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


Smile! You're on 'Kidding Camera': Using Livestock Monitoring Cameras with Goats

Baby Goat Kid In Barrel

It really is the most wonderful time of the year: a barn full of babies. Last weekend, we had successful deliveries of three sets of Boer goat kid twins, four bucklings and two doelings. While I’m loving having these little ones to cuddle, I’m doing my very best to not become attached (I’m feeling verklempt right about now). There will be no naming these goats, as they are destined to be sold or exhibited in the Morrow County Fair in August.

And for those of you considering adding Boer goats to your homestead, there are tons of articles online giving advice on preparing for kidding season. All of this information is extremely valuable, and you can’t research it enough.

There are two things, however, that I’d like to share with you that have made an impact on our kidding season: a camera and a DIY warming barrel.

Utilizing Cameras for Livestock Monitoring

While it may make you feel a little like you’re watching a livestock version of “Big Brother” (and let’s face it, that’s probably way, way more entertaining), having a live-feed camera in the barn is extremely beneficial. It enables you to maintain constant visual contact with your animals, allowing you to watch for early signs of labor.

And, because we had all of our pregnant does in one pen, it was easy to keep an eye on all of them with just one camera. If one of the mamas is becoming restless, “pawing” at the ground, or “talking” to her belly, we know it’s time to chill the celebratory champagne and hunker down for some goat-cam viewing until we see active labor (OK, I’m joking a little bit on the champagne part).

What’s more, having a camera saves my husband from having to suit up in his overalls and walk outside in the frigid temperatures we’re experiencing right now for middle-of-the-night barn checks, both before and after birth. He simply turns on the television, and bah-bam!, he can see the mamas and all six of the babies frolicking, feeding, and sleeping.

And with WiFi cameras in virtually everything, there are so many options and price points for which cameras you can use in the barn. There are so many cool cameras nowadays that can connect to your computer or smartphone. Heck, you could use a live-feed game camera sold at those mega outdoorsy stores and view the stream on your computer, or whatever you tech-savvy homesteaders do.

Unfortunately, we are too rural (right now, anyway) for WiFi, so we have a basic security camera that is connected to our television with old-school RCA audio and video jacks. Matt bought a $30 weatherproof camera with infrared LEDs and night vision (which is vital for midnight checks). Also, the built-in microphone is important, as we can listen for distress from the off-camera goats.

Goat Cam Livestock Video Monitor

DIY Goat Kid Warming Barrels

I like big barrels and I cannot lie (whip crack). A lot of homesteaders buy food-grade 55-gallon plastic barrels for rain collection or container gardening, but there is another reason to snag a few more: kid warming barrels. Actually, I asked Matt when he called me this morning about it, and he said, “I’m a big believer in the barrels. It saved that one kid we had.” And it’s true. One of the wet, cold, and weak bucklings would not have survived if it weren’t for the warming barrel in the kidding pen. The other option is to haul kids into the house, and that’s just not practical for us.

So many old-timey farmers are leery of using heat lamps because of the possibility of a barn fire. And rightly so: There should be concern with heat contacting straw or hay, and that’s why containing your heat lamp in a plastic barrel helps reduce the chance for a fire.

But like just about everything used in agriculture, heat lamps’ design and materials have improved. Many are made of durable polypropylene flexible sides, reducing the possibility of damage and bulb breakage. There is no guarantee, however, that the lamps won’t break, and that there isn’t the possibility of a fire, but using heat lamps may help save a cold, weak newborn.

Matt simply flipped over the barrel and drilled a hole for the heat lamp wire. He then cut an opening big enough for the kids, but too small for the mamas, to get into the barrel. Securing the heat lamp wire through the hole and into the outlet, as well as anchoring the barrel with a good ol’ bungee cord to prevent tip-over, should be enough to make using a heat lamp safer. And voila!, the barrel retains much of the heat, keeping about four kids per barrel warm and dry.

If you have been thinking of adding Boer goats to your homestead, with the intent of breeding your does, I hope you’ll consider these tips to help make the kidding season a breeze. If you make a DIY warming barrel like the one you read in this article, message me a picture on my farm Facebook page. I’d love to see it.

Corinne Gompf is a writer and hobby farmer in Morrow County, Ohio. She is a graduate from the University of Toledo, with a BA in English, creative writing concentration. Along with her husband, Matt, and two children, Fletcher and Emery, Corinne raises poultry, Boer goats, rabbits, and chemical-free produce. Connect with Corinne on her Heritage Harvest Farm Facebook page. Read all of Corinne's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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Goat Kid Care

 

I recently bought three young goat kids that had been rejected by their mothers.  Two of them were twin boys that were about 3 days old, the other was a doe kid that was about a week old.  The three of them were absolutely adorable and little did I know, required frequent care.  Not that I minded, they're too cute to not spend time with!

Feeding Goat Kids

Goat kids that are on the bottle (or nursing from mom) will start trying to nibble on feed pretty early.  It's ok for them to try some if they want to.  Their new ruminant stomachs require time to build up the bacteria that they need to digest their food once they are older.  This is probably why goat kids start experimenting with feed from an early age.

If you've got goat kids that you are bottle feeding, then you'll need a bottle and a lamb/kid nipple attachment.  You can purchase these at feed stores (I found all of my goat kid needs easily at my local Tractor Supply Company store.) or order them online.  If they aren't nursing from mom, then they will need goat kid milk replacer and possibly colostrum.  If they didn't nurse from mom at all, they definitely need colostrum.  Colostrum is the first milk that the mother produces.  It's loaded with antibodies and probiotics that get the kid's immune system and digestive system up and going.  Both replacer and colostrum can be found in feed stores.

Make sure that you're buying goat kid milk replacer and colostrum if you can.  It's formulated for goats and has the nutrition that goat kids need.  In a pinch, a multi-species replacer or colostrum could be used until goat kid supplies can be bought.

Goat Kid Supplements

Occasionally you'll experience a weak goat kid.  Some veterinarians or farmers will lovingly refer to these as 'dummy' goat kids.  These weak kids will act uninterested in nursing.  If this continues, eventually they will starve to death.  This weak condition is due to a lack of thiamine, AKA vitamin B12.  You can purchase a thiamine injection from your local veterinarian.  It's a prescription and can't be bought over the counter.  If you have a weak kid that looks pretty rough, I'd recommend the injection.

You can purchase a vitamin B blend and probiotic paste over the counter.  It's a good idea to give this to your goat kids as a precaution.  It won't hurt them and it's hard to overdose goats with vitamin B, as they just urinate out the excess.  It's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. 

Make sure that you always have loose goat minerals available for all of your goats.  Goats easily suffer from copper and selenium deficiencies.  These deficiencies can be prevented easily with loose minerals.  Make sure that you buy goat minerals, not goat and sheep minerals.  Sheep don't need the same minerals that goats do, so the amounts of minerals needed by goats isn't met in the goat and sheep minerals.

Disbudding

If your goat kids are born with horns and you don't want them to have horns, you can quickly and easily prevent their horns from growing.  Goat kids will have small buds where their horns will grow from.  A dehorning/disbudding iron is used around these buds and cauterizes the tissue, preventing horn growth. 

The disbudding process should take place early, before the kid is 2 weeks old.  This makes the process easier on the goats and you.  If you wait much longer, it's likely that you'll have to repeat the process to make sure the buds are truly cauterized.  Not fun for you or the goat kids.

Place the goat kid in a disbudding box to hold him/her still so that you can cauterize without them moving around.  If you don't have a disbuddig box, its easy to build one.  Simply put, it's a wooden box that has a hinged top. The goat's body goes into the box.  A platform is built up under their stomach to prevent them from squatting down in the box. There is a hole in the front of the box that their head sticks out of.  Put them in the box and close the top. 

Love on them!

Goat kids are super soft and sweet.  They grow up fast, so love on them while they are little.  Getting them acquainted to you while they are small will make it easier on you when they are bigger.

Have fun with those babies!

Shelby DeVore is an agricultural enthusiast that enjoys writing about gardening, raising livestock and simple living. You can read her most recent posts on Farminence.com or follow Farminence on Pinterest and Twitter.


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Homescratch Homestead, Step 1: Creating a Treasure Map

 Finding the treasure

In the summer of 2017 my husband and I started looking for a home to invest in. With a 25% increase in our local housing market over the last couple of years, the initial idea of buying a house to flip was no longer a realistic possibility. The increase in the housing market had not quite reached land values so we turned our attention to finding a piece of property where we could create a small homestead. To afford the land and build a cabin would require us to take on the full process of the build from the design to the finished product. Although new construction required a bigger undertaking than remodeling, we were ready to take on the challenge. This would be Jordan’s biggest ground-up project as a licensed contractor. 

If you have ever sifted through real estate listings, you can relate to the overwhelming amount of opportunities available. Eliminating listings for houses honed in our search. Now that we were just looking at properties, there was another level of sorting to be done—raw land or land with infrastructure. While prices of raw land is enticing, infrastructure can be incredibly expensive. Digging a well can cost up to $100/foot and there are anecdotal tales in our area of digging over 300 feet and not even striking water. That’s an expensive guess. Septic has a lot of red tape with wetlands and installing an electrical transformer costs ~$5,000 plus extra fees to hook up any extensions. Due to these factors, we refined our search parameters to exclude raw land. Another cycle of elimination. 

As we were deciphering the factors that were important for us, a close friend advised us to create a map on a piece of paper, writing “treasure” in the center and extending lines to each important value that we wanted in the property. Other non-financial priorities included being close to our community, developing our property into a bigger site that included a future woodworking shop, establishing a small hobby farm, privacy, southern exposure with lots of sunlight, good views of the mountains and a place that we could happily live in temporarily or permanently. By mapping it out, he insisted that we would be creating a living guide to direct us to our future homestead. 

The treasure map for our future homestead.

Within a month of creating the treasure map, we were signing the closing documents as the new owners of a 2.5 acre level plat, bordered by a grove of aspens.

Some infrastructure was already in place, including a shared well, driveway and electric transformer. The commute to town is 17 minutes. The back field receives sunshine most of the day and there are two spots on the property with killer views. Not one of the listed priorities are convincing selling points on their own, but the culmination of the factors fit the scope of our search. I’m not sure if we would have been able to make the connection without the guidance of the treasure map. The map kept us on track and gave us accountability for the full scope of our desires. Once we had an actual tool to compare each new listing, the process of elimination was easy. When we discovered our property, each category was checked off and we knew this was the right place for us. The treasure map is a powerful and effective tool and I do recommend it if you are in the process of buying a house or property.

Lyndsay Dawson Mynatt is a dedicated forager, outdoor enthusiast, and blogger for MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Her published articles include: Build a DIY Cider Press in the 2015 September/October issue of GRIT and 5-Minute, 5-Ingredient Mayonnaise in the 2015 Best of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Follow her adventures at A Faithful Journey, and read all of Lyndsay's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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Reflecting on Life and Death on a Family Farm

White Wooly Sheep And Lamb 

It’s noon on a rainy, cold day in February and my son and daughter-in-law have brought in a newly born buckling goat. He’s having some issues: difficulty latching on to nurse, some fluid in the lungs, possibly something going on with his front legs. But I already know not to get attached, not to take cute little photos of him and post them on social media with excited captions, “Look at the new baby!” Because death is still too close by, waiting for a shot at him.

That has been one of the hardest things about moving from my previous life to the small family farm in rural Maine, where we live today. I had to learn that death is always happy to grab what it can, every chance it gets. I had to learn the reality of that old expression, “If you’re gonna have livestock, you’re gonna have dead stock.”

Fortunately, my daughter-in-law was a vet tech, attended vet school for some time, and she quickly passed a feeding tube, made appropriate assessments and has handed off a well-fed, but possibly hypothermic little buckling to be wrapped up and warmed inside my house robe for the day, while I write.

I have been a human heater for piglets, turkeys, baby chicks, lambs, and goats thus far. I’ve worn injured chickens in my sweatshirt and baby turkeys in my bra. I’ve carried lambs in a hurriedly rigged baby sling. I have held those babies for hours, willing them to life. Sometimes I win, sometimes death wins.

But it’s a fact of farming if your farm includes animals.

I had horses in my previous life. We had four acres outside Los Angeles, and I saw death from time to time due to colic, trailer accidents, age and so on. I had owned dogs, cats, birds — even mice, when I was a child. I thought I was equal parts compassionate and pragmatic about dying animals. But it still didn’t prepare me for what felt like the onslaught of death in the first few years on the farm.

Piglets were crushed by their mothers, lambs were suffocated in the night by a concerned but first-time mother, a dozen baby ducks, waddling in line behind their mother one day, carried off by a bald eagle the next. And turkeys just being turkeys, who knows why they died. We were told it was a “bad batch”. I knew my heart had hardened quite a bit when I found a tiny piece of fleecy white lamb skin in one of the fields after a new lamb had gone missing. Well, the wildlife was getting fed was all I could think.

That's what happens: baby animals die, aged animals die. They get sick; they get injured and must be put out of pain. Other animals eat them, or it's time to slaughter and butcher them.

We raise turkeys, chickens and pigs for meat. When it’s time for them to go to freezer camp (yes, you develop some dark humor on the farm), I watch as the turkeys and chickens I fed and tended go to slaughter. I'm not yet able to handle the killing, or evisceration (or even plucking, really), but my son assures me that I'll learn to process chickens at some point. I remain doubtful and unenthusiastic.

Rescued Young Chicken In Towel

But let me stress, you can’t get away with being like me, if you're going to raise animals.  You need to have someone willing to do the killing. Because if there are animals, there will be a need for killing for a variety of reasons.

In the past, I've had to wait hours for a vet to come put down an injured horse. In one case, it was a horrible injury to a neighbor’s horse, compounded by the horse's frantic reaction to the pain; and I had to watch the worst two hours of suffering as I tried, helplessly, to keep the poor animal calm.

It made me wish I had the emotional strength and knowledge to handle a gun myself. My daughter-in-law’s veterinary knowledge allows us to save every life that can be saved here. But it is my son’s compassion for animals that extends all the way to helping them quickly end their time when there is suffering (Lucy, the pig, gratefully drank a couple of beers prior to leaving this world, and was happily soused). 

You could get really bummed seeing all that death. Except the Universe keeps offering up replacements. New life keeps blooming and bursting around us. Soon after we lost a goat and two sheep, we got a new bull calf. As the turkeys and ducks died, we had new chickens and ducklings hatch. A fabulous new kitty, Maynard, was brought home to replace a dearly beloved hit by a car. More piglets were born, squealing and adorable. One of our sheep lambed a perfect little ewe lamb, Fiona. Life keeps offering itself up.

In those first years, it seemed that the universe was, perhaps, preparing me, because amidst all of the farm life-and-death, a human life ended. The father of my children and husband of 29 years was diagnosed with brain cancer and died very quickly back in California. Although we were divorced several years, I had spent half my life with him. It was shocking and sudden and sad. But the Universe had just given us an offering — a new life — my grandson, Oran (named after my amazing stepfather, who also died of brain cancer). Not a replacement, certainly, but a message of the eternal circle of life and death.

A combat veteran told me that many of today's soldiers are coming home with PTSD in part because they are more often from the city than from a farm. They have not experienced life and death and life and death and death and death and death like you do on a farm. They see death and don't know for certain, like farmers do, that life keeps offering itself up; life keeps coming back for another go at it. It's the knowing that for certain that makes the difference. 

After these few years here as a farmer, I now know for certain: Death takes us all. And Life goes on.

Author’s Note: In the time it took for me to write, proof and post this, the little goat died, and twin black lambs were born. On and on.

Norma Vela is a television writer in Maine with a fixation for land, horses and gardening. She owns a rope basket-making business, Tether Made, with her son-in-law and daughter and is learning surface pattern design, illustration, watercolor and digital art. Connect with Norma at Dovetail Family Farm.


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Rare Breed Conservation and Other Reasons to Buy from Local Poultry Breeders

Two White Geese In Pen 

Spring is finally here. This means that soon all of your local feed stores will be having chicks arrive and the temptation can be overbearing (chicken math anyone?). With this said, there can be some issues that can come with baby chicks purchased from local stores. In my personal experience, chicks and ducklings bought from local breeders are hardier, healthier, and overall happier.

Many local poultry breeders are conservationists and work towards improving a line of poultry. They all work toward a “Standard of Perfection” as defined by the American Poultry Association. Others breed for barnyard mixes but they are just as amazing.

With local breeders, you can find poultry and waterfowl that no other person may have as they are not available in such large quantities. Another plus is that purchasing straight from a farm means that your new chicks, ducklings, or goslings do not suffer from shipment distress and this helps with mortality rate in the long run. There are many things that can go wrong with shipping also from long distances:

The package is lost.

The chicks are shipped when it is too cold or too hot.

They are stored in an area with very little ventilation.

They get stressed.

Benefits of Choosing a Local Poultry Breeder

Support your local economy. Purchasing from a local poultry keeper helps your farming community also in the long run. The funds that normally are spent at a big feed store go to help your local farmer with feed or other materials.

Local knowledge. If you are new to chickens and waterfowl, your local breeder may be more than willing to share years of experience and what works best for which breeds.

Make smarter choices. Your local farmers may also have different breeds that lay different shades of eggs or are a dual-purpose breed. This means that they can be used for meat or eggs.

Find new breeds. There are some very amazing breeds out there that many hatcheries will not have that local breeders may. Before I started learning about conservation, I never knew just how many breeds were available. I also liked how I could choose exactly what I wanted. It wasn’t a surprise nor was I pulling from a brooder only labeled “rainbow” or “bantams”. I could see the parents onsite and see how they feathered in or grew out.

Prioritize health. When purchasing from a feed store, chicks can be exposed to many respiratory germs that may not be present in a local farmers stock. A lot of the local breeders that I have seen in my state practice very strict bio-security to protect their parent flocks. Some hatcheries do vaccinate while others don’t and when you purchase from a store, you may not be able to find out if they had vaccinations or not. This is not always made clear when they are dropped off.

Speckled Hen On Egg Box

Local Breeders Can Support Livestock Conservation

Not only does local purchasing help your local poultry breeder, but it also helps with conservation of specific breeds. Some breeds such as the Golden Campine are in danger of becoming extinct, according to the Livestock Conservancy. There are only a few breeders left in the United States and this hinders genetic diversity of a breed.

If you can find a local breeder that participates in the National Poultry Improvement Program, this is a plus! You can also actually see what condition the breeder keeps their birds in.

A minor flaw is that many poultry breeders cannot sex day-old chicks so they must sell them as “straight run”. I consider this a plus, because unless you are zoned against roosters, extra roosters can be an awesome source of meat. Many Hatcheries kill off day-olds if they are roosters. I am a firm believer in sustainable agriculture and think that culling day olds is a waste of future meat.

Another great point is that sometimes breeders rotate their stock, so you might be able to get the breed that you want and she is already laying or he is already crowing. You can also get a feel for what their personalities are when you buy local.

Many breeders are amazing people. Occasionally, you will get someone who is only in it for the money. Always do your homework and ask around your area.

Photo by Kayla Kincaid Photography

Marissa Buchanan is the owner of Buchanan’s Barnyard, a mini-pig rescue and poultry conservation farm. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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Composting with Worms

worms with parsley

Photo courtesy of Monte Larson

When my wife suggested we keep vermiculture worms in our home, my first reaction was “yuck.” I pictured thousands of worms crawling along the baseboards and walls.

“If they’re fed and watered,” she said, “they stay in the bin.” As a child, she dug worms to sell to anglers at Willard Bay. None, apparently, escaped from the peanut-butter jars or soup cans in which she kept them.

Still, the idea of bringing worms into the house unnerved me. “Can’t we keep them outside?”

“Summers are too hot,” she said, “and winters are way too cold.”

“How about the garage?”

“Still too cold.” I checked the thermometers. The one in the garage read 34 degrees Fahrenheit; the outdoor one read 6 degrees. Winters in northern Utah are like that.

I sighed. “Well, then, where were you thinking?”

“The utility room in the basement.” A hopeful smile formed on her lips. “The floors are concrete, and there’s even a floor drain.”

It sounded reasonable. Our basement is partially underground, so it remains cool when it’s hot outside. And when it’s cold, the worms would keep warm from the furnace.

“If even a single worm escapes,” I said. “They need to go.”

“It’s a deal.”

Choosing a Vermiculture Worm Bin

An hour later, we received an email confirmation saying that 2,000 red wrigglers were on their way.  

Our first task involved creating a habitat for the worms. We considered the options. Food-grade plastic bins would work, and have the advantage of not decomposing. But we prefer natural fibers, which do decompose (after all, that’s what composting is about), even though it means having to replace the bin when it rots.

Since “treated wood or any that contains a natural pest deterrent (such as cedar, redwood, and cypress) may be toxic to worms,” we avoided those as well.

In the end, we found an untreated pine bin — 44 inches long by 18 inches high by 15 inches deep — on legs at a thrift store, and decided on that. (Worms regulate their population based on the size of their space, so we weren’t concerned about their outgrowing their home.) We placed the bin in the utility room where the temperature remains within the 55- to 77-dgree range, preferable for red wrigglers.

We lined the bin with a two-inch layer of straw, half an inch of solid newspaper (no glossies), a layer of cardboard, four inches of shredded newspaper, and a handful of grit, which the worms need for digestion (they don’t have teeth).

The following week, a corrugated box arrived in the mail.

Transferring Mail-Order Worms to the Worm Bin

I donned thick cotton gloves, and then we carefully opened the box. Inside was a breathable pouch, which held oodles of worms wriggling through clumps of moist dirt. (We didn’t count them, but from the looks, all 2,000 plus quite a few offspring had reached us alive.)

My wife shook the worms into the bin and covered them with five inches of thinly-shredded newspaper pre-soaked in a bucket of water. Then she propped up the lid with a wedge to provide ventilation. Since worms prefer dark, we kept the light on for the first few days to encourage them to remain beneath the top layer of newspaper. It worked.

A week later, we lifted the newspaper to check on the worms. There they were wriggling about and eating their bedding, which they’d already begun to break down.

We began feeding them vegetable scraps (washed, so as not to introduce insect eggs into the bin), coffee grounds, coffee filters, tea leaves, teabags (minus the staples), and shredded newspaper. To keep their habitat moist, we spritzed them with water.

How to Feed Vermicomposting Worms

Over the years, we’ve continued to feed them when most of their food (not including the bedding) is gone and water them when their habitat is no longer moist. In both cases, this means about once a week.

Once a month we add grit in the form of a handful of crushed cooked eggshells, oyster shells (the same ones we feed to our hens to keep their eggshells firm) or sand. We also replenish the bedding.

No meat. No fats. No spices. No potatoes. No tomatoes. No citrus. No dairy. No salt.

We avoid flour and grains since they tend to grow moldy.

And for those who’ve asked, no french fries, marshmallows or cake.

According to the University of Oregon Extension, “When in doubt, leave it out”.

Though it would be okay to do so, we do not offer our worms fruit peels or scraps so as not to attract fruit flies. We also avoid alliums (e.g. garlic and onions) to prevent the compost bin from developing a stench.

Success on both accounts: we’ve never had a fruit fly or detected an unpleasant odor.

What we do have are 70 to 80 pounds a year of low-maintenance, nutrient-rich compost. Precious in any climate, it has proven indispensable in ours where the growing season for many plants is especially short.

Harvesting and Fertilizing with Worm Castings

We’ve experimented with starting seeds indoors both with and without castings. For large varieties of tomatoes, including Brandywines and Cherokee purples, adding worm castings to the potting soil means having the plants grow quickly enough so that the fruit ripens before the first frost. This has proven true for ground cherries and Crenshaw melons too.  

We harvest the castings twice a year, once in early spring to use for our plant starts, and then again in the fall to replenish our vegetable beds, fruit trees, and bushes.

There are several methods to harvest castings. One, referred to as hands-on, is to scoop the worms and castings onto a tarp, and then pick out the worms and return them to the bin. What remains is the compost.

Another, referred to as side-to-side, is to stop adding newspaper, water, and food to the area slated for harvest. This process encourages the worms to migrate to the side of the bin that contains nourishment and bedding. Within two or three weeks, most of the worms will have moved. Then the castings can be removed from the depleted side of the bin.

We prefer the latter method since it takes less time. I also favor it since it means not having to handle legions of worms.

Why do we practice vermiculture? One reason, already mentioned, is that the castings facilitate seed growth and add nutrients to soil and plants.

But there’s another reason too. Though we don’t grow our own coffee and tea (would that we could), we do keep chickens and grow most of our produce. By saving seed, planting that seed, giving some scraps to the chickens and some to the worms (and adding the remainder to the outdoor compost bin), we foster a closed-loop cycle on our homestead. Little in this loop comes from a store; little goes to the landfill. It supports a healthy ecosystem. It’s also fulfilling.

I lift the top layer of shredded newspaper from the left side of the bin. The worms are busy eating sunchoke scraps from their previous feeding. I add to their meal a bowlful of cooked butternut squash peels. Then I soak shredded newspaper in a bucket of water, and place it on top of the decomposing newspaper that’s already there.

In the six years we’ve kept red wrigglers, not a single worm has escaped. But even if one did, it wouldn’t be a deal breaker. I’d simply lift it bare-fingered into the bin.

Felicia Rose is a food and agriculture columnist and permaculture farmer. She moved from New York to a homestead in northern Utah several years ago, where she now grows and preserves tomatoes, arugula, garlic, rhubarb, and many other crops. Read all Felicia’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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Homesteading With Young Children

Are you interested in homesteading with young kids? Not sure if you can do it safely and without wearing yourself to the ground? Here are my tips and real life experiences homesteading with my young kids and husband. In my video, I talk a lot about how I cope with the lack of sleep and the all-consuming attention that it requires to parent young children. They are adorable and fun, but also exhausting at times.

Kid washing dishes

In this article, I want to cover some of the additional key things that a family needs to watch out for with young children. My husband is a total expert in keeping safety at the forefront of our minds at all times, so I try to take a page from his book as often as I can.

We like to take things slowly as a family. That means focusing on the super important critical projects and leaving everything else to sort itself out in time. So, the first projects we tackled when we moved to our farm included: fixing up the bathroom and setting up a really basic, functional kitchen (without running water). We left out projects that were more about prettiness, like putting laminate on the floors instead of the old carpet, or replacing a door that was damaged leading to the balcony (we simply screwed plywood over the opening).  

How does all this relate to having young kids on the farm? Simply that when you go fast, you are more likely get injured or injure someone around you and make mistakes that cost more time and money. With young kids in your family, you have to have patience and take it slow so that everyone is safe and only the essential things are handled. As time goes on and the kids get more capable and able to look after themselves, then the family can move on to projects that make us happy like building an outdoor cob oven or setting up a sauna.  

Safety on the Farm

Many, many things can injure children and babies, so it’s important to think realistically about what you can accomplish with just one parent working on dangerous projects while the other cares for the kids. Having said that, a lot of projects can also involve the kiddos with a healthy awareness of safety.

In other words:

Using a table saw or operating a welder = bad idea with little kids wandering around

Building garden beds with supervision (and wood pre-cut) = good learning experience! But, you will likely be doing 95% of the work yourself, while the littles run off to chase a ladybug or point out something super interesting to their little creative minds. Still fun to have the family out together doing a project, though!

That was a bit trite, but for those of you who have zero experience with kids, that will give you an idea of what you can accomplish with little kids and what projects will need to have the kids sent off with another parent or relative to keep things safe.

Really young babies can be hard (but not impossible!) to incorporate into a new homestead, so it might be easier to wait until they are at least a year old before starting your homestead (if you have the luxury of planning ahead like that!). A walking one year-old can help with cleaning up toys, carrying small loads of sticks or hay, and can fetch things and go on little errands. They can be a handful though, and will get into everything so you need to have baby-proofing planned out.

Having said all of that, a newborn can go into Mama’s baby sling and get carried around while you garden, cook, preserve, and care for animals. But it’s important to make sure that Mama is getting enough rest, since giving birth and nursing 24/7 is hard on the body. So don’t overdo it, Mama! If you’re prepared to carry baby lots, then go for the farm life with a small infant, if not, wait until Baby is older.

Health

A big part of homesteading involves keeping mice out of buildings, and in particular, your home. It’s surprising how small of a hole a mouse can get in, and they will get in if you leave it open. Examples: In an open crawl space or dirt floor basement, under the eaves of your home, attics, in garages that are attached to your home, between the logs of a log cabin, and so many other places. It’s not a romantic view of homesteading and it’s also seriously concerning for the health of young babies and kids.

You need to fill all holes in your home and put trim tight around exterior or garage doors before moving in with your young kids. My husband went to our farm before we brought the kids here, and filled in all of the holes so that mice wouldn’t get in. Before he did that, they were running around everywhere and using carpet and insulation as mouse hotels. He thoroughly cleaned everything, caulked all doorways, under baseboards, and around windows to keep them out. This also helps with flies and wasps and any other bug that want to get in for a dry place to live. A lot of times when you buy a homestead, there are existing buildings that are run-down and those buildings will definitely have mice in them. Just assume it, and prevent them from entering before moving in.   

Now, what have your experiences with young kids been? I’m sure there are some older and wiser people out there that were raised on a farm and have some great stories to tell about when they were young! I would love to hear your perspective!

Rosemary Hansen is an author, homesteading Mama, and a chef. She has spent the last 10 years “homesteading” in the city. She and her family have just started their off-grid homestead in rural British Columbia, Canada. Her books, Grow a Salad In Your City Apartment and Rosemary’s Natural Cosmetic Guide are a great way to ease into a healthy, pure lifestyle. You can connect with Rosemary at her website: www.RosemaryPureLiving.com or on her YouTube channel. Read all of Rosemary's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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