May 30, 2014

Celebrating 6 Months & 1000+ Copies Sold!

Six months ago today I clicked the "approve proof" button at Amazon's CreateSpace. Within 24 hours, 5 Acres & A Dream The Book was available on Amazon. This month I reached a huge self-publishing milestone, over 1000 copies sold! My book even made Amazon's Sustainable Living Books Best Seller List!

This calls for a celebration! For the next 48 hours, I'm offering a 45% discount off the list price ($12.95) at my CreateSpace eStore. Click the link and enter code JB4XPZG4 (expired) at check out. Offer expires Saturday at midnight. You can order as many copies as you'd like!

You can also:

I've heard from more than one person who bought a copy based on the strength of reader reviews. Your reviews are important! Please consider writing a review on Amazon or your own blog. I'll link up to you at my "What Readers Are Saying" and give you a facebook mention.

Many thanks to everyone who helped make this possible! You were the reason I wrote, and you are the reason the book is a success. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

May 28, 2014

Strawberries & Cream Ice Cream

This is a simple cooked ice cream recipe which requires a little planning ahead, but is quick and easy to make. It's a strawberry season favorite! Quantities are for freezing in a 2 quart automatic ice cream maker.

2 cups cream (I use goat cream because I have goats)
2 cups mashed or pureed fresh strawberries
pinch sea salt
1/2 cup sugar (I used unbleached cane sugar)
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a saucepan heat cream, strawberries, salt, and sugar until just before simmering. Slowly add to the egg yolks, whisking or stirring vigorously. Stir in vanilla and chill. Freeze according to your ice cream maker manufacturer directions. (In my little Cuisinart it takes 15 to 20 minutes). Enjoy!

May 26, 2014

Lone Baby Chicken

I mentioned in my Chicken Moving Day that my broody hen was hatching out her little clutch of eggs. We ended up with only one chick from those five eggs, but it's a cutie.

4 days old, probably half Buff Orpington & half Silver Laced Wyandotte

I really like letting one of my hens hatch and raise chicks. Some folks think it's risky, but it's always gone well for me. I've never even tried an incubator. Letting a mama hen do it is definitely a work-smarter-not-harder way. I don't need a brooder lamp, nor do I have to tend to pasty butt. Mama does it all.

So far so good with the older chickens. They are curious but not aggressive.
Note the whitewash flaking off the walls already! Next time I'll add glue.

It is true that hand-raised chicks have the instincts to find food and water on their own. They also become more accustomed to a human presence and are somewhat more "friendly" as adults. But hen raised chicks seem to have more "street smarts" at an earlier age. Most importantly, I think everybody needs a mother!

There's no place like Mama.

I'll let Mama decide when to take Baby Chicken out into the chicken yard. Her hardware cloth fence is opened a bit during the day so they can explore the coop. So far none of the adult chickens have expressed more than a mild curiosity. Even so Mama does an excellent job of keeping herself between her chick and them (and me). Integrating chicks with the rest of the flock has always been a concern and a challenge, but so far so good. I hope it stays that way.

Lone Baby Chicken © May 2014 by 

May 24, 2014

Bedroom Remodel: No Progress But Something To Show

We've been so busy with kidding, the chicken coop, and the garden, that we haven't done a thing on the bedroom since we bought the carpet. It's still sitting as a huge roll in the dining room, but every time we have to step over it to get to the dining table (which is pushed over against the far wall), we say we really must do something about it. Even so, I have something I've been meaning to show you - the closet doors!

Whoopty-do, what's so special about closet doors? What's special is what Dan did to them! This was his winter creative project, a woodburning on each door.

For enlarged images, you can visit Dan's pyrography blog and click on the individual photos.

He needs to finish staining and finishing, and then they can be hung permanently. At the rate we're going that may take awhile. :)

May 22, 2014

Moving Day for Chickens

Ready for chickens

Once the new chicken coop was ready, it was time to move the chickens in. Because chickens (like other animals) do not like change, I put some thought into how I was going to approach this. I decided the best thing to do would be to move them at night. I'd give each chicken a wing clipping, put them in the new coop, and leave the flock in there for at least two nights and a day in between. First, however, we gave them a chance for a preview. I lured them in with scratch.

They took the tour and seemed to approve. I moved their feeder in so they had to come in if they wanted food.

When it came time to move them I waited until after dark and lighted the new coop with my Coleman camping lantern. One by one I plucked them off the roost in the old coop, clipped wings, and put them in the new. Even the Weather Chicken got the same treatment. Dan used a stick to jostle her perch so that she flew out of the tree and ran into the old coop. The trickiest one was moving my broody hen and her clutch. I moved her last and she was mighty upset about it. After a huge fuss, however, she finally settled back down on her eggs.

After two nights in the new coop I let the flock out and into their newly expanded chicken yard.

I confined them to the chicken yard for several days. I did this in hopes that they would continue to lay in the new nest boxes and not try to go back to their former random laying places. So far it seems to have worked.

There's a waiting line for the new nest boxes

I absolutely love the new coop. It's roomier, brighter, has easier access, and wonderful storage. It's shaded under oak and pecan trees. A fabulous breeze comes through the door and keeps it comfortable and cool. I can get that same breeze through our front door, but coming over a blacktopped road and treeless front yard means the breeze is hot! What a difference trees make.

And Mama Hen? Yesterday was day 21. In late afternoon I was able to get this shot.

Mama has five eggs but is being pretty secretive and pretty protective. As soon as she's willing to show and tell, I'll give you a full report.

Moving Day for Chickens © May 2014 

May 19, 2014

New Chicken Coop: Feed & Storage Room

I have one last thing to show you in our new chicken coop - the feed room and storage area.

Good storage space is so important, especially if one's goal is to grow all or most of one's own feed. For example, if I go through about 50 pounds of chicken feed a month, then I need to be able to store 600 pounds-worth!

Each one of these trash cans can hold about 150 pounds and I can fit three side-by-side in the feed room. That's 450 pounds. Thanks to Dan's forethought to give me potential storage space outside, I can line up a few more outside, still keeping them under cover.

Next up, moving day!

May 18, 2014

This Thursday, An Interview on The Homestead Honey Hour

5 Acres & A Dream The
Book: The Challenges of 
Establishing a Self-
Sufficient Homestead 
I have been invited to be MichiganSnowPony's featured guest on the Prepper Broadcasting Network's Homestead Honey Hour! We're going to talk about homesteading, my book, and more.

When? This Thursday, May 22nd at 9 pm Eastern, 8 pm Central, 7 pm Mountain, or 6 pm Pacific time.

The link to the show is hereclick on "Live Listen and Interactive Chatroom".

Or, a direct link to the player for the show is here. If you tune in early, be sure to refresh the page at the top of the hour to get the live show.

In addition to the chat room, there is also a call-in number if you'd like to ask question or make comments

(347) 202-0228 

Just dial 1 when your call gets through.

If you can't make it Thursday night, the show will be archived and available to listen to later. You'll find it on the bottom of this page.

You also might like to check out MichiganSnowPony's YouTube channel. It's a great resource for preppers and homesteaders alike.

May 15, 2014

A 2-Wheel Tractor & A Thank You

First, our newest homestead acquisition

1967 Simplicity Model W Walking Tractor, once sold by Montgomery Ward.
Shown with plow attachment, ours has a Briggs & Stratton 8 hp engine.

We have been looking for one of these for years! Not specifically this make or model (1967 Simplicity Model W Walking Tractor), but we have been wanting a 2-wheel (AKA walk-behind or walking) tractor. Finally, all things worked together: price, funds, location, availability, and in good working order! The bonus was that it came with quite a few implements and original owners manuals.

For photos from old ads, click here.
For original catalog product description, click here.

2-wheel tractors were once commonly used and commonly available; they still are in other parts of the world. They are the perfect working tractor for small acreage like ours, and especially for some of the small spaces we want to use for growing (see "The Lawn Has Got To Go").

We found ours on Craigslist. For $1000 it included a rotary snow thrower, snow plow, scraper blade, cultivator, garden tiller, rotary lawn mower, wheel weights, and two turn plows. Of course we have no use for the snow thrower, but Dan found that the snow plow was excellent for pushing piles of wood chip mulch around. The mower is pretty rusted out, but we wouldn't use that anyway. Of the two turn plows, one was an old one which didn't even go with this tractor (different hitch). The one that did go with it was missing a part, the coulter.

The coulter was missing so Dan made his own from a saw blade.

The coulter is the round disc you see in the above photo. It makes a vertical cut in the soil ahead of the plowshare. Not all plows have coulters, it's benefit being a cleaner cut by the plowshare. The coulter also loosens the soil, allowing the plow to undercut the furrow made by the coulter. Dan made this one from a table saw blade. It works but the challenge is mounting it to the bracket so the blade will turn (something he's still tweaking).

So how does it do?

This is where my winter wheat was growing.

The next step is to break the large clumps into smaller loose ones. For this we need a disc harrow, which didn't come with the tractor. Sometimes these come up on Craigslist, but with a little internet searching, we found a suitable one we were able to order from Sears (can you believe it?).

Brinly-Hardy Disk Harrow. Can even be used with an ATV!

This one has a sleeve hitch, which Dan can adapt. For extra weight, cinder blocks fit in the bracket on top. We got free shipping to an area Sears store and we should have it within the week!

Interested in more information? For a really good article on gardening with a walk-behind tractor, see Garden Tractor Gardening at End Times Report (thanks Matt).

Now the thank you. A tractor of any sort has seemed impossible to us because even used ones are expensive. Like so many others, we struggle paycheck to paycheck, forever trying to be good stewards of the little money we have. Dan's lost his job a couple of times and while it was reassuring to see our level of preparedness, those times didn't leave us any better off financially. I could have put a "tip jar" on my side bar, or a donation link, but I opted to earn it. Most of the money to buy our new-to-us walk-behind tractor came from royalties from my book. If you purchased a copy, you helped us buy this tractor! For that, I give you my most heartfelt thanks. I determined that all the money I earn will be invested in our homestead. Thank you so much for being a part of that.

May 12, 2014

Potato News & Other Garden Happenings

The spring garden is producing and summer planting has commenced!

I love my cattle panel trellises. The t-posts are placed
permanently; I just set up the cattle panels as needed. 

Our cooler than usual April temperatures have meant the lettuce is thriving and not bolting! Peas will be ready soon.

Of strawberries, we've had our first strawberry short cake! (Complete with goat cream whipped cream).

Fall planted parsnips have done very well. I plant them for both us and the goats, who eat chopped roots and tops alike.

A handful of the harvest of my fall planted parsnips

Several of the parsnips show symptoms of root knot nematodes, so I planted the bed in marigolds. I have read that marigolds are most effective against these nematodes if planted in beds, so we'll see. I'll feed the stalky part of the parsnip plants to the goats now, and dry the leaves to add to their herbal vitamin and mineral mix for next winter. I left one parsnip plant to go to seed.

And the potato news. Do you remember how all my potato plants died in our frost the middle of April? I'm relieved to report that they have recovered!

My potato plants recovered from the frost. Also note the patch of clover.

The clover volunteered last year and its patch is growing. I am hoping to experiment more with living mulch and would love to have it (and violets plus something like creeping thyme) growing in all my garden walkways. I'll have to work on that.

Along those lines I mulched my Jerusalem artichoke bed last fall with most of my pulled marigold plants in hopes the marigolds would reseed there.

Jerusalem artichokes are thriving.

That is if they can find room to grow as the sunchokes are coming up thickly. Marigolds are just starting to emerge, so we'll see.

Summer garden planting is almost daily. I like to plant my beds in companion groups, i.e. mixing as many types of garden plants in a bed as possible.

I planted bush beans amongst the fall carrots

First I rake the winter applied mulch back over the walk-path between the beds. There, it helps keep weeds down but is available to be raked back once the plants are growing. I turn the soil with a shovel or potato form and pull out all the wiregrass I can. I learned a long time ago that I cannot win the war against this tenacious invasive, so I just try to stay one step ahead of it. Compost is applied and seeds planted. Larger seeds like beans and okra I don't plant and thin later, because I can't bear to pull the sweet little things out! I plant to recommended thinning distance and fill in the gaps with other plants if needed.

Planted so far:
  • Tendergreen bush beans
  • Amish paste tomatoes (seed)
  • Roma paste tomatoes (seed)
  • calendula
  • summer savory
  • white horehound
  • Mountain Okra (new variety for me)
  • marigolds (Brocade Mix from Baker Creek)
  • Boston pickling cucumbers
  • Zucchetta Rampicante summer squash (new variety)
  • Truckers Favorite corn
  • Green Nutmeg melon
  • light seeded sesame
  • coriander
  • more to come .......

Here's a shot of the Truckers Favorite.

Truckers Favorite Field corn, a small patch.

I plant double rows, these being a lawn mower width apart (so I can "weed"). When the corn plants are about ankle high, I'll plant Ozark Razorback cowpeas in the middle of the double rows. I will also plant pumpkins at the ends of the rows. I'd like to sow the pathways with a short clover, like Dutch White as a living mulch. If I can get the seed, I will do that.

At the bottom of the garden I planted two small sections of wheat and one of hull-less oats last fall.

Winter wheat and volunteer vetch

The oats never emerged and the wheat is spotty, but it's growing with volunteer vetch and other lovely weeds the goats love. Dan and I decided to cut this to dry for the hay pile because there wasn't enough to make much of a wheat harvest. The wheat berries are in the milk stage so they won't shatter, but will give the goats a little grain in their hay next winter. In it's place, I'll plant a large patch of giant amaranth. More on this soon with some exciting equipment news!

How is everyone else doing with their gardens? Planting? Or harvesting and preserving? Depends on what part of the world we live in, doesn't it!

May 9, 2014

Kidding: Last But Not Least, Zoey!

Zoey and twins, buckling on the left, doeling on the right.

Yesterday afternoon I gathered up the goats for evening milking but noticed Zoey wasn't there. Knowing she was due to kid in three days I went looking for her. I scanned the pasture and saw her in the far corner. Was everything all right?

If she'd isolated herself, it could only mean one thing. As I got closer, I noticed a little brown thing standing next to her. I picked up my pace. Then I saw a little white thing on the ground behind her. I started running.

These are second generation Kikobians, a Nigerian, Nubian, Kiko mix.

Twins! Not only that, but they were both completely dry and she'd already delivered the placenta. I was shocked I'd missed it but relieved everyone was all right.

It was hard getting her to leave that spot, even though I was carrying her twins and sticking them right under her nose. We finally got to a clean, comfy, safe stall and I got the new little family settled in.

She has a boy and a girl, and is a good first time mama.

That wraps up kidding season for the year with 10 healthy kids: 4 bucklings and 6 doelings. We had a couple of close calls, but all are well and thriving. I feel very blessed.

May 7, 2014

A Barn Door for the Chicken Coop

Continued from here.

A barn door is so practical. It slides open and closed, stays put, and is never in the way. But have you ever priced the hardware for one? Way too expensive to be practical! Never one to be deterred, Dan decided to make his own.
Hardware for a DIY barn door

This is the project Dan worked on while I whitewashed the inside of the coop. For the hardware he bought:
  • 3, 4 ft. strips of flat bar, .25" x .75"
  • 2 garage door pulleys 
  • 2 mending plates
  • 2 door stops
  • 1 pressure treated 1x6

He ripped the 1x6 to 2.5 inches, and then made the track by cutting a groove into the long edge and fitting the flat bar into it. The pulleys ride on top. The mending plates are bolted to the pulleys and also the door as you see in the two photos below.

The mending plates were bolted to the pulleys,

and screwed onto the door.

The door itself was made from scrap plywood and lumber. 

Stop and guide

A doorstop was added and a guide made with a block of wood. This keeps the door from swinging away from the wall. Long metal pins hold it in place. Another flat bar attached to the bottom of the door makes for no wear and easy gliding.

The last things to add were a door pull and latch. The leather strap tying the eye bolt to the door pull keeps Yours Truly from losing it. I used a similar set-up on the stable door between the storage area and the coop. The door works very well, looks good, and I love it!

Only a few things are left to finish the chicken coop project: expand the chicken yard, set the feed room in order, and level the "patio" area under the overhang in front of the barn door. Then it's chicken moving day!

Next up, "New Chicken Coop: Feed & Storage Room."

UPDATE November 2016: I've had folks ask how well this door has stood up. I have to say that we've had no problems with it and it still functions beautifully. To see the larger barn door we made for the little goat barn, click here.

May 4, 2014

Amish Whitewash

Series continued from here.

If you've read Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer, then you are familiar with whitewash. I always thought of it as simply old-fashioned homemade paint, until I read Randy James's Why Cows Learn Dutch: and Other Secrets of the Amish Farm.
"The stone walls and wood ceiling are chalky from a thick coat of whitewash that is required by the milk inspector. The whitewash is a limestone based paste that's sprayed or painted on. It helps keep the barn clean, and it is too alkaline for insects to nest or lay eggs in."  pg. 20

That last sentence started a research project because I immediately decided that I would whitewash the inside of the new chicken coop rather than paint it. I found lots of information with lots of recipes, but you know me; simplest is best, so I used the recipe from Randy James's book. I call it "Amish Whitewash" because it's what the Amish dairy farmers of Geauga County, Ohio used.

Amish Whitewash

1 gallon water
2 pounds salt
7 pounds hydrated lime.

No preparation instructions were given. 
What follows are notes from my research. 

Use warm water, dissolve salt. Stir in lime until dissolved. Apply with sprayer or paint brush.

Mixing whitewash to paint the inside of the chicken coop.
Consistency is about like lumpy pancake batter, but it thickens over time.

Safety precautions: The lime is fine so wear a respirator while mixing. I read on one site that it's caustic so I wore gloves. I got it all over me however and had no problem, so the gloves aren't necessary (but do see the notes below on different types of lime).

  • This is a wash, not a paint. It won't go on or dry like paint. 
  • Doesn't stain clothing and washes right out.
  • Not waterproof so this recipe is for indoor application only.
  • Dries to a chalky finish which will rub off
  • Needs to be reapplied every year or two
  • Not toxic to animals
  • See notes below on different kinds of lime

The salt makes it stick to the surface during application. Some recipes call for the addition of glue or paste to keep it from rubbing off after it dries. I didn't do that this first time but I might in the future.

The solution thickens as you go, and with experimentation I found it best to keep adding water to keep it the original consistency. It goes on thin and watery looking, but whitens up considerably as it dries.

Bare wood on left, wet whitewash in middle, dried on right

I gleaned more details from Housewifery: A Manual and Text Book of Practical Housekeeping by Lydia Ray Balderston (1919).
"Whitewash is much used on fences, outhouses, cellars, and chicken coops, to kill bacteria and vermin, to deodorize, and to improve appearance."
 "Lime water may be used to rinse milk pans and bottles, and chambers. A 3 percent. solution is known to kill typhoid bacteria and a 20 per cent . solution will disinfect excreta. This requires from one-half to one hour."

It is important to note that there are different kinds of lime. Hydrated lime is not the same as the lime put on gardens or sprinkled on the barn floor.
  • Hydrated lime (calcium hydroxide) - also called slaked lime, builders lime, masonry lime, pickling lime (food grade). Due to its alkalinity it is no longer recommended for pickle making, but it is used for industrial waste water treatment. 
  • Agricultural lime (calcium carbonate) - also called barn lime, garden lime, lawn lime. This is the stuff that's used to mark the lines on sports fields.
  • Burnt lime (calcium oxide) - also known as quicklime. This is the lime that is caustic. It's common use is industrial: manufacture of pulp, paper, glass, steel, insecticides, and fungicides. 
  • Dolomite (calcium magnesium carbonate) - used as a soil amendment, also fed to goats as a source of calcium.
  • Limestone - as a soil amendment to correct pH, supply calcium and possibly magnesium
    • Calcitic - contains about 40% calcium and 0.2% magnesium
    • Dolomitic - contains about 21% calcium and 11% magnesium

How did it turn out? Not bad, I'd say.

Two views of the freshly whitewashed chicken coop. I even did the nest
boxes! Once it dried I used bagged lawn clippings for litter on the floor.

Brightens it up quite a bit don't you think? (Photos of unpainted here). Because it whitens as it dries it was hard to tell if I was applying evenly. It didn't turn out like a good paint job, but hopefully that will improve with practice. I learned to keep it fairly liquidy (like pancake batter); also, that a second coat can be applied once the first is thoroughly dried. Even so, as a non-toxic, no poison method of insect control, I'm well satisfied. I plan to treat the goat shed the same way.

For a more permanent homemade paint, see Eric Sloane's The Seasons of America Past.On pages 145 and 146 are several recipes including one for an outdoor red paint. His collection of old recipes use linseed oil instead of water, which would make them better for exterior use.

For a very interesting article about how whitewash is used in Ireland (including how natural dye plants are used to color it), check out Restoring Mayberry (with thanks to rabidlittlehippy for first sharing the link with me).


How To Make Amish Whitewash: Make your own whitewash, paint and wood stain is now available as an eBook. Includes What's Up with Whitewash?, All About Lime, Safety, Basic Whitewash Recipe, How To Make Your Whitewash More Durable, How To Make Your Whitewash More Waterproof, How To Color Your Whitewash, Care And Maintenance Of Whitewash, Glossary, Resources, and A Collection Of Recipes for Whitewash, Homemade Paint, and Homemade Wood Stains. List price $2.49. Available in epub, mobi (Kindle), pdf, rtf, lrf, pdb, txt, and html formats. Visit for where to buy.

Next post - "A Barn Door for the Chicken Coop."

Amish Whitewash © May 2014 by Leigh