May 24, 2017

Prepper's Total Grid Failure Handbook

Last month I gave you a homestead energy update, about how Dan and I have made small steps with both decreasing our energy consumption and utilizing more alternative energy devices. I also admitted how impossible a switchover to a true off-grid lifestyle seemed to be. Then I got a copy of this book, Prepper's Total Grid Failure Handbook by Alan Fiebig and Arlene Fiebig.

What I really like about this book is how it breaks down a complicated topic into a series of understandable explanations. It is very well written and even those who aren't interested in preparedness and alternative energy would likely get hooked by the prologue ("A Cautionary Tale"). Then comes the introduction, in which we read that on the very day the Fiebigs moved to their off-grid property, they hooked their computer up to a battery and blogged about it!

The book is divided into three parts. "Part One: Earth, Wind, and Fire: Generating Renewable Energy," discusses the basics of the various familiar sources of energy: water, wind, and sun. It explains the various kinds of generators and fuels to power them, plus their pros and cons. It goes on to give a good introduction to electricity and how to determine how much you need, including a number of non-electric alternatives for common things we do. A chapter on people-powered generators is included.

"Part Two: You Are My Sunshine: Working with Photovoltaic Power," gets to the nitty-gritty of solar energy. The concept is simple, but the how-to gets complicated, yet the Fiebigs break it all down in a sensible way. Discusses various kinds of solar panels and batteries, plus how to care for and maintain them.

"Part Three: I've Got the Power: Bringing Your System to Life" starts with a discussion of wiring, make a strong case for switching from AC to DC current, how to live 12-volts at a time, and how to use your energy (lighting, water pump, electronics.)

I think this book the best primer for off-grid energy that I've seen so far. Explanations are excellent, especially for someone for whom this is new territory. Even for those with a basic grasp of the concepts, this book brings off-grid living into the realm of doable. I especially appreciate that the authors don't try to push any particular system or product. They give you the facts including the positives and negatives, and let you decide what's best for your needs and situation. I respect that. The only thing I think the book is lacking is a good glossary.

More information is available at the publisher's website, Ulysses Press. The book itself is available in both paperback and Kindle versions at

May 21, 2017

Fermenting Grain for Chickens (& Ducks)

Do you remember my "Sprouting Grains for Goats" post? Well, Goatldi mentioned in the comments about fermenting grain and sent me some information. I decided to give it a try.

Fermented chicken scratch.

What do I mean by fermented grain? I mean lacto-fermented grain, similar to sauerkraut (how-to for that here.) or kimchi. Lacto-fermented foods are rich in probiotics and are higher in vitamins and digestive enzymes than non-fermented foods. Our critters benefit from these too!

I started with a small batch to see how well the chickens liked it, because apparently, some chickens like it better than others. Mine loved it! Now I'm making it in 5-gallon buckets. We fill a 5-gallon bucket with about half full with chicken scratch, then cover with water. Some people add vinegar, and some use plain water.  I add a little whey to kick-start it. Unlike sauerkraut or other lacto-fermented foods for human use, no salt is necessary. When it begins to bubble, it's ready.

Bubbles mean fermentation! This usually takes a couple
of days, but it depends on temperature. Warmer = faster.

We scoop it out with a soup ladle and let it sit in a colander on top of the open bucket to drain. Then it's tossed into the chicken yard like any chicken scratch.

It gets stirred every time we scoop some out, and occasionally we add more water to make sure the grain stays covered. If exposed to air the grain will start to mold, smell yucky, and must be discarded. The sour, acidic soaking liquid keeps it safe. Sometimes a white film forms on the surface, as it often does when lacto-fermenting food. The white film is not mold but wild yeast and is not harmful. You can remove it if you wish.

5-gallon bucket of fermented chicken scratch. The key is
to keep the grain covered with water so it doesn't get moldy.

We keep a bucket going all the time now. The longer it sits, the more sour it gets, but both chickens and ducks like it just as well at the end of the batch as they do at the beginning. Like the sprouted grain, the fermented grain seems to go further too, so it's definitely a win-win for all of us.

May 18, 2017

Dan's Workshop: Timber Joints

It's been awhile since I did an update on Dan's workshop, but it always seems to rain on weekends, so progress has been slow. Last time I told you about our piers versus footer debate and what Dan decided to do.  His next step was to begin fashioning the joints to hold the posts, beams, and girders in place.

Joinery is basically joining two pieces of wood together, and there are any ways to do this. Modern "joints" often use metal fasteners, traditional ones use cuts in the wood and wooden pegs. Techniques vary as well, from traditional to quick and easy, and anything in between. Here are a scattering of photos I took while Dan worked on them.

Mortise and Tenon

Tenons first for mortise and tenon joints

This tenon is at the top of a post.

The end of the tenon was measured and drawn on the underside of the beam.

Making the mortise.

For the first one he used the tools he had. It was extremely slow going, so we decided to invest in some proper timber chisels. He made the maul (mallet).

The process was much quicker and more efficient after that.

Corner chisel


The kneebraces are completely non-traditional. Dan saw them on Youtube, utilized by someone in Europe who renovates old homes. They are simpler and quicker, which counts for a lot when time is at a premium.

Lap Joints

Made with the circular saw and chisel method.

I believe this one is a half-lap scarf joint. Scarf joints
connect lengths of lumber (in this case girders) lengthwise.

The last thing was to make the pegs to secure the joints.

Of course there has been an interested observer.

"Big Duck"

The next step is to start to put it all together. Upcoming weather forecasts are for hot, dry, and sunny, so that should mean good progress. I hope to have more to show you soon!

May 15, 2017

Beautiful May Days

I can't complain. The weather has been perfect: mild days, pleasant nights, and the right amount of rain. Everything is growing!

Violet. That's Colby in the background on the
right. He's on the other side of the hedgerow.


Kids playing "king of the stump." That's Beau wanting to jump up.

Jack's currently got it.

And he's off! The proverbial flying leap.

Sky hunting for leftover acorns.

Conner (I think he had an itch on his back)


Windy and Anna.

All of these were taken last weekend, on weaning day. The girls were later allowed back into their home paddock, but the little boys had to stay behind. They are not happy campers! Such is the way of having to grow up.

About a week later I got these of the bucks.

The Grizz and  Colby. Beau in the background.

Colby and Meowy

All three bucklings and two of the doelings head to new homes this month. It will certainly seem quieter around here after they're gone.

Beautiful May Days © May 2017 by

May 12, 2017

In Case You Missed It: Solar Cooking Class Replay

If you missed last night's solar cooking class...

you can still catch a rerun! It will be available now through Monday, May 15, and you can watch it as many times as you wish.

Thank you to everyone who participated! Was there anything in particular that you found useful or interesting? I didn't know about using a meat thermometer to tell when baking bread is done. Also I didn't realize we could use baking bags for solar cooking! And when he mentioned how to use it for making sprouts in winter, it got me wondering about using my Sun Oven for making yogurt or kefir when our house is so chilly in winter.

I'm going to have to watch the replay myself, because I was so busy being nervous that I couldn't absorb all the great information. Even though I've been solar cooking for several years now, I'm excited to take it to another level.

If anyone does some solar cooking blog posts, let me know!

May 11, 2017

Stand By!

Tonight is the free online solar cooking class!

13 Ways to Utilize Sunlight 
for Delicious Efficient Homesteading

Starts at:

8:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time
7:00 p.m. Central Daylight Saving Time
6:00 p.m. Mountain Daylight Saving Time
5:00 p.m. Pacific Daylight Saving Time

The first loaf of bread I baked in my solar oven.

You will learn 13 ways to utilize solar energy year around.
  • How to use a solar oven for off-grid baking, boiling, steaming, and roasting complete meals. 
  • Why food doesn't burn or dry out in a solar oven.
  • How to boil or pasteurize drinking water in emergencies.
  • How to hard cook eggs (even freshly laid eggs are easy to peel with this method).
  • How to dehydrate fruits, vegetables, even meat for jerky.
  • How to dehydrate herbs without losing nutrients and essential oils.
  • Naturally kill bug infestations in grains or dried foods (think dry-pack vacuum canning)
  • And more!

The class will be approximately 60 minutes in length, but also allow time for your questions. So start writing them down!

Hard cooking eggs in my solar oven.

89 people have already registered but it's not too late to reserve your spot!

When you do, you'll receive a confirmation email plus a free copy of the eBook

Emerging From An Emergency 
What you should do if…?
Are You Prepared?

Emails with a link to the webinar will be going out today!

Solar boiling potatoes. (The cookware came with the Sun Oven package).

If you won't be able to make it, you can sign up and watch the replay at your convenience. 

I hope to see you there!

Stand By! © May 2017 by Leigh at

May 9, 2017

Are You Interested In Prepping + Making a Little Money With Your Blog?

Okay, that's a terribly awkward blog post title, but I couldn't think of a clever way to shorten it while still getting the meaning across!

Last month I told you about two things that I thought some of you might be interested in. The first is a free online Solar Cooking Class (this Thursday, details here), and also about the PrepperBundle. The organizers of the bundle have put out a call for affiliates.

What is an affiliate? It's someone who earns a commission by promoting a product or a project. In this case, affiliates earn a commission for selling the PrepperBundle via their blog, website, or email list. Click here for details.

Now, I'm not much of a salesperson, in fact, I turn down everyone who wants to advertise on my blog or otherwise use it to promote themselves. I do, however, participate in things that are of value to me, and these eBook bundles come under that category. Affiliates receive a whole packet of marketing materials, but honestly, I find these things sell themselves without hoopla or gimmicks. The information is worth it, and folks who are interested in that kind of information will invest in it.

Anyway, I just wanted to pass that along to you. Again, click here to learn about becoming an affiliate!

Also a reminder - click here to sign up for the Solar Cooking Class on Thursday. It's free but you need to reserve a spot. Or to learn more about if, you can check out my blog post first - "Online Solar Cooking Class! The Scoop."

 © May 2017 by Leigh at

May 6, 2017

The Garden in Early May

Last month's abundant rain pretty much kept me out of the garden because the ground was too soft. With a stretch of nice days I've finally gotten a start on my spring planting. So far I've planted watermelon, okra, summer squash, green beans, and amaranth. I waited to plant my tomato seedlings because we got another heavy rain last Thursday. Being house-started, I was afraid they were still too tender to take such a beating.

Tomato seedlings, right before moving outdoors to harden off.

Since the newly planted spring garden still looks like bare ground, all I have to show you is the finishings-up of the winter garden. Once that's done, I'll have room to plant more.  So let's start with the hoop house.

It's a jungle in there!

Most of my salad greens are bolting, even with the shade cloth, so I'm just waiting to collect the seed. For example -

Bloomsdale spinach flowering.

Claytonia (Miner's lettuce) in bloom.

I also have arugula, corn salad, kale, mizuna, and lettuce that I want to save seed from. In particular, I want to make a note of the lettuce I planted last November, because even though it's starting to send up flower stalks, it hasn't turned bitter yet. Amazing!

Lollo Bionda lettuce peeking out from amongst chickweed.

It's surrounded by volunteer chickweed, which I allowed to grow because it's both culinary and medicinal. I use it for salad greens, to dry for herbal salves, to feed as fresh greens for the chickens and ducks, to chop up for the goats, and as a living mulch.

Another living mulch area has been my multiplier onion bed.

Multiplier onions with volunteer vetch.

Lots of volunteer vetch appeared, which I left because it's a nitrogen fixer, has pretty little purple flowers, keeps other things (that I don't want) from growing, and can be cut back, dried, and added to the goats' hay pile.

Here's another such bed.

Chicory, violets, and a few multiplier onions that I missed last year.

The violets make a beautiful living mulch. I do pull a few "weeds" from these beds, but also, I seem to have less problems with wire grass where there is a dense ground cover. This observation is why I planted clover in the area below my new swale. I cleared out three wheelbarrow loads of wire grass from that little plot and really don't want it coming back! Mulch doesn't deter it, but it tends to show up less where a thick ground cover shades the soil.

So far so good! Except for a bit too much henbit, the clover has come up very well with wire grass mostly around the edges of the clover plot. I turned it under in two places plant watermelons.

Here's one of them with four watermelon seedlings I started indoors.

I plant only one variety of melon every spring, but I change the varieties from year to year. That means our variety is annual, we aren't overrun with melons, and I don't have to worry about cross-pollination!

On the other side of the hoop house I have a row of Savoy cabbages.

Also some radishes blooming.

Purple plum radish flowers

I especially like this variety and want to save lots of seed.

So now I have to wait again for things to dry out a bit; then I can get back into the garden and finish planting.

Your turn. Anybody else getting their hands in the dirt?

The Garden in Early May © May 2017 by