The following reviews are books from my own personal library that I’ve collected over the years in a quest to Build Unbreakable Abundance. This article is my impressions of Coffee Table books perfect for gifting to a homesteader or persuading a reluctant spouse of a homesteader. Books are listed in order of preference, with the first book being my favorite of the grouping and so on. This is just my opinion to serve my particular purpose, so I give enough honest feedback about the book that you might find that my last listed book is just exactly what you have been looking for.
“A Rich Spot of Earth”: Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello One of the most inspiring books in my library. The Monticello visit was even more stirring than the visit to Colonial Williamsburg because everything was done to perfection. Jefferson paid such attention to his garden design that it doesn’t suffer from the common eye-sore issues that usually plague vegetable patches. Page after page of photos give examples of how to layout a vegetable garden to capture the maximum amount of sun and rain while providing a visual feast for the gardener.
American Barns This gorgeous book can stir even the most rigid city dweller to dream of rolling hillsides. The American Barn is the epitome of the Farming Dream, and a lovely barn is the icon. If you are planning your own barn construction project or trying to tempt someone to consider farming, this is a great book to lay out for review.
Robert Mondavi Winery This is a picture book in the purest sense. There are only 5 pages of words. My goal in buying this book was to serve as a bridge for my husband to see ‘farming’ in a different light. A Post-It in my handwriting to my husband fell off the book that read, “Forget ‘Farm’ think VINEYARD!” Even the most stalwart city dweller enjoys a trip to the winery and this experience can springboard into a vision of delightful and elegant agriculture. The winery is a commercial endeavor though, so small scale farmers may not feel like there is not much there to relate to.
This is a very affordable approach to watering because you are only buying the nipple and you are providing a jug that you pull out of your recycling bin. I know some people use buckets, but I prefer the jug. One reason is that you can see from a distance if the hens are out of or low on water. You also can prevent chicken poo from getting inside along with leaves, dirt or even most bugs. This vertical nipple also has the most simple parts that can be taken apart and cleaned if there is an obstruction. There is no spring or fragile part inside to break, though there are small parts that if you drop in the field you probably won’t ever find. The waterer is high enough off the ground that mice can’t use it as a water source and it even denies song birds. It may seem mean to not water the song birds, but they are known to carry diseases that aren’t good for your hens, so dissuade them from hanging out in your chicken coop.
For winter time I was pleasantly surprised to find that the vertical nipples continued to work even after the top of the waterer froze and bubbled out the top. Overnight the top 1/3 of the jug froze solid, but the bottom water was still flowing easily. I tested this watering jug one more day like this. The next day the entire waterer was frozen solid, but the hens were still able to get drinks of water as little amounts of ice melted through the day in the sun. Luckily I had made a second waterer over the summer and I just traded out the frozen solid one with a fresh jug each day.
Vinegar comes in thick plastic jugs that hold up to a lot of use and we have several. I mostly use the Heinz white vinegar jugs that hold 1.3 gallons, but removing the label is an hour-long event if you don’t loose your patience first. If you have an IGA near you, their vinegar jug labels wash off easily, the lid is white, stays attached and they are a standard 1 gallon. Make sure to poke a hole in the top of the lid because the nipples won’t work with a vacuum. I use pliers and a hot nail. You can leave the lid off, but you may find dead bugs floating in it.
If you want to get really fancy you can hook it up to plumbing by creating a PVC pipe of waterers. I’m not that fancy, instead I use a large ‘S’ hook so I can attach the jug to any chain at any height I want. You can get a standard rust resistant hardware ‘S’ hook like mine here, or you can get a snazzier one like they use for pot racks here.
You’ll simply drill two or three 3/8″ holes in the bottom of the jug and screw in the nipples being careful not to over-tighten. The rubber gasket shouldn’t squeeze out the edges. From experience I suggest you test on a jug you haven’t spent an hour getting the label off of (just a word to the wise). You’ll find you have less dripping if you are screwing into a relatively flat area of the jug bottom. While you are at it make 2 so you can go away for a 2-day trip without worrying about your hens.
Even baby chicks quickly figure out how to use these nipples. They are drawn to the noise and peck it out of curiosity at first. We even were able to boost their immune systems when they were young by adding a little Apple Cider Vinegar to one little waterer made from a soda bottle. Some of the chicks sat there and hit the vinegar over and over again, shaking their head after each drink. They must have needed it!
There are two other types I am holding onto and planning to test out over the summer. These Poultry Watering Cups may prove to be a better option in the hot days of summer so they can drink deeply. I would like to test out some ideas of using rainwater catchment off the coop roof and making that available to my chickens so there is a back-up source of water. In that situation the waterer must feed from the side because there is always settlement in rain water and that would clog up vertical waterers attached to the underside of a container.
Another way I may use these horizontal waterers is when I get new baby chicks and have them with a mama hen. I may install vertical nipples on the bottom of the jug and hang it low enough for babies, while putting a horizontal cup at the side so mama hen can use the same one.
I’m also planning to test these designs I find interesting. The only problem I see with this horizontal design is that it relies on a spring inside. The vertical nipple uses gravity and a steel ball. Vertical has no spring and despite a rubber gasket, looks like it might last a decade. You also can’t take apart this horizontal version, so cleaning it out may not be an option. However, instead of a large cup that could catch lots of chicken ‘stuff’ this small little perch under the nipple might work better.
Please note that I am not a medical doctor. What follows is simply my personal experience and does not represent medical advice. The iWalk 2.0 manufacturer notes several times that you need to have a certain level of strength and balance to safely use the iWalk 2.0.
I broke my leg below the calf at my greenhouse when it was under construction. Things happen during construction, but I never hurt myself too badly while putting a floor in that greenhouse, flipping a little bungalow across town or while building my kids a treehouse. I would have expected to break something while doing those things. One might even say I would have deserved it. But no, I broke my leg just slipping in construction site clay after a rainstorm. I had to take a photo with flash because it was 9:30 at night and I couldn’t see what my ankle looked like. It only looked a little swollen, but the pop it made when I landed and the pain let me know it was broken. I had to crawl on my hands and knees into the greenhouse to reach my phone. I was covered in mud.
It gets worse though. My husband was out of state, my son wasn’t old enough to drive and I couldn’t get my closest friend on the phone. I had to call 911 for an ambulance. Then it gets even worse. The heavy rain had made the construction site a huge clay slip and slide. They sent a County Deputy in to locate me. He amazingly CARRIED me a football field length with very little traction from the Greenhouse far enough up the hill that the EMTs could reach me.
I had to have surgery to reattach the fibula to the tibula, put a metal plate in, and reattach a tendon. It looks like deck screws holding me together. Because of the torn tendon I wasn’t able to even put my toe down to balance myself. Absolutely no weight bearing. After a month of crutches my left hip, knee and ankle were beginning to ache at night. Oddly, my right leg and hip was also beginning to ache from dis-use! Using a ‘peg-leg’ style crutch for my broken right fibula took pressure off my left leg. The iWalk 2.0 also helped my thigh to begin building back the lost muscle and the thigh pain went away. The calf continued to wither, but that just couldn’t be helped. Both hips and the left leg began to feel better and I finally felt like I was on my way to recovery.
I used the iWalk 2.0 hands free crutch for the first time a month after breaking my leg. It took a few days to get used to because I was still in pain and very afraid of falling and hurting myself worse. It literally changed my daily life. It gave me more freedom and the ability to help my worn out husband around the house. I was able to move laundry, wash dishes, help set the table and go up the stairs (going down the stairs is a real trick).
I asked my physical therapist about it, and she said every client who had gotten it was raving about it. The instructions will tell you that you must be physically fit enough to use it though. I actually had waited longer than I should have and lost a lot of strength in that month of regular crutches. My balance and muscle strength had gotten terrible and I actually used crutches with the peg leg crutch for nearly 3 days before I felt safe enough to rely completely on it.
Perhaps the most exciting thing for me was that the iWalk 2.0 made it possible for me to get back to the farm. The greenhouse was finished a little while after surgery and I hadn’t been able to be there by myself because I couldn’t carry anything or stand for any length of time. After regaining some strength with the hands-free crutches, I was able to feed the chickens, collect eggs and pick tomatoes. The pullets didn’t lay eggs in the nesting box, so I got some physical therapy out of it too! Couldn’t have climbed into the coop and under the hawk net with regular old crutches.
A few details about the iWalk 2.0: it adjusts in several different directions to accommodate all types of heights and leg diameters. The ‘foot’ or ‘shoe’ on the bottom is made of a great type of rubber that doesn’t slip, but that has a downside…it can trip you up if you don’t lift it high enough. There was certainly a learning curve in using it. An hour or two was all I could use it at first because I had lost so much strength and gone downhill so far.
I also had to nab one of my daughter’s volleyball knee pads because my cast created a void between my knee and the lower leg platform. You also have to take it off every time you go to the ladies room [lucky men]. Eventually a boot was prescribed and I disassembled the iWalk 2.0 and put it back in it’s box. I’ll be keeping it with all my other First Aid kits. If I had started using it earlier I don’t think I would have lost as much strength as I did. I certainly would have been able to enjoy my greenhouse sooner!