There are a bunch of videos on Youtube by "The Townsends". The gentleman does all sorts of recipes from the 16, 17, and 1800s. The kitchen they use has a hearth that is waist high, modeled after a German hearth of the period. It's about as tall as a modern range would be. They also have an oven built into the wall, but that wouldn't heat the house, so would only be good for a summer kitchen. I know many people would have an iron stove to cook on, but if you didn't, this setup would be vastly superior to crouching over a ground level cooking fire. It is also really charming looking.
Tiny predatory wasps! No poison, no nasty sticky traps, nothing to put on the animals every day, just let nature do this. I had 8 horses within 100 ft of the house in the middle of Kansas. They were on a 1/2 acre, and belonged to my nephew who never cleaned up the manure (another story). I found a website that sells tiny predatory wasps. Some of the feed lots in Western Kansas use them. They are smaller than a gnat and can't hurt you or the animals. They lay their eggs in fly maggots, which are in the manure, and the wasp larva kills the fly before it hatches. I couldn't believe how fabulously this works!!! It took 2 months before I looked out and the horses weren't even swishing their tails. You need to put them out on manure and repeat it every 3 or 4 months. I don't know if they fly away in between, but I didn't care, it worked so well. Before this, I had flies all over the white siding on the house leaving spots and all over the windows and animals. The chickens and guineas couldn't keep up (BTW throw the fly cocoons out after the birds go to bed or they will eat your wasps). The wasps are so tiny, they are way, way too tiny to hurt you or your animals. About the size of a comma in this post. I guarantee you will use them forever if you try them. Don't use insecticide on the manure at the same time or you will kill the wasps. I got them from Spalding Labs, but they are on Amazon from many vendors. Check the Spalding web site's video. I will never use anything else. They are not free, but they are magic!
I have huge granite cliffs overlooking meadows that have springs scattered up the valley. The hills/mountains around can be high desert. I live at 8,500 ft and temperatures can drop to 30 or 40 below in some winters. Almost anything I grow, other than the native aspens and evergreens, is pushing the zone. USDA says it is zone 4, HA! It is 2 or 3 unless we have a mild winter. I have the best luck with plants that grow in other areas that also have really cold winters, but different moisture levels. I also have to have a hoop house or season extender to get produce from my garden. Being very selective on the plants I consider helps. I.e., some of the Canadian roses will do well here, few of the others will make it.
On a trip to Bhutan 8 years ago, (North of India and next door to Nepal) we saw them making paper from the inner bark of mulberry trees. It made a really beautiful rough paper, pretty enough to use as wrapping paper. They strip it from the trees in long pieces, then soak the inner bark and mashed it out flat. It makes long slimy pieces that they smooth out on screens and weight to dry as flat as possible. So if you have lots of mulberry trees, that is a possibility.
Keep in mind that all our domestic rabbits are descended from European hares. Our wild jack rabbits and cotton tails are North American rabbits. They will cross breed, but you will have a barren "mule" type litter of bunnies. I.e., one generation but none beyond that. There is just enough genetic difference to make them infertile. However, if you catch a white or black and white rabbit in your yard, it is probably a domestic rabbit that escaped and became feral. The gray bunnies you saw could be either native or escaped rabbits, hard to tell without a picture. Of course, either one will strip your garden bare. And if you only want to raise them for meat, not breeding, you could catch them and fatten them. Just a heads up, our native N American rabbits usually don't tame down at all and may bite you when you reach into the cage (voice of experience). Never underestimate a few hundred years of domestication. It really makes a difference.
I live in the Rockies at 8500 ft. I have heard that it takes ash from hard wood to make lye water for homemade lye soap. I only have aspen and pine, I will have to buy oak or maple hardwood. Maybe the kind of wood has a lot to do with the caustic properties of the ash.
I've used good garden soil that I sterilized on the charcoal grill. First attempt was in the oven. Bad idea, unless you want your entire house to smell like roasted dirt. The same soil, wrapped tightly on foil and cooked on a covered grill will kill any fungus, weed seeds, or bugs. Good aged compost usually doesn't need to be sterilized.
When my children were young, I volunteered as a docent at the "Children's Museum" in Ft Worth, Texas. They had some wonderful display rooms set up including a log cabin. Outside the door of the cabin was a flax break. Rather than mess around with beating the nettles or flax with a bat or stepping on them, the break would be much faster and much more efficient.
It was made like a small wooden trough or long box with the top and one end open. It was about 4 or 5 inches wide and deep and at least 24 inches long. There was a square bat that fit in it loosely that had a handle that was another 6 inches longer than the box (so you wouldn't hit your knuckles). The bat fit neatly inside the box with a pin holding the tip in the far end of the box like a hinge. The idea was to put the flax at a 90 degree angle across the break box and lift and lower the bat repeatedly, beating the straw cover from the flax. If you Google "flax break", there are a lot of pictures of them with women using them.
Not difficult to make and much easier than any other manual method.
If it works for flax, it should work for nettles. I can grow flax at 8,500 ft in the mountains, but I have never seen nettles up here. Good luck!
My three favorite uses for DE are to kill the squash bugs in the garden (which even my Guinea Fowl won't eat). Works great if you just sprinkle 1/2 cup all around the base of each plant. It has to be repeated once a week, or after heavy rain or watering.
I do have chickens and I sprinkle liberally in the chicken house, including the roosts, nesting boxes, walls, and floor. Good on their favorite dust bath areas as well.
The third one is for anyone building a new home or remodeling an older one: sprinkle DE inside the wall cavities, around the tops of the foundation/sill plate, and under and behind the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. No bugs...ever...in your home. Before I knew about DE, I used Boric Acid inside the walls. It works, but not forever. I don't know why, humidity may reduce the effectiveness of Boric Acid (Roach Pruff). And some people have issues with using Boric Acid at all. Boric Acid will kill plants, apparently. DE has worked in my 20 year old vacation cabin which is usually empty. No spiders, no ants, no roaches, and the little bit I sprinkle on the window sills keeps the inevitable flies under control as well. It used to go by the name of "stone flour" or "rock flour". Great stuff. I question the effectiveness of mixing it in liquids or eating it. The "sharp edge" quality is gone once it is wet. So don't think you can mix it in a pump sprayer and spray your plants. A "garden duster" is perfect for it, though. I have dusted it in crawl spaces, in the garden, in the chicken house, in the attic, etc. When I need to clean out an area like an attic, I try to dust it a week ahead, No surprise spiders running around when you move boxes!
I use this duster:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Dustin-Mizer-Garden-Duster-with-Deflector-use-For-Insecticide-or-Garden-Dusts-/181245542342?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2a33137fc6 It's a little more expensive, but the dust can be focused on a specific area rather than just out into the air all around.