Tag: DIY Projects

Web Soil Survey
The Farm

Web Soil Survey

Web Soil SurveyKnowing your soils is a good idea, no matter where you live or what type of country living activity you pursue. The USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service makes that job easy.

The Web Soil Survey site takes a little bit of getting used to, but it provides a wealth of information. Once you have selected an area of interest, you can view a map identifying the types of soils on your property.

But that’s just the beginning—these facts are then translated into information that you can use to determine the best use of your land. View details on:

  • Building site development (potential challenges to dwellings, lawns, shallow excavations, small commercial buildings, etc.).
  • Construction materials (usefulness as a source of gravel, sand, topsoil, etc.).
  • Land classifications (suitability for farming, irrigation, forest, conservation tree plantings, etc.).
  • Land management (erosion hazard, fence post depth, potential for damage by fire, potential for seedling mortality, soil rutting hazard, etc.).
  • Recreational development (suitability for motorcycle trails, paths, playgrounds, etc.).
  • Vegetative productivity (productivity of crops, range, and forests).
  • Plenty more to keep you busy!

If you want to get to know your soil better, this is a very informative start. Enjoy!

Top 10 Books for Beginning Farmers
The Farm

Top 10 Books for Beginning Farmers

Top 10 Books for Beginning FarmersJust getting started?

Whether you are still in the early planning stage or are trying to overcome your first obstacle, one of the best things you can do is to read extensively. Many others have walked the path before you. Why not smooth your own learning curve and take advantage of their experience?

While there are many excellent books we could recommend (just check out our bookshelf), we have picked out 10 must-reads to get you going.


10.  Wildflowers & Grasses of Kansas

Need to identify a plant in your pasture? Start here. Although a little technical, it is well organized and supplied with a glossary and illustrations for ease of use. The plant descriptions include useful notes on suitability for livestock where applicable. (Not from Kansas? Search Amazon for a guide tailored to your state or region.) Read our full review.


9.  Insects in Kansas

To solve problems with insect pests, you must first be able to identify the culprit. This guide offers descriptions of 850 species, liberally illustrated with color photos. Bonus: It includes a section on beekeeping! (Not from Kansas? Search Amazon for a guide tailored to your state or region.) Read our full review.


Starting & Running Your Own Small Farm Business8.  Starting & Running Your Own Small Farm Business

How to start a farm business in 10 steps. This is a concise introduction to the questions you will have to answer as you get started. Learn how to write a business plan, find funding, choose venues, price products, meet legal requirements, market effectively, and more. Helpful resources are provided each step of the way. Read our full review.


7.  HomeMade

Need equipment for your farm? See if you can build what you need before you buy something. This book offers ideas for projects useful around the farm, the garden, and the house alike. Whether you need a fence, a compost bin, a simple animal shelter, or just an easy way to bale hay on a small scale, you’ll find plenty of inspiration here. Read our full review.


6.  Veterinary Guide for Animal Owners

Great starting point for animal health research. Covers the basic care of cattle, horses, goats, sheep, swine, poultry, rabbits, dogs, and cats. Each chapter begins with the basics of animal housing and feeding specific to the species in question, and then moves to a discussion of the symptoms and treatment of the most common health problems. Advice on home vet care basics, such as first aid and administering medication, is also provided. Read our full review.


Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening5.  Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

Is a garden or orchard part of your plan? Make sure you have this encyclopedia on your shelf. If you have a question, whether about the needs of a specific plant or about implementing a sustainable gardening practice, you will find a concise answer here. No wonder this book has stood the test of time! Read our full review.


4.  Stocking Up

Whatever type of food you need to preserve, it is almost certain that you will find directions in one of the editions of this classic. The original edition offers good old down-home cooking, while the third edition was made for the health-conscious crowd. Both include substantial information on making the most of your harvest, whether it be fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk, or meat. Read our full review.


3.  Kansas Crop Planting Guide

If you intend to grow field crops in Kansas, this one is not optional. (Good news—it’s free!) Multiple charts tell you when to plant and at what rate. (Not from Kansas? Check your local extension service to see if they offer a similar resource.)


Building a Sustainable Business2.  Building a Sustainable Business

This one is a must! Even if farming is your hobby, you can still benefit from the valuable planning tools provided in this book. In five straightforward steps, learn how to write a business plan that you will actually use. Identify your values, recognize your current position, develop your vision, examine your options, and choose your path. Worksheets and examples help you through the process. Highly recommended—and it’s free! Read our full review.


1.  You Can Farm

Need inspiration or ideas? Give this one a try. Joel Salatin shares valuable tips for successful and profitable farming, drawing from his experience along the way. Learn how to choose enterprises that will work for you, then develop your farming philosophy and dive into direct marketing. You don’t need a large land base or a well-filled wallet to get started. Salatin demonstrates that it is your mindset that makes the difference. A must for all beginning farmers! Read our full review.

Get Ready for May 2016
The Lifestyle

Get Ready for May 2016

Get Ready for May 2016Summer is fast approaching! It’s time to battle the bugs, brush up on music skills, and plan some family time for Memorial Day.

  1. Discover the historical geography of the United States.
  2. Choose the right string gauge for your guitar.
  3. Deter garden bugs before they show up for lunch.
  4. Start a homemade construction project.
  5. Learn how to communicate with a sheepdog.
  6. Improve your banjo technique.
  7. Read about horse breeds with your children.
  8. Practice playing rhythm considerately.
  9. Plan to visit a Kansas state park.
  10. Learn about integrated pest management (IPM).
Get Ready for April 2016
The Lifestyle

Get Ready for April 2016

Get Ready for April 2016Spring is in the air! Are you ready to get outside, grow some plants, and build something new?

  1. Learn how to transplant successfully.
  2. Take advantage of three free planting guides from K-State.
  3. Mix up an easy radish salad.
  4. Download free building plans and construct something new.
  5. Learn how to tell a rattlesnake from a kingsnake.
  6. Try out three easy ways to use asparagus.
  7. Consider new marketing strategies for your farm-fresh milk and meat.
  8. Learn how to increase the productivity of your home acre.
  9. Decide if heritage livestock breeds are right for you.
  10. Invest in the ultimate encyclopedia of organic gardening.
5 Homemade Gifts from the Farm
The Skills

5 Homemade Gifts From the Farm

5 Homemade Gifts from the FarmThere’s nothing like a homemade gift to warm someone’s heart at Christmas.  The time and love put into a handcrafted present make it special.

If you enjoy country living, you have an excellent opportunity to make and grow gifts that will touch others.  Need some inspiration?  Consider these ideas:

  1. Heirloom seeds.  If you raise and save seeds from heirloom plants, why not share that favorite variety with a gardening relative?
  2. Live plants.  Some of your family members might enjoy a sample of a perennial plant to grow.  Perhaps you can share a productive and hardy variety of berry, or maybe an herb in a pot.
  3. Herbal concoctions.  Many people have an interest in herbs, even if they don’t necessarily grow them.  Delight someone this Christmas with dried herbs for cooking or making tea.
  4. Kitchen treats.  Are you good at baking homemade bread?  Is your jelly a favorite?  Share some of that down-home goodness with friends and family this year.
  5. Country crafts.  Put your skills to work creating something for that special someone.  Build a birdhouse; knit a scarf; paint a rural scene.  The sky is the limit!


Helpful Resources

Stocking Up
Consider some of these ways to share your produce this Christmas.  Read our full review.

Kids Knitting
Children will enjoy making these projects as much as friends and family will enjoy receiving them!  Read our full review.

Looking for something useful to build?  This book might provide some inspiration.  Read our full review.

Homemade Cards
Don’t buy a card this Christmas—make one!  Read our full review.

Free LSU Building Plans
The Skills

Free LSU Building Plans

Free LSU Building PlansLouisiana State University has put together an excellent website packed with countless building plans available for free PDF download.  If you are the do-it-yourself type, this is a site that you should definitely bookmark!

Just to give you a very small sampling of the plans and projects that are included:

  • Gates.
  • Barns.
  • Corrals.
  • Feeders.
  • Dairy parlors.
  • Rearview mirrors for tractors.
  • Walk-in refrigerators.
  • Roadside fruit stands.
  • Trailers.
  • Composters.
  • Greenhouses.
  • Chicken coops.
  • Cabins.
  • Canoes.
  • Beehives.
  • Doghouses.

The PDFs are simply diagrams—they do not contain step-by-step directions.  However, dimensions are provided.  With a little bit of building know-how, you should be able to get started without too much trouble.

While some of the plans are a little overkill for most country families (need an auction barn?), many of them will provide useful ideas for your construction projects, whether large or small.  Highly recommended site!

A Kid's EcoJournal Series
The Sunflower State

A Kid’s EcoJournal Series

A Kid's Winter EcoJournalIf your children love the outdoors and also love to write, they may enjoy A Kid’s EcoJournal series by Toni Albert.

There are four of these books (spring, summer, fall, and winter), but they all follow a similar format. After some tips on exploring and writing about nature comes space for entries. Each entry has blank lines for writing, a selection from the author’s nature journal, and an activity.

A Kid's EcoJournalBesides learning how to observe and record observations, children will:

  • Make maps.
  • Feed worms.
  • Make plaster casts of animal tracks.
  • Grow sunflowers.
  • Capture insects.
  • Keep an aquarium.
  • Dry Osage oranges.
  • Make compost.
  • Press leaves.
  • Make winter decorations.
  • Build bird feeders.
  • Experiment with snow.

A great gift, and a hands-on way to teach children to observe and write about nature! Who knows? Maybe it will spark a lifelong journal-keeping habit.

The Complete Book of Birdhouse Construction
The Skills

Complete Book of Birdhouse Construction

The Complete Book of Birdhouse ConstructionHere’s a way to combine two favorite interests. Hand the woodworker of the family a copy of this book and see what happens!

The Complete Book of Birdhouse Construction for Woodworkers by Scott D. Campbell provides detailed plans and instructions for the following birds:

  • House Finch.
  • Great Crested Flycatcher.
  • Purple Martin.
  • Phoebe.
  • Downy Woodpecker.
  • Wood Duck.
  • Bluebird.

Complete Book of Birdhouse ConstructionBut the possibilities do not end here. A chart with specifications for many, many other birds is included, as well.

For those who are new to building birdhouses, the first chapter explains how to design, build, and care for a house that your feathered friends will be sure to love. The final chapter tells you where and how to put up the new birdhouse.

This is a small booklet, only 46 pages long, but it contains all the information you will ever need to build birdhouses.


The Skills


HomeMadeHere is just the thing for the handyman of the family.  Whatever you want to build, whether it is for your home, your garden, or your farm, check out this book for ideas.

HomeMade: 101 Easy-to-Make Things for Your Garden, Home, or Farm by Ken Braren and Roger Griffith provides a drawing and a brief summary for each project.  Many of the projects also include exact dimensions.  Others are less specific and more for brainstorming purposes.

Take a look at the list of things you can build with the help of HomeMade:

  • Workbenches.
  • Basement closets.
  • Root cellars.
  • Lawn chairs.
  • Tool sheds.
  • Compost bins.
  • Plant supports.
  • Gates.
  • Bird feeders.
  • Loading chutes.
  • Stables.
  • Incubators.

HomeMadeMany useful skills are explained, as well, such as:

  • How to clean and store paintbrushes.
  • How to sharpen tools.
  • How to build a compost pile that will actually compost.
  • How to bale hay on a small scale.
  • How to tighten a fence.

Are you ready to build something?