KW Homestead

Pasture Raised Poultry from Our Family to Yours

Month: September 2014

Compost! A Gardener’s Best Friend

One surefire way to improve soil health, life and fertility is with compost. Compost is essentially human created humus, decomposed organic matter teeming with beneficial microbial activity. The recipe for compost involves acquiring enough organic material to start a heap, maintaining a good moisture content, and then turning it to add air to the equation. Compost not only provides nutrients like Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphate, but it also provides a healthy dose of the bacteria and fungi that help plants utilize and acquire what they need from the soil.

Homesteading Compost

Our compost pile, the perfect soil conditioner for the homestead or garden.

I started a compost pile the other day when I had a surplus of bagged plant material laying around from work,in addition to fresh grass clippings from our wedding preparations.These count as greens in the composting world, or things that are high in nitrogen. Other greens would be animal manures, legume hay, blood meal,  and food scraps. The ratio I was shooting for was 1/3 greens to 2/3 browns. Browns are anything high in carbon, like paper, wood, sawdust, straw, or bagged leaves from fall cleanups. The key to good composting is waiting until you have enough material to make a pile that is at least 1 cubic yard in volume. This insulates the pile, helping to maintain the high temperatures needed to break down your organic material while minimizing losses to off gassing.

I layered my browns and greens, and added water after each layer. I wanted to have the pile wet, but not dripping or soaked. Roughly around the moisture content of a sponge you just squeezed the water out of. This aids the microbial breakdown, while keeping the pile from getting too anaerobic. After I had a pile that was up to my shoulders, I let it sit for 4 days. After 4 days,it was time for the first turn, and I grabbed my pitch fork and fluffed layers from the pile to an open space right next to it, adding water if it seemed too dry.  It was nice and steamy, which let me know that the process was working!

Today, 3 days later, I turned it once more and added some leftover stale beer to feed the microbes a little more. From this point on I’ll turn it every 2 days, and after 2-3 weeks, we should have roughly a cubic yard of black gold,ready for the garden or for a wonderfully complex brew of compost tea!

our (ochre) wedding on the homestead was a success!

we’re back!

finally our posting will return to our normal 5-posts-a-week-schedule  since we’ve gotten married!

two days ago we got hitched in the backyard, and there will certainly be more information coming soon about just how we pulled it off!

thanks so much to the  many who pitched in and helped us out on our big day (which was everyone who came!!!). we appreciate all of the well wishes  and we are overwhelmed with gratitude and joy.

it was a great, emotional day, and now our married life begins!

homestead wedding prep to do lists

we’d like to say that we’re sorry for posting irregularly the last few weeks. although we wish we had time to post every day, we’ve got a pretty good excuse…

non-stop wedding preparations!

exciting but very busy. a lot has been going on around here on the homestead–too much honestly to explain right now–but we can give you a simple lowdown of what important “to do”s we’ve got coming up this weekend before we say “we do” on the 27th.

here’s what’s in store for this weekend:

  • hanging more mood lighting (i.e. christmas lights) in the basement since we’ll be using the space for the rehearsal dinner and before and after the ceremony.
  • cleaning out the carport (which has lately the become the reject section for stuff that we’re not quite sure what to do with) and relocating a lot of the plants we have in the carport.
  • painting a portion of our basement wall sky blue. this is part of our wedding “guest book.” more on this later!
  • making emma’s garter which is the “something blue.”
  • writing and printing our wedding program (which we’re calling a leaflet in honor of the fall color scheme). we’re really excited about this one and can’t wait to share what we’ve done with this!
  • designing and making emma’s “veil”… which is much cooler than a traditional veil.
  • meeting our hay bale delivery tomorrow (55 bales) and storing the bales. these will seats at the wedding!
  • working on our party favors.
  • weeding and pruning our garden beds and herb bed.
  • killing yellow jacket nests that are right by where we plan to get married!
  • choosing and cutting fabric to wrap our bench boards in and wrapping them. also, choosing all of our tablecloth material.

so that’s where we stand right now! we hope that we can get back into the swing of writing every week day,  but we’re just not sure if we’ll have the time. if we don’t, we will certainly start back up on monday, september 29th (after the big day!).

wish us luck!


loads of peppers and tomatoes

after what seemed like a very long and tiresome weekend, we were finally able to get back out in the garden and do some much needed picking!

our black plum and san marzano paste tomatoes are doing really well right now, and some of our cherokee purples are still making it.

also, the jalapenos have kicked off to an unbelievable degree (i got 20 large ones from one plant yesterday, still leaving tons of medium-sized and smaller ones)!

some of the cayennes were ripe and also some of our aji peppers (a delicious pepper that jason and i learned to love while we were in peru).

my heavy picking basket, filled with tomatoes, peppers, and some basil.

my heavy picking basket, filled with tomatoes, peppers, and some basil.

after picking,i estimated that i got about 20 pounds of these ingredients all together. i made a blended up, salsa-like concoction that we’ve frozen to use in sops and pastes in the future. it’s probably very spicy (considering the amount of jalapenos in it), so it will have to be added to other ingredients when we cook with it.



A Missing Link In Sustainability: Metal Recycling

Everyone has seen the bins, cans, and rolling carts out on trash night that hold millions of peoples recyclable plastics, glass, and paper products. But what about that stuff that your recycling center or municipality won’t take? That old vacuum cleaner, desktop PC, or dryer that quit working and was replaced. Most people take these items to the dump, where they sit in landfills slowly leaching out pollution into our streams and groundwater. However, these products are recyclable too.

The metals can be melted down, or reused for other purposes. This is both more economical and more environmentally friendly than constantly mining metal and ore from the earth. The wiring, motors, and other electrical components often contain copper, a valuable metal with hundreds of industrial uses. Copper is also present in your old Christmas lights, so don’t send them to dump, find someone who recycles them.

Other little thought of recyclable products include:

  • washing machines
  • furnaces and AC units
  • scooters, bikes, and cars
  • extension cords
  • refrigerators
  • keyboards, mice, and speakers
  • rims for tires
  • old pipes and pumps
  • scrap metal
  • anything with metal, a motor, or a cord

All of these can be broken down into their base components, and either recycled or reused. This is a million times better than sitting in a landfill for decades. Many people specialize in recycling metal, commonly called scrapping, and they often take old appliances and large items for free. So next time you have a large item that you no longer want, before you send it to the dump, call someone to recycle it. It’s better for everyone.


Remember, if you are in the Greensboro/Triad, and have something you need recycled send an email to jason at



Some Herbal Remedies and First Aid in Action

In the past week, due to some minor accidents, I had a few chances to try out some herbal remedies. Herbs can provide gentle and effective healing and because they are often easy to grow, they deserve a place on any homestead.

The first incident was brought about by picking up a cast aluminium dutch oven that had been reheating food in the oven. Ouch. It was heavy, hot, and I didn’t drop right away. After running some water over my hand, I snipped off some aloe vera from the plant by our sink, squeezed out the juice, and rubbed it onto my palm. This instantly relieved the burning pain and helped me thin a little clearer.

Aloe is a great plant, it has many uses from sunburn relief to helping improve digestion, and is easily grown as a house plant in a sunny location.

I then went out and picked a large comfrey leaf. Comfrey is probably the best herb when it comes to bone, skin, and tissue regeneration and healing. The chemicals in comfrey are often added to skin care products, but nothing can replicate the healing power of whole leaves.

Emma chopped up the leaf in a small food processor, and then took the half paste, comfrey pesto and applied it to the burn before wrapping a bandage around my palm. I left this on for a few hours, and by morning my hand had no pain, no marks, and I had completely forgotten the burn because my hand was healed.

A few days later, I woke up with a sore and scratchy throat, probably brought on by dehydration. It was pretty uncomfortable, but I turned to our tried and true home cure for sore throats… vitamin c. I prefer vitamin c in powder form, but it also comes in a variety of capsules, pills, and tablets.

Dissolved in a glass of water, it helps to re-hydrate the body, soothe the throat, and increase immune function and healing. Vitamin c has been used for many different treatments, from helping to prevent soreness after strenuous exercise to fighting withdrawal symptoms in heroin addicts.

These 3 natural remedies, aloe, comfrey, and vitamin c, are just things that we have on hand. The aloe and vitamin c are in our kitchen, easily within reach on a day to day basis. The comfrey is growing in a few places on our property, some in the garden, some in the food forest, and soon we will have some growing everywhere as we propagate more.

While herbs are great as first aid, their best use comes from a more holistic approach. By using them daily in cooking and teas, they are able to help our bodies stay strong, and fight off problems before we, or a doctor, can diagnose them. This is the best use of herbs, and the reason we should all try to include them in our lives as many ways as possible.

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