus

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

HOMEGROWN Life: The Scary Side of Sustainability

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

HOMEGROWN Life: Utility or Useless?

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