The Organic Canner (Book Review)

The Organic Canner

Daisy Luther has just written a new book called The Organic Canner, which is both an instructional “how to” book and a collection of great recipes.

This is really a great resource for people who want to learn how to can food. The first part of the book is instruction and an introduction to canning. It is accurate, easy to understand, and written in an engaging, fun to read style that is “pure Daisy”. If you are intimidated at the thought of learning to can, this book will help you have the confidence to give it a try! You will learn what equipment you need and how to use it safely and properly. The book is full of great recipes to help you get started as well. She covers simple things like canning common vegetables as well as jams, relishes and condiments, soups, meats, and “meals in a jar”. We’ve found several recipes in this book that we are excited to try, one of which is the raspberry jalapeno jam! I was very glad to see that Daisy included “meals in a jar” in this book. One of the greatest things about canning these is being able to have a meal ready as fast as you can heat it up. When the whole family is out working in the barn or garden and supper preparation gets neglected, it is sure a blessing to be able get a hot meal on the table in a short amount of time.

I feel confident recommending this book to beginning canners. It will get you off to a great start and give you some great recipes to try. Before you know it, you’ll be running out of pantry space and storing jars under your bed. ;)

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Prayers And Help For Marci

Prayers and Help for Marci

A valuable and beloved member of the Christian homesteading and agrarian community is in need of our prayers. Marci Blubaugh has been an online friend of our family for over a decade. She and her husband Mike, owners of Amazing Graze General Store, have been sponsors of Christian Farm and Homestead Radio for several years. Marci has been a great encouragement to many people on their homesteading journey and is a valued member of our online community.

After several health challenges, Marci has been recently diagnosed with a brain tumor and is in the hospital. The family is posting updates at this link. We ask that you keep her and her family lifted up in prayer.

When a family is dealing with the stress and emotion of such an illness, the last thing we want is them worrying about money. Traveling back and forth from the hospital, the loss of income from several businesses that Marci has, eating out, and the various other expenses that crop up in these crises can add up quickly. The Blubaughs have not asked for financial help but several of us in the agrarian community believe it is something that we should do as we strive to “bear one another’s burdens”. We looked at several ways that we could raise funds on the web, but they all have a portion of our donations being paid in fees to bankers. After a few days of brain storming with our friends at Reformation Acres, we came up with a solution that protects the privacy of the Blubaughs and doesn’t lose funds to fees. We have opened a PO box where you can send your cards, notes, and financial gifts. The mail will be hand delivered to Marci’s husband. Checks and money orders can be deposited directly by him. We suggest that you make checks payable to Mike Blubaugh. Please include a note, letting them know that we love them and that they are in our prayers. Here is the address…

PO Box 104
Walhonding, OH 43843

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3 Ways To Prevent Mastitis In Your Family Cow

3 Ways To Prevent Mastitis

One of the most frustrating things that can happen to the homestead cow owner is having their cow develop a case of mastitis. Mastitis costs you money, interrupts the family’s milk supply and can lead to other health problems. A cow with a nasty case of mastitis that causes her to go off feed, could end up with costly surgery for a Displaced Abomasum. Most mastitis cases in dairy cattle are preventable and it is always better to prevent a problem than to have to treat it. Lets look at some of the simple management practices that you can implement to prevent this problem before it starts.


The key to preventing disease is a healthy immune system. A healthy immune system is not possible without proper nutrition. Keeping you cow in proper condition is very important. Very thin and very fat cattle are often more prone to health problems. It is also necessary to make sure your cattle are getting the vitamin, mineral and trace elements they need to stay healthy. Feeding a free choice mineral, salt and kelp meal will pay dividends in a healthier, trouble free cow.

Clean, Dry Housing

A dairy cow must have a clean, dry place to lay down. Whether in a barn or outside this must be provided if you want to have a mastitis free cow. Cows who lay down in mud, manure or wet bedding are much more likely to develop mastitis. If cattle are inside a barn, don’t be stingy with the bedding. If your cow is outside make sure they have some high, dry spots to lay down. If cattle outside need a dry place to bed down you can always shake up some hay, or better yet, unroll a round bale on some high ground. You should also make sure that the outdoor feeding areas are not slop holes. Move feeding areas around if need be, cows standing in mud up to their hocks is a recipe for disaster.

Proper Milking Prep

Proper preparation of the teats before milking is one of the most important things you can do. Teats should be cleaned with an udder wash solution and a clean washcloth or paper dairy towel. Pay close attention to the teat end when cleaning, as this area is recessed, and although the rest of the teat may look clean the teat end may still have dirt and manure on it. After cleaning the teat it should be dipped with a teat dip and wiped off after 30 seconds. After this your cow is ready to milk. The cow should be dipped with the teat dip again after milking, this time it should be left on and not wiped off.


Preventing mastitis is not rocket science. If you follow these 3 simple husbandry practices you will be on the right course.

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Plant Profile ~ Common Mullein

Common Mullein,  It's Uses & Culture

Verbascum thapsus
Common Mullein or Great Mullein

Common Mullein is found all over the United States, although it is not a native to North America. Mullein is a bi-annual plant that can grow to be 6 to 7 ft tall the second year. In its second year it grows a tall flower spike that produces seeds that can survive up to 100 years before germinating. It is a pioneer plant that prefers disturbed, open ground and cannot tolerate shade. It is often found in meadows. It’s leaves are soft and fuzzy, growing in a rosette close to the ground the first year and then leaves grow up the flower stalk the second year. Common Mullein was brought to the new world by our European ancestors before the War for Independence. It was known to them as “Great Mullein” and quickly took root in America and Canada. It was so common that by 1800 some thought it to be native.

Today Mullein is best know for its medicinal properties, but it was historically used for many other things as well. We will look at both its material and medicinal uses below.

Material Uses

One of the reasons Europeans brought Mullein to the new world was for stunning fish. Early Americans used crushed Mullein seed for what they called “stinging” fish. The crushed seed was put into diked areas of slow moving water and it stopped the fish’s ability to breath, causing them to float to the top. The fish could then be collected with ease and such harvests became community events.

Mullein flower stalks were used as torches by the Romans and it’s use as such continued even in the new world. The dry stalks were soaked in tallow and burned.

Flowers can be used to produce yellow and green dyes. As early as the 4th century, Mullein flowers were used to make a yellow hair dye.

Mullein leaves have been used as “toilet paper” by woodsman for many years. In the western United States, it is commonly called “cowboy toilet paper”.

Mullein stalks can be dried and used as spindle for fire making in either a hand or bow drill.

Dried leaves and “hairs” have been used for centuries to make candle wicks.

Medicinal Uses

Both Mullein leaves and flowers have been used for medicine by Europeans and later adopted by many American Indian tribes. Mullein is a common herbal remedy used to treat respiratory disorders such as asthma, tuberculosis, bronchitis, and pneumonia. In a 2002 study of common mullein extracts it was proved to have antibacterial and antitumor properties. It is used for earaches in children and has been reported by some to be useful in treating hemorrhoids, diarrhea, warts, migraines, frost bite, and ringworm. Most books on herbal medicine contain specific information on how to use this plant.

There is a good chance that you have seen this plant growing on your homestead. You may have wondered what it was, or perhaps you knew what it was but thought it was just a common weed. I hope this inspires you to try using this interesting and historically rich resource brought over the great ocean by our forefathers.

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8 Things To Have Before You Get A Milk Cow

8 Things To Have Before You Get A Milk Cow

You’ve finally reached the point in your homesteading journey where it’s time to purchase a milk cow. You’ve bought a vacuum pump, a milking machine (or maybe just a SS pail), milk filters and fixed up a place for her to live. You’ve found the perfect cow and you’re ready to bring her home. While you might think that you are ready to get started, I’d like to share a few things that you might not of thought of. Having spent just about every day of my life around dairy cattle, these are 8 things that I would have on hand before I brought home a cow. Some of these things will be used every day and some you might not have to use for weeks, months…or even years; but they are things that when you need them you want to have them. Here they are in no particular order…


One of the most important things to have on hand is a rectal thermometer. You need to buy one to keep in the barn, unless you want to use the one from the house ;) As the owner of a cow you need to realize that someday she will get sick. When a cow is sick you need to be able to make a diagnosis of what the problem is. You can’t make a diagnosis if you don’t have information. The very first thing that you should do when your cow is feeling under the weather is take her temperature. If her temperature is high, it is likely that you are dealing with an infection of some kind. A very low temperature points to digestive issues among other things. Either way, you need to know this information before you can find the problem. An inexpensive digital thermometer is one of the most important things you can have on hand.

Balling Gun

A balling gun is another basic tool that you will want to have. Sometime the need arises to give a cow a bolus, which is a really big pill. The reasons for this vary. Prior to calving you might want to give Calcium/Magnesium/Phosphorus/Potassium boluses to prevent milk fever and other metabolic problems. You may need to give an aspirin bolus to help reduce swelling or relive pain. In cases of digestive issues, you might need to give a pro-biotic. A balling gun can also be used to give a cow a magnet, which is next on my list.


Every cow that comes on the property should be given a magnet. This is a very cheap insurance policy. If a cow eats a piece of sharp metal, such as a broken off piece of barbed wire bailed up in her hay, it can puncture her rumen causing what is called “hardware”. A cow with “hardware” is as good as dead. This can be easily prevented by giving the cow a magnet with your balling gun. If the cow swallows any sharp metal object, it will stick to the magnet. After spending several thousand dollars on an animal, a magnet is a no brainer. Cow magnets can be found at this link

Calf Bottle

If you are going to milk a cow then at some point you will have a calf to take care of. Now you might say that you don’t need a bottle because you plan to raise the calf on the cow. That’s fine and dandy, but you still need to have a good calf bottle on hand. What if the cow is down with milk fever or some other illness and the calf can’t nurse? What if the calf gets scours and you want to give it electrolytes? You need to have a calf bottle on hand for these reasons, even if you don’t plan to bottle feed your calves. I recommend purchasing the “Peach Teat” brand of bottle and nipple. These are by far the best on the market and well worth the price. No other nipple compares to the “Peach Teat”.

California Mastitis Test

A California Mastitis Test Kit is a very handy thing to have. Used properly, it detects mastitis in milk and can be used to find out which quarter has a high somatic cell count. See this post to learn step by step how to use a CMT test.

Hoof Knife/Nipper

A good hoof knife and a good pair of hoof nippers will come in handy as well. A cow needs to be able to travel freely and walk without lameness if she is going to be productive. Whether trimming a hoof that has grown too long or digging out an abscess, these are the tools of the trade. * Note: Be sure to get instruction from someone who has worked on hooves before you do too much cutting.


Having a couple of rope halters on hand is always a good idea. Whether leading or restraining a cow, a rope halter is basic bovine handling equipment. You will also want some smaller ones for calves. A stable halter that stays on the cow is another useful tool, as it stays on the cow and makes getting a hold of her easy and quick.

I V Kit

An I V set is something everyone should have on hand. With this you should stock a few bottles of Calcium Gluconate 23%. In the case of a cow going down with milk fever having these things on hand can mean the difference between life and death for your cow. You can read instructions for giving an I V at this link.

Enjoy your cow!

This list is far from a complete list of things you need, but I hope it was helpful. Perhaps I mentioned something you hadn’t thought of or maybe something that you had forgotten. Congratulations on taking the leap and adding a milk cow to your homestead. Cows have brought a great deal of joy to my life and hope they do to yours as well!

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Plant Profile~Milkweed

Plant Profile~ Milkweed

Common Milkweed
Asclepias syriaca


Milkweed is a downy perennial plant that has a solitary, erect stem that grows 3-6 feet high and bears opposite, large, oblong, short-petioled leaves. The leaves are filled with a poisonous milky white juice. It has clusters of dull purple flowers and it blooms from June to August. It has large warty seedpods that are filled with a fluffy silk. It is common throughout eastern North America, growing in fields, roadsides, fence rows, and uncultivated areas.

Milkweed has many practical uses on the homestead. Here are some of the things that you can do with this interesting plant.

Material Uses

It’s tough, stringy stalks can be used as a fiber to make string and rope as well as being woven into course fabric. American Indians even made fishing nets out of milkweed fiber. You can find instruction on making cordage from milkweed here and here.

The seed pods of common milkweed are filled with a fluffy, silk like substance that carries the seeds through the air. This material is often used by woodsman as tinder for starting fires. Early American pioneers used it to stuff pillows, mattresses and quilts. In World War II, there was a shortage of the material used to stuff life jackets. Milkweed floss, being six times more buoyant than cork, was used as a substitute.

The milkweed plant is listed in at least one book as a dye plant. With experimentation using different mordants, many unique colors can be produced. You can learn more about dying fiber naturally here.

Medicinal Uses

Milkweed is listed in many herbal books as having medicinal properties, but the Rodale herb Book warns that it should only be used by experienced herbalists. Although common milkweed is only mildly poisonous, some similar plants in the same family are very poisonous. The plant may be useful for kidney problems, dropsy, scrofula, bladder conditions , water retention, asthma, stomach problems, gallstones, arthritis, and bronchitis. It is also listed by some for reducing fever. American Indians used the milky juice to kill warts and ringworm. You should be aware that the Indians also used an infusion of the rootstock to produce temporary sterility, a possible unwanted side affect for us.


Milkweed is an important nectar source for honey bees. During the milkweed flow you can be sure to find many honey bees working the blossoms. Some wasps and flies also feed on the nectar. The Monarch Butterfly larvae feeds almost exclusively on milkweed. It has a natural resistance to the plants poison and predators pass them by because of the bad taste. It is worth keeping some milkweed around for the benefit of the Monarch, who has fallen on hard times as of late.


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Winter Care for the Family Milk Cow

Winter Care for the Family Cow

The green pastures of summer are but a memory and winter has taken it’s hold. Caring for a dairy cow in the winter has its own set of unique challenges. If you want to keep the milk flowing you need to meet these challenges head on and take a proactive approach.

Feed and Nutrition

When the pasture is lush and green and there is plenty of it, it is easy to produce large volumes of milk from the family cow. Once the grass is gone, every year without fail, I get emails from people whose cows have almost quit giving milk. My first question for them is about forage quality. When dairy cows are primarily eating hay, it needs to be high quality hay. High quality hay is hay that is cut early and is palatable. Often, I find out that the problem is related to the cattle eating poor quality hay, late cut grasses that were harvested well past their prime. If you are stuck feeding this kind of forage, you need to supplement their diet if you want them to keep producing milk. You will have to feed some grain or sprouted fodder to make up the difference. Always watch your cattle’s body condition and be ready to adjust your feeding plan to address any problems.

Make sure your cow gets all she wants to eat. The average Jersey cow will eat about 50lbs of dry matter a day. Cattle that stay outdoors in subfreezing weather will consume even more. The best way to keep a cow milking is to make sure she has all the forage she can eat. If there is nothing left in her feeder at the next feeding, you haven’t fed her enough.

It is also important to make sure that you feed supplemental minerals during the winter season. Many minerals, vitamins, and trace elements that cattle get from fresh green grass are not readily available in hay. The best way to meet these needs is by feeding Redmond salt and kelp.

Shelter and Bedding

Dairy cattle need a dry place out of the wind to rest. When a cow is laying down and chewing her cud, she is making milk. You want to encourage such activity! Having a dry, well bedded stall also prevents mastitis (which can be easily contracted in wet/dirty environments). At the very minimum, your milk cow should have a windbreak of some kind. Cold winds really take their toll on a cow. If you don’t provide enough shelter you had better make sure that her energy requirements are met, which will mean feeding some corn meal. Cows make the most milk when they are comfortable and the wise husbandman strives to keep them that way.


Since milk is 94% water it is important to make sure your cow has enough water. In the winter, freezing temperatures make it challenging to keep fresh, clean water available. If you water your cow with a stock tank, be sure to keep the ice chopped open or better yet install a stock tank heater. Without a heater, the ice keeps building up on the sides of the tank and your capacity is diminished. It is also important to make sure the water source is reliable. All water pipes that have the potential to freeze should be insulated and have heat tape installed. This will keep you from the drudgery of hauling water from the house 3 times a day!


When cows are on pasture, they keep themselves relatively clean. In the winter, not so much. One thing you can do to help keep your cow clean is to “stable clip” her. Stable clipping a cow means clipping her flanks and udder hair with a set of cattle clippers. Shorter hair on the flanks makes manure less likely to stick. Manure that does stick can be removed with a curry comb. Cattle should be brushed every day, it keeps them clean and they enjoy it.

Hopefully, some of these ideas will help you make it through the winter with your sanity and jug of milk. Spring will return again and life will get easier. Until then…

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Plant Profile ~ Bayberry


Myrica Bayberry, Candleberry, Sweet Gale, Wax-myrtle

The genus Myrica contains between 35-50 species of plants that range from shrubs to small trees. The generic name was derived from the Greek word μυρικη (myrike), meaning “fragrance.” It is native to Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America. The height varies from 2 to 12 ft, depending on variety and location. It prefers acid soil and has roots that fix nitrogen, allowing it to grow in poor soil. The bayberry, or candleberry, has long been an important plant in the new world. It has many uses, from medicine to candle making and was an important plant to the American colonists.

One of the most interesting uses of bayberry is that of candle making. In England, they were known as the “tallow shrub” and in the new world, the bayberry was very important to early Americans. Eric Sloane, in his book Seasons of America Past, mentions the process of rendering wax from the bayberry fruit.

Bayberry candles were made during late autumn, when the berries were ripest. The bayberries were thrown into a pot of boiling water, and their fat rose to the top and became a superior candle wax. Bayberry candles burned slowly and didn’t bend or melt during summer heat, and yielded a fine incense, particularly when the candle was snuffed. So prized were bayberry candles that the gathering of berries before autumn in America once brought a fifteen shilling fine.

Here is a great tutorial on how to render wax from the bayberries and make candles…

Bayberry fruit produces about 1 lb of wax for every 15 lbs of berries, so if you are interested in planting them for wax production it would be a good idea to plant a number of them. The southern varieties produce the most wax but this family gathered fruit from Myrica pensylvanica (found in the north) and made some very nice candles.

In addition to wax production, the bayberry has long been known as a useful medicinal plant. The Rodale Herb Book mentions that bayberry roots and bark are used as an astringent, tonic, and stimulant. The leaves (listed as poisonous in some references) are aromatic and a stimulant, it is said that a tea can be brewed and used as a gargle for sore throats, catarrh, and jaundice. The bark is used for diarrhea and dysentery; a decoction can be made and injected as an enema and can also be used as wash or poultice on sores and boils. Powdered root can be applied to wounds. It should also be noted that the foliage from one variety ( Myrica gale) has traditionally been used by campers as an insect repellent. Please note: The plant has been listed as an abortifacient and therefore should not be consumed by women who are, or might be, pregnant.

The wax coating on baybery fruit is indigestible for most birds but the Yellow-rumped Warbler is one North American bird that can utilize the energy-rich wax. The seeds are then dispersed in the Warbler’s droppings. Myrica species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species. The Brown-tail, Emperor Moth, and Winter Moth are notable examples.

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Joel Salatin at the ICSA

Joel Salatin recently spoke at The Idaho Center for Sustainable Agriculture. This stuff is pure gold. Take a few minutes and listen to Joel’s wisdom. You won’t be sorry.


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Wild Fur As Resource For Permaculture Systems


One thing that I appreciate about permaculture is how it takes into account the many symbiotic relationships on the farm, including those of wild things and woodlots, and how they effect the farm as a whole. While I have seen much written about timber harvesting, mushrooms, and the like; I haven’t seen much written about the potential of wild fur as a renewable and managed resource in zones 3 and 4.

Wild fur-bearers play an important role in the ecosystem on any farm or homestead. Many of these animals are also predators that keep rodents and other pests in check. These same predators also kill and eat livestock when given the chance and can cut into the bottom line, sometimes in devastating ways. When we start adding livestock to our properties we run the risk of causing predator populations to increase. Some fur bearers, such as raccoons, foxes and coyotes can develop mange and rabies if their populations get too large for the given area. These diseases are a threat to both people and livestock. Beavers, if left to their own, can flood large portions of land that you may not want underwater. The point of this is simple, wild fur bearing animals need to be managed the same as trees, plants and other living things on our farms and homesteads.

These animals also represent some added income potential. Harvested animal’s pelts can be sold raw to traveling fur buyers, fleshed-dried-stretched hides can be shipped to auction houses and sold, or you can tan your own hides and craft them into gloves, hats and other garments that can be used or sold. Harvesting fur and crafting it into warm winter clothing is a very satisfying experience that draws one even closer to the land that sustains them, as well as removing one more thing from the “have to buy” list. In recent years the price of wild North American fur has made a come back, making fur harvesting profitable again. Properly managed, a homestead trapline will produce a regular supplemental income and a healthy ecosystem.

What animals can be harvested for their fur? North America has been blessed with a large number of fur bearing animals. The following animals have useable/salable hides, muskrats, beavers, nutria, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, fishers, marten, mink, weasel, lynx, bobcat, skunk, possum and wolves.

Here is a list of resources that may be helpful if you’re interested in tapping into the potential of wild fur

Trapping North American Furbearers by Stanley Hawbaker
Guide to Trapping
NTA Trappers Handbook
Tan Your Hide!
The Ultimate Guide to Skinning and Tanning: A Complete Guide to Working with Pelts, Fur, and Leather
Minnesota Trapline Products

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