Saturday, July 21, 2018

A Review of "Prepper's Livestock Handbook" by Leigh Tate




I have known Leigh Tate-in the blogger sense-for almost a decade. She was writing about her homesteading work on 5 Acres & A Dream back when I was yakking about our old farm on my now defunct blog, The Midlife Farmwife.  She was gracious enough to follow me over to this, my new blog, three years ago. 

Most of the homesteading-prepper world knows of Leigh and her husband Dan's hard work on their place in the foothills of Southern Appalachia, but if you do not, be sure to check them out. 

Now, about that book...

The Prepper's Livestock Handbook is 221 pages of well researched, well lived information for homesteaders, preppers, and small farm owners at any stage of their venture. With ten extremely well organized chapters and a resource listing in the back of  181 (!) resources for additional online education/videos/or equipment purchase, this information loaded book packs a huge wallop for it's modest price of $15.95. It is the perfect jumping off spot for those toying with the idea of self-sufficiency or those with just a handful of chickens or rabbits, while also serving as a solid touchstone for homesteaders like myself already knee deep into small farm livestock care. 

Honestly, I have been caring for livestock for over 25 years and still, there was a vast amount of new- to-me-information in this book, most especially the sections on times past food preservation which details techniques like liming and water glassing eggs. This book has earned a front and forward place in my own resource library. 

Tate's book contains three content pages illustrating the depth of subject material covered. Within these the author not only covers all the basics such as feeding, sheltering, butchering, but reminds the reader of their own obligation to check local county rules and regulations in those regards. I especially appreciated the veterinary care portions which focus on problem prevention, not just treatment. 

Additionally, rather than utilizing information dump paragraphs, she regularly uses easy to read charts to share large amounts of statistics or animal characteristics. This allows the book to flow easily from one page to the next and makes it easier for the reader to find that information again when needed. 

The author's strength is this book however, is not limited to organization. Within each chapter she discusses pros and cons, such as when discussing livestock flooring options, and provides the information needed to make informed decisions appropriate for the readers' specific circumstances and budget. Anecdotally, she shares both the successes and failures she has personally experienced rather than acting as the inaccessible expert. She is a real homesteader/prepper like so many of us, and her honest insights are what will help future generations of this lifestyle, succeed. 

The Prepper's Livestock Handbook is not Tate's first venture into publication of the lessons gleaned while working their homestead, as she has been sharing tips and techniques for many years. Her work includes traditional print books as well as several e-books all of which can be found on her blog 5 Acres & A Dream. You can also order this book directly through Amazon or Barnes and Noble









Monday, July 16, 2018

Please Welcome The New Member of Our (automotive) Family



Handsome isn't he? Hardly looks a day over twenty let alone his actual age of twenty three. Born in 1995 of simple Ford parents, this Escort wagon originated from the West coast. Purchased by our son Colton  and his wife Tab back in his Navy/Seattle days, it has definitely seen some road time but still, has only 160,000 miles and runs like a charm.

How do charms "run" by the way? I have no idea.

When compared to my 2000 Dodge Neon with 233,000 miles and Keith's 2002 Ford F-150 with 236,000 miles, this wagon seems almost juvenile.

He was a recent gift to us by the same son and wife who gave us my Dodge Neon in 2014 when I returned to college. They were ready for an upgrade and knew the Neon would not likely get them much in trade in value, so it was gifted to us. Same deal now four years later with the Ford Escort Wagon.

I am thrilled to have these cars, as our son did an excellent job of maintaining his vehicles and both the cars still have a lot of life in them. In the past I would use the Neon for my running around and Keith used the truck if my car was unavailable. His truck is a real gas hog, so the Escort wagon will likely become his get-to-work-vehicle and/or my thrifting vehicle. It has lots of run in the back.

What we will spend in insuring, fueling and registering this fine new bucket of bolts (with a schmancy -fancy radio I might add) will be a fair amount less than what we spent in gas alone for the truck. The big red monster will now be reserved for those trips where it is absolutely needed such as running to Menards for building supplies, pulling the livestock trailer to the locker, hauling home piglets this fall, or taking fifty broilers to Arthur, Illinois for processing; a trip planned for September.

None of the vehicles will be housed in garages, since we don't have one, and they all have little flaws, but when combined, our fleet of automotives should get us through the next five years or so. We hope, we hope, we hope.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Deep Dark Dumpster Love


Like an overdue baby, we waited anxiously for our dumpster. 

It was ordered over a week ago but did not appear on Monday as promised, or on Tuesday as promised again. Frustrating as we had to move the cows pasture wires back and forth as the dumpster would sit partially in her space, which as you can see below, she wasn't too excited about.  Finally it showed up Wednesday and it's all I can do not to just sit alongside it, rubbing it's beautiful, spacious, sturdy metal, dumpsterness.


I love dumpsters.

We routinely do not keep one on the farm, nor do we have regular garbage pickup.  It's a budget thing. We burn what we can, recycle what we can, and talk family members into taking items to their own garbage pickup containers, when we can. So having this monstrous cavern to dump into is quite thrilling.

It doesn't take much to make me happy. Just total world peace, a little Jameson for the evenings I'm writing,  and a king size dumpster.

Located between our Looney Bin home and the 1868 house, we are able to drive the tractor up to the old house, fill the bucket with debris and then back up to the dumpster or burn pile. It certainly has saved us from going up and down stairs with barrels of stuff or transporting items via wheelbarrow. 






By yesterday afternoon we had it over a third filled with mostly plaster from the 1865 house. Since we've already taken three of the eight rooms in the house down to the studs, we should be ok with this 30 yard dumpster for taking away what we cannot burn or recycle. Insulation from the old house has been bagged up/set aside and will be reused in Keith's new shop in the barn. 

This has included blown in insulation that is likely sixty or more years old and Styrofoam panels perhaps installed in the 80's. Either way the more we keep OUT of the dumpster and reuse, the more bang we get for our dumpster money which was $565 for 30 days. About $18 / day. Not a bad deal at all.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

1868 House Demolition Continues




Officially day 6 of the 1868 house demolition and great progress is being made despite the return of the heat. 

With each hour passing more of the old houses' original structure is popping through. False ceilings, glued on walls, Styrofoam panels for insulation, plaster, paneling, and layers upon layers of wallpaper are stripped back. 




Room walls have been removed and floor lino and carpeting was stripped away. 

Thankfully the original tongue and groove wood floors seem in good shape and will be saved to build the loft floors and walls in our new (recycled) barn.  They've been covered for decades and are seeing the light for the first time since probably the 50's. 


A large amount of material is being sorted on the homes' back deck into piles for burning, piles for re-use, piles to take to the recycling centers for cash, piles to list on eBay.



Our middle son Jason was able to help for a few days, and Keith took several days vacation from his job this week to jump start the process.



As the history of the home is revealed in old window openings, and previous chimney shadows, it is obvious that this was once a solid (not fancy) farm home where children were raised and busy lives led. 



Yes, in some ways we do wonder if we could have saved the house, lived in it instead of building the grain bin house, but the horrible foundation, the crumbling roof, reminds us we would've invested nearly $80, 000 just to renovate it to safe standards. 

Instead, we'll honor its' past through re-use of as much of its bones as we possibly can. 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Beating the Heat Like a Big Fat Pig





It's reminiscent of our childhood summers, this recent heat wave. Hot enough to make the road tar melt causing that definitive car tire bubbling-whine noise. Hot enough to take away all concern about your loose underarms flapping in the breeze; you're wearing sleeveless tops anyway. Hot enough to fight with the dog over tepid water in the cow trough because it's too far to walk to the house for a non e-coli  filled drink.

Hot enough for pigs to swim.

Perhaps you've been hit with these above average temperatures as well. I know Ireland and other parts of Europe are certainly dealing with high temps and low rains. I find myself dressing in less and less as the day goes on. Modesty takes a back seat to comfort when it comes to me and heat.  Remember that if you're thinking about a drop-in visit. A two minute warning call will save us both some embarrassment.

But whatever you do to cope please remember not to say,  "I'm sweating like a pig", as you'll be wrong. Reason being, pigs do not sweat, nor can they pant like a dog. This means they don't handle heat well and require regular farmer assist.

Forgive me, loyal long time followers, I know I blog about this every summer, but for the newbies out there I must repeat myself. Livestock loss in summer heat is a sad reality of homesteading, but can be prevented in many cases. Take for example, the pigs.

The chore of watering the pigs these record breaking days requires much more than keeping water pans filled. It also requires maintenance of the pigs water hole which is about the size of a kiddie pool but a bit cloudier. This porcine pond serves a few purposes. It cools the hogs overall body temp. It increases their hydration status as water is absorbed through their skin. And it decreases annoying parasites like flies, mites and fleas by suffocation via the resulting thick mud.

It also makes the pigs very, very happy. They see me with the hose and they line up underneath it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Sayonara 1868 House, Hello More Barn Material



 The decomposition of the 1868 house on our property has begun. Our son Jason and Keith commenced with the ripping apart of one porch and one upstairs room so far. Our goal is to recycle all that we can, and use the material to make the lofts and walls in our new (recycled) barn. Already with just the tearing apart of a couple rooms, we are discovering amazing 12 by 1 pieces of lumber in excellent condition.



Keith also discovered the original tiny doorway into the attic. It was constructed well, with square nails and nicely crafted support pieces. I'll keep it and recycle it into a scarf hanger I believe. A piece of our farm's  history that deserves to live on.





The original brick chimney is a mess but after I've been around for 150 years like it has, I expect I'll have large crumbly areas myself. Still, I love looking at those joints, thinking about whose hands took such care to secure each brick in order to provide a warm home for a family.


Of course large amounts of badly installed drywall, crumbling insulation, 1960's paneling, popcorn ceilings etc...had to be removed to find the real bones of this building.  It is on one hand sad to take it down but with luck we'll salvage 50% of it and use it elsewhere.  We'd like to have the house down by the end of summer, or maybe late fall, or at least before we die.

Once the 1856 house is no more, the area between our Looney Bin home and the new barn will be a wonderfully shaded, park like spot for more flower gardens, sitting areas, and a family recreation zone: badminton nets, Koi ponds, miniature golf maybe.

Koi ponds?!?! We'll be lucky to keep the weeds in that area at knee level or less. Better a wild animal preserve I think.

Anyway we're excited to be at this start point. Well, another start point. We're always starting something. I've rented a large thirty yard dumpster (22 ft long by 6 ft high by 4 ft wide) for a month and it will be delivered on Monday. We considered other options like digging a big hole and burying the debris from the house that we cannot recycle, but the idea of putting more garbage into the earth around us when we are still digging up and disposing of all the garbage left by other owners over the years-felt disingenuous. So we're coughing up the $565 for the dumpster.

Let me tell you. I plan to fill that sucker up to its brim! Poor Farm Cleanup Time!

Funny though. The county does not allow the digging of a small 4 foot deep hole to go under ones' outhouse but it's ok with them to dig a HUGE hole and bury old house tonnage. Logic and government. A true oxymoron.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Don't Worry, Bee Happy



Bees. I love them. But it wasn't always that way.

When Keith first wanted to keep some on our farm decades ago, I (this is so embarrassing) said NOPE. I'd seen too many killer bee movies. So he kept a hive on a friends farm and they split the honey.

He wore me down though, and I eventually gave in to having a hive way in the back behind the barn on our old farm. See no evil etc...

Over the years the hive mysteriously got closer to our home-strong little buggers, who knew they had that kind of upper thorax strength? 

When we moved here to The Poor Farm, Keith located our two bee hives in the center of our property (in a grove of protective trees) and I learned to work around them. I am now the one who makes sure they have lots of water in the kitchen garden bird baths. I also planted masses of colorful annuals this year so they would have a steady supply of nectar.







Two weeks ago Keith finally talked me into a bee suit and I was hooked! Absolutely fascinated with those industrious creatures, all B Movie bee drama left my goofy head. 

Our granddaughter Allana, now fourteen, has always loved the bees and starting working them with Keith when she was five. She especially likes talking to them while they are hanging out at their water hole. It's really not all that surprising the way she gets up close and personal with them-she also has a pet rat!





Recently her ten year old brother Wesley expressed an interest and this morning both of our older GK's came out to check hive status with their Papa. 





Afterwards I made them all a well-deserved meal of pancakes (made from our milk and eggs) plus sausage and bacon (thank you hogs). The three bee charmers reported the hives were doing very well, we had a strong queen bee presence, and we'll need to harvest honey soon!