The Ozark Homestead

The Journey to a Simplier Self-Sufficient Life

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If Historic Barns Could Talk – The Stories They Could Tell

Decaying BarnThere are thousands of leaning old barns with peeling paint and missing boards all across rural America.  According to Missouri’s State Historic Preservation Office, Missouri ranks second in the nation in the number of barns built before 1960 with around 36,000. To those of us who live in rural communities, decaying homes, barns and out buildings are an all too familiar site.  For many people though, these architectural relics carry a certain romance.  So what is our fascination with old barns?

For some, it may be related to childhood memories, but most of us it is not.  I believe that it is the story that they tell.  The story of a day gone by when mom didn’t work outside the home and baked the family’s bread and put laundry out on the line to dry.  Dads worked hard around the farm all day and so did their kids.  It is the story of hard work, self-reliance and family.    Those old barns remind us of a lifestyle that has almost disappeared.

Historic BarnWith the mass migration away from the family farm and rural communities to the urban sprawl and its suburbs, most Americans have lost touch with their rural roots and their only reference to it comes from watching Little House on the Prairie reruns.  Census records prove what we already know; rural America has over 75 percent of the land yet only 17 percent of the population. For many, historic barns are a symbol of our rural heritage and their decay and lose are symbolic of our disappearing rural way of life.

In the last few years, I have seen a yearning in people to return to a simpler, more self-reliant, and slower paced way of life.  Unfortunately, many of the skills that were once passed down from one generation to the other has been lost and we have had to rely on one another to acquire the knowledge of how to do what our great-grandparents did as a way of life.

Two years ago, my husband and I built our barn here at the Ozark Homestead.  It does not have the character and beauty of many of the lovely old barns and probably will not last the way they did, but it already has many stories to tell. Ozark Homestead Barn If my barn could talk, it would tell about the joy I felt witnessing the birth of my first lambs, of the laughter of my grandchildren swinging on the barn swing their grandpa built for them and of the eyebrows that my friends and relatives raise when I turn the television to the “barn” channel so they can watch my sheep on the barn camera.   It would tell the story of a family trying to preserve the skills and rural way of life to pass on to the next generation.


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Agroforesty Practice of Growing Shiitake Mushrooms on Logs

shiitake-log-2Last summer we had about 15 acres logged last year in anticipation of clearing it for pasture.  I have been trying to think of ways in which to use all the tree tops they left lying on the ground.  I will be making fences with some of them, but what to do with all the rest.  Unfortunately we do not have a wood stove yet; maybe next year.

I found an article by Missouri Extension on the Agroforsestry practice of growing mushrooms on oak logs ( I read that and so I am thinking, that would be a perfect use for all logs.  Unfortunately though, the logs need to be fresh-cut, as in not more than two months since cutting.  I won’t be able to use logs from the trees logged last summer, but I will be able to use the logs from the tress that will be cleared for the pasture this spring.  I went a head and ordered a shiitake mushroom growing kit from which will include 300 plugs of shiitake mushroom spores so I will have them ready when I do have the fresh-cut logs.

I just love mushrooms and to be able to grow my own will be great.  In addition to their great taste, according to, shitake mushrooms are really healthy for you too, “Shiitake: Perhaps the most delicious and easiest to cultivate of all the edible medicinal mushrooms, shiitake is highly esteemed for its medicinal properties. It has been found to reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, stimulate the immune system and have anti-tumor properties.

The logs that will produce the highest yields of shiitake are oaks, chestnut and ironwood. Many other species will produce yields that are still satisfactory though not quite as high, such as sweetgum, bitternut hickory, alder, ash, eucalyptus, aspen, hard maples (sugar and black), black willow, yellow birch and river birch. Trees to avoid for shiitake cultivation include conifers, fruit trees, elm, hackberry, sassafras, soft maples (red and striped), sourwood, tulip poplar, dogwood, black locust, beech and most of the hickories.”

If I am successful in growing shiitake mushrooms, I would like to try my hand growing other varieties of mushrooms and maybe even try selling some at our local farmer’s market.  Being a woodland property owner, I am interested in learnning new ways to utilize my property’s resources.  I am very interested in ways to make a living off the land we own and am excited to see if growing mushrooms can be another revenue source for our homestead.

Do you sell anything from your home or farm at a local farmer’s market?

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I dyed some art yarn with Kool Aid last summer. It is so easy. I love all those colors. Oh yes, I am a yarn addict. I can’t wait until shearing time to have all that new wool to work with.

Knit One, Blog Two

Someone asked that I detail the process for anyone who was interested in doing this at home, so here you go, Susie!


1 quart jar
2-4 packets of KoolAid in colors you like
white vinegar
undyed yarn (I used 1/2 of this:   for each of my students)


1. Wind your yarn into a very loose skein and soak in warm water for at least 30 minutes. This step makes sure all the yarn fibers are saturated and better able to accept the dye.

2. In the quart jar, mix the KoolAid powder with 1/4 c white vinegar and then fill the jar to the half way mark with warm water.

3. Put the sopping wet yarn into the jar.  If you want a more even dye, make sure the yarn does not get smooshed up against itself or the jar.  You may want to use…

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Cell Phone Apps that Aid Homesteading

While visiting the University of Missouri Extension website, I learned that they offer an app to aid in identifying 400 weeds common to Missouri.  After scrolling through the list of weeds, I identified a couple of weeds that I had seen in my pasture.  I discovered they were not the toxic plant I thought they were.  Sheep love weeds even more than grass so I always get concerned that they will eat something not so good for them.  It can be time consuming trying to find a plant that looks like what you are seeing in the field.  I think it will be a lot easier and quicker to scroll through the list of photos and compare it’s characteristics and be able to quickly tell if it is toxic and needs to be killed.

In addition to the ID Weed app, I also downloaded an app from Mother Earth New called How to Can.  Being new to canning, I welcome all the help I can get.  One of the feature that I like is that the app will help you determine how much of crop you will need to grow to get the number jars you want.  It also has information for high altitude adjustments.  We live at 1150 feet in elevation so I won’t have to adjust many recipes, but it is handy to have that information.  It is also handy to know that I will need 21 pounds of whole tomatoes for 7 quarts and 13 pounds for 9 pints.  It tells you that a bushel of tomatoes weighs 53 pounds.  It takes an average of 3 pounds of whole tomoatoes per quart.  A quart of peaches requires an average of 2 1/2 pounds of peaches.  I think this app will be a very useful tool to learn canning.

I also have an app for mushrooms that is much like ID Weeds, but I am so leary of eating a poisonous mushroom, that I would not trust it to find mushroom to eat.  I remember hunting what in Kentucky we call “hickory chickens” and loved them, but I would never eat any mushroom unless an experience person confirmed was not poisonous. 

I  use my smartphone here on the homestead for record keeping and reminders and making lists and appreciate any tool I can use to make efficient use of my time. During lambing, I can make notes about the lamb and calendar when to vaccinate it, when it will need its hooves trimmed and when to wean.  If I could find an app for that I’d use it too.

 I love the photo I saw on Facebook yesterday where a dad holds out a snow shovel to his son and the caption reads, “Sorry son, there’s not an app for that.”


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This is a great list of myths about chickens and their eggs. Before raising chickens myself, I believed #7. Roosers crow when they feel like it, but hens are queit except when the lay an egg. They are so proud of theirselves they have to advertise it to everyone.

Farmgirl School

Ethel, Laverne, Peep, Daffodil, and Mahalia would like to start the new year by setting the record straight.  There are a lot of funny misconceptions and mis-information out there about chickens.  I know, because I believed every one of them, even Number 13, that was debunked for me just two days ago.  Who started these ideas?  Well, anyways, let’s set the record straight!


1. Brown eggs are healthier than white eggs- Give a pat on the back to some executive out there, this was pure advertising genius making this up!  Millions of brown eggs were sold in the hopes for better health!  Turns out the color of the egg is determined by the color of the chicken’s earlobe.  Nothing else.  So, Ethel, the California White, lays white eggs, the buffs lay brown eggs, and Laverne, who is all black with brown ear lobes, lays petite light brown eggs.  This year…

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Building Wattle Fences Around the Garden

I feel in love with this fence after seeing it on pinterest.  After some research, I think this is something I really want to do this year.  I was sad to find that I won’t be able to use all those branches from the trees the loggers left laying everywhere last summer, as they are too dry now.  But I am in luck because I still have hundreds of trees to take live branches from.


In my search for how to go about building my wattle fence, I found some interesting facts about wattle fencing and learned some new words like pleaching, planking, laying a hedge, coppicing and pollarding which were practices used quite commonly in earlier times in the UK.  They were used as livestock barriers, as weather protection for crops and to provide pleasing screens for gardens.

I considered using the Hedge Pleaching method for my fence, which is the use of living trees and bushes and training them by cutting the bark on one side then bending the plant over then puting a binding edge at the top to bind all the plants in the rows together to make a fence row.  I decided this would take too long and my sheep would just eat the hedge.

I found another great idea using live plants using potted rosemary. I know it won’t work to keep the sheep out of my garden, but I think it will look great in the garden or on the deck.

I finally found an easy looking guide for building my wattle fence at  I am putting this on my list of to-do’s for this spring.  I hope I can get it completed before it is time to turn the sheep out for the summer.  If it proves to be as easy as I think it is, I will be using this method around some flower beds.

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Amp Up Your Bread With Sprouted Grains and Multigrains

A while back I purchased a five gallon bucket of Ezekiel Grain Mix.  My first attempt to make bread with it wasn’t very tasty.  I am still experimenting with different recipes to get it right.  I read some reviews of different Ezekiel Bread recipes that suggested  adding sprouted grains to the recipe.  I found an interesting article about that at Mother Earth News.

Make homemade bread even more nutritious and tasty by adding a variety of  whole and sprouted grains, including nutrient-dense sprouted wheat.

Bread chemistry expert  Emily Buehler, author of Bread Science, says sprouted breads have a longer keeping  quality and a pleasantly subtle sweetness.  Fermentation expert Sandor Katz, author of The Art of Fermentation, explains how this works: “The main difference in using sprouted grains [versus flour] is that enzymes digest complex carbohydrates (starches) into simple carbohydrates (sugars). This makes bread sweeter and more easily digestible,” he says. In addition to added nutrition, sprouted grains contribute acidity to the final dough, which contributes flavor and acts as a natural preservative.

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