Saturday, March 30, 2013

Homestead Saturday Giveaway Link Up

It's another Homestead Saturday Giveaway Link-Up.  Find and share homestead related giveaways here each Saturday in the area below.

For details on entering, see the Saturday Giveaway Linky Rules

Friday, March 29, 2013

Chicken Breeds

Are you getting new chickens this year?

Here are some photos of different breeds from our readers.  You can click on the photos above to see the breed and share your own photos.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Gardening Methods: Traditional and Organic

Over the next month or two, I will be delving in and exploring some of the different gardening methods.  While growing your own food is as simple as combining seeds, soil, water and light, there are so many new and improved ways to maximize and improve yields.  Sometimes all those improved methods can seem overwhelming and intimidating.  My hope is that by looking at each method and exploring how it developed will allow you to evaluate your own gardening and simplify some of the ideas available.  

I am also looking for experts who are willing to share their experience with different gardening methods in three different ways.  You may link up interesting posts below as part of The Homesteading Resource Guide, or I welcome submissions of questposts with first-hand knowledge of different gardening methods.  Lastly I am interested in sharing photos of some of these methods in action.  If you have photos of your experience using different gardening methods, please share them to my flickr page (or email me at gstuppycarlson at gmail dot com) and I will share them within my posts (with due credit given of course).

Traditional Gardening Method

Ironically, traditional gardening is difficult to define, mostly because there are small and large differences in how people garden around the world and throughout time.  It is simply impossible to comprehensively define a common, time-tested method.  For the sake of simplicity, I will discuss traditional gardening as planting in a large garden space in set rows.  In modern gardening, traditional gardening has also come to mean gardening with the use of fertilizers, although many of these fertilizers are modern in nature.

Choosing to create a traditional gardening space is a wonderful option for people with a large area.  Using large rows covered with mulch between your plants gives you room to walk, weed and even move a wheelbarrow between the plants.  This also lends itself to the use of machines and for many, the well-defined rows have a simple beauty that takes us back to days on the farm.  For people using row covers, a traditional garden row provides a natural set up.  Some people argue that by walking between the rows you decrease crops by compressing and damaging roots, and this method is not good choice for those with limited space.

Traditional gardening often uses the soil already present, unlike raised bed gardening where soil is built up into beds.  This does not mean that you can’t create a large gardening space that has added compost or has been amended.  Traditional gardening is a wonderful place to start, especially for those with lots of space, good soil and adequate drainage.

Organic Gardening 

Organic gardening often uses a number of different methods, but ultimately is based on using the natural system, and specifically excludes synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.  People choose to garden organically for their health, concern over the environment, to preserve seeds, and to maintain a natural approach to gardening.  

In the commercial world (depending on your country) the word organic is regulated, and farmers must show compliance over a certain amount of time before becoming certified organic.  For most of us growing in our backyard, organic gardening means finding natural solutions to fertilizing and pest control.  While organic farming has been practiced for thousands of years, the modern organic farming movement really took root in the 1920’s with Rudolf Steiner.  This movement continues to grow, and many home gardeners are taking advantage of the many practices that fall under organic gardening.

If you are interested in sharing a post about gardening methods or design, link up below, and join me next week as I discuss more methods including raised beds and vertical gardening.

I shared at: Walking in High Cotton

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Homestead Highlight: Dani

 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 Dani to this space

We are two crazy in love, good food cooking, old house remodeling, learning to homestead, all while chasing our (soon to be 2) little boys. We are book reading, beer brewing, Subaru driving folks who live halfway around the world from their family in the middle of nowhere trying to learn how to do this thing called life.  Our house is always a bit crazy but the table's always open! 

 You can find Dani and her family at: The Adventure Bite

How long have you been backyard farming?

 I (Dani) was raised on what you would consider a backyard farm....while we didn't have a garden we raised lots of animals while I was growing up and my father was an avid hunter. I hadn't ever eaten store bought beef at home until I moved out of the house. We started backyard farming in summer of 2010 back in Oregon. We were living on a communal property with my parents and siblings at the time (with all the animals) and put in a huge garden.


It was a lot of work and while we had some success it was a lot of work with the super short season we had there (6 weeks frost free!).


 Once we moved to Georgia and got settled into our new house in 2011 we spent that year trying to get the backyard usable and somewhat tick and chigger free. 2012 was our biggest homesteading year by far and we had lots of success and failures.We are very much looking forward to what this year will bring.


What got you started?

We love food! We are total foodies and yet as a young family our budget is not huge for groceries. We started watching documentaries on our current food systems and began to have more and more interest in the farming lifestyle.  

What does your backyard farm look like? Where is it?

We currently rent a home with between a half acre to an acre of land. We are in middle Georgia in zone 7 currently which gives us an amazingly long growing season. We are currently converting our garden beds to the Back to Eden methods which is a wood chip growing system.

Untitled (2013-02-02 19:34:36) 

We added a small greenhouse to our mini farm this season:

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We currently have 5 Welsh Harlequin ducks for eggs, meat rabbits and are trying our hand at our first batch of meat chickens.

Untitled (2012-10-10 23:04:42)

All the animals have large moveable pens that Kevin built.

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This is actually the duck pen but the chicks were hanging out in it for the day while there's was being built.

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We tried moving them all in the rotational manner but after a season of that have given the animals pretty dedicated areas for the most part because they destroy the grass even with consistent moving of the pens.

 Untitled (2013-03-18 14:52:52)  

What has been your biggest success and biggest mistake?

Our biggest success has been the ducks easily. They are so fun to watch and are great free rangers. Our backyard is completely fenced and they never try to escape unless we leave a gate open. The amount of bug control that they provide here is truly amazing! Now that we are getting eggs every day too it's definitely one of our favorite things about the little farm. Salad greens, herbs, radishes, beans, peas, kale, collards, peppers and tomatoes have all done really well for us in the garden. Squash was easily the best plant we grew in Oregon but failed miserably for us last year here in Georgia. It's hard to say what the biggest mistake has been...we've made so many! We lost several rabbits last summer to a few different circumstances and some chickens this year to a predator. In both situations some of the losses were due to them being in temporary pens and not having their secure pens finished in time for them. We also got introduced to the Squash Vine Borer and powdery mildew which took a huge toll in our garden. You really have to be on top of getting your plants in the ground early here in the south and protecting them from the bugs if you want a harvest. We are installing a drip tape watering system this year too in order to cut down on the powdery mildew as much as possible and because summers in Georgia are way too ridiculously hot and humid for hand watering.  

What plans do you have for the future?

 We have our homesteading goals for this year written out here, and long term.....who knows? We really love the west coast and miss our families back there so we would be excited if an opportunity opened up there for us to have a homestead. We are trying our hands at beekeeping this year and are (at least in our minds) super interested in doing that on a larger scale. We also love teaching others so will most likely expand that area of our lives down the road too with the blog and books.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Backyard Farming Connection Hop #25

There were some truly fabulous posts this week, it was difficult to choose the features!  Thank you to everyone who stops by each week here and shares - I am constantly amazed at the wealth of knowledge and community here.

We're still waiting for spring here and are hoping the snow will melt this week.  I'm considering going on protest and putting all our winter hats and mitten away, but I'm worried that may just backfire.  I hope spring has come to your home - or is on the way soon.

If you have a giveaway going on this week, make sure you stop by and promote it via my Giveaway Saturday link up!

Here are 2 great posts from this week.

From Black Fox Homestead, learn about Creating Windbreaks

From Homestead Lady, Learn about growing Medicinal Herbs

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 on the 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.

For details on linking up visit the hop page.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Homesteading Giveaway Saturday

Welcome to the homesteading giveaway link up!  Recently I was surfing around looking for a specific homestead related giveaway and couldn't find what I was looking for.  I decided to create this weekly homesteading giveaway link up to help people promote their giveaways and to help others find these great giveaways.  I'm starting this as a weekly link up, but will change it to monthly if that seems to work best. It's still on a trial - so let's see how it goes.  Help me out by sharing or linking up giveaways you know about.

Here's how it works:

  • Link up only homestead-related giveaways: this can include simple living, parenting, green giveaways, gardening, animal related, crafting or cooking.  Other giveaways or non-giveaway posts will be deleted. 
  • When listing your own giveaway, Please follow the Backyard Farming Connection via email, Facebook, or twitter and link back to me somewhere on your blog or post.  I'm not checking up - so this is an honor thing!
  • When listing your giveaway be as specific as possible, and make sure you list the end date of the giveaway - any post without a giveaway will be deleted
  • I will post the link up each Saturday, but the posts will remain up for a month in order to capture longer giveaways
At times I will feature giveaways in the top portion of the post - if you are interested in being featured, please email me directly at gstuppycarlson AT gmail DOT com.  Use the email title: promotion feature.  I am very selective on the giveaways I feature and generally only feature giveaways that are for a good cause.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Cute Chicken Coops

Looking for a cute coop design?  Check out the coops.

Do you have a cute coop to share? Join the chicken coop flickr group or check out the other group flickr pages.

chicken coop

chicken coop

From Jen 

Also check out my friend Kim's coop here.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Which Plants are Best to Sow Directly in the Garden

We’ve still got weeks (OK months) until our last frost here in zone 5, but already we have seeds planted inside in containers just breaking through the surface of the soil.  Creating a planting plan for your garden and figuring out when to plant each seed often feels like a daunting task.  While many plants do well with an early start in the warmth of your house, some seeds are perfectly fine, and some actually prefer, to be sown directly into your garden.  

Before you decide to direct sow seeds into your garden, check the length of your growing season, and compare this to the growing season required for the produce to mature (you can usually find this on the back of the seed pack or in a gardening book). Anything you put into your garden must have enough time to reach maturity before the next cold season sets in.  Remember that many of the candidates for direct sowing include plants that can survive in cooler temperatures (lettuce and peas).

Before I share some of the plants to start outside, take a look at some seeds that I believe do best started under protection or inside and transplanted:
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Eggplant
What to Sow Directly

In general, the larger seeds do well planted directly outside.   The rule (mostly true) is to plant the seed at twice the depth of its diameter, so these seeds are planted deeper and their roots are thus more protected from the weather: think corn, peas, beans, and squash. While many of these are available to purchase as seedlings, we’ve found just as much success with directly planting them in the garden. Starting from a pack of $3 seeds also can save you a significant amount of money when you compare this to the cost of seedlings.  On the flip side, the really itsy bitsy seeds (such as lettuce and kale) are also good for direct sowing since it is difficult to find and plant just a single seed in a container.  

Root vegetables do not transplant well, and are therefore best planted directly in the ground.  This includes carrots, radishes, beets, and turnips.   Since the roots are what create the crop, bent roots inside containers can cause bent or discouraged vegetables. Many flowering annuals are also wonderful to sow directly into the garden.

No matter whether you direct sow or transplant seedlings into your garden, make sure you take time to prepare your garden bed before you plant.  Depending on what you did in the fall, add compost, and plant your seeds according to the directions on the seeds pack or gardening book, and make sure you wait until the soil warms enough for each crop: it’s easy to want to get out there in the spring and start planting, but your plants will be healthier if you plant at the correct time.

If planting seeds indoors doesn’t work for you, don’t despair, you can easily plant enough seeds directly into the garden to fill it up with delicious food.  Even if you start seeds inside, remember that some seeds just do better without being transplanted and save those seeds for planting outside.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Backyard Farming Connection #24

 We're bracing for yet another winter storm here in NY.  Still, our thoughts are of spring.  After a weekend spent harvesting honey, and visiting a commercial maple sugar farm, we are settling in, and preparing for the growing season ahead.

If you haven't got your gardening tools ready for this spring, check out some of these tried and true favorites from Frugal (Local) Kitchen.

Have you ever been confused about what is meant by ventilation versus drafts?  This article by Scratch Cradle gets into some of the details of coop design.

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 on the 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.

For details on linking up visit the hop page.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Bit About Learning and Honey Extraction

For most modern homesteaders, we are faced with an unending list of new skills to learn.  In days past, these skills were simply passed down through generations: just as naturally as learning to walk or talk.  For most of us, choosing to homestead means that we must each reinvent, relearn, and reach out for the knowledge we need.  In some instances, especially in the commercial farming world, there are a whole set of new, ever-developing skills to learn, but for most of us who homestead on a smaller scale, we look back to old, basic skills in order to move ourselves forward into the world of modern homesteading.

For each of us, those skills are available in many different places: you can search out and find mentors or people to sit beside and learn, take a class, read books, search the internet, or simply apply the trial and error approach.  In many ways, the way those skills were practiced is lost, but the basic skills are still available for those willing to do a little searching.

When you are stuck in the uphill battle of learning everything, it is so easy to idealize how life would be if you simply knew all the necessary skills.  It's hard to remember that the learning is the fun part, and all those mistakes, well those are just little stumbles on the way.
For me, this weekend was the perfect reminder that mistakes happen (especially to people who act first and think second), but it was also a reminder that those same mistakes propel you forward even if they turn you kitchen into sticky, honey covered mess.  Here is a behind the curtain look at our weekend.

Earlier this week, I made a visit into the hive in our bee garden to discover that all the bees were dead.  It wasn't really a huge surprise, but still a bit discouraging. After some investigation, we came up with a theory of what happened. The hive had a late swarm and a huge number of bees left the hive in August and so the bee population was low going into the winter.  We decided this fall to leave all the honey for the bees, and when we opened up the hive we discovered one area with no honey left, and one area still full of honey.  With a low bee population and a cold winter, it is likely that the bees weren't able to stay warm and reach the honey and they starved or froze to death - so first note: if you get a warm day in the winter, make sure you rotate the honey so the bees have food.

With several full frames of honey and several partial frames, we decided to go ahead and harvest the honey.  Since this was the first time we would extract honey, and we weren't totally prepared, we did a little research, and then decided to just jump right in.  In the element of pure honesty, I will say that I jumped right in, while Dave kept asking if maybe, perhaps we should wait and do a bit more research.

To extract honey, usually the honey comb is opened and placed in an extractor that spins the frame and removes the honey.  Without the use of an extractor, you can cut off the comb and crush it in a colander and let the honey drain off.  Then you run the honey through a sieve and cheesecloth to get rid of any debris, and voila - honey.  Since we didn't want to totally crush the comb, we decided to start by cutting off the cap of the comb and letting it drain overnight.

Within a few hours, there were frames all over our kitchen draining into every available container.  But bees are smart and the design of the comb means that the honey does not easily drain.  After a few hours of draining, there was honey everywhere and still a fair amount of honey still in the comb. As a late night burst of brilliance, we decided to rig up a bucket on a rope, wind the rope, and let it spin the honey out.  This was moderately effective...

Finally we decided to go back to the original method and cut off the honeycomb, crush it and drain it.  A full 30 hours after we started the process, we are now the proud owners of 13 pounds worth of jarred honey (thank goodness we didn't have a bigger hive with more honey!).  I am beyond excited.  All that honey even made the mess worth it (although I am still finding sticky spots around the kitchen where honey dropped or was flung). 

While I believe in good information and solid research, there is something to be said for getting in there and getting your hands dirty.  No book or blog could have fully prepared me for all the little missteps we made this weekend.  And while our 13 pounds of honey cost us about $500 dollar (cost of hive + bees, etc) the weekend I spent up to my elbow in sticky mess alongside my husband and kids is really what it's all about.  Oh, and all those missteps weren't really steps back, but were really just steps forward on our journey.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Egg Heads

 Celebrate spring with a little fun this year.

These egg heads are easy and fun to make and add a little green to your table or window sill.  They're simple to make with only grass seed, soil, and of course fresh eggs, and it only takes about 10 days to sprout a head of hair.

Thinking the chickens might like these little treats when I'm done with them, but I'm wondering if chickens pecking out these little heads might be a bit disturbing?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Cultured Dairy

There are so many wonderful dairy foods you can make right at home.  Here are some ideas from the permanent culturing dairy link up:

 Making Cream Cheese from Montana Solar Creations

Making Yogurt in a Cooler from Everything Home With Carol

Some tips on using Sour Milk from The Self-Sufficient Homeacre

Find More great Homeskill posts here. 

Each Friday I share posts or photos from people connecting here at the Backyard Farming Connection.  You can share photos here, or if you blog, link up your posts in my permanent link ups for others to find.

Online Cheese Making Class

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Farm to Table Through the Year

 Today I am so excited to finally share the newest ebook brought to you by the Backyard Farming Connection! 

This book is a culinary and gardening journey through the 12 months of the year with growing tips, first hand growing information, recipes, and photos to inspire you in your own backyard and in your kitchen this year.

Each of the 12 chapters is crafted by a different author and shares first hand information.  Read about growing pumpkins, building cold frames, and cooking with Guinea Eggs.

You can get your copy here by subscribing to the my email list, or by visiting the sites of the contributing authors.  Find out about these amazing writers in this PDF: Contributing Authors.

Subscribe to The Backyard Farming Connection by Email

Stop by and learn about all the wonderful authors from this book on their own sites!

Angie from Schneider Peeps
Rob from Bepa's Garden
Lisa from Fresh Eggs Daily
Tammy from Our Neck of the Woods
 Lisa Lynn from The Self Sufficient HomeAcre
Gretchen from The Backyard Gardening Connection
Katie from Maple Grove
Jennifer from 1840 Farm
Kim from Mothering With Mindfulness
Sheryl from The Wilderness Wife
Christine from These Light Footsteps
Teresa from Radishgirl Thymes Blog

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Homestead Highlight: Angi

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 Angi to this space. (just a little note, I was lucky enough to partner with Angi in writing the new book: Farm to Table Through the Seasons - she wrote the month of January!)

Hi, my name is Angi and we have a small, 1.5 acre homestead along the Gulf Coast of Texas.  We've only been on this property for a little over a year and are in the process of turning it into our forever home.  After 14 addresses in 20 years we're ready for a forever home.  I blog at SchneiderPeeps and have recently written The Gardening Notebook ebook

 How long have you been backyard farming? What got you started?
We've gardened almost from the beginning of our life together.  It started with tomatoes.  Just in the last couple of years we've added hens as an egg business for 2 of our children.  And a year ago, one of our teenage sons began keeping bees. Our journey has been very gradual - starting and stopping as we needed to.

What does your backyard farm look like? Where is it?
We live just outside the city limits about 30 miles from the Texas Gulf Cost.  I truly think it's the best of both worlds for us. Most of our children are teenagers and they have interests that require us to be in town many times each week.  It's a balancing act.

Right now we garden about 1/8 acre of our property.  We have citrus trees that include lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit and tangerine.  We also have a pomagranate tree, a fig tree, a mulberry tree and several blueberry bushes.  My mom gifted us 4 peach and 2 plum trees for Christmas so those will be planted very soon.  When we bought the property it had 2 mature pecan trees.  I really think that fruit trees give you the most reward for your work when it comes to supplying food for your family. 

As far as animals go, we have about 30 grown hens and 30 chicks.  We also have 5 bee hives.  And a dog. 

What has been your biggest success and biggest mistake?
I think our biggest success has been to consider each member of our family when making our plans.  The homestead life is mine and my husband's dream.  It's really not our children's dream.  Five of our six children are adults, teens and preteens.  They have their own dreams they want to pursue and homesteading is part of their dreams right now.  So we're careful not to create a homestead that requires so much work that our children have to be here to help.  That's not to say they don't help, they do help - quite a lot. 

I think our biggest failure so far has been the bee hive we lost to carpenter ants.  We didn't check on the hives enough this winter and since it doesn't get very cold here the ants destroyed an entire colony and stole the honey.  We're working on getting rid of the ants without hurting the bees. 

What plans do you have for the future?

We'd like to expand our garden and add raised beds.  We also are working on adding more compost to our clay soil to break it up.  We'd like to add apple and pears trees next year.  Our rancher friend has said he would barter our fruit and veggies for meat when we're ready.  I'll be asking the dairy farmer the same thing when we get enough produce to barter. 

We don't have any plans to add other animals to our place. There are lots of reasons for that, but the biggest one is that we really don't want to have the responsibility of caring for larger animals. We like to travel some and it's easy to get a friend to come by and take of the hens and the dog. But having larger animals would make it much harder to travel. We're also able to buy meat and dairy straight from local farmers who raises his animals the way we would if we were to raise them.