Friday, June 10, 2011

Got the Garden In

Finally got the garden in. Took the time to make nice big plant markers which I think was a fabulous idea! No more guesswork when I'm tilling lol. Also made a 30 foot climbing trellis for the peas out of left over railing spindles and chicken wire. Have at it!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Chicken Run

Well, the wire roof on our 45' x 20' chicken run is finished. Took Dad & I about 6 hours & numerous scratches to complete.
Now I can leave the trapdoor open all summer, no chasing chickens in at night anymore. Tried it out last night & it worked like a charm. Awesome.......

Monday, April 26, 2010

New Chicken Fence Completed

Spent a good chunk of my Saturday, & part of my Sunday to revamp my outdoor chicken fencing, along with a great deal of help from dear old dad. I think that the old storm door is a brilliant touch, as it automatically closes, thus preventing chickens from flying the coop (hahaha).

Also extended the height of the fence to approximately 6' from the original 4'.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

THINGS YOU CAN DO (to be more self-sufficient)

1. Plant your own vegetable garden.

2. Change your own oil on your car or truck.

3. Cut your own firewood.

4. Collect and use rain water instead of municiple or well water.

5. Supplement your house's heating system with solar water panels.

6. Supplement your hot water needs with solar water panels.

7. Mulch your garden with local organic mulch instead of store bought products.

8. Use home-made compost and free manure to enrich your garden's soil.

9. Grow non-hybrid vegetables and save the seeds for next year's planting.

10. Grow potatoes and save the fingerlings for next years planting.

11. Use square foot gardening techniques to grow lots of vegetables in small places.

12. Build a greenhouse to extend your growing season.

13. Build a root cellar to store your harvest.

14. Start a small orchard for a variety of fruits.

15. Learn how to preserve food by canning.

16. Raise bees to help pollination and for honey. (Honey is the only food substance that will not spoil.)

17. Raise chickens for meat and eggs.

18. Raise sheep for wool and meat.

19. Raise goats or a dairy cow for dairy products.

20. Preserve vegetables by sun drying them.

21. Spin wool into yarn for making clothes.

22. Make your own furniture out of tree branches.

23. Preserve vegetables by freezing them.

24. Grow herbs for cooking and medicinal purposes.

25. Use edible wild plants to supplement one's diet.

26. Use containers to grow vegetables in small places.

27. Use chicken manure (composted) to help fertilize your garden.

28. Use, use and reuse as much as possible before throwing away.

29. Conserve electricity whenever possible.

30. Tune-up your own car or truck.

31. Sharpen your own tools.

32. Build your own home.

33. Grow grapes for preserves or raisins.

34. Build a pond and raise fish for food.

35. Use solar panels to supplement your energy needs.

36. Learn how to use a welder.

37. Use clothes lines to dry clothes instead of a mechanical dryer.

38. Grow grains to feed your own livestock.

39. Grow alfalfa to return nitrogen to the soil.

40. Use a generator for emergency and supplemental power.

41. Dig or drive your own well (make sure the water is tested before using for drinking).

42. Bake your own bread.

43. Do your own plumbing.

44. Do your own electrical work.

45. Run a small business from your home.

46. Barter goods and services with your neighbors.

47. Use a push mower instead of a gas or electric mower.

48. Use a bicycle (whenever possible) instead of a motorized vehicle.

49. Consider becoming a vegetarian. (Raising animals for food takes more energy and resources than growing vegetables--eat lower on the food chain.)

50. Have any maples trees? Make your own syrup as a sugar substitute.

51. Not a vegetarian? Supplement your diet by hunting game.

52. Home school your children. They can incorporate gardening and livestock care into their curriculum and it saves on travel(environmentally sound), uniform costs and school trip expenses(frugal).As well as allowing them to be educated in sustainable living/permaculture. Something schools don't cover!! It's rewards are many fold and results in happy well balanced children!!


How Common Culinary Herbs and Spices Can Help You Feel Better
By Rebekah L. Cowell
In a perfect world, we would get all the nutrients and medication we needed from the food we ate. However, our diets and the foods available to us have changed in the past century, so that eating healthily can be a challenge. Most of us have a spice rack filled with seasonings we grab in a hurry, but what do we know about these ancient herbs and their medicinal powers?

Understanding the importance of adding oregano or basil to your spaghetti sauce, not as flavor but as a digestive aid is just one of the keys to turning your kitchen into the pharmacy it was meant to be.

Kelly M. Shattuck, a Certified Herbalist based in North Carolina, says before health food stores made specific herbs such as valerian root readily available for medicinal healing, individuals relied on their culinary herbs to play a very important pharmaceutical role.

"The great thing about culinary herbs," said Shattuck, "is that a lot people already have them in their kitchen for seasoning, which makes the whole process less intimidating." She also says using kitchen herbs is typically less expensive, and doesn't require a lot of herbal knowledge or monetary investment. "Anyone can successfully use herbs as they were meant to be used, to heal and regenerate the body," said Shattuck. "It's just a matter of reading material, taking what you already have on your spice rack, and putting what you read into practice."

Before you begin to take stock of your spice rack, let's look at preparation methods.


Use one teaspoon of dried herb or two tablespoons of fresh herb for each cup of water.

The most common method for making a brewed tea is called an infusion.

"Infusions are used for preparing more fragile parts of the herbs like flowers, seeds, leaves, fruits, and a few roots that are high in volatile oils, for example: valerian root and golden seal root," said Shattuck. "Place the herbs in a pan of cold water, place a tight fitting lid on the pan, and slowly over low heat bring the water to boiling point. Take the brew off the heat right before it boils and let it sit 10 to 20 minutes."

A decoction is used to break down more tenacious herb materials such as roots, bark, and nuts. "Bring water to a boil, add the herbs, bring heat down to a gentle simmer and let brew for 15 to 20 minutes before turning off heat," said Shattuck who also recommends soaking tenacious herb materials overnight to soften material before simmering.

Shattuck doesn't use a tea ball when infusing teas, she says it's best to put the loose herbs into the water so that the herb material is able to completely release its properties. Be sure to strain before drinking.


Basil (Ocimum basilicum)—Most commonly found in Italian dishes, basil is best added at the last moment, as cooking quickly destroys the flavor. Basil makes an excellent flavoring for sauces, pesto, dressings, infused oils, and vinegars. You'll find it complements chicken, fish, and pasta dishes—not to mention tomatoes and mozzarella during the summer.

As a medicinal herb, basil is commonly used to treat stress-induced insomnia, tension, nervous indigestion, and has been recommended as a tonic for melancholy spirits. As part of the mint family, basil can be very cooling to the body. Shattuck recommends infusing minced basil leaves and making a tea before nighttime to help you relax and settle down for the evening. As a natural mood enhancer, adding basil to your culinary dishes just provides the additional benefit of mental well being.

Bay leaves (Laurus nobilis)—Used as a dry leaf since the flavor intensifies after drying, bay leaves are most often added to stock, stews, braises, and grain dishes. The fragrance of the bay leaf is slightly floral, herbal, and similar in scent to oregano and thyme.

Bay leaves have an especially beneficial effect on the stomach and intestinal tract, and contain a property that makes them useful as an alkalizing aid for an overly acidic system. A simple remedy would be to add extra bay leaves to your soups, stews, and stocks. You can also infuse a tea with a handful of leaves, and drink that after your meal to calm the intestinal tract.

Black pepper (Piper nigrum)—Dried pepper, derived from the peppercorn, is one of the most commonly used spices in European cuisine—it's always seen paired with its mate, salt. Typically, pepper is used as a basic spice for almost any savory dish.

Considered one of the great tonics in Chinese medicine, black pepper has warming, energizing, and stimulating properties. Often used as an addition to other infusions, black pepper is valued for its ability to stimulate the senses and warm the body. Shattuck recommends using black peppercorns in a decoction for poor circulation, for colds, or for low energy levels.

Black pepper is also a cook's best friend. In the event you cut yourself while working in the kitchen, pepper applied directly to the cut will stem bleeding.

Cayenne (Capsicum annuum)—Cayenne is the most potent, essential, and safest stimulant in your spice rack. In the event you are out camping or hunting, be sure to pack a little cayenne. As a hemostatic and astringent, cayenne powder applied topically to wounds will arrest bleeding, working rapidly to form a clot and seal off the wound. It can also be taken for internal bleeding as well. Cayenne is a wonderful heart tonic, and has an amazing effect upon circulation and stimulation of the cardiovascular system. For those who feel weak and often chilled, cayenne taken internally increases circulation in the extremities. Cayenne is also helpful for a sluggish digestive system, and can be sprinkled over any kind of food to aid the body's immune system in the event of colds and flus. When you need extra heat use cayenne—in both culinary dishes and physical wellness. Powdered cayenne has been favored by many as a winter remedy to prevent cold feet and frostbite—sprinkle it in your socks to aid warmth in frigid temperatures.

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum)—Cinnamon has long been valued as a spice of precious value, and was one of the earliest spices imported from Sri Lanka. Cinnamon can be often found in cookies, cakes, and cereals in the United States, but in the Middle East it is highly valued in savory dishes and curries. Cinnamon's antioxidant properties make it a spice you might want to start using more frequently. Cinnamon aids the digestive system, increases poor circulation, and is being tested in the treatment of type II diabetes, as it is believed to aid in blood sugar control. Shattuck says it is often used by herbalists to make other herbs palatable. "If you had a cold, you could make a warming tea with ginger, and add cinnamon to make that tea taste better and add another element of medicinal value." The smell of cinnamon is also thought to boost brain activity.

Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum)—Cloves were one of the most highly prized spices of the middle-age spice trade. Cloves are almost always used as a spice in Indian cuisine. Cloves combined with cumin and cinnamon are found in Mexican aromatic dishes such as rice and chicken. Medicinally, the essential oils of cloves are a must in the case of a dental emergency. Applied topically to a tooth, the oil of clove is an analgesic and powerful germicidal that kills bacteria. Cloves can also reduce fever: make a decoction if you have clove buds, or an infusion if you have powdered clove to reduce a fever. Mull the cloves with cinnamon and apple peel to make a tastier tea for those suffering from acute nausea. Cloves are also believed to have antibiotic properties, and the oil can be applied topically to burns, skin rashes, or irritations like acne.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)—The fennel root bulb and its seed are found in Italian and Middle-Eastern cooking where the aromatic flavor is used to enhance the taste of fish, eggs, breads, and sauces. Fennel is the primary ingredient in absinthe. Medicinally, Fennel is an amazing herb to employ in your cabinet. Fennel has carminative properties (reduces gas and flatulence) and is often used when purgatives are needed to ease the side effects of purging. A wonderful digestive aid, fennel seeds can be used to make an infusion you can drink after a meal to help digest a food that might cause gassiness or bloating. You can also sprinkle a spoonful of fennel seeds on your food if you have a cold to clear congestion as fennel helps remove mucous from the body. Fennel is also used to enrich the quality and quantity of a nursing mother's milk—fennel capsules are best if a mother is trying to increase milk supply, so that she is getting a more concentrated amount of fennel than with tea. Fennel also is used to make "Gripe Water" for infants—which is a mixture of sodium bicarbonate, syrup, and either fennel, anise, or dill water. In Indian medicine, fennel seeds are believed to improve one's eyesight. In the event of eye inflammation or soreness, room temperature fennel tea can be applied topically with an eyedropper.

Sage (Salvia officinalis)—Sage is found in many traditional European dishes. Its slightly peppery flavor and savory leanings make it best when added to meats and cheeses. And no stuffing would be complete without a good pinch of sage. Sage also enhances pork flavors and makes an excellent sausage spice.

Sage is believed to have medicinal properties for almost any ailment. You can make an infusion and use it as an astringent. Sage has antibiotic properties and is effective in improving a weak digestive system and cutting excess mucous. Sage tea is an excellent remedy for a chronic winter cough. A cleansing herb, sage can also be used as a tonic for low energy. For lactating mothers, sage is also effective in assisting slowing down the milk supply when weaning a baby from mother's milk. Sage has a place historically as an herb that is used to cleanse and purify a space, increase fertility when burned, ward off evil, and heal snake-bites.

Garlic (Allium sativum)—Garlic is used all over the world as a culinary herb for its pungent flavor and seasoning versatility. You can add fresh or powdered garlic to soups, stews, stocks, meat dishes, and risottos to name a few. Garlic is the herb of choice for colds, flus, and sore throats. Garlic is a very powerful anti-fungal and has antibiotic properties. In the event of a cold or flu, add powdered garlic to your meal—sprinkle on your salad for added flavor and herbal healing. Shattuck recommends making the following cold-fighting concoction using whole cloves during the winter. "Peel about eight or nine garlic cloves and put in a glass jar with equal parts honey and tamari or soy sauce that completely covers the top of the cloves," she said, allow the mixture to marinate for several weeks and then eat one or two cloves per day if you feel a cold coming on. Garlic is an immune booster and is believed to lower cholesterol levels. Garlic is also used in humans and animals for expelling parasites and ridding the body of intestinal worms. Garlic can be used as an infection fighter and anti-fungal compound. Crushed garlic is useful in healing thrush and strep throat. At the first signs of a scratchy throat, begin self dosing with garlic cloves or powder. You can alleviate "garlic breath" by chewing fresh parsley.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)—Ginger is an ancient Asian spice that can be found in many desserts, curries, candies, seafood dishes, and vegetarian stir-fries. Recently, candied ginger has become readily available and has shown up in coffee drinks and on the top of cream cheese frosted cupcakes.

Ginger is an excellent remedy for morning sickness and motion sickness. Shattuck recommends taking candied ginger on any "seafaring" trip in the event of nausea. Ginger is not only an excellent warming herb but acts as a decongestant—in the event of a fever, draw a hot bath and sprinkle a handful of powdered ginger in your water. The bath will induce your body to sweat out impurities, provide warming in the event of chills, and help your congestion break-up. Towel off, put on some warm flannels, and go to bed. You can brew an infusion of fresh ginger to help a sore throat.

Ginger can also stop diarrhea and provide relief from arthritic inflammation.

Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)—Nutmeg has a slightly sweet spicy flavor that is often used in cheese sauces to add a delicate taste, or in brewed drinks like eggnog, mulled wine, and mulled cider.

Nutmeg is very useful as a remedy for nausea, vomiting, and indigestion, and also helpful for diarrhea related to food poisoning. Shattuck says in the event of food poisoning, nutmeg can settle the stomach. She advises sprinkling powder or grating whole nutmeg over plain brown rice to reintroduce solids, and to make a tea for those who are still unable to keep anything down. If used improperly, large doses of nutmeg could be toxic.

Oregano (Origanum vulgare)—Oregano (and basil) give Italian cuisine its distinctive flavor, and is more flavorful in its dried state than as a fresh herb. Found in Greek cuisine, oregano is a wonderful addition to salads, aromatic oils, and meat dishes. In the United States, oregano is a staple on pizza. Oregano can help strengthen the immune system, heal digestive eruptions, and is proven to have antioxidant properties, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, advised using oregano as an antiseptic and for respiratory ailments. Oregano can aid in restful sleep, and an infused tea before bed is advised for nervous temperaments. Oregano is helpful in fighting skin infections. Shattuck says you can add oregano to your bath if you have a skin condition or persistent rash. "Take a handful of Oregano, tie it in a handkerchief, and toss it in your bath water."

Peppermint (Mentha × piperita)—Peppermint is an easy herb to cultivate and keep in one's spice rack. Believed to be the world's oldest medicine, it is often found in teas, candies, chewing gum, and toothpaste. It is a soothing herb that provides a nice pick-me-up for fatigue. It is highly calming to the digestive system and especially good for ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease because of its natural calming properties. Shattuck recommends those with intestinal issues invest in peppermint oil capsules that will get into the intestines in a concentrated form. Peppermint is one of the tastier herbs, and makes a perfect infusion with a little raw honey. In studies conducted in Italy in 2007, peppermint oil was also found to relieve symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)—Rosemary has a woodsy evergreen smell that complements many Mediterranean dishes. Rosemary makes an excellent addition to meat gravies, risotto dishes, and stocks. Rosemary is high in iron, calcium, and Vitamin B6. It has long been believed to help the mind in retaining information, and Shakespeare called it the herb of "remembrance." Rosemary can provide relief for headaches through aromatherapy and ingestion. Rosemary is often used to combat depression and is an excellent all around herb for the mind.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)—Thyme is a natural source of iron and is found widely in culinary dishes all over the world. It was used by ancient Egyptians in the embalming process, and has long been believed to purify the body and environment.

Another herb most flavorful in its dried state, thyme is found in many lamb, tomato, and egg dishes. Its natural expectorant properties make it excellent for throat or bronchial problems. Thyme is a natural antiseptic, and you can make a thyme infusion and gargle with it to coat a sore throat up to three times daily to reduce inflammation. Its antibiotic properties makes thyme a well favored herb in a first-aid kit—ancient doctors used thyme to coat bandages, and it is believed to have anti-fungal properties that assist in healing an infected or fungal toenail. In the event of a respiratory infection, you can make an infusion and then let the affected individual bend over the steaming thyme infusion and inhale. Traditional use of thyme included giving it to children at bedtime to help control bed wetting and nightmares. Tea is the easiest way to administer to children; if they are worried about the taste you can mix it with apple juice (half-and-half).

Culinary herbs enhance our daily cuisine, but they also have medicinal properties that have been all but forgotten. Focus on the herbs you are using when seasoning your next meal; it's amazing what a little knowledge can do for boosting one's confidence in natural herbal healing.


Congratulations. You've escaped the city life and are now the proud owners of your little plot of rural paradise. It's natural to start thinking about all the possibilities for your acreage: chickens, a garden, maybe an orchard or berry patch.

And a cow. Yeah, a cow. Fresh milk, cheese, and butter—what could be better? Owning your own cow can be one of the most satisfying of rural experiences...if you're prepared.

As Roger Staubach observed, "Spectacular achievements are always preceded by unspectacular preparation." Like raising children, getting a cow takes forethought and adequate homework.

A home dairy cow can provide you with all the milk, butter, yogurt, and cheese that your family could want.


I am assuming you would not be interested in obtaining a cow if you were living in a tightly-packed suburb. So how much land do you need?

There's no cut-and-dried one-size-fits-all requirement for how much land a cow needs because it depends on whether you're planning on grazing your animals year-round, confining your animals to a paddock, or something in-between. It also depends on whether you live in the lush croplands of Virginia or the dry Mohave Desert.

Yet another variable is whether you must feed hay during the winter, or if your winters are mild enough that the animals can graze year-round. If you live in Tennessee, your pasture and available forage will be far different than if you live in North Dakota.

Obviously there's no easy answer to how much land a cow requires. The important thing is not to obtain more animals than your land can comfortably support. Work with what you have, and be prepared to supplement with purchased hay as needed.

Remember, a cow's "job"—what she does for twelve hours a day—is to eat. It is surprising how quickly a cow or two can eat down a small pasture. But just because you only have a one-acre field shouldn't preclude you from getting cows. However, you will need to purchase hay to feed them because one acre is not enough land to support anything bovine.

Cows can indeed be kept on small plots—an acre or two—but they must be fed. We used to own a home with a two-acre pasture on which we kept three bovines (cow/calf and yearling steer). We needed to supplement their feed about nine months out of the year.


In my experience—and I'm talking about a family milk cow, not a high-producing animal in a commercial dairy—a cow does fine raised almost exclusively on grass or field hay. This is a shocking statement to a lot of dairymen, so let me qualify it.

A home dairy cow does fine fed almost exclusively on grass or hay with just a little grain as a treat.

A family cow does not need to produce to the absolute maximum of her potential. Indeed, doing so will probably overwhelm a family with too much milk. By feeding a cow on a diet of grass and/or hay, her output will adjust according to her nutritional intake. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

A Jersey cow might produce six to ten gallons of milk a day at her maximum output. Day after day. Week after week. Saturdays and Sundays included. Most families cannot keep up with that amount of milk. You could literally takes baths in it and still have leftovers.

But by feeding your Jersey cow on a diet of grass and hay, with perhaps a minimal amount of grain as a treat, she may reduce her milk output to two to four gallons a day. This is far less overwhelming and more manageable.

There's no question that grain provides a high-protein boost, which is important when your animal is lactating. However, grain is a concentrated source of protein, so you don't need to overfeed. A modest amount during milking or as a reward for coming into the barn at night is perfectly fine.

Cows originated as grass-fed livestock. The concept of grain-feeding is fairly recent and came into vogue only after animals became deprived of pasture, such as in feed lots or concentrated commercial dairies. Yes, animals gain weight or produce more milk on a diet high in grain—but again, it isn't necessary for your family cow to produce at the absolute peak of her capacity. Outside of commercial enterprises, grass-fed animals are the norm, not the exception. The average small land-owner won't need to worry about more than a pound or two of grain per day per cow.

What is a nutritional necessity is a mineral block. Most grass-fed diets are deficient in certain essential nutrients, including plain salt. Always make sure a mineral block (which should include selenium) is available for your cows. An even better option is loose mineral salts placed in a location where the rain won't get to it. In places where livestock may suddenly be released onto fresh grass after a winter of hay-fed confinement, you should also provide a "bloat block" to ease the change in diet. A bloat block prevents a cow from bloating on too much fresh grass after months of dry hay, a potentially fatal condition.

Naturally, your cow needs access to fresh water at all times. In hot summer, if you can't check the tank frequently, you may need a float and valve (or similar device) to automatically keep tanks full. In the winter, you may wish to get a tank warmer, which keeps the water temperature above freezing.


On the flip side of feeding, don't let your pastures become so eaten down that your cow is forced to consume noxious weeds or—worse—go hungry. Some people have the extraordinary notion that once an animal is on pasture, they never have to be fed.

In areas with cold winters, your cows need shelter and supplemental feeding.

We've met folks who, oddly, don't feel the need to regularly feed their livestock even in winter because the animals are a "hardy" breed. The cruelty involved is hard to comprehend as the animals slowly starve and are brought back from the brink of death in the nick of time by hasty and

infrequent feedings. Their poor diet reduces their ability to withstand winter wind and temperatures.

Even if you have a "hardy" breed of cow (Dexters or Scottish Highland, for example), don't fall for the erroneous line of thinking that they don't need to be fed. "Hardy" animals can indeed thrive on what is often considered suboptimal forage, but they can't eat bare dirt. Be sensible—and humane.

How much hay you need to feed your livestock depends on your climate, amount of land, severity of winters, and other factors mentioned above. As a rule of thumb, cows need about 3% of body weight in hay per day. Check with your local County Extension agent to learn what types, quality, and prices of hay are available in your area.


We live in a climate with bitterly cold winters and lots of wind and snow. Shelters can make everyone's life vastly more comfortable, especially if you are milking your cow.

Offering shade in the brutally hot summers and shelter in bitterly cold winters is the humane thing to do. Unlike wild animals, your cow cannot leave her pasture to seek protection under harsh conditions. You need to provide it for her.

This doesn't mean you need to build a $60,000 two-story barn with all the bells and whistles. A 10x10 (per animal) open-sided shed can suffice. Sometimes you can build multiple sheds and connect them with breezeways or other expansions, adding space as needed for livestock, hay, equipment, etc.

Try not to obtain your cow until you have a place to put her (hint: fence your pasture first!). If you purchase your cow during mild weather, you can build the shelter around her (so to speak) before the snow flies or before the temperature soars above the century mark. If you plan to purchase your cow during winter snows or summer heat, build the shelter in advance.

Cows have thrived in slapstick, ramshackle shelters and have done just fine. But do provide something. When you're lying in bed at night listening to the howling wind and pouring rain, don't you think you'll sleep better knowing that your cow is tucked snugly in her stall?


A single cow can give you six to ten gallons of milk every day.

It sounds anthropomorphic to recommend you obtain another animal to keep your cow company, but that's exactly what I'm suggesting.

Cows are herd animals. They thrive in a social setting. A single cow in a herd of horses often gets picked on, so if you don't want to get two cows, you might think about providing a wether (castrated male goat), a sheep or two, or just the cow's calf for company.

Cows also like attention. A brushing absolutely makes their day. Even taking a book and a stool and sitting in the pasture can be fun—your cow may amble over, try to eat your book, lick your hair, or otherwise make herself an amusing nuisance. While not on par with a dog, cows can be surprisingly good company.


Can you keep a milking schedule? If you purchase a lactating cow (a cow producing milk) and she does not have a calf with her, she must be milked twice a day.

If you're like me and love to milk, this is no hardship even in winter. In the morning I put on my walkman headset and listen to the news as I zing the milk into the bucket. When it's chilly, milking a warm furry cow can be a cozy experience. In the evening (weather permitting), I often pull the cow out of the barn and milk under the open sky so I can watch the sunset. There is no finer time of day, in my opinion.

But it can get relentless. The cow needs to be milked whether you're feeling up to it or not. You can't say "Not tonight, I have a headache." You can't take off for an evening in the city without making arrangements for someone else to milk her. Be ready to take on the responsibility of a milking schedule.

There can be easier ways, though. You might be able to do a cow-sharing arrangement with neighbors. They can milk on certain days of the week in exchange for the output. This will provide milk to the neighbors and give you a break.

Fresh butter is just one of the delicious benefits of milking your own cow.

Alternately, keep the calf on the cow and do once-a-day milking (see BHM Issue 99, article available online at Separate the cow and calf at night, milk the cow in the morning, release the calf, and don't bother milking in the evening. Naturally this reduces the amount of cow juice you get for yourself, but if you're swimming in milk from two daily milkings, then milking once a day may be your solution.

Much has been written about the strict schedule necessary for milking cows. We hear stories about commercial dairies starting the morning milking at 3 am or something equally hideous. Don't think this is how you have to treat your family cow.

Milking roughly—roughly!—twelve hours apart is fine, and even that's fairly negotiable. If it's convenient to milk your cow at 7 am because you have to leave for work at 7:45, that's fine. But nothing says you must milk your cow at 7 pm precisely. 6 pm will do. Or 8 pm. Just try to keep it about the same time every day, and your cow will adjust.


What kind of cow should you get? It depends on what you want from your cow.

We started out with Dexters, a small Irish breed that is dual-purpose (milk and meat). I milked our Dexters for years until I needed more milk for cheese-making purposes. Now I milk a Jersey and our Dexters fill the freezer.

Heavy milk-producing breeds also include Guernseys and Holsteins. Guernseys have one of the highest butterfat contents, but they are also very large and produce tremendous amounts of milk. Holsteins have lower butterfat content but are one of the highest volume producers of all breeds. Can you really handle twelve to fourteen gallons of milk a day? If you have a large extended family all needing milk, that's fine—you just need to know.


This may be self-evident, but a cow needs to have a calf in order to provide milk. Therefore, once a year you must breed your cow either through artificial insemination (AI) or the very willing services of a bull.

Either way, the result will be a calf. After a few years, these calves can add up. It's natural to wonder what to do with your surplus animals.

As a rule, female calves (heifers) are more valuable than bull calves. It's a fairly simple matter to sell heifers. Or you can raise the heifer yourself and have another milk cow after she's bred.

I never, ever recommend leaving a bull calf intact (uncastrated) unless you're experienced in handling bulls. Depending on the breed, bull calves grow into adult bulls ranging in temperament from "okay" to "watch-your-back incredibly dangerous." So within a couple of weeks after a bull calf is born, I recommend you have a vet castrate him. Without the testosterone, the steer will grow up into a much more docile animal.

Consider putting your steers in the freezer at about two years of age. Unless you have experience in butchering, my suggestion is to have a mobile butcher come to your farm and do the dirty deed for you (ask around to find a reputable service). Mobile butchers will humanely slaughter and quarter the steer, then take the carcass back to their facility to hang, cut, wrap, and freeze the meat. Believe me when I say you will never eat better meat than that of your own grass-fed steers.

You'll have to breed your cow every year to get milk, so think about what you'll do with your surplus animals.


Much of what it takes to successfully own a cow can be learned on the job, as you go. You'll be teaching yourself how to milk, how to groom, and maybe how to make butter and cheese. Look upon it as an adventure and enjoy every minute.

Well, mostly every minute. No one likes to clean the barn. But now you can also utilize your cow's by-product. Composted manure makes a superb addition to vegetable gardens. Cows can help close your circle of interdependency on your new farm.

Remember, a happy cow is a productive cow. Your livestock's milk or meat will reflect the excellent quality of care you give it.

Patrice Lewis is a freelance writer and the author of The Home Craft Business: How to Make it Survive and Thrive. She is co-founder (with her husband) of a home woodcraft business. The Lewises live on 20 acres in north Idaho with their two homeschooled children, assorted livestock, and a shop that overflows into the house with depressing regularity. Visit her website at

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Here are some uses for vinegar:

1. Arthritis tonic and treatment; 2 spoonfuls of apple cider vinegar and honey in a glass of water several times daily.

2. Thirst-quenching drink: apple cider vinegar mixed with cold water.

3. Sagging cane chairs: sponge them with a hot solution of half vinegar and half water. Place the chairs out in the hot sun to dry.

4. Skin burns: apply ice cold vinegar right away for fast relief. Will prevent burn blisters.

5. Add a spoonful of vinegar to cooking water to make cauliflower white and clean.

6. Storing cheese: keep it fresh longer by wrapping it in a vinegar-soaked cloth and keeping it in a sealed container.

7. Remove stains from stainless steel and chrome with a vinegar-dampened cloth.

8. Rinse glasses and dishes in water and vinegar to remove spots and film.

9. Prevent grease build-up in your oven by frequently wiping it with vinegar.

10. Wipe jars of preserves and canned food with vinegar to prevent moldproducing bacteria.

11. To eliminate mildew, dust and odors, wipe down walls with vinegar-soaked cloth.

12. Clean windows with vinegar and water.

13. Hardened paint brushes: simmer in boiling vinegar and wash in hot soapy water.

14. Clean breadbox and food containers with vinegar-dampened cloth to keep fresh-smelling and clean.

15. Pour boiling vinegar down drains to unclog and clean them.

16. Clean fireplace bricks with undiluted vinegar.

17. An excellent all-purpose cleaner: vinegar mixed with salt. Cleans copper, bronze, brass, dishes, pots, pans, skillets, glasses, windows. Rinse well.

18. Make your catsup and other condiments last long by adding vinegar.

19. To clear up respiratory congestion, inhale a vapor mist from steaming pot containing water and several spoonfuls of vinegar.

20. Apple cider vinegar and honey as a cure-all: use to prevent apathy, obesity, hay fever, asthma, rashes, food poisoning, heartburn, sore throat, bad eyesight, dandruff, brittle nails and bad breath.

21. When boiling eggs, add some vinegar to the water to prevent white from leaking out of a cracked egg.

22. When poaching eggs, add a teaspoon of vinegar to the water to prevent separation.

23. Weight loss: vinegar helps prevent fat from accumulating in the body.

24. Canned fish and shrimp: to give it a freshly caught taste, soak in a mixture of sherry and 2 tablespoons of vinegar.

25. Add a spoonful of vinegar when cooking fruit to improve the flavor.

26. Soak fish in vinegar and water before cooking for a tender, sweeter taste.

27. Add vinegar to boiling ham to improve flavor and cut salty taste.

28. Improve the flavor of desserts by adding a touch of vinegar.

29. Add vinegar to your deep fryer to eliminate a greasy taste.

30. Add a tablespoon of vinegar to fruit gelatin to hold it firm.

31. Steep your favorite herb in vinegar until you have a pleasing taste and aroma.

32. Use vinegar instead of lemon on fried and broiled foods.

33. To remove lime coating on your tea kettle; add vinegar to the water and let stand overnight.

34. To make a good liniment: beat 1 whole egg, add 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup turpentine. Blend.

35. Apply vinegar to chapped, cracked skin for quick healing.

36. Vinegar promotes skin health: rub on tired, sore or swollen areas.

37. Reduce mineral deposits in pipes, radiators, kettles and tanks by adding vinegar into the system.

38. Rub vinegar on the cut end of uncooked ham to prevent mold.

39. Clean jars with vinegar and water to remove odor.

40. Avoid cabbage odor by adding vinegar to the cooking water.

41. Skunk odor: remove from pets by rubbing fur with vinegar.

42. Paint adheres better to galvanized metal that has been wiped with vinegar.

43. Pets' drinking water: add vinegar to eliminate odor and encourage shiny fur.

44. For fluffy meringue: beat 3 egg whites with a teaspoon of vinegar.

45. Pie crust: add 1 tablespoon vinegar to your pastry recipe for an exceptional crust.

46. Half a teaspoon per quart of patching plaster allows you more time to work the plaster before it hardens.

47. Prevent discoloration of peeled potatoes by adding a few drops of vinegar to water. They will keep fresh for days in fridge.

48. Poultry water: add vinegar to increase egg production and to produce tender meat.

49. Preserve peppers: put freshly picked peppers in a sterilized jar and finish filling with boiling vinegar.

50. Olives and pimentos will keep indefinitely if covered with vinegar and refrigerated.

51. Add 1 tsp. vinegar to cooking water for fluffier rice.

52. Add vinegar to laundry rinse water: removes all soap and prevents yellowing.

53. After shampoo hair rinse: 1 ounce apple cider vinegar in 1 quart of distilled water.

54. For a shiny crust on homemade bread and rolls: just before they have finished baking, take them out, brush crusts with vinegar, return to oven to finish baking.

55. Homemade sour cream: blend together 1 cup cottage cheese, 1/4 cup skim milk and 1 tsp. vinegar.

56. Boil vinegar and water in pots to remove stains.

57. Remove berry stains from hands with vinegar.

58. Prevent sugaring by mixing a drop of vinegar in the cake icing.

59. Cold vinegar relieves sunburn.

60. When boiling meat, add a spoonful of vinegar to the water to make it more tender.

61. Marinate tough meat in vinegar overnight to tenderize.

62. A strength tonic: combine raw eggs, vinegar and black pepper. Blend well.

63. Douche: 2 to 4 ounces of vinegar in 2 quarts of warm water.