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Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Jackie Clay

Q and A: sweet potatoes and chicken feed

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Sweet potatoes

I left some sweet potatoes in the garden, thinking since they were under ground, I could just harvest them as I needed them, regardless of freezing. Wrong! I didn’t put any straw on them, so the top 2 inches or so froze, but anything lower than that is fine. What should I do with them now? The part that froze gets mushy when I bring them in and wash them. Are they ok to eat?

Chrissy Mullender
Luray, Kansas

It depends. Did they freeze and stay frozen? If so, just wash them and cook them. But if they froze, thawed, froze, etc. I’d add them to your compost pile and chalk it up to a lesson learned. Sweet potatoes can’t take any freezing so next time, dig them earlier and be safe. — Jackie

Chicken feed

In your recent article “Saving money on the homestead” you mentioned not buying packaged chicken feed. You buy grain in bulk. What homemade chicken feed recipe do you use? I’ve looked at many, but they have SOOO much hard to find and expensive things in them. You seem like a down to earth kinda girl, so I’m guessing your recipe is simple and to the point. I have noticed a lot of recipes have fish emulsion in them. Its very expensive, but the amount used is so small, I don’t think it would add up to being expensive in the long run. Anyways, I would like to know your recipe for happy healthy chickens! This year we hatched 100 chicks, and are going broke feeding them to butcher size. I need a cheaper route for next year!

Roxann Bagley
Williston, North Dakota

You’re right; I don’t buy packaged chicken feed — the kind that comes in nice paper sacks, made by name brand feed companies either in 50 pounds or 25 pounds. Our local grain elevator, Homestead Mills, carries their own mix which is sold under the generic name of 18% poultry and 14% feed. What I usually do is use the 18% poultry for our egg layers and as a general growing mix for young birds. Then I switch our meat birds to the cheaper 14% ground feed at about five weeks. If we keep them longer than eight weeks, they get plain corn screenings. The 18% poultry grain is half the cost as those cute paper bags; I can buy 100 pounds for the same money as the 50 pound sacks bought elsewhere. You often buy the name brand and pretty picture instead of the feed.
Mixing your own poultry feed is pretty easy but it is extra work. Here’s a sample for a grower feed:

50 pounds cracked corn, barley, or wheat (or a mix of any of these)
18 pounds rough mill feed or screenings
16.5 pounds soybean, meat, or fish meal
5 pounds alfalfa meal — when the birds are not on pasture
vitamin supplement added as per package directions
1/2 pound trace mineral salt
Mix well and store in a tight container

We substitute our own homegrown pumpkins and squash in the winter, fed daily, for the alfalfa meal. The chickens love it and we cut down on feed costs. I hope this helps. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Keeping busy even when it’s cold

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

We haven’t had a break from the Arctic cold and wind we’ve been having lately, with the lows in single digits and the highs in the low teens. Brrr. But we’ve still got lots to do. I’ve been saving seeds from lots of pumpkins (Howden and Winter Luxury) and squash (Hopi Pale Grey, Canada Crookneck, etc.) and shelling Painted Mountain and Glass Gem popcorn. While we save seeds, we’re planning what to plant next spring. And just where we’ll put it to keep our seed pure. Will jokes that he’d better fire up Old Yeller and get out and clear some more land!


Meanwhile, Will’s been out in the woods hauling in dead logs he stockpiled this fall. Yesterday, he brought in about a cord of some big ash and some mixed logs. The weather this weekend is supposed to be mild, so I hope we can get it cut up and split.


Because it’s been so cold, I’ve started using the kitchen range. It’s sure nice to have it fired up again and it really helps keep the house toasty. Since it’s below the upstairs bedrooms, the floor gets nice and warm.

We were having trouble getting our cows AI’d; they kept returning in heat. So Will talked to our neighbor who happened to have a young bull he needed to move out of a pen. We ended up moving him to our pasture for the winter. He was only here a few hours before he bred our Jersey cross heifer. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: livestock feeder and canning baked beans

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Livestock feeder

We recently purchased two 4 month old heifer calves. One is a Holstein and one a Jersey/Milking shorthorn cross. We are new to this cow thing and are learning as we go. Our plans are to have these cows be our family milking cows when they are older and we are currently working on halter training and getting to know each other. My question for you and the readers out there is regarding building some sort of hay feeder for these animals. I don’t want to feed them on the ground due to the amount that it wastes. We don’t need a huge hay feeder just for two animals either. We will be feeding standard bales of hay, not the round bales. And for that number of animals we would not even be feeding full bales at a time. Is there any recommendations for building a hay feeder for a small number of cows? It could either be free standing or attach to the side of the barn wall. Being new to this we just don’t know what the best thing to do would be. We were hoping to find an easy and affordable plan for constructing a feeder.

Brandie Penningroth
Auburn, Washington

You can easily build a wooden hay feeder, either free standing or fastened to the side of your barn. I have built several myself. I use 2x6s as a frame and 2x4s as the bars. You can either build a feeder that lets only the cows’ muzzles reach the hay or one where their whole head goes into an open stanchion. Obviously, a horned cow/heifer will need the bars farther apart than a dehorned or polled animal if you decide to let the whole head enter the feeder. The feeder should have a solid bottom. I place my 2″ boards about half an inch apart to make sure no water remains trapped in the bottom of the feeder. I also include a roof over the feeder, high enough above it so the cattle’s heads don’t trash it. The roof protects the hay from rain and snow. If you make a free-standing feeder, you’ll want to build four legs out of pressure treated 2×6 lumber so the legs don’t rot in the wet. For the free-standing feeder, think a tall, sturdy “baby crib” with a roof where the cattle reach through to eat the hay you drop in from above. It should be tall enough that they can’t easily reach over the top to grab hay and toss it out onto the ground but short enough you can throw a bale of hay (or part of a bale) into it. After you throw a bale into the feeder, cut the strings or wire and remove it. Hopefully this will give you some ideas. — Jackie

Canning baked beans

I wanted to can some baked beans but wanted to use a tasty recipe. I have the “Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving,” which has one recipe for Boston Baked beans. I was wondering if you have any good recipes for baked beans that can be canned and what canning process you use. Also, what do I need to be concerned with when trying to determine if a baked bean recipe can be canned?

Robert Parris
Olympia, Washington

Basically about any baked bean recipe can be canned, using the times and pressures recommended for baked beans, but to be safest, make sure your recipe is not REAL thick. It is not recommended to can thick foods such as pureed pumpkin or refried beans as it is possible that the food in the centers of the jars might not get hot enough, long enough, for safe canning. Therefore, if your recipe turns out very thick, thin it a little with water. You would pressure can baked beans at 10 pounds pressure for 80 minutes for pints or 95 minutes for quarts. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’re working like mad to get ahead of oncoming cold weather

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

We have a few warm days but the long-term forecast is for increasing cold and snow. So we’ve been working like beavers, canning, cutting and splitting the last big batch of firewood, hauling manure, and pulling the last things from the garden.


Will has finished the retaining wall under our enclosed porch, beside the walk-out-to-be of our basement. The stonework on the barn is done. And now he’s got Old Yeller, our faithful bulldozer out in the goat pasture, shoving three-year-old leftover hay and manure into huge piles. Then he carries the best of the composted material out onto our garden by the tractor bucket full. Wow, will we ever have GARDEN next year! And a whole lot of leftover rocks will be buried. (He didn’t spread much on the area where our root crops will be planted as they don’t like excessive manure.) Squash, sweet corn, and tomatoes flourish in well-rotted compost.


We moved the goats up to the old goat barn for winter. Next winter, they’ll be in the new barn for winter and the goat cottage and pasture for summer. How spoiled will they be? Hopefully, next summer we’ll dismantle the old goat barn as it’s sure not a thing of beauty. And when our new cordwood chicken coop gets built we’ll be tickled pink.

I pulled the last of our carrots, which I’ve been canning every other day for better than a week. I planted both Nantes and Tendersweet and both grew nice big, sweet carrots. They are so crisp that when I scrape them in the kitchen sink, some actually POP open in my hands. That’s a funny feeling, for sure. I can the big, fat carrots in quarts, in chunks, for stews and to use with roasted meat. The more slender carrots go into pints to use as a side dish. I’ve already pulled and canned a lot of carrots to use in canned mixed vegetables like sweet corn, potatoes, rutabagas, and onions, etc. We had an excellent crop this year of darned near everything.


I also have been seeding our big, fat cukes and drying the seeds. The cucumbers (Homemade Pickles, our favorite for pickles) still taste sweet and I pop a few pieces into my mouth as I scoop out the seeds with a tablespoon.

Gotta run. There’s SO much we want to get done before serious snow falls! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

It’s rainy, cloudy, and nasty

Friday, October 31st, 2014

We had snow last night but it didn’t stick. Thank goodness! We still have a lot to get done before serious snow hits. We have gotten more firewood in and stacked and Will got the big pile of small popple from the goat pasture all cut up and that’s ready to come in when it dries out. (We don’t like to stack wet wood because it doesn’t ever seem to dry out well.)

But the drive bearing went out on Old Yeller, our 1010 John Deere dozer, and we spent a good part of yesterday driving to get parts and seals. So much for canning carrots! Then today after I’d gone to town to mail seeds to folks who had ordered them, Will called. Oh oh. Another trip 23 miles to the town of Virginia for another seal. As I was already “out,” I drove on to Motion Industries and got his seal. I’ll pull those carrots today anyway. I remember this time of year about two years ago when I went out to pull late carrots and found that the deer had gotten in and eaten them all. (I forgot and left a gate open…) Don’t want a repeat of that!


Our big turkeys, Christmas and Thanksgiving, are strutting like mad. I guess they don’t realize their time is coming. I sure hate to butcher, but I DO like to eat good food that came from animals who lived a happy life without chemicals and hormones added.


I’m still busy pulling seeds out of squash and pumpkins to dry. We had a slight setback: two of our cows got out and helped themselves to our pumpkin pile! But there’s still a lot left so get busy Jackie. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Fall baby goats are arriving

Friday, October 17th, 2014

We bred some of our does to freshen in the fall instead of the spring and the babies are just arriving. Recently, our doe, Clown, delivered twins, a doe and a buckling. The doeling was so big I had to help pull her into the world. The buck is the smaller guy. Go figure. Both are doing well and starting to explore the goat shed.


We’ve been hearing a lot of coyotes lately. For the first few years, they were very scarce, but lately, there have been a lot more. Our dogs, Spencer and Hondo, are very watchful and let the critters know in no uncertain terms that they are to stay in the woods! Hondo, especially, watches everything. He even watches airplanes and birds fly by. In fact, he is so watchful that he hopped up on top of our old Festiva’s roof to sit and survey the surrounding area! (I’m glad he chose the old car, not our Subaru!)


The other day I was watering our big steers and heard a noise above me. It was Hondo, up ON THE ROOF OF OUR STOCK TRAILER, watching the pasture below! Will says he had even climbed up on the hay bales and hopped into the loft of the new barn so he could watch the pasture. Now THAT’S a watchdog! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Fall rains have begun

Monday, October 13th, 2014

After several nice, sunny days with temps in the high fifties and even sixty yesterday, we woke up to rain. Yuck. But we had a nice week, last week. We even got to visit two different friends. The first visit was to Mike and Dara’s homestead. They are as dedicated homesteaders as we are, also having several large gardens. We took “the tour” and saw all they had been doing this fall, then sipped coffee and cocoa and talked seeds and crops. Dara gave me some of her Painted Mountain corn which she’d hung in ropes to dry as a room divider. It’s gorgeous! We both love Painted Mountain as it not only is beautiful and makes tasty cornmeal, but actually dries down in northern Minnesota. Their carrots didn’t do so well this year but their rutabagas sure did. So we traded two buckets of our carrots for some rutabagas, which I didn’t plant this year. Dara also gave us a Marina Di Chioggia squash and a beautiful squash that was a cross between Marina Di Chioggia and Hopi Pale Grey. It’s unusual because it’s orange, smooth skinned with ribs lined in green, and the Marina “turban” on the blossom end. If it tastes good, we’re going to save seed and see if we can breed a stabilized version of it that will reproduce true. How fun!


Saturday, we were invited to another friend’s family farm near Cook, Minnesota (Jan) to help her and her sister (Bette) start to develop a plan to rehabilitate the farm which had been mainly empty for several years. We discovered a row of asparagus in the overgrown garden, found rhubarb and wild plums in several spots, and figured out how we could help the historical place. Jan and Bette fed us a wonderful meal, which we didn’t expect, and we got to look at old family farm photos and tour the solid buildings finding history in each one. Jan had found some of her grandfather’s ears of corn in a box which she thought were sweet corn he’d grown at the farm. She gave us a dozen kernels which we brought home to see if I could germinate. It’d be great if the corn was still viable and we could develop a population of that old corn!

Yesterday morning, one of our doe goats had triplets. Unfortunately, she totally ignores them and won’t let them nurse. Eeek! I’m leaving on Wednesday to go with my oldest son, Bill, and his family, in their motorhome, to pick up my adopted son, Javid, in Montana. I sure hate to leave Will with three bottle babies, but that’s the way it looks. I bought a fifty-pound sack of doe milk replacer this morning. (I WON’T tell you what I paid!) But kid goats don’t do well on calf milk replacer and Homestead Mills didn’t have any lamb milk replacer.


Our front porch looks like, well, what it is: a seed saving area. It’s full of squash, pumpkins, baskets of tomatoes, etc. On nice days I work out there as it’s a messy job and I’d rather squirt tomato “guts” on the porch floor instead of our kitchen floor! The rain washes it away. Will was working there yesterday while I cut up Hopi Pale Grey squash for their seeds. He was husking our Painted Mountain corn so we could bring it inside to finish drying. We were happy with the harvest from our new cornfield/pumpkin patch. With all its problems (infertile soil, 17 inches of rain at one time, white clay, etc.), it still produced and the deer didn’t eat it.


Now Will’s hauling tons of composted cow and horse manure out to that two-acre patch, which he plowed. So far he figures he’s put around 200 tons on it. Wow, now that’s “Mo’ poo poo!” But we know it’ll really produce next year. Over winter we’ll be buying a roll of 6′ 2″x4″ welded wire, which comes in 50′ rolls, so when spring comes, we can fence it (at least mostly), to keep the deer out. This year they ate all our pumpkins and squash. Oh well, we did get to keep our corn! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Winter’s just around the corner

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

We had ice on the animals’ watering tanks this morning. Brrrrr.


Will’s been trimming dead trees that hang over the driveway and will cause trouble this winter when we plow snow. Luckily, a lot of it is birch which makes great firewood. Yesterday he cut up a trailer load and this morning while it was still very crisp out, he began stacking it in our wood shed. The dogs must have been cold too because they started picking up wood and following him in the shed! Unasked. But after awhile, Spencer started picking up wood and heading for the house. I opened the door and he dropped it in the woodbox and headed back outside. He repeated this four times, until Will had stopped carrying wood (or Spencer got tired). Who says animals are dumb? They know wood makes fire and fire makes doggies toasty warm when they lie in front of it!



I’m jumping through hoops, trying to get things arranged to get my adopted son, Javid, back to Minnesota from Montana. Because he’s physically handicapped, he is on SSI and MA in Montana. And to come here, they can’t simply transfer his MA. He has to reapply here in Minnesota. After he’s been in the state 24 hrs. Then it takes up to a month (or so) to be approved. Then he has to apply for a CADI waiver so the state will help with his housing/care expenses. That takes another (long) period to wait. And he can’t go into an assisted living apartment until he is approved for both. The only out is to transfer him from the nursing home he’s currently in, recovering from surgery on a pressure sore, to another nursing home in Minnesota. But I had one heck of a time even arranging that! Seems that some nursing homes require $5,000 up front for the first month’s rent in case the person is not approved for state help. $5,000 a month!

However, I think I’ve found a small facility fairly close (25 miles) that hopefully will take him, temporarily, until the paperwork is done. And they have an opening. (Seems like most nursing homes in our area are full!) Whew! All this makes me tired!

We’re trying to get this done so we can get Javid moved here before we have to travel across North Dakota in a blizzard.

Meanwhile, while I’m waiting for phone calls, I’m continuing seeding tomatoes, pumpkins, and squash. (If you’ve ordered seeds recently, which include Hopi Pale Grey squash, I know your order is late but I want to be sure your seeds are dry as they are very “fresh”! I don’t want them to mold.) — Jackie



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