Entries for the ‘Homesteading’ Category

Building a railroad track anvil

Rather than buying an anvil, I decided to build one out of a piece of track and tie plate I found in my grandfathers old barn. The barn is maybe 75 – 100 years old and has various pieces of farm equipment in and around it.

There are various examples on youtube of railroad track anvils. A lot of them involve drilling or cutting holes in the base of the track and then securing it to a stand. Why not weld the track to a tie plate, and then bolt them to a stand? Seems to me having a wider base of the tie plate would distribute pressure while beating on the track.

I wanted something besides your typical piece of railroad track welded, chained, or bolted to a stand. I wanted something that when people see it they say “that is cool”. I wanted something that was semi-portable. So that when I build my pole barn I can move the anvil and stand to the barn.

Prepping and welding

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Mama guinea with her keets

Guineafowl are loud, not as friendly as chickens, not very smart, but for some reason they are fun to have around the farm.

In late summer of 2015 I got a dozen guineas along with some chicks. Over the course of the next few months 4 of the guineas went missing or died. I found one guinea chick dead from what I suspect was heat stroke.

Guineas are not supposed to be good parents, and that may be true. What I am seeing with my guineas, the chicks have to keep up with the flock, kinda like sink or swim. While at the same time the flock protects the chicks.

The guinea flock will run off any chicken that dares get close to the keets. Guineas do not seem to share food with the keets, but rather shows the keets where the food is at. At a week old I saw the flock taking the keets close to 100 yards from the chicken house.

The mama guinea hatched out 6 keets. A week and a half later all 6 chicks are still alive and well.

Blacksmith Essentials

A buddy of mine has been talking about getting into blacksmithing. This got me to thinking, why not get into it myself?

I have a poor mans anvil that has been laying around the farm. Awhile back a large hickory tree and large pin oak fell on the back of the property. I have the anvil and I have something solid to build the anvil stand out of, sections of a tree trunk. All I need to do now is put everything together and pick a few odds and ends.

While looking through youtube I came across this video that discusses in great detail what is needed to get into blacksmithing. I like that the person making the video is not recommending top of the line tools. Obtain what is needed to get started on the path to blacksmithing and go from there.

Three blacksmith essentials:

Anvil, or something hard to work the steel.

The video discusses in great detail different types of forges, different types of anvils, such as the London pattern and the European style anvil.

This type of video is exactly what I was looking for to help on my future blacksmithing endeavors.

Farm welding basics

While bush hogging through some heavy brush the front of the tractor ran into a limb and broke a weld on the radiator guard. The brush guard frame is inch and a quarter angle iron with perforated steel making the actual guard. This is probably the second or third time the weld has broke. The weld itself is fine. The issue is the leverage put on the weld with the brush guard.

My welding qualifications:

2 years experience structural steel welder.

12 years experience fabrication AMSE certified pressure vessels and shell and tube heat exchanges. I have been certified on carbon steel, chrome and stainless. I have experience fitting and working with Monel, Hastelloy, Inconel,,, and a few other alloys. The vessels and heat exchangers I built had everything from water to hydrogen to phosgene running through them, but not all at the same time.

MIG, stick or Fluxcore

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Splitting firewood with railroad spikes

A couple of months ago a water oak (pin oak) and a live oak fell on the back of the property. This has given me the chance to stockpile some much needed firewood.

While I have all this freshly cut oak firewood, I decided to play around with some ideas. One of those ideas is splitting firewood with railroad spikes. If someone does not have a splitting maul, 8 pound sledge or wedges laying around, what about railroad spikes?

Railroad spikes are somewhat easy to obtain. Ebay is loaded with them, then there are the flea markets, and the vast number of them laying around old farms. In the early days of logging mills, narrow gauge tracks would be built out from the mill in various directions. When the mills closed crews would pick up the tracks. Left behind were numerous bolts, plates and spikes. Using a metal detector it is common to find spikes left over from these narrow gauge tracks that went out from the mills.

How easy or difficult is it to split firewood with railroad spikes? That is what I set out to answer.

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Love respect and dignity for trees

A couple of months ago a couple of oak trees fell on the back of the property. At first I was going to do a video and article about stockpiling firewood. As the project progressed, I came to the realization that the trees were symbolic of what the world needed most – love, respect and dignity.

If people would show everyone around them, everything, and the world itself those things things, everything would be better off. Our lives would be better, the world would be a better place, our families would be better, our children would be better,,, everything would be better.

The tree I was working on in the video is a water oak (Quercus nigra), also called a pin oak. The other tree that fell is a live oak. The live oak has a bunch of intertwined limbs that is going to make it rather difficult to cut up. The pin oak has a nice straight trunk with just about all of the limbs at the top. Since the pin oak is going to be easier to cut up I started with it.

Both trees fell across a washed out area next to a creek. The tree top was on the bank of the creek, while the root ball was on another bank. A Stihl MS310 was used to cut off the top and cut up the trunk. The bank was too steep to carry the logs up to the truck, so a tractor and rope was used to pull the logs up the bank.

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Modified railroad track anvil

Over the past month of or I have taken an interest in blacksmithing. One of my buddies has been talking about making knives and such. this got me to thinking about learning the basics of blacksmithing.

Rather than spend a lot of money on an anvil I have been looking at various anvils made from railroad tracks, also known as the poor man anvil.

While looking through youtube I came across this video about homemade railroad track anvils, which have had steel welded to the top and bottom. The larger anvil has a magnet on the side. One of the comments on youtube asked what kind of steel to use. The reply was AR500.

One of the things I have been thinking about is how do you mount a railroad anvil to a solid base? The video answers that question for me. A thick piece of steel is welded to the bottom of the anvil and then clips welded to the steel plate.

Homemade anvil with stand

Very nice video about a guy who finds a piece of steel at a local scrap yard.  The piece looks to be around 3 inches thick and the guy says it is 27 1/2 inches long.

What makes the video so interesting is how he builds a wood base and frame around the piece of steel.  He starts out with some 2x6s and a rubber pad.  He builds a base made out of wood, puts the rubber pad under the piece of steel, then builds a wooden frame.  By the end of the video he has a very nice setup with slots to hold his hammers.

What I would have liked to see is a frame that could be left outdoors, such as in a polebarn.  Not everyone has a nice enclosed shop to work in.  Some people may have their farm supplies in a simple barn with a dirt floor.

Developing self-sustainable farm more difficult than expected

When I moved to the farm almost 3 years ago I thought this was going to be easy.  Build a nice chicken yard, build a chicken house, plant some fruit trees, and things will be off and running.  Then I can work on the pole barn, barn, and fence in a few acres for goats and cattle.

Lets just say things have not been going as planned.

Fruit trees have been a failure

Either from disease, drought, drowned from too much rain,,,, whatever the reason, my fruit tree project has not gone anywhere near as expected.

A plum tree my kids and I planted several years ago died.  A second plum tree is not doing anything.  It is not even hardly growing.

Peach trees are not growing as expected, or died.  Out of the several peach trees that were planted over the past few years, only one has grown and is producing any peaches.  This year that one peach tree is not doing anything.

Fig trees died from the summer drought of 2015.  June, July, August and September 2015 we got very little rain fall here in southeast Texas.  I did not keep my young fig trees watered like they needed, and 3 out of the 4 died.

One of the blueberry bushes died.

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Best friend after SHTF

Awhile back someone posted a comment on one my youtube videos saying the hoe will be your best friend after SHTF. This got me to thinking about how important certain types of survival gear were over other types.

Can you use an AR-15 or AK-47 to till a garden? Plow a field? Bushhog? Operate an auger to set fence post? Clear brush? Weed a garden? Pick the crops? Can the harvest?

Who is your very best friend?

The hoe and the rake.

They have proven then test of time. Our ancestors used garden tools thousands of years before firearms were ever thought of.

Garden tools have no moving parts – no locking lugs, no bolt carrier, no firing pin, no ammunition, nothing to run out of except your physical strength.

When I made the youtube video I thought it was a good topic. Maybe something for members of the community and forum to talk about their over reliance on firearms to survive a post-SHTF world. I was rather set back by the comments and negative ratings on the youtube video.

Let’s be honest, garden tools are not cool.  They do not have the “that is so awesome” like an AR-15, AK-47, AK-74, PTR-91 and FN/FAL do.  there are no rails on a hoe to mount the “best tactical light money can buy”, or a suppressor, or eotech or aimpoint.  There is no tacticool with hoes and rakes.  Yes there are cheap garden tools and there are more expensive ones.

Who honestly pays attention to the brandname and quality of a garden tool?  Do you take your hoe and rake out and show it to your friends like you would with some of your tactical gear?  Do you shop online and read the reviews of your garden tools?  Or do you buy whatever the local chinamart and farm supply store has in stock?

Someone on youtube even sent me a message saying they almost unsubscribed because of the video.

A well rounded survival plan does not rely solely upon stockpiling freeze dried foods, superpails, guns and ammunition.

Example of a superpail.

In the overall scheme of things which is more important in the long run, being able to feed your family, or having thousands of rounds of ammunition you can not eat.

Hunting after SHF 

The typical survivalist response to questions about stockpiling ammunition, they will go hunting during a long term SHTF situation.

Let’s be honest, do you really think you will be the only person hunting post-collapse?

What do you think caused the wild turkey and whitetail deer to become extinct in east Texas during the early 1900s?  Habitat destruction played a big role, but over hunting during the great depression contributed greatly to wildlife depletion.  When the food dries up in the cities, where do you think those people are going?  Out to the country to find food.

Do you honestly think you will be the “only” person who will be able to hunt when all the wildlife has been depleted?  Chances are good number of people are on hunting leases, which is where a lot of people will go.  When they reach their hunting lease they will hunt. When all the wildlife around the lease is depleted they will travel further and further to find food.

People who live in rural areas will deplete the wildlife around them.  Then they will venture further and further away from home to find food.

It will be just a matter of time before all the deer, rabbit, squirrels, wild hogs,,,, everything is hunted out.  Then what?

Do you plan on raiding your neighbors garden and chicken house for food?  Only the animals that are protected by their owners will be the only fresh meat available in a long term post-collapse world.

Family pets will be a source of food, and then what?  During the Black Death of 1348 – 1350 dogs and cats became extinct in some parts of Europe.

History has proven this time and time again.  The people with a renewable and reliable food source are the ones who will survive.  This means a garden, chickens, goats, fruit trees, stockpiling seeds,,, a variety of food sources.

Simply put, hunting is unreliable and unsustainable in a long term SHTF / TEOTWAWKI situation.

Practical approach to prepping

Preppers / Survivalist may wish to consider a practical approach to prepping. Which means less focus on stockpiling beans, bullets and band-aids, and more of a back to basics approach.

Let’s take $25 and spend it on prepping gear.

Would you rather have:

1 brown turkey fig tree at $22.98.

Taken care of could provide your family with decades of figs. Figs are rated as maybe the worlds healthiest food with it being a source of fiber, vitamin A, manganese and potassium.


1 Celeste fig tree at $22.98.


10 chicks, at $2.50 each.

10 laying hens with a reliable food source should be enough to produce a dozen eggs every 2 – 3 days. Breed, time of year and quality of feed all play a role in egg production.


2 Pmags at $11.95 each.


9 pounds Roma II snap bean seed at $2.75 a pound.

Plant 3 pounds of this seed and you should have enough for 3 years after SHTF. Pick before the beans for, snap the ends off, boil and eat husk and all. Or, lot beans mature, dry and save for next year. High producing plant, should be picked every few days.


9.43 pounds Contender snap bean seed at $2.65 a pound.

Same family as the Roma II snap bean. Pick before bean inside of husk matures, boil and serve. Beans are a good source of potassium, iron, protein, and fiber.

Plant one pound per year and you should have enough for three years.


10.20 pounds purple hull BVR pea seed at $2.45 a pound.

Plant one pound per year and you will have enough seed for 3 years. Peas are a source of vitamin A, potassium, fiber, vitamin C, magnesium and vitamin B-6.


9.43 pounds yellow dent field corn at $2.65 a pound.

Yellow dent field corn is open pollinated / heirloom so the seeds can be saved.


60 rounds American eagle 223 Remington for $6.49 a box.

Good source of copper and lead.

Renewable or consumable

From the above list it boils down to renewable and consumable items.  Should you base your and your families future on renewable or consumable items?

How many seeds should you stockpile

When it comes to stockpiling seeds we have discussed the topic in depth. Something that has been overlooked is how many seeds should you stockpile?

I have come up with a simple formula and would like to know what yall think.

How many seeds do you normally plant to obtain X amount of harvest? Lets say you plant 1 pound of snap beans or purple hull peas. With that one pound and a certain amount of fertilizer you have an idea of how much of a harvest you will get.

How many people are planning on using your place as a long term bug out location? Or, are you planning to going to a rural farm? In other words are you bugging in or bugging out?

To keep the formula simple, take the usual number of seeds you plant and double it. Lets say you plant 2 pounds of contender snap beans. Double that for a total of 4 pounds. Doubling is for the extra people you intended to feed.

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Chickens are their own worst enemy

Chickens would be great farm animals for SHTF if they were not so stupid.  The honest truth is they will find a way to get themselves killed.

Build them a nice cage and they will find a way to get out.

They will wander away from the flock and get killed.

They will stay out to dusk, right when coyotes start looking for an easy meal.

They will spill their water.

They will crap in their food and water.

They will crap in laying boxes.

They will roost in high places so if they fall at night they will be hurt.

They will eat stuff that makes them sick – free ranging eating weeds, rocks, pieces of glass, etc.

They will free range out in fields where hawks can see them.  They chickens can have all kinds of weeds and cover to forage under.  But no, they have to go out in the open away from the flock so a hawk can get them.

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Starting with guineas

Buying guineas was a little more difficult than I had expected.

With chickens you just down to the local feed and fertilizer in the early spring and buy the chicks you want, or place an order with various websites that sell chicks online.

With guineas you get on a waiting list at the local feed store, or get on a waiting list with a company that sells guineas online. My wife and I were on a waiting list at Ideal Poultry for between 2 – 3 months before we received our order of a dozen pearl guineas.

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Farm update June 9 2015

Things are moving along nicely, but rather slow.  The new chicken yard is working out well, the new chicken house is nearing completion, a large pen oak fell on the property so I need to cut that up, still need to clear fence rows for the cattle field, have not started on the pole barn, one of my newly planted fig trees may have died, the new pear tree might have drowned from all the rain,,,, just all kinds of stuff going on.

Lets talk about target goals for surviving a post-SHTF world.

Egg production

My target goal for egg production that I think my family would need in a post-SHTF world is at least 2 dozen eggs a day. For my parents, my wife, our kids, our grandkids, close friends and other family, I think at least 24 eggs a day is a reasonable number.  Keep in mind that 2 dozen eggs a day is a bare minimum.  Good laying breeds should be able to produce at least 1 egg a day for every 2 – 3 chickens.  Those are conservative numbers, but depending on the time of year and quality of their feed egg production goes up and down.

For the sake of discussion let’s say 1 egg for every 3 chickens per day.

Including the chickens that are supposed to arrive June 10, 2015, my wife and I will have 64 chickens.

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Tis the season to plant fruit trees

Tis the season to plant.

So far this spring:
5 peach trees
1 pear tree
2 blueberry bushes

This makes a total of:
8 peach trees. Three of the older trees are rather small and not doing well. I might have to replant next spring if they do not make it. In all I am rather disappointed in how my peach trees are doing. Some of them have been in the ground for several years and do not seem to be growing.

3 pear trees. My third son and I planted a couple of pear trees several years ago and they are loaded with pears every year. In March of 2015 I planted another pear tree in the large chicken yard.

5 fig trees. One of the fig trees is older and doing well. 4 of the fig trees were planted in 2014. In 2015 my wife and I are not going to plant any fig trees this year.

6 blueberry bushes. Four of the bushes were planted in 2014, two more were planted in March of 2015.

4 apple trees. I need to plant more apple trees to ensure good cross pollination, but not this year.

3 satsuma trees.

It is getting a little late in the spring to be planting much more. For the rest of 2015 my wife and I will focus on getting the trees we planted established.

What fruit trees are you planting in 2015? Share you thoughts in the comment section.