Homesteading

Why Being a “Tree Hugger” Builds Self-Reliance

by Todd Walker

tree-hugger-self-reliance-uses-american-sycamore

I’ve never considered myself a “tree hugger” as defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

noun: someone who is regarded as foolish or annoying because of being too concerned about protecting trees, animals, and other parts of the natural world from pollution and other threats [Emphasis mine]

Yesterday I annoyed a few motorists crossing a narrow country bridge on a tree hugger outing. Not intentionally, mind you. It’s just that I needed to photograph a beautiful American Sycamore stretching its molten limbs over a muddy Georgia river. One trucker let me know how foolish I looked by blaring his air horn as I perched on the bridge railing snapping my shutter. Unaffected, I continued my craziness.

The thought of being a tree hugger, as previously defined, may not describe you, but every person on the journey to self-reliance and preparedness would benefit from hugging a tree or two.

You’re conflicted, right? Well, don’t be.

It’s our responsibility to protect, use, and conserve our natural resources. We’re stewards of this land. Our Appalachian ancestors understood the properties of trees and how to use the wood, bark, leaves, and roots to build a sustainable life. There were no box stores with stacks of dimensional lumber to build a house. If a handle shattered, they knew the best wood to use for re-hafting an ax. Tulip Poplar was abundant and used to build houses and hand-hewn log cabins. The Appalachian pioneers knew their wood!

tree-hugger-self-reliance-uses-american-sycamore

A young sycamore growing near the roadside

There are boat-loads of info on edible weeds and medicinal plants. I’ve found a lack of printed material on the medicinal/edible uses of trees. I have many of the Foxfire book series and always look to add more to my self-reliance library. Clue me in if you have more tree resource books, please. So, like any good Doer of the Stuff, I’m embarking (pun intended) on a tree education journey as part of my Doing the Stuff Skills list. Who knows, maybe you’ll be convinced to embrace your inner tree hugger.

Ready, set, hug!

The first tree to wrap your arms around is the American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). It can reach heights over 130 tall, over 10 feet in diameter, and grow to be 600 years old. George Washington documented in his journal in 1770 a sycamore with a diameter of 14 feet (45 feet in circumference). Trees this large usually have hollow trunks that house animals of all sorts. It’s been reported that settlers even used hollowed Sycamore trees to shelter livestock.

The rapid growth rate of this deciduous tree causes the bark to shed in molten fashion like a birch tree. Its camouflage pattern of light green and brownish gray with creamy white background splotches causes the trunk to stand out in late fall and winter when forest leaves lay on the ground. The exfoliating bark and coloration makes the sycamore one of the easiest deciduous trees in the eastern woodlands to identify in the winter.

tree-hugger-self-reliance-uses-american-sycamore

The Sycamore and Self-Reliance

The fast growing American Sycamore likes wet bottom land near streams, rivers and ponds in full sun. Their leaves are similar to maple but not as spectacular since they turn a boring brown in the fall. Beavers find the bark appetizing.

In Bushcraft 

Bushcraft refers to the art of crafting in the bush (woods) with minimal tools and lots of skill.

  • Sycamore’s fibers intertwine making it an excellent wood for spoon and bowl carving. The wood tends to warp in the drying process, so use dried, seasoned wood.
  • Not rot resistant and shouldn’t be used for longterm structures exposed to the moisture.
  • The sap offers a year-round source of hydration in warm climates.
  • The sycamore can also be tapped like a maple tree for syrup or sugar. However, it takes a lot of sap to make small batches of sycamore syrup.
  • Shade-casting crown of large trees offer shelter from the sun.
  • Large leaves (up to 10 inches across) can be used as a wrap for slow cooked food over coals for an added sweet flavor.
tree-hugger-self-reliance-uses-american-sycamore

This green leaf measured almost 9 inches across

In Woodwork 

  • Sycamore is grown commercially for pulp and rough lumber.
  • Interlocking grain makes nice accent pieces for woodworking.
  • Turns easily on a lathe for bowls.
  • Beautiful specking on gun stocks.
  • Music boxes; guitars and violins.
  • Hard to split which makes sycamore an excellent butcher’s block.
  • Quarter sawn makes this wood more stable for projects. Flat sawn tends to warp.
  • It gets one of its nicknames “Buttonwood” from it ability to create durable wooden buttons.
  • The wood is food safe and was used for food crates and barrels in the past.

In Medicine

Inner bark tee was used for a wide variety of treatments by Native Americans.

  • Colds, coughs, and lung ailments
  • Measles
  • Emetic – cause vomiting
  • Laxative
  • Astringent properties to treat skin issues and eye wash
  • Sweet sap on the inner bark used for wound dressing
  • Sap can also be used to make wine

The American Sycamore is a pioneer species. About forty years ago, we stopped cultivating a small field on wet bottom land on our family farm. Today we have a large stand of native sycamores growing wild.

tree-hugger-self-reliance-uses-american-sycamore

What was once several acres of corn we pulled by hand

Being a “tree hugger” should not carry a negative stereotype or denote a political affiliation for those of us building self-reliance skills and pursuing a more sustainable lifestyle. Embrace your love of trees and learn to be stewards of these towers of the forest!

Have you hugged a tree today?

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Homesteading, Lost Skills, Medical, Natural Health, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Wildcrafting | Tags: , , , | 12 Comments

DTS Network Update: Dave’s Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

by Todd Walker

The cornerstone of our Doing the Stuff Network is trading theory for ACTION! 

DTS Network Project: A Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

As you may recall, we challenged each of you to learn at least one new skill in 4014 that builds self-reliance. Just pick a skill you’ve always wanted to learn or improve, set a time frame for completion, and share your progress with our community.

With his permission, we are spot lighting Dave DeWitt, a fellow DTS Networker, who has built an amazing hugelcultur raised bed this year. For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, hugelcultur is an old form of raised bed gardening that requires no tilling and little to no irrigation. This style of growing food has been used for years and is very popular with permiculture practitioners.

Hugelcultur beds have many benefits:

  • Grow food in inhospitable climates (drought) and terrain (rocky and hard clay)
  • Self watering – decaying wood acts like a sponge to hold and release moisture plants need
  • Decomposing wood releases heat to extend growing season in cold climates
  • Decaying wood prevents nutrients from being washed away into ground water
  • Air pockets are created in the raised bed to keep soil from becoming compacted
  • Creates a microbe rich environment for mycelium
  • Releases nitrogen which plants love
  • Makes good use of fallen trees and branches from storms that don’t make it into your supply of firewood
  • Works in deserts and backyards

Dave planted three typical raised beds last year and was inspired by his friend at Schooner Farms (Facebook page) to give hugelcultur a try. He converted one of his raised beds to a hugelcultur bed this year.

Here’s his photo tutorial of the stuff he’s doing…

One DTS Networker's Hugelkultur Bed ExperimentOne DTS Networker's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

Removing one traditional raised bed

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

Adding wood to the bed

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

Wood chips topping the logs

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

More organic material added… wet leaves from last fall

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

Moldy straw left out over the winter was added next

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

Cinder blocks and sticks were added to help maintain form – then another layer of old straw

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

He added a few inches of 2-3 year old horse manure next

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

Essential minerals, granite dust, calcium (saved our egg shells, dried in oven and ran through a coffee grinder), etc

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

More decomposing wood chips added

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

The final layer – 3 inches of top soil from the previous raised bed

The dimensions of Dave’s hugelcultur bed are 8′ x 24′ with a 34″ block wall. He wouldn’t recommend making beds this tall. He stands 6′-2″ and can barely reach the middle of the bed. Plan accordingly. Also, the cinder blocks were filled with top soil and compost for added growing space. This addition grows his garden from to just under 200 square feet of garden space.

With all the materials on hand, this could be a weekend project. Dave has about 14 hours in this project. Seems like a lot of work, but the upfront investment will pay off with less maintenance and time in the growing season in Ohio.

Nothing inspires like seeing people busy Doing the Stuff! This network of everyday people are not just talking theory, they are testing and experimenting with stuff in the many categories of self-reliance and self-sufficiency skills.

Your turn

If you’ve ever used hugelcultur beds, successfully or not, we’d like your feedback. Leave your thoughts in the comment section – or join the discussion on the Doing the Stuff Network and keep with all the updates from our members!

We want to thank Dave for his value-adding tutorial and inspiration!

Keep Doing the Stuff, friends!

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page… and over on the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on the Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding Prepper sites while you’re there…

Thanks for sharing the stuff!

Copyright Information: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a rare third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

 

Categories: DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Gardening, Homesteading | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

23+ Items You Need to Retool for Self-Reliance

by Todd Walker

Those who are paying attention are actively retooling to escape the noose of modern consumerism and become self-reliant producers.

23+ Items You Need to Retool for Self-Reliance

You can find these independent thinkers on different fronts of the preparedness movement:

  • Back-to-basics
  • Homesteading
  • Preppers
  • Off-grid living
  • Survivalists
  • Simple living
  • Bushcrafting
  • Self-reliance
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Resilience
  • Sustainability
  • DiY’ers
  • Farmsteading

Whether you’re in this movement as a hobby or a passionate pursuit, the common thread tying us together is self-reliance and breaking our dependence on our fragile system. One of the reasons we started the Doing the Stuff Network was to encourage people to learn and practice new skills. The journey we’re on will require us to retool for an uncertain future.

Hurt me with the truth but never comfort me with a lie. Here’s the truth – our fragile system of consumerism is not sustainable. Of course, you can take comfort in the lie that we can print and spend our way out of the hole we’re in – or – you can embrace the painful truth and get busy Doing the Stuff to build self-reliance.

Retool or Be a Tool

A person is a tool (blunt object) when he/she is being used without even realizing it.

You ever been used as a tool? Yes? Me too. It’s a nasty, degrading feeling when you realize a ‘friend’, coworker, or family member has you wrapped tightly in their grip. Those situations are often easily recognized.

But here’s the thing…

The vast majority of people rarely wake up to the fact that they’re a tool in the system’s matrix. That’s the ‘beauty’ of our system. We get used to being used for the good of the collective. We accept dependence and conform.

For those of you wishing to escape the system’s unsustainable human farm paradigm, if only in small ways, it’s time to retool!

Retool is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as:

1. to make changes to (something) in order to improve it

2. to reequip with tools

As #1 states, you have to make changes to something to see improvement. That “something” is you. There’s no better way to improve you than to learn new skills and enhance existing ones. New skills require new tools.

Sherpa Tip: Strive for progress, not perfection in your retooling. Buy/acquire the best tools you can afford. Cheap shiny objects from China are tempting but you’ll end up replacing them several times costing you more in the long run. Cheap tools aren’t good and good tools aren’t cheap. You can find quality, inexpensive tools at yard/estate sales and used online sites.

Get ‘em, you’ll need them someday when the power fails to help rebuild. Until then, make smart use of modern power tools while building your non-powered toolbox. Like any new undertaking, there’s always a learning curve, especially with forgotten pioneer tools.

Here’s my top 23+ human-powered tools that your grandparents or great grandparents used to forge a self-reliant lifestyle. Don’t be shy about jumping in and adding to the list in the comments.

Tools for Self-Reliance

  1. Scythe – This tool was used to cut grass at a camp I ran in Siberia in 1993. An American friend with good intentions wanted to help speed up the landscaping chores and bought a combustion engine lawn mower. It threw a rod in 15 minutes. The scythe never lost power.
  2. Hoe and shovel- There will be long rows to hoe and holes to dig.
  3. Posthole diggers – Job specific tool that is indispensable for setting fence posts and digging round, vertical holes.

    23+ Items You Need to Retool for Self-Reliance

    Scary looking fencing pliers

  4. Fencing pliers – A nasty looking tool no homestead should be without.
  5. Come-Along and block and tackle – Use mechanical advantage to lift carcasses for cleaning or persuade leaning trees to fall away from your cabin. 23+ Items You Need to Retool for Self-Reliance
  6. Wheeled carts – Based on a simple machine: lever. Give me a long enough lever and I can move the world.
  7. 4 pronged garden fork – Turns compost and sod.
  8. Containers – The most overlooked of all tools is the humble container. Collect metal, cast iron, plastic, glass, large barrels, stainless steel (milk pails), rubber, and clay containers. Animals have to be fed, water hauled, crops canned, food cooked, water stored, etc., etc.
  9. Carpentry – Hand saws (rip and cross cut), screw drivers, chisels, draw knives, shaving horse, brace and bits, spoke shave, froe, mallet, miter box, framing square, levels (4′, 2′, torpedo), hammer, pencils, and plenty of hardware.
  10. Handyman tools – Channel Lock pliers, socket set, adjustable wrenches, hand saws (cross and rip), hacks saw and blades, clamps, claw hammers (sledge, ball peen, claw), pry bars, pipe wrenches, measuring devices, heavy-duty vise, and files (all shapes and sizes).
  11. Cutting tools – Knives (fixed blade, folding, and everything in between paring to butcher), axes, hatchets, bush hook,two man saw,adz, broad ax, sharpening stones, and a butcher’s steel. I prefer high carbon steel over stainless steel for achieving razor-sharp edges. Plus, high carbon steel knives all you to create sparks with flint, chert, or other hard rock. Redundancy!

    DiY Sawbuck: Work Smarter in the Woodpile

    Buck sawing on the Sawbuck

  12. Blacksmithing – Forge, billow, anvil, hammers, tongs, post vice, files, and quench bucket. After acquiring these, you can make your own tools and needed items. Stock up on salvaged steel.
  13. Cordage – Natural and synthetic rope, twine, tarred bank line, and paracord of all sizes. Making your own takes time, resources, and skill. Stock up now. Don’t forget sewing thread as cordage.
  14. Food prep – Wood cook stove, cast iron cookware, utensils, pressure canner (relatively new tool), crocks, and churn.
  15. Personal care – Straight razor, strop, and sharpening stones.
  16. Weaponry –  Modern to primitive. Modern: At a minimum, a common caliber (for your area) shotgun (12 or 20 gauge), side arm (.45, .357, .38, 9mm, .22), high-powered center fire (30-06, .308,  30-30, .223) and rim fire (.22 cal) rifle. When you run out of cartridges… Traditional muzzleloaders: Black powder rifle, shotgun, and pistols. Primitive: bow and arrows, atlatl, slings.
  17. Music – Forgotten but important culturally and entertainment wise.
  18. Education – Books – lots of hard bound books from all genres. Writing utensils and reams of paper. Reading glasses.
  19. Trapping – Foothold,  bodygrip (Conibear), snares, and live traps. Check local laws and regulations.
  20. Beekeeping – Because we all love honey, right!? Bee hives, hive tool, smoker, hat and veil, gloves, and protective clothing.
  21. Leather work – Down and Dirty Basics: Cutting tool, punch, awl (ice pick works), needle, glue and clamps.
  22. Medical – Surgical kit that covers minor and major needs. Of course, if you don’t have the skill to use these tools, someone in your tribe may. Collect ‘em!

    23+ Items You Need to Retool for Self-Reliance

    Surgical tools a good friend gave us but I have no experience using – yet

  23. Animal husbandry – This list of tools can get long really quickly. Take care of your animals and your animals will take care of you. So here goes… Species specific halters, leads, and restraints; wound care, hoof care, syringes, oral dose syringe, etc., etc.

Some of these tools and the skills to use them were common in earlier generations. After a reset, you’ll be proud you retooled with a collection of human-powered pioneer tools. Think muscle over motor to rebuild a strong, self-reliant future for your family.

Even if you never learn how to use all these tools, they’d make great barter items for stuff you do need at your local SHTF swap meet.

What would you add to the retool list?

Retool and Keep Doing the Stuff,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook pageReady to trade theory for action? Join us in the Doing the Stuff Network on these social media sites: PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

Copyright Information: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Gear, Homesteading, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , | 16 Comments

The Woodsman’s Secret to a Well-Hung Ax

by Todd Walker

There may come a day when axes top the list of must-have tools for harvesting wood. I can see a couple of pending scenarios where owning a well-hung ax is preferred. And no, the Zombie Apocalypse ain’t one of them!

The-Woodsman's-Secret-to-a-Well-Hung-Ax

My top reason appeals to manliness – and self-reliance. My “prepping” paradigm continues to shift from consumerism to self-reliance at a startling pace. With the river of shiny survival stuff flooding the banks of the preparedness community, I began to realize my need to go balls to the wall on traditional skills. Forgotten skills. Like how to properly re-handling an ax.

A point of pride for ax aficionados is how well a cutting tool is hung. The way in which an ax is mounted on a wooden handle (haft or helve) is called the hang…. and getting the hang of it takes practice.

Question: Do you want to be known as the woodsman with a well-hung cutting tool?

If so, here’s how to…

Get the Hang of it

I own a fiberglass handled sledge-hammer and splitting maul. Those tools are mere blunt objects that serve a purpose. Box store axes fall into this same “blunt object” category. But a real ax is a work of art, a thing of beauty, and a joy forever. And art work deserves to be hung well.

I refuse to buy or ever consider owning an ax without a wooden handle. Call me old-fashioned, but I like the feel of a hickory handled striking tool. Tradition matters! So does performance.

Before the turn of last century, a good ax head often came without a handle. Woodsmen, lumberjacks, pioneers, and homesteaders had their favorite handle pattern they created from wood staves. The tried and true designs became family heirlooms.

Why?

Because a well-hung ax feels right in your hands. Balance, angle, flexibility, length, weight, and diameter combine for the perfect hang.

Choose Good Wood

The traditional wood used for an ax, adze, and hammer is hickory. When selecting a handle, pay close attention to the run of the wood grain and color. You’re big box hardware store may have a decent handle. I lucked up and found one at a local “Ace is the place” store. This handle will be hung on an old ax I bought at a yard sale a few year back. Nothing special – but almost free – and works for my application.

The-Definitive-Guide-to-a-Well-Hung-Woodsman's-Ax

Some stuff needed to hang an ax… the adze and froe were added for no apparent reason.

No matter where you get your new haft, check the run of the wood grain from the side view. Grain running perpendicular to the handle won’t last long. Look for grain running parallel the whole length. A few stray grains won’t hurt.

Now check the butt end of the handle. Grain running vertically on the end is what you’re after. Horizontal grain in striking tools won’t absorb constant shocks.

The Definitive Guide to a Well-Hung Ax

Vertical grain on the left. Image source

Avoid painted or varnished handles. Paint covers a multitude of sins. A clear varnish can be sanded off if it meets good wood standards and an eye-ball test.

Color Counts

Hickory heart wood is reddish in color. You’re likely to find this in low-grade handles. Look for white sap wood handles. My handle has hints of heartwood but is mostly made of the outer white wood.

Size Matters

The size of your handle depends on the weight of your ax. For our purposes here, we aren’t dealing with specialty S-shaped hafts for broad axes. Today we’re talking about axes used for chopping, splitting, and self-reliance tasks.

Haft length depends on the job and personal preference. Longer handles (36″) for felling and chopping large timber, shorter for lighter work. How short? Pictured below is my Wetterlings Ax. Sadly, I didn’t find this one at a yard sale.

The-Woodsman's-Secret-to-a-Well-Hung-Ax

Wetterlings Backwoods Ax measures 16″ long

Hanging Procedures

Gather your supplies. You’ll need a handle, wooden wedge, wood glue, hammer or wooden mallet, rasp, sand paper, gloves, saw (hacksaw or reciprocating metal blade), punch, boiled linseed oil, and a vise helps. Don’t have a vise? Improvise with two sections of 4×4 to support the ax-head.

The-Definitive-Guide-to-a-Well-Hung-Woodsman's-Ax

Some stuff need to hang an ax

First, remove the old handle. Saw it off near the bottom of the ax-head. Use a large diameter punch and hammer to drive the remaining wood out of the eye of the ax. I used a section of 5/8 all-thread. If epoxy was used on the head on the last handle, you may have to remove the wood with a drill.

The-Definitive-Guide-to-a-Well-Hung-Woodsman's-Ax

Don’t clamp the ax-head in the vise unless you don’t mind it being scared. Rest it over a gap in the vise to remove the wood.

Turn the ax-head upside down and drive the old wood out through the top of the eye. The eye on axes are tapered from the bottom to the top – small to large. The old rotted handle on this one was easily removed.

The-Definitive-Guide-to-a-Well-Hung-Woodsman's-Ax

First fit with the new handle

Insert the new haft into the eye from the bottom opening. The ax-head will leave marks on the wood showing you how much wood to remove for proper seating. It needs to sit on the shoulder of the new handle. Mine needed to go another two inches to make that point.

The-Definitive-Guide-to-a-Well-Hung-Woodsman's-Ax

Taking off wood with a rasp

Remove the new handle again and grab your rasp. You can use power tools to remove the excess wood. Be careful not to take too much off though. You can’t glue saw dust back on.

The-Definitive-Guide-to-a-Well-Hung-Woodsman's-Ax

Final fit… after removing extra wood three times.

Once you have a good fit on the haft, apply wood glue to both sides of your wooden wedge. Don’t coat the entire wedge. Spread the glue on the bottom half of the wedge to prevent squeezing glue out of the slotted kerf end of the handle.

The-Definitive-Guide-to-a-Well-Hung-Woodsman's-Ax

I leave about a 1/4″ of the handle above the ax-head.

Use a block of wood or a wooden mallet to drive the wedge into the slotted end. This creates even pressure on the wedge to keep it from splitting. Cut the remaining wedge and excess handle off. I leave about 1/8″ to 1/4″ above the head.

The-Definitive-Guide-to-a-Well-Hung-Woodsman's-Ax

Metal wedge across the wooden wedge

Drive a metal wedge small enough to expand the wood without splitting the handle. Hardware stores sell metal wedges in various sizes for your application. Don’t use nails or screws. Ever seen an ax-head with nails bent over the top edge in an attempt to keep it mounted? NOT pretty… or safe!

Counter sink the metal wedge with a punch. Some folks skip the metal wedge for worries of splitting the handle at the top of the eye. A proper sized metal wedge shouldn’t split the kerf portion. I like the added security.

The-Definitive-Guide-to-a-Well-Hung-Woodsman's-Ax

If your haft came from a box store, it’s likely varnished. Sand the varnish off with 180 grit sand paper. Apply 2 or 3 coats of linseed oil to the wood. Generous amounts should be used at the top eye area.

The-Woodsman's-Secret-to-a-Well-Hung-Ax

Applied to latex gloves and spread on the haft

Latex gloves come in handy for this task.

The-Woodsman's-Secret-to-a-Well-Hung-Ax

Nothing like a woodsman’s well-hung ax!

The-Woodsman's-Secret-to-a-Well-Hung-Ax

Not bad for an “almost free” yard sale find!

Keep Doing the Stuff!

Todd

P.S. – You can also connect with us on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page. The Doing the Stuff Network community can be found here: PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook. Lots of good stuff going on here… check it out!

P.P.S ~ If you find value in our blog, DRG and I would appreciate your  vote on the “Top Prepper Sites“! You can vote daily by clicking here or the image below. Check out all the other value-adding Prepper Sites while you’re there.

Thanks for sharing the stuff!

Copyright Information: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcrafting, Camping, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Homesteading, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , | 18 Comments

Not Your Typical Recipe Book: Recipes and Tips for Sustainable Living

by Todd Walker

What I’m about to share is ‘Dirt Road Girl’ approved!

When Stacy Harris sent me her new book to review, Recipes and Tips for Sustainable Living, before I could get my hands on it, DRG snagged it and wouldn’t put it down. She immediately performed her sniff test ritual. She opened the book, plants her face between the pages, and inhales deeply. Congrats Stacy! Your book passed DRG’s sniff test with flying colors!

Image

Our first impressions of Stacy’s new book were high quality, glossy pages with excellent photos of food, recipes, family, and sustainable practices for self-sufficient living. It’s good that the pages are high gloss since I began drooling by just looking at the food photos and recipes.

Stacy’s passion for growing heirloom plants and animals that are natural, pesticide, hormone, genetically modified free is clear. And she’s able to cook for a family of 9 from her heirloom garden, pastured animals, and wild game. Very inspiring!

The tips for sustainable living are mixed in throughout the book. One of my favorites is on page 88 – The Perfect Boiled Egg.

“To determine the age of eggs, place eggs in about five inches of water. If the egg lays flat on the bottom it is very fresh and is good for baking and poaching; it the egg tilts on the bottom it is about 10 days old and is great for boiling; if it floats throw it out.”

There’s also tips on foraging wild foods, beekeeping, seed saving, and other self-reliant skills. The tips aren’t going to teach you everything you need to know about sustainable living, but they will motivate you on your journey.

Being an avid hunter and fisherman myself, I loved the ‘Woods and Water’ section of Stacy’s book! I’m always happy to try new recipes for venison, wild turkey, duck, quail, small game, and seafood and fish. Even if you don’t harvest wild fish and game, she provides a substitution page to incorporate domesticated animals for recipes to please everyone.

Not Your Typical Recipe Book: Recipes and Tips for Sustainable Living

10 slices of bacon on Stuffed Venison Meatloaf – perfect!

A note to my Primal/Paleo readers – a few of the baking recipes call for sugar and flour. You can easily substitute for these if you wish and still enjoy the goodness of these traditional home cooked recipes.

Reading Stacy’s story and new cookbook will inspire you to take your next step towards personal freedom and sustainable living. All while eating the best prepared foods on the planet!

You can also connect with Stacy on her blog, Game and Garden, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube channel. Enjoy!

Special Announcement: Congratulations to Stephanie G. on winning an autographed copy of Recipes and Tips for Sustainable Living from our Reader Appreciation Fall Giveaway! We appreciate everyone’s continued support of our blog as we continue Doing the Stuff of self-sufficiency and preparedness together!

Keep doing the stuff!

Todd

P.S. ~ Thanks for sharing the stuff! You can connect with us on TwitterPinterest, and our new Facebook page

Copyright Information: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, with a link back to this site crediting the author. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

 

Categories: Gardening, Homesteading, Preparedness, Real Food, Resilience, Self-reliance, Wildcrafting | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

100 Helpful Resources to Help on Your Climb to Self-Reliance

A few months back Jake from My Bug Out Bag List contacted me. He was in the same place I was in a year and a half ago… new to the preparedness blogger scene. Since then we’ve stayed in touch on our journey to self-reliance. 

One of the greatest parts of the preparedness community is their willingness to help each other. One piece of advice I gave Jake, which is true even if you’re not a blogger, is to add value to other people’s lives. He took the advice and is building a fine blog full of helpful information and original content. Here’s his latest post. Be sure to give him a shout! 

This article first appeared on My Bug Out Bag List and republished here with the author’s permission.

100 Ways to Prep: Watch, Read and Tweet Your Way To Self Reliance

By Jake 

It’s a common theme amongst my readers that I hear the words “gear is great, but it is nothing without knowledge”. I wanted to use those words to inspire my next blog post. So here you go, more knowledge than you could ever hope to acquire.

Below I’ve listed 20 each of my favorite blogs, books, YouTube channels, Facebook Pages and Twitter accounts for you to visit, watch, read and learn from.

One thing to note is that many of these blogs have an accompanying Facebook page and Twitter account, many Facebook pages have a twitter account, many YouTube channels have a website, etc. In order to provide the broadest base of knowledge I did my best to avoid overlap between these. But by all means please check out all avenues of communication each one of these amazing people and sites has to offer.

I hope this provides a great start to you on your prepping journey! Now I’ll shut up because you have some reading, watching and tweeting to do ;)

Disclaimer: These lists are not “ranked” in any sort of order. It is simply a list of my favorite resources so pay no attention to #1 vs #20.

Blogs

The Survivalist Blog

  1. Willow Haven Outdoor
  2. My Family Survival Plan
  3. Survival Sherpa
  4. Off Grid Survival
  5. Survival Cache
  6. Apartment Prepper
  7. Modern Survival Blog
  8. The Prepper Journal
  9. Survival Blog
  10. American Preppers Network
  11. The Survival Mom
  12. SHTF Plan
  13. Backdoor Survival
  14. The Survivalist Blog
  15. Suburban Prepper
  16. The Survival Podcast
  17. Prepper Website
  18. Canadian Preppers Network
  19. Knowledge Weighs Nothing
  20. The Prepared Ninja

YouTube Channels

The Pathfinder School

  1. The Pathfinder School
  2. Nutnfancy
  3. Equip2Endure
  4. Ultimate Survival Tips
  5. SIGMA 3 Survival School
  6. Maine Prepper
  7. Ray Mears Bushcraft
  8. Analytical Survival
  9. Funky Prepper
  10. James Yeager
  11. No More Op 4
  12. Southern Prepper
  13. The Patriot Nurse
  14. Sensible Prepper
  15. Yankee Prepper
  16. Bushcraft on Fire
  17. Common Sense Outdoors
  18. The Urban Prepper
  19. Sootch00
  20. Becky’s Homestead

Facebook Pages

Homestead Survival

  1. Doomsday Preppers
  2. Homestead Survival
  3. Prepper Penny
  4. Preppers World
  5. American Preppers Network
  6. Prepper Chicks
  7. Homesteading/Survivalism
  8. Survival Preparedness
  9. Dual Survival
  10. SHTF Survival Tips
  11. Reality Survival
  12. The Prepper Project
  13. The Wannabe Homesteader
  14. Ready Nutrition
  15. Prepared Housewives
  16. SHFT & Prepping Central
  17. reThink Survival
  18. Prepared Christian
  19. Food Storage and Survival
  20. The Art of Manliness

Twitter Accounts

Survivor Jane

  1. The Weather Network (Canada)
  2. The Weather Channel (US)
  3. The Weather Channel Breaking
  4. National Hurricane Center
  5. National Weather Service
  6. The Urban Homestead
  7. CNN Breaking News
  8. Prepper Central
  9. Survivor Jane
  10. Prepper Exchange
  11. Expert Prepper
  12. iSurival Skills
  13. Prepper Broadcasting Network
  14. Prepper Talk
  15. Survival Spot
  16. Camping Survival
  17. The Survival News
  18. Les Stroud (Survivorman)
  19. I.N.C.H. Survival
  20. Daily Survival Tips

Books

SAS Survival Handbook

  1. SAS Survival Guide
  2. Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag – Your 72-Hour Disaster Kit
  3. Survival Mom – How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst-Case Scenario
  4. Edible Wild Plants – Wild Foods From Dirt To Plate
  5. Ray Mears – Essential Bushcraft
  6. Barnyard in Your Backyard: A Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Rabbits, Goats, Sheep, and Cattle
  7. Bushcraft – Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival
  8. 31 Days to Survival – A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness
  9. Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat – One Man’s Solution
  10. The Prepper’s Pocket Guide – 101 Easy Things You Can Do to Ready Your Home for a Disaster
  11. The Survival Handbook: Essential Skills for Outdoor Adventure
  12. When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need To Survive When Disaster Strikes
  13. The Forager’s Harvest – A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting and Preparing Edible Wild Plants
  14. Medicine for the Outdoors – The Essential Guide to First Aid and Medical Emergency, 5th Edition
  15. How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques, and Technologies for Uncertain Times
  16. Handbook to Practical Disaster Preparedness for the Family
  17. Prepper’s Instruction Manual – 50 Steps to Prepare for any Disaster
  18. Mini Farming: Self Sufficiency on a 1/4 Acre
  19. Strategic Relocation – North American Guide to Safe Places, 3rd Edition
  20. A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and Central North America

So what are your favorite places to learn? Who did I miss? I’d love to hear all of your thoughts in the comments below!

 

Categories: Bushcraft, Homesteading, Preparedness, Self-reliance, SHTF | Tags: , | 14 Comments

Ollas: Ancient Low Tech and Low Cost Sub-Surface Irrigation System

by Todd Walker

I woke up with an Olla (pronounced “oy-yah”) in my inbox from John Robb of Resilient Communities.

What’s an Olla?

03-09-2009ollathumbs.jpg

Photo credit: Apartment Therapy

It’s a simple unglazed clay pot that is buried in the ground near plants with the neck of the pot above ground. They typically have a wide, bulb-like base with a narrow neck. The porous walls of the olla allow water to wick to the plants root zone.

I’ve looked at the 2 liter plastic soda bottles buried next to plants for irrigation. The problem with those are that there’s no way to regulate the flow of water to plants.

Ollas are different. They seep water when the plants and surrounding dirt need it. They acts as a moisture equalizer. The unglazed clay pots dispense water only when needed. Basic physics here.

After last year’s drought, we ramped up our rainwater collection system (just added two more in a tower) in our backyard pictured below, I’m thinking ollas would help conserve even more water in our garden.

Stacked rain barrel collection system

Two 55 gallon barrels stacked to give us more water and water pressure.

Here’s some benefits of using a ollas I’ve discovered and wanted to share with you.

  • They water the roots instead of the surface of your garden or raised bed preventing soil compaction
  • The dry surface of your garden deters weed growth
  • Run off and evaporation are eliminated giving 100% application efficiency
  • The clay pots only need to be filled 1 or 2 times per week depending on climate
  • Reduces water usage by 50 to 70% making your collected rain water last even longer
  • Cuts the amount of time needed for watering with conventional methods
  • Adding fertilizer to the olla will feed the plants as it waters

One company, Dripping Springs Ollas, was started in 2011 and makes and distributes ollas. Click here to find a Dripping Springs Ollas vendor near you. Their ollas sell for around $32 each. If you don’t want to invest the money for a commercially made olla, you can always go the DiY route.

DiY Ollas

Check out these links for tutorials on making your own ollas:

If you’ve ever used ollas, we’d like to hear your experience. Drop us a note in the comments or email us at survivalsherpa (at) gmail (dot) com.

Keep Doing the Stuff,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: DIY Preparedness Projects, Gardening, Homesteading, Resilience | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Camouflaging DiY Rain Barrels for Frontyard Gardens

by Todd Walker

The resilient front yard transformation has begun in earnest at our home. Growing food – not lawns requires a certain amount of stealth. Hiding a rain barrel in plain sight was my next project on Dirt Road Girl’s honey-boo list.

I bought two food grade 55 gallon barrels months ago. One was for the DRG Compost Tumbler. I finally turned the other one into a rain barrel. The problem is that this white barrel against a red brick wall stuck out like a red fox in a chicken coop.

Camouflage was needed. Keep in mind this for our front yard not a war zone. We’ll cover that later.

Tools and material needed

The materials and a few tools for the job

The materials and a few tools for the job

Material List

  1. One 3 x 4 inch PVC reducer
  2. One 3/4 inch PVC male thread to glue adapter
  3. One 3/4 inch PVC tee with glue ends
  4. One 3/4 inch PVC 90 degree bends with glue ends
  5. One 3/4 inch PVC 90 degree bend – one end female threads – one end glue
  6. PVC cement/glue
  7. One 3/4 inch PVC cap – if you plan on adding more rain barrels at a later date as I’m planning to do
  8. One 3/4 inch PVC ball valve with glue ends
  9. Teflon and pipe dope (you could use just one of these, but I like to over do it working with water)
  10. One 3/4 inch male thread (brass) adapter with a male threaded garden hose on the other end
  11. Burlap and twine
  12. Window screen and hose clamp

Tools List

  1. Bunghole wrench – homemade from scrap lumber
  2. Jig saw
  3. Adjustable wrench or pliers
  4. Drill and bits
  5. Tin snips or metal-cutting blade a circular saw
  6. 3 feet of 3/4 inch PVC pipe – I’d recommend heavy walled schedule 40 for this application

Step 1: Remove the two-inch bunghole so you can rinse the barrel out. Some recommend a chlorox-water mix. Since my barrel contained vinegar, I just rinsed with water. Vinegar is a great alternative to bleach for cleaning anyway.

homemade bunghole tool

Homemade bunghole tool cut from a scrap 2×2. Worked great for loosening and tightening.

Step 2: Turn the barrel upside down so that the lid is on the ground. Place the 3 inch side of the 3×4 inch reducer on the barrel bottom a couple of inches from the edge of the barrel – trace the circle of the fitting on the barrel. Drill a starter hole on the inside of the circle. This allows you to insert the blade of your jig saw to make the circular cut. Tip: I had DRG hold the cutout with a pair of needle nose pliers so it didn’t fall into the barrel when the cut was finished.

Cutting the 3 inch filling hole

Cutting the 3 inch filling hole

Step 3: Flip the barrel back over. Remove the bunghole with your homemade 2×2 wrench. Being the first-born male of a master plumber and general tinkerer, I carefully clamped the bunghole in a vise and cut through the 2 inch and 3/4 inch threads with a hacks saw. This removed the extra nipple (non-threaded) portion allowing me to attach a 3/4 inch male adapter in the center of the 2 inch bunghole cap. Do Not cut through the threaded part of the bunghole cap.

Step 4: Once the cap of the 3/4 inch female center is removed, add teflon and pipe dope to the 2 inch threads of the bunghole cap and screw the cap back into the barrel hole. Tighten with your 2×2 wrench. Be careful not to over tighten and strip the treads. Now apply teflon (5 to 7 revolutions) to the 3/4 inch male adapter. Tighten hand-tight and just a half turn with a wrench.

Step 5: I built a stand for the rain barrel out of old 4x4s and half a shipping pallet. I’ve used cement blocks for rain barrel stands before this project. Whatever material you have available would work.

Once the barrel is in place on its stand, you’re ready to start cutting and putting together your drain assembly. Cut two pieces of 3/4 inch PVC pipe 5 inches long. These measurements depend on what your stand measurements are.

(Note: I made several mistakes at this point in my project. I didn’t account for the barrel sitting on a pallet and glued up my drain beforehand. Then it hit me. How am I am going to the drain through the pallet stand? I recommend you dry fit the parts – check for fit – then glue it with the barrel in place on the stand.) Below is a picture of me realizing my stupid mistake.

Don't strip the treads when tightening.

Don’t strip the treads when tightening. That would be two stupid mistakes for me.

Step 6: Assemble the drain. With the adapter tightened into the center of the bunghole cap, apply PVC glue to the female end of the adapter and the end of one of the 5 inch pieces of pipe you just cut. Mate the two together and give the pipe a 1/4 turn (do this to all your glue joints) to ensure a good seal.

Now glue a 3/4 inch elbow to the end of the other 5 inch piece of pipe. Then glue the elbow to the 5 inch drop piece attached to the bunghole cap. This should give you an inch or so of pipe sticking out (stub-out) in front of your pallet stand.

Glue the 3/4 inch PVC tee to the stub-out with the open ends running parallel to the stand. On one end (closest to my garden area) of the tee, glue a 3 inch piece of 3/4 inch pipe. Then glue the ball valve to the other end of the 3 inch piece. Cut another 3 inch piece and glue it to the open end of your ball valve.

Go ahead and attach the threaded end of the brass fitting to the female end of the last 90 degree elbow before gluing it to the open end of the pipe sticking out of the ball valve. Remember not to over-tighten.

Now glue the 3/4 inch glue end of the elbow to the end of the pipe.

Cut an 8 inch piece of pipe and glue it to the open end of the tee. Glue the cap on the end of this pipe. Your drain assembly is complete. To add more barrels, simple cut the pipe at the capped end and couple it to your next rain barrel drain assembly.

completed drain assembly

The completed drain assembly. The right side is capped and will allow me to add more rain barrels in the future.

Gutter Time

I moved the down spot on our gutter from the front corner to the side corner on the front of our house. The holly bush will help hide the barrel on the stand.

Step 7: Attach mesh screening to the 4 inch side of the reducer with a hose clamp. This will keep debris and mosquitoes out of your barrel. Place the 3 inch side of the reducer back into the hole on top of the barrel.

debris screen

I used a 10 x 10 inch piece of scrap window screen for the debris trap. Once you secure it with a hose clamp (or in my case – two smaller hose clamps joined together) trim off the excess screen under the clamp.

Step 8: With the barrel on its stand, measure the distance between the downspout and the 3 x 4 inch reducer sitting in the hole on top of the barrel. Cut a piece of gutter the proper length and secure it to the wall so that it directs rain water into the 4 inch opening at the top of the barrel. Note: Leave about two inches of space between the downspout and the top of the 4 inch reducer. This allows you room to remove the reducer to wash out collected debris periodically.

Step 9: Camouflage your barrel (optional). DRG and I picked up 3 yards of burlap from a fabric store for under $10. It’s 4 feet wide so it covered the barrel with some left over. Wrap the barrel with the burlap and tie it on with natural cordage. I tied jute twine on the bottom and top rims and two more in the middle of the barrel. Then I laced the top flaps together with more twine to insure it didn’t slide down the rain barrel.

It's not camo paint, but it blends in very well in the front yard.

It’s not camo paint, but it blends in very well in the front yard.

Now pray for rain. We just got an inch of rain last night. A 1,000 square foot roof will yield 600 gallons of water with one inch of rain. Needless to say, our barrel runneth over.

I check the pressure with the barrel being full and it will water the garden with no problem – or chlorine – or fluoride tainted city water. A water bucket is the next option if the water pressure gets too low to reach the garden.

Not only that, it’ll save us money on our water and sewer bill. Plus, it adds one more layer of resilience to our home.

Keep Doing the Stuff,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: DIY Preparedness Projects, Homesteading, Resilience, Water | Tags: , , , , | 11 Comments

How “The Poor Man’s Cow” Will Keep You Alive and Healthy

[Editor’s Note: Keeping with the theme that stuff runs out, it’s wise to build sustainable, resilient resources that transition easily from a pre to a post collapse scenario. If you have a little land, goats are an option to consider. Barbara Peterson is proving that “the poor man’s cow” can keep you alive.]

A Goat Will Keep You Alive

Alive1

by Barbara H. Peterson

Source: Farm Wars

When thinking about survival prepping, most think of collecting as many dried foods as possible to last for as many years as possible, along with whatever other supplies will be needed to take care of oneself and family without having to visit the supermarket, which, in most scenarios, will not be functioning in a post-crash world.

To this discussion, I would like to add something a bit out of the box. And that is – a goat will keep you alive. Yes, it’s true, and I have spent the last several weeks proving just that.

The survival system that I decided on was geared towards providing me and mine with fresh, whole food that is renewable and sustainable. So, I purchased two milking goats to go along with my garden. One is an Alpine cross whom I named Sunny, and the other a Mini Mancha (La Mancha and Nigerian Dwarf cross) who goes by the name of Fiona. They were pregnant when I bought them, and almost ready to kid.

Alive2I have to admit that I knew Alpines were good milkers, but had no idea what a Mini Mancha would do, and was delightfully surprised when it came time for milking at the amount that my little gal produces. For such a small individual, she is a powerhouse.

So, with these two ladies by my side, I began my journey into food freedom. Could my ladies actually keep me alive and healthy? I would soon find out.

The Experiment

Alive3The babies were born the first week of February, and I did not milk until I weaned them at 2 months of age. After that, I started milking twice per day and get 1 – 1 ½ gallons per day. Since my ladies started producing I haven’t eaten much of anything that doesn’t come from the ranch and/or local sources.

Why a goat?

My first thought was nutrition. Could I really get the nutrition I need from a diet of goat milk, veggies and fruit? So, I looked up a bit of nutritional information:

Nutrition

Goat milk is also a healthier alternative to cow milk. Why? Cow milk has to be homogenized to be more easily digested, which is a process where the fat globules are broken down. However, this is not necessary with goat milk because it is naturally homogenized. Therefore goat milk is much more easily digested than cow milk is.

Goat milk has more of the essential vitamins that we need. Goat milk has 13% more calcium, 25% percent more B6, 47% percent more vitamin A, and 27% more selenium. It also has more chloride, copper, manganese, potassium, and niacin than cow milk. It also produces more silicon and fluorine than any other dairy animal. Silicon and fluorine can help prevent diabetes.

Scientist are not sure why, but people who are lactose intolerant can often drink goat milk without having to worry about side effects. Goat milk does not cause phlegm like cow milk does, so you can drink goat milk even when you have a cold or bad allergy problems.

http://www.dairygoatjournal.com/issues/83/83-4/Daniel_Peterson.html

For a complete nutritional breakdown comparing goat milk to cow and human milk, go toFias Co Farm.

Ease of upkeep

The next concern was how easy are they to keep? It turns out that they are the best bet for the money when it comes to dairy critters. Goats are less time consuming, eat less, and are less labor intensive than cows, making them much more economical. They are also browsers and not grazers, meaning that they will eat stuff that cows simply will not touch, and can be used to clear weeds. If you turn them out on your property to browse, they will eat brush and weeds, leaving you with cleared, fertilized land, sans the heavy machinery and spendy store-bought fertilizers. Just be careful of the weeds that they eat as the taste will end up in your milk.

Often the dairy goat has been called the “poor man’s cow,” because good dairy goats do not cost near as much as good dairy cows do. You can raise more goats on a smaller amount of pasture than you can cows. While it takes an acre for a cow/calf, you can successfully raise six goats on one acre. Cows usually have only one calf per year, while goats have two kids (that’s what you call a young goat) after their second year. Pound for pound a good dairy goat will produce more milk than a cow will. Unlike a cow, a good dairy goat can produce up to 10% of its body weight in milk.

http://www.dairygoatjournal.com/issues/83/83-4/Daniel_Peterson.html

Choosing your goat

There are several breeds to choose from, and what is right for one, might not be right for another.

The most frequently asked question that people ask me about goats is, ”What is the difference in each breed’s milk taste, and how much milk do they average.” And that is always one of the hardest questions to answer, simply because there really aren’t any solid answers I can give! Each individual goat is going to have its own amount of milk it’s going to give, and it’s going to have its own taste. Think of it like a grab bag. You never know what you’re going to get.

But that sounds rather discouraging. How on earth is a body supposed to choose a goat breed if they’re hesitant about each one? Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to own almost all the dairy breeds out there, and then try the milk from countless of other goats. Through much experience (read: trial and error as we bought goats that gave horrid tasting milk!), I’ve gotten to know each breed’s quirks and histories, and I’ve come to realize that it actually is possible to give people an idea of what to expect from each breed.

http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/choosing-a-dairy-goat-breed.aspx#ixzz2TlWeV9xJ

Saanen, Alpine, Nubian, Toggenburg, Oberhaslis, La Mancha, Nigerian Dwarf, and combinations thereof are the main dairy breeds. I would rather not get hooked on buying a purebred since they are more expensive, and certain crosses yield excellent milk, in my opinion. My gals are both crosses and their milk is wonderful.

So, when you are looking for your milking goat, go with taste, volume, temperament, size of teats if you are hand milking, and orifice size. You can determine all of these things if you go to the place where you are considering purchasing your goat and observe the hands on experience. Watch the goats to see how they relate to each other, watch your prospect getting milked, ask questions, and taste her milk. I always recommend buying from a trusted source, and if in doubt, get a vet check before purchase.

Preparing for your goat

Alive13I asked the local goat-keeper what type of fencing my girls would need. He said that if I can make an enclosure that would hold water, I should be able to keep them in at all times…. Okay! A challenge. Well, I ended up with a 52” fence because I used large pallets. So far, it has worked. My friend uses 5’ high woven wire fencing. That is optimal, but since the pallets were free, that is what I chose.

The feeder is outside of the pen, allowing them to put their heads through the holes and eat without trampling it on the ground and soiling it. Hay nets are another option, but if your goat has horns, she can get them caught in the hay net.

Alive4

Large dog houses are excellent shelters, but just about anything can be used such as a raised camper shell, a-frame structures, etc. Basically, your goats need to have some place dry and out of the elements to get to. A good straw bedding inside will keep them warm, dry and happy, and provide a good kidding area.

They will also need a good supply of fresh, clean water. Goats do not like dirty water, and if you live in freezing conditions you will need to get a water heater. I use 5 gallon buckets that are cleaned regularly.

Keeping your goat healthy

Feed

You will want to get a good supply of high quality hay for your girls. I let the babies browse the ranch, but the milking mamas get a controlled feed so that the taste of the milk can be regulated. As I stated before, whatever they eat affects the taste of the milk. If you cannot get feed for your girls, they can be turned out to forage in an emergency and will do just fine as long as there is plenty of grass and other vegetation. Click HERE for a list of edible and poisonous plants for goats.

Each goat needs 2 to 4 pounds of hay each day, although some of this need can be met by available pasture or other forage. Make it available free choice throughout the day when pasture is unavailable or feed twice a day when goats are also browsing.

You can feed alfalfa (and some grass hays) in pellet form if you don’t have storage or if you want to mix it with grain. The goats don’t waste so much alfalfa when it’s in pellets, and you can limit who gets it by combining it with their grain.

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/what-to-feed-your-goats.html

I am currently feeding a free-choice oat/pea hay combination along with a non-GMO dairy goat pellet , whole oats, rolled barley, alfalfa pellets, timothy grass pellets, and molasses. They also get free-choice loose minerals and baking soda.

Worming

When it is time to worm, I mix food grade diatomaceous earth with their grain ration along with a bit of warm water and molasses to coat everything so that it all gets eaten. Here is some info about diatomaceous earth:

Food grade diatomaceous earth makes a very effective natural insecticide. The insecticidal quality of diatomaceous earth is due to the razor sharp edges of the diatom remains. When diatomaceous earth comes in contact with the insects, the sharp edges lacerate the bugs waxy exoskeleton and then the powdery diatomaceous earth absorbs the body fluids causing death from dehydration.

Food grade diatomaceous earth has been used for at least two decades as a natural wormer for livestock. Some believe diatomaceous earth scratches and dehydrates parasites. Some scientists believe that diatomaceous earth is a de-ionizer or de-energizer of worms or parasites. Regardless, people report definite control. To be most effective, food grade diatomaceous earth must be fed long enough to catch-all newly hatching eggs or cycling of the worms through the lungs and back to the stomach. A minimum of 60 days is suggested by many, 90 days is advised for lungworms.

Food grade diatomaceous earth works in a purely physical/mechanical manner, not “chemical” and thus has no chemical toxicity. Best yet, parasites don’t build up a tolerance/immunity to its chemical reaction, so rotation of wormers is unnecessary.

http://wolfcreekranch1.tripod.com/defaq.html

Injury care

Goats are hardy creatures, so a bit of prevention goes a long way. I keep Povidone Iodine around for minor cuts, along with hydrogen peroxide and colloidal silver. My medical kit is stocked with sterile cotton, vet-wrap, sharp scissors, an enema bottle, small bottles of hydrogen peroxide, colloidal silver and Betadine, cotton swabs, thermometer, and small towels.

Trimming feet

Your milking stand can also be used to secure your goats for hoof trimming.

Alive12Comprehensive instructions along with pictures can be found by clickingHERE. Also, remember to keep a bottle of blood-stop powder handy just in case you trim a little too deep and draw blood. If this happens, simply sprinkle a bit on, and that will stop the bleeding.

To horn or not to horn

Most goat people will insist on disbudding the babies. I don’t. I know that this is a contentious subject, but clearly, goats are born with them and they serve a purpose. We disbud (remove) them for our own personal convenience, not theirs. The choice is yours, as I have already made mine. Here is an article that supports my belief:

Yes, horns get in the way. Yes, they can cause some damage. But did you know that in most countries, disbudding is considered akin to surgically removing a leg, or ears, or an udder? And  well it should be, in my book. That said, goat owners have to take their individual circumstances into consideration. Maybe, if I had a lot of little kids around, I might think differently. But I would probably just do what I did when my kids were little and there were sharp pointy goat horns around: put tennis balls, or some sort of rubber, squishy thing, on the end of the horns.Worked great. Goats didn’t care. No eyes got poked out.  If I had a bajillion goats in a small space, maybe I would disbud. If I was going to show my goats, I’d have to – it’s THE LAW. Hmmm. I’m not showing. In my particular case, I’m willing to make management changes in order to let my goats be goats.

http://dancingdogfarm.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/why-we-believe-goats-should-have-horns/

If you decide to disbud, click HERE for some instructions.

Milking

A happy goat is a good milking goat. At first arrival to a new home, your goat will take some time to get used to her surroundings. Since they are herd animals, they like company. So, a compatible goat buddy is better for your goat than being the lone stranger.

Goats can hold back their milk of they are unhappy, and if they are satisfied, can deliver it easily. It is really up to them. This means that developing a good relationship with them is paramount. When I started milking my mamas, I sang to them. Now that we are in a routine, and they love routines, I open the gate and they run to the milking stand. This took a bit of doing.

At first, Fiona didn’t want to get on. She hadn’t been milked on a stand before and would have none of it. I had to lift her up and place her on it. Well, that wasn’t going to last for long, so I started only giving them grain when they were on the stand. Problem solved.  They now associate the stand with grain, and the longer I milk, the more grain they get to eat, so they give me as much milk as possible.

Click HERE for detailed instructions on how to hand milk a goat. I like to use a mild solution of warm water and apple cider vinegar for an udder wash and teat dip.

Click HERE for detailed instructions on how to construct a milking stand.

Alive5If you have more than a couple of goats, and you will after kidding, you might want to invest in a milking machine. I invested in an aspirator purchased from an eBay seller for $109, some hose for $25, a couple of replacement batteries for $25, two fittings, a dosing syringe, and a gallon jar with lid that I had around the house. My friend had already made one, so she put the fittings and hose together for me, and showed me how to use it.

The main thing to remember about goat milk is that it will pick up the flavor of anything it comes in contact with. Therefore, cleanliness will yield the best tasting milk. Also, I don’t let my milk come in contact with plastic containers. I use a stainless steel bucket and glass jars. Immediately after milking, I strain the milk into a glass jar and place it in the fridge to cool. No “goaty” taste for me! People who taste my milk say it tastes like creamy, sweet cow’s milk. They can’t tell it’s from a goat.

Food  and other stuff

When I say that a goat will keep you alive, I mean it. Here is a typical day’s meal:

Alive6Breakfast:

Goat milk smoothie – goat milk, whatever fruit is handy and honey placed in a blender and blended until smooth and creamy, or goat milk and homemade granola made with oats, fruit and nuts.

Alive7Lunch:

Goat cheese and spinach salad.

Alive8Dinner:

Vegetable soup and homemade bread made with whey from the cheesemaking process.

Alive9Snack:

Goat ice-milk mixed with fruit, nuts, and any other flavors you like.

 

Here are pics of a couple of the cheeses that I make with stuff from the garden, goat milk and apple cider vinegar.

Alive10Walking Onion Goat Cheese

Alive11Wild Celery Goat Cheese

I also feed the whey and excess milk to the cats and chickens. It keeps them fat and healthy.

You can also make a very mild and gentle soap from goat milk.

<iframe width=”640″ height=”360″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/HuZxsdWUTI8?feature=player_embedded&#8221; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Packing

Goats are also used for packing, and will leave a much more invisible footprint than other animals such as donkeys and horses.

Conclusion

The results of my experiment are that I am feeling strong, energetic, am definitely healthy, and do not feel one bit deprived. And what do I owe it to? My two milking mamas, fresh fruit, veggies, local honey and a penchant for independence. I am confident that if the store shelves run dry, I can still eat healthy, good tasting food and get the nutrition that I need. A goat will keep you alive.

©2013 Barbara H. Peterson

Author bio: Barbara Peterson, Writer/Activist, lives on a small ranch in Oregon where she raises geese, chickens, goats and horses. This rural lifestyle is under attack at the most basic level. Federal regulations and the corporate takeover of our food supply with Monsanto’s invasive GMO technology is designed to make it next to impossible to raise animals and organic food.

It is time to step up to the plate and fight or lose it all without a whimper. Choose to take a stand and fight. We can make a difference.

You may contact her on her site at FarmWars.com

 

Categories: Homesteading, Natural Health, Preparedness, Real Food, Resilience | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Todd’s Tomato Ladders: No More Lame Cages

by Todd Walker

Dirt Road Girl wanted something substantial to cage her tomatoes in our front yard. She hates those flimsy wire cages. Our backyard is full shade. We followed the sun and started food-scaping the font yard. There’s sunshine 8 hours a day out front.

She wanted something functional, sturdy, and of course, homemade. I made rolled wire cages last year from fencing. One problem with these cages was that they blew over during summer storms – even after staking them down in the container. We needed something anchored into the ground.

We had an old wooden ladder by my shop. I suggested we use it as a ‘cage.’

“That’ll work!”

Here’s what she came up with… for me to do!

Tomato ladder

Todd’s Tomato Ladder is not your typical tomato cage.

After a quick search online, she drew inspiration from Mother Earth News – Woody’s Folding Tomato Cages.

Keep in mind that these tomato ladders are going in our front yard. I printed Woody’s plans, gather lumber, and set to building. He calls for using 8 foot 1×3 lumber for the legs. I go to work.

8 foot is 2 feet shy of a regulation basketball goal.

8 foot tomato ladders are 2 feet shy of a regulation basketball goal.

It never occurs to me that erecting two “twin tower” tomato ladders in our front yard might draw neighbor’s ire. We try to fly under the radar as much as possible in our front yard food-scaping. These 8 footers would work in the country or a backyard.

I quickly build two of these bad boys, set them over the containers, and think, “wow, those sure are high.”

Painting your house, Walker?

Painting your house, Walker?

They lasted about a week after we noticed neighbors walking by with thought bubbles over their heads…

“What are they up to this year!?!”

Back to the drawing board.

I needed to shrink Woody’s plans.

Here’s the plan if you want to build our 6 foot model.

Bill of Material

Use non-pressure treated lumber to keep chemicals from leaching into your plants.

Four 1 x 3 boards 8 feet long

Two 1 x 2 boards 8 feet long

10 1/2 inch piece of 2 x 4 lumber

About 40-50 1 5/8 inch screws (I use star drive decking screws. It’s my personal mission to convert everyone to superior star drive screws)

Four 3 inch decking screws (2 will be used to attach the 2 x 4 to the legs – 2 will be used to attach the base of the legs to ground stakes)

Tools List

Circular Saw – If you’ve got a miter saw, it makes quick work of the cutting chores. But a circular saw will do the job.

Drill/Impact Driver

Hammer (for driving anchor stakes in the ground)

1/8 inch drill bit

Tape measure

Pencil

Skill Level

Beginner

Time Needed

30 minutes per ladder (that’s a generous estimate)

Cut List

1. Cut four 1 x 3’s six-foot long.

2. Cut one piece of 2 x 4 scrap 10 1/2 inches long.

3. Cut the 1 x 2’s for the rungs of the inside legs – working from the bottom of the ladder to the top: 19 1/2 inches, 17 1//4 inches, 15 1/2 inches, 13 3/4 inches, and 12 1/4 inches.

4. Cut the 1 x 2’s for the rungs of the outside legs – working from the bottom to the top: 21 inches, 19 inches, 17 inches, 15 1/4, and 13 3/4.

5. Cut two 1 x 3’s twenty inches long (use the extra two feet cut from the leg pieces). These will be the cross braces on the legs.

Putting it all together

If you don’t want to cut all your material ahead of time, that’s perfectly fine. Pre-cutting will streamline your build and save time.

Step 1: Stack two of the 6 foot 1 x 3 inch legs with the ends flush. Drill a pilot hole through one end of the boards with  the 1/8th inch drill bit in the center of the 1 x 3 about 3/4 of an inch from the end of the board. This is where you will insert a 3 inch screw into the piece of the 2 x 4 in a moment. Repeat the process with the two remaining  6 foot 1 x 3 legs.

Step 2: With two of the legs stacked flush, screw a three-inch screw through the pilot hole into the end of the 10 1/2 inch piece 2 x 4 stock. The ends of the 1 x 3’s need to be flush and centered (meaning about 1/4 inch of 2 x 4 exposed on either side of the 1 x 3) on the end of the 2 x 4. Don’t over sink the screws or you’ll spit the wood. Then attach the other two legs to the other end of the 2 x 4. This will serve as the top of the ladder and pivot point for the legs.

Step 3: Go ahead and drill pilot holes in each end of the rungs. Attach the bottom rung (19 1/2 inches) with one 1 5/8 in. screw per side – one foot from the bottom on the inside legs. Continue attaching rungs – longest to shortest – up the ladder with one foot spacing. Now, flip the ladder over and repeat the process for the outside legs starting with the 21 inch rung.

Step 4: With the rungs attached evenly, open the ladder and stand it up. Connect the 20 inch braces to the sides of the ladder. I attached mine at the second rung from the bottom. You can adjust the width of the ladder by moving the braces up for a wider base or down to make the ladder more narrow.

Step 5: Place the tomato ladder over your tomato plant. Drive a pointed wooden stake in the ground beside two legs catty-corner style. Screw the legs into the stakes to anchor them securely.

After the growing season, simply take one screw out of each brace, unscrew the legs from the ground stakes, and fold the tomato ladders up for storage. Or move them into your greenhouse for the winter growing season.

Note: I cut two feet off the top of our original “twin tower” tomato ladders to keep neighborly busy-bodying to a minimum. Here’s the finished product.

Todd's Tomato Ladders

Four of Todd’s Tomato Ladders anchored and ready with an old wooden ladder on the far left.

Friends don’t let friends use lame tomato cages! What’s your best method of caging tomatoes?

Here’s a non-related byproduct of building these tomato ladders…

3 pound bass

My fly rod and this largemouth bass ended my Saturday on a great note!

Keep Doing the Stuff,

Todd

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Categories: DIY Preparedness Projects, Gardening, Homesteading | Tags: , , | 12 Comments

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