100+ Handmade Holiday Gift Ideas

Over 100 DIY Ideas for Handmade Holiday Gifts | Homestead Honey

Do you love handmade holiday gifts as much as I do?

For many years, Brian and I have created handmade gifts for our friends and family - candles, paper, truffles (yum!), cutting boards, liqueur, knitted scarves, hats, fingerless gloves, and many more.  Creating gifts with our own hands is something we value, something we pour our love into, and we hope that the recipients love the gifts as much as we love making them.

(Spoiler alert: If you’re related to me, you should probably stop reading now!)

So, what to make this year?  Some of my absolute favorite homestead bloggers and I have compiled a list of over 100 handmade holiday gifts to make at home:

For the Home

  • Beeswax candles are one of my favorite winter treats.  They give amazing light, smell great, and are easy and fun to make.  Here’s a step by step photo tutorial that I put together.
  • If you’re like me and have an incredible collection of Mason Jars, then you’ll love this collection of ten easy ways to turn a canning jar into a Christmas present, from Learning and Yearning!
  • Joybilee Farm has put together a collection of gift ideas just for MEN!  I know I always find it hard to make something for my husband, so I’m really looking forward to diving into some of her projects.

For the Body

For the Kitchen

For the Kids

  • I’m a huge fan of imaginative play and open-ended gifts.  Simple, natural materials make incredible gifts for kids, and these felt wool balls are no exception.
  • This simple yet stunning scarf from Meredith at ImaginAcres is adult-sized, but I bet it would make a fantastic gift for teens and children as well. I know my daughter Ella would love it!
  • If you have wee ones to make for, check out this awesome tutorial for DIY Upcycled Baby and Toddler Pants from Montana Solar Creations.

Shop Small

  • If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own, why not support a small business!  Homestead Honey’s sponsors are some of the best small businesses I know. From silk play scarves, to cycling caps, to fermenting equipment, and much more.  Check them out in the Sidebar and let them know I sent you!
  • And finally, here’s a shameless plug for my family’s Etsy shop, Acorn Hill Handcrafts, where my husband Brian makes one of a kind serving and cutting boards and hand-forged items such as this gorgeous candleholder.

Handforged candleholder from Acorn Hill Handcrafts | Homestead Honey

Plus, if you use the code “Homestead10″ you’ll receive 10% off your order!

 

Dozens more inspiring handmade holiday gift ideas can be found here:

Have Yourself a Homemade Christmas at Learning and Yearning

A DIY Christmas at My Healthy Green Family

A Dozen DIY Christmas Gifts for Men at Joybilee Farm

100+ Handmade Holiday Gift Ideas at Ever Growing Farm

100+ Homemade Christmas Gifts at Montana Homesteader

The Ultimate Homemade Holiday at ImaginAcres

12 Days of Homemade Christmas Gifts at Livin Lovin Farmin

(Really) Last Minute Homemade Christmas Gifts at Homestead Honey

 

Happy Making!
Teri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist :: Book Review

Maybe you’ve heard about Permaculture, but you’re not really sure what it is. Or perhaps the words Edible Landscaping make you drool, but you don’t know how to start creating one.  The book Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist by Michael Judd is a user-friendly, project packed introduction to these topics that will leave you inspired to create your own edible backyard!

Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist by Michael Judd | Reviewed on Homestead Honey  http://homestead-honey.com

Chapters focus on subjects including:

  • Herb Spiral, The Ultimate Raised Bed 
  • Fungi!! Growing Specialty Mushrooms
  • Hugelkultur, Mounds of Fertility
  • Earthen Ovens

My own family has been creating Permaculture systems here on our homestead. For instance, we’ve begun to experiment with building swales and mounds to retain and utilize water, and have planted the beginnings of a food forest.  In fact, before we even had a house to live in, we had already planted over 20 fruit tree cultivars and 100 native edible trees and shrubs.

However, I still feel like we’re years away from the type of lush, dense edible landscape that I envision.  Partly, this is a practical matter – trees take a long time to produce fruit!  But partly it’s because creating a food forest can feel overwhelming.

Young fruit tree planted in a food forest | Homestead Honey

That’s why I really appreciated the chapter Food Forest.  Judd walks the reader through the process of starting a food forest from scratch, step by step. I appreciated how he uses many visuals that illustrate his techniques – both graphics and photos.  He even walks us through the technique of creating “guilds,” or companion plantings for fruit trees, including a number of suggestions of which plants to select as companions.  This spring, I plan to start as many insectary and pollinator plants as possible from seed, and secure some comfrey roots from my neighbors!

I also loved Judd’s passion for Uncommon Fruits.  I am also a huge fan of many of the same fruits he describes – Persimmons, Mulberries, Hardy Kiwi.  We have planted dozens of mulberries, native plums, persimmons, and paw paws on our land, and hope that years from now they will be giving us delicious fruit.  Each uncommon fruit is described, and basic growing techniques covered.  I guarantee that this chapter will make you want to order some fruit trees!

Preparing persimmons for freezing | Homestead Honey

If you’re interested in learning more about Edible Landscaping or Permaculture, this book is a great introduction.

And I’m happy to share that I have TWO signed copies to giveaway on my blog!  Simply enter with the Rafflecopter widget below.

The fine print: the giveaway will begin on November 2 at 12am Central, and will end on November 4 at 12 am Central.  Because I’m paying shipping, I’d appreciate US entries only.  The winner will be notified by email and will have 24 hours to respond before I select a new winner.  Thank you!

Congratulations to our winners: Janette N. and Kim S. Please check your email!

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Welcome, November!

We welcomed November with our first hard frost!  When we awoke, the thermometer read 19 degrees, our cat’s water bowl was frozen solid, and we cooked indoors for the first time since June!  We spent most of Friday harvesting the last of our summer vegetables – green tomatoes, a few red cayenne peppers, eggplants, and one last delicious watermelon.  A few cold hardy crops remain growing in the garden – kale, carrots, parsley, turnips, and a few brassicas.

Fall is one of my favorite times to preserve food through lactic acid fermentation (think sauerkraut in all flavors and homemade hot sauce!), which is why I’m really excited to introduce you to a new Homestead Honey sponsor, Fermentools.

Fermentools - supplies for home scale fermentation | Homestead Honey

Fermentools offers kits and supplies for fool-proof small batch fermentation.  You provide mason jars and vegetables, and their Starter Kit provides the rest!  I’m really excited to experiment with this new tool, and will share my results this fall!  You can check out Fermentools’ full website here.


I appreciate my sponsors so very much, and invite you to visit all of these awesome small businesses!  

Backwoods Solar – Solar, wind, and hydro systems for your home.  Backwoods Solar helps customers design and select customized systems for their off-grid needs.

Lavender’s Blue Homeschool – A resource for peaceful parenting and holistic homeschooling, now offering a complete First Grade Waldorf-inspired curriculum, as well as a kindergarten curriculum!

The Aquaponic Source – Providing learning materials, products, and leadership to empower people to grow their own fish and vegetables in their homes and schools

The Dental Essentials -A nutritional supplement that has been specially formulated to reduce cavities. (Use coupon code Homestead for 15% off!)

TEND Magazine – A quarterly, downloadable magazine, designed to nourish a mindful life. (Use coupon code HOMEHON10 for 10% off!)

Ollie and Stella Children’s Outfitters – Featuring super high-quality DucKsday outdoorwear for kids

Gypsy Forest - Natural goods for home and play

The Sitting Tree – Handmade goods, for a free-spirited life

Randi Jo Fabrications – Soft goods for bicyclers

* * * * * * * *

Are you a small business owner? I am currently accepting new sponsors for Homestead Honey, with special Holiday Advertising opportunities available.  Please take a look at my Media Kit on my Sponsorship page, and contact me to get started!

* * * * * * * *

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Building a Tiny House :: Flooring

Installing a hardwood floor in our Tiny House | Homestead Honey  http://homestead-honey.com

There are many cliched bits of advice you come across when building a house:

- “Build a house, lose a spouse”
- “Everything will take twice as long and cost twice as much”
-”Don’t move in until you’ve finished your house, otherwise it will never get done”

Well, I’m pleased to report that Brian and I are still happily married to one another, and we actually have stayed well within our house’s budget.  However, I can absolutely attest that everything DOES take twice as long to build, especially when balancing building with homeschooling two young children and attending to other homestead chores. And more importantly, it is extremely challenging to work on a house while living in it.

Earlier this summer, we moved our kitchen outdoors, and brought our bedroom to a tent.  All of this was in preparation for finishing the walls and floors of our 350 square foot home.  The walls were plastered with a gypsum plaster that was tinted with natural pigments.  The flooring had been purchased months ago – we actually really lucked out at an auction with a bundle of oak flooring that we bought for $65.  All that was left was to completely clear the house so we could install, sand, and finish the living room floor.

Building a Tiny House :: Installing a hardwood floor | Homestead Honey  http://homestead-honey.com

You can see here the cottonwood subfloor on the right and the oak going in on the left.  We used a Bostitch Manual Flooring Nailer that we borrowed from our neighbors.

Building a Tiny House :: Installing a Hardwood Floor | Homestead Honey  http://homestead-honey.com

A few days later…the floor has been installed!

Building a Tiny House :: Installing a Hardwood Floor | Homestead Honey  http://homestead-honey.com

Preparing to sand, with our bed loft converted to a storage space!

The hardwood floor sanding begins!

All sanded and ready to seal!  While we did rent a drum sander, we found that our generator was not able to power it. So, Brian used the edge sander for the entire floor. It did a great job, but sure led to some sore muscles the next day!

Applying a low VOC finish to the hardwood floor | Homestead Honey

Brian then applied a very low VOC polyurethane finish to the floor.  We did 4 coats in the living room, and also sealed our kitchen floor.

Building a Tiny House :: Finishing our hardwood floor | Homestead Honey  http://homestead-honey.com

Voila!  I LOVE these floors! They are so smooth and gorgeous that I just want to sweep them all day long! (Well, not really, but I really love them.)

Our Tiny House is almost finished!  A bit of trim, some built-in shelving, and perhaps a coat of natural paint on the wall behind the woodstove, and we’re good to go!

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Preparing your Garden for Winter

Prepare your garden for winter with these five easy tips!  | Homestead Honey  http://homestead-honey.com

Although the past week has been gloriously sunny and warm, the end of October signals that garden season is coming to a close here in NE Missouri.  I’ve already pulled my cucumbers, cantaloupe, and zucchini out of the ground, and will soon strip my tomato vines and pepper plants.

Preparing my garden for the winter months is a task that I actually look forward to each year. It’s an opportunity for me to reflect upon the abundance of the harvest season, and yet also a chance to rest and renew my enthusiasm for next year’s garden (bigger and better!).

As I put the garden to bed, I like to remember the FIVE C’s of preparing for winter:

Compost, Cover, Collect, Create, and Celebrate.

1) Compost

As I pull plants out of the garden, I immediately bring them to one of three compost piles:  The first is a slower composting pile for for large woody stemmed plants, such as sunflower stalks, or tomato vines.  The second is for leafy greens such as brown kale leaves, or rotting tomatillos. The third pile, separate from the others, and outside the garden fence, is for invasive weeds that I’m trying to remove from the garden.

It may seem easier to leave dead plants in the garden, but I have found that when my garden is properly prepped in the fall, and all spent garden plants are properly composted, that I am rewarded with not only a much healthier garden, but also a super quick spring prep.

Preparing your garden for winter. Step One: Compost | Homestead Honey http://homestead-honey.com

 

2) Cover

Whether you like to cover your soil with mulch or with a cover crop, it is essential to cover that bare soil!  I typically cover my garden beds with 6 inches of straw mulch, but leaf mulch is also a great cover (and abundant in fall!). In the spring, I simply move the mulch layer to the path  to allow the sun to warm the soil, do my seeding or transplanting, and replace the straw when plants have grown up a few inches.

This fall I’m experimenting with a winter rye cover crop in the upper garden. I thickly sowed the rye and lightly raked it into the soil. I look forward to sharing my experiences with this crop.

Preparing the garden for winter. Step two: Cover | Homestead Honey http://homestead-honey.com

3) Collect

Fall is a great time to save seeds!  Love those brilliant orange cosmos and zinnias that you grew this year?  Save some seed! Did you grow a fantastic heirloom tomato or melon whose flavor knocked your socks off?  Save some seed!

Here’s a great resources for saving seed: Seed Savers Exchange Seed Saving Instructions

And one about Saving Heirloom Seeds.

Preparing your garden for Winter. Step Three: Collect Seeds | Homestead Honey http://homestead-honey.com

4) Create

Fall is the perfect time to create new sheet mulch (or lasagna garden) beds.  In fact, my compost pile for leafy vegetation is in my new sheet mulched bed.  As I remove healthy, but spent plants, I simply heap them onto my bed of straw, horse manure, and food scraps.  I’ll continue to layer throughout the fall, and in the spring, the bed will be ready to plant into.

For more information about how to create a sheet mulch garden, check out these posts:

Create an Instant Garden with Sheet Mulching

Building Soil with Lasagna Gardening

Preparing your garden for winter. Step four: Create new beds | Homestead Honey  http://homestead-honey.com

5) Celebrate

Yes, you’ve worked incredibly hard this spring, summer, and fall, providing food for your family and your community.  Now it’s time to celebrate your accomplishments.

Preparing your garden for winter. Step five - Celebrate!  | Homestead Honey  http://homestead-honey.com

I was really thrilled by our upper garden this year, as well as by the fall garden that will provide us with greens and roots into November or December.

What was particularly successful in your garden this year?  

Write it down in your own garden journal, and please, share it in the comments!

 

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Natural Dyeing

Natural Dyeing - Amazing color from plants on your homestead, or in your backyard! | Homestead Honey http://homestead-honey.com

This past weekend, my 6 year old daughter Ella and I participated in a Natural Dyeing workshop taught by my friend and neighbor, Julia.  The class was just one of many amazing monthly offerings hosted by the community down the road – previous classes included Canning and Foraging for Wild Edibles, and later this month there will be Knitting and Bow-Making classes.

I’ve dabbled in natural dyeing before, but have never gone through the entire process from beginning to end, including using pre-mordants.  My experience had been limited to using white vinegar as a mordant.  I’m excited to share with you what I learned, keeping in mind that I am an enthusiastic novice!

Natural Dyeing Workshop

1) Weighing the Fabric: First, we weighed the fabric that each participant brought to dye, breaking it up into two classes: protein-based fibers such as wool and silk, and plant-based fibers such as linen and cotton.

Measuring out fabric weights, in preparation for natural dyeing | Homestead Honey http://homestead-honey.com

2) Pre-Wash: Next, our fire-master Mike (also my neighbor), helped pre-wash the fibers.  Again, they were separated into protein-and plant-based fibers.

Adding clothing and fabric to pots for a pre-wash during our Natural Dyeing class | Homestead Honey http://homestead-honey.com Pre-washing silk and wool in a natural dyeing class | Homestead Honey http://homestead-honey.com

A row of Rocket stoves simmering natural dyes | Homestead Honey http://homestead-honey.com

(Man does that community collection of Rocket Stoves sure come in handy for an outdoor Natural Dyeing class!  We had six going at a time!)

3) Pre-Mordant: After the pre-wash, we measured out appropriate amounts of the pre-mordant, Alum. The mordant helps the dye adhere to the fibers, and helps create an end product that is color- and light-fast. The fibers simmered in the mordant for one hour.

4) Into the Dye Pots! Next, it was time to add our fabric to the dye pots!  Julia had pre-prepared six dyes made from plants on her homestead, and in the neighborhood.  I helped her gather goldenrod, and was able to gather a very large bag-full just by strolling along our pasture path with clippers in hand!

The plants that she used, and the color they created were:

  • Pokeberry – Bright Pink (Note that the ripe berries are toxic to injest)
  • Goldenrod – Bright Yellow
  • Bidens (Tickseed Coreopsis) – Orange
  • Wild Sunflower – Yellow Orange
  • Comfrey – Greenish Yellow
  • Black Walnut Hull – Brown

Dyes created from goldenrod, Bidens, pokeberry and wild sunflower in a Natural Dyeing class | Homestead Honey http://homestead-honey.com

5) Wash and Rinse: After an hour of simmering in color, we removed the fibers from the dye pots, washed them with a bit of mild soap, then rinsed them thoroughly.

Removing naturally dyed items from the pot, and giving them a final rinse | Homestead Honey http://homestead-honey.com

6) Dry and Admire!

Cotton shirt dyed with Bidens, or Tickseed Coreopsis | Homestead Honey http://homestead-honey.com

A previously white shirt, turned brilliant orange in the Bidens dye.

Silk chiffon dyed with comfrey, Bidens, goldenrod, wild sunflower, and black walnut | Homestead Honey http://homestead-honey.com

We came home with an assortment of silk chiffon and silk crepe de chine play scarves.  From left to right, the colors were created with Comfrey, Bidens, Goldenrod, Wild Sunflower, Comfrey, and Black Walnut.

Wool dyed with goldenrod, Bidens, wild sunflower, and pokeberry | Homestead Honey http://homestead-honey.com

This may be my favorite image from the class – a gorgeous collection of wool fibers that a friend dyed.  The wool took up the color so brilliantly.

Wool yarn dyed with pokeberry | Homestead Honey http://homestead-honey.com

Ella and I dyed some wool in anticipation of her learning to knit in a few weeks!  The front yarns were dyed with Pokeberry, and the skein in the rear with Black Walnut.

Wool, silk and cotton samples from a Natural Dyeing workshop | Homestead Honey http://homestead-honey.com

We all went home with sample swatches of different fibers – wool, silk crepe de chine, raw silk, cotton, and jersey.  It was so fascinating to see how differently each fiber absorbed the color. For instance, the Pokeberry dye resulted in a gorgeous and intense pink color on wool, but on silk was a very pale pink.

7) Learn more! I’m so excited to continue on this natural dyeing journey!  A few books that were recommended for further reading were:



And one I’d like to read, as I LOVE the idea of growing dye plants in my garden!

Have you ever Natural Dyed?  What was your favorite dye plant?

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Welcome, October!

October in Northeast Missouri is a glorious month.  Bright sun reflects on the white gravel roads, leaves turn brilliant colors and then fall to the ground, hickory nuts litter the forest floor, and the first frost of the season leaves me scrambling to harvest the last of the garden glory, and protect greens from the cold.

As we welcome October, I’d like to also welcome a new Homestead Honey sponsor, Backwoods Solar.  Earlier this summer, we purchased our solar electric system from Backwoods Solar and we were SO thrilled with how they helped us put together a custom system specifically designed for our needs and our budget. Furthermore, they are available for tech consultations whenever we need them (and believe me, we are taking advantage of that service!!)

Backwoods Solar

You can check out Backwoods Solar’s full catalog of solar, wind and hydro electric supplies on their website:  http://www.backwoodssolar.com

I appreciate Homestead Honey sponsors so much, and encourage you to check out Backwoods Solar and these small businesses:

Lavender’s Blue Homeschool – A resource for peaceful parenting and holistic homeschooling, now offering a complete First Grade Waldorf-inspired curriculum, as well as a kindergarten curriculum!

The Aquaponic Source – Providing learning materials, products, and leadership to empower people to grow their own fish and vegetables in their homes and schools

The Dental Essentials -A nutritional supplement that has been specially formulated to reduce cavities. (Use coupon code Homestead for 15% off!)

TEND Magazine – A quarterly, downloadable magazine, designed to nourish a mindful life. (Use coupon code HOMEHON10 for 10% off!)

Ollie and Stella Children’s Outfitters – Featuring super high-quality DucKsday outdoorwear for kids

Gypsy Forest - Natural goods for home and play

The Sitting Tree – Handmade goods, for a free-spirited life

Randi Jo Fabrications – Soft goods for bicyclers

Are you a small business owner? I am currently accepting new sponsors for Homestead Honey, and would for you to consider joining me! Please take a look at my Media Kit on my Sponsorship page, and contact me to get started!

* * * * * * * *

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The Dental Essentials

A few years ago, my family found itself facing dental problems.  My daughter Ella, who was 3 at the time, had numerous cavities and one crumbling molar. Yes, crumbling.  I was astonished – how could our organic-eating, non-juice-drinking, no-candy-eating toddler have crumbling teeth?  We extended breastfed to get her off on the right foot, brushed and flossed, gave her plenty of home-grown produce and grass-fed meat, and drank raw milk. What could be we doing wrong?

In my readings, I came across a lot of information that led me to believe that our family was vitamin and mineral deficient (after all, my husband Brian had been experiencing dental issues as well).  I really dislike taking pills, so I’ve never been very heavily into supplements, but we found ourselves selecting a few high quality supplements such as fermented cod liver oil and supplements from The Dental Essentials.

Years later, I’m so happy to have The Dental Essentials as sponsors on Homestead Honey. This is a company that has had real impact on my family’s health and well-being and I’m happy that we can mutually support one another!  Today, we take a peek into their business, and be sure to scroll down for a discount code on their amazing product!

The Dental Essentials

Welcome to Homestead Honey!  Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Thanks for inviting us onto your blog! We are a small company started in 2010 based out of Vancouver, Canada. It’s run by two people, Rob and Melinda, plus one shipping assistant.
Tell us about The Dental Essentials – what led you to start such a unique company. 

We started this company after coming across the research of Dr May Mellanby almost by accident. We had been reading about Weston Price and his world travels documenting peoples and the devastating decline in the health of their teeth when they abandon from their traditional diets in favour of a more western diet. The information and photos were remarkable. We delved a bit further and found Mellanby’s trials with young kids and her astounding success treating their rampant tooth decay with nutrition and vitamin supplementation and started to get confused. We kept asking ourselves, ‘why doesn’t anybody seem to know about this?’ That was the start.

What are the joys and challenges of running this small business?

Hands down the best part is when we receive a letter from a parent saying how overjoyed they are to see improvement in their child’s teeth, or the first positive check up. Especially important for a lot of parents is avoiding invasive dental procedures on small, often fearful kids and when they find our products have done the trick, they are happy, very happy. That, of course, makes us happy too.

The challenges of this small business are getting the word out and also explaining what that ‘word’ means. Of course, there is a portion of the population that ‘gets it’. They understand how and why teeth (and in fact the whole body) can heal and become more resistant to disease through proper nutrition. But for the vast majority of people, they don’t understand the concept and, even after they’ve read the literature, they just don’t believe it. That’s a challenge for sure.

Besides taking supplements such as The Dental Essentials, what can you suggest to enhance dental health?

One thing is to keep in mind is that too much phytate in the diet can have an adverse effect on dental health. Grains such as wheat, corn and oats are high in phytic acid, which binds to calcium present in the body and basically robs it before it can be absorbed.
So if you think you’re getting enough calcium in your diet but you’re also consuming a lot of phytate through bread, cereals,etc… then you may want to consider supplementing or adding more calcium than you think necessary. Your teeth (and bones!) will thank you.

Thank you Melinda and Rob!

 

If you’d like to try The Dental Essentials’ supplements for children and adults, use the code “Homestead” on the order page to receive 15% off your first purchase of The Dental Essentials.

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What Every New Cow Owner Should Know…

I have some VERY, VERY exciting news (and I bet you can guess what it is!) – in a month’s time, we are going to become first time cow owners! (Cue the excited squeal!)  For months I’ve been connecting with an amazing farm that raises Jersey cows, waiting patiently to see if there would indeed be a cow for our family.  And the answer is yes, yes, yes!  She is a registered Jersey in her second lactation, she is in milk and has been exposed to a bull, so we’re hoping she’ll be bred when she arrives in mid-October.

Even though we raised Alpine dairy goats for years, we’ve never cared for a cow.  So, I reached out to my favorite cow-owning homestead bloggers for their VERY BEST tips for a new cow owner.  Here they share the advice that they wish someone had given them when they first got a cow!

Homesteaders share their best advice for new cow owners | Homestead Honey

Katie from livinlovinfarmin suggests that new cow owners be prepared!

“And in prepared, I don’t just mean physically and emotionally for the long hours and the physical strain it takes to manage and milk a cow, I mean a well prepared, well-stocked medicine cabinet.” (Katie has put together an amazing guest post detailing her cow medicine cabinet, which I am really excited to share in the near future – thank you Katie!)

Quinn from Reformation Acres reminds us that cows are creatures of habit.

“Know well the condition of your cow and give her proper attention. These gals thrive on routine and do best if they know what to expect each and every day and get the hands-on attention they deserve. Livestock is a huge and yet highly rewarding commitment and what they are offering to you and your family is an extremely valuable (and delicious) return for the time and effort you’ll put into them.”

Advice for First Time Cow Owners | Homestead Honey  (Thanks to TheToupsAddress.com for their photo of Belle!)
Connie from Urban Overalls shares her experience with the less glamorous side of milking a cow!

“While I currently do not have a milk cow, I grew up milking cows. The one thing I wished I had known or that my siblings who had milking duty before it was passed to me was … tie the tail to something to prevent it from swishing around if the cow has loose bowels that day. The last thing you want is a poopy tail swatting around you”

Ashley from The Browning Homestead at Red Fox Farm suggests having a cow mentor.

“Be sure that you have a few resources that you can turn to when you have questions or concerns. A few good books and then one other person who is experienced with family milk cows is invaluable!” (And by the way, Ashley is an amazing source of cow information. I have been known to email her photos of potential cows, just to get her advice!)

Great advice for new cow owners | Homestead Honey (photo credit TheToupsAddress.com)

Ashley from Whistle Pig Hollow votes for coming home with an experienced cow.

“For a first milk cow, I highly suggest getting one who has been milked before, so at least somebody (the cow!) knows what’s going on when milking time comes. And as soon as you get your cow, start working with her and getting her comfortable with the future milking routine (assuming she’s not already in milk). Lastly, don’t be afraid to reach out to people with more experience than you! Our local dairy farmers, our neighbors who own cows, and the man we purchased our milk cow from have been so helpful.”

Heather at Green Eggs and Goats knows that a cow will win your heart!

“Be prepared for your cow to become more than just livestock. A milk cow quickly becomes a treasured member of your family.”  (Awww!)

 

For all of you cow owners out there, what is YOUR best piece of advice for a new cow owner? 

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Homemade Hot Sauce Recipe

Make Your Own Homemade Hot Sauce | Homestead Honey

Imagine combining the spicy zing of your favorite Tobasco sauce with the complex flavors and live-culture, probiotic goodness of a lactic acid ferment, and you get this amazing hot sauce – one that we make at the end of summer and enjoy all winter long.

Here’s how to make it:

Long Thin Cayenne Peppers | Homestead Honey

First, we start with ripe, fresh chiles.

These are Long Thin Cayenne Peppers mixed with a few yellow hot peppers, but you could also use green chiles like seranos or jalapenos for a green hot sauce.

Long Thin Cayenne and Hot Yellow Peppers | Homestead Honey

Cut off the stems and chop into a couple of pieces, and loosely pack into a mason jar.

Making homemade hot sauce with cayenne peppers | Homestead Honey

Mix a 5% brine (3 TBSP salt per quart water) in another container.

Mixing a 5% brine to make homemade hot sauce | Homestead Honey

Pour this over the chiles and cover with a cloth or a lid that is left slightly a jar.

The technique is exactly like making naturally fermented pickles.

Hot peppers fermenting in a salt water brine | Homestead Honey

I like to keep this jar on my counter where I will see it every day and remember to invert the jar 1 or 2 times per day to keep mold from forming on the surface.

After a week or two, the liquid should be cloudy, the sign of lactic acid bacteria proliferating, and the ferment should taste delightfully sour/tart.  Now we’re ready to blend!

Blending homemade hot sauce | Homestead Honey

Carefully blend the chiles and brine into a velvety red puree.

You might not need to add ALL the brine – start with a small amount and add to your desired consistency – more for a liquidy, Tobasco-like sauce, less for a thicker paste-like hot sauce.

Blending lactofermented hot sauce | Homestead Honey

We usually add a few drizzles of apple cider vinegar, just to increase the acidity, which helps the hot sauce keep longer.

Homemade Tobasco-style hot sauce | Homestead Honey

Store in a cool or refrigerated place, and enjoy a bit of summer heat all year long!

 

 

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