Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Can My Cow Colic???

Good evening all… forgive any typo’s this evening… my day started at 4:30 a.m. and it’s now after 8:00 p.m. and I’m just getting to sit down. Normally I’d be in two hours earlier but my sweet Cookie cow had the bovine version of colic. Notice in the photo how the left side of the cow is very rounded and arching, while the right is short ribs and sunken in as normal. The left is full of foam and is trapped on top of rumen that is too dry to move as it should. You see, our daytime temperatures recently went from the mid to high eighties down to forties in a matter of twenty four hours. Sometimes, when the temps swing so fast like that Cookie cow forgets to drink enough water and her rumen becomes like biscuit dough. It should slosh when pushed into and Cookie’s left side was definitely not sloshing! Normally, as the rumen works the gas forms a bubble and the cows belch, with a dry rumen, the gas becomes foam and gets trapped. If left uncared for it can compress the lungs and actually suffocate the animal. I called Dr. Lane, my favorite livestock vet. He was on another emergency call and explained that it would likely be a few hours before he could get here. So, I had two choices. I could go get mineral oil and make a drench or I could wait for him and hope Cookie could make it… Well, you guessed right… I went to the store! I bought a gallon worth of mineral oil, some molasses and once home, pulled the Epsom salt from the livestock cupboard. From this I made a drench of sorts. I used warm water, about a quart, added a quart and a half of mineral oil and a half quart of molasses. Once all of the liquids are blended, I add two tablespoons of Epsom salt for the Magnesium which helps her rumen balance again. I make it this way, because if Cookie has any interest at all in food, I can at times get her to gobble up the mixture on her own, but this evening wasn’t one of those times. She had NO interest in food.

I don’t have pictures of the next part because I can’t hold a cow’s head, grab her tongue and pull it out of the side of her mouth, AND pour the mixture into her mouth all the while taking photos.. HA! I pour a cup or so at a time and release her head / tongue so she can swallow, breath, cough… you have to be VERY careful not to get the mixture in her lungs and without the tube it’s a best effort situation. I pour small amounts and allow her to swallow it on her own. She HATES the process but by the time I had half of the mixture into her belly, she began belching! MUSIC TO MY EARS!!!! I massaged the left side (the rumen side) and got the oil to mix with the foam, creating a bubble that she could burp out. After a half an hour she was sunken in again like a Jersey / Guernsey cow should be and was ready for dinner! Seeing her head in the red bucket made me a very happy cow momma! I hope this helps those of you with bovine, goat, sheep… any rumen bellied animal. Some are prone to this issue, others go a lifetime and never have any problems at all. I hope your critter is the latter.

Happy Homesteading!

The Dog Ate My….. Cheese?

Jerri comes by weekly and picks up five to eight gallons of milk from our Cookie cow to make cheese for both households. Our homestead works too many jobs and she doesn’t have milk cows, so the arrangement works out well. She picks up the milk, makes colby or cheddar cheese and we share the bounty, providing both homesteads with a great food source. So, a few days ago she made this amazing wheel of cheddar cheese. It was about four inches thick and about seven inches wide at the center of the wheel. She was so excited about how well it had turned out that she called bragging and explained that I could swing by and pick up some in a day or two when it was finished drying.
Well, this morning (the typical drop off cheese / pick up milk day) the phone starts ringing and I figure it was milk swap time. I answer it to hear… 
“I’m so bummed….Do you remember the old adage ‘The dog ate my homework?'”
“What?” I asked trying to follow the conversation..
“You know… the dog ate my homework…. well, I have a new one for you… the dog ate my cheese!” She says, thinking this will clarify things for me. My silence must have hinting to my ongoing confusion, so she continued, “I went into the kitchen to cut and wrap up the cheese so I could bring you some when I picked up milk and all I found was the cheese cloth on the tile floor. So, I’m looking everywhere wondering ‘where is the cheese?’… I can’t image that the dog ate an entire wheel of cheese!” She explains. 
Now lights are starting to go off… the cheddar cheese that she’d bragged about a couple of days ago. Well, I start laughing because all I hear in my head is that old lady saying ‘WHERE’S THE BEEF?’ in the Wendy’s commercials from the eighties.
Jerri continues her story over the phone, “So, I’m looking all over the house wondering where’s the cheese… looking for some sort of evidence… tiny cheese crumbles… anything. Finally, I look over to the couch and see the leg blanket crumpled up in the corner. Now I know I had folded it up on top of the couch last night. I walked over and lifted the blanket off the couch and here’s this small hidden chunk of chewed on cheese!”
Now I’m really laughing! The dog was saving it for a snack!
Jerri sighs and then continues into the phone, “So, I won’t be bringing cheese over today, but I do need more milk.”
Ah, life on a homestead. Could have been worse I suppose… she could have been thawing rib-eye steaks! Here’s the picture she sent just a few minutes ago… a recreation of the events!!! See the cheese piece by the stuffed donkey… LOL

Eager For Some Homesteading Conversation

I’ve been checking the blog often, eager to see comments, swap stories and share questions and answers. If any of you out there have thoughts (articles of sorts) you’d like to share, feel free to email me at and I’ll see about getting your work on the blog, with credit of course. If you want to ask a question, share experiences or offer information – please use the comments field.. I’m eager to see it all come together and have a little homesteading community on these pages.

So, I’ll start with some questions…

What do you think of the blog?
Are the articles / stories helpful?
Are there topics you’d like to see discussed?
Does it tie in well enough with and our products?
Are you able to find what you’re looking for in the web store?

Please feel free to answer and let’s enjoy a conversation!

Happy Homesteading,


Who are ‘the folks at Homesteader’s Supply’?

Good Sunday Evening All….

I thought I’d share a bit with you about who we are and how Homesteader’s Supply came to be. My name is Nance Sparks and I’m the web / geek / homesteading side of Homesteader’s Supply. I have a B.S. degree in Computer Information Systems and work for a local private college by day. In addition to my forty hour a week job, I take care of the web presence of Homesteader’s Supply. It may sound like a small task, but I keep the web store up to date, design and write for our blogs, keep Google+ current, tweet, Facebook as well as design and send out all of the newsletters. I’m sure there is more geeky stuff that I do, but I enjoy it and love all of the questions and conversations I get to take part in with our readers and customers.

I also have a small farm on four acres in Chino Valley, Arizona. I have had a Jersey cow named Cookie for about six years now, she’s an angel and is currently in milk. I also have an old retired roping horse who isn’t ridden, but enjoys hanging out with his cows and is the sweetest gelding. A fourteen month old jersey calf shares the pasture as well and is getting ready for spring butchering. They are all protected by a breeding pair of Emu, Junior and Babycakes who share late fall eggs with me for amazing quiche. In the side yard is the chicken coop which is opened up every morning so the many varieties of chicken, turkey and ducks can roam the four acres freely, enjoying bugs, grass and seeds (I also keep a bucket of crumble out there for all of them).

Jerri Bedell is the nuts and bolts of Homesteader’s Supply. She lines up the vendors and manufacturers for all of the amazing products we carry. Her goal is to find products that are made with quality and will handle life on a homestead. Whenever possible, she strives to find products made in the U.S.A. She handles all of the sales, book keeping, corporation papers, pays the bills and yet still finds time to offer amazing customer service. She answers the phone personally, no automated menu of options and if she’s isn’t available when called, she’s known to get right back to her customers. Jerri also packs and ships out the products since Homesteader’s Supply is her main focus. Jerri has five acres in Chino Valley, Arizona and loves making fresh colby and cheddar cheese. She’s a pro at home made ice cream and butter as well. Jerri designed the Pickle Pro that we offer on our site and chose to make her model out of glass instead of the many plastic ferment containers on the market. Her reasoning, you can’t really sterilize plastic. It holds odors and bacteria, eventually altering the foods you ferment in them. The Pickle Pro is one neat item and most of Jerri’s vegetables end up fermented.

So, why on earth would two people who have yards to mow, bills to pay, cows to milk and all that want to get into business? The biggest push for us was the inability to find quality homesteading products. I ordered some milk pails and they were HORRIBLE!!! They were so thin that if the cow hit the side of the pail with her hoof it would dent the pail. They were made in China and eventually I threw it away and bought another one. The next pail was made in India and wasn’t much better. The lip on the pail was sharp and cut me more than once. The tabs that held the handle were welded poorly and snapped off in just a few months. My frustration grew as I sought out more and more homesteading products. Udder balms full of perfumes that stung the cow’s udders because the vendor wanted it to smell pretty like lotion. Muck boots that were made out stiff plastic and cracked after a few uses. The list can really go on and on and on.

Jerri was running into similar issues. Cheese rennet that was inconsistent in setting up a good curd or cultures that were inconsistent made for many very frustrating cheese making days. Items she’d purchase for her homestead were of poor quality and broke often or weren’t really designed for the practical uses on a working farm.

So, we got to talking and quickly realized that what was needed for not just our two farms, but all small family farms, was a place to purchase QUALITY homesteading products for a reasonable price. I got busy lining up a hosting company and began designing the store while Jerri dug into products. The first product she found was an amazing milking pail made from food grade stainless steel and completely created with American materials and labor. The pail is by my best guess at least ten times as thick as the cheap pails I’d struggled with! I’ve had my ‘made in Pennsylvania’ pail for over four years now and it still looks brand new! Next item she found was a perfume free udder balm… made in Iowa with all natural ingredients! We were on a roll. I kept plugging away at code getting everything linked up for the store and she continued to find quality products to order in and test. I guess what I’m saying is that much of what you see on the site, one of us has ordered and is using it in one or both of our homes. If it was crappy and didn’t work, it was returned and was not included in our store. We were on a mission and that mission carries on to this day. Quality products at an affordable price with great customer service!

All of that began in August of 2008 and here we are today. I share all of this with you so you’ll understand that we’re not some corporate office in the middle of a big city trying to tell you what you need on a farm, but instead… we’re farmers sharing with you what has worked great for us! We’re right there with you, working full time jobs and staring at half finished projects. We have livestock bellowing out in the back pasture to be milked and trying to keep the crows from stealing our eggs out of the coop. We’re just homesteaders eager for self sufficient living and rather than hoard the information we find… we share every bit of it, eager for all who embark on this adventure to be successful!

Happy Homesteading…. From the ‘folks at Homesteader’s Supply!’

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…