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Published by norzamilazamri, 2022-07-12 23:29:09

Mother Earth News

Mother Earth News

Circle #19; see card pg 73

Table of Contents June/July 2022

16 A Better Use of an Urban Lawn SAVE MONEY GROWING YOUR FOOD

Transform unproductive sod into an abundant 20 Raise Roosters for Meat

food garden that uses less water. Often overlooked birds can
become a valuable source of
homegrown meat.

42 Used Tractor Factors

Advice on getting the best tractor
for the best deal.

Tips for Using a
To the Baby Gardener A year-round sustainable source Manual Water Pump
of meat.
6 Green Gazette: Live well with hand-pumped
The Fake News Fight 46 Fermented Recipes water and maximize every drop.
Over Fake Meat
Using microbes in your kitchen to 70 Ask Our Experts
Updates on the sustainability keep fermentation traditions alive.
of plant-based meat, cloning Expert advice on Bantam
ancient trees, veterans becoming 52 Equip Yourself for Your chickens, welcoming
farmers, and more. Permaculture Farm hummingbirds, water retention
structures, and more.
13 Dear Mother Integrate permaculture practices
with the right machinery to 77 Country Lore
Reader letters of inspiration, improve soil quality, decrease
community, and more. disease, and save water. Reader tips on mesquite flour,
catching rainwater, preserving
26 Natural Garden Predators 58 It Takes a Village peppers, and more.

Flies, wasps, spiders, and more One farmer finds rebellion in 96 Photos from the Field
can keep garden pest populations cultivating community above and
in check and strengthen backyard belowground. Reader-submitted photos.
62 Mother Tested: Stories with this logo are
32 Herbal Salves The Power of Hot Air available in audio form at!
Craft plant-infused salves to treat Air fryers create healthier recipes
a variety of topical conditions. without sacrificing the crunch.

20 46 68


News from MOTHER

To the Baby Gardeners ®

Hello! My name is Marissa Ames, need to choose between a massive pest in- THE ORIGINAL GUIDE TO LIVING WISELY
and I’m the new editorial direc- festation and our family’s food. Sometimes,
tor for Mother Earth News. as baby gardeners, we use what we can un- ISSUE EDITORS
In January, Ogden Publications merged til we learn a better way. Editorial Director Marissa Ames
with Countryside Publications, where I Editor at Large Oscar H. Will III
served as senior editor for four agriculture Each year we garden, we understand
magazines. As our newly joined enterprises more. I used to pull my plants from the EDITORIAL GROUP
evolve, Hank Will has handed me the edi- ground every fall; now, I let them decom- Technical Editor Rebecca Martin
torial baton, and I’ve accepted with zeal. pose to improve next year’s soil. And after Group Editor, Special Content Team Jean Teller
Hank will continue to serve the Mother each new garden bed has been established Group Editor, Collectibles Landon Hall
Earth News audience in other important with a base amount of organic material, Senior Managing Editor Carla Tilghman
ways. As for me, I come from a long line of I keep it mulched and never till it, so I
farmers and homesteaders, and I’m excited don’t lose any subterranean life to my in- Senior Editor Amanda Sorell
to work with a magazine tense desert heat and sun. Senior Editor Allison Sarkesian
that shares this focus. Senior Editor Jessica Mitchell
And the predators! Associate Editor Christine Stoner
This past weekend, I The beautiful garden
showed my compost to predators. My current Editorial Assistant Ilene Reid
a new gardener. As my layout is controlled
hands delved deep into where it needs to be, ADVERTISING DIRECTOR
the black gold, critters wild where it doesn’t. Brenda Escalante; [email protected]
crawled across my wrists. That wild portion is
Pillbugs, tiny beetles, what harbors the preda- ART DIRECTION AND PREPRESS
and little gray spiders. tors, such as the desert Art Director Matthew T. Stallbaumer
My friend cringed. spiny lizards that sleep
on rocks and then come WEB AND DIGITAL CONTENT
Twenty years ago, I into the vegetation in Web Content Manager Tonya Olson
would’ve cringed too. search of bugs. New gar-
All garden life alarmed deners often don’t un- DISPLAY ADVERTISING
me, because of my igno- derstand how I choose 800-678-5779; [email protected]
rance. It’s different now. new walking paths so I don’t disturb orb
weaver webs. Or how I find praying man- CLASSIFIED ADVERTISING
Back then, I kept an arsenal in my cup- tis pods and gently set them on a wooden 866-848-5416; [email protected]
board: Miracle-Gro 24-8-16 to keep food fence to hatch in peace. Baby gardeners
plants going. Carbaryl, Triazicide, and per- may not yet understand the balance of NEWSSTAND
methrin to kill what I didn’t think should predator versus prey in a home garden. Newsstand Manager Melissa Lacer
live in that space. Plastic mulches, flimsy But that’s OK. We’re all learning.
tomato cages. All products were bought How has your understanding of garden CUSTOMER CARE
from the end caps of big box stores because biomes increased with each year that you 800-234-3368; [email protected]
someone told me that’s what I needed. cultivate the land? What was that “aha”
moment when you realized how it all fit Publisher Bill Uhler
If my tomato leaves looked a little yel- together? And how has your gardening Director of Circulation & Marketing Cherilyn Olmsted
low, I grabbed the Miracle-Gro. I panicked changed to reflect your new knowledge? Director of Newsstand & Production Bob Cucciniello
if I saw one hole appear in a basil leaf, and As I start off this journey as your new
I pulled out the insecticide. Though I be- editorial director, I would love to discuss Director of Sales Bob Legault
lieved organic gardening was the best way, one of my favorite topics: food gardening, Director of Events & Business Development Andrew Perkins
I didn’t yet have the knowledge or skills to and how our knowledge and relation-
make it happen, and I couldn’t bear the ship with the earth help us nourish our Director of Information Technology Tim Swietek
thought of losing even a small part of this bodies. Tell me about your experiences at Director of Finance & Accounting Ross Hammond
food garden that would feed my family. [email protected].
May your garden be fruitful, Founders John and Jane Shuttleworth
I was a baby gardener. We all were, at
one point. Mother Earth News (ISSN -)
June/July 2022, Issue No. 312.
Now, I garden 100% organically,
though I stand behind Integrated Pest Mother Earth News is published bimonthly by Ogden
Management. Because sometimes, we Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265.
Periodicals Postage Paid at Topeka, KS and additional mailing

offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Ogden
Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265.
For subscription inquiries call 800-234-3368. Outside the U.S.

and Canada, call 785-274-4365; fax 785-274-4305.
Subscribers: If the Post Office alerts us that your magazine is

undeliverable, we have no further obligation unless
we receive a corrected address within two years.

© 2022 Ogden Publications Inc. Printed in the U.S.A.

In accordance with standard industry practice, we may rent,
exchange, or sell to third parties mailing address information

you provide us when ordering a subscription to our print
publication. If you would like to opt out of any data exchange,

rental, or sale, you may do so by contacting us via email at
[email protected]. You may also call

800-678-5779 and ask to speak to a customer service operator.

4 MOTHER EARTH NEWS June/July 2022


Nearly 400 implements and
attachments so you can find the
one you need without wandering all
over the internet searching for it. Available
only at your John Deere dealer. Of course.

Green Gazette By Joe Scott

The Fake News Fight
Over Fake Meat

When is a burger not a burger? Impossible Foods is the respond to the Super Bowl ad with a parody ad in under a week. ADOBE STOCK/KRISTINA BLOKHIN
Impossible offers many stats on carbon emission reductions for
synthetic meat company producing what could be the the consumer but has come under scrutiny for not being open
about its own carbon emissions. And to combat anti-GMO
most beef-like non-beef ever. The company claims that its activists, it ran a blog through (now shifted
to its own website) to promote its GMO ingredients.
burgers are healthier and better for the planet in terms of
The claims by Impossible Foods are murky, perhaps by design.
carbon emissions, deforestation, and water conservation. At the bottom of Impossible’s footprint calculator web page,
there’s a disclaimer: “Footprint calculations assume 1:1 displace-
Digging into these claims is difficult, as the company ment of the production of meat. … Individual purchases of
Impossible products may vary in impact.” This might come with
seems to have grown large enough to provoke the meat another disclaimer: “Not all production of meat is the same.”

industry into a public relations battle. The bottom line: Impossible Burgers are processed foods
using chemical additives and soy protein, like a savory, crumbly
The Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), a PR firm protein bar. The company likely uses GMO ingredients, and it
started with money from Philip Morris to combat smoking definitely uses a genetically modified yeast to manufacture its
bans, has been attacking synthetic meat through the website burger’s key ingredient, heme (the same molecule that carries CCF isn’t open about its clients or oxygen in blood, also found in low concentrations in plants).
funding, so it’d be conjecture to say that meat industry interests In terms of carbon emissions, the evidence is clear that reducing
fund this campaign. The height of the campaign came in early beef production would lead to a reduction in emissions.
2020, when Clean Food Facts paid more than $5 million to For consumers wary of ultra-processed foods and weary of
run a Super Bowl ad. Since the ad, the Wikipedia pages for two disinformation battles fought for market share, maybe a good
chemicals found in synthetic meats (among other processed old-fashioned bean burger is the best choice.
foods) became the site of information fights. On the flip side of
this, Impossible Foods has its own PR arm, which was able to

Some plant-based meat companies,
such as Impossible Foods, claim their
products are more sustainable than
the meat industry’s, but comparing
the two can be challenging.

Green Gazette

Damaged Leaves Produce Better Fruit

A group of researchers with Texas A&M Mechanically wounding plant leaves could produce higher levels of phytochemicals in their fruits.
believe they’ve settled a long-disputed
claim by organic growers: Organic the sake of human food. Giving insects preharvest in leaves could be used to
methods produce more nutrient-rich a bite to eat gives us a better bite increase phytochemicals in fruit.” In
fruits. Specifically, the researchers found to eat. However, in their conclusion, short, replace insects (or one aspect of
that strawberry plants whose leaves the university researchers point to a them) with machines. Judging by photos
are damaged by insects produce more different implication: “The controlled from the study, the machines might look
antioxidants before harvest. mechanical wounding applied during something like paper hole-punchers.

The research scores another point
for nurture, showing that the plants we
eat are more than the genetic material
of the seeds they start from. Plants,
the researchers write, have “a very
complex defensive system” to respond
to herbivores and pathogens. And the
chemicals produced in this defense
system happen to offer health benefits
to humans.

One implication of the research might
be the importance of certain “pests” in
agricultural processes, which likewise
points to a need to protect insects for

Home Buyers Still Flock to Flood Zones

FROM TOP: ADOBE STOCK/LZF; ADOBE STOCK/JOVANNIG There’s a clear scientific consensus that a changing climate is risk assessment. They write that “academic efforts to model

leading to increased flood risks for more and more people. But flooding under climate change are in their infancy and so are

there’s an even bigger factor than climate change when it comes rarely used for commercial or regulatory applications.” They

to flood risk: development. According to a study published in point to a need for better data, more accessible tools, and

Nature, “Projected population change ... could cause flood risk smarter government policy.

increases that outweigh the impact of climate change fourfold.” One accessible tool that already exists can be found at Flood

Even as coasts and rivers become riskier to live near, more and Factor. The site makes it easy to check your specific address or

more people are moving there. even an entire city. Miami, Florida, for example, has a “severe”

The researchers point out that the problem is systemic. From risk of flooding, and in every category, from residential to road

developers to lenders to home-seekers, there’s a lack of good flooding, risk is expected to increase over the next 30 years.

Despite this, the city’s population is only increasing,

and the median home price has nearly doubled in the

past five years.

But does anyone need a tool built on robust datas-

ets to know that Miami is a flood risk? Writer Sarah

Miller, in a 2019 essay on the Miami real estate

market, finds many people willfully ignoring the

visibly rising water. Miller writes, “How do we think

this is all going to end? With the election of a better

candidate? With the passing of a law?” Though no

place will be untouched by climate change, accept-

ing the risks we’re already facing is the first step

toward adapting. Check your area’s flood risk at

Per Flood Factor, Miami Beach has an extreme risk of flooding over the next 30 years.


Green Gazette Cover Crops Useful on the High Plains FROM TOP: ADOBE STOCK/LYNDSEY; ADOBE STOCK/BOIVINNICOLAS

Nonprofit Cover crops are a reemerging farm practice because of their ability to help
Wants to Clone prevent erosion and build soil health, but they’ve been slow to catch on in semi-
the World’s arid climates, such as the western Great Plains region. A new analysis published
Oldest Trees in Soil Science Society of America Journal could change that.

Archangel Ancient Tree Archive propagates the Previous research seemed to show that cover crops left too little water in the
oldest, biggest trees left standing on the West soil for subsequent cash crops. A 2013 study from the University of Nebraska,
Coast, the “champion trees” of the redwoods Lincoln, didn’t dispute other soil benefits of cover crops, but cautioned growers,
and sequoias. Archangel believes these trees, with because, in researchers’ findings, crop yields suffered across the board. This
more than 1,000 years of experience sequestering new analysis refutes that claim, finding that crop yields decreased in only 38%
carbon — some more than 2,000 — will prove of the cases researchers looked at. The conclusion is that farmers of the High
key to fighting climate change. In a promotional Plains should still be selective when considering cover crops, but in most cases,
video, co-founder Leslie Lee says, “They have a the benefits outweigh the costs.
memory for surviving calamity, and that’s what
we’re trying to capture.” New Resource Helps Farmers Survive Wildfires

So far, it’s unclear if cloning an old tree would Last year, wildfire season started early in California—January. With historic
create a tree that’s better able to grow old. Much drought and a particularly strong Santa Ana wind, 297 fires spread across
recent research on plants has emphasized how more than 1,000 acres in that month alone. Victims of the previous year’s fires
they change in response to environmental factors. weren’t spared further devastation.
But through this research, a new understanding
of forests has emerged: The strength of forest trees In part because of climate change, fire is an increasing threat to farm owners
comes from lives spent in a diverse forest with and workers in California. Avoidance is off the table, which is why Farmer
ongoing cycles of life and death. Campus is offering a new program, “Farming through Wildfire Season.” The
program is robust and practical, with “solutions developed in collaboration with
“Can we prove this or that or whatever,” Lee says top fire experts, organizations, and impacted farmers,” according to its website.
in that same video, “I don’t know. … In 500 years, It covers everything from the financial to the human risks of fires.
you might have the answer to that.” Until then,
Archangel hopes to go on preserving the genetics of While some industry analysts see wildfires driving investment into more
the biggest trees on the planet. Learn more about controlled environments, such as vertical farms, nothing can change the reality on
Archangel’s work at the ground: We all have to learn to live with fire. Programs like Farmer Campus’
offer hope, not escape. To learn more, go to
Some champion redwoods and sequoias have been
around for more than 1,000 years. Helping Veterans Become Farmers

8 MOTHER EARTH NEWS June/July 2022 Armed to Farm ( is helping veterans transition into
civilian life, teaching the ins and outs of farm business and building a network
of veteran farmers to support each other. For many veteran farmers, producing
food is a way to continue serving their country and communities. And for some,
it’s a literal lifesaver, providing a viable future for people struggling with post-
traumatic stress disorder.

Encouraging vets to farm is nothing new. The G.I. Bill after World War II
helped more than 700,000 vets receive farm training, but in the latter half of
the century, as farming turned into big business, federal vet spending shifted to-
ward other kinds of education. Now, the pendulum has swung back, with federal
dollars backing programs like Armed to Farm.

One thing that sets Armed to Farm apart is its emphasis on sustainable
agriculture through the National Center for Appropriate Technology. The Center
defines sustainable agriculture as an “agriculture of social values, one whose
success is indistinguishable from vibrant rural communities.”

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Circle #10; see card pg 73


EDIPTIOCRKS’ “I’m currently in my 80s, and
raising 10 children on a farm
Water Heater Creativity taught me that we need to take
care of our Earth and make good
We’re so glad to see your article on a use of repurposed materials.”
woodstove hot water heater (Hometown
Hacks, February/March 2022). It’s encour- Everything Has a Purpose recycled materials. The framing, floor,
aging to see others finding creative ways to siding, trim boards, and even the nails
heat their domestic water. My lovely garden shed serves two pur- are from my father’s old barn that he built
poses: storage of gardening tools and in the 1880s. Most of that lumber was
My wife and I came up with a system materials, and as a small chicken coop milled from uncultivated forests. The door
that has worked well for 40-plus years complete with a compost bin beside it. I’m with beveled glass, the engraved door-
up here in Vermont. The two main com- currently in my 80s, and raising 10 chil- knobs, the window, and the porch posts all
ponents are a stainless steel tank that we dren on a farm taught me that we need to came from an old house. Even the metal
had fabricated at a local metal shop and a take care of our Earth and make good use roofing is from an old corn crib. Best of
of repurposed materials. all, it’s a dream of mine finally achieved,
30-gallon squat water heater. The 3½-by- a reminder of family past, and a focal
There was a garden shed plan in MOTHER point for family and friends present and
10-by-18-inch tank hangs on the back of EARTH NEWS a long time ago, and I saved future. Everything, no matter how old, has
the woodstove and has an interior diverter it for many years. Then came the opportu- a purpose!
that creates a U-shaped path for the water nity. With family members pitching in and
to travel and allows the inlet (cold) and the my old magazine photo, we finally built Helen Stansbury
supply (hot) outlets to be on the same end my lovely garden shed! It has a rustic look Glenwood City, Wisconsin
of the tank. The hot water tank is located by nature, because it’s made entirely from
on our second floor alongside the brick
HELEN STANSBURY chimney. The thermosiphon loop works
well with 1-inch copper pipe and gate
valves, so as not to impede the water on its
path to the tank.

We were so impressed with the way this
system worked that a couple of years later,
we added a homemade solar collector to
the system. It’s the perfect complement to
the wood-heated hot water, and it makes
our summer showers just as comfortable.
We have electricity hooked up to the tank
for the short intervals in spring and fall
when the solar is shut down due to cold
temps and the woodstove isn’t in use. We
hope our positive experiences with wood
and solar hot water inspire others to make
it happen for their families.

Walter and Peggy Mowle
Killington, Vermont

Helen Stansbury, along with family, built a garden shed based on old MOTHER EARTH NEWS plans.


Celebrating 40 Years

I just figured out I’ve been with the
magazine for 40 years. I bought my first
one off the newsstand (Issue No. 42), and
I’ve been a subscriber since Issue No. 49.
I’ve been with MOTHER EARTH NEWS through
good and bad times. I thought for a while
that it would cease to be, but I was glad it
came back. I submitted a letter back in the
’80s, but I’ve just read the magazine from
cover to cover since then. I lost all my back
issues to flooding, but now I can get back
issues digitally. Keep up the good work!

Mike Hilliker
Via email

Braiding Baling Twine

My husband and I are on 40 acres in
the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma. (GPS
doesn’t work out here!) Like anyone who
has livestock, we also have bags of bal-
ing twine. I asked my husband to cut
the twine next to the knot, and I started
making things with it. The ropes, stock
halter, and dog leash are braided; the large
basket is crocheted; the bosal is braided;
and the small basket and the platter were
made the way pine needle baskets are
constructed. The blue and yellow rope is
about 15 feet long. The instructions for
the bosal are in a book titled How to Make
Cowboy Horse Gear by Bruce Grant. He
explains how to braid and construct the
various knots. I do a lot of braiding while
watching television. If you know how to
braid, it’s a quick and easy way to use up
some baling twine!

Gail Gooding
Fort Towson, Oklahoma

Gail Gooding’s braided twine creations.


TIM SNIVELY Living Well Where spin, weave, knit, or crochet; buying lo-
You’re Planted cal honey; buying goat’s milk from a local
farm and making soap; and learning how
I’m writing in response to “Labor as to make syrup (we do it from just three
an Asset” (News from MOTHER, February/ trees), grind wheat, bake bread, sew, and
March 2022). We’ve been living our home- can. For all of these things, look into buy-
steading dream for 20 years now, but with ing or bartering locally.
today’s housing and land market, so many
people are discouraged by land prices and I offer free classes so folks can to learn
may feel unable to relocate to the country. to do all of this, and my advice is to find a
mentor! Everything I know is self-taught.
I tell people, “Live where you’re plant- Keep trying until you succeed. You can
ed.” There are so many things you can still have fun while waiting to find the
learn to do, even if it’s in the middle of property of your dreams.
a development. A few examples include
starting a container garden; buying local Lynne Almasy
vegetables and meeting the farmer who Mustard Seed Farm
grows them; buying locally bottled milk
and learning how to make cheese; buying Hubbard, Ohio
fleece from a local farmer and learning to

Well-Built Red Shed

My father, Richard Snively, 87, is a Master Carpenter who retired to Arkansas from
Ohio to be closer to family. He built his reclaimed-material backyard shed utilizing fram-
ing, siding, and windows salvaged from a 19th-century barn on his property in Ohio.
The interior houses a workspace and his tool collection, which has been acquired over
the past half-century. He builds and carves items for family and friends. Adjacent to the
shed, he has two small greenhouses and a garden where he grows and harvests vegeta-
bles. An attached coop provides a home for a small flock of laying chickens. The front
porch is adorned with antique tools. He continues to work in his shed almost every day.

Tim Snively
Fayetteville, Arkansas

Firsthand Reports

A Better Use of an

Urban Lawn

Transform unproductive sod into an abundant garden
that will nourish your family on less water than a lawn.

This herb spiral was the author’s first attempt at permaculture techniques on her property. By Emma Walker EMMA WALKER
Farther back are garden beds, a flower bed, and a pumpkin patch.
T he sagebrush sea surrounding
16 MOTHER EARTH NEWS June/July 2022 Boise looks much the same as
it did in the early 19th century,
when a band of travel-weary French fur
trappers laid eyes on the comparably
lush, tree-lined river valley. “Les bois !”
they supposedly shouted, delighted to
see shade. “The woods!”

This incident, immortalized by
Washington Irving, is almost certainly
apocryphal. But it’s easy to see how he
came up with the idea. The adjacent
country is a drab, sun-baked brown for
most of the year, and approaching Boise
on I-84 from either direction feels like
being offered a cool glass of water on a
scorching summer afternoon.

With 235,000 residents (and growing),
present-day Boise is far from a cow town.
But it wasn’t always that way. When gold
was discovered in 1862, someone had to
feed all those hungry miners. By 1877,
engineer Arthur Foote had drawn up
plans to divert the Boise River to irrigate
the land south and west of Boise. The
New York Canal was completed in 1909.
Today, its system of lateral canals delivers
water to 165,000 acres of farmland in
the Treasure Valley, including my yard
on the Boise Bench. My 736-square-
foot house was built in 1946, just as J.R.
Simplot’s potato-dehydration operation
was beginning to make Idaho’s potatoes
famous. For my husband and me, the
0.3-acre lot was the real selling point.

When we bought the property, most
of the lot was carpeted in uniform, emer-
ald-green grass. The previous owner was

Above: In the Treasure Valley, conventional wisdom holds that you can plant when snow is gone
from Shafer Butte. Right: The author in her garden in early summer.

BIX FIRER (2) apparently fanatical about maintaining A lawn requires a lot of water. It takes my household uses an estimated 2,747
his lawn, which would’ve fit in better at over three-fifths of a gallon to give a sin- gallons per day. This includes our “vir-
the country club than next to our tiny, gle square foot of lawn an inch of water, tual” consumption; the water required to
blue house, whose three layers of shingles which means a 100-by-100-square-foot produce the fuel my husband uses on his
are covered in spongy moss. A tree stood lawn consumes more than 6,000 gal- commute to rural Caldwell, for example.
at each end of the lot, but not a single lons each watering. The Environmental
shrub or bush — just grass. I didn’t see Protection Agency estimates that outdoor Then, I retook the quiz, answering
a bee for three weeks after we moved in. water use accounts for more than 30% of the same way for everything but the
Americans’ total household use. In arid re- lawn, which, when we moved in, oc-
When we began ripping out sod, a gions, that number jumps as high as 60%. cupied around 2,000 square feet. If
few neighbors gave us sideways glances. we watered it every day in summer,
As the summer wore on, the sod pile I was soon spending my our household water use would jump
composting behind our shed grew. to 3,415 gallons per day. Even if we
What remained of the lawn slowly afternoons in the garden limited watering to three times a week,
turned brown, eventually succumbing we’d be using an average of 2,985 gal-
altogether in the throes of an August with all manner of lons each day. For comparison, in its
heat wave. One week, another neighbor lifetime, a tomato plant that yields 20
who shares the canal water — her turn songbirds, earthworms, pounds of fruit consumes around 140
is after mine on Thursdays—suggested gallons of water.
that I could keep the water as long as I and pollinating insects.
liked, since my lawn looked thirsty. I’ll take the tomatoes over the lawn,
Curious how much water I’d be saving in part because I believe there’s nothing
I gave her a bland smile and turned by letting my lawn die, I took an online better than a garden-fresh tomato (par-
the water over to my raised beds, lawn quiz to calculate my water footprint. It ticularly compared with the sad, mealy
be damned. Thanks to a bird feeder, included the standard questions: Were we iteration in the average supermarket in
a bee house, native shrubs, and a veg- taking long showers? Did we have low- midwinter). Tomatoes are a cornerstone
etable garden free of pesticides, I was flow faucets? Did we “let it mellow”? (No; of our garden — I need enough, and in
soon spending my afternoons in the gar- yes; of course—we’re hippies.) the right varieties, to ensure I can pluck
den with all manner of songbirds, earth- them off the vine all summer and still
worms, and pollinating insects. I answered according to my household’s have plenty to can for the tomato-meager
habits, including watering between 100 winter months. Last summer, my favorite
This was a significant departure from and 500 square feet of outdoor space (our bed in the garden was home to ‘Cherokee
my upbringing in Arvada, Colorado, 150 square feet of garden beds) each day Purple,’ ‘San Marzano,’ ‘Sweetheart’ cher-
where my parents’ suburban neighbors in summer. The calculator indicated that ry, and ‘Yellow Pear’ tomatoes.
maintain perfectly manicured lawns year-
round. When I was growing up in the
’90s, everyone I knew had a lawn, and it
was seemingly always a drought. It didn’t
occur to me until much later that there
might be a connection between the two.


From left: The hops began to thrive just as the heat became too much for what remained of the author’s “lawn.” Planting garlic bulbs in fall means
the garden is working year-round. A late summer ritual: spreading straw over butcher paper. A pear tree appreciates the insulation.

My tomatoes’ success is somewhat pollinator garden. The blue flax, bee balm, ‘Golden’ and ‘Chioggia’ beets, ‘Atomic EMMA WALKER (3)
variable. The delicate heirloom cultivars milkweed, and yarrow starts needed wa- Red’ and ‘Koral’ carrots, curly kale and
that make my mouth water don’t always tering for a few weeks after being trans- rainbow chard, pole and bush beans in
do so well in our high desert climate. I’ll planted; since then, they’ve gotten by on brilliant shades of purple, sturdy melons,
gamble with them each season, because rainwater. The gaps between plants are juicy cucumbers, vines heavy with sweet
one perfect ‘Cherokee Purple’ is worth filled with mulch, and thus another sec- pumpkins and zucchini, and the daffodil
it. Everything else in the garden requires tion of “lawn” requires zero water. We also and tulip bulbs lying dormant beneath the
some research (and trial and error). dedicated a section of our plot to perennial soil, not to mention my beloved tomatoes.
flowers, which are so low-maintenance
Boise is thoroughly arid; average an- that I generally forget about them until I never missed the grass, but it wasn’t un-
nual rainfall is just over 11 inches. We get they push through the soil each spring. til our first winter on this property that I
long stretches of triple-digit temperatures. understood that its remains could actually
The growing season is relatively short: A small flock of chickens has taken over help regenerate the soil where I grew my
Conventional wisdom holds that you can a section of yard too. Up to six chickens food. On a chilly February afternoon, my
put seeds and starts in the ground when are allowed by our local ordinance, and husband and I pulled the sod out of the
the last traces of snow have disappeared though our laying hens spend much of bin where it had been composting since
from Shafer Butte, usually in May. By their time in their homemade 10-by-10- July. We piled compost onto a homemade
September, nighttime temperatures have by-12-foot run, we fenced off the area sifter, shaking out the chunks of rock and
begun their slow march toward freezing. between our house and a 6-foot privacy grass, picking out earthworms and tossing
If we want to eat well in summer and put fence to let them range separately from our them back into the compost bin, until we
up some crops for winter, we need hardy, dogs. They did away with the grass, turn- were left with a wheelbarrow full of rich
heat-tolerant plants that mature quickly. ing it into a nitrogen-rich addition to our soil. We wheeled each load of dirt over to
compost pile. The only remaining grass the garden, avoiding a pair of hens pecking
We grow what we cook with most: is a section— about 25% of its original at what remained of the lawn, and spread
root vegetables, summer and winter size, flood-irrigated with canal water once it across each bed. The dark earth, which
squash, leafy greens, onions, garlic, herbs. a week in summer and rarely mowed—we had once been our lawn, would nourish
Consultations with the Farmers’ Almanac maintain as a nod to our two dogs, who the next season’s vegetables — the food
and the local nursery have helped us de- like having a proper place to play fetch. that would nourish us. It’s hard to imagine
termine which varieties of each would do a better use of a lawn than that.
best. We start a few (mostly heirloom) Late last summer, amid our fourth
plants from seed, then supplement them straight week of 100-plus-degree-Fahren- Emma Walker is an outdoor educator
with starts from the nursery. heit days, we got up before the sun to give
the garden a drink. As I stepped outside, and aspiring urban homesteader. She is
Food is our top priority, but we’ve made the neighbor’s sprinklers shuddered to life
non-grass use of the yard outside our gar- to water their grass, an unused lawn chair, the author of Dead Reckoning: Learning
den too. Our second year on the lot, we and a handful of forgotten dog toys. Our
purchased a mix of native pollinator plants drip system, on the other hand, sustained from Accidents in the Outdoors.
and ripped out a section of sod to create a

18 MOTHER EARTH NEWS June/July 2022

Circle #41; see card pg 73

Raise Roosters
for Meat Don’tdespairifyour

clutch count includes
more cockerels than
you’re inclined to keep.
With the right care, those
often overlooked birds can
become a valuable source
of homegrown food.

Cockerels are an unavoidable reality of raising chicks, but they can also be a great resource. Story and photos by Carrie Hardie
20 MOTHER EARTH NEWS June/July 2022
I f you buy or hatch chicks, there will
likely come a time when you get more
males (cockerels) than you need or want.
Maybe you live in an area where you’re not
allowed to have roosters, or maybe you don’t
want fertile eggs; or maybe you’re worried a
rooster will become aggressive. If you find
yourself in one of these situations, there’s no
need to panic! With a bit of planning and
perspective, surplus cockerels can become a
valuable source of humanely raised meat.

Determining Sex

When hatching eggs under a broody
chicken or in an incubator, the probability
of males is approximately 50%, meaning
roughly half the hatchlings should be male.
With unsexed (“straight run”) chicks from
a farm store or hatchery, the ratio of males
to females could be lower or higher, but at
least 50% males is a realistic expectation.
(Remember, some of the chicks from the
original hatch might’ve been purchased al-
ready or been removed for other reasons.)
Even if you think you’re buying female-only
chicks (“pullets”), vent sexing has a margin
of error. Hatcheries claim an accuracy rate of
roughly 90%, so some of those “pullets” may
still turn out to be cockerels.


Unless you have an autosexing or sex-linked breed, it can be hard to tell if chicks are male or female until they become old enough to show definite signs.

With breeds that aren’t autosexing or if females aren’t nearby, buying us time to processed by 6 to 8 weeks of age. Did you
sex-linked — where sex can’t be deter- raise them to an optimal weight. know that a Cornish game hen is just a
mined by coloring at hatch—it can take Cornish Cross of either sex that’s been pro-
several weeks before some of the male- Our breeds are dual-purpose (intended cessed at around 4 weeks old? Processing
defining characteristics begin to appear. to provide both eggs and meat), so they this early, while arguably more efficient
Depending on breed, male chicks may grow slower than meat-specific breeds. from a feed standpoint, doesn’t allow the
begin showing physical characteristics, The upside of slower growth is that it al- birds to develop deep and complex flavor.
such as faster comb growth, larger body lows more time for flavor to develop, and
size, and longer hackle and sickle feath- the difference is appreciable. Once you’ve On pasture, we move the cockerels
ers, as well as behavioral characteristics, tried a homegrown dual-purpose chicken, around frequently to ensure they’re spend-
including greater assertiveness and more you’ll understand that the adage “tastes like ing their days on new ground with fresh
chest-bumping with other chicks. In chicken” refers to the comparatively bland bugs and greens to eat, in addition to the
some breeds and individual birds, how- flavor of commercially raised chickens, high-protein fermented feed we give them.
ever, these signs may not be obvious, and such as Cornish Cross, which are typically In their tractors, they can dust bathe, enjoy
it can be unclear you have a male bird on
your hands until it begins crowing. The author keeps her cockerels in “bachelor tractors” so they can forage for greens and bugs.

Once your chicks have grown to the
point where you can determine sex, you
may well find you have more males than
you want. And while you can certainly
try to re-home any surplus cockerels so
they have flocks of their own (as we also
try to do), if you have the ability keep
them, they’ll make delicious farm-to-
table chicken.

Raising Roosters

We hatch eggs often on our farm, so
we’re prepared for and embrace the in-
evitability of cockerels. Once we’re able to
determine we have cockerels—typically
around 3 to 4 weeks of age for the breeds
we raise—we move them into either se-
cure low tractors or hoop tractors. These
“bachelor tractors” are sited well away
from any pullets and hens. We do this
because cockerels will generally be calmer
and less inclined to fight for dominance


the breeze and sunshine, get some exercise, by talking to them along the way. This is Processing roosters at home can be done
and make choices about where they want their one “bad day” (really, a few bad mo- with basic equipment, including killing
to sleep and which bugs to chase. The ments), and we want to minimize stress as cones, a scalder, and plastic bags. Before
dual-purpose birds we raise typically have much as possible. Keep any birds awaiting you undertake the task, familiarize yourself
small breasts and large thighs, attesting to processing far from your work area so they with safe handling practices.
their unimpaired mobility. don’t hear or smell the activities. Ideally,
they shouldn’t be aware of what’s occur- pasture to retrieve birds two at a time from
Our cockerels usually reach peak ring. We do our processing in a sheltered their tractors.
growth at about 5 months old, after which area well away from the waiting birds, and
their growth rate tends to slow. Plus, if the we usually end up trekking out into the To begin processing, we place the birds
cockerels continue to mature, they might into killing cones to hold them in place.
engage more frequently in dominance- (We use cut-down traffic cones for this
related conflict. When we see these signs, purpose.) We then quickly remove their
we know it’s time to begin processing. heads with one swift cut from a sharp pair
of loppers. It’s typical for the birds to have
At-Home Processing a reflexive movement after decapitation,
so we keep the bodies in the cones until
Processing your own birds on a small
scale doesn’t have to be complicated or
involve purchasing a lot of expensive
equipment. If you’ll be handling only a
few birds at a time, you can likely make do
with some basic supplies, most of which
you probably already have on hand. You’ll
need a clean plastic garbage can lined with
a garbage bag to contain the feathers and
other discarded parts; a stainless steel prep
table, or any table that can be thoroughly
disinfected before and after; a large plastic
tub for keeping the carcasses cool in ice;
sharp knives and a sharpening steel; plas-
tic bags for the carcasses, organs, and feet;
paper towels; bleach or other disinfectant;
ice; and running water. You’ll also need
some way to scald the carcasses prior to
plucking. A turkey-frying setup (burner,
liquid propane tank, and sturdy stainless
steel stockpot) works well for this.

The day prior to processing, we with-
hold supplemental food to help ensure the
birds’ digestive tracts are empty. This is a
matter of preference, but we find it helps
keep the processing environment cleaner,
particularly when dressing out birds.

On processing day, we carry each bird
to the processing area, keeping them calm

How to Deal with In-Transit Egg Development

Having quail eggs shipped to you for incubation can be a great way to start your flock. However, shipping
eggs has its hazards. Eggs may begin developing in transit if the temperature is 82.5 degrees Fahrenheit
for an extended amount of time, which can happen during the heat of summer. Eggs that have begun de-
veloping in transit will show 24 to 48 hours of development, and often they’ll have a blood spot or
ring. When your eggs arrive, place them in the incubator with the turner off for 24 hours to allow the
air cell to stabilize, which can help save the developing embryo.

22 MOTHER EARTH NEWS June/July 2022

If a hen could

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Chicken Congee Ingredients Hatching your
• 1 pound cooked and own chicks is fun,
1 Chop chicken into small cubes. easy and reliable
2 Layer rice, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, and deboned chicken
chicken in an electric pressure cooker. • 1 cup uncooked jasmine rice with Brinsea
3 Add bone broth and water. • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
4 Close and lock the lid of the pressure cooker. • 1 tablespoon minced ginger Free
Ensure the steam release is turned to “sealing.” • 3 to 4 sliced mushrooms Color
Cook on manual (high pressure) for 20 minutes. • 1 quart bone broth Catalog
5 When the congee has finished cooking, allow • 3 cups water
the pressure to release naturally. • Toasted sesame oil and fish Incubation Specialists
6 Scoop congee into bowls, and then pour about
1 teaspoon each of toasted sesame oil and fish sauce, for topping For more information
sauce on top of each bowl. Stir to incorporate.
they’re still. We prefer this method because chickens until you can get them bagged
it’s quick and nearly foolproof, in keep- and into a freezer or refrigerator. or call 1-888-667-7009
ing with our aim of humane processing.
If you’re new to processing chickens, learn Though we’ve used shrink bags for Circle #7; see card pg 81
how to properly dispatch a bird before you packaging in the past, we prefer to vacu-
attempt it. um-seal our processed birds, because we’ve
had far fewer failures with vacuum-sealed
Next, we scald the carcasses to loosen bags. After recording the date, breed, and
the feathers and facilitate hand-plucking. weight of the processed birds on the bags,
Plucking is the most labor-intensive and we put them in our chest freezer until we’re
time-consuming part of the process, and ready to cook chicken. Recording this data
if your budget allows for a mechanical is useful for comparing the growth rates of
plucker, it’ll save you a lot of time and ef- different breeds to inform future planning.
fort. We haven’t been able to justify buying
a plucker for the relatively small number Techniques for Tender Meat
of birds we process, so we just do it the
old-fashioned way. Once the carcasses are Our pasture-raised chickens taste noth-
cleanly plucked, we eviscerate them and ing like the commercially raised birds sold
then give them a final rinse. Next, we bag at the grocery store. The meat is rich, fla-
the carcasses and place them in ice water vorful, and unbelievably “chickeny”—a
to keep cool until packaging. If you’re new result of the breeds we raise and the ter-
to processing, familiarize yourself with roir imparted by their environment. Out
the conditions for safely storing processed of respect for our chickens, we try to use
as much of them as possible, including

Circle #21; see card pg 81 saving and eating organs, such as the giz-
zard, heart, and liver. Even if these don’t
Simple. Fast. sound appealing to you, a dog will grate-
fully eat them. Once the chicken is cooked
Take the hassle out of backyard chicken and deboned, we turn the bones into de-
processing. Plucking a chicken by hand can lightfully gelatinous and nourishing bone
take as long as 30 minutes. broth, enjoyed by both us and our dogs.
Yardbird has revolutionized this painstaking We also save the feet for bone broth.
and messy process. With the Yardbird, you can
fully defeather two birds in 15 seconds or less! Pressure-cooking is my preferred meth-
od for cooking pastured rooster. (I use an
Features: electric pressure cooker.) A pressure cooker
can tenderize a fully frozen bird, eliminat-
Hands-Free Irrigation Ring ing the need for lengthy thawing times,
1.5 HP Electric Motor and it makes collagen-rich bone broth
Removable Tub For Cleaning much more quickly than other methods
Simple Debris Collection I’ve employed.

Regardless of the age of the bird, a pres-
sure cooker will render it tender. If you
have an older bird, cook it a bit longer.
I find that a slightly frozen cockerel of
about 5 months old is perfectly tender af-
ter about 45 minutes of pressure-cooking,
whereas an older rooster (1 year or older)
benefits from about an hour of cook time.
I check for tenderness by poking one thigh
with a fork. If the meat feels resistant, I
continue to cook the bird in five-minute
increments until it’s done.

Once cooked, the tender meat lends
itself to a variety of meals, including
soups, ramen, sandwiches, and casse-
roles — many of which can also be pre-
pared quickly and easily in an electric
pressure cooker. One of my favorite ways
to use our gourmet farm-to-table chicken
(and that luscious bone broth) is to make
congee, an Asian soup that’s warm and
comforting. The complex flavor of home-
raised chicken really shines in this decep-
tively simple and nourishing meal. (See
“Chicken Congee” on Page 23.)

Growing your own food is an important
step toward becoming more self-sufficient.
I think you’ll find raising cockerels for
meat to be an excellent learning experi-
ence that creates a new appreciation for
homegrown chicken.

Visit Carrie Hardie focuses on pasture-centric
and earth-friendly practices on her small
1160 8th Avenue | Cumberland, WI 54829 | 800-345-6007 farm. Follow her at Forged Mettle Farm,
Circle #4; see card pg 81

24 MOTHER EARTH NEWS June/July 2022

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Attract By Sally Morgan
Garden Our gardens are home to many
Predators natural predators, from the
familiar ladybugs and spiders
Learn how certain flies, wasps, spiders, to the less-familiar rove beetles and
and other predators can keep garden pest parasitic wasps. These natural predators,
populations in check and strengthen the or “beneficials,” are your garden’s first line
health of your backyard ecosystem. of defense.

Natural predators are important in all
habitats, natural and artificial. In nature,
the populations of wasps, ladybugs, spi-
ders, and birds have long regulated the
abundance of pests. For example, spiders
control Douglas-fir tussock moth cater-
pillars, and birds prey on spongy moths.
Under normal conditions, predators can
prevent outbreaks when pest numbers are
low to moderate, but problems can arise
when a change in the weather or a natu-
ral disaster occurs, such as a fire, flood,
or drought, which all disrupt the balance
between prey and predator.

The Predator-Pest Balance

Much research has been carried out
on predator-pest relationships, and it’s
clear that systems with low biodiversity
are particularly vulnerable to pest

Ladybugs —
beneficial insects
themselves — can
also act as hosts
for wasp larvae.

Parasitic wasps can develop inside a host, such as a caterpillar (left). These predators and others will help defend your garden against pests (right).

outbreaks. This is what we must try to avoid in our gardens. check carefully for any predators on the plants before using an

In my own growing space, I’m aiming for a mosaic of habitats organic product—or simply your fingers—to remove or squash

to attract a wide range of beneficials to prey on different types the pests.

of pests. Over the past 10 years, I’ve seen a steady increase in

biodiversity, and now, it’s not unusual for me to wander around Parasitic Predators

the garden and spot a variety of predators. I still have pests, of I once read an article that described the actions of the parasit-

course. For these predators to thrive, there must be some prey oid wasps as being far worse than any science-fiction movie. The

animals, so I’ve had to learn to live with low levels of pests to scene of the creature bursting out of its living host in the film

keep my beneficials fed. Alien may seem far-fetched, but it’s happening every day in your

A key challenge, though, is to ensure enough predators are garden, albeit on a much smaller scale. A vast range of parasitic

around early in the growing season to control the aphids, predators, or “parasitoids,” dwell in the garden. Adult parasitoids

whiteflies, red spider mites, and various larvae so their numbers live normal, independent lives, but their larvae hatch inside an-

don’t spiral out of control. Peak season, as far as garden pests other living organism, consuming it and growing. This benefits

are concerned, is early summer, so you’ll need beneficials our gardens if the host is a pest species. Usually, the host dies

to multiply rapidly to take advantage of the food bonanza before or as the parasitoid emerges to live its adult life. Among

through midsummer. You can achieve this by understanding the most common parasitoids in the garden are parasitic flies

and identifying each predator’s and wasps. Some infest a range of

life-cycle stages and dietary hosts, while others seek out spe-

requirements as well as by cific hosts. The larvae feed on the


overwintering habitats to enable side or out, before emerging as an

them to thrive. adult. The adults generally feed

on nectar and pollen.

Don’t Overreact

It’s important not to overreact Parasitic Flies

when you see pests. For example, These aren’t the annoying

you might notice that your broad houseflies and bluebottles you

beans are smothered by black may know, but bristly flies that

flies and decide to do something are mostly gray-black in color

quickly to prevent serious damage with short antennae and huge

to the crop. But this is where you eyes but no biting mouthparts.

have to be careful. If lots of prey They lay their eggs on leaves, so

is around, you likely already have the host will either eat the eggs

increasing numbers of predators, or the newly hatched larvae as

as the predator population will it feeds. Parasitic flies parasitize

lag behind the prey population. If hosts, such as caterpillars, sawfly

you’re tempted to use a chemical larvae, and leatherjackets. Once

spray, you may well take out both the host dies, the larvae will

prey and predator, and, in doing continue to eat the remains before

so, you’ll destroy the natural cycle pupating and overwintering. One

and won’t have any chance to get of the United Kingdom’s largest

back some natural control. If you flies is Tachina grossa, which

can, be patient, let nature take its parasitizes caterpillars; it’s so large

course, and wait for the predators that it’s often mistaken for a black

to “kick in.” If you can’t wait, Parasitic Tachina grossa (top) and chalcid wasp (bottom). bumblebee.


Parasitic Wasps both pollinators and predators. Their life

Wasps and bees belong to the order cycle will start in autumn, when a mated

Hymenoptera: insects with two pairs queen hibernates in holes while the rest

of wings and a distinctive narrow waist. of the colony dies. She’ll become active in

Included in that order are honeybees, spring, find a nest site, and start building

bumblebees, solitary bees, and social her nest and laying eggs. Four weeks

wasps—remarkably, of the U.K.’s 7,761 later, the first generation of workers will

species of Hymenoptera, around 6,500 emerge. The workers will hunt for insects,

are parasitoid. Parasitic wasps vary especially caterpillars, to feed to the larvae,

enormously in size, ranging from 1 to while the workers themselves will feed on

30 millimeters (1¼ inches) long. Many the sugar-rich secretions of the larvae.

females have an ovipositor, a stinglike Social wasps are valuable predators in the

attachment at the end of the abdomen, garden, as they help control the numbers

which is used to pierce the body of the of insect pests. But by late summer, the

host and lay eggs. The parasitic wasp’s number of wasp larvae will decline and

hosts are mostly butterfly and moth the food supply for the workers will dry

caterpillars and pupae and sawfly larvae. up. Then, they’ll have to seek out sugar,

It’s easy to spot the larger Ichneumonid which will result in damaged fruits and

wasps, but the small wasps tend to go conflict with people.

unnoticed. Both inhabit our gardens.

Like parasitic flies, the parasitic wasps Other Beneficial Predators

can attack the egg, larval, and adult Parasitic flies and wasps aren’t the only

stages of the host. Once the parasitoid creatures that can rid unwanted pests

egg hatches, the larvae will feed on the from your garden. Here are a few more

host’s body tissues, taking the fat stores predators that can create a diverse defense

and nonessential organs first, as they don’t for your plants.

want the host to die too soon. Once their

larval stage is complete, they’ll pupate. Spiders

Some will pupate outside the dead Spiders are generalist hunters and have

host, others inside. Among those most a varied diet. One important fact is that

commonly found in gardens is the tiny they tend to kill more prey than they

braconid parasitoid Cotesia glomerata eat, so they’re incredibly useful in spring

that looks like a flying ant and parasitizes Invite spiders and centipedes into your garden when they can limit their prey’s early

the caterpillars of the large white butterfly. habitat by adding soil cover and log piles. population growth and generally exert a

Chalcid wasps (pronounced “kal-sid”) stabilizing effect. A garden can contain

are just 3 to 9 millimeters (⅛ to ⅓ inch) in length. You can a surprising diversity of spiders, which is important, since the

identify them by the swollen femurs on their hind pair of legs and failure of one species won’t affect pest control if there are others

by their glossy, metallic colors. Because of their size, the number of to take its place. You can boost spider diversity by covering the

chalcid wasps is often underestimated, soil with mulch, especially straw, and

but they’re incredibly useful. They lay building log piles and bug hotels.

their eggs in the eggs and larvae of flies,

beetles, moths, butterflies, leafhoppers, Garden Dreams for Next Season Centipedes

thrips, and scale insects. Occasionally, Make the most of the offseason by getting The fast-moving centipede makes its

you may spot one tapping leaf surfaces a step up on planning next year’s garden home in leaf litter, under pots, in logs,

with its antennae in search of their with the informative “Garden Planning” and in the compost heap. Centipedes

host’s “scent,” but the presence of sick online course from author and MOTHER EARTH use their jaws to inject a paralyzing

or dead hosts is a sure sign you have a NEWS FAIR speaker Pam Dawling. Workshops venom into their prey. It’s easy to FROM TOP: ADOBE STOCK/BRIAN; ADOBE STOCK/ANAN

healthy population of chalcids. Many include setting your garden goals (how to distinguish between the centipede

of the smaller parasitic wasps are used plan and which crops to grow), mapping and the closely related millipede:

as biocontrol in greenhouses. your garden, creating crop rotations, Centipedes have a single pair of legs per

Social wasps aren’t the most popular growing transplants, scheduling seedlings, segment, while millipedes have two.

of insects, but we need to encourage interplanting, making garden contingency Even millipedes aren’t harmful; they

their existence, because they’re such a plans, and so much more! Learn more at mostly eat dead and decaying matter,

useful predator! There are eight species which is why they’re found under the

of social wasps in the U.K., and they’re bark of rotting logs and in the compost

28 MOTHER EARTH NEWS June/July 2022

Earwigs (left) will prey on garden pests and pollinate your plants. If you want toads in your garden (right), make sure there’s water nearby for breeding.

heap, so they also have a useful role to play. Only occasionally gardeners frequently report seeing them under sheets of metal FROM LEFT: ADOBE STOCK/ALEX_1910; ADOBE STOCK/ERNI
will they be tempted to feed on seedlings. and finding their eggs in compost heaps. Grass snakes are useful
predators, eating insects and small mammals, but they also
Earwigs consume frogs and toads, which make up the bulk of their diet.
Many gardeners trap earwigs with upturned clay pots stuffed Slow worms emerge from their shelters at dusk or after rain to
prey on insects, slugs, snails, worms, and spiders.
with straw and set on sticks, especially around dahlias, because
they can damage the flower buds, but these insects’ benefits To encourage reptiles, provide an open, sunny spot where
far outweigh their disadvantages. Earwigs are scavengers, they can bask. I put down corrugated metal sheets and broken
predators, and pollinators. They feed on dead and decaying pieces of slate, under which grass snakes and slow worms can
matter for the most part, but they’ll also prey on aphids, snails, sun themselves. Lizards enjoy a sunny wall or pile of rocks. The
and other small pests and they’ll help control codling moths heat of a compost heap will attract the reptiles too. Think about
on fruit trees. If earwigs are causing a problem around your hibernation places as well, such as an undisturbed pile of rocks,
young crops and flower beds, use live traps and move them to a log pile, or a pile of leaves.
a log pile.
Don’t shy away from creating an inviting habitat for natural
Amphibians predators so they can take care of your garden pests. With just
Toads prey on slugs and snails, grasshoppers, ants, flies, and a few inexpensive adjustments, you can watch them protect
your plants and bolster the diversity of your space—a symbiotic
other invertebrate animals. They live away from water as adults, relationship for both gardener and garden-dweller.
digging out shallow burrows in deep leaf litter and log piles
in which to shelter and overwinter. You’ll also find toads in Sally Morgan is the editor of Soil Association’s Organic Farming
compost heaps, so do a toad check before you stick your fork in magazine, writes regularly for gardening and smallholding
it. Frogs are similar in many respects to toads, eating a similar magazines, and is a member of the Garden Media Guild. Sally
range of prey, but they’re more agile. They hibernate in pond also runs smallholder courses on her organic farm in Somerset,
mud or under piles of logs, stones, and leaf litter. Both frogs U.K. The following excerpt is from her new book The Healthy
and toads need water to breed, so if you want to encourage Vegetable Garden: A Natural, Chemical-Free Approach to Soil,
frogs and toads, then building a small pool is the answer. Biodiversity and Managing Pests and Diseases (Chelsea Green
Publishing, September 2021), available below, and is reprinted
Reptiles with permission from the publisher.
If you live in a more rural area, it’s not uncommon to find

grass snakes, slow worms, and lizards in the garden. I’ve found
grass snakes under piles of compost in the hoop house, and

Get Your Garden Thriving the Natural Way

In The Healthy Vegetable Garden, expert organic gardener Sally Morgan explains how to use natural approaches to cope
with the challenges of a changing climate through principles such as regenerative gardening, agroecology, and permaculture
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ural predators, build a healthy soil full of organic matter, boost biodiversity, create natural barriers, and so much more. With
The Healthy Vegetable Garden, growers of all levels will start reducing incidents of pests and diseases while creating a ver-
dant habitat — all without the need for fertilizers, pesticides, or weedkillers. This title is available at Store.MotherEarthNews.
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30 MOTHER EARTH NEWS June/July 2022

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See theCoFuurlsleLsisOt nolfine!

Infuse Oils for Healing

Herbal Salves

Craft powerful plant-infused
salves to treat a variety of
topical conditions, from bug
bites to arthritis.

By Bevin Cohen

P erhaps the most versatile item in the
artisan herbalist’s arsenal is herb-infused
oil. The diversity of potential applica-
tions, as well as the multitude of products into
which infused oil can be crafted, truly makes
this form of extraction a powerful ally in any
apothecary. The medicine-maker may choose
to use their oils to create salves, balms, and lo-
tions or in a pure oil application for topical or
culinary use. Whichever method they decide
upon, they will find great gratification in the
ease with which these products can be made
and how beneficial and powerful the resulting
medicines are.


Infusing herbal oils is a simple yet remarkably

satisfying process. As with the preparation of

any other extraction, the first step is choosing

the proper ingredients and gathering the need-

ed equipment. Aside from the herbs and oils,

a vessel is the only other mandatory tool, and

for this job, a glass jar is highly recommended,

particularly one with a screw-on lid. Glass is far

superior to plastic or metal, especially for long- Infused oils can be used on their own or in salves, balms, and lotions.

term storage of your medicinal oils. Clear glass

is suitable for this task, as the oil will be stored in a cool, dark important considerations, many herbalists fall short by not tak-

location throughout the extraction process. ing more time to understand and properly select the other main

Choosing the Right Oil ingredient: the oil. Just as the herbalist selects particular herbs
based on their active chemical constituents, the oils used (also

When crafting herbal oils, the focus of most recipes is typically derived from plants) have their own characteristics and chemical

on the herbs to be used, their medicinal benefits, and the desired constituents. This suggests that different oils have different uses,

purpose of the final products. While these are all obvious and benefits, and applications. Taking the time to choose the proper


From left: Beeswax or an alternative can be blended with infused oils to form a salve. Carefully pour the hot oil and wax mixture into containers.

oil—one that complements and enhances the herbs being used plant matter is completely submerged and the level of the oil FROM LEFT: ADOBE STOCK/MIHAIL39; HEATHER COHEN
in the formula—will increase the product’s potency as well as is above the herbs by approximately 1 to 2 inches. Next, using
the herbalist’s success. a small tool, such as a dowel, skewer, or even a pencil, poke
through the submerged plant material a few times to release
The oils most commonly used by at-home herbalists are olive, any air that may have been trapped. Once there are no more
coconut, grapeseed, and sunflower. All of these are fine choices; bubbles floating to the top, place the lid on the container and
which to use will depend on what you’re trying to accomplish label the vessel.
and your preferences. If carbon footprint is a concern, consider
purchasing oils that aren’t imported from far away. Sometimes, Crafting a Salve
it’s possible to source oils that have been pressed locally. You can
even try pressing your own! Small, home-scale oil presses are The herbal salve is possibly the most well-known wellness
available for purchase and may be a viable option for herbalists product crafted from infused oil, and it can be used for a wide
interested in a more do-it-yourself approach to their craft. range of ailments and conditions. While the formula can and
should be adjusted by the artisan herbalist to their preference,
When searching for quality oil to purchase, look for oils that the basic ratio is 1.25 parts beeswax by weight to 16 parts oil
are labeled as cold-pressed or expeller-pressed. You don’t want by volume.
oils that are produced using heat (which degrades the nutritional
value of the oil) or those that are extracted by the use of chemicals. Basic Salve Recipe
Chemically extracted oils are refined oils; they have very little flavor,
scent, or color but also lack any significant nutritional value. While To test the consistency of your salve or balm before pouring, a
they may serve a purpose for some, these are not the high-quality small amount of the blended oil can be put on a plate and placed
oils that should be chosen for an herbalist’s work. Chemically in the freezer to cool, similar to how one would test a jam or jelly.
extracted and purified oils should be avoided, especially when the Yield: approximately 18 ounces (by volume) of final product.
herbalist is crafting topical, oil-based wellness products.
• 1.25 ounces beeswax (by weight)
Infusing Your Herbs • 16 ounces oil (volume)

Once the appropriate herbs, oil, and vessel have been select- 1 Use a double boiler to melt the beeswax into the oil while
ed, it’s time to begin the extraction process. Simply pack your gently stirring the mixture to blend. If a double boiler is not
chosen herbs into the vessel, then add the oil, pouring until the

The DIY Guide to All Things Herbs

From urban apartments to wild countryside, The Artisan Herbalist by Bevin Cohen is an easy-to-use guide that teaches
you how to identify, grow, harvest, forage, and craft herbal allies into an assortment of useful health and wellness prod-
ucts. Through storytelling and step-by-step instructions, you will learn the uses and benefits of 38 easy-to-find yet power-
ful herbs; how to grow herbs in small areas, such as on balconies and in pots; infusing oils to create salves and lotions;
marketing and selling your products; and more. With so much information to offer, The Artisan Herbalist belongs on the
bookshelf of anyone interested in the world of herbs. Plus, it’s now offered as an e-book! This title is available at or by calling 800-234-3368. Mention promo code MMEPAMZ5. Item #10730.

34 MOTHER EARTH NEWS June/July 2022

Naturally Boost Immunity

In our “Natural Health” course, dis-
cover methods for keeping your immune
system strong and healthy using natural
and common ingredients, including some
time-tested tips used in Indigenous cultures
for centuries. Fresh herbs, turkey tail mush-
rooms, violets, and common spices likely al-
ready in your cabinet all play a part in these
workshops geared to help you maintain peak
immune health. Learn more at

Include cayenne-infused oil in a salve to treat sore and tired muscles.

available, substitute a stainless steel bowl placed over a pot of vegetable wax obtained from the leaves of the Brazilian palm
boiling water. Remember, this bowl will become very hot, and tree, Copernica cerifera. Carnauba is the hardest natural wax
caution must be used to avoid any injury. available and is used widely in various commercial cosmetic
and pharmaceutical applications.
2 Once the wax is melted and blended into the oil, carefully
pour the hot oil mixture into containers. Any size or shape Emulsifying waxes are another alternative. These products
container will do, depending on need and desire, but soft are made from either vegetable or petroleum-based waxes that
plastic should be strictly avoided. Remember, this oil will be are treated with detergents to create a white, waxy solid; these
quite hot, so thin plastic is not a safe choice. types of waxes are used quite extensively in commercial lotions,
balms, and other blends.
3 As the oil and wax mixture cools, it will solidify and the
final consistency of the product can be tested. Be sure to While it’s certainly up to the individual to choose which
label the container of herbal medicine for easy identification ingredients they prefer to use in their products, it’s important
in the future. You have now created a freshly handcrafted to remember that everything applied to the skin is absorbed
herbal salve! directly into the body; it’s wise for the artisan herbalist to al-
ways choose the most responsibly harvested, ethical, and safe
Alternatives to Beeswax ingredients for use in their formulas.

Some herbalists may decide — for themselves, for family, or This excerpt is from The Artisan Herbalist: Making Teas Tinctures
for their clients — not to use beeswax in their formulations.
This can be due to a vegan lifestyle or for various other reasons. and Oils at Home by Bevin Cohen (New Society Publishers),
Although beeswax is mentioned a number of times in the pre-
vious recipes, there are certainly alternatives to this ingredient. available on Page 34.
The most popular alternative to beeswax is carnauba wax, a

HEATHER COHEN Sore Muscle Salve Arthritis Relief Salve Bug Bites and Boo-Boos Salve

This basic recipe is a perfect This herbal blend brings relief from This is a topical ointment for healing minor
blend of herbs for topical treat- inflammation, joint pain, and arthritis. abrasions, skin irritations, and insect bites.
ment of sore and tired muscles.
• 2 part nettles • 1 part comfrey
• 1 part cayenne peppers • 1 part cayenne • 1 part yarrow
• 1 part wintergreen leaves • 1 part witch hazel • 1 part chickweed
• 1 part turmeric • 1 part plantain
1 Combine equal parts of both
ingredients and infuse in oil of 1 Combine ingredients and infuse in 1 Combine ingredients and infuse in oil of
choice for 4 to 6 weeks. oil of choice for 4 to 6 weeks. choice for 4 to 6 weeks.

2 Process as described in 2 Process as described in “Crafting 2 Process as described in “Crafting a
“Crafting a Salve,” Page 34. a Salve,” Page 34. Salve,” Page 34.

3 Use topically as needed. 3 Use topically as needed. 3 Use topically as needed.


Fish Farming

Feed family and friends year-round from a sustainable source of food.

By George DeVault “By raising your own fish, you can achieve a higher level of ADOBE STOCK/ZILVERGOLF
self-sufficiency and provide a healthier diet for your family,” says
E ven though it might sound like too complicated of an Steven Van Gorder, author of the book Small Scale Aquaculture.
endeavor, fish farming is something you can feasibly “Backyard fish farming is as practical as gardening for producing
incorporate on your property. Using inexpensive and food for the family.”
readily available materials, such as an aboveground swimming
pool, you can get fresh fish right from your backyard. Van Gorder’s book explains backyard aquaculture (the raising
of aquatic plant and animals for food) in detail, with plans and

36 MOTHER EARTH NEWS June/July 2022

Cage culture is one of the most affordable backyard fish-farming methods.

Types of Aquaculture Systems

Here are four aquaculture systems Van Gorder describes.

Red tilapia Cage Culture

This aquaculture method “provides the simplest means of
growing fish if you have access to a pond,” Van Gorder says. He
estimates a cage system could be built for about $100 (about
$140 in 2022), with the only existing costs being fish, feed, and
cage materials.

In this system, a cage or pen made of plastic pipe and rigid
netting is moored in any suitable body of water—a pond, lake,
stream, or millrace—and stocked with fingerlings that are fed
until they reach a harvestable size.

“If you have a farm pond, building a floating cage will provide
enough fish to feed your family year-round,” Van Gorder says.
Channel catfish are the most common fish grown in cages;
tilapia, trout, salmon, and hybrid striped bass are other options.

ADOBE STOCK/NUTPACHA step-by-step instructions that can help you successfully raise fish, Flow-Through
even if your only source of water is a garden hose. This method diverts a continuous source of cold water, such

Puanani Burgess, executive director of the Waianae Coast as a stream, spring, or river, into raceways that hold fish. Even a
Community Alternative Development Corp. in Waianae, small volume of water can create a more productive system than
Hawaii, says the methods “look so simple that everyone thinks, a closed setup and provide trout year-round.
‘Hey, I can do it.’” In 1992, Burgess’ group formed a micro-
aquaculture cooperative, which hundreds of islanders have Like cage culture, flow-through systems are simple and
participated in over the years. relatively inexpensive, unless you don’t have access to a natural
source of flowing water. It’s also important to note that flow-
Historically, aquaculture has something of a bad reputation, through systems are subject to regulations regarding the diversion
because it’s been limited to large commercial facilities that and use of natural water sources, so talk with local fish and soil
require significant amounts of water and energy, and thus can conservation authorities before utilizing nearby streams.
be major sources of pollution. In contrast, Van Gorder’s systems
blend 4,000-year-old cultural practices with refined modern Greenhouse Aquaponics
techniques, using minimal energy and water, and put you in Within some form of greenhouse, this method uses a variety
control of the healthfulness of this food source.
of plants instead of filters to improve water quality for fish. In
Van Gorder advises beginning fish farmers to start small and addition to tilapia, trout, catfish, and hybrid striped bass, you
work with no more than 100 fish the first few seasons. Once you can grow different vegetables, including tomatoes, lettuce,
master a few basics, “you will be able to raise several species of and cucumbers, as you would in conventional hydroponics.
fish in tanks, indoors or out, throughout the year,” he says. In the However, because fish are living in the water, the nutrient sources
Waianae cooperative, for example, a few aboveground tanks can for greenhouse aquaponics must be totally organic; don’t use
produce more than 300 pounds of golden tilapia every six months. herbicides, insecticides, or fungicides.

Greenhouse aquaponics is the most complicated aquaculture
method, requiring high-level management and components,


Greenhouse aquaponics combines hydroponics and fish farming (left), while recirculating works for those who only have a garden hose (right).

such as a water pump and aerator. Backyard fish farmers often climates, aboveground pools will reach about 70 degrees for only FROM LEFT: ADOBE STOCK/ORAPIN; FLICKR/BYTEMARKS
combine aquaponics with a home recirculating setup (learn more the warmest 12 weeks, but a solar dome will increase the average
below). Altogether, such a system could cost upwards of roughly water temperature to about 80 degrees for at least 20 weeks.
$1,400, but using recycled materials can bring that price down.
Drum clarifier. This provides a simple way to collect and
Recirculating remove almost all the organic material that accumulates in
This is the answer for would-be fish farmers whose only water the water. Using siphons and a water or air pump, water flows
between the pool and two 55-gallon drums that are filled with
source is a garden hose. The best way to create this miniature fish plastic mesh (orchard netting), which traps the solids.
farm is to use an aboveground vinyl-lined swimming pool in a
backyard, garage, or basement. Cost varies based on pool size, Biofilter. This simple water wheel removes toxic ammonia
ranging from around $400 to more than $3,000. They’re durable, from the water. It can be made with PVC pipe, corrugated
with only the vinyl liner needing replacement every few years. fiberglass roofing, and a few other materials available from your
local home improvement store.
For the ideal home recirculating system, Van Gorder recom-
mends a pool that’s 12 feet in diameter and 3 feet high, which will Aerator. An air pump or aerator adds oxygen to the water,
hold about 2,000 gallons of water when filled within 8 inches of which is necessary to raise healthy fish.
the top. Unfiltered, that amount of water can produce only 10 to
15 pounds of fish, even with added aeration. But by controlling Emergency power. To keep aeration and pump devices run-
the temperature, removing ammonia and waste, and oxygenating ning during blackouts, connect the system to a generator, or con-
the water, that same water amount can produce more than 100 nect a simple 12-volt agitator to a car battery. Water quality won’t
pounds of fish in one growing season. Species best suited to this suffer if filtration and clarification are cut off for a few hours, but
system include tilapia, catfish, bass, carp, and trout. oxygen levels will rapidly fall if there are many fish in the pool.

Because the fish will spend all their lives in the same water, Stocking Your Water Garden
maintaining water quality is essential. Keep it clean and at the
correct temperature with enough oxygen. Smaller pools have less Once you decide which system makes the most sense for your
margin for error and will require even more management. circumstances, the next decision is which fish to raise.

Components of a home recirculating system include: “With an eye toward ‘sustainable aquaculture,’ whenever
Solar dome. This is an inexpensive plastic cover that looks possible the small-scale fish farmer should utilize those species
like a giant shower cap. Most fish recommended for backyard whose nutritional requirements are more easily met because they
fish farming are warm-water species, which grow best at water feed low on the food chain,” Van Gorder says. Feed pellets for
temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. In temperate catfish, for example, rely on soybean meal. More than 1 pound
of fish can be raised from 1 pound of dry pellets. Carnivorous
Fish-Farming Resources fish, such as trout, occupy a higher place on the food chain. It
takes 3 to 5 pounds of wild-caught fish to make enough fish meal
Small Scale Aquaculture by Steven Van Gorder for pellets that’ll produce 1 pound of cultured, carnivorous fish.

Getting Food From Water: A Guide to Backyard Aquaculture by Here are some of your best options among warm-water species
(tilapia, catfish, carp, and bass) and cool-water species (trout,
Gene Logsdon salmon, and perch).

Aquaponics Journal collection, Tilapia. Tilapia taste great and are one of the easiest fish to raise.
These fish tolerate a wide variety of water conditions, including
Pentair Aquatic Eco-Systems, low oxygen levels and high concentrations of ammonia, and are
resistant to diseases and parasites. Tilapia grow quickly under proper conditions: water temperatures of 64 to 90 degrees, 84
degrees being optimal. Water temperatures less than 50 degrees

38 MOTHER EARTH NEWS June/July 2022

Part of the Family



are fatal. Java tilapia, blue tilapia, and Nile tilapia are the best Trout
species for backyard fish farming.

Catfish. With exceptional taste and a hardy resistance to disease
and parasites, catfish are another good choice for beginning fish
farmers. Catfish grow quickly—a large fingerling can reach 1
pound within five months. Farming channel catfish is your best
bet; brown, black, or yellow bullhead catfish are other options.

Carp. Traditionally unpopular for eating, carp from backyard
aquaculture might surprise you. When cultured in clean water
and prepared properly, they can taste excellent, Van Gorder says.
Carp are hardy and disease-resistant, and they adjust to varying
water conditions. They tolerate water temperatures from 70 to
90 degrees but grow best between 80 and 85 degrees. Common
carp, grass carp, bighead carp, and silver carp can coexist in one
aquaculture system.

Bass. The best bass species to raise in your backyard is hybrid
striped bass, which has an excellent mild taste. Bass are well-
suited to cages and recirculating systems but are more difficult to
culture than tilapia, carp, or catfish. Fingerlings require attentive
care; they don’t react well to poor nutrition, rough handling,
or bright lighting. Large and small individuals must be kept
separately. Optimal water temperature is 80 degrees, but bass will
tolerate 65 to 85 degrees.

Trout and salmon. Two of the more flavorful fish, trout
and salmon require much more precise conditions than warm-
water species. Control of water temperature is the primary
factor. They require water temperatures between 55 and 60
degrees; rainbow trout can tolerate up to 70 degrees with
careful management of oxygen levels. These fish can be stocked
together and grow quickly, providing harvestable fish in one
season. The best species are rainbow or brook trout and coho
or Atlantic salmon.

Perch. Yellow perch is popular for its taste, especially in
Canada and the northern United States. These fish grow best
in water temperatures between 68 and 74 degrees. Yellow perch
eat trout feed and can grow to a harvestable size—a third of a
pound—in one season.

Whichever setup and fish you choose, you can look forward
to enjoying sustainably raised, healthy seafood delivered straight
from your backyard to your plate.

This article was originally published as “Fish Farming” in the Perch
April/May 2006 issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

40 MOTHER EARTH NEWS June/July 2022

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Used Before you buy used equipment, consult
this advice on getting the best

Tractor machine for the best deal.

By Monica White

Factors A lthough most of us would prefer
to own new equipment, some-
times purchasing used makes
sense. This is especially true for beginning
homesteaders who are still learning about

their properties and the repetitive tasks in-

volved in maintaining land and livestock.

If you’re in the market for a used tractor,

the following advice will help you assess

the value and condition of a machine be-

fore you make your final selection.

“Let the buyer beware” when flakes, or milky (a sign of coolant in

it comes to any purchase of used the oil). Make sure there’s sufficient

equipment. Even if you feel you lubricant to prevent engine damage

know a tractor’s history of use and during operation. Examine the oil

repair, it’s always a good idea to con- and the oil filter to make sure they’re

duct a thorough inspection before clean. A date printed on the filter

forking over cash and extending that may indicate the approximate date

final handshake. of the last oil change, but there are

no guarantees.

Inspection Checklist Power up the tractor from a

Begin by taking a good overall cold start, if at all possible. Place

look at the tractor, observing its gen- the gear in neutral and release the

eral condition and level of cleanli- kill switch, if one is present. Turn

ness. A well-cared-for tractor usually the ignition key switch to “on.”

indicates one that’s been well-main- The tractor should fire up without

tained. As you approach the tractor, any hesitation. (Note: The trac-

take a good look at its body parts, tor shouldn’t start while in gear.)

noting whether they appear original Gradually rev up the engine to the

to that particular tractor. Parts may approximate power takeoff (PTO)

have been replaced due to an acci- range, normally around 2,400 rpm.

dent. Sometimes, replacement parts Then, gradually decrease the engine

lead to additional problems down rev back down to idle. The com-

the line. If you suspect replacements, bustion should sound strong and

be sure to ask the owner about them. smooth throughout this process,

Look underneath the tractor to with no misfires, knocks, or sput-

observe the condition of the axles tering. Be sure to check the PTO

and drivetrain, and check for any by turning its switch to the “off ”

excessive leaks. While looking over position; the PTO should shut off

the body, examine all hoses and belts immediately. If it continues to run,

for cracks and other forms of dete- this may indicate impending clutch

rioration, and make sure connection or brake failure.

clamps are secure. Check the condi- Use a flashlight and an inexpen-

FROM TOP: FLICKR/NENAD STOJKOVIC; MONICA WHITE; ADOBE STOCK/DUSAN KOSTIC; ADOBE STOCK/BEACHFRONT; PAGE 42: MONICA WHITE tion and security of the muffler and sive voltmeter to check the electrical

exhaust pipe. If you observe a hot or components. The alternator output

warm exhaust pipe, it could indicate can be tested easily by reading the

the seller has warmed the engine be- excess battery voltage supplied by

forehand to ensure a smooth starting the alternator. With the tractor’s en-

performance. The fuel tank and fuel gine running, attach the voltmeter’s

neck should be rust-free and in good black metal rod to the correspond-

condition. The tractor’s floor pedals Carefully inspect the entire tractor to ensure the filters ing black terminal on the battery.

should be tight, not wobbly. The are clean, the PTO and gears function well, and the tire Attach the red metal rod to the cor-

same applies to the operator’s seat. tread and rubber are in good condition. responding red battery terminal. A

Also, confirm the presence of a good good alternator reading on a 12-volt

working seat belt. liquid has leaked from the tires onto the tractor battery will fall between 14.2 and

Tractor tires can be expensive, especially metal wheels, it can rust the rims. 14.7 volts. If the reading is outside that

the large rear tires. Check the quality of range, it indicates an alternator that’s ei-

the rubber as well as the treads. Neither Throttle Up ther too weak or too strong.

should be excessively worn, cracked, or be- Never turn on a tractor without first be- Turn on both the heater and air con-

ginning to deteriorate. Check that the rims ing securely settled into the driver’s seat. If ditioner, if the tractor has them. All the

and valve stems aren’t rusty. Many older you start a tractor while standing beside it, tractor lights should work well. Flickering

tractors have a mix of water and calcium the machine may roll forward unexpect- lights or outages could indicate electrical

chloride added to the rear tires as a coun- edly, pinning you between the large rear issues. Gauges should read accurately and

terweight. The calcium chloride keeps the tires and resulting in serious or fatal injury. be fully functioning. Finally, the battery

water from freezing in frigid temperatures. Check the oil before starting the engine and battery terminals should be free of rust

But calcium chloride is caustic, and if the to make sure it’s not gritty with metallic and corrosion.


Check the floor pedals for stability, and take a test drive on terrain that’s similar to your own land’s.

Test Drive a quick hydraulic test by disengaging the for a used tractor. Try looking on www. FROM LEFT: ADOBE STICK/PPSTOCK; FLICKR/SHUBA
brakes and placing the gear in neutral.,, and www.
Approach the tractor test drive with care On level ground, the tractor’s front wheels Invest time upfront to
and caution. Take into consideration that should become raised—a pretty good in- research recalls and other mechanical is-
you’re operating unfamiliar equipment in dication the hydraulic pump is working sues peculiar to the make and model of the
unfamiliar territory. properly. If they don’t, there may be fur- tractor you’re considering.
ther issues concerning the hydraulics and
The test drive should assess the tractor’s the pump. Also, check for good used machinery at
ability to handle the features and terrain local tractor dealerships with reputable ser-
found on your own property. Make cer- If any implements or attachments are vice departments. Some dealerships will fix
tain the machine is capable of handling being sold with the tractor, check that the tractor on your property or pick up the
the various power needs you’ll require of they’re in good condition, and also make tractor for servicing. You should also have
it. The horsepower of the engine and the sure the tractor’s coupling mechanism is your own means of transporting a tractor
PTO should be rated highly enough to free of connection issues. The tractor’s to and from your property.
meet the many demands essential for your steering shouldn’t pull to the left or right.
situation. As you progress through the Check the front tie rods by steering left Whether you’re dealing with a manu-
test drive, gradually increase speed, taking and right; the steering should feel solid and facturer, dealership, or private owner, don’t
the tractor through, at minimum, all of intact, not loose or with play. Check the be shy about negotiating the best deal on
the working gears. Attempt to prove the brakes in tandem and separately, if pos- price, warranties, and financing terms.
tractor’s capability and maneuverability. sible. On many tractors, a lever allows the
Observe its full range of operating perfor- operator to test the left and right brakes And don’t be afraid to walk away if
mance in high and low, and forward and separately. You disengage the left brake to you’re uncomfortable with any aspect of
reverse. If possible, drive the tractor uphill, check the right brake, and vice versa. the inspection or any negotiated terms of
downhill, and across grades. Observe the the deal. You’ll likely get a better deal by
handling performance on each maneuver, When you’re satisfied that you’ve fully waiting than by accepting a bad bargain in
and make sure the clutch isn’t slipping. tested the tractor’s operation, turn the the short term.
ignition key switch to “off” and pull the
Check the hydraulics, and that the load- kill switch full-out to engage. The tractor By staying in the driver’s seat at all times,
er raises and lowers easily. You can conduct should shut down immediately. Finally, and with a little prior knowledge and
examine the radiator’s front cover and fins preparation, you should be able to secure
Is the Price Right? to make sure they’re in good condition a good purchase and reap the full value of
and not bent or dented, and verify that a used tractor.
You can research the value of used the radiator, transmission, and hydraulic
fluids are all clean and not leaking. The Monica White is a freelance writer,
tractors by make and model on the fol- weep hole under the tractor should have
its cotter pin hanging in place. member of the Georgia Air National
lowing websites.
Shop Around Guard, and an avid runner and cyclist
Private owners in your area can be who loves the great outdoors and a good place to start when shopping
all things DIY. She divides her time
between Tampa and her self-sufficient
property in central Florida.

44 MOTHER EARTH NEWS June/July 2022

Thorburn’s Terra-cotta Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). Origin: USA, Sprouts in:
7-14 days, Ideal Temperature: 75-95 F, Seed Depth: ؇‫ؚ‬؄ ǞȁƧǘ ƮƵƵȯ‫ ة‬Plant Spacing: 24”
ƊȯƊȲɈ‫ ة‬Frost Hardy: No, Minimum Sun: ‫ ׁׂٌ׈‬ǘȌɐȲȺ


Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. photo / Lucy Hutchings. ÀǘȌȲƦɐȲȁٚȺ ÀƵȲȲƊٌ!ȌɈɈƊ ɈȌǿƊ-
ǶƊɈƵ ׁ‫׉‬Ɉǘ ƧƵȁɈɐȲɯ‫ خ‬ÀǘƵ ɈȌǿƊ-
ɈǘƵ h‫خ‬w‫ خ‬ÀǘȌȲƦɐȲȁ ‫! ۋ‬Ȍ‫ خ‬ǞȁɈȲȌ-
ׁ‫ ׃׉׈‬ƧƊɈƊǶȌǐ‫خ‬

‫ و‬ɩǘɯ‫ ث‬ÀǘƵ ǘȌȁƵɯٌƧȌǶȌȲƵƮ ɈȌ-
ǿƊɈȌ ɩǞɈǘ ȯǞȁDzٌȌȲƊȁǐƵ ˜ƵȺǘ
ɨȌȲ‫! خ‬ȌȌDzƵƮ‫ ة‬ǞɈ ǿƊDzƵȺ Ɗ ǐȌǶƮ-

ÀǘȌȲƦɐȲȁٚȺ ɩƵȁɈ ƦƊȁDzȲɐȯɈ Ǟȁ
ɨƊȁǞȺǘƵƮ‫ خ‬ÀǘƵȁ‫ ة‬Ɗ ƧƵȁɈɐȲɯ ƊǏ-
ɈƊ‫ ة‬ƊȁƮ ɩƵ ƊȲƵ ȺȌ ǐǶƊƮ ǘƵ ƮǞƮ‫ خ‬
ɯȌɐ ɩǞǶǶ ƦƵ‫ ة‬ɈȌȌ‫ خ‬



Traditional, Nutritious


Sauerkraut makes for
a surprisingly delicious
(and nutritious!) addition
to chocolate cake.
46 MOTHER EARTH NEWS June/July 2022

Invite microbes into your kitchen to create flavorful Kisiel
foods and keep fermentation traditions alive.
The most fundamental technique for
By Sandor Katz migration and cultural cross-pollination fermenting grains is simple: Soak them.
Bacteria and yeasts are naturally pres-
F ermentation is a global phenom- have always been constants, others’ prac- ent on dry grains, but they’re dormant
enon, and people in every part tices and techniques influence people in the absence of water. This is true
of the world use fermentation in everywhere. Like seeds, domesticated ani- whether the grains are whole, cracked,
mals, culinary techniques, or any aspect or finely ground, so long as they’re raw.
When grains are soaked, dormant or-
similar ways. Fermentation is a strategy for of cultural practice, fermentation spreads. ganisms awaken, metabolize nutrients,
and reproduce.
safety, producing acids, alcohol, and other Fermentation may be universal, but
Porridges and gruels are among
byproducts that prevent pathogens from cultural continuity is not. Around the the most widespread applications of
grain fermentation, found across all
growing. It makes many foods more fla- world, colonization has wiped out en- civilizations born of grain agriculture.
Unfortunately, these traditional grain
vorful and underlies the flavors of choco- tire demographic groups and displaced ferments have long waned in popular-
ity, eclipsed by baby foods, sugary ce-
late, vanilla, coffee, bread, cheese, cured others onto unknown landscapes. I have reals, and other processed foods that
render porridges and gruels unappeal-
meats, olives, pickles, condiments, and so spoken with people unable to find in-
ing to kids, despite superior nutri-
much more. Fermentation extends the life formation about their ancestors’ tradi- tive content.

span of cabbage and other vegetables (sau- tional fermentation processes because I love oat porridge and gruel.
Porridge is thicker and more sub-
erkraut and pickles), milk (cheese and yo- the cultural traditions from which they’re stantial; gruel is thinner and soupier.
They both feel so wholesome and
gurt), meat (salami), and grapes (wine). deeply nourishing for me — espe-
cially when fermented. Their nutri-
The most widespread form of fermen- tional profile contrasts sharply with
processed breakfast cereals, which are
tation is the production of alcohol, nutritionally deficient, high in sugar,
and potentially harmful over time.
from every carbohydrate source imag-
Fermented oats have many dif-
inable. Fermentation also enhances ferent regional names. In Estonia,
a beverage called kile was made of
nutrients and makes them more acces- oat flour mixed with water, then left
in warmth for a night. This filtered
sible, and it breaks down many plant sour beverage was consumed instead
of sour milk on the side of the meal.
toxins and anti-nutrient compounds. If the filtrate was boiled, it became a
kind of gruel, which was also called
Certain ferments, eaten or drunk raw kile, but also kiisel or kisla, and eaten
hot with butter or fat or, later, as a
after fermentation, provide potentially cold jelly. The boiling procedure took
a long time at slow heat and required
beneficial bacteria in great density and constant mixing; it had to meet an exact
standard of sourness. Similar gruels (also
biodiversity. similarly named) were prepared from rye
or from rye and potatoes. In Belarus,
Elaborate microbial communities lacto-fermented gruel was called kisiel,
but a semi-liquid fermented dish from
populate all the plant and animal the oat flour was called by the same
name. It was eaten with poppy or can-
products that comprise our food. nabis milk and is now, as in Estonia, rec-
ognized for historical use only.
There is, therefore, a certain inevi-

tability to microbial transformation.

Cultures around the world have made

use of this inevitability, developing

techniques that effectively guide mi-

crobial transformation, not only in Though traditional grain ferments have waned in

the context of food, but also in agri- popularity, they’re nutritious and easy to make.

culture, fiber arts, and building.

Yet far from a unified set of techniques, descended were destroyed, disrupted,

fermentation encompasses a wide array or displaced. Cultural continuity is fre-

of distinct processes and manifests in dif- quently disrupted by facets of modern

ferent ways in different places, depending life, such as urbanization, specialization,

upon which foods are abundant, the cli- and mass-produced food. Cultural prac-

SANDOR KATZ; PAGE 46: SARAH HOSKI mate, and other factors. Tropical ferments tices, wisdom, languages, and beliefs

are altogether different from the ferments disappear every year. Fermentation prac-

of the Arctic. Even when environmental tices must be used in order to maintain

differences are not so stark, the ways peo- relevance and stay alive. We must cherish

ple use microbial activity vary from place and celebrate the diversity of fermenta-

to place. Witness the diversity of chees- tion practices around the world, and

es, all made from milk. Because human document and share them.


Inspired by this description, I began 2 Stir, smell, and taste the soaking Sauerkraut Chocolate Cake FROM TOP: SANDOR KATZ; ADAM JAMES
experimenting. And because my mater- liquid daily to monitor the evolving fla-
nal grandparents, Sol and Betty Ellix, vor. I’ve gone as long as 5 days, at which Many people seem shocked at the idea
came to the United States from Belarus, point I detected notes of coconut. of a chocolate cake made with sauerkraut.
I adopted the Belarussian name kisiel for But it’s quite delicious and moist, and the
this sour oat milk and porridge. Both the 3 When you decide it’s ready, strain sauerkraut blends into the sweet cake,
oat milk and the porridge are compel- the soaking liquid from the solids. just like the shredded vegetables in a car-
ling in their deliciousness. Time frame: Enjoy the flavorful and nutritious oat rot cake or zucchini bread. The sourness
2 to 5 days, depending upon tempera- milk raw. of the kraut is mostly neutralized by the
ture and taste preference. Yield: 1 quart alkaline baking soda, and the reaction be-
oat milk and 4 to 6 servings porridge. 4 Transfer the soaked oat solids to a tween them is part of what rises the cake.
pot, cover with 4 cups fresh water, and
• 2 cups oats, rolled, cracked, or milled add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then Sauerkraut chocolate cake was first
into flour gently simmer over low heat, stirring served to me at a wonderful fermenta-
frequently to prevent burning on the tion-themed feast in Amery, Wisconsin,
• Pinch of salt bottom of the pot, until liquid thickens. where the dessert course was prepared
by pastry chef Leigh Yakaites. Leigh
1 Soak the oats in about 1 quart wa- 5 Enjoy your porridge with sweet or told me her grandmother, from Fond
ter, in a loosely covered container. savory seasonings, as you prefer. (I love du Lac, Wisconsin, used to make sau-
mine savory, with butter, peanut butter, erkraut chocolate cake when Leigh was
miso, and garlic.)

Adam James’ Turmeric Paste

Time frame: about 1 month for paste; at

least 1 week for fermenting vegetables. Ingredients You can use this paste as a perpetual pickling medium.
• 14 ounces turmeric root Turnips pickled in paste take on turmeric’s yellow color.
Yield: about 11⁄2 quarts paste. • 10 ounces garlic cloves, peeled
• 14 ounces ‘Hakurei’ or other
1 Using a food processor or an immer-
sion blender, grind the turmeric root, small, tender turnips
garlic cloves, ‘Hakurei’ turnips, and salt • 3 tablespoons salt (roughly 4%
with just enough water (roughly 2 cups)
to form a thick paste. weight of turmeric, garlic, and
2 Ferment the paste in a jar or crock
with at least a 2-quart capacity for about • About 3⁄4 pound vegetables
a month, stirring periodically. For best
results, protect the surface of the paste (daikons, turnips, carrots,
from air with an interior lid or a layer of celery, or others) to pickle once
plastic. the pickling medium is mature

3 After a month or so, the paste should

be active enough to start using as a fer-

mentation medium. Simply submerge the whole vegetables. Turnips and daikons

work well since they’re not too dense.

4 Depending on temperature, the size and density of the vegetables, and how

vigorous the medium is, the vegetables should ferment in about a week; however,

I often leave mine for a month or longer. The resulting pickles take on the intense

yellow of turmeric (another reason why white vegetables are good), shrivel slightly

due to water loss, and have a wonderful acidic and earthy crunch.

5 This paste can be used on its own as a condiment (great with mussels and

oysters); as a base for a salad or vegetable dressing (thin with olive oil, water, and

a dash of rice vinegar); as an excellent addition to fire ciders and fermented hot

sauces; or made into my all-time favorite curry paste by simply cooking it down

with fresh puréed ginger then adding a tin or two of coconut cream and some good

(preferably homemade) fish sauce and fresh lemon or lime. I also use it as a base

for brown rice congee that I serve at the farmers market. It’s a fantastic addition to

shio-koji for an intense, “fresh” hit of zingy umami.

48 MOTHER EARTH NEWS June/July 2022

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