Do You Need a Livestock Guardian Animal? Here’s What to Consider

Livestock Guardian Animal

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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 – herd protector

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

Vigilant Livestock Guardian Donkey
Vigilant Livestock Guardian Donkey

Do you need a livestock guardian animal?

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.

Livestock Guardian Llama
Livestock Guardian Llama

Guardian donkeys and llama breeds?

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: 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

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.

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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.

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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 Backyard Homestead 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.

How I Built My DIY Hydroponic System and Hydroponic Garden

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DIY Hydroponic System – We do not have any garden space or soil for planting in our yard.

But that didn’t let that stop us from starting a vegetable garden.

Here’s how we about building a hydroponic garden.

How to Build a DIY Hydroponic Garden

If you haven’t considered setting up a DIY Hydroponic Garden you’re really missing out.

These gardens are the wave of the future, and just about anyone can set them up.

The best part is, they can fit into just about any space, so even those in the smallest apartment can have the garden of their dreams.

I live in a climate which is very hot and dry throughout nine months of the year.

While I have a small yard, there isn’t usable soil for growing a garden.

I don’t know much about gardening, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to try.

I realize it will be a greater challenge with the hot climate.

My goal is to have a year round system to produce herbs, lettuce and other greens without needing to bring in dirt or compost.

Building a DIY hydroponic system was one of the first things I did.

DIY hydroponic System
DIY hydroponic System

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Why Should I Build A DIY Hydroponic Garden?

Setting up your very own DIY hydroponic garden comes with a whole plethora of advantages.

It doesn’t matter how big or small your space is, you can set up your garden and watch it flourish.

These gardens also use far less water than traditional gardens and are less vulnerable to harmful pesticides.

Since these types of gardens conserve water and don’t erode the soil, they are environmentally friendly.

Plus, they produce the same delicious crops that you would find in traditional gardens.

How Do I Get Started On My Hydroponic Garden?

If you’re ready to build a DIY hydroponic garden, there are several things that you will want to take into consideration.

Making sure that you give the following steps the due diligence they deserve will help you maximize your garden and get the best returns on what you plant.

How I Built My Hydroponic System

My DIY Hydroponic setup 

My setup is a free standing, recirculating pump based hydroponic system. Best LED Grow Lights Review – How To Choose

It has a reservoir full of nutrient solution which is pumped through 3/4” PVC tubes up to system of four 4” PVC grow pipes.

The 170-200 GPH fountain pump can push water up to about 7 feet.

Pumping about 170 gallons per hour through the system, it makes for lots of circulation.

Hydroponics System
Hydroponics System

Hydroponic Reservoir

The reservoir is a standard plastic storage container with a lid.

I keep the reservoir covered to avoid evaporation and prevent debris and critters from entering.

In addition, I put reflective insulation around the reservoir to help deflect direct sun, as that raised the temperature of the water considerably.

Even with the reservoir covered, I have to replenish the system roughly once every two weeks.

A lot of water is lost through the plants themselves and their pots.

Hydroponic Grow pipes

Each of the 48” grow pipes has four grow sites, spaced about a foot apart.

Each grow site has a net pot filled with clay pellets.

I used standard 4″ pipe caps. (They were only about $2 each).

I didn’t cement the ends because I wanted to disassemble and clean the unit as needed.

The pipe ends have a snug fit, but not enough to prevent water leaking, so I wrapped the ends with black PVC pipe tape.

That took care of the remaining leaks.

Each end of the horizontal PVC hydroponics pipe

At each end of each horizontal pipe, I drilled a 3/4″ hole in the PVC for intake or outlet.

You can see that the intake ports are positioned high on the end caps, and the outlets are low.

I did tests during construction to get the position just right.

If it drained too fast, then the standing water level would be too low, and conversely, if the outlet was too high, the pipe would fill up and overflow.

It was a bit of a balancing act there.

In each hole, I put a 3/4″ steel pipe plug with outside threads as a thread tap.

It ended up working pretty well and didn’t cost nearly as much as a real 3/4″ tap and die set.

Hydroponic Water pumped

The water is pumped from the reservoir up to the top grow pipe.

Then it flows through the top grow pipe, down to the next pipe below, and so on.

Finally it drains back into the reservoir.

I try to keep 2″ to 3″ of water in the tubes.

The nice part about keeping it so deep is that if there is a pump failure or other issue with the water supply, there will be some standing water that keeps the plant roots wet and fed for a while.

This happened to me once when the tomato plant roots blocked one of the pipes, causing the tube above to overflow and eventually drain the reservoir.

Once the pump shut off from lack of water, the tubes still had enough water in them to keep the plants alive until I noticed several days later.

Before planting the homemade hydroponics

Before planting anything in the hydroponic system, I had started some beans, lettuce, tomatoes, green onions and peas indoors in a growth medium that I could easily transfer to the net pots.

Not all of my starts took off.

My beans did not survive at all, and all but one lettuce plant died.

I attribute this to planting too soon, before the starts had developed good roots.

In the photo here, you can see the tomato plants are taking off, peas are doing okay and the onions and lettuce are still slow to get going.
homemade hydroponics garden

Think About Where You Want To Put Hydroponic Garden

Location is everything!

Although these gardens can thrive and exist in all sorts of different sized spaces, where size doesn’t matter location does.

Make sure that the garden is located in a spot where it will not be disturbed.

You will want to find a place that is fully enclosed, private and temperature controlled.

Greenhouses are great options, as are basements.

Simply make sure that your space is safe from the elements, dry, and easily accessible.

If you put your garden in a darker space, like a basement, you’ll want to add lights to it to ensure that the plants are able to grow properly.

Small greenhouse

I put a “green closet” small greenhouse around the structure to help control temperature and filter out some of the intense sun.

The greenhouse is made out of PVC pipe, made rigid with wood bracing and covered in 7 mil painters plastic.

When this greenhouse photo was taken, the tomato plants had grown the most by far.

So much, that I had to remove a few plants due to their roots blocking up the pipes, and to allow for the other plants to get more light.

Later, I added string support for the plants to cling on to. I should have added this support much earlier on.

Set Up Your Hydroponic System

There are several different types of hydroponic gardens.

The hydroponic system or hydroponic garden that’s best for you will largely depend on your skill level, space restrictions, or the amount of time that you are willing to devote to the garden.

Ultimately, most gardens are built out of PVC pipe, which is readily available at any home improvement store.

You just need some standard pipe, a trellis for the plants to latch on to as they grow, and a pump inside of the pipes to distribute nutrients to your new plants.

Remember, these systems recycle water and nutrients, so the pump system is absolutely imperative to the growth of your brand new crop.

You need to cut holes at the top of the pipes and place the plants inside of them.

That will allow the nutrient and water mixture to wash over the roots, fortifying the plants and helping them grow properly.

If you are growing fewer plants, you can always use buckets with holes punched at the bottom.

The nutrients will snake up into the roots.

You can either set up a pump or water the bucket manually.

This s a great option for people who want to grow a few large plants and don’t have a lot of skills when it comes to the mechanics of setting up a PVC pipe hydroponic garden.
Hydroponic PVC Designs

Mix The Nutrients And Add The Plants

The nutrients are what will really get the party started in your DIY hydroponic garden.

The general rule is to add one cup of nutrients per 25 gallons of water.

Don’t pop your plants in just yet.

Let the pump mix up the nutrients and water so everything is fully integrated before you add the plants.

It’s time to add the plants.

If you are using seedlings, remember to wash all of the soil off their roots before integrating them into your garden.

It’s important to make sure that you do this very gently because water that is too hot or cold could damage the fragile root system of the plant.

You can buy seedlings at just about any store that sells plants.

Once your roots are nice and clean, you can put them in your PVC pipe or bucket.

Make sure that the roots are firmly encased in clay pellets and accessible to the nutrient and water mixture that is flowing through the pipe or into the bucket.

That way, they will have the best chance to get all of the important nutrients that they need to thrive.

Root system

I was very surprised by the root systems.

Below is a photo of the root system of one of the tomato plants.
roots fr our hydroponics system and garden

These roots actually started to become an issue.

They started to grow so much that they would block the pipes and cause water to back up in the system.

A little bit of a “hair cut” fixed that for a little while.

This is a pot I removed to thin out the garden.

hydroponics roots trimmed
Support The Plants

Here is where your trellis comes in.

Once the plants are securely fixed in your pipe or buckets, it’s time to make sure that they are growing upright properly.

The best way to do that is to tie them to the support system and guide them in their growth.

You want to be very careful with this step.

Seedlings and smaller plants are very vulnerable to shock and breakage.

Think about tying them to the trellis as a way to simply guide their process, not affix them like glue to the support structure.

Supporting the plants is very important if you are operating in a small space, or dealing with multiple plants.

You need to maximize the area while still giving these plants ample room to flourish.

Start Up The Pump And Watch Your Plants Grow

Now it’s time for the fun part.

Start up the pump and let the garden do the rest.

You can be assured that you’re doing something awesome for the environment, and also creating a garden full of delicious fruits and vegetables that you can enjoy without having to worry about pesticides.

Remember to keep an eye on your plants.

There are times when these plants need to be cut back, so trim them regularly and make sure that they are growing in a straight line.

If you have multiple plants in a single pipe, it’s important to ensure that dominant or aggressive species are not taking over.

Ultimately, have fun on your gardening adventure!

Enjoying the harvest of your hydroponics setup

We used the green onions and lettuce from the setup to make a lot of salads for six (two adults and 4 kids).

Here is a photo of one of those plants.

We just kept cutting leaves off for salads, and they just kept growing back.
hydroponics setup

DIY hydroponics cost

Overall, the bill of materials cost on the entire unit is well under $100.

I also bought some tools that I didn’t already own, including a 4″ hole saw for $20.

Materials I used to build DIY hydroponic System

  • 170-200 GPH fountain pump
  • 27-gallon plastic storage container with lid
  • 4” PVC pipe: 4@48”
  • 3/4” PVC pipe
  • 4” PVC end caps: 8
  • 3/4” PVC elbows: 8
  • 3/4” steel pipe plugs: 8
  • Flexible PVC fountain tubing
  • Black PVC pipe tape
  • Wood for support frame

Hydroponic Supplies

  • Standard garden seeds and plant starts
  • Standard seed starting medium and starter cells
  • 4” hydroponic net pots: 16
  • Hydroponic clay pellets
  • Hydroponic nutrient solution formulated for growth; I like FoxFarm.

Hydroponic Equipment

Hacksaw and guide for cutting pipe, Drill, 4” hole saw and 3/4” drill bit

If you don’t already own the proper tools, there are several options.

You can ask a family member, friend, or neighbor to borrow them.

Oftentimes, you can rent them from a local hardware store.

And of course, you can buy the tools you need and then use them for future projects.

Best Hydroponics Equipment

All in all, my DIY hydroponics setup has been a good experiment, and we’ve grown a lot of produce.
Hydroponic PVC Plans

Advantages to hydroponic gardening

In addition to being able to grow all of this produce in a space space, there are several benefits to growing with hydroponics.

According to hydroponics.net, under the same conditions, the rate of growth for plants in water is 30-5o% faster than when they grow in dirt. They also yield more fruit.

There is less change for bug infestations and diseases.

Because there is more oxygen, it stimulates the roots better.

You won’t need to contend with topsoil erosion, and generally, you won’t need to use pesticides.

Also, it was fairly easy to set up, and it worked well in my small space.

I can’t wait to build my next hydroponic system, refining my ideas with these tips from what I learned.

We’d love to hear what you’ve been successful with in your hydroponics system.

Please share in the Comments.

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Starting a Garden Where Soil Poor

Soil Poor

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Starting a Garden Where Soil Poor – But the good news is, there are ways to do this!

Sometimes you can improve the soil that’s there.

If it’s beyond an easy fix, you can plant in raised beds you’ve filled with good soil.

How do you start putting in a garden if your soil poor and is really bad?

A: Whether you have rocks, sand, or heavy clay…or dust or dirt without any substance to it.

No matter how you describe it, if your soil is poor for gardening, you’ll have to be clever and work around it.

First, take a look at what you’ve got.

If you grab a handful of damp soil and squeeze it, what happens? If it holds together loosely, you may have a foundation to build on.

You can amend the soil with compost and manure and see what you have in another year or two.

On the other hand, if the soil either slips through your fingers like dust or forms a very firm clay ball, raised beds or lasagna gardening are probably better use of your time and money.

Then, look for worms—yes, worms!

When you dig around in the soil, do you see any worms?

Worms in the soil are an indicator of quality, so fewer worms in the soil can indicate a lack of nutrients.

On the flip side, if you see many worms in your soil, you probably have high quality soil.

(Check prices on WORMS here)

How much patience or time to wait do you have?

Time and hard work spent creating a garden space will eventually pay off.

It will usually take about 2-3 years of amending before you can turn poor soil into healthy fertile soil.

If you want good garden results this year or next, you can start growing some plants in a raised bed or containers while building soil in a larger area for a future garden.

turn poor soil into healthy fertile soil
turn poor soil into healthy fertile soil

Three main ways to deal with poor soil:

Soil amendment:

This takes a few years and can include adding compost and manure to the soil.

Planting cover crops and later tilling them into the soil as “green manure” incorporates substance and nutrients.

Materials to till in:

Dry leaves, weed-free plant material, seed-free kitchen vegetable/fruit scraps, used livestock bedding.

They will eventually “compost in place.”

Some other materials to add in small amounts are sawdust/wood chips (will pull nitrogen out of soil if used too much), evergreen needles (will add acid), wood ashes (will add alkalinity and other minerals), and bone meal for calcium.

You can make your own calcium ash supplement by burning leftover meat bones after you’ve boiled them to stock.

The resulting ash is a very available source of calcium and other minerals for your plants

Rural Living Today readers Fin and Sue told us that they built soil where they had a lot of rocks and sand.

They used a combination of chicken tractors, composting, and lots of labor.

Now, a few years later, their soil is very good for gardening!

Materials to till in
Materials to till in

Lasagna gardening/sheet composting:

This involves layering various materials on top of the ground and allowing them to compost in place.

Lasagna beds do not require tilling; usually turning the soil is sufficient between crops.

A lasagna bed should be created right where you want your garden to be, as the layers will become the garden itself.

Each layer should be wet down well before adding the next layer of material.

A good first layer is corrugated cardboard, which acts as a weed barrier.

Lay it right down on dirt, sod, gravel, whatever. Hose it down, then pile on the fillings.

Stack layers one to two feet high of any of the following materials: manure, compost, food scraps, dead leaves, wood chips–anything that will decompose.

Whenever you have more material, spread it on top and wet it down.

Before long you’ll have a rich bed of great growing soil.

You can get materials from lots of sources.

Place an ad in Craigslist or Freecycle for clean yard debris.

Many people will drop it off instead of paying for removal.

Also ask farms and horse stables if you can take a load of free manure (if you have a truck available).

You may be able to get wood chip mulch from Arborists or wire maintenance crews trimming trees on a city street.

In the fall, we like to drive around in the truck and snag bags of leaves off the curbside that have been set outside for trash – easy composting materials!

To help speed things along, we “inoculates” lasagna garden beds with a healthy dose of composting worms.

They will multiply quickly and the compost they create within the beds themselves is of the highest quality available.

You can buy red worms online or you can sometimes find them in old leaf piles.

raised bed waist high
raised bed waist high

Raised beds and containers:

This is the simplest in some ways, though it requires containment or shaping of beds.

It involves bringing good soil in from somewhere else.

The simplest raised bed is good soil mounded on top of poor soil.

Wood or rock frames can be used for edging, or you can just rake tumbling soil back into the mound as needed.

Raised beds constructed of wood, concrete blocks, straw bales, or other materials can be anywhere from a few inches to a few feet tall.

The height depends on the root depth of your plants as well as your physical comfort while gardening.

We love gardening in the waist-high raised bed built from lumber and corrugated metal roofing.

It’s great because we can lean across to the center from either side without straining our backs.

We can pack a lot of intensively planted veggies in the 4’ x 40’ bed.

To minimize the soil need, we filled the bed with tree branches in Horticulture fashion and capped them with topsoil.

As the branches decompose and the soil settles we’ll just top the bed off with our farm compost each year.

At our farm we use all these methods.

We have a large garden patch in an area where we amended already-good soil with manure and green compost just for good measure.

A lasagna bed was layered in another area.

We use some low raised beds for overwintered garlic and strawberries and our tall raised bed for kitchen veggies.

Make sure you mulch. When I was younger and learning about gardening I did not understand why I kept hearing about mulch.

But now that I am more experienced, I will not garden without it.

I use dead fall leaves, wood chips, spent straw, or pretty much whatever I can get my hands on.

Spread the mulch in a thick layer (a few inches) around your plants and in your beds.

This will not only help retain water but it will really help attract beneficial insects and worms.

When I build a new garden bed, I usually use the lasagna layering technique but I always make sure the top layer is a thick blanket of mulch for this reason.

Sometimes mulching can be the difference between sun baked hard & compacted soil, and damp, loose & rich soil.

Once you have soil of a good substance and composition, it’s wise to have the soil tested for nutrient levels.

We use the soils lab at University of Massachusetts.

We just take soil samples, mix them together, and mail a little plastic bag of soil to the lab.

The prices are reasonable and the results are emailed in a nice format with organic and non-organic recommendations for specific crop groups.

If you prefer to stay local for soil testing, check with your local university extension office or agriculture consultant to find a lab in your area.

Soils labs are very busy in the spring, but fall is also a good time for testing.

Remember also, restoring a Rural Backyard is awesome!

Remember, it’s absolutely possible to start a garden where the soil is poor.

With patience and persistence, you can improve the soil and have a richer harvest.

How to Be a Livestock Guardian Dog

Livestock Guardian Dog

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How to be livestock guardian dog in case any of you do-it-yourself are interested!

Livestock Guardian Dog – Even though I am a very busy dog, after a bit of negotiation with myself I agreed to do it and so…here is my DIY how-to!

Now where should I start.

HMMMMMM.

First off, you all need to know that I have a job. Literally.

I get paid in many different ways, like kibble and belly rubs, but my job on the homestead is a very important one.

I share it with my sister Callie, and together, we are literally in charge making sure that no unwanted animal, person, or thing steps on our homestead without permission.

And we take this responsibility very seriously.

I was told that we feel that way because it was bred into us by lots of generations before me.

My grandfather actually lived and worked in Italy guarding sheep in the hills there.

That is where our Maremma Family is originally from and that’s what they did.

Livestock Guardian Dog Augie smiling
Livestock Guardian Dog Augie smiling

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I don’t know where Italy is, but I do know it is a long way away.

My father was brought over to a place called New York where he works now.

I am one of his kids!!

His name is Crisco, and he taught me how earlier Maremmas took their jobs in Italy very seriously and that their instincts have been passed on (whatever that means) to Callie and me.

And now we apply those instincts to our job here! 

So, what is a livestock guardian dog, you ask?

How to Be a Livestock Guardian Dog

There are some other kinds of livestock guardian dogs besides Maremmas.

Lots of people know about the Great Pyrenees.

And there are the Kuvasz and the Akbash. We are all big white dogs.

The Komondors are white too but wow do they ever have long curly hair!

The Anatolian Shepherds have short hair that is usually tan or brown.

Then there are the Tibetan Mastiffs and a few other livestock guardian breeds that are less common in the western world.

We all came from different countries.

But the thing we all have in common is that we have been bred for centuries to defend and protect our charges against predators, even ones that are bigger than us.

We are not afraid to give our lives for our livestock or our people…that’s what Livestock Guardian Dog do.

Well anyway, back to Callie and me. This is us on the right–she’s the very cute one and I’m the terribly handsome one.

The place we guard and call home now is about four acres.

This placed is fenced and it is our place. Our territory.

Mom and Dad live here and there are lots of chickens. Sometimes lots of kids. Sometimes other animals.

We live on a hill and if we see someone drive up we GO on ALERT.

Livestock Guardian Dog Alert bark

Well what does that mean?

That means that we start our ALERT BARK!

Actually we do our ALERT BARK anytime something is out of the ordinary. Like if we hear a coyote, or another dog, or anything outside.

We have a few different barks, and even at night Dad and Mom can tell if we are just talking to each other, telling the deer to stay outside the fence, or warning the coyotes to keep right on moving past our place.

Our ALERT BARK is pretty impressive if I don’t say so myself.

But even our plain Bark is.

We even bark at the neighbor cows sometimes but we are learning that they are OK.

Yeah right, anything that big can’t be totally OK, can it?

Many people that meet us comment that they are glad they didn’t meet us at night!

Well, barking is really our first line of defense.

We are not attack dogs, but if necessary we would attack and fight a predator that was trying to hurt our chickens or our people.

Actually Callie and I practice wrestling (of course in fun) almost every day.

We just want anyone or anything that shouldn’t be around to go away.

The Bark is a great tool for that.

Pretty proud of it…The BARK…has a real ring to it doesn’t it?

So it makes sense that I don’t live in the city, eh?

Livestock Guardian Dog Callie howling
Livestock Guardian Dog Callie howling

Callie has a great bark too.

That is Callie in the picture demonstrating The Bark–I wanted you to know it’s her because I DO NOT WEAR A PINK COLLAR! 

So anyway, plain and simple…when intruder animals come…we bark…and when they go away we stop.

Friends coming for a visit

When Mom or Dad want people to come into our fenced property we all follow a procedure.

Of course, new people and new cars, including delivery drivers, always get barked at.

Sometimes very loudly!

We won’t let them in until Mom and Dad say they can come in.

Mom and Dad say “ENOUGH” to tell us that they are taking charge. We know we need to stop doing what we are doing including barking, and then, well…we stop.

Then they tell us the people are OKAY and they are FRIENDS. Then they tell us to “GET BACK AND STAY” so other people can come in when Mom and Dad open the gate.

These people have to take off their hats and sunglasses so Callie and I can have a good look in their eyes to see if WE think they are OK.

Did you know we can read?

Well we can’t read books but we read eyes and body language.

Anyway Mom and Dad tell us again that these people are OK, and then they are our friends too!!!

People who don’t know what an LGD is (that is industry talk for Livestock Guardian Dog) are amazed how we can make an instant transition from a barker to a friend.

Callie and I are very smart and when those people come again, we will remember that they are OK.

Livestock Guardian Dogs Augie and Callie with chickens
Livestock Guardian Dogs Augie and Callie with chickens

Guard Dog Protection for my Family

My dog dad told me a funny story when I was a pup.

Once at a farm someone came to buy a goat, but the Maremma that lived there wouldn’t stop barking at him.

The man was shifty…and the dog wouldn’t stop barking.

The mom and dad there finally told the man that he couldn’t buy a goat there because their dog didn’t like him.

The man got real mad and his “true” personality came to the surface.

Couldn’t hide that from a Maremma! No sireee.

We Maremmas are a good judge of character and that is well documented.

Livestock Guardian Dog On patrol

OK, moving on.

Many times a day and during the night, Callie and I do what we call “The Patrol.”

We actually walk the entire perimeter of the fence line to make sure there are no intruders.

Sometimes we go together, and sometimes we take turns.

Since we use the same path every day, it gets pretty well worn, but that makes it easier for us to patrol in the dark.

Sometimes as evening comes, we just feel the urge to do The Patrol and without warning we just do it.

So day and night, we make sure all the animals outside the fence know that this is our place…and they aren’t welcome.

We walk all around the fence line.

We check on all the chickens and make sure they are doing all right.

If they are acting nervous about anything one or both of us will stay with them till they feel better.

Livestock Guardian Dog Augie watching
Livestock Guardian Dog Augie watching

We check the gates and make sure nothing is trying to get inside.

We walk around the barn and the other outbuildings that are in our territory.

Sometimes we bark at little chipmunks that are in the woodpile, but we really know they won’t hurt anything.

When The Patrol is finished we sit at our vantage point and watch, looking all around until it’s time to make the rounds again.

Sometimes we lie down, but even when it looks like we are sleeping, we are on watch.

This is me, the regal lion-looking one, wearing a BLUE collar under my beautiful white mane. 

Even while we’re resting, if anything alarms us, we are up and running in seconds.

Our dad and mom have seen us talk to each other and then go to separate corners of the property if there are two alarming things at the same time.

Livestock Guardian Guard Dogs are an integral part of the farm security

Well, let’s see what else…oh yes, we are big.

Like over 100 pounds big. So if the Bark doesn’t scare a predator away, we can run toward it and that is also scary.

If need be, we could slam ourselves into the intruder which would be pretty dramatic.

We could also fight, but our real goal is not to fight, but just get the predator or intruder to hightail it away and never come back.

Oh—and don’t ask us to herd animals.

We don’t do that–we have to draw the line somewhere!

Protection– that’s what we do.

We are not herding dogs any more than herding dogs are livestock guardians.

The only time we herd is if we need to keep our animals in a corner safe from a predator.

Everybody knows Callie and I are security guards and not pets, but sometimes I humor the little kids when they want to scratch my belly and pet me.

(Don’t tell anyone, but we love kids.)

Sometimes it looks like I am asleep but I am always on guard.

In fact, when kids are here, one of us stays close by them at all times.

Livestock guardians like us are happy to protect chickens as well as miniature cattle breeds and more.

I guess that’s about it for my story today–Callie is calling me for Patrol duty.

One quick look back at my post first though…and you know what?

I don’t think any of you could be livestock guardian dogs.

Because if you are reading this post, you are probably not a dog. 

So will you do me a favor?

If you know any livestock guardian dogs, could you read this post to them?

Just in case they need a refresher course, you know.

Bark at you later…Guard Dogs

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Interview Jill Winger of “Your Custom Homestead”

Jill Winger

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Jill Winger, one question many of our Rural Living Today readers have in common is “Where do I start?”

We’ve been addressing that question in several different ways, and today we have a great addition to our tool kits.

Jill Winger of The Prairie Homestead has written an excellent book called “Your Custom Homestead”.

Jill describes it as a “How to Organize Your Thoughts, Dreams, and Ideas to Turn Them into a Unique Homestead” book.

We knew our Rural Living Today readers would love that!

Jill graciously sent us a copy to review, but we liked the book and Jill’s ideas so much that we decided an interview was in order as well.

Your Custom Homestead is a step by step guide to defining and designing your own homestead life in 21 days.

For each day there is a topic to evaluate, plan for, or put into practice.

Week one is for brainstorming, week two for planning.

During week three, we get down to action and practice some skills!

The end result is a notebook full of ideas and plans.

In Jill’s words:

If you yearn for country living but are stuck in the middle of the city (and not getting out anytime soon), then make the concepts of a rural lifestyle come to you.

Create a customized version of homesteading that works in your unique situation. This is what I refer to as practicing contentment through creativity.

This really does work!

I am currently stuck too close to the city and while we are making progress towards our goal of being out on the homestead with my folks on our own little part.

It has been a journey almost 5 years in the making and it will most likely be a few more before we reach that goal.

Being able to do my own version of homesteading, even when we lived in an apartment, was life-saving and helped me emotionally deal with the fact that we were not where we so desperately wanted to be.

Not only that, but the practical skills we have learned during this time have been invaluable and will help us “hit the ground running” once we are able to move out to the property.

Chat with Jill Winger, author of Your Custom Homestead

Jill, how did you get started in the homesteading lifestyle?

It all started with a compost pile for me.

We purchased our property in 2008 just with the intention of wanting room for our horses.

I’ve always been a horse person, but homesteading was a concept that I’d never even thought about.

I started researching ways to deal with our mountain of horse manure, and came across the idea of composting it.

Of course, then I needed a garden, and after that I discovered chickens, and the rest is history!

What’s your favorite part of this lifestyle?

There is so much I love about it. I love being able to provide homegrown, wholesome food for my family.

It’s a joy to watch our daughter grow up around animals and dirt, since I didn’t have that privilege.

I love the empowering feeling that comes with knowing how to do things and becoming more self-sufficient.

What inspired you to start blogging about it?

I originally started my blog just to be an online journal for the daily workings of our homestead.

However, I quickly saw the need for a website that offered real-life tutorials and a personal perspective of homesteading.

I also wanted to inspire folks from all walks of life that they can pursue their dreams of self-sufficiency.

Of the things you’ve accomplished or learned to do, what has surprised you the most?

If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would have a milk cow and be making cheese, I would have said that you were absolutely crazy!

I also used to despise cooking and ate lots of processed food and soda as a single gal.

So, sometimes when I find myself elbow-deep in bread dough or putting up quarts of pickles, I can’t help but laugh. 😉

Are there any skills or projects you haven’t been able to master?

Despite my mom’s best efforts, I never learned how to sew. I greatly regret that now, however, I also don’t have time to learn at the moment.

I’ve also really struggled with making cheddar cheese, but I am determined to master that in the near future!

If you had unlimited funds, what would be the first thing you’d do on your homestead?

Oh dear, that’s a tough one!

But if I had to choose, I think I would build an additional barn/storage building for our tractor, hay, and equipment.

We have a nice sized barn, but it’s filled with critters at the moment!

What’s your favorite kitchen tool/gadget?

I couldn’t live without my stoneware!

Back in the day, I always used the cheapest baking items I could find, and was constantly ruining or burning things.

But now I’m addicted to my stoneware items. I use my flat stones for pizza, cookies, and biscuits, and I refuse to use anything but stoneware when baking my bread.

They produce such a superior product, spending the little bit extra is totally worth it!

What’s your favorite post on your blog?

Hmmm… there are many!

But the post where I ramble about my old butter mold is a definite favorite, for some reason.

What inspires you?

Seeing other folks chase after their homesteading dreams, no matter unlikely they may seem, is a huge inspiration to me.

After I finished reading a blog post by a beginning homesteader like that, I always get the urge to go outside and dig around in the dirt.

It’s so refreshing. 😉

Jill Winger could tell potential homesteaders one thing, what would it be?

Wherever you are right now: an apartment, a cul-de-sac, or on 10 acres- THAT is your homestead.

Embrace it!

Thank you Jill, for sharing your thoughts and your book with our readers!

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Guide to Storing Grain in Buckets
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Guide to Storing Grain in Buckets Hacks

Storing Grain in Buckets

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There’s a lot to know about storing grain in buckets. But the great thing is, once you learn how, it’s easy to do.

Our hacks will make it even easier!

Q#1:  How do you go about storing grain in buckets?
Q#2:  Do you have to do anything to keep air out?

A: We have two short answers and one long answer for that!

Storing Grain in Buckets Hack #1:

Grains can be poured directly into sanitized buckets with airtight lids.

You can also can also put the grain in smaller containers such as sealed plastic bags, which are then sealed in an airtight bucket.

The seals prevent moisture, dust, and insects from entering.

The thick walls of the bucket will deter rodents from chewing their way in.

We have stored grain both ways with success.

Kitchen-sized containers are handy, but loose grain is faster to pack if you’re working with a large quantity.

Our ultimate favorite is vacuum sealing bags of grain with our Food Savers and putting them in square 4-gallon sealed buckets that stack really neatly.

Storing Grain in Buckets Hack #2:

Grains are not damaged by oxygen, but insects can thrive in grain containers if there is oxygen for them.

Plastic buckets with airtight lids and polyethylene bags inhibit the flow of oxygen, as do tightly sealing lids.

So if you have clean grains with no insects present, just seal the grain up.

If there’s a chance insects have invaded the grains, treat the grains or insert an oxygen absorber.

Generally speaking, a 1500 cc. oxygen absorber is sufficient for a 5-gallon bucket of grains.

You can use three 500 cc. absorbers in a bucket.

Storing Grain in Buckets Hack #3

For more details about preparing grain for storage (including cleaning farm-fresh grains and avoiding insect infestation), head on over to our favorite food storage info center: Preparing Your Family.

Below is an excerpt from a post called The Proper Care and Feeding of Stored Wheat.

The info is applicable to ALL GRAINS.

Question:  What should I store grain in?

Well, my absolute favorite way to store wheat is in sealed plastic bags with about ten or fifteen pounds of wheat per bag.

Then get four gallon square buckets and drop the bags into the bucket.

You can probably get two or three bags into the bucket depending on how well you pack the bags.

Use clear poly-ethylene bags

It lets you inspect the contents without opening it up and you can readily detect insect infestation, mold, etc without worrying about cross contamination and air.

One of the reasons for the bags is to reduce the potential of cross contamination by compartmentalizing your wheat.

It would be very unfortunate and costly to lose a months worth of wheat due to contamination.

As with most food items, you lose nutritional value if you subject the wheat to too much heat for too long.

Try to keep storage temperatures under 60 degrees if possible and don’t expose the buckets to direct sunlight.

How do I prepare wheat for storage?

If you bought dirty wheat, which is generally what you get if you buy directly from a farm, you need to clean it.

Once you have clean wheat or grains, or if you bought wheat that was already cleaned, you want to pour it into your clear poly bags…and treat against insects.

Guide to Storing Grain in Buckets

Remember, using the correct equipment for storing your wheat or grains will make all the difference.

It’s best to invest in the proper food storage containers.

This is one time we won’t encourage you to repurpose other materials.

Once you learn how to store wheat, you can do it with other grains.

People store grain for many reasons. Whether you are just wanting to be prepared, concerned about a food shortage, living off-the-grid, or working to build your prepping supplies, it’s important to safeguard your grains.

When you do it properly and store them in the right conditions, you will be able to access them when you need them.

The Backyard Cow: Guide to Keeping a Productive Family Cow

Owning a Dairy Cow

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The Backyard Cow is for “Those people who want to keep cattle on a small scale, be it for household dairy or recreational purposes (or both).”

It is written with the homesteader in mind.

Does that sound like you?

We’ve had beef cattle before, but until I read this book, I didn’t see any way I could ever keep a milk cow.

Not enough space, not enough time, not enough knowledge.
The Backyard Cow Book Review

The Backyard Cow: An Introductory Guide to Keeping a Productive Family Cow

But author Sue Weaver has changed my mind.

I now know that a cow does not take a lot of space or time.

And with this book at my side, I’d have just about all the knowledge I’d need.

As the author points out in the preface, most everything written about cattle is about managing herds of cattle, not the individual milk cow or steer for riding or field work.

The Backyard Cow An Easy and Fun Read

The Backyard Cow book is like a treasure hunt with both large chunks and wee tidbits of information.

The main text itself is very interesting, thoroughly covering all the cow basics.

But scattered throughout the book are additional little sidebars: anecdotes, quotations, poems, legends, and song lyrics about cows.

The effect is a presentation of academic and scientific facts with a touch of playfulness.

Everything You’ll Need to Know

The table of contents indicates the three main sections of the book: Meet the Cow, Have Fun ‘Til the Cows Come Home, and Care for Your Cow.

Three appendices explain Restraint, Clicker Training, and even Emergency Euthanasia.

A cow glossary, resource list, and index complete the package.

From cow breeds and history to behavior and purchase considerations, “Meet the Cow” covers it all.

“Have Fun” includes details on how to milk a cow, ride a steer, and raise a calf.

There are recipes and instructions for several homemade dairy products which must be delicious made from fresh milk.

“Care for Your Cow” tells readers all about breeding and birthing, shelter, feeding, and health care.

Picture this!

Illustrations include sketches, diagrams, and delightful historical black and white photos.

Line drawings demonstrate how-to steps for tasks such as milking a cow and tying a slip-knot halter.

About halfway through the book readers are treated to an inset of 16 pages of beautiful full color photos of cows in fields, cows with children, and homemade dairy products.

Right from the first pages of this book, I was on a learning curve.

I usually think of breeds as having specific purposes, but that wasn’t always the case.

If you have a smaller plot of land, you may consider miniature cattle breeds.

Owning a Dairy CowInside the World of a Dairy Cow

Weaver explains, “Historically, most breeds were dual- or triple-purpose cattle.

Herefords were developed as much to serve as brawny oxen as they were for their meat-making ability.”

A beef breed with a dairy background makes a great family cow, producing sufficient milk while bearing calves that will provide good beef for the table.

You mean cows can talk?

I’ve watched cows and thought they didn’t have much going in the social department.

Yet Weaver explains the bovine communication system and even provides a code translation.

She tells us how each group of cows
has a hierarchy, with the “top cow” getting first choice at everything.

There will be other “leaders” with specific roles: perhaps one will lead the way out to pasture each morning, and another will direct the trek back to the milking parlor at the end of the day.

Fascinating!

But the book’s big surprise for me was the chapter on riding steers.

A plodding steer provides a leisurely trail ride or even a way to get from one place to another.

Who knew?

Weaver indicates that steers are in some ways easier to train and ride than horses.

She has used her equine expertise to develop training methods that she explains in detail.

One thing that was not a surprise to me was this quotation, a little Lithuanian proverb: It is difficult to teach a cow to climb a tree.

Open Letter From a Kansas Rancher and Cowgirl Brandi Buzzard Frobose Rancher, wife, mama and steward of the land

Have You Considered a Dairy Cow?

Oftentimes, people can be turned off by the amount of work (and milk!) that cows have a reputation for.

However, with the right breed and cow, this is often not the case.

Dairy cows can be a very manageable part of many homesteads.

If you have any questions about milk cows, or wonder if you could ever keep one yourself, The Backyard Cow is a must-read.

You will find yourself referencing this book often.

Plus, it’s just a fun read overall.

All the basics are there, along with much more!

Everything you need to Know about Pygmy Goats
Homesteading Product Reviews
Horse Grooming and DIY Farrier
Basics of Caring for Livestock

Country Gardens Are Not Just for Vegetables

fresh garden flowers

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Country gardens are not just for vegetables.

There’s so much more you can do.

Just in time for our first snowfall, I got our vegetable patch put to bed for the winter.

As I was working, I realized that in spite of the colorful veggies and herbs, I had really missed having a flower bed.

Along with food production, beautiful scenery is an important part of a wellness sanctuary and rural living too.

We didn’t have flower beds around our house yet, but I’d intended to plant a rainbow-colored band of flowers around our country gardens.

Somehow time got away from me, and with my focus on growing fruits and vegetables, I just never planted the flowers.

Starting a country garden

With just some basic supplies, like a great pair of pruning shears, you will be well on your way to a beautiful landscape and Country Gardens.

That winter, as I prepared my seed orders for spring, colorful flowers were at the top of my list.

Not only do I love their outdoor display, but to me, one thing that says “country kitchen” is a large pitcher stuffed with multi-colored fresh flowers.

Another plus is that colorful flowers attract industrious bees, beautiful butterflies and interesting birds to the garden.

In addition to keeping a garden, many find beekeeping to be a fascinating hobby.

A country garden also lends itself to multiple income streams.

Country Gardens aren’t just for vegetables

Acquiring seeds

You can buy flower seeds locally in the spring, or you can order them from seed companies throughout the year.

There are catalogs full of beautiful photos and descriptions.

It’s easy to build a list of favorites, especially noting the ones native to your geographic region and climate.

You can even find seed mixes for flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Be sure to check your local library. More and more of them are letting you “check out” seeds for flowers, produce and plants native to your area.

Growing flowers to cut

Flowers that last well in indoor bouquets are often described with the words “cut flowers” or “cutting garden.”

In some catalogs, they’re designated with an image of a pair of scissors or a vase.

Some seed companies sell “cut flower garden” packets containing seeds for a variety of flowers.

Another way to discover long-lasting cut flower varieties is to visit a local flower shop or the website of an online florist.

There you can peruse bouquets and arrangements designed by professionals who know which blossoms have staying power.

For accurate information on gardening, I like to consult online educational articles from universities and extension offices.

Gardeners.com offers many tips for raising cut flowers.

One tip is pick your flowers often which causes them to produce more.

They also advise on smaller spaces. You can start a successful cutting garden with up to 20 plants in just a 3 foot by 6 foot raised bed.

One publication I found, Maintaining a Succession of Cut Flowers, lists many varieties ideal for cutting.

This year, I made a pledge to plant a colorful cutting garden each year — eye candy that will do my heart good!

garden flowers
garden flowers

Getting Ready to Grow Some Groceries

We are getting antsy to get our country gardens going. Though there’s still some snow in the forecast and spring won’t arrive for a few more weeks.

We’ve been pacing out the garden area and getting ready to start some seeds indoors.

Last year was our first for our country gardens at our new place.

Due to other urgent projects, we got a late start, but fortunately spring arrived late, too.

Since it was our “test drive” in a new climate zone, we started slowly with several different veggies and herbs grown in small scale.

We experimented with rows, hills, and raised beds and tweaked our drip irrigation system.

Afterwards, we realized that dill and mustard are too tall to grow in our waist-high raised beds.

Also, we couldn’t even dig up all our garlic—some was so firmly embedded in rocky soil.

 our garden
This is not our garden–just a photo I love!

We took note of what really grew well, what didn’t quite flourish, what worked and what didn’t.

Between our experience and conversations with neighbors, we learned what to generally expect during a shorter but warmer growing season than we’re accustomed to.

Maximize The Space In Your Garden

Expand and Grow More Varieties

This year, we’re ready to expand a bit more, grow a few more varieties, and plant more of everything.

We’re still eating some frozen veggies and using dried herbs from last year but ran out of other things months ago.

This time, we want to grow enough for the full year.

We like starting our plants from seed.

Last year we were limited to four south-facing windowsills.

This year we attached lights to the underside of some closet shelves.

We’ll be able to get quite a few seeds going.

It’s not too late to start!

We’re planting the first seeds this week.

Cuke starts windowsills
Cuke starts windowsills

How about you? Will you be growing some food in your country gardens this year?

We’d love to hear about your plans in the Comments.

The Fruit Gardener’s Bible: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruits and Nuts in the Home Garden

Gardening in the Snow

Yes, I have been gardening in the snow. I’m not talking about checking the garlic plants under their deep white bed.

And unfortunately, we didn’t get around to fixing up a cold frame and no longer have fall stragglers surviving in our raised garden bed.

Chickens and Roosters in the snow
Chickens and Roosters in the snow

The other day I was out in the snow sowing seeds!

Last summer and fall, I collected seeds from several types of wildflowers growing on our property.

I wanted to plant them in a few areas around our living area where our clearing and leveling had eradicated whatever was growing there before.

Only the lupines seemed to survive the turmoil of the soil.

I’d planned to plant the wildflower seeds in the fall, but our chickens were having such fun wandering around in the fall sunshine that I didn’t want to pen them up yet.

And I knew they’d eat any flower seeds they could find.

It’s kind of a good thing I didn’t sow seeds in the fall, because we had an unusually dry period between November and January.

Gardening with Heavy Snowfalls

Heavy snowfalls just didn’t come.

Seeds would have been sitting on the ground in plain sight.

I can pen up my chickens, but the wild birds are another story.

They would have scarfed up any seeds they found.

It seems like spring planting time is just around the corner.

But some of my seeds need to have a cold winter nap.

They actually benefit from several weeks of chilling.

This part of the dormancy phase, called stratification, can be artificially provided in a refrigerator or a cold building.

Gardening with snowfall
Gardening with snowfall

But when possible, I prefer to let nature do its job.

Where we live, it’s common to scatter hardy seeds before the first big snowstorm of the fall.

In a normal year, the seeds literally chill out under a layer of snow much of the winter.

As the snow melts, it carries the seeds down into the soil, moistening and softening the seed coats.

The seeds settle there and wait for spring thaws to wake them up.

As it turned out, this was not a normal winter.

But finally now in mid-January we are getting another wave of measurable snowfall.

So in between storms, I went out and raked snow away, scattered the seeds, and raked some snow back over them.

Sure enough, the next snowfall settled that layer down and nicely tucked the seeds in for a chilly snooze.

I can’t even tell there are seeds under there, can you?

I don’t think the chickens will, either!

Hopefully I’ll see green sprouts in the spring and a variety of wildflowers all summer.

If not, there’s always next year!

Celebrating Real Food!

You know, eating real food that’s real good for you.

According to the Food Day website

“Food Day’s goal is nothing less than to transform the American diet—to inspire a broad movement involving people from every corner of our land who want healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way.

In other words, we want America to eat real.

We want to get Americans cooking real food for their families again.

We want fewer people at drive-through and bigger crowds at farmers markets.

Let’s celebrate fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy whole grains—and to support the local farms and farmers that produce them.

Wouldn’t it be great for all Americans—regardless of their age or income or geographic location—to be able to select healthy diets and avoid obesity, heart disease, and other diet-related conditions?!”

In a similar vein, Slow Food USA recently launched a $5 challenge: create a SLOW FOOD meal for $5 or less, the cost of a FAST FOOD meal.

From www.slowfoodusa.org:

“The organization, a national non-profit working for good, clean and fair food for all, is encouraging people across the country to cook slow food that costs no more than five dollars per person.

Slow food – the opposite of fast food – is food that is good for those who eat it, good for farmers and workers, and good for the planet.

“Slow food shouldn’t have to cost more than fast food.

It’s time we take back the ‘Value Meal,’” said Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA.

Slow Food’s challenge and Food Day got me thinking of a further challenge: Create a slow food meal of local foods for $5 or less.

And then, an extended challenge: if we’ve raised our own meat and produce, how about creating a slow food meal of homegrown foods for $5 or less?

I’m up for the challenge! How about you?

Start by thinking about what you may have grown yourself and what’s available locally from neighbors, farmers’ markets, or savvy supermarkets that stock local products.

Be creative—how can you combine some of those products into a tasty and satisfying meal?

Granted, this might have been easier during the summer when many backyard gardens were producing fresh salad ingredients and farmers’ markets were at their prime.

But still there are stored or processed foods and fall-growing crops to help.

Here are some examples:

A soup or stew can be created with several different veggies.

Add a local source of protein—eggs, cheese, legumes, meat, poultry, or game—and you’ve got a complete meal.

Ditto with a main dish salad, especially if you’ve still got greens and other veggies growing.

If you are a fan of bread or rolls with every meal, one of the challenges might be finding local flour or grain to grind.

If you can’t think of a substitute and must have your bread, at least you can make most of your meal with local ingredients.

As I’m writing this, I’m planning a Food Day $5 homegrown slow food meal. My experimental patch of soup beans was not a stellar success, but I did manage to get enough beans for one pot of soup.

We had a good crop of potatoes and several other veggies and herbs.

To complement the beans’ protein I can also choose from eggs and meat from our own chickens.

Our New Strawberry Beds, Planted
Our New Strawberry Beds, Planted in August.

This is the first year I could ever say this, but from garlic and onions to chicken and beans, we can create a tasty hot meal using only ingredients from our backyard.

If I hadn’t raised enough myself, I could buy other locally grown products in my community.

If the local grocery stores all shut down, we’d still be able to eat some good meals.

That’s a good feeling!

Extended-season gardening information

  • Thinking about starting your plants early in the spring?
  • Want to make harvest last longer in the fall?
  • Wish you could pick fresh greens in the middle of winter?

Extended season gardening for Growing Fresh Vegetable in Fall and Winter

Many of these concepts and materials will also work in spring.

Gardening Books

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour

Four Season Harvest

The Winter Harvest Handbook

Gardening Articles

Sow Seeds for Fall Garden from National Garden Bureau at GRIT Magazine

Cold Frame Gardening at Kitchen Gardener Magazine

Top Tips for Great Fall Gardens by Vicki Mattern at Mother Earth News

Expert Advice for Greenhouse Growing by Harvey Ussery at Mother Earth News

Grow Your Own: Winter Lettuce and Microgreens

Natural Lawn Care Tips and Hacks

11 Herbs for Indoor Container Growing

Fall crop schedule and other tips

DIY Structures for your Country Gardens – plans, instructions

Extend Your Growing Season by Barbara Pleasant at Mother Earth News

Use Low Tunnels to Grow Veggies in Winter: Quick Hoops by Eliot Coleman at Mother Earth News

Make an Easy, Inexpensive Mini-Greenhouse With Low Tunnels by Barbara Pleasant at Mother Earth News

Very clever, very simple cold frame from 5R Farm

Make a Cold Frame for Herbs (great cold frame info for veggies too) by Barbara Pleasant at The Herb Companion

Cold Frame Plans (wood) by Betsy Matheson Symanietz at Mother Earth News

A Cold Frame to Build (straw bales) by Paul Gardener at GRIT

Cold Frame Gardening at KitchenGardenerMagazine

Planning and Building a Greenhouse from Maryland and West Virginia Cooperative Extensions

The Benefits of Building a High Tunnel by George Devault at GRIT

Remember, country gardens are just that — filled with sprawling, brilliant flowers, fruits and vegetables. You can enjoy them all year long.

Restoring an Old Abandoned Rural Backyard

Rural Backyard

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This is about restoring an old abandoned rural backyard. Several months ago, we had to relocate due to a job.

In this economy, you often don’t have a choice.

The job we relocated for was a blessing but it took us several months to find the right home.

The one we found is incredible.

It’s out at the end of a rural backyard road, and it has about twenty fruit trees, a grape arbor, blackberries, tons of foraging, and acres of woods.

Rural Backyard
Rural Backyard

When you have a relatively new property, there is lots of potential.

You can plant things where you want to, clear out what you want to, leave the woods alone where you want to, find the perfect spot for this or that, and so on.

Oftentimes, when people decide they want the rural lifestyle, they end up with a place they can do whatever they want with.

However, sometimes it doesn’t happen that way.

When you move to a home that already HAS all those things, it can pose an issue.

Especially if the people who initially developed the property had no interest in vegetable gardening.

We are renting.

We had no desire to commit to buying a home since the ultimate goal is to be able to live on the property we already have.

All in all, though, this can create opportunities. Make lemonade from lemons, right?

Know that wherever you live, there may be some obstacles that you will have to think creatively to work around.

The nice thing is it will give you a lot of great experience, regardless if you plan on staying there forever or if it is just temporary.

My obstacles are just a few:

  • No good place for a vegetable garden because the tree canopy is too tall.
  • Not much direct sun gets into the yard.
  • There hasn’t been much maintenance done in the last few years.

This means I have an orchard with twenty fruit trees that really need pruning.

There’s a grape arbor that is so overgrown, it is trying to take over the neighboring trees.

And there’s a lost patch of blackberries that was abandoned years ago that needs to be restored.

This also means a significant amount of my vegetable growing will be in containers this year, placed carefully in spots here and there that get enough sun.

But you know what? It’s exciting to have the opportunity to do this.

There will be lots of very valuable experience in rural living and lifestyle to be gained from this, even though it may take several years.

I hope you’ll follow along with me on this journey, and I will post photos of my progress along the way.

In the meantime, here are some “before” pictures to show you what I mean.

Things Hunters Don’t Know About Whitetail Deer
Old Overgrown Grape Arbor

Restoring an Old Abandoned Rural Backyard

Here is the beautiful old grape arbor.

There are a few remnants of the tiny, sour grapes it produced this fall.

I am hoping with some heavy-handed pruning, it will produce some good fruit.

You can see it is trying really hard to take over the trees next to it!
Overgrown Grape Arbor Taking Over Trees

There are two, 20-foot rows of domesticated blackberries that are completely lost.

They need to get new posts and wire re-strung.

The good news for rural living is, we’ll probably end up with lots of blackberry starts to give away and to replant.

How to define a project area with fencing

Depending on the size of your property and what you want to do with it, you may be considering fencing. 

Fences in the country aren’t necessarily to keep people away and to provide privacy like in the city and suburbs.

Rural fencing usually has a functional purpose. In fact, any improvement made to a rural property usually has a clear functional basis.

After you make a master plan for your lot, you can decide if fencing will be among your goals. 

Before you buy fencing or do anything, you must define a project area first.

What is your reason for fencing

Our former property was an old homestead that had no structures or real improvements on the property.

Over a hundred years ago, the European immigrants homesteaded here. We had purchased it from the descendants.

It is from this home that we moved onto our current rental property.

We mention it because at that property we were able to improve the backyard with fencing. 

It was nearly four acres.

While we didn’t have money or even the need to fence in all of the acreage, we planned for our garden, small livestock, and a greenhouse as well as our utility buildings and our home.

We decided to fence that area.

It made the most sense to define the space that would serve as our core area. 

Originally, our reason for fencing it was to create boundaries for our livestock guardian dogs and prevent them from expanding their territory too far.

We were able to see where former owners cleared a large pasture.

Some fence corners were still standing with barbed wire.

They established an orchard many decades ago.

Barely visible under brush and brambles, a crumbled house foundation indicated where a home once stood.

But other than that, it was pretty much a blank slate.

The property was a large piece and planning what to do with it was a bit overwhelming.

Where could we start making this ours?

Building a fence to define the space made a huge impact.

Fences serve many purposes

The fence served another purpose just as important and valuable.

It helped us to stay focused on what was important and what wasn’t.

No longer were we looking at the whole piece of property and wondering “where do we start?”

We had an area defined by fencing.

For a large piece of rural property, it made working on the homestead much more manageable.

We were able to better prioritize our goals.

While we still had smaller projects going on other parts of our property, most of our time and energy was spent on the area within the fences.

fencing old branch fence
fencing old branch fence

Being able to properly prioritize is a huge benefit to one’s sanity!

I wonder if our forefathers knew that secret when they fenced small areas many years ago. 

While this isn’t specifically a “how to” post for fencing, it is one to encourage you to plan and build one for yourself if you don’t already have one.

fencing barbed wire
fencing barbed wire

Different types of fencing – Determine what the fence will do

Typically, fences “multi-task” by keeping some things in and some things out.

What do you want to keep in or out?

This will help you determine the kind of fence you do and don’t want to build.

For us, a primary reason for our perimeter fence was to keep our livestock guardian dogs enclosed so they will patrol and watch over the important core homestead area without wandering away.

We also wanted a physical barrier to keep predators and deer out.

We were planning on building fences to enclose hogs, chickens, cattle, and possibly horses.

But during the planning stages is when we were considering the move.

Determine the type of fence you will build

This depends primarily on function.

What you want it to do?

Because skimping here can be financially and practically disastrous.

Other considerations for the fencing type are aesthetic:

  • What it looks like
  • How long do you want it to last

But certainly the cost of the fence is also a major factor.

I would never recommend downgrading the type or quality of the fence you build due to cost.

Instead, reduce the amount you fence at a time by doing the work in affordable phases.

Types of fencing

Barbed wire

This is used mostly to fence larger animals into a large area, as the cost per foot of the overall fence is very reasonable.

Barbed wire should not be used for horses; they tend to lean into fences and can injure themselves.

Cattle, on the other hand, are not as likely to push into fences.

See closeup photo of barbed wire above.

define a project area with fencing
define a project area with fencing

Wire mesh field fencing

This is a very popular kind of fencing that comes in various strength, mesh sizes, and height options.

For our perimeter fence, we used a 48″ high heavier duty/smaller gauge fence that had smaller openings at the bottom than at the top.

We used wooden corner posts to anchor the fence, with metal T posts at 8′ centers or so.

I like this fence a lot. It is very functional and it’s attractive in our rural setting.

It will last a long, long time as well.

Cost-wise it is a bit more expensive than most options, but we saw it as a very long term investment in our homestead.

High tensile wire fence

I experimented with this type of fence to see if I was going to use it for my larger fields. 

It is a very good concept, flexible and fairly economical.

It has the potential to be my fence of the future.

High tensile fencing is constructed by setting strong corner post assemblies in the ground and attaching strands of high tensile steel wire between them.

Line posts are spaced 25-50′ apart, substantially farther than posts for wire mesh fencing.

This type of fence can have any number of wire strands, including just a single strand that contains cattle very effectively.

I have seen different farms using various numbers of strands depending on the purpose of the fence.

A property perimeter might have 5 or 6 strands, while a cattle paddock may have 2 or 3.

This makes the fencing system very flexible for many uses.

Create tension using springs.

I have seen in video where something like a tree falls on the fence.

The wire strands do not stretch.

After the tree is removed, the spring tension returns the fencing to its original shape.

One final great benefit of this fence is that some or all of the strands can easily be electrified.

Rural Property Investment: The Pros & Cons Of Investing In Rural Locations
For a photo of high tensile fencing, click here.

define a project area with fencing
photo courtesy of HeritageNaturals@gmail.com

Electric netting

This looks to be a great option for a very flexible and portable fence.

I’ve seen photographs of these fences containing all sorts of small livestock.

The fencing comes in 100′ or 150 ‘ rolls.

You will be able to roll and move the fence.

The netting is designed to be electrified.

People use this for hogs and chickens as well as other animals.

Mark the fence lines

Once you’ve decided what type of fencing to build, use some large stakes to mark out your fence lines.

Plan for a wooden post at each  corner and at any point where there is a change in direction.

If you have a “valley” or a hill” in the fence line, be sure to put a wooden post at either the bottom or the top of each slope.

Measure for fencing and calculate the number of wood and metal posts you’ll need.

Then go shopping.

Be sure to choose treated and solid wooden posts.

I select mine by hand.

Take the time to properly define a project area with fencing so you can do it right the first time.

Working on your rural backyard and property can be overwhelming.

However, starting small with a plan can make it much more doable.

Start with the existing areas.

What’s already established?

What do you want to keep and improve or expand on?

Consider fencing an area of your rural backyard to create defined space and to protect from predators.

Restoring a Rural Backyard

Any improvements you make to your rural backyard will further add to your homesteading experience.

Have projects ready depending on the time you have.

Save the smaller, easier jobs for when you have an hour or less.

Have other projects in mind for when you have several uninterrupted hours in an afternoon or an entire day free.

As you make your plan, consider trees, sunlight, and drainage.

You will also need to pay attention to how level the property area is so that you can do what you want to do in the correct areas.

Other factors to consider are neighbors.

Depending on if you plan to grow vegetables, have animals, or want open space, it’s essential to start with a master plan.

After you make a plan for your lot — even if it’s a five or 10 year plan because of costs — start with one area and build from there.