In todays world, the desire to get back to basics is becoming more and more desirable. Our hope is that you will find some of the knowledge we share a benefit to you, to get closer to your dream of a healthier lifestyle, less dependent on assembly lined, processed, manufactured items.

Our goal is to help you find ways to use modern conveniences to allow you to live the life you want to live, and raise your family with the traditions that are important to you.

Grab a cup of coffee, or a glass of tea, and join us as we share our lives, our family and our knowledge with you.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

An Unpleasant Reminder

We've had a very unpleasant reminder that having animals, raising your own food and being self-sufficient is sometimes not easy. This choice comes with an extensive set of responsibilities that if neglected can cost more than the few dollars we might have paid for those animals.  This post is not for the faint of heart, and if blood or dead animals bothers you, then please skip right on.

Last week on two consecutive mornings, we found a dead pullet in the pen.  It seemed secure, and we were puzzled in addition to being very disappointed. The 6 Barred Rock and 6 Buff Orphington pullets we bought last fall had done so well. They were beautiful, all females as promised, and we had raised them from chicks that were just days old without a hitch.  We were looking forward to adding these to our laying flock in the Spring.  After ruling out predators, because we didn't see any evidence of anything digging under or tearing through to get in, we decided that maybe the turkeys had gotten aggressive, so we decided to move them in with the established layers a little early.

While I was on a 48 hour shift on the ambulance, Larry found two of the Buffs dead in the pen on day three of integration. I had been concerned about them getting along, but when the first 24 hours went by without any major aggression, I thought we were good.  I learned a valuable lesson. The established layers were not ready to welcome the pullets and our help would be needed for a smooth integration.  From now on I will be using an integration plan to introduce new birds into the flock.  I do not want this to be a sight I see on a regular basis.

I've read about an integration called the "play pen process".  The new additions are introduced into the flock in the safety of their own cage.  I don't currently have a cage, but am using a small animal cage that was used for rabbits to keep the new girls safe from the grouchy layers, until they can get used to one another.  When I have some time, I will build a small cage just for this purpose.

At the same time these two pullets were suffering an early death, our Blue Slate Tom disappeared from his pen. It was assumed, with his disappearance, that we did have a predator and that, whatever IT was, had gotten him during the night.  When I got home, I started checking carefully. Larry said there was a place up high that was torn up and that he suspected that maybe a bobcat might be our culprit.  Upon inspection, it appeared that the damage had come from the inside the pen.  I became hopeful that whatever had disturbed the turkeys had simply scared him and he had escaped out the top of the pen. I had high hopes that he would be found wondering the woods the next day with his craw full of acorns.  It was too late to look for him because darkness had already fallen, but I would get up early and begin the search.  I prepared for the possibility of a predator as well. I had a loaded gun on the kitchen counter with a flashlight and slept in a spare bedroom on the back side of the house with the window open so that I might hear any disturbance that might occur during the night.

 I did a careful inspection early the next morning. The building is not in the best of shape, but at first glance it appears to be critter-tight.  Upon further inspection a small area pushed inward to the right of the of the old door about head high is seen. It would be large enough for a raccoon or opossum to climb up to and crawl through.

To the left of the old door, at the very top of the pen area a large area of wire was found pushed outward. This is where I think the Tom might have escaped.  The reason for his escape is still a mystery at this time. It could have been fear of a predator or an altercation with the larger, more dominant Black Spanish Tom. At this point, both areas have been repaired and a baited live trap has been placed near the door. Hopefully, catching a predator will answer some of the questions we still have.

When I went on a search for further clues as to the whereabouts of the Blue Slate Tom, I didn't get far from the house before I found a feather in the road that was obviously his. I knew I had headed in the right direction and was hopeful that I would find him scratching through the leaves looking for acorns and bugs.  But soon, after walking into a lightly wooded area, I found a pile of feathers.
In these feathers, there was no blood and no signs of a carcass, but I still began to lose some of the hope of finding the Tom alive that I had had the night before. I began searching for tracks or scat or anything else that might indicate what type of predator had obviously attacked the Tom in this area. I didn't find any sign to answer that question, but it was just a few minutes before I found the carcass of our Tom. Disappointment is an understatement when I describe what my feelings were when I discovered the carcass.

For me, the saddest part of the past few days, is also the most educational.  When we make the choice to be Modern Pioneers and have animals in our care, we must remember that we are responsible not only for their care, but also for their safety.  It is the natural way of things for predators to kill prey; for survival of the fittest; that living things will at some point die. However, what is not natural is the penning of these animals, domestication in itself has made many of these animals have their primal fight or flight responses bred out of them or at least sent these instincts to the far depths of their natural behaviors. When we participate in that domestication, we have an obligation to make sure that everything possible is done to keep these animals safe, not only from predators, but from some the remaining primal instincts that might make them turn on one another.

We have the obligation to research and learn all we can about the animals we plan to house and raise; learn all we can about their instincts and behaviors so that we may provide an environment that will allow them to, not only survive, but to also thrive.  Our care of them will then lead to their care of us as they provide meat, eggs, milk, furs, and other life sustaining materials.  Let's never began any type of animal husbandry without a willingness to learn the best way to take care of them, which in turn takes care of ourselves.

Join us at SW Missouri Homesteaders Buy, Barter, Sell or Trade to ask questions and learn about the many aspects of being a Modern Pioneer.

Friday, January 23, 2015

A tour around the Farm

On the top of a hill in the rolling hills of Lawrence County, Missouri sits our home. It is located on 110 acres that is partly wooded and provides with the opportunity to hunt deer, turkey and squirrel as well forage for wild edibles such as Morel mushrooms. This is the home that was built by my Father-In-Law during the 50's. This home is where my husband was brought to after his birth at a small hospital in a nearby town 55 years ago, spent his childhoon and adolescent years and where we currently live. After raising our two children, our 5 grandchildren love to come spend the night and visit "The Farm". We are fondly known as Nana and Papa by the ones who love us most. 

It has taken us several years to get to the point that we are ready to go back to living a simple self-sustaining life. Papa drives a school bus for a small Christian school in our community, and I work full time as a paramedic supervisor, working three 24 hour shifts a week. The job can be taxing, stressful, and downright sad at times. At other times it is the most rewarding thing I have ever done. It does however take a toll on the home life. Being gone 48 hours at a time is not the ideal situation for gardens, animals or Papa, but it does leave me 4 days a week at home to garden, hunt, and enjoy life. So, like everything in life it has its way of balancing out.  For a time we grew accustomed to the rapid pace, never-enough-time lifestyle, but when I was diagnosed with Depression and General Anxiety Disorder, I knew there was something very wrong with my life.  It has taken me over 4 years to realign my priorities, and take the small steps necessary to get back to a simple way of life that encourages good health, both mental and physical, simple living, and lost traditions.  A lifestyle in which family, friends and neighbors come before jobs and extra activities.  A lifestyle we refer to as Modern Pioneers.

Papa and I were both raised on farms, so we have a background in farming. We've both raised pigs and beef cattle, with chickens usually being a part of the animal family as well.  I always had cats, he had dogs. Neither of us have done much with rabbits, but we are learning. He remembers having a milk cow, and I remember my grandfather milking and I couldn't be more in love with our Jersey milk cow.  Serena provides us with milk and cream, that I turn into butter, sour cream, yogurt, buttermilk, and soft cheeses. I am looking forward to developing my cheese making knowledge and skills to include some harder, aged cheeses over the coming year.  We also have chickens, turkeys and pigs who each provide a valuable contribution to our lives.  We also have cats and a dog named Daisy.

We grow a garden and can or freeze much of the food we eat year round. I honestly cannot remember the last time we made a trip to the grocery store for a cart full of food.  We pick up an item or two here and there, but gone are the days of spending hundreds of dollars a month at the grocery stores and when I put food on the table, I know what is in each bite. We are planning to do more of our own butchering, and will be trying our hand at smoking for the first time this year when cure our hams and bacon provide by the pigs we butcher. In addition to churning butter and making cheese, I am beginning to grind some of the flours and grains we use, and cook mostly from scratch. We are building a greenhouse from an old trampoline frame, to start seedlings in and provide fresh produce, especially lettuce and greens year round.  Look for an upcoming post on how we are doing this.  

Our lifestyle is not for the faint of heart, or for those who do not like being at home and having a schedule to adhere to, but it is the most rewarding I can imagine.  Throughout the year we will bring you into our home and onto the farm to share in the activities we do to keep the tradition of living simply and providing for ourselves alive. We hope you will join us. We are still learning and orgainzing and though we have several barns and other buildings on our farm, and have plenty of room to do whatever we need to do, we are working on some renovations to make things easier and more efficient. We are combining the traditional ways with some modern means to build a life that we enjoy, are proud of, and love to share with those who are interested, to allow others to become Modern Pioneers as well.

Follow us, and join us on our journey through life as we work to restore the basics of a simpler time. We will share our successes and our failures. At times we will learn together; at times you will teach us; and hopefully I will have something to teach on occasion. We've started a Facebook group, geared toward "Homesteading" and more self sufficient living, hoping to encourage a group of people in Southwest Missouri to use cooperative effort to help each other achieve a healthy lifestyle that promotes family living and keeps the old ways of life alive for future generations. Visit us here:  and if you like what you see, request to join and you will become a part of a great group of people who freely share ideas and knowledge.

The following are just a few snap shots from around the farm when we had a warm January day in 2015.

The first site to greet you when you arrive is the split rail fence that Papa and I put up a few years ago. At Christmas time I adorn each point of the fence that faces the road with a large red bow. 
The house that was built by my Father-in-Law in the late 50's. We added the log siding a few years ago, and have done minor changes on the inside. Mostly it remains the same as when he built it and he and Meme lived in it during their 49 year marriage.
A view from the road of the various buildings we have available to us. We just need to get organized to make the most use of them.

This building has been called "The Fur House" for as long as I've been in the family. It was used years ago to stretch the furs and let them dry after trapping. It housed the traps and other hunting supplies during the off season. Our children used the top story for a secret hide away and spent hours out there. Most recently, it has been used to store our home canned goods in an insulated room, store the chicken feed, and house the turkeys and young chickens on the back side. One of our major upcoming projects is to renovate this to have a milking room on the back side and turn the main area into a "canning kitchen" where all the food preservation will be done and all the canned goods and supplies will be kept. This is the project I am most excited about.

This is the Big Barn out behind the house.  Currently the cow comes in to eat and get milked when she has freshened, the pigs have shelter and get fed, and the rabbit hutches are kept inside here. It also seems to serve as a catch-all for extra "junk" that we don't where else to put.

The building part of the smoke house still needs the fire barrel and smoke pipe.  We will have to get this done soon, before Pork and Chop are ready for the freezer.
Pork and Chop enjoy the warm January weather.  They will provide us with enough pork to get through a full year and have some to share with the kids' families.
After finding several dead bees at the base of the hive we were concerned about how the bees were overwintering, but the activity on this sunny afternoon gave us relief and confidence that the bees are doing well.
We will be clipping wings in the next few days so that the turkeys can be moved into a larger area in the big barn. I tried to move them once already and let's just say it would have made for some entertaining video footage.  Have you ever tried to catch a turkey in flight?  This area will soon become an enclosed area where we will milk Serena after she calves again in a few weeks.
Serena is patiently waiting for grain and watching the pigs in the pen next to her. We expect her to freshen in March and are looking forward to all that fresh creamy milk again.
The older hens got a day to free range and roam while the weather was nice. They provide enough eggs to keep us in eggs year round and have enough to sell during the warmer months.
Just a part of the eggs that were laid a few days after adding crushed red pepper to the chicken feed.
We have 6 Buff Orphingtons and 6 Barred Rock pullets that should begin adding to the egg production in the Spring.
These are the New Zealand/Flemish cross does that we got from someone who was moving back to Florida and couldn't take them with them. There are two bucks in the pen next to them. They are all siblings from the same litter and are currently 7 weeks old.  We will be looking for a buck from a different blood line when it is time to breed and plan to keep two or three does to provide meat for the family both fresh and frozen year round.
There are just some days on the farm, when the weather is warm and sun is shining that there is just nothing better than a nice cat-nap. 

We hope you've enjoyed the tour, and feel like you know a bit better.  We hope you will join us frequently. Thanks for dropping by.