Hello The Survivalist Blog community. This week on the homestead was another hot one mixed with the ill-timed brief yet, fierce storms.
The wettest year on record continues in my beautiful neck of the woods. We are merely alternating between desert-like conditions and flash flooding. The ever changing weather has made it especially hard to do anything, including tending to the growing plots and cutting hay.
One of the many big advantages of our homesteading survival retreat was the ability for it to support a vast number of livestock. But, if we cannot get the hay harvested, we are going to have to dip into our survival homesteading budget to buy hay – and I would really like to avoid doing that. You need three days of no rain in a row when cutting hay and we just can’t seem to get that around here this year.
Thankfully, we were able to grab pitchforks and the hay wagon and salvage enough not-quite-dry hay to feed to the goats. Contrary to popular belief, cows do not have four stomachs, they merely have four chambers in their stomachs, like all ruminants: goats, sheep, deer, elk, and several others.
Because they are ruminants like cows, they can consume hay that is not dry enough to be suitable for horses. Pearl, my brave 3-legged goat (she survived a dog attack but lost the use of one leg and her ear) just had two kids and is living inside her nursing stall at the moment. She needs to have hay in her diet so that her stomach chambers continue to function properly and she doesn’t get bloat.
Pearl still has use of the point of elbow area of her leg, meaning she can rotate it around and use it to proper herself up against a tree to eat or to kneel. I was worried about her carrying so much extra weight in the intense heat we have been subjected to, but she got along just fine. This is her second kidding, she had Rooster last fall.
It confuses new visitors to our survival homesteading retreat when they encounter a goat named Rooster, but the lively little guy definitely earned his name. When Pearl showed signs of being near the kidding time, I kept a very close eye on her, even though she still had the use of four legs at the time.
Goats frequently need help giving birth, especially the first time around. Keepers often have to reach in and turn the kid to help it out of the birth canal to save both it and the nanny goat’s life. I checked on Pearl a little after midnight the evening Rooster was born and she still had not gone into labor.
Sometime between then and 6 a.m. she gave birth successfully and entirely on her own. She really didn’t have any maternal instincts right away. Rooster was left to wander about the pitch dark barn entirely on his own.
He could have easily wandered off down one of the steep ravines near the barn or been trampled by the horses, but he showed some barnyard smarts right off the bat – and some true grit – hence is name. I found him napping inside a horse feed tub that had fallen onto the ground. Hanging horse feeders are the bane of my existence, the horses are always knocking them off the stall dividers or fencing. I did not want to permanently attach them so I could remove them for cleaning.
So, every day it is like a treasure hunt looking for the feeders if I don’t have time to stand around and wait for them to finish eating after turnout.
My Ruby is on the right, a Peruvian Paso. Her friend Joe, a cousin’s horse, is on the left.
I would love to use a feed trough system made out of wood like an Amish farrier pal has at his place, but my Ruby is far too much of a mean girl to let anyone but the pony dine beside her.
Click here to watch a short video of my daughter Brea and I riding around part of the upper pasture in the Ranger and checking in on the horses.
Many preppers miss the value of having horses on their survival retreat, seeing only the work and expense involved in keeping them – after all, they say, you don’t eat horses unless you are starving. True, but during a long-term disaster, horses will resume their place as the primary mode of transportation and once again be used almost exclusively for farm work and hauling.
I spent a lot of time in the garden this week, weeding and treating the plants to thwart those nasty Japanese beetles. I am thrilled to report my first attempt at growing Thomas Jefferson tomatoes is going splendidly.
I tried three different types of natural DIY insecticides in our primary growing plot and the flour and salt mixture seemed to work best. I varied the application from a none, to a little, to a lot on various rows of crops to test the success of each spray or powdered mixture.
After three days I still haven’t found a single beetle on the crops that I dusted with the three parts flour and 1 to 2 parts salt mixture. But there was a definite downside to using the powder, at least in the weather we are having right now. I scorched a lot of cabbage and broccoli.
I sprinkled the powder over all of the plants during the early morning hours when the dew was still on the plants and before it was 85 degrees, like recommended. The early application allows the mixture to adhere to the plants better and not blow off because it has become moistened. Once the Japanese beetles (and other insects, sadly including honey bees) eat the powder, they bloat until they burst and die.
I was worried about the hot and humid conditions when I applied the powder, but our rows of cabbage and broccoli were going to die anyway from all of the munching by the beetles, so I decided to give it a shot.
The plants that got scorched do not necessarily appear dead and might still produce, only time will tell. I am going to reapply the same mixture but back the salt content down to a little less than a 2 to 1 ratio with the flour – and apply it around 5:30 a.m. and see if that helps deter scorching.
This broccoli plant is definitely a goner. I wasn’t even going to bother sprinkling the powder on it, but the center still appeared to be producing. This plant was scorched worse than any other and eaten away by the Japanese beetles to the most severe degree.
The broccoli growing in a raised bed near my apothecary patch (the soil we use in the patch and raised beds is from our compost pile of scraps and dried barn manure) has gone unscathed by beetles. Even though the primary ground plot is comprised of superb soil (it is located where a massive hog pen used to be or decades) I think next year we are going to do a lot more raised bed and container gardening.
Covering around the plants with a 50 – 50 mixture of straw and mulch really cuts down on the weeding. We will continue to use the ground plot for corn, cucumbers, pumpkins, melos, and other viney produce and expand our growing of each since the rest of the crops will be located elsewhere.
The tomato plants that received the same treatment scorched less than the cabbage and broccoli. I also deviated from the instructions and sprinkled the mixture around the base of the plants and that seems to have been a great deterrent as well.
My favorite president was also an avid gardener and worked diligently to convince the populace that the tomato was not a poisonous plant, was nutrient-rich, and perfect for canning. I ordered a packet of seeds from the Monticello gift shop. They are the great, great, great, “grandseeds” of plants Jefferson himself planted.
These are the oddest shaped and textured tomatoes I have ever grown – or even seen. They feel hard like a pumpkin right now. But, they are supposed to be exceptionally hardy and produce up to 50 pounds of tomatoes per plant.
We were once again battling predators at the retreat. A raccoon momma (all black, I thought it was a huge mink at first) and her three babies came out of the woods and headed into the shelter house in search of food, and to tear up the trash in the outdoor can.
Most folks think raccoons only steal eggs from your coop, but they will kill chicks and ducklings as well. I fell asleep in the couch recliner and heard my Bobby doing that kind of whisper-yell thing, calling my name. He was saying my name and not “honey” so I sense something was up. It was only 8:30 but after having the tribe over for an Independence Day celebration and working outdoors in the extreme heat for days, I crashed out before dark. We set traps but so far the pesky coons have evaded them.
We use live traps or homemade snares to catch raccoons and mink and not claw foot traps because all of our animals free range, and so do our blue heelers and grandkiddos.
What are your thoughts on growing in raised beds and in containers as opposed to traditional garden plots?