Friday, March 04, 2016

Spring is in the air!

Spring is right around the corner here on the Wandering Wonderful homestead. We are debating what the next move in our journey should be. Do we want to invest in some unusual chicken breeds? Is this the year we finally get sheep and fiber rabbits? Or do we maintain status quo for the year? Big decissions.

We have had a lot of luck selling our hatching eggs on Ebay. I have also decided to list complete sets of Civil War hair accouterments on my Etsy page.

We plan on growing miniature Indian pop corn this year, mainly because the parrots are in love with it and think it is the greatest treat ever.

But probably the biggest news is this, my sister and I have decided to launch a podcast. April 4th the Haunted Family Podcast will have its debut episode. We are super excited and super busy hammering out the fine details of this podcast. More details and our web address will be posted soon! But for now join us on our Facebook page!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Winter Storm Jonas

Much of the eastern portion of the US was hit by  winter storm Jonas Friday and Saturday. The Wandering Wonderful homestead was buried under 16.5 inches of snow. I am thankful to report that all of our critters
 weathered the storm and are eagerly anticipating spring thaw. Snow was knee deep on my trek out to the coops Saturday morning. Our chickens are refusing to go out in the snow. But they continue to lay over a dozen eggs a day for us. We have a good flock of girls.

Many have asked me how we prepare for winter storms. In all honestly we do nothing, nothing special that is. We try to always have a stock pile of extra feed for humans and critters on hand. We always have extra drinking water on hand. We keep propane on hand for emergency heat and cooking, and oil for our oil lamps. We stay prepared, year round. Its the smart and beneficial thing to do. This wasn't technically a blizzard, we didn't get the winds necessary for it to be considered a blizzard, but we did have white out conditions for most of Friday and Saturday with snow falling close to 2 inches an hour. Snows like this are uncommon for this area, we get snow, but we rarely get so much snow at once. I have comprised a list of things you should consider doing to prepare for your next winter storm. 

~Make sure your feed rooms are fully stocked with feed and extra bedding before the storm hits
~Make sure you have ready access to water for your animals
~Avoid using heat lamps, they are a safety hazard and unnecessary if your building is dry and draft free
~Move all animals to secure, dry, draft free building before the storm hits. 
~Change flashlight batteries and charge your electronics
~Make sure your emergency kit is read, yes you need an emergency kit
~If you need to be out on the road make sure you have an emergency kit in your car. 
~Make sure you have alternative ways to heat your home, and cook.
~Invest in good winter gear, keep your feet dry and warm while out tending your critters. 

Friday, January 08, 2016

Winter Car Kits

My Mamaw didn't drive. In her 66 years on earth she had never so much as sat in the driver seat of a car. But Mamaw did take roadtrips, Mamaw knew how to travel. I know that many of my idea's and hacks for roadtripping came from her. Her idea's and hacks for roadtrips came from necessity. My grandparents had 9 children and family scattered across the country.

Mamaw as very cautious about her families safety, she insisted that we keep an emergency kit in our cars, changing out some items to fit the season.

*a shovel
windshield scraper/broom
*flashlight with extra batteries
*Reading materal
*snack food (nuts, powerbars, jerky, etc)
*matches, cigerette lighter
Knit hat and winter gloves
*First aid kit
Wool blanket
tow chain or rope
cat litter or sand for traction
*Jumper Cables
*emergency flares/reflectors
Large trash bag
*Small Shovel
*Change of clothes
*Change of shoes
*Basic tool kit
*Small gas can

*denotes things I keep in the car year round.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

101 Skills for the Modern Homesteader

This list has been making the rounds on various homesteading/off-grid Facebook pages. I don't know the origin or author. Somethings we grew up knowing, part of our rich Appalachian heritage like reading the weather and growing vegetables. Other things we have learned through the course of our homesteading adventure, like giving an animal an injection, and how to cut down a tree. Between the Wanderer and I we have tackled probably 3/4th of the list, learning to keep bees and process honey and make hard and soft cheeses are high on the list of things to learn next. How many skills do you possess and what is next on your "to be learned" list?

101 Skills for the Modern Homesteader
1. Learn how to milk a goat, cow, or sheep.
2. Learn how to successfully compost kitchen scraps and manure.
3. Learn how to make the perfect pie crust.
4. Learn how to cook a whole chicken.
5. Learn how to grow a vegetable garden in your climate.
6. Learn how to prune a tree.
7. Learn how to read the weather.
8. Learn how to tell time without a clock by using the sun.
9. Learn how to give an animal an injection
10. Learn how to foal, kid, lamb, and/or calve.
11. Learn how to pull a calf or baby goat during a difficult birth.
12. Learn how to grow a windowsill herb garden.
13. Learn how to properly cut down a tree.
14. Learn how to make perfect sausage gravy from scratch.
15. Learn how to drive a manual transmission.
16. Learn how to drive a tractor.
17. Learn basic mechanic skills so you can fix your tractors and vehicles.
18. Learn how to change a tire.
19. Learn how to change oil.
20. Learn how to properly handle, shoot, and clean a gun.
21. Learn the laws and regulations regarding hunting wild game in your area through a Hunter’s Safety course.
21. Learn how to hunt wild game–both large and small.
22. Learn how to humanely kill, gut, and clean an animal.
23. Learn how to butcher an animal and the proper cuts of meat.
24. Learn how to pluck a chicken.
25. Learn how to use a smoker
26. Learn how to fish.
27. Learn how to clean and fillet a fish.
28. Learn how to tell if your chickens are molting.
29. Learn how to tell if you can doctor an animal at home, or if it needs to be taken to the vet.
30. Learn how to dry laundry using a drying rack or clothesline.
31. Learn how to make your own laundry detergent.
32. Learn how to build a fire–both inside and outside.
33. Learn how to cook over an open fire.
34. Learn how to make hard and soft cheeses.
35. Learn how to make yogurt.
36. Learn how to make sourdough bread.
37. Learn how to keep bees and harvest honey.
38. Learn how to make basic yeast dough which can be turned into loaves, rolls, buns, pretzels, etc.
39. Learn how to incubate fertilized eggs and hatch your own chicks.
40. Learn how to identify and manage a broody hen.
41. Learn how to cut and bale hay.
42. Learn how to stack hay.
43. Learn the art of intensive grazing so you can better manage your pastures.
44. Learn how to make your own soap.
45. Learn how to make your own candles.
46. Learn how to darn a sock.
47. Learn how to mend damaged clothes so they don’t have to be thrown away.
48. Learn how to sew clothing from scratch.
49. Learn how to knit, quilt, or crochet
50. Learn the art of no-till gardening.
51. Learn how to candle eggs so you can tell if they are fertilized.
52. Learn how to cook outside with a dutch oven.
53. Learn how to heat your home with wood or other sustainable sources.
54. Learn how to trim the feet of your goats and sheep.
55. Learn how to build and fix fence.
56. Learn carpentry skills so you can repair outbuildings or even build basic furniture pieces.
57. Learn how to tan a hide.
58. Learn how to save seeds.
59. Learn how to use a water bath canner.
60. Learn how to lacto-ferment foods to preserve them.
61. Learn how to use a pressure canner and/or cooker.
62. Learn how to make saukerkraut.
63. Learn how to forage for wild edibles in your area.
64. Learn how to identify the difference between edible and poisonous mushrooms.
65. Learn how to identify the difference between harmless and venomous snakes in your area.
66. Learn how to grind your own wheat.
67. Learn how to repurpose everyday items to save them from the landfill.
68. Learn how to sharpen a knife or ax.
69. Learn how to prepare for a blizzard.
70. Learn how to prepare for a wildfire.
71. Learn the basics of animal breeding.
72. Learn how to work together with your neighbors to accomplish more and foster a sense of community.
73. Learn how to halter-break an animal.
74. Learn how to split and stack firewood.
75. Learn how to make butter.
76. Learn how to use essential oils properly and safely.
77. Learn how to build/use a greenhouse or cold frame to extend your growing season.
78. Learn how to start seeds indoors.
79. Learn how to store food in a root cellar or in a cool basement.
80. Learn how to make vinegar.
81. Learn how to make your own skincare items.
82. Learn how to make your own cleaning supplies.
83. Learn how to make herbal extracts, infusions, poultices, and tinctures.
84. Learn how to render lard or tallow.
85. Learn how to chop ice.
86. Learn how to make and apply whitewash.
87. Learn how to tap trees for maple syrup.
88. Learn how to repair a roof.
89. Learn how to humanely euthanize an animal.
90. Learn to identify the weeds in your yard/pastures and figure out which ones are edible.
91. Learn how to back up a trailer.
92. Learn how to purify water.
93. Learn how to make bone broth.
94. Learn how to use non-electric lighting.
95. Learn how to put together a 72-hour kit for emergencies.
96. Learn how to cook eggs in a cast iron skillet without a sticky mess.
97. Learn how to put food scraps like eggshells, coffee grounds, apple peels, and whey to good use.
98. Learn how to make bacon and cure hams.
99. Learn how to protect your livestock from predators.
100. Learn how to make your own chicken feed.
101. Learn how to live within your means and get out of debt.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Traveling with your Feathered Friends.

Over the last few months we have added not 1, but 5 new birds to our homestead. Actually, 6, but one little parakeet was too sick and sadly didn't make it despite our best efforts. I know in time we will load up the birds, along with the dogs for a vacation or road trip. It will happen, we love travel. While we could leave them at home entrusted to the wonderful people who tend our homestead while we are away, we know will will take at least one trip with them. A little back story on the birds? Callie was previously called Polly, she is a parrot of unknown type. She spent most of the summer living in a small cage on someones porch until she was gifted to us. Tweedle (the parakeet) and her partner are who didn't make it joined the family the next week when I saw them being offered on a buy/sale/trade page. I knew some of the people making offers on the birds, and I knew they wouldn't end up in good homes. So I took them. Then the Wanderer's mother and I found Harrison a Green Cheek Conure on It was love at first sight. I ended up driving 3 hours the next day to bring him home. He meows, gives kisses, and fake snores. He is quite the comical bird. A week before Christmas we traveled to a near by city to finish Christmas shopping. While at a pet store we saw 2 beautiful blue parakeets. The new parakeets have yet to be named, I am currently leaning toward March and Alice.

So how do you travel with a bird?
First you need the right carrier.
Harrison, the sweet little Green Cheek I drove to Cincinnati for came with two cages, one was a large cage for use in the home and the other was a small, no frills wire travel cage. Its functional, but not pretty, and I have doubts about it holding up to much travel.

The Parrot Travel Carrier is in the running to be our pick, its lightweight, cute, has a perch, but most importantly the floor is Velcro'd on making it easy to remove and clean. Birds poop, a lot, and its very important to keep a clean cage. The shoulder strap has good padding which should make it easy to carry.

We wont be able to travel with all of our birds in the same travel carrier, we know this. The Parakeets can travel together, but will need to be
separated from Callie and Harrison who will need cages of their own. In comes collapsible cages. The fold flat for easy storage and transport. Could you use a collapsible dog kennel? Maybe, but the bars on dog kennels tend to be wider than those one bird cages. A bird could easily attempt to wiggle out of the cage and get hurt in the process.

Flight time is important to birds, they need to be able to exercise and stretch their wings. This can be difficult if not impossible in smaller travel cages. Leashes and harnesses, even flight suits can be bought for your feathered friends to make flight safe. We have not began the process of teaching our birds to fly on leashes. It is something we plan on doing at some point in the future. Most leash systems come with a small band that you wrap around the birds leg then clip the leash too, or you can clip the leash directly to your birds ID band if he is already banded. Harness systems go on much like dog harnesses. There is of course some debate about which is the safest method.

In parting I will leave you with a picture of Miss Callie perched on my nail polish rack watching me get ready to go out.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Books to Improve your Homestead

The Wanderer and I get asked often for book recommendations. What would we recommend for those just starting their journey in homesteading and self sufficiency. We are voracious readers. Our free moments are spent with books, or the tablet in our hands. We love relaxing in our hammock and reading. At the end of the day when we are curled up in bed we read to each other before falling asleep. Books are an important part of our lives. We have taken the time to make a list comprised of our favorite books that will aid others in the homesteading lifestyle. 

The first book on list is actually a series of books. You can buy the complete 14 volume set with special anniversary editions for the low price of $234.50 on Amazon. With some hunting you can piece together the
set for about $13-14 dollars a book. I first stumbled across the Foxfire books while in college. Many of the topics in the books wouldn't become important to me until many years later when the Wanderer and I settled down and began collecting animals. The books started out as a simple English class project. Now in addition to the magazine, and books The Firefox Fund also operates a museum dedicated to Southern Appalachian history and heritage. Topics covered in the Foxfire books include: Spring Wild Plant Foods, Spinning and Weaving, Midwifing, Burial Customs, Corn Shuckin's, Wagon Making,  Hide Tanning, Summer and Fall Wild Plant Foods, Butter Churns, Ironmaking, Blacksmithing, Quilting, etc.

The Quest of the Simple Life

This is not a how-to book, this is a insightful look into one man's () quest to find
himself and simplicity in early 1900's England. I think this book is the perfect read for cold winter nights. We as modern homesteaders tend to look at the past as the "good ol' days" our quest to go back and live as simply as our ancestors. This is a look at how that same quest for simplicity looks to our ancestors. 

The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It

John Seymour is often called Father of Self-Sufficiency, and in this book he gives practical tips and advice on how nearly anyone can follow in his footsteps and live a simpler, more self sufficient lifestyle. He covers a wide variety of topics in this book, from harvesting and preserving food, animal husbandry, basket weaving and beer making. 

Wildcrafting may not be on your horizon yet, it wasn't on ours either when we first started this journey. Our
grandparents and great grandparents knew the natural bounty that lay in the woods and fields all around us. Grandma could go outside and make a feast from things that grew wild. Samuel Thayer's book covers every aspect of edible wild plants, he will teach you how to safely identify plants, harvest and prepare them. This is the book you need to live more comfortably and fully enjoy natures bountiful harvest.