Predator Control: Thieves on the Homestead

Raccoon on a log- Predator control on the homesteadSummer is here in full swing. Corn is  growing. Tomatoes ripening. Chicks hatching. Piglets squealing. The most rewarding moments of homesteading  are upon us. And then the day comes. You walk out to your  chicken tractors  only to find one of your  chickens has been attacked by an opossum.  Or, you walk through your  garden to harvest the watermelon you’ve been waiting to ripen.   And there it sits,  half eaten,  being consumed by  bugs.  You’ve  been  robbed by thieves on the homestead! It’s time to implement some predator control!

Most  people accept this loss as “a part of homesteading.”  But let me ask you something. If you raise animals or vegetables and something bad happens, that you could have prevented, don’t you try to learn from your mishap to make sure it doesn’t happen again?

Earlier in the season we were raising chicks under a red shatter proof bulb. Chicks started  dropping like flies. At  first,  we just thought it was part of homesteading. Later  we figured  out that the coating on the shatterproof  bulb  releases a toxic gas that kills the chicks. So rather than accept this loss, we found a different bulb to keep the chicks warm.

This time of  year,  I see so many posts, videos and pictures where people are sharing their loss from predators.  Yet  very few of them mention a plan of attack to fix the problem.  Most  accept the loss as a cost of producing your own food and move on. But why accept it? Why not do something to change it?

This is where predator control comes in.

Predator Control on the Homestead

Why Use Predator Control?

In  my opinion there are many  reasons why predator control is so important. The obvious reason  is to prevent any loss of livestock or produce.   But there is a  subtler  reason  that  most people don’t consider.

Let’s  say  an  opossum,  one  of the most common  predators  on a homestead,  gets into your chicken coop and eats one laying hen.  Chances are the  remaining hens are going to stop laying because they are now stressed out.

Or, what if you have a rabbit get into your garden, chews  on a melon  and doesn’t finish it?  Then you have all kinds of insects that are now going to be attracted to that fruit and  will  damage,  if not kill that plant.  So,  you will not only lose that one fruit or one hen.  You will also lose the  future  production from the plant and other hens.

Fox outside a fence- Predator control on the homesteadA strain on the food  source in an  area  can cause animals to  become more aggressive and take on bigger risks  to  eat.  Also, when  their food  source is  strained,  a  predator will relocate  to follow a new food source. What does that mean to the homesteader? Well,  not only do you have to worry about  predators  killing your  livestock  or eating your fruits and vegetables,  now you have to worry about  them  moving  into your attic, feed shed or barn.  This can be very  dangerous for you,  the  homesteader.  Don’t believe me?  Walk up on a mama  raccoon with her babies  and  then  tell me  it’s  not dangerous, that is  if you survive that encounter.

Another  problem with an overpopulated area  is a rise in different diseases  that could have an effect on  you  and your livestock  like mange, distemper, rabies and so on.  In order to keep your animals and crops safe and productive, a good predator control plan is necessary.

Protecting Your Homestead from Predators

So, what can you for predator control on your homestead?

  • Evaluate your homestead for potential predator food sources
  • Secure your designated animal or garden area to discourage predator activity
  • Monitor predator activity along the borders of your homestead
  • Manage predator population through trapping and hunting
  • Make your homestead less attractive to predators than the surrounding area outside your property.
  • Learn how to train a Livestock Guardian Dog to protect your animals

Want to learn more? Check out Jason’s extensive YouTube playlist with over 25 videos covering predator control management on the homestead!

Predator Control on the Homestead

Applesauce Muffins – Gluten and Dairy-Free Baking on the Homestead

Before we get to this amazing Gluten-Free Applesauce Muffins recipe, I want to share what lead us to become a gluten-free and dairy-free family and how we’ve incorporated this method of cooking onto the homestead.

It truly is not as difficult as you would think and the foods we prepare are full of flavor.  These Applesauce Muffins will prove that!

Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Baking on the Homestead

My journey to becoming gluten and dairy-free began 7 years ago.  I was feeling hormonal, fatigued, anxious, sick, and old before my time. I was 33 years old and felt like I was trapped in someone else’s body. Every day was a slog and a push. I couldn’t shed the baby weight, and life was overwhelming – even minute by minute.

I was laid out on the couch, unable to care for my kids and knew something had to change or I wouldn’t be around to see them graduate. Something rose up inside of me; I was determined to be present to watch my kids grow up, get married and succeed!

Through a fantastic doctor and some blood tests, I found out that I have a gluten sensitivity (as well as many cross-reactive foods too). The crazy thing about gluten reactions is that it can cause your body to turn on itself creating autoimmunity.

My symptoms didn’t seem food related

Instead of causing stomach aches or break-outs, my body was digesting my thyroid. My gut was inflamed and full of lesions from foods that my body couldn’t tolerate. All of this was happening internally while externally it looked like I was doing everything right.

I would eat lots of salads, homemade meals, and whole grain bread. It just made me feel worse. Who knew that the whole grains, nuts, and seeds were tearing holes in my gut walls?

When I removed gluten, grains, dairy, nuts, and beans my world started to right itself. The sleepless, anxious nights went away. The weight fell off, and my energy began to return. Over the last 7 years, I have continued to heal, and I feel like myself more every year.

Giving up the foods I grew up with was scary

It was scary giving up so many foods that I was used to. I had to learn to cook all over again. Pot roast, mixed vegetables, salads and baked winter squash were my safe haven. These healing foods allowed my body the rest it needed to repair and regenerate.

I have since added some grains, nuts, and seeds back into my diet which has opened a whole new world of food. Not only have I learned to cook a fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth pot roast, but I can bake gluten and dairy-free muffins, cookies, pies, sweet bread and yeast bread like a boss.

I learned to cook all over again

Rice agrees with my body, so my recipes start with a brown rice flour blend that I have created just for baking. The flavor is delicate and mingles well. When I share my baked goodies with friends and neighbors, they have no idea they are eating gluten-free.

While I have figured out how to make my treats taste and feel the same as conventional baked goodies, the methods can be drastically different. Gluten is the binder that causes baked goods to hold together and bread to be chewy. When you remove it you are left with a pile of crumbs.

Rice flour is the base of my flour blend. On its own, it is slow to absorb moisture and creates a crumbly texture. I have learned how to mix it with a few other flours to help it stick together and develop some stretch. Crazy, right?

Gluten-free flours benefit from being mixed well; they absorb moisture slowly and are not quick to bind together. With conventional muffins, you want to tease the batter to keep from stirring up the gluten very much, but with these muffins, you will want to mix until the batter is very smooth.

Taste and texture are important but so is nutrition

Health is what pushed me into my gluten-free lifestyle, so it is important to me to continue to nurture that, even when baking. My flour blend has all whole-food ingredients in it. There is no xanthan, or any other, gum to make things stick together.  It is simply rice, potatoes, and coconut!

You can learn more about the flours I use and get my flour blend recipe here.

Gluten-free and homesteading are the perfect pair. I love knowing how my food is produced and what ingredients are in the jar. I have recipes for every season and for all of the foods that we preserve.

A gift for you!

Thank you taking a few minutes to get know me and hear some of my story. I have an exclusive discount code just for you!

Use the code HOA20 for 20% off my Gluten Free Muffins Digital Package which includes:

  • Full color Gluten Free Muffins e-book (digital book) with over 20 recipes
  • Printable Gluten Free Muffins
  • How to Measure Flour for Soft and Moist Muffins
  • How to Wrap and Gift Quick Breads video and PDF
  • Links for the flours used in these recipes and other helpful kitchen tools

Time to get in the kitchen and bake!

Gluten-Free Applesauce Muffins Recipe (Dairy Free)

The recipe for Applesauce Muffins I want to share with you today is one of our favorite ways to use home-canned applesauce (aside from eating it straight out of the jar).

Whether you are gluten-free or not, I urge you to try this recipe. It will work with your preferred flour (including wheat flour), or you can snag the recipe for my flour blend.

Gluten-Free Applesauce Muffins

Melanie Lynn
Moist and delicious Applesauce Muffins made gluten-free and dairy-free
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Servings 12 muffins

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups apple sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 6 eggs room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups Gluten-Free flour Melanie's recipe can be found on her website
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil melted

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350F degrees
  • Place a dab (approximately 1/4 tsp) of coconut oil or butter in each muffin cavity of your pan and set aside. Paper muffin cups are not recommended and will result in a flatter muffin.
  • In a mixing bowl add applesauce, sugar, vanilla, apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, and eggs. Stir until smooth.
  • Add in flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
  • While mixer is still running, drizzle the melted coconut oil into batter. Continue mixing until well incorporated.
  • Place muffin pans in the oven until the coconut oil or butter is melted.
  • Once the oil/butter is melted, fill muffin cps with batter to 2/3 full. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake.
  • Bake in a 350F degree oven for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown on the edges and cooked through in the center. Insert a toothpick in the center to test doneness. Toothpick comes out mostly clean with a few crumbs when fully cooked.

Notes

Muffins will release best if you let them sit in the pan for a few minutes before removing. If they stick, use a knife inserted around the edge to loosen.
Keyword applesauce, dairy-free, gluten-free, muffins
Gluten-Free Applesauce Muffins Recipe

Raising Rabbits on the Homestead: 3 Things To Know First

Rabbits on the homestead aren't easy. Set yourself up for success!Raising rabbits can be an “easy” project if you aren’t worried about the financial aspects of raising your own food and if you only want a couple breeding does. If you simply care about knowing where your food comes from then rabbits may work well for you. But if you want to know where your food comes from and save money on that food, it may take years to achieve with rabbits unless you prepare and buy well. Here are three things you should know BEFORE raising rabbits so you’re set up for success!

We fell into rabbits and didn’t expect to end up as farmers. Honestly, if we hadn’t added sheep soon after purchasing rabbits I would have given up on farming and chalked it up to a bad idea. The sheep distracted us from the difficulty of rabbits and gave us another project to look forward to as we straightened out the mess!

We soon realized that our original stock was not what we hoped and that the growth rates were poor. We were unable to cull litters until 12 weeks (versus the 8 weeks that should be doable for commercial type rabbits).

I am not one to waste money and quickly started to figure out what we did wrong and what we could do better at raising rabbits to make them a financially viable project.

Things To Know Before Raising Rabbits

Source Good Breeding Stock

This is the main problem. GOOD rabbits are hard to find and you will have to travel for them.

You want a rabbit with fast growth and wide rears (that’s where the meat is). There are plenty of slow-growing, narrow rabbits available, but that will not lead to much success. Commercial-type rabbits should hit 5 pounds at 8 weeks (slightly longer if the litter is larger). I have spent a lot of time seeking out breeders that hit this mark and they are difficult to find.

This year I am having rabbits brought in to our farm in Virginia from Iowa and Georgia because they were the breeders I could find that kept good records and bred for growth and type. It is unlikely you will find truly good meat rabbits in your neck of the woods.

Raising Rabbits Takes a Lot of Time

Rabbits require more individual time and attention. Unless you are raising in colony (something I have not attempted and am hesitant to try) or have a tiny rabbitry, you will spend more time feeding, watering, and cleaning up after rabbits than other animals. The majority of our man-hours here are spent on the rabbits. To give you an idea of the size versus time output we currently have 8 does (6 of breeding age) and 3 bucks. We also have quail, ducks, and sheep.

Educate Yourself on Rabbit Diseases

Not only do you need to learn the basics of raising rabbits, but also about rabbit diseases before they strike.

If disease hits it is likely that you will need to cull rabbits. That can be a big blow to your program. Rabbits can be fragile if not well-bred. Genetics are incredibly important and you want to breed for good disease resistance. Rabbits with poor resistance have to go. I am beginning to include resistance to coccidosis as a trait to look for when selecting lines to continue.

My first promising black doe, “Cassini”. She came from states away when I started my search for really good stock. Her breeder has turned into a mentor and his advice has helped me through so many difficulties. (Note: While she looks beautiful here, she isn’t posed perfectly. Her front legs should be under her eye. That does throw off analysis of her peak and rise slightly. It’s hard to pose and take a picture solo!)

Questions to Ask Breeders Before Raising Rabbits

If you want to get into rabbits what can you do to increase the chances of success? Decide what breed you want and learn the breed standard. Buy the ARBA standard of perfection book (find it here: https://www.arba.net/store/store.php) to always have on hand. Go to shows, meet breeders, listen closely to the comments judges give on the animal’s type. Realize that good type should equal better meat production. Before you buy, spend months getting in touch with different breeders and asking (at least) the following questions:

  1. At what age do you typically butcher and what is your average live weight
  2. at butchering? What is your average live weight at 8 weeks?
  3. Do you breed to a standard?
  4. Are they fully pedigreed (with name/tattoo number and weight for each rabbit)?
  5. What is your average litter size and success/wean rate?
  6. Do you medicate your rabbits? Do you cull for disease?
  7. Are entire litters available for sale as breeding stock? (If so…run!  Even the best breeders cull their litters hard and won’t have litters full of perfect rabbits.)

I recently hosted a workshop at my rabbitry regarding all things silver fox and meat rabbits. We had a group of 7 discussing and learning. It was WONDERFUL! My favorite comment was, “When is the neighborhood barbeque?” Everyone was so excited to take their knowledge home, cull their poor stock, and build their rabbitries with good foundations. Of the 7 there only 2 of us had ever shown rabbits. I hope we will all see improvements in our rabbitries and meat production this year!

Bottom line: Please, please don’t sell poor quality rabbits. It is not fair to new breeders and not good for the breed. That is what the stew pot is for!

3 Things to Know Before Raising Rabbits on the Homstead #meatrabbits #raisingrabbits #rabbits #homesteading #smallfarm

Who Needs a Fairy Garden When You Can Have a Bee Kingdom? (with Video)

Ella in her Bee Kingdom

Raising kids on a farm is an ultimate experiment? Well, just add bees to that experiment and see what happens – a bee kingdom!

Ok, ok it’s not as scary as what it sounds. In fact, I’m intrigued with the fascination and bond that raising kids around beehives does to them. My youngest showed an interest in beekeeping. She would watch me don my suit and veil as I prepared to inspect my hives.

Ella in her Bee Kingdom
 The many shades of pollen

Ella in her Bee Kingdom

The fear of the bees left her mind as she meticulously watched while I lit my smoker and gave it a few puffs. The smoke bellowed out and the bees settled calmly down into their hive.

Ella (my youngest) peaked up as I lifted each frame of drawn out comb and searched for the Queen. She saw the bees dancing and fanning each other as they communicated their whereabouts and their findings. Ella spotted the queen and formally announced her highness as she traveled her way around the comb while being catered to. She saw love and nurturing.

The importance of bees is critical for our civilization, but these tiny little insects live as if their entire hive is a working organism. Each bee has a task and they must work together for survival.

Ella in Her Bee Kingdom

Ella watches as I talk to the girls and tell them about how proud I am of them. She chuckles, but is aware of the symbolic relationship that a beekeeper has with their bees.

It is a reflection of love and care for life as we know it.

I’ve witnessed her imagination blossom every time she goes up and sits next to the hives. We watches the girls come home with fluffy weighted down Ploom pants and smiles when they come in for a landing.

This evening as we sat, Ella decided to tell me a story of her Bee Kingdom. I enjoyed watching her imagination run wide and I was able to record a little of her story. I hope you enjoy seeing beekeeping through an 8-year old’s eyes.

For the love of Keeping,
Kaylee Richardson The Farm on Quail Hollow 


More on Beekeeping

Keep exploring the wonderful world of raising bees on the homestead!

Fermenting or Pickling: What’s The Difference?

pickled peppers
Photo Credit: Christopher Shockey

Learn about the different pickling methods you can try: Vinegar Pickles for canning; Quick Refrigerator Pickles, or Fermented Pickles from  Kirsten K. Shockey, Guest Blogger for Lehmans.com

What is the difference between fermenting and pickling? It is a common question. In a way, it is just as much a semantics question as it is a process question.

Pickling Methods: Difference Between Fermenting vs. Pickling

What is Pickling?

Let’s start with the definition of a pickle, or the verb to pickle. The simplest definition is “to preserve or flavor (food) in a solution of brine or vinegar.” Any food can be “pickled” but for the sake of this post we are going to stick to vegetables. Therefore, the first misconception is that all pickles are cucumbers, which is not true—cucumbers just happen to be ubiquitous enough to have earned the title.

pickles
Photo Credit: Christopher Shockey

Different Pickling Methods

Now that we have that out of the way let’s think about the second part of this idea of pickling, which is that the food, or vegetables in our case, are brought to a pH of 4.6 or lower which is necessary to kill most bacteria. In other words, for something to be a pickle it must be acidic—that distinguishing sour pucker. This acidic and anaerobic setting is the environment that we are looking for when we want to preserve our vegetables for later use.

Vinegar Pickling & Quick Pickling

We can preserve vegetables a few ways, but we are going to concentrate on the two ways you might be drawn to in your kitchen: vinegar pickling and quick pickling. With both of these methods you add vinegar to the vegetable to acidify it; often these pickles are packed in a jar and water-bath canned to remove the oxygen and seal the jar.

A true quick pickle, or refrigerator pickle, is generally made for flavor instead of preservation and stored in the fridge for quick consumption. Recipes for canned vinegar pickles are very specific because, for them to be safe, it is important that the added acidity brings the pH of everything in the jar to below that 4.6 mark.

More Pickling Ideas

Check out these other recipes for preserving the harvest with pickling!

Fermenting vs. Pickling: What's the Difference?

Spring on Our Homestead (VIDEO)

Spring on the Homestead: ChicksThis spring has been very busy around our homestead!

I love all of the seasons, each one for it’s own reasons. Spring is such a special time of year. It’s a time of birth, sowing, growth, new starts, hope for the future, and expectation of abundance.

Our spring has met all of those criteria so far and we have faith that it will continue to. We’ve had a lot of excitement on our homestead this spring, it’s been very full and fun filled.

Spring on Our Homestead

New Life

Our spring started out with the excitement of new life. We got lots of baby chicks, both meat chickens and chicks for our laying flock. There’s nothing like a baby chick that just says “spring on the homestead” to me. We are looking forward to putting some homegrown chicken in the freezer very soon. I love growing food that will nourish my family.

Spring also brought the birth of baby goats for us. Five baby goats made their way into this world and our homestead. We were able to witness the births and it was an amazing experience. We have three little bucklings and two little doelings. The bucklings will be sold and will make other farms some very nice herd sires. The little doelings will stay here to be part of our milking herd.

Spring on the Homestead: Baby Goats

Garden 

We started our spring early with a large planting and everything was looking great…. and then, an unexpected (very) late frost killed it all. That was quite sad. All of our seedlings were destroyed. We waited a couple of weeks and started over. This time, we had success!

The garden is growing wonderfully and we are already starting to harvest. We’ve enjoyed meals of squash and zucchini so far. The green beans are being picked and will be canned this week and we even got one little cucumber off of a vine.

From the current look of things, we should have quite the abundance from the garden this year. I love that my garden will feed my family all summer and I can preserve food to last us all winter as well.

Spring on the Homestead: Zucchini in the Garden

Pasture

Spring also brings lush green grass for our livestock to graze on. This will help our steers to grow out nicely and provide us with 100% grass-fed beef. We already had one steer butchered this spring and he has served us well.

Our meat chickens are being moved to new grass regularly to provide them with plenty of forage to thrive on. It won’t be much longer and we will be able to butcher our first batch of the year.

We haven’t had to mow our grass in the yard because the goats are doing a great job for us. They’ve enjoyed being able to graze the yard and we’ve enjoyed not having to cut the grass. It’s a win win for both parties! They are also producing lots of rich, healthy milk for us with being on pasture.

As you can see, our spring has been very busy, very full, and very blessed. All of the goodness of spring ushers in summer and all of the abundance that it brings. We are looking forward to harvesting, preserving, and butchering our own food moving into the next season.

Our summer will prove to be just as busy as spring and that’s the way I like it on our homestead. I love to be busy at home, taking care of my family and homestead.

My Favorite Garden Tips

My Favorite Gardening Tips

Sustainable Farming: Making a Living on the Homestead with Joel Salatin

Sustainable Farming with Joel Salatin
 by Patrice Lewis

If you’ve ever wondered how to make a living from a homestead, there’s a man who can tell you about the sustainable farming methods that can make your dream a reality. 

Joel Salatin is that man. His family owns Polyface Farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

Homesteading is – or should be – something like a closed circle. Everything supports and contributes to the success of everything else, looped in an endless cycle of healthy natural feedback.

The result is a variety of different products – meat, eggs, fruits, vegetables – which the farmer can sell to earn income, all while making sure the land is nourished and protected.

Salatin does this by following the cycles of nature, both in plant growth and in animal behavior.

Implementing Sustainable Farming to Make a Living on the Homestead

Joel operates his “beyond organic” operation by employing radical principles: Rather than fighting nature, he works in conjunction with nature. (Radical, no?)

His success proves small farmers can use holistic management techniques that fly in the face of agri-business practices and even surpass the governmental “organic” certification (which Salatin dismisses as little more than bureaucratic paperwork but does little to help nature).

Salatin is an agrarian gladiator who enjoys sharing his expertise. But watch out: the man brooks no tolerance for conventional agricultural “wisdom.”

Instead, he’s here to show small farmers how to make a profit from their land while maintaining healthy, sustainable practices.

Cows graze on grass, grouped in herds as instinct demands. They are moved to fresh forage daily so they don’t graze in their own waste.

Behind them comes “eggmobiles” – floorless chicken tractors which allow free-range meat birds to scratch up the cow droppings, eat bugs, and sanitize the grass, just as birds do in nature.

Pigs forage on pasture in summer, but during winter they bed down in “pigaerators,” which oxygenates the winter waste products of the cattle.

The resulting compost is the backbone of the farm’s fertility program. “We’re really in the earthworm enhancement business,” says Salatin. “Stimulating soil biota is our first priority. Soil health creates healthy food.”


Joel Salatin’s Tips for Sustainable Farming on the Homestead

Joel Salatin spoke at the 2019 Homesteaders of America conference on the sustainable farming methods that have made his farm successful. He shared a wealth of knowledge and tips for homesteaders who are seeking to have their farms turn a profit.

In this excerpt of clips from the lecture you’ll glean wisdom that will help you get your farm started on the right foot!


The full lecture is available for viewing in the Homesteaders of America VIP Member Library! Become an HOA VIP Member and get access to ALL of the available conference lectures (over 55+ hours in all!) from homesteading experts and educators across the country!


TRANSCRIPT

Going into Debt To Start Your Farm

“Debt should only be used to leverage income. I’m not as quite a pariah on debt as much as Dave Ramsey but I do believe there are places for debt. Debt is ok to use if it’s actually going to generate income and it’s going to return an investment.”

Gaining Experience on the Farm: You Can’t Google It

“You can’t Google experience. A lot of people say, “Why did you become successful?” Well I think the best answer is we were just too stubborn to quit. Perseverance brings you to mastery. If you’re familiar with the Peter Drucher Learning Curve, you enter an enterprise and say, “Let’s try this.” You enter at this point [raises hand high]… well it gets worse [drops hand down to demonstrate going down a curve] because you make mistakes, you’re trying something new. That’s called the Slough of Despond down in here. And that is usually 3-5 years before you come back in to where you entered. And then it goes way up here as you develop mastery [raises hand above the beginning level]. The problem is, that 3-5 years, most people quit, right in the bottom of the trough. Right when it’s ready to turn back up and you start making headway, that’s when everybody quits. So, persevere. When people ask me, “What’s your single biggest advice for a person starting out?” my advice is, “Don’t quit! Because it’s darkest right before the dawn and you’re going to get tired right before you have the breakthrough.” “

Focusing on Form or Function? Does the appearance of a farm really matter? 

“Don’t get so caught up in what things look like. Think about function first. And if I may go where angels fear to tread, I would include in this: Breeds. When you start out, you’re not going to get the picture perfect bull or the picture perfect cow or goat or whatever it is. This is one of the problems with heritage breeds. “Oh! I want this cute little animal!” And people get all fired up about these cute little things. So what we have are Scottish Highlander cattle in Alabama cause they’re cute. Scottish Highlander cattle don’t work in Alabama. They’re uncomfortable, they’re unhappy, they’re burning up. If you want Scottish Highlander cattle, go live in Ontario but don’t live in Alabama. We get this idea of a look and it gets in the way of function and we try to force function into form instead of doing function first and working on form later.”

Sustainable Farming Infrastructure: Will it Make You or Break You? 

“If you’ve been to our place, man, it looks threadbare. Allan Nation always used to say that a profitable farmstead should have a threadbare look. If it’s got pretty white picket fences and everything is all done up just right, it’s probably what we call a “land yacht” instead of something that is actually  turning a profit.”

Mastering One Thing at a Time: Profitability Comes Before Expansion

“Before you build your menagerie because you read all this stuff and you have all these ideas,
“We oughta do this, we oughta do this, we oughta do this…” and what happens is we end up doing a lot of things halfway. 

My encouragement is to get one thing good at a time. 

Get one thing good at a time. Become a master of one thing. The menagerie will come later. You can have all the menagerie you want, but do one thing well. And once you’ve mastered one thing that will be profitable… and if you can’t do one thing profitably, trust me, you can’t do two things profitably…  So do one thing very well and that profitability and that efficiency will pay for and drive your trials and experiments in other things.”

Building a Local Economy: What REALLY Works

“We spend a lot of time spinning our wheels trying to develop complete independence when we’d actually do better at finding what we’re good at, spending more time there, mastering it, becoming efficient at it, and then taking the profit we’re able to get because we’re really good at this, and becoming mutually interdependent within the community and creating the economy. That’s what makes the local, rural economy work is different trades and gifts being traded back and forth.”

Being Strategic: Achieving Success at the Right Things

“The thing is there’s a lot of things we can do in life. Everybody has full calendars, we’ve got full schedules, lots of things to do. The question is at the end of our life do we look back and say, “Well, we were successful at the wrong things.” That’s a great tragedy. And so we want to be strategic, we want to be direct, we want to be specific about our activities and know that what we’re doing is the effective thing, the right thing, at the right time.”


Sustainable Farming with Joel Salatin

Preparing for Homestead Emergencies

Preparing for Homestead EmergenciesPreparing for homestead emergencies is not the easiest topic to discuss, but I feel like it is one that needs to be addressed. The “What if?” in homesteading could be a game stopper for many of us.

Preparing for Homestead Emergencies: Finding Help on the Farm

There are many “What if?” moments that could possibly happen, but I’m going to discuss something that I see everyday. Not many people know this, but outside of my farm life, I am a Surgical First Assistant in the operating room. I see life on life’s term and it does worry me that a family member or myself may one day be on that operating room table.

How will my farm make it? We work together as a family to tend to our livestock and with one man down, could we still manage?

“Life on life’s terms.” This saying brings to light that we are only human and are stoppable.

Everyone of us has or will experience a moment in life that will bring us to our knees and shake our total view on our existence. Our strength comes from getting back up and moving forward. Getting back up can be difficult if you are doing it on your own, but having a community of loved ones can uplift you when you are emotionally or physically down.

What is your plan if something bad happens? Most people go through life and take it day to day, but in farming/homesteading you can’t take it day by day.

On our farm, we prepare for bad weather, livestock births, rotating our herds, animal husbandry, planting schedule, and so on. I am sure if you run a homestead or farm you have a similar schedule planned out, but do you have the big “What if” planned out?

Two years ago, I experienced a farm injury that resulted in me almost losing my dominant hand. My hands are my main tools in my career as well as my farming life. It was from one small puncture from barbed wire that manifested into a massive infection. Something so small led to surgery and months of physical therapy. I still experience pain and my hand will lock up every so often, but I manage.

Now mix that horrible freak event with raising two young kids, being a wife, working full time, and running a farm. Without the care and support, I don’t know how I could have pulled through.

GRAPHIC PHOTO BELOW

 Massive infection due to puncture wound

I know that thinking about someone caring for your livestock can be nerve wracking, because there is a huge fear that the person will not tend to them the way that you do. I have heard horrific stories of farmers who hire help and they end up losing livestock due to dehydration.

We are extremely selective on who we have help, because trusting someone for care of a life should not come lightly. We surround ourself with family and friends that see our vision and are always willing to lend a helping hand.

This farming adventure has brought my parents closer and we have found a love for beekeeping TOGETHER! We also have two couples that are some of our closest friends that will help tend to the animals if we may need help. We understand that they sacrifice their time and we make sure to allow them to hunt on our land and make sure to stock their freezer to try to pay it forward.

Farming does take a community and making sure you can trust someone will allow for a greater sense of ease.

I understand that not everyone has friends or family that could be available if help is needed. Researching hired farm help may be your only option. Please do your research and don’t be afraid to contact references and seeing if you could visit other farms before trusting someone with your livestock.

As farmers/ homesteaders we prepare for just about anything, but being prepared for an unexpected incident can help with the emotional/ physical stress from being knocked down. Farming does take a community and having support is necessary for survival.

Homestead Preparedness

There are many considerations besides finding helping hands on the farm if an emergency happens. Here are a few other ways you can plan now to get your homestead ready for the worst.

Preparing for Homestead Emergencies

Rabbit Coccidiosis: When Things Fall Apart

Rabbit Coccidiosis
Four empty rabbit tractor, a sad sight after a coccidiosis infestation.

Rabbit coccidiosis is an extremely contagious infection caused by protozoa parasites that can infect the digestive tract or liver of rabbits. It can be difficult to diagnose and treat. Last week, we had to cull twenty young rabbits after an outbreak was discovered on our homestead.  

Both my husband and I were heartbroken. I coped by sitting in the car eating chocolate sunflower butter cups writing this while my husband mowed the grass where the rabbit tractors used to be.  

Unfortunately, for many of us who don’t have farming in our background we can do lots of reading on the basics of raising rabbits, but the hard lessons often come with tragic situations.  We’ve had to learn the hard way that raising rabbits is not an easy homestead project. 

Rabbit Coccidiosis

We’ve never dealt with rabbit coccidiosis on our little farm.  We’ve only been farming for about a year so I guess we were due for a hard lesson (if all the hard work and reseach isn’t hard enough).  I don’t think I’ve been this emotional about a loss before. The animals in our care matter a lot to me and to see what was going on inside the sick rabbits we found was traumatizing.

The problem with hepatic cocci is there are very few signs and symptoms.  We’ve had slow growth problems this year, which are gradually improving, so the slow growth rates weren’t as big of a flag as they should have been.  

On Friday, as I was running out the door to give a tour at Whiffletree Farm, I found the first rabbit laying almost unable to move in the tractor. I had to make a quick decision.  The head tilted back and the lethargy told me this rabbit was too far gone and trying to save it would prolong it’s misery. I humanely dispatched and put it in the fridge to necropsy later.  

Right before we were to necropsy that rabbit we found another in a different tractor, in the same position, near lifeless.  We necropsied both and the sight was disgusting. There was hardly any meat on their frames, their livers took up almost the entire cavity and were covered in cocci spots.  

I am not one to medicate my animals, but this was too urgent.  We bought corrid and started treatment.

But, today, we had to make a real decision.  Were we going to fight a long, exhausting battle to try to save these rabbits? One that might not succeed?  One that would require daily sanitization of every cage?

Ultimately, we decided it was best for both us and the rabbits if we culled them.  My husband, kindly, dispatched them for me. I was in such a state of emotion and shock it was hard for me to handle. I did come and look at a kit from the third litter and while not as dramatic, there was definitely an infection and little muscle tissue.  

I talked to quite a few breeders and specialists as we struggled to make this decision.  A good $300 was on the line as well as months of work. Ultimately, we couldn’t guarantee that these rabbits would be able to make a full recovery and seeing the skin and bones inside these rabbits it would be difficult and a long journey to help them recover.  

Rabbit Coccidiosis: Rabbit in the Grass

The Cause of Rabbit Coccidiosis on Our Farm

I do think we pinned down the problem.  We struggled with the cost of non-GMO feed, but weren’t willing to move to conventional due to our principles and our customer base.  So, we trialed a custom loose feed that would be a much cheaper option. We were on the feed for about two months until we noticed several rabbits with loose poops.  We pulled them off immediately and worked hard to find another solution (which we did, but is a topic for another post). A month after we pulled the feed the first rabbit went down.  We think the feed was too high starch which led to yeast overgrowth and a weakened immune system. The animals were suffering from bloat (common with yeast overgrowth). I talked to our local ag lab and the doctor there agreed that it was hepatic cocci and said rabbits are just prone to this.

Coccidiosis Prevention

Talking to farmers I respect, the solution all leads back to one thing: strong immune systems and genetics.  

All rabbits are exposed to cocci, but rabbits with weak immune systems and genetics are the ones that deal with infection.  We will need to cull hard for immunity as we expand and continue to improve our rabbitry with good genetic lines.

Daniel Salatin was nice enough to help me out again and willing to let me share his response here:

Welcome to the wreck!  Rabbits get cocci from the ground.  That is where it lives.  When the rabbits are on the ground (tractors) they can and will get it.  IF they have not been bred or selected for hardiness. I may have told you that I went though a time at my starting point where I lost 80% plus!  But the ones that lived had bunny’s that did a bit better, and better and better….25 years later, my rabbits can go in pens on grass and do great.  I still get a liver now and again with a few spots but not enough to hurt the growth rate much.

Daniel suggested we do one of three things.

  1. Work through this and selectively breed for hardiness for 2-3 years.
  2. Get stock that has already been selected for hardiness.
  3. Cut and carry to the cages.  

We are going to do a combo of all three. We will continue to select for hardiness among our rabbits and buy stock accordingly, but will settle on hanging cages for a little while until we feel confident that our kits have been bred well to be hardy enough to handle the ground.

Research has also shown that feeding rabbits twigs from trees rich in tannins, such as oaks, can prevent rabbit coccidiosis up to 60%

So, I need to look at this as an exciting project, just like all the other goals I have set for our rabbitry.  While we wait for our hard work to pay off there we can enjoy the quail, ducks, and sheep that are thriving and making exciting developments.  It sure is nice when only one of the animals falls apart at a time!

Rabbits & Coccidiosis: When Things Fall Apart