November 28, 2016

Winter House Project

It won't be long before our home-milled lumber is cured and we can get to work on the Big Barn. While we're waiting seemed a good time to schedule the next house project on the list - a new front window for the front bedroom.

These windows are original to the house, and like the others we've replaced they are single-glazed and not in good repair.

Aluminum storm windows make for a second layer, but aluminum is a terrible insulator and not very energy efficient. The screens are nice to have though.

Photo taken May 2009. More photos of this room here.

When we first moved in we used this room as our bedroom. It was terribly cold and drafty, so that we were extremely glad to move out of it and into the master suite Dan made. This front bedroom is now a storage room.

We are going to replace the two old windows with one horizontal slider window. We got this one as part of a fantastic package deal when we bought the dining room windows (three new windows for $50). It will be placed in approximately the top-half space of the two existing windows.

It's smaller than the current windows, so hopefully this will be a straightforward job (ha! We all know how that goes!) We'll insulate the remaining space but wait to finish the interior wall. Mainly we want to get the window in, the exterior siding up, and the front porch painted. At least that's the plan.

Click here for part two.

Winter House Project © November 2016 

November 25, 2016

Ideas for Your Holiday Gift List

With the official holiday shopping madness upon us, I hope you'll indulge me in a little shameless self-promotion. I'd like to share my offerings for inexpensive books for the homesteading inclined on your gift list. If you're like me, then you are looking for bargains that will be meaningful to the recipient, while avoiding the crowds and chaos of holiday shopping. Between Smashword's easy gift giving option and the discount coupons listed below, you can do that.

In this post you'll find a rundown of my new projects plus discount codes for all my books, both electronic and paperback.

Critter Tales Series was an experiment in turning a print book into an eBook. I prefer print, but a lot of people request electronic versions. The challenge was that the text file was too large for proper eBook conversion, so it became a series. Critter Tales lent itself quite well to this format, and it makes the stories and information available to someone interested in only one critter rather than all.

You can see all the volumes with links to descriptions here. I'm offering them at 50% off between now and Dec. 31st. Codes and links below.

The Little Series of Homestead How-Tos, How-To Goat Bundle #1 is my first eBook bundle. It combines four of my previously published goat how-tos for half the price, and I'm offering a 50%- off discount code on top of that.

It contains:
  • How To Make a Buck Rag: & other good things to know about breeding your goats
  • How To Garden For Goats: gardening, foraging, small scale grain and hay, & more
  • How To Mix Feed Rations With The Pearson Square: grains, protein, calcium, phosphorous, balance, & more
  • How to Get Cream from Goats' Milk: make your own butter, whipped cream, ice cream, & more

Click here for details about the book itself, then scroll down to the bottom of this post for the code.

Volume 13 in the series
How To Compost With Chickens: Work smarter not harder for faster compost & happier chickens is my newest addition to The Little Series of Homestead How-Tos. It discusses how to adapt composting to accommodate chickens including a plan for a simple, economical, chicken-friendly compost bin.

The above title links to its webpage, and you can get it for 50% off with the code and link below. I'm also offering codes for all twelve volumes in the series. For titles and descriptions, click here.

While I'm on a roll, also please consider my paperbacks:

Coupon codes below are for 30% off each title.

About the discount codes. I can only offer these for specific sellers, because not all sellers allow me to discount my own books. The eBook codes are good only at Smashwords, and the paperback codes are good only at CreateSpace. Titles below are linked to their sales pages, where you'll use the code at checkout. Codes are good for as many copies as you'd like - no limit. Codes expire December 31, 2016.

Critter Tales Series - 50% off each title.

The Little Series of Homestead How-Tos - 50% off each title
How-To Goat Bundle #1 - XS25J

Paperbacks - 30% off each title

November 22, 2016


Just when I was beginning to think that our mild autumn days would never end, the forecast came in - not for our first frost - but for a hard freeze. We spent all day Saturday getting ready for winter.

My first order of business was to rehang the dining room curtains.

Closed at night for added protection against the cold.

Open during the day to let the sunlight and warmth in.

It's almost a shame to cover up those pretty new windows, isn't it? But increased energy efficiency is more important than being able to admire our handiwork.

Next I moved into the garden. We don't have much growing there anymore, but a freeze would certainly bring an end to the little we were getting.

I got a good amount of green tomatoes. Some I'll let ripen, but we
had to have yummy fried green tomatoes with our Sunday burgers. 😋

Dan helped me cover the hoop house.

This year we added a door! Don't laugh! It's the old door from our original chicken coop. Not a perfect fit but pretty close.

Where our chickens used to live.

Our chickens used to share the old shed with the goats. Chickens on one side, goats on the other, with the milking room and feed storage in the middle. We saved their door when we built our current chicken coop.

I just hope I don't regret reusing last year's polyurethane on the hoop house. It's just utility grade, which means it's cheap, but it doesn't have UV protection. That means the sun will dry it out and deteriorate it faster than plastic with UV protection. Greenhouse grade would last longer, but I haven't found that locally yet, and the cost of shipping nowadays often prevents me from buying better products than what I can find close to home. We plan to upgrade this as soon as we can.

I had only one winterization job for the goat shed, to cover the remaining original window.

Nails in strips of cardboard hold the plastic in place.

You may recall that the Little Barn is actually built onto the original goat and chicken shed. Dan made window covers for the newly built part, but not the old. This old window gives light and allows in lovely breezes during summer, but it creates cold drafts during winter. Eventually we'll re-side the old section of the shed and build in new windows, but for now I covered it with an piece of old shower curtain, doubled. We still get the light but not the cold air.

While I did that, Dan filled the wood box.

On my way back into the house, I brought in my three potted plants.

Aloe vera, Meyers lemon, and ginger.

The Meyers lemon and aloe vera will do okay on the unheated back porch, but the ginger plant will need to be brought in where it stays a bit warmer. It doesn't much like temperatures below 50°F (10°C).

The next morning the temperature was well below freezing. The odd thing was that there was no frost. That's how dry we are. I was happy to see that the Little Barn remained about 10 degrees warmer than the outside air.

The only thing I forgot to do was to find my winter gloves. By the time I got in from morning chores, my fingers were freezing. That made the fire in the cookstove all the more welcome.

With a pot of oatmeal on top cooking for breakfast.

I know quite a few of you in North America have been getting snow! Any of you in that camp? How about the rest of the world?

Winterizing © November 2016 by Leigh 

November 19, 2016

Putting Eggs By

Winter is very unpredictable when it comes to eggs. Most winters I get an egg or two per day, but sometimes I get none. Chickens don't lay when they're molting, of course, and lay less when daylight hours get short. Our winter diet adjusts to having less eggs, but also I preserve as many as possible for when laying times are lean. I do this by freezing, dehydrating, and water glassing.

Freezing eggs is fast and easy. Simply beat them as for scrambled eggs, pour into ice cube trays or muffin cups and pop in the freezer. After they're frozen I put them in freezer bags to save on space. Frozen eggs are great for baking, scrambled eggs, or omelets; I just have to remember to allow time to defrost.

I use ice cubed eggs as small singles.
A muffin cup will hold close to two eggs.

I've only frozen about six dozen eggs so far. That's not a lot, but honestly, we eat one egg meal per day when laying is good and I'm a little tired of eggs! (scrambled, fried, egg salad, hard-boiled, deviled eggs, quiche, French toast, you name it.)

Dehydrating is the most intensive in terms of energy and labor, but powdered eggs are easiest to use, plus they take up the least amount of storage space (cool storage is recommended to prolong shelf life). They can be reconstituted with an equal amount of warm water or milk to make scrambled eggs or quiche. Or they can be added as powder to doughs and batters.

Dehydrating eggs is next on my to-do list. The basic process is to beat as for scrambled and dry in the dehydrator at 145°F (63°C). It must be noted, however, that this will not kill Salmonella (which is why commercially dried eggs are pasteurized.) Salmonella requires temperatures of 160°F (71°C), so you must either thoroughly cook anything containing your dried eggs, or dehydrate them scrambled.

I use foil for the liquid eggs, but I read a fruit leather sheet works well. 

Break the sheet of dried eggs into smaller pieces and use a blender to powder. There are more details at the link above, or check out my offer below.

Water glassing is the other thing I've learned how to do.

What the heck is that? Well, it's on old-fashioned way of keeping eggs without refrigeration.

All that's needed is a crock, water (boiled and cooled), fresh unwashed eggs, and water glass.

The technical name for water glass is sodium silicate. Back in the day it was readily available at any hardware store, but nowadays it's difficult to find. It's also used to seal cement floors and glue cardboard boxes together, so you may be able to find it in one of those sections in your home improvement store. Most floor sealers, however, have other additives, which does not recommend them for egg preservation. Check the label! Pure water glass can be purchased online, at Amazon for example.

The eggs must be very fresh, clean, and unwashed. Washing the eggs removes their natural protective coating (the bloom) and decreases storage life.

The proportions are 11 parts water to 1 part water glass. That's a total of 12 parts, so I work with multiples equaling 12 when I mix this. For example:
3 cups = 12 quarter-cups
so use
2.75 cups (11 quarter-cups) water
0.25 cup (1 quarter-cup) water glass

For my one-gallon crock I tripled that. I used 8.25 cups water and 0.75 cups water glass. That generously covered two dozen eggs. The contents of the crock will evaporate over time, so it needs to be checked periodically and topped off with more water glass to keep the eggs submerged.

To use the eggs, simply rinse them off and use like fresh eggs. They will keep well for about 5 months with this method (longer in colder temps, shorter in warmer.)

For details about freezing and dehydrating eggs you can follow the links below
And thanks to comments for this post, I'm working on another technique - "More on Egg Preservation: Liming."


Go grab a copy of my How To Preserve Eggs: freezing, pickling, dehydrating, larding, water glassing, & more. It's free at both Amazon and Smashwords.

November 16, 2016

Dining Room Windows Done!

I haven't blogged about house projects in a long time. This is because most of our work on the house is done during winter months. In some ways that's kinda crazy, because who in their right minds replaces windows and finishes hardwood floors in freezing weather? The thing is, that's the time when there's less to do outdoors, so there's time to work indoors. Once the weather gets nice we're outside again. All of that means that for almost a year, now, my dining room has looked like this:

Blog posts about this project with lots of close-ups and other photos are here:

Getting the windows done on the Little Barn switched Dan into a project-finishing mode. His next project to finish was those windows.

All they needed was a little more caulk and the trims. Nothing fancy, just 1-bys and sanded plywood.

Paint makes the difference.

I always enjoy before and after pictures, so here are mine:

Dining room windows before: single-glazed, cracked panes, and broken
latches. No insulation under the trim to allow space for window weights.

Dining room windows after: double glazed, energy star rated
windows with as much insulation as we could stuff into the spaces.

Just in time for Thanksgiving. All I have left to do is to replace the curtains and maybe get new socket and vent covers.

Here's how they look from the outside:

You can see an outdoor before photo here.

I really liked the style of the original windows, and when we first bought the house we thought we'd try to restore to the original look. We might have been able to do that if all we were about was the house, but that's not the lifestyle we want. The house needs to be energy efficient and in good repair, but not picture perfect. Even so, I like it to look nice, and I'm happy with what we've done so far.

November 13, 2016

Of Bare Bones & Bottom Lines

Have you ever tried to figure out your absolute bottom line in terms of needs and income? Most of you who read my blog lean toward self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and preparedness, so I'm curious if anyone has tried to reckon a truly simple existence for themselves; the very least amount of income that you'd need if it came to that. Have ever thought about it or tried to figure it out?

The closer Dan and I get to what most folks consider retirement age, the more I think about it. We've had a few warm-ups in this arena, times when Dan hasn't had a job and we lived on our own food and savings. We've made steps in that direction--growing much of what we eat and learning how to live without air conditioning, for example--but there has always been a long to-do list of the things we want to accomplish before we get to the minimal income stage.

They are all needful things, things we consider important: fencing, outbuildings, greenhouse, energy upgrades on the house (replacing windows and adding insulation), also the ability to grow, harvest, process, and store field crops and hay.

In our desire to "get established," we've had a sort of tunnel vision in our attempt to accomplish these things. We've felt time-pressured because of our age, and often overwhelmed with how much there is to do. We've been here long enough now that daily chores (critters, garden, cleaning), seasonal jobs (ground prep, planting, harvest, preservation), plus maintenance and repairs (fences, machinery) are almost more than a full time job in themselves. Add building projects to the mix and there's barely time to go to work and earn money.

As much as we'd like to get away from the need for money, we all know that's impossible. Even if one owns their property outright, there are still taxes to pay. Dan and I have a house payment so a minimal income would have to include that plus utilities, vehicles to feed and maintain, and mandatory insurance. Even if we were able to feed ourselves and our critters from the land, there are other ordinary things that we can't make for ourselves like salt, minerals for the goats, fuel, replacement parts for the tractor, plastic to cover the hoop house, etc.

In answer to my own question, have we tried to calculate the very least amount of income we'd need, the answer is no. I'm working on it, but I hover around questions such as, "how essential are internet and phones?" And then I think, well, if we had a small solar cell and battery to power the computer, then they wouldn't be an additional expense. But then we'd have to buy something to make that happen, and there's the rub. There is always something else that would be helpful and beneficial. The list only gets added to, it never gets finished.

I'm guessing most folks pin their hopes on their retirement savings and insurance policies, but Dan and I have never had a significant enough income for investments of any kind. We've always lived paycheck to paycheck and invested what we do have in our land and lifestyle. I have more confidence in these things than in our current economic system anyway.

Do you have a bottom line in terms of needs and income? Have you even thought about it? Is it a goal you are working toward or not significant enough to worry about? Leave a comment and let us hear what you think.

November 10, 2016

Windows for the Little Barn

I promised details on the new goat barn windows in my "Little Things on the Little Barn" post. Here they are.

Front windows in the goat barn.

For windows for the Little Barn, Dan had the idea to use the metal panels he removed when we re-roofed it. Some of the panels were rusted out, but there was quite a bit of good metal.

At first he planned to make frames for the panels, but after cutting out the first opening, he realized he could cover the plywood cut-outs with the metal.

Back windows from the inside.

So how were we going to hold them open? Hardware for upward-opening cabinet doors ranges from $18 - 20 each. Of course we didn't want to spend that much and in the end Dan came up with something much simpler.

The screw rests on the bottom of the window opening and holds the window open. The two screws means we can adjust the windows.

His first idea for securing the windows shut was to use some barrel bolt latches he had lying around.

Other latches were made with eye and machine bolts.

Both types secure the windows shut.

I plan to protect the metal with some kind of clear coating. Also I need to paint the rest of the trim and give the whole building a second coat of barn paint. Then we'll be ready for whatever the weather has to offer.

Needless to say I am really happy with these windows!

November 7, 2016

A Walk in the Woods

Down the hill from the Little Barn is a gate into a fenced area in the woods. We call this the doe browse. 

At the bottom of the doe browse is a place to put another gate.

Beyond that is our two-plus unfenced wooded acres. I used to have a walking trail down there, but in the past few years we've lost a lot of pine trees from pine bark beetle, so the area is thick with fallen pine trees and new undergrowth. Dan and I have been talking about trying to utilize it. It contains a lot of potential lumber and a lot of good browse for the goats.

"Come on, girls, let's go take a walk in the woods!"

With our pastures all dried up, this is prime foraging for the goats.

Goats are excellent for kudzu control

Trusty watch cat

When they've had their fill they head back on their own. I can come too if I want.

In the past few days the leaves have really started to turn. It's been so dry that I wondered if we'd get much color. We are, although the leaves drop quickly. We've had breaking-in fires in both our stoves, but our temperatures remain warm with no rain in sight. I'm enjoying the beautiful weather while I can.