Homesteading and Livestock
Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.


Daunting Homestead Tasks Offer Life Lessons

Turning this eye-sore into a garden seems a daunting task. Photo by Jo deVries

 


New steel fencing; a solid investment in sustainable food. Photo by Jo deVries

If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that life is full of ups and downs; best to buckle up and enjoy the ride, remembering that we never know what’s around the next corner. I do know that the tough times usually make for good stories in later years, and the miracles I have witnessed give me hope when facing the seemingly impossible.

Still, it is easier to give advice than take it, to occasionally feel overwhelmed, to lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel. I try and remind myself to consider those people who were in charge of the clean-up after the 9-11 attack or of a devastating earthquake or major fire. How does one handle a problem of such magnitude?

Well, how do you eat an elephant — one bite at a time. And that’s the way we need to approach life’s enormous challenges: one step, one day, one work shift at a time. And each day that we do our best with what we’ve got, we have earned a good night’s sleep.

When I first bought my 6-and-a-half acres of bush land in Ontario, I tried to do everything at once. I was passionate about the idea of living sustainably. This pulled me in too many directions, and some things only got started or half-finished. Many chickens were killed by predators due to inefficient caging, the gardens quickly grew over with weeds, the brush that had been cut had re-grown. It was apparent that this lifestyle would require endless work. Working hard is fine, but I needed to prioritize my projects, and make sure that the jobs would not have to be re-done at a later date. I needed to be smarter and more efficient.

A Miracle in the Chicken Coop

After getting our cabin suitable enough to live in (for us anyway), I built a solid chicken coop. Since being built, I have had a number of years of successful chicken breeding, and the coop now pays for itself.

I had an early start on hatching chicks this spring, but had a few fatalities because of chicks having difficulty hatching by themselves. Two particular chicks were helped out by my son, Jordan, and me and then placed in a towel in a bowl on the woodstove to warm up and dry off. Hours later, I put them back with their mom, feeling that they would be best with her overnight. Everything seemed fine. The next morning, I went out to the coop to do my usual chores. I was horrified to see both chicks lying lifeless on their backs, only inches from their mother.

When chicks are helped out of their shell, sometimes the remainder of the yoke has not yet completely ascended into their abdomen properly; throwing them off-balance. If they fall on their back, they are like turtles and might not be able to get up. A newly hatched chick will die of exposure in a very short time in cold temperatures. This hen apparently believed in “survival of the fittest”. These chicks never had a chance once they tipped over.

Heartbroken, I quickly tucked the chicks under my shirt and ran to the cabin. Once inside, I stroked their lifeless bodies and prayed. There was no movement, yet I couldn’t bring myself to toss them in the woodstove — not quite yet. I propped them up on the firewood that was drying in the woodstove oven. I continued to pray, begging for a miracle. I kept saying, “I know they're dead, I know, but You can make them alive, please. I wasn’t crying; just feeling empty and terribly guilty.

Then it happened. One chick, the bigger one, took a deep breath, its eyes still closed. I burst out in tears of joy and expressed my incredible gratitude. It was happening — a miracle!

I grabbed my phone to video-tape this amazing phenomenon. I focused. Then the second chick took a deep breath. Now, I was sobbing uncontrollably. Although their breaths were really far apart both were, in fact, alive. Praise God!

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Hope (front) and Justice, an hour after being found lifeless. Photo by Jo deVries

It took some time for them to regain their strength, but in hours they were snuggling with their two siblings and mother like nothing had happened.  Days later, they were all running around outside in the sunshine, catching bugs. I named them Hope and Justice.

When our time and energy is used towards living in harmony with Mother Earth, and we recognize our heavenly Father and his power, we will witness miracles. I’m honoured to have witnessed many. My efforts to live sustainably have been abundantly blessed, despite my many blunders.

Turning an Overgrown Field Around with Pigs

As far as gardening goes, this spring I was facing a field that was a disaster. The gardens and elderberry bushes were completely overgrown with hay. The wooden fences I had put up more than 20 years ago were rotted and needed to be removed. The field had become a forest. This was worse than starting from scratch; at times, I felt overwhelmed at the idea. Where would I start?  Okay, one step at a time.

In April, I bought two young pigs and housed them in the rotting pony corral. Perhaps I could get a few more months out of it.

I posted an ad at the local gas station, looking for an experienced person to install steel fencing at a reasonable price. I felt that steel posts would be a smarter long-term investment — I didn’t want my son to have to re-do this job in 20 years.

Three weeks ago, the first stage of the fencing was installed, giving the pigs a much larger area. Seeing the progress gave me the big boost of inspiration I needed!

I’m doing the preparation work now, so that the second part of the fencing can be put in next month — busy clearing trees and brush. Spraining my ankle twice in the past two weeks was a big set-back, but I’m trudging on.


Pinky and Red are happy to do the roto-tilling. Photo by Jo deVries

Finding Assuredness Homestead Community

In the end, to attain sustainability we need community. We need family, friends, neighbours and those of like minds, helping each other and exchanging products and services. But more importantly, we need faith; faith that even when there is no one else around, we are never alone to face our struggles. Let’s just put in our time and do our best, working hard, and sleeping well because of it.

A good piece of land to grow a family, food, firewood and timber is better than money in the bank. It’s a solid investment, not just for my benefit but for future generations. The land I have cleared, the trees I have planted, and the gardens I have started are all a testimony of my commitment to a simpler more natural lifestyle that I want to pass on to my son. I’m working the soil on bended knee, and happy as a pig in mud. The pain and frustration from the hardships are quickly forgotten, and the joy of the miracles continue to warm my heart.

Jo deVries (Jo of the Woods) designed and helped build her off-grid Ontario home, where she and her son have enjoyed a pioneer-type life-style without electricity. She is the author of Does Your House Know Where South Is? and generously shares what she has learned during her on-going journey of turning a piece of bush land in to a self-sufficient homestead. Connect with Jo of the Woods and read all of Jo’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our blogging guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Goats: Spring Cleaning!

goat
Photo by Unsplash/Antondarius

Originally published March 2012

Some have said that a “heat wave” can be defined as three consecutive days where the temperature is 20 degrees or more above the normal recorded temperatures. Well, by that definition we had a heat wave in Maine this week! Woohoo! It was 82 degrees yesterday, March 22nd and 83 & 80 the two days before. Average temps are usually in the mid 40's to the low 50's in March, we've even seen it 25 degrees below zero in mid-March, so we're all soaking this up. One of my friends sent me a photo of her two daughters dressed in shorts and flip-flops standing on a huge snow-pile.

Part of our usual spring clean up includes branch and fallen limb removal which we did this year in mid-March instead of late April! My husband actually scooped up the remains of a snow-pile and dumped it elsewhere so the snow melt wouldn't run down our driveway.

snowremoval
Photo by Janice Spaulding

Today was the official “GOAT CLEAN UP DAY”. Each of our very pregnant girls was led out of the barn and on to the fitting stand. Some needed to get their udders trimmed before kidding in another two weeks, others just needed their hoofs tended to. All of them got their annual CD/T vaccinations.  

hairywinnie
Photo by Janice Spaulding

First girl on the stand was Winnie. Her registered name is Wenonah, but I like Winnie much better because it lends itself to some cute nicknames! She's a French Alpine and compared to our American Alpines she's more on the petite side. Being smaller in stature though, does not prevent her from becoming humongous during pregnancy. We call her “Wide Winnie” or better yet, “Winnie-bago”. It's normally way too cold at this time of year to be outside trimming udders, so we usually do it after they kid rather than before. Not this year!

clippedwinnie
Photo by Janice Spaulding

The photos of this beauty show her before her “dairy trim” and afterward. Hairy udders cause several problems, one being that hairs can drop into the milk pail during hand milking, YUCK! Secondly, while you are squeezing the teats you can accidentally pull some of the hairs on the udder. This will cause a foot in a bucket faster than you can say “heck”! Also, it's way easier to clean up their “tushies” after kidding without all that excess hair.

PregnantCoretta
Photo by Janice Spaulding

After the trim, and a booster shot of their annual vaccine (we use Covexin 8), we  tackled hoofs. The last time the girls had a hoof trim was back in November, so they were a little over due. They are well mannered and were very patient while I snipped and clipped their hoofies. I tell them that it's like having a pair of new shoes, but they aren't too interested in my ramblings; if they could talk, they would probably say “would you please, just shut up and get this over with!”

Well trimmed hoofs are an important part of good goat health! Severely overgrown hoofs can cause leg, pastern, and foot problems.

goodhoofs
Photo by Janice Spaulding

I stress “flat” when I teach hoof trimming at Goat School. So that we don't have to compromise our girls and boys hoofs to first time trimmers, we have our meat processor save goat hoofs for us. I have folks put their cadaver hoof in the position that a goat would be standing in, on a flat surface, after they are finished with the trimming, so that I can do a proper critique. This fun task has helped many people to understand what can happen with an improperly trimmed hoof!

gshooftrim
Photo by Janice Spaulding

We will begin kidding around April 3rd, AND, I just got a new camera, so, stay tuned for more kidding photos! I'll also be doing a post on disbudding as soon as those new born kids are ready. We have strong opinions on the topic of disbudding, I'll explain and provide some good photos of actual disbudding.


Are you interested in attending Goat School? Visit Goat School to learn how.

Our ‘Lamb Tractor’ is a Frugal Solution for Moving Small Livestock: Video

Black & white lambs. Photo by Adam D. Bearup

We have owned and lived on our own 20-acre piece of paradise for about 10 years now. Throughout the years, we have raised many animals on this farm, including feeder cattle, egg-laying chickens, meat chickens, ducks, hogs, and turkeys. We have always discussed raising lambs and this year, we finally are in a position to be able to do it!

Locating and Transporting Lambs

It took several months to locate lambs to buy in our state. I thought that it would have been easier to locate lambs to buy, and I learned quickly that lambs are not as readily available as I had hoped. I talked to the lady who was selling the lambs and asked for her advice on how we should haul them from their farm to ours. She has seen everything from hauling lambs in dog crates to people putting lambs in the back seat of their cars.

The “lamb lady," as we now call her, urged us to find a way to haul lambs that would prevent them from jumping out. I immediately thought of the small trailer that we use to haul pigs and other animals to our farm with.

Constructing the ‘Lamb Tractor’

Our thought was to have the lambs live in a “lamb tractor”, which we would move around the pasture each day. We have raised feeder cattle several times, and that means that we have extra cattle panels in our storage barn. These cattle panels are 16 feet long and 50 inches tall and are basically sections of a very sturdy fence that are normally used to close off pastures and make feed lots. I decided to take four of the cattle panels and tie them together with metal ties to form a big square.

This big square would be our lamb tractor. I put a tarp over half of the lamb tractor so that the lambs had a shady place to be during the sunny days. The tarp would also keep the lambs dry when it rained. I used an old horse hay feeder in one corner of the lamb tractor and made sure that I could drag the lamb tractor around without too much effort. With the lamb tractor assembled, it was time to go get the lambs.

Watch the video to see how our adventure goes in picking up the lambs and bringing them back to our farm. Subscribe to my YouTube channel to keep up to date with my new videos.

Adam D. Bearup is a designer, green builder and farmer, who learned about biodynamic and regenerative farming for a project he built in Northern Michigan, The Earth Shelter Project MichiganAdam has degrees in marketing and management and a Masters of Science in Green Building. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our blogging guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Bird Brains: Personal Experience, Behaviour Research, and the Welfare of Laying Hens

Jacob Holding a Hen

A younger Jacob with one of his hens
Photo by Roger Yip

“Here chick chick chick,” a 13-year-old me called out as I slipped on rubber boots and headed towards the run where I kept my hens. Hearing the call I’d taught them, my dozen birds scurried towards me and congregated at the fence as I stepped into the run and tossed them some cracked corn. Several of the hens, senior members in their social hierarchy, let out their usual “tick tick tick,” as they ate, communicating to the others that good stuff had been found. I checked the nest boxes in their coop - just three eggs. I dove into the lilac hedge where I’d seen a few hens exit a minute ago. After being poked and scratched by the shrubbery, I found a small depression lined with eight eggs, hidden quite expertly.

Eggs are arguably the most ubiquitous animal-based product, but they’re produced by a species that is poorly understood and often underestimated by most consumers. This month, I was lucky enough to connect with my former colleague Dr. Misha Ross, who is a published poultry behaviour researcher in the University of Guelph’s Animal Biosciences Department. You can watch the full length interview here.

The Avian Telos

I often refer to telos, a term for purpose, adapted by Bernard Rollin to mean the hard-wired nature of an animal. The telos of egg laying chickens is highly complex - their unique personalities, intelligence, and social structure are both entertaining and worthy of investigation. As Misha put it, “[the idea that birds are unintelligent] is a prevalent misconception that people have, and I think they use it to justify not caring about the animals.”

Much like humans, chickens live in social groups with a dynamic hierarchy; this is where we derive the phrase ‘pecking order.’ From a scientific perspective, the pecking order tells us a lot about bird brains. I learned from Misha that, “chickens have the capacity to perform simple logic: something called transitive inference, which can be seen through the pecking order.” 

Back in the day, my hens’ habit to lay their eggs in the lilacs instead of their nest boxes was certainly inconvenient, but it was a great example of one of the strongest instinctual motivations of hens. As Misha told me, “a hen has a really high motivation to find a secluded spot to lay her eggs away from other hens.” The nest boxes I had created simply weren’t as quiet and secluded as thick shrubbery. Other things a younger me observed in my backyard chickens - foraging, perching, and dust bathing - were also echoed by Misha as “highly motivated urges that chickens have.”

The North American Egg Industry

The majority of the 350 million laying hens in Canada and the USA are not afforded the opportunity to express any of their highly motivated natural behaviours. Since the post-war revolution of animal production, hens have been housed in battery cages, which are traditionally small, with no nest boxes, perches, or substrate for foraging and dust bathing. The result is that hens on traditional farms experience varying levels of chronic stress and exhibit a range of abnormal and destructive behaviours.

Producers Aren’t to Blame

It’s easy to place all the blame and onus to change on egg producers, but doing so ignores the complexity of the situation. Once consumers were separated from food production, price became the main motivation in the grocery store. Egg farmers, most of whom authentically enjoy their animals and way of life, had to either intensify their production methods or else lose their profits to others who would. 

The Present ‘Solution’: A Mess of Terms

Growing awareness of animal welfare has begun to drive out battery cages in North America, and ‘cage free’ eggs are widely available (albeit pricey). A multitude of branded terms are hurled at shoppers in an attempt to fetch top dollar for a dozen eggs. Go to your local health food or natural grocery store, and you’ll see egg cartons using terms like ‘free run,’ ‘free range,’ ‘enriched,’ ‘organic,’ and more. In general, ‘free range’ means the hens have outdoor access along with some form of enrichment inside - things like perches, nest boxes, and substrate to forage or dust bathe in. The other terms generally mean that enrichment has been provided, but without any outdoor access. According to Misha, “a free range system has the potential to provide the best welfare for the chickens, but so much depends on management. Even a free range label is no guarantee of good welfare.”

Consumer Behaviour: The Key to Rapid Change

In Canada, although battery cages are still the norm, they are being slowly phased out, and will be banned altogether within the next 15 years. Similar bans have greatly improved the welfare of laying hens in Europe. While legislation has an obvious role in protecting animals, it’s a slow moving ship, and perhaps not as effective as grassroots change in animal industries, as I learned from leading Ontario beef producers. Consumer behaviour is the one thing that has the potential to improve animal lives right now. Besides reducing your consumption of eggs, there are a number of things you can do to help egg-laying chickens.

Look for the Right Labels

If it’s within your means to buy added welfare eggs at the grocery store, third party labelling programs are the best way to make sense of the mess of brands and terms. Animal Welfare Certified, Certified Humane, and Certified Organic are exemplary third-party labels: according to Misha, “they are scientifically informed, and there’s no conflict of interest between the certifier and the producer.” Do some of your own research, or read about other labelling programs in my introductory article

Connect with a Producer

The best way to ensure your eggs were produced by happy (or happier) hens is to connect with progressive producers and assess their system with a critical eye. Look for farms which give hens the opportunity to nest, perch, dust bathe, and experience the outdoors. An ideal facility provides an outdoor environment that the birds will actually want to use (i.e. not an open unsheltered field). If you’re a keener, get a producer on the phone and ask them about their strategy and how it impacts the health and welfare of their birds. 

Bring Chickens into your Community

I’ve always been quick to promote backyard poultry as an avenue for ethically produced eggs. As Misha reminded me, backyard hens are a significant investment, and not to be taken lightly. Disclaimers aside, I know from personal experience that managing poultry is an incredibly entertaining and gratifying experience. Misha believes that backyard chicken keeping is a really great endeavour for the people willing to invest in giving the animals everything they need. He added that if people have the opportunity to interact with chickens housed properly with their needs met, this could bring out the charisma of the birds that is often overlooked, catalyzing more thought and better consumer decisions. 

If you’re ready to take on a time and financial commitment, investigate your local bylaws and consider taking on a few hens. If you go through with it, make it a community event. While keeping birds may not be for everyone, the opportunity to observe and interact with chickens is a wholesome outdoor activity that could bring you closer to your neighbours while encouraging them to reconsider their own role in the improvement of animal lives.


Jacob Maxwell is a biology student and veterinary hopeful in Ontario who divides his time between animal biology coursework and hands-on experience with veterinarians and animal researchers. Connect with Jacob on his blogA Try-Hard's Guide to Having Fun, and on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and LinkedIn. Read all of Jacob’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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15 Things I Learned From High-Altitude Remote Homesteading

 

Our snowy A-frame.
Photo by Bruce McElmurray

We have resided in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of southern Colorado full time for just short of a quarter of a century. Over that time we have learned much. Following are some of the lessons we have learned. 

1. This life is not for everyone. We have seen people come and go because this type of living is not only different, but it can be highly demanding. Many have tried it for a time but due to the fact that we get heavy snow in the winters, they resolved to only live here part time and not be full time residents. We received 285 inches this last winter, which can be somewhat daunting.

2. The weather in the mountains is unpredictable and weather forecasters often are wrong in their predictions. Therefore, we have learned not to put off until tomorrow what we can do today due to weather variations.

3. For us seniors, routine work is harder but not impossible. We just have to regulate ourselves to work slower and smarter. Also, this is the stage of life to have tools that will make our jobs easier. A tractor is a good example of a labor-saving tool.

4. Being self-reliant is important as living remote and getting help is not always possible, and that is especially true in the winter months where deep or drifting snow is likely. Getting repair services to access our home is iffy at best during winter months, so we have to be prepared to go without or fix it ourselves.

5. Living with wildlife is not as frightening as we expected it would be. We have mountain lions, bears, lynx, bobcat, coyotes, deer, elk and occasionally wolves. There are also smaller animals from voles to rabbits. Wild animals actually make good neighbors. We have found that wild animals are far more respectful than many of their human counterparts. The small critters are the most troublesome.

6. Living remotely with our nearest neighbor almost a mile distant does have challenges. Life is never static, and seems to be always changing. In the beginning of our day, we don’t know if we will be working on what we planned or if something else will command our attention.

7. We live remotely but rarely are we alone. We get an occasional visitor, but we have our various wildlife and birds to keep us company most days. Nowadays with the internet and cell phones, we are able to stay in regular contact with family and friends so we do not get lonely.

8. Snow consumes a good amount of our year; hence it requires some specific comments. The 250 to 300 inches of snow each season can be a lot to deal with. Coupled with the wind we get in the winter, it takes much of our effort to keep it cleared so we can move around freely. When we planned to move here full time, it was just a number to us but we greatly underestimated just how much snow that really is. We have learned over the years but 22 to 24 feet of snow over 6 to 7 months demands a lot of work. Mechanical means help but much of the work involves snow shovels.

9. Firewood is another major task. We choose to live with the radiant heat from a woodstove and that requires anywhere from 8 to 10 cords of firewood a season. That perhaps is our second greatest task. We burn aspen because it burns cleaner than the conifers and is a good heat source. We have acreage and we are able to get most of our firewood right off our property.

10. We enjoy having so many birds all year long. We have a variety of different birds, which are a good source of entertainment. We have several kinds of woodpeckers, song birds, chickadees, robins, hummingbirds, stellar jays, grey jays and clark's nutcrackers to mention a few. Observing their behavior right outside our window is educational and entertaining.

Winter sunrisePhoto by Bruce McElmurray

11. Living remote we learned to anticipate the unexpected and be prepared to act properly when something unexpected happens.Unexpected occurrences seem to happen far more often than we would expect.

12. We have a garden each year, but gardening at high elevation is challenging to say the least. When seedlings are young and tender we need to keep them protected with a sun screen. We also learned to garden in raised garden boxes that are fully enclosed in ½-inch hardware cloth to keep voles, mice, rabbits, squirrels, deer and chipmunks out of our garden. We learned that the hard way. The growing season is very short and occasional hail storms destroy our leaf vegetables. We don’t have much problem with insects but small rodents are a constant problem.

13. Our lifestyle has several health benefits. Our well water is crystal clear coming from deep in the ground and tastes like water should taste. The air at this altitude is fresh and clear. The strenuous outside work is good exercise and keeps us fit. We eat healthy and enjoy all the health benefits from this high altitude lifestyle.

14. There are also some inherent hazards to high-altitude living. There have been small dogs brought to our area who have been swooped up by raptors or killed by  predators. Small pets need to be carefully supervised. Visitors who are used to jogging at low elevations and try the same at this elevation often find the lower oxygen can be troublesome. Not to mention running down a dirt road or riding a bike where there are mountain lions. Running can trigger their prey drive and the runner can end up being hunted.

15. We learned cooking at high elevation can create inconsistencies in bread and cake outcome. Careful adjustment and experimentation must be done to find the right combination for successful cooking.


Bruce and Carol live in the mountains in S. Colorado with their canine family and take measures to protect them from the wild predators that are around. They lead a somewhat different lifestyle and for more on them and their canine family visit their blog site at: brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com/ You can read all of Bruce's Mother Earth News posts here.


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Prevent Flystrike in Sheep: How Farmers Can Strike First

lambs with chicken and birch 

Lambs with chicken
Photo by John Klar

Of the various adversities confronted in animal husbandry, insects and parasites can be some of the most mysterious, and destructive. Among those are a cadre of particular offenders belonging to the fly family. Technically, we are concerned here not with the “housefly” family of flies (muscidae) but with the “scourge of livestock” variety (family calliphoridae), which are a whole different kettle of fish.

Flystrike” refers to an outbreak of blowflies: those green, blue, or bronze buzzers that proliferate in summertime. Blowflies are a particular plague to commercial shepherds in Australia, but they are quite plentiful in North America, where they can cause horrible distress, including death, to livestock.

Sheep are particularly susceptible to flystrike, because of their thick wool, where not only moisture but organic matter (soil or feces) can become enmeshed, luring females from this particularly noisome family of flies to lay eggs in the matted wool. Maggots (incongruously called “gentles”) are scavengers of carrion and dung, so open wounds are also an invitation. Blowflies are famous in forensic medicine as the first arrivals when death descends — the time of death of human corpses is sometimes estimated by measuring the larval development of blowflies.

How to Identify Flystrike

Goats, horses, and other livestock can be stricken, but sheep owners must exercise special vigilance. Be alert for signs of agitation, reduced appetite, anxiety, or distress. During heavy fly seasons these behaviors are not uncommon, but in flystrike they may signal an infestation that can spread both within the animal and throughout the flock. Though used medicinally to debride dead tissue, blowfly gentles will eat living tissue, and not very gently. They often infest the tail or hind area where both moisture and fecal matter attract females to lay their eggs.

The author encountered flystrike with no forewarning, after perhaps 15 years without ever a problem. One season in late summer in Vermont, following extended heavy rain and humidity, several ram lambs — who were born in early February and so had not been shorn — began to show signs of distress. They had a run-in barn, and we dusted them for lice, but their condition worsened. They became even more distressed, so we brought in our trusted veterinarian, who promptly apprised us of their condition. We immediately treated all the lambs, but one ram died a few days later. The maggots had literally bored into him, causing ammonia poisoning.

That was one of the worst experiences of our sheep-owning journey, and I don’t want others (or their animals) to suffer such trauma. Keeping animals clean and dry is paramount. Fly traps or treatments, removal of large manure piles, and tail removal for lambs are all helpful.

What to Do When the Flies Have Struck

If flystrike is present, infected animals should be separated from the flock (and some would say culled for genetic vulnerability) and treated aggressively. Contaminated wool should be clipped away and destroyed. If their fleeces are heavy, shearing as soon as possible will reduce larval habitat and allow easier eradication. There are also a number of commercial products available, depending on application preferences and time to market (for meat animals). 

sheep with spruce tree

Sheep with shade and water
Photo by John Klar

Flystrike is just one fly-family attack that can occur against sheep, by the way.


John Klar raises grass-fed beef and sheep, and seeks to educate people about where their food comes from and how large corporate interests wish to dominate food production. He moved to Vermont and began farming in 1998. John and his wife, Jacqueline, built and operated an artisanal raw-milk cheese house, and have raised pigs, chickens, sheep, horses, cows, and goats, and grown many varieties of vegetables and herbs. Connect with John on Facebook, and watch his farming videos on YouTube. Read all of John's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

After 6 Years of Homesteading, We are Finally Free and This Video Talks About How

Homestead Family With Chainsaw

Family firewood day
Photo by Kerry Mann

Friends and family have asked me: “What does it mean to be a homesteader?”. My quick and simple answer is “freedom”. We are using our land and property to be more self-sufficient and to have more freedom. We do that by growing our own food, by heating our entire home and water with sustainable wood from our property. We’ve started several income streams with our homestead at the core.

After almost six years on our homestead, we now have eight small income streams and more freedom than we’ve ever experienced. The purpose of this post is to share our story and what we’ve learned with others.

Money and Freedom for Homesteaders

For me, freedom and money go hand in hand. Every single purchase I make is a trade for my freedom. Buy a candy bar, there goes a little freedom — buy a brand-spanking new car, there goes the odds of one of my four girls going to college. Buy materials to build a homestead dog kennel business, and cha-ching put some more freedom in the future-bank. Build a greenhouse and increase my property value, boom even more freedom in my future (and more growing season for our homestead veggies). Money = freedom I am not willing to willy-nilly exchange all of that freedom with little consideration for overpriced items like fancy smartphones, brand new cars, and a top of the line home with a maxed out mortgage. 

The greatest path to freedom is the paid off home mortgage. It is possible. We did at age 35. We didn’t inherit any money. I never went to college. I worked a soul-crushing warehouse job for 8 years out of high school. My point is anyone can do this. Check out Dave Ramsey’s YouTube channel for story after story of regular folks paying off their home mortgage early. 

We worked very hard to pay for our homestead in cash by the age of 35. Besides being extremely frugal, for many years we were also able to achieve this by purchasing a major fixer-upper. No one wanted to touch this property. Our young triplets on first viewing of our would-be homestead literally cried: “Daddy why would you want to live here?”. 

Our homestead was in extreme distress when we bought it. People often comment on our YouTube channel: “must be nice to have that beautiful 20 acres…” I usually respond with “nice, it's more than nice,  it's unbelievably amazing and it could have been yours too!”. If people could have seen this before we made it “nice” they’d be singing a different tune. 

Your Choices Can Make or Break Freedom

Our property was on the market for a couple of years, dozens of people hard-passed on it because they didn’t want to do the work to make it livable. Most of our peers were purchasing homes in pristine condition with granite countertops at the very tip-top of their price range. I just could never do that and trade all of my freedom for the next 30+ years.  That is a trade I am not willing to make.

Instead, we do just the opposite. We’ve always purchased used vehicles with over 100,000 miles for cash. I’d rather get punched in the back of my head every day for 5 years than buy a new car. What a horrible waste of freedom. Over the course of my driving years I estimate I’ve saved over $162,144 by NOT buying new cars. Here is the math- 24 years driving * 12 months= 288 months of driving and potential car payments. The average vehicle payment on a new car is $563. 288*563 = $162,144!  And that doesn’t include the cost of comprehensive insurance to cover that new car. $162,144 is almost $45,000 more than we paid to purchase our 20 acre homestead! So you see it is very possible. Plus many couples pay for two new cars!

So much freedom traded for that new car smell (that doesn’t last long). I’d rather enjoy my freedom working from home, kayaking with my girls everyday, golfing, going to movies and living on my own terms. That is worth a million new cars to me. 

Sure we don’t have that nice-new-car-smell — but we pay on average $1,200 for a used vehicle (like 2 monthly payments on a new car!). Our old homestead van was $1,200 (it had over 150,000 miles and was kind of ugly) but it lasted 6 years and we drove it across the country several times. My current minivan is a rusty grocery-getter but the AC works great, it gets me from A to Z and I paid $1400 total a few years ago. Insurance is dirt cheap and if it ever dies, I’ll fix it myself or find another $1,200 car because so many people hit 100,000 miles and think their vehicle is suddenly trash and sell it cheap to upgrade for something new. Frankly I think 100,000 miles is just barely broken in.

We buy used and saved the difference and we never use credit cards. Those fancy iPhones that do the exact same thing as a cheap pre-paid phone, yeah no thanks. Has anyone but us considered how much freedom has to be traded to afford one of those phones? And in the meantime my prepaid Android phone has almost every one of the same features for pennies on the dollar.

Speaking of phones and freedom, a while back I had this phone conversation with a friend, “Sorry friend, I can’t talk now I’m heading out to kayak…”

Response: “At 11am on a Tuesday? Must be Nice.” Yeah it’s amazing, I said. Sadly those same types of friends have new cars, the nicest phones, go out to eat all of the time and struggle each month to make ends meet. I feel bad for them.  They are always worried that if they lose their job it will all come crumbling down. It’s sad and stressful and it doesn’t have to be that way.

Our entire goal with every financial decision we make is to maximize our freedom.  I am always considering how we can spend our money to provide ourselves and our children with more freedom.

So when purchasing our homestead we were not just looking for a great property for homesteading we were also looking for a property with the potential for many income streams. After almost six years on our homestead we now have 8 income streams and more freedom than I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. The purpose of this post isn’t to humblebrag about our successes, we still make less money than the average American family, but I think we have more freedom than most families. I’d say we have more freedom than some of the richest families who still manage to spend like crazy or work like crazy to make even more and can’t stop to live in the moment.

Strategies to Achieving Homestead Freedom

The freedom that we have is a true blessing. Here are a few strategies that helped us achieve our goals and get more freedom:

1. Read up. Late in life (last year) I started listening to Dave Ramsey. Then I bought a few of his books.  His baby-steps (which are free to follow) are amazing and life-changing. If you’ve never heard of Dave, check out some of his debt-free screams on his YouTube channel, they are so inspiring.  Some people may not like Dave’s politics, I don't care either way. What I do know is that Dave is an expert when it comes to personal finance and there is undeniable proof that he has guided more folks to take financial action and change their lives forever than anyone else I can think of. If I was starting over I would 100% focus on Dave’s Baby Steps from Day 1. 

2. Think long-term. A long time ago we really cut back spending unless it's a necessity or an investment. When I say "investment", I don’t mean the stock market, although that is one way.  We usually invest in ourselves. Some examples include our homestead, our greenhouse, our airbnb rental, our dog kennel, our YouTube channels.  When we spend money it is often spent with a future return planned.

3. Set goals. We started writing down goals.  I wrote down a goal last year. I wanted to get to 10,000 subscribers on YouTube. I wrote down little action items to achieve that. I laser focused on that goal. My very next video went crazy (it now has well over 1 million views). A few months later I surpassed 50,000 subscribers. I credit that solely to writing down my goal and making a laser-focused action plan. Thoughts and whims in my brain are not laser-focused action plans,  goals need to be written down. 

4. Prepare for tough decisions. I coined this phrase and I say it all the time to my four girls. “Your life is a result of the decisions you make” It’s on you. We really focus on making good decisions. If I could win 1 million dollars OR win 1% more wisdom I would take the 1% wisdom without ever blinking an eye. 

5. Focus on what you can control. Despite what the mainstream media would have us believe we are still living in one of the greatest times in history. I chose to focus on things in my life that I have control over. That includes my personal actions and decisions on a daily basis. Being positive and making wise personal decisions will change the world 1000x more than focusing my efforts on global issues or politics or trying to change others. 

6. Learn everything. The most successful people in the world have one thing in common: they read all the time. With the internet and all of the resources we have available it’s hard not to read all of the time. Years ago I hated my day job. I wanted to work for myself. I had literally every resource available to help me do just that. Books in the library, magazines and oh yeah this little thing called the internet. It’s so easy these days you don’t even have to read, just watch a YouTube video and you can learn almost anything. Imagine starting a business 100 years ago. It was all on you. Now we have all of these amazing resources to guide us and most are free. 

If you want to learn more about us and learn specifically what our eight income streams are on our homestead, we did a YouTube video on just that.


Kerry W. Mann, Jr. moved to a 20-acre homestead in 2015, where he and his family use modern technology, including YouTube and Instructables.com, to learn new skills and teach homestead projects. Connect with Kerry on his Homestead How YouTube page, Instructables, Pinterest,  Facebook, and at My Evergreen Homestead. Read all of Kerry’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here


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