Affordably Building and Living Off of the Grid Homesteader Life

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Affordably Building and Living Off of the Grid, As many of you know, my husband and I have been working and planning towards our homesteader life for many years now.

Affordably Building and Living Off of the Grid

While many people don’t start on their rural living journey until after retirement, or spending several decades building a nest egg, we opted for a different route.

Our future home site - Affordably Building and Living Off of the Grid
Our future home site – Affordably Building and Living Off of the Grid

Living off of the grid

We did not want to wait.

We wanted to raise our children in the lifestyle.

So we made a plan to get to the land.

The plan has taken twists and turns over the years.

Has had to adapt, change and flex based on how life happened.

We started six years ago, and our plan until recently has been we would begin building this year.

Slowly constructing over a period of about three years so we can pay for this thing out of pocket.

Affordably Building and Living Off of the Grid

We’re going to build an earthbag home in the underground/bermed style of Mike Oehler.

We’re using a mishmash of various styles, but are heavily inspired by Mike Oehler’s $50 Underground House book as well as the Earth-Sheltered Houses: How to Build an Affordable….

Our own home.

It’s an amazing thought.

Let me re-introduce us for a moment.

My husband and I are in our early thirties, and we have three girls from age 6 to 1.

living off of the grid
I didn’t have any good family photos but here’s a cute one of my kids playing at the pond 🙂

We love alternative construction, learning all kinds of homesteading and natural living skills, and both my husband and I have had lifelong dreams of living a simple life on a homestead in the mountains.

We believe pretty strongly in having less, doing less, and therefore having more time to enjoy those sunsets and being hands-on with life instead of slogging away in the corporate world for a lifetime.

But – just a few weeks ago, through a series of unexpected events, we decided that it is time to build.

We feel very strongly that our hand is being guided and we are getting the message loud and clear – BUILD NOW.

Except we don’t have much money.

We do already have the land, with water at the home site, as well as a small trailer to live in.

Wanna know how much we will probably be able to spend? $10k. $15k, tops

Challenges Building and Living Off of the Grid Homesteader Life

“If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”

– Dave Ramsey

We are taking that phrase to heart.

We intend to live like no one else, so that we in turn can achieve our dream of living like no one else.

Living in a way that many people dream about.

Challenges Building and Living Off of the Grid Homesteader Life
This guy will be home for the summer! We move in a few weeks. Pray for our sanity, please.

Living in a 28 foot 1-bedroom camper with 3 kids while we build will be interesting.

And since this cabin we’ll build will be integrated into our final home plans, we’ll have to make some adaptations to the home plans to incorporate this (stickbuilt) cabin.

All American Sun Oven Review

One thing we had not specifically planned on, however, was living off of the grid.

We thought initially that we would like to have the option of going off-grid, but we also liked the simplicity of being on grid.

So, now our biggest challenge in this is the power.

Given the fact that hooking up to the grid will cost about $5000 on its own, we are not going to go that route. Realistic Off Grid Power Sources

I’ll be using a kitchenette compiled from propane appliances taken from our trailer, and will be hang drying laundry or using the laundromat. Solar Power Electricity

We will very likely construct a portable battery bank, to be trickle charged by a small solar setup that we already have, but one we could conceivably transport in order to get it charged.

Or a Goal Zero Solar Generator kit

I’m actually pretty curious to see what we will end up doing.

I myself am a little more interested in permanently living off of the grid but neither my husband or I are all that well versed with all the systems and setups required.

When it comes down to it, however, I have a feeling it might make more sense to spend $5000 on a good solar/wind/etc. setup (and any necessary training!) as opposed to spending it to hook up to the grid (and let’s not forget the monthly payment also!).

I’d love thoughts on this!

BUILD NOW

Right now, we are making a list of what are the bare minimums we need in order to have a habitable home in time for winter this year.

I am very thankful that the “BUILD NOW” message came now, in early spring.

Our house will not have siding to start with, and it’s likely we might not even have drywall on the inside.

We’ll be using bucket/sawdust toilets.

Rural Property Investment: The Pros & Cons Of Investing In Rural Locations
Home Maintenance Tips that Will Save You Tons of Money

I won’t be able to use my dryer much, and it is going to be a huge sacrifice for me to not use a dishwasher.

But you know what?

It will be ours, free and clear.

And that, my friends, is independence.

I would take that over any McMansion on a golf course you could throw at me.

And as we have the money in our pockets, we can continue to improve, finish and upgrade it (as well as adding on the remainder of our planned home).

P.S. any helpful tips or resources you might like to share about building or living off of the grid would be wonderful and very appreciated 🙂

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Holiday Gift Ideas From Rural Living Today

Holiday Gift Ideas From Rural Living Today

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Holiday Gift Ideas – Is it that time of year again? Our family truly enjoys this special month of December.

We celebrate Christmas in many ways, from a birthday cake for Jesus to special holiday menus, from stockings on the mantle to a fragrant Christmas tree.

But our favorite facet of the month has to be the warm and festive gatherings with family, friends, and neighbors.

And some of those get-togethers involve gift giving.

Though we try to be kind and generous all year round, there’s something about celebrating this season by giving something special to those we love.

In our family we exchange gifts including coupons for services and outings, personalized tree ornaments, practical packages under the tree, and fun gift bags passed around in those silly gift exchange games we just can’t give up.

Are you in the market for some ideas for holiday gifts for individuals or families?

Holiday Gift Ideas From Rural Living Today
Holiday Gift Ideas From Rural Living Today

Here are some suggestions from our house to yours.

Rural Living Today Holiday Gift Ideas Four Holiday Wish Lists

Rural Living Today have compiled some lists of practical and fun items we use or would like to have…and that we highly recommend to other homesteaders.

So here we have lists For good measure, we’ve added a list for the youngest homesteaders in our lives.

We’ve included links to some online stores so you can see the products or order them if you wish.

But we also encourage you to support your local merchants by shopping in your own neighborhood.

Rural Living Today Holiday Gift Ideas
Rural Living Today Holiday Gift Ideas

Rural Living Today Holiday Gift Ideas

Carhartt Long Sleeve T-Shirts

I could never have too many of these–I live in them all winter.

Marie and I both like to wear them alone or layered under other shirts, depending on the temperature.

These Carhartt T-shirts are heavier than most Ts, well made, and reasonably priced.

They come in several colors that still look good after lots of washing, and Carhartt’s short sleeve T-shirts are great for the spring to fall months.

Celebrate Carhartt with Amazing Deals on Apparel & Accessories

Extra batteries for battery-driven tools

You can never have enough extra batteries.

There are few things more frustrating than running out of power in the middle of a project.

Keep a battery charger in the garage, one in the barn, another in the garden shed.

I like these combo sets of interchangeable tools.

I have a drill, handsaw, and flashlight that use the same battery pack.

Speaking of flashlights, you can never have too many!

This year I bought a giant one that will even shine on coyotes hundreds of feet away.

And we have several of these little LED headlamps around; we keep a couple in the truck so we can see the gate lock when arriving home in the black of night.

Check your local stores for specials on these–we found a pack of three headlights with batteries.

Best Tools for the Farm and Homestead

Framing gun, finish gun, finish brad and staple gun.

The last is great for attaching wire cloth, screening, and chicken wire when building chicken tractors and coops.

There’s no substitute!

Nice air compressor with air driven tools

Here’s a combo set with air compressor and tools.

Good quality chainsaw

I recommend a farm-sized chainsaw–not a small startup saw.

I’d get a Husqvarna Rancher chainsaw or the Stihl equivalent.

Make sure you have extra chains and lots of 2 cycle oil additive on hand.

Weed whacker

Either a Husqvarna or Stihl trimmer.

Get a good heavy-duty one with a support strap to hold the weight of the tool while you work.

Remote wireless thermometer

Summer and winter, the first thing I want to know in the morning is the outdoor temperature.

It tells me how the livestock and the garden might be faring and helps me plan my day.

BUT especially on frigid mornings I’d rather not go outside to check the temps.

With a remote weather station you can have several wireless weather station around your property reporting in to one central reader located in the comfort of your home.

I have my eye on this one that can read three remote sensors up to 330 feet from my house.

Good Laptop Computer

A good laptop computer for research, record-keeping, etc.

Brands and formats vary but it’s important to have something you’re comfortable with and that suits your preferences.

Depending on your needs, a tablet may be enough.

Apple peeler – Apple Corer – Apple Slicer

I may be an outdoor kind of guy but hey.

I can find my way around the kitchen!

This fall we spent hours peeling and coring apples the old-fashioned way.

Then I found out about this manually-operated Apple Peeler gadget that will speed things up like crazy next year.

Holiday Gift Ideas Favorites
Holiday Gift Ideas Favorites

Rural Living Today Holiday Gift Ideas Favorites

Jolly Garden Clogs

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE mine!

If I could recommend only one thing (or one pair of things) to my friends, it would be Jolly Garden Clogs.

They are durable, very comfy, and easy to slip on and off.

Their sturdy cork insoles support my flat arches and are removable for cleaning.

I wear my red Jollys all year round all over our farm as long as the snow is not deeper than they are tall.

They also disappear from our mud room all the time and can be found on the feet of my daughters and granddaughters.

Men can wear them too!

Jollys come in two men’s styles and two women’s styles.

Adobe oven for our backyard patio area

An Adobe Pizza Oven is on our wish list every year, just waiting for it to rise to the top of the priority list on our developing family farm.

We’re thinking about building something like this.

But for now we will stick to our BBQ Grill.

Can you imagine baking bread, roasting meat, or cooking a homemade pizza in one of these?

Ninja Kitchen System or similar appliance

One of the most important tools in the kitchen!

We use our Ninja Pulse Blender multiple times daily for grinding coffee and herbs, grating cheese, making smoothies, mixing, kneading, and all sorts of other things.

So handy not only for everyday cooking but when there’s lots of garden produce to process.

 Kitchenaid Mixer Fruit and vegetable strainer attachment

Our hand-cranked food mill does the job (and without electricity), but for large quantities of applesauce and tomato sauce, this Kitchenaid strainer attachment is a real hand- and time-saver.

Homestead Food Processing Projects and Canning Equipment

I have a large kitchen, but the counters always seem to be full of processing foods, trials, and testing projects…and the endless canning supplies.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a separate bowls of bread dough, jars of kefir, crocks of fermenting vinegar, bowls of soaking grains and nuts,dehydrator, canners, etc.?

I’m planning to get a separate set of canning utensils to keep aside for canning only.

Speaking of kitchen projects, I recommend every homesteader kitchen be equipped with both a water bath canner for high-acid foods and a pressure canner for meats, vegetables, and other low-acid foods.

I use some of them all year, but at canning time I spend too much time trying to find them around the kitchen.

Big food dehydrator

I have a small round Nesco dehydrator, but oh would I love to have an Excalibur dehydrator!

When I’ve used my daughter’s, I really notice that the Excalibur not only holds more food and has more height flexibility, but also dehydrates everything much faster!

Vacuum Sealer

FoodSaver rounds out the food preservation equipment list.

Vacuum sealing prevents freezer burn and just keeps things fresher, plus it consolidates packages so they stack nicely in the freezer or pantry.

We have a basic model, but the larger models have more capabilites.

Reading for Leisure Time

All this talk of equipment for working makes me want to sit down for a bit to read.

For me that includes reading about working (Getting Started on a Food Supply Plan: Sourcing, Preserving, and Storing Food for Tomorrow’s Uncertain Times), you can buy it here.

Here are some great magazines to read about the homesteading life and more mad scientist experiments to try!

GRIT, Mother Earth News, Hobby Farms, Backwoods Home.

I’d love to sit down and reminisce through the new 40th anniversary edition of The Encyclopedia of Country Living, the book that inspired our homesteading hearts.

Holiday Gift Dream List

Kindle eBook reader

One thing that is extremely handy is Kindle e-reader.

It isn’t just for reading fiction, you can store thousands of great, informative, and educational books on one.

Making them a great tool to keep with you, whether you are working in the shop, the garden, or learning new skills.

I’ve been wanting one for about three years and this year I am finally getting one – very excited!

Pullover Sweater

A nice thick pullover sweater for chilly mornings before the fire warms things up.

I like sweatshirts but one thing my dad Jim can attest to is that I am a big sweater fan.

I’ve been stealing his sweaters my whole life!

Travel mugs to keep my coffee hot

Contigo mugs are bar none the best, although I’ve got a few others sitting around.

I am a creature of habit, and as a creature of habit I love my routine of coffee in the morning and afternoon.

A good travel mug will keep it hot if I don’t finish it in time, which is handy with little ones underfoot!

Kitchenaid Mixer

This is probably one of my most favorite and useful tools.

Kitchenaid is an absolute workhorse.

There are some days I use mine multiple times in the day.

It not only is good to have as a mixer, but it has lots of attachments to do whatever you want, from an ice cream maker to a food strainer (which I use quite a bit!).

You can use it to grind your meat, mix in the seasonings, and then extrude the sausage into links.

A very useful tool!

Shelving Systems

A nice shelving system for canned goods is a good thing to have on hand for anyone who does their own food preservation.

One thing that is difficult is when you don’t really know what you have on hand.

Personally I’m no good at keeping an inventory.

Having a shelf that keeps everything right in sight is hugely useful for planning meals or knowing when it’s time to stock up.

A good garden wagon

Wheelbarrows are really nice but if you have a good sturdy garden wagon/cart, you can haul so much more and it is much easier to use than a wheelbarrow.

If you garden at all, this is a hugely useful item that makes life a whole lot easier.

Automatic feeders and nipple Chicken waterers (available for chickens, hogs, and more)

These are something that will also make life much easier when caring for livestock.

At our old house when we had our chickens I loved the fact that my chickens could have plenty of food and water at any given time.

It really came in handy during those busy days running errands, canning marathons, or anything else that might “help” me forget to feed or water my birds.

Large feeders can be found easily online and in feed stores.

We made our nipple waterers similar to this, but you can find ready-made ones at Avian Aqua Miser and The Garden Coop.

Insulated hooded zip-up sweatshirt

My favorite is one I got from North 1(which is very difficult to find) – it is thermal insulated on the inside and so warm.

I love having the convenience of a hoodie with the warmth of a coat for quick trips outside to grab more firewood, compost pile or to wrangle the animals.

I know Carhartt has some really good ones, too, and they are easier to find than North 1!

Set of cast iron cookware

I would be so lost without my cast iron.

When seasoned it cleans easily, cooks evenly and food somehow tastes better when made in it.

I have several skillets in various sizes and a dutch oven and they pretty much have a permanent residence on my stove.

On my wish list this year is a set of cast iron bread pans.

I have one made from stoneware, and it bakes so much nicer than the thin nonstick one I have.

Indoor/outdoor slippers

Since I don’t have a pair of Jolly Clogs like my mom (and yes, I DO steal them when I visit) I love my slippers that have soles.

They are just sturdy enough that I can run outside for that trip to the woodpile or compost pile and not have to worry about putting on regular shoes.

Holiday Gift Ideas Fun for Younger Homesteaders
Holiday Gift Ideas Fun for Younger Homesteaders

Holiday Gift Ideas Fun for Younger Homesteaders

Fisher-Price Little People Farm

We have to start with this old favorite of our family.

Bethany still has the old 1970s version that our kids all played with.

Of course this one is all modernized, with animal sounds…and does the barn door still “moo”?

Melissa and Doug Farm Friends Floor Puzzle

We love the quality of Melissa and Doug products, and this floor puzzle looks like tons of fun! Look at all those farm animals and the big red barn.

Pieces are large enough for young children to handle and put in place.

Farm Cube Puzzle by Melissa and Doug.

Remember the kind where each side of each block is part of a different puzzle?

Kids can spend hours rearranging these cubes to discover their favorite farm animals looking back at them.

Lace and Trace Farm lace up cards. Generations of kids have enjoyed lacing perforated cards with yarn.

These farm animals are adorable (and yes, they’re from Melissa and Doug and we really don’t get paid for advertising their products!

But quality speaks for itself).

My First Farm set for LEGO fans

These duplo blocks are for the young ones, but I know some older kids who would love to build this and play with it too.

My Collage Farm

Four cute little animals and a bunch of goodies to decorate them with.

Little ones need help but older kids can let their creativity fly.

Little House on the Prairie books and DVD sets

I’ll never be too old to read about the pioneer life of the Ingalls family.

We used to read the booksevery year, and now our grand kids are avidly reading them.

The DVD’s they’re among the best for entertaining young people while accurately describing life for the original homesteaders.

Do you have an avid craftier in your family?

My Little House Crafts Book includes instructions for 18 projects that Laura and Mary actually made in the Little House stories.

My Side of the Mountain trilogy

These books were some of our childhood favorites.

They inspired our dreams of self-sufficiency and aspirations to live the life we live today. Prepping gives you options on the road adventure

You can be sure our own children will be reading them in the years to come!

Farm Science Set

Farm Science set for older children.

A fun way to learn about how farms work with all sorts of educational and fun activities from T.S. Shure.

Storey Publishing’s game and puzzle books for preschoolers and older kids

These look like so much fun I’m thinking of putting them on my own wish list!

Barnyard Games and Puzzles, Pony Play Games and Puzzles, Chicken Games and Puzzles and Horse Games and Puzzles each include more than 100 brainteasers, word games, puzzles, jokes and riddles.

Badland Winches and Trailer Tongues for Your Vehicle

With safety always being a priority, we have put together information on two products for your vehicles, depending on your situation.

It is not surprising to have off-road vehicles get stuck in the mud or some challenging terrain regardless of their tough mechanisms and dynamic designs meant for such situations.

This is when Badland winches would come in handy to extract the vehicle from uninspiring positions in the outback or dense forests.

The market offers 12000 lb Badland winches with an automatic load-holding brake to get stuck off-road vehicles out of their predicament easily and quickly.

The dynamic winch can offer plenty of power in any heavy vehicle recovery using a cable tensioner that pulls out the stuck vehicle quickly without damaging any component.

If you frequent adventurous trips using 4×4 wheel vehicles in remote terrains, it is wise to bring along one of these 12000 lb winches as an unfailing companion when needed to get out of a tight situation.

Badland Winches
Badland Winches

Badland Winches for off-road fun

Badland winches exhibit great power in not just recovering stuck vehicles; they can haul timber over a great distance or be loaded onto a container.

A boat can also be loaded with this powerful winch which uses a series-wound motor.

The winch enjoys a 3-stage planetary gear system that spurns a fast speed line to get the job done.

Its load-holding brake is an automatic feature that is designed for extreme safety in any off-road adventure.

Modern technology ensures that all Badland winches are designed with dynamic components that offer features to benefit the extreme adventurer with maximum safety.

The winch’s motor stays cool even when in long pulls while the free spooling feature ensures a fast line out.

Its cable tensioner is specially designed to prevent any tangling of the cable.

The winch has a 12-foot remote control that is ergonomic in shape for a smoother hold and grip.

Its roller fair lead comes with nylon bushing and tough wire rope of aircraft grade to give durability and strength at every pull out job.

It is easy to attach the winch onto the vehicle easily and securely to ensure that the vehicle would be pulled out of the challenging terrain.

Easy access to buy Badland Winches

Veteran off-road adventurers have no hesitation in investing in a quality Badland 12000 lb winch from an appointed supplier that provides fair pricing and friendly customer services.

Such products come with a lifetime warranty that assures consumers of material defects or substandard workmanship.

An extended guarantee can be secured to enjoy better services from its distributor.

Certain distributors may even allow a return of these winches for any reason.

Costing just a couple of hundred dollars with a lifetime warranty, Badland winches are a strong necessity for adventurers as well as heavy vehicle repair shops, manufacturers, tool enthusiasts and building contractors who have specific uses of the winch.

The wide number of suppliers and distributors for winches makes it easy for customers to get a unit for their vehicles.

The internet is a powerful platform that allows easy search and online purchases of these tools, such as wWw.OnlineCarParts.co.uk.

Trailer Tongue

At first look, Trailer Tongue sounds like something a dentist might be interested in or maybe something a stand-up comic dreamed up of.

However, hold your laughter as a trailer tongue is a very real thing and for people who love to carry their mobile home along with them as they head down the road, a trailer tongue is a serious thing.

Trailer Tongue
Trailer Tongue

Technically it refers to the forward portion of a trailer where the coupler is mounted.

Now why would one worry about this contraption or even give it a second thought?

Tongue weight

Well first of all, as they say in trailer circles, always know your tongue weight.

It is something that you will need to aware of if you intend to hitch a trailer to your car.

Most people who are familiar with all things towing say that the tongue weight should be around 9-11% of the gross trailer weight.

This is crucial with respect to safety while towing your trailer.

If the tongue weight is too light then not enough downward pressure is applied on the attachment point and can result in something that is called as trailer sway.

This is unsafe as it makes the trailer difficult to handle and can it can even come off under severe stress.

The other thing is if the tongue weight is too heavy.

This causes an undue strain on the car pulling the trailer affecting the gas efficiency as well as making the trailer very difficult to maneuver specially around turns.

There are some fixes that can be made if the trailer tongue weight does not fall within the correct weight limit then simple fixes can be made.

These include shifting the cargo weight inside the trailer to help compensate as necessary.

If the trailer weight is too light then all that needs to be done is to shift the weight forward and if the weight is more, then some weight needs to be shifted toward the back of the trailer.

This helps in balancing the trailer weight and helps in maneuverability.

This however is a distant second fix as compared to changing the actual trailer weight.

Calculating tongue weight

The next logical question is how to calculate the tongue weight?

Well the first step is to know the total weight of the trailer so that you can calculate what weight range you need to be within.

If you do not already know this then a trip to the public scales and a small dollar investment will provide you the answer.

To calculate the tongue weight you can either use a small bathroom scale (for lighter tongues) or you can purchase a specific tongue weight scale which will help you find out the exact scale of the heavier tongue weights.

For newcomers, both the information on Badland winches and trailer tongues for your vehicles may sound intimidating but with your research, you will need what you need to in order to buy accordingly.

10 Realistic Ways to Overcome Food Crisis

Overcome Food Crisis

Last Updated on

Getting Started on a Food Supply Plan: Sourcing, Preserving, and Storing Foods for Tomorrow's Uncertain Times
Getting Started on a Food Supply Plan: Sourcing, Preserving, and Storing Foods for Tomorrow’s Uncertain Times

Overcome Food Crisis – Prepare to weather rising food prices and potential shortages—starting right now.

This year in the U.S., corn and soybean crops were deeply affected by serious drought.

Many popular processed foods are based on corn and soy.

These two products and other grains are the foundation of commercial livestock feeds.

Our well-being is dramatically affected by things we can’t control: weather, inflation, politics, etc.

However, taking easy steps to prepare for a food shortage is in your control.

Here’s how you can overcome food crisis and minimize the effect on your own family.

Within weeks of the drought, a domino-effect had already begun, with meat and poultry operations downsizing and even shutting down in anticipation of unbearable feed price hikes.

According to a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report, “Animal-based perishable foods will be hardest hit.

The USDA projects that poultry products will rise 3 to 4 percent next year, compared to this year’s average.

The biggest rises are seen in beef and veal, rising 4 to 5 percent from 2012 average.

Dairy products will take a hit too, rising up to 4.5 percent.”

Availability and prices of many grain products, vegetables, and fruits will also be affected.

The ultimate results of the strain on supply and distribution channels remains to be seen.

If you’ve been postponing starting or stepping up your own food production or storage, now is a good time to move it to the top of your “to-do” list.

Overcome Food Crisis
Overcome Food Crisis

Grow some vegetables, herbs, and fruit.

Anyone can grow something to eat.

Even if your garden soil is poor, you can grow some food.

And if you don’t know how, you can learn!

You don’t even have to wait till next spring to plant a garden or planter.

No matter where you live—cold or warm climate, urban or rural setting, huge farm or small apartment—you can probably grow something green during the fall and winter.

If you’re new to gardening, ask a neighbor or your local extension office what can be grown in your area.

Here in our four-season climate, we have been planting salad greens, root crops, and herbs for harvest throughout the fall and winter.

For successful winter harvests, plants should be mature by the time of the first frosts.

You can mulch root crops in place in the garden; other crops should be grown in hoop houses or cold frames for frost protection.

You may consider looking into getting a small greenhouse.

In a warm-winter area, you can grow many different veggies.

Where winters are cold, you can probably at least still plant mâche/corn salad and claytonia/miners’ lettuce.

In most climates, garlic is best planted in the fall to get established over the winter.

Buy seed garlic for your first planting; in subsequent years you can plant your own garlic cloves.

Autumn is also a good time to plant fruit trees and berry bushes, till and amend next year’s garden plot, build raised beds for spring planting, or set up a seed starting system for winter use.

Winter gardening steps and preps

Request seed catalogs for winter browsing and seed orders so you’ll be ready for spring planting.

Our favorites are Seeds of Change, Seed Savers Exchange, and Baker Creek Seeds.

Learn all you can about gardening in general.

Chat with your local extension or agricultural agents, talk to friends and neighbors with admirable gardens, visit local nurseries that remain open in winter, scour the library and Internet.

Find out what’s in your soil and what’s lacking.

Get a sampling of soil tested at a local lab or a mail-in lab like U of Massachusetts Soils Lab.

Figure out what you’ll need in the way of growing beds, soil amendments, and irrigation.

Be ready to buy supplies in late winter or early spring.

Be adventurous.

Try growing some veggies indoors in a hydroponic system!

You can also build a DIY Hydroponic System with PVC.

A hydroponics system enables you to save on space.

Raise meat and eggs.

From chickens and rabbits to beef and bison, there’s probably a source of meat or eggs that you can raise in your own backyard or small farm.

We’ve even seen people raising rabbits in garages and basements in humane ways.

There’s still time to build a small winter-friendly chicken coop or rabbit hutch and bring home some laying hens or rabbits before deep winter sets in.

Check out your local farm guide or Craigslist for meat rabbits or pullets (young hens) ready to lay.

Raise chickens.

There are many ways for beginners to learn about backyard chickens.

You can also start baby pullet chicks now and expect eggs about five months later.

While most local feed stores do not have chicks available in fall, most mail order hatcheries ship chicks year-round or close to it.

Most do require minimum orders of 25 chicks, so you might want to share an order with a friend.

For ultimate sustainability, keep a rooster with your hens so you can hatch replacement chicks in an incubator or under a broody hen.

Learn more with our ebook:

>>Check out our book “Getting Started on a Food Supply Plan: Sourcing, Preserving, and Storing Foods for Tomorrow’s Uncertain Times”

While usually raised outdoors during the summer, meat chickens can be grown out any time of year in a winter-safe coop.

The chicks are usually available only from hatcheries at this time of year, as few individuals sell meat-breed chicks on a local level.

However, locally you may find dual-purpose breed chicks, some of which grow out reasonably meaty.

Another possibility is cull laying hens and roosters, which make awesome stewing birds that yield cooked meat and rich chicken stock.

Raw chicken can be frozen or canned in a pressure canner.

Or you can get everything set up and ready to start a chicken flock in the spring. Chickens are fairly low maintenance, with few stringent requirements.

Chickens must have fresh water, nutritious feed, and sources of grit. Calcium is essential for laying hens.

While mature chickens don’t require heated coops in winter, shelter from wet and windy weather is important.

Raise rabbits.

We have not yet raised rabbits ourselves but most people agree they are as low-maintenance as–or even more so than–a brood of chickens.

Rabbits mature quickly, multiply easily (just as the jokes imply), and have a great feed to weight conversion rate.

Rabbit meat tastes similar to chicken and can be used in recipes designed for poultry.

We have seen some good rabbit raising info at Backyard Herds Rabbit Forum, Rudolph’s Rabbit Ranch, and Whisper’s Rabbitry.

Raise cattle and other livestock.

Depending on your climate and the size of your land, consider miniature cattle breeds for an ongoing milk supply and eventual meat supply.

Growing vegetables
Growing vegetables

Discover local sources of food products.

There are many reasons to buy local foods.

Just-harvested locally grown foods are fresher than anything shipped in from elsewhere.

When we shop locally our food dollars will stay in the local economy.

And some products even have effective health benefits.

Eating honey from bees that gather local pollens can help eradicate people’s allergies to the plants themselves.

Keep bees.

Maybe you want to consider beekeeping for yourself.

There’s not much you need to get started beekeeping, and it doesn’t take up a lot of space.

Now we have to consider that local foods also may be the only foods readily available or affordable if our food supply chain is affected by transportation issues or high costs.

Many regions have local farmers markets where you can get to know your local food providers.

Some areas have helpful farm guides listing places to buy various fresh products.

Your local extension office or agricultural agency should be able to give you info.

Another good resource for the U.S. is the directory at Local Harvest.

Start or add to a food storage program.

Even if you are planning to raise a lot of your own food, it’s wise to have a stockpile in case a drought or other situation limits your food production.

It is essential to start building a food storage program.

Also include products that you can’t grow or make at home.

Store foods you know your family will enjoy eating; remember seasonings for bland foods like rice and beans.

Foods for food storage

A storage program can include home canned and dehydrated foods as well as purchased groceries, including nut butters and other high protein foods like canned meats.

Warehouse and restaurant supply stores often have great deals on large bags of grains, dry beans, sugar, salt, and other basics.

You can buy multiple small packages and flats of canned goods when you find good deals at the local grocery store.

Eat them, the oldest first, and continue to replenish your supply.

Store your foods at cool temps, but above freezing.

Liquids can freeze during winter, causing cans and jars to explode.

While a garage may be fine for storage in a mild climate, an indoor closet or storage room may be necessary for winter storage.

Learn about storing fresh food. While you’re at it, remember to store water.

We were glad to have gallons of our stored water when our well pump broke and when some pipes froze.

For drinking and cooking, treatment with water purification tablets or bleach is recommended.

Water for household use like flushing toilets and washing dishes need not be treated.

Store your food in a few different places, if you are able.

You may want to have some in the garage, some in your pantry or in a cabinet, and more food stores in a small off-site storage unit.

In the event of a food crisis or catastrophe, you will be better prepared.

Preserve some fresh food to enjoy later.

You can stretch out your enjoyment of homegrown or locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, and meats throughout the year.

Make the most of your own garden harvest, but look into other sources of fruits, vegetables, and herbs to preserve.

Visit farmers’ markets, local orchards, and farm stands to buy produce by the bag or box.

If you don’t have preserving equipment and know-how, get some now! Learn how to can, freeze, and dehydrate.

It is essential to understand food safety guidelines, avoiding botulism and other potential food poisoning by proper preservation.

The major food safety rule is to use a pressure canner for all meats and almost all vegetables.

A pressure canner is different from both a pressure cooker and a water bath canner.

When we have questions about food preservation, we rely heavily on university and scientific research info including county extension publications.

An excellent guide is the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Start acquiring canning and freezing supplies and containers.

In the late summer and fall, you might find them on sale in retail stores.

Look for them year-round at thrift shops and yard sales. Just beware of cracked or chipped jars, and have any used pressure canners checked by a food safety agent.

Many local extension and ag agents can do this, often for free.

They only need to test the pressure canner lid.

Basic food preservation needs and helpful accessories

Canning of high acid foods (most fruit products): water bath canner

For canning of low acid foods (anything containing meats or most vegetables and herbs): pressure canner (not a pressure cooker, which works differently) with accurate pressure gauge.

It’s wise to have a dial gauge checked annually for accuracy.

Most county extension offices offer this service for free, especially during summer and fall peak canning times.

You only need to test the lid; leave the heavy pot at home.

All canning: jar rack, canning tongs, canning funnel, glass canning jars (no cracks or chips on rims), lids, rings

Consider a sun oven for cooking and dehydrating: dehydrating unit (electric dehydrator, kitchen oven, outdoor solar oven/racks), storage containers

For freezing: pot and strainer for blanching, storage containers, vacuum sealer to avoid freezer burn

Buy a supply of freezer meat.

Every fall and winter, local livestock farmers have meat to sell.

This year, due to expected high feed costs, many are culling their herds even more than usual.

While a large quantity of freezer meat is a substantial financial investment, the cost per pound for many cuts is much lower than grocery store prices.

Depending on your geographic area, you may find beef, pork, lamb, and goat meat available.

Many farmers can sell meat by the whole or half carcass.

Some local regulations allow for sales of quarter carcasses.

If you’re not up for such a large amount of meat, consider splitting an order with another family.

Learn about grassfed vs. grain fed to determine which is better for your family.

Sprout seeds and legumes.

A fairly simple way to grow nutritious greens is to sprout legumes, grains, and vegetable seeds right in your kitchen.

They don’t require a lot of equipment, space, or time.

You can purchase sprouters or make them from canning jars or strainers.

You can purchase sprouting seeds online or at local health food stores.

Unless they’ve been treated, food-grade legumes and grains from any source can usually be sprouted.

Add sprouts to salads, sandwiches, omelets, breads, and many other dishes and recipes.

While sprouts are a delicious addition to human diets, they’re also wonderful for livestock.

Sprout a small batch as a treat for your chickens.

You can grow large mats for larger livestock.

Forage for edibles berries
Forage for edibles berries

Forage for edibles.

Most areas left to native growth contain a number of plants with edible parts.

A stroll around our own farmstead reveals an assortment of wild edibles including lamb’s quarters, purslane, dandelion, Oregon grape, elderberry, and wild rose hips.

Once you are familiar with your own native plants and aware of which ones are toxic, you may find numerous types of salad greens and berries.

Become a barterer.

The practice of bartering, common in days gone by, is coming back into vogue.

The idea is that people trade goods or services of equal value, with no money involved.

Whether it’s knowledge, skills, or tangible products, everyone has something that someone else can use.

Think about what you have to offer: skills, expertise, products, time.

Put a value on it—either monetary or number of hours.

Then consider what you need, find a good match, and make a trade.

Some areas have bartering groups, but it’s usually fairly easy to make a bartering arrangement.

When you want or need something, ask potential providers—friends, neighbors, farms, even other small businesses–if they’d be willing to make a trade.

You might swap fresh eggs for fresh veggies, firewood for boxes of apples, sewing lessons for cast iron cookware.

Learn, learn, learn.

Don’t know how to grow a garden, raise chickens, grind wheat, bake bread, make homemade soup?

There’s no reason you can’t learn it now!

There’s tons of info on the Internet and in books and magazines.

Your local library may have what you need, or might even order a new book you request.

Used bookstores, thrift shops, and yard sales are all good places to find books for your own library.

We’ve reviewed a number of helpful publications here at Rural Living Today.

We read Extension publications as well as articles and blogs at GRIT and Mother Earth News.

Storey Publishing produces some great books about gardening, livestock, food preservation, and other homesteading topics.

Lots of bloggers post ideas and tutorials with great ideas. Some of our favorite blogs are listed on our Resources page.

How to prepare for upcoming food supply challenges

Before we discuss the resources we recommend, we want to explain briefly how food shortages and high prices affect us all.

Fallout from the drought

One newsworthy event was a drought in North America that affected the growth of some of the continent’s basic food crops.

This had a twofold effect on consumers.

First, there will be less soy, corn, and wheat available for human consumption.

Yes, that means a smaller supply of grains, flour, and other ingredients for home cooking.

More North Americans will be affected by a different ramification: the strain on production of processed foods like breads, cereals, prepared dishes, and snack foods.

A secondary effect is the shortage of grains for livestock feed.

This will have a domino effect on supplies of commercially-produced meat, eggs, and dairy products.

But high feed prices and shortages will also hit small producers and farm families raising their own livestock.

The majority of them rely on commercial livestock feeds.

Farms of all sizes–commercial and local small producers–have already been selling off stock early to avoid feeding extra animals all winter.

That means less finished meat next year.

Shortages lead to lower supplies for each community and price hikes for the products that are available.

If we rely on more imports to fill the gaps, those products may be even more costly.

Fuel price rises

We’ve seen gas prices fluctuate at our neighborhood gas pumps.

It can cost a small fortune to fill a large gas tank in a family vehicle.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Regardless of what type of fuel we feed the cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs we drive, we’re paying for higher diesel prices as well.

Our food chain relies on international and cross-country transportation via diesel-fueled trucks.

Shipping costs more, and consumer goods absorb the costs in higher prices.

Here’s a good explanation of the process:

Trucks need diesel, which is also around $6/gallon in many parts of California.

As the cost of diesel ramps up, that expense gets passed on to customers buying the things that those trucks are transporting.

You can see where that will take prices for just about everything, since just about everything gets where it’s going on an eighteen wheeler.

About 30% of shipping containers that come to the United States come through California.

Heavy equipment maneuvers the shipping containers.

Those containers leave ports on trucks and trains.

Trucks and trains run on gas and diesel.

Guess where the extra cost for that goes?

Oh yeah, to the rest of us, through the supply chain that feeds our consumption.

The global economy

It’s scary out there, folks!

Most of us who have lived several decades have never seen anything like this.

Even many who have endured their nation’s major financial crises haven’t experienced such economic turmoil.

There’s no telling what will happen in the coming years.

But the writing is on the wall: “Times they are achanging, and it ain’t gonna be pretty!”

The good news

There’s hope for all of us:

It is possible to soften the blow on our own families and communities.

If you’re reading this post, you’re probably already on a path toward smoothing the way and rounding off some of the bumps in the road.

Resources to overcome food crisis

We’re not talking about public assistance or financial aid.

We’re talking about learning to provide more for ourselves and rely less on international and national sources. 

Here are some resources that provide info on self-sufficiency and sustainable living– the ability to provide food from year to year.

Preparing for Challenges Coming Our Way
Something Is Wrong With This Picture
Facing a Food Crisis: Realistic Ways to Prepare
7 Reasons to Be Concerned About the Future
Planning Food Storage and Survival
Living Off the Grid Things to Consider can Extraordinary Experience
Make Prepping Survival Your Way of Life to be prepared for survival
Want to do Off-grid Living? Here is How You Can Do it
Building DIY Hydroponic PVC System
Homesteading For Beginners Become Less Dependent
How I Built My DIY Hydroponics System
Yamaha Generator Everything You Need to Know
Ultimate Comprehensive Guide on Generators for Sale
Comparing Generac Generators with other Generator Brands
Briggs and Stratton Generators
Champion Generator
Prices of backup generators
Everything You Need to Know about Generators
Local community resources
Cooperative Extension System 
The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery
Storey’s Basic Country Skills by John and Martha Storey
The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan
Family Friendly Farming by Joel Salatin
You Can Farm by Joel Salatin
Backwoods Home Magazine
Hobby Farms Magazine
Homesteading Today online forum
Farm Dreams online forum

Overcome food crisis

There are many ways to overcome food crisis.

It all takes prepping and planning, but there are sure to be some ideas that would work well for you and your family.

Depending on where you live and your land and storage opportunities, you can choose what makes the most sense.

Starting small will be key to continuing to grow your resources and supply. This way, it won’t take away from essentials if you are on a limited food budget. You will also want to keep stocking so that you can rotate through your food and not have any perish.

The most important thing is to get started.

It may seem overwhelming at first, but start with what you know.

Then expand and grow your skills from there, and soon you’ll be ready for whatever the future brings.

What’s the Big Deal GMOs?

Big Deal GMOs

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You may be hearing a lot about Big Deal GMOs. Most likely, you eat them regularly.

The acronym GMO stands for “genetically modified organism.”

Bayer’s Monsanto, with the support of many businesses, organizations, and agencies, has been steadily increasing its use of GMOs since the first GMO tomato was introduced over a decade ago.

It’s gotten out of control.

Ever eat a product containing soy or corn products? If you eat any type of packaged or processed food products, then you probably have.

What the small print won’t tell you is that most of that soy and corn is GMO. Canola oil, alfalfa, beet sugar…all taken over by GMOs.

Even some varieties of zucchini and crookneck squash in supermarkets are GMO products.

Aspartame, America’s current favorite alternative to sugar?

You’ve got it—GMO.

According to Prevention Magazine, GMOs are in 80% of processed foods. In the United States, GMOs are not required to be labeled. However, in organic foods, they aren’t allowed and are banned — so you won’t find them in the increasing number of organic products.

Big Deal GMOs
Big Deal GMOs

In recent years, companies are including Non-GMO on their labeling as a marketing benefit. Pay attention to these products and choose them when you can.

What is Big Deal GMOs?

Other related terms are GEO (genetically engineered organism) and GMF (genetically modified food).

GMOs are created in science labs. Genes of plants and animals are manipulated to one or more of the following:

  • Increase their resistance to certain organisms
  • Produce a pesticide within the plant to stave off insects
  • Have the ability to survive weed-killing fertilizers
  • Initiate the production of specific products
  • Provide some other perceived benefit

This all sounds well and good if the results are desirable to all who choose to make use of them.

The trouble is, GMO products have invaded the United States food system, and the majority of American people have ingested them for years without knowledge of their effects.

Not only are GMO foods rampant in our grocery stores, but GMO seeds are sold for use in commercial fields as well as in home gardens.

What’s more, any farmer or even backyard gardener is at risk of being sued by Monsanto for unintentional use of the company’s GMO tainted products.

In a process of nature called “drift,” pollen can be carried by wind or pollinating insects into neighboring—even distant—fields and gardens.

Monsanto has had the nerve to sue people for having these GMO-pollinated plants in their possession and reusing the seed.

And the disgusting thing is, Monsanto has won, stripping innocent farmers of all their assets.

Yet, a lawsuit against Monsanto brought by a large group of organic farmers was thrown out of court.

Frankly, it’s hard to find accurate information on GMOs and their effect on our food supply.

Monsanto, the originator and perpetrator of GMOs, says there is no danger to people.

The government doesn’t seem to be saying much. However, one anti-GMO organization after another cites research indicating that GMOs are harmful to humans.

Illnesses from GMOs?

Many modern-day illnesses and afflictions are considered to be tied to GMOs in our food and environment.

Even our own family exhibits indication that this may be true. We lived in Europe from 1986 to 1991, eating food from European stores and farms.

We were not in the military, so we did not have access to U.S. commissaries.

After returning to the U.S., some of our family members developed health issues which have never been resolved despite treatment. Recently some of those ailments have come under suspicion as GMO-induced.

Is it a coincidence that GMOs were introduced to our U.S. food system in the 1990s?

Other countries in the world are not only refraining from creating GMO products, but are refusing to purchase them from the United States.

GMO products are illegal in many parts of the world.

So what’s the real scoop?

We can’t even get close to guaranteeing any one source as an accurate description of GMOs and their effect on our food and our bodies.

For that reason, we encourage you to do your own research. Draw your own conclusions about GMOs and how they may affect you and your family.

Here is a definition offered by Encyclopaedia Brittanica.

Genetically modified organism (GMO), organism whose genome has been engineered in the laboratory in order to favor the expression of desired physiological traits or the production of desired biological products.

In conventional livestock production, crop farming, and even pet breeding, it has long been the practice to breed select individuals of a species in order to produce offspring that have desirable traits.

In genetic modification, however, recombinant genetic technologies are employed to produce organisms whose genomes have been precisely altered at the molecular level, usually by the inclusion of genes from unrelated species of organisms that code for traits that would not be obtained easily through conventional selective breeding.

Inter-species gene transfers

With GMO technology, both livestock and plants have been modified to provide something that someone considers a benefit.

Dairy cows have been bred with human genes in order to produce milk that is similar to human breast milk.

A new variation of pig produces Omega-3 fatty acids due to the introduction of a roundworm gene.

Plants have been engineered not only to resist pesticides but to produce their own insecticides and other pesticides.

What happens to our bodies when we ingest these abnormal and unnatural products?

Can our bodies, designed to digest and use foods our ancestors ate, process these test-tube concoctions without harm?

Our right to know, our right to choose

Here at Rural Living Today, we’re not alarmists. We’re not radicals; nor are we very vocal about political or social opinions.

But there are a few topics that we feel we must speak out about. Recently we discussed the need for being prepared for challenges that are coming down the pike.

Today we are urging you to become knowledgeable about GMOs in the U.S. food system.

What can we do about the production of GMOs? Probably not a whole lot.

But there are things you can do. 

You can continue to fight for our right as human beings—as Americans—to access wholesome unadulterated food that was created for the use of our human bodies.

Though we are very much against the use of GMOs in general, what we’re really advocating is mandatory labeling of GMO-containing products.

It’s our right to know what we’re eating.

Many of us are growing much of our own food or getting it from local sources that we trust.

Unfortunately that option is not available to everyone.

But everyone has a right to choose whether or not to ingest GMO-containing products.

What can you do?

Educate yourself. An Internet search for “GMO” filtered by the “news” category is a good place to start.

Read all ingredient labels before you buy anything. Watch for corn, soy, 

By changing what you can — what you buy and what you eat — you will make a difference. Cook at home.

Notice the foods you buy and eat most often. Find out which of them contain GMOs. Start by finding GMO-free alternatives for those foods.

Support the movement to require clear labeling of products containing GMOs. There are currently numerous national and state initiatives to require GMO labeling.

These bills have huge support from small farmers and consumers, but equally huge resistance is coming from big businesses and lawmakers. See JustLabelIt.org for more info.

Know what you’re buying and eating.

Investigate GMO use in your favorite manufactured and prepared foods.

Ask local farmers and food producers if they use GMO-free ingredients, seeds, livestock, and feed. “Certified Organic” products are raised without GMOs, and many uncertified organic growers follow the same guidelines.

Purchase garden seeds and plants from companies that guarantee the absence of GMOs in their stock.

Most non-GMO companies will probably have notations in their catalogs and websites.

There is a lot you can do to eat healthier. The easiest is to stop buying as many processed foods and packaged foods. While it’s often more expensive, buy organic when you can. They will be free from GMO ingredients.

Do your best to provide a healthy food supply system for yourself and your family. 

When you buy seeds, be certain they are labeled non GMO.

Here at Rural Living Today our focus is on rural life, moving to the country, and making the urban-to-rural transition.

But once in a while we feel compelled to write an “editorial” on a topic that’s a bit off the subject because it affects those of us who want to live a more sustainable life.

Recently we’ve shared how we feel about Preparing for Challenges Coming Our Way and What’s the Big Deal About GMOs.

Today Jim, who closely watches global economics, has some words on what he sees coming around the pike.

Our purpose is to approach an uncomfortable topic in a comfortable way, and to talk about a challenging situation while presenting some practical ways to prepare and move through it.

As always, we want to focus not on the problems themselves, but on the steps each of us can take as we prepare to face the challenges.

I want to encourage you to understand the current global and national economic situation that we live in and how decisions being made will affect our families.

But more than that, I want to share some important recommendations for actions in the future. I’m doing this because we are indeed in a very critical time in history.

Government and GMOs

Many of the personal decisions we make in the coming months have the potential to impact our lives seriously–either positively or negatively.

I love my country. America has been a great country to grow up in.

I lived overseas for part of my life, and each time I came home, I would kiss the ground, as I was so thankful to be back.

Yet something is wrong. What we hear from Washington and New York is not what we see happening.

Things are NOT getting better.

In fact, there is really no possible way for things to get better without a major reset.

Government statistics don’t make sense.

Sadly, I no longer can trust much of what the media reports, what our political leaders say, and especially comments from Wall Street (too big to fail banks).

As I follow through on my own research, most of it in the global and national economic news arena, I have come to conclude that we are on the verge of a global economic crisis.

I don’t say this lightly.

It’s a crisis that may be uncontrollable, depending on how our leaders ultimately address it.

It may even cause or precipitate another major war.

Ways to avoid eating GMO products

Preparing for Challenges Coming Our Way
10 Realistic Ways to Overcome a Food Crisis
Facing a Food Crisis: Realistic Ways to Prepare

7 Reasons to Be Concerned About the Future

We live in extraordinary times.

It took me a while, but I now see and understand that what is happening right now is not normal. Things that happened in recent months and years have NEVER happened before.

We aren’t just experiencing a little negative blip in our economy.

In fact, because the global economies are so connected together, we cannot separate the issues that are happening in other nations and believe they will not affect us.

They will.

The U.S. economy along with those of Europe, Japan, and China all interact with each other. What affects one, affects all.

This is a very negative topic, because we do want things to get better. 

We have to learn we can take personal responsibility and formulate appropriate action plans for our families. These plans must deal with the direct issues that we will be facing.

If you think everything is fine and don’t care to really look at these issues I am about to bring up, you may want to just stop reading this post and move on.

My point is not to convince anyone of anything. I only hope to educate you by giving some starting points for your own research so you can come to your own conclusions about how your family might be affected.

Most likely you will want to make some changes in your lifestyle. You may want to pick up the pace of your personal food production, food storage, or skill development.

Some of you who live in urban settings might even accelerate your plans for a move to the country or rural area.

For many of us, the Big Hurdle to overcome is “The Normalcy Bias.”

Many of us are victims of what is commonly referred to as “normalcy bias.” This causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster as well as the possible effects.

In fact, this bias wants to stop us from even reading about, researching, or concluding that there are some potential  disasters and issues that must be faced.

We assume that since a specific disaster never has occurred, it never will.

Normalcy bias examples

Consider these examples of the normalcy bias:

During World War II, millions of Jewish people went on with a “normal” life even knowing that friends and family were being taken against their will and that something was “wrong.”

Understandable, as the situation was too horrific to admit, yet these people paid for this mistake with their lives.

Many Titanic passengers and crew members, including the captain, lost their lives because they couldn’t accept or believe that “the unsinkable ship” … could actually sink.

They made no effort to evacuate until it was too late.

During Hurricane Katrina, many thousands of citizens refused to evacuate, as they had the opinion and bias that the levees could not fail.

But they did fail, and the people paid the consequences of this bias operating in their own lives.

This happened during countless natural disasters and weather events all over the world.

Evidence of the normalcy bias is all around, throughout history and in today’s news.

The good news is you can disarm the normalcy bias in your own life! Learn and find out what is happening around you!

To many of you, what I present here is not new. To others it is eye opening, an “oh my gosh” experience, a denial.

I care about our readers and others who are transitioning their lives from a urban/suburban to rural lifestyle.

I am not trying to convince anyone, but rather bring awareness of the critical nature of what is happening all around us.

My first recommendation to anyone wanting to investigate further is to take a FREE crash course from Chris Martenson. I have no connection to him whatsoever, but I highly recommend the course he put together to help people understand what is happening around them.

Peak Prosperity Crash Course.

Start from the beginning.

You can do it all online, chapter by chapter.

It is simple, clear, and full of content.

When you’ve finished the course, you will feel like you have a much better grasp of current events.

Go do it!

In addition to that, there are some concrete practical steps we recommend that everyone take to ensure a smoother ride on the upcoming rocky roads.

If you’re interested in more details about what we see coming around the corner, read his article “7 Reasons to Be Concerned About the Future.”
Practical steps: preparing for an uncertain future

Practical steps: preparing for an uncertain future

Establish your home base

Too many people look at their existing living situations as temporary but have no concrete plans to change that.

Many a homeowner will hold onto a current residence they view it as an investment.

It’s time to move forward, to find your place and start to homestead it. While it may take time, make a start. 

You have time now, but our movement in the future may be restricted.

Figure out your finances

On paper or in your head, get a grasp on your financial situation and know where your money and your future income are.

Stop living above your existing income. Do what you must do to start living below your means. Stop buying ANYTHING on credit, and start a savings cushion.

Where are your existing assets?

Do you have all your eggs in one basket, or are your assets in a variety of forms like cash, gold, silver, and farm/ranch property that will sustain their value even with a hard economic crises or collapse?

Are you relying on one source of income, or do you have potential for multiple smaller income streams?

Plan for feeding your family

It’s crucial to develop the capacity to feed your family, swap, and barter without relying on grocery stores and other commercial sources.

Many of us have seen stores emptied as a result local emergencies. So how would we eat if there was an extended emergency?

We would highly recommended a very balanced and clear plan that fits your family.

This includes stored food and water, the ability to raise food from year to year, and a backup of local resources for swap and barter.

  1. Learn how to raise a variety of non GNO vegetables, fruits, and livestock for eggs and meat.
  2. Start on a food storage system.
  3. Learn to preserve food by canning, dehydrating, and freezing.
  4. Talk to your neighbors to find out who can provide what items in a time of need.
  5. Learn to cook and bake from scratch.

There may come a time when no one will be able to rely on grocery stores, restaurants and deli departments.

Inventory your non-food household needs

Have a good supply of equipment, tools, and supplies for your home, personal needs, garden, and livestock care.

Assess what you have, what you need, and what you can borrow from neighbors or use for barter.

What can you make from scratch that you might normally buy?

Check out ideas for lots of homemade products at Frugally Sustainable.

Hone a hefty skill set

Know how to do a lot of useful things and be a perpetual learner of new skills.

Not only will you need to do things for yourself, but services are great for bartering.

What can you already do well? Also, is there anything you can learn to do? In addition, what can you learn from a friend or neighbor?

Peruse Mother Earth News and GRIT for tons of how-tos and tutorials. At our RLT site, we’re aiming to amass a lot of instructional info too.

Build community

Whether it’s family members, friends, or neighbors, everyone needs the support of a community of some kind.

Look around you. Who do you get along with?

Has anyone expressed interest in working with you?

In addition, consider who has a skill set or expertise that complements yours?

Rural Living Today is part of YOUR support community.

Our contributors and our readers are real people that are of like mind and kindred spirits.

We’re all on a similar path toward self-sufficiency and sustainable living that will serve us well in the coming years.

10 Things to Love About Rural Living

Ten Things to Love About Rural Living

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Things to Love About Rural Living, After living for a long time in urban and suburban environments, I am now living a rural lifestyle.

Is this for everybody?

Maybe not.

But I sure do enjoy rural living 52 weeks a year in a place where I used to vacation for 2 weeks a year.

Things to Love About Rural Living

Apart from a few years that I spent as an urban dweller many years ago, I have lived most of my life in the country.

For me, it is the only real choice. 

If you’re like me, then you know what I’m talking about.

City living doesn’t have a lot to recommend it.

The noise, the stink, the pollution and the excessive number of people, all of these things are enough to drive me crazy. 

My life in the country is different in virtually every way.

Surrounded by the soft sounds of nature, I have plenty of opportunities to contemplate my thoughts or carry on a conversation.

The air is crisp and clear.

When the sun goes down, I feel like I have a front seat in the audience for viewing the entire Milky Way. 

I sometimes go for days without seeing another person except those who live with me, yet I’m never lonely.

There’s just so much to see and do.

My garden always needs tending, and I have animals that make for incredibly good company. 

Of course, one of the best things about country living is being able to be so close to nature.

During my years in the city, I felt nearly cut off from nature.

All of my walks involved asphalt and concrete.

Seeing some grass, let alone walking on it, was rare.

The trees I saw tended to be less than impressive, and flowers were nearly unheard of. 

Things are incredibly different where I live now. Off-Grid Living: Surviving the Outdoors

For miles around, I can explore pastures, meadows and forests.

The gently rolling landscape is just perfect for enjoying a healthy walk, and you can bet that I’m out there pretty nearly 365 days a year. 

I will admit that as I have gotten older, the terrain has become a little more difficult to handle.

It’s only natural that after many years of activity I would experience some joint stiffness and other mild complaints.

Plus, sometimes I feel like I’m just not as surefooted as I used to be. 

Now, I have never been accused of being a quitter, and I don’t intend for that kind of mindset to take over at this point.

I started looking around for a solution.

A friend that I regularly run into at a store in town suggested that I look into getting a walking cane, so I started doing some searching on the Internet. 

Twisted Sassafras Turned Knob Walking Cane

That’s how I discovered the Brazos Walking Sticks Company.

It’s a US company that’s located in Texas, so I feel like they really understand my fiercely independent lifestyle.

The fact that each of their walking sticks is fashioned by hand, one at a time, was also incredibly appealing. 

I mean, who’s heard of that kind of craftsmanship in this day and age?

Most products are turned out by the dozen on mechanized assembly lines located in some other country that isn’t the US.

However, I feel like this is one company that’s really doing it right.

They genuinely care about their products and what people think of them. 

I spent quite a bit of time on their website before ultimately deciding on the Twisted Sassafras Turned Knob Walking Cane.

Its appearance is really eye catching.

The shaft is made from sassafras with some of the bark left on for added appeal.

In fact, the bark forms the “twist” around the shaft, and it looks amazing. 

As good as the pictures online are, seeing my own walking cane from Brazos Walking Sticks Company was something entirely different.

The piece has a really beautiful sheen, and the orange and red colors are gorgeous.

I’m impressed by how lightweight this stick is, yet it appears to be amazingly durable.

No matter the terrain or the weather, I know that my Twisted Sassafras Turned Knob Walking Cane is up to the task. 

The wood that is used to create this stick is incredibly well polished.

It feels so smooth and comfortable in my hand.

Available in two lengths, I was able to get the size that is perfect for my height.

Additionally, it’s possible to add all sorts of personalization and accessories to these walking sticks.

I added my monogram and the combi-spike tip so that my cane would be a true go-anywhere accessory. 

If you like, you also can add a cane strap or other embellishments like an American flag medallion or a pewter star.

Brazos even offers a thermometer, so if you’re concerned about the temperature, that might be a sensible addition for you. 

One of the things that I find so appealing about this cane is that it has so much personality.

I’ve seen plenty of people walking around with a plain, impersonal cane made from metal or another less-imaginative material, but it’s rare to see someone with such an outstanding and unique accessory in their hand. 

I guess what I’m saying is that I appreciate that this cane was made from a material that once was a part of a living tree.

In some ways, I feel like it’s an extension of nature, and that fits in well with my lifestyle.

Plus, anyone can see how sturdy and dependable this cane is in addition to being well made.

This is probably going to end up a family heirloom for my country-loving relatives. 

Initially, I had planned to only use my walking cane while going on my long rambles through the countryside.

Now I take it pretty much everywhere I go.

When I bring it into town, people are always impressed with it, and I can’t stop myself from telling the story. 

I also tell them, only if I’m asked, how much I paid for my stick.

It never fails to astound people that this impressive and functional piece of art costs so little.

I think it just might be the smartest purchase I’ve ever made. 

I have no intention of ever giving up my independent country lifestyle.

My walking stick is one more tool that makes that possible.

Oak Wood Derby Walking Cane With Oak Shaft And Brass Embossed Collar

If you are looking for a handsome, durable walking cane, look no further than the Oak Wood Derby Walking Cane With Oak Shaft And Brass Embossed Collar from Fashionable Canes.

This cane is as functional as it is beautiful.

The secret is in the derby style handle, which is both easy to grip and balances like a dream on the edge of any table.

No longer will you have to worry about your cane slipping to the ground and embarrassing you during a fancy dinner out.

You also won’t have to tuck it away and run the risk of forgetting about it!

Your cane will be right where you left it, securely clamped on to the table.

The handle also makes it easy to maneuver around with.

Many canes will slip right out of your hands at the first disturbance or slippery ground, but not the Oak Wood Derby Walking Cane With Oak Shaft And Brass Embossed Collar!

The derby handle keeps it right by your side, no matter what kind of terrain you are up against.

The design also allows you to keep up with others who might be walking briskly without the aid of a cane.

You will never worry about falling behind again!

This cane is also lovingly carved from oak, which gives it a beautiful appearance as well as makes it sturdy and largely immune to many different types of wear and tear.

The oak is honey-colored, but the grain is darker, giving the cane a sophisticated appearance that contrasts the darker grain against the naturally light color of the wood.

The result is striking and sophisticated; the perfect complement to any outfit.

This is a cane that could accompany you to the most prestigious occasion and fit right in perfectly.

Such a fabulous cane needs some incredible ornamentation, which is exactly what this cane gets with a solid brass collar that connects the derby handle to the staff of the cane.

This simple collar is subtly marked with the Royal Canes Company logo.

It is muted and understated sophistication, the last word in class.

This cane can be customized to your weight and height, although some maximum limits to apply.

The cane itself weighs in at just under a pound, which is great for users who need a lightweight cane that can still stand up to the rough and tumble nature of life.

This cane is also reasonably priced as well.

You can get your hands on it for under $40.

It’s a small investment in your overall happiness and mobility, and well worth it!

I would recommend this cane to anyone.

It’s handsome but simple enough to go with any different outfit, and it is able to stand up to different types of terrain and wear and tear.

Best of all, the derby handle will keep the cane right where you need it; by your side at all times.

10 Things to Love About Rural Living

I don’t have to spend 10% of each day commuting.

For years I did it in the morning, and then I did it at night, and I repeated the cycle five days a week.

What a waste of time, energy, and emotional well-being.

Nowadays, my vehicle of choice is a tractor and there’s hardly any traffic!

I am happy when I wake up.

I don’t dread a new day.

Each day is a new one full of adventure, projects and challenges.

The old routine called the “daily grind” is history.

I live in a safe environment.

I leave my keys in my truck.

My house is unlocked.

My dogs are the best doorbell I’ve ever had!

Ten Things to Love About Rural Living
Ten Things to Love About Rural Living

I know the history of much of my food nowadays.

No more worry about food scares and where my food is coming from.

My food doesn’t have unknown additives, hormones, enhancers, and other stuff that just isn’t good for you.

I will live a longer life than if I had stayed in the city.

My food has flavor, too.

Just try one of my tomatoes and compare it to one from a supermarket.

Mine has flavor…

Things are growing all around me.

I am surrounded by real life—living things.

I can look at my garden and watch my own livestock from my kitchen window.

On my way into town one day, I saw literally hundreds of deer and wild turkeys.

I really enjoy watching the eagles soaring above me as I work on my property.

10 things child gardening
10 things child gardening

My kids are learning about life.

They know where their food is coming from, and they are responsible for some of that.

They are able to follow their desires and passions, whether it is growing food, flowers, or animals.

Their world is unlimited.

They run around and play and I don’t have to worry.

They have become much more self-sufficient and confident.

They are no longer addicted to the Social Media, text messaging, or video games.

My family is somewhat protected from potential issues in the future.

All is not well in the economic, political and global environments.

Unemployment, home foreclosures, civil unrest… are things really getting better?

No.

The civil consequences of all of this will be hitting the urban areas much more than the rural areas.

I can be out hunting in five minutes.

I can be catching a fish in thirty minutes.

Couldn’t do that in my suburban neighborhood.

I know my neighbors.

They are ready to help me with a phone call and when we pass on the road, they always make time to stop and say hello.

In my last neighborhood, I barely knew or even saw my neighbors.

My family lives here too!

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And the top reason I love rural living: The Importance of Family Traditions

I love rural living: The Importance of Family Traditions
I love rural living: The Importance of Family Traditions

Long, long ago, December 25 was designated as a day to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus.

Over the years, other cultural and personal traditions became a part of Christmas celebrations.

Our family embraces both the sincere appreciation of Jesus in our lives and the joy of participating in many fun and meaningful aspects of the season.

We stretch our celebration into about six weeks, from the day after American Thanksgiving in late November into the first week of January.

Each year we attend some new events, try some new recipes, and make some new decorations.

But the basis of our celebration of the season is a cornerstone of family traditions.

Sense of belonging

Family traditions give a family a sense of belonging, routine, and anticipation.

They provide a cohesiveness that can bring everyone together no matter what the circumstances.

If a teenager is feeling like an outsider or wondering which planet his parents came from, family traditions can bind everyone together in shared history and memories.

Someone going through a tough time can relax and be reminded that he or she is not alone.

Newcomers to the family can be invited to introduce some of their own traditions as the family melds together.

A new family being formed by remarriage can encourage the family blending by incorporating traditions from each merging family and then creating new traditions together.

With turmoil all around us in the world and even in our communities, there’s something dependable and faithful and even comforting about participating in a family tradition.

It means something to count on, something to anticipate, a feeling that “I’m a part of this family and this family is a part of me.”

Traditions also promote expectations, which can be good or bad.

In our family we try to focus on the positive ones and eliminate or adapt those with heavy strings attached.

We’ve also kept an eye on interests and abilities as years go by and people change.

Some traditions just die of old age or are replaced by more appropriate or comfortable activities.

Family traditions, old and new

In the past decades, as we shaped our own family’s winter holiday traditions, we carried over a few from our own childhoods.

Each of us had always gotten a tangerine at the bottom of our Christmas stockings.

We both had fun memories of annual visits from “Santa” as part of Christmas Eve preparations and Christmas morning surprises.

Holiday music was played in both of our childhood homes; local concerts and Christmas Eve candlelight services were special events.

On the other hand, we dropped with a thud the traditional fruitcakes of our childhood.

We tweaked the typical Christmas Eve and Christmas Day menus of our parents and grandparents.

We added activities like our annual trip to a rural tree farm to select and cut down the “perfect” tree.

Family Ice Skating
Family Ice Skating

We made our own set of traditions and our own memories as we raised our children.

Today they do the same in their homes, keeping some of our traditions alive and adding others that fit their families.

The four younger families in our nuclear family have developed their own traditions.

Each family has maintained some of the parents’ childhood traditions and initiated new ones tailored for the family members and the changing times.

And even those traditions are fine-tuned as the children–our grandchildren–grow older, bringing home their own ideas and indicating their favorite traditions and the ones they could do without.

Nowadays, three generations of our family celebrate the season together.

First a flurry of family emails goes around with discussions of when and where to gather together, what food to share, what type of gift exchange to have.

Then we start the “doing.”

We bake cookies and share special holiday food–both old favorites and new recipes.

We have enjoyed making tree ornaments and other decorations like painted plaster Christmas village houses and decorated graham-cracker “candy houses.”

Some of us even watch sappy holiday movies; Jim and Marie’s annual favorites include It’s a Wonderful Life, The Christmas Story, Christmas with the Kranks, The Santa Clause series, and our most recent additions, Mrs. Miracle and Call Me Mrs. Miracle.

It’s never too late to start initiating family traditions.

Any favorite activity, project, or food your family enjoys is a candidate for a tradition.

If you’re short on ideas, ask friends about their traditions or search blogs, magazines, and books for others.

Here are a few of our own special customs.

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Tree ornament collections

Tree ornament collections
Tree ornament collections

We gave each of our children a tree ornament every year so that when they left home as adults they had their own sets of decorations to start with.

We still give each family an ornament most years and give each grandchild one as well.

Some of the ornaments have been purchased, but most were handmade.

Usually the ornament has some significance either for the individual child or for the family.

Our kids’ collections have included their favorite animals or pets, college logo ornaments, symbols of that year’s family vacation, and a shiny key to signify the first driver’s license.

Last year Marie made felt hens for the grandkids, using the color of each child’s favorite chicken in our flock.

This year our farm kids will have little piggy ornaments to signify the new farm project of the year.

Over the years we have brought home small tokens from vacation spots for our own ornament collection.

If they weren’t already tree decorations, a bit of ribbon or other adornment was added to what was originally a fridge magnet or key ring.

Nowadays our tree is like a walk down memory lane that evokes wonderful memories from years gone by.

Celebrating Christmas as family

We encourage each of our four young families to spend a leisurely Christmas morning at home, so our extended family gathering is usually on a weekend in December or even early January.

It’s not unusual for some families to stay overnight, and we may even have a “Christmas Eve” and a “Christmas Day” over two days so we can fit in all three of our favorite holiday meals.

As the family grows, the gift-giving changes.

Some years the adult kids draw names among themselves.

We usually have some kind of silly or serious gift bag exchange so Marie can direct whatever new pass-and-steal game she’s discovered for that year.

And there is one gift that keeps on giving–we never know from one year to the next which of the women is going to receive the 80s style hot pink shoes!

Christmas Eve appetizer buffet

Though we have a sit-down dinner on Christmas Day, we like to keep things simple on Christmas Eve.

We can graze and eat when we’re hungry, there’s always plenty for friends who stop by, and best of all–preparation and cleanup are fairly simple.

Everyone brings some type of appetizer to contribute.

Nowadays we enjoy this buffet as the main meal of our family gathering.

Our favorite must-haves include slow cooker sweet and sour meatballs; veggie trays with pickles and–of course–olives for fingers; pigs in blankets made with refrigerated tubes of croissant dough and cocktail wieners; and other specialties introduced over the years.

Our kids who married into the family have added their favorites from their own family gatherings.

And oh will there be Christmas cookies, including old traditions like spritz, Jan Hagel, and frosted sugar cookies; more recently acquired favorites; and some nostalgic holiday treats we adopted during the years we lived in Germany.

As our children developed their own styles in the kitchen, we discovered who had a flair for this or that.

Now the oldest grandchildren are beginning to contribute their specialties.

Let’s just say there’s never a shortage of delicious and appetizing food at our gatherings.

Birthday cake for Jesus

We start our Christmas morning breakfast with some kind of a cake, with candles and all.

Over the years we had coffee cake and yeast rolls.

We finally settled on our now-traditional “cake” of homemade cinnamon rolls in a large pan.

We sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus and blow out the candles for him.

Time-saving Hacks

Days before Christmas, Marie shapes the cinnamon rolls and freezes them unbaked.

On Christmas Eve, she sets the frozen rolls out to thaw overnight.

In the morning she pops them in the oven and they’re fresh and hot for breakfast.

Sharing the joy

When the kids were young we also had neighborhood birthday parties for Jesus.

Each guest brought a toy for the town’s giving tree or groceries for the local food bank.

This gave the children a sense of reaching out to others as well as a reminder of the focus of the season.

Other ways of giving to the community include taking children’s names from a “giving tree” and selecting gifts.

Sharing groceries or prepared food with a local family; and caroling in the neighborhood or at a special care facility.

Reindeer cookies with Grammy

Reindeer cookies with Grammy
Reindeer cookies with Grammy

One of our traditions is just several years old.

It involves Grammy and all the grandkids, though Papa and parents are allowed to watch and help little ones.

Grammy saw a fun cookie in a magazine before she became a grandma and filed the idea away for later.

Now the grandkids from toddlers to teens look forward to baking day.

We try to get as many of the grandkids together at one time; this year we made the cookies on Thanksgiving after dinner dishes had been cleared away.

You may have seen reindeer cookies in various colors and forms.

Here’s how we make Reindeer cookies

Round slices/cutouts or flattened balls of brown cookie dough (gingerbread, spice, peanut butter, etc.)

Small pretzel twists for antlers

Colored candies for facial features–including red for noses

Separate baking sheet or labeled parchment paper for each child

Imagination, a good sense of humor, and flexibility as the kids create some interesting “reindeer”

Optional:

Special apron for each child; AbbyKate Designs will embroider names on cotton aprons.

Don’t forget one for Mom or Grandma!

Family traditions may be deliberately developed or spontaneously adopted.

They may be serious or funny, simple or complicated, old-fashioned or modern and trendy.

The important thing is that they are valuable to your family in some way and they evoke warm memories as years go by.

And by the way, family traditions are not just for Christmas!

Any holiday, birthday or other annual occasion can include traditional aspects, and other special days can be “invented.”

Maybe you serve green pancakes for St. Pat’s, or hunt for pumpkins in October.

Do you have a special end-of-school year party?

Jump-in-the-fall-leaves day?

Snow pudding with the first good snowfall?

Clever Ways to Extend the Space of Your Rural Home

Tradition is tradition!

This December many families all over the world are grieving after tragic losses.

Others are struggling to make ends meet and navigate an ever-changing economical climate.

In the midst of it all, we are ever mindful of the true reason we celebrate Christmas.

Jesus is the reason for the season, and our hope for navigating the future is in him.

We all wish you a warm and fulfilling holiday season.

Our blog may be quieter than usual while we spend time with family and friends, but we have more helpful posts and something new planned.

Successful Hen and Backyard Chicken Adoption

Backyard Chicken Adoption Guide

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Backyard Chicken Adoption – A few months ago, one of our hens, Pigwidgeon, went broody.

She was soon joined (literally, in the same nest) by her pal Hedwig.

Before long, April had taken over the nestbox in the other coop. Comparing the Best Chicken Swings

Some hens will sit on a nest for a few days and then go back to business as usual.

So I kept an eye on these girls, and they all remained on their nests.

We had recently dispatched our rooster, and I wasn’t sure if any of our hens’ eggs were still fertile. But I thought we’d give it a try.

Two weeks went by and the girls were still setting.

Pigwidgeon (Piggy for short) and Hedwig remained “connected at the wing,” sharing their combined passel of eggs.

April was devoted, constantly clucking to her eggs.

Was this going to be a successful Hen and Chick Adoption?

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Backyard Chicken Adoption Guide
Patient April and her little chicks ~ Backyard Chicken Adoption Guide

Hen and Backyard Chicken Adoption

When hatching time was upon us, I moved the hens to private maternity quarters.

The brooding duo got settled in a dog crate inside the coop, while April had her own outdoor pen in the run with another dog crate for a nest.

But the due date came and went with no sign of any peeping, pipping or hatching.

Most likely the eggs were not fertile, though any number of things can prevent fertile eggs from developing and hatching.

About that time I ordered a batch of Buff Orpington chicks from a hatchery.

I got the brooder set up with lamps, but I was hoping that one or more of the broody hens would adopt some of the chicks.

Successful Hen and Chick Adoption
Successful Hen and Chick Adoption ~ Team Broody: Hedwig and Piggy

I was pretty certain Hedwig, who had been a doting mother of one chick last year, would be a good foster mama.

I wasn’t sure about Piggy, who has been broody several times with no hatches.

And April, just one year old, was broody for the first time.

But I wanted to give it a try.

Ordering Backyard Chickens for Adoption

After picking up the hatchery chicks at the post office, I got them settled in the indoor brooder.

That night after dark,  I took six chicks down to the chicken coop and slipped two under each hen.

Each of the mamas immediately responded to the chicks’ peeping with soft clucking.

I watched them for a while, going back and forth between nests till I felt comfortable that the mamas were accepting the chicks.

The next morning, I held my breath as I went down to check again, knowing that one or more of the hens might have rejected a chick.

But there were three contented mamas with chicks peeking out from under their wings.

Throughout the day I checked on them and saw the same domestic bliss in each nest.

So the second night, we took all the rest of the chicks to the coop and placed them under the drowsy mamas.

At the same time we removed as many eggs as we could find in the dark.

The following morning all three hens were basking in the glow of motherhood.

Hen adopts chicks
Hedwig shows her babies how to scratch for goodies.

That was four weeks ago, and we now have two batches of healthy-looking chicks.

Piggy and Hedwig raised 14 babies together; April has 9 little ones.

I have to say I enjoy the freedom from brooder responsibilities!

I still have to maintain two feeders and two waterers, but the mamas take the place of a brooder lamp.

And I think the chicks learned to take dust baths and scratch the ground earlier than my brooder chicks have.

Lately Piggy has been showing signs of being ready to leave the chicks: spending more time off on her own and sleeping on the roost at night while Hedwig snuggled with the babies in the nest.

The other day I put Piggy in our other coop with the rest of our hens.

Hedwig and April are still doting on their chicks, but it won’t be long before they, too, will start looking like they’re ready to go back to the general population.

In just a matter of months, most of these little pullets will be laying eggs, and a couple of young roosters will be announcing the arrival of each new day at the crack of dawn.

I actually miss the morning announcements–I’ll be glad to hear them again!

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>>chicken coops here

Blue Chicken eggs
Blue Chicken eggs

Bad Egg Day at Our Chicken Coop

Yesterday was a bad egg day at our chicken coop.

Well it started out as a good egg day, but it didn’t end well.

Here’s a little backstory.

Hens need lots of light to stay on a steady laying schedule.

Most are in their prime during the summer when there are long days of sunlight.

That is, unless they are molting, dehydrated, or under some other stress.

But most laying hens regularly produce eggs during the summer.

During the winter, there is much less daylight than they need for regular egg production.

So most of them naturally slow down.

I say most because our Leghorns don’t seem to notice the changing length of daytime—they keep right on laying an egg a day even in winter.

But our other breeds space their eggs out by an extra day or two when the days are short.

So unless they get artificial supplemental light, most hens take some time off from laying during the winter.

Last year I set a timer to light the coop before dawn and after dusk to extend the hours of light.

We had plenty of eggs.

In fact, last year we had more than enough eggs.

So this year we did not supplement the winter light.

We’ve gotten a steady stream of eggs, but obviously every hen is not laying even every other day.

This winter we’ve been getting anywhere from two to six eggs a day.

Spring and fall, the daylight supply is in transition, and so is the egg laying.

The days are getting longer, and the hens know it.

The egg basket gets a little fuller as the weeks go by.

Yesterday was a record day.

There were nine eggs in the basket.

Chicken coop for chicls
Chicken coop for chicls

Well wouldn’t you know it…I stumbled coming out of the coop.

A few eggs dropped out and fell on the ground.

Immediately some of the hens pounced.

As I recovered my balance, I swung the egg basket a little too far.

I could hear eggs cracking and then I saw more fall out onto the ground.

Mr. Rooster then made his “Time for treats, ladies!” announcement, and more hens came running.

A good rooster will not only protect his hens– he will also tell them when he finds something good to eat.

And usually he’ll stand aside and let them have first dibs.

Usually.

Finally I regained my composure, but only two eggs made it to the kitchen.

The bad news is I didn’t get to share the bounty of the day with any people.

The good news is that the chickens all got a special treat that day.

The protein and other nutrients are good for them.

The shells provide calcium, which they need in order to produce more strong egg shells.

And there’s nothing cannibalistic about chickens eating eggs that are served to them by humans.

But really now–what I want to know is, was that my imagination, or were those chickens smiling when I tripped?

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Rooster and hens
Rooster and hens

Springtime Is Peeping on Our Farm

Though we’ve seen a few snowflakes this week, spring is definitely here.

With it comes fresh energy and enthusiasm for outdoor projects and growing things.

There is a long list of things to do and thankfully, more daylight hours in which to do them.

To our delight, our kids and grandkids have begun their spring-through-fall season of treks to the farm, which slowed down in winter to one visit for Christmas.

A new adventure for us this spring is hatching our own chicks.

Last year we raised 42 hatchery chicks, most of which were two days old when they arrived.

We got that chick-rearing process down pat and decided to go a step farther this year.

We bought an incubator.

Although one can buy fertile hatching eggs, we want to reproduce our colored broilers and we do have a fine specimen of a rooster and several hens.

We are also interested in crossing the heavy broiler genes with our dual purpose hens for a possibly meatier egg layer.

So the lucky rooster gained some more hens for his harem.

We looked at the calendar to determine when the weather would be conducive to chicks moving outdoors at four weeks of age.

Backtracking from there, we decided that a late March hatch date would be just about right.

We collected a number of eggs and got them started in the incubator.

The gestation time is 21 days, but it’s suggested that eggs be “candled” early on to see which ones contain viable embryos.

Candling involves shining a light on the egg to show the air cell, blood vessels, and even little chicky eyes.

It’s also possible to see the embryos moving around and tiny hearts beating.

So at one week we candled the eggs and removed several undeveloped ones.

Again at two weeks, we took out a couple of eggs.

On the 18th day, when the eggs should be “locked down” and undisturbed, we had 12 viable eggs.

Springtime Is Peeping on Our Farm
Springtime Is Peeping on Our Farm

An interesting thing had happened early in the month.

A few days after we set the incubator eggs, one or our hens went broody.

This means that she focused on becoming a mother and glued herself to a clutch of eggs, leaving the nest only about once a day to eat, drink, and take care of other business.

She had no idea that her eggs were not fertile and would never hatch.

Tiny Pigwidgeon (“Piggy”) is our smallest hen, a petite Dark Brahma banty.

She was faithful and determined, and in three weeks I only saw her off the nest one time for a brief jaunt outside.

Hopefully she took a break at least once a day.

But a broody hen lives for one thing only: to hatch and raise some baby chicks.

We decided to give Piggy half of the incubator eggs in hopes that she would hatch them.

So on Day 18, we removed her clutch of infertile eggs to replace them with 6 viable incubator eggs.

What a shock to see that she had accumulated 13 eggs in her nest, stealing the eggs her roommates had laid on the other side of the nestbox and hiding them all under her fluffy body and wings.

Day 21 came and went, and by Day 23 three chicks had hatched in the incubator.

But not a peep came from Piggy’s private nest.

Unfortunately by Day 26 she hadn’t managed to hatch any chicks.

Perhaps she was off the nest too long, or the coop was just too cold, or maybe all six of her eggs just happened to fail in the last days of gestation.

We didn’t do eggtopsies, so we’ll never know for sure.

Since Piggy had been brooding for three weeks already, with very little exercise and less food and water than normal, we removed her from the nest and took her private little brooder box out of the coop.

We told her to go be a regular chicken for a while, scratching and pecking outside and regaining her strength.

Reluctantly, she complied.

It didn’t take her long to remember the joys of fresh air, sunshine, and treats to be discovered in the chicken pen.

If Piggy goes broody again, we’ll just give her some fertile eggs to start with and leave her to brood them.

Piggy has two banty roommates, a Silkie and a Cochin—breeds that tend to become broody and will happily raise standard chicks, unaware that the chicks will soon pass them in size.

We also have two Buff Orpingtons that could become broody as well.

The colored broilers we want to reproduce are not known for broodiness, so we may need some able foster mamas.

brooder in the barn
brooder in the barn

Hopefully we will experience both natural and mechanized hatching and brooding and have the joy of watching some of our hens putter around with little chicks toddling after them.

Today we’re starting our second incubator batch but won’t be surprised if spring weather also brings on the broodiness in the hen house.

Meanwhile, these six little chicks are hanging out in our brooder in the barn, waiting for the day they can join their banty aunties in the coop and run.

The four yellow chicks are hatchery White Leghorn pullets (young females) we bought to increase our laying flock.

The two brown ones hatched a day apart in our incubator.

The front one is full colored broiler, and the one in the back is a cross of colored broiler and Rhode Island Red.

Spring Is Trying to Spring

apple blossoms blue skyTwice a year I feel that my life opens up for new beginnings.

The first is in January, the start of a brand new calendar year.

The other is springtime, when so much outdoors seems fresh and new.

When my kids were at home, there were also June and September, with the beginning of summer vacation and later the start of school in the fall.

But now the school year doesn’t affect me as much as it did in those days.

January is not far behind me, and the new year has almost passed through its first quarter.

Now it is March, which I usually consider the beginning of spring.

But this year, almost daily the evening news still brings a report of a snowstorm or two somewhere in North America.

Something seems late.

Is it winter that’s ending late, or spring that’s arriving late?

Or are they one and the same? Such deep thoughts on such a complex subject, I know 🙂

I see signs though, that spring is definitely trying to spring.

Bulbs have sprouted, trees are budding.

I think I even heard a frog croaking the other day.

And every once in a while, the sun shines so brightly and the air smells so fresh that it seems just…like…spring.

two ducklings swimmingWhat new beginnings will you embark on this season?

Will you conjure up some ideas in your mind and sketch some out on paper?

Will you try to grow a new plant, or raise a baby animal?

Will you learn a new skill or hone a long-forgotten one?

Here at our place we’re hoping to hatch some chicks, plant a new garden, and put in some fruit trees.

Right now we’re trying to finish some indoor projects so we can give our all to the outdoor tasks.

A little fencing here, a little construction there, and a lot of thought to our outdoor living spaces.

There’s so much we’d like to do before fall comes around again.

Even though it’s long past Christmas, I’m making a list and checking it twice.

How about you?

Pros and Cons of Keeping a Rooster ~ Learn Which is Best for You

Colorful Rooster

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Deciding on keeping a rooster or not, that is a big question! 

When it comes to keeping a rooster, there are pros and cons to consider.

There are many people making money by keeping chickens and roosters as well.

Pros and Cons of Keeping a Rooster

Keeping a rooster has several positive roles in a flock of chickens.

A rooster provides fertilization services to the hens in the flock.

He’ll serve as a guard and defender against perceived and actual danger.

Your rooster will seek out food for the flock and alert the other backyard chickens that he’s found something tasty.

The facts of life for a backyard rooster

As far as fertilization goes, keeping a rooster is necessary only if you want to hatch chicks or you want fertile eggs for the kitchen.

Hens will lay nutritious eggs without a rooster.

A virile rooster will mate frequently with most or all the hens in his presence.

Water Your Backyard Chickens: Watering Systems and Ideas

If there aren’t enough hens to divide his time, he may wear them out.

This can cause damage to the hens’ combs, necks, and backs from the rooster’s beak and spurs.

Generally, a good minimum ratio is 8-10 hens per rooster.

Guard roosters on premises

Always watching over his backyard chickens, a vigilant rooster may appear to never rest.

He’ll scan the sky and landscape for potential predators, warning the hens when he senses danger.

While protection is a positive trait, some (but not all) roosters take it too far.

If they become aggressive, they can injure adults and children by jumping or pecking at them.

Comparing the Best Chicken Swings

Snack time!

Keeping a rooster … He will check over food he finds before calling his girls to come and dine.

Usually, he’ll stand back and let them get started before he begins to partake.

On the other hand, he may fight for his share.

He may also be aggressive toward a person carrying anything he thinks contains food. Best Chicken Feed Options for Your Flock

Your rooster will love treats as well.

Give him and your chickens some chicken scratch to keep them busy.

He will make noise

Where do you live? Know that your rooster will make noise. While your hens may well go unnoticed; neighbors close to your home will absolutely know you have a rooster.

Good reasons to keeping a backyard rooster

Keeping a Rooster with hens
Keeping a rooster with hens

A good rooster will:

Mate regularly with most or all of his hens, ensuring an ongoing supply of fertile eggs.

Protect his hens by alerting them to aerial and ground predators.

Call his hens when he’s found a food source.

Want your chickens to have some fun?

Check this out.

Good things about having a rooster

Roosters crow at the crack of dawn and all through the day.

If you like this sound, it’s a good thing.

A rooster will offer protection.

A rooster just looks cool—and maybe colorful–strutting around the farm.

Good reasons to raise backyard chickens without a rooster

You won’t want to consider getting a rooster if you want eggs for your table but do not want to hatch backyard chickens or eat fertile eggs.

If you and/or your neighbors don’t like the sound of a rooster crowing all day long, do not get a rooster.

If the noise won’t bother you, consider how close you live to your neighbors. Even if you are somewhat close, it may not be an issue. Consider where the chickens and rooster are on your property in relation to your neighbors.

Consider also if the neighbors will only hear your rooster if they are outside. They may not hear him when they are indoors.

If you really can’t decide if you should get a rooster and are okay with not ever getting a rooster, you can ask your closest neighbors if they would mind.

However, before you do this, be very sure you will be listen if they say no. If you ever think you will want to get one, it’s best not to ask for their permission.

Don’t get a rooster if your neighborhood, HOA covenants or municipal regulations prohibit roosters.

If you have fewer than eight backyard chickens, do not consider getting a rooster.

Consider special care the rooster will need. If you don’t want to remove the rooster’s spurs— a fairly simple procedure — from time to time, then don’t get one.

Here is a great book for all of us who have backyard chickens Backyard Chickens for Beginners: Getting the Best Chickens, Choosing Coops, Feeding and Care, and Beating City Chicken Laws

Other advantages to not having a rooster

Backyard chickens will not be injured by a rooster’s spurs or beak during mating.

You won’t have to worry about an overprotective rooster becoming aggressive, jumping or pecking at people.

keeping a rooster with hens
rooster with hens

Rooster personalities

Among all breeds, there will be gentle roos and aggressive roos.

But some breeds are known for more docile roosters than others.

Our favorite source for checking out personalities, among many other characteristics, is Henderson’s Chicken Breed Chart. Best Chicken Toys: Entertaining Your Backyard Chickens

Generally, the more a cockerel is handled as a chick, the less likely he is to become an aggressive rooster.

But even a docile roo will jump into action if he perceives a threat.

Once cockerels reach maturity, it can be difficult to keep more than one male in the same small flock.

Rooster dominance

One will claim dominance and will see the others as threats and competition.

Sometimes this hierarchy is respected and no one is injured.

More likely, there will be fights and injuries.

The simple solution is to have only one rooster per backyard flock.

At our farm we’re currently in between roosters.

We’ve had three colored broiler roos, but they were all overprotective and so heavy they damaged the hens’ backs and necks while mating.

Our grandchildren like to go in the chicken yard to cuddle young chicks and their favorite hens. We like walking among the backyard chickens without danger of a rooster jumping at our legs.

We also appreciate knowing that our hens won’t be injured so often.

Eventually, we’ll keep a colored broiler rooster for our broiler breeding program. But for our general chicken population, a gentler roo is in order.

Since we’ve decided to focus on Buff Orpington hens for our layer flock, we’re going to try a couple of Buff Orp roos.

They are known to be fairly docile—a good fit for our family.

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Owning a rooster is something to carefully consider.

Factor in the amount of space you have, how many chickens you will keep, predators in your area, and noise.

Creating and Building Root Cellars for Year-Round Storage

Creating and Building Root Cellars

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Creating and Building Root Cellars
Creating and Building Root Cellars

Creating and Building Root Cellars – We have done some research though, and to answer your questions, we’ll share what we’ve learned.

In some climates, root vegetables can winter in place in the garden, well-mulched before the first freeze.

If frozen ground prevents harvest, the vegetables will usually be edible in the spring as long as they haven’t been devoured or damaged by rodents.

But for storage of other produce, root cellars can be a vital part of a family’s food preservation system.

Q: Where can you build a root cellar?

Q: How do you build a root cellar?

A: We don’t have a root cellar at our place yet–it’s on our to-do list for this summer.

Creating and Building Root Cellars

Root cellars are basically locations with fairly stable temperature and humidity where fruits, vegetables, and other foods can be stored for several months.

While root vegetables—like carrots, turnips, and parsnips—are among the best keepers, many other types of produce can be stored in root cellars for anywhere from a few weeks to several months.

As long as they are prevented from freezing, jars of home canned goods will also keep well in a root cellar.

On almost every property there’s a place where a root cellar could be established.

The key is to find a spot that will not freeze or become too hot, is neither bone dry nor wet, and gets some ventilation.

Some locations provide suitable conditions for all produce to keep well.

Others are good for some but not for others.

Root vegetables and tubers like it cold and damp.

Cool and dry is ideal for garlic and onions.

Pumpkins and squash need a dry spot that’s not too cold.

Many people store various items in more than one place.

Others store everything in a “happy medium” location.

Root vegetables and tubers like potatoes, carrots, turnips, and parsnips and onions
Root vegetables and tubers like potatoes, carrots, turnips, and parsnips and onions

With a large root cellar it is possible to find or create a different atmosphere in each corner.

Examples of Root vegetables and tubers like potatoes, carrots, turnips, and parsnips and onions

Cave dug into a hill or bank

Hole dug in the ground outdoors or in basement or garage

Corner of cool basement, framed in or not

Crawlspace under house

Unheated room or closet

Enclosed porch

Insulated shed or barn

Plastic storage bin, trash can, or barrel buried in the ground

Old refrigerator or freezer buried in the ground or surrounded by straw bales

Stacked hay or straw bales forming sides and top of a box shape

The root cellar walls, floor, and ceiling can be made of almost any material.

Finished interiors are nice, but dirt, concrete, bricks, blocks, stone, and straw bales will do the job.

Sand can be used for flooring.

Some containers, such as refrigerators and barrels, are completely lined.

Little equipment is required in a root cellar, but here are a few helpful items:

Temperature/humidity gauge for monitoring environment

Baskets, boxes, or crates for storage

Wood pallets for raised flooring

Pipes or tubes for ventilation

Wall or overhead racks and hooks for hanging mesh bags of produce, garlic and onion braids

Sand and straw for insulating in and around containers and separating layers of produce

Lights and fans, if electricity is available

root cellar apples
root cellar apples

So now take a walk around your home, barn, and property.

Think about creative ways to find existing root cellar options or locations for construction or burying.

Be on the lookout for large containers that might be suitable for burying or embedding.

The possibilities are endless.

We’ve even seen photos of an old bus partly buried in a hillside, with the front door exposed for easy access.

Now that’s creative repurposing!

As we’re planning our own root cellar, we’ve gotten a lot of our info and ideas from a book called Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables by Mike and Nancy Bubel.

Another helpful guide is the booklet Build Your Own Underground Root Cellar by Phyllis Hobson.

We have not read The Complete Root Cellar Book: Building Plans, Uses and 100 Recipes but it looks good and has favorable reviews on Amazon.

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Do You Need a Livestock Guardian Animal? Here’s What to Consider

Livestock Guardian Animal

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Livestock Guardian Animal
black bear

Livestock Guardian Animal – Before we moved to our rural property, we knew we would need some help protecting our future livestock from the local coyotes, black bears, and cougars.

Here’s what we learned when deciding if we needed a livestock guardian animal. 

We knew that smaller mammals and rodents would also be an issue around poultry.

Therefore, we started to search for ways to keep our animals safe.

We were surprised to discover a group of animals categorized as livestock guardians.

Different guardian animal groups

There are three main classes of Livestock Guardian Animal that have proven to be excellent protectors of livestock in various situations.

Two species of livestock guardian animals — donkeys and llamas — naturally dislike canines and are effective against wolves, coyotes, and marauding dogs.

The third Livestock Guardian Animal class consists of several specific breeds of large dogs with strong instincts to protect their charges and aggressively fend off many types of predators.

As a group they are called livestock guardian dogs, or LGDs. Choosing a Livestock Guardian Animal must include consideration of several factors.

What to consider before getting a livestock guardian animal

Predators in your area

Stock you want to protect

Property size and fencing

What will the guardian animals need

Do you need a livestock guardian animal? 

Vigilant Livestock Guardian Donkey
Vigilant Livestock Guardian Donkey

If you have no predator issues, you may not need a guardian animal.

Some nuisance animals can be eradicated by other means, such as electric fences and mousetraps.

Securely-built chicken coops can deter the entrance of raccoons and weasels.

A good barking farm dog can ward off some would-be intruders.

But if you have large predators in your area or regular visits by animals seeking free meals, it might be time to put a livestock guardian animal in with your stock.

How many and what kind of predators do you have in your vicinity? 

Do you see small mammals, packs of coyotes, wandering bears, wolves or cougars?

A donkey will fend off individual canines and often small packs as well.

Llamas will fight one canine but are ineffective against a pack.

Neither donkeys nor llamas are effective against bears, wildcats, small mammals, snakes, or rodents.

Livestock guardian dogs will oppose anything that does not belong in its territory, including individual canines, packs of canines, wild cats, bears, and most other aerial and ground predators.

Therefore, if your predator problem is an occasional lone canine, any of the three types will do.

For small packs of canines, a donkey or LGD will work.

For larger canine packs and non-canine predators, a pair of livestock guardian dogs is the best option.

What type of livestock do you want to guard?

All three guardian types can be used with large livestock (horses and cows) and medium sized livestock (goats, sheep, pigs, and miniature cattle breeds).

LGDs can be trained to walk among backyard chickens without injuring them, donkeys and llamas may accidentally or intentionally kick or step on birds.

While donkeys and llamas may bond to their pasture mates, their defensive actions are more to protect their territory than to safeguard the stock.

LGDs bond to the stock or humans they are to protect, and will fend off any perceived threat or anything that does not belong in the area.

More relational and interactive with their charges than are donkeys or llamas, LGDs will assist with goat and sheep birthings and give special attention to stock that is ill or injured.

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Vigilant Maremma Sheepdog
Vigilant Maremma Sheepdog

Do you feel a need for personal protection as well as livestock defense?

Guardian dogs will bond with and protect humans as well as stock.

Donkeys and llamas will not normally accompany people as they go about their chores and tasks.

They will prevent entry of unwelcome people as well as animals.  They will patrol your home and yard.

Some of the LGD breeds are wonderful with children.

How many guardian animals do you need?

Donkeys and llamas are much more effective individually than they are in pairs.

Two donkeys or two llamas will bond to each other more strongly than to the stock they are to protect, and will usually be less attentive guardians than a lone donkey or llama would be.

Therefore, for best defensive support, individual donkeys or llamas should be with small flocks and herds of stock.

Livestock guardian dogs, on the other hand, work best in pairs and teams and will communicate from one to another as they strategically oppose intruders.

You can pen multiple LGDs with large flocks and large herds.

What type of fencing do you have or are you willing to install?

You can easily add donkeys and llamas to most livestock pastures or paddocks.

They require the same type of fencing as medium to large livestock.

A livestock guardian dog needs an effective fence to prevent it from pursuing predators outside your territory and from expanding its territory to include neighbors.

Are you willing to provide separate feed and individual attention?

Donkeys and llamas will generally eat the same grass or feed as livestock they share pasture with.

LGDs have different food needs from those of the stock and must be fed separately.

Raise donkeys and llamas as livestock. They don’t need human guidance.

Dogs require more time and effort in training and maintenance.

For the most successful operation, an LGD must have a working relationship with its human alpha figure(s) — usually one or more family members or a farm manager.

Special donkey and llama breeds?

Livestock Guardian Llama
Livestock Guardian Llama

There aren’t special breeds of donkeys or llamas that qualify them as livestock guardians.

In general, all donkeys and llamas have the urge to fight off canines.

The livestock guardian dog category includes several specific breeds of dogs.

Many other breeds of dogs will bark at intruders and chase them away; however, only the LGD breeds are instinctively wired to bond with stock, relentlessly deter intrusion, and fight to the death if necessary to defend their stock.

Livestock Guardian Dog Maremmas with chickens
Livestock Guardian Dog Maremmas with chickens

The LGD breeds include the Akbash, Anatolian Shepherd, Great Pyrenees, Kangal, Komondor, Kuvasz, Maremma Sheepdog, and Tibetan Mastiff.

Donkey, llama, or livestock guardian dog?

Choosing a livestock guardian animal is a personal one that depends on the individual farm, surroundings, and livestock requiring protection.

Many people have their favorites and stories of successful and ineffective guardian animals.

The important thing is to consider your predator situation and your resources, planning accordingly to protect your livestock.

The basics of caring for livestock may well be to get a livestock guardian animal. Whichever animal you choose, they can become invaluable to your family.

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Backyard Homestead with Carleen Madigan

The Backyard Homestead Review

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Backyard Homestead – A lot of the time, when people are beginning with their homestead, it’s difficult to know which direction to go in.

One thing that’s usually pretty helpful is if you can get one good book that covers a variety of subjects in enough depth for you to give it an experimental try.

The Backyard Homestead, edited by Carleen Madigan, is one of those books.

But not only is it a book, but it is also a guide that helps you plan actionable steps.

Want to know how?

Read on!

From a quarter of an acre, a backyard homestead can harvest:

1,400 eggs

50 pounds of wheat

60 pounds of fruit

2,000 pounds of vegetables

280 pounds of pork

75 pounds of nuts

The Backyard Homestead Book Review
The Backyard Homestead

The “Foot-in-the-Door” to Homesteading

The Backyard Homestead covers a myriad of topics including an A-Z veggie guide, basic fruit growing, grains, nuts, herbs, poultry for meat & eggs, livestock for meat and dairy, beekeeping, homebrewing, and more.

Particularly helpful is the way the book is laid out.

Each section not only has the information you need, but charts, diagrams, calculations, comparisons, and pretty much anything else you need to get started.

Practical Help You Can Put Into Action:

For example, a common question when people are looking to start gardening on a serious food-production level (as opposed to recreational) is how much do I grow?

That question is not an easy one to answer, but they have a good list of veggies, and how much space to allot per person you are growing for.

Not only does it teach you how to produce these goods, but also what to do with them.

It includes recipes, instructions for preservation, and tons of illustrations that demonstrate how to do things, instead of just using words to describe the process.

Particularly of interest to me was one section with a visual layout of how you could produce quite a bit of food on a quarter acre lot (the above example).

This is particularly encouraging because many people feel like they can’t homestead because they live in the city or that it isn’t worthwhile – but truly, you can really do a lot with a small space.

The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan is a Keeper

I will be keeping this book close at hand in the next few years as I continue to expand my homestead and my skills.

The beauty of The Backyard Homestead is that it contains enough information to get you started and going in the direction you want, but it doesn’t have excessive information that you might not be interested in.

For instance, it has quite a bit of information on getting started with cheese making, including basic hard and soft cheese recipes.

I myself am quite interested in cheese making, but I would probably be overwhelmed if I had 100+ recipes to choose from, especially since I’d mostly be interested in a basic farmhouse cheddar anyway.

All in all, this book is a great investment and has lots of up-to-date information about a good variety of different topics.

If you are looking for a resource that will help get you off to a running start on your homestead, look no further – this is exactly what you need.

So Much Sky by Karen Weir-Jimerson

A visitor to Karen Weir-Jimerson’s Iowa farm got out of her car and remarked, “You have so much sky.”

And so was born the name of Karen’s book, a collection of “essays on the fun and folly of living in the country.”

In the book’s introduction Karen says, “I may have grown up in town, but I’m a country girl now.

On three acres in rural Iowa, I’ve experienced about everything the country has to offer.

Serene summer days with an orchestra of happy crickets, to towering thunderstorms that produced winds strong enough to flatten our windbreak and grove.”

As a columnist for Country Home and Country Gardens magazines, Karen has written about everyday happenings and notable events in her Slow Lane features.

Recently she gathered a selection of those and other stories and published them in a book.

So Much Sky is arranged in four sections, one for each season of the year.

There are stories of new spring flowers, summer parades, autumn harvest, and winter snows.

The animal kingdom is well represented, with features about wild animals, farm livestock, and domestic pets.

Descriptions of colorful flowers, stories from the veggie patch, and observations from a preschool bulb-planting project cover the world of gardening, one of the author’s favorite writing topics.

The author shares both joys and challenges of rural life with amusing and touching stories from the antics of her two sons to the routine daily chores she and her husband perform on the farm.

So Much Sky
photo courtesy Karen Weir-Jimerson ~ So Much Sky

Karen’s anecdotes and recollections have the capacity to transport the reader to a farm out in the country.

Reading them, one could imagine being there and experiencing the sights, sounds, smells, and surprises of rural life.

So Much Sky also presents a representative sample of the broad range of experiences and responsibilities of life on a farm and the pace of rural communities.

It would be enjoyable reading for anyone who is interested in the country lifestyle–appreciating nature, raising animals, or producing food or flowers in the garden.

You can purchase a copy for yourself or a friend HERE at So Much Sky.

Book Review - The Gardening Notebook
Book Review – The Gardening Notebook

Book Review – The Gardening Notebook

I seem to have gardening notes all over the place!

And I can’t always find what I’m looking for.

Have you (like me) thought about organizing your garden notes…but never gotten around to it?

Texas gardener Angi Schneider has just the solution for us!

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener By Niki Jabbour

The Gardening Notebook

Released as an ebook on February 8, The Gardening Notebook is part intro to gardening, part info on plants and methods, and part organization tool.

In addition to some good informative reading, Angi presents a collection of printable worksheets that we can use to put together our own gardening notebooks.

Just print out the pages you want to include and put them in a 3-ring binder, spiral binding, file folder, or other system.

The best thing about The Gardening Notebook is that you can pick and choose, using the info pages and fill-in forms however you like to create your own personal gardening resource.

From year to year you can track your seed sowing schedule, gardening expenses, even pests and other problems you encounter.

New to gardening?

You’ll find basic info on gardening, soil preparation, and how to grow vegetables, fruits, and ornamental plants.

Trying to figure out when to plant what? Check out Angi’s monthly garden calendar and planting schedule according to frost dates.

Wondering about the needs of specific plants?

Angi has put together information on culture, problems, harvest, and storage for a number of different plants.

For other plants, just print out some fill-in plant profile pages and add the information you want to record.

Looking for resources?

Throughout The Gardening Notebook, you’ll find links to helpful articles, tutorials, charts, and other guides to help you make gardening decisions.

Wondering what your USDA planting zone is?

Just click a link.

Trying to find your local extension office? You can click your way to that info too.

Something for every gardener

I’ve been gardening for decades and now I think I’ve hit a gold mine for compiling all my garden records in one place.

For the beginning gardener, The Gardening Notebook is a great starting point for collecting ideas and recording the first year’s experiences.

Book Review How to Move to the Country

How to Move to the Country

Are you wondering what it really takes to move to the country and live happily ever after?

We have to get out of here! Patrice and her family left behind crazy commutes and what they called “running in place” in the big city.

Once they realized “We have to get out of here,” they made their move to the country.

Their path was not a bed of roses, however, and this book is an honest description of the ups AND the downs of rural life.

Says Patrice, “I am frequently asked what it takes to escape an urban or suburban environment and move rural.”

She decided to offer a  primer on how to move to the country.

Three stages in the journey

How to Move to the Country is set up in four parts: an introduction and a section for each of three stages in the journey from urban to rural.

The Introduction includes the story of the Lewis family’s personal experience moving from city to country.

Also included are candid views of “The Good,” “The Bad,” and “The Ugly” of country life.

Stage One Journey:

Preparing includes encouragement to spend pre-move time getting into a stable financial position and learning new skills needed for a rural life.

Evaluating your wishes for a future homestead and listing priorities are also suggested.

Stage Two Journey

Ready to Buy we find a rundown on considerations for purchasing a rural homestead or piece of land.

Where to find property listings, family preferences, and the all-important reconnaissance trip are discussed.

Stage Three Journey

Living in the Country gives readers a glimpse of the culture of rural communities and how life differs from that in the city.

Additionally, there are lots of great tips on getting acclimated in the community and on your new farm or ranch.

How to Move to the Country
How to Move to the Country

The big picture

How to Move to the Country definitely provides a broad picture of what rural living is all about.

If you’re “on the fence” about making the move, this booklet may help you make a decision.

If you’re already on your way–or even already living in the country.

You will surely find a few new ideas to implement.

The Fruit Gardener’s Bible

The Fruit Gardener’s Bible: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruits and Nuts in the Home Garden

Usually we review books based on reading the content.

But this time we had an additional approach – we happened to be planning some pruning and planting of fruit trees, grapevines, and bramble bushes.

So we put The Fruit Gardener’s Bible to good use.

Our first project was pruning some damaged trees.

Due to rambunctious dogs, marauding deer, gophers, and general establishment issues, some of the fruit trees we’d planted last year were looking sad by winter’s end.

The Fruit Gardener’s Bible contains thorough information about pruning as well as excellent illustrations and diagrams.

But more importantly, the author put us at ease by indicating that routine pruning includes trimming off branches and twigs damaged by wildlife.

What we were doing was not unusual. Before planting our new trees and berry plants, we used the book as a guide for our soil preparation and planting.

Again, we were not disappointed with the information and detailed instructions contained in the book.

From planning to planting to harvest…and more!

The Fruit Gardener’s Bible is divided into four parts: Getting Started with Fruits and Nuts; The Small Fruits: Berries, Bushes, and Brambles; Tree Fruits and Nuts; and Growing Healthy Fruits, Nuts, and Berries.

Part one is a general introduction to fruit and nut plants, a guide to selection, and seasonal care.

How do I plan an orchard?

How much space do fruit and nut trees need?

When should I prune?

It’s all there, along with diagrams of sample planting arrangements and advice on fitting fruit and berries into a small yard.

Parts two and three include a chapter for each fruit and tree nut family.

For each group, there is information on planting, care, and harvest.

The book is full of beautiful color photos and sketches.

Helpful charts include Fast Facts and Tips for Growing various fruits and nuts.

In part four we were pleasantly surprised to see some wonderful info on soil improvement, pest management, and dealing with wildlife.

A helpful glossary follows this section, explaining the definitions of many terms used in the book.

Plenty of new information

We’ve been growing tree fruits and berries since childhood, but still we had a lot to learn from The Fruit Gardener’s Bible.

For instance, careful spacing can maximize pollination by honey bees.

Marigolds planted among strawberry plants not only attract beneficial insects but may also help repel soil nematodes.

We didn’t know that apples should be stored separately from all other fruits and vegetables.

According to The Fruit Gardener’s Bible, “Apples give off ethylene gas, which can cause other fruits to ripen more quickly, potatoes to sprout, and carrots to turn bitter.”

Apples can also be affected by other produce.

“Potatoes can give apples a musty flavor.

Strong odors from cabbages and turnips and onions can be absorbed by apples and pears.”

So this book is a big help not only in our garden, but in our root cellar and kitchen as well.

We declare The Fruit Gardener’s Bible to be a keeper!

Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals

The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals

The best restaurant in town?

Well yes, in a manner of speaking.

This delicious breakfast—plus lunches, dinners, and snacks—can come right from your own backyard!

According to The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals, “On as little land as one-tenth of an acre, you can raise healthy, productive barnyard animals and take a big step toward food independence.”

Plus the Ultimate BBQ Grilled Rib-Eye Steak recipe.

Desert Wildlife Tucson Homesteading ~ Seeing desert fauna

And this book tells us how to do that!

Each chapter is full of helpful information, facts, and tips.

Though we already knew a lot about chickens, we learned some new things about them. And in preparation for bringing porkers home to our farm, we carefully read the chapter on pigs.

The first chapter, “Introducing Backyard Farm Animals,” includes such topics as the whys of raising food animals, finding stock, and transporting animals.

There’s a guide to preparing a home for the new stock, including checking zoning laws, meeting facility requirements, and informing the neighbors.

The next chapter is titled “How Many Animals Can You Keep?” and contains sketches of several possible backyard livestock configurations.

There are drawings for one tenth of an acre, a quarter acre, and a half acre.

Each design is labeled with the quantity of each animal that could potentially be housed on that property.

Assuming that most livestock keepers also like to grow vegetables and fruit, each diagram also includes garden beds and trees as well as the family home and yard.

Details on Raising Livestock

Those two chapters are followed by nine chapters devoted to specific individual animals or groups: chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese, rabbits, honey bees, goats, sheep, pigs, and dairy cows and beef cattle.

Each livestock chapter includes information on selection, housing, and basic care and feeding.

There are also guidelines for processing meat or harvesting products such as eggs, honey, and wool.

Illustrations of housing, handling, feeding options, and animal body parts accompany instructions and how-tos.

Learn about miniature cattle breeds and see how they are ideal for many compact farms.

After that, you can consider getting a guardian livestock animal.

It’s amazing what you can do in a small space.

Beautiful full-color illustrations

One of the highlights of the book is a three-page full color pullout illustrating 28 examples of livestock breeds suitable for backyard production.

On the flip side of the pullout is a description of each of the illustrated breeds.

At the bottom of these pages is a lineup of all but one, arranged by size from a five-pound Araucana chicken to a half-ton Highland Cow.

Only the tiny honey bee does not appear there.

The book concludes with a thorough, helpful glossary and a great resource list that includes books, magazines, websites, suppliers, and breed organizations.

We have reviewed some awesome books that are chock full of solid information, how-to steps, and helpful illustrations.

The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals is no exception.

The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals
Basics of Caring for Livestock
Guide to Miniature Cattle Breeds for Your Small Farm
Our Interview Jill Winger of “Your Custom Homestead”

Storey’s Basic Country Skills: A Practical Guide to Self-Reliance

If we were limited to only one reference guide to rural living, this would be it.

As the title implies, this book includes an introduction to many skills needed to develop a self-sufficient lifestyle.

John and Martha, founders of Storey Publishing, collected information from 150 experts to present step-by-step illustrated instruction and tips on a myriad of topics.

This is not a new release—it was published in 1999.

But it’s very relevant today and chock full of basics for rural life and the urban or suburban “country home at heart” where self-sufficiency is valued.

In fact, much of the book’s information and instruction can be applied to any home.

And most of our readers will enjoy the sections on large livestock, fields, and outbuildings even if they don’t have space for those projects.

Practical Guide to Self-Reliance

What it contains:

Four sections cover the country home; garden, yard, and orchard; cooking and stocking up; and livestock and their needs.

Spread throughout the book you’ll find everything from basic home maintenance to growing and preserving vegetables to milking a cow and building a barn.

The descriptions, explanations, and instructions are accompanied by illustrations, charts, diagrams, and examples of layouts.

For almost six decades I’ve lived in homes with wood stoves and wood burning fireplaces.

But I still had a lot to learn from the chapter on Heating Your Home.

Some topics covered here are how wood burns, how to clean a chimney, and what’s in a cord of wood.

I even think I could follow their instructions for sharpening an axe and maintaining a chainsaw.

One of my newest gardening passions is raising herbs.

Storey’s Basic Country Skills has a chapter called The Herb Garden where recipes for herbal vinegars and herbal soap are scattered among descriptions of 32 common herbs and how to grow them.

There are even diagrams for a first aid garden and a cold and flu garden!

This book is for everyone!

Storey’s Basic Country Skills reminds me of a fascinating multi-room house with countless intriguing nooks and crannies to explore.

No matter what it is that interests, challenges, or puzzles you in your rural life or dreams, you’re sure to find this book enlightening and a great addition to your library.

See for yourself how versatile a book Basic Country Skills is!

Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs

Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs

While there are many similarities in the care and management of livestock, each one has its own unique set of requirements.

When we decided to get our first pigs, we started reading everything we could find in preparation.

So Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs was a timely book for us to review.

We really needed all the information and would be applying it firsthand.

This book covers all aspects of care and management of pigs.

It also includes great info on breeds and various facility options.

Right off, the helpful introduction gives the reader a foundation of information about pig history, meat production, and general porcine facts.

A section called Hog Myths dispels some of the age-old stereotypes about pigs.

Did you know that pigs don’t wallow in mud because they like to get dirty?

Actually, since they don’t perspire, that’s how they stay cool.

The concept of pigs being dangerous stems from encounters with feral hogs in years gone by.

Modern domesticated pigs are actually quite docile.

Chapters of this book are devoted to hog breeds, raising pigs, home butchering, showing pigs, and business aspects of a hog operation.

More chapters cover facility preparation, breeding stock, management and health care.

The final chapter, titled “Day-to-Day Life with Hogs,” is chock full of additional tidbits of info.

The appendix features calendars, forms for record-keeping, a glossary, and a resource list.

If this book doesn’t cover all the bases, it sure comes very close.

Text is accompanied by photos and diagrams, and Storey Publishing’s hallmark sidebars of information are present throughout the book.

This edition of Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs is a recent version of a 1997 edition.

Author Kelly Klober, who has raised hogs for over thirty years, has done a great job of updating information and adding new material.

In our opinion, Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs lacks only one “how-to.”

The other day we were in dire need of a quick tutorial in “how to chase an escapee piglet around your 3-acre property.”

We’re happy to say we succeeded in cornering little piggy and returning him to the pen.

And thanks to Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs, we knew exactly how to carry him.

Grabbing ears and legs is okay, but one should never support a pig by the tail, which is part of the spinal system.