Sunday, July 21, 2013

Setting Goals & Figuring out the Homestead!

Definition of 'Homesteading' from Wikipedia:
 Broadly defined, homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of foodstuffs, and it may or may not also involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale.

So are we farming or homesteading ??? and what is exactly is our focus here????
Shylo... sweet girl that I love... but will she work out on our homestead???
Questions we've asked ourselves here alot the last few months.

When we first decided to get land  it was all about being more self sufficient. Growing our own foods and going for a more isolated, simple lifestyle.

Well, homesteading is anything but simple,,, but we made it worse by trying to turn our homestead into a working farm! Which was not our goal...our goal had not changed...yet we lost our focus and now its more work to get back on track!

Self sufficiency gets lost when trying to 'make a living' off certain 'crops' and they become the focus.
Example: You grow your herd of cows to make more money off them at market to pay all your bills... that leaves you no time to garden & preserve all your veggies for the year... so then you must take money from your cattle sells to then buy your veggies.. adding yet another bill! and losing the self sufficientcy of having your own veggies.. back to depending on other famers or the grocery store...
And there's nothing at all wrong with that!!! we need farmers like this...
Because not everyone wants to be a subsistance homesteader.... you may only like to have one crop on your farm! you may hate raising animals... you may hate to garden...

But if you want to 'have it all' it must be done in moderation. I learned this the hard way this year.
In trying to grow my goat herds to a very large scale and have 3 separate goat herds(Nigerians, Dairy goats for our dairy needs and breeding kids for others and Meat goats for market)
Because of all this I did not have time to garden properly.. and with this being a very hard year on the garden it really really needed much more attention than I could give it because with goats being difficult to raise all my focus was on them.
Yes, I did make more money from goat sales ... but I will have to take that money and buy veggies because I didn't garden as well... which I do NOT like!
Made me realize, I do not want a goat farm, I want my homestead!
Last year at this time I had BUSHELS of veggies! This year... not so much :-(
When really, I only need a few goats for our homestead needs ... way less than I had even though at first! Even with my Goat milk skin care business...I really only need 3 or 4 good milkers...
Its so easy to lose focus on goals.... esp, if your a crazy goat lady :-)
 I see alot of people start out to homestead...but end up with a Hobby Farm.... People with a good full time day jobs get land having big goals and intending to homestead.. quickly realize they do not have time to homestead (or they don't like it because its crazy hard) so what to do with all the land? Taking a 'pet like' livestock animal they love (often alternative livestock and often the next trendy livestock) and basicly turning it into a pet mill. I also see alot of people do this who do not want to raise their own meat or raise meat for others... but want to make money to pay for their animals they keep.
There's nothing wrong with that either.. having say... a hobby mini donkey farm... or a nigerian dwarf pet goat farm.
but its not really homesteading or farming for a profit... hobbys are hard to make a profit off of...  or even to make it pay for itself. You need to make it a business for that and be honest about your numbers... (see 'do your numbers' below!)
Its easy to think more animals=more money... most of the time more animals just = bigger fed bills!
(numbers, numbers, numbers! can't stress it enough)

With so many people looking to get back to the land to be more self sufficient its important to know what your goals are, be accepting if they change or things don't work out... and realize that its very very easy to lose focus!!!!!

Also, certain things you may like to eat may be impossible to grow in your area... certain animals you love may not be cut out to thrive in your climate making alot more work ... on an already heavy workload...and a huge money strain if they really don't like your climate and they die often!
Since so many of us trying to get back to the land have no real clue about gardening or raising livestock ,trial and error is the way many have to go...
My husband and I included! (and we were raised on farms... we just didn't pay attention obviously!)

Most of the animals and garden seeds I started with did not work out.... all the heirlooms everyone raves about may taste nice but if the yields not there and its more likely to be hit with disease , it ain't worth growing here! I don't have time! Instead of holding on to the dream .. I had to be flexible and start using some open pollenated tried and trues for my area.. and some heavy producing hybrids for canning!
 Goals for your livestock may also change if you realize there is not a market for that animal or to many other breeders for that animal (like nigerian dwarfs or chickens!)

Very important lesson I learned this year... DO YOUR NUMBERS! and be fierce about them! the feed bill, vet bills, new bloodlines cost, keep track of every expense no matter how small.... you may think you don't spend that much on feed.. you may think you make money on your livestock... check the numbers... and then check them again.
Figure up your time per day, per week you have to spend on them... or your gardens if you sell veggies.
Figure up what you make hourly.... you might be shocked. In a good way, hopefully! but don't be surprized if its not so good! and again be flexible if you have to change things... its not the end of the world if you do. Don't hold onto the 'ideal' you have for your homestead or farm if your numbers don't add up.
Let it go.... a hard hard thing to do! But you'll be glad you did.

And in between ALL this work and figuring out and re-figuring out... don't forget to have fun...  living the homestead life is vastly different from what most people 'think' it will be. Its so much work.... remember to have time for things you enjoy. Its alot harder than you may think once you start this lifestyle. I think I almost forgot to have fun last year!

Sheep, an animal I NEVER thought I would have on my homestead! Yet, here they are and I love them.. will they work out??? Stay tuned to find out :-) But so far so good!

And last but not lest... PRAY! about everything!

and have faith that He will help you work out the path you're to be on...  realizing it may not be the path you had wanted to begin with!
That applies to ANY lifestyle you have choose!
Without Faith and Trust in the Lord I know I could not do anything this hard!

and alittle help from my husband, The Bald Man :-)

Have a Lovely Sunday!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I'm just gonna say it...l love Lard!

Lard is amazing! I promise you, its true.... nothing makes a better pie crust or biscuit and nothing fries better (yes I said fries! as in fried food!)
Fresh Rendered Snow White Lard

Now I'm not talking about that crappy fake, what the heck is this grocery store stuff now a days... which is the same crap mexican restuarants use as lard in their re-fried beans and other fried foods thats really heavy and leaves your mouth coated in something.... you can't... quite place... you just know its not good...yuk!

I mean the pure stuff...snow white and oderless... rendered slowly by hand, from a healthy homegrown lard hog.... fed veggies & milk from hand milked natural fed goats... maybe some whey from home made cheese... and access to pasture everyday where they can graze... yes I said graze! Our hogs eat grass... and really really like it too!

The hog is after all an ominivore... its eats pretty much anything and everything... which makes it a pretty easy animal to raise on a homestead. It can also be a cheap animal to raise if you feed it nasty chicken litter and other discusting things like commerical hog farms do.. the hog will still grow to slaughter weight quickly. It will grow on just about anything...

We do not do that here ofcourse, we perfer our animals to be raised on a healthy nutritional diet... that way they give us healthy more nutritional meats... and fats! Thats why we homestead in the first place... healthier food... healthier lifestyle all around!

But this post is not about how lard is actually better for the body than most of whats being used as oils in todays modern commercial cooking and baking.... you can find that info all over the interenet and in the book the following quote is taken from:

 "The prime example of fats we all thought were bad for us, lard and schmaltz (rendered chicken, pork, or goose fat) may have been wrongly demonized for years. The main fat in lard—oleic acid—is a monounsaturated fat linked to decreased risk of depression says Drew Ramsey, MD, coauthor of The Happiness Diet (Rodale, 2010). Those same monounsaturated fats, which make up 45 percent of the fat in lard, are responsible for lowering LDL levels while leaving HDL ("good") cholesterol levels alone. Lard and schmaltz also tolerate high cooking temperatures—they're often recommended for frying—and have long shelf lives."

And I won't say its better than Olive oil for you ... though I might ask , are you sure you are using real Olive Oil to begin with? seems like maybe theres alot of countries that produce evoo but keep the good stuff for themselves... shipping the not so good and down right fake stuff to the Americans who don't know any better??
Is your Olive Oil real?

This post is actually about why soaps made with lard are really really good for your skin... and maybe for the enviroment in the long run.... win/win??
You can be the judge... and with any order I will send you a free sample bar of my goat milk soap... made with my own pure homegrown lard! I call them Farm Bars... just request a bar when you order.

Just a few reasons I love my soaps made with lard:
 Lard actually benefits the skin because it is mild, moisturizing, and conditions very well.
People wrongly assume that lard soap will clog pores and damage the skin. This is not true.
Most consumers associate lard and other animal fats with store bought commercial soaps that incorporate skin damaging chemicals. They don't realize that it's the synthetics damaging the skin, not the lard.

It is makes my soaps so mild!!! Even milder than they already are with the goat milk. Adding a small percentage of lard can really boost the conditioning value of the bar.

Its an all around all skin type bar thats made with lard... if you're dry it will condition your skin, not dry it out  like some vegetable oils will. If you have oily skin it will not make your skin worse like some veggie oils can do . If you're sensative, as I said before,,, its such a mild bar! many many different types of people have tried lard soap and really love it... because it helps their skin feel good.

It makes a creamier bar with a very luxurious feel when lathered up. Its actually used in alot of luxury skin care products because of it mild nature and conditioning... they just don't say lard on the label... they use other big fancy words! You know how big companies roll ;-) its all about label appeal,,, not telling you whats really in the product! (remember the eye cream everyone raved about with horse piss in it!!a fancy big word was used in place of horse piss ofcourse! lol!!! I'll pass on that one!)

So I love it for its effects & benefits to the skin..
Need a second opinion... there are plenty, just google it.. here's an article from a lady who talks about how it was the only thing that helped her extra sensative skin condition.
Northwest Edible article on how lard helped her skin

And the enviroment thing:
In a country of meat eaters, don't you think its wrong not to use as much of the animal as possible? Esp, when animal fats (lard and tallows) are just as good or better than the exotic oils shipped in from all over the world, that may be the result of unethical practice (like the palm oil controversy)
Imo (and many others), animal oils & fats are the most natural thing you can do in soap making. It prevents waste, has many benefits , its a 'greener bar'!!!
One of my very best selling lotions is my Eczema Relief lotion... because it works for alot of people... and guess what! Its made with emu oil.... emu fat! rendered and strained! and perfect for sensitive , allergy prone skin! That emu was raised for its meat and its feathers anyways... wouldn't it be a shame to waste such a benefical fat that can help so many people with their skin problems?
Its the same thing with our pigs... these animals feed our family... and they have a very very useful fat that can be helpful to many people... its clean, healthy, available and havesting the pigs didn't destroy a rain forest! (again the palm oil thing, read about that here Palm Oil controversy)
I understand those who are vegetarians or vegans not wanting to use animal products... but do not confuse vegan & vegetarian with "green"... its not one in the same.
And I'm not saying we shouldn't ever use palm oil, some of my soaps have palm oil. I'm just saying why use so much palm oil when we have an incrediable resource of clean animal fats in the country from small farms and homesteads. And animal fats are WAY more conditioning to the skin than palm oil anyways!

There are, of course, other types of animal fats/oils. Using tallows (from beef , lamb or deer) will produce a harder bar that lathers better while using lard for soap making will produce a softer bar with nicer conditioning properties. Just remember that lard and tallow usually needs to be rendered before it can be used to make soap! So its quite a bit more work for the soap maker but its worth it to me. I've used the animal to its fullest and I've made a great benefical product!

Hogs resting after 'pigging out' on mixed grains and goat milk in their sleeping area

Bonus of rendering lard.. Cracklins'!!! just a few added to cornbread take it to the next level ;-)

Just my point of view on the whole thing. Waste not want not... what happened to that saying???

Y'all have a good week!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Humidity and indoor projects!

The sunshine has come thru! and the humidity is through the roof!!!
A beautiful day
Which means even though its not raining I want nothing to do with the outdoors after the sun comes up!
My poor goats don't like it either,,, nor do the sheep or chickens... the pigs are good with it as long as they can get in the pond.. and ofcourse the waterfowl don't mind all that much either!
So in between making lotions and soaps I have pulled out some crochet projects to work on...
Afghan I've been working on forever
I love love pink!! I am such a pink girl! I've been working on these afghan squares for years... I'll make a couple of squares then move on to something else... I really need to finish it. I think it would be beautiful at the foot of my bed.
And my scarf obsession.... I love to make scarves. I have so many scarves its crazy! Esp. considering I am in TN and our winters are fairly mild and short! But I can't help it... I love to make them ,,, I do need to make some that are 'fashion-y' and thin..  That way I could get more wear out of them.
I think I may list some and try to sell them this holiday season in my store and on etsy since I can't stop making them... wonder if they would sell??
Scarf obsession
 I am planning to start a couple of other crochet projects... crochet is so fun! Would love to make a couple of light weight sweaters.. I made some heavy sweaters a couple of years ago but it never gets cold enough to wear them here.
and fingerless gloves... need more of those! They are perfect.
and socks! I've only crochet one pair of socks and they were easy. I may try a more challenging pattern next time.
Hopefully someday I'll be crocheting with my own homegrown fleece/yarns from my little dairy sheep girls! 
Love the whole sheep to scarf thing! Fits in with all we do here on our farm :)

Hope everyone has a lovely blessed day!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Rain , Rain.... and really, more rain!

 I can NOT believe the rain we are getting! Its just insane! and my garden, for the most part really is starting to suffer ... all the rain, not enough sunshine is really really just bringing everything down...
But whats doing well... Cucumbers!!! and its pickle making time! I am on my last 2 jars of home canned pickles from 2010. So it was time to plant cucumbers and replinish the pantry this summer. I planted a new varity. They are supossed to be white... but they are more like yellow... they are very prolific!!!
Cleaning and slicing
 I like my pickles to set in pickling lime over night... makes them extra crisp!

Set in lime over nite

Beauitful and ready for the pantry
Also trying some pickled garlic... my garlic did great!!! It was planted last fall and harvested this June... before the monsoons hit! I will be planting an unreal amount of garlic this fall! Very pleased with it.

So my green beans & squash blossoms are molding... tomatos & peppers won't rippen... I'll look for a local farmer to try and buy those in bulk from if it keeps up so I can do some canning for the winter... Maybe I can find someone better at gardening than me! Shouldn't be hard to do!!!

Gardening and goats are SO hard to raise! Really makes me appreciate the pigs & poultry! I've not had the dairy sheep long enough to know how they will be! Many people say they are hard to raise too.. unless its those hair sheep... which I do have a cross so I can compare her to the purebred.

But the Bald Mans corn looks good... okra looks promising at this point... sweet taters are spreading well...
and well,,,,there's plenty to pickle!
Gotta look at the bright side... there will possibly be lots of fried pickles ate here next winter!

Y'all have a great weekend... try to stay dry if you're in the southeast!!!