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"I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage." - Erma Bombeck

Photo courtesy Joe Calhoun


 

Chickens Lay Eggs... Sometimes

By Elizabeth Ledford

 

     "Dollar signs filled my 12-year-old mind as I gazed, fascinated, at the hundreds of chicks scurrying under the heat lamps at the farm supply store.  The store’s annual chick days had arrived with Easter, and so had spring fever, attacking the farm folk with vigor after the cold, dark winter.  Chirping with all the enthusiasm of new life, the helpless little chicks seemed proof that warmer days were coming, and thoughts of an egg business ran through my young entrepreneur’s mind.  Assuming each chick would eventually lay an egg a day, I quickly convinced myself of the profit I’d make selling eggs, but more than the money, I wanted an excuse to own some of the fluffy creatures myself.  Having no clue that the tub of chicks marked 'pullets' would grow up to be hens while the 'straight run' tub contained both sexes, I carefully stuffed my cardboard box with the cheaper, unsegregated chicks.  As I gleefully handed my money to the cashier after collecting all the feed and dispensers I thought I might need, I had no idea that I’d already made my first mistake.  It was weeks later when I realized that a large proportion of the chicks I had selected would never lay eggs—they were roosters.

     ...

     This wasn’t our first plunge into the world of chickens.  My siblings had given them a try before, with only temporary success, and a couple of years earlier, a kind lady friend had given me six fat, ancient hens, which never laid a solitary egg the entire time I dutifully kept them.  I learned the hard way that the saying about not looking a gift horse in the mouth doesn’t apply to chickens.  The same year, my family spent an unforgettable day at an animal auction, where one of my parents unknowingly bought a flock of incurably-diseased hens that later had to be destroyed and a grouchy old duck, while a kind stranger stopped my other parent and me from buying a goat with a bad case of mastitis (infected udder).  With the help of our new friend, we bought a healthy dairy goat in milk instead.  When a baby miniature horse suddenly showed up in the auction ring, somehow mixed in with the dairy goats, he was so cute that we had to buy him, too.  We managed to fit all our newly-acquired animals into our 15-passenger van along with all my siblings and spent the 2-hour drive home listening to the squawks and neighs coming from the backseat and petting the goat tied in the aisle way."


 

Jessica's New Homestead Cookbook

Potato and Corn Chowder

By Jessica Shelton

 

     "Comfort food, at its heart, is the epitome of simplicity, and there are few things a homesteader appreciates more than simplicity.  Potatoes.  Corn.  Onion.  Milk.  That's really all you need to create a cozy pot of deliciousness.  Add in a few pantry staples like garlic, chicken broth, and parsley and you've got a bowl of golden happiness.  Smooth, creamy potatoes are perfectly matched with crisp corn, making for a sweetly savory spoonful.  Topping choices abound to suit everyone’s individual tastes, but this recipe alone really doesn't need any help becoming a family favorite."

 

 

Easter Chicks Gone Bad

By Sheri Dixon

 

   

     "They looked innocent enough, like fuzzy giant skittles bouncing around the tub.

     My friend had purchased colored Easter chicks for her daughters and had assumed that I would be thrilled to take them after Easter.  Why not?  We DO live in the country.

     Thirteen brightly colored chicklets arrived at our place in a large cage.  They were cute, they were fluffy, they were hungry.  They made endearing little noises when we fed them.  We loved our chickens...

     Before long, they had molted out of their Easter feathers and looked like real chickens.  They were turned loose to free range and be the cherry on our country yard sundae. 

     ...

     They were a Chicken Gang.  All they needed were little leather jackets, sunglasses, and packs of Camels (filter-less of course) rolled up into their wings.  They'd stand at the edge of the woods, daring the coyotes to come out.

     They cruised the neighborhood, lookin' for trouble, mean and restless.   I now know what the Raptors in the Jurassic Park movies are based on—roosters.  They have the same moves, calls and hunting tactics.  They would sneak up behind me to attack, barking strategy to each other.  If I turned around, they'd freeze and look off into the distance, casually.

     I started carrying a broom."

 

 

 

Prehistoric Homesteaders

By Barbara Bamberger Scott

 

     "A couple weeks ago I was vacationing in the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Parks that adjoin in western Arizona.  The views were so remarkably stark, the landscape generally so bare and flat, that I was surprised to see a scenic walkway through a prehistoric village, and more surprised to see, among the displays, a sign that explained that the occupants of the little village had been 'prehistoric homesteaders.'

     I had to know more.      

     ...

     Since I had only a few hours to spend in the Parks, and many hours on the road after we left, my pursuit of this knowledge became something like a meditation.

     Beautiful as the Painted Desert and its adjunct park, the Petrified Forest are, I couldn’t imagine living there.  Even in mid-March it was hot and the air was devoid of moisture, making for magnificent sky-scapes and annoying dry coughs.  I could picture little bands of hardy nomads wandering through this barrenness seeking water or shade and moving on, but—staying?—and farming?  I knew of course that there is such as thing as dry land farming, but here?  Really?  Much of the National Park region is “badlands,” where to enter on foot without a significant water supply is to court the Grim Reaper.  Gazing at the endless stretches of sand, the occasional bizarre rounded hills of striped ore, and the few small wretched plants that can hang on in such a clime, it amazed me to think that anyone ever bothered to do more pass through as quickly as possible."

 

 

Countdown to the Country

By Bonnie Lavigne

 

     "Bravo to those already on their own land, who are old hands at gardening and raising animals and bettering their lives.  These are the folks the rest of us look up to.  Hopefully we can use their experience to help us avoid the pitfalls they’ve already fallen into and climbed out of.

     Of course, we all seem determined to make our own mistakes.  And everyone is different; what works for one may not work for the next up-and-coming.  No matter what, a Homesteader-in-the-Making needs a plan, one that fits with who they are, what they want, and their own unique situation in life.

     The following is a Ten-step Preparedness Plan we’ve followed (and constantly updated) for about seven years.  It’s taken us from apartment-dwellers to home-owners on the verge of making the big move to the country.

     ...

     Have faith.  The time will come when you can implement everything you’ve learned on your very own homestead.  Create the future you want to live in.  And don’t forget to dream.

 

 

Being Cheap is Greener Than Being Green

By Jan Cooke

 

    

"Recently several people have been asking a lot of questions about my solar and wind power, solar hot water, and wood heat.  With power rates once again on the rise there is a lot of interest in alternative energy.  As we are talking and I am explaining to them about our setup, at some point in the conversation, without exception, they have all commented on my being 'Green', I always retort and say, 'Not Green, Cheap.'
     Why Cheap rather than Green?  Easy!  Cheap is far more Green than 'Going Green' will ever be.
     Let me explain.  When people talk about 'going green', in their mind they are thinking large-scale windmill farms, reusable grocery bags, Energy Star appliances, hybrid cars, fancy greeting cards made from elephant dung, using the blue recycle bins, supporting World Wildlife Federation, and maybe voting for the Green Party.  They might even go as far as replacing some of their light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs.
     When I say I am Cheap not Green, what I am saying is that in EVERY aspect of our life, everything in our home and everything we do, is done with an eye to being cheap.  So due to our cheapness we use a lot less of everything, with the net result being that we end up being far greener than even the dedicated environmentalist"

 

 

Heritage Breeds

Oldies but Goodies

By Regina Anneler

 

     "The dream of coming back to basics, down to our roots, and achieving self sufficiency is a worthy one.  You put lots of time, money and effort into your desire to homestead.  Many people plan for years to purchase and lay out what that they desire for their dreams of homesteading.  However, the potential homesteader often forgets to put very much concentration into the types of livestock that they will be raising.  The breeds and types of livestock deserve as much consideration and thought as the actual layout of the homestead.  If the benefits of the past are a part of your homestead plan, then consider raising heritage breeds on your property.

     Heritage breeds are traditional livestock breeds that were commonplace on farms of the past.  This was before the rise of industrial agriculture drastically reduced the genetic variety and diversity of breeds for those of commercial breeds designed for mass production.  The desire for higher yields and the production rates required for major businesses eventually pushed many of these breeds to extinction or near extinction. The fact that heritage animals were bred over time to develop traits that made them principally adapted to the environments where they were raised lost ground to the call of the almighty dollar."

 

 

Clearing Land

By Neil Shelton

 

    "Once you’ve purchased your future homestead, especially through the methods proposed in this book, you’re very likely to have bought a property that’s been neglected or abused for several years.  Of the two, neglected is far superior to abused.  I hope you haven’t bought a tract of land that’s been recently timbered.  Practically speaking, there’s not a great deal you can do for such land that doesn’t involve hours upon costly hours of heavy equipment work, or back-breaking toil for perhaps the rest of your life unless you’re young and very energetic, and maybe even then.  A clear-cut deciduous forest can take decades, generations in fact, to recover into anything approaching its original state.  Should you decide to turn it into tillable ground instead, you’ll have several hundred stumps per acre to remove, because waiting for them to rot out is, again, a matter of decades.  As it is now, you can turn the ground into a sort of crude pasture, with sparse grass growing amid the stumps and brush, but it won’t be anything that can be easily bush-hogged, let alone mowed, any time soon, so you’ll need to keep it from growing up in brush by hand.

     Neglected land is another story.  If you have old fields that have gone to brush, and that brush isn’t much larger than 2 or 3 inches in stump diameter, you can clear it with a bush-hog or tree-shear in a comparatively short time (hours or days).  You’ll still have stumps to deal with, but they will obviously be smaller and less of a challenge to eliminate or neutralize.

     If you have mature forest, the prospect of removing mature trees may be daunting, but it’s a job that many folks before you have completed and lived to tell the tale."

 

 

 

A Guide for the Fledgling Fermenter

By Kimi Ceridon

 

     "Far from the subversive culture portrayed in The New Yorker article, it is now not uncommon to see stories of people with jars and crocks full of fermented foods bubbling away on kitchen countertops.  Other stories espouse the health benefits of the microbes found in fermented foods. Chefs sing the praise of flavor profiles produced through fermentation.  Fermented products are filling the refrigerated sections of grocery stores proudly advertising the 'live cultures' in their product.  Fermentation festivals are held in cities across the country from San Diego, to Austin to Boston and New York.  If you are willing to shell out a few bucks, you can learn basic fermentation techniques at one of the many fermentation workshops popping up around the country.

     But why wait for a workshop when you can easily get started on your own?  With a little understanding of how fermentation works and a few supplies you probably already have on hand, you can be just weeks away from a delicious, homemade sauerkraut or pickled vegetable.

     When most people hear the word fermentation, they think about beer and wine.  Although this is a guide to making non-alcoholic ferments such as pickles and sauerkraut, let us start with the alcoholic beverages.  While alcoholic content is perhaps what makes beer and wine our most endearing fermented products, but it also makes them a good starting point for talking about the science of fermentation."

 


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