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Oct 2014

Most visited this week:

Smallest wood stoves

How many batteries do I need for my solar panels?

Wood stove in a mobile home

Propagating persimmons: Germinating seeds, grafting, and transplanting

A dangerous dog

Oct 2013

A year ago this week:

New methods of winter-protecting figs

Small-diameter firewood

Growing into a Farm: Before the Walden Effect

Fixing a broken refrigerator handle

ATV solenoid replacement

Oct 2012

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Barn cleanup

About a week ago, Mark walked past one of my fenceline cleanup zones and pulled a bit of honeysuckle from the top to within goat reach. Why didn't I think of that? With a little bit of effort, I realized, we could double the amount of honeysuckle that goes into our goats' rumens while also cleaning up our fencelines twice as quickly. Brilliant!

Feeding goatsNow that we've worked our way around to the barn, the out-of-reach honeysuckle is much further off the ground. In fact, I need a ladder to get to some of it. Artemesia climbs up the lower rungs to grab the falling vines and Abigail joins in the fun. I just have to be careful not to step on goat heads when I come down.

The trick with this method of feeding goats is not to give them too much at one time. Goats are awfully ornery about not wanting to eat anything that's been sitting on the ground for too long. Better to pull down one set of vines for breakfast and another for lunch than to beg them to eat the trodden-upon leaves that are now off the menu. Yes, even honeysuckle loses its luster after a few hours if you're Queen Abigail.

Posted Fri Oct 31 07:57:50 2014 Tags:
feeding sorghum stalks to our goats

We're expecting a killer frost just in time for Halloween.

That's why we cut the seed heads off the sorghum to be dried and saved for hens.

Anna gave the stalks to our goats thinking the leaves won't be as good after the frost.

Posted Thu Oct 30 15:59:59 2014 Tags:
Indian summer

Two glorious days of Indian Summer made the garden part of our winterization list move along very quickly this week. I yanked out the big weeds between the oilseed radishes in the forest garden, where I'd mounded up the earth and tossed down cover-crop seeds without any sort of kill mulch to maintain my cover-crop monoculture. In the process, I found one last hazelnut, plus a half-ripe butternut that the goats greatly enjoyed.

Putting the garden to bed

Next stop was the back garden, where I yanked out all of the dying tomatoes along with their stakes. Despite lack of a killing frost, I'd actually stopped picking tomatoes a couple of weeks ago when cold weather turned the offerings insipid. But as I worked Monday, I stumbled across a cache of about ten fruits that were ripe red and luscious. A nice treat!

Meanwhile, I enjoyed the way the oats had filled in between the tomatoes and formed a near-solid sea of green. A much more pleasant view than the dwindling tomato plants!

Swiss chard

Finally, Kayla and I got to work on the active mule garden, where kale, mustard, lettuce, garlic, tatsoi, tokyo bekana, Swiss chard, peas, parsley, and strawberries are all still hard at work. I'll need at least one more day of pretty weather to bring this zone into line --- maybe I can squeeze that in before the forecast snow this weekend?

Posted Thu Oct 30 07:49:21 2014 Tags:
Lucy and two goats separated by a cattle panel

How well do the goats and Lucy get along?

Artemesia wants to be friends, while Abigail is still standoffish.

Lucy seems most interested in what they leave behind and is learning to be respectful of their space when we move them.

Posted Wed Oct 29 15:56:29 2014 Tags:
Morning goat, evening goat

I'm starting to wrap my head around goat digestion, but it's slow going since ruminants are so very different from any other animal I've ever spent time with. Goats are especially interesting because they're able to eat really fast, filling up their rumen, then they slowly digest that food over the course of the day. Which begs the question --- do our girls need to fill up their rumen once daily? Twice? Keep it full all day? Or what?

Artemesia's full tummy

I suspect that the lack of an easy answer is due to the vast differences in nutritional value of different food sources. Our girls have been gorging on honeysuckle leaves for the last week or so, which probably means that Artemesia's round evening belly is providing plenty of calories. Abigail's belly never looks as round, but I suspect that's just the older animal's natural shape since she's the head goat and surely eats quite a bit more than Artemesia does on an average day.

Goats eating honeysuckle

I'd be curious to hear from other ruminant wranglers (and especially from others captivated by caprines). Do you have a rule of thumb for how much a healthy goat should eat per day?

Posted Wed Oct 29 07:20:55 2014 Tags:
ATV prop shaft repair

Our ATV stopped working due to a broken prop shaft piece.

We got a new part in, but I forgot to order the seal kit.

Posted Tue Oct 28 15:44:04 2014 Tags:

How to Make Money HomesteadingWhen Mark and I first started sharing Microbusiness Independence with the world, I was surprised by how many readers came back to me and said one of two things. First came: "Can we sell your chicken waterers for you?" I tried to explain that it was the uniqueness of our product that helped our microbusiness grow and thrive, but then I got the second comment: "I can't think of a unique product to make and sell!"

For me and Mark, ideas have always been the easy part. I probably come up with an ebook idea every week, only a small percentage of which I'll ever have time to write. Meanwhile Mark dreams up a similar number of undeveloped product ideas. But if you're among the multitude of readers who got stuck at the "What can I sell?" stage, Tim Young's How to Make Money Homesteading is the solution to your problem!

Tim splits his book up into three types of money-making ideas --- ways to make money from the land itself, ways to use your skills to make money, and ways to produce products to sell. There are probably hundreds of ideas scattered throughout the relevant chapters, including gems such as making chicken tractors for your neighbors, becoming an artificial insemination expert, and hiring others to provide classes on your land. There's also a stern admonition to eliminate your debt before embarking on your homestead microbusiness, which I thoroughly agree with, along with a chapter on saving money on the homestead and one on rethinking retirement.

My only complaint with How to Make Money Homesteading is that Tim doesn't separate the wheat from the chaff when presenting his money-making ideas. In my experience, unless you scale way up and/or bring your wares to a big-city population, selling farm-fresh eggs and similar products won't even pay minimum wage. But a chapter near the end of the book on marketing helps you disentangle some of the pros and cons of different types of businesses. Plus, the eighteen profiles of homesteading families (including one on us) show what's worked for other people on-the-ground, giving you an idea about the advantages and disadvantages of each money-making endeavor suggested in the book.

Which is all a long way of saying --- if you're scratching your head about how to make a living off the land, you should definitely read this book as part of your brainstorming session. And you're in luck because Tim has kindly offered to give one of our readers a free paperback copy of How to Make Money Homesteading. Enter the giveaway below for a chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted Tue Oct 28 08:02:09 2014 Tags:

using a laundry basket for a roll out nest box
We've been having a problem with our duck eggs getting dirty.

Tilting this laundry basket at an angle should make it into a roll out nest box.

The eggs roll back where we can get to them and the ducks can't step on them.

Posted Mon Oct 27 16:24:40 2014 Tags:
Bees on marigold

I don't usually think of marigolds as particularly bee-friendly plants. But anything blooming on a warm, sunny day in late October is a plus. I guess the ten cents I spent on last-chance seeds at the dollar store this summer was worth it.

Goat on a logSpeaking of "worth it," our goats continue to fill my days with pleasure. I don't really know what we'll do in about a week once they're done clearing all of our fencelines, but Abigail says they aren't going anywhere damp. Artemesia enjoyed her Saturday walk through the gully to browse on honysuckle and multiflora rose, but Abigail said that she didn't even want to get her feet damp. Nope, she'd just stand on the log and wait until we were ready to move on.

Posted Mon Oct 27 07:45:24 2014 Tags:
brussel sprouts with barn in background

The 2014 crop of brussel sprouts has not been doing too well.

Maybe it was too much rain at the wrong time?

I think we'll switch back to the old variety for next year.

Posted Sun Oct 26 12:55:21 2014 Tags:

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