3 Books for the Homestead Kitchen

3 Books for the Homestead KitchenLooking for the perfect gift for the homesteader who loves to garden and cook? Take a look at these handy cookbooks:

  1. All New Square Foot Gardening Cookbook
    Solve the question of what to do with all that produce! This colorful little cookbook offers a variety of suggestions for making the most of homegrown vegetables and some fruits, as well. Organized by crop for easy reference.  Includes harvesting and storage instructions. Read our full review.
  2. Stocking Up
    If preserving large amounts of fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, or eggs is important to your fellow homesteader, give them a copy of this classic. Choose between the trendy, health-conscious third edition or the old-fashioned, homestyle original. Read our full review.
  3. Kids Cooking
    Do you know young children who would love to try their hand at cooking or baking? Maybe they would enjoy receiving a copy of this easy-to-use cookbook. Get them off to a great start turning real foods into delicious breakfasts, lunches, dinners, sides, and desserts. Includes safety instructions, a glossary, step-by-step instructions for basic cooking procedures, and nearly everything else a young chef needs to know to get started. Read our full review.


ArabianOne of the most famous horse breeds in the world is also one of the oldest.  The Arabian probably ran wild in the Middle East for thousands of years.  Archaeologists have unearthed skeletons that suggest it has changed relatively little over time.

But the Arabian horse probably would have remained in obscurity forever had it not become the war mount of the Bedouins.  Camels were useful for their milk and their slow but steady method of travel.  The horse, however, was ideal for the swift, silent raids which were a way of life for the tribes of the desert.  Good war mares were prized, sharing the tents of their riders and being bred only to stallions of the purest blood, preferably from the same bloodline.

When the Moors set out to conquer Europe, beginning in the late 600s and early 700s, their prized Arabian war horses went with them.  The light, agile Arabians presented a stark contrast to the heavy horses ridden by the armor-clad knights of Europe.  Little wonder, then, that at first the Moors prevailed.

As the Middle Ages progressed and the knights traveled to the Middle East to fight the Crusades, they often captured Arabian horses and brought them home to Europe.  Recognizing the advantage an athletic horse and a mobile rider had over a cumbersome steed and knight, many European nations began to shift their focus to Arabians, both purebred and crossbred.

Some Arabian blood undoubtedly was mingled in the gene pool of the Spanish mustang introduced by the conquistadors, but pure breeding of Arabians in America came later.  By that time, the Arabian was a popular horse in England and had influenced the development of most light horse breeds.  Early American colonists often brought Arabians and Arabian-derived horses with them.

Unfortunately, the turmoil of the Civil War destroyed any record of purebred Arabians on our shores.  The first horse with known purebred descendants in America is Leopard.  Leopard and Linden Tree were two Arabian stallions presented to Ulysses S. Grant by Sultan Abdul Hamid II of Turkey.  Grant gave both horses to Virginia horseman Randolph Huntington.  While Huntington’s main interest was in showy trotting horses, in 1888, he imported two Arabian stallions and two mares from England to start a purebred Arabian breeding program.

The Arabian’s popularity in America, however, dates back to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.  One of the exhibits at this fair displayed 45 Arabian horses straight from the Middle East and handled by native Syrians.  Most of these horses were auctioned after the fair was over, and thus attracted the attention of Peter Bradley and Homer Davenport.  These two men spent the next few years importing native Bedouin horses.

The Arabian became available to horse owners of many stripes when the United States Army Remount Service adopted the breed as a prime cavalry mount.  Not only did the Remount Service breed Arabians itself, but it offered the services of its Arabian stallions at readily affordable prices.

ArabianBut a strange phenomenon occurred in later years.  A handful of celebrities bought Arabian horses in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and before long the breed was swept up in an overnight fad.  A tax loophole made Arabian horses attractive financially—ownership for several years allowed complete depreciation of the horse’s cost and additional tax benefits after resale.  Add to this the unique, refined appearance of the horse and the culture of opulence that grew up around horse shows and sales, and the result was rampant speculation in horses.  Some horses gained value until their prices were in the millions.

The bubble burst in 1986 with the Tax Reform Act.  With the loophole closed, horses lost their value overnight.  Many breeders went bankrupt, while quite a few unfortunate Arabians suffered neglect in half-abandoned fields.  The breed’s numbers continued to decline for the next few decades, registrations reaching the low point in 2010.

Today, however, the Arabian is for the most part in better hands.  The dedicated breeders who decided to weather the storm and continue raising this favorite horse breed focused on producing a versatile pleasure horse, better suited to the needs of recreational riders.  The Arabian can still be found across the world and in every state in America.


There are many different bloodlines of Arabians, each suited for different tasks, making the breed as a whole highly versatile.  Probably the sport at which Arabians excel the most is competitive endurance riding, but they participate in other events from jumping to racing to dressage.  This breed is quite at home under a Western saddle, as well.  While it is not heavy and powerful enough for roping, stockier individuals thrive on the challenges of reining, cutting, and everyday work on the ranch.  Thanks to this versatility and stamina, the Arabian has earned its place as a means of improving nearly any horse breed.

Some Arabians earn their keep by their looks.  They have made their way into many films, but quite a few are simply pets, gracing the front pasture and coming out for a ride on the weekend.



The Arabian has a unique and almost indescribable personality.  To say that the breed is “hot-blooded” only conveys part of the picture.  While it is true that it is proud, fiery, and energetic, it is passionately loyal and affectionate toward a kind and experienced horseman.  Its sensitivity makes it quick to pick up on the wants of its rider, and it obeys readily.  This breed is smart and particularly loves a challenge presented to it by a trusted owner.

Unfortunately, this spirit can make the Arabian difficult for beginners to work with.  These horses have excellent memories, and inconsistent handling or bad experiences will sour them.  They can easily develop nervousness when in inexperienced hands.  This will particularly show up if they are stabled for long periods of time.


Sun-related skin problems are not an issue in this desert breed.

Most Arabians are structurally sound, with hooves and lungs made for endurance.  However, riders must respect the fact that these horses mature slowly.  It is best to avoid strenuous activity, particularly jumping, until the bones and joints are fully developed, around five years of age.  Also, this breed seems to be prone to crippling arthritis after an injury.

Some Arabians suffer from strangulating lipomas, which are lumps of fat.  Often these lipomas are harmless (at least at first), but they can grow and cut off blood flow to the intestinal tract, causing serious complications.

Six genetic defects have been discovered in the Arabian breed and in Arabian-derived crosses.  These are:

  • Severe combined immunodeficiency, in which the foal is born without an immune system.
  • Lavender foal syndrome, in which a light-colored foal is unable to stand and experiences seizures.
  • Cerebellar abiotrophy, in which the horse loses important neurons, causing incoordination and head tremors.
  • Occipitoatlantoaxial malformation, in which abnormal vertebrae in the neck cause incoordination and paralysis.
  • Equine juvenile idiopathic epilepsy, in which horses experience seizures at a young age, but eventually grow out of them.
  • Guttural pouch tympany, in which air collects in the Eustachian tubes.

Genetic tests are available for the first three of these defects.


  • Availability.
  • Feed efficiency.
  • Longevity.
  • Versatility.
  • Ideal size for smaller riders.
  • Incredible stamina.
  • Speed.


  • Price fluctuations.
  • Difficult personality for beginners to handle.
  • Genetic defects.
  • Slow maturity.
  • Unusual build, which means a special bridle and saddle will be necessary.
  • Size too small for long-legged riders or for many horse sports.
Complete Series

Horse & Donkey BreedsHorse & Donkey Breeds


Attracting Turkeys to Your Backyard

Attracting Turkeys to Your YardOne of the great advantages of living in rural Kansas is the opportunity to see wildlife up-close and personal.

At this time of year, many of us find ourselves thinking about turkey.  While spring is probably the best time to see turkeys in Kansas, since they are abundant and rather noisy, these big birds are still present and visible in the fall.

If you want to increase your chances of viewing wild turkeys, there are two things you can do:

  1. Provide shelter.  While turkeys don’t mind coming out into the open to feed, they still need safe places to hide and trees to roost in at night.  Leaving a stand of trees and brush somewhere on your property next to a grassy field can provide wild turkeys with all of the shelter they need.
  2. Provide food.  Turkeys are often seen foraging for waste grain in the fall.  If you raise field crops, you probably have all you need to attract wild turkeys.  If not, you can plant a small food plot just for the turkeys.  Turkeys will also come to low platform feeders stocked with scratch grains for chickens, but can become territorial if the feeders are kept filled into the spring.

However, many lucky Kansans living in more rural areas, particularly where cash crops are grown, don’t need to take action to attract wild turkeys.  If a varied habitat is available, including brushy shelter, open grasslands, fields of grain, and a source of water, turkeys will often show up voluntarily in both spring and fall.

Tree in the Trail

Trees were scarce on the Kansas prairie once. When the young Indian boy took such great pains to shelter the tiny cottonwood from the hooves of the bison, little did he realize what changes the sapling would live through!

Tree in the TrailTree in the Trail, a well-researched fiction title by Holling C. Holling, introduces children to the early history of the Kansas plains in a unique manner—by tracing the life of a cottonwood tree.

This tree sees the Great Plains transformed many times. It lives through the days of the Native American hunters and warriors, the fierce Spanish conquistadors, and even the wandering American mountain men. The death of the tree does not end the story, however. The cottonwood eventually lives on in the form of an ox yoke and takes a trip on the Santa Fe Trail.

The interesting storyline is accompanied by detailed illustrations and interesting facts that expand on the underlying historical events, offering plenty of fodder for further research.

An outstanding children’s book, incorporating both engaging fiction and historical fact. Great choice for introducing the early history of Kansas!


AppaloosaAncient art reveals that spotted horses have long been companions of mankind, wherever he has taken up residence.  Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that there are several possible origins of the Appaloosa horse of the Old West.

The first likely source of the Appaloosa was the Spanish conquistadors, who brought horses with them to search for gold and conquer the Americas.  There is historical evidence of spotting among these types of horses, so it is quite easy to believe that Spanish horses introduced the spotting genes into mustang herds.  Furthermore, as Pueblo Indians revolted against Spanish rule and fled northward, they used horses to make their escape and later introduced them to other tribes.

But there is another possible origin of the Appaloosa, handed down through Nez Percé oral tradition.  Some of these Native Americans believe that the breed of horse which once made their tribe powerful came to them from the shores of Russia.  The legend suggests that three spotted stallions came on board a ship and were traded to a neighboring tribe.  The Nez Percé then bought the horses for twice their original price.  Interestingly, DNA analysis of wild spotted horses in Kyrgyzstan has given additional weight to this story.

However the Appaloosa came into the hands of the Nez Percé, there is no doubt that the horse revolutionized the tribe.  The Nez Percé of the Palouse Valley in present-day Oregon were once quiet fishermen, but the introduction of the Appaloosa transformed them into a tribe of skilled horsemen, powerful hunters, and wealthy traders.  Their keen powers of observation quickly taught them basic principles of animal breeding.  Before long, not only had the tribe established clear goals for their own breed of horse, but they had largely achieved those goals.  Horses that were slow, weak, or unattractive were culled from the breeding population through gelding or trading, while useful and distinctive horses were isolated in canyons to be selectively bred.  By the time that Lewis and Clark met the tribe, Meriwether Lewis could with due cause exclaim:

…Many of them appear like fine English coursers…and resemble in fleetness and bottom, as well as in form and color, the best blooded horses of Virginia.

But trouble for the both the Nez Percé tribe and the Appaloosa horse breed was looming.  The tribe was restricted to a reservation in 1855.  Gold was discovered on this land in 1860, and the Federal government urged the tribe to accept a smaller reservation created in 1863.  Some bands agreed, while other refused.  Among the “non-treaty” Nez Percé was a band eventually led by Chief Joseph.  Chief Joseph’s policy was to restrain his warriors from violence against the white settlers, while opening negotiations with the Federal government to find a way to keep the reservation the tribe had originally received.  The die was cast, however, in 1877, when several warriors of Chief Joseph’s band murdered four white settlers.

Feeling that the only course left was to take refuge further north, Chief Joseph ordered his band to quickly round up their horses.  Unfortunately, most of the horses were allowed to roam across the plains at that time of year, and no time was to be lost searching for every last animal.  About 3,000 horses, including both nondescript packhorses and the prized Appaloosas for war and hunting, were collected and the rest left to take their chances.

During the rush to the Canadian border, some of the horses were lost, drowned crossing the Snake River or shot down in conflict with the United States Army.  When Chief Joseph surrendered, about 1,100 horses remained.  Many of these were confiscated by the Army, contrary to the terms of surrender.  The Nez Percé were given draft horses instead, while many of the Appaloosa stallions were shot or gelded to ensure that their strength and power would no longer contribute to the bloodlines of Native American horses.

Fortunately, a few Appaloosas survived.  The horses which had escaped Chief Joseph’s hasty roundup continued to live in the wild, while a few ranchers preserved them for working cattle.  Buffalo Bill Cody drew attention to the breed by showcasing it in his traveling Wild West Show, but after his time the spotted horses of the Nez Percé were largely forgotten until 1937.

Nez Percé Indians and horse

That year, an Idaho student named Francis Haines happened to be studying the Nez Percé tribe.  The more he learned about the Indians, the more the horse which had once made them a powerful people captured his imagination.  His writing again focused a spotlight on the Appaloosa horse, and that same year an art exhibit featuring Appaloosas generated more enthusiasm.  A search for wild spotted horses led to the creation of a registry in 1938.

To minimize inbreeding and to counteract the influence of the draft stallions introduced by the Army, the Appaloosa was crossbred with Arabian horses, also known for stamina.  Even so, the future of the breed looked doubtful for a time as World War II took precedence over other interests.  But the end of the war brought rapid expansion for the Appaloosa horse.  In 1975, the breed became the state horse of Idaho.

Because the Appaloosa has long been and continues to be a favorite mount for Western riding and stock work, crossbreeding with Quarter Horses has been allowed in recent years.  While this unquestionably improved the working qualities of the breed, it also created a bit of confusion over the definition of an Appaloosa.  Not all Appaloosas have spots any more, since crossbreeding has introduced solid colors.  However, solid-colored Appaloosas often carry genes for spotting, since the hallmark coloring involves more than one set of genes, and with judicious breeding their offspring can look like typical Appaloosas.

Today, the Appaloosa is one of the most popular breeds in America, common in every state.



The Appaloosa is typically thought of as a Western mount, used for pleasure, trail riding, ranch work, and Western competitions.  However, this distinctive animal is not limited to the Western scene; jumping, dressage, and light harness work are are well within its capabilities.



The Appaloosa has a unique personality.  While this horse is frequently described as calm, gentle, and trustworthy, there is nothing lazy or dull about it.  The Appaloosa is a bold, smart, trainable horse that truly seems to enjoy a challenge and that hates pointless repetition.  A bored Appaloosa may be viewed as stubborn, even though it actually loves to earn its rider’s approval.



Eye problems are a major difficulty in the Appaloosa breed, mainly due to genetic defects.  Night blindness appears to be prevalent in horses that carry two copies of the LP gene, one of the genes that controls spotted color patterns in horses.  Total blindness is another problem, as is equine recurrent uveitis, characterized by squinting and watery eyes and leading to blindness if untreated.

The unique color pattern of the Appaloosa horse results in unpigmented patches on the skin.  These patches are very sensitive to ultraviolet light and can develop skin cancer in some climates.  Providing shade is helpful.  In intense sunlight, some horses will need sunscreen; any human sunscreen that is safe for use around the eyes will work.

A genetic defect from the influential Quarter Horse Impressive has been introduced to the Appaloosa breed.  This defect is called hyperkinetic periodic paralysis (HYPP) or Impressive Syndrome and causes unusually high potassium levels in the muscle.  Symptoms range from tremors to collapse and death.  The best way to avoid this problem is to test breeding stock for the defect and avoid using any animals which carry it.

On a brighter note, Appaloosas are often structurally sound, particularly in the legs and hooves.  Lameness is rare in this breed.

Some Appaloosas shed their manes and tails annually, which can be concerning to owners who are not prepared for this.  While it is always worthwhile to look into unexplained hair loss, this condition is perfectly normal in a handful of Appaloosas.  In fact, quite a few Appaloosas have hardly any mane or tail at all, since the Nez Percé felt it was a useless encumbrance in an athletic war horse and hunting mount.  This is no cause for concern unless the horse appears to be unhealthy or is having a hard time battling flies.



  • Availability.
  • Suitability for beginners.
  • Strong survival instincts.
  • Versatility.
  • Surefootedness.
  • Athleticism.
  • Speed.
  • Stamina.



  • Tendency to bore easily.
  • Genetic defects.
  • Confusion over solid-colored Appaloosas, which can be a problem when selling horses for purposes other than breeding.


Complete Series

Horse & Donkey BreedsHorse & Donkey Breeds


Eat Your Egg Yolks

Eat Your Egg YolksIf you keep your own flock of laying hens, it can be very difficult to throw that beautiful orange egg yolk down the drain. After all, you know that one of your own chickens worked hard to produce that yolk, and you might even know which hen produced it! Besides, that vibrant homegrown egg yolk certainly looks healthier than the pale yellow one that is found at the grocery store.

While the place of egg yolks in a healthy diet is a controversial subject, there is a good case for enjoying pasture-raised yolks from your own healthy, happy hens. Here’s why:

  • Conflicting cholesterol claims: Quite a few nutrition scientists are backing off from the old argument that egg yolks raise cholesterol. More recent studies suggest that moderate egg consumption has no effect on cholesterol for most people (a few individuals may experience a sudden spike in cholesterol after eating eggs). Also, many chicken keepers eat more eggs than the average American—and enjoy excellent health.
  • Nutritional value: The role of the egg yolk in nature is to nourish the developing chick until it hatches. Therefore, it’s not surprising that most of the nutrients found in eggs are stored in the yolks. Some of these nutrients include vitamin A, vitamin B9, vitamin B12, choline, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium, as well as a variety of antioxidants and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. While all egg yolks share these nutritional benefits, research from Pennsylvania State University indicates that pasture-raised egg yolks have higher amounts of many of these nutrients than conventional egg yolks.
  • Extra protein boost: While it is true that much of an egg’s protein content is found in the white, that doesn’t mean that the yolk isn’t a good source of protein, as well. Every egg yolk adds an additional 2.7 grams of protein to your diet, according to the USDA. Furthermore, the white only has an advantage because it is larger than the yolk—every 100 grams of yolk contains 15.86 grams of protein compared to 10.90 grams of protein in 100 grams of white.
  • Flavor: Since most of the nutritional value of an egg is found in the yolk, most of the flavor comes from that source, as well. Healthy eating does not have to be boring—why not enjoy the taste of that homegrown egg?
Helpful Resources

“Egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke: dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies”
A review of several studies, suggesting that eggs may not pose as great a health risk as was previously thought.

Egg Yolk
Take a look at the nutrient profile of an egg yolk, from the USDA’s National Nutrient Database.

Egg White
Now compare the nutritional value of the yolk to that of the white.

“Vitamins A, E and fatty acid composition of the eggs of caged hens and pastured hens”
The Penn State study that demonstrated the particular health benefits of pasture-raised eggs.

The Indispensable Capo

The Indispensible CapoAll guitarists need a capo.  Yes, you can get by without one if you know your bar chords, but why not save yourself some finger fatigue and just use the capo?

There are several styles of capos out there.  We like the trigger-style capos from Dunlop because they can be clamped on quickly and easily, without bending the strings.

For best results, you will need to choose a capo that matches the shape of your guitar’s neck.  Look along the length of your guitar’s neck and see how it is shaped along the width of the fretboard.  If the top surface of the neck is perfectly flat, you will want the flat capo.  If there is a bit of arch to the top of the neck, you will need the curved capo.  Also, different capos are used for electric and classical guitars to accommodate the unique sizes of these instruments.

A good capo is a must for many guitarists.  Give one of these a try.