Copyright 2000 Gene GeRue
This is an e-book series in progress. I am writing it online to provide immediate information to those who seek it. Truth be told, I hope it is never finished but rather constantly updated and enlarged. You will find finished paragraphs, blank areas, journal notes and cryptic thoughts. Try to not be scared off by the way my writer's mind works.
This material is an expression of community. Contributions of notes, articles, and all types of illustrations are welcome, needed and solicited. Send to [email protected] or via snail mail to HC 78, Box 1105, Zanoni, MO 65784. Please provide your name so proper credit may be given. If you have an appropriate Web site I will be happy to link to you. Don't hold back because you feel your grammar is bad--I can rewrite. (My grammar is imperfect; copyeditors are welcome to send corrections.) You will be credited for information--I will be responsible for mistakes. Most valuable are first-hand experiences.
These four parts, or books, are e-book seeds. When they have grown and matured they might someday be published as paper books--presuming that paper is still used in that far distant time. More likely, they will stay right here, with material continually added, refined, updated. You are most welcome to this information but you may not publish any of this copyrighted material without documented permission.
About Carla Emery's book, The Encyclopedia of Country Living:
In my opinion Carla is a national treasure and her book should be the first book you purchase as a country living resource. Some overlapping between her book and this work will be impossible to avoid, but, for what it's worth, I don't do recipes. I do make an acclaimed pizza, so I may slip that in somewhere. Let it be known that I have the highest regard for Carla. Here is Carla's personal Web page. Please purchase her book through my Country Bookstore.
Book One: Designing and building the homestead
Introduction to The Complete Guide to Country Living
Overview of Book One
2. Making the plan
3. Drawing a map
4. Action sequence
5. Utilities overview
6. Water system
7. Waste handling
9. Heating and cooling
11. Construction overview
12. Tools and equipment
13. Roads and bridges
Building a model
16. Fences and walls
Book Two: Plants
Overview and action sequence
1. Garden design and tools
5. Pasture and hay
10. Other beneficial trees
Sources of additional plant information
Book Three: Animals
Overview and action sequence
3. Tools and equipment
7. Ducks, geese, turkeys, guineas
12. Dairy cattle
13. Beef cattle
15. Exotic animals
Book Four: Community
Homestead Mailing List
1. Moving in
Let us have none of that. With knowledge, planning, and appropriate action, the garden is the right size and pretty much weed-free, the animals have suitable quarters and fenced pastures, feed is grown on the homestead or bartered from neighbors. In these books you will learn how all this happens.
There are hundreds of books available on design, building, gardening, raising animals and maintaining community, although not enough on the last. Our design here is to bring together the essential elements of all of these subjects in four comprehensive books. Here you will learn how to observe and assess your property, make a master plan, how to provide for utilities, how to build roads, houses, barns, other outbuildings, plus fences and walls. You will learn garden design, how to grow vegetables and fruits, how to raise animals for food and pleasure. The reasons for growing as much of oneās food as possible include optimal health from eating non-poisoned food and from performing useful exercise. Homegrown food also contains more nutrients, is fresh and tastes better. Homesteaders eat better than Bill and Melissa Gates. And you will learn the ways of rural neighbors and communities. Taken all together, you will learn how to live happily ever after in the country.
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It is most unlikely that you will buy a property that is perfect for your desires and needs. If you buy a place with a dwelling, you will be lucky if the house is ideal for your family and also in the best location on the land. This book will be useful whether there are existing buildings or whether you have purchased bare land. You will learn how to assess all the attributes of your property, how to make a master plan, and how to build a home and outbuildings from local materials.
About spacing. If you build a kitchen garden fifty feet too far from
your kitchen door and only visit the garden twice each day you will walk
150 unnecessary miles each decade, in sunshine and rain, calm or high wind.
If your climate includes real winters and you learn how to enjoy year-round
fresh food, some of those miles will be on snow and ice. If you build your
garage, tool room, or henhouse out too far, you will get plenty of extra
exercise when you are young, too much when you are old. And in an emergency,
you will run farther to conquer the problem.
Buildings and gardens and animal quarters, optimal distance placement
creates efficiency of driving, walking, and moving feed and other materials.
When you are young you will save time. When you are old you will save your
legs and your back. Put animal quarters well downwind from house and garden
so that odors and flies are less likely to diminish mealtime pleasure.
You may read advice to build your house on the worst land, the most unusable for other purposes. Donāt knee-jerk on this unless you have very little usable land. Garden location should be chosen first because thatās where most of your food will come from and where you will spend a lot of your time. The optimal location for the main garden is on fertile, well-drained soil with a slight slope to the southeast and downhill from a water source. The house follows the vegetable garden, should be within steps of the garden, which is ideally just outside the back door. The fruit orchard need not be a separate entity; fruit trees scattered throughout the garden and the home circle area work fine, will be safer from deer, coons, possums, may be less vulnerable to insects.
Aspect. Most food growing benefits from a full-sun southern exposure. There is an exception: peaches and apricots on a north slope have delayed budding, which may save fruit sets from late frosts. A vegetable garden on a southeast slope warms most quickly in the morning, suffers less from late afternoon rays. Protection from searing afternoon sun is also a need for houses and animal quarters.
Ultimate sizes of trees, shade patterns.
Your master plan will include trees. Deciduous trees close to the house provide summer shade, slightly filtered sun after the leaves drop. Trees that allow most winter sun through them are ; those whose bare branches block the most sun are .
Permaculture, making everything work together, one item provides multiple benefits. Synergism. A retaining wall gathers rainfall, protects downhill structures from water damage, creates a growing bed, provides beauty.
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Most farmers and gardeners fertilize soil using manure from the many animals except humans. Because of our diet, humanure is unsurpassed in nutrients. Asians have used it for thousands of years. Generations of families using flush toilets have resulted in psychological negativity--the yuck factor. So humanure is mostly wasted and goes into sewage treatment plants or septic systems, causing much unnecessary expense and pollution of groundwater. The most commonsense treatment of humanure is to collect it, compost it, and then use it for fertilizer for ornamentals and those plants that fruit above-ground: fruit trees, tomatoes, peppers, beans and the like. Humanure composted for a year is indistinguishable from rich soil.
Get a clean, strong, sound five-gallon plastic bucket with a good bale. The enclosure can be a simple pine box into which the bucket will fit and stay in place. If the box ends up quite a bit larger than the bucket, install some strips at the bottom to keep the bucket in place. Make a hinged, solid wood top, then cut out the hole slightly larger than the opening of a standard toilet seat. Install the toilet seat. For zero odor, install a vent. Cut a hole in the back of the box up high into which a four-inch piece of PVC will fit snugly. I put an ell there, then a straight piece of pipe that goes up into a well ventilated attic space. I enclosed the PVC vent pipe with cedar, which is what the bathroom is paneled in. At the top of the pipe, put another ell and aim it at the downwind attic vent. Into that top pipe I installed a bisquit fan, which uses very little electricity--less than a penny per day--but moves enough air to keep a positive upward air movement. I wired the fan to a switch near the toilet. If the back of the toilet is placed against an outside wall, just use one piece of pipe and go straight out the back and through the wall. That's how I did the one upstairs in the guest room, but it goes into the same well ventilated attic. If the pipe exits into the outdoors, I would provide some protection against wind and water intrusion, like an ell pointed downwards. The fan can be placed right behind the toilet box. I put mine as far from the toilet as possible to lessen the fan sound, which is unnoticeable during the daytime but on a quiet country night you can hear even a faint hum. Fans are available from old computers. I bought mine from Edmund Scientifics--1-800-728-6999; e-mail [email protected]
After I empty the bucket and hose it out I start the new batch with a few handsful of oak leaves and a bit of garden soil. After each use, a handful of sawdust or planer chips is tossed on. Peat moss would be perfect. If you don't want to compost and use the humanure, just dig a hole under a tree that looks like it could use some nourishment, dump it there, cover with soil. I would put something over the excavation area to discourage animals from digging it up and thereby scattering toilet tissue. In ten days or so of summer weather the contents will have become unrecognizable due to soil microbial action. In freezing weather you will need a hole dug ahead of time.
I got a bit fancy with our two bucket toilets. Both are made of solid wood blocks, one a piece of a white oak tree with the bark left on and the other a chunk of black walnut from which I drawknifed the bark, then used a belt sander to get down to pretty wood. I used a chainsaw to hollow out the blocks. Be very careful if you do this as the tendency is for the chain bar to jump up in your face when you do the plunge cuts.
One last thought, on height. Evacuation is more easily accomplished in a position that is closer to a squat than modern toilets allow unless you put a footstool in front of them. I used buckets that are short enough so that the toilet seat is lower than the standard.
The Toilet Papers by Sim Van der Ryn. Includes history, health facts, plans for outhouse, dry toilets, compost privies, greywater systems.Van der Ryn is Emeritus Professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught since 1961. His designs for homes, sustainable communities, retreat centers, schools, commercial buildings have received many awards.
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Wood heat. Fuel is home produced and sustainable, but polluting if many houses are close to each other. A typical wood stove does not require electricity, a bonus for areas of chronic electric outages. Uses high skill and labor requirements to select and fell trees, limb, cut blocks, split, load, stack, tend stove. A chainsaw is the most dangerous tool.
Propane is the typical gas in rural areas. Check with your local gas company for costs, rules, suggestions. You can usually rent or buy a tank. Tanks may be rented or purchased. Modern propane heaters are very efficient.
Electric heat is cleanest of all except solar, but it is usually the most costly and least sustainable. Heat pumps make the most sense where the heat source is the ground or a body of water. Heat pumps also produce summertime hot water as a by-product of summer cooling mode.
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An important detail in preparing for anything is to know what is going on. If power goes out, the Internet crashes or the satellites that now provide us rural folks with much of our news and entertainment go away, or just as easily, become under control of some conglomerate or other power that doesn't want you to know something, or wants you to know only part of the picture, how will you "know what you have to know in order to know enough," as a song by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band says.
The compact table top and even pocket-sized radio receivers called "scanners" become important to the self-sustaining lifestyle in making sure that doesn't happen. Also, table top and portable radios that are capable of short wave reception as well as domestic. And, to make sure all of them are capable of running for hours on independent power, consider the packaged compact, rechargeable seven amp gel-cel batteries sold by companies like Whistler.
I think scanner radios are a "must." At home or when traveling. My reasons include the appalling lack of spot news gathering or reporting from local radio stations, which are now mostly automated and/or woefully understaffed and where staffed, woefully unprofessional. Besides, in a major emergency, they'd probably be off the air due to power loss of their own, for at least a short and important time anyway.
With a scanner radio, you can hear real-time your sheriff's dispatches, your emergency services, fire fighters, EMTs, 911 dispatchers, power company repair crews and a host of other sources that will keep you abreast of what is really going on and where. NOAA weather radio stations now are being even more automated than before due to cost reduction, so they can't be counted on to alert you to bad weather when you need the alert. In the Ozarks, where we live, in our last big storm, the NOAA weather radio was a full 30 minutes behind the weather front in its alert and descriptions. But our scanners were keeping us up to date with who was where and what roads were blocked, etc. Most parts of the country also have ham radio weather spotters or some other group that is out there describing conditions and directions and telling it like it is on radio frequencies within the range of even the most modest of scanner radios.
There are very good scanners from Uniden Bearcat and Radio Shack (made
by Uniden) at relatively low prices. Local dealers and the manufacturers
maintain lists of at least some local frequencies to listen to. New scanner
radio models even allow you to program them to your locale by just entering
your zip code or something equally as easy. And, almost all tune up through
the 800 MHz bands that most public service radio systems have now
moved to. Some scanner radios also tune civil and military aviation and national guard frequencies.
A good reference for understanding and using scanner radios is "Monitoring Times," a monthly magazine from Grove Enterprises, Inc., Brasstown, NC. Another is "Popular Communications," a monthly magazine from CQ Communications, Inc., Hicksville, NY
For World Band (short wave) radio listening, Sony, Panasonic, Radio
Shack and other brands less widely known in the United States such as AOR,
Grundig, Sangean, Icom, Kenwood, mostly more expensive and full-featured,
will let you "tune in the world,"
where London, Ottawa, Berlin, Moscow, Hilversum, Stockholm, Quito, Tokyo, Beijing, Sydney and most other capitals regularly broadcast in English--without commercials or the US "entertainment" spin on the news. They give you, as Paul Harvey likes to say, "The rest of the story," plus entertaining as well as informative glimpses into life and music from far away lands.
To help understand and use the World Band radio receivers, there are two excellent texts; "Passport To World Band Radio," published by International Broadcasting Services, Ltd., Penns Park, PA, and "The World Radio-TV Handbook," published by Gilfler Shortwave, Park Ridge. NJ
Why prepare for emergencies then not know what is going on before, during and after one happens? Why take what you hear on American radio and television to be complete, truthful or unbiased, when the major networks as well as print media, publishing, music and movie production, are controlled by a few corporate conglomerates?
Note: Vern Modeland ([email protected]) is a former media journalist and corporate/government communications specialist who now lives in semi-retirement in the Arkansas Ozarks. Some of his writings, including The Little House on the Highway, an e-serial, may be found at RunningRiver.
Amateur Radio for the Self-reliant
by Vern Modeland
Amateur (Ham) Radio is a resource that affords both a sense of security and an exciting hobby. And, in the year 2000, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has made it even easier for Americans to get a license and become a "ham."
Network or just visit with folks anywhere on the continent, even anywhere around the world, direct from your home or vehicle. Get answers to questions about how others are doing things, or, when you travel, about road conditions and the location of services. Or, through one of the amateur-built radio repeaters that now blanket much of this nation and lower Canada too, with generally strong and reliable signals, join in community weather watch groups and other public service projects. Join in roundtables with other folks with like interests who are hams. They gather and network on the airwaves regularly from breakfastime through the night. You also might come across high adventure as well as warm friendship from this hobby with its long history of public service. And, with amateur radio, you will not be relying on expensive and vulnerable relay services, such as phone networks or satellites to communicate. Amateur radio is a prime example of self-reliance.
Amateur radio users span all ages, interests and all walks of life. There is royalty (the former King Hussein of Jordan and Grand Lama of Tibet were "hams" found talking on the ham radio frequencies regularly), and there is celebrity (past and present music, broadcast and movie stars). If you haven't yet met a radio "ham" somewhere, (those tall towers and over-grown TV-like antennas are sometimes a giveaway), then perhaps the best way to get an idea of what amateur radio is all about is via the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). The ARRL is the fraternity of amateur radio and its largest membership organization in the U.S. Its publication, "Now You're Talking" will give a good overview. Publications, training videos and software can be previewed and requested at [email protected]
To become a ham, you have to take a test. That's because amateurs share use of an international resource (the radio/TV spectrum) with global potential for interference as well as communication. Therefore a license is necessary, demonstrating that the holder has an understanding of rules and principals as well as accepted operating procedures. Amateur radio license examinations are administered by registered volunteer examiners. A visit to a Radio Shack or similar store, a Red Cross chapter, the library or to the civic club list keeper of any Chamber of Commerce can lead you to a local ham club meeting or someone who can point you in the right direction for help in becoming a ham. Many police or other public service officers also know one or more local "hams" or "ham clubs."
The license requirements, effective April 15, 2000, include being able to recognize and understand International Morse Code at a speed of 5 words a minute (65 characters copied accurately in 60 seconds) for classes other than entry level, which is called "Technician." Then there is a 35 question written multiple choice test for each of the Technician and General class licenses and 50 questions for the Amateur Extra class of license. The General and Extra class licenses allow using progressively more of the high frequency amateur bands that support direct long range communications. The Technician license is limited to only VHF (very high frequencies) very short radio waves that generally afford only local communication, plus use of amateur radio repeater stations that extend the limited VHF range.
For Canadians interested in the hobby, the ham organization in Canada is "Radio Amateurs of Canada." There are four steps to a Canadian license. The applicant must start by learning Basic qualifications but can take the others in any order. The Basic examination covers electronics, radio regulations and operating procedures and allows access to VHF only, without a Morse Code requirement. Canadian code examinations are 5 words per minute and 10 wpm. Passing them allows access to the nation- and globe-spanning high frequency ham bands. Passing an Advanced theory examination expands privileges even more. Most Canadian ham clubs have an Amateur Radio instructor and volunteer "Designated Examiners" for Industry Canada, the former Department of Communications.
Amateur radio equipment is as varied in price and quality as any electronics. A plus, however, is that ham radio sets don't depreciate like computers. Used but very serviceable ham radio transceivers can readily be found for a few hundred dollars. Equipment a dozen years old can still command half of its new price or more. Take an on-line trip to Amateur Electronic Supply (just one of many suppliers) for a free catalog showing the scope of equipment and accessories. Don't let the content overwhelm or deter you, though. You can "get on the air" simply, for as little as $100 or less for a hand held radio, set up operation in your car or home for maybe three times that--or spend whatever more you want.
The rewards in the hobby are in personal achievement, camaraderie and a sense of safety that CB, sometimes even cellular phones, won't be able to supply at any cost.
Vern Modeland, (amateur radio call, WA0JOG)
Editor's note: Vern Modeland is a former media journalist and corporate/government communications specialist who now lives in semi-retirement in the Arkansas Ozarks.
ćWe shape our dwellings and then our dwellings shape us.ä
Rickety, orderly, free-flowing, expansive, soaring, huggled, open, closed÷house shapes influence our psyches. So the lesson is to design and build a house that will shape us in a way that we desire. Dare we consider the result of building a house that is square?
Embracing or avoiding the sun. Incidence of solar angle. How to calculate solar angle. Rainfall. Snowfall. Wind. Temperatures.
Local materials first. Natural materials before manmade. The true cost.
Footings and foundations: rubble/rock-filled ditch, concrete, stone
Green wood, rough-cut wood
Clay, mud, straw
Concrete blocks are a common foundation material. I worked for a year as marketing director for Trappist Concrete Products. I sold concrete blocks for many applications, including churches and schools. Our blocks had to be certified. Once each year we sent blocks to an independent testing lab, which subjected the blocks to compression tests--hydraulic rams were used to load them until they failed. The blocks tested at over a thousand pounds per square inch, some up to 1,200. A common block is nominally eight inches by sixteen inches, or 128 square inches. Multiply that by a thousand pounds and you quickly see that concrete blocks have enormous crush strength. Yet, on general principles, and because it is so easy, I would fill the voids with concrete to get maximum compression capability.
In CONCRETE MASONRY HANDBOOK for Architects, Engineers, Builders, by Frank A Randall, Jr., and William C. Panarese, published 1976 by the Portland Cement Association, Table 1-3 on page 3 states that hollow load bearing block specs--ASTM designation C90--are a minimum of 700 psi, on average gross area, average of three blocks, individual units may test as low as 600 psi. Using 600 as the low end, 600 times 128 equals 76,800 pounds per block load capability. So four blocks will hold up 153 tons. Even if your local supplier produces lower quality blocks, it is apparent that four to eight of them sitting on an adequate footing will hold up anything we self-builders are capable of putting on top of them.
Using recycled safety glass--a caution.
3-6-00: Here's a laugh on me and a lesson for you.
Years ago I was able to buy twelve sheets of patio door glass seconds, with cloudy flaws, for ten dollars per piece, each nominally 34 x 76 inches. I have used a few of them for temporary cold frames but mostly they have waited for a recycling opportunity. The East Wing, my current room-for-all-seasons building project, was an opportunity to use eight of them.
I installed the first four and then proceeded to double-pane them. I cut cedar strip spacers and outside trim pieces rabbetted to fit snugly over the glass edges. On the last trim piece of the last pane I was turning the final screw when the inside pane suddenly disintegrated into a zillion pieces before my horrified eyes.
I knew that safety glass breaks that way. I also knew it is very strong, will withstand all kinds of abuse. I knew that you cannot cut it. What I forgot is that a turning screw has sharp edges that cut. Yep, as I turned that last screw through the outside trim piece it went through the spacer and cut into the edge of the inner pane. Instant disaster and a day of work to clean up the mess, remove two panes to get back to the disaster area, install one new pane and two of the surviving panes.
Donāt swim with alligators. Cause safety to be your constant mindset. Rural life is dangerous, potentially a killer. Tractors, other large machinery, horses, bulls, cows, hogs kill farmers each year. Saws can remove fingers as fast as they cut oak.
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Fire, wind, earthquake
Shall we build an impregnable fortress?
open or closed. storage below. calculating riser and tread.
Safety first. Beyond safety. Pipe, wood, rope, beaver-trimmed poles.
To borrow or not to borrow. What is the payback period on energy efficiency? The effects of building square footage. Standard sizes, the two-foot factor, trusses. Overbuilding and underbuilding defined and explored.
Siting, solar incidence, roof design, windows, mass, insulation, airtightness, heating systems, cooling, lighting.
Design, standard and alternative
Size, foundation, orientation, windows, tightness, insulation, roof color and material, heating and cooling
versus building by feel. Sketches vs. finished drawings. Takeoffs, estimating, bank and building department requirements.
Building a model
Timeline. Plan, plan, plan. Friends as helpers. Safety. OJT.
Wagner, John D. Building a Multi-Use Barn. Charlotte, Vermont: Williamson Publishing Company, 1994. Excellent guide to standard wood-frame construction techniques. Plenty of illustrations. With no previous knowledge you could use the info in this book to build a house, garage, shop, barn, studio.
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Four plant protection methods are useful:
1. Companion planting, purposely seeding or setting plants in proximity because they have been observed to be beneficial to each other. Legumes--peas, beans, alfalfa--produce nitrogen, corn heavily feeds on nitrogen.Only if we insist on gardening the rigid straight-row, monocrop human way do we need to resort to biological controls such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), lady beetles, parasitic wasps.
2. Mixed cropping, emulating nature, avoiding insect and disease plagues by fostering a healthful mix of insect life, so-called "good" insects and "bad" insects. Guy Ames, from whom I buy my fruit trees (Ames Nursery), leaves unmown swaths of weeds between rows of trees to nurture beneficial insect populations.
3. Repellent planting, for instance using odiferous plants next to susceptible plants to confuse insects looking for baby-food on which to lay their eggs or just looking for a free meal. Mexican bean beetles can't stand marigold, petunia, potato, rosemary, summer savory.
4. Trap cropping, which uses attractive plants to lure bugs from valued food plants. Dill attracts tomato hornworm--if there is enough dill amongst tomatoes, Brandywines and Romas suffer little and the fat worms are easily found on the slender dill.
Each of these four methods is worthy of study and experimentation. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of gardening is that we can never know it all, we cannot control nature. Each spring we go back to school, into the garden. What a wonderful way to study life.
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Do your level best
Lay out beds and rows on the level to maximize rainfall, minimize erosion, make the gardener's life easier. A homemade field level can be constructed with three pieces of one-by-two lumber fastened into the shape of a tall A, with the legs spread six to seven feet apart. Hang a string from a nail at the center-top of the A, fasten a stone or other weight to the bottom of the string below the crosspiece. Set the device on the ground, let the weight stop moving and mark the spot where it touches the crosspiece. Precisely reverse the legs' ground positions and do it again. The place between the two marks is the level spot. You can now "walk" your field level across the area where you wish to make a bed, marking the leg positions at the ground when the string is on the level mark. Use those marks as the bottom or top edge of your bed.
The kitchen garden
A fine example of a kitchen garden on limited space may be found at Journey to Forever organic garden.
The scattered garden
Hot peppers cross-pollinate and infuse sweet peppers with fire, egg-laying moths, various soil diseases can be thwarted by planting in small garden plots that are well away from each other. The butterfly that lays eggs that become foliage devouring monsters may find one patch but not another. So better to have several small gardens around your house area that putting all your veggies in one basket.
Raised bed versus traditional flat gardening.
To dig or not to dig garden beds that are heavily mulched? Following is an exchange from the homestead mailing list:
Lee Flier asked:
Have you noticed any actual difference in yields between those beds that you turn over after several years of sheet mulching and those you don't?
James Skeen, who homesteads in eastern Tennessee, replied:
Yes, I've noticed several differences but only in certain crops.
BEANS planted right on hard clay or sod and covered with mulch (or on top of the decayed duff with hard soil only an inch or so below) will produce modest foliage and a huge crop of beans. The roots do a job on the hard soil beneath but only on a small area per plant. The roots seem to go straight down quite deep before branching. Planted on loosened soil (say, to 10 inches) and covered with mulch, the foliage is greener and heavier but the beans are not quite so abundant and take longer to mature. How some ever, the root branches profusely right where it sprouted and divides into a vast beard of rootlets that cover 12 inches across or more before they encounter the harder soil beneath. The organic mass produced is quite a bit larger.
POTATOES only set potatoes from the depth of the seed piece up (except that some fingerlings begin there and grow point down like sweet potatoes). I have concluded that it is counter-productive to dig a hole (or furrow) and put the potatoes there. So I have consistently been using my poorest ground for potatoes and making the bed an active compost factory to boot. But having some seed left and nothing but dug ground to put them on, I've found no difference in the production whether the ground underneath was hard clay or a mature bed dug deeply.
CABBAGE and broccoli-sprouts, kale and such grow much larger on the cultivated ground with a deep mulch than on uncultivated ground with mulch. The brassica seem to send down that huge taproot until it anchors on something solid and then fill the space from there up with a mass of rootlets. "Much larger" isn't always an advantage. Getting the cauliflower and broccoli to head in loose soil requires that transplants go in at a certain size with a frustratingly small tolerance.
CORN and the three sisters: my corn is planted four inches deep to frustrate the crows, which it does. The soil is very deep and loose beneath that. I've found that the corn will send down a taproot until it decides it is on a solid footing. Then it sends down the support roots to about the same depth. The corn I've grown on loose soil will have a crown of support roots 20 inches across at the bottom while the same type of corn grown on ground that has not been cultivated (both mulched) will have a crown of roots eight to ten inches across. While the former stands up to wind better, I've noticed no difference in the yields. Squash and pumpkin roots seem to be too shallow to care one way or the other.
CARROTS, PARSNIPS, SALSIFY grow far and away better in my experience on cultivated ground. My yields on the deep beds are many times what I've gotten on not-so-deep beds.
BEETS and TURNIPS don't actually grow very far under the soil surface do the loose soil is not so important as it is for carrots. But the roots of beets (and spinach and chard) begin to branch into a fine beard spreading a larger distance that those grown in not-so-loose soil. The yields are a little better in loose soil.
ONIONS and LEEKS get much bigger the deeper the soil is loose (for me). Quite the opposite of other plants, alliums seem to put long thick roots down through the loose soil (obliquely, not straight down) and then branch out when they encounter harder soil. I would have thought onions would do better on firmer soil, but they didn't. One bed of onions last year had been double dug, planted in potatoes with 12 inches of mulch, then planted in beans with six inches of mulch. I poked a hole in the whole mass and dropped in the slips. The onions were huge.
These are just my observations. There's no night and day difference for most things, but creating a ten inch bed of loose soil does seem to boost yields of some things. However, my mind has changed on a great many things in 30 years of gardens and I imagine that's not a habit I'll give up any time soon.
Intensive versus spacious. Terraces My main garden has evolved
from rectangular raised beds aligned with compasss points to long raised
beds on the natural contour of the land. Each bed has a retaining wall
of oak planks on the downhill edge of the bed. The uphill bed edge is sloping,
shaped by the rake. The plank walls are nine feet apart. This allows a
grass path wide enough for easy mowing. The clippings are blown onto the
downhill bed. The paths are sloped downhill, so that each bed gets extra
water from each rainfall. I have limed the paths to encourage clover to
grow there, for its nitrogen production. Intensive versus typical. Tractors
and rototillers versus hand soil preparation. The value of perennials.
Potatoes thrive in a slightly acidic soil--pH less than six, ideally
4.8 to 5.5. Potato scab is most likely to occur in soil with a higher pH,
so do not lime or put ashes on potato beds. Manure should be well-aged,
preferably dug into the soil the previous fall. Compost, leaves and grass
clippings are also good sources of food for soil microorganisms that will
feed potato roots.
You can grow potatoes from certified disease-free seed potatoes, save potatoes from one year to the next and use the smallest ones for seed, or you can buy a sack at the grocery store, cut them into pieces and plant them. Unless purchased potatoes are certified organic you can be sure that they were grown using lots of chemicals. Supermarket potatoes are sometimes treated with anti-sprout chemicals. Put them in a single layer in a shallow cardboard box and place in a sunny window. In a couple or three weeks the anti-sprout chemicals will fail and the potatoes will begin to sprout. Cut them into pieces that each have at least two eyes and plant them.
Some gardeners simply place seed pieces on good ground, cover them with a foot or more of mulch and keep adding mulch until plants are mature. This method makes it easiest to harvest but requires lots of mulch to avoid exposure of new tubers to the sun late in the season. A danger is a very wet spring, which may cause rot. The failsafe way to grow potatoes is to fertilize and dig soil in a raised bed in the fall, then in spring make a trench by dragging a hoe through the loosened soil, toss in a small potato or a cut piece that contains two or more eyes every foot or so, then cover them with dirt. As foliage stretches above the soil keep pulling more dirt into the trench. After the trench is full be sure to tuck mulch under the growing parts. The mulch will help to keep the plants cool and moist, which is the condition they prefer. As the plants become large you can tuck more mulch around them. Do not let the developing tubers become exposed to the sun because they turn green and are said to be toxic. I have trimmed off green sections and eaten the rest of the potato with no ill effects.
A great pleasure of growing potatoes is eating new ones that are sweet, small and have tender skins. After the plants are full size, push your hands under the mulch and feel for the tubers. Pick enough for a meal, go rinse them off, steam and enjoy! New spuds are delicious. Donāt peel them!
Potatoes are ready to be dug and stored when most of the tops have died. I sometimes leave them in the ground covered with straw over winter. They are still good the next spring, in fact lots of them sprout and make a good crop but this messes up a rotation schedule. If you want to keep potatoes over the winter, plant two crops, one early and the other a month or two later, depending on your climate. If you get a late drought most years you will need ample irrigation water. Late harvested potatoes keep better. If your root cellar or other storage place is not cold enough, early harvested spuds may sprout before cool weather arrives. If you have a spare refrigerator they will keep well there. Ideal potato storage conditions are 35-40 degrees, humid and dark. Donāt let them freeze as they turn to mush.
Potatoes have many pests and diseases but most will not ruin the harvest. Inspect plants every morning and collect any egg clusters, beetles or slugs, put them in a jar, cap and leave it in the hot sun. Empty the jar of dead critters well away from the garden to avoid possible disease transmission.
Vegetable garden rotation.
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I have this year put my money where my mouth has been and bought all of my seeds from Seed Savers Exchange. Seed Savers has since 1975 been collecting and preserving heritage varieties, non-hybrid fruits and veggies that were in danger of being lost forever. At their Preservation Gardens near Decorah, Iowa, they are growing 18,000 rare vegetable varieties. These people are worth supporting. And you would not believe how many wonderful taste treats await you. Get their catalog: Seed Savers Exchange, 3076 North Winn Road, Decorah, IA 52101, or call 319-382-5990.
Once you begin growing non-hybrid seeds you have the opportunity to save your own seeds each year and plant them the next--this is known as Freedom From Seed Company Tyranny. So to complement my decision this year to grow open-pollinated vegetables I have purchased the best book on the subject of collecting and preserving seeds: Seed to Seed, by Suzanne Ashworth.
The following list is from Holly Deiser, a feisty lady who is building Blackbird Ridge Homestead.
Le Jardin du Gourmet: Sample Herb Seed Packets Price: US$0.30/eachBack to Table of Contents
They used to offer a very reasonably priced introductory package of garlic and shallots, don't know if they still do that anymore or not.
Another good and very reasonably priced seed source is Pinetree Garden Seeds. Normal size packets (and sometimes slightly larger than usual) for usually under a dollar, often 60 or 70 cents or so. Online catalog order.
General seeds, flowers, veggies, good prices on quantities larger than a packet (quantities of an oz, 1/4 lb, 1/2 lb, and 1 lb and up, often a pound of seed for say, beans or peas, costs less than a packet from some suppliers). The best price I've found on the Earthway Garden Seeder and its accessories (which I bought). They charge actual shipping but no handling fee. Also carry packing equipment for small to medium scale growers. They don't have a web presence but here's their address:
Morgan County Wholesale
18761 Kelsay Road
Barnett, MO 65011-3009
I USED to like Gardener's Supply Company but when I went to their web site recently they had gone yuppie. More than half their stuff now seems to be cutesy garden statues and expensive flower bowls. But they do still sell capillary matting and soil blockers. They're at http://www.gardeners.com
Mellinger's is a perennial favorite (and annuals and supplies too). They have the Automator for the best price I've ever found. The automator is a little plastic "well" you put around tomatoes and peppers. It has 4 "spikes" sticking down into the ground. You put water in the tray and it is dispensed through the spikes. Makes a huge difference in plant growth and health and yield. They carry other stuff, like 12" to 15" trees for very low prices, and tropical houseplants, orchids, jasmine, even edible ginger and stevia. They carry a pretty good pressure canner though I think Lehman's is actually cheaper for that. They carry some trellis netting with a lifetime warranty. Seed starting trays, peat pots, etc. for pretty good prices.
Gurney's, carries weird things like sugar beet and mangel seeds. Carries trees and shrubs, including 4 varieties of disease resistant apples: Jonafree, Goldrush, Carefree Liberty, and Freedom. They only have a catalog order form on their "website" but at least it saves you a stamp.
Gardens Alive sells just about any beneficial insect you can imagine, and loads of organic pesticides like BT and pyrethrum/rotenone, insecticidal soaps, etc. for not necessarily price-gouging prices. I don't know any other source for this stuff except I've seen lady bugs in Burpee's catalog, but given the fact that EACH and EVERY year they give me $20 or more off my order it looks pretty cheap to me. I don't know why they keep doing that but they do. This year, if I "buy" $35 worth of stuff I get a discount of $25. I don't know, I guess most people buy loads of stuff because every year there's more and more interesting stuff in their catalog. So I guess they're not losing money doing this. This year their catalog has 18 pages of color photos and thorough descriptions of common diseases and insect pests. That alone makes it worth your while to send for the catalog. No website that I know of.
5100 Schenley Place
Lawerenceburg, IN 47025
And finally, a newcomer to my list: Walt Nicke's Garden Talk. I don't know how I got on this guy's mailing list but the introduction alone (entitled Think Globally, Rest Frequently: The lazy mans' guide to saving the Earth) make me willing to buy something from the man. There are some very, very nice tools in this catalog, REAL tools. Felco pruners. The big ones. Well made, might I say, finely CRAFTED, garden spades and forks, not the stamped metal crap at the lumber yard that comes dull and won't hold an edge anyway. And there's a wee little bit of the obligatory cutesy stuff - a face made out of leaves to stick on your lapel, or a larger version to hang on your wall - but by and large this is a vendor of Quality Tools.
Walt Nicke Co.
36 McLeaod Lane
PO Box 433
Topsfield, Massachusetts 01983
My friend lives in Sevier County, Tennessee in the Smoky Mountain foothills. He's used this plan, or variants, for over 25 years. He adapted it from one he learned from some Amish folks in Pennsylvania.
Year 1--April: Plow under red cloverMy friend swears the land is richer now than when he started this rotation in its current location 18 years ago. The above doesn't reflect weed control and other normal practices. It shows only the elements of the rotation plan.
May: Disk and plant corn
September: Harvest corn
October-November: Split corn patch into two areas. Plant wheat in one and oats
in the other.
Year 2--May: Overseed wheat and oats with kobe lespedeza
July-August: Harvest wheat and oats.
September: Harvest lespedeza hay
October: Disk and plant red clover
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Main Page How To Find Your Ideal Country Home AuthorCountry Bookstore
Indoor dogs are treated as in cities so this is about outdoor dogs. While city dogs are primarily pets and guards, country dogs can be valuable assistants. In addition to being pets and guards, country dogs are livestock guardian dogs, herding dogs, hunting partners and predator control managers. Because of travel we held off on getting dogs. Then, Jezebel, our first cat, was taken by a bobcat. So we got the dogs to protect the cats, which we got to eat the mice which attracted poisonous snakes, one of which put a powerful hurt on me. Haven't seem a copperhead or rattlesnake near the house since the cats and dogs took over. Before we got Dax the German Shepherd and Benny the Australian Shepherd we continually lost chickens to coons and other critters, deer nibbled fruit tree buds, woodchucks dined on lettuce, coons ate sweet corn and strawberries, armadillos destroyed garden and flower beds and the grassy areas we euphemistically call lawn. No more. Dax and Benny take care of business. They run free but are trained to stay within a hundred yards or so of the house. They own that territory and chase away any critters that come within their sight, smell or hearing. The dead armadillo or coon occasionally found indicates that some species include slow learners. Benny apparently knows that ownership includes airspace because he chases turkey vultures that soar too low. If he could fly they would be in big trouble.
Dog Breed Info Center has general information on most breeds, including a photo. Our dog Benny is an Aussie so I will use their entry for that breed to illustrate what the Info Center provides.
The Aussie, as it is known, is a medium-sized, robust, well-balanced, rustic dog with pendant ears, an abundant medium-length coat, and a bob-tail. He should be attentive, lively and agile with a body slightly longer than its height at the withers. The Aussie has a strong, deep chest and stands squarely on all fours. The front legs are straight. Front dewclaw removal is optional, but rear dewclaws are generally removed. The feet are compact and oval with arched toes. The top of the head is approximately the same length as the slightly tapering muzzle. The head has a moderate stop. The teeth form a scissors bite. The medium-sized oval eyes come in many shades of blue, amber and brown, often combined with flecks. The triangular, pendant ears are set high on the head. The medium length coat comes in blue or red merle, red or black tricolor, all with white and or tan markings. The hair around the ears and eyes should not be white. The coat may be straight or slightly wavy, and should have feathering on the back of the legs, and a mane and frill around the neck. Hair on the head, front of the forelegs and on the outside of the ears is shorter than the rest of the coat. The tail is generally docked if it is longer then 4 inches, though most are naturally short. Each individual's masculinity or femininity is clearly defined.
Australian Shepherds are easy going, perpetual puppies that love to play. Courageous, loyal and affectionate, they are excellent children's companions that are great with active children. A devoted friend and guardian, for they are naturally protective. Very lively, agile and attentive - they are eager to please, with a sixth sense about what the owner wants. Australian Shepherds are highly intelligent and easy to train. Though aggressive when at work with livestock, the Aussie is gentle with human friends. Australian Shepherds needs lots of exercise and a job to do, as the breed is very intelligent, active and easily bored. They can become nervous and destructive if left alone too much without exercise. They are naturally suspicious of strangers, so they should be well socialized as puppies. Working lines of Australian Shepherds may be too energetic to be suitable pets. Some like to nip people's heals in an attempt to herd them. They are quiet workers, unlike some breeds, which are bred to bark constantly at livestock. This breed is not usually dog aggressive.
Height: Dogs 18-23 inches (46-58cm.) Bitches 17-21 inches (43-53cm.)
Weight: Dogs 30-45 pounds (14-20kg) Bitches 27-40 pounds (12-18kg)
The gene for the beautiful merle coloration also carries a blind/deaf factor. This may be expressed only in merle/merle crosses. Be sure to check the hearing on merle puppies. Some are prone to hip dysplasia and PRA.
This breed is not recommended for apartment life. They are moderately active indoors and will do best with at least a large yard.
This energetic working dog needs plenty of vigorous exercise to stay in shape, or better yet, some real work to do.
About 10-12 years.
The coat is easy to groom and needs little attention. Brush occasionally with a firm bristle brush and bathe only when necessary. This breed is an average shedder.
Despite the misleading name, the Australian Shepherd is not Australian at all, but was developed entirely in the U.S. to work as a herding dog on ranches. It is possible that the name was derived from one of the dog's ancestors. The breed's principal forebears were most likely Spanish dogs that accompanied the Basque shepherds and herds of fine Merino sheep exported to both America and Australia in the early days of the colonies. At some point it probably crossed with Collie stock. It has only recently gained recognition as a distinct breed. Its many talents include, retrieving, herding, watchdogging, guarding, police work, narcotics detection, search & rescue, agility, competitive obedience and performing tricks.
Herding, AKC Herding
CKC, UKC, NKC, AKC, NZKC, Australian Shepherd Club of America
Dog training books are written by authors who have had success with their often unique methods. Buy only one such book or you will likely confuse you and your dog with varying approaches.
Start gently training puppies the day you bring them home. Training starts with play, just as a mother dog plays with her pups. You are now the substitute parent. Never give a command unless you back it up. For instance, use the command NO only when you are serious. If you give a command and then let the dog get away with not following your order you will never have control, much like the parents you have observed in supermarkets babbling ignored orders to their rantipoles. The children are not bad children; the parents are bad parents. Be a good dog parent.
If it will be unconfined or within a boundary fence, show a new pup its territory by taking it for a walk each day around the perimeter of the area you wish it to patrol. Some feel that urinating at intervals as wolves and coyotes do is useful to mark the territory. You are the alpha male or female, show by example.
By the time a pup is four months old they should understand the commands NO, COME, SIT, DOWN and STAY. Some HEEL training on the leash will be useful for when the dog must be taken to the vet for shots or other treatment.
Dealing with problems: roaming, killing livestock
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We long resisted getting pets because we travel quite a bit. Then one summer I was bitten by a pygmy rattlesnake and laid up for three months. We now have three cats. Our cats perform the valuable service of killing mice and rats, which lessens grain losses and snake population. A sadness is that the cats occasionally take birds. Cats led to dogs; we have two dogs because our first cat was taken by a bobcat.
Chickens don't need much beyond protection from wind, rain and critters. Their poop is urine and feces combined, is very moist, so even with ample dry litter the challenge is to keep the chooks dry. We call our henhouse the Taj Mahen. It sits on a sloping site under a large walnut tree. Designed for a dozen hens, it is six feet by six feet, has a concrete floor, has four raised nests which are accessed for egg collection via a hinged board outside, has roost poles at several heights, has a simple self-feeder that holds fifty pounds of feed. There is a people door of people size and a chicken door of chicken size that lets out onto a lounging porch. The shed roof is highest at the south wall which at the top has a vent opening covered with quarter-inch hardware cloth. Smaller vents are at the top of the lower north wall, a design that creates natural air flow to carry off moisture and provides ample summer cooling. Belying the conventional advice that chickens should be kept draft free, the hens always roost on the uppermost poles, directly in line with air movement between the vents, even on the coldest winter nights.
Before getting your first chickens you must decide why you want them. There are breeds that are super at converting feed to eggs. Other breeds are ready for the frying pan in eight weeks. While some breeds such as Buff Orpingtons--my favorite--are considered dual purpose, those breeds that have been bred for eggs or meat are much better for those uses. And then there are the show breeds, the exotic, the fancy. Nurseries will try to persuade you to become interested in fancy chickens because the more you fancy chickens the fancier will be their bank accounts. So, even though you order 25 straight-run (unsexed) Rhode Island Reds, the nursery will include with your order five chicks that will look different, you will wonder what they are, they will become colorful, heavily plumed, feather-footed, or some other feature sure to entice you. Nearly all hatcheries will send you a free catalog illustrating the breeds they offer--see Sources at the end of this chapter.
Obtaining and raising chicks
"I never see an egg brought on my table but I feel penetrated with the
wonderful change it would have undergone but for my gluttony; it might
have been a gentle, useful hen, leading her chickens with a care and vigilance
which speaks shame to many women."
Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer.
The best way to get and raise chicks is nature's way. Chicks raised by hens have far fewer health problems than those purchased from hatcheries or hatched in home incubators. Buy a broody hen and some fertile eggs. Put nine to fifteen (depends on hen size) fertile eggs under an insistently broody hen and keep her protected and supplied with water and food. Give her a nest box large enough so she can turn easily. Put it in a safe, quiet, semi-dark place. Chicks will appear in three weeks and the show begins. Especially if you have children you really must do this at least once. For the first two days chicks neither drink nor eat but let the hen make the decision of when they venture forth. So give the hen and chicks easy access to water, food and dirt. Keep them protected from dogs and wild critters that relish poultry--coons, possums, weasels, mink, foxes, rats, hawks, owls, more.
The second way to get chicks is by using an incubator designed for that purpose. You can build an incubator. The challenges are maintaining 99 to103 degrees depending on how heat is provided, maintaining correct humidity--83 to 88 percent until the last few days before hatching, then 90-95 (wet bulb), turning eggs several times a day so the embryo does not stick to the inside of the shell. If the electricity goes off, your incubator cools down and the embryos die. Then there is lack of communication. Hens talk to their unborn chicks, creating a bonding. After chicks hatch, mom hens cluck them under her when she perceives danger, cluck to show them food, cluck to reassure them as they venture further into the scary world. So if you want psychologically sound chicks, use the broody hen method or cluck to your chicks. Be careful to not sit on them.
The third method is to buy chicks from a hatchery. I do this when I want all chicks to be one sex, females for egg production or males for meat. Commercial incubators are emptied, chicks are sexed, boxed and shipped the same day. Chicks do not eat or drink for two days, can go three days if kept near 95 degrees. All chicks without mothers need extra protection from predators and drafts, dependable warmth, water, food, light. Prepare and test your brooder area several days before ordering chicks. Cute chicks in the bathroom or kitchen create odor and cause fine dust to float onto everything, so fix a place away from human quarters. A friend and I cooperate on chick rearing for our laying flocks. If it's my turn I take my old layers to his place. Then I clean the henhouse, put down sand and sawdust on the concrete floor. I install an old light fixture that has several sockets into which I put low-wattage bulbs. Relying on only one bulb is a recipe for disaster. I suspend the fixture above the center of the brooder area. I put a thermometer under the light and adjust the light height until it maintains 95 degrees at chick level. I hang parts of a cardboard box on a nearby low roost pole so the chicks can go there if the temperature is too warm or they want to avoid the bright light. The secret is to give them enough room so they can be in a space that gives them the heat and light they prefer. As with incubators, the loss of electricity may mean the loss of chicks. If you are awake when the power goes off, go get the chicks and bring them into a warm place in the house. A cardboard box works well. Crowd them a bit so they lose less body heat.
Metal or plastic chick waterers screw onto a glass jar. As chicks grow, put the waterer on increasingly higher platforms so it fills less from the detritus thrown up by their incessant scratching. I use the purple medicated tablets in chick water for a few weeks and then gradually stop using them. Chicks raised by hens don't need medication.
The Chicken Moat
Chickens love to scratch in garden beds and their scratching uproots small plants. Hence the question of whether to fence the chickens or the garden. My first answer here at Heartwood was to do both. I designed and built the chicken moat in 1983--my article and photos describing it appeared in The Mother Earth News No. 111, May/June 1988. The chicken moat is a double-fenced run surrounding the garden perimeter. In addition to controlling chickens, the moat provides a clean edge for the garden and repels most garden predators. The chickens patrol the moat during daylight hours, eating weeds, seeds and bugs, all of which they love, especially grasshoppers. At night the chickens are locked up in a secure henhouse. The garden is protected by the double fencing from most animals that lust for veggies and fruits.
I built the first moat of six-foot poultry fencing, the two fences spaced six feet apart. These dimensions keep chickens in and deer and hawks out. While deer can jump higher than six feet, they cannot jump, gather themselves and jump again within the six-foot space of the moat, or at least they think they can't, so they don't. They have great leaping ability--I believe it's lack of landing space that deters them--six feet between fences is not enough room for a deer to land without the risk of getting its nose jammed into the second fence and then having insufficient room to gather for another hop. They apparently have good depth perception and recognize the danger of being trapped between the two fences. They never crossed my chicken moat for the many years I had it. I took the moat down when the chicken wire rusted out. By then I had the dogs. Now the deer don't even bud my unfenced fruit and nut trees two hundred feet from the house. Before the dogs, deer would come within a few feet of the house and eat anything they chose. Even rabbits and woodchucks were substantially deterred by the double fence. They apparently didn't like the extra work of getting to the salad.
Hawks will not strike chickens in the six-foot space. I figure that hawks know they could easily hit the moat patrol but getting airborne again between two fences is too risky. I never lost a hen or rooster in the moat. Racoons are not slowed by fencing unless it includes one or more electric wires. Squirrels are undeterred by fencing. Using metal fence posts only slightly slows coons and squirrels. Squirrels will actually fight electric wires. Feisty little fellers.
If I were building another chicken moat, the only change I would make is to use what here is called dog wire, much heavier gauge wire than chicken wire. It can be had in various opening sizes, for instance one inch wide by two inches high or two inches wide by four inches high. Like painting, fencing is time consuming work so spending more dollars on a product that will last makes sense. Initial labor stays the same but the better product stands up much longer so subsequent labor is greatly reduced.
The openings in the fence material must be small enough to preclude rabbits. Even with small openings, baby rabbits will occasionally squeeze through and eat themselves too big to squeeze back out. When they reached the appropriate size I had them for dinner.
Brace your outside corner posts well and you can avoid bracing interior corner posts. Simply run a loop of heavy wire between the two posts and then use a stick to twist the wire until it gives the desired tension. After tensioning, bend the stick as parallel to the wire as you can and secure it with a short piece of light wire.
Constructing gates is the biggest challenge. It is easier to build a chicken tunnel and one gate than to build two gates and then worry about hens making a moatbreak when you pass through while heavily laden with tomatoes. To allow the chickens to pass under one gateway I recycled an old culvert pipe by burying it just below the ground surface. At another gate I built a tunnel of concrete blocks covered with cedar boards. Make gates wide enough for your garden cart to pass through.
Quick chick notes
1. Female chicks are pullets, which start laying at about five months
and are then hens.
2. Male chickens are called cocks, roosters and several unprintable names. You don't need a rooster for hens to lay eggs.
3. Don't keep a rooster unless you want fertile eggs or you have big trouble awakening. A mature rooster can seriously injure a person with their spurs.
4. Fertilized eggs look and taste alike and have the same nutrition as unfertilized eggs.
5. For fertile eggs, keep one rooster per 12-15 hens. Too many roosters means abused hens. Copulation most resembles rape.
6. A female chick has within her at hatching the nucleus of every egg she will ever lay and thousands more.
7. Homestead hens lay eggs for several years but production wanes with age.
8. Laying hens are light sensitive. Optimal lighting is twelve to fourteen hours per day. Wintertime lights increase egg production.
9. Give your flock the largest range on pasture plants that you can--their happiness and your feed cost savings will be great.
10. Without chickens our language would be bereft of: pecking order, chicken (fearful), flighty (nervous), crowing (bragging), cocky, dumb cluck.
11. Neither the chicken nor the egg came first. See Darwin or your religion instructor.
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Breeds, housing, feeding, propagation.
Skunk-meets-dog solution: one quart three-percent hydrogen peroxide, one cup baking soda, one teaspoon dishwashing liquid. Mix ingredients together, rub through dogās hair. Repeat as your nose requires. Tell dog to avoid skunks.
"Find your place on the planet and dig in."
The definition of community is elusive. Neighbors who share no more
than geography may consider themselves community. At the other extreme,
Internet acquaintances sharing only a common interest and the computer
with which to write each other consider themselves to be community. One
such mailing list is the Homestead Mailing List. We are composed of about
300 individuals, some on homesteads, some in cities and most somewhere
in between. Anything goes. Here are the list instructions:
Homestead Mailing List
The list's owners are [email protected] .
You should contact them if there are any problems.
Please do not send requests to this list; instead direct them to: [email protected]
To subscribe to the list, type:
SUBSCRIBE HOMESTEAD Your Name
Substitute your real name for "Your Name" in the command, e.g. SUBSCRIBE HOMESTEAD Bob Smith
To unsubscribe, type: UNSUBSCRIBE HOMESTEAD
To receive your list in Digest format, type: SET HOMESTEAD MAIL DIGEST
To switch back to non-digest format, type: SET HOMESTEAD MAIL BACK
1. Moving in
First impressions. Accepting invitations immediately.
Schools, churches, service clubs, committees, public office, social activities
Article: country neighbors are more important than city neighbors.
Growth is inevitable. Growth can be orderly or upsetting.
Keeping it local.
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To Find Your Ideal Country Home Author
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