The tall jar I used to soak the pinto beans in has been cracked for
over a year now and I guess the pressure of the beans expanding was
just too much for it to handle. I've switched over to soaking them in a
bowl to avoid any further bean blow outs.
The modern high yield bean of today owes a lot to a couple of plant
pathologists working for the USDA in the 1940's. They pioneered a
program using X-ray mutation breeding that helped to bring about one of
the first bush navy bean varieties.
This post is part of our Sprouting Beans for Chickens series.
Read all of the entries:
I've noticed that many environmentally
conscious eaters have a knee-jerk reaction against using genetically modified organisms
(GMOs) in food. In my opinion, our food system is severely broken
and the current GMO system is broken too. But I think it's a
mistake to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Humans have been selecting plants and animals which suit our needs for
thousands of years. Take a look at the teosinte ear on the left
compared to the modern ear of corn (or "maize" as the plant is known in
the rest of the world) on the right. By simple selective breeding
--- choosing the plants which produced the biggest ears and sweetest
kernels --- Native Americans were able to develop something
resembling the latter from the former seven thousand years ago.
In my opinion, producing GMOs is merely an acceleration of this process. Read
First, before I forget --- congratulations to
Jill from Knoxville, the winner of our easy flower
giveaway! And thanks to everyone who entered too --- I always
love to hear from you! Now back to your regularly scheduled
Lucy and I walked up the holler this morning to check out an old
homestead just across the property line. I'm terribly nosy and
couldn't help myself from investigating the results of my neighbor's
clearing operation up there --- he told me he was going to be opening
up a bit of land to attract deer for his son (who hunts.)
True to his word, he'd rooted up a bunch of blackberries and sown grass
over perhaps a half acre or acre. As Lucy and I headed home, our
curiosity satisfied, we nearly tripped over a big pear at our
feet. My memory --- dubious at the best of times --- finally
kicked into gear and reminded me that I'd seen a fruit tree blooming up
here by the homestead this spring and had meant to come back and check
on it. Then I'd forgotten, of course.
Most of the pears had already fallen, but shaking the tree dislodged
five more which thudded to the ground around us. (I remembered,
almost too late, that it's not such a bright idea to look up while
shaking a fruit tree.) The pears were sweet and gritty --- the
old-fashioned kind you find growing around old homsteads in our area,
pears which will mellow in the root cellar over the course of a few
months into true ripeness. I like them hard, though, so chomped
my way through one, giving Lucy the core.
I love the idea of wildcrafting, but I like the taste of most
cultivated fruits better. Hunting down abandoned fruit trees by
old homsteads is the best of both worlds!
Am I the only one who is still wondering why George Bush Jr. and the
United States Congress decided in their infinite wisdom to increase
daylight saving time by 4 weeks back in 2005? They claimed we would
save more energy by starting it 3 weeks earlier and extending it by a
week. Like usual, this piece of legislation was buried in a wide
ranging bill that got attention for giving oil and gas companies nice
fat tax breaks.
According to the Washington
Post, candy manufacturers have lobbied for years to stretch
daylight saving time to encompass Halloween. Now parents can rest
easier knowing that kids will have more daylight to navigate the
neighborhood streets on that frightful night, and an extra hour to
consume even more candy.
I was surprised to learn that recent research
from Carnegie Mellon University has found that you are 3 times more
likely to be hit and killed by a car just after the time switch. They
speculate that drivers go through a week of adjusting to the new
schedule. It might be a good idea to use extra caution this week if you
find yourself crossing the street even once.
Did you ever want to start a vineyard? I
don't particularly want a vineyard, but I do want fruit of any and all
sorts coming out my ears. At $6 and up per plant, a vinyard
doesn't really fit into our budget, though. Luckily, there's a
Early this spring, one of Mark's friends gave us some vines he'd pruned
out of his vineyard. I did some
reading and learned that grapes are easy to root from hardwood
cuttings like these --- just cut dormant vines into pieces with four
buds per piece in early spring, soak
the cuttings in water for three days, poke them into the ground
about a foot apart so that three of the buds are underground, and wait
a while. Click here to
read more (including a giveaway!)
Kasprzak snapped this amazing picture of two white-tailed eagles
locked in a heated debate over which presidential candidate would be
best for folks who earn less than 250 thousand dollars per year.
I feel like our current system of electing a president is broken and
needs to be fixed. How can we call ourselves a true democracy when both
parties go to extraordinary efforts to effectively silence any and all
third party candidates from participating in the debates and getting
any substantial media coverage?
With that said I think it's obvious to most people that tomorrow will
be more of a multiple choice question than a real honest to goodness
4 more years of the country going down the same path we've been
on these last 8 years.
4 new years on a slightly different path with a politicians
promise of hope and change.
This entry is intended for women. Men,
feel free to read along --- I'm not going to be talking about reusable
sanitary pads (not in this entry, at least). I'm only warning you
because it might not be as relevant to you.
Why is this aimed at women? Because I read somewhere that women
tend to have stronger legs while men tend to have stronger arms --- and
this has been very true when comparing me and Mark. I watch us
work and notice that I dig with my feet while he digs with his arms, I
happily trot up hills while he happily lifts heavy weights, and so
forth. This post is also for women because up to 9% of women have
carpal tunnel (like me) while only 2% of men have carpal tunnel.
Both of these sets of statistics are very relevant when it comes to one
of the major chores of winter --- chopping wood! Wood chopping
takes major upper body strength and can also really exacerbate your
carpal tunnel. Luckily, I've found that by chopping smarter, I
can chop quite a bit of wood (though I don't compare to Mark's
levels.) So, how to chop smart? Read more....
out working the polls --- 5 am to 7 pm. I sent him to work with
two breakfast burritos, two chicken salad sandwiches, two chocolate
chip cookies, an orange, some crackers, and half a gallon of iced
tea. I hope he survives!
Left to my own devices, I waited until after lunch to vote. (If
you haven't already, please go vote!) Beautiful yellow and orange
oak leaves on the drive over, no line of course in our remote rural
Now I'm home and seem to have acquired ADD --- I can't focus on
anything except the election. If your mind is stuck on the
election too, here are the best places I've
found to learn about current election results without resorting to the
evils of television.
Public radio fan ---
lets you choose between all of the public radio stations and programs
to listen online.
When the stars align, Mark and I like to try
to make our day in the big city as busy as possible so that we don't
have to go back for several weeks. Today was that day --- I met
with an elected representative and sold some grape vines while Mark
recorded some voices for a video he's working on.
Once our work was done, we met back up on the street where my mother,
brother, and sister live for a bit of old fashioned
entertainment. Mom and Maggie had accumulated 31 bags of leaves
before the trash folks could get them --- I'd begged and pleaded that
they grab some for me to compost in lieu of a Christmas present this
year. We were only able to stuff about 25 bags in the minivan, so
we'll have to come back to get another load on our next town
trip. I haven't anticipated a Christmas present with such
prolonged excitement since I was in grade school! After Mark cleaned out
Mom's gutters, Joey invited us up the street to try out a new European
board game. For those of you who were raised on American games
like Monopoly and Shoots and Ladders, let me be the first to tell you
that board games can make for a really entertaining adult
gathering. I like middle-of-the-road games like Settlers
of Catan which have enough challenging strategy to keep you coming
back for dozens of games but which don't take more than an hour or so
to play. The new game --- Carcassonne:
The Discovery --- met all of my criteria and I actually happily
stayed in town after dark to play. Looks like I've found a new
Our lemon tree is at it again with two sets of bloom buds stretching
open. We just got it as a baby last Christmas, but it has
four large lemons starting to ripen, an inch long fruit that it set
this summer, and now another two sets of buds. I can't wait to
try the fruit of our own lemon tree, though I suspect it'll be another
couple of months before the biggest ones fully ripen.
My great aunt Ruth Tirrell wrote for Organic
Gardening magazine long before I was born, and I often peruse her
old articles (which I don't think can be found on the internet) when
making decisions about my own garden. In "Fall --- A Good Time to
Transplant", she discusses the pros and cons of planting in the fall
and spring. She is all for planting strawberries, cherries,
apples, and pears in the fall, though warns to plant peaches and
blueberries in the spring. (She wavers on raspberries and grapes.)
From everything I've read, planting in fall is a great idea in most
cases. You give the plant time to get its roots established and
often don't need to do any watering right away --- many books will tell
you that planting in fall gives you the equivalent of an extra season's
growth. Perusal of the internet finds varying opinions on whether
even peaches, blueberries, raspberries, and grapes do better with fall
I have a hard time waiting until spring, so I've been setting out my
new grapes this afternoon. I rationalize that my great aunt lived
in Boston (although, in actuality, I'm in the same zone due to our
mountains.) As I dug, I was stunned by the root system on some of
our grapes --- Mark took a photo of the biggest one. This plant
started as a ten inch cutting only 8 months ago!
"Could you post a picture of your
Here is the smallest of our two tractors. I added the carpet towards
the bottom to keep the small chicks from escaping through the holes.
The skeletal frame is made of a material called remesh.
It comes in a medium sized roll and is usually used to reinforce
concrete structures and floors. We used an old metal milk crate turned
on its side to function as a nest box. Most of the wooden frame is made
from small trees and pieces of scrap.
The total weight is a big factor in making it easy to
move. I recommend practice movements during construction. Check
back in the near future for a more detailed post on chicken tractors with construction tips, pictures, and short video clips.
I submitted my resignation letter to work
yesterday morning, thus ending months of agonizing decision-making.
Being unemployed in this uncertain economic climate scares me to death,
but our needs are few and we have no debt (except for the last $5,000
of interest-free loan which I owe to a buddy who doesn't need it back
any time soon.) December 2 is my last day of work, though I'll
get paid until the end of the month due to saved up vacation
time. And then Mark and I will press ahead, trying to make a
living on our own terms outside the rat race --- writing grants,
hosting websites, inventorying flora and fauna, making videos, and
living off the land.
In a way, this blog has given me the courage to move on with my life
and leave my job behind. It has reminded me of the joy I've been
foregoing while sinking into the job. It tempted me to read books
which show me there are other options. I know the tenuous web of
ideas and dreams will hold us up!
Give the gift that keeps on poking. One of my favorite
toys of all time has finally been inducted into the Toy
Hall of Fame. The stick.
Young and old alike can appreciate the simple joy in using a stick for
hours at a time. Just the other day I used a stick to scratch my back,
and then it made the perfect material for starting a fire in the wood
It's a well known fact that once a toy becomes popular it all of a
sudden becomes one of the most difficult things to find. That's why
I've decided to make available some of our fine sticks to ease the
shopping crunch. For 20 dollars I will send you a bundle of 50 sticks
of various sizes that are sure to fit most folks on your shopping list.
Shipping is included and I will even throw in a short length of string.
Add an extra 5 bucks if you would like them gift wrapped.
The mean rooster has finally bitten the dust. Graphic photo ahead
After our last chicken-slaughtering day, Jan pointed me to a very useful chicken
butchering blog. Rather than re-creating that fine how-to
guide, I'll just mention a few things we've found to facilitate the
First, it's well worth taking a little extra time to get all of your
materials together before you start. Here's my minimal checklist
(which of course would be larger if I was doing dozens of chickens at a
more and re-enter the food chain....
Read other posts about killing and eating your own chickens:
Last night's unprovoked attack on our innocent garden greens will
directly affect the amount of venison that goes into the freezer this year.
This is not a threat, but a statement of my increased motivation.
I realize that our succulent plants must make a tasty treat when you
and your buddies have eaten most of the good stuff out of the forest,
but enough is enough.
I am prepared to stop at just one dead deer this year if you can agree
as a herd to cease all future hostilities. If we notice any more
nibbles past this day then all I can say is "I warned you".
We finally solved the deer in
the garden problem, and the solution was so elegant we gave it a new
website. Check out our deer
deterrent website for free plans!
Cooking old chickens seems to
be a nearly lost art --- or at least, the people who know how to cook
old chickens don't use the internet. We roasted the
young chicken we killed last month, with great success, but old
chickens are too tough to roast.
Last time we had an old
stewed it, which was tasty but stringy. (I also didn't take
out the carcass before the connective tissue deteriorated, so we had to
pick out tiny bits of spine, which didn't seem very safe.)
This time, I vowed to do better --- and I did! I remembered that
sausages are the old-fashioned way to use up old meat and scraps, so I
decided to turn our mean old rooster into potstickers (which are
basically sausage inside pasta.)
First, I cut the meat off the bones (which were destined to be turned
into stock), then whirred the meat in the food processor until it had
the consistency of hamburger meat. I had to pick out a few bits
of connective tissue, but then moved on to my usual potsticker
The result? Mark and I deemed it delicious! The meat had a
few chewy bits, unlike the store-bought ground chicken and more like
bratwurst, but none was tough and all was delicious. Turning old
chickens into sausage seems to be a winning proposition!
I have discovered that a portable
air tank is a must have tool for around the farm, especially if you
don't have your own air compressor.
They usually start in price at around 20 dollars, and are easy to fill
at your local gas station. Ours will hold up to 7 gallons of air,
which is just enough to bring a low truck tire up to where it needs to
It's a very handy thing to have if you're on a long road trip in a well
worn vehicle. A lot of gas stations these days have stopped providing
free air, and if they do have one of those coin op machines, more often
than not it's been vandalized and the hose connector is missing. Throw
a bottle of tire
sealant in the trunk and all of a sudden you have the ability
to fix your own flat tire by the side of the road, which is a lot safer
and more efficient than an old can of "Fix-a-Flat".
The buzz of the honeybee
may soon be a thing of the past. Colony
collapse disorder (or CCD) is a fancy term to refer to the recent
decline in honeybee populations, a decline which has been
scientifically documented but which stems from causes that are less
Although scientists aren't quite sure what's causing this sudden
decline in honeybee populations, they are united in the opinion that
loss of the honeybees will have profound implications on our
agricultural system. Approximately a third of our food crops ---
ranging from canteloupes to almonds --- depend on the honeybee for
proper fruit set. Without the bee, flowers will wither
unpollinated on the stalk and the farmer will have nothing to harvest.
I am concerned about CCD, but I am
more concerned that this disorder is a symptom of the failure of
America's industrial agriculture system. Our current system is
built upon the pipe dream that we can have unlimited supplies of cheap
food, that the finite capacity of the earth can be stretched with
pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to feed an ever growing number of
people on a dwindling expanse of arable land. Read
Ebay was once like a huge yard sale in cyberspace providing cheap
prices and interesting items from people all over the country. We had
some good luck selling small items like daffodil bulbs and baby paw paw
trees in the past. That was before they mutated into a large corporate
machine that only cares about "PowerSellers" and has left the little
guy holding the bag.
A recent encounter with a buyer(drk575) has soured the entire
experience for us. He or she was unhappy with the daffodil bulbs we
sent, even though I explained how the bulbs were leftover and varied in
size from small, medium, and large. Well some of them were too small
for their taste and they complained. We tried to offer a solution, and
without even a rude reply they skipped right to sending negative
feedback. Not giving us another chance to make it right.
We thought for sure an appeal to the powers that be at Ebay would help
sort this out. Especially since drk575 threatened us with negative
feedback, which is against one of their rules. No such luck. We got a
form letter back from ebay proving that they don't care about small
sellers even if they are in the right.
cheap prices, less unfriendly buyers trying to get a free lunch.
Since I quit my job, we're trying to be even
more frugal for a while. So I'm going to stick to giveaway items
which are cheaper to mail --- nix those paw paws and bring on the seeds!
This week's giveaway is a starter set of our favorite tomato
varieties. The winner will get a few seeds each of our favorite
tommy-toes (Crazy, Yellow Pear, and Blondkopfchen), early fruiting
slicers (Stupice and Early Pick), romas (Martino's, Italian San
Rodorta, Russian Roma, and Yellow Roma), and normal slicers (Ken's red,
Dagma's perfection, San Francisco Fog, a tomato that is labelled as a
Brandywine but isn't the right shape (but is our 2007 taste test
winner!), and an unlabelled Green Zebra type.)
I know that many of you think it's difficult to start tomatoes from
seed, but I've found that there's no need to mess with indoors
starting, grow lights, and transplanting to graduated pots.
Instead, start your tomatoes in a cold frame like this lettuce bed
about a month before your frost free date, ignore them for a few weeks,
then transplant them to your garden beds. It's easy and fun ---
and you get to try amazingly delicious heirloom varieties like the ones
I'll be sending you!
Until we moved to the
farm, I never considered cooking in season. Sure, I'd pick some
lettuce out of the garden to make some salad, but then I'd toss on a
hodgepodge of vegetables from different times of the year which
travelled to my grocery store from Florida, California, and South
Since then, I've been learning to cook in season. It's a fun
process as long as you have these required ingredients: Read
Is your laptop running slow or
occasionally freezing up on you? When is the last time you flipped it
over to see if the little cooling fan is still turning? Even if it is
spinning, is the bottom hot to the touch? All you might need is a laptop
cooling pad, but maybe you're like me and you don't like any of the
boring plastic models available and would rather make your own and save
a handful of dollars in the process.
I found a
piece of scrap plywood in the barn, cut it to size, lined up the
cooling fan hole with the location of the laptop fan, secured the new
fan which was scraped out of an old desktop computer power supply
Attach the legs, power up your fan and you should notice an increase in
the smoothness of operations, and a decrease in the heat coming off the
bottom. You might not even need the fan, just the increase in space
could make enough difference.
Take a peek at the sidebar and check out our
new tags! When we started this blog, we weren't quite sure what
we were going to write about, so we started with a few broad
categories. Now we've expanded our tags to make it a bit easier
to find what you're looking for.
I tried to backdate the changes, but don't be alarmed if your favorite
post doesn't show up under the appropriate tag --- you can always click
on the archives
link at the bottom of the page to see every post we've ever made.
Mark was talking about
posting a profile of Lucy, so I figured I'd better beat him to the
punch and tell you a bit more about Huckleberry. (Can you tell
that Lucy is more Mark's dog and Huckleberry is more my cat?)
Age: about 2.5-3 years History: picked up by me at the
dump when I went to offload some garbage about a year ago. (Mark
never sent me to the dump alone again...)
Favorite activities: sleeping
on the futon, eating, scratching things to pieces, meowing incessantly,
lying on my chest while I read and pet him, running up and down on the
roof early in the morning, tricking Lucy into chasing him across the
garden so that she'll get yelled at
Cuteness quotient: 10
Usefulness quotient: 2 (He did
catch two mice in his early days.)
At least now he can't complain that 80% of our "pets"-tagged posts are
Of course, I'm not
advocating that you use thousand year old seeds in your garden, but
your seeds will probably last longer than you think. Take a look
at the table to the right and consider using those old seed packets to
plant your garden next year rather than buying a new set!
The chickens seem to enjoy eating the new pinto bean
sprouts. No surprise there. I give them about a handful a day.
I didn't expect our dog, Lucy to be so enthusiastic about the new
source of protein and vitamins. We have decided it makes a good
supplement to her current dog food, which is mainly corn and other
various dog food ingredients if you believe what's printed on the bag.
This experiment has caused me to seriously consider changing from
store bought dog food to a home made mixture. There is way too much
information on the internet to sort through it all on this topic, but
it seems the only food items you should avoid are onions, grapes, and
This post is part of our Sprouting Beans for Chickens series.
Read all of the entries:
Walking down the
driveway this morning with Lucy to put out the mail, I was struck by
the warmth which followed this week's rain. Nevertheless, the
creek bottom is following its natural late fall cycle --- squirrels are
noisily chipping their way into tough black walnut shells and witch
hazel has sent out its scraggly yellow blooms.
The warmth must have woken up the snakes as well. Lucy didn't
come immediately when I called since she was busy digging after her
arch-nemesis in a junk pile. She'd made me wait to begin the
walk, so I had no compunction about making her wait in turn as I
snapped photo after photo. Our long-suffering Lucy quickly
entered the routine, sinking into a sit as I found each new photo
Throwing logs into the Heavy Hauler is much easier
compared to the pick-up truck due to its lower profile. We can usually
squeeze about 2 or 3 nights' worth of wood into one load.
We picked up this mini-trailer for just under 100 dollars. It can be
moved by hand, but once it has a full load the pulling can be painful
due to the tow bar banging against the back of your ankles.
It has a handy dump feature that we have yet to utilize.
I'm not sure I would pay extra for this ability because the wheels make
it easy to tilt back and with just a bit of effort you can flip the
whole unit over, which is what needs to be done when it fills up with
I've been ashamed to post any photos of our
older hens for quite a while. The mean rooster (who we've been
eating all week) did a number on them before we took him out of the
tractor, and they're only just now starting to regain their feathers.
I'm thrilled that they're moulting since it means they won't have to
brave the cold of winter with bare backs. But I miss the double
dose of extra large eggs the older girls produce. I guess we'll
have to make do with pullet eggs for a few weeks!
As a side note, I also feel that I have to reassure you that we didn't
de-beak our hens. We bought them as adults from folks who didn't
know any better --- which is a shame since it makes it harder for them
to peck up rotten peppers and zucchinis. These poor old hens have
had a hard life!
For the last two months, Mark's been inventing
a pretty cool chicken waterer. (More on that in a couple of
weeks.) Since I was raised on the mantra "reduce, reuse,
recycle", I wanted to make the main portion of the waterers out of
reused plastic containers. This worked great in the planning
stages, with leftover dish detergent and squeeze honey bottles which
we'd squirreled away in the barn making great test models.
But as the time nears for us to introduce Mark's waterer to the general
public, we realized that we needed a larger and more consistent source
of plastic bottles.
"Let's call the closest recycling centers and ask if we can pick
through their plastic and take some bottles home," I suggested. Read more....
Congratulations to David from
Louisianna for winning our tomato seed giveaway! For those of you
who didn't win --- I'll probably give away another set of tomato seeds
in a few weeks, so don't give up hope. Happy eating!
The total cost of this garden gate was about 4 dollars
thanks to some lucky salvage finds. The support posts are some fresh
cedar trees and the frame for the gate was once a large window. I found
it with most of the glass broken out.
The hinges came from an old door in the barn. I used medium sized lag
bolts for both hinges, which accounted for almost all of the 4 dollar
I decided to use a top support post because the post closest to the
tree is only down in the ground about 10 inches due to some large roots
being in the way. The support post is held to the tree by a common
lumber bracket which was another salvaged item. It all comes together
at the top with a piece of scrap tin cut to the right size and
held in place with some dry wall screws.
I've never been a vegetarian
--- not quite --- though for the first twenty odd years of my life I
ate meat sparingly and mostly under duress.
I blame my budding vegetarianism on pacifist parents who looked on in
amusement the summer that I decided it was immoral to kill
anything. Soon thereafter, I spent a week in the Outer Banks of
North Carolina stoically and gently brushing mosquitoes from my
And now I'm a chicken killer and soon to become a deer killer.
What happened? Read more....
Read other posts about killing and eating your own chickens:
A good set of work gloves can make a hard job go a bit
smoother and safer by maximizing your grip and decreasing unwanted
Most stores have several styles and materials to choose from. I have
found the basic yellow Palomino
grain cow hide to be the best choice for me. They can usually be
found for less than 10 dollars and will often last longer than pig
skin, heavy cloth, or even the new fancy synthetic type.
It's always a good idea to keep an extra set laying around for surprise
guest workers. You'll get more wood chopped that way.
With colder weather comes the
craving for soups and hot meals of every type. One of my favorite quick, hot
meals is pizza and I've spent the last two years in a quest for the
perfect recipe. I tried out half a dozen
sauce and crust variations before settling on recipes I like.
I've put up a pizza
recipe on the recipes
page which includes all of the tips I've been learning --- like
cooking the pizza in a hot oven, using cornmeal on the pan instead of
oil, and tossing the crust instead of patting it out. I'm always
learning, though, and would love to hear any tips you've developed to
make the world's best pizza!
I wandered across
the web this morning in search of simple living quotes to put inside
some notecards I'm working on, and the line above stuck with me all
day. This is the time of year when repeated mundane tasks can
challenge or delight you.
In many ways, it is the repeated tasks which fulfill me --- fixing
home-cooked meals, pulling the chicken tractor to a new spot in the
garden, splitting and stacking wood, winding down at the end of the day
with Mark and a good book. American society wants us to believe
that we can do away with repetitious chores by spending money on frozen
dinners and heat pumps, but what do we lose in the process?
person is not one who has the most, but is one who needs the least.
--- "Interview with God" (author
The EPA has a semi-interesting list of practical tips
for building a fire in a wood stove. Mostly common sense stuff that
seems obvious, except for the part that instructs us not to spread the
coals flat. According to them you should rake the coals into a mound
towards the door. I have been guilty of raking my coals flat lately,
but now I can see the light of an even more effecient fire.
Another suggestion is to reload your stove with at least 3 pieces of
wood each time, placing them on and behind the mound of hot coals.
If you need a little extra warmth try this short video of tonight's fire.
The result? Lucy was head over heels in love with her dinner of
overcooked oatmeal, raw ground turkey, blended sweet potatoes and
mustard greens, and raw egg. She continued licking the bowl long
after it was bare.
Here is the basic formula for home made dog food: (Note that some
sources say that the meat component should add up to 25% rather than
50%. There's also debate about raw vs. cooked.) Read more....
I'm not sure I could justify a 300 dollar
hoe around here, but I sure like the curves on that wheel. I would
imagine you could get more weeds at a faster rate, which is usually a
I have a weakness for farm gadgets. If you like learning about the
latest gizmo designed for gardeners and farms under 5 acres then you
might want to check out the gear
section of Tiny Farm Blog.
I just recently discovered Tiny
Farm Blog and have been enjoying the informative posts on small
organic farming in Canada. It's fun to learn how other folks solve
problems on the farm, but I don't approve of the Canadian past time of onion tossing,
mostly because we are already running low on onions and the thought of
buying some in the store will be a step backwards on the food chain.
I know I shouldn't preach the merits of
books --- if you're a believer, you know in your bones that an armful
of good books has immeasurable worth, while if you're a disbeliever
there's no way I'll change your mind. So I'll just assume you're
Being a bibliophile on a budget takes a bit of getting used to. I
went through a book-buying phase, but now I've returned to the (cheap)
joys of the library. I challenge you to try out some of my tips
before buying your next book (but if you must buy a book, buy
it from Amazon by clicking here and give us a little kickback to
keep our "doors" open.) Read more....
I snapped this picture of a copperhead just before sunset
this past summer. Our dog Lucy has an unhealthy obsession with snakes
and I had to eventually tie her up on that day so the snake would have
time to get away.
If you are bitten by a venomous snake there is a 20 to 30 percent
chance it decided you were not worth a dose of poison and all you have
is 2 puncture wounds. You should calmly start making your way to an
emergency room, although if you go 30 to 60 minutes without any
swelling or discoloration then you will most likely be fine.
It seems like things have changed a bit since I was a Cub scout. The
old Lone Ranger trick of cutting the wound and sucking the venom out
can actually make matters a lot worse. A cold compress should be
avoided because it will cause the venom to stay in that one area which
will make skin damage more likely. Do not use a tourniquet for the same
reason. First aid kits often have little suction devices, but some
experts question how effective they actually are.
The best thing you can do is stay calm and avoid exerting yourself.
Keep the bite area below your heart and get help as soon as possible.
If it's possible, bring the dead or captured snake to the hospital, but
don't risk another bite or waste too much precious time.<br
First, a completely
unrelated picture because --- SNOW!!! Now back to your regular
I cooked up a big pot of pinto beans yesterday and tried out a new,
cheaper dog food recipe on Lucy:
25% pinto beans
25% raw catfish (reduced price of course)
25% sweet potato and mustard greens
a drizzle of bacon grease and a pinch of salt
I whirred it all up in
the food processor and gave it to Lucy to test. Delectable!, her
body language exclaimed as she spun the bowl in circles with her tongue.
Mark and I ate the
"leftovers" for lunch and supper --- turned some pinto beans into
refried beans for quesadillas, steamed the rest of the mustard greens
to eat with balsamic vinegar, stewed up some Spanish rice, and breaded
and fried the catfish.
I wonder what it says
about us that we're eating Lucy's leftovers?
Did you know that the retail
industry studies people like me? Listen to this (emphasis mine):
In the twenty-first century,
ritualized holidays (e.g., Christmas,
Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day) are annual events associated with excess
and heightened consumption. As a consequence, consumers may
avoid, minimize, or adapt consumption traditions during such events....
research traditionally focuses on why
individuals fail to consume or
why they actively choose not to consume. --- Close and Zinkhan,
How could I even
consider failing to consume?! And, listen to this, my affliction
even has a fancy name:
Gift-resistance often occurs via
non-gift exchange (i.e., informants do
not exchange gifts with their partner) or by modifying traditional gift
exchanges associated with the event. Various degrees of
gift-resistance, range, for example, from setting a five-dollar limit
(despite having expendable funds)
to encouraging others not to exchange
gift. --- Close
and Zinkhan, 2008
I can just hear the retailers
gritting their teeth --- if you've got expendable funds, it's your
patriotic duty to spend them, for crying out loud! Luckily, the
article gives a bunch of suggestions to get us gift-resisters back on
But until they suck me back in by making me sit in front of four hours
of television commercials, I'm still left with a dilemma. I feel
so phenomenally gift-resistant that I'd love to beg my friends and
family to skip the gift-giving this holiday. But how can that be
done without hurting people's feelings?
Gifts have an obvious role in cementing relationships, and none of the
gift-resistant alternatives I've seen have similar force. I'm
sure someone out there has the solution --- please comment with your
ideas for being gift-resistant but bonded to your friends and family.
You've sent me some great
ideas for overcoming my gift-resistance, but tonight I'm too tired to
think of anything but turkeys. Thirty-eight turkeys met their
maker today, and it was so cold that all I thought about was how nice
it felt to thrust my cold hands into their hot entrails.
There's so much more to say, but it'll have to wait until
tomorrow. For now, please amuse yourself with a three second
video of the hardest part of the project --- catching the
turkeys. (If the youtube link doesn't work, try this link
to a smaller version in mpg format.)
Does it matter how you put a log that has been split
in half into the stove - round side up or down?
--- Shelia, WV
I guess that would depend on what kind of fire you need. I have found
that barkside down seems to burn slower, maybe due to moisture in the
bark. This can be a good thing if you're ready to turn in for the night.
The intriguing photo was taken by Brian
Jones on his trip to Uganda. The woman's name is Napeyok and I've
always been fascinated by how much weight can be carried on one's head.
It seems like only women have this skill, and some can carry up to 70
percent of their body mass without burning too many extra calories.
suggests that the secret is in the pendulum motion of one's head and
The farm we visited yesterday
was intriguing --- I always find visits to other people's farms
intriguing. The family has a milk cow, a bull, two heifers, two
calves, some number of sheep, a llama, the chickens you see above, and
the turkeys of course.
Livestock is, in my opinion, the hardest part of a back-to-the-lander's
journey. Hard not because the animals themselves are difficult
--- some are, while others are joys. Hard because it's so easy to
take on far more than you can handle until you spend every minute of
free time caring for your livestock. (Some day I'll tell you the
tale of our ill-fated mule episode.)
I've come to the conclusion that just about anyone with a little will
and spare time can take on chickens, but larger livestock are a much
more serious commitment. Although Mark and I talk at intervals
about sheep for meat or a miniature cow for milk, we're just not yet
ready to commit. I was in awe of the farm we visited yesterday,
but decided to stick to my vegetable garden --- if I overcommit there,
I can just let a few beds go to weeds without causing anyone harm!
I got a mass of great emails
on the subject of gift-resistance. Here are a few of my favorite
suggest to people that if they really want to give you something, they
can send a donation in your name to your or their favorite charity. ---
embarrassed to admit how many times I have practiced the art of
"regifting" some unwanted gift just because I was expected to give a
purchased gift of some kind. --- Dennis
are sometimes moved to give gifts because they care about others and
see a particular useful or interesting thing the other might need or
enjoy. This kind of spontaneous gifting is very different from
obligatory gifting for holidays, birthdays, etc. --- Daddy
the years as we have moved toward a simpler lifestyle my wife and I
have become more gift resistant as the term was defined in the blog.
However, we probably give more now than we ever have. The difference is
that we now give much more of ourselves through gifts of foods made at
home, preserves, home-grown vegetables and fruits, time given to assist
others with projects at their homes and other such gifts. --- Dennis
visiting you is, in my eyes, a gift from you! I think you, too, feel
that, even if I have a weird meal, my being happy to see you is,
actually, a gift from me...tho it would be you who had to travel and
vice versa.... --- Mom
own experience of near poverty and poverty, it is very difficult to
accept a gift when one cannot reciprocate. --- Daddy
All of these are great
ideas! But it struck me as I read through the emails that Daddy's
last point is key --- while the materialism of gift-giving does bother me a lot, the unspoken
assumption that I will reciprocate at a similar dollar value has been
even more of a drain in my recent state of voluntary simplicity.
Maybe the solution --- while taking more work --- is to talk to each
person who usually gives me a gift and come up with non-material gifts
we can exchange so that I'm not stuck in the uncomfortable situation of
giving a jar of honey and receiving a $50 storebought gift. Needs
If you have a tire on your golf cart that
develops a slow leak, you might want to consider an inner tube.
You don't need to replace the tire, especially if it still has plenty
of good tread left. I took a trip into the big city this afternoon and
found a tire store that installed new tubes for just under 15 dollars.
If you have a problem with getting your hands dirty and you have money
to burn you might not find this tire
condom as funny as I did. If you use this product in public you
will most likely provoke some uncontrollable laughter by anyone who might pass by.
Sunday, I chopped up the two massive turkeys
Mark and I had been given for our labors the day before. Each
turkey will make four big meals --- one meal of the drumsticks, two
more from the two halves of the breast, and a fourth meal from making
soup out of the back.
I have a lot of poultry recipes to choose from, but with nice young
birds I tend to fall back on my roast chicken recipe.
I roasted the drumsticks, then on Monday turned some of the copious
leftovers into Curry
Chicken Pot Pie. Until I tasted this recipe, I didn't think I
liked curry, but the curry is a perfect match for lightly steamed
vegetables and fresh chicken or turkey --- and it makes the dish a
beautiful brilliant yellow! I highly recommend you check it out
as a post-Thanksgiving use for leftover turkey.
We bought the ice
and easy floating tank heater last year at a local feed store for
about 25 dollars and it has proven itself to be a very practical and
affordable way to keep outside water from freezing.
It has a built in thermostat that only kicks on when the temperature
goes below 32.
It might be the most clever name given to a farm product. I'm using
ours to keep the chicken water warm tonight so they can have something
non frozen to wake up to tomorrow.
"I thought you guys had two chicken
tractors? How can you make one Ice and Easy serve both tractors?"
Jack, Houston TX
I have not figured out a way to do that, but an alternative to the Ice
and Easy might be a simple Crock
I tried it last night in the other tractor and it worked fine.
It seems that if you keep the cover off and the setting on low the
water stays close to luke warm. Be sure to switch it off during the day
if it gets hotter than 40. Our hens even seemed to enjoy the warm water
in the morning, but that could be just my imagination.
Mark and I will be doing a lot of family stuff in the next few days, so we probably won't be posting much (or at all) until the weekend. Postings will probably
be a bit sparse until the weekend when we're home again. So I'll
leave you with some food for thought.
I've been reading about vertical farms ---
skyscrapers full of hydroponic gardens in the midst of the city.
Their proponents promise that vertical farms will end world hunger,
allow traditional farms to be turned back into forest, and will finally
put an end to shipping food thousands of miles.
While the pictures are pretty and the idea is intriguing, I have to
admit that I'm not a fan of hydroponics of any sort since I wonder if
they're able to supply micronutrients and produce truly nourishing
But most of all, I'm turned off by the vertical farm website's
explanation that vertical farms will be mandatory within 50 years to
feed our vastly expanded population. Is more food really the
solution to the human overpopulation problem? Wouldn't a better
solution be better access to birth control and people making a
conscious decision to have fewer (or no) kids?
The last Bush regime turkey was pardoned
yesterday and I believe I can see the light at the end of an 8 year old
dark and damp tunnel of lies, greed, and non-stop embarrassment.
I'm looking forward to having a more appropriate leader for our
beautiful melting pot of a country.
I feel like we can all take that wad of hope and optimism we've had
buried in our pockets and put it on the table for everyone to see. I
give thanks for that and really believe that day is only weeks away.
We just got back from a quick trip down to
South Carolina to visit Daddy and explore all of his gadgets!
Here he is showing off his solar-powered deer repellent light.
(He built the stand himself.) Despite my gift-resistance, I
thanked him profusely when he offered to give me a set for Christmas to
try in my own garden. According to Daddy, as long as you move the
lights every few days, the blinking lights scare away deer, who think
the lights are predator eyes. I'm willing to try anything to keep
our deer away!
Then there's the automatic
chicken feeder he built for his Golden Comets and Rhode Island
Reds. This one I'm less likely to emulate (though I'm including
it since I thought others might be interested.) The automatic
feeder is obviously best in a stationary coop and I figure it would be
too heavy for our tractors. Daddy told me that his pullets
got in the habit of picking all of the corn out of their mash and
leaving the rest of it behind! Darn teenagers and their junkfood.
Finally, I'll leave you
with an eight second video of Daddy and his dog --- low budget
entertainment at its best. More soon on a couple of other
highlights of the trip.
We finally solved the deer in
the garden problem, and the solution was so elegant we gave it a new
website. Check out our deer
deterrent website for free plans!
Turns out that the ice and easy won the contest by a long shot.
When we got home, the crock pot had pretty much evaporated dry while
the ice and easy's trough was still halfway full of water. It
looks like the crockpot will only work in sustained cold weather.
(We left during a warm spell and the daytime temperature reached 50 F.)
I'm sure Mark will be playing with his design over the next few weeks,
maybe figuring out some way to make a crockpot turn itself off when the
water temperature rises above freezing. But for now, my advice is
to stick to the ice and easy!
I'm ashamed by how lax I've been on giveaways
over the last few weeks while finishing up my job. To make up for
lost time, I'm giving away masses of seeds --- enough to fill up your
garden and your neighbor's too!
These seeds are leftovers from last year or the year before (but all
enough that they should germinate fine.) I've got lots of
winter squashes (Howden and Jack-o-lite and Baby Bear Pumpkins, unnamed
and Royal and Table Queen Acorn Squashes, and Cushaw (a local variety
pictured here)) which I'm giving away because after tasting them all
Mark and I decided butternut is the best of the best and plan to only
grow it next year. Read about
the other varieties and enter our giveaway!
Now that I've cleaned out my
old seeds, it's time to buy seeds for next year! You'll get the
cheapest seed prices at Wal-Mart or the Dollar Store, but I've been
burned by old seeds from these stores in the past (and by their lack of
variety), so now I stick to the feed store and online companies.
The feed store is perfect for
seeds you use lots of like collards and
lettuce and for tubers like potatoes which are expensive to ship.
But when it comes to an extensive selection of varieties to try out, I
turn to Jung Seed and Park
I used to think that Park Seed was the cheaper of the two, but when I
perused their seeds yesterday it seemed like Jung was cheaper!
ended up ordering from both sites so that I could get all of the
varieties I wanted --- usually, shipping costs keep me from making two
orders like that, but if you order by clicking on the banner here by
Monday, you'll get free shipping from Park.
Every year, I allow myself to splurge and get a variety or two from a
more expensive site. This year, it was Mexican Sour Gherkins from
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
I'll keep you posted this summer to let you know if this ancient
American species solves our bacterial wilt problem.
Finally, one last piece of seedy advice --- buy heirloom and/or open
pollinated varieties, if possible. That way, once you settle on a
variety you like, you can just save the seeds rather than buying them
year after year. Our expenditures on catalog seeds have dropped
from $100 two years ago to $35 this year by saving seed, and by buying
larger packets than we need of seeds which last several years.
But don't buy heirloom sweet corn --- you'll miss the supersweet taste
of the newfangled hybrids!
One good way to increase the traction on your
golf cart is to add some ice
The last few days have been wetter than usual and the extra mud
presents a small navigation challenge.
I discovered today that it's best to remove the entire wheel in order
to loop the connectors around and weave the whole thing together. Snug
it up as tight as it will allow to minimize the extra bits from rubbing
on the mud shield.
We used a few feet of synthetic rope for some additional holding
power. The whole operation took less than an hour and increased
the mud pulling factor by at least 50 percent.