Homestead Roots Newsletter - 3/21/2024

The value of animals on the homestead, filling up the garden, selling chickens

Homestead Roots Newsletter - 3/21/2024

Welcome to another Homestead Roots Newsletter from Barlow Roots Homestead! Hopefully your spring is marching right along. With the unseasonable weather we have been doing our best to take advantage but also feeling like we aren't doing enough. That can be a trap in homesteading, the pressure to get stuff done can be intense and it honestly can make the homesteading journey a bit of a drag. I would encourage you to go easy on yourself and be OK with things taking time. Homesteading, in whatever stage you are in, is about the journey just as much as the destination! We are doing some traveling next week so I may not be able to get a newsletter sent out. If we miss a week we will for sure be back the next week. Thanks for reading!

Lumberjacking and a Chicken Sale

Freshly cleared dead ash trees.

Some of our egg layers.

With the warm and dry weather it has given us an awesome opportunity to get some work done! Typically we are either buried under snow or dealing with mud this time of year. Not this year! It has been so dry and warm that it is good working weather. I tackled the rest of the dead trees I was targeting on our property. My process was to drop the trees, several needed some persuasion to fall the right direction. In that case the boys help me and use the winch on our UTV to pull them where we want them.

Once they are on the ground I start bucking them up into 8-10 foot lengths for firewood and then do my best to get the tops manageable. After bucking everything up I come in with our skid steer and grapple and stack the firewood lengths in one pile and the tops in a large brush pile (too large according to Ingrid). There is going to be a lot of additional clean up as the skid steer can only do so much. If we get the crew out there the stick pick up will go fast!

We are pushing this project through because many of the trees needed to fall in our new garden area. We are planning to put up a permanent deer fence and wanted to have the trees down before the fence goes up.

We made some decisions on our egg laying chickens. We have a group of hens that are 3 years old that we are moving along. We sold 35 of them yesterday to a man from Thailand. He didn’t have a crate so we zip tied their legs and he loaded them into the trunk of his Toyota Camry. He had taken the day off work and was excited to do the butchering and put the chickens in his freezer. I also had interest from some local Hmong families. It is so cool to me to learn about these other cultures. Our Thai friend actually prefers the laying hens to traditional meat chickens. More fat and more flavor. We enjoy making use of them as well, but need to clear out our freezer to make room!

When we purchased the hens we purchased 75 of them from a commercial organic egg laying operation. They kept a couple thousand chickens in a pole barn, There was an outdoor run with 6 foot fences and barbed wire. Based on the tidiness of the run the chickens never used it. The eggs these chickens laid were likely sold as Free Range Organic Eggs. A good reminder that product packaging isn’t always what it seems. We would buy the hens cheap at 11 months old. At this age the hens have laid for 5 months and the industry culls them out because of the variability in egg sizes. Don’t ask me how that process makes sense or is financially viable. I can’t make it make sense. Anyway, the hens would come out of the pole barns with few feathers, damaged eyes and looking generally very rough. Bringing them to our farm was like a fresh start and after a couple of months they would look beautiful and happy. This year that option isn’t going to work for us so we are hoping to hatch out some of our own chicks to sustain our flock.

Right now we have 11 of the 3 year old hens still available. If anyone local would like to purchase a few let me know! They are $5 each.🙂

What Value Do Animals Bring to the Homestead?

Ingrid and Espen with baby goats.

A fresh pig coming to the homestead.

I read a great homesteading book a few years ago, it was called "The Good Life" and was about Scott and Helen Nearing. They left NYC for Vermont way back in the 1930s. The book fueled a lot of the back to the land movement in the 60s and 70s. Definitely a fun read! I bring them up because they didn't keep animals and were actually pretty firmly against keeping animals. They were vegetarians and just didn't see a purpose to animals.

After keeping animals for the past 10 years there are definitely times where I agree with them! Livestock can be a major challenge! They take up time and keep you tied to your homestead. With that said, we have found keeping animals to be mostly fulfilling and enjoyable. As meat eaters it is a valuable lesson for us to know where our protein comes from.

At this time we are keeping goats for dairy, chickens for eggs and meat, ducks for eggs and meat and we keep feeder pigs during the summer months. Everything but the goats actually provide us some income as well. The goats don't earn us money, but they do save us money by meeting our dairy needs for much of the year. Currently we are giving the goats a break as they prepare to kid in April. We are currently buying milk and looking forward to that fresh goat milk!

The Nearing's proved that you don't need to keep animals to have a successful homestead. However, with a desire to be more involved in our food journey keeping animals on a small scale just makes sense. We are currently putting in the work on our property to clear more land for pasture as we would like to add a dairy cow and some beef in the future. Time will tell! What do you think? Do you think animals are important for homesteading?

Spring Beds are Full, Tomatoes are Seeded

Ingrid was busy planting out our spring crops last week. We have one tunnel completely full of spring crops now. Those crops include, salad turnips, loose leaf salad, carrots, spinach, super salad (mesclun mix), head lettuce and radishes. If you would like to see a clip of her planting using our PaperPot planter you can see it on our instagram HERE.

These crops are the first succession in that tunnel. Eventually the tunnel will be filled with our summer crops like cucumbers, zucchini, egg plant and peppers. This helps us get a headstart and allows us to open May 1st with greens. These crops are all pretty cold hardy but we will need to keep an eye on the thermometer a bit. If it gets too cold we will cover them with a row cover as well.

Ingrid and the boys also seeded all of this years tomatoes. We used to start them in smaller pots and then pot them up but these days we just start them in their final pot, which is a 3 to 4" pot. It saves us a step and a lot of mess! If we see that one of our seeds didn't germinate we will quick pop in a replacement seed.

All the seedlings are set up in my office on racks with lights. The office is climate controlled which means we don't have to heat another space. It works really well. We will need to harden off some of the crops before we put them out. Others we can just protect with row cover while the acclimate to the sunshine.

We are actually making plans to redo some stuff on the farm and put in a greenhouse in the future. We will keep you updated on that process! For now this system works well!

Where We Started

Ingrid and I were discussing the other day how odd it is that we ended up where we did. Then after thinking it through we decided it wasn't so odd after all. I was trying to remember our path and if while we were living in a city neighborhood in Sioux Falls we had dreams to be where we are now??? If I am an honest I don't think either of us could have imagined it!

The seeds of this life were planted early in both of us. Both Ingrid and I had a fascination with farms as kids. We both enjoyed books about farm life and homesteading. I spent precious time on my great grandparents farm in South Dakota as a kid. There was never enough time on the farm but I soaked it up when I was there. Ingrid lived with some family friends on their farm and did chores with them just for the experience as a kid. You wouldn't know it today but while she tried really hard she was mostly unsuccessful in with gardening when she was young!

We both carried the farming dream as kids but even as married adults I don't think we could have imagined this life. We now feel so blessed to be able to give our kids the life we dreamed about, and most days they are very appreciative.🙂 

Thank you as always for reading and for following along on this journey. As always I would love to hear from you. If you have questions or suggestions just reply to this email and I will be in touch.