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eLearning Homesteading

eLearning: ‘Raising Chickens’

By Steve W

Back in the good old days I used to raise chickens, ducks and geese. There came a time when I was unable to keep them anymore and they went on to a better place (another farm; we didn’t eat them!).

To celebrate a glorious return to poultry life we have invested in a short eLearning course from Caballo Publishing on raising chickens.

Click on the link below to explore the mini course and let us know how you got on.

Keeping Chickens
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Homesteading Lifestyle

Preparing for growing on our homestead

Warmer weather means it’s planting season

By Steve W

The sun is starting to peak out from behind the clouds. That means it’s growing season. After the bleak snows of winter it’s great to see rabbits scurrying across the fields and the birds out earlier each morning.

As the madness of Covid-19 persists it is more important than ever to secure food personalised sources. The ability to bake bread, can, preserve and freeze foods is vital. With a large garden area there is no excuse to not grow fruits and vegetables on the homestead.

Investing in seeds for growing vegetables

I recently purchased some butternut squash and spinach seeds (see below).

Squash and spinach seeds

I grabbed a couple of bags of compost from the garden centre and cleaned out the compost bin which you can read about here. I checked last week and saw bugs, beetles and creepy crawlies of all descriptions rooting around inside. Perfect!

Composting

A few piles of grass cuttings, neatly scraped together with a rake, were tossed in as well to add some fertilising power. It won’t be long before the literal fruits of labour shine through.

Using a dog bed to grow veggies

I’m not sure if I’m the only person who uses an old dog bed to grow fruit and veg but it works well. It’s a nice size for starters. Drilling a few holes in the bottom allows for the water to escape.

Dog bed for planting vegetables

Keeping pests away from the produce

Creep crawlies of the unwanted kind often find a way into the wrong areas. Slugs are a nuisance so I fill empty tin cans with out-of-date beer to attract them in. It works a treat and they climb in to have a look, attracted by the yeast. Be warned, it can be a pretty messy affair cleaning them out.

Salt always seemed a bit extreme as it makes the slugs swell up and effectively explode. The farmer next to us sprinkles little rings of salt around his plantings to keep them away.

Using an old car to grow tomatoes

Even though it makes for an unsightly viewpoint, old cars littering our fields are useful. As well as providing parts for current models, vehicles like our rusted, vintage mini provide a good option for tomato growth.

The windows create an excellent greenhouse effect. When the sun truly comes out it gets very hot and humid inside, leading to a massive growth spurt and some juicy red tomatoes for tea.

Plan for the worst, hope for the best

Look at whatever space you have available to grow on. Whether it be a few plant pots on the balcony of a high rise flat or a spacious garden. I don’t want to be alarmist but our freedoms are under attack.

Food shortages and supply of commodities will become scarce as and when new crises occur. These could be health related, conflict, civil unrest or similar.

Having your own food source is clean, healthy and helps keep you to be prepared should the shit hit the fan. Plus, what’s tastier and more satisfying than sitting down to a nice lettuce, tomato and carrot salad that all came from your garden, grown from your own hand?

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Thanks for reading. If you found some value please leave a COMMENT or SHARE with others who might enjoy the article. 

Do you live on a homestead or interested in this lifestyle? Continue the conversation by sending an email to escapersmedia@gmail.com with your thoughts.

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Homesteading Lifestyle

Composting on the Homestead

Preparing for growing plants and vegetables this summer

Steve W tackles the composter

With all of the bad weather we’ve been having lately, it was bound to happen. The wind caught our composting bin and it blew away! Leaving behind a huge pile of mushy mud and melon peels decomposing at a glacial pace.

As soon as the bin disappeared, the dog jumped in and started scraping away at the heap left behind. Compost was shooting around all over garden.

I swiftly cut away the (now defunct) electric fence wire and set about clearning up as best as I could.

Pile of Compost in Hedge
The stormy weather blew away the composting bin

Don’t put tea bags in the compost bin

There are a few harsh lessons I’ve learned from keeping a compost bin. Firstly, don’t put tea bags in because they don’t break down at all. I should’ve known this. I didn’t. Let’s move on.

Also, melon rinds might break down eventually but they take an awfully long time to decompose. Next time I’ll slice them into smaller pieces before throwing them in.

Egg shells are apparently good for adding calcium to the soil. Smash them up with a hammer first though or they’ll just sit there. Recycling bags don’t really decompose very quickly either. Emptying the debris out first would’ve been a better option.

Spade and Cart of Compost
The compost got loaded into a cart for transportation

Secure the composting bin in a safer location

Even though the bin was tucked inside a hedge it was still vulnerable to the elements. Clearing up the mess was a laborious and time-consuming job but with spring on the way it was necessary. I am hoping to plant some vegetable seeds soon so needed to get the garden into some sort of order.

As the grass gets dryer I plan on bringing out the lawn mower more frequently and adding grass piles to the relocated composter. The goats can hoover up any excess trimmings.

Grabbing my spade and pull-along cart I loaded up the compost and did a few runs back and forth to the new location. I used a power hose to wash down the bin as best as I could and, aside from some oil splashed on the corner, it looked a lot cleaner.

Relocated Compost Bin
The bin is now connected to a tree

Using the compost bin

Now safely secured to a tree, the bin is about three quarters of the way full. The broken hatch at the bottom has been replaced. Any excess compost was put into my growing area, which is an old dog bed with holes drilled in the bottom.

I bought a couple of bags of soil from the local garden centre. The seeds have arrived in the post. Butternut squash and lettuce will be on the menu this summer hopefully. I’ll keep you posted.

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Thanks for reading. If you found some value please leave a COMMENT or SHARE with others who might enjoy the article. 

Do you live on a homestead or interested in this lifestyle? Continue the conversation by sending an email to escapersmedia@gmail.com with your thoughts.

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Homesteading Lifestyle

5 lifestyle and agriculture channels that I follow

YouTube has a wide variety of farming, prepping and homesteading content available

Our editor Steve W picks out his favourites

Farm life on just a few acres of land

Pete Larson lives with his wife Hilarie and their three children on “Just a Few Acres” of land outside New York. Pete quit his job as an architect after becoming increasingly miserable and dissatisfied with corporate life.

Now the couple farm the land, keep cattle and livestock, run a farm shop and much more. Pete clearly knows what he is doing and (dodgy jokes aside) watching each episode is always an education.

The Neals’ Homestead

The first thing that stands out about the Neals is their vibrant zest for life. They are constantly active. I’m not completely sure about the family dynamics but the family matriarch does most of the talking.

She is often accompanied by “old guy”, who clearly holds decades of experience and can tell a yarn or two. These happy homesteaders offer a wide variety of skills and are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.

Bush craft gets bush radical

Hanging around in the chilly woods of Alaska may not be everybody’s cup of tea. Off-grid experts Dave and Brooke Whipple have turned it into an art. Dave openly discusses life issues such as accumulation of material possessions and debt.

His story has been picked up by many media outlets. He is clearly very talented at building strong structures. The couple were originally discovered on American reality TV.

Growing Hazelnuts in Ireland on Gubb Farm

One of my more recent discoveries and closer to home too. Gubb Farm is based on an island in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.

The channel is designed for those interested in organic food, hazelnuts, regenerative agriculture, soil biology and learning how to generate an income from a small farm holding.

It’s farm life – unfiltered.

Survive the apocalypse with essential prepping

I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with the term “prepping” for some reason. The media often uses it as a loaded term to describe people who run from zombies or load up on ammo and tins of dried beans to avoid government restrictions.

Dave from Prepping Essentials seems disappointingly normal. There’s not a firearm in sight. All he focuses on is good old fashioned hard work and plenty of ingenuity to make his small holding dream a reality.

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Thanks for reading. If you found some value please leave a COMMENT or SHARE with others who might enjoy the article. 

Continue the conversation by sending an email to escapersmedia@gmail.com with your thoughts.

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Homesteading

How to keep warm on a homestead

Gathering sticks, chopping wood and burning coal

Our editor Steve W goes out gathering fire wood

Any homesteader will know the feeling. You wake up early, look out of the window and the fields and lane are covered in a thick blanket of white snow.

If you are staying at home then great. Snowballs, snowmen and snow angels await. If you’ve got to dig the car out and drive to work then it suddenly becomes less enticing.

It’s not only the prospect of snow that gets me shivering. Any sort of cold weather seeps right into the old bones these days.

The chilled winds and freezing rain that hit Spring Farm make me question whether this is such a good idea. A couple of hours and the work is done. A glowing log fire roaring and the whole project seems much more appealing.

Blocking up the old chimney

We are lucky to have not one but three open fireplaces. Two are in operation, with the third chimney closed off. A piece of lead was laid on top and hammered down to stop any inquisitive winged locals from having a nose on down.

We have bird guards on the other two. These allow the smoke to escape out, without anything large creeping in. I’ve seen them called chimney cowls as well. Regardless, they come in all shapes and sizes but do an important job.

three chimneys

After a thorough sweep we stuffed a lot of old cardboard up to block it off. Then we slotted some wood in to where the grate had been removed. Occasionally on windy days you hear a slight gust of wind whistling through. It’s not really a problem, and the chimney is secure.

Sitting in front of an open fire

There is plenty of dead wood outside to collect for a winter fire. As soon as the weather starts improving and we head in to spring, we then start gathering wood for the coming year.

In all aspects of homesteading, preparation is key

Escapers

The yield of suitable firewood is always plentiful, but we have a few stacks of pallets down the yard in case we run short. At the local agricultural merchant you can buy kindling in little sacks. A couple of these, surrounded by some cardboard, is great for getting the fire started.

Whenever we first started out and were wet behind the ears we bought fire logs. They were very easy to use and lit very fast. However, they became pretty expensive over time and we don’t need them now we know how to light a fire properly.

Some people use flammable liquids. We have never done this, in case the children were to get hold of it. In can be effective when used safely.

Fireside

Outside chopping up firewood

Going out with an axe, chopping up firewood can fairly work up a sweat. Like any fuel gathering, it is best to collect it when you don’t need it so you aren’t left scraping around the homesteading yard in sub-zero temperatures desperately looking for fuel.

The children found out some logs for us to burn (see image below). Even though there is a bit more life left in these than I would like, I grabbed the saw and cut them up anyway. They burned just fine when used to top up an already hot fire. Using this type of wood to start it off would be more difficult.

When sawing always make sure you have a clear space (easier said than done in this homestead!). We use a pair of gloves too. These provide an extra layer of protection in case the saw were to slip. They also keep the hands warm outside.

There is an old saying that sawing wood warms you twice. First in the cutting and again in the burning. It’s true!

Fire wood, saw and gloves

Burning coal on the homestead

A big 25kg bag of coal can be heavy to lump around so watch your back when lifting. Once the fire is heating up, using some special fire tongs to place a few lumps of coal in and around the heat source is beneficial.

Don’t add the coal until it’s hot enough though or it will smoulder. Once the fire is blazing we use a little shovel to scoop four or five lumps on at a time. The coal scuttle has a handle so is useful for lifting and emptying straight on.

Remember that towards the end of the bag there is a lot of accumulated coal dust. This gathers at the bottom of the scuttle too and can blow back on to your clothes or all around the fireplace if you aren’t careful.

Coal bucket and shovel

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Thanks for reading. If you found some value please leave a COMMENT or SHARE with others who might enjoy the article. 

Continue the conversation by sending an email to escapersmedia@gmail.com with your thoughts.