20 Homestead Activities to Share with Young Children

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People around the country are returning to their roots.  They are becoming modern homesteaders and joining the legion of others who want to cook meals from scratch, garden organically, raise backyard chickens, and learn the art of preserving.  But much as we are returning to our roots, what about the next generation?  Are we encouraging our children to become homesteaders or sharing with them the very delights we are experiencing?

Regarding if you began homesteading last month or have been at it for years, the key is to share the experience with your children.  Get them involved and share tasks so they have a better understanding of what you do on a daily or weekly basis.   You just be the inspiration for the next generation of modern/urban homesteaders.

To get your children engaged, think about their age.  What they are capable of?  What have they shown interest in?  Do they have the manual dexterity for certain tasks?  Have they asked to help?

children gardening

photo by April Sorrow

20 Homestead Skills to Share with Young Children

  1. Hang laundry to dry (can hang clothes on a drying rack if clothes line is too high for them to reach).
  2. Feed small animals such as rabbits, chickens, and ducks.
  3. Gather eggs from the nest boxes (if you have a lot of chickens, allow them to make multiple trips to the coop).
  4. Take them seed shopping or show them the catalogs and read the descriptions to them (buy some items they are interested in).
  5. Bring in kindling for the fireplace.
  6. Add material to nest boxes.
  7. Give them a small garden bed (or planters or containers) to help tend during the garden season.
  8. Purchase child-sized tools and show them how to properly use the tools (many nurseries or online garden stores now offer small tools for children, such as hoes, rakes, and watering cans).
  9. Teach them when various fruits and vegetables are ripe and when to harvest (allow them to sample as they harvest).
  10. Allow them to help pick the chicks, ducklings, or rabbits that you will raise.
  11. Teach them how to cook (start with easy projects such as measuring ingredients, how to mix, and how to follow a recipe).
  12. Have them help wash fruits and vegetables after harvesting (show them how dirt sinks to the bottom of the sink or bucket).
  13. Show them how you mend cloths: sewing on a button, darning socks, sewing on a patch, etc…
  14. Explain how composting is plant recycling and have them add materials to your compost bucket/bin/pile.
  15. Show them how to gather seeds at the end of the season (make sure to gather just one variety at a time and then how to separate seed from any pod or chaff and how to dry if necessary.  Use plain envelopes and allow them to decorate the packets.
  16. Show them how to wash dishes (save the sharp knives for yourself) and how a clean dish should feel… no grit or food residue stuck to it.
  17.  Teach them how to plant seedlings as well as seeds.  Allow them to dig the furrow or hole with their own garden tool.
  18. Have them help rake and gather leaves.  Let the experience be fun and allow time for jumping into piles of leaves.
  19. Show them how to press leaves and flowers.  When they are dry, your children can create their own craft project to decorate their room or perhaps to adorn the refrigerator.  (Paper and glue are great starting points).
  20. Ask them to get canning jars (one or two at a time) in the size you need (such as half pints, pints, quarts) for canning projects plus lids and rims.  Take this opportunity to explain why and how to can.

By involving your child(ren) in homesteading projects, you are teaching them valuable skills.  They learn the hows and whys.  They may experience some disappointments, but will discover that is part of the process.  When things go well, they will feel a sense of accomplishment.  They can point to something and say, “I did that”!  If you have more than one child, they will learn how to work together.  What a bonus!

For the best possible experience for your child, start small.  Don’t overwhelm them with tasks or complicated procedures.  Keep their safety in mind.  Don’t have them do a chore or task that could put them at risk for harm.  By keeping these things in mind, not only can you educate your little ones about homesteading, but get them involved so they truly feel part of the daily/weekly activities.  You just may be raising the next generation of homesteaders!

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/ugacommunications/6430961073/”>UGA College of Ag & Environmental Sciences – OCCS</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

California White: An Eggcellent Chicken for Urban Settings

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Whether you have acres or a small backyard, chicken keepers are always searching for a great egg laying breed.  Sure, temperament comes into play.  Some folks may make decisions based on egg color, but for my money… when it comes to selecting an egg laying breed, California White is the one that I keep coming back to.

california white hen

california white hen

This chicken is a crossed-breed.  What this means is that this chicken has a parent that is a White Leghorn (hen) and the other is a California Grey (rooster).   Its feathers are white (with a few black marks/flecks), the bird sports a large single comb, and hens generally weigh in around 5 pounds or slightly less.  But in spite of their size, they are quite winter hardy and do just as well in our Colorado winters as our Orpingtons,  Barred Rocks, and Australorps.

California Whites are a great choice for the urban or backyard chicken keeper.  They tolerate confined spaces well (great for smaller urban coops), are more docile than Leghorns, generally begin laying around 17 weeks of age, and are machines when it comes to volume of eggs.  (So if your city ordinance only allows a few hens and you want enough eggs to feed your family, the California Whites are a much better choice compared to breeds that might lay 3 eggs per week).  The Whites pretty reliably produce 5 – 6 white eggs per week.  Imagine if you had 4 of these chickens?  You could get up to 2 dozen eggs per week which you could use to feed your family and maybe have enough to sell/trade with friends, family, or neighbors.

california white egg

california white egg

If you choose to let your California Whites free-range in your backyard, just be warned that they can fly higher than the average chicken.  I found one of my girls sitting on the 6′ tall property fence.  (To get her to come down by herself, I simply rounded up the rest of the flock and ushered them into the chicken run and gave them some scratch grains and meal worms.  The California White hopped down and ran over to get in on the treat action).  To prevent this scenario from playing out again, I clipped some of her primary flight feathers (the longest feathers nearest the tip of the wing) on one wing, avoiding any blood feathers.  NOTE: this does not harm the chicken.  Shortly after this feather modification, she tried to fly, but her flight curved into a direction she did not intend.  After that, she remained on the ground in our backyard.

Consider the California White when you are in the market for a prolific egg layer in an urban or backyard setting.  Given their temperament, hardiness, ability to tolerate confinement, and volume of eggs… you won’t be disappointed.  This breed is an eggcellent choice.

 

Homemade Chipotles in Adobo

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You know you love them.  Hot.  Spicy.  Flavorful.  There is just no denying this flavor of the southwest.  And if you have access to plenty of vine-ripe tomatoes and chipotles, you too can make chipotles in adobo rather than buying them at the grocery store.

jarred chipotles in adobo sauce

jarred chipotles in adobo sauce

Chipotles in Adobo

  • 14 C. tomatoes, rough chopped
  • 2 C. onions
  • 6 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 oz. or 3 large ancho chiles, dried
  • 1 qt. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 C. black strap molasses
  • 1 C. honey
  • 3 Tbs. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 8 oz. chipotles (about 80 – 85 small dried chipotles)

Remove stems and seeds from ancho chiles.  Discard the stems and seeds.  Place the anchos in a pot and add enough water to cover them by 1/2″.  Bring to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes (or until the chiles are soft).

cooking down adobo sauce

cooking down adobo sauce

Place chipotles into another pot with enough water to cover them by 1″.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes (or until the chipotles are soft… add more water if needed).   Once chipotles are completely soft, drain the water and set chipotles to the side.

Meanwhile, place everything but the chipotles and anchos into a heavy-bottomed pot.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  When the onions are translucent, add the softened anchos and 1 cup of water they were simmered in.   Transfer contents of pot (the tomato, ancho, onion, and spice mixture) to a large blender and puree (may have to work in batches).  If you have an immersion blender, use that instead.

Add the chipotles to the pureed mixture.  Reduce heat of pot to a bare simmer and cook for approximately 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  This length of time is need to reduce the sauce to the desired consistency.  (It should not be so thin that it is soupy, and not so thick that it is like ketchup).

chipotles added to adobo sauce

chipotles added to adobo sauce

Fill half pint sterilized (and still warm) jars with sauce and chipotles (about 6 – 7 per jar), leaving 1/2″ headspace.  Process in a pressure canner for 15 minutes.

Your own chipotles in adobo can be used in a variety of dishes: stews, chilis, enchiladas, salsas, ketchup, deviled eggs (yes… it adds a great spicy heat), and even homemade dips and mayonnaise.  So give it a try.  Homemade chipotles in adobo provides a fantastic flavor that will leave you wanting more.