The Siberian Peashrub, A Useful Homestead Perennial (Plant Profile)

Siberian Peashrub (Plant Profile)

Caragana arborescens, which is commonly known as the Siberian Peashrub, is a plant with huge potential for homestead and permaculture plantings.

The Siberian Peashrub is a tall bush that can reach heights of 6 to 19 ft. The plant has thorns, its flowers are yellow, and leaves are dark green. It is hardy to -40 F, prefers full sun, and can tolerate dry conditions well. It is native to Asia and eastern Europe and has been used for food, fiber, and dye by people in that region for centuries. It is a legume that fixes nitrogen in the soil, a pioneer plant and a producer of large numbers of seed pods. Lets examine some of the homestead applications for this interesting plant…

Chicken Feed

One of the most attractive things about the Siberian Peashrub is its potential as a source for chicken feed. The seeds of this plant are 36% protein and contain 12% fatty oils. Chickens are said to love them! The pods can be harvested, dried, and fed to the birds in the winter or you could let the birds harvest them themselves. It is recorded that Siberian peasant farmers during WW2 overwintered their laying flocks on peashrub seeds. A perennial plant that can produce high protein chicken feed, what more could you ask for!

Nitrogen Fixing

In addition to a chicken feed source, as a legume, the peashrub fixes nitrogen to the soil and makes it available to other plants around it.

Pollinator Attractant

The peashrub’s fragrant yellow flowers attract honey bees and other pollinators and are a source of nectar. Anytime you can attract pollinators, you increase the potential of all your crops.

Hedge/Living Fence and Windbreak

Peashrubs, having thorns, could be planted closely in rows to make a living, edible hedge or fence. They are a fast growing plant and can provide a windbreak in a relatively short amount of time.

Erosion Control

This plant’s extensive root system makes it ideal for erosion control.

Fiber and Dyes

The fiber from the peashrub stalks can be used to make a strong cordage. In Russia, the plant was traditionally used to produce a blue dye.

Conclusion

As you can see, this plant could be a useful addition to many homesteads. There are numerous possibilities for incorporating peashrubs into permaculture design. With the rising costs of feeding chickens, the idea of a 10 ft tall, perennial plant that produces copious amounts of 36% chicken feed should be enough to make one think about this interesting plant. It should be noted that some states list this plant as “invasive”, so please do your own research before planting.

You can view more North Country Farmer “Plant Profiles” at This Link.

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The Nourishing Homestead: One Back-to-the-Land Family’s Plan for Cultivating Soil, Skills, and Spirit

The Nourishing Homestead

The Nourishing Homestead: One Back-to-the-Land Family’s Plan for Cultivating Soil, Skills, and Spirit
Softcover, 352 pages

There is no other way I can begin this review than to tell you up front, this is the best homesteading book I have ever read. It is also the best book of any kind that I have read in a long, long time. Those who know me, know these are not proclamations that I lightly throw out there. This is a masterpiece! This book should be mandatory reading for anyone considering pursuing the homestead life!

Ben Hewitt and his wife, Penny, have two children and homestead in Vermont, where they use what they have coined “practiculture” to provide 90% of their calorie needs. They raise chickens, cattle, sheep, and goats. They raise an impressive amount of vegetables, of the highest nutrient and mineral content, as well as blueberries and other perennial crops. In addition to food, they produce and process fiber, firewood, and sawlogs. The children trap and hunt, and the whole family practices a wide array of traditional handcrafts like basket making, carving, and hide tanning.

This book covers much of the practical “how-to” aspects of raising food with “deep nutrition”. This is valuable information for sure, but not the most valuable information in the book. Hewitt has a deep and piercing understanding of true “homestead accounting”. He has an understanding of industrialism, the modern economy, and what homesteading is really about. His understanding of these things far exceeds most of the homesteading authors out there today. To top it off, Hewitt has the ability to articulate it in a poetic, yet easy to understand manner. Hewitt is a gifted writer and this book is so easy to read, and flows so effortlessly that one cannot stop once they have started.

Although the Hewitts don’t share my Christian faith, we do share a tremendous amount of things that include the way we choose to live, the way we raise our children, and a love for the land and its bounty. Ben Hewitt says a lot of the same things about economics and homesteading that I’ve been saying. He just flat out says it a lot better than I do. I’d give my right eye to sit down and have a beer with Ben. And I can guarantee that if you read this book you will be better off for it.

Posted in agrarianism, Book Reviews, homesteading, permaculture | 4 Comments

Homestead Chickens with Janet Garman (Podcast)

Homestead Chicken Raising (Podcast)

Janet Garman, of Timber Creek Farm, joins Scott M Terry to talk about homestead chickens. Janet has been raising chickens for many years and has written a book on the subject titled, “Chickens From Scratch” . Whether you are just getting started with chickens or have had them for years, this episode will have useful information that you can put to use at your place. We cover equipment needed, feeding, predator control, starting chicks, breeds and much more.

Links from the show…
Janet’s Book, Chickens From Scratch
Timber Creek Farm
Timber Creek Farm on Facebook
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Check Out Current Events Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Christian Farm and Homestead on BlogTalkRadio

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Nature Study… Agrarian Style

Nature Study...Agrarian Style -

Since we are what I like to call “Charlotte Mason style agrarian homeschoolers”, people often ask how we do the nature study portion of our educating. I enjoy talking about this, because to me, nature study is one of the most important and rewarding things we can do with our children. Nature study, for us, is more of an everyday, all the time pursuit and less of a “subject” or part of a school day. We live and breath “nature study”.

The first and most important thing that everyone needs to remember is that for children to understand the natural world and God’s creation they must spend time outdoors. Although good literature, accurate field guides, and the like are important; nothing can replace spending time in the outdoors observing the wonders of creation. Seeing it…feeling it…smelling it….tasting it, these are what matter most. While all people rely on the natural world for food and fiber, our family does so in more direct way than most. We make our living from the land and our work is primarily outdoors. Our jobs and chores ebb and flow with the seasons and the weather. For our family, the outdoor world is not unfamiliar or foreign. It’s more like an old friend. When not working outdoors, we spend our leisure time there as well. Depending on the time of year, we might take off after chores to pick wild blueberries or black caps. We might decide at the spur of the moment to hike into the backwoods and build a camp from scratch, cook up some supper on a cast iron fry pan, and sleep under the stars. In the fall, we scout for fur and set traps. We often just take walks to see what we can see.

Seeing, my friends, is an art. In our age, only about one in twenty people see the single mink track in the mud on the edge of the stream, or the common red poll nest hidden in plain sight in the buck brush. Most people would walk right past the sleeping whitetail fawn without ever noticing her curled up on the edge of the hedgerow or the tiny salamander that blends perfectly into the rock he is sitting on. Most people are too distracted and absent-minded to notice their surroundings. To be observant, this is what we try to teach our children to be. If you can teach them to be observant, the rest falls into place.

How does one teach children to be observant? One way is through good literature, books that instill in the minds of children the intricate details of the natural world and it’s communities. These books may be read during “regular school hours” but for us they often are read at other times. Sometimes they are read for family readings, but many are read independently by the children because they love this sort of stuff. Here is a list of some of my favorites…

The Handbook of Nature Study
The Burgess Bird Book for Children
The Burgess Animal Book for Children
Scratching the Woodchuck: Nature on an Amish Farm
Our Bird Friends and Foes
Secrets of the Woods
The Natural History of Selborne
Great Possessions : An Amish Farmer’s Journal

Other books that are helpful in this area are good field guides. Our children count their various field guides as their prized possessions. Often after a trip to the woods or day working on the fence line, the first thing the children do when returning home is run to get their field guides to identify some new plant or creature they have discovered. Here are some that we really like…

Tracking and the Art of Seeing: How to Read Animal Tracks and Sign
A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians: Eastern and Central North America
Peterson Field Guide to Mammals of North America: Fourth Edition
A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and central North America
Up North Again
Smithsonian Birds of North America
The National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Rocks and Minerals
The Tree Identification Book : A New Method for the Practical Identification and Recognition of Trees

I know that many people have formal “nature study” projects during the normal school day. We have found that for the most part, nature study projects take care of themselves. It is a joy to watch the children develop certain interests in the many areas of natural science. My oldest son, John, is a lover of birds. In his “spare time” he loves to read about birds. The boy is a walking bird encyclopedia. He keeps lists of all the different birds he has seen, has video he has shot of many birds (mostly for the audio of the songs and calls) and he has a sketch book filled with just about every bird you can think of. Each of these sketches has been colored with colored pencils and marked with size, wing span and other information. His latest endeavor is painting birds. I should point out that none of these things were asked of him. None of these things were our idea as parents. Each of my children have developed similar interests and started their own projects. My experience has been that if you teach them to observe creation and give them the tools they need, “nature study” projects take care of themselves.

Some might wonder why nature study should have such a prominent place in a Christian’s education. We live in an age where mankind has been has, for all practical purposes, been removed from his natural surroundings, removed from the basic functions of life. This is a problem. God formed man from the dust of the earth, charged him with the task of turning the wilderness into a garden and gave him, within the natural world, all he needed for sustenance. The bible itself, speaks to us in language steeped in the common knowledge of nature and the workings of creation. When we study the natural world we can see the work of the creator and meditate on his great and mighty works. To neglect the study of nature we risk becoming gnostic and neo-platonic in our thinking.

This is, in a nutshell, our basic philosophy regarding nature study. I hope that if your family hasn’t included the study of creation in your schooling, you will consider doing so. It is a very rewarding part of my family’s life and I’m sure it will be in yours as well. If you are like me, a lover of nature study, perhaps I have mentioned a book or idea that you haven’t seen before. Whichever the case, May God bless you and guide you as you educate your children in His ways.

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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.

Nutrition

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.

Summary

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…

Thermometer

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.

Magnets

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.

Halters

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

Culture

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.

Insects

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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