The Complete Homesteading Book: Proven Methods For Self-Sufficient Living by David Robinson. With information on buying land, planning and building the homestead, raising food and animals, water, waste, heat, lights, economics, community, and more.
“Such is the superiority of rural occupations and pleasures, that commerce, large societies, or crowded cities, may be justly reckoned unnatural. Indeed, the very purpose for which we engage in commerce is, that we may be one day enabled to retire to the country, where alone we picture to ourselves days of solid satisfaction and undisturbed happiness. It is evident that such sentiments are natural to the human mind.” – John Loudon, A Treatise on Forming, Improving, and Managing Country Residences, 1806.
Yesterday my neighbor’s dogs killed several of our cherished chickens, again. I discovered the disquieting scene as I left for work. The story was easy to read in the thick mud, as was the trail leading back to the home of the evil doers.
I feel some responsibility because I had let them roam unprotected for a short time outside of their coop and flyway. On the other hand, it was not my fault at all because the dogs were well within the boundaries of my property. Colorado law clearly states that a dog owner is required to control the whereabouts of his animal so that this type of thing could not happen. A landowner does not have to fence the problem dogs out – the dog owner must fence the dogs in and prevent them from entering someone elses property. An uncontrolled dog can be cited by Animal Control as a “dog at large”. If it kills poultry or livestock, well, that’s a whole other ballgame.
I did not have enough time to deal with the chicken carnage at the time. So today I walked across my field to our bird pens to do just that and came face to face with a magnificent red-tailed hawk. The bird stared at me fiercely as only a raptor can, while deciding if it must abandon the prize. The hawk looked disgruntled, and guilty, as it grudgingly took off. But it needn’t have worried. I knew he had not done it. I left the chicken there, on the ground, for the hawk’s return.
I am sad for the loss of our chickens. They were our best young layers and had the best chicken personalities in our flock. I am happy though that I was able to steal such a close range look at the hawk. I love to observe birds of prey. He’s got to eat too.
I don’t fault the dogs. They were just being dogs, and some will kill chickens if not discouraged. I do have issues with the dog owners, however. They have been consistently disrespectful of our property rights, and have demonstrated little regard for the joys of poultry. They had been warned.
In this case, the marauders and culprits will be dealt with appropriately by the court, as they should. I hope the dogs fare better.
The red-tail is welcome to his dinner. I hope I see him again soon, under better circumstances.
For most of us, frequent trips to the grocery store are a necessary and common activity. It’s what we do, and what we’ve always done. When we get there we expect to find rows and rows of neatly packaged food stacked high, far, and wide. Hell, we demand it! Most people believe that it will always be like that, and of course it will be, right?
Well, maybe, and then again, maybe not. For the most part the supermarkets are still there. Yet, for some time now something seems terribly amiss. It has become harder and harder to fill that shopping cart with an adequate amount of high quality, nourishing food, especially if you take a moment to read the tiny print of indecipherable contents on the label. No doubt you’ve tried, and grown increasingly uneasy.
And it doesn’t take great powers of observation to conclude that the packages grow smaller while the price climbs higher with each successive trip. It’s the terrifying tale of the incredibly shrinking dollar, and it is probably not going to get better anytime soon. The effects are devastating and cruel, and it’s a painful thing to watch. It’s quite obvious that something’s gotta give.
From our point of view it is time to think out of the proverbial box, or in this case, the shopping bag. If you agree, think rabbits. They can help, and not just a little, but a lot. They are ready, willing, and able to work on your behalf. It’s what they do. Raising rabbits might be one of the best way’s to stretch your food budget, in the midst of what can only be described as a salvage economy left for the once great middle class.
Rabbits make a lot of sense for anyone that is interested in providing some, or most of their own food, for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few:
They are quiet, easy to raise and care for, with minimum space requirements.
One buck and three or four does can provide enough meat to satisfy much of a small family’s fresh meat needs for the year.
Rabbit meat can help keep the doctor away, too. It is high in protein, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, B12, iron, and a wide range of minerals.
It is remarkably low in calories and harmful saturated fats, and free of antibiotics and other chemicals. Rabbit liver is an “original” health food.
The meat is nutrient dense and about twice as filling as chicken. A little rabbit meat goes a long way.
Feed conversion rates are excellent for domestic rabbits. They convert calories to body weight much more efficiently, and cheaply, than other animals, particularly beef.
You can supplement their diet with your table scraps or garden wastes, or what you might have growing in your fields or about your neighborhood. In fact, many people never have to buy any type of commercial feed product.
They are easy to barter for other needed or desirable items, or sell as breeding stock to other people.
They are easy to butcher, process, and package.
Recipes for all parts of the rabbit abound. Stew it, grill it, bake or fry. The possibilities are endless, and it tastes great too!
Their droppings are fabulous for your garden, and you can sell the coveted manure. They also provide great food for your worms.
The rabbit skins can be made into many kinds of useful clothing.
Now you know why the rabbit has been called the ultimate homestead animal, or even “the new urban chicken”. I agree with each and every reason just mentioned, and can add a few more.
I despise shopping as a matter of principle anyway, and I consider any opportunity to avoid a trip to the market a celebrated victory. It saves money on gas and car expenses, which add up in a big hurry these days.
Why drive a car for several miles to pick up some groceries, when you can simply walk out your back door and grab some fine ingredients for your table? We like to pick some spinach and fork a couple of potatoes on our way back from the hutch. It’s called lunch, and we didn’t have to wait in a long line of frustrated people or suffer the indignities of a surly clerk. You might guess what we think of the self-serve scanning machine.
When you finish your meal, throw all of the leftover table scraps into your worm bin under your rabbit hutch. Bend down, and stir around until you have a pile of worms for your handy coffee can. Grab your trusty fishing rod, and head for the closest lake.
Have some fun, and relax. Spend a few hours in the fresh air and sun with a friend or a loved one. Catch a batch of scrappy fish for tomorrow’s meal. Save the offal and other bits from cleaning your fish, and give them to your chickens. They need some protein too, and it makes for happy and vibrant hens. Gather their bountiful eggs in the morning, add some selected produce from your garden in the backyard, and enjoy a comforting, leisurely breakfast.
Later, take a brisk walk along a quiet road to invigorate and tone. You’ll have the time, because you won’t need to shop for food. Be sure to wave at everyone else as they pass you on the way to the supermarket, and try not to flash a big, self-satisfied smile. No point in rubbing it in.
Challenging economic times call for ever more creative survival strategies. Food costs have exploded across the land, forcing families to squeeze every last penny from their rapidly devaluing dollars. Housing costs are another matter altogether and a home mortgage can be a terrible burden to bear. Just ask anyone who has lost their home through random hardship or the disappearing job. At times it seems a most unsolvable puzzle.
A man named MC (“Radiator Charlie”) Byles of West Virginia had a solution to these type of problems in the early 1940’s. In this case his answer was large and red and proud, and particularly delicious on a slab of steaming homemade bread with salt and mayonnaise.
A homespun gardener and inveterate tinkerer, he wanted to build a better, and bigger tomato. And build it he did. After several years of propagation his tomato plants could produce, mild, meaty, and delicious fruit of immense proportions. People flocked to his door for a look at a 3 pound tomato, and he was happy to accommodate them. Never one to miss an opportunity, he sold his seedling plants for $1 each and paid off his $6,000 home mortgage in a few short years. He named his new creation “the mortgage lifter”, and a backyard gardening legend was born.
That legend lives on today, and for good reason. Imagine paying off your property with the fruits of your backyard labor. Think about what life would be like without a house payment, or a weekly grocery bill large enough to choke a horse. It’s an inspiring and encouraging idea. It gives me hope. It can be done. Marshall Cletis Byles would tell you so, if he could.
I tip my gardening hat to him, and to the unbounded energies of his creativity. I’d say it’s time for many of us to take another look at his game changing idea. Perhaps it’s possible to follow his example and do our very best to lift the grinding weight of the mortgage from our backs. It may be an overly ambitious or unrealistic plan, but like him, I must try.
There are many ways to get there, and perhaps you have already begun or are well on your way. Our version of the “grocery lifter” comes in the form of rabbits and squab. Others beat back their bills with a small flock of geese, which possess the marvelous ability to efficiently convert grass to many pounds of tasty meat. The addition of a few pigs can provide miraculous results for your larder, particularly if you are a fan of pork and pig fat. Pigs, like tomatoes, have often been refered to as mortgage lifters. My neighbor has added a couple of steers to his small pasture and plans to keep one for the freezer and sell the other to cover his costs.
You may have an entirely different idea, but the intention is the same. I think it can be any animal or plant that works for you and fits your particular set of circumstances or comfort level.The important thing is that we all do a little to help ourselves and contribute to a more self-sufficient life. Every bit of food we can produce at home takes power form the corporate controlled food model. It gives us a reason to get up in the morning and keeps us grounded in the small satisfaction of a job well done.
So let’s hear it for the backyard gardener, the keeper of hens, the canner, and the prepper. Give thanks to the independent farmers and agricultural workers everywhere. Let’s revel in the joys of animal husbandry, fish farming, or beekeeping. Put a little bit of the farm and the old-fashioned barnyard back in your everyday life. You won’t regret it.
We can do it. We are doing it. Let’s decentralize, and unplug from the controlling grid. We must put our heads together, and our families and communities will follow. Let’s keep our friends close, and our enemies at bay. It’s the mortgage lifter revolution, because the very definition of mortgage is death and we must throw off the chains of that grim and unforgiving reaper of sorrows.
The spirit of MC Byles, like his seeds and giant heirloom tomatoes, live on. It can be seen in the successes of backyard entrepreneurs across the continents. Sometimes the path to independence and the bounty of a joyful life starts with a simple seed, planted in the welcoming and living earth of a backyard garden.
Long live the mortgage lifters and the backyard heroes, and the unlimited promise of a new day!
———-Do you have a backyard hero? Tell us your story…
“There’s nothin’ in the world that I like better than
Bacon, lettuce and home grown tomatoes Up in the morning and out in the garden Pick you a ripe one, don’t get a hard ‘un Plant ’em in the springtime eat ’em in the summer All winter without ’em’s a culinary bummer I forget all about the sweatin’ and the diggin’ Every time I go out and pick me a big’un
Home grown tomatoes, home grown tomatoes What’d life be without home grown tomatoes There’s only two things that money can’t buy That’s true love and home grown tomatoes
You can go out and eat ’em, that’s for sure But there’s nothin’ a home grown tomato won’t cure You can put ’em in a salad, put ’em in a stew You can make your own, very own tomato juice You can eat ’em with eggs, you can eat ’em with gravy You can eat ’em with beans, pinto or navy Put em on the side, put em on the middle Home grown tomatoes on a hot cake griddle
If I could change this life I lead You could call me Johnny Tomato Seed I know what this country needs It’s home grown tomatoes in every yard you see When I die don’t bury me In a box in a cold dark cemetery Out in the garden would be much better Where I could be pushin’ up home grown tomatoes”
From “Home Grown Tomato”, By Guy Clark, Sugar Hill Records, 1997.
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Betting and odds making is not my forte, but I am willing to wager that even the most adventurous among you have not eaten a rabbit liver.
If I’m wrong, and you have partaken in the livery plate of heaven, then you may wish to stop reading now. You know what I am about to say, and I hate preaching to the choir or boring our readers.
The liver of the common domestic rabbit may be the most delectable liver in all the world. It’s not even exotic or overly pampered, and it can probably be found on a homestead or backyard just down the road. It certainly doesn’t hurt to know that it is really, really good for you too.
I know, it was a great shock to me also. I am generally not so passionate about innards, or “offal”, as it is more affectionately known. The word itself sounds much too much like “awful” to my wordsmith sensibilities, which makes me wonder if that was the intention in the first place. It doesn’t help to know that a common definition is “waste parts, especially of a butchered animal”, or that some synonyms include refuse, garbage, or rubbish”. Sounds so completely appetizing, or not. As a matter of course, I tend to favor the standard cuts and less daring fare, but hey, to each their own. And then I discovered rabbit livers.
To be more accurate, I can thank a friend for that discovery. He was the one that watched as I butchered and processed some rabbits for that night’s dinner. I knew that he liked his rabbit, and I was happy to oblige him and eager to get it in a pan. I had completely overlooked the livers, and he was absolutely not going to let that happen. As it turned out, he cared much more about them than he did about the rest of the rabbit. He rolled them in flour and flash fried them in butter and spices with a happy grin, and I tasted one and smiled too.
I don’t know why I should have been so surprised. I’ve field dressed a lot of game during my years as a hunter and pursuer of large and small game. You could say that I came to livers and other organ meats quite naturally, and I’ve had my share of venison liver, and such. I know that millions love it, but I must admit that I have always been a reluctant eater of such provisions. I was always a hunter first, but a cook, …not so much.
After all, what does one do with a pheasant gizzard, or the kidneys of a caribou. A responsible hunter uses all parts of the animal. But the wet, squishy parts?
I call it the “offal dilemma”, as all roads lead to the undesirables and inevitable actions. I always separated out the parts and pieces, and either passed them out to appreciative friends (or so they said) or made a half-hearted attempt to prepare and eat them. It really wasn’t too bad. That was until the day of rabbit livers, and my opinion of livers, and offal in general, made a hard right turn. I am a reinspired cook, so pass the onions and mustard, please.
Offal is no longer a tough sell. These livers are in a league all their own. They are mild and sweet, satisfying, and easy to prepare. In fact they are hard to ruin, short of setting off a nuclear explosion in your kitchen.
But don’t just take my word for it. Track some down today. Befriend your local rabbit raiser. Impress your friends with your culinary expertise – hell, impress yourself. You won’t regret it even a little bit.
Now that I think about it, I wonder if many more people know about this original delight than I suspected. After all, epicures can be funny that way. Sometimes they don’t let us in on all of their little favorites. They must protect their source, after all. On second thought, maybe it can be our little secret too.
By the way, rabbit livers can also keep you in shape. I’d walk a mile for a rabbit liver, because rabbit livers are Da Bomb!
“Da Bomb: the best ~ simply outstanding; no comparison or greater value can be placed to another of similar type of manner”
This special re-print edition of E.H. Rice’s “National Standard Squab Book” from 1915 includes everything a person needs to know about how to raise pigeons for meat purposes. At over 400 pages, this book contains a mountain of practical information on how to raise your own steady supply of quality pigeon meat in your own backyard from only a very moderate investment. Included is everything the beginner needs to know about raising pigeons for squabs, including how to house them, how to set your own pigeon loft up, their feeding requirements, how to cure basic pigeon diseases, how to select breeders and how to process your own squabs. Also included are hundreds of letters from turn of the century breeders who raised their own squabs for the kitchen table, as well as for market purposes, who shared their own practical experiences on how they raised their own meat pigeons, along with hundreds of economic shortcuts on low cost housing, feeders, watering systems and other tips. Also included are expert answers to common and uncommon questions on the subject. This treasure trove of information is lavishly illustrated with period photographs. Note: This edition is a perfect facsimile of the original edition and is not set in a modern typeface. As a result, some type characters and images might suffer from slight imperfections or minor shadows in the page background.
Most people are quite familiar with the image of a pigeon, a bird commonly seen in the courtyards and barnyards across the globe. But did you know that young pigeons, or squab, are considered a delicacy by millions of people? Or that squab farming in the backyard or on the rooftop may be more common than you might think?
And oh by the way, just what exactly is a “utility pigeon”?
A good place to begin an investigation is with the origin of the word pigeon. It is “pijon” in old french, meaning “young dove”, and “pipio” in Latin, or “young chirping bird”. Another clue can be found in the definition of utility, which means useful, beneficial, or profitable. Our good friend the pigeon is all of that, and more, and can certainly meet those basic requirements.
Utility Pigeon is a general term that is broadly applied to describe any breed of domestic pigeon that is kept primarily for the production of meat. Sometimes referred to as “working birds”, they are capable of producing an adequate number of young, or squabs, of suitable weight and quality to justify their production costs.
By their nature, some breeds of pigeons are more productive, and profitable, than others. Pigeons in general have been intensively and selectively bred for many centuries, with many breeds falling in and out of favor along with the whims of the times and other developments.
The standards today include the King Pigeon of various colors, the Red Carneau, and the French and Swiss Mondaines, to name just a few. All can make excellent squabbing pigeons, though the White King seems to be preferred by many commercial breeders.
In fact, careful and judicial breeding with productivity in mind is the story of the Utility Pigeon. Notice that the very origin of the word pigeon emphasizes the young bird, or squab, which gives us some true insight into what the originators were thinking all along. Utility pigeons produce squabs, lots and lots of squabs, to our everlasting epicurean delight. They are the steady workhorses of the pigeon world. They work to live, and live to work. It’s what they do, without apology, nor complaint.
They are indeed a most useful and utilitarian bird.