Guess who’s coming…er… gonna be dinner?

This year we thought we’d give a try at raising a few turkeys.

I originally purchased 7 chicks, 4 of which we found trampled in the pen at different times. It took a while to find the culprit. (Making me fear some avian flu epidemic.) But it turned out the cages I’ve used to raise chickens had a wire floor that the turkey’s feet were trapped in the squares. A solid bottom was used and the final 3 are what we have now. So Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Anytime are looking pretty yummy!

Video of our turkeys:


The white one is not as timid and comes right up to me. If it was a hen I’d keep her for stock & eggs.


I’m a turkey that’s totally chicken of chickens!


I took these pics some time ago when they were really putting a beating on each others’ tail feathers.

 turkeys2_1967  turkeys2_1972

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Fire, fire oh my!

Fire…something we often take for granted.

I had a near miss one recent morning. Distracted by the hubby and a friend, I turned away from a warming skillet of olive oil. When they left, I walked back down the hall only to see a wave of dark smoke coming from the kitchen.

Running to the kitchen, I came upon a scene of the skillet on fire, flames flicking to reach the ceiling.


Quickly, I grabbed a metal lid and covered the skillet then waited for the flames to cease. Once the flames were out I opened up the doors and turned on the attic fan. So sorry, no pics of the cool flames. ;)

The smoke cleared and I could see there wasn’t any fire damage but I do have some smoke residue to scrub along the stove vent. What a relief!


The most irritating thing that bugs me is the smoke alarm failed to sound. And forget about the indoor doggie, Tootsie Roll. The house would be a goner because instead of barking, the first whiff of smoke sends her downstairs to hide or escape out the door.

The smoke alarm made me pause as the batteries are good and the alert test was working fine. So that left moving the alarm to where it gets the maximum air flow along the upstairs level.

I’m relieved to have dodged the bullet that killed my great-grandmother. But even if the fire had escalated to a full kitchen fire, I have an ABC fire extinguisher nearby.

But most of all, one just has to remember to not panic and take the best action for the size of the fire. In this case a tight fitting lid over a skillet fire saved the day. Phew!

So what’s the moral here? Don’t take fire for granted and…
#1 Don’t get distracted when cooking!
#2 Keep a tight fitting metal lid nearby when heating oils.
#3 Know how to handle different types of kitchen fires. Have a ABC fire extinguisher on hand. Baking soda can also be used on oil fires. Don’t use water on an oil fire!!!
#4 Make sure smoke alarms are in working order and in the proper placement.
#5 Keep calm and quickly access the situation.
#6 If you live in a rural area, it may take time for the professionals to come to your aid. Know when a fire is out of control and get out.

Read more on fire safety at the National Fire Protection Association.

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Have you created a livestock emergency plan?

Your bug-out bag – check.
Emergency provisions – check.
Safety plans for Bessie? Uh oh.

livestock planSeptember is National Preparedness Month–a relevant topic for the Sustainable Prepper! Most of us know how important it is to have emergency plans for ourselves, friends and family depending on an array of situations (many depending on where you live). But, have you ever thought of what you’d do in a disaster scenario with chickens, goats, cows and other homestead or livestock? Most people haven’t!

A few years ago, as an underpaid news intern, I realized how important these plans are. As the TV stations’ resident “cows and crops” reporter, I pulled on muckboots many times to interview farmers whose agriculture operations were hit by tornados, floods and drought. Many of them didn’t have a plan in place that could have helped round up and house cattle that had miraculously survived straight line winds that took down a barn. A rural county Emergency Management Agency official told me it was common for livestock owners to hope for the best, or think these emergency situations couldn’t happen to them–effectively sticking their heads deep in the corn fields.

If you don’t have a plan, it’s important to start considering one. Every farmer, homesteader or livestock enthusiast knows the value of their meat, dairy or pet livestock, so why not set yourself up to best protect it? Need help getting started? Here’s five areas to consider when creating your plan:

Know what you’re up against.
Every region is different, with varying threats. We gals at the Sustainable Prepper live in the Midwest, where we’re in the heart of Tornado Alley. This is our most prominent environmental threat, but that doesn’t mean we discount other potential problems. Many preppers are ready for drastic scenarios, but what about everyday threats, like barn fires or water contamination. Not only should you layout a response plan for these situations, but also look at ways to prevent or monitor risky situations (like removing heaters and lamps from chicken coops).

Keep easy-to-access files and ID livestock regularly.
If a disaster should strike, you’ll want to keep your livestock inventory in one accessible spot, along with information about vaccinations, tests or health problems. These documents will make it easier to transport livestock if necessary, which can be particularly difficult in natural disasters or if you need to cross state lines. Plus, an up-to-date inventory makes it easier to recognize if any animals are missing in the case of a barn collapse or pasture breach. More importantly, be sure that tags or ID bands are visible on your livestock. Good records and a strong inventory are only half as effective if you don’t know who’s who!

Identify safe spots for your critters to travel to.
Your plan should consider safety spots for two scenarios: one where you shelter in place, and a second where you need to evacuate. In some instances, it may be necessary to release livestock to pasture with enough provisions to last the duration of a disaster, or for safety reasons keep them confined to one location. But, if major building or property damage, water contamination or another threat that can’t be immediately alleviated is an issue, it’s smart to plan a place where your livestock can be transported and housed.

Create Bessie’s bug-out bag.
How much do your laying hens eat in a day? How much water do your horses need? And what are common ailments they face that require medical attention? Knowing these things can help you start creating a bug-out bag for your livestock, which can be helpful both in situations where you can’t get new provisions, like hay or corn, in, or if you need to get out of town. Consider adding extra or alternative feed sources to your barn (I remember a few years ago where a hay shortage meant many horse owners were purchasing expensive alfalfa to get through the winter). If clean water is a concern, explore water purifying systems to add to your kit. Be sure to include handling supplies, such as harnesses and leads, cages and a bag of tools that you use regularly to your kit. Common antibiotics and medical supplies are a must, especially if you find yourself in a quarantine situation.

Prepare your property for potential quarantines.
About that quarantine: they’re more common than you may think. In 2014, the PED virus affected biosecurity on many hog farms, and required a lot of quarantining throughout the Midwest. How frequently do news reports cover quarantines and outbreaks on all kinds of farms? Creating a biosecurity plan is exceptionally important because it’ll help keep contaminants in and prevent them from spreading to nearby livestock. And, they also help keep contaminants out of your barns and pastures. Being prepared for both sides of a quarantine (keeping things in versus out) means looking at your protocol for separating sick animals from herds, sanitation, and understanding reporting to veterinary or agriculture agencies near you.

This list definitely isn’t exhaustive, but it’s meant to get you thinking about your emergency livestock plan. For more reading on what to include and how to plan, check out these great resources: Fact Sheet
Covers basic planning and feed/water rations

FEMA: Preparing for a Disaster (Planning for Pets and Livestock)
Basic overview of disaster kids and evacuation protocol

The University of Vermont: Disaster Planning for Livestock
A great walkthrough for creating your plan

USDA: Disaster Planning Index
An archive of great disaster planning resources, including barn fire safety/response, handling loose animals at accident locations and an online training course.

Don’t forget to contact your county Emergency Management Agency or Extension Office for recommendations/suggestions and resources

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Kids & Rabbits & Puppies Oh My!

Boy how time flies! So much has been going on at the farm that we’ve been busy from sun up to sun down. Where do I start? Oh, I’ll start with the new additions to the farm.

We’ve just completed a full season of goat kidding. We decided on a Missouri Native Tree naming pattern for the kids this year.
Winnie gave us two doelings, Sassafras & Hazel, and a buckling, Oakley, on March 18th. Each are healthy and growing fast. Hazel has found a new home but the other two will remain on the farm.


Sassafras, Winnie, and Oakley


Sassafras & Hazel love the brush hog


Oakley and Hazel just sun’n








On May 4th, I drove to Illinois and found a really nice Silver Fox Buck Rabbit. Grason is from Thumping Trail Rabbitry owned by Chelsea. She is wonderful with her rabbits and I know we will continue a friendship.


Grason’s baby fur is growing out & his silvery fur is coming in.


Ebony & Indigo

Then on May 5th, I drove over to see Dinah at Blue Ridge Rabbitry in K.C. and found two beautiful does, a Silver Fox and an American blue. Both are rare heritage breeds known for their high meat quality and pelt.

Sweetpea gave us two bucklings on May 6th. It was a difficult and painful delivery with the first buckling. The buckling was wrapped in the umbilical cord around his neck and with a leg backwards. His distress triggered the delivery as it was wrapped so tightly it took a bit to free him tearing Sweetpea’s vulva. Sadly, he didn’t last but a few minutes after birth even with my intervention of CPR.


I helped her deliver the second buckling without an issue. piney_8742He was spunky and began eating and wondering right away. We decided to call him Piney. Momma healed well and no uterine issues.

Oreo, Sweetpea’s mother, gave us our final does for the season. Redbud and Willow. We were expecting the strong cream and white pattern from Curry’s coloring but she surprised us with a red and white. We hope to see more of this pattern in future kids.


And to protect them all, an Anatolian Shepard puppy we’ve decided to name Thea. She’s living with the goats so she can hind and protect. She was raised with goats, chickens, and ducks an sis fitting in just fine.


Overall, we are thankful for the new animals on the farm!

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Where Are My Pears?

Apparently, they’re not around this year.

Image of bee eating rotten pear

Bees love taking advantage of fallen and rotting fruit. And why not let them? It’s great for the ecosystem. Sorry, little friends, there’ll be few pears to snack on this year.

Early last fall, I spent two weeks in pear (and apple) heaven. The tiny farm house my husband I and rent came with a equally-sized orchard, complete with one apple and two pear trees. What an added bonus!

We awaited early fall with minimal patience. Because the trees were well-established (the property is decades old), we couldn’t believe our luck — and had no idea how “lucky” we’d be when everything ripen at once.

Picking three fruit trees at one time was a massive rush: moving the fruit in, caning it before spoiling, using all the parts I could for our pantry stock and combating the fruit flies that always know when to show up. But, despite all the hard work, we looked forward to the 2015 harvest as an opportunity to improve our harvesting skills and know-how.

Except, this year, I’m sure we won’t be doing that. At least not for pears. Continue reading

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Egg Drop & Portabello Mushroom Soup

Let’s make use of those extra farm eggs with Egg Drop & Portabello Mushroom Soup!


  • 3 qts chicken broth
  • 4+ eggs
  • olive oil
  • portabello mushrooms, sliced
  • onions, diced
  • sea salt
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • paprika
  • 2 basil leaves (or dried 1-2 tsp)

In a 4 qt. pot, add 3 quarts chicken broth (or 2 cups broth & rest in water) and bring to boil. Whip 4 or more eggs (pic shows about a dozen) in a bowl until blended.

IMG_5029In a heated skillet, add olive oil, mushrooms, & onions and sauté until just soft and golden brown.

In boiling broth, drizzle in eggs slowly making strings. Then add mushrooms & onions (opt. carrots, celery). Add sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and basil (opt. ground ginger) to taste.

Boil 5 to 10 minutes & eat!


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Installing Italian Bees in a Top Bar Hive

beepkg_9376I was so eager to pick up my bee package from the post office on Thursday morning. And I am sure by the look on her face that the postal clerk was just as eager, calling me just as the bees arrived and placed in mail crate for non-touchable handling. :) beepkg_9378beecomb_9456

Installing the bees into a top bar hive was not as hard as I had imagined. It was actually quite fun! The even started on making a bit of comb in the package.

The bees were pretty gentle even after being shipped, held for two extra days due to a family function, then finally being dumped into the hive. Mr. SP didn’t even wear his gloves…how brave first time around!

I decided to start with a 3# package of bees with a naturally mated queen. With a shipping date on Monday, the bees arrived from Georgia to rural Missouri on Thursday morning.

IMG_9389The amount of bees dead in the package gave me a shock until I did some homework. So overall, I had few loss of bees, just enough to scantly cover one half of the package floor. Phew!

I fed them a 1:1 sugar & water mixture to be sure everyone had a meal from the trip and to tide them over the two extra days. And you know when a swarm is happy…there’s this quiet hum. When they’re not so happy…well it’s just not quiet and a bit scary. lol


The next morning after install…the bees are still there!

The install went without any incidents. We even had one of the kids videotape. While he wasn’t too eager to assist, he stuck around for the whole install.

Watch: Top Bar Hive Install on YouTube.

A quick check on them the next morning after reopening the entry found them with a gentle buzzing. So far so good! :D


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Sneak peak at LaVis Farm Bees

We are enjoying our Italian Honeybees!bees

I’ve decided to videotape while I install, inspect, and feed the bees. So while I get to editing that footage for blog posts, here’s a sneak peak at Queen Apita & her workers busy at building their new hive.

Bee Teaser View on YouTube


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Let’s Talk Manure!


Chicken & hay compost.

I use chicken and goat manure compost as garden fertilizer.

The chicken manure, already mixed with the hay bedding from the coop, is allowed to set for several months to a year until it looks nice crumbly like this pic shows. I sterilize it in a 200 degrees oven for 30 minutes then sift it. The fine compost I mix with organic peat moss, also sterilized, and use to start my veggie and flower seedlings in late winter.

The goat manure a.k.a. goat pellets are great either as compost with the hay as well or just the pellets tossed into the hole when planting seedlings. It’s also great as a manure tea. Either way the plants love it & I get better results without chemicals.The pellets also act as a water absorbant, releasing moisture back to the plants.

To make tea, I just toss about a hand shovel full of pellets/chicken compost freely or in a sock and let soak a few days in a 5 gallon bucket of water, stirring frequently. Use this diluted with additional water until its a very weak tea. The darker it gets, the “hotter” it will be so I do not want to burn the plants. If I just want to use it as I go, I’ll toss in about 2 cups of manure into the bucket of water, adding water to keep it very weak tea looking. I reuse the manure a few times then toss it into the garden.

Raising livestock offers me the materials to make my own stash of brown goodness. But if you don’t raise livestock, local farmers will often give away manure for one ‘s own labor of hauling it away. Today’s polluting by-product was yesterday’s fertilizer. It’s a renewable resource that we should be making use and not wasting.

Although manures are ALL WONDERFUL,  do realize that all manure is not the same. Learning how “hot” each animal’s manure is and how it’s best used will make you the king or queen of the garden block!

There are lots of websites with their versions of making and using manure fertilizers. Here are a few more discussions…

Homegrown Life: Let’s Talk About Poop (Using Manure in the Garden)

Organic Gardening: Manure

University of Minnesota, Extension: Using Manure & Compost

Ideas for making manure tea…

Mother Earth News: How to make manure tea fertilizer

SF Home Guides: How to make chicken manure tea

Local Harvest: Goat Pellet Tea


Happy Gardening!

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The Bees Are Coming!

I’ve been waiting and waiting for a spring bee swarm to move into the new “condo.”But here it sets empty without any of those locally wild Italian bees to come move in.

beedandalion_8382With the onslaught of rain that continues to drench our farm and after a few chats with some local beekeepers, I see the local bees are just not swarming. Ugh! Spring swarms in my area can run through July with ample food and good weather. Looking at the forecast that is usually pleasant for June all I see are record rainfalls.

What’s a newbie beekeeper to do? Wait until next year? Nope, I have officially gone into “Plan Bee”…ordering a package of bees with a queen. Or so I thought.

A newbie beekeeper such as myself would think I’d have plenty of options to supplying an empty hive with guests. Not so this time of the year! I spent several hours hunting apiaries in the region through online websites and direct calling just to be told they were sold out of packaged bees. See, most beekeepers pre-order their bees & queens in the fall for a spring arrival. I knew this but took the chance on “Plan A” for the plentiful bees around the property as beekeeping is not a cheap investment to begin.

So with the window closing, I had to get on the ball to catch the best time for them to start setting up honey reserves to overwinter. I made a final search for starter bees that led me to H & R Apiaries. They have the Italian Queen and 3# package of bees I was wishing to find. And better yet, I made it just in time for their next shipment in a week. Their customer service was very polite and helpful in assisting my transition into a beekeeper.

Note: If you are in need of bees, H & R Apiaries is still available and will ship to your home or postal box. And if you call by tomorrow, you can also meet their shipping deadline for next week’s shipment. As for pricing, the total for the queen, bees, plus shipping ran me at just $114. That’s less than the prices I was quoted in my region. This surely helped me stay within my farm budget for this year. :)

Oh my…I’m finally going to be a beekeeper! SWEET!




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