Do you have a favorite fall vegetable? I do.
I have always been crazy for sweet potatoes. They are my “go-to” fall vegetable, whether they are baked and smothered with butter then sprinkled with salt and pepper, smashed with sweet maple syrup and nutmeg, or roasted with fragrant herbs.
I love trying new fall veggies to add to my kitchen arsenal. But, I have to admit I’ve never been a fan of Brussels sprouts. Those little globe-like cabbage looking things never really appealed to me, probably because my family never ate them…ever. Really—I can’t remember one time growing up that my mom cooked Brussels sprouts.
So, when I found a recipe on the internet for roasted Brussels sprouts I was less than tempted. Even though the picture was beautiful and they looked appealing I refused to be tricked into trying them.
It wasn’t until I had them at a restaurant that I became a convert. They were tender, flavorful and downright yummy. I was sold, and they now make regular appearances on our fall dinner table.
I have never had them any other way but roasted, and I have several different ways to flavor them during the roasting process. Why mess with a good thing, right?
Boy was I ever wrong!
It was a few weeks ago and sis and I were making dinner. I had bought some Brussels sprouts from the market, but they weren’t enough for two people. When I looked around my kitchen I spied a few small sweet potatoes. Not enough for two people either.
At that moment a stroke of brilliance came over me. Why not fix both? Together.
I combed through recipes and combined pieces of a few different one’s and voila! A masterpiece was born.
I cleaned and halved the Brussels sprouts and peeled and cut the sweet potatoes into chunks. Then I drizzled everything with almond oil, sprinkled it with ground cumin, salt and pepper, and tossed the whole thing together. Best idea ever!
I loved the nutty flavor from the almond oil and the cumin brought out a wonderful earthy dimension to the whole dish. After they were roasted, I splashed a bit of balsamic vinegar over, added a bit of thyme springs for good measure and sprinkled on some chopped pecans.
The whole thing turned out divine.
What started out as not enough veggies for our two-person dinner, turned into a flavorful fall mixture and ended in discovering a new favorite side dish. Don’t ya just love experimental cooking?
NOTE: This would make a great holiday side dish. But, if you’re worried about commandeering your oven for 45 minutes make them a day or two ahead and store in a lidded container, then pop them in a 400 degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes, just until they sizzle and are hot. They turn out great!
Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Brussels Sprouts
1 pound of Brussels sprouts, washed, outer leaves removed and stems trimmed
4 small or 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup Almond oil (be adventurous and try other nut oils or olive oil)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon sea salt
Ground pepper to taste
Splash of balsamic vinegar
Thyme leaves for garnish
1/8 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Rinse, remove outer leaves, trim stems and cut Brussels sprouts in half. Small one’s can be kept whole. Place in a large bowl.
Peel and cube sweet potatoes. Add to bowl.
Peel and mince garlic cloves. Add to bowl.
Pour almond oil over vegetables and toss to coat.
Add cumin, garlic salt, sea salt and pepper. Toss to mix.
Drizzle cookie sheet or large casserole dish with oil and spread to coat.
Pour vegetables into pan and arrange so they are in a single layer.
Roast for 30-35 minutes. Veggies are done when they are browned and fork tender.
Spoon into a serving dish and sprinkle with balsamic vinegar (about 1-2 tbsp.) Garnish with thyme and chopped pecans.
Looking to make your garden grow even better than it does now?
Well—if you have chickens, rabbits, sheep, goats, cows or horses you have all you need to make your own power packed liquid fertilizer.
Yep, that’s right. Manure can be made into a liquid fertilizer, often referred to as “manure tea”.
Mulching your garden with leaves, grass clippings, used livestock bedding or any other organic material is a great way to add nutrients back into the soil, making it friable and easy to work. But, adding a dose of manure tea will punch up the nutrients ten-fold.
We have a routine around our homestead…late fall is the time when the livestock trailer is cleaned out and old shavings and straw is used to fill the nesting boxes in the chicken coop. It’s wintered over in the coop and the hens add another layer of manure to the mix. Come spring we have a good amount of compost to add to the garden beds, enriching the soil and increasing the good bacteria and microorganism population. Gotta keep up the good stuff in our soil, right?
But now we have one added step. We add a generous dose of manure tea to the beds before mixing in all that great compost. Unlike compost tea, which increases the good microbes in the soil, manure tea pulls the nutrients out of the manure, dissolving them into a liquid tea. Making manure tea is also a simple and fast process, so it won’t take long before your garden can benefit from all those added nutrients.
Although chicken manure has the highest level of nitrogen and one of the highest levels of Phosphorous and Potassium, any manure can be used to make manure tea. Since we have chickens, rabbits, ducks and sheep that’s what we’ve used over the years.
So—how simple is making manure tea?
- Grab yourself a 5-gallon bucket (preferably one without a crack, (sometimes hard to find around here).
- Dump in a heaping shovel full of aged manure. (Use aged, as fresh can burn your plants and roots).
- Fill the bucket with water and vigorously stir to churn everything up.
- Let the bucket sit for about a week so the “tea” can brew. Stir every day to aerate the mixture so bad bacteria doesn’t grow.
I told you it was simple.
How to Use Manure Tea
Finished manure tea can be used straight from the bucket using a ladle or watering can.
If your tea turns out really dark it should be diluted at a 1:1 ratio. Simply pour half the tea into a new bucket and fill with water, then strain out the solids from the original bucket and fill with water. Now you have two buckets of tea. Add the solids to your compost pile or till them into garden beds.
Manure tea is best used around the base of young seedlings or plants, giving them a boost of nitrogen to help them grow. Applications can be made once a week using a watering can or pump sprayer. Be cautious, though. Manure has pathogens that can cause illness, so manure tea should not be used on root crops like beets, carrots, onions or potatoes. Also, it should not be applied to the leaves of edible plants like lettuce, kale, spinach or other greens where the leaves can be eaten.
NOTE: I make a big batch of manure tea using an old 35-gallon water tub. Because of the container size I fill it with about 8 to 10-inches of manure, then fill with water. I let it steep and pull out the finished tea using a bucket or watering can. It is used straight on the garden beds as I am preparing them for planting in early spring. I wait about a week or so before planting. After planting I can reapply using a watering can or ladle.
Last fall I was about to pull my hair out!!!
Have you ever had a conversation with someone…the same conversation you’ve had with them for years? Well, that was me this past summer, and I’m still recovering.
For the umpteen millionth time my mom asked me what is wrong with her garden. And—for the umpteen millionth time I have responded…STOP ADDING SAND AND GYPSUM!!!
Mom thinks that if a little is good a whole lot more is better.
Let me explain…
Years ago someone, somewhere convinced my mom that adding sand and gypsum to her soil would help break up the clay and make the soil more plant friendly. But, somehow I don’t think they meant she should make those additions every year for 50 years.
Yep…you got it. For the past 50 years my mom has been dumping buckets of sand and bags of gypsum onto her garden beds. Rather than creating the dark rich workable soil that is deep with organic material and teaming with life all she has managed to do is make CEMENT!
Ya know what grows in cement? Not much of anything.
This is a conversation we’ve had every year since I became an avid gardener and suburban homesteader. Every year I tell her how to improve her soil, and every year she tells me I have no idea what she deals with because my soil is so wonderful.
Well…I have a news flash…my soil wasn’t always wonderful. Great soil is created more often than it just exists. Soil can be good, but great soil is constant work and somewhat of an art form, albeit not fine art.
I think I’ve made a breakthrough, though. Mom has finally decided to take my advice on how to improve her soil so she can finally have the garden she has always wanted.
So how does one go from dead and barren soil to dark, rich, friable soil that plants actually want to live and thrive in? One step at a time, that’s how.
7 Steps to Improve Your Garden Soil During the Winter Months
Grass Clipping & Yard Trimmings:
If you still have a lawn to mow, layer the clippings in the garden instead of dumping them in the yard waste barrel. Alternate with trimmings from flowering plants, vegetables, and non-woody shrubs. Any soft plant material can be laid right on ground, like our forefathers use to do.
Pile on the Manure:
Manure is one thing most farms have in abundance. I consider my chicken, rabbit and sheep manure to be “gold” for my garden. Although chicken manure can be a bit “hot” to spread directly on plants, it is perfect for building up your soil before the planting begins. Cow manure is a great all-round addition, but may be hard to find in suburban areas. Check with local 4-H Clubs or FFA programs for possible sources. Horse is usually very plentiful, but it can contain more salt from the urine than is good for your garden. Apply it sparingly or mix with other less “salty” manures from sheep or goats. I’ve had success finding large qualities of cow and horse manure on CraigsList, but a word of caution here…you may get weed or grain seeds in the bargin, so be sure to mulch heavily so the heat of decomposition will kill them.
I’m a hug fan of mulch as the primary source to build up your soil. Straw, hay, shavings and shredded plants help retain moisture, suffocate weeds, and when it breaks down it makes the perfect breeding ground for an army of beneficial garden worms. Some mulching materials can be purchased from local feed stores or garden amendment companies. Lay your mulch about 4-inches deep.
If you don’t already have a compost pile, it’s time to start one. It’s the best way to turn kitchen scrapes, coffee grounds, egg shells, weeds, trimmings and manure into a nutrient rich soil additive. When building your compost pile think green and brown, fresh and dried. To set up a compost bin quickly, fasten 3 wooden pallets together and then hinge the 4th for s gate. Nothing fancy is needed.
Inferior garden soil will benefit from a sprinkling of natural amendments like bone or blood meal, worm castings, wood ash (I fill a small trashcan full when I clean out the fireplace), fish emulsion, or Epsom salts.
Earthworms are nature’s eager tillers. As they move through the soil they create air pockets, allowing air, nutrients and water to penetrate dead soil. They chew up decomposing matter and shed castings that help improve the soil’s body.
Plant a Winter Cover Crop:
Cover crops are a great way to build up soil and break down hard soils while infusing it with nutrients, improving aeration, killing weeds and weed seeds, and improving water retention. Deep rooted crops like ryegrass are especially good because they’re deep root systems help break up and aerate the soil. Once you’ve built up your soil you can plant nitrogen fixing cover crops, like clover, to improve the nitrogen level of your soil.
When mom made the decision to seriously improve her garden soil we had a lot of work to do. Here are the steps we took beginning in fall and extending into the next growing season.
Season One: Layering the Garden
- Remove all plants and weeds.
- Lightly till soil.
- Add natural amendments, sparingly.
- Layer on manure.
- Top with mulch.
- Pile on compost.
- Plant ryegrass cover crop.
- Drench with manure tea.
- Winter over.
Season Two: Building the Soil
- Deeply till the garden to incorporate all the organic matter from season one.
- Test soil and add needed natural amendments.
- Add earthworms to help speed decomposition and aerate soil.
- Layer on manure, mulch and compost.
- Plant nitrogen fixing cover crop.
- Water generously with manure tea.
Now, here it is…the following fall and my mom’s garden is ready to plant with fall vegetables, bulbs, perennial herbs and flowers.
The dog days of summer are not quite over yet, but the soft, sweet, wafting early morning breeze tells me that fall is fighting its way through our hot September days.
Its days like this that I really enjoy seeing my laundry hanging on the clothes line. Vivid colors and bright whites flapping in the breeze is a quintessential farm look and looks so homey. But does that mean I have to give up my clothes line once the cooler days of fall arrive?
The benefits of a clothes line can be enjoyed year-round. So, if you’ve been on the fence about setting up your own eco-friendly clothes dryer now is the perfect time.
Need a little incentive? Here are my 10 reasons to use a clothesline all year long.
1. A clothesline uses no electricity. Kind of a no-brainer, right? What may not be so evident is the $300 dollars-a-year I save not using my dryer.
2. Clotheslines are more efficient because I can run my clothes through the washer and not have to wait for the dryer to finish. In just a few hours all my laundry is hanging on the line, letting the sun do its part while I do other chores.
3. Clothes last longer. The heat and agitation of a dryer can speed up the breakdown of fibers, while a clothesline helps preserve your clothes, especially those made from delicate fabrics.
4. Hanging clothes on a line is therapeutic. Honestly, it is. The few minutes I spend hanging clothes allows my mind drift away from our hectic world and into one that is calmer and more serene, one where hanging clothes on the line is your only important task.
5. Line dried clothes smell like a fresh outdoor breeze. No need for chemical laden dryer sheets that can cause irritation or allergies.
6. It makes my heart smile to see a line full of clothes. It’s a visual accomplishment.
7. Clothes dry faster outdoors than in a dryer. This is especially true in my area where the wind blows well into October and clouds rarely gather.
8. Folding clothes is faster when they’re not waded up from being in the dryer. I have a trick here, too. I put certain clothes on a hanger before hanging them on the line. When they’re dry, all I have to do is gather up the hangers and put them in the closest.
9. Fresh air and exercise. Moving, stretching, breathing deeply are all health benefits from hanging clothes on a line.
What’s that you say? Winter is on its way.
10. Get yourself a portable drying rack or set up a clothes line indoors. Damp clothes help humidify dry winter air while giving you many of the benefits of outdoor drying.
It’s a lazy summer day laying on my vintage patio daybed.
I close my eyes, drifting away as a warm breeze envelops me. My mind meanders to gently rolling hills with green grass swaying in the breeze, pastures dotted with grazing sheep, new spring lambs sprinting from mama to mama, a dairy cow lying quietly chewing her cud, and a steer growing fat waiting to fill a family’s freezer. I see chickens clucking and scratching around the barnyard and bees buzzing in the garden.
…and there’s always a but, isn’t there?
When I open my eyes instead of rolling pastures and a white picket fence I see a house on a small lot at the edge of town. Not exactly the picturesque farm I see in my mind’s eye.
That suburban reality is the reality for most of America.
But, (again with the but)
A suburban dwelling doesn’t mean you have to give up your homesteading dreams. It only means you have to readjust your thinking about what homesteading is.
Modern homesteading means different things to different people. One person might be interested in old-time remedies to keep their family healthy, while another embraces baking bread or growing herbs on an apartment balcony, and yet another combs yard sales and antique auctions for vintage watering cans or Mason jars to adorn a kitchen or patio.
Today’s homesteader can be whatever they want to be, they are not bound by the realms of farms, small towns or rural life.
Different strokes for different folks, right?
We do have a few similarities with our more rural cousins, though. We crave returning to our roots, to old time skills and a slower way of life. We want to create a more self-sufficient life for ourselves and our family. We want to be self-reliant.
If this sounds like you, you’re in luck. There is no requirement that a homesteader must live in the country or on 100-acres. You can do it right now, right where you are, even if where you are is a downtown apartment…a city lot…or a 1-acre plot.
So let’s get you started with 10 simply things you can do right now to set yourself on the path of becoming a modern day homesteader.
1. First and foremost…decide what you want as a homesteader. It may sound simplistic, but it is actually crucial and sometimes very difficult to decide what you want or why you want to homestead. Do you want it all—gardens, orchard, animals, the whole shebang? Or, do you only want pieces of a homestead life, like baking bread, canning vegetables or growing flowerbeds. The choice is yours, so take your time. There’s no right or wrong way to homestead in our modern world.
2. If you decide to “go big” then you’ll need to assess your property. What do you have room for? What don’t you have room for? What are the “must haves”, and what are the “can do with outs”? This is an important step so you don’t over extend yourself or your property. Be realistic about you and your property. While homesteading can be fun and rather addictive, it WILL be a whole lot of work. The more you have, the more work there will be and your homesteading journey won’t be so fun in the end if you overextend yourself.
I moved into my 1/3-acre home on Labor Day weekend and spent the entire winter drawing plans and laying in supplies for my “bigger picture”. By early spring were we ready to rock the barn building and garden layout.
Remember…a homestead is a constant work in progress, enjoy the journey.
3. While you’re pondering Steps 1 and 2, do some fun things.
Create a potted herb garden even if it’s on your balcony, windowsill or patio.
Begin seeking out new recipes to start cooking from scratch more often.
Try your hand at making a simple chevre cheese.
Teach yourself to bake bread, even if it’s with a bread maker.
Whip out your sewing machine and make an apron.
Here are a few ways to begin homesteading in suburbia:
4. GROW SOME OF YOUR OWN FOOD.
No matter how big your garden is you will relish a bounty of fresh veggies that will provide you with nutritious, pesticide-free meals, and save you money in the process. There are many types of gardens perfect for any suburban homestead no matter where you live. There is the traditional backyard garden with lots of raised beds or rows of produce. There’s edible landscaping where fruits and vegetables are intermixed right alongside your other plants. Then there’s potted gardens that are perfect for small spaces or apartment living. Fruit trees can be planted to take the place of shade trees giving you useful shade and using valuable water to produce food for your family.
There are few things more fulfilling than taking a bite out of a juicy, sweet, unbelievably tasty tomato that you just grew yourself. The difference in taste between those and the ones picked green and shipped from Central America or halfway across the country is absolutely astounding.
5. SET UP A RAIN BARREL AND COLLECT WATER.
Rain water is one of the few free things in this life, so why not collect it to use in the garden. Many cities have water collection programs where rain barrels are free or at a low cost. The water you save can add greatly to your household savings, especially during dry spells. Diverting grey water from the washing machine can also add to your water savings program.
6. PREPARE FOR THE UNFORESEEN.
Life is unexpected at best. We never know when the next storm will hit, knocking out power or making it impossible to get to town. The best precaution to any natural disaster is a well-stocked pantry. A closet, the basement or an extra bedroom can all be outfitted with shelves and stocked with staple items and family favorites.
Picking up a few extra items at the market will have your pantry stocked in no time. And, if a natural disaster never strikes you will have put food away at a lower price than future inflated prices.
7. CAN OR FREEZE FOR LONG TERM STORAGE.
Once you’ve had a few fresh veggies from the garden and gotten the hang of cooking from scratch chances are you won’t want to go back to store bought foods, especially if you live in an area that has long, cold winters. Preserving the harvest is the next logical step in your homestead journey. There are many ways to preserve—canning, freezing, dehydrating, salt curing, pickling, fermenting, root cellaring and more. Start with something simple, like homemade pickled beets. They are practically full proof!
8. RAISE YOUR OWN CHICKENS.
Chickens are my “go to” livestock for beginning homesteaders. A small flock of 3 to 4 laying hens is fun, easy to care for and will give you fresh eggs for the kitchen and manure for the garden. You can build a simple coop in an afternoon, or be creative and look for a large used doghouse or garden shed. Be sure to check out local ordinances so you know if you can have them and how many you are allowed.
9. START A COMPOST PILE.
A compost pile is a must have for any homestead. The rich soil you make from decomposing kitchen scrapes, grass clippings, fall leaves and manure will improve your gardens and give you a better bounty. Fall is the perfect time to start because of all those free leaves. Four wooden pallets is q quick and easy way to start making your own soil.
10. BUILD YOUR COMMUNITY.
New homesteaders may find the process of starting to homestead a bit daunting, but once you start talking to people you will quickly realize there is a whole community of like-mined people out there who are dying to help you be successful, so embrace their generosity. A great place to start talking to people is the Farmer’s Market, a local farm stand or plant nursery. While you’re making plans you can gain knowledge and build friendships that will carry you into the future.
Another great way to meet new people and get your kids involved in your homesteading journey is to enroll them in a youth program that focuses on the many areas of homesteading. 4-H and Grange are both farming centered programs that have lots to offer. Check out your county Cooperative Extension office or Grange Hall for programs near you. You will build lifelong skills and friendships while also learning about leadership.
11. SET UP A CLOTHES LINE.
This sounds so simple, I know. Sometimes it’s the simple things that really get you inspired to do more. My outdoor clothesline was the first thing I put in and the time I spend hanging clothes or taking them down is one of the most enjoyable parts of my day. It’s kind of therapeutic as well as being productive.
12. BUILD YOUR SKILLS.
No matter what kind of homestead you decide on you will need many skills to make it work. From gardening and preserving to building or cutting firewood, now is a good time to start. Learning can take place in classes offered at local Grange Halls or home improvement stores, on the internet watching YouTube videos or by spending time in the library or bookstore reading about the skill you want to learn. But, don’t forget to put your new found knowledge to work by practicing what you’ve learned. Be patient too. And remember, a homesteader is a lifelong learner willing to continue gaining skills throughout their life.
I’ve barely scratched the surface here, but this will get you started and hopefully inspire you to delve deeper into the wonderful world of homesteading.
Check out our categories for lots more information on turning your suburban lot into a productive mini-farm.
Over the years I have created a “go-to” list of favorite summer side dishes. You know the kind—baked beans, potato salad, pasta salad, corn salad, pea salad—the kind of cool, refreshing and creamy dishes that go great with BBQ’s or potlucks or just eaten by themselves when the hot weather makes eating the last thing on your mind.
This recipe has it all. Crunch. Cool. Sweet. Tang. It’s our favorite slaw and goes great with steaks and burgers, or chicken and fish. Add a handful of shredded leftover chicken and make it a meal for those hot days when heating up the kitchen is anything but appealing. It’s that good!
5-Color Peanut Coleslaw
1 pound cabbage, shredded
1 ½ cups red cabbage, shredded
3/4 cup celery, finely sliced
3/4 cup julienned carrots
3/4 cup julienned orange bell pepper
1/3 cup green onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1 ½ tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/4-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine coleslaw, red cabbage, celery, carrots and green onions. (Using a mandolin makes shredding quick and easy)
2. In a pint size Mason jar, combine wine vinegar, water, sugar, seasoned salt, garlic powder and oil. Shake gently to incorporate.
3. Mix dressing with coleslaw; stir in peanuts and toss well.
4. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
NOTE: This is one of those great recipes that can be added to to create a variety of styles. Add edamame, almonds and wontons for an Asian flare; or roasted corn, jalapenos and tortilla strips for a slightly Latin flavor; or add chopped kale, broccoli and peas for big veggie packed meal.
During the warmer months my windows and doors are wide open. It’s my natural air conditioner, it makes the house less stuffy and I can smell all the scents the garden has to offer. Open windows and doors are also a gold sealed invitation welcoming flies into the house.
During summer’s harvest the kitchen counter is laden with the day’s pick, fermenting jars of sauerkraut or whatever, granules of sugar from the last jam making session and bowls of ripening fruit waiting to be eaten. It’s all too much for flies to ignore.
The goal is to protect your fresh produce. Your mission is to abate (or bait) the unwanted fly population.
These simple homemade fly trap solutions can help put a stop to pesky flies or ruining your bounty and summer serenity.
TRAP #1: This is a simple DIY project that involves a plastic bottle, water and stinky stuff. This larger trap is great for using outdoors, or in the barn or coop.
Take a 1-gallon water bottle and cut the top off, about 3-4-inches down from the mouth of the bottle.
Invert the cut off portion into the body of the bottle, leaving a several inch gap between the top and bottom of the bottle.
Pour about a cup of water in the bottom and add the stinky stuff, i.e. overripe soft fruit, a bit of leftover meat, manure, you get the picture. You can also use sweet stuff like sugar or honey.
Now—put in a few drops of liquid dish soap, 3 to 5 should do the trick.
The stinky or sweet attracts the flies while the soap weighs down their wings making it impossible for them to fly. Mission accomplished!
Remember…flies love stinky and sweet stuff, so use whatever you have around.
TRAP #2: This is a variation on the plastic bottle trap, using a Mason jar, wine bottle or decorative jar. I use a decorative jar because this trap sits on my kitchen counter, and who wants to look at dead flies in a trap? Not me!
Similar to the stinky, sweet version, this one uses a cup apple cider vinegar as the attractant.
Pour a cup of apple cider vinegar into the jar and add 3 to 5 drops of liquid dish soap. Place it near where you keep ripening fruit.
TRAP #3: Who said the sediment in the bottom f a wine bottle wasn’t useful?
Leave an empty wine bottle open on the counter. Make a small funnel using an 8-1/2 x 11 inch piece of paper and insert it into the neck of the bottle. The small amount of wine that remains in the bottom will attract the flies. They will fly in, but they won’t fly out.
TRAP #4: This is probably the least appealing fly trap, but it works.
Place overripe fruit or peels in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Punch several small holes in the plastic. Amazingly, the flies find their way in, but can’t find their way out.
Remember—flies like stinky and sweet, so the stinkier or sweeter the better. Don’t be afraid to let your trap sit and get really smelly.
When the trap is full…or you just can’t stand to look at it anymore anymore, dump the contents into the compost bin and wash out the bottle or jar to use again. If you’ve used the plastic bottle version, simple toss the whole messy thing into the trash and make yourself a new one.
This is war, folks. Fight to win!
Baby it’s Cold Outside. What the heck!!
It’s not cold, it’s HOT, HOT, HOT!! And, not just hot, but the blistering hot that hangs on you like a heavy wool blanket.
The kind of hot that sees the thermometer hit 70 by 7:00 am, push past 80 by 8:00 am, climb to 90 by 9:00 am and soar over 100 by 10:00 am.
The kind of heat that wilts plants and kills livestock, if you don’t keep them cool.
I was enjoying our fairly mild summer of mid-80’s during the day and mid-60’s through the night, until we were hit with a weather whiplash that swing our temps from seasonably pleasant to scorching hot, like 105+ hot…for days on end. With that kind of extreme heat it’s important to keep a close eye on your critters especially chickens.
We have fairly mild winters here in So Cal, but our summers are a completely different story. Multiple days of triple digit temperatures can exhaust a flock’s ability to cool themselves and you have to be ready to step in and help. It could be the difference between ending the summer with a live flock or a dead one. I much prefer live.
How Chickens Cool Themselves
Mother Nature has equipped chickens to cool themselves by panting and holding their wings away from their body to let the air circulate. Their combs also help release heat, acting like a radiator. Too much panting, though, is a sign of distress.
Signs of Heat Stress
When chickens are having a hard time coping with the heat they will become heat stressed, which presents itself as gasping, panting, listlessness, spreading of wings, not eating or drinking, or diarrhea (if you get to this point your hens in immediate danger).
Did you know that smaller breeds and bantams, large combed breeds or lighter colored breeds are better able to withstand hot weather?
But, in extreme heat most breeds will be affected by the heat in one way or another.
Tips to help your chickens beat the heat until fall’s cool air comes along.
1. Provide lots and lots of cool water. Putting water bowls in the shade and putting small ice blocks in the water will help keep it cool. (I use small freezer containers to make 1-cup ice blocks) Freeze chopped up fruits and veggies in water to create a refreshing treat!
2. Limiting corn based feed and supplementing with juicy fruits and veggies will also help keep chickens cool and hydrated. The energy it takes to digest grains heats up a chicken’s body and can cause overheating.
3. Overripe produce can be frozen and offered “free-choice”, allowing chickens to pick at whatever intices them. Or, cube up and freeze melons for a frozen melon ice cube.
4. Allowing chickens to free range on hot summer days gets them out of a hot, stuffy coop and into the fresh air where they can settle in under bushes, dig and fluffy in soft cool dirt or find a breezy place in a shady tree. If free ranging isn’t possible, make sure to provide lots of shade in the chicken run, or fans or misters in the coop. (I planted my peach tree near the coop run so when it got bigger it would give shade as well as peaches)
5. You can also set a shallow pan of water in the run so the chickens can wade in the cool water. Check it every so often to make sure that it hasn’t gotten too hot.
6. Chickens will drink a lot of water on hot days, so make sure they will never run out by adding a few more water troughs to drink from.
7. Laying hens may also prefer nesting in cooler open areas. Providing boxes, crates or baskets out in the open for hens to use will give them a choice between laying eggs under shrubs and somewhere you can find them.
8. If your coop is set up with nipple waterers, consider putting out a few pans of water as an extra source.
9. I also like to offer a slightly deeper pan of water so my hens can dunk their heads in it. The cool water on their wattles helps to lower their body temperature quickly.
Hot summer days are not the only time you have to worry about the heat; when night time temperatures are high and chickens are cooped for the night it’s important that the coop is well ventilated to allow the air to flow. As the temperature drops, the air flow will cool off the coop. It may be necessary to install a fan to help move out the hot air. Hanging a frozen –gallon water bottle in front of the fan will help cool the air also.
Prevention of heat stress and keeping chickens hydrated is key, but if weather is extremely hot or your chickens are showing signs of stress you can add electrolytes to their water or give it to individual chickens using an eye dropper or a syringe without the needle attached.
1 Cup Water
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
Place all ingredients into a jar and mix gently until sugar and salt dissolve.
TO USE: use at full strength for severely stressed chickens or mix 1 cup per one gallon of drinking water.
Keeping your chickens cool in hot weather could mean the difference between life and death. Whatever you can do to help keep them cool and comfortable will not only save their life, but their egg production as well. Overheated hens don’t like laying eggs.
Peaches and plums and berries, oh my!
Its summertime and that means one major thing around here…cobbler. From the first bloom of spring right up to harvest time we dream of desserts made with our favorite fruits.
Every house I’ve ever live in has had a berry patch. Not a large mind you, but enough canes to produce enough fruit for summer desserts and extra for canning and freezing so we can enjoy the fresh taste of summer all winter long. They are perfect for the suburban homestead where space may be at a premium. They can be grown on fences, trellises or arbors, making them perfect for a vertical garden because they leave valuable ground for root crops or non-trailing vegetables.
My current berry patch abuts a perimeter fence. It is just 3-foot wide by 30-foot long and has blackberries, raspberries and boysenberries that I train to grow on a 54-inch tall cattle panel. The canes are managed and pruned so we don’t have them rooting all over the place. As they start to push out new growth in the spring I fill one gallon nursery pots with rich compost and nestle the budding new growth down into the soil to root, starting a new batch of canes.
Over the years I’ve helped friends and family start their own berry patches with cuttings from my own. Berry canes are easy to root, grow in many different soil types and best of all…grow like weeds once they get started. It’s one of the best plants for new gardeners, and a favorite of well-seasoned homesteaders.
And, let’s not forget those plump, juicy, flavorful berries that explode in your mouth with a burst of flavor, or make a thick decadent jam, luscious pie or frozen little gems waiting to be blended up into a refreshing smoothie.
But…I have to admit there’s nothing better than a warm fresh berry cobbler warm from the oven. Well—unless it’s a berry cobbler with a big glob of creamy vanilla ice-cream on top. That’s a double yum.
There’s a lot of debate about fruit cobblers and what constitutes a “real” cobbler. There are cobblers topped with fluffy biscuits, some with cake-like toppings and others with a light batter pored over, creating a cobbled effect when it bakes. But, around here cobbler means one thing and one thing only, sweet seasonal fruit encased in a crumbly oatmeal brown sugar topping.
Blackberry Cobbler with Oatmeal Topping
3 cups blackberries
2/3 cup sugar (depending on the sweetness of the fruit)
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup butter, melted
1 cup rolled oats
¼ Tsp. ground nutmeg
DIRECTIONS for Filling: Put all ingredients into a large saucepan and slowly bring to a boil until the sugar dissolves.
DIRECTIONS for Topping: Put all ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Pour melted butter over and mix with a fork until it is crumbly.
Heat oven to 375. Pour berry mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish. Cover with oatmeal topping. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until bubbly. Serve at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.
TIP: My family likes this topping so much that I make a double batch. I put a layer on the bottom and one on the top for an extra crispy yum.
People get into the homesteading life for all kinds of reasons. Some want to be more self-reliant or self-sufficient, while others come to homesteading for political or conservation or environmental reasons. Regardless of how or why homesteading appeals to people, they all seem to have one common denominator—living on less money.
I know as I have gotten older, stuff, toys and material things have taken a back seat to more simple pleasures, fun experiences and building great relationships. As I age I also think more about what my retirement life will look like and how I want to live when I stop working. All these considerations usually send my brain to thoughts of cutting costs or reducing expenses. But, when I sit down to make notes and charts of areas to cut expenses I realize my life is pretty inexpensive as it is. If I look at things more closely I can definitely say that homesteading saves me a lot of money.
Check out these 25 homesteading activities that can save you a ton of money.
1. Composting – creating your own soil from kitchen scrapes, manure, chicken coop bedding, spent veggies, grass clipping and yard trimmings will save on expensive potting soil.
2. Gym Memberships – all the fresh air, sunshine and physical work of a homestead is much better than any gym machine or cycling class.
3. Heating – cutting or gathering firewood to use in a fireplace or wood stove allows you to use your heater less.
4. Growing Herbs – the cost of herbs at the market is ridiculously high for what you get. Grow your own in pots or in the garden and you’ll never buy herbs again.
5. Grow a Vegetable Garden – I once read where growing even a small portion of your produce can save a family over $400 a month on their grocery bill. Start with the veggies you eat most often and expand from there.
6. Healthy Living – when you work outside, get lots of fresh air and sunshine, and eat wholesome homemade meals you get sick less frequent, which means fewer trips to the doctor.
7. Home Cooking – cooking from scratch at home will save you hundreds of dollars over eating out.
8. Seasonal Eating – if you purchase what you don’t grow, buying in-season fruits and veggies will cost less than buying them out-of-season.
9. Forage for Food – check out what grows in your area, whether suburban or rural. You’ll be surprised at what you can harvest from neighborhood fruits trees, wild berry patches and forest mushrooms. Educate yourself first so you know what to harvest and what not to harvest.
10. Supplemental Feeds – spent veggies, kitchen scrapes and trimmings are great for chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits. They get variety in their diet and you use less feed.
11. Lower Cable TV – when you spend a lot of time outside working in the garden, playing with animals or just enjoying the serenity of your homestead, you fall away from watching mindless TV programs. Cutting the cable is the first step to a more enjoyable life, in my opinionJ
12. Free Entertainment – simplifying your life and cutting costs spills over into entertainment as well. Many libraries and museums, even Parks Departments, offer enjoyable free programs like concerts, lectures and movies.
13. Homemade Fire Starters – with a bit of old melted candle wax and a handful of dried leaves, herbs or potpourri you’ll be starting fires for free and cutting out the gas.
14. DIY – homesteader types tend to be lifelong learners, picking up skills that others have to hire out, like plumbing, carpentry or electrical will save you a lot.
15. The Three “R’s” – self-sufficient living promotes reusing, repurposing or recycling items so they don’t end up at the dump. Scrape lumber for nesting boxes or shelves, pallets for fencing or broken down to make rabbit hutches or chicken coops, cast offs crafted into décor items, the skies the limit when you use your imagination.
16. Make Your Own??? – from laundry supplies, health remedies, beauty products and cleaning products, the projects will be fun and save a ton on chemical laden over-the-counter items.
17. Go Second Hand – thrift stores are a great place to find useful items from tools and equipment to clothing and household items. Just don’t go overboard, even a good deal can be a waste of money if you’re buying what you don’t really need.
18. Line Dry – every homestead should have a clothes line. Not only is hanging clothes on a line therapeutic (well, at least to me) it will save on the electric bill. Rig up an indoor line for winter use as well.
19. Clothing Repairs – sewing, knitting, crocheting and darning are common homestead skills people want to learn. It’s also a great way to save on tailoring or repair costs when you can do it yourself.
20. Big Batch Cooking – take advantage of a cold day and make big, or multiple big batches of soups and stews, freezing them for later use.
21. Extend the harvest – if you live in colder areas, you can still harvest fresh produce by building a few cold frames…out of scrape lumber and reused windows of course.
22. Hunt and Fish – these two skills can put pounds of food in the freezer and keep hundreds of dollars in your pocket.
23. Home Dairy – if you have the space and are allowed, consider keeping a dairy goat. The gallons of milk and pounds of cheese and yoghurt will more than offset the cost of feed.
24. Grow a Medicinal Garden – growing medicinal plants and making them into teas and tinctures can help stave off colds and flues, ease sore muscles, relieve headaches and help you fall asleep. It will also save on the cost of drugstore remedies.
25. Wearable Warmth – bundle up in warm wool sweaters or blankets and keep the thermostat low, saving on heating costs during the colder months.