Cindy Skillman

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since Sep 12, 2018
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bike books building cattle chicken dog food preservation homestead hunting cooking sheep
Grew up during the “back-to-the-land” movement in the 60’s/70’s, but I was too young. Then like magic I was too old. Now it turns out at last that I’m just right (as Goldilocks famously said.) Having the time of my life.
Zone 3-4 (usually 4) Western South Dakota, central Black Hills
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Recent posts by Cindy Skillman

DH doesn’t like cats and I’m allergic... but he is very tender toward animals and especially animals he considers domestic, so he’s not willing to have outdoor cats and I’m absolutely not able to live with indoor cats. (I know, cats do fine sleeping in the cow shed, but that’s where he’s at. He wants to think I’m the kind of person to think of the cows and chickens as pets, too. LOL He’s very sweet, but I’m just not as sweet as all that. Only one of the cows is my pet. LOL)

Anyway, no cats, and like TJ says, there seems to be no guarantee the cat will be a mouser not a birder anyway. Soooo I’ve done some research and have read that Ohio Buckeye chickens rival the best feline mousers. Chickens (in DH’s ethic) can be outside as long as they sleep in a shelter (I agree), so I’ve ordered some Buckeyes for spring. I hope they’re all they’re touted to be, because we have an awful lot of mice and shooting them with those miniature .22 “shotgun shells” is really slow work.
1 day ago
Just a quick update... since we already have a roundbale in the feeder, we didn’t pull another one out yet. I spent another day chasing cows out of the feeder, and since then I’ve only had to verbally chastise them a couple of times—as opposed to actively running them out—cool! They’re learning, apparently. Anyway, the next bale will be sans feeder. I definitely think it’s gonna be better that way after giving it some study.

A little background: Eden (the white one) was raised in the foyer of the couple from whom I bought the heifers. They found her almost dead in a blizzard and brought her in to nurse her... she lost part of her tail and her ear tips. Point is, she’s almost like a little doggie... stands by the fence looking at the house till I come out and pet her, nuzzles me... She hasn’t gotten into the feeder at all. Oh yes, and the reason the owner was willing to sell her to me was that she wouldn’t stand up for herself so she was being bullied. Brynn is the one standing in the feeder in my earlier pic; she’s the boss cow... not mean like Cait (the smallest one), but definitely the boss. I chased her out but she really didn’t want to go, and when she finally backed out, Eden just lit into her. It was so funny/strange. I think she was mad that Brynn was giving me a hard time. She won’t stand up to Cait being a little $h1t and poking her horns into Eden’s tummy, but she was locking horns with Brynn. It gives me hope that when she does get a baby, she’ll be up to protecting it. She’s such a sweetie... definitely a pet, but knew that was going to happen from the start.
2 days ago
When I was a teen my dad bought a Garden Way Cart kit (from Rodale if I remember right). I loved it, and I was a teenager. We had 5 acres, fairly smooth ground, and we hauled everything in that cart, all the time—including not-so-small children. That was in Florida and it did eventually start to fall apart at the edges but it was so great while it lasted. I’ve wanted my own ever since, but they’re so expensive. I finally have one now (what? 35 years later?) LOL I built it myself. (Okay, DH helped a little.) I found plans in The Backyard Homestead Book of Building Projects by Spike Carlsen. Strangely, I couldn’t find free ones online, but the ones in the (Kindle) book were really worth the reasonable price. I didn’t use the specified bicycle wheels; I bought solid ones from somebody on Amazon. I also used screws instead of nails and used a 5/8” sheet of plywood instead of 3/4” (because I had one on hand.) I kind of regret using that, but it worked. I’d post a picture, but it’s dark and cold and snow-drifty outside. :’-( Maybe I’ll get a photo tomorrow and edit it into this comment.) I did paint it with good quality outdoor paint. The Garden Way one was coated with a light coat of stain. Hopefully the thick, dark-brown paint will be more protective.

Aside from mixing concrete, I’m not sure what I’d even want a regular wheelbarrow for. We have a lot of Hills and uneven ground. This is much better than a wheelbarrow. It’s even usable in snow, but a pick-up truck is definitely better for that. LOL. A sled would work, I suppose... The pick-up holds more bales, though. This cart should be able to handle three 45lb square bales relatively easily with one stacked on top. It’s easy to push, pull, turn, and a lot easier to navigate uphill than a wheelbarrow. The front end is sloped out, and the cart will sit on the front end unsupported, so—very easy to unload. One-handed operation, no problem. If you need a wheelbarrow for some of the things wheelbarrows work better for (mixing concrete is the only thing that springs to mind, but it is important) then I’d try to buy one at a yard sale, Craig’s List, etc. You don’t need a high-end wheelbarrow if you build this cart.

You can build this cart with one sheet of 3/4” outdoor plywood, a 1x4 board, a closet rod, two 20” wheels, a threaded rod that fits into the wheels, and the hardware to hold the wheels on (plus screws and wood glue of course). You need a circular saw and a drill/screwdriver and appropriate bits. A pencil... that’s pretty much it as far as I can remember. Paint recommended. It was an easy project, I thought. So worth it!
5 days ago
Peoples’ worlds come crashing down all the time. Mine has done on a number of occasions. No one EVER wants to do that again, but you do what you’ve got to do. In the words of Princess Buttercup’s true love Wesley (Princess Bride), “Life IS pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.” It’s the truth. I figure we’re here to learn how to be all a human being ought to be. One really effective way to learn “humanness” faster is to go through crises. (Like raising children, for example.) I’m genuinely sympathetic to your pain. Most of us are well acquainted with pain, so we truly can commiserate. You just keep putting one foot in front of the other. The goal is worth it, and you WILL make it. You and all those you cherish, so be brave no matter what and whatever you do, don’t give up. When it stops hurting (and it will stop), you will feel better. “That which shall be well IS well.” I’m quoting some medieval saint of the Roman Catholic Church who had a very hard time (lots of illness) but I can’t remember her name just now. Hey, I’m old! LOL At any rate, it’s a very good thing to keep in mind, if you can remember it.

One more thing... if you don’t drink coffee, consider starting. Not sugar... just coffee with caffeine. It’s a very effective anti-depressant for some people. I waited far too many years to discover that. And exercise out-of-doors, and (if you can get it) a good night’s sleep. (Well, okay... three things...)

As to SHTF type events, please remember: Everyone dies, apocalyptic scenario or no, so don’t stress over that too much. I do not believe death is the end, and I believe the ultimate end is absolutely good... for everyone. Some of us will (obviously) have a much, much longer road... make yours as short as possible by learning to love as much as you can.

On less esoteric subjects... garlic... I like to ferment it. This does alter the flavor, but maybe you’ll find you like it. If you don’t cook it, it will even support your microbiome (another big factor in physical and emotional health). The taste will become more mellow to the point that you could eat it whole if you don’t overdo it. Here’s a recipe from Cultures for Health website https://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/lacto-fermentation-recipes/lacto-fermented-garlic-cloves/

INGREDIENTS:
12-14 heads of garlic
Brine of 1 quart water + 2 Tbsp. sea salt
Herbs such as basil or oregano if desired

INSTRUCTIONS:
Peel garlic as indicated above. Fill a quart jar within 1 inch of the top with the garlic cloves.
Pour brine and herbs over garlic cloves.
Allow to ferment for 3 to 4 weeks before moving to cold storage. The longer these sit in cold storage the more delicious they get!

The link has suggestions for peeling. I do grate mine before using, but it’s a lot easier to do than with fresh. You could also just mash it with a fork... and I leave my jar on the counter. It will continue to ferment... if you want to slow that down, then do refrigerate it.
Thanks, Cécile!

They are kissable, but not while DH is watching! ;-) All he sees is the possible germiness. LOL I brush them when it’s warmer... at present their hairdos are all frozen stiff.

I hadn’t thought of it, but there is a south-facing slope/hill/gentle ridge running east/west partway across the property. Its east end is near the house, so reasonably accessible to water. Great idea... thanks! That would put the trees west of a wooded area, but it’s pretty sunny there most of the day all the same. We’re far enough north to have very long days in summer (and short in winter of course). I’ll give that some thought.

As for deer, we have white tails and elk, so yes, heavy-duty protection is always a must. Plus, being browsers with itchy heads, I’d be concerned about my heifers’ depredations as well.

Your raspberries sound wonderful. I’ll keep an eye out for those varieties. I probably won’t get them planted this year... I have so many projects and raspberries get started fairly quickly. I do want to get the apples in for sure since they take longer. The Saskatoons we have growing are in the midst of a big chokecherry bush that died of fungus. I would likely take it out in any case since chokecherry foliage is dangerous to livestock in some circumstances . I don’t care for them, but there are plenty in the public woods if I decide I want to harvest any. I need to research whether other cherries are a problem. (Oops!) If they are, I guess I’ll just have to fence them off. Anyway, thanks for the heads up on the Saskatoon. If/when I get some I’ll be careful to choose an appropriate location where they’ll have some shelter.

Your comments on the blueberries interest me. We do have some boggy areas. Sometimes they’re really, really boggy areas. According to old maps there’s a creek running through our bottomland, and since so many pine trees have died, I believe it. The problem is, since the days of the legendary creek of yore, the bed has completely filled in, and the water spreads out and slowly slouches across the whole lowland area. I’d like to dig it back out, but I’m afraid of the govt goons and their satellite imagery. >:-(  Anyway, water does flow through in reasonably wet spring seasons... sometimes all summer and fall, too. Maybe that would wash away any acid amendments, or maybe it would be good... what do you think? I’m really impressed with all your innovations and hard work with the blueberries! And the chicken tunnel to the orchard sounds wonderfully whimsical. I can just see the fluffies wending their way to their summer job in the orchard. So cool! I hope you’ll do it. It’s too cute not to!
6 days ago
Encouraged by a Wyoming friend, I’ve ordered some fruit trees. His climate is apparently much like mine, only with bad soil into the mix. This is why we grow our food on the hoof or the claw... critters better at eating grass and bugs than we are. LOL I got three Highland heifers last September 8 and the afternoon after we brought them home it hailed like crazy... three major storms in a week. I had also just planted two trees (shouldn’t have done that. It was just ASKING for hail, doing that.) Now we have three roofs to replace and we live too far out for roofers to be willing to come at any price (and it’s not even that remote). DH and I could do ours and the shop, but my mom’s roof is way too complicated. :-( Anyway... I’ll stop whining now. ;-)

These are the trees coming— hopefully not a waste of money and effort.. again.  Apples: Ashmead’s Kernel, Black Oxford, Newton Pippin, Sweet Sixteen. Cherry: Montmorency, Evan’s Bali. I can grow raspberries and I’d like to try blueberries. We do have some poorly Juneberry/Saskatoon “trees”. The local nursery carries them, so I’ll try to get some, or if not I may try rooting some from what we have wild. I’ve noticed the bees seem to be doing better, but I plan to get some in case we need them for the apple trees. Maybe they’d be happy in a greenhouse over-winter... I’m doing Suskovich chicken tractors this spring, and they could be made into greenhouses in winter, I think. I expect I’ll plant the trees on the south side of my mom’s house. Since pine beetles killed much of the forest, there’s decent sun there and some protection from north winds.

We live in the central Black Hills, about a mile elevation, in a fairly wide gulch. Our 12.5 acres of mostly meadow runs north to south. We get pretty good sun though we have Hills to the east and west (and also the north, less so). We often have nicer weather than Rapid City, but they really are zone 5, and we really are 3-4 here. We just tend to get extremes they don’t get so much in the plains. That’s what makes us less viable for planting. We do get late storms, late freezes, hail of sometimes epic proportions. Lucky my girls have shaggy heads like little bison. Here they are—well, two of them anyway.
1 week ago

How about putting something in the middle. That looks like a lovely bed to me, so get something round a barrel for example or something even bigger and put it bang in the middle of that feeder leaving a ring of hay round the edge, then even if they put their feet up in the hay they can't get all the way in and can't toilet there.

As a second question how many highlands do you have and how much hay are they eating? (my curiosity nothing to do with your question)



Putting something in the middle is a great idea if we were using square bales. We’re down to the big round bales, though, and they take up most of the feeder. I almost upended the wheelbarrow in there, but I was afraid someone’s horns might get stuck in it and that this might not end well. Besides, digging out the wheelbarrow looked like a miserable and above all, COLD job. LOL

We have three heifers. One is not pregnant. One is (I’m pretty sure) pregnant—that’s her in the feeder (Brynn). The third likely is. She doesn’t look as big as Brynn, but I haven’t seen any of them cycle except Eden (the white one) and I really think I would have, if they did. I’d been giving them three 40lb square bales in mangers in the shed every three days or so. They waste a third at least, but they need bedding anyhow and I don’t much like the wood chips we made- too coarse. Plus the square bales haven’t aged all that well. The girls seemed okay with that amount, mostly, plus the pasture hadn’t been mowed in several weeks before we got them last September and they like to graze that (when it’s not under 2-3’ drifts like now). DH gave them a 750 lb round bale a week ago last Monday and you see what that looks like in the photo. I’d say it’s a little over a third gone. It’s been really cold, though. If we’d been planning to get cows, we could have stockpiled pasture for them and wouldn’t need as much, but our tractor is too small to pull a baler so whatever baled hay we feed, we have to buy.
1 week ago

pssst ... there's a new blue cow bumper sticker available



What’s a “blue cow bumper sticker” all about?
1 week ago
Best I can discover, the average number of frost-free days where I live is 89. Since fruit trees (and most other crops) need a certain minimum frost-free growing season in order for blossoms to survive and produce fruit, it’s not unusual to have a fruit tree that does grow but seldom succeeds in setting fruit. It seems to be really difficult to determine whether a tree, bush, etc., will fruit here. Annuals have times to maturity listed. With more expensive perennials it seems you just roll the dice. It’s frustrating.
1 week ago

That just looks like a bad design for a hay ring. Get one with a top rail. I've never seen one like that for cows.

Edit. I looked closer, is snow covering a foot of it?



LOL It’s not for cattle; it’s for horses, but the ones for cattle that we could find around here wouldn’t work with horns. You might fudge them with a little innovation but I haven’t tackled welding yet, and neither has DH. The horse feeder seemed like a good idea at the time. And yes, the snow is covering the bottom. It’s deep, but at least it’s dry.
1 week ago