Canning day can be a daunting concept for people who haven’t canned food before. There is the question about what equipment to buy, where to buy it, and how much to spend. What can be reused from year to year is another question to understand before canning day. Preparing step by step, before the actual work begins, can make canning day much simpler and more enjoyable.
Step 1 (Before Canning Day Arrives)
Shop for equipment. Yard sales are a good place to start if you are on a budget. Another idea is to ask family. Sometimes, older relatives have stopped canning, and may be willing to share or sell canning equipment. Our older generation holds a wealth of knowledge too. Maybe it’s a good time to reconnect with mom, grandmom, or aunt and get a canning lesson, too! For tomatoes, peaches, apples, most other fruits and all pickles, you can use a hot water bath canner. For meat,vegetables and combination meals, you will need a pressure canner. If you are just starting out, I recommend starting with hot water bath canning. It is a less expensive way to try canning.
Pressure canner on the left, hot water canner on the right.
The first thing to look for would be a large stock pot or an actual Hot Water Bath Canner. The canner should come with a rack for the jars to sit on, if you are buying one new. If you find a canner without a rack inside, you can purchase a replacement rack for a few dollars. Another solution is to use a dish towel on the bottom of the canner. This is important so that the jars are not bouncing on the bottom of the canner during boiling, which could lead to cracking. If you decide to can using a large stock pot, keep in mind that the pot must be deep enough so that the jars are completely covered with water when in the canner being processed.
Also, purchase a utensil or tool kit including the tongs, lid lifter, and funnel. These sets are usually available for well under $20.
Hot Water Bath Canners are available at most retailers, some hardware stores, farm supply stores, and on line retailers.
Shop for your supplies. This includes the jars and the lids. Most new jars will come with new lids. The jars can be reused but the small disc type lids need to be replaced each time the jar is used for canning. If your recipe calls for salt, lemon juice, alum, or any other ingredients, make sure you have them in your pantry.
Have all equipment accessible. Don’t be looking all over the house for the tongs, jar lids, etc. when canning. I used to keep the canning and dehydrating equipment, empty jars, and other canning paraphernalia, was kept in a downstairs storage room. It was inconvenient, to have to run up and down stairs, when in the middle of canning a recipe. This year, I emptied out two upstairs cabinets and brought everything upstairs. Canning Day is now so much easier! Everything is nearby and ready for me to grab it when needed.
Before the actual canning day, do some preliminary work. Break the job down into two days. This is particularly helpful if you lead a busy life and have lots of other tasks during the day, too. Breaking the canning tasks down into two days, makes it much less exhausting. Wash the vegetables or fruits, and chop if necessary. If the fruit needs to be peeled, this can be taken care of the day before, also. Store the peeled, chopped, prepared fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator overnight. Place the cut up fruit in a container, cover with cold water and a tablespoon of lemon juice to prevent browning. The night before canning day, wash the jars you will need, in the dishwasher and leave them in there.
on canning day, my kitchen quickly turns into a mess!
I quickly run out of counter space and have to use the floor for draining washed dishes
Ask for help. Canning can be exhausting. If you garden, there are times when the harvest is coming in faster than you can process it. Asking for help from a family member or friend can make the job easier and more fun. Make some memories while preparing food for the winter. When I get a good buy on produce, I will see if a friend wants to can with me. Then we share the results of the day’s work.
Raising small livestock is a good way to feed your family quality protein. Rabbits, chickens, ducks, and turkeys are some common additions to homestead operations. Meat goats might be another addition or possibly sheep. All of these animals require a small amount of routine maintenance and care daily but the labor and land required is still less than beef cattle, pigs or dairy cows. Although day to day life might not be a problem, there may be some occasions where you cannot care for your animals. These emergencies can occur out of the blue, or you may have some notice in order to get ready. Even though we can’t always foresee natural disasters coming, there are some steps that we can take to make the transition from daily routine, to emergency actions easier.
Illness is an emergency that we don’t see coming. When a primary caretaker for the farm animals is taken ill, does anyone else know how to care for the animals? What if a family member needs your help and you have to ask a friend or neighbor to care for your farm during your absence. Can the substitute farmer step in and do the job?
In recent summers, the wild fires out in the north west section of the United States and Canada have taken the worst toll ever, as far as loss of property, equipment, livestock, and hay to feed the livestock through the winter. Many people had to evacuate and leave their livestock behind, stopping to open pens to let the animals run for their own lives. Others were able to load up trailers, vans, and crates with their barnyard animals and take refuge on a farm in another area. I live on the East coast and have never experienced forest fires like this. In our area, flash flooding is a more likely natural disaster. What ever possible disaster might occur in your region, your livestock should be considered in the emergency preparedness plan that is in place for your family.
I have come up with three focal points for a plan concerning your small livestock.
3 Small Livestock Preparedness Tips
1. Update vaccines,routine health care and have transportation ready.
Let’s say it is possible for you to pack up your barnyard animals and take them to safety with you. Don’t let your small livestock infect some other flock or herd if they open up barns or grazing land to you. Keep up with the health of your flocks and herds so that in an emergency, you can take them with you.
Have a crate ready for all small animals. Try some “fire drills” so you know how you would gather everyone up. Remember, the animals will pick up on your panic and react. Knowing where all the crates are stored ahead of time, making sure they are in good repair will save precious time.
Make sure your animals are used to being herded, handled or led by a lead rope. If the emergency event is the first time you try to get your sheep loaded into a trailer, it could be a disaster. All it takes is one animal to freak out and the whole flock is running for cover.
2. Have a set routine and write it down
You most likely have a fairly set routine that you go through everyday when caring for the animals. Your small livestock are used to this and changing it abruptly can lead to stress. If you are suddenly called away for a health emergency, make it easier on the caretaker and your animals. Write down the routine and leave it somewhere in the barn or feed room. Having the written instructions will make your friend or family member more confident, during feeding time. If you have a goat that busts through the gate, at feeding time,but will return for food, write this down. It will save a lot of headache and turmoil.
3. Have storage of food and water
Loss of power is another consequence of natural disaster that we have endured for days on end as a result of a hurricane or powerful storm. We only have well water in our area so when there is no electricity, we have no running water. We have learned to store water at all times. Simply filling the water troughs when they reach half full, or filling our bathtub with clean water will get us through. Some times we also store bottled water for the humans and store jugs of extra water for the livestock.
The same is true for grain. When the feed container gets half empty, buy more. We would be able to feed our flocks and herds for a while with the grass and weeds. The change in diet, to only forage, after feeding grain and hay would be an adjustment for their digestive tract. Optimally, any changes should be done gradually. If a friend or family member had to step in to care for our barnyard, I would hate to have no feed in the bins. In the event of a natural disaster you may not be able to travel to the feed store to buy more feed right away. If you always have a few days feed on hand, this will not be a worry for you.
Know What Type of Disaster is Common for Your Area
Each area of the world is different in what type of disasters might occur. None of us are immune to the possibility of a health crisis. I believe homesteading or farming is a healthy pursuit, full of many rewards and also many challenges. Keeping ahead of disasters by being as prepared as possible is a way to increase the odds of survival.
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Growing Blueberries, Raspberries and Strawberries for a Healthy Homestead
Growing blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries is a great way to add nutritional food to your back yard. These berries will produce year after year adding value to your yard or homestead. They do tend to spread, creating even more return on your investment. If that doesn’t seem like a good idea for your yard, these versatile plants will be happy growing in containers on your deck or patio. Growing blueberries and any other berry plant gives you the opportunity to grab a healthy snack while working in the yard, tending your chickens or relaxing after a long day.
We have blueberry, wineberry, and strawberry plants growing on our farm and backyard. The fruit is a welcome sight each summer. Recently, I picked up another blueberry to plant in a container on my deck. You really can’t have too many berry plants growing! Here’s how I grow the berries, and later preserve them for jams, jellies, syrups, and baking.
Growing Blueberries in a Container
Containers for growing blueberries should be large enough for the roots to spread out and to accommodate future growth. I planted a small blueberry bush in a 12 inch wide planter which should last a few years. Since blueberry plants require an acidic soil I prepared the soil ahead of planting. Some of our naturally composted chicken manure mixed into a bag of potting soil will lower the pH of the soil. It’s easier to create the acidic soil for growing blueberries, when using a container.
The blueberry plant I purchased came in a tightly closed plastic bag, with the new growth sticking out of the top. Opening the bag revealed the folded up root mass in the peat moss soil. Peat moss has a high acidic content so I mixed that extra soil into the pot. I unfolded the root ball and saw that the roots were actually quite wide spread. Blueberries have a shallow root system. I dug out a space in the planter for the plant to sit in, with the roots remaining outstretched.
Back fill the dirt, filling in the hole. Water gently and thoroughly. Blueberry plants love sun so choose a place that has a good bit of sunshine. Blueberry plants can even handle full sun exposure.
Direct Sow Method for Growing Blueberries
Prepare the area for planting and add the appropriate soil amendments to create a low pH, high acid environment. When planting blueberry bushes directly into the ground, leave about five feet between each plant. Water the plants a few times each week. Mulching with a couple inches of wood chips, sawdust or pine needles will keep the soil moist for the blueberry bushes.
Strawberries also love lots of sun. This plant spreads quickly and is a lovely perennial fruit for the backyard or farmyard. They height is low, so you can plant other plants behind them in the border gardens. When planting directly in the ground, leave at least 18 inches between plants. If you want to control the expansion somewhat, plant in large containers. The strawberry will put out runners even from a container and those can take root in surrounding yard space. You can propagate more strawberry plants by clipping the runner strand, from the container plant, after the baby plant has roots. Then, replant the new plant where you want it to grow.
Strawberries don’t require as much water as blueberries. The fruit will be sweeter if the plants are not over watered. Like other berry plants, strawberry plants prefer acidic soil and mulching between the rows.
Planting Raspberries and Blackberries
While you might think the planting of these two berries would be similar, the care of raspberry plants suggests soaking the roots for a few hours before planting. Blackberries have the deeper root system of the two and the roots need to be planted in an L formation. Raspberries, on the other hand have a wider root system and should have the roots spread out.
Plant the seedlings 2 to 3 feet apart in holes big enough for the roots. The crown of the plants should not be buried.
Future Care of Berry Plants
Pruning the Blueberry Bushes
You don’t need to prune blueberry bushes until the start of year three for the plant. In addition, not allowing the plant to produce berries for the first three years will help the plant to thrive and produce later. Pruning stimulates future growth and production. Do the pruning in late winter before the new growth begins to form.
Strawberry plants do well with little maintenance and produce for a few years. Allowing the plants to produce more runners will continue the patch without a major break in production. Clean up the strawberry patch for winter, mulch thickly, and allow the plants a winter rest.
Blackberries and Raspberries should have their canes pruned back after the fruiting or in the fall.
Mulch the plant at the base for winter. Cover the bush with a light covering if the cold weather is extreme. Mulching in late fall will help your berries survive even the coldest winter weather.
Reasons for Growing Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries and Strawberries for Your Health
The blueberry is a versatile fruit choice that you can add to baked goods, salads, fruit spreads, and eaten plain. In addition to being tasty and easy to find, blueberries are an excellent source of vitamins and antioxidants. Blueberries are often referred to as a “super food ” along with sweet potatoes, kefir, salmon and kale, and many herbs, to name a few. Super foods are packed with higher levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than other foods. This is a good reason to have them growing right in your back yard or on your farm.
Strawberries, Raspberries and Blackberries offer plenty of nutritional benefits, too. Did you know that strawberries have a strong benefit for your heart? The high phenol content means that strawberries are providing plenty of good soluble fiber, and protection against diseases. Strawberries also contain a high amount of vitamin C which helps the body absorb iron.
Eat More Berries To Lower Cancer Risks
Eating raspberries gives you more antioxidants than any other fruit! Another reason that I am grateful a close cousin of the raspberry grows on our farm. We are surrounded by wineberries, a smaller version that has a softer seed and a slightly less powerful flavor. We use them just as we would raspberries, in baking, cooking, infused vinegar, and syrups. Raspberries can aid reproductive health, and eye conditions. In addition, the low glycemic index and high fiber makes them a good sweet tasting dessert for diabetics.
Blackberries are often a bane to gardeners since they multiply rapidly and have sturdy thorns. But blackberries are worth the effort from a nutritional standpoint. The polyphenol content in blackberries is very high which means this berry packs a serious cancer fighting punch. Anthocyanins, in particular are the compounds thought to bring the cancer fighting benefit. In addition, the blackberry has a high content of vitamin K and Manganese which is important to brain health.
The blueberry is a versatile favorite. In addition to being tasty and easy to find, blueberries are an excellent source of vitamins and antioxidants. Blueberries are often referred to as a “super food ” along with sweet potatoes, kefir, salmon and kale, and many herbs, to name a few. Super foods are packed with higher levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than other foods. This is a good reason to have them growing right in your back yard or on your farm.
In short, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are important to good health. Growing any of these berries on the homestead ensures a ready supply of antioxidant rich food. This is important nutritionally for disease prevention, and keeping the body functioning well.
Storing and Preserving Small Berries
All berries can be canned, frozen, dehydrated and freeze dried. Freezing whole berries is easy using this method. The berries stay whole and look great when thawed.
Rinse the berries in cold water and drain completely
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
Lay the berries in a single layer on the parchment paper
Slide the baking tray into the freezer
When completely frozen, transfer the berries into zip lock freezer bags or freezer containers
Immediately return to the freezer before thawing begins.
When you want some whole berries for a recipe or to thaw and eat, remove the desired quantity.
For more information on the freeze drying method you can use at home, check this article in Countryside.
Growing blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries in your yard is a good way to add fresh food to your diet and have a healthy snack ready only a short distance from your back door. Which berry plants are you growing at your home?
Use your fresh berries to bake some Low Sugar Muffins !
Make Raspberry Infused Vinegar to give as gifts. (save some for yourself too!)
buy a bottle of red wine vinegar
rinse the raspberries or wine berries
place the berries in a canning jar
add the vinegar to completely cover the berries
allow the berries to infuse for 2 weeks in a dark cupboard
strain the berries – use cheese cloth for a clean clear vinegar
store the vinegar in the refrigerator – it has a long shelf life
You can use the raspberry red wine infused vinegar in cooking and salad dressings.
How to Raise Pigs Naturally on a Small Farm
Before we started to raise pigs naturally, we discussed what that would mean on our farm. Since then, many litters of piglets have arrived, showed off how cute they can be, were weaned, fed for a few weeks, or even months in some cases. All were sold and the waiting time would begin again.
The sows had some time off after each litter, to gain some weight, rest and completely dry off. Then, Charlie would welcome them back into his pasture area and the breeding cycle would begin again. We started raising pigs with two sows and Charlie, the boar. Soon after another sow was added.
Wet, early spring weather leads to mud, no matter what you do.
Learning to Raise Pigs Naturally
We have learned a lot about how to raise pigs naturally on our farm. It’s been a bit of trial and error on some issues as we tried some conventional ideas, and some of our own. One thing we knew from the start, we wanted the pigs to have as close to a natural existence as we could provide for them, in captivity. The project was started by one of our adult children and he has been successful with the whole thing.
Inspired by books on pasture rotation, and sustainable agriculture by Joel Salatin and Gaining Ground by Forest Pritchard, we learned about how to raise pigs naturally in a pasture setting. We agreed, from the start, that a certain level of cleanliness would be necessary. There were large fenced pastures available but it was a limited space. Fencing in more pasture ground might be possible in the future but it would have to wait. And we have neighborhoods and a road near the farm so security and safety were of high importance.
What We Felt Was Important
The other thing we agreed on was that we absolutely did not want pigs living in close, crowded conditions of filth and manure. Raising pigs naturally has added a new dimension to our small farm.
Instead of using cement slabs and metal fencing, we used run in stalls open on one side, soft straw and sawdust bedding, along with pallet barriers with wood fencing. The entire area is wired with electric fencing and the interior of the pig acreage is broken into different parcels, fenced and wired. This allowed us to separate pigs as necessary, give the sows some space to raise the piglets and the piglets to be weaned.
Raising Pigs Takes a Lot of Preparation
Make no mistake, it was a lot of work to get this set up to raise pigs naturally. The buildings were already in place as the area had previously been used as horse paddocks. But they needed repair and needed to be pig proof. Pigs love to escape.
And, when separated, they like to try to get back together. Charlie and Mariah and Layla were quite the bonded family. When each sow would deliver, or right before if we were on our game, she would be escorted to a birthing room with a fenced in area surrounding some lush green grass and weeds. She would be pampered with lots of table scraps, fresh composting veggies and extra hay and feed. The babies would thrive and follow Momma around. All well and good, but while the sow was being treated as queen of her pasture, poor Charlie was looking on from the other side of the fence, forlornly.
What Really Happens in the Pig Pen
I think this is a good time to back up and explain some pig behavior. Telling you how good the sows are and how Charlie hates to be alone, might lead you to think we treat the pigs as pets. This would be far from the truth. We respect the possibility that the pigs volatile nature means they can turn on us at any minute. A sow protecting her piglets is a force that you do not want to cross. We respect that and take precautions. A pig board is a must between you and the pig at all times. If the piglets need to be handled, at least two people should be on hand, so one can keep an eye on momma. Pigs might be cute and they sure are smart but they are still livestock and have a volatile nature.
How We Handled Things
Charlie missed his sows and they missed him too. They all paced the fence line trying to spend quality time together.
With future litters of pigs we tried something a bit different. Layla delivered first and was moved to a maternity suite. Three weeks later Mariah delivered her litter but instead of moving her to a separate area and run in shed, we left her with Charlie.
A lot of references will tell you that this can end badly with the boar killing and or eating the piglets but if you observe pigs in the wild, that does not happen. While Charlie may not take an active role in raising the piglets, he doesn’t bother them, either. He behaves the same as he always does towards Mariah and is tolerant of the babies. Hopefully this won’t change and of course we keep a close eye on the whole situation. The piglets don’t stay long on our farm before moving on to who ever buys them.
Rotation is one key to our pig operation. This allows the vegetation to regrow and the fields from being over filled with pig manure and mud. Since this system works with nature instead of against it, the vegetation regrows quickly and a lush green area is ready for use every three months or so. Of course, if we have a rainy season like we did this spring and early summer, its hard to keep anywhere from becoming muddy.
Escape Artists at Work
Keeping pigs from escaping takes some vigilance and they do eat a good bit of food, vegetation and grain. We try to feed them as naturally as possible but we do have to supplement with some grain. More woodland will be fenced in eventually, and we will see how they do with a more wooded environment, too. No matter how long you farm or homestead, there is always something new to learn. That is my idea of a life well lived. Learning to raise pigs naturally fits into our farm goals.
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Two days into a recent hatch and I had to revive a weak chick and then another! The hatch was sporadic. We had eight broody hens. There was no schedule to the hatch. The eggs were started sporadically and I was out of town. While I was away, new eggs were gathered! It was a bit out of control. One hen out of the eight allowed me to move her to the nursery. The other broody hens had a fit about being moved and so I put them back in the coop where they continued to brood. I continued to try to monitor and save any chicks that hatched, before they were harmed by other flock members. Who said it was easier letting a hen hatch out eggs?
Before I go any further in my methods of how to revive a weak chick, keep in mind that I am sharing what worked for me. I am not advocating or giving any guarantee that my methods will save your chick’s life. Also, I am a firm believer in thinking outside the box, and using what is available at that moment. My methods might be a little controversial to some who prefer to follow strict guidelines.
What do Chicks Need After Hatching
If you have a broody hen, she will take care of all the chick’s needs. Broody hens can take care of quite a large brood. Tucked under her wings, the chicks are snug, warm and dry. She encourages them to eat and drink throughout the day, while looking out for their safety. Pasty butt is rare in broody raised chicks because the hen knows what to tell the chicks to eat.
Chicks raised in a brooder have a bit of a harder road. No matter how closely we observe for problems, issues can arise. Pasty butt, chilled chicks, spilled water, and aggressive chicks can wreak havoc. Most of the time things go well, but there are times we need to intervene. Chicks need warmth, dry bedding, and food and water they can easily access. Chicks that are stressed by the environment cannot thrive.
My recently hatched chicks were a few days behind the other three. The broody hen wanted no part of adopting the last hatchlings. So into the brooder they went. I use the warming table style heaters. All the chicks had access to water and food, with clean bedding. But the last two chicks that hatched, weren’t strong. They stopped eating and drinking within 24 hours of hatching. I needed to try something or they would die.
Always make sure the chick is warm before trying to give food or water. I held the chick in my one hand while completing chores with the other. Next, I tried some Nutra-drench product for poultry because I had it available in the barn. I mixed it in a bit of water and used a syringe to let drops fall on the tip of the beak. The chick was interested and started to open it’s beak for the water. If you do this, also make sure the chick isn’t getting wet from the drips.
As I was feeding the barn cats I had an idea. By now the chick was looking really weak despite the water. The bits of canned cat food looked like something I could try to feed the chick. At first the chick wouldn’t open it’s beak for the food. Then it took a bite. And another! Then it took a big bite. I gave it a few minutes to settle. I continued to give bits of wet cat food and after a few minutes more, the chick was struggling to use it’s legs again. It was reviving! The eyes reopened and it chirped. How about that!
Other Options to Use When You Revive a Weak Chick
Now, as I said in the disclaimer, this is a last ditch effort. I don’t think chicks should routinely be fed cat food products. Cat food is high in protein, and the canned food is high in water. Both of these were good for the chick short term. If I hadn’t acted quickly, I am not sure that this chick would have lasted while I prepared something else or If I had driven to a store. A good reason to have some ideas on hand, in the barn or feed shed.
More Ideas to Revive a Weak Chick
Warmed plain yogurt
Hard boiled egg chopped tiny
Molasses water – Molasses also contains other nutrients
Make a mash or tea of fresh herbs that contain Vitamin E such as Parsley, Oregano, Sage, and Thyme
Sugar water *use very short term. Too much sugar can lead to pasty butt
Poly-visol infant vitamin drops without iron –*This also helps with wry neck which is a result of Vitamin E deficiency. You can read more on Wry Neck syndrome here.
The important thing is to get some nutrition into them and get them over the hard part. After 24 to 48 hours your chicks should be back on chick feed and able to cope well. You may need to assess when to return them to the brooder with the other chicks.
What Do Chicks Need to Thrive?
The best case scenario is a small number of chicks, transferred to a waiting brooder. They stay warm and within a short time, find food and water. The weaker ones learn from the bolder stronger chicks and all do quite well. But sometimes, chicks need some TLC to get past the initial days. They may have become chilled at some point and become too weak to get to the food. They may be not as strong and easily trampled by the other chicks. Once they are knocked down, it may be too much to struggle back up on their feet.
If possible, raise the weak chick with another non-aggressive chick for company. Chicks all do better with at least one friend in the brooder.
Of course, we all want a good outcome and it is often a matter of timing. Do what you can to observe the chicks and help with some TLC if you see a weak chick. When you revive a weak chick, it is a rewarding feeling. I hope these ideas will help you if you have a need to revive a weak chick. Please leave your own remedies and ideas in the comments.