Planting in Straw Bales

A few years ago I had about 40 straw bales hanging around from a straw bale wall project that never did happen. I decided to build a series of raised beds with them for my garden. I set up beds that were 4 bales long and 1 bale wide – then filled the rectangle with compost that my cows and chickens had shared through out the previous year. I had the best crops out of any garden that year!!! I was going to do a similar set up this year until I did some research on straw bale raised beds and found many homesteaders actually growing their veggies in the bales themselves rather than using the bales to hold the dirt in place!

A blog called the Gardner’s Rake has a great article on how to prep the bales to become a growing medium for wonderful crops! The picture to the right I found on Google to see how plants looked growing from straw bales. Apparently, by soaking the bales, adding a compost tea (which I’ll share the steps for when I do it) and then cutting a small planting hole in the bale to add small amounts of soil for a growing medium… add the plant and get ready to harvest!!!

I’ll take pictures and post as I progress, sharing with you the success and failures in the project!

Thanks for reading,

Nance with Homesteader’s Supply!

Have you ever made fresh cheddar cheese???

Fresh cheese, made from raw cow’s milk is about one of my all time favorite foods. I like to take the curds from a cheddar cheese recipe, stir in a couple of tablespoons of crushed red pepper and once aged a bit – it makes the BEST cheese crisps you’ve ever eaten!!!

Homesteader’s Supply has put together a few products that will enable you to make your favorite variety of cheese. When added together, it’s over a $30.00 value of savings! In addition to the amazing book of cheese recipes – you can see the recipes for Cheddar, Colby and cultured butter on our website!

Here is a cheese making kit for the serious beginner, or the experienced cheese maker. It includes all the cheese making products you will need to make a superb cheese from the soft like Cream cheese, Sour cream, Quark, Cottage cheese, Fromage blanc, Chevre frais, St-Maure, Valencay, and even Cultured butter, to semi-soft like Brick, Jack, Farmers, Limburger, Camembert, Brie, Blue cheese, Gouda, Edam, Havarti , to the hard cheeses like Mozarella, Parmesan, Romano,Provolone, Emmenthaler, Gruyere, and Swiss.

We have even included the wax for aging your cheese. Most important because cheese making really is a science as well as a culinary art is the best book. At Homesteader’s Supply we have used many of the books, but this one is great by far for an all around how-to, and why, and trouble-shooting.

This kit includes:
One Tome Mold and Follower
One Italian Crotenase Mold
One Brosse Mold
2 slips of Vegetarian Rennet Tablets (20 tabs)
Mesophillic A culture 25 DCU
Thermophillic culture 50 DCU
8 oz Kosher Course Natural Salt
One Thermometer
1 sq yard 60 count Cheesecloth
1 sq yard 90 count Butter Muslin Cloth
2.1 lbs Red Food Grade Cheese Wax
1 Tub Mold Inhibitor (used prior to waxing)
The Cheese Makers Manual by Margaret Morris

It will be canning time before you know it!

Pressure canning, the only method recommended safe by the U.S.D.A. for canning low-acid foods, allows you to preserve meats, vegetables, and fruits. Presto pressure canners feature an easy-to-read dial gauge for accurate pressure control and extra strong, warp-resistant aluminum construction. The air vent/cover lock allows pressure to build only when the cover is closed properly and prevents the cover from opening until pressure is safely reduced. Includes cooking/canning rack and complete instruction/recipe book. 22-Quart Liquid Capacity (20.9 Liters).

Regular Mason Jar Capacity: 24 half pint jars, 20 one pint jars, or 7 one quart jars.

This versatile canner / pressure cooker is a perfect addition to any kitchen. I had an enamel sealed canner for years that chipped and cracked… rusted. I bought one of these canners last year and don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner. Now I don’t need a water bath pot and a pressure cooker… this pot is large enough for both – saving me precious shelf space! It heats evenly and can be used year around for large stock soups, pasta sauce and so much more!!!

Check them out in the store!!!!

Update on the contracted tendon calf




Last August we has a young heifer born with contracted tendons. She walked on her ankle joints of both front legs. I shared with you a trick my livestock vet talked to me about and wanted to give you an update.

Here is a picture of that same calf just 8 months old. As you can see the trick worked (it actually worked within two weeks, but I’ve been spread a bit thin)… She’s up and walking with no issues and has very strong hooves. So, if you find yourself with a calf who is born with contracted tendons, read the blog post before this one and rest assured that it works GREAT!

Correcting contracted tendons in new born calves

Our mix breed beef heifer was bred by our mini Jersey bull before he found a new home on a ranch breeding heifers for first calf size desires. Anyway, after 24 hours she still could not stand on her front two hooves. Come to find out the tendons were contracted and restricting the ability for her to extend her hooves and put weight on them.

I called our livestock vet (he’s another hero in my life) and talked to him about the issues. He explained that he’d seen this before and had an easy fix if dealt with right away. He advised us to take a magazine and tube it up as a splint, then use vet wrap to secure it to the front legs. Then, on his way home from another call, he stopped by and gave our new little girl an injection of Oxtetracycline, explaining that too much calcium in momma’s system created a build up of calcium on the tendon. The Oxtetracycline binds to the calcium attached onto the tendon and allows it to stretch out and become flexible again. Typically, it should only take the one injection to pull the excess calcium away from the tendons. If in three days her legs aren’t completely straight and she’s not standing on her hooves properly, then a second injection may be needed. The splints force her to put the weight on her hooves instead of her first joint. She got her injection last night and we used a Cabella’s magazine cut in half as splints, then vet wrapped them around her legs from just above the first joint down to the bottom of her hooves. So far, she’s putting weight on her hooves and with any luck will have the splints off tomorrow or the next day.

I did some reading and found out that this can also happen to foals, kids, and many other live stock varities. All seem to respond to the same treatment. The dosage of antibiotic varies on the breed and size of livestock so please consult your vet before guessing and injecting too much. A too large of injection can cause the heart to stop which is a sad outcome for all involved!

Best of luck to all of you homesteaders and wish us luck on our new baby girl!

Thelma and Louise – the characters!

I had two beef heifers named Thelma and Louise… Bet you’re wondering why I would name my beef cattle after movie characters and not food names… Well, living in Arizona… and knowing that they too will die in the end… the names just seemed appropriate! I just have to be sure to keep them away from the ol’ Thunderbird and the Grand Canyon so that I can enjoy their gift of meat!

Anyway… enough humor… on to more humor… Yesterday (Labor Day 2008) I was down doing morning chores when a friend stopped by to introduce us to her brother. We were side tracked, talking up a storm when I notice Louise, a Hereford cross, standing with her side to a section of the fence that I’d cut open in the past to let the cattle out into the back 2 acres to graze. I turned just in time to catch Thelma, a Black Angus cross, standing perpendicular to her and you could see the gears turning in her head… You see, just outside of that fence is a coyote fence… which consists of tee posts at 10′ on center running the length of the back pasture fence with six strands of electric fence giving it a height of about five feet. The hot fence runs parallel to the pasture fence but about 3′ outside the fence. This allows the coyote to run the wash out there and if they do become inspired to run and jump the electric fence they will come down between the electric fence and the 4′ field fence with barbed wire running 6″ above that. Coyote can’t jump 4 feet while standing still… they have to run at it to clear it… so once they clear the hot fence, they usually come down hitting their head into the field fence and then have to get back through the hot fence to get away… After a few zaps… they usually don’t return! Anyway… I digress…and apologize for doing so…

So, there stands Thelma with her eyes on the green grass out in the wash… Mind you we’re standing there yaking up a storm and haven’t yet fed the hay…. The next thing I know… Thelma is barreling towards Louise, head down like an experienced spanish bull… and PLOWS into Louise, lifting her off the ground and THROUGH the field fence as well as the six strands of Hot fence. Poor Louise landed out in the field bewildered as to what had just happened… Luckily, we had shut the hot fence off before starting chores or I fear we’d have had a whole lot more to fix then the six connections and the 10′ section of field fence…

Well, rather than chase Louise all around trying to get her back in and keep the others from getting out… we just let them all go out and graze until we tossed hay… then, of coarse, they all came running in… except Louise… who was too scared to go near the fence. After a little calling and a bit of herding we were able to get her in for breakfast… but it was a good lesson to feed the cows first and visit with the company after…

Hope you enjoyed the chuckle as much as we did… once the fencing was all fixed…

Have a great day…

Nance