The Road Home

The Road Home
There is no place like home.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Homestead News, Volume 5

There are lots of different things going on around here, so I thought I would do another version of the news. In the news lately.......

 





Our latest batch of baby chicks have hatched and been moved to their new abode. Out of 54 eggs we had 47 hatch. Some of them have been fascinated with their older siblings next door. 




The momma hen and the first 36 chicks that hatched had to move next door so the new babies could have the pen with the heat lamp. The 'teenage' chicks are almost feathered out, but not quite. They are in the ugly stage.

After the crew finished up the lean-to for the pigs, they started on the other side of the barn. This lean-to is bigger and will have a concrete pad. They poured the first half of the pad today and will finish up the other side tomorrow. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of it, so you will have to use your imagination until next time. It doesn't look like this anymore.

Later on in the week, the same crew will begin construction of our long awaited greenhouse. When we moved here in 2008 we had new siding put on the house along with the porches that extend the full length of the house on the east and west sides. Frank had the foresight to have them pour a pad for the greenhouse when they poured the porches. So, this pad has been awaiting for us for seven years. It currently houses a few ladders and the sections of Frank's new radio antenna towers. That is another project that is on the list in the near future. We bought the supplies for building the greenhouse a while back, but Frank's back has prevented us from completing this task. We will write an article on the hows and whys of the greenhouse, including pictures of the construction when it is finished. 

We have a doe, Cricket, that has developed a bad case of scours (diarrhea) that is cause by the barber pole worm. We have never had a case like this and have been doctoring her for about five days. Today we took a stool sample to the vet and found out she has worms so bad, it's like she's never been wormed even though we have treated her twice in the last three weeks. The vet gave us a different type of wormer and information about using a copper bolus. I came home, researched copper boluses and ordered some. I am going to arrange for the vet to come out next week after the boluses arrive and teach me how to administer them properly to our entire herd. With all of the record breaking rain, the worm load is tremendous this year. I will take pictures and explain the bolus properties more when we administer them. It's all new to us.
 
One Stripe

Since Cricket is sick with worms, and has gotten very thin, we won't be breeding her in July along with One Stripe which was our original plan. That means one doe will breed in July for December babies and five will breed in November for April babies. We'll see how that goes.
 






The new part of the garden I planted with cowpeas and sunflowers last Monday is growing very well.


I finally got the porches put back together. They sure look better. There are definitely not enough hours in the day to get half of the things done we would like to do.


We watch Greece, Puerto Rico and the financial conditions around the world with trepidation. This causes us to spend more time discussing and pondering what we might need to acquire or learn before we are no longer able. There are many folks talking about the devaluation of the dollar, bank holidays or a total financial collapse. We feel like this is the beginning of a scary roller coaster ride that will not end well. I suspect there will be ups and downs along the way, just like any roller coaster ride, but I really don't think we will all arrive on the platform with smiling faces when this ride is over.
Frank's radio class starts tomorrow night, and we are really looking forward to that. It will be very interesting to see how many folks show up and what type of community communications system comes out of this new group of people. We hope to do articles about each class to give you an idea of how it is going, what works and what doesn't. This may give you some ideas about how to form a group in your area.




We hope everything is going well in your neck of the woods. Keep your ear to the ground, your powder dry and watch your back. Things are looking dicier everyday.

Until next time - Fern


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Pig Tales, Volume 2

All the worry and dread about getting pigs has pretty much been laid to rest. Our pigs are doing very well. They are funny when they snort and squeal at us for their food. If you are walking around in the pasture with a bucket and don't go directly to the feed pan, they follow behind and do this little squealing sound, especially Liberty, our gilt.


We told you about Liberty's mother and the problems the breeder indicated happened to the litter. The sow had four piglets, but two of them were dead. Because of that we thought it would be wise to get a second gilt, just in case there are problems with Liberty's genetics. We had a young gilt lined up that we were going to pick up around the 20th of June, but when I called to set up a day and time, the breeder indicated he needed them to be picked up right away. He had lowered his prices and advertised on Craigslist to move them out in a hurry. We had things lined up for several days and were not able to drop everything to make a fast trip that would take all day, so I called him back and declined. 


In some ways that really simplifies things. We already have these four pigs, and the new gilt would have been at least a month younger. We wondered if she would be able to get through the field fence that surrounds the pasture. Now we won't have to worry about that. 


The pigs enjoy anything we bring them. They usually get some whey with a variety of other things. We are using up some of the older canned goods in our pantry as part of their feed. I appreciate being able to turn this older food into new food via the pigs' stomachs. We fed them the dried corn and sunflowers we grew last summer, along with a variety of garden scraps. They get a little pasta, lentils or beans as well. 

 






The great thing about our pigs is that the vast majority of their feed comes from the pasture. They root around all over the place, even in some of the tall, overgrown areas. 

 









We keep a small water pan for them by the barn in the shade, but the pigs get most of their water from the pond. When I went down to the pond this afternoon to try and catch a catfish, the pigs followed me grunting and squealing. After they realized I was not there to feed them, they started rooting around for something to eat. Liberty took a nap and almost rolled into the pond. That was funny. They eventually wandered off to do what pigs do. Unfortunately, I didn't catch any fish for supper, but I am not a fisherman either. I find it to be extremely boring and I am not a patient person. It probably would have helped if I had the right bait and hooks for the fish I wanted to catch, but that's okay. We had this pond built after we moved here in 2008, then we stocked it with minnows, hybrid blue gill, sun perch and catfish. Neither Frank or I like to fish, so it's something we really don't do. But lately, fish has sounded really good, so I thought I would give it a try. Maybe next time.


We are very pleased with our pigs so far. They have been a great addition to our homestead. The next step will be to butcher one of the barrows when they get big enough. We are really looking forward to seeing how the meat tastes and the amount of lard we can get from one pig.

video

By the way, I have to tell on Frank. One evening while I was in the barn milking, Frank was just going into the pig pasture to feed. The pigs came over to meet him, and I heard the funniest sound. You remember when you were a kid and you tried to make that noise with your nose to sound like a pig? That is what Frank was doing. I laughed out loud so much the goats and dog were looking at me wondering what was wrong with me. When Frank came back in the barn, I asked him if he was snorting at the pigs. He said, "Yes. Don't you do that?" I started laughing again and told him no, I had never done that. Now that was funny.

Until next time - Fern

What If I Were Deaf?

Can you survive and manage if you can't hear? I think so. How would I know? Because I have been severely hearing impaired since the age of five. Why haven't I told you before? Well, it's not something I felt I wanted to put out there in blog world. What has changed? I had a scary episode this week that made me think even more about what it would be like to live in a collapse scenario with little to no ability to hear. The more I thought about it, writing this article seemed to be the thing to do.

Here is what happened. Monday evening after I tilled and planted a section of the garden, I realized that when I spoke my voice vibrated in my right ear and in my head. I thought it was odd, since it had never happened before, but didn't think much of it and went to bed. Tuesday morning, my voice, Frank's voice and many other sounds started to vibrate in my head. Now it was getting my attention. By evening, I was also beginning to become hypersensitive to many, many sounds. This was really unnerving for someone with hearing problems like me. I got to where I could not tolerate wearing my hearing aid at all. Many sounds would cause me to cringe, including my voice if I talked very loud.


Some background. I have a severe conductive hearing loss. As a child I had three surgeries for cholesteatoma, which is a benign tumor like growth that destroys the surrounding bones and tissues. It is usually found in the mastoid cavities surrounding the ear canal,
Cholesteatoma
in the middle ear and in advanced stages, the inner ear. I have had a 90% hearing loss in my left ear since age five, and by the time I was 14, had a 75% hearing loss in the right ear. I did not start wearing a hearing aid until age 14, not long after the second surgery on my right ear. I started wearing a second hearing aid at age 24 when I started teaching so I could hear my students better. I do not remember what normal hearing sounds like since most of my hearing has either been at an impaired level, or mechanically reproduced through a hearing aid. The type of loss I have is very different from the loss many people experience as they age. Their loss usually involves the nerves of the cochlea and is categorized as a sensorineural loss. The types of hearing aids provided for this loss are quite different from the ones that I wear.



Now that you know a little about my background, you can see why I was very concerned about what was happening to my ear/head. The problem was in my right ear which is the better of the two. I was afraid I would lose what little hearing I have left leaving me really, really deaf. Frank has lived with a deaf wife for over 30 years now, and tried his very best to comfort me. You know what he said? Even if I did go stone deaf, as bad and as difficult as that would be, we would be fine. We would work through it. You know what? He's right. 

Thursday morning I contacted my audiologist who is about 60 miles away. She told me to come in during her lunch hour, which we did. After she tested my hearing, we found out that my good ear was now worse off than my bad ear. That got to me. We then went to the clinic where our family practitioner and ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) doctor are. Nurses from both offices were sympathetic, but said there was nothing they could do for me at that time. I do have an appointment with the ENT for Monday, but he was booked up that day.

When I knelt to pray last night, I told God how frustrated I was with the situation and that I felt like we had done all we could do, and I needed some help. This morning, the vibrating and hypersensitivity is gone. Yes, gone. Then, after I used a steroid nasal spray, which I have been using since Tuesday, and a sinus wash, my ear popped and I could hear much better. I said a prayer of thanks. It has been an interesting, difficult, but interesting week. Do I know what happened to my ear? I have some theories about a stopped up eustachian tube and fluid in my non-functional middle ear, but I really don't know. It does give me pause to think of what I will do when things happen and we are on our own. If this happens again after the collapse, I hope it rectifies itself like it did this time. But if not, we will deal with it. One way or another.

Do I want to go into an extremely difficult survival situation totally deaf? No. But I can. It would be much more difficult if I had not lived my entire life this way. But I have, and I will continue to do so, regardless if I can hear or not. Scary? Yes. Difficult? Yes. Manageable? Definitely. You see. I want to live. Not only live, but manage well. I can still make cheese, milk goats and garden if I am deaf. I can cook, clean and laugh. I can do everything but hear.

Now, apply that to something that you have thought of, that brings great dread to your heart in a survival situation. Can you live with it? Will you be able to manage whatever comes your way? Maybe. Maybe not. There are all manner of accidents and illnesses that may not be survivable if we are on our own. I wrote this article to help you think. Think about how you will deal with difficulties that are sure to arise once things really start falling apart. Remember, mental preparation is one of the most important aspects of being prepared for a collapse. If you don't have your mind prepared to deal with unbelievably difficult experiences, it won't matter at all how many beans, bullets or bandaids you have stocked away on your shelves. 

Yes, I am deaf. I have lots of hearing aid batteries and have kept my older hearing aids for back ups in case something happens to the ones I am wearing. I want to live. I want to do everything to make our survival as comfortable as possible, and I don't see my hearing loss as an obstacle to that goal. I know that there are some of you that are dealing with difficult situations. There may be situations develop that you have not planned for. We all need to prepare. It gets closer everyday. It seems real close today. Please share your thoughts.

Until next time - Fern

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Fern's Low Carb Meat Pie

After Frank and I changed the way we eat, I tried to dream up some new meals that were low in carbohydrates, that were filling and also taste good. It's one thing to eat low carb, it's another thing to eat low carb stuff that tastes like cardboard. So this is a meal I dreamed up that actually tastes very good. The best thing about it is the versatility of ingredients allows you to make the 'same thing' frequently by changing what you put into it. I didn't know what to call this dish, so I made that up, too.

I discovered along the way that you can make a sourdough starter with cornmeal. I'm not sure where I found the information about it, I can't find the link if I saved it. I took some of my whole wheat sourdough starter and gradually introduced cornmeal, hoping it wouldn't kill it. After a couple of weeks, I was feeding it straight cornmeal. The 'sour' smell is stronger with cornmeal than flour, but it works just fine. The fermentation process of a sourdough starter predigests the carbohydrates in the flour or cornmeal it is fed. This lowers the carbohydrate count in the final product substantially. One half cup of sourdough starter contains roughly 4 to 5 carbohydrates. I have made the Meat Pie with both types of starter, whole wheat and cornmeal, and they both taste fine. This is another way to make the same meal different.

I start off with some butter in a cast iron skillet. For a standard skillet I use about four to five tablespoons. This skillet is a little smaller and four tablespoons would have been plenty. Put the skillet in the oven for about five minutes while it is preheating to 450* and you are preparing your ingredients. Brown or cook your meat of choice. I am using ground chuck this time. I have also made this with diced ham and sausage. Use whatever sounds good.

 
Make sure the butter coats the bottom of your pan, then pour in 1/2 cup of sourdough starter. I'm using the cornmeal version this time. Spread out your starter to cover the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the meat onto the starter, as much or as little as you desire.


Add any vegetables and toppings you like. This time I am using fresh sliced squash. I have used canned, drained squash as well and it tastes very good. Sliced mushrooms and frozen sweet peppers from last summer go great in this combination.

We also used grated homemade cheddar cheese. This is the second wheel we have opened this summer. It was waxed April 14th. It is not as dry as the first wheel, and it has a very smooth texture and not as many holes. Very good.


That's all I'm adding this time. You can see how versatile this recipe is. I can hear you thinking, "Hmmm.....I can add this and this......", and you can. It can be a pizza flavored dish, or have a Mexican flare with salsa and jalapeno peppers. The versatility is only limited by the imagination you put into it.



Depending on the ingredients you add, bake at 450* for about 20 to 30 minutes. If you add moist ingredients like salsa or ranch dressing, increase your baking time to allow for the extra moisture. Since I used fresh squash instead of canned, I had to allow 30 minutes before it softened up and was ready to serve.

The sourdough starter will come out as a crunchy crust, not as thick as pizza crust, and crunchier. Since I had more butter than I really needed this time, the crust was more of a chewy crunchy. But if that's what you prefer, you can adjust accordingly. 


This meal is really good, low carb and good for you. Of course the ingredients you choose to include will affect your carb count. If you don't need to watch your carb intake, you can still use this recipe to make a variety of meals, tailored to your family's tastes and preferences. Use your imagination, and you will be surprised what you can come up with. Frank and I have each lost almost 40 pounds in less than seven months. There isn't much you can't do if you set your mind to it. Thankfully for us, the time arrived when we decided to change our lives for the better. We're very glad we did.

Until next time - Fern

Monday, June 22, 2015

Gardening As If Your Life Depends On It

You may remember the article a week or so back titled, Survival Gardening Scenario. Well folks, the reason I wrote that is because I truly feel like we are living out that scenario in real life right now. There are so many indicators of catastrophic events that are almost on our doorstep, that I feel a great sense of urgency to
continue planting and growing as much food for Frank and I, as well as some for our animals, as I can. Normally I would not be turning new ground and planting new crops at the end of June. By now the summer is heating up and it's much easier to sit in the house in the heat of the day, nice and cool in an air conditioned building, sipping coffee and reading this and that on the internet. But this is not the case on our homestead this year. Frank is pursuing completion of a number of projects as quickly as he can. Not only will these projects provide us with water, food, and comfort, they are investments in our survival. We can keep the money in the bank and lose it all in the coming world wide financial meltdown, or we can invest it in ways that will make our survival physically easier for us when the time comes.

We realize that not everyone is able to grow a garden because of location, physical limitations or restrictions where they live. There are other ways of insuring an adequate food supply for your family if you are in this situation. Please consider the message of this article in whatever situation you find yourself.


I want to share an article that Micheal Snyder, from The Economic Collapse, published today titled Lindsey Williams, Martin Armstrong and Alex Jones All Warn About What Is Coming In The Fall of 2015. I strongly recommend you read it and watch the videos. This is just one source of warning among many that the thin, fragile fabric that holds our world together is unraveling at an alarming pace. Mr. Snyder begins his article with these words. "Not since the financial crash of 2008 have so many prominent people issued such urgent warnings about a specific time period.  Almost daily now, really big names are coming out with chilling predictions about what they believe is going to happen during the second half of 2015.  But it isn’t just that these people have a “bad feeling” about things.  The truth is that we are witnessing a confluence of circumstances and events in the second half of this year that is unprecedented.  This is something that I covered in a previous article that went mega-viral all over the Internet entitled “7 Key Events That Are Going To Happen By The End Of September“.  Personally, I have never been more concerned about any period of time than I am about the second half of 2015.  And as you will see below, I am definitely not alone."

So, with all of that said, here is how our garden is doing. Over the past few days I have made a substantial dent in the crabgrass and weed population
out there. I recently had a phone call from a gardening friend that also feels a great sense of urgency about producing as much food as she can this summer. Last summer both she and I were hopelessly overwhelmed by the weeds that overtook parts of our gardens. The other day she proudly announced that she was keeping on top of the weeds and continuing to plant more and more. When her teenager asked why they had to plant so much, she was told to think of it as the only food they would have to eat for the winter. Chilling statement? I don't think so. I think it is wise council. Well, I can't say all of the weeds and grass are gone, but I have made some very good progress. Here is a run down of most of our crops.

A couple of days ago I harvested five smallish heads of cabbage and shredded them for another batch of sauerkraut. It wasn't enough so I added one store bought head to fill up the crock. We took the kraut that was in the crock out and filled up four quart jars which are now being stored in a dark corner of the pantry. I'm sorry, but I didn't take any pictures of the harvest or processing. Honestly, I have been doing a lot of things lately that I haven't taken the time to take pictures for you. Until we started blogging I was never much of a picture taker, and now I feel guilty if I forget to take some for the blog. When I was out planting today, I stopped and came in and got the camera just so you would have something to look at in this post. Over the next few days I will start pulling the rest of the broccoli and cabbage plants and feeding them to the chickens, goats and pigs. Surprisingly, two of the broccoli plants finally put on small heads last week. Having broccoli produce heads in the hot summer of June is really unheard of here. It's been a weird weather year. And yet, if you read Patrice Lewis over at Rural Revolution, you will find that late summer events are already happening in northern Idaho. Leigh at 5 Acres & A Dream is also having very dry weather over by the Appalachians, which has affected her garden. Weird weather all around the country.

 



The cowpeas are really producing. They are much happier now that they have been released from their overcrowded condition caused by a tremendous amount of crabgrass. This particular section was really overgrown and I feel much better now that I have it weeded.

The okra I replanted for the third time, between the rows of cowpeas are growing very well. And now that this area is weeded, they should really take off in this hot weather they prefer.

 






Our Cushaw squash is growing and producing very well. A few plants have died due to squash vine borers or rotting. I will replant these hills tomorrow to increase our yield. They are prolific here, which is great. They are good keepers and provide a lot of nutrition for both humans and animals.

 







 


We had our first mess of green beans last week. These plants are doing well. I am trying a new variety this year called the Missouri Wonder Bean. We'll let you know what we think.

 
We have carrots growing here and there. Some by the collards and turnips, some on either side of the tomato trellis and some on either side of the green bean trellis. I think we will have a good amount to can this summer, which is very good.
 







 

Some of our yellow squash plants are doing well, and some aren't. We have lost more of this variety than the others, so I will be replanting them as well. I would like to can as many pints as possible. I have canned squash for a couple of summers now and find them tasty and easy to use in many different dishes. We have been eating fresh squash for several weeks now, sauteed in butter with salt and pepper. It's great!


Our tomatoes are doing good. This is another crop we will use to fill as many jars as we can. We will can plain tomatoes and salsa, which is what we use the most. An aside here. Last week we made chili from the tomato sauce we canned two years ago. You know what? It tasted sweet, even though we added no sweeteners at all. Since we have been on our low carb diet for over six months with no sugar at all, we were very surprised to find that the tomato sauce tasted sweet. Interesting.

We are growing Buttercup winter squash this year again. We have had good luck with them in the past, but not so this year. There are a few of them growing, but that's it. It's too bad too, because Buttercup tastes a lot like a sweet potato and they're very good keepers. It looks like Cushaw will be the main winter squash crop.

The peppers I planted are finally growing, even though I lost a few more. I did buy two Jalapeno pepper plants just to make sure we had some. Since the cats stirred up the pepper plants like spaghetti before I got them planted, I'm not exactly sure what kind I have out here. I'm kinda sure that there are a few sweet pepper plants, Corno di Toro Red, a sweet Italian bullhorn that we really like, because they were the biggest plants in the tub before the cats got hold of them.

We still have beets growing here and there. I planted three short rows of beets, collards and spinach a few days ago since we don't have enough of them. I also wanted to see how the collards will do in the hot summer. 

I pulled up about a quarter of the turnip patch the other day, then blanched and froze the greens. But first, I had to sort out all of the grass, weeds and bug eaten leaves. Sorry, no pictures. I will see if I can get the rest of them frozen this week. Then we will put up a trellis and plant more green beans.



The pinto beans in the new part of the garden are doing okay, but not great. They need to be weeded. In the next few days Frank is going to disc either side of this trellis again and I will be planting peanuts. It's something we like to eat and they will help improve the soil in this new area of the garden.














I got out our Mantis tiller and worked over this end of the new garden section. I know it will be extra weedy and don't expect the plants to do as well as the ones in the main garden, but I'm very, very glad we increased the size of our garden this year. Today I planted sunflowers and cowpeas. The purple hull peas we are growing vine out more than the black eyes we grew a few years ago. So this year I am trying to give them something to climb on. Here I planted cowpeas on either side of a row of sunflowers. We'll see how that works.














This afternoon Frank brought down an old bale of hay for me to use as mulch in the garden. Now that I just about have a handle on the weeds, I will be mulching throughout the garden. This will help retain moisture, cool the roots of the plants in the hot summer, and help with weed control.

Next week as the barn lean-to project progresses, we will be working on the new garden area in the pasture again. It was put on hold because of all of the rain, then delayed again while we have the lean-to built onto the barn. I will be planting a variety of things in that pasture. The vegetables will have lots of competition with the weeds, and I won't have as much time to tend that garden as the main one, so we will see how it produces. We will try to employ more hay mulch in this garden as well.

After the barn project is complete, the next project on the list is our greenhouse. I am very excited about this because it will provide us with the ability to grow food year round. We have never had a greenhouse or tried to grow food through the winter, so this will be a big learning curve for us. I already have a number of books and some supplies, but I'm sure there will be more to things to get that we haven't thought of yet. I'll take pictures of the process and explain our plans and reasoning behind them as the project unfolds.


There are many people that dismiss articles such as the one from Michael Snyder as doom and gloom. There are folks that make fun of preppers and homesteaders for the life style they have chosen to live. There are folks that accuse anyone that tries to prepare for a natural disaster or world wide calamity of being kin to Chicken Little running around exclaiming, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" I agree with what Mr. Snyder said at the end of his article. If only it wasn't so. If only we could keep sitting back in our air conditioned environment reading nice, comfy articles from the news and our blogger friends. But I truly believe it just ain't gonna be so. There are too many different indicators that things are coming to a head. That our government is doing everything within it's powers, which grow more everyday, to bring our country to it's knees, negate any miniscule bit of freedom we have left and make our slavery to it's wants, needs and desires complete. There are whisperings of war, World War, on the wind from different locations on the globe. The tensions among racial, ethnic and religious groups around the world are escalating in a way we haven't seen or experienced before. The planet is like a giant powder keg just waiting for the perfect spark which will ignite a firestorm like we have never seen.

So, am I full of gloom and doom, shouting warnings about events that will never come to pass? Do I really need to be out there sweating and working like this food may mean life and death for Frank and I? Is it all for naught? I can only pray with all my heart that it is so.

Until next time - Fern