There are amanita species in the Midwest also. It pays to be careful.
I am very cautious about wild mushrooms. An avid mushroomer acquaintance once told me that there are NO morel lookalikes, so there was zero chance of an error with those. I knew he was wrong, so I didn’t go mushrooming with him, as while I needed (and still need) a good tutor, I knew he wasn’t it.
I have found some good educational sites on shrooms and have since learned how to identify morels from their toxic lookalikes. But that’s the extent of my wild shroom foraging. As a gardener, I tend to trust things I grow myself. 😸
We have a good sized pack of German Shepherds here. Thus far the coyotes have not dared set paw on our property. Between the fencing backed by a pack of intense big dogs, I think they would rather go elsewhere.
Now that cougars have reportedly returned to Illinois, however, I suspect we will have to re-evaluate our predator defense at some point. Our males are 100 plus pounds. Our females are 70+ pounds. As a pack they are pretty intimidating to coyotes. Cougars ... I don’t want to risk losing my fur kids to a big cat. But that risk is likely still some years away.
If you can get your hands on old hay or straw, you can create a no till garden with that. Read up on Ruth Stout - deep mulch gardening, and also lasagna gardening (layering mulch, including paper). Personally I am not a big fan of paper and cardboard, as there are nasty chemicals involved in the production of paper products.
I have a couple small words of caution. The first year of gardening is going to be one of soil building, normally. It takes awhile to go from sod to productive garden. Also, starting with 1/2 acre is pretty ambitious unless you have significant gardening experience.
Being a homeless itinerant farm worker is a last choice.
On other sites that focus on survival issues, people often come along saying they will go to Walmart, or they will live off the land, if TSHTF. Such ideas ultimately rely on stealing or poaching (or both) to work. That’s why I noted that even during the deepest economic and natural disaster joint crisis of the last century, lawlessness was not the rule.
Upon whose land would the nomad live off? Mine? Not hardly! I seek community with those I know. I give charity where I am able. But like my forebears, I will defend my property from those who would try to take it from me. I think that’s a pretty common rural attitude. So the nomad won’t find easy pickings finding privately owned land to work.
Government land? What about poaching laws?
I think the story of Chris McCandless is instructive. He was young and naive, believing he could “live off the land” in Alaska. He violated many poaching laws and wasted much meat before he died. True, that wasn’t Arkansas. It wasn’t private land. But feeding oneself off the land isn’t necessarily easy, even when there’s plenty of game on government land in an area where the law is not immediately enforced. Because ultimately what killed him was eating the wrong thing — he didn’t know the area well enough. And the nomadic refugee isn’t likely to know the new area’s plants either.
I started mine by accident. I set out to make pizza dough using yeast. But then life happened. The pizza didn’t get made. I think it was 3 days later life settled back down.
I am frugal by nature. I was not about to just feed it to the chickens. I sniffed the dough. It was SOUR. I knew it had been overtaken by native yeasts.
I have long been interested in sourdough. I had read about it, bought a book about it, and it was on my ToDo (SOMEDAY) list. But honestly I was intimidated by it. Everyone made it sound so damned complicated. So it stayed WAY DOWN my list. Until that day when I had that very, very soured dough.
I went ahead and baked it as bread. I reserved a bit of the dough, put it in a jar, added equal parts flour and water (by volume), shook it vigorously, and kept feeding it, every day, at first. I was terrified it might die if not fed every single day, like the books suggested. I did put it in the refrigerator for a week when we were traveling. Now, I feed it AT LEAST every third day and it does just fine.
That first loaf was majorly sour, and not particularly the best. I made it in a regular bread pan. But it began my adventure. I kept baking, feeding the starter, and trying different techniques. Many people who suggest using a Dutch oven say to preheat the Dutch oven and then transfer the dough into the blazing hot cast iron oven. I am a clutz. I would end up with severe burns if I attempted that. Instead, I let the dough rise in the Dutch oven and let the cast iron and dough heat up together. Is it the *perfect* artisan loaf? No, I suppose not. But it is mighty tasty nonetheless, with less muss and fuss.
There is a limit to how much time and effort I have to spend on bread, so most of the “artisan” bread baking foodie advice I read is largely discarded. I don’t have the time to fuss with it to that extent. What I am doing now gives us good bread without too much fuss.
My advice if you want to develop a starter using your own native yeasts is to just start to make bread and then don’t for a few days.
Sourdough saves having to buy yeast. I do buy organic bread flour and salt, though, so it isn’t free.
My sourdough starter resides in a jar on the kitchen counter. Every one, two or three days (depending on my baking needs) I add one cup of bread flour and one cup of filtered water, shake, and let it sit. Besides bread, I use the starter to add “bounce” to pancakes, muffins, and I use a variant of my bread recipe for pizza, etc. I have adapted most of my recipes that call for flour to use the starter, usually a cup, but a few recipes (like pancakes) use 2 cups of starter. Basically, every time that I use some starter, I feed it.
My bread is simple, low work (I don’t have time to fuss with it). The evening before I will bake bread, I mix up the dough. I like to use 1 cup of starter, 3 cups organic bread flour, 1 Tbsp salt, and enough additional water to make a very wet dough. I stir it up well, cover with a clean dish towel, and leave it until morning. In the morning, I stir it down, folding it onto itself. It is essentially kneeding by spoon - it’s just too sticky to mess with hand-kneeding. I don’t do it long - just a bit to develop the gluten. Then I oil my small cast iron Dutch oven, dump my dough into that, put the lid on, and leave it to rise.
In the late afternoon, I preheat the oven to about 400*F (my solar oven doesn’t usually get that hot, even with several hours of pre-heating, so I end up having a longer bake when I use it). I pop the Dutch oven, lid on, into the oven for 20 minutes. Then I take the lid off and let it finish baking for about 40 more minutes (again, depending upon which oven I use). Remove when the crust is golden.
I let the baked loaf sit in the Dutch oven while I make dinner, so that it has had a chance to rest before cutting. I cut with a serrated bread knife, serve with butter and a homemade apple butter or jam (strawberry, elderberry, etc.).
The bread turns out to have a good chewy crust and lovely holes through the bread. The flavor is excellent, with the sour and sweet playing off each other nicely. We really enjoy it. I prefer this to the yeast I used to buy.
Teri, we “gave up” an old dishwasher that was here when we bought the place. My DH is the dishwasher in our family. I make the messes in cooking, so he cleans up. He was fond of the electric dishwasher, as a result, and was pleased that the house came with one, and he was sad when it died. I viewed its demise as a blessing. Shhhh. Don’t tell him! 😸
What I want is to pull out that dishwasher and install shelving for storage. This small house lacks storage. Right now, I store some large pots inside the dead dishwasher. But that space would be more efficient without the dead dishwasher.
Tyler, I agree. We are freeing ourselves, not giving things up. Most of the time, I think DH would agree with that. At first, he wanted to buy a new dishwasher. We even shopped for one. But now, he seems to agree that shelving might be a better use of that space. By “losing” the dishwasher we use less electricity, and we gain storage space.
And the more electric use we give up, the less it will cost if we install solar, which is the goal. DH started out wanting a solar array that could supply our usage at the original level, which would require that we win a lottery. 👀 We’re not rich. So slowly I have been working to first cut our electric use. We have replaced old the old refrigerator with an EnergyStar model. We hang clothes to dry. The old chest freezer died. I now can and dehydrate what we used to freeze. My dehydrator is electric; I need to build a solar dehydrator. I have a solar oven to cut energy usage on sunny days. Slow but sure, we’re getting there, and our electric bill is dropping. As we give up, we gain. Electric bills drop, we get closer to that goal, so we gain, not lose.
Jess Dee wrote:I would prefer that the cats not kill birds, but I would be pretty hesitant to put any sort of collar on them. The breakaway ones that are safe don't last long, and the ones that don't break run a pretty high risk of strangling the cat if it catches on something. I can't tell from the photo whether that colorful collar would be safe or not, but it's big enough to catch on stuff, for sure.
Yes, the big colorful collar could catch on things. My concern is that at night, when cats are most likely to kill roosting birds in trees, the collar would not be visible. Cats will hunt in the daytime, of course, but seem to prefer nocturnal hunting.
Where I live (Illinois) we have a selenium (also iodine) deficiency. At our previous place I was supplementing livestock, sheep and goats, with Thorvin kelp. Had we remained there, over many years I was hoping the composted manure would raise the soil out of a deficient status. Instead, we moved. 🤷♀️
We don’t have goats here yet, as I need to do more infrastructure work. But I am trying to figure out the best way to raise our soil level of micronutrients, especially selenium and iodine, to good levels, without over salinization of the soil.
So, which products are best for Midwestern soils that lack selenium and iodine?
I am having a heck of a time finding lab analyses of most products, unfortunately, so comparisons are difficult. Most of the websites for these mineral supplements have slick sales pitches about their mineral content, but no analysis data. I am getting really frustrated! Help!?
Here’s what I found about Azomite, but it wasn’t on the Azomite website, it was on another site, and I don’t know how accurate this info is. Any pointers to lab analyses or scientific recommendations would be deeply appreciated!!!
Trace Minerals in Azomite
AZOMITE Ore Certificate of Typical Analysis
ICP and Spark Source Mass Spectrometry
A root cellar is on my big list. I had one years ago in the corner of an unheated basement. I miss having one so much! I hear you about not wanting to use plastic. We’ve been trying to avoid it wherever possible. But there are things which it does so well. If you can sterilize and reuse it, it may be worth doing, since it has extended storage life so much. Thanks for sharing!
Our place is somewhat similar, except it had only a single peach tree and a few shade and landscape trees. It had a small house and it had old outbuildings. It was partially fenced. It was affordable and has good soil.
BUT, my house was not in an area with nicer homes. It’s in farm country. So animals aren’t a problem AT ALL. It is unzoned, meaning anything is allowed — there’s good and bad in that - no one can control me, but my neighbor could decide to build a huge manufacturing plant or dig a strip mine or they could put in a noisy wind farm. In other words, if they cannot control you, you cannot control them, no matter how bad they are, unless they violate federal law.
Check the zoning in your area (if any). What is this property’s zoning? Are farm animals allowed? Are outbuildings allowed? Are there fencing ordinances? Also, nearby towns are often allowed to pass ordinances that control land use in close proximity to the town. If you are within a couple miles of the town (distance varies by state where this is allowed) check the town’s ordinances. ALSO, check whether there are any deed restrictions on this property’s deed. In some areas deed restrictions are common, and are used to limit uses of land. If all of these check out, you are good to go.
If the neighbors are totally McMansions with no fencing and nary an animal, you may be in for trouble anyway. If you don’t see anything with a garden or a few chickens or other livestock in your area, be prepared for neighbors to call authorities trying to claim you are a nuisance. I don’t see any in the overhead, but if they exist it could be trouble.
Yes commercial farms use chemicals. That’s one of many reasons why we are planting hedges/fence rows around the place. When we first moved here, it was only partially fenced. We fenced the rest and started planting. Over time, the farmer next door has been planting further from our property line, so his equipment doesn’t get caught up in our fence. And probably because the vines and such I have planted on the fence also could grab his equipment. I have not had trouble with drift killing anything.
I visited some folks with a very nice off-grid setup a few years ago. They had their battery bank in the basement, like you are thinking of doing. Iirc it was enclosed in a plexiglass case he’d built — wood shelving with a plexiglass enclosure — it was a wee bit like a cold frame in design. The owner told me he did that to keep the off-gassing from the batteries from escaping into the house. There was a vent from the battery case to the outside.
The advantage of the basement is a constant cool temperature for the batteries. They do well in cool but not frigid cold temps. He suggested using old forklift batteries, as they last longer. I had been thinking golf cart batteriesbut he said it would cost me more in the long run. I still haven’t setup a system of my own, though, so I cannot say what’s best from personal experience. They clearly had more capital than I have to work with, though. 😸
Anyhow, I think your proposed basement location will be fine. Just be sure to provide ventilation and maybe consider building an enclosure for them.
I think doing some test logs and placing them in the ground would be a good idea, with an untreated log as a control. Even a short test of a year or 2 would give you an idea of whether it might work.
It’s been decades since I was in a chemistry lab. Nowadays the most chemistry I do is making soap. But that boric acid combined with the basic lime will create heat once you get a chemical reaction going. I really don’t know how strong a reaction you’ll be able to produce, given water is your proposed reagent, but wear protection, especially for your eyes and face. Just remember that acid plus base can generate a pretty violent reaction. Also, beware of gases released when the reaction gets going - do it in a well-ventilated area. I am sure you will be safe in doing it.
I am not sure how that reaction will affect the wood. It will be interesting to read about your adventure.
There’s a large corner post at the back of our property. It has been there for longer than any neighbor remembers - decades. It is rock hard and solid, still difficult to drive a fencing staple into it after all these years. It will be there long after I am dead, I suspect. It is hedge, also called Osage orange.
I would love a grove of them. It burns so hot it can destroy a cheaply built stove, but in a high quality stove a little bit of hedge will heat a home far better than lesser hardwoods. It is rough on chainsaws too, which is why it’s not a common firewood for sale.
I grew up gardening, and my earliest memories involve growing food. I love the whole process, planting, nurturing, harvesting, cooking. As a child I wanted more — I wanted livestock. That wasn’t possible with my mom. For a science fair project I researched (remember libraries, before the Internet - card catalogs and actual books??), designed and built an incubator, got some fertile eggs, and hatched them out. But mom made me get rid of the resulting chicks. That was sad, as I thought I had figured out the PERFECT way to finally have my own flock. My concept was foiled. 😿
So as an adult, I have continued gardening, but also added livestock. I took to homesteading. And I adopted permaculture principles over time.
There’s nothing like a vine ripened tomato, warm from the summer sun — those first picked fruits don’t even make it into the kitchen.
And sweet corn. Fresh picked, husked, and into the boiling water. Mmmmmmm.
There’s nothing like fresh eggs from chickens fed the best home grown organic feeds - the brilliant gold vitamin-rich yolks make those pale “eggs” from the store look like faux eggs.
There’s nothing like opening the pantry and seeing the lovely home canned foods.
Goats — can you buy goat milk from stores? Well, not really GOOD milk - I cannot stand that cr@p, honestly. Goat milk from your own? Rich, creamy - makes the best yogurts, cheeses, puddings, ice milks, or just the best accompaniment to fresh hot brownies I’ve ever had.
Could we live in an apartment and eat expensive food from stores and restaurants and rarely set foot outside? Sure. Is that living? No, not for us.
Joylynn Hardesty wrote:As a kid I would say friend. But now I must cry Foe!
They declared war on me, when they picked my apples. A few would have been fine. A lot would have been okay. If they ate ate them. After all the tree produced quite a lot, before it fell down. But they would take a bite, then throw the apple at me!
My new tree just may produce this year. I'll be spending my nights stalking the perimeter!
LOL! My sympathies! Our apples are a big part of our annual production and that would probably start a war here too. Maybe squirrel stews!
We have German Shepherds that are free to roam most of zone 1, which is surrounded by dog-tight (and livestock-tight) fencing. Zone 1 is where our primary fruit trees grow. We have found that the dogs keep Zone 1 vermin-free. We want to expand their area of patrol to outer zones, but that will require fencing upgrades. It's on the big ToDo list.
At any rate, dogs with a high prey drive can help with multiple problems, including vermin.
I was walking around looking at my spring bulbs this morning. They are bravely peeking out of deep leaf mulch and already have frost bitten leaf tips. The coming polar vortex will undoubtedly nip them hard. I wish I had a stash of extra leaves lying about. I would cover them with light weight leaves. But what wasn't needed for mulch last autumn was mowed under trees, and those leaves aren't even visible anymore, having worked their way down through the grasses and clovers and herbs to the soil. I am sure the bulbs will survive. They are buried deeply enough in the soil and are well mulched. But that first harbinger of spring is not looking particularly spring-like today.
We were discussing this morning how we want to celebrate the equinox this year. DH wants to fire up the grill even if it is still cold. He says perhaps that will encourage the warmth to return. 😺
I am so ready for spring, so ready for warmth, planting, robins...
My dad grew up on a farm in Oklahoma during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. There was certainly some lawlessness (it was the era of celebrated bank robbers). There were no zombies and monsters, and there were itinerant homeless workers, some of whom starved to death. Society went through extreme upheaval, but the rule of law did not entirely break down into a Mad Max scenario.
My grandfather and the boys had to camp out in the pecan orchard with guns to protect the harvest. People would show up in the middle of the night with guns and trucks, trying to steal the harvest, not to steal a meal, not because they were hungry, but to steal the crop to sell. There were no gun battles, but there could have been. When times are hard, people WILL protect their livelihood from thieves and robbers and those who want an easy dollar.
My grandparents were able to hire labor sometimes, to help bring in a high labor but high value crop. But these were low paying jobs (pennies per hour) that lasted a very short time, and they hired LOCALS whom they knew. It would be extraordinary for someone who becomes an itinerant worker to thrive. Certainly the “Okies” who lost their farms and headed to California in hopes of finding farm work did not fare well.
The better option is to prepare NOW so that one does not become a displaced homeless itinerant worker, because that is, frankly, the most vulnerable position to be in during a major crisis.
I will chime in here. I started using mulch well before I intentionally headed down the Permies path. In fact, using mulch may have been my first baby Permies step. My third year gardening I started to use straw mulch to shade the soil and improve soil moisture (the previous season we had a terrible drought).
I grew up with organic gardening. My dad was a big believer in tilling. Manure, leaf mould, compost - it all got tilled in. That was the norm for me.
Then I read Ruth Stout. Her ideas were revolutionary for me. I started using mulch. DEEP mulch. I managed to create a good garden from poor yellow clay soil. It totally changed my views. It took me some time to fully embrace the ideas. Didn’t I “need” a tiller to start a bed? So it was still some years before I ended up selling my old TroyBilt tiller. I moved it, unused, a couple of times. But eventually I let it go. Good soil does not require violence. Indeed, the violence of tilling causes at least as many problems as it solves. Good soil does not require the carbon emissions of a tiller, either.
Thank you for bringing this to my attention! I love experiential history. I have spent a fair amount of time learning about 1830’s pioneer life on the prairie, and learning skills such as spinning, dyeing and weaving, open fire cooking, etc. I also enjoyed the Foxfire books - learned a good deal from them. So this book sounds interesting!
Stacy Witscher wrote:Unfortunately, for me comfort food is all about the carbs, mashed potatoes, spaghetti, potatoes au gratin. But I love soups also, broccoli cheddar, loaded potato, matzo ball soup.
Yes, as I thought about my favorite comfort foods, I kept coming back to fresh hot homemade bread with butter and honey or apple butter or jam. Dad baked bread every week when we were growing up. So fresh homemade bread brings back childhood memories. I carry on the tradition of baking bread. Nowadays for me it is sourdough.
As has already been mentioned, balance is important for pond health. I would agree that fishing and reducing your fish population is a good idea. And who doesn’t like a fish fry? That’s a much better suggestion than poisoning the fish, in my opinion.
As to pond aeration, that’s very often needed. Your pond is big enough that you might explore the wind powered pond aerators. Most of the solar ones I have had any experience with won’t move enough water to aerate a 1/4 acre pond, although such an aeration system may exist. In my part of Illinois, wind power is useful - we get plenty of wind - not sure how it is in your area.
Myrth Gardener wrote:Check your local laws and ordinances. The government (state and/or local) gets involved in things like wells and septic systems due to improperly designed systems polluting the ground water. In some areas an outhouse might be problematic; other areas might allow it. Other legal issues involve zoning and building codes. It is all VERY location specific, what state, county, town. It will come down to contacting your local departments and asking specific questions about whether what you want to do is allowed, depending on what you intend to build.
If you are wanting to live off grid and are not sure about the legality... it is possible that calling your local departments will not be the best decision. Maybe call them from somewhere else with another name.
Also, there is code, and there is enforcement, or lack thereof. Code applies in my whole province, set at provincial or city level with federal involvement. Enforcement is nonexistent in some areas, however. I'm sure you could find a desk jockey to tell you that you're obliged to follow it anyhow, if you went looking...
Attempts to evade the laws and ordinances of one's location are unwise, at least in my opinion. At best you won't be caught. But you will also likely never be able to sell the property with the illegal improvements. Or, you could face very stiff fines and possibly face contempt of court (jail) if you don't quickly bring the property into compliance with the law, which happened to a fan of shipping containers in a nearby county. At worst, you could be forced to tear down/dig up/fill in your outlaw improvements. I cannot in good conscience recommend to anyone to attempt to violate or evade the law. But the decision and risk to violate the law is each person's decision. I know that plenty of sites advocate anarchy. I just think caveats about consequences are important.