Category Archives: Homesteading

What to Grow in the Garden – Broccoli, Cauliflower and Cabbage

Cool weather crops are those that do well in…well…cool weather. They often bolt (go to seed) or their growth stalls when the weather gets hot. If the seed packet says “sow as soon as the ground can be worked,” it’s a cool weather crop. This week we’re going to talk about broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.

What to Grow in the Garden – Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage

cabbage, what to grow in the garden

Calabrese broccoli, what to grow in the garden, how to grow broccoliBroccoli, cauliflower and cabbage don’t need any special treatment when you plant their seeds. You can start the seeds indoors by sprinkling them on seed starting medium and covering them with 1/4″ of the medium. Keep the medium moist but not wet. In seven to 10 days the seeds will sprout. Outdoors, sprinkle the seeds on rich soil, water in and keep the soil moist. When the seedlings have their first set of real leaves you can either move them to their own containers or space them out depending on where they’re growing. If you’ve grown seedlings in doors you can harden them off and move them outside with a little protection from frost about a month before the last average frost date for your area.

alternating rowsCool weather crops like to have cool feet, and by feet I mean roots. You can crowd the plants enough to keep the sun off the soil when the plants mature without crowding them so much you stunt their growth. The leaves will fill in and create shade that keeps the soil cooler and slows the germination of weed seeds. It’s a great way to save space in the garden.

When I harvest cabbage and cauliflower I peal back the large leaves and place them on the ground so that they continue to block the sun from the soil. Those weed seeds are opportunists just waiting for an opportunity to sprout. The leaves will dry and eventually break down to feed the soil.


Cauliflower is a little less tolerant of cold and heat than broccoli and cabbage. Use the staggering method of planting your transplants to keep the soil cooler but wait an extra week or ten days before planting. If you have a sudden hot spell and can give cauliflower some shade it will appreciate the break. When stressed, cauliflower might take on a pink or purple tinge.

Keep all three of these vegetables well watered. Watch for pin holes in the leaves, an indication of flea beetles, and larger holes and green droppings on the leaves made by cabbage worms. Treat accordingly.

Harvest these vegetables before they start to go by. Broccoli heads are firm when ready to harvest. If the tiny flowers start to open you can should cut it immediately.

early jersey cabbage, what to grow in the garden, growing cabbage

Early Jersey Wakefield

Cabbage firms up when ready to harvest. You can test the heads with a gentle squeeze as they grow to get a feel for  firmness as it develops. If you’re not ready to cut a head that’s ready to be picked you can delay more growth that leads to cracking. Plant your feet firmly, give the plant a tug up and twist it 90* either way. You’ll hear roots tear.

Watch cauliflower for signs of separating curbs or color change and harvest when full grown according to the size stated in its description.

These vegetables benefit from being cut either very early in the door or being submerged in very cold water to remove what’s called “field heat.”

More Money Saving Tips for Homesteaders

 More Money Saving Tips for Homesteaders

We have so many tips to share we had to split them up. Here are more money saving tips for homesteaders. Last week’s tips are here.

  1. Write down every penny you spend for three months. You’ll probably spot money trickling away that you weren’t aware of.
  2. Stop using paper towels. For what you’d spend on an 8 pack of paper towels you can buy four or five cotton dish towels. We have packages of 100 and 250 dairy towels for less than a dollar each. You can split an order with friends. Use, wash and reuse these towels for cleaning time after time.
  3. Speaking of cleaning, use half the detergent called for. Let your laundry soak for an hour if necessary. You can do without fabric softener. A splash of vinegar in the rinse water will help remove the detergent build up that makes clothes stiff and scratchy.
  4. Make your lunch to take to work. I called McDonald’s this afternoon. A Quarter Pounder with cheese is $3.99. Leftovers make nice lunches.
  5. Drop your gym membership. Walk, snowshoe, small equipment purchased second hand, the opportunities are numerous.
  6. Do you need your vehicle? If you already have one vehicle that’s dependable and you’re shopping once a week, can you do without a second vehicle? You might be able to coordinate trips with friends by offering to pay for the gas. If you live in the city or suburb it might be worth a taxi fare to not have to make a vehicle payment, insurance payment, and pay for upkeep. This doesn’t mean you’ll never have a second vehicle again but for now, do you need it?
  7. Don’t renew your magazine subscriptions. Or, choose your favorite and call the 800 number on the renewal slip. Offer then $10. They’ll probably take your offer. Or send the slip back with a check for $10 and a note making the offer. I’ve done it three times when money was tight and my offer was always accepted.
  8. Cancel your internet. Use public access at the library. The exception – if you can make more money by having your own account than you spend to have it, keep it.
  9. Do you have an extra bedroom you can rent out?
  10. Turn off cable. Read books and play games instead. You can find board and card games at Goodwill and yard sales. You can probably buy at least one brand new board game for the price of your cable bill as a way to get started.
  11. Do you have a cell phone and a land line? Pick one and disconnect the other. I saved $430.56 a year by disconnecting the land line.
  12. Can you share wifi with a neighbor?
  13. Barter for repair work you need. Will your plumber work in exchange for something you have and can spare? I had a couple of minor repairs done for a loaf of homemade bread a week for four weeks and a batch of strawberry jam.
  14. Pay half of your mortgage every other week. We cut seven years off our mortgage by doing this. Having auto pay take the mortgage payment out of the checking account each payday saved us a quarter of a percent.
  15. Avoid the deli. Deli meat can be very expensive. $8 a pound for roast turkey breast at the deli vs $1 a pound for turkey roasted at home is a big savings. That extra $10 a week you put aside to stock up is well spent when meat goes on sale. Turkey salad from fresh roasted turkey is much nicer than sliced deli meat.
  16. Attend free events. You don’t want to be stuck on the homestead all the time. Get out now and then. It will help you dig in and save money by giving you something fun to look forward to.

Do you have tips to add? Leave them in the comments and we’ll move them up to the list.

Hunting Small Game

Hunting Small Game

We’re going to talk about hunting small game this week. We asked followers on Facebook what they’d like to read and/or learn about a while back and hunting small game was one of the suggested topics. Hunting was a given decades ago. If homesteaders wanted meat on the table they hunted because they didn’t have livestock to move with them when they settled on their land.

Hunting small game can provide meat on the table and it’s a means of keeping the pest population in check. Pests can do a lot of damage to a garden. Eliminating a pest, minimizing damage and providing meat is a win-win-win situation. Have you ever considered woodchuck stew? It’s been said that they taste best when they’ve been eating your best vegetable plants.


hunting small game, hunting game birds, game birds, upland game birds

Red squirrel

Small game is generally considered to be small mammals and birds such as:

  • Squirrel
  • Hare
  • Rabbit
  • Woodchuck
  • Prairie dog
  • Grouse (partridge)
  • Chukar
  • Quail
  • Pheasant
  • Woodcock
  • Dove

Laws vary between states. It’s important to become familiar with your state’s laws to keep yourself out of trouble, keep yourself and others safe, and for the benefit of the animals you’re hunting.

What weapons are you allowed to use? Most hunters use firearms for small mammals. A .22 caliber rifle is large enough to do the job. It’s a small, light weight rifle with little “kick” and fairly quiet. It’s suitable for everyone learning to hunt and young hunters. A .177 air rifle might do the job for small squirrels though it can be tricky. You absolutely must hit your target precisely otherwise you’ll only hurt the animal. Winter is hard time to use a small rifle like the .177. Even when the air pressure is high, the pellet might hit a non-lethal area of the body, bounce off and roll away.

There are exceptions but birds are hunted with shotguns as a general rule. The smallest shotgun we use for bird hunting is the .410. It has a short range and is useful for small birds like dove, partridge and woodcock. It’s a great starter shotgun but will probably be outgrown quickly.

Next up is the .20 gauge shotgun for small birds. For partridge and larger birds we use .12 and .10 gauge. Large birds such as turkey and goose require heavier loads and longer shells to bring the birds down humanely.

You might choose a shotgun for small game. If I’m partridge hunting with a .20 or .12 gauge and happen to have a good shot at a snowshoe hare I’ll take the shot. I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot a squirrel with a .410 as long as I weren’t too close to the squirrel. Place your shots well.

Tip  Read boxes just like you read a food label for ingredients. The box should tell you the gauge, length, FPS (feet per second, or how fast the shot travels), oz (ounce) shot, and shot on shotgun shell boxes.

Tip Bullet boxes for rifles are labeled similarly. Many manufacturers clearly label their boxes with the game the bullet is suited to. Study up. Start with .22 for hunting small game.


Salt Pork

The piglets arrived in late June. They ate all our food scraps, lots of spent plants from the garden, grass and clover in their pasture, and some commercial pellets. During a harsh old spell when the overnight temps dropped close to 0* they enjoyed a can of cracked corn each and extra flakes of hay. Everything was late except the cold weather. I was concerned about Red and White staying warm, and that maybe there wouldn’t be enough fat for salt pork.

There was no need for concern. I made put up 36 pounds of salt pork today. It will sit at the bottom of the cellar stairs, hovering above freezing, for the next month. I’ll check it weekly to be sure it’s curing rather than spoiling.

salt pork

Uncured pork belly.

I wasn’t able to find the tons of information I expected on curing pork, specifically how to make salt pork, online. Turns out there’s not a lot to write about. It’s a simple process.

My pork belly was cut into slabs, vacuum packed and flash frozen by the butcher. I thawed the pork overnight in a cooler.

You’ll need a container for your pork. A crock is great. If you don’t have a crock you can use stainless steel, plastic or glass. Wash your container thoroughly.

Salt Pork Recipe

Cut 2.5 pounds of pork belly into slabs that are six to eight inches wide. Rinse each piece with cool water and dry well with paper towels.

For each 2.5 pounds, mix together:

10 oz Kosher or sea salt
1/3 cup white sugar

That’s it. This is very basic. Coat each piece of pork belly and stack them close together in your containers.


I put a 1/4″ layer of salt and sugar on the bottom of the container before placing the first pieces. Add more salt and sugar blend to the pieces to make up for any you lose when moving the fat. More salt than necessary isn’t better. You don’t want your salt pork to be so salty it’s hard to use.

salt pork, how to make salt pork

My container of salt pork is sitting at the entry of the cold cellar (they lead in from outdoors so it stays cold), on the cold side that hasn’t been blocked to keep the cold out. I’ll check it every few days, and I plan to let it cure for at least a month. When it’s done I’ll wash the salt off, dry the salt pork well, and vacuum pack it before placing it in the freezer. My cellar won’t stay cold

One of the first recipes I’ll use the salt pork in is Boston Baked Beans. They’re a traditional Saturday meal around here. I’ll slice the salt pork and place it on top of the beans. The pork will help the beans stay moist and the meat will be delicious. I’m also going to dice pork to fry pan fried potatoes and saute mixed greens.

There’s always a little concern about using fat. Moderation! Use a little, only what you need. Use the same caution with salt pork that you use with butter and all other fats. This fat is all natural real food. Enjoy!

Injury and Illness on the Homestead

Injury and Illness on the Homestead

You’re fine one moment and the next you find yourself in a heap at the bottom of the cellar stairs. There’s a stomach bug going around and try as you might, the only thing you can accomplish for the next five days is sleep and maybe a shower. One minute you’re stacking hay and the next the hay is stacked onto of you. Injury and illness on the homestead are a fact of life.  Injury and illness on the homestead

Injury and illness on the homestead are scary thoughts . We try to be careful, especially when we live in a remote area or away from people, but accidents happen. We don’t plan on accidents but we can plan ahead of time for how we’ll deal with the consequences of injury and illness.

First Aid

Injury and Illness on the Homestead

Keep at least a basic First Aid Kit

Do you have a first aid kit? Everyone should have a small first aid kit with bandages, tweezers, and antibacterial soap. Please do follow the first aid kit link. It has a long list of items for injuries as well as illness. Adjust your kit accordingly. Injury and illness on the homestead

Frozen Meals

Chicken soup freezes well, and who doesn’t want a bowl of chicken soup when you’re not up to par. Soup, stew, cooked meats and vegetables – they all freeze well and are easy to warm up. Keep these meals simple. Simple allows kids and other busy adults to prepare a meal and eat well. If you’re the healthy person in a house full of sick people you’ll be busy enough without having to cook from scratch. After a while we’re usually willing to make whatever someone is willing to eat as their appetite returns. Having several frozen meals as options is a blessing.

Remember tv dinners? You can make them yourself with leftovers. Pie plates work well. You can freeze the entire meal in a pie plate covered in foil. Pull the meal from the freezer, pop it into the hot oven and rest while the meal warms.

Make sure your meds are refilled before you’re down to your last few doses. If you don’t let yourself get below a week’s worth of meds you’ll likely feel well enough to get to the pharmacy before you run out. Otherwise, give the person who’ll take care of your refills a few days to get to the pharmacy. Injury and illness on the homestead

Keep important phone numbers in an obvious place. Back in the day we kept phone numbers written on a piece of paper and taped to the wall beside the phone. Few of us have a phone on the wall these days. And of course, everyone who is old enough to use a phone (by age four) should know how to dial 911 and know when and when not to call 911.

Keep your cell phone with you if you’re at home alone or working away from people. You don’t want to sit at the bottom of the stairs without help, be unable to call someone when you are seriously ill, or unable to dial 911 when you’ve had an accident. Homesteading tends to push modern conveniences like cell phones off to the side but don’t dismiss this important tool.

Homestead Planning – Will you want a garden?

Homestead Planning – Will you want a garden?

Gardening seems like a given on a homestead, but it isn’t. Not everyone likes to garden, or knows how to garden. None of us were born with everything we need to know about growing food. Don’t let that stop you!

If you’re starting from scratch I suggest you call your county’s Cooperative Extension and ask to speak to a Master Gardener. The local garden club and neighbors are also helpful. In the meantime, here are some things to think about when you’re considering a garden.

First things first. Be sure you are allowed to have a garden. As silly as that sounds, some home owners associations and subdivisions don’t allow vegetable gardening. Or, they might limit the garden to the back yard behind a fence. It’s considerate to ask a neighbor about their preferences to how close you garden to the shared property line. It’s possible that your town has a zoning law regarding how close you are allowed to be to the property line and sidewalk.

butternut squash, planning a garden, garden planning, gardening, homesteading

Butternut Squash

Is there room for a garden? You might be surprised at how little space it takes to grow a respectful amount of food. One tomato plant in a five gallon bucket may produce upwards of 20 pounds of tomatoes. That’s about $60 worth of tomatoes in exchange for a few dollars in the plant and soil. You can reuse the bucket from year to year. From container gardens to lining the sidewalk with vegetables to a full acre out back, you have options.

Are there large trees or buildings casting shade on the spot you’d have to use for a garden? The trees can probably be felled but moving a building probably won’t happen. You can use some shade to your advantage but there’s only so much you can do.

Is the garden spot convenient? We like to think we’ll be so excited about the garden that we’ll be there with bells on no matter where it is but let’s be honest – that’s not usually true. When it’s inconvenient we probably won’t make the time to walk the extra distance (let’s say a few hundred yards) to pull weeds for ten minutes. I don’t want to walk a few hundred yards for a cucumber.

How about water? Is it available? And convenient? You can run a hose just about anywhere if you have an outside faucet. The hose has to be moved out of the way to mow the lawn. It’s really not a big deal until it’s 90 degrees and you’ve had a long day.

Will you need to fence in the garden to keep out the pests? Deer and other large animals can do a lot of damage in a few minutes. Groundhogs and rabbits dig under fencing, deer jump over, squirrels squeeze through. If you’re going to need fencing I suggest having it ready to go sooner than later. You don’t want to lose your hard work to marauding bunnies over night.

Don’t be discouraged. Plan for the problem so it doesn’t become a problem! The taste of a warm, juicy, really ripe tomato from your garden makes it all worth it.