For several years, we have been trialing eggplant varieties to find one better in hot weather than our favorite 'Nadia', which is great in temperate summer weather. We love the classic pear shape and glossy purple-black skin of 'Nadia', and we want something looking similar, but better at setting fruit in hot weather.
Homesteading is tricky enough without a full-time outside job. If you're passionate about where you live, it pays to think outside the conventional job market for full-time jobs that you can do right from home.
The Black Mouth Cur mountain dog is not one of the more popular breeds in the homesteading community, and yet, it used to be one of the most popular homestead dogs around. Let me introduce you to our new pup, Delilah, the Black-Mouth Cur, and tell you about the amazing abilities and history of this homestead dog breed.
The Cranberry Glades are situated within the Monongahela National Forest, which comprises almost 1 million acres of land, making it the third largest national forest east of the Rocky Mountains. Within The Glades are many natural areas and attractions such as the “Cranberry Glades Botanical Area.” This 750-acre preserve is home to many unusual plants, and this is where you’ll find “the bogs.”
We can argue about how to raise chicks all day, but when it actually comes down to how mama hen and nature do it, no one is going to tell her how she can and can’t do it. Here’s what my Mama Hen is currently teaching this homesteader about raising chicks on our homestead.
Sewage and industrial sludge is being managed as a liability. Current outdated regulations and technologies focus on the least-expensive means of the sludge disposal. Sludge management needs to be redirected toward the recovery of energy and chemicals embedded in the sludge and guided by the principals based on the current scientific findings and technology. Environmental and demographic considerations need to play an important role in this new approach geared toward sustainable and energy-efficient waste management practices.
Sweet potatoes are easy to grow, if you have 90 frost-free days. The work involved happens at times of year when you probably have fewer other garden tasks. Planting on ridges reduces damage from flooding. Biodegradable mulch warms the soil and increases yields, while reducing weed growth.
A precedent setting legal battle is being played in Virginia's countryside. Local business owner is seeking county's permit to store and process municipal and industrial sludge inside a residential neighborhood. If he is allowed to build the biosolids processing facility - health and the quality of life of hundreds of local residents will be compromised and the permit could mean a green light to other similar enterprises mushrooming in rural areas.
Monticello’s gardens and orchards are world-famous for the fruit and vegetable production. Interestingly, among all his writings, there is very little included by Mr. Jefferson about keeping poultry. But what breeds of chickens might have been on Mulberry Row
Shiitake mushrooms are an easy to grow, delicious mushroom for beginners to learn to cultivate. Shitakes have a satisfying meaty texture when sauteed, broiled or baked, and they have a distinctive 'unami' flavor that makes them popular in Asia.
“Golden” will be the first word to enter your mind when you see the roots, rhizomes and dormant buds of Hydrastis canadensis. You’ll understand immediately why the common name is “Goldenseal.” This very useful native woodland plant will not only charm and entertain you spring, summer, and autumn — it can even heal you.
Meet Carla Jordan, the resident of a rural county of Spotsylvania, VA. This a true story of how land application of biosolids affected Carla's life and how she decided to fight for the health and welfare of her family and her community.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.