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Goat Facts – 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Goats

Goatpack

If you have ever even thought about homesteading, then you’ve thought about getting goats. These intelligent, curious and delightful animals are often considered a “graduation” of sorts: Most homesteaders start with chickens and move onto goats before considering larger livestock.

Goats can provide homesteaders with milk which can also be used to make cheese, soap or butter. Here are ten things you may not have known about domestic goats (Capra aegagrus hircus).

  1. Goats can vary in size from the 35 lb. Pygmy goats to the 230 lb. Boer goat. Both goats are actually raised for meat production, however, the Pygmy goat is also known for its high-quality milk.
  2. Genetic tests indicate that all domestic goats are descended from the wild Bezoar Ibex of Anatolian Zagros, a part of the Middle East. Scientists believe goats are one of the earliest domesticated animals, with evidence that suggests they were domesticated at least 10,000 years ago.
  3. Goats are naturally curious. While they don’t actually eat tin cans and paper, they are often seen chewing odds and ends mainly to find out more about these objects. Behaviorists think goats chew these items to find out more about them and to see if they are edible.
  4. That curious nature may be the root of a legendary story about goats and coffee. An apocryphal story on the discovery of coffee goes like this: Kaldi, an Ethiopian goat herder, started chewing coffee beans after his goats started dancing when they ate the beans.
  5. The largest number of goats in the United States resides in Texas. Goats can be raised, however, anywhere in the United States.
  6. While calling a group of goats a “herd” is acceptable, the more proper names for a group of goats is a tribe or trip.
  7. Cashmere, the super-soft and desirable wool used in many garments, is harvested from Cashmere goats. The wool is shorn from the goats and then “de-haired” which separates the coarse outer hair from the soft inner downy coat. The softer hair is spun into yarn and thread for textiles. Originally the goats were cultivated in Nepal and Kashmir, but they are now raised all over the world.
  8. The famous fainting goats don’t actually faint. A condition of the central nervous condition called Congenital myotonia, in which the muscles of the animals are temporarily paralyzed when they panic. The condition causes no pain, but the animals do fall over. Older fainting goats, however, keep themselves braced against a wall or other support, so they don’t fall over.
  9. The London Telegraph reported last year that goats have accents. Scientists at the Queen Mary University of London discovered the calls of goats change as they grown older and move into different groups. Goats in the same group sound similar to each other as they spend more time together.
  10. Milk goats should be separated by gender. If does (female goats) are kept too close to bucks (males) their milk can take on a “goaty” flavor, influenced by the strong scent of the buck. *Although, it should be stated that this is a controversial topic for goat dairy farmers… With many people stating that they would NEVER separate the goats. And many saying that they would never dream of having the goats live together in the same quarters because of milk flavor and breeding practices.

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Natural Remedies for Summertime Maladies

Kitchen Cabinet First Aid

Summer fun means, among others, camping and hiking, outdoor sports, long days at the beach, and grilling with FIRE. Sometimes summer fun also means sunburns, scrapes and bruises, and insect bites. The pharmacy shelves are lined with a plethora of treatments for various and sundry ailments, but Mother Earth also provides us with many natural remedies that not only are easier on the pocketbook, but also can ease symptoms without interfering with the body’s natural healing processes.

What’s more, many typical summertime complaints respond just as well to natural remedies as they do to store-bought ones. As an added benefit, natural remedies provide you with the ability to know exactly what’s going into/onto your body, and who doesn’t like that? Ever tried to read one of those miles-long ingredients lists? Sheesh!

So let’s dig right in, shall we?

I’m pale. Translucent. Practically diaphanous. You get the idea…. As I’m typing this, I’m avoiding the desert sun, hidden behind Elvis-level blackout curtains, and I’m practically sizzling. My go-to remedy for burns? You guessed it: aloe vera.

theherbalhomestead

Aloe plants are easy to care for indoors or out, needing to be watered only every 3 weeks or so, and the gel quickly relieves pain of sunburn and minor household burns. Simply harvest a leaf or two (choose really “beefy” ones!) by cutting near the bottom. Using a sharp knife, remove the spines and cut the leaves in half down the middle, then score the insides of the aloe to release the aloe gel or scrape down with a spoon.

Collect the gel in a dish until you have enough to cover the affected area. An alternative is to take an aloe bath. Boil a few aloe leaves in water (The water will turn brown.) and add it to your bath, or simply add some harvested aloe gel to the water. You’ll want lukewarm water for this treatment, so as not to aggravate the burn or scrape. Rest in the aloe-infused water for 15 or so minutes.

Another immensely helpful sunburn remedy is vinegar. Pour a couple cups of organic white or apple cider vinegar into a cool bath, or apply liberally to the burn with cotton balls. Sure, you’ll smell like a vat of pickles, but the pain from the sunburn will dissipate posthaste. This also works well for itchy insect bites!

Nature, among other things, is magnificently beautiful. The splendor of summer, all the life bursting forth everywhere, invites us to get our winter heinies outside and get sporty! Or maybe you like to scramble over the hill and through the woods to camp or hike or just to see what’s over there… You’re probably going to bust your tail at least once. There might be blood, and if there is, sprinkle sugar or cayenne pepper over the wound to stop the bleeding quickly.

Cayenne pepper equalizes blood pressure, allowing you to keep all your blood inside of you where it belongs. Granulated sugar in a wound creates a medium where bacteria cannot survive and causes clotting. No need to make a paste; just clean the wound and put it right on there! Organic honey also works well to staunch bleeding and provides a broad spectrum of antimicrobial properties.

For itchy bug bites, go to your kitchen pantry, not your medicine chest! Baking soda’s alkaline properties help to neutralize the itch and discomfort of insect bites. Make a thick paste by mixing a little water into a bit of baking soda and apply as needed until the pain and itching abate. Aloe vera also works well to cure the itch from a wee beastie bite.

If you have many bites, try taking a vinegar bath (described above) for some all-over relief. Place a fresh slice of onion on a sting for several minutes to reduce itching and relieve pain (be sure to wash the area thoroughly once symptoms subside), or apply some all-natural peppermint or neem toothpaste and allow it to dry (leave on for as long as desired). Help lessen the chances of infection by applying a small amount of raw honey to the bites. There also are many essential oils that alleviate the itch and sting of bug bites: tea tree, rosemary, neem, and lavender oil all work great.

What’s better on a summer evening than chasing fireflies and eating something from the grill? What about those company picnics and family reunions, where you lost count of how many hot dogs and burgers you ate over the course of the sweltering day, resulting in a digestive dilemma? Reach into your spice cabinet! Boil water and steep sage, peppermint, or ginger (or a combination!) for several minutes to produce a beverage that will soothe the angriest of tummies. Cure indigestion by completely dissolving a quarter teaspoon of baking soda in 2 teaspoons of organic apple cider vinegar.

Add 8 ounces of water or organic juice, and drink it down. The vinegar aids digestion and helps to balance acid production in the belly. This can be done before the meal for a preemptive strike, or after the symptoms of heartburn have begun. A teaspoon of yellow mustard mixed in a half cup of water also quickly relieves heartburn. Feeling nauseated? The main ingredient of most over-the-counter nausea medications is sugar. Save your money and drink the juice from a can of peaches or some flat ginger ale.

Itchy eyes, runny nose, and that irritating sensation of needing to sneeze but not being able to? Summer allergies are a thing. The pollen count rises when the weather gets warmer, turning many people into teary-eyed, mouth-breathing weirdos. If you’re a patient soul, the best remedy for seasonal allergies is raw local honey. Raw, so that it has all the good stuff still in it. Local, because you want the honey to be full of the flora and fauna (okay, not the fauna) that’s around you, because that’s what’s making you miserable. The gradual intake of local pollen increases antibodies in the immune system, preventing symptoms before the allergy season even starts. Try to get in a tablespoon a day, either eaten outright or added to food and drinks.

But what if summer’s here already and you’re in the throes? Make some tasty red onion water! (Editor’s note: It’s not that tasty.) Onions contain a chemical called quercetin, which reduces the body’s histamine response, therefore reducing allergy symptoms. How cool is that?!? Thinly slice one red onion and add it to 4 cups of water. I use a quart jar with a lid for this. Allow it to infuse for 8 to 12 hours and drink a cup once or twice a day while symptoms persist. Stir honey to taste into individual servings and keep any remaining infusion in the fridge for up to 3 days.

If summer activities leave you itchy, bloody, burned, or in pain, do like your granny and look in your house for the cure. Oh, and sprinkle everything with a little common sense: If you encounter a serious burn or bleeding of the spurty kind, please get to an appropriate medical facility. Never give honey to a child under the age of one. Always use an appropriate carrier oil when using essential oils, especially when using them on children. Please be careful and act under any necessary adult supervision when using knives.

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Study shows clove oil can be used to dehorn baby goats

goat milk

Dehorning — or disbudding — baby goats can be scary and traumatizing — both to the owners and the goats.

Disbudding, for the uninitiated, is the process of using heat — or a caustic paste — to prevent the growth of horns on goats.

While some goat owners do not disbud their baby goats, many do, as both a requirement to show the goats (many organizations require goats to be disbudded to enter them into competition) and as a safety requirement: Horned goats can cause injury to each other during disagreements and displays of dominance.

In addition, horned goats can get caught and injured in fencing.

Most of the time, disbudding goats involves contacting a vet, or experienced herdsman (herdsperson?) to use a heat gun to burn the tissue where the horns would grow, killing it.

If done improperly, however, the process can lead to infection and physical trauma, both of which can lead to death.

The procedure also requires aftercare, which can be difficult and time consuming for goat owners to maintain over a period of time.

Iranian scientist, however, have recently published a paper suggesting that injections of clove oil can be used to disbud goats with much less physical trauma and pain to the animals.

In a paper published by scientists with Urmia University, veterinarians concluded that the procedure can prevent horn growth in goats.

According to the paper, which can be found online here, five-day old goat kids had clove oil (0.2 mL) injected into their horn buds.

The oil stopped horn growth in the goats, according to the paper.

The paper stated the oil is believed to stop tissue growth at proper concentrations.

The conclusions were as follows:

According to the results of this study injection of clove essence can be an effective method to stop horn growth without any undesirable effects on clinical parameters. This technique is easy for the operator and less stressful for the kids.

If true, clove oil injections could present goat owners and vets a method for disbudding goat kids safely and with much fewer complications.

Next: Goatpacking in the Back Country

Get Your Beard Straight!

beard

I would argue, if you’re going to take up Homesteading, you’re going to need a beard. Ladies this includes you. There’s tons of places you can get a beard. Anyplace hipsters hang out. Classic Rock concerts. Hippy gatherings. Biker Bars. And I don’t know much about farmersonly.com, but I’m betting there’s a lot of beards there.

Men, here are the benefits of having a beard:

  • You can diffuse essential oils with it.
  • It makes you handsome.
  • It comforts goats.
  • Baby chicks go silent once they get underneath it.
  • It gives you something to do while trying to figure out how to solve a problem that you have no business solving.
  • People believe you if you say something about farming and gardening, no matter how ridiculous it sounds — For real. If you say something like “I like to spread manure with a large kitchen spoon, as it ensures proper coverage and allows me to control it better,” people will immediately think to themselves “Well, with a beard like that, he’s got to know something.” Use this power wisely.
  • You can put beads in it!

Ladies, here’s why you want a man with a beard in your life:

  • You know if he’s unfaithful (Perfume gets in that thing like crazy)
  • If you wear glitter, you can mark him as yours (glitter never comes out of a beard)
  • You can stand him up in front of your farmer’s market stand and have customers take pictures with him.
  • It gives you something to grab if you need to get his attention.
  • Crafts — Glitter beards, Christmas Beards, Flower Beards, etc. Just think of how jealous your Pinterest friends will be!
  • You can put beads in it!
  • You can convince the beard host (husband, farmhand, friend) to do chores via his vanity. Try saying, “You know, I bet with a beard like that you could really split some firewood like a real man,” and watch how fast it piles up. You don’t even have to be romantically involved with him to do it! Use this power wisely.

If you find yourself in possession of a beard, you will have to care for it. Shampoo and condition it regularly, and oil it. (See my beard oil recipe below).

Keeping it clean and shampooed ensures that it’s touchable, and prevents you from crossing that fine line between Wise Sage and Rabid Hobo. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a Hobo — some of my favorite relatives were hobos. And even more were just rabid.

Oiling your beard also prevents discomfort and ingrown hairs. There’s nothing worse than having an infected cyst form because you decided to grow a bit of facial hair. Also, while it’s growing, the oil will prevent the itchiness that often causes men to give up and shave.

Here’s my recipe for beard oil:

Ingredients:

One Tablespoon of Coconut Oil (Olive Oil also works)

Instructions:

Put it in your beard.

That’s it. Coconut oil has anti-viral, anti-fugal and anti-bacterial qualities that will help prevent ingrown hairs. And the oil serves as a conditioner that straightens hair and prevents breakage — which makes it a lot easier to grow. It also makes your beard smell a bit like a cookie and everyone loves that.

If you’re feeling really frisky, you can add essential oils — I like Juniper Berry and Lavender. You can also use Rosemary which has a reputation for promote hair growth.

If you don’t know where to get essential oils, buy them from my wife. She’s got all that information.

With these handful of tips, you’re on your way to get everything you need to be a proper homesteader — a really handsome beard.

Want more homesteading tips? Buy my book, Homesteading From Scratch. There’s almost nothing about beards in it, but you’ll learn everything you need to know to get started homesteading tomorrow. Get it at Barnes and Noble or here on Amazon.

Read more: How much does it cost to produce a dozen eggs?

My Totally Non-Scientific Soil Amendment Plan

hands and soil

So, I’m terrible at doing soil tests. Every year, I think to myself, “I should get the soil tested…”

And then promptly forget about it until it’s wayyyy too late and I suddenly have about 300 starts to put in the ground and resolve to do it on time next year.

Because of my terrible procrastination problem, I’ve come up with a soil amendment plan that seems to work? I say seems, because since I’m also a procrastinator at compiling data — despite constant compulsive note taking — I just assume that it’s probably doing fine. Stuff’s growing, right?

So, here’s my recipe for Maybe OK Garden Soil (TM).

Organic matter

I tend to pretty much throw whatever organic matter I can get my hands on the ground. Old hay. Leaf litter. Coffee grounds (you can get them from your local coffee shop). Grass clippings. (This document has some information about the availability of specific nutrients in different types of organic matter). Sometimes I’ll get ambitious and roam fancy neighborhoods where people rake their leaves in the Fall and pick up bags of leaves from the curb and pile them up in the backyard.

I tell my wife that I’m actually letting them decompose, but in reality, I’m usually too lazy to spread the leaves (my initial plan is usually to use the leaves as mulch) and so I wind up letting the compost and using them as soil amendments after forgetting about them for about 3 months. And of course, I use compost from my poorly maintained compost pile.

Y’all. I’m starting to think I suck at gardening.

Mulch

So, earlier this year, I made a deal with the local utility company that I’d take their wood chips produced from when they trimmed trees around power lines. The plan was (is?) to take all that material and mulch the entire front yard, turn it into a garden space (killing my grass in the process!) and then spreading more around the back yard preventing grass and weeds. As the mulch breaks down, I will cultivate it into the soil, thereby amending even further. Now, as a result of my ambition, I have a 60 feet long pile of mulch about 5 feet high in my driveway. My neighbors, I’m sure, are impressed.

Protip: If you have a spouse who’s not as into gardening as you are, get yourself a 60 feet long pile of mulch in your driveway. I promise said spouse will instantly be super interested in what your garden plans are for the year and when you’re going to use all that mulch. They’ll talk about it nearly every day, thus bringing you closer together as a couple. You’re welcome!

Poop

Poop is one of my favorite things to put into the soil. I get as much rabbit and goat poop as I can and just work it right in. If I have chickens — which I don’t right now — I usually put their run over where I want the garden to be.

They do a great job of decimating all the weeds in the run and their droppings are filled with all sorts of happy nutrients. If you do this, be aware, chicken poop is considered “hot” which means it needs to age before planting in it, as the droppings contain high amounts of nitrogen which can burn plants and kill them (I learned the hard way).

I usually try to move the run every few months, letting the material age and “cool” down. Rabbit and Goat poop can be placed directly into your soil fresh from the animals bum. I want to build a composting toilet, but the family is still a bit squeamish about me growing veggies with human poop (but it would give us something to do with all those wood chips!).

Wood Ash

Wood Ash has phosphates and potassium, which are, of course, essential nutrients. It’s important to use hardwood ash, for some reason I’m not entirely aware of? I’m going to search now and figure it out. I’ve always been told not to use ashes from evergreens, but never bothered to wonder why. Well … Evidently it’s OK to use evergreen ash? Huh.

Now we know. According to this article, the only issue is evergreen ash contains less potassium. OK then. I tend to, again, this isn’t laziness, pile up a bunch of wood ash during the winter in the backyard and eventually spread it on the garden. I do this to foster a better relationship with my spouse, as like the mulch, gives her a reason to talk about my hobbies with her.

Method of dispersal

Again, I have heady plans for my garden every December. And of course, I ignore them immediately in January when I just get distracted or bored or lazy. So then, I have my 300 or so plant starts that by the end of February I put in the ground in a frenzy of planting, swearing to never procrastinate again. Most of the time, these are assorted greens, and as such, tend to grow rather quickly. Usually, I do this without amending the soil. Then immediately after the starts have matured and been harvested, I amend my soil. Not because it’s better, but because I figure I have to get it in sometime and my poor planning usually means I’ll have to do it in between plantings.

Also, there’s a pretty interesting discussion about whether the material should be tilled into the soil or just top dressed. I tend to fall on the just drop it on top of the ground side of the argument. I tell people it’s because of the debate and the uptake possibilities of the nutrients, but really I’m just in a hurry at this point. After getting my amendments on the ground, I cover everything with a layer of mulch thus hiding my sin of laziness and poor planning (mulch covers all gardening sins). And that’s it.

I mean, it seems to work? Mostly? If I ever get around to getting my notes compiled, I’ll let you know.

Read more: How much does it cost to produce a dozen eggs?

Get your garden on – literally anywhere!

gardening

If you don’t have a garden, it’s probably because you don’t want one.

Which is fine. It’s your life, I’m not going to judge you.

But, it’s not because you can’t have a garden.

Even the most insidious Black Thumb can grow a garden. And it can be done literally anywhere.

There’s gardens growing everywhere right now — skyscrapers, rooftops, IKEA — even Antarctica.

Despite the ubiquity of gardens all over the world, there are still some people who swear they can’t have a garden for all sorts of reasons.

Here’s the most common ones I know AND solutions to those problems.

“My HOA won’t allow it”

Someday, we’ll all look back and marvel at the fact that we established Home-Owners Association and gave them broad powers over our lives and shake our heads in dismay.

But for today, it’s a reality that HOAs many times forbid vegetable gardens within the confines of their tin-pot dictatorships.

You could start an armed rebellion against the little old ladies wandering around measuring grass in a futile effort to protect their equity investments (I’m not advocating violence, but if you do, be loaded for bear: Little Old Ladies are surprisingly tough) or you could grow a garden anyway, and stay well within your HOA agreement.

First, find out the rules. With the increased interest in Homesteading, gardening and local food, many HOAs allow some portion of their jurisdiction to be planted with vegetables. Sometimes HOAs restrict vegetable plots to a backyard, or a certain space within the front. Other times, some neighborhoods actually have community garden space that can be planted.

If you can’t plant in your yard, then do a container garden. With some pots and potting soil, you can grow scads of veggies on your deck, on your porch, even indoors, if it’s near a window. You can take over and entire area anywhere in your home and turn it into a garden. It’s arguably cheaper and more efficient to grow indoors — there is no season and you’ll severely curtail the number of pests and disease pressures you’ll have. Don’t have a room that gets enough sun? By grow lights. They’re pretty cheap and produce lots of fake sunlight for as long as you want them to — you won’t be constrained by the length of the day.

If you don’t want to garden indoors or in containers, then find a community garden. Community gardens offer rows or plots to community members to grow in at a centralized location. For usually a very manageable membership fee, you can grow anything you want. Your HOA can’t complain because it’s off site. Don’t have a community garden? Start one.

“Climate’s not right”

Ignoring the aforementioned indoor gardens, climate is often one of the reasons people claim they can’t garden. If you live in a space too hot or too cold, then you’ll obviously have to do something different. In places like Alaska, for example, the combination of greenhouses and cold frames can significantly increase your chances of producing veggies in a space. They aren’t as expensive to build as you may think. And even heating one is relatively cheap and easy if you’re willing to get a little creative.

Even if you live in the hottest desert, you can still get some veggies out of the ground. Grey water irrigation systems can provide moisture, while xeriscaping and getting creative with your veggie choices can lead to some big gains no matter what the weather is.

One of my favorite things to grow, which does very well in desert climates, is the Prickly Pear cactus. This lovely cactus produces fruit that can be turned into jams and jellies and the pads of it can be harvested and eaten for a really tasty addition to any meal. It was a staple among the First Nations in the American desert areas.

“Can’t afford it”

A lot of people think you need tons of money to start gardening. But in reality, you can drop $10 on a shovel and another few bucks on a pack of seeds and start planting in a 10 foot by 10 foot space right now. My daughter likes to buy veggie and flowers seeds at the local dollar store with her allowance — four packs for a dollar. After that initial investment, sure you might want to spend more, but the fact is, you can manage a garden with what it costs to water the thing. If you invest in a grey water or rain catch irrigation system, you won’t spend much on water at all.

In fact, I hate spending money. It’s a fun hobby of mine to get as many gardening supplies as I can for as little as possible. Check craigslist for free stuff — If a body in your neighborhood is tearing down a deck, that wood could be re-purposed as a raised bed. Use pallets for everything (raised beds, vertical gardens, etc.). Compost for fertilizer. Hit up area coffee shops for their spent grounds to add to the soil. Contact your local utility company to get their wood chips for mulch — most of the time they’ll drop them in your yard for free.

Re-purpose old containers as pots — just drill drain holes in the bottom and go to town. Yogurt cups make great seed starting pots! Use your imagination!

“Don’t have the space”

If you think you don’t have the space to plant a garden, you’re absolutely wrong. Again — containers and indoor spaces can be used for gardening. A fodder system can produce lots of micro greens. Window boxes can be used for spinach and strawberries.

And you can always go vertical. A standing pallet garden provides grow space literally anywhere. I’ve seen people grow lettuce on apartment balconies.

My friend Christine McLaughlin wrote a great book on going vertical — Vertical Vegetable Gardening. My friend over at Sweet Potatoes and Social Change has been Apartment Gardening for a while now. One family in California produces 6,000 pounds of food from 1/10 of an acre just outside of Los Angeles.

Space is definitely not a limiting factor.

“I live in the city”

Again, community garden spaces can be found anywhere. New York City has them. Los Angeles has them. But even if  they didn’t, you can produce food anywhere.

Plant herbs in pots on your window sills. Grow mushrooms in a closet.

Or you can do like this guy did and grow veggies right next to your sidewalk space.

Ron Finley has been gardening in South Central LA for years in spaces formerly ignored and blighted.

So really, if this guy can do it, and fight the city in the process — all in the middle of South Central LA, then I’m pretty sure you can pull it off where ever you are.

Want to know more? Check out our book — Homesteading From Scratch. This beginners guide to homesteading will have you gardening in no time!

How to kill your grass?

It’s about the time of year where it’s a great idea to start doing lawn maintenance. Aerating, fertilizing, seeding, trimming, edging, dethatching, etc. etc.ur

You’ll need to spend hours of labor making sure that your lawn is the best in the neighborhood, maybe even the best in the city or county you live in, providing plenty of time for your video-game-addicted children to ignore the space while they avoid the outdoors with their fish-bellied colored skin (I know it’s not just my kids!).

Hey, if you’re lucky, you can even get in countless arguments with the same children while you threaten groundings, beatings and to change the Wi-Fi password over when they’re going to do yard work!

Or you can kill it. That’s right. Kill it.

Straight up murder your lawn. I’m not saying go out and blast it with herbicide until it’s a moonscape, but let’s be honest: Wouldn’t you feel better if you didn’t have a lawn?

Think of all the money, expense, water, carbon credits, time, tools, chemicals, gas, oil, etc. etc.

If you kill your lawn, then you won’t have to do that anymore.

After you blast that insufferable carpet of grass and fire ant habitat to it’s just rewards, you can use the same space to grow flowers, veggies and so very much more. In fact, you can even turn your lawn into a farm!

So, here’s my favorite ways to kill your lawn:

Till it!

Even if you don’t have a walk-behind tiller, you can rent one from an equipment supply center or big box behemoth store for about $50 per day. Depending on the size of your lawn — the average is about 1/5 an acre — you can probably till all that annoying grass into the earth in a few hours. If you’re renting a tiller, make sure you check the oil level before you crank it and use it.

Ideally, you’ll want to set the tilling tines to cultivate first (cultivating is the act of removing vegetation from the soil) to break up the root mass of your sod. After you’re done with that, set the times to till, and grind that stuff under. What is buried will stay dead. Afterwards, you’ll have aerated, fine soil that’s perfect to start a garden in. The only drawback to tilling is the soil will be susceptible to erosion. So some sort of anti-erosion measure will have to be taken.

Slice it!

If you want, you can use a sod cutter to slice it right off the top of the soil. A sod cutter is a pretty heavy duty machine that literally cuts sod right off the ground, just below root level. The sod can then be rolled up like a carpet and composted — or moved to areas where you actually want grass. I’m not judging. You do you. The only drawback to this process is you’ll remove a bit of the topsoil — and it’s subsequent nutrient content — with it.

If you’re going to be amending the soil, this won’t be a big problem, but it’s something to think about. Again, you’ll need to provide some sort of anti-erosion method to maintain the soil after cutting the sod. Because the earth won’t be aerated, you won’t have as big and issue as you would tilling it, but it’ll still be something to deal with. Sod cutters don’t work well with overly sandy soils: The vegetable mass of the grass will have to be removed by other methods, if that’s the case.

Solarize it!

I love solarizing things! It’s like a magic trick wherein you use the sun to bake weeds and grass to death. This method is relatively simple. Use a piece of clear or black plastic (clear plastic works best) to cover the area you want to eradicate, then come back a few weeks later and laugh at the grass genocide. This method is the least labor intensive of any other method. If the edges are properly sealed — with mulch or earth shoveled around the perimeter, the process is pretty much set it and forget it. It requires warm weather and some patience, but that’s rapidly become more feasible.

Once you’re done, depending on the thickness of the grass underneath it, you’ll still have to deal with plant mass — it’s still there, just desiccated. So it’s usually a good idea to cultivate or till the earth immediately after. If not, however, the root mass will provide some measure of erosion control for a time. This process also kills weed seeds in the thin upper layer of the soil. So when you do decide to plant an mini-farm in your front yard, it’ll be easier to control.

Mulch it!

I’m actually in the process of a major mulch project right now. I’m covering my entire front law in about 8 inches of mulch. This is my favorite. Mulch hides all gardening sins, provides water retention and kills grass and weeds. The mulch will eventually turn into a growth medium, so you can plant directly into it. If you use wood chips, the material will take nitrogen from the soil, so you’ll need a method to replace it. Mulch can get expensive, especially since 4-6 inches is required for true grass killing power. To help with the cost, you can contact your local utility company or tree surgeon. Most landfills charge a fee to dispose of the ground up branches and trees, so a lot of the time, they’ll drop them off in your yard for free.

Homeschooling Project: Water for honey bees

Water for honey bees

It’s the time of year when honey bees are out and about foraging.

Drawn to newly blossoming Spring flowers, these industrious pollinators are working hard to gather nectar and pollen to provide for their hives.

They’ll often fly miles to forage.

While they’re doing it, they often require water.

Which means they will try for fluids in birdbaths, puddles, ponds, streams any water source they can find. They need the water not only to survive the journey they often take for food, but also to help process honey when they get back to the hive.

Unfortunately, water sources they often use can often be dangerous: Naturally occurring water sources expose the bees to predators while they often fall into other water sources and drown.

We made our bee waterer with flat marbles from the Dollar Store and a plate. Ignore the glitter from a previous project.

A great homeschool project, especially for primary school children, is to make a bee waterer.

It’s a simple project: All you need is a shallow pan and some rocks or marbles.

Put the rocks or marbles in the bottom of the plate, and then add water. The stones will give the bees somewhere to sit while drinking so they don’t fall in.

While making the waterer, you can teach your little homeschooler all about bees!

It makes a great science lesson. And you can use it to teach basic math facts and observational skills. Kids can watch the waterer, count the bees and average the number of bees that visit the waterer.

There’s all sorts of ways you can incorporate this simple little project into all sorts of lessons.

Here’s a list of resources you can use to craft a great lesson:

The Homesteading From Scratch Book is Here!!

Homesteading From Scratch

Homesteading From Scratch is for people who want to do things differently—the type of people who want to eat real food, grow herbs, make cheese, raise baby animals, hunt mushrooms, pick blackberries, unschool their children, can jelly, ferment kraut, farm organically, connect to nature, live intentionally, and more.

Guiding readers from desire to full-blown off-the-grid living—and everything in between—this book covers farming, animal husbandry, food preparation, homeschooling, fiber arts, and even marketing. It provides inspiration from other homesteaders, with operations from small to large, who have made a go of it, outlining their successes and failures throughout the process. It helps to democratize the homesteading movement, by providing instructions for nearly every level of dedication, from the container gardener to full-time farmers. It provides the knowledge necessary to discover homesteading as a movement and as a lifestyle.

Inspired by From Scratch magazine, an online publication devoted to homesteading and intentional living, this book provides readers with continued support and community for information and resources online. This book serves as a reference, as well as a cheerleader, for those who want a bit more control and responsibility over where their food comes from, what they consume, and how they live their lives.

“From exploring individual homesteading goals to farming land, animal husbandry, bread baking, food preservation, homeschooling, community building, and even macrame’ (yes, macrame’), Jones marries the homesteading dream to sound practicality. For those that feel the call of self-sufficiency in this modern day, it’s simply the right book at the right time.”

– Chris McLaughlin, modern homesteader and author of a Garden to Dye For and Vertical Vegetable Gardening

“A practical and inspiring guide for anyone striving for a more self-sufficient lifestyle.

-Abigail Gehring, editor of Back to Basics, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Living, and Good Living Guide to Country Skills

Read more:

5 Easy Steps to Writing a Book About Homesteading

Black Friday Book Giveaway!!

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Black Friday Book Giveaway!!

At From Scratch magazine, we get a lot of books to review. Sometimes, if we have the time, we review them. Other times, we get to busy and cannot.

At this point, I currently have 7 books on my desk for review, including: Happy Hens and Fresh Eggs, by Signe Langford; The Urban Homesteading Cookbook, by Michelle Catherine Nelson; Making Stuff & Doing Things, edited by Kyle Bravo; Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills, by Raleigh Briggs; Home Sweet Homegrown: How to grow, make and store food, no matter where you live, by Robyn Jasko, illustrated by Jennifer Biggs; Amica’s World: How a giant bird came into our heart and home, by Washo and Meadow Shadowhawk; and Sprouts: Live well with living foods, by Ian Giesbrecht.

That’s a lot of books.

And, since our readers are interested in all of these books — probably, they are absolutely beautiful works and we tend to have smarter than average readers 😉 — I’ve decided that we have a new policy. Every time we review the book, we’ll give away our review copy.

Putting time and effort into writing a book is hard, and considering that most author’s only pull down about $10,000 a year from book sales and advances (many of them not even that), we want to celebrate these offers and make them as widely known as possible.

So, every time you share this post on Facebook, we’ll enter you into a contest to win one of these books.

To kick this new policy off, we’ll give away 8 books (we have two copies of Happy Hens and Fresh Eggs) to 8 readers on Black Friday (books make the best gifts!).

Every other day, until Black Friday, we’ll update this post with a review of a new book and you can check them all out, right here. As soon as we pick the winners and we get confirmation from them via Facebook, we’ll announce them on this blog and mail the copies out to the winners!

If you’re interested in purchasing any of these books, we’ll provide links for you to do so via Amazon.

How to win:

First, share this post on Facebook via the button on the page. Then, enter your email address in the Google Form at the bottom of the page. That’s it. If you have any questions, contact me at [email protected] (note: I cannot enter the contest for you). Good luck!

Note on reviews:

I don’t do negative reviews. Writing a book is hard and a little bit of a thankless task. Putting words on a page for hours and days and weeks and months is mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting. I’m not going to disparage anyone’s creative efforts. If I don’t like a book, I’ll simply not review it (which doesn’t mean, for any writers reading, that if you sent me a book I didn’t like it, my to-do list is about 3.76 miles long and sometimes I’m just not able to do things). If you, or someone you know has a book they’d like us to review and giveaway, contact me at [email protected]

The books:

(Editor’s notes: All the information below is taken from Amazon and or publisher’s sites. As we review the books, we’ll make note of that and change out the information with a paragraph or two about the book and a link to the full review).

Happy Hens and Fresh Eggs: Keeping Chickens in the Kitchen Garden, with 100 recipes; by Signe Langford

Today’s renaissance of the backyard flock is driven by a growing desire for healthy organic ingredients, food security and animal welfare—and while hunger might be “the best sauce,” a dash of self-sufficiency is remarkably satisfying too. As communities across the country amend urban bylaws to allow backyard flocks, more and more of us are enjoying the pleasures and rewards of keeping hens in the garden.

In addition to tending her family’s flock as a child, Signe Langford has kept chickens in her urban yard for almost a decade. Her book is stuffed full of practical advice on keeping the garden both gorgeous and productive and hens happy and healthy. In addition to answering questions about coop construction, year-round egg production and whether or not a rooster is really needed, she covers the best breeds for backyards. Langford includes dozens of simple and elegant recipes from her own kitchen, as well as contributions from celebrated chefs.

With beautiful photographs, illustrations and garden plans, this book is sure to become a favorite of avid and aspiring backyard farmers alike.

— From Amazon

Sprouts: Live Well With Living Foods, by Ian Giesbrecht

Want to enjoy delicious, homegrown food year-round? Sprouts offers an accessible, holistic, and unique guide to incorporating microgreens and sprouted foods into any lifestyle. In the modern age, many of us crave a healthier, simpler diet and a closer connection to our food sources, and sprouting can help us to bridge those divides.

Farmer and food activist Ian Giesbrecht’s straightforward and easy-to-understand theory of sprouting is accompanied by practical instructions, illustrations, charts, and recipes, covering many types of seeds and styles of sprouting. Suitable for anyone with an interest in living and raw food diets, indoor gardening, or simply the joy of growing something, this book contains enough information and inspiration to get you sprouting for a healthier, happier life.

— From Amazon

Amica’s World: How a giant bird came into our heart and home, by Washo and Meadow Shadowhawk

Amica is a rhea—a flightless bird in the ratite family, related to ostriches, emus, and kiwis. Amica was adopted as a young chick and in turn quickly adopted mother and son Meadow and Washo Shadowhawk as his flock and made himself at home in their living room.

Now an adult, Amica stands nearly six feet tall, and has a six-foot wingspan. By day he roams the backyard, exploring, running, and building nests, along with his friends the chickens and the dog. At night, he watches television and sleeps in the living room with his friend the cat.

What’s it like living with a rhea? As you’ll discover in the words and photos in this book, it is never boring, and requires massive sacrifices. Rheas, which are typically hunted or raised as livestock, are highly intelligent and expressive, with a humanlike range of emotions. Amica’s extraordinary story shows the powerful and surprising connections that can be forged between humans and animals.

— From Amazon

Home Sweet Homegrown: How to grow, make and store food, no matter where you live; by Robyn Jasko, illustrated by Jennifer Biggs

This succinct handbook is packed with practical information that will inspire and enable those who want to grow their own food and venture down the path of food independence. From choosing and starting seeds to preserving the harvest, cost effective and time-saving projects are set forth in detail.

Instructions for making DIY planters and irrigation systems, designs for upcycling old furniture into gardening stations, recipes for homemade organic plant sprays, charts listing dollars-and-cents breakdowns of homegrown versus store-bought produce, and growing guides for fruits or vegetables are just a few of the projects that will inspire neophyte and experienced gardeners to dig deep into sustainable living.

— From Amazon

Make your place: Affordable, sustainable nesting skills; by Raleigh Briggs

Raleigh Briggs teaches us how to craft a sustainable domestic life without relying on smelly, toxic, expensive consumer products. And it’s not as hard as we may think! This hand written and drawn book of charming tutorials is both fun and accessible.

It’s full of simple skills that anyone can and should learn. From creating tinctures and salves to concocting all-natural cleaners and body products to gardening basics, this book is great for anyone looking to live more simply, create a comfortable nest, and truly do it yourself.

— From Amazon

Making Stuff and Doing Things: DIY guides to just about everything; edited by Kyle Bravo

When you’re young, broke, and in search of a life of adventure, Making Stuff and Doing Things is the most useful book on the planet. It’s been called “more important than the Bible.” It’s an indispensable handbook full of basic life skills for the young punk or activist, or for anyone who’s trying to get by, get stuff done, and live life to the fullest without a lot of money.

The book started in the 90s as a series of zines, with dozens of contributors setting down the most important skills they knew in concise, often hand-written pages. If you want to do it yourself or do it together, this book has it all, from making your own tooth paste to making your own art and media, feeding, clothing, cleaning, and entertaining yourself, surviving on little, living on less, and staying healthy on all your life’s adventures. You’ll never be bored again.

— From Amazon

The Urban Homesteading Cookbook: Forage, Farm, Ferment and Feast for a Better World; by Michelle Catherine Nelson

With food culture in the midst of a do-it-yourself renaissance, urbanites everywhere are relishing craft beers, foraged ingredients, sustainable seafoods, ethically raised meats and homemade condiments and charcuterie. Inspired by the delicious creativity of local artisans, chefs, brewmasters and mixologists, Michelle Nelson began urban homesteading in her downtown apartment.

Armed with a passion for food and farming, and a PhD in conservation biology and sustainable agriculture, she shares her hard-won knowledge and recipes with readers interested in collecting, growing and preserving sustainable food—even when living in an apartment or condo.

In The Urban Homesteading Cookbook, Nelson explores the worlds of foraging wild urban edibles, eating invasive species, keeping micro-livestock, bees and crickets, growing perennial vegetables in pots, small-space aquaponics, preserving meats and produce, making cheese and slow-fermenting sourdough, beer, vinegar, kombucha, kefir and pickles. Nelson fervently believes that by taking more control of our own food we will become better empowered to understand our relationships with the environment, and embrace sustainable lifestyles and communities.

With 70 fabulous recipes, including sesame panko-crusted invasive bullfrog legs, seaweed kimchi, rabbit pate with wild chanterelles, roasted Japanese knotweed panna cotta and dark and stormy chocolate cupcakes with cricket flour— this exciting new book is sure to inspire readers to embark on their own urban homesteading adventures.

Generously illustrated with gorgeous colour photography and complete with useful how-to chapters, The Urban Homesteading Cookbook is an invaluable guide for all those seeking ethical and sustainable urban food sources and strategies.

— From Amazon

Read more: How to Raise Cattle on Small Acreage?