Friday, November 24, 2017

Growing Soil - Back to the Homestead

How do you grow your soil? What does that mean, “grow your soil?” Plants live only from what they can get from the soil and the water they either get from the sky or the irrigation you provide. A tomato is about 95% water. What is the other 5%? It’s the components in the soil that the plant has drawn out molecule-by-molecule. If the “building blocks” of that tomato are not (#1) present in the soil and (#2) are not bioavailable to the plant’s roots, the tomato will not form correctly (PERIOD and END OF SENTENCE).
The summer is over, fall is well underway, and winter is knock, knock, knocking at our door. Most of us are thinking “turkey” and “Black Friday” and few of us are thinking “spring” and fewer of us are thinking “compost.” But those are the two things you need to be thinking of to get the spring garden you really want. Let’s think about this:

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Make Free Mulch for Your Garden

The word is getting out. Mulching the garden beds is becoming more and more popular. Nonetheless, I still see bare ground on many gardens and that bare ground is bare due to one of three reasons: 1) Freshly tilled and planted. 2) Intensive weeding all the time. 3) Toxic and cancer-causing poison sprayed on the ground around the plants that provide our food...that we eat...and feed our family with. Yes, I kinda drug out the #3 point. Regardless, why don’t all homesteaders and gardeners mulch their garden beds? Maybe they don’t realize how FREE mulch is.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  1. How to Make Mulch (with Video)
  2. What Kind of Mulch to Use
  3. Where to get FREE Mulch Material
  4. The Benefits of Mulch

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Passion or a Prison - Back to the Homestead Update

We live in a world that functions by many systems and our homesteads are no different. Watering, feeding, cleaning, pruning, weeding and a whole array of other chores keeps bowed-up busy each day. And with all there is to do we sometimes (more often than I care to admit) neglect family, friends and even personal time. The day-to-day time commitment the homestead requires makes taking a trip away from the homestead only a dream to be wished for.
We are in the dead of summer right now and it’s been hot…and I mean HOT! Our temperatures here in Southwestern Idaho have been 100° for days and will be 100° or more for days to come. Here’s a question: If you were to neglect your daily homestead chores for one day what would happen to your homestead? It’d be okay, right? What if you were to leave for more than a week?
I have toiled over the idea of creating a self-sufficient homestead for years. What is a self-sufficient homestead? Friend, I have concluded that it does not exist. There is no such thing. Every homestead requires some sort of input. But, isn’t that why we do it? A homestead is not something to create, complete and then wish for the next big thing in life. A homestead is like a never ending piece of pie to be savored season after season. Nonetheless, it requires an input from you and the support of your efforts. Without the sweat from your brow and attention to detail, your homestead would dry up and die. Our goal with “self-sufficiency” in mind is to create a landscape that provides all, most or even much of our basic human needs with as little input from the outside world as possible. This way we can have our pie and eat it too.

5 Steps to Take to Avoid Becoming a Prisoner on your own Homestead

1) Automate Ever System Possible

The sun rises, “moves” across the sky from east to west and sets. This system is automated. That may seem like a no-brainer, but think about it for a moment. What if we had to do something to “light” our plants? Thankfully God has set this automatic system up for us. But unlike sunlight that is a (almost) guarantee, the rest of the homestead’s needs have to be obtained and the systems established by using the resources available to us.
On our homestead, we receive our water from a well and from our water rights (irrigation district). For a while I was moving water hoses all about the homestead and watering the many, many potted perennials waiting for their forever spot on the homestead. We also had plants in their spots and needed a daily drink as they began to settle in. I am ashamed to say, but sometimes I’d be so dog-tired at the end of the day and there’d be a few dry, potted plants that needed a drink. I’d say, “Tomorrow. I’ll get you watered tomorrow.” I’d be too tired and it’d be too late for even one more chore. In contrast, there was this one evening where I set the water on at 6pm and forgot about it. I woke up from the sound of a running well pump at one in the morning. This didn’t happen at first. Watering became an issue after the population of plants exploded. And, we’ll only be getting more (and more and more).
Read More at:

Monday, May 15, 2017

Weekend Update May 14, 2017 - Back to the Homestead

Chicken Coop Build Underway. I am a by no means a carpenter and this is in no way a how to. Let's say that this is an update by a homesteader who wants to offer a bit of motivation. We didn't finish the coop...that'll probably be next week. We'll see.

Visit us at

The plans for this chicken coop are found at:

Monday, May 8, 2017

Holes, Rocks, Bonked! - Back to the Homestead Weekend Update May 7, 2017

We've been busier than a mosquito in a nudist camp. This week we made a
lot of progress on the wood chips. That 65 (give or take) yards is
spread. I had hoped to get some new loads this week but the driveway
needs sealing and those guys are coming by on Tuesday. So, we'll be
planting this week and getting ready for the chicken coop build next

I bonked my self in the head with a post driver on
Sunday. "Bonked" is what my kids call it at school when they hit their
heads and come see Nurse Kevin. Sure did hurt...still hurts.

I made a reference to the calling the dig line and that time where we hit a gas line. Remember? No? Well, here's a link:

Next week we'll be getting more done. Check us out on for more information.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Weekend Update April 23, 2017 - Back to the Homestead

We're still on it! It's strange how the set up for a project requires lots of work but not much visible progress. So went our weekend. We worked out booties off, got sunburned and still didn't get the "impressive" finish we were looking for. Nonetheless, we did make progress. Visit us at

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Easy 4 Step Worm Bin Set Up - Back to the Homestead

Link to the article:
Last week we scored on a big bag of banana peels. The first thing I thought of was, “The worms in our worm bin would love this.” We are currently responsible for 6 bunnies, 8 chickens, a 9-year-old boy and countless red wigglers…worms…yes worms. Worm Composting is different than regular composting; worm composting is super charged composting.
Here on our homestead, we throw very little away. Sure we recycle and have weekly trash picked up but seldom does our trash can smell. We rarely throw food away. Our motivation is not the small portion of the 165 billion dollars we’d save if the the rest of the world began vermicomposting; our motivation is the volume of nutrient-rich compost we can make and use to grow more food. We use worms to “process” our food waste and the end result is a nice volume of vermicompost…or worm poop for everyone who does not know what vermicompost is.
If you compost it, they will grow.
First and foremost: Worms. You’ll need worms and a worm bin to create vermicompost. And not just any old worm will do. You’ll need the good old Eisenia Fetida (also Eisenia Foetida) or better known as the Red Wiggler. There are other names you’ve likely heard of as well such as redworm, brandling worm, panfish worm, trout worm, tiger worm, and the red californian. Red Wigglers (as we’ll refer to this worm as) is an epigeic. The terms epigeal, epigean, epigeic and epigeous are biological terms describing the worm’s main life’s activity to be above the soil surface ( The red wiggler is a species of worm adapted to consuming decaying organic material (“organic” in terms of being biological in nature rather than the USDA definition). They consume the rotting parts of the food you put in the worm bin and leave a fresh surface that will rot and mold. This new rotten and moldy surface is “cleaned” by the red wiggler and the cycle continues until the food scraps are consumed…first by mold…then by the worm.
Regular earthworms will not do well in your worm bin. Though the Red Wiggler and the Earthworm are both worms, they differ in their scientific classification somewhat (thanks Wiki!). The earthworm is a tunneler. The earthworm works the ground deep and mixes the soil all about like a tiller with much less disruption to the soil’s structure. In contrast, the red wiggler is a surface dweller. I say “surface.” The red wiggler will “work” between the thatch of decaying surface materials and the soil itself. Some will dig a bit down into the soil but for the most part, they dwell at the top. Red Wigglers have thinner skin compared to their earthworm friends. This limits the depth they can tunnel and thereby making them poor soil aerators. But, they are the KING of vermicompoting.. Top-feeders are what you are looking for in your worm bin. With all that being said, if you get an earthworm in your bin…it’s A-OK. Take him out; leave him in. Either way, you’ll be OK.
Here’s how you set up a worm bin tray, bucket, container or any other contraption you are keeping your worms in:

Step 1: Bedding.

Consider anything that can maintain moisture and will not pack. Dirt / Soil is not a good bedding base for you worm bin. It will dry and pack. Use things like coconut coir or newspaper (not the glossy paper). Cardboard chunks will work too. Keep in mind that paper and cardboard are just materials made from fibers of cellulose pulp derived from wood or grasses. (Moisten the paper until it will not wring out any more water (well…maybe a drip or two)). You want the material to be moist but not soggy. If the worm’s home is too wet they will move out. Some folks use peat moss, aged compost and other organics. I’ve even used aged horse manure and done quite well.

Step 2: Grit. Worms have a crop and a gizzard.

The red wiggler’s digestive system has many parts. From the mouth, the food moves to the pharynx, then through the esophagus. The food then enters the crop where it is stored for a bit. The food then moves to the gizzard. The muscular gizzard uses little, tiny stones that the earthworm pulls out of the soil to grind the food completely before it moves into the worm’s intestine. In an artificial environment, like our worm bins, there are no tiny stones. A bit of sand can be added to the bin. However, sand does not have the “aeration” properties that pumice has. We also use finely ground egg shells. Will eggshells change the pH? Maybe a bit but I wouldn’t worry about it. Egg shell take the pH one way and fruit takes the pH the other way. So, we’ll just go with it and not overthink it. The food then moves into the intestines. We all know what happens when it leaves the intestines because that “end result” is what we are looking for. It’s the black gold. The jewel of the rectum. The poop that propagates. Okay…I’ve gotten carried away with it. The flourishing feculence for the fit field. Okay, I’ll stop.

Step 3: Mineral / Rock Dust.

Like I mentioned, the worm bin is an artificial environment. Whatever you put into your worm bin is what you’ll get out. Paradoxically, what you do not put into the bin will not come out. Unlike the outdoor compost pile, worms can not venture in and out and gather the needed elements that the compost pile may be lacking in. Rock dust (also known as rock powder, rock minerals, rock flour and mineral fines) adds many of the minerals that our worms need to stay healthy. Rock dust also will keep our plants healthy as well. It’s like a two-for-one. The worms use the minerals for a bit. Then they poop them out (or the worm dies and renders the nutrients to the soil) and then the plants take them up. Guess what? We eat the plants. That would make it a three-for-one. Isn’t it awesome how that brown powder is poured on the worm bin surface and we end up eating that very same stuff? The macro-compounds, trace elements and micronutrients enter the worm bin in this rock powder, it is eaten by the worms, travels all the way through the worms and is pooped out. The plant absorbs the minerals and we eat the plant. Mind blowing!!

Step 4: Food.

What do we feed the worms? Worms can eat just about whatever we can eat. There’s a caveat to that. Worms cannot eat everything we eat in the form we eat it in. Salts and fluctuations in pH can really challenge a worm habitat. Processed foods are often discouraged as worm food. Have you ever poured salt on a snail? Shame on you if you have. Worms are no different and trying to compost a bag of Fritos ® would definitely “mess things up” for your worm bin. Aside from sodiums, consider the pH of your worm bin. Worms like a nice pH neutral home to live in. Certain foods are more acidic or more alkaline than other foods. Some are way more acidic / alkaline than other foods. Consider an orange and its pH of between 3 and 4. The orange has the ability of lowering the pH of the worm bin significantly. Likewise, too much food on the alkaline side may have a negative effect as well. We had been given a bunch of banana peels for our worm bin. Banana peels have a pH slightly on the lower side. We used some egg shells in our bin to “kinda” off-set that acidity. Things could get real technical in regards to what to feed or what not to feed our worms. I don’t like technical; you don’t like technical. Let’s not get technical. Here’s a general (semi-complete) list of what NOT to feed your worms. For the most part: if it’s natural and has not been processed, it’s okay for the worm bin.

Don’t Feed The Worms

Meat or dairy products [1]
Citrus Fruits and avoid Pineapple all together [2]
Onions and garlic [3]
Fats or Oils
Salted or Pickled foods.
House plants that are Toxic
Fresh cut grass [4]
Fresh sawdust [4]

Just for kicks, let’s look at just a few goodies the worms CAN eat:

Salad Greens and Vegetables (A bit of dressing is OK but not too much).
Potato and other Peelings.
Fruit except for that mentioned above [5]
Egg shells [6]
Moist Paper / Cardboard
100% Cotton Material
Cereals and Grain [7]
Tea Bags and Coffee grounds
Manure [8]
I will be happy to add to both of these lists. If you see something that needs to be added or taken out, feel free to comment below and I will modify the article (and give you credit for the idea).
We are usually motivated by anything that gives us pleasure and satisfaction. If the pleasure we gain is higher than the suffering we endure, then we’ll do it. Many are worried about the environment. Other’s could give a rat’s “you-know-what.” Either way, I think we can all come to some sort of motivational reason to begin vermicomposting or composting with worms.
About 30% of any given meal by any given will end up in the trash. If you normally “clean your plate,” that’s great. But have you ever thrown out something that spoiled? Thrown away the clippings and skin peelings of fruits and vegetables? Sure you have. On average, the world population throws away ⅓ of the food we grow / buy. That an estimated 1.3 billion tons ends up as waste and that waste has to be stored somewhere. What does that cost? If you look at just the US, we spend a ton of money producing the food and a ton of money…actually…181,880 tons (that’s what $165,000,000.00 would weigh).
If you want to know more about worm composting, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter. Upcoming articles will contain information about setting up a worm bin from scratch, building a worm bin and how to harvest the vermicompost.

Friday, February 24, 2017

New Secure Web Site

Back to the Homestead is better than ever with a NEW and SECURE website. If you've found this blog on, you're almost to the right place. Use the link below and see what we've been up to on the homestead:

"We homestead now not because we have to; we homestead now so we're ready when we need to." - Sulae