Tag Archives: Stewardship

2020 Reading Challenge: Nature

2020 Reading Challenge: NatureLooking 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:

  1. A book about plants.
  2. A book about animals.
  3. A nature-themed photo book.
  4. A book about a specific ecosystem.
  5. A book about weather or the atmosphere.
  6. A book about water.
  7. A book about habitat restoration or conservation.
  8. A book about how to observe nature.
  9. A book about agricultural practices that benefit nature.
  10. A book about outdoor recreation or skills.
  11. A book about an endangered species.
  12. 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!

Top 10 Reader-Favorite Books

Vegetable Garden Planting Guide

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

Fields of Farmers

Fields of FarmersThere are two attitudes toward farm internships prevalent in America today. The first is that of stubborn individualism, the rugged “gonna do it my way” philosophy commonly associated with farmers. The second is best described as, “What I need is some interns to get this place in shape!”

In Fields of Farmers: Interning, Mentoring, Partnering, Germinating, Joel Salatin tackles both mistaken viewpoints head-on. Salatin views internships as a ministry, an investment in the next generation—not an opportunity for cheap labor.

This book was clearly written for both the mentor and the mentored. After an overview of education and how it works, particularly in a real-world context, Salatin proceeds to urge both groups of people to give and to serve. Experienced farmers are counseled to put time and effort into guiding young people, even when it isn’t easy, while aspiring land stewards are admonished to put their best into their work and forego the “I’m owed” mentality.

But Fields of Farmers is about far more than the philosophy that should go into an internship program, as foundational as that is. It is also about the mechanics necessary for making things work—the process of selecting, housing, training, and setting mutually respectful boundaries for interns. It seeks to find equitable answers to prickly questions about whether interns should be paid and what to do when a new intern is doing the farm more harm than good.

Rounding out the book is a fascinating look at the history of apprenticeship written by a Polyface apprentice.

If you are casually considering adding an internship program to your farm, Fields of Farmers may very well scare you off. But for those who are determined to play a role in training the next generation of farmers, it is an essential manual to navigating some dangerous waters in a way that enables both parties involved to succeed.

Getting Started With Livestock Part 3: Diet

Getting Started with Livestock Part 3: DietKeeping your animals on pasture obviously has financial benefits, and you’ve probably heard of the numerous health benefits, as well. Even nonruminants like pigs and poultry can derive a great portion of their diet from the pasture, although they will need some type of supplemental feed. So how do you make it all work?

Pasture

The key to using pasture as your sole or primary animal feed is to keep it in good shape. This means you can’t let your livestock trample or graze it into the dirt. The best way to avoid this is to ration pasture out just like you would feed—you give the animals a small space for a day or maybe a couple of days and then move them onto a fresh paddock. You keep working your way across your pastures in this fashion.

This is just a very superficial overview of rotational and management-intensive grazing methods. There’s actually a whole art to it, which is way beyond the scope of this post. Check the Helpful Resources below for more information.

Another thing you’ll have to think about is how many animals you can safely keep on your land. Stocking rates vary widely (sometimes even on the same property). Five acres per cow-calf pair seems to be the average in most parts of Kansas.

The cow-calf pair can in turn be used as a standard of measure, known as the animal unit, to calculate stocking rates for other types of livestock. Thus, on our average five Kansas acres, we could place one of the following options:

  • 1 cow-calf pair.
  • 1 stocker calf.
  • 3 ewe-lamb pairs.
  • 5 mature goats.
  • 1 pony (not a full-sized horse).
  • 1 bison.
  • 1 elk.

Stocking rates for pastured pork production have not received as much attention as those for other animals, so be prepared to do your own hands-on field research. A good starting point is to plan on about 10 pigs for every acre. Young, newly weaned pigs can be stocked more densely, while sows with litters will require more space.

Note that there are many variables that will affect your stocking rate. A 1,500-pound beef cow will require 1-1/2 times as much pasture as a 1,000-pound beef cow, for instance. Irrigation can squeeze more forage production out of your land. Also, simple attention to good grazing management will almost certainly raise your stocking rate above that of your neighbors!

Always err on the safe side when it comes to stocking rate. If you have a little more grass than your livestock need, it’s not a serious problem, but if you’re stuck with hungry animals, you’ll find yourself either buying hay or selling animals. Both can be painful, especially in a drought when everybody else is doing the same thing. A good rule of thumb is that if you don’t have enough experience to look at your land and roughly gauge how many animals you can put on it, you probably don’t need very many animals (at least not yet). Some experienced graziers recommend starting with herds as small as two to five head when learning grazing management.

Even in the winter, you may be able to keep your animals on pasture with proper planning. Stockpiling forage and planting cool-season grasses are two techniques for extending the grazing season and minimizing hay and feed consumption. Some animals, particularly dry beef cows, may even be able to thrive on dormant range grass in the winter with a protein supplement.

Harvested Forages

Of course, winter brings an end to the grazing season. Then what? Fortunately, hay and silage offer grain-free options.

Keep in mind that the quality of your harvested forage is very important. Animals cannot thrive on moldy hay, which can be a problem if the hay was improperly harvested or stored. Furthermore, blister beetles are toxic and can be a major problem in hay, particularly if you are feeding horses, so keep an eye out. Finally, remember that any pungent odors or flavors in hay for dairy animals will end up in your family’s milk supply!

The nutrient profile of the hay will depend on the types of forages that went into it. Legume hay is particularly noteworthy, as its high protein content can be absolutely essential or a needless expense, depending on what types of animals you have in what stages of production. Lactating animals will require more nutrition than dry animals (which is why it’s generally advisable to time breeding so that livestock will give birth when the weather is warm and the pastures are lush).

When it comes to sourcing harvested forage, you have three main options:

  • Harvest it yourself.
  • Have it custom-baled on your land.
  • Purchase it.

Determining which option is best for you is largely a matter of putting pencil to paper to work out the dollars and cents of the question. Also keep in mind that harvesting your own hay offers you more control over the quality but can be very expensive on a small scale. Purchasing hay, provided that it is good quality, offers an opportunity to bring in a natural source of soil fertility from outside, but it can also introduce noxious weeds and similar difficulties.

Getting Started with Livestock Part 3: DietFeed

Some animals will need feed to perform well and stay healthy. With these animals, you will have to be careful to keep your costs down without sacrificing the quality of their diet. Poultry and swine typically need some grain for peak health and performance. While ruminants are generally healthier without grain, some genetic lines (particularly among dairy animals) are bred for high production levels and may require feeding to avoid a breakdown. Horses may require supplemental feeding in winter or if working hard on a regular basis.

All this said, many animals are fed far more than is strictly necessary or even healthy. When determining whether or not your livestock will require feed, it is important to take genetics into account. If your goal is to minimize feed costs as much as possible, you will do well to seek out low-maintenance breeds, and low-maintenance genetics within those breeds. Thankfully, every livestock species still has breeds (typically heritage breeds) adapted to rustling their own living off the land.

Also consider your production system. Minimizing feed costs requires good attention to grazing management, and the smaller your property, the more important grazing management becomes. Furthermore, avoiding feed will often require some sacrifices, such as breeding in sync with the climate and accepting lower production levels.

What about growing your own grain for feed? Well, it just depends. Not only can creating a balanced ration be something of an art, the cost of making the feed can quickly add up to more than the purchase price elsewhere. Do the math. Does it make sense financially? Also, can you consistently guarantee the quantity and quality that your animals will need to stay healthy, particularly when first starting out?

Supplements

What kinds of supplements (if any) you need will largely depend on what kind of animals you have and where you live. Two people rarely agree on one magic formula. Many advocates of natural ways of raising all types of ruminants swear by kelp, and free-choice salt is also recommended in many situations. But what if your chickens are laying hens? Then you might want oyster shell or a feed that contains oyster shell. And what if you have dairy animals? You may need to consider a variety of vitamin supplements to keep them in top form. And what if your pastures are particularly poor? You may need a general-purpose stock lick.

The only way to know for sure what supplements will be necessary for your livestock is to do your research and then try it out. See what deficiencies are most common in your area to get off to a good start, but also be prepared to adjust down the road.

Planning a healthy diet for your animals is probably the most critical as far as your finances and their health are concerned, so take your time. Once you have a rough plan to reach your production, animal health, and food quality goals, you are ready to start looking into your breed options.

Helpful Resources

What is Management-Intensive Grazing?
An introduction to meeting the needs of both pastures and animals. Includes plenty of additional reading material.

Intensive Grazing: An Introductory Homestudy Course
For those who just want the basics of grazing management, this bulletin packs a great deal of essential information into a concise format.

What are Animal Units?
How to figure out how many animals your land can support.

Vitamins
Our own guide to the functions and natural sources of vitamins, along with symptoms of deficiency and toxicity.

Microwave Bread Pudding

Microwave Bread PuddingYou know what they say—waste not, want not. And what more delicious application of this proverb is there than bread pudding?

This super-easy recipe, adapted from a Betty Crocker cookbook, is a family favorite and an excellent way to keep those bread heels and halves from going to waste. If you make your own homemade bread on a regular basis, it’s hearty, too.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups bread cubes
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 2 eggs

Directions

  1. Place milk and butter in a 4-cup microwavable measuring cup. Microwave uncovered on high 4 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, spread bread cubes evenly in a round microwavable dish, 8 x 1-1/2 inches.
  3. Sprinkle with raisins, brown sugar, and nuts.
  4. Quickly beat eggs into warm water mixture. Pour over fruit.
  5. Microwave uncovered on 70% power for 9 to 12 minutes until center is almost set (center will set while standing).
  6. Serve warm.

A Brief Guide to 13 Common Garden Mulches

A Brief Guide to 13 Common MulchesYou don’t have to read many gardening books or websites to catch on that mulch is highly recommended for all gardens. But knowing that you ought to mulch your garden and deciding what to mulch it with are two different things.

First off, it is important to recognize that everyone’s circumstances are unique. Factors that will affect your choice of a mulch include:

  • Your purpose for mulching.
  • The types of plants you will mulch.
  • The materials available in your area.
  • The cost of the different local materials.

Therefore, it is a good idea to know going in exactly what you are trying to accomplish, whether that is weed control or soil improvement.

Once you have a clear objective for mulching, then it’s time to choose the material, or perhaps several materials for different beds and purposes.

You are ready to weigh the pros and cons of the most common mulch materials.

Straw

Straw and hay are not the same. Straw is simply crop stubble, while hay is the entire grass plant, including seed heads. Straw is an effective weed barrier, while hay is primarily a simple mechanism for introducing a host of new weeds to your garden. Make sure you mulch with straw, not hay.

Pros:

  • Readily available.
  • Generally cheap.
  • Generally attractive.
  • Controls weeds well if applied thick enough.
  • Protects plants from frost.
  • Cools the soil in hot weather.
  • Improves soil texture.
  • Retains soil moisture extremely well.
  • Prevents soil erosion.
  • Decomposes slowly.

Cons:

  • Attracts rodents.
  • May attract slugs in cool, wet climates.
  • May contain weed seeds.
  • May contain mold.

Best Application: General-purpose vegetable garden mulching, summer through winter.

Lawn Clippings

Lawn clippings should be used with care. They should be applied only when dry and preferably in conjunction with coarser materials to avoid forming a heavy, moldy, anaerobic mat. Also, if accepting bagged lawn clippings from other people, always check to make sure that they do not use herbicides, as accidental contamination can spell speedy death to your flowers and vegetables.

Pros:

  • Readily available for free.
  • Adds nitrogen to the soil.
  • Controls weeds well provided it does not contain weed seed.
  • Conserves soil moisture.

Cons:

  • May be contaminated with herbicides and other chemicals.
  • May contain weed seed.
  • Molds readily if applied too thickly or when damp.
  • May produce odor if applied too thickly or when damp.
  • Forms a water-repellent mat if applied when damp.
  • Decomposes extremely quickly.

Best Application: Mulching summer vegetables with high nitrogen requirements.

A Brief Guide to 13 Common Garden MulchesLeaves

Leaves can improve your soil texture and nutrient profile in an amazingly short amount of time. Unfortunately, they can also be difficult to manage in the garden, as they blow away when dry and form heavy, waterproof mats when wet. Want to avoid some of the problems associated with using leaves as mulch? Shred or partially compost the leaves before applying them. As a final word of warning—do not use walnut leaves, as they are toxic to many plants.

Pros:

  • Readily available for free.
  • Protects plants from frost.
  • Cools the soil in summer.
  • Retains soil moisture very well.
  • Improves soil texture.
  • Adds many nutrients to the soil.
  • Promotes earthworm health.

Cons:

  • Tends to blow away.
  • May contain plant diseases, depending on the source.
  • May form a water-repellent mat after rainfall.
  • May deplete soil nitrogen in the short term unless partially composted.

Best Application: Protecting and enriching vegetable garden soil over the winter.

Pine Straw/Needles

Pine straw is just pine needles used for mulch.

Pros:

  • Free or cheap.
  • Attractive.
  • Controls weeds effectively.
  • Improves soil texture and drainage.
  • Prevents soil erosion.
  • Permits water penetration.
  • Decomposes slowly.

Cons:

  • Painful to handle—wear gloves.
  • Makes soil too acidic for many plants.
  • Inhibits earthworm activity.

Best Application: Mulching acid-loving plants such as blueberries, hydrangeas, or rhododendrons.

Wood Chips or Bark

There are many varieties of wood mulch to choose from, all with their own unique benefits. Cedar even provides a certain level of protection from insects. Just watch out for toxins—if you purchase your wood mulch, stay away from mulches containing dyes. Also, never use black walnut, as it contains toxins lethal to many garden plants.

Pros:

  • Readily available, sometimes for free.
  • Attractive.
  • Controls weeds effectively.
  • Retains soil moisture fairly well.
  • Adds nutrients to the soil in the long term.
  • Decomposes very slowly.

Cons:

  • Sometimes contains dyes.
  • May float away during heavy rainfalls.
  • Depletes soil nitrogen in the short term.

Best Application: Ground cover for perennial beds.

A Brief Guide to 13 Common Garden MulchesCompost

Don’t have your own compost pile? You can purchase bagged compost at garden centers, but commercial compost is typically made with only a couple of ingredients and is thus less balanced than homemade compost.

Pros:

  • Can be made at home for free.
  • Improves soil texture considerably.
  • Provides valuable soil nutrients.
  • Builds the soil microbe community.

Cons:

  • May contain plant diseases unless produced using the hot composting method.
  • Provides only partial weed control.
  • Breaks down quickly.

Best Application: Feeding garden plants of all types under another mulch material.

Peat/Sphagnum Moss

Peat moss is harvested from peat bogs. It has some unusual characteristics that can be either good or bad depending on your requirements. For one thing, it can absorb water like a sponge, which improves boggy soil considerably but may allow plants to dry out in hot, droughty weather. For another thing, it makes the soil more acidic, although typically not enough to present a problem.

Pros:

  • Readily available.
  • Improves soil texture and drainage considerably.
  • Decomposes very slowly.

Cons:

  • Prone to blowing away if dry.
  • Provides no soil nutrients.
  • May hinder water penetration if applied too thickly.

Best Application: Improving heavy soils that drain poorly.

Sawdust

If you do plenty of woodworking, sawdust is definitely a mulch you should consider. Just be careful about what sawdust you use—dust from treated lumber can add toxins to your soil.

Pros:

  • Can be obtained for free.
  • Controls weeds well if applied thickly enough.

Cons:

  • Forms a water-repellent crust after a rain.
  • May make the soil too acidic for some plants.
  • May deplete soil nitrogen levels.
  • Breaks down quickly.

Best Application: Mulching acid-loving plants for cheap.

Cardboard

Cardboard is the go-to mulch if you have a serious weed problem—nothing can penetrate it! Keep in mind, though, that cardboard can be a pain to deal with. You will want large sheets to cover as much surface area as possible without leaving cracks for weeds to grow through, and you will want to cover it with straw to keep it in place but out of sight.

Pros:

  • Readily available, often for free.
  • Controls weeds extremely effectively.

Cons:

  • Extremely unattractive unless completely covered by another mulch material.
  • Makes it impossible to add new plants without removing the mulch.
  • May cause boron toxicity due to glue; soak in water before using, then discard water (or use it as a fertilizer for strawberries).

Best Application: Putting the brakes on heavy weed infestations in perennial beds when used in combination with another mulch material.

Newspaper

While many gardeners avoid mulching with newspaper for fear of lead contamination, newspapers phased out lead-based inks long ago. Black-and-white newsprint is perfectly safe for the garden these days; colored inks may still contain some heavy metals. Note that newspaper is prone to blowing around. Cover it with another mulch, such as straw or wood chips, to avoid inadvertently trashing the neighborhood.

Pros:

  • Readily available.
  • Cools the soil in summer.
  • Controls weeds effectively.

Cons:

  • Hard to keep in place.
  • Very unattractive unless thoroughly covered.
  • May contain heavy metals if colored ink was used.

Best Application: Preventing weed growth between rows in a vegetable garden when combined with straw or another mulch material.

Pea Gravel and Crushed Rock

A rock mulch is about as permanent as it gets, and it can be very attractive in landscaping. Keep in mind, however, that rock works best with heat-loving plants. It is a popular choice of mulch in cactus gardens.

Pros:

  • Fairly cheap.
  • Attractive if done well.
  • Allows water penetration.
  • Lasts a very long time.

Cons:

  • Will scatter unless contained with edging.
  • Provides no nutrients to the soil.
  • Makes improving the soil underneath impossible.
  • Provides only partial weed control.
  • Makes pulling weeds that penetrate the mulch more difficult.
  • Cooks shallow-rooted plants in hot weather.

Best Application: Around woody perennials or in desert landscaping.

A Brief Guide to 13 Common Garden MulchesPlastic

Plastic mulches come in several different colors. Black plastic is effective at warming the soil. Clear plastic warms the soil even faster, but has the disadvantage of permitting weed growth. Red plastic reflects certain wavelengths of sunlight onto the plants, enhancing the yields of tomatoes and other summer vegetables. Whatever type of plastic you use, remember that rain cannot penetrate to the soil, so you will need to combine the plastic with soaker hoses or a similar form of irrigation.

Pros:

  • Readily available.
  • Warms the soil by 5 to 20 degrees, depending on the color.
  • Makes an effective weed barrier, depending on the color.
  • Retains moisture extremely well.
  • Increases the yield of heat-loving crops like tomatoes and peppers.

Cons:

  • Will blow away unless weighted down.
  • Provides no nutrients to the soil.
  • Makes improving the soil underneath difficult.
  • Prevents water penetration.
  • Overheats the soil in hot weather.
  • Creates an anaerobic environment toxic to plants.
  • Becomes brittle when exposed to sunlight unless covered with another mulch material.

Best Application: Warming the soil in the spring, particularly around warm-season vegetables.

Landscape Fabric (Geotextile)

Landscape fabric should be covered with another mulch material for both looks and longevity. Keep in mind that some weeds can grow through the fabric.

Pros:

  • Permits air and water to enter the soil.
  • Suppresses most (but not all) weeds.
  • Lasts many years if protected with rocks or wood chips.

Cons:

  • Expensive.
  • Makes adding new plants to the landscape more difficult.
  • Makes pulling weeds that penetrate the fabric more difficult.
  • Inhibits earthworm activity.

Best Application: Around landscaping perennials.

Pros and Cons of Deep-Litter Bedding

Pros and Cons of Deep-Litter BeddingWhile allowing livestock of all types to enjoy the freedom and nutrition of pasture is ideal, there are times when animals may need to be temporarily confined. For instance, you might be raising chicks in a brooder, or you might need to isolate an injured animal in a stall.

So how do you keep livestock healthy under these conditions? One common solution proposed is the deep-litter bedding method. Basically, this method keeps animals off the ground by using at least eight inches of carbon-rich bedding, such as straw or wood shavings. More bedding is added regularly to keep things fresh and clean. The bedding is only dug out on occasion, ranging from every couple of weeks for horse stalls to perhaps only once a year for a winter-use-only chicken coop.

Is deep-litter bedding right for your animals? Let’s take a look.

 

Pros

  • Reduced odor. Odor occurs in animal housing when nitrogen-rich manure gives off ammonia gas. Having large quantities of carbon present in the bedding locks up the nitrogen, essentially beginning a composting process that is low in odor. Of course, this benefit is dependent on providing enough fresh, dry bedding regularly.
  • Cheap entertainment for chickens and pigs. If for any reason your chickens or pigs have to be housed for a time, put down a good, thick layer of bedding, and then toss some dry corn around. Searching for the grain will satisfy the natural foraging instincts of these animals (and their rummaging around will keep the bedding supplied with oxygen).
  • Added warmth. Deep-litter bedding encourages composting, which in turn produces warmth. Animals housed away from drafts on deep-litter bedding will stay cozy in winter. (Note that deep-litter bedding may become excessively warm in summer.)
  • Beneficial bacteria. Aerobic decomposition promotes the flourishing of beneficial bacteria. These in turn produce vitamins B12 and K, as well as antibiotic substances that control the growth of the bad bacteria. Chickens that have the opportunity to scratch around in the slowly decomposing, oxygen-rich environment of a layer of good-quality bedding can benefit tremendously from the experience.
  • Reduced nutrient loading. Too much nitrogen in one place is harmful to the pasture. Containing it with bedding can keep your land in good health. This practice also reduces nutrient loading in surrounding waterways by cutting down on manure-contaminated runoff.
  • Quality compost. When you are done with used bedding, it makes an excellent, well-balanced compost due to the fact that it already contains both carbon and nitrogen. In fact, due to the nature of deep-litter bedding, it probably has already started the composting process by the time you are ready to dig it out! One more bonus? If you keep the chickens in a coop over the winter, when you move them out to pasture in the spring, that empty coop can be put to work as a composter.

 

Cons

  • Expense. If you do not have ready access to carbon bedding in abundance, deep-litter bedding can be remarkably expensive. You will want to find a way to source leaves, straw, wood chips, and the like cheaply.
  • Poor suitability for some structures. Some animal housing is not built to handle layers of bedding eight inches or deeper without creating logistical issues. Inspect your animal housing before trying to implement a deep-litter bedding system. You may need to build your own housing.
  • Dead grass. Deep bedding is very much like mulch. If you pile it on the ground in a movable field structure and leave it there for more than a day or two, you will end up with dead grass and subsequently mud and weeds. Deep-litter bedding is more ideally suited for permanent structures.
  • Need for good-quality bedding. No matter how expertly you handle and maintain your deep-litter bedding system, if you start with poor-quality materials, you will end up with poor-quality results. Dusty or moldy bedding is not acceptable here.
  • Potential for anaerobic decomposition. Deep-litter bedding works best in well-ventilated buildings that are good at keeping water out. If the litter gets waterlogged, or if it does not receive enough air circulation, it will begin to decompose anaerobically. Not only does this cause a smelly mess, the ammonia released into the air can cause serious eye and respiratory problems in livestock.
  • Labor requirements. Maintaining deep-litter bedding requires regular inputs of fresh bedding to keep your animals’ living quarters clean, dry, and odor-free. Also, caked bedding needs to be broken up with a fork to reintroduce air. And, finally, digging out the whole building at the end of the year can be backbreaking work!

 

Conclusion

Letting animals enjoy fresh pasture is always preferable, but for those times when housing is a must, deep-litter bedding has much to offer. Basically, by using the science behind composting, deep-litter bedding promotes a healthy environment and prevents manure from damaging the surrounding area.

However, deep-litter bedding does require regular monitoring. Odor is not acceptable—if you smell ammonia, your system has devolved into anaerobic decomposition. Your animals will suffer for it, so be sure to keep this from happening at any point in time. Be proactive in adding fresh, dry bedding of good quality, and fluff it any time it shows an inclination to pack down or cake up.

Once your animals are finished with the bedding, enjoy its benefits in your compost pile, garden, or field!

2019 Reading Challenge: Sustainable Agriculture

2019 Reading Challenge: Sustainable AgricultureStart 2019 right with some fresh inspiration! Try a reading challenge!

This year’s theme is sustainable agriculture. To complete the challenge, all you have to do is read 12 books, one from each of the categories listed below, by the end of the year. If you can read an average of one book per month, this should be no problem.

The categories are:

  1. A book published by SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program).
  2. A book written by Joel Salatin.
  3. A book about soil health.
  4. A book about sustainable practices written prior to 1950.
  5. A book about sustainable agriculture published in 2019.
  6. A book with the word organic in the title.
  7. A book about composting.
  8. A book about real food.
  9. A book about agripreneurship.
  10. A book about environmentally friendly farming.
  11. A book about natural pest control.
  12. A book about rotational grazing methods.

A few rules:

  • Books in electronic formats count.
  • Both fiction and nonfiction books count.
  • You can read the books 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!