Parents want to be more self sufficient, suggestions?

Discussion in 'DIY / Self Sufficiency' started by darlingdarla, Dec 8, 2018.

  1. darlingdarla

    darlingdarla Chirping

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    Hi, my parents want to start a homestead. They live in a very suburban area with about two acres of yard, one acre is meticulously kept by my father and the second is woods, they have the only woods in the area. I got them hooked on chickens and my father wants to build raised garden beds and get bees. i really want to get some sort of milking animal (goats?), but they're on the fence. Dad will retire in a few years so i think this would be a good thing to keep him moving when he gets older. He wants to jump into this head first, I'm trying to slow him down but he works fast. This will help decrease the amount of processed food in their diet which is always a plus in my book. Dad hasn't done anything like this since he was young so I'm helping any way i can, he wanted me to ask some people on "that hip chicken website" about different ways they can be more self sufficient.
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

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    I don't know how much experience with any of this your father has. He may surprise you, if he grew up doing some of these things he may have a real good base. I'm active on the sister gardening site, the link should be at the bottom of this page. Our normal suggestion for someone just starting out is to go slow, but your father (or mother) may not quite fit the category of just starting out. We have bee keepers over on that forum too. You might also want to check out the self-sufficiency sister forum.

    Have you checked to be sure that keeping chickens or a goat is allowed where you are? Many urban and suburban settings have rules about that. I think that should be your first order of business, finding out about that, before you go any further.

    One of the issues with having animals is that they tie you down. With chickens you can usually find someone to help you out for a while if you travel or something comes up but milking animals are a different thing. You can't just skip milking, that would be cruel and unhealthy for the animal. Where will you find someone that will come in to milk a goat if you need to go to an out-of-town wedding or a funeral? That also can restrict when you go to a local event for the day.

    My wife knew a lady that had goats and sold goat milk. I grew up on a farm where we had a milk cow. When my wife started talking about "Let's get a milk goat" I told her she would need to help her friend milk and take care of the goats every day for a month (I was OK with once a day not twice like real life would be, but don't skip a day) so she would understand how it ties you down plus then she would know what was involved when she milked her goat and took care of her goat. I'd build the pen and all that but it would be up to her to take care of it. That's the last I heard about getting a goat. Your Dad may understand what is involved with a milk animal but until you have experience you don't. I don't like being that negative but I will try to be realistic.

    There are all kinds of ways to be more self sufficient on two acres though that wooded area causes some restrictions in available usable land for gardening. You can still grow a lot in those raised beds. It doesn't take a lot of gardening area to have something fresh to eat during season, but with a freezer and a deep water bath/pressure canner you can eat your own food year around. I found a dehydrator handy for herbs and fruit. I'd can enough tomatoes and sauce, corn, green beans, saurkraut, and beets so we never ran out. I froze green peas, black eyed peas, chard, kale, carrots and who knows what else. Plus I froze chopped onions and peppers for cooking. I made a lot of jellies and jams from my fruit and berries. I canned enough vegetable soup so that we had that plus leftover chicken as our regular Saturday evening meal, along with cheese and crackers.

    I raised chickens for meat more than eggs. Set-up costs can be substantial but the big thing with animals related to self-sufficient is feeding them. If your predator pressure allows and your quality of forage is sufficient you can free range your chickens a good part of the year and they will pretty much feed themselves. But during winter you will have to supplement their feed. That is a model used by small farmers for thousands of years. It is unlikely that you will be able to grow enough to feed them but the quality of food may make the cost worthwhile. In suburbia you will need to fence them in, they will not stay on two acres free ranging plus if they have access they will destroy your gardens. A fence to keep them in and an electric fence to keep predators out may be a good investment. In addition to the meat I saved the carcasses and made tremendous chicken broth. I canned enough for that vegetable soup and to keep us, relatives, and a friend in broth.

    For self-sufficiency you might want to check out rabbits. I've never kept them myself but feeding them is not that expensive and you can get a lot of meat from breeding them. Chicken manure should be composted before using it in the garden but rabbit manure is mild enough it can go straight in. That's another thing, plan on a compost pile.

    That's enough typing this morning. Good luck on the endeavor.
     
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  3. darlingdarla

    darlingdarla Chirping

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    Wow that's a lot of information, thanks!
    I have the chicken thing covered, I've had them for a few years now. They're not sold on goats or some other milking animal because of the restrictions on vacation, i offered to care for them or help pay somebody to watch them and care for them (milking included, someone i know used to have goats), all things I'll figure out and run by my parents before we start any sort of project involving milking animals. I am familiar with the laws in our area and we have a set number of animals we can have so I'm hoping i can convince dad to keep everything small scale. I'm aiming to keep them focused on gardening and chickens this year, i want to learn how to make jelly.
    I'll have my parents read your reply, thank you for taking the time to type all of that out.
     
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  4. Melky

    Melky Spring has sprung!

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    650CBFD0-A307-4779-B298-F609AD60BF09.gif For the raised garden beds after planted I frequently use white grow cloth with hoops to hold it up from Gardeners Supply to protect that garden from the wildlife. It’s inexpensive. Can fold up in winter and reuse in spring. Controls insects and lets the sun/rain in. My soil class recently had another tip when close down garden beds in winter to place black plastic over them till spring which will prevent weeds and control insects naturally while solarizing the bed.

    Compost bins are great for leaves, managing chicken manure (free nitrogen fertilizer) and kitchen scraps to add to garden each year. A 2 or 3 bin system is needed depending on how much you compost and number of gardens feeding. I’m started with two bin. You can make these from free pallet wood as long as not chemically treated. This can be found often free to good home on Facebook in the market section or you can ask a local business if you can have them when they throw it out in dumpster.

    You can plant in a 4x4 bed chick greens. I bought chicken salad seed from My Pet Chicken.com or you can grow your own. It’s inexpensive and the chicks love it. I cut some and feed it to the chickens throughout the week. You can also throw them chicken scraps. In the Learning Center here is a chicken treat chart for acceptable kitchen scraps. Keep in mind these are treats and should be 10% or less of diet.

    You can have your garden soil tested for free each year and get recommendations for amendments and fertilizer to help your garden grow from your local county cooperative extension.
    Prevents problems in the garden.

    Here is link to Learning Center and coops to learn how to raise chickens. https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/

    Common Poultry Hatchery Listings
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/poultry-hatcheries-list.1271562/#post-20438569

    Article with breed chart inside with common large fowl and bantam breeds with link resources to help you choose the right breed for you and things to think about. https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/choosing-the-right-breed-for-you.74446/

    Hope this helps you get started!
    Don’t be afraid to ask questions and read lots. Welcome!
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2018
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  5. Melky

    Melky Spring has sprung!

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    You can also use sterilite bins or any plastic container and throw all compost in it. Keep it moist. I leave out in rain and makes your own compost tea for natural organic fertilizer. Cheaper than compost tumblers. Once drain dark tea throw rest in compost bin.
     
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

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    In Arkansas it was free. In Louisiana it costs $16 per test. In Arkansas I got recommendations on how much of what to add. In Louisiana I had to talk to the extension agent about that, but my test was for mostly compost. The regular soils test supposedly would give me bad results since my raised bed fill was 60% organic materials. I don't know what Louisiana does for a regular soils analysis.

    Each State can be different, I don't know how Maryland does it. A call to the extension office should help with that. A visit to your state's extension website can be really useful too. I can generally find a planting calendar, which plants to plant, and even which varieties are recommended.
     
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  7. Melky

    Melky Spring has sprung!

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    I’m no expert on bees but check out your local area. TSC can get you started. Also another resource below is school house bees here locally in KY. They turned an old elementary school into grounds to raise bees for honey and use the school for factory to produce. They have a community group that participated. They sell their own fresh honey and supplies for bee keeping. Make sure your dad can pick up a bed of honeycomb full of honey can weigh up to 65 lbs at harvest time. These are great pollinators for the garden. Maybe there are resources like this close to you. Happy Reading!

    https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/search/live honey bees/live-bees?cm_mmc=SEM-_-Google-_-LivestockEquipment-_-LiveHoneyBeesExtAd&gclid=CjwKCAiAl7PgBRBWEiwAzFhmmmZXrbGOTcCr69wfWoEzDj0UgRcCmV4DTWGuN1hhIwOLZSe2xqmJFhoCko0QAvD_BwE


    https://schoolhousebees.com/
     
  8. ChocolateMouse

    ChocolateMouse Crowing

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    Ok, but seriously, look into making plantings that are perennials not annuals. So that means you could plant a hedgerow of berry canes or bushes and only have to mess with them about 8 days a year. That way the maintenance is low for aging parents, but the return is high with baskets of fruits. Nut and fruit trees are good options too. The more you plant plants that grow back after being cut, the less work you have to do each year. Maintaining perennials is much easier than annuals. No seed starting or replanting each yer. They just grow, then harvest, then you cut them back, then they grow again. Plus that might be good for your father who seems very project-driven, wanting to dive right in. A small annual vegetable garden with the rest being perennials will make life easier.
    Also, try to plant open-pollinated or heirloom varieties of plants, not hybrid or GMOs. OP/Heirloom plants reproduce on their own naturally and you can save seeds from them each year to plant the next and they breed true. Meaning that they just keep on giving. One packet of bean seeds and you have a lifetime supply of bean seeds. Hybrids/gmos will often not breed true and some GMOs are patented and require contracts to grow. I suggest seeking out smaller seed companies not associated with large agriculture operations and rolling with them. I buy from High Mowing Seeds in Vermont.

    Livestock wise, rabbits are low maintenance, giving furs and meat and potentially sales for pets, show or to other homesteaders. They're fairly efficient and take up very little space. With a gravity feeder and extra water bottles (or a tank system) they can be left alone for days without incident much like a cat.

    Learning to hunt and fish is a good choice. Many wild animal populations, such as deer in urban areas, wild boar in rural areas, or invasive carp in lakes, need controlling and without hunters/fishers could get out of control and require government intervention. Just make sure you eat whatever you bag and don't go for exotic animals or animals whose numbers are threatened.

    Don't discount the idea of becoming more self-sufficient in the home. Sure you can chop wood for your fire and dig in the mud for potatoes all you want but there's tons of in-home things that get overlooked because they're not as rough and tumble. But they're important. Learning how to make your own clothing, can your own food, cook, make your own broth, use feathers in crafts, make your own housewares, bake your own bread, knit, crochet, paint, make furniture, upcycle, soap making, essential oil collection, brewing, etc. This things are useful, fun, and keep your mind sharp even on days when you're sick or it's winter. I know lots of men taking up these things as hobbies because they're just great things to do with your life... As well as shifting attitudes towards "can you imagine being a grown man and not knowing how to cook, bake and clean? What are you, a toddler?" type of thing because they ARE good to know, they serve purposes, and they are equally (if not more) essential life skills compared to gardening or raising chickens. Not to mention they're challenging and fun. I know many a carpenter/handyman who can't sew a button back on to save their lives, even though that could save them buying an entirely new pair of pants.

    Try to reduce your waste by swapping plastics for glass. We use glass all over our house now. This is especially nice because we're all adults so it's not like some kid is gonna break em. Pay attention to packaging when you buy something and try to reduce, then reuse, then recycle.

    Or how about learning to repair minor problems with electronics, appliances, vehicles, etc? Maybe learn enough to wire your own solar panels? To debug your own computer? To fix your own plumbing? These are "modern" problems, so they're not popular to fix yourself, but they're still things you go outside your home for that you could learn yourself. Self-sufficient doesn't just mean raising your own food, it means not having to go to other people for goods and services.
    In that same vein, and in the vein of livestock keeping, make a study of first aid and herbal remedies, what works and which are nonsense. (EX, crystal therapy is a placebo at best, whereas plantain(plantgo) leaves are a genuine antiseptic.)

    Get into composting. Compost everything. Animal bedding, kitchen scraps, cardboard boxes from shipped goods...

    Pop onto Craigslist and look for free firewood. Build yourself a wood oven outside, chop wood to heat your home in a fireplace, etc. Participate in earth day and plant a few trees each year to help replace what you're burning.

    Lots of ways to become more self-sufficient that doesn't involve dairy animals. Just gotta recognize the needs or your family and environment and dig deep.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2018
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  9. darlingdarla

    darlingdarla Chirping

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    Thanks, me and dad are going to take a local bee keeping class in the spring, I'm excited. There's an old man who lives down my parents street who sells his vegetables and honey and now that I've had his i can't stand store bought.
     
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  10. Melky

    Melky Spring has sprung!

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    I know what you mean. I only buy school house bees honey. I make my own granola for my Greek yogurt with it for breakfast or lunch.
     
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