Poverty Hollow Homestead

Learning homesteading skills and self sufficiency in a modern world

Happy New Year Friends!

Happy New Year

From Poverty Hollow Homestead

Making a Flock Block For the Chickens

Welcome Back Friends!

I hope everyone is staying warm during this cold snap.  It was 0 on the porch this morning.  No front porch sitting anytime soon!  The chickens are huddled under their heat lamp.  I’m glad I have heated buckets for the horses and  a heated waterer for the chickens.  It keeps me out of the cold and the horses drink so much more warm water which helps to prevent colic.  It was well worth the cost of the buckets and the electric to run them.  One visit from the vet would cost more than that initial investment of buckets.  There have been a lot of talk about horses getting electrocuted by water heaters in stock tanks and even the plastic stock tanks catching on fire.  So, as with anything, use common sense friends.  I don’t leave the buckets on when I’m not home .  They are on a separate breaker.  The outlets are where the horses can’t reach them.  The plugs go straight thru the stall wall so that the horses can’t play with them.  Common sense goes a long way sometimes.

Since it is so cold and outside activities and at a minimum, I did some research on making a flock block.  Paying $20.00 for a flock block from the farm store is just crazy.  I did it once because I just didn’t have the time or knowledge.  I’m not spending that again.  I found a recipe that sounds easy to make plus I had everything here!  I didn’t have to leave the Homestead!  This is big for me.  All I want to do is stay home.  I hate leaving the Hollow, even to go to work.  I’m perfectly content to stay put.  With the cold, it makes it easier to stay home.  We are all on Christmas break.  Some of us took vacation time, youngest is off from school.  Its nice having everyone here to help and just spend time together.

With the snow on the ground and everything coming to halt yesterday,  I decided it was a perfect time to make a flock block for the chickens.  This recipe is easy peasy.  I haven’t tested it out on the chickens yet because they are still cooling 🙂  To make the mold, I used a silicone mold that has 4 compartments.  I use this mold to make soap.  But you could use a bread pan, a foil pie plate if you want to hang it.  You could use anything, really. Use your imagination.  If you want to hang it, you will need to poke a hole BEFORE you bake it.  Once it is baked, it is hard.  So think this out before you make it.  Only you know what your chickens like and what your preferences are.  I have a lot of rubber floor pans laying around and I plan on putting them in a few of those around the coop.  These are going to be great to help with boredom.  They really aren’t too interested in going out with all the snow.  I don’t want them picking on each other.

Another thing to note, this recipe calls for crushed egg shells or oyster grit.  I saved some egg shells. First I rinsed them and baked them for a few minutes just to make sure the bacteria was killed and they got crunchier.  Because my chickens are known egg eaters, I didn’t want to encourage them with big pieces of egg shell, so I crushed them a little bit with a mallet in a bowl and then ran them thru the coffee grinder.  I will warn you, if you decide to do this too, it smells like when you get a cavity filled and they grind your tooth.  Yuck.  Brings back bad memories for me! 

The recipe looks like this:

  • 4 cups scratch grains
  • 2 cups layer feed (I used an 18% protein because it is so cold)
  • 2 cups oats  (I used oatmeal but your could use whole or rolled oats)
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds (I used roasted and salted shelled seeds,  It would probably be better with black oil)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup crushed eggs shells or oyster grit
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (good for immune system.  I didn’t use it because I didn’t have any)
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup coconut oil or vegetable shortening

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix dry ingredients in one bowl and wet in another bowl.  Mix each bowl together well.  Then combine the two bowls.  Mix with hands and squeeze until it stays in a form.  Fill pans and press down firmly.  Pack in really tight.  If you want to hang, use a chopstick now, to poke a hole.  Bake 30 minutes.  It will turn dark.  Let it cool for hours or overnight.  If you try to remove when hot it will fall apart. It will harden as it cools.

Tip:  don’t leave in the rain it will dissolve.

I had 3 too ripe bananas and I mashed them and stuck them in too.  It was too “wet” so I added a couple of handfuls of flour to thicken it up. I can’t wait to give them to the birds.  They are going to cackle like crazy!! I hope you give this a try.  It took like 10 minutes to make.  Not too much fussing.  If you do make them, let me know how they turn out!

Many Blessings,

Mrs. H

Finally Snow in the Hollow!!

Welcome Back Friends!!


Can you tell I’m excited?  Well I am!! We have our first measureable snow fall this season.  And guess what??  It’s still snowing!!  It is so quiet.  Everything is still.  Everyone has stopped.  There is no traffic.  Only stillness.  How often do you get to just hear nothing?  Nothing but the soft gentle falling snow.  Everything is covered in puffy white flakes.  The trees are coated.  The limbs just quietly waiting for spring.  The gentle flow of the creek is almost a trickle.  Frozen on the top with a thin layer of ice.

The chickens are hiding in their coop.  Just a little cackle from one every now and then.   Rodney won’t even leave his coop.  What a brave boy we have there!  He looks at me like I’m crazy for asking him to leave his coop.  What is this stuff on the ground?  I have never seen anything like this and you want me to leave my safe warm coop?

The horses are softly munching their hay to keep warm.  Extra is always thrown to them when it is cold.  They enjoy this time of year when they can rest, eat and just be horses.  Their blankets are on.  Their buckets are warm.  They love the hot mash and molasses they get.

We humans are huddled by the fire this afternoon.  Catching up with the weekly events.  We are drinking hot chocolate and just enjoying each other’s company.  Wondering if the power will go out.  Hoping the power goes out.  Making plans for the upcoming year.  

Friends, I hope that all of you are warm, dry and safe.  We have had some pretty frigid temperatures.  I pray each of you have the pleasure of sitting by the fire, enjoying your family as we are doing.

Until next time,

Many Blessings

Mrs. Homestead

Keeping the Home Fires Burning

Hello Friends!!!   We have the coffee perked and waiting on the woodstove today, so feel free to sit and chat awhile.   We would welcome the company today.  Its really really cold!!  The woodstove is burning and giving us all that she can and the propane house furnace is kicking on every once in awhile.  We usually go thru about 3 cords of wood a winter, from December to the middle of March when it starts to warm up.  Our house is well insulated.  For that we are thankful.  We have a full basement under the house with a one car garage.  We have the floors insulated, along with the garage door.  It’s cold down there but doesn’t freeze.  Another blessing.  No frozen pipes.  Knock on wood.  We don’t have the best of luck here.

We have a logging company deliver a triaxle load of firewood logs and Mr. Homestead cuts it up into rounds that one of the rest of us will split using the log splitter.  Then we all pitch in and stack it.  On average, it costs about $75 to heat our 1,500 square foot house for a winter.  It does take time and effort to do that.  Time can be a really hard thing to come by some years.  This year being one of those years.  We had a  feeling that the winter was going to be a hard this year.  So far we have been pretty lucky.  Until this past week, we were using the garden hose in the barn.  Last year we used the hose in the barn, without it freezing, until the second week of January.  But we are shy on having our firewood cut, stacked and seasoned.  Here she is all cleaned up and waiting for winter.

We only use Stihl chainsaws to cut firewood.  We have had nothing but success with these saws.  My dad bought a Stihl when I was kid and used that saw until he wore it out.  I think it only took about 20 years and a  pickup load of firewood every weekend.  We would go to the family farm and cut the dead stuff laying in the woods every Sunday morning.  We would come home, unload it and split and stack it in the basement for my mom.  She was the fire tender.  Now I’m the fire tender in my home.

Heating with firewood is the one of the most economical options.  We were so lucky to have bought the woodstove when they were giving tax credits.  We got every dollar back in our taxes.  So basically our only investment was around $300 for the stove pipe.  Mr. Homestead installed everything by himself.  We used ceramic tile for the floor and behind it.  Our insurance company made us buy the fire boards to use, which didn’t matter to us.  As long as they insured us, we were willing to do what they asked.   We then bought the log splitter.  Its a gas powered splitter.  I think its a 20 ton splitter.  It had a hundred dollar rebate on it, so that made the deal even better!  No hand splitting and money back!  We can usually split a cord in a few hours.  We built a little shed off the side of a shed we had built years ago.  Mr. Homestead built a few racks from supplies he found around the homestead.  There’s always something laying around from projects.  We stack a few weeks supply on the covered porch.  This makes it easier to carry each day.  I only keep a days worth of wood in the house.  When we know that its getting really cold or its going to snow, I will bring in more.  Naturally when its colder out we burn more.

The woodstove has a flat surface that I cook on.  I will keep a tea kettle of water on all the time.  I love to make soup on it.  The soup can just simmer all day.  I have baked bread on top of it in a cast iron dutch oven.  Baked potatoes in the dutch oven, fried bacon and eggs in a cast iron skillet.  It has been a really good experience.  I usually keep a big pot with just water in it for dishes.   Its such a good self-sustaining tool.  There is nothing like being able to heat the house, cook your dinner and dry your clothes by using one appliance.  No longer do we fear the power going out.  We are able to heat and cook with confidence.  If you are looking for a constant steady heat,  wood is an excellent option if you aren’t afraid of a little bit of hard work.   It’s economical and gives you a sense of self-reliance.  If you don’t go out and cut the wood, you will freeze.  But cutting firewood is the job that heats you twice.  Once when you cut it and once when you burn it. :0

So, if you are ever in the area, the tea water is always on over the winter.  Stop in.  We will sit a spell and catch up.

Many Blessings,

Mrs. Homestead


Help Them!! They Are Molting!!

Welcome back to the Homestead Friends!

Today I’m talking about the poor little chickens.  They are MOLTING!!   Please don’t tell them they are.  I think they will be embarrassed by their little bare bums.  They look so miserable.  It really has to hurt.  This is our first molt.  I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had seen pictures of chickens molting and knew to expect it.  It actually is really neat to see the entire process and what their bodies are made to do.  See that bare bum!

Chickens molt to prepare their bodies for winter by shedding damaged feathers and regrowing new ones.  They usually stop laying during the molt.  Their bodies need to use all the protein they consume to grow those new feathers.  It is really important to help them through this process.  Adding a feed with extra protein is essential.  I added a feed called feather fixer. It has an 18% protein content.  I also have a separate container of  black oil sunflower seeds for them to have free choice.   I have also added a flock block to the coop as well.  There are lots of recipes out there for flock blocks.  I haven’t had time to really look into making my own, so I bit the bullet and paid for one.  I think this will help with boredom too.

The coop needs to be bedded nicely.  I use sawdust since that’s what I have on the homestead already.  When the first ones started molting, we kept them in the coop.  They really didn’t want to move around much and just laid around.  About 4-5 of them molted and I thought they would all do it at the same time.  But here we are at the end of December and the last couple are still molting.  I added a heatlamp to the coop that we turn on at night. They can’t be warm without feathers right?  I do like to just let them be and live without too much interference.  I just feel that they know what they need naturally.  When we start sticking our noses in, that’s when things start going wrong.  If we let the animal tell us what they need, they will be much happier.  All we have to do is listen to what they are telling us.

Here you can see the waxy capsules that the feathers come out in.  They shed these as they grow. It’s really neat to see and to feel.

For the most part, they free range around the coop and barn. They like to lay their eggs in the sawdust bin, so it can be a bit of a search and rescue to gather eggs.  I don’t mind looking for them.  It’s kinda fun trying to find eggs.  Like Easter egg hunts every day!!  I have trained them to come to the sound of a cracker bag.  They all come running when I start shaking it.  When the molt is over, egg production will still be low due to the shorter days and the cold.  As the days get longer and we pass the freezing cold, it will pick back up.  If you are considering chickens on your homestead or for your backyard, you will definitely want to take this into consideration.  Especially if you plan on selling eggs.  It could be a bit of extra money to at least earn the cost of feed.  For this reason, I’m considering getting another dozen chicks this spring.

So if any of your chickens start to act weird in the fall or you find a lot of feathers in the coop, know that they are going to be okay.  Give them extra protein and let nature take its course.  Be patient.

Many Blessings,

Mrs. Homestead


Easy Taco Ring Dinner

Easy Taco Ring Dinner

With the New Year coming upon us, I am trying to find easy recipes to make.  Winter makes homestead chores harder to do. They take more time the colder it gets.  Breaking ice in buckets.  Carrying water. Blanketing everyone.  Adding extra bedding.  Lets not even say how hard it is to clean stalls! Everything is just a frozen mess.  Then  you have the ice on the ground under all the snow making it hard to walk.  Now, in southwest PA, we have been very lucky in the terms of winter for the past few years.  This year we were so blessed to have a white Christmas.  It was almost magical.  Like the Christmas’ that I grew up with.  I remember going to my Grandma’s and seeing the snow, just having that feeling of joy.  🙂

Anyway, having easy recipes to fall back on is such a convenience.  Coming in from the cold and cooking a big meal is something I have no desire to do.  I do not like inside chores. I hate to cook the older I get.  Or maybe its the clean up I hate.  I’ve been looking for different recipes and foods to try that might be friendly to everyone.  Pinterest is a great resource for this or magazines.  I rarely get recipes from friends.  We are too busy catching up because we all work so much and never get to visit each other.  So when I found this recipe in a magazine I had to try it.  I just wish I knew which magazine I found it in!  Our youngest is a hard one to feed.  As any typical kid is, she likes something this week and hates it the next.  I have to watch any kind of processed food or it creates bad behaviors.  She’s a good kid, for the most part and I don’t want her to get aggressive or belligerent (or as belligerent as a non-verbal kid can get)!

This Easy Taco Ring calls for a package of Taco Seasoning. I make my own seasoning mix.  It’s one less thing to buy and I have all the seasonings in my pantry already.  I try to find recipes that are frugal and call for things that I usually buy or have on hand.

Brown the ground beef and add the taco seasoning.Roll the crescent dough out onto a baking stone or pan. I used a foil lined pizza pan because I knew the cheese was going to make a mess. That’s just how it is.  You want the big part of the crescent roll to be on the outer edge of the pan.  The pointy part to the center.Add the cheese and sour cream to the beef mixture to the crescents and fold the pointy end over the beef mixture.

I sprinkled with more cheese and baked at 350 for around 25-30 minutes.  It was golden brown and yummy looking.Please excuse the mess.  :0

I added lettuce and sour cream.  I have to say, it was pretty good!  The youngest ate 6 pieces of it!Hope this can add another recipe to your collection.  While it baked, I ran out and fed the animals.  The youngest was able to help make it, which is a plus because all she wants to do is help!

Enjoy the Many Blessings,

Mrs. Homestead

Easy Taco Ring

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 528 kcal


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 package taco seasoning or 2 Tablespoons homemade mix
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I shredd my own)
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 2 packages refrigerated crescent rolls


  1. Cook beef over medium-high heat until browned.  Drain and rinse grease off. Add seasoning mix and water. Bring to a boil and add drained and rinsed beef.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until water is evaporated.

  2. Mix ground beef mixure, 1/2 of the cheese and 1/2 the sour cream, combining well.

  3. Roll crescent dough out onto a baking stone or sheet. (I used a foil covered pizza pan).  You want to make the shape of a sunflower with the triangle points pointing outward.  Spread ground beef mix onto the dough in a circular shape.  Wrap pointed end of dough around the beef mixture, sealing to the other end of dough making a ring shape.

  4. Bake until golden ground about 25 minutes.  Serve with remaining cheese and sour cream and any other taco toppings you might enjoy!

Merry Christmas from the Homestead

From The Homestead

Meeting the Homestead Members Part 2

Welcome Back Friends!

We hope all of you are well and healthy. Been some sickness here on the homestead in the form of head colds and just the crud in general.  With the weather turning colder, its bound to happen.  We just used some well chosen essential oils and felt better in no time at all.  Let’s just hope that will  be the end of it for the winter.  I have been reading about  the effectiveness of elderberry syrup.  I’m thinking I may want to give it a try.  If it means the family is healthier, I’m all for it.

Today, I’m going to introduce you to the rest of the homestead critters.  As I’ve said before, we have 17 chickens here.  You have already met the horses.  then there is the doggie and the kitties.

In the winter of 2016, we decided we were ready to expand on the homestead with the addition of chickens.  We went to the local farm store in the beginning of April and chose 6 chicks.  I wanted a dozen. My thought was I was bound to lose some.  If I had a dozen, then lost 3-4, I could still provide eggs for our immediate family.   Mr . Homestead didn’t want 6 and thought that my logic was skewed.  Then Madge got sick.  I did a google search and kept squirting molasses water in her and she perked up.  That’s when we got 6 more.   My logic wasn’t so terrible after all !  Ha Ha

April turned into May and Mr. Homestead started getting worried that we would never get a coop done.  The girls were moved from a tote in the basement to a stock tank in the shed.  We decided to take an old Rubbermaid shed and turn it into a coop.  It just needed to be moved into a safe place and a run built around.  We did just that.  Moved the shed and added a run.  I really don’t feel you need to spend thousands on a chicken coop.  It would take selling a lot of eggs to get your return on that investment.  When the girls were turned out in there, they were comfortable and happy.

This past spring, we bought 3 leghorns and 3 Americanas.  Again, we went to our local feed store.  Basically, doing that is a crap shoot.  These employees really have no idea what they have.  They  aren’t educated in chicken husbandry. They are just doing their job.  Well we ended up with Rodney the Rooster.  Our oldest came to us and said I heard a crow and it came from that one right there!  Sure enough!!! It was a Rooster.  I have no experience with raising chicks.  I have no idea how to do it and frankly, right now, I don’t have the energy for it.  So I think Rodney may turn into soup one day.

When we finally put the chicks in with the older hens, we waited until the chicks were about 3 months old.  I didn’t want the older hens to peck at the chicks.  They can be pretty cruel.  It went well.  But we soon found that Rodney needed a different home.  He would pick on the girls unmercifully!  He would keep some of them away from food and water.  He tried to control the chicks he was raised with and wouldn’t let them socialize.  We had to move Rodney into a coop of his own.  We put him in the woodshed for the winter.  He gets put in the chicken tractor when the girls are free ranging in the yard.  If the girls aren’t out, I let him run about.  He mostly just makes noise and hangs outside the coop that the girls are in.  Like a teenager.

Chickens have been a really fun addition to the Homestead. They are really easy to tend.  I bought a 5 gallon water pail and I fill it about 3 times a week.  I try to give it a good scrub once a week.  I also bought 3 gallon feeders.  With two feeders, I can go almost a week without refilling them.  We try to clean the coop out about once a month.  We bed the coop with sawdust that we already have for the horses.  The nesting boxes get cleaned once a week and rebedded with hay that has fallen out of the bales that we fed the horses.  I try to repurpose everything I  can.  It’s the only way to be able to afford to do these extra things in life.  Mr. Homestead and I both work off the homestead.  We don’t make an income off the Homestead yet.  Being creative is the only we can do what we love to do.

Don’t be afraid to try to raise chickens.  They are easy and cheap.  One of the few animals that you get an almost immediate return from.  They are cheap entertainment.  I could watch them for hours! They are so comical.  You can always sell the eggs to help pay for the feed. People love the idea of buying local eggs from people they know.  We keep can almost keep up to our families demand.  We give about 3 dozen away a week when they are in good production.

Now we can’t forget Miss Molly and Kolalt and latest edition of little Luna, or lunatic as I call her!

Many Blessings Friends,

Poverty Hollow Homestead

Gathering Black Walnuts

Welcome Back Friends!

Well, I did it!  I managed to gather Black Walnuts before the squirrels got them all.  It was really warm last week and I decided to go on the hunt.  When we first moved in the hollow, in fact the very same week, the power company came thru and cut several trees that was in their right of way.  We had no idea how valuable they were.  20 years later and we are a little bit smarter now!   We do have one tree in the pasture that we are going to cut down.  Black Walnut trees are toxic to horses.  You never want horses to come into contact with black walnut sawdust. It will cause laminitis, which is an inflammatory condition of the tissues that bond the hoof wall to the coffin bone in the hoof.  This will lead to years of agony for the horse.  It’s a horribly crippling disease.   So I definitely do not want to take any chances with the horses.  I always avoid turning out in this pasture during the fall.  Mr. Homestead wants to just pull it down with the tractor.  I think this would be best, too.  That way there would be no traces left behind.  We would like to try to make furniture or something with this tree.  The marbling and color of the wood is incredible. Any furniture would turn out beautiful.  I think a bench for the porch would be nice.

Black Walnuts have this ability to release a toxin from their roots that will kill anything that grows around them.  This gives them the competitive advantage to occupy the ground around it.  This is really undesirable because it will kill anything you plant around them.  We can’t plant a garden or flowers around them.  Since most of our trees are in the woods or our yard, we really don’t mind them being here.  If I am able to figure out how to correctly harvest and cure the walnuts then they can stay forever.

We have picked them up in past years but haven’t taken the time to do anything with them.  This year is the year.  I want to learn how to peel the hull and dry them for us to use.  From what I have read, black walnuts are stronger in taste than the English walnuts we buy in the grocery store.  I think then you would just have to use less in any recipes you will be using them in.  I plan on sharing those recipes and share the results with you. 

On my adventure to find walnuts, I was of course, joined by the critters. They enjoy the hunt as well. Or maybe just someone to follow. There were a lot of walnuts to be picked up. I decided to just pick up a small basket full and leave the rest for the squirrels. There won’t be any waste that’s for sure.

It was an enjoyable time spent outdoors.  Stay tuned as I learn how to turn these little green covered things into a delicious muffin.  Yummy!

Many Blessings,

Mrs. Homestead


Meet the Homestead Members

Welcome Back Friends!

Today I’m going to introduce you to some of the critters of the Homestead.  We have four riding horses here.  17 chickens, a dog, barn cats and housecats.  My favorite, hands down, is the horses.  I was so blessed to get a horse for my 16th birthday.  That was 30 years ago and my love for them hasn’t diminished one bit.  Something you don’t know is that our youngest was born with cerebral palsy.  This is something that I will talk about in the future.  Horses have helped her in so many ways.

When my husband and I got married, we could barely feed ourselves let alone a horse.  We were busy earning a living and just getting used to married life.  We bought our property and it has a few acres.  I remember when the previous owner sold it, she told me how many horses she used to run on the property.  My reply was maybe someday.  When the youngest was born, she was born a lot of health problems.  That is how we were introduced to therapeutic  riding.  Which led to us welcoming two wonderful mares into our family.

Now, if you know anything about pets and people, you know that when you have so much fun with them that you have to have more.  That’s when we bought another.  Then a few years later we bought a yearling.  We lost two of the best horses.  That’s one of the realities on a homestead as in life.  Death is a part of life.  Knowing that doesn’t make it any easier.  These animals are a part of your life.  They are your friends, your confidant, your partner.  But  we were fortunate enough to find another mare for the youngest.  This mare is a gem. She has such a bond with the youngest. I have read about such bonds but have never witnessed it.  Our oldest has a strong bond with her horse.  They have showed with 4-H for years.  They have earned walls of ribbons together.  Their bond is different than the youngest and her horse.

We were very fortunate to adopt a mare that was sent to a holding pen for slaughter.  This mare is such a sweetheart.  She appreciates every single thing you do for her.  She is the comedian of the crew.  She will untie your shoes or unzip your coat.  She is always full of laughs.  She is the easiest keeper of them all.  She has never caused me any trouble other than learning how to open the round pen gate and escaping!

Horses for us, have been such a good family experience.  They have taught us so much.  Caring for them is second nature.  Knowing their individual personalities is such an honor.  People who don’t understand them, will never get how they have emotion. They want to please but they also can be the recipients of human abuse.  In my opinion, for the size of these animals, they can be the most gentle, loving creatures.  Adding a horse to your homestead can be such an enriching experience.  They can also be a necessity.  Just think about it.  If the grid goes down, you can still ride your horse.  They need grass to eat.  That’s it.  A tractor needs fuel that may not be available.  A car needs gas that may not be available.  But I will always be able to saddle up and get to town or a doctor.  It might take me awhile but I still have that choice available.

We are trying to figure out how to use their manure to heat our home.  Talk about ultimate self-sufficiency!  It  would be great to experiment with that.  Anyone know anything about doing something like and want to share with us.  We would love to hear from you.

Do any of you have plans on adding a horse to your homestead?  Its a great experience for the kids.  You get so much in return other than just fertilizer.

Speaking of horses, time to go muck a stall! Until next time friends!

Many Blessings,

Mrs. Homestead




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