April 19, 2018

Hay Feeder

While we're gradually collecting more plywood for the goat barn walls, there is still plenty to do on the inside. Like the hay feeder.

The plans for this particular feeder came from Premier 1 Supply Company, although Dan made a few modifications. The specs are to accommodate standard-size sheep and goats, so we had to modify it for our mid-size Kinders. Also, we didn't order Premier's specially made feeder panel, rather, Dan cut down a sheep and goat stock panel from the local feed store.You can download the free plans here.

The instructions offer a choice of single or double-sided feeders. I wanted the double-sided for several reasons. One is because it will be positioned under a hay chute. The other is because dominant goats have a tendency to hog any kind of feed and chase the others away. I figure you can't defend both sides of the feeder at the same time.

The beauty of this design is that there is less wasted hay. The V-shape of the panels holds the hay, and the goats access it through the panel. The shelf on the bottom catches hay that gets pulled out and dropped.

It's free-standing, so it could be moved in the future if we want. Directly above it will be a hay chute between two of the floor beams. It will be so nice to not have to wade through a crowd of grabby goats to fill the hay feeder.

And that brings us to the hay loft floor. Originally Dan planned to mill it from our homegrown pine the way he has the rest of the barn.

The problem is that it would require use of the chainsaw, but his hand just isn't ready for that yet. No matter, there's still plenty to do and it all has to be done before the goats can move in. Progress in any form is nice to see. 

Hay Feeder © April 2018 by Leigh

April 17, 2018

Book Review: Prepper's Dehydrator Handbook

I am very pleased to share this book with you, Prepper's Dehydrator Handbook: Long-term food storage techniques for nutritions, delicious, lifesaving meals by Shelle Wells. It's the latest edition in the Ulysses Press prepper book series.

I have an electric dehydrator, but admit I don't dry much. I think that's mostly because of my preservation and cooking habits, but a book like this inspires me to expand my repertoire of preservation methods.

When I read through chapter 1, "Why Dehydrate," I was reminded why this is truly one of the best methods of preserving and storing foods. Dehydrated foods save on shelf and freezer space, have the longest shelf life, and are the most portable of all preserved foods. This chapter also includes really good ideas on developing a food storage plan with some helpful charts.

Chapter 2 discusses the various ways to dehydrate foods: solar, oven, microwave, and dehydrator, including a description of the different types of dehydrators. Chapter 3 offers basic instructions: equipment, general rules, both small and large batch drying, blanching (or not), how to prevent oxidation, conditioning after dehydrating, and rehydrating. Chapter 4 discusses finding and choosing foods to dehydrate (including frozen foods), as well as safety considerations such as what not to dehydrate and what foods are most commonly contaminated with E.coli, and how to safely prepare them. I appreciated the section on how light, heat, oxygen, and humidity effect dried foods, because I live in an area with hot humid summers! Chapter 5 gives you storage options for dehydrated goods, including tips on both short and long term storage.

The next several chapters teach you the specifics for a variety of dried foods: fruit and vegetable leathers, jerkys, soups, powders, and herbs. Details on dehydrating 50 fruits and veggies are next, and then come the recipes. Things like blueberry basil syrup, pink grapefruit jelly, honey peach BBQ sauce, cinnamon apple leather, candied ginger, and how to make pickles from dehydrated cucumbers. Four conversion charts complete the excellent information in this handbook.

This is a great book for every food preservation and prepper's library. Click here to "Look Inside."

April 14, 2018

Of Seeds and Sweet Potatoes

Of sweet potatoes, I was surprised to find this one the other day. I got it from storage to make oven-baked sweet potato fries for dinner.

It was sprouting beautifully! Usually I stick a sweet potato in water to let it root and sprout, like this

This one went in right after I harvested it last fall. I always hope I'll get a beautiful growth of vines for winter greenery, but I never do. I get very few sprouts until spring, when the weather warms up. I figure it's probably because my house is too chilly all winter to encourage sweet potatoes to grow.

Of seeds I've been doing some late indoor planting. Not that it isn't about time to sow directly into the ground, but usually indoor plantings are started about six weeks before the last projected frost date. These future tomato plants are late in that regard...

...but earlier than if I planned to sow them directly into the ground! We have a long enough growing season that I can do that, but we're late on garden bed preparation too, so this is a start.

I didn't order many seeds this year. These came from Sow True Seeds.

Some of them are new for me: anise hyssop and cardoon, others are new varieties: Southern Brown Sugar cowpeas are supposed to be a "best tasting" variety, and Shin Kuroda carrots are said to do well in clay soils. The sorghum is for livestock feed, although some day I'd like to try my hand at making sorghum syrup.

At the moment, most of my planting energy has been focused on our pastures. I've had such good success with my modified Fukuoka natural farming method that I use it to spot seed every time I clean out the barn. Pasture improvement is a specific homestead goal for 2018, and more specifically, to establish the most diverse year-round polyculture pasture I can manage. Sounds simple, but it's been a slow process with a significant trial-and-error learning curve. One problem is limited local choice of seed. Around here tall fescue is sold as the cool season grass and Bermuda is the warm season choice. The only pasture mix I can find locally comes from Tractor Supply Co. in 40-pound bags to the tune of $150 each. So I started looking for other options.

One is deer and turkey food plot mixes in 50-pound bags for under $25 each. They are cheaper because they contain mostly annuals. The one I bought last fall contains: wheat, oats, rye grass, crimson clover, peas, and rape (canola).

In addition to that, I bought a 5-pound bag of "Herbal Ley" from New Country Organics. It contains a mix of legume and forb seeds: sainfoin, yellow clover, alfalfa, small burnet, forage rape, chicory, plantain, red clover, white clover, birdsfoot trefoil, and forage brassicas.

I also found the website of Seed World. What I like about this company is that I can purchase small quantities (as little as one pound) from a huge selection of pasture and wildlife food plot seeds. I can make my own blend; sericea (perennial) lespedeza, hairy vetch, birdsfoot trefoil, Bahai grass, chicory, orchard grass, etc.

To my pasture mix I add annual summer pasture seed from the feed store: sudan and millet, plus seeds I've saved myself: Austrian pea, oregano, yarrow, echinacea, vetch, and radish, turnip, old garden seeds, plus any native grass seed I can gather from non-pasture areas.

I mix all of these together

and head out with a bucketful of seed and a wheelbarrow full of barn muck. The annuals give inexpensive variety and will hopefully fill in until I can get enough perennial forage established. I don't expect it all to come up, but I hope that something will do well no matter what kind of summer we have this year.

After I finish getting the goat barn cleaned out, it will be time to plant our summer garden.

Of Seeds and Sweet Potatoes © April 2018  

April 11, 2018

Dutch Doors for the Goat Barn

We have three people doors planned for the goat barn: front and back doors for the milking room, and one to enter the goats' area. I find Dutch doors are perfect for these: they let in light and breezes but keep goats, chickens, ducks, and dogs on their side. They are called Dutch doors in the U.S. because they were introduced here in the 17th century by Dutch settlers. They are called stable doors in the U.K.

Here's where the first one is going to go.

The front and back doors of the milking room line
up with the door to what will become Dan's workshop.
This is to accommodate cooling summer breezes.

With scrap plywood and lumber they are inexpensive to make. The plywood will serve as the backing and is measured and cut to fit the door opening.

It seems as though all of our barn doors are different sizes, but then, we haven't been working with standard building materials. However, we make sure they are wide enough to accommodate a wheelbarrow. This particular door is 6'8" tall.

After the plywood is cut it gets a fitting. This wouldn't be the first time that something didn't fit!

Checking the fit.

The next step is deciding where to cut the door into top and bottom. Most of them are probably in half, but it doesn't have to be.

Where to cut the plywood into top & bottom is personal preference.

Wood for the rails and stiles is scraps of home-milled boards. Ours are one-inch thick and four inches wide, but that's a matter of design choice too.

The X is a traditional barn door pattern.

First one done.

The bottom part of the door is made the same way with one difference. We like our Dutch doors to have a shelf topping the bottom half, so Dan reinforced the top edge with another board on the back of the door.

Clamps hold the pieces together for drilling and screwing.

That gives a wider base to attach the shelf to.

That little shelf is really handy for setting something on to unlatch the door, to lean on when looking inside, or as a cat seat.

Hinges were next.

Then door latches.

To secure the top part of the door when it's open, a spring hook was attached.

Here it is.

One down and two to go.

To see the other Dutch doors Dan made, click here for the exterior door on the Little Barn, and here for the interior door in the chicken coop. You'll have to scroll down to find the pictures.

April 8, 2018

Miracle: 16 Days Old on Her Due Date

Today was the original date I had circled on my goat calendar as Anna's due date. Today, Baby Miracle is 16 days old! How's she doing?

Very well! She's bonded with her mother but comes running every time she sees me. Then she follows me around and bumps my legs looking for milk. She thinks her name is Baby, because I'm always asking Anna, "Where's your baby?"

So there's a tale of woe with a happy ending. Gives meaning to the saying, "All's well that ends well."

April 5, 2018

Garden Assessment

We had too cold a winter this year to have a winter garden. Some years our winter weather is mild and things grow well. Other years, forget it. I never know for sure, so I always plant in hopes of a nice winter harvest. After Dan's accident at the end of January, our typical seasonal routine was put on hold, including planting an early spring garden. I told myself it probably didn't matter anyway, because we got so much rain. Now it's time to prepare for summer garden planting, so I spent some time the other day assessing what needs to be done.

Cabbage-collards were my only green to survive the harsh cold.

These are also called heading collards.

Then we got a streak of really warm days and it decided to flower to make seed! Even so, the young leaves are tender and tasty in a salad.

I had planted two beds of sugar beets last fall, but had less than half of them made it. These are a first for me, for goat feed and to try my hand at sugar making.

Sugar beets.

The cluster above needs to be thinned out and the few others need to be mulched.

A few random radishes made it.

Multiplier onions survived and are coming along.

No onion bulbs yet.

And my garlic is beginning to die back. Harvest soon.

Outdoor bed of garlic.

A year ago last January I planted garlic bulbils in the hoop house. Here they are now.

Hoop house bed of garlic.

I'm happy they've done so well, especially since they've undergone some neglect from time to time during hot weather.

Plantings in the hoop house were slow growing but survived better than what I planted outdoors. We currently get several salads each week.


Chickweed has taken over 2 beds in the hoop house.
It's good in salads, salves, and for chickens.

Corn salad. It's trying to bolt too, but is still tender and tasty.

Miner's lettuce. These are volunteers! I planted two rows
outdoors but only one plant survived. Glad to see these!

Arugula is going to flower.

My fall-planted Savoy cabbages froze out. We like them,
though, so I bought a 6-pack at the feed store to plant.

All in all I think my garden did fairly well despite the snow and cold. We don't have a surplus, but we're still harvesting a few things to eat.

The next couple of weeks need to be spent in soil prep for summer veggies. Along with that comes the question of whether or not we'll get enough rainfall for everything to get a good start. It's always a guessing game, isn't it?

Garden Assessment © Ap 2018 by Leigh

April 2, 2018

Book Review: Prepper's Survival Retreats

When Dan and I started looking for a place to homestead, we had a list of things we were looking for. Our goal was self-sufficiency, but we were somewhat limited, simply because we were wanting to do something we hadn't done before. Thinking back on that now, I realize we would have benefited greatly if we had been able to talk to someone with experience. Prepper's Survival Retreats: Your Strategic Relocation Plan for an Uncertain Future by Charley Hogwood would have been the perfect book for us.

Why would a book on survival retreats be helpful for two folks looking for self-sufficiency? Because as a homesteader, many of our motives and goals are the same. We don't have confidence in the current cultural and economic system, and are looking for a safe haven in the event of system failures, whether that means a permanent home or a bug-out retreat.

This book offers a step-by-step method of analyzing one's goals and what will be needed to reach those goals. The first several chapters discuss why a survival retreat is an excellent idea and what you need to consider for success.
  • Chapter 1 gives two real life collapse scenarios and why they are relevant today.
  • Chapter 2 discusses what you need to survive and explains the eight main areas of survival. 
  • Chapter 3 is "The Big Questions:" why, how, who, when, and where. As you work your way through this chapter you will develop your big picture, i.e. everything you need to consider in your planning stages.

The next two chapters discuss all aspects of evaluating and purchasing property.
  • Chapter 4 focuses on purchasing an existing home. It begins with a discussion of realtors, credit, types of loans, and types of sales including some nontraditional ones. It discusses house size versus land size and tips on how to broaden your search terms for homes. It tells you what to look for when you go to evaluate a specific property, plus an inspection checklist with tips on how to spot potential problems. 
  • Chapter 5 is entitled, "Can you make it here?" and tells you how to evaluate the area in which the property exists: community resources, community culture, regional land features, and location realities. It also give you some tips on how to read the trees, soil, evaluate potential water sources, and the location's potential for being off-grid.

Want to build your own home or retreat?
  • Chapter 6 contains lots of good information on building from a prepper perspective. Includes things you need to know if you're working with a builder or doing it yourself. Discusses design considerations, aboveground houses, subterranean and earthen berm houses, and underground bunkers. Includes home fortifications, appearance, and the best ways to deal with neighbors.

What about a prepper community?
  • Chapter 7 discusses everything you need to consider about working with a group of like-minded folks to create a community survival retreat. Discusses the basics, compounds and multiple structures, land needed, group site planning, and the pitfalls of group purchases of property, including liability.

Lastly, how do you choose the best of several good possibilities?
  • Chapter 8 helps you whittle down your short list of properties. It gives you checklists by which to compare properties, and comparison tables for you to lay out your important qualifiers side by side. 

I have to say that all in all, this is the most comprehensive book I have seen on this subject. Some books give you some good advice in looking for property, but this one includes things that most of us wouldn't even think about. An excellent resource for homesteaders and preppers alike. And - the book is affordably priced and available at Amazon!

March 29, 2018

Baby Miracle Update

An update already! But my surviving preemie kid is doing very well, and I think we're out of the woods.

Mama Anna and baby Miracle.

It took two days before she could manage to stand and another day to learn how to use her legs. She was pretty wobbly for several more days but interested in exploring everything. Once she could stand well I put her mother on the milking stand and help Miracle find a teat. She took right to it.

Now she can find her milk on her own and is no longer interested in the bottle. That means no more middle of the night feedings for me! I think most folks would have taken her into the house to tend to, but I'm glad I kept her in the stall with her mother. The bond was already forming and the nursing has sealed it.

A good place for a nap?

She is still very small, so I worry about her being out and about. But she thinks she is one of the goats and so that's where she wants to be.

Belle and Cy check out their baby half-sister.
They are six weeks older than she is.

Anna is an excellent mother and if any of the others get too curious about her baby they get a head butt for their trouble.

I have no idea about kids' developmental stages during the last two weeks before birth, so it will be interesting to see how she looks on her official due date, April 8. At least I'll get to find out.

Baby Miracle Update © March 2018 by