Friday, November 30, 2012

Permanent Raising Rabbits Link Up

Rabbits can be a wonderful addition to a small homestead, and can provide a source of meat, fiber, and loads of cute.  Since they are small, they don't take much space or food.  Check out the links below to learn more about rabbits.


If you want to share your own posts here, visit the Forever Link-up information page, for specific information and remember you may link up to 10 posts per person.  So post now and come back and post more later.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Making New Candles From Old

My grandmother was a great keeper of things.  When my Aunt cleared out her home they found important things: like old certificates and papers, unimportant stuff: like unread mail and newspapers, and a few gems like a jar full of knitting needles and a whole bunch of old broken candles.  These candles made their way to my home where they've been waiting patiently for a bit of inspiration from me. 

A few weekends ago, Dave and I decided to have a date night at home and gave candle making a try.  Isn't this what everyone does on a Friday date night?  If you don't happen to have a supply of broken candles, look at yard sales, or other places for candles people don't want.

We started by melting the candles down in reused jars inside a large pot of water.  Be careful when melting old candles that you are using the same kinds of candles (don't mix the wax type since they can melt at different temperatures) We tried to keep similar colors together, and added more candles until the wax reached the top of the jar.  Ideally you would use a taller, narrow container, since these jars were just tall enough to dip a small candle.

When the wax melts completely, we removed the jars carefully from the water onto a safe surface.  Using the old wicks from the broken candles we started dipping the candles.  After each dip into the wax, we paused for around 5 seconds before dipping the candle again to allow the wax to harden, pausing to hang the candles periodically to completely cool.  If the wax started to harden, we simply returned the jar to the pot until it melted.

VERY, VERY slowly, candles began to form. As the wax cooled, the candles formed faster and became a bit lumpier.  All told, we spent the entire evening dipping around 8 small candles.  The next morning we reheated the wax with the kids and poured small candles into old cups and jars. 

Although we didn't make many candles, those candles we did make are soft looking and beautiful and will serve as the centerpiece of this year's holiday celebrations.  As we move into winter and the light fades outside, these lights will illuminate our homes, giving us peace and a much greater appreciation for those people before us who relied on making their own candles to light their way.


Come by and share what you've made lately at the Barn Hop, Made by Hand Corner

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Homestead Highlight: Christy

My greatest inspiration in my own backyard farming adventure has been to hear the experiences of others. I invite you to read along here as Homesteaders share their adventures and experiences from their own farms, backyards, and homes.

Want to be featured as a Homestead Highlight? I would love to hear about your experience. For more information follow the link to the information page and share your own homestead here at the Backyard Farming Connection!

Today I welcome Christy to this space.

 You can follow along with Christy at Our Homestead Haven

By far, those who have inspired me most are those that have gone on before me. Homesteading pioneers of all sorts make up my family genealogy. My father's mother raised 10 children on a homestead, her husband dying suddenly. She grew her on food, raised her own animals, made all her children's clothing and quilts. On my mother's side, my grandmother's family were artisan basket weavers. They supported their families by creating beautiful baskets and selling them at a market. Their baskets were highly sought after. I am a “do it-yourselfer” by lineage and homesteading is just a natural fit.

Though we have always lived frugally, our actual homesteading adventure began only about a year ago. On my fifth trip to the grocery store in five days, I had just had it! We decided this wasn't the lifestyle for us. We were dependent on the grocery store for every little thing, and feeling terribly ill-prepared. We made some changes! We planted a serious fall garden and began chicken coop construction. I learned how to make bread and many other recipes “from scratch,” and vowed to be less dependent on processed foods. I admit, it's a continual challenge, for a family of 6, but it's one we willingly embrace.

We currently live on about two acres, part of which is a large pond. We own 25 acres in another county and will one day make the move to a larger homestead. We have peach trees, apple trees, raised garden beds full of goodies and our much loved chickens - we are patiently waiting on eggs!Eventually we would like to own goats for milk and would like to add more livestock in general! 

Thank you Christy!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Backyard Farming Connection Hop #10

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are gearing up for more fun this holiday season!  It's time for another hop here.  Don't forget to vote for your favorite chicken breed on the sidebar.

Here are a few of my favorite posts from this week! 

Old World Garden Farms, this post has inspired me to get planning for next spring.  I love what they do with raised row gardening.  A must-read for anyone starting a new garden.

Also from Farm Hand's Companion, check out this unique post on making your own instruments.

I want to know what's happening, in your garden, on your homestead, in the barnyard, and in the kitchen.  Whatever is in your backyard farm and home, I would love to hear about it.

Each week I will share some of my favorite posts in the newly formed Backyard Farming Connection Facebook page.  And in case you haven't seen, I have a new 'featured button' so if you've been featured in the past, grab a button.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Meet the Goats

Since I've shown lots of photos of our 2 goats and shared some basic information, I thought I would take some time to introduce our two friends.

In mid-August (while my husband was away), I started reading about goats.  They were always something we'd discussed, but it fell into the 'someday' category.  When I started learning about the Pygora breed I knew it was for us.  Pygora goats are a mix between Pygmy and Angora and are small with lovely fiber.  Since we're still deciding whether we'll milk the goats, I loved the idea of getting some fiber.

I broke the news slowly to Dave.  (I think I may have told him over the phone I wanted goats, and by the time he got home from his trip, I explained why it was imperative that we pick them up in two weeks).

He took it well.

We didn't have quite enough time to build a custom shed, so the next weekend we went to Lowes and brought home a pre-fab shed, went to tractor supply and got some fencing, and ordered a few goat books online.  The plan was to divide the shed into 2/3 goat home and 1/3 chicken coop.  By the time we picked up the goats we had the walls and half the fence up.  Needless to say the goats spent a day in the garage before we got everything together.

Our goats are both Pygoras although they look very different.  Sam, the caramel and white goat, is a whether and is very shy.  Christabelle (or Belle) is over the top friendly, and licks and wags her tail like a dog and gets right in your face.  I was a bit concerned at first that Sam had horns and Belle had been dehorned, but with the exception of some rough play head butting instigated by Belle, it doesn't seem to be a problem yet.  They are both sweet, gentle with the children, intelligent, entertaining, and oh so soft to touch.  I'm looking forward to shearing them in the spring for the first time!

Here are a few more videos:

Sam Climbs a Fallen Tree

Pygora Goats at Play

I shared at: The Barn Hop

Friday, November 23, 2012

Raising GoatsResource Guide Link Up

Goats are a multi-purpose animal for the homestead.  Not only do they clear land and make manure to compost, goats can provide milk, meat, and fiber.  Since they aren't as big as cows, goats can be kept in smaller plots and are relatively easy to care for.  If you're getting goats, spend a little extra time and money investing in high quality fence, those goats love to play and are so curious that they are excellent escape artists.

Check out the goat posts from the Backyard Farming Connection, or visit some of the links below.

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If you want to share your own posts here, visit the Forever Link-up information page, for specific information and remember you may link up to 10 posts per person.  So post now and come back and post more later.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Homestead Highlight: Sarah

Today I am trading spaces with Sarah, so come by and visit my over at Frühlingskabine Micro-Farm today!

My greatest inspiration in my own backyard farming adventure has been to hear the experiences of others. I invite you to read along here as Homesteaders share their adventures and experiences from their own farms, backyards, and homes.

Want to be featured as a Homestead Highlight? I would love to hear about your experience. For more information follow the link to the information page and share your own homestead here at the Backyard Farming Connection!

Today I welcome Sarah to this space.

20120925-191723.jpg Sarah and her family are learning to be more self-sufficient, step-by-step, though gardening, animal husbandry, and by making things from scratch on a quarter-acre in a small California gold-rush town. She lives with her husband, young daughter, chickens, hives of honeybees, and a herd of French angora rabbits at Frühlingskabine Micro-Farm. Frühlingskabine Micro-Farm website Frühlingskabine's Etsy Shop

How long have you been backyard farming?  What got you started?
We are in our second year of farming on our small rented lot. I'm not sure what got us started... a desire to "get back to basics" I suppose. We started with chickens, no space for sheep led us to angora rabbits, and an aisle detour in the local bookstore got us started in beekeeping. Now we try to do as much as we can from scratch and we are constantly learning new (to us) skills.

 What does your backyard farm look like?  Where is it?
Frühlingskabine Micro-Farm includes our little house on a quarter-acre lot (.22 acres to be precise) and is located in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California. We are basically in Yosemite's backyard. Our whole yard is on a slight hill with a field at the bottom; wooded area at the top. The chicken coop is in the field with the bees and the rabbits and cob oven are up by the house. We get a whole range of weather with 100* degree days in the summer and several feet of snow in the winter.

What has been your biggest success and biggest mistake?
Our biggest mistake last year was not planting enough! We easily got through the summer and large part of the fall solely on food from the garden, but we had very little surplus to can, dry, or otherwise preserve for winter. Luckily that can easily be fixed next year. Our biggest success has been raising French angora rabbits for wool and meat. It's not always easy, but it has been a very rewarding experience for our family as a whole.

What plans do you have for the future?
In the spring we are planning to fence in our side yard (lots of hungry, determined deer around here) to make a shady mushroom garden. We will also be using part of the field to attempt to grow buckwheat to use for bread flour. Hopefully in the near future we can even build our own greenhouse to grow greens in the winter and to start spring seedlings since we still have snow as late as May.

I shared at Fresh Eggs Daily, The Barn Hop

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Backyard Farming Connection Hop #9

It is time for another hop here at the Backyard Farming Connection. Here in Upstate NY we have had below freezing temperatures at night to welcome in this time of Thanksgiving. I am wishing all of you a wonderful week and holiday. If you haven't seen my special link ups on Friday, stop by last week's post, and share your best ever chicken posts, and come by this week to link up your best goat posts.

Featured posts this week.

 From Our Neck of the Woods, give this Potato and Leek Soup a try. We made it this week and love the flavor and simplicity.

 I'm dying to make soap, and this tutorial from Our Homestead Haven makes it look easy!

 Now it's time to see what you've been up to.   Share your posts here and make sure you link back to my site.  You can grab a button in the footer, and get the full details here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

10 Ways to Keep the Holidays Homemade

Suddenly the holidays are only a few weeks away and it's time to scramble to get the celebrations and gifts ready.   Despite the commercial aspect of holidays, there are so many ways to support homemade at this time of year, and while a little planning makes it easier, it is never to late to start.  Here are 10 ideas for keeping the holidays simple and homemade, so grab your apron and find your scissors, it's time to get your craft on.

1.  Start early, plan a few homemade gifts and make a lot of them

The earlier you start with your homemade gifts, the less stress you'll feel when the crunch of the holidays is upon us.  By choosing only several homemade gifts, and making a bunch of them, you'll save yourself time and resources. These gifts can be used for stocking stuffers, co-workers, teacher gifts, or party favors.  Here are a few of my favorite ideas for this holiday.

Make a batch of felted soap
Make ready made muffin mix (or other baking mix)

2.  Make your own garlands, wreathes and decorations

At the holiday times, the stores are full of greens and decorations for your home.  This year make your own centerpieces and wreathes, and decorate your home with simple seasonal items you make at home.

Make your own holiday wreath
 Use potted poinsettias to decorate around the home

3.  Choose the people who appreciate homemade gifts the most and spend your time on those gifts

Sometimes there are people on your list who simply don't want and will not use homemade gifts.  Don't make homemade gifts for these people, it isn't worth it.  Spend your time making gifts for people who appreciate them.  Also spend some time choosing gifts that you know they will like.  Don't give homemade muffin mix to someone who hates to bake.

4.  Forget the processed foods and make your own eggnog and other treats

The holidays are a wonderful time for baking and making homemade foods. Cookies, eggnog, ginger bread, chocolates, and all the other treats are some of the things we remember from our own childhoods.  Creating special things in the kitchen is a wonderful way to build traditions that your family will remember year after year.

Make this Peppermint Bark
Try this homemade eggnog
Check out these crazy gingerbread house designs

5.  Send homemade holiday cards

For those who send holiday cards, make your own or create your own digital ones.  You can easily get the supplies you need at your local craft store, and if your season is too packed already, send out New Years cards instead!

Look at some of these digital cards

6.  Choose homemade gifts for your wish list

Choose gifts that you want that are homemade, or ask for crafting supplies to get going on next years gifts (if only I was that organized!) Choose items that you can't make yourself, but someone you know can.  A few unique gifts I've seen out there

These coasters are beautiful (I like the idea of an ornament like this too)
Check out Etsy gift ideas
I love these garden dibbles

7.  If you are running short on time, keep it simple and purchase handmade gifts from Etsy or local fairs

 I love Etsy.  In fact I'm slightly addicted to Etsy -did you know you can sort for items by color!!  When you buy something handmade, you are bringing joy to both the person making it and the person receiving your gift, it's a win win.  You can easily do your own searches on Etsy for your favorite gifts and look nearby for people who are selling right in your community!

8.  Make your own stockings, tree skirts, gift bags and other items you use every year

 If you want to make some holiday items that will be used year after year choose fabric and knit goods that will become part of the tradition of the holidays.

Make this quilted tree skirt
Use this free pattern to make a knit stocking
This is a gorgeous pattern for simple gift bags

9.  Plan a holiday meal or party that includes only food and decor that is homemade

Throw a party or plan a meal where the theme is homemade and ask people to bring food or a gift they made by themselves.Cookie exchanges are a great way to do this.  When you sit down to a meal prepared from scratch or exchange only homemade gifts, you creating a celebration you will remember for years.

10. Choose holiday activities that are simple, free, and bring joy.

Instead of spending your holidays at the mall standing in line, find activities that celebrate the joy of the season: go caroling, check out the lights,visit with friends, get outside, and keep the holidays simple.  If making homemade gifts is stressing you out, find ways to simplify and give the gift of time with your loved ones instead of store bought (or even homemade) items, because truly, that is what it is all about!

Enjoy the holiday season, and if you make something special this season, share your photos in the Made by Hand Corner here on the Backyard Farming Connection!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Permanent Raising Chickens Link Up

If you are at all interested in raising your own food and backyard farming, you’ve likely heard that a good place to start is by raising chickens.   Keeping chickens is such a hot topic these days that it seems like there’s a new how-to book popping up daily and so many wonderful sites full of information and ideas to get you started. 

See chicken posts from the Backyard Farming Connection here.

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If you want to share your own posts here, visit the Homestead Resource Guide information page, for specific information and remember you may link up to 10 posts per person.  So post now and come back and post more later.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


When we think homesteading, it is easy to get excited and caught up with beautiful photos of gardens and animals: it's why we love to keep chickens, and grow apples, and harvest from our gardens.  While this is a big part of setting up and running your own homestead, much of the homesteading 'magic' happens inside the home (or if not inside the home, at least behind the scenes).  With so many of the skills in the home being replaced these days with machines, or services, or products, it is often hard to re-learn the skills that were passed down from generation to generation for centuries.  The idea that a person could simply know how to churn butter, knit, spin, knead, weave hats, and make cheese without a book, a reference, or a course, is simply astounding from our modern perspective.  But to fully embrace the homesteading life we must do and learn precisely those skills.

If you are interested in Homesteading, you likely already know at least some of the skills to get you started. For many people, they learned a basic knit stitch somewhere along the way, or acquired a sewing machine, or perhaps grew up baking.  Over the coming weeks and months I plan to share some of the Home Skills I practice here in my own home.  If you have any expertise I invite you to stop in and share your knowledge by commenting, quest posting, or simply adding your thoughts.  I've also started a Made By Hand Corner where you can add items and ideas you've made with your own hands in a flickr page (you can find this link on the right sidebar), and just created a community Pinterest board to highlight ideas.

Before we embrace the ideas of modern homesteading, it's time to reach back and relearn the skills we need.

What are the most important homeskills you know or would like to learn?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Homestead Highlight: Heather

My greatest inspiration in my own backyard farming adventure has been to hear the experiences of others. I invite you to read along here as Homesteaders share their adventures and experiences from their own farms, backyards, and homes.

Want to be featured as a Homestead Highlight? I would love to hear about your experience. For more information follow the link to the information page and share your own homestead here at the Backyard Farming Connection!
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Today I would like to welcome Heather to this space.

Heather is a teacher, homesteader, blogger, and writer living in western Virginia with her husband, cattle dog, cats, and chickens.  Her blog, Scratch Cradle, chronicles her flock chickens, life in the Appalachian Mountains, and research on chicken health and genetics. 

My husband and I live on a little over 3 acres in a town of just 2,000 nestled in the mountains of western Virginia.  We bought this land in 2004 to be more independent and immerse ourselves in the beauty of our diverse ecosystem.  In the woods behind our house, there are black bear, coyotes, bobcats, whitetail deer, pileated woodpeckers, and wild turkey among many other species.   We love our land and our place in it.

The property had three mature apple trees an entire hillsides of wild raspberries.  In our first few years, we added several types of dwarf apple and cherry and tilled a large garden.  Despite our best efforts to prepare the soil and water them in throughout our first year, the varieties I selected caught cedar apple rust and have never borne fruit.  However, the established trees and the garden have done well.  Something always does better each year than it’s ever done before, and something else usually flops completely.  It balances out, and we have enough.  Along the way, we’ve been learning what works for us and our land.

For the fun, challenge, and most importantly for us, the healthy and ethical protein, we began keeping chickens in 2011.  I really found a passion!  After experimenting with a few breeds last year, we have settled in to work with Basque Hens, a productive homesteading breed from Spain, and the German line of New Hampshires.  Chickens have brought us a great deal of enjoyment and provided us with amazing eggs and rich soil, definitely a great success!

We have learned that all things have a time of plenty and a time of scarcity.  While there are warm months when we can provide our neighbors and families with eggs and vegetables, there are also times when we barely produce enough for ourselves.  For this reason, we are now learning more about preserving our harvest, working to learn methods which do not require freezing or canning.

I love that our journey is always evolving and that there is ever more to learn.  We have recently purchased a new home on 33 acres in the far-away but enchanting Ozarks and are preparing for a new phase in both our personal and homesteading ventures.  We plan to be off-grid, finally construct raised beds, and build a larger chicken coop!  We grow, our animals grow, and our farm grows; we evolve and adapt.  I love the process, the work, and the journey.  May it always be so!