Raising Chickens for Beginners

Raising Chickens for Beginners

Having some knowledge of raising chickens for beginners or knowledge of any kind before tackling a new project or venture always helps.

First Flock for a Beginner Raising Chickens

When I got my first batch of 20 full-grown chickens, I only had the very basic knowledge of chickens needs for survival. This knowledge came from an older friend that had expericence raising backyard chickens for a long time. His set-up wasn’t exactly the Taj Mahal, just food, water, a pen, and shelter. One thing though that he had that I didn’t was he could let his chickens out during the day to free-range because he lived in the country. I, on the other hand, lived in town and had to keep mine penned.

chicken

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

DIY Chicken Coop and Pen

To give my chickens as much freedom as possible, I built a DIY chicken coop and pen. The pen was almost forty feet long by about fifteen feet wide. For the coop, I reconstructed the bottom of an old treehouse fully enclosed for their shelter. I built boxes for the hens to lay eggs and a place for them to roost. The mistake I made was trying to brace up that long of pen by using two-by-fours on a diagonal, well I never dreamed those chickens would climb right up that and escape! So I had to fix that by putting chicken wire over the top about five feet from the edge of the pen where the two-by-four went to the top. That did the job and no more escaped chickens in the backyard.

chickens

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Essentials for Raising Chickens

The man I bought my chickens from was pretty educated with them. He gave lots of advice raising chickens for beginners. A plus was he sold feed, feeders, gravity flow waterers, all the essentials. The grain that I bought from him was a layer feed that he had specially mixed from the local farm elevator. A mixture of cracked corn, milo, and supplement which they devoured. Crushed oyster shells was a part of their diet, apparently helps in the chickens’ digestive breakdown. Both men that I got my info from told me to do that or I wouldn’t have known. I guess it worked because I always had healthy, good layers.

chickens eating from feeder

Photo by Arisa Chattasa on Unsplash

Egg Selling Business

Whatever you do, the more you fool with it the more you learn. I learned pretty fast that the twenty chicken egg selling business for my boys wasn’t going to be profitable for me. Although my family enjoyed all the eggs. Hey, I didn’t care though because I liked messing with them, kinda therapeutic stress reliever after work. I tried to spoil them every way I could since they couldn’t free range. A big expense that really shoots your profit is buying dried meal worms for them. Dried meal worms is like chicken meth; they go crazy over them.

eggs

Photo by Court on Unsplash

Spoiled Chickens

That wasn’t an everyday affair so me and the boys would dig or find earthworms; way cheaper with the same effect. So, I got a little smarter with the worm to cut down on the labor for finding them. I put about three or four pieces of used plywood boards and laid them randomly in their pen. Why did I do this? Have you ever been outside and turned over a log, brick, old tire, piece of tin, etc. anything that held moisture under it? Yes, if your part of the country has worms and there is some moisture, there’s probably gonna be worms under them objects.Voila! I invented and easy worm smorgasboard for my spoiled chickens. You can use anything flat and easy to lift. About every two days I would do this for them and they were ready!

Bringing the Range to the Chickens

Another tip raising chickens for beginners. Since free range was out of the question, mainly in fear of a loose dog in town that might get them, myself and the boys, mainly out of curiosity, dumped mounds of leaves and cut grass in their pen. If they couldn’t get on the range, hey, bring the range to them. That was another hit with them. I swear you could pile it six foot high and twenty chickens would have it ground level remarkably fast. The chickens loved to scratch the leaves and grass. Scratching kinda looks like a chicken pealing out or hey! Maybe a dirt bike throwing a Rooster tail in the dirt, no pun intended. Anyway I reckon that’s their way of searching for bugs plus maybe feels like bare feet on soft carpet.

The Clean-up Crew

After spending time and testing the appetites of my beloved docile chickens, I came to the conclusion that they rank somewhere in the midst of the clean up crew. The clean up crew being buzzards, opossums, coyotes, basically any animal that will eat anything. I never ate any of my own chickens, but I do love eating chicken. Kinda makes me wonder how a good ole fried buzzard would taste, but I’ll probably pass.

Chicken Feed

My chickens were never without the basics of layer feed, crushed oyster shells, and fresh water. Before we had to get rid of them, my clean up conclusion came from throwing solid table scraps into their pen, which anything was a plus for them. Most anything I threw in there as far as vegetable and bones was picked clean or gone! I hate to say it, but chicken bones was one of their favorites also. You really can’t blame the little cannibals on that one.

I’ve read where some people grow fodder to cut down on costs. You can read about this here.

Unusual Food Choice

So for the last food item I experimented with, which this won’t save you any money, it was just out of curiosity. I would have never guessed, but for some reason I opened up a can of Friskies shredded moist cat food and put it in with them. The scenario was like piranha eating a small hog trying to cross the river in Brazil. They cleaned that can dry in a minute, just unbelievable, not to mention with twenty chickens kinda funny!

brown chickens

Photo by William Moreland on Unsplash

 

Raising Chickens for Beginners

Well, all in all, my cinnamon brown chickens were healthy and good layers. I’m still pretty green on knowledge. But I hope some of my personal experiences can give you tips for raising chickens for beginners. And you raise some that are happy and healthy and stay in the pen!

Chicken Supplies (affiliate links)

Feeder

Waterer 

Meal Worms 

Oyster Shells 

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Top Mistake Raising Pigs

Top Mistake Raising Pigs

Raising Pigs in the Heartland

Before I get started telling about my friend’s experience with the top mistake raising pigs, a little about me. I consider myself fortunate being from the Heartland of this God-blessed United States of America and southern part of Illinois.

I once heard a southerner call this area, which I never heard before, Little Georgia. (Which by the way is where my wife is from) Apparently this part of the country appealed to them and made them feel at home.

I would say it is a great place to live, as far as citizens go, but taxes and crooked politicians are driving people out of Illinois. Here’s one reason I stay; check out this gorgeous view!Another gorgeous sunset view at my favorite homestead!

My family and I have stayed so far, it’s hard to leave when you have so many ties to family and friends. I was born in Hamilton County in the sixties and lived in the suburbs of Walpole til the age of 4 til my folks divorced. Walpole had a population of about 30, so in other words we lived in the boonies.

 

Most of you have never heard of Hamilton County Illinois, but maybe some of you have heard of Jerry Sloan. He played and coached for the Chicago Bulls and coached the Utah Jazz. Yes, Jerry’s from Hamilton County, been lucky enough to meet and talk to Jerry a time or two. He’s as down home as you can get. When he was coaching or playing though, then it was game on! I’ll always remember Mr. Sloan’s mild demeanor.

Stereotyping People who Raise Hogs

One thing that I think to myself that everyone might have the most in common is stereotyping. Whether you admit it or not, it’s almost natural. North, South, East, or West, you probably have some sort of view or thought about the region of the country from what you’ve heard or experienced. Probably more from what you’ve heard than what you’ve experienced I’ll guess.

As for myself, for a long time New York, New York was pretty undesirable to me. Most of us outsiders tend to lump the whole state of New York in the mix with the city. Other than New York City and Buffalo, New York state is pretty rugged and rural with mountain ranges. Everybody in New York is not in the mafia and far from it!

Photo by Sam Trotman on Unsplash

You think also of someone from Nashville, TN being a country singer or a country boy, well that ain’t the scenario either! Just ’cause you have a drawl don’t mean you’re a country boy.

Photo by Brandon Wilson on Unsplash

As for my state of Illinois, no I’m not from Chicago, not related to Capone, but yes we do hold the record over Louisiana for sending governors to prison.

Photo by Christian DeKnock on Unsplash

My region is known for its coal mines, oil wells, and agriculture, either grain or livestock. My own personal experience with the farm is mainly the grain side of it. Baling hay, disking the ground and cultivating the crops, but here they don’t cultivate anymore, just spray.

Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

Raising Livestock

As far as the livestock part goes, I personally haven’t participated much. I have helped castrate pigs, mainly me just catching them and handing them to the owner, we’ll call him Fidel Castrator. Then one time a full-grown bull, still don’t know why the neighbor wanted that done, but it was an experience! The most experience I’ve had with livestock so to speak is with chickens and dogs, as well as bees.

On the other hand of livestock and wild game, I’m a lot more experienced with butchering, preserving the meat, and utilization of the animal. Now that I’ve wasted a good portion of your precious time, I will tell you a true story, especially for those beginners raising pigs, that will save you time and headache going to the market.

 

Raising and Loading Pigs

A friend of mine and his mom and dad, for the last couple of years got five to six pigs to up to butcher for the year. Apparently the loading session to get those pigs in the truck turned into four hours of Hades! Pat said, “I backed up up to the pen, which is close to the road because my truck stuck out in the road halfway. My dad built this chute for the pigs to go up into my truck.”

Photo by Christina Warner on Unsplash

They had the pigs ever since they were little and figured no problem on loading them as so many other people do. The situation changed drastically I guess when the new object appeared at the end of the hog ramp. That is Pat’s truck.

Something different, something new, never makes a hog go up the chute. (Nice rhyme, eh!)

Well that’s not necessarily true. Apparently there is ONE thing that will make them go up the chute.

After about FOUR hours of trying to load these hogs into Pat’s truck, (evidently they chose to jump out over the sides of the chute rather than going into the truck) Pat said, “My ole man lost his (in other words) feces.” Pat’s mom has conceal and carry, and she was out there also helping with loading pigs, and threatened to “shoot every bleeping one of them if they didn’t get into the truck!”

After hours of verbal abuse and threatening physical abuse to the pigs that never occurred, someone said, “Go in there and check the internet!”

 

The Secret Sauce for Loading Pigs

Five minutes later, Pat’s mom stuck her head out the front door and yelled, “BREAD!”

She brought a loaf of bread down and tore it into chunks leading up the ramp. Pat said that was like pig cocaine, they all followed the bread trail right into the truck.

Photo by Orlova Maria on Unsplash

Past articles that I’ve read say if you’re taking hogs to the market, no matter how tame they are, you better back your trailer in and open it at least a week before to let the hogs get used to it or you’re probably gonna have trouble.

Maybe this little bit of information will make your day go better when it comes that time for loading pigs.

Photo by Laura Anderson on Unsplash

 

Maybe if you don’t take this advice you’ll go viral on YouTube for going insane loading hogs. I guess sometimes loading pigs would make the Pope cuss.

Take care and good luck!

 Top Mistake Raising Pigs

Not knowing how to get your pigs loaded with no fuss!

Written by Brian

 

Christmas Gifts for Gardeners and Homesteaders

Christmas Gifts for Gardeners and Homesteaders

The Best Christmas Gifts for Gardeners or Homesteaders

Ever wonder what Christmas gift to get for the avid gardener or homesteader in your life? These ideas will help you get the best gifts for gardeners and homesteaders!

My husband is hard to buy for sometimes and, being an amazing gardener, he absolutely loves any practical gifts I give him for improving his life on our small homestead. Here are some of the gifts I gave him that he loved! Weedeater, leaf blower, rubber boots, leather work boots, etc. See below for more details.  I’ve gotten some awesome Christmas gifts that I love that are super helpful in the garden. After all men and women both garden and homestead!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link. Please see my disclosure for more details.

 

Practical Gifts for Gardeners and Homesteaders

  • So you know your gardener or homesteader would prefer a practical gift but just don’t know what actually is practical? Practical varies from person to person, but basically something they can use to make their life easier.
  • Some people just make a little basket with some gloves, a spade, and seed packets.  While this is a great gift, I hope to give you some “outside the basket” ideas in all price ranges that make for practical gifts

 

So Here’s the List of Great Christmas Gift Ideas for Gardeners and Homesteaders

1. Leather Boots

Leather boots are a great choice for men and women who spend a lot of time working outdoors. Or you could get them just a really nice pair to wear for special occasions!

My son loves these!

2. Rubber Boots

My husband got me these insulated pair of rubber boots one year for Christmas and it is one of the BEST gifts ever! I never knew how much cold I could stand as long as me feet were warm and dry. Although these are the ones he got me, these are the ones I got him! Check it out here!

3. Insulated Socks

I know everyone laughs about giving someone socks for Christmas, but I gave a pair to someone and 3 years later they are still talking about these socks and how great they are!

4. Weedeater

This is an expensive gift and my husband only will use a Stihl weedeater, but my brother-in-law gave my husband’s mom a lightweight lithium battery weedeater like this one and she absolutely loved it!

5. Leaf Blower

Even if you don’t have many leaves, a blower is great for blowing grass and debris off of walkways!

6. Shop Vac

A shop vac or wet/dry vac is so useful for many things, especially cleaning up the mess in the garage when a project is being made.

7. Pressure Canner

If you can you already know the value of this awesome tool! A newbie in your life just starting to garden? Get them a pressure canner to preserve those garden goodies. Check out this post all about pressure canners.

8. Water Bath Canner

Next to a pressure canner is a water bath canner, great for making all those yummy homemade jams and jellies!

9. Canning Set

This is one thing I CANNOT live without! I lived without it for several years and once I finally got it for such a reasonable price I can’t believe I took so long!

10. Electric Juicer

This is not a necessary item for just juicing, but it is a HUGE time save when making tomato juice or blackberry juice. For years we used a manual hand-crank juicer and it was still better than my mom’s method of a wooden paddle, mesh strainer and cheesecloth. But nothing compares to the electric juicer. This is the one I have and use.

11. Garden Cart

I don’t have one of these yet but my mom does and is so handy in the garden. This is on my list this year! hint hint

12. Coveralls

My hubby always has coveralls and one year he got me a pair for Christmas. Another one of my favorite gifts. So handy for going out in the weather to feed chickens and dogs. Not to mention playing in the snow.

13. Heavy Work Coat

Everyone needs a heavy work coat if you live in a colder climate. Unfortunately, I’m not able to live a in a 70 degree year round climate although I would love to. Maybe one of these years. Anyway, this is my heavy coat and it is so warm and durable!

14. Shovel

Forever we just had one shovel and then my boys got old enough to be able to use one so we invested in a couple more like these.

15. Rake

Every gardener needs a rake for leveling out soil and raking up debris.

16. Loppers

This is another one of those items we only had one of but we have a couple hundred trees that the grass needs cut around that you can’t do with the mower or weedeater. Now we have 4 and they come in handy.

17. Wheelbarrow

I only have a 3 wheel wheelbarrow but I’ve heard that some people prefer the 4 wheel one.

18. Leaf Rake

If you have trees, you definitely need a leaf rake!

19. Small Spade or Trowel



We use a small spade a lot for smaller plants and for transplanting. Or a small trowelBoth of these are great!

20. Insulated Thermos

I love the insulated mugs and cups to keep my coffee hot and my water cold. You could even have them personalized with cute sayings for gardeners.

21. Watering Can

Seems like my watering can always gets abused and breaks for some reason. I’m always in need of a new one and bonus if they’re pretty!

22. Hoe

While a tiller is awesome, a hoe can get a lot closer to the plants to get the weeds out.

23. Tiller

A tiller is a must have at our place. This is an expensive gift, but ours has lasted 20 years so far. This is the brand we’ve used and used!

24. Gas-powered post-hole digger

Again an expensive gift so do your research. I couldn’t find the exact one we have. If you have to put up a fence or even plant some large trees, this tool will help you get it done a whole lot faster and easier than the manual one.

25. Manual post-hole digger

For smaller jobs or if you don’t have or know how to use a gas-powered post-hole digger, this one’s for you! Free workout included lol.

26. Chainsaw

My hubby only uses a Stihl. They are more expensive but are so much more durable than the cheaper ones we’ve used. A chainsaw is a must as we have a wood stove to help offset our heating costs.

27. Chainsaw Blades

Get the proper ones for whatever chainsaw you have. If you cut a lot of wood, you can always use another set.

28. Chainsaw blade sharpener


Again, if you cut a lot of wood you might as well sharpen your own blades. This is a unique gift for a homesteader!

29. Small Pruners

This set of small clippers are great for pruning your plants.

30. Leather Gloves



A nice pair of leather work gloves makes a great gift for gardeners to manage those pesky thorns on roses, blackberries, etc.

Hope you enjoyed this list of Christmas gift ideas for gardeners and homesteaders

If you enjoyed and would like to give your gardener or homesteader one of these gifts, I would greatly appreciate you using my Amazon affiliate links to purchase at no additional cost to you! I truly only recommend things that have worked well for me and my family!

To Prune or Not to Prune That is the Question

To Prune or Not to Prune That is the Question

Prune or not to prune: that is the question. Should you prune your peppers and tomato plants? Does it give a larger yield? Well I’ll answer the question for you in this post written by my amazing hubby!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link.

My Previous Experience Gardening

Since I was a young boy, my family has always grown a garden. We owned a village lot behind our house that we used for a garden, or truck patch, in the mid-1970s. We just planted it for basic Midwest canning or freezing foods, that I recall, for the winter.

Not to get off the subject much, but our garden was HUGE. A regular lot for a house and yard…only there was no house. My younger brother and I tilled that piece of ground every year with a 5 HP chain Dr. Husky front tine tiller. By the way, I’ve got the tiller now. Brings back a lot of memories that I hated then but cherish now.

Usually, every other year, we cleaned out somebody’s horse and mule barn to put all natural fertilizer on the patch. The most truckloads of manure hauled in one day that I can remember was five. All that was done by pitchfork! By the time me and my brother cleaned that manure packed barn down to the dirt, the ole mules thought they had shrunk a foot.

A few times my stepdad just spread 12-12-12 fertilizer over it and tilled it in. As I said before, usually just the basics plants like green beans, corn, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and potatoes. The only real herb that I can recall that my mother wanted planted was dill for canning pickles.

How to Plant a Garden

There was never any special way of planting anything, that I remember, other than digging a hole for a tomato plant or stuffing an onion bulb in the ground about an inch. We hilled our potatoes and my stepdad bought a little manual push planter for green beans and corn. At that point in time, I really didn’t give a rip. I just wanted to get my job done and go do something with the neighbor boys that evening.

Keeping Out Weeds

Really, all in all, that part wasn’t the hardest part of gardening like you would think. The hardest part at that time for keeping a productive garden, and to this day, is keeping the weeds and insects out. All these plastic rolls and environmentally sound material for controlling the weeds around your plants at the time were unheard of.

We manually pulled the weeds from around the plants and hoed whatever you could. Straw was the only thing we used and that was around the potatoes. Why we didn’t use it around everything else I don’t know, but at the time I didn’t care.

Enjoying the Fruits of our Non-pruned Plants

We did so much enjoy though the reaping of our labor later. Just like life folks it’s hard sometimes but eventually it pays off for you. Years later after I left the nest, got married and had two boys, I fell in love with it.

Apparently, something I used to hate but was always in my blood, the smell of fresh turned up dirt. I’ve been around farmers and farms all my life, and if you know what I’m talking about there’s nothing like smelling a freshly disked up field or the inside of an old grain truck. It’s in your blood or it ain’t I guess. And eventually comes back to you.

Learning to Prune Tomatoes and Peppers

Well, in the last two years they finally took away my landline phone, and I had to get one of those smart phones. Yes it was a sad day, all my buddies now in their 50s almost had a heart attack! I was now in the whatever century it is.

So being one of those geniuses now, that I am, I discovered YouTube. YouTube, well I guess I can say, it can be entertaining and educational and, Lord have mercy, everything on it I reckon you can imagine.

Well, after looking up old Jerry Lee Lewis film and cooking videos, I looked up healthy plants for tomatoes. I’ve always planted the garden the old way as usual, still pulling weeds and using a little (affiliate link) Sevin dust if I have to.

My First Experience Pruning

I got onto a pruning channel on YouTube which, like always, there’s a bunch of them, like every other thing. I studied them a little and got some advice from more than just one site.

Never in my life had I pruned a tomato plant or a bell pepper plant. I learned where the suckers are on the tomatoes and where to prune on the bell peppers also.

Results

This year of 2019, I had 70 bell peppers, 16 tomato plants, along with the same amount of jalapeño peppers that I pruned just to try it. The final result one by one I observed was bell peppers usually are about 3 foot high here in Southern Illinois, the production was no more, the time taken was quite a bit, and you had to bend over about two feet more to pick them.

The tomatoes didn’t seem to produce anymore but maybe got taller. Pretty well the same results with the jalapeños. If I were to trim anything, in my personal opinion, would be the leaves of the tomatoes touching the ground.

Natural Fertilizer

Far as fertilizing, folks, especially tomatoes, if you have access to turkey or chicken manure, put it on your ground after fall harvest and till it in. I have an abundant supply around here but here is a warning: like I said after fall harvest because it is a hot fertilizer and will burn your plants up probably if applied in the spring.

One more warning, if you have close neighbors while applying turkey manure you could have trouble! The smell is very pungent but is a fantastic fertilizer for maters.

Final Thoughts on Whether to Prune or Not to Prune

So to answer the original question I can only give you the answer for me and my set-up, final answer Not to Prune!

7 Steps to Propagate Tame Blackberries

7 Steps to Propagate Tame Blackberries

7 Steps to Propagate Tame Blackberries

We grow tame or thornless blackberries and can make some extra money from them. Well, did you know that you can propagate these blackberries to basically double your crop? Here are the steps we took to propagate these blackberries.

Step 1

Backing up, blackberries (tame or wild) spread by once a long stem touches the ground, and gets in contact with the soil it roots and then starts a new plant.

The first thing to do is find where a new plant has started from the old one. You will see one of the stems from the old plant touching the ground and then usually a single long stem is coming up from the ground.

Step 2

From the old plant clip off the stem close to the ground. You should have just the new stem left of the new plant.

Step 3

Dig up the new plant left in the ground. Be sure to leave a pretty good sized root ball intact.

Step 4

Dig a new hole a little larger than the one you just dug up. Add any soil amendments.

Step 5

Plant the new plant in the hole and backfill making sure their are no air pockets.

Step 6

Water well, add root stimulator according to the directions, and mulch. (We use straw)

Step 7

(optional but will make your life a lot easier when it comes to harvesting)

Make a trellis out of two by fours and wire for the blackberries to climb on.

That’s All

You did it! If you’re like us, you were able to just double your plants and in the next couple of years double your crop! Blackberries don’t usually produce unless the canes are two years old. People around here pay quite a bit of money for blackberries and they’re pretty easy to grow. I personally don’t think the tame ones are as sweet as wild blackberries but they still taste good and you don’t have to mess with thorns.

Vintage Ford Tractor Makeover

Vintage Ford Tractor Makeover

My husband Brian is an extremely creative person. He loves to come up with inventive ideas for just about anything and our vintage Ford tractor is no exception! See below for the amazing before-and-after of this tractor. Trust me you’ve never seen anything like it!

*This contains affiliate links which means I get a small commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you*

As you can see the tractor is pretty rust and greasy. My hubby wire brushed and degreased everything before priming. He likes to use Awesome degreaser.  Then he got it all cleaned up. Next was time to prime. He uses Rustoleum spray primer.

Here are some pictures of the in progress tractor.

After priming it is time to paint. He used Rustoleum engine primer for the engine before painting that. Also, he likes to paint with Rustoleum spray paint (red, white, and blue).

We searched and searched for a place to get a new Logo and finally found one on ebay I think. He found the perfect blue seat at Rural King. He replaced One of the large tires for now and will replace the others as we can afford it.

Side note: He got all of this done and it was up and running for about a day! Now we’re waiting on the carburetor to be rebuilt to get it going again.

Well, are you ready for the big reveal! Here comes, let me know what you think of this vintage Ford tractor makeover in the comments below!

I call it the Patriotic tractor! Pretty cool, I had to get the pictures taken because this is probably the cleanest it’s going to be lol! Let me know what you think about this tractor in the comments below!

Want to learn more about homesteading? 

See my post  Small Homesteading: The Beginner’s Guide.

 

Need Help with Pinterest?

I Can Do That!

 

 

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Seeds or Plants: Which Should You Choose?

Seeds or Plants: Which Should You Choose?

You may wonder whether or not you should choose seeds to plant or just purchase plants already started when planning your garden.  We do a combination of both and I will tell you which ones do well.

*this post contains affiliate links which means I get a small commission if you make a purchase through these links at no additional cost to you. However, I only recommend products I love and use!

From Seeds

We always have a fairly large garden–between a large garden and a truck patch–over the years we have learned what works best for us regarding whether or not we buy plants already started or seed packets.

1. Lettuce

Any lettuce we plant always comes from seeds. In our area, Valentine’s Day is when everyone usually plants their lettuce seed.

However, we have a low garden spot that always takes a while to dry out after the spring rains so we wait until a lot later (around Mother’s Day) before we plant our lettuce. I love buttercrunch lettuce.

Basically, we plant our whole garden around the same time. Our lettuce always does well even thought we plant it that late.

2. Carrots

Carrots are one of those things we always plant directly in our garden with seeds. Once the seedlings emerge, you do have to go in and thin those puppies out to produce good carrots. Get organic seeds here.

3. Green Beans

Green beans are one of our largest crops. They are one of the few green vegetables my whole family eats! We can a lot of green beans.

Also, we always plant bush beans so I can’t give any recommendations on pole beans. Bush beans do fantastic planted directly into the garden.

4. Zucchini

When you plant zucchini, you hill up a mound of dirt and plant three seeds. One hill will about feed a county, so unless you have a plan for getting rid of all that zucchini, plant one hill!

If not, you might find yourself eating things such as zucchini pizza, zucchini apple pie, zucchini anything you name it.

5. Okra

Okra is another one of those plentiful producers. A few plants will do you. So you probably won’t need the whole seed packet unless you have a plan.

However, okra should be harvested when it is small. If you let it get too big, it gets tough. We freeze it instead of canning it. If you like gumbo and all that jazz, you may use it more than we do. We basically just like it fried.

6. Potatoes

While these are not “seeds” per se, they are grown from the eyes of the potato. We always plant these in a hilled up row in our garden and when they start to vine, my hubby keeps adding dirt on top of the row until it’s a foot or more high. We’ve never had the problem of having vines only and no potatoes.

7. Sweet Corn

We love to grow sweet corn. Usually, we just grow enough to eat on through the summer. If you want to have enough to freeze for the winter, you need to grow a lot! Always plant at least two rows for pollination. These do great from seed. We love Peaches and Cream.

Seedlings

1. Onions

We usually buy candy onions which come in a small six pack and take a lot of separation because there are multiples in one pack, but those are the only sweet onions that do the best here in the Ohio Valley. Plant them far enough apart to allow them room to get big.

2. Tomatoes

We always buy these as small plants to transplant, although they can be grown from seed, these just have a head start. We plant a few different varieties and always can a lot of tomato juice and sauce. Last year, we had around 100 tomato plants! I like to killed my husband when it came time to can lol!

3. Herbs

I always buy plants for my herbs rather than trying to get those seeds to survive or produce, but I’m sure you could. Read my post on herb container gardening.

4. Peppers

I always buy pepper plants rather than starting from seeds most of the time, although my husband started some Carolina Reapers from seed and they did pretty well but they took a long time to mature.

All other pepper plants like green, red, yellow bell peppers, banana peppers, jalapenos, habaneros, and the like we’ve all done from plants.

Also, you may need at least two pepper plants to help with pollination. Even if they are self-pollinating having more than one seems to help them bear more fruit.

 

Warning

Now if you plant hot peppers close to sweet peppers there is the possibility that some of the sweet peppers could have some heat. Depends on how much on the wild side you like to live!

Seeds

  1. Lettuce
  2. Carrots
  3. Green Beans
  4. Zucchini
  5. Okra
  6. Corn 

Plants

  1. Onions
  2. Tomatoes
  3. Herbs
  4. Peppers
Got any other plants you like to start from seed or plants?

 

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Pressure Canning

Pressure Canning

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link.

The Best Canners for Pressure Canning

 

  • You’ve spent your time growing and harvesting your garden; now it’s time to preserve your hard work by pressure canning.
  • When it comes to pressure canning, there are several canners to choose from, and it can be overwhelming. This post will help you decide which one to choose. I only recommend products that I love and use.

What is Pressure Canning?

 

  • Pressure canning is the use of a pressure canner to preserve low acid foods such as vegetables and meat. Higher acid vegetables do not require pressure canning
  • Using a pressure canner to preserve food is NOT the same thing as using a pressure cooker to cook food quickly. Therefore, pressure canners are made with the capacity to heat at the right temperature and pressure for whatever food you are preserving.

Why Mess with Canning?

 

  • Canning is the best way to preserve your produce to enjoy over the winter.
  • Pressure canning does take some time but is so worth it! If you have the right tools, it goes fairly smoothly. I started canning honestly to save money. Being on a tight budget, we didn’t have a lot of money, but we had time to invest. Growing things allowed us to save a lot on our grocery bills. Also, we kept the canning costs down because family members who didn’t garden and preserve anymore but had in the past, had all these canning jars just laying around. They gave them to me as well as an ancient, I mean ancient, pressure canner. I should try to find the owner’s manual, but I have no idea where it is now. Pretty sure it was from the 1950s.
  • I am so thankful for them blessing me with these supplies because, to be honest buying all new jars along with a canner can get expensive to begin with (but well worth the investment). If you have family members that used to preserve but don’t anymore, see if they have any supplies you might be able to use to get started.

Pressure Canners Review

 

Now for the big item…the pressure canner! I will show you two options.

The one my family used for 60 years thereabouts is very similar to the one I will show you. This one is newer, so it has the more modern safety feature of venting without having to do it manually like my old one. The advantage of this particular canner is that it holds a lot of pint jars on two levels. It is heavy duty and the nice thing is it doesn’t have a rubber gasket that needs to be replaced.

All pressure canners need supervision for safety.

This is the priciest option but like I said it lasted in my family for 60 years. It’s a very heavy-duty canner which is probably why it lasted so long! The All American 21-1/2 quart pressure canner.

 

The next two that I use are pretty similar. They both have a rubber gasket that after a few years of use will need to be replaced. This brand is less expensive and is ok on smooth stovetops. The reason these are ok for smooth stovetops is that they are thinner and lighter. Therefore, they will need to be replaced sooner. The Presto 23-Quart Pressure Canner.

The next one is a little smaller but also the same brand. Also says it’s ok for smooth stovetops. The Presto 16-Quart Pressure Canner.

The next one is a little smaller but also the same brand. Also says it’s ok for smooth stovetops. The Presto 16-Quart Pressure Canner.

Common Questions/FAQ About Pressure Canning

    What is the difference between pressure canning and pressure cooking?

    • Pressure canning is the process of canning food in jars. These are heavy duty and able to handle the amount of heat and pressure required to safely preserve food.

    • Pressure cooking is the process of cooking food quickly under pressure. While some pressure canners can also be pressure cookers, a pressure cooker can never be a pressure canner.

    Is pressure canning safe?

    • Pressure canners nowadays are pretty safe with safety pressure relief valves. However, since you are building up the pressure, they should always be supervised. It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it type thing.

    What foods need pressure canned?

    • Any meat or low acid vegetables need to be pressure canned.

    The Last Thing You Need to Know about Pressure Canners

      • Pressure canners are great, just make sure whichever one you purchase works with your particular stove. Always supervise your canner.
      • Want to know more about canning in general? See this post.
      • What do you think of these canners? Is there something else you use? Leave a comment below and share if you enjoyed.

       

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      Small Homesteading: The Beginner’s Guide

      Small Homesteading: The Beginner’s Guide

      Small Homesteading: The Beginner’s Guide

      Small homesteading is a great place to begin the homesteading experience. With all the concerns regarding food quality, it is important to know where your food comes from.

      My husband and I both grew up growing, preserving, and enjoying our own food. We now have a small homestead of around five acres.

      Since we’ve been married (almost 20 years now!), we consistently have a garden, raise some animals, and attempt to learn from the older generation. Homesteading comes with a lot of trial and error, and I hope to share some tips we’ve learned along the way.

      One property we had was just a very small yard but were able to raise enough to feed our family pretty well for an entire year! It requires some hard work and dedication, but the joys of knowing that you have contributed to caring for your own family in such a personal way make it all worth it.

      What is homesteading?

      Homesteading nowadays is not the traditional definition of the government giving away land in exchange for people working the land to earn it.

      Homesteading means many different things to different people. In my mind, small homesteading is making a home while trying to be more self-sufficient.

      Some common misconceptions people have about homesteading are that you need a large acreage to be successful. While that can be true if you are planning to raise large animals and you want to feed your animals with your own land, it is not necessary.

      If you have a windowsill that you can place a planter on, you can get started!

       

      How to get started

       

      Start SMALL! I can’t stress this enough. If you are brand new and have never grown anything, start with one thing in a container.

      Herbs in containers are a fantastic way to get started. They take up a small space and can be placed on a balcony or just outside somewhere. You’ll be surprised that even one herb plant can produce more than you can use. Learn about herb container gardening here. 

      As far as starting a backyard garden, use a tiller to break up the ground and amend your soil if needed for your garden spot or build raised beds and fill with good soil. My hubby is a stickler for straight rows so he uses a string attached to two stakes at the end of the rows and uses a hoe to make the line to plant seeds or his pepper plants. (If you’re trying to decide whether to use plants or seeds in your garden, check out this post)

      If you have space for animals, again start with just one or two to learn how to care for them before branching out. I highly recommend beginning with plants and produce before branching out to animals. You can have animals even on a small homestead. We only have chickens, cats, and dogs right now but would love to get started with goats one day.

       

      Tips for Success in Homesteading

       

      • Start small. Pick your favorite herb and learn how to grow, care for, harvest, use, and preserve.
      • Be patient with yourself. You will make mistakes along the way. Some years are just better for some crops than others. It’s all part of the process.
      • Don’t give up! the crop that didn’t do well this time may be your best one next time.

      Common Questions/FAQ

       

      What is the first thing I should do?

      • The first thing you should do is plan. Plan the size of your project and research what you want to begin with. Whether it’s conatiner gardening, starting a backyard garden, canning your food, raising animals, or just baking your own bread, these homesteading skills can all be learned over time. Pick your number one thing to focus on and master before moving to the next thing.

      Do I have to have a large acreage?

      • It depends is the most concise answer. You can homestead anywhere! An apartment, balcony, small yard, five acres or less, or hundreds of acres can all be the right size for homesteading.

       

        What are the best animals to have?

        • The first animals I would try would be chickens. Depending on the breed, chickens can be very docile and good layers. If you are looking just to have eggs for your own family and are not looking to sell them, three or four would be plenty.

         

          What do I need to do to prepare the ground?

          • Preparing the ground needs to start in the fall. If you till ,that is the time to do it and add any natural fertilizer. If you apply natural fertilizer (aka manure) in the spring, you could burn up your crops.

           

            What is the easiest thing to grow?

            • I find the easiest things to grow in our area are peppers of all kinds. Although, my sister said she always has difficulty with peppers. But we’ve grown and sold bell peppers, banana, peppers, cayennes, habaneros, and Carolina Reapers. My hubby makes a fantastic hot sauce that everyone pretty well loves. 

             

              What is the easiest thing to preserve?

              •  Preserving onions, garlic, and potatoes are pretty straightforward and don’t require canning, blanching and freezing ro dehydrating unless you just want to. 

               

                The Last Thing You Need to Know about Homesteading

                 

                • The main thing to know about small homesteading is that it can be accomplished in a very small space, even a windowsill can get you started. You decide what works for you. Starting small and being patient are key when beginning.                                                                   
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                vegetable plants for homesteading

                 

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                Top 5 Mistakes Raising Chickens

                Top 5 Mistakes Raising Chickens

                5 Mistakes Raising Chickens

                This is a list of 5 things NOT to do when raising chickens.We first started raising chickens when we lived in town. Disclaimer: It’s a very small town so it was ok…lots of people have chickens. Here are some things we learned along the way and the top mistakes made so you can avoid them!

                Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

                1. Don’t build a ladder for the chickens to get out of the pen!

                We actually made this mistake when we first got chickens. I came home from work one day and there were 16 chickens at my house! My husband is really great at building things and he built a really nice coop with a run on the outside of it. The fencing needed bracing so he put a two-by-four diagonally from the bottom of one end to the top of the other. Well, you guessed it! Those chickens climbed right up that board and got out. He fixed it by putting chicken wire over the end of the run. Worked like a charm!

                Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

                2. Getting too many chickens to start with.

                Well, you saw above that we started with 16 chickens. We knew that we needed a few chickens anyway to have eggs, but for our family of four, 16 was too many. We had more eggs than we could eat and we eat a LOT of eggs. Half that many chickens would have been enough for our family and a lot less work.

                Photo by Court on Unsplash

                3. Not having a plan for excess eggs.

                Like I said earlier, while we had talked a little bit about getting chickens, I came home from work one day and there they were! Therefore, we had plenty of chickens and plenty of eggs. I will say there is nothing like fresh eggs. Store bought doesn’t even compare. So since we had all these excess eggs, my husband decided my boys who were about ten and eleven at that time could go into the egg business. They had a few people buy from them, but they were not as enthused about this business as my husband was. Guess what? My husband got tired of being the only one selling eggs, so we had way too many eggs so we blessed our family with the eggs. They were pretty happy about that.

                Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash

                4. Underestimating the cost of raising chickens.

                Feed is fairly inexpensive, but our chickens go through a lot of feed. Also, we feed our chickens  (affiliate link) oyster shells in the winter to keep them laying. That stuff is not very cheap but it sure worked. I’m sure if we fed them all organic feed and such it would really increase the cost. No wonder organic eggs are so expensive.

                Photo by Dušan Smetana on Unsplash

                5. Thinking you need a rooster in your flock.

                Now, this may sound silly to people used to chickens, but when we first got chickens this was a question a lot of people asked us. How do you get eggs if you don’t have a rooster? Well, we wouldn’t get fertilized eggs capable of having chicks, but it’s just like human females that produce an egg every month only they produce a lot more often. The breed of chickens we have are kind of like a mule, they couldn’t have fertilized eggs even if we had a rooster. They are a great docile chicken and perfect for beginners.
                Boy holding chicken

                The Last Thing You Need to Know about Getting Chickens

                • Know your limitations and only get what you can manage. Don’t make the same mistakes we did! I probably should add one more mistake a beginner might make. Falling in love with the cute fluffy chicks they have at Easter and purchasing a lot! Those babies require a LOT of care and attention to survive. Also, they need special equipment so be prepared. A beginner should start with layers only and then expand as you’re able.
                • Got any other mistakes? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!

                 

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