17
Feb

Raising Sheep and Goats: A Source For Natural Products

by Tiffany in The Homestead

Raising Sheep and Goats HomesteadThe search for safe, reliable products can be very difficult at times. We can’t always get enough information to know whether the things we buy for our families will satisfy our standards for purity and quality.

The natural response many of us have had is to produce these things ourselves, and many of us have started with fruits and vegetables. Creating home gardens and orchards to feed our families keeps us from buying products that may have been contaminated with pesticides or bacteria, and the quality is higher too.

But it doesn’t have to end there. We still have other food and fiber needs to meet, and we need to explore the possibilities of raising additional products ourselves.

If you want to become more self-sufficient and get more of your clothing and food needs at home, you may want to consider raising sheep and goats. These animals are versatile producers of milk and wool, and they are reasonably easy to raise without a big farming operation. Much of what they eat is grass, and they will grow well with lawn seed types. No need to buy special varieties.

You should always check local zoning laws regarding livestock, since many cities, towns, counties, and even states have particular restrictions about the presence of animals in certain areas. There may also be limits on how many animals you may have per acre of land. But if you clear that hurdle, start planning what your flock can give to you.

Pure, Healthful Products

As we noted earlier, there’s no better way to be sure of what you are eating than to raise it yourself. Producing your own milk and potentially cheese from goats or sheep on your own property is a great way to avoid many of the common concerns about food.

Milk produced elsewhere on a farm is handled many different times by different people. It’s hauled hundreds of miles, processed at a plant, and handled by retail staff. At any of those points, there could be a breakdown in safe handling. That’s to say nothing of the risk of a contamination with antibiotics before the milk is even taken from the cow.

Ethical Care

Of course, your high standards pertain to more than just the products. You’re also in tune with the welfare of the animal, because the animal belongs to you.

Most farmers are very good stewards of their livestock, but the issue here is not what they are doing so much as that you don’t know what they are doing. If only one farmer in 1,000 is unethical, you don’t know if that’s where your food came from or not.

By raising livestock yourself, you can be sure that the animals receive proper food, water, shelter, and medical care, and that the products are harvested humanely and safely.

Recycling

Let’s just be blunt. Milk and wool aren’t the only things your livestock will produce. They’ll generate waste, and you may be distressed at just how much of there will be.

The key is to have a good management strategy from the very beginning. Areas where they animals congregate to eat or drink will need to be properly surfaced with a material that can be easily cleared of animal waste. But the great thing about it is what you can do with that waste after you clean it up.

Livestock manure is excellent fertilizer. If you compost it properly, it will generate high temperatures that will kill weed seeds and reduce the odor, making a very rich product that will help your lawn, flowers, and vegetables reach their peak production.

Raising sheep and goats is an exciting challenge that can give you great rewards. They’ll produce milk, cheese, fiber, and even fertilizer for your family. But perhaps most important is the peace of mind you’ll get from knowing you’re providing things in a sustainable, environmentally-friendly way.

28
Aug

Hutches and Cages for Homestead Rabbits

by Tiffany in The Homestead

Hutches Cages for RabbitsSo you’ve decided to bring home a few rabbits and add them to your homestead. By now you should have decided how you will house them…cage or colony. There are advantages and disadvantages for each but if you are now reading this article you have perhaps decided on cages. Their cage or hutch will be the place for your rabbit’s food, water, and sleep. If it’s outdoors, it will also provide protection from harmful weather and from predators that would like to harm them.

How big of a cage or hutch should you buy? This depends on how big the rabbit is and how much space you can accommodate. Typically, it should be at least four times the length of the rabbit to estimate the minimum size of the hutch. It should also be high enough so the rabbit can stand on its hind legs if it chooses. I believe in giving them sufficient room to live and play.

The door should be wide enough to accommodate the rabbit, and so you can be able to put food, water, accessories and any other necessities inside easily. It should also be wide enough for you to reach in and remove the rabbits easily when needed.

There are various types of styles and models for hutches. Many people opt to buy a chicken coop and use it for rabbits. Others just cover metal cages with a metal roof and plastic tarp for sides. There are also ready made rabbit clutches made of wood you can buy. It all depends on the size of the hutch and whether you want an indoor or outdoor unit. They can be made from bamboo, wood, metal and plastic.

Solid floors feel nicer to your rabbit’s feet, but it is also more difficult to clean. To accommodate both types, you can have a wire floor with a solid mat in placed inside somewhere so your rabbit has a place to rest. You can used cardboard for mats but they will eventually chew them up and they will need to be replaced. The other type of hutches would be a bamboo or wooden floor which has spaces about every other inch for waste removal. The waste removal part is very important to consider because it is unhealthy for rabbits to live constantly in their own waste. Don’t choose a solid metal floor thinking you will clean the cage every day only to decide its too much work later on.

Once you’ve picked the type you’d like, look closely at how they’re made. Even though a certain hutch or cage may be expensive at first, it will last longer in the long run. Make sure all exposed wood is covered with metal. Yes, that means a solid wood hutch needs to be lined inside with hardware cloth because rabbits will chew anything wood they have access too. If you use a metal mesh for the door, it should be attached to the inside of the wooden frame. The roof should be at a slope so the water can run off of them.

Underneath the cages or hutch it is handy to have a tray that catches waste. You can use wood shavings in the trays to absorb urine (and keep smell down). The trays can then be emptied every couple of days into a compost bin. Rabbit poop makes some of the best compost available! You can even sell it on Craigslist if you are so inclined. The tray system also makes it possible to stack cages and not worry about the rabbits on the bottom getting peed on.

If you decide to keep your rabbits outside, they can enjoy the fresh air and its surroundings. However, there are some dangers for being outdoors. Inclimate weather, pests, and predators are of foremost concern. Ensure that you have reinforced your hutch/cage well.

Some hutches have a run that allows the rabbits be able to hop around on the grass but they should still have some sort of shelter from the elements. A separate area in the form of a more sheltered hutch that they can go to especially at night is useful. You may also need to line the bottom with wire so that the rabbits cannot dig out and predators cannot dig in. Door fasteners should be easy to open for you, but for predators or the rabbits themselves.

I suggest starting as minimally as you can and then finding the cage or hutch that works best for you. You can always improve later. Enjoy!

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23
Aug

5 Ways To Preserve and Store Produce

by Tiffany in The Homestead

Preserve Store FoodPreserving and storing food is becoming a bit of a lost art and it’s a shame. Our grandmothers and great grandmothers all saw the inherent economic and practical value in learning to preserve food and teaching their daughters to do the same. Some may say that this skill is not as important in this day and age but I think self sufficiency is always important.

What do you do when you come across a great deal at the grocery store or the farmers market? What do you do when you’re offered a deal on a bushel of produce that you can’t pass up? What do you do when you have a bumper crop of green beans, squash or tomatoes? There’s only so much of any one food you can eat before you lose a taste for it or it begins to go bad. If you know how to preserve it, you can put it up and use it throughout the year. It is a common sense skill we need to utilize.

Freeze It

A great place to start is by freezing food. It is so easy anyone can do it. Just cook up your harvest in some of your favorite freezer friendly foods, or clean and blanch them before tossing them in the freezer. Blanching veggies is important because it stops enzymatic action (preserving flavor, color, texture) and it removes bacteria.

Freezing is also a great way to store fruits like berries and peaches that don’t last long once they are ripe. The only real disadvantage to freezing food is that you’re limited by the amount of room you have in your freezer. Be sure to get in the habit of labelling frozen food well (with dates) so you know what it is before you pull it out to thaw and how long you have had it.

canning bookCan It

Canning is one of the most versatile ways to preserve food. You can make and can anything from jelly and pie filling to chili and green beans. Canning is perhaps most awesome because it does not require any space in your fridge or freezer. You can store your canned goods in the pantry, in a root cellar, on shelves in the kitchen, or in your basement. Heck, you can keep canned goods under the spare bed if your are running out of room! Properly canned food stores a lot longer than any other method and that is a great way to preserve your harvest and feed your family all year long.

Dehydrate It

If you don’t have a lot of space, consider dehydrating food. You can start by using your oven on the lowest setting. Try dehydrating some apple slices, or any type of food to use in baking and cereal throughout the year. Then explore further and come up with fun snacks like kale chips, fruit leather, and even dried veggies that you can use in soup.

picklingPickle It

Another favorite old-fashioned way to preserve food is to pickle it. Pickling involves submerging the produce in a brine made of salt, sugar, water, and various pickling spices. The most common pickled item is of course pickles and it’s a great place to start. But don’t stop there. You can pickle peppers, okra, cabbage, carrots, and a wide variety of other veggies and even fruits. Play with it and see what you like. Pickled veggies make a great addition to sandwiches and salads throughout the year. Once you start pickling you might just decide you need to try fermentation on a grander scale. It’s a slippery slope, you have been warned.

Cold Store It

Last but not least let’s talk about the simplest way to store food. Things like root vegetables, apples, and cabbages store well in a dry, cool, and dark place. This used to the reason most houses had a root cellars. Today your pantry might be a good place to store this type of food. If you’re lucky enough to have a basement, you can set up some shelves to keep a lot of produce for months to come.

Take steps towards self sufficiency and economic freedom by learning to preserve food during the harvest months and make it last long into the winter.

4
Aug

What is Urban Homesteading? Can Anyone Do It?

by Tiffany in The Homestead

What is Urban HomesteadingA frequent question I get from newbies to a more self sufficient lifestyle…is what exactly is a homestead? What does it mean to be a homesteader? If you google this question you will come up with many different answers. For me the most simplistic way to describe what I mean when I refer to homesteading, having a homestead, and being a homesteader is this…

What is Urban Homesteading?

A homestead is a productive home, a home that brings value. To be a homesteader is to work within or around your home to make it productive.

Huh???

Well, think about your own home. Is it an asset? And no I am not talking about it’s market value or its ability to appreciate in monetary value. Does it “produce” something that either makes you money directly or does it provide value in the form of money you no longer have to spend elsewhere?

Homesteads are productive homes. They earn money or they produce things money can buy, eliminating those items from your budget, leaving you with more money in your pocket. So if you want to be a homesteader all you need to do is make your home productive. It needs to start making you money or saving you money in some way rather than just being a money suck (ie mortgage, utilities, taxes).

See! It has nothing to do with having land, or cows, or any of the typical stuff that many homesteaders think they need to have to get started.

Start EARNING with an Urban Homestead

You can start your homesteading journey by picking one or two ways to make your home a productive asset.

  • Grow some food, in the ground or in containers
  • Grow some fruit trees or bushes
  • Keep some bees
  • Keep small game chickens, rabbits, or quail
  • Ferment your own food and beverages (pickles, mead, kombucha)
  • Collect rainwater in barrels
  • Use your home’s greywater
  • Generate solar energy with solar panels
  • Grow fodder for your animals by sprouting indoors
  • Make your own compost
  • Identify weeds around your property and use them for food and medicine

All it takes is some creative thinking and you can find a few ways to make your home work for you. Being a homesteader is as easy as that. Good luck!

24
Jul

How to Keep Rabbits Cool in Summer

by Tiffany in The Homestead

Keep Rabbits Cool SummerReally hot summer weather is not fun. We are lucky that we can go inside, crank the A/C, and relax even during the most severe heat waves. But what about homestead animals? The heat is tough on them too and they don’t have the options that we do.

When the summer heat kicks into gear there are a few tips and tricks you can use to keep your homestead rabbits cooler and more comfortable. I know there are some homesteaders who don’t feel as though one should take any steps because they want to breed out any rabbits that cannot tolerate heat. My stance is that if I lose ANY rabbits to heat stroke then I am a guilty of animal cruelty. It is not an option in my book to sit back and do nothing when rabbits are struggling in the heat.

Ways to Keep Rabbits Cool

Keep water bottles full – Rabbits drink more when the weather is hot, just as we do. Whereas you may have only needed to fill them once a day before, now you may have to fill them 2-3 times daily.

Give them shade – Rabbits should be shaded in the summer months as much as possible.

Frozen bottles – Keep a chest freezer full of frozen bottles…16 ounce, 2 liter, and gallon jugs. At mid point in the day stick them inside the rabbit’s cages where they can lay up against them to cool off.

Frozen ice – Freeze water in ice cube trays or other small plastic containers (get them at thrift stores). They love to play with the cubes and it helps to cool them down.

Ceramic tiles or a terra cotta pot saucer – Put a flat ice pack under the tile or saucer. It will stay cool with the ice underneath it and the rabbit can lay on it to cool off.

Fans – A rotating fan will keep air circulating, especially if they are in an enclosure and cannot feel the natural breeze.

Brush Them – Rabbits usually manage to keep themselves well groomed but it can help to brush them and remove excess fur.

Get them wet/damp – Rabbits don’t like to be submerged in water and doing so can stress them and make the heat situation even worse. You can get their feet wet or lightly mist them using a spray mister system or a misting water bottle.

Bring Inside – A pregnant doe or another rabbit who is struggling may need to come indoors for awhile. Having a special place for this in your house (extra room, basement, etc is super handy).

Hope this helps  you keep your buns cool in the summer heat!