Rural Lifestyle

Life in Rural America

Category: Homesteading

Farming Gardening and Homesteading

Starting With Solar Power

Solar panel with emergency radio

I finally bought a solar panel. In all honesty, I do not know why I waited so long for. It is a Nekteck 20 watt solar panel and I see this as a starting point for bigger and better things.

Before I bought the solar panel I asked myself, what purpose will the panel serve? I decided to go with a foldable solar panel with USB outlets for recharging flashlights, AA batteries and radios. Something to keep flashlights, lanterns and radios charged in a power outage. For right now, the focus is being able to have light and staying up to date on news when the power goes out.

The plan is to have two foldable solar panels – one for charging USB battery packs, and the other panel for charging cell phones, radios and flashlights. Hopefully, the next foldable solar panel will be a 40 watt.

The next project is going to take a little while, and will be about supplying the house with water off 12 volt batteries and solar panels.

Running Water

So Called Preppers Are Going To Starve

SHTF Survival Garden

If there is ever a real SHTF / TEOTWAWKI event, a large number of so called preppers are going to starve. Proof to back up that statement? Just look at the popular prepping related videos on youtube, or look at what forum sections get the most traffic.

The most popular types of videos on youtube are gun and tactical gear. It is not gardening, it is not chickens or other livestock, farming, homesteading, or prepsteading. The most popular types of videos are running and gunning videos.

You can not eat bullets, plate carriers, chest rigs, knives, or anything else that fuels the fantasy of a tacti-cool SHTF event.

During outbreaks of the plague in the middle ages, starvation killed a great number of people. Preppers may think they will leave the city and raid rural farms. Once again, history teaches us there is a good chance those people will die on the side of the road just outside the city. People will either starve before they reach rural areas, of they will die of disease.

Reality

Farm Progress February 2017

Tractor moving debris

In December of 2016 I posted a thread in the forum about my prepping plans for 2017. I wanted to post an update to that thread and how things were moving along.

Firearms and Ammunition

A Glock 19 was added to the inventory. Overall, I find the quality mediocre. I can not understand why Glocks are as popular as they are. Because of this I am looking at a Beretta 92F compact.

I have decided to dump a certain amount of money into bulk ammunition. February was 1,000 rounds of Wolf 9mm FMJ. March will probably be 223 Remington. April might be 45acp or 308 Winchester. The plan is to continue to buy bulk ammo for the rest of 2017.

2017 is going to be a buyers market for everything shooting related. If you want something, get it now. If you have been on the fence about buying rifle or handgun magazines, go ahead and get them.

Garden

Starting Spring 2017 Garden

The weather in early 2017 has been unseasonably warm, so I decided to go ahead and start the spring garden a few weeks early. I usually do not plant until after the Ides of March. With everything blooming out early and daytime highs hitting the low 80s, I decided to start planting in late February.

This garden will be special, as it uses decade old seeds. I posted a video on youtube about stockpiling seeds and then shared the video on survivalistboards, twitter and reddit. A couple of guys on reddit said made statements that seeds can not be saved.

Wildlife Habitat At Bug Out Location

Wildlife Habitat At Bug Out Location

There were a couple of locations that had perfect squirrel habitat, but there were no signs of squirrels being in the area. There were no pine cones that had been tore apart, no half eaten acorns nor did I see any squirrels.

As I followed a creek that runs along the back of the property, the timber transitioned from pine and oak to mostly oak and iron wood. Iron wood is a tree that grows in the shade of larger trees. It does not produce any kind of nut for squirrels or deer. It is mostly used for its hard wood to make walking sticks and bows.

Several years ago a lot of the older pine trees were cut off the property. Pine trees are a renewable resource when managed properly. Several large pine trees were left on the property to so they could reseed the area. Their seedlings float in the wind and can travel several hundred feet, depending on how the wind is blowing. I expected to see oaks and ironwood, but I also expected to see pine tree saplings coming up. I was rather surprised when I did not see hardly any pine saplings.

Planting Pine Trees

Starting Livestock Fence Project

Fence post

2017 is the year I fence in several acres for livestock. I have been talking about this for several years, and this year is when I take action to put the project into motion.

One of my favorite books about medieval life, which is Life in a Medieval Village by Frances and Joseph Gies, talks about how people valued small livestock. Cattle were mainly for milk production, which was used to make cheese and butter.

In medieval times there was no way to preserve meat for long periods. If a 500 pound cow was butchered, a large amount of meat would rot and go to waste. Based on that, I am going to focus on small livestock and just a couple of cattle.

I would like to have around 6 or 7 acres fenced in for goats, sheep and a couple of cattle.

Just outside the livestock fence I am working on a wildlife habitat area for deer, squirrels and rabbits.

Pole Barn

Survivalist: What Is Your Prepping Goal

camping on the angelina river

Survivalist, what is your prepping goal? Preppers can not be classified into several different categories. We have different groups who subscribe to different prepping plans. These go way beyond what organizations like FEMA and the Red Cross suggest.

We all know the government will not be able to help everyone. There are also situations that may result in the collapse of the federal and state governments, such as nuclear war or some kind of new disease.

For example, my personal prepping goal is presteading. Which is a combination of prepping an homesteading. The long term goal is to develop a homestead based off lessons learned from the middle ages, and combine those with modern homesteading.

People Who Stockpile May Say

Tractor Mounted Log Splitter For The Farm

Tractor mounted log splitter

Landed a tractor powered log splitter for the farm. This is something I have wanted and needed for a very long time. An older gentleman had a log slitter he was no longer using. It had been left uncovered for so long the hoses and seal on the ram had dry rotted.

The splitter works with a pump that slips over the spline of the tractor PTO. The hoses going to and from the pump were dry rotted through and were leaking.

There is a place in Jasper Texas called East Texas Mill Supply. They can make up a new hose in a matter of a few minutes. That is where I took the hoses.

Hydraulic oil was drained out of the tank and replaced with new.

The pump wanted to turn with the PTO shaft, so a chain was rigged up to hold it in place. The pump was supposed to have what is called a “torque bar”, but it was not on the pump. Rather than contacting the original owner and bothering him, I am rigging up something that will work. It just needs to be something to hold the pump in place while the PTO shaft turns.

Spent Day Cleaning Out Chicken House

Chicken house

My chicken house is a mess so it is time to do some cleaning. About a year and a half ago I set up a water barrel system inside the chicken house and is a 35 gallon drum going to a stainless steel pan with a float. The chickens have been getting on the drum and pooping all over the top of it. When I fill the drum up chicken poop is all over the place.

Then there is the metal trash can I store feed in. It is next to the water barrel and close to a corner of the chicken house. The chickens get into the corner and lay eggs, right where chickens get on the feed barrel and poop.

There is barely any room between the feed can and the wall, but enough room for the chickens to get into.

I decided to rearrange everything.

The water barrel is getting moved outside.

The feed can is getting moved away from the wall. Now I can get in there and clean out.

The chickens are getting a laying box put in the corner.

Lessons learned

Building a Railroad Track Anvil

Homemade 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.

Mama Guinea With Her Keets

Mama guinea with keets

Guinea fowl 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.

Mama Guinea

Farm Welding Basics – Stick, Fluxcure and Mig Welding

Generator and welding machine in back of truck

Let’s take a few minutes and talk about welding basics. I started working in welding shops in Southeast Texas in 1986, and spend 15 years in the welding field.

My welding qualifications:

2 years experience structural steel welder.

13 years experience fabrication AMSE certified pressure vessels and shell and tube heat exchanges.

I have been certified on:

  • Carbon steel
  • Chrome
  • Stainless

I also 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.

Welding Basics

Splitting Firewood With Railroad Spikes

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 wi

Love Respect and Dignity For Trees

Pin oak tree cut up for firewood

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.

Developing Self-Sustainable Farm More Difficult Than Expected

Bush hogging with tractor

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.

Kevin Felts © 2008 - 2018