Category Archives: Homestead

Making Our Cob Oven

The year after moving in, my husband built us a handsome, highly functional cob oven (or “mud oven”) in our own backyard. It was quite the task, but one that he undertook with willing hands. He has written up a post describing some of this unique and exciting (though laborious) project. (Note that he keeps saying “we”- really he’s just being sweet, because I was in my last month of pregnancy and didn’t do much more than sift a little dirt and bring him water!) 

Note that I think this would be a fabulous project for a group of friends, a community center, or even a gang of homeschoolers to complete. Who would you invite to come play in the mud with you? 😉 

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Being outside. Dirt. Wood. Fire. Bread. Pizza. Food. We love all of these things. We also love making just about anything! Somehow all of this love, moved by some Youtube videos, forum posts, and ultimately Kiko Denzer’s website and book Build Your Own Earth Oven gave birth to the idea of building a cob (earth, mud) oven.


With the exception of the firebricks and some sand and straw, ours was made exclusively from the clay about a foot beneath our feet and various objects found or gathered from the land around our house. While the building process seemed daunting, it was an enriching experience which we would wish upon anyone. Do try it yourself! If you follow through, you’re sure not to regret it.

Now that we have built one, we hope to adjust the design (to improve efficiency) and build more.

This is not the place for detailed instructions–for those, please get Denzer’s book–some pictures of our building experience follow.

First we chose a site. We wanted it to be conveniently located near the kitchen, but at a safe distance from the house. Our original intent was to build it at the base of the retaining wall outside of our kitchen (you can see the stone-filled hole at the base of the wall in this image), but we finally decided to put it at the top of the retaining wall. This position raised it to a decent height for working and eased the roofing process.

June 2013 139

We dug out the area and outlined the location in bricks (the stake marks the center of the oven floor). While the crushed stone atop the wall provides excellent drainage–much needed to keep moisture from wicking up the cob–we punched holes in a found piece of corrugated drain pipe and used it for drainage around the periphery of the future oven floor. This drains to daylight through the retaining wall.

Summer 2013 008We next built a base out of cob for the sand that would underlay the bricks of the oven floor. So, we had to dig a hole deep enough to get adequate clay…this was the most laborious part.

Summer 2013 021Each shovelful was sifted through a screen or doubled chicken-wire mesh.

Summer 2013 015Summer 2013 017While the screen was finer than necessary, it yielded a good result.

We tried a few simple methods to gauge the clay content (Denzer outlines these in detail).

Summer 2013 020

Summer 2013 019One method involved making sample bricks which we then baked to observe the shrinkage (more shrinkage=more clay).

Summer 2013 022Summer 2013 025The brick on the left was pure clay, the right had some sand mixed in (sand reduces shrinking and cracking). Having found an adequate mixture, we mashed up some cob for the base.

Summer 2013 149

As this was our first time dealing with cob, we were careful to follow instructions… Summer 2013 108



iPhone pictures and videos 408You must love dirt to do this! We do!

Summer 2013 110Summer 2013 111This base was filled with sand so as to properly lay the firebrick. The method is similar to laying pavers. The floor of the oven is critical–it is the hardest working part–and must be quite even to avoid catching oven tools on the edges of the bricks. Just think of the all the pizzas, breads, pans, and peels that will grace the oven floor in addition to the scraping it will receive from cleaning, etc…it’s important to take your time.

Summer 2013 120We then made a sand-form mold of the inner cavity of the oven. The height of the door is roughly 63% of the peak of the interior cavity–this allows for a sufficient draft when firing.

Summer 2013 140(The door was made of samples of kiln-dried hardwood and a twisted branch.)

We covered the sand form with wet newspaper in order to differentiate it from the next layer: the thermal layer. This is helpful when digging out the sand after the thermal layer has dried enough (you don’t want to dig out the clay!). Summer 2013 144Next we built the thermal layer. This is pure clay because it has a higher thermal mass (it holds more heat) than sand. Summer 2013 152

Summer 2013 166Because I initially overestimated the amount of material I should construct this layer with, ours ended up with a thicker bottom portion (it doesn’t hurt anything).

We then covered this thermal layer with an insulation layer consisting of a thin clay slurry and cedar sawdust. This slows some of the heat loss. We dug out the sand form and gently fired the oven. We generally use wood from pruning or other small pieces as fuel.


This is the inside of the oven just prior to firing.Summer 2013 2 021The next layer just consisted of cob–a mixture of clay, sand, and straw. Here’s the oven as it originally looked after completion.

Summer 2013 2 080Summer 2013 2 083The flat angled piece in the front is a steel plate we found on the property. It is placed there to help direct the coals and ash into the funnel directly beneath it when cleaning out the oven.

iPhone pictures and videos 572Note the crack that forms over the door when it’s been heavily fired. This is due to a normal and harmless expansion of the clay; it actually helps to keep track of the oven’s temperature. There is a piece of galvanized material above the door to protect the temporary roof (branches and tarps) from igniting.

iPhone pictures and videos 574The oven was used for a year in this form…even through the winter (it is so pleasant to use it while it is snowing):

iPhone pictures and videos 1090Here’s a clip of some bacon corn-muffins going in on a snowy night (they didn’t really need the live fire, but we decided to put them in on a whim after baking earlier that day–they turned out great!).

The temporary roof was finally replaced a year later with a more permanent form (the reclaimed materials were also free to us). We made a table out of part of an industrial wire spool and raised up the ground level in front of the oven to improve the working space. We also resurfaced the oven with a bit of sifted clay (there were a few drips through the temporary roof). Here is the final form as it is today: IMG_0008Expect great pizzas, breads, roasts, soups, and just about anything you can bake in a conventional oven. One of the greatest aspects of cooking in the cob oven is that the heat it absorbs after a firing remains for quite a long time, so you can cook progressively according to the temperature of the oven–pizzas to breads and pies to roasts, all the way on down to drying herbs. We certainly have not used our oven to its full potential but it is a joy to use it. It is deeply satisfying to craft something with your own hands and feet from the most mundane, neglected materials and cook wholesome food with a bright crackling wood fire.   Don’t be afraid to build one yourself. Do what you can with what you have, and don’t be concerned if it turns into something you didn’t quite expect at first–you’ll be sure to learn through every mistake and every problem solved.


How we Built a Cob Oven

Which Homestead Projects are Right for You?

The whole idea of building a self-sufficient homestead can seem really appealing, but it can also quickly become overwhelming. The list of potential homestead projects is endless: grow your food, raise animals, build your home, preserve your food, build off grid systems, switch heat sources, cut your own rags, etc., etc., etc. Does anyone really do it all??? 

Which Homestead Projects are Right for You

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I usually get the bug to take on a few projects–generally, those that are food-related. I like cooking good food, canning what my hubby grows, helping to process maple syrup…  But even those few things can feel like too much when I’m also trying to wrangle three kids, homeschool, and keep up with daily responsibilities.

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10 Reasons to Get Meat Rabbits

Meat rabbits! If you’re new to home-butchering, the idea of raising a rabbit just to eat it probably sounds off-putting. However, there are many reasons why meat rabbits are a perfect choice for the hobby farmer looking to get into home meat production.

Before I begin typing this, I must tell you a secret: I don’t personally care for owning meat rabbits. I keep trying to convince my husband to sell them all off and use the money for getting another goat or perhaps a sheep. I promise I’ll share why in another post- but for now, let’s look at the positives. 🙂

10 Reasons to Get Meat Rabbits

  1. Rabbits are an inexpensive investment. Meat rabbits cost relatively little. A registered goat can easily cost $200-400 a pop, and pig and cattle certainly aren’t cheap. However, rabbits can be found for about $40-60 for a breeding pair. (We got our pair for $25, but that’s unusual!) You can also purchase a breeding trio- one buck and two does- so you can alternate breeding with two different mamas.
  2. They don’t take up much space. You don’t need acres and acres to raise rabbits. All you need is a small hutch (or hutches) to house each rabbit. FYI- if you’re new to this, don’t keep your male and female live together on a regular basis. There’s a reason for the phrase “breed like rabbits.”
  3. They don’t make noise. Rabbits are usually silent. Enough said.
  4. They have one of the shortest birth to processing times. Rabbits can be processed at 8-12 weeks old. Each litter requires a relatively brief time commitment.
  5. They produce the most lean protein per dollar spent out of any meat animal. Or so they tell me. Honestly, I don’t know where this statistic is from, but I remember hearing it many times when we were researching rabbits. (Tell me if it’s true, will you?) However, with litters averaging 6-10 kits and each rabbit averaging about 4 lbs, it’s easy to see that there’s a potential for a lot of meat. We average about 24-40 lbs with each successful breeding.
  6. You don’t need expensive equipment for butchering. My husband uses a pellet gun for dispatch and a good knife for skinning and gutting. (There are other methods for dispatch, but we find the pellet gun to be simple and humane.) Also, rabbits are pretty light (3-5 lbs), so you don’t need any fancy hooks or a big space to hang them for processing like you would a larger animal.
  7. They can mow your lawn for you. You read that right. Check out this post to see what I mean. I would recommend, however, making sure that the bottom fencing on your DIY rabbit mower is strong and regularly inspected. If you didn’t know this already, rabbits are good at digging.
  8. Rabbits are a free fertilizer factory. Rabbits poop. A lot. And that poop is hailed as gold for your garden. If you raise rabbits, you can collect those golden nuggets (ahem) for compost and fertilizing. Now you know.
  9. Care is relatively easy. All you have to do occasional cleaning & daily fresh food and water. Bonus: Rabbits love vegetable ends, so they also take care of food scraps for you!
  10. They taste good. It’s true- rabbits taste somewhat like chicken. You can make roast rabbit, rabbit stew, or pretty much any chicken meal that with rabbit meat.

There you have it. 10 reasons to get meat rabbits for your own homestead. Are there any other reasons that you can think of?

Before Adding an Animal to the Homestead

I have a a daydream that goes like this: I own a sprawling property that covers acres of rolling hills and lightly wooded areas. Sheep and goats mill about through the pastures and chickens dot the landscape. There’s a family of ducks quacking about on our quiet pond, and we have several sources of peacefully raised and processed meat. Of course, the loyal family dog is also there, and he greets you noisily but merrily.

Reality: I got chickens, rabbits, and a goat. I love them dearly, but they’re also a big responsibility.

It’s easy to become enamored with (and addicted to) homestead animals. Each new addition is enthralling and delightful. We keep thinking of excuses to get more chickens. (Just one more, honey, I promise.) We tend to say yes to friends who need homes for their animals. We wonder, what difference would one more goat make? When we hear of free guinea hens, we think, why the heck not?

Here are some points to consider before you decide to buy a homestead animal.

Maybe you’re an experienced farmstead extraordinaire. Perhaps you’re just at the stage where you think chickens are cute but you’ve never smelled inside a dirty coop. Regardless, you should know that you must consider each animal carefully before you add it to your homestead.

Here are some factors for consideration:

1) Housing 

Every animal needs a home, and many animals have particular needs. Chickens need a coop with nesting boxes and a roosting pole. Rabbits like to have a hide-away place. Goats need super-awesome fencing and a shelter for the night. Plan your animals’ housing carefully to make sure that they are warm, comfortable, and safe from potential predators.

2) Feed

I hate to say it, but animals eat too. Depending on the animal and your purposes for it, you’ll need to provide pasture, kitchen scraps, grain, hay, and/or other food and supplements. You can try to do as much of it as you can inexpensively, but all animal feed options either take time or money.

Consider animal food needs before adding them to your homestead.

3) Health Care

Do you know how to trim a goat’s hooves? Figure out whether or not your birds have parasites? Separate a sick animal from its companions? Deal with a litter of baby bunnies found dead in the early morning?

I don’t want to be intimidating– we didn’t know how to do any of this when we first started acquiring animals. However, you must be prepared to do a little research and jump in with both feet when your animal has a health need.

4) Cost

All of these animal needs cost money. We got into raising animals ultimately to save money, and sometimes that has worked out really well. However, there have been lots of times when they’ve cost us more than they’re worth, and that can be disheartening and frustrating.

We are still trying to work out how to raise animals as frugally as possible. The best advice I can give you is to research inexpensive methods, try to be resourceful whenever possible, and be prepared to adjust if you find something is costing you more than you would like. Now, to go take my own advice!


5) Responsibility

Dairy animals need to be milked twice a day. TWICE A DAY. And finding willing victims helpers who are able to milk while you go on vacation can be difficult. Bear this in mind before you buy your goat or cow.

All animals, however, require daily chores. Food, water, cleaning, moving, and tending to as necessary are all part of keeping farm animals. It can be a big commitment at times. Not to mention it requires some level of physical strength to complete the tasks– I can do a lot of it, but I often need my husband to help with some of the heavier lifting.

6) Neighbors

We are SO blessed with awesome neighbors who either have animals themselves or who are very forgiving of our rogue chickens and the occasional escapee goat. Let’s see if they still like us when our noisy guinea fowl are full-grown.

However, not all neighbors enjoy a runaway rooster dust bathing in their flower beds, or horses perusing their backyards. (Yes, that happened to us. Multiple times.) Consider an animal’s noise level, smell, ranging limits, and safeness before adding one to your property. Be considerate of neighbors and be sure that your animal choices will bring peace to your community, not war and increased legislation. Always be sure to check your local regulations too!

I said yes to free guinea fowl. #guineafowl #homesteadingit #imustbecrazy

A photo posted by Abigail Zieger (@theyrenotourgoats) on

7) Animal Interaction 

Will your animals live with each other? Will your cat kill your chicks? Can a pig and a goat get along? Does one animal present any bio-security hazards to another? Consider how well your animals will interact with one another, and ensure that you have adequate space and housing if certain animals need to be kept away from one another.

8) Usefulness

This might seem harsh to some, but I am at a point in my life where if an animal isn’t useful to me, I won’t keep it. I love dogs, but I can’t afford to feed one just for companionship. If an animal doesn’t feed my family or take care of predators for me, I’m not going to spend my time and money on it.

You, however, may have the resources necessary to raise an animal purely for your own enjoyment. It can be a wonderful experience– even therapeutic– to care for other creatures. If it brings joy to your heart and you are ready for the responsibility, then by all means, don’t let me discourage you from having an animal simply as a pet!


Don’t let all of these considerations scare you. Animals can be a lot of work, but they can also be a lot of fun. I admit– sometimes I’d like to ship our animals off to another house for a while– but most of the time, I’m really glad we have them and I’m grateful for their provisions.

Have any other advice? What animals do you own?


Three Simple Foraging Rules

Last month, I was enjoying our family reunion in Vermont. Clear skies, clean highways, miles of wildflowers and green mountains, and (atypical for this Pennsylvania girl) not a billboard in sight. I loved it.

Along with picturesque scenery and extra free time came foraging. It seemed like everywhere I looked there was a wild edible or medicinal. Even my nephew and son were delighting in how much wood sorrel there was in the yard by our rental.

“You guys know a lot about this stuff,” marveled Uncle V. “That’s cool, man,” he said with a nod.

In reality, as we assured our uncle,  we still have a lot to learn. While I frequently make use of friendly neighborhood weeds in homemade medicines, teas, and meals, we still are amateur foragers at best.

Here are three simple rules to help you forage safely, ethically and sustainably.

If you, like us, find yourself wishing you knew more about foraging, take heart. You can still enjoy feasting upon even the most mundane of wild-harvested oddities (i.e., dandelion greens) while you learn how to improve your foraging skills safely and sustainably. Here are some basic rules of foraging to abide by.

1)Know thy plants. Buy a guide to wild edibles. Ask the great Google for plant descriptions and photos. Learn about poisonous lookalikes and companion plants. Pay attention to details of leaf shape, seasonal changes and growth, fruit arrangements, etc. Know when you can eat a plant, what parts of the plant you can eat, and how it is best consumed.

If you aren’t 100%, double checked, absolutely sure what a plant is and how to use it, don’t pick it. An innocent misidentification could lead to topical rashes, stomach upset, nasty side effects, or even death.

Now that I’ve scared you, you should know that foraging is generally quite safe as long as you’re well-researched and sensible. Just don’t start sticking everything in your mouth at once, okay?

2) Pick only what you need. If you pick all of the plant in one go, it won’t have a chance to come back the following year.A general rule of thumb is to harvest no more than 10% of the total plants available, and no more than 25% of any one individual plant. For example, let’s say there are 100 nettle plants in my goat field– I should only harvest about a quarter of the leaves of each individual plant, and make sure that I don’t take more than about 10 plants in total.

If there’s only one or two plants in the area, then it’s better not to pick at all. If you leave them to their own devices, hopefully there will be more the following year to return to and enjoy more fully for years to come.

And of course, take only what you need. You want to leave the plants there to help promote a thriving ecosystem. Remember that it’s not just you that enjoys eating plants!

3) Pick in legal and safe locations. If you suspect that the wild apple tree on the side of the road is on private property, do be sure to ask permission from the property owners before claiming a bushel. Also, double check with the rules of your local parks before making off with an abundance of a precious resource that is actually protected for ecological reasons.

And of course, avoid areas where pesticides, roadside fumes, or toxic run-off could be compromising your plants.

While these guidelines may seem like no-brainers, it’s easy for a newbie forager to become overzealous and forget to use common sense. Remember these simple rules as you traipse about searching for wild edibles, and you will ensure a safe and principled foraging expedition.


My Backyard Grocery Store

I’ve always been mildly obsessed with the idea of doing everything from scratch. Perhaps it was all those hours playing Oregon Trail as a middle schooler. (Anyone from my generation remember that?) Perhaps it was our games of make-believe in which we had to survive for long periods of time with little provision. Perhaps it was my limited girl-scout years during which I dreamed of cooking from scratch over the campfire.

Who knows what inspired my inner wanna-be pioneer woman. Whatever the cause, I’ve often asked myself, “Where would I get this item if I couldn’t just go to the store and buy it?”

My Backyard Grocery Store

In recent years, we’ve been trying more and more to make our backyard provide more of our food than the grocery store does. In reality, we have a long way to go. But we have made some positive strides towards that goal.

Those times, however, that I am able to feed our family almost entirely from our own food production are immensely satisfying to me. An egg frittata made with our hen’s eggs, our goat’s milk, and backyard green onions and asparagus is to me, far more than just a meal. It’s a huge accomplishment, representative of years of skill-learning, homestead establishment, and the fruit of daily labors. I eat that frittata with joy in my heart, knowing that so much work of our hands went into it.

Call me a weirdo, but I get a thrill out of it.

I want to make our backyard even more of a “grocery store” this year. Here’s what we’ve got so far, and what we’d like to do to make it a little closer to self-sufficient.



Each year, my husband plants and manages a large garden in which we grow potatoes, tomatoes, squash, peppers, radishes, beets, eggplants, cabbage, carrots, various greens, herbs cucumbers, attempted melons and corn, asparagus, green beans, and I can’t remember what else.

Garden foods that have lasted us almost all year when properly preserved or stored: tomatoes, potatoes, winter squash, green beans, greens, and some dried herbs. Foods we never have enough of: carrots, beets, peppers, and corn. We added some new beds this year to expand the quantity of food we grow.

As far as fruit, we have some old, out-of-shape fruit sources on the property: gnarly apple trees, an overgrown quince, a diseased elderberry, and wild blackberry bushes. Over the past couple of years, my husband has planted several new fruiting trees and shrubs: two apples, two peaches, a self-pollinating cherry, new elderberry from cuttings, blueberries, and raspberries. It will take several years for the fruit tree investment to pay off, but once it does, it will be lovely.

And lest we forget, there’s always foraging and partnerships with neighbors. We get more free greens than we grow, enjoy wild fruits from abandoned roadside trees, and gladly take extra fruits from friends and neighbors who have neither the time nor desire to gather and preserve them. Thank you to them!



Chickens are a gateway animal, they say, and it’s true. We started with a small flock of birds for egg production, and have expanded this year with several more laying hens. We also acquired a couple of extra roosters in the mix, which will go in the stew pot since we learned to butcher birds last fall.

We also ventured into the world of meat rabbits this winter. To be fair, I’ve never eaten rabbit. But I suppose I’ll learn to! Rabbits, they say, give you the most lean protein per dollar spent on raising them. That’s why they’re a small-time meat production favorite. We currently have six baby rabbits that will be ready for processing in about 6-8 weeks. I’ll be honest- I’m nervous about the process- but I’m grateful for the provision for our family’s food.

We are also fortunate to live on a property bordering a fully stocked trout stream near a great fishing spot. We don’t always get a ton of fish, but it’s really nice when we do. We usually drop our other dinner plans and cook one fresh whenever my hubby returns with a few in his bucket.

As far as plant-based proteins, we happen to have black walnut and chestnut trees on our property, which are both a blessing and a big fat mess when all those nuts start dropping! 😉 The chestnut doesn’t have a neighboring tree close by to fertilize it, so we only get a small amount each year, and the walnuts are a pain to process, but hey- at least they’re there. My husband planted three hazelnut shrubs last spring, so we are hoping that those will be a more productive and manageable nut source in a couple years.



We have a goat, of course! (If you’re new to the blog, you’ll have to read the story behind that one.) Our learning curve was steep, however, and I have to say that her milk production is now less than ideal because of our idiocy getting used to the whole process. Add to that the fact that my daughter drinks ALL of her milk every day, and I can’t say that she adds much to our self-sufficiency dreams. Ha-ha.

However, when she was in high production, we had enough to give our family milk for the week and make simple cheeses at the end of it. If we bred her again and did the milking thing right this time, I believe she could really provide most of our milk, cream, butter, and cheese needs. (Gotta love the high butterfat content of Nigerian Dwarf milk.)


This is one area that I have to say we don’t grow much of our own. We made our own cornmeal last year from our corn (success!) and have experimented with making flour out of curly dock seeds. But when it comes down to it, I just love good old bread. Thankfully, flour is relatively cheap, and a sourdough loaf is a delicious way to spend your pennies. I suppose I could learn to live without…. but fresh bread calls to me in such a way that it would be very difficult to do so!

Canned & Frozen Goods


We make our own! It’s easy to learn basic canning skills, and though the materials to do so may seem like a bit of an investment, they pay themselves off quickly if you’re preserving a lot. Also, many fruits, vegetables, and cooked meals are easily preserved in the freezer. Best of all, by preserving at home, you can control what goes into your convenience foods. I can pretty much guarantee that your homemade frozen pizza crust or rice casserole will be a heck of a lot healthier than the store-bought version.

I would be amiss if I did not mention (yet again) my new favorite preservation method… fermentation! Hop over to this post if you have no idea what I’m talking about or if it sounds nasty. Fermentation is easy, healthy, and surprisingly addicting.

And that’s pretty much it, folks. Of course, I buy personal items like t.p. and toothpaste from the grocery store- and there’s some of those things I can make at home- but most of them don’t come from the backyard. And I still haven’t gotten into the leaf-toilet-paper thing yet. 😉

What about you? What foods do you source at home instead of from the store?

Meat Eaters Against Treating Poor Animals Like Meat

We, the coalition, Meat Eaters Against Treating Poor Animals Like Meat (hereafter referred to as MEATPALM), are ready to take a stand.

You heard us. We eat meat. But we can’t stomach the idea of you killing an animal yourself. We believe that animals should always be treated like animals–never like meat. The meat on our dinner plate is different.

We have words for you people who choose to butcher your own meat.  Words like: “mean,” cruel,” “heartless,” and “beastly.” How could anyone be so cruel as to raise an animal just to eat it?!?


(Amy from A Farmish Kind of Life)

Now, we have nothing against people who get their meat humanely (in a grocery store); eating meat like that is healthy, normal–it’s the people that get their meat from killing animals we can’t stomach.

Chickens who live a happy life in the sun only to end up in the pot are the objects of emotional abuse–there are no two ways about it. How could you earn their trust, their love, only to slaughter them later? No healthy, compassionate person could do a thing like that. No one has the right to take a life like that.

Sure, chicken owners give a good speech. They talk about giving the birds pasture and sunshine, knowing their animals’ health individually, and dispatching them humanely. We all know It’s just a farce to drum up attention. To cover their evil deeds. To hide their bloodlust. Normal people eat chicken nuggets, chicken fingers–not chicken pets.


(Jess from The 104 Homestead)

Home-butchers need to realize that animals no longer have to be treated like meat.

Thanks to amazing scientific and societal advances, no one actually needs to butcher an animal for food anymore. You can buy your poultry, pork, and steaks at Walmart, where no animal was harmed and products were manufactured in a sterile environment. We have incredible machines and computer controlled factories now–nobody has to get blood on their hands for food. That was our grandparents’ problem, not ours.

You home-farmers are sick, backwards cavemen. C’mon. We live in the 21st century, people. Animals can just be our friends now, not our food.


(Abi from They’re Not Our Goats)

We know this may be hard for you backyard butchers to grasp, but you have to realize that your urge to kill animals for meat is something you can control. It is something 21st century humans have overcome.  Just focus on the meat in the grocery store. It has no hair. No feathers. No happy cluck. It is clean and ready for consumption, sealed in plastic. That’s meat. Think of meat that way and you’ll never have the urge to kill innocent animals again. It’s simple, really.


We can rest in peace knowing that this chicken wasn’t harmed.

Unlike yours, that you butchered in your backyard. You disgusting person, you.


(Patrick of Survival at Home)

 “Ground beef” and “pork chops” are okay to buy, cook, and consume, but cows and pigs should not be treated that way.


(Bonnie of The Not-So-Modern Housewife)

Yes, we, the people of MEATPALM, have come a realization:

If we don’t think about where our meat came from then we can eat it without guilt, shame, or hesitation. We can buy it from a store whenever we want it, we can get it on super sale, and we can toss the scraps without feeling bad. You see, we are modern, refined, cultured individuals. We don’t have to stoop to the level of the butcher, the farmer, or the hunter.

But as for you people who use animals for food?

Shame on you.

MEATPALM- meat eaters against butchering

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In case you were wondering, this post is satire. It’s not meant to be critical of vegetarians, vegans, or omnivores. I respect your individual dietary choices. It’s not meant to suggest that everyone has to or should butcher their own meat. It is meant, however, to point out the problems with the view that it’s okay to eat an animal but it’s not okay to participate in killing it.

Believe it or not, many of the objections I voice in this post are paraphrases or exact quotes of real-life arguments from people I or my fellow HBN bloggers have faced personally. These ideas are wildly untenable for the meat-eater. 

I believe in knowing where my food comes from and in taking part in its production in whatever capacity I am able to. I believe in raising animals compassionately, healthily, and humanely. I believe that meat animals can be a beautiful provision for my family, and I am thankful for them. But most importantly, I value people over differences of opinion. If we disagree, we can still be friends. 🙂 

Many thanks to my friends for donating photos, and to my husband for editing/co-authoring this post!

Gardening Like a Ninja! (Book Review)

A beautifully landscaped front yard is a wonder to behold–  flowers in complementary colors, trees and shrubs in staggered heights and textures, gorgeous ground coves, and appealing borders… ahh, is anyone calling a landscaper for me?

Gardening Like a Ninja(This post contains affiliate links.)

However, conventional landscaping methods aren’t usually the healthiest for the earth. Between the overuse of pesticides, mulch that doesn’t do anything for your soil, and lack of biodiversity, I often think that a yard probably would have been better off left alone when it’s been ‘scaped in the mainstream fashion.

Conventional landscaping also does very little for your food supply. Plants aren’t chosen for feeding your family- rather, they are picked to look pretty and to be maintained in a nice, orderly fashion. Many are purely ornamentals.

Of course, I should’t complain, because right now, our yard is anything but landscaped! My husband has been plugging away at several home projects (last year it was stabilizing the porch, this year it’s redoing our garage) and the flower beds have had to suffer during the demolition.

But. This year. This year will be different! Angela England’s has launched a fabulous new book: Gardening Like a Ninja: A Guide to Sneaking Delicious Edibles into Your Landscape. Between that and my husband’s Master Gardener knowledge, we’ve got resources to draw on to make our beds beautiful again- and edible.

Angela’s book is a timely arrival for those folks affected by pesky HOA rules or no-front-lawn garden debates. Yes, you read that right– can you believe it? There’s actually people getting in legal trouble because of growing vegetables in their front lawn. (Read here, here, and here for examples of such ludicrous news stories.)

However, even if you aren’t facing charges for vegetable gardening, many of us wish that we could either 1) make our gardens more beautiful, or 2) make our landscaping more usable. Angela gives practical direction to accomplish both of these goals.

The first section of Gardening Like a Ninja is dedicated to an introduction to edible landscaping. Angela covers design basics and gardening how-to for beginners. The second section gives readers some great edible landscape plan inspiration. The third provides informative growing guides for specific plants that lend beauty and food to your property.

While I was reading, I kept having “ah-ha!” moments. Lettuce as a border? Why didn’t I think of that? Cucumbers growing up a beautiful trellis, mixed with flowers- why not? Angela’s vision for an edible yard is fresh, appealing, and surprisingly simple.

I’m particularly looking forward to using Angela’s book as a practical guide when we start planting our brand new beds. Our main goals are an attractive property that is abundant with food, and I’m confident that this book can help us do that.

What’s more, Angela just released a course to accompany the gardening book, teaching you how to build an edible landscape from the ground up. Check out the book and course bundle combination here.

Gardening Like a Ninja is inspiring, accessible, and fun. I highly recommend it to anyone hoping to get more out of his or her yard! Buy your copy here, or buy your book/course bundle here.


Things I Didn’t Know About Rabbits

Maybe you’ve been dreaming of having fuzzy bunny pets. Or maybe, like us, you’re on the start of a meat rabbit venture. But, as with any new animal, we’ve been surprised by some of the rabbit habits we hadn’t known about before acquiring them.

The things I didn't know about keeping rabbits

For example, rabbits eat a lot for their size. Point one: Expect to buy rabbit food for two rabbits more frequently than you buy grain for your dwarf goat. Seriously.

They also eat a lot of what’s on the ground. Point two: The rabbits can serve as a lawnmower if given pasture. They will gnaw that grass down (and leaves, and twigs, and whatever else is underneath of them) within half a day.

And did you know that rabbits are extraordinary diggers? (That’s point three.)  So good, in fact, that if you do give them pasture, they will decimate your yard with small holes. So do make sure you keep moving them so as to prevent giant pits of ankle-twisting doom about your property.

Not to mention point four- that digging ability also makes them great escape artists. I have discovered this several times when our buck, Peter, weasels his way over to the doe’s side of the tractor for an unscheduled rendezvous. I rediscovered it yesterday when I saw Rosie, our doe, hopping onto the front porch. (She had dug herself a tunnel to freedom.) “Rabbit’s loose!” I hollered to my husband in the front door, and the two of us had a rabbit rodeo trying to track her down and hold onto her long enough to transport her back to the cage.


Which brings me to point five- rabbits mate whenever given an opportunity. We accidentally returned Rosie to the wrong side of the run, and Peter got to her before we could switch her back to her own side. I mean, I know there are jokes about rabbit reproduction, but it’s really true! Accidental mating has happened here three times despite our best efforts to keep them separate until scheduled breeding times. And since rabbits experience induced ovulation (they ovulate following intercourse), this means we’ve likely got another round of babies on the way.

There you have it. Five things I didn’t know about rabbits before getting them. Do I need any other heads up? 😉

Spring Has Sprung! (An Update)

Spring Has Sprung

It’s officially spring, but it doesn’t feel like it too much this morning. I shivered my way over to the goat field for milking, and found all the animal waters frozen. Sigh. But I probably shouldn’t complain as we’ve had an extremely mild winter this year.

I wanted to give you a springtime family update. I’ve let the blog slow down a bit as we’ve been working on several big projects in our “real life.” We’ve had a lot of momentum going in our household as we work towards several goals, but also a lot of stress as we try to make it all happen. Progress is never easy, but at least you grow through it, right?


First: homeschool. This whole year has been a search for balance and an exercise in trial and error. I suppose I’ll never come to a point where I feel like I’ve “arrived” with successful homeschooling, but it would be nice to not have to wonder whether or not I’m a massive failure as a mother and teacher. BUT recently I’ve been blessed with some encouraging talks with friends, other homeschool moms, and posts from bloggers I love (like this one) that have given me the courage I need to press on. So, despite a momentary cave and desperate calls to area schools for pricing and schedules, we’ve decided to carry on.

#sap boiling away in my husband’s #cinderblock #evaporator. #maplesyrup #sugaring #latergram

A photo posted by Abigail Zieger (@theyrenotourgoats) on

On the homestead: We cut our maple sugaring season short. It’s been a weird spring, with February temperatures getting up to almost 70, and mid-March temperatures getting down below freezing. We’ve also had too much other stuff going on to properly watch our sap, leading to another burnt syrup disaster. Sigh. You think we would learn after three or four years doing it.

And remember that seed starting post I just wrote? We still haven’t started ours. And NOW is the time to do it in our zone. So, today, I’m going to try to make a rough draft map of the plot, then hopefully team up with the hubby to get those plant babies growing. (I’m really a dreadful procrastinator.)

The hubby has been keeping himself busy with essentially re-building our garage. Off with the old cardboard siding through which we could see daylight, on with new sheathing and siding. We had a nice pavilion for a day or two:


But now he’s really making progress:


It’s been a bit of a construction zone around here, but it’s only for a time.

With the animals: We lost our first litter of baby rabbits. Five of them, dead, found in the cold early morning lying out in the run instead of in the nesting box. We lost another hen to an unknown cause. But, on the plus side, the goat has been unusually well-behaved as of late.


With music: Oh yeah, remember that music thing? I do have an entire category devoted to music, but I write on it rather rarely. However, we’ve been working towards pursuing our music more now that I’ve finally gotten into a perfect routine, err, a manageable schedule, umm, now that I’m surviving having three kids. Kind of. Regardless, I’ve got some concerts to sing in this spring, I’m teaching more voice lessons, and the hubby and I have been accepting more gigs to play in together. It’s reviving to my soul to be singing together.

Here’s a spring haiku song, written by my husband, roughly recorded, and played with friends. What do you think?

And lastly, I’ve taken up therapeutic art journaling alongside my kids. I have NO idea what I’m doing, but it’s been keeping my hands busy and my mind relaxed while the munchkins are playing outside or working on their own art projects.

So that’s what’s been going on around here. My life is full, and while it’s sometimes hard, it’s been rewarding too. Not much good comes without some hard work along the way, right?. 🙂