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Showing posts from 2015

Busy Busy Busy and Merry Christmas!

Well, have not posted in a few weeks now, work has been pretty busy with some long days.  I enjoy the challenges of this job and get to make more of an impact on things then I ever thought I would but find myself more and more frustrated with the bureaucracy and more and more ready to get out.  Every morning when Terri and I go for our walk before work all I can talk about is the Homestead and things I would like to do.  I am leaning more and more towards not even putting in my packet this year for promotion, I really do not know what I would do if I was selected.

Unfortunately I have not been able to do much research over the last couple of weeks so not much to talk about this week as to what exactly I will do or what I am planning but instead will talk about some hopes and goals as well as things we are looking forward to trying.

Terri has always talked about salted hams, rather then the precooked sugar hams which is really all you can find these days.  Being in a Muslim country we…

Couple book reviews

Well I have been reading my rear end off doing research for the homestead so today I am going to talk about a couple of the books I read or am in the process of reading if I may.
The first is Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits by Bob Bennett.  To be honest it was kind of hard to get by the first chapter, while the information is good the author comes across as condescending stating a lot of opinions (which granted at backed up with over 50 years of experience) and presenting them as facts.  He comes off as a such a breed snob to the point I had to do research to see if he was a president of some breed association or something. 
The book really should be call Storey’s Guide to Commercially Raising Rabbits.  Mr. Bennett, looks at everything through a commercial lens, and that is not really what I want to do, but he assumes that is the only reason to raise rabbits, to make money on them.  The book is not really all that useful for what I am looking at, he does not cover colony raising, …

Perennial Wooded Garden

Perennial Wooded Garden
What is a perennial wooded garden?   A perennial wooded garden is known by other names such as a survival garden or hidden food plot or permaculture.  A perennial wooded garden is not  as much a garden as we see it with its organized rows but more of an organized chaos.  The main focus of the perennial wooded garden is the one time planting of trees, shrubs, vegetables and herbs that continue to grow and produce year after year with little to no human input.  It is much as it would grow in the wild with the exception that we plant it where it will most compliment or benefit the other plans in your gardens yet it maintains it natural chaotic appearance rather than in neat orderly rows.
Rick Austin is the person who I am basing most of this idea on.  I recently listened to a web seminar that he was a part of and just ordered his book “Secret Garden of Survival: How to grow a camouflaged food- forest.” Which is what I am basing this plan on.  The major difference be…

Preserving Food

Preserving Food
Other than figuring out how I am going to harvest grain, preserving food is probably the thing that intimidates me most next.  In order to be as self-sufficient as possible in a northern environment I need to be able to preserve food for year round usage.  When you talk about butchering a whole pig or cow, let’s face it, that is a lot of meat.  Freezing it all is just not an option when you also want to put some veggies (like corn on the cob) in there as well as some poultry and a rabbit or two!  Not to mention you need to have a backup plan if electricity is lost for an extended amount of time.  This week I am signed up for a web seminar called “Beyond Off Grid Summit” that will have many classes including one on canning and one on traditional food preservation.  For those interested the web site is http://beyondoffgrid.com/summit (and it is free)There are three types of food preservation/storage I plan to practice (other than standard freezing). 
Canning
The first is ca…

The ugly part of setting up a homestead, the initial costs.

Well it has been a fairly busy week this week and plans are starting to solidify even more.  Until this week we had played with the idea of staying in the Military for one more tour, I had been nominated for a follow on tour with the Defense Attaché Service and I had been offered an opportunity to go to Ottawa Canada for my next tour.  This would have pushed my homestead plans back three years but would have been close enough for us to work on the property and get on a little stronger financial footing before making the leap. On the other hand, it would have put me at 50 before starting my homestead adventure.  This week the choice was taken out of our hands as my functional branch in the army (Finance) declined to let me stay with the attaché service, they wanted me back with Big Army.  Meaning after this tour in Jordan I would go where ever the army needed me. 
Often in the Army we say we know when it is time to go, when to retire and hang up the uniform, well I was pretty sure that…

Pond

Well, this post will be a little different as it is more about ideas rather then a concrete plan.  We currently have a small stock pond on the property, only about 1/10th of an acre in size, so when I say small I mean small.  The pond is spring feed (although I could not give any of the details on that, just know it stays about the same water level).   My hopes for this small pond however are much grander then it current size will support!  Let me list what we want this pond to be able to support and then what I am thinking, hopefully you some of you will have some experience in this and can give me some more input on feasibility.

1.  Need to be able to run water from the pond to livestock grazing areas, year round.
2.  Needs to be able to support farm geese and ducks with their needs to include reproduction
3.  Be able to support some wildlife without becoming fouled. (not thinking wild waterfowl)
4.  Would like the pond to be big enough to sustain a small fishery, most likely pan fi…

Other trees to plant!

This weeks research has been on what other trees I need to plant on the homestead, earlier I went into some of the fruit and nut trees I was thinking about but I would like to get a little more variety out there as well.  When I walked through the property a couple of months ago most of the woodland on the property was poplar.    While poplar can make a decent forage and it is fast growing it is not much good as a building material   and as fire wood it burns hot but very fast, you are constantly having to put more in!  There is three additional types of trees I am thinking of planting other the the fruit and nut trees mentioned earlier.

Maple Trees
I am thinking of planting a variety of Maple trees, a 6-7 sugar maples, 2-3 red maples and 2-3 silver maples.  I have to admit the idea of making our own maple syrup does intrigue me and gives me something to do in February!   Terri loves the color change of the leaves  and as they grow they will provide shade for the cattle in the pasture…

We will do Rabbits!

Well after thinking about it long and hard  if I really wanted to add another piece to this complex jigsaw puzzle of my homestead I have decided to add Rabbits to the homestead but not in the typical way you think of rabbits on a homestead, in elevated cages with chickens feeding below them but in a separate colony set up.   The potential of setting them up in the Colony is the only reason I decided to go this route, just like I do not like the idea of chickens spending their whole lives in a small cage I feel the same way about the rabbits.  A little more about the colony set up a little later in the post.

I have spent  the last couple weeks spending alot of time on two Facebook groups, Backyard Meat Rabbits and Rabbits in Colonies.  These two sites have educated me, gave me confidence in taking this route, and at the same time intimidating the hell out of me!  These two sites have such a wealth of knowledge and so much experience in raising rabbits, you can post almost any issue an…

What did not make the first year cut?

What will I not do the first year?  So far my postings are self admitting quite ambitions but even I who wants to do everything has to draw the line somewhere, at least for the first year or so!   So without further ado!

In the livestock category I decided to forgo sheep.  Basically it came down to a choice for me between goats and sheep.  I went with goats over sheep for various reasons, I like the goats ability to eat the shrubbery and brush in the wooded areas and not have to depend on the pasture for them.  The pasture is already going to be used with the cattle, pigs and chickens and I was a little nervous about over doing it especially with giving the land time to rest between grazing (at least 30 days).  I also valued the goats milking ability over that of the sheep's wool.  Honestly I have no idea of how to sheer a sheep nor what to do with the wool when I was done!  Sheep are also much more vulnerable to parasites then goats not to mention easier pray for predators.

With…

Why I am going to do this

Every day that passes I am more and more sure that this is what I want to do, even through every day I learn how little I actually know about what I plan on doing.  After almost 45 years I have decided that on the whole I do not like most people.  I do not like playing the games of what is people's motivation that and what is it they really want, I am tired of people always trying to play games to get ahead and that is what has driven me towards the decision to retire from the military and not pursue civilian employment when I get out even though I would have no issues finding a well paying opportunity.

I am not foolish enough to think I will be able to do this on my own, not as efficiently as I would like to anyway and I am sure I will be counting on family to help with advice and experience if nothing else (not to mention usage of equipment would be appreciated!!).  But on the whole, I will be the one responsible and I will be working for myself and I will be the one responsibl…

Rabbits?

This week I received a small surprise in the mail, a month or so ago as a part of my Mother Earth subscription I ordered a "Pack" of 6 additional one time publications but I had pretty much forgotten about it..  In reality I ordered them for the chicken based magazine and and the one about self reliance skills.  One of the additional magazine however was one in raising backyard rabbits.  Raising rabbits was really not something I had considered as everything I had seen previously with raising rabbits was raising them in individual cages which was something that goes against most of what I wanted to do with raising animals as the goal is to raise them as humanly as possible as close to a natural situation as I could.

Reading the publication how ever did open my eyes to something I had not realized before, one was how much protein one set of rabbits could generate in one year.  Where a cow can basically generate about 40% of her weight in a calf in a year a doe rabbit can pro…

Feed crops

Well, this is one of the hardest subjects I have had to research, there is just not as much out there as I would like for the area I will be working in.  There is no shortage of small farms out there who are raising animals on forage but very few of them are growing their own winter or supplemental feed to be totally self sufficient.  Perhaps I should take that as a hint however I am not, always did have to learn things the hard way.  My sister-in-law Roxy has been asking about when I was going to make this post, I think just to show me how much coordination and planning was involved.  I will say this much, yes it is intimating, almost like a jigsaw puzzle to figure out the best way to make it all fit together.

In total I will have 4 three acre plots I have set aside for a crop rotation for animal feed. Each year the crops will rotate one field in so that the same crop is not planted on the same ground except for once every 4 years.  When I looked at the crops it was with the intentio…

Managment Intensive Rotational Grazing (MIRG)

One thing that was similar in the farms I visited when I was back in the states was the usage of Management Intensive Rotational Grazing (MIRG).  Basically what this is is the usage of multiple small paddocks to feed your livestock rather then one large field. Using MIRG you will basically put your livestock in the small paddocks  until they eat about 1/2 of the forage  in that small paddock and then you move them to the next one leaving the one just left untouched for about 30 days, long enough to let it fully recover before you put the cattle back on to that one.

 There are multiple benefits to this plan.
1. Cattle are mostly only eating the top portion of the plant that is growing in the stage where the nutrients are higher
2. Less chance the animals will over graze one area leaving it barren and susceptible to weed growth and longer recover times..
3.  Increases the carrying capacity of a set acreage
4. Breaks the parasite cycle reducing the chances or animals developing parasites…

Farm Visits

Sorry for the delay in posting but I have been on the road quite a bit since my last post!  Since then I have been in DC for a couple weeks for some training, flew to MN (it took longer to go from DC to MN then it did from Amman Jordan to DC!).  Spent one day in Mn then flew down to Corpus Christi, Texas, picked up the new truck, drove to Shepherd AFB (Wichita Falls) for Chris's (my son) graduation from Air Force Tech school, then drove to Parker, Kansas to visit Synergistic Acres, on  to Fountain Mn to visit Root Prairie Galloways!  So pretty busy!

Over the last couple days during the farm visits I was able to meet some really awesome people and learned quite a bit from from both my own observations and from all that Laura (Synergistic) and the Hodgsons(Root Prairie) were able to tell me!  As is always the case in a situation like this sometimes we get as many questions as we do answers.  I was very impressed with the different avenues used for fencing between the two farms.  Syn…

Vacation Time

Well tomorrow I get on a plane for the long flight back to the states for a little rest, and recuperation and while I am there I will be doing quite  bit of traveling and taking advantage of the opportunity to visit a couple farms that are raising Galloway cattle as well as seeing some operations with a similar set up to what I am planning to do.  While running around the country I will also pick up what will eventually be our farm truck and on top of it all get to see my son graduate from Air Force Tech school.  Over all will be a very busy month (including some time in DC for training).

The truck we are getting is a 2007 Chevrolet 2500HD crew cab 4X4.  Due to the Mn winters we really needed the 4X4 and I wanted a truck big enough to handle the biggest hauling chores as well as have the option to put a plow on it if needed.  . The crew cab was a nice option, originally I was looking for a reg cab but they are almost impossible to find.  When this truck came available from a Governmen…

Non-Chemical or GMO pest control

Because we have decided to go with an organic and non-GMO crops we are faced with the challenge of  how to control pests that can decimate our crops and garden.  The only way I can figure on how to do this is a multi-layers approach of breaking up the pests life cycle, beneficial insects that will prey on pest larva and predators that feed directly on the pest along with some old fashioned manual picking the pests off of the garden plants!!

The first step will be crop rotations, granted that will not help with many of the more mobile pest that feed on crops it will help to minimize the damage from those that are focuses on one particular crop like some of the corn worms and potato beetles.  The next step is to encourage beneficial insects by providing good habitat for them and then purchasing a starting supply.  Beneficial insects include Lady Bugs, ground beetles and different kind of wasps and spiders.  We will provide a good natural habitat for the beneficial insects by bordering …

Goats?

I have gone back and forth on if I wanted goats or not, there were many pluses and a few minus I had to figure either a way around or a way to accept it, basically this is what I came up with.  On the plus side goats produce more milk then cattle for what the ingest, basically you get more output for less input.  Goats are also very forage friendly, in other words they will get most of their substance from foraging, in most cases they prefer it.  Goats also eat though underbrush and can help clear it, basically getting usage out of land that would not be used other wise for their substance.  Goats are another multipurpose animal both producing meat and dairy.  Unlike cattle goats also typically produce multiple births and the mature faster.  An a interesting side note which I did not realize until I started doing more research, goat milk also has kind of a niche market due to it being more tolerable to digest for those with stomach issues.

Now for the down sides or reasons to potenti…

Thoughts, Motivations, Mission and Vision

Thoughts, Motivations, Mission and Vision

This post is a little different then any of my others and maybe it should have been the post that started it all.  I am very driven, when I set my mind to something I go all in, the longer the odds the more I like it and to more people tell me I am in over my head the more determined I get to prove them wrong.   I know this endeavor will be no different.  This could not be any further out of my "comfort zone" to what I am used to doing but at the same time I find myself researching it every free moment I get and the desire to do it gets stronger and stronger the more challenges I run into.

While I would not consider myself ultra-green, I do think we should do what we can to maintain natures balance and do what we can to have as little impact as is practical.  To me this means balancing the impact to the land with the needs to provide sustenance while at the same time getting as much out of the land as it can efficiently produce and e…

Nut Trees

Nut Trees

Black Walnut
Well for Nut Trees I do not have near as many options as with the fruit trees but I really want some nut tress as they are a valuable source of healthy fats as well as a different source of protein.  The most common nut in the portion of Minnesota we will be in appears to be black walnut.  Black Walnut can be a difficult tree as the tree gives off a chemical that can be poisonous to various other plants and forages such as alfalfa, apple trees and pear trees. This toxicity can extent up to 80 feet from the tree when it is full grown.  With this in mind we will probably plant the trees on the property line along one of the pastures, we will probably plant about 6 of these trees.  The nuts will be mostly for human consumption and some for the pigs and chickens.  Pigs seem to love them and they do give the pork a little nuttier flavor however if you give them too much it can change the composition of the fat in the animal.  We do need to find different varieties in…