How to Grow Mushrooms on Logs

How to Grow Mushrooms on a Log

Last week, I took advantage of the gorgeous fall weather, and set up some mushroom logs on our weekend homestead. We’ve been working on our cabin for over a year now, but this is our first farm-related project on the property. [Read more…]

Cheap Organic Pest Control for Fruit Trees

Homemade Moth Trap

We planted a small orchard in our backyard several years ago (tour my garden here), and it’s finally starting to spring into action. Last year our apricot bushes fruited for the first time, and our apple trees produced their second harvest. This year, it looks like our cherry bushes are going to get in on the action, too They’re flowering now.

It’s pretty exciting to see all of our hard work coming together, but with each stage comes new obstacles. The first year our apricot bushes flowered, there weren’t any bees out to pollinate them, so we built mason bee houses to attract early pollinators to our yard. That worked like a charm, and we had lots of apricots last year. I’m sure the pests that ate them really appreciated our efforts.

Just like the codling moths appreciated our first crop of apples and the birds appreciated our first two crops of grapes. It’s enough to make you want to give up, but we’ve stuck with it, and we’ve found ways to address every one of our pests. Now we bag our grapes to keep the birds off, and we stick codling moth traps out as soon as we spot the first leaves on our apple trees.

This year I’m hoping to build on that success by finding a pest control solution for our apricot bushes and a cheaper pest control solution for our apple trees. Here’s the scoop on what I’m trying. [Read more…]

The Scoop on Molting

We have things we do to get our chickens ready for winter, and so do they.

Molting Chicken

Now that the days are getting shorter, they’re busy molting, so they’ll have a fresh set of feathers to help them stay warm. A couple weeks back their feathers started to fall out. Notice how thinned out this hen’s feathers look. You can clearly see the white down underlayer that’s usually completely hidden from view. It isn’t pretty, but it’s a lot prettier than the next step … [Read more…]

Beef & Butternut Squash Chili

Beef and Butternut Squash Chili

Butternut squash is a fall staple in our house, so is chili. It was only natural, then, that the two would eventually end up in the same bowl. And let me just say, the results are crazy good. Butternut squash chili is delicious; it’s colorful; and it’s loaded with all sorts of good-for-you stuff. This is the kind of meal that you’ll want to add to your regular rotation because it comes together quickly and leaves you with leftovers for the next day.

Butternut Squash Chili

Prep Time:

Cook Time:


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • Half of a butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 14 oz. beef broth
  • (2) cans kidney beans, drained
  • (1) 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp chili power (2 Tbsp if you like heat)
  • 1-1/2 tsp cumin
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt to taste

What You Do:

Brown the Meat and Cook Peppers and Onions Until Soft

Brown the ground beef in a large pot. Drain the fat. Then, add the peppers and onions, and cook until soft.

Pot of Butternut Squash Chili

Add the rest of the ingredients, and bring the pot to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to medium and cook until the butternut squash is soft (about 25-30 minutes).

Beef and Butternut Squash Chili

Serve with sour cream, cheese or your favorite chili toppings.

Print the recipe card, and add it to your collection.

Beef & Butternut Chili Recipe Card

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How to Protect Chickens from Predators

How to Protect Chickens from Predators

See where the dog tried to dig under?

Last week a dog tried to dig under our chicken run to get at our hens, but he didn’t succeed. Why? Because we built our coop to keep predators out, and so far it’s worked. Here’s a look at the measures we have in place:

  • We elevated our coop, to discourage rats, snakes and other egg thieves from living underneath it. In fact, we actually enclosed the underside of their coop with hardware cloth to make it usable space (it ties in with their run)
  • We wrapped their run in hardware cloth, instead of chicken wire. The smaller mesh prevents raccoons from reaching in to grab our hens, and offers a bit more protection against snakes
  • The floor of their run is wrapped in hardware cloth, too. It’s a completely enclosed space, top to bottom (This is what kept the dog out, but it’s just as effective against coyotes, bobcats, owls and a host of other hungry sorts)
  • We keep a padlock on their run and their nest boxes. Raccoons have super dexterity, and can open slide locks and turn knobs with no trouble. This keeps them out, and it also keeps the neighborhood kids out (you don’t actually have to lock the padlocks to keep the racoons out. The sequence of having to turn the lock, and lift it out is complicated enough)
  • We have motion-activated lights on the back of our house. If something enters the backyard, the lights come on to scare them off
  • We keep the area around their coop neat, so there aren’t places for predators to live or lurk
  • We trained our hens to return to their coop every night. Once they’re in, we lock the door to their run
  • We collect eggs every day to minimize temptation
  • We keep their coop and run in good condition. Damaged hardware cloth, holes in the floor or roof – they could all be an entry point for a predator, so we stay on top of maintenance
Locked Nesting Boxes

Locked Nesting Boxes

Locked Chicken Run

And a Locked Run, Too!

Want to see what our coop looks like and how we built it? You’ll find all of that here.