I’m making the Rat Farm Guide! A beginner’s guide to homesteading and frugal survival with an emphasis on small scale and urban homesteading. I’ll be posting individual topics here on Tumblr as articles as well as compiling a master guide to toss on my website. Everything will be first hand knowledge gained in my last five years of homesteading and seven years of food storage/prepping.
So one winter we hung up a deer skeleton on a tree so the birds could eat the tallow and clean the bones (I collect bones and use them for crafts). We figured it would be a great way to attract wildlife…
Fancy Ramen, sweetened milky iced coffee, and some recent reading material (Mother Earth News, Ask Jackie subscription freebies, and our first issue of Backwoods Home) on our brand new pine board and Spar Varnished table!
After a weird few weeks of chronically getting precisely 75% of things done around the house I finally hit the elusive 100% last night. Work is never done on Rat Farm but today I woke up with with only a bit of tidying to do and enjoyed the free time with an elaborate version of a cheap pantry staple with Judas Jr.
Inspired by the prospect of another use for eggs (the young hens have started laying and we’ve been getting about 4 a day) I took a stab at making my own version of fancy Ramen with chicken, roast garlic, onion, corn, nori, homemade broth, and soft boiled eggs. It’s garnished with Hungarian style paprika and I went with my basic broth (chicken stock, majoram, sage, thyme, cracked black pepper, with the onion and garlic on top) because I wanted comfort food and something more American (Mid West?) than authentic Japanese. I didn’t marinate the eggs in the Japanese style because we recently cut soy sauce (and most other processed foods) but that didn’t detract from the recipe and they were a great addition (and a nice way to add protein to the Ramen).
Everything here came from our three-month food supply and it really made a great meal out of pantry staples. The ingeniousness of this meal is that the bulk of it was the dirt-cheap Ramen, but with the very stingy addition of other ingredients (I used 1/4 a can of corn and 1/8 of a chicken breast) I had something filling, nutritious, cheap, and TASTY! Definitely a “Rat Gourmet” recipe!
This also got my thinking about my food storage methods: The onion and garlic keep for months at a time (hence the sprouted garlic) and the chicken is from the freezer (which we are planning to make a solar electric unit to run during power outages). But it’s useful to note that garlic and onion can be dried and chicken can be canned, allowing all ingredients to be stored indefinitely without power, making this a true Pantry Staple recipe.
So here’s an example of a “Rat Fix” from the aptly named Rat Farm homestead.
The first photo is what happens when you try to do something like “everybody else does” (i.e., like you see in magazines and whatnot). The hanging feed and water dispensers were expensive, they were not not impervious to spills and soiling as advertised, they were really annoying to hang up when chickens were swarming (especially in the cramped A-frame coop), hard to clean because of the size and multiple pieces, flimsy (they both broke). Not to mention the inverted waterer was a thing of sadistic design when trying to carry to the coop and flip over in the dead of winter. I ended up drenched many many times.
The second picture is an old food-grade three gallon bucket in an old tire.
A bucket in a tire solved three years of fighting to keep water clean and not unspilled. The chickens stand on the tire rather then the edge of the bucket and poop has not ONCE been found in the bucket. When they occasionally try to climb on the bucket, the tire keeps it from tipping. The bucket is small enough to be easy to lug around, it fits easily in any sink or dishwasher, it and the tire were free, and I have a couple buckets so I can swap a fresh one every time I go to the coop. The bucket is also a lot less cumbersome so I don’t spill it all over myself and can carry it with one hand or while lugging around a baby. If it freezes in the winter I just swap it out with a fresh bucket and let the frozen one thaw in the sink where I can clean and refill it for next time. The fancy waterer was so huge it would stay frozen for days and it was impossible to get the ice out with the lid and reservoir being firmly embedded, while with a bucket you can pop the cylindrical ice chunk out with a little warm water if you need the bucket right away. They are also considerably more durable.
You can also see our salvaged dog kennel chicken run, this was the solution to the fox eating so many of chickens last summer.
New Years Day, 2013 - one of my bettas frolicking in the sunlight.
It’s about 4 degrees outside but 80 in the living room near the soapstone fireplace. The 10 gallon natural blackwater tank has no filtration, air pump, or heat but maintains a healthy environment from ambient heat (wood/passive solar), and natural filtration and oxygenation from live plants.
As the sun moves across the sky it lights up the house from different angles, dramatically changing small details here and there throughout the day… I love watching the snakes sunbathing, glowing back-lit plants, and the golden pine board walls and ceiling.
Here’s to another amazing year at Rat Farm and finding happiness in the little things!