Those who pursue a different path often meet with skepticism in our society. This is perhaps nowhere quite as true as in the area of agriculture.Continue reading The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer
Looking for something good to read this year, or maybe just through those cold winter months? How about a reading challenge?
The theme of this year’s reading challenge at Homestead on the Range is nature. One of the key tenets of sustainable agriculture is to work in sync with nature. Another, closely related rule of thumb is to mimic nature’s systems. A good way to start is to read up on the subject.
To complete the reading challenge, you must read 12 books by the end of the year, or an average of one book every month. Each book will be in a different category. This year’s categories are as follows:
- A book about plants.
- A book about animals.
- A nature-themed photo book.
- A book about a specific ecosystem.
- A book about weather or the atmosphere.
- A book about water.
- A book about habitat restoration or conservation.
- A book about how to observe nature.
- A book about agricultural practices that benefit nature.
- A book about outdoor recreation or skills.
- A book about an endangered species.
- A book about an extinct species.
A few rules:
- Books in electronic formats count.
- Both fiction and nonfiction books count.
- You can work through the categories in any order.
- Books cannot be counted twice, even if they fit into more than one category.
Need some help finding the books? Check out The Homestead Bookshelf to browse our favorite titles. Then sign up for On the Range, your free weekly country living update (learn more here). At the end of every month, we’ll suggest a book for one of the categories.
Let us know what you decide to read! We’d love to hear from you!
We love curating helpful reading material for country living enthusiasts!
If you are looking for a variety of useful books on everything from starting a farming enterprise to planting crops to drawing horses, we highly recommend the Homestead Bookshelf as the place to find what you’re looking for. We have collected public domain classics, modern paperbacks, free extension service PDFs, and even a few books published by Homestead on the Range to help you learn important facts and skills.
New to our site? Allow us to recommend some of the books our readers purchase or download after visiting.Continue reading Top 10 Reader-Favorite Books
Crisp and black with cold, dry ash,
You cover yourselves with green,
Awakened to life by rain and sun,
You thrive in the breezes of spring.
Days grow long, the south wind blows;
Your green now changes, too—
First more vibrant, then more soft,
And then to a golden hue.
A gentler sun ripens your gold
To copper and rich red rust;
Heat gives way to autumn frost
And mist that quells the dust.
Day by day your frost grows thicker,
Gives way to sleet and snow;
Grasses lie beneath the ice,
A-shine in the moon’s pale glow.
© 2019 Michelle Lindsey
Craftsy folks frequently share a do-it-yourself ethic. While it’s always easier just to buy cheap, pretty yarn at the craft store, some (particularly homesteaders) prefer to create their own dyes. In fact, if you own sheep or other fiber animals, this may be a logical next step to adding value to your products.
You can even take the dye-it-yourself project a step further by harvesting the materials for your own homemade dye! Many dye materials can be grown in the garden or collected on a nature walk.
Looking for a specific color? Here’s where to find it. You will notice that some colors are altered by the mordant used. A mordant is a substance used to fix a dye onto a fabric.
- Avocado skin and seed: Light pink.
- Roses: Brilliant pink with mint and lemon juice to activate alkaloids.
- Lavender: Brilliant pink with mint and lemon juice to activate alkaloids.
- Pink or red camellia blooms: Strong pink to magenta with salt and lemon.
- Fresh dandelions: Magenta.
- Sumac fruit: Light red.
- Pokeweed fruit: Rust with chrome as a mordant.
- Bamboo: Turkey red.
- Madder root: Garnet red with chrome as a mordant.
- Beets: Deep red.
- Giant coreopsis: Bright orange.
- Yellow onion skin: Bright orange with tin as a mordant; burnt orange with alum.
- Butternut bark or seed husks: Light yellow-orange.
- Lilac twigs and bark: Yellowish orange.
- Shredded carrots: Rich orange.
- Red onion skin: Reddish orange with alum as a mordant.
- White mulberry bark: Cream with with alum as a mordant.
- Osage orange wood: Pale yellow.
- St. John’s wort tops: Bright yellow with chrome as a mordant.
- Goldenrod flowers: Bright yellow with tin as a mordant.
- Tumeric: Very bright, vibrant yellow.
- Dandelion flowers: Soft yellow with alum as a mordant.
- Elderberry leaves: Soft yellow with alum as a mordant; deep yellow with chrome as a mordant.
- Plantain: Dull yellow with alum as a mordant.
- Fennel flowers and leaves: Mustard yellow with alum as a mordant.
- Coneflower leaves and stems: Gold.
- Red clover: Gold with alum as a mordant.
- Marigold flowers: Gold with chrome as a mordant.
- Red onion skins: Gold with chrome as a mordant.
- Sage tops: Deep yellow with chrome as a mordant.
- Dock roots: Deep yellow with alum as a mordant.
- Foxglove flowers: Apple green.
- Peony flowers: Pale lime green.
- Queen Anne’s lace: Pale green.
- Hydrangea flowers: Celery green with alum as a mordant plus copper.
- Fresh sage tops: Green-gray with iron as a mordant.
- Fresh yarrow: Olive green with iron as a mordant.
- Marjoram tops: Olive green with chrome as a mordant.
- Coneflower blooms: Brownish green.
- Peppermint: Dark khaki green.
- Sorrel roots: Dark green.
- Bayberry plant: Dark green with iron as a mordant.
- Fresh dock leaves: Dark green with iron as a mordant.
- Geranium: Blue-gray.
- Fresh elderberries: Blue-gray with tin as a mordant.
- Dogwood fruit: Greenish blue.
- Indigo: Deep true blue.
- Basil: Purplish gray.
- Huckleberries: Lavender.
- Elderberries: Lavender.
- Red or black mulberries: Royal purple.
- Red cabbage leaves: Rich purple.
- Dark red or purple hibiscus flowers: Reddish purple.
- Pokeweed berries: Deep reddish purple.
- Very dark purple iris blooms: Dark bluish purple with alum as a mordant.
- Blackberries: Strong purple.
Brown, Gray, and Black
- Tea: Ecru.
- Dried fennel seeds: Very pale brown.
- Birch bark: Light brown to buff.
- Tea bags: Light brown or tan.
- Weeping willow wood and bark: Peachy brown.
- Plantain: Camel with chrome as a mordant.
- Pine tree bark: Medium-light brown.
- Dandelion roots: Warm brown.
- Broom sedge: Golden brown.
- Fennel leaves: Golden brown with chrome as a mordant.
- Yellow onion skins: Brass with chrome as a mordant.
- Yellow coneflower head: Brass to greenish brass with chrome as a mordant.
- Wild plum root: Rusty brown.
- Red onion skins: Dark tan with chrome as a mordant.
- Goldenrod shoots: Deep brown.
- Beets: Deep brown with ferrous sulfate as a mordant.
- Butternut bark: Dark brown when thoroughly boiled down.
- Dried oregano stalks: Deep brown to black.
- Black walnut hulls: Deep brown to black.
- Carob pods: Dark gray.
- Iris roots: Black.
- Sumac leaves: Black.
- Oak galls: Strong black.
This is a very small sampling of the natural dyes that exist, but it is sufficient to demonstrate that the plant kingdom offers an entire rainbow of colors just waiting for harvest. If you are willing to dye your own fiber, you will never run out of new options for achieving your favorite colors.
Looking for a great tool for logging the weather? Look no further! The Old Farmer’s Almanac Weather Notebook is a full-color four-year journal that is sure to please!
There is so much to love about the Weather Notebook that it is hard to know where to start. There is one page for every day of the year (including February 29), with each page allowing you to compare four years of weather records side by side. Every day, you will have ample room to record:
- Current conditions (sunny, rainy, cloudy, etc.).
- Wind speed.
- Barometric pressure.
- Special weather or personal events.
Now for the nice touches that really make this journal shine. This book has a vinyl cover, tight binding, and thick pages, making it very durable. It also includes a ribbon for keeping your place. And then there are all the weather facts, located about mid-month every month and packed with information on a variety of weather-related topics:
- Temperature conversion formulas.
- Heat index.
- The Beaufort scale.
- Flash floods.
- Safe ice thicknesses.
Every page of weather facts also includes a little bit of weather history and an “Ask the Old Farmer” section.
And for the icing on the cake—how about the beautiful color photography scattered liberally throughout the journal? These breathtaking photos depict weather in all its moods, fair and foul.
If you have been following us for a while, you are probably familiar with our previous favorite weather journal, The Weather Wizard’s 5-Year Weather Diary, now out of print. We are very pleased to have found this substitute, and we heartily recommend The Old Farmer’s Almanac Weather Notebook as a far superior product. The only inconvenience you may experience when making the switch is getting used to the binding—The Weather Wizard’s 5-Year Weather Diary was spiral-bound and could lie flat on a desk. However, this design was also very prone to torn pages and would fall apart well before the five years were up. The Old Farmer’s Almanac Weather Notebook does not lie flat, but it is much sturdier.
A new favorite, and highly recommended!
Johnson grass (Sorghum halepense) grows sturdy upright stems ranging from two to eight feet in height. Some stems are branched and others are not, but one thing can be counted on with this species—there will be quite a few of them packed into each clump! Look for a pink or red color near the base of the stem, if you can comb through the thick clumps well enough to find any bases.Continue reading Johnson Grass
Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) is a medium-sized grass that ranges from three to seven feet in height. It frequently grows in clumps, but it may also be found growing as a single stalk. The stem is hollow but stiff and upright.Continue reading Indian Grass
Side-oats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) takes its name from its peculiar inflorescence. It grows a stalk varying in length from 3 to 16 inches and tending to zigzag. Somewhere between 12 and 60 very short branches grow from this stalk, dangling to one side. Each branch has three to eight spikelets resembling oat seeds, especially as they mature and fade to a tan color.Continue reading Side-Oats Grama
Eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides) is a tall bunchgrass species that ranges from four to eight feet in height. It forms clumps one to four feet across and connected with tough, knotty rhizomes. The plants have roots that extend as far as 20 feet below the surface of the ground, and they are further anchored by corms—short, swollen stems that grow vertically downward.Continue reading Eastern Gamagrass