November 29, 2015

Homestead Evaluation Time: 2015 Goals

Next month Dan and I will sit down and formulate our goals for the upcoming year. I find goals so much more useful than resolutions. Who can resolve to do anything, really? Goals give us a sense of direction, but with the flexibility to adapt them as needed.

So how did we do on this year's goals? We had them divided into several categories: house, barn, fences, field crops, pigs, chickens, and honeybees.
I guess the thing about the last one is that even though we didn't get the tree trimmed, we decided on a better location for the barn so we can proceed anyway!

How about you? Do you make yearly goals? If so, have you been able to cross many of them off? Or maybe something unexpected came along that changed everything! Tell us about it!

November 26, 2015

Christmas Pyrography Sale

Tis the season, but for what? Does anyone else feel like consumerism has totally destroyed the holidays? I sincerely hope you all able to focus on the real reasons for your family traditions and enjoy them for what they were meant to be. That said, I'm going to add to the upcoming shopping frenzy with a coupon for Dan's Pyrography Etsy site. There hasn't been much time for woodburning these days, so I think he's decided to clear out his Etsy shop and take it down after Christmas.

Coupon code is PYROSTAR and it's for 25% off.
It expires at the end of December.


November 23, 2015

Beekeeping Resources for Natural Beekeepers

Honeysuckle Hive
Welcome to all of you who have clicked on over from Farmer Liz's! For those who don't know what I'm talking about, I did an interview with Liz about Warré beekeeping on her Eight Acres blog. If you aren't familiar with Liz's blog, please visit and you will undoubtedly become a regular reader. Click here for my Warré post.

What you'll find here are links to more details on my own Warré experience, plus a list of resources for Warré, top bar, and natural beekeeping.

My Warré Blog Posts:

Warré Hives and Beekeeping

Horizontal Top Bar Hives

Plans to build Top Bar Hives

Books (All but the last link will take you to Amazon US, so you may need to do a search of your favorite regional online bookseller to find them closer to home.)

Websites Promoting Natural Beekeeping

Groups and Forums
  • warrebeekeeping at Yahoo Groups. Moderated by David Heaf. While this group focuses on Warré hives and methods, there are frequent technical discussions about bees and beekeeping in general. 
  • Natural Beekeeping Forum

Natural Beekeeping Treatments


If you have any questions I'll be happy to answer them if I can. If I can't, I'll try to point you in the direction of finding more information.

November 20, 2015

Parade of Junk

I'm grumpy. That means that this post will come off as something of a rant, but don't say you weren't forewarned!

Why am I grumpy? Because I've taken a liking to peanut butter and jelly on toast for breakfast, and my toaster oven died. The problem isn't so much having to change my favorite breakfast, as it is our continual parade of junk consisting of things we've purchased, such as drip pot coffee makers and laundry baskets, that are kaput after about six months or a year. Many readers will likely nod their heads in sympathy over this problem.

The modern world has a disposable mindset. The irony is that it rallies behind "green" products and recycling, but for all the talk and hoopla about these things, nothing really changes except that prices go up and quality goes down. It seems to me that we have something of a 3-ring circus going on, with everyone pointing the finger at someone else. We have industrial manufacturing and agriculture in one ring, the economy in another, and the environmentalists in the third.

Let's start with the third ring, since global warming, climate change, carbon emissions, and petroleum dependence are so much in the news these days. It's interesting that the target object for all of this is usually emissions, mostly automobiles. Rarely is it pointed out that the majority of plastics and all their cousins are petroleum products. And what, in the parade of junk, isn't made with at least some plastic (or all) these days? Then there's the energy cost to manufacture and transport those goods, plus all that packaging which must be dealt with. But don't get me started on that.

In the second ring, business people tell us they only sell what the public wants. Baloney! I mean, who really wants to keep buying a new coffee pot or laundry basket every six months? Or a new toaster oven every couple of years? The truth is that we can only buy what they offer to us. Don't show it to us and we won't even know to want it. So called "better quality" costs more, but is it really? Somehow I doubt it.

Then there's the economy, which is based on the industrial model. It's so called "health" revolves around "growth." In other words, they have to keep making more and more money to keep their investors in dividends and their CEOs in bazillion dollar bonuses. There's the real culprit! Let's just all grow a little garden and be satisfied and content with living simply and modestly - problem solved!

Don't even bother with the government. Every time they pass laws to make things "better," it only means things get more expensive, with all that expense passed on to the consumer.

This is madness. How long can it go on?

< /rant>
Parade of Junk © November 2015 by

November 17, 2015

Sunny Days & Frosty Nights

We finally got our first frost over the weekend. The first night it didn't blanket everything, but settled in pockets in the garden here and there. I had delayed garden harvest in hopes the ground would dry out a bit, because we got something like 8 inches of rain over the past month. The days are sunny now, but we're getting frost every night so I reckoned it was time to get to work. Like bringing in the last of the cushaws.

I found only a few sweet potatoes.

I had two varieties planted in two different places in the garden, but neither did well. At least there will be some for holiday dinners. It's funny how the harvest can vary so much from year to year, isn't it?

While I was digging for those I found these.

Jerusalem artichokes. Last year's harvest was kinda piddly, but it looks like we'll have plenty this year. These are heading for lacto-fermentation.

I picked the last of the green tomatoes.

Not as many as I'd did like, which makes me think I should have canned green tomatoes for frying earlier in the growing season.

I pulled our first sampling of fall carrots.

Dan had dumped the sand from the grandkids' old wading-pool-sandbox-turned-duck-pond into the bed. These are the nicest carrots we've had in this garden.

My Swiss chard made a nice come-back, and it finally seems to be pest free!

Can you see it for all the wiregrass? I transplanted some of the chard in the hoop house, to see how it fares this winter. I read it can be perennial in warmer climates. Usually it succumbs to our winters, so I'd like to see how long I can keep it going.

Raspberries are down to their last handful.

Soon I'll start pulling out the fruits I've been storing in the freezer and begin my jelly and jam making. After I finish those, I'll start in on the year's supply of bone broth.

We're working on husking the field corn,

while the goats get to feast on the leaves and stalks.

The pigs spend their days hunting acorns.

Last but not least, here is Sam guarding the firewood.

There's always something to do, isn't there? I'm reminded of Carla Emery's admonition to plant something every day. I don't necessarily do that, but when one centers their life upon the land and what it produces, then there is some related task or chore nearly every day. It the cycle of seasonal living. Where are you in that cycle?

Sunny Days & Frosty Nights © November 2015 by

November 14, 2015

The Midnight Pest

We have too many cats. Not that we don't have enough varmints to keep them all busy (we do), but I've begun to think that when people ask me where I live, I'm going to tell them "Cat Central Station".

If you have cats (or a cat), you know how it is. They want to go out.
You open the door.
They sit down.
"Are you going out?
"I want to look first."
"I thought you wanted to go out!"
"I want to see if there's anything interesting out there."

Meowy: "Just hold the door until I decide if I want to go in or not."

It's kind of like humans opening the door to the fridge just to look inside. Maybe a fudge cream brownie cake appeared since the last time you looked. Multiply that times four cats (because they never want to go in or out at the same time) and you begin to see why I use the word "Pest" in my post title.

Then, after they've gone out, they want to come in.

You might remember this photo from
"Riley Wants In." Nothing has changed.

Time: 12:35 a.m. The humans have been in bed since about 9.
"Jing, jing, jing." It's the front door kitty bells.
I drag myself out of bed and stumble to the front door.
Open front door and in runs a cat. It must be Riley because he goes out every night at bedtime and later wants to come in for a midnight snack. Me? Back to bed.

15 minutes later.
"Meow, meow, MEOW!"
"RILEY! Be quiet!"
"My food bowl's empty."
Human drags self out of bed and stumbles into kitchen to survey the bowl in question.
"Your food bowl is not empty!"
"But I can see the bottom of the bowl."
"Your food bowl IS NOT EMPTY!"
"But it's only crumbs. MEOW!"
Sigh. Fill bowl and go back to bed.

15 minutes later.
"Meow, meow, MEOW!"
"I want to go out."

And if that's not bad enough, we have two or three others that decide they want either out or in during the night, but never the same time as Riley.

Good kitties sleep all night.

As the weather gets colder they start wanting to stay in at night more. Riley, though, seems to relish the colder weather. Me, I relish my warm bed. Without all night cat duty.

November 8, 2015

Book Review: Building an Old-Fashioned Pole Barn

Building an Old-Fashioned Pole Barn
by Gary "Pa Mac" McWilliams
Getting our hands on a copy of Pa Mac's Building an Old-Fashioned Pole Barn was extremely timely, especially since we finally seem to have settled on a goat barn plan. Dan is in the beginning stages of technical planning and so was very interested in this book.

Are ya'll familiar with Pa Mac? His website is Farm Hand's Companion, where he focuses on sharing the how-tos of traditional farming skills.

“Through demonstrating the skills and knowledge of the traditional small farm, Farm Hands Companion resolves to aid folks of all ages and walks of life by inspiring them to resourcefulness and self-sufficiency.”

This book definitely fulfills that mission statement. It is complete, clear, and concise, with a wonderful touch of down-home humor.

Chapters include:
1. Tools and Materials
2. Framing the Pole Barn
3. Roof and Walls
4. Finishing Out
5. Various Uses for a Pole Barn

107 photographs are keyed to text, to further clarify the steps involved. The book is 8.5" by 11" with 63 pages. It is well priced at $15.

The Farm Hand's Companion Show, Volume One
Before I give you the link to where to get it, I have to
recommend that you also get a copy of The Farm Hand's Companion Show Volume One in which

"Pa Mac takes an undeveloped tract of land and begins to turn it into a traditional subsistence farm."

For those of us who are visual learners, it contains episodes that put the building of the pole barn in motion, from clearing the ground to unique finishing touches.

Overall the DVD is an interesting look at building a subsistence farm from scratch and utilizing the natural resources at hand: the episodes on various types of trees and their uses, how to make lumber, how to plant heirloom apple trees, what to do with all those rocks around the place (hint - think floor), and a clever log chicken house. And don't miss the special features.

12 episodes, 151 minutes, priced at $20.

You'll find both of these in the Farm Hand's Companion General Store. 

November 5, 2015

Goat Barn Idea #5

It started with the ducks.

The Muscovies like to hang out on top of the chicken coop or goat shed.

When we converted the old storage shed into a chicken coop (long before we got the ducks), we discovered a leak so we tarped it. Tarp was the fastest, cheapest option for fixing it, and amazingly, it has lasted over five and a half years. It has recently begun to shred, however, and for some reason, the ducks love to pull at those shreds. The tarp is in tatters.

Dan and I discussed putting another tarp on the shed, but if we can't keep the ducks off (which is doubtful), then the new tarp will have a short lifespan. We don't want to keep replacing tarps every year or so, so a better option would be a permanent roof, preferably metal. But is it worth the time and expense to roof that old outbuilding? That question set off a brand new brainstorming session.

I've been talking about a goat barn for quite awhile now, and we've developed a series of plans for it, starting back in March 2013. Why have none of these come to pass? The old oak tree.

Random dead branches fall to the ground periodically.

It's sister tree to the one we took down two years ago. The concern is it (or some of its huge branches) falling where we planned to put the new barn. That tree was on our goal list to tend to this past summer, and Dan went so far as to price having it done. The quote to cut off all the long old branches was $1000. To rent a high-reach to do the job ourselves would have been $1000. It may as well have been $1,000,000.

The need to do something about the goat shed roof pressed the issue. We still don't have the lump sum to tend to that tree, so we got to discussing if there was something we could do with what we've already got. The original building is more of a half shed.

This photo was taken in early summer 2010. The shed is in
lots of photos, but I have very few photos of the shed itself.

The current idea under discussion would be to simply add a second half with a new roof and new siding.

A simple gable barn

The goats would get the back, I would put the milking room and feed storage in the front right, hay and straw storage would be on the left.

Rough idea of the floor plan.

An overhang for a goat loafing area would give the finish it off.

Will it actually happen? None of the others have yet, but this one is the simplest plan so far. That translates to the most doable, and if we don't have to wait on getting those tree limbs down, I think we actually have a chance.

Goat Barn Idea #5 © November 2015 by

November 2, 2015

Just a Few Photos

I was inspired to take a few photos over the weekend after picking these.

Red raspberries

Some of you may remember my raspberry harvest last year - one raspberry! This year has been much better, and I look forward to even more in the future.

Also happy these days is my little Meyers lemon tree.

Also still blooming

Marigolds and morning glories still blooming.

Still harvesting


Two of about six cushaw winter squashes. They weighed about 18# each.



We've been getting fall greens too.

Dan built two more beds in the hoop house. Clockwise from bottom
left: transplanted kale, broccoli, spinach, arugula, cabbage and
celery, & one bed to be filled. The the turnip bed is to the left.

So greens plus tomatoes means

Dinner (with a side of lasagna & French bread).

Parting shot

Meowy in the corn patch

Still no frost but Sunday it started raining again. So what's going on at your place?

Just a Few Photos © November 2015