Because of our extremely early spring, the frost has gone out early, and we’re able to get at fencing VERY early. This time, it’s finishing the fencing in the old horse pasture and building a new training ring for the horses, donkeys, and mule. So we’re hard at work driving steel posts on the property line of the horse pasture and stretching wire on it. Last fall, we set in the corners, which are sawed off, very large, treated used power poles. So they’re really set in now, and will hold the wire very tight.

Today, we took a break from that to work on the training ring. It’s 100’x 50′ and is on a rock-free sandy spot next to the horse pasture. Last year, David got permission from the railroad crew to take two truck loads of used ties they had removed and replaced. He had to carry them up from a deep ditch to the truck. They weigh about 125 pounds apiece, so David got a big workout! And we really appreciate his find. These ties are now the fence posts of the training ring. We augered holes 3′ deep with the tractor today, then hand dug them larger, and set the ties in place. Will and I did 22 alone before David and his friend, Ian, showed up after school to help with the last few. Wow, does it look good! Now we have to level and plumb the posts, then tamp them firmly in place. What a great addition to the homestead! It’s so much easier to train horses with a separate place, away from their buddies!

And beyond the ring, there’s a spot for my comfrey, horseradish, and other “invasive” goodies!

Readers’ Questions:

Need homesteading advice

I have been a fan for years, born and raised in Kentucky and now have just bought 38 acres in north western Wyoming. I know you homesteaded in Montana. Any advice would be helpful and where can I get your canning book?

Benny Williamson
Gillette, Wyoming

You can get my new canning book right from Backwoods Home Magazine. Check on this website and you’ll find it, as well as in the magazine.

I’m happy for you and your land purchase. And I’ll be glad to answer any questions you have along the way; I’m right here for you. My best advice is to read, read, read and go a bit slow in acquiring livestock, until you have fencing and housing for them. Build what you need and can afford, as you can afford it, whether it is your cabin or an animal shelter. I’ve done that, building our homestead here, as well as other places. Sometimes we can only afford a few boards or sheets of insulation, but as I earn more money, we buy more supplies. That’s how we built the house. Remember that the first winter, we had no insulation in the roof, or shingles, either, going through winter with two tarps on the roof to keep off the dampness and later, rain. But we owed nothing and I want to keep it that way. It’s a good way to go. (We were living in a camping trailer, then a free old mobile home, while building, you’ll remember, too. Not the ritz, but we toughed it out.)

All the best of luck, and please ask away when you have questions. — Jackie

Lawn weeds

Jackie, we’ve had chickens for 5 years, and haven’t done any weed-n-feed on our 1.2 acre yard since that time. I figured it wouldn’t be good for the chickens as they are allowed to free range a few times a week. We don’t want to have a “keep up with the Jones” type yard, but I also don’t want to have my yard completely taken over by weeds. Any suggestions? Is my thinking correct in regards to the weed-n-feed?

Gen Rogers
Winthrop Harbor, Illinois

I wouldn’t want to pasture my chickens on grass that had been treated with Weed and Feed. If your grass is healthy and well fertilized, the grass will compete very well with weeds and choke them out pretty well…except for dandelions, of course. Personally, I like dandelions, but a chemical-free treatment of most weeds is to use a forked weeder and cut those pesky plants out of your lawn, digging the root and all. If your lawn isn’t thick enough, consider spreading a thin layer of well-rotted manure on it and raking it in. It’ll be ugly for a few days, but the grass will soon grow lush and happy, quickly hiding the mess. Mow it a few times and it should be much better…and with less weeds, too. — Jackie