Category Archives: Homesteading

Garden 2017 Update July

Thought I would share some pictures from our garden projects from July.

This is part of my Garden 2017 series of posts.  You can see the earlier posts at:

Garden 2017 Update June

Garden 2017 Update February Through May

Garden 2017 Aquaponics

Garden 2017 A New Beginning


This has been the hottest summer we have ever seen.  The temperatures have been in the 90’s everyday and though we had a wet spring, and the plants put on a lot of stems and leaves, they didn’t produce much actual fruit.  We haven’t seen any rain for several weeks and have had intense heat and the garden isn’t producing as much fruit and vegetables as I had hoped. The heat has really taken it’s toll.

July 8, 2017

Garden Bed A

Garden Bed B

Romano tomatoes are still mostly green.

But some starting to turn orange and we have had a few of them turn red. The rest of them should be ready for harvest soon.  With the heat we are having, I don’t know how long the plants can handle the intense sun and heat and if they will put on any more blooms or not.

Butternut squash.

We think these could be a kind of pumpkins, but not sure.  We have not grown these before.


The sunflowers are almost ready to bloom.

July 12, 2017

Okra is on its second set of blooms.

Okra is a delicious food!

Pink petunias in the garden.

Romano tomatoes in the garden are ready to harvest. So far, only a few have been ready every couple of days.

The kids take turns mowing the grass.

July 13, 2017

Zucchini ready for harvest.

We had a cookout and grilled some of our garden veggies including zucchini, yellow squash, red onions, Romano tomatoes, okra, and we cut up fresh cucumbers and later we made smores.

All of the fresh food was delicious and it was a beautiful summer evening to enjoy spending time together.

July 27, 2017

We are still thinking these could be a kind of pumpkin.  I am used to a pumpkin that starts out green and then turns orange.  However, these start out as smooth yellow balls and then turn a peach color.

Zinnias in the garden.

Red Romano tomatoes.

Bees hiding out on the squash blossoms.

Small watermellons.  Several have already been eaten by something before they get any bigger than a baseball.  The plants are struggling in the heat and many of the leaves and stems have died.

A few of the sunflowers in Garden B have bloomed.

The sweet potatoes in the corner of Garden B are not doing much.  I think it has been too hot for them.

More of the round yellow orbs that might become pumpkins.  I have never seen a plant send out so many runners and then every foot or so it has another set of roots it sends into the ground.  Some of these runners are 30 foot long and loaded with blossoms, yet seem to only produce 1 actual fruit ball.  I don’t know if it is behaving this way because of the extreme heat or if this is normal for this plant because I have not grown this species before.

It is lovely to listen to the frogs and cicadas even though it has been so hot.

Found these wild grapes had dropped on the ground, just below the garden. They are growing 30 feet up in the trees, so I wont be able to harvest them.   We saw about 50 grapes had dropped.  Some of the grapes were green.

Some of the grapes were purple.  We accidentally stepped on some too.

Our tomato harvest!  The harvest is small, but not too bad from our small garden.

Found a cricket hiding upside down on the cucumber plants.

Harvesting cucumbers.

I am thankful we have had several cucumbers ripen daily all summer long. There hasn’t been a day go by this summer that we didn’t have lots of cucumbers on the kitchen counter and sliced up for supper.

Mint is in bloom.

The kids decided we needed to give a few plants some water.  We planted some Brandywine Heirloom tomatoes and bell peppers where the onions and lettuce used to be.  We hope they make it through this heat and put on some fruit soon before it is too late.

The kids found a baby lizard and spent some time holding it and letting it crawl up their arms before setting it free on a tree trunk.

The petunia plants in the barrel planters are almost dead.  Most of the green of the plants is gone or turned to brown.  But this week it put on new blooms almost to say to the heat, “I’m not done yet!”  A butterfly had stopped in for a drink of the nectar in this photo.

Pink lilacs that are 20 feet tall put on blooms this week at the very top.  They bloomed earlier this year and I was surprised to see them bloom again.

Pink petunias in the garden are still blooming.

Sunflowers along the driveway.

Today’s harvest is small.  This is the last of the Romano tomatoes.  The plants looked brown and nearly dead from the heat when we picked these. But I was thrilled to bring in this harvest.

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Garden 2017 Update June


This is part of my Garden 2017 series of posts.  You can see the earlier posts at:

Garden 2017 Update February Through May

Garden 2017 Aquaponics

Garden 2017 A New Beginning


June 2017

After tons of rain, the garden (plants and weeds) is growing like CRAZY!  The plants put on tons of growth and blossoms.  Some flowers are missing their petals and are leaning over due to too much rain.

However, many of the garden plants are finally producing fruits and vegetables!

We have two garden beds, plus a few planters growing produce and flowers. Garden Bed A is 12 x 16. We planted it with the square foot method of intense planting. It grew like crazy with all the rain. We need to tweak how we plant this garden bed next year. Though I am thankful for the abundance, we are not able to de-weed it at this stage and it looks like a mess.

Garden Bed A: Harvesting Green Beans!

The garden has been invaded by Japanese Beetle Bugs. They are quickly devouring the bean leaves.

The cucumbers have taken over the lavender. The lavender is in bloom too.

Harvesting cucumbers and green beans.

Bountiful harvest of green and yellow beans.

Dalia starting to bloom.

We often remove old blooms from petunias and they continue to produce beautiful flowers with bright colors.

Carrot tops are growing nicely.

We have had an abundance of leaf lettuce.  We had a lot of rain and the lettuce seemed to really appreciate it.

Marigolds are in bloom.

Removing dead blooms from the geraniums will encourage new blooms.

Hanging basket with leaf lettuce.

This basked of lettuce has produced several harvests already.

Heirloom tomato plants.

I started several more heirloom tomato plants in milk jugs.  Milk jugs are like mini greenhouses and it is a great way to start seedlings.

Petunias in barrel planters.

Garden Bed A: Small spinach patch is going to seed.

The spinach has produced an abundance and I have harvested it daily for several months.

Sweet potato vines and romaine lettuce growing in the aquaponics barrel. The romaine lettuce is about to go to seed.  It has produced a lot of lettuce since we transplanted them months ago from lettuce we had already used during the winter and regrew.  Lettuce is amazing!

Potato Bins are just about finished growing.  Two have stopped sending out new plants, but this one still has new growth emerging.  We can’t wait to open up these bins and see how they produced under all that straw and dirt. Hopefully we will have a nice potato harvest.

Garden Bed B

Garden bed B gets more shade than garden bed A.  We built this one because we ran out of room in the first one for plants that like to spread out. In this one we planted different kinds of squash and watermelon, sweet potatoes, and a second planting of radish, and a few flowers and sunflowers to attract pollinators and to enjoy the flowers.  So far there is nothing to harvest in this bed yet, but it is producing a lot of vines and leaves and blooms.

The cucumbers from Garden bed A are growing past the garden now.  They are traveling out into the yard and growing the nicest cucumbers.  They might think the garden bed is too crowded!

Though our garden project this year is small, the garden beds are producing some wonderful foods for our family.

I am thankful for these harvests.  Summer harvests taste delicious and have so much more flavor than food from the store.  I enjoy the beautiful flowers too and all of the variety of insects they attract that help pollinate the plants. This process of a summer garden is even more special when family spends time together planting the food, then watching it grow, and then brings in the harvest together.  Enjoying time together is the best part!

Be blessed!

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Oh can it really be true? I sure hope it is! What a difference a few days make. Just a week ago, we were playing games indoors, and if we went outside we had to be bundled head to toe in our heaviest winter gear.

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But it was just too cold to stay out and play for long, and most of our free time was spent doing this:


and this:


and building this:

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and more of this:


Now this week the weather has improved and we can go outside with light jackets!  No more heavy coats!  We can enjoy the sunshine.  Spring has begun even though it’s official day isn’t until next week.   It is still a little chilly if the wind is blowing, but it is so beautiful and I love that there is more color than just white!



Even the chickens are happy!  They are scratching around in the yard looking for fresh sprouted grass and bugs.  Happy chickens makes me happy!


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Now if we want to play board games, we have the option to play them outside!


This mama is sooooo thankful for the sunshine and warmer temperatures, for spring and for happy kids!

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Snow But Hoping For Spring Soon

Hoping for spring to come soon!  Even though the snow is pretty, I am ready for a change.  I need some warm sunny days.

Here are some beautiful snowy pictures around the homestead from Saturday, March 1st.   I came outside to snap a few pictures, hoping to say goodbye to winter.


Pretty, yes!  Practical, no!  I am so over winter.  The driveway is a solid sheet of ice.  My van has been in the same spot in the drive way almost all winter. My husband has a truck and can get in and out just fine for work, and can take several kids on daddy dates to go get groceries and supplies, but my van is the only vehicle we have big enough to take us all out at the same time, and it is not capable of making it down or up the driveway when it is covered in ice.  Oh it has been a long winter!


We spend our days doing schoolwork, then playing games indoors, reading, baking, building with Legos, making crafts, bundling up in serious winter gear to play in the snow outdoors, etc. But the kids long to play in the grass again without having to wear their heavy winter gear.


I can’t wait until the snow is gone and the kids can ride bikes and play in the green grass again.


I love how the pine trees embrace the snow.  I felt this way back in December.  But it is March and I am over it now, lol.


The older boys bundled up to build a snow fort and throw snow balls this afternoon.  “Please don’t throw one at me, I have a camera!”


Serious construction going on here Mom!  This one absolutely loves the snow.  He could live in it year around I think.  Alaska or even Antartica wouldn’t bother him a bit.  He could live in any weather anywhere as long as he got to build something I think.  He loves to stay busy building.  And if he can’t go out, if it is too cold or too hot, or pouring down rain, then he builds with his legos and Lincoln logs too.  He tells me all the time he wants to be a builder like his daddy when he grows up.


Building his wall for his snow fort.


The kitties followed me everywhere I went.


They stayed on the trail, but they were all about the little walk around.


There is five of them: George, Boots, Lion, Precious, Camo, plus their mom: Tiger, and they follow us everywhere.  They are as big as their mom now, but we still call them kittens.  They still act like kittens too.  They are such a joy to our family.  We truly love these precious cats.


Here is a picture of the chicken coop, outdoor rabbit hutch, and the old barn.


The goats choose to stay in the barn most of the winter eating their hay. They go outside a little when the sun comes out from behind the clouds, or they stand in the doorway, but they agree with me about winter and I think they are saying “we are tired of the snow already and want some sunshine please!”


Even the chickens won’t walk in the snow.  All winter they venture out of their house about two feet and then turn around and go back in. They say “no more snow, we wont go, no more snow”, ha, ha!


This is Boots and he is hanging out in the barn today.  He loves to explore!


We had to move the rabbits inside as it is too cold here to leave them outside in the winter.


We were given these wonderful rabbit cages and feeders just after the snows began this winter by a sweet elderly couple who no longer needed them. My husband hung them in the barn.  It reminds me of my grandma’s rabbitree . She had rows and rows of these hanging in her barn.


The old farmhouse.  Indiana winter’s are cold, snowy, and everything stays frozen. I am thankful for this old farmhouse that shelters my family. Some youngins stepped onto the porch to ask me what I was doing in the snow, lol! I told them “I am saying goodbye to winter and praying for spring!”


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Winter On The Homestead

Winter is definitely a time of slowing down on the homestead. It is just too cold to try to work on projects without a heated space to work in. We have had several below zero temperatures and even some -30 wind chills. Oh my goodness! It is just too cold!


It is amazing how quiet everything is too.  The snow seems to silence all the noise.


Paths and garden beds that were so well used just a few months ago, sit idle, waiting on their due season to be active again.


All the animals are quiet too.


Even the goats are quiet. They quietly eat their hay and drink water all day long.


Our chickens who normally run free all over the homestead, wont even come out of their chicken house.  They have a chicken size door on their house that is open all the time, and a small fence that is open all the time so they can run free. But they won’t come out in the snow. They are huddled inside, hiding out until warmer days.


I know how they feel.
I’m huddled inside too, waiting…
I’m waiting for sunshine…waiting for warmer days.

What is this winter like at your home?
Thanks for your comments.
Be blessed!

This post will be linked up with
Raising Homemakers
Raising Memories

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This Old Barn Has A “New” Story

I love to drive down the road and look at old barns. They are beautiful to me. They must have such a special story to tell of how they were once used daily and were such an important place on the homestead. I have enjoyed traveling all over Kansas, Indiana, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina to look at old barns.


I might replace the name “old” with “historical” as these barns have such a rich history. I believe we could all learn how to apply the wisdom that old homesteads had gained from time and experience, and better our life today, if we could learn about the history of these old barns.

If I ever produced a TV show, I might call it “This Old Barn” or “This Barn Has A Story” or something like that, and travel around and interview old time farmers and learn about their barn’s past. Sadly, just like many of the old barns, the old time farmers are disappearing. It won’t be long and there may not be any of this generation left to tell the stories.

Some of these historical barns were used for specific uses like tobacco, or wheat, and some were only for horses or pigs, or a dairy, but most of these historical barns had multi uses on the homestead and housed all sorts of livestock (cows, sheep, pigs, goats, horses, chickens, rabbits, etc.), as well as grains, hay, and various tools and farm equipment all at the same time for the benefit of the homesteaders who lived there. Whatever was stored in them, and however they were used, they were the hub of activity and life on the homestead. They represented the economic stability, and the future of the farm.

This Old Barn

Even though I love these historical barns, when we moved to this homestead, I didn’t like my old barn. It is a complete eye sore and the first thing you see coming up the driveway. Every day, and every time I pulled into the driveway, it reminded me that it was in horrible disrepair that can be seen from the road, that I could not fix it, and I could see no future.


For many reasons, we did not think “this old barn” was salvageable. It is well over a hundred years old and I wish it could be saved, it’s history preserved, and become useful again. But no one that I have met yet seems to know the history of this old barn as it has not been in use with farming as a way of life, or with livestock, for at least the past sixty years or so. The farm has changed hands several times since then. In the past couple of years, another farmer rented the back field for a time after it sat idle for many years, but he did not live here or use the barn. For the past year that I have lived here, I have been very discouraged about the absence of a story, and the absence of homesteading life in this “old” barn.

The old barn on the Weiser Homestead.

The old barn on the Weiser Homestead.

The problems with the barn are numerous and I couldn’t even begin to list them all. It sits on the property line, adjacent to the neighbor’s fence on the south side, so there is no hope in using it at all on the south side. On that side, the neighbor has a large beautiful fenced pasture that he uses for horses and cows.


Our drive way is on the north and east side, and there is no pasture area on those sides of the barn that we can use. The only space at all to possibly build a pen is an area about 20 feet wide on the east side of the barn. We could not even imagine how we could raise cows or other livestock on this side of the fence and in such a small area and block the access to the back field, and the lack of a decent barn for shelter.

I have asked my husband about making some repairs to the barn, but he says it would not be cost effective. The foundation is in disrepair. There are places where you can see the old stone foundation, but someone came in and poured concrete over that at some point, and there are places where there are holes. The siding is missing almost entirely on the south side, and partially missing or broken on the other sides. And as if all that wasn’t bad enough, the roof leaks and needs replaced and the gutter, windows, and doors are all missing.

Missing and broken barn siding.

When it rains, snows, or the wind blows, most of the barn is wet and cold because of the leaking roof and the missing and broken siding. And there is no running water or electricity working in the barn, though there was a working water spicket and a light on the lower level at sometime in the long ago past, and these linked underground from the old farmhouse, but both resources broke down and were removed at some point. All new lines would need run from the house again for this resource to be available.

There was a room addition added onto the west side of old barn many years ago, and it was placed on gravel foundation with block on the lower half of the west wall, but the addition was not done correctly and needs completely redone. The wood framework of the barn both vertically and horizontally are termite eaten. The wood flooring on the upper level is bad and needs rebuilt or one could fall through. As a matter of fact, the whole barn needs torn down and rebuilt. It is just one huge eye sore and disappointment for a working homestead.


I wish we could fix this old barn. But rebuilding the barn is not an option for us at this time. It would take a lot of money to fix it, and we won’t be able to do that for several years as far as we can tell.

Barn stairs

Knowing all these problems with the building when we moved here, we did not have plans to use the old barn as it did not seem like a safe habitat for much of anything, even though it was used for a small scale farm with dairy cows, horses, and hay in the long ago past. There is still old fashion milking stanchions on the lower south side of the barn, and two horse stalls on the north side of the lower level. There is a walkway in between the south and north sides where the farmer who built this old barn walked and fed the animals on either side.

It is certainly not safe now to even store bales of hay in it’s present condition. It seems that we could cause it to collapse under the heavy weight of hay bales, and they would get wet too. We have stored the mower and bikes in the lower barn, on the gravel side where the room addition is, but I don’t even let the kids play in it due to the safety concerns, and they can only enter it with supervision when daddy or I go with them.

This Old Barn Has A “New” Story.


kitty on the Weiser homestead.

But God clearly had other thoughts about this old barn. He knew what it could be used for without costing us any money to fix it, and a potential we did not and could not see. He does this with human lives too. He sees the potential they have no matter how broken they look. Though they themselves can not fix their circumstances, he can. He knows what they are capable of in their future, and he sees into their future and works out everything for the good of those who love him.

“We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him. They are the ones God has chosen for his purpose,” Romans 8:28

Playful kitten in the old barn on the Weiser homestead.

The north side of the barn still has some siding, and the concrete floor inside the lower level on the north and east end of the barn is still usable.  So with a wall for a wind break, and shelter, this old barn could still provide a safe habitat for small animals. It wouldn’t hold up to a cow or a horse as it did years ago, but it may work as a shelter for smaller animals.

The old barn is in use once again and is telling a new story. The barn has become the new home for our five beautiful kittens that were born earlier this summer. It will also house our rabbits for the winter. The rabbits are currently outside next to our chickens, but we will be moving them inside the barn very soon.

Now the old barn has also become a home for a herd of goats on the homestead. We did not seek out this herd of goats. But we found ourself in a situation where someone wanted to give us their goats, plus all the equipment they had accumulated over the years to care for the goats including solar electric fencing, hay feeders, a mineral feeder, a bag of mineral powder, hoof trimmers, a water tank, three calf huts for shelters, and all the hay the goats can eat for the winter.

Goats eating hay in the barn.

The goats were owned by an elderly gentleman who’s grandchildren had shown them in 4H. But now they were grown, no longer in 4H, and had moved away. His health was declining, and he did not want to care for them through the harsh Indiana winters any more.  He got our name through the local 4H goat club leader, and he contacted us several times asking us if we would like to have them.

We discussed the situation several times, and each time our decision was no, we could not get the goats. We could not even imagine having goats again at this time because of the expenses to set them up and care for them properly, etc. It can cost thousands of dollars to buy livestock, feed them and care for their needs year around, set up fencing, and set up shelter for them. Those are expenses we don’t have in our budget right now. We are doing good just to take care of our family and a few chickens and pet rabbits, cats, and dogs, as the last year of our life was a whirlwind of moving a cross the country, job losses, and under employment. How could we even dream of getting livestock?

“Look at the crows! They don’t plant or harvest, and they don’t have storehouses or barns. But God takes care of them. You are much more important than any birds.” Luke 12:24

But God had placed favor on us, and this man who we did not know wanted to give us his goats.  He clearly loved his pet goats and wanted them to have a good home with lots of love and a future.

Pet Goat

The old farmer’s pet goat climbing his fence.

He also wanted to give us everything we would need to care for his animals for the next year, and help make the transition for us to own and care for them as smooth as possible. Though he did not even know us, his gift of generosity was genuine.

Goats at the old farmer's homestead.

Goats at the old farmer’s homestead.

When went to look at the goats, still questioning could we do this or not, it all changed once we met him in person and saw his love for his animals.  Instantly our whole family fell in love with his goats. They were calm and friendly. He had them in a large fenced pasture with access into a barn for shelter.

building electric fence

So my husband picked up the supplies the farmer wanted to give us on a Saturday, and got busy putting a pen together! The children helped measuring the distance, stake out the boundary, drive the posts, run the wire, etc.  They were so excited to build the pen.

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My husband sectioned off a small area on the lower level of the barn for the goats with some leftover wood scraps and a fence panel we were given, set up the calf huts outside the barn just in case the rain coming into the barn is a problem and the goats can use them as a rain shelter, and he built the goat pen outside to the east of the old barn.

East side of old barn.

He used the neighboring farm’s fence on the south side, the electric fence we were given on the north and east sides, and used the east wall of the barn for the pen’s west side. In the state of Indiana, both neighbors are legally allowed to use a fence that is on the property line. So the neighbor has cows on his side, and we have goats on our side.  Our fence supplies went a lot further because we only had to build two sides for a pen, by using the neighbor’s fence and the side of our barn on the other two sides.

The pen is only as wide as the barn, about 20 feet wide because the other three sides are unusable with a neighbor to one side, and a drive way to the other two sides. That is our only access for our drive way and to the back of the property so we had to leave a lane wide enough to drive through and could not make the pen any wider than the barn.  But the pen came out as a nice long rectangle, and the goats can go in an out of the old barn through the missing door when ever they want, and knowing what little we started with, we are thrilled with it.

Petting the nubian goat.

The kids are having so much fun petting and caring for the goats everyday. They water them in the tank we were given, currently with a hose stretched from the house, until freezing winter weather hits our area, and then we will have to put the hose away and carry water in buckets down the hill to them.

Watering the goats

The goats eat hay and grass and powdered mineral, free choice. They do not eat any grain. The old farmer who gave the goats to us said he has never given them any grain and they stay healthier if they are only fed fresh grass, hay, and minerals free choice. YAHOO!

Hay time for goats.

When we were ready and the pen was built, the old farmer delivered the goats to us in his livestock trailer.  Wow, delivered right to our door.  Once again the Lord worked out all the details.  Now the goats are settling into their new home, they are well cared for, loved, and they don’t seem to notice the brokeness of the old barn. They are making a new history here, and the barn once again has a new purpose on the homestead.


This old barn has a new story! What an amazing blessing! God knew ahead and saw what we did not see. His plans for us, and his thoughts about us are for a hope and a future.

“I will bless you with a future filled with hope—a future of success, not of suffering.” Jeremiah 29:11

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Micro Business For Teens Review

My oldest sons ages 13, 11, and 9 have wanted to start their own business for the past several years.  This excites their dad and me.  We both did odd jobs and had our own little mini businesses at those ages too.  We have owned businesses as adults too.  It is really exciting to see our kids have that drive to want to work, be creative, and be self motivated.  

Even though my husband and I have both owned businesses in the past, I wasn’t exactly sure how to help my kids / teens understand and explore their options and see the big picture of running a business until an opportunity to review Micro Business For Teens was offered to us.


Micro Business For Teens

Great for ages 10-18 
Even though it is designed for these ages, I think it is adaptable to all ages, and great to do together as a whole family too.
Curriculum includes the following items: Starting A Micro Business, Running A Micro Business, and Micro Business For Teens Workbook.  It is created by Carol Topp, CPA.  Having this curriculum is wonderful because it is like having a CPA teach your teen how to set up and run a business they are interested in.  In addition to the curriculum, there are several videos available on Youtube, and she has a blog with lots of helpful articles that can be of additional assistance.  

Starting A Micro Business $9.95 paperback or $4.95 e-Book
112 pages with 7 chapters by Carol Topp, CPA.

Starting A Micro Business covers:
Chapter One: What is a Micro Business?
Characteristics of Micro Businesses
Simple and Fast Start Up
One Worker
Sole Proprietorship
Little Start Up Money Needed
Low Risk
Purpose to Learn and Earn

Chapter Two: Getting an Idea: A Collection of Micro Business Ideas Best for Teenagers
Ideas for Micro Businesses
Avoiding Scams

Chapter Three: Problems and Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them
The Problem with Products
Solutions for Problems With Products
The Problems With Service Businesses
Solutions for Service Businesses
The Problem With Partners

Chapter Four: Plan It First: Writing a Business Plan
Business Concept
Marketing Plan
Financial Plan
Example Business Plan
Product Business Example

Five: Financing Your Business Without Breaking the Bank
What Do You Need to Start a Micro Business?
No Money Down
The Problem With Debt
Where Will the Money Come From?
Start Without Risk

Chapter Six: Taking Care of Business: Extra Information to Get You Started
Home-based Business Series
House Sitter
Food Preparation
Lawn Care
Pet Sitting
Self Publishing
Web Design

Chapter Seven: Encouragement: Final Words to Motivate You
Keep Learning
Keep It Manageable
Learning Has Benefits
You Can Do This
Get an Encourager
Persevere and Press On
Share Your Story


Running A Micro Business $9.95 paperback or $4.95 e-Book
134 page paperback book with 9 chapters by Carol Topp, CPA.

Running A Micro Business covers:

Chapter One: Sales
Your Sales Statement
Selling in Person
Your Sales Presentation
Making the Sale
Getting Paid in Person
Selling Online
Getting Paid Online
Chapter Two: Marketing
Describe Your Customer
Reaching Your Local Market
Reaching a Distant Market
Progress Step by Step
Make a Marketing Plan
Chapter Three: Customer Service
Serving Customers is Good for Business
What to Charge
Tips and Secrets of Customer Service
Chapter Four: Record Keeping
What Records to Keep
Record Transactions
Keep Supporting Documents
Keep Official Letters
How to Record Your Start Up Expenses
Record Purchases of Equipment
Chapter Five: Bookkeeping Basics
A Simple Bookkeeping Method
What to Do and When
Daily, Monthly, Quarterly, Annually
Should You Learn Bookkeeping or Accounting?
Hire Help If You Need It
Chapter Six: Using Software
Personal Money Management Software
Small Business Accounting Software
Chapter Seven: Legal Names and Numbers
Does a Micro Business Need a Name?
When is a Business License Needed?
Should a Micro Business be a Sole Proprietorship?
Should a Teenager Start Business With a Friend?
When Is a Tax ID Number Needed?
Chapter Eight: Reducing Risk
Is Insurance Needed?
What’s an LLC?
Chapter Nine: Time Management
Goal Setting
To Do Lists
Time Management
What if YOu Cannot Get it All Done?

Micro Business For Teens Workbook $14.95 paperback or $9.95 e-Book
“How To” put everything you learned from both the “starting” and “running” books into practice.

Micro Business For Teens Workbook is full of hands on assignments and is meant to be done in two parts, the first half with the first book, and the second half corresponds to the second book in the curriculum series.  The workbook covers:
Chapter One: What is a Micro Business?

Chapter Two: Getting an Idea

Chapter Three: Problems and Pitfalls

Chapter Four: Writing a Business Plan

Chapter Five: Starting Without Debt or Risk

Chapter Six: Research and Learning More

Chapter Seven: Encouragement

Chapter Eight: Sales

Chapter Nine: Marketing

Chapter Ten: Customer Service

Chapter Eleven: Record Keeping

Chapter Twelve: Bookkeeping & Software

Chapter Thirteen: Names, Numbers and Insurance

Chapter Fourteen: Time Management

How we used Micro Business For Teens curriculum in our home:

Our oldest son, age 13, read the materials for the purpose of the review, however all three of our older boys (13, 11, 9), want to learn about running a business.  We hope to get two more workbooks soon so the other boys can write in it and keep track of all they are learning about how to start and run a micro business.  They all want to start earning their own money. 
The books give lots of expamples of possible businesses kids / teens can start and run with little expense and little risk. That is essentially the definition of a micro business.  A micro business is something that is easy to start up, requires little expense, can be done from home if needed, has flexible hours, and can be done by one person, or a couple of people.  

We did some brainstorming and we looked through the lists of possibilities offered in the books, and they decided they wanted to use a resource we already have available.  We have a homestead with a large yard and some farm land. Another resource the kids have is their livestock through their 4H projects. They are welcome to use these resources in planning their first businesses if they want too.  They want to expand someday and work both on and off the homestead, perhaps first by taking their extra products to the farmer’s market.  Eventually the boys want to be involved in farming, construction, landscape design, and computers. 
They plan to do a combination of farming projects, construction projects, and computer projects to earn money.  The oldest wants to farm, sell eggs and garden produce, and work with computer design. The 11 year old wants to farm, run a landscaping business, and do construction.  The 9 year old wants to farm, and run a construction business.  We plan to continue with this curriculum so that all three of the boys can put this material into practice.  They can begin by openning a business together, or businesses that compliment each other and build on each others strengths and shared resources. They have the resources of the farm available to use, so farming related business seems like the most logical kind of business for them to start with first at this point in time.  We live about 3 miles outside of town, right on the highway.  We have neighbors along the highway, but we don’t live in a subdivision.  So they will need a way to market their products and services to folks going down the highway. 

The simplest products they thought about raising are fresh eggs and garden produce.  The 13 year old has made a business plan and wants to make money selling eggs and garden produce to customers that come to our farm.  All three boys are in 4H through Wayne County and learning about chickens, goats, rabbits, contruction toys (Lego and Robotics), and aquaponics and gardening.  They will show their projects in the local county fair in June.  They plans to sell the eggs and extra produce that are the end result of their 4H projects this summer.  Since all three boys are doing similar projects in 4H, they will join together with in this business plan.

So the kids set out to learn how to start their business, set goals, and implement steps to reach their goals.
Goals starting and progressing their business:
Fresh Egg Business Goals:
1. Select a chicken raising location on the farm.
2. Build a chicken coop with nest boxes and fence.
3. Aquire feeding and watering equipment
4. Aquire chickens after researching egg laying breeds.
5. Provide ongoing care for chickens (feed, water, heat, safety).
6. Aquire egg cartons
7. Advertise and reach customers
8. Sell eggs year around.
9. Keep records of expenses and sales

Garden Produce Business Goals:
1. Selecting a garden spot.
2. Tilling a garden and prepping the soil.
3. Selecting seeds and plants.
4. Planting.
5. Tending the plants, weeding, fertilizing.
6. Harvest the produce July-September.
7. Advertise and reach potential customers and make a sign
    to post at the roadside,
8. Sell produce,  and build a produce stand to display the
    produce on.  May need a cash box with a calculator and a
    notebook, or a portable cashregister to keep track of sales.
9. Keep records of expenses and sales


Fresh Egg Business:
1. The boys helped daddy select a location to raise the chickens.  They picked a spot in the back yard between the house and the barn.
2. The boys helped daddy build a small chicken house with nest boxes from some leftover materials.  It is built on dirt.  We hope someday we can add wheels or someway to move it around the yard when it needs to be moved to fresh ground.  Daddy works in construction and had some materials left over from a project he worked on back in December.  He helped repair a barn that was damaged from storms and there was some metal and wood materials left over.  Because Daddy had these things on hand, the boys had very little expense building the chicken coop, but they did have to buy a roll of chicken wire and some posts for the outside fence and the inside divide, because those were not materials we had on hand. It took a few hours to build the coop. They learned so much about carpentry and recycling on this project.  Normally their dad would have thrown away most of the scraps when he finished a job, but thankfully he saved these and they were perfect to build this little coop with.  Though it is small, it is a good start for their business and when finances become available we can expand into a larger coop for them to accommodate a larger flock.

3. They set up the chicken house / coop with watering can, feeder, heat lamp, next boxes, and a roost.

4. A friend gave our family eight laying hens they no longer needed.  Some of the hens were a year old, and some were two years old.  Because they were going through a molt, a rest period of loosing and replacing feathers, not all of the hens were currently laying eggs, but every other week or so, another chicken seems to finish her molt and start laying.  

We went to her house and picked up the chickens and transported them in a dog crate.  There were three Barred Rocks, three Road Island Reds, one Americana, and one Black Australorp.  When we first got the chickens home, we set them up in their new home.  We kept them inside their pen for the first day or so to get acquainted with their surroundings.  But eventually we opened the outside pen and now they roam the back yard freely and eat bugs and young plants all day long.

Within two days of being set free to eat fresh grass and bugs and freely roam the back yard, some of the hens started laying eggs.  They were giving us one egg on one day, and then two eggs on the next day.  They kept that pattern for several weeks.  Then a few more started laying and we seemed to get three a day fairly regularly. After several more weeks, now we are getting anywhere from four to five eggs a day, and on Mother’s Day we actually got six eggs.  Yahoo!

The kids also have baby chickens, called pullets, for their 4H projects, and will show them in the county fair in June.  The pullets should be ready to lay eggs sometime by late July or early August.  Hopefully by early fall, the kids should have a good steady supply of fresh eggs they can sell.

They started off keeping the baby chickens in our house, in the kitchen, for two weeks where it is a lot warmer than outside.  Then they moved them to the chicken house into a brooding box they built out of plywood.  The chicks lived in the brooding box for several more weeks before turning them loose to join the adult chickens.  They had to feed and water them daily, and clean out the poop and re-bed the bottom of the box weekly.  I am so thankful my husband is able to teach the kids carpentry and husbandry / farming skills.
5. The boys have taken care of the chickens daily, providing food, water, shelter for all of the chickens, and heat and safety for the baby chickens. 
6. The boys have been saving their egg cartons and have about 25 saved so far.  They will need to collect a lot more.  They will also need to offer an incentive for people to return egg cartons to be re-used.  Perhaps they can offer a .10 cent discount if customers return clean cartons that can be re-used.
They still have a ways to go to reach all of their Fresh Egg Business goals.

Garden Produce Business:
The boys have worked as a team and accomplished the first 4 goals of their garden business so far. 

1. We located two areas for gardens and staked off their locations and size.  One garden is going where we had a garden last summer, and one garden is a new location.  

2. We are trying to keep all expenses to a minimum.  Thankfully a friend from church loaned us a small garden tractor with a pto tiller for a day to help till the garden plots. The boys learned to run the tractor and helped till two large garden plots. They learned to operate a stick shift transmission and operate a clutch and drive the tractor in 2nd gear, reverse, and raise and lower the pto tiller.  We paid for desile fuel to help run the tractor.  It took about 5 hours to till both locations.
3. We have seed leftover from previous garden years, so we will not need to buy seed other than sweet corn.  We did however buy started tomato plants.  I also just got word that our family was chosen to receive a gift of seeds through a kids seed swap program. This is a program we just joined and know very little about except that they had extra seeds and were looking for a family to send them too. Today we found out we won the entry to receive the seeds.  We have just supplied them with our contact info, and can’t wait to see what seeds they send to us! 

4. The kids and I planted 1/2 of the first garden in seeds, and the other half of the first garden in tomato plants.  All six of the kids pitched in to help plant.  So far, we planted peas, green beans, kale, spinach, red onions, white onions, beets, radishes, savoy cabbage, cauliflower, Jalapeno peppers, red chili peppers, sweet banana peppers, sweet bell peppers, acorn squash, and transplanted 52 tomato plants.  The kids operated a hoe, hand shovel, and a stringer to make rows and holes for planting. They also applied a few shovel fulls of rabbit manure to the tomato plants to help fertilize the soil more.  We worked in the garden until rain forced us to stop. Then we had rain for the next 7 days and were unable to progress further until the ground dries out. 


They still have a ways to go before reaching all of their Micro Business goals and business plan.  Their Garden Produce and Fresh Egg Business goals are a work in progress.  Things they have not yet had time to do are marketing things like work on making business cards, flyers, or a website. We have software to set up a spreadsheet for expenses, but have not implemented it yet.  It would be nice to have software that is specific to farming, but we can use the basic program that we have for now.  Since their 4H projects are due at the fair in late June, I don’t see the kids finishing a whole lot more on this or getting customers until after the fair is over. They should have items (produce and eggs) ready to sell by mid July. The produce harvest should continue through the end of September, if the weather stays nice, and the eggs should continue all winter.  If we can afford a greenhouse at some point, then they will be able to produce lettuce and greens all winter too. They are really interested in a solar greenhouse aquaponics set up.  But that is not an option today.  

One big goal they are still learning from the workbook is a file system for paper record keeping.  They have a project record book for their 4H projects they will turn in to the judges at fair time.  But they still need to set up a file folder system for their business to keep track of EVERYTHING!
But overall, they are well on their way to getting their new micro business started. 

Thank you Micro Business For Teens for helping us learn, and apply, practical skills about how to start and run a micro business.  We hope to continue with our learning, get a few more workbooks, and be ready to open for business when the produce and eggs and in peak supply.
You can follow Micro Business For Teens at their social media links

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Tiger On The Homestead

We watched her…day after day…

Our love affair started last year…it’s a long story…

When we moved from North Caroina into this 100 year old Indiana farmhouse in May 2013, there was a wild Tiger loose on the homestead.

“Mom! Mom!  I just saw a Tiger!” exclaimed one of the children.
And so…her name came to be “Tiger”.

We have watched her, this tiger called Tiger, day after day…and we love her.

Tiger is a beautiful wild Calico cat.  In the beginning, we could only watch her as she would not have anything to do with people. She stood off in the distance anytime we stepped outside.  However, my husband was determined to win her affection and make her love us.
Day after day, my husband left her some food on the front porch.  In the beginning she would only eat when he left, but eventually she ate while he watched from a distance. Each day he would move in a little closer while she ate.  Soon he was able to sit in a lawn chair on the porch by her food bowl while she ate.  One day, she actually let him touch her head before darting away.  Day after day he worked at taming her.  Finally she let him pet her and the wall of distrust was broken. She knew she could trust him.
But what about the rest of the family?  Would she trust anyone else?  She is a people watcher.  Oh yeah, as much as we watch her, she is also watching us, calculating, learning our behaviors.  She knows each one of us and knows we are each different. 

The next family member to get close to her was our oldest son.  He would sit close by on the ground while she ate in the afternoon.  Eventually he sat close enough to touch her and eventually pull her onto his lap and pet her.  She relaxed.  Within a few more days, he was able to pick her up.  It took many weeks for her to trust the rest of the kids, but eventually she did.  Now she is our outdoor lap kitty.  She is always on someone’s lap enjoying being petted.

While we were still getting to know her last summer, and she was still at least 80% wild, one day she appeared with a kitten from under our porch.  She introduced us and wanted us to get to know her kitten too.  She studied us.  She wanted her kitten to study us too.  She let us hold the kitten and pet her, and you could see she was a bit aprehensive at first.  But eventually she seemed to relax and not worry about the kitten when it was with us.  At first we called her the Kitten From Down Under, but eventually the kids named her Caesar.  Obviously Tiger was a good mom, and was taking good care of this beautiful kitten.  We had about six weeks of wonderful times of cuddling and play with the kitten. One very silly event was the Kitten and the Toad.  But then one day, Caesar did not re-appear.  Sadly the children found the kitten out in the field. Some animal had killed it in the night.  They were heart broken and cried and cried. Tiger cried too.  She meowed a lot, calling for the kitten, but she knew it would not come.  She was mourning the loss of her baby kitten.

She seemed to want to cuddle even more after her kitten died.  The kids became very attached to her and she was attached to the children.  The life, and the loss, of the kitten drew everyone closer together.  Tiger eventually lost all hesitations with our family during the fall, and loves to cuddle and snuggle now.  She snuggled a lot this winter and you wouldn’t even know it was the same cat.  There is not a day that goes by that the family doesn’t snuggle her, even in the bad weather, the fall and spring rains,  and cold snowy winter days. Everyday they spend time with her, and everyday she waits at the door for us to come outside.  It is a special bond.
Tiger grew bigger all winter.  I heard lots of exclamations from the kids: “Mom, Tiger is getting fat”…”Mom, I think Tiger is eating too much”…”Mom, what’s wrong with Tiger”…

I had seen a strange cat hang around the back edge of the yard for a couple of days in January.  One evening we heard what sounded like a cat fight, and the kids said they saw Tiger fighting with another cat in a tree.  I had a feeling that Tiger’s visitor meant she was in heat and sending out a female scent that had brought a strange male cat to the farm.  

As she grew bigger, she got a little slower.  She stayed closer to the house more, though she still wandered a little.  She seemed to want more petting, though she was more reluctant to let the youngest child near her.  She seemed to know which kids would be careful, and which ones would be less careful with her growing body.  

She was definitely pregnant.  And as the weeks and months passed, she seamed to the be the roundest pregnant cat I have ever seen.   Finally we told the kids that “it won’t be long till she has kittens” and to “be very careful when picking her up and with her belly”.  

Oh they were so excited!  For the past month we have checked her daily to see if she had the kittens yet.  “Nope, not yet!” They exclaimed every morning when she greeted them as they darted out the door to do chores and play before breakfast.

The last week or so of her pregnancy, I could tell she was miserable.  Her belly was very round and wide.  She weighed double her normal weight.  She was sluggish, and seemed to just want to nap most of the time.  

Then one day, she did not greet me at the door.  She didn’t join the kids in play in the yard.  Where could she be?  I knew this was it.  Her pattern had changed and only one thing could do it, a new priority.  Without telling the kids, I kept an eye out for her.  She re-appeared the next day.  I watched her from a distance to see where she traveled. She was so careful that day not to give away her destination.  The next day my husband and I were inside the house and talking near the window, and then we saw her go into a tree.  Could this be where her new family was located?  

My husband quietly darted out of the house to see if she was inside of the tree or what. Sure enough, there was a hole in the side of the tree, and inside that hole was a cave, a very small tree cave.  She was crammed inside this hole with kittens.  He could not see exactly how many, but he saw a few arms and legs of little bodies and confirmed she had given birth to several kittens inside this tree.

We waited nearly a week before telling the kids.  It came about just like the original conversations.  “Mom, have you noticed how skinny Tiger is?”…”Mom, Tiger is acting different”…”Mom, why does Tiger not want me to hold her?”…Then finally, one of the children exclaimed “Mom, Tiger must have had her kittens, she seems different and smaller.”  So we told them that yes she had her kittens, but we must not try to find them or touch them yet because she has hidden them.

A week later, one of the kids was looking out the bathroom window and realized Tiger was sitting near the old unused window well of the basement.   I went outside to see what was going on and sure enough, she had moved two of the kittens.  

I went to the tree to find three more kittens still inside her tree cave.  She was apparently in the process of moving them.  

I tried to watch the rest of the day from the window, but I never saw her move any kittens.  Later that evening, after my husband had returned from work, he stayed with the younger two children while I took the older four children to their 4H Rabbit Club meeting.   The younger two had fallen asleep for a late nap, so we had to split up and one of us stay home with them.  When they woke up from their nap, they went outside and checked on Tiger and she had moved all five kittens to the window well.  It had taken her all day to accomplish this task.  My husband thought she did it because the kittens might get to big and heavy for her to carry out of the hole if she waited much longer. 
We were now very concerned that the kittens were on ground level, and there was no shelter above them in the window well if it rained.  Rain storms were on the horizon and so was night fall. So we picked up Tiger, and put the kittens into a tote and carried her and the kittens into a small shed.  We gave her food and water and closed them in for the night just as the storms hit.  About an hour later, my husband checked on her and she was inside the tote with the kittens nursing them.  

It rained heavy, with lots of lightening and thunder all night.  My husband went out to let her out first thing in the morning intending to leave the door open the rest of the day. But instead he found that she had already let herself out somehow in the night and she greeted him at the door as usual.  We don’t know how she got out, or if she can get back in on her own.  So my husband propped open the door just slightly for her to come and go easily on her own.   We are all still wondering how she managed to get out in the night. 

We are excited and a little anxious about the kittens.  We were so heart broken last year when we lost our beautiful kitten.  We didn’t think we could get through one more loss in our life.  The kids had gotten very attached and they cried for days after her death.  We don’t want to loose these kittens too.  We just have to trust that between God and Tiger, the kittens will be cared for and will be alright.  

It is wrong to worry.  We need to trust God to take care of them.

  “Look at the birds in the sky! 
They don’t plant or harvest. 
They don’t even store grain in barns.
Yet your Father in heaven takes care of them…”  Matthew 6:26

We are so excited and can’t wait for the kittens to get a little bigger so we can start holding and playing with them.  We are waiting on Tiger to let us know it is time.  She has her own way of letting us into her life and her heart.  She will share the kittens when she is ready.
Everyone is holding their breath and watching from a distance…waiting…watching…day after day…it is a long story…a love affair…we love Tiger…and we know she loves us too.

This post will be linked with Raising Homemakers, Sharing Time, and Adventures in Mindful Living. 
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A Worm Farm For The Homestead

What a beautiful day we had today.  It was a bright sunny day, though it started out as a somewhat cloudy and over cast morning.  It was very wet in the morning, but dried out enough later in the day for us to have lots of fun outside.  I was so happy to see the daffodils had bloomed today too.  They look like sunshine!

We ate a picnic lunch at the lake watching the ducks, geese, and sea gulls on the water. 

It had rained heavy last night, so we ate in our van where we could stay dry but with the windows down, and still enjoyed watching the birds, the water on the lake, and just relaxing.  The lake is actually a reservoir and provides water for the city of Richmond, IN.

Then we headed over to our local 4H office.  We met with Debbie who handles all the 4H business and she helped us with some paperwork.  

Next we headed home to work in the yard.  We raked up dead leaves, and dead plants from the flower beds.  We transplanted a few flowers and vegetables in the flower beds too.

When dad got home from work, he helped us out with a major task. He used a ladder and climbed on the roof to remove a storm window that had broken.  

There were several pieces of broken glass on the roof, several pieces that had fallen into our flower bed, and some pieces still stuck in the frame of the window too.  He got all the broken glass removed for us and no one got cut. 

Then we made a worm farm.  We collected about 100 worms from working in the flower beds, and put them into a tote.  We actually have three matching totes, and was originally just going to use to of them, but later decided we would go ahead and add the third tote tomorrow. The totes will become a worm farm where worms can eat kitchen scraps and turn it into rich soil.  I am very excited about this project.  

The kids helped dad measure and mark places to drill into the totes. They drilled holes into the bottom for drainage and for the worms to travel up through from one tote to the next.  They also drilled holes in the upper sides and lid of the tote for air flow. 

This is a great recycling project.  We read that worms can eat their own weight in scraps each day.  So 1 lb of worms could eat 1 lb of food scraps and turn it into rich composted soil ready to use in the garden or flower beds.  You lay the food scraps on top each day and the worms crawl up to it and eat it.

Into the bins, we placed some of the dead leaves we raked today from the flower beds.  We also added some shredded news paper, pieces of cardboard, and some soil.  I had the kids spray water on everything to keep it moist.  Tomorrow we will drill the last tote and add the third bin into the farm, and collect more worms, and add more layers of paper and leaves, but it got to late to finish it all today. But whether you use two bins or three, it is still a great worm farm. 

We saved a lot of money by making our own homemade worm farm.  To buy a pre-made worm farm with 4 trays costs a $100 to $200.    Our farm cost us $0 because I already had the totes on hand.  But if I had to buy them, our worm farm would have cost us about $15 to make. We also gathered our own worms so that cost us $0, but if we had to buy a pound of worms (400 to 500 worms = 1 lb) it would have cost us $25 to $40.   So everything we used to make our worm farm cost $0.  That is an amazing savings!

I was really happy with all we accomplished today.  The kids did an awesome job helping me clean up in the flower beds.  And they had a lot of fun making their worm farm. 

This post will be linked with 
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A Milk Cow And A Friend

I’ve milked many a dairy goat and cow over the years.  My favorite dairy cow of all time was Elvyra.  She was a beautiful light brown Jersey cow.  She was so smart and fun to spend time with.  But I did not choose her, she chose me. 

                          Elvyra and Cutie Blue, two of our Jersey milk cows eating hay in our pasture.

One day, I walked out into a field in Ohio to look at two Jersey cows a dairy farmer had for sale.  They were amongst 20+ cows that lived on an organic dairy farm.  I was only going to buy one cow, and either of these girls would do just fine for our family.  But this other cow kept coming up to me and stuck her head under my elbow.  She clearly wanted me to pet her.  I rubbed her neck and chin.  Then walked away to look over the cows that were for sale.  Again she followed me and nudged my waist and then stuck her head under my elbow and through the gap between my arm and torso.  She rubbed on me and looked at me with big brown eyes.  Over and over she repeated this process as I tried to walk through the field to observe the other cows.  She chose me and stayed by my side the rest of the time I was there, and we became friends. 

I asked the owner about her.  The owner quickly replied that she was not for sale.  But it was clear this cow was not going to give up, and neither was I.  After looking at the cows, I spent sometime looking over the farmer’s organic dairy operation.  I was amazed they made a living on milking 20 organic Jersey cows.  They had a small farm and kept their expenses to a minimum.  But amazingly their milk was sold to Organic Pastures and was collected every other day.  I sampled the milk, and it was delicious!

The operation was very clean and efficient even on this small scale for a dairy.  I have been inside both “Englisher” (a term for anyone not Amish) and Amish dairies.  Dairies are not always the cleanest places.  So it was really neat to see this small organic operation and how much better it was than most of the other dairies.   I told the owner I wanted time to think about the cows they had for sale, I just wasn’t sure.  A few days later I got a call.  They said that since I really wanted Elvyra (she’s the cow that chose me in the pasture and wouldn’t take “no or leave me alone” for an answer), then they would sell her to me.  I went right back and bought my family milk cow.

Three Goals:

My goals in getting a milk cow was first and foremost to aquire the freshest nourishing food as close to the source of production as possible.  When food is stored long term, its nutritional content can diminish.  Pasturized milk and homoginized milk have huge nutritional deficiencies because they have been altered through pasturization and homogenization processes and also because the milk has been sitting around  in refridgerated tanks on trucks, in warehouses, then more trucks, and grocery stores, for several weeks before you finally buy it at the grocery store.  It is not fresh.

Goal 1:  My first goal was to feed my children and family the freshest milk possible.

Goal 2:  My second goal was to feed my animals both baby animals, and supplement my chickens diet with extra protien as I did not give my chickens soymeal.  

Goal 3:  My third goal was to help feed my community.  We are part of a community of people wanting fresh milk.  So we set up a cow share program where several families share in the expense of caring for the cow.  To make it fair, each family bought a share of the cow and paid a monthly care expense.  In exchange, each family recieved a share of the milk the cow produced each week.  When a family no longer needed their share, they were free to sell it back to us for the price they paid for it, or to another family on the waiting list.

Labor Of Love:

Our homesteads have always been grass based.  The cows forage for most of their own feed by eating grasses and weeds in the field.  They have a fenced pasture to forage.  We rotate the cows on different areas of pasture to allow the pasture to grow new grass in areas that have been foraged.  We also overseed the pasture with clover in the spring and fall to build up the nutritional value of the pasture.  We supplement their foraging diet with timothy grass hay, clover hay, and orchard grass hay.  In the winter,  the cows eat more hay than in the spring, summer, and fall when fresh grass is plentiful. 

For the dairy cows, we also feed them alfalfa hay.  This hay helps to provide extra nutrients to give lactating cows a consistent and nutrient dense milk supply.  To lure the milking cow into the milking parlor be milked, we simply opened the door and called her by name.  She always anticipated a fresh flake of rich alfalfa hay top dressed with about a cup of a seed-herb blend that I made myself.  The seed blend contains oats, sunflower seed, flax seed, kelp, diotomacious earth, and raspberry leaves.  This is the same blend I feed my chickens too.  I do not feed grain or soybeans to the cows as it interferes with digestion and production of congilinolic acid in their milk and muscle.  But I do give my dairy cow 1 cup of this delicious seed herb mix to encourage her to stand still and to boost her nutrient production in the milk.  We placed this at the front of the milking area.  She simply walked in and up to her little bucket of hay and she let us tie a rope through her collar to keep her in position.  Then we could beging the milking process. 

For years I milked by hand.  Then one day I decided to strive for Grade A milk so I would have the freshest and cleanest milk possible and could share it with others, and I bought a milking machine that could milk one cow, or two goats at a time.  It is a stainless steel milk can, a claw of four milking sleeves, tubing, and an air compressor like machine.  A wonderful invention that definately is worth the investment


While the dairy
cow ate, we could clean her and attatch the milker.  
We offered her pure alfalfa hay and a homemade mix of sunflower seed, flax seed, kelp, and raspberry leaf blend to encourage her to stay while we milked her.  We did not give her grains like corn or soybeans that is typically fed to “modern” cows but was not fed traditionally. This was intentional, and the reason we avoided feeding these grains to our cows was to protect the quality of the milk and ensure a higher concentration of CLA.  

To clean her, we simply sprayed a mist of water on her teats and udder and wiped them off with a paper towel or a clean rag.  Then we would spray out a little bit of milk from each teat to be sure there was no bacteria from dirt or blockages inside the teat. To attach the milker, we turned on the machine and placed the teat sucker cups onto each teat.  The machine would pulse air presser and the rubber sleeve inside the teat cup acts as a hand and pulses on the teat.  It simulates a hand or a calf milking its mother.  The cow releases the milk in the teat and the pressure sprays it into the milking sleeve or claw.  The milk travels through tubing to a receptical.  Our receptical was a sealed stainless steel milking can.  She was always done eating before we were done milking. But she was a sweetie to continue to stand still until we were done.  It took about 10 minutes to milk her with the milking machine and we recieved about 4 gallons of milk each milking.  

After milking her we rubbed her teats with an herbal salve to prevent cracking or chaffing.  Then we turned her back out onto the pasture to join the other cows and her calf if she had one.  If she had a calf, then we would let them spend the day together and not milk her again in the evening.  But we would put the calf in a seperate pen at night so that she did not nurse first thing in the morning before we got the milking chores done.  
We quickly poured the milk through a strainer and into 1/2 gallon glass jars.  Elvyra’s milk would generally fill 8 or 9 of these jars.   Then the milk was capped and placed in a large stainless steel sink filled with ice water and topped with more ice.  Our goal was to reduce the temperature of the milk down to 34 degrees as quickly as possible.  

We wanted the best, freshest milk and this is how to achieve it.  If you can chill the fresh milk below 36 degrees within 30 minutes of milking the cow, it is considered grade A milk.  Our milk was better than Grade A.  It only took us about 15 minutes max to achieve the 34 degree temperatures.  

While the milk was cooling, then the milking gear was cleaned in another sink in a back room, and hung upside down on hooks to dry.  The room the cow was milked in was quickly hosed down to remove any mud, poop or pee, or spilled milk.  This prevented flies and critters from trying to invade the milk room. 

Once the milk was chilled, the jars were dried off and placed in a cooler or refrigerator to maintain the 34 degree temperature.  Our milk would stay fresh, and no change in taste or texture for weeks using this method.   Fresh milk, handled correctly is truly a super food.  It will not spoil.  Eventually after about three weeks, it will change into a naturally soured product similar to runny yogurt and sour cream.  It is still very usuable for making things within this naturally cultured state.  You can control what it becomes too by inoculating it with your own chosen cultures if you want certain types of sour cream, cream cheese, yogurt, kefir, etc.  My favorite way to use naturally soured milk was in baking cakes and breads, and also making chocolate deserts like cakes, fudge, puddings, etc.  

This labor of love was good for the whole family to help in.  We all had a special part we did.  Dad and one of the boys would call in Elvyra to be milked.  She walked in by herself and they would close the door behind her and hook her collar to a leash on the wall.  One of the kids would help feed her while dad or I cleaned her teats.  Then dad or I would hook up the milking machine.  After milking, dad would hand the milk can off to me to filter and pour into jars in an ice bath while he cleaned the rest of the equipment and hosed out the milk room.  The kids would help with each step of the milking process, help give the milk to the cow share holders on pick up day, and also take bottles full of fresh milk to the caves or young goats or to feed the chickens each day. The kids learned about where their milk came from, how to take care of it and how to use it to nourish a variety of life on the farm.  Homesteading is good for the whole family. 

How we used our fresh milk:

Elvyra’s milk tasted like melted ice cream.  It was so rich and delicious in your mouth.  Her milk was ranged from 40% cream.  Sometimes in the spring and fall when new grass was plentiful, her milk might climb to almost 50% cream.  The extra nourishment in the new lush grass produced an even richer milk.  Our other Jersey cow, named Cuttie Blue gave milk of about 30% cream.  

If you drink the milk within the first several hours of milking, there is not much separation of milk and cream.  However if left to sit for several hours or overnight, there is a clear separation as the cream rises to the top. If drinking milk older than a few hours, then we would save the top 1/2 inch or so of “top cream” (the thickest kind of cream) to make butter or whip cream.  But we always kept the rest of the cream together with the milk as it truly is a healthy food source.  

We usually drank milk that was straight from the cow in the mornings, and only a few hours old in the afternoons.  To drink it we just shook the jar vigorously to mix the milk and cream together if they had separated. 

Every day I fed my children fresh milk at each meal and if desired at snack time too.  The milk that was left over from our share, was&nbs
p;made into cheese, kefir, yogurt, and deserts, or fed to baby orphaned cows, or fed to the chickens and turkeys.  All of it was consumed and it never went to waste.

I know we were healthier and stronger for having consumed fresh raw milk this way.  We did not get sick as often as other families in our local area.  We seemed to have a stronger and healthier disposition from the nutrients and protection provided by the fresh milk.  Our animals were also heathier for consuming the milk too.  We fed baby animals (calves, sheep, goats, kittens, puppies, etc) with the fresh milk.  We fed extra milk and milk by products like whey to the chickens and turkeys too.  

Fresh Milk from grass fed cows contains way to many nutrients for me to list here.  But a few key nutrients I will say is congilenic acid (CLA), coq10, vit. K, vit. D, vit. C.  It also contains beneficial enzymes and olygosacarides.  Oligosacarides bind with harmful bacteria and viruses in our digestive system, and allow them to pass through us, and stop them from causing harm to our bodies.  There are at least 8 or 9 of these different oligosaccharide that help us.  You can’t get this amazing nourishing and protective combo anywhere else in your diet and this is why I believe it is so important.


Can you feed yourself and your community too?

Yes.  An average Jersey milk cow will yeild 3+ gallons of milk each milking. Some might yeild as much as 5 or 6 gallons a milking.  If you milk her twice a day then that is at least 6 gallons (and upto possibly 10-12 gallons) of milk each day.  If you don’t need all of it (fresh beverage for your family, cooking and making deserts and yogurt and cheese, baby animals on the farm (all baby farm animals love milk), or for animal feed (use the whey from baking and cheese making ) for the chickens, pigs, etc), you can share it with your community!   

Let me say that again, I want to be sure you heard me.  YOU CAN SHARE FRESH MILK.   If your state allows you to set up a cow share program, then do it!  If they allow you to sell fresh milk right from the farm as they do in South Carolina, then do that too.  If they allow you to sell it pet grade then do that.  Barter with it too.  Share it with your community.  People in your community need access to fresh nutrient dense milk.     

It is currently illegal in many states in the USA to sell fresh milk.  But there are many states that do allow fresh milk sales or allow cow shares.  It is illegal in Indiana to sell fresh milk for human consumption.  You can sell it for pet consumption or “pet grade” and you can also have herd shares in Indiana.  We offered a cow share program on our Indiana farm.  Other families in our community could buy a share of the milk cow, or milk cows (we had two), and pay for the room and board and labor to milk the cow and care for the milk.  In exchange, they could pick up a share of the milk each week.  We shared the milk with 9 to 10 families each week.  

A typical share of a dairy cow is equal to a gallon of milk.  Basically to find the amount of shares a cow can produce you look at her yearly average of gallons of milk she can produce, then divide that by how many share holders you have.  A share is a one time fee and the farmer or another person can buy back the share when the family no longer needs it.  

You can set the price of the share at what ever price you decide.  Our shares cost $50 one time fee and $20 monthly room and board fee.  Families can buy as many shares of the animals as they wish or that are available.  So a family who bought a share for $50 (refundable when they no longer wished to participate) paid a monthly boarding / labor fee of $20 (non-refundable) and came out each week to pick up a gallon of fresh milk.    

We have had many friends in Indiana cow share programs and the prices can vary alot. One friend with 20 cows had about 400 families picking up milk each week, and had a waiting list of close to another 100 waiting to buy shares.  At her farm, it cost $100 a share and $40 a month for room and board in the summer, and around $60 a month in the winter due to increase hay usage.  I also had an Amish friend who set up a cow share program.  They charged $1 for the share, and $8 for the monthly room and board.  Each farmer can use their own discretion in setting up share prices and room and board fees.  Then generally you sign a herd share contract to seal the deal.  It is a win win for the farmer and the community.

I am hoping to get a milk cow again someday.  We sold our farm in Indiana in 2008 to move to North Carolina.  It was hard to say goodbye to Elvira.  I cried many tears for many months over saying goodbye to her. Though we love farming, my husband makes his living in construction.  The economy in Indiana (as many states across the nation) was experiencing a deep recession and he took a construction management job in NC.  While we lived in NC we bought raw milk across the state line in South Carolina.  I was so thankful for the SC raw milk resource so that we could continue to provide raw milk for our kids even though we were not on a farm with our own cow.

We moved back to Indiana around the end of May 2013, and we are slowly setting up a homestead little by little.  I would love to have fresh milk again as I firmly believe it is so important for children to have this nutrient dense resource.  I believe it is good for all of us, but especially for my children who are growing and developing.  I would even love to have a nubian dairy goat again too. I love making feta cheese, fudge, and homemade soap with goats milk.  But I don’t know when or if this will happen.   I don’t know if I will ever find a cow as wonderful as Elvira again.  I still miss her.  She was a great milk cow, a wonderful family pet, a great resource to the community, and a friend.

Want to learn more about real nutirent dense foods check out the Weston A Price Foundation.
Where to find REAL MILK in your community, (click on the link inside the real milk website called real milk finder):

Check out Local Harvest to find more local farm products near you:

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Raising Homemakers
Sharing Time

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