Welcome!

Welcome to Independence Homestead’s website! This site serves our two main goals:

1. To Provide Health-Promoting Food & Farm Products

We believe in the importance of nutritious food that contributes to health and fights disease, and we seek to provide such food to those in our community. We also offer various other products that contribute to a healthy lifestyle, such as the best soaps ever. Please join our mailing list so you’ll be the first to know about new offerings, sales, and events!

Want to learn more about our products? Click through the description pages, and read our blog posts.

Ready to order? Order Now! Visit us on the farm by appointment or when we have farm hours. Have any questions, contact us and we’ll get back to you as soon as we get a chance between farm chores!

2. To Help The Homesteading Community

Homesteading can be tough, and we’re here to help others succeed. We maintain a blog here to contribute to the collective homesteading knowledge available. When the internet isn’t enough, we offer how-to classes on a variety of topics.  We also offer quality, healthy livestock for sale.

The farm store will be open this Saturday from 12-4pm. Address and directions are here.

Shop local this holiday season, and get your gifts here! This Saturday only we’re offering 5% off all purchases of $50 or more.

Our offerings include organic soaps and bath products made with essentials oils, rabbit hides, beeswax candles, handmade magnets, and more.

The farm store is open the first Saturday of every month from 12-4pm, and by appointment. If you’d like to visit but are unavailable this Saturday, contact us to schedule a visit.

In Part 1 I gave an overview of our rabbit grow out practices in the growing season, and profiled a rabbit breeder’s choices for growing out rabbits in winter. Here I will detail the grow out method we are using this winter.

This winter we are using our portable rabbit tractors as grow out pens over winter, but we have retrofitted the pens so we can elevate them for winter use.

You may ask why do we need to elevate them? There are two reasons. First, it is very important to keep rabbits away from their droppings to prevent disease. All animals should be kept off their droppings, really. Second, the tractors could be difficult to access or even buried in snow if left on the ground. Last year we had a 30″ snowfall! While that was not the norm, we must consider accessibility in snow.

The issue with the rabbit tractors that we needed to address to elevate them was the flooring. During the growing season the tractors are on the ground, and we want the rabbits to eat the grass the tractor is on. Therefore, the floor is covered with horse fencing comprised of 2″x4″ holes. This works great in the growing season! It keeps the rabbits from burrowing out, but it doesn’t push down or cover the grass; they can graze very well. The holes would be much to large when the tractor is elevated, though. The rabbits would have nothing to stand on!

To create a floor that would hold in rabbits while letting their manure pass through, we covered the base with 1/2″ hardware cloth.

We ziptied the hardware cloth to the current flooring all around the perimeter of the rabbit tractor. Since this is something we will take off when using the tractor in the growing season, we wanted an attachment method that would be easy to undo in spring. Zipties will be very easy to cut.

That was the only alteration needed to prepare the rabbit tractors for elevation. So we took cinder blocks, spaced them at the tractors’ four corners, and elevated the tractors. We put them in the garden, where the manure could fall on the ground and enrich the soil.

You can see how two tractors were able to share one set of cinder blocks, meaning for every two tractors we need six blocks. We cannot combine tractors any more than that because we wouldn’t be able to access the tractors’ doors.

We’ve had young rabbits in the elevated tractors for a few days now, and so far the elevated tractors have worked beautifully. The rabbits easily hop around on the hardware cloth flooring. We have been very happy with this solution for growing out rabbits in winter!

 

Winter presents a number of challenges on the homestead, one of which is how to grow out rabbits. Today I’ll explain our grow out method for the growing seasons, and what we do in winter!img_20150319_183159603

When grass is growing, we grow out meat rabbits or replacement breeders in portable pens we call rabbit tractors. To learn more here’s an article where we profile our rabbit tractors. We love many things about this setup. The rabbits get to graze on fresh grass daily, which lessens feed costs, creates healthy grassfed meat, and means less mowing! They also get to live in small groups, which means less pens to deal with versus keeping them individually in cages.img_20150604_160057348

In winter when grass isn’t growing and there’s a chance of snow, we must change our management practices. We cannot leave the tractor in place on the ground because then rabbits would stay on their own manure (a very bad thing!), plus it would be difficult to access the tractor in snow. So for those who pasture their rabbits in the growing season, there are a few choices for what to do to grow out rabbits in winter.

Choice 1:

Harvest rabbits at weaning. At 8 weeks, rabbits should be about 3.5-4.5lbs. A breeder can choose to harvest any rabbits for meat at this point, and then not have to worry about what space to use for growing out rabbits. This hasn’t been our choice, but it’s a valid option.

Choice 2:

Grow out rabbits in extra hanging cages. This is what we’ve done in past years. We had extra hanging cages, so we’d wean a litter into the extra cage. We typically sell a few from each litter as breeding stock, so the cage wasn’t crowded. When the rabbits were large enough for us, we’d harvest them.img_20160818_154625996

Choice 3:

Grow out rabbits in a colony. A lot of people love raising rabbits in colonies, and people especially like this setup for growing out meat rabbits to harvest. If you have a secure space such as a barn stall or dog kennel, this may be a great option. You’d have to make sure the rabbits were protected from precipitation, though, as you wouldn’t want them cold and wet in winter. We considered doing this, but we are currently experimenting with a breeding colony, and don’t want to start another colony at this time.

Choice 4:

Grow out rabbits in rabbit tractors elevated off of the ground. This winter we have made some adjustments to our rabbit tractors so we can elevate them on cinder blocks and continue to use them as grow out space over winter!img_20161129_111434721

In Part 2 I will show and explain how we have retrofitted our tractors for winter use! Be sure to check back tomorrow to learn more.

Read Part 1 and Part 2 to hear the first part of the story!

At this point in the story Storm is still showing rear end weakness, and we’re pretty sure he has a meningeal worm infection.

The curative treatment we followed was oral dosing of Safeguard at 10 times the standard rate for 5 days in a row. Storm weighed 57lbs using a goat weight tape, and the standard dosage rate is 2.3cc/100lbs. So his daily dosage of Safeguard for this treatment was 14cc of Safeguard. My largest syringe is 10cc, so I’d feed him 10cc, then refill it to 4cc and feed him again. Thankfully he liked the taste of the medicine and ate it right up!

This is a TON of dewormer, and I was worried about what it would do to his system. To keep his rumen functioning well, I mixed probiotic powder with some grain and fed it to him daily. While grain might be been a little hard on his system, I figured he could use the extra calories, and it ensured he ate all the probiotic powder.

Thankfully Storm took the dewormer like a champ and we quickly saw improvement in his mobility and strength. It’s been nearly 3 weeks since we completed his treatment, and he seems happy and healthy. Amazingly, his mobility is back to normal. Many resources say any damage caused by the meningeal worm is permanent, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. I wonder if we caught it early enough to prevent permanent damage? Whatever the reason, we are thankful that Storm is back to normal.

In Part 1 I detailed the situation and symptoms we found in Storm…

He had a low temperature and weakness in his rear end. The symptoms seemed unrelated in that I couldn’t find one illness that listed both problems as symptoms.

I decided the first priority would be to address his low temperature, which indicated an issue with the digestive system. Goats create their heat by ruminating. Apparently, Storm was having some kind of stomach issue. Like with any sick animal on the homestead, treatment started by moving Storm  to a solitary pen. We always have a chainlink dog kennel set up in case we need a pen in a pinch, so Storm moved in there. I mixed some probiotic powder with milk, and he drank it down. Then I filled the kennel’s hay rack with hay, and refreshed the water bucket. Storm ate a good amount of the hay that day, and the following day his temperature was back up to normal! We had addressed his low temperature caused by a digestive issue. I continued to give him probiotic powder and hay for several days, and monitored his temperature to ensure it didn’t fall again.

Storm still had significant weakness in his back legs. He could get up and walk, but he’d struggle. He would fall down easily as well. In all my research, the only thing that made sense was a meningeal worm infection. It’s a leading cause of hind leg weakness in goats, and it’s most prevalent in the fall when leaves have fallen. Tennessee Meat Goats has a great article about this parasite.

I’d always dismissed the meningeal worm as unlikely to be an issue at our homestead because we don’t have especially high rainfall and our land doesn’t hold water. We’re on a hill, not in a wetland! Still, we get plenty of slugs around whenever it is wet, and slugs are the intermediate host for the meningeal worm. We also have a lot of whitetail deer around, and they spread the parasite. Plus we have a ton of deciduous trees, so there’s a lot of leaf litter on the ground in the fall. It’s completely reasonable to imagine Storm was grazing on fallen leaves and inadvertently ate a slug.

A challenge with the meningeal worm is that you cannot test for it with a fecal test. Lab testing of it requires cerebrospinal fluid, which is pretty hardcore. The resources said the best thing to do if you think your goat has this parasite is start treatment.

Read Part 3 to learn about our treatment protocol and the results.

This fall our goat wether Storm fell ill with what we believe was a meningeal worm infection. We cannot confirm this was his illness as that would have required lab testing of his cerebrospinal fluid, but the situation and symptoms would indicate a meningeal worm infection. Today I’m sharing our experience in the hopes it may help you if you ever face a similar situation. Fall is the prime time for goats to be infected with this parasite, so be aware!

On a Saturday afternoon in October we had some visitors to the farm, so I released Storm from his pen to meet them. One of our lovely helpers, Krysti, noticed that Storm wasn’t walking normally; he was overpronating his back left leg We checked his hooves and trimmed them, making sure that nothing was wrong with his feet. Everything looked okay, and he had no sensitive spots on his leg or foot. On Sunday Storm joined us for a walk around the property, and while he was still overpronating, he was perfectly mobile.

On Wednesday we went to check on Storm again, and he had declined significantly. He was having a hard time lifting his back end off the ground and walking. In fact, we had to carry him to get him up to the garage for a health diagnostic. Thankfully he’s still small enough to be easily carried!

Whenever a goat is sick, our first procedure is to take its temperature. A low temperature often indicates rumen issues, a high temperature would mean infection. A goat’s normal temperature is 101-103F. Storm’s temperature was 99. So now we had two seemingly unrelated symptoms: weakness on the back end, and a low temperature. What to do?

Continued in Part 2 and Part 3….

 

Goats 101 Class Saturday 11/12, 2-4pm

Join us Saturday for our popular Goats 101 class! We’ll focus on goats for pets, dairy, and land clearing. This class is family friendly, with opportunities to brush the goats, and get a squirt or two of milk out of the does, too!

The class will cover handling goats, goat health check, trimming hooves, basic goat care, milking, and fencing. We will share the materials we’ve developed such as a goat health checklist, goat care calendar, and a list of suppliers.

The class is Saturday, November 12th, 2-4pm. The cost is $20/person or $40/family. Contact us now to reserve your spot in the class.This will be our last offering of the class for 2016.

Rabbit Processing Class Saturday 11/19, 10am-Noon

We are also offering a Raising Rabbits class on Saturday, November 19th at 10am. You’ll want to attend if you are considering raising rabbits or would like to gain insight to improve your existing rabbitry.

In the class you’ll have all your rabbit rearing questions answered. We’ll cover health care, feeding, housing, pasturing, breeding, and even have an optional hands-on dispatching and processing session.

The class is Saturday 11/19, 10am-12pm. The cost is $20/person or $40/family. Contact us now to reserve your spot in the class.

Ear Tagging Pigs

I have a new method of ear tagging pigs that I can’t wait to share with you! This past spring I wrote about tagging pigs in our piglets series. Everything in that original post is still true, except now I have an update on how to tag older pigs!

Let’s say for whatever reason you don’t get around to tagging your pigs when they’re young. Or maybe you tagged them, but an ear tag fell out. Well, I found a new strategy for tagging pigs that allows even large pigs to easily be tagged. The trick is to ear tag them while they’re eating. If you’re skeptical, I was too. But it works! We tagged 3 pigs this way, 2 gilts and 1 boar, and it was easy.

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Our process was first to identify which pigs we wanted to tag. That was the hardest part because the pigs walk around a lot while eating, jostling for the best position at the food. Once we spotted the pigs we wanted to tag, and the tag was ready in the gun, we’d get up next to them and tag the ear. They’d pull away at the end of the process, but always after the tagging was complete.

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So there you have it! If you don’t ear tag the pigs when they’re young, it’s okay. Just do it at feeding time!

We all have situations where we need to keep things cold. For some of you, that includes transporting home your farm fresh herdshare milk! For that situation and many others, I highly recommend flexible ice sheets. Here are some that are a great value. We bought these about a year and half ago, and they’re still working great! A few of the cubes have burst over time, but they’re still very effective at keeping things cold.

Every morning I use ice sheets to make an ice water bath to chill the day’s goat milk. Often I use these sheets 2-3 times a day! if I have a delivery to make in town, the ice sheets keep everything cold in the cooler. If we’re processing rabbits or chickens, ice sheets create an ice water bath to cool the meat. If we’re going to a market, the ice sheets keep the eggs and meat at safe temperatures for an extended period. Picking up meat from the processor? Another time to use the ice sheets!

I love that these ice sheets are reusable, and they don’t melt into water that I have to empty from the cooler. It’s so much easier to put the ice sheets back in the freezer, and pop the cooler up on a shelf! No dumping water and leaving the cooler out while it dries.

The ice sheets are super easy to clean, too. Need to sanitize them? Easy to do with a bleach water solution.

I was introduced to this by another homesteader, and I hope that sharing my experience may help you, too!

We would like to share with all of our customers that we are planning on holding regular farm store hours the first Saturday of each month from 12-4pm. No need to make an appointment or call ahead, just come on out to the farm! That means we will be open this Saturday 11/5 from 12-4pm!

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This weekend will be especially nice with the fall colors on the trees to make your way out to the farm to stock up on farm fresh goodies! You are welcome to walk around the farm and see the animals as they get ready for winter then stop in the farm store for some hot cider and other farm store treats!

We hope to see you there!

New in the Farm Store!

In anticipation of Loudoun’s Fall Farm Tour, we’re updating the farm store with some new products. Today I’ll highlight the farm-themed magnets we’ve made! These magnets were made ourselves from wood we had leftover from various projects. We cut the wood into squares, stamped them with fun farm stamps, sprayed a sealant, and attached magnets.

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The magnets are a perfect gift for the person in your life who values buying local! We have a rooster, rabbit, sheep, and “Seasons Greetings” deer, all available in red and black. Mix and match the different farm animals and colors to make a set uniquely yours! Magnets are $4/each or 3 for $10.

We’ll see you at the farm tour this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, 10am-4pm!

 

Fall Farm Tour Coming Up!

We are excited to be a part of Loudoun’s Fall Farm Tour this year! We have participated in the past two spring farm tours, and we think this year’s fall farm tour will be just as fun.

As always, we’ll conduct tours of the farm so visitors can learn more about local agriculture. There will be opportunities to feed and pet the animals, too.

In the farm store we will have an assortment of local, healthy products. In the freezer we’ll have a lot of rabbit meat and chicken. The fridge features our duck eggs and chicken eggs, plus goat milk for those who’d like to sign up for a herdshare. We’ll have organic soaps and bath products, scented only with healing essential oils. Beeswax candles and other housewares round out the offerings! Swing by to get healthy groceries for your family and start your Christmas shopping, too!

This year we will expand our offerings of food and drink to consume here. We’ll have several drinks and baked goods to sustain you as you tour Loudoun’s farms! Join us Saturday and Sunday, October 15 & 16, from 10am-4pm.

Homestead Things I Love

It’s been so busy recently, I haven’t had the time to post about all the amazing things we’re doing! The posts will come, I promise. Still, I wanted to spend a few minutes sharing some homestead things I love right now.

Roll Out Nesting Boxes

If I could go back in time, I would have made roll out nesting boxes for our chickens and ducks. Here are a few examples (1, 2, 3). Imagine the time I would have saved by not having to wash eggs! Plus, we are currently dealing with an egg eating problem in our duck flock, and roll-out nesting boxes would have likely prevented the issue. Now we’ve added “create roll-out nesting boxes” to our never-ending to do list.

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So those of you just designing your coop or duck house. Make roll-out nesting boxes. You’ll thank me later.

Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

As I was sprinkling DE in the coop today, I was thinking about how awesome it is. We use it for all kinds of pest control! Put on the ground of livestock pens, it helps with fly control.

Having an issue with flies on goats? We put DE on their brush, and then brush their coats. They like that, and they hate when we use fly spray. Plus the DE will help kill any mites or lice!

Simple Pulse Milking Machine

There’s a really awesome blog post series about home dairying, but it exists only in my head at the moment. This fall, I’m thinking I’ll get those posts up! Until then, let me share how happy we’ve been with our Simple Pulse Milking Machine.

This machine has made my milking quicker and easier. My milking time has decreased by about 25%. We have 3 goats, and the efficiencies of the milking machine would be even greater for a larger herd.

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Catahoula Leopard Dogs

We have the best farm dog. Whiskey is a Catahoula mix, and she is amazing! Learn more about Catahoulas here. In short, it says Catahoulas are amazing farm dogs, and everyone with a farm should have one ;-).

Whiskey’s a rescue, yet she is a wonderful livestock guardian dog. You don’t need a purebred Maremma or Pyrenees to do the job. Here’s an article I wrote previously, in which I sing Whiskey’s praises.

Recently Whiskey’s amazed us all with her squirrel hunting skills! Squirrels cause all sorts of trouble around here. Somehow Whiskey has learned how to catch them, and is taking ’em out! Here she is with one of her catches:

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If you’re in the market for a farm dog, please consider rescuing a Catahoula from one of these organizations:

http://www.catahoularescue.com/

http://catahoula.rescueme.org/Virginia

I want to adopt all those adorable Catahoulas!

Freedom Ranger Meat Chickens

This past Saturday we processed a batch of 26 Freedom Rangers. We LOVE this breed of meat chickens. They free ranged amazingly, they were healthy and sturdy, and they looked so tasty when we processed them! I can’t wait to roast up a chicken this week.

We bought the chicks from the Freedom Ranger Hatchery. We love this hatchery! We’ve always found the quality of the chicks is very high, and the loss rates are very low. Plus the birds ship from Pennsylvania, which means they get to us in Virginia in just a day. This is faster than the midwest hatcheries.

Thanks for Reading!

I imagine you’re crazy busy this summer, too, so thanks for taking a few minutes to read about what I love right now! Hopefully this article will give you some awesome ideas for improving your own homestead. Stay tuned for more posts about milking, meat chickens, and how we’re solving our egg eater problem! Now, go rescue a Catahoula and fall in love with one of the sweetest farm dogs you’ll ever know.

 

 

 

Today we continue our piglets series with some insights on feeding and watering growing pigs. Pigs grow so fast that any missteps in feeding and watering can have dramatic consequences. Too little feed can permanently damage a pig, while too much can lead to plenty of issues, too. That being the case, there’s a lot of leeway in the correct amount to feed a pig.

Feeding Pigs

When we first started with American Guinea Hogs, we had a hard time finding guidance on how much to feed this pigs. With their smaller size and slower growth rate, the advice for conventional pigs wasn’t relevant. We found the best advice for feeding these pigs was to watch the pigs. If you’re over or under feeding, you’ll quickly see the problem as the pig will be too fat or too thin. Using conventional pig free feeders is not recommended with AGHs. They’ll overeat, and the excess weight gain will cause problems. They can break legs, etc.

The conventional feed for pigs is grain. Corn, oats, and soy are main components. This feed works well for growing fat pigs! With American Guinea Hogs, a little feed goes a long way. From my conversations with those who grain feed, one 3qt. scoop will be split between piglets, and the max an adult boar would get is two scoops. The biggest negative to grain feeding is the cost. Over the life of a pig, it eats a lot! Those feed costs can add up. The big benefit is pigs grow well on this feed, and it’s supplemented with everything pigs need.

AGHs will also eat hay. We have heard this from others, and seen it ourselves. In winter we bed their house with hay, and found we’d have to replenish the house weekly as they’d eat all the hay! Now we keep a round bale of hay in the pig pen for them to eat. They seem to prefer eating some hay and other food, not exclusively hay.

Historically, pigs were useful on homesteads because they converted waste food into edible food (pork!). The idea of buying special food for pigs would’ve been considered crazy! We are blessed to have a resource for expired groceries, so we can follow in this frugal and environmentally friendly tradition. The bulk of our pigs’ diet is produce and baked goods. They eat a wide variety of these products, based on what we’re given that week. It appears that the pigs are getting the nutrients they need as we’ve had no growth or fertility issues with the pigs. In the photo below you can see them chowing down on produce, including mini peppers.

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One of the challenges with feeding waste food is not being able to measure out the amount of food to give the pigs. As we’ve grown more experienced with pigs, we can see if the pigs are getting too much or too little food based on their actions. If they’re mobbing me in the morning when I go in the pen to feed them, I know they need more food. If they take all day to eat the feed I gave them, that’s probably more than they need. Their behavior coupled with their body composition tells us if the pigs are getting the correct amount of feed.

Watering Pigs

At some point the piglets will start drinking so much water, that using rubber pans will no longer be sufficient. At that point, we love our 55 gallon waterer with pig nipples. Here’s a picture of it from last winter:

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We bought the pig nipples online. We installed two in the barrel, one at piglet level, one at adult pig level. This is a great waterer that works unless the temperatures are below freezing, and the nipples freeze up. In freezing temperatures we revert back to using rubber pans for water.

In the heat of summer, with 8 pigs in the pen, this waterer gets empty in about 5 days. Last fall, we had 3 pigs on the waterer, and the lower demand and cooler temps meant this lasted about 3 weeks.

Some people make their waterers even more awesome with a hose hookup and float that automatically fills the barrel. We don’t have a hose near our pig pen, unfortunately.

In Conclusion

Hopefully this provides you some ideas for feeding and watering pigs! We love how our pigs make sure nothing goes to waste on the homestead, and we love the delicious meat they provide! Please read the rest in our piglets series, too.

With so many animals and only two farmers, we are constantly looking for ways to be more efficient with our farm tasks. Efficiencies in daily tasks such as feeding and watering pay huge dividends. A customer recently shared a poultry feeder design that we’ve implemented with great success! Here are a couple links (Link 1, Link 2) explaining the feeder, and then a video of our setup in the chicken yard:

 

We have pretty large flocks, so we used a trash can for our feeder. For small flocks people use smaller containers, such as a Rubbermaid tote. One other note is that in the video you can see we set the trash can on bricks. We found the height of the PVC pipes (based on the instructions in the links) was a little low. So we elevated the can on bricks to address the problem.

We’ve used a lot of different poultry feeding methods over the years, from PVC feeders to fermented feed to feeding fodder. There is a perfect example of how there’s often not one ideal way to do something, rather the best choice is based on a person’s given situation. At times these other options were great for us. Right now, with so many animals, a baby, and one person doing the daily chores, saving time is a top priority. That makes this self-feeder the best option currently. We still value fermenting feed and fodder, but the benefits are not worth the time for us right now.

August Special

For the month of August we are offering a FREE kombucha SCOBY or milk kefir grains with any purchase! We love making and drinking kombucha and kefir, enjoying the nutritive qualities of each. Here are our instructions for brewing kombucha andkefir.

Contact Us to setup a time to come by and shop.

Current Farm Fresh Offerings

It’s a great time of year for a beautiful drive out to the homestead and a visit to the farm store! Here are just a few of our current offerings:

  • Chicken Eggs $5/Dozen
  • Duck Eggs $7/Dozen
  • Goat Milk Herdshare
  • Sweet Italian Sausage $9/Lb
  • Pastured Whole Rabbit $10/Lb (3-4 Lbs/Each)
  • Chicken Feet 4/$1
  • Handmade Organic Soaps & Bath Products
  • 100% Beeswax Candles

Contact Us to setup a time to come by. We look forward to seeing you!

Goats 101 Class Saturday August 13th, 10am!

This month we are again offering our popular Goats 101 class! We’ll focus on goats as pets or dairy, land clearing, and proper fencing. This class is family friendly, with opportunities to brush the goats, and get a squirt or two of milk out of the does, too!

The class will cover handling goats, goat health check, trimming hooves, basic goat care, milking, and fencing. We will share the materials we’ve developed such as a goat health checklist, goat care calendar, and a list of suppliers.

The class is Saturday, August 13th, 10am-12pm. The cost is $20/person or $40/family. Contact us now to reserve your spot in the class.

FREE Chicken Processing Class, Saturday, August 20th, 9am!

Come join us on August 20th for our Chicken Processing day! We have about 25 freedom ranger chickens that will be processed, allowing you to participate and learn the entire process. We will show you what you need to know so that you can raise your own meat poultry and process them. This includes dispatching, plucking, cleaning, packaging, and chilling. Don’t worry if you are uneasy about some of the steps, there are plenty of ways to participate and learn.

We are really excited to share our experience with this batch of meat chickens with you. We tried something new this time with them by having them be completely free-range (no portable pens) in our goat pastures in the woods and the results have been incredible! You’ll definitely want to see the results and learn how you too can raise your own delicious free-range chicken with very little feed input.

The chicken processing will be Saturday, August 20th, at 9amContact us now to reserve your spot in the class. This class will fill up quickly so get your reservation in soon!

Rabbit Processing Class,Saturday the 27th at 10am!

To help get you prepared for rabbits, we are also offering a Raising Rabbits class Saturday, August 27th at 10am! Mark your calendars and reserve your spot for the Raising Rabbits class! You’ll want to attend if you are considering raising rabbits or would like to gain insight to improve your existing rabbitry.

In the class you’ll have all your rabbit rearing questions answered. We’ll cover health care, feeding, housing, pasturing, breeding, and even have an optional hands-on dispatching and processing session! Our class was sold-out last time so make your reservations early!

The class is this Saturday, August 27th, 10am-12pm. The cost is $20/person or $40/family. Contact us now to reserve your spot in the class.

How to Make Milk Kefir

A major part of homestead life is eating nutritiously, and for us that includes drinking kefir! For the month of August, we’re offering a free kombucha SCOBY or milk kefir grains with any purchase. Processing milk into kefir increases its nutritive qualities. If you’re new to milk kefir, you can use it wherever you use milk! Our favorite use is to put it in smoothies.

Here’s our milk kefir recipe:

You Will Need:

-Milk Kefir Grains

-2 Glass 1 Quart Mason Jars

-1 Quart Raw Milk

-Dish Towel & Rubber Band

-Strainer

-Spoon

-Small Glass Jar with Lid (to save kefir grains)

Instructions:

  1. Pour milk in a glass jar. Add in kefir grains (usually about 1 teaspoon, but a bit more or less is fine).
  2. Cover jar with dishtowel, and rubber band in place.
  3. Set jar in a spot that will maintain a normal room temperature and is out of direct sunlight . Let jar sit for 24 hours. At that time, check if kefir is done. Signs that kefir is done include if it smells different (sweeter) than milk, and is thicker than milk. You may also see it separate into curds and whey, which indicates it’s done.
  4. Now it’s time to strain out the kefir grains so the kefir is ready to drink. Place the strainer on top of the empty mason jar. Slowly pour kefir through strainer into the jar. The grains will get caught in the strainer, and drinkable kefir will be in the jar.
  5. Take the grains and use them to start a new batch of kefir, or save them for later use. To save them, put grains in a small jar with milk. Store in the fridge.
  6. Put a lid on the jar, and place kefir in the refrigerator. Once chilled, enjoy!

Notes/Variations:

-You can use more than a quart of milk at one time. I often use a half gallon. In that case, I put in a more grains and I let the kefir process for 36-48 hours.

-Your grains will multiply with each fermentation. Give the extra grains to friends so they can make milk kefir!

How to Brew Kombucha

A major part of homestead life is eating nutritiously, and for us that includes drinking kombucha! For the month of August, we’re offering a free kombucha SCOBY or milk kefir grains with any purchase. To that end, here’s our kombucha recipe:

You Will Need:

-Kombucha SCOBY in starter tea (1 cup total)

-10 Teabags

-1 Cup White Sugar

-1 Gal (minus 1 cup) Water & Pot (with Lid) to Heat It

-Long-Handled Spoon

-1 Clean Dish Towel & 1 Rubberband

-1 Large Glass Jar that holds 1 gallon

-1 Small Glass Jar that holds 1-2 cups (use at end of brewing)

Instructions:

  1. Boil water in pot. Take pot off the heat, and add teabags. Let steep for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Remove tea bags using long-handled spoon. Add 1 cup white sugar. Stir to dissolve.
  3. Cover pot, and let cool to room temperature. This will take several hours. If needed, you can speed the process by creating an ice water bath in the sink and setting the pot in there.
  4. Once tea is cool, pour into glass jar. Add SCOBY and starter tea.
  5. Fold dish towel in half, and cover jar mouth. Rubberband the towel over the jar mouth.
  6. Place the jar in a warm place (80ish degrees) away from stove, trash can, or other places where airborne bacteria are likely to occur.
  7. Wait 1-2 Weeks. You can sample the kombucha to determine if it’s done to your liking anywhere in this timeframe. Or you can be like me and process it whenever you have a spare moment.
  8. Once the kombucha is done, remove the SCOBY and 1 cup of liquid as the starter tea for your next batch to the small glass jar. Store in the fridge until you’re ready to use it to brew another batch.
  9. Store the remainder of your kombucha in the fridge and drink! You can store it in the same large glass jar you used to brew, or you can pour it into smaller glass jars if you want to immediately reuse the large glass jar to brew another batch.

Notes/Variations:

-As you brew, your SCOBY will multiply! You can separate these SCOBYs that are created, and use them to brew multiple batches or give to other people.

-To brew faster, split the tea into two smaller jars with a SCOBY in each. With a half gallon of kombucha in a jar, I’ve found it brews in 5-7 days.

-Your tea must be no warmer than room temperature when you add the SCOBY. Be patient and wait for the tea to cool.

-Once you are a pro at brewing kombucha, it’s fun to play around with secondary fermentation! Look into that in the future.

-Mold: in all the kombucha batches we’ve only had one mold issue. That was when we first started, and we had the batch brewing on the counter near the stove. Keep the jar in a cleaner zone, and you should be just fine. Mold is easily identifiable because it’s fuzzy. Any variations in your SCOBY that aren’t fuzzy should be just fine.

Many people have come to the homestead to visit the American Guinea Hogs. Those with small acreages or new to homesteading tend to find the breed more approachable than conventional pigs.

Recently I found this article by Mother Earth News that provides a lot of insight into American Guinea Hogs. For those considering the breed, I highly recommend thoroughly reading it.

A shortcoming of the article is that it focuses exclusively on the positive aspects of the breed, and fails to mention any drawbacks. I’ve noticed this is a common shortcoming of many online articles related to homesteading. This is poor journalism, and does all homesteaders a disservice! In this information age, people should be able to find a well researched article articulating the strengths and weaknesses of a subject.

Since the article highlights many of the strengths of AGHs, I thought I’d balance it out by sharing a few challenges this breed presents.

A defining characteristic of AGHs that many find attractive is their small size. This gives them the potential of being easier to manage. I highlight the word “potential.” An AGH is still 100-200lbs of muscle in a compact little body, meaning it’s a handful if it wants to be. All pigs will be wild and impossible to manage if they’re not handled properly. Do not get complacent with conditioning your pig to human interaction simply because it’s a smaller breed. Pet the pig while you feed it. Walk in its pen daily. Raise the pig so that it’s used to your presence, and is friendly. Do not take the pig for granted just because it’s smaller.

Another possible negative to its smaller size is that you’ll get less pork when you take the pig to the processor. That will also make the pork more expensive per pound. Processors charge a flat fee for killing the pig, which in our area is $40-50. You pay that same amount whether you get 50lbs of meat from an AGH or three times that amount from a conventional breed. Make sure that trade-off is worth it for you.

The article highlights how delicious AGH meat is, and boy is that true! The pork we enjoy from our AGHs is the best pork we’ve ever eaten. The reason it’s so delicious is because the breed grows more slowly than conventional breeds. Unless you’re doing a specialty item like a small pig for a pig roast, an AGH is at least a year old when it goes to the processor. Conventional breeds usually go at about 6 months. That means you’ll take care of your AGH for twice as long to get one third the meat.

I also want to take a moment to say I think the breed is great for cross breeding. An AGH mated with a conventional breed pig could potentially retain many of the positives of both breeds while minimizing the negatives.

We love our American Guinea Hogs, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best pig breed choice for everyone. I view them as a great pig for those who absolutely cannot have larger pigs for whatever reason, and for those who really want the best pork.

I thought it was time for another Friday on the Farm post! Here are some highlights from this week at Independence Homestead:

Goats Enjoy New Goat Pasture

Last Saturday we fenced in two more sections of our woods as goat pasture. The milking does moved to one of the pastures, and our buck Champ and his wether friend Storm moved to the other pasture. All the goats are loving the abundance of trees and shrubs on which to munch! Here you can see the lush buffet enveloping Champ and Storm.

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I am amazed that we were able to fence in two sections in one day! We have come far in our fencing skills since we first started, that’s for sure!

Milking Goats

Now that we have a milking machine the does and I have settled in to a new routine. All three does have taken to the machine very well! I’m thankful for the machine as my hands were getting pretty sore from milking into a pail by hand.

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We are greatly enjoying all of the milk we’re getting! We use the milk as is, and we also make cheese, yogurt, and kefir with it. The yogurt sometimes get utilized for frozen yogurt, too. We are thankful that we now buy barely any dairy products, and we are eating delicious homemade dairy instead! (We do have some milk to spare if you’re interested in a herd share)

Upcoming Goat Class

If you’re thinking about goats to clear out your woods, or to get goat milk, sign up for our upcoming Goats 101 class on Saturday August 13th, 10am-12pm. Just contact us to sign up!

Tanning Rabbit Hides

This week we are moving along with tanning the rabbit hides from the rabbit processing we did in our Raising Rabbits class two weeks ago. Since the class we fleshed the sides, soaked them in an alum and saltwater solution, and this week we tacked them up to dry.

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They’ll take about a week to dry, and then we’ll use the hides to make a stroller blanket for Rebecca. That will keep her warm when she’s out “helping” with farm work this winter!

Barn Cats

Our barn cats have been working hard keeping the homestead free of vermin. Here’s a picture of Hunter with a wild rabbit she caught!

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The cats spend plenty of time relaxing, too. Here are a few photos of them enjoying themselves!

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That’s the highlights from this week on the homestead. I hope your week went well, too!

 

We continue our piglet series where we highlight the care of piglets. Today we’re talking about ear tagging piglets.

Why

Why would you want to tag a piglet? Because you don’t want to tag a full-grown pig! If you think you may ever want a pig tagged, tag the pig as a piglet. Trying to hold and tag an adult pig is not something I’d ever want to do.

Why put an ear tag on a pig in the first place? Ear tags identify pigs, and there are several reasons you may want to do that. If you’re planning on keeping the pig as a breeder, the ear tag will allow you to track that pig. You’ll be able to keep records on that pig and its breeding: when it farrowed, the number of piglets born, etc. If the offspring will be registered, ear tags are invaluable in ensuring accuracy on the pedigree.

If the pigs is a feeder pig, destined to be meat, the ear tag can be a helpful identifier at the processor. Sometimes you want different pigs processed differently. Maybe you want one to be primarily sausage, while another is destined to become roasts and bacon. The ear tag allows you to communicate to the processor what he or she should do with which pig. If you’re selling half or whole hogs, the ear tag allows a buyer to claim a certain hog and get that selected animal’s meat.

How

First, get your supplies. We use an Allflex Total Tagger from Jeffers. Since our American Guinea Hogs are smaller than conventional hogs, we went with Allflex Sheep/Goat Ear Tags. While there are all kinds of personalized tags possible, I just went with basic numbered tags. That’s enough to tell the animals apart, which is all I need. I chose yellow tags since it’s a bright color that’s easy to see.

Now that you have your tools, you’re ready to go. Compared to castrating, ear tagging is a piece of cake! It is still a two person job, though.

First, use feed to distract the piglet. One person then grabs it. The other person uses a tagging gun and tag, holds the ear, and tag! Then release the pig. While it’s simple enough, it doesn’t give extra hands for picture taking, so sorry there are no pictures of the job!

In the picture below you can see one of our piglets with his yellow ear tag.

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I wish I had started ear tagging when we first had piglets. We ended up regretting it later when the pigs were adults. Hopefully this little post shows you just how easy it is!

Read all of the posts in our piglets series here.

We are offering a Raising Rabbits class this Saturday from 10am-12pm. Come learn all about raising rabbits! This class will be relevant if you’re interested in having  rabbits as pets, showing, doing 4H, or raising your own meat. Get hands-on experience with handling rabbits and performing basic care. The class will include an optional rabbit processing component for those interested in the meat aspect.

We also have a selection of recently weaned rabbit kits available. We have a diverse genetic mix as  they’re from 7 litters, and they’re a mix of black, blue, and chocolate kits. Kits are $50 each, with 10% off purchases of 4 or more.

To learn more, to sign up for the class, or to reserve rabbits kits Contact Us today.

While we have all these lofty reasons for having a homestead, at the end of the day what keeps us going is that we get to eat amazing food. We produce some pretty delicious stuff! This quiche is one of our favorites in the spring and summer as it’s quick and easy, which is exactly what we need when the farm chores are never ending! Plus it highlights so many of our farm fresh goodness: duck eggs, goat cheese, goat milk, and produce.

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Ingredients:

  • 7 Duck Eggs
  • 1-2 Cups Chopped Veggies (some of our favorites include mushrooms, spinach, onions, and asparagus)
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Paprika
  • 1/2-1 cup Goat Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • Butter to Grease Pan

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 Degrees.
  2. Grease 9″ pie pan with butter.
  3. Put chopped veggies in pie pan.
  4. In a large bowl, crack eggs. Add milk and seasonings. Whisk.
  5. Pour egg mixture over veggies in pie pan. Top with goat cheese.
  6. Bake in oven about 30 minutes, or until eggs have set and top is golden.

Enjoy your quiche!

This is the second post in our piglets series where we detail how to care for piglets.  Today’s topic: castration!

One tough thing about raising pigs is the meat from males may get boar taint if the male isn’t castrated. There’s mixed information as to whether or not American Guinea Hogs develop boar taint. Even if you are willing to run the risk, some processors won’t process uncastrated males. So we have found it’s worth it to castrate the little guys. This takes scalpels, antiseptic, and mostly a lot of determination. We get our scalpels from Tractor Supply (not the castration kit- just a pack of scalpels). Antiseptic we have in our animal care kit. The determination, well, we muster up enough of it.

Here’s a photo from our latest castration, where you can see the supplies:

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Let’s just pretend our castration process is as effortless as in this video:

Our goal is to castrate that well someday! We’ve found when we castrate larger (older) piglets, the only drawback to the method shown in this video is the piglets are heavy, and holding them upside down is tough. Plus a lot of energy is spent suspending them rather than restraining them. For bigger piglets, we lay them on their backs on the ground, cover their heads, front legs, and belly with a towel, kneel on the towel to hold it and the pig down, and then hold the rear legs down with our hands. Oh yeah- castrating is a minimum of a two person job, three is better. Hence the lack of photos of the adventure!

Our recommendation for castration is to watch a few videos, make sure you have all the tools ready, and pick a time where you’re not rushed. The process itself is stressing, so stay calm. The mental challenge of cutting into a piglet and castrating him is half the challenge, really. Be prepared and you’ll do fine!

Read all the posts in our piglets series here.

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