Snakes Alive! Get To Know Common Farm Serpents

My son Jaeson and I were out a couple of mornings ago, doing the daily farm chores. While I checked and reset our live traps, Jaeson went to fill the chicken and duck waterers. Suddenly, I heard a startled “Oh!” Looking up, I saw Jaeson, waterer in hand, standing statue-still and staring at the ground. 

“What is it?” I called out.

“There’s a snake here,” he told me.

“Is it a garter snake?” I asked, assuming it was one of the little yard snakes common to our farm. 

Jaeson didn’t take his gaze off the ground. “Noooooo … it’s a big fat snake and it’s reared its head up at me and is really mad.”

I immediately stopped what I was doing and dashed across the grass to the run fence and peeked in. Sure enough, a dark snake with a white underbelly was reared up, cobra style, about half a foot off the ground, continually flicking its tongue at Jaeson, who stood perhaps three feet away.

Subscribe now

“I didn’t even see it was a snake,” Jaeson told me. “I thought someone had left the garden hose in here.” 

I walked down the fence line to come even with the snake and gasped. It was at least another two feet longer, thicker than a garden hose, and its tail was upright and vibrating swiftly back and forth in a blur. Rattler, I thought. The coloration didn’t match our state’s sole rattlesnake, the shy Massasauga, but that tail convinced me Jaeson was in peril.

I had him slowly back away. The snake remained in its defensive posture. 

Once he was clear, we discussed our immediate options. With the snake just two feet from the coop’s pop door, we decided against releasing the birds, since we’d have to approach the angry serpent.

We decided to save this coop for the last/ I stood guard and watched the snake while Jaeson dealt with the other henhouses. Just as he returned, the snake took off at incredible speed, heading for the front of the run.

We dashed out of the way and lost total track of where he went, which resulted in us standing still and craning our necks every which way for a few minutes until Jaeson spotted him … under the duck shelter where the feed bowl was. 

Of course.

Jaeson let the ducks out, and fortunately they headed straight for their pool. This gave us the opportunity to fill their waterer and put it back in place. Our slithery friend, however, was not moving from the shade of the shelter.

Using a spare fence post, I retrieved the food bowl, which Jaeson filled. “Now what?” he asked. The ducks weren’t particularly smart. They wouldn’t know to look for their food in another part of the run. In addition, we were expecting rain and didn’t want the food to get ruined by the expected precipitation.

I finally made the decision to put the bowl back…

Continue reading

How to Start Prepping on a Budget: Become a Prepper With No Money

Prepping Budget How to make every Dollar count

You can’t put a price on the security of your family… but you can put a price on all of the prepping supplies you need to get secure!

Getting started with prepping can seem expensive. And I’m not going to lie; you will have to shell out some cash to prepare for disasters.

But there is no reason that prepping has to be expensive.

Here’s how to prep on a budget so every dollar counts.

Start with a Prepping List

Don’t buy any prepping supplies or gear until you’ve made a complete list of everything you need. Otherwise, you will buy duplicates of some items (like that prepper I know with 10 lbs of dried tomatoes but no grains) and missing important items.

All of the prepping supplies can be broken down into categories:

Break Your List Down by Priority

Now that you’ve got your prepping supplies list, you must identify the core items you need. Identify the things you need for your Bug Out Bag (see a list here).

These are the items you should get ASAP. Then work your way up to a 30 day supply. You can then focus on long-term prepper supplies, like food buckets.

Set Your Prepping Budget

If you want to make every single dollar count to the maximum, you’ve got to set a prepping budget.

You might think, “But I don’t have a prepping budget!” EVERYONE has a prepping budget.

If you have no money to spend, your prepping budget is zero. Zero is still a budget (yes, you can still prep with zero dollars to spare).

  • If you have a sizeable prepping budget: Resist the urge to rush out and buy a lot of fancy gear and pricy security systems. Identify the core items you need and get these first. Do your research and invest in quality.
  • If you have a small prepping budget: Divide your list into expensive and cheap items. Buy some cheap items every week. Set aside a certain amount of money each week to buy pricier items.
  • If you have zero in your prepping budget: Learn how to make your own supplies from cheap and recycled items. Read more about DIY survival projects.

Tips for Stretching Your Prepping Budget

Again, I need to emphasize that the most important thing you can do when prepping on a budget is prep with a plan. 

If you don’t have a plan of what items to buy, you will spend too much money on certain items or waste money when you throw things away.

Here are some tips for how to prep on a budget.

Rotate Your Stockpile

Let’s say you’ve built up a year’s supply of non-perishable foods like canned soups and pasta. Well, even “non-perishable” foods go bad!

Throwing away food is the same as throwing away money!

Once you surpass the 30 day food stockpile, you will need to develop a…

Continue reading

What Foods Can Be Canned in a Water Bath?

Most people understand that not all foods can be processed using the water bath method, but many don’t know exactly which foods can be preserved this way. While water bath canning can only be used to preserve highly acidic or acidulated foods, its abilities extend far beyond simple jams and jellies.

Low-acid foods are not acidic enough to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, so foods that are processed using a water bath must have a pH level of 4.6 or lower. There are occasions where adding citric acid, lemon juice, or vinegar is necessary to facilitate this process.  

If you’re new to canning, review our full instructional guide to learn more about water bath canning. Otherwise, try adding some of these home-canned foods to your food storage. 

1. Conserves

Conserves usually include two or more fruits and frequently contain raisins and/or nuts. Examples include peach-pineapple-orange conserves or fig conserves with walnuts. They have a thick, chunky texture and are traditionally eaten with meats and cheeses. 

2. Fruit Butters

Fruit butters are made from fruit pulp and are cooked down slowly with sugar until thickened to a spreadable consistency. Fruit butters normally contain less sugar than other preserves and often include the addition of herbs and spices for added flavor.

3. Jams

Jam is made from crushed or chopped fruits and sugar that are cooked to a smooth consistency. Some jams have enough natural pectin, but others require the addition of acid or pectin. Berries usually make the best jams.

4. Jellies

Jellies are made by cooking fruits and extracting their juices. These fruit juices are then mixed with the perfect proportions of sugar, pectin, or acid to give them a firm shape. When jelly is cut, it quivers but holds its shape. 

5. Marmalades

Marmalades are typically made with citrus fruits and usually contain soft, thin pieces of fruit or citrus peel evenly suspended in a transparent jelly. It’s most often eaten with breakfast breads like toast, biscuits, or scones.  

6. Preserves

Similar to jams, preserves are made with large or whole pieces of fruit and are cooked in such a way that the fruit retains its texture and shape. Usually, a bright, translucent syrup surrounds the fruit, giving it a good consistency for spreading. 

7. Fresh Fruits

Wild blackberry bushWild blackberry bush

Fresh fruits can be raw packed or hot packed and then submerged in hot syrup. Some fruits need to be treated to prevent darkening. This can be done with a solution of one gallon of water mixed with two tablespoons each of salt and vinegar, or a commercial ascorbic acid. 

Sugar is not necessary when canning whole fruits, but it does improve the appearance and flavor and keeps your fruit firm. Recipes for light, medium, and heavy syrups are readily available and easy to find. 

These are the most common fruits used in…

Continue reading

Recipes: Ma’s Texas Caviar Is Easy, Versatile & Tasty

One tried-and-true recipe that has been made for decades and continues to be a crowd pleaser is my mom’s version of Texas caviar. It can easily be made ahead a day or two. It’s a perfect addition to pretty much any gathering.

Serve with Fritos Scoops, corn tortilla chips or even use it as a condiment to spoon over tacos. You can also get creative and enjoy it as a filling for a lettuce wrap

Yield: 3 quarts  


  • 1 (15oz) can shoe peg corn (sweet corn is a fine substitute) 
  • 1 (15oz) can black-eyed peas (rinsed and strained) 
  • 1 (15oz) can black beans (rinsed and strained) 
  • 1 (15oz) can kidney beans (rinsed and strained) 
  • 1 (15oz) can pinto beans (rinsed and strained) 
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded, finely diced 
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced 
  • 3 to 4 jalapeno peppers, finely diced 
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar 
  • 1/2 cup avocado oil (or olive oil if you prefer) 
  • 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar 

Read more: Grow your own beans in the garden! They’re good for you and the soil.


Start by combining the syrup ingredients in a small sized saucepan. Boil 2 minutes, remove from heat and allow to completely cool. 

While the syrup cools, in a large bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients. Once the syrup is cooled, pour it over the bean mixture and stir well. Cover and transfer the “caviar” to the refrigerator and allow it to chill for at least two hours, or ideally, overnight.  

Subscribe now

Enjoy within one week. After a few days, the ingredients do begin to soften so I usually finish ours up by day four or five. 

Trick for Simplicity

When my mom was making this recipe once, she didn’t have a bowl large enough to mix up all the ingredients in. But she had a plastic gallon sized zipper storage bag.

This was an aha moment for her because this made making the recipe incredibly simple, not only for mixing together, but also for refrigerator storage and transportation. She rinsed all the canned ingredients, strained them, and dumped them into the baggie. She added all her chopped vegetables and poured the cooled syrup over the mixture. She zipped it up tightly and gently mixed things together with her hands, through the baggie, and stored it in the refrigerator until she was ready to serve it.

She’s continued to make it this way since!  


Frozen (thawed before using in recipe) or fresh corn can be used in place of canned. 

My mom never measured this recipe until I asked her to for this Hobby Farms contribution. That being said, feel free to be flexible with the ingredients. There is no hard measurement you must stand by. If you want more or less hot peppers or onions, adjust the recipe. If you want to add some fresh herbs or other seasonings, or use…

Continue reading

Nesco Snackmaster Encore Review: A Dehydrator You Can Trust

A good dehydrator changes the game. 

Homesteaders with the ability to dry and preserve food can save time, money, and tons of perishables that would otherwise go to waste. But many simply can’t afford the price tag on a top-end unit. 

The Nesco Snackmaster Encore is an affordable solution, making high-quality dehydrated food accessible to everyone.

Nesco Snackmaster EncoreNesco Snackmaster Encore

This hearty little machine can dehydrate everything from wild game to frozen fruit. It’s easy to use, incredibly versatile, and sits at a price point we can all get on board with. 

Quick Specs

Nesco Snackmaster Encore Food Dehydrator

Dimensions: 14” L x 10” W x 10” H | Weight: 6.8 pounds | Power: 500 W | Temperature: 95°–160° F

Those interested in dehydrating more food at once can snag an easy-to-use expansion pack of two additional trays.


  • Dries thoroughly
  • Affordable
  • Temperature controls
  • Runs at 95°–160° F
  • Easy to clean
  • Liquids tray
  • Suitable for meat

Nesco Snackmaster Encore Food DehydratorNesco Snackmaster Encore Food Dehydrator

Special Features

The Snackmaster was designed to provide quality dehydrating at an affordable cost. Many enthusiasts consider it a great “starter” dehydrator, but it boasts various features that can compete with units at a much higher price point. 

Top-Mounted Fan

In the world of electric dehydrators, the top-mounted fan reigns supreme—at least in my book.

Top-mounted fans sit above the food and direct warm air downward for circulation. While this makes the unit moretop-heavy, it’s a trade-off I prefer.

Bottom-mounted fans get really dirty. Even if a fan guard is in place, food particles and drops of liquid inevitably get all over it. 

Nesco Snackmaster EncoreNesco Snackmaster EncoreThe engine and fan are mounted on the removable top end of the unit. 

Quietly Powerful

The Nesco Snackmaster Encore has an impressive 500-watt engine. You can definitely hear the motor working, but it’s a pleasant background noise rather than a distracting whir of activity.

I work from home, and the unit never disturbs me. Unlike other noisier appliances, I can plug it in and leave it to purr away. 

Adjustable Thermostat

Some units come with factory temperature settings, but a thermostat you can manually adjust is always better. You’ll need a different temperature when dehydrating meat items than you would to dehydrate things like herbs. 

You also need a wide variety of temperatures to get the most out of your dehydrator, and the Snackmaster delivers. The dial is easy to turn, and there’s even a temperature guide printed next to it.

Nesco Snackmaster EncoreNesco Snackmaster EncoreIt’s hard to make temperature mistakes with a machine this intuitive.

Patented Drying System

The way this unit dries is unique and remarkable. It utilizes Nesco’s patented Converga-Flow drying system,…

Continue reading

How to Make Dehydrated Vegetable Chips

Summer is the season of plenty.  

These magical months bring an array of garden-fresh veggies, but those with exceptionally green thumbs may wind up with more produce than they can handle.

Why not turn the excess into a healthy, tasty chip? 

Drying veg for chips is easy and fun, but it’s not as simple as it seems. Read on to learn how to make dehydrated vegetable chips correctly and discover essential techniques to keep them crispy, crunchy, and crave-able all summer.

Golden Rules for Making Veggie Chips

Dehydrated chips on a plateDehydrated chips on a plate

Dehydrating food for immediate consumption is not the same as dehydrating food for MREs or long-term storage.

While dehydrated veggie chips can be stored safely for extended periods, these flavorful little bites are meant to be eaten fresh. Since you won’t be rehydrating them later, it’s essential to learn some guidelines to make them taste good as-is. 

Choose Your Vegetables Wisely

You can dehydrate most vegetables, but not all of them make great chips. You’ll want to avoid those that are squishy when ripe, such as tomatoes or avocados.

They will dry out but won’t take on a crunchy texture in the dehydrator. Veggies with a more solid structure, like squashes, roots, and tubers, are better for crispy chips. 

If you’re unsure what vegetables to use, I’ve listed my favorites below. Just remember that dehydrating is a choose-your-own-adventure type of activity. Just because I’ve never had success with carrots doesn’t mean you can’t. It’s important to play around and see what you like. 

Crisp winners

  • Yams
  • Beets
  • Yuca
  • Pea pods
  • Kale
  • Squash

Limp losers

  • Carrots
  • Romaine 
  • Onion
  • Okra
  • Arugula 

Dehydrated chipsDehydrated chipsYams crisp up nicely in the dehydrator. 

Know When to Blanch

Blanching is a way to pre-treat vegetables by scalding them in hot water, steaming them, or even popping them in the microwave.

This brief heat immersion lets them release liquid, dry faster, and retain texture and color when dehydrated. It also begins the cooking process, breaking down tough starch and fiber in the produce. 

Blanching is crucial when working with starchy or fibrous roots like potatoes and beets. They wind up discolored and leathery if you don’t blanch them, tasting like a dry version of the raw root you started with.

On the other hand, watery veggies like zucchini and squash don’t need to be blanched. Their starch content is minimal, their fibers are easy to chew, and blanching makes them go mushy. 

Dehydrated chipsDehydrated chipsThink blanching doesn’t matter? Think again. The potato on the left was blanched before dehydration and turned out delicious, while the one on the right wasn’t and tasted awful. 

Utilize Oil and Salt the Smart Way

Salt is integral to an excellent dehydrated chip….

Continue reading

So, Is It Illegal To Collect Rainwater in Arkansas?

Water is one of the most precious resources we have, and it is doubly precious in the middle of any situation where our usual water supplies are cut off or contaminated.

One of the very best things you can do to ensure your continued access to water, no matter what, is to install a rain catching system on your property.

flag of Arkansas

People have been doing it for thousands and thousands of years, but some states actually tightly regulate the practice.

How about Arkansas? Is it illegal to collect rainwater in Arkansas?

No, it isn’t illegal to collect rainwater in Arkansas but the practice is tightly controlled and regulated. The State Board of Health dictates that any collected rainwater is only used for non-potable purposes, and all systems must comply with the Arkansas Plumbing Code.

This is something of a major disappointment if you live in Arkansas. Compared to every other state in the south, Arkansas has significantly more regulations and oversight on the design, installation and use of rainwater collection systems.

But, it’s just something you’ll have to deal with if you want to set up your own in the state. Keep reading and I’ll tell you everything else you need to know.

Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the State Level in Arkansas?

No, the collection of rainwater isn’t illegal at the state level in Arkansas but it is tightly controlled through the State Board of Health. See 17-38-201.

The board of Health has been empowered by the legislature to set standards for the use of rainwater collection systems by citizens.

In short, every rainwater collection system in the state must comply with the edicts of the State Board of Health.

That means they must all be designed by professional engineers and fully comply with the codes laid down and the Arkansas Plumbing Code.

Is Collection of Rainwater Illegal at the County Level?

No, my knowledge there is no county in Arkansas that makes the collection of rainwater outright illegal.

That being said, individual counties and city governments might institute even stricter laws and ordinances concerning the use of rain water catching systems.

It’s bad enough having to comply with the water state laws, but now you must double check and ensure that your local authorities aren’t going to make the process even harder.

I would expect permitting processes and inspections as a matter of course, particularly in more populous areas.

Under What Conditions Can Citizens Collect Rainwater in Arkansas?

Citizens of Arkansas can collect as much water as they want with their systems whenever it is raining, and there is no state statute determining times or seasons when rainwater collection is off-limits or restricted.

But with that said, it isn’t out of the question that local or state authorities might issue restrictions or total stoppages on the practice depending on any emergencies that have arisen.

Especially in the case of drought, groundwater or below ground water source…

Continue reading

A Few Expert Tips On Harvesting More Produce And Longer Storage

There is a unique satisfaction in cultivating and preserving our own crops, serving as a reminder that the convenience of supermarkets falls short of its promises. After dedicating our time and effort throughout spring and summer to grow our own food, it would be a shame not to fully utilize the harvest.

However, handling the abundance of summer crops can be quite challenging as they all seem to ripen simultaneously.

During the peak of summer, it is advisable to inspect garden plants every other day to identify what needs to be harvested. Remember that the smaller versions of fully ripe fruits and vegetables often offer the best taste and nutrition.

Once you gather the bounty, choose a storage and preservation method that suits your time constraints. If you find yourself with a free Saturday morning after harvesting, you might consider trying your hand at smoking chipotles or making pickles and chutney. On a busy weeknight, though, it may be more practical to preserve the produce by freezing it. And, of course, relish in the pleasure of consuming as many succulent, ripe, garden-fresh gems packed with optimal nutrition as possible—while they are still available!


HARVESTING: Different tomato varieties ripen at different rates. Some types ripen all at once, while others, like cherry tomatoes, continue to bear fruit throughout the season. Check your plants every few days or daily during the peak of harvest, picking the ripe ones as you spot them. Leaving a short stem attached to the tomatoes will help extend their freshness.

STORE: Fresh tomatoes are best stored at room temperature and should never be refrigerated. Keep them away from other fruits, such as bananas, as they can hasten ripening. Tomatoes can last for a few days under proper storage conditions. If you come across any tomatoes with damaged skin, it’s best to consume them promptly.

PRESERVE: Small tomatoes can be frozen whole by placing them on a parchment paper-lined tray. Once frozen solid, transfer them to freezer containers, removing excess air, and freeze for up to a year. These tomatoes can be cooked directly from frozen.

Another delightful preservation method is oven-roasting tomatoes with herbs, olive oil, salt, and pepper until they become completely soft. Allow them to cool, then scoop the mixture into jars and store in the freezer for up to a year. This roasted tomato base is perfect for sauces, soups, chicken cacciatore, chili, and various other dishes.

To dry tomatoes, cut them in half and place them skin-side down on fine-meshed wire racks set on trays. Sprinkle a bit of salt over the tomatoes. Put them in an oven heated to the lowest temperature with the door slightly ajar. Dry for 6 to 12 hours, depending on their size, until the tomatoes turn leathery. Let them cool in the oven before transferring them to jars. After a week, check for any condensation. If present, dry the tomatoes in the oven a bit longer. In warm…

Continue reading

Preppers’ Promised Land (Just Found)

If you’re currently living in a densely populated area but considering building a rural homestead, maybe one that’s off-the-grid, you must also think about which state is the best choice for building that homestead in.

Truth be told, you can find rural land to build a homestead and live a self-sufficient lifestyle in literally any of the fifty states. Yes, even Hawaii. But there’s also no denying that some states have a serious advantage in this regard over others.

The one state that might have the most advantages over any other is a state that many people have not even heard of: Idaho.

While it’s mostly known for its natural beauty and ski resorts, Idaho also has many things going for it for why it may be the most overlooked state for those looking for property to live a rural and self-sufficient life.

Is Idaho the prepper’s promised land that you’ve been searching for? Only you can decide if it is for yourself, but here are some good reasons why you should strongly consider it:

Homesteading/Off-Grid Laws

Preppers' Promised Land (Just Found)Idaho has some of the most relaxed laws on homesteading and off-grid homes in the entire country.

There are very few restrictions on how many acres you can own, and in most areas you can build a home without a permit.

Fortunately, you don’t need a lot of land to become completely self-sufficient. In fact, 1/4 acre is enough, if you follow this comprehensive guide.

Living off-grid in Idaho is 100% legal, so long as you’re not violating any local building codes. You’re also legally allowed to harvest rainwater on your property as well.

The state also offers a homestead exemption that grants owners of homestead a $100,000 protection from their creditors if they file a Declaration of a Homestead. This means that your homestead cannot be seized, so long as it is your primary residence, if you have a pending debt.

Idaho also offers a tax credit from the income tax for 40% of the solar system that you set up to generate off grid power, and that’s on top of the tax credit that you can get at the Federal level.


Located right along the Rocky Mountains, Idaho is a very mountainous state. While the southern region of the state around Boise is dry and flat, the northern and eastern parts of the state are very mountainous.

One of the main features that you should look for in a homestead is for it to be surrounded by mountains or hills to help block it from view from anyone traveling along the freeways or highways and to ensure it’s more hidden. It’s not hard to find such property for sale in Idaho.

Good Soil For Gardening And Farming

Preppers' Promised Land (Just Found)The lands of Idaho are fertile, although in the northern areas of the state it should be noted that the growing period of…

Continue reading here

Air Rifles as Survival Tools. Breathing, sight picture, trigger control, and shot placement.

Quiet, hard-hitting, accurate, affordable, and reliable. A good quality air rifle in .177 or .22 caliber meets all these criteria. No, you don’t have to spend thousands. Just one hundred to three hundred FRNs will provide you and your family with a nice rifle and several thousand pellets.

Springer and now gas ram rifles take care of problem pests around the garden and homestead, rabbits, gophers, ground squirrels, starlings, and crows are dealt with humanely and did I say quietly?
My German-made Dianas, both a Model 34 Classic, and a Model 34 EMS, and both in .177 caliber are equipped with inexpensive scopes and will easily maintain quarter-size groups at 30 yards, Both will push a heavier 9.5 -10.5 grain pellet out to rabbit and squirrel killing distances of 40-50 yards, if you do your part with pellet placement. As many old hunters said it’s not so much what you hit them with as where you hit them.

As a teaching tool for kids and folks not raised with firearms the air rifle excels as its quietness and simplicity encourages rather than intimidates new shooters in learning to practice both safe handling and proficiency, in my experience familiarity with arms does not breed contempt, but rather respect.

The choices of air rifles today is great and the quality of the offerings from manufacturers like Crosman, Ruger, Diana, Gamo, Hatsan, Beeman, Benjamin, and Weihrauch span the price range from less than $100. to $500, and even $700. Given the quality of what is on the market, this is a good time to get into air rifles. Even the lowest-priced offerings provide good homestead and backyard pesting performance while the mid and higher-priced options are match-quality rifles with accuracy to test your skill.

Around our homestead, the air rifles keep the gophers, ground squirrels, and crop-destroying birds at bay from the orchard and garden and have even accounted for a possum who was raiding the back porch cat food. The entertainment factor for the great-grandkids with targets and good backstops is a nice afternoon occupier for them while grandma is trying to put dinner or such foodstuffs together to stave off the clamoring hoard.

For our back porch day and night rifle, we have an older Gamo in 177 equipped with both a led light and a red laser adjusted to put pellets spot-on at 15 feet. It also wears a Bushnell 1-4 scope zeroed in at 25 yards, this happens to be the distance from the back deck to the first row of fig trees. This rifle accounted for between 16 and 19 rats one winter when an infestation of the critters started moving onto our place and our cat was only four months old.

For many years a Benjamin pump in .22 caliber was the go-to air rifle that lived with us but my age and old eyes started requiring the assistance of optics to keep the rats and pigeons in check in the barn so a break-barrel Diana 34…

Continue reading here