November 1, 2014

New Project - Need Readers' Help!

I'm embarking on a new project - a series of eBooks I'm calling The Little Series of Homestead How-Tos. The original idea was a follow-up to 5 Acres & A Dream The Book, how-to paperback. Although 5 Acres The Book contains a few homesteading how-tos, it was mostly meant to be the story of Dan's and my up and down journey toward becoming more self-sufficient. After a discussion about eBooks at my author blog, I decided to learn how to make eBooks. The individual how-to ideas seemed a good place to start.

So, I've gotten a start and I need feedback. I have several concerns, and who better to help me than my wonderful blog readers.

The first two are ready for your perusal and input. Below I'll give you links plus a coupon code to download them for free at Smashwords. They are available there for any type of eReader (including Kindle), plus a PDF version to read on any computer.

What I need your comments on:

1. Price. I've priced them at 99¢ each. The question is, is that a fair price considering how short these little how-tos are? This is a much talked about topic amongst eBook authors and many fiction writers offer anything under 6,000 to 7,000 words for free. On the other hand, research shows readers are willing to pay a little more for non-fiction because of the perceived value of the information. Mine are 3500 - 4300 words. What do you think? Is 99¢ an acceptable price?

2. Formatting. There many different eReaders and each one formats what you see on the screen differently; like viewing a webpage with different browsers. I went with both Amazon (Kindle) and Smashwords, because Smashwords enables authors to create eBooks in all formats: epub, mobi, pdf, rtf, lrf, pdb, txt, and html. I've had a lot of trouble with the epub edition and on 2 of my 3 computer epub readers, the book looks terrible. Please let me know which version you download, what you read it on, and how it looks to you. 

3. Other. For example: overall appearance, content, images, usefulness, subject appeal, anything else you can think of, etc.

4. If after all that you think the project is worth it, tell me what else you'd like to see in the series. (It's also okay to tell me if you think it isn't worth it.) Some of my ideas for future books in the series include:
  • How To Peel Tomatoes For Canning Without Boiling Water 
  • How To Mix Your Own Feed Rations With The Pearson Square 
  • How To Make Butter & Whipped Cream From Goats Milk
  • How To Make An Herbal Salve 
  • How To Make Yogurt & Yogurt Cheese Without Electricity
  • How To Whitewash a Chicken Coop
  • How To Install Fence 
  • How To Make Kefir 
  • How To Husk Sunflowers 
  • How To Make Goats Milk Mozzarella 
  • How To Lacto-Ferment Anything 
  • How To Render Animal Fat 
  • How To Bake Without Baking Powder 
  • How To Determine Soil Texture 
  • How To Save Seeds
  • How To Hard Boil Eggs Without Water 
  • Suggestions?????

Now for the codes. I'm only able to offer discount codes with Smashwords. Kindle Direct Publishing only allows eBooks for free if they are part of their Kindle Select Program. That means making the book exclusive for Kindle, which I did not want to do. There are other eReaders out there and for those without, pdf is the way to go.

For Smashwords:

Both codes expire Nov. 7 at midnight. You will have to set up a Smashwords account to take advantage of this offer.

At Amazon: If you prefer Amazon's convenient wireless delivery to your Kindle, you can purchase them there for 99¢ each. (Also available at Amazon websites in UK, IN, DE, FR, ES, IT, JP, BR, CA, MX, and AU).

Smashwords distributes to Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Oyster, Scribd, PageFoundry, Flipkart, and Baker & Taylor, so my eBooks should start to show up at these sites soon. They also distribute to public libraries through Library Direct, Baker & Taylor's Axis360, and OverDrive. That means you can request you local library to buy them too.

Lastly, if you think this project is a useful idea, please help me by reviewing them at Amazon, Smashwords, or your own website. Reviews are what make self-publishing worth it.

So that's it. New additions to the series probably won't come out very quickly, but for those who would like to know when they do, I've set up an email list for notifications. Shoot an email to littlehomesteadhow-tos (at) (dot) net. The list will only be used to announce new releases to the series.

Now go grab a copy of each and let me know what you think.

October 29, 2014

Determining Pregnancy in Goats

Is she or isn't she? That's always the question after an attempted breeding. Even a seemingly successful mating can turn out unsuccessful. One year I thought I had kids coming and dried up my does only to have no kids. It was a disappointment to say the least. This year I'm hoping Surprise is bred to Gruffy. If she is, it would mean my first homegrown Kinder kids! The blessed event would take place around March 13. That means I need to dry her up in January. If she isn't, I want to know too, so I can continue to give her and Gruffy a chance. And if all else is a fail, there's no sense drying her up at all.

So, I've been researching pregnancy testing for goats. The only ways to positively confirm a goat pregnancy are either with a laboratory test or an ultrasound. If the doe doesn't go into heat again, there's a good chance she's pregnant, but I've seen Surprise flirt and tease the bucks when a later delivery date showed she was already pregnant. The signs and symptoms visible to the goat keeper (increased girth size and abdominal movement) are not accurate because a full, active rumen will cause the same things.

One way is to have a blood test done by a veterinarian. We had one done about 2.5 years ago for $25. In addition, there are labs out there which will do the testing for less if you provide the vials of blood. That means you either have to draw the blood yourself or have someone do it for you. Here are a few options for those wishing to go that route, along with links and other relevant information.

Labs which perform blood tests:
  • BioPRYN by BioTracking ($6.50 plus blood tubes. For an additional fee can have the same sample tested for CAE.)
  • DG29 Complete Test Kits by Genex (6 kits for $32)

Labs which test blood serum or milk:

Home test kit for progesterone (blood or milk):
  • BOVIPREG by TwilCanada Inc. (10 kits for $50 plus shipping)

How to draw blood on a goat:

Ultrasound machines usually run around $4500, plus require training to learn. One that is often mentioned by goat owners is Preg-Tone. It costs about $475 and some say it gives accurate results.

Over at  The Goat Spot Forum, I found a discussion about goat pregnancy tests and several "folk" tests for which there were varying opinions about accuracy. 

Bleach Test. Add 2cc of urine to 1 cup of bleach (WARNING: do not add bleach to urine). Bubbling or fizzing will occur as a reaction to the pH differences in the two liquids. Results are positive if the solution continues to foam, negative if it stops after about a minute. This is said to be 95-97% accurate, but would obviously require several trial attempts to learn about the foaming.

Dandelion Test. Place half a dozen dandelion leaves on a sheet of newspaper. Pour urine over leaves and wait 10 minutes. Results are said to be positive if the leaves form reddish blisters, negative if they don't.

Pine Sol Test. This one seems to be the most vague in terms of specific amounts and time. Add a bit of urine to a small jar filled with Pine Sol. A color change may indicate a possible positive result.

One thing that won't work is a human home pregnancy test kit. This is because it measures human chorionic gonadotropin, which goats obviously don't produce.

As you can see, there are quite a few choices available. I purchased red top blood tubes last year but never used them. I may give it a try this year on Surprise. I may try the folk tests on her too. I'll let you know what happens.

October 27, 2014

Decision About the Front Porch Foundation

In "Porch Foundation - An Upcoming Challenge", I showed you the poor condition of that foundation. Like the rest of the house, it's brick. We discussed all the options we could think of but decided to reuse what we had - bricks!

It was the most economical solution because only a bag of concrete had to be purchased. We also agreed that it would look better than other options because it would be consistent with the rest of the house. I think it turned out pretty good. He reused the vents too.

It was impossible to match the color of the old mortar, which was white, aged over the years. Dan lamented over that, but I think that once the porch is finished, the actual brickwork will not be what catches the eye, it will be the front door, windows, and color, plus all the plantings in my herb and flower beds.

Dan is self taught (with the help of a couple of books and Youtube. What can you not find on Youtube?) and I think he did a very nice job. One question that we had was whether or not the originally builder put in a footer. Dan dug down and discovered it was brick too.

So the first step toward reconstruction has been taken. The next step will be the floor framing.

October 25, 2014

Garden's Summer End

We're awaiting our first frost. No complaints about it's not being here yet, because that means we're still getting a few things from the garden; like tomatoes and peppers.

Also enough okra for an occasional sidedish.

Still harvesting black turtle beans. The plants are about played out but I'll continue to get a few more until frost kills them.

We just finished harvesting sweet potatoes the other day. Some of the Beauregards are huge.

These are from slips that I bought at the feed store. I planted them first. Some of you may recall the trouble I had making my own slips, until I figured out the culprit was our city water. The Vardamans were planted later and are not so big.

They are prettier than the Beauregards, but there aren't as many because I only planted one bed.

Zuchetta summer squash is maturing for next year's seed. Ditto for green beans.

And look what likes the lovely October weather!

I ought to have planted a fall garden by now, but have decided that the garden needs a major overhaul. I'm going to get everything harvested and then we're going to go at it. More on that later.

October 23, 2014

Working Smarter Not Harder With Pigs

Awhile back I told you about the pigs and the ground ivy. Also about what an amazing job they do as natural tillers of the soil. They have been hard at it.

Our pigs have done a lot toward eliminating the ground ivy.
Much of it is just lying loosely on the ground.

They haven't done a perfect job, but they've made better progress than we ever could have done. Results are pretty inconsistent, but what they do get, they really get. Apparently they are eating part of the root system because after it lies uprooted for awhile, it dies.

Pig killed ground ivy

As every gardener knows, tilling, plowing, hoeing, even had pulling of weeds isn't this efficient, because if some bit of root system is left behind, the weeds don't waste any time taking over again. The timing was perfect, however, because it is time to plant for winter pasture. Once Dan had the front porch torn down and the roof supported, we moved the pigs and goats out, got to work.

Raking up the pig-pulled ground ivy

The above attachment came with our walk-behind tractor. I would have thought it's a cultivator, but it was advertised as a rake. It was perfect for raking up what the pigs had turned up.  The chickens got this.

Ground ivy for chickens. Well, not the ivy, but they found stuff in the dirt!

Dan disced it too, and then I planted with a mix of orchard grass, ludino clover, chicory, and deer forage seed (contains things goats like: wheat, annual rye, oats, brassicas, clover). I added saved garden seeds such as peas, kale, radish, and parsnip, plus herb seeds I'd gathered from my herb garden: thyme, yarrow, echinacea, marjoram, and mint.

The camera lens makes it look much more expansive than it really is.

I planted the two ends of the field, where the ground ivy had completely taken over. I'm guessing it will take over again, but thanks to the pigs, we've been able to reclaim it for awhile.

This is one of two pasture areas we're working on. The other is the buck pasture, the one Dan plowed earlier this month.

As you can see, it's a lot more work without the pigs!

It's doing beautifully.

I had the deer forage seed first so I planted it first. The orchard grass is just beginning to sprout and grow.

Now we have to wait and pray for the right amount of rain to get things growing. This will be winter and spring forage for our goats. The orchard grass is a perennial and I'm hoping it will last for several years without being overrun with the ground ivy.