Category: Homestead

How to deal with predators on your homestead

If your homestead is in a fairly rural area and if you have animals, you are very likely to have predators. Even if you are an urban homesteader, you could still have some predators lurking about. Here’s what you need to know about dealing with predators on your homestead.

Types of Predators on a Homestead

There are many different types of predators that can invade a homestead and wreak havoc. The types depend largely on your geographic area. Certain predators tend to be more prevalent in some areas more than others.

  • CoyotesA single coyote will tend to go after animals that are small to medium-sized, including livestock like lambs, ducks, young goats, chickens, and pigs. However, a pack may target larger animals like adult goats and cattle.
  • Bobcats  – Bobcats are somewhat larger than a housecat, but they are still rather small compared to other wild cats. They are nocturnal hunters and tend to prey on whatever happens to be nearby such as sheep, poultry, goats, rabbits, and even small pets. Bobcat attacks often leave just the body of poultry with the head missing. Other prey will have claw marks and bite marks on the head and body.
  • RaccoonsRaccoons are way too smart for their own good. They can open simple locks and open unlocked doors. They usually leave plenty of evidence that they have been there, leaving body parts of animals scattered about, especially in the chicken coop which is where their prey of choice is contained.
  • FoxesFoxes attack quickly and with very little warning so they rarely leave much if any evidence behind. They typically prey on poultry, rabbits, young livestock, and rodents, but will also invade a henhouse and crack the eggs, licking the inside and leaving just the shells.
  • HawksHawks hunt from the air and tend to prey upon smaller animals like chickens, rabbits, ducks, and even small dogs and cats. They will watch from tree tops or as they glide high in the air and then swoop down to suddenly snatch up their prey.
  • OwlsOwls are nocturnal hunters so poultry is fairly safe as long as they are put up at dusk. Owls may also go after snakes and rodents which can be beneficial to the homestead. However, they do hunt small pets like cats and dogs as well.
  • WeaselsWeasels will kill for food, but they also kill for sport, stacking the bodies of their prey often after decapitating them. They are persistent and will continue attacking animals on a homestead until they have no animals left to prey on, they get bored, or they are scared away. And chicken wire does not deter them.
  • OpossumsOf all homestead predators, opossums are probably the laziest. They usually won’t attack anything unless it is very easy such as an animal that is injured, sick, or very young. They can spread the neurological disease equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM) to animals by leaving their feces on the property and livestock eating it. In rare cases, the disease can be transmitted via opossum bite.

Deterring Predators on Your Homestead

The best way to deter predators on your homestead is by using a multi-deterrent approach. For instance, get a couple of dogs to guard your place, and have a high, secure fence you can keep predators out.

Electrified fencing either wire or net can help keep predators out. Fladry, a wire fence that has red flags attached to it works well for wolves and coyotes. Guardian animals work quite well and they extend beyond the Great Pyrannese canine to include donkeys, geese, mini-donkeys, and llamas.

You can also use flashing lights and noise devices as long as they are not continuous and are moved often. Painting predator eyes on your barn roof or the roof of your chicken coop can deter aerial predators like hawks and owls.

Keep all young animals and poultry in a predator proof area at night. When an animal gives birth on your property, quickly clean up the area and get the biological waste off your property – the same goes for animals that die on your property. Remove them or bury them.

Do not leave dog food and cat food out at night and don’t put meat, dairy, and eggs in your compost. Keep your garbage tightly closed, preferably in a locked area. And make sure that all locks are two-step locks to deter clever, curious raccoons.

It is possible to greatly reduce the presence of predators on your homestead. You may have to try a few things to find out what works, but eventually you should find the right combination.

Can you make money homesteading?

You’ve been dreaming of homesteading for a while, maybe entertaining ideas of living off the land or being self-sustaining. Then reality hits.

Maybe you quit your job so that you could keep your focus solely on homesteading or maybe you needed to quit your job because you just didn’t have time to maintain your property and hold a job at the same time. Maybe your homestead property is located in an area that makes your commute too long and costly.

Whatever the case, the bills don’t stop. Some bills such as mortgage and property tax as well as daily expenses will not go away. Learning how to make money homesteading becomes a priority.

Why You Might Need to Earn Money Homesteading

If you can’t work, you aren’t likely to have an income stream that is adequate to support your needs. Newly purchased property typically carries a monthly payment and if you have not gone totally off-grid, then you will still have to pay for utilities. If you don’t have a well, then you’ll need to tap into the public water system which also carries a price.

And let’s not forget the government that will most certainly have its hand out for its piece of the pie. Property taxes are relentless.

Add to that equipment and vehicle registration each year, regular maintenance, and eventual replacement.

You will also have your own daily expenses for the things you do not or cannot make yourself such as toiletries, cleaning products, food that you don’t grow, furnishings, cooking utensils, and more. There is the potential for several different expenses that will vary according to your personal level of homesteading and your family’s needs.

5 Ways to Make Money Homesteading

If you put some thought into it, you can probably think of many ways to make money homesteading. But if you’re drawing a blank, here are a few ideas for inspiration.

  • Sell Food Products – Sell extra milk from your cow or goats, eggs, vegetables, poultry, beef, fresh fruit, or homemade jellies and jams, Make homemade dairy products like cheese to sell or homemade baked goods.
  • Make Your Own Products – If you are adept at candle making or soap making, put those skills to work for you. Create your own lotions, cleaning products, and balms then sell them. If you can sew, quilt, or knit, create handmade items to sell.
  • Sell Animals – You can breed animals like goats or sheep for other homesteaders to purchase or incubate eggs and sell the chicks. Sell wool from sheep or alpacas. You can even sell worms to be used for composting or fishing.
  • Teach Others to do What You Do – Get an account on Parler or a similar site and charge a membership fee and publish your hard-earned knowledge. You can also teach classes, write books, or start a blog.
  • Turn Your Homestead Into an Experience – If you don’t mind having other people on your homestead, you can turn it into an experience. Turn a portion of it into a venue for events like weddings or parties. Grow Christmas trees or pumpkins for some holiday profit. Or you can keep a few tiny homes or cabins to rent out.

Look around you and think about what you are capable (and willing) to do to earn money, then just take the plunge.

But Can I Show a Profit?

A single project is not likely to show much if any profit. However, if you find several projects that are the right mix of long and short-term endeavors, you can create a pretty steady income for your homestead.

Some projects require long-term planning, such as a fruit orchard that will take a few years to grow and bear fruit. Other projects can be started pretty quickly such as selling produce from your garden, making your own cleaning products to sell, or selling eggs from your chickens. While these may require a little prep time and probably some investment, they can be turned around pretty quickly and you can see a profit almost immediately.

Proper planning and good research will help to ensure that your homesteading projects will indeed be profitable and serve you and your family well.

Homesteading Secrets: 5 Skills to Learn Now and Increase Self-sufficiency

No one learns self-sufficiency overnight. You start picking up skills by doing it. Whether your goal is economic independence, saving money, living a more sustainable life, or feeling self-reliant, learning these 5 homesteading skills will get you well on your way.

1. Making Your Yard Edible

Why grow a water-guzzling, high-maintenance lawn when you could have a yard filled with food? Turning your yard into a food forest increases self-sufficiency. It’s better for the environment. And it produces big colorful flowers and foliage to beautify your yard.

To avoid issues, always check your city codes and neighborhood rules first. 

Expert gardeners may make it look easy. But you’ll probably want to start small with a bed or two and keep building your way to a more self-sufficient life. 

2. Composting

Did you know when you send compostable waste to the dump, it doesn’t break down into healthy dirt? Instead, it mixes with harmful chemicals, becoming toxic.

When you learn this vital homesteading skill, you not only save money by filling your garden beds with nutritious soil you produced.

You support the decomposition process that would happen in nature, promoting a permaculture ecosystem within your yard. 

Some examples of home compostable waste include:

  • Food scraps
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds
  • Grass clippings
  • Dried leaves and natural yard waste
  • Cardboard boxes and paper without tape, staples, labels, or shiny coatings

3. Not Wasting Food 

Self-sufficient people don’t just “try” not to waste. They strategize to avoid it. You can take this to whatever degree you’re comfortable.

Some strategies include learning to preserve food or using leftovers and perishables before they go bad.

Homesteaders often eat more of the vegetable than the rest of us.

Beet tops are delicious raw, or cooked.  Garlic leaves taste like mild garlic. Celery leaves like celery. Pea leaves like peas. Why are we throwing this stuff out?

Use the whole fruit or vegetable when safe to do so. Apple seeds, rhubarb leaves, and apricot pits are just a few examples of toxic parts of plants.

And of course, if you can’t eat it, compost it. Decomposition eliminates the toxins. 

4. Cooking from Scratch

Pro homesteaders know how to cook from scratch. They can mix and match what they have to make great meals. 

They think creatively about food rather than just following the recipe. They don’t always get it right, but they love to experiment. This also reduces food waste and slashes their grocery budgets.

You can develop this self-sufficient skill and mindset.

5. Learn to Fix It Homesteading-Style

Self-sufficient people buy quality when they can’t make it. They learn how to fix broken things — if they can get more life out of it.

Sometimes it takes a few tries to learn a new homesteading skill, so don’t give up. Most people can learn some basic mending, plumbing, electrical, carpentry, and other DIY. 

Imagine how much money you can save when you don’t have to hire a professional for something basic like replacing your faucet and drain or installing a new light fixture. 

You’d be surprised how much you can do yourself when you start actively learning self-sufficiency skills.

Homesteading Secrets: Companion Planting to Reduce Pests

When you set out to increase your self-sufficiency by gardening, you probably want to do it organically. But when the pest pressure starts, you suddenly realize why organic foods often cost more. Those who are homesteading know a trick that can make garden pests easier to manage.

With companion planting, you strategically plant certain plants near each other to promote the well-being of the plants.

1. The 3 Sisters (Tres Hermanas)

Native Americans (across the American continents) have long planted squash, beans, and corn together.

Corn provides shade to squash and support for beans. Beans increase the nutrient-availability in the soil for corn — a very nutrient-demanding crop. Squash runs along the ground, keeping the soil cool and moist.

All the plants are healthier. Harmful insects and plant diseases target unhealthy plants.  

Here, you have a prime example of a permaculture system. You’ve created an ecosystem that can essentially take care of itself.

Just add water.

2. Basil & Nightshades

Nightshades include tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.

Basil with these doesn’t only make an amazing pasta sauce. Basil planted with tomatoes can both increase the yield and ward off many pests.

3. Herbs & Any Edibles

Planting fragrant herbs next to your vegetables deters pests.

Most insects have a plant of choice.  Often, insects find the plants by scent.

They can’t find them if the air is filled with parsley and cilantro. Similar to basil, these like some shade during mid-summer. 

But be careful with some herbs. Dill and sage, for example, make a great herb companion if they’re kept in a separate pot. Their roots release chemicals that damage anything planted too close.

4. Marigolds & Carrots

Many long-time homesteaders swear by marigolds. Some say the flowers can reduce cabbage worms, squash beetles, and white flies. 

But the real power of the marigold appears to be happening under the dirt.

The root produces a natural pesticide, which can kill bugs that attack root vegetables like beets and carrots.

It may also reduce the underground larvae that become next year’s pests.

So the pest-prevention of marigold gets stronger year over year.

Till them directly into the soil each fall to boost the effect. But don’t add them to your unfinished compost.

They will slow the process by killing microorganisms that break compost down.

5. Garlic & Beets 

Aliums like garlic, onions or leeks planted near beets will improve the beets’ flavor. The allium family also repels many garden pests. They don’t like the strong odor or natural pesticides these plants produce. 

Aliums can help tomatoes and peppers too. But since garlic and onions are usually harvested in early summer, you’d need to plant garlic and onion out of season to get the effects. Many people who are homesteading do. 

Honorable Mention: Sunflowers, a Homesteading Must

Sunflowers attract a variety of pollinating insects to the garden. More flowers turn into vegetables.

Sunflowers also draw pests away from nearby plants. Squash beetles, stink bugs, and grasshoppers will choose sunflower over your other edibles.

Homesteaders plant enough to enjoy seeds. They then sacrifice the rest to save their garden from pests.

Homesteading Secrets: 5 Fundamentals to Compost Faster

When you compost, you become a vital part of the circle of life. You take what would become toxic garbage in a landfill and help nature turn it into nutrient-dense dirt. You can use that dirt to live a more self-sufficient, homesteading life. 

But a slow compost can wreck your plans for living more sustainably. If not adequately managed, decomposition can take as long as two years. It’s even worse in colder climates. But you and your garden can enjoy that black gold in as few as 3-6 months if you apply these 5 compost fundamentals.

1. Check Its Temperature

An active compost produces a surprising amount of heat. It should generally stay between 50-70 C (125-160 F). It will steam on a cold morning.

You can check its temperature with a compost thermometer or a meat thermometer (that you do not also use for meat).

Don’t despair if you can’t keep it hot 100% of the time. But hot compost decomposes faster. The next 4 fundamentals are all about keeping that compost hot and active.

2. Set Up More than One Compost

Your compost will never finish if you keep adding to it. Instead, fill up a compost pile, preferably within about 3 months. Then let it fully decompose for the next 3 months while you fill up another one. 

Many homesteading enthusiasts have 3 or 4. They produce and need a lot of compost for their self-sufficient permaculture garden ecosystems. 

3. Add Finished Compost to Your New One

Finished compost still has an abundance of microorganisms that break down the pile. Give your new pile a jumpstart by adding a gallon or more to the new pile.

It doesn’t take much.

4. Add a Mix of Materials

The ideal compost has approximately a 1:1 ratio of nitrogen-carbon. If too much of one or the other, it will rot and stink instead of decomposing.

In the homesteading world, we call nitrogen-adding waste “greens”. These come primarily from kitchen scraps like:

  • Veg tops, roots, and seeds
  • Corn cobs
  • Shells
  • Coffee grounds, loose tea leaves, and compostable tea bags
  • Spoiled food

 Grass clippings, weeds, chicken droppings, and prunings can also add nitrogen.

Items that add carbon are called “browns”. These include:

  • Cardboard
  • Paper
  • Dried leaves
  • Small sticks
  • Sawdust and shavings
  • Straw

Achieving 1/2 and 1/2 in a home compost isn’t an exact science. Most of these have a mix of both nitrogen and carbon. But you should strive for about half and half visually to get close enough that the compost does the rest.

5. Turn Your Compost Weekly

Composts must have air and water to decompose. Turning your compost and watering it if it’s dry can meet these requirements. 

Weekly turning is a minimum. Turning it every time it cools can speed it up. But if you’ve followed the other fundamentals, weekly may be sufficient. 

Compost piles can be heavy. So you’ll need to flip a shovel full at a time. Or get a compost aerator or auger, which makes regular compost turning much easier.

You can now look forward to nutrient-rich black compost faster than before.  

5 Weird Homesteading Hacks That Will Make Your Life Easier!

Homesteaders reconnect with the land by living as self-sufficiently as possible. But growing fruits, vegetables and raising livestock on these mini-farms is not always simple while off the grid. Like the pioneers who settled the West, modern-day homesteaders need to use their wits to reduce physical labor, stress, and the need to spend money. These are 5 somewhat odd homesteading hacks that can make everyday life easier.

1: Use Duct Tape Instead of Pesticides

When people say you can do almost anything with duct tape, that’s no myth. Beyond its construction trade applications, duct tape has emerged as a strategic bug killer. Homesteaders deploy duct tape by wrapping it around the base of fruit trees and vegetable stalks with the sticky side out. Crawling pests either get stuck or turn around. While that use isn’t all that weird, some homesteaders take a piece in hand and touch it to bugs gnawing on garden leaves and remove them.

2: Make Your Own Flea Spray

Homesteaders learn that many of the expensive chemicals sold in pet stores are easily replaceable. A mixture of two tablespoons of baking soda, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and one teaspoon of Borax mixed with water acts as a flea spray for pets. Keep it away from the eyes and ears when spraying it on your pet. Also, prevent the animal from licking it. After 25 minutes, wash and rinse your four-legged friend and their scratching should cease.

3: DVDs are the New Scarecrow

It’s amazing how the innovative CD and DVD have effectively been phased out of laptops. New car stereos are now Bluetooth-ready and there’s little use for those shiny discs. Homesteaders have a knack for repurposing defunct products and CDs and DVDs are a deterrent to invasive birds.

Gather a pile of discs and tie a string through the center hole. Then hang them like ornaments from the branches of fruit and berry trees. The size and sunlight flashes make birds and squirrels believe a larger creature has staked out the tree. Hanging discs may look a little odd, but some passersby will think you’re artsy.

4: Conveniently Store Gardening Tools in Sand

It may seem counterintuitive to leave your shovel, hoe, and small garden hand tools in the sand. That’s largely because people expect them to rust faster in any type of soil. But dry sand with a few additives leaves them standing handle up for easier access and sparkly clean.

Take an adequately large bucket and place it in a convenient and dry space. Fill it with fully dry abrasive sand and mix in some mineral oil. The oily sand will passively lubricate the tools and prevent rust from accumulating. The setup is also easier in terms of retrieving tools.

5: Repurpose Plastic Beverage Bottle as Greenhouses

Gardeners who worry about an unexpected killing frost can repurpose soda bottles as protection before sending them to be recycled. Carefully cut the tops of the bottles off and place them over your starter plants. This effectively creates a mini greenhouse that helps accelerate growth and could save plants should a late frost take you by surprise. Having clear plastic bubbles across the garden may look weird, but the strategy gets an extra use out of a product that requires recycling.