Month: January 2024

Cast Iron Care: Using & Seasoning Cookware

Cast iron cookware is a staple in many homestead kitchens. They are known for being versatile pans that can be used on the stove top, in the oven, and even over an open fire. When properly cared for, these pans can last a lifetime and beyond! In fact, my best cast iron skillet is over 130 years old! In this post, you will learn proper cast iron care from washing, drying, and seasoning your pans to get a lifetime of use out of them.

cast iron skillets on wood surface

I believe my mom cooked more with cast iron than my grandma ever did. At least, in my lifetime. Growing up, I didn’t really understand that cast iron needed tender, loving care. It’s like a living and breathing extension of your kitchen. One that I now thoroughly enjoy as an adult in my very own kitchen.

But keeping cast iron seasoned and non-stick can be challenging for some. It was challenging for me at first, and sometimes, when I’m lazy (oh yes, I can be!), it still kicks me in the teeth and says “Ha ha, you’ll have to season me again!”

Most of the time, however, when I bring my cast iron skillets and pans out, I am greeted with a deep, rich, black blanket of color that could put a smile on any homesteader’s face. 


Need a quick menu idea? Try making Spicy Eggs Bacon & Kale in your well-seasoned cast iron skillet!


Cast Iron Care: Using & Seasoning Cookware

There are some things you should consider before using cast iron.

For starters, when you use a cast iron skillet or pan, please keep in mind that the iron does leach into your food. It’s the same with copper pans, etc. This normally isn’t a bad thing, especially for many of those needing extra iron in their blood. 

However, if you already have too much iron in your body, or you have a health condition that could be affected by additional iron, then I would ask your health professional for their opinion on using it. Otherwise, you should be perfectly fine. I use my cast iron skillets for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even desserts!

cinnamon rolls in cast iron skillet

What Makes Cast Iron Non-Stick?

The surface on a cast iron skillet is not made of synthetic materials (specifically Polytetrafluoroethylene)  like most non-stick cookware. Instead, cast iron pans have a thin layer of oil that is polymerized onto the surface. This means that the oil or fat has undergone a chemical change during a period of high heat that bonds it to the iron. The polymerization process (known as seasoning) creates a smooth surface that allows you to cook food without it sticking horribly. It also helps to keep the pan from rusting. 

How To Season A Cast Iron Pan

Seasoning is absolutely vital in cast iron care. Before you do anything else with that pan when you purchase it (or find it for a steal at Goodwill), you must wash and season it properly.

STEP ONE: Wash

Start by washing the pan out well with a mild dish soap and sponge. Concentrate on any heavily soiled spots with a chain mail scrubber. These scrubbers are great for restoring cast iron, and they can help scrape off any stuck-on bits of food during your regular wash routine. Once your skillet is properly seasoned and used correctly, you won’t need this tool often. However, it’s great to keep on hand for those tough, grimy exceptions. Coarse salt is also a good option to scrub cast iron pans that need a little extra work. 

If your pan has a rust build-up, you can use a piece of steel wool to knock the rust off before seasoning. 

STEP TWO: Dry & Apply Initial Seasoning

Next, dry your pan on the stovetop on low or medium heat. Once your pan is dry, coat your entire pan (inside, outside, and handle) with a fat such as coconut oil, avocado oil, or lard. These three fats can reach and withstand higher temperatures for longer amounts of time, versus the everyday olive oil. 

cast iron skillet | cast iron care

STEP THREE: Heat 

Preheat oven to 450 and place your pan upside down, directly on the oven rack. Bake for 1 hour, or until the fat is no longer visibly wet. Your pan will most likely smoke—this is completely normal. Be sure to keep the door closed until the pan has cooled. You can practice this step as many times in a row as necessary until your pan is a deep rich black.

How To Keep a Good Seasoning on Your Pan

More so than actually seasoning the pan itself, I would say keeping it seasoned well, as to maintain its non-stick surface, is probably the most challenging part of cast iron care. Here’s what I have discovered to make my cast iron pans remain non-stick and seasoned.

Tip # 1: Use Fat When Cooking

Always start with a pat of fat in your cast iron pan before placing your food in it. I feel like this is something we all do, but apparently, many people don’t add butter or fat to their pan before cooking in a non-stick skillet. This is probably one of the more essential ways to keep your cast iron seasoned properly. The fat in the pan creates an extra barrier before food is placed directly on the surface. And in all honesty, it’s just being culinarily proper! I bet culinarily isn’t a word….

Tip # 2: Clean Immediately After Cooking

Clean your cast iron pan as soon as it can be easily handled without burning yourself. It is much easier to clean a cast iron pan when it is still warm than once it has cooled. Unless you are cooking something extra greasy in it (like fried chicken), you should just be able to wipe the pan clean with a damp rag, or you can run it under the faucet and give it a quick rinse and wipe with a sponge (soft side). 

Don’t be afraid to use a little dish soap if you think you need it. Soap may remove extra layers of oil that you have on your skillet, but it will not removed the initial seasoning of polymerized oil. 

If you notice that food has stuck to your pan, keep it on the heat and add a bit of cool water. It will “deglaze” the pan and you can scrape the burned bits off easily. You can also use coarse salt or a chain mail scrubber to clean the pans if needed. 

Tip # 3: Dry and Re-Oil Immediately After Washing

Dry your cast iron pan completely after being washed. If you leave a cast iron pan to air dry, the water can seep into the pan’s pores, causing the breaking down of the seasoning. Or worse, the breaking down of the iron pan. Place your pan on a burner on your stovetop and let it dry out through that direct heat for about 5 minutes or so. 

oiling cast iron | seasoning

Once it is dry, use a clean paper towel to rub a thin layer of oil or lard on the inside of the skillet and wipe out the excess oil. This will increase the time between seasonings. I have only fully seasoned my pans once and I have had them for a couple of years!

Tip # 4: Don’t Use Cast Iron for Food Storage

Never leave food in a cast iron pan for storage. I learned this the hard way. I had made a lasagna skillet dish one evening, and instead of placing it in storage containers, I just left it in the pan and refrigerated the entire pan. No no, don’t do that. I regretted it the next day! The food will begin to break down the pans seasoning and could even start the rusting process.

What to Avoid When Using Cast Iron

It is a popular belief that you must avoid using hot water and dish soap, cooking acidic foods (like tomato sauce) and eggs, and using cast iron on a glass-top stove. With a properly seasoned pan, however, all of these are perfectly fine! Let’s talk about each of these plus a couple of things that you do really need to watch out for. 

Dish Soap & Hot Water

You shouldn’t need to use dish soap every time you clean a cast iron pan because a properly seasoned pan won’t need it.  There are certainly exceptions, however. If a dirty pan has been sitting overnight or longer, you may want to use soap to clean it. You may also choose to use dish soap if a pan has gotten extra greasy or has food stuck to it (although there are other ways to remove stuck on food).

The idea that dish soap cannot be used on cast iron comes from the idea that the soap will remove the seasoning. Dish soap, after all, is intended to remove oil. The seasoning on a cast iron skillet is made from polymerized oil that is bonded to the iron so soap does not remove this. 

Older generations have also passed down the idea that lye in the soap can harm pans, but we no longer use soap that has lye leftover after saponification so this isn’t a concern either. 

Acidic Foods & Eggs

Foods heavy in acidic ingredients like tomato sauce can potentially react with the metal in the pan. This can cause molecules from the metal to leech into foods causing an unpleasant metallic taste. Having a well-seasoned pan can help to reduce this because the food will come into contact with the polymerized oil instead of the metal.. If you notice bare spots of metal without seasoning, you may need to simply reseason before cooking acidic foods again. 

cooking an egg in a cast iron skillet

Many people complain when cooking eggs on cast iron because they stick. This issue can also be mitigated with proper seasoning. I cook eggs on a vintage pan every morning and they never stick. Newer pans do tend to have a rougher texture so they can have more of an issue with eggs sticking, but not to the extent that you should totally avoid cooking eggs. 


Make this Farm Fresh Frittata in your cast iron skillet!


Glasstop Stoves

Many people believe that cast iron cannot be used on glasstop stoves. This is simply not true. You can absolutely cook on electrice/glasstop stoves with cast iron, but you need to take a couple of things into consideration.

  1. Cooking may take a few minutes longer than the recipe calls for.
  2. Be careful when moving the heavy pans so you don’t break the glass.

That’s it. Just cook the food a bit longer (than you would cook on a gas range) if needed and move the pans gently. 

Soaking

This is the one that you SHOULD actually avoid. Soaking cast iron cookware in water can speed up the rusting process so try not to let it sit in the sink for too long. 

Ultimately, while caring for cast iron may be slightly different than your normal kitchen routine, you’ll come to love the dance. It becomes an extension of who you are, and eventually, you’ll just tend to it without even realizing it.

When you finally reach the expert level of seasoning, you’ll think to yourself, so this is what a properly seasoned cast iron skillet looks like. And you’ll grin with joy. And you’ll wonder what took you so long to get to this point. You’ll have breakdowns. You’ll forget every now and then. But once you’ve been successful, you’ll never want an improperly seasoned skillet again. And you will realize that there is very little scrubbing involved…ever.

Cast iron, in the long run, makes our homestead run smoother. It’s one less dish to have to put into the sink (we don’t have a dishwasher). And it’s one more way to make our food taste even better!


Pin “Cast Iron Care” for Later!

How to care for cast iron | washing, seasoning, and more

E30: All Things Pasture Health: Improving Soil, New Growth, Rotational Grazing | Mike Peterson of Kinloch Farm

Mike’s journey into farming and conservation may not be what you expect, but he is a wealth of wisdom on this complex yet important topic of pasture management.  While Mike manages a thousand-acre cattle farm, he breaks down the principles of pasture health to apply to the everyday homesteader.  We talk about first identifying where the health of your pastures stands, how to take steps toward improvement, managing multiple species on the same acreage, and more.  For anyone looking to cultivate thriving pastures on your homestead, you will find this conversation with Mike so valuable!

In this episode, we cover:

  • Mike’s unique journey into farming
  • How Kinloch Farms emphasizes conservation in their beef cattle operation
  • First steps to take if you want to improve your soil health
  • How to initiate new growth in your pasture
  • What rotational grazing can look like on a small scale homestead
  • Considerations for rotational grazing with multiple species
  • Navigating mineral supplementation options for your ruminants

E30: All Things Pasture Health: Improving Soil, New Growth, Rotational Grazing | Mike Peterson of Kinloch Farm Homesteaders of America

Thank you to our sponsors!

Premier 1 Supplies is your one-stop shop for all things homesteading!  Visit Premier1Supplies.com to browse their catalog.

About Mike

Mike Peterson is a husband to his beautiful wife Molly, Dad to two rambunctious and confident boys, and is a steward of the land. After spending 7 years in Culinary Arts, including several years in fine dining and soon to be Michelin starred kitchens, he returned back to his roots to reinvigorate his love for the land. Mike has held several roles, including owning and operating a farm business with his wife, Molly, livestock director for a non profit in New York, and currently holds the title of Farm and Conservation Director at Kinloch Farm in The Plains, VA. Mike and the team at Kinloch utilize a multitude of tools to restore landscapes and promote biological function. They rely on observation and ecological feedback loops as the metric of their success. Wildlife habitat and subsequent populations, ground cover, soil health, forage species diversity, carbon sequestration, water retention, and water quality are a few of the metrics that Kinloch currently monitors. 

Kinloch Farm adaptively grazes 1000 acres of pasture, both native warm season and cool season perennial, with 550 head of cattle and direct market Grassfed and Finished Beef through their Farm Store in The Plains. Along with their beef, Kinloch strives for whole animal utilization, so they also sell leather products from their hides, and a large selection of soaps, candles, and botanicals produced from their tallow.

Resources Mentioned

Sea-90 Ocean Minerals

Use code MPETERSON to get 10% off Baja Gold salt https://bajagoldsaltco.com/?rfsn=7626437.f718fe

Order from the Kinloch Farms shop!

Connect

Mike Peterson of Kinloch Farms | Website | Instagram | Facebook

Homesteaders of America | Website | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube | Pinterest

All Things Pasture Health: Improving Soil, New Growth, Rotational Grazing Transcript

Amy Fewell Welcome to the Homesteaders of America Podcast, where we encourage simple living, hard work, natural healthcare, real food, and building an agrarian society. If you’re pioneering your way through modern noise and conveniences, and you’re an advocate for living a more sustainable and quiet life, this podcast is for you. Welcome to this week’s podcast. I’m your host, Amy Fewell, and I’m the founder of the Homesteaders of America organization and annual events. If you’re not familiar with us, we are a resource for homesteading education and online support. And we even host a couple of in-person events each year with our biggest annual event happening right outside the nation’s capital here in Virginia every October. Check us out online at HomesteadersofAmerica.com. Follow us on all of our social media platforms and subscribe to our newsletter so that you can be the first to know about all things HOA (that’s short for Homesteaders of America). Don’t forget that we have an online membership that gives you access to thousands—yes, literally thousands—of hours worth of information and videos. It also gets you discount codes, an HOA decal sticker when you sign up, and access to event tickets before anyone else. All right. Let’s dive into this week’s episode. 

Amy Fewell Welcome back to this week’s episode of the Homesteaders of America podcast. We have a super fun guest with us this week. I want to tell you a little bit about this guest first because I’m not sure that I’ve had very many local people on, and I kind of love that Mike Peterson from Kinloch Farm is local. I almost said Heritage Hollow Farm, and we’ll get into that in a second. But Mike is a farmer here in Virginia. He’s a husband to his beautiful wife, Molly, a dad to two rambunctious little boys, and they’re just wonderful. And he’s a steward of the land in some amazing ways. So, Mike, welcome to the Homesteaders of America podcast. 

Mike Peterson Thank you so much, Amy. I’m glad to be on. 

Amy Fewell Yeah. So why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit about you? Because obviously you don’t necessarily have a huge following like some of our people do on here. So nobody knows you. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

Mike Peterson Well, maybe a good segue into that is I am an introvert, so maybe that’s intentional, I don’t know. 

Amy Fewell That’s true. 

Mike Peterson So I’ve been, as you said, we’re here local in Virginia. My wife and I have been in and out of businesses. We owned our own business in Virginia for a while where we had a multi-species grazing operation in Rappahannock County. And that’s where we first came to know you and got introduced to you. Seems like lifetimes ago, but in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t all that long ago. At any rate, owned a business. From there, went up to a nonprofit in New York and was the director of a livestock program up there. All of that kind of came about because I got into farming through food, which is kind of an unconventional route to get there. I had a background in farming when I was younger. My grandparents owned a dairy in northern Illinois. So it’s one of those things, as a kid, you’re exposed to it and it’s fun and you have 20 cousins running around. It’s like, oh, this is fun. It’s a good way to live, but it’s not something as a career I ever thought about that I’d get into. But it wasn’t until I started to cook more that I got more involved in farming and agriculture and food from menu planning and sourcing perspective. So the more I was responsible for planning menus, the more I got to meet local producers and what they were growing and why they were growing it. And then I think with a lot of things in life that you’re passionate about, it’s just one of those things that snowballs and builds and continues to snowball. So it had this really cool organic effect to… The evolution of how we got back into farming. So jumped around a little bit there, but so into farming through culinary. And I’ve always kind of had that as a backbone in some of my farming philosophies is that in the end, we need to produce a delicious product that people can relate to and that people can consume. We can do everything right from a welfare and ecological and environmental perspective. But if what we’re producing tastes like cardboard, there isn’t a whole lot of a market for it. So I think that culinary component is important to it. So that’s always something in the back of my head that I try to relate to. And it’s been helpful for other wholesalers and restaurants as we grow this particular business and gain more accounts to be able to speak some of that language too. So after we were in New York for a couple of years and we decided that we needed to hurry back and get back to this area in Virginia and found a really great opportunity here at Kinloch. 

Amy Fewell Yeah. That’s awesome. So tell us a little bit about Kinloch Farm. What is it? How many acres? What do you do there? 

Mike Peterson Yeah. So it’s a family farm. It’s been in the family since the 1960s, so going on 64 years. It’s been owned and operated by the same family. I’ve been here for just over two years. So, relatively short period of time in the lifetime of the farm. It’s seen different iterations of what it does. They housed a registered Devon herd for quite a while. It was a commercial cow calf operation. It was an Angus seed stock operation. It wasn’t until two and a half years, or I guess three to four years ago, the family started to have some conversations about direction and business and perhaps steering away from seed stock and getting into producing direct market beef. And when I say seed stock, they’re selling bulls and heifers and cows and calves to other producers that are looking for these genetics that they were producing. So two and a half years ago is when I started, and I started out of probably six to seven months of conversations with the family and the office and some of the staff here about what they were looking for, what I was looking for, and how we could make a match for that. So what I do is I was looking for a situation to where I could have kind of a greater context of land management and not just the day-to-day of moving cows and direct marketing and raising beef, but to zoom out a little bit and to have a greater context of land management, ecosystem services, conservation practices, and how that all relates into beef production. So that’s a big cornerstone of what Kinloch is. The family has been… They were involved in the foundings of the Piedmont Environmental Council. There’s Virginia working landscapes they’ve been involved in for quite a long time. So just very deep roots of conservation in the area. So it’s been a guiding light as we develop this business and grow the business that all of our production practices are intertwined with conservation. So we have to be in a position to where we can say we can produce beef in an ecological manner that performs an ecosystem service. So we’re a little unique in that way, but I hope it doesn’t… You know, I hope in 15 years or ten years that isn’t unique, but that there’s more people that are understanding these concepts, that we can use cattle as a tool to transform ecosystems and increase grassland, bird habitat, and water retention, and carbon sequestration, and all these really cool things that you can use cattle to do. So what Kinloch does is utilize those tools within our land base to produce grass fed beef. We have about a thousand acres in pasture between cool season perennial and native warm season grass. We have another 200 in native meadows and savannas and another 30 acres in riparian areas. We do a lot of work with John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District for excluding cattle out of streams so they don’t have access to the stream banks and deposit a lot of manure, nitrogen, things like that in the fresh water. So they’re fenced out of those. Conservation becomes a cornerstone of all of our production and why we do what we do. We have just cattle, which coming from a multi-species background, is kind of a nice break to focus on just cattle and the impact that they can have on an ecosystem. So about 550 head on a thousand acres is what we currently have. 

Amy Fewell Wow. That’s amazing. So this is totally different than what you and Molly were doing before. You guys had this farm in Rappahannock County and you were growing pigs and cows and chickens and all of these things. You were basically, essentially a small Polyface. And to give you guys some context, like Rappahannock is a very small community. And so it was a really big deal when Mike and Molly would have their cows go from one field to the other and they’d stop traffic in the middle of the road and let animals go across. And so it’s really fun. I feel like you guys really set a tone here in this area for homesteaders and for farmers, it seems like forever ago, but like you said, it wasn’t that long ago. But it’s very inspirational because now you’re doing even bigger things. And so one of the reasons I brought you on today is because I do want to talk to you about soil and native grasses, and those are things that a lot of people are starting to get into learning about now. But what I think a lot of homesteaders and farmers are realizing is they really don’t understand anything about it at all. And so, I mean, I’m one of those people. When we moved here—I think I even talked to Molly about this a little bit—there were patches, like random patches in our front field that had moss growing in them, but they weren’t near any trees. They weren’t near any kind of wet area that you would think they were. And so that’s when I really realized I have no idea what I’m talking about or have any knowledge on when it comes to pasture. And how do we make pasture better? And where do people go to find that information? So for you guys who are listening, we actually brought Mike on as a speaker this year at HOA. So you can learn from Mike, too, in October if you come. But Mike, for people who are listening, let’s talk about the soil first. Basic soil. We can even start with just Virginia soil if you want. But how can people kind of figure out what their ground needs, what their pasture needs, maybe what are some signs that their pasture actually needs something? And how do they go about figuring that out? 

Mike Peterson Sure. Great question. I like to take this approach of like not many of us really know much because I think if you approach this with a sense of humility, it’s like then you’re open to learning more every day. So I think everyone has different levels of experience and have been doing this with different perspectives for different periods of time. But to approach it with humility, it’s like, I hope to learn something new every day, and I hope I’m humbled. And by the time you figure out you think you got something, and then you’re thrown a curveball and you learn something all over again. So I think agriculture and farming and cattle farming is a really great way of humbling you and doing that to you. So from a soil perspective—and you touched on it a little bit when you were just talking about our time in Rappahannock—but I think about soil as it relates to community as well, because it has to start… It’s not something, if you’re trying to improve your soil, it’s not something you can do by yourself with one specific tool. If you’re trying to get entrenched into a community, it’s not something you can necessarily do by yourself and expect really quick, rapid results. It’s something that takes time and something that takes an organic kind of a regenerative cycle and regenerative approach to building community, building soil, and improving the quality of your soil. As a baseline to start, we like to use observation. So there are certain things that we can do whether we have cattle at different densities grazing for… you know, we could do 500,000 pounds an acre and put them on a 12 hour move, or we can have 50,000 pounds of cattle on an acre and they’re on a seven day move or something like that. So we can do different things to see how nature responds to it and see how the pasture reacts to it. And that’s all scalable, whether you have a quarter acre or whether you have 10,000 acres, you can do these things. I think to start off, the biggest thing for me that I’d recommend is a basic soil test. And that’s something that your extension agent can do. We have CFC here, but the local co-op can also do that for you so that you have a basic reading of what’s happening, kind of a chemical readout of what’s happening in the soil. One step up from that would be to have more of a biological soil test done. So that tells you how things within the soil are interacting with each other. And is nitrogen available, or is it being locked up by something else? So, Haney test is what that’s called. And that’s a really great tool to see how biologically active your soils are. Organic matter is important, pH is important. I think that the  biggest thing with this, though, is just to be patient because if you have… Every three years we get soil tests done here, which for us, we’re not making hay, we’re not doing crops. It’s just a good cycle for us to be on because we’re not really large into amendments either. So every three years we can get an update of how our soils are doing, what changes we’ve seen after we’ve been doing different management strategies across the farm. So depending on who you work with, after you get your soil test back, you can get a recommendation or a readout back to say that this needs 2,000 pounds of chicken litter per acre and 1,500 pounds of lime per acre or whatever to address the pH values or nitrogen levels or whatever. But I think what’s important… And I rarely do anything with those, with the recommended inputs. It’s interesting to see that those are the quick fixes that are recommended, because if you put chicken litter down, it’s going to give you the quick boost of nitrogen that you need and your forage is going to explode. But I sort of equate poultry litter or any nitrogen application to steroids. It gives you a really quick boost of really good forage production. But then three to four years down the road it’s going to set you back, and then you’re consistently on that cycle of needing to rely on those crutches to give you productivity. And all of that is just kind of masking, you know, whether mismanagement or something else that’s not happening within your soil. So the long answer to your question is soil samples are a really great place to start, and it’s a good way to set the metric of how you’re performing and how your pastures are performing. Forage species analysis is also a really good one as well because that tells you what’s available to your livestock as they graze. So what the soil tells you isn’t necessarily what the animals are getting. So you can also have your forage tested to see what the nutrient readouts are in your forage. 

Amy Fewell Okay. Good idea. I didn’t even think about that. 

Amy Fewell Hey, thanks for listening. We’re going to take a quick break to introduce you to one of our sponsors that has been with HOA for a few years, and that’s Premier 1 Supplies. At Premier 1, they’ve been providing electric fencing and electric netting, sheep and goats supplies, clippers and shears, ear tags, poultry products, and expert advice for over 40 years. Whether it’s electric netting for your chickens or cattle or horses or poultry, or clippers and shears, and even poultry supplies such as fencing, feeders, waterers, egg handling supplies, hatchery items, they have it all. They are a one-stop shop for all things homesteading. Just like many of our sponsors. Check out Premier 1 Supplies at Premier1Supplies.com and don’t forget to check them out at the HOA event this year.

Amy Fewell So let’s take our pasture for example. I’m going to give you a scenario which is a lot of people’s scenarios that I’m finding. If someone has, you know, say five acres, which is very common for a homesteader. And most of that five acres is open pasture, obviously. When we get into woods, I know we get into so many other different things, but if they have animals on it that are, you know, mostly like fescue. I know fescue is a big talk with cows, maybe not so much beef cows, but dairy cows and other ruminants. And someone is trying to maybe add some different grasses to that area. So one of the things I’ve heard is that you shouldn’t even think about planting grass seed of different types of native grasses yet until your soil gets under control because it won’t grow. Is that something that is true or how would people go about implementing growing new things in their pasture, especially on a smaller scale? Maybe not like a larger scale, but are there grasses they need to look out for that will choke out those native grasses? Is it even worth their time if they haven’t tested their soil yet? You know, we have a friend who did go to CFC, got their soil tested, and they made a recommendation for a certain seed mix for them. And that seed mix is doing great. But my question is always, well, would another seed mix have done just as good? Does it really matter? How does somebody kind of go about learning about that? 

Mike Peterson Sure. CFC or your extension agent is a good place to start. There’s also another book, Native Forages of the Eastern U.S. is a good one. It’s a really easy guide both for identification and then what the forages are, where they thrive, why they thrive. Fescue is a tough one because it’s so prevalent and it grows really well, which is why it was introduced here because it’ll grow anywhere. I’m of the perspective that it’s here. There’s a place for it. It’s kind of found its niche within the ecosystem. We’ve sort of been developing cattle to thrive on that and adapt to it which is another thing for sourcing livestock, whether it’s sheep or goats or cattle or kind of any ruminant, they have to be somewhat adapted to fescue to be able to do well on the East Coast. I’m also a believer that if we allow the pasture enough time and if we can apply certain management principles to it, there’s also the potential for the native seed bank to be able to express itself, too. So some of that is involved with management. If you’re set stocked, if you have animals on it all the time, what’s in the native seed bank or what’s in the soil bank doesn’t necessarily have time to grow or necessarily have time to flourish. If we can manage our livestock—no matter the class of livestock—to be able to adaptively graze them through an acre or five acres or 5,000 acres, it doesn’t matter. But to be able to follow the concept of some periodic disruption. So you want to be able to sometimes disturb pastures, but not in the same order, and not for the same reason. You want to allow the pasture to rest, and then you want to graze it. Not at the same time, not at the same place, or not for the same reason every year. So to be a little bit periodic and creative within our management will really allow a lot of the native seed bank to grow and flourish. I know some people that aren’t using seed at all. They just manage their livestock in a way that allows for a highly diverse forage base to be able to grow and thrive, but they’re providing the soil and the pasture, the conditions for what it needs for those native seeds to be able to express itself. We do a little bit of both. So we rely on some native seed bank to flourish. We also introduce some native warm season species. Most of our seeds, we get through Ernst. They’re based here in the northeast. So it’s pretty well proven that the seed mixes and the seeds they provide do well here. We have about 100 acres of native warm seasons that we’ve planted, and those areas were identified for soil condition and topography and kind of where they fit within our overall system too. So, really, I think the king to all of this, though, is to have a highly diverse pasture mix. And you don’t necessarily need to have some warm season here or some cool season there, but really, interspersed within itself is the way to go. 

Amy Fewell Yeah. We actually bought some native seed mix. It’s still sitting in my house. I should have planted it in the fall, but I didn’t get around to it. And so we actually bought it based on Molly’s recommendation, asking you through Molly what to get. And we ordered from them, and they were great. They did a great job at getting stuff out to us. So that brings me to the next question. So you’ve done this on multiple scales. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about what rotational grazing looks like on your 1,000 acre Kinloch Farm versus maybe a five acre homestead here in Virginia? 

Mike Peterson I think the great thing about it is that it’s applicable at any size. So just different logistics that we’re working with and the different kinds of materials that you need. I think some of the biggest considerations are fence and water. And with rotational grazing, too, you want to make sure that you have everything the animal needs within the fencing you provide, so there’s no motivation for them to go out and look for something somewhere else at the neighbors’ or across the street or anything. So you can set it up a few different ways. If you have a central watering system, you can do pie wedges off of that. So if you have a five acre pasture, you can do five one acre sections. You could do ten half acre sections. But if you have a perimeter fence, you can use portable polywire with a solar electric charger. Some setups you wouldn’t even have to move the water tank. You can just rotate that portable wire around the water. The biggest thing is that you are A) that you’re giving the animals what they need in any given day. So we’re not limiting them. But we can use them as a tool when needed. But that we’re also designing this rotational grazing system to account for seasonal fluctuations or different climatic conditions. They have shade that they need or they have windbreaks or shelter from snow, you know, what have you. But they have what they need inside of the acreage that you’ve provided them with. The biggest thing is that it’s set up so they have… Whether it’s a one day move or a three day move or whatever the duration is, it doesn’t matter, but that you’re also back fencing them off of the area where they grazed. Grass starts to grow within three to five days, depending on the species, so you really don’t want to leave them in one spot for more than three days unless you’re doing it for a reason. Unless you want to intentionally over graze or intentionally set fescue back to prepare for a seeding. Ideally, you’re keeping them in one spot for no more than three to four days, moving them into the next section and then letting that area rest. If you do a three day move in five sections, you’re already at—if I’m doing my quick math right—15 days of rest before you would get back to the next section. On our scale, we’re looking for anywhere from 60 to 90 days of rest. We have a five acre paddock for 180 cow/calf pairs as an example. But it’s the same concept. That group can be on a 24 hour move in five acres. They don’t have access back to that five acres when we move them again. And on a five acre homestead, if you’re doing one acre sections, it’s not huge, gigantic moves a long distance. You’re taking up the polywire a little bit, putting them in the next section, putting the back fence up behind them, and then they have a brand new section. So we found that serves a whole lot of benefits from nutrition and pasture health, but also for animal health and well-being. They don’t have access back to their manure and urine and other things that they’ve deposited for the 24 hours. It helps with fly control and parasite resistance. And there’s a whole host of benefits that it has aside from just pasture health. 

Amy Fewell Yeah. I know one of the things that a lot of people are researching right now is having multiple species in a section of rotational grazing at one time, so like sheep and cows is a common one. Can you talk a little bit about that? Is that something that you guys do and whether you do or not, what are the benefits of multi-species grazing together? 

Mike Peterson I’m a big fan of that. And if you think about the historical context of that, there were always large ruminants or herbivores that would come through the Great Plains first. We’ve heard stories of bison roaming the Great Plains, and then it was followed by smaller species and smaller species, and then birds and poultry and other things would come in behind them, which is similar to… You brought up Polyface earlier. But a farm like that with a multi-species operation can have larger animals with poultry followed behind them coming through last for nitrogen. And then they scratch through the manure and spread out the manure and things like that, too. I’m a big fan of multi-species, and I’ve been at farms that we graze sheep and cattle together. I’ve done together. I’ve done leader/follower to where the cows go first and then the sheep come in behind them. In the end, I was a big fan of them grazing together.  A consideration was mineral access because usually cattle mineral is higher in copper and sheep don’t have as high of a tolerance to copper as cattle do. I hadn’t found an issue with that. This is not veterinary advice, but the free choice salt and mineral that we use didn’t have the high copper levels that are toxic to sheep, so I never had an issue with that. And sheep are very trainable to polywire as well. I’ve been in systems where you can use two strands of polywire. I’ve been in systems where they have to use netting, and netting is kind of a pain in the butt to use at any kind of a scale. I think we’re probably somewhat familiar with that. But where I can avoid netting, I will. 

Amy Fewell Yeah. Same. 

Mike Peterson Training sheep to polywire was big. When cattle and sheep are together, if you’re grazing them together with rotational grazing, I mentioned the benefits for parasite resistance and things like that, too. They’re really good dead-end hosts for parasites. So the pH levels in each of the sheep’s rumen and a cow’s rumen is different, so they’re dead-end parasite hosts for each other. There’s more of an effect on that if you’re doing a leader/follower. So cattle go first, then the sheep would come in behind them, essentially consume the larvae of the parasites that the cows have deposited, dead ending them in the sheep’s gut, and vice versa for the cow and the sheep. So they’re very cohabitive, and they’re very cohesive, and they’re that way for a reason. There’s a reason it just works in nature because they were designed to live together within the same ecosystem. We don’t do that here at Kinloch. We just have cattle here. But I’m not blind to the effect that multiple species could have a positive outcome here on the ecosystem, on the pasture and then from a marketing perspective too. 

Amy Fewell Yeah, yeah. When we had sheep, we kind of did the same thing. We only had one cow. Like y’all don’t think we had multiple ones. But our cow really loved our sheep. And we just loved having them together, too, just for the community aspect of sheep and cows together. It was super cute to see them. 

Mike Peterson And a couple more benefits, too, while I’m thinking of it. We had labor is another big one. Labor is a big one for any rotational grazing system. It has to be efficient. It has to be easy and I think easily translatable. So whether it’s I’m asking an intern to go out to do it or seven-year-old son, it has to be something simple that someone can do. So it’s a system that’s easily designed, that can save time, and is easily translated. We also saw benefits of keeping them together for predator control as well. For sheep, you know, there’s a lot of coyotes out in this area. And we’ve seen that the cows, especially cows with calves, are naturally protective of their calves. So they did a really great job of keeping the coyotes out of the pasture. Sheep are very susceptible to coyote attacks and kills and things like that. So that was another barrier of protection for us is keeping them together. 

Amy Fewell Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. That’s one of the reasons we liked having the cows with the sheep, too, is we have massive… I mean, you know from really living in Rappahannock, some of them are massive, those coyotes. And so, it was nice to have them. Okay. Going back to native grass seed, you posted—I guess it was maybe in the fall—you posted a video on social media of just this super tall, lush grass. Virginia had gone through a drought, but this grass was just beautiful and green and cows were grazing on it. I wonder if you might talk to that a little bit, because I really enjoyed seeing that in your caption you had with it about how to maintain property well. 

Mike Peterson Yeah. Wasn’t that cool? Yeah. It was. We went through… There was a pretty significant drought here this summer and into fall. And I think if I remember, that poster, that location, it was a 20 acre field with… It was Indian grass, big blue, and little blue were the three species that we had planted in there. And it was the only thing green on the farm. And we were moving a group of 30 head that were… We keep a smaller group of finishing stock or the animals that are closest to harvest and a smaller group, and we’re essentially just keeping the best grass in front of them to try to keep positive weight gain on them, and this fall was a really hard time to do that because everything had browned out, essentially. And we were very short on rain, which is what they say on the East Coast, you can be into a drought in a week and out of a drought in a week, which is kind of the situation we found ourselves in. 

Amy Fewell Yeah, yeah. Didn’t we see that happen? Yeah. For real. 

Mike Peterson But those things are so resilient because their roots are so, so deep. And it’s beneficial for nutrient absorption, for the minerals that are available to the cattle, and also for drought resilience. Those root systems can be four to seven feet deep depending on the species of grass that it is. But it does take time for those to establish. So going back to the patience thing, you have to be patient when you’re establishing those and not be too aggressive in grazing them too soon. They operate off of a different timeline of when they’re productive and when you can graze them and when you shouldn’t graze them. We have a couple of pure stands of those, so they’re not fields that we can feed hay on, or we don’t overwinter on those because they’re really, really good from May through September. Outside of that window, we stay off of them. We leave some standing for wildlife habitat, some seed for migrating birds that are coming through in the winter— a different food source than we would have in our cool season pastures. But those warm seasons were a lifesaver for us this fall for that group in particular to keep some positive weight gain on them. We also took a group of 150 stockers through 200 acres of our meadows, which hadn’t really been grazed before, but it’s a composition of native warm seasons and forbs and wildflowers and things like that. So we saw multiple benefits from having three different distinct grazing ecosystems here from cool season to pure stand of native warm season to a native meadow savanna concept. 

Amy Fewell Yeah, that’s really neat. I bet it’s incredible to see the difference in all that. And it’s like I’m sitting here listening to you talk because you know about all this stuff, right? Like it’s been your life. And it is really interesting to be so intimate with nature and how that grass is growing and when it’s best to graze it. And those are things that I know a lot of homesteaders and farmers really want to learn. So I’m excited. I’m listening to you talk. I’m excited about you talking in October at the conference, because I know you’re going to get a lot of questions from people. Okay, a few more questions and I’ll let you go because I know you’re busy. The first thing is you’ve talked about minerals a little bit, whether it’s getting their minerals and nutrients from the grass or what’s in the soil, or having loose minerals available. For just the average, everyday person, I know obviously a soil test will help and the forage test will help, but what are just some common things that people should have on hand for their livestock, especially ruminants in regard to like mineral, whether it’s loose mineral or whatever you tend to recommend?

Mike Peterson I’m a minimalist, and I say that after having done robust mineral programs and things that we didn’t need because that was kind of the hot topic or the thing that people were doing as something to try. So I’ve tried the cafeteria programs where you put out the 20 individual minerals in a sled and the animal goes through and self-selects. I’ve done that. I’ve done the basic co-op mixed mineral. What we’ve settled on now… And this direction that I really like is something we just started a year ago. So I think that’s the whole humility thing and constant evolution is that once you have new data or new science or a new product, explore it and see if it’s the right fit for your operation and talk to people that are using it, and then try it because you know you’re not going to hit a home run if you don’t take a swing. So sometimes you just need to try something new. We’re using just salt currently, so we’re using Sea-90 as our only salt supplement. I don’t get into crazy mixed minerals and custom mineral mixes for different classes of livestock. So salt is essential to complete a lot of functions for livestock, whether it’s a cow or a sheep or a goat. It can be toxic to pigs, so don’t give pigs too much salt. But you know, Sea-90 with a little bit of kelp goes a long way. And that’s what we’ve settled on now. So I like the free choice. So they can lick it. The blocks can sometimes be… You know, they don’t get enough of what they need. They just sit there and lick the block for a long period of time. They can be more weather resistant, but the uptake and the absorption can be a little bit slower. And I think if I were a cow—similar to the mineral sled—I’d get bored of needing to go through to pick 20 different minerals. I’d get bored of sitting there licking a block when there’s delicious grass to go eat. So the loose mineral is a win for us. We keep it covered to keep the elements out. You don’t have to. I know other people that don’t. And Sea-90 with a little bit of kelp is what we’ve settled on right now. There’s also a project that we’re going to get into this spring is a Sea-90 saltwater brine. So that’s essentially just putting Sea-90 into a Rubbermaid stock trough. And essentially it’s a saltwater brine. So the mineral uptake of that brine is supposed to be greater than it is if they were just to ingest the salt on their own. So another project we’re going to try the spring. 

Amy Fewell So that’s the Baja salt, right? It’s Sea-90. Is that what it is? 

Mike Peterson Similar. Yep. 

Amy Fewell Yeah okay. All right. So one of the things that I would… Y’all, they’re not even a sponsor or anything, but I do want to talk about that for just a second because they came to conference last year, and they’ve sponsored a couple of our conferences. I don’t even know if they’re a sponsor this year or not, but we brought home a lot of that salt. And the one thing that I noticed, not all salt is made the same at all. We’ve tried mineral salts in the past, and the one thing that I noticed about this salt was it looked moist, like it looked wet. And generally, that’s one of the telltale signs of a true mineral salt is that it has a more moist looking feature to it. If you’ve never really compared mineral salt, you’re like, I don’t even know what you’re talking about. But we have. We compared a lot of mineral salt. And so, especially like magnesium and things, they hold on to that moisture. So I thought that was really interesting to compare those salts. I don’t know if that’s why you went with them or not, but we’ve really enjoyed even just the table salt that they have for people using that and implementing that in different ways here. 

Mike Peterson Baja is kind of the human side of their business, right? 

Amy Fewell Yeah, it is. 

Mike Peterson And then Sea-90 is the livestock. Yeah. Yeah. And I know there’s plenty of folks that are doing foliar applications with Sea-90 and vegetable gardens on pasture. So there’s a lot of good data and science about the positives of using this, whether it’s through the cow or directly onto your garden or directly onto your pasture. 

Amy Fewell Yeah. Super cool. Yeah, we’ll look into that more. Maybe we’ll do a podcast about that too. Okay. Mike, do you have anything else you want to share today with our group of people or any tidbits of wisdom? You don’t have to, but I always leave it open at the end if somebody has something they want to share. 

Mike Peterson You know, I think I touched on it earlier, but for me, in my wise old age of 40, so take that into context too. 

Amy Fewell Oh my goodness, whatever. 

Mike Peterson You know, I think and farming and agriculture—and no matter the scale, because that’s completely 100% true—it’s to approach this with humility. We don’t really know anything. We’re at the mercy of nature every second of every day. We can come into this with the best of intentions, with integrity, and being authentic, and knowing what we want to do and why we want to do it, as I said, being intentional with our work and putting a plan into action and seeing that go through and then manage off of feedback. So you’re constantly managing off of what you’re seeing and deviating and changing. And I think it’s so important as producers that we are adaptive to that. We’re not prescriptive in anything that we’re doing. We’re responding to Mother Nature, who is very dynamic. We’re responding to animals that need different things all the time. And they’ll come down with ailments and other things that we have to respond to. But in the end, I think it’s just important that we approach our all of our work with humility and a deep appreciation for respect of the animal, of nature, and the greater community that we’re involved in. 

Amy Fewell Yeah, I think that’s great. And I actually was having that conversation with someone earlier today and how… You know, they asked me the question. I was doing a podcast earlier for someone else’s podcast and they said, “What’s your biggest thing that you tell homesteaders?” And I said, “The biggest thing is just to remember you’re going to fail. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing this for one year or 30 years. You’re always learning something new, and something’s always changing, or the animal is different than the animal you had before.” And so it is a really great way to keep us humble and keep us learning and just kind of remembering our place. Right? So I agree.

Mike Peterson If you’re not failing, you’re not trying. 

Amy Fewell Exactly. 

Mike Peterson So you’ve got to try, and you have to be okay with failing because that’s just an opportunity to learn. 

Amy Fewell Yeah, absolutely. All right. Well, thank you for joining us on this week’s episode of the Homesteaders of America podcast, Mike. We really appreciate it. 

Mike Peterson Thanks, Amy. 

Amy Fewell Hey, thanks for taking the time to listen to this week’s Homesteaders of America episode. We really enjoyed having you here. We welcome questions and you can find the transcript and all the show notes below or on our Homesteaders of America blog post that we have up for this podcast episode. Don’t forget to join us online with a membership or just to read blog posts and find out more information about our events at HomesteadersofAmerica.com. We also have a YouTube channel and follow us on all of our social media accounts to find out more about homesteading during this time in American history. All right, have a great day and happy homesteading. 


Pin This Podcast for Later!

All Things Pasture Health: Improving Soil, New Growth, Rotational Grazing Podcast with Mike Peterson of Kinloch Farm

How to Make Homemade Bone Broth

Homemade bone broth is one of the most medicinal food items an individual can consume. It is extremely easy to make and preserving it is even easier! In this post you will learn about the benefits of making a nourishing bone broth and what steps you need to take to make your own!

homemade bone broth with bones sitting to the side

The Benefits of Bone Broth

Homemade bone broth isn’t just good for adding flavor to your meals, it is also known to reduce inflammation, heal the gut, aid in hydration, work toward soothing and minimizing joint issues, and boost the immune system.

Bone Broth is packed with beneficial components such as:

  • Collagen
  • Minerals like Calcium, Phosphorus, and Magnesium
  • Vitamins
  • Electrolytes
  • Anti-inflammatory amino acids

Homemade Bone Broth Recipe

Bone broth is made by simmering bones, herbs, spices, and aromatic vegetables for an extended period of time (up to 24 hours). Simmering for this long allows the minerals, collagen, and other nutrients to be extracted from the bones producing a flavorful & nutrient-dense broth.

Ingredients

  • Bones

Any type of bones can be used when making homemade bone broth, but the most beneficial are from grass-fed or pasture-raised animals. The process of making bone broth is done by slow cooking the bones to draw the minerals, calcium, vitamins, and collagen from the bones.

A chicken carcass (and even the feet!) and beef bones are the most common, but you can even use pork bones or lamb bones! Each will contribute a different flavor and richness to your broth. 

  • Vinegar

Do you want to know the secret to successfully withdrawing all the goodness from the bones?

An acid, such as apple cider vinegar.

Just a ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar added to the beginning of the cooking process will draw out the minerals and calcium from the bones boosting the nutritional benefits significantly compared to broth prepared without an acid.

  • Herbs & Spices

Adding herbs such as oregano, thyme, sage, bay leaves, sea salt, and garlic assists in creating an immune-boosting, nutrient-rich food.

In addition to herbs, feel free to add spices such as fresh peppercorns or cayenne pepper which would be especially helpful if you’re experiencing congestion during an illness. That kick of spice will help thin out your mucus.

  • Vegetable Scraps

You can also add veggie scraps into your bone broth. Onions, carrots, celery, and other vegetables make a great addition of nutrients and flavor. When cooking recipes with vegetables throughout the week, place the scraps in a freezer bag and place them in the freezer until you are ready to make homemade broth. Whether or not you add veggie scraps is completely based on personal preference. Some people like to stick strictly to bones, onions, garlic, and a couple of spices, and some people like to add a little bit of everything. 

noodles in bone broth

“I had long ago dismissed the idea of making my own stock.  Why on earth would I consider such a thing when Costco sells organic chicken broth by the case and Whole Foods was a mile from my house at the time?  Oh, I had so much to learn!!! The nourishment that the low-and-slow-from-scratch-method could provide my family I had yet to learn…until the trip to Italy that changed so much about my life!”

– Mandy, Make Every Day Matter

Instructions for Making Homemade Bone Broth

Bone broth can be made on the stovetop, in a crock pot, and even in an Instant Pot. These instructions are focused on using a stockpot on the stove, but they can be adjusted easily for your crock pot or Instant pot. 

1.Roast the Bones

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Add the bones to a roasting pan and roast the bones for about 30 minutes. They should be browned and crispy. Don’t skip this step or you will be missing out on a deep rich flavor that only comes from roasted & caramelized bones. 

2. Soak

Add the roasted bones, water (just enough to cover the bones), vegetable scraps, and a splash of apple cider vinegar to a large pot (or a slow cooker) and allow to sit for 1-2 hours. Make sure you scrape the brown bits off of the roasting pan and add them to your broth. Don’t toss those little tasty pieces! This will give the vinegar a jumpstart at drawing nutrients out of the bones. 

3. Simmer and Wait

Bring to boil over medium-high heat and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 12-24 hours. Skim off the top layer of “scum” as needed. 

homemade bone broth simmering with carrots and herbs

4. Simmer and Strain

Once the broth has finished simmering, strain the solids out and then cool it off quickly to reduce the growth of bacteria. 

6. Store

Now you have a delicious nutrient-dense bone broth that you can use immediately or save it to cook with later. Bone broth can be kept in an airtight container (like mason jars) in the fridge for about 5 days. If you want to keep it longer, it will need to be frozen, dehydrated, or canned

Homemade bone broth is one of the most medicinal food items one can consume. It is extremely easy to make and preserving it is even easier!

What to Plant in January: Vegetable Garden Growing Guide

Learn what to plant in January with Homesteaders of America Vegetable Garden Growing Guides!

While most of the gardens in the United States are still resting, perhaps even insulated under a thick blanket of snow, there are a few southern areas beginning to warm up and will be ready to grow vegetables soon!

What to Plant in January: Vegetable Garden Growing Guide

How to Use the Growing Guides

In the Growing Guides, you will learn what to plant each month according to your last frost date. 

  • Look up your last frost date by zip code if you don’t know it already.
  • Choose the Growing Guide for this month
  • Find which month your last frost date is in
  • Follow the seed starting suggestions on the graphic

The Growing Guides will be targeted for the continental United States, which also includes some of the warmer areas of our country such as southern extremes Texas and Florida. It’s hard for some of us northern folks to imagine starting our gardens in January, but believe it or not, that’s the time for them to start their tomatoes now! 

Be sure to follow us on social media, read our newsletter, or check back on the blog for updates throughout the year! 

What to Plant in January: Vegetable Garden Growing Guide

Last Frost Date in January

While most of the country is still deep in winter weather, a few extreme southern regions of the United States are warm enough to start their growing season!

If your last frost date is this month, your garden may already be well on its way with plants that can tolerate more chilly weather. January is the time for you to plant all of your direct started seeds in the ground. Tender seedlings can be transplanted now as well!

Start Indoors

  • Nothing here! It’s time to move the sowing outdoors!

Direct Seed

  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Kale
  • Melons
  • Squash
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Warm Weather Herbs, such as Basil, Chamomile, Nasturtiums and more

Transplant

  • Brassicas, if not done already
  • Eggplant
  • Onions, if not done already
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Herb Seedlings

Last Frost Date in February

If your last frost date will be in February, there is much that can be done in the garden already! Once your soil is able to be worked you can get many cold hardy vegetables in the ground a month before your last frost.

Start Indoors

  • Want a second (or third) succession of greens? Start a round of lettuce indoors to transplant next month.
  • Brassicas

Direct Seed

  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Turnips

Transplant

  • Brassicas
  • Onions
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Cold Tolerant Herbs, such as Fennel

Last Frost Date in March

Last frost date in March? It won’t be long now! And thankfully, there is still much gardening that can be done even though the weather in your neck of the woods is still pretty chilly.

Start Indoors

  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Onions, if not done already
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Slow-Growing Herbs (see seed packets for details)

Direct Seed

  • It may be possible for you to plant peas.

Transplant

  • It’s still too cold to plant anything directly in the soil without using season extension though by the end of the month you may be able to transplant onion seedlings or sets.

Last Frost Date in April

A large portion of the United States has their last frost date in April. If you’re one of these folks it’s still to early to get out and work in the garden, but there is plenty to do indoors!

Start Indoors

  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Slow-Growing Herbs (see seed packets for details)

Last Frost Date in May

Still plenty of time for folks with a last frost date in May before you’re going to get busy in the garden. Make sure your indoor seed starting area is ready, your grow light bulbs aren’t burned out, find your timer, and get potting soil on hand because next month…. you get to crack a packet of seeds!

Last Frost Date in June

If you’re in the northernmost reaches of the United States or high in the mountains, your last frost date is still half a year away. But you can spend this time dreaming and planning! Flip through your catalogs one last time and finalize your seed order, draw up your garden plan, research crop rotation and companion planting, and make sure you set aside a little bit of garden to grow something beautiful for you and the bees.

Make sure you start your garden on time! Learn what to plant in January with Homesteaders of America Vegetable Garden Growing Guides!

Tips to Stock the Pantry for the Winter

Stock the homestead pantry for winter

A well-stocked pantry is essential to eating from scratch homegrown meals in the off-season. We have a few tips to help you stock the pantry for winter as well as information for preserving homestead pantry staples. 

How to Stock the Pantry for Winter

Planning, growing, preserving, and storing food for the homestead pantry is a year-round affair. The staples that you choose to keep in your pantry form the foundation of your family’s meals so it is important to plan with purpose so you can continue to serve nourishing meals throughout the winter months. 

Tips to Stock the Homestead Pantry

Before you start filling up the pantry with canned goods, dried foods, and root veggies, take a few minutes to think and plan. You don’t want any of the food that you store to go to waste, so consider these tips when you are planning and stocking the homestead pantry for winter.

1. Be Intentional 

Be intentional with your garden planning and pantry stocking purchases. Use your pantry space (and your time) wisely by only stocking foods that you will make use of. Don’t buy or grow pinto beans if your family never eats pinto beans. 

Think about your typical menu and plan your garden around that. Think about how each plant can be used- for example, tomatoes can be canned diced, whole, as sauce, or salsa. They can also be sun-dried, preserved in oil, or frozen. This will help you determine how many of each plant you need to be able to cook the meals that your family enjoys.

After garden planning, you can make a refined list of food items that you will need to purchase from the grocery store.

2. Familiarize Yourself with Food Storage and Preservation Methods

Pressure Canning

Low-acid foods like meat, carrots, green beans, bone broth, etc. can be preserved and made shelf-stable in a pressure canner.

Hot Water Bath Canning

High-acid foods like jams, jellies, pickles, and tomatoes (with acid added) can be preserved using a water bath canner. 

hot water bath canning
Freezing

Many foods (think eggs, berries, chopped onions & peppers, etc.) can be frozen and stored in bags jars or other containers. 

Freeze Drying

Freeze drying uses very cold temperatures to remove 99% of the moisture from food while maintaining the original nutrients, shape, and color. Freeze-dried foods have a self-life of up to 25 years!

Dehydrating

Many foods can be air-dried or dried in the oven or a dehydrator. Dehydrating removes up to 90% of the moisture content in food making it shelf-stable for up to a year. 

Vacuum Sealing

Vacuum sealing removes oxygen from food containers (usually jars or bags) which creates an airtight seal. This protects frozen foods from freezer burn and increases the shelf-life of dried foods. 

Dry Storage

Bulk dry goods like flour, sugar, and dried beans can be stored in large mylar bags inside food-grade 5-gallon buckets. 

Cold Storage

Some foods can be stored fresh as long as they are kept in cold temperatures. 

3. Document & Rotate Pantry Goods

Keep a detailed pantry inventory list. Update it each time you remove food from or add food to the pantry. This will help you keep track of your food supply and prepare you to restock before a food item runs out. 

Place new items in the back and move older items to the front (first-in, first-out system) to prevent the older ones from going to waste.

The Homestead Journal Planner has a Food Preservation Inventory sheet that you can use for this.

The homestead journal planner

Homestead Pantry Staples

These staples are suggestions and they generally work for most families, however, the staples that each family needs to stock the pantry will vary based on preferences and dietary needs. As I mentioned before, be intentional. If there are items on this list that your family will not consume, don’t add them to your pantry. 

Dried Herbs and Spices

Herbs are easy to grow and there is often an abundance leftover that can’t be used fresh. These herbs can be air-dried, oven-dried, or dried in a dehydrator and stored for use in the winter. 

Herbs and spices can be used throughout the winter months to enhance the flavor of meals and as ingredients in herbal remedies. 

Meat

Meat is typically preserved in the freezer, but it is a good idea to keep shelf-stable meat in the pantry as well. This can come in handy in case of a power outage and if you don’t have much freezer space. Meat can be pressure canned to safely keep on the shelf. 

cured meats

Dehydrating meat is another option. Dehydrated meat doesn’t have a very long shelf-life and it is usually recommended to keep it in the fridge. Vacuum sealing can prolong the shelf-life, however.  

Meat can also be cured and/or smoked for long-term storage. This not only preserves the meat but provides flavor as well. 

Beans

Stocking the pantry with beans can provide a great source of protein and nutrients for your family throughout the winter. You can keep beans for years when they have been dried or pressure canned.

Vacuum-seal dry beans in mason jars with an oxygen absorber to prolong their shelf-life. Green beans can also be fermented for long-term storage. 

Grains

If your family likes to use whole grains such as oats, rice, corn, and wheat berries you can store them in sealed containers for years.

When choosing a container size, consider how quickly you will use the grains after opening. Smaller containers are generally the best option. Grab some 10-pound buckets with tight-sealing lids and oxygen absorbers for storing grains. The grain will start to go bad once the bucket is opened so if you use 5-gallon buckets, then you would need to use a large amount very quickly. 

Baking Essentials

Stock the pantry with dry goods for baking such as flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and yeast. These ingredients can be safely stored in airtight containers with oxygen absorbers.

I keep flour and sugar inside mylar bags tucked into 5-gallon buckets with locking lids. An oxygen absorber is added to each bucket. I use flour and sugar quickly so a 5-gallon bucket works great. Smaller containers are good for ingredients that aren’t used up as quickly like baking soda and baking powder. 

Sweeteners

Natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, and molasses can be stored in airtight containers in the pantry for a long time (indefinitely if stored properly). Honey & maple syrup can be used to sweeten baked goods, drinks, and other dishes. Molasses can be added to granulated sugar to make brown sugar. 

Root Vegetables

Root veggies like potatoes, carrots, onions, and beets can be canned, blanched & frozen, dehydrated, fermented, or stored fresh in cold storage. In order to store fresh, you will need a cold room, root cellar, or garage space that stays cold throughout the winter. Pack the root vegetables in damp sand, sawdust, or garden soil to keep the flavor, texture, and overall quality intact. 

root vegetables on burlap

Fruits

Some fruits, like apples, can be stored fresh in cold storage. Fruits can also be frozen easily. However, if you wish to preserve fruit to keep in the pantry, you can do this by dehydrating, canning, pickling, and fermenting. 

Cooking Oils and Fats

It would be a shame to stock the pantry with all of the vegetables, grains, legumes, and baking essentials only to realize that you have no oils or fats to cook them with. Store up some extra oils so you can make nutritional meals each day.

Cooking oil and fats (olive oil, coconut oil, lard, and tallow) stored in airtight containers can last 6 months to 5 years depending on the type. Light, oxygen, and heat will make fats & oils go rancid more quickly so keep them in a cool dark area in an airtight container (glass is best). You can also keep oils and fats in the fridge to prolong their life. 

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar, homemade and store-bought, has an indefinite shelf-life when stored in an airtight container in a cool dark place. A cabinet or pantry works fine for an ACV storage area. 

Dairy and Eggs

Milk can be dehydrated and powdered for long-term pantry storage. Butter can be rendered into shelf-stable ghee. Eggs can be frozen, dehydrated, or water-glassed. Cheeses can also be dehydrated to make a powdered cheese topping OR they can be stored in wax or oil. 

ghee in a jar

Pre-Made Meals

You can make meals ahead of time and preserve them as well. For example, you can make soups to pressure can and make casseroles to freeze-dry.

Other Ingredients

Consider other foods that your family will eat throughout the winter and decide where those ingredients will come from. Will you grow those ingredients, buy them from the store, dehydrate or can them?

Non-Food Items

Your pantry can also store non-food items and household goods that you will need year-round. Homemade cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and toothpaste are good items to stock up on.  It is also a good idea to keep an emergency kit in the pantry.


Pin “Stock the Homestead Pantry for Winter” for later

Stock the Homestead Pantry for Winter