Archive for the ‘Field & Garden’ Category

How to protect sheep from coyotes

Monday, October 7th, 2013

How to protect sheep from coyotes, goats from dogs, rabbits from raccoons, chickens from foxesI began asking “how can I protect my sheep from coyotes?” when we lost some lambs to a coyote. We also lost a duck and another time a turkey. Either a raccoon or a coyote had been involved. However, nothing is as sickening as finding a beautiful lamb dead in the field.

I found a simple and free answer that has worked effectively for a long time now. It is what every male farmer does anyway, but might need to be pointed in the right direction: urinate. That’s it.

This also answers these questions:

How do I keep raccoons out of the henhouse? What keeps foxes away from my chickens? What protects turkeys from bobcats? Can I keep varmints out of my rabbit cages? Can I keep deer out of the garden? How do I protect my goats from coyotes? In short, how does one keep sheep and other farm animals safe from predators? In most cases, you can save your livestock easily.

I got the idea from a catalog that was selling wolf urine to put on the fence posts so that coyotes would stay away (this also keeps deer away, too, though). I thought, if they are scared of wolves, then why not human urine? After all, God said,

the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. (Genesis 9:2, NKJ)

They are already scared of you. If you were sitting on the fence post, they would not come in and chase your sheep, goats, chickens,
rabbits, turkeys, or ducks. So, if your scent on the fence post led them to believe you were close by, they still would not cross over.

You can whiz through farming

Sorry, but it is really that simple. Now, I know most of you female readers may find this concept demeaning, but surely you have some guys who wear the pants in the family. Send them out to the fence row or the henhouse to take a leak. It is crazy, but either a fox will eat your profits or you will use “mother nature” to your advantage.

Simply “marking your territory” will let intruders know to stay away. They would rather go after easier game elsewhere than to risk encountering you. Let the fear of humans be to your advantage. Do you have a dog that has to be kept caged in or tied up? Take it for a walk around the parameter of your fences or around your small-animal buildings. It’s urination and defecation will leave further warning markers that wandering prowlers would rather avoid.

The complicated solutions to protect sheep from coyotes

  • Livestock guardian dog. Expensive to feed—unless you have enough livestock to pay for it, it will cost more than it is worth just to feed and care for it. LGDs can also be dangerous around your children and other family members. Pick a breed with caution and raise one yourself, if you can. Sometimes they will protect sheep well but kill chickens. Be sure you know what you are getting into.
  • Hotwire. If you use five to seven strands of hotwire you can keep many predators from crossing the fence. Also, electrified
    net fencing will keep your sheep, goats, geese and turkeys, much safer than leaving them in a large, open field. They can’t get out (usually) and the predators can’t get in.
  • Tight fence. Sheep and goat fencing allows only 4 inches of space. This does not give the goats room to get their heads stuck through. A stuck goat is bait for coyotes who will hear it bleating and come running for dinner.
  • Red eye. This led light gives an ominous red glow that wild animals will interpret as being the eye of another predator. You have to set up a few of them so a stalker coming from any direction will see it and stay away. This supposedly works with raccoons and coyotes, but like any scare-crow thing, cannot be all one depends on. It seems like another expensive gimmick.
  • Noise. You could leave a radio going. My grandfather used to protect his garden and rows of corn from raccoons by putting out a radio at night. This usually worked for him, but it could irritate the neighbors. Kind of kills the idea of living in the peaceful country.
  • Sleep with them. Tent out under the stars like shepherds of old. Yeah. That will get old fast.

When urination may not work

  1. Rain can remove your defense barrier. We had gone almost two years without a coyote attack. I was pretty happy with my innovative defense mechanism. Then we hit a stressful time when one of the kids was not well and things in the home were stressful enough to distract me from making my morning rounds. Worse, it rained all week. Four days of rain must have been enough to wash away the scent on the parameter of the fence where our sheep were (about an acre and a half field, partially wooded). We lost four lambs that week. Until that point, I thought my efforts were just a “number one” experiment. Looking at those dead lambs made a believer out of me. Frequent urination kept the coyotes at bay.
  2. If rouge dogs are your problem, then taking a leak on a fence post may not be enough to stop them. However, sitting out there with a shotgun a few times will put an end to that. I give a dog a warning shot before hitting the target. If they can connect your scent with the source of the scent on the fence posts, they may begin respect your territory. Otherwise, there is
    the permanent option, but killing your neighbor’s dog can devastate a relationship. In that case, you would be better off buying a livestock guardian dog that will defend your animals for you.

Hopefully this article has helped clarify your understanding of how to keep coyotes out of your sheep, raccoons away from your rabbits, deer out of your corn, possums out of the henhouse, foxes away from your chickens, and any other varmint away from your goats, turkeys, geese, and ducks. Farming can be a whiz.

We built a greenhouse with cattle panels

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013
4 mil plastic on cattle panel hoop house

Greenhouse with plastic installed over cattle panels

It cost us $25. That was just for the plastic. All the pieces were salvaged or free. We used:

  • 16’ cattle panels – five of them. These are about four and a half feet wide, so they made the hoop house about 21 feet long.
  • 20’ by 25’ piece of 4 mil plastic. This will last at least three months until it is warm enough at night to take off.
  • Lumber of all sizes to build the benches for plants. The plywood came from a house that a friend of a friend tore down.
  • Plastic shelving material we got from a friend who made dog kennels for a living.

We made a rim of 2×4’s to hold the cattle panel hoops up. Then end we framed up with 3’, 4’, and 6’ scraps of 2×4 studs. We tied all the panels together with baling twine. Inside we used an old table, salvaged plywood, and plastic panels for work space. We have over forty linear feet to set out plants. If we keep this up, next year will have a winter garden under this cold frame, hoop house.

The unusual thing we did was to build this over an old swimming pool. I only know of one other person in the world who owns a cement pond like ours—it was made from a huge fuel tank, cut in half. So, you will probably not follow our model exactly, but it created an interesting situation for us.

Flooring supports in swimming pool greenhouseOur tank half is nine feet wide at the top, but since the tank was cylindrical, it tapers to a rounded bottom which is difficult to walk on. So, we took left over studs from when we remodeled our basement and laid them across from one wall to the other. We then set full pieces of salvaged plywood on top of these studs, spaced at 12 inches on center. Since the studs were about 8’ long, they dropped the floor to about 2 feet from the top of the pool. This gives us about 8 feet to the top of the cattle panel hoops. It is a little crazy sounding, but it worked out great for us.

Beneath the floor was this empty cavity of about 3 feet. I read about some people heating their greenhouses with a compost heap. That gave me an idea for the empty space under our floor. We shoveled out the cows’ and sheep’s winter manure accumulation and stashed it under the floor to compost. At first it stunk badly, but by the second day the odor was gone. Now we are just waiting for it to activate the composting and start heating the room all night.

It has been a fun experiment and we already have some starts from inside to set out in the warm sun.Plastic shelves in greenhouse Ending construction of the cattle panel hoop house

Salvage plywood shelving in coldframe greenhouse

Laying out greenhouse shelves in snow shower

Get Rid of Squash Bugs Naturally

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Here’s a recipe of how to get rid of squash bugs naturally and organically. My wife discovered this concoction when experimenting on pests that were destroying her winter and summer squash plants. We also found this to be a safe pesticide for Japanese beetles.

Ingredients (you can grow all these yourself):

Handful of Marigold flowers (plant these around your squash patch, too)

Dozen Tansy leaves (the tansy herb also drives ants away from your home if planted in the landscaping)

Six garlic cloves (plant these near your plants as well)

Four hot peppers (jalapeño, chili, cayenne)


Put these items in a cooking pot

Cover with water

Bring to boil, let simmer for 30 minutes

Should yield about 4 cups

Strain two cups of cooled broth into a garden sprayer and fill with water up to the gallon mark. We add a teaspoon of Basic H as well to make the mixture more effective and longer lasting. Just Basic H alone in water is a safe pesticide for Japanese beetles.

How to use this natural, organic pesticide in the garden

Spray this in the evening when the squash flowers are closed so you do not harm or drive away the pollinating bees. You will see how effective this is in getting rid of squash bugs naturally and organically when you water in the morning. Flood the area around the base of the plant with water and if any squash vine borers are present, they will come up out of the ground beside the stem of the plant.

Make your job easier by looking under the leaves for squash bug eggs. They lay in a row and the eggs enlarge before they hatch (about two weeks). Cut these leaves off and burn them. If your plant cannot bear to lose another leaf, then spray the eggs and it should kill them before they hatch.

Be careful with how much hot pepper you use. We tried powdered cayenne pepper and it burnt holes in the leaves! Now that you know how to get rid of squash bugs organically and naturally, use it as a safe pesticide for Japanese beetles, cabbage worms, other pests. Try this concoction on anything that bugs you!


Looking Forward, Looking Back

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Our first full year of homesteading has taught us a lot and challenged us for this new year. Last year, we

  • Birthed our first lambs,
  • Tripled our garden,
  • Planted fruit and nut trees,
  • Raised our first pig,
  • Got our first horses,
  • Slaughtered our first steer, and
  • Entered animals at the county fair.

Raising organic, free-range meat on the homestead

We have a freezer full of hormone-free, grass-fed beef. We bought a dairy steer two springs ago just after weaning. We raised on him on the property until slaughtering him about a month ago. Thanks to two helpful neighbors, we got through this process quite simply (but it was work).

Our other little freezer is bursting with deer meat from three bucks we got this season. We have also slaughtered a few lambs this past year, but eat it up about as fast as we get it.

We are definitely happy with the way our meat production has gone. Beef is the easiest thing to raise. Turkeys are the worst, but we plan to try again this year.

The lambs are great, but we messed up the schedule with our ewes. We tried to crank out an extra lamb crop and ended up with false pregnancies. They will probably lamb a little late this year, in May.

Raising organic produce with the best results

We tried an experiment that failed last year (that is one way to get an education). My wife and I have always agreed, we would rather have 20 years experience than one year’s experience 20 times over.

We tried to raise squash in an old pasture. We tilled up the clay soil about 4” and spread leaves and manure. However, you have to till the soil deeper than this and mix in more organic compounds like humus, leaves, mulch piles, and manure. The hard clay soil stunted the growth of these vegetables. The hot summer then killed them faster than we could water.

What did work really well, however, was spreading think piles of manure. We spread composted horse manure about 8” thick. The squash went crazy in it! This set up gave the squash all the moisture, nutrients, and depth it needed to survive. The heat still took its toll, but we got more out of about 200 linear feet of manure heaps than we did out of the acre of clay soil.

Winter gardening for summer bumper crop

Winter gardening is an indoor sport: open the seed catalogs and dream! We know we can do well with broccoli, romaine lettuce, bush beans, peas, tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, winter squash, garlic, herbs, and onions.

We are gardening right now, too—well, sort of. We haul in pickup loads of manure from a horse farm, as often as we can. If we waited until spring, the rain would make the ground too soft to do this.

We are experimenting with growing squash across a trellis this year. Last year we noticed the winter squash growing up the fences and putting on fruit with no problem.

We set up cattle panels in an arch shape about six feet tall. We laid down a matte of leaves and then covered it with turkey manure on either side. Come May, this will all be well-composted but will be thick enough to snuff out most weeds. We will then drill down and plant winter squash seeds in it.

For your info, a bumper crop is a gardening success so great that you have to sell the excess off your bumper on the side of the highway (at least that is what I think it means).

Happy New Year!

Raise Winter Squash

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Rich beta carotene with winter squash.Our family absolutely loves winter squash. We cannot get enough of the rich beta carotene in those deep orange squashes.

What is winter squash?

Okay, my southern friends, this is not something you fry. Everyone I meet south of the Mason-Dixon line tries to fry everything: potatoes, onions, green tomatoes, okra. Winter squash tastes totally different from yellow squash or zucchini, and you serve it differently as well. Winter squash looks more like a pumpkin, but summer squashes resemble cucumbers. Common winter squash varieties include butternut, buttercup, acorn, and Hubbard. One squash we love particularly is the Mooregold variety from the Shumway seed catalog. These folks deliver great seeds with great germination rates.

Where does winter squash grow?

The challenge we’ve had here in Missouri has been to keep winter squash alive through the hot summer months. Winter squash is primarily a northern thing (we are both from the upper United States) because it does not tolerate the heat well. However, with consistent watering, you can help your squash plants survive the summer and produce record crops if you live in a warmer climate.

How do you plant winter squash?

Having tried several methods, we are posting this to tell you what worked and what did not. First, squash needs well-worked soil. Till or dig deeply so that the soft roots can penetrate. If you can get the roots down deeply enough (8 inches or more), the squash can survive the heat better than a shallow-rooted system. However, if you have clay soil like ours, no amount of tilling can solve all your problems. So, we found a useful trick.
Squash feeds heavily, much like corn and other big producers. Winter squash absolutely loves horse manure. It probably loves all types of manure, but horse comes most available around here. Unfortunately, horse manure comes weedy, and even though it has composted, some seeds still survive. Squash, however, only needs weeding for about its first month—after that, the big leaves block out any weeds as it shade-mulches itself. Acorn squash leaves do not grow quite as large, but any healthy plant will produce good size leaves.
The more manure the better! If you pile the compost a foot thick, the plants go crazy. This gives it unlimited nutrition and plenty of room to spread its roots. We have seen vines run 20-40 feet long. I have piled horse and cow manure straight on hard-packed, clay ground and watched the plants thrive. Yes, they do penetrate the soil, too, because this “no till” farming method entices earthworms to work up from the ground into the manure. The worms aerate the soil and till it slowly while I do more important things, like push my daughter on the swing for the hundredth time. The manured plants produce squash ten to one against those planted in tilled soil and watered regularly.
You can start squash in peat pots and transplant early. We have found that grapefruit skins work well as free peat pots, and even the hard shell from last year’s winter squash can work as a biodegradable planting pot. They do not transplant well if you handle their roots like tomatoes or peppers. The fragile taproot can break, and you will kill the plant.

When do you pick winter squash?

Watch to see the vine drying out near the fruit. Here, we seem to have two seasons for our Mooregold and butternut squashes. We have to pick a lot when the hot spell comes on because the plant quits producing and you need to harvest what it has finished. Then as cool weather comes the plant rebounds (provided it did not die in the July and August heat wave) and will produce fruit all the way to frost. This year we plan to try something we heard on Farmer Boy (by Laura Ingles Wilder) and spray down any leaves that get frost on them. They say if you wet them down before the sun hits the frost, the leaf will survive and the plant will keep producing. We shall see. Leave a comment below if you have used this technique in any of your gardening.

How do you cook winter squash?

We just slice the squash in half and scoop out the seeds to save for next year. Some of these winter squashes have very tough shells on them, so you may need a big knife and a strong wrist, otherwise try a powered knife like they sell for turkey carving. Then, fill a casserole dish with about a half-inch to an inch of water, turn the squash face down, and put it in the oven for about 45 minutes to an hour on 350 degrees. A fork can turn the orange flesh easily when thoroughly cooked. Acorn squash and butternut squash will want butter and maybe even need some sweetener like brown sugar, if you use that. The reason I love Mooregold squash is that it needs nothing. Fresh cooked, I can eat it directly without butter, salt, or anything. God made it for eating, and I could consume it everyday.

How do you store winter squash?

Put it in your cellar. It keeps well in any cool environment and can last for months if kept clean and dry. Watch for mold or rot and clean out any offenders before the whole shelf of produce rots away on you. You may also cook it up and pressure can or freeze it. We have a hard time producing enough to keep all winter since we eat it so rabidly. Add winter squash to your diet and see what you have been missing. Once you are hooked, you won’t want to live on potatoes or rice again. We found it works as a great starch and vegetable, both to fill the kids and nourish as well. Our whole family loves this wonderful, God-given product.

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