For the 21st episode of Homesteads and Homeschools, we enjoy a cold fermented beverage and have a discussion with fermentation guru Sandor Katz. We discussed some of the basics of fermentation, as well as the health benefits of not just fermented food, but bacteria and some of the problems with humanity’s desire to create a sterilized environment. There is an extra bonus episode for supporters of the show.
This week the Liberty Hippie had the pleasure of speak with Lloyd Cowan of Madison, ME. Lloyd is your typical urban homesteading type who spent some years out west before coming back to Maine and using his urban lot to grow vegetables, house show chickens, layer hens, and keep a handful of goats for dairy and soap. The show opened with Lloyd giving a little run down of his history and how he came to be an urban homesteader, but it’s the happenings of his town that drew the interest of the Liberty Hippie. In June 2018, the town board held a meeting and took a vote by a show of hands on a ordinance that would effect everyone in town with a lot smaller than 1.5 acres. The ordinance was not advertised as anything to do with farming, or produce, but was tacked on under a property ordinance and looked to have more to do with loose and barking dogs, than actual livestock. In the morning, residents started to find out about the new ordinance that was passed by a mere 50 people in a town of 5,000. As the days would roll on, and appeals were filed, new information has come to light and once again, we see government force being used to entrench protectionist policies despite the desires of the local community.
As the current situation stands, the next town meeting, June 10, 2019, it looks as if the turbulence will finally be decided. Please feel free to call the town and let them know that this oridinance is not only contradictory to the Food Sovereignty declaration the town made, but is also anti-business, and is unconstitutional that a small handful of individuals can dictate how owners of land can use said land. The town manager, Tom Curtis, and the code enforcer, Susan Hathaway can be reached using the information provided.
Tom Curtis – 207-696-3971 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan Hathaway – 207-696-3971 – email@example.com
A couple of weeks ago, we had the neighbors come over and show me how to stretch some woven wire fence. It wasn’t long after that we got our first goat, Cinnamon Sally. There’s no telling what she is, the vet we got her from called her a brush goat, so basically she’s a meat mutt. The first couple of days we had her, she was alone and sad. The books and such warn you that keeping a single goat is tough, and Cinnamon Sally proved them right. She was tough to get a hold of and was very untrustworthy, and on top of that, she was hardly eating despite having sweet feed and a couple acres of pasture. She was supposed to come with a buck, but unfortunately, the buck didn’t make it and so Cinnamon Sally came alone and we just had to hold on until the bottle babies were ready.
This past weekend we were able to make the 2.5 hour trek (one way) to pick up two more bottle babies, Paige and Rosey. They were three weeks old when we got them, and need to be fed four times a day; thankfully, we’ve been able to use this as a learning experience for the kids and feeding the goats has become their job.
I will admit, I had no idea what to expect when they first came, but I learned quickly: goats are loud, and they get angry! The other night I went out to do some weeding in the garden and feed the chickens, well, the goats heard me. At first they came over to the corner of their pasture and did some maa’ing at me. When I didn’t respond, they got louder, and the maa’s were almost tinged with a bit of distress, but when I continued to ignore them, their maa’s became angry and petulant.
They have quite the personalities, and while we don’t plan on eating these particular goats, I can already say for certain, that butchering any future kids is going to be a tough job.
This week the Liberty Hippie had the chance to talk with Julie Kirchner of Sadie-Girl Farm in Western North Carolina. Julie is enthralled with poultry and has made a thriving little side business selling some pretty fantastic chickens and quails. We talked about what varieties she focuses on – Black and Blue Copper Marans, Lavender Ameraucanas, Olive Eggers, Silkies, and Celedon Quail – and how she came to pick those varieties. We got into some of the details of her set up and how she is able to run so many flocks congruently while maintaining variety purity. These are all skills that Julie has learned later in life through non-conventional means, and it’s worth noting that the community is one of superb helpfulness. You can purchase chicks or hatching eggs from Sadie-Girl farm by accessing their website.
After the interview, the Liberty Hippie gets into the recent spat of Tim Tebow Bills that have been pushed into Statehouses as well as a bill in Iowa that proposes to distribute public school funds to private and homeschooled children. He looks at some of the pros, but also the overwhelming cons.
If you feel so inclined to support the show financially you can click on the Amazon link in the side bar, or by checking out the Liberty Hippie’s bitbacker.io account, where you can show your support by donating Bitcoin or Bitcoin Cash.
I think, pretty much without fail, every holiday, or day of some named importance, has a special food associated with it: Thanksgiving has it’s Turkey, Christmas it’s ham, Valentine’s Day has Chocolate, the Fourth of July has BBQ, and St. Patrick’s Day has Corned Beef. Growing up, I was never really a fan of boiled meat, but it was tradition, and I did appreciate the salty boiled potatoes and green beer, so when I became an adult, the whole boiled meat thing kind of got lost. That was until I had kids.
The kids, of course, need to at least be aware of cultural traditions, and so, we started boiling some meat on St. Patrick’s Day. The only problem was that it wasn’t cheap and it was laden with chemicals and salt. As chance would have it, one year, we split a side of beef with two friends and somehow we ended up with the brisket; now it was uncured brisket, but it was still a brisket and so we figured why not try brining it ourselves? It was a risk, but it was only boiled meat, what could go wrong?
This was a turning point in my boiled-meat-career; it was brilliant, so much better than the pre-brined garbage you get at the grocery store. Unfortunately, the following year we didn’t purchase a cow, and we thought we would be stuck going back to the grocery store. But we weren’t! We had previously come into some venison, and thought this would be an excellent opportunity to try brining some venison roasts ourselves. It was delicious!
We eat corned venison throughout the year these days – not just St. Patrick’s Day – and everyone always loves when we do. Over the years, the recipe has changed, but the flavor is always delicious, and it’s a great way to get rid of those big old shoulder roasts (they just need to be boiled a bit longer and aren’t as tender as the other rump cuts.)
In half-a-gallon of water, boil 1/3 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup of kosher salt, 1/2 cinnamon stick, 2 tablespoons of whole allspice, 1 teaspoon of mixed peppercorns, 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, 1 teaspoon coriander, roughly chopped garlic cloves (you know how many you need) and other spices you want to experiment with (we’ve tried dill and fennel, both okay). Once the salt and sugar have dissolved, remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature as you don’t want to cook the meat when covering it with brine.
When the brine has cooled, put your meat into a large sanitary container and add brine to cover. The meat will float so a weight may be necessary. Depending on the size of the container and cut of meat, it may be necessary to flip the meat daily. We usually brine our meat for five days in the refrigerator.
Before cooking, remove the meat from the brine and give it a quick rinse in the sink. Add the meat to a large sauce pot, cover with fresh water and cook just like you would a piece of corned beef you bought at the store.
The Liberty Hippie opens the show bringing homeschoolers attention to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, a fantastic resource when trying to figure out the legal aspects of homeschooling. He then starts chatting today with one Harold Thornbro. Harold has been running the Modern Homesteading podcast for almost four years and has an incredible backlog of content which you can check out at The Small Town Homestead. (He also runs the Modern Homestead facebook group which runs some 21,000 deep!) We talk about how cancer at 39 gave Harold the push he needed to get back to doing things a little more naturally and how his homestead has grown over the past few years to include a wide variety of practices from permaculture to meat rabbits to a new foray into aquaponics.
Harold is a wealth of information and it was an honor to get him on the show so early on. Check out his website to sign up for his free course “How to Get Started Homesteading, Right Where You Are, Right Now” and sign up for his newsletter to get a free PDF “21 Tips for Homesteading on a Budget.”
Some days in the spring, I find myself wanting the dead heat of a Georgian summer to
keep me locked up inside, not because I particularly enjoy having cause to take a shower after walking from the house to the car, or because I enjoy paying an obnoxiously higher electricity bill for powering the air conditioning units, but because there is a lull. During fall, we keep busy with the fall crops, give the lawn a final mow and try to enjoy the relatively cooler weather as we drift toward the winter solstice. Winter is a time for bucking firewood, amending the sleeping soil, digging holes for future fruit trees, and trying to harvest some venison before the whirlwind that is spring comes tornado-ing in.
Once spring arrives, there is no slowing down, and this spring has been exceptionally busy. In part because we keep expanding the garden and trying to get more crops in, in part because there are more mouths to feed and more obligatory places to be, but mostly because of the rain. Don’t get me wrong, the rain is usually a good thing in Middle-Georgia,but where as I typically have to mow the lawn once every three weeks, it’s been an every other week ordeal (if not more than that), weeding the garden has been virtually non-stop, and the damp weather has kept the beans from germinating as healthily as they should, leaving them susceptible to aphids and cutworms and other unsavory pests. But we have prevailed. The rain may not be over, but it is slowing and the temperatures are climbing into the mid-90s during the days and evening temperatures hovering right around 70; it seems as if summer is here and the lull is beginning.
When things start to slow down we have time to enjoy the sunrises bouncing off the clouds, waking up the bees, eliciting the edamame to show their dainty purple petals and enticing the big showy squash flowers to open for pollination. We have time to sit on the porch, lingering under the fans after dinner, watching the barn swallows swoop in and out of the corn patch as they catch the Lovebugs mating mid-flight. Summer brings the end of school and friends who can stay a little later.
Of course, just because there is a lull doesn’t mean all work cessates. There are still plenty of chores that need to be done outside in the heat. The lawn still needs the occasional mow, the crops harvested and the animals fed. You can do it in the cool of the morning, but it’s still 70 and muggy as anything you’ve ever experienced and as soon as the sun rises it’s width over the horizon, the temperature starts climbing. The trick is enjoying the time you have to appreciate it all.
Seeds, seeds, seeds! I love seeds; I think it has to do with all the possibilities that a tiny dot the size of a pin head can hold (think brassicaes: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, etc.). Or maybe I love them for all of their different shapes and sizes – beans with their beautiful patterning and a cool, smooth skin. Even Cucurbitaceae – squash – with their bland, brown, traditional tear drop shape have their differences from variety to variety that are simply awe inspiring when carefully examined. There’s also some bit of a thrill that comes with saving your own seed from year to year: you get to know the plants, know the heritage of the seed, and it’s one more step to self-sufficiency. But before you can just go saving seeds for next year, there are some things to consider.
Often times when we look at a seed catalog, or seed envelope, we will notice some verbiage that may or may not make sense. Typically this verbiage pertains to the seed and the plant that will develop from it.
Open Pollinated: A plant that is open pollinated means that when a female flower is pollinated by the male flower of the same variety, the seed produced thereafter will resemble the parent plant. When the pollination occurs between male and female parts of the same plant or even the same flower (tomatoes, beans), this is called self-fertilization. Plants that have individual flowers that are self-fertilizing are inherently open pollinated. Some varieties of plants will produce flowers that are specifically male or female. If you notice a squash vine, the first flowers to come out are typically male and later on down the vine, the female flowers start to come out. These are still considered to be open pollinated.
Heirloom: Seeds of an heirloom variety are also inherently open pollinated. The term heirloom simply implies that the seed-line has been kept true for a number of years. Heirloom varieties tend to be less friendly to the commercial market, but can come in many different color, size, taste, and other variations. (Essentially, heirloom is a subset within open pollinated.)
Hybrids: A hybrid is a seed that comes from two different varieties of parents: it has been cross-pollinated. Often times hybrids are produced to create faster growing plants, larger yields, or to create a plant that is less susceptible to certain diseases. A hybrid is the first generation of a new lineage and is considered “F1” in nomenclature and all plants in the F1 generation will look and produce the same. However, if you save seeds from a hybridization – accidentally or on purpose – the following generation (F2) will have a large number of physical differences if the seed from the F1 is even viable.
Saving seeds helps us save money, and it gives us further insight into our individual plants. In a sense, by selecting plants that are growing well in our gardens, we’re doing our own genetic modification by selecting plants that are amiable to our soil, temperature, water and light conditions. The problem with saving seed is that it needs to be precise. The easiest way to be precise is only grow one variety of each type of vegetable. There are many books out there that deal with seed saving methods (my favorite is Suzanne Ashworth’s Seed to Seed), and can give you statistics on cross-pollination. For example, corn pollen is very light and can travel by wind up to two miles! It is also important to save seed from a number of different plants as inbreeding depression – a lack of genetic diversity – can occur. Some plants are more susceptible to this than others.
In short, if you want to save seed, get a good book, stick with one variety of each species, and go for the open-pollinated varieties. If you don’t care about saving seeds, plant whatever.
Upon the birth of our children, we asked for non-toy type gifts. And the few toys that did receive the parental okay were usually metal or wooden. Our goal was to get away from toys with a million tiny plastic pieces to break or otherwise loose. Of course, this request can only be adhered to for so long. Eventually a relative that didn’t get the memo, a grandparent who thinks you’re being cruel, or a friend at their fifth birthday breaks the rule and the floodgates open.
With two of our own, and two foster kids we’ve kind of given into the plastic junk at birthdays and Christmas. We don’t purchase them, but we no longer glare at the evil gift giver who bought an ice-cream themed doll that comes with 50+ flavors of plastic ice cream scoops no bigger than a pencil eraser. That said, I still have a very hard time with the singing toys: the “interactive” ones that tell the kid to put the blue block in the square hole. You know, because I don’t actually interact with my kids, so I need a plastic device to act as parent… On top of that: I can’t stand the noise! We now have a singing school bus imploring the kids to:
“Be nice, be nice, not just once or twice;
be warm and kind to the folks you find
keeping nice stuff on your mind.”
It’s infuriatingly catchy (and almost makes me angry at niceness…).
So what do I do? Steal the batteries! Look, an AA battery is an AA battery. It will work just as well in a singing bus as a head lamp or a smoke detector. Noise problem solved!
As a kid I was a big reader. I could be found at night with the covers pulled up and the flashlight on illuminating my bed cover fort from within. I would spend the seemingly endless bus ride home from school, neck crook’d downward, eyes consuming words, head bumping off the glass window as we traversed the back country roads. I read a number of things, but they were all novels: words on paper – no pictures. As I progressed through middle school and high school, I kept to the same things. At some point, I’m not sure when, graphic novels started making their way into our culture. The first I recall were The Watchmen and Maus. While I had read a few comic books (X-Men 2099), I never really got into it, and to be honest, I kind of looked down on the genre. Using pictures to tell a complex story seemed like something of a cop-out. (I’m an English major, tell a story with words, not pictures!)
It wasn’t until I was actually teaching in Brooklyn that I read my first graphic novel: Persepolis. From there, I read a few more, but nothing struck me hard enough to be remembered a decade down the road; though they did make a spot for themselves in my cannon. They weren’t incredibly awful, and to some degree they do make literature more accessible to hesitant readers.
Since my time in Brooklyn, I’ve had a son who has grown to be also be a tremendously consumptive reader. He will read through a Magic Tree House book in a couple of hours. For Christmas he received the Indian in the Cupboard, read it in two days, and is on his second read. (To be honest, there is a bit of disbelief on my end, but when his comprehension questioned, he seems to know what is going on.)
His love of books fuels his love of the library. We spend quite a bit of time at the there, and he can get lost in the children’s section when his mother or I get to picking out books for school. As with any library, the children’s section is divided into sections: easy readers, young adults, and non-fiction. (They also have sections for holiday themed texts, and longer series’: Hardy Boys, Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, etc.) Our library also has a small section – it’s really a cart – devoted particularly to graphic novels. We first discovered the section when we took out The Monitor vs. The Merrimack, one in a series of “graphic battles of the Civil War.” For us, this was a major score, after all, what six year old doesn’t want to read comic books about war? When it came time to return it to the library, it wasn’t in the pile. It had migrated into my son’s room; who knows how many times he read it. In the car to the library, it was clear how much he really enjoyed the book as he kept recounting the battle for me and asking further questions; of course when we actually got to the library, I had to show him the graphic novel section. He was enthralled.
There were a number of good texts and series on the shelf – and I may write about some of the others later – but there was one that really stuck out for us: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales. Where as “Graphic Battles of the Civil War” details battles of the Civil War, Hale’s Hazardous Tales run the gamut of US History. In total there are seven texts from the Revolutionary War to World War II.
The author is actually Nathan Hale – or at least that is their pseudonym, the first in the series is also about Nathan Hale… – and he recounts historical stories that focus on some sort of harrowing or otherwise deadly tale. They read like typical comic books, but instead of kryptonite and heavily moustached detectives, there are actual believeable characters that may or may not have existed and conversations that probably didn’t actually happen. I wouldn’t say they are the end-all-be-all history texts, but they certainly set the framework and get kids excited and encouraged to learn more and go deeper. At around 120 pages, they are longer texts, but their comic book nature allows readers to plow through these books.
As like most of the books my son reads, he is constantly going back for these. Even though he has read all but the most recent, he continues to check them out and read and reread them. They may not be for everyone, and I suppose, are geared more towards young boys than young girls, but they are certainly approachable by all. While we haven’t built any units around these texts, they have all been a part of the unit when we covered that particular historical period. They are an excellent supplement or everyday read for those younger elementary aged students. While they may not all be found at your local library – ours only has three – they are all on Amazon, and you can also check out Hale’s website for some interesting facts and early proofs. (It doesn’t get very many updates, though.)
The seven texts are as follows: One Dead Spy – A Revolutionary War story about the actual spy Nathan Hale Donner Dinner Party – Westward Expansion, and of course the Donner Party Big Bad and Ironclad</> – The history of the Ironclad warships of the Civil War The Alamo Allstars – Texas, The battle of the Alamo The Underground Abductor – Story of Harriet Tubman and her work as an abolitionist Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood – World War I, trench warfare, etc. A Raid of No Return – World War II bomber pilots over Japan
Each text focuses on a particular event in history, but also wraps in the political and social climates of the time. If you haven’t checked these texts out, I’d highly suggest it.