Homesteading

Homesteading

So I'm breaking away a little from my usual blogging topic of discussing the goings on here on our farm to talk a bit about self sufficiency for the typical suburbanite. That is, if the typical suburbanite is ready to become an atypical suburbanite?

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So what is someone to do? How does one hedge against this current system that will likely one day fail, but not before food prices skyrocket out of control? Many folks seek out small local farms such as ours, to support and get their food from. But ultimately, you have to take some matters into your own hands and grow some of your own food. Naturally the first thing one may think of is planting a garden. Sadly, in America this is no longer normal and many communities actually have ordinances against tilling up a lawn to plant a garden. Most subdivisions were not designed with vegetable gardens in mind with shaded and sloping lots not to mention the minimal amount of soil available to plant in. But you should not allow these obstacles to keep you from your goal of self sufficiency.

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So what can you do? First of all, if you don't live in a neighborhood that deprives you of your right to garden your own land, I strongly recommend getting a copy of the book, Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. This was my number one resource when I first started gardening. This method uses raised beds, does not require the uses of a tiller and is great for sloping ground. Rather than planting directly into your soil, which is likely very deficient, vegetables are planted into a soil mix of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. The book spells it all out in a very simple and easy to understand verbiage. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="125"] Square Foot Gardening[/caption] Read the rest of this article Here. [caption id="attachment_94" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Food so real its righteous! Food so real its righteous![/caption]

Buckwheat is thought of as a grain but it's really more closely related to sorrel and rhubarb. Before the use of modern nitrogen fertilizers, a post WW2 use of excess bomb materials, buckwheat was a staple food. The true grains we use nowadays require much more nitrogen.11178275_1572800389641272_5070259401038013352_n Buckwheat has a quick life cycle and thrives in acid soil with low nitrogen. This makes it great for preppers/homesteaders for several reasons. It can produce a pseudo grain crop that has 18% protein in about 90 days. That's food for the family or livestock. If tilled in just after blooming in about 30 days, it provides bees with nectar for a nice dark honey and can then be tilled in as a green manure. It also suppresses weeds so it makes a good cover crop.
It can be boiled and eaten or ground into flour for most things you would use wheat flour to make. Pancakes, bread, pasta etc. It can even be fermented for beer and whiskey. It is gluten free so it's great for those with celiac disease.11111961_1572800462974598_5004626884497548269_n The hulls can be used as filler for pillows or bedding. The leaves can be used in tea and even has positive effects in those with diabetes. Don't leave buckwheat out of your plans. Waiting for wheat, barley and oats to mature may not be an option. A crop of buckwheat can hold you off until those crops can be harvested. I grow it for the bees and let the chickens forage through and get the seed. On the downside, it can run rampant through a pasture if allowed to go to seed but that's an easy fix. Buckwheat can also be planted in the pasture as forage or cut for hay at 1-3 tons per acre.
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People often forget the turkey as a viable meat source. Most tend to think of chickens. There are several good reasons for it. Turkeys are loud. Brakes squeaking can get toms to gobble. Hens are always chirping. When toms strut they make a drumming noise. Like a rooster crowing in the subdivision, these noises sometimes don't go over too well with neighbors, home owners association and or local ordinances. They don't lay eggs all year round which makes them moreTurkeys, The forgotten poultry. People often forget the turkey as a viable meat source.  Most tend to think of chickens. There are several good reasons for it. Turkeys are loud.  Brakes squeaking can get toms to gobble. Hens are always chirping.  When toms strut they make a drumming noise. Like a rooster crowing in the subdivision,  these noises sometimes don't go over too well with neighbors, home owners association and or local ordinances.  They don't lay eggs all year round which makes them more of a meat bird. Most people keep chickens just for eggs so that puts the turkey at a disadvantage when comparing the two. Turkey a eggs are quite large and taste like a chicken egg.

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Baby turkeys are called poults. Unlike  the chicken's 21 day incubation period, the turkey requires 28 days. Like chickens they must be kept warm in a brooder until they can regulate their own body heat. You'll want to have the broader set up and prepared before receiving your poults. Gradually lower the heat at ground level from 90 degrees by 5 degrees per week. If it's over 75 degrees outside, they can go out once they are a month and a half old. You will need to have a high protein feed ready for them, something in the 20% and higher range. Like all livestock,  water 24/7 is a must.  You'll need one waterer per 25 birds. This is for space not volume. So select a waterer adequate for their needs or refill it as often needed. [caption id="attachment_861" align="aligncenter" width="300"]TurkeyChicks Courtesy of mother earth news[/caption] The breed you have chosen will determine the length of time until harvest. The broad breasted bronze or white will take about 6 months to reach 20-25 lbs. A lot longer than a chicken but several times the weight.  This breed also has the largest amount of breast meat,  the kind we are used to. Heritage birds may never reach that weight and wild ones take much longer. A broad breasted bronze will have 3-4 times the breast meat than even the biggest wild turkey.  Harvest just like chickens.

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We have a few different breeds and some mutts. My favorite is the midget white. It's a smaller bird with a large breast. The breed allows us to cook an entire bird without having Thanksgiving style leftovers for weeks. This can be an important consideration for preppers and those off the grid folks where refrigerator space and electricity are finite. turkey_dinner_ll_131112_16x9_608 Once they're grown they are very hardy. Standard housing as used for chickens may need some slight adjustment to accommodate the larger size of turkeys. They are also quite amazing to watch with Jakes vying for position and toms strutting and drumming in the pasture. Now, go get your gobble on.

10339633_682433831851911_3810983810644209512_nWhen you open a seed catalog and flip to the corn section, it can get confusing.  There's bicolor corn, su, se, sh2, pop corn, dent corn, hybrid, and field corn. So, I'll attempt to explain this so you can make informed preparedness decisions on which type suits your needs.
Just as a baby in the womb has half the DNA from the mother carrying her and half the DNA from the father, each kernel of corn has half the DNA from the plant it is growing on and half from the plant that provided the pollen. The pollen comes from the tassel and is spread by the wind. It lands on the silks and fertilizes a seed. This makes it necessary to separate the different types of corn unless you want corn that is half sweet corn and half something else, like popcorn. The genes that make corn sweet are all recessive genes which means you must have two copies for the resulting corn to be sweet. See how wind blowing pollen from your neighbors purple ornamental corn could really screw up your sweetcorn crop? The genes that make corn sweet are sugary (su), sugar enhanced (se) and shrunken-2 (sh2). The su gene is "normal" sweetcorn that your grandparents raised. It produces more sugar than field corn which has the dominant Su1 starch gene. Remember that sweetcorn is harvested before maturity.  If allowed to sit too long, the sugars convert to starch in preparation to become a viable seed. So, this type of corn, su, must be harvested and go straight to the pot to be eaten or canned.  The se varieties also have the su gene and in conjunction,  produce a sweeter corn than is more tender. If both plants have this gene, then the cob will have 100% sweet kernels. Since the kernels start out sweet the additionally sugary goodness of the su genes keep it sweeter longer. Therefore, timing it isn't as critical with it's harvest and use.  The varieties that contain sh2 are supersweet.  This gene slows the conversion of the sugar to starch. Supersweet corn can stay sweet for about 3 weeks if kept near freezing. Selecting for these traits didn't come without pitfalls. Due to the smaler amount of starch in each kernel, it is harder to get started and requires a higher soil temperature for planting. To make matters worse, some supersweet varieties do not have the su gene but instead have the Su (starch) gene. So when pollinated by other supersweet or normal corn varieties,  you get starchy corn like field corn. So isolate them from sugar enhanced and normal corn. There are some other variants that don't fit into these categories.  Synergistic (sy) and augmented shrunken are two. Synergistic has multiple copies of genes and a brittle gene, to produce a super sweet corn that doesn't have the seed vigor problem you see with supersweet (sh2) varieties. Synergistic corn must be isolated from sh2.  Augmented shrunken has 2 copies of sh2 and se. It's super sweet and not as crunchy. It must be harvested by hand but that's what preppers will do anyway. It has the same seed vigor problem as sh2 corn. It needs to be isolated from all the other types. Keep in mind that sweetcorn is for eating fresh or canning.  I'll get into corn for grinding in a bit. Here are a few examples: Normal, open pollinated, non hybrid sweetcorn (su) Country Gentleman (white), Golden Bantam,  Golden Bantam Improved, Jubilee (yellow), Sugar Dots and Quickie (bicolor). se-Bodacious and Kandy Korn (my favorite yellow corn), Silver King  and Whiteout (white), Peaches & Cream and Sugarbaby (bicolor). sh2 - summer Sweet Yellow, Krispy King (yellow), Summer Sweet White, Aspen (white), Honey & Pearl, Phenomenal (bicolor) sy- Honeysweet(yel), Silver Dutchess(wht), Montauk(bi). Augmented- Extra Sweet,  yellow,  white, bicolor. Personally I'm fond of Kandy Korn. Every other year I'll plant some Golden Bantam just to keep seed for SHTF. Popcorn is self explanatory. Field corn is all corn that is not sweetcorn. There are two categories, dent and flint. Flint corn is hard (as flint) and is also known as Indian corn. It comes in many colors and can be made into hominy or popped. Dent corn dries with a dent in the round end. Their are open pollinated,  hybrid and genetically modified versions (microscopic gene manipulation in a laboratory as opposed to hand pollinating).  According to the USDA, the majority of hybrid yellow dent corn is used for livestock feed, oils, plastics, ethanol and other industrial production. The white hybrid dent corn is used for masa, torillas, chips, snacks and starch. For the prepper, there are several open pollinated cultivars that that are suitable for both livestock feed and fresh eating,  though not as sweet as what you are accustomed to. Some of those are: Truckers Favorite,  Goliath, Hickory King and others. Don't think you will be able to survive on field corn. Once dry, it's as hard as woodpecker lips and needs to be boiled in ashes to soften it up, sort like making hominy. You also aren't going to pick a few ears and grow some good eating corn with the seed. My suggestion is the approach I have taken. Live for today and plan for tomorrow. Grow whatever variety of sweetcorn you want now and can it. Grow another open pollinated non hybrid version every so often to get used to its growing characteristics and flavor, then save seed. AL

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Fire is a key skill/asset for anyone looking to become more self sufficient. Learning how to use rockets stoves are a great way to cut down on fuel requirements. Rocket stoves work on a very simple principle and can be modified for a variety of home and agricultural uses. [caption id="attachment_74" align="alignright" width="257"]Basic rocket stove set up Basic rocket stove set up[/caption] What is a rocket stove? It's simple, a rocket stove super heats an exhaust chimney to create secondary combustion of excess fuel. This is generally achieved by creating a L-shape steel vent where the primary burn is started at the base and exhaust (Smoke) is passed thru a longer shaft. If the shaft is insulated, it will speed up the time it takes to achieve secondary combustion. Once the shaft is hot enough for secondary combustion, it will begin draft air as the air expands. This produces a rocket sound as air passes thru the fuel....Hence "Rocket" stove. Anytime you see smoke you are looking at unused fuel that has been aerosolized and released thru the exhaust. This is how wood fuel burners make their money (in theory), but it also means more fuel to achieve the same amount of heat. By igniting the excess fuel normally released in the smoke you can either achieve a hotter fire, or the same fire with less fuel. A hot running rocket stove produces virtually NO smoke. If you the prepper rely on fire for utility and general warmth, over aesthetics, then look into rocket stoves and see if making the switch is right for you. Save time on fuel harvest, and make your winter stock pile last longer. As always if you have any questions contact us, or follow us on Facebook @ Crisis Application Group

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