Fall Readiness

It’s time to start planning. Don’t we all, and most of the time? Each morning as I open my eyes, stretch, smell the crisp cool air, I begin to contemplate not only the day’s needed activities, but start planning for fall and winter. It seems like summer is barely gone. Fall is beautiful, the colors, the cool respite after a long, hot summer. But, soon to follow are the harsh cold winter months. Living on a farm is glorious, but it sets off a whirlwind of activities that absolutely must be done before winter coldness puts a stop to it.

We’re busy gleaning the last of the garden. Ripe tomatoes are picked daily and frozen until a large enough batch is ready to can. Squash and pumpkins are beginning to turn their lovely shades of yellow to orange, the corn is being harvested and the garden, slowly, but surely is being cleaned out to receive her yearly dose of compost and manure. This year we will plant cover crops on top of the garden for green manure also. I have turnip seed and buckwheat to sow. Our rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese and goats will appreciate that feast as it grows. And, our garden will benefit from the nitrogen content of the plants as we till it under next spring.

But, planning ahead, we have a list of other things that need to be done. I suspect that this list could and would apply to those who live in urban areas too.

Water. water barrel on palletThis is at the top of the list. Water storage for the “what if’s” that happened more time last year than we’ve seen since the ice storm of 2007. What if you are suddenly without power and are unable to draw water from your well? Do you have an alternate means such as a hand pump that will work for your depth of well? Hand pumps on deep wells are available, but try to pump water from a 180 foot well. By the end of the power outage, you will have excellent deltoid and trapezius build. Do you have a generator? A wind mill? A well bucket? If you live in the city and depend on municipal services, many times they don’t fail, but how many times have you experienced “boil water” orders? In the event of a natural disaster, how reliable will your municipal water supplier be?

 How much water do you need? That depends. Most sites recommend at least 1 gallon per person per day for drinking and minimum sanitation. Quite honestly, for our personal needs, this isn’t enough. What we do, and this is a personal preference, is to store at the bare minimum, 2 gallons per day. We also keep our swimming pool filled summer and winter. Our pool has about 7000 gallons of water, which will go a long way in a power outage.  Swimming pool water is not potable for humans, but it is an excellent water source for the farm animals since we don’t have a pond…yet. The pool water can also serve for bathing and commode flushing if needed.

Storing water. How? In almost anything. Glass and food grade plastic are the most common choices. Long term, bulk water storage requires a little extra. It’s at this time of year that we empty, sanitize, refill and add 8 teaspoons of bleach to a 50 gallon, food grade barrel, cap and store on pallets.

Food.nutty squirrel Again, the amount to lay back depends on the number of people in your family, finances and room to store food. There are several food storage calculators online. The one we find most useful is  http://lds.about.com/library/bl/faq/blcalculator.htm .  One must take into consideration special needs of diabetics and those on other diet restrictions, infants, the elderly, and your own personal likes and dislikes. A key factor to food storage is to keep it fairly simple, easy to prepare, allow variety, wholesomeness and nutritive values. I’d not recommend storing a year’s supply of pizza, even though it truly is a healthy food, when you look at it’s contents. Many people think that food storage is a bulky task, hard to find places to store. It truly isn’t. Space under beds, couches, even behind and underneath dressers or entertainment centers is a possibility. I’ve seen closets converted to pantries, and even bases of kitchen cabinets made with hinges on the baseboard and canned goods stored under those. Those with basements are indeed blessed. Rafters can serve as excellent canned good areas if needed. Shelving units can be purchased or hand made. I’d advise never to store anything directly on concrete floors though as concrete can react with plastic containers as well as metal containers, corrode and/or disintegrate those in time.                                                                                                                                food storage between wall studs  food storage under couch water food storage pantry 4.5 inches wide in a mobile home hallway. built from 1x4s and 1x2s


Don’t forget to remember your animals in your food storage plans. Buy, can, or freeze enough food for them to get them through precarious times. Our outside animals necessitate a little extra. We store food for them, in the barn, in large 55 gallon barrels with lids. Goats are notoriously nosey, and piggy, and, well, determined. We have to use the large metal, lidded barrels in their barn just to keep the food stuff intact and also free of rodents. It also means that we need to check drinking water heaters to make sure they’re operable, make sure that we have enough extension cord in good repair to service the heaters. It means that we need to lay back enough hay, and soon, to last through the winter. As another blogger wrote, shortages are common in the winter. Many farmers keep what they have for their own livestock first. It’s better to stock up while you can, as it becomes available, rather than waiting until the last minute or in the middle of a crisis.

Housing.chimneyman It’s time to check for any outside needed repairs. Is the power line coming into the house secure? During the winter ice storm of 2007, we saw many conduits leading from the power lines to inside the house, bent and ripped away from the house. Check those, secure with clamps as needed and be safe. Windows, shutters, faucets, outbuildings need inspected and repairs made as necessary. This includes storage sheds, barns, garages, and your home. There’s nothing worse than having to go out in the middle of a freeze to make a repair that’s become mandatory when it could have been fixed simply and with much more ease during the warmth of summer or fall. It’s also time to pull out snow shovels, blowers, ice melt, and auto windshield de-icer.    

     fixing a water faucet

Heatwood fireplace How do you heat your home? Take into consideration the rising cost of propane in the winter months, the potential for a shortage of dried wood for wood heated homes, and the potential for electrical outages in total electric homes. Do you have a safe backup source of heat? Safety is a key word here. I’ve heard people tell me that they have a kerosene heater to use. That’s fine, but make sure you have a way to ventilate that kerosene heater well. Make sure you have a way to ventilate your gasoline powered generator that you will use for space heaters, very well. Carbon monoxide poisoning is, or can be deadly. It sneaks up on the unsuspecting individual and overcomes them before they know it. My husband could tell you a hair raising story about such an event with him just this summer. Ventilate, ventilate, ventilate. Wood. If this is a primary or back-up source of heat for you, you are most likely aware of how many cords of wood is needed for a winter. Stock up now, place it up on pallets and keep it covered and dry. Do this while the weather and supply allow you an ample stock. Wood pellet stoves, again, you know how many bags of pellets your stove needs. The math is easy. Lay back at least enough to get you through an anticipated crisis. For those who use a fireplace, now is the last chance you will have before winter sets in, to clean the flu, make necessary repairs and ready your hearth for use.

Clothing and blankets. gmbbigI can remember my grandmother using this time of year to finish quilts. She had quilts made from all sorts of fabric, from Grandpa’s coveralls, to pieces of flannel and wool. I still have one of her wool quilts that is lined with several layers of flannel, has a flannel back, and is so heavy that it held me fast in bed when I was only 5 years old. She mended boots with patches, mended coats, stockings and gloves. Winter wear and heavy curtains were brought out and aired in the crisp coolness of the fall afternoons. Living in an old farmhouse meant drafty and chilly rooms. Now, 50 years later, I have learned that it wasn’t just her house that was drafty at times. Most of us experience the same…ummm…memories. We’ve discovered the art of using window quilts in some of the back rooms during the winter. I’ve made smaller quilts to fit those windows that have a tie back to use during the daytime. At night, the window coverings are closed and keep the day’s warmth in for quite a while. The same inspection and repairs, if needed, is a memorable task we make to this day, just as my grandmother did so many years ago. Items such as boots, gloves, hats, scarves, are purchased well in advance of the winter’s need. Again, no one knows what the winter will bring and it’s better to be prepared rather than in need and the supply not available.

The last item I want to share with you is light. It’s not a necessity, but a welcome luxury in the event of a crisis situation. What are your backup sources for lighting? Battery operated? Candles? Oil lamps? Make sure you have enough fuel stored, and safely for oil lamps. Make sure you have enough matches or lighters stored away to light them, or the emergency candles you have stored. And, with candles, make sure you have a way to use them safely, sans the possibility of them tipping over or having a breeze blow flammable items into the flames. Batteries need to be purchased and stored in a cool, dark place for longer viability. One favorite that I’ve seen used recently are solar powered outside lights. They’re safe, inexpensive (most likely going on sale shortly) and give a fair amount of luminescence for a small sum of money. Here are just a few ideas.

mason jar lamp  oil lamp II        Solar Accent Lights.  batt lights

I’m sure that most of you could come up with a much longer list than this for your fall chores either around your city or rural homestead. The most important thing to do, is to get them done. Procrastination isn’t an option if you want to be prepared. If you need to procrastinate, do so when the ground is covered with a heavy blanket of fresh fallen snow, cover up with your nice, warm quilt, have a pair of thick wooly socks on and curl up in front of the fireplace that has been cleaned, repaired and is stock full of the wood you’ve gathered for just this very pleasure.

                                                                  family feet







It’s A Good Day to Bake Bread

Oh my! Living in the Midwest at this time of year is a one of a kind experience. One day, it’s hot, muggy, the humidity level is so high one can barely breathe, the next day is cool, crisp and fall-like, just inviting you to be outside savoring the fresh air and sunshine. Today, we’re blessed with rain. The storms moved in yesterday afternoon and drenched our parched earth, the crunchy grass with a blessed drink of liquid that it all so desperately needed. It’s still cloudy and cool outside, so being the farm wife that I am, it’s a good day to bake bread and finish canning the tomatoes and peaches.

I want to share with you a recipe that I’ve used for quite awhile.The original recipe came from http:www.restlesschpotle.com and I’ve used it for the last couple of years. About the only change I made from her recipe is that we leave the ginger out and added or tweaked a couple of the other ingredients to suit our personal taste. It’s wonderful, light, and has a delicious taste of honey and buttermilk. I’d advise using raw honey if you have it available. The stronger the honey flavor, the better the taste of the bread.

Honey Buttermilk Bread


  • 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast granules  (1 packet)
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 cups buttermilk heated gently to lukewarm
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup natural raw honey
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or margerine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • approximately 6 cups white bread flour. Plain (not self rising) flour may be used, but the end product is not as tasty and light, nor does it have quite the same texture.


  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water, then add sugar. Set aside until you see bubbles forming.
  2. After the first mixture bubbles, add buttermilk, honey, salt, and baking soda.
  3. To the liquid, add about three cups of flour and mix until smooth and elastic feeling. This can be done by hand or with the dough hook on an electric mixer.
  4. Add butter to this mixture, making sure that it is completely incorporated into the batter.
  5. If you are using an electric mixer, when dough pulls from the sides of the bowl remove the dough a floured surface and add enough flour to make a pliable mound of dough. Knead this dough until it is elastic and smooth.
  6. After kneading, place it into a greased bowl and allow it to rise until it is at least doubled in size. (About 60-90 minutes)
  7. Punch down, cut in half, and roll each half into a rectangle, about 1 inch thick. Then by hand, roll each rectangle, starting from the short end into a “log roll”. Pinch seal the long side. With your hands, gently mash the short sides down, tuck under the loaf and place in greased loaf pans. Allow loaves to rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 400F. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top and hollow sounding when tapped with the fingertips.
  9. Remove loaves from oven
  10. Allow to cool in pans for 5-10 minutes. Brush tops of loaves with melted butter or margarine.
  11. Turn out onto wire racks and allow to cool completely before cutting or tearing bread.
  12. Enjoy!!

A Canning We Will Go…

Hi ho, to the garden we go…a canning we will go! If I only knew how to add musical notes to the post… Oh yes, and thankfully and giving thanks to the Lord, our garden has been a magical menagerie of clover, weeds, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, green beans, squashes of all sorts, cucumbers, potatoes…and a host of other wonderful vegetables this year. Now that the garden is producing full swing, we’ve pulled out both canners, the boiling water bath cookers, jars, you name it. My counter tops are a delightful mess of jars and completed canning projects.

  Speed Star 1.0372487  00

I just finished canning 14 quarts of pickle relish, these, and there are more than likely double this amount of tomatoes waiting in the refrigerator to be made into salsa and tomato sauce.

There’s nothing better than growing and preserving your own food. There’s no greater sense of accomplishment and pride than seeing a pantry full of your home canned food. I follow the USDA site and receive notices of recalls and notices from multiple food processing companies to pass along to 2 yahoo groups I own. We are so thankful that we’ve chosen our self sufficient lifestyle, raising our own meat, growing and canning our own vegetables and fruit. We support our local farmers, our friends who have roadside stands, local farmer’s markets. We know that their standards of farming equal ours and, quite honestly, when we purchase fresh, we purchase from them. I know that our garden is raised organically, no chemicals, no GMO products, nothing but a lot of hard work, fresh compost from our own farm, and big, juicy produce in return.

I won’t say that canning is easy. In fact, at times, it’s far from it as you pick fresh food from your garden, prepare and package it for the canner. Sometimes it’s tedious, sometimes one’s back and fingers ache from the preparation process. But, I can think of at least a half dozen or more positive notes to canning one’s own bounty. Think of the benefits.

Benefits you say? Absolutely!! We advocate “grow your own” and “DIY”. Why?

1. You know what is in that home canned food. You process food safely. Do mass merchandisers do this? Most likely not, considering the number of recalls that are posted weekly.

2. You know how it’s been handled and processed. No one’s hands have touched the contents of the food other than yours.

3. Lower your food bills. Have you noticed the rising cost of fresh food and meat in the grocery stores? It’s outrageously high and will only increase in price as time goes on. We’ve not purchased meat in almost a year. I was shocked at the sticker price of simple, cheap 70/30 ground beef at being close to $4.00/lb. When did that happen? 98 cents for a can of asparagus? I think not!!

4. It provides a cushion against store outages, short paychecks or no paychecks, Create your own stockpile for “in case of” and sleep better knowing that your family will be fed if times are rough.

5. You can be assured of the food quality and taste. Canned properly, home canned is much healthier, maintains it’s fresh taste and nutritional value.

6. For many, canning and preserving one’s own food is a necessity. In remote areas, access to grocery stores is not always an easy task and at times, not do-able at all.

7. A sense of pride. You grew it, you processed it, you eat it! 

8. Gifting and sharing. Nothing says love more, than sharing a jar of homemade jam and a loaf of fresh baked bread from your oven.

9. It provides you with a link to the past. Our grandmothers and mothers most likely preserved their excess. I can remember playing store in my grandmother’s root cellar, picking and choosing mentally, which food I was going to buy for that day. Granted, I didn’t know what everything was, but the colors were certainly pretty lined up on her shelves. My mother didn’t can, other than to make our winter batch or three of jams or jellies, but she stored food in the freezer. I have reverted to my grandmother’s lifestyle on her farm, and every time I open the pressure canner and remove those hot, boiling mason jars, I wonder if she’s smiling down from heaven at me. Somehow, I think she is.

   Grandma and Grandpa New, me and dad 1957 this is my dad and I, Grandma and Grandpa



What in the heck is fibromyalgia

I have it, probably have had it for years, undiagnosed, made me whine and ache and hurt and sleep and get depressed and, you name it. Now that my blessed doctor in Jefferson City, MO has diagnosed the problem, the next step is to learn more about it, why it happens and what to do about it. I am way too young to be relegated to the rocking chair on the front porch, waving to people as they drive down the road.

Fibromyalgia…nasty, nasty, nasty diagnosis for anyone, even one’s worst enemy. What is it? It’s thought to be caused by a low level of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is the “calming agent” the calming neurotransmitter. In patients with fibromyalgia, the brain doesn’t make enough serotonin, therefore the brain goes into an “anxiety mode”. It allows more pain transmitters to occur. It’s almost like a rapid fire mode of sending pain signals everywhere in the body, the hands, feet, legs, upper and lower back, abdomen. It creates migraines, nausea, constipation alternating with diarrhea, “brain fog” or a sudden inability to think straight, depression. Fibromyalgia can be triggered by stress, sleep disorders, depression, trauma, multiple surgeries, serious illnesses. It can be accentuated by certain illnesses such as osteoarthritis, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis. Fibro tends to affect more women than it does men.

Muscle weakness and decreased energy levels are common with fibro. One needs to keep themselves in as good of a physical shape as possible. Yes, it’s painful, and yes, it will make you tired, but one must continue a mild exercise routine or they will be bed bound in a very short time. Mild exercise such as walking, yoga, and arm and leg exercises are recommended. Do not do high impact exercises or strenuous exercise. It isn’t necessary and it will claim too much energy to do so. I am still in physical therapy, something my pain management physician recommended before the diagnosis of fibro was confirmed. Simple exercises such as holding a wooden dowel and squatting to a chair sitting level, using a 1 or 2 pound weight (I am now up to a 4 pound weight) of mild resistance pulling my elbows straight back, level with my chest, to behind my back to build and maintain shoulder muscles and decrease the pain there. I also do leg lifts, with the toes pointed upwards, wearing a 2 pound weight on my ankles. There is another exercise that’s a bit harder, but it increases dexterity and balance. With that exercise, one should be on their hands and knees, with the knees spread apart at least 12 inches. Start out with no weights then add them 2 pounds on the ankles and 1 pound on the wrists. Lift the left leg and the right arm at the same time. Keep toes pointed downward and hand with the palms facing outward. Then, reverse this and lift the right leg, toes down and the left arm, palms out, 5 times on each side. It’s hard to do at first. I felt like a turtle about to fall over. It does increase coordination and balance if you keep at it. These are just some examples of the low impact exercises one can do to maintain muscle strength and abate pain.

There are many meds on the market to help combat the pain. Most of them are not pain meds, per se, but are meds used to treat seizures, meds to counteract the lack of certain neurotransmitters in the brain and to help the brain secrete more of the needed neurotransmitters. I won’t go into medication regimens here, but if you are a fibro patient, or are taking any of these meds, be sure to talk with your physician about the benefits and side effects of taking these medications. Many of them have serious side effects, so know what you’re taking, and don’t stop the medication abruptly or on your own. If any of the side effects are noticed, ones that your physician has talked with you about, call him or her immediately to have a medication review and/or change if needed.

Home remedies are common in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Sleep is important. By that, I mean the deep sleep, the REM sleep or dream cycle sleep that’s important for the body to actually rest. Several herbal treatments are available to help enhance that sleep. Those meds are melatonin and 5-HTP. 5-HTP is a building block for serotonin and is available over the counter, as is melatonin. Serotonin is associated with increased pain levels, depression anxiety and insomnia. Often, fibromyalgia patients have restless leg syndrome. One treatment for this is calcium with Vitamin D added. It is prescription, not available in this form over the counter. Magnesium may be an aid to combat restless leg syndrome. St. John’s Wort is an herbal treatment for depression that could be associated with fibro. Most rheumatologists prescribe an antidepressant to go along with other medications as an adjunct treatment. Other herbal supplements such as the B vitamins, black cohosh, milk thistle, lavender and cayenne have been used, but their effects are not known at this time. Again, don’t use these herbal treatments without the approval of your primary care physician, pain management physician or rheumatologist. Many herbs may interact negatively with prescription medications you might be taking.

Diet: Although the role of food isn’t exactly known in fibromyalgia, one should pay close attention to certain foods. Does the food make one have bowel issues such as constipation or diarrhea? If so, those foods should be eliminated from the diet. Lower salt intake, concentrating on Vitamin C containing foods, those with protein, vitamin B, D, and A are important as they build muscle mass and increase bone strength. This would include lean meat, green and yellow vegetables, dairy products, orange vegetables and fruits such as carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, pumpkin are all good vitamin A producers. Vitamin B producers would include potatoes, leeks, onions, turnips, whole grains, nuts, pork and green vegetables. It’s important to keep the muscles supplied with the proper nutrients to be able to work, to move.

There’s still much research going into fibromyalgia and one will read many stories. All I can do from a nursing standpoint, and as a fellow fibro patient, is to encourage you to read only from sources that are credible. WedMD, http://www.fibromyalgia.com, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fibromyalgia/basics, and this article: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/329838-overview are excellent sources of credible information. I would encourage anyone suffering from fibro to join a support group be it online or a live format. Talking with others, learning their limitations, their treatment modalities, tried and tested, failed or passed modalities, enables one to make wise and proper care for their own illness process. fibro poem

Apologies for such a long absence

Oh my! It seems like forever since I’ve written on my blog. For that, I need to apologize to all of you. It’s been a whirlwind of doctors’ visits for myself and for my husband, medical procedure after medical procedure, and when one feels like a living pincushion, there’s no energy or will to write much without sounding whiney and complaining. Rather than do that, I’d rather not write at all.

I’ve had so many issues with pain that couldn’t be resolved, couldn’t be pinpointed to a certain causative factor, not in one specific spot, that it made my physicians and consulting physicians wrinkle their foreheads in puzzlement. I finally decided that it HAD to be my spine. After all, I am a retired RN and I just knew it was from the bulges and herniations in my spine, all the way from my cervical spine down to the L-S spine (my tailbone). So, in my infinite wisdom, I visited a neurosurgeon with the admonition “please, just fix it”. He took such excellent care of my husband and I knew he would take just as good of care of me. I trusted him, liked his mannerisms, the way he treated his patients, the level of his skill. After running umpteen tests, he concluded that the pain might have some basis as thought to emanate from the spine, but that it was not the root cause of my problems. He, instead, sent me to a rheumatologist. My first thought was “why?”, and he told me that he thought it was torticollis or possibly fibromyalgia. Torticollis, I might understand because my shoulder muscles were tight as drum strings. But, fibromyalgia, no, I don’t think so. The rheumatologist spent close to an hour examining me, asking questions, had me fill out a questionnaire, and did indeed, come up with the definitive diagnosis of fibromyalgia. After her explanation of what fibro is, how it affects the body, my several year long history of certain ailments and what-have-you, it is indeed fibro. Crud!!! (and double crud to boot!)

I knew a little about this, having had worked with another nurse 14 years ago who also had fibro. I didn’t understand the logistics of it, empathized with her pain and lack of energy, did as much as I could to help her with her patients as well as mine, but I just didn’t understand what it truly was. This is going to mean a lifestyle change for me and as I learn more, I want to focus on teaching others too. it’s a little known about condition, experimental medication regimens to help with the pain and the root cause of the pain, and learning more about energy saving work habits and dietary needs. As much as I wish someone could and would wave a magic wand over my head, and those of others who deal with this on a day-to-day basis, it can’t be fixed, it can’t be cured. Live with it girl…and that I shall do, only in a positive way.

How Much to Plant

ImagewI always ask that question as I gaze into my overflowing 5 gallon bucket of seeds. This year, it’s actually about 1-1/2 bucketful’s of seed. And, every time I go to the store and look at the revolving rack of seed packets, I think I actually start to drool. Thankfully my husband is with me most of the time otherwise we’d literally go broke in seed packets. Then too, I sell seeds on eBay, so there are those bulk packages of seeds that need to be shared, planted, sold or bartered. This year, our garden plot soil was tested at the county extension office and it came back within the perfect pH range, and with the exact composition of nutrients, organic matter and inert matter that is needed for a vegetable garden plot. Considering what it was 3 years ago when we first moved here, (hardpan soil, acidic, sandy, almost no organic matter to hold nutrients), whoever at the University of MO tested it, scrawled a handwritten note on the bottom of the printout asking what we’d done to make it this good, this quick. I took that as a huge compliment considering we’ve worked our fannies off getting organic matter in it.
Everyone has their own needs, likes and dislikes when it comes to vegetables. And too, they have their issues with space limitation, physical limitation or even HSA or zoning limitations when it comes to raising gardens. And, taking into consideration what will be eaten fresh and what, if anything, will be preserved for the winter months, is also a factor. This year, I am hoping to have enough excess to sell at the local Farmer’s Markets. We’ll see how well that turns out.
I read this on a blog and wanted to share it with you. It’s not exact science, just a recommendation and I so appreciate the originator of this article for posting it.
What all are you planting this year and how much do you usually plant. Are your indoor seeds (tomatoes, peppers, brassicas, sweet potato slips and such started yet? It’s coming along time! Finally…..

How Much Should I Plant To Feed My Family For A Year?

Here are a few recommendations mostly found in the book Reader’s Digest Back to Basics. Some of these amounts may be way off for your family, but like I said it’s at least a good general idea.

Asparagus: about 10-15 plants per person
Beans (Bush): about 15 plants per person
Beans (Pole): 2-4 poles of beans per person (each pole with the four strongest seedlings growing)
Beets: about 36 plants per person.
Broccoli: 3-5 plants per person
Cabbage: 2-3 plants per person
Cantaloupe: figure on about 4 fruits per plant (estimate how much your family would eat)
Carrots: about 100 seeds per person (1/4 oz would be plenty for a family of six)
Cauliflower: 2-3 plants per person
Collards: about 5 plants per person
Corn: start out with 1/2 lb. seeds for the family and adjust as needed
Cucumbers: 3-6 plants per family
Eggplant: 3-6 plants per family
Lettuce: 4-5 plants per person
Okra: 3-4 plants per person
Onions: 12-15 plants per person
Parsnips: 12-15 plants per person
Peas: about 120 plants per person
Peppers: 3-5 plants per person
Spinach: about 15 plants per person
Squash (including Zucchini): about 10 per family
Sweet Potatoes: about 75 plants per family
Tomatoes: about 20 plants per family
Turnips: about 1/4 lb seeds per family
Watermelon: about 1/2 oz. seeds per family



When Guineas Fly

ImageGuineas…you either love ’em or you hate ’em. There’s no in between. We’ve raised guineas, more specifically lavender guineas, for the last 3 years. I am getting close to the point where they need to be exterminated. They serve a purpose, as does everything in life. They keep the chigger and tick population down on our farm. They’re excellent watchdogs as they screech and scream at the tops of their lungs at anything and everything that seems to be an intruder. That includes people, other animals, the lawnmower, the tractor, even our homestead creatures if they dare to venture in the guineas’ territory.

They are excellent at picking bugs and debris from our roof. Have you ever heard the sound of guineas on a roof? It sounds like a herd of elephants scurrying about here and there. I know they’re doing their job, so most times, we just laugh about the pitter patter of guinea feet over our heads.

Guineas are not noted to be good parents. If you have a set of parent birds who do foster their young, you are exceptionally blessed. We have been blessed. From the original flock of 4, we had 1 rooster and 3 hens. Only one of the hens was broody. Broody guinea hens are mean, insufferable, heinous creatures. They will attack anyone who comes within 3 feet of their nests, usually talons up and aimed for the face. Please don’t ask me how I know.

Guineas generally start breeding the spring after their hatch. Most times, Guineas will start laying their clutch of eggs between March and October, and for whatever reason, usually during midday. I’ve found with ours, that the hen doesn’t usually set on the eggs until the full clutch is laid, like ducks and waterfowl. Whether this is true with all guinea fowl, I don’t know. Ours are, well, unique. It takes between 26-28 days for young keets to hatch. At this time, they are like other fowl, vulnerable to predators. Our guineas like to make their nests under the blackberry briars. That makes it difficult for airborne predators and 4 legged predators to get to the young hatchlings. It makes it difficult for me to steal the keets too.

Last year, I tried to keetnap the new hatchlings, and wound up with significant battle wounds from the briars and from their mother. I was savvy enough to wear protective eyewear when raiding the nest. It saved my eyesight as momma came up off the nest, feet and talons upward, right at my face. Wearing protective eyewear was one thing I learned several years ago, by accident, when I was trying to remove eggs from the chicken’s nest. I spent the first day of my retirement, in the ER, with the sclera of my eye swollen and filled with blood, hanging at the edge of my lower eyelid. Thank goodness for having had contacts on as they saved my cornea from abrasions. It was embarrassing, scary, and a hard lesson learned in raising birds. Back to the story, protective goggles on, I raided that bird’s nest everyday for several days, capturing the newly hatched guinea keets because I was POSITIVE that they wouldn’t survive on their own. After all, we’d already lost half our young chicks to a neighborhood owl. I wasn’t about to lose those darling silvery guinea keets. They were raised, until they were fully feathered, in a large cage inside the house. At the point where they had a full body of feathers and not down, I moved them to an old rabbit cage outdoors. It was perfect for raising young fowl. It had a box on one end, perfect for getting out of inclement weather, and a chicken wire cage on the other end, perfect for keeping predators at bay. The only problem with this set up was the parent birds themselves. They are intelligent creatures. Hearing the sounds of their offspring, they immediately found the rabbit cage, remembered that I was the one who stole their keets, and immediately started conniving a way to break into the cage to save their young. We watched the adult birds jump up at, and eventually twist the handle of the cage to allow the door to open. No problem. We put a hasp lock on the door. Next, the parents took turns jumping at and trying to rip the chicken wire off the bottom of the cage. No problem. We reinforced the edges with heavy duty staples.  The final trick they learned was to wait until we came out to feed the babies. In guinea language, they convinced their keets to charge the door, figuring we couldn’t catch all of them at once. That trick worked. Once a few were out, we could not catch them. It was a watch and wait for those keets to disappear to the waiting mouths and bellies of the neighborhood predators. It didn’t happen. These parents were savvy and taught their young to hide, and hide well. At that, we finally gave up to the screeching and howling of the parents and allowed them to raise the rest of their clutch. That mother guinea raised 2 clutches of keets last summer. Some of them are in the freezer, others are driving me crazy with their food stealing, screeching, dirty antics.

Guineas fly, and they fly high. You will see them perching in trees, on rooftops, on barns, anywhere where height is available. This morning, as I was enjoying my cup of tea, looking out of the kitchen window, I thought I saw a small flock of geese take off in flight. It wasn’t geese. It was…you guessed it…guineas. One landed on the electric wire out by the road. I knew they could reach the top of the house and the top of our single story barn in one leap, but I didn’t realize that they could fly 100+ feet in the air. I’ll try to attach a picture of it to this story. The tiny dot you see, up on the wire close to the road, is a full grown, 7 pound or so guinea. Amazing!!

I am hesitant to shoot the remaining 12 we have now since it’s close to breeding season. I just wish I could catch them, clip their wings and put them in an enclosure. The messes that they make, the fear they’ve instilled into our cats, is not really worth having them on the farm. Did I mention they are dirty creatures? Oh, yes I did. However guinea meat is good. It tastes like chicken.

Have a wonderful, wonderful day. I am going outside to chase the guineas off the deck because…did I mention…they are dirty?