Thursday, November 22, 2012

Chicken Mulch and Beets

Chicken Mulch and Beets

November 21, 2012

Making Chicken Mulch and Harvesting Beets; Garden Update - Part 1:2

Making Beet Kvass and Chocolate Beet Cake - Part 2:2

This week we'll spend some time talking about the benefits of chickens. Yes, chickens can provide eggs and meat but what about mulch, fertilizer and even companionship? Chickens are an awesome animal. Simply by "doing their thing," they till the soil and rid it of many of the pests including insects and weeds. While they "cleanse" the land, they drop small white-coated "packages" indiscriminately along the way (poop) that increases the fertility of the land.

Mulch is a great way to conserve the moisture in the soil as well as promote animal and microbial activity at and beneath the soil's surface. Straw is a great mulch. However, here in Idaho (and likely where you live too), the spring winds blow the dry, freshly applied straw mulch all about the garden. The solution that I have found is to take 3-4 (or more) hay/straw bales and break them up in the fall for the chickens to root and scratch around in. They poop as they scratch and eat nearly ever little seed and grain kernel they find. The fall and winter rains and snow saturate the straw and increase its weight thereby making it more difficult to blow about when the rains and wind come in March and April.

Beets are a great food. Beets contain sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron and phosphorous as well as  vitamins A and C and niacin. Studies have shown that beets guard against cancer, especially colon cancer.

There are many, many recipes that beets work well in. The two recipes that I will introduce this week are:

1. Beet Kvass - Lactic acid fermented drink
2. Chocolate Beet Cake

Beet Kvass Recipe

2 Large Beets
½ Gallon of Water
2 Tsp Salt

Peel the beets and cube in 1-2" cubes. Fill a half gallon jar about 1/2 full of water. Mix in the salt. Drop in the beet chunks until the jar is about 1/3 full of beets. Fill the rest of the jar up with water. Let ferment for 2-3 days and then refrigerate. Drink ½ to 1 cup a day. Cycle can be repeated once with the same beets.

Chocolate Beet Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup butter, melted (vegetable oil works too, but the flavor is not as good)
½ cup sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1½ loosely packed cups very finely grated raw, peeled red beet

1. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven with plenty of room above it and preheat the oven to 350°.

2. Coat an 8½- by 4½-inch loaf pan with butter, and then a light layer of sugar.

3. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

4. In another large mixing bowl, using a large whisk, whisk together the butter or oil, sugars, eggs, and vanilla until creamy and smooth.

5. Stir the grated beet into the butter mixture.

6. Add the flour mixture to the butter-beet mixture and with a large spatula, combine gently but well. No flour should remain visible in the batter.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Saving Tomato Seeds

Saving Tomato Seeds
Zucchini and the .357 Target Practice

What happens to a zucchini when shot with a .357? In this video, we discuss all kinds of things from saving tomato seeds to planting a whole tomato right in the ground. Yes, we planted a whole, vine-ripened tomato right in the ground and covered it with grass clippings. Crazy? Maybe...unless it works...then everyone will start doing it. Oh yea. Don't forget...we answer the question: What happens to a zucchini when shot with a .357 hand gun?

Saving seeds use to be a mystery to me. However, in recent years I have come to realize that if someone else can do it, so can I. Sure, there are a few limitations; as a 42-year-old over-weight nurse, my chances for piloting the space shuttle are slim to none. Saving seeds will be a mission here on earth that I will be successful with.

Have you ever heard of The Self Sufficient Homestead? The couple who produce their podcast also has a seed trading site that is FREE to use. Here is the link to the seed site:

The link to the Self Sufficient Homestead is:

Here are a few links:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Harvesting Potatoes

Harvesting Potatoes
and cooking potatoes too.

This week's video reflects back to the day we planted the potatoes (notice my son is planting them), we show the harvesting of the potatoes, demonstrate a recipe using our potatoes and enter some potatoes at the fair. See how things turned out. 

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

5 pounds potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
5-6 springs rosemary
garlic powder or granulated garlic
Kosher salt
black pepper

Preheat oven to 425ยบ.
Pour oil into a 10"x 13" pan.
Wash potatoes and slice them into bite-sized pieces. Add them to the pan.
Pull the leaves off the rosemary stems and sprinkle them over the potatoes.
Sprinkle potatoes with kosher salt, pepper, and garlic.
Stir potatoes, making sure to coat all of them with oil.
Put the pan in the hot oven and cook for about 1 hour, or until potatoes are soft. Stir potatoes again before serving.

Potatoes are a high starch, cheap food. But, as far as I am concerned, they are essential on the homestead. A five pound bag of potatoes could cost as little as $1.69 (August 8-15, 2012; Albertson's Flyer; Price with Preferred Savings Card). The question is: Why would anyone in their right mind grow their own potatoes if you can buy 5 pounds for a buck-seventy? Heck, I may have only gotten 100-150 pounds of potatoes and will likely only eat 50 pounds during the season and from what I can preserve (some will suffer spoilage and some will be given away). That works out to about $85.00 for all that hard work in preparing the soil, planting, watering, weeding, harvesting and storage.

Rumors have it that potato farmers will not even eat their own potatoes (rumors; not validated ( I wondered why. Here's a web site that may demonstrate some of the farming practices in growing and harvesting potatoes: 

I am not being critical only to the farmer; consumer responsibility comes into play here as well. Think about it: 5 pounds of potatoes for a dollar and sixty-nine cents. In the same ad where I discovered this deal on potatoes, Albertson's was offering 3-two liter bottles of soda for 4 bucks. Consumers are not willing to pay for good food. We want food that looks good and "seems" good and is CHEAP. After all, Endothall is an organic solid of white odorless crystals. If we don't know it's in there, then it can't hurt us, right?

The problem for me is: In order to create a potato that is marketable to the general consumer, it must look a certain way, it must be a certain size, it can't have blemishes, it can't have protrusions and be grown together with other potatoes and the like. Farmers want to harvest potatoes on their schedule and beat the fall moisture that will cause all kinds of problems. So, they soak the potatoes in herbicides to kill off that which is above the ground.  

According to Dr. Holly Menninger, NY Invasive Species Research Institute (, "The use of any aquatic herbicide poses risks to non-target plants and aquatic organisms." She does throw a "but" in there, but (there's mine), that just does not sit well with me. I chose to grow my own. 


Hope you enjoyed the video.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Fermenting Pickles

Fermenting Pickles

How to Ferment Cucumbers

If you like dill pickles, you love this recipe. This episode of Back to the Homestead starts out with a short demo of what wild fires in Southwestern Idaho can look like...a small one...but nonetheless a wild fire (as seen from the homestead).

Then we discuss how to ferment cucumbers by using lacto fermentation. We'll take the fermentation process from harvesting from the garden to the week after the process has started and the taste test.


Small and medium cucumbers with no blemishes
Peppers (Mild, Medium or Hot)
Dill (or Dill Seed)

Brine: 1 gallon of water to 12 tablespoons (not teaspoons) of sea salt (or kosher salt).

Monday, July 23, 2012

Processing and Cooking Beet Greens

Processing and Cooking Beet Greens
as well as battling squash bugs and a short garden update.

After the dust storm, we got busy catching and squishing squash bugs as well as harvesting from the garden. This week, we'll show you all how to process and cook beet greens.

Beet Greens are very low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol (we make up for that in the bacon we add). It is also a good source of Protein, Folate, Pantothenic Acid, Phosphorus and Zinc, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A (220% in only one cup of beet greens), Vitamin C (eat two cups and you'll get 120% of your daily minimum), Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.

There's only about 40 calories in a cup of greens. If we throw in one ounce of bacon, we only add about 130 calories and a TON of flavor. If you add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, you'll add 120 calories. You'll save in saturated fat if you go the olive oil route.

There is no specific recipe:

Hand full of Chopped Beet Greens
Chopped Onions
Chopped Bell Peppers
Bacon (for the fat) Could use Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste



Thursday, July 19, 2012

Quick Sauerkraut

Back to the Homestead - Quick Sauerkraut

Directly translated, Sauerkraut means "sour cabbage." Sauerkraut is finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria, including Leuconostoc, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus. It has a long shelf-life and a distinctive sour flavor, both of which result from the lactic acid that forms when the bacteria ferment the sugars in the cabbage. It is not to be confused with coleslaw, which consists of fresh cabbage and may receive an acidic taste from vinegar (so says Wikipedia).

Vitamin C in Sauerkraut: 100 Grams has 15mg
Vitamin C in Cabbage: 100 Grams has 37mg
Vitamin C in an Orange: 100 Grams has 53mg

Sauerkraut wonderful all by itself. I especially enjoy sauerkraut mixed up in salads and even cooked into other recipes (though the benefits of the homemade sauerkraut is lost during cooking).

Here is my recipie:

3 Tablespoons of Sea Salt to 5 Pounds of Cabbage.

In the video, I had 3 pounds of cabbage that I prepared. When considering 3 pounds is 60% of 5 pounds, we used 60% of the salt needed for 5 pounds of cabbage.

1 Tablespoon = 3 Teaspoons
3 Tablespoons = 9 Teaspoons

60% of 9 teaspoons is 5.4 teaspoons. We used 5 teaspoons because we were just shy of 3 pounds.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Squash Bug Trap

Squash Bug Trap & Frost in June - Back to the Homestead

We are moving along. The bean and pea seeds that I replanted in the bare spots of the rows are starting to come back. I took your advice and held off on watering them for a while but nature keeps interfering with my plans (not complaining at all). It's strange how some plants need more water than others. They are greening up a bit but I am still keeping an eye on them.

This video has a kaleidoscope of topics: Frost, Green Beans, Rain, Wind, Squash Bugs, Duckweed and...well...there's got to be a topic or two that I could squeeze in there. We had a big storm come through the area and it blows in Idaho. There sure is no shortage of wind here in the potato state.

You'll see in this video:

1. Wind on the Homestead
2. Duckweed Update
3. Building a Squash Bug Trap
4. Frost in June

I have another experiment that I am going to try. Stink bugs and squash bugs look so much alike to me. I know they share some similarities. According to

The stink bug's classification is as follows:

Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Hemiptera (True Bugs, Cicadas, Hoppers, Aphids and Allies)
Suborder Heteroptera (True Bugs)
Superfamily Pentatomoidea
Family Pentatomidae (Stink Bugs)

The squash bug's classification is as follows:

Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Hemiptera (True Bugs, Cicadas, Hoppers, Aphids and Allies)
Suborder Heteroptera (True Bugs)
Superfamily Coreoidea
Family Coreidae (Leaf-footed Bugs)
Subfamily Coreinae
Tribe Coreini
Genus Anasa (Squash Bugs)
They follow the same classification all the way down to the Suborder. They are "True Bugs." Nope, and I don't know if there is a "fake bug" out there. Anyway, it makes sense that they will follow some sort of pattern that are similar. Hopefully they both like a bright light at night.

In this week's video, I demonstrate setting up the squash bug trap. I will check it every day until I start getting some bugs in the trap (or not) and let you know how it turns out on subsequent videos.

Here's a link to the video where I got the idea:

Lastly, I have a video I uploaded called, "Video Response to Strong Points during SHTF or DHTO - Back to the Homestead." I was tagged in a video and posted my response...


Monday, June 4, 2012

Worms On The Homestead

Worms On The Homestead
Making a Worm Bin

Part 1:2

This video is part 1 of 2. On the first video, we visit a potato beetle and learn about putting together a worm bin. What can worms do for your homestead? EVERYTHING!

Uses for worms:

1. Castings for the garden
2. Composting table scraps
3. Chicken food
4. Fish food
5. To go fishing with
6. Aerate the garden
7. Gross out others who are squeamish over worms

Here are the supplies you will need for making this worm bin out of a 55 gallon drum

1. 55 gallon drum
2. Natural Aire Filter (Aire is the name of the filter)
3. 2" Round PVC pipe (about a 5 foot section)
4. 2" PVC pipe cap
5. Two 3/4" water hose repair end (the male ends)
6. 2" pipe coupling
7. 2" to 3/4" PVC pipe threaded reducer (threaded on the female 3/4" end
8. 2 or 3 tarp clamps
9. 5 Teflon or plastic bolts and nuts
10. 36" screen
11. 3/4" Drain Hose
12. Water hose cap end

Making a Worm Tower

Part 2:2

Here are the supplies you will need for making a couple of worm towers:

1. 5' section of 4" PVC pipe
2. Two 4" PVC Caps

Yep, that's all you will need.

I didn't put a list of tools on either of the lists. I don't have a wide assortment of tools and don't know your tool situation. You'll make due with what you have. We're homesteaders; we always make due.

Here are so links to some great resources. If you want my opinion; Worms Eat My Garbage is the bible of worm composting:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Contemplating Permaculture

Contemplating Permaculture

This week we talk about permaculture, tomato watering and Memorial Day.

"Permaculture is a branch of ecological design and ecological engineering which develops sustainable human settlements and self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems." Well, so says Wikipedia. Basically, I understand permaculture as being a landscape, big or small, that is a "wind-up-and-go" ego system. You wind it up and let it go for a time before it need a little more winding. There may be some directional changes, but for the most part, once it's established, it will go and go for generations (if not forever).

Lately, I have been listening and reading about  preparing for a "time of need." What if we can not get down to the store and get seeds and seedlings? What if there is no place to get seeds or seedlings anywhere? What will we do? If there ever comes a time where we can't get seeds or seedlings, then the grocery stores will be void of produce as well. Sure, you could get a seed bank from some manufacturer but who's going to be around to complain if you ever have to actually use the seed bank if none of the seeds spout?? Practice makes perfect (that's a whole other show topic).

We have two options: 1. Save seeds and 2. Establish an ego system that is self sustaining and required much less human intervention.

Saving Seeds

I have always wanted to do more seed saving but never have. Maybe it's because I have no knowledge base for the skill. That's the root cause. I know why I have never saved seeds: FEAR. I have the fear that I will go through all the trouble of saving seeds, storing the seeds and planting the seeds only to find that NOTHING HAS GERMINATED and I have a garden void of produce.

However, I must have forgotten my motto: "If someone else can do it, so can I!" So, recently I have noticed a few things happening around the homestead that has impressed me and got me to thinking (dangerous I know). Seedlings are popping up all over the place from last year's garden. If after two tillings and pilling up of the soil in mounded rows seeds from Swiss Chard and Tomatoes are coming up, then maybe I can do this seed saving thing and save some money. Likewise, seeds that come from plants on the homestead here will make better plants next year here on the homestead and get stronger each year subsequently.


My homestead is not so far from a permaculture system as I think. The rows are absent of permaculture as are the beds that the tomatoes and squash are planted in. Here's what I think I will dream of and learn about: What if there could be created a system where plants are gown in areas (bed-like areas) with other plants that do well growing together (like tomatoes and carrots)? Each year, the plants are allowed to grow, offer their harvest (though not completely harvested), and die naturally. Seeds are saved. Around the time where seeds will be started on the inside, the saved seeds are planted in the protection of indoors or a greenhouse. Then, after the season begins and the volunteers are starting to break ground, an inventory is taken and the seedlings are reinforced with seedlings we grew indoors or in the greenhouse.

We could create a food forest where veggies are gown under the bows of the trees like spinach, greens and kale. Heck, we may even let the dandelions grow a bit. If we notice too many grasshoppers or slugs, we'll change our paradigm and see too many of these critters as an ego system lacking ducks or turkeys. Hummmm???

Anyway, I have just been doing some thinking and reading and studying and dreaming. We'll keep you up to date with the goings on around here on the Walker Homestead. In the mean time, here are a few links that will help:

Black Solider Fly Harvesting:

This link is where I got the idea for the Black Solder Fly harvester bucket. This is a GREAT site and FULL of information.

Tomato Watering With PVC:

This is by a fellow named Donald. You should check out his channel (but don't forget about us here).

This link is one that will get the gears in your head turning all over the place!!!

Finally, here are some other links that you'll find helpful:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Brewing Kombucha

Brewing Kombucha

This is not a "normal" Back to the Homestead video, but if you have been following Back to the Homestead (The Walker Homestead Updates) for a year or so, you'll likely have seen some recipe videos that I have posted. Kombucha is an effervescent tea-based beverage that is often consumed for its anecdotal health benefits or medicinal purposes. Growing and making things on the homestead that have medicinal purposes is a trend I'd like to develop in the Back to the Homestead video series and though that starting with a Kombucha recipe would be a great place to start.

If you want to get a starter SCOBY (that stands for "Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast"), there are many, many places to go. I got my starter from an eBay seller and have maintained the culture for over two years and will likely for years to come.

Here are some links to try:

Some great books on Kombucha:

The last book called "Wild Fermentation" is not a Kombucha book but is considered by many to be the fermenting "bible."


Duckweed Experiment Update

Duckweed Experiment Update

We are two days into the duckweed experiment and we ran into a slight problem. The air stone that we are using to aerate the water was producing bubbles at a rate that resulted in a slight current being formed by the bubbles outward motion on the surface of the water.

Duckweed likes a still surface to grow on and with the bubbles pushing the duckweed toward the outer edges of the duckweed bed, I knew that its growth may be hampered.

By taking an old, plastic bucket and cutting off the bottom, I was able to "catch" the bubbles and isolate the frothing into a confined area. With the now still surface being maintained, the duckweed has spread out and appears to be doing very well.

I wanted to take a quick second and post an update if there are any homesteaders out there that are thinking about following in my footsteps and making a duckweed bed.

This weekend I hope to post a video on a Black Solider Fly harvester and using PVC to water tomatoes and other plants. Have a great rest of the week.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Growing Duckweed and Harvesting the Lawn

Growing Duckweed and Harvesting the Lawn

Harvesting the Grass

Many homesteaders, preppers and folks like me keep a lawn. Yes, we get out with our gas-guzzling, noise-making, lawn mower and cut our grass as we attempt to "emulated aristocratic society with our own small, rural and semi-rural homesteads." Well, I think that's a bunch of hooey! I don't mow my lawn; I harvest my grass. There are many, many uses for the grass we harvest from our non-agricultural areas of our homesteads. Here's what I use my harvested grass for:

1. Thatch for weed control
2. Chicken Food
3. Composting
4. Worm bedding
5. Seedling padding
6. Moisture Control
7. Chicken bedding

Our lawns also keep much of our homesteads in reserve. What I mean is: if we did not have grass growing on the areas we did not grow our vegetables on, weeds would gladly take over. Additionally, the growing grass keeps the soil's ego system in check. It maintains moisture and is home for worms, good bacteria and fungi. Don't let these die-hard preppers and homesteaders tell you that a lawn is a worthless bunch of grass that we waste time and money in growing. Just tell them that you are growing grass just like you'd grow duckweed, bamboo, roses or any other plant. Tell them, "I don't mow my lawn; I harvest my grass."

Growing Duckweed

This week I started growing duckweed. I don't have any idea if it will work. You see, I am not using fish in my duckweed tank; I am using cow poop! Yes, you read that right...COW Poo Poo! (excuse the boldness). Here's what I am trying to do: I want to see if I can create a sustainable method of growing duckweed as to be able to have greens to feed my chickens well into the winter and to supplement their summer diet. Here's a little bit of information about duckweed:

1. Contains 15-25% protein in a natural environment and 15-45% when cultured under ideal conditions.
2. Duckweed is a feed for fish, poultry, livestock.
3. Duckweed grows on 10% the area needed for soyabeans, and 20% that of corn. Because it has such low fibre, the whole plant can be used, unlike other crops where only a small part of the plant can be eaten.
4. By absorbing nutrients, Duckweed also has potential as a natural water purifier, converting waste water and sewage into pure water and edible Duckweed with little resulting sludge.
5. Spread on our gardens as a natural fertilizer.
6. Duckweed contains more protein than soybeans.

Now, let's consider two things when we are growing duckweed on our homestead:

1. Stink from the water it is being grown in.
2. Mosquitoes

Here's my solution for the smell that may be generated:

Use a small fish aquarium pump with an air stone to oxygenate the water your duckweed is growing in. This will kill off the anaerobic bacteria (the smelly stuff) and build up the aerobic bacteria (the earthy-smelling stuff). The drawback is the bubbles may create a current and duckweed likes a water surface that is still.

Here's my solution to the mosquitoes:

BT or Bacillus thuringiensis. This is cool gift that the Good Lord has given us homesteaders. Bacillus thuringiensis is a bacteria...a natural bacteria...that will kill bugs that we don't want but will not harm us, animals, fish, or the good bugs that eat the bad bugs. I am even thinking about growing BT in my compost tea (a show for next week...maybe).

About the Garden

This is the time of year where I anxiously wait for the seeds to break ground. I am having trouble with these 2 and 3 year old soaker hoses and am wanting to CHANGE EVERYTHING!

Here's some links to more information:

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dutch Oven Cooking

Back to the Homestead

Happy Mother's Day and Cooking in a Dutch Oven

It's finally getting warm enough to get the plants and seeds in the ground. I know many of you already are seeing tomatoes on your plants and here we are just now putting them in the ground. Here in southwestern Idaho, we're right on time (well, maybe a little early with our fingers crossed).

We did more Mother's Day celebrating than gardening this weekend on the homestead. We decided we'd take a trip up to Idaho City, Idaho and drive a short ways up the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway ( and find a spot to cook a picnic in a Dutch Oven. It's good to take a moment for the mammas in our lives (we should do it way more than just the one day a year in May).

If you are wondering about the recipe for the Dutch Oven Pizza we cooked:

Campfire Dutch Oven Pizza

1 1/2lbs. lean ground beef1/2medium red onion; diced
2tsp. italian seasoning3Tbs. diced greeen bell pepper
1tsp. garlic powder3Tbs. diced red bell pepper
salt and black pepper to taste1(8 oz.) can mushroom stems & pieces; drained
2Tbs. olive oil12black olives; sliced
1can crescent rolls8oz. shredded Cheddar cheese
1jar pizza sauce8oz. shredded Mozzarella cheese

Heat a 12" Dutch oven using 18-20 briquettes bottom until hot. In a medium bowl add ground beef, italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper; mix together with your hands. Drop ground beef by small pieces into the hot Dutch oven and fry until brown. Remove browned beef from Dutch oven and wipe oven down with a paper towel.

Pour olive oil into Dutch oven and spread evenly over bottom of oven. Unroll the can of crescent rolls and line the bottom of the oven with a layer of flattened rolls. Spoon pizza sauce evenly over crescent rolls. Sprinkle evenly with seasoned ground beef, red onion, bell peppers, mushrooms, olives, and top with Cheddar and Mozarella cheeses.

Cover and bake using 8-10 briquettes bottom and 16-18 briquettes top for 20-30 minutes until crust is browned on edges and cheese is bubbly.

Serves: 6-8

This recipe was taken from one of my favorite web sites:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Homestead Declaration

The Homestead Declaration different from the Homestead Exemption

Note: I am not a lawyer and the information I am presenting is to offer what I know as I understand it. I make no guarantees as to the legal validity of the information. Take what I am about to offer and do your own research or seek counsel for a better understanding of the legalities of the Homestead Declaration.

What is a Homestead Declaration?

A Homestead Declaration is a legal document which can help to protect your homestead in times of economic hardship. Did I get your attention? I want to make sure you understand that the homestead declaration and the homestead exemption are different in every way.

The Homestead Exemption

Homestead Exemption is a property tax exemption to put it simply. The homestead exemption allows a homesteader to exclude part of the property tax that is calculated on the value of the homestead.

Different jurisdictions provide different degrees of protection under homestead exemption laws. Some only protect property up to a certain value, while others are assessed by acreage limitations. If your homestead exceeds these limits, creditors may still force a sell.

A homestead exemption is most often only on a fixed monetary amount, such as the first 50,000 dollars of the assessed value. The remainder is taxed at the normal rate. In this case, a homestead valued at 150,000 would then only be taxed on 100,000; a home valued at 75,000 would only be taxed on 25,000.

The Homestead Declaration

Don’t confuse homestead exemption with the Declaration of Homestead process. There are separate and distinct laws involved in each of these processes. A Homestead Declaration, when properly filed, is an asset protection exemption which can protect your homestead and property in times of economic hardship from liens, judgments and creditors. The homestead declaration is a notarized, recorded claim that declares your homestead and cannot be subject to attachments, judgments or creditors.

A legal judgment resulting from business losses, auto accidents, or an array of other possibilities could result in a plaintiff legally taking a homesteader’s assets. However, the safeguards provided by homestead declaration may just save your homestead. May it be valued from a five thousand dollar spot with a camp trailer to a million dollar, multi acre homestead. The catch is: you must file your Homestead Declaration to protect your home before anything happens.

Some debts must be honored, with or without a Homestead Declaration. If you have put your property up as collateral on a loan or mortgage and default, the homestead declaration does not apply and the homestead can be foreclosed upon. Unpaid property taxes and debts on improvements you made on your homestead are not exempt from the homestead declaration.

To file a homestead declaration: 

You can download the form you need (couples or single) from one of many websites. Next, you’ll fill the form out and sign it in front of a Notary Public. Then, the notarized Homestead Declaration must be filed with the Court Recorder in the county / parish / borough in which the property is located. You don’t need a lawyer to do this either.

P.S. I am not a lawyer and can not guarantee all my info is correct. There is nothing to loose however, so do some research and learn more.


I post these links above to show you all a bit of what I think would make for some good reading. If you want some free stuff, here are some links below. NOTE: They are the Kindle version but can be read on a phone using the Kindle app. I think they can be read on the computer too.

If you live in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, you may be able to file for the homestead declaration. I am not sure about the other states. However, we can always but the living day lights out of some of these law makers to draw up a bill that may become a law to protect our homesteads.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Back to the Homestead - History of Homesteading

April 29, 2012

Back to the Homestead - History of Homesteading

This week was pretty productive. We cleared out much of the clutter that has been hanging around the homestead such as old timbers, wheelbarrows and a garden cart with four flat tires.

We also decided to get rid of the ICB totes - the containers in which we were going to do the aquaponics in. I am sad about that. This is something I really want to do and think would be a fantastic way to produce food for the family. I'll talk about the "whys" on a latter post.

Potatoes, spinach, cabbage, carrots and beets are all planted. We'll soon be planting the rest of the garden. However, with temperatures in the 30's and 40's as a low, the risk of frost is still here. We'll wait just a bit longer and then get the rest of the seeds in the ground.

Homesteading - A Short History

Concerned that free land would lower property values and reduce the cheap labor supply; Northern businessmen opposed the nearly free distribution of federal lands. Pre Civil War Southerners feared settlers of federal lands would add their voices to the call for abolition of slavery. With Southerners having their hands full in 1862, the legislation finally passed.

On May 20, 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act. This act gave adults 21 years or older farmland called a "homestead.” This was typically 160 acres of undeveloped federal land west of the Mississippi River.. The homesteader was required to build a 12x14 dwelling and farm the land or plant trees. Some folks took advantage of a legislative loophole caused when those drafting the law's language failed to specify whether the 12-by-14 dwelling was to be built in feet or inches.

Many homesteaders did not last the required five years due to all kinds of challenges such as blizzards, drought, grasshoppers, disease, and social isolation on the open prairies.

January 1, 1863, the day the Homestead Act went into effect, the fellow named Daniel Freeman. As the story goes, he was supposedly a scouter for the Union Army and told someone that he was leaving for St. Louis the morning of January 1, 1863, for military duty. Freeman convinced someone to open the land office just after midnight so he could be the first person to file his claim.

When the homesteader had fulfilled his requirements of living on the land for five years and show that improvements had been done, he then had to have two or three witnesses sign a document called "Proof Required under Homestead Acts May 20, 1862." Daniel Freeman had his neighbors, Joseph Graff and Samuel Kilpatrick, sign this first document.

Anyone including freed slaves, who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government, could file an application to claim a federal land grant. The occupant had to be 21 or older or the head of a family, live on the land for five years and show evidence of having made improvements.

Only about 40 percent of the applicants who started the process were able to complete it and obtain title to their homestead land. Eventually 1.6 million homesteads were granted and 270,000,000 acres (420,000 sq mi) of federal land were privatized between 1862 and 1934, a total of 10% of all lands in the United States. Homesteading was discontinued in 1976, except in Alaska, where it continued until 1986.

That was a shame too. I was in the 10th grade in 1985 and was taking American History. I learned about the act and my teacher, Mr. Warner had encouraged me to write a letter and inquire about the application process. I remember pulling out an old type write. You know, the one with the big spinning ball with all the letters on it. And I wrote my letter.

I got my answer weeks later. I was not 21 yet and was told I could reapply later. By the time I turned 21, it was too late. I wish I still had that letter. But at 15 years old, I found the rejection to be worthless and did not see the value in keeping the letter.


The series referenced to in this week's video:

Here's the eBay seller I get my seeds from. This is my second year doing business with these guys:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Back to the Homestead - Homestead Journal Show Notes

Back to the Homestead

Keeping a Garden Journal

 Keeping records is not something that I enjoy much. I just want to get things done and not worry about all the logistics. Maybe it's because I am a nurse and a huge part of nursing is documenting and keeping records; it seems like half of the duties in nursing is writing something down that we just did. However, keeping records ensures we medical folks don't repeat something that didn't work and we can repeat which worked well the last time. Keeping a garden journal...or better yet...keeping a homesteading journal could end up saving time and money (as if these two things are separate entities). A homestead journal may very well keep you from making the same old mistake year after year after year.

If you are anything like me, when to plant is a guessing game. If we plant too soon, the frost gets us. If we plant too late, our harvest comes in late. If we keep simple garden records, we'll be better equipped based on the mistakes from years past. It's the same way with harvesting. What if we planted 100' of purple hull peas, grew them, picked them, hulled them and preserved them and by New Years, we had eaten all that we grew? A garden journal could remind us next year to increase our planting and subsequently our harvest.
Keeping a homestead journal is as important as keeping a canning cookbook or maintenance record on an automobile. With a project as extensive as homesteading, a journal is vital.

Now, we here on the Walker Homestead aren't sitting around writing notes in our homestead journal. We've been busy! The chickens are pinned up and they told me exactly what they think of the new arrangement (in chicken talk). We got some rows pulled and some potatoes planted. We "woke up" the yard, cut back the raspberries, sifting compost, fixing water lines, weeding, refreshing, fertilizing and getting a red neck to boot!
I have put together a garden journal that you can use. They are in both word and PDF format. You can do what ever you like with them. Add stuff. Take stuff out. Modify stuff. The sky's the limit. You may it your own.

Here's the PDF format:

I hope this journal is helpful. Let me know what you think.

I often get a book or two on homesteading, gardening and other how-to's from time to time. However, the other day, I picked up a book called The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. It's about a young boy from Malawi, a country in Africa, who put together a device he called "electric wind." In his language, there is no word for "windmill." This fellow named William Kamkwamba and his family pulled themselves through a period of famine that we all hope we never have to go through. During this period of time, he would sneak into school (notice I said "into school"). When he got caught and expelled, he would dig around the dump yards and learn from the devices other would just throw away. If you are looking for a motivational read while you rest between chores, this is the book for your summer.

Here's what Amazon says:

With nothing more than a fistful of cornmeal in his stomach, a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks, and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to bring his family a set of luxuries that only two percent of Malawians could afford and what the West considers a necessity—electricity and running water. Using scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves, William forged a crude yet operable windmill, an unlikely contraption and small miracle that eventually powered four lights, complete with homemade switches and a circuit breaker made from nails and wire. A second machine turned a water pump that could battle the drought and famine that loomed with every season.

Keep on growing and remember: Don't worry too much about it. Just do all you can do and let the rough end drag.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Soil pH, Compost and Fertilizer

April 14, 2012

The homestead is coming along nicely. We have the garden soil turned over and have checked our pH and nutrient levels to learn what we need to add to the soil before planting. I know that many in the country have planted already. We here in Idaho are still in preparation; there’s still a risk of frost.

There’s still so much to do. I had planned to get the rows made this week but am down in my back. Those dog-on raspberries! Pulling and fixing them up was a chore. It didn’t seem like much until the next morning. OUCH!

The video for soil pH and compost is a two-part series with a third “informational” video on pH and fertilizers. Enjoy!

Back to the Homestead - Soil pH and Fertilizer Part 1 of 2

Back to the Homestead - Soil pH and Fertilizer Part 2 of 2

Soil pH and Compost

If you think about it, we are made of dirt. Well, there’s not much thinking that we’d have to do. The bible tells us from dust we came, right? The soil has the nutrients, the plants take the nutrients in as they grow and deliver the nutrients to us when we consume the plant’s fruits and vegetables. Doesn’t it make sense that we should inspect our soil once in a while to make sure it is in tip top shape so we ourselves can stay in tip top shape? After all, there are an abundance (as of the writing of this article) of nutrient-starved vegetables and fruits on the store shelves; why would we want to produce what we can get for cheap (well, cheaper than we can grow ourselves)?

Soil pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of our homestead’s soil. The optimum pH range for most plants is between 6 and 7.5, however many plants can thrive quite well at pH values outside this range. Though the rage of pH is 1-14 with 1 being most acid and 14 being most alkaline, you will find that soil will range between 4 and 9 as extremes with an average of 5-8 (though soil pH values could be found outside these mid-ranges.


pH 4.5-5.0 Blueberry, Cranberry

pH 5.0 - 5.5 Parsley, Potato, Sweet Potato, Radish

pH 5.5 - 6.0 Bean, Brussels Sprouts, Carrot, Peanuts, Rhubarb, Soybean

pH 6.0 - 6.5 Broccoli, Cabbage, Cannabis, Cauliflower, Cucumber, Pea, Sweet Corn, Pumpkin, Squash, Tomato, Turnip

pH 6.5 - 7.0 Asparagus, Beet, Celery, Lettuce, Melons, Onion, Parsnip, Spinach, Sweet

Macronutrients that are necessary for adequate plant growth are nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and are found in most commercial fertilizers. However, calcium, magnesium and sulfur are also considered macronutrients and are seldom found in commercial N-P-K fertilizers. N-P-K values are the nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K) values. Many bags of fertilizers will have three numbers posted on the packaging; the three numbers refer to the percent of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K).

Addition to nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, plants need larger amounts of calcium, magnesium and sulfur for healthy growth.

Necessary micronutrients including iron, manganese, zinc, copper, cobalt, molybdenum and boron are necessary for not only healthy plant growth but our health as well. It’s these micronutrients that many of the store-bought vegetables and fruits are missing.

Plants can grow nice and appear healthy with sufficient nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium and some (though deficient) micronutrients. However, we are made up of so much more than these three elements. The only way to get both the macronutrients and micronutrients into “us” is to have a sufficient supply in the soil in which we plant our seeds and seedlings.

The trick is to balance our soil’s pH so the plants can utilize the available nutrients. As a matter of fact, some of the nutrients themselves can change the soil’s pH. For example, sulfur can lower the soil’s pH while calcium can raise the soil’s pH.

Back to the Homestead - Soil pH and Fertilizer Basics of the Basics


Monday, April 9, 2012

Back to the Homestead - The Walker Homestead

It's a new season and we are getting ready for some growing and other Homesteading activities. We have the garden cleaned, tilled and ready for making our rows and planting. Our approach is going to be as intensive as last year yet a bit more focused on foods we eat and the ease at which they store.

Season 2

Episode 1 - In the Beginning

This is the (pseudo) launch of the website, “Back to the Homestead.” It was learned that there is another site called, “The Walker Homestead” and wanted to maintain our uniqueness and avoid future rights issues that may arise.

This is the second year we are producing these homesteading videos and we are still trying to get our bearings. Our homestead is run by me, my wife and my 4-soon-to-be-5-year-old son. Our homestead sits on a half acre near Boise, Idaho. Sure, we don’t have much of a spot, but there are many that I have met during this journey that have even less and are making a go of homesteading (and doing a dog-on good job at it). It's not only about becoming self-sufficient but helping others become self-sufficient as well. We learn how not because we have to; we learn how so we're ready when we need to.

Let me reiterate that statement: “It's not only about becoming self-sufficient but helping others become self-sufficient as well. We learn how not because we have to; we learn how so we're ready when we need to.”

Many of you all who have the capabilities of watching these shows have the capabilities of earning resources and buying life’s needs and wants without a homestead. We could get up every day and work (for someone else), take the resources that we earn (from someone else) and buy our needs and wants (from someone else). So, the question is: Why do we Homestead? For me, the answer is simple: To reduce the dependency on “someone else.” For me, it’s not about preparing for the end of civilization as we know it; it’s about preparing for a time when gas is $9.78 a gallon, milk is $14.49 a gallon and when $100 at the checkout will provide a family of 4 a day or two of food. It’s not a matter of converting over to alternative power now; it’s a matter of knowing how when power from the grid is priced as a luxury rather than a perceived right.

Self-sufficiency is not only about growing vegetables and keeping a few chickens, there is so much more to consider. Notice above I said that I would like to “reduce” the dependency on someone else. Elimination of social dependency can be reduced but probably never completely eliminated. Consider the need for antibiotics if you become sick. The need for PVC to run irrigation to the “back 40,” and even supplemental foods if we ever have a crop failure along with other necessities is always part of homesteading. Maintaining social relationships (including a job) is important; what we are protecting ourselves from may never come (this is a good thing). Self-sufficiency may could considered growing our own food, using and reusing what others throw away and maybe even finding an occupation where we are recession-proof.

What is Sulae Arts? If you have asked that question, I’ll clarify it now. Sulae Arts was created back in 2007 as a DBA (do business as) for a photography business that I had started. We wrote a book and later determined that I could do much, much better in my current profession rather than taking portraits. I knew no one would pay me for photographing my passion: Wildlife and Nature. Eventually, we decided to shut down the portrait section of the business and focus on what we enjoy most. Sulae Arts still exists though not as a business (per se) but more of a hobby project (no tax write-off with a hobby).

From here on out, we will have show notes to accompany each show we produce. Rather than just showing video of the garden’s progress, we’ll be doing much, much more how to. Sure, watching someone’s garden grow through the season is motivating and we’ll continue to show updates. However, we’ll be showing other folks how to do what we have been learning how to do. You see, if everyone else knows “how to fish” we won’t have to worry about others taking or “fish” if times every got tough.

It’s going to be an interesting growing season. I’ll be maintaining a homestead, gardening, full-time job and going back to school in order to advance in my degree and increase my income potential. Ha, it’s going to be easy! As easy as herding chickens, right?

Well, you all keep on keeping on. Keep watching and send some feedback. Let me know what you are interested in and what you’d like to see more of.

Season 2

Episode 2 - Cleaning Up!