Tag Archives: Homesteaders

What if I had a do-over?

What would I do different if I could or would start over again?Start over doing what exactly?  Some people think I am a prepper, to which I laugh and reply “If I was I would not last much longer than anyone else.”  I’d like to think I have more knowledge than the average suburban dweller, but I am hardly prepared.  Others think I am a farmer, which makes me smile.  Sadly I am not a farmer, but rather a guy who’s hobby is backyard farming. 

Lately I’d like to think of myself as a micro-farmer.  I do a lot of things that I consider are much the same as a real farm, but just on a smaller scale.  The goal is to learn as much as possible, and with a scalable plan, one day make the whole concept larger.  Perhaps that will be the leap into modern homesteading.

How some friends think I live or at least how I must be prepared.

So, what would I do differently?  In a word, go bigger.  In nearly all respects I have expanded, with the only exception being the worm bin.   I suppose I was initially concerned with both time and labor to manage it all, but in the end going bigger with the coop, garden, and greenhouse doesn’t add more to my chores, not significantly anyway.  The only challenge would have been gathering the resources (materials, cash, etc.) and getting the time to build it all.  Remember, chickens are a gateway drug, er animal!

Before I began this journey, I just started with a small garden in a less than ideal location, the north side of wooded edge where Japanese knotweed thrived in a soupy clay soil.  This was my second garden attempt.  The first one was in a great location in terms of sun, but was on the other side of the property, and thus out of sight and out of mind.  Far too often I neglected the chores of watering, weeding , and harvesting and the whole venture just didn’t work.  The present location is straight off the back door about 65 feet away.  I see it every day and so my thought was I would neglect it less, which was true.  But the location was really lousy.

The clay soil was easy to overcome.  With a few bags of good dirt, compost, and time, the soil was the least of the issues.  The shade from the woods was not ideal, but I did manage to grow a few things in three raised beds.  Certainly did not have the bountiful harvests I imagined.  The worst part was my extreme lack of understanding just how resilient Japanese knotweed can be.  Fighting this evil back consumed a lot of my time and resources plus tempted me with all sorts of chemicals in order to remove it.  It took about two years of pulling, choking, and smothering to get rid of it, and yet it still pops up here and there.

 What if I had a do over?Young, relatively tender knotweed shoots, maybe a month or so into growth.

Knotweed isn’t all bad.  In the spring the young shoots can be prepared much like rhubarb, in the summer the chickens and goats like eating the leaves.  In the fall it flowers which provides a great food source for the bees and a great flavor to the honey.  But thinking I could pull it out and plant a garden in the same spot, let’s just say I felt like such a fool.

Japanese Knotweed KerryWixted What if I had a do over?Looks like these guys surrendered to the knotweed, stuff is like Zombies.

Since my 2nd small garden I have expanded to about an area 30 x 70 or so with raised beds (without framing on most).  I have plans to expand further toward better light.  Slowly I am taking over the lawn and replacing it with garden.  I would rather garden then cut the grass any day.  What would I do different?  I would find a better location initially that is naturally more conducive to a garden versus trying to undo what nature has already done.  I would make the garden much larger even if I wasn’t going to use or work it all right away.  I don’t look forward to pulling the metal t-posts.

I started with three chickens, and no coop.  It was an impulse buy, a way to force me to start something I’ve wanted to do for years, keep animals.  I had to scramble to make an enclosure and run which was simply a large dog crate and dog kennel.  I then spent the summer building the 4×8 chicken condo,  it became a race to get it finished before the hens got too big for their dog crate and before winter set it.  I would not recommend this method as the stress of time and resources was less than ideal.  I planned for 8 hens but I now have 14.  Chickens are addictive, like crack addictive.  Build a bigger coop and run.  Even if you never get more chickens, it will just be a one-time build.  I studied countless plans and viewed hundreds of videos on how others do it.  I have since learned chickens, for the most part, love being outside, with the exception being heavy or fresh snow which they cannot understand.  Their indoor space is really only used to sleep, and if you integrate next boxes, to lay eggs.  Chickens are simple so just keep it dry, well ventilated, and big enough for all the hens.  I do a deep litter method which really is the only way to go in my opinion.  I would also recommend a deep litter method for the run or their outside enclosure.  Chickens turn just about any confined space into the lunar surface if you give it enough time.  A stinky lunar surface if it is exposed to moisture.  I’d cover it more for rain and snow protection and make the ground deep with straw.  Chickens love a good scratch.  Why not let them make compost in addition to eggs.  It will do wonders for your poor native soil.  So, I would make a bigger coop, a larger covered run, and add a lot of straw to their run area to give them plenty of scratch and in the end gives me great soil.

innocent Briggs

I also raise goats.  Nigerian Dwarf goats.  They are the right size for the property.  This year I decided to put them to work clearing brush and browse in the woods versus keep them confined and on feed I had to pay and store.  I do this with portable electric netting fencing, which is awesome.  It does not do that great in really heavy wind or snow, but for the summer months it helps provide rotational paddocks and free food.  Next time I would fence off a larger area to make this a bit easier.  I would provide a larger covered area that is still outside.  Goats detest moisture.  They run for cover if it even mists.  Mud and goats are not friends.  If you have mud, consider pigs, not goats.  I would make my feed storage close to the hay feeder.   I would run water to their housing area as for now I use a garden hose in summer and haul 5 gallon buckets in winter.  I would start with does, period.  While I have a couple wethers and a doe, one wether just doesn’t accept he isn’t a buck.  And bucks can be a challenge.  He is rude, loud, sometimes a bully, and an overall stinky prick, but yes at times very sweet and protective of his girlfriend – any goat nearby seems to do.  So I would not get a buck, and since my wether thinks he’s a buck, I would just get does.

Apiary.  I am also a beekeeper.  An apiarist.  Recently I found my bees all died.  I think the early cold snap caught them not quite ready for winter.  I chose a spot that was less than ideal, much like the garden idea.  I chose a spot I could see and was away from neighbors, but it was in part shade along the north side of the wood line.  After a couple years with bees they proved to be good neighbors.  They are less than 60 feet from the house, less than 30 feet from the pool, and they are unnoticeable.  We rejected the best location due to proximity to other humans.  Next year I will be moving the apiary or bee yard to the BEST sunny location.  Bees like to be warm.  And the warmer they are the more productive they can be.  Where they are currently they would not get sun until 10:30 or so and be in part sun to shade the rest of the day.  Bees that wake early and return home late are just more productive.  The winter sun would help them manage in the winter.  Right now they have no good wind break.  Next year they will get full sun and have a great windbreak of tall pines.

What would I do differently?  I would save some resources before I jumped in.  This includes materials and cash.  It would be less stressful and I would have what I need when I needed it.  I would go bigger.  Not huge, but bigger than I initially thought, maybe by at least a third to a half.  Bigger coop, bigger run, bigger goat cover, bigger gargen, bigger greenhouse.  If you have the space, go bigger.  If not, can you go vertical?

ah, when they were innocent and adorable, vs. stinky and bullish…but they still have their moments

I would centralize resources better, mostly structures.  Can I keep chickens on one side, goats on the other, garden on another, and store their stuff on yet another?  Can I plumb it?  Can I run electric to it?  Right now I have a great closed system, but it does need tweaking (and walking around fencing).  My hay feed and straw move from the greenhouse storage to the goat house and hay feeder.  The goats soil the straw and waste a bunch of hay they drop to the ground.  This waste gets mucked out and moved to the chicken yard.  Some I use for litter, but mostly I use it for scratch.  The chickens love to scratch any loose material.  They will pick out any bugs and turn it all over nicely.  Once they have broken it down, the chicken yard gets raked out and moved to the compost pile.  The scraps the worms don’t get (due to supply or current feeding),  go into the compost heap, along with any other yard waste.  In the fall and spring I use this compost to build the garden beds.  The soil is amazing.  I built five beds this way and the harvest proved it works.

So in conclusion, it’s ok to just jump right in, but it will have some consequences.  It’s ok to plan and analyze forever, but the reality will be different, trust me.  Take time to observe.  Observe animals you are interested.  Observe the weather in your yard.  Observe the sun.  Don’t be afraid to slap stuff together, the animals never mind.  Shelter from wind, rain, sun, and snow is all they ask.  Fresh feed and fresh water will eliminate most health issues.  Fresh bedding with some DE goes a long way to mitigate bugs.    It’s ok if you have to redo something.  You are learning, which is great.  Wisdom is making plenty of mistakes and doing your best not to repeat them.

007 1 What if I had a do over?
Farmer Mike

Hi, my name is Farmer Mike from Awosting Farms and I am trying to use what resources we have as a learning experience towards sustainability. Some people talk of being green, being eco-this or sustainable-that, but I am attempting to take a more practical approach in my learning by actually doing what I can, where I am, with the patience and support of my family and friends. So far the journey is rewarding, educational, and entertaining.


This article can also be viewed at Modern Homesteaders.  Check out their membership program as well!



46 Pioneer Skills for the Modern Homesteader

46 Pioneer Skills for the Modern Homesteader / The DayOne Gear BlogThese days, most people define “homesteading” in terms of lifestyle.  This is especially true among preppers who seek self-sufficiency by embracing old-style, pioneer era skills to define their independence from traditional supply chains and government interference.  This does not necessarily mean we live off-grid in some far out location where there are no modern conveniences whatsoever.  Quite the contrary.

21st century homesteading is a mindset that can take place in the city core, an apartment, a planned community or suburbia.  And of course, the homesteading mindset prevails in rural communities, farmlands and other more traditional homestead-type locations.

Becoming a 21st century homesteader means downsizing, minimizing and living a healthier life.  Today I share 46 skills that most modern homesteaders will want to learn as they strive to live a better, yet simpler, life.

46 Pioneer Skills for the Modern 21st Century Homesteader

  1. Vegetable Gardening
  2. Cooking on an Open Fire
  3. Baking
  4. Herb Gardening
  5. Herbal Medicine
  6. First Aid and Emergency Medical Care
  7. Animal Husbandry
  8. Butchering
  9. Fire-starting and Fire Building
  10. Carpentry
  11. Masonry
  12. Plumbing
  13. Sewing
  14. Knitting and Crochet
  15. Weaving and Spinning
  16. Hunting
  17. Fishing
  18. Canning and Preserving
  19. Home Brewing
  20. Gunsmithing
  21. Soap Making
  22. Candle Making
  23. Power Generation (Solar and Wind)
  24. Vehicle Maintenance
  25. Mechanical Repair and Maintenance
  26. Equipment Operator
  27. Home Maintenance
  28. Welding
  29. Blacksmithing
  30. Leatherwork
  31. Well Building
  32. Foraging
  33. Knife Sharpening
  34. Bartering
  35. Milking
  36. Beekeeping
  37. Seed Harvesting
  38. Orchard Management
  39. Waste Management
  40. Pest Control
  41. Grinding Wheat and Other Grains
  42. Interpersonal Skills
  43. Leadership
  44. Patience
  45. Perseverance
  46. Faith

The Final Word

The homesteading mindset embraces using less energy, eating wholesome, locally sourced food, and making life choices relating to a rich and rewarding family life.  It means living comfortably yet within the bounds of doing as much as you can in a sustainable manner.

In addition to having pioneer skills, most 21st century homesteaders are good citizens and community minded.  They are also preppers of the highest order.

Can you think of some other useful pioneer skills for the modern, 21st century homesteader?

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

This article can also be viewed at Backdoor Survival.  Check out Gaye’s new Ebook below!

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A Short History of Herbs

The world of today is a world of progress, no one doubts about that. We have managed to do in 200 years of continuous industrial revolution, what we couldn’t do in thousands and thousands of our up and down history. And yet, with all these technological breakdowns and synthetic substances, artificial food, not to mention the reign of King “Plastic”, some people still find the power and the wisdom to ask themselves how people in the past remained healthy and fit without nutritional supplements, drugs, even antibiotics.

Their secret was that that they used what Mother Nature gave them: the plants to cure themselves. Fortunately, this knowledge hasn’t been forgotten; even if they’re not so widely used, plants have found their place in our civilization.

The story begins thousands of years ago, before the recorded history, when man didn’t know how to write or read, but knew how to follow their instincts. They discovered that certain herbs could alleviate their pains, others could make a wound disappear and others could even kill them. In the course of time, societies developed and with them appeared the means to transmit their knowledge other than orally.


rhubarb A Short History of Herbs


5000 years ago, in Ancient China, people used rhubarb (Rheune palmatum) as a purgative without knowing anything about the actual active substances they contained. Also, they used Ephedra to treat asthma, even though the substance called ephedrine was discovered much later, in 1887 AD. All oriental ancient civilizations had their insights into the fascinating world of botany, as plants were one of the few elements to which they could resort to heal themselves.

The famous king Hammurabi of Babylon (18th century BC) recommended mint to cure constipation and other digestive disorders. Mesopotamian doctors considered that the best time to take a herbal medicine was at night or early in the morning, a principle which is confirmed nowadays by modern studies.

The Indians had an entire system of rules, prescriptions, remedies and practices, calledAyurveda, many of which involved the use of plants. They also had strict rules about when, by whom and from where the plants should be collected.


Castor oil plant seeds 1024x598 A Short History of Herbs

Caster Oil Plant Seeds

People in Ancient Egypt knew and used the castor-oil plant, wormwood, saffron and oregano to heal and disinfect wounds; they also put coriander in their tombs so that the spirit will remain healthy in his afterlife. There are written records of their use of garlic (especially for the workmen who built the pyramids), indigo, mint and opium. The Greek and Roman civilizations have made a major contribution to the medical science. Although much of their studies stemmed from other cultures (Mesopotamian, Egyptian), they added precious information and, in time, they became more and more concerned about the diseases and cures as natural and realistic processes, rather than spiritual or magical. Physicians like Hippocrates, Dioscoride and others have recorded their discoveries; their works would enlighten the pre-medieval civilizations for many centuries after their death. Dioscorides wrote De Materia Medica (1st century AD), which contained a list of hundreds of medicinal plants, along with their description and curative qualities.

The Dark Ages met with a lack of any further recorded herbal studies; the knowledge was probably transmitted from generation to generation – parents taught children, monks, even herbalist taught apprentices. However, there lived a great Persian physician by the name of Avicenna (Abu Ali al-Husayn ibn Abd Allah Ibn Sina) who wrote one of the most famous books in the history of medical science: The Canon, which also contained information about how plants should be used and their properties.

In 1527, the Swiss thinker Paracelsus demonstrates that only a small part of the plant has an effect upon the human body (1g per 20 kg of plant), which is what we now call active substance. Later on, scientists have developed methods to isolate these substances.


theatrum botanicum 2630119 300x247 A Short History of Herbs

Theatrum Botanicum by John Parkinson in 1640


However, the first complete categorization of all known medicinal plants was printed in a book called Theatrum Botanicum by John Parkinson in 1640 AD. In 1649 Nicholas Culpeper pulished A Physical Directory, which is considered one of the best herbal pharmacopoeia manuals still quoted today.


Physical Directory 300x300 A Short History of Herbs

A Physical Directory by Nicholas Culpeper


As chemistry as a science developed, physicians started to use more and more widely synthetic medicines, such as aspirin, which proved to have side effects. Yet all pharmacists and drug producers confirm the fact that, unlike artificially synthesized substances, medicines extracted from plants are more accessible to the metabolism and friendlier with the human body.

Ornamental Rule Lines in Different Design 2 150x44 A Short History of Herbs

This article was written by Kat Yorba at Simply-Living-Simply and can be viewed here.  While you are there like them on Facebook!

The Apothecary Garden


 The Apothecary Garden (Rosemary increases focus and memory)  An Apothecary Garden is an important addition to any farm whether your plot is an apartment balcony or large acreage.  Herbs easily grow in pots on the porch or a south window in the house or in their own space in the garden.

Apothecary gardens have been a staple in every culture around the world for many, many centuries.  The religious leaders were generally the herbalists, medicine men, and healers of the village.  Herbs have amazing healing powers and are every bit as effective and much more safe than pharmaceuticals.  Herbalists have been known as healers since the beginning of mankind.  Sometimes these things are met with cynicism.  I know how to make a broken bone heal in two weeks.


Folks that aren’t aware of herbs are confused about this.  My own family stems back to the Salem witch hunts where many of my herbalist ancestors were burned at the stake.  Herbs are wondrous and miraculous, but met with confusion all the same.  My goal is to take the woohoo out of herbs.  They heal.  End of story. Now let’s get your Apothecary garden going!

 The Apothecary Garden (Peppermint)

Peppermint is a staple everyone should have.  It is a mild pain reliever but its real job is in the digestive area.  It will calm an upset tummy, help stop heartburn, even heal stomach lining due to ulcers or colitis.  It is carminative, meaning it is anti-gas!  A cup of tea is delicious and with a little chamomile and ginger (which contain the same digestive properties) you will have a fine medicinal tea ready for the taking.

 The Apothecary Garden (St. John’s Wort)

St. John’s Wort is becoming harder to find to grow, but if you can get it, grab it!  The pharmaceutical companies use a derivative of St. John’s Wort that is then lab created to make chronic pain medications and anti-depressants.  If you can change the structure of the constituent then you can patent it.  Can’t patent something God made up.  He was there first.  Therefore, you cannot make very much money peddling a plant.  Big pharma is after a bit more money than that.  Making a tea of St. John’s Wort flowers, leaves, and rose petals is every bit as strong as an anti-depressant/anxiety medication.  There are corporations out there that don’t want you to know that!

 The Apothecary Garden (Roses)

Valerian is a beautiful plant that will get your sleep cycle back into a peaceful rhythm.  It is also an excellent pain reliever.  Add catnip and chamomile to go to sleep.  Add California Poppy and St. John’s Wort for an excellent sleep remedy.

 The Apothecary Garden (Valerian)

 The Apothecary Garden (California Poppy and Calendula)

Stinging Nettles will stop allergies in three minutes flat.  Take care when harvesting them (they aren’t called Stinging for nothing!) and dry them in a paper sack.  Crumble them up and make tea with them.

Dandelions can be made into tea or salad to help heal the liver and gallbladder.

Red Clovers help with women’s health, uterine health, and breast and uterine cancer.

So the weeds that pop up in the garden are there for a reason too!

There are Apothecary gardens that are designed in a circle with paths leading north and south, west and east.  There are Apothecary gardens that have winding paths.  I turned the front three feet of my long front yard into our garden.  The left side is medicinal plants and the right side are culinary (which also have medicinal qualities) herbs.  One large section of the garden holds the Poppies and Calendula (great for skin when infused into oil) to inspire beneficial insects to the garden.  Pots of herbs line the porch and in the winter are brought in to line the window sills.

Head to the nursery and see what you can add to your garden.  Want to learn more and completely take charge of your family’s health?  Look up my correspondence classes for Certified and Master Herbalists and take control of your medicine!http://gardenfairyapothecary.com

I am also leading an herb walk and medicinal tea talk Sunday, June 30th from 10-12 at Castlewood Canyon.  Meet at the visitor’s center.  Their cost is $7.

The Original article may be found here: The Farmgirl School

 The Apothecary Garden

Modern Homesteaders is about getting back to basics and becoming self-sufficient and self-reliant in today’s uncertain world. Quite simply Modern Homesteaders is about revitalizing the mindset and skill set that the pioneers and our forefathers utilized on a day to day basis, with a modern day twist.

Grow, Can and Store!

Like me, so many of us are diligently planning our spring gardens.  We start our pen-to-paper plans, gather supplies to start our precious seeds, and wait for the weather to turn so we might start working and preparing our beds.  But in this idle time we have waiting, you really should be considering inventorying your canning supplies and planning your crop based on your families  need.


It’s a good time to calculate how many jars of pickles, cans of jelly and jam your family typically needs to get you through winter months.  I learned this winter that I hadn’t actually canned enough dills to carry me through.  Same was for our tomatoes.  I’m down to only a few jars of my tomato’s and sauce not having realized how much our family of four would actually go through.  I’m a good canner, but my math needs to be honed.

I am now in the process of figuring out how many canning jars and sizes I have vs. what I will need.  Same for lids.  Since I have to replace dozens of lids, I have opted to invest in reusable Tattler lids after having decided they work beautifully and will save me money in the long run.  Another consideration I made was, as a committed prepper, I believe material may be hard to come by.  Having to replace my lids every time I can and believing there is even a remote possibility that they may be hard to come by would defeat all my seasonal garden planning.

How many quart jars did I use last year and how many more I need this year was a big question.  How much jelly or jam will I put up?  How much applesauce or peaches will I need?  Obviously, I could never lay out a formula for you, but you really should start planning and pre-planning.   And buying your canning supplies now, before the season hits will save you money.  Last season I found myself running around looking and buying jars when the prices were their highest.  Buy them out-of-season to get the best price.


Salt, sugar and spices will also be needed.  Will you be planting the herbs you will need to can your harvest?  Dill is one that is vital to me.  Italian herbs are as important.


You may, like me, wish to scan all your recipes and determine which ingredients you can grow and what you will need to purchase.  Start planning now, watch for sales on items you will need to purchase and be sure to stock up on it when it’s most feasible.  And your canning books are as important as anything.  A few of the VERY best I could recommend are:

Ball Complete Book Of Home Preserving

Canning is just one aspect to preserving your food.  Dehydrating is another.  Do you have a dehydrator?  You can look on Craigslist or garage sales to find one, but if you are seriously planning on building a food supply, you really need to invest in one.  And because dehydrating is sometimes much more than slicing and drying, you will want a great cookbook.  The best on the market (by many standards and reviews) is Mary Bell’s Complete Dehydrator Cookbook.

The same is true for a vacuum seal system.  I use and would recommend the FoodSaver which is a workhorse.  I use it nearly every day and much more in the summer months.   All these appliances which allows you to protect and preserve your food may not pay for themselves this season, but they will pay for themselves over time.


Also, if you plan on putting some of your foods into long-term storage, you will need oxygen absorbers and mylar bags.  Start asking your bakery and deli department for 5 gallon buckets now. You may also wish to purchase moisture absorbers as an added line of protection for your food.  You will need these if you plan to store food.  Many local businesses will give them away or sell them for $1 each.  But, be sure you get food-grade buckets.  You may also wish to invest in high quality gamma lids.

I’m Penny Batts, aka PrepperPenny! Having been born and raised in Illinois, I now live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband of 20 years and two small grandchildren. After having a successful career in non-profit management, I now devote all my time to my family and home. I am a suburban homesteader having transformed our home into a sanctuary of simple, country living without the demands and stresses of the society around us all. I hope you enjoy watching me and my family as we learn new aspects of this glorious life that leads us to self-reliance and preparedness for an inevitable economic collapse of the US economy, wars, terror attacks and other natural or man-made disasters. All this serious consideration has not taken away my zest and love for life. It’s serious, yes. But I love to teach preparedness with joy and happiness. I advocate being prepared so you will not be scared.

This post can also be viewed here:  www.modernhomesteaders.net