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Comments in the moderation queue: 44

View the most recent comments below. To join in the discussion (or see a comment thread in order), click on the title of a comment, then follow the directions on the subsequent page to add a comment of your own.

clean gutters turn and empty all compost bins into garden beds (this is likely implicit in your prepping of garden beds) I need empty bins going into hard winter for enough space over the whole winter so this might be specific to urban living.

buy and store bulk grain from local organic mill (barley, wheat, corn, etc.) fall is the best time to get it fresh - this only applies to those who eat grains or beans (our local mill stocks a range of organic beans also)

flush and test furnace (city house issue)

pull out window inserts and wash (aka twin wall polycarbonate sheets cut to window size)

plant bulbs

swap summer bikes for winter bikes (outside storage space is at a premium) again this is an urban thing

steal neighbor's leaves for mulching (they never seem to mind) ;)

Comment by c. Sat Oct 25 11:48:05 2014
Too bad about the calendar. I will have to keep this one just to be reminded on the things to do list every month. Maybe 2016 will be in the future!!
Comment by Donna Sat Oct 25 10:11:37 2014
I love dogs but owners never know or understand that the dog does not act the same when alone and away from the owner. I run on wooded trails in parks. Running as seen by dog means pursue when they are alone off leash. Dog as minimal interrupts run at worst attempts bite. Owners if around when they show up "now Rex why are you... he normally never...". I've taken to running with a 3/4 PVC Baton. I've never used it but better to have and not need than to need and not have. Further though not used dog owners react perturbed at seeing such and are very quick to call their dog in.
Comment by jim Sat Oct 25 08:09:17 2014
I've had the unpleasant experience of having stray/abandoned dogs kill or maim livestock. When a strange dog appears, I initially try to catch it. If it is collared, I make a string attempt to catch or corral it. But if its not collared and goes after my livestock, then it gets shot dead. Period.
Comment by Su Ba Sat Oct 25 00:56:19 2014

Your goats are super cute, and totally filling in since you started the spoiling. Living vicariously from the dry state...

Hoping to get to visit my local friend with goats next week!

Comment by Jay Sat Oct 25 00:25:21 2014

Maggie and Alice --- You're right, there do seem to be some very scary dogs out there! I seem to give people and dogs the same benefit of the doubt --- assume they're good until proven otherwise --- but I probably do need to be a bit more careful.

Eric --- I appreciate you sharing your experience. That would be hard for me to do, but I think it is the right decision, like killing our own chickens, if you're confident in your abilities to euthanize a dying pet instantly. Luckily, that's another bridge we haven't had to cross yet.

Comment by anna Fri Oct 24 18:30:26 2014

About four years ago, I had to put down a pet. A sheltie that had withered away, and one morning couldn't stand. I petted him, carried him to a wooded patch near our house and put a .22 to the base of the back of his head. He died instantly in the comfort of a familiar hand, smell and voice. Why should I have taken off work, driven to a vet's office, and paid them to inject him? So the animal could be stressed at death?

I posted this on my Facebook, and recieved some "HOW COULD YOU?" comments. My reply is how could I NOT? Sure, I could have also spent thousands of dollars on vet bills to treat whatever he had (likely some form of cancer) that caused the withering away and extended his life another few months too... Instead we saw that he wasn't in any real pain, gave him comfort and left him in the company of his yard mates, and humanely ended his life at the appropriate time.

I think you went above and beyond with that stray animal. I am a hunter, and a dog owner, and have hunted birds with dogs, but never deer or coons, and the deer/coon hunters in my experience treat their dogs like garbage! Keep them chained to a barrel 10 months a year, treat them rough, and half abandon them. I need to get off my soapbox..

Comment by Eric Rylander Fri Oct 24 17:21:18 2014
Carri --- I think I did follow you --- that's a great solution! I'd love to see a photo at if you felt like snapping one, but don't feel obliged.
Comment by anna Fri Oct 24 10:32:00 2014

Julie --- You can tell me that again! I only pay attention now when I hear Abigail say something --- I just block Artemesia's endless chatter out. :-)

Kathleen --- Aren't you never supposed to pick favorites? Artemesia is like a lap dog, so I suspect Mark and I both have a soft spot in our hearts for her. But Abigail is a hard-working lady, which is just what our farm needs.

Donna --- Thanks for saying that! I'm glad I haven't bored everyone to tears with goat posts yet. On the calendar front --- unfortunately, we didn't quite break even last year, so no go on calendars this year. :-/

Comment by anna Fri Oct 24 10:31:00 2014
Last week a woman and her two dogs were attacked in the NC National Forest by a pack of bear hunting hounds. It seems that the owners of hunting dogs in North Carolina are not subject to rules about aggressive dogs that that other dog owners are. These hunters came to the woman's rescue after she held them off for 45 minutes, helped her to her car, but then left without offering any further help or their names. One of her dogs was very seriously injured. She had several bites. Packs of dogs can be very dangerous.
Comment by Alice Fri Oct 24 10:22:59 2014

You really got me now. I read your blog everyday . But now!!!! I can't wait to get on your blog just so I can see what the goats are up to.

by the way. any chance of a 2015 calendar this year?????

Comment by Donna Fri Oct 24 09:28:41 2014

Anna, I deeply respect an animals right to life.

Having said that, i would like to add that I have personally been involved with "lovable pet" dogs who have attacked, and almost killed, a child, when they travelled during the day as a pack. They were beloved pets in their other lives, returning home from the pack hunting by day, to full food bowels and cuddles at night. Animals are not people, and do not operate by our rules.

I am glad that your experience turned out in such a positive way.

Comment by Maggie Turner Fri Oct 24 08:42:23 2014
Do you have a favorite goat yet? I like the black one.
Comment by Kathleen Thu Oct 23 20:42:28 2014
That's the Nubian in her. Nubians are Very Vocal.
Comment by Julie Thu Oct 23 17:01:28 2014
goats are a cosin to deer they dont eat off the grond well inless they are real hungery. katodin sheep are a good way to go kinda like a goat sheep combo. hair sheep. tom
Comment by Anonymous Thu Oct 23 10:38:53 2014

Hi Anna and Mark and all,

I have read where the egg white can be measured for Brix (nutrient density).

So I am wondering if the eggs from older hens have a better mineral balance i.e.- are healthier? It would seem like that might well be true?

I suppose that depends on local soil, etc. as well.

But I bet meaningful stuff can be measured and/or discovered either by asking the right question or by making the right observations.

Comments please !!


Comment by John Thu Oct 23 10:30:17 2014

I have had the same thought about keeping chickens - they are a lot to keep up with in the winter, and the fewer that you have to overwinter, the better. This is particularly true for me, because I'm a "weekend homesteader" and in the winter I generally end up feeding chickens in the dark, before or after work. Brrr!

On the other hand, my old neighbor recently gave me a dozen eggs that would be jumbo-sized in the grocery store, and he apologized for their small size "because they're just pullet eggs." His older hens give such enormous eggs that he has to tie the cartons shut with string.

Comment by Faith T Thu Oct 23 10:00:41 2014
Thanks for the info. Do you sell your eggs? Is that why you retire them after 1.5 years? It would seem to me that if someone was just getting eggs for themselves that keeping the hens for a few more years, despite the turn down in production, would make sense, especially if they're being "tractored" and most of their feed comes from foraging. After all, most people don't eat a ton of eggs every day, especially if they have more than a couple of hens. The number of eggs produced would be overwhelming, unless they plan on selling them.
Comment by Nayan Wed Oct 22 23:31:53 2014

I agree with Nayan! There's nothing better than giving new life to throwaways.

Our homemade "root cellar" is different from yours, but also recycled. We put an old metal utility shelf unit in our crawl space (which has been dug out to make it possible to stand down there). But because we have a major field mouse problem, we had to make the storage space inaccessible to those varmints. We wrapped the unit with hardware cloth, latching it on one side so we could open it. To make it really rodent proof, we bent the top edge over the top shelf and weighted it down with heavy paint cans. On the bottom edge, we bent the hardware cloth and clamped it with binder clips. (Hard to visualize--harder to explain--but it works.) It's not as big a space as we need, but it's been adequate for potatoes and winter squash. And it really has kept the mice at bay!

Comment by Carri Wed Oct 22 22:26:00 2014
You are way mean!
Comment by Jayne Wead Wed Oct 22 14:16:43 2014
John --- I cover venting and other issues in great depth in the ebook, and in other posts here on the blog. Here and here are two relevant posts.
Comment by anna Wed Oct 22 11:02:08 2014

Nayan --- My comment above probably answers most of your questions, but I saw your comment after I posted mine, so here's a bit more. Since our chickens are livestock, not pets, we have to look at them from a cost-benefit point of view --- are they laying enough eggs to pay for their feed? A hen's second winter, she molts, which eliminates egg production for a few weeks. And, even after that, I've found that eighteen-month-old hens don't lay much their second winter. The old hens go in the freezer and turn into soups, chicken salad, etc, over the winter.

Of course, killing hens is unpleasant, so many people opt to take their hens through until they're 2.5 years old (or even older), putting up with declining egg numbers. But I'd rather have fewer hens over the winter to keep happy since that's a tough time on pastures, so if eight hens will feed us instead of sixteen, I'm willing to kill the old hens to make that happen.

Comment by anna Wed Oct 22 11:00:20 2014
Karen --- We're cold-hearted about chickens. We've found that egg-laying declines drastically the second winter, so we raise a new set of pullets each spring and retire the old ones once the pullets start to lay.
Comment by anna Wed Oct 22 09:58:15 2014
Brian --- Good idea! You mentioned this once before and I never got around to it --- rocks are so scarce around here. But maybe I can find some this time around....
Comment by anna Wed Oct 22 09:51:13 2014

Hi Anna and Mark,

I wonder if your 'fridge' has any kind of vent? ( To keep things from getting musty.) Slightly leaky gaskets, etc. would work very well.

Some 'clamps' (as in pile of dirt) used for produce storage have a chimney.

As far as I can tell this is to keep air moving slowly, probably VERY slowly through the stored produce.

And thus help keep the produce 'fresh'.

I assume the effect it to vent the few spores that escape from the stored produce?

I keep dead refrigerators for use also :).


Comment by John Wed Oct 22 09:45:06 2014

Why did you "retire" the hen when they were only 1.5 years old? Can't hens continue to give eggs well past that? Are there any other criteria that you use to determine when to "retire" the hen? And I'm assuming the "hen" went into the stock pot? :)

Love your blog BTW.

Comment by Nayan Wed Oct 22 09:19:10 2014

Anyone who calls someone who is living self-sufficiently "white trash" is brain dead and doesn't deserve to be paid any attention to!

Unfortunately my property is fairly flat and so I have no way of mounding up dirt around a fridge. :(

Comment by Nayan Wed Oct 22 09:16:47 2014
Ah, we just got our Excalibur in the mail yesterday. I'm not sure what I'm going to dry first!
Comment by Stephen Wed Oct 22 08:52:01 2014
so what ARE your parameters for retiring old hens? Do they stop laying entirely?
Comment by Karen B Tue Oct 21 18:07:00 2014
We got the spawn and made some logs. Follow the link for shitake mushrooms for more information on how we did that.
Comment by mark Tue Oct 21 15:54:23 2014
Be careful, goats are a gateway to more...goats and livestock! They look like they are blossoming under your care.
Comment by Nita Tue Oct 21 09:38:16 2014
Did you inoculate the beds with shitake spawn or did they just "appear" there?
Comment by nayan Tue Oct 21 09:26:46 2014

Dear Anna. You have the most adorable goats ever. Please don't ever stop posting photos of them. Hubby has agreed I can have some of my own as long as they are as cute as yours.

:) Karen B

Comment by Karen B Mon Oct 20 15:03:27 2014

That is a beautiful piece of property! Wow! Do you have a geo-tag or address for it? I'd love to look at the satellite pictures. If we sold everything and bought a camper to live in I think we could get together enough for 30% to 40% of the land cost. I think 4 families with $50-75k each could turn it into a working farm in a few years.

Anna, are you familiar with any of the legal structures that you could use to make something like that happen?

Maybe one day. Hopefully sooner rather than later, God willing.

-Papa and Mama Bear & 4 cubs

Comment by Bear Mon Oct 20 14:37:25 2014
Have you considered adding some stones to this area to hold heat to speed ripening? I would think the stones could also hold down the tarp during the winter when the trees are covered.
Comment by Brian Mon Oct 20 13:19:40 2014
Low cost of living, several small cities within day trip distance, and three large metropolitan areas within 3 or 4 hours drive.
Comment by Emily Mon Oct 20 12:12:55 2014
My sweet potatoes are in full bloom this is the second year that I have them in the garden. Last year they didn't bloom, I moved from the ground to raised beds. The potatoes are much larger better quality and profuse they have runners 10 feet long and have moved into the other beds all by them selves without any help. Every junction has potatoes, last year I pulled up some of the very small tubers they were about two inches long about 25 of them and cured and stored and this is what I used for my new beds this year. My sweet potatoes have done super well. And get very sweet in about 3 days after digging up, I don't dig up the plants I go around and snip only the potatoe off and leave the runners in place so that the smaller ones further down the vine can produce the little tubers for my new plants next year, that's what I did last year.
Comment by Dalia Castello Mon Oct 20 09:23:35 2014

Teresa --- We're always tweaking our winter-protection campaign. This was our technique last year, which worked pretty well except when the tarp on top slid to the side. This seems to be sufficient for a young fig tree, unless we get an extreme winter like last year.

As for indoors ripening --- I haven't tried it, but wouldn't expect it to work. Figs plump up to about four times their normal size as they ripen, and I can't imagine that happening without access to phloem!

Comment by anna Mon Oct 20 09:06:51 2014
Kathleen --- What fun! Thanks for sharing. :-)
Comment by anna Mon Oct 20 09:03:36 2014
I came across a plug for your book, weekend homesteader, and it made me smile. I just had to let you know word is getting around how amazing your book is.
Comment by Kathleen Mon Oct 20 00:48:00 2014